The end of the global warming debate

by John Quiggin on January 4, 2006

The news that 2005 was the warmest year ever recorded in Australia comes at the end of a year in which, to the extent that facts can settle anything, the debate over human-caused global warming has been settled. Worldwide, 2005 was equal (to within the margin of error of the stats) with 1998 as the warmest year in at least the past millennium.

More significantly, perhaps, 2005 saw the final nail hammered into the arguments climate change contrarians have been pushing for years. The few remaining legitimate sceptics (such as John Christy), along with some of the smarter ideological contrarians (like Ron Bailey), have looked at the evidence and conceded the reality of human-caused global warming.

Ten years or so ago, the divergence between satellite and ground-based measurements of temperature was a big problem – the ground based measurements showed warming in line with climate models but the satellites showed a cooling trend. The combination of new data and improved calibration has gradually resolved the discrepancy, in favour of the ground-based measurements and the climate models.

Another set of arguments concerned short-term climate cycles like El Nino. The late John Daly attributed the high temperatures of the late 1990s to the combination of El Nino and solar cycles, and predicted a big drop, bottoming out in 2005 and 2006. Obviously the reverse has happened. Despite the absence of the El Nino or solar effects that contributed to the 1998 record, the long-term warming trend has dominated.

Finally, there’s water vapour. The most credible of the contrarians, Richard Lindzen, has relied primarily on arguments that the feedback from water vapour, which plays a central role in climate models, might actually be zero or even negative. Recent evidence has run strongly against this claim. Lindzen’s related idea of an adaptive iris affecting cloud feedbacks has been similarly unsuccessful.

Finally, the evidence has mounted up that, with a handful of exceptions, “sceptics” are not, as they claim, fearless seekers after scientific truth, but ideological partisans and paid advocates, presenting dishonest arguments for a predetermined party-line conclusion. Even three years ago, sites like Tech Central Station, and writers like Ross McKitrick were taken seriously by many. Now, anyone with access to Google can discover that they have no credibility. Chris Mooney’s Republican War on Science which I plan to review soon, gives chapter and verse and the whole network of thinktanks, politicians and tame scientists who have popularised GW contrarianism, Intelligent Design and so on.

A couple of thoughts on all this.

First, in the course of the debate, a lot of nasty things were said about the IPCC, including some by people who should have known better. Now that it’s clear that the IPCC has been pretty much spot-on in its assessment (and conservative in terms of its caution about reaching definite conclusions), it would be nice to see some apologies.

Second, now that the scientific phase of the debate is over, attention will move to the question of the costs and benefits of mitigation options. There are legitimate issues to be debated here. But having seen the disregard for truth exhibited by anti-environmental think tanks in the first phase of the debate, we shouldn’t give them a free pass in the second. Any analysis on this issue coming out of a think tank that has engaged in global warming contrarianism must be regarded as valueless unless its results have been reproduced independently, after taking account of possible data mining and cherry picking. That disqualifies virtually all the major right-wing think tanks, both in Australia and in the US. Their performance on this and other scientific issues has been a disgrace.

{ 225 comments }

1

yonray 01.04.06 at 8:05 am

But can you still say that global warming would have happened anyway, ie without humankind’s carbon emissions and so on, and that any measures we take to mitigate it can only have a near-negligible effect?

2

Tim Worstall 01.04.06 at 8:19 am

“Even three years ago, sites like Tech Central Station, and writers like Ross McKitrick were taken seriously by many. Now, anyone with access to Google can discover that they have no credibility.”

Why, John, that three years covers the period since I started writing for TCS. I must be destroying the credibility of the place with lines like:

“Please note, I take the Lomborg line on this. What we do about it is the important question,”

“Some years ago Bjorn Lomborg was generally derided for stating, in his book The Skeptical Environmentalist, that while global warming was indeed happening, was indeed being caused by humans…”

“Before I get swamped by screams of outrage, by those calling me a greenhouse denialist, please, get a grip. It is quite obvious that there is a thing called the greenhouse effect, the differences between Venus, Mars and Earth are the only evidence one needs for that contention. I’ve said before and will no doubt have to say it again, I’m broadly of the Lomborg persuasion, that there is a general change in the climate going on, that humans are at least partially responsible for it and the important thing is to find out exactly what is going on and then work out how to deal with it.”

3

Phil B 01.04.06 at 9:09 am

Could somebody explain how a market fundamentalist boasting that he “takes the Lomborg line” could increase the credibility of anything?

I mean, apart from the credibility of the theory that laughter is good for you?

4

Peter 01.04.06 at 9:09 am

The book Trust Us, We’re Experts also documents the paid shills being promoted as “scientists” or “non-partisan public interest groups.” It took almost 100 years from the time Big Tobacco™ started paying for doctors to shill for them, before the public finally accepted that tobacco was bad for you. I have no confidence that the powers-that-be will cave in on this one, as their money interests squarely collide with any acknowledgement that global warming even exists, or is a problem.

5

otto 01.04.06 at 9:16 am

This post suffers from technocratic illusion, particularly that mitigation options are going to be chosen on the basis of ‘cost and benefits’ after scientific debate. Any mitigation policy is going to be decided by political mobilisation, which will in turn decide who the relevant and influential ‘experts’ are in the issue area.

6

James Wimberley 01.04.06 at 9:26 am

One small thing many readers of this blog can do: donate spare CPU time on your computer to climate modelling.

7

Barry 01.04.06 at 9:33 am

otto, step 1 of that political mobilization is to trash the frauds.

8

aaron 01.04.06 at 9:35 am

Umm, yeah. The world does get warmer and cooler periodically. Nice observation.

9

otto 01.04.06 at 9:43 am

“Trashing the frauds” gets you nowhere.

The technocratic basis for further tax cuts in the United States right now is zero (esp. absent expenditure cuts, given trade and budget deficits etc). But this ‘fraud’ has been trashed with zero effect on policy.

The technocratic basis for unilateral free trade is unimpeachable. All protectionist policies are thus intellectually untenable frauds. This intellectual consensus has had no effect on government policies unless powerful groups demand it (and then only partially).

10

aaron 01.04.06 at 9:43 am

The question hasn’t been whether there is global warming right now, it’s whether the proposed methods to adress the issue will help society or make things worse in the long run.

11

zdenek 01.04.06 at 9:47 am

John Qiggin writes : ” having seen the disregard for truth exhibited by anti-environmental thinktanks… we shouldnt give them free pass…any analysis on this issue comming out of think tank that has engaged in global warming contrarianism must be regarded as valueless unless its results have been reproduced independently…”

Please.. this either involves lack of understanding of how science works or comes close. Disagreement about truth especially when it comes to climate, is normal and in fact is what is to be expected ( how else do you suppose hypotheses get tested/confirmed ? obviously *some guys* hypothesis gets the chop ; the point is thats what you want ! ) See the similar dissagreemnt in evolutionary biology . So to label people you dissagree with ‘contrarians’ with sinister meaning attaching to the term brings to mind Stalin and makes it pretty clear that you dont have much use for the distinction between science and ideology anyway .
Secondly you concede that many of the leaders of the sceptical position have changed their minds when the evidence has improved and thats exactly what you would expect a scientist who is not a hostage to some ideology to do. So no I would say that what smacks of ideological commitment/bias is precisely your demand that people tow one line *even when* the evidence is either not there or is ambiguous.

12

Tim Worstall 01.04.06 at 9:48 am

“I mean, apart from the credibility of the theory that laughter is good for you?”

Glad I’m doing something useful.

13

g 01.04.06 at 10:01 am

zdenek, do you get a discount for buying straw men wholesale?

14

Slocum 01.04.06 at 10:30 am

Any analysis on this issue coming out of a think tank that has engaged in global warming contrarianism must be regarded as valueless unless its results have been reproduced independently, after taking account of possible data mining and cherry picking. That disqualifies virtually all the major right-wing think tanks, both in Australia and in the US. Their performance on this and other scientific issues has been a disgrace.

But that’s preposterous. In your article, you acknowledge that there were quite recently several legitimate reasons to be skeptical, and the skeptics provided a invaluable service in pressing these issues (as is generally the case in science). My understanding is that, at one time, most mainstream geologists were deeply skeptical of the theory of plate tectonics. Once they’d finally been proved wrong, should anything these skeptics later said have been regarded as “valueless”?

And, of course, as other commentators point out, the main skepticism in recent years has not been of warming itself but of Kyoto.

15

Javier 01.04.06 at 10:54 am

Could somebody explain how a market fundamentalist boasting that he “takes the Lomborg line” could increase the credibility of anything?

I mean, apart from the credibility of the theory that laughter is good for you?

Because Lomborg never denied that global warming was happening, only that the Kyoto Protocal was a grossly inefficient way of combating it. In this, I think Lomborg was correct. This doesn’t mean that nothing should be done: Lomborg and Ron Bailey have advocated increasing public funds for researching environmentally friendly sources of energy. In their view, only when clean energy sources become cheaper than fossil fuels will we have a viable way of slowing global warming.

16

jet 01.04.06 at 10:57 am

HAHAHAHHAHAHAHHAA, like any meaningful debate can happen here. Tim Worstall puts out something perfectly reasonable and is instantly attacked. Truly indicative of the problem of Global Warming debate. Both sides are mostly represented by screaming know-it-alls (who really don’t know jack) with the calm rational voices either made fun of or drowned out.

17

Javier 01.04.06 at 11:07 am

Now that the scientific phase of the debate is over, attention will move to the question of the costs and benefits of mitigation options.

Perhaps the scientific debate is over about whether global warming is happening, but not over how rapidly it will occur. For instance, the IPCC predicts an increase in global temperatures of between 2 and 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit by the year 2100. Plenty of room for disagreement and uncertainty.

18

abb1 01.04.06 at 11:07 am

Jet,
Fallacy: Middle Ground, Also Known as: Golden Mean Fallacy, Fallacy of Moderation. Sometimes one screaming know-it-all is 100% right and the other one is 100% wrong.

19

jet 01.04.06 at 11:12 am

Javier,
Ah, let Quiggin gloat. It was a long hard fight just to get most of the public to agree global warming was real. Everyone who took the time to keep pushing facts deserves to say I told you so.

20

roger 01.04.06 at 11:17 am

The resistance to doing anything about global warming is — per George Bush — wholly based on economic factors (he claimed that the Kyoto accords would hurt the American economy). And so far, global warming has mostly hurt countries in the Southern Hemisphere, about which Americans, at least, know little and care less. But surely in an economy in which the main economic growth factor has been in real estate values, economic side effects from global warming are bound to start kicking in. If, for instance, warmer water really does increase the intensity and length of the hurricane season, the Atlantic coast could witness some more devastating storms like Katrina, and be under a longer threat each year. Not to speak of the upcoming water shortages in the West. And that will begin to pose the question: what specific American economic sector would be hurt by regulations designed to mitigate global warming. Hint: it used to employ both the President and the Vice President, and it now costs 60 plus dollars a barrel.

Right now, the construction industry and the insurance industry should be thinking of lobbying for stronger global warming legislation.

21

Javier 01.04.06 at 11:20 am

Woops, that’s celsius, not fahrenheit. The exact quote is: ” the IPCC projects a global temperature increase of anywhere from 1.4 – 5.8C from 1990-2100″

22

jlw 01.04.06 at 11:27 am

In your article, you acknowledge that there were quite recently several legitimate reasons to be skeptical, and the skeptics provided a invaluable service in pressing these issues (as is generally the case in science).

In 1985 or perhaps as late as 1995, climate change skepticism was an entirely honorable position. Theories have been wrong before, the atmosphere is a complex and dynamic system, what we knew for certain was outweighed by what we still didn’t understand.

But thanks mostly to the concerns of climate change “alarmists” (since buying into the status quo would have led to less funding for research in this area) the topic has been under extensive study for some time and the data has been getting better and better. As the reasons for skepticism have been knocked away one after another, honest skeptics have left that camp. Dishonest skeptics have retreated to defending the remaining gaps in our knowledge or to novel just-so theories.

The parallel of the evolution debate is astonishing.

But John is right–the question can be said to be settled beyond all contradiction. The new battle is over what to be done. Most former skeptics, I fear, may slip into the embrace of their erstwhile allies, who now advocate doing nothing until the market provides a cheap alternative to fossil fuels. That would be a shame, and mean that we will be refighting this debate for another decade on slightly different ground.

I say the correct market solution is to use mechanisms that make fossil fuels less attractive–carbon taxes and/or tradeable carbon credits–that can help tilt the market toward a virtuous solution. But we need to make a start on this right away. Another decade of delaying tactics will alter this planet past the point of recognizability.

I took my four-year-old ice skating on Monday. Will that be possible in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park 80 years time? In 40 Years?

23

rollo 01.04.06 at 11:36 am

The sky isn’t falling because it hasn’t yet fallen. When and if it does fall, then afterward those of us still standing can say with absolute certainty that it was falling – at that prior time, after it’s been made essentially meaningless as information.
There’s a smirking tone to the irrational idiocies that get thrown at the idea of human-caused climate change and at the proofs of its validity, almost as though there’s no real concern for whether or not the climate’s being seriously disrupted. This is enabled by most people living now in environments whose connections to the weather are oblique, and primarily visual and distant – until it gets extreme.
A lot of the resistance is self-delusion and cowardice. Some of it’s definitely base greed and an attempt to milk the rewarding status quo ante for as long as possible. Very little of it is honest scepticism, and virtually none of it is altruistic.
Suggesting that “apologies” might be in order seems almost obsequious in its genteel reserve.

24

Barry 01.04.06 at 11:36 am

otto:
Otto: ““Trashing the frauds” gets you nowhere.”

Yes, it does, by reducing their ability to influence policy.

“The technocratic basis for further tax cuts in the United States right now is zero (esp. absent expenditure cuts, given trade and budget deficits etc). But this ‘fraud’ has been trashed with zero effect on policy.”

Incorrect – read the WSJ editorial page, for example, they’re still pushing that line. The frauds are trashed when people are ashamed to cite them; in the case of tax cuts, we’re still quite some way off.

“The technocratic basis for unilateral free trade is unimpeachable. All protectionist policies are thus intellectually untenable frauds.”

Incorrect. The technocratic basis for unilateral free trade assumes a political world which doesn’t exist, and assumes that there will be political measures available to cushion the impact on the losers. Even Krugman, a fanatic about free trade, has given up on that last idea, claiming that he doesn’t know how it would be politically possible.
Neoliberal economics has been reduced to explaining away their failures in the developing world, last I heard. Even Brad DeLong, a fanatical neoliberal, is demoralized on that topic.

25

Slocum 01.04.06 at 11:42 am

The resistance to doing anything about global warming is—per George Bush—wholly based on economic factors (he claimed that the Kyoto accords would hurt the American economy).

Well, we have an experiment in progress, don’t we? If Kyoto signatories meet their targets and thrive economically at the same time, then that concern will be put to rest. But so far, it doesn’t seem to be working out that way. Kyoto signatories experiencing strong economic growth are also experiencing strong growth in greenhouse gas emissions (rather than the reductions agreed to). In fact, I understand that Canada (that renowned global good citizen) has increased its greenhouse gas emissions substantially faster than the U.S. has since 1990 (and now exceeds the output of the U.S. on a per-capita basis).

And, of course, that leaves aside China and India who are signatories to the treaty but have no obligations for limiting emissions.

26

jet 01.04.06 at 11:44 am

jlw,
Did you use the term alarmists in scary quotes and then utter this bit of foolishness “Another decade of delaying tactics will alter this planet past the point of recognizability.”?

If that isn’t alarmism, I’m not sure what is. Perhaps you need to read the IPCC and see that the ~2-6 number is over ONE HUNDRED YEARS.

27

otto 01.04.06 at 11:46 am

“The technocratic basis for unilateral free trade assumes a political world which doesn’t exist”

Agreed.

Assuming a political world that doesn’t exist is the problem with all technocratic illusions, such as the one that climtate change mitigation options are going to be chosen on the basis of ‘cost and benefits’ after scientific debate, rather than, like trade policy, on the basis of mobilised organised groups.

28

BigMacAttack 01.04.06 at 11:56 am

jlw,

In 40 – 80 years Brooklyn’s Prospect Park should be a good deal colder.

According to global climate models that predict global warming.

(That will be a very interesting and important test for the models.)

That anyone bold to enough to declare that, ‘But John is right—the question can be said to be settled beyond all contradiction.’, would be ignorant of this basic bit of knowledge is troubling.

Perhaps your assertions regarding the global warming debate aren’t quite as authoritative as you believe.

29

jlw 01.04.06 at 12:08 pm

jet:

No contradiction. Another decade of business as usual will inevitably lead to a rise in global average temperatures by an amount toward the top end of the range — 11 degrees Fahrenheit (6 Celsius) by the end of the century. And, as we know, averages mean that it will be more in some places (such as the Arctic and Near-Arctic) and less in others (say central Europe, if the Gulf Stream slows or shuts down).

Just because it happens in 80 years doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Or doesn’t matter.

At least that’s my take on things. But I love my son and want to bequeath to him (and his grandchildren) a world that is as good or better than the one I have known. And that world includes polar bears thriving in the wild, maple forests to hike in, and an Austria or Poland that’s habitable.

But maybe those things don’t matter to you. Perhaps you are of the mind that the world can go to hell after you die. It would be astonishing to run across someone so small-minded, but not impossible, I suppose.

30

roger 01.04.06 at 12:12 pm

Actually, JLW, the correlation has to be a lot narrower than that. There has to be a specific link between slowing down economic activity and the regulations set up under the Kyoto accords. I think you would agree.

Your further point — that greenhouse gas emissions are increasing among signatories — could mean that the regulations aren’t comprehensive enough. However, I don’t think the Bush administration rejected the Kyoto accords because they didn’t go far enough.

31

jlw 01.04.06 at 12:13 pm

bigmacattack:

The last model I saw (no link) indicated that the Gulf stream may not shut off entirely, but head due east at about 40 N. That would cool Europe, but leave the northeast North America little changed.

So bite me.

32

BigMacAttack 01.04.06 at 12:16 pm

Ever time I look I become more and more convinced of man made global warming and I have pretty much been convinced for a while.

But it just seems to me stuff like global climate models contain a good deal of inherent uncertainty.

What turns me off and annoys me is crap like John’s everyone who disagrees with me shut the f up and admit they are evil servants of corporate devils.

So keeping that in mind -

It still seems the margin of error is quite large. The upper atmosphere should be heating up faster and it still doesn’t seem to be. Even if you use the RSS data.

Is that correct? Does anyone have the decade numbers for the ground based increase that this article might be referencing? The article just airily declares that ‘Since the satellites now clearly show that the atmosphere is warming at around the rate predicted by the models,’ around? How around?

I also loved the references to basic algebra and physics. Silly rabbits, modeling the earth’s climate is just a straight forward application of basic physics.

33

roger 01.04.06 at 12:17 pm

ps — my point was that economic sectors aren’t so homogenous that one can say that environmental legislation has a unilaterally depressing economic effect. In fact, this is economically illiterate — since pollution is a third party cost, as everybody agrees, somebody is obviously paying for it (through property degradation, decreased health care, etc.)

In the case of climate warming, the costs will probably show up in the degredation of assets of a scattered ownership group — households — and since that group isn’t organized and has disparate interests, it will probably be harder to put into effect truly effective legislation. But the bearers of the cost should be identified and organized if the Bush administration argument isn’t to carry the day.

34

golambek 01.04.06 at 12:18 pm

The resistance to doing anything about global warming is—per George Bush—wholly based on economic factors (he claimed that the Kyoto accords would hurt the American economy).

This is technically true but misleading. I certainly believe economic factors are important to the President’s decision, but the other half of the equation is, what do he and the electorate believe will be the costs of doing nothing or allowing greenhouse gases to continue to increase.

There is little evidence that this President believes the costs of doing nothing to be at all serious (or at a minimum, that they outweigh the political and/or economic costs of trying to get a handle on emissions). Fine, he doesn’t like the particular details of Kyoto. What, then, has he done to create a better framework? How much time or political capital has he spent on the issue? These answers are quite clear.

Beyond the President and the business community, there are several impediments to any serious attempt to tackle the problem: (1) a hard core of about 30-40 percent of Americans who do not believe global warming is occurring at all; (2) among those who do believe it is happening, a relatively benign conception of what it could cause; and (3) no genuine interest on the part of key policymakers in educating the public on these points — particularly the President but also, very sadly, many Democratic leaders. (Have a look at pollingreport.com for polling numbers, btw.)

35

jet 01.04.06 at 12:24 pm

JLW,
There are men of good will who care about humanities future, believe global warming is a real problem, yet rejetc solutions like Kyoto. And our decisions might be better for your children than yours. For example, even if Kyoto was implimented, the effects on global warming would be minimal and wouldn’t be seen for maybe 100 years. Hardly worth the effort. Yet the effects on the economy would be instant.

Lomborg’s main thesis on Global Warming is best to continue doing damage, divert more resources to finding a long term solution, and leave the economies in full swing. This way a much richer set of grandchildren, with far more resources at hand, can deal with the problem. The Kyoto resolution is to leave poorer granchildren, with less resources, a slightly slightly mitigated problem to deal with.

Now surely you can see how rational people, with everyone’s best interests, can disagree over this?

36

golambek 01.04.06 at 12:27 pm

Can anyone suggest a good link to the most recent projections of climate change?

sorry about the italics!

New to this notation system.

37

Uncle Kvetch 01.04.06 at 12:40 pm

In fact, I understand that Canada (that renowned global good citizen) has increased its greenhouse gas emissions substantially faster than the U.S. has since 1990 (and now exceeds the output of the U.S. on a per-capita basis).

Slocum, could you please provide a cite for this?

Perhaps you are of the mind that the world can go to hell after you die. It would be astonishing to run across someone so small-minded, but not impossible, I suppose.

JLW, do you live in the US, by any chance? If so, I’m astonished that you find such a viewpoint astonishing. I don’t necessarily believe it’s where Jet is coming from, but it’s a perspective that you can hear spelled out, in essentially those words, on talk radio in this country on any given day.

38

jlw 01.04.06 at 12:44 pm

jet:

Not advocating Kyoto, but I am advocating something. Other than empty platitudes, how does your position differ from that of, say, the biggest climate change deniers?

39

BigMacAttack 01.04.06 at 12:49 pm

jlw,

Or perhaps not.

I liked you better before, when I thought you were just ignorant. Now that I know you are knowledgeable enough to know just how uncertain global climate modeling is, your statement,

‘But John is right—the question can be said to be settled beyond all contradiction. The new battle is over what to be done. Most former skeptics, I fear, may slip into the embrace of their erstwhile allies, who now advocate doing nothing until the market provides a cheap alternative to fossil fuels. That would be a shame, and mean that we will be refighting this debate for another decade on slightly different ground.’

seems completely dishonest, poisoning the well is too polite a term.

I prefer an ignoramus to a charlatan.

So bite me.

40

abb1 01.04.06 at 12:52 pm

Not advocating Kyoto, but I am advocating something.

Why not Kyoto? After all Kyoto is a widely accepted global agreement that took years to negotiate. It is exactly the spot where technocratic reality meets political reality, as discussed above. I think ‘rejecting Kyoto’ = ‘rejecting any action’, precisely.

41

Sundog 01.04.06 at 12:53 pm

Whilst Kyoto is not perfect and it’s current targets are insufficient to solve the problems presented by global warming, it is a massively important step to building the institutions necessary to do so. Whilst developing countries do not have fixed emission reduction targets under Kyoto, Kyoto does create the frame work to allow these developing countries to develop using the most efficient technology which they would not otherwise be able to afford without being able to internalise the cost of carbon.

Importantly what emissions trading (one of the Kyoto Flexible Mechanism) does is:
• Identify the least cost of emission abatement.
• Incentivise innovators to invent new emission reduction technology
• Allows business to continue production without limitation.

How does this work? Well, if one policy alternative of simply limiting GHG emissions with out a trading regime were implemented then this would be inequitable since everyone’s cost of emission abatement is not equal. Indeed it is often highest for those who have been efficient and virtuous already. This means that the least cost of abatement is not discovered.

The second policy of taxing people who emit means that the cost of emitting is fixed at the tax rate – say £10 per ton. Therefore any innovator is only incentivised to innovate up to the value of £10 per ton. However, by introducing a trading regime (policy option 3 & that introduced by Kyoto) and allowing the price of an emission to fluctuate, innovators are incentivised to innovate as the cheap abatement opportunities are exhausted and the price of emissions increase.

Emissions trading does not allow people / businesses to buy their way out of environmental obligations, as some think. At the end of the day it does not matter by who or where green house gases are emitted. The important thing is that the global emissions are reduced.

Therefore whilst I applaud the funds committed to technology and research in these areas, doing so under a fiscal spending programme is inefficient since it does not leverage the creative forces of the market, and expensive since it does not reduce emissions at the least cost opportunity.

42

Per 01.04.06 at 1:01 pm


the Kyoto Protocal was a grossly inefficient way of combating [global warming]. In this, I think Lomborg was correct. This doesn’t mean that nothing should be done: Lomborg and Ron Bailey have advocated increasing public funds for researching environmentally friendly sources of energy”

The most significant policy to reduce CO2 emissions is the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. This creates incentives for innovation by establishing an opportunity cost for all CO2 emissions from covered sources. It seems very unlikely that “public funds” (presumably raised through taxes and then centrally dispersed) would be a more effective way to stimulate innovation than providing incentives for the private sector?

43

otto 01.04.06 at 1:14 pm

Why not Kyoto? After all Kyoto is a widely accepted global agreement that took years to negotiate. It is exactly the spot where technocratic reality meets political reality, as discussed above. I think ‘rejecting Kyoto’ = ‘rejecting any action’, precisely.

If only this was true. I fear however that there’s no hope of intersection between US political reality in the guise of a majority (does Kyoto need a 2/3rds majority? or is it like GATT/NAFTA?) of the US Senate and technocratic reality as this thread would understand it.

If the US is permanently unable to ratify even the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which would have zero effects on US policy, it will never ratify a costly political commitment such as Kyoto.

On US ratification of treaties:
http://www.princeton.edu/~amoravcs/library/unilateralism.pdf

44

roger 01.04.06 at 1:20 pm

Per, that is a false dichotomy. Providing incentives is also centrally planned and dispersed. Where else do these incentives come from, and who provides them, otherwise? I would think that the question of what the public sector and the private sector can do would depend more on the particular composition of national economies and geographies. In the U.S., there is gross underfunding of mass transit, something that the public side should be involved in. And of course the research on alternative fuels — say hydrogen — is going forward in all countries doing it with a lot of public cash.

Reforming a regulatory regime to benefit private sector companies that are greener and to punish those that aren’t, while providing the kind of market in pollution futures that have been mentioned in some of the comments, makes a lot of sense too.

45

Tim Worstall 01.04.06 at 1:27 pm

“Another decade of business as usual will inevitably lead to a rise in global average temperatures by an amount toward the top end of the range—11 degrees Fahrenheit (6 Celsius) by the end of the century.”

Why’s that? All of the IPCC scenarios assume no mitigation effect, most especially no Kyoto or the like. They are all, “this is what might happen if we don’t do something”.

The scenarios that provide the lowest temperatures do not, as you seem to think, assume that we adopt Kyoto at all. They’re based on population, technology level, etc etc, as the others are based on different assumptions about those things.

So not doing anything doesn’t move us towards either end of the estimates at all. Doesn’t make any of the scenarios any more likely, or, indeed, less so.

BTW, one thing that does worry me about the process is that I’ve heard (nothing more than a rumour, true) that the upcoming revision to the IPCC report (the fourth I think) will not be revisting the SRES economic assumptions. It’s not that I’m particularly taken by the Henderson Castles criticisms of them but no revision at all after what, a decade?

As John notes, the science of what CO2 actually does has firmed up in the past 10 years so I’d think it even more important to go over the economic models underlying how much of it might be produced.

46

abb1 01.04.06 at 1:29 pm

Otto,
what I meant is that Kyoto is an international compromise; international political reality minus the US of A political reality.

So, I’m saying: the US rejecting Kyoto amounts to US rejecting any action whatsoever. So, any criticism of Kyoto is hardly anything but bullshit cover for the US administration. Simple as that.

47

otto 01.04.06 at 1:40 pm

Abb1

Okay, thanks. I think we agree that US is rejecting Kyoto for the same reasons that it will reject any real action against climate change, not because of detailed flaws in Kyoto. US political reality means no costly action by the US to mitigate climate change, ever.

48

McDuff 01.04.06 at 1:46 pm

zdenek

“obviously some guys hypothesis gets the chop”

You need an apostrope in “guy’s” there. Although, to be more accurate you should have written “some guys’ hypotheses get the chop,” because you’re really looking to narrow down more than one.

“your demand that people tow one line even when”

Please. Toe the line. This one should be evident if you think about the roots of the metaphor for even a moment.

As to your overall assertion, while it is true that science is at its most virile while there are genuine disagreements, there is such a thing as genuine scientific consensus, and too many people have found it in their best interests to muddy the waters. For too long, the answer to the question “is anthrogenic global warming real?” has been “yes” to within any reasonable margin of error, and nobody outside the USA has had cause or inclination to deny it. While people have been obfuscating over tiny nuances in the consensus, it has prevented the more relevant argument of “what should we DO about it?” from being at the top of the agenda.

That’s a big problem, and it hasn’t served anyone’s best interests. There’s cynicism and there’s being deliberately obtuse.

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abb1 01.04.06 at 1:51 pm

Don’t know about ‘ever’. Things change, politics change. Environmentalism is popular (http://www.pollingreport.com/enviro.htm) and Kyoto would mean a big loss for some industries, but probably a windfall for some other industries. Eventually some politician may decide to make it an issue and may succeed, who knows.

50

jet 01.04.06 at 2:15 pm

Jlw,
As Tim just pointed out, you obviously have about zero understanding of the IPCC’s conclusions and aren’t even basically familiar with the science.

But to answer you question, my position differes from global warming denialists in that I support massive increases in alternative energy R&D and nuclear energy. Switching to modern energy designs and replacing more coal plants with pebble bed reactors would do more to stop globalm warming than 10 Kyoto treaties, and that’s just what current technology can do. To continue my answer turned rant, I’d have taken 9/11 as an excuse to push down the throat of Congress my energy revamp plan which would have used the 500+ billion spent on the war to modernize the energy infrastructure while adding several hundred billion to energy R&D (current only a few billion).

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otto 01.04.06 at 2:31 pm

Well, I place little faith in public opinion as a driver of politics. There’d be higher taxes and no gay marriage if public opinion was the determining factor. Rather, politics is the outcome of mobilisation by wealthy and organised groups, which in the US are permanently conservative. The coalition of organised groups needed to pass a treaty in the US Senate is enormously large (see article above). You would need someone like Feingold or Dean to be the supermajority swing vote Senator. I estimate that likelihood as never.

52

jet 01.04.06 at 2:35 pm

otto,
You got any citations on polls showing that if a majority of the US decided upon taxes or gay marriage that taxes would be raised and gay marriage legalised? Because I think you got it exactly backwards.

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McDuff 01.04.06 at 2:36 pm

Jet: I agree with you, but am not sure where that is mutually exclusive of also signing the Kyoto treaty, and of pushing for a better global framework.

It might be harsh, and almost colonial, but pushing for constraints on other countries while developing technologies to help them achieve those constraints in your own country seems to be pretty economically sensible to me. You make money by constantly staying on the cutting edge of technology development, not hanging onto the old stuff and letting other people beat you.

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jlw 01.04.06 at 2:43 pm

Jet:

Thanks for the reply. Now, short of some sort of imposed mechanism–such as a cap-and-trade carbon market and/or carbon taxes–how do you plan to change the current market conditions that make burning coal ineffiently to make steam the cheapest way to generate electricity? And that make burning petroleum the most convenient way to power transportation?

Personally, I don’t think we’re that far apart. But you and Tim Worstall strike me as believing that uncertainty = happy surprises. I think business as usual will lead to some surprises on the bad side, especially in the arctic. That’s been the trend so far, and I don’t see why it won’t continue. (Oddly, part of the reason I think the trend will be worse is that aerosols and particles–which have been implicated in cooling–have been declining as environmental regulations clear things up.)

It’s funny. The debate has moved from “Global Warming: The Big Lie” to “You aren’t acknowledging the full range of uncertainty.” I suppose that’s progress. It just isn’t happening fast enough.

55

John Quiggin 01.04.06 at 2:44 pm

Tim W, first up I agree that not everything that appears at TCS is driven by the financial interests/ideological line of the sponsors and in my experience you’ve always argued fairly and honestly. The same is true for Cato, AEI and so on – there are honest people working at all these places, but the people running them tolerate and encourage frauds like Milloy and Lott.

On the economics, I agree that this hasn’t been the most impressive feature of IPCC Reports, though I’m also unimpressed by the Castles-Henderson critique. One thing to remember is that the economic scenarios aren’t presented as being of interest in their own right, they are just inputs to the projections. This is why, for example, it doesn’t matter much whether they are in exchange-rate or PPP terms, even though the latter are what you want for welfare analysis.

On the whole, it’s probably best at this stage to do the economic analysis separately from the kind of modelling undertaken by the IPCC, though the two have to be brought together at some point.

56

otto 01.04.06 at 2:46 pm

Jet
Your post is a little garbled, so I am not quite sure what you looking for. I think there’s lots of evidence that US public opinion tends to be permanently economically liberal (more redistribution than present – I’m not saying they want Sweden) and socially conservative (e.g. less gay marriage).
Michael Lind has talked about this a lot, if you want references.

57

anon 01.04.06 at 2:54 pm

It is simply a straw man argument that the only ways to fight global warming is through means that lead to economic decline. I urge everyone to investigate the work of Amory Lovins and the Rocky Mountain Institute. There are many ways to reduce fossil fuel use that enhance efficiency for businesses that undertake them. I believe part of the problem here is the unwarranted quasi-religious belief that business (aka the market) is certain to produce the most efficient solutions to problems. There are many countervailing forces that act against that outcome: balances between industry sectors in which moving to a different technology disfavors one while favoring another; tendencies of decision makers to do things the way everyone else does them; short-term vs. long-term economic incentives.

As for the flaws in the Kyoto Treaty, the U.S. obstructionism hasn’t been directed at improving provisions of the treaty, rather it has tried to eliminate any concerted action to mitigate the causes of global warming.

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jet 01.04.06 at 3:00 pm

Otto,
Only with the meme of “tax cuts for the rich” did Dems get any traction on Bush’s tax cuts. Otherwise, tax cuts are always popular with the majority, and this graph shows why.

But back to the task at hand, the optimal solution for the US would be business as usual but with massive increases in R&D with the knowledge that viable alternatives are right around the corner (no internal combustion engines aren’t going away soon, but the coal and natural gas plants might be). Anything else is just pooring teaspoons of water on an inferno while sapping the total resources for R&D. And nevermind the political killing propoganda available after a candidate gets Kyoto through. The next cycle in the economy will be entirely the fault of Kyoto and whoever signed it in will be gone.

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Slocum 01.04.06 at 3:11 pm

Slocum, could you please provide a cite for this?

I can’t find the per-capita info in Google at the moment, but tables of emissions changes since 1990 by country are easy to come by:

http://www.davidsuzuki.org/files/climate/cop/Meeting_Kyoto_Targets.pdf

If you do the math (with 295 million in the U.S. and 32 million in Canada), you can see that the Canadian per-capita emissions are now higher. And there’s this:

“Canada is up there with Spain, Ireland, Greece and five other nations as having the highest gas emissions. According to the United Nations, Spain is the worst, with a nearly 42 percent increase in emissions between 1990 and 2003; Canada stands at 24 percent and the United States experienced an increase of 13 percent.”

http://newsfromrussia.com/science/2005/11/29/68707.html

So Canada, despite being bound by Kyoto targets has increased its greenhouse gas emissions since 1990 at roughly twice the rate of the U.S.

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Slocum 01.04.06 at 3:21 pm

Most former skeptics, I fear, may slip into the embrace of their erstwhile allies, who now advocate doing nothing until the market provides a cheap alternative to fossil fuels. That would be a shame, and mean that we will be refighting this debate for another decade on slightly different ground.

Well, the advantage of R&D to provide cheap alternatives to fossil fuels is that no global political framework is required. If such alternatives are developed, they will naturally and inevitably replace fossil fuels without requiring any global treaties.

From my perspective, the problem with Kyoto is that, leaving the U.S. aside for the moment, I don’t see any prospect that China is going agree to hard limits on emissions (or actually meet any such committments if it made them). And China is where all the increases in emissions are coming from. And the same is true of India to a lesser degree.

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otto 01.04.06 at 3:24 pm

Er, yes, public opinion in favour of “more redistribution” is about more taxes, not less, for the rich.

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jet 01.04.06 at 3:28 pm

Otto, I don’t think you’re seeing my point. Only because of the Democrats heavy push of “tax breaks for the rich” did they get the 50-50% split on Bush’s tax cuts. Let me rephrase. If it weren’t for the tax cuts being skewed to the highest tax payers, the cuts woudl have been even more popular.

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jlw 01.04.06 at 3:32 pm

Here’s the thing I don’t get. How is “But back to the task at hand, the optimal solution for the US would be business as usual but with massive increases in R&D with the knowledge that viable alternatives are right around the corner” a coherent plan?

It doesn’t create disencentives for carbon use, so it remains as cheap as ever. And until coal and oil are uneconomical, they are going to be used at ever-increasing rates. (Because population and per capita GDP are going up, and energy consumption will follow [though not at as brisk a rate].) Business as usual means blocking wind farms for aesthetic reasons, because coal is just as cheap. Business as usual means nuclear power will not be massively exploited, because it is more expensive than coal power.

Business as usual means oil and coal companies quashing alternatives until they extract the last BTU of fossil energy.

Also, if it’s business as usual plus massive research, where do you get the money? When you add drags to carbon use, not only will people clammor for carbon free alternatives (because they are cheaper) but you can, if you include carbon taxes, create a pot of money that can support research to making alternatives cheaper still.

Again, as I said at comment #22, I wrote, “The new battle is over what to be done. Most former skeptics, I fear, may slip into the embrace of their erstwhile allies, who now advocate doing nothing until the market provides a cheap alternative to fossil fuels.” How is what you propose different from what I predicted?

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jlw 01.04.06 at 3:35 pm

Oh, and jet, take your time. I’ve got to be away for a while.

[cheers all around]

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Uncle Kvetch 01.04.06 at 3:46 pm

Thanks for the links, Slocum. It looks like Canada’s overall record over the last decade is indeed worse than that of the US.

Two questions, though:

If such alternatives are developed, they will naturally and inevitably replace fossil fuels without requiring any global treaties.

And if they aren’t? Not being snarky here: How does this approach deal with the risk that the alternatives aren’t developed, or aren’t developed quickly enough?

And China is where all the increases in emissions are coming from.

How so? The first of the two links you provide shows that gas emissions from the US are still climbing–up 13% since 1990, in fact. Emissions from China and India may be increasing faster, but that’s not the same.

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Doug G. 01.04.06 at 4:06 pm

Everyone worried about global warming should read this:

http://www.coyoteblog.com/coyote_blog/2006/01/cooler_but_poor.html

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Tracy W 01.04.06 at 4:16 pm

I don’t think Europe should get many bouquets for signing the Kyoto Treaty.

The baseline of 1990 was carefully picked.

It meant that Germany could reduce its measured emissions simply by shutting down all the polluting plants in the former East Germany which were going to be shut down anyway, since as well as being environmentally terrible they were economically terrible.

And Britain was switching from coal to gas anyway for its own economic/political purposes.

Now apparently only Britain and Sweden are on line to meet their obligations. (See http://www.ippr.org.uk/pressreleases/?id=1863) So only Sweden deserves a bouquet – unless Sweden had a particular reason for the 1990 baseline too.

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jet 01.04.06 at 4:26 pm

JLW (and for the first part of this, Uncle Kvetch too),
The problem with taking the herculean task of reverting to 1990 global outputs means that we haven’t done much to stop global warming. Even after cutting CO2 back to 1990’s levels we’re still out of luck and that ~2-6 number is going only be minutely reduced.

And JLW, no one is glad you are away, I really appreaciate what you are adding to the dialogue. But the problem I have with carbon taxes is they are only reasonable with carbon trading. And once you are carbon trading, then the money is going from rich countries to poor developing countries. And while this is great for helping the poor, it doesn’t help fund new R&D unless you count incentive from the added energy costs. And as for having a “coherent plan”, I can’t think of a more successful plank for either party to incorporate than to say they are going to blow the roof off of energy R&D funding. But you have a point, I don’t know how to build a framework that would force whoever is in power to keep investing heavily in R&D. And while affordable alternatives are going to happen, we need them now, not in 15-20 years (probable timeframe of coal-priced solar power given the price history of the last 25 years).

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BigMacAttack 01.04.06 at 4:35 pm

A revenue nuetral gas/oil tax.

But I guess if my fellow conservatives see tax, and it isn’t immediately followed by cut, their heads explode.

And Jet and JLW need the revenue to find their favorite research schemes. Wind farms, solar, nuclear, fusion, whatever.

Oh well.

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Villaveces 01.04.06 at 4:44 pm

Can anyone tell me what the disadvantages of global warming could be for Siberia? And then could anybody tell me how a China-Russia-India alliance against Kyoto could be overcome to provide a tenable solution to global warming (assuming that Kyoto in fact provides a solution, which I’m not convinced it does)? Let’s not forget total hurricane chaos in the Caribbean might even be quite a lot of fun for certain opponents of the US!

Also in Siberia, the thawing of a peat bog larger than France and Germany combined, “The area, which covers the entire sub-Arctic region of western Siberia, is the world’s largest frozen peat bog and scientists fear that as it thaws, it will release billions of tonnes of methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere.” What I love about this is the fact that methane cow farts are more problematic than CO2 emissions, maybe the one way to get this thing done is make cattle illegal, India would be somewhat more happy anyway.

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aaron 01.04.06 at 4:46 pm

You may have noticed everything has become more efficient with time and economic progress. The reason there are increases in emissions is increases in population and increases in personal consumption. Consumption is the problem, not industry/agriculture.

Additional industial regulations, for the most part, are silly. General incentives to improve technology might be good.

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aaron 01.04.06 at 5:11 pm

Here is what the Copenhagen Consensus had to say about Kyoto and Carbon taxes. They are the few project that are considered bad.

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a different chris 01.04.06 at 5:12 pm

> and this graph shows why.

Jesus, and I tried to pay attention to the guy. Anybody want to divide those numbers by yearly GDP for jet???

Oh, nevermind. Back to the subject:

As per the guy who mentioned Amory Lovins, who can be sure there will be economic pain? It amazes me that we have to listen to “Well, ok, maybe the climate models are getting more defensible, but hey we’ll get economically hammered, see these economics models here!!!”

If economists could model things 1/10 as well as the climatologists they would be dancing in the streets and handing out Nobel Prizes to battalions of them at a time.

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roger 01.04.06 at 5:13 pm

While aggregate greenhouse emissions per country tell us something, I think breaking down the source of emissions tells us more about recommending policies than anything else. Nuclear power is not going to eliminate CO2 from private transportation, for instance, and since transportation as a whole contributes about a third of the CO2 emitted in the U.S. and about two thirds of that come from private autos and trucks (according to John DeCicco), we come back again to the regulatory role of the government — for instance, in raising the CAFE standards. That is an easy thing to do.

And it would be much cheaper than nuclear power, which has never been anything but a huge burden to the power consumer. The only way to build and maintain safe nuclear power plants is basically to get state utility commissions to jimmy with allowable rates just to allow power companies to bear the costs of them. This is much more onerous price, destributed much more regressively, than requiring higher emission standards from car manufacturers.

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jet 01.04.06 at 5:16 pm

Aaron,
Mentioning Lomborg around liberals is like bringing up Reagan. They’re just going to get emotionally flustered, red in the face, and start yelling invectives about your mother. You’re safer picking TechCentral or CATO as your citations.

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Slocum 01.04.06 at 5:18 pm

“If such alternatives are developed, they will naturally and inevitably replace fossil fuels without requiring any global treaties.”

And if they aren’t? Not being snarky here: How does this approach deal with the risk that the alternatives aren’t developed, or aren’t developed quickly enough?

Well, the alternatives are not being developed quickly enough now — but nor is Kyoto having any effect yet — the countries that have show decreases since 1990 are effectively either those that have shuttered obsolete belching factories (Russia, eastern Europe) or switched away from coal (the U.K.)

What’s the best way to provide the proper funds & incentives for the R&D? I don’t know the answer, but I think that’s the right question.

“And China is where all the increases in emissions are coming from.”

How so? The first of the two links you provide shows that gas emissions from the US are still climbing—up 13% since 1990, in fact. Emissions from China and India may be increasing faster, but that’s not the same.

Well, let’s put it this way — China is not only increasing emissions faster than the U.S., but also its increases are greater in absolute terms than those of the U.S. and China presumeably already has surpassed the E.U. as the second largest emitter (not that the graph in the following link is 2002 figures for the E.U. and U.S. but 2001 for China):

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/3143798.stm

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BigMacAttack 01.04.06 at 5:19 pm

a different chris,

Really? I had no idea. Can you point me to a number of precise substanative predictions based on climatology models that have proven to be accurate?

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jet 01.04.06 at 5:21 pm

Different Chris,

Looks like I was right to ignore you. “Anybody want to divide those numbers by yearly GDP for jet???” Would tell us what exactly? That the economy grew faster than tax revenues? Well hold the presses, different Chris just reinvented economics or something. Cutting taxes actually means that tax revenues will be a smaller perventage of total GDP? You must be a rocket scientist in your spare time or something to have figured that out all on your own.

Let me spell it out for you since you must be simple. The inference is that the tax cuts helped cause the growth in GDP, thus the link between tax cuts and tax revenue growth. If you need it spelled out further, contact your local adult remedial education center.

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Urinated State of America 01.04.06 at 5:42 pm

“Here is what the Copenhagen Consensus had to say about Kyoto and Carbon taxes. They are the few project that are considered bad.”

Really?

Option 2: The Kyoto protocol

This option would commit the industrialised emissions by 5% below 1990 levels and constraints on developing economies. Such emissions far less than the option 1.

Although the effect on temperature rise by 2300 – damage to the world economy the same period, the benefits rise steadily than costs around 2100, and reaching more present value of the benefits is $166 trillion, yields a benefit/cost ratio of 1.77.

Even more aggressive reductions have a benefit/cost ratio of 4.

Hint: Non-optimal is not the same as “bad”.

Do you guys even fricking read the stuff you try to use to back up your arguments?

(Of course, the benefit/cost ratio depends on technical issues of the discount rate appropriate to use.)

80

ponte 01.04.06 at 5:43 pm

jet,
Mentioning Lomborg around liberals is like bringing up Reagan.

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that Lomberg attacks the environmental movement by citing its successes as proof that the environmental movement wasn’t necessary. Pretty silly thesis.

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aaron 01.04.06 at 5:53 pm

A faster way to reduce private transportation emissions is for more efficient driving over more efficient cars, but good luck getting people to change the way they drive.

I suppose new CAFE might actually be a good idea. While in the short run the increased fuel consumption going into development and production might excede the fuel savings, eventually production should become more efficient.

Then there is the problem that companies might just decide to sell their cars to other faster developing countries.

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jet 01.04.06 at 5:55 pm

I can’t believe I’m taking the bait.

Ponte,
Where in the sam hell do you see that Lomborg states the environmental movement wasn’t necessary?

And that link you show sounds like some asshat who hasn’t even read the SE and who certainly doesn’t offer a shred of evidence to back up his claims.

83

Philip 01.04.06 at 6:01 pm

Hi All, The end of the ‘global warming’ debate, John? The debate has hardly started. The sceptics are rightly sceptical in multifaceted ways, not just about this or that aspect of the science, but, as many above have already noted (and more importantly), about the range of alternative economic, social, and political responses to inexorable change. Indeed, many feel that the subtleties of the debate have been swamped by an uncritical, apocalyptic media, often unwittingly fed by misinterpreted ‘science’.

Interestingly, I see signs that alternative voices are, at last, starting to be heeded. For example, in the UK, they have significantly influenced Tony Blair as well as the recent excoriating report on the economics of climate change from the House of Lords.

As someone whom the philosopher David Hume might have called a ‘mitigated’, or moderate, sceptic, I am myself concerned about the idea of tinkering with climate in the hope of achieving a predictable outcome.

For many, ‘global warming’ is a faith. The ‘science’ is legitimised by the myth. Too many of us believe we are making an independent scientific assessment, when, in reality, we have subsumed Hume-scepticism to the demands of faith.

The sceptic has to distinguish ‘global warming’ from climate change. Climate change itself has to be broken down into three questions: “Is climate changing and in what direction?” “Are humans influencing climate change, and to what degree?” And: “Are humans able to manage climate change predictably by adjusting one or two factors out of the thousands involved?”

The most fundamental question remains unanswered: “Can humans manipulate climate predictably?” Or, more scientifically: “Will cutting carbon dioxide emissions at the margin produce a linear, predictable change in climate?” The answer is likely to be a resounding: “No”.

In so complex a coupled, non-linear, chaotic system as climate, not doing something at the margins is as unpredictable as doing something. This is the cautious science; the rest is dogma.

And what “better” climate will we produce? Doing something might lead to worse.

At present, this basic question has been lost in the clamour “to do something at all costs” and to damn those who doubt we can.”

We must surely further remember that humans have always feared climate change and developed myths that our sinfulness is its cause. Accordingly, we always want to be able “to do something” about climate, to sacrifice to the Earth to bring about a golden age of climate stability. Unfortunately, both geology and history show us that the idea of a stable climate is untenable – it is an oxymoron; there has never been, and never will be, a stable climate under human control. All we can do is adapt to constant change.

Our current obsession with the single factor of carbon dioxide emissions is, to me, little better than a resort to witchcraft. We are in the crucible yet again. In a system as complex and chaotic as climate, actions with just one factor out of the thousands involved may indeed trigger unexpected consequences. And, even if we closed down every factory, crushed every car and aeroplane, turned off all energy production, and threw 4 billion people worldwide out of work, climate would still change, and often dramatically. Unfortunately, we would be too poor to do anything about it. Moreover, any climate we might produce will then itself change.

Basing policies on fears about ‘global warming’ is potentially a serious threat to us all, but especially to the 1.6 billion people in the less-developed world who have no access to any modern form of energy. The twin curses of unclean water and energy poverty remain the true scandals. By contrast, the political imposition on the rest of the world of our Northern, self-indulgent ecochondria about ‘global warming’ could prove to be a neo-colonialism too far.

Hence why, though a liberal and midly left wing myself, I remain sceptical.

And the real debate hasn’t even begun….. And its locus? This will be in China, India, Indonesia, Brazil, and Mexico – not with us.

Cheers, Philip

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aaron 01.04.06 at 6:09 pm

Bad is relative to alternative to developement options.

But you should really read the Copenhagen methodology. For the Climate section, basically they made absurd assumptions to inflate the costs in the future because using objective methods would make it obvious that it is not beneficial. Look instead at the temperature change. Think about it, do you really think that a 1.9C decrease in the average temperature over 400 years starting in 2100 is worth the upfront cost?!?

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John Quiggin 01.04.06 at 6:21 pm

Participants in the Copenhagen Consensus exercise, including Schelling and Mendelsohn (both Kyoto opponents/sceptics) expressed grave disquiet about the treatment of climate change, concluding that it was “set up to fail”. Search this site for Copenhagen or Lomborg and you’ll find the details.

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ankh 01.04.06 at 8:49 pm

> 36. Can anyone suggest a good link to
> the most recent projections of climate change?

Good start: http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/2005/

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߬◊ 01.04.06 at 9:32 pm

Reading through these comments I find it amazing that people aren’t aware that we already are one full “hockey-stick” into an abrupt change of unknown consequence, –except for the certain species-population extinctions in many of the remaining fragmented wildlife areas, alteration of the water-cycle nearly everywhere, and continuous coastal flooding. At this point, it would appear that “linear” results may have very little to do with it.

It has all happened before, and Earth won’t spin out of orbit, so we hear fools say “so what.” Usually this astounding egotism proceeds masked as a concern for the welfare of others.

Typically, some of the commenters here professing skepticism, are wont to repeat the received opinion that the economic consequences of climate mitigation are liable to be severe, particularly to the poor. It should be pointed-out that this is as likely to be nonsense — except for a clear dent in the bank-accounts of the petro industry, whose bankroll of alarmist whining is why any significant public dispute continues.

Let us put aside the fact that the skeptics are not bothering to follow all the climate science. Let us put aside the fact that the economists’ cost-benefit analyses do not take into account the larger and more complex chains of determination, beyond monetized transactions, that will return later to affect the human economy.

The skeptics are even more short-sighted than that. They are willing to confer a validity upon economic models, which they do not care to award to climate models. This is most curious, since the way things are going, climate models are likely to become the first complex systems predicted with some degree of accuracy, in the whole history of science. Economic models have far less claim to predictive validity. I think what saves the economists’ bacon time and again is largely the fact that the interacting nodes of the economic model are creative humans. With freedom, in any system short of full-scale state ownership, economic growth will do just fine.

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Jim S 01.05.06 at 12:34 am

It should be remembered that Lomborg is not a climatologist, biologist, chemist or has extensively studied in these fields which relate directly to the environment. His book has many citations but is therefore only as good as its citations, which are pretty much all secondary sources and general media articles. If one cites an article written in one year but does not mention articles written subsequently that either supercede or debunk the first article how good are your conclusions? This is one of the things that Lomborg is accused of and it is definitely one of the things that pseudo-skeptics are constantly guilty of doing. I will not swear to its veracity but this web site should be checked out when discussing Lomborg: http://www.lomborg-errors.dk/ The blog posting that doug g posted is guilty of this in referring to satellite data that has since been superceded by further research. Many items that were written in the early ’90s and before are still used by the pseudo-skeptics when in fact there are more accurate models and studies that have been done more recently. A real favorite is to point out that some scientists 30 years ago thought we might cool off. Think about the tools available then versus those available now when studying any field of science not just climatology.

The critics constantly harp on doing cost benefit analysis. Then they proceed to do what Lomborg did and assume that the lower range of the models is the only thing they should base their analyses on. In fact Lomborg specifically states that the temperature increases will be at OR BELOW the lowest ranges of the IPCC predictions. This is just as invalid as assuming that only the highest range of the prediction is what will happen. OTOH, the discovery in Siberia that one poster (He isn’t worth scrolling back to refer to his name.) made fun of shows that it’s just as likely that we’ll discover things to make the worst case scenario a bit more likely as any discoveries to make us more optimistic.

And costs must be considered. Lomborg minimizes the potential threat of rising sea levels far too much. Some simplistic guesses as to the potential rise simply say “We have this much ice. If it melts it adds this much water. This is how high the seas will go.”. This of course completely ignores the simple fact of chemistry that a liquid or gas that is heated expands. A very, very tiny increase of the volume of our seas from this cause combined with melting Arctic and Antarctic ice can be catastrophic to quite a few coastlines that can produce a large economic cost. And I fail to see a reasonable rejoinder to the idea that if you heat ocean water there will be an effect on hurricane formation (More tropical storms crossing that line.), strength and lifespan since warm water is fuel to a hurricane.

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ponte 01.05.06 at 1:01 am

jet,
And that link you show sounds like some asshat who hasn’t even read the SE and who certainly doesn’t offer a shred of evidence to back up his claims.

That’s just the abstract. He cites plenty of evidence in the actual article (pdf). And that “asshat” is a climate change policy scholar, which is more than Lomborg can say for himself.

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abb1 01.05.06 at 3:18 am

Jet: Switching to modern energy designs and replacing more coal plants with pebble bed reactors would do more to stop globalm warming than 10 Kyoto treaties, and that’s just what current technology can do.

This is a non sequitur.

Kyoto establishes goals, milestones, etc. on the global scale. ‘Replacing more coal plants’ in the US is some technological proposal for the local US economy. Apples and oranges.

This is like saying: “I’ll be coding my part of this project using C++ and this will do more than 10 RFPs, specs and project plans.” No, I’m afraid it won’t. You need the specs, you need project management with goals and milestones – and for the whole project, not just your part.

91

zdenek 01.05.06 at 6:06 am

mcduff writes : ” there is such a thing as genuine scientific concensus & too many people have found it in their best interests to muddy waters”.

The point of course is as I indicate in my comment, *when* such concensus crystalizes and *who* desides that this has happened is an internal scientific matter and not a political issue. Most certainly not up to activists to call the shots here.

And this is the distinction you do not seem to fully grasp. ( see the all too common use of ad hominem when dealing with US think tanks and other people who dissagree with your position . The typical move is to try to show that some result must be false because people who are reporting it are right wingers , pelleeeese….)
Observe that if this is true then it is *you* who is muddying waters by confusing politics with science.

92

joel Hammer 01.05.06 at 6:37 am

Doing “something” is not the same as doing something useful.

Kyoto will do NO good. So, why even go there?

Back in the 1970’s (roughly), when pollution first started being a problem in California, they imported pollution experts from the East. No problem they said. This is from coal burning power plants. After they fixed the power plants, and the problem wasn’t solved, then they realized it was the automobile.

They were sure, too. They were the experts too.
But, they were just dead wrong.

Since even the experts say Kyoto will not do any good, why beat this dead horse?

That’s what extremists do. They are in the debate for the ideology, not to actually solve a problem.

93

Paul Ashton 01.05.06 at 6:43 am

“warmest year in at least the past millenium”. As a geologist that makes me laugh, as a scientist it makes me worried about how we do science these days. It colors everything that follows in the original post and most of the discussion.

94

Tim Worstall 01.05.06 at 7:32 am

“Lomborg minimizes the potential threat of rising sea levels far too much. Some simplistic guesses as to the potential rise simply say “We have this much ice. If it melts it adds this much water. This is how high the seas will go.”. This of course completely ignores the simple fact of chemistry that a liquid or gas that is heated expands. A very, very tiny increase of the volume of our seas from this cause combined with melting Arctic and Antarctic ice can be catastrophic to quite a few coastlines that can produce a large economic cost.”

True that it’s the thermal expansion of the oceans that we’re worried about, not specifically the ice. Although as the Arctic ice floats that won’t change sea level in and of itself. The ice in Antarctica (outside the peninsula) is actually getting thicker as a result of increased preciptiation.

To another point, why CAFE? Why not simply higher gas taxes (I’ve long been a supporter of another $1 on a gallon in the US) as Greg Mankiw suggested in the WSJ yesterday?

Where’s the money coming for the research? Well, for fuel cells ( at least one type of them, SOFCs) , a very small amount of it came from me. Enlightened self interest as if that particular type takes off then I’ll sell a lot more product. On the grander scale much research is being done by SECA. And, yes, while that was set up in the Clinton era GW Bush has expanded the budget significantly.

Quite a lot more of it is coming from DoD (a number of different types of fuel cells) and yes, there are still intruiging technologies that are underfunded, like an Australian program into the TiO2 catalysis (?, breaking it into H and O) of water powered by sunlight. The aim is to make roof tiles to generate the hydrogen to run cars and distributed generation plants.

As someone who works on the fringes of the fuel cell world, whatever my affiliation with TCS, I’m very much of the opinion that technology will indeed save us. (Well, everyone thinks that, the argument is over which technology.) The developments in fuel cells, solar, wind (which has any number of problems, I know) wave and so on are coming a great deal faster than most seem to realise.

As Lomborg was lambasted for saying (and I’ve got another 5 years evidence since he published) I expect non fossil generation to be cheaper in coming decades than fossil.

95

Javier 01.05.06 at 7:37 am

It should be remembered that Lomborg is not a climatologist, biologist, chemist or has extensively studied in these fields which relate directly to the environment. His book has many citations but is therefore only as good as its citations, which are pretty much all secondary sources and general media articles.

Lomborg does rely extensively on secondary sources–but most of these are not media articles. Most of his secondary sources are the same ones used by almost all discussants of the state of the world – the reports of the UN, (FAO, UNDP, UNEP, WHO etc.), IMF, the World Bank, OECD, WRI, Worldwatch Institute, EU, US government agencies, and so on.

Then they proceed to do what Lomborg did and assume that the lower range of the models is the only thing they should base their analyses on.

Lomborg certainly did not assume this. Have you read his work? He spends the longest chapter of the Skeptical Environmentalist arguing for this “assumption.”

You can see Lomborg’s replies to his critics here.

96

jet 01.05.06 at 8:17 am

abb1,
I only speak English, Spanish, and a bit of Latin, and I have no idea what language you were using…C++? RFC’s? What is that? ;)

The part you cite was just part of my overall response that Kyoto is a big waste of energy (pun intended). Even if it was implemented, it would do almost nothing to stop global warming and would start using significant resources. Those resources would be much better spent developing alternative energies which could stop most CO2 output in the long run.

Javier good response to the Lomborg haters. One of these days they are going to need to learn how to read.

97

aaron 01.05.06 at 8:40 am

Mr. Quiggin, You mean to tell me that there might be more moderate emission regulation policies that could be as good as guest worker programs for unskilled labor?

I’m shocked.

98

Barry 01.05.06 at 9:10 am

I’m intrigued. Such a fascinating certainty on display – so clearly demarked camps of the devout and sceptic…

Could someone tell me please – what is the “correct” temperature of the planet? While you are about it can you tell me, where is this place, “globally averaged”? The reason I ask is that a globally averaged temperature is surely only an important metric should you happen to live, well, at “globally averaged” – otherwise local temperature and perhaps moist enthalpy is of more pressing concern.

While we are about it, how certain are we that measured trends are genuine? To be sure Phil Jones asserts that urban heat island is being accounted for during the collation of global temperature datasets but I admit a sneaking scepticism when a researcher will not divulge which meteorological station records he is using, nor by what methodology urban heat island effect is being dealt.

Granted, Christy et al at UAH have found a decadal lower-tropospheric trend of about one-eighth of one degree Centigrade per decade since the late 1970s but I wonder why I should panic about one and one-quarter degrees per century when the UK Met. Office Central England Temperature record (http://www.met-office.gov.uk/research/hadleycentre/CR_data/Daily/HadCET_act.txt) shows the world and its denizens handled almost a degree per decade in the past (7.25 °C to 10.47 °C from 1695 to 1733).

At present we believe global mean temperature has risen roughly 0.7 °C while we have been paying attention to temperatures, which, coincidentally, is the same as our estimated measurement error attempting to derive said global mean temperature (see http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/abs_temp.html for details on that). So, allowing for measurement error, the world is somewhere between 0 and 1.5 °C warmer than when history and anecdotal evidence suggests it was cold/bitter/harsh (take your pick).

I rest assured that there is a world of people out there simply busting to inform me where I have strayed from an accurate summation of human understanding of planetary norms, temperature and trend but for the life of me I can’t see the justification for the title “The end of the global warming debate”. Seems to me that this is merely the beginning.

99

jlw 01.05.06 at 10:59 am

It’s funny. I’m on the “other” side of the climate debate from the likes of Tim Worstall, but we agree on quite a bit.

* A $1 a gallon gas tax would drive efficiency faster than tightened CAFE standards. (There was a CBO paper on that point a few years back.)

* Some sources of non-carbon electrical generation will be cheaper than fossil fuels within the next five years. Heck, with gas at between $10 and $15 per million BTU, wind is already there.

* There’s a lot of great technologyout there in R&D land that might pan out to make the transition to non-carbon energy pretty painless.

But here’s the run. I think it’s foolish to rely on market forces alone to make this transition. Too much carbon-burning technology is already bought, paid for, and in place. Even if the marginal cost of electricity is cheaper with a green widget, corporations aren’t going to abandon multimillion dollar investments willingly. Steam plants will change fuels, as they did from oil to gas, but they won’t change from boilers to combined cycle gas turbines, even if the efficiency jumps by 50 percent.

Clean green technology could make up a fraction of the new generation capacity, but that doesn’t really do much to reduce anything but projected increases in CO2 emissions.

That’s why I think it’s critical to make the transition as soon as possible, not just when the market dictates it. And that’s why I think wielding harsh sticks to carbon emissions is just as important as offering yummy carrots for alternatives.

One other point. As someone mentioned earlier, we don’t know exactly what will happen climate-wise if we switch away from carbon fuels. Klaus Lackner once raised the issue to me that fuel cells might be a bad idea, for we don’t know the outcome of adding lots of water vapor to places like Denver and Phoenix. (He didn’t say it was definitely a bad idea, just that it’san unknown, much like CO2 and ozone was 100 years ago.)

That said, it has become clear that we are already engaged in an experiment in changing the composition of the atmosphere, and that it is not going well. Maybe some people want to ride the bucket all the way down, but I think it’s best to call off this experiment as best we can and try something else.

100

Frank Borger 01.05.06 at 11:16 am

In 30 odd years in Radiation Therapy Research, I saw a lot of discussion about the subtleties of measuring radiation and biological response. There were a lot of ways a naive person could get badly out of line result. I learned to be a skeptic.

The ENTIRE field of temperature measurement, computer modeling, economic modeling, discerning history from various indicators, (the whole ball of stuff wound up into this grand and glorious thing called “global warming”,) has just too damn many areas where we really don’t know anything to a sufficient degree to make accurate measurements or predictions.

I got out of medicine because it got to political and who you knew mattered more than if your idea was right. The politics of global warming makes medical politics look like tiddly winks.

101

SKIPSUL 01.05.06 at 11:17 am

Just a question here:

If 1998 and 2005 were the hottest in a millenium, why was it so hot then? How does this necessarilly corelate with man-made global warming? How does this prove man-made global warming? No climatologist yet has a good understanding of Earth’s full climate patterns, to say nothing of solar interactions.

Furthermore, history shows us that a warmer northern hemisphere was economically beneficial. The rapid cooling occuring during middle ages corresponds quite nicely with Mongol invasions and plagues. Why not encourage a bit of warming (assuming we even have a measurable effect now)?

102

Scott Martens 01.05.06 at 11:23 am

It’s amazing to me how the answer to every problem, at least as far as free-market liberalism is concerned, is to do nothing. I assume we’ve all heard the joke about how many Chicago school economists it takes to change a lightbulb? (For those who haven’t the answer is none: if the lightbulb needed changing, the market would take care of it.) The only problem with it is that I think its advocates don’t really believe in it. Think of what a wonderful policy it would be. AIDS speads to millions of people. Response: Do nothing, the market will find a cure and offer it at reasonable prices. A hurricane devastates a city and leaves hundreds of thousands homeless. Response: Do nothing, the free-market will provide accomodation and inexpensive reconstruction loans. Or how about this one: Terrorists destroy a building in New York. Response: Do nothing, the free-market will defend us from terrorism.

The faith that new technology will simply solve all our problems just in time to save us is exactly the same as having faith that Jesus will come back before climate change really causes problems.

Still, if fossil fuels weren’t so irreplaceable to the transportation industry, I might be tempted to give the anti-Kyoto people a sympathetic hearing. I’m generally pro-nuclear and nuclear power is certainly not a new technology requiring any leap of faith. But, nuclear power – or for that matter any other presently available technology – is not going to lead to a zero-emissions car or truck that is both cheaper to operate and more desirale to consumers than burning dinosaurs. Enormous investments are already going into energy storage research, not so much for cars but for portable computers, and the physical barriers to storing elecrticity as easily as storing gas are far too high to expect the solution to be right round the corner.

The most optimistic solution is probably a radical reconstruction of transportation infrastructure to favour electrified trains that can be powered by low or zero emissions centralised energy sources. There is little or no chance that is going to happen without real coersion.

103

theorajones 01.05.06 at 11:25 am

For those of us with no policy input and no faith that the powers that be will make the proper investments, do you know of good resources that have area-specific projections for what global warming’s effects will be in the next 30-50 years?

Say, for those of us who are thinking of buying a house?

NB: While I obviously understand that no projection can tell us that 15 Maple Avenue will be underwater in 15 years, I’d like to know what the general projections are for places like NY’s Long Island, California’s coast, etc., so I can factor them in (with obviously, a huge grain of salt).

104

Lee A. Arnold 01.05.06 at 11:37 am

Barry, your position appears to be that other people think there must be some sort of “norm.” You imply that, since climate change affects localities differently, talk about temperature is misguided. Well on your hot streak, you ask “how certain are we that measured trends are genuine?” You assert that researchers are hiding methodologies and evidence. You imply that a 1.5 degree change can’t be very much.

Your punishment for repeating all these supposed and presumed counterarguments, is to read the scientists themselves:

Start by reading the entire 1995 IPCC report, at
http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar/wg1/

Then, go to http://www.realclimate.org/ and read the entire page, with comments, from the bottom up. This will bring you thoroughly up-to-the-minute on where we are.

Then go to the side of the Real Climate page, and go to some of the links, particularly AIP Global Warming (American Institute of Physics’ history of the science,) Roger Pielke, Sr.’s cranky blog Climate Science, and Stephen Schneider, a climatologist who’s gone far into policy discussions.

This will give you a very good overview of things, with the possible exception of learning the effects on wildlife ecosystems.

The global warming debate is over. The science is just beginning.

105

Tim Worstall 01.05.06 at 11:41 am

#103. The way I understand the more alarmist projections the salt will come along free with the water.

106

Lee A. Arnold 01.05.06 at 11:45 am

Excuse me, that first link is the 2001 IPCC report — even better. And the RealClimate site discusses both the science and the methodologies in depth. No more excuses for not knowing what’s going on!

107

ponte 01.05.06 at 12:15 pm

jet,
Even if it was implemented, it would do almost nothing to stop global warming and would start using significant resources. Those resources would be much better spent developing alternative energies which could stop most CO2 output in the long run.

First of all, implementing Kyoto will do more to slow global warming than doing practically nothing at all, which is the preferred Bush Administration policy. Second, your claim that those resources could be better spent on developing alternative energies is spurious at best. A predictable increase in fossil fuel prices would be a substantial incentive to alternative energy projects. How do you expect those “resources” to be magically allocated to alternataive energy? Contrary to your hopes, the major oil companies are investing in exploration and production, not alternative energies. You obviously haven’t thought your argument through very carefully.

108

bob koch 01.05.06 at 12:47 pm

I want to reask Barry’s question above: “What is the correct temperature of the planet?” If we are supposed to be so concerned with the world’s current average temperature, and projected increases, our “plan” to save the world and turn back this increase must surely have a targeted goal. Once we bring global warming to a stop, we will have to then pursue lowering the temperature back to this goal to restore lost shorelines along Pacific Islands and stop all these hurricanes.

So what is the goal? What is ideal? When will we get to Temperature Utopia? My guess is that most enviros would pick a temperature somewhere around what it was in the late 60’s, back when they were kids and you could skate on the ponds in Philly, have more snow at Christmas, etc.

If you’re so committed to stopping global warming, you better be able to tell me where it should be, and why, if you want me to take you seriously.

109

Urinated State of America 01.05.06 at 1:49 pm

“Bad is relative to alternative to developement options.”

Again, non-optimal bad. In the paper *you cited*, benefits exceed costs. If you want to argue the technicalities of the discount rate, go ahead. I don’t see a convincing reason why one should use the Fed funds rate or the 30-year T-bill instead.

Also, part of mitigating CO2 emissions would involve transfers from richer to poorer nations; this mechanism is already built into Kyoto. Emissions trading enables you to shift the CO2 reduction to the cheapest marginal cost of reduction, which will be in the [former] Second World and Third World.

“Think about it, do you really think that a 1.9C decrease in the average temperature over 400 years starting in 2100 is worth the upfront cost?!?”

Yes, ‘cos apparently unlike yourself, I understand that there is a substantial lag in the delta-T versus the delta-[CO2], ‘cos the ocean below the first 70-odd feet is out of thermal and chemical equilibrium with the atmosphere. Taking 2100 as the decision horizon is not a long enough time period.

There was a recent paper in Nature (IIRC) where the authors pointed out that we’re likely to miss taking action that would result in peak CO2 concentrations of 550 ppm. If we’re lucky and focused, we might make 650 ppm.

110

Uncle Kvetch 01.05.06 at 2:18 pm

A question: Do any of the various cost-benefit analyses being bandied about here include the non-climate-related benefits of shifting from fossil fuels to clean/renewable sources of energy? And if they don’t, why not? My technical knowledge is practically nil on this, but it seems to me that slowing (or stopping or reversing) climate change is only one of many benefits that would be realized from such a shift. Fossil fuels generate forms of pollution that aren’t implicated in global warming but are no less harmful as a result…no?

Thanks.

111

MQ 01.05.06 at 2:23 pm

Jet, did you link to the graph on Federal revenues in comment #58 because *you* don’t understand the concept of inflation, because you believe *we* don’t understand the concept of inflation, or because you have a radical new theory about how inflation is not relevant to living standards? In any case, you would help your credibility by staying honest about basic stuff.

That graph is mendacious in other ways beyond the obvious one too. There is still a point to be made about Federal revenues not dropping as much in absolute terms as they have relative to GDP and to Federal spending, but that graph is highly dishonest.

112

aaron 01.05.06 at 3:40 pm

I think that GDP growth rate would be a good discount rate.

113

Urinated State of America 01.05.06 at 5:33 pm

“I think that GDP growth rate would be a good discount rate.”

Err, no. GDP growth rate tells you zip about the preferences for today’s dollars over tomorrow’s dollars. Productivity growth rate, there might be a case for, and, lo and behold, the authors of the paper you cite use a close cousin of it (consumption growth rate, which, in the long term, will mirror productivity growth).

114

detribe 01.05.06 at 7:43 pm

There is another aspect to corrupt public debate that needs mentioning in a recent publication from Civitas. In this case the corruption is from using self-defined moral correctness to trump reason and empirical evidence.

The Retreat of Reason
Political Correctness and the Corruption of Public Debate in Modern Britain
http://www.civitas.org.uk/pdf/cs47.pdf
Anthony Browne

Is Professor Quiggin now going to retire from public comment because this “corruption” vetos his own credibility, using his own rules of engagement in debate to silence himself?

115

aaron 01.05.06 at 7:51 pm

Think a little harder there. GDP growth would give a good estimate of the size of the economy in the time periods. The productivity growth simply gives you an estimate in change in GDP growth from period to period.

You would want to use GDP as your discount rate, productivity growth could be used to estimate changes in GDP growth if you believe the trend in productivity growth will continue.

Fucking moron.

116

frank 01.05.06 at 8:07 pm

Thanks for a jolly laugh folks. It has been very entertaining to read these posts. I am awed at the religious fervor with which the global warming community defends itself. Yes, I must admit I am a “contrarian.”
I do not believe that the scientific debate is over, despite such pronouncements on high from within the global warming cloisters. Despite the numerous computer models that purport to tell us what our climate will be like 50 or 100 years hence, there has been no credible evidence pointing that proves man’s contribution to our atmosphere is causing the warming.

As to the computer models, despite the fact that they may take into account a myriad (100s, 1000s?) of cimate influencers, the are still merely models an inherently inaccurate. The climate, like the weather, is not linear. It is a chaotic system; one slight variation and the results are different.

Earth’s climate has varied radically for eons without man’s assistance. Gosh, I wonder why there is oil in ANWR? Could it be that the northern climes were once temperate and populated with future fossil fuel. What kind of arrogance is it that says today’s climate is what should exist on earth? There is much talk about receeding glaciers. Why not try to roll back the climate to the that balmy epoch when glaciers covered expanses of Wisconsin and Michigan?

I also found the talk of independent verification or repitition of results humorous. I guess that holds only as long as it is the contrarians. Mr. Mann put up quite a fight to keep his data from those who wanted to attempt to repeat his famed hockey stick graph. Low and behold, once the researchers managed to get the results, they found that Mr. Mann was, gosh dare I say it? He was “selective” in the use of his data. I guess he must be some kind of right winger, huh? Anyway, those “contrarians” did get published and the hockey stick has been thoroughly discredited.

Anyway, thanks for the entertainment. Excuse me if I don’t genuflect as I leave this temple of true believers.

117

Dex 01.05.06 at 8:15 pm

All these references to skeptics ignoring data that does not fit thier hypothesis! Gambling in Casablanca! Shocked! It’s a good thing that everytime Human driven climate change proponets mention Artic warming they mention Antartic cooling, or when they question the accuracy of satelite data they mention all the difficulties associated with terrestrial temperature measurements.

If somebody wants to divert a serious amount of global wealth into reducing atmospheric CO2 they better be able to defend their science without having to resort to the “liar liar pants of fire” method of debate exhibited by some of the comments about “industry funded” or “market driven”.

Kyoto probably does have limited economic costs to match its limited value in holding back CO2 rises. European economies are being strangled by excessive government regulation of its labor market and high taxation rates not by Kyoto targets (which are largely not being met) What will be needed to have signigicant impact on controlling atmoshperic CO2 will also have significant costs, particularly if the adoption timeframe is short.

Is it too much to ask to have both the science of climate change and the economics of mitigation a little more settled?

118

߬◊ 01.05.06 at 8:35 pm

Re 108: Let’s try it again. Go to the following page at the IPCC 2001 TAR:

http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar/wg1/005.htm

and look at the second graph.

This is the famous hockey stick of temperatures the last thousand years, and much bloviation inhaled to the contrary, it has been CONFIRMED and STRENGTHENED: Everybody would love to put a dent in it — that would be instant scientific celebrity, at this time.

The answer to your question WHAT LEVEL of atmospheric carbon dioxide to go back to, would be on this chart: 1850, in about another hundred and fifty years.

However, I do not know why you need a precise temperature target to take the argument seriously, unless you are a policymaker in search of fictions. But there are a few good reasons why this one would be less arbitrary than most.

Be all that as it may, we should start now by government policy to seed alternative energy strategies at many different levels, to generate as many market choices as possible. Higher oil prices may help this; though not much, so far.

119

Ragout 01.05.06 at 8:52 pm

Regarding jet’s graph:

Even ignoring the fact that tax revenues always tend to grow over time, tax cuts or no, due to inflation and gdp growth, the graph is still dishonest.

Taking the graph on its own terms, it shows revenue increases after the tax cuts of 2003, but decreases after the cuts of 2001 and 2002. For some reason though, only the 2003 tax cuts are labeled….

120

Jim S 01.05.06 at 9:32 pm

zdenek, you lose on this one. The conservative think tanks you defend are nothing but political activists.

The American Meteorological Society is not an activist group. The IPCC is not an activist organization. The American Geophysical Union is not an activist group.

There are more and it takes only a matter of a few minutes and a decent search engine to find them. I would say that in fact there is a scientific consensus and that it has relatively few legitimate skeptics. Why do you attempt to deny that this consensus has taken shape?

121

John Quiggin 01.05.06 at 9:36 pm

Detribe, I think it’s empirically safe to say that anything containing the term “political correctness” is nonsense.

“Moral correctness” is even better though. Can we look forward to defences of the Bush Administration on the grounds that they are “morally incorrect”?

That said, I can’t see what your comment has to do with this post. The facts are clear, and not comfortable for the likes of Civitas.

122

retired geologist 01.05.06 at 11:01 pm

When “global warming” first came on the public scene, I caused great distress for many of my students because I said I didn’t give a damn if the climate warmed, cooled, went sideways, up or down or anything else. I told them that by about 2010 AGW would, like the ice age scare of the 70s, be considered a bad scientific joke. Nothing in the intervening years has convinced me to change my mind about 2010. The geologic evidence for dramatic climate change throughout all of Earth history is obvious and not subject to argument or denial. The Earth is a tough old boot and will manage to handle whatever climate change throws at it. And so will it’s ecosystems. I know that many of the ecochondriacs have great faith in climate models and must wake up each morning shitting down both legs with fear that it will be a couple of degrees warmer that day. Their great faith reminds me of the best definition of “faith” I’ve ever heard, “Faith is when you believe something that no one in their right mind would believe”. That describes the global warmers to a tee. Relax, the world (and its inhabitants) will do just fine no matter what the climate does. Our ancestors did and so will we and our children and grandchildren. Stop living in fear of the natural world. Go take a nice drive in the countryside in your SUV.

123

Jim S 01.05.06 at 11:08 pm

frank and dex are perfect examples of ignorance in this debate. An example is the statement “Anyway, those “contrarians” did get published and the hockey stick has been thoroughly discredited.”. No, not really. Do some real research into it. Look at who the “researchers” were.

From Lomborg’s book: “Temperatures will increase much less than the maximum estimates from IPCC—it is likely that the temperature will be at or below the B1 estimate [the lowest emissions scenario] (less than 2° C in 2100) and the temperature will certainly not increase even further into the twenty-second century.”. What actual scientific proof does he provide for this claim?

124

skeptic 01.05.06 at 11:39 pm

If water vapor is more important than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas perhaps creating more surface area for increased evaporation and thus more water vapor when man creates artificial lakes is responsible for global warming. Perhaps we should blow up all dams and drain all resevoirs to reduce the greenhouse effect?

125

߬◊ 01.05.06 at 11:55 pm

The ignorance of the science by the contrarians here is unbelievable. Perhaps we are seeing examples of petro industry trolls? ExxonMobil alone is pouring over a million dollars a year into fighting this (see Ross Gelbspan, BOILING POINT, p. 51.) Blog-comment management has no doubt been strategized.

126

BD 01.06.06 at 12:19 am

Second, now that the scientific phase of the debate is over, attention will move to the question of the costs and benefits of mitigation options.

JQ was cleverly precise in the first part of this statement, and unfortunately less precise in the second part. Obviously the debate over the issue of warming is not over, but perhaps the scientific part of that phase is over. It’s an interesting characteristic of think tanks (which I take JQ’s post to be fundamentally about) that they are parasitic on academia proper: they explicitly place policy ahead of evidence, but they still have to sound sufficiently like real academics to get the funding and media attention, and to shape government policy. I don’t think this parasitism is at all permanent though: watching the co-option of academia’s favorite argument techniques in the posts above shows that undermining the difference between science and bullshit (in Frankfurt’s sense) need not remain in the peripheries of academia. The climate change debate, like ID, is, among many other things, yet another war between academia and pseudo-academia (such as think tanks), and I wonder if we’re losing the war as we win the battles. That greater loss may be due, in part, to something hinted at in JQ’s imprecision in part 2 of his statement above: “attention” in JQ’s mind may indeed shift to policy issues, but if he believes that attention outside of academia will make this shift any time soon, I fear he is not just mistaken, but partaking in academia’s greatest weakness–a tendency to focus on truly unresolved issues, rather than politically unresolved issues. If he turns his back on a debate that is only going to grow in the public sphere, I hope at least he knows that he’s doing it.

127

SukieTawdry 01.06.06 at 1:14 am

Yes, but what if a butterfly flaps its wings in China?

128

sonny 01.06.06 at 3:45 am

߬◊, regarding your post 118: That hockey stick graph you link to says right on it: “Data from thermometers (red) and from tree rings, corals, ice cores and historical records (blue).”

Excuse me while I puke over the poor quality of the facade of science being used to justify international socialist regulation of the world. If you’re going to rule the world under the banner of science, could you at least choose some real science, instead of pushing this pseudo stuff onto the podium for forced applause? No, I guess that would be out of character for a real socialist not to make the platform offensive to truthfulness as a test of party loyalty.

(In case you have trouble seeing the problem revealed in the disclaimer for the graph on your own, here are some starter points you should be able to think about for yourself to understand why this is poor quality, unreliable science, which are points in addition to the devastating criticisms of the hockey stick data and statistical methods that have been published:)

Tree rings don’t make a good proxy for temperature, when the species selected are more sensitive to rainfall, humidity, CO2, and maybe a hundred other things than temperature. Corals are an interesting choice of data. That might tell you something about whether there were El Nino oscillations or other changes in circulation in tropical oceans in the past and how strong they were. Ice cores have a selection bias: They can’t possibly exist from places and times that were much warmer in the past. The ice would have melted away. Taking gas content measurement of ice cores as revealing absolute differences in the past requires ignoring that life and chemistry can still happen on and in glaciers.

If a climate historian puts enough proxies that are partial guesses together and averages them, the resulting graph might have some bumps that correlate with what actually happened, but the absolute temperature signal is totally lost in the choice of how to balance various inaccurate estimates.

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zdenek 01.06.06 at 4:50 am

jim s — why do you guys have a problem understanding a simple criticism ? I am not denying that concensus has emerged at all. I am talking about lefties like you ( and John Quiggin in particular ) who know what the truth about climate is, even *before* the concensus has emerged from the scientists and who see cospiracy of the right wing as an explanation of why people dont agree with you.
How do you establish for instance that some conservative thinktank’s results cannot be taken seriously ? The typical approach is ( see your own comments ) : use internet to see who funds and what political line members of the thinktank embrace. And you use this to ‘prove’ that their position on some aspect of the science of climate is faulty.

Well I have a news for you this is a fallacious move because it involves a combination of genetic and ad hominem fallacy ( its just like trying to show that Darwin’s results must be flawed because he was an agnostic or that he did not go to church often enough ). You can not establish that some result is faulty by showing that the guy is funded by oil company. That fact only raises the * possibility * of bias but to discredit his results you need to look at his work itself( i.e. method, data , inference , modelling etc. )

Anyway it is because of considerations like this that it seems that the activists ( i.e. largely people from outside of natural science ) are hostages to their politics and make things more complicated by confusing science with politics. ( You seem to have read some Lomborg why dont you read part 1 of his SE ? )

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Tim Worstall 01.06.06 at 6:36 am

“From Lomborg’s book: “Temperatures will increase much less than the maximum estimates from IPCC—it is likely that the temperature will be at or below the B1 estimate [the lowest emissions scenario] (less than 2° C in 2100) and the temperature will certainly not increase even further into the twenty-second century.”. What actual scientific proof does he provide for this claim?”

I’m not going to go and look it up but from memory his contention (not scientific proof) is that renewables will be cheaper than fossil in the 2030-2040 timescale. Thus new generation plant built from that point on will be renewable not fossil. On this, as above, I tend to think he’s a pessimist (and no, I don’t have any scientific proof either, just working knowledge from being on the fringes of one renewables industry).

But it might be worth pointing out that none of the IPCC scenarios include this possibility. So, if it does happen warming will be less than the scenarios presented. As he says.

The question then becomes will that change in relative prices happen or not?

131

Philip 01.06.06 at 7:27 am

Hi All, I keep seeing that word ‘consensus’. Science is not about consensus. Consensus would have entrenched eugenics. Scepticism and constant questioning are at the very heart of science. And with climate, the science remains especially ‘soft’ because of the sheer impossibility of measuring accurately the thousands of variables involved. The same applies, but much more so, of course, to both economics and ecology. The bitter divide we are seeing in these posts tells us much more about the different innate personalities, politics, and beliefs of the posters than about any ‘science’ or ‘knowledge’ as such. The debate results from our individual responses to change and to risk.

This is perhaps inevitable, as has been pointed out by many modern philosophers and sociologists, because we are dealing with the ‘hybrids’ and new constitution of Bruno Latour, and the processes of legitimation analysed by Lyotard. One book I have found especially interesting in this respect is Robert Kirkman’s ‘Skeptical environmentalism. The limits of philosophy and science’ (Indiana University Press, 2002). I believe Kirkman is an Assistant Professor of Science and Technology at Michigan State. I recommend a read by all camps in the debate. I’m about to re-read for the same reason. Cheers, Philip

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Dex 01.06.06 at 8:12 am

I did not mention the “hockey stick” of Mann et al, curious how it was reflexively defended. I think proxie studies are an interesting way to evaluate temperatures over the last millenium or so. The devil is in the details of how the various data streams were cooked into the final graph. The authors still seem to be keeping some of these details as a trade secret, which is fine, but it will naturally lead to some questions about motive. To my knowledge no one else has yet to reproduce a temperature chart from proxies that so expunge the Midevil Warm Period and other climate anomolies suggested by archaelogical studies. The biggest problem with the study remains that the most interesting conclusion (ie the part of the stick that contacts the puck) is based on temperatures derived not from proxies but from thermometers. I would suppose that proxies would be obtainable through the year 2000 not 1970 and this would have the merit of consistensy atleast. One should always take a grain of salt when consuming both apples and organes in the same sitting.

See I manged to get through that without making any dark references to how Big Academia has billions of dollars (and euros) in grant money and thousands of Phd’s who might lose thier jobs unless climate sceptics are discredited.

133

John Quiggin 01.06.06 at 8:16 am

Tim, I’m writing from memory also. But I think at least some of the IPCC scenarios have a big drop-off in emissions after about 2050, presumably because of a switch to renewables.

134

Javier 01.06.06 at 8:42 am

Ponte,

That’s just the abstract. He cites plenty of evidence in the actual article (pdf). And that “asshat” is a climate change policy scholar, which is more than Lomborg can say for himself.

Michael Grubb also doesn’t provide much in the way of rigorous evidence for his belief that government regulations were the main cause of lower pollution rates and the proposition that the environmentalist movement was responsible for the passing of those laws in the first place. So my mind on the issue will remain undecided until I see better evidence one way or the other.

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Alex Gregory 01.06.06 at 8:56 am

Can someone please answer the following:
Scientists (as in published papers in scientific journals) seem to pretty much converge on the idea that global warming exists (that is, climate change exists, and is partially caused by humans). I don’t think many people deny that this academic scientific consensus exists these days.

Now, as some commentators have noted, there is always room for criticism in science, that is how it progresses. But *surely* the fact that the majority of people in a certain field agree with a certain conclusion gives us good reason to change policy to reflect that? It may be a fallible change in policy, but all scientific knowledge is fallible: we just have to work to the best of our knowledge.

Now, I’m happy to admit that there’s a debate to be had with Worstall and the like over the best way to combat climate change (e.g. encouraging alternatives or taxing fossil fuel use), but to deny that there is a problem that needs rectifying is simply to assert that you know more than the experts in the relevant field. We can all do a little bit of googling and turn up some shred of evidence to support almost any proposition, but for myself, I trust that those scientists working in the area are a better judge of the facts than I am.

So, my question is: Why do you think you know more about the science of climate change than people who spend almost all of their time studying it?

Alex

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Tim Worstall 01.06.06 at 9:12 am

“Why do you think you know more about the science of climate change than people…”

I don’t. I think (quite possibly wrongly but there we go) that I know more about how to change people’s behaviour, and the incentives required to do that, than the people who study climate science do.

I’m no more than an interested amateur as far as economics goes (and it is a science which tries to explain people’s behaviour) but that might still put me a step or two ahead of those who study, say ocean temperatures, iris effects and the like, on that specific subject.

Clearly I know less economics than John Q and more than Zac Goldsmith or Georges Monbiot. That’s why I tend to listen to John Q on the subject and deride the other two.

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AlanDownunder 01.06.06 at 9:19 am

Bob Koch @ 109:

I want to reask Barry’s question above: “What is the correct temperature of the planet?”

Wrong question, Bob. Try:

“To what rate and degree of temperature fluctuation can the planet’s societies, economies and ecosystems comfortably adapt?”

or:

“What are the canaries in this mine and are humans among their number?”

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Barry 01.06.06 at 9:32 am

Curiouser and curiouser… for an allegedly ended debate there seem rather a lot of postings here, do there not?

I grant that there does appear a lot more assertion than debate (if not verbal bludgeoning) but the topic certainly appears open to both discussion and dissent.

In a way I admire those who have leapt to such spirited defence of their cherished positions but I would recommend a tad more reserve and background fact checking prior to making sweeping assertions. By way of example Lee writes “You assert that researchers are hiding methodologies and evidence” – actually Lee, that was not quite as I put it but you should try asking Dr. Jones for any details on his dataset and/or methodology – you’ll find he is rather blunt in letting you know he has a quarter century invested in his data and is not about to let anyone try to find any problems with it (this does not really inspire great confidence in the standard of peer review).

While we are considering global temperature amalgams it just might interest participants in this, ah… “closed discussion” that Hansen et al interpolate and extrapolate GISTEMP near-surface temperatures 1,200 miles from empirical recording points. That is, to say the least, highly ambitious and requires a great deal of faith to believe such guesstimates more reliable than satellite-mounted Microwave Sounding Unit-derived measures covering more than 90% of the globe.

Then we have the spirited defence of the “hockey stick” graph (where did we first see that – was it Mann, Bradley and Hughes, 1998?) – the interesting point here being that the graph not merely clashes with literature and recorded history but that it is virtually impossible to find individual supporting reconstructions in the paleoclimate data archives ( http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/paleo.html ). Surely it must at least pique the curiosity of participants that so many different proxies around the world appear to reflect the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age and yet such events are absent in MBH98? If we were really playing the “consensus science” game then we surely would not support MBH98 since it is the anomaly, the outlier (this is where consensus having nothing to do with real science actually saves the “hockey stick”) but it has a significant following nonetheless. Everyone can look up for themselves that Mike Mann was lead author of the IPCC TAR (Third Assessment Report) chapter that heavily featured a radical revision of climate history, the lead author of which was Mike Mann and everyone can draw their own conclusions. The apparently orchestrated wholesale adoption and defence of a reversed paradigm does tend to raise the eyebrows though since science is traditionally a scrappy and piecemeal affair with usually small, incremental change as each new or altered hypothesis is proffered and tested, challenged and either accepted or rejected. The arrival of the “hockey stick” is, to say the least, glaring.

What is obvious here is that the debate is far from ended. While heavily asserted and defended the claim that catastrophic anomalous warming is underway is actually but poorly supported by empirical evidence. When examined the actual claim is of ~0.7 ºC increment in global mean temperature over about a century. There are ample precedents for such an increase when anthropogenic effect was negligible. A change of 0.7 ºC is equivalent to measurement error in attempting to derive a global mean temperature. What this really means is, well, debatable.

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Philip 01.06.06 at 9:33 am

Alex [Gregory], In response to your very fair questions, two points.

First, you are assuming that we are able ‘to rectify’ whatever is thought to be happening. Unfortunately, in a complex, coupled, non-linear, chaotic system like climate, not doing something at the margins is as unpredictable as doing something.

Secondly, what ‘climate’ are we trying to produce? Assuming we can achieve what we want [which, in fact, we can't], that climate will change as soon as we have achieved it.

This is what is so frustrating about the whole ‘global warming’ debate. The questions are not: ‘Is climate changing?’ [of course it is - that is what climate does] and ‘Are humans influencing climate?’ [of course they are, and they have been doing so in multifarious ways since a hominid first wielded fire], but ‘Can we manage climate predictably by fiddling about at the margins with just one human variable (never mind the others, and never mind the myriad of natural variables!) at the margins?”

The answer, of course, is a resounding: “No!”

This is why the whole attempt ‘to manage’ climate is so dangerously misguided and the ‘global warming’ debate so flawed. As ever, we will have to maintain strong, flexible economies that can adapt to climate change, whatever it throws at us. All the best, Philip.

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?߬? 01.06.06 at 9:53 am

Re 128: (Hockey stick, continued: everybody thoroughly bored, may pass by:) None of the scientists working on this have considered the objections you raise to the data? Thank goodness you have come down from the heavens to enlighten us! …You must be joking, or in a self-delusion, or (again) perhaps another one working for the petro industry. The quality of paleo-climatic data and its relationship to climate variables has been discussed all along, of course. There are over a hundred different proxy records, 14 or 15 of them valid before 1450; each with its own discussion. See Geophysical Research Letters, 26: 6, 759-762 (1999) etc. etc. etc. etc. The research is ongoing, and even a rank and humble amateur such as I can tell, you are out of your league.

The graph does not claim to have found the “absolute temperature signal.” At the most it shows a remarkable coherence of trend. The graph obviously widens out as time recedes into the past, showing the range of results they have drawn a line through the middle of, to indicate the possible error.

In addition, even WITHOUT the hockey stick, (were it conclusively disproven tomorrow, by someone not merely throwing pipe wrenches) anthropogenic global warming would STILL be true. The additional and continuing evidences, from all areas and several different sciences, amount to an overwhelming case. The hockey stick by itself is neither necessary nor sufficient to the argument.

In fact, I brought it up in response to a completely different question, which appeared to be partly serious, and regarded the idea of what the temperature record actually might look like, and where the world was going until recently.

You also aren’t paying attention if you think I’m a socialist. But I realize you started out-of-ammo.

Re 131: “The bitter divide we are seeing in these posts tells us much more about the different innate personalities, politics, and beliefs of the posters than about any science or knowledge as such.” To some extent, but not entirely. The contrarians’ knowledge of climatology appears to be stuck in the 1980’s.

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aaron 01.06.06 at 10:01 am

John Quiggin is exactly right that now it’s time to thoroughly and objectively evaluate proposed solutions to global warming. While there is little (and not very relevant) doubt that global warming exist, it is time to look at the effects and proposed actions and realize that most of the one presented thus far are actually counter productive (based on their desired objectives).

The effects of global warming are still in question, the time frame adapting to climate changes is long. And it is clear that green house gasses are not the only factor in warming and cooling and that human contribution is a small part of green house gas emissions.

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Philip 01.06.06 at 10:20 am

Hi 140, I don’t agree with your last point. It seems to me that much current applied climatology is infected with a simplistic presentism that was not characteristic of earlier climatology and climatologists, like Lamb, for example. With the gains – the pardigm shifts – there have, as ever, been significant losses. ‘Twas ever thus.

And again, your comments do tend to the ad hominem. Even if someone came from the petro-chemical industry, it is vital to remember that the truth value of a statement does not depend on the speaker – even, for that matter, if they are from the Concerned Scientists.

I am a mildly left wing, concerned scientist with no links whatsoever to the petrochemical industry, but I am a mitigated sceptic where ‘global warming’ is concerned. Philip.

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Sebastian Holsclaw 01.06.06 at 10:31 am

But surely the fact that the majority of people in a certain field agree with a certain conclusion gives us good reason to change policy to reflect that? It may be a fallible change in policy, but all scientific knowledge is fallible: we just have to work to the best of our knowledge.

Now, I’m happy to admit that there’s a debate to be had with Worstall and the like over the best way to combat climate change (e.g. encouraging alternatives or taxing fossil fuel use), but to deny that there is a problem that needs rectifying is simply to assert that you know more than the experts in the relevant field.

This is where Quiggin’s post is so misleading. There isn’t a scientific consensus about the only important political issue: can anything significant be done that is also not more costly than the benefits are worth? Kyoto for example offers a trivial benefit (very minimal slowing global warming for a very non-trivial economic cost.) Killing everybody in developing countries would also have an effect on global warming, but I presume that isn’t on the table. Merely noticing a problem does not ratify all drastic means against it.

Does that fact that there is an Islamist terrorist problem ratify an invasion of Iraq? Many here said no. And their reasoning often involved the unpredicatability of what would happen next, the high cost to speculative benefit ratio, and other such issues.

Does the fact that there is an Islamist terrorist problem ratify high levels in-country spying on Muslims? Many argue no, because the social cost of targeting investigations partially by religion are very high relative to the arguably small benefit to be gained.

I haven’t seen an international response where the benefits come near to justifying the costs even if you accept the rosy scenarios of the international regulators. Given the tendency of governments to underestimate the costs of almost big program, that isn’t very encouraging. Identifying a problem is not at all the same thing as identifying a workable solution.

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bob koch 01.06.06 at 11:01 am

#118:
All hail 1850! What on earth makes you think that 1850 was such a Garden of Eden weatherwise? Do you have one shred of evidence that says that the climate and weather patterns that year were better than last year? Are you able to provide that evidence, if any, worldwide? Or will you selectively focus on anecdotal “evidence” as usual.

#137:
Your questions, which even you cannot answer, imply that we must use the Precautionary Principle here. We must spend whatever it takes to stop the temperature shift because we somehow cannot afford not to. Look, this planet has a finite amount of economic resourses at any one time. Those resourses must be applied to the best benefit of mankind. There are a hell of a lot of proven needs in this world that would get a far better bang for the buck than insanely throwing money at AGW!

#120, #125, and others:
Like most enviros, you immediately choose to discredit any skeptical viewpoint as coming from big business, or oil, or from some right-wing think tank. More often than not, the defense against the skeptics does not lie in factual basis, but in an immediate attempt at character assassination of the source. Bjorn Lomborg is a perfect example. Rather than debate his SE position, most quickly chose to scoff at his credentials since he was not a climate scientist. That is a narrow-minded and lazy way to defend your position, and I see that over and over and over.

Finally, I will share with you that I am a mining engineer working for a coal mine that produces over 6MM tons of coal a year. We supply energy to power plants throughout the US. Now, having revealed this, I am sure to those of you believing in man-made global warming that my opinions are worthless and any thing I say is 100% biased. I am to be discredited henceforth. It does not matter to you that my position is secure, I will work the next 14 years to my retirement, I am in no danger of any policy changes or actions on global warming affecting me or my livlihood in that timeframe, and therefore I have no reason to be biased in my beliefs. My skepticism comes from daily readings of both sides of the issues and careful evaluation of what I read, and I see nothing but junk science supporting AGW claims.

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retired geologist 01.06.06 at 11:21 am

In the whole of the “climate change/global warming” debate going on now the single most interesting question for me is simply – WHY HAS EVIRONMENTALISM BECOME THE HOME OF CHICKEN LITTLE? WHY THE SPECTACULAR FEAR OF ANY NATURAL CHANGE? WHY IS THIS THE BEST OF ALL POSSIBLE WORLDS AND WHY WILL ANY CHANGE BE A DISASTER. Every change the envirochondriacs fear with global warming has happened before and the world has survived. For example, sea level has risen several hundred feet since the ice age glaciers started to melt. If the earth handled that change why can’t it handle a rise of a foot or two? Don’t humans have sense enough to step back when the water starts lapping at their feet? If you travel to Phoenix from Chicago in the winter don’t you have brains enough to take off your L.L. Bean parka and put on shorts and a tee shirt? If you move from Phoenix to Seattle do you raise your face to the heavens, open your mouth to the rain and drown instead of having the sense to get out your umbrella? The flora and fauna of the glaciated regions of the North America and Europe changed dramatically as the ice receded and the climate warmed. Why was that a bad thing? So what? Why are the ecochondriacs so unadaptable. Why are they such “Fraidy Cats”?

146

retired geologist 01.06.06 at 11:46 am

The main reason the whole “consensus” that global warming is real seems so stupid and narrow minded to me is that I was a geology student at the time that plate tectonics became a serious topic of argument among geologists. In 1957, in my first historical geology class taught by one of my favorite professors (a very, very well respected paleontologist) the whole notion of continents shifting (they didn’t even use the term “plate tectonics” yet) and that the earth’s continents and ocean basins could change was ridiculed as a stupid joke. Literally a joke, when mentioned in scientific circles it usually got a pretty good laugh from the audience. The “consensus” among earth scientists was that it was a dumb and impossible idea. Partly the reason for the disbelief was that one of the strongest advocates was Alfred Wegener, a meteorologist/climatologist and since he was not an official geologist, what the hell could he possibly know. By about 1960, mostly thru evidence from sea floor drilling the PT idea was not laughed at so much. By the mid 60s the idea was generally accepted with enthusiasm and most geologists wondered how they could have ever believed the fanciful and unbelievably complicated ideas for mountain building, volcanoes, etc that were now so simply explained by plate tectonics. When describing to my students what it was like to live and work thru such a dramatic change in geologic thinking I was put in my place when a student basically said to me, “How could all the earth scientists in the world have been so totally stupid NOT to believe in plate tectonics?” How indeed, but by God did we ever have a consensus that plate tectonics was fantasy. Consensus can be nothing but crap – it sure isn’t science or certainty. The global warming bandwagon seems a return to 1957-herd mentality thinking for me.

147

Antoni Jaume 01.06.06 at 11:57 am

old Heart of Stone is surely ready to renounce to his property rights to allow migrants to resettle.

DSW

148

jet 01.06.06 at 12:16 pm

John Quiggin,
I’ve read the IPCC’s century report and I’m pretty sure that the scenarios they show for CO2 drop off have nothing to do with a massive move to renewables. They are models of CO2 reduction, but they certainly aren’t modeling what Lomborg thought highly probable (that fossil fules will be massively replaced by cheaper renewables, which someone already mentioned that wind is now cheaper than natural gas).

After I’m through writing a few mambots tonight, I’ll look it up and make sure.

149

Urinated State of America 01.06.06 at 4:32 pm

“Think a little harder there. GDP growth would give a good estimate of the size of the economy in the time periods. The productivity growth simply gives you an estimate in change in GDP growth from period to period.”

No, productivity growth is not the same as GDP growth. GDP growth reflects growth in population as well as productivity.

Exactly on what basis would you use a discount rate that depends on population growth? Why would you not use, as the author of the study *you cited* does, use a rate that reflects the per-capita situation.

Do you even understand the basis of the statistics you are citing? Or are you as unaware of those as you are of the actual conclusions of the studies you try to cite to support your arguments?

“Fucking moron”

Well, this moron knows to *read the fricking study* before citing it.

150

Urinated State of America 01.06.06 at 4:34 pm

“WHY THE SPECTACULAR FEAR OF ANY NATURAL CHANGE?”

Amongst other things, it’s not a natural change.

151

polychrome 01.06.06 at 5:25 pm

Huh, what a lot of attention there is being paid to the modeling.

So, let’s imagine a world without climate modeling, where everything else is the same. What would we have?

Well, we’d still know that carbon dioxide levels have been going up due to industrialization. (That’s a human activity, aka anthropogenic, related increase.)

We’d also know that CO2 is a greenhouse gas; that is, it traps heat.

Would you look at that, an anthropogenic related increase in a gas that traps heat. That’s food for thought isn’t it.

We could see that glaciers are melting and retreating across the globe.

We could also observe that Arctic ice is thinner, and covers less ocean, each year.

We would notice that the sea level is gradually rising, and that Pacific islands are in real danger of disappearing because of this.

We might think to take a look at the historical data, and determine that average temperatures across the globe now are higher than in the (on human scale) recent past, and that, curiously enough, the inflection point where the increase really starts to appear corresponds to the point at which those anthropogenic releases of CO2 were getting into full swing.

The data showing that spring arrives weeks earlier than it used to in the UK would still be around.

The melting of the permafrost in Alaska would also be noted.

All these things going on, with or without climate modeling.

The formation of a tropical storm at the end of December 2005 would still occur.

But none of that pesky climate modeling.

And, y’know the other thing we would still have? We’d still have all the examples from big tobacco desperately trying to pretend that smoking doesn’t cause lung cancer, heart problems and isn’t addicting. Which would still sound a heck of a lot like the denials of human influence on global warming.

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retired geologist 01.06.06 at 5:27 pm

Dear Urine S. of A.

How stupid of me to have forgotten that everytime it gets a little warmer or cooler, wetter or drier, windier or calmer it is always man’s fault. By the way, when did “man” cease to be part of the “natural” world? Recently there was an archeological find that put man’s presence in the U.K. about 200K years earlier than expected and in a much warmer climate. I await the fossil discovery of Fred Flintstones SUV. Boy do I feel stupid for thinking that nature changes on its own once in a while. Like for the last 4.5 Billion years or so.

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jet 01.06.06 at 5:42 pm

retired geologist,

I think you have to admit two points. Man has indeed increased (by some measure) the rate at which the climate is warming. And that this warming will cause negative effects and positive effects.

After that, I think everyone will have some common ground to really get to fighting.

154

retired geologist 01.06.06 at 6:47 pm

jet,

I really don’t think the evidence for man’s influence in climate change is outside the range of normal climate fluctuation. I don’t think it is clear at all that man has increased climate change. I still firmly believe that like the 70s ice age cometh, nuclear winter, the population bomb, famine in the 80s etc. etc. Global warming will die a nice quiet death when nothing horrible happens. As for positive and negative effects, of course, that’s what happens when weather and climate change as they have throughout the history of the earth. In other words, climate change = big f……..ing deal!

155

Urinated State of America 01.06.06 at 6:50 pm

“What kind of arrogance is it that says today’s climate is what should exist on earth?”

The arrogance that says that a change in the climate would cost $$$ in economic disruption.

Do you live in a flood plain by any chance?

“The main reason the whole “consensus” that global warming is real seems so stupid and narrow minded to me is that I was a geology student at the time that plate tectonics became a serious topic of argument among geologists.”

Man, I hope that you’re right about paradigm shifts, ‘cos I never got the hang of thermodynamics. If I can convince my colleagues that phlogiston theory is the way to go, I’ll be golden.

“Even if someone came from the petro-chemical industry, it is vital to remember that the truth value of a statement does not depend on the speaker “

I worked in the petrochemical industry, and I can tell you that of those in the oil & gas industry who’d looked hard at the subject, there were not many who did not accept the Anthropogenic GW hypothesis. Just look at the stated positions of those well-known communistic tree-huggers at Shell, BP or Chevron. And what’s more: most of them saw it as being more business opportunity than challenge.

For technical reasons related to efficiency of power generation and CO2 capture, I actually see placing a tax on CO2 emissions as being good for coal in the long term versus oil and gas.

“Kyoto for example offers a trivial benefit (very minimal slowing global warming for a very non-trivial economic cost.)”

I’d take issue with you over the trivial and non-trivial benefits vs. cost. Heztzog of MIT (the leading authority on the subject) estimates the cost of CO2 mitigation by carbon capture at a power plant and underground sequestration at ~$50/tonne of CO2 for an integrated combined-cycle gas plant; a CO2 charge in that range would be equivalent to 40 cents/gallon. Not trival, but not force-us-back-to-the-stone-age either. Plus there are plently of cheaper options usable before that, but as point-source emissions from power stations are over a third of CO2 emissions in the US (forget exact percentage), mitigating CO2 at fossil-fuel burning power stations would go a long way to getting us where we need to go.

Yes, Kyoto would have a big impact on the cost of electricity infrastructure. Fortunately, we only spend about 2% of GDP on electricity infrastructure. So Kyoto would have a big impact on the electrical utilities, but not a big impact (

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Urinated State of America 01.06.06 at 6:55 pm

“I really don’t think the evidence for man’s influence in climate change is outside the range of normal climate fluctuation.”

What you think doesn’t matter; you’re a layperson. What researchers in the field think, however, does. Like the ones at Lawrence Livermore and the Scripps Institute:

http://scrippsnews.ucsd.edu/article_detail.cfm?article_num=666

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retired geologist 01.06.06 at 7:07 pm

To take just one example, the projected ice ages that were such a good scare story in the 70s never came to pass. The researchers were at least as convinced then as the global warmers are now. Why didn’t the ice destroy the northern hemisphere as it did in the past. These were experts for very prestigious institutions. Why were they so utterly wrong. Did you know that they seriously advocated speading soot on Antarctica to absorb the heat of the sun and keep the earth warm? I don’t think it is just a coincidence that anthropomorphic global warming (AGW) can have its letters transposed into (WAG) or “wild ass guess”. Again, I feel really stupid because the advocates of warming are “experts” and they use really, really big computers for their WAG.

158

Urinated State of America 01.06.06 at 7:09 pm

“How stupid of me to have forgotten that everytime it gets a little warmer or cooler, wetter or drier, windier or calmer it is always man’s fault. “

Did I say that? Oh, I didn’t. So why did you say that? So we could all admire your kung-fu takedown of straw men?

Rate of change matters.

10 mph wind = pleasing breeze.

100 mph wind = bye-bye house.

You may resume your aikido moves on haystacks now. Knock yourself out.

159

retired geologist 01.06.06 at 7:15 pm

OK U.S.of A

You win, you’re simply too smart and clever for anyone to disagree with. However, you might keep a jacket handy for when things get cooler in the future.

160

Ragout 01.06.06 at 7:56 pm

Retired Geologist,

There was never a scientific concensus predicting global cooling, just a lot of hype in the popular press during the 1970s.

161

tgw 01.06.06 at 8:05 pm

1st I’m no kind of scientist I can’t even spell it.

2nd I have to believe my own experiences.

I like having tomatoes in my garden in October in Minneasota.

The residents in Iqaluit Canada petitioned for an increase in polar bear hunting because of the increased population estimated to have gone from 2,100 in 1997 to as many as 2,600 in 2004.

Scientists have discovered a stone building in inland Greenland recently uncovered by the receding glacier, that is determined to be from the 10th or 11th century and the center of a agricultural society.
We have not reached the ambient temperture enjoyed by the folks in Europe during the Medieval Warm Period between 900 & 1300 AD.

“Now, Lloyd Keigwin, a researcher from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, has found evidence that the earth is in a natural warming trend.

Keigwin concluded that although sea surface temperature (SST) in the northern Saragasso Sea is now about 1 degree centigrade warmer than 400 years ago during the Little Ice Age, it is about 1 degree cooler than about 1,000 years ago during the Medieval Warm Period. Keigwin’s conclusions are based on his study of sediment accumulation in the Saragasso Sea.

In Keigwin’s own words

at least some of the warming since the Little Ice Age appears to be part of a natural oscillation.”

I remember growing up in the 60’s & 70’s to -30 & -40 degree days and walking in that to my geography classes.

I also remember the Blue cover of Newsweek and the first Earth day.

I was told in High School (1968) the South American rainforest would be completely gone in 20 years. 90% still exists and it’s not because of environmental pollicies.

Global warming alarmists, if they get their way will condemn third world countries to abject poverty and early death. BTY Chris Rapley of the BBC is advocating massive population reduction though he’s very sutle about it. We are already killing millions because of a scientifically unsupported ban on DDT.

There is more and more proof that oil may be an unlimited renewable resource, Eugene Island in the gulf coast went from 15,000 bpd (1970) to 4,000 bpd (1980s) back to 15,000 (1990). The reserves which had been estimated at 60 million barrels in the ’70s, were recalculated at 400 million barrels. Interestingly, the measured geological age of the new oil was quantifiably different than the oil pumped in the ’70s.

This got too long but you doom & gloomers make this 54 year old, old lady crazy!

I duno I guess i’ll believe my own research.

162

tgw 01.06.06 at 8:10 pm

O ya it wasn’t the warmest temp recorded in Australia, only in one town, Sidney, I think.

163

aaron 01.06.06 at 8:43 pm

“I think you have to admit two points. Man has indeed increased (by some measure) the rate at which the climate is warming. And that this warming will cause negative effects and positive effects.”

“Man has increased global warming” is in question. It’s true that man has contributed to the effects of global warming by increasing the amount greenhouse gasses during this warming period. Another question is whether warming is a permanent state. Are we soon going make rings around the sun like some moon of saturn?

164

aaron 01.06.06 at 8:57 pm

I’ve noticed that most salesmen are great at building resumes.

165

Lee A. Arnold 01.06.06 at 9:10 pm

Re 138: Barry, I can’t find who Jones is. Please put a link so I can find out why he thinks hiding data would ever work, and just where he thinks it will get him. (Of course, it could be another mountain out of a molehill.) Also, we are all still waiting for a scientific refutation of the hockey stick.

Re 142: Philip, what is “simplistic presentism?” Sorry about the ad hominem. I saw some people using it, so I thought it was a free-for-all. On this issue, singeing a few ears is almost irresistable because it seems so well deserved.

Re 144: Bob Koch, I picked 1850 as a near-meaningless date in answer to another person’s near-meaningless question. The contrarians here write, in almost every case, to demand a line in the sand, a number, a place, a time, a “how rapidly,” a “predictable outcome,” a “what will it do” — to frame the discussion. Here is exactly the error. They do not see that this is immaterial to the policy debate. The climate argument is not about cardinals, it is mostly ordinal. This isn’t engineering, it’s complex systems management. It’s almost a blanket intellectual failure, found across all contrarians. Not to be ad hominem about it: they are ignorant of complex systems, –or they think they hold the singular key, in economic theory’s mapping over one. It won’t wash. For example, the Precautionary Principle doesn’t have to go all the way. We can generate lots of options now, to see what to marketize later. The supposed danger to economic growth looks like a complete non-issue.

Re 145, 146, 151, 153, 156, 158: Retired geologist, your various rhetorical poses are practiced yet a bit precipitate. “I really don’t think the evidence for man’s influence in climate change is outside the range of normal climate fluctuation” is really sort of a give-away; it sort of ends it right there. The sentence of course is meaningless, or rather, it begs the whole science. Or adducing that it may get colder for a while, as a counter-argument!: A finger-wagging, simple-minded “shame on you!” Perhaps we should say, “Less tales of scientific theories disproved, and more effort to disprove them, please.”

Also, if you look at wildlife and marine ecology, you will find that “something horrible” is already happening, nearly everywhere. Perhaps you shall have to own-up to your own words. Perhaps you will say it is all for the betterment of humans, as if this depredation were the only route. Or that are we simply God’s chosen.

166

Dex 01.06.06 at 9:13 pm

Just keep clinging to the belief that climate researchers don’t have a dog in the fight over antrhropogenic climate change. Many have staked their careers and reputations on this issue. Grant money has flowed into this field at an ever increasing rate and anyone who gets in the way of that gravy train is going to get run over. If you can make the argument that oil company execs are going to do everything to preserve their jobs why don’t you assume that academics are doing the same.

167

retired geologist 01.06.06 at 9:13 pm

ragout,

Thanks God there is no hype regarding global warming!!! All of those researchers grubbing for climate change grant money are totally pure of heart and only have mankind’s best interests at heart.

168

retired geologist 01.06.06 at 9:23 pm

Years ago (about 1960) a very good and respected friend of mine who is German and now a very succesful patent attorney, said to me, ” Did you know that there are 240 million jews in Germany?, That’s impossible I responded, what about the holocaust? Look he said, did you ever meet a German who didn’t claim to have hidden 3 jews in the attic. Do the math he said, 80 million Germans equals 240 million jews saved.”

In much the same way, I suspect that in 5, 10 0r 15 years you will have some of the most enthusiastic global warmers saying, ” What me support and believe in global warming! I never believed it, it was all bullshit and I knew it all the time!!!” I was totally against it and never took any grant money!”

169

Lee A. Arnold 01.06.06 at 9:35 pm

Re 166: You ignore the fact that bad science is always found out; it is the only human endeavor in which that is virtually guaranteed. This rather changes the notion of “rational self-interest, for most of them.” Sure there are bad eggs. But this mapping of economic motive and fraudulent tendency over the psychology of research scientists smells bookish, immature yet overcooked.

170

retired geologist 01.06.06 at 9:41 pm

lee a. arnold.

Thank God, you’re right – bad science does always get found out. Unfortunately, it often takes many, many years. Anyone who has been in an academic research institution and doesn’t feel like puking at the desperation to say anything and do anything to get grants, tenure, publications and famous in their field just hasn’t been paying attention. Global warming isn’t much different I’m afraid than Korean cloning scientists. Some are sincere and some are flat out frauds.

171

retired geologist 01.06.06 at 9:43 pm

I know! I know!!! Why don’t we solve the energy and climate problem by making a 100% switch to cold fusion reactors for all our power needs.

172

aaron 01.06.06 at 10:25 pm

Let’s just kill everyone who doesn’t have a job prospect.

173

retired geologist 01.06.06 at 10:31 pm

This has all been great fun. In the end its hard not to recall the classic comment about academics, “The reason that scholarly arguments are so nasty and bitter is because the stakes are so low”

174

Lee A. Arnold 01.06.06 at 11:11 pm

“Global warming isn’t much different I’m afraid than Korean cloning scientists.” It’s how you mix the folksy and avuncular with the presumption; how you’re not really paying attention. It’s your “tell.”

175

Jim Mitroy 01.07.06 at 3:06 am

The disturbing thing about this is the way good old
fashioned scientific rectitude has been thrown
overboard, and the touchstone is of course the
now (in)famous hockey stick. This is just one
aspect of the entire climate issue, but if the
quality of evidence presented here is representative
here of the quality of research in other areas
of climate science, then the state of the science
is very shaky indeed. Storch has recently stated
that what Mann did has an inherent tendency to
produce Hockey sticks even when fed random numbers. Go to a library, find look at books
published prior to the whole greenhouse thing
and you will find little ice-ages and medieval
warm periods galore. You might even find a
Global climate optimum where the temperature
was warmer than at present!

Now the Hockey Stick was the result of feeding
data into computer. Due to various reasons,
the Hockey Stick code had recently been made
available. For some amusement, I ran it through
a fortran syntax checker, and got screens and
screens of warning messages. Now, I personally
would not like such a poor example of coding
to be a significant driver of what is an essentially major change to the world economy.
If the care that is placed
into the Mann code, is indicative of the care
that other aspects of their research is done,
and further an indicator of the quality of
other greenhouse research, well then I am simply
going to disbelieve it. I like my science to
be done much more carefully with much greater
attention to detail.

So one of the major issues in the entire debate
is the way garbage research, is given uncritical
acceptance depending on ones political
persuasion, and that this is corrupting the scientific process itself.
There are other examples out there where clearly
utter garbage is given widespread prominence and
not given the good head-kicking it deserves.

176

zdenek 01.07.06 at 3:12 am

Philip (post #131)– two comments : you are actually muddled about the issue of concensus. Concensus emerging does not mean that dogmatism has now stepped in . It just means that a theory has been so well confirmed that :

a) it is accepted by most people working in the field
b) it is no longer being subjected to testing

You incorrectly assume that this implies that scientific community’s attitude towards such well confirmed hypothesis is dogmatic i.e. that scientists think that such hypothesis is beyond criticism .
But this is just wrong because it is possible to be a*fallibilist* ( epistemic stance which just says that it is always possible that some well confirmed theory turns out false when *new* evidence says so ) and also accept some theory as being true.
See for instance how natural selection is treated in evolutionary biology : concensus that this is the mechanism which drives evolution. This does not mean that biologists will continue embracing it if new evidence showing that natural it is false turns up.

Second issue: the idea that post modernists like Lyotard and Latour can help with issues here is ridiculous. On their view which is anti-realist there is no real climate and no real crises . These things exist only at the level of discourse. Scientific enterprise has no more intellectual clout have no more authority than whichcraft ppllleeaase ( this whole project is internally incoherent and is actually part of romantic reaction to enlightnment and is deeply anti-science ) .

177

sonny 01.07.06 at 3:29 am

Re 140: (Hockey stick beaten again, skip if bored with it:)

I did not claim scientists have not considered the problems I mentioned. I specifically mentioned that those problems were just starter points to think about “in case you have trouble seeing the problems revealed in the disclaimer for the graph on your own.” I almost put the paragraphs containing those obviously non-expert common sense observations into parentheses to link them to that purpose, and I’m sorry that I didn’t. I was trying to point out that no one should be fooled by the hockey stick, because what it’s based on raises questions for anyone thinking skeptically or even critically that would lead to looking for explanations and critical reviews of it before accepting it, and that leads to learning that it has been discredited by scientists. The tree ring studies included WERE better proxies for rainfall than temperature. The statistical method DID lose the absolute temperature signal, by which I mean obviously the information about whether temperatures were generally high or low several centuries ago, not the relative information about when shorter term global highs and lows were.

No, I do not work for the petro industry. Another study by Mann et al. in 1999 doesn’t count to me as replication. You see, I am in fact a rank amateur rather than a professional shill, and as such I have the right and the pleasure of pointing out that the emperor has no clothes when you try to pull that self-replicating study business that is so beloved in professional circles.

Yes, anthropogenic global warming is probably true. I didn’t claim otherwise. The subject I was keeping track of when you brought up the dreaded hockey stick was what world temperature or conditions should be gone back to as a preanthropogenic ideal. The hockey stick shape has the political potential of justifying any amount of global regulation to return nature to a narrow ideal range and to hold it there. It’s not that I’m worried about the specific hockey stick graph. I know science has passed that by. What had me reacting was just the idea of anyone taking such an obvious fudge seriously, and with its huge error margins, as setting a goal everyone should aim for, as if it was the scientific clarion call to a new millennium that has been vindicated. You may not be a socialist personally, and I apologize for the casual way I write implying that, but the pushing of a scientific consensus that dogmatically includes things like the hockey stick serves that sort of ridiculous socialist political movement.

Thank you for a stimulating and honest response to my post. To be perfectly frank, I’m checking whether I was right, because you seemed to have great self-confidence and to be saying that I shouldn’t have so much. Verification of devastating criticism of the hockey stick: McIntyre and McKitrick, in Geophysical Research Letters and in Energy and Environment, 2005. (I’m referring to the abstracts and comments because I’m not a professional subscriber.)

(Re 142: Thank you Philip for your defense against ad hominem on my behalf.)

178

Jim S 01.07.06 at 3:37 am

zdenek, you said “jim s—why do you guys have a problem understanding a simple criticism ? I am not denying that concensus has emerged at all. I am talking about lefties like you ( and John Quiggin in particular ) who know what the truth about climate is, even before the concensus has emerged from the scientists and who see cospiracy of the right wing as an explanation of why people dont agree with you.”

If you are not denying that consensus has emerged on the issue in the scientific community how can you dare to claim that I claimed to know the truth about it before the consensus existed? The truth is that when you used the phrase “lefties like you…” you proved that you have no regard for the scientific truth but only the “political truth” of the right wing and have proven your opponents in this debate to be correct.

179

Jim S 01.07.06 at 3:44 am

dex, you did not specifically mention the hockey stick. However if you’d bothered to really read my post you’d see that I referred to both you and frank and he did mention it.

When you and those like you post accusations that climatologists are only interested in the money and are lying in order to receive grants you prove how little you know of how the scientific community works. Anyone who did legitimate science strong enough to disprove the theory would do wonders for the reputation of their academic institution and would be rewarded accordingly. Good original science that is strong enough to become the new consensus is what makes careers in scientific academia. Guarding your current turf successfully at all costs is what makes careers in large established industries. I therefore have to assume that you are only projecting your lack of integrity and willingness to sell out the truth onto others to make you feel better about yourself.

180

Jim S 01.07.06 at 3:52 am

Tim,

I address you separately as someone who is really being fairly reasonable in this. My problem with Lomborg’s analysis about alternative energy affordability is that it doesn’t take the problems with penetration and replacement into account. The reduction in cost of building new energy generation facilities doesn’t matter in the year that it crosses the line to where it becomes cheaper than building the old systems. It only becomes effective as it replaces the older systems. Given the lifespan of power generation plants of all kinds it seems likely that even if as of 2040 or thereabouts it becomes cheaper to build and operate a wind farm or similar system it would take decades more for the older polluting plants to be replaced to a significant degree so CO2 production would continue at high levels through at least the end of the century. Economics and politics goes against Lomborg’s arguments, not in favor of them.

181

Alex Gregory 01.07.06 at 5:57 am

Retired geologist,

You can quote as many examples as you like of science being fallible in the past, but lets face it, its absurd to claim that scientific theories are more likely to be wrong than a laypersons best guess.

And you can also sat that ‘climate has always been changing’, but it hardly changes the fact that a more stable climate is more preferable to a less stable one: You seem to be suggesting that the deaths global warming will cause (in one way or another) are worthless because of some possible future where we manage to readapt – which is ridiculous.

Finally, all this talk about scientists confirming global warming for their own benefit strikes me as absurd, since I suspect most of them could get paid far more for jumping into the employment with one of the oil barons, and denying climate change instead.

Alex

182

Tim Worstall 01.07.06 at 6:42 am

#178.

What you say is of course true. The other side of it is that we do indeed have a large fixed base of fossil generating plant. If we replace all (or some) of that with (currently) more expensive non fossil, we have two rather large costs. The first is that we are paying more for our energy for those decades. The second that we are wasting capital, the sunk costs of those plants which we no longer use (or, if you prefer, we are investing capital to build the new plants decades before we actually need to, absent the CO2 costs, captial that we could use to do something else).

Which is where it all becomes an accounting exercise, something that Lomborg and others addressed in the Copenhagen Consensus (and I’m perfectly happy if people don’t agree with the conclusions they came to, but insist that the question itself remains valid).

What is the cost to us, at some point in the future, of not limiting our CO2 emissions now?

What is the cost to us now and in the future of limiting our CO2 emissions now?

Which is larger than the other?

Yes, I know that reasonable people disagree on those numbers but there are those in this debate who insist that even asking that question is, what, somehow immoral?

Your point about the installed base of fossil using generating (and of course transport and so on) simply highlights this exact question/argument.

As above, my gut feeling, and it is little more than that informed by being on the fringes (again as above) of one particular form of non CO2 electricty generation is that the cost switchover point is earlier than most assume.

I’m afraid I can’t tell you the name of the company involved for commercial (their, not my) reasons but one large engineering company expects to be installing 100 Megawatts per annum of CHP (combined heat and power) generation by 2010. Using a solid oxide fuel cell and turbine combination. On purely commercial grounds.

BP wants to strip the carbon from North Sea methane, pump the CO2 into an old oil field, (raising the last of said oil) and then burn (which is a waste, fuel cells would be better) the hydrogen in a gas fired power plant. The only subsidy required is a lowering of the per barrel royalty paid to the UK government on that last amount of oil pumped (oil that won’t come up without the CO2 sequestration).

People at the Lawrence Livermore are making multi layer solar cells with 30-40% efficiency and predict 60% as achievable (using gallium nitride/gallium arsenide).

The cost for a fuel cell of x capacity (sorry, can’t remember what the target actually was), well, the target for it was set by the DoD for 2010. It was achieved in 2005. Other fuel cell researchers (and this is the tiny bit I’m involved in) have been able to get the operating temperature of SOFCs down from 1,000 0C to 700 oC, with huge savings on the cost of the supporting substrates (ie steel can be used rather than pgms).

Yet others have reduced the necessary thickness of the electrolyte layer by an order of magnitude.

I realise that all of this is slightly minor stuff but it is what drives my belief that the cost switchover point is a lot earlier than many currently assume. And if it is, then our calculation of the costs of switching now or later rather change. It isn’t what are the costs of switching now and in 35 years, but now and 10 years perhaps.

Which leads me to the wait, get the engineering right and then switch position.

183

Alex Gregory 01.07.06 at 7:02 am

“What is the cost to us, at some point in the future, of not limiting our CO2 emissions now?”

Worstall,

Isn’t there a worry that the problems it may cause are not something we can simply throw money at?
(thats a genuine question, I’m not making a point!)

Alex

184

Tim Worstall 01.07.06 at 7:53 am

Catastrophic failure? Yes. But what’s the probability? The sun will, for example, boil the earth at some point, generally thought to be some billions of years away. Should we start planning now? Change our behaviour now?

BTW, it’s not so much throwing money as throwing resources, a slight difference. Bundles of cash thrown on a fire do not have the effect of putting it out. Building fire extinguishers, which does cost cash, might help though.

How much should we be spending on asteroid defense? We know from the past that they come along at infrequent intervals and make a mess of the place. What’s the cost benefit analysis?

As it was John Q that started this thread perhaps he, as the real economist around here, would like to answer? That is one of the points of the subject, after all, how to allocate scarce resources.

185

Steve B 01.07.06 at 8:32 am

Well Done!

Wow that’s great news. I’m convinced. Now that the question is solved, I guess there are no ethical reasons to continue researching. I would be expecting that Final Report with these conclusions out in the very near future. Also, a return of all the current funds and future funds to be returned immediately. This is great news! It should free up billions dollars annually worldwide. The only downside I can see is it’s going to suck to be a climatelogist, since the question is settled I don’t see any reason to employ them. Also this should free up a whole lot of expensive computers. I wonder what we can do with them? Maybe we could employ them as weather forecasters. With all that computer and brainpower, maybe we could start getting accurate 14 day forecasts. Just a thought.

186

retired geologist 01.07.06 at 10:41 am

#179
I suppose you can dismiss my comments by labelling me a “layman” and thus I can’t have any valid arguments. I may not be a climatologist but I was a tenured geology professor for 37 years and taught many courses that, among other topics, included paleoclimates. It is from that perspective that I believe the Earth’s climate changed much more drastically than even the most dire global warming change predictions. For example, every coal bed in the Appalachians represents a far warmer, wetter climate more favorable to fantastic plant growth as well as dramatic rise and fall of sea level to flood and then uncover the land surface. These carboniferous climate changes are easy to read in the rock record.

So much of the current climate change debate seems an exact analog of the famous Drake equation that is supposed to estimate the likelihood of intelligent life in the universe. The problems is that not a single term in the impressive looking Drake can be known at all. A classic example of garbage in, garbage out, in other words, wild ass guess. Way too much of the data poured in the current climate change arguments seems no better than Drake equation-like guesses. An “educated” guess is still a guess.

As far as what seems to me a desperate need for everyone to accept the notion of consensus over reasoned and continuing debate I think you have to do no more than ask Copernicus or Galileo how important consensus is to scientific truth.

I don’t deny climate change for a minute. I expect it and would be stunned if it didn’t happen. Given the broad spectrum of natural disasters that are happening in this climate we have today I just don’t see how you can make the most WAG that if climate changes things will be better or worse than what we have now.

Just this morning my son, also a PhD geologist and I were talking and I asked him, “Can you think of any prediction of a horrible natural disaster that actually lived up to its hype and prior billing?” Let’s see, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring? Nope, more birds than ever. Specific predicition of next “Big One” California earthquake? Nope, didn’t happen. Paul Ehrlich’s population bomb? Nope, a dud. Nuclear winter and famine because of the “nuclear winter” effect from Saddam burning the oil wells? Nope, food production about normal All the forests cut down? Nope, more forests than ever. Y2K? What a stupid joke.

I really have trouble understanding the desperate need on the part of so many who advocate stopping any climate change dead in its tracks that only doom and gloom is possible. Your historical track record is dismal. No different than the old cartoon figure in robe and sandals carrying “The end of the world is near” sign.

So far on these postings no one has responded to my primary question. WHY ARE YOU LIVING YOUR LIVES IN SUCH PITIFUL AND DESPERATE FEAR? THIS IS A WONDERFUL, WONDERFUL PLANET. EMBRACE IT, LOVE IT AND TAKE DELIGHT, NOT FEAR IN HOW IT CHANGES OVER TIME.

187

Lee A. Arnold 01.07.06 at 11:10 am

Retired geologist, WHY DO YOU THINK ANYONE HERE IS LIVING THEIR LIVES IN PITIFUL AND DESPERATE FEAR? That is completely silly, as well as beside the point. As for a genuine concern, you might want to study ecology, and find out what is about to happen to almost every remaining wildlife ecosystem on the planet. The ranges of plants and animals are changing, now more quickly than some plants are able to do it, and what is so different now than all those eons you taught in school, is that human development has fragmented the ecosystems, so that even the local animal populations are becoming extinct, because they cannot, or do not, cross the human habitat. This process is accelerating. How is this going to be a wonderful planet, lacking one of the main things which makes it so? Considering that ANY argument against taking steps toward climate mitigation has been reduced to blabbering nonsense, what are you on about? Have you actually read anything here?

188

Jim S 01.07.06 at 11:18 am

retired geologist, I dismiss your statements not simply because you don’t know any of the science involved but also because you make such incorrect statements and fallacious arguments. Rachel Carson made a worst case argument to highlight how bad it could get if nothing was done. Well, something was done and therefore the worst case scenario did not occur. Tell me when a reputable geologist has made a specific prediction of the “big one” occurring in California that was supported by other geologists before you claim that as a prediction of the scientific community that didn’t come true. Paul Ehrlich’s population bomb theory was before the full effects of the pill were appreciated. Please notice that in the poorer sections of the world where the pill either is not affordable or is not used because of religious or cultural reasons there is still an unsustainable population growth rate. While I don’t buy into it producing an overall population disaster it does pose some worrisome issues. Nuclear winter from oil wells burning? More sensationalist headlines than scientific consensus. Y2K, similar to your arguments about Carson, actually would have been a problem if a lot of effort hadn’t gone into patching systems. Not the horrendous disaster that some sensationalists tried to paint, but definitely it would have caused some nasty problems for lots of people and businesses.

In addition you made a generalization about how the planet and our ancestors have dealt with previous climate changes. But of course that’s not right. Recent studies in what our genome and its distribution in populations can tell us seem to indicate that at one point a much larger population of humans was drastically reduced to only a small fraction of its previous size by a natural disaster.

Thank God you’re a retired geologist and I certainly hope you weren’t an actual research scientist because if this sloppy thinking is an example of your reasoning ability you couldn’t have been a very good one.

189

retired geologist 01.07.06 at 11:24 am

jim s

You’re right, its hopeless. I’ll make my appointment with Dr. Kevorkian as soon as possible. Have a nice day.

190

shinypenny 01.07.06 at 12:01 pm

Come on, somebody give me bingo, I’m sooo close. :D

191

UK resident 01.07.06 at 12:18 pm

I have lived in this house for 33 years and we have never passed the 1st January without seing snowdrops in the garden. This year they still haven’t appeared. Discuss.

192

Jim S 01.07.06 at 12:22 pm

Tim,

You continuously cite the Copenhagen Consensus. But their home page lists every project that has anything to do with the climate as a bad idea. They don’t even address any other potential environmental problems. They are in fact nothing but economists. I phrase it that way because every aspect of climate change that they address has only to do with the economy. Is there no value in not destroying multiple species in the Arctic?

As far as the low probability events, maybe some of them aren’t as low a probability as some people would like to think. Read this article on recent studies of the Atlantic conveyor. http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=225#more-225
It is a very reasonable article that doesn’t attempt to make outrageous claims about the findings but would seem to imply some things about the conveyor. While it an extremely stable phenomenon it isn’t immutable and seems to already be undergoing some changes. Further studies are necessary to confirm this of course.

And that leads into one of my big gripes about the contrarians. They seem to act as though we already know everything and that they don’t need to take any new information into account. Contrarian web sites still cite the satellite/ground station conflict that has in fact been reconciled in further studies, even to the satisfaction of its discoverers (Who still strongly believe that the low range models are the correct ones, but do accept anthropogenic warming.).

193

UK resident 01.07.06 at 12:31 pm

Retired geologist – You exactly reflect the views of a friend who is also a retired geologist. Thanks for your balanced and sensible comments.

194

Jim S 01.07.06 at 12:35 pm

retired geologist, once again you show how full of it you are. Only an idiot (and there are some out there) would make the claim that we are inevitably doomed. What I say is that Pollyanna school of “everything’s all right and we don’t need to do a thing” you represent is as dumb as anyone who’d say that we can’t do anything.

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Tim Worstall 01.07.06 at 1:14 pm

Jim S :

“Paul Ehrlich’s population bomb theory was before the full effects of the pill were appreciated. Please notice that in the poorer sections of the world where the pill either is not affordable or is not used because of religious or cultural reasons there is still an unsustainable population growth rate.”

My apologies but that is incorrect. The Pill (or any other form of contraceptive) works to reduce fertility levels when women are having more children than they desire. What demographers have found rather is that it is the number of children desired that has fallen. Yes, it is still higher in many poor countries than replacement level but that desired (and the actual) levels of fertility have fallen dramatically in the absence of either the Pill or other modern contraceptive methods in those very same poor countries. Yes, modern contraception is is an easy and convenient method of making desired and actual numbers of children the same but it isn’t the only one.

In short, it’s not the method it’s the desire. Wealth (no, not cash, but things like length of life, child mortality rates, education of women etc) are thought to be behind it. To an economist it doesn’t sound too strange. The wealthier (and freer) the society the more choices there are in life meaning that the opportunity cost of being nothing but a baby factory rises. We see the reverse in the rich countries, where it is the poor ( and ill educated, sometimes the same thing) who tend to have more children than the rich.

It is also true that as infant mortality rates fall the opportunity cost of having fewer children falls….have two children and you’re still highly likely to have grandchildren (which is what Darwinism implies is the whole point of the exercise) while with disease and poverty rampant, you need to have four or five to have the same chance.

I’m aware of the conveyor study. I did in fact change my mind when those corrections to the satellite/ground station things came in.

But you’re slightly missing my point in mentioning the Copenhagen Consensus. I haven’t said that they’re right, just that the basic approach is.

Goingback right to the beginning. AGW is happening (and there may be other contributors as well) and the important question is what we do about it.

This involves the allocation of scarce resources.

We have a science which studies such allocations, that being economics. What we do, rather than whether we do something, is properly thus addressed using the tools of economics. And, yes, the value of Arctic species should be part of that study. As should the growth foregone by reducing CO2 now. As should the (possible) slowdown or shutdown of the conveyor, as should what we could do to alleviate human misery now if we weren’t retrofitting all of our power stations. Or not, as the case may be.

That, I think, is what is at the heart of my argument. Just as I wouldn’t want an expert on elasticities of demand telling me whether temperatures will rise in 100 years I also wouldn’t want an atmospheric physicist allocating the resources to stop/mitigate/reduce such.

Put the argument slightly differently. We all know that fisheries around the world are having terrible problems. We all also know that they’re a working out of the Tragedy of the Commons. That’s an economic problem best solved by using the tools of economics to correct (or push) the incentives of those involved in the right direction.

Same with climate change. We need to change people’s behaviour (ie stop them emitting so much) and which is the science that tells us the best ways to do that?

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retired geologist 01.07.06 at 1:33 pm

tim worstall,

How nice to read an honest, sensible post that isn’t based on fear and faith.

197

Mike 01.07.06 at 2:03 pm

I’ve been reading this for a while, and now I’m going to put in my two cents.

lee a. arnold (#184): Are you being deliberately obtuse? retired geologist gives as an example that the Pennsylvania coal beds indicate a time in the past when the earth and the life on the earth were very different from today. And in response, you point out that the ecology on earth is changing now! Duh!

To all of you who are continually talking about consensus: Yes, there’s a pretty good consensus that the earth is warming, but if you think there’s a consensus regarding what to do about it, you are deluding yourself. And Tim W. is right — this is more of an economics problem than a climate science problem. The issues involved go way, way beyond climate science. Good luck getting a consensus among the economists.

Someone up there made a rather flippant remark about managing complexity. The problem with that is that we aren’t very good at managing complex systems. As you surely know, many times the unintended consequences of a “solution” are worse than the initial problem. Is that an argument for doing nothing? No. But many of the arguments for immediate action are not well thought out, either.

Lastly, I would like to point out that insults and invective are not part of the scientific method. Too many of you claim to be on the side of science, and then throw out insults toward anyone who doesn’t agree with you. That’s not helpful and it’s not scientific. And if you think about it, the reason is obvious — we’re not having a scientific discussion, but a policy discussion. It bugs me that people claim to be discussing science when they’re really discussing politics. And you know what? All those insults don’t really help to build a consensus about what really matters, which is what should be done.

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Lee A. Arnold 01.07.06 at 4:05 pm

Mr. Worstall, (1) please explain what the “worth” of an Arctic species is. It is okay to use contingent valuation and all the other stuff. (2) Please explain which is larger and why — the “growth foregone by reducing CO2 now,” or the growth increased by new technologies and work. Even as a syllogism from welfare ecconomics. (3) Also, please explain how the economic solutions to the Tragedy of the Commons will save existing wildlife ecosystems.

Retired Geologist, regarding your rhetorical tack of cubbyholing your opponents as not “balanced and sensible.” Did you use that teaching science, too?

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Dave Moyer 01.07.06 at 5:31 pm

Can anyone tell me what the average temperature of the earth was in 2005 or any other year for that matter? How much did it increase from the beginning of the year to the end of the year?

200

Lee A. Arnold 01.07.06 at 6:32 pm

Re 197: No not obtuse. Wildlife ecology on earth is not exactly changing. It is virtually ending, perhaps for ten thousand generations. This is beyond the understanding evinced, for example, by Lomborg’s book. To make the argument, I will lay out the scientific steps in order, as I now understand them.

Please prove me wrong. I would very, very, very much like to be wrong about this.

[i.] REGULAR CIRCUMSTANCE OF WILDLIFE ECOSYSTEMS:

(1) Ecosystems have at least a two-step-fractal CLUMPED distribution, local and regional, and at the regional level they are divided by ecotones or geographic features.

(2) “Wild genetic health” is some statistical description of regional-level species populations, usually pegmarked at over 500 individuals.

(3) (Unimportant supposition.) There is an “ecological genetics” which would describe how the condition of interacting with all the other relevant species in the rest of the ecosystem affect the survival and thriving of wild genetic health in any single population.

(4) Normally, species populations go extinct all the time. Not the entire species, but locally or regionally an entire population. Why? Bad winter, no food, new disease, new predator, etc.

(5) The rest of the ecosystem frequently re-equilibrates to new sizes of the other populations, depending on the importance of the missing species to the food web, and other things.

(6) The missing species is returned by immigration. All ecosystems are throwing-off stragglers and adventurers always, and if a male and a female make it over the river or through the woods, they will restart the missing species.

(7) The rest of the ecosystem will then re-equilibrate to what it was before, –although not after too much time, or if other different things have happened.

(8) Most plant and animal species thrive well only within small ranges of moisture and temperature. As climate changes, the species move to other areas. It may take several seasons to initiate a noticeable response.

(9) In previous rapid climate changes, we may assume that wildlife ecosystems were spread out, continuous and contiguous, –enough for many fortuitous circumstances of species preservation through the slow-motion tumult.

(10) When and where there is massive extinction, then there are niches to fill, and the surviving “weeds” (tough plants and animals) spread-out to evolve and re-biodiversify. Among smaller animals, new speciation takes a period of time somewhere around the order of ten thousand generations.

[ii.] WILDLIFE ECOSYSTEMS AFTER FRAGMENTATION BY HUMAN HABITAT:

(11) Fragmentation of wildlife habitat effectively seals-off ecosystems for many different species. They do not venture out into human habitat due to conditions or chemistry, or they are killed when they do so. This goes for both plants and animals. Some others are not affected at all.

(12) The Reduction in Size of the Ecosystem has an Immediate Consequence. One of the few truly reliable ordinal numerical relations in ecology is the species-area law, which finds that smaller areas have a smaller number of species, and bigger, bigger. There are different reasons for this. Consider the reason, that a smaller number of individuals in each population (because of less resources overall,) makes a local species population random extinction (always happening at 4) statistically MORE PROBABLE. The fact that it is more probable to lose species is called that area’s “extinction debt,” which gets paid in number of species.

(13) The Isolation of the Ecosystem’s Borders has an Immediate Consequence. Blockage of migration by human habitat ends or greatly slows down the reconstitution of missing species (which would have happened at 6.)

(14) As the remaining ecosystem re-equilibrates over and over, in response to successive losses of species, larger oscillations of the food web serve to accelerate the local extinctions.

(15) The only way to correct this is to build and preserve wildlife corridors, land and river connections, between and among wildlife areas.

(16) In addition, many existing wildlife areas need to be greatly expanded. Why? Because AS THEY ARE NOW, they do not accommodate the pegmark number of individuals (at 2,) in a full interacting ecosystem (at 3,) for continued genetic health. Saving two animals in a zoo will not provide the ecological sharpness for species definition. Among many reasons for this, you can find: changes in the act of predation; density-dependent reproduction.

[iii.] FRAGMENTED WILDLIFE ECOSYSTEMS DURING RAPID CLIMATE CHANGE

(17) As plants and animals change their geographic ranges in response to different moisture and temperature (in 8,) many will be extinguished at the contact with human habitat (in 11.)

(18) This accelerates the extinction rate ALREADY ACCELERATED by reduction in ecosystem size (at 12) and isolation of ecosystems from each other (at 13.)

(19) The hockey stick, whatever its cardinal inadequacies, shows a temperature change far, far beyond the comfort zone of many plants and animals.

[iv.] CONCLUSION

(20) We have just embarked upon one of the greatest mass extinctions in history, and it is a profound and extra-millenial tragedy.

(21) Assuming the possibility that the dominant economic reasoning is inexact, it is an intellectual scandal, and needless.

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retired geologist 01.07.06 at 10:28 pm

lee a. arnold,

I’m not a biologist or ecologist and can’t really judge what you’ve written in your post #200 but I do know from the geologic and paleontological record that nearly all of the organisms that have lived through the 4.5 billion years of earth history are now extinct and we know of them as mere fossils in the rock. Given the condition you speak about in your post could you please give us a specific list of the flora and fauna (genus, species and common name if possible) that have met the fate of extinction you speak of in say the last century. I’m serious about this, I’m not trying to be sarcastic or smart ass, I really want to know. It would also be nice to have a similar list of the specific species that you expect to go belly up in say the next century. No numbers or percentage of species please, genuine names

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Lee A. Arnold 01.08.06 at 12:13 am

The IUCN or World Conservation Union has an extensive database for all extinct and endangered species. It is not the only one, but it’s the most factually impressive. The simpler search page is at:

http://www.iucnredlist.org/search/search-basic

In the red area, in the first box, click “EX – Extinct.” Leave all the rest of the boxes preset to “All.” Hit [SEARCH.] This gives you an alphabetical list of nearly 800 plant and animal species by scientific name, extinguished since 1500 AD. Each species has its own page with record and sometimes a brief history. The list is presumed to be larger, due to the fact that many differences among earlier plants and animals either were never noticed, or (more likely) never recorded. I haven’t figured out how to narrow the list to only the last hundred years.

Go back to the search criteria’s first box and hit “EN -Endangered” for over 4000 more, certified to be endangered. That list is liable to be wildly underrepresentative, but let that pass…

As for how much is related to climate change, as opposed to say habitat fragmentation or chemical pollution, the 90% reduction in coral reefs or the new coastal deadzones from nitrogen run-off, I think that would be very hard to sort out. The quickest heating-up is only in the last decade, so results are just coming in. This story is going to get much much bigger. We are seeing an increasing frequency of news reports regarding endangered species — almost weekly, now.

The Wikipedia articles on “extinction” and “biodiversity” are quite good on the general overview, as are most of their scientific offerings. Scientists appear to be taking this new form of encyclopedia very seriously, and for the posting of some of the most up-to-the-minute results in an organized format.

Did mass extinctions happen before? Yes. Did earth re-speciate? After hundreds of thousands of years. Are we in a mass extinction now? Almost all biologists say “you betcha.” I think there was once a biologist who refuted it, but he’s dead, of natural causes.

By the way, you wrote earlier above that there are more birds than ever. This is false. According to accurate birdwatching reports which extend back a long way, there are only about ONE-TENTH the number of birds in the U.S. as there were a hundred years ago. This is mostly due to habitat fragmentation and loss, particularly by suburban development. They continue to drop in number. It is difficult to notice it, because their numbers oscillate from year to year, and the reduction trend must be just below the threshold of our seasonal sense memory. I don’t know how many U.S. bird species have gone extinct in the last hundred years. Searching “Thomas O. Lovejoy” might find that number, or a good estimate — the Smithsonian has made lists like that.

203

Luc 01.08.06 at 2:57 am

The argument that economics and economists are deciding about what to do about global warming looks wrong on the face of it.

Global warming isn’t an economic problem. The solutions are technical, the choices are political. Economics can add valuable insights in the choices that have to be faced, but it cannot make those choices for us.

The allocation of scarce resources is a nice generalization, useful to make problems fit the economic model. Yet the fact that a problem can be reduced to it, doesn’t mean that economics will deliver the optimal solution. Economists cannot decide what technology should be used nor the impact of various technologies. Economists alone cannot decide what solutions are acceptable and which aren’t.

Only when there’s a decision to be made between a limited number of actions, which are technologically feasible and politically acceptable, then you can use economics. (A bit circular here, since economics influences feasability and acceptability but economics isn’t at the base of it.)

And in my opinion some economists are “polluting” the discussion by making assumptions about priorities and technologies which aren’t clearly stated. And thus they try to preempt the technological and political decision making.

In short, first I have to decide how I value the current environment, before an economist can hang a pricetag on my valuation.

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Urinated State of America 01.08.06 at 3:41 am

“I may not be a climatologist but I was a tenured geology professor for 37 years and taught many courses that, among other topics, included paleoclimates.”

Then you are perfectly capable of familiarizing yourself with the literature, and presumably also have access to your old university’s library, and have the spare time to get yourself up to speed with the state of the art, rather than waving your arms around in Limbaughite rants against enviros.

You’d also be aware that at as far back as 1998 Crowley et al. took a then-current version of and were able model the glaciation during the Ordovician (sp?) using the then current GCMs, which, considering the 12x current CO2 levels, lower solar output, and location of most land mass at the polar regions, could be considered a stress test for GCMs.

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Urinated State of America 01.08.06 at 4:13 am

Mike wrote:

” retired geologist gives as an example that the Pennsylvania coal beds indicate a time in the past when the earth and the life on the earth were very different from today. And in response, you point out that the ecology on earth is changing now!”

Indeed, his reaction was wrong – he should have ignored it for the true but irrelevant point it is. RG is correct that climate has varied widely over the age of the earth. He also knows that solar output has increased over time, and that the variation of climate has been less than we’d expect by this. Amongst the damping mechanisms has been the trend for reduction in the level of CO2 in the atmosphere over geological time.

But note the “over geological time”. As Keynes said, in the long run we’re all dead, true, but if so, why get arsed about the

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John Quiggin 01.08.06 at 6:34 am

Following up on Keynes and RG, it’s clear from the fossil record that all species end up extinct sooner or later. So, I guess that a retired geologist might well conclude that if climate change renders the earth uninhabitable for humans, it’s no big deal.

If there’s a point being made about the reality and implications of climate change on a scale of decades, I haven’t seen it yet.

207

Tim Worstall 01.08.06 at 7:03 am

# 198.

1) No idea. But it does have one. Is it worth banning all fossil fuel use tomorrow in order to save the polar bear? Possibly not. Is it worth my walking to the supermarket rather than driving in order to save the polar bear? Probably.

The value is thus somewhere between those two.

2) That’s actually the question I ask above. Which is larger, the costs or the benefits? An econometrician would probably be required for the answer (the “work” you talk of is a cost, not a benefit. If people were not retrofitting power stations they would be doing something else, possibly more productive).

3) As The Tragedy of the Commons is an economic problem it’s not too absurd to think that it might have an economic solution. Go back to Hardin if you must, we can have private (capitalist) and social (socialist) solutions (his words, not mine). My preferred one is the private (but I agree that that is ideologically driven and not appropriate in all cases).

For example, those fisheries where quota is inheritable, transferable and individual, such as The Faroes, Norway, Iceland and some New Zealand (I think?) are not suffering the same over fishing problems as those where they are not, like the North Sea or the Grand Banks in the 90s.

The creation (artificially) of the “right to fish” (otherwise known as property rights) has led to a more sustainable fishing environment.

To go back to Hardin’s basic point, where use of a resource is greater than the sustainable supply of that resource some set of rules have to be put in place to limit use of that resource. We can argue about what rules those should be but the necessity for some form of limitation I would have thought was obvious. And by limiting said use we thus preserve the resource.

That basic logic works whether it is fish, forests, savanna, any other resource or ecosystem you care to mention.

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Barry 01.08.06 at 8:37 am

Re #165: Lee A. Arnold!I can’t find who Jones is” – I’m really quite shocked! In fact, I’m not sure whether to be more shocked by your failure to recognise the author of the near-surface instrumental temperature amalgam that constitutes the “blade” of the “hockey stick” past climate representation or that the rest of this discussion board did not immediately correct your oversight in my absence. Clearly you have not made any real attempt to examine any of the available data despite mounting a rather spirited defence of said “hockey stick”. I see two possibilities for the board’s collective failure to point you in the right direction:
1. posters here know you better than I and simply ignore your posts (which would be rather disturbing, at least for you) or;
2. posters here are generally clueless about climatic research and data (which would be genuinely disturbing for all of us).
I would suggest you begin frequenting the site of the World Data Center for Paleoclimatology ( http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/paleo.html ) and, to get up to speed on Jones and Mann, start here: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/pubs/jones2004/jones2004.html

As to your second “point”, you really are a tad naïve – while some researchers gladly share raw data this tends to be the exception rather than the rule in the newly high-finance and high-prestige world of climate research. The responses range from simply ignoring requests to “the dog ate my homework” kind of thing but I remain convinced it was Phil Jones who replied: “We have 25 or so years invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it.” (On this at least Phil is quite correct, the first test of every hypothesis is an attempt to break it and the first attempt to do so is usually testing the bounds of the data, seeking error.)

Finally, you have situation exactly backwards. It is the “hockey stick” representation that seeks to reverse the established paradigm and thus it is for “hockey stick” proponents to provide support for their case. Hundreds of years of everything from grain price records (reflecting crop yield) to fish market sales (reflecting the ability of fishing fleets to put to sea) to bills of lading (telling us what goods were being traded and with whom) to reports of famine, mortality and morbidity all tell us that the Fifteenth through Nineteenth Centuries were unusually cold and harsh compared with periods before and, well, now. This is not the story told by the “hockey stick” though and thus it is for the challenger to prove its case.

Even worse for proponents of the new paradigm are that many of the newer paleoclimate reconstructions disagree with its representation of Northern Hemisphere temperature history. See, for example, Moberg (2005): ftp://ftp.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/paleo/contributions_by_author/moberg2005/nhtemp-moberg2005.txt Moore (2003): ftp://ftp.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/paleo/paleolimnology/northamerica/canada/baffin/donard_2001.txt Tan (2003): ftp://ftp.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/paleo/speleothem/china/shihua_tan2003.txt Yang Bao (2002): http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2002/2001GL014485.shtml Cook (2003): ftp://ftp.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/paleo/treering/reconstructions/asia/nepal/kathmandu_temp.txt Briffa (1998): ftp://ftp.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/paleo/treering/reconstructions/n_hem_temp/nhemtemp_data.txt Wiles (1999): ftp://ftp.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/paleo/treering/reconstructions/gulf_of_alaska/goa_springt.txt Alley (2004): ftp://ftp.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/paleo/icecore/greenland/summit/gisp2/isotopes/gisp2_temp_accum_alley2000.txt Hantemirov (2003): ftp://ftp.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/paleo/treering/reconstructions/asia/russia/yamal_2002.txt – these are simply some that explicitly provide temperature variation for you, there are also plenty that express in isotope ratios but I suspect you might find them a trifle challenging since it is painfully obvious you have not looked at any data which may, or may not support the position you espouse.

I must say, for people with rather a lot to say about past climate there seem remarkably few here who have genuinely paid attention to it. Quiggin may be correct pronouncing the debate finished – surely there seems precious few qualified to engage in it. What we have here is a number of people convinced that different must mean “bad” and obviously that must be people’s fault and, opposing, (mostly) those who instinctively realise this to be incorrect but who have not really researched their rebuttals. To those posters who actually know what they are talking about, well done! For the most part though, not a very impressive display, is it?

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retired geologist 01.08.06 at 11:12 am

The most amazing and fun thing about all these postings is how absurdly easy it is to make a comment that throws the “true believers” into such an intense state of righteous indignation. Lighten up kids. It must not be much fun to live your lives constantly pissed off at everyone who doesn’t agree 100% with your views of what the future will bring.

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Lee A. Arnold 01.08.06 at 11:23 am

Re 208: (A) Barry, the data you speak of as missing, are downloadable at the second link you give. You can also download Jones and Mann data, and Mann, Bradley, Hughes (1998) data, from Nature:

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v430/n6995/suppinfo/nature02478.html
_______________

(B) You appear to believe that climatologists cling to the the Mann et.al. hockey stick as some sort of totem or “new paradigm,” but that is not exact. A good graphic that shows of many of the different studies you cite, all put together, is at:

http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=7

(scroll down.) You will notice that the upward blade of the hockey stick remains.

A fresher study, Moberg et.al (2005) doesn’t change things much either. It is at:

http://www.nature.com/cgi-taf/DynaPage.taf?file=/nature/journal/v433/n7026/abs/nature03265_fs.html

and is discussed at:

http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=122&lp_lang_view=en

with a picture of its graph.
_______________

(C) For very understandable, technically accurate, latest information on the status of hockey stick, see RealClimate:

“Dummies guide to the latest Hockey Stick controversy,” February 18, 2005, at:

http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=121

and most recently,

“Hockey sticks: Round 27,” October 24, 2005, at:

http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=199
_______________

(D) Regarding your second paragraph, do scientists sit on their data before publishing? Lots of times, yes. Will it get them anywhere after that? I don’t see how; in fact quite the reverse. Certainly the other scientists won’t trust them, so it couldn’t last. You put Jones’ reputed comment here, but it seems unlikely that this was the circumstance. I still can’t find the source of Jones’ comment, but it sounds more than anything like irritation at the onslaught of boneheads. Is this related to the political harassment at the behest of the oil industry, when Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) demanded everybody’s data to look for “errors?” See Washington Post July 22, 2005, at:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/07/21/AR2005072102186.html

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Slex 01.08.06 at 11:31 am

I don’t have a background allowing me to scientifically evaluate the data concerning the debate, however the way the sceptics present their arguments does them no favour. Or to sum it up:

Global warming is not happening, but even if it was happening, it’s happening at very slow rates. And, even if it’s not happening at slow rates, it’s not the result of human actions. Besides, even if it was the result of human activity, it’s not such a bad thing, actually. And even if it was a bad thing, there isn’t much to do about it. However, even if there was something that could be done about it, that’s not the way to do it, ’cause the market knows best…

212

Mike 01.08.06 at 11:41 am

luc (#203): I don’t think anyone is arguing that the problem is solely an economic one and should be decided by economists. I won’t speak for others, but my point was that the problem is also not solely a climate-science one, and should not be decided by climate scientists. Thus, the consensus among climate scientists that the Earth is warming is an important part of the equation, but their consensus (if any) regarding what should be done about it does not carry any special weight because the problem involves many other disciplines, and I do think that the economic impacts are a critical part of it.

lee a. arnold (#200): You make an interesting point, that I have not seen before put in that way. I am not knowledgeable enough to say much about it, but it does seem inevitable that humans will continue to increase their influence over the ecosystem even aside from any climate effects — and those other influences seem more important to me. If there is any one key, I think it is human population. Reducing human poulation would reduce all sorts of pressures, but that’s not something that can be done quickly (without some sort of catastrophe, that is).

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Philip 01.08.06 at 12:19 pm

Hi Zdenek (176), Sorry to be so slow to come back to you.

With all due respect, I don’t think I am confused over ‘consensus’. All I was saying is that ‘consensus’, in itself, is not an ultimate, legitimizing factor.

Secondly, I think you are wrong about both Lyotard and Latour (such kneejerk responses are so defensive). Latour, for example, is most certainly not a postmodernist. Indeed, he critiques postmodernism. Moreover, it is vital to recognise Lyotard’s distinction between legitimation within the language game of science, sensu stricto, and legitimation within the language games of society, sensu lato. Because ‘global warming’, as distinct from climate change, is so clearly a Latourian ‘hybrid’, the debate is bound to fall within the wider games of society (as witness on this Comment page).

Indeed, many eminent scientists accept openly that the debate cannot be settled by science as such both because what we are really discussing are people’s attitudes to risk and to change, whatever its cause, and because climate-change science itself is ‘soft’.

For example, read this from the famous meteorologist, Hendrik Tennekes, a specialist in turbulence, just published:

“In my view, [the] conceptual mistake is that the physics of complex systems does not provide opportunities for settling the climate debate that way. In 1987, I gave a speech in London entitled ‘Illusions of Security, Tales of Imperfection’. I dealt with the shortcomings of numerical weather forecasting there, but similar arguments apply to climate forecasting. The climate orthodoxy perpetrates the misconceptions involved by speaking, as IPCC does, about the Scientific Basis of Climate Change. Since then, I have responded to that ideology by stating that there is no chance at all that the physical sciences can produce a universally accepted scientific basis for policy measures concerning climate change. In my column in the magazine ‘Weather’ in February of 1990, I wrote:

‘The constraints imposed by the planetary ecosystem require continuous adjustment and permanent adaptation. Predictive skills are of secondary importance.'”

I’m afraid the failure of many scientists to engage with the language and legitimation processes of the postmodern world is now one of the problems. All science courses should include a 101 on ‘Science communication in the postmodern world’ (I’m glad to say that, in the UK, this now appears to be starting to happen at our better Universities).

Cheers, Philip.

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Urinated State of America 01.08.06 at 12:53 pm

I wrote”

“But note the “over geological time”. As Keynes said, in the long run we’re all dead, true, but if so, why get arsed about the”

Damn, that was a page-long comment, including some detailed comments on the engineering & economics of mitigating global warming for Tim Worstall, and it’s gone.

RG wrote:

“The most amazing and fun thing about all these postings is how absurdly easy it is to make a comment that throws the “true believers” into such an intense state of righteous indignation. Lighten up kids. It must not be much fun to live your lives constantly pissed off at everyone who doesn’t agree 100% with your views of what the future will bring.”

I think that’s as close to an admission of “I’m a troll” as one could see.

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Lee A. Arnold 01.08.06 at 2:11 pm

Re 207: Tim, your answers are standard and correct the misapprehension I received from #195, which appeared to believe in the delimitation of cost/benefit analyses to the things to which economists restrict themselves.

It should be pointed out, that work may be a “cost” to econometricians but is a benefit to anyone who is looking for work. The income from work is part of GDP, and so economic growth (the great fear of the contrarians) may continue even if the rate of growth were slowed, –although this presumed slowing isn’t written in stone, either. The monies being “saved” by avoiding climate mitigation at this time are NOT being applied to benefitting the world’s poor, except by the standard (and ordinal) syllogism from welfare economics, which maintains the conceit that “more productive” endeavors will serve to benefit everybody. Of course this ignores the widening gap in the size distribution of income, as well as a more expansive view of “wealth,” such as one which might include, among other things, the value of polar bears, beyond anyone’s misguided need to put a dollar value on them. To put it another way, there are ways in which a slower rate of GDP growth could benefit more people and things, depending on the delimitations of your cost/benefit analyses. Cost/benefit analyses in general take a very restricted subset of transactions among the circular and more complex chains of causation which make up the world. Why? Because even if you could monetize it all, it’s so complicated you probably couldn’t compute anything conclusively. Again, climate models are likely to become more valid than economic ones, in the long run. Perhaps we should train the world’s poor, and put them to work retrofitting power stations.

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Lee A. Arnold 01.08.06 at 2:43 pm

Re 213: Philip, I think you have reached the heart of it.

Part of the problem is that scientists don’t want to admit that general complex systems are part of the philosphy and methodology of science, while anti-science contrarians are ignorant or scornful of the entire issue. Why? Because it’s hard to come to analytic predictions. Scientists should explicitly grab the issue of general systems by the horns, and stop being argued into a rhetorical trap.

We are dealing with a complex system which can only be conceived of, more or less, as a reticulated (i.e. weblike, with circular and multiple linkages) multi-compartment model. These don’t seem to allow exact determinations in any field of science, (although often for very different reasons, including: definition, modelability, fine and coarse graining, variable measurability and verification, nonlinear computation and the n-body problem, experimental repeatability, and model verification.)

“Uncertainty” in complex, adaptive, open systems is usually characterized by inductive generalization from observations of the dynamics of a WIDE RANGE of such systems: ecosystems, social systems, computer systems, immune systems, economic systems… It is curious that the following things are never admitted as “facts about the world,” but here goes: there is a set of general patterns which are inferred from many different types of systems, such as: regular oscillation; multiple chreods; return to regime after perturbation; unpredictable catastrophic change (i.e., move to new regime;) and increase in probability of catastrophic change with additional forcing or exotic introductions.

The observer would note of all of these systems that they undergo oscillations within apparent parameters and occasionally flip into new regimes; they often demonstrate novel emergence; and that increased forcing, whether of native elements or exotic ones, increases the rates of oscillation and catastrophic shifts, sometimes after a quieter period of sub-threshold build-up.

This general sense of complex systems is what spurred very early fears decades ago, about the effects of forced CO2 build-up on the climate.

The observer would also see that these general events are not tractable to analytic prediction beforehand, due to any or several of various regular functions: including definition, modeling, measurement, calculation, experiment control, and repeated verification.

Yet it will remain a fact that, even though you can’t predict any exact occurrence or its timing, all complex systems will show these general dynamics. We can say true things about complex systems, in an inductive manner: 1) If left alone, systems tend to stay in their pre-existing oscillative regimes. 2) Add an exotic species, or an overdose of a native species, and a system will oscillate into new regimes, often violently–even though we can’t say precisely how or when, sometimes not even exactly why. And it is PRECISELY TRUE that you don’t know exactly what, how or when things are going to happen, before they happen.

So there are two completely different levels of falsifiable science in the same phenomenon:

(1) The deductive predictions about the events inside a single system, e.g. the climate, which are ideally precise spacetime events, calculated mathematically–but because they are reticulated models, are rarely, perhaps never, definitive.

(2) Inductive observations about the general patterns which all, or almost all, reticulated systems go through–although the exact characters of the events, and their timing, are not predictable. (Indeed, even AFTER they happen, the exact causes may still be in dispute.)

To anyone who thinks the second category is not “science,” let me suggest to you that it is just a different level of it, and such learning is precisely how most people get through the day, and cross the street, and regard their immune systems, and watch their diet. It is by abduction, metaphor, and analogy–and far from being non-science, it is just the complementary division, covering systems, information, and pattern. It appears to be the “logic” by which both evolutionary change, and embryological development, proceed.

At that point, we opt for the Precautionary Principle, as your grandma already knew.

But since systems TEND to remain in their old ways unless so perturbed, the “precautionary principle,” suitably leavened, is therefore the MOST SCIENTIFIC policy stance.

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Barry 01.08.06 at 4:49 pm

Re: #210: Lee those links are not to the raw data but the post-processed results. It’s rather like trying to study animal husbandry by looking at a can of processed meat. The Central England Temperature record appears to make a fair proxy for the northern hemisphere but, without being able to compare like met. records “in the raw” it is not possible to tell. It would be significant if it did though, since CET shows similar and greater amplitude rises in the early 18th & 19th Centuries as that which occurred throughout the 20th.

When considering reengineering human society the ability to check the calculations and access the raw data is somewhat more than a simple curtesy and with a century’s observed change being at the bound of measurement error we are talking about very subtle effect. And at present we are basically left looking at the can of spam.

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Lee A. Arnold 01.08.06 at 7:17 pm

sorry — I though that sort of thing was typical reviewed in the regular process at the Geophysical Review Letters, for example. Or are they now under suspicion, too?

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retired geologist 01.08.06 at 7:36 pm

barry,

“studying animal husbandry by looking at a can of processed meat” has to be one of the greatest and funniest lines ever written. I hope its destined to become a classic. Too bad more of the climate change/global warming arguments aren’t of that quality. It surpasses my previous favorite, “nothing but a fart in a windstorm”. Keep up the good work.

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Sonny Lions 01.09.06 at 4:04 am

I’ll accept the “humans are causing global warming” argument the day a society comprised exclusively of climatologists makes the announcement that they’ve reached such a concensus.

Until then, to me this is just warmed over cataastrophism.

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zdenek 01.09.06 at 5:59 am

Philip– I would probably agree with Tennekes that because of underlying physics the debate cannot be settled ( at least when it comes to forcasting ) and hence consensus will be ellusive for now . But this is a point about physics of complex structures and not ‘physics of complex structures’ i.e. the problem is not about words but rather the world itself. Similarly the scientific debate is not about issues such as ‘justification'( what you want to call ‘legitimation’) ‘confirmation’ and so on , these are philosophical questions and not scientific questions.
Two additional comments:

you seem to me to be either confused about the distinction I am making or you deny the difference between language and what language describes.
Second I cannot see any gain ( philosophically speaking )from postmodern spin i.e. no light is shed on any of the issues in the debate, if anything the spin muddies the water because :

1) no proper distinction between discovery and invention
2) no room for correspondence theory of truth
3) no room for proper concept of confirmation
4) cannot make sense of metaphysical or methodological naturalism.

Such an approach cannot make sense of science all you can do is try to discredit its position as a unique method for getting at truth but I will concede that it makes moderate sense when applied to texts and it *might* work in that narrow area ( but even here it is becomming pase ) as literary criticism.

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Tim Worstall 01.09.06 at 10:33 am

# 215.

“Re 207: Tim, your answers are standard and correct the misapprehension I received from #195, which appeared to believe in the delimitation of cost/benefit analyses to the things to which economists restrict themselves.”

I know what you mean but I was referring to economics and economists, not to accountants and accountantcy, which would be closer to the narrower view you rightly disaprove of.

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Lee A. Arnold 01.09.06 at 10:44 am

Re 220: Sonny, it should be pointed out that catastrophism is in effect every time you get sick and have to go see a doctor. There is, of course, a consensus that we will all continue to do that, too.

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Jim S 01.09.06 at 11:59 am

Sonny,

Did you miss the post where I linked to the papers from the American Meteorological Society, the IPCC and the American Geophysical Union that do exactly what you say you want to see? As I said, it only takes a little time with a search engine to show that professional associations of scientists in the field do have a consensus on the issue.

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Jim S 01.09.06 at 12:09 pm

Those who are serious about the subject might be interested in this Business Week article. Cost benefit studies, anyone? While a definitive link between warming and hurricanes hasn’t been established, logic dictates that it must be seriously considered as an additional consideration when looking decades down the road.

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