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Sixteen Concerned Scientists
January 27, 2012 5:59 AM   Subscribe

"Speaking for many scientists and engineers who have looked carefully and independently at the science of climate, we have a message to any candidate for public office: There is no compelling scientific argument for drastic action to "decarbonize" the world's economy. Even if one accepts the inflated climate forecasts of the IPCC, aggressive greenhouse-gas control policies are not justified economically." Link.

The opinion piece is signed by the following:

Claude Allegre, former director of the Institute for the Study of the Earth, University of Paris;
J. Scott Armstrong, cofounder of the Journal of Forecasting and the International Journal of Forecasting;
Jan Breslow, head of the Laboratory of Biochemical Genetics and Metabolism, Rockefeller University;
Roger Cohen, fellow, American Physical Society;
Edward David, member, National Academy of Engineering and National Academy of Sciences;
William Happer, professor of physics, Princeton;
Michael Kelly, professor of technology, University of Cambridge, U.K.;
William Kininmonth, former head of climate research at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology;
Richard Lindzen, professor of atmospheric sciences, MIT;
James McGrath, professor of chemistry, Virginia Technical University;
Rodney Nichols, former president and CEO of the New York Academy of Sciences;
Burt Rutan, aerospace engineer, designer of Voyager and SpaceShipOne;
Harrison H. Schmitt, Apollo 17 astronaut and former U.S. senator;
Nir Shaviv, professor of astrophysics, Hebrew University, Jerusalem;
Henk Tennekes, former director, Royal Dutch Meteorological Service;
Antonio Zichichi, president of the World Federation of Scientists, Geneva.
posted by BobbyVan (270 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Shit, meet fan.
posted by No Robots at 6:02 AM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's not about whether they're justified economically, but whether aggressive greenhouse-gas policies a good thing environmentally.

It's not the economy, stupid
.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:03 AM on January 27, 2012 [24 favorites]


Why post this and not letters from Holocaust deniers, or AIDS deniers?
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:03 AM on January 27, 2012 [29 favorites]


Why post this and not letters from Holocaust deniers, or AIDS deniers?

It's not the what here, it's the who.
posted by No Robots at 6:04 AM on January 27, 2012


I would imagine it's because holocaust deniers usually don't get op-ed space in the Wall Street Journal.
posted by Vectorcon Systems at 6:05 AM on January 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm guessing that you could produce an opposing letter signed by sixteen hundred climate scientists.
posted by goethean at 6:05 AM on January 27, 2012 [45 favorites]


Why post this and not letters from Holocaust deniers, or AIDS deniers?

Because anyone who's not frothing at the mouth will instantly realize this isn't even in the same league.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 6:05 AM on January 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


...unless you're asking why the WSJ printed it, in which case the answer is money.
posted by Vectorcon Systems at 6:06 AM on January 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Why post this and not letters from Holocaust deniers, or AIDS deniers?

Because there's not much denying going on?
posted by 2N2222 at 6:06 AM on January 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm guessing that you could produce an opposing letter signed by sixteen hundred climate scientists.

See also Project Steve which parodies the use of this sort of letter signed by experts (in Project Steve's cause, creationists) by having a letter in support of evolution signed by over a thousand scientists... all named "Steve".
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:08 AM on January 27, 2012 [22 favorites]


I picked one at random from the list:

William Happer is a physicist who has specialized in the study of optics and spectroscopy. He is the Cyrus Fogg Brackett Professor of Physics at Princeton University.

William Happer is chair of the board of directors at the George C. Marshall Institute, a nonprofit conservative think tank known for its attempts to highlight uncertainties about causes of global warming.
posted by hexatron at 6:08 AM on January 27, 2012 [83 favorites]


But yeah what goethean said. 16 vs. ???? how many thousands?

Either way arguments from an economic standpoint are kinda idiotic considering the stakes.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 6:09 AM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm glad we're off the hook now. I can just ignore this past summer, and I can drink this letter to alleviate this drought we're stuck in.
posted by narcoleptic at 6:09 AM on January 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


aggressive greenhouse-gas control policies are not justified economically

This is the exact same argument you get from people who tell you solar panels on your house won't "pay for themselves" for a long time, if ever.

If my overriding concern were increasing my money, there's a lot of stuff I would do. Like kill my neighbors and steal their stuff.
posted by DU at 6:09 AM on January 27, 2012 [46 favorites]


Hey Burt Rutan is on the list. He doesn't have a horse in this race does he?
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 6:10 AM on January 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


Could these scientists be sued in a few years when their policy advice turns out to have been catastrophically wrong?
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 6:10 AM on January 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


It's not the what here, it's the who.

It's the who indeed. Including Burt Rutan, for example, seems like a classic case of appeal to false authority. Burt Rutan is neither a climate scientist, nor an economist. In this matter, I would rate his authority about the same as my own.
posted by muddgirl at 6:11 AM on January 27, 2012 [8 favorites]


Unimpressive. Their expertise is not really listed (I'm not sure what being an astronaut has to do with climate change), but I sincerely doubt there is a currently active researcher in biogeochemistry or atmospheric chemistry (i.e., people who understand the effects of atmospheric chemistry on the atmomsphere) among them.

And it's really less about economics and more about maintaining an earth whose climate supports our agricultural needs and in which our major cities are not underwater. I understand there is no immediate profit in those things, but I imagine a global famine or Venice, Amsterdam, Miami, and DC being underwater will really hurt the economy.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:11 AM on January 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


This is not the way science is supposed to work, but we have seen it before—for example, in the frightening period when Trofim Lysenko hijacked biology in the Soviet Union. Soviet biologists who revealed that they believed in genes, which Lysenko maintained were a bourgeois fiction, were fired from their jobs. Many were sent to the gulag and some were condemned to death.
Isn't that a bit of a Godwin? It's very bad if scholarly debate is being suppressed, but I don't think anyone is being sent to the gulag for doubting climate change. And if it's true, then why are they comfortable publishing this in the WSJ?

Are these people respected scientists in relevant fields? Their institutional affiliations sound impressive, but I don't know enough to know whether they're actually experts.
posted by craichead at 6:12 AM on January 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


I like how they compare the scientific consensus on climate change with Soviet repression and the gulags.
posted by Vectorcon Systems at 6:12 AM on January 27, 2012 [9 favorites]


What he said.
posted by Vectorcon Systems at 6:13 AM on January 27, 2012


Pulling a name at random (number 14, Nir Shaviv): "He is most well known for his solar and cosmic rays hypothesis of climate change. In 2002, Shaviv hypothesised that passages through the Milky Way's spiral arms appear to have been the cause behind the major ice-ages over the past billion years. In his later work, co-authored by Jan Veizer, a low upper limit was placed on the climatic effect of CO2" (wikipedia)
posted by Leon at 6:14 AM on January 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Can I just say that I'm stunned that the Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal published an anti-global-warming editorial.
posted by empath at 6:15 AM on January 27, 2012 [26 favorites]


False authority indeed. For one thing, there is no Virginia Technical University (there is a Virginia Tech which has never called itself Virginia Technical University), but just picking that name, who is James McGrath? He's a polymer chemist?! Quite what insights he may have on climate change, I am not sure.
posted by idb at 6:15 AM on January 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


aggressive greenhouse-gas control policies are not justified economically

Yeah, not only are many of the signatories not trained in the relevant science, they also aren't economists. One might as well ask, say, the American Medical Association what it thinks. They've all got science backgrounds, right?
posted by jedicus at 6:16 AM on January 27, 2012 [9 favorites]


.Are these people respected scientists in relevant fields? Their institutional affiliations sound impressive, but I don't know enough to know whether they're actually experts.

I checked out some of them. They seem to be. But this is why arguments from authority are stupid. Either they're right or they're wrong. Who they are doesn't matter.
posted by empath at 6:17 AM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm only familiar with two names on that list:

First one is Claude Allègre. He's a geologist (funny how geologists are always at the forefront of climate change denial...that surely has not connection whatsoever to the fact that they are mostly employed by oil companies...no siree), but his scientific career is rather undistinguished, and was mostly marked by a controversy with the godfather of modern vulcanology, Haroun Tazieff, over whether Guadeloupe had to be evacuated during an eruption in 1976. Tazieff was right.

Above all however, Allègre is a politician. He is a fixture of the French Socialist Party and was a (notoriously awful) Education Minister in the 90s. And in the later years he's mostly signified himself as the voice of climate change denial in France. He's dismissed his critics as "zeroes" and "idiots".

The other name I'm familiar with is Burt Rutan. He's a brilliant aeronautical engineer and the father of some of the coolest-looking airplanes in history, but definitely not a climate expert.
posted by Skeptic at 6:18 AM on January 27, 2012 [23 favorites]


But this is why arguments from authority are stupid
Fair enough, but the last time I studied any science was my junior year of high school, and I just don't consider myself qualified to evaluate the arguments for and against man-made climate change. So to some extent, I'm stuck with relying on authorities.

(And yes, I do consider this a good argument for requiring everyone to have a decent science education!)
posted by craichead at 6:19 AM on January 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Economic outcomes are very much central to the argument. It would be extremely difficult to sell the effects of global warming if it was projected to have no economic impact. However, the potential devastation from global warming has very real economic impact. The argument here is that the medicine will be worse than the illness. But wsj isn't the best forum to honestly address the claims.
posted by 2N2222 at 6:19 AM on January 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Who they are doesn't matter.

Except that 99.9% of people are not competent to evaluate the evidence for themselves. Hence, expertise does matter in this case.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 6:19 AM on January 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Are these people respected scientists in relevant fields? Their institutional affiliations sound
impressive, but I don't know enough to know whether they're actually experts.


This seems to lean heavily on an appeal to authority implied by their titles and academic affiliations. For example, Jan Breslow is a scientist specializing in heart disease. He seems to have excellent credentials in that field, but why should anyone consider him an expert on climate change?
posted by sevenyearlurk at 6:19 AM on January 27, 2012 [9 favorites]


Scientists: 'Look, One-Third Of The Human Race Has To Die For Civilization To Be Sustainable, So How Do We Want To Do This?'
posted by whuppy at 6:20 AM on January 27, 2012 [14 favorites]


Because anyone who's not frothing at the mouth will instantly realize this isn't even in the same league.

Actually, "AIDS denialism" -- not the belief that there's no such thing as AIDS, but that AIDS isn't caused by HIV infection -- is pretty similar. It was a fringy belief, but it numbered among its adherents a set of legitimate scientists, most notably Peter Duesberg of Berkeley, certainly enough to sign an editorial of this kind.

It's just that many, many more scientists held the opposing view, that HIV causes AIDS. And that fringy belief, too, was adopted by politicans (e.g. Thabo Mbeki) when it suited them. So I think the analogy isn't bad.
posted by escabeche at 6:20 AM on January 27, 2012 [11 favorites]


look, i know open-mindedness is a virtue, but it's impossible to take seriously anything that appears on the WSJ's opinion page. sorry.
posted by facetious at 6:21 AM on January 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


They're scientists, not econometricians.
posted by entropone at 6:21 AM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Lysenko and his team lived very well, and they fiercely defended their dogma and the privileges it brought them.

QED
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 6:22 AM on January 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


More on Claude Allègre.

In 2010, more than 500 French researchers asked Science Minister Valérie Pécresse to dismiss Allègre’s book L’imposture climatique, claiming the book is "full of factual mistakes, distortions of data, and plain lies". One researcher, Hakan Grudd, called the changes that Allegre made in hand-redrawing a graph of his misleading and unethical. Allegre described the petition as "useless and stupid".

In 1996, Allègre opposed the removal of carcinogenic asbestos from the Jussieu university campus in Paris, describing it as harmless and dismissing concerns about it as a form of "psychosis created by leftists".[6] The campus' asbestos is deemed to have killed 22 people and caused serious health problems in 130 others.

And, descending into farce:

In 1999, the Canard enchaîné, and subsequently several other media, published Allègre's claim, initially stated during a radio interview, that, if one drops a pétanque ball and a tennis ball at the same time from a tower, they will reach the ground at the same time. Allègre claimed that there was a popular misconception to the contrary, and that schoolchildren should be made to understand that two objects always fall at the same speed. The Canard responded that this was true only in a vacuum, and not in all cases as Allègre had said. The latter responded in turn, maintaining his initial statement. Georges Charpak, Nobel prize for Physics, intervened to explain that Allègre was wrong; the latter maintained his statement yet again.

(I'd propose to do the experiment, with him standing under the tower...)
posted by Skeptic at 6:25 AM on January 27, 2012 [18 favorites]


But this is why arguments from authority are stupid

Who they are doesn't matter.


Seems like we've started confusing "arguments from authority" with plain old "arguments from being in a position to know what you're talking about."
posted by saulgoodman at 6:28 AM on January 27, 2012 [13 favorites]


Do they disagree with the fundamental mechanism of warming?

Do they disagree that if we keep on pumping CO2 into the atmosphere we will cause vast temperature fluctuations that may affect the inhabitibility and survivability of a planet with a population of 8+ billion people and a vastly increasing energy requirement - part of this increase is because of said changes?


Also: Ascribing climate researchers motivation to "Follow the money" is so laughably brazen a 180º misdirection that it takes the breath away. Follow whose money, you whores?
posted by lalochezia at 6:29 AM on January 27, 2012 [16 favorites]


Call it Climate change, Global Warming, whatever. It's about how much pollution we're putting into the air and earth. Would anyone deny that we're polluting the world? Would anyone have the stomach to say we shouldn't stop doing that?
posted by Liquidwolf at 6:30 AM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]



It's not the what here, it's the who.



Of that list, the one with deepest expertise and a solid publication record on climate science (one or more of atmospheric physics, physical oceanography, paleoclimate, geophysical fluid modeling, etc.) is Richard Lindzen. He's fearsome in debates and discussions because he's very very smart, knows his stuff and is extremely aggressive. He's torn Bill Nye the science guy several new ones in a public televised debate. He was actually a contributor to a few of the earlier IPCC assessments. However, despite extremely strong efforts to describe mechanisms of the global climate that would counteract the greenhouse gas forcings, none of his published work has supported this contention.

Allegre was an extremely distinguished geophysicist from the days of the plate tectonic revolution. His book on plate tectonics is a classic in the history of earth sciences. His contributions to geophysics tailed off in the 80s as he got more interested in politics, policy and writing popularized books. He has zero background or expertise in climate science, and some of his contentions (written in a recent polemic book) have been torn apart for dubious errors of logic, lack of data and outright fudging of key figures.


As others have pointed out: appeal to authority is a classic fallacy. Its not who, its what. Until these folks start making serious contributions to the discussion, this screed is just a bit of unfortunate and distracting noise.
posted by bumpkin at 6:32 AM on January 27, 2012 [10 favorites]


Well, since there's no such thing as a scientific journal ( much less a peer-reviewed one, or anything), all important scientific news is reported in the Wall Street Journal, right?
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:34 AM on January 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Climate change denialism is nothing special; asbestos-related illness denialism a little more impressive. But air resistance denialism! Clearly he deserves the title of "dissenter" as much as those brave scientists who stood against Stalin's terror.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 6:34 AM on January 27, 2012 [8 favorites]


Can I just say that I'm stunned that the Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal published an anti-global-warming editorial.

Murdoch actually supports action on climate change... sort of.
posted by Huck500 at 6:35 AM on January 27, 2012


The economic arguments against climate change mitigation are very real, but they're not the arguments that are being espoused by this lot. As Krugman put it:

But the larger reason we’re ignoring climate change is that Al Gore was right: This truth is just too inconvenient. Responding to climate change with the vigor that the threat deserves would not, contrary to legend, be devastating for the economy as a whole. But it would shuffle the economic deck, hurting some powerful vested interests even as it created new economic opportunities. And the industries of the past have armies of lobbyists in place right now; the industries of the future don’t.

In any case, most of the signatories to this op-ed can be classified in one or more of the following categories: underqualified, crank, petro-dollar funded astroturfer
posted by Jakey at 6:36 AM on January 27, 2012 [28 favorites]


They claim to be speaking for "many scientists and engineers"... where's that list?
posted by Huck500 at 6:38 AM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


In the future, as I recline on one of the sun-drenched beaches of Mediterranean Sweden and work on my tan, I must remember to send a postcard to each of these people to say thank you for their contribution of hot air.
posted by three blind mice at 6:41 AM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


the signatories to this op-ed can be classified in one or more of the following categories: underqualified, crank, petro-dollar funded astroturfer.

What happened to poor man and beggar man? When did it turn into just rich man and thief?
posted by The Bellman at 6:42 AM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would imagine it's because holocaust deniers usually don't get op-ed space in the Wall Street Journal

That's true, but all other sorts of crazies and lunatics are given Op-Ed space on the WSJ editorial page all the time. It's really not a serious forum, and shouldn't be confused with the news section of the WSJ-- even the WSJ knows that the page is not valuable content, which is why it is given away for free online, unlike the rest of the paper.

In any case, columns like this are just the end stage of what was always a false belief system. At first these same people were claiming that there was no global warming or climate change at all. Then they claimed that it was happening but that we had nothing to do with it, and it was all natural. Now the claim is that's it's happening and we caused it, but it's not economically worthwhile to solve the problem. The last stage is to admit that it's all true, and it WOULD have been worthwhile to solve it, but now it's way too late and we are stuck with the consequences. After such a long and consistent track record of failure and wrongness from the far far right on this matter, why should we assume they're right now? Why should we regard them as anything other than fanatical far right partisans whose political and personal careers simply depend on offering these fake, ever-shifting arguments over the years, which have resulted in nothing but harm?

Like advocates for the Iraq war and torture, these people should have ostracized from polite society a long time ago.
posted by deanc at 6:42 AM on January 27, 2012 [10 favorites]


Would anyone deny that we're polluting the world? Would anyone have the stomach to say we shouldn't stop doing that?

You see this is why I wish that the idea of a sort of Pascal's wager would enter into the debates. Let us say for argument sake that Global Warming is not proven. if we act like it is proven and it turns out to be true and do something about it, we win! If we act like it is proven and it turns out to be false, we still win! Only the real true wingnuts believe that there is unlimited fossil fuel resources or that there is an abiogenic theory of oil. So it is going to run out any way, and just stand by a highway to see that it pollutes.

Yeah, I know the global warming deniers will say that the economic costs are waay too high, the point of the FPP, but I submit that instead of arguing global warming, we should argue about why on the whole it is good to act as if it is happening regardless.
posted by xetere at 6:42 AM on January 27, 2012 [8 favorites]


Why couldn't they at least have pretended to give an argument? I mean, they could have given their estimates of the probability distribution over possible global mean temperatures, their estimates of the economic costs, and their estimates of the cost of mitigation now. I would like to see those numbers if for no other reason than to see just how (dis)honest they are being here.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 6:43 AM on January 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


I recline on one of the sun-drenched beaches of Mediterranean Sweden and work on my tan

If Sweden ends up in the Mediterranean, it will not just be the climate that has gone awry.
posted by Skeptic at 6:47 AM on January 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


OK, in regards to Burt Rutan, there is quite a bit of engineering crossover between propulsion and windmills (they're really the same process, reversed). It's disappointing that, instead of taking his spirit of ingenuity and entrepeneurship and applying it to improving carbon-free energy production, he's just throwing his hands up and saying "It's not worth it." A lot of (better) propulsion engineers disagree.
posted by muddgirl at 6:48 AM on January 27, 2012


But it would shuffle the economic deck, hurting some powerful vested interests even as it created new economic opportunities. And the industries of the past have armies of lobbyists in place right now; the industries of the future don’t.

Just wanted to bold that, 'cause in terms of getting something done, it is the who, not the what.

We mammals are caught underfoot as our dinosaurs stampede from extinction.
posted by notyou at 6:48 AM on January 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


This list of scientists is pretty unimpressive, mostly physicists and engineers anyway. Apart from Richard Lindzen none really seem to have much background in climate science. Not to be down on older people, but looking at the ages of some of these people reminded me of when I was a geology undergraduate student hearing from professors that had advisers that were plate tectonics deniers for far too long. It must be hard to change your whole mindset after many decades of being an "expert".

I have heard of Richard Lindzen before, he is all about there being no opportunity for climate skeptics and he objects to using words like "incontrovertible" when talking about climate change. As a scientist I would not use that kind of language in a science crowd to describe any theory, including gravity, but we do need to change our language to make sure non-scientists get the needed urgency across.

Also, I always think it is funny when people write about this debate as though there is no room in the science world for any science that goes against the grain on climate change. Of course any such study would be especially scrutinized in peer review, but I would love to publish this sort of work! Science is all about getting your publications cited and getting grants, I would love to have anti- climate change data to pitch to funding agencies (besides of course I would be glad if the problem wasn't real!)
posted by JayNolan at 6:50 AM on January 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm guessing that you could produce an opposing letter signed by sixteen hundred climate scientists.

As soon as someone explains to me why they don't think carbon dioxide being C2v matters (instead of D∞h like oxygen and nitrogen), I will take their argument very very seriously.

The difference between what I want and what these guys are offering is they don't present any argument at all.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 6:51 AM on January 27, 2012


...funny how geologists are always at the forefront of climate change denial...that surely has not connection whatsoever to the fact that they are mostly employed by oil companies...

A base canard, sir! Many geologists are gainfully employed by mining companies, doing valuable work on the frontiers of coal exploration!
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:56 AM on January 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Man, do I hate geologists.
posted by michaelh at 7:01 AM on January 27, 2012


Geologists know we are in an interglacial period. During the last glacial period (or maybe it was the one before that--I ain't a geologist) Kansas City Missouri was covered by 20 feet of ice 356 days a year. You want to talk about an inevitable global catastrophe for humanity climatologists got nothing on geologists.
posted by bukvich at 7:03 AM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


"There is no compelling scientific argument for drastic action to "decarbonize" the world's economy. "

This is just a plain lie!
posted by JayNolan at 7:04 AM on January 27, 2012


Claude Allegre, former director of the Institute for the Study of the Earth, University of Paris;


"geophysics, geochemistry, and quantitative geology" - Not their field.

J. Scott Armstrong, cofounder of the Journal of Forecasting and the International Journal of Forecasting;

Weather is not climate. Not his field.

Jan Breslow, head of the Laboratory of Biochemical Genetics and Metabolism, Rockefeller University;

Not his field.

Roger Cohen, fellow, American Physical Society;

Not his field.

Edward David, member, National Academy of Engineering and National Academy of Sciences;

Not his field.

William Happer, professor of physics, Princeton;

Not his field.

Michael Kelly, professor of technology, University of Cambridge, U.K.;

Not his field.

William Kininmonth, former head of climate research at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology;

Well, they got one.

Richard Lindzen, professor of atmospheric sciences, MIT;

And another.

James McGrath, professor of chemistry, Virginia Technical University;

Not his field.

Rodney Nichols, former president and CEO of the New York Academy of Sciences;

Not his field.

Burt Rutan, aerospace engineer, designer of Voyager and SpaceShipOne;

C'mon, seriously? Not his field.

Harrison H. Schmitt, Apollo 17 astronaut and former U.S. senator;

Not his field. Not even a published scientist.

Nir Shaviv, professor of astrophysics, Hebrew University, Jerusalem;

Not his field.

Henk Tennekes, former director, Royal Dutch Meteorological Service;

Weather is not climate. Not his field.

Antonio Zichichi, president of the World Federation of Scientists, Geneva.

"The World Federation of Scientists. Organising the Fight against the Planetary Emergencies"
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:15 AM on January 27, 2012 [22 favorites]


But, but, the World Federation of Scientists has a Permanent Monitoring Panel on Climatology! Here, take a look!!!

Permanent Monitoring Panel -
Climatology

Members of the Panel:

Chairman:
Christopher Essex (CANADA)

Members:
Associate Panel Members:
(Associate Panel Members are a community of scientists who provide support and expertise for the working of the Permanent Monitoring Panel.)

Summary of the Emergency

Being revised.

Priorities in dealing with the Emergency

Being revised.


Wow, it sounds real fuckin' serious.
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 7:21 AM on January 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


You know, while I agree that a statement like this would be much more compelling or at least worthy of attention if it were signed by all experts in atmospheric sciences, I don't think "not his/her field" alone is a good reason to ignore what they have to say. Many advances in science, particularly ones effecting changes in paradigm, came out from outside the particular field. On the other hand, I do think they need to be (1) a scientist and (2) pretty brilliant for me to take them seriously here. "Coming out" as a climate denier is really pretty damaging to your career prospects, so it's interesting to look at why each of these people would choose to do that.

The oil-connections are clear. In the case of Richard Lindzen, looking at this piece by him, I'm thinking that he's the type of person who has played the devil's advocate so long in his life that he can't pull out now. His arguments sound almost reasonable, but basically instead of the general "there's a 95% chance we'll be screwed" side he takes the "well there's a 5% chance we'll be fine so you guys are stupid" side.

The other one I looked at, William Happer, wrote here for First Things, so I'm guessing that religion has something to do with.
posted by bread-eater at 7:28 AM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yup, an archconservative newspaper with a strong status quo agenda publishes an editorial against climate change signed by non-experts on climate.

This is news why?
posted by sotonohito at 7:30 AM on January 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


The fact is that CO2 is not a pollutant. CO2 is a colorless and odorless gas, exhaled at high concentrations by each of us, and a key component of the biosphere's life cycle.

oh cool i thouhgt it was cyanide or something, sounds like we got this all under control then

*jams pacifier back into mouth*
posted by Greg Nog at 7:30 AM on January 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


The fact is that CO2 is not a pollutant. CO2 is a colorless and odorless gas, exhaled at high concentrations by each of us, and a key component of the biosphere's life cycle.

The fact is that cells are an essential component of our physical selves. But when they grow out of control, we call that cancer.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:35 AM on January 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


Linus Pauling was one of the most brilliant scientists who ever lived, and one of only four individuals ever to win the Nobel prize in different fields. His advances are still aiding the cause of science today.

He also believed that Vitamin C could cure cancer.

Scientists and science are not the same thing. Scientists have tons of authority in their own field, but they pointedly do not have tons of authority outside of their field. What's more, the point of science is that appeals to authority are not worthwhile indicators of truth; so even if a scientist is speaking about something in her or his own field of work, unless she or he is following the methods of science – hypothesis, experiment, observation, etc – they're not doing science, and the conclusions have no weight.

Please let us know, BobbyVan, when someone has done a scientific study that attempts to demonstrate that working against climate change isn't economically viable. Then we can trust it. Until then, it's just a bunch of scientists being superstitious and reaching conclusions that don't have any necessary basis.
posted by koeselitz at 7:36 AM on January 27, 2012 [12 favorites]


Can someone explain where he came up with "lack of warming" in the last decade? All the chart I can google up seem to show a clear upward trend. Is here some measure that can be interpreted as showing a lack of warming? I'd like to see it.
posted by bread-eater at 7:36 AM on January 27, 2012


Like CO2, salt is essential to life. Let's spray salt water on all our crops!
posted by plastic_animals at 7:36 AM on January 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


Does anyone know of some serious economic analysis about the impact of decarbonizing our economy?

Frankly I think this issue has moved away from the climatologists and geologists towards the economists - because the real sticky question is do we decarbonize or do we simply start planning for adapting to the changes that are coming?

My personal opinion is that we are already screwed - and everyone is living in a fantasy land if they think we can decarbonize India and China fast enough (assuming of course that the US comes to its senses which is fantastic enough).
posted by spaceviking at 7:36 AM on January 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


Sadly, the importance of this opinion piece (and this post) is not whether it is true, but that it will give the climate deniers something new to rally around and help them draw more followers.
posted by bread-eater at 7:43 AM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Skeptic:(funny how geologists are always at the forefront of climate change denial...that surely has not connection whatsoever to the fact that they are mostly employed by oil companies...no siree),

Not all geologists work for oil companies, and I'd be willing to guess it's not even a "most." Some of us are here to help you know.
posted by Big_B at 7:44 AM on January 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


> Their expertise is not really listed (I'm not sure what being an astronaut has to do with climate change)

Are you kidding me? How many people have had the opportunity to observe climate - all of it - from above? Only astronauts, that's who!
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:45 AM on January 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't think "not his/her field" alone is a good reason to ignore what they have to say

It's actually the reverse. "I am a scientist" alone is NOT a good reason to listen to what they have to say. Being a scientist does not mean you are omniscient. Heck, in my experience being a scientist does not mean that one has any particular critical thinking skills, although I often wish it did.

The question is, "Why do we give Burt Rutan more weight on climate issues than Uncle Bob?" The answer is, "We shouldn't."
posted by muddgirl at 7:45 AM on January 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ocean Acidification: The Other Carbon Dioxide Problem, via NOAA.

We are tiny creatures, living on the thin shell of the world, existing for a sliver of a fraction of an instant - we disrupt it at our peril.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:46 AM on January 27, 2012 [3 favorites]




Coming to a drive-in near you. . .


Find out what happens when. . .



16 Concerned Scientists
Meet

10 Violent Women!!



You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll kiss your lungs goodbye.


Rated R. No planets were injured in the production of this joke. Member FDIC. Comes with everything you see here. Some assembly required. Closed link and professional joker: do not attempt. Not actual picture. Your mileage may vary. Serving suggestion. Actual testimony read by professional actors. Consult your physician. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. Rebroadcast without express written consent is prohibited. Enlarged to show texture.

Soundtrack available from Longstanding World Records.






for Terra.


posted by Herodios at 7:47 AM on January 27, 2012


So when the Heartlanders react to evidence of human-induced climate change as if capitalism itself were coming under threat, it’s not because they are paranoid. It’s because they are paying attention, previously on MetaFilter.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:49 AM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Like CO2, salt is essential to life. Let's spray salt water on all our crops!

BRAWNDO THE THIRST MUTILATOR!!!! IT'S GOT ELECTROLYTES!!!!!
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 7:52 AM on January 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


muddgirl: Our points are not contradictory: I didn't say scientst->must listen. I said that if someone is a scientist and has shown themselves to have the capability of processing complex information, then I would look into what they have to say before dismissing them as "not in the field." And listening to what they have to say is not the same as believing what they have to say. Of course, I don't have all the time in the world to listen to every climate-denying scientist, so I do pick the ones that are most likely to have logical statements.
posted by bread-eater at 7:58 AM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I said that if someone is a scientist and has shown themselves to have the capability of processing complex information, then I would look into what they have to say before dismissing them as "not in the field."

The issue is that this list was specifically picked to give 'weight' to the opinion piece. Financial analysts have demonstrated an ability to process complex information. Why aren't there any financial analyists on that list of signatories?

Scientists of any field (wrongly) look better on this list than financial analysts, or, say, military generals (who also have demonstrated the capability of processing complex information). The reason that scientists look better is because it's an appeal to false authority. Only two of those scientists have any real authority on this matter. The rest may be very smart people, but again, so is my Uncle Bob. Why isn't he a signatory?
posted by muddgirl at 8:04 AM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Skeptic:(funny how geologists are always at the forefront of climate change denial...that surely has not connection whatsoever to the fact that they are mostly employed by oil companies...no siree),

Not all geologists work for oil companies, and I'd be willing to guess it's not even a "most." Some of us are here to help you know.
posted by Big_B at 7:44 AM on January 27 [+] [!]


I'm sorry. I regretted that comment as soon as I posted it, tarnishing a whole science. What I actually meant is that some of the shrillest climate change deniers have a geology background and, often enough, work in fields related to oil exploration.
posted by Skeptic at 8:11 AM on January 27, 2012


Like CO2, salt is essential to life. Let's spray salt water on all our crops!

"Without chemicals, life itself would be boring and impossible."

Here, Al, have a refreshing glass of simple, basic, household sulfuric acid.
 
posted by Herodios at 8:16 AM on January 27, 2012


This thread is still here? It's not been deleted. Metafilter is now Fox News, trumpeting false equivalencies?

OK, then, I'm done.
posted by zomg at 8:17 AM on January 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Well some of us are pretty freakin nutty, so I'll give you that. Claude Allègre reminds me of my a friend of mines dad (an optical physicist) who helped design the mirror system on the Hubble. He destroyed several vehicles due a complete lack of common sense care, like putting oil in them. Some of the most brilliant minds seem to have very little common sense.

Apology accepted.
posted by Big_B at 8:18 AM on January 27, 2012



Skeptic:(funny how geologists are always at the forefront of climate change denial...that surely has not connection whatsoever to the fact that they are mostly employed by oil companies...no siree),

Not all geologists work for oil companies, and I'd be willing to guess it's not even a "most." Some of us are here to help you know.
posted by Big_B at 8:44 AM on January 27 [+] [!]


Most geologists do work for industry, in some form or another. I would say only the academics and the very few that are doing non-geology work are not. In the 17 years or so that I've done geology, only 8 years of those (as a PhD student and then prof. at a hippy liberal arts college) weren't directly or indirectly related to industry: whether mining or energy.

However, even the geologists working for oil companies are not necessarily here to push our way to global catastrophe. And just dismissing the opinions, arguments and contributions of someone because they might get their cheque from the likes of Exxon is as intellectually lazy as taking the word of a Richard Lindzen, just because he's a prof at MIT and is, you know, super smart or something (Dick is, actually, quite bright -- he's simply an obsessive contrarian, and not just about climate. I believe he strongly disputes the link between heavy smoking and cancer). I work with and know many geo's who work for Exxon, Shell and the other supermajors. If they're under 35, few to none are climate skeptics.

Man, do I hate geologists.
posted by michaelh at 8:01 AM on January 27 [+] [!]


But you haven't even met me. Sheesh.
posted by bumpkin at 8:19 AM on January 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Well let's hear from some climate scientists, shall we?
posted by Catblack at 8:27 AM on January 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


I personally endorse this piece as the finest example of satirical Science Fiction since the 'Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe' movie.
posted by evilmidnightbomberwhatbombsatmidnight at 8:31 AM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


TL;DR: some climate change predictions have not entirely panned out; some skeptics have faced criticism from their peers; it's the economy, stupid; and COMMUNISTS!
posted by scelerat at 8:32 AM on January 27, 2012


Ironically Harrison Schmitt took this picture which has helped a lot of people grasp that we're all on a fragile little finite ball.
posted by gubo at 8:34 AM on January 27, 2012


Can someone explain where he came up with "lack of warming" in the last decade? All the chart I can google up seem to show a clear upward trend. Is here some measure that can be interpreted as showing a lack of warming? I'd like to see it.

It's been a popular argument for deniers for the past few years. Primarily because 1998 was such a warm year, but that was because it was an exceptionally strong El Nino. If you started your graph at 1998, you wouldn't see much visible warming. It's blatant cherry-picking, of course. The fact that 9 of the 10 warmest years have been in the last ten years is somehow missed in this argument.

As for the original article, it's just a PR stunt:
- list of distinguished scientists? check
- overwhelming majority non-climate scientists? check
- usual suspects like Lindzen and Happer? check
- cherry-picking of data? check
- published in a Murdoch newspaper? check

What's particularly interesting is the way they refer to the Soon & Baliunas controversy (the de Frietas reference) as a witch-hunt against a journal editor, and not the corruption of the review process that it actually was.
posted by daveje at 8:35 AM on January 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


That's true, but all other sorts of crazies and lunatics are given Op-Ed space on the WSJ editorial page all the time. It's really not a serious forum, and shouldn't be confused with the news section of the WSJ-- even the WSJ knows that the page is not valuable content, which is why it is given away for free online, unlike the rest of the paper.

Well, because somebody else than the reader pays for it. As the old adage goes: if it isn't news, it's advertising...
posted by Skeptic at 8:36 AM on January 27, 2012


As Slap*Happy's excellent rundown notes, even the esteemed WSJ could find, at best, two "concerned scientists" with actual working knowledge of climate research to sign this screed. One of them is formerly of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, which as I recall was a leading voice about ten years ago in the argument that Pacific island nations had no reason to be concerned about sea-level rise.

The other is Richard Lindzen, whose name in climate science circles is legend. He's pretty much the dean of climate denial. Ten years ago, he openly rejected any significant human role in global warming. He's been on ExxonMobil's payroll for many years. As bonehead mentions, he also remains skeptical about the links between smoking and cancer. MIT affiliation notwithstanding, he has all the credibility in climate science circles of a young-earth creationist at a paleontology convention.

About the only interesting thing to note here is that even the most diehard of denialists - the WSJ editorial board and Lindzen et al. - have wholly abandoned the no-human-hand-in-climate-change stance as untenable. (The only place it still holds any real sway is in GOP primaries.) They've moved on to the even shakier ground where you pretend that the impact is simultaneously too small to be concerned about and so great as to be beyond our ability to cope with as mere mortals with economic systems driven by the meagre profits of resource depletion.

In a way, this is progress: If Lindzen's now in the yes-it's-happening-but-so-what? camp, there's basically no camp left at all in pure denial territory except James Inhofe's igloo.
posted by gompa at 8:44 AM on January 27, 2012 [11 favorites]


Much like the "CO2 is life" sillyness, the "lack of recent warming" is another appeal to truthiness and to provide vapid talking points for pundits. If you like statistics, Tamino knocks down the "it hasn't warmed since 1998" cherry-picking argument every few weeks it seems.
posted by plastic_animals at 8:48 AM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


muddgirl: I agree with what you say. This is definitely an appeal to false authority, and I think it's very useful to scrutinize the background and expertise of each person.

I made my first comment only because there were so many comments that seemed to basically imply "not in the field --> ignore --> the end" but maybe that wasn't strictly what people meant. It had nothing to do with justifying the piece's choice of signatories. And if I knew your Uncle Bob or a financial analyst had the huge amount of time and resources to study the science and had done it for quite some time, then I personally would also seriously listen to what they have to say instead of assuming it would be a waste of my time.
posted by bread-eater at 8:52 AM on January 27, 2012


AElfwine Evenstar: "Hey Burt Rutan is on the list. He doesn't have a horse in this race does he?"

Right-wing ideology?
posted by symbioid at 8:53 AM on January 27, 2012


if I knew your Uncle Bob or a financial analyst had the huge amount of time and resources to study the science and had done it for quite some time, then I personally would also seriously listen to what they have to say instead of assuming it would be a waste of my time.

My Uncle Bob has a huge amount of time and resources to study unicorns. He's concluded that they exist. Should I seriously listen to what he has to say?

I don't think there is enough time in the world to listen to all positions on a topic - it's another fallacy that I'm not sure there's a name for yet (something along the lines of 'balance' not meaning you give equal weight to every opinion.)

(I should probably note that, while I have an Uncle Bob, I am using him here as a rhetorical device)
posted by muddgirl at 8:57 AM on January 27, 2012


Speaking of scientists talking about shit that they shouldn't be talking about... this guy (a biologist) has the GRAND THEORY OF EVERYTHING (that unites biology and physics, and quantum theory w/relativity.

I haven't fully started it yet, but yeah, it's gonna be a fun read. (via: this reddit post)
posted by symbioid at 8:58 AM on January 27, 2012


As Slap*Happy's excellent rundown notes, even the esteemed WSJ could find, at best, two "concerned scientists" with actual working knowledge of climate research to sign this screed.

The WSJ is just the publisher here. The screed itself will be written and placed by someone else, probably with close links to Cato and/or the Heartland Institute.
posted by daveje at 9:00 AM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's time for scientists to stop pretending that they are outside the realm of ideology. Marx said it best:
The weak points in the abstract materialism of natural science, a materialism that excludes history and its process, are at once evident from the abstract and ideological conceptions of its spokesmen, whenever they venture beyond the bounds of their own speciality.--Capital
It's weird that so many on the Left fail to keep Marx's warning in mind. Perhaps it is because the established Left is often the beneficiary of the ideological pronouncements of scientists. On climate change, for example, most scientists have taken a position that is at least vaguely in accord with Leftist thinking. But where is the general critique of the whole ecology/energy regime? Where are the demands for a solar economy? C'mon, scientists, its time to commit.
posted by No Robots at 9:02 AM on January 27, 2012


AElfwine Evenstar's link for Burt Rutan should point here, to make his point.

Isn't that a bit of a Godwin? It's very bad if scholarly debate is being suppressed, but I don't think anyone is being sent to the gulag for doubting climate change.

No, it's more like a False Dichotomy, craichead. Frankly, even if they had mentioned the Nazi's shutting down the universities as their analogy, it wouldn't be Godwin's Law - but it would still be a false analogy.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:03 AM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Just the publisher" like Ron Paul was "Just the publisher" of his 'zine.
posted by symbioid at 9:05 AM on January 27, 2012


The WSJ is just the publisher here. The screed itself will be written and placed by someone else, probably with close links to Cato and/or the Heartland Institute.

The role of the WSJ is to serve as a "laundering" operation for these right-wing propaganda outfits. "I saw this white paper from the oil-industry-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute" doesn't sound as credible as "I read it in the Wall Street Journal!"

The next stage is for one of the authors to appear on cable news introduced with, "and here is a scientist who recently wrote in the WSJ about how climate change isn't something we should worry about!" Actually, a more sly maneuver would be for the TV guest to be from the original sponsoring think tank who would then point to the WSJ Op-Ed as third party evidence of his position.
posted by deanc at 9:08 AM on January 27, 2012 [9 favorites]


"Just the publisher" like Ron Paul was "Just the publisher" of his 'zine.

You know what I mean. Even though the piece suits WSJ editorial policy, I very much doubt they had any real input.
posted by daveje at 9:08 AM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's time for scientists to stop pretending that they are outside the realm of ideology.

IME, most good scientists don't pretend that they're outside the realm of ideology. Anthropology of Science was a very popular course at my technical college. So was History of Science.

Perhaps its time for the general public to accept that scientists are Homo sapiens, and not Homo superior.
posted by muddgirl at 9:13 AM on January 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Perhaps its time for the general public to accept that scientists are Homo sapiens, and not Homo superior.

Yep.
posted by No Robots at 9:15 AM on January 27, 2012


No Robots: "Perhaps its time for the general public to accept that scientists are Homo sapiens, and not Homo superior.

Yep.
"

eponysterical
posted by symbioid at 9:19 AM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


The most succinct statement on the topic I have seen was by a geophysics professor at a top research U. This was from eight or nine or ten years ago. The fellow said he was concerned about the issue so he took two days off and went to the library and read all the best information on the topic he could find. His conclusion (not an exact quote but really close) "I concluded I am not qualified to have an opinion on the topic."
posted by bukvich at 9:19 AM on January 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


My Uncle Bob has a huge amount of time and resources to study unicorns. He's concluded that they exist. Should I seriously listen to what he has to say?

If it were important to you whether they exist, then yes?

There are 2 separate issues here: (1) the authority or lack thereof of signatories on this piece and (2) how people choose to take and process information. (2) is going too far from the post and I think it's really down to each person's utility function and priorities, so I'm going to drop that now. Going back to (1), I guess in making my original comment, I was hoping for more comments like gompa's and bumpkin's giving more reason to why an individual is not trustworthy in this matter, rather than just "not their field."
posted by bread-eater at 9:21 AM on January 27, 2012


Fellow humans, the cat is out of the bag. We have as a planet undoubtably entered the Anthropocene. The question we have before us is no longer "is the climate going to change?" The question is "what kind of climate do we as a species want to live in?

Simply watching the earth at night from the space station should tell you all you need to know about the effects humanity has had on the globe: Utterly profound.

Do we want to grow old afraid of the sun and the sky? Or do we, as a species, want to actively participate in creating the climate that we want? Because beyond any shadow of a doubt, the earth and the climate will forge ahead with or without our participation.

We as a species are part of the natural progression of things. We can either participate intelligently to engineer the world we want, or we can blindly pursue our short term economic goals like some hideous bipedal kudzu.

These people are essentially arguing that we should ignore the thermostat and allow short term thinking to randomly alter the thermostat and that any attempts to change the thermostat are a bad idea, no matter how hot or cold it gets.

Fools.
posted by Freen at 9:28 AM on January 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


This seems to lean heavily on an appeal to authority implied by their titles and academic affiliations...why should anyone consider [them] expert[s] on climate change?

This largely doesn't matter in public discourse because most Americans' last brush with science of any kind was probably in a class called "science" in high school, so they grow up thinking that science school produces scientists who do science all day and it's just fungible.
posted by adamdschneider at 9:33 AM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was hoping for more comments like gompa's and bumpkin's giving more reason to why an individual is not trustworthy in this matter, rather than just "not their field."

But in matters of science, 'not their field' IS a very reliable indicator as to whether or not their trustworthy on the matter.

Let's say there is a conference of doctors. 100 oncologists and 100 virologists agree that a particular virus can cause cancer. 5 optometrists (and 1 oncologist and 1 virologist) publish an opinion piece saying, "Not only does that virus not cause cancer, but even if it did, developing a vaccine to that virus isn't worth it."

What you seem to be arguing is that we should give equal weight to the 5 optometrists as we do to the 200 doctors who actually study cancer and viruses. To me, "why did they chose to publish something so wrong' (ie, a question of their political bias) is interesting, but it's immaterial whether the article is, say, worthwhile to be published or to be seriously considered. Scientific consensus is that man-made climate change is happening. It's possible that the consensus is wrong - I'll await that evidence. Until then, op-ed pieces are less than worthless.
posted by muddgirl at 9:36 AM on January 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


In the next issue of Physical Review B, Silke Weinfurtner makes the case against the Greek austerity packages for reasons he selected from random Twitter feeds. The MeFi post goes to 666,666 comments before human decisions are removed from strategic defense. Skynet begins to learn at a geometric rate. It becomes self-aware at 2:14 a.m. Eastern time, August 29th. In a panic, they try to pull the plug.
posted by a_girl_irl at 9:39 AM on January 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


BobbyVan, thanks for posting this. What the US should do about climate change is a vitally important question, and it's one that sharply divides Americans. According to the Pew Research Center, 38% of Democrats see global warming as a top priority (down from 48% in 2007); 11% of Republicans see it as a top priority (down from 23% in 2007).

So even if I disagree completely with the letter by Lindzen et al., it's useful to see what the other side's point of view is.

The Republican base has shifted very strongly against climate change policy (I don't really understand why). John McCain and Newt Gingrich could advocate climate change policy in the past, but in the current Republican primaries, Gingrich has had to distance himself from his past statements. Gingrich invited Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist who also happens to be an evangelical Christian, to contribute a chapter on climate change to an upcoming book on environmental policy; after Rush Limbaugh found out, Gingrich pulled it. Globe and Mail.

From the letter: A recent study of a wide variety of policy options by Yale economist William Nordhaus showed that nearly the highest benefit-to-cost ratio is achieved for a policy that allows 50 more years of economic growth unimpeded by greenhouse gas controls.

Nordhaus is a highly respected economist in this area. My guess is that this refers to A Question of Balance, published in 2008. Nordhaus is recommending a carbon tax of $30/ton starting immediately (well, four years ago), rising to $100/ton in 2050 and $200/ton in 2100--roughly consistent with the IEA's recommended policy path of $40/ton by 2020 and $120/ton by 2050. This seems to flatly contradict Lindzen et al.'s characterization.

Nordhaus has put the full text online.
posted by russilwvong at 9:39 AM on January 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


What the US should do about climate change is a vitally important question, and it's one that sharply divides Americans.

...and much like the other issues that divide Americans -- LGBT civil rights, freedom of choice, appropriate criminal sentencing -- the division is between people who want to do the right thing and people who care not a whit about dooming society.

According to the Pew Research Center, 38% of Democrats see global warming as a top priority (down from 48% in 2007); 11% of Republicans see it as a top priority (down from 23% in 2007).

Implode the global financial system a few more times and I bet we can get both of those to drop to "0%" lickety-split.
posted by griphus at 9:52 AM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh man, Burt Rutan. He may not know much about climate science, but he's a genius at unintentional comedy. This 2010 version of his Engineer's Critique of Global Warming is a classic. To give you some idea, it starts by arguing that if you take all the humans on earth and mash them together into a giant cube, that cube would be small compared to the size of the earth; therefore we are to assume that humans can't possibly affect anything much.
posted by sfenders at 9:55 AM on January 27, 2012 [8 favorites]


Oops, wrong link: this is Rutan's famous work.
posted by sfenders at 10:00 AM on January 27, 2012


Sometimes I think this issue is clearest when boiled down to a single question: do you care about the world your children will live in? So many people today seem to think that climate change won't effect them personally, so there's no benefit in sacrificing anything right now. But that totally screws over the generations to come.
posted by Kevin Street at 10:14 AM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


No Robots: "Perhaps its time for the general public to accept that scientists are Homo sapiens, and not Homo superior.

Yep."

eponysterical

- by symbioid

Eponysterical^2.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:16 AM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Perhaps its time for the general public to accept that scientists are Homo sapiens, and not Homo superior.

No Robot, it sounds like you have an ax to grind here.
posted by deanc at 10:27 AM on January 27, 2012


bread-eater: Can someone explain where he came up with "lack of warming" in the last decade? All the chart I can google up seem to show a clear upward trend. Is here some measure that can be interpreted as showing a lack of warming? I'd like to see it.

The "lack of warming" quotation comes from email written by Dr. Kevin Trenberth and stolen from Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia. He's discussing how 2008 was the coolest year since 2000 (but, at the time, still warm enough to be the ninth warmest year since instrument measurements have been possible). You can read the full email here.

The email promotes a paper he wrote on how improved monitoring of other complex Earth systems (eg ocean temperatures, snow and ice melt on land and sea, changes in evaporation and the hydrological cycle, or regional cycles like El Niño) is needed to explain where the extra heat from increased atmospheric CO2 was absorbed in 2008. If extra heat from radiative forcing didn't increase atmospheric temperature, where exactly did it go? Not knowing the answer to that question was the travesty that he was referring to.

Climate deniers who use the "travesty" quote to dismiss climate change or suggest a conspiracy are grasping at straws and relying on their readers to be to unable or unwilling to understand its proper context.
posted by peeedro at 10:28 AM on January 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


In the next issue of Physical Review B, Silke Weinfurtner makes the case against the Greek austerity packages for reasons he selected from random Twitter feeds. The MeFi post goes to 666,666 comments before human decisions are removed from strategic defense. Skynet begins to learn at a geometric rate. It becomes self-aware at 2:14 a.m. Eastern time, August 29th. In a panic, they try to pull the plug.

Moral of the story: never trust a fella named Silke.

posted by Jehan at 10:31 AM on January 27, 2012


I am willing to leave the existence or absence of global warming to the experts. Assuming global warming is occurring under the assumption that more scientists than not believe it is, and they know much more about the subject than I do, is there a consensus among these scientists that a certain course of action is necessary to reduce, prevent or reverse global warming?

My problem with global warming proponents, more so of the activist type variety, is that a legitimate scientific assertion of the dangers global warming, is taken as a call to action to try to reduce or reverse warming through political means. Maybe more succinctly, if a scientist says with proof that the Earth will warm by 5 degrees over the next 100 years, and the only way to stop that from happening is to reduce CO2 emissions by some amount, then the activist will call for the reduction in CO2 emissions.

The scientist does not say how CO2 emissions should be reduced, but the activist seems to be able to make the leap as to how. It seems more often than not, that the activists preferred course is action, when it might be the best course to take no action at all. In other words, if global warming is bad, and lower emissions is the cure, are the activist's proposals to lower emissions actually going to result in lower emissions?

The scientists in the WSJ would seem to be saying no, which makes sense to me and many of the other global warming "deniers" out there. The activist's proposals mostly seem to geared toward preventing global warming through political means, decrees, mandates, regulations, which are all reversible in a democracy at almost anytime and/or ignorable in places without a democracy.

The only irreversible action that can be taken to lower emissions is to allow the market to price out undesirable emissions. This requires a real reduction in supply or a real increase in demand (which means that preventing the construction of an oil pipeline from Canada to the US, doesn't mean that oil is not going to burn in China.) The activist's proposals are worse than doing nothing at all. They delay the day when fuels with unwanted qualities are permanently and prohibitively too expensive to burn.
posted by otto42 at 10:33 AM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


The only irreversible action that can be taken to lower emissions is to allow the market to price out undesirable emissions.

Almost like capping the total amount of emissions and coming up with some sort of trading scheme that would allow the market to price out where the emissions can be most efficiently distributed.

But if you have a track record of outright denying the existence of climate change in the first place, you should be ignored and all your claims should be held with great, great suspicion, because odds are the claimant is just a weasel moving the goalposts to prevent fixing the problem or because he has some other agenda and ax to grind.
posted by deanc at 10:36 AM on January 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


What russilwvong said. In that contex, this is just another propaganda stunt by well-funded institutions looking for a couple more percentage points in the next poll for the "don't believe in climate change" side. And they're going to get it.

I also don't buy the argument that you can't learn the at least some of the relevant science around climate change and form your own opinion. Why, just look at me!! But now that we've got this fabulous intertubes thing, there's no excuse for not trying to educate yourself about a major issue of our time. Plus it's interesting!: it's chock full of SCIENCE, POLITICS, and ECONOMICS!!1!

What about one of these as a starting point?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_change (please note: not the "Global Warming" page.

Or why not Peter Hadfield's excellent series of YT commentaries on the science and media controversies surrounding this issue? Award-winning retired BBC journalist shows us how to use the internet to get the facts. Hadfield deserves his own FPP on mefi, but this will have to do for now.

And what about here?
These people are fucking ROCKET SCIENTISTS FFS!! Why aren't they in the WSJ?

Hi otto42!
posted by sneebler at 10:37 AM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


First off, deanc, that wasn't my comment: I was only agreeing with it. Secondly, yer goddam right I have an "ax" to grind. If we do have an eco/energy crisis, don't you think it's time for everyone to take a stand, especially those who do have scientific/technical insight into the problem and its solution? I'll tell ya one thing, the deniers are certainly not sitting on their hands.
posted by No Robots at 10:41 AM on January 27, 2012


otto42: The question of how to reduce CO2 emissions with minimum economic impact is an economic question, and William Nordhaus is one of the leading economists in this area. For a discussion of the economic and political aspects of price-based vs. quantity-based approaches (carbon tax vs. cap-and-trade), see Nordhaus's 2006 article After Kyoto.

Kevin Street: Sometimes I think this issue is clearest when boiled down to a single question: do you care about the world your children will live in?

My question would be: What's the likelihood that climate change will cause a major war between now and 2100?
posted by russilwvong at 10:46 AM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


don't you think it's time for everyone to take a stand, especially those who do have scientific/technical insight into the problem and its solution?

That has nothing to do with scientists believing themselves to be "homo superior." If anything, it's because they are too modest and feel they're unqualified to play ball in the political sphere.

the deniers are certainly not sitting on their hands.

note that those aren't the scientists-- they're a cadre of political activists and big money funders pushing an ideological agenda who are not "sitting on their hands" while they organize and produce these propaganda pieces.
posted by deanc at 10:46 AM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


If anything, it's because they are too modest and feel they're unqualified to play ball in the political sphere.

Well, there's yer problem right there. Get in the game!

they're a cadre of political activists

It's time those on the other side took a page from their playbook. You can redefine them as "not scientists" all you want, but the fact is that if they're at Princeton and other high profile institutions, their opinions count. Those for whom they speak have enormous wealth and power, and that is the problem.
posted by No Robots at 10:54 AM on January 27, 2012


Is this making the rounds amongst science blogs? Google didn't turn up anything.
posted by polymodus at 10:58 AM on January 27, 2012


It's time those on the other side took a page from their playbook. You can redefine them as "not scientists" all you want, but the fact is that if they're at Princeton and other high profile institutions, their opinions count.

No Robots, you're missing the point. No one would have heard of these guys "at Princeton" in the first place were it not for a cadre of committed political activists who are organizing and publicizing these op-ed-writing projects and submitting them to places like the WSJ.
posted by deanc at 10:58 AM on January 27, 2012


Hadfield deserves his own FPP on mefi, but this will have to do for now.

He has.
posted by Bangaioh at 10:58 AM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Left should get busy and activate its own squads of scientists.
posted by No Robots at 11:01 AM on January 27, 2012


NASA produced this nice animation of earth surface temperature change since 1880.

And the USDA just released a new climate zone map for farmers and gardeners that reflects warmer climates throughout the country.

At this point, the deniers are rapidly decreasing in number and most people are recognizing this is happening no matter how much we wish it weren't.

What should we do? The things that have been recommended for years: eliminate fossil fuel use being the priority. These are not new ideas. And yes, it's complicated, and yes, it will require international treaties, and yes, it will be hard.

No, I don't know how to do it, because I recognize that a PhD in biogeochemistry doesn't qualify me to make recommendations for political solutions. I imagine there are people who know a lot more about international economics and policymaking who will need to do the next part.
posted by hydropsyche at 11:03 AM on January 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Join your local solar power interest group.
posted by No Robots at 11:04 AM on January 27, 2012


My question would be: What's the likelihood that climate change will cause a major war between now and 2100?
posted by russilwvong at 10:46 AM on January 27 [+] [!]

I would say that the likelihood climate change will cause a major war in the next 88 years is very small.

What would people fight over because of climate change that they don't already fight over already?
posted by otto42 at 11:04 AM on January 27, 2012


What would people fight over because of climate change that they don't already fight over already?

Fresh potable water?
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 11:09 AM on January 27, 2012 [10 favorites]


Access to natural resources and shipping lanes in the thawing arctic?
posted by peeedro at 11:11 AM on January 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


What would people fight over because of climate change that they don't already fight over already?

Honor in the Thunderdome.
posted by griphus at 11:14 AM on January 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


"The Left should get busy and activate its own squads of scientists."

No Robots, "The Left" doesn't need it's own scientists. What we (people in general, not "the left") need is for politicians and the media to listen to real scientists working in climatology, and not to trumped-up media stunts designed to buy votes and sway public opinion at the expense of actual published science.

If you meant this sincerely, you're an example of what's wrong with this whole discussion. Science and scientists are not "Left", and they're not "Right". They're trying to show you how the universe actually works. Trying to make this into a left-right issue is stupid.

I know it's Greenpeace, but according to this report, "Koch Industries has spent over $49.5 million dollars on lobbying since 2006, with peak lobbying spending in 2008 of over $20 million."

This is ONE large oil company. Where do people who want to promote actual science get this kind of cash?
posted by sneebler at 11:17 AM on January 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


What would people fight over because of climate change that they don't already fight over already?

Canada.
posted by titus-g at 11:17 AM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is political, whether the scientists want it as such or not. Anyone, including any scientist, who tries to "depoliticize" this is in fact working for the status quo, and deserves to be treated as an enemy of the biosphere and of the people.
posted by No Robots at 11:19 AM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Fresh potable water?"

People who live in Arizona aren't going to war with the citizens of Nevada over potable water concerns despite a lack of any in each state.

The Iraqis and Iranians, who always seem prepped for a good throw down, don't seem too inclined to fight over potable water, despite its natural absence there.

Where on Earth would it be impossible to get potable water to at the right price, even if you had to make it?
posted by otto42 at 11:20 AM on January 27, 2012


No Robots, "The Left" doesn't need it's own scientists. What we (people in general, not "the left") need is for politicians and the media to listen to real scientists working in climatology, and not to trumped-up media stunts designed to buy votes and sway public opinion at the expense of actual published science.

Well, I wouldn't mind politicians on the left putting together trumped up media stunts to sway public opinion in the service of actual science.
posted by deanc at 11:20 AM on January 27, 2012


Science must be made to serve mankind's interests; mankind must not be made to serve science's interests.
posted by No Robots at 11:22 AM on January 27, 2012


Anyone, including any scientist, who tries to "depoliticize" this is in fact working for the status quo, and deserves to be treated as an enemy of the biosphere and of the people.

That's rough stuff.
posted by BobbyVan at 11:22 AM on January 27, 2012


deanc, the problem with that is that established political lobbies will rightly point to those stunts and say, "See? We told you they were trying to lead you astray, and now we have evidence." I'm a pessimist though.
posted by sneebler at 11:23 AM on January 27, 2012


If the scientists are right, these are rough times.
posted by No Robots at 11:24 AM on January 27, 2012


Science must be made to serve mankind's interests

Ah, yes, this was, for awhile, one justification that Oppenheimer used to rationalize the Manhattan Project. That worked out well for America, I suppose.
posted by muddgirl at 11:25 AM on January 27, 2012


People who live in Arizona aren't going to war with the citizens of Nevada over potable water concerns despite a lack of any in each state.

That is because they currently have access to potable water. Once global warming starts to dry up our water supplies there may be a different story. This isn't a new idea. Type "water wars" into google and read through some of the results then get back to us.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 11:26 AM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


: The scientist does not say how CO2 emissions should be reduced, but the activist seems to be able to make the leap as to how. It seems more often than not, that the activists preferred course is action, when it might be the best course to take no action at all. In other words, if global warming is bad, and lower emissions is the cure, are the activist's proposals to lower emissions actually going to result in lower emissions?

The scientists in the WSJ would seem to be saying no, which makes sense to me and many of the other global warming "deniers" out there.


No, they're really not saying that. That's actually the argument I was looking for when I clicked the WSJ link. There's a legitimate argument to be made. Although we do know that the climate is changing, and we are pretty sure that a good part of that is the result of human activity, we may not have as much evidence that the best immediate action is to put so much focus on carbon emissions. It's possible the best action is to adjust our thinking to cope with the oncoming changes, because those changes might happen no matter what we do. But that's not certain either, is it?

Anyway, this is the argument I was looking for, and instead I found a water balloon argument that climate scientists are creating an environment of persecution for naysayers just so they can get all the funding.

: The activist's proposals mostly seem to geared toward preventing global warming through political means, decrees, mandates, regulations, which are all reversible in a democracy at almost anytime and/or ignorable in places without a democracy.

The only irreversible action that can be taken to lower emissions is to allow the market to price out undesirable emissions. This requires a real reduction in supply or a real increase in demand (which means that preventing the construction of an oil pipeline from Canada to the US, doesn't mean that oil is not going to burn in China.) The activist's proposals are worse than doing nothing at all. They delay the day when fuels with unwanted qualities are permanently and prohibitively too expensive to burn.


If someone wasn't kicking up a fuss, not even the no-brainer things like planning crop adjustments and water resource scrutiny would be getting as much attention as they need. Just because the whole carbon emissions thing is falling on its face politically (in the US) doesn't mean the effort is "worse than doing nothing."
posted by zennie at 11:26 AM on January 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is political, whether the scientists want it as such or not. Anyone, including any scientist, who tries to "depoliticize" this is in fact working for the status quo, and deserves to be treated as an enemy of the biosphere and of the people.

Doesn't that lead to the whole thing turning into the standard US tribal war where each side automatically disagrees with the other regardless of facts? Whether the next president of the US is a Democrat or Republican doesn't directly matter from the perspective of the climate, what matters is whether or not action is taken.
posted by Urtylug at 11:27 AM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


What would people fight over because of climate change that they don't already fight over already?

Farmable land. Energy. It becomes costlier, energy-wise, to operate in extreme weather conditions. Farming is more costly with less stable/predictable seasons.

There are literally populations migrating from their sinking homelands already.

Take your pick. All our basic natural resources (food, water, energy) are already being directly impacted in measurable ways. Just extend that out, and imagine it getting a lot worse in every category, and there you go. Plenty to fight about.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:27 AM on January 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


Amazingly, support for solar power cuts across the usual partisan political lines. We have a new political alignment over eco/energy policies.
posted by No Robots at 11:28 AM on January 27, 2012


"Canada."

Well, that's disturbing.

I have no idea about wars. It's almost impossible to predict what large groups of people will do in the next five years, let alone the next ninety or so, and how bad things will get depends upon how hard we try to fix and mitigate the problems. (And right now we're doing nothing at all.) The ultimate endgame is to "decarbonize" the world economy, as those august gentlemen put it, since that's the only way to permanently reduce emissions. Even peak oil would still lead to burning more coal.

I think the best thing that the developed nations can do right now (other than voluntary emission cuts) is to start seriously planning for what we're going to do. How can we stabilize the climate if it gets to a tipping point? And what do we need for a renewable energy economy to work? I mean, what do we really need. Most likely we're going to need new power grids that can handle lots of time variant energy sources, so lets start designing those right now. Let's start figuring out where the power for all those electric cars is going to come from, and design the power plants that will need to be built. Lots of little solar panels or a mixture of intensive solar farms and geothermal? Let's work this stuff out now while we still have the luxury of time, so we (or our hypothetical kids) don't have to do it all on the fly and make a lot of costly mistakes.
posted by Kevin Street at 11:31 AM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can't think of anything more likely to spark full-blown wars than a shrinking agrarian base, increasing populations, and increasingly limited access to fossil fuels. Not in the first world, but Africa and Asia aren't going to get any more stable, that's for sure.
posted by mek at 11:39 AM on January 27, 2012


No Robots: This is political, whether the scientists want it as such or not. Anyone, including any scientist, who tries to "depoliticize" this is in fact working for the status quo, and deserves to be treated as an enemy of the biosphere and of the people.

This kind of inflamed, quasi-violent rhetoric isn't helpful. We have political institutions precisely so that we can resolve conflicts over major issues without having to resort to violence.

Let me point out that the US House of Representatives passed Waxman-Markey in 2009 (it died in the Senate). It's premature to give up on politics at this point.
posted by russilwvong at 11:54 AM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


What would people fight over because of climate change that they don't already fight over already?

Farmable land. Energy. It becomes costlier, energy-wise, to operate in extreme weather conditions. Farming is more costly with less stable/predictable seasons.

There are literally populations migrating from their sinking homelands already.

Take your pick. All our basic natural resources (food, water, energy) are already being directly impacted in measurable ways. Just extend that out, and imagine it getting a lot worse in every category, and there you go. Plenty to fight about.


It seems to me that that a lack of any resource or multiple resources is used much anymore to justify going to war, at least in the developed world. When some resource becomes scarce, I would think most people would be inclined to use a different resource that yields the same or better results before resorting to shooting and pillaging. It's pretty much the same reason we fly in aluminum airplanes now and not wooden ones and we light out homes with electricity made from natural gas and not the grease from a sperm whales head.

So when farmable land in southern New Jersey is under six feet of water, we'll still be able to get our tomatoes from 60 story hydroponic sky scrapers in Pennsylvania. I think free markets in the developed world have pretty much eliminated the need to try to take a neighbor's resources by force. Should the French be concerned with Dutch intentions as the North Sea continues to encroach? Or maybe the French believe the Dutch will add another layers of bricks on their dykes, and therefore are not worried.
posted by otto42 at 11:57 AM on January 27, 2012


correction

It seems to me that a lack of any resource or multiple resources is >>not<< used much anymore
posted by otto42 at 11:58 AM on January 27, 2012


This kind of inflamed, quasi-violent rhetoric isn't helpful. We have political institutions precisely so that we can resolve conflicts over major issues without having to resort to violence.

What was my actual suggestion? That people join a solar power association.

What is politics? War conducted by other means.

Do you think the oil and utility monopolies are going down without a fight? You want to play nice, while they're buying scientists by the truckload? Fie!
posted by No Robots at 12:06 PM on January 27, 2012


When some resource becomes scarce, I would think most people would be inclined to use a different resource that yields the same or better results before resorting to shooting and pillaging.

There are currently no known replacements for water, food, air and land. And there's a long actual historical record--just to climb down from the abstract heights for a moment here--that seems to show we humans do love to start wars over land and other resources we don't necessarily need. In fact, it's been argued wars are almost always at some level about control of natural resources and there's good solid scholarship for that view.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:12 PM on January 27, 2012 [10 favorites]


"There are currently no known replacements for water, food, air and land."

And water politics by itself is a whole field of study.

Have we had any wars over air yet?
posted by sneebler at 12:22 PM on January 27, 2012


He's just spewing the usual "substitutes" bollocks, where the substitutes are always better than what they're substituing because... it happened quite a few times in last couple of centuries, therefore it always will! Also, free markets, dontcha know they solve everything?
posted by Bangaioh at 12:23 PM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can't think of anything more likely to spark full-blown wars than a shrinking agrarian base, increasing populations, and increasingly limited access to fossil fuels. Not in the first world, but Africa and Asia aren't going to get any more stable, that's for sure.

I would say Asia is a lot more stable now than it was 30 or 40 years ago despite a sizable increase in the size of the population and no apparent increase in the size of the land mass. Maybe Africa too, but I would have to check to be certain.

The Chinese don't seem to be shooting at the Vietnamese much anymore. Likewise, the Vietnamese with the Cambodians and Laosians. Russians in the far east and their Chinese neighbors seem to be on friendly enough terms and the arguments between the Russians and the Japanese over who gets to put a light house on what barren island in the North Pacific, seem to have subsided. Sure the Hindus and Muslims go at every once in a while still, but the fight seems to be as much about religion than about natural resources or lack of land and potable water. An extra 483 million Indians and 94 million Pakistanis in the past 30 years and what religion you are is still worth going to war over but having enough land does not seem to be as important.

There you have it, the same amount of land now as there was 30 years ago, 357 million more Chinese, and no shots fired at the 33 million (a 62% increase) additional Vietnamese born since then.
posted by otto42 at 12:28 PM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hexatron mentioned that one of the sixteen is a member of the board of the Marshall Institute, where to quote a former director, "...the trappings of scholarship were used to put a scientific cover on positions arrived at otherwise. These positions served various interests, ideological or material. For example, part of my job consisted of making arguments about global warming that just happened to coincide with the positions taken by the oil companies that funded the think tank.”

The Marshall Institute and it's founders feature prominently in Merchants of Doubt, which I highly recommend, especially if your teeth are too long and you need to grind them down a bit.
posted by gamera at 12:38 PM on January 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


Most all out wars tend to be motivated by a nation's desire for control over land or other natural resources, and if you can say with a straight face that China hasn't been flexing its muscles a lot in various parts of the world (even if its usually done through proxies and less direct means) to secure control over natural resources in recent years, then you deserve credit for your ability to keep the scales before your eyes.

Hell, arguably, part of our role in Iraq was acting as a proxy for China to secure more oil supply (so they'd have all they need to keep mass producing our crap, among other things). After all, chinese oil companies ended up being the biggest beneficiaries: Chinese national oil companies are now the biggest beneficiary of Iraq's oil resources.

After all, vital US national interests (like making sure our officially preffered trading partner would still have plenty of cheap fuel to keep its factories churning out cheap crap) were at stake in Iraq.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:42 PM on January 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


Turns out the the scientists in question have released a follow up video to the article.

Nest shitters* are gonna shit in the nest.


* For hire, or otherwise reason-disabled.
posted by titus-g at 12:42 PM on January 27, 2012


Here's Harrison Schmitt (#13 on the list) in 2009:

“I think the whole trend really began with the fall of the Soviet Union. Because the great champion of the opponents of liberty, namely communism, had to find some other place to go and they basically went into the environmental movement.”

Our governor, Susana Martinez, tried to appoint Schmitt as cabinet secretary for the New Mexico Department of Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources. Schmitt withdrew his nomination because he objected to having a background check.
posted by Killick at 12:42 PM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


"There are currently no known replacements for water, food, air and land. And there's a long actual historical record--just to climb down from the abstract heights for a moment here--that seems to show we humans do love to start wars over land and other resources we don't necessarily need. In fact, it's been argued wars are almost always at some level about control of natural resources and there's good solid scholarship for that view."

Sure there are, I substituted the water from my faucet for the water from my gutters (by way of a 50 gallon plastic drum for storage) to water my garden last summer.

When it stops raining permanently from the global warming and such, I might have to buy my drinking water from a store that had it shipped from a plant that distills sea water. I will post a review as to how it tastes on Mefi when that happens.

In the meantime, I'll try to keep from starving. You see, I spend most of time in New York City and New Jersey. During the winter months, no actual food (except for maybe milk or fish) is grown (captured) within a hundred mile radius of Times Square. Despite the inhospitable growing conditions here, I think I might be able to find some form of food, so I'm not to worried about starving to death.
posted by otto42 at 12:46 PM on January 27, 2012


You want to talk carbon-neutral economics? Here is an IEA report on the potential of renewable energy technologies which calculates that by 2030 the total global potential energy output of all renewable technologies is at least 1.6 times current consumption. Granted consumption is going to rise, but so is efficiency, and regardless, that shit is essentially free money, for the taking, just wafting about the geosphere or atmosphere. Once we construct the infrastructure to harvest that potential energy, it just keeps rolling in, like fruit in the garden of Eden, leaping from the trees ripe and ready to be eaten. As was said above, the only people who don't have something to gain from fighting climate change are established interests profiting off their monopolies over economies of energy scarcity.
posted by kaspen at 12:47 PM on January 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


There you have it, the same amount of land now as there was 30 years ago, 357 million more Chinese, and no shots fired at the 33 million (a 62% increase) additional Vietnamese born since then.

Perhaps this has something to do with it?

But I suppose you may prefer to argue that it was mostly due to this instead. If so, perhaps you could point out one (or more) countries you consider developed, or with significantly higher living standards and/or population now than in the recent past, that show no concomitant increase in resource consumption, either domestic or imported.
posted by Bangaioh at 1:02 PM on January 27, 2012


To be honest, I'm surprised not to find Prof. Dr. Erhardt von Grupten Mundt of the Academy of Tobacco Studies in the list.
posted by Skeptic at 1:05 PM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


"The fact is that CO2 is not a pollutant. CO2 is a colorless and odorless gas, exhaled at high concentrations by each of us, and a key component of the biosphere's life cycle."

Some call it pollution. We call it life.
posted by flyingfox at 1:21 PM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


flyingfox, I thought you were going to like this
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:28 PM on January 27, 2012


"Perhaps this has something to do with it?

But I suppose you may prefer to argue that it was mostly due to this instead. If so, perhaps you could point out one (or more) countries you consider developed, or with significantly higher living standards and/or population now than in the recent past, that show no concomitant increase in resource consumption, either domestic or imported."

I consider the USA developed. The living standards and population are both higher now than they were in 1980. Resource consumption has presumably increased concomitant with the growth in standards and population.

Strangely, the increase resource consumption has not resulted in any depletion in the nations resources, natural or otherwise, that would have a counter effect on the growth of living standards.

There is less oil today being pumped out of Texas wells that there was 30 years ago, and probably the same is true for overseas areas that we regularly imported oil from in 1980.

Have these Texas and Arabian natural resources been depleted? Yes. Does the depletion matter? No. My standard of living (speaking as an average American) is higher now than 30 years ago. All other standard of living factors being equal, it costs me about the same about now to buy a gallon of gas, than it did in 1980. Adjusted for an increase in MPG's my cost to drive 1 mile is less now than in 1980. To the extent the savings represent a higher living standard, you could almost argue that resource depletion, in an of itself, not just the utility derived from the resource, improves living standards.
posted by otto42 at 1:39 PM on January 27, 2012


"There are currently no known replacements for water, food, air and land....

Sure there are, I substituted the water from my faucet for the water from my gutters (by way of a 50 gallon plastic drum for storage) to water my garden last summer.


And when that runs out, otto42, you can melt the ice from your icemaker and drink that! Brilliant!

(not sure if serious...)
posted by IAmBroom at 1:44 PM on January 27, 2012


And when that runs out, otto42, you can melt the ice from your icemaker and drink that! Brilliant!

(not sure if serious...)
posted by IAmBroom at 1:44 PM on January 27 [+] [!]

I am serious. People on here are trying to argue that global warming will reduce the amount of resources (potable water, farmland and energy) on the planet to the point that people will start killing each other.

I do not believe this will happen.

China doesn't have any more land now than it did 30 years ago and they have 357 million more people now. Clearly they have consumed a lot of resources in the interim.

Where are all the Chinese invasions of neighboring countries to secure more farmland?

How come the Left's Malthusian dream has not come true in China?
posted by otto42 at 2:07 PM on January 27, 2012


otto42: Does the depletion matter? No. My standard of living (speaking as an average American) is higher now than 30 years ago.

Economically speaking, you're confusing stocks and flows. Assets (including natural resources) are stocks; production and consumption are flows. Declining stocks are not necessarily incompatible with increasing flows in the short term. But as economists like to say: "Things that can't go on forever, don't."

So when farmable land in southern New Jersey is under six feet of water, we'll still be able to get our tomatoes from 60 story hydroponic sky scrapers in Pennsylvania.

Your cheerful contemplation of the coasts drowning under rising seas reminds me of Hans Morgenthau's comments on the survivability of nuclear war:
Obviously, if a highly complex human societv could be visualized to operate like a primitive ant society, its recuperative ability could be taken for granted. If 1/3 of the ants of one ant hill have been destroyed together with 9/10 of the material of the ant hill, it is safe to conclude that the remaining ants will start all over again, building up the ant hill and reproducing until the next catastrophe will force them to start all over again.

But it is a moot question whether a human society has this type of mechanical recuperative ability. Perhaps societies have a breaking point as do individuals, and there may be a point beyond which human endurance does not carry human initiative in the face of such unprecedented massive devastation. Perhaps under the impact of such devastation civilization itself will collapse.
From "The Commitments of a Theory of International Politics," published in Politics in the Twentieth Century, Volume 1.
posted by russilwvong at 2:11 PM on January 27, 2012


Save your breath guys, don't you recognise this concern-trolling denialist from every other climate change thread here?
posted by smoke at 2:13 PM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, no worries about the increasing encroachment of salinated water into fresh water supplies (not to mention the exhorbitant energy costs of desalination plants when we're talking about a national scale). We can simply collect the tears of our foes (driven weeping before us) to water our crops.
posted by muddgirl at 2:16 PM on January 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


otto42 is serious. This is some kind of essentially "conservative" stance on these issues: you simply choose to believe they're not happening, or don't affect you, and carry on. For example, the net cost of driving has gone down = Win! There's no water shortage in NY, so there's no problem in, say, Israel. Win! I have enough to eat, so there's clearly no risk of farming issues in Australia. "I'll drink out of the drip tray from my A/C. Suck it, Lefties!"

He looks at climate change and says, "Whattyamean gloBULL warming? It was 37 degrees here yesterday! Who are you trying to kid?"

Believe it or not, we have heard much of this before.
posted by sneebler at 2:17 PM on January 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


the increase resource consumption has not resulted in any depletion in the nations resources

Have these Texas and Arabian natural resources been depleted? Yes.

?


My standard of living (speaking as an average American) is higher now than 30 years ago

Assuming that is true, so is your resource consumption. And don't forget China now manufactures most of your crap, so even if internal USA consumption per-capita had decreased, it would be only an illusory reduction, since it was merely outsourced. Someone's minerals are being extracted and processed before being shipped to the USA.

But you didn't answer my question, I didn't say that higher resource consumption always causes higher standard of living - again, the USA versus most EU countries (cheap healthcare!) would prove that no, it doesn't.

Huge natural resource consumption is a necessary but NOT sufficient condition for a "first-world" lifestyle. I asked you to point me to a country with comparatively low consumption (for example, one where average per-capita primary energy consumption is below 1kW, as opposed to EU's 4 or USA's 10 kW) and a standard of living comparable to the developed world. The USA certainly does not meet my requirements.

On preview:

How come the Left's Malthusian dream has not come true in China?

You're probably just trolling as pointed out above.
posted by Bangaioh at 2:20 PM on January 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Otto is a perfect example of why it's so hard to mandate reduced carbon emissions. The primary economic stakeholders are the last ones to feel the effects from the tragedy of the commons/multilateral prisoner's dilemma that climate change represents. Oh I'll just spend X% of my wealth buying an adaptive system instead of Y% fixing the problem. Never mind that X may be far greater than Y. While some nations want to pursue reduced carbon emissions from the perspective of equity, others will want to pursue it from the perspective of protecting the economic stake of the capitalist class. I think the war that will have to be fought over climate change is the one to force the hands of countries like China and the US in this matter. Since I doubt that will actually happen, the very small part of this article about the economic perspective may be correct and we'd be better off pursuing a geo-engineering solution rather than a carbon reduction solution. In any case, it does not appear to me to be an easy sell, and if it were we'd be there already. As it is, the countries with the most to lose are going to blink first, but that doesn't even matter because they don't have the leverage to effect much change.

As for the left's Malthusian dream, it has come true for China, it's just that they are eating up their rural class, the ethnicities with less political power, and their natural resources to sustain themselves. Perhaps they'll transition to fusion or solar before they have to pay the piper on the heavy metal polluted farmland and other environmental catastrophes that are slowly building.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:21 PM on January 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


how come the Left's Malthusian dream has not come true in China?

It hasn't?

posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:30 PM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


You see, I spend most of time in New York City and New Jersey. During the winter months, no actual food (except for maybe milk or fish) is grown (captured) within a hundred mile radius of Times Square. Despite the inhospitable growing conditions here, I think I might be able to find some form of food, so I'm not to worried about starving to death.

Aren't you the clever little sausage. I don't think that residents of New York are at the top of the list of global inhabitants likely to get it in the neck in any kind of resource conflict or who will end up as refugees as a result of changes in local environmental conditions. You have had the dumb luck to be born in one of the wealthiest places on Earth. Try not to be dumb enough to realise those conditions do not apply everywhere.


I think free markets in the developed world have pretty much eliminated the need to try to take a neighbor's resources by force.

So the US keeps getting involved in wars in the Middle East because...

Or does Iraq not count because its far away?
posted by biffa at 2:39 PM on January 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


As for the left's Malthusian dream, it has come true for China, it's just that they are eating up their rural class, the ethnicities with less political power, and their natural resources to sustain themselves. Perhaps they'll transition to fusion or solar before they have to pay the piper on the heavy metal polluted farmland and other environmental catastrophes that are slowly building.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:21 PM on January 27

Or maybe the Chinese will increase their standard of living high enough in the next 30 years so that the average citizen has the time and resources to make getting cesium out of their drinking water a priority instead of today's immediate priority of putting food on the table.

Separately,

There is no transition to fusion or solar power under the the Left's model to reduce emissions because the Chinese will still be burning cheap, dirty Canadian oil for there heating and energy needs.
posted by otto42 at 2:56 PM on January 27, 2012


smoke: Save your breath guys, don't you recognise this concern-trolling denialist from every other climate change thread here?

I think it's still worth having the argument. As I said earlier, there's a sizable proportion of the US population that is vehemently opposed to climate change policy; otto42 is hardly alone.

otto42: China doesn't have any more land now than it did 30 years ago and they have 357 million more people now. Clearly they have consumed a lot of resources in the interim.

I think this is actually an excellent question. What happens when resources become scarce? If it leads to political instability (revolution or warfare), why hasn't this happened in China?

China went through a massive famine in 1959-1962--not because of resource depletion, but because of Mao's grandiose Great Leap Forward. Something like 30 million people died. Why didn't it lead to massive upheaval? The obvious answer is that the Chinese Communist Party had a complete monopoly on power. Wikipedia:
Benjamin Valentino writes that like in the USSR during the famine of 1932-33, peasants were confined to their starving villages by a system of household registration, and the worst effects of the famine were directed against enemies of the regime. Those labeled as "black elements" (religious leaders, rightists, rich peasants, etc.) in any previous campaign were given the lowest priority in the allocation of food, and therefore died in the greatest numbers. According to genocide scholar Adam Jones, "no group suffered more than the Tibetans," with perhaps one in five dying from 1959 to 1962.
In the aftermath of the famine, Mao was sidelined, and Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping took over. (Mao later regained power through the Cultural Revolution of 1966-1976, which was basically a civil war.)

What's happened since the death of Mao in 1976 and the ascendancy of Deng in 1978? China has become wealthier: besides improving food supply (it only has one-fifteenth of the world's arable land), it's able to import a significant part of its food supply. It imports about a quarter of the US soybean crop, for example. Unfortunately this isn't a solution that will work for all countries! A recent China Daily article.

To summarize: perhaps we're exaggerating the link between food insecurity and warfare? Does the Great Leap Forward suggest that as food becomes scarce, people will starve, but without causing political upheaval? I think it depends on the power of the local government to suppress dissent. Rising food prices appear to have been a significant factor in the Arab Spring, resulting in the overthrow of governments in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya.
posted by russilwvong at 3:16 PM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


J. Scott Armstrong, cofounder of the Journal of Forecasting and the International Journal of Forecasting;

Slap*Happy: "Weather is not climate. Not his field."
Neither of those journals with have anything to do with weather. Think predictive modelling, quantifying uncertainty, etc - not "will it rain tomorrow". In other words, his domain is exactly the kind of work climate scientists do.
Roger Cohen, fellow, American Physical Society;

Slap*Happy: "Not his field."
The APS covers many branches of physics - it ain't all neutrinos and quarks and optics and crystals and shit. For example they publish PRE, which is all about chaos, fluid dynamics, and computational physics (i.e. stuff that most certainly is related to climate modelling), and have also hosted a few discussions and topical groups on climate change.

You'd have been much better off pointing out he's ex-ExxonMobil…
posted by Pinback at 3:31 PM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, China doesn't have to go to war to increase their resources because they can follow the lead of Western nations - economically exploit countries which are rich in natural resources but need industrialization to harvest them. Of course this is not a risk-free model as the US and Europe has discovered, but in the age of the UN it is certainly safer than invading a neighbor.
posted by muddgirl at 3:31 PM on January 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


biffa

"Aren't you the clever little sausage. I don't think that residents of New York are at the top of the list of global inhabitants likely to get it in the neck in any kind of resource conflict or who will end up as refugees as a result of changes in local environmental conditions. You have had the dumb luck to be born in one of the wealthiest places on Earth. Try not to be dumb enough to realise those conditions do not apply everywhere."

I'm sure you missed the point.

My ability to feed myself and the ability of millions of others in New York and New Jersey to do the same is not a function of environmental conditions. Similarly, long term variations in the environment caused by climate change will not effect most of the world's population ability to feed themselves. As you pointed out, but maybe did not realize, wealth is the relevant factor as to why we don't all starve in the northeast every winter.

You can try to reverse the effects of Co2 emissions on the climate through laws and regulations, and hope it works, and try not reduce the wealth of your average Chinese person, where a marginal reduction in wealth likely means malnourishment. Alternatively, you can allow the Chinese to increase there own wealth so that if the day ever comes when climate change hurts local grain crops, they can still buy enough to eat from an agribusiness in Manitoba.
posted by otto42 at 3:33 PM on January 27, 2012


There is no transition to fusion or solar power under the the Left's model to reduce emissions because the Chinese will still be burning cheap, dirty Canadian oil for there heating and energy needs.

So little knowledge wrapped up in a single sentence.

The Chinese use more solar energy than any country in the world. 100GW of installed solar thermal right now.

Still be burning Canadian oil? Firstly, they aren't burning it now, secondly China has enough coal they won't be burning oil for either heating or electricity, basically ever.

China, as well as being the dominant technology provider for various renewable energy technologies and other environmental technologies is installing some of the most efficient coal burning power stations in the world. There is an argument that China has a greater ability to deliver environmental goals than western countries. Further, if anyone is going to get carbon capture and storage to work there is a decent bet it will be the Chinese.
posted by biffa at 3:34 PM on January 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


There is no transition to fusion or solar power under the the Left's model to reduce emissions because the Chinese will still be burning cheap, dirty Canadian oil for there heating and energy needs.

If by the Left you mean anyone who doesn't want a multilateral climate change agreement that includes China, I mostly agree with you. Personally, I've always favored a carbon tax over cap and trade for reasons like this. There is a tipping point where renewables and fusion if implemented elsewhere could (and probably will) become cheaper energy sources than post-peak oil as the cost of extraction goes up and the supply goes down such that even countries who aren't part of a carbon agreement will want to switch to a renewable, but that's not important, as no effective agreement can take place with a major economic power like China or the US opting out.

I'd really like to see the Right wing get off their ass and present some solutions to this instead of trying to bury their head in the sand. Denial works in the short term as a political strategy, but eventually we're going to be looking at a situation where every country in the world is losing and we have to work to overcome the inertia of propaganda, misinformation and misreporting to get anything useful done. I sympathize with the point of view that their has been some degree of hijacking by progressives trying to tailor carbon emission control policies to their specific worldview, but that doesn't mean their aren't alternative ways to approach the issue of climate change and ocean acidification that strengthen the relative advantage for the American economy. If we have no credibility in addressing this issue because the gridlock prevents us from negotiating multilateral agreements in good faith, there is the potential to have something happen where we have little to no input.

I really believe the only possibility to pursue an effective strategy for climate change is going to be multi-lateral agreements that once the pass a trigger number of nations will include punitive tariffs against non-signatories. I'm sure someone else has already thought of this, or will think of it. I hesitate to think what will happen to the US if we become an economic backwater and try and coast on the investment return from our accumulated capital. To say it will be disruptive is to understate things I think.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:37 PM on January 27, 2012


My ability to feed myself and the ability of millions of others in New York and New Jersey to do the same is not a function of environmental conditions. Similarly, long term variations in the environment caused by climate change will not effect most of the world's population ability to feed themselves. As you pointed out, but maybe did not realize, wealth is the relevant factor as to why we don't all starve in the northeast every winter.

But clearly I did realise, since that was my point. your ability to feed yourself is a direct function of living in a wealthy society. Significant changes in the environmental system will imply extra costs: through overall reduced yields, through the need for the system to rebalance itself to allocate agriculture and through increased likelihood of extreme events and the unexpected catastrophes they imply. Costs will be raise for all but for the wealthiest (including most of those living in the US) access to food and other resorces will continue albeit with some limited curtailment to excess funds. For those who survive at the margins the potential to be unable to access sufficient food in any shortage is substantially increased. Food that can be produced is likely to be bought for sale to the globally wealthy. Many people will be worse off, there is a signficiant chance some will die, and many will have to migrate to try to find food, increasing likelihood of conflict and of expansion of problems to neighbouring territories.
posted by biffa at 3:45 PM on January 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Also, China doesn't have to go to war to increase their resources because they can follow the lead of Western nations - economically exploit countries which are rich in natural resources but need industrialization to harvest them. Of course this is not a risk-free model as the US and Europe has discovered, but in the age of the UN it is certainly safer than invading a neighbor."

Yeah,that's pretty much how the world works. Americans exploit Chinese labor, keeping the difference between the cost of the labor and the value of the product for themselves. The Chinese exploit Congolese labor, extracting the same vig. It's almost like the "profit deal" Navin R Johnson discovered in The Jerk.
posted by otto42 at 3:49 PM on January 27, 2012


Armstrong is not a climate forecaster by any means. He is a marketing professor who wants to improve all sorts of forecasts and has come up with a set (144?) of "scientific forecasting principles". His models are all statistical. He doesn't appear to know the first thing about the physical basis for climate or climate models. Real Climate had a pithy take down of him years ago.
posted by plastic_animals at 3:52 PM on January 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


You're still missing the other side of the equation - what do the Congolese do when they begin to see resource scarcity? Or do we not care about the Congolese?
posted by muddgirl at 3:57 PM on January 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


(Actually, we already know the answer to that question!)
posted by muddgirl at 3:58 PM on January 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


And another (I knew the name was familiar…)
Henk Tennekes, former director, Royal Dutch Meteorological Service;

Slap*Happy: Weather is not climate. Not his field.
I wouldn't be so dismissive of his credentials, since he's the author of some of the most-cited books and papers on turbulence and atmospheric processes, as well as being a noted skeptic of the ability of modelling to encapsulate complex systems.

(Which doesn't mean I'm agreeing with or defending the view of any or all on that list. But questioning the validity of their contribution based on a shallow &/or mistaken understanding of their areas of expertise is just asking for trouble…)
posted by Pinback at 4:05 PM on January 27, 2012


Turbulence and boundary layers are, in a sense, micro-scale systems. Climate is a macro-scale system.

We have a hard time modeling turbulence, but we can still use computer models to accurately design a car with less drag.
posted by muddgirl at 4:08 PM on January 27, 2012


Yeah,that's pretty much how the world works.

That's how we've structured the world to work. If you can't see the downsides, not just for the Congolese, but in the way that the ostensibly free-market system is become increasingly inefficient due to the negative externalities we're creating, then I'm not sure what to do other than recommend you contemplate the macro-economic realities of tragedy of the commons scenarios. If you are going to just hand-wave that away then either you are arguing in bad faith, or we can't agree on enough of a consistent set of assumptions to have a useful discussion.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:08 PM on January 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


noted skeptic of the ability of modelling to encapsulate complex systems

Does any model encapsulate rather than approximate?

posted by BrotherCaine at 4:11 PM on January 27, 2012


My ability to feed myself and the ability of millions of others in New York and New Jersey to do the same is not a function of environmental conditions. Similarly, long term variations in the environment caused by climate change will not effect most of the world's population ability to feed themselves.

[CITATION NEEDED]
posted by mek at 4:29 PM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


muddgirl: "Turbulence and boundary layers are, in a sense, micro-scale systems. Climate is a macro-scale system.

We have a hard time modeling turbulence, but we can still use computer models to accurately design a car with less drag."


And, in doing so, you either calculate/estimate/assume their effects and plug a static value or simplified model into your drag equations, or the effect is assumed to be irrelevant under the range of conditions modelled.

Look, I'm a believer. But if you want to flat out dismiss Tennekes as a valid contributor, you're basically arguing that one of the world's most-cited meteorological scientists doesn't have enough cred when it comes to how the atmosphere works. And if you'd (a) read his criticisms, and (b) read the responses to his criticisms, you'd know that's not the case; nor is it the case that turbulence and boundary effects form no part of climate models.

His argument is basically that complex systems can't be modelled; the counter-argument is that they can be modelled well enough to approximate the system within a definable range of uncertainty.

Dismissing him as a "weatherman" is just lazy argument...

BrotherCaine - you're right, I misspoke.
posted by Pinback at 4:34 PM on January 27, 2012


Or, more correctly, his argument is that the (sub)systems are chaotic and therefore unmodellable; the counterargument is that they are not chaotic, merely extremely complex - and, as such, are open to being modelled.
posted by Pinback at 4:41 PM on January 27, 2012


"Dismissing him as a "weatherman" is just lazy argument..."

Not all "weathermen" are what they seem.
posted by sneebler at 5:03 PM on January 27, 2012


My ability to feed myself and the ability of millions of others in New York and New Jersey to do the same is not a function of environmental conditions.

See? Just pick a rational version of how the world works, and stop believing it. Makes for pretty thin trolling though.
posted by sneebler at 5:07 PM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mek
"citation needed", come on, at least call me a name or something. This is the interwebs, not a book report. At least try to humor if I'm such a dope.

So have we decided if bad weather or bad ideas
cause people to starve?
posted by otto42 at 5:20 PM on January 27, 2012


Government Investment in Renewable Energy Nearly as Popular With Swing Voters as Death of Osama bin Laden
posted by homunculus at 5:38 PM on January 27, 2012


So have we decided if bad weather or bad ideas cause people to starve?

Obviously both do, often in combination. The Irish potato famine is an excellent historical example: weather conditions combined with central planning projects and associated monocropping combined to produce a perfect storm of agricultural disaster. The end of the Little Ice Age had its hand in this, as well; eeek, climate change in the 19th century! Your suggestion that climate change is not a significant threat to existing agricultural production is so completely disconnected from reality (" long term variations in the environment caused by climate change will not effect most of the world's population ability to feed themselves") that the very least you could do is explain yourself. History is rife with examples such as the potato famine, where cultures assumed that contemporaneous (and relatively new) agricultural practices would just keep working forever, and then minor climate changes caused massive crop failures and cataclysmic famines. But if history is too bookish for you, there's always the news, of course.

Your unwillingness to consider the enormous potential impacts of climate change imply some highly simplistic rendering of the problem, as if northern Canada will magically transform into the a new great prairie, or Britain somehow becoming a tropical paradise a la Hawaii. The impact of climate change specifically on soil base and associated erosion is itself cause for major concern. Toss in desertification, ocean acidification, deforestation, species migration, insect population collapse, etc, all well-established consequences of climate change, and well, how do we support our current rate of population growth?
posted by mek at 5:54 PM on January 27, 2012


plastic_animals: "Armstrong is not a climate forecaster by any means. He is a marketing professor who wants to improve all sorts of forecasts and has come up with a set (144?) of "scientific forecasting principles"."

I never said he was a climate forecaster. He does appear, at least on the face of it, to have some claim to legitimacy in the field of predictive modelling and associated statistics.

The point I was making was that dismissing the validity of their expertise based simply on their affiliation - particularly when you make incorrect assumptions about what that affiliation actually is (such as assuming "forecasting" = "weather") - is dumb. It's the same sort of shit the skeptics do when they claim "he's a paleobiologist & geochemist, not an expert on climate, so his opinion is meaningless and wrong". It's a false argument.

(Hell, paleobiologists & geochemists are people who's opinions you should be listening to - because they can see the physical evidence of it having happened before and suggest some of the drivers that may have caused it.)

Do I think Armstrong is right about CC? Hell no. But his apparent field is statistical prediction - the ultimate tool in the climate scientist's arsenal - so you can't dismiss him that easily. Put some thought into it, and show why he's (a) wrong, (b) irrelevant, or (c) not impartial.

(FWIW, I think the "pithy take down" you linked to at RealClimate is rather lazy & weak. I like snark as much as the next sarcastic Australian, but I don't confuse it with supportable refutation.)

Similarly, without looking into their particular areas of expertise, you can't dismiss Cohen merely because he's a "physicist", or Tennekes because he's a "weatherman". Both fields have considerable overlap with and application in climate science.

Slap*Happy's list, which someone called out upthread as "an excellent rundown", is based completely on this sort of flawed thinking and knee-jerk assumptions. I don't necessarily disagree with the end assessment, just with the method used to arrive there.
posted by Pinback at 7:14 PM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Or, more correctly, his argument is that the (sub)systems are chaotic and therefore unmodellable; the counterargument is that they are not chaotic, merely extremely complex - and, as such, are open to being modelled.

"Chaotic" does not equate to 'unmodelable.' Chaotic systems are, by definition, deterministic. There is a large field of mathematics and modeling of chaotic systems. Tennekes may argue that the current models are wrong or incomplete, but I hope that he's not arguing that they can't exist at all.
posted by muddgirl at 7:20 PM on January 27, 2012


One of the fundamentals of simulation modelling is that, except in simplest &/or most rigidly defined of cases, your model cannot encompass all possible inputs - in effect, your model will always be incomplete. Over the projected vector (e.g. time), such a model will always trend towards (to be precise) the appearance of indeterminacy and chaos - simply because you haven't accounted for all inputs.

(The real point here is one of terminology - "chaotic" in the casual layperson's vernacular vs "chaotic" in the mathematical sense. Guess which I was using to explain the issue?)
posted by Pinback at 8:04 PM on January 27, 2012


Weather is indeed chaotic in the mathematical sense, not in the layperson's sense.
posted by muddgirl at 8:12 PM on January 27, 2012


So list all the inputs and their exact values at any given time ;-)

As I said, I used "chaotic" in the lay vernacular form to explain the essence of Tennekes argument to Metafilter. People who want to go further can read exactly what he says in several of his articles.
posted by Pinback at 8:21 PM on January 27, 2012


The point I was making was that dismissing the validity of their expertise based simply on their affiliation

Whyever not? I can pretty much dismiss any claimed expertise on immunology when a researcher signs his name beneath Jenny McCarthy's. I can summarily dismiss any film critic who decides Uwe Bolle deserves a favorable review.

You lie down with dogs, you wake up with fleas.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:31 PM on January 27, 2012


It seems to me that it no longer matters what the scientists think. We are going to throw a lot of carbon into the atmosphere and find out.
posted by humanfont at 8:32 PM on January 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


A Royal Society paper (posted to MetaFilter a while back) makes the point that the gap between what scientists regard as "safe" and what's actually going to happen is only widening:
In the late 1990s, a limit of 2°C global warming above preindustrial temperature was proposed as a ‘guard rail’ below which most of the dangerous climate impacts could be avoided. The 2009 Copenhagen Accord recognized the scientific view ‘that the increase in global temperature should be below 2 degrees Celsius’ despite growing views that this might be too high. ...

In the final plenary at a scientific conference on climate change in Copenhagen in March 2009, a discussion with the Prime Minister of Denmark, Anders Rasmussen, produced an interchange that demonstrates the tensions between evolving scientific knowledge and policy decisions. When told by a scientific panel that even a 2°C target might allow too much warming, with serious damages and possible tipping points occurring below 2°C, the Prime Minister expressed frustration: ‘It was a hard battle to get agreement on two degrees, a real challenge, and now you tell me it’s not enough and we need less than two!’.

At the same time that science was suggesting that 2°C might not be as safe a guardrail as previously thought, there was growing evidence suggesting that dramatic emission cuts were required to have any reasonable chance of staying below the 2°C target. For example, Rogelj et al. argued that having a 50:50 chance of constraining warming to 2°C would require developed countries to cut emissions by up to 80 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050, but that even the best case commitments prior to Copenhagen only resulted in a 4 per cent cut by 2020 and a 63 per cent cut by 2050. They concluded that there was ‘virtually no chance of limiting warming to 2°C above preindustrial temperatures’.
posted by russilwvong at 9:54 PM on January 27, 2012


Climate change will not significantly affect my ability to feed myself. When the food runs out, I will just eat otto42.
posted by adamdschneider at 10:59 PM on January 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


I see your 16 and raise you this list of scientists who submitted to the WSJ a letter protesting the way the media treats the real danger of anthropogenic global warming. The WSJ rejected the letter.

P. H. GLEICK
R. M. ADAMS
R. M. AMASINO
E. ANDERS
D. J. ANDERSON
W. W. ANDERSON
L. E. ANSELIN
M. K. ARROYO
B. ASFAW
F. J. AYALA
A. BAX
A. J. BEBBINGTON
G. BELL
M. V. L. BENNETT
J. L. BENNETZEN
M. R. BERENBAUM
O. B. BERLIN
P. J. BJORKMAN
E. BLACKBURN
J. E. BLAMONT
M. R. BOTCHAN
J. S. BOYER
E. A. BOYLE
D. BRANTON
S. P. BRIGGS
W. R. BRIGGS
W. J. BRILL
R. J. BRITTEN
W. S. BROECKER
J. H. BROWN
P. O. BROWN
A. T. BRUNGER
J. CAIRNS JR.
D. E. CANFIELD
S. R. CARPENTER
J. C. CARRINGTON
A. R. CASHMORE
J. C. CASTILLA
A. CAZENAVE
F. S. CHAPIN III
A. J. CIECHANOVER
D. E. CLAPHAM
W. C. CLARK
R. N. CLAYTON
M. D. COE
E. M. CONWELL
E. B. COWLING
R. M COWLING
C. S. COX
R. B. CROTEAU
D. M. CROTHERS
P. J. CRUTZEN
G. C. DAILY
G. B. DALRYMPLE
J. L. DANGL
S. A. DARST
D. R. DAVIES
M. B. DAVIS
P. V. DE CAMILLI
C. DEAN
R. S. DEFRIES
J. DEISENHOFER
D. P. DELMER
E. F. DELONG
D. J. DEROSIER
T. O.
DIENER
R. DIRZO
J. E. DIXON
M. J. DONOGHUE
R. F. DOOLITTLE
T. DUNNE
P. R. EHRLICH
S. N. EISENSTADT
T. EISNER
K. A. EMANUEL
S. W.
ENGLANDER
W. G. ERNST
P. G. FALKOWSKI
G. FEHER
J. A. FEREJOHN
A. FERSHT
E. H. FISCHER
R. FISCHER
K. V. FLANNERY
J. FRANK
P. A. FREY
I. FRIDOVICH
C. FRIEDEN
D. J. FUTUYMA
W. R. GARDNER
C. J. R. GARRETT
W. GILBERT
R. B. GOLDBERG
W. H. GOODENOUGH
C. S. GOODMAN
M. GOODMAN
P. GREENGARD
S. HAKE
G. HAMMEL
S. HANSON
S. C. HARRISON
S. R. HART
D. L. HARTL
R. HASELKORN
K. HAWKES
J. M. HAYES
B. HILLE
T. HÖKFELT
J. S. HOUSE
M. HOUT
D. M. HUNTEN
I. A. IZQUIERDO
A. T. JAGENDORF
D. H. JANZEN
R. JEANLOZ
C. S. JENCKS
W. A. JURY
H. R. KABACK
T. KAILATH
P. KAY
S. A. KAY
D. KENNEDY
A. KERR
R. C. KESSLER
G. S. KHUSH
S. W. KIEFFER
P. V. KIRCH
K. KIRK
M. G. KIVELSON
J. P. KLINMAN
A. KLUG
L. KNOPOFF
H. KORNBERG
J. E. KUTZBACH
J. C. LAGARIAS
K. LAMBECK
A. LANDY
C. H. LANGMUIR
B. A. LARKINS
X. T. LE PICHON
R. E. LENSKI
E. B. LEOPOLD
S. A. LEVIN
M. LEVITT
G. E. LIKENS
J. LIPPINCOTT-SCHWARTZ
L. LORAND
C. O. LOVEJOY
M. LYNCH
A. L. MABOGUNJE
T. F. MALONE
S. MANABE
J. MARCUS
D. S. MASSEY
J. C. MCWILLIAMS
E. MEDINA
H. J. MELOSH

D. J. MELTZER
C. D. MICHENER
E. L. MILES
H. A. MOONEY
P. B. MOORE
F. M. M. MOREL
E. S. MOSLEY-THOMPSON
B. MOSS
W. H. MUNK
N. MYERS
G. B. NAIR
J. NATHANS
E. W. NESTER
R. A. NICOLL
R. P. NOVICK
J. F. O'CONNELL
P. E. OLSEN
N. D. OPDYKE
G. F. OSTER
E. OSTROM
N. R. PACE
R. T. PAINE
R. D. PALMITER
J. PEDLOSKY
G. A. PETSKO
G. H. PETTENGILL
S. G. PHILANDER
D. R. PIPERNO
T. D. POLLARD
P. B. PRICE JR.
P. A. REICHARD
B. F. RESKIN
R. E. RICKLEFS
R. L. RIVEST
J. D. ROBERTS
A. K. ROMNEY
M. G. ROSSMANN
D. W. RUSSELL
W. J. RUTTER
J. A. SABLOFF
R. Z. SAGDEEV
M. D. SAHLINS
A. SALMOND
J. R. SANES
R. SCHEKMAN
J. SCHELLNHUBER
D. W. SCHINDLER
J. SCHMITT
S. H. SCHNEIDER
V. L. SCHRAMM
R. R. SEDEROFF
C. J. SHATZ
F. SHERMAN
R. L. SIDMAN
K. SIEH
E. L. SIMONS
B. H. SINGER
M. F. SINGER
B. SKYRMS
N. H. SLEEP
B. D. SMITH
S. H. SNYDER
R. R. SOKAL
C. S. SPENCER
T. A. STEITZ
K. B. STRIER
T. C. SÜDHOF
S. S. TAYLOR
J. TERBORGH
D. H. THOMAS
L. G. THOMPSON
R. T. T JIAN
M. G. TURNER
S. UYEDA
J. W. VALENTINE
J. S. VALENTINE
J. L. VAN ETTEN
K. E. VAN HOLDE
M. VAUGHAN
S. VERBA
P. H. VON HIPPEL
D. B. WAKE
A. WALKER
J. E. WALKER
E. B. WATSON
P. J. WATSON
D. WEIGEL
S. R. WESSLER
M. J. WEST-EBERHARD
T. D. WHITE
W. J. WILSON
R. V. WOLFENDEN
J. A. WOOD
G. M. WOODWELL
H. E. WRIGHT JR.
C. WU
C. WUNSCH
M. L. ZOBACK

(source)
posted by univac at 1:02 AM on January 28, 2012 [23 favorites]


In other words, if global warming is bad, and lower emissions is the cure, are the activist's proposals to lower emissions actually going to result in lower emissions?

At least some of the time, yes. A program championed by activists made installing PV solar panels on my roof affordable. Since Nov. of 2010, they have offset over 4 tons of carbon that would otherwise have been put into the atmosphere.

"Do nothing different" is a bad solution to a real problem. Rejecting proposed approaches to the problem because you lack faith in "activists" will inevitably lead to doing nothing different.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:12 AM on January 28, 2012


Forbes: Remarkable Editorial Bias on Climate Science at the Wall Street Journal.
posted by scalefree at 5:28 AM on January 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


I see your 16 and raise you this list of scientists who submitted to the WSJ a letter protesting the way the media treats the real danger of anthropogenic global warming.

Climate change, like evolution, is one of those things where the "Dave factor" is in effect-- you can find more scientist named Dave who accept the reality of it than you can find scientists who deny it.
posted by deanc at 5:58 AM on January 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


At least some of the time, yes. A program championed by activists made installing PV solar panels on my roof affordable. Since Nov. of 2010, they have offset over 4 tons of carbon that would otherwise have been put into the atmosphere.

"Do nothing different" is a bad solution to a real problem. Rejecting proposed approaches to the problem because you lack faith in "activists" will inevitably lead to doing nothing different.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:12 AM on January 28 [+] [!]

This is interesting on several different levels. I commend you for your own efforts to reduce CO2 emissions. Obviously the price was right for you, the inducement of a lower cost to you worked.

I had a consultant run the numbers on my own house. My motivation was less so about reducing my carbon footprint, and more so about reducing my electric bill. I was also partially motivated by a desire to decrease my reliability on the grid (ie. having some power if a storm knocks out power for a few days.) It would be tough to quantify the exact reasons for why I thought solar panels on my house would be a good idea at some point, but I would say that economic considerations were the most important. Ultimately, the possible savings were not attractive from a return potential.

Your decision to install solar and my decision not to, was driven by the price. I don't question your commitment to reducing your carbon footprint, but it appears that at a higher price you wouldn't have. Despite your concern for the climate, the economics of the deal drove your decision.

I think you would probably agree that everyone has a price at which they would be willing to reduce their carbon footprint. Even the most ardent denier of global warming has a price. It is likely negative (they would have to be paid) but it still exists.

So what is wrong with an activist group subsidizing the cost of your solar commitment? It is wrong because the activist group has pushed the day I am willing to make a commitment further into the future. More importantly, not just me, but everyone else on the planet. You and the activists have allowed a company that produces solar equipment at an uneconomical cost to survive another day. The company that would have been able to produce the equipment more economically at some point in the future has had its ability to survive reduced by another day.

Ultimately, the activist's subsidy has reduced another company's (or even the same company's) ability and willingness to produce less expensive solar equipment. Since cost is a component (and most likely the primary component) of a persons decision to do what you did, the absence of less expensive equipment reduces the number of solar panels that could be installed over time. In short, the subsidy drives future other cheaper producers out of business. (More likely though, a good idea to produce equipment more cheaply, does not attract the investment capital to actually do so.)
posted by otto42 at 8:10 AM on January 28, 2012


The opinion piece is signed by the following:

Were the Freakanomics guys and Penn and Teller unavailable?
posted by Artw at 8:21 AM on January 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


otto42: Ultimately, the activist's subsidy has reduced another company's (or even the same company's) ability and willingness to produce less expensive solar equipment.

I am confused by your fancy economics. Say you have a company that can make an n-Watt solar panel that'll sell for $400 retail, and the market price today for similar products from more-expensive producers before any subsidies is $500. Okay, great, 20% less. So add a government grant of $250 per n Watts installed. Now your hypothetical lower-cost producer can charge $150 vs. the going price after subsidy of $250; 40% less. How exactly does that put them at a disadvantage?

On the other hand, the real reason that most of the existing subsidies to solar power are not justified economically is that there are far more cost-effective things where that money could be put to better use, in most of the world. Solar is great if you have a lot of sunshine, though. Not so much in Germany.
posted by sfenders at 8:54 AM on January 28, 2012


So what is wrong with an activist group subsidizing the cost of your solar commitment? It is wrong because the activist group has pushed the day I am willing to make a commitment further into the future. More importantly, not just me, but everyone else on the planet. You and the activists have allowed a company that produces solar equipment at an uneconomical cost to survive another day. The company that would have been able to produce the equipment more economically at some point in the future has had its ability to survive reduced by another day.


I really have no idea what you're talking about. As the comments multiply, a suspicion grows that you don't, either. My decision was not only altruistic. In a few years, my $0 electric bill will have completely paid for the solar array, and I will have many more years of not having to directly pay for electricity generated by subsidized fossil fuels and subsidized nuclear plants.

As for your consultant, I suggest getting a second opinion. Don't insist on grid-independence, and look into Power Purchase Agreements and state rebates. There is a hefty federal tax refund for installing renewable energy systems.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:31 AM on January 28, 2012


otto42, if you're concerned about the effects of subsidies and their potential to distort markets, perhaps you need to learn more about how energy, particularly the oil industry , is subsidized in the US.

For example,

A 2009 study by the Environmental Law Institute assessed the size and structure of U.S. energy subsidies over the 2002–2008 period. The study estimated that subsidies to fossil-fuel based sources amounted to approximately $72 billion over this period and subsidies to renewable fuel sources totaled $29 billion.
posted by sneebler at 9:34 AM on January 28, 2012 [6 favorites]


So what is wrong with an activist group subsidizing the cost of your solar commitment? It is wrong because the activist group has pushed the day I am willing to make a commitment further into the future. More importantly, not just me, but everyone else on the planet. You and the activists have allowed a company that produces solar equipment at an uneconomical cost to survive another day. The company that would have been able to produce the equipment more economically at some point in the future has had its ability to survive reduced by another day.

I think I see what you are getting at here, but I think the problem you are concerned about would only arise through adoption of a poor quality policy instrument to support the PV, indeed, one that would probably be illegal under WTO law, certainly illegal within the EU under State Aid rules, and to my knowledge hasn't cropped up in the US to any significant extent.

Essentially, the situation you suggest only presents if a subsidy is available for equipment bought from specific companies and not available to other companies. If this happens then a more innovative company might well get blocked from entering the market. In reality Governments who offer these subsides (and it is usually governments, I think the point from upthread was that activists lobbied successfully for government subsidy) generally go to some pains to ensure that new entrants can enter the sector. This is largely because the government want the price to come down, because it will mean they can reduce the subsidies and still reach their targets for renewable energy deployment. By providing subsidies open to all they create demand for solar panels and attract new companies who then innovate to get ahead of the competition. No subsidies attract no-one in so new tech doesn't happen.
posted by biffa at 10:48 AM on January 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


All of the debate about the cost of solar would be moot if the external costs of fossil fuel energy (including but not limited to carbon production) were internalized. The old-energy sector knows this, which is why all government action on the topic is so strongly resisted.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 10:59 AM on January 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I heartily recommend Switching to solar: what we can learn from Germany's success in harnessing clean energy by Bob Johnstone:
The crucial driver for the adoption of solar energy has not been technology but policy. Focusing on initiatives in Germany, Johnstone describes the use of the "feed-in tariff" as the most successful policy mechanism yet invented to spur widespread deployment of solar energy.
posted by No Robots at 11:02 AM on January 28, 2012


I installed a solar powered clothes dryer. Less than $20.
posted by humanfont at 12:00 PM on January 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am confused by your fancy economics. Say you have a company that can make an n-Watt solar panel that'll sell for $400 retail, and the market price today for similar products from more-expensive producers before any subsidies is $500. Okay, great, 20% less. So add a government grant of $250 per n Watts installed. Now your hypothetical lower-cost producer can charge $150 vs. the going price after subsidy of $250; 40% less. How exactly does that put them at a disadvantage?

The economics are not all that fancy. They are pretty standard.

The government subsidy of $250 to the solar buyer, not the solar seller as you outlined does not disadvantage the low cost solar producer. It just disadvantages all the other energy producers in all the other industries.

If we accept that the goal is to reduce emissions, is it likely that solar subsidies produce the greatest amount of reduction per dollar spent. I would guess probably not. I would say emphatically, no one will ever know. The aggregate of the $250 subsidy (lets call it $25 million) may have reduced emissions by some huge factor versus solar if it was used to upgrade the signals on NJ Transit's North Coast Line. Maybe instead of running six trains an hour 6.2 trains can run, which ultimately results on fewer cars on the parkway, and a greater decrease in emissions than that provided by the subsidy spend on solar.

Maybe the $25 million produces a more favorable effect if Jersey Central Power & Light uses it to upgrade their conduit to something more efficent, or a lumber yard can now build a railroad spur for deliveries instead of of relying on trucks.

Why pretend solar is providing the most bang for the buck? Common sense tells you it probably isn't.

NJ Transit, JCP&L, the lumber yard, myself, don't even have to be motivated by a desire to cut their carbon footprints. They just need the assurance that the upgrades will improve their overall efficiency.
posted by otto42 at 12:02 PM on January 28, 2012


If we accept that the goal is to reduce emissions, is it likely that solar subsidies produce the greatest amount of reduction per dollar spent. I would guess probably not.

This is a difficult one, in the short to medium term solar will stay more expensive than fossil fuel and to some of the other key RE technologies (though this is with the long term subsidies to fossil fuels). In the longer term it is difficult to say what will be the most economic, the issue with renewables is that you don't want to have a single technology in the future, you want to have a bunch of technologies. Solar PV is also pretty flexible in terms of usage of the grid and the predictions are that it can be used in bulk in lots of places, some of them displacing current electricity generation and consumption, some providing electricity where it might not previously have been available. The costs of PV have come down hugely in the last 5 years, this trend is still in motion so its difficult to say when it will end and what the final costs of PV will be.

The trouble with estimating current best spend to reduce emission is that it doesn't take into account longer term cost reduction potential. If you had $1000 to spend right now on emission reduction, energy efficiency would probably give you the best deal. But if you have a long term reduction planned then you need to have something that you can use once you have applied all the energy efficiency technology. The next thing after energy efficiency is to generate without greenhouse gas emissions. Unfortunately the tech to generate without GHG emissions is not as advanced (ie not as cheap) as we want it to be. The problem is if we wait until we have all the energy efficiency in place then we will have nowhere to go and will end up spending 10-20 years putting our efforts into RE, while throwing megatonnes of carbon into the atmosphere. So we have policy on EE and at the same time policy on RE so that it will be cheap enough to use once the EE is done. At the same time, RE offers substantial security of supply benefits (less imports, loss reduction on the grid) and may offer opportunities for new industrial and job opportunities.

I would say emphatically, no one will ever know.

We will probably be able to work it out pretty easily in retrospect - you calculate the typical price in separate years and calculate against the total spend in that period to give a price reduction against spend.
posted by biffa at 3:25 PM on January 28, 2012


The crucial driver for the adoption of solar energy has not been technology but policy. Focusing on initiatives in Germany, Johnstone describes the use of the "feed-in tariff" as the most successful policy mechanism yet invented to spur widespread deployment of solar energy.

This is a bit more complicated than Johnstone makes it appear, I would argue that German PV policy has been rooted in their industrial policy. Germany has spent a lot of money on supporting PV but looks unlikely to capture all the benefits of industrialising them - China is likely to displace them in terms of having most of the manufacturing capability. While their RE policy has been somewhat effective as regards wind energy there is a good argument that they will not recoup their investment as regards solar, as covered in the early links in this page.
posted by biffa at 3:33 PM on January 28, 2012


As I said, I used "chaotic" in the lay vernacular form to explain the essence of Tennekes argument to Metafilter.

It's unfortunate, then, that you got his argument exactly backward (regarding the difference between complexity and chaos). Like many climate change skeptics, Tenneke's problem with climate change prediction isn't really scientific, but rather philosophical.
posted by muddgirl at 3:44 PM on January 28, 2012


otto42 your arguments are invalid in that they ignore the reality of energy subsidies: there are already a lot of them, and a great deal of them go to the fossil fuel industry. These subsidies have already "pushed the day I am willing to make a commitment further into the future" by decades.

Take the Athabasca tar sands for example: the only reason this project in its current incarnation makes the slightest bit of financial sense is because of enormous tax exemptions and other government subsidies, on the order of many billions of dollars.

There's no point in arguing in some hypothetical econ 101 bubble, because that model is not a valid approximation of the reality of the energy industry.

is it likely that solar subsidies produce the greatest amount of reduction per dollar spent. I would guess probably not. I would say emphatically, no one will ever know.

Presumably the greatest amount of reduction per dollar spent would be putting cyanide in a big bowl of Kool-Aid and collectively drinking it. But I assume that is not on the table, so why bring it up? All you need is "more reduction per dollar spent than current subsidies achieve" to have a sensible method of rebuilding energy policy in a revenue-neutral manner. Let's pretend you are my carbon footprint consultant and I am the minister of energy. I ask you, "What is more carbon reduction per dollar spent: paying gas exploration companies a subsidy for logging & road building in wilderness areas, or paying for people's solar cell installations?" If your answer is "it's impossible to know," well, you're fired.
posted by mek at 3:58 PM on January 28, 2012 [7 favorites]


What, so you can hire a replacement who also won't know, but will pretend to?
posted by escabeche at 6:24 PM on January 28, 2012


Well if your position is pure nihilism you can probably step away from policy debates altogether, escabeche; what's the difference if you leave them to the people who believe knowledge is possible and decisions matter?
posted by mek at 7:17 PM on January 28, 2012


Pure nihilism? Gosh, no. There are lots of questions we know the answer to, and lots we don't, and I hope that in a policy position I'd hire people who were honest enough to tell me which were which.
posted by escabeche at 7:53 PM on January 28, 2012


What you're saying has nothing to do with what I wrote, which was on the very possibility of knowledge. otto42 stated that "I would say emphatically, no one will ever know." and I thought that was a ridiculous statement given my argument above. The suggestion that it's impossible to quantify carbon emissions is completely detached from reality.
posted by mek at 8:21 PM on January 28, 2012


univac: thanks for posting that. Here's the letter by Gleick et al., Climate Change and the Integrity of Science (PDF). It's short (about a page), and worth reading. And here's the list of institutional affiliations of the signers. At least one of them (Kerry Emanuel, a Republican) has received death threats.

Interestingly, Lindzen and Emanuel are friends (or at least, they used to be).
posted by russilwvong at 8:38 PM on January 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Speaking of fossil-fuel subsidies:
Muller, Mendelsohn, and Nordhaus have a new paper in the American Economic Review that should be a major factor in how we discuss economic ideology. ...

What MMN do is estimate the cost imposed on society by air pollution, and allocate it across industries. The costs being calculated, by the way, don’t include the long-run threat of climate change; they’re focused on measurable impacts of pollution on health and productivity, with the most important effects involving how pollutants — especially small particulates — affect human health, and use standard valuations on mortality and morbidity to turn these into dollars.

Even with this restricted vision of costs, they find that the costs of air pollution are big, and heavily concentrated in a few industries. In fact, there are a number of industries that inflict more damage in the form of air pollution than the value-added by these industries at market prices.

It’s important to be clear about what this means. It does not necessarily say that we should end the use of coal-generated electricity. What it says, instead, is that consumers are paying much too low a price for coal-generated electricity, because the price they pay does not take account of the very large external costs associated with generation. If consumers did have to pay the full cost, they would use much less electricity from coal — maybe none, but that would depend on the alternatives.

At one level, this is all textbook economics. Externalities like pollution are one of the classic forms of market failure, and Econ 101 says that this failure should be remedied through pollution taxes or tradable emissions permits that get the price right. What Muller et al are doing is putting numbers to this basic proposition — and the numbers turn out to be big. So if you really believed in the logic of free markets, you’d be all in favor of pollution taxes, right?
posted by russilwvong at 8:59 PM on January 28, 2012 [6 favorites]


It's a very, very good argument - the health impacts of coal burning are absolutely enormous, and the industry should be taxed accordingly, like cigarette companies currently are.
posted by mek at 9:31 PM on January 28, 2012


You see, I spend most of time in New York City and New Jersey. During the winter months, no actual food (except for maybe milk or fish) is grown (captured) within a hundred mile radius of Times Square. Despite the inhospitable growing conditions here, I think I might be able to find some form of food, so I'm not to worried about starving to death.

Um, what? C'mon, if you're going to snark, try a factually correct angle.
posted by desuetude at 9:53 PM on January 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's a very, very good argument - the health impacts of coal burning are absolutely enormous, and the industry should be taxed accordingly, like cigarette companies currently are.
posted by mek at 9:31 PM on January 28 [+] [!]

You act coal like is burned specifically to damage peoples health.

Consider the first coal fired generation plant being built in some remote Chinese area. Are the burning effects of health on the people enormously negative or is the electricity generated enormously positive on the health of the people?

Wouldn't a village getting electricity for the first time be enormously positive from a health perspective?

Isn't refrigeration alone going to boost the caloric intake of a village to a much healthier level?

I can't believe I have to point this out.
posted by otto42 at 4:57 AM on January 29, 2012


Are the burning effects of health on the people enormously negative or is the electricity generated enormously positive on the health of the people?

Both. Can we require energy producers pay for their negative benefits (or alleviate them in some other way) without sacrificing the positive benefits? I think so.
posted by muddgirl at 5:20 AM on January 29, 2012


Not 'negative benefits', of course. Just negatives.
posted by muddgirl at 5:21 AM on January 29, 2012


Consider the first coal fired generation plant being built in some remote Chinese area. Are the burning effects of health on the people enormously negative or is the electricity generated enormously positive on the health of the people?

Somebody has obviously never been to Beijing. Here's a picture for you.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:39 AM on January 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Both. Can we require energy producers pay for their negative benefits (or alleviate them in some other way) without sacrificing the positive benefits? I think so."

I think that requiring the energy producer to pay for the polluting effects of the new generating plant they are considering building means that they do not build that new plant.

So instead, the village continues to burn the waste of the cows that they own to cook their food. They have plenty of waste because they have plenty of cows. They have plenty of cows because they can only drink day old milk. They can only drink day old milk because no one has a refrigerator to store the milk that is not consumed. They don't have a refrigerator because they don't have electricity. They don't have electricity because some westerner decided that the long term health effects of burning coal were greater than the short term health effects of burning manure in their houses and drinking only a third of the milk the cow is capable of producing.

Maybe in 30 or 40 years, the Chinese village that had managed to get their generating plant built before the western carbon tax was applied will be wealthy enough to have the luxury of worrying about the long term health consequences of burning coal, much like the people in the Northeastern US do now. All of my nutritional needs are met. In fact, my nutritional needs are met so efficiently that I can afford to have the luxury of sacrificing some of that efficiency to pay for cleaner energy.

Yes, lets make it more expensive for a Chinese village to build a power plant, that will reduce Co2 emissions, and other pollutants over the long term.
posted by otto42 at 6:27 AM on January 29, 2012


I think that requiring the energy producer to pay for the polluting effects of the new generating plant they are considering building means that they do not build that new plant.

So your argument is that rational free-market capitalism is impossible. Got it.
posted by muddgirl at 6:47 AM on January 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Presumably the greatest amount of reduction per dollar spent would be putting cyanide in a big bowl of Kool-Aid and collectively drinking it. But I assume that is not on the table, so why bring it up? All you need is "more reduction per dollar spent than current subsidies achieve" to have a sensible method of rebuilding energy policy in a revenue-neutral manner. Let's pretend you are my carbon footprint consultant and I am the minister of energy. I ask you, "What is more carbon reduction per dollar spent: paying gas exploration companies a subsidy for logging & road building in wilderness areas, or paying for people's solar cell installations?" If your answer is "it's impossible to know," well, you're fired.
posted by mek at 3:58 PM on January 28 [5 favorites +] [!]

Well, I guess I'm fired.

The reduction in the price of gas provided by the subsidy because of greater supply may have changed the economics of burning coal sufficiently to merit a switch to gas at some plant somewhere. I do not know if this is true. The example is not the point though.

The point is that the subsidies, whether to the oil explorer or the solar buyer, distorts economic incentives and disincentives resulting in the mis-allocation of capital. The capital mis-allocation reduces the overall level of wealth. The reduction in wealth delays the day real changes can be made to be made to reduce emissions.

Wealth is the reason we went from burning trees 100 years ago to heat our homes to burning much cleaner fuels today (or no fuel at all.) Economic growth provides us with the luxury to improve our environment.
posted by otto42 at 7:03 AM on January 29, 2012


So your argument is that rational free-market capitalism is impossible. Got it.
posted by muddgirl at 6:47 AM on January 29 [+] [!]

There is nothing rational about asking people for money to build a plant and telling them that they will not get their money back.
posted by otto42 at 7:12 AM on January 29, 2012


No, it's precisely the other way around: our environment provides us with the luxury to burn fossilised biomass instead of trees and increase our wealth. Recommended reading.
posted by Bangaioh at 7:13 AM on January 29, 2012


Biffa, you link to the work of Manuel Frondel as a counter to Bob Johnstone's positive assessment of German solar energy policy. Here is a critique of Frondel:
“Economic Impacts from the Promotion of Renewable Energies, the German Experience” was produced by a right-wing think tank, RWI Essen. Unlike his counterparts, Dr. Frondel also opposed Germany’s much costlier coal subsidies and supports cap-and-trade systems. Frondel concedes that the feed-in tariff created Germany’s world-class solar and wind industries, but predicts that they will disappear, so the subsidies will have turned out not to be worthwhile. He also notes a reality for Germany that does not apply to the United States — the feed-in tariffs are complementary policies to high fuel taxes and the European cap-and-trade system, which he supports.
The implementation of pro-solar energy policy is the decisive political advantage of our time. The United States can spend its treasure taking over oil fields, but this will not help it maintain any semblance of economic leadership.
posted by No Robots at 7:41 AM on January 29, 2012


"No, it's precisely the other way around: our environment provides us with the luxury to burn fossilised biomass instead of trees and increase our wealth. Recommended reading'.

The environment has always contained fossilized bio-mass. Wealth permitted its extraction and refinement into something useful. The environment has always had the sun. Wealth permits its conversion to electricity. The resources are not the luxury, the wealth that allows for its discovery, extraction and conversion into something useful is the luxury.
posted by otto42 at 8:16 AM on January 29, 2012


otto42: Consider the first coal fired generation plant being built in some remote Chinese area. Are the burning effects of health on the people enormously negative or is the electricity generated enormously positive on the health of the people?

The MMN paper studied US industries, not global industries. The full text (PDF) is available online.

I know that the MMN result is pretty shocking. But if you know economics, you know that when prices are wrong, industries can certainly destroy value rather than creating it. I remember when I was a kid, reading about how price controls in Communist Russia kept the price of bread so low that it was cheaper for farmers to feed their livestock bread than grain. That's insane, right? (According to Jim Leitzel, a University of Chicago economist, "10-13 percent of bread sold in retail trade was fed to livestock." The FAO and Wikipedia also refer to this as a well-known practice.)

Krugman quotes a first-year textbook by Baumol and Blinder:
When a firm pollutes a river, it uses some of society's resources just as surely as when it burns coal. However, if the firm pays for coal but not for the use of clean water, it is to be expected that management will be economical in its use of coal and wasteful in its use of water.
Or in this case, when bread is artificially cheap, it's rational for farmers to use it wastefully.

In the case of coal-fired electricity generation in the US, the MMN paper found that when you measure the cost of air pollution, the industry is producing an estimated $53 billion in annual economic damage (primarily through increased mortality from sulfur dioxide levels), more than twice its value-added of $20 billion. The MMN paper also ran sensitivity analyses to see how the estimate would change based on different assumptions, and found that the ratio of damages to value-added varied from 0.8 to 5.6.

As the MMN paper notes, this does not mean that the coal-fired electricity generation industry should be shut down; but it does mean that its current level of air pollution is much too high.

Returning to CO2 and climate change: right now, dumping a ton of fossil carbon into the atmosphere is free, so it's not surprising that we're dumping far too much of it. We can estimate what the damage will be, and determine what the price of dumping fossil carbon into the atmosphere should be (this is what Nordhaus has done).

This doesn't require radical changes to the economy, so the fact that climate change has become an issue in the left-right culture wars (like evolution)--people claiming that environmentalists are Communists in disguise, etc.--is just bizarre to me. We're talking about a sales tax, not socialism! (And yes, it does make a difference.)
posted by russilwvong at 9:05 AM on January 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


The resources are not the luxury, the wealth that allows for its discovery, extraction and conversion into something useful is the luxury.

It's depressing how you continue to deny the indispensable nature of natural resources in the process of wealth creation scant few comments after arguing that Chinese villagers need to burn coal in order to get wealthier so they can afford to consider other possibilities of energy generation. There is indeed no point in further wasting time with you, as you apparently subscribe to the delusional Julian Simon school of thought.
posted by Bangaioh at 9:13 AM on January 29, 2012


Otto, you don't think negative externalities influence the efficient allocation of capital?
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:49 AM on January 29, 2012


Or do you just think we should do absolutely nothing to attempt to regulate the system or counter negative externalities because for mystery reason X we will always fail?
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:51 AM on January 29, 2012


"Moral of the story: never trust a fella named Silke.
posted by Jehan"

Yes, a little typo there. Dr. Weinfurtner is female. She is not a boy named Silke.
posted by a_girl_irl at 8:04 AM on January 30, 2012


No Robots: Frondel's work has been published in a number of places, including in respected refereed journals (I would have linked to them but they are behind paywalls for most MeFites). When Germany provided substantial subsidies to PV it was likely doing so for two major reasons, firstly the development of new environmental technology but secondly because it saw PV as being a fairly high tech industry that German companies could come to dominate. By stimulating a domestic demand for PV far larger than had occurred elsewhere Germany aimed to ensure these companies dominated the market by the time other countries introduced their own laws. This model had already proved somewhat effective in the wind turbine manufacturing industry, of which Germany had a sdhare but where Denmark had moved first and thus Danish companies tended to outperform German companies. Unfortunately for Germany Chinese companies saw the burgeoning demand for panels in Germany and elsewhere and were able to begin supplying the market at prices that undercut those of German companies. Thus while Germany got quite a lot of PV, it has cost the nation a lot of money and it now looks increasingly less likely that they will see a return from the second half of their policy goals - industrialisation. This means less domestic jobs than they woud have hoped for and very expensive carbon emission reduction.

This is the nature of trying to innovate and drive new industrial growth. They require a gamble and it can be costly if you miss out, either becasue the tech doesn't work, or because someone else gets in ahead of you or does it cheaper or better.

The implementation of pro-solar energy policy is the decisive political advantage of our time.

I'm not sure what you mean by this, there are other renewable energy technologies which are cheaper and more mature. PV will likely have a role but will not not be a major role for at least a decade in most places, for example, not approaching the scale of wind (unless you are including solar thermal, which is pretty big already).
posted by biffa at 10:49 AM on January 30, 2012


PV will likely have a role but will not not be a major role for at least a decade in most places, for example, not approaching the scale of wind

Well, yeah, I'm talking about the next decade or two. It seems to me that solar has far better potential than other renewables, because under the right policy regime anyone with a roof can be a profit-making energy provider. This gives it tremendous political appeal that other renewables don't have. In Germany, it was this kind of grassroots appeal that led to the success of the solar programme. The manufacturing capacity and jobs were always secondary to the essential question of getting more solar power production. And there are some very successful solar firms in Germany. But none of this is meant to detract from China's achievements, and I thank you for bringing them to our attention.
posted by No Robots at 6:29 PM on January 30, 2012


WSJ response from scientists who actually study climate change
posted by Greg Nog at 9:22 AM on February 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


Mods can delete this if I've missed it above, but Joe Romm at ThinkProgress has a pretty comprehensive response to the original WSJ editorial here.
posted by Wretch729 at 10:37 AM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Great Carbon Bubble: Why the Fossil Fuel Industry Fights So Hard
posted by homunculus at 1:03 PM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


WSJ response from scientists who actually study climate change
While accomplished in their own fields, most of these authors have no expertise in climate science.

...

In addition, there is very clear evidence that investing in the transition to a low-carbon economy will not only allow the world to avoid the worst risks of climate change, but could also drive decades of economic growth. Just what the doctor ordered.
It's kind of ironic that a response that begins with a "stay in your lane" admonition to climate-skeptic scientists ends with a broadly drawn economic claim. What do climatologists know about economics?
posted by BobbyVan at 6:14 AM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


sick burn @ climatologists, bro
posted by Greg Nog at 7:57 AM on February 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


BobbyVan: that's actually a fair point. Paul Krugman provides a survey of the economics of climate change: Summary: cutting greenhouse gas emissions will slow economic growth, but not by much. It's not going to "drive decades of economic growth."
Just as there is a rough consensus among climate modelers about the likely trajectory of temperatures if we do not act to cut the emissions of greenhouse gases, there is a rough consensus among economic modelers about the costs of action. That general opinion may be summed up as follows: Restricting emissions would slow economic growth � but not by much. The Congressional Budget Office, relying on a survey of models, has concluded that Waxman-Markey �would reduce the projected average annual rate of growth of gross domestic product between 2010 and 2050 by 0.03 to 0.09 percentage points.� That is, it would trim average annual growth to 2.31 percent, at worst, from 2.4 percent. Over all, the Budget Office concludes, strong climate-change policy would leave the American economy between 1.1 percent and 3.4 percent smaller in 2050 than it would be otherwise.

And what about the world economy? In general, modelers tend to find that climate-change policies would lower global output by a somewhat smaller percentage than the comparable figures for the United States. The main reason is that emerging economies like China currently use energy fairly inefficiently, partly as a result of national policies that have kept the prices of fossil fuels very low, and could thus achieve large energy savings at a modest cost. One recent review of the available estimates put the costs of a very strong climate policy � substantially more aggressive than contemplated in current legislative proposals � at between 1 and 3 percent of gross world product.
posted by russilwvong at 9:02 AM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


What do climatologists know about economics?

To be fair, given that economists themselves are in the throes of a three-year-long epic fail, I think it's fair to say that they've ceded the discussion of macroeconomic policy to the public at large.
posted by mek at 3:18 PM on February 15, 2012


Yeah, I'm not really sure climatologists know much less about economics than economists do.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 5:56 PM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


There is an interesting new theory that Climate change-induced drought caused the Mayan collapse.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:16 PM on February 26, 2012


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