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Gore wins. Again.
June 27, 2006 12:56 PM   Subscribe

An Inconvenient Truth, but an unavoidable one, too. In a recent AP poll, the nation's top climate scientists are giving Al Gore's documentary on global warming five stars for accuracy. This comes on the heels of an intensifying effort to trash the science of the movie by The Wall Street Journal and The National Review. However, the overwhelming consensus of over a thousand climate scientists in 120 countries, as well as the US' own National Academy of Sciences, is firmly in Gore's camp. With an undeniable agreement among the world's scientists and oil industry hackishness coming to light, is the US about to turn the corner on it's conventional wisdom about man-made global warming?
posted by darkstar (129 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
TPM had a nice bit on this yesterday.
posted by caddis at 1:00 PM on June 27, 2006


Bush Ignores Science, Claims ‘There Is A Debate’ Over The Cause of Global Warming.
posted by ericb at 1:00 PM on June 27, 2006


That poll insults the word "poll".
posted by smackfu at 1:01 PM on June 27, 2006 [1 favorite]


I've noticed a shift in the debate recently. There's still the debates over whether or not it's man made, and whether or not we can do anything about it (I personally tend to think we passed the point of no return a few years ago), but I'm not hearing the debate on whether or not it's happening much anymore. I'm sure sheer momentum will carry it on in some circles for some time to come, but at least we've gotten that far.
posted by jefgodesky at 1:02 PM on June 27, 2006


Oops, I meant this one. It debunks that garbage in the Journal.
posted by caddis at 1:02 PM on June 27, 2006


OK, next time I use preview.
posted by caddis at 1:03 PM on June 27, 2006


Luntz Converts On Global Warming, Distances Himself From Bush
"In 2000, conservative pollster Frank Luntz famously penned a memo that recommended ways for President Bush and his allies to discuss global warming in a manner that cast doubt on the science. Among his suggestions, Luntz recommended the following key point: 'The scientific debate remains open. Voters believe that there is no consensus about global warming within the scientific community.'

Nearly six years later, Bush is still adhering closely to Luntz’s talking points. But the author himself has since backed away from his advice, believing the scientific issues are now settled. In a documentary that first aired on BBC, and was broadcast last night on Canadian television, Luntz said he accepts that humans are affecting the climate, and he distanced himself from the administration’s repudiation of global warming science." Watch it.
posted by ericb at 1:04 PM on June 27, 2006


Check out Mos Def's recent interview of Gore on the movie, here.

I also couldn't help but notice at the end of the interview when Gore is asked about whether he will run again. For the first time in many interviews in which I've seen him respond to this question, Gore says "I haven't completely ruled it out..."
posted by darkstar at 1:08 PM on June 27, 2006


um i know a guy who knows a world-famous climatologist and he says that the earth goes through periods of warming and cooling

ERGO

al gore is a liar!! (he invented the internet remember!!!)
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:09 PM on June 27, 2006


"Good evening, I'm [Al Gore]. The following tale of [environmental disaster] is true. And by true I mean false. It's all lies. But they're entertaining lies. And in the end, isn't that the truth? The answer is - 'no'."
posted by blue_beetle at 1:10 PM on June 27, 2006


"Uh, Mr. Nimoy, we still have 10 minutes left."
"Oh, uh, let me get something out of my car" *doorslam* *peelout*
posted by ninjew at 1:16 PM on June 27, 2006


...and if the ground's not cold
everything is gonna burn,
we'll all take turns,
i'll get mine, too.

posted by NationalKato at 1:17 PM on June 27, 2006


I like how instead of linking to the WSJ article itself, you linked to a rebuttal by ThinkProgress.

Richard Lindzen is a professor of atmospheric science at MIT, surely he's qualified to lend his opinions.

I think the main point in Lindzen's editorial was that, like most documentaries with a politcal agenda, Al Gore plays fast and loose with the facts in his film. And he does so to create alarm.

Here's an excerpt:

The media rarely help, of course. When Newsweek featured global warming in a 1988 issue, it was claimed that all scientists agreed. Periodically thereafter it was revealed that although there had been lingering doubts beforehand, now all scientists did indeed agree. Even Mr. Gore qualified his statement on ABC only a few minutes after he made it, clarifying things in an important way. When Mr. Stephanopoulos confronted Mr. Gore with the fact that the best estimates of rising sea levels are far less dire than he suggests in his movie, Mr. Gore defended his claims by noting that scientists "don't have any models that give them a high level of confidence" one way or the other and went on to claim -- in his defense -- that scientists "don't know… They just don't know."

So, presumably, those scientists do not belong to the "consensus." Yet their research is forced, whether the evidence supports it or not, into Mr. Gore's preferred global-warming template -- namely, shrill alarmism. To believe it requires that one ignore the truly inconvenient facts. To take the issue of rising sea levels, these include: that the Arctic was as warm or warmer in 1940; that icebergs have been known since time immemorial; that the evidence so far suggests that the Greenland ice sheet is actually growing on average. A likely result of all this is increased pressure pushing ice off the coastal perimeter of that country, which is depicted so ominously in Mr. Gore's movie. In the absence of factual context, these images are perhaps dire or alarming.

They are less so otherwise. Alpine glaciers have been retreating since the early 19th century, and were advancing for several centuries before that. Since about 1970, many of the glaciers have stopped retreating and some are now advancing again. And, frankly, we don't know why.

posted by b_thinky at 1:20 PM on June 27, 2006


Clearly all these scientists have a chip on their shoulders. Tonight on Faux News: Dick Cheney calls for criminal charges to be brought against scientists.
posted by clevershark at 1:21 PM on June 27, 2006


Yeah, the Earth does go through periods of warming and cooling.

That being said, this is the hottest that the Earth's climate has been in well over several hundred thousand years. Things have been remarkably COOL lately (that's what Ice Ages are), up until the last 150 years (roughly since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution), when things really started heating up.

To pretend that Gore is wrong about this means that you are either disingenuous and have a political agenda or are an idiot who doesn't understand what science is. Take your pick.
posted by geekhorde at 1:21 PM on June 27, 2006


Gee, that's the kind of argument that'll really convince people.
posted by smackfu at 1:24 PM on June 27, 2006


In other words, the recent global climate warming is well outside of the norm for our global climate, even taking into account warming and cooling trends that occur in cyclical patterns.

The cycle is broken, and is in danger of becoming a spiral.
posted by geekhorde at 1:24 PM on June 27, 2006


I cannot believe that there are still two camps: with a little thinking anyone can see that we're causing global warming, atleast we're accelerating the already natural proces.

Even if it's not about global warming there is noticable air pollution, dust particles.. If they can ban passive smoking why not reduce the amount of exhaust fumes (ok, that was rethorical)...

btw No doubt that the earth will survive but will we?....

"They are less so otherwise. Alpine glaciers have been retreating since the early 19th century, and were advancing for several centuries before that. Since about 1970, many of the glaciers have stopped retreating and some are now advancing again. And, frankly, we don't know why."

BS! The Swiss I met told me about retracting glaciers in their lifetime. (Any Swiss people around to confirm this?)
posted by borq at 1:27 PM on June 27, 2006


Scientific facts don't care about convincing people. Fuck some people who need convincing. If it's not readily apparent by now, you're a walking Darwin award. You can believe that a big truck that's going to hit you is an illusion all you want. I prefer to get out of the way of big trucks, speaking by analogy.
posted by geekhorde at 1:27 PM on June 27, 2006


From caddis' link (above):

WSJ Hit Piece on Gore Movie Relies on Grievously Flawed Study
[British social scientist, Benny] Peiser’s work – and Lindzen’s reliance on it — is an embarrassment. Here’s why:
1. Peizer misunderstands the point of Oreskes study. The point was not that every article about climate change explicitly endorsed the IPCC conclusions. The point is that if there was real uncertainty there would be “substantive disagreement in the scientific community” that would be reflected in peer reviewed literature. There wasn’t.

2. Peiser didn’t find any peer reviewed studies that oppose the scientific consensus. Peiser claimed that 34 papers “reject or doubt” the consensus view. Tim Lambert got Peiser to send him the abstracts of those 34 papers. The vast majority of these papers express no doubt whatsoever about the consensus view. Only one paper, by the Association of Petroleum Geologists, cited by Peiser actually rejects the consensus view and it “does not appear to have been peer reviewed outside that Association.”
Peiser has admitted that his work included errors. But ultimately, it doesn’t make a difference. The point of activity like this isn’t to be right, it’s simply to provide fodder to people like Lindzen to create the appearance of uncertainty.
posted by ericb at 1:27 PM on June 27, 2006


I haven't been able to make it to the theater to see it yet, but after seeing this futurama endorsement I must.
posted by sourbrew at 1:28 PM on June 27, 2006


These scientists should be ashamed of leaking details of global warming to the news media. It completely undermines our War on the Environment!
posted by revgeorge at 1:30 PM on June 27, 2006


Scientific facts don't care about convincing people. Fuck some people who need convincing. If it's not readily apparent by now, you're a walking Darwin award.

Um, except they happen to be running all 3 branches of the government of the world's leading industrial country, and they, unlike the Darwin Award winners, are going to take us with them.

So, convincing people does matter.
posted by ibmcginty at 1:30 PM on June 27, 2006 [1 favorite]


Read how the National Review is handling the criticism. It's instructive to read their take.

Although, again, I don't understand why anyone is surprised by any of this. The republican party counts among its members people who believe the Earth was created 7000 years ago by the god of the old testament as described by their 8th generation english language translation of the book of genesis. And their representatives in Congress agree with them.

I haven't read all the studies, and I'm sure they have the same issues that any scientific study has, error rate, reliance on studies conducted in the past with their own error rates, assumptions about the future, etc. The usual stuff. But none of these attacks are directed to these things. It's all ad hominem attacks and "global warming is really about shutting down the economy" nonsense.

Maybe its that cabal of supercomputer manufacturers who just want to sell more supercomputers to climatologists for their models. Down with Big Supercomputer!

Somebody please send them a copy of the memo from 1992 that said the cold war was over. We're not fighting communism anymore. Sheesh.
posted by Pastabagel at 1:34 PM on June 27, 2006 [1 favorite]


One thing that's been bugging me about the movie...

The film notes that if Greenland's ice (or half of Greenland's ice and half of the west antarctic ice shelf) were to melt, sea levels could rise by 20 ft. Now, supposedly roughly 70% of the earth's surface is water, 30% land. If you assume that Greenland makes up roughly 5% of the total land surface, then it occupies roughly 1.5% (.7 * 5) of the earth's surface overall. Given that ice and water have almost exactly the same density, for every cubic feet of water added to the ocean's surface from the melting, there must be a cubic foot of ice on Greenland. When you account for the 1.5:70 ratio of the surface areas of Greenland and the oceans, that means that for every 1 foot increase in sea levels, you must remove around 46 (70/1.5) feet of ice from the surface of all of Greenland. To add 20 feet to the global sea level, you must melt 920 feet of ice from Greenland's glaciers... and probably a good bit more, since the glaciers don't cover the whole landmass. Do glaciers really have an average depth of more than 1000 feet?
posted by gsteff at 1:41 PM on June 27, 2006


Yeah, the Earth does go through periods of warming and cooling.

Yes it does. Every year where I live as a matter of fact.

The worst part about the "conservative" denial of global warming is that the Kyoto protcol is as close to a free-market solution as you are likely to find. It's revoutionary. By rejecting Kyoto, the conservatives have lost the best chance they will every have of attacking the problem in a way that they themselves would like.
posted by three blind mice at 1:43 PM on June 27, 2006


Doh... googling indicates that they do... the Greenland one is apparently a mile deep (and covers 80% of the land). So I guess a 20 foot rise is a conservative estimate.
posted by gsteff at 1:43 PM on June 27, 2006


b_thinky, I'd love for you to square your impression of Greenlands health with this.

I saw the movie on Sunday. And it's described in this article exactly the way the Antarctic shelf collapse was explained.

So we all learned an important tidbit about how glacial ice melts. Unfortunately, I think that translates into an "Oh, word?" for our computer models.
posted by butterstick at 1:45 PM on June 27, 2006


gsteff: The ice sheet covers 1.71 million km2, or roughly 80 % of the surface of Greenland. The thickness is generally more than 2 km (see picture) and over 3 km at its thickest point.
posted by brundlefly at 1:47 PM on June 27, 2006


Doh... previewing would have indicated you knew that...
posted by brundlefly at 1:48 PM on June 27, 2006


Nobody wants to shut down the economy.

What we want is for the human race and civilization to survive and continue to advance.

That's all.

This may unfortunately require us to do things that are, at first, not good for the current economical model. That doesn't mean that there has to be massive dislocation, it just means we have to work out a method which takes into account both ameliorating global warming and moderating an economic transition. On top of that, we're going to all have to cooperate, under the leadership of smart and hard-working people.

Fat bloody chance, if you want my opinion.

Get ready for "fighting like cats in a sack."
posted by zoogleplex at 1:50 PM on June 27, 2006


b_thinky: I like how instead of linking to the WSJ article itself, you linked to a rebuttal by ThinkProgress.

Glad you liked it! I'm not sure you caught the tenor of my post, but it basically notes that the WSJ is a pile of crap.

Now, I could have linked directly to a pile of crap for your edification. But I thought that for those folks that want to read it, they can link through the ThinkProgress link and at least read the debunking of the WSJ crap en route.

Personally, I like how you chose to ignore the complete debunking of the article that ThinkProgress did and chose only to repeat a passage from the article. And by "like", I mean "think it's laughable".

*doorslam* *peelout*
posted by darkstar at 1:50 PM on June 27, 2006


Good catch gsteff. The article I linked above even places it over 3000 feet in places, and the bedrock is below sea level.
posted by butterstick at 1:50 PM on June 27, 2006


Richard Lindzen's non-fact-checked editorial is, as one might expect, false. An editorial (look up the definition) is not a refutation of facts.

Gore's movie is actually remarkably soft on certain changes. If the poles heat up to remain above the freezing point for even a couple months of the year - which they're doing steadily - all of the ice will melt, all of it. Gore's movie uses much lower melting figures.

Poles are currently warming by at least 1.5 degrees C per 10 years. Greenland is apparently warming even faster. The melting in Greenland has been masked - initially warmer temperatures also dump more snow on Greenland, so even though it melts faster in the summer, it adds snow faster in the winter. However, once winters get mild enough, that snow disappears, and then almost overnight the rapid melting eradicates the snow pack. Greenland's melting has hugely accelerated in the last couple of years since 2003. It's time has almost come.

We've got a similar example just now, in war budget figures. The Bush Administration said $50 billion, tops. Bush's economic guy said $200 billion, trying to be a realist, and was fired for it. Actual cost: $2 trillion and counting.

Bush liars: there's no global warming.
Realists: X amount of melting is very likely.
Real final truth: Far worse than the realists are willing to say, since the realists want to be believed.
posted by jellicle at 1:53 PM on June 27, 2006


A Terrifying Message from Al Gore
posted by sonofsamiam at 1:55 PM on June 27, 2006


uh, anyone else bothered by this statement in the article:

The AP contacted more than 100 top climate researchers by e-mail and phone for their opinion. Among those contacted were vocal skeptics of climate change theory. Most scientists had not seen the movie, which is in limited release, or read the book.

Conclusion: Most of the top scientists give the film 5 stars for accuracy.
posted by storybored at 1:57 PM on June 27, 2006


So I guess a 20 foot rise is a conservative estimate.

The "conservative" estimate would be that everything is fine.
posted by three blind mice at 1:58 PM on June 27, 2006


sonofsamiam,

beat you to it ;-)
posted by sourbrew at 2:01 PM on June 27, 2006


FYI, if you do the above calculation again with wikipedia's numbers (Greenland's ice surface area being 1,755,637 km^2, the ocean surface area being 361,126,400 km^2), a mean glacier depth of 2 km, and account for the actual density of ice, you end up with a rise of 29 feet.
posted by gsteff at 2:07 PM on June 27, 2006


sourbrew: d'oh!
posted by sonofsamiam at 2:08 PM on June 27, 2006


darkster: Maybe you don't feel safe reading something counter to your beliefs without your masters around to "debunk" it for you, but I like to hear both sides of an issue, then decide what I believe.

The ThinkProgress "debunking" is just stupid. It misses the crux of Lindzen's article entirely.

The important question Mr. Lindzen asks is: What is global warming? Is it what Al Gore claims it is (rise of malaria, ice sheets melting, hurricaines increasing, etc)? Because each of those supposed symptoms seem to have potentially valid alternate explanations.

I think anyone who wishes to really understand climate change would be more interested in what scientists like Lindzen have to say rather than politicians like Gore.
posted by b_thinky at 2:21 PM on June 27, 2006


Now if you could just get Simon Whateverhisname to make it an issue on American Idol, maybe more people would care.

Eh, probably not even then.
posted by mischief at 2:28 PM on June 27, 2006


In the movie, Gore already addresses that scientists all agree, and that the whole debate about whether or not there is global warming is a media issue, not a debate among scientists. So it's not really surprising to see climate scientists all point out that the movie is accurate. Gore talked to some of them for the production of the movie. He seems to have done a very good job at fact checking, and making SURE beforehand that there were no scientific errors.
It may or may not make a difference to have scientists publicly agree about the movie, I don't know. I hope it does. I'm a bit pessimistic about the movie being made by Gore: people already formed an opinion about him as a politician several years ago, and I don't know if everyone that did not likehis politics is wiling to shed that image of Gore and accept that even though they may not have wanted him as a president, he might still be right about something.
posted by easternblot at 2:29 PM on June 27, 2006


bthinky: I think anyone who wishes to really understand climate change would be more interested in what scientists like Lindzen have to say rather than politicians like Gore.

Yes, Gore. Plus over a thousand climate scientists from over 120 countries, plus the US's own National Academy of Sciences.

You strangely seem to keep forgetting about them. Wonder why that is?
posted by darkstar at 2:30 PM on June 27, 2006


I like to hear both sides of an issue, then decide what I believe

I like to look at the facts and draw a logical and rational conclusion that has nothing to do with belief. But that's just me, and, unfortunately, few others.
posted by solid-one-love at 2:32 PM on June 27, 2006


Submitted respectfully: "Scientists respond to Gore's warnings of climate catastrophe" (it's over two weeks old at this point). I'm not tryin' to stir up no trouble, just pointing out that there's this apparent tension between pedantics and alarmism, and I suspect the truth is somewhere on that continuum.
posted by pax digita at 2:32 PM on June 27, 2006


Lindzen is full of shit. He writes:
that the evidence so far suggests that the Greenland ice sheet is actually growing on average.

Which is an absolute distortion, as is most of the denial "science" used to create needless doubt about global warming.

While ice layers thickened by up to 10 inches (25 centimeters) in interior areas of Greenland during the same period, the net effect was a loss of ice mass for the whole area surveyed.
posted by elwoodwiles at 2:33 PM on June 27, 2006


Check out Mos Def's recent interview of Gore on the movie...

Heh, thanks for the link. That was very interesting, especially in light of the suggestion from a college student (during his previous campaign) that he digest Black on Both Sides.
At one point in the interview Gore states in an ‘Archie Bunker-esque, Gee Sammy Davis Jr. you’re one of the good ones!’ tone of voice that Mos is exemplary because of ”[t]he way you communicate in multiple media…You’ve chosen things with integrity.” The editing makes it seem as if Gore’s next statement was cut off as he added, “You act, you “rap happy”...you’re like a 50 Cent I’d let my daughter bring home to dinner!”
posted by prostyle at 2:36 PM on June 27, 2006


One of the most striking graphs in the movie shows historic CO2 and temperature data for the last 600,000 years, based on Antarctic ice core data. Here's a similar graph, from this page. Current CO2 levels are already higher than at any time in the last 600,000 years, and climbing steadily. Here's a graph showing how rapidly CO2 levels are increasing.

So what do we need to do? James Hansen reviews An Inconvenient Truth in the New York Review of Books and discusses the appropriate policy response.
In order to arrive at an effective policy we can project two different scenarios concerning climate change. In the business-as-usual scenario, annual emissions of CO2 continue to increase at the current rate for at least fifty years, as do non-CO2 warming agents including methane, ozone, and black soot. In the alternative scenario, CO2 emissions level off this decade, slowly decline for a few decades, and by mid-century decrease rapidly, aided by new technologies.

The business-as-usual scenario yields an increase of about five degrees Fahrenheit of global warming during this century, while the alternative scenario yields an increase of less than two degrees Fahrenheit during the same period. ...

The business-as-usual scenario, with five degrees Fahrenheit global warming and ten degrees Fahrenheit at the ice sheets, certainly would cause the disintegration of ice sheets. The only question is when the collapse of these sheets would begin. The business-as-usual scenario, which could lead to an eventual sea level rise of eighty feet, with twenty feet or more per century, could produce global chaos, leaving fewer resources with which to mitigate the change in climate. The alternative scenario, with global warming under two degrees Fahrenheit, still produces a significant rise in the sea level, but its slower rate, probably less than a few feet per century, would allow time to develop strategies that would adapt to, and mitigate, the rise in the sea level.

The alternative scenario I have been referring to has been designed to be consistent with the Kyoto Protocol, i.e., with a world in which emissions from developed countries would decrease slowly early in this century and the developing countries would get help to adopt "clean" energy technologies that would limit the growth of their emissions. Delays in that approach—especially US refusal both to participate in Kyoto and to improve vehicle and power plant efficiencies—and the rapid growth in the use of dirty technologies have resulted in an increase of 2 percent per year in global CO2 emissions during the past ten years. If such growth continues for another decade, emissions in 2015 will be 35 percent greater than they were in 2000, making it impractical to achieve results close to the alternative scenario.
Hansen argues that the alternative scenario shouldn't be impossibly difficult to achieve:
Both the Department of Energy and some fossil fuel companies insist that continued growth of fossil fuel use and of CO2 emissions are facts that cannot be altered to any great extent. Their prophecies become self-fulfilling, with the help of government subsidies and intensive efforts by special interest groups to prevent the public from becoming well-informed.

In reality, an alternative scenario is possible and makes sense for other reasons, especially in the US, which has become an importer of energy, hemorrhaging wealth to foreign nations in order to pay for it. In response to oil shortages and price rises in the 1970s, the US slowed its growth in energy use mainly by requiring an increase from thirteen to twenty-four miles per gallon in the standard of auto efficiency. Economic growth was decoupled from growth in the use of fossil fuels and the gains in efficiency were felt worldwide. Global growth of CO2 emissions slowed from more than 4 percent each year to between 1 and 2 percent growth each year.

This slower growth rate in fossil fuel use was maintained despite lower energy prices. The US is still only half as efficient in its use of energy as Western Europe, i.e., the US emits twice as much CO2 to produce a unit of GNP, partly because Europe encourages efficiency by fossil fuel taxes.
b_thinky: Here's what SourceWatch has to say about Lindzen. Ross Gelbspan, journalist and author, wrote a 1995 article in Harper's Magazine which was very critical of Lindzen and other global warming skeptics. In the article, Gelbspan reports Lindzen charged "oil and coal interests $2,500 a day for his consulting services; [and] his 1991 trip to testify before a Senate committee was paid for by Western Fuels and a speech he wrote, entitled 'Global Warming: the Origin and Nature of Alleged Scientific Consensus,' was underwritten by OPEC."

pax digita: SourceWatch on Tom Harris. In November 2002 Harris was listed as one of the organisers of an event in Ottowa at which prominent climate change skeptics were slated "to reveal the science and technology flaws of the Kyoto Accord." At the time Harris was listed as an "Associate APCO Worldwide (Canada)." The cost of the event, the Globe and Mail reported, was being borne by "Imperial, Talisman and a group of Canadian lime producers."
posted by russilwvong at 2:39 PM on June 27, 2006


Because each of those supposed symptoms seem to have potentially valid alternate explanations.

Do you know anything about science? At all? All observations have "potentially valid alternate explanations." Do you doubt all science then? Or just scientific conclusions you disagree with? Science is a practice that depends upon inference, coherence and consensus. The doubters depend on the lack of certainty of the theories around global warming, but ignore the inherent uncertainty in all scientific practice.
posted by elwoodwiles at 2:40 PM on June 27, 2006


"You strangely seem to keep forgetting about them. Wonder why that is?"

Poorly programmed brain; defective thinking module. Recommend complete teardown and replacement.
posted by zoogleplex at 2:47 PM on June 27, 2006


one thing i've often wondered: why don't "conservatives" express the same skepticism and concerns about fact-doctoring for bush administration proclamations (re: justification for the invasion and occupation of iraq, claims about terrorism and foiled terrorist plots, etc.) that they do for research and presentations on the subject of global warming?
posted by lord_wolf at 2:52 PM on June 27, 2006


Because the Authority has spoken, lord_wolf. Once the Authority speaks, there is no further questioning.

This is what happens when people's brains don't work right. You're not talking to a rational entity, you're talking to someone who has surrendered their freedom in favor of a comforting Authority Who Tells Them What To Do And Think.
posted by zoogleplex at 2:56 PM on June 27, 2006


lord_wolf: it's human nature, not confined to conservatives. William James, Pragmatism:
The observable process which Schiller and Dewey particularly singled out for generalization is the familiar one by which any individual settles into new opinions. The process here is always the same. The individual has a stock of old opinions already, but he meets a new experience that puts them to a strain. Somebody contradicts them; or in a reflective moment he discovers that they contradict each other; or he hears of facts with which they are incompatible; or desires arise in him which they cease to satisfy. The result is an inward trouble to which his mind till then had been a stranger, and from which he seeks to escape by modifying his previous mass of opinions. He saves as much of it as he can, for in this matter of belief we are all extreme conservatives. So he tries to change first this opinion, and then that (for they resist change very variously), until at last some new idea comes up which he can graft upon the ancient stock with a minimum of disturbance of the latter, some idea that mediates between the stock and the new experience and runs them into one another most felicitously and expediently.

... Loyalty to [existing beliefs] is the first principle--in most cases it is the only principle; for by far the most usual way of handling phenomena so novel that they would make for a serious rearrangement of our preconceptions is to ignore them altogether, or to abuse those who bear witness for them.
posted by russilwvong at 3:02 PM on June 27, 2006


Best trailer for An Inconvenient Truth, evah!

(Youtube viddy.)
posted by darkstar at 3:03 PM on June 27, 2006


Wow. That makes three.
posted by brundlefly at 3:08 PM on June 27, 2006



“...as close to a free-market solution as you are likely to find.” - posted by three blind mice

Whoa, wait, stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system while trading pollution like a commodity and pollution cleaning like a resource through clean energy programs and carbon dioxide sinks?

Why that’s just crazy talk! What’re you a commie?

Yeah, I can see (but not agree with) some of the political angles to not sign onto the Kyoto Protocols, but I can’t see opposing it on conservative grounds.

(But when it comes to the Kyoto Protocol, I prefer the Honda Accord. AHa Ha Haa!
Thenkew, next show at 11. )

I think part of the problem is: it’s Al Gore.

“I think anyone who wishes to really understand climate change would be more interested in what scientists like Lindzen have to say rather than politicians like Gore.” - posted by b_thinky

Lindzen’s merits as a scientist aside, I agree with b_thinky’s thinking, here.

Consider - if Rush Limbaugh, or some equally foolish dolt (but I’m being redundant) - adopted global warming as his pet project, there would be some people (present company excepted, common sense accepted) on the left who would oppose it - just ‘cause it’s Limbaugh. Same with an ‘ex’(?) politician.

For my own part, it’s not just Al Gore, but the politicization of the situation.
I’m not accusing Gore of starting that of course, in fact I’d be hard pressed to argue that Gore’s contribution makes a flyfart of a difference compared to the tornado of spin put on this by the Bush administration.

But the adoption of this issue by one political party is very dangerous. I don’t know that Gore is purposely trying to associate environmentalism with the Democratic party, but...he’s Al Gore.

And to be fair, what’s he supposed to do? Drop it? He’s got a long history of being concerned with the environment so, meh. No criticism.

Cynicism compels me to note that Gore’s “I’m not running” schtick doesn’t cut any ice.
But I think some folks on the right oppose the whole shabang just ‘cause it’s Gore and that being Gore carries the freight it does.

And that has to stop. Particularly since it was conservation and a darling to conservatives (and many liberals) long before it became environmentalism and the domain of one party.

Somewhere Republicans decided “screw the pastoral, agrarian b.s., we want the money” and went with industry instead of individuals.

I’d just like to get a straight answer from scientists on a matter that affects us all without the politicsfilter.

I mean if I was an actuary for an insurance company, I’d be putting a boot in some politicians asses to get accurate data.
(and I remember a CIA report stating that global warming was a major threat to the U.S., can’t seem to put my hand to it just now)

....speaking of which, anyone know if the big insurance companies are bracing themselves for the effects of global warming?
posted by Smedleyman at 3:19 PM on June 27, 2006


russilwvong-- I was just about to post Jim Hansen's review in the NYRB. I think it worth adding that he prefaced the article with this: 'Jim Hansen is Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Adjunct Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University's Earth Institute. His opinions are expressed here, he writes,"as personal views under the protection of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution."' (My italics.) NASA is not an easy place to be these days.

He also discusses his own encounters with Gore:

It is hard to predict how [An Inconvenient Truth] will be received by the public; but Gore has put together a coherent account of a complex topic that Americans desperately need to understand. The story is scientifically accurate and yet should be understandable to the public, a public that is less and less drawn to science.

The reader might assume that I have long been close to Gore, since I testified before his Senate committee in 1989 and participated in scientific "roundtable" discussions in his Senate office. In fact, Gore was displeased when I declined to provide him with images of increasing drought generated by a computer model of climate change. (I didn't trust the model's estimates of precipitation.) After Clinton and Gore were elected, I declined a suggestion from the White House to write a rebuttal to a New York Times Op-Ed article that played down global warming and criticized the Vice President. I did not hear from Gore for more than a decade, until January of this year, when he asked me to critically assess his slide show. When we met, he said that he "wanted to apologize," but, without letting him explain what he was apologizing for, I said, "Your insight was better than mine."

Indeed, Gore was prescient. For decades he has maintained that the Earth was teetering in the balance, even when doing so subjected him to ridicule from other politicians and cost him votes. By telling the story of climate change with striking clarity in both his book and movie, Al Gore may have done for global warming what Silent Spring did for pesticides. He will be attacked, but the public will have the information needed to distinguish our long-term well-being from short-term special interests.

An Inconvenient Truth is about Gore himself as well as global warming. It shows the man that I met in the 1980s at scientific roundtable discussions, passionate and knowledgeable, true to the message he has delivered for years. It makes one wonder whether the American public has not been deceived by the distorted images of him that have been presented by the press and television. Perhaps the country came close to having the leadership it needed to deal with a grave threat to the planet, but did not realize it.

posted by jokeefe at 3:22 PM on June 27, 2006


What I don't get about all the arguing is: Why take the chance? Why don't any of these climate-change-deniers even think about the consequences?

Sure, Gore could be wrong. Sure those thousands of scientists could be wrong. But so could Lindzen, and so could you. So why wouldn't we take relatively simple steps to avert a major worldwide catastrophe? Is it just because it's inconvenient?
posted by fungible at 3:24 PM on June 27, 2006


I haven't seen the movie, but I bought the book, and I have rarely read anything more repellent.

In a book ostensibly about the environment, Mr. Gore starts out talking about himself. At length. There's hardly a paragraph in the long chapter without an "I" in it. And he's got chapters on his wife, and his father, and his sister of all things. And lots and lots of shots of Al Gore looking Presidential. In a book about environmentalism.

The actual environmental stuff is almost an afterthought, with biiiig pictures and eaaaasssy captions for the intellect-impaired.

I can't judge the movie, because I haven't seen it. The book, however, is barely about environmentalism... it's an early announcement that he's running again in 2008.

What's really frustrating is that I was very much in the Gore camp for the last few years... he's made some remarkable speeches. If this book had really and truly been about the environment, I'd have turned into a fiercely committed voter. Hell, I'd have been willing to volunteer for his campaign.

As is, suddenly I can barely stomach the man. SO frustrating.
posted by Malor at 3:27 PM on June 27, 2006


It makes one wonder whether the American public has not been deceived by the distorted images of him that have been presented by the press and television. Perhaps the country came close to having the leadership it needed to deal with a grave threat to the planet, but did not realize it.
.
posted by darkstar at 3:31 PM on June 27, 2006


His opinions are expressed here, he writes, 'as personal views under the protection of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.'
Jesus, that's depressing.

posted by kirkaracha at 3:31 PM on June 27, 2006


The reason I don't accept that there is scientific consensus on climate change is because of things like this. I don't know anything about the scientists listed here. I don't know anything about the scientists that are brought up as absolute believers in climate change. I also don't know nearly enough about climate change itself to decide for myself who's right. Why should all that add up to 'of course everyone worth knowing believes that climate change is happening!' ?

I happen to come down on the side of fungible's argument that it seems worth taking steps to avoid it anyway, but I still don't understand how you can argue over whether or not there is a consensus.
posted by jacalata at 3:33 PM on June 27, 2006


Doesn't anyone think it amusing that the article says that top scientists are giving Gore's film five stars for accuracy when:

"...Most scientists had not seen the movie, which is in limited release, or read the book."
posted by storybored at 3:42 PM on June 27, 2006


b_thinky (quoting Lindzen): Alpine glaciers have been retreating since the early 19th century, and were advancing for several centuries before that. Since about 1970, many of the glaciers have stopped retreating and some are now advancing again. And, frankly, we don't know why.


Rather than just quoting an editorial, why not look for the data themselves? They're not that hard to find. The World Glacier Monitoring Service figures for 1980–2004 are on-line, and demonstrate that Lindzen's contentions about glaciers are seriously misleading.
posted by Sonny Jim at 3:44 PM on June 27, 2006


Gore on Letterman, on YouTube, in three parts.
posted by CunningLinguist at 3:49 PM on June 27, 2006


It's a good point, storybored. I think it's saying that those scientists whom they did contact that had seen the movie overwhelmingly gave it high marks for accuracy. Though the article could have been more clearly written to communicate that better.
posted by darkstar at 3:57 PM on June 27, 2006


Smedleyman, here's an article from two years ago. March 3, 2004: GENEVA (Reuters) - The world's second-largest reinsurer, Swiss Re, warns that the costs of global warming threaten to spiral out of control, forcing the human race into a catastrophe of its own making.

And here's a report on global warming from the Pentagon which you might have been thinking of.

fungible: Is it just because it's inconvenient?

It'll be expensive. Consider the cost of shutting down or upgrading coal-fired power plants, for example. So it makes some sense to make sure the threat is real before acting.

Given that the only experts arguing the threat is exaggerated appear to be lobbyists for tobacco oil companies, I think it's clear by now that the threat is real. (It's mostly Exxon; Shell, BP, and Chevron agree that global warming is a serious threat.)

jacalata, your link didn't work. Were you referring to this thread?

It looks like the letter "signed by 60 top scientists" was organized by Friends of Science, a Calgary-based anti-Kyoto group with an "oil and gas flavour". Response to the letter.

Information on some of the people on the "Friends of Science" scientific advisory board: Sallie Baliunas. Tim Ball. Chris de Freitas. Tim Patterson.
posted by russilwvong at 4:13 PM on June 27, 2006


In a book ostensibly about the environment, Mr. Gore starts out talking about himself. At length. There's hardly a paragraph in the long chapter without an "I" in it. And he's got chapters on his wife, and his father, and his sister of all things. And lots and lots of shots of Al Gore looking Presidential. In a book about environmentalism.

The actual environmental stuff is almost an afterthought, with biiiig pictures and eaaaasssy captions for the intellect-impaired.


If the goal is to educate or convince as much of the public as possible, then Al Gore chose an appropriate approach. Consider that when writing for the general public, it's usually best not to introduce too many new facts, and try not to exceed a fifth grade comprehension level. This is not because people are stupid, but because most people simply do not have the background knowledge to jump into the deep end of the subject.

Most people give up easily when they get confused about something "scientfic" or "technical." They prefer to see the human aspect, which they know they can understand, but often won't even attempt to read a book that has "too much science."

Communicating something abstract and/or abstruse to the public is already an uphill battle, and as several people have pointed out, Al Gore's expertise is not in science. If he had written a book that was primarily science in content, I dare say people would think he is even more of a zealot than they already think he is. He is, however, certainly an expert on himself.
posted by zennie at 4:13 PM on June 27, 2006


Posting this simply to inform you (not convince you) that I believe Global Warming (the general fuzzy definition that manmade pollution is causing tremendous climate change that will doom us all) is an illusion. I don't need a thousand 'climatologists' to lead me by the nose; I don't let a thousand 'scientologist' do so either! I look at the actual raw data, and use my experience with mistakes in representation and interpretation of data to conclude that what we are seeing is a political drama pure an simple.
posted by Osmanthus at 4:47 PM on June 27, 2006


posted by Osmanthus I look at the actual raw data, and use my experience with mistakes in representation and interpretation of data to conclude that what we are seeing is a political drama pure an [sic] simple.

What motive does Gore have for putting on a "political drama"?
posted by fandango_matt at 4:54 PM on June 27, 2006


I think Osmanthus has a brain tumor.
posted by puke & cry at 4:56 PM on June 27, 2006


fandango, perhaps a better question would be: what motive does the National Academy of Sciences have for putting on a political drama. After all, Gore is the messenger for a much broader scientific consensus.

The people that want to pillory Gore because he's a politician need to also be prepared to refute the actual scientific evidence and consensus for what Gore is championing.

Of course, Gore is a much easier target, because then all detractors need is innuendo and spin. It's much harder (impossible?) to face the actual scientific arguments and refute them.

Again, the US National Academy of Sciences agrees with Gore's take on this. Folks that want to prop up some oil-industry shill need to be prepared to demonstrate why their boy's credibility and science is better than the NAS.
posted by darkstar at 5:03 PM on June 27, 2006


Nice scare quotes around the word "climatologists." Well played, Osmanthus. Well played.
posted by brundlefly at 5:05 PM on June 27, 2006


I like the equation of climatologist and scientologist. Because they sound the same so ya know, close enough.
posted by puke & cry at 5:09 PM on June 27, 2006 [1 favorite]


Osmanthus clearly isn't "clear."
posted by brundlefly at 5:14 PM on June 27, 2006


I look at the actual raw data--

Here's some raw data for you.

The fact that CO2 traps heat (the "greenhouse effect") is uncontroversial.

The level of CO2 in the atmosphere is rising steadily.



If you look at CO2 and temperature for the last 600,000 years or so (using Antarctic ice cores), you see that (a) changes in CO2 levels and temperature are closely correlated.



You also see that CO2 levels are already higher than at any time in the last 600,000 years (much longer than human civilization has existed), and they're continuing to rise.
posted by russilwvong at 5:23 PM on June 27, 2006


I'm reminded of the scene in Erik the Viking where the king of Hy-Brazil doesn't want to admit that his island is sinking, so he simply "denies" it.


"Everyone stay calm! This is not happening!"
posted by Megafly at 5:27 PM on June 27, 2006


You hypocrites. You spam the same tired mantras and useless diagrams to brow beat us into true believers, while you, truly, do not believe it yourself. The day your own co2 emissions are lower that this unbelievers, you may be considered at least sincere. Your drive your car and keep your home tempurature controlled. I dont own a car and use no air conditioning. I have actively chose to change my lifestyle from suburban waste into one that is less burdensome on the environment, an healthier as well. Have you?
posted by Osmanthus at 5:46 PM on June 27, 2006


I truly do believe it myself. I take public transit to work. I don't have air conditioning. I live in a townhouse instead of a detached house. I also live in British Columbia, where almost all of our electricity is generated using hydroelectric dams rather than fossil-fuel power plants.
posted by russilwvong at 5:51 PM on June 27, 2006


Osmanthus, I don't drive my car to work and I have no a.c. where I'm living, currently.

I've xeriscaped my yard, paid extra to upgrade my house insulation, added solar screens, etc. I do low-flow shower heads and buy groceries with minimal impact in mind.

I'm planning to go partially solar this fall. I recycle avidly, use a compost pile and will be joining my city's compost program.

So...you were saying?
posted by darkstar at 5:54 PM on June 27, 2006


I don't own a car or use air conditioning either! Can I be in your anti-diagram club? Down with diagrams!
posted by brundlefly at 5:54 PM on June 27, 2006


I truly do believe it myself. I take public transit to work. I don't have air conditioning. I live in a townhouse instead of a detached house. I also live in British Columbia, where almost all of our electricity is generated using hydroelectric dams rather than fossil-fuel power plants.

Ditto on all counts, except with the addition of living in a housing cooperative where we're looking at installing solar panels. I don't own a car. I have no a/c. Etcetera. The most damaging thing I have done in terms of my own carbon footprint has been to fly to Europe this year.

The thing is, we're all part of this world built on the use of fossil fuels. None of us are outside of it, or can be, short of heading out to the woods and living independently off the land. We are all hypocrites and part of the problem. So we do what we can: avoid buying products, especially foodstuffs, that have long supply chains, for a start; using cars only when necessary; not wasting water, and so on.
posted by jokeefe at 6:16 PM on June 27, 2006


"I have actively chose to change my lifestyle from suburban waste into one that is less burdensome on the environment, an healthier as well. Have you?"

One wonders why you bother, if you don't believe in global warming.
posted by zoogleplex at 6:17 PM on June 27, 2006


Heh, most people who do actually care about global warming are probably not driving SUVs, Osmanthus.

Either way, it's off-topic.

I'm no climatologist but I'd like more facts.

E.g. is there a consensus explanation on why Ice Ages happen? If there isn't how are we confident of what will happen as a result of global warming?

I like those graphs, Russil. But there is another one that i saw in Scientific American which also raises some questions too. I'll try to dig it up.
posted by storybored at 6:23 PM on June 27, 2006


To the people who think this is purely political-- Al Gore has been outspoken about the environment for a very long time.

Are we forgetting Earth in the Balance : Ecology and the Human Spirit?

"We must make the rescue of the environment the central organizing principle for civilization."
I have become very impatient with my own tendency to put a finger to the political winds and proceed cautiously.... [E]very time I pause to consider whether I have gone too far out on a limb, I look at the new facts [on the environment crisis] that continue to pour in from around the world and conclude that I have not gone far enough.... [T]he time has long since come to take more political risks--and endure more political criticism--by proposing tougher, more effective solutions and fighting hard for their enactments.
Dude totally just wants to get Bush and the Republicans!
posted by defenestration at 6:26 PM on June 27, 2006


So if I turn off the AC I can be right without any recourse to explaination or logic?

Still not gonna do it. It's fucking muggy yo. God Bless Al Gore though.
posted by Divine_Wino at 6:33 PM on June 27, 2006


"Gee, that's the kind of argument that'll really convince people."
It's futile trying to craft an argument when those people prefer to stew in their ignorance. They need to be recognized for what they are and stepped over or moved out of the way so that the adults can take care of things.
Of course the simplest path to winning over the hold-outs would be to pay Rush Limbaugh a few million dollars to become an advocate, and pigboy would take the bait if you made it sweet enough.
posted by 2sheets at 6:34 PM on June 27, 2006


You hypocrites....

Yeah, yeah, yeah, you are so superior...

We are all so proud of your sacrifice, but pragmatically, change will not come through a bunch of hippies burning biodiesel. We need to move the entire country that way. If you make it the law technology will follow to make it affordable.
posted by caddis at 6:39 PM on June 27, 2006


It's better to have a false negative than a false positive. Any changes to reduce CO2 emissions can't hurt the environment, in fact, it would reduce harmful smog. But then again, maybe the fuckwits think that's up for debate too.
posted by disgruntled at 6:57 PM on June 27, 2006


Of course, using plastics is evil too, so I only use wooden items that I've carved myself out of renewable forests grown on my own land. I'm having the most trouble with the saran wrap.
posted by smackfu at 7:02 PM on June 27, 2006


What motive does Gore have for putting on a "political drama"?

Now THAT'S funny!
posted by mischief at 7:03 PM on June 27, 2006


Of course, Osmanthus made his position rejecting the science clear enough a year ago:
...I think its ok to not believe in global warming.
posted by darkstar at 7:04 PM on June 27, 2006


Though, of course, his perceptions of the general ignorance of people who actually write scientific essays leads one to believe he may not have a very high standard for what passes as scientific rigor, to begin with.
posted by darkstar at 7:08 PM on June 27, 2006


Here it is:

A graph showing CO2 levels higher than the present day during the Cretaceous period (K) and way, way higher in the Silurian period. So, um, where did this CO2 come from long before humans were mucking about?


posted by storybored at 7:13 PM on June 27, 2006


http://www.globalwarmingart.com/wiki/Image:Phanerozoic_Carbon_Dioxide.png

oops.
posted by storybored at 7:14 PM on June 27, 2006


There was a time when doctors and scientist didn't agree on the harmful effects of smoking or second-hand smoke. The naysayers would puff away and get lung cancer and/or emphysema. Now it's the Hummer drivers. The Hummer being the pregnant crack whore of SUVs. So, the planet is smoking, literally, burning fossil fuels like there's no tomorrow. The human race is not made up of nobel prize winners, more like the fictional character Kilgore Trout, who once said "Up your ass, man needs gas!"
posted by disgruntled at 7:17 PM on June 27, 2006


Personally, I'm waiting for the shift to the bamboo economy.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 7:18 PM on June 27, 2006


Dry Southwest in the Line of Fire

As Planet Heats Up, Deserts Face Drier Future

Greenland's Ice Sheet Is Slip-Sliding Away

The Earth Observing System

Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences: Steffen research group

Postcards from the Arctic

The Threat to the Planet

Safest And Least Safe Places In The U.S.

Fortified...for safer living ®

SOME say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To know that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Robert Frost
posted by taosbat at 7:35 PM on June 27, 2006


Interesting graphic, storybored. There's a dKos thread discussing a very similar graph, here.

It seems that, when you go that far back in history (i.e., hundreds of millions of years) none of the models are very airtight. However, for the past 400,000 years, there's a pretty rock-solid model based on Antarctic ice cores.

Another observation: Daniel Rothman, the researcher whose model outlines the much lower graph line on the phanerozoic chart, is the MIT geophysicist who has repeatedly published his work with the National Academy of Sciences. They seem pretty receptive to his work.

Beyond that, I'm afraid my formal degrees are in Chemistry, so I'm out of my area of specialty.
posted by darkstar at 7:40 PM on June 27, 2006


Great post
posted by xammerboy at 7:48 PM on June 27, 2006


its so weird to see this movies message get presented as a partisan debate-either it is happening or it isn't - fact versus lies, not liberal versus conservative-.
posted by donabean at 8:00 PM on June 27, 2006


Finally global warming is being discussed on the internet. I can rest easy tonight, knowing that by morning the problem will be solved.
posted by nanojath at 8:07 PM on June 27, 2006


There's still the debates over whether or not it's man made, and whether or not we can do anything about it

No. The debate is if the people who make the short term gain of burning old, stored sunlight will be effected by climate change.

Desertification, flooding and propery destruction as examples of tje effects. There bets are in their gated communites away from flood plains and the coasts will be fine. And that they will have enough money to outbid others for food/water.
posted by rough ashlar at 8:14 PM on June 27, 2006


....speaking of which, anyone know if the big insurance companies are bracing themselves for the effects of global warming?
posted by Smedleyman at 3:19 PM PST


This good enuf?
http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/004601.html
posted by rough ashlar at 8:21 PM on June 27, 2006


but pragmatically, change will not come through a bunch of hippies burning biodiesel. We need to move the entire country that way. If you make it the law technology will follow to make it affordable.
posted by caddis at 6:39 PM PST


Actually, we need people who understand exactly how much oil is being used and how little biodiesel can solve the supply/demand equation.

No law will change the supply/deman equation.
posted by rough ashlar at 8:26 PM on June 27, 2006


Ummm, we are talking about global warming here, not an oil crisis, and I was not implying that biodiesel is any kind of answer anyway. Sorry for any confusion. If only the solutions were that easy. My only point was that solving global warming will take more than individuals making their own commitments.
posted by caddis at 8:47 PM on June 27, 2006


No law will change the supply/deman equation.

Well, actually, government regulation and fiscal policy play rather significant roles in economic equations.
posted by mischief at 9:09 PM on June 27, 2006


The Republicans of the US Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works take serious issue with the AP article. Inhofe is such a tool.
posted by caddis at 9:55 PM on June 27, 2006


No law will change the supply/demand equation.

But lack of laws, or regulations, most certainly did in California. Enron and all that you know. Supply and demand were manipulated to profit a few people for a short time. Sounds familiar doesn't it.
posted by juiceCake at 10:08 PM on June 27, 2006


More here from TED. This talk is a follow-up to his now-famous presentation, featured in the movie, "An Inconvenient Truth."
posted by tellurian at 10:20 PM on June 27, 2006


russilwvong, that's an interesting graph, but am I the only one who noticed that:

1. It looks pretty damn cyclical to my uneducated eye, and the current spike in temperature and CO2 looks to be just about right on schedule (a little late, actually)? (Though obviously the CO2 levels are much higher than previous spikes.)

2. More interestingly still, in each of the previous spikes, the temperature rose before the CO2 did. I'd love to know why that is.

(Obviously it's hard to draw conclusions about trends in the past ~150 years from a graph on this scale, and the accompanying article addresses some of my first point. But I'm really curious about my second.)
posted by IshmaelGraves at 10:39 PM on June 27, 2006


storybored: A graph showing CO2 levels higher than the present day during the Cretaceous period (K) and way, way higher in the Silurian period. So, um, where did this CO2 come from long before humans were mucking about?

From reading Spencer Weart's The Discovery of Global Warming website, I don't think there's scientific consensus on this. There's speculation that it came from volcanic activity.
Lines of thinking converged to emphasize the importance of the greenhouse effect. For decades geologists had been puzzled by a calculation that astrophysicists insisted was undeniable: the Sun had been dimmer when the Earth was young. Billions of years ago the oceans would have been permanently frozen, if not for high CO2 levels. Astrophysical theory showed that as the Sun had consumed its nuclear fuel it had gradually grown brighter, yet somehow the Earth's temperature had remained neither too cold nor too hot to sustain life. The best guess was that CO2 acted as a thermostat for the planet. Volcanoes presumably put the gas into the atmosphere at a fairly constant rate. But chemical processes run faster at higher temperatures, so on a warmer Earth the weathering of rocks would take up CO2 faster. As the rocks erode, rivers carry the soil into the seas, where the carbon eventually winds up in compounds deposited on the seabed. Thus a rough self-sustaining balance is maintained among the forces of volcanic emissions, greenhouse warming, weathering, and ocean uptake. To be sure, the system might take thousands if not millions of years to stabilize after some great disturbance.

Such great disturbances — even a totally glaciated "snowball Earth" — were not a fantasy of oversimplified models. Geologists turned up evidence that more than half a billion years ago the oceans had actually frozen over, if not entirely than mostly. That seemed impossible, for how could the Earth have escaped the trap and warmed up again? There was at least one obvious way (but it was only obvious once someone thought of it, which took decades). Over many thousands of years, volcanoes would have continued to inject CO2 into the atmosphere. There the gas would have accumulated, since it could not get into the frozen seas. Eventually a colossal greenhouse effect might have melted the ice. All this was speculative, and proved little about recent climates. But it added to the gathering conviction that CO2 was the very keystone of the planet's climate system — a system by no means as cozily stable as it appeared.
posted by russilwvong at 10:47 PM on June 27, 2006


IshmaelGraves: More interestingly still, in each of the previous spikes, the temperature rose before the CO2 did. I'd love to know why that is.

Good point. Again, according to Weart, there's no scientific consensus.
During the 1990s, further ice core measurements indicated that during past glacial periods, temperature changes had preceded CO2 changes by a few centuries. Was it necessary to give up the simple hypothesis that had attracted scientists ever since Tyndall in the 19th century — that changes in CO2 were a simple and direct cause of ice ages? Some scientists doubted that the time lag could be measured so precisely, and pointed to data suggesting that the level of the gas had changed ahead of temperature after all. There were many ways the gas level could interact with climate. Perhaps variations of temperature and weather patterns had caused land vegetation to release extra CO2 or take it up... perhaps the oceans were involved through massive changes in their circulation or ice cover... or through changes in their CO2-absorbing plankton, which would bloom or decline insofar as they were fertilized by minerals, which reached them from dusty winds, rivers, and ocean upwelling, all of which could change with the climate... or perhaps there were still more complicated and obscure effects.

A key point stood out. In the network of feedbacks that made up the climate system, CO2 was a main driving force. This did not prove by itself that the greenhouse effect was responsible for the warming seen in the 20th century. And it did not say how much warming the rise of CO2 might bring in the future. What was now beyond doubt was that the greenhouse effect had to be taken very seriously indeed. Joining the chorus was a 1992 analysis of ancient climates that found a "climate sensitivity"— the response of temperature to a rise in the CO2 level — in the same range as computer models were predicting for future greenhouse warming. The authors concluded that continued emissions would produce a temperature rise of several degrees during the coming century, "a warming unprecedented in the past million years, and... much faster than previously experienced by natural ecosystems..."
As I understand it, there's positive feedback loops. For example, if the earth starts warming and the Arctic ice starts melting, open water absorbs more heat than ice, so the process accelerates. There might be a similar positive feedback loop with warming and CO2--as the average temperature rises, trees and plants die and later release more CO2, causing further warming?--but it sounds like there isn't consensus on this yet.

There's definitely consensus that CO2 traps heat (the "greenhouse effect"). Weart goes through the scientific history (Tyndall, Arrhenius, Chamberlin, Callendar, Kaplan, Plass, Suess, Revelle) in great detail.

Weart also goes through the history of scientific investigation of the causes of past ice ages.
posted by russilwvong at 11:09 PM on June 27, 2006


Weart also goes through the history of scientific investigation of the causes of past ice ages.

If I understand it correctly, the view is that they were caused by orbital cycles (Milankovitch cycles) causing small variations in the amount of sunlight reaching the earth, which then triggered positive feedback cycles. But this will be swamped by the CO2 effect, so there'll never be another ice age as long as industrial civilization continues. (I might be over-simplifying--if any climate experts are out there, feel free to correct me.)
posted by russilwvong at 11:24 PM on June 27, 2006


Let me pull a snippit from a teen blog:

I didn't realize that these effects were taking place so dramatically RIGHT NOW. I thought maybe in 50 years when I'm too old to care it would happen.

THIS is the 'tude of the policy makers - it won't effect me in my lifetime.

Actions today are about short term gain, damn the long term effects.

(and the point about law-economic reactions...thanks for the reminder)
posted by rough ashlar at 6:32 AM on June 28, 2006


Finally global warming is being discussed on the internet. I can rest easy tonight, knowing that by morning the problem will be solved.
posted by nanojath


Actually, it's been discussed on the internet for years. But cynicism and sarcasm - like yours - now that's gonna solve some problems! Kudos!
posted by NationalKato at 7:43 AM on June 28, 2006


THIS is the 'tude of the policy makers - it won't effect me in my lifetime.

In addition, rough ashlar, it won't effect their bottom lines, which is where the real problem is. Why make strong policy changes when there's more profit to be made using fossil fuels?
posted by NationalKato at 7:44 AM on June 28, 2006


I dont own a car and use no air conditioning. I have actively chose to change my lifestyle from suburban waste into one that is less burdensome on the environment, an healthier as well. Have you?

No, I haven't. I have to survive. Change has to come at the policy level, not with individual deuchebags who think switching off their AC is going to make even the smallest difference in protecting the environment.

Please tell me again how I should give up my job and my future so I can brag like a fucking prick on Metafilter.

This is why smug environmentalists isolate people who might otherwise agree with their cause. Real talk, son.
posted by Alexandros at 8:03 AM on June 28, 2006


"It's futile trying to craft an argument when those people prefer to stew in their ignorance."

Unfortunately, if Gore's right, we're all going to stew in their ignorance...
posted by fairmettle at 8:18 AM on June 28, 2006


As an example of how policy and individual choices and the bottom line combine, consider how solar panel installation has been subsidized by a federal tax credit ($1000), state tax credits ($2000 in Arizona) and by the utilities themselves (SRP provides $3 per Watt capacity up to 10 kW, or $30,000 subsidy).

All of these subsidies make good sense from a policy and bottom-line standpoint. The cumulative subsidy and the other positives greatly incentivize the individual to jump on board the solar bandwagon. And the cumulative effect of millions of individual homes who are at least partly solar means a huge reduction in coal burning for electricity, hence a huge reduction in CO2 pollution.

More surely could be done, regarding solar. And a similar collaboration between federal, state, industry and individual can help address oil/gas usage habits as well as a wide variety of other conservation-friendly steps.

But collaboration like this takes three things:

1. Individuals to get off of their backsides and realize it's something that needs to be done and embrace it,

2. Industry leadership with the vision to be able to make it profitable, so they have a bottom-line incentive and

3. Fed, state and local governments to set up mechanisms that encourage and facilitate it.

Gore, by raising awareness and encouraging people to address the issue of global warming, is serving a key role in changing attitudes at all three of those levels. This is true leadership, and a very good thing.
posted by darkstar at 9:13 AM on June 28, 2006



The Republicans of the US Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works take serious issue with the AP article. Inhofe is such a tool.


What I liked about there refutation of the AP article is the first two "scientists" with quotes are ones that are some way or another on the take by either oil companies or have been involved in other scandels regarding bending data. But they sound smart, and that's all that matters, right?
posted by [insert clever name here] at 9:20 AM on June 28, 2006


For some reason the graphs of 400,000-year-old data remind me of the story of the museum guide who told his tour group that a particular bone on display was 2,000,008 years old. When asked how he knew so precisely, he replied, "It was two million years old when I started working here eight years ago."
posted by davcoo at 11:51 AM on June 28, 2006


More on the lag between temperature and CO2 spikes in the 400,000-year data, from RealClimate:
At least three careful ice core studies have shown that CO2 starts to rise about 800 years (600-1000 years) after Antarctic temperature during glacial terminations. ...

Does this prove that CO2 doesn't cause global warming? The answer is no.

The reason has to do with the fact that the warmings take about 5000 years to be complete. The lag is only 800 years. All that the lag shows is that CO2 did not cause the first 800 years of warming, out of the 5000 year trend. The other 4200 years of warming could in fact have been caused by CO2, as far as we can tell from this ice core data.

The 4200 years of warming make up about 5/6 of the total warming. ...

It comes as no surprise that other factors besides CO2 affect climate. Changes in the amount of summer sunshine, due to changes in the Earth's orbit around the sun that happen every 21,000 years, have long been known to affect the comings and goings of ice ages. Atlantic ocean circulation slowdowns are thought to warm Antarctica, also.

From studying all the available data (not just ice cores), the probable sequence of events at a termination goes something like this. Some (currently unknown) process causes Antarctica and the surrounding ocean to warm. This process also causes CO2 to start rising, about 800 years later. Then CO2 further warms the whole planet, because of its heat-trapping properties. This leads to even further CO2 release. So CO2 during ice ages should be thought of as a "feedback", much like the feedback that results from putting a microphone too near to a loudspeaker.

In other words, CO2 does not initiate the warmings, but acts as an amplifier once they are underway.
There's a further parenthetical comment:
The 800-year lag is about the amount of time required to flush out the deep ocean through natural ocean currents. So CO2 might be stored in the deep ocean during ice ages, and then get released when the climate warms.
posted by russilwvong at 1:13 PM on June 28, 2006


Thanks for that website, Russil. It rocks! It's great to actually see what the evidence is in comprehensive, well-written detail as well as the state-of-scientific-thinking. (Without all the partisan stuff and emotion).
posted by storybored at 7:08 PM on June 28, 2006


First they said there is no Global warming. Then there might be global warming, and if there is, its all part of the natural cycle. Now they say there is global warming, but humans aren't the cause so there is nothing we can do.
posted by maxpower at 7:10 PM on June 28, 2006


...or that humans are the cause and there *still* is nothing we can do.

Just being realistic for a moment, what's the likelihood there's going to be any action on greenhouse gases in India and China?

This is shaping up exactly like the Atlantic fishery collapse, international handwringing couldn't stop the tragedy of the commons scenario.
posted by storybored at 7:19 PM on June 28, 2006


Yeah, the Spencer Weart site is great. Pretty fascinating story, too.

Just being realistic for a moment, what's the likelihood there's going to be any action on greenhouse gases in India and China?

According to James Hansen, this kind of problem has occurred and been handled before, with the Montreal Protocol to reduce CFCs. The Kyoto Protocol includes a similar mechanism.
If the US had accepted the Kyoto Protocol, it would have been possible to reduce the growing emissions of China and India through the Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism, by which the developed countries could offset their own continuing emissions by investing in projects to reduce emissions in the developing countries. This would have eased the way to later full participation by China and India, as occurred with the Montreal Protocol.
From Hansen's article, it sounds like there's still enough of a difference between the business-as-usual scenario and the alternative (Kyoto) scenario that it's worth doing.
The business-as-usual scenario, with five degrees Fahrenheit global warming and ten degrees Fahrenheit at the ice sheets, certainly would cause the disintegration of ice sheets. The only question is when the collapse of these sheets would begin. The business-as-usual scenario, which could lead to an eventual sea level rise of eighty feet, with twenty feet or more per century, could produce global chaos, leaving fewer resources with which to mitigate the change in climate. The alternative scenario, with global warming under two degrees Fahrenheit, still produces a significant rise in the sea level, but its slower rate, probably less than a few feet per century, would allow time to develop strategies that would adapt to, and mitigate, the rise in the sea level.
posted by russilwvong at 10:44 PM on June 28, 2006


Thanks!
posted by Smedleyman at 1:52 AM on June 29, 2006


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