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Shellenberger’s op-ad

Filed under: — group @ 9 July 2020

Guest commentary by Michael Tobis

This is a deep dive into the form and substance of Michael Shellenberger’s promotion for his new book “Apocalypse Never”. Shorter version? It should be read as a sales pitch to a certain demographic rather than a genuine apology.

Michael Shellenberger appears to have a talent for self-promotion. His book, provocatively entitled “Apocalypse Never” appears to be garnering considerable attention. What does he mean by that title? Does it mean we should do whatever we can to avoid an apocalypse? Does it mean that no apocalypse is possible in the foreseeable future? For those of us who haven’t yet read the book (now available on Kindle), Shellenberger provides an unusual article (at first posted on Forbes, then at Quillette and the front page of the Australian) which appears less a summary than a sales pitch, an “op-ad” as one Twitter wag put it.

It’s called “On Behalf Of Environmentalists, I Apologize For The Climate Scare”. In short, Shellenberger lands clearly on the naysayer soil. Not much to see, everyone. Cheer up, carry on, these are not the droids you’re looking for.

FEW PEOPLE KNOW THAT THE MOON IS MADE OF CHEESE

In support of this insouciance, Shellenberger offers twelve “facts few people know”. Most of the points are defensible to some extent, and most of them raise interesting topics. A main purpose of this article is to provide references to the relevant discussions. But in going through it, it’s worth keeping an eye on the rhetorical purposes of the items, which appear a bit scattershot, and to the rhetorical purpose of the list, which might appear rather obscure.

Clearly labeling the list “facts that few people know” implies that all these points unambiguously refute common beliefs that are widely. And the “apology for the climate scare” indicates further that these beliefs are widely held by a supposedly misguided community of “climate scared”. A defender of the list, Blair King suggests that “[Shellenberger] identified false talking points used repeatedly by alarmists to misinform the public and move debate away from one that is evidence-based to one driven by fear and misinformation”. That does seem to be a fair reading of the stated intent of the list, but it just doesn’t ring true as a whole.

Speaking as a verteran “climate scared” person, the items don’t seem especially familiar. It’s hard to imagine a conversation like this:“Gosh, climate change is an even bigger threat to species than habitat loss.”“I know, and the land area used for producing meat is increasing!”As Gerardo Ceballos said:

This is not a scientific paper. It is intended, I guess, to be an article for the general public. Unfortunately, it is neither. It does not have a logical structure that allows the reader to understand what he would like to address, aside from a very general and misleading idea that environmentalists and climate scientists have been alarmist in relation to climate change. He lists a series of eclectic environmental problems like the Sixth Mass Extinction, green energy, and climate disruption. And without any data nor any proof, he discredits the idea that those are human-caused, severe environmental problems. He just mentions loose ideas about why he is right and the rest of the scientists, environmentalists, and general public are wrong.

What causes the strange incoherence of these “facts few people know”? At the end of this review I’ll propose an answer. Meanwhile, I will consider several questions regarding each item:

  • VALIDITY Is the claim unambiguously true? Unambiguously false? Disputed?
  • RELEVANCE TO CLIMATE Is the claim directly relevant to climate concern/”climate scare” or is it more of interest to tangentially related environmental issues?
  • SALIENCE Is the contrary of the claim widely believed by environmental activists? Does widespread belief in the claim contribute materially to an excess of climate concern?
  • IMPLICATION What is the rhetorical purpose of the question?
  • REALITY To what extent is the rhetorical purpose justified?

THE TWELVE POINTS

1) Humans are not causing a “sixth mass extinction”

In a literal sense this claim has its defenders. See “Earth is Not In the Middle of a Sixth Mass Extinction”. The article quotes Smithsonian paleontologist Doug Erwin, who wrote to me in an email:.

Many of those making facile comparisons between the current situation and past mass extinctions don’t have a clue about the difference in the nature of the data, much less how truly awful the mass extinctions recorded in the marine fossil record actually were.

It is absolutely critical to recognize that I am NOT claiming that humans haven’t done great damage to marine and terrestrial [ecosystems], nor that many extinctions have not occurred and more will certainly occur in the near future. But I do think that as scientists we have a responsibility to be accurate about such comparisons…

I think that if we keep things up long enough, we’ll get to a mass extinction, but we’re not in a mass extinction yet, and I think that’s an optimistic discovery because that means we actually have time to avoid Armageddon

I leave it to the reader as to whether “not in a mass extinction yet” is reassuring. While there are several possible understandings of “mass extinction”, it’s generally agreed that we are indeed losing species at a rapid rate. Erwin is pointing out that the vast majority of life isn’t collapsing, that we aren’t collapsing into a nearly lifeless planet “Yet.” Will people reading Shellenberger’s quote get the message “we’re not in a mass extinction yet, … we actually have time to avoid Armageddon”? I venture that if they read about it in a book called “Apocalypse Never” they won’t. Is this related to something we might call “The Climate Scare”? Not yet. Climate is only a secondary feature of species loss so far, although there are plenty of signs of a climate impact in what’s left of natural ecosystems.

  • VALIDITY – Valid only provisionally and somewhat of a semantic quibble.
  • RELEVANCE TO CLIMATE – Speculative; if we don’t get a handle on climate change, climate change will make it worse.
  • SALIENCE – This one is genuinely scary, so it’s okay to be scared about it.
  • IMPLICATION – You are presumably meant to read this claim as “This talk about a sixth extinction is typical climate alarmist scaremongering”
  • REALITY – We are not literally in a mass extinction event yet but we are on the brink of one. It’s not really a “climate scare” topic but it’s related, and enormous. It seems utterly bizarre for someone claiming to speak “on behalf of environmentalists” to minimise it.

2) The Amazon is not “the lungs of the world”

It’s fair to say that “the Amazon is the lungs of the world” is an environmentalist talking point. It’s fair, I think, to say that some members of the public are afraid of killing enough trees that we run out of oxygen (never mind that lungs consume oxygen rather than producing it!). It turns out that what maintains the oxygen fraction in the atmosphere is a rather interesting question, but that there is no immediate risk of the oxygen going away. Here’s a paper (w/thanks to Chris Colose).

We have built up an enormous stockpile of the stuff. If we live long enough that the oxygen concentration changes appreciably, we will have survived the current century and many centuries to come. Is it a reason to NOT preserve the Amazon? Hardly. The Amazon is the repository for much of the land surface biodiversity. A better analogy would be that it’s more like our planetary gut than our planetary lungs. It would be stupid beyond belief to injure it, yet injure it we do. Does the fear of disappearing oxygen feed excessive “environmentalist” panic? Arguably so among the more excitable members of the general public sharing half-baked ideas on social media. But is it part of “The Climate Scare”? It’s a bit of a stretch. One could point out, though, that totally clearing the Amazon would have direct impacts on climate, according to several modeling studies, for instance.

  • VALIDITY – The claim is meaningless, so the counterclaim is meaningless
  • RELEVANCE – It’s a pretty muddled belief, but it could conceivably be seen as climate related.
  • SALIENCE – In fact there is baseless alarm about the Amazon’s ability to provide oxygen
  • IMPLICATION – “Don’t lose sleep about the Amazon; it’s not important.”
  • REALITY – The Amazon is the repository of an enormous amount of biodiversity that is at risk. Truly destroying it entirely would have climate impacts. Saving it is an important issue. But not because of oxygen!

3) Climate change is not making natural disasters worse

Roger Pielke Jr. enters the fray. This claim is obviously based on his position which Roger helpfully summarizes in a recent Twitter thread

This is a very specific definition of “disaster” which Roger defends vigourously. One suspects that he does so precisely because the signal is buried in the noise in his definition. It’s a definition that could hardly have been better designed to avoid statistical significance!

I wrote more about that here. Take note: Pielke only claims “there is no statistical evidence that disasters are getting worse” while Shellenberger states “disasters are not getting worse”. A classic conflation of “absence of evidence” with “evidence of absence”. In addition, Pielke’s claim only stands because the rising costs of disasters have been normalized by the rise in GDP. It is entirely unclear why this is the relevant metric. Shellenberger’s claim, despite Pielke’s defense of it, is not defensible by reference to Pielke.

  • VALIDITY: Shellenberger’s claim goes too far even based on Pielke’s significance-averse approach.
  • RELEVANCE: relevant to climate change impact
  • SALIENCE: Yes, people do worry about it a lot. Perhaps a bit too soon, but it’s not an unrealistic concern.
  • IMPLICATION: “No sign of a problem!”
  • REALITY: There are many signs that several types of severe events (notably heatwaves, drought impacts, and intense precipitation) are becoming more common and more severe.

4) Fires have declined 25 percent around the world since 2003

After the nitpicking of points 1 and 3, it’s very interesting to see the fuzziness here. It is true that total annual area burned worldwide has declined. But this is because grass fires have declined, because of increasing human appropriation of grasslands for agriculture. Forest fires, which are more ecologically damaging than grass fires, have increased.

While NASA’s new video does show regional upticks in certain parts of the world, scientists made clear that the total number of square kilometers burned globally each year has dropped roughly 25 percent since 2003. This has largely been due to population growth and development in grasslands and savannas, as well as to an increase in the use of machines to clear farmland. “There are really two separate trends,” said James Randerson, a scientist at the University of California, Irvine who worked on the new wildfire video. “Even as the global burned area number has declined because of what is happening in savannas, we are seeing a significant increase in the intensity and reach of fires in the western United States because of climate change.”

So, areas and intensity of forest fires have increased, and this claim is simply misdirection by mixing two phenomena, increasing forest fires and increasing human footprint on grasslands. The concern about increases in forest fires is valid.

  • VALIDITY: Misleading. Conflates two anthropogenic phenomena into one.
  • RELEVANCE: relevant to climate change impact
  • SALIENCE: Yes, people do worry about it a lot. Justifiably.
  • IMPLICATION: “See? Climate activists are deluded about wildfires.”
  • REALITY: Forest fires do appear to be increasing in frequency and severity. This is unsurprising as forests are exposed to warmer conditions that the ones for which they evolved, so are more prone to drying out.

5) The amount of land we use for meat—humankind’s biggest use of land—has declined by an area nearly as large as Alaska

This turns out to be a defensible claim. But it’s not such a happy result. “this contraction is mostly in arid regions where scrubland was used for extensive low impact grazing. Some of the declines in these regions have been offset by expansions of grazing in tropical regions where the environmental destruction is immense e.g. in the Amazon. This “livestock revolution” has come with consequences associated with the spreading of fertilizers, and the draining of ecologically sensitive wetlands.” Regardless, as a careful examination of the vertical axis on the graph shows, on a percentage basis it’s small.

Finally, from personal experience I would point out that. at least in central Texas, much pasture land has been abandoned because it was ruined by overgrazing. I expect it’s similar elsewhere. Returning denuded limestone to “nature” is not that great of a gift.

  • VALIDITY: Marginal. Made out as an important trend when it’s really not.
  • RELEVANCE: No obvious relevance to climate.
  • SALIENCE: I don’t think this is a prominent concern among environmentalists at large.
  • IMPLICATION: ??? (It’s unclear what purported “alarmist idea” this counters.)
  • REALITY: The impacts of meat production are elsewhere.

6) The build-up of wood fuel and more houses near forests, not climate change, explain why there are more, and more dangerous, fires in Australia and California

It’s undisputed that fire suppression has built up fuel in many places, and that people have built housing in dangerously fire-prone locations. It’s also undisputed that the recent fires in Australia, as well as spectacular events in Russia in 2010 and Texas in 2011, occurred in conditions of literally unprecedented heat and drought. Of course, fires happen in hot dry years. But we’re seeing an obvious trend in such outliers. Things can have more than one cause.

  • VALIDITY: As stated, literally false. Things can have more than one contributing factor.
  • RELEVANCE: climate impact relevant
  • SALIENCE: People worry about this, and they should
  • IMPLICATION: “Hot weather doesn’t make forests burn because fire suppression makes forest burn, so don’t worry about climate change!”
  • REALITY: Unsurprisingly, forests are more likely to dry out and burn when it’s hotter.

7) Carbon emissions are declining in most rich nations and have been declining in Britain, Germany, and France since the mid-1970s

This is true. In some countries it is quite substantial. It has two primary causes: 1) Recent declines in coal consumption, mostly replaced by natural gas. Since climate stability is only achieved at net zero emissions, investment in gas infrastructure is a mixed blessing. 2) Much industrial activity moving to Asia, especially China. This is just moving the problem, not solving it. It’s “global warming”, not “national warming”. If you look at the global trajectory rather than that of individual countries, emissions continue to burgeon. Even the recent pandemic related events appear so far to have been very temporary. If you compare what is happening now to the path required to limit warming to any particular target, especially 2ºC or better, it’s very hard to take this little bit of good news with too much jubilation.

Annual CO2 emissions by region

Sam Bliss points out that no rich country is reducing emissions fast enough to keep global warming under 2ºC — or even planning to.

  • VALIDITY: True, but something of a cherry pick
  • RELEVANCE: climate relevant, but the narrow claim is nowhere near as important as is implied
  • SALIENCE: I don’t know that people are worried about small declines in emissions records of particular countries. People are certainly worried about global totals, though.
  • IMPLICATION: “We’re already fixing the problem! Relax!”
  • REALITY: We are still very far from fixing the problem, and the hard-won but modest progress in a few wealthy countries is not reassuring.

8) “The Netherlands became rich, not poor while adapting to life below sea level”

First, we should probably neglect point 8 altogether, since it is commonly known that the Dutch have done well over the centuries, and that they have won back a fair piece of land from their continental shelf. So it doesn’t qualify as something “few people know”. It’s sloppy to include it on the list.

Clearly the implication that “alarmists say the Dutch are not wealthy!” is just nonsense. What about “alarmists say the Dutch are drowning”? I’ve not heard that one either. So logically speaking we can ignore this point. Is this merely silly? Can Shellenberger be claiming that bad news is good news? That we should embrace climate change because it will build character? Is this the quality of argument that we’re facing?

Homeowners in Ocean County, NJ are early recipients of the stimulus to creativity and economic activity of sea level rise, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. USGS

Let’s bend over backwards to consider the matter. It appears that the point is that at least one society has adapted to life below sea level; so we all can do that. But does that really mean that the Dutch are prepared to adapt to sea level rise of meters? There are two approaches to thinking about the Dutch situation in the future. Some are bravely advocating a “make lemonade” approach, inclining toward the insouciant “disasters are business opportunities” framing that Shellenberger implies. But others which look in deeper detail are more sobering:

Of course, dikes are being raised, and rivers given some room to overflow occasionally, but will that be enough? And more importantly: how long will it last? Sea levels have only just started to rise, and it may be going faster than we had initially thought. The big question is: will the Netherlands as we know it survive what’s coming?

In order to keep the seawater at bay, the dikes will need to be raised. As a result, the polders behind them will become relatively deeper, making them more vulnerable and more expensive to maintain. These higher dikes are also a problem in themselves: they prevent natural silting, which means our delta is unable to grow along with the advancing sea.

The experts share one concern: the Netherlands has no Plan B for a scenario in which sea levels rise faster than are accounted for in the Delta Programme. At the same time, there is no proper public debate about this issue, despite the urgent need for one. Not sometime in the future, but right now – because we need to make some important choices today. Especially if you consider how long it takes to develop and implement plans.

Reducing CO<sub>2</sub> emissions and reinforcing dikes is only half the story. The other stark reality is that even these measures combined may prove insufficient in the long term to preserve the lower-lying parts of our country. The polder model – in its literal rather than political sense – has its limits, some physical and some more subjective. The physical limits are based on hard science: how quickly will sea levels rise – and how much can we actually handle? The subjective limits are a question of taste: what kind of country do we want to live in (while we still have time to decide)?

Can we adapt to sea level rise? The implication of this point is that we can adapt like the Dutch. But can the Dutch, who are the world’s experts on managing land below sea level adapt? Only, it appears, within limits.

  • VALIDITY: Undisputed. Indeed, hard to imagine why this qualifies as a “fact few people know”!
  • RELEVANCE: relates indirectly to climate impacts
  • SALIENCE: People do worry about sea level rise, and they should
  • IMPLICATION: “Sea level rise is harmless since humans can rise to the occasion of great challenges.”
  • REALITY: Even the Dutch, wealthy and experienced in managing coastal flooding, are very worried.

9) We produce 25 percent more food than we need and food surpluses will continue to rise as the world gets hotter

This is a bit controversial, but I think Shelleberger is correct. Large scale agriculture can adapt to changing conditions. Crop failures in one place or another may become more frequent as climate becomes less predictable and in some ways more severe, but global production will probably remain adequate for a long time, provided the current economic and trade regime remains healthy. A survey article is here. The impacts of climate change on food supply, except on the poorest, is expected to be relatively modest, compared to other scenario variables:

Finally, all quantitative assessments we reviewed show that the first decades of the 21st century are expected to see low impacts of climate change, but also lower overall incomes and still a higher dependence on agriculture. During these first decades, the biophysical changes as such will be less pronounced but climate change will affect those particularly adversely that are still more dependent on agriculture and have lower overall incomes to cope with the impacts of climate change. By contrast, the second half of the century is expected to bring more severe biophysical impacts but also a greater ability to cope with them. The underlying assumption is that the general transition in the income formation away from agriculture toward nonagriculture will be successful.

How strong the impacts of climate change will be felt over all decades will crucially depend on the future policy environment for the poor. Freer trade can help to improve access to international supplies; investments in transportation and communication infrastructure will help provide secure and timely local deliveries; irrigation, a promotion of sustainable agricultural practices, and continued technological progress can play a crucial role in providing steady local and international supplies under climate change.

This said, climate change will have an enormous impact on traditional food-gathering and subsistence agriculture. Traditional methods will fail. Greenland is a harbinger. If traditional cultures and folkways are valuable, their food gathering and subsistence methods are central. These are being lost.

  • VALIDITY: Plausible
  • RELEVANCE: relevant to climate change
  • SALIENCE: I think there is a strong case that there’s too much public alarm on the climate- food security axis.
  • IMPLICATION: “Food is not a big climate issue!”
  • REALITY: If the international economic order holds together, enough nutrients to feed everyone will be produced in the foreseeable future. But climate change impacts on traditional cultures are already severe and will likely eventually be overwhelming. Distributional issues may leave people hungry even as enough food is produced in aggregate.

10) Habitat loss and the direct killing of wild animals are bigger threats to species than climate change

It’s not clear how to formally evaluate this claim. It is surely true of some species and not of others. Coral reef species, for example, are under direct threat from ocean acidification and local warming events. Habitat loss can certainly be exacerbated by climate change. Here, the recent example of Australian fires is instructive. These phenomena can’t be directly separated. Climate change causes habitat loss.

The main way in which climate stress affects natural species is through habitat loss via climate niche moves and disappearance. It isn’t at all clear that the comparison between habitat loss and climate stress, even if it were possible, would be very informative. You can’t really protect wildlife without protecting or creating stable habitat. Under rapid climate change that becomes impossible.

  • VALIDITY: The assertion is overly broad and probably untestable.
  • RELEVANCE: climate relevant
  • SALIENCE: People do worry about habitat and people do worry about climate; sometimes they get them confused, and sometimes they are related. It’s not clear concerns are excessive
  • IMPLICATION: “Climate change is not a problem for wildlife!”
  • REALITY: Climate change is a major driver of habitat loss, so if you care about habitat, you should care about climate policy.

11) Wood fuel is far worse for people and wildlife than fossil fuels

This conflates several issues.

  1. Wood-burning ovens and grills in wealthy countries are a carbon neutral luxury of no great biogeochemical importance. There is no controversy on this matter that I know of.
  2. Biofuels are carbon neutral. Although it is a relatively minor source of energy, extracting energy from burning wood waste is better than simply letting the waste decay, producing the same CO2 without capturing the energy. However, mis-designed carbon credit systems in Europe have been encouraging growing trees specifically for the purpose of burning them. While carbon-neutral in the long run, this use produces carbon in the short run and consumes it on a longer time scale, front-loading emissions. It is a carbon-overshoot strategy, and there’s a strong case to be made that given our present trajectory toward exceeding global warming targets, it’s a bad idea. However, on this matter, one would tend to see the most “climate alarmed” as aligned with Shellenberger, not opposed, so it doesn’t support his case.
  3. Wood-burning for home cooking in less developed countries is a real health issue. This is certainly true, but no important group is advocating household wood fuel as a mainstay for large populations that I know about. It’s possible to imagine an innumerate anti-technology Luddite advocating returning to wood-burning stoves, but it’s difficult to imagine that gaining much purchase, insofar as forests are greatly valued, if not even overvalued, by climate activists. So on these points, Shellenberger is probably better aligned with “climate activists” than against them.
  • VALIDITY: The claim is true, especially insofar as low-technology wood-burning is concerned.
  • RELEVANCE: Not first order climate relevant. Nobody is proposing replacing fossil fuels with wood burning on a global scale.
  • SALIENCE: The biofuel issue is a real controversy and second order relevant to the climate problem, but modern biofuel plants not a major health concern, certainly compared to coal plants. The use of wood-burning in households is a real health issue, but not climate relevant. Shellenberger is probably better aligned here with “climate activists” than against them.
  • IMPLICATION: Hard to know. Maybe “the environmental crazies want to take away your furnace and put a nasty sooty wood-burning hearth in your kitchen.”
  • REALITY: Poor wood burning practice in households is indeed unhealthy, but carbon neutral. The issue of biomass burning is complex; some uses are better than others. Growing wood specifically for fuel has deleterious impacts on the carbon trajectory, and is probably not a great idea, even though the strategy is basically long-term carbon neutral.

12) Preventing future pandemics requires more not less “industrial” agriculture

There seems to be a case being made that CAFOs (Confined Animal Feeding Operations) are less dangerous than pastures on this account. My initial investigations on the subject turned up a lot of evidence against Shellenberger’s claim.

I finally turned up what must be Shellenberger’s source. This piece is attributed to the young Alex Smith – Alex joined Breakthrough as a research analyst in the food and agriculture program in 2019 after completing a dual MA/MSc in International and World History from Columbia University and the London School of Economics and Political Science. In his masters, Alex studied and wrote about American foreign policy, French colonialism, and environmental history.  In short, Mr Smith doesn’t seem to have much formal knowledge about pandemics or agriculture. He concludes:

With our global population set to increase by close to 3 billion by 2050, we must strive to construct a world that can provide food, shelter, and livelihoods to all 10 billion people, while reducing risk of pandemics akin to what we see today. Simply, the only way forward is forward. We must continue to develop agricultural innovations that can allow for increased intensification, and we must give these innovations global reach. It does not work to just intensify agricultural production in developed countries, given the dual role of land-use change and food insecurity. To combat the main drivers of zoonotic diseases, we must sustainably intensify our food system, not pine for a romanticized and inefficient production system that brings people and wild animals in closer contact.

Frankly, this reminds me of the Monty Python sketch that teaches you how to play the flute. Smith dismisses the obvious solution in his second paragraph:

But these claims offer no explicit argument for how a different form of agriculture — outside of calls to completely eliminate meat consumption — would reduce risk, and they often conflate intensive animal agriculture with intensive agriculture writ large.

I myself have indeed given up on animal products almost altogether (I do have a weakness for butter-based desserts at cafés that I occasionally indulge) so I can’t resist noting this dodge. I don’t see any reason meat can’t go back to being an occasional luxury as it was through most of human history. But this is hardly the place for that discussion. To the point, Shellenberger seems to be putting up basically a blog post by a young man with a history degree against the entire field of epidemiology, and declaring “a fact” on that basis. I’d call that a stretch.

  • VALIDITY: The claim is very weakly supported and probably wrong.
  • RELEVANCE: No obvious climate relevance
  • SALIENCE: I think people do, sensibly, worry about the way meat is produced
  • IMPLICATION: “Coop up animals in meat factories! It’s good for you and they don’t mind much.”
  • REALITY: Er, no.

CONCLUSION

It’s very hard to imagine a significant community of people adamantly holding to the contrary of Shellenberger’s points. They really aren’t core to any particular group.So what is he up to, if it’s more than just selling a book?

I think David hits the nail on the head. It’s a pitch to denialism, not to moderation. But why is is so strangely constructed, so uncompelling to some of us, and yet apparently convincing to others? There’s a provocatively titled article at The Forward that has an answer:

The fuel for this fire comes from something that anthropologists call the myth of outgroup homogeneity. We tend to believe everyone in our tribe is nuanced and diverse, while all the members of that tribe over there are uniform and zombie-like. This is how New York thinks of New Jersey, Lakers fans think of Clippers fans, Mac users think of PC users, and MSNBC viewers think of Fox News viewers. The outgroup homogeneity effect makes it easier to blame a whole side for their crazy fringe while barely acknowledging your own. You can march under a big dumb banner, saying you’re from the smart, nuanced part of your coalition, while believing everyone on the other side has no more profound beliefs than their big, dumb banner.

Shellenberger’s weird list makes no sense at all. It certainly doesn’t bear up well under close inspection. But it makes some sense to his readers, only because they perceive the world of the climate concerned as “uniform and zombie-like”. Every single point of contention he raises is viewed through that lens first.

Is Shellenberger really even a “former environmentalist”? Has he ever actually advocated a “climate scare”? Does he have anything to apologise for? The evidence for his (oddly un-contrite) apostasy is thin. His list, baffling to those of us it is meant to accuse, holds together as an example of “outgroup homogeneity”. Shellenberger’s capacity to frame a list this way depends on a capacity to grossly oversimplify his “climate scare” opposition. His baffling caricature of his opposition would indicate that he never really was part of a “climate scare” in the first place!
The article, remember, is entitled “On Behalf Of Environmentalists, I Apologize For The Climate Scare”. I suggest Shellenberger in innocent on that score. He may however owe us a different apology.

151 Responses to “Shellenberger’s op-ad”

  1. 101
    Mal Adapted says:

    Russell:

    Mal needs to get out more, or watch more reruns of Mad Men and Thank You For Not Smoking.

    Heh. I once owned a t-shirt stenciled with “Thank You For Pot Smoking”. Long before that was legal, of course.

    Russell:

    Whether the driving force is zeal or greed does not signify: even since the creatives came up with Earth Day, we’ve watched ideologues and executives hire industrial strength Advertising & PR firms to battle toe to toe in the service of discrediting policy prescriptions their clients dislike.

    Come on, Russell, this is false equivalence. Your deontological libertarianism is showing. You know “free” markets socialize the costs of global warming and biodiversity loss. You’re fully aware the financial incentives for environmental “alarmism” can’t compete with those for denial. I, for one, am a consequentialist libertarian: I want the maximum liberty compatible with a stable climate and biosphere. I approve of truthful advertising and PR to promote collective intervention in the price of fossil carbon, and I deplore the power of fossil-fuel wealth to flood the public arena with lies. Don’t you?

  2. 102
    Greg Guy says:

    nigelj @ 91

    Yes, this is probably off-topic and best left for another thread. I am familiar with Jacobson’s work, and to the various controversies surrounding his work. However, 100% renewables doesn’t mean 0 carbon emissions. So I guess my question is given a specific mix of renewables, a specific size of the world population with specific consumption habits, what is the expected warming trend?

  3. 103
    Greg Guy says:

    BPL #99

    Hey if you can figure out how to extract gigatonnes of C02 out of the atmosphere and industrialize it, go for it! But what if you can’t? How hot do you think the world can get before large scale industrial activity can no longer be sustained due to various crises such as agricultural collapse, failed states, millions of refugees, and so on.

  4. 104
    Russell says:

    Holy Mc Luhan, Mal, you may “approve of truthful advertising and PR to promote collective intervention”, but Editorial Collectives For Truthful Advertising do not seem to have had a hand in CJR’s Covering Climate Now playbook.

    As Chris Buckley shrewdly revealed DC is awash in second and third generation propagandists and PR flacks, and the 20th century culture wars have scarcely decimated those who remain on deck in today’s climate wars- they may be working opposite sides of K Street and the Bell Cyrve, but the equivalence between veteran true believers at The Nation Institute and The Federalist Society is not a false one

    Content providers happen, and the advertising tecnocracywill remain a big deal as long as video audiences outnumber Journal Of Intersectional Opinion readers 100 to 1.

  5. 105
    Mal Adapted says:

    Russell:

    Editorial Collectives For Truthful Advertising do not seem to have had a hand in CJR’s Covering Climate Now playbook.

    Sorry, you’re not coming through. Are you saying Covering Climate Now isn’t truthful? If so, I want some supporting links.

    As Chris Buckley shrewdly revealed

    AFAICT, Buckley writes political satire. Please cite the revelation you have in mind.

    the equivalence between veteran true believers at The Nation Institute and The Federalist Society is not a false one

    The false equivalence is in their funding. A sample of two proves neither your case nor mine, but you probably should have picked a different two: in 2017 the Nation Institute (now the Type Media Center) reported income of $3,741,480, while the Federalist Society’s revenue was $22,650,746. You can look this stuff up, you know.

    Content providers happen,

    More skillful content providers happen with more money.

    and the advertising tecnocracywill remain a big deal as long as video audiences outnumber Journal Of Intersectional Opinion readers 100 to 1

    Yes, and more money breeds more advertising technocrats. Some of them occasionally switch whom they represent. In my observation, Shellenberger better represents those who switch than Jerry Taylor does: another quantitative dissimilarity.

    Now, I couldn’t find a Journal of Intersectional Opinion, but there’s a Journal of Intersectionality (“Black Radical Pedagogy at the Limits of Praxis”), and a Journal of Intersectional Analysis (which appears to be an Indian start-up). I can’t verify the readership of either, but a prior of zero seems reasonable. It sounds like you’re saying “the advertising technocrats we shall have with us always.” Er – true, though hardly comforting!

    We know you can do better, Russell. Is #butLiberty really all you got? I, for one, have time to gleefully sealion all the knee-jerk motivated cognition you can post 8^D!

  6. 106
    Mal Adapted says:

    Ima let up on you, Russell, and leave you with this:

    I like liberty too. But the virtual medium is not the message here. Even Dr. McLuhan (whom I happen to have right here) would recognize that the medium is Earth’s atmosphere, and the message is the rapidly rising GMST and all that ensues from it. In the intersection of politics and economics, anthropogenic climate change is the real-world result of too much liberty.

    IMHO, of course.

  7. 107
    nigelj says:

    Greg Guy @102

    Please be aware you can comment at any time on climate change mitigation, energy sources, population strategies etcetera on the “forced responses” page listed on the home page.

    “However, 100% renewables doesn’t mean 0 carbon emissions.”

    Just a quick take: Agree you also have agriculture and so on. But we have solutions to those problems as well. It seems to me the main thing lacking is motivation. There is huge value in improving the situation as Piotr noted, even if we dont get to zero as soon as we want.

    “So I guess my question is given a specific mix of renewables, a specific size of the world population with specific consumption habits, what is the expected warming trend?”

    According to the experts, we can keep warming under 2 degrees if get to zero net emissions by about 2050 with aggressive mitigation, and assuming median level future population growth (10.9 billion people by 2100). Read the IPCC reports free here for detail:

    https://www.ipcc.ch/

    Greg Guy @103

    “Hey if you can figure out how to extract gigatonnes of C02 out of the atmosphere and industrialize it, go for it! But what if you can’t?”

    We already know how to do this as below. Its a helpful wedge measure to mop up some emissions, but it is not a viable economic replacement for a new energy grid.

    https://www.ctvnews.ca/sci-tech/b-c-company-uses-huge-fans-to-suck-carbon-from-air-make-fuel-1.4583814#:~:text=A%20B.C.%20company%20plans%20to,can%20be%20permanently%20stored%20underground.&text=The%20Squamish%2Dbased%20company's%20massive,carbon%20straight%20from%20the%20atmosphere.

  8. 108

    GG 103: How hot do you think the world can get before large scale industrial activity can no longer be sustained due to various crises such as agricultural collapse, failed states, millions of refugees, and so on.

    BPL: That’s what I’d like to prevent.

  9. 109
    russell says:

    Mal:
    Regarding: “The false equivalence is in their funding. A sample of two proves neither your case nor mine, but you probably should have picked a different two: in 2017 the Nation Institute (now the Type Media Center) reported income of $3,741,480, while the Federalist Society’s revenue was $22,650,746. You can look this stuff up, you know.”

    Thw tables are turned if you look at PBS, which is rich in Nation Institute content provided at the Taxpayer’s vast , vast expense, to the exclusion of the totally cancelled bipartisan rhetoric of the Red States.

    There’s more to real political life than can be read in the Times and the Graun.

    Capisce?

  10. 110
    Russell says:

    It grieves me to report to Mal that I am dealing in mere rerality.

    I spent a long evening in colloquy with thw excellent Good Doctor McL at Warren Brady’s Boston house a decade before Woody Allen dagged him on screen for pay.
    I can report him to have been both more coherent ,than Bucky Fuller, and vastly more interesting than his epigrams might suggest

  11. 111
    JD says:

    Just two cents on the rebuttal of Pielke’s claim that “there is no statistical evidence that disasters are getting worse”.

    Here’s the link to the similar dataset but expressed in absolute terms, where a solid upward trend is clear to see:

    https://www.statista.com/statistics/510894/natural-disasters-globally-and-economic-losses/

    Global GDP almost tripled in the period under analysis, so the scale of this manipulation is just insane.

    Plus no one with any serious background in statistic and data analysis would decide upon seeing a single graph that there is or is not an evidence to prove something. Why not look at the actual statistics of the natural disasters their occurence and scale (eg hurricanes) – the signal is even clearer to see there. The insurance industry is currently bracing itself for more NATCAT related loses and invests in the tools to monitor and analyse these events. Overal that claim is a schoolchild level of reality denial.

  12. 112
    Russell says:

    Mal, with friends who declare” In the intersection of politics and economics, anthropogenic climate change is the real-world result of too much liberty.” liberty stands in little need of enemies.

    As to ” Are you saying Covering Climate Now isn’t truthful? If so, I want some supporting links.”

    Start with founder Hertsgaard’s rumonations in Vanity Fair and at The Nation Insitute.

    For Intersectionality on the rocks, google Feminist
    Glaciology or read Bruno Latour’s take on Climate Leviathan–

    https://vvattsupwiththat.blogspot.com/2018/03/if-your-family-owned-half-of-burgundy.html

  13. 113
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    Environmentalists like me are NOT alarmed about what might happen to us, and not even as concerned for ourselves as we are about what we’re doing to others. It’s about caring. And time doesn’t matter. A portion our CO2 emissions can be up there for many 1000s of years as David Archer says, going on harming people (if some are still left then) and other creatures from all the many and various knock-on effects of climate change; many of them needless killings when we could have been raking in $$ by becoming energy/resource efficient/conservative and going on alt energy. Killing is killing no matter when it happens, or if my emissions joined with 1000 others’ kills only one person per 100 years. It’s cause for utmost concern, action & activism. Also we tend to follow a holistic approach, considering all harms from resource extraction, shipping/piping, processing, leaks/spills, combustion/use, waste disposal, various pollutions, including acid rain and ocean acidification. You can’t separate these out in the real world, only analytically in science and in the minds of anti-alarmists.

    Also we don’t need “beyond a reasonable doubt,” 95% confidence, or even “preponderance of evidence” of climate change and its harms now & in the future to be concerned enough to switch over to more efficient lighting and the 100s of other things we can do to mitigate it. Like I started in 1990, 5 years before it reached 95% confidence.

    I used to joke about the “alarmist” epithet thrown at us by saying, yeh there’s grave danger in folks rushing to the Home Depot’s lighting aisle to get the most efficient bulbs, shopping carts colliding, a foot is bound to get run over.

    But now everything is crystal clear with the pandemic. Various unconcerned-about-it-people in office and in the public are into killing or allowing to be killed many 1000s of people within a few months. That IS horrifyingly alarming to me. So how can we expect them to care at all about climate change.

  14. 114
    Piotr says:

    Russel (110) > “look at PBS, which is rich in Nation Institute content provided at the Taxpayer’s vast , vast expense”.

    Hmm, being from Canada, I have thought that PBS was funded by the member
    stations dues and by private and corporate donations – i.e. NOT from the government coffers (a.k.a. “Taxpayer”). My bad. And the frequency of their donation drives and their rather austere programming must have masked those “vast, vast” piles of Taxpayer’s money the government have been sending them.

    R: > ” to the exclusion of the totally cancelled bipartisan rhetoric of the Red States.”

    So the Trump government takes the tax money from the Red States and showers them on PBS? Because that’s what your taxation without representation argument implies, right?

    If this is true, AND if PBS has the monopoly on TV in the US, then you have a valid point: PBS should have given equal voice to the fossil fuel interests as it does to their opponents. On the other hand, if the taxpayer does have a choice whether to support PBS or not – then you are right … not so much.

    Furthermore, even in countries in which the public television _is_ supported by the funding from all taxpayers via government grants, I would still argue that it should not try to reflect the variety of the opinions in the society (say, one program against climate change and one program for it), but instead the public TV should try to reduce the existing imbalance of power – to give the voice not to everybody equally, but to those who otherwise would have none.

    I don’t think the fossil fuel industrial complex (oil, gas, coal, big auto, airlines, auto and shipping transport, chemical, agro-industry etc) fits the ill – I don’t think they are downtrodden and voice-less – with the combined annual sales in trillions of dollars – endangered if we asked them to pay for their pollution, they can easily spare 10s or 100s of billion annually to protect those trillions. Given that it is trillions that are at stake – the ROI in climate change denial, friendly media and on buying politicians must be spectacular. And you can write off most of it from your taxes …

    After all you are living in that beacon of Democracy, which has decided that the limits for campaign donations are unconstitutional, and where the right of the corporations to own the politicians whose campaigns they financed, has been enshrined in law by your Supreme Court under the free-speech rights.

    Given all the above, I don’t see how forcing PBS to have fossil-fuel friendly coverage equal to that about the people who already pay, or will pay, the costs of the climate change – would make the American system more equal and fair.

  15. 115
    russell says:

    114

    So the Trump government takes the tax money from the Red States and showers them on PBS?

    No, Piotr

    Our Congress subsidizes PBS just as your Parliment does the CBC.

    No Democacy was necessary for Bill Moyers to flip a million dollar foundation check into Covering Climate Now’s coffers

    Do ask John Podesta tp explain his role :)

  16. 116
    Astringent says:

    Supporting Piotr @114,
    We should never accept the game of ‘equal airtime’ when applied to matters of fact and science. In the UK that ambition led to a period when every climate change science story had to invite a sceptic on their panel – and contributed to the spread of anti vaccination nonsense. So ‘big oil’ both doesn’t need air time, and shouldn’t get air time to make the case that burning fossil fuels is fine, or if they do the minimum standard should be coverage in proportion to peer reviewed research, which will, as we all know, amount to the same thing.

  17. 117
    Adam Lea says:

    JD@ 111:

    Can’t see that graph properly to understand what it is really showing because it is a site that requires a paid subscription, but my first question would be whether the economic loss has been normalised to a base year (e.g. 2019), and whether increases in population and wealth have been taken into account. If not, then all it tells you is that economic loss from natural disasters has increased, but says nothing about the reasson. It could be natural disasters are increasing in frequency, poopulation growth and migration is putting more people in vulnerable areas, or increased wealth means there is more high value stuff to be damaged. That is why when Pielke and Landsea looked at U.S. insured losses from hurricanes, they normalised for inflation, population, increased wealth.

  18. 118
    Susan Anderson says:

    Simply put, as to inaction/action, possibility/actuality, it’s all a lot of words. Below is my stab at a short version. All the hypotheticals, giant or hairsplitting, don’t add up to a simple acknowledgment, where compromise to get what’s possible done, and doing what one can, are some options:

    Here we all are, and what are we going to do about it?

  19. 119
    jb says:

    russell at 115: “Our Congress subsidizes PBS just as your Parliment does the CBC.”

    This is an extremely misleading statement. The per-capita expenditure by the US is far less than for Canada (on the order of 5%). My understanding is that the proportion of the public broadcasting budget that is covered by the US is also far less than in Canada.

    Numbers are funny things. They require a discussion of overall amounts and proportions. Otherwise, statements that appear factual are really just pure BS.

  20. 120
    Mal Adapted says:

    Russell:

    No Democacy was necessary for Bill Moyers to flip a million dollar foundation check into Covering Climate Now’s coffers

    Abstract of Brulle 2013 (my emphasis):

    This paper conducts an analysis of the financial resource mobilization of the organizations that make up the climate change counter-movement (CCCM) in the United States. Utilizing IRS data, total annual income is compiled for a sample of CCCM organizations (including advocacy organizations, think tanks, and trade associations). These data are coupled with IRS data on philanthropic foundation funding of these CCCM organizations contained in the Foundation Center’s data base. This results in a data sample that contains financial information for the time period 2003 to 2010 on the annual income of 91 CCCM organizations funded by 140 different foundations. An examination of these data shows that these 91 CCCM organizations have an annual income of just over $900 million, with an annual average of $64 million in identifiable foundation support. The overwhelming majority of the philanthropic support comes from conservative foundations. Additionally, there is evidence of a trend toward concealing the sources of CCCM funding through the use of donor-directed philanthropies.

    You know quantitative differences matter in politics, Russell. In the USA, for example, it requires only a bare margin of electoral votes to elevate a POTUS. WRT to climate change, I’ll stipulate there may be professional alarmists, employed to persuade voters to intervene collectively in energy markets. If you can show that the financial rewards for sophisticated climate alarmism are comparable to the (lower bound) $900 million available annually for denial and delay, it might allay suspicion of your ideological bias.

  21. 121

    OT: On public broadcasting: the US and Canadian cases are extremely different.

    Some clarifications: PBS is not, itself, funded by Congress. Rather, they receive some grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), which is funded by Congress. But most PBS operating expenses by far, as they tell you ad infinitum if you actually listen/watch, are paid by listener/viewer contributions.

    Anyway, says here:

    For fiscal year 2014, [CPB’s] appropriation was US$445.5 million, including $500,000 in interest earned…

    In Canada, on the other hand:

    For the fiscal year 2015, the CBC received $1.036 billion from government funding and took 5% funding cuts from the previous year.[29]

    In 2015, the Liberal Party was returned to power. As part of its election platform, it promised to restore the $115 million of funding to the CBC that was cut by the Harper Government, over three years, and add $35 million, for a total extra funding of $150 million.

    So, $1.186 bn CDN. Not sure what the exchange rate was in 2015, and we’re already comparing different years, but call it ~$854 bn US. Considering that the ratio of the populations is about 8.77, that would be the equivalent of almost US$7.5 bn.

  22. 122
    Russell says:

    Mal, quantitative differences do indeed matter, and if you study the Figures in Brule’s Climatic Change paper you will see that the big total is the integral of the gross income of 91 organizations, of which only a dozen or so focus primarily on climate denial.

    The same caveat applis to the fundation sponsorship stats- climate policy is a minor concern of the largest obviously conservative ones Brule listed seven years ago, like AEI and Heritage, and despite the layer of obscurantism provided by Donor’s trust, it is odd that plain vanilla PBS supporting philanthropies like the Annenberg and Vining Davis foundations have been elided with Koch and Exxon, and policy think tanks like as large, diverse i=, and serious in their interests as the Hoover Institution and the Manhattan Institute, have been tarred with the same brush as the Tea Party hucksters from Heartland and Climate Depot

    Publicbclimate advocacy by PBS and NPR continuously reaches vastly broader audiences than the usual suspects . One Donor’s Trust is one too many, so where in the name of transparency can we find an equally explicit breakdown on support for climate education and advocacy from the foundations that back the multinational efforts of Covering Climate Now ?

  23. 123
    Postkey says:

    Why Republican legislators are ‘climate deniers’?

    “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens
    Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page
    Each of four theoretical traditions in the study of American politics—which can be characterized as theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy, Economic-Elite Domination, and two types of interest-group pluralism, Majoritarian Pluralism and Biased Pluralism—offers different predictions about which sets of actors have how much influence over public policy: average citizens; economic elites; and organized interest groups, mass-based or business-oriented. A great deal of empirical research speaks to the policy influence of one or another set of actors, but until recently it has not been possible to test these contrasting theoretical predictions against each other within a single statistical model. We report on an effort to do so, using a unique data set that includes measures of the key variables for 1,779 policy issues. Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence. The results provide substantial support for theories of Economic-Elite Domination and for theories of Biased Pluralism, but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy or Majoritarian Pluralism. “
    https://scholar.princeton.edu/sites/default/files/mgilens/files/gilens_and_page_2014_-testing_theories_of_american_politics.doc.pdf

  24. 124

    #123, Postkey–

    Yep, sadly. Decades of attempting to influence policy in precisely the ways prescribed by society offer an (anecdotal) data point in support of the author’s conclusion.

    IOW: America is not a democracy, but an oligarchy with some democratic features.

    I think it may still be possible to shift our polity in a more truly democratic direction, but that’s as optimistic as I can get on that score.

  25. 125
    Mal Adapted says:

    Russell:

    where in the name of transparency can we find an equally explicit breakdown on support for climate education and advocacy from the foundations that back the multinational efforts of Covering Climate Now ?

    The only effort I’ve seen to account for “alarmist” funding is by Jo Nova, who blogged about it 2009: The Climate Industry: $79 billion so far. In a subsequent post she said:

    The US government spent $79 billion on climate research and technology since 1989 – to be sure, this funding paid for things like satellites and studies, but it’s 3,500 times as much as anything offered to sceptics. It buys a bandwagon of support, a repetitive rain of press releases, and includes PR departments of institutions like NOAA, NASA, the Climate Change Science Program and the Climate Change Technology Program. The $79 billion figure does not include money from other western governments, private industry, and is not adjusted for inflation. In other words, it could be…a lot bigger

    …Ultimately the big problem is that there are no grants for scientists to demonstrate that carbon has little effect. There are no Institutes of Natural Climate Change, but plenty that are devoted to UnNatural Forces.

    She says she published this stuff in a 4-part report to the Science and Public Policy Institute, but the link to it on scienceandpublicpolicy.org is broken. None of it was formally peer-reviewed, of course. Among other obvious errors, her complaint that “this funding paid for things like satellites and studies, but it’s 3,500 times as much as anything offered to sceptics” ignores Spencer’s and Christy’s work with the satellite temperature record. Then there’s her claim that governments want their citizens to be unreasonably alarmed about climate change so bankers can profit by investing in carbon trading:

    What the US Government has paid to one side of the scientific process pales in comparison with carbon trading. According to the World Bank, turnover of carbon trading reached $126 billion in 2008. PointCarbon estimates trading in 2009 was about $130 billion. This is turnover, not specifically profits, but each year the money market turnover eclipses the science funding over 20 years. Money Talks. Every major finance house stands to profit as brokers of a paper trade. It doesn’t matter whether you buy or sell, the bankers take a slice both ways. The bigger the market, the more money they make shifting paper.

    Her take-away is that governments are motivated to raise public concern about climate change by carbon-trading profits, even as fossil-fuel producer profits ($2tn in the past three decades) underlie official denial. But this is a transparent strawman argument, since informed concern about rapid climate change at least equally favors a direct carbon price, e.g. some form of carbon fee and dividend that won’t put pre-concentrated capital in already-wealthy hands.

    IMO, Jo Nova’s basic false equivalence is qualitative: between public spending on public goods like scientific research and education, and private investment for private profit. We know fossil-fuel producers maximize private profit by socializing their climate-change costs, and that collective intervention is required to internalize them back to the energy market. The profit motive can therefore be assumed for investment in climate-science denialism by corporations and foundations sustained by fossil fuel profits. Profits gained by private investment in building out a carbon-neutral economy, OTOH, should be considered effects of informed public concern, not causes. Bottom line, she hasn’t convinced me public investment in climate science and outreach won’t pay off in mitigation of a great public bad: namely, rapid global warming.

  26. 126
    Lena Synnerholm says:

    I consider belief in “outgroup homogeneity” to be a form of idiocy. If you truly believe in this myth you can’t have consciously reflected on who you opponents are.

  27. 127
    Russell says:

    Mal, my forlorn hope was that you might point us to afact checked Columbia Journalism Review or Nation article guilessly expounding the finances of their joint venture, and the organizers bibliography, including their publications in Mother Jones and Vanity Fair.

    Jo Nova’s advocacy is fascinating in that she and her husband floated an investment fund ostensibly aimed at profiting from global cooling.

    It is diagnostic that she should provide content for the Science and Public Policy Institute , which represents the collective editorial wisdom of Lord Monckton , Craig Idso and Willie Soon.

  28. 128
    Victor says:

    Both Shellenberger and Lomborg undercut their argument by conceding the most essential point, that “climate change” is real. Once one accepts the so-called “science” of climate change, there is really no effective way to counter the alarmist meme, especially when it takes the form of such dire warnings from trusted establishment organizations such as the IPCC.

    There is, in fact, no reason whatsoever to accept the basic premise that CO2 emissions are leading to a dangerous rise in global temperatures. Over and over again the “scientists” have failed to produce meaningful evidence for any of their claims. So what passes for science is not viable theories based on facts, but imaginative hypotheses based on ingenious arguments for why the facts do not support the theory.

  29. 129
    Lena Synnerholm says:

    Something nobody seems to have pointed out is preventing new pandemics don’t require CAFO a.k.a. factory farming. What is needed is better food hygiene in some countries, especially China. The Chinese traditionally eat everything with four legs unless it is furniture. This is not a health problem if the animals in question are butchered hygienically and cocked properly. But a lot of Chinese eat wild animals without a sufficient degree of one or both. To a great deal of the Chinese it does not seem to occur to them that traditional handling of food could result in health risks. Yet these very health risks have been warned for by epidemiologists and others for years. Please correct me if I have misunderstood something!

  30. 130
    jgnfld says:

    @128 Victor

    Re. ” Once one accepts the so-called “science” of climate change, there is really no effective way to counter the alarmist meme”.

    True. There isn’t given a sufficient time horizon. Just like once one accepts the so-called “science” of tobacco smoke inhalation there is no way to counter the alarmist meme that “tobacco kills” either. Irrespective of what tobacco profiteers say. The same is true for any of thousands upon thousands of other scientific facts, as well.

    Your “understanding” of “so-called science” is right up there with your “understanding” of how “so-called” correlations work and what they mean.

  31. 131

    V: There is, in fact, no reason whatsoever to accept the basic premise that CO2 emissions are leading to a dangerous rise in global temperatures.

    BPL: There are mountains of reasons.

    V: Over and over again the “scientists” have failed to produce meaningful evidence for any of their claims.

    BPL: You’re completely unfamiliar with the professional literature, aren’t you?

  32. 132
    Dan says:

    128. What a laughable comment that was! “There is, in fact, no reason whatsoever to accept the basic premise that CO2 emissions are leading to a dangerous rise in global temperatures. ” Try reading about the First Law of Thermodynamics, just for starters. Hint: You can not violate it.

    Once again you have shown you have no basic knowledge of science or the scientific method. You have been told to learn it many times but you are too lazy to do so. And you have been given specific peer reviewed studies to show how scientifically ignorant you are. But you fail to learn because that would mean you would have to admit to being wrong and your insecurity won’t permit that.

  33. 133
    Mal Adapted says:

    Victor:

    There is, in fact, no reason whatsoever to accept the basic premise that CO2 emissions are leading to a dangerous rise in global temperatures.

    Snort. Speaking of known trolls, this is me exerting forbearance.

  34. 134

    #128, Victor–

    He’s back, encoring his idiot song;
    Debunked before, still just as wrong;
    Wit like mud, prose like molasses,
    Still trying to acquit those greenhouse gases.
    Though on Real Climate he scarce finds friend,
    Still he persists, to deny the trend.
    Heroic he! Though some say mad–
    Victor! Our one-man Dunciad!

    (h/t to Alexander Pope)

  35. 135
    nigelj says:

    For gods sake don’t feed the troll. Not this particular troll anyway. Nothing to be gained. Hes made up his mind and regardless of what happens he will never change it.

  36. 136
    Victor says:

    Well, here I am, back again. And welcomed with the usual effusive greetings. Indeed I’m touched to see that my latest post has inspired the beautiful poem penned by my long-time fan, Kevin. Thanks, Kevin. No one’s ever honored me with a poem before.

    Now that I’m back my inclination is to support the assertion of my previous post with some solid evidence. But not here, this thread is devoted to mitigation rather than climate science. Look for me on the new Unforced Variations thread. And as usual, I always welcome the feedback provided by my all so knowledgeable colleagues on this blog. Oh and by the way, while it’s true that on this blog I “scarce find a friend,” in the words of the poet, I should remind everyone that there are any number of other websites where I could easily find many friends. I prefer to post here because you guys amuse me. The ones who agree with me are a bore.

  37. 137
    Ken Fabian says:

    “Why Republican legislators are ‘climate deniers’?”

    My own view is that

    Business leaders did not (and mostly still do not) want climate responsibility or accountability or regulation or – especially not – climate liability. Policies that please Business lobbies will be supported by politicians that see supporting what business leaders want as their job. PR, Advertising, Strategic Donating, Tactical Lawfare, Lobbying, Post Politics Payoffs, Tankthink… have all been used to support this desire to not have to be responsible or accountable.

    Business operators not wanting responsibility isn’t a consequence of belief that the science is wrong, rather the basis of this choice is not about science at all; climate policies and regulations impact the costs, competitiveness and profitability more immediately and directly than climate change itself does and are opposed on that basis. The denial of climate science is the simplest and most direct justification possible for opposing climate responsibility and emissions regulation. Those business based concerns flow up to legislators but also flow down to employees, as fears for their financial security.

    In my view we have had a profound abrogation of responsibility by those in positions of highest trust and responsibility when they failed to face the issue and hold the line against the business community’s preferred choice to have enduring amnesty on climate responsibility. To fail to push solutions forward is bad enough but to, in it’s place, develop Doubt, Deny, Delay politics as a pathway to NOT fixing the climate problem – to not merely tolerate but actually encourage and promote climate science denial in all it’s ugliness – is worse.

    Corruption is at the heart of our inability to face this effectively, not Capitalism vs Socialism or Environmentalism vs Business. The best solutions are best done using responsible free enterprise within democracies that resist corruption, that have independent rule of law; capitalists entrepreneurs will get rich fixing the climate problem.

    Politicians doing Doubt, Deny, Delay is, quite simply, corrupt responsibility avoidance.

  38. 138
    Russell says:

    Kevin 134

    If Victor’s a dunce from
    National Review

    Pray tell us, sir,
    Whose dunce are you?

  39. 139
    Killian says:

    Re 66 Barton Paul Levenson fucked up by saying: K: Population is a problem, solar and wind are not sustainable.

    BPL: They’re sustainable by any sane definition, just not by yours.

    That’s extremely stupid. This is the sort of shit we see in children – and from the Gaslit Peanut Gallery.

    No, they are not. Not even close, and not by ANY definition of the currently possible. So long as you CHOOSE to make ass-brained comments like this you KNOW to be bullshit (we stand zero chance of continuing to build out these technologies past this century as currently built) you are GUILTY of driving humanity toward extinction.

    Grow up before we all get dead. Your post is immoral.

  40. 140
    Killian says:

    People. you have GOT to get past the personal SHIT that you all started in the first place! You have never accepted the long-tail risk is valid, so you attack me as some kind of nut. When I have demonstrated skill in anticipating changes, you don’t address the skill, you engage fallacies to dismiss accuracy as ego.

    All of this is suicidal.

    The planet is changing as fast as I have always said it was. Total sensitivity is on the high end… as I have always said it was. Melt is happening much faster than expected… as I have always said it would…. etc.

    How you live with yourselves in dismissing excellent analysis for childish reasons, I do not know. But knock it the hell off! I have a son! You are condemning him and all your own, you damned fools!

    Get over your bullshit. NOW.

  41. 141
    Piotr says:

    russel (115): “Our Congress subsidizes PBS just as your Parliment does the CBC”

    I am not sure with that “just as” part:
    CBC’s gets over 1 bln a yr, all public TV and radio in the US gets from Congress under 0.5 bln year, despite ca. 10 times larger economy. This would suggest that your “vast,vast” piles of Taxpayer’s money are per capita or order of 20 times LESS “vast, vast” than those in Canada.

    Let’s have a look across the pond – Britain’s BBC budget is, if I read correctly, about 5 bln pounds a year – about 15 times MORE than in the US, despite 5 times fewer taxpayers in the UK. So … your “vast, vast” amounts of taxpayer’s money would be in reality … 75 TIMES “tinier, tinier” than in UK?

    > No Democacy was necessary for Bill Moyers to flip a million dollar foundation check into Covering Climate Now’s coffers. Do ask John Podesta tp explain his role :)

    You lost me – how is your bringing up some “John Podesta” answering my question about the dramatic imbalance between pitifully-small (compared to other democracies) taxpayer support for public TV in the US – with the financial might (trillions of dollars of annual sales in the US alone) of the all industries whose business model is built on dumping the greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere for free?).

    You heard the saying about seeing a “Podesta” in the eye of another, and missing Big Oil, Gas, Auto, Agro, Airlines, Transport in your own?

    And what about my argument that in the face of such a spectacular imbalance of power – the public broadcaster shouldn’t give the same voice to both side, but instead try to in a small way to address this imbalance, by giving the voice to those without it?

  42. 142
    Piotr says:

    Mal Adapted (133) [to a troll claiming that CO2 does not affect temperature]: “Snort. Speaking of known trolls, this is me exerting forbearance”.

    Snorting, eh? That’s rather classy of you. I, regretfully, tend to resort to more … unsophisticated responses to people like Victor. Well, unsophisticated, but according to the literature, quite effective:
    “Farting as a defence against unspeakable dread”
    https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1465-5922.1996.00165.x

  43. 143

    K 139: BPL: They’re sustainable by any sane definition, just not by yours.

    K: That’s extremely stupid. This is the sort of shit we see in children – and from the Gaslit Peanut Gallery.
    No, they are not. Not even close, and not by ANY definition of the currently possible.

    BPL: No matter how many times you say this, it’s still not true.

  44. 144

    K 140: You are condemning him and all your own, you damned fools!
    Get over your bullshit. NOW.

    BPL: Physician, heal thyself.

  45. 145

    #138, Russell–

    Ah, sir! I won’t be so easily collared as that!

  46. 146
  47. 147
    Al Bundy says:

    Susan A: Here we all are, and what are we going to do about it?

    AB: whine, fight, and bicker your allotted decades. At least, that was the probability.

    I’ve been forging wrenches. You know this goop must end. We’ll see what has sufficient torque and what doesn’t have enough leverage to move the Proud to be Stupid Club.

  48. 148
    Al Bundy says:

    Greg Guy: No one seems to address the main criticism, which is that the current world population consuming like Westerners cannot be reached via renewables

    AB: I once came across a fellow who was living in a solid gold house. Had single-pane diamond windows. He was keeping warm by burning $20 bills in an ornate but wildly inefficient stove while ranting about how there aren’t enough resources for everyone to stay warm.

    When the vast majority of a society’s resource usage is, say, from 10% to negative 10,000% efficient, whining about resource LIMITS is looking at the less problematic end of the problem.

  49. 149
    Al Bundy says:

    Wow. If scientists do science, say, answering, “is sea ice declining?” and it turns out that sea ice is declining, then that is a political contribution in support of alarmism.

    So, scientists, your need to start correcting for reality’s liberal bias. So unfair.

    And Greg Guy, I wasn’t disagreeing with you, just wandering further.

  50. 150
    MartinJB says:

    Victor (@136) says that “I should remind everyone that there are any number of other websites where I could easily find many friends.” Like that counts for something. There are websites where creationists and flat-earthers can find support. And what dandy bedfellows they make: All sharing in uninformed and even dishonest dismissal of overwhelming evidence.

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