…And In ‘The World Is Ending’ Statistics News…

Here’s the problem with making huge public policy decisions based on statistical models:

The global burden of HIV has been overstated, with new surveillance data showing the number of people carrying the AIDS-causing virus is about 6.3 million lower than was estimated last year.

Improved tracking indicates for the first time that the world turned the corner on the three-decade epidemic in the late 1990s, when new infections peaked at more than 3 million a year, according to a report today by UNAIDS, which coordinates global AIDS relief efforts through the United Nations. There are 2.5 million new infections annually now, the report found.

- Bloomberg

The United Nations on Monday radically lowered years of estimates of the number of people worldwide infected by the AIDS virus, revealing that the growth of the AIDS pandemic is waning for the first time since HIV was discovered 26 years ago.

The revised figures, which were the result of much more sophisticated sampling techniques, indicate that the number of new infections peaked in 1998 and the number of deaths peaked in 2005.

The new analysis shows that the total number of people living with HIV has been gradually increasing, but at a slower rate than in the past.

Hints of those trends were present in the older estimates, but at much greater numbers.

UNAIDS estimated in a report to be issued today that about 2.5 million people will be infected with the AIDS virus, called HIV, this year — a 40% drop from the 2006 estimate.

- Los Angeles Times

It looks as if the global AIDS pandemic may not be spiraling out of control after all. Instead, the devastation is stabilizing at an unacceptably high level.

The United Nations’ AIDS-fighting agency and the World Health Organization ate a lot of crow this week for previously overestimating the number of people infected with the virus. As a result of improved methodologies, better surveillance and new understanding of the dynamics of the epidemic, they sharply reduced their estimate – to 33.2 million worldwide from 39.5 million. They now peg the number of new infections per year at 2.5 million, much lower than past estimates.

A few epidemiologists have long charged that the United Nations numbers were wrong, and possibly designed to generate more contributions to battle the disease. We see no sign of any conspiracy. And make no mistake, even with the revised estimates, the AIDS epidemic remains one of the world’s greatest scourges, requiring a strong campaign to bring it under control.

New York Times editorial

So when we’re making critical decisions about managing the energy economy, let’s be a little bit humble about the strength of the models we use, OK?

My issues with the ‘global-warming-trumps-all-policy’ mantra are three:

* I’m not 100% on board on the anthropogenic factors as the major driver of global warming – given the presence of warming on, for instance, Mars;

* The impacts of the actions drastic enough to avert the kind of warming impacts we’re talking about are ill-thought-out and likely to be as bad – or worse – than the impacts of any plausible warming, given the very real uncertainty in the models and methodologies being used;

* I have an innate discomfort when people who hold certain core values – say the perils and problems of industrial civilization – suddenly discover yet another reason why it needs to be curtailed and argue that this one claim trumps everything.

Having said all that, I flatly support lots of policies – from wind farms off Cape Cod to raising CAFE standards, treating small trucks as cars for CAFE and safety purposes, and a petroleum tax to incent people to change their minds about decisions that have negative and few positive impacts.

201 thoughts on “…And In ‘The World Is Ending’ Statistics News…”

  1. Over reaction has its uses and is also, I believe part of the human survival strategy. Without what you seem to be saying s an over reaction the aids situation may be a lot worse.

    Over reaction, it seems to me, is a perfect counter balance to having our heads in the sand.

    _ * I’m not 100% on board on the anthropogenic factors as the major driver of global warming – given the presence of warming on, for instance, Mars;_

    You could be wrong not being 100% on board and you could be accused od having your head in the sand.

    _ * The impacts of the actions drastic enough to avert the kind of warming impacts we’re talking about are ill-thought-out and likely to be as bad – or worse – than the impacts of any plausible warming, given the very real uncertainty in the models and methodologies being used;_

    This is true, but the opposite may be as well. It is not usually a good strategy to act impulsively, but if the time pressure scenarios are true than it is equally imprudent to dawdle. Waiting for you to be 100% on board or for foolproof models, if they indeed exist, to appear may be equally if not more detrimental.

    For instance, in light of the fact that conservation would have the greatest effect on carbon emissions, we might pass laws and tax incentives that encourage it.

    * I have an innate discomfort when people who hold certain core values – say the perils and problems of industrial civilization – suddenly discover yet another reason why it needs to be curtailed and argue that this one claim trumps everything.

    There is a counter balance here as well. Do you have a similar discomfort with people who believe in the unassailable benefits of a carbon based industrial infrastructure?

    Personally, it doesn’t really make any difference whethter global warming is due to human genisis of sun spots. All I see is the rise of the largest industry the planet has ever seen over the next two decades that will dwarf the IT industry both in size and rapidity of its global penetration.

    It just so happens that I am doing preliminary research for a News Aggregator/Research site/Marketplace for the industry. I have visited about 2,000 sites, worldwide. I am stunned at the innovation and intellectual capital, (as well as real capital, GE’s recent contract for 775MM worth of Wind Turbines)engineering expertise, venture capital formation, ETFs, Enchanges like the Chicago Climate exchange, etc. and for the most part, this technological revolution is not being led by the U.S.

    The more I see, the more I think that carbon is dead. I don’t thnk it can survive the onslaught of Nuclear and Alternative Energy.

  2. To state a few obvious points:

    1) The errors in worldwide AIDS estimates, based on survey data, have nothing to do with models for global warming. Zero.

    2) The fact that temperatures on Mars have or are rising has nothing to do with the question of whether human post-industrial carbon, etc. emissions have increased the rate and predicted severity of earth global warming. Zero.

    Having said that, I am glad that you are in support of raising CAFE standards.

  3. If we could trust our models we could try for correctives.

    Like, independent of the origins of reduced albedo, we could launch spacecraft carrying millions of extremely light thin mirrors that we could spread into orbit around the earth, and they would reduce insolation just the right amount to prevent trouble. But the models aren’t that good.

    So we’re stuck. The best models we have say we’re heading for serious trouble, but if they’re too wrong we could head for serious trouble by depending on them.

    The models predict long-term trouble, and it gets worse if we do the wrong things now. Probably as time goes on the models will get better and we’ll know more precisely what to do. But we’ll be less able to do a lot, it will be day-late dollar-short. Doing stuff in the right direction now would help, if it didn’t cost too much.

    Reducing carbon emissions fits into our goal of reducing oil dependence. But it doesn’t fit our goal of using more coal. We might as well try to use less oil — that fits our short-term goals whether or not it turns out to tie in to global warming. Coal is dirty and polluting, and the things that make it pollute less are expensive. Good if the alternatives work out well.

    Conservation is good. We’re going to run out of fossil fuels at a decent price, and what we don’t burn now we’ll have later when it’s worth more. Oil producers would be better off with a solid income from petrochemicals for a couple hundred years than firesale prices to burn up their stocks over 30 years. We’d be better off too, to the extent our consumption isn’t necessary. This also fits our short-term needs, within some limits.

    As our models improve we can make better decisions. So for example, it might turn out that global warming will hurt our enemies far more than it hurts us. Then bring it on! We would welcome it then. Or if we find out which places will be improved, individual americans can pull their investments out of the USA and take them there. The models aren’t good enough yet to help with those choices.

    It doesn’t make sense to throw away the best data we have just because it isn’t good enough. We’re facing truly unprecedented times and we have to plan the best we can. When you don’t know what to expect then ideally you’d try to be ready for anything. No good to depend mostly on fossil fuels that we know are declining.

  4. JT – I’ll agree here; I think we do a grid, and find the high-impact, low-cost things we can do and do them now. By the time we have worked our way into those, we’ll know a lot more.

    A.L.

  5. Um, Alan – you seem like an intelligent person, so let me try again.

    The point of the post is that models have a high error rate, and that even models where we have solid data are often flawed, either from bad sampling, bad modeling, or root conceptual errors (typically selection bias). Using models alone to make deep policy decisions is risky; when the decisions are one-way and expensive, I’ll suggest that we approach the decision with some care (by, say, deferring the high-cost irreversible decisions until we know more).

    And yes, global warming on Mars has everything to do with the anthro-drivel models; if in fact other planets without industrial civilization are experiencing similar patterns of warming, it suggests that a model which drives the warming due to the impacts of civilization is irretrievably flawed (see: don’t make life-altering decisions).

    Or, as an alternative, we could approach it as a matter of faith…

    A.L.

  6. bq. The point of the post is that models have a high error rate, and that even models where we have solid data are often flawed, either from bad sampling, bad modeling, or root conceptual errors (typically selection bias).

    Uh, because SOME models have a “high error rate” (whatever that means) doesn’t mean that ALL models suffer from the same flaw.

    bq. And yes, global warming on Mars has everything to do with the anthro-drivel models; if in fact other planets without industrial civilization are experiencing similar patterns of warming, it suggests that a model which drives the warming due to the impacts of civilization is irretrievably flawed.

    No, it doesn’t “suggest” anything of the kind. Just because planetary warming can occur on Mars or anywhere else does not in any way contradict the idea that human industrial activity can ALSO induce a similar phenomenon here on earth, or that it hasn’t.

    Are you trying to argue that there is a background level of climate fluctuation on planetary bodies and therefore all fluctuations are part of this noise? That is stating the obvious, and global warming models certainly take those into account.

    Are you denying that human activity can or has changed the earth’s climate?

    But I see you have another axe to grind on this issue (tucked into the “selection bias” comment above, which I don’t think you really understand) so I don’t think there’s any reason to beat my head against the wall trying to convince you that it’s not all just a Liberal conspiracy.

    bq. Um, Alan – you seem like an intelligent person, so let me try again.

    This is simply completely unjustified condensension. If you can’t say something clearly or without logical inconsistencies or gaping flaws, that ain’t my problem, my man, that’s yours.

  7. Alan:

    Well, concretely: I haven’t looked at the output of the computer climate models, not even in survey form. So, as a point of information, do they still not correctly model the Sahara Desert’s existence? Because they used to not, and that always bothered me. It’s a pretty big and persistent thing to not have fall out of a model.

    I’m not taking a side on AGW, but my reluctance to accept it as “proven” is largely because it appears to be a fact that earlier propositions such as “nuclear winter” were emphasized {edit: and, allegedly, exaggerated} by their proponents because it was important to prevent nuclear war, independent of the truth of their models’ predictions.

    It’s a fool-me-once, fool-me-twice kind of a deal from where I sit.

  8. Alan, sadly your general tone here varies between condescension and belligerence; I’m certainly not unhappy to give back what’s dished out.

    No, there are no links between warming and AIDS models; my point, so restate simply, is that making large investments based entirely on partisan models is risky (I made my living – quite a good one – for several years building models justifying a few hundred million of investment or so, and am pretty comfy with what ‘selection bias’ is all about – I can even give you tips on how to do it, and about five or six other things that can shape a model’s outcomes).

    I’ve written pretty frequently on what I think energy policy ought to be; if you missed that, I’d suggest reading it before suggesting that I hold positions I don’t.

    I do get frustrated when I see junk science used, and while I don’t think the core of current climatology is such, it’s far closer than I’d like.

    And I think Kyoto was a joke – especially if you’re deeply concerned about carbon-based pollution. Clinton was right not to force the issue.

    A.L.

  9. Freeman Dyson, who has been poking into climate change and its implications for over 30 years, has made the point that he’s leery of this precisely because he doesn’t trust the models. They’re full of “fudge factors” designed to line them up with the present climate, was his comment, but that doesn’t mean that they’d be useful at predicting what would happen if you started from a different place. Which is sort of necessary for a dynamic model. “Dyson:”:http://www.aps.org/publications/apsnews/199905/backpage.cfm

    bq.. “The bad news is that the climate models on which so much effort is expended are unreliable because they still use fudge-factors rather than physics to represent important things like evaporation and convection, clouds and rainfall.

    Besides the general prevalence of fudge-factors, the latest and biggest climate models have other defects that make them unreliable. With one exception, they do not predict the existence of El Niño. Since El Niño is a major feature of the observed climate, any model that fails to predict it is clearly deficient. The bad news does not mean that climate models are worthless. They are, as Manabe said thirty years ago, essential tools for understanding climate. They are not yet adequate tools for predicting climate. If we persevere patiently with observing the real world and improving the models, the time will come when we are able both to understand and to predict. Until then, we must continue to warn the politicians and the public: don’t believe the numbers just because they come out of a supercomputer.”

    p. See also his much more extensive Edge interview on the subject of climate change “Heretical Thoughts About Science And Society”:http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/dysonf07/dysonf07_index.html

    Les Jones is “even more straightforward:”:http://www.lesjones.com/posts/001657.shtml

    bq. “If you’ve ever programmed computers you can imagine the development of those models. You write a program to simulate the climate. You run it the first time and it shows that the Earth is a frozen ball of ice right now. “Oops. That’s not right.” Then you fiddle with it so it’s warmer and run it again. This time it predicts the planet will get so hot the oceans boil away next week. “Oops. Now it’s too hot.” And so you tweak it until it gives you the answer you expect, the answer that conforms to your current set of prejudices and the current publishing environment. That’s not science.”

    No. It may be a valuable precursor to science, insofar as it can raise some very interesting questions worth researching. Which may make it well worth doing. But it isn’t science, and it isn’t prediction for the precise reasons that Richard Feynman’s “Cargo Cult Science.”:http://wwwcdf.pd.infn.it/~loreti/science.html discusses.

  10. Note that climate change, and even human induced climate change, may still be real. Unfortunately, Global Warming as currently sold is just another quasi-religious hysteria. It has a current memetic hold for 3 reasons:

    [1] It’s easier for the modern left-wing environmental movement to preach global catastrophe as a way of reaching people, than it is to reform itself in ways that would achieve this goal by valuing the environment for itself rather than as the Green Road to Socialism.

    Since socialism trumps all for its advocates, and has consistently been the response even when this has been to the detriment of the very pretexts espoused, reform is highly unlikely. Cue the hysteria horns.

    [2] High prices for hydrocarbon fuels make alternatives and possible ways of saving money broadly attractive to a public audience, as was true during the last spasm of the mid-late 1970s. The fact that they happen to be promoted as a global warming measures makes little difference, but success will encourage ongoing use of the meme for a while (similar to “anyone can think they’re a genius in a bull market”), until other factors exhaust it.

    Progress on this front will have some positive spin-offs on the carbon front as well, but also implications – like nuclear power’s growing global popularity, and accompanying risks on many levels. Humility makes successful prediction of undesirable spin-off effects more likely, which is one more reason it’s a good idea.

    [3] The meme has an official source of funding and promotion that adheres to a political rather than a scientific model of conduct, argument, and activity. “Dyson is bang on”:http://www.salon.com/books/feature/2007/09/29/freeman_dyson/index1.html in this Salon interview:

    bq. “There is this very strong organization, the IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It’s a group of officially anointed experts who produce statements every five years. This community of people is regarded as sacrosanct. And they’re very intolerant. They always regard any criticism as a hostile act that has to be fought. I think they have behaved pretty badly. But that’s rather an unusual case in the world of science — that’s where the politics has corrupted the science. But in general, scientists are not largely against heretics. This is something rather peculiar to climate studies. It also has to do with the way [the studies are] funded. The whole community of climate experts is funded on the basis that it’s an urgent problem. So [they] can’t possibly say it’s not urgent or else they’ll lose their thumbs.”

    [SIDEBAR]The funding or claims of urgency are not themselves valid arguments that the science is politicized – nor is that Dyson’s point. The conduct that is very unscientific is his focus, and constitutes a valid argument. The funding is merely a likely explanation.[/SIDEBAR]

    In the end, however, global warming will fade.

    There is a finite period during which predictions of large-scale catastrophe will hold attention, absent manageable costs, obvious correlation, and clear progress. This doesn’t mean the underlying risk of catastrophe goes away, only that the response to it is finite and must be recognized as such.

    The costs of many of the proposed “fixes” will not be manageable for most key economies, especially those like Beijing and New Delhi’s whose policies will decide the future of the issue. At the same time, clear progress is unlikely in any reasonable time frame, almost by definition. Hence, collapse of the meme is a near certainty.

    [SIDEBAR]Folks contemplating the Islamic threat and our response may profit from contemplation of these truths, and mirror-modeling some of the things we see back and forth. They are, of course, blessed/cursed with an issue whose problem indicators and possibility of progress are both much more likely to move the needle in clear ways, since man is always more flexible than nature. But the exercise is instructive.[/SIDEBAR]

    Once the global warming hysteria period does pass, and the recovery period works itself through the classic boom-bust-progress model that has defined both tech and eco hysterias so reliably over the past several decades), global warming may take its proper place as a longer-term scientific issue.

    Which is what it is.

    Meanwhile, there are a lot of environmental problems whose time effect is much more here, now, and certain than global warming. We might start with the way we’re treating our oceans, which could also have some very nasty real-world effects (like, for instance, food crises) if we keep collapsing fisheries and creating long-term underwater deserts using bottom dredging nets. That won’t take 100 or 300 years to work itself out – and would benefit from even a small percentage of the energy (and, ironically, hot air) now being pumped into global warming.

    Water management on land would be another issue in that class. It is starting to bite right now in obvious ways (Ogallala aquifer, anyone?), and will intensify to a strong, immediate concern in places like China and India very soon due to industrialization’s usage rate for water.

    Among many others.

    There’s only so long that a very long-term horizon problem based on questionable models, can absorb human energy from near-term problems based on immediate experience.

  11. _I’m not taking a side on AGW, but my reluctance to accept it as “proven” is largely because it appears to be a fact that earlier propositions such as “nuclear winter” were emphasized {edit: and, allegedly, exaggerated} by their proponents because it was important to prevent nuclear war, independent of the truth of their models’ predictions._

    _It’s a fool-me-once, fool-me-twice kind of a deal from where I sit._

    I don’t have a problem with the “nuclear winter” one. Consider — it *was* important to avoid nuclear war. We were heading toward nuclear war based on models that predicted we could do a first strike with no major consequences to us. Those models were even *more* flawed.

    It was less important to have a nuclear winter model that was correct in all details than it was to point out that the models which had never considered any such possibility were inadequate. If they had not considered this possibility, what other important factors had they left out?

    If the original researchers could have provided a definitive model that showed conclusively that the best time to stage a nuclear first strike on the USSR would be in April/May in a year that had a wet spring then that would have been more useful toward making nuclear war practical. But in the absence of such a good model it was still useful to point out that the guys who were working toward nuclear war didn’t know what they were doing and shouldn’t take drastic action right away.
    On the other hand, say the USSR was already attacking us. Then it wouldn’t make any sense to complain that we didn’t know the side effects of hitting back. We wouldn’t care about side effects then.

  12. You guys are making politically-motivated objections to the data. “I won’t believe it until the models predict el nino.” “I won’t believe it until the models explain the Sahara desert.”

    The best models we have, show large cumulative effects from collective human behavior. There are also large temporary effects from natural causes like volcanoes. If we had perfect models, and also if we had better technology, we could do things like start a new volcano every 3 years to adjust for our own effects. But we don’t know how to do those things yet.

    The opposition here is a lot like the opposition about CFCs. They said CFCs didn’t affect the ozone layer — how could they, it was tiny concentrations. Then the data came out, and it was obvious that ozone concentrations were down and UV levels were up. Then they still kept denying it for awhile, and eventually it turned into “It’s only 25%. You get that much increase just by going 300 miles north. There can’t be any biological effect from that!” I still remember an experiment where the researchers put some tadpoles in stream water and put UV-absorbing plastic film over some of them and UV-transmitting film over the others, and one set died while the other didn’t. It didn’t happen in the dark. Jerry Pournelle said it couldn’t be the UV because 25% difference wasn’t enough to have any effect. So the bad scientists had to have made a mistake. Or maybe they faked it, nobody but liberals would have done that experiment anyway.

    But finally they stopped arguing about CFCs. In a few centuries things will get back to normal with the ozone layer, all we have to do is wear our sunglasses and wait. But global warming — there’s no real evidence for that! The models can’t even predict el nino!

    And they argue that the people who do research that implies we’re in for climate change are biased. It’s all done for political purposes. No reason to believe them when they’re politically motivated.

    There isn’t a lot of point arguing with people who’re like that.

  13. JT, the cost of eliminating CFC’s was lunch money, and it made good sense on a risk/cost basis to do so well before we actually did it.

    I’m not arguing that we need certainty. I’m suggesting that the people who advocate world-changing policies – which will, in the course of carrying them out, kill a lot of people who won’t get resources they otherwise would or should get – should be somewhat humble about the meaning and impact of the models.

    There’s a world of difference between “it’s likely that dumping all this CO2 is having a negative impact in aggregate and we ought to do the easy things we can to reduce it” and “there is no human problem greater than increasing human CO2 output, and we need to fix it right now at almost any cost”…which is somewhat easier when the costs we bear in the 1st world are slightly higher unemployment and slower economic growth (or some decline) and the costs borne in the third world involve people dying due to lack of infrastructure and insufficient economic growth to feed the growing population.

    I’ve got no problem with the former position, regardless of my faith in the models, because the things we do in that framework are sensible for a lot of other reasons – national security, the local environment, shifting spending from rents to petroleum owners to developing and buying technology and labor in our economy.

    As I suggest, once we do those things, the models ought to be better and we can have the longer-term discussion again.

    A.L.

  14. bq. Alan, sadly your general tone here varies between condescension and belligerence; I’m certainly not unhappy to give back what’s dished out.

    Well, at least you’re willing to admit guilt. You also might want to consider, however, that if my posts seem so to you, it could be that I’m responding in kind to you or others.

    Back to the “topic”. I don’t think you fully appreciate what you are saying when you claim that global warming models are flawed and therefore they should not be the basis for major costly public policy decisions (which, btw, coming from an Iraq war supporter, seem like an especially hollow argument). Because models can be wrong in more than one direction, and your comments and general tone about global warming suggest you only believe that if the models are wrong, global warming therefore is not like to be AS BAD as predicted.

    Interestingly, the models in fact seem to have “UNDERESTIMATED”:http://www.cnn.com/2007/TECH/science/05/02/arctic.ice/ the warming trend.

    The failure to recognize this possibility provides pretty strong proof, in my mind, that your views are as much or more “agenda-driven” than you are willing to recognize.

  15. Joe, I agree that the models are inaccurate. They’re new, and I would expect that they are not entirely accurate. And yes, they all use fudge factors… but so does just about every law of physics, so in the end, that’s not a deal-breaker for me. After all, error can work in both directions…

    At the same time, it’s hard to argue that life is not being altered dramatically all over the world. How can it not? We’ve terraformed the world for our benefit. Things will also change, and some of those changes will cause unpredictable problems. Reducing the impact should reduce (or at least slow down the changes)

    Even though there have been some signs that things could go wrong quickly (glacier break up and melting, extended droughts and changing weather patterns over the last 100 years), we don’t have a model significantly accurate to prove that things will go wrong. That doesn’t mean that we should take 0 precautions. In the case of AIDS, overreacting may have prevented the situation from getting worse.

    With that in mind, in seems like many “green” strategies are trying to use strategies that also benefit health, industry + economic costs through changes in energy management.

    For example:
    1) Solar + Wind energy may be dramatically better for our health than coal or oil. Look at air quality in China for a dramatic example of what happens with no protection.

    2) Cost of oil and political cost in the middle east. ‘Nuf said.

    3) Watching simple things like water & energy conservation lower the costs to everyone. Conservers save more every month. This lowers the prices/consumption of energy and doesn’t put as much pressure on the current energy grid.

  16. If you are looking for models to be “proved”, you are barking up the wrong tree. It is akin to the Creationists waiting for Evolution to be proven and objecting that it is only a “theory”.

    Models are speculations, nothing more. The bar for a climate model is more like that in a judgment in a civil suit as opposed to a criminal case, the preponderance of evidence vs. proving beyond a reasonable doubt. Models should improve over time and our reactions to them should change as they change.

    I have yet to see hear of one model that propounds that Global Warming is not caused, in a large part by the burning of fossil feuls. I have heard that Mars is getting warmer, but that in no way stands the Preponderance Test.

    Anyway, I doubt that anyone on this site will not be relying on some form of alternative energy in ten years, whether they purchase t through the grid or use their own local system, ie. rooftop solar, for example.

    There is an economic boom coming that will be driven by this switch to alternative sources. Another thing, China is diving into the Alternative Energy markets, both as producers and consumers. One reason is the above mentioned environmental degradation that accompanies the burning of fossil fuels and like cell phone vs. land lines, it eliminates much of the cost of building a nationwide grid. Can you imagine the cost of copper now if every phone in China had to be linked to a land grid?

    Global warming could wind up being a tremendous economic windfall for the States, if it ever gets around to acting on some models and not waiting for “proof”. As I mentioned, there is an enormous industry blossoming based on the switch over to Alternative Energy. Don’t mistake this for the 70’s, this blossoming is not going to be turned back, not economically, nor environmentally.

  17. _”No, it doesn’t “suggest” anything of the kind. Just because planetary warming can occur on Mars or anywhere else does not in any way contradict the idea that human industrial activity can ALSO induce a similar phenomenon here on earth, or that it hasn’t.”_

    You are putting the cart before the horse. No it doesnt disprove the _theory_ of global warming- but that isnt whats at stake. We are talking about the _reality_ of global warming.

    Think about it- the theory of global warming is tested via measuring temperature change correct? The Earth is warming, which is in line with the hypothesis that excess carbon dioxide is warming the earth. Fine. But, if the evidence from Mars shows another mechanism that must be accounted for, the theory that the CURRENT warming we are experiencing is CO2 induced must be reexamined, correct? That variable has to be accounted for right? IF you are using the current state of the atmosphere as your evidence, which is obviously (and inevitably) the case.

    This doesnt prove or disprove anything- it simply demands accounting.

    On the other hand your knee-jerk reaction that even if the rest of the solar system is appreciably warming it couldnt _possibly_ have any affect on the temperature of earth and hence our AGW discussion has the air of religious fervor.

  18. _”With that in mind, in seems like many “green” strategies are trying to use strategies that also benefit health, industry + economic costs through changes in energy management.”_

    There is a certain sect of pragramtic greens that take this stance, and I wholeheartedly agree with them. But they are far from the mainstream in the environmental movement. If the solution doesnt involve large scale social engineering (which amazingly ALWAYS lines up with their idealogical goals) they arent interested. Hence the disdain for nuclear power.

    If someone invented a machine that could produce endless energy for little cost and absolutely no polluting side effects, the current Greens would probably try to have the inventor crucified. That is their worst nightmare. Its not so much about the environment as about the belief that humans are wastrel sinners that need to be put back in huts (aside from the enlightened few who would retain their gulfstreams and landrovers of course).

    This is an underlying psychological fixation that human success is always at the expense of someone or something else, and hence on the cusp of retribution. Today its Geia rising up to crush us just as a thousand years ago it was the wrath of God punishing us for vanity and greed.

    Whats the first story of mankind in the Bible? Stealing from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, from which we were cast from Eden. This may be the oldest and longest standing psychosis in the human experience- that success and prosperity must have a deeply hidden and terribly price.

  19. #10 from Joe Katzman at 7:11 am on Nov 26, 2007

    This post in itself is a valid though very incomplete model. My problem with it is that it is out of date. It would have been a better model in the early 80’s just after the environmentalist spasm of the early ’60s had run its course. Things have changed radically now.

    Energy prices have skyrocketed, Billions of consumers have been added, etc. The problems you mention, Joe, like the Oglagla Aquifer and the overfishing of the oceans, I believe will get more, not less, attention because of he Global Warming issue (whether it is true or false). I believe this because people will be more easily able to take these things seriously rather than simply ignore them because of their size.

    I also think you make a mistake when you tie this up with socialism. Environmental clean up and alternative energy development and the technologies they spur are a capitalists dream. This is why I am going to launch the web site I mentioned in my original post.

    One other thing, Tech might have had a boom and a relatively short bust (I would call it a correction), but in a period of a about a dozen years, it now pervades every aspect of the world economy and we have not even begun to see the end of its growth.

    Alternative energy is where Tech was in about 1992. Not only that, It will be driven by environmental and national security issues, legislation and economic factors, just the type of business any red blooded capitalist would want to be involved in.

  20. #18 from Mark Buehner at 5:27 pm on Nov 26, 2007

    Mark,

    When I read this I could not help but wonder why you would spend so much time allowing other people to shape your thoughts on this. Who cares about the fringe on either side of the debate?

  21. TOC – it’s interesting that I floated a bunch of policy prescriptions that – I think – align us, and that I even suggested that they would be valuable because I thought it was good to be “shifting spending from rents to petroleum owners to developing and buying technology and labor in our economy“…and we’re still arguing.

    I was taught a long time ago that “when they say ‘yes’, stop selling”…why is it that we’re still arguing, except that I won’t eat the wafer?

    A.L.

  22. bq. Think about it- the theory of global warming is tested via measuring temperature change correct? The Earth is warming, which is in line with the hypothesis that excess carbon dioxide is warming the earth. Fine. But, if the evidence from Mars shows another mechanism that must be accounted for, the theory that the CURRENT warming we are experiencing is CO2 induced must be reexamined, correct?

    Not really. It takes a real stretch of the imagination to think that Mars climate might be similar enough to Earth’s to warrant such a re-examination of global climatology on Earth.

    In other words, Mars is a terrible model for Earth climate, especially WRT CO2 (which comprises “95% of the Martian atmosphere.)”:http://www.solarviews.com/eng/mars.htm You’d think this should be fairly obvious to anyone who makes “a real good living building models”…I’m amazed that it even bears mention.

  23. _”Who cares about the fringe on either side of the debate?”_

    Thats exactly the point- this isnt the fringe. When CNN has a question on global warming they go to Al Gore or Greenpeace, not Bjorn Lomborg or Patrick Moore. Thats the popular perception, whatever the truth may be. The mainstream of the environmental movement, and particularly its leadership, is actively working to establish socialism whereever it can. I think its important to recoginize this.

  24. Alan- you are sounding quite ignorant on this. Mars climate varies in direct relation to the output of the sun. It has no ecosystems or techtonics to influence it. If Mars (and the other planets) are warming its because the suns output has increased. If the suns output has increased, this will affect the earth. I dont know why you are having so much trouble acknowledging this obvious fact.

    Now that DOESNT mean this has to account for the observed global warming (which SHOULD be your counterargument). Perhaps the Mars readings are wrong, perhaps the amount of the suns output is too low to account for our observed warming. But to argue that an increase in the suns radience has nothing to do with the earths climate AT ALL is ludicrious. It flies in the face of simple thermodynamics. Where is that energy going?

  25. Fine Mark, but do you give people so little credit that they will follow the fringes of either side of the debate. Do you take either CNN or FOX seriously?
    The great player n this game is not Al Gore, the climatologist or anyone else. It is a $12 Trillion Dollar Economy. From where I stand, The alternative energy/environmental cleanup “problem” is a win win situation in which everybody can feel they have advanced their agenda and it won’t be long until everybody realizes that. At that point the fringes on both sides will be marginalized.

    What I do not understand is why Republican candidates are not rushing all over the country with plans for tax credits and the like to spur research and investment. It seems to me they are missing a grand opportunity to exploit the issue.

  26. Alan – you’re kidding, right?

    So temps on Earth are rising by some sampled amount, and we’re projecting – because of models – that the likely cause is anthro CO2. We’re proposing to turn the world economy inside out to lower the CO2 emissions, thereby – according to the models – reducing the rate of increase in temps.

    But…other planets and celestial bodies in the SS are also showing rises in temps without the anthro CO2. So we’re left with the question of whether our warming is like theirs or is entirely different. It’s certainly possible that there are five or six completely different processes all leading to warming on five of six different bodies, but it kinda violates Occam’s Razor.

    It’s not enough to put a stake in anthro-based theories, by any means. But it’s enough that any honest observer ought to suggest that there is some uncertainty in the theory, and that uncertainty needs to get priced into what we propose as worthwhile policy alternatives.

    A.L.

  27. TOC, because Jane and Johnny Sixpack watch CNN around election time and then vote. If Al Gore ends up running for president and getting elected, all those ‘fringe’ ideas are now government policy. Like I said, they ARENT fringe, they are very mainstream, and they wont marginalize by themselves. What part of the history of humanity leads you to this conclusion? Shoddy ideas that become mainstream are the rule and not the exception. See Human History, moon worshipping through communism.

    I could very easily see a US government passing a Kyoto on steroids in the next 10 years.

  28. _TOC, because Jane and Johnny Sixpack watch CNN around election time and then vote._

    This is what the Democrats have always said when they lose. It is also what one would expect out of the mouth of an Ad Exec. You would have a hard time getting me on board with either.

    _If Al Gore ends up running for president and getting elected, all those ‘fringe’ ideas are now government policy. Like I said, they ARENT fringe, they are very mainstream, and they wont marginalize by themselves._

    If they are mainstream, then they should come to the fore, that is how our system of government works.

    _What part of the history of humanity leads you to this conclusion?_
    The experiment in American Democracy.

    _Shoddy ideas that become mainstream are the rule and not the exception._
    I think that is an opinion, one that I do not share.

    _See Human History, moon worshiping through communism. I could very easily see a US government passing a Kyoto on steroids in the next 10 years._

    I can see us signing an excellent accord that would be of economic benefit to most of the world. So what? All you have said here is that you are pessimistic and American people are lead around by their noses after they watch television. Why have election at all? Why not hand over power to people who “know better”

  29. #26 from Armed Liberal at 6:05 pm on Nov 26, 2007

    AL, I can’t help but find it ironic that in a post you title, *..And In ‘The World Is Ending’ Statistics News…*, you include a statement like

    *We’re proposing to turn the world economy inside out to lower the CO2 emissions,*

    Can you tell me where these proposals are and who with the power to do it is proposing it?

    *But…other planets and celestial bodies in the SS are also showing rises in temps without the anthro CO2. So we’re left with the question of whether our warming is like theirs or is entirely different. It’s certainly possible that there are five or six completely different processes all leading to warming on five of six different bodies, but it kinda violates Occam’s Razor.*

    Can you cite any models that solar activity (The basis for the heating on Mars and the outer planets, as I recall) and not Human CO2 emissions are the major cause of Global Warming, and by that I mean, not just a contributing factors?

    *It’s not enough to put a stake in anthro-based theories, by any means. But it’s enough that any honest observer ought to suggest that there is some uncertainty in the theory, and that uncertainty needs to get priced into what we propose as worthwhile policy alternatives.*

    Models are always uncertain and what makes you think that anything is not going to get priced into policy as we move forward?

  30. _”All you have said here is that you are pessimistic and American people are lead around by their noses after they watch television. Why have election at all? Why not hand over power to people who “know better””_

    You are misrepresenting me. The question you asked was why do I bother to engage that particular point of view instead of ignore it. Because if everyone who knew better ignored it we _would_ have a real problem. The American people arent stupid but they arent omniscient either.

    You seem to forget how dominent the left was in this nation politically for so many years. Until Reagan showed up, and Rush Limbaugh, and Fox and a bunch of other outlets that refused to let the other sides ideas be established as conventional wisdom. If something is repeated enough without challenge it becomes the truth, unfortunately. Ignoring a powerful political movement with gobs of money and endless bully pulpits is wreckless. You challenge and engage them, no matter how wacky you think they are.

  31. Apparently, warming on mars was predicted earlier, and is believed to be due to “wobbling” in mars (earth is believed to ‘wobble’ much less often). Haven’t heard that described in climate change papers often though… I’ll have to hit the original research again someday…

  32. _”Can you cite any models that solar activity (The basis for the heating on Mars and the outer planets, as I recall) and not Human CO2 emissions are the major cause of Global Warming, and by that I mean, not just a contributing factors?”_

    CONTRIBUTING FACTORS. Finally, a hint of rationality. Ok, so how much of a factor is it? And why wasnt it recognized by the models themselves? If its, say 5% of observed warming- the models should have been low by 5% and the modellers should have asked why. Ideally those scientists would themselves have predicted the solar warm up.

    But that didnt happen, and if you follow how these models work you will know why. They are tuned to get the answers they are looking for- that much should be obvious. If the earth is 1 degree warmer the model is reverse engineered to increase the earth 1 degree by the mechanism required. If it later turns out in fact the earth is only .8 degress warmer, the model is changed to get the required result. Theres nothing impressive about that. The only point of a model is the predict the future, and in that we have seen very little to point to.

  33. #21 from Armed Liberal at 5:46 pm on Nov 26, 2007

    The wafer I want you to eat is not the wafer your think. The wafer I want you to eat is tied to this viewpoint. The debate on global warming is over. Whether it should be or not is irrelevant. What the ending of the debate does is set in motion a scenario that will allow for the growth of a new industry that will be enormously beneficial globally in any number of ways.

    The turning of the world economy inside out has already started and it has been going on since well before Al Gore and the UN report. I was stunned by how widespread and advanced the industry is. There is Geothermal exploration and plans for Geothermal power plants world wide.

    Scotland is touting itself as the Saudi Arabia of tidal energy. China is making breakthroughs in wind power generation that has building size circular fans, like those on top a gas flue exhaust that because of a maglev system built into this massive generator that it can spin with so little friction that a three mile an hour wind can keep it generating.

    Expect Adelaide, Australia and Las Vegas to be getting the majority of it’s energy from Geothermal sources. Expect that GeoThermal and Hydro power, Riverine and tidal to be the big players in alternative electricity generation.

    Nuclear will be a big player, but I see Coal and Oil being phased out relatively rapidly, and not for “religious” reasons

    I have been in touch with a lot of these companies, large and small. It reminds me of the IT industry 10 or 12 years ago in which I was involved.

    The wafer I want you to eat is that things seem very positive out there. Human ingenuity has been released. Problems,like battery efficiency, for instance, are being solved. A lot of stuff will fall by the wayside,but the fall of Magellan, Excite, Infoseek, etc. were the price to be paid for the rise of Google. Sure, there is risk involved but, so what?

    These are really exciting times, enjoy it.

  34. #32 from Mark Buehner at 6:45 pm on Nov 26, 2007

    Mark, I know how spreadsheets work, I have been a trillionaire many times over on some of my personal economic models. I regret to say that none of them have panned out.

    Models are models. They have their flaws. I fully understand that the assumptions can be wrong. But you seem to me to be using this in the way creationists use any imperfection in the evolutionary model. Both models are incredibly complex, hey both will be wrong in places. As far as evolution is concerned, over the past 150 years, it has in general proved to be a very solid theory, not all of its suppositions were correct.

    These climate change models are in their relative infancy, but they are well researched by a broad base of experts. None of them have stated that the temperature would rise by a set amount but have given scenarios of what will happen if we experience different levels of warming. So, you how much of a factor is pretty much covered n the different scenarios.

  35. bq. It’s certainly possible that there are five or six completely different processes all leading to warming on five of six different bodies, but it kinda violates Occam’s Razor.

    To the contrary, Occam’s Razor, when wielded by someone with even a little bit of knowledge on planetary “climatology”, would suggest that each body could have it’s own specific and unique pattern. In the hands of the ignorant, it is nothing more than a cudgel used to push an agenda.

  36. “link”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/6290228.stm

    This news report is old — from july — but it looks plausible to me. You don’t have to assume that the sun’s output is increasing. That’s something that gets measured. It was increasing until 1980 or so and has declined since.

    However much of the rise in temperature before 1980 was due to increased output from the sun, that probably isn’t causing increases since then.

    “wikipedia link”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_variation

    This gives more than you want to know about these topics, with links. Solar output has been pretty much steady since 1980, across several sunspot cycles. Earth temperature has been rising.

    Lots of proxy measures that imply irradiance over long periods. Hard to be sure how to interpret them.

    “Here’s the clearest graph”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Temp-sunspot-co2.svg

    It’s always possible that something subtle in the sun is changing in ways that form a major cause for global warming, but at this point people who believe in it are doing cargo-cult science.

  37. Mark Buenher:

    _But that didnt happen, and if you follow how these models work you will know why. They are tuned to get the answers they are looking for- that much should be obvious. If the earth is 1 degree warmer the model is reverse engineered to increase the earth 1 degree by the mechanism required. If it later turns out in fact the earth is only .8 degress warmer, the model is changed to get the required result…._

    Do you want to cite any specific papers? If you have followed the papers there should be specific examples of data manipulation without scientific explanations.

    And yes, to a certain extent this probably does happen. Bu scientists PUBLISH the data, and debate what is wrong with their predictions. After that debate, new models are made that try to better analyze what happened. This isn’t just a “change the number to 0.5 instead of 0.1″ calculation… this an attempt to rectify climate models to understand what events have the greatest effects.

  38. _I’m not arguing that we need certainty. I’m suggesting that the people who advocate world-changing policies – which will, in the course of carrying them out, kill a lot of people who won’t get resources they otherwise would or should get – should be somewhat humble about the meaning and impact of the models._

    AL, that looks like a quite rational view to me.

    Now, how good are the models that predict how many third-world deaths will result from each proposed change? We need to get those models firmed up before we base policy on them, right?

  39. I hate to be trollish, but I can’t resisit here……

    “I’m not arguing that we need certainty. I’m suggesting that the people who advocate world-changing policies – which will, in the course of carrying them out, kill a lot of people who won’t get resources they otherwise would or should get – should be somewhat humble about the meaning and impact of the models.”

    Hmmmmmm……why wasn’t this sort of conservative thinking applied to the idea of invading Iraq? Why isn’t applied to the continued occupation? It seems applicable to me.

  40. I’ve always thought that the July 2001 Wired issue, where the main feature was “The Energy Web”:http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/9.07/juice.html?pg=1&topic=&topic_set=

    was the best template to follow, in regards to building this century’s power grid.

    _The best minds in electricity R&D have a plan: Every node in the power network of the future will be awake, responsive, adaptive, price-smart, eco-sensitive, real-time, flexible, humming – and interconnected with everything else._

    This requires investment though – it can’t happen without investment. And yes, a national initiative to make happen.

    Armed Liberal is suggesting a false dilemma. That those who wish to fix the global warming issue, are trying to throwback the economy, to some wished for earlier time (push back the industrial economy). Nothing could be further from the truth, and it’s a complete red herring. It’s a false dichotomy.

    Technology keeps improving, the process of “ephemeralization”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ephemeralization marches forward, and the future is green, clean, connected, and more space age gee whiz than we can even imagine today.

    TOC has this right. This type of investment is happening everywhere else, where forward-thinking countries are placing their investments, and creating the regulatory framework, that serves both a thriving capitalism, and a green future.

    Isn’t anyone else tired of the US, in general now, being behind the curve? Most things gets created in the US, and then improved and implemented more quickly, in other countries. I’m tired of the US being behind technologically, because of the equating of smart investment, with “interfering” in the marketplace.

    a. Internet – much better penetration, speed, and cost, in Europe, Japan, even South Korea.
    b. Cell phone companies
    c. Alternative energy – As TOC describes above, other countries are moving out WAY AHEAD of the U.S.

    This shouldn’t be happening. The vested corporate lobbyists, of either party, enforcing the status quo, is allowing other countries to get ahead. And it’s a legislative issue, whereby the “market leader” actually preventing progress.

  41. #39

    It’s anything but trollish to point out a logical inconsistency, as I did above in #14:

    bq. I don’t think you fully appreciate what you are saying when you claim that global warming models are flawed and therefore they should not be the basis for major costly public policy decisions (which, btw, coming from an Iraq war supporter, seem like an especially hollow argument).

  42. hypo – yeah, that was a great article, and I agree with almost all of it.

    Went and talked to my local city about putting a small windmill in our yard – got kind of laughed at. But we live on the shoulder of a hill, where we get constant winds of 15 – 20 mph. Perfect for a small windmill…

    …but we’re not set up for that to be a priority just yet. Soon…

    A.L.

  43. Yes, Alan, I see that you did already mention the inconsistency in general thinking patterns.

    Probably someone has also pointed out the irrelavance (other than emotionalism) of discussing errors in the AIDS epidemic prediction and then moving to a statement that global warming models are not satisfactory; as if, since the AIDS prediction is off base, then it follows that the global warming predictions are off as well.

    I’m not sure what AL is getting at in this post. Since models aren’t perfect we shouldn’t use them? What then? Chicken entrails?

    I share with AL reservations concerning global warming, anthropomorphic contribution to it and policy development. However, I think the post was a poor attempt at outlining why one might (or should) hold such reservations.

    If one wishes to discuss global warming models then one should discuss global warming models; not AIDS models. Why not bring out the latest appropriate science on global warming for examination? There is certainly no lack of it.

    As Hypo points out, if models are not to be trusted, then is it not equally as possible that global warming will be worse than predicted as it is possible that it be less intense than predicted? Might not any man made contributions be worse than modeled? AL doesn’t even consider these possibilities. He merely assumes overstatement and inappropriately tries to direct perceptions to this conclusion by coupling with the AIDS story.

  44. Actually, I’ll make a claim that there is no inconsistency. I’ll suggest instead that both the AIDS epidemic and global warming share features with the foreign policy decision about what to do about Iraq in 2003; all three are “wicked problems”:http://www.google.com/cse?cx=005189183954745003745:bg0_5q-nxvq&cof=FORID:0&q=%22wicked+problems%22&sa=Search
    and to suggest that any of them can be modeled in any kind of dispositive fashion is simply delusional.

    Models can and do inform our arguments, but to suggest that we should make decisions based solely on quantitative models – given the level of ‘precision by division’ that those models contain – is simply another form of political rhetoric. Having said that, models have a lot of use as tools in discourse about what to do about wicked problems. But to suggest that we can quantify any of those problems and thereby arrive at a solution is a very 19th century conceit.

    Avedis, I’m sure you’re familiar with the concept of ‘argument by example'; it’s certainly not dispositive, but there is some power in suggesting – for example – that if invading Iraq didn’t have the outcomes that were offered before the invasion, that invading Iran might not either.

    And to suggest that the models used to predict the number of AIDS cases were flawed is simply to suggest that complex models are often flawed, and that regardless of the ‘moral purity’ of the cause they argue for (see JT #11) it’s worth treating them and the cases they make with some measure of humility.

    And it’s amusing to me that the proponents of an anthro global warming catastrophe simply can assert “the issue is closed” and then assert that they have won the argument.

    It’s even more amusing to see the commenters refuse to simply accept common policy – without the core belief – and move on from there to action. That bodes ill for the movement, I’d say, because the path to victory is in building coalitions of people who accept your policy prescriptions for a variety of reasons. The left, and the Netroots faction of the Democratic Party (as well as some factions of the Republican Party that I just don’t care about) seem incapable of that.

    A.L.

  45. _to suggest that the models used to predict the number of AIDS cases were flawed is simply to suggest that complex models are often flawed,_

    Isn’t it early to decide that the AIDS model was flawed? They didn’t have real good data. They got better data and now it looks like the catastrophe is happening slower than expected. Is that because of the actions taken in response to the model? The data isn’t good enough to tell. It’s perverse to judge models as inaccurate when the models themselves affect what they are modeling.

    _And it’s amusing to me that the proponents of an anthro global warming catastrophe simply can assert “the issue is closed” and then assert that they have won the argument._

    There’s a question of what the argument is. Dyson suggested models that proceed from first principles, but it’s very hard to make predictive models that way — lots and lots of interactive terms, and each of them needs to be estimated accurately. But it’s easy to make a start at that, as follows:

    Atmospheric CO2 has gone up 15% since 1980, on top of a previous 5% increase between 1850 and 1980. This is unprecedented. The CO2 buildup is clearly caused by humans burning fossil fuels.

    Other things equal it would be predictable that this large increase would cause global temperatures to rise. And such a rise has been recorded. However, other things are not equal. It’s a complex system and it may respond unpredictably to a 20% rise in CO2. (And of course that rise is not stopping or slowing down.) It’s predictable that climate changes should result. It’s not very predictable which climate changes to expect or when to expect them.

    If we knew just what to expect, we might think it was a good thing. There are precedents. For example, kentucky was once covered with cane swamps; much of the state was a buggy impenetrable bog. We destroyed that ecosystem, and by sheer luck we got kentucky bluegrass in its place. Maybe the new climate changes will be a good thing. But our models aren’t good enough to predict.

    Guessing that we can continue to add large amounts of carbon to the ecosystem and have no effect is ridiculous. We’re adding lots of carbon that’s been sequestered since the dinosaurs. No effect? Very very unlikely.

    It’s only common sense, when you have a wicked problem and you don’t at all know what to expect, and it could potentially kill billions of people, try to go slow. We’re pretty adaptable, we can find ways to use whatever we get. But that’s way easier when it’s slow gradual changes than when it’s big unexpected changes. We can’t stop the AIDS wicked problem, it’s spread. We can’t stop the iraq wicked problem, we’re already wrestling with that tar baby. The slower we add new CO2 to the atmosphere the more time we have to deal with the consequences.

    Arguing that there’s no reason to expect problems unless the guys who expect problems can provide models that say exactly what problems to expect, is absurd.

    Imagine that you had evidence that as nuke has been smuggled into NYC and it was recently in transit in a white van. And you call DHS to report it, and they say “Unless you can tell us the licence plate number of the vehicle the nuke is in right now, and give us the fingerprints of the driver, we will assume there is no nuke.” What would you think about their competence?

    Saying “I think there isn’t going to be any climate change because you can’t prove exactly what the change will be” is like that.

    _It’s even more amusing to see the commenters refuse to simply accept common policy – without the core belief – and move on from there to action._

    You’re talking about bloggers, right? These are people who enjoy arguing about every little disagreement. I swear, if you had a bunch of bloggers who all agreed that OBL deserves summary execution, and they were having a convention and they *found* bin Ladin on their patio, they’d argue at length whether to hang him or shoot him. And if they finally agreed to shoot him then they’d argue at length whether to shoot him in the head or the heart. These guys are not people who move on to action. They move on to another argument.

    When it gets to Congress, those are guys who’re good at building coalitions. They just haven’t cracked the GOP coalition in the Senate, that’s all. The GOP is now an opposition party that opposes everything, and they’re strong enough to oppose effectively. I don’t know who the public will blame in 2008 for that. I kind of hope we get a bunch of libertarians elected. We need a party for small government, and the GOP isn’t it.

  46. JT – thoughtful reply. But I’m not saying “there is no climate change” nor that “we should do nothing about climate change”. I’m simply pushing back against people who suggest that there is no problem more pressing than climate change, and that everything else should be off the table until we resolve it (see my arguments vis Jim Rockford and “nukes in an American city”).

    It’s one of many problems, and we need to work on all of them.

    Finding things to do that solve more than one is a good thing to do, and finding things to do that don;t involve massive disruption and solve one or more is even better.

    A.L.

  47. To me, the real issue is that we have certain solutions to the global warming problem that are available, and we are not using them.

    What? Windmills off Cape Cod? How could you oppose them, they’re there to stop global warming, don’t you know that all of Bangladesh will be underwater in ten years? They’re there to save the world, who cares about your view?

    Not for the new nuclear plant? Well, how are you going to get your electricity? From setting FIRE to something? How horrible! You’re destroying the world, not even mentioning all that awful crap that the coal plants put out!

    Yet we don’t seem to be getting new nuclear plants, and those windmills sure didn’t go up, did they?

    If we were talking a serious ecological emergency, these solutions would not be off the table, they would be on the ground. By concentrating solely on those functions that… er… don’t actually work, though, supporters of global warming have reduced the solution set to “reduce industry” (or “reduce consumption, so long as it’s not mine” or “I’ll pay someone else to reduce their consumption to make up for it”). This solution is, of course, doomed in the long run; China and India aren’t going to go for it, because for them, the global warming nightmare scenario is BETTER than not industrializing.

    As far as the models go, I mean… we’re talking about models that don’t actually model. Weather and climate are somewhat interlinked, hey? Maybe? But the climate models don’t model weather, clouds, albedo change, water vapor, or anything like that? Well, why not? (Because it’s damned hard! Gotta give the modelers credit.) It’s like trying to model a car without actually knowing how an engine works. Even if you came up with the right answer, you’d only have it by chance…

  48. #45 from J Thomas at 5:52 am on Nov 27, 2007

    Great post. I especially agree about how the Republicans are shooting themselves in the foot on this issue. I think it will be remembered as an historical policy blunder, made more acute by the fact that it strangles off an engine for economic growth.

  49. “And it’s amusing to me that the proponents of an anthro global warming catastrophe simply can assert “the issue is closed” and then assert that they have won the argument.

    It’s even more amusing to see the commenters refuse to simply accept common policy – without the core belief – and move on from there to action. That bodes ill for the movement, I’d say, because the path to victory is in building coalitions of people who accept your policy prescriptions for a variety of reasons. The left, and the Netroots faction of the Democratic Party (as well as some factions of the Republican Party that I just don’t care about) seem incapable of that.”

    A.L.

    I couldn’t agree more; especially with the first paragraph.

  50. _I’m not saying “there is no climate change” nor that “we should do nothing about climate change”. I’m simply pushing back against people who suggest that there is no problem more pressing than climate change_

    “Pushback” keeps looking like denial to me. But let’s look at the details.

    It used to be, the deniers argued that we weren’t seeing any climate change so it was all theoretical.

    We’re seeing changes that are bigger than we’ve seen before. The antarctic ice sheets lasted a real long time. And the arctic ocean used to freeze over reliably. We’re seeing things that haven’t happened before since we started keeping records. Some of them haven’t happened for a measurably much longer time. It no longer makes sense to say we aren’t seeing climate change.

    So the next fallback position is that it isn’t because of anything we do, that it’s because of natural things that have nothing to do with us. The implication isn’t only that it isn’t our fault and there’s nothing we can do about it, but also that it’s likely to settle down and go back to normal. After all, this sort of thing doesn’t happen very often in the geological record, so probably the entirely natural processes that caused it will settle back to normal soon. Nothing to see here, move along.

    This is barely defensible. If climate change does have nothing to do with us, then we have the choice of doing nothing and accepting it, versus we can try whatever we want to alter things. But if it’s what we’re doing that causes it, then the safest approach is to do that stuff less. We don’t want to do palliative actions that are likely to make other things worse, although we might need to do some of that. So maybe it actually makes a difference why the changes are happening.

    bq. I’m not 100% on board on the anthropogenic factors as the major driver of global warming – given the presence of warming on, for instance, Mars;

    See, this is a red herring. The difference isn’t a difference in sunlight — that hasn’t been increaseing since 1980 which is when we’ve been seeing the big changes. It’s plausible that changes in sunlight might have made a big part of the climate change before 1980 — when the changes were small — but not since. So why does this talking point get so much traction? Because the deniers find it useful so they parrot it. You are among them.

    bq. The impacts of the actions drastic enough to avert the kind of warming impacts we’re talking about are ill-thought-out and likely to be as bad – or worse – than the impacts of any plausible warming, given the very real uncertainty in the models and methodologies being used;

    Then make detailed counterprosals. Push for the ones that make the biggest difference for the smallest cost. Make models to show that the drastic actions aren’t the best ones, and put together a coalition to do sensible things instead. Remember, the models aren’t good enough to be sure that your reasonable alternatives won’t do a whole lot of good.

    But where do you suggest your reasonable alternatives? Down in the comments after people challenge you on it. You mention thema nd go on. Mostly you’re pushing back against the people who want to do something, in favor of the deniers. So it looks like you aren’t really a denier, you just act like one in public.

    bq. I have an innate discomfort when people who hold certain core values – say the perils and problems of industrial civilization – suddenly discover yet another reason why it needs to be curtailed and argue that this one claim trumps everything.

    So let them into your alliance when they support your compromise proposals, and let in whatever deniers who support your compromise, and argue against their specific proposals that look unworkable. But you aren’t doing that. In a game where there are two dominant irrational sides and a small core of people actually trying to solve the problems, you speak out against one of the sides and not the other. And you don’t much push the solutions. In the propaganda war that puts you on the denial side. At the moment. I like it better when you push good alternatives than when you take sides in the polemics.

  51. _Not for the new nuclear plant? Well, how are you going to get your electricity? From setting FIRE to something? How horrible! You’re destroying the world, not even mentioning all that awful crap that the coal plants put out!_

    This is a good example. Why aren’t we getting new nuclear power plants? Could it be that our power companies don’t want to pay for them? They aren’t ready to lobby hard enough to get them approved? Maybe they don’t think it fits their business model? Maybe they’re still paying off the old nuclear plants that didn’t work out very well?

    I’m not a big expert on nuclear power but it looks to me like breeder reactors are the only really economic approach. You sure wouldn’t want to pay for something else when you could have those. But the US government opposes them because of nonproliferation. We push expensive white-elephant alternatives because we don’t want foreign countries to make that much plutonium, that cheaply. So whose fault is it?

    This Avatar guy could be proposing a specific nuclear approach, pointing out how cheap it would be to build, use, and decommission. He could propose solutions to the problem of terrorist attack and the nonproliferation issues. He could look at ways to split the no-nuke coalition and get some of them on board for his specific policy. But he doesn’t do that. All he does is say his political opponents who want to do something about climate change are stupid. He isn’t one of the people who wants to do anything about climate change.

    How does that line go? “Lead, follow, or get out of the way”? He isn’t actually suggesting a better plan, he’s just opposing what he sees as the only plan. He’s trying to get in the way.

    No offense to you, Avatar, I think you’re doing a basicly competent job of denial, and I’m just using you as an exmaple of how it’s done. This would only be a personal attack if we agreed that denialism is a bad thing.

  52. _”If we were talking a serious ecological emergency, these solutions would not be off the table, they would be on the ground. By concentrating solely on those functions that… er… don’t actually work, though, supporters of global warming have reduced the solution set to “reduce industry” (or “reduce consumption, so long as it’s not mine” or “I’ll pay someone else to reduce their consumption to make up for it”). “_

    This is dead spot on. I will start taking AGW seriously when its most vocal activists start acting like it is a real threat instead of talking about it. You can’t on the one hand claim that the survival of civilization is at stake, and then claim nuclear power is too messy. Its incoherent.

    As far as the economic viability of nuclear energy, there is no question they are viable. JT seems to argue that because power companies arent beating their heads against the Federal brick wall and pouring enough campaign black holes they obviously cant make any money. The truth is there “is”:http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8143079/ a strong movement to build more plants, but the amount and cost of red tape to even try is daunting and if you constantly have to worry that the next president and congress will suddenly decide to shut you down 4 years into building your plant its indeed not a great bet.

    The capital costs of nuclear plants are undoubtedly high, but the red tape and regulation _intentionally_ designed to deter building nuclear plants is a big piece of that puzzle. Yet France doesnt seem to have a problem making it work.

  53. Wow, Mark! You did that with no hint of irony at all.

    Everybody notice that this argument is precisely homologous to the one that goes “If these war supporters really cared about the war they’d volunteer to fight in iraq” which has been banned on this blog.

    It’s _exactly the same argument_, *exactly the same*, except it’s directed at a different strawman.

    If these global warming activists really cared about climate change they’d volunteer to have nuclear plants in their backyards.

    You have a point about the french power plants. They’re doing full reprocessing of their fuel, which cuts down a lot on their disposal problem. And their newer plants use MOX. They’re shutting down their breeder reactors for political reasons and the new plants are breeder reactors in all but name.

  54. JT – nice try, but not quite. If pro-war advocates were shutting down recruiting stations, or advocating against steps to enlarge the army, the analogy would hold.

    No one is asking Ted Kennedy to put a windmill in his back yard (although I’d love to); we’re asking him not to block someone else from putting a windmill off his beach.

    Try that again?

    A.L.

  55. I am not a big fan of the the red tape that surrounds Nuclear plants. But, the fact of the matter is that presently it is a cost of doing business. Politically, for the Republicans to embrace the Nuclear option, at this point, is political suicide, plain and simple.

    *This is dead spot on. I will start taking AGW seriously when its most vocal activists start acting like it is a real threat instead of talking about it.*

    Having this as a political position would be akin to a candidate saying he or she would hold their breaths until they were blue in the face before they would do anything. I don’t think it is a winner. Not only that, it is just another example of having someone else form one’s opinions.

    The Democrats have been running on the “Vote For Me Because I Am Not Him” platform since 1994 and, until the 2006 election, getting their clocks cleaned.

  56. _”It’s exactly the same argument, exactly the same, except it’s directed at a different strawman.”_

    No, its really not. I’m not asking the advocates to go work in a nuclear plant. Im asking them to stop opposing their being built. The analogy would be if a war supporter was trying to prevent military spending. Hence the incoherence.

  57. No, it’s the same argument. “If you believed in global warming you’d do more about it than you’re doing. So you don’t really believe it.”

    “If you believed in the war you’d do something about it personally, more than just argue on blogs.”

    You want to argue these are different? You want to find little differences in detail and say they aren’t exactly the same thing because there are little differences in detail? Nitpick much?

    And you might not remember but prowar advocates *did* used to advocate against recruiting more soldiers. Back when Bush said we had all the soldiers we needed and he’d send more if the commanders asked for more, a lot of pro war advocates said we didn’t need more soldiers at all, that sending more soldiers to iraq would just give the insurgents more targets. And recruiting more soldiers would just cost more money and lower quality. You probably don’t remember those days. It seems like a long time ago.

  58. I sort of agree with J Thomas (#51, not #53). The cost of coal versus nuclear energy are so close in the U.S. that it doesn’t make a lot of sense to build a new nuclear power plant versus expand or modify an existing coal unit. “(World Nuclear Association)”:http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf02.html If we want to change that dynamic then the government either needs to tax coal (or carbon) or subsidize nuclear.

    We have been subsidzing nuclear energy over the last several years with promises of tax credits, loan guarantees, sharing costs of regulatory compliance, liability protection, etc. Is it enough? Doesn’t seem like it to me. It seems like just enough to put a few new nuclear plants on line just in time for old plants to be decomissioned. It might be because we are also subsidizing coal and other domestic energy sources, including coal-gasification projects.

    My preference would be to tax carbon and let whatever energy source that can compete prevail. That might very likely be nuclear energy, but it could be some combination of wind and solar with battery innovations.

  59. _”Having this as a political position would be akin to a candidate saying he or she would hold their breaths until they were blue in the face before they would do anything. I don’t think it is a winner. Not only that, it is just another example of having someone else form one’s opinions.”_

    I didnt say it was a political position. Its something being pointed out. Hypocrisy has a long a valid history in the politics of ‘trust me I know whats best for you’. If you are going to hold up the standard for a cause, you have to walk the walk. Just like the family values candidate who is having an affair with his secretary. For anyone else its just trivia- for that particular person its germaine.

    You can argue that engaging the other side is letting other form your opinions all you want. But sitting home twiddling your thumbs or spouting off your own beliefs in a vacuum and complaining that nobody listens to you doesnt make a whit of difference in the real world. TOC have you considered running on the Big L Libertarian ticket? Seems right up your alley.

  60. _You can argue that engaging the other side is letting other form your opinions all you want._

    Mark, it sounds like you’re asserting that climate change will not be a big problem. Since the people who think it will are the “other side”.

    Is that right? Are you really a denier?

  61. PD Shaw, the problem I have with coal is that it is immensely dirty. When you burn coal, millions of contaminants get blown into the air including microparticles of arsenic, iron, lead, mercury, tin, silver (etc). Is oil coal cheaper in the short run? Sure.

    But the lung damage more than makes up the economic benefits.

    [NM: changed typo at commenter request]

  62. _”Mark, it sounds like you’re asserting that climate change will not be a big problem. Since the people who think it will are the “other side”.”_

    _”Is that right? Are you really a denier?”_

    I refuse to be draw into a conversation about this with language that intentionally alludes to the holocaust. Its juvenile and beneath you.

    What I believe is that there is little evidence that climate change is an acute threat that will require devoting the amount of resources to it the advocates demand. I further believe that potentially wasting those resources will hamstring us economically in such a way as to be less able to address either climate disasters in the future- or other equally plausible disasters such as impact with comets/asteroids, supervolcanos, etc, which grow to _high_ probabilities over the timeframe we are talking about (and anyone talking about global climate disasters over the next few decades is well outside the science, ahem Mr Gore).

    Climate change _may_ be a big problem over the coming centuries. I believe that in the long run concentrating on expanding our wealth and technology creation while investing in wise eco-friendly technologies as they become available and viable will do more to address the problems than stunting our growth for largely symbolic (idealogical actually) feel goods.

  63. Very interesting debate on climate change!

    Re #61 from Alchemist: Do you really mean to use “oil” in the sentence, _”Is oil cheaper in the short run?”_

    It appears that “coal” would make more sense from your prior sentences.

  64. This Avatar guy subtitles Japanese animation for a living. The amount he can do directly to build nuclear power plants is strictly limited. Rest assured, if they wanted volunteer labor or subtitled training videos, I’d be helping on that front. ;p

    As far as coalition-splitting, who says that’s not what I’m up to? I’ve found that lots of people who are worried about global warming haven’t really thought much about it, not unlike most issues; even if we all agree that it’s good to be informed and to analyze the issues closely, you must concede that it’s hardly NORMAL.

    An awful lot of people are kind of uneasy about nuclear power, not because they have specific, coherent objections, but because their total knowledge on the subject is limited to horror stories from their childhood and twenty-year-old memories of Chernobyl reporting. Sit them down and talk to them about modern plant designs and safe waste storage, explain the inverse relationship between half-life and how dangerous nuclear material is, get into the science a little, and generally they come around to “gee, well, I guess we ought to be doing more of that, huh?” Explain that it’s a zero-carbon-emission energy generation system and they’ll say “that sounds pretty good, how come we’re not doing more of that?”

    This is a slow process and requires a fairly patient explainer and a subject who’s at least a little bit interested in the topic – you can’t cram it into a thirty-second commercial. And, to put it bluntly, I ain’t doing it for global warming – that’s just a nifty feature bonus to the “don’t set fire to petrochemicals to get your energy” argument.

    All that said, what the heck? I use an ironic statement to comment on the same kind of behavior that we’ve been sniping about for ages – all one with the “let’s fly dozens of jets to an international conference so that we can come to an agreement that people shouldn’t fly on jets if they don’t need to,” I should point out – and suddenly my argument is deficient because I don’t include a comprehensive solution to the global warming situation in with my snark? Puhleeze.

    Are you really interested in my proposed solution? Here it is – keep going full blast. Look at it from this perspective… we have absolutely no way to conserve our way out of this, given just short of two billion people in rapidly-industrializing countries like China or India. Assuming that we’re not prepared to kill most of those people off, or conquer the nations and subject them to continued lives of subsistence farming, we’re going to have to figure out how to deal with the added carbon from them.

    This is going to require a technological solution. NO amount of conservation on our part will do the trick. So it’s important to come up with those technological solutions… which means it’s important to keep the rest of our economy up and running, so that we can afford to fund that development.

    So yes, there’s room for some government spending here. Hell yes, subsidize the reactors, cut the red tape with a machete, go into the reactor business directly, I don’t care. Convert a significant amount of US power generation to nuclear. Open that hole in Nevada for the waste already. Build out the heavy-lift rocket capacity we’ll need for space-based solar. Throw some money at the fusion problem. Throw more at the battery problem. All of these things make a million times more sense, from a global warming perspective, than to pay farmers to grow corn so that we can ferment the corn, distill the ethanol, and then set fire to it to drive a car, yeesh.

    And if it turns out global warming wasn’t a problem after all, none of the things we’ve done are bad things to have done; we haven’t ruined anyone’s livelihood for nothing.

    There you have it. It might not work – no solution relying on future technological solutions is guaranteed to work. It doesn’t demand a whole lot of me – basically, my job in this plan is to keep the Luddites off the people doing the actual work long enough for them to get it done, and make us all safer, happier, and hopefully filthy rich in the process. I’m good for that much. ;p

  65. _I refuse to be draw into a conversation about this with language that intentionally alludes to the holocaust._

    I didn’t think of that! I can sort of see the connection you’d make now that you point it out. There’s denying climate change and then there’s denying the holocaust. I don’t think about holocaust denial unless somebody brings it up.

    Can you think of a better term for climate-change deniers? My first thought is “climate feel-gooder” which just doesn’t sound as good.

  66. Come on JT, the only context i’ve ever heard the term ‘denier’ in is the holocaust and when you tack it on to something else its intentionally meant the invoke that sense of malice. Not just wanton stupidiy, but actual malice. Its beyond the pale.

    Whats wrong with the word skeptic anyway?

  67. _An awful lot of people are kind of uneasy about nuclear power, not because they have specific, coherent objections, but because their total knowledge on the subject is limited to horror stories from their childhood and twenty-year-old memories of Chernobyl reporting. Sit them down and talk to them about modern plant designs and safe waste storage, explain the inverse relationship between half-life and how dangerous nuclear material is,_

    So, do you understand the relationship between half-life and how dangerous nuclear material is?

    _And, to put it bluntly, I ain’t doing it for global warming – that’s just a nifty feature bonus to the “don’t set fire to petrochemicals to get your energy” argument._

    I agree with you about this part. We need to do something better than set fire to our petrochemicals. I figure nuclear power would be very good for us if we do it well and very bad for us if we do it badly, so the issue isn’t whether or not to have the Bush administration rush ahead as fast as possible. Bush appears to believe that governments consistently do things badly and he’s presenting us with a proof by example.

    _All that said, what the heck? I use an ironic statement to comment on the same kind of behavior that we’ve been sniping about for ages – …. – and suddenly my argument is deficient_

    You weren’t making an argument about the issues. You were making an argument why the people you disagree with are unworthy to discuss the issues and should be ignored.

    I prefer to discuss the issues, but I’m not above pointing out when we get away from that.

    _Are you really interested in my proposed solution? Here it is – keep going full blast._

    I find that tempting. Americans use twice the energy as europeans and it isn’t clear we live that much better. But I’m not sure what the government should do about it. If we got persuaded to use considerably less it would help the world some but there are more than 3 times as many chinese ready to use more. So if americans choose to adopt improved low-energy styles that looks like a good thing but not a giant moral issue. My wife wants the thermostat set for 65 degrees all summer. I point to $250 electric bills and she says it’s worth it. I’m not very good at convincing _her_. Then she wants the thermostat at 65 degrees all winter. She says, “If you’d just move to canada like I tell you to we wouldn’t have anything to argue about.”

    Our technology improves mostly independent of sales. We find out how to do things and that gives us leads to find out more things. The science and technology improve as fast as we can make prototypes, and that happens as long as we pay for prototypes. Maybe everybody would be better off if we didn’t buy as much cheap plastic junk from china, but again I’m not sure what the government should do about it.

    I’m not sure we should cut the reactor red tape with a machete. Those things are real expensive and we can make giant mistakes with them. Some of the red tape might be reducing mistakes. Go carefully when cutting it. But maybe we need more pilot plants. Cut the red tape on small cheap reactors that we can use to test concepts etc, and then have somewhat-reduced supervision on scale-ups.

    _All of these things make a million times more sense, from a global warming perspective, than to pay farmers to grow corn so that we can ferment the corn, distill the ethanol, and then set fire to it to drive a car, yeesh._

    I agree 100%. Traditionally farmers have put more energy into growing corn than they get out of it. Including subsidised fuel. This program could possibly make sense in terms of reducing dependence on foreign oil — possibly — but to me it mostly looks like a giant waste.

    I have the sense that you and I often agree on the individual issues.

    _my job in this plan is to keep the Luddites off the people doing the actual work_

    Hey, that’s my job too! The Luddites who’re doing climate-change denial are the ones I notice trying to bother the people doing the work, while you notice the luddites who have ultra-doctrinaire opinions about what to do about climate change. We’re working on different parts of the problem.

  68. _Whats wrong with the word skeptic anyway?_

    If we say “climate change skeptic” it will eventually tend to give the sense of “irresponsible crackpot” to the word skeptic which doesn’t need that baggage. At this point climate-change feel-gooders are not skeptics, they’re irresponsible crackpots and we shouldn’t sully the word that way.

  69. alchemist: _Is coal cheaper in the short run? Sure. But the lung damage more than makes up the economic benefits._

    Sure there are external costs to coal, as well as nuclear energy. The report from the “World Nuclear Associaton”:http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf02.html highlights studies showing that the *actual* health and environmental effects of coal are ten times greater than nuclear (which is all about potential risks).

    But my main point was in the first sentence from the report

    bq. The relative costs of generating electricity from coal, gas and nuclear plants vary considerably depending on location. Coal is, and will probably remain, economically attractive in countries such as China, the USA and Australia with abundant and accessible domestic coal resources *as long as carbon emissions are cost-free.*

    It seems to me that an environmentalist advocating a carbon tax is promoting nuclear energy whether they say so or not.

  70. _”I figure nuclear power would be very good for us if we do it well and very bad for us if we do it badly, so the issue isn’t whether or not to have the Bush administration rush ahead as fast as possible.”_

    RUSH AHEAD? The technology is 50+ years old! More people die in a year mining coal than have ever been killed in the nuclear industry. And who says anything about the Bush administration? All they have to do is somehow cajole the Congress into cutting the red tape making it virtually impossible and prohibitively expensive to build. The lights i’m sitting under as we speak are nuclear powered.

    _”If we say “climate change skeptic” it will eventually tend to give the sense of “irresponsible crackpot” to the word skeptic which doesn’t need that baggage.”_

    Ah. So much the better to equate them with neonazis. Regardless you are setting up a strawman. By your apparent definition of ‘denier’ as anyone who doesnt believe man made global warming is an immenent likelihood to cause massive destruction is ‘denied’ by most of the scientific community- starting with the IPCC. Mighty wide net to cast as crackpots.

  71. _The technology is 50+ years old!_

    Do you want 50-year-old technology or do you want modern power plants? If you want modern plants it takes a lot of design work, and the public has a right to some reassurance that it won’t include stupid mistakes. Giant investment in technology that has to be done right, that isn’t at all routine.

    Maybe we could slash the paperwork for french firms that routinely build french powerplants, provided they don’t do anything new.

    _And who says anything about the Bush administration? All they have to do is somehow cajole the Congress into cutting the red tape making it virtually impossible and prohibitively expensive to build._

    The Bush administration cut the red tape about housing loans. And they cut the red tape about accounting for public companies. And they cut the red tape about SEC oversight of stock markets. They cut the red tape about environmental impact.

    After a long series of examples of Bush administration reducing oversight followed by fraud and bad results, the last thing we need is unsupervised nukes.

  72. With due respect, JT, if ‘irresponsible crackpot’ includes Freeman Dyson, Richard Lindzen, etc. I’ll be happy to stand on that side of the fence as opposed to Al Gore’s or yours.

    The problem is that people keep wanting to make debate illegitimate, and just accept received truth. Go right ahead if that what makes you feel better, but can you confine it to Saturday or Sunday mornings??

    A.L.

  73. _It seems to me that an environmentalist advocating a carbon tax is promoting nuclear energy whether they say so or not._

    Yes. I advocate a carbon tax on oil, imported and domestic, even if that promotes both coal and nuclear power. We have multiple reasons to use less imported oil, and many of those same reasons should encourage us not to burn our own oil fast.

    A carbon tax on coal would be good, but if it slowed the one on oil I wouldn’t wait for it.

    I think it’s important to get it completely straight that the entire tax revenue will be distributed equally to voters, or to registered voters, or to citizens, or to legal residents. Administering the tax should cost the government money, not bring in revenue. If we get legislators thinking of a carbon tax like a sin tax to raise revenue with, we’re in trouble.

  74. JT what are you going to do with yourself next year when you dont have Bush as your scapegoat for not doing things anymore? You’ve made it clear that you really only believe government or military sources that happen to agree with you, will that stand in Guilianni or Clinton administration? I’m just curious, I like to get a jump on the goalline movements when I can.

  75. _With due respect, JT, if ‘irresponsible crackpot’ includes Freeman Dyson, Richard Lindzen, etc. I’ll be happy to stand on that side of the fence as opposed to Al Gore’s or yours._

    It does not include “Dyson.”:http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/dysonf07/dysonf07_index.html

    Dyson is trying to be a heretic, to put his own individualistic stamp on the situation. He says that atmospheric CO2 is increasing at 1% per year. He says this has big effects on the world, but those effects are not very predictable given current knowledge. So the people who say they know exactly what will happen are wrong. (But I haven’t met any of these people who say they have models that will reliably predict future climate.)

    He suggests methods we might use to stabilise CO2 concentrations — for example, if we did farming on half the land area of the earth and we did it in ways that quickly increased the amount of topsoil (like no plowing, ever, and we’d develop a lot of ways we don’t know about yet) then maybe we could absorb the extra CO2. (He could be right, I haven’t checked his numbers. It doesn’t look plausible.)

    Also he describes a way we might get methane out of the earth’s mantle without biology. Basicly carbonate rocks that get subducted, given just the right temperatures and pressures, might create methane and oxygen. And if the methane and oxygen leak out at just the right speed they might not get converted back into carbonate and water. Neat idea! I hadn’t seen a rationale for that before. It might work sometimes, when conditions are just right.

    As a heretic, Dyson is proposing that the generally-accepted ideas might possibly be wrong in some details. He does not actually have any evidence that they are wrong in any detail. He’s saying that they can’t predict what will happen and neither can anybody else. He suggests for example that possibly we could have drastic climate change and like the result better than what we have now.

    I like Dyson too but he is not being responsible in this case. He is not disagreeing with the literature, he’s only saying that it isn’t very predictive. Or perhaps he’s irresponsibly saying (with no evidence) that he can predict that there is no important problem here.

    I find it harder to tell about “Lindzen.”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Lindzen#Views_on_health_risks_of_passive_smoking

    He certainly looks like a crackpot, but when I look at what he says in detail it looks more reasonable. He says that we can’t be sure how much of the climate change is due to human-produced CO2 and we can’t predict what will happen. He says that the very unusual events of the last 25 years don’t give us a good prediction about the future, that things could get much warmer or much cooler or whatever.

    That is, he agrees with me.

    But he’s made sensationalist public claims against “global warming” while being paid by OPEC etc. Very strange man.

  76. _You’ve made it clear that you really only believe government or military sources that happen to agree with you, will that stand in Guilianni or Clinton administration?_

    I dunno. How much will they try to promote honesty in government? It’s plausible they won’t. I didn’t notice Bill Clinton being great at that, though it didn’t look as cynically universal in those days.

    And there are competence issues. I don’t know how long it would take to get government agencies staffed, assuming it’s a priority.

    I don’t know what to expect yet, but it doesn’t look good. In general I figure it’s better to believe physics and chemistry and systemantics than to believe politicians. When they say something that’s real implausible, then I doubt it until I learn more. That’s worked well for me over the last 7 years.

  77. JT, I don’t really get what your problem is here.

    We seem to have a lot of the same policy prescriptions. We’re both interested in expanding the government’s role in research for non-carbon-emitting energy sources. We both believe that nuclear power should provide a larger share of the US’s energy generation. We’d both be deliriously happy if some scientist came up with an invention next week that was the adult-stem-cell discovery for global warming – the technological out to a wicked problem.

    But, and I mean this politely, I’m a “denier” because I have a superior understanding of what represents the state of the art in advanced computer modeling of chaotic systems?

    Seriously, the “computer model of how a car works” analogy is pretty instructive here. If you attempted to model how a car worked based only on velocity and exhaust, but didn’t have a working understanding of the engine, the differential, the underlying aerodynamics and traction problems, etc… Sure, you could measure the velocity and the exhaust and make some generalizations, and come up with a model to explain the relationship between velocity and exhaust, and doubtless you’d find several correlations of high significance.

    But that model would be useless to predict the car’s behavior in the future, specifically because you still don’t understand how it works. You could draw a direct line between emissions and velocity, based on your data, but that’s not how a transmission works.

    To go outside of the analogy, the climate is a whole lot more complicated than the transmission. And also, most of the reasons we’re interested in the climate have specifically to do with the sort of weather conditions that the models don’t model – it’s like trying to predict from your velocity/exhaust model whether your engine will overheat, not even knowing what gear the thing is in when you’re taking your measurements.

    So there you go. Our models aren’t very good, we’d like better ones, we’ll make better ones. This is a fine thing. In the meantime, there are things which we could be doing (a) to help ameliorate future global warming problems (b) that are a good idea even without respect to global warming. Let’s do them. In the meantime, maybe you’d do better not to alienate your moderate allies, and not to put too fine a point on it, intellectual superiors, by trying to press what AL’s more or less pegged as your religious convictions?

    Criminy, I’m a Republican, more or less, and an agnostic. When the party’s voting the way I want to, even I know to shut up with the jokes about the giant invisible fairy worshipers!

    [NM: Tweaked emphasis in one part that was rendering as strike-out]

  78. #59 from Mark Buehner at 4:11 pm on Nov 27, 2007

    *You can argue that engaging the other side is letting other form your opinions all you want. But sitting home twiddling your thumbs or spouting off your own beliefs in a vacuum and complaining that nobody listens to you doesn’t make a whit of difference in the real world. TOC have you considered running on the Big L Libertarian ticket? Seems right up your alley.*

    Mark,

    The reason I have been spending so much time on the site here in the past weeks is that I use it as a break from some very intense research on a website that I will launch that will be a news aggregator/research source/marketplace for the Sustainable Energy Industry. So there is a reason I sit home, although I do wish I had more time to Twiddle my thumbs.

    No, I haven’t considered running for office, although the Libertarians do have something to say. I have voted Republican and have been fairly conservative for the past 30 years. I have no use for the religious right, do not really care for the mean spiritedness of the blowhards that make up much of the talk show Republicans, and am appalled at the absolutely hopeless Neo-Con Foreign Policy and out of control spending we have seen from this administration, nor do I care for its reactionary and Luddite views towards innovation and science, in general. I don’t consider that the democrats are anywhere near anything resembling the Real World. But then again, I am over 60, so I must be missing something.

    Maybe you can find a Party for me. I will thought take up your suggestion on the Libertarians. That being said, I am not one who lets other people make my opinions for me.

  79. We have already been paying a steep carbon tax in the form of massive outflows of capital to oil producing countries and a weakening dollar.

    The Citibank deal today which was incredibly cheap for the purchasers will be the first of a long line of deals where these “tax” dollars get repatriated. Look for a long line of Russians, Chinese, Emiratis, et. al. to start trying to buy assets here with cheap dollars.

    How did these Neo Cons ever get us into the position where we were fighting for oil and everybody else was profiting from it on our nickel.

    The debate on Global warming is completely meaningless. Alternative energy is being deployed right now, world wide. When one guy in a housing development puts a solar collector on his roof and his cutting his ever higher electricity bill, everyone in he neighborhood will follow. The speed of alternative energy penetration into the mainstream will make computer penetration look like it had on cement boots. Nobody likes his neighbor getting by for less than he is.

  80. _I mean this politely, I’m a “denier” because I have a superior understanding of what represents the state of the art in advanced computer modeling of chaotic systems?_

    No, you’re a denier because until I pressed you on it, you posted only to say that some strawman was wrong. You were denying.

    Avatar, we all seem to agree except somehow you guys think there’s somebody somewhere who disagrees.

    We all agree that the models don’t predict particular well and that we’re continually getting models that do somewhat better but that still don’t predict well. I don’t know anybody who disagrees with that. Nobody.

    We mostly agree that we don’t know what will happen to the climate, that it could change rather fast over the next couple hundred years in ways we can’t predict. I think there are some people here who disagree with that, who firmly believe that the climate will not change significantly for a very long time. (Note that there is a giant difference between not knowinw what will happen and believing that nothing will happen. They are crackpots, but I don’t say they shouldn’t express their crackpot ideas.)

    There’s a catchphrase “global warming” that gets used for these ideas we mostly agree on. It isn’t the best possible catchphrase for those ideas since after all the climate change we get might not be a global warming. It could be warmer some places and cooler others, or we might even head relatively quickly into an ice age. We don’t know.

    Somehow you guys seem to take the phrase “global warming” as an excuse to say that the ideas we mostly agree about are wrong. I just don’t get it.

    There’s a lot of reason to think that the CO2 we put into the atmosphere has had a big effect since 1980. Here’s a “graph”:http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/7/7b/Temp-sunspot-co2.svg that shows the idea, though of course it doesn’t prove anything — anybody can draw a graph. “It isn’t all CO2.”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Major_greenhouse_gas_trends.png

    And we don’t understand the effects, so it isn’t clear how to treat the symptoms. Before 1980 it looks like CO2 was just one of the factors and likely not the most important one. So — unless we want to gamble that things will all come out OK when we plain don’t understand the situation — the obviously best approach would be to reduce our greenhouse gas production to 1980 levels. But of course we don’t want to. Other things equal, that would take us back to the poverty of a 1980 world economy, only with more people. Other things aren’t equal but it would still be a strain. So instead we argue that it isn’t proven that anything is happening, when it’s clear that something is happening.

    _Seriously, the “computer model of how a car works” analogy is pretty instructive here._

    OK, I’ll make one. You have a model that just covers exhaust and velocity. It shows a few obvious things like at higher velocity you have more exhaust and you’re using your gasoline faster. We think we’re probably running out of gas but we don’t have a trustworthy gas gauge. The windshield is blacked over so we can’t see where we’re going. The speedometer is at 120 mph. And you say, “Unless your model proves that the transmission can’t take it, we’re going to bring the speed up to 140 mph.”

    Seriously. We don’t know where we’re going but we’re going there fast. You say the models that predict where we’re heading aren’t good enough so we should ignore them. I agree that they don’t show us where we’re going. But the bottom line is we don’t know where we’re going and we’re heading there fast.

    A *conservative* response would be to slow down. But we could also develop a new fuel so we can keep going after we run out of gasoline, and we could look for ways to reinforce the transmission so it can handle higher speeds, and improve the bumper so we can better smash anything we run into. Those approaches can help too.

  81. JT – come on, you’re better than that. ‘denier’ is a term with significant social meaning, and which isn’t something you picked because of specific arguments that were made here in the thread.

    And your explanation of th4e model about the car is ludicrous. My motorcycle can go about 55 in 1st gear – so if I’m going 50, in your model, in 1st gear, I can speed up to 70, shift into 6th, and get significantly better mileage…but the model missed that as a gfactor, didn’t it?

    Note that I don’t suggest that the cure for climate change is burning more coal or gasoline. But I do suggest that the models are so flawed that they don’t justify bringing carbon emissions to 1980 levels, regardless of cost. And that to suggest that we ought to make such a radical policy decision ‘because some models think there is likely to be some risk’ (discounting, say the homeostasis which tends to prevail in complex systems that have lasted more than a few years – ‘few’ on a geological scale) is like saying we ought to ban Alar on apples because Meryl Streep says it’s dangerous.

    And discounting for the fact that we’re on a blog, the – sorry, I can’t think of a better word – pigheadedness with which you and your ‘team’ greet the willingness by many of us to do many if not most of the things that could sensibly be suggested by the most fervent carbon-hater isn;t greeted with a ‘cool, let’s set out a common platform and go make it happen’ but a ‘no, sorry, you just don;t believe enough’.

    Screw that. That’s the attitude of people more interested in self-satisfied righteousness than of getting anything done. (see ‘suicidal lemmings’).

    A.L.

  82. #82 from J Thomas at 11:36 pm on Nov 27, 2007

    *Avatar, we all seem to agree except somehow you guys think there’s somebody somewhere who disagrees.*

    This is pretty much how political debate in the country has been for quite a while, very black and white and based on the premise that someone must be right and someone wrong.

    What one winds up with is a gotcha mentality. Neither side is interested in finding a truth, but rather in their opinions “winning”.

    #83 from Armed Liberal at 12:17 am on Nov 28, 2007

    *But I do suggest that the models are so flawed that they don’t justify bringing carbon emissions to 1980 levels, regardless of cost.*

    Since you cite no alternative in depth models, where would you bring the levels down to and at what cost?

    Earlier you said

    *We’re proposing to turn the world economy inside out to lower the CO2 emissions,*

    And I asked:

    Can you tell me where these proposals are and who with the power to do it is proposing it? What projections are you citing that say the world economy will be turned inside out? Or, are you making these assumptions on your feelings?

    *And that to suggest that we ought to make such a radical policy decision ‘because some models think there is likely to be some risk’ (discounting, say the homeostasis which tends to prevail in complex systems that have lasted more than a few years – ‘few’ on a geological scale) is like saying we ought to ban Alar on apples because Meryl Streep says it’s dangerous.*

    Who is suggesting this?

    *And discounting for the fact that we’re on a blog, the – sorry, I can’t think of a better word – pigheadedness with which you and your ‘team’ greet the willingness by many of us to do many if not most of the things that could sensibly be suggested by the most fervent carbon-hater isn;t greeted with a ‘cool, let’s set out a common platform and go make it happen’ but a ‘no, sorry, you just don;t believe enough’.*

    Where did this come from?

    *Screw that. That’s the attitude of people more interested in self-satisfied righteousness than of getting anything done. (see ‘suicidal lemmings’).*

    I guess that since I felt JT made a lot of sense with his posts, I am lumped on to his team. It didn’t seem to me that he was proselytizing, nor was he being particularly antagonistic. Chill out.

  83. _JT – come on, you’re better than that. ‘denier’ is a term with significant social meaning, and which isn’t something you picked because of specific arguments that were made here in the thread._

    Sorry, I’m kind of out of touch on “denier” having one specific meaning. Thanks for telling me about it, I’ll look for a better word for anti-global-warming cranks.

    _Note that I don’t suggest that the cure for climate change is burning more coal or gasoline._

    But we *are* burning more coal and oil. That’s what we’re doing, both in the USA and worldwide.

    _But I do suggest that the models are so flawed that they don’t justify bringing carbon emissions to 1980 levels, regardless of cost._

    Show me the better models. See, we all agree that we don’t know what we’re doing. Your approach is “The best models we have aren’t good enough, so let’s do whatever we want with no model at all for the consequences.” We do agree that that’s the alternative plan, right?

    Well, but it isn’t. You and I and Mark and Avatar and probably a lot of other people agree on specific programs that look like a good thing, that could help some with global warming while we get better data. We agree. But then you guys keep telling me that I’m being too insulting for you to cooperate with me about them. And it doesn’t look to me like I’m the one who’s been doing the insulting except for the “denier” fou pas.

    You guys keep saying that the global warming guys are wrong and crazy and they have doctrinaire plans that don’t allow any compromise with you. I haven’t seen any of those guys here, all I’ve seen is us. And I don’t see you pushing these reasonable good plans, you all keep bashing the global warming crowd like it makes some sort of difference whether you bash them here. You keep repeating that the models don’t predict well enough, like there was somebody who claimed the models reliably predict the future. I just don’t get it.

    _… pigheadedness with which you and your ‘team’ greet the willingness by many of us to do many if not most of the things that could sensibly be suggested by the most fervent carbon-hater isn;t greeted with a ‘cool, let’s set out a common platform and go make it happen’ but a ‘no, sorry, you just don;t believe enough’._

    Have I done that? I don’t see that I’ve done that. It looks to me like Avatar has done that. He agreed that he and I agree on most of the specific proposals, and then he started a complicated explanations about why the models don’t predict the future and how he thinks I’m not smart enough to understand that the models don’t predict the future.

    And you’ve done it. You suggested a few useful ideas in your original post but you’ve spent essentially no time discussing them or how to get them implemented — it’s all been about how the models are wrong.

    And Mark has done it. He got sidetracked a little bit about the practicalities of setting up power plants, but apart from that it’s all been about how the Greens and the global warming activists and I are wrong and insulting.

    I guess if we wanted to we could go back and look at the old posts and see who’s spent the most time on actual proposals as opposed to saying the other guy is too insulting to discuss proposals with. I wouldn’t be surprised if the winner would be PD Shaw, and I might come in second or third, and you guys would be below that.

    Why do you keep accusing me of not discussing what we can do, when you keep putting your attention on how bad the models are for prediction?

  84. JT, this appears to be frustrating for us all, but we’re making some progress here.

    I appreciate that you acknowledge that the models suck. The problem with them is that it is certainly likely that we’ll see worldwide median temps up 7 – 10 degrees C; it’s also just as likely that they’ll go up 1 degree. Or that they’ll go down one degree – based on the quality of the models.

    On the other hand, I don’t need a quantitative public health vector model to know that sewage running down streets is a Bad Thing and that we ought to do something; it’s certainly the case that we’d be better off with less emissions of CO and CO2/BTU of energy produced, and fewer BTU of energy per dollar of GDP.

    So if you can give up your attachment to models which people smarter than us think are crap, and just make the Bad Thing argument, you might be able to build a coalition that would accomplish something. If the deep enviros would do the same thing, we’d all be better off.

    So we’re not arguing about direction, just about rate. Guess what? We’re in Lomborg territory.

    A.L.

  85. For what it is worth Scientific American has a debate on its website

    *Clash: What Will Climate Change Cost Us?
    The science is clear: the climate is changing thanks to human activity. The question becomes: will preventing further globe-warming pollution ruin the global economy?*

    *
    Sir Nicholas Stern

    Sir Nicholas Stern is an economist and professor of economics and government at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Former chief economist for the World Bank, he prepared the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change for the British government in 2006.
    Read the interview

    COURTESY OF NICHOLAS STERN
    *
    Bjorn Lomborg

    Bjorn Lomborg is a political scientist and adjunct professor at the Copenhagen Business School in Denmark. His latest book is entitled Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming.
    Read the interview

    COURTESY OF BJORN LOMBORG
    *
    Gary Yohe

    Gary Yohe is an economist at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn. and a lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which shared this year’s Nobel Peace Prize with former U.S. vice president, Al Gore.
    Read the interview

    COURTESY OF WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY

    “Here is the link”:http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=clash-what-will-climate-change-cost-us&sc=clash_728x90

    [Bare URL corrected. TOC, Movable Type doesn’t handle bare URLs well, especially long ones. The comment guidelines under “Post a comment” include a brief description that starts with the phrase “To add a live URL”. Please follow those instructions in future. Thanks. –NM]

  86. bq. So we’re not arguing about direction, just about rate.

    Well, I don’t think this is an accurate or honest statement, Armed Liberal, because you’ve made a number of claims above about supposed policies that would “turn the world economy inside out”, junk science and “received wisdom” without providing a shred of evidence supporting these views. Thus, to me, a very large fraction of your premise in this thread appears to be based entirely on a straw man.

    Nor have you justified your claim that people in third world nations would suffer disproportionately as a result of these alleged proposals or be worse off than if nothing is done.

    And as far as the rate of climate change, I’ve got news for you: EVERYONE is arguing about the rate, including those same scientists who you now accuse of promoting faith rather than good science.

    And on this score, you also have not addressed the glaring gap in your criticism of models and rate by not acknowledging the very recent data that warming rates seem to be occuring “much faster than predicted”:http://www.cnn.com/2007/TECH/science/05/02/arctic.ice/

    You know, this whole exchange is reminiscent of an argument that was/is often made by Iraq war supporters that is rooted in the so-called “One percent doctrine”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_One_Percent_Doctrine by some. You know how it goes: the risks were so great that our “models” (or predictions) of Saddams WMD capabilities were allowed to be sloppy. In fact, to scrutinize them too closely was thought of as foolishly careless (or worse; anti-american) because if we were wrong, then, you know, Mushroom Clouds and all.

    Look how that turned out.

    Now tell me again which side of the Iraq war debate you are/were on?

    And do you genuinely disbelieve the possibility that Global Warming will be more devastating to human life on Earth than an Al Qaeda nuke?

  87. _I appreciate that you acknowledge that the models suck._

    They don’t suck. It’s just that their purpose is not to predict global temperatures. When you have variables that interact and you’re learning about them, it helps to make models that show _what you know_ about the interactions. Sometimes the models show things you wouldn’t have thought about just imagining it. Things that the models predict that you didn’t expect, are things that you don’t have to find new explanations for. But there’s no particular reason to think you’ll explain everything.

    When you have a model with 20 or so variables, usually just a few of them will be real important, to the point that the data doesn’t give you good estimates for the others. If you put parameters into your model that you don’t have good estimates for, you’re mostly adding noise. But in some other part of the phase space those variables may be important. So you _control the variables you aren’t interested in_ and look at the interactions you care about first, and then you find out where the other variables become important and again control the ones you don’t care about, and you can learn more that way. Again, the immediate intention is not to predict future weather or future climate. Extrapolate out beyond the data and what can you expect? Well, you can get suggestive results.

    Pretending that the models are intended to predict future climate is a *red herring*. That isn’t the point.

    _The problem with them is that it is certainly likely that we’ll see worldwide median temps up 7 – 10 degrees C; it’s also just as likely that they’ll go up 1 degree. Or that they’ll go down one degree – based on the quality of the models._

    That isn’t a problem with the models. That’s *our* problem. We’ve changed the system in unprecedented ways and we don’t know what to expect from it.

    What happens in a Monopoly game when a whole lot of money goes into the game all at once? Somebody lands on Free Parking, somebody draws just the right community chest card, a bunch of things happen to bring in money, not least is somebody sneaks half a dozen $500 bills from the bank. What happens depends on who gets the money and where their dice rolls land them and so on. But would you imagine that it wouldn’t _change the game_? We have a whole lot of carbon that used to be sequestered, and we’re adding it to the system. A lot of that carbon was sequestered _since the Pennsylvanian!_ A while before the dinosaurs. We don’t know what it will do. We don’t know how long it will take to have an effect. If somebody tries to tell you they know there will be no big effects for at least 50 years, they’re fools. We have no strong reasons to predict that there will, but we have no evidence there won’t. We’re in uncharted territory.

    _On the other hand, I don’t need a quantitative public health vector model to know that sewage running down streets is a Bad Thing and that we ought to do something;_

    That’s one we have experience with. Cholera epidemics etc. We largely know the risks with that one.

    _it’s certainly the case that we’d be better off with less emissions of CO and CO2/BTU of energy produced, and fewer BTU of energy per dollar of GDP._

    Yes, agreed.

    _So if you can give up your attachment to models which people smarter than us think are crap, and just make the Bad Thing argument,_

    Have I done anything to give you the impression I wasn’t doing that all along?

    Again, the smart people don’t think the models are crap, they think it’s crappy to use them for predicting future climate. Each model is a model of part of our knowledge. It isn’t modeling the world, it’s modeling part of what we know.

    _you might be able to build a coalition that would accomplish something. If the deep enviros would do the same thing, we’d all be better off._

    I don’t know much about deep enviros, but if they aren’t doing that then why should anyone pay attention to them? Treat them like the idiots who say that the models are no good so therefore there’s no problem.

    The problem is that we’re making great big chances in a system we don’t understand, and we don’t have a very good idea what consequences to expect. I’m a conservative at heart and this bothers me. I’ll bet my life if necessary, I’ll bet my company if I have to, but bet the world?

    But lots of people don’t see it that way and the best we can hope for is to try to hedge a little. OK, we are betting our world and we can do things that could help some and that also have other benefits.

    I don’t want a crash program for nuclear power. Those wind up costing extra money when the problems show up, and the chance of a spectacular failure is real unappealing. Let’s do it right, make the designs and go over them carefully, build pilot plants and run them, scale up in stages, when you get a plant that runs OK for a reasonable time then make copies. If we want to shorten the development cycle then buy plans from a foreign country that’s particularly successful at it. Hire their construction guys to show us how to make the things and hire their operators to show us how to run them. If we need them real quick then better to eat a little crow than do a crash program.

    Could it work to discuss what to do more than why the deep enviro guys are wrong?

  88. What? No, I’m not about to make my cooperation with those ideas contingent on whether you’re playing nice or not. The policies I’ve talked about supporting in this thread, I support because they’re good ideas. It has nothing to do with whether the enviro movement buys into any particular idea or not. If I’m working with a coalition of greens to get them through, and the greens think that they’re Saving the World from the One True Scourge, ‘kay, whatever floats their boat. Got it done. You could come into my house and poo on the carpet and it wouldn’t affect that. (Please do not come into my house and poo on the carpet.)

    It sounds to me, JT, like you’re unaware of some of the fundamentals of debate, which is why you’re getting frustrated with us for not pushing our position with vigor. In most standard forms of debate, a proposition is discussed, with one side taking the affirmative and the other the negative. The two sides do not have equal responsibilities. The affirmative supports the proposition, but the negative’s job is not to support the logical complement of the proposition – it’s the negative’s job to refute the arguments of the affirmative. Also traditionally, the proposition is phrased such that the status quo is normally aligned with the negative – the idea being that unless the affirmative side can marshal a superior argument than the negative, the status quo is probably all right.

    So when we’re not really putting forth policy prescriptions, or bringing out data of our own, well, we’re not really obliged to. If you bring up data based on statistical models, and we find those models to be deficient, we don’t need to bring out models that show our own predictions of the future. If you point out possible policies to ameliorate global warming, and we point out that they’re not possible in the current geopolitical climate (sorry, heh), we don’t have to suggest a different political approach.

  89. _”And on this score, you also have not addressed the glaring gap in your criticism of models and rate by not acknowledging the very recent data that warming rates seem to be occuring much faster than predicted”_

    That is, according to the conventional wisdom NOT the case. I thought the ‘debate is over’? But ultimately rate is _everything_, because rate defines effects and effects are all we really care about, right?

    Here is where the Al Gores of the world have really bitten themselves in the ass. They have claimed that AGW is a dire threat, an _acute_ threat. This doesnt match up very well with the science, but they do it because they believe its the only way they get the results they believe are essential.

    But scientifically, thats just not very likely. We are talking centuries, not years or decades. Even the UN acknowledges that.

    So could we define a few terms here? Because implicit in Gore and the Greens argument is that the human race is either toop stupid or too complacent to deal with long term threats, and therefore they need to be frightened into action. Are we arguing on those terms, or on the terms of reality which involve hundreds of years. Because _obviously_ the presciptions must differ appreciably. And ultimately its only the utility of the prescriptions that matter compared to their costs. Trying to con people into not understanding the diffence says quite a lot about the Greens imo.

  90. JT –

    I appreciate that you acknowledge that the models suck.

    They don’t suck. It’s just that their purpose is not to predict global temperatures.

    <Keannu Reeves>

    …whoa…

    </Keannu Reeves>

    So – we’re debating potential changes in global temps, and the two things that the folks who argue it’s a crisis (which I’ll include you in, if that’s OK) have to go on are a commonsense argument that dumping unlimited CO2 into the atmosphere is a bad thing; and some emerging data showing variation in temperature and some computer models that suggest that the variation is secular and not cyclical or random.

    …but the models aren’t supposed to predict temperatures.

    Why are we debating this, again??

    A.L.

  91. _So – we’re debating potential changes in global temps,_

    Oh, is that what we’re doing? I sort of thought we might be trying to understand. No wonder we haven’t made much progress, your intention all along was to “debate”.

    _and the two things that the folks who argue it’s a crisis (which I’ll include you in, if that’s OK) have to go on are a commonsense argument that dumping unlimited CO2 into the atmosphere is a bad thing; and some emerging data showing variation in temperature and some computer models that suggest that the variation is secular and not cyclical or random._

    OK, so it sounds like you guys have framed this “debate” as follows:

    I’m supposed to argue that there’s a crisis and I’m supposed to explain exactly what’s going on to your satisfaction. If I can’t prove I understand the details of the crisis to your satisfaction then you win.

    Meanwhile, you aren’t arguing that there isn’t a crisis, all you need to do is show that I don’t understand the details well enough to predict what will happen and I lose.

    No thank you. Homey don’t play that.

    I can see how this debate would have gone at various points in history.

    —-
    “Sir, we’ve lost contact with the japanese fleet. They’re maintained radio silence for two days and we don’t know where they are. Should we issue an alert?”

    “Unless you can tell me exactly where and when the japanese will attack then I win the debate. No, no alerts.”
    —-

    I’m just kind of disgusted. I’ve been posting in good faith, wondering why you guys kept repeating the same nonresponsive stuff over and over, and now I see why. You were “debating”.

  92. J Thomas,
    If the suggested policy changes of the AGW advocates were painless and had zero or negligible societal costs, including decresing both economic and personal freedoms, then this debate wouldn’t be happening. We’d just move forward.

    If you can’t understand that these debates MUST happen BEFORE societies bear these costs, then you don’t understand anything.

  93. #91 from Avatar at 6:15 am on Nov 28, 2007

    This is utter nonsense.

    #93 from Armed Liberal at 7:20 am on Nov 28, 2007

    AL,

    I can’t see where you have added to this debate other than express your unsubstantiated feelings with wild eyed, over-emotional language, beginning with the opening post. Of course, this is exactly what you are accusing those you are “pushing back” against of doing.

    Why not just say you feel uncomfortable with the idea of climate change being primarily anthro-centric and some actions we take now might be detrimental. Then be done with it.

    In the Scientific American debate, they are talking about a price tag of 1% of the GDP. Do you have any numbers that support your catastrophic model of “turning the world’s economy inside out.”

  94. _So when we’re not really putting forth policy prescriptions, or bringing out data of our own, well, we’re not really obliged to. If you bring up data based on statistical models, and we find those models to be deficient, we don’t need to bring out models that show our own predictions of the future._

    Because you’re _debating_. Shit.

    I’m arguing that we’re in an unprecedented situation, something that hasn’t happened before in the last hundred million years. We don’t know what will happen. Our scientists are studying the situation and they don’t understand it very well. We’re seeing unusual climate changes now. We don’t know what to expect.

    We will never get a scientific answer on this, either. If we do nothing then we will see what results as it happens. If we do something hoping to palliate the threat then we’ll see what happens then. Either way, we don’t have a control group. We’ll never find out what would have happened if we did things differently. We’ll only have computer models of what we think would have happened, and the models are never good enough. In part because the only data we have to validate them with is what happens the one time.

    Freeman Dyson suggested we make models starting from first principles, starting from physics and chemistry, and build those up into a model of the world. That’s because Dyson has no understanding of computer models. (And neither do you.)

    Google “Three body problem”. Google “million-body problem”. If you have a system with two objects and a relationship between them, you have to measure the objects and measure the interaction, and if you predict from there your results will gradually go bad because small inaccuracies in your measurements will build up.

    If you have three objects then you have three interaction terms and you need to measure them more precisely.

    If you have ten objects then you have 90 pairwise interaction terms and they each need to be measured even more precisely. Even more terms if the relationships aren’t linear. More if they can interact as triples. Usually we assume that almost all the interaction terms are zero. Very small interactions we didn’t bother to think about might average out leaving small errors.

    With 100 objects you have 9900 pairwise interaction terms and it builds up from there.

    The models are successful when it turns out in reality that a few interactions are large (and easy to measure) and the rest average out.

    When your method to find the interaction terms among 10 variables is to measure them from the system outputs, it gets very hard to measure the small terms because the errors in the large terms swamp them. But you can’t be predictive until you get them all measured quite precisely. (This is assuming that you’ve predicted the right interactions in the first place. If it’s exponential instead of linear, or logistic instead of exponential, then you have to find out and correct the model.)

    Expecting predictive models is senseless. And when the game is, “*YOU* have to provide a predictive model or *I* win”….

    If you want to argue there’s no crisis, provide evidence. I don’t think you don’t have any.

    I say, when the car is going 140 MPH with the windshield blacked out, that’s a crisis entirely apart from the mathematical model about speed versus exhaust. And it doesn’t much matter who’s holding the steering wheel, it’s still a crisis.

    If you want to use debating tricks and say it isn’t a crisis unless I can show exactly what we’re going to hit, then my response is — shit.

  95. #95 from Lurker at 1:30 pm on Nov 28, 2007

    These debates are going on and have been for years. What do you think the UN committee on climate change has been doing for the past 25 years or so, what do you think has been happening at the various international conferences since the relese of the UN report. What do you think has been happening when governments around the world have launched extensive sustainable initiatives. What do you think has been going on at GE where it has come to the point where it can win a 775 million dollar contract for wind turbines.

    Maybe the reason that you are unaware of the debate is because of the sources you use. Go to Scientific American and start there. Spend some time on the net and look up countries’ efforts in these areas.

    What is most idiotic about continuing the debate on global warming is that it is irrelevant. A huge industry is being developed for the production and delivery of sustainable energy and people are wasting their time waiting for better models of climate change, while potentially trillions of dollars of potential profits are being ignored backing a loser, carbon.

    The world is changing radically and the U.S. is way behind the curve.

  96. You guys have to understand- we’re trying to debate and JT is trying to tell us what to do. Because its for our own goods and he knows best. So just shut up and get in line.

    I’ll say this J Thomas- you’ve mastered the tactics of your side of the argument quite thoroughly.

  97. _In the Scientific American debate, they are talking about a price tag of 1% of the GDP. Do you have any numbers that support your catastrophic model of “turning the world’s economy inside out.”_

    Yes, and they’re talking about the cost of not fixing it being somewhere in the range of 1% to 5% of world GDP.

    Remember that these are economists talking. They’re used to coming up with precise estimates from bad data (and disagreeing with each other) and coming up with clear policies from murky estimates (and disagreeing with each other).

    The guy who estimated the cost at 1%a GDP gave his reasoning.

    bq. If we do such reductions well, it will cost around 1 percent of the world’s gross domestic product, subject to pluses or minuses. You must think in terms of ranges rather than just point estimates. A rich country, say, spends 4 percent of GDP or so on primary energy. If the effective cost of energy went up 30 to 40 percent, that figure would go up 1 to 1.5 percent. It could be less if we learn quickly; find more energy efficiency. It could be more if we do it badly. Still, I think it’s a very reasonable insurance premium to pay for the kinds of damages to be avoided.

    This is not at all a sophisticated analysis. We could probably get economists to do a much better job of modeling that.

    The 5% cost estimate (averaged over variations in results — a small chance of 100% loss of GDP, a small chance of 50% loss of GDP, etc) looks like it had enough work behind it that they couldn’t summarise it easily.

    bq. You can describe the dangers of more frequent hurricanes in Central America and the southern U.S. You can describe the problems associated with Cairo being subjected to substantial sea level rise. You can describe the kinds of problems that would arise with massive population migrations. But putting precise numbers on those things is very difficult. We came up with numbers that business as usual would give you: losses, averaged over space, over time and uncertain outcomes, of around 5 percent of global gross domestic product and upwards, probably substantially more than 5 percent of GDP. You can avoid a big percentage of those damages by keeping greenhouse gases below 550 ppm. That kind of extrapolation, however, actually badly underestimates the risks we run at these higher temperatures.

    Part of the difference between the 5% estimate and the 1% Lomborg estimate is that they used different future discounts. If you use a large enough discount, you can figure that it’s better to save 1 billion people from malaria today than to keep humanity from going extinct 150 years from now. Because 1 billion people today are worth more than 9 billion people in the distant future. Economists think that way sometimes.

  98. _You guys have to understand- we’re trying to debate and JT is trying to tell us what to do. Because its for our own goods and he knows best._

    Hi, Mark. Somehow I thought that we were discussing things in good faith, trying to find out what truth is there and noticing the limits of our knowledge.

    But it turns out you guys were all “debating” instead. I wondered why we weren’t getting anywhere, why you kept ignoring what I said and kept repeating the same tired old talking points.

    I feel so stupid now.

    Oh well. Fool me once.

  99. Mark:

    bq. Here is where the Al Gores of the world have really bitten themselves in the ass.

    bq. Because implicit in Gore and the Greens argument is that the human race is either toop stupid or too complacent to deal with long term threats, and therefore they need to be frightened into action.

    Al Gore has never been anything but completely honest and up front about the threat. Perhaps you didn’t watch “An Inconvenient Truth” or maybe you conveniently dozed off during those passages. That would have been difficult…it is loaded chock full of caveats.

    I am starting to suspect a lot of what is being put forth as “honest disagreement” about Global warming is no more than a mis-reading of Al Gore’s comments or efforts likely based on deep dislike for the man. If he says the threat could be dire but that there are large uncertainties, you only hear an exaggeration of the first part.

    And, like TOC, I will assert again that Armed Liberals (or anyone else’s) failure to produce (contextually honest) evidence for the claims he is making about the hysterics and exaggerations being put forth by the Gores and the Greens and the Scientists and the Important Policy Makers is evidence of a gaping hole in your argumentation rather than an innocent by-product of AL’s Real Busy Life.

    And, like J Thomas, I agree that a substantial fraction of the discussion here can be fairly categorized as he does in #94, and not at all like what Mark says in #99. J Thomas deserves a hell of a lot of credit here for exhibiting a level of patience far beyond my or most people’s ability in dealing with the voluminous levels of chaff and misdirection that have been thrown in his direction in particular. He’s a Saint.

  100. #102 from Alan at 2:33 pm on Nov 28, 2007

    *J Thomas deserves a hell of a lot of credit here for exhibiting a level of patience far beyond my or most people’s ability in dealing with the voluminous levels of chaff and misdirection that have been thrown in his direction in particular. He’s a Saint.*

    I wholeheartedly concur.

  101. _Unfortunately we’ve descended into pretty much pure namcalling, so I’ll put out one last call for substantive comments and then let’s move on to something else._

    [sigh]

    AL, you started out with the “Mars is warming” crock. I refuted it. Do you accept that the argument is worthless, or do you have some sort of argument that Mars applies to climate change on earth? If you don’t have an argument in favor, will you agree to point out the fatal flaws in the “Mars is warming” crock when you see it again?

    Do you have an example of somebody who says the current models accurately predict future climate change? After all the times people have repeated that it doesn’t, with no one here disagreeing with that, can we establish who it was that this argument was against?

    bq. The impacts of the actions drastic enough to avert the kind of warming impacts we’re talking about are ill-thought-out and likely to be as bad – or worse – than the impacts of any plausible warming, given the very real uncertainty in the models and methodologies being used;

    Do you have a link to the drastic actions you’re talking about here, and a link to some economic models that show how bad the impacts of doing them would be? We never really discussed either of those, though we did discuss some actions we could take that didn’t look so bad, that mostly didn’t look bad at all.

    What are the ill-thought-out actions, and where are the accurate computer models that show their consequences? Your strong assertion does demand that small support, doesn’t it?

    I never bothered with such debating points because I was interested in seeing what we could agree on more than in knocking down strawmen. But given that we’re supposed to be debating here, I notice that there has been nothing to support your sweeping claims, and my responses on Mars were never answered.

  102. bq. so I’ll put out one last call for substantive comments.

    Are you planning to heed your own call and finally get around to at least trying to reply to the few simple questions that I, TOC and J Thomas have asked in the last few posts?

    And while we’re making suggestions, might I suggest that you watch An Inconvenient Truth? Because I’m honestly wondering whether you (or anyone else here on “your side”) has.

  103. JT, you have to stop claiming that “I refuted something” because you made a claim. I can make the same statement, and it’d be equally silly. And I’m granting you enough respect that I’d rather you didn’t look silly here.

    “Inconvenient Truth” is in our video drawer under the “PG” category. A good companion piece is next to it; “The Great Global Warming Swindle” – can I ask you to watch that?

    I’m on conference calls all morning, but will chip in in some detail when I get the time.

    A.L.

  104. Isn’t that the conspiracy theory film which says that

    bq. man-made global warming is “a lie” and “the biggest scam of modern times.

    I’m wondering whether your suggestion I watch this is akin to me suggesting that you watch

    I’m not sure that this film is really the strongest case against Global Warming based on the problems detailed in “this entry.”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Great_Global_Warming_Swindle

    Including:

    bq. Several of the programme’s scientific arguments have been withdrawn or modified since its original broadcast and most of the others have been refuted or criticized as misleading by scientists working in relevant fields.[3] [4] Critics have also argued that the programme is one-sided and that the mainstream position on global warming is supported by the scientific academies of the major industrialized nations and other scientific organizations.[3] The film challenges the positions of these scientific organizations by interviewing scientists and others who disagree with explanations that attribute global warming to human activities. Contributors to the film include Richard Lindzen, John Christy and Paul Reiter, who were participants in the IPCC process.

  105. AL, can you make any argument about my refutation?

    Nobody has responded at all. Nobody has made the slightest attempt to argue against my points. Why shouldn’t I say that I refuted it?

    I made the specific argument in #36.

    The Mars argument goes, earth is warming. Mars is warming too. Mars is warming because the sun is making more light and so putting more warmth on everything. So probably that’s why earth is warming too.

    The trouble is, the sun hasn’t been making more light since 1980, and the rate of warming of the earth has sped up since then.

    So the argument is refuted.

    But it appears you didn’t notice.

  106. Of course we’re debating! What, were you under the impression that we’d formed a mutual love society here? ;p What else would you call a 100-comment thread? Oy.

    One of the things to keep in mind is that the cost of avoiding a future risk must be judged in the context of the probability that the cost will be incurred. Global warming is a big future risk, but a lot of the currently-available solutions have significant costs as well; “we should just act like it was going to happen, do our best to prevent it, and if it doesn’t, we’re okay” is emphatically not an option without attendant costs.

    When we’re judging those costs against that risk, the probability becomes very important. Certainly, you’re basing your risk estimate off of the proposition that the climate models we’re using are the best we have, and thus we ought to pay attention to them. We’re basing our risk estimates off of the proposition that the climate models we’re using are not, well, all that good, and thus we ought to discount the risk associated with global warming by the unreliability in the climate models.

    Both of these propositions have some nugget of truth in them. The models we have are, indeed, the best we have, and they’re being feverishly worked on to make them better, by admirable men and women whose efforts we should all support. At the same time, even you’ll admit that we’re dealing with the great mother of chaotic systems and that even expecting the models to be truly predictive is foolish. Fair ’nuff.

    The whole thread here, if you’ll remember correctly, is rooted in a report on AIDS modeling (fiendishly complicated, but less so than climate modeling by thousands of orders of magnitude). It’s being pointed to as a case where computer models of a complex system were being used to predict a scenario that overestimated the risk, in a situation where such an overestimation was, not to put it too delicately, politically convenient to those who wanted to marshal others to action to prevent that risk.

    Is this not instructive? If I’d told you last week that 20% of the estimate of the world’s AIDS cases didn’t exist – that the estimate was off by that much – you’d have called me a liar and possibly speculated as to my nefarious anti-minority motives in making such a preposterous statement. Today, well, here we go. So can you blame people for looking at other risk analyses based on computer models, ones that are in their way much less comprehensive than the old, bad AIDS model, and squinting funny at the claims?

    One last point – JT, it’s extremely dishonest to pretend that you don’t know about the costs associated with action on global warming. Nor, to put it bluntly, is it our job to go get that information for you in the thread; I’m perfectly content to allude to them. Even if you yourself aren’t in favor of the sort of curtailing of industrial activity of the type we’ve already seen in the EU, you must admit that a great number of your fellow-travelers are, and of bloody course we’re going to bring it up. ;p

    At any rate, I also believe we’ve reached the end of useful discussion in the thread.

  107. bq. Several of the programme’s scientific arguments have been withdrawn or modified since its original broadcast and most of the others have been refuted or criticized as misleading by scientists working in relevant fields.3 [4]

    Alan, there’s a strong consensus in the scientific community. But there are a few dissenters, who say that it isn’t completely proven and we really don’t know for sure what’s going on, that nobody knows.

    To argue against the whole community, Lindzen claims that the whole community is biased, that researchers who try to publish anything that disagrees with global warming get punished, that they aren’t allowed to publish, they lose grants and lose jobs.

    We have heard this sort of claim in other contexts. For example, holocaust denial, 9/11-conspiracy, etc. How do we tell which cases are really bias, and which cases are really crackpot failed researchers losing resources because they produce junk science?

    To some extent we can look at the original research and guess from that. You don’t have to be as much of an expert to read the reports as you do to do the research.

    Or you can choose based on what you want to believe. You can say the 9/11 cranks are cranks because you don’t think there’s a conspiracy, but you think the global warming cranks are right because you believe there is a conspiracy against them.

  108. _”Al Gore has never been anything but completely honest and up front about the threat. Perhaps you didn’t watch “An Inconvenient Truth” or maybe you conveniently dozed off during those passages”_

    Funny all those bigtime climate scientists that have come out distancing themselves from Gore’s more cataclysmic claims. I also seem to remember an English “court”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/An_Inconvenient_Truth#Controversy that found a number of false points Gore made.

    _”The judge concluded “I have no doubt that Dr Stott, the Defendant’s expert, is right when he says that: ‘Al Gore’s presentation of the causes and likely effects of climate change in the film was broadly accurate.'” On the basis of testimony from Robert M. Carter and the arguments put forth by the claimant’s lawyers, the judge also pointed to nine ‘errors’, i.e. statements that he found to depart from the mainstream. He also found that some of these ‘errors’ arose in the context of alarmism and exaggeration in support of Al Gore’s political thesis”_

    Again- Im NOT claiming inconvient truth didnt have a lot of truth to it, nor that AGW isnt potentially a big longterm threat. My point was and is that Gore has misrepresented the science by claiming this is an acute, immediate global threat when the science does not support that as at all likely. ALL the inaccuracies in the film err towards alarmism and cataclysm, that is no accident.

    And before TOC chimes in Gore is without question the most important and well recognized leader on global warming in the world, ignoring him wont make him go away (we’ve tried, believe me we’ve tried).

  109. _If I’d told you last week that 20% of the estimate of the world’s AIDS cases didn’t exist – that the estimate was off by that much – you’d have called me a liar and possibly speculated as to my nefarious anti-minority motives in making such a preposterous statement._

    I’d have asked how you knew. I thought it was quite possible. The data just wasn’t very good. A lot of it was poor people in poor countries, and for what it would cost to find out how many of them were infected we could do something for them. It was clear to me the best estimates we had weren’t very good.

    Now try this — if you had had estimates 5 years ago that predicted that AIDS now would be 20% lower than the actual estimates did, would you have wanted to cut funding? By 20%, or what?

    OK, how about this one. It turns out that the actions we’ve taken against AIDS have been 20% more effective than we predicted they’d be. What’s your response to that? Should we cut funding since our original goals were an acceptable outcome and so we should reduce spending until the rates go up to that level?

    OK, a third try. How closely have you looked at the report? How accurate do you believe the new data is? Is it within 10%? 5%? How much do you believe it?

  110. Mark, apples to oranges. Some factual errors in a documentary film based on a huge amount of data is not unexpected. But it has nothing to do with your claim.

    bq. Funny all those bigtime climate scientists that have come out distancing themselves from Gore’s more cataclysmic claims.

    Funny how not a single person here has provided evidence of “Gores more cataclysmic claims” and also shown that he has failed to provide appropriate caveats.

    And now you can add to that the request to provide some support for “bigtime climate scientists” distancing themselves from Gore.

    bq. ALL the inaccuracies in the film err towards alarmism and cataclysm, that is no accident.

    That is, all the inaccuracies that were contested in the court case, Mark. This factoid does not support the point you are trying to make, because it does not address whether there were inaccuracies in the opposite direction. Seems like the prosecutors of the case had their own point to make, doesn’t it?

    bq. My point was and is that Gore has misrepresented the science by claiming this is an acute, immediate global threat when the science does not support that as at all likely.

    And in light of the total lack of evidence supporting this view, I don’t think you can honestly say that you have “a point”. An opinion or personal dislike masquerading as honest critique, maybe, but certainly not a point.

  111. _JT, it’s extremely dishonest to pretend that you don’t know about the costs associated with action on global warming. Nor, to put it bluntly, is it our job to go get that information for you in the thread; I’m perfectly content to allude to them._

    I don’t know what those costs are. Neither do you. If you claim you know, prove it.

    AL claimed those costs were as bad as the costs of any plausible climate change. He has given no evidence whatsoever for this assertion. You have given no evidence whatsoever for your assertion. Yes, if you want to make the claim it’s your job to provide the information. I don’t believe you know how.

    That is, I believe that you are entirely arguing in bad faith. You don’t know what you’re talking about, but you pretend you do. You perhaps believe a bunch of bad-faith arguments that other people have made, that you accepted uncritically. But the claims you are making are made-up stories with no evidence.

    I believe that you are not trying to find out the truth but that instead you are doing whatever dishonesty you think might win a debate. Given that, I gain nothing by trying to discuss the facts with you. As I have so far gained nothing except the satisfaction of looking up some things I didn’t already know. It does me no good to respond to you, except perhaps to show other who care about such things that you are dishonest and not worth paying attention to.

    Debate. Shit.

  112. bq. Alan, there’s a strong consensus in the scientific community. But there are a few dissenters, who say that it isn’t completely proven and we really don’t know for sure what’s going on, that nobody knows.

    Of course there are a few dissenters. There always are. That’s one of the strengths of the scientific enterprise as a whole, tolerance of dissent. But science won’t and can’t advance if every little criticism is given equal attention. We’d never get anywhere. The allegation that dissenters are not tolerated in science is simply not true. It is rather a common trait of those who are aggressively intolerant themselves to level such a charge.

    The problem in this case is that a relatively small group of powerful and influential (largely scientifically illiterate) people have helped to disproportionately amplify the dissenters views while at the same time helping to mask the holes in their critique or acknowledge the reason why the consensus is against them (hint: it’s scientific, not political). You only need to look at the specific nature of the skepticism exhibited on this thread to see that it has largely been successful at planting enough doubt even in very intelligent people and allowed ill-focused and broad-ranging opposition to imagined adversaries to flower.

    Just imagine if every scientific consensus was opposed with equal vigor. We’d still be in the stone ages. Although perhaps the product of this misplaced and misdirected opposition will take us there anyway.

  113. _”Funny how not a single person here has provided evidence of “Gores more cataclysmic claims” and also shown that he has failed to provide appropriate caveats”_

    “Gore says that a sea-level rise of up to 6 m (20 ft) will be caused by melting of either West Antarctica or Greenland. Though Gore does not say that the sea-level rise will occur in the near future, the judge found that, in the context, it was clear that this is what he had meant, since he showed expensive graphical representations of the effect of his imagined 6 m (20 ft) sea-level rise on existing populations, and he quantified the numbers who would be displaced by the sea-level rise.”

    “Gore says low-lying inhabited Pacific coral atolls are already being inundated because of anthropogenic global warming, leading to the evacuation of several island populations to New Zealand. However, the atolls are not being inundated, except where dynamiting of reefs or over-extraction of fresh water by local populations has caused damage. ”

    “Gore says “global warming” may shut down the thermohaline circulation in the oceans, which he calls the “ocean conveyor,” plunging Europe into an ice age. It will not. A paper published in 2006 says: “Analyses of ocean observations and model simulations suggest that changes in the thermohaline circulation during the last century are likely the result of natural multidecadal climate variability. Indications of a sustained thermohaline circulation weakening are not seen during the last few decades. Instead, a strengthening since the 1980s is observed.””

    “Gore says “global warming” has been melting the snows of Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa. It is not.

    The melting of the Furtwangler Glacier at the summit of the mountain began 125 years ago. More of the glacier had melted before Hemingway wrote The Snows of Kilimanjaro in 1936 than afterward.

    Temperature at the summit never rises above freezing and is at an average of –7 Celsius. The cause of the melting is long-term climate shifts exacerbated by imprudent regional deforestation, and has nothing to do with “global warming.””

    “source”:http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/monckton/goreerrors.html

    There is quite a bit more.

  114. _”Just imagine if every scientific consensus was opposed with equal vigor. We’d still be in the stone ages.”_

    SCIENCE IS NOT DONE BY CONSENSUS. Someone is right and someone is wrong. Sometimes _everybody_ is wrong except one individual that flips the table- this has happened any number of times.

  115. Mark, no need to yell. From your reply, this is apparently a semantic disagreement.

    Every scientific experiment is done to test a hypothesis. These hypotheses usually incorporate a researchers findings as well as the findings of others in the field. To formulate a testable hypothesis depends on an enlightened interpretation of these results. This is not a skill most people are born possessing; in fact, our innate tendencies tend toward the over-reliance on certain kinds of data.

    In other words…

    bq. Someone is right and someone is wrong.

    …is not a judgement that can be made in a vacuum as most results do not have a single right or wrong answer. Rather, again, it involves interpretations of the data and evaluations of the experimental methodologies that are themselves the products of training and disscussion with peers….consensus. The evidence that I’m alluding to that supports the power of this approach is that basically all research hypotheses build upon previously tested ones (i.e., they don’t appear out of nowhere), and also that we have the innumerable technological and medical successes of todays world to show that this progression is powerful and universally beneficial to mankind.

    Of course sometimes the consensus, as I’ve defined it, is “wrong”, but how would this have ever been known unless successive experimenters adopted what was at the time the minority view? Making progress is the core motivation, not who’s right and who’s wrong. Pragmatically speaking, that attitude is a dead end, and is certainly NOT the one most successful scientists adopt.

    Anyway, I think science as an enterprise most certainly relies upon consensus.

  116. Alan:

    Just imagine if every scientific consensus was opposed with equal vigor. We’d still be in the stone ages.

    There was only one Stone Age, the Seventies don’t really count.

    During the Renaissance, which was supposedly such a good thing, there was a “scientific consensus” in the best educated parts of Europe (especially the University of Cologne) that said Witchcraft was real. Not only real, but engaged in a massive conspiracy to destroy Christian civilization. It was the learned men who burned the witches, not the ignorant peasants.

    They never claimed that the witches could make the sea rise 20 feet, though. That would have been unreasonable.

    The philosopher Paul Feyerabend was notorious for arguing that the Church was right to suppress Galileo. (Galileo was also offending against the “scientific consensus”, which favored the earth-centered astronomy of Tycho Brahe.) He believed that the reigning group-think, be it right or wrong, ought to be allowed to do its thing without being disrupted by nay-sayers. Al Gore strikes me as a kind of middle-brow Feyerabend.

  117. Thanks for the link, Mark. I’ll look the page over more carefully when I have time.

    In the meantime, I found this snippet to be interesting with regards to the general tone and potential bias of the site’s author:

    bq. Gore says Hurricane Katrina, that devastated New Orleans in 2005, was caused by “global warming.” It was not. It was caused by the failure of Gore’s party, in the administration of New Orleans, to heed 30 years of warnings by the Corps of Engineers that the levees – dams that kept New Orleans dry – could not stand a direct hit by a hurricane. Katrina was only Category 3 when it struck the levees. They failed, as the Engineers had said they would. Gore’s party, not “global warming,” was to blame for the consequent death and destruction.

    Just two points from this.

    First, I am pretty sure Gore never said Katrina was caused by global warming.

    Second, I see two references in this paragraph to “Gore’s party”, which I take to mean the Democrats. I fail to see what this has to do with the validity of the claims in An Inconvenient Truth.

    Furthermore, the author if this piece has a history of making controversial claims, I’ve discovered. “For example:”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Monckton,_3rd_Viscount_Monckton_of_Brenchley

    bq. Monckton’s views on how the AIDS epidemic should be tackled have been the subject of some controversy. In an article entitled “The Myth of Heterosexual AIDS”, written for the January 1987 issue of The American Spectator, he argued that “there is only one way to stop AIDS. That is to screen the entire population regularly and to quarantine all carriers of the disease for life. Every member of the population should be blood-tested every month … all those found to be infected with the virus, even if only as carriers, should be isolated compulsorily, immediately, and permanently.” This would involve isolating between 1.5 and 3 million people in the United States (“not altogether impossible”) and another 30,000 people in the UK (“not insuperably difficult”).

    bq. Monckton has since disavowed his 1987 comments on AIDS, stating that “the article was written at the very outset of the AIDS epidemic, and with 33 million people around the world now infected, the possibility of doing this [isolation] is laughable. It couldn’t work.

    Seems like a “talk first, think later” type of guy.

    And his organization:

    bq. Science and Public Policy Institute (SPPI), part of Frontiers of Freedom, a conservative organization funded by ExxonMobil that has campaigned against the screening of An Inconvenient Truth in U.S. schools.

    Perhaps you’d like to keep digging for some more credible opposition, Mark, because it looks like your first pass at this has contributed little more than to provide a beautiful example supporting my assertion above about the agenda of the global warming opposition.

  118. bq. There was only one Stone Age, the Seventies don’t really count.

    Good one.

    bq. Al Gore strikes me as a kind of middle-brow Feyerabend.

    See my comments to Mark in #102, they apply to this statement I think.

  119. _During the Renaissance, which was supposedly such a good thing, there was a “scientific consensus” in the best educated parts of Europe (especially the University of Cologne) that said Witchcraft was real._

    Was there _anybody_ who said witchcraft wasn’t real? I mean, _anybody_? No. That was because it was real.

    _Not only real, but engaged in a massive conspiracy to destroy Christian civilization._

    It wasn’t doing that. It was mostly a bunch of people doing faith-healing and such, using magic spells left over from the old days.

    _It was the learned men who burned the witches, not the ignorant peasants._

    I dunno. In the later purge in scotland, it was more like a middle-class con. A few people with not that much education could come in with a writ from the king that said they were witch-hunters, and they’d go after some poor old women nobody cared much about, and then those women would implicate others, and at each economic level people who woke up and thought they should oppose it couldn’t very well oppose it then — it meant they were witches, if they were honest opponents they would have done it when it was just poor old women. By the time they were killing aristocrats the loot was considerable. And the king got his cut. After James got wise to it he turned full against the scheme.

    The stories reminded me of the stories about the russian purges. By that time there probably wasn’t much of a Resistance left in the USSR, but it must have sometimes seemed safer to denounce somebody before he denounced you, and then once they were interrogating people (with stress positions and sheer browbeating mostly, plus sleep deprivation — it didn’t even take waterboarding) they got a lot of leads that way.

    So if you think the scientists are suppressing somebody, look at his publications. He can put them on the web and you can look at them, easier than if they got published in a refereed journal. See what you think. Give us the links and we can see what we think. There might be a lot of stuff that’s too arcane to read and understand, but you’ll never know unless you try.

    When the CIA publishes one summarized result and leaks another report that contradicts the first, then it isn’t clear what to believe. But when the science is all published you can look at it and decide what you believe. When it’s experimental observations they could possibly be faked, but when it’s just data manipulation you can even run that yourself provided they release the data. You don’t have to depend on the consensus of scientists if you don’t want to. Everything is available including the documents they suppress.

  120. #111 from Avatar at 4:57 pm on Nov 28, 2007

    *Of course we’re debating! What, were you under the impression that we’d formed a mutual love society here? ;p What else would you call a 100-comment thread? Oy.*

    Sorry, I am not debating. I gave it up in high school. I discuss things. Your coming in and saying this is a debate is absolute nonsense as I have already commented and a pretty obvious way for you to avoid answering questions. This is fine, but why not call a spade a spade.

    *One of the things to keep in mind is that the cost of avoiding a future risk must be judged in the context of the probability that the cost will be incurred. Global warming is a big future risk, but a lot of the currently-available solutions have significant costs as well; “we should just act like it was going to happen, do our best to prevent it, and if it doesn’t, we’re okay” is emphatically not an option without attendant costs.*

    What “currently-available solutions” are you talking about? You have been directed to a debate at Scientific American in which 1% of GDP is a figure that is being thrown around. do you have anything to refute that, or is it just your “feelings”

    *When we’re judging those costs against that risk, the probability becomes very important. Certainly, you’re basing your risk estimate off of the proposition that the climate models we’re using are the best we have, and thus we ought to pay attention to them. We’re basing our risk estimates off of the proposition that the climate models we’re using are not, well, all that good, and thus we ought to discount the risk associated with global warming by the unreliability in the climate models.*

    Have you read any of the studies, since they all have a sliding scale of risk depending on the amount of warming. What specifically about the models do you think is not very good.

    Both of these propositions have some nugget of truth in them. The models we have are, indeed, the best we have, and they’re being feverishly worked on to make them better, by admirable men and women whose efforts we should all support. At the same time, even you’ll admit that we’re dealing with the great mother of chaotic systems and that even expecting the models to be truly predictive is foolish. Fair ’nuff.

    *The whole thread here, if you’ll remember correctly, is rooted in a report on AIDS modeling (fiendishly complicated, but less so than climate modeling by thousands of orders of magnitude). It’s being pointed to as a case where computer models of a complex system were being used to predict a scenario that overestimated the risk, in a situation where such an overestimation was, not to put it too delicately, politically convenient to those who wanted to marshal others to action to prevent that risk.*

    I would suggest that your knee-jerk reaction that this is a political debate has clouded your judgement in this matter. The lat thing inthe world that I am is an Al Gore supporter. I also am not very impressed about your ‘politically convenient’ conspiracy theory considering the U.N Report was a world wide interdisciplinary effort that has been going on over 2 decades. Sorry, the conspiracy is just a bit to big for me.

    *Is this not instructive? If I’d told you last week that 20% of the estimate of the world’s AIDS cases didn’t exist – that the estimate was off by that much – you’d have called me a liar and possibly speculated as to my nefarious anti-minority motives in making such a preposterous statement. Today, well, here we go. So can you blame people for looking at other risk analyses based on computer models, ones that are in their way much less comprehensive than the old, bad AIDS model, and squinting funny at the claims?*

    I think you have to come to this particular game with more than that.

    *One last point – JT, it’s extremely dishonest to pretend that you don’t know about the costs associated with action on global warming. Nor, to put it bluntly, is it our job to go get that information for you in the thread; I’m perfectly content to allude to them. Even if you yourself aren’t in favor of the sort of curtailing of industrial activity of the type we’ve already seen in the EU, you must admit that a great number of your fellow-travelers are, and of bloody course we’re going to bring it up. ;p*

    Dishonest? Well, he got you estimates. Did you even bother to read the SciAm debate that he quoted and was posted earlier in the thread. Have you come up with even one cost estimate prohibitive or not? Fellow travellers? This is your idea of a discussion? Again, I suggest you bring more to the table than that.

    At any rate, I also believe we’ve reached the end of useful discussion in the thread.

  121. #113 from Mark Buehner at 5:21 pm on Nov 28, 2007

    *And before TOC chimes in Gore is without question the most important and well recognized leader on global warming in the world, ignoring him wont make him go away (we’ve tried, believe me we’ve tried).*

    You are the one that gives Al Gore so much weight, not me. This is another example of having you own opinions molded by the opinions of others. I do not care in the least whether Al Gore lives or dies. Why not add something useful to the discussion rather than trying to score points in places where there are none to be scored.

    This sort of stuff only further undermines your position.

  122. #119 from Mark Buehner at 6:15 pm on Nov 28, 2007

    *SCIENCE IS NOT DONE BY CONSENSUS. Someone is right and someone is wrong. Sometimes everybody is wrong except one individual that flips the table- this has happened any number of times.*

    Actually the opposite is true. Science is done by trial and error backed up by peer review. It is a collaborative effort where people build on their own and other’s errors. It is not a tennis match.

  123. _”Of course sometimes the consensus, as I’ve defined it, is “wrong”, but how would this have ever been known unless successive experimenters adopted what was at the time the minority view?”_

    But that flies in the face of what you just said. It doesnt matter how small or ‘insignificant’ the dissenter is- it matters if he makes a valid point, or has an experiment that can test his ‘wild’ hypethesis. The problem is people like J Thomas equate such people as holocaust deniers or 911 truthers strictly because they disagree with the majority. Thats crazy and THAT kind of behavior would leave us in the stone age. How many of these scientists have been smeared as being Big Oil stooges (pretty much all of them)? There is a concerted and powerful effort to marginalize dissenters in this field.

  124. _”You are the one that gives Al Gore so much weight, not me.”_

    And boy am i regretting giving him that Nobel prize. I’m gonna get Pinch Salzberg on the phone right now and spike all Gore related stories.

    _”This is another example of having you own opinions molded by the opinions of others. I do not care in the least whether Al Gore lives or dies. Why not add something useful to the discussion rather than trying to score points in places where there are none to be scored.”_

    You keep saying that, and it keeps making no sense. TOC only you live in your own little world where the opinions of the powerful have no effect policy. If a new Kyoto like treaty is signed by President Clinton in two years, it wont have materialized out of no-where, trust me.

  125. _It doesnt matter how small or ‘insignificant’ the dissenter is- it matters if he makes a valid point, or has an experiment that can test his ‘wild’ hypethesis._

    That’s what I said.

    _The problem is people like J Thomas equate such people as holocaust deniers or 911 truthers strictly because they disagree with the majority._

    That isn’t what I said. I asked, how do you tell the difference. And my answer is, you look for yourself and see if he has a valid point.

    So, find a global warming denier you think is right and tell us what he says, and give links. I’ll look at it and see how the details look to me. We can discuss it and come to a common ground, or get it real clear what it is we disagree about. OK?

    (That’s what I did with Freeman Dyson. The response was — nothing.)

    That’s how we tell whether these guys actually have something or not. If we can’t depend on the scientific community to judge properly, we can either do it ourselves or we can throw up our hands and believe whatever we want.

    _Thats crazy and THAT kind of behavior would leave us in the stone age._

    You utterly misrepresented me. Was that on purpose or did you just skim so fast you completely misunderstood? Is this more “debate”?

  126. Mark is it possible for you to have a discussion:

    1. Without calling people names. Even if it is in the form of “people like JT”.
    2. Without define people like JT and myself to fit a pigeon hole that you are comfortable with.
    3. Without basing your arguments on having to fear guys like Al Gore.
    4. Without putting words into people’s mouth as you did with the me and Al Gore comment I answered above.

    I promised myself when I was 19, well over 40 years ago that I was not going to live in fear. So, you are wasting your time with me and Al Gore, Liberals, Treehuggers and whatever other groups you define as your bogeymen.

    *You keep saying that, and it keeps making no sense.*

    All of you opinions seem to be in reaction to other people. None of them appear to be initiated by you. You bring up names that are code words. Clinton, Gore, etc., we know their opinions and that you don’t like them, but we don’t know yours. You don’t seem to be seeing the forest for the trees.

    *TOC only you live in your own little world where the opinions of the powerful have no effect policy.*

    *If a new Kyoto like treaty is signed by President Clinton in two years, it wont have materialized out of no-where, trust me.*

    This is a perfect example.

    1. I am called a name, someone who “lives in their own little world”
    2. I am defined as someone who believes “the opinions of the powerful have no effect policy.”
    3. I should be fearful of Hillary Clinton signing a Kyoto like accord in a few years.

    All of this is nonsense and I have no idea why you would bother to write it.

  127. J Thomas:

    Was there anybody who said witchcraft wasn’t real? I mean, anybody? No.

    Yes, there was. Witch manias were opposed everywhere they occurred. They were often followed by a period of reaction (see especially Salem) which often produced important legal reforms, including bans on torture.

    That was because it was real.

    No it wasn’t. Albeit, today it enjoys the sort of reality that professional wrestling does.

    It was mostly a bunch of people doing faith-healing and such, using magic spells left over from the old days.

    No, it wasn’t. In the cases of people who weren’t entirely innocent, it was people who claimed to have powers in order to frighten or impress their peers.

    Your position was actually the position of the medieval church, which admitted the existence of “white magic”. There was a case of an Irishman who was acquitted of witchcraft when he argued that he got his magic from fairies.

  128. Glen, this is entirely a side issue but we’re getting nothing responsive from the guys who say global warming is fake, so why not?

    “Was there anybody who said witchcraft wasn’t real? I mean, anybody? No.”

    _Yes, there was. Witch manias were opposed everywhere they occurred. They were often followed by a period of reaction (see especially Salem)_

    This started out renaissance. I talked about scotland because I knew more about that and hoped there was some carryover. You talk about salem — not renaissance at all.

    “It was mostly a bunch of people doing faith-healing and such, using magic spells left over from the old days.”

    _No, it wasn’t. In the cases of people who weren’t entirely innocent, it was people who claimed to have powers in order to frighten or impress their peers._

    OK, we’ve read different histories. You believe that the ones you read are right and the ones I read are wrong. If you want to give links I’ll look at them, otherwise let’s just accept we’ve read different sources. I don’t right off see how to do a definitive experiment to decide the issue.

  129. Google Researching ‘Cheaper Than Coal’ Renewable Energy

    This can be found on Information week or on Google Finance when you call up the stock symbol GOOG.

    The world is changing, very rapidly. I am betting with my money and my time that the solutions for carbon emissions will not only not cost us anything, in the balance, but will be an enormous wealth generation machine.

  130. Wow – fifty comments among, what – six people?

    I promise a long wrapup tonight and then will suggest we move on to the next post which Alan, TOC, and JT will endlessly dispute…

    A.L.

  131. _I promise a long wrapup tonight_

    So, AL, are you going to back up any of your wild assertions?

    Are you perhaps going to “wrap up” and assert some more without giving room for dispute?

    Do you agree to correct people when you see them use the “Mars is warming too” false talking point?

  132. Mark:

    bq. But that flies in the face of what you just said. It doesnt matter how small or ‘insignificant’ the dissenter is- it matters if he makes a valid point, or has an experiment that can test his ‘wild’ hypethesis.

    I think you missed the point. It doesn’t matter whether a “dissenter” can propose an experiment to test his outlier hypothesis, what matters are the results. If he can produce credible data that refutes mainstream thinking, then people will come around for the pragmatic reasons I already explained. Yes, it is certainly true that sometimes the threshold for disproving dogma is higher than for confirmation, but that’s just the way it is, and as I said, I don’t think you can honestly or correctly claim that the system, as it is currently construed, suffers to a great extent because of these imperfections. In my view the modern scientific enterprise is perhaps the most beneficial human institution ever created.

    bq. There is a concerted and powerful effort to marginalize dissenters in this field.

    Hardly. I believe that the exact opposite is true, as I explained above in the same post. The first and main weapon of any good scientist is critical, factually based thinking, and it is in this arena where the dissenters have so far been unable to measure up. If non-scientists wish to demean their positions without fully understanding the science, then perhaps a case for unfairness or bias can be made. But since it appears to me that a lot of dissenters are non-scientists themselves, and are making decidedly non-scientific arguments (such as “his party was responsible for the levees in NO”) then the disagreement is certainly NOT based entirely on science (being funded by Exxon, as it were), in which case it’s all fair game.

  133. You know what, JT? I’m just back from my son’s soccer practice, and I have better things to do than engage with assholes. To be honest, since you get to both make assertions and declare them definitive, it’s a waste of time anyway.

    If you want to have discussions with me; it’d do you well to learn some manners.

    A.L.

  134. Gotcha, AL.

    So, all you’d have to do for me to agree my argument isn’t definitive is show that it doesn’t show what I say it shows. Nobody has responded to it at all.

    Way to “debate”, guys.

    Sorry to be rude. I just got so disgusted.

  135. Coming in late (but amused by the thread).

    J. Thomas: According to space.com:
    “In what could be the simplest explanation for one component of global warming, a new study shows the Sun’s radiation has increased by .05 percent per decade since the late 1970s.”

    This was the first link to show up in a google search for “global warming” “solar output”. There’s lots of other links if you’re actually interested.

    The general consensus (that I saw) is that there has been an increase in solar output, and it is believed to account for 10-30% of observed warming.

    So it does seem that there is a common causal factor connecting the warming on Mars and that on Earth, therefore “Mars is warming” is in fact germane to the discussion. How much it undercuts AGW is a matter of debate, and (voila) depends upon your choice of model. Which brings the debate back around full circle…how much do you trust those models?

    Although as I understand the larger point, the precautionary principle should reign. I’m somewhat sympathetic to this viewpoint, because it strikes me as unlikely that we can change the atmospheric CO2 concentration by large amounts without having some effect. But as a practical matter, I don’t believe the technology or political will currently exists to change the global economy to be carbon neutral.

  136. SG, thank you. That report is much better than the usual, which stop the analysis at 1980.

    They are claiming a total solar increase of 0.1% over 24 years from 1978 to 2002. If you look at their graph the data is very noisy, it varies far more than that during a single sunspot cycle. To get this result they massaged the data, they found reasons to change the data from one of the satellites that didn’t fit their conclusions. The data comes from 5 different satellites in 7 segments over 24 years — with the attempt to calibrate to better thank 0.1%, of course.

    It looks like they’d get a more impressive result if they started their analysis in 1980 or even 1982 instead of 1978, because there are a lot of high values at the beginning that would tend to reduce the increase. But they say they measure from minima to minima, which would be appropriate except there are only 2 minima on the graph. Puzzling. We need the original paper, which is behind a subscription firewall. (They’d send us the paper for $9, though.)

    The wikipedia article I linked to said that solar output increased before 1980 but stopped increasing on average around 1980. Your report shows a small increase since 1978, one that was too small to see without special methods.

    But the increase in surface temperature was faster since about 1980, not slower.

    So solar irradiation could explain it if the effect had a long lag, perhaps building up for over a century before the surface temperature results showed up.

    However, Willson published another paper in 1997 showing an increase of only .036% per decade in that earlier time.

    And it looks like his data is available!
    “satellite solar data”:http://www.ngdc.noaa.gov/stp/SOLAR/ftpsolarirradiance.html

    We could analyse it ourselves if we want to make the effort!

    And he published a lot of his methods the next year, “here”:http://www.pmodwrc.ch/pmod.php?topic=tsi/composite/SolarConstant

    So the information should be available, within limits. Also, the data should be ready from another solar minimum soon, and that will extend his work from 2 cycles to 3 cycles.

  137. bq. But as a practical matter, I don’t believe the technology or political will currently exists to change the global economy to be carbon neutral.

    Are you saying we should just do nothing and take it full on the chin?

  138. I looked a little further to see what Willson has done since. I found a (non-peer-reviewed) blog that discusses his study, and his complaints that a more recent study which found no increase in irradiance should have been done differently.

    “general study”:http://tamino.wordpress.com/2007/07/24/pmod-vs-acrim/

    “satellite data”:http://tamino.wordpress.com/2007/07/27/pmod-vs-acrim-part-2/

    In the second link they look at how Willson stitched together the results from 5 different satellites over 22 years, and the methods available to calibrate the instruments and account for instrument drift. A small change in one calibration removes Willson’s result.

    The first link shows how Willson got his result — he compared the two minima and the second, 11 years later, was higher. The other guys did proper moving averages.

    Unless this guy is lying about what Willson etc did, I see no reason to give them any credibility. But look at it yourself. The math isn’t very hard and I notice he put up some very good explanations how it works, elsewhere in his blog.

  139. “But as a practical matter, I don’t believe the technology or political will currently exists to change the global economy to be carbon neutral.”

    _Are you saying we should just do nothing and take it full on the chin?_

    Several others here have suggested that we do the things toward improved climate change that make sense to do regardless, like lots of nuclear power. And maybe do more if later research shows it’s necessary. That isn’t doing nothing.

    Turning carbon neutral would be a big deal. We’d have to either stop burning fossil fuels altogether or else find a way to sequester the CO2 after we burn it. I liked Freeman Dyson’s idea of building lots of topsoil. That’s got to help, and it would mostly be a few giant companies that would change their behavior to do it — they have the resources, and if the new farming methods happened to work better they’d have an incentive. It might even use less energy to do the farming. It deserves an effort to find out what’s workable. An extra food of topsoil all across our plains would be a fine thing. A foot of sod, less so.

    But for the most part, yes, that’s the idea. “Hey, that guy looks like he might be about to hit me. But maybe he isn’t. I’ll just stand here with my chin out, nobody’s proven he’s aiming at me. Hmm. He’s staring at me, he’s doing that windup thing, telescoping his move, but that’s no proof. Maybe he’s just stretching out. Oh look, that woman lost her handkerchief. I’ll just reach down and get it for her … How strange, that guy actually tried to hit me in the chin, and he missed, and then he tripped over me! He looks so surprised. Well, no reason to think he’d try that again. I’ll go give this handkerchief back to the pretty woman.”

    It’s great when it works.

  140. #143: “Are you saying we should just do nothing and take it full on the chin?”

    I’m not so much saying “we should” as I’m saying “we will”. The near-term consequences of global warming are less dire to India and China than foregoing economic growth. We don’t (currently) have the technology to substitute for fossil fuels at a scale that will lift 2.5 billion people out of poverty. Any program that omits China and India will not meaningfully address the issue, and any program that meaningfully addresses the issue will not be joined by India and China. Catch-22.

    That said, I actually don’t think we’re screwed. The short-term consequences aren’t that bad (and quite possibly net-positive) and technology is advancing steadily, with oil prices are doing much of the heavy lifting on that front.

    And if you believe the more apocalyptic AGW predictions, you might have Osama Bin Laden and George Bush to thank for saving mankind by (unwittingly) spurring the development of fossil fuel substitutes.

  141. _Any program that omits China and India will not meaningfully address the issue, and any program that meaningfully addresses the issue will not be joined by India and China. Catch-22._

    I tell you what, let’s develop the political will here, and then we can see how far india and china will go.

    While we’re the official big holdout, we don’t get to show how hypocritical they are about it.

  142. A few points:

    First of all, regarding witch-hunting; the witch-hunters are still working. If you don’t believe me, ask the staff of the Texas alternative medicine clinic (using herbs and nutrition, mostly) that was raided a few years ago by armed agents of the local sheriff, the FBI and the DEA, had all their records and computers seized and many of their staff arrested – for practising medicine that their patients were willing to pay for, worked, but was against the interests of the drug companies.

    Secondly; in some ways the AIDS non-epidemic is like the non-event Millennium Bug. In both cases, something was done about it and what could have been a catastrophe wasn’t; that does NOT mean there was no problem in the first place.

    Third, on global warming, and particularly with regard to America: The USA is getting a lot of flak about their use of much more than proportionate amounts of fossil fuels. OK, the American economy is large – but the numbers say that the $/BTU ration is worse in America than many other places. Have Americans got some sort of mental abberration that makes them actively _want_ to waste energy? I refer to the much larger cars with much less efficient engines than European norms, and to inadequately insulated and draught-proofed houses. Would it really be that bad to buy a slightly smaller (and still comfortable) car and to put more insulation in your roof?

    I am not a Green, particularly. I own a car that is probably rather inefficient for its size. This is because it is a cheap Italian car, with poor aerodynamics and thirteen years old. I am keeping it for three reasons – I don’t do much driving, buying a new and more efficient one would most likely be worse for the environment (manufacturing creates CO2 too) than keeping it until it falls apart; and lastly, the real reason is that at the moment I can’t afford a new one.

    If American fuel taxes were at British levels, you would all be buying smaller cars, Detroit would be out of business – and most importantly, you wouldn’t be giving enormous amounts of money to Arabs to kill you with. All without any trace of compulsion. Oh, and you could lower other taxes as well.

  143. _”1. I am called a name, someone who “lives in their own little world”_

    Point of fact- thats not a name, its a description. One i stand by.

    _”2. I am defined as someone who believes “the opinions of the powerful have no effect policy.”_

    Yes. Because in my mind you have defined yourself that way. I’m glad you don’t live in fear though. How about living in concern?

    _”3. I should be fearful of Hillary Clinton signing a Kyoto like accord in a few years.”_

    Concerned then? I really don’t understand your point I guess. We shouldn’t worry about what our policy makers are saying or intending even if we believe the results will be very negative for our nation? Because we shouldn’t live in fear? Isnt that whistling past the grave yard.

    _”All of this is nonsense and I have no idea why you would bother to write it.”_

    Ok, hows this- everthing is going to be fine and great and dandy and nothing bad will ever happen again. I’ve cancelled my car insurance because i wont let statistics (or the law) tell me to live in fear. Yet somehow i still find time to come bitch on a blog about everyone else being concerned about issues while never really saying anything except what a great conservative i am. Moreover i’m not going to let others define what i believe about global warming. In my head its always 72 degrees, so why all the contraversy?

    Amazing how this conversation always seems to come back to the same bottom line- do what you’re told and believe what you’re told and let us worry for you.

  144. J: No, you don’t get to hand wave India and China. That is one of the most wicked cores of an overall wicked problem. The US and Western Europe are already reducing their energy consumption on an absolute, per capita, and per economic output basis, and current oil prices will hasten this.

    Meanwhile India and China are developing like crazy and putting their people on wheels. They might be forgiven for wondering where the h*** we get off telling them that they shouldn’t do so. Moral example from the West isn’t going to matter much to those making buying decisions now. It would require coercion of the grossest sort – environmentalism is an affectation of the already wealthy.

    Assuming that global warning is largely anthropically driven, I’ll believe someone is serious about ‘solving’ it if they:

    – are willing to go to war over it, or
    – can come up with ‘green’ alternatives efficient enough to be viable options in developing economies that care only about velocity and speed, and can get them in place in time to intercept their growth curves, or
    – start figuring out how we’re going to adapt ourselves and the ecosystem to the inevitable.

  145. _”I think you missed the point. It doesn’t matter whether a “dissenter” can propose an experiment to test his outlier hypothesis, what matters are the results.”_

    Alan- it matters a great deal. Results require experiment and experiment require funding, peer review, etc. When dissenters are branded as kooks funding is hard to come by. On the other hand when you toe the party line there are all kinds of bennies. I’m not suggesting conspiracy, im just describing how the world works. In every field you can’t just take your telescope down to an eclipse like Einstein did (metaphorically) and prove to the world everything they thought they knew was wrong.

    Regardless- the science is far less at fault than the politics. We spend so much time battling over the margins its impossible not to get stuck in the mud. This works to the advantage of those on either side who benefit from the chaos. To get back to the point- the idea that AGW is an _immediate_ threat is a very contraversial one, and not backed by the scientific consensus at all. If you can smear anyone who doesnt believe that with a broad brush as a ‘denier’ or troll, you stand a good chance of convincing a lot of people it is indeed mainstream thinking.

  146. These problems will be solved by economics. China is one of the bigger players in renewable energy. The Chinese are not stupid and the realize that you cannot have 19 of the top 20 most polluted cities in the world and still have an economy. They are also very aware of their image abroad. They are doing their best to stall for time. Right now coal is their only alternative.

    Here are two lists. Look at the attendees. The Global warming debate is, for all practical purposes, over. Mainly because the world is moving to Renewable sources rapidly because of economics. It no longer matters whether warming is antho centric.

    Arguing about whether or not solar activity heating Mars is a major or minor cause of global warming is about as useful as arguing about how many angels will fit on the head of a pin. Carbon is dead and their is an enormous industry that will rise from its ashes.

    http://www.euromoneyenergy.com/default.asp?Page=4&SID=683919&ISS=23757
    http://www.euromoneyenergy.com/

    At the London conference, every major bank in the world attended along with all of the major investment houses. China alone will have four major Alternative energy trade shows this year. I think all of you guys are way, way behind the curve and are fighting the last war.

    I have a database of 1,000 companies from other sources that I have been collecting, everyone from Law firms like Fulbright and Jaworski to Archer Daniels Midland is involved heavily in this industry.

  147. _No, you don’t get to hand wave India and China. That is one of the most wicked cores of an overall wicked problem._

    Tend your own garden. You’re arguing we should forget about it because you assume they won’t do their part. But of course if we forget about it they have every reason to ignore the problem assuming we won’t do our part.

    _Assuming that global warning is largely anthropically driven, I’ll believe someone is serious about ‘solving’ it if they:_

    _- are willing to go to war over it, or_

    ??? War as a way to reduce fossil fuel consumption? You’ve got to be joking. ;)

    _- can come up with ‘green’ alternatives efficient enough to be viable options in developing economies that care only about velocity and speed, and can get them in place in time to intercept their growth curves, or_

    OK, let’s put rewards in place for that. Gasohol doesn’t count, agreed?

    _- start figuring out how we’re going to adapt ourselves and the ecosystem to the inevitable._

    We might as well do that too — since people like you appear to be dead-set against actually finding solutions, we need to live with the consequences.

    One approach is to try to create flexibility. Be ready for anything since we don’t know quite what to expect. “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.”

    Another is to put even more effort into trying to understand the problem, an effort which is hampered by our reliance on analogs to things that have happened before, when our situation is unprecedented. Structural change. There were times in the past when there was this much carbon in the biosphere, notably the Mississippian period. But there’s never been a time that it was at a much lower level and got added back this fast.

  148. #134 TOC…

    bq. Arguing about whether or not solar activity heating Mars is a major or minor cause of global warming is about as useful as arguing about how many angels will fit on the head of a pin. Carbon is dead and their is an enormous industry that will rise from its ashes.

    Despite the fact that this last statement might be viewed as a bit of an exaggeration, I for one think that this makes an excellent punctuation mark at the end of this long thread.

    And I look forward to gaining a better appreciation for the myriad ways in which humanity will deal with a problem that I think we can sense is coming regardless of what Exxon says. Economics will surely be a driving force, but I’m beginning to wonder whether something even more fundamental may be happening. Perhaps the survival instincts inherent in our species are in the process of re-adjusting to accommodate a longer horizon. Perhaps many of those opposed to doing anything now are only exhibiting a more “traditional” survival instinct and view Global Warming as a problem that will only affect future generations, and therefore is not a concern for the present.

    And from me, one last observation: I think skepticism is healthy, and I view those with such tendencies as intellectual brethren even if there is sometimes disagreement on specific issues.

    I just want to know where all of you skeptics were in 2003 before the Iraq War was launched?

  149. Alan: Way to go with the obligatory -driveby- off topic snark at the end of your post. You really have a knack for it, you know?

  150. Alan:

    I just want to know where all of you skeptics were in 2003 before the Iraq War was launched?

    I was kidnapped by UFOs and forced to breed in captivity. As a result I missed several National Security Council meetings.

    I know TOC will believe me, since credulity is a important survival instinct.

  151. Alan, it’s important to look at the risks versus the rewards.

    With global warming, if we try to do much about it we risk completely destroying our economy, and the only reward is the world might not suffer some disasters that might not happen regardless.

    I haven’t seen how good the economic models are that predict we’d destroy our economy, but people say it’s true.

    With invading iraq, in 2003 the rewards included getting control of the country with the second-largest oil reserves in the world (Saddam said so), preventing a big risk of nuclear proliferation (Saddam denied it but he tried to make iran think so), and create a bright and shining democracy that might cause democracy to spread all through the middle east, plus we could invade every nation in the middle east except israel and lebanon from there. And the risk was completely minimal, everybody knew it would be a short war that we’d win easily, which we did.

    Nobody could have predicted that Saddam was telling the truth about the nukes and lying about the oil. No one could have guessed that we’d choose to occupy iraq. And while it was predictable that a collaborationist government under occupation might have problems, again no one predicted the occupation.

    At the time I thought we’d do better to buy iraq from Saddam than send in the military to kill people and blow stuff up, but I thought the war would be quick and easy. I had no idea that Bremer would spend a year preventing democracy.

    To guess right about iraq you’d have had to consider that Saddam was a liar and had strong incentive to lie about his reserves. You’d have to suppose that the CIA leaks were people leaking the truth and not just Democrats in the CIA who wanted to cause trouble for Bush out of sheer undemocratic perversity, and that something might go wrong in a war.

    It seemed completely risk-free, if you believed the government.

    Later Bush said that Social Security is bankrupt and if we’d just give him the Social Security money then he’d come up with a good way to fix the problem. The majority of the country said “Fool me twice” and refused.

  152. Look at this story from Reuters

    http://www.reuters.com/article/latestCrisis/idUSL29480066

    China, already one of the leaders in Alternative Energy issues is now looking technological help from the west. I am not saying that they are not maneuvering in their own interest and stalling for time, but they seem to be taking this more seriously than we are. They also see the industry as something they can profit from.

    Part of the proof is the 4 Alternative Energy trade shows I mentioned that they are having there this year. China wants, like it always does with all industries, for the Alternative Energy Industry to be manufactured in China. They are already producing and deploying systems.

    This is the War that we will have to fight with them and economic one.

  153. #158 from Glen Wishard at 9:43 am on Nov 30, 2007
    Alan:

    *I know TOC will believe me, since credulity is a important survival instinct.*

    I see you are keeping up the high standards of your posts. If you have a problem with my opinions try not being this lazy. State what they are and we can discuss them. That is what the forum is for. Drive-bys might make you feel witty, but they are a waste of everyone’s time. Leave me out of them, please.

  154. Thanks, Nort, I try. And I don’t actually think it is “off topic” to ask a question that, to me, impacts directly on one’s ability to weigh evidence and come to reasonable conclusions. If this is a sore point for you then perhaps you should be thinking about why that’s the case instead of trying to berate me for aggravating it.

    J Thomas

    bq. It seemed completely risk-free, if you believed the government.

    Perhaps not “completely” but I take your point, of course. But what I’m saying is that’s where the kind of skepticism exhibited here in abundance would have been useful. I also agree with you that it is a good thing that many people have rediscovered this quality after the fact.

  155. bq. I was kidnapped by UFOs and forced to breed in captivity.

    Wow, Glen, can you elaborate on this more (especially the part about breeding)? Sounds interesting!

  156. Alan: The sad thing is that the kids look nothing like him. Evidence suggests it probably wasn’t really Pleiadians that did it to him, but those wrinkly reptilians. This feeds right into your hallucination theory. See? It all fits!

  157. Quoth Alan:

    bq. If this is a sore point for you then perhaps you should be thinking about why that’s the case instead of trying to berate me for aggravating it.

    “Sore point?” Mindreading. It’s an issue for me because your post was making a point and then veered off. You’re not alone in harping like that; my intention was not to make you feel special. But you already feel special, so no worries there.

  158. bq. …my intention was not to make you feel special. But you already feel special, so no worries there.

    True, but that’s not to say I would rebuff future efforts at doing so….

  159. J@154: (Let’s see if we can drag this back out of the tar pit of bickering):

    No, I’m not really serious about a war, I’m just pointing out how silly it is to expect developing economies to pay attention to environmentalists unless there’s an incentive for them to change course. Given that their priorities are growth-growth-growth (both for its own sake, and to preserve internal cohesion) that really means the only option (other than adapt) is my #2. Seems we may actually agree on that from your follow-ons.

    Whether it’s feasible, on an engineering, economic, or political basis, I don’t know. I does seem to me that the Google project (discussed on another thread) is setting the right benchmark: Something that’s more cost effective than coal. If it’s not, then China will burn its abundant coal to fuel its growth, and we will end up doing the same to generate electrons to power our ‘green’ next gen plug-in hybrids.

    I seems to me that this ought to be common cause between those who believe in AGW, on whatever basis, and those believing that an alternative to oil as a prime mover energy source is a strategic imperative, for their own reasons. China and India share that strategic imperative, so a common cause around it is likely to more compelling than appeals to AGW. They are going to develop regardless of AGW theories.

    Now let me suggest that before you unload on “people like me” who are “dead set against finding solutions”, you consider some nuances rather than pissing off those who might just be on parallel paths.

    I am a skeptic, but not of the sort that you apparently believe. I think warming is probable, some anthropic contribution likely, though I’m not at all a catastrophist. What I don’t believe is that AGW theories and models are ever going to be compelling enough by themselves to drive change, given their inherent uncertainty and the economic, strategic and most of all political context in which the change must occur.

    Here I’ll get up on a (hopefully small) soapbox. While I’ve never done climate work, I do have an advanced degree in systems modeling in the attic somewhere. There are some issues constant in the task of trying to abstract natural processes to the point where one can do feed-forward forecasting. Global climate is unfortunately prey to most of them.

    The most blatant is the inability to test. We’ve got one globe, and it runs in realtime. Running computer models forward without the ability to verify isn’t any sort of testing, it’s really fancy guessing.

    Second is the data, We’ve got a limited baseline of actual measurements, which weren’t captured with our current needs in mind. Further back we’re inferring conditions from indirect evidence that is itself subject to interpretation on the basis of more-or-less verified secondary models.

    Both lead straight into an issue plaguing all modeling: The temptation to over-fit the data. If you don’t have some strong and reasonably verified theories of mechanisms, you get pushed further back towards ‘black boxing’ and empirical fitting. You can make your model look better and better on a retrospective basis, but in fact be fitting to noise or to processes for which you have no correlated input measurements. Chances that you can forecast well with such a model aren’t very good. If you can’t verify, you don’t know if you are in this mess or not.

    You can pick instances of each of these out of the running battles between the advocates and skeptics of AGW. To name one, the controversy over how to adjust and join together various time series of temperature data.

    My point’s this: The situation is simply intractable in terms of a priori certainty. Any global climate modeler is going to have come down somewhere on any number of judgments that are essential for forecasting. Perhaps unlike some engineers, I’ve always embraced the nature that models and simulations (particularly incorporating human processes) are inherently political constructs. There no way out this – the modeling choices may be made, and will certainly be judged, on a political basis.

    I think your post helped reinforce that point, should it need any verification. Politicization is inherent in the situation, and when the prescriptions from a set of strident advocates start to look like a socialist’s wet dream, well….

    Let me put it this way: If Al Gore is your hero, we’re wasting our time talking. If you’re an Amory Lovins fan, we’re heading in the same direction and should cooperate.

  160. _While I’ve never done climate work, I do have an advanced degree in systems modeling in the attic somewhere._

    Same here! I agree with you right down the line on why we can’t get definitive models short of some new kind of data or possibly a new kind of climate theory. I have been posting about that spread over the last 100 posts or so.

    _I think warming is probable, some anthropic contribution likely, though I’m not at all a catastrophist._

    I agree with you, except I don’t see we have enough information to argue against the catastrophist claims. We don’t have data to say how likely they are. We can judge by sheer prejudice, we can imagine that it just isn’t reasonable to get things like bad crop yields for 3 years in a row or hurricanes of unprecedented size etc within the next 10 years or the next 30 years, because it’s a big world and we assume things just can’t change that fast. But we don’t really have anything to go on but prejudice. Given a bet of no unusual events over the next 10 years that collectively cost more than $1 trillion versus some combination of “unusual” events that were real expensive, I’d bet against. Because that fits my unfounded prejudices.

    _If Al Gore is your hero, we’re wasting our time talking. If you’re an Amory Lovins fan, we’re heading in the same direction and should cooperate._

    I don’t know much about Al Gore or Amory Lovins. I look at the data as I find out about it, and draw my conclusions from that. I no longer doubt that we’re having climate changes now. I don’t know what to expect from here.

    Politically it’s easy to see what to expect. The businesses with the best lobbyists are real real shortsighted. They’ll lobby against any political-level change until it’s obviously too late to do much.

    The type-case for this is Nippon Chisso. They were dumping their industrial waste in bays that got used for fishing, and the fishermen started getting mercury poisoning, and Chisso’s response was to deny everything. Their own medical people told them so and they told their doctors to burn their notes and stop investigating. A university team told them so and they criticised the quality of the research. They hired yakuza to threaten victims and reporters.

    After 20 years the japanese government required them to pay compensation of $28,000 and they paid but announced they weren’t responsible and would never pay more, and kept dumping. After about 30 years the government announced what everybody knew — that Chisso’s mercury had killed thousands of people and there were thousands of damaged survivors, and _the government_ paid compensation. Only then did Chisso dump their wastes elsewhere. They have since paid compensation of around $200 million to the winners of successful lawsuits.

    They could have avoided all that by the simple expedient of dumping their wastes into the ocean where it couldn’t be traced to them, but they didn’t want to.

    So OK, lots of funding for anti GW stuff on all fronts in the USA. Lots of room for people to say that if we can’t predict exactly what will happen that means there’s no problem. Lots of room for people to say that there’s no point in trying to do anything since there isn’t a political consensus. At some point we get an event that the public takes as definitive — a big hurricane, a giant tornado, maybe a huge pumpkin, who knows — and then we’ll be ready for a giant wasteful crash program that will do all sorts of stupidity like the gasohol thing only on a much larger scale.

    It seems like a bad approach to me, but I don’t get to choose unless I can start something that trumps the normal course of events.

  161. J: Aha, OK we share at least one micro-language. A few points:

    – My tilt against catastrophism is I suppose partially the result of personal bias, but I’ll claim this amount of evidence in favor of my position: We’re alive to talk about it. While we don’t understand all the mechanisms involved, it’s certainly known that Ol’ Mother Earth has been hit with some serious discontinuous inputs in the past. Start with meteor strikes and carry on from there. Yet the ecosphere endured. More recently we’ve got the Ice Ages. Again we don’t know how it works, but it’s observable that there has been a limit to the excursions in climate that is still compatible with life. I’d argue there’s empirical evidence for negative feedback mechanism(s) that keep the overall system within a stability region. Could we buggered them up? Sure, we don’t know what we’re doing. But I don’t see evidence for it.

    – Here’s the problem with counting up hurricanes, heat waves or what have you as evidence for catastrophe (or even GW itself). It’s analogous to someone who goes out and runs an experiment with twenty variables, tests all the results at 95% confidence, and then publishes the one that shows significance. Just by random chance, you’re going to have one hit, right? (The minor was statistics :)

    The wider the geographical and phenomenal scope of events that are claimed to be relevant to GW, the greater the likelihood (indeed, dead certainty) that somewhere, somehow, this year at least one and likely a lot of them are going to show ‘100 year excursions’. Just the same way that someone, somewhere is going to get with a 100 year flood next year. If you get a correlated cluster of such events, with a plausible linkage among them, that’s one thing. That we’re seeing that to some extent with temperature maxima is why I’m saying ‘probably’ on GW generally. Taking it to the extent of saying “AGW, hurricanes, boogah, boogah!” is just ridiculous. We don’t understand the mechanisms there well enough, and any variances are just as likely due to rent seeking by those whose budgets grow when worries about storms increase.

    – I have no problem saying that Nissan Chisso sucks, but dragging them in and implicitly saying that’s systematic and typical behavior is ridiculous. It undermines your arguments by giving exactly that socialist tinge I was snarking about above.

    Do I believe that businesses likely systematically oppose the most economically damaging demands of AGW extremists? Yes I do. In fact, for an American public company, it’s easily arguable that it’s their fiduciary duty to do so.

    That doesn’t mean businesses aren’t amenable to not only saving energy (and costs) when there’s a decent ROI, but also investing in alternatives. TOC waxed eloquent on the issue over on the Google thread, and I’ve not got much to add.

    Seriously, do yourself a favor and look up Amory Lovins and the Rocky Mountain Institute, and follow links from there and TOC’s posts. There are serious efforts to come up with alternatives that are not only economically viable, but preferable. That’s common cause among AGW believers, developing countries, business, and those of us who want off the oil economy for strategic reasons.

  162. I agree with you, except I don’t see we have enough information to argue against the catastrophist claims. We don’t have data to say how likely they are.

    We probably have better data on the likelihood of catastrophic asteroid strike; yes I see no movement to radically alter society to accommodate that – doubtless more consequential – risk.

    If the problem is that “you can’t prove that it won’t happen”, than the GW catastrophists are doubtless right.

    The problem is that if you don’t have better evidence that it will, it’s hard to justify the expense.

    And JT – I’ll note that you haven’t withdrawn your “false talking point” claim on Mars yet; if you’d like I can also point you to cost estimates for complying with Kyoto (as a good proxy for ‘rapid reduction in carbon emissions by the developed economies’).

    A.L.

  163. bq. yes I see no movement to radically alter society to accommodate that – doubtless more consequential – risk.

    For the love of Pete, can you please, please provide some examples of what you are categorizing as “societal altering” or “turning the world economy upside down” efforts??!!

  164. _While we don’t understand all the mechanisms involved, it’s certainly known that Ol’ Mother Earth has been hit with some serious discontinuous inputs in the past. Start with meteor strikes and carry on from there. Yet the ecosphere endured._

    The big ones have given us mass extinction events. Not a whole lot of them, but when it happened the large animals tended to die out. Humans are large animals. This is not an argument opposing catastrophe.

    _- Here’s the problem with counting up hurricanes, heat waves or what have you as evidence for catastrophe (or even GW itself). It’s analogous to someone who goes out and runs an experiment with twenty variables, tests all the results at 95% confidence, and then publishes the one that shows significance. Just by random chance, you’re going to have one hit, right? (The minor was statistics :)_

    For 100-year stuff you need a hundred of them to average one single anomaly. So OK, throw out volcanoes and earthquakes that are unlikely to be caused by climate change. Throw out floods that are only 100-year incidents for that particular floodplain, and include only floods that are so severe they were 100-year incidents for the world in 1980. Include only hurricanes, typhoons and tornadoes that were hundred-year incidents foro the world in 1980. Etc. Count up the damage. How often did it come out to a trillion 1980 dollars before 1980? Very seldom, right? WOuld you expect it to do that by chance in one of the next 20 years?

    _That we’re seeing that to some extent with temperature maxima is why I’m saying ‘probably’ on GW generally._

    Yes. So are we going to see it with climate-related damage? We didn’t used to. My guess is we won’t, I’d bet even odds we won’t over the next 20 years. But my point is that this is sheer prejudice. We have no real data to predict with. We’ve moved into a volume of the phase space that we’ve never been before.

    _- I have no problem saying that Nissan Chisso sucks, but dragging them in and implicitly saying that’s systematic and typical behavior is ridiculous. It undermines your arguments by giving exactly that socialist tinge I was snarking about above._

    You don’t like it that I say it, but it would be hard to marshal an opposing argument beyond prejudice. I don’t say it’s typical behavior for US corporations. I do say it’s typical behavior for US corporations that do a whole lot of lobbying. Compare with the US cane sugar industry which is comparatively benign. (They make no pretense of doing anything but arranging legislation to maximise their profits, but they aren’t really hurting anybody in the process except some environmental damage and of course their own workers.)

    _That doesn’t mean businesses aren’t amenable to not only saving energy (and costs) when there’s a decent ROI, but also investing in alternatives._

    Agreed. Except our businesses that are interested in that sort of thing appear to have been far less successful at lobbying than the ones who want to block it. The GOP as a whole has been pretty much denialist, focused on OPEC and such far more than finding alternatives. To keep the government out of the way of alternate energy, we need to get republicans out of office. We need a good mix of democrats and libertarians.

  165. Sure. Here’s Lomborg “presenting at Brookings”:http://aei-brookings.org/admin/authorpdfs/redirect-safely.php?fname=../pdffiles/phpiC.pdf (pdf) – 30 seconds of Google for “costs Kyoto”

    And let me just show…this is going to be my final slide…these are the IPCC scenarios for the 21st century. Basically, this shows you that the IPCC says that there are two basic dimensions that we can view the 21st century on…the one is whether we worry most about environmental issues or economic issues, and the other one is whether we focus on solving our problems regionally or globally. Most people don’t want to say that. Say that this is probably the A1 where we focus on the economics and in a global setting. That is probably the most business as usual kind of thing. What they say here is…so…what is the worth of the 21st century? The IPCC doesn’t say this…this is an economist right? If you want to buy in the 21st century, how much would you pay? The answer is it’s about $895…about $900 trillion. However, the point is, if we do anything else…for instance learn more about the second best option, that we still focus back to solving our problems in the global setting, but we worry more about the environmental areas. Then we move down here where we actually end up in a situation where we’ll lose $107 trillion. These are by the U.N.’s own estimates…$107 trillion. Basically, to solve global warming, which you could say is a $5 trillion problem, or perhaps even what we can actually do about it is a $0.3 trillion problem. Basically, the idea here is to simply say, ‘it’s a bad deal. In order to try to solve an $0.3 trillion problem…to end up spending $107 trillion doing so, and basically we have to ask ourselves, is this a good way to leave for instance the developing world, where by the U.N.’s own estimates, we expect to have an average person in the developing world making 75% less in 2100 than he otherwise would have done.’

    Here’s another, from “a paper by Yale economists W.D. Nordhaus and J.G. Boyer”:http://www.econ.yale.edu/~nordhaus/homepage/Kyoto.pdf

    The next set of issues concerns the economic impact of alternative policies. The present value of total abatement costs is shown in Table 5. The present value of abatement (which excludes damages) ranges from a low of $173 billion in the globaltrading case; to $828 billion in the Annex I-trading case; to a high of $1,488 billion in the no-trade case. Clearly, there are enormous stakes involved in global warming.

    and

    For example, the U.S. 2010 prices are $144 and $127 per ton for the OECD and no-trading cases. In the U.S. carbon prices are estimated to rise to $350 to $314 per ton carbon by the middle of the next century. These numbers are so large that they cast a fairy-tale (or perhaps horror-story) quality to the analysis. For example, by the middle of the next century, annual U.S. carbon tax revenues are between $70 and $400 billion dollars depending upon the version of the Kyoto Protocol. In the Annex I case, the U.S. is transferring $10 to $70 billion annually to other countries through carbon emissions permits in the next century. It seems unlikely that the our models can adequately represent the impacts on the overall economy, on trade flows, or on the political response of such enormous changes.

    That’s all I have time for right now; I can try and get a little more over the weekend.

    A.L.

  166. _We probably have better data on the likelihood of catastrophic asteroid strike; yes I see no movement to radically alter society to accommodate that – doubtless more consequential – risk._

    We’re pretty clear what to expect for meteorite strikes. There have been some big ones and they are very rare. The earth would look a lot like the moon except we have an atmosphere that reduces it some and also we have so much erosion that the craters tend to get less noticeable. But it doesn’t lead to major extinctions very often, the last was like more than 60 million years ago, right? We got by OK over the last 5000 years just fine, and if it takes us another 5000 years to set up protections we’ll probably do fine. I’d like to see it quicker if we can manage it without much strain — if we could capture a thousand-ton asteroid in a stable orbit that would be up to a thousand usable tons we wouldn’t have to boost from earth.

    We have no good data about what to expect from global warming. There’s no particular reason to think there won’t be great big effects. We don’t have anything like a baseline, while we do for meteorite strikes.

    I’m not interested in radically altering society to prepare for the unpredictable future we’re facing, not particularly. But we’re going to use up the major part of our coal and oil pretty quick unless we do make some changes, and we might as well find out how far we can go in that direction without a lot of pain.

    _I’ll note that you haven’t withdrawn your “false talking point” claim on Mars yet;_

    Have you seen any reason I should? It looks like a false talking point. Have you seen any evidence for it?

    _if you’d like I can also point you to cost estimates for complying with Kyoto (as a good proxy for ‘rapid reduction in carbon emissions by the developed economies’)._

    Yes! That was exactly what I was asking for!

    And I got Avatar’s response:

    bq. JT, it’s extremely dishonest to pretend that you don’t know about the costs associated with action on global warming. Nor, to put it bluntly, is it our job to go get that information for you in the thread; I’m perfectly content to allude to them.

    And no response from you about that until now. Th*nk you! Yes, we certainly should look at your computer models that predict the costs.

    And if it turns out that Kyoto is not workable then of course we should do something else.

    I’ve noticed a general pattern in these discussions, that it’s like there are two sides, and if some politician on one side has said something that sounds stupid, that’s supposed to invalidate the whole position. But other things equal, we should expect stupid people (and stupid politicians) to be evenly split between the “sides”. They aren’t the people we should be talking about, as you agree when Ann Coulter is brought up.

  167. A.L. Thanks, now we’re getting somewhere, although I’m not quite sure where we’re headed yet. And while I know you are a busy dude, so am I and a lot of others here, so self-written abstracts and interpretative or summary comments with links would be greatly preferred to simply dumping the raw original data on us. I can barely understand what the hell Lomborg is talking about and the economic paper is nearly Greek to me.

    One observation I would like to make, however, that is pretty clear to me is that the cost estimates in these analyses are based on economic MODELS and are, of course, predictions, not certainties (the Yale paper spends a lot of time discussing theirs). So I would hope that you’d recognize or acknowledge that such models are themselves no better (or perhaps even worse) than climate models, given the unpredictability of the system (being heavily dependent, as it is, on human behavior) and the scant amount of supporting (historical) data.

    You might want to chew on that a bit before pulling out more economic forecast studies.

  168. AL, thank you for the links! I’m on page 26 of the Lomborg one. It’s a debate, sponsored jointly by AEI and Brookings. !!

    The other guy, like me, points out that we can’t tell how bad it will be but we get some very bad results early, like coral reefs die when they get just a degree or two warm and so we could lose a lot of them. Hard to put a dollar value on extinctions.

    But Lomborg goes ahead and estimates the cost of global warming over the next 100 years and sometimes he says it just isn’t that much. But his central point is that he thinks the Kyoto proposals would cost us somewhere between $160 billion and $350 billion a year, and he thinks we could spend the money better. He assumes that global warming would warm up most of the third world until it becomes more-or-less uninhabitable in 100 years, and so he suggests that we do other things to enrich the people in the third world. Then when they’re relatively wealthy and their land becomes unlivablel they can afford to come live with us. (He doesn’t say it exactly that way.)

    By coincidence this exactly fits one of the arguments about the iraq war. That argument goes, the war is costing us somewhere between $160 billion and $240 billion a year, and we’d do better to spend the money on something with a larger payoff. Lomborg makes a list of things we could do for the third world, and by coincidence two items on his list are the same as two of the items on the iraq list.

    Here’s Lomborg, talking about the cost of alleviating global warming:

    bq. …the basic point being that, yes, it’s not going to drive us to the poorhouse. This is really just a question of saying, if we’re going to spent that much resources, we might as well spend them well, but it’s kind of nice to know that even if we do it really badly it’s not going to harm us in the long run. So we’re not talking about making the U.S. or Florida into Bangladesh. We’re just simply talking about should Bangladesh become Florida in 2100 or 2102 or whatever….

    He claims that climate change won’t cost us that much, and since it’s a debate he does a little handwaving about that rather than anything real. Then he claims that reducing carbon emissions won’t cost us that much either, but that it would cost more than we’d save by mitigating his assumed global warming.

    Lomborg says that renewable energy will replace fossil fuels by 2050 regardless. He says maybe we’ll get fusion power, or something we haven’t thought of yet. And anyway “…just to give you an idea of the feasibility of this, we can cut the entire present-day energy consumption with the present day efficiency from the solar cells covering what would be the equivalent of 2.6% of the area of the Sahara Desert.”

    At least up to page 26, Lomborg is not saying that the Kyoto accord would cost more than we can afford. He just is not saying that at all.

    He’s saying only that we could find a better use for the money, just as lots of americans are now saying we can find a better use for the same amount of money per year that we are spending fighting in iraq.

  169. Maybe another way to express my last sentiment is that perhaps the costs for dealing with global warming will be a lot lower than Lomborg and others predict. For example, their models cannot take into account new technologies that are being developed which could drastically improve the efficiency of implementing a switch in energy sources away from carbon.

    Another concern is that they don’t (can’t) take into account how much global warming itself will actually end up costing societies. In other words, yes, of course if will cost us bigtime to deal with lowering carbon emissions, etc. But every investment must be weighed against the alternative before deciding on it’s value. Since these data don’t do that, they cannot on their own be used to judge the overall economic impact of any planned global warming measures.

    I’d therefore be more interested in comparing estimates for the cost of global warming against the predicted cost of implementing Kyoto (the Yale paper’s focus) or other plans. Then we can decide whether the current plans seem worth or not.

    Perhaps at a later date we can then get back to figuring out what all this has to do with the temperature on Mars, because I’m still not sure why it is necessary to attack the science to think through the economic or social changes that are predicted to arise from global warming and efforts to attenuate it. Certainly the above cost-benefit equation will be influenced by the magnitude of predicted changes and costs, and it would of course benefit those who want to show that costs will be higher than benefits to have the most optimistic global warming model and loosest economic model, but to be fair a range of values should be used that incorporates multiple models.

  170. Oops! I was on page 22 and somehow saw 26. There are only 24 pages in the paper.

    About the Nordhaus paper, I couldn’t bring myself to look at it in detail but I saw enough of the economic models to say that if you’re worried about global warming models that don’t handle cloud cover you’ll have a lot of complaints about these. More important, they were criticising the specifics of their interpretation of the Kyoto agreement, and they point out that their own solution would be 8 times better. But we blocked Kyoto, and if we negotiate something like that again we can use Nordhaus’s approach as a start to get a much better result.

  171. JT #175 –

    You’re starting to see it from my point of view; what we have are arguments in the form of mathematical models.

    In certain narrow domains (Newtonian physics) they work exceedingly well; as we expand the domain, they get progressively fuzzier and fuzzier – ever dealt with accounting for a large organization? Economic models are another level fuzzier, and then probably climate models, and then – I don’t know, cosmology.

    So the issue is that we have models and arguments, and none of them are dispositive. So we’re making bets. It’s probably a good bet that we ought to do a lot of things to conserve energy and lower the use of petroleum. It’s a less good bet that we ought to raise the cost of energy by a factor of 10 in the developing world.

    So what we’re debating is the price of a bet. How much will we pay for what level of improvement in the odds? And like all bets, it looks different in prospect than retrospect.

    You can legitimately argue that the bet is a good one, but like every racetrack tout waving a tip sheet outside the entrance to the track, your ‘system’ is unprovable.

    Which takes us right back to Rittel, wicked problems, and the need for discourse as a solution.

    A.L.

  172. AL, some mathematical models are better than others. “Lockwood and Frohlich”:http://publishing.royalsoc.ac.uk/media/proceedings_a/rspa20071880.pdf
    are clearly far better done than “Willson et al”:http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/sun_output_030320.html . There’s strong reason to think that total solar irradiance (TSI) has not changed since we started collecting satellite data. (UV from the sun varies more than TSI, and it might have more of an effect than it used to due to human-caused thinning of the ozone layer. But it’s highly correlated with TSI which hasn’t changed on average.)

    But the more you put the individual studies together to make sweeping patterns, the flakier it gets.

    So what I’m confident about is that we’re making climate change. There’s strong theoretical reason to expect it and it’s measurably happening.

    But guessing just which climate change to expect is like betting on one baseball team against the field at the beginning of the season. There are various feedback mechanisms that tend to keep things in equilibrium. We’ve already pushed those outside of the ranges we’ve every observed for them. So we don’t know what to expect from them — they might slow the changes or they might induce big oscillations, we just can’t predict them now.

    I don’t think this should be at all controversial. If you want to say “I know we won’t have a catastrophic climate event in the next ten years” then my response is “What’s your evidence?”. We could for example have an event that releases a whole lot of biogenic trapped methane and makes a giant greenhouse effect. My guess is we won’t have that in ten years, but I don’t have any basis for that guess except my prejudice. No scientific basis for it. If a climate scientist says “We don’t predict any immediate crisis” that’s a sort of code, what he’s saying is “We don’t have adequate data to predict with high probability that there will be an immediate crisis (and I don’t want people to think I’m a crackpot).” He isn’t saying “We have strong reason to think there will not be an immediate crisis.”

    We don’t know what’s going on and there’s no particular reason to think it will be like it used to be. You can feel comfortable with that if you want to.

    What to do about it? That’s something we can discuss.

  173. #180 AL

    bq. So the issue is that we have models and arguments, and none of them are dispositive. So we’re making bets….what we’re debating is the price of a bet. How much will we pay for what level of improvement in the odds? And like all bets, it looks different in prospect than retrospect.

    Why do you think of it as a “bet”? If you choose not to put your money down on the crap*s table, you’ve neither lost (more likley) nor gained anything. Surely you don’t think that if we do nothing about Global Warming it will be similarly cost-free and harmless?

    I think an investment is a much better way to think about it, as I explained in #178. Here, we can weigh the cost of doing something versus doing nothing. I presume that you understand this idea well enough to recognize how it applies in this situation….

    bq. Which takes us right back to Rittel, wicked problems, and the need for discourse as a solution.

    What this sentence means, to me, is that you think the problem is too complicated to deal with so we should just talk about it. I certainly don’t agree with that.

  174. What it suggests, Alan, is that you ought to go read Rittel and the body of work that has grown up around ‘wicked problems’ (see “Wikipedia”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wicked_problems as a good start).

    JT – if your case is “catastrophes might happen” I can counter with “and they might not” – and that’s balanced against “retooling energy dramatically (I was going to say ‘Great leap Forward’) will expand the world economy” vs. “retooling energy dramatically will depress the world economy”. Both are bets; the question isn’t necessary which one to make, but whether there are safer bets on both counts.

    A.L.

  175. AL, will reading about “wicked” problems help me to understand why you want to view global warming abatement efforts as a “bet”, or why the analysis that I propose does not seem to merit your consideration?

  176. And I’m still left wondering whether you genuinely disbelieve the possibility that Global Warming will be more devastating to human life on Earth than an Al Qaeda nuke, wicked problem and all?

  177. Alan, it certainly makes sense to discuss it.

    So, if we do nothing we accept an unknown risk that is likely to be very large — but still it’s unknown.

    If we choose to do something then we pay whatever that something costs. If it looks like it’s costing too much we can change course and do less, and if we get a consensus to do more we can do more. It might be too late by the time we get a consensus, but those are our choices aren’t they?

    So it’s an economic system with feedback loops that are vaguely predictable, and our first step is to make fossil fuels reliably expensive without hurting the economy much. If we depend on the oil industry to raise prices enough, they’ll do it inconsistently — big raids where the price goes way up and they rake in the money, and then lulls where the price is low enough to stop people from investing in alternatives.

    The first obvious way to raise fossil fuel prices is with a tax. Tax them at the source, and then give the money to consumers so they won’t be hurt. So if you wind up paying $2/gallon tax on gasoline but you get your fair share of the money back, you can use that money to pay for gasoline and you aren’t hurt. But if you find ways to economise on gas then that’s money in your pocket to spend on whatever you want. Businesses can pass their fossil-fuel operating expenses on to consumers. The products that use the least fossil fuel wind up cheaper relative to those that use more, and so businesses have an incentive to economise too. Nobody’s hurt but the fossil fuel producers, who will be dead-set against it.

    But this has the problem that it hurts exports. Our exports have a tax that foreign competitors don’t have. We can subsidise exports to make up for the tax and have to explain the subsidies to all our trade partners. We can persuade the rest of the world to do an equivalent tax? Maybe. But just like pollution regulations and worker safety regulations etc, everything we require businesses to do that costs money and doesn’t make the product cheaper encourages businesses to buy from foreigners who don’t care about polluting their land or injuring their workers etc.

    We could directly subsidise alternative energy. But this gives the government the job of deciding which technologies and which businesses to subsidise. We haven’t had good experience with this, eg military contracting, gasohol, etc. Too easy for politicians to corrupt the system, or for businesses to corrupt the politicians etc.

    The approach economists like is to establish tradable tax credits for whatever we want to limit. If they can be traded then the people who’re best able to do without them can sell them to those who most need them, and things work better. In theory. In practice it turns political deciding who deserves the credits in the first place, and there’s lots of room for fraud etc on top of it. A license to pollute like a license to kill is likely to get abused various ways. But economists tend to like the idea because it fits their theories well, and that’s what Kyoto was doing.

    An international agreement like that potentially works much better to avoid favoring some national economies over others. But since it’s done by agreement amongo nations, the devil is in the details. The USA uses a whole lot more energy per capita than most other nations, developed or not. Should we keep doing that? Should we pay anything to keep doing that? We didn’t agree with the rest of the world on those questions, and didn’t get an agreement.

    So anyway, for myself I figure we do better to minimise our oil imports, and it doesn’t hurt us to minimise burning our own oil. Coal is dirty, it has even worse effects on average than nukes (though we haven’t had a really bad nuclear accident yet to compare to). We could do a tax and do something about the export problem (room for political skullduggery there but we could try to minimise it). The better we develop renewable energy the more money we make by exporting the technology or the energy.

    So do the tax thing and the export twist and we benefit. But since it looks like our economy is about to implode, better to do it after that rather than before. If we do it now then when we get giant economic problems the public will blame it on alternate energy. Better to spend the time building a consensus and actually do it when we have little to lose.

  178. It seems to me to be evident that the greatest risk we have is a continued addiction to carbon and not being proactive about ending that addiction.

    1. Like smoking, it carries with it detrimental effects on health. You might argue that the Tobacco industry creates a lot of jobs, both in the tobacco industry and the Health Care Industry, but I would argue that developing a tobacco like industry that does not have deleterious effects on health is where we should be placing out bets.

    2. Carbon has proven and obvious deleterious effects on the environment.
    3. Carbon is getting extremely expensive now, even if we do not factor in anything other than its price on the spot market.
    4. Carbon dependence is a national security problem that will continue to put us in conflict with others over limited supply. This will get worse as more and more countries industrialize. There is a very old formula

    Growing Commodity Dependence + Shrinking Supply in realtion to the size of the dependence = Conflict.

    The Pentagon has been trumpeting this formula for more than 30 years.

    All this has nothing to do with Global Warming. In about 1990, I read a report, I cannot remember where, by a conservative think tank calling for a $100 Billion Dollar Federal investment into basic research into alternative energy technologies over a period of 10 years. Much like the Apollo Program.

    The argument being that in some cases, only the government is big enough to make these kinds of huge financial commitments, not only because of its huge amount of purchasing power, but it is not restrained by market forces that would prevent private industry from making these sort of commitments.

    The main fear they had was on a National Security basis, Oil was a loser. It was right then and it is right now. It is also, increasingly and in an accelerating fashion, an economic loser, whether we have global warming or not.

    Add to that the opportunity the United States has in leading the way in the new technology needed to decrease our dependence on this stuff, we have the ability to benefit in ways we cannot foresee. Would you rollback the unseen benefits we garnered from the Apollo Program.

    I just really can’t see where any of these models are particularly relevant. Nor does it make any difference whether Global warming exists or not. All these do, IMO is put Yankee Ingenuity in chains.

    Risk? Isn’t that what we Americans thrive on? How did we become so fearful? Thankfully, GE doesn’t appear to be. They appear to have more faith in human cr3eativity and ability to meet challenges.

    http://www.geenergyfinancialservices.com/

  179. Alan:

    And I’m still left wondering whether you genuinely disbelieve the possibility that Global Warming will be more devastating to human life on Earth than an Al Qaeda nuke, wicked problem and all?

    Let’s take that as a possibility, then.

    Another possibility is that climate change, which happens very slowly outside of disaster movies, is no different than any other kind of global change – social, political, cultural, economic. Liberal capitalism has adapted to such changes very well.

    Another possibility is that aggressive “solutions” to global warming can be hundreds of times more devastating than the problem, with most of the impact falling on poor nations.

    What is absolutely certain is that if the world faces sudden catastrophic climate change (which I do not believe) which could be prevented by some form of social or political engineering (which I doubly do not believe) then there is no solution in which everybody wins. In any possible scenario, somebody gets to be God and somebody gets to be the Dodo bird.

  180. Alan, it’s a way to reason backward from your conclusions.

    “If there’s even a 1% chance that Saddam will get nukes someday, then it’s worth *whatever it costs* to stop him.”

    “If there’s even a 1% chance that global warming won’t be catastrophic, then it isn’t worth doing anything about it.”

    This sort of reasoning can be very compelling to people who really want the particular conclusions.

  181. Actually, I’d invert that – “If there’s a 1% chance that AGW could be catastrophic, it’d be worth doing anything about it”. Let me dig up “an old comment of mine”:http://www.windsofchange.net/archives/009883.php#c46

    Jim R – I’ve thought for a while that certain claims are like aqua regia; they simply dissolve everything else around them in the context of an argument.

    You claim is like that – what can stand up to it? Torture? Nope. Universal wiretapping – hell, let’s just force everyone to wear a mike and small video camera and archive and scan everything they say. Anyone suspected of support of – or eventually sympathy to – the potential attackers is isolated from mainstream society.

    I mean, we’re talking about preventing nuclear disaster here!

    Seriously, what wouldn’t one do to prevent it?

    The problem is that our society (more than others, I believe) is a fragile clockwork kept from exploding into gears and springs by – more than anything else – our shared faith in it. So we could have a society that protected itself against nuclear terror By Any Means Necessary; but in short order, that society wouldn’t be our society.

    And in that new society, I’ve got to tell you, I’m going to be much more on V’s side of the fence than the government’s.

    Could that logic be applied to AGW as well?

    A.L.

  182. AL, I’m not quite sure what you’re saying here. Is it that if there was a 1% chance of a climate-change disaster then *whatever it takes* would actually be worth it? Or are you saying that it isn’t worth it to destroy our culture to avoid a small chance that it might be destroyed?

    But see, it isn’t an either-or choice. I’ve been arguing the truth as I see it about global warming because I care about the truth and that was the topic. We don’t know how bad it will be, we can’t guess the details very well, we know 100% there’s something new going on that’s unprecedented that is quite likely to demand a lot of adaptation, but we can’t predict well how it will go. And it’s clearly happening at least partly because of our own CO2.

    But this is a “tragedy of the commons” problem. Do you really care about what happens to the third world? To NYC and San Francisco? Even if it looks like a catastrophe you might come out ahead. The USA might come out ahead. Why should we make any sacrifice for a disaster that might not happen, that might in fact benefit us?

    But putting aside global warming, there’s every reason to think we benefit from reducing or if possible eliminating our burning fossil fuels. If we could cut our oil use by 60% we would have no net oil imports. In the long run, everybody benefits. Do arab countries really benefit by pumping their oil as fast as they can at fire-sale prices? If they could ship just enough for petrochemicals and have it last hundreds of years instead of just 30…. The only people who’d suffer would be the ones whose businesses depend on pumping high volumes of oil.

    If we put a high tax on fossil fuels and distributed the money to consumers, all it would cost would be the expense of running the system. Collect the taxes from first fuel sales. Put the money in all the accounts. Replace the debit cards when they get lost. Not expensive.

    We’d replace fossil fuels as fast as we reasonably could, and no faster. It would not disrupt our economy. Would we stop burning fossil fuels in time to save us from climate-change crisis? No way to tell ahead of time, but it would probably be the best we could do. Get too doctrinaire about stopping the burning when we don’t have alternatives ready and we’d reduce our ability to create alternatives. And it would take a lot of public hysteria to convince the public to give up their standard of living for the threat. And that hysteria wouldn’t last, they’d back off within a few years. Just like protection from asteroids, where we probably have to accept the possibility of a catastrophe within the next 20 years or so because it’s known to be a very small chance and we don’t yet have the technology to handle it at a reasonable price. We don’t know the chances on climate change but we can get a consensus to take our best shot at phasing out fossil fuels and maybe lose. We can’t get a consensus to get real poor. If it comes to that we’ll get real poor first from climate change and then look at what we can do to keep it from getting worse.

    There’s no point arguing with global warming enthusiasts who want us to do without. When heating oil prices go way up and people get money they can use to pay for insulation or for heating oil, they’ll make their choices. Tell them they’ve got to put their thermostats at 60 degrees and see how they vote. These guys aren’t going to get anywhere unless there’s an obvious short-run crisis. You do just as much good arguing with people who want to cut the military budget by 100%. It isn’t going to happen whether you argue with them or not. I guess it might be fun to argue with them, and it might be good to show them that respect.

  183. JT –

    We don’t know how bad it will be, we can’t guess the details very well, we know 100% there’s something new going on that’s unprecedented that is quite likely to demand a lot of adaptation, but we can’t predict well how it will go. And it’s clearly happening at least partly because of our own CO2.

    …no we don’t. Twenty years ago, equally earnest scientists projected a new global Ice Age. We have noisy numbers which are pretty suggestive, but to suggest that they give you, or anyone else ‘concrete insight’ into what will happen climate-wise in the next 50 years, is simply untrue.

    Now you go on to say this:

    But putting aside global warming, there’s every reason to think we benefit from reducing or if possible eliminating our burning fossil fuels. If we could cut our oil use by 60% we would have no net oil imports. In the long run, everybody benefits.

    …and now you’re talking. Here’s the gap between us; you insist that I (and others who seem clustered over where I’m standing) acknowledge the Received Truth that AGW is a critical issue that must, yes must be dealt with – like Jim Rockford’s concern about a nuked US city – at almost any cost. I’m not sure enough of either proposition to pay any price; I’m willing to pay some price (for both), but there’s a limit on what I’m willing to bet to insure myself against the potential problem.

    But it’s far clearer that we’re damaging our economy by dumping cash into the petroleum rentiers, and that we’re damaging our local ecologies by overconsuming petroleum products and coal. I’m willing to pay something for that.

    And, as I’ve noted, there’s a lot we can do that really doesn’t cost anyone much of anything that deals with your issues and mine as well.

    So instead of spending billions of electrons disputing questionable mathematical models, why not just sit down and talk about what we’re willing to do this year that we can all agree on?

    A.L.

  184. “We don’t know how bad it will be, we can’t guess the details very well, we know 100% there’s something new going on that’s unprecedented that is quite likely to demand a lot of adaptation, but we can’t predict well how it will go. And it’s clearly happening at least partly because of our own CO2.”

    _…no we don’t. Twenty years ago, equally earnest scientists projected a new global Ice Age. We have noisy numbers which are pretty suggestive, but to suggest that they give you, or anyone else ‘concrete insight’ into what will happen climate-wise in the next 50 years, is simply untrue._

    We know something new is happening. We don’t know how it will turn out. Would you mind rereading what I said, I don’t see that I at all said what you’re disagreeing with.

    “But putting aside global warming, there’s every reason to think we benefit from reducing or if possible eliminating our burning fossil fuels. If we could cut our oil use by 60% we would have no net oil imports. In the long run, everybody benefits.”

    _…and now you’re talking. Here’s the gap between us; you insist that I (and others who seem clustered over where I’m standing) acknowledge the Received Truth that AGW is a critical issue that must, yes must be dealt with – like Jim Rockford’s concern about a nuked US city – at almost any cost._

    Did you read what I said? I didn’t say what you seem to think I said.

    I think the best we can do is give ourselves solid economic incentives to find alternatives to fossil fuels, and then we see if we get alternatives that are good enough.

    _And, as I’ve noted, there’s a lot we can do that really doesn’t cost anyone much of anything that deals with your issues and mine as well._

    Yes. Right now we have subsidies encouraging use of oil. We need to reverse that.

    _So instead of spending billions of electrons disputing questionable mathematical models, why not just sit down and talk about what we’re willing to do this year that we can all agree on?_

    It’s like an old burlesque routine. We’re in a new climate situation that we don’t understand and we can’t predict worth anything. I say this is dangerous. You come back at me and say hey, we don’t have models that can predict what will happen so JT doesn’t know what he’s talking about. So I repeat again that we know it’s a changed situation and we don’t know how to predict what will happen and this is dangerous, and you again tell me that the models don’t predict and so I don’t know what I’m talking about. Over and over. I’m kind of bemused about it.

    “I say, you have a banana in your ear!”

    “I can’t hear you, I have a banana in my ear!”

    I’ve written a lot about methods to encourage the economy to reduce atmospheric carbon. You haven’t responded. Instead you respond over and over to the climate stuff, and you say the same thing again which is what I said about it myself.

    Are you under a lot of stress? Are you trying to respond to the blog when you don’t really have time to read?

    One time I was at a family reunion and I was talking to my aunt Shirley. And we got onto the subject of caving, and I was telling her how wonderful these caves were, and she said, “Ugh. I wouldn’t do that. The bats would get in my hair.” So I said the bats didn’t do that, and we talked about other things, and she brought it back to caves and I mentioned the bats and she said, “Ugh. I wouldn’t do that, I don’t like the bats getting in my hair.” And we talked some more, and after awhile she said, “Ugh. I wouldn’t do that. I don’t want the bats to get in my hair.” And then I remembered I’d overheard somebody saying “She has the beginning stages of alzheimers” and I didn’t know who they were talking about, and they must have been talking about Shirley. And I looked around and my aunt Buena was looking at me with such pity, I’d been talking to Shirley and it took me so long to notice that something was wrong. I felt embarrassed that she saw me do it.

    Kind of like I feel now. I’ve been saying the same things over and over thinking “They’ll get it this time” and each time what I get back is the same talking points. Like you didn’t notice what I said, you assumed I was saying whatever it is you use those talking points against.

  185. The debate on human caused Global Warming has ended. It has ended even if the whole concept of human caused global warming is not true. The reaction to the ending of the debate has been rapid and worldwide. I don’t think it is necessary to give examples since they are all around us.

    You can expect there to be an even greater belief in human caused Global Warming for the forseeable future. This will not change until models as widely researched and agreed upon as the U.N. Report surface appear that demonstrate that the U.N. report is incorrect. I would not expect that to happen for at least a decade or longer. Scientists here and there that disagree, will not be able to turn back the tide.

    What we will do as a reaction to the report will swing ever more greatly away from the Carbon side and will be effected most by economic Markets. All signs are pointing to Oil and Coal as being dogs. In this sense it doesn’t matter whether the models are flawed or not. The economics, driven by belief and legislation, will be on the side of Alternative and Nuclear Energy.

    AL,

    The fears that you expressed about “turning the world’s economy inside out” et al, I would be generous in saying were overwrought. Whatever the fears that you were trying to express, I wouldn’t worry about them any more. The case is closed. That may not be fair or even the right thing to be done, but it is closed, nonetheless.

    Until you can accept that, I don’t think there is anything to sit down and discuss.

  186. TOC, no, the case is not closed. Minds might be. The case, not so much. But thank you for repeating this claim over and over and over.

  187. JT – here’s where I see internal contradiction; you say on one hand:

    We know something new is happening. We don’t know how it will turn out. Would you mind rereading what I said, I don’t see that I at all said what you’re disagreeing with.

    and on the other

    We’re in a new climate situation that we don’t understand and we can’t predict worth anything. I say this is dangerous. You come back at me and say hey, we don’t have models that can predict what will happen so JT doesn’t know what he’s talking about. So I repeat again that we know it’s a changed situation and we don’t know how to predict what will happen and this is dangerous, and you again tell me that the models don’t predict and so I don’t know what I’m talking about.

    I’m not sure when in human history you think we have had climate models that worked; so I’m not sure why this lack of knowledge is unprecedented. I can point to events in recent (last 400 years) human history where significant weather events have happened outside the ‘norm’ – but for you, somehow this is such a dangerous and new situation that it required unprecedented action.

    Well, the problem is that you can say it’s dangerous all you want; like my aunt who continues to be upset with my motorcycle riding because she knew someone once after World War II who crashed his Indian and lost both his legs; it’s an issue she obsesses over, and as much as I present statistics to her that it’s nominally more dangerous than driving for someone like me (trained, older, licensed, etc.), she can’t hear it – because in her mind it’s accepted fact that it’s simply so dangerous that it’s suicidal.

    We face lots of dangers in this world; I’m sure that AGW is one of them. The issue is prioritizing them correctly.

    You’re unhappy that I don’t write extensively about how I would deal with the issue; I’m equally unhappy that you haven’t used the search box on the upper left to see what I’ve already written – about energy, about risk – and to be suddenly told that I’m not ‘serious’ because I won’t produce on your demand – well, I think it was Jon Stewart who said “I’m not your trained monkey”. If you want to read my stuff and engage on it – in a civil and constructive (even if very critical) way, rock on. You’ll garner my interest and that will lead to my spending time and focus.

    If you want to suggest that I have a bannana in my ear, and am under too much stress to deal with your masterful technique; well…

    …I’m sure you can guess my response.

    A.L.

  188. “We’re in a new climate situation that we don’t understand and we can’t predict worth anything. I say this is dangerous.”

    _I’m not sure when in human history you think we have had climate models that worked; so I’m not sure why this lack of knowledge is unprecedented.

    That part isn’t the unprecedented part. For all of our history and presumably prehistory, the model has been “There’s nothing new under the sun, things may be a little different this year but it all averages out.” This model has usually been correct.

    What’s unprecedented is we’ve nearly doubled the CO2 concentration in our air in a fairly short time, and global surface temperature is rising more than usual, to the point that there’s no reason to think we can depend on the feedback mechanisms we assume have kept things reasonably stable since the end of the last ice age. We have a shared prejudice that climate change happens only slowly, but our data on that is very sparse — with the big climate changes it’s hard to measure how fast they happened except for the meteorite strikes which are assumed to have been very fast.

    _I can point to events in recent (last 400 years) human history where significant weather events have happened outside the ‘norm’ – but for you, somehow this is such a dangerous and new situation that it required unprecedented action._

    Why not do so, and we can discuss whether they’re comparable. If you want to.

    But what’s this about me saying the new situation requires unprecedented action? Can you quote me saying that? I don’t think I said that. You keep slipping that in.

    _We face lots of dangers in this world; I’m sure that AGW is one of them. The issue is prioritizing them correctly._

    Yes, it’s an interesting issue to correctly prioritize the known unknowns. Prioritizing the unknown unknowns would be even more exciting if we could figure out where to start. ;)

    _You’re unhappy that I don’t write extensively about how I would deal with the issue;_

    Not exactly. But you keep criticising me for not discussing what to do about it, when I *have been* discussing that and getting mostly no response at all. It’s another disconnect. I say “Here’s what I want to do about it” and you guys don’t respond. I respond to you saying that the models aren’t accurate (implying we should ignore them?) and then you tell me that I’m demanding we destroy our economy and that I ought to be discussing feasible actions we might agree on. It just doesn’t make sense. You aren’t paying attention.

    _If you want to read my stuff and engage on it – in a civil and constructive (even if very critical) way, rock on. You’ll garner my interest and that will leatime and focus._

    It sure sounds like you want me to be your trained monkey. So we’re discussing this topic here, and you want me to go through your old posts and decide which ones apply and respond to them. But what you were criticising me for was not proposing solutions — which I’ve been doing. If you want to discuss your proposed solutions by linking to your old posts that’s fine, that works. But it isn’t my responsibility to make your arguments for you on this thread.

    And it looks like you’re agreeing that you aren’t paying attention. I say, if you aren’t going to read my comments why respond? It makes it look like you aren’t paying attention.

    _And I’m granting you enough respect that I’d rather you didn’t look silly here._

    Same here. If you aren’t interested enough to notice what the other guy is saying, you don’t come off very well continuing to assume he’s saying something stupid that he is in fact not saying. If you won’t read before you respond, why bother to respond?

  189. #196 from Nortius Maximus at 6:18 am on Dec 02, 2007

    I don’t think I have repeated the claim over and over. I think I have brought in new perspectives that strengthened the original claim. I also think they have proved to be reasonable.

    On the other hand you have not said anything to refute it other than
    *TOC, no, the case is not closed. Minds might be.*

    Let me ask you the following.

    1. Since carbon is such a loser in the minds of the electorate, who is going to embrace it?
    2. Who is going to underwrite a study as comprehensive as that of the UN’s to refute it.
    3. Even if someone does, how will it be covered. Who will underwrite the PR campaign that will be necessary to change people’s minds on human caused Global Warming? Oil Companies.

    I think what is you are reacting to are not my statements on the end of the debate, but a feeling that your beliefs are wrong and that your side somehow lost. This is not the case. My point is that their is so much momentum behind the belief in Human caused Global Warming that it will take years to derail the Juggernaut and by that time so much money and will be invested in the belief, whether true or not, it has won the day.

    Essentially, the debate now becomes tilting at windmills for both sides. If you want to address that than fine. If you want to make statements that do not deal with what I am saying than fine also.

  190. JT – OK; I’ll commit to do an A.L. ‘energy policy roundup’ in the next week – that actually sounds interesting. Until then, I’m going to step away from these threads.

    TOC – I’ll suggest that the electorate is highly fickle, and that while some desirable actions will come from making conservation fashionable, you’ll see people running against the required sacrifices soon.

    The major concern is the ‘institutionalizing’ of AGW in the international regulatory community, who doubtless see this as a way to leverage their authority. That’s going to be an interesting political game, and one well worth watching.

    But to a large extent, you’re right – there is huge institutional movement in this direction, and it is certainly going to have an impact. Having said that, I’ll wager that in a decade some people’s reputations will be badly damaged by their stances today.

    A.L.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>