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the truth about denial: just a dry river bed
August 12, 2007 9:36 AM   Subscribe

The "Great Climate Change Debate" finally on the cover of Newsweek - what's new, you ask? This is the story of the denial that global warming exists and how exactly the science behind the undeniable facts of increasing hurricanes, tsunamis, droughts, heatwaves and monsoons was muddied for profit. Bonus links from the same issue: Timeline of global warming and its denial and a slideshow of images from around the world on the effects but its one of those fancy interactive thingamajigs that doesn't allow it to be linked by an URL so be sure to take a look at it. Extra bonus! Quiz your knowledge on global warming
posted by infini (125 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
I predict that there might be, oh, two or three posts before this thread desolves into a flame war.

Before that happens, thanks for the links infini, they're interesting.
posted by sotonohito at 10:00 AM on August 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


Recently
posted by public at 10:00 AM on August 12, 2007


I'm not a global warming denier, that link is just for educational purposes. Please don't burn me.
posted by public at 10:01 AM on August 12, 2007




I was starting to believe in global warming until I read Horner's book. It really changed my perspective on things. I knew something was up when the "Deniers" tactic started to occur. Clearly trying to associate skeptics with those who deny the Holocaust.
posted by Gnostic Novelist at 10:04 AM on August 12, 2007


Denier is a terribly emotive term. I am not a denier, but I am a sceptic and my reading is that there is reason to be sceptical of some of the predictions of the climate models which have gained such apparent credibility recently.
posted by A189Nut at 10:05 AM on August 12, 2007


Can we quit calling the global warming skeptics "deniers," whereby they are likened (if only rhetorically) to holocaust "deniers"?

It poisons the well.
posted by Kwantsar at 10:05 AM on August 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


Whoa.
posted by Kwantsar at 10:06 AM on August 12, 2007


The part in my mind that always bugged me about Global Warming debates is the same thing that bugged be about Evolution debates. How overwhelming does evidence need to be before the doubters will begin to question their beliefs? The scientific super-standard they use to judge these is so far off from the one they use for the rest of their day-to-day life that the term "double standard" can't even fit. More like "scientifically schizophrenic."
posted by mystyk at 10:07 AM on August 12, 2007 [6 favorites]


My vote is to keep the term "denier."
posted by sourwookie at 10:08 AM on August 12, 2007 [12 favorites]


also recently
posted by de at 10:10 AM on August 12, 2007


Everyone is a skeptic at some stage, it's an essential part of the science involved in coming up with any sort of conclusion. You are either undecided (skeptic), for (supported), or against (denier). In my opinion the term denier has no meaning except that you hold the opinion of global warming not being a theory that reflects the data.
posted by public at 10:11 AM on August 12, 2007


I'll turn the heat up in this thread by tossing in Freeman Dyson's globabl warming heresies, mainly because I'm not well-informed enough to evalutate his arguements on climate change myself, I thought you lot might like a go.
posted by MetaMonkey at 10:13 AM on August 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


Given the overwhelming evidence, being a skeptic is like being skeptical of gravity. The word "denier" is perfectly appropriate.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:14 AM on August 12, 2007 [4 favorites]


Gnostic, the tactics of the people trying to warn about global warming have no bearing on the fact that it is an observed and documented phenomenon. I'm sorry if their choice of words offends you but that doesn't change the fact that they are right.
posted by octothorpe at 10:14 AM on August 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


Denial is surely about something proven? First, can something projected be proven? I guess so, in the sense that if I step out of a 10th floor window I will fall, regardless of my faith otherwise. Second, my reading of proof in the global warming debate is that the standard of evidence (so far I would accept) could not be called definite. Even proponents justify their views by the preventative principle after all. Third, much of the debate isn't about whether warming is taking place, but how much and why. Technically, I'd prefer to be called a CO2 human caused global warming sceptic.
posted by A189Nut at 10:15 AM on August 12, 2007


Also, if you've got an objection or a counterargument, RealClimate has probably already debunked it.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:16 AM on August 12, 2007 [2 favorites]


Don't get me wrong, I defintely don't agree with the partisan politisation of the entire topic that has occured, mostly be people who have no technical understanding of climatology.

It's a barrier to free speech and open discussion of the facts.

posted by public at 10:17 AM on August 12, 2007


public: that link was indeed educational... in contrast from Jamais Cascio's blog,
Whether or not Katrina could be indisputably linked to global warming, it has become the iconic global warming event in the public mind -- a climate 9/11, if you will. When New Orleans is hit again (and it will be), the ineffective projects from FEMA, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the sundry contractors hired to rebuild hurricane defenses will be brushed aside, and the city will be hit all the harder. (Ironically, because the poor residents of New Orleans are still largely unable to rebuild their homes and communities, they may end up being spared this second hit if it comes in the next few years.) When that happens, or when we have a big hurricane hit on a city that isn't even as prepared as New Orleans (such as, say, Washington D.C.), this emerging recognition that the carbon industries have been working to prevent us from acting against global warming -- in effect, working to harm us in the name of maximizing profits -- is likely to take on even greater vigor.
posted by infini at 10:19 AM on August 12, 2007


It's not "projected", A189Nut. This is a thing that is happening and has been happening. We can already see the impact of it. We released a ball from the top of the building and it is already rapidly approaching the ground. Denying global warming is like suggesting that it will not strike the ground if unimpeded.

Even proponents justify their views by the preventative principle after all.

No, no they don't.

Third, much of the debate isn't about whether warming is taking place, but how much and why.

Actually, until very recently, it was about whether climate change is taking place. The deniers have operated much like the tobacco industry, going from "It's not true!" to "It's not our fault!"
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:19 AM on August 12, 2007


public: Everyone is a skeptic at some stage, it's an essential part of the science involved in coming up with any sort of conclusion. You are either undecided (skeptic), for (supported), or against (denier). In my opinion the term denier has no meaning except that you hold the opinion of global warming not being a theory that reflects the data.
This is a technically accurate definition, but it ignores the emotional charge that "deniers" place on their wording in order to get a backing in public support (a last-ditch and extremely successful method of avoiding losing the fight).

I think the term I used above may be more representative of what's going on. "Scientifically schizophrenic" describes the mindset of the deniers, rather than the mere technicality that they do, indeed, deny. Holocaust deniers could likewise be called "historically schizophrenic."

The more I use those terms, the more they seem fitting. I think I'm going to declare a copyright on them here and now (under GPL, of course).
posted by mystyk at 10:21 AM on August 12, 2007


Given the overwhelming evidence, being a skeptic is like being skeptical of gravity. The word "denier" is perfectly appropriate.

Gravity is a theory and the models we use to simulate it are not entirely accurate.

Also, using worlds like overwhleming to describe data and statistics is rather poor form and is an example of the barriers to free speech I was reffering to above.
posted by public at 10:22 AM on August 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


Well, time will tell. I will be delighted to accept your apologies in 30 years time.
posted by A189Nut at 10:22 AM on August 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


I was starting to believe in global warming until I read Horner's book. It really changed my perspective on things.

Says the guy who believes in segregation. I.e. a troll.

I knew something was up when the "Deniers" tactic started to occur. Clearly trying to associate skeptics with those who deny the Holocaust.

Or deny evolution, or deny all sorts of things for political motivation.
posted by delmoi at 10:24 AM on August 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


This is a technically accurate definition, but it ignores the emotional charge that "deniers" place on their wording in order to get a backing in public support (a last-ditch and extremely successful method of avoiding losing the fight).

I don't have any problems using technically accurate definitions when discussing an issue where accuracy and technicality is so important.

Not using accurate definitions is an example of how Global Warming (note the capitals) has become a PR and poltical issue as much as a scientific one.
posted by public at 10:24 AM on August 12, 2007


I was starting to believe in global warming until I read Horner's book. It really changed my perspective on things.

From the book description: "National sovereignty? Democracy? Forget it: global warming has now brought the Left closer to global government, statism, and the eradication of individual rights than it has ever been before..."

My goodness, that does appear to be a scientifically sound explanation of why global warming isn't happening, and not a crass attempt to play on the paranoias of people who believe the UN will come and take their guns away once a Democrat ends up back in the White House. I'll go read it once I'm done listening to Ann Coulter tell me about how Arab men are all camel fuckers, I'm sure it'll be enlightening.
posted by cmonkey at 10:27 AM on August 12, 2007 [13 favorites]


This is a technically accurate definition, but it ignores the emotional charge that "deniers" place on their wording in order to get a backing in public support (a last-ditch and extremely successful method of avoiding losing the fight).

To clarify, all sides in a debate (not just deniers) have a tendency to do this. It's just more common among deniers as the amount of evidence against rises. Think: "It's just a theory..."
posted by mystyk at 10:27 AM on August 12, 2007


Well, time will tell. I will be delighted to accept your apologies in 30 years time.

Well we only have one planet. If opponents to anthropogenic climate change succeed in stopping global warming, and I think they will, then deniers will just go around saying "See! Nothing happened!"

I remember reading this article back in the Wired of yore. About a guy who went around saying that pollution was going down on it's own, thanks to the free market. He had all these graphs showing pollution indicators going down in the past decades. Well duh that's when the environmental movement started. All he was proving was that environmentalists were winning.
posted by delmoi at 10:28 AM on August 12, 2007 [2 favorites]


If opponents to anthropogenic climate change succeed in stopping global warming, and I think they will, then deniers will just go around saying "See! Nothing happened!"

Which is exactly what's being done with the ozone layer and CFC's.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:32 AM on August 12, 2007


Which is exactly what's being done with the ozone layer and CFC's.

And when have MeFites ever had an issue with feeling smugly self satisifed?
posted by public at 10:36 AM on August 12, 2007




public: "Not using accurate definitions is an example of how Global Warming (note the capitals) has become a PR and poltical issue as much as a scientific one."
I agree. However, these are people who resort to dirty tactics*. The more you say "well, here's how I definie it..." the more they will ignore you and continue to use a charged variation that loses technical accuracy. It has to be pressed continuously that there is only one definition, and theirs doesn't come close.

* For a population segment that also happens to claim moral supremacy by virtue of faith alone and the principle that every means is an end in itself, you'll never see a more Utilitarian mindset acted out in the things they actually do.
posted by mystyk at 10:38 AM on August 12, 2007


It takes a lot of faith to believe in Global Warming. It's the new religion.
posted by rockhopper at 10:38 AM on August 12, 2007


It's a dangerous game. Take biofuel -- a future of sterile countrysides, the extinction of indigenous wildlife -- the masses are willing to swap their oil for this?
posted by popcassady at 10:39 AM on August 12, 2007


While the emotion behind "deniers" is real, I wouldn't say "skeptic" and "denier" are precisely the same. I can be skeptical about some claims about global warming without challenging the whole idea.
posted by etaoin at 10:39 AM on August 12, 2007


It takes a lot of faith to believe in Global Warming. It's the new religion.

We need a "drive-by" troll tag.

...I'm not sure we'd see anything rockhopper posts, though.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:40 AM on August 12, 2007


Er, that should be ""drive-by troll" tag"
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:41 AM on August 12, 2007


Gravity is a theory and the models we use to simulate it are not entirely accurate.

Gravity is an observed event, a scientific fact. There are models that try to simulate it, and those models have issues. But the fact that objects attract each other is not disputed.

What's interesting is that I'm defending the factuality of gravity to a global warming "skeptic."
posted by delmoi at 10:42 AM on August 12, 2007


Comment on the FPP, not me.
posted by rockhopper at 10:42 AM on August 12, 2007


While the emotion behind "deniers" is real, I wouldn't say "skeptic" and "denier" are precisely the same. I can be skeptical about some claims about global warming without challenging the whole idea.

In my view the difference between a "skeptic" and a "denier" is that denier make deliberately misleading statements, and have a clear political agenda.
posted by delmoi at 10:45 AM on August 12, 2007


Gravity is an observed event, a scientific fact. There are models that try to simulate it, and those models have issues. But the fact that objects attract each other is not disputed.

The means by which they attract each other are not well understood, however I agree, I was a bit sloppy (which is to say, wrong) there.

What's interesting is that I'm defending the factuality of gravity to a global warming "skeptic."

I'm a skeptic in so far as I am undecided as to whether the evidence truly supports global warming or not yet. However I am pro-action to combat it should it turn out to be true since we only get 1 chance at this.
posted by public at 10:47 AM on August 12, 2007


...denier make deliberately misleading statements, and have a clear political agenda.
posted by delmoi at 12:45 PM on August 12 [+] [!]


Oddly enough, the exact same thing can be said of global warming believers.
posted by rockhopper at 10:47 AM on August 12, 2007 [2 favorites]


Oddly enough, the exact same thing can be said of global warming believers.

Are you saying that there are in fact no fish in quonsars pants?
posted by public at 10:49 AM on August 12, 2007


While I'm inventing words today:

Every politician that has campaigned on the issue of "family values" (about 90% Republican) and has subsequently been caught in a scandal that goes against that very stance (about 99% Republican) should henceforth be described as "Morally Schizophrenic." I believe in immediate and permanent removal from all positions of so-called public service for such people, and mandatory psychiatric treatment (with the bill going to the HQ for the party under whose banner they campaigned).

</sidebar>
posted by mystyk at 10:50 AM on August 12, 2007


See also from a recent AskMe: Do reasonable global warming arguments exist?
posted by MetaMonkey at 10:50 AM on August 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


Are you saying that there are in fact no fish in quonsars pants?
posted by public at 12:49 PM on August 12 [+] [!]


Um, I don't know what you're saying, but that's what's going on, yeah.
posted by rockhopper at 10:51 AM on August 12, 2007


quality of life equals available resources divided by the number of people competing for them. there are too many people in the world, and anything that will reduce their numbers is a good thing. i'll take global warming with a side of bird flu, please.
posted by bruce at 10:51 AM on August 12, 2007


I will be delighted to accept your apologies in 30 years time.

Since this is good old blue, let me put this plate of beans on the table for us to overthink;-

Put aside the "will she or won't she?" on global warming and climate change for a second. It is only one aspect of the environmental degradation occurring all over the planet - including the Bay Area water being polluted by painkillers and antidepressants [I hate to speculate ;p]

Lets look the concept of conserving the environment in cold hard business terms - non renewable natural resources such as metals, fossil fuels, sand! etc are finite in quantity. If you use all the aluminium in the world to make cans that end up in the dump, one day you will run out and will have to go dig them up from that dump.

Do you deny this natural fact of life if consumption of these resources continues unchecked?

Similarly, energy is consumed in order to extract, process and refine, adn then manufacture goods and products which will go on in some cases to consume energy during their use phase.

Do you deny this fact of the global industrial ecosystem?

All of these activities have consequences - yes, one can't "see" them, for the most part, you can't "see" the real life breathing cow that supplies the white stuff in a plastic bottle in the nearest supermarket but somehow, somewhere you know they are connected right? An example of consequences is the current effect of rising milk prices in Germany because the Chinese government is encouraging their citizens to drink more milk. This is the cause and effect of today's closely internetworked global supply chain and economy.

Continue to be skeptical about the changes in weather patterns - monsoon floods in south asia, tsunamis in Japan, droughts in australia - its all very far away and nothing to do with you driving down to the nearest Walmart in your SUV.

In thirty years, there won't be anyone left to apologize to you.
posted by infini at 10:52 AM on August 12, 2007 [3 favorites]


It takes a lot of maturity to admit when time after time the evidence goes contrary to one's pre-conceived notions. Global Warming is an issue where the deniers can accurately be described as not having gotten to that maturity point.
posted by mystyk at 10:53 AM on August 12, 2007


one of those fancy interactive thingamajigs that doesn't allow it to be linked by an URL
posted by signal at 10:36 AM on August 12


I've linked to that in the timeline... its the images slideshow of the effects of global warming that doesn't have an URL, thanks btw.
posted by infini at 10:56 AM on August 12, 2007


the deniers can accurately be described as not having gotten to that maturity point.

Ad hominem.
posted by public at 10:57 AM on August 12, 2007


Ad hominem.

But true.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:06 AM on August 12, 2007


Are you saying that there are in fact no fish in quonsars pants?

That riverbed has now dried up due to the quansar's putting out more energy this week. Local warming had nothing to do with it.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:09 AM on August 12, 2007


If you don't believe in global warming, behave as if you did anyway, because it makes all kinds of economic and geopolitical sense. Job creation, technological advancement, domestic industry, floodgates of venture capital opening for R&D, reduction of our reliance on explosively unstable regions of the world for our energy security, and a lot more besides. The fact that the reciprocating internal combustion piston engine is an unbelievably piss-poor way to power a vehicle ought to be reason enough, and coal mining destroys mountains, habitat, watersheds and lives. We've spent half a trillion on one war in a place we wouldn't give a rat's ass about if we didn't need the oil so bad. You don't need to believe that the seas are going to rise and changing weather patterns will starvation and conflicts to get behind a green energy movement. You just have to believe that this shit is stupid and expensive and the easy sources are gone, and nobody is in a position to deny any of that.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:09 AM on August 12, 2007 [14 favorites]


Btw, The Economist says the overall population growth has slowed down and we're heading towards negative growth now and a plateau on total population figures. So that arguments out as well, re: sharing finite sources by infinite humans.

Some regard this as a cause for celebration, on the ground that there are obviously too many people on the planet. But too many for what? There doesn't seem to be much danger of a Malthusian catastrophe. Mankind appropriates about a quarter of what is known as the net primary production of the Earth (this is the plant tissue created by photosynthesis)—a lot, but hardly near the point of exhaustion. The price of raw materials reflects their scarcity and, despite recent rises, commodity prices have fallen sharply in real terms during the past century. By that measure, raw materials have become more abundant, not scarcer. Certainly, the impact that people have on the climate is a problem; but the solution lies in consuming less fossil fuel, not in manipulating population levels.
posted by infini at 11:11 AM on August 12, 2007


mystyk. Schizophrenia isn't about that kind of 'split personality' thing (disassociative identity disorder) or being mentally split in any way, more about hearing scary voices and hallucinating. Having contradictory beliefs is another kettle of fish, and shouldn't really be lumped in with schizophrenia - those folks have enough to deal with.
posted by Sparx at 11:14 AM on August 12, 2007


I predict that there might be, oh, two or three posts before this thread desolves into a flame war.

Yup.
posted by Ndwright at 11:14 AM on August 12, 2007


Lets look the concept of conserving the environment in cold hard business terms - non renewable natural resources such as metals, fossil fuels, sand! etc are finite in quantity. If you use all the aluminium in the world to make cans that end up in the dump, one day you will run out and will have to go dig them up from that dump.

Aluminum comprises about 8.2% of the earth's crust. If you made soda cans out of it, that would, like, be a lot of soda cans.
posted by delmoi at 11:23 AM on August 12, 2007


The only proof I need for anthropogenic global warming is that all of the think tanks and research to discredit it is funded by oil companies.

Does that not seem odd to the so-called skeptics?
posted by shakespeherian at 11:25 AM on August 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


public, your post over on metatalk might seem to suggest that you're pimping for that lot over at spiked-online. Now, I don't have any dog in this particular race one way or the other, but just for information, I thought it might be worth a link to a couple of articles on the ex-trots who run the place.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:28 AM on August 12, 2007 [4 favorites]


I predict that there might be, oh, two or three posts before this thread desolves into a flame war.

And I predict your mama!
posted by papakwanz at 11:29 AM on August 12, 2007 [2 favorites]


When I was working as a humble Associate Scientist at the National Center For Atmospheric Research back in the mid-eighties, all the evidence, and over lunch, Walter Orr Roberts himself told me "of course it's happening". Now this is merely an appeal to authority. To be absolutely certain, feel free to get a PhD in Physics, read the entire body of papers on the subject, and while your at it, conduct remote sensing experiments with satellites of your own design.

You can start with this history of the Discovery of Global Warming. Sorry for being peevish, but I some people will never be convinced.
posted by AppleSeed at 11:30 AM on August 12, 2007 [5 favorites]


If you use all the aluminium in the world to make cans that end up in the dump, one day you will run out and will have to go dig them up from that dump.

Do you deny this natural fact of life if consumption of these resources continues unchecked?

Your premises are weird. We will never "run out" of aluminum. It will eventually get more expensive to remove from the Earth, of course, and we will need to begin to process lower grades of bauxite, which today are uneconomical to refine. At sufficiently high prices, demand will be destroyed. People will use other materials. And yes, maybe someday we will scavenge dumps to recover aluminum. But we won't "run out," in any meaningful sense, even though the resource is finite.


An example of consequences is the current effect of rising milk prices in Germany because the Chinese government is encouraging their citizens to drink more milk. This is the cause and effect of today's closely internetworked global supply chain and economy.


Sure. It's Chinese government encouragement that is making milk so expensive. Maybe this is true in a roundabout sense, but the feedback loop around higher agricultural prices has fuck all to do with Chinese encouragement of milk consumption. Rather, it's US ethanol policy and the rise of a middle class in the developing world that are demanding ever-higher yields from the land from which soft commodities are harvested (evidence here). Corn is more expensive because the demand for meat is greater, and less and less of the corn crop (proportionately) is making its way to cows and chickens, feeding instead the US's ridiculous ethanol policy. It pains me to agree (more or less) with your conclusions, when I see how cluelessly you have arrived at them.


If you don't believe in global warming, behave as if you did anyway, because it makes all kinds of economic and geopolitical sense. Job creation, technological advancement, domestic industry, floodgates of venture capital opening for R&D, reduction of our reliance on explosively unstable regions of the world for our energy security, and a lot more besides.


I think US Energy policy is completely and utterly fucked-up, but the benefits you claim are not unalloyed goods, occurring in a vacuum.
posted by Kwantsar at 11:34 AM on August 12, 2007


To be absolutely certain, feel free to get a PhD in Physics, read the entire body of papers on the subject, and while your at it, conduct remote sensing experiments with satellites of your own design.


No different than the old Catholic Church argument that a Priest was needed to be an intermediary. There is such a huge snobbish, elitist streak in the absolutist global warming movement, as per usual.

It takes a lot of maturity to admit when time after time the evidence goes contrary to one's pre-conceived notions. Global Warming is an issue where the deniers can accurately be described as not having gotten to that maturity point.

What preconceived notions? It doesn't change the world just because believes in global warming or not. I don't know of many people who are pro-"leaving a disgusting, ailing world for my children to breathe in." It isn't as if it, global warming, is a settled issue such as the fact that God exists and Jesus Christ is the savior.
posted by Gnostic Novelist at 11:35 AM on August 12, 2007


kwantsar: you're assuming I was referring to rising agricultural prices... I was just rambling on cause and effect and consequences of action or non action which seems to be an understanding missing from many decisions taken these days.

take banning illegal immigrant labor for example. assume it works, who is going to mow the lawns and clean the houses and pick the lettuce then?
posted by infini at 11:41 AM on August 12, 2007


No different than the old Catholic Church argument that a Priest was needed to be an intermediary. There is such a huge snobbish, elitist streak in the absolutist global warming movement, as per usual. -- Gnostic Novelist

It's entirely possible that, if there was a god, it would be helpful to have a priest as an intermediary. It's certainly not the kind of thing you can prove, and there are still billions of Catholics.

And anyway, no one is saying you need to have a 'priest', what people are saying is that you actually have to know what you're talking about. The idea that the average person would be competent to critique these computer models is preposterous.

The fact that it comes from the guy who claims to support segregation in the south only reinforces that pre-posterity.
posted by delmoi at 11:49 AM on August 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


Gnostic Novelist: "What preconceived notions? It doesn't change the world just because believes in global warming or not. I don't know of many people who are pro-"leaving a disgusting, ailing world for my children to breathe in." It isn't as if it, global warming, is a settled issue such as the fact that God exists and Jesus Christ is the savior."
It changes the world when one's belief or disbelief is centered in enough influential people that it alters the actions of mankind. I also can't think of a single doubter of Global Warming that would ever describe their views as pro-"leaving a disgusting, ailing world for my children to breathe in." The last comment is pure troll, and will be summarily dismissed from consideration and ignored.
posted by mystyk at 11:51 AM on August 12, 2007


Mankind appropriates about a quarter of what is known as the net primary production of the Earth (this is the plant tissue created by photosynthesis)—a lot, but hardly near the point of exhaustion.

Ah, the Economist. As intellectually honest as ever. That figure doesn't include fossil fuel consumption. We also use around 400 years of fossiliized productivity and as that becomes harder to get, we're going to switch to current production, i.e. displacing food crops for energy crops. This has already begun.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:52 AM on August 12, 2007


Aluminum comprises about 8.2% of the earth's crust. If you made soda cans out of it, that would, like, be a lot of soda cans.
posted by delmoi at 11:23 AM on August 12


The Container Recycling Institute (CRI), a non-profit research group, released a new report today titled "Trashed Cans: The Global Environmental Impacts of Aluminum Can Wasting in America." The report details the global environmental impacts of replacing 50 billion wasted cans each year with new cans made from virgin materials.

"This can wasting represents a tremendous lost opportunity to save energy and resources," said the report's author, Jenny Gitlitz. "The energy required to replace the 50 billion cans trashed last year was equivalent to 16 million barrels of crude oil--enough to meet the electricity needs of all the homes in Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Seattle and San Francisco."


Old press release

and I'm curious, all 8.2% of the aluminium in the earth crust is not in one country nor is it just for this generation to consume, so the fact that it exists isn't valid enough to continue the rate of consumption.
posted by infini at 12:00 PM on August 12, 2007


PeterMcDermot: public, your post over on metatalk might seem to suggest that you're pimping for that lot over at spiked-online. Now, I don't have any dog in this particular race one way or the other, but just for information, I thought it might be worth a link to a couple of articles on the ex-trots who run the place.

Heh, I am pimping for them as much as I am pimping for MeFi by posting about it here :)

I have no direct affialtion with them and generally get into arguments with the few members of them I meet regarding their ideology and occasional cultism. Interesting articles, but also somewhat in places distorted from what I know personally of people such as Furedi.
posted by public at 12:05 PM on August 12, 2007


Gnostic Novelist wrote "There is such a huge snobbish, elitist streak in the absolutist global warming movement, as per usual."

Yeah! How dare all those snobbish elitists chose to accept the consensous of well over 90% of the people who know what they're talking about on the subject! It makes ever so much more sense to just ask some random guy on the street, or even better a Fox News pundit, than it does to ask experts who actually understand the subject. Fuckin' elitists.

And next time you feel sick, call a plumber to diagnose the problem, after all you wouldn't want to be an elitist and insist on one of those snobs with a degree in medicine or anything.
posted by sotonohito at 12:07 PM on August 12, 2007 [3 favorites]


fact that it exists isn't valid enough to continue the rate of consumption.

Says you. I feel the same way about oxygen, and I demand reduced consumption!

It's true that we ought to recycle aluminum more than we do. The good news is that as Al and energy get more expensive, more recycling will take place.
posted by Kwantsar at 12:08 PM on August 12, 2007


fact that it exists isn't valid enough to continue the rate of consumption.

Says you. I feel the same way about oxygen, and I demand reduced consumption!

posted by Kwantsar at 12:08 PM on August 12 [+] [!]


aah it all belongs to you guys... what about the rest of us around the world, eh? don't we get a share, then?
posted by infini at 12:15 PM on August 12, 2007


There are numerous documentaries online telling "the other (non-Al-Gore) side" of the debate. I find it interesting that most of them are produced by UK or Canadian channels, and don't air here in the US.
posted by The Deej at 12:21 PM on August 12, 2007


quality of life equals available resources divided by the number of people competing for them. there are too many people in the world, and anything that will reduce their numbers is a good thing. i'll take global warming with a side of bird flu, please.

Hey bruce, you first, mmmkay?
posted by jokeefe at 12:21 PM on August 12, 2007 [3 favorites]


also recently (HERETICAL THOUGHTS ABOUT SCIENCE AND SOCIETY [8.8.07] By Freeman Dyson)
posted by de at 10:10 AM on August 12 [+] [!]


A very good article, and worth reading, at least to break up the stale back-and-forth bickering present in this thread. Dyson presents some good arguments both for and against "global" warming, but definitely doesn't dispute its main points... rather he just points out areas of significant uncertainty. As an example, he points out that our CO2 emissions could easily be contained by sequestering them in topsoil via intelligent land management - but simultaneously points out that irresponsible logging of the rainforest, etc is in fact decreasing global topsoil and compounding the problem.

Ultimately, I'm sure Dyson would agree with individuals such as George_Spigott: whether or not you are reasonably confident in global warming, we should proceed cautiously and with knowledge of the effects of our influence on the Earth. We could certainly modify planetary ecology for the better, as well as for the worse - but to do so we'd have to take intelligent rather than ignorant action.
posted by mek at 12:32 PM on August 12, 2007 [2 favorites]


Yeah! How dare all those snobbish elitists chose to accept the consensous of well over 90% of the people who know what they're talking about on the subject!

I loves me some scientific consensus!

Science by consensus is not science.
posted by rockhopper at 12:36 PM on August 12, 2007


yes, and i don't believe dyson's wrong:

If biotechnology takes over the planet in the next fifty years, as computer technology has taken it over in the last fifty years, the rules of the climate game will be radically changed.

can anyone really imagine for one minute that biotechnology is not about to have its day? like it or lump it... there's no going back.
posted by de at 12:39 PM on August 12, 2007


1. The climate is changing. Almost certainly true.
2. The climate is changing for the worse. Judgment call. It depends on who you are and where you live. Grape yields in France and England are improving, for example.
3. Something should be done to reverse the climate change. Another judgment call. This is Big Science and I am suspicious that it gives governments Big Taxes to go along with it.
4. A crash program to reduce CO2 levels in the atmosphere is justified at the expense of, for example, increasing people's access to clean water. No, certainly not.
5. Global warming is the most pressing problem in the world today. Certainly not, again. War, disease and cynical, corrupt governments are a much bigger problem.
posted by jet_silver at 12:48 PM on August 12, 2007


I believe that global warming is occurring, and that it is primarily, if not entirely, caused by human activity.

But I don't believe that this is necessarily a bad thing, I don't believe it's significant in the long term, and I don't believe that we should throw away our hard-won standard of living, or risk demolishing our economy, to prevent it - particularly since our efforts are very unlikely to be successful anyway.

What do you think? Am I a "denier" because I don't agree with the politics and faux-morality that has been bundled in with the science of climate change?

Here's the litmus test. Let's say I invent a machine that can safely and successfully extract CO2 (and SO2, and particulates, and other pollutants) from the atmosphere on a large scale. If I switch it on, we can safely go on burning coal, driving SUVs and flying in jets, forever, with no impact on the climate.

Would you, on the whole, be happy with my new invention, or would you be angry at me?
posted by thparkth at 12:51 PM on August 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


Science by consensus is not science.

Yeah, because scientists just get together and go "Hey, this sounds good, let's go with this. All agreed?"

I mean, scientific consensus doesn't come from thousands of scientists all doing research and coming to the same conclusions or anything. It's just people blathering on and deciding on what sounds good.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:53 PM on August 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


Here's the litmus test. Let's say I invent a machine that can safely and successfully extract CO2 (and SO2, and particulates, and other pollutants) from the atmosphere on a large scale. If I switch it on, we can safely go on burning coal, driving SUVs and flying in jets, forever, with no impact on the climate.

Would you, on the whole, be happy with my new invention, or would you be angry at me?


...except that we don't have infinite supplies of coal and petroleum.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:54 PM on August 12, 2007


2. The climate is changing for the worse. Judgment call. It depends on who you are and where you live. Grape yields in France and England are improving, for example.

Right now, population, production and transportation distributions are based on where the productive areas are. Climate change, even if zero-sum (a very very big stretch to presume), is a at best disruption of these established patterns and will lead to loss of livelihoods and major border conflicts, if not very much worse. Yes, some presently productive areas may improve somewhat. Small comfort for all the other wrecked lives and economies. Shall we send the refugees 'round to your place?
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:02 PM on August 12, 2007


We all know that humans are going to be extinct and we'll likely take down whole swathes of species with us. We're simply debating when that will happen, and how deep our involvment in our own demise is going to be.

But msnbc doesn't really have much to contribute to this debate, now, do they?
posted by DenOfSizer at 1:05 PM on August 12, 2007


George_Spiggott, how do you know?
Production in at least one case I can name off the top of my head has next to nothing to do with climate and everything to do with politics: Zimbabwe. If you have a more over-arching argument it's certainly germane here.
posted by jet_silver at 1:06 PM on August 12, 2007


I just told you. Present climactic conditions are a major determinant of population distributions and how people are invested in their land. If crop yields fail in Africa, it does the African no good if they improve in Canada, because they ain't gonna be able to move there. Net result; border wars, water wars, starvation and refugees. Some people might get lucky. A lot won't.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:17 PM on August 12, 2007


Some people might get lucky. A lot won't.

Ah, but the French people who benefit from improved grape yields are white, whereas the Africans...
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:21 PM on August 12, 2007


The use of Hurricane Katrina and its effect on New Orleans (s opposed to, say, the Miss. Gulf Coast, where it actually hit) as a warning for global warming seems a bit misguided. It's just one case. It was a Category 3 or so when it hit the Gulf Coast, a 1 or a 2 at best when it passed to the east of New Orleans, near Slidell (after hitting Buras in the Miss. River Delta). The problem in New Orleans related more to storm surge, and Katrina's was severe (it had been a Category 5 for a while in open water, although it slowed considerably before coming ashore, unlike Camille in 1969), as well as faulty engineering, as admitted by the US Army Corps of Engineers in June 2006. Coastal erosion also didn't help matters at all, of course, since wetlands slow surge. But although that's an environmental issue, and largely the fault of humankind and the dredging of canals across the river Delta, it's not a global warming issue per se.

In any case, I've read repeatedly that it's foolish to attribute one weather event to global warming. That teaches you the wrong lessons--as in, "It's all about those crazy people down there who live below sea level." (The latter is only partially true anyway--most of the city sits above sea level, and some areas above sea level, such as Holy Cross in the Lower Ninth Ward, flooded as badly or worse than those sitting several feet below. Also, see again the article re the Corps blaming itself for engineering failures.)
posted by raysmj at 1:23 PM on August 12, 2007


Evilmotherfuckerfilter.
posted by localroger at 1:37 PM on August 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


raysmj, Katrina was 400 miles across and was cat 2 when it hit Meridian, MS almost 200 miles inland. Speaking as someone who has lived in NOLA my entire life and seen plenty of hurricanes, I can personally attest that anyone who says otherwise is full of shit.

Katrina "hit" the entire area from about Houma, LA to Biloxi, MS. To say it hit Mississippi "instead" of NOLA is like saying the K-T extinction took out T. Rex "instead" of the pterosaurs. Same about saying which happened first.

Oh, and you might want to look up another hurricane named Rita that hit three weeks later, while you're at it.
posted by localroger at 1:44 PM on August 12, 2007


In my mind, the argument for global warming can be boiled down to three indisputable facts:

1) CO2 traps heat in the earth's atmosphere
2) We are converting fossil fuels that were previously underground, into CO2 gas in the atmosphere
3) Global CO2 concentrations have not breached 300ppm for the past 400,000+ years. Over the past 100 years, we've seen that number jump to 383ppm... that's about a 25% increase

If you have any respect for science itself, you must come to the conclusion that our fossil fuel use has caused a dramatic increase in atmospheric CO2 concenterations, and must lead to dramatic warming of the atmosphere.

Now, you want to argue whether or not this is a bad thing? Can you imagine if anything else on earth so basic changed by 25%? If we were 25% closer to the sun? If we had 25% less water? If we had 25% less oxygen? It would not be a world we recognize as our own.

When faced with these facts, I can only come to the conclusion that global warming is not something we should mess around with. And I'm sorry, but if you disagree, you're a denier.
posted by gueneverey at 2:01 PM on August 12, 2007 [2 favorites]


localroger: Its effect on the Mississippi Gulf Coast was considerably more direct, as you can tell by looking at photos of the shore (you can find them in a zillion different places, including here) vs. photos taken from the east and west sides of the 17th Street Canal at the border between New Orleans and Metairie. A year later, one side looked fine and essentially untouched (Metairie's), the other looked vaguely Hiroshima-like (Orleans Parish's). And there's low-lying ground on both sides. I don't get the hostility. Rita, again, affected the areas where there had been engineering failures, and they were especially vulnerable the second time around. The effect on New Orleans would not have been remotely significant enough to make national news otherwise.
posted by raysmj at 2:09 PM on August 12, 2007


I don't have an SUV or a Wal Mart to drive to. Unlike a lot of Americans. Still, if I'd believed the Club of Rome, neither of those would exist either.
posted by A189Nut at 2:18 PM on August 12, 2007


If you don't believe in global warming, behave as if you did anyway, because it makes all kinds of economic and geopolitical sense.

Hear hear! I can't quite understand why the auto industry once again got Congress to dump mileage requirements (that are still far below those of other countries). Can't they understand that's why nobody wants to buy their stupid, gas-guzzling cars? Don't they see that's why their business is in the crapper?
posted by fungible at 2:34 PM on August 12, 2007


And Rita affected mostly the Lower Ninth Ward--again due to engineering failures (a barge broke through the wall there too). There was a 150-foot hole in the flood walls at the Industrial Canal there. And the Lower Nine were as affected, or more affected, by surge funneling into the Industrial Canal via MRGO and the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway. And the creation of such canals has worsened the effect of hurricanes for a number of reasons, including furthering the destruction of wetlands.

In any case, even some of the staunchest scientists who've warned about global warming have cautioned against attributing the cause of one event to it. Saying this does not make me an evil motherfucker, for heaven's sake. And the Corps, as noted, admitted blame (although it has denied that MRGO contributed to any flooding). It wasn't as if it's best was put up against Katrina, and that's a big issue down here. It should be.

But please continue bashing the anti-any word of global warming crowd. Please help restore marshlands while you're at it.
posted by raysmj at 2:41 PM on August 12, 2007


Regarding http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/dysonf07/dysonf07_index.html">Dyson's "heresies":

When I read Dyson's cringe-inducing Our Biotech Future I couldn't imagine who would be writing an article that was so off and get it published. So I looked him up. Of course, a physicist. Biologists need to remember that when a physicist deigns to come down from his lofty position atop the science hierarchy and give the poor bumbling biologists a few helpful pointers, that it's best to just nod, ignore their misconceptions and errors, pretend that the advice is insightful, and send them on their way.

And then I read that Edge article. Dyson should not be given any more weight than the average schmoe when he's speaking outside his field. This is the man who had the arrogance to tell Francis Collins not to get into biology. Then, rather than taking the obvious lesson that he should be more careful with his proclamations, he publishes about the need to more widely disperse his odd views. Where most scientists are careful to hedge their statements when they have little to go on, Dyson speculates freely with airs of authority.
posted by Llama-Lime at 2:45 PM on August 12, 2007 [3 favorites]


Er, Francis Crick, not Francis Collins. And sorry for the bad markup. I guess this is a sign that the above rant is more emotion induced and not so balanced. Dyson does that to me :)
posted by Llama-Lime at 2:49 PM on August 12, 2007


Sweet treehuggin' Jeebus on a hybrid pogostick, but The Stupid runs thick and cloying as spilled crude through this thread. In a way, it's like a kind of MeFi-cum-vaudeville allegorical version of the denial business laid bare in the linked article: two or three self-proclaimed "skeptics" trot out the same old herd of tired old nags and utterly ignore the voluminous medical reports pointing to the inescapable fact that all them horses are in fact dead, the whole thing turns into a mass exercise in pounding the stuffing out of the pile of corpses, and the air's so thick with dust and feathers by the end that you can't even see the paddock no more.

I mean, for chrissake, this is a thread linked to a lengthy article in which the very arguments upon which climate change "skepticism" has been predicated for the last 20 years are revealed as the totally invalid hack work of paid oil-industry shills - a revelation that's at least as old as Ross Gelbspan's 1997 book The Heat Is On, by the way - and still somehow the weightless words emanating from the ignorant chorus in the learned skeptic's masks carry the tune.

From what I've seen thus far, there are no "skeptics" in this thread - just another handful of know-nothing deniers striking learned skeptic's poses. Someone's already linked to Real Climate, but it never hurts to underscore it. The credentialed climate scientists who produce that site have thoroughly debunked every argument ever trotted out to defend inaction. Read through their "Start Here" page. If you still think there's some kind of serious blind spot in the literature that might prove, for example, the collective follly of every energy policy wonk in Europe, I'd love to hear it.
posted by gompa at 3:08 PM on August 12, 2007 [7 favorites]


public: Are you saying that there are in fact no fish in quonsars pants?

rockhopper: Um, I don't know what you're saying, but that's what's going on, yeah.

So, I guess rockhopper must have a pretty high number. The real remaining question is whether Q will think this Q-signal is worth responding to...
posted by lodurr at 3:24 PM on August 12, 2007


sparx: mystyk. Schizophrenia isn't about that kind of 'split personality' thing (disassociative identity disorder) or being mentally split in any way, more about hearing scary voices and hallucinating.

I think that pretty much works for what mystyk was saying. The fundamental characteristic of schizophrenia is a lack of relation to reality, and on a moral level, the money-players in the Republican establishment are pretty much right there on that bus. At least, as far as I can see.
posted by lodurr at 3:27 PM on August 12, 2007


Llama-Lime, it's a core part of Dyson's worldview that experts are fundamentally suspect. He actually believes he's more qualified to speak on a subject than are people who spend their careers studying it, because he has the perspective of a smart outsider. I think it boils down to him thinking he's just plain smarter than they are -- though I doubt you'd ever get him to admit that.

As far as I've ever been able to see, while he's clearly a very clever guy, he's mind-bogglingly over-rated as an intellectual. He'd have gotten a lot more done with all his great ideas if he had been willing to work with people who understood the areas he was theorizing in, instead of alienating them by accusing them of narrowmindedness.
posted by lodurr at 3:43 PM on August 12, 2007


You know, even though I'm as liberal-leftist-wingnut as they come, I sometimes find myself having really fucked-up selfish thoughts about how the next few decades might play out. When I think about dwindling oil production capacity, global warming, superviruses, cold war 2, and all that, I always picture myself as the one guy who gets to prance around in the ruins of what used to be modern civilization. Maybe I (and some others) need to realize that when somebody says something like "80% mortality rate", that will most definitely include YOU.
posted by tehloki at 4:02 PM on August 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


Re. Dyson and folks like him who like to play out of school in other people's yards....

Years ago, I was having a discussion with a very clever guy that I know. He was absolutely convinced of two things: That we should re-program our "junk DNA" to contain "useful" stuff like immunities to all diseases; and that we should eliminate insects to the betterment of human life on earth.

Now, that guy was no Freeman Dyson, of course. But it was the same basic idea at play: He couldn't think of any reason why "junk DNA" might be useful or that insects would be good for, so there wasn't a reason.

Dyson's doing something similar in the "biotech future" article that Llama-Lime links and the "heresies" article. He's making a lot of pronoucements about the viability of biotech solutions to large problems and about the validity of "the climate models" (which ones, and how recent his knowledge of them is, he never specifies), but his view is one that looks only at small key details without taking in the whole picture. Yes, I know his climate model critique talks about the messiness of the real world, but he's sufficiently uninterseted in the details fo the problem to really take the trouble to find out whether those details are addressed in current theory on climate change. (They are.) And he's sufficiently uninterested in the details to understand that the "global" in "global climate change" doesn't mean "the same everywhere", it means "having relevance globally."

In short, Dyson's not an ecological thinker. True, and sure, he thinks in systemic terms. But the systems he thinks about are pretty simplistic. The real problem arises from the fact that he doesn't understand that about his own thought: He thinks he is an ecological thinker. Just his misunderstanding of the term "global" is sufficient to prove that he's not.

It probably doesn't hurt that Dyson is a physicist, and thus, accustomed to working in a discipline that has fairly constrained outcomes. Materials will behave in certain ways under certain conditions; energy will move in certain ways; and so on. Physicists have traditionally believed that chemistry and biology are just applied physics. They're not wrong about that; what they're wrong about is the scale of the difference, which is sufficiently large to result in a difference in kind. ("Quantity has a quality all its own," to quote another arrogant old man. Well, Lenin was right about at least that much.)

I think, too, that it often comes down to a conflict between empiricism and deduction. I have two brothers: One's a mech-E, the other a biologist. The engineer is a global warming skeptic, the biologist a "climate change believer." The engineer is looking at whether the explanations make sense; the biologist is looking at the empirical evidence.

Ultimately, the climate change arguments come down to emperical evidence: It's happening, there's an impact everywhere. It's only the long term global warming predictions that are open to any question, and that, too, as folks like George_Spiggot and gompa have ably argued, is kind of a no-brainer: If you're right about warming, and you act defensively, you save many many lives; if you're wrong, you probably don't save quite as many.
posted by lodurr at 4:15 PM on August 12, 2007 [3 favorites]


Here is an oldie but a goodie, Al Gore YouTube Spoof Not So Amateurish (youtube). It came out last year around this time.
Aug. 4, 2006 — A tiny little movie making fun of Al Gore, supposedly made by an amateur filmmaker, recently appeared on the popular Web site YouTube.com.
At first blush, "An Inconvenient Spoof" seemed like a scrappy little homemade film poking fun at Gore and his anti-global warming crusade.

In the movie, Gore is seen boring an army of penguins with his lecture and blaming global warming for everything, including Lindsay Lohan's thinness.

But when the Wall Street Journal tried to find the guy who posted this film — listed on YouTube as a 29-year-old — they found the movie didn't come from an amateur working out of his basement.

The film actually came from a slick Republican public relations firm called DCI, which just happens to have oil giant Exxon as a client.

see http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=DCI_Group
for info on the DCI Group.
Check out the comments for some heavy duty flaming.
posted by dougzilla at 4:54 PM on August 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


Lodurr, I think that you're definitely on to something there. The distinction between the two types of fields is also found in their practitioners.

There's a presentation called Math is like music, stats is like literature [pdf], whose intended audience is stats teachers but may be decipherable by others. There are no six-year-old novelists, but there are extremely young mathematical geniuses, because the governing principles are much "simpler." Making a significant contribution in mathematics may require great intelligence, and may be very difficult, but the starting points for making these breakthrough can be communicated in a small enough time to a smart child. Physics is similar to math, as it takes a somewhat axiomatic approach, so you may come across teenagers who publish. Engineering and solid-state physics, though they deal with simulations of systems with huge numbers of elements, can be talked about much more simply because the elements are very well understood and there are only a few types of elements.

Sifting through lots of data takes time no matter how smart you are, so learning why Darwin believed that finches have common ancestry takes much longer to explain than it takes to explain why Galileo thought an iron and a wooden cannonball fall at the same speed.

This is why I haven't personally looked into the climate data. It would just take too long, and so in this one instance I have decided to trust the experts, and trust their work. It's also why deniers never cite anything concrete, they haven't looked at it either. If they do cite something concrete, it's going to be a single technicality (which may be significant) in a single paper, such as the hockey-stick incident. But even that won't refute the entire body of work.

So even though we're talking about climate change, nobody really gets to the meat of it, because almost none of us know what we're talking about. And even if every single one of us knew intimately about all the data involved, it may be that Internet forums, newspapers, and magazines are formats that just don't have enough bandwidth to facilitate intelligent conversations.
posted by Llama-Lime at 5:36 PM on August 12, 2007 [3 favorites]


How about we acknowledge there are two groups of people, skeptics AND deniers.

However, by this point people who are proper skeptics (a vitally important component of the process of science) have pretty much all acknowledged that the evidence for a global warming trend is very strong. As far as I can tell from surfing scienceblogs.com & other sources, some (proper) skepticism remains about the distribution of causes and the degree of danger, but little or none remains over the idea that warming is occurring and that some component of it is man-caused. From here on it is relatively safe to label anyone who argues against those two ideas a denier rather than a skeptic.

To see that there are plenty of deniers about, and how they think/operate, check out the comments on the digg articles about the NASA revision of U.S. inland temperature data. They sound very much like creationists & holocaust deniers.
posted by lastobelus at 8:20 PM on August 12, 2007 [2 favorites]


thank you gompa, george_spiggott and lodurr - i've a lot of reading to do to understand all of this, and your posts have helped clarify the thinking behind the arguments. damn but I feel small, ignorant and helpless somehow.
posted by infini at 8:38 PM on August 12, 2007


I've met Freeman Dyson and he's brighter than his critics
posted by A189Nut at 8:49 PM on August 12, 2007


"Whoever thought that serious commentators would want it made illegal to have a row about the weather? One Australian columnist has proposed outlawing ‘climate change denial’. ‘David Irving is under arrest in Austria for Holocaust denial’, she wrote. ‘Perhaps there is a case for making climate change denial an offence. It is a crime against humanity, after all.’ (1) Others have suggested that climate change deniers should be put on trial in the future, Nuremberg-style, and made to account for their attempts to cover up the ‘global warming…Holocaust’ (2)." From Spiked

And "hundreds of physicists, chemists and statisticians look critically, some very sceptically, at climate change as ‘predicted’ by IPCC modellers." Dr.Sonja A Boehmer-Christiansen, Reader, Geography, Faculty of Science, Hull University, Hull. I hope she still has a job.
posted by A189Nut at 9:00 PM on August 12, 2007


I WANT TO DISBELIEVE
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:10 PM on August 12, 2007 [2 favorites]


Gnostic Novelist is a troll, and rockhopper is - and I'm sorry to say this, I am - well-meaning but ultimately too stupid to understand the scientific method. This is a guy who doesn't even understand the contradiction inherent in saying "It takes a lot of faith to believe in Global Warming. It's the new religion" in one comment and "Comment on the FPP, not me" four minutes later.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:01 PM on August 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


Oh God, not Spiked Online again.

PeterMcdermott already linked to some stuff on the history of the Spiked Online crowd (AKA Living Marxism, and before that the Revolutionary Communist Party), so I won't go over that territory again, but I would like to point out that, in addition to being global warming deniers, they also, in their Living Marxism days, thought it would make for some really nifty and thought-provoking contrarianism to deny both Milosevic's atrocities and the Rwandan genocide. Yeah, there's just a tiny smidgen of irony in them complaining about being compared to Holocaust deniers, given that they've actually engaged in the whole genocide denial thing.

The Spiked Online article A189Nut links to complains that climate change deniers are being regarded as "scum". Frankly, when it comes to the Revolutionary Communist Party/Living Marxism/Spiked Online crew, I think that it's an entirely true and applicable term.
posted by a louis wain cat at 11:07 PM on August 12, 2007 [2 favorites]


It takes a lot of faith to believe in Global Warming. It's the new religion.

Rockhopper! Welcome back!
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 2:06 AM on August 13, 2007


I also know Frank Furedi (Spiked) and he's a lot brighter than most of his (armchair) critics too.
posted by A189Nut at 2:14 AM on August 13, 2007


A189Nut, I have met an awful lot of extremely bright people. Many of them were very stupid.
posted by lodurr at 2:42 AM on August 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


I don't think putting global warming deniers on trial in the future is so unreasonable.

If their efforts cause us to miss the tipping point and it becomes clear that hundreds of millions of people will die, why should they not be held responsible? I would totally vote for that. Let them go first -- it's fitting, just, and evolutionarily sound.

I'm not talking about scientists who practice legitimate skepticism and insist that the theories & data analysis be held to rigorous standards. They are doing their job. But the deniers care no more about the science & data analysis than creationists do. They use it only as a source to mine for things that can be misquoted.
posted by lastobelus at 2:48 AM on August 13, 2007


Well, time will tell. I will be delighted to accept your apologies in 30 years time.

As would we all. Most people who pressing the global warming issue aren't doing it so they'll look all clever in 30 years, they're doing it because they're honestly afraid that humans will kill themselves. Anyway, time is already telling. There are species that are dying, species that are migrating from their natural habitat, there are mountains of permafrost that are melting. Obviously it will be a while yet before the ocean levels rise significantly and humans start dying. But there appears to be a very big risk of this happening, and as far as I can see it the argument of the other side is that if we try to be even a teensy weensy bit more energy efficient then dey turk ur dobs.

Well, my heart bleeds for the suburban man driving his Hummer to work. I wonder if those opposing the loss of jobs due to environmentalism were in the front of the line to prevent jobs leaving America due to market forces. It's probably even easier to refute that market forces were exclusively responsible for the decline of industry in the United States, than it is to argue that warming is not taking place or it is not being caused by humans.

Science by consensus is not science.

If you hate consensus and want to read all the individual articles on global warming please, be my guest.
posted by Deathalicious at 2:55 AM on August 13, 2007


Dyson's skepticism is legitimate. He is not a denier. He does not accuse climate scientists of having an evil agenda, or of being corrupted by their funding sources, or of hiding, falsifying or fudging data. What he is doing is playing devil's advocate to the consensus. This is important in science, and it is a totally different thing than denial.
posted by lastobelus at 2:58 AM on August 13, 2007


I don't think anyone here is saying that Dyson is a denier. Some of us are saying (at least, this is what I'm saying) that he shouldn't get a free pass on critique of his critique just because he's FREEMAN FUCKING DYSON. When all of his critique has been digested and considered, it remains true that he doesn't really understand the issue as well as the people who are publishing on it.

He can believe fervently all he wants in the myopia of the specialist, but there are just some things you're never going to really get without looking at a lot of details. What's most intriguing is that he can cite cases that provide examples where empirical results were used to substantiate an unpopular theory -- the audiology research he alludes to, for example -- and then proceeds to deploy an entirely non-empirical critique ('their models [i.e., the ones he's gotten to see in detail] aren't messy enough, ergo they must be wrong').

That kind of "heresy" is just contrarianism for its own sake -- the natterings of someone who's accustomed to being simultaneously worshipped and treated with distrust. Being a professional outsider (which is Dyson's entire career, in a phrase) can be a heady experience when there's a substantial subset of brightly-affected people who think your every utterance is profundity.
posted by lodurr at 3:18 AM on August 13, 2007


... I'd also point out that many of Dyson's valid points, such as the non-uniformity of climate change, are actually subjects of active discussion and much research in the field of climate science. In other words, they already know this stuff he's trotting out as marketable heresy.

For every case where a 'genius' comes in from outside and suggests a new idea that produces results, there are a thousand cases where the 'genius' is suggesting something that really has been tried and that really has failed. That doesn't mean one ought not listen to smart outsiders. But it does mean that it's an error to give special weight to what they're saying because they don't know what they're talking about.
posted by lodurr at 3:41 AM on August 13, 2007


"No different than the old Catholic Church argument that a Priest was needed to be an intermediary."

I qualified that as absolute certainty. As gueneverey points out, the general idea, dating back to the turn of the century, is simple - I first learned about the Greenhouse Effect in junior high school in the 1970's.

Those worried that maybe there is warming, but it's not caused by human activity, or thinking maybe a little warming might be good, another term we learned in junior high school was "runaway Greenhouse Effect". A positive feedback system is self-reinforcing, and, with the release of methane from the Siberian permafrost and other recent changes, global warming is now becoming such a system. We do not know what will happen; we are conducting an uncontrolled experiment on the biosphere.

Hence, global warming is a potential threat not just to civilization, but to human survival (a mass extinction event is more accurate). Yes, there are more immediate problems, but what's the point without first learning how to live in the closed ecosystem of our unique Spaceship Earth?

Apologies to Gompa - hoping the runaway horse isn't quite as dead as the rest.

p.s. - If I were trying to choose a snobby handle, I don't think I could do a better job than "Gnostic Novelist".
posted by AppleSeed at 5:40 AM on August 13, 2007


the fish provides superlative glow ball warming.
posted by quonsar at 12:43 PM on August 13, 2007


Man's CO2 emissions and their effect on the warming of the earth have been documented for a while now. Being a "CO2 human caused global warming skeptic" is like being a "tobacco caused lung cancer skeptic." There are people (even some who call themselves scientists) out there willing to argue that position. It doesn't mean you should give a whole lot of weight to what they say.
posted by EarBucket at 4:21 PM on August 13, 2007 [1 favorite]




Just ran across a blog post by on Dyson's errors by a climatologist. I highly encourage scientists to play in other peoples' playgrounds, but being "bright" is no excuse to stop being rigorous. Or even worse, using one's popularity to wrongly accuse others of not being rigorous.

In addition, Edge has a response to Dyson. In my opinion, it's overly polite. Dyson isn't in Europe or Asia, and in US scientific culture it's OK to call out our old and respected scientists when they make an error.

Does anyone read the science outrage down here?
posted by Llama-Lime at 12:31 PM on August 26, 2007


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