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WSJ Editorial Board: Head Still Buried in the Sand

Filed under: — group @ 7 February 2007 - (Português)

While the rest of the world has basically accepted the conclusion of the latest IPCC report, one small village still holds out against the tide – the Wall Street Journal editorial board. This contrasts sharply with the news section of the paper which is actually pretty good. They had a front-page piece on business responses to global warming issues which not only pointed out that business was taking an interest in carbon reduction, but the article more or less took as a given that the problem was real. However, as we have pointed out before, the editorial pages operate in a universe all their own.

This would not be of much concern if the WSJ wasn’t such an influential paper in the US. However, the extent of its isolation on this issue is evident from the amusing reliance on the error-prone Christopher Monckton. They quote him saying that the sea level rise predictions were much smaller than in IPCC TAR (no they weren’t), that the human contribution to recent changes has been ‘cut by a third’ (no it hasn’t), and that the Summary for Policy Makers (SPM) was written by politicians (no it wasn’t – the clue is in the name).

Even more wrong is the claim that “the upcoming report is also missing any reference to the infamous ‘hockey stick’ “. Not only are the three original “hockey stick” reconstructions from the IPCC (2001) report shown in the (draft) paleoclimate chapter of the new report, but they are now joined by 9 others. Which is why the SPM comes to the even stronger conclusion that recent large-scale warmth is likely to be anomalous in the context of at least the past 1300 years, and not just the past 1000 years.

Thus on any index of wrongness, this WSJ editorial scores pretty high. What puzzles us is why their readership, who presumably want to know about issues that might affect their bottom line, tolerate this rather feeble denialism. While we enjoy pointing out their obvious absurdities, their readers would probably be better off if the WSJ accepted Jeffery Sachs’ challenge. For if they can’t be trusted to get even the basic checkable facts right on this issue, why should any of their opinions be taken seriously?

291 Responses to “WSJ Editorial Board: Head Still Buried in the Sand”

  1. 1
    mankoff says:

    I’m curious about Sachs’ challenge. The link just goes to

    [Response:fixed – thanks. -gavin]

  2. 2
    Alan Henriksen says:

    Have you contacted any senior WSJ staff members regarding your concerns? I would be interested in hearing their response.

  3. 3
    pete best says:

    Why indeed, however for some hard liners of which the editorial section of the WSJ seems to be one they will never capitulate on this subject, well not until money can be made from it and not just a cost. Trouble is when your entire political system in many important ways is directly related to how business operates and how funding and lobbying takes place indicates to me one thing, that science should play a far more prominent role in some aspects of Government and how it operates, fat chance of that.

    The scientific method is by far the best method of doing politics in certain areas, however emotion, sentiment, resistance to change, profits, backstabbing, doublecrossing, vested interests etc will always be a part of the political system. It explains to me why the bottom line in the USA revolves around the need to deny climate change in order to maintain prosperity and progress at all costs. The American way of life is non negoitable as I have heard GW Bush say, roll on 20 tonnes per head of capita until it all runs out.

  4. 4
    Nick Gotts says:

    It puzzles RC that the WSJ readership tolerate the editorial board’s denialism. Well they may not do so for very long if it gets in the way of factual reporting, but I doubt many serious businesspeople base their decisions on WSJ editorials. They will mostly know that the Gospel of the Free Market, as preached by the WSJ board, is just politically useful hogwash, helping to disguise the ways governments (and particularly that of the USA) side with big business against the general public. The WSJ board, on the other hand, are True Believers (which is why they have to be denialists, since anthropogenic climate change shows that their theology is nonsense); and as long as the WSJ readership want the message preached, it’s best to have True Believers preaching it, as they are likely to be most convincing. So the news pages / editorial disconnect is quite functional.

  5. 5
    Steven T. Corneliussen says:

    Bravo, RealClimate, for continuing to challenge the WSJ editorial board, which ought in simple civic fairness to offer its commentary page readers a comprehensive debate even if, for whatever reasons, its own minds are made up. I wish that RC scientists would submit op-eds regularly to the WSJ, and then, if turned down or stonewalled, I wish you’d post the op-eds on your site and let the world see that the WSJ won’t support open civic discussion. The world is watching.

  6. 6
    Serinde says:

    This is fine – as far as it goes. Have you sent a version of it to the Letters Editor yet? You don’t have to convince us. You have to have a dialogue with them.

  7. 7
    Eli Rabett says:

    You are making another category error, although a common one. There is ONE Wall Street Journal, and as long as people (RC is not the only group) keep affirming part of the paper, their position will NEVER change.

    The WSJ is written for the financial community. What they need to know is on the news pages, what they want to believe in the editorial section. This is by design. Anyone who affirms any part of the paper is buying into this strategy. Frankly, it’s all day old fishwrap. Perhaps the best way of putting this is that if the WSJ wishes to regain any credibility they will have to abandon their ignorant stance on climate change (among other things). In talking to reporters from the WSJ, one should say, how can I trust you? Your paper has zero credibility on these issues. Always point out examples such as the Monckton provocation. If they protest that the news division is different, point out strongly that it is one paper, and they don’t sell the news and the editorials separately.

  8. 8
    tamino says:

    I’ve noticed that since the release of the SPM, the blogosphere has erupted in an explosion of activity. On the one hand, denialists are in a frenzy, trying (in vain, it seems to me) to stem the tidal wave of public opinion. On the other hand, advocates are increasing their warnings and the hitherto-apathetic are awakening.

    In the public debate over global warming, the denialists aren’t just losing. They have lost. Now we need to get the public to take the issue to the voting booth; then the politicians will swing into action. And when we persuade the public to take the issue to the marketplace, the WSJ editorial board will do an “about face” with dizzying speed.

  9. 9
    Eli Rabett says:

    I disagree with tamino (a dangerous thing to do). In the debate over the science involved in global warming the denialists have lost. In the debate over what to do, they are winning;)

  10. 10
    jhm says:

    Ditch WSJ and start up with FT.

  11. 11
    Lou Grinzo says:

    tamino: You’re not the only one who’s noticed this change in the debate. I’m convinced that this sudden clatter is just the warmup act for the main show. As more people learn about CC and demand action, those with a vested interest in “business as usual” will fight like the proverbial cornered rat.

    Because the reduction of GHG emissions touches so much of our daily lives in a country like the US, I expect the CC “debate” to mushroom into an issue at least as polarizing and contentious as abortion, school prayer, flag burning, free speech, etc. are in the US. And there will always be a few high profile op-ed outlets, like the WSJ, that will stake out an extreme position, regardless of the facts. No matter how much evidence one can assemble, they will continue to pander to their base of true believers (or deniers).

    And thanks once again to RC for continuing to fight the good fight. I also think, as others here have already said, that RC should forward their thoughts to the WSJ and follow-up here if/when the WSJ refuses to publish them.

  12. 12
    Miles Coburn says:

    Apparently, Congressional Republicans are avid readers and believers in the WSJ editorial page. A poll published by the National Journal ( of congressional attitudes toward climate change reveals only 13% of 10 Republican senators and 45 House Republicans (names of those surveyed are included) answered yes to the question, “Do you think it’s been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the Earth is warming because of man-made problems?” This figure has actually dropped by 10% since a similar poll in April, 2006, while the affirmative response among Democrats has risen from 88% to 95%, indicating a remarkable polarization and illustrating the difficulty of accomplishing anything on a national level until 2009, or perhaps even beyond.

  13. 13
    John L. McCormick says:

    RE # 9

    AGW scorecard:

    a) debate over the science of AGW — the denialists have lost.

    b) debate over what to do — denialists are winning

    c) AGW long term impacts to corporate infrastructure and
    investments — corporations are losing……

    how and where to relocate Houston, Galveston, Bay Town petrochemical
    industry (40 percent of US petro-chem production capacity)located at
    sea level which (gosh!) is slowly rising.

  14. 14

    The responses to the WSJ editorial are as interesting as the editorial itself. Our own experience mirrors this. Every time the paper that I write editorials for prints an article about AGW they are inundated by hyperbolic letters to the editor from foes. There are apparently a significant number of individuals who will never accept the notion of AGW and those who write to us tend to object on religious grounds when you get to the bottom of things. To them the science doesn’t mean anything. Now that the majority of public opinion has shifted it’s time to move on.

    Scientists and skeptics have challenged psychics, voodoo health care practitioners and others of their ilk for years and not accomplished much. Sometimes you have to just ignore the lunatic fringe.

  15. 15
    Thom says:

    I disagree with Eli on the WSJ thing. The editorial and news sections are completely walled off at the WSJ. That is by design. I’ve met numerous WSJ reporters and they don’t agree with the editorial page, but it’s not under their control and haranguing the reporters about this will accomplish little. You’d be preaching to the choir.

    On another note, Senator Inouye is holding a hearing in the Commerce committee on climate change as I type. I noticed that he brought up the problem with federal scientists being suppressed from discussing their research.

    What is wrong with Senator Inouye? Doesn’t he read Roger Pielke Jr.? There is no problem.

  16. 16
    Ron Taylor says:

    Several of the posts here assume that the entire business world has a vested interest in “business as usual.” That is true only for limited parts of the business world. Other parts are aggressively investing in new business opportunities created by the need to address AGW and the related need for energy security. See, for example:

    The WSJ editorial board seems to be dragging its feet in an effort to protect the interests of energy companies, a limited, but large and influential segment. However, it should at least be honest in how it does that. Eventually, it too will be swept up by the gathering tsunami of creative new approaches to energy production driven, not by moral imperative, but by recognized business opportunies. Note in the above article, however, the importance of tax policy in encouraging such efforts.

  17. 17
    Ron Taylor says:

    I agree with the comments of others that RC should respond to the WSJ via an op-ed. I would also suggest that an op-ed in the Washington Post would be timely and would be read by most members of Congress. It should addess the efforts to discredit the science, and would best be done before the policy recommendations are published by the IPCC. That way, you can focus on the science and not give the appearance of getting involved in the policy discussion.

  18. 18

    I have been a WSJ subscriber and reader for decades. I’m also the publisher of a local business newspaper (Charleston, South Carolina). I would never allow the tripe that passes for informed opinion on the WSJ’s editorial page into my publication. The bias is so obvious it’s laughable.

    While the politics of business owners and managers is most likely skewed to the right of center, it’s a mistake to stereotype business people that way. Progressives, moderates, liberals and just plain pragmatists populate the upper echelons of business, along with “conservatives” however defined.

    I’d bet if The WSJ did an unbiased survey of readers, they’d find a large percentage who, like me, simply ignore the editorial page. Yes,the members of the editorial board are “true believers” in their conservative causes, but if they believe they are really that influential, I’d also call them “legends in their own minds.”

  19. 19
    Lou Grinzo says:

    RE: “business as usual” interests, I want to make it clear that my prior remarks in (11) were meant to say that there are some such interests, but that they’re by no means the entire economy. (In reading Ron’s (16) just now, I realized that I did a poor job of explaining my thoughts.)

    I’m an economist by training (but I’m a good guy, really), and I’m convinced that there’s an enormous amount of economic good to be had from GHG mitigation steps. As I like to say–who do you think will build and maintain and eventually replace all those wind turbines and solar panels we’re making? Martians? The arrival of peak oil and our awareness of AGW will trigger a massive rebalancing and restructuring of economies around the world. It won’t be a quick or painless transition, by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s one we’ll find a way to make even if we have to drag the deniers along, kicking and screaming.

  20. 20
    David Graves says:

    1) Canada has a national right wing would-be rival to the Globe and Mai-the National Post. Over at DeSmogBlog, there’s a very sad link to a “news” series on how valid the denialists’ arguments are. The “news” side, not the editorial side.
    2) Kudos to Miles Coburn (#12) for the National Journal (*not* to be confused with the National Review!) for the reference to the Congressional so-called Leadership.
    3) the Pew Research Center has an excellent survey on attitudes to climate change and what to do about it (you have to register to read the whole thing.) The really disturbing nugget is in the slicing of attitudes by education and party affiliation. Republicans who are college graduates are way less likely to believe climate change is happening than those who are not. Maybe those college grads all read the WSJ editorial page, It’s the opposite for the Dems. Must be all the liberal media.

  21. 21
    Jim Redden says:

    With respect to the poll cited by Miles Coburn #12–National Journal insiders–and the WSJ article. I think emotion, attitude, and ignorance explain much in this context.

    Affective attitudes act to filter and gate information–kind of analogous to the ozone hole confirmation by NASA delayed by the data acquisition routines that hid satellite data reporting the hole, that was in contrast to empirical ground source data Of course, later it was found that the ozone hole was there, just that anomalous data was tossed out.

    Consequently, knowledge and interpretation can and should change as evidence presents itself; an emotional attachment can explain why a scientist such as Lindzen holds onto ideas, that in themselves have portions of validity, but fail in the context of the whole. The name of the American scientist who dismissed plate tectonics to his death escapes me, but clearly forces of emotionally mediated attachment clouded his view.

    Moreover, I’ve heard this *relegion* portrayal about anthropogenic climate change from at least two house staffers in the last six months. In their context, aspects of climate change are beyond their comprehension, since learning the relationships of climate change is on many orders and levels of understanding, and the concepts can be abstract. With a basic understanding of the natural world and the physics involved, there will be no way to even consider the ramifications. For example, one staffer asked me if volcanoes were the main source of increased carbon dioxide in the air today. He categorized those who present humans as the source of warming as religious zealots.

    If one is unable to understand the abstract factual relationships that resolve to very real risks, the tendency is to apply patterns of known relationships and established order. In as much as matters of spirit and religion preclude a hard edge of logic, dismissing the very real risks of a gross alteration of the constituency of the atmosphere on the basis of belief, while foolish and stupid, can at least be explained in a cause and effect context.

  22. 22
    Richard Miller says:

    There is a way to get free access to the Wall Street Journal with a netpass from:

    This has been in several blogs lately.

  23. 23
    Ike Solem says:

    The effort that is going into the contrarian effort is really remarkable, and seems to center around a list of talking points that have been passed around; the stance hasn’t changed much in around a decade. I’ll post a few examples here so people can see how this works:

    Just to be clear, these are the talking points that are distributed to denialists via the network of groups described by

    From the “National Center for Public Policy Research”

    1) Sun Is Real Culprit Responsible for Global Warming, released June 1998 (a replay of Charles Muller’s arguments, i.e. #240 IPCC SPM thread)

    2) Global warming is a natural phenomenon, May 1998 (the tendency now is not to use the words ‘global warming’, but rather ‘climate change’)

    3)Global warming ‘consensus’ claims don’t hold water: Scientists simply don’t agree that global warming is occurring Includes an attack on the IPCC as a political rather than a scientific process – a claim that Roger Pielke Jr. has picked up on, and is riding for all it’s worth.

    4)Myths and Facts about global warming, July 1997 This one has the statement “whether or not the planet is warming depends on one’s reference points” – which is why I find the use of the 1971-2000 and 1980-1999 baselines for NOAA and the IPCC disturbing.

    5)Why global warming might be good, July 1997 Agriculture flourishes, we’ll be saved from a new ice age, etc.

    6)Why President Clinton’s Global Warming Plan is a Bum Steer, Aug 1994 This is just to show how long this has been going on.

    7)The Hole in Ozone Alarmists’ Dire Predictions, Sept 1994 Yes – their favorite word – Alarmists.

    8)Science puts the chill to California’s Global Warming Hot Air, Bonner Cohen, 2007 -yes, they’re still at it today!

    9)The EPA Global Warming Report, “Cooking the Books” This one is interesting, because it lists “the 10 second response”, “the 30 second response”, and “the discussion” – ready for regurgitation.

    10)Global Warming: Latest National Academies of Science Study Poorly Reported again, it lists the 10 sec, 30 sec, and discussion talking points.

    Finally, a wrap-up:Bonn Global Warming Earth Summit Fact Kit, NCPPR

    Here, the NCPPR listed the ‘top ten charges’ behind the Kyoto Protocol and provided ‘succinct talking points for rebuttal’ – I’ll leave out the policy/economic issues and stick to the science ones:

    5. Charge: We have already seen man-caused global warming in this century.

    Response: Actually, we have seen no sign of man-induced global warming at all. The computer models used in U.N. studies say the first area to heat under the “greenhouse gas effect” should be the lower atmosphere, known as the troposphere. Highly accurate, carefully checked satellite data has shown absolutely no warming. There has been surface warming of about half a degree Celsius, but this is far below the customary natural swings in surface temperatures.

    The satellite record clearly shows tropospheric warming and stratospheric cooling. The surface warming continues as well.

    6. Charge: Carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels are the primary cause of global warming.

    Response: There are many indications that carbon dioxide does not play a significant role in global warming. Richard Lindzen, professor of meteorology at MIT and a member of the National Academy of Sciences panel on climate change estimates that a doubling of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would produce a temperature increase of only one degree Celsius.

    In fact, clouds and water vapor appear to be far greater factors related to global temperature. According to Lindzen of MIT and scientists at NASA, clouds and water vapor may play a significant role in regulating the earth’s temperature to keep it more constant.

    Lindzen again, displaying his psychological obsession with the stable equilibrium notion of climate – sort of a ‘Gaia theory’ of the self-regulating climate – completely unsubstantiated.

    11. Charge: Still, the warming we have seen so far is unprecedented.

    Response: Actually, it is not. A thousand years ago the earth was in a very warm period, but around 1300 the Northern Hemisphere entered an ice age. Over the last 200 years, the earth has been steadily warming. It is also interesting to note that just 30 years ago, there was great concern about global cooling.

    Again, this is a blatant piece of disinformation.

    12. Charge: But what about all those computer models that show global warming? They can’t all be wrong.

    Response: But they have been wrong – continually. In 1988 the IPCC computer models predicted temperatures would rise 0.8 C per decade. By 1990, the estimates were down to 0.3 C and by 1995 it was 0.2 C. So, the recent changes of estimates are nothing new nor are they any more likely to be right. As shown in item 5, in fact, none of the predicted warming has occurred. See the IPCC report…

    In addition, the computer models leave out a wide variety of major climate mechanisms, including clouds. Most notably they leave out a natural heat vent phenomenon over the South Pacific that appears to have a self-regulating effect of the earth’s temperature.

    Yes – that’s a reference to Lindzen’s IRIS nonsense- that guy is shameless!

    Sorry if this is a bit long- but this is how the denialist camp works – distribute a set of talking points to public relations types and have them repeat the same set of disinformation over and over, in every forum they can get into.

  24. 24
    Neil Thomas says:

    I have always found that if you keep challenging businesses with the “Impact of businesses on the environment” they just roll it up into the entire Tax debate and circle the wagons.

    There is a significant body of information now which identifies what impact the “Climate” is going to have on us over the next century.

    Reports such as teh Lombard Street Research report recently released in the UK highlights that if we don’t do something “now” then the cost to businesses will be massively higher than doing nothing.

    It’s high time we saw reports estimating the loss of manufacturing capacity, company impact by storms, flooding and storm surge which details the real cost of doing nothing.

    It is time the analysis of impact by the “Environment” on the “Businesses” was publicly debated and put ito real $ terms so that businesses can do their own risk analysis and plan for the future.

    After all it might be cheaper paying the piper than having the Climate call the tune….

  25. 25
    Eli Rabett says:

    There may be a Berlin wall between the WSJ editorial and news sides, but the bottom line is that there is one piece of fishwrap that you buy called the Wall Street Journal. If you go along with their “it’s not our fault” escapism, you are part of the problem, not the solution. Frankly I don’t care if they folk on the news side don’t agree with the editorial side or visa versa, I want to bring all possible reality to bear on the publisher.

    Moreover it is a mistake to believe that the WSJ is aimed at businesses in general. It is aimed financial businesses, a subset with its own tribal customs. To have an impact you would have to show that climate change is negatively affecting insurance, real estate and stocks, not businesses in general. Emphasize the negative consequences for insurance and real estate if you want to speak to Dow Jones, the WSJ publisher.

  26. 26
    Nick Gotts says:

    Re #9 I disagree with tamino (a dangerous thing to do). In the debate over the science involved in global warming the denialists have lost. In the debate over what to do, they are winning;)

    Maybe the denialists are winning the latter debate in the US – not in the UK, and I’d think not in Europe generally, nor in Australia, where I understand the current drought has woken people up. In China and India, the debate’s probably still confined to narrow elite groups, but I’d guess the situation among those is similar to that in Europe – lip service to the need for serious action, now a cross-party consensus in the UK, but very little more. However, the action-denialists haven’t given up here: the Fraser Institute’s “ISPM” launch event in London included not just the ludicrous Bellamy, but Nigel Lawson – long Margaret Thatcher’s Chancellor of the Exchequer (tr: Treasury Secretary), and still a person of influence. His line was to admit climate change is happening, and human actions have played a part (while minimising the extent of this), but to argue that Stern badly miscalculated (underestimating costs of action and ignoring benefits of warming), and that action would involve huge near-term sacrifices for doubtful long-term gains. As the IPCC Fourth Assessment passes, and other issues come to the fore, I’ve no doubt the action-denialists will try to move out from their redoubts in the right-wing press and thinktanks to recapture the Conservative Party.

  27. 27
    Ron Taylor says:

    Re 25

    That is interesting, because insurance companies are leading the charge on forcing recognition of the risks of global warming.

    Re 19

    Lou, as an economist, I hope you will have a look at Paul Samuelson’s op-ed piece in today’s Washington Post. It basically says to pass the KoolAid, that we are toast!

  28. 28
    Thom says:

    Well, I guess that Eli and I will have to respectfully disagree. News is news and opinion is opinion. The WSJ editorial page is about as bad as you can get, but it’s clearly labelled opinion.

    On another note. the Senate hearings are discussing how NASA and NOAA have received around a 30% cut to their climate change budgets over the last couple of years. This is vitally important to note.

    And then there is this question. Why does Sherwood Rowland at UC Irvine hate Roger Pielke Jr.? From his written testimony:

    “In most of my experience, our colleagues in national laboratories have had almost as much freedom in their presentations. Presentation of one’s work as one sees it is the bedrock of the scientific enterprise. However, in the last several years, my scientific conversations have run into far too many instances in which the reports of the significance of the work have been subsequently changed by others, often by persons with less, or even no, expertise in the subject at hand. Some of these conflicts have been gathered together, with verified details, by the Union of Concerned Scientists and by the Government Accountability Project, and are presented here today.”

  29. 29
    lars says:

    Re #14

    lunatic fringe………..

    you mean like those that claimed the earth was round when the consensus was it was flat…..

    or do you mean the ones that said the earth orbits the sun when the consensus was the earth was the center of the universe…..

    where is Einstein when you need him……

    [Response: Usually I don’t approve witless and inflammatory statements like this one, but I think our readers could have a good time explaining why the consensus represented in the IPCC report is different from the situation described above. It’s the denialists that are in the position of the flat-Earthers. By the way, while there was clearly a consensus at one time for the geocentric picture of the Universe, the “flat Earth” picture was generally held only by the ignorant, and not by, say, Greek-inspired geometers who had studied the matter –raypierre]

  30. 30

    [[Sorry if this is a bit long- but this is how the denialist camp works – distribute a set of talking points to public relations types and have them repeat the same set of disinformation over and over, in every forum they can get into. ]]

    That’s exactly right. Whenever there’s a big story about climate change on AOL, the global warming board there gets about a hundred posts from denialists, and they all list the same misinformation — it’s the sun, can’t predict the weather, volcanoes pollute more. It’s very hard to believe they aren’t being coordinated in some way, if only by all getting their talking points from the same source or sources.

  31. 31
    Liisa Antilla says:

    I hope this isn’t too off topic but I was wondering if anyone cared to comment on the Andy Revkin New York Times piece of 2/4/07 re: IPCC AR4 (SPM), “The Basics: a disaster epic (in slo-mo).”
    Would you consider this another “curious piece” (see RC 1/3/07) – or not?

    [Response: No, this was fine. What was ‘curious’ in the previous piece was the suggestion that only now have voices in the ‘middle’ been raised and that this was somehow ‘heretical’. Neither suggestion stands up to much scrutiny unless your only sources of information were Fox News and and Earth First. – gavin]

    [Response: I actually have a slightly different take on this from Gavin. I was indeed a bit disappointed that there was no mention of the fact that the sea level projections in the report erred greatly on the conservative side (essentially ignoring the possibility of substantial contributions of melting ice sheets), and that there is a significant probability that non-trivial (e.g. a meter or more) rise in global sea level could actually take place over the next century. It is unclear that this problem will really unfold as slowly as was implied in the piece. See for example this Washington Post editorial from the other day. -mike]

  32. 32
    Mark A. York says:

    Well, they wouldn’t print my comment to the article online. I’m shocked.

    As I’ve said before two of the editors at opinionJournal don’t have college degrees in anything including journalism.

  33. 33
    Jeffrey Davis says:

    Re: the possibility of non-trivial sea level rises within a century

    I can’t imagine all that ice and snow melting and swooshing into the sea. It just isn’t going to melt like snow in Atlanta since, even with a 6C rise in temps, it isn’t going to be above freezing in the Antarctic in the winter and probably not much above in the summer. 6C is still just 6C. But extend the horizon beyond 93 years and I can’t imagine sea levels NOT rising to a dangerous degree. Somehow or other the year 2100 has gotten enshrined as an outer limit of our concern. 2100 isn’t an outer limit of concern. I’m sure it’s just there as a way to focus attention.

  34. 34
    Edward Barkley says:

    I am a proud skeptic and know a politics-driven propaganda campaign when I see one. It is becoming very difficult to find unbiased scientific information on this topic. Like true journalism, it may in fact be dead. Most difficult to find are realistic assessments of the costs of change.

    By all means, reduce US dependence on foreign oil. Even try to eliminate fossil fuels altogether. Wonderful. But also give realistic estimates of the costs involved. Just how many fly-over states in the US do you want to plow over to grow ethanol?

    Above all, admit that energy research by large corporations encouraged by tax incentive generating governments is more likely to affect change than feel good carbon-dioxide footprint reduction plans and ecological sin taxation.

    Fossil fuel is a very cheap and effective form of energy that is not easily replaced. It comes out of the ground, from many places on earth that are useless to almost any other purpose, and is easily transported.

    Impress me by championing the expansion of nuclear power.

  35. 35
    Randolph Fritz says:

    What concerns me here is that the publishers of the WSJ, Dow Jones are one of the major providers of investment advice. And, if they sincerely believe that climate change is not a real problem, then they will advise investors to avoid firms that undertake steps to mitigate climate change, and firms that provide products that are climate-neutral, directing capital away from the firms which are solving the problem. Persuading Dow Jones would make a huge difference. But how?

  36. 36
    Mark A. York says:

    “Just how many fly-over states in the US do you want to plow over to grow ethanol?”

    How many are not already plowed over? Real journalism is far from dead, but it lends credence to sources not deserving of the attention except as examples of false information.

    “from many places on earth that are useless to almost any other purpose, and is easily transported.”

    Well it depends how one defines “purpose,” such as nursery to most of the wildlife on the North American continent. I take it this is an unwise use in your view? I don’t call an 800-mile pipeline and tankers prone to crashing and fishery-ending spills either “easy” or risk free. Using the wasted natural gas would be beneficial in the short term to replace coal.

    The scientific information is unbiased to all but the biased. They just don’t want to hear it so denial is their only option. I’m hearing the Song of the Dodo.

  37. 37
    RBH says:

    The WSJ editorial folks might want to talk with the reinsurance industry. Reinsurers (notably Swiss Re, the second largest reinsurer) are taking GW very seriously, for the simple reason that it has the potential to cost them a helluva lot of money.

    The world’s second-largest reinsurer Swiss Re warned on Wednesday [in March 2004] that the economic costs of natural disasters, aggravated by global warming, are threatening to spiral out of control and could double to $150 billion (82 billion pounds) a year in 10 years.

    In a report revealing how climate change is rising on the corporate agenda, Swiss Re said the economic costs of such disasters threatened to double to $150 billion (82 billion pounds) a year in 10 years, hitting insurers with $30-40 billion in claims, or the equivalent of one World Trade Center attack annually.

    “There is a danger that human intervention will accelerate and intensify natural climate changes to such a point that it will become impossible to adapt our socio-economic systems in time,” Swiss Re said in the report.

  38. 38
    Steve Latham says:

    To Ed Barkley (#34),
    I shouldn’t speak for them and I don’t read often enough to know if this is true all the time, but:
    RC is not a policy discussion forum; it is a science discussion forum; RC does not want to champion taxation versus nuclear versus whatever else. I would hope that anyone could come here and be impressed with the science without having to find out where the authors stand on issues outside of their expertise.

  39. 39
    SMichael says:

    Most of the people in your thread attribute the views held on climate in the WSJ editorial page to that newspaper’s desire to protect special interests. This is false. The WSJ believes in the primacy and efficiency of markets. They consequently believe that market mechanisms can address climate change and that many people who advocate radical policies in response to climate change are on the left and are trying to find a justification for government intervention.

    The WSJ editorial page science may be bad. However, it is important to recognise that they are ideological rather than venal. Indeed the WSJ editorial pages has spoken out against market interventions that would benefit big business (such as ethanol subsidies). By calling them stooges of the energy industry you simply serve to confirm their prejudices. You would also do a whole lot better with their consituency if you could show how carbon caps would ameliorate the problem. (Particularly given how difficult Europe finds it to comply with Kyoto). The science may be clear, but poltically people are not going to vote for widespread quotas and taxes if all this means is a reduction of a fraction of calvin many decades in the future.

  40. 40

    You write: “What puzzles us is why their readership, who presumably want to know about issues that might effect their bottom line, tolerate this rather feeble denialism”

    One guess is that that this readership and the WSJ editorial board championing such denialism, understand climate change much more so than they admit, and have already reached the conclusion (right or wrong) that the 70-80% GHG reductions needed to forestall catastrophic climate change is, from a geo-political standpoint, a very unlikely scenario. So their apparent chosen strategy is to oppose the prospect of our world spending the enormous effort, and vast sums of money, (much of which they presumably conclude may come from themselves and their interests) while they go about the clandestine and very private task of determining exactly how they can best ride out the upcoming decades-long climate change ‘storm.’

    Even James Lovelock’s dire prediction of our planet’s future holds out hope that the higher altitudes will remain relatively habitable to humans. Don’t be surprised if the WSJ readership and editorial board busy themselves during upcoming decades not in finding ways to mitigate the increasing warming, but in finding ways to ensure the future of their progeny, (like, for example, by buying up large tracts of real estate in the higher altitudes).

    WSJ readers generally comprise the population who has for 37 years opposed the U.N.’s 1970 resolution that the 22 richest countries donate 0.7% of their GNP annually to developing countries whose children die at the rate of about 29,000 each day. (The U.S., for example, has never given even 1/3rd of that pledged amount each year). WSJ readers have a long record of choosing self-interest over the desperate needs of large populations.

    Those who publish and read the WSJ are, in general, not without a high degree of propensity and expertise in advancing and protecting their personal interests. Asking them to voluntarily act otherwise is, unfortunately, a prospect that scientists would be wise to seriously consider a “very unlikely” scenario.

  41. 41
    Dan says:

    re: 34. “I…know a politics-driven propaganda campaign when I see one.”
    No. The only “politics-driven propaganda campaign” is the one driven by head-in-the-sand anti-science denialists and the Exxon/Mobils of the world. The climate science and methods use to research global warming are strong and valid. Peer-review has supported that. The research results are readily available for reading and learning. Try searching for and reading about the various IPCC reports via Google instead of close-mindedly believing and restating what someone else with little scientific credentials tells you to think or say. There are many links given here at this site.

  42. 42
    Susan K says:

    I just heard the tail end of the hearing this morning on c-span, link in here:

    and have a question for you climate scientists: worst case scenario: if we continue to do nothing:

    1. how high could the Co2 ppm rise to, and
    2. could that swing our climate from one suitable for oxygen-breathers like all life now, to one suitable only for carbon-dioxide-breathers, similar to the atmosphere enjoyed 3.8 billion years ago by the cyanobacteria?

    Some scientist here (upthread on the IPPC day I think…?) described the cyanobacteria 3.8 billion years ago as “perpetrating the greatest fratricide ever” in COMPLETELY switching the air on this planet tfrom Co2 to O2.

    (Mostly Co2/mostly O2, I mean…)So, is that possible?

    Could we repeat (pre)history – in reverse?

  43. 43
    Pascal says:

    What is happening on Realclimate?
    More and more politics and less and less climate science?

    However, there are many points to explicite in SPM.
    For example, the main differences between the TAR and AR4, the introduction of C-cycle feedback in the AR4, the best precision of the forecasts, aerosols between 1990 and 2006,…

    [Response:Understood. We will be focussing more on the scientific nuances in posts to come…. -gavin]

  44. 44
    Phillip Shaw says:

    Re #34:

    As has been pointed out a number of times in a number of RC threads, fossil fuels are comparatively cheap only as long as the producers and consumers are allowed to externalize the costs associated with dumping gigatons of CO2 into the atmosphere. Make them internalize the costs and suddenly fossil fuels won’t seem so ‘cheap’.

    An analogy I heard recently is that saying fossil fuels are cheaper than alternative energy sources is like saying it would be cheaper to dump raw sewage into rivers than to build a water treatment plants. That’s true, of course, unless you live downstream. The true cost of any activity includes the cost of cleaning up the waste.

  45. 45
    Peter Williams says:

    People believe the shlock printed on this subject by the likes of the WSJ editorial board in part because scientific literacy in this country is pathetically low. Obvious, perhaps, but when scientists have to reduce their findings to the level of bumper-sticker thinking to get the message across, even the WSJ troglodytes armed only with degrees in philosophy and economics can engage in “debate” on the subject. Of course they wouldn’t know a Kolmogorov-Smirnov test if it bit them on the a##, but that’s irrelevant; read enough Wittgenstein or market theory and you won’t get bogged down in scientific details. Making falsifiable statements about the real world is so passe, you know.

  46. 46
    Janne Sinkkonen says:

    Re #35, on anti-AGW investment advice by Dow Jones: I don’t think it matters much. DJ may mislead public whose investment decisions are misled for numerous other reasons anyway. But the prices are not determined by small investors but by big institutional money, managed by professionals. For them, DJ is just another advertisement agency.

    [Off-topic: In general, worthwhile investment advice is really hard to find on the market where ordinary people operate. This is partly because of conflicts of interest, partly because of the unpredictability of the market, which is a highly competitive zero sum game around the index and therefore very unpredictable. Most are best served by index funds.]

  47. 47
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Most difficult to find are realistic assessments of the costs of change.

    That’s why so many of us are concerned that this change is happening, before any realistic assessment of what it will cost was made.

    It’s like driving off the paved road at high speed thinking, “hey, what could go wrong?”

  48. 48
    SecularAnimist says:

    Pascal wrote: “What is happening on Realclimate? More and more politics and less and less climate science?”

    I think part of what’s happening here, and everywhere, is that as the science becomes more and more clear that anthropogenic global warming is real, rapid and accelerating, and that the changes to the Earth’s climate and biosphere that it is causing present a grave and growning danger to humanity, and indeed to all life on Earth, the discussion naturally shifts from the science itself to what to do about it, which is an intensely “political” subject, since various proposals have differing costs and benefits for different stakeholders. And in this matter we are all stakeholders.

  49. 49
    Serinde says:

    Re 27
    It’s not the economist Paul Samuelson, whose book most of us remember using in high school (guns and butter, how prescient), but Robert J. Samuelson. Interesting article, however, followed by pages of thoroughly depressing comments. I even spotted a few rewrites of the sort listed by Ike in 23 (above), including references to Lindzen. It was reassuring to be able to recognise them so easily, so thank you.
    I understand that this isn’t the proper forum for discussion of ‘doing’ as oppposed to ‘understanding’. But in reading around published comment, it becomes absolutely clear that science and education are key to helping people understand what’s at stake. Perhaps all scientists should get elected to their local School Board (or whatever they have where you live). You have to start somewhere. Perhaps then it would be less likely that we would be reading articles written by a schizophrenic WSJ. And tolerating it.

  50. 50
    Pascal says:


    ok secularanimist but do you think, for example, that it is’nt important to know more precisely the total radiative forcing?
    It’s not the same for climate sensitivity if we have 0.6 or 2.4 W/m2.
    If RF equal 0.6 W/m2 we have 1.2°C.m2/W and if RF equal 2.4W/m2 we get only 0.3°C.m2/W.
    So if aerosols concentration is decreasing the future effect on climate may huge or weak.
    It’s not the same!