RealClimate logo

Note 3/23/2021: we had a few hiccups with comments after moving the site to https/SSL. Hopefully they're fixed now. Please let us know if there are remaining issues.

The Guardian’s Editorial

Filed under: — eric @ 8 December 2009

The following editorial was published today by 56 newspapers around the world in 20 languages including Chinese, Arabic and Russian. The text was drafted by a Guardian team during more than a month of consultations with editors from more than 20 of the papers involved. Like The Guardian most of the newspapers have taken the unusual step of featuring the editorial on their front page. The Guardian, the editorial is free to reproduce under Creative Commons.

RealClimate takes no formal position on the statements made in the editorial.

Copenhagen climate change conference: Fourteen days to seal history’s judgment on this generation

Today 56 newspapers in 45 countries take the unprecedented step of speaking with one voice through a common editorial. We do so because humanity faces a profound emergency.

Unless we combine to take decisive action, climate change will ravage our planet, and with it our prosperity and security. The dangers have been becoming apparent for a generation. Now the facts have started to speak: 11 of the past 14 years have been the warmest on record, the Arctic ice-cap is melting and last year’s inflamed oil and food prices provide a foretaste of future havoc. In scientific journals the question is no longer whether humans are to blame, but how little time we have got left to limit the damage. Yet so far the world’s response has been feeble and half-hearted.

Climate change has been caused over centuries, has consequences that will endure for all time and our prospects of taming it will be determined in the next 14 days. We call on the representatives of the 192 countries gathered in Copenhagen not to hesitate, not to fall into dispute, not to blame each other but to seize opportunity from the greatest modern failure of politics. This should not be a fight between the rich world and the poor world, or between east and west. Climate change affects everyone, and must be solved by everyone.

The science is complex but the facts are clear. The world needs to take steps to limit temperature rises to 2C, an aim that will require global emissions to peak and begin falling within the next 5-10 years. A bigger rise of 3-4C — the smallest increase we can prudently expect to follow inaction — would parch continents, turning farmland into desert. Half of all species could become extinct, untold millions of people would be displaced, whole nations drowned by the sea. The controversy over emails by British researchers that suggest they tried to suppress inconvenient data has muddied the waters but failed to dent the mass of evidence on which these predictions are based.

Few believe that Copenhagen can any longer produce a fully polished treaty; real progress towards one could only begin with the arrival of President Obama in the White House and the reversal of years of US obstructionism. Even now the world finds itself at the mercy of American domestic politics, for the president cannot fully commit to the action required until the US Congress has done so.

But the politicians in Copenhagen can and must agree the essential elements of a fair and effective deal and, crucially, a firm timetable for turning it into a treaty. Next June’s UN climate meeting in Bonn should be their deadline. As one negotiator put it: “We can go into extra time but we can’t afford a replay.”

At the deal’s heart must be a settlement between the rich world and the developing world covering how the burden of fighting climate change will be divided — and how we will share a newly precious resource: the trillion or so tonnes of carbon that we can emit before the mercury rises to dangerous levels.

Rich nations like to point to the arithmetic truth that there can be no solution until developing giants such as China take more radical steps than they have so far. But the rich world is responsible for most of the accumulated carbon in the atmosphere – three-quarters of all carbon dioxide emitted since 1850. It must now take a lead, and every developed country must commit to deep cuts which will reduce their emissions within a decade to very substantially less than their 1990 level.

Developing countries can point out they did not cause the bulk of the problem, and also that the poorest regions of the world will be hardest hit. But they will increasingly contribute to warming, and must thus pledge meaningful and quantifiable action of their own. Though both fell short of what some had hoped for, the recent commitments to emissions targets by the world’s biggest polluters, the United States and China, were important steps in the right direction.

Social justice demands that the industrialised world digs deep into its pockets and pledges cash to help poorer countries adapt to climate change, and clean technologies to enable them to grow economically without growing their emissions. The architecture of a future treaty must also be pinned down – with rigorous multilateral monitoring, fair rewards for protecting forests, and the credible assessment of “exported emissions” so that the burden can eventually be more equitably shared between those who produce polluting products and those who consume them. And fairness requires that the burden placed on individual developed countries should take into account their ability to bear it; for instance newer EU members, often much poorer than “old Europe”, must not suffer more than their richer partners.

The transformation will be costly, but many times less than the bill for bailing out global finance — and far less costly than the consequences of doing nothing.

Many of us, particularly in the developed world, will have to change our lifestyles. The era of flights that cost less than the taxi ride to the airport is drawing to a close. We will have to shop, eat and travel more intelligently. We will have to pay more for our energy, and use less of it.

But the shift to a low-carbon society holds out the prospect of more opportunity than sacrifice. Already some countries have recognized that embracing the transformation can bring growth, jobs and better quality lives. The flow of capital tells its own story: last year for the first time more was invested in renewable forms of energy than producing electricity from fossil fuels.

Kicking our carbon habit within a few short decades will require a feat of engineering and innovation to match anything in our history. But whereas putting a man on the moon or splitting the atom were born of conflict and competition, the coming carbon race must be driven by a collaborative effort to achieve collective salvation.

Overcoming climate change will take a triumph of optimism over pessimism, of vision over short-sightedness, of what Abraham Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature”.

It is in that spirit that 56 newspapers from around the world have united behind this editorial. If we, with such different national and political perspectives, can agree on what must be done then surely our leaders can too.

The politicians in Copenhagen have the power to shape history’s judgment on this generation: one that saw a challenge and rose to it, or one so stupid that we saw calamity coming but did nothing to avert it. We implore them to make the right choice.

663 Responses to “The Guardian’s Editorial”

  1. 101
    Dave K says:

    Since non of my posts actually make it by a moderator, for reasons that remain a mystery (my views are very mild compared to many I read here) will I now be forced to post what you all want to hear?
    I was under the impression that this was a fairly open forum; .not one of my posts contained slander toward any specific individual.

    [Response: Dave. I am unaware of having deleted any of your posts (other than the last half of this one, which was stupid and offensive). You are welcome to resend your comments.–eric]

  2. 102
    George Ortega says:

    The two statements that stand out for me in the editorial are in the second paragraph; “The dangers have been becoming apparent for a generation” and “Yet so far the world’s response has been feeble and half-hearted.”

    The problem is that these dangers are apparent to too few in the public. Until the public better understands the problem, the world’s response will continue to be essentially rhetorical.

    Here’s a proposal for how to change that dynamic. Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” drew a great deal of criticism largely because Gore is a Democrat and because Gore is not a climate scientist.

    The proposal is for the IPCC to EVERY YEAR produce a documentary for global movie theatre distribution on climate change that reminds the public about the dangers we face and that apprises them of the steady stream of important developments, like Hansen’s 2008 paper concluding that the number to be under is no longer 450ppm, it is 350ppm.

    Gore made his movie with a budget of just $1 million, and it took in $49 million in gross receipts at the box office. If the IPCC has to spend $10 million each year to produce and distribute each documentary, and settle for only $10 or $20 million dollars in gross revenue, each documentary would still be a POWERFUL success.

    There is no good reason for the IPCC to refrain from producing and mass-distributing these yearly climate change update documentaries, and there are many very good reasons for their doing so.

    If for lack of imagination or any other reason the IPCC refrains from this strategy, and if climate scientists refrain from INSISTING that these documentaries be created, then we can place the blame for our global inertia squarely on a scientific community that continues to fail in it’s responsibility to effectively disseminate its findings.

    I hope that climate scientists and the IPCC realize that it is this kind of game-changing strategy that is called for if we are to have any chance of properly addressing climate change.

  3. 103
    Brian Dodge says:

    I was meeting with my attorney last week, and we chatted a little about global warming. When I mentioned that polls showed a decreasing public belief in global warming, she said something to the effect that she thought a lot of that apparent shift was due to the same psychological processes that happen in most people when they get bad news like an unexpected diagnosis of terminal cancer; denial, irrational seeking of alternate explanations, emotional state(s) that interfere with or even sometimes prevent thinking about the issue. She thinks that many people find global warming too terrifying to rationally consider, so they deal with it by denial – they have moved from believing “it might be happening but probably won’t be too bad or affect me” to “it must be wrong because it can’t be that bad”. She has an undergrad degree in psychology (and political science – double major), and said that this irrational reaction makes the public more susceptible to being manipulated by “sociopaths” (her word)[1] like Limbaugh & Beck, and politicians from both sides, like Gore or Palin.

    [1] (I just looked this up; the next time my atty and I talk, I’ll have to ask her about Venn diagrams, politicians, and sociopaths.)

  4. 104
    J says:

    [Response: Translation: Unless there is a model that can predict exactly my injuries that will be sustained if I jump this red light, it’s insane to consider slowing down as I approach the junction. – gavin]

    Predict exactly? No, but it would be more encouraging if a model was somewhere close, before the fact, not after “adjusting for unexpected natural forces”.

    And just slow down? No, the politicians want to cut off both your legs. Copenhagen, Kyoto, Cap and trade will have a massive negative effect on our lives, not the least of which is government controlling every aspect of our lives. No where near the same harmless effect of slowing down in your car.

  5. 105
    Rachel H says:

    “we can surely use cap and trade (or carbon taxes for that matter) to send price signals to give more favor to alternate energy and to future innovations to start competing.”

    I call BS – cap and trade is just a mechanism for gov’t to control people, and people like Al Gore to continue to mess up the environment without feeling guilty.

    Methane is no less polluting than other carbon fuels, and there are hidden costs with most alt energies.

    The impact of manufacturing equipment, maintenance costs, wildlife and the very real impact of causing climate change. Changing wind patterns is *NOT* inconsequential. You cannot disrupt wind without changing climate. We’re already seeing it.

    Biofuels also produce greenhouse gases, and are hurting developing nations – food shortages created by diverting FOOD or agricultural resources to energy.

    And banning plastic bags, plastic silverware, etc. is not the answer either.


  6. 106
    Kevin Coleman says:

    Hugh Laue says:
    9 December 2009 at 4:01 AM Article no: 50

    I would recommend highly the above comment as being probably one of the most positive and honest I have read for sometime. A lot of the preceding comments have alluded to small sections and broad brush overviews but when all is said and done the truth is we all need to read the facts and be guided by our own intuition.

    Thank You Hugh for your time spent writing your comment.

  7. 107
    Doc Savage Fan says:

    In regard to Comment #1 by PaulS…I share his hope that RC can be a balanced source of information. I look forward to seeing how this develops. BTW…the information on GCR theory appears to be a bit dated…perhaps this is a good place to start.

  8. 108
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 9 December 2009 @ 9:03 AM:

    When you have outfits like the “Club for Growth” running multi-decadal propaganda campaigns assassinating the reputation of our civil services to the end of making no contribution to civil society whatsoever (ie zero taxation ideally), it’s an unfortunate truth that a lot of collateral damage will happen.

    Here in Washington state civil society is dropping to its knees, dying because CFG, Grover Norquist et al have hypnotized voters into imagining they can wring every last iota of waste out of the civil services, even if doing so requires descending into third world condition. Most of these voters will get the equivalent of a few deluxe pizzas in exchange for civilization, many will get nothing at all, bamboozled into giving up their own comforts so that a tiny remaining percentage can pay significantly less tax.

    Hence naive statements about “government can’t get anything right”.

  9. 109
    Edward Greisch says:
    is a blank white page on Mac OS 9.1, ie 5.1.

    CO2 from the past is “sunk cost”. It doesn’t count who did it. Get over arguing who hit who first. This isn’t a schoolyard blame argument. It is over whether Homo Sap will live or go extinct. Civilization couldn’t have reached the point where we know what we know now without going through the history that we have gone through. NOBODY gets a free pass. The “Developing?” countries who are trying to EXTORT money stand to loose the most the soonest by refusing to cooperate.

    It isn’t energy that we have to use less of. It is CO2 that we have to produce less of. We CAN use more energy while producing almost no CO2. It is just that a lot of people have to quit believing conspiracy theories and fighting non-issues.

  10. 110
    Ray Ladbury says:

    I keep seeing posts from denialists who oppose the science because they think that mitigation will require draconian reorganization of our society.

    First, how do the social consequences of a problem have any influence on the science?

    Second, if you oppose the policies being proposed, then doesn’t it make sense to come up with proposals for mitigation that will be more to one’s liking and equally effective? And how can one propose effective policies if they are not based on the best science available (e.g. on the consensus of the experts)?

    It seems to me that as we start to see more severe effects of climate change manifest, the public may begin to call for more draconian action. Early action is the key to preserving liberty as we address this issue.

  11. 111
    EL says:

    67 Barton Paul Levenson — “BPL: Crap! Energy is not the same as fossil fuels. There are other sources of energy.”

    Nonsense. I return you to the exact quote in the article:

    “any of us, particularly in the developed world, will have to change our lifestyles. The era of flights that cost less than the taxi ride to the airport is drawing to a close. We will have to shop, eat and travel more intelligently. We will have to pay more for our energy, and use less of it.”

    The idea of using less energy as a solution to global warming is foolish and rash, and it will cause considerable harm to the poor classes and the modern world as a whole. The entire strategy is nothing more then a push for global governance. If combating global warming was the main concern, research and development would be the main concern presented; instead, Copenhagen is focusing on wealth redistribution and the regulation of human conduct.

    The other sources of energy require rare earth resources. The renewable technology name is very misleading. The renewable technologies are not made from renewable materials; instead, they require rare earth materials like platinum, lithium, and other hard to find materials. These materials do not grow on trees, and they limit the scalability of renewable technologies.

  12. 112
    Think says:

    #103 (Brian Dodge): What is happening in some parts of the press is not an issue of denial for bad news; it is the result of an well-organised orchestrated campaign to stop any action on climate change.

    The same thing happened with the tobacco industry in the US. It was scientifically known since the 50s that smoking causes cancer, however an effective campaign by the tobacco industry delayed any real action for more than 50 years. The tobacco industry, through their third parties, spread doubt on the science.

    It is ironic that the same “third parties” of the tobacco industry are also serving the fossil fuel industry.


  13. 113
    Patrick 027 says:

    I’ve heard that talks have stalled over the wealthy vs poor nation issue.

    This is so dissappointing in particular because there are obvious solutions.

    Consider any one or more of the following:

    1. Agreements to allow any nation, without threat of retribution, to put a tariff on imports from another nation, in proportion to the differences between domestic policies, in proportion to the emissions intensity of the products/services, for the emissions from that nation (admittedly it gets complicated when a product/service has a lifecycle that must be traced back through several nations, especially if it comes back to the nation which is the importer; however, even a somewhat innaccurately-calculated system will still motive countries to keep up with trade partners in their emissions efficiency and/or their policies). Perhaps also subsidies for exports calculated in similar fashion (this could help close the loop in dealing with products/services that have a lifecycle involving back-and-forth trade). (It might not be necessary to let exporting countries off the hook for emissions incurred prior to imports in the lifecycle of those exports, because they would then be motivated to place a tariff on their own inports; etc.)

    2. A global tax on emissions, which needn’t actually be transferred to the U.N. or other such agency in total, as the only international exchanges would be the net differences between what is owed (the tax in proportion to GWP production) and what is earned or deserved (reward for technology transfers/sharing, compensation for climate-change costs; PS It is very important to compensate climate-change refugees and/or the countries that recieve them). Note that if the tax on fossil C emissions in particular is apportioned according to site of extraction (some correction for fossil C stored in materials that are not later incinerated, etc.), countries can pass along costs to consumers of fuels; if the tax is apportioned by site of combustion/oxydation, countries can likewise pass along costs to consumers of products/services; it isn’t necessary to identify who actually benifits from the emitting activity – the market response tends to redristribute the costs to the benificiaries (as it would for domestic emissions taxes that could, for the purposes of efficiency, be applied at points in the flow of fossil C processing/use which have large volumes through fewer channels – taxing mines and wells, or power plants and fuel distributors, as opposed to electricity and fuel end-users). Past emissions (including deforestation) can be taxed retroactively, with the caveat that there should be some discount according to time elapsed due to the need to start changing from where we are as we can’t go back in time (but not discounted too much, in part due to the existence of widespread legal restrictions on immigration, and social/psychological costs incured by leaving home, as part of the optimal market response would be immigration towards wealth), and that to some extent the responsibility for those emissions should be apportioned according to the accumulated wealth that has been produced; the backtax could be payed back over some decades with zero real interest after time of assessment. This would help level the playing field between rich and poor nations.

    An alternative to the tax would be a 100 % international auction of caps.

    3. time-evolving caps to nations apportioned on the basis of G(D/N?)Ps, including the fraction of emissions from anywhere that are the responsibility of that nation’s economy and excluding the fraction that is the responsibility of another nation’s economy. Or, assign according to G(D/N)P without such consideration but then allow trade (cap-and-trade) – this approach might require a 100 % international auction of caps, or otherwise might burden poor countries too much (*?*). Since investment of energy can contribute to later economic activity, it might be necessary to consider projections of future G(D/N)P – this would help make the system more fair to growing economies. To the extent that for a given level of efficiency and technology, wealth will tend to be proportional to emissions, this system could be fair to poor nations.

    4. As with 3. but according to population instead of G(D/N)P, multiplied by a relative climate-change risk factor. Cap-and-trade with no auction. This approach would allow poor nations that have lower emissions per capita, facing climate-change costs, to get compensation for injuries (or costs in avoiding such injuries) to the extent they are not responsible for causing those injuries. Population growth reduction is important in any case, but perhaps especially with this approach, as it could reward the governments of fertile countries with more power, even though it could be fair on a per-person basis (on the upside, it rewards countries for allowing immigration). On the other hand, allocation according to present or near-future population as opposed to more distant projections could avoid such a problem, though might be unfair regarding long-term investments.

  14. 114
    Patrick 027 says:

    “This approach would allow poor nations that have lower emissions per capita, facing climate-change costs, to get compensation for injuries (or costs in avoiding such injuries) to the extent they are not responsible for causing those injuries.”

    Actually, some losses are proportional to wealth or projected wealth, so the ideal, if tradable caps are simply allocated without auction, would be to apportion caps according to a weighted sum of population and traditionally-measured wealth-production, with perhaps more emphasis on future projections absent climate change for the wealth component.

  15. 115
    Hank Roberts says:

    > this irrational reaction makes the public more
    > susceptible to being manipulated


    I wish someone could take out a few hundred thousand thirty-second ads on AM talk radio, in which someone with a recognizable, trusted radio voice (maybe Bob Edwards) would say:

    “Ladies and gentlement, this is [Bob Edwards].

    Part of what you hear is true: people — on the radio — are lying to you about climate change.

    Part of what you hear — on the radio — is false. The scientists are not lying. The news is real, and urgent.

    You can read; you can look this up for yourself.

    Please: Go to your public library. Ask a librarian how to look up the science about global warming. Read it for yourself. Or ask your children to read it for you.

    Read it for yourself, and for your children and grandchildren.

    Thank you for listening — and for thinking for yourself.”

  16. 116
    Jonathan says:

    The Guardian editorial says that the facts are clear. This is likely to irritate precisely the readers the article is trying to convince – i.e. those unsure whether global warming is happening and/or if it is whether it is worth doing something about it.

    Predictions of catastrophic global warming are not facts – they are predictions based on a theory. This point is made by Real Climate in the recent article “The Climate Science isn’t settled”

    Here’s a more persuasive article by Bryan Appleyard on why we should take global warming seriously and do something about it:

    It’s persuasive because it addresses the instinctive reaction many people have that global warming is just the latest in a long line of doomsday predictions. Wait long enough and it will go away – heh maybe it is going away since temperatures haven’t risen in the past ten years…etc….

    Appleyard makes a compelling argument why we should ignore our instinctive scepticism and listen to the experts in this subject. In contrast the Guardian editorial makes no attempt to explain why we should be concerned and leaves the impression that Global Warming is a convenient excuse to push their political agenda.

  17. 117
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 100 Bill K – “Editorials like this are exactly what’s wrong with the global warming movement”

    I can see how you might think that the point was to end air travel (which would actually be a bit silly – my understanding is that it is per person per mile as efficient as car travel – but then trains would still beat that.). But the point is to add incentive to innovation, do things more efficiently, and switch to cleaner energy sources.

  18. 118

    I am a highly qualified person to speak to this – my surname is spelled the very same as a Nobel prize winning physicist and world renown research scientist and mathematician. And I share more than 99% of his DNA. (see Poe’s law

    All I can do is refer to IPCC reports co-authored by scientists and politicians and read that the SRES A1FI climate model states that 6 degrees of warming is possible by the year 2100 ( And then I link that to paleoclimatological studies showing 6 degrees warming during the Permian extinction, and MIT studies that say our models under-estimate warming.

    Well, all of a sudden, like connecting dots on a child’s coloring book (don’t forget Poe’s Law)- it is easy to conclude that Anthropogenic Global Warming is proceeding faster than scientifically predicted. So we can now say that without willful, forceful intervention, the risk is complete human extinction.

    This is an alarming statement, but it is neither impossible, nor implausible. Argumentation against it has to slog through an uphill battle of no science studies that disputes that it is possible to reach a totally uninhabitable world. I will accept the possibility may be slight, but it is non-zero – and greater with further anthropogenic forcing.

    Even if it is unlikely, why is no one willing to admit this possibility?

  19. 119
    Mark Gibb says:

    Asun Friere @ 61:
    Yes, I could be wrong. But, I simply do not believe that the most catastrophic scenarios are very likely to occur. To me, the real risk is the power that you want to give the world’s governments. That power will be permanent, and they will use it regardless of what happens with climate. We are already drowning in government debt, and this tax and spend mentality will only dig the hole deeper and faster.

    Tom Adams @ 87:
    In the United States, none of [deeds, property laws, courts, law enforcement] is massive nor centralized. All of them are handled by local and state governments, and are thus open to experimentation and competition.

    dhogaza @ 89:
    Wall framing that I noticed was for interior, non-load-bearing walls, and it was definitely aluminum.

    dhogaza @ 90:
    Tax breaks and credits, while having some bad effects related to market distortion and social engineering, are not subsidies. Being able to keep your own money can never be considered a subsidy. To consider it such, you have to pre-supposed that the government has first rights and ownership of you and your labor.

    Jiminmpls @ 94:
    You are exhibiting the “after this, because of this” logical fallacy. One of the biggest drivers for increased fuel economy in American cars was the withering competition they faced from the Japanese. The Corporate Average Fuel Economy mandates are an example of a typical government tactic: take credit for a trend that is already happening by passing a law mandating that trend.

  20. 120
    Brian Brademeyer says:

    #100 Bill K

    Geoengineering is not a “solution.”

  21. 121
    Hank Roberts says:

    — excerpt —-

    December 9, 2009, 1:33 pm
    Study Cites Substantial Efficiency Savings

    A new study from the National Research Council has found that energy efficiency measures in the United States could cut energy use by 30 percent below 2030 projections.

    The report, which received funding from the Department of Energy as well as several private companies and foundations, argued that energy efficiency represents an enormous money-saving opportunity for the country. Measures to achieve it include fuel-economy standards, stricter building codes and efficiency requirements for home appliances….

    —– end excerpt —–

    Wednesday, December 09, 2009
    Existing Energy Efficiency Technologies Could Provide Major Savings

    Energy efficiency technologies that exist today or that are likely to be developed in the near future ….. Fully adopting these technologies could lower projected U.S. energy use 17 percent to 20 percent by 2020, and 25 percent to 31 percent by 2030. (Press release) (Full report)


    The National Research Council (NRC) functions under the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), and the Institute of Medicine (IOM). The NAS, NAE, IOM, and NRC are part of a private, nonprofit institution that provides science, technology and health policy advice under a congressional charter signed by President Abraham Lincoln ….

  22. 122
    Dennis Baker says:

    how about a list of the papers that refused to participate, and people can use their advertising budgets accordingly?


  23. 123
    ATHiker says:

    Steve McIntyre lied on CNN about CRU withholding the tree ring decline from the IPPC. Third assessment mentions it Page 131 Chapter 2. You can read it online. Lied on the WMO statement as well

    [Response: Steve McIntyre being dishonest? Say it ain’t so!]

  24. 124
    Blackeneth says:

    The politicians in Copenhagen have the power to shape history’s judgment on this generation: one that saw a challenge and rose to it, or one so stupid that we saw calamity coming but did nothing to avert it.

    We’re all doomed.

  25. 125
    CM says:

    Rod B (#92), I don’t think we can or should avoid all thought of distributive justice in formulating *policy* on climate change. Whether or not it will make whiners whine.

    But as it happens, nothing I said above was about socking it to the rich. It was not against wealth but against waste, i. e. the inefficient use of non-renewable energy sources to the detriment of future generations. Hope that’s clear.

  26. 126
    PHG says:


    “The renewable technologies are not made from renewable materials; instead, they require rare earth materials like platinum, lithium, and other hard to find materials.”

    Actually, some technololgies require rare earth materials ie: fuel cells, batteries, high efficiency solar panels.

    Other technologies, ie: wind, geothermal, concentrated solar, don’t.

  27. 127
    Lyle says:

    I think we should ask those who favor the measures to say where their home is on conservation measures, do they have low flow toilets, good insulation and windows, efficient HVAC systems (98% furnace and 16 seer ac). If people make this public it will show that they are already willing to put their money where their mouth is, and also help the situation by minimizing waste. If you rent how much would you pay the landlord to do these things?
    These are small measures but show better than talk that you are committed. I start with Gore and his huge house (or likley houses) Here the head of Rocky Mountain Institute has done this, and thereby gains credibility.

  28. 128
    SecularAnimist says:

    Hank Roberts wrote: “I wish someone could take out a few hundred thousand thirty-second ads on AM talk radio, in which someone with a recognizable, trusted radio voice (maybe Bob Edwards) would say: …”

    Right. The other night I listened to two “trusted radio voices” on Mr. Edwards’ network NPR (Tom Ashbrook’s program “On Point” and Warren Olney’s program “To The Point”) host hour-long programs about Copenhagen, public opinion and the “scandal” of the stolen emails.

    Both of them represented to their audiences as fact the false claims that the stolen emails reveal scientific fraud on the part of climate researchers; both of them suggested that the emails have called climate science itself into question; both of them presented their so-called “skeptical” guests (e.g. a Wall Street Journal writer; Bjorn Lomborg; Christy) in the most sympathetic light possible; and both of them harrassed their climate scientist guests and did their best to put them on the defensive. Warren Olney included an extended segment in which the Wall Street Journal hack opined about “tribalism” and “groupthink” among climate scientists being the reasons that they have all got the science “wrong” and are suppressing the courageous underdog “skeptics”.

    Both of these NPR programs, in substance and tone, were hostile to the scientists and supportive of the phony “skeptics”.

    Tom Ashbrook went so far as to feature “commentary” by Rush Limbaugh and Brit Humes of Fox News, attacking climate scientists — on NPR.

    Got that? Rush Limbaugh. On NPR. That’s how the “liberal” NPR network is presenting the issue to its listeners.

    Meanwhile both of the NPR hosts made a point of bullying their scientist guests with comments about “public opinion” becoming more “skeptical” and how that meant they were “losing the argument”. Gee, I wonder how that could happen. Maybe, just maybe, slanted radio programs like theirs have some influence on public opinion?

    You know who has the money to buy the equivalent of “a few hundred thousand thirty-second ads” on the radio? Hint: it isn’t the IPCC.

  29. 129

    Something I’ve noticed is that the denial case is almost always put in intemperate language: personal attack on the motivation of scientists, labelling them as alarmists, accusing them of being in it for the money (check the salary on offer academic job ads), while their side is “rational”. Using emotive language is rational. Right. So I decided to try that trick with an article coyly titled “When old men kill their children“. I wrote this a year ago but didn’t push its visibility at the time because I wasn’t sure about using this kind of language. But after a year of contemplating the way these people prefer to converse, I thought maybe I’d get through to them using their own style of discourse. Did I ever get through to them. Comments posted accuse me of being “emotional”, a claim that a commenter dares not use a real name for fear that I’m a homicidal maniac and an allegation that my article is a deliberate troll, and I should be blacklisted from the site. I wonder how these same people feel reading right-wing anti-science commentary (google “climategate” as I don’t have to tell regulars on this site), full as it is of emotive language and personal attack.

    Read it and see for yourself.

  30. 130
    SecularAnimist says:

    Mark Gibb wrote: “I simply do not believe that the most catastrophic scenarios are very likely to occur. To me, the real risk is the power that you want to give the world’s governments.”

    You refuse to accept the reality of the grave danger of anthropogenic global warming because your political philosophy has nothing to offer as a solution.

    You don’t like the solutions to the problem that you mistakenly believe others are proposing, and since you have no other solutions to offer, you deny the problem exists.

    It is really as simple as that.

  31. 131
  32. 132
    Andy says:

    I support the editorial.

    Hank Roberts – 30 sec spots are a really good idea and AM radio times is relatively cheap. As advertising is controlled by local stations, this maybe a way “in”.

    Mr. Gibbs – the clean energy start-ups, and even some mega-giant corporations hoping to get into alternatives, are clamoring for both government tax breaks and clear legislation limiting future carbon emissions.

    Finally – the recent Nature paper about how carbon dioxide’s global warming potential is 30 to 50% higher than first estimated – is this talking about the long-term potential? If so, I’m confused as I thought that long term effects were more than double (100%) short term (Charney), and I thought Dr. Hansen suspects paleoclimate data indicates maybe 4 times as much. Therefore 30 to 50% would be really good news. I’d love to see a RC post on this.

    [Response: I discussed the concept of Earth System Sensitivity in an earlier post – but once things relax a bit, I’ll add some more stuff including this latest paper. – gavin]

  33. 133
    Brian Dodge says:

    “Steve McIntyre lied…” maybe he was exaggerating, being snarky, sarcastic and parodying us alarmist warmists, like I often do to **denialists** and you just missed his air quotes (which I sometimes represent textually by ****)

    “I am a member of the Sierra Club **(who would suspect)** and recently visited a blog from the organization at Much to my suprise, the comments were running about 16:1 against taking any action at Copenhagen to avert destructive global warming. There was only one comment, made by me, on any of the ten other issues currently up for discussion. This **reeks of** another astroturf attack like the faked letters sent to Congress as part of the **deceptive campaign** waged by the public relations firm Bonner & Associates, on behalf of **the industry front group** American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE). A lot of the rhetoric of the posts is right off the **right wing antiscience blog**

  34. 134
    Mark A. York says:

    Good job on CNN Gavin! Christy didn’t lie much. Right. No ties to oil companies. CEI?

    John Christy
    Professor and Director, Atmospheric Science Department, University of Alabama at Huntsville

    Alabama State Climatologist.Lead Author, 2001 IPCC TAR.

    While he now acknowledges that global warming is real and the human contribution is significant, Christy has been a long-time skeptic who previously argued that satellite climate data do not show a trend toward global warming, and even show cooling in some areas. His findings have been widely disputed. Christy now asserts that global warming will have beneficial effects on the planet and that increased CO2 emissions from human activities are a net positive.

    Christy was a contributing writer to “Global Warming and Other Eco-Myths,” published by Competitive Enterprise Institute in 2002.He spoke at a June 1998 briefing for congressional staff and media, which was sponsored by the Cooler Heads Coalition.

  35. 135
    Former Skeptic says:


    Add John Christy to the list of liars on CNN. Just watched his “debate” with Gavin on Wolf Blitzer today. He tried to pull a fast one on “hiding the decline” meaning more than it actually means — good on Gavin to call him out on that.

  36. 136
    Sufferin' Succotash says:

    “I keep seeing posts from denialists who oppose the science because they think that mitigation will require draconian reorganization of our society.”

    It seems never to occur to them to ask why scientists researching AWG should want such a draconian reorganization in the first place. Are they all closet Marxist-Leninists? Resurgent Luddites? It’s going to take a pretty robust capitalist economy to enable the sort of changes needed to combat AGW. So a primary goal of the green advocates is to destroy that very some capitalist economy? If the denialists would get their heads out of their Jack D, Ripper Commie Conspiracy Theories for maybe five minutes they might realize how totally muddled their thinking really is.

  37. 137
    RoySV says:

    Thanks as always to realclimate for standing firm on actual science. What an odd and illogical bunch of demurrers we have posting. I wish to remark about the various lines of knownothingism.

    1. “Well sure you have science but the editorial calls for action. That makes it political and therefore suspect and I need no longer take it seriously” As if there ought to be some impenetrable barrier between the scientific and public action spheres. Counter examples: public water supplies, vaccinations, control of water pollution, product safety, crash tests and airbags regs. All examples of scientific findings driving publich policy.
    2. “A am a nice person and I attended XXX wonderful university. Regrettable, I am not impressed by your science and therefore nothing should be done. Go away and come back when I’m in the mood.” Sorry, your attitude and your oh-so-clever background count for bupkiss. Question is do you have evidence showing a different cause for documented warming. Do you have an alternate model with any shred of credibility? No? So all you have is a bad mood. Then get out of the way, because others who are both smarter and harder working have results which matter.
    3. “This global warming could be serious. Why wasn’t I informed earlier? In any case, no reasonable person would believe it could be as serious as scientific results indicate. I don’t like those results and they are inconvenient and upsetting – they cannot be correct. Thus the results are clearly alarmist and therefore should not be taken seriously. The annoying fuss of it all!” Sorry, if you wish to pick and choose the science you accept based on how you like the news than you’re no better than the church hierarchy attaching Galileo. You are not taken seriously because you have no evidence.

    Bottom line: Arguments were how the Greeks, Romans, and Scholastics “settled” problems. Great results (NOT) in medicine, astronomy, physics, etc. Arguments without evidence are juvenile. In the modern world matters of fact are settled with evidence not hand waving.

  38. 138

    Alan, if you have a reference for the FBI/death threats articles, please cite it. I’m putting together a list of ways climate scientists have been intimidated by Denialists. I’m up to 14 items so far.

  39. 139


    I feel for ya, buddy. Sorry you had to be subjected to that.

    Note that Beck and Hannity (along with Limbaugh and O’Reilly) are all creations of Roger Ailes, the former GOP strategist who now runs Fox News. It’s not a coincidence that they all have the same talking points.

  40. 140

    MG: I see evidence of wind power generation growing. Also, there are other alternatives like solar and various hydrodynamic schemes. We have to be patient and let these develop.

    BPL: If we are patient, nothing will happen. The fossil fuel industry is trying as hard as it possibly can to kill wind and solar. If the government doesn’t back it, it will fail.

    Not all power is government power. The fossil fuel industry has revenues around $1 trillion per year, comparable to the GDP of Japan. Don’t you think they spend any of that on “national defense?” You think they’re just going to let their competitors drive them out of business?

  41. 141
    Dave K says:

    Eric, yes my comments were stupid and offensive. They were taken right from the alarmist/activist song book. These people will destroy your good work and are an Albatross around the neck of climate science. Anyway..enough of that.
    1. Carbon tax will not work, the corruption of it’s use will be beyond belief.
    2. What many do not realize or refuse to believe is we are in the middle of a global financial melt down. 2008 was only a taste of what is to come (it will not be pleasant). Most of the big player countries at Copenhagen are either bankrupt or soon will be. The under developed or developing nations who are drooling about getting big payouts are in for a surprise.
    3. This will make any resolutions from Copenhagen meaningless political nonsense.
    Do I have any of the But I do believe the following:
    1. The era of cheap oil is drawing to a close, despite the IPCC thinking that we will be consuming oil at present rates to the end of the century is linear thought. It will not happen. I believe that we are seeing the peak of oil production.
    2. Tax breaks not taxation would be more effective, this also will not happen as monster size governments and special interests need to be fed. Carbon has become an industry onto itself. The business end of this new Ponzi scheme do not have the best interests of the planet or you in mind.
    The Guardian editorial is a prime example of the low grade journalism that has done more harm than good.

  42. 142
    Stefan says:

    Hi Realclimate Team,

    Can you PLEASE do a post in response to the claims on this blog, (or if you have already direct me to it)

    that the raw temperature data shows cooling, and if so, can you explain, as simply as possible, the reason for that and the reason and logic behind the adjustments.



    [Response: The raw temperatures do not show cooling. Look at a few of the stations. We discussed homogeneity adjustments etc. a while back. – gavin]

  43. 143

    J: Kyoto, Cap and trade will have a massive negative effect on our lives, not the least of which is government controlling every aspect of our lives.

    BPL: How will it do that, exactly? As I understood it, it’s a permit system for controlling CO2 output, like the US has used successfully to control acid rain since 1990.

  44. 144

    EL: The idea of using less energy as a solution to global warming is foolish and rash

    BPL: It hasn’t been seriously proposed by anyone, either, except to the extent of conserving energy by insulating homes and so on.

  45. 145

    Mark Gibb: To me, the real risk is the power that you want to give the world’s governments.

    BPL: To me, the real risk is the complete collapse of human civilization within the next 40 years. Unfortunately, people like you are probably going to win. The evil, tyrannical government will be defeated–and most of us are going to die. Good show. Thanks.

  46. 146
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Rachel H. says:

    “I call BS – cap and trade is just a mechanism for gov’t to control people, and people like Al Gore to continue to mess up the environment without feeling guilty.

    Um actually, cap and trade has been quite effective at reducing acid rain due to sulfates. And what pray, does Al Gore have to do with the price of carbon in China?

    “Methane is no less polluting than other carbon fuels, and there are hidden costs with most alt energies.”

    Uh, no. Methane produces twice as much water vapor as CO2 per mole burned. As such it is much less polluting that other hydrocarbons. But thank you for playing.

    “The impact of manufacturing equipment, maintenance costs, wildlife and the very real impact of causing climate change. Changing wind patterns is *NOT* inconsequential. You cannot disrupt wind without changing climate. We’re already seeing it.”

    Uh, care to produce some actual evidence that windmills are changing climate?

    “Biofuels also produce greenhouse gases, and are hurting developing nations – food shortages created by diverting FOOD or agricultural resources to energy.”

    Actually, alcohol from sugar cane has made Brazil an energy exporter and helped out the economically backward Northeast. Sure we can do it wrong (e.g. alcohol from corn). We can also do it right. And biofuels do not add carbon to the atmosphere, since that’s where the carbon absorbed by the plant came from to begin with.

    “And banning plastic bags, plastic silverware, etc. is not the answer either.”

    No, but it’s certainly a start not only to reducing petroleum consumption, but also reducing landfill burden.

    So, Rachel, I don’t know if you can call BS, but you certainly can spout it.

  47. 147
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Although we’re just an iota away from routinely launching tourists into suborbital flights and meanwhile the U.S, China, Japan and others are routinely expending billions per year on spy satellites, geosynchronous entertainment drivel dispensers etc., we collectively don’t seem to be able to find the scratch to launch sufficient dedicated climate observation platforms.

    Hey, “skeptics”, you say trillions dollars of cashflow are hanging in the balance, ready to be redirected on the basis of climate science findings. If you’re really determined to “get it right”, why not call your congresscritter and ask that a few thousandths of that be used to help with decision making? If you can’t be bothered to do that, maybe you should ask yourselves if you really care about this issue or if it’s just a distraction to keep you from being bored. Are you sincerely skeptical, or is your contrarian thinking just a potentially destructive hobby?

    Here’s the latest on our data gathering paralysis:

  48. 148
    ccpo says:

    Since people are talking about solutions a bit, let me toss in my 2c.

    One of the best things I ever did wrt learning about climate was also learning about energy, sustainability and economics. Earth is a system. How we inhabit it is the key. How we do that isn’t as simple as efficiency. FACT: population and consumption always overtake efficiency. Proof of Concept: The US in the 1970’s reduced consumption by 3 – 5 million (depending on how you count it) barrels a day of oil. A HUGE change. From around 1979 to now we also improved efficiency by something on the order of 37%. We peaked at just about 21mbd in 2008, up from about 15mbc in 1983.

    Looking globally, if the world lived like we do, we’d use all the recoverable oil on the planet in less than 7 years. Like Europe, double that. Can we expect the 6.5 billion who are not living in America to be content to live at a lower standard of living? No.

    What about other resources? Rare earth ores? 95% are controlled by… China. How does that fit with your expectations of a US filled with electric vehicles and appliances? Fish? Some stocks of large fish are already 95% depleted.

    We’ve got issues, and they aren’t just climate.

    Change we must, but change we can. Everyone is focused on Copenhagen and governmental interference/policy. But what if we just stopped consuming? The US, in particular, has a huge buffer of waste. We have already dropped consumption considerably out of fear and need, but what if we did it by choice? What if we stopped watching football and started playing it more? What if we all grew food instead of grass? What if we embrace telecommuting or set up a program to allow people to swap homes to be nearer to work? How about a build out of micro/household energy systems? $500 would give $5k to each household to either weatherize their home, add renewable energy systems or highly efficient systems (heat pumps?). What if these were DIY build outs (it’s possible to build a small, 1kw wind generator for around $1k), or at least DIY installs? What if communities or neighborhoods pooled their $5k together to build a community wind farm/biodegraders/solar concentrators, etc? Boost the economy directly, build community, and reduce energy consumption by a very large amount. (See my blog.)

    What about localizing? Slow food? Slow money? Transition initiatives? Local economies? Local currencies? Permaculture practices when planning? What about no-till? And on and on.

    And what about yeast? Ask Al Bartlett about yeast. Boom and bust. Population is the elephant in the room, and every very long-term sustainable society managed population in some way. Me? One child. Why does it need to be by governmental decree?

    Do I think we are likely too late? Yes. Do we HAVE to be too late? No.

    But it means an activist populace. Not one burning down businesses and hunting down rich people, but one that gets neighbors looking each other in the eye and choosing to solve problems AND holding our politicians’ feet to the fire and either making them change their their ways or getting rid of them.

    The people are the government… if they want to be.

  49. 149
    Rafael says:


    I’m your fan. Congratulations for your wonderful work in the blog. Many scientists are tired of reading “false balanced” stories in the media and would rather just not talk about Climategate and things of the sort. But the “denialist fringe”, as Nature put it, is restless, and they will always try to respond to your data by keeping questioning your evidence, no matter how much global warming is a settled issue. If someone’s goal is to criticize something perpetually, it’s actually quite simple to find rhetoric tools to do it. These people aren’t really trying to understand whether climate is changing or not and whether greenhouse gases drive it or not. It is clear to me that nobody’s going to persuade them, never. What is amazing about you is that you simply refuse to play dirty and manage to provide honest (and convincing) answers for every little silly question the denialists bring to you. Sometimes, I’m sure these guys may drive you crazym, but if didn’t do it, the damage in the public understanding of climate change would be certainly worse. Please keep moving. Best wishes.

  50. 150
    Peter Prewett says:

    I am wondering about the effects of the last 10 years or so of the rapid growth of China (and others) with its huge increase in pollution, are these aerosols taken into account and are they likely to keep the planet cooler?