Need ammo?
December 5, 2009 12:55 PM   Subscribe

How to Talk to a Climate Sceptic: "...a handy one-stop shop for all the material you should need to rebut the more common anti-global warming science arguments constantly echoed across the internet."
posted by Neilopolis (142 comments total) 98 users marked this as a favorite

 
Ok, this is great, I'm reading this right now and it's mad interesting. I just wish they hadn't made it look like they cribbed their title from Ann Coulter. Oh well. C'est la guerre. This is sweet nonetheless.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 1:01 PM on December 5, 2009


Ooh! I'd love a straightforward resource like this for other commonly-debated topics, like evolution, religion, etc.
posted by LSK at 1:06 PM on December 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


how about "How to Prove Reptilians Don't Secretly Rule the Earth"
posted by nathancaswell at 1:08 PM on December 5, 2009 [14 favorites]


Thanks!

My housemate was arguing that the greenhouse effect obviously can't be true because greenhouse gases will re-radiate in all directions. He's a senior engineering student.
Honestly I'd rather not stir up and have to deal with his drunken ramblings again, but if he brings it up I'll pull this one out.
posted by dunkadunc at 1:12 PM on December 5, 2009


How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic (shorter edition): Hast thou never an eye in thy head?
posted by dhartung at 1:15 PM on December 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


Why ammo? You want to shot somebody?

What I don't like about the climate-change-evangelists is that they try to answer at least 6 questions in one answer.

* Do we have climate change?
* Is it getting colder or warmer in the long run?
* Are we causing this change?
* Is CO2 the reason for the change?
* Is climate change a bad thing?
* If climate changes can we prevent it, if yes how?

Hence the bold statement of the semi-scientist actually is:

We have climate change, it is getting warmer and we are causing this via CO2 increase and climate change is a bad thing and we should decrease CO2 emissions to stop it.

These are a lot of statements in one sentence. And actually if is part of the scientific method to be skeptic.
posted by yoyo_nyc at 1:16 PM on December 5, 2009 [5 favorites]


How about a site for A-holes who think Armstrong didn't walk on the Moon?
posted by CarlRossi at 1:16 PM on December 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


LSK, here is the creationist equivalent. I spotted this the other week after the climategate post, haven't had a chance to delve through it in depth though, but what little I have read is nice and direct and seems extremely useful.
posted by TwoWordReview at 1:16 PM on December 5, 2009 [10 favorites]


What I don't like about the straw men I just made up is that they try to answer at least 6 questions in one answer.

T, FTFY.
posted by Garak at 1:20 PM on December 5, 2009 [16 favorites]


Perfect--just in time for holiday trips home with the family.
posted by availablelight at 1:23 PM on December 5, 2009


How about How To Talk To A Kid Who, Having Knocked A Flowerpot Off The Piano, Is Loudly Insisting That It Was Always Like That, That The Cat Did It, And It Was Bound To Happen Anyway?
posted by aeschenkarnos at 1:25 PM on December 5, 2009 [47 favorites]


The best thing people could do to improve the credibility of climate change arguments is to accept the existence of doubt and the legitimacy of scepticism. I accept that the climate is changing, but I'm embarrassed by the way advocates insist on quasi-religious certainty and brand sceptics as "denialists", bracketing them with Nazis. Bad, illegitimate tactics detract from the credibility of a good case.
posted by Phanx at 1:28 PM on December 5, 2009 [14 favorites]


I'd love a straightforward resource like this for other commonly-debated topics, like evolution, religion, etc.

A slightly easier to digest version than the talk.origins site is the Scientific American article 15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense [pdf].
posted by Rhomboid at 1:28 PM on December 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


And actually if is part of the scientific method to be skeptic.

I don't think real science is skeptical about climate change. Anyone with any credibility agrees that it's happening. And it's obviously got a lot to do with human activity.
The ones who deny it are usually corporations ( or those who are influenced by them) who have a vested interest in denying it. They make it seem as if there's a "debate" about it when actually there isn't. They're just muddying the waters. Like creationists.
posted by Liquidwolf at 1:34 PM on December 5, 2009 [5 favorites]


Why ammo? You want to shot somebody?

Yes. That's exactly what this article is about. It is advocating that people who deny climate change should be shot in the head with bullets.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 1:36 PM on December 5, 2009 [21 favorites]


*This assumes "sceptic" is a rational human, capable of basic logic and reasoning.

This has not been my experience.
posted by -t at 1:42 PM on December 5, 2009 [8 favorites]


It resolved my one lingering doubt in one page. Go internets!
posted by Mister Moofoo at 1:53 PM on December 5, 2009


Yeah, well, it snowed yesterday, I've been freezing at work all week, and the roads are so iced over I can barely turn onto my street. You guys are obviously full of it.
posted by niles at 1:53 PM on December 5, 2009


Bad, illegitimate tactics detract from the credibility of a good case.

That sounds just like the climate skeptic/denier position. Except for the 'good case' part.

There are two discussions going on about climate change. There's the one conducted in the scientific literature, which is almost 100% behind AGW. And then there's the one conducted in the mass media, which is appears more 'balanced', but only because the minority case involves people with very loud voices. Climate skepticism in the scientific literature is about details and numbers. Climate skepticism in the mass media has very little to do with the science or genuine skepticism, and almost everything to do with dogma and self-interest.
posted by daveje at 1:55 PM on December 5, 2009 [13 favorites]


@Liquidwolf
I don't think real science is skeptical about climate change.

Scientists (not science) should always be skeptical about data. There is data to back a hypothesis or not and if the data backs the hypothesis, how significant is it? Could it be coincidence? Is it inconclusive?


Anyone with any credibility agrees that it's happening. And it's obviously got a lot to do with human activity.


Here a list of climate-change skeptical scientists.

Few things are as "obvious" as you claim in science. And climate change is one of the most complex phenomenons in the world, especially since you have to rely on observation and can't run real experiments. If you had a couple of thousands worlds and a couple of thousands years then it would be different. I am not talking towards climate change nor against. I am actually a scientist myself and I would restrain from such a bold statement on one of the most complex issues.

They're just muddying the waters. Like creationists.
Creationists don't use a scientific framework, they use a religious framework. Sometimes an religious framework enriched with semi-scientific statements. Since these frameworks are different and mainly incompatible it is useless to argue. For a religious person god created the beings, not evolution. So be it. You could also claim that we just live in a computer generated reality (Matrix). From a scientific standpoint and with a scientific framework there would be no way to make any statements about his since it is behind science. It is meta-problem, that can hardly be accessed scientifically.
posted by yoyo_nyc at 1:55 PM on December 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


>
Agreed. At this point, the people who still deny global warming almost consider it a religious thing, either litterally or figuratively.

I've heard some Christians claim that global warming and environmentalism at large is an attempt to push Earth worship on the masses and detract from Christianity.

And then there are people who think that global warming is a ploy to empower America's enemies by reducing our demand on fuel, thus lowering the price and subsidizing their economic rise and subsequent dismantling of the USA.

And then, there are people who think that climate change is an attempt from the government to expand its influence (never mind that Bush tried to bury climate science even though he was pretty into big government, too), which they hate because they are in a religious fervor against "socialism," which in their minds means the government doing something other than waging war or paving a road.

In the battle between global warming and denailism, it's pretty clear that the scientists have the facts and the lobbyists have the money. Scientists would have loved to disprove global warming. After all, they'd be famous, get some of that lobbyist money, and this may shock you, but scientists are people, too! They drive cars, they take jets to go on vacations, and they enjoy a modern industrialized lifestyle just like the rest of us. If they could keep that up unimpeded, they'd be just as happy as everyone else.
posted by mccarty.tim at 1:58 PM on December 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


I do long term ecological modeling (100,000-1,000,000 years) for a living, although radiation stuff not climate stuff. I'm generally inclined to side with the scientific consensus that there is anthropogenic global warming.

That said, this site is terrible argument for that position. Reading a couple one or two page justifications gives you only a very facile understanding of the issues and encourages a faulty sense of certainty. Their goal is to persuade, not to inform so they don't present the opposition in good faith.

I think skeptics serve a very useful purpose, I'm glad they are out there. It's obvious there are enormous pressures on climate science people to produce the right sort of results and skeptics serve as a counter to forces that drive climate scientists toward the "correct" results. I don't blame the scientists for this, some of their motivations are pure, some not so pure, but all arise from pretty basic human nature.

While I'm inclined to side with the consensus I wouldn't be shocked if it turned out to be wrong. We don't understand a lot of these cycles very well and we have pretty limited data about a lot of things. (e.g. in their "It's the sun stupid" they note we only have good solar radiation data since 1978 and that there is evidence for increase in solar radiation from 1900-1940. We do not understand the mechanisms responsible for this, and it is entirely plausible the sun experiences cycles that take place over more than a hundred years which are more significant than human activity.)

I don't see that this site gives you ammo to do anything but shout down the skeptics, if you want to really engage them you need to do your own research and actually try to understand the physical processes involved.
posted by pseudonick at 1:58 PM on December 5, 2009 [16 favorites]


I don't think real science is skeptical about climate change.

I have a problem with this.

Anyone with any credibility agrees that it's happening.

Ummm...

And it's obviously got a lot to do with human activity.

Krakatoa, Mount St. Helens, Tufa, Vesuvius, Hugo, Katrina, Donna. Need I go on? We're insignificant compared to the forces of nature.

The ones who deny it are usually corporations ( or those who are influenced by them) who have a vested interest in denying it.

See here.

They're just muddying the waters. Like creationists
.

I dont like creationists any more than you, but, here again, you've overreached.

If you want to have a reasoned discussion on climate change and whether it exists, that's fine. Just don't come armed with only logical fallacies.
posted by pjern at 2:01 PM on December 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


There's a difference between skepticism and denial. I've seen a lot of global warming denial, but very, very little global warming skepticism.
posted by spaltavian at 2:05 PM on December 5, 2009 [15 favorites]


Man, the comments on those articles are depressing. :(
posted by ®@ at 2:11 PM on December 5, 2009


We're insignificant compared to the forces of nature.

As one idiot told me, "but the world is so big and we're so little." Yes! Which is exactly why molecules of cyanide, which are infinitesimally tiny compared to man, are utterly harmless.
posted by fleetmouse at 2:12 PM on December 5, 2009 [13 favorites]


First off, the official name of the scientific theory is "global warming" and generally called "anthropological global warming", or AGW, in the context of humans as being the cause.

AGW is a real thing is nearly 100% certain and there is little to no legitimate scientific debate about this. It follows this simple logic: 1) the greehouse effect is real. 2) CO2 is a greenhouse gas. 3) Humans emit CO2 that would not be there otherwise. It is simply irrefutable.

The debate and where people get flustered is *how much* humans effect the climate. This is where things are not 100% true or 100% not true. The models are about 90% certain, according to the official IPPC report. These are not wild ass guesses - it is based on statistics and other real science observation in the same way we can say the weather is 90% certain to rain.

So when debating a skeptic, make sure you know where they stand. Because anyone who disbelieves in AGW outright is simply not rational in the same category as flat earthers and creationists. But there is a real legitimate debate about *how much* humans are effecting the climate and what the climate will be in the future.
posted by stbalbach at 2:13 PM on December 5, 2009 [18 favorites]


* Clarifying previous

Because both sides in the comment thread are operating under the assumption that the other side has some kind of agenda, and it's seething with hostility. Also, a lot of the arguments are over my head, and seem to boil down to "my set of experts sez, your experts aren't real experts," "No MY set of experts sez, your experts are just as expert..."
posted by ®@ at 2:14 PM on December 5, 2009


Here's what we need to do: We need to stop one volcano from erupting. That will in one fell swoop compensate for any damage our carbon emissions have created.

Problem: Solved. You're welcome.
posted by JDHarper at 2:14 PM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


RE: stbalbach -- it seems like you've cut to the heart of the matter pretty well.

Is there a particular link on the site which handles "pretty much everyone qualified agrees on the basics of AWG?"

I've opened a ton of links and it's a lot of text to muddle through (not an uncommon problem for the average American, I'd wager).
posted by ®@ at 2:17 PM on December 5, 2009


According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the world’s volcanoes, both on land and undersea, generate about 200 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) annually, while our automotive and industrial activities cause some 24 billion tons of CO2 emissions every year worldwide. Despite the arguments to the contrary, the facts speak for themselves: Greenhouse gas emissions from volcanoes comprise less than one percent of those generated by today’s human endeavors.

Oh yeah, and thanks, JDHarper.
posted by fleetmouse at 2:17 PM on December 5, 2009 [19 favorites]


Ooh! I'd love a straightforward resource like this for other commonly-debated topics, like evolution, religion, etc.

That's just what the Catholic Church said back in the late 1800s. So they came up with something called the Catechism. And Catholic children were forced to memorize it, and repeat it word for word without understanding or questioning it. The idea was that you were just supposed to swallow these big, difficult to understand ideas whole and repeat them back. Phew! The similarities between the global warming believers and organized religion are very robust and getting stronger by the day.
posted by Faze at 2:17 PM on December 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


"I don't think real science is skeptical about climate change." -true

There are though many variables, feedback loops, and just the very idea that nature/space/the universe are crazy mofo's that are often doing unpredicted things. (we need stop promoting people going on solely about "warming" (it let's the so called "deniers" say... but it's not warming HERE... right... because as it warms, it melts, ice, ice is cold... cold water added to the oceans, changes the flow of different "types" of water (cold, warm, fast, slow) and what that means is that things will get bad before worse... but not for certain warmer. possibly VERY much colder.

I like to think of when we thought that there must be billions of genes that control the vast variations in us people.
then we continued doing science. And learned how few genes we have.

but THEN. we didn't STOP DOING SCIENCE, and discovered the processes that weren't readily obvious, (genes can haz switches, environmentally activated gene-expression etc.) and then we were back to the billions of customizations that people can have. (only now our understanding is how it's about a trillion times more complex than just "having a ton more binary genes"... each gene has WAY more facets, and options that we totally didn't even see before.)
Simplifying science can look pretty, and convincing, but it isn't the spirit of science. And science is in it for the long haul...

We need to seperate politics and science, otherwise, yes, this one might wendell, but what about next time, what if BushScience comes back in a couple of election semesters?
- then what? (not saying that we're abandoning science here... just that there are many mainstream places that are kind being a little ignorant about this, who were totally deniers like... 2 years ago... soo they may not be that bright. (cus people GOT climate change in the 60's, so till 2 years ago they were either wearing eyemuffs, or being disingenuous.

tl;dr, do best to promote doing more to stop greenhouse emissions- even if the trillion to one odds win, and we don't melt the earth, the pollution, and violence of industrialism are detrimental to our health (plus us talking about climate change will possibly cause Beck's head to explode soon... (with disgusted passion and so much love for his stupid, horrible, evil, disgusting and sickening country...
Just keep teaching your kids that science rocks, and to BE skeptics... just not idiots. :) Tell them to BE scientists, not just to love the technology that they create.
posted by infinite intimation at 2:25 PM on December 5, 2009


How to Talk to a Climate Sceptic

Don't. It's just not worth it. Put your time towards getting someone with political power to pay attention instead. We'll have to drag the dipshits behind us.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:26 PM on December 5, 2009 [14 favorites]


I still think this link is harmful to understanding this issue.

I was just thinking about some parallels the climate change issue has with discussions of the effects of low levels of radiation. I see many similarities.

We have no proof low levels of radiation cause cancer. Some people allege that small amounts of ionizing radiation are either not harmful or are actually good for us. The average background dose of radiation in the US is ~3mSv/yr. We can only provide evidence that radiation is harmful (causes cancer) at ~200mSv/yr. The scientific consensus is to use the Linear No Threshhold model, which assumes that low levels of radiation are proportionally just as dangerous as high levels of radiation (a linear extrapolation). So we regulate levels of radiation at the low levels on the assumption that it is harmful. (we regulate drinking water at the 0.1 mSv/year level)

Like the currently measurable effects of global warming, the effects of low levels of radiation are really hard to state with statistical certainty. Both encourage sort of quacky people on the fringes of the scientific community who challenge the common wisdom may be right about something and I'm glad they are there.
posted by pseudonick at 2:33 PM on December 5, 2009


Oh sheesh. This thread is already pretty awful.

Also, here's some proof that believing in global warming is just like being religious!!1!
posted by defenestration at 2:41 PM on December 5, 2009 [8 favorites]


Huh. I assumed that a link entitled "How to Talk to A Climate Skeptic" would just say:

VERY. SLOWLY.

Just don't come armed with only logical fallacies

Ooh! Fun! Can I play?


Pseudonick: I fully appreciate what you're saying; however, the problem here is that it's much more than a scientific problem. It's a political one. And while saying that the consensus might be wrong is true, and indeed the scientific thing to do, there are large moneyed interests with an agenda who will take that and distort it -- "the consensus might not be correct due to problems in modeling on this scale" becomes "everything is fine, no need to change anything."

That's certainly not to say science should stop constantly questioning everything, most especially "the consensus" view. That's its job. however, the rest of us have to set some sort of policy. And basing that on the "scientific consensus" seems reasonable.

Basically, the problem with climate change is that the science and the political policy are badly mixed up. Ideally, we should be able to say "Okay, Step One. here is the rough scientific consensus, subject to some uncertainty, but a rough consensus. Step Two, let us now formulate a policy based on this."

Instead, people with disagreements (and yes, corporate interests) about Step Two, go after Step One with criticisms that are ill-informed at best, and intentionally misleading at worst.

To dumb it down a bit and give a rough approximation of what's agreed upon doesn't seem a bad endeavor to me. The "other side" sure ain't playin' fair; we shouldn't stoop to their level of course, but we don't have to constantly qualify what we're saying with "of course this isn't 100% certain."
posted by ScotchRox at 2:42 PM on December 5, 2009 [7 favorites]


All this talk of global warming and no one's brought up a response to the "hacked e-mails?" Here's a great video refuting the conspiracy theory/fox news take on it.
posted by johnnybeggs at 2:42 PM on December 5, 2009 [6 favorites]


pjern: Krakatoa, Mount St. Helens, Tufa, Vesuvius, Hugo, Katrina, Donna. Need I go on? We're insignificant compared to the forces of nature.

vs.

pjern: If you want to have a reasoned discussion on climate change and whether it exists, that's fine. Just don't come armed with only logical fallacies.

This brings up my biggest pet peeve with the "denier" community. They're quick to accuse environmentalism of being a cult, but they are the ones who believe in a magical resiliency of the ecosystem. They use that reasoning above, pretending that we are insignificant to the forces of nature.

And on the other side of the same coin, there are those who accept that maybe the climate is getting messed up, and maybe we are somewhat responsible, but not to worry, because there is technology that will fix all that. Oh, it hasn't been invented yet, but that doesn't mean it won't be. Human ingenuity is unstoppable, and it will explode like a volcano as soon as there a market demand for it.

Both positions, while seemingly contradictory, place an incredible amount of faith in the beneficence of the universe, and both conveniently advocate inaction.
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 2:43 PM on December 5, 2009 [29 favorites]


Krakatoa, Mount St. Helens, Tufa, Vesuvius, Hugo, Katrina, Donna. Need I go on? We're insignificant compared to the forces of nature.

Others have already debunked the volcano part. I'll add this link. Through a simple act of division one can see that there is about 3 soccer pitches (~5.8 acres) worth of land per person on earth. As the comic says, I don't know about you, but I think I could exact some pretty significant changes on 5.8 acres in my lifetime with nothing more than my bare hands. Give me modern technology and I could completely reshape it in a week.

The world is not as big as you might think, and we are fully capable of wrecking it in short order, intentionally or otherwise.
posted by jedicus at 2:47 PM on December 5, 2009 [6 favorites]


"How to talk to someone who does not understand why climate change is the scientific consensus" might be a more fair article. We should really be trying to promote understanding. I myself don't understand the whole picture - this sort of article should be directed at almost all non-climate scientists. And finally, as a teacher, no matter how right you are, almost no one (especially people with a different viewpoint) will listen to you if you don't present the information in a respectful way. I know it's possible for people to change their viewpoint on scientific issues - I grew up a totally-convinced Creationist but after a lot of reading, I am a convinced evolutionist.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 2:51 PM on December 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


Both positions, while seemingly contradictory, place an incredible amount of faith in the beneficence of the universe, and both conveniently advocate inaction.

I'm favouriting that so hard.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:05 PM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh sheesh. This thread is already pretty awful.

Some people think "troll" means "a person who has a different opinion than I do." This is really scary. Almost as scary as people walking around with little global-warming catechisms, so they can pull them out and incant their beliefs to benighted family and friends at holiday get-togethers. The demand for "belief" in itself is a pretty good indication that you're dealing with a cult. But when non-believers are literally threatened with "burning" -- as in burning in Hell -- the parallel is so strong you have to laugh. I think the global warming believers are one martyr away from becoming a big-time religious-political movement -- a new historical force in the 21st century. It will be an interesting development.
posted by Faze at 3:09 PM on December 5, 2009 [6 favorites]


Putting aside one or two doubts that I have due to the complexity of the science and the models, and just thinking about the politics for a second:

Its hardly a surprise that we are struggling to get people to accept a policy plan based on science and evidence rather than rhetoric and/or ideology. Like, since when were political decisions ever based on empirical observations from the real world?

It seems like quite a lot to ask, for people to get their heads round that paradigm shift.
posted by memebake at 3:10 PM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


i used the word idiots, I don't like using it without context...Sorry.

idiot: from idiotes lit. "private person," used patronizingly for "ignorant person," from idios "one's own".
Also taken to mean obsessed with the home...
How many times have we heard in the mainstream, the arguments;
we cannot do anything...
why's that mainstream news guy?
what about China, India.
forget that!! we need needed some action today; action is often led by leaders. The west consider ourselves the leaders in how to exporting democracies for dummies, one might even say we are the foremost leaders in this field of interest.
So why are we can be leaders at that. But nowhere else. (or both?)
posted by infinite intimation at 3:11 PM on December 5, 2009


There is only one argument non-experts should make to climate change skeptics, because the first bit applies to them as much as to the skeptic:

Unless you spend a few thousand hours reading up on the literate and the background needed to understand the literature, you don't get to have an informed opinion about arguments for or against AGW.

There can only be various appeals to authority, and the bulk of the authority is on the AGW side.
posted by pseudonick at 3:14 PM on December 5, 2009 [9 favorites]


Is it just the three drinks I've had at this point, or does that post make no sense whatsoever?
posted by Zalzidrax at 3:15 PM on December 5, 2009


> There's a difference between skepticism and denial. I've seen a lot of global warming denial, but very,
> very little global warming skepticism.
> posted by spaltavian at 5:05 PM on December 5 [+] [!]

Maybe. It's also possible that a great deal of denialism is in the eye of the beholder--the kind of beholder who sees anything less than slobbering acquiescence as hardcore denialism, because of course there isn't anything in between slobbering acquiescence and hardcore denialism. I can tell you it's damned annoying to be an absolutely raving tree hugger (as I am,) entirely persuaded that the climate is warming and industrial civilization is the principal cause (as I am), and still to get labelled a denialist just for thinking that I or anyone should be able to scrutinize and replicate the entire process from unfiltered raw temperature or proxy data through all the data-selection, weighting, and processing steps to final output in the form of a given climatology paper's conclusions section. It's enough to make you think the typical garden-variety AGW believer is no less religious than the typical AGW denier, and no more epistemically entitled to his opinion. Push either back more than a couple of steps and you get an appeal to authority.
posted by jfuller at 3:17 PM on December 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


Uh. Memorizing evidence for use in arguments is not the same as memorizing arguments so you can repeat them ver batim. I don't think many "global warming believers" would advocate the latter.
posted by LogicalDash at 3:21 PM on December 5, 2009


For the record, I bring a porcelain cup to Starbucks, I don't drive, I recycle, I use biodegradable cold water laundry detergent, and I never get plastic bags from the grocery store because I bring my own reusable ones. But I'm a climate change skeptic because of this guy. The "hockey stick" graph that shows a stable global climate until the last 100 years has been debunked as a statistical error; the insurance companies are making a tidy profit off of the global warming hysteria; and our "carbon offsets" involve destroying forests and habitats in the third world to plant our carbon sink single-plant farms. The hysteria is making things worse.

I understand that this might be the only way to get your average person to pay attention to environmental issues, but fudging the science to cause panic isn't a good direction. I listened an amazing podcast about this from CBC's ideas that completely changed my opinion on this matter: you can hear it too here. If you can debunk what he says in that podcast, I'd be very interested to hear what you have to say.
posted by Hildegarde at 3:21 PM on December 5, 2009 [5 favorites]


Science doesn't care how you feel about what it finds. Science gives you results, not morals.

The vast majority of climate change denial (and that's exactly what it is) is not an objection to the science, but a reaction to its implication: that to forestall, reduce or avoid the effects of anthropocentric global warming we will have to change our habits, lifestyle choices, and economic production (and thus our "success" as it is currently measured).

If you want to fight the science of climate change, then do science with an alternate theory, one that explains the historical record, matches current evidence, and predicts future climate behavior with greater accuracy.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 3:29 PM on December 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


I just had a quick exchange with a so-called "Denialist" the other day. I made some comment about doubting whether I would ever fly in an airplane again. She countered with some book I had to read. I countered with, "You're going to take one book as gospel against all the mountain of counter-arguments." She said, "Yes, because it was convincing."

I paused, thought about it for a second and decided, fuck it, just give her the real reason you "believe" in Global Warming.

"Because pretty much all the people, organizations, corporations, ideologies who argue for denial are people, organizations, corporations, ideologies I DON'T FUCKING TRUST."

And then we mutually decided to change the subject.
posted by philip-random at 3:30 PM on December 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


Bora Horza Gobuchul, I recommend you listen to the podcast I linked above. There is lots of climate change skepticism based on the science. But that skepticism doesn't receive and press or funding.
posted by Hildegarde at 3:30 PM on December 5, 2009


+1 for pseudonick, thats a very good point.

Unless you spend a few thousand hours reading up on the literate and the background needed to understand the literature, you don't get to have an informed opinion about arguments for or against AGW.

Unfortunately it appears that our fate rests on us, as a global community, understanding complicated stuff. And being able to act collectively to avoid a tragedy of the commons.

If we can get through that challenge, we pretty much deserve to flourish and spread throughout the galaxy for millennia to come.
posted by memebake at 3:31 PM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


The only way we can prove the existence of AGW is to let it happen and do nothing to prevent it, in fact, increase the output of greenhouse gases to increase the effect as much as we can. Because if we do the opposite at an expense of so many trillion dollars/euros/yuan and catastrophe is averted, an even larger number of angry deniers will emerge claiming it was never gonna happen anyway. Our earlier "World Ecological Threats" were either overstated or averted too easily and doubts over the likely fact that Humanity IS capable of breaking its ecosystem will continue until we do just that.

Humanity reacts far better to Disaster than Near-Disaster (with the exception of Hurricane Katrina, and it can be argued our leadership wasn't quite Human then); we don't appreciate being brought back from the brink (witness the reaction to Obama's 'jobless recovery' and consider the alternative). The problem with preventing a system (economic or ecologic) from totally collapsing is you're stuck with the same defective system that broke before. So it's very likely that within our grandchildren's lifetimes (and I'm talking to you young punks still considering reproducing), we will see something Emmerlich-level Apocalyptic (but far less photogenic), and what's left of the Human Race will have to pretty much start over under more hostile conditions, which not all of them will be able to do (among those most likely to fail, the type who currently call themselves Survivalists, obviously).

Since I, personally, am less than 50% likely to survive to MetaFilter's 20th Anniversary, I have no blood heirs that any female I have ever been intimate with will admit to, and after researching my family tree, I feel good about helping my bloodline die off, I am opting out of future discussions about issues vital to the Survival of Humanity and leave it to you young punks. Go ahead, stay on the lawn, but TRY to keep it from turning brown while I'm still here.
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:33 PM on December 5, 2009 [9 favorites]


Well, here I'd say that the problem is pretty close to that as what we have for Evolution, or a Deep Time model of cosmology. You can't "prove" any scientific theory. But you can point out that the standard of evidence by which a theory is accepted as an accurate model of our universe is greater than most things we accept as "true" without question or debate.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:44 PM on December 5, 2009


The reason why scientists are perhaps a bit brusque to skeptics is because several decades of politically-fueled assaults against one's credibility as a professional is bound to leave anyone pissed the hell off.

For example, Hildegarde, I perfectly well agree with you that global warming is used to sell absolutely retarded and possibly counterproductive ideas. Fuel cell cars? Does anyone understand thermodynamics? It takes energy to make energy! For that to be efficient or useful in terms of net CO2 reduction, we have to have power plants that don't burn fossil fuels.

But just because the implementation is wonky because of the special interest, doesn't mean the science for science sake is bad. Why do you believe one person who isn't even a climate researcher over, say, even just NASA and NOAA? I mean it's not like these organizations are entirely theoretically based. They've gotten people to the moon and back in the case of NASA and are relied upon to keep ships and planes out of storms, and give people advance warning on storms, hurricanes, and tornadoes. in the case on NOAA.
posted by Zalzidrax at 3:54 PM on December 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


Oh, fucking awesome - my holiday visit to Washington's dumbass conservative half was pretty aggravating at times because there's shit tons of climate change deniers over there, and I'm related to a few of them. Thanks for this link - I'm gonna read up and go into the next round of holiday arguing prepared.
posted by EatTheWeak at 3:54 PM on December 5, 2009


Why do you believe one person who isn't even a climate researcher over, say, even just NASA and NOAA?

One person? One person who interviewed a ton of top-echelon climate scientists. I don't just believe one person. Again, I must point to the podcast. It's a nice start, and I'd love to hear if you can find ways to avoid feeling some skepticism after hearing about his research on the matter.
posted by Hildegarde at 3:59 PM on December 5, 2009


Also random point about certainty in science. Nothing is absolutely certain, every modern scientists knows this, especially when they deal with incredibly complex systems sch as weather. However, acting uncertain socially, in an argument or discussion, is the fastest way to get people to believe you are not credible. The fact that scientists even bother to acknowledge the fact that their research, and hell everything in life, bears a degree of uncertainty is what lets politicians jump all over them and convince people that politicians and pundits somehow know more about atmospheric scientists than most everyone on the planet who has studied it for any significant amount of time.

On to the acknowledging uncertainty bit: Yes, there is some uncertainty about what will happen. However, we have imbalanced the carbon cycle in such a way as to increase the level of CO2 in the atmosphere rapidly beyond what it has been within the last million years. This will cause the atmosphere to prevent heat from radiating into space as readily. On first glance that will warm the Earth drastically, though complex processes are in play which could amplify, damp, or even cause an inverse effect. All we know for (near) certain is that things will change, and that will adversely affect human and other life adapted to fit current conditions. The levels at this will occur are arguable, but a particularly bad outcome could end civilization. So the scientific consensus is that we should not fuck with the climate until we know what will happen.
posted by Zalzidrax at 4:12 PM on December 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


Here's what we need to do: We need to stop one volcano from erupting.

I thought the republicans had already solved that one, determining that the best way to keep a volcano from erupting is to stop monitoring it.
posted by troybob at 4:36 PM on December 5, 2009 [8 favorites]


It's sort of ironic that this post comes out shortly after the email debacle at the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, which has shown that high-level scientists at one of the most prestigious climate research institutes collaborated to deny skeptics the opportunity to examine their raw data. I don't know how much truth there is to the idea that global warming is caused by CO2 emissions - I think there's agreement even among skeptics that it would have some effect, but it seems that the real argument is whether variances in solar radiation are not, in fact, far more important factors in global climate variation.

What does seem clear, however, is that "the science" which is always quoted is not representative of the full body of scientific thought and research that exists; rather, experts who dissent from the majority consensus have an extremely difficult time getting funding for their research (IPCC research grants are explicitly given only to those investigating anthropological causes of global warming), and getting published in peer-reviewed journals (and the leaked emails seem to suggest quite strongly that this is a result of activist-style groupthink, not any real dispute with the quality of the research). So we, the non-expert public, aren't really getting a balanced view of what the evidence suggests. (Anyone who thinks that the debate among experts really is settled needs to read The Deniers, by Lawrence Solomon, linked to by Hildegarde above.)

The sort of patronizing tone taken by those who adhere to AGW (see: this post) doesn't exactly bolster the case that we are in the realm of disinterested scientific inquiry. People writing articles on the internet can be forgiven for being polemical; scientists charged with evaluating the raw data cannot be. That some global-warming scientists are increasingly seeing themselves as responsible for suppressing wrong-thinking should be deeply worrying to everyone, because of the policy implications that can flow from the scientific analysis.

Which brings me to one last point - proponents of the AGW theory don't seem to realize that their preferred solution does not necessarily flow from their analysis. Let's say we accept that CO2 is causing global warming (and that this is a problem - another brief point: environmentalists are quick to point out the bad things that global warming will do; they don't even mention the potential positives, like increased food production in some places). It doesn't follow that reducing CO2 is the best answer to the problem. It could be that it makes more economic sense to relocate people worst-affected by global warming than to shock the global economy by trying to move off fossil fuels. Maybe geo-engineering is the cheapest answer - block out a small percentage of sunlight with sulphur dioxide shot high into the atmosphere. My point is not that these are necessarily the right answers, just that they are not even talked about. There is no objective cost-benefit analysis. The answers invariably center around increased regulation of economic activity and massive and potentially very disruptive changes to our consumption of energy in the short- to medium-term. These are answers that tend to fit with the ideological world-view of leftist environmentalists, who see human activity that impacts the planet, and especially the activities of advanced industrial societies, as inherently undesirable. But there is no sense that they are not the only possible answers - we are told, instead, that "the science" is "telling" us that we need to implement these sorts of solutions.

Altogether, there is enough to make me skeptical that I should accept that AGW is the simple reality, no matter how loudly some people say it, or that, if it is reality, we should sacrifice potentially trillions of dollars in economic growth over the next several decades in response. It certainly makes me disinclined to read an article about "how to talk to" a climate-change skeptic as if they are ten-year-old members of the flat-earth society.
posted by Dasein at 4:42 PM on December 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


One person? One person who interviewed a ton of top-echelon climate scientists. I don't just believe one person. Again, I must point to the podcast. It's a nice start, and I'd love to hear if you can find ways to avoid feeling some skepticism after hearing about his research on the matter.

Okay, I have started listening to the podcast. The intro has a lot of emotionall loaded language with little evidence. The guest immediately frames the issue as one being about Al Gore, ignoring the scientists, and manages to Godwin the podcast by sentence two with a baseless assertion that "climate change denial" was chosen for its semantic similarity to "holocaust denial." I get annoyed and skip to the middle of the podcast. An assertion is made that the IPCC has ignored warming caused by solar variance. I go to the IPCC website to see whether this is correct. In section 9.2 I find a discussion of radiative forcing of Earth's temperature. It lists estimates for anthropogenic effects (breaking it down into greenhouses gases which increase warming and aerosols which decrease warming) at "1.6 W m–2, with a 90% [certainty] range of 0.6 to 2.4" followed by an estimate of solar effects of "+0.12 (90% range from 0.06 to 0.3) W m–2". The IPCC cites research by the Danish Meteorological Institute on solar variance. I conclude that listening to the podcast further is not worth my time.
posted by Zalzidrax at 4:49 PM on December 5, 2009 [17 favorites]


From the comments:
Dear author,

since CLIMATEGATE we, your readers, all know that most of your "evidences" are proven wrong, because scientists created false papers and false expertise's. So what?

Will you correct all your wrong arguments proven by imaginary data written by OIL-Cons payed so called "scientists"?

We all wait for your corrected articles!

Cheers

Hans from Austria
Which references the latest bit of crazy in the "Climategate" conspiracy theory: that human-caused climate change not only a hoax, but a hoax being funded by the fossil fuel industry. That Exxon, Shell, etc., all want things like cap-and-trade and alternative energy research to go forward because it will make them rich somehow, along with Al Gore and George Soros. This is apparently based on the fact that these companies have donated relatively small amounts of money on green tech to boost their public image.
posted by Rhaomi at 4:50 PM on December 5, 2009


It really doesn't matter if AGW is true or not.

The underlying fact is that we can see several obvious crises are about to come barrelling down upon humanity. It is undeniable fact that the Himalayan glaciers are disappearing rapidly, and with that the water source for a few billion people. That alone is going to be an unmitigated disaster.

So the bottom line is that we need to start dealing with the limitations of our global environment. Everything we can do to reduce our energy demands, and everything we can do to reduce our waste, is a step towards creating a planet that will sustain more people, more better.

Whether it's AGW or LGMFOS or just finally getting clue-by-foured, so long as the end result is an overall improvement of global living conditions, it's all good.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:53 PM on December 5, 2009 [5 favorites]


Dasein, you seem skeptical of the science, yet assured that the solutions will "shock the economy". Why is it your unsure of one unknown, yet sure of another?
posted by stbalbach at 4:56 PM on December 5, 2009 [6 favorites]


These arguments wouldn't be very convincing to the climate skeptics I've talked to:

"Objection:The Antarctic Ice sheets are actually growing.
...any argument that tries to use a regional phenomenon to disprove a global trend is simply dead in the water...
the phenomenon of thickening of an ice sheet is not by itself inconsistent with warming..."

The one's I've talked to would just roll their eyes upon hearing these types of arguments.
posted by eye of newt at 5:05 PM on December 5, 2009


This is horrible. If you don't understand your own position on the matter well enough to argue it, you shouldn't solve the problem by finding a crib sheet. You should go learn something and stop collecting opinions like they're lifestyle accessories.

If your belief in anthropocentric global warming is motivated by moral urges, you're no better than the fundamentalist christian who is caged in to belief in a 6000 year old earth by the same sort of process.
posted by phrontist at 5:06 PM on December 5, 2009 [7 favorites]


(The apparent motivation is horrible, that is. The links themselves are pretty neat, it's the framing that irks me.)
posted by phrontist at 5:07 PM on December 5, 2009


It could be that it makes more economic sense to relocate people worst-affected by global warming than to shock the global economy by trying to move off fossil fuels. Maybe geo-engineering is the cheapest answer - block out a small percentage of sunlight with sulphur dioxide shot high into the atmosphere. My point is not that these are necessarily the right answers, just that they are not even talked about.

There is all sorts of research and discussion about those various sorts of things. And it is really uncertain. That is exactly the problem. The effects of pumping CO2 into the atmosphere appear to be an imbalance the natural carbon cycle which leaves a good third of it up there. And the effects of that are somewhere between being slightly beneficial and killing 80-100% of life on Earth. Thus the relatively conservative (literal, no political) position that maybe we should stop pumping crap into the atmosphere until we know roughly what its going to do and can make an informed decision. Pumping different crap into the atmosphere when we don't know quite what's going on may make things worse.

Not to mention the side benefits of getting off fossil fuels like reduction in deaths from cancers caused by fine particle pollution on the coal side and getting our balls out of the vicegrip of oil-producing countries in the Middle East. Also, we don't have to worry about the sun running out for another couple billion years whereas oil production will probably plateau within 20 years if it hasn't already.
posted by Zalzidrax at 5:08 PM on December 5, 2009 [6 favorites]


stbalbach - So far, economic growth has always been tied to increased energy consumption. I don't see any evidence that the two can be de-linked, which means using non-fossil fuel alternatives. Transitioning our economies to alternatives will take significantly longer than the timeframes for cuts that environmentalists seek. Even the Canadian government, which is not made up of environmentalists, wants to set an official target of a 20% cut from 2006 levels by 2020. Given that electric vehicles are just starting to hit the market (for instance), that cellulosic ethanol and algae-based biofuels are either being produced in very low quantities or not yet being produced, and nuclear power is not being universally adopted as an alternative to coal, and that replacing/upgrading housing stock to make it energy efficient is a painfully slow process - to name just a few obstacles - I don't see how anyone could think that we can continue to grow our economies while consuming significantly less power than we are currently. And I don't think that environmentalists have articulated clearly how we might do so.
posted by Dasein at 5:10 PM on December 5, 2009


stbalbach - So far, economic growth has always been tied to increased energy consumption.

And increased energy prices are directly coupled with economic stagnation. With the current outlook on oil extraction, we need to be acting now to avoid economic shock from increasing difficulty and cost in oil extraction--we've already burned up most of the easy to get to stuff.

Ignoring political realities, with the number of people sitting around doing nothing due to the economy and unused industrial capacity, we could physically get alternative energy up and running in the U.S. within a few years. The cost would be enormous, and with the resistance and propaganda put out by oil companies seeking to remain in the lucrative position of being the primary provider of energy for the country, it would be politically infeasible. But if we had the will, America could be using primarily non-fossil fuel power sources within a decade.
posted by Zalzidrax at 5:23 PM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Funny, my immediate reaction was, "don't bother arguing with them, it's absolutely pointless". And if anything, the comments so far show that I'm not jaded enough. I think really, the proper analogy is, these people are like creationists. They have the same MO: "We're just dispassionately looking at the data, you guys are blinded by ideology". Yet their arguments are always nitpicky and usually misinformed. The whole hockey stick controversy is a perfect emblem for them. There have been several investigations launched by major scientific organizations, so if you want to read the results of a critical examination of the subject, there's ample opportunity for it. Or you can just ignore them. Your choice. In the end, I think that's the only response. Make data and analysis available. Some people will seek it out, and some of them will find it convincing. Probably a lot won't, because end of the day, their real objection is not to the science of the issue, but rather to the implications.
posted by Humanzee at 5:31 PM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


I didn't see a response to my neighbor's argument, which can be summarized as "well of course the climate models shows scary things, that's because they assume the Earth is older than 6,000 years."

He does have a point though, the models do assume that the Earth is billions of years old.
posted by revgeorge at 5:36 PM on December 5, 2009 [5 favorites]


Just as a data point, Humanzee: I'm all for getting rid of fossil fuels. Heck: if they outlawed cars altogether I'd cheer them on. I have the ideology of a climate change proponent. I'm concerned about inconsistencies in the data and in the demonstrated attempt to obscure any dissent. And I have serious concerns that this moment is causing more environmental crises in the third world than it's solving for the first.
posted by Hildegarde at 5:38 PM on December 5, 2009


Okay, Hildegarde, the first ten minutes of that that podcast, point by point:
So far, it's the usual deal: cherry-picked data, incomplete statements, and out-of-context quotes. I'll try to get to the next 10 minutes later.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 5:41 PM on December 5, 2009 [37 favorites]


actually if [sic] is part of the scientific method to be skeptic [sic].

It's not part of the scientific method to be skeptical about well-established physical laws, like the absorption spectrum of CO2.

Denying global warming is like denying that throwing garbage on the floor will give you a roach problem.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 5:41 PM on December 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think this is the first post I've seen that the flame war after the link was decidedly more cerebral than the flame war on the blue. The comments on "Satellites Show Cooling" overheated my brain. I need to get some iced tea.
posted by chemoboy at 5:44 PM on December 5, 2009


There's just no way for this particular discussion to avoid veering off into horsepucky what-about-sunspots hearsay, is there?

Well, hell, it's a lazy Saturday evening and coming up on twenty below outside here on the Canadian prairie - I know, I know, what happened to that global warming, eh? eh? - so I'll take a run at realignment.

Faze shrewdly observes: The demand for "belief" in itself is a pretty good indication that you're dealing with a cult.

I respond: I don't "believe" in anthropogenic climate change. I accept it as a valid scientific theory, one around which terrifying evidence of its factual basis and the catastrophe it promises has accumulated so quickly and conclusively that it has obliged a great many scientists to abandon their usual reticence in order to make public statements on matters of policy.

And I base this acceptance on my own reading of the work of climate scientists and their purported debunkers; I base it on my own interviews, as a journalist engaged professionally in studying and reporting on the subject for a decade now, with a great many climate scientists as well as countless discussions with politicians, activists, businesspeople and so forth who are engaged daily in the response to climate change; I base it on the fact that I've done little else professionally but examine this subject for five years now, and I've never come across any alleged debunking that was less than a five-minute Google search from itself being debunked; and on and on and on.

I could dig up a hundred links below, but I'll go with one who was until recently way outside the climate "believer" mainstream of IPCC panels and the like: Charlie Veron, longtime chief scientist of the Australian Institute for Marine Science.

A pull quote for time-strapped skeptics:

When I started writing my book [the definitive scientific history of the Great Barrier Reef], I knew that climate change was likely to have serious consequences for coral reefs. But the big picture which emerged, quite frankly, left me shocked to the core.

This really led to a period of personal anguish. I turned to specialists in many different fields of science to find anything that might suggest a fault in that big picture. I was depressingly unsuccessful.


Thanks, Charlie.

Next up, Hildegarde seemingly reasonably notes: The "hockey stick" graph that shows a stable global climate until the last 100 years has been debunked as a statistical error.

No, the hockey stick graph regarding global temperatures, which to begin with is not the same as the whole climate picture and which graph is nevertheless deemed accurate by thousands of climate scientists, has been called into question by an economist and a statistician, neither of whom have any working knowledge of climatology or climate modelling.

The website RealClimate, which is written and essentially peer-reviewed by professional climate scientists, seems to think the datacrunching is substantially less than a thorough debunk.

And again a money quote:

7) Basically then the MM05 criticism is simply about whether selected N. American tree rings should have been included, not that there was a mathematical flaw?

Yes. Their argument since the beginning has essentially not been about methodological issues at all, but about ’source data’ issues. Particular concerns with the “bristlecone pine” data were addressed in the followup paper MBH99 but the fact remains that including these data improves the statistical validation over the 19th Century period and they therefore should be included.

8) So does this all matter?

No. If you use the MM05 convention and include all the significant PCs, you get the same answer. If you don’t use any PCA at all, you get the same answer. If you use a completely different methodology (i.e. Rutherford et al, 2005), you get basically the same answer. Only if you remove significant portions of the data do you get a different (and worse) answer.


So either a whole bunch of climate scientists have based their entire careers on a false premise easily solved by any old mathemetician with spare time on his hands, or the moonlighting economists and statistics whizzes of the world might not fully understand how any given assumption affects the veracity of an extraordinarily complex climate model. Maybe, in other words, these so-called "scientists" just won't listen to unorthodox points of view, or maybe those points of view are so ignorant of the body of scientific knowledge underpinning the manifest fact of anthropogenic climate change that they're barely worth responding to for fear of giving the exceedingly well-funded anti-climate change lobby a new bauble with which to distract a complacent public. Your call on that one.

And Dasein weighs in with a tidy cost-benefit analysis:
It could be that it makes more economic sense to relocate people worst-affected by global warming than to shock the global economy by trying to move off fossil fuels.

This'd be a more effective weighing, however, if it took into account the emerging fact of peak oil, which not even the International Energy Agency bothers to question anymore.

Anyway, I'm sure this does nothing to dissuade anyone who really wants to believe that this is all just pinko green hokum. In the meantime, my fellow climate cultists and I will continue with our regular meetings, in which we divvy up these vast pots of cash being thrown at us to keep us from moving to less lucrative and more difficult work like, say, toeing the stay-the-course party line at a conventional energy company. If only they had a few nickels to rub together to make their case - those poor, impoverished bastards.
posted by gompa at 5:52 PM on December 5, 2009 [33 favorites]


I think what's really happening is global lukewarming.
posted by bwg at 5:53 PM on December 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


probably the best skeptical argument. the counter argument that there is some other process (global dimming, oceans absorbing heat) that is currently cooling the world but will stop cooling the world at some point in the future is somewhat shaky.
posted by drscroogemcduck at 5:57 PM on December 5, 2009


When I see these global warming deniers flood blogs, I wonder if some of them aren't paid propagandists the way the Bush administration paid Iraq war pundits. The oil companies certainly have the money.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:25 PM on December 5, 2009


Of course climate change is real. It's been going on since Earth was a slowly cooling ball of molten mass. It would be really strange if it stopped just because we came along. Are we influencing it? Yes. But no matter what we do we can't, and shouldn't, stop it. The rodents are counting us to give them their big chance. Hopefully in a few hundred thousand years they'll be having this same argument while the insects prepare for their turn at global domination. "Intelligent life" is depressingly stupid.
posted by irisclara at 6:31 PM on December 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


pjern cautions against the fallacy of argumentum ad hominem, implying that this is what pointing out who funds climate change denial constitutes, but as a non-scientist I have to say one of the key criteria I use to judge the likely honesty of someone addressing me on topics like AGW is what's in it for them. This is a commonplace of politics, which is where the actual controversy lies (or at the very least where my opinion on the subject as a non-scientist actually counts for anything), and only a fool wouldn't consider the interests that the battalions lining up on either side of the 'debate' represent.
posted by Abiezer at 6:40 PM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hildegarde, I'm pretty sure this graph of C02 levels for the last 400,000 years has not been discredited in any way.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 6:41 PM on December 5, 2009


"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!" -- Upton Sinclair
posted by Urban Hermit at 6:44 PM on December 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


[....] I'm concerned about inconsistencies in the data and in the demonstrated attempt to obscure any dissent. And I have serious concerns that this moment is causing more environmental crises in the third world than it's solving for the first.
posted by Hildegarde at 8:38 PM on December 5 [+] [!]


If your principle issue was not with the implications of AGW but the proper interpretation of data, I would have expected you to either reflexively side with the majority of scientists (not necessarily a good idea, but I think reasonable) or research the arguments by looking at follow-up arguments of both sides. However, you have apparently stopped after listening to the denialists. This, again, reminds me of the situation with creationists. You'll still hear people talking about the 2nd law of thermodynamics proving evolution is impossible, even though the response is easily found on internet, and easy to understand. That's because people don't bother to look for the response. They have no clue what entropy is, nor do they care ---they've just found (what feels to them like) a technical argument that supports their position. I'd wager that the majority of anti-hockey-stickers don't know what PCA is, nor are they experts in the tree rings of bristle-cone pines.

There's no logical connection between the reality of AGW and an analysis of the effectiveness and downsides of the proposed solutions. My own take is that most of the "solutions" presented are in fact presented by the main perpetrators of CO2 production, and are in essence deliberate non-solutions (corn ethanol being the prime example). If AGW is real, maybe the best "solution" is to do nothing at all (okay, it's not, that's a terrible idea), but that issue is completely independent of the reality of AGW.

Finally, I can tell you that in the sciences, there is an overabundance of misunderstood geniuses who are kept down by the system. Some of them are even moderately useful on occasion, but a lot of them bitch and moan about having their work rejected, especially when it's rejected with good reason. A common good reason that a scientist's work is rejected outright, is that they have presumed to work in a field in which they have little or no expertise.
posted by Humanzee at 6:44 PM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm always so amazed by these discussions. I've spent the past 8 years learning everything there is to know about how stream ecosystems function, including substantial research in biogeochemistry and hydrology on a local scale, yet I freely admit that the mixture of global scale biogeochemistry, climatology, hydrology, and just plain old chemistry and physics involved in all of the processes discussed by my colleagues who do climate change research for a living is a lot of work for me to understand. I can follow along with much of it, and I can understand their arguments when the best of the best explain it to me, but I certainly recognize that I'm probably not going to be the person who makes any major change in the theory. And I work in the same lab as these people.

How on earth can an economist or a person on the street expect to be able to read a quick summary and find an obvious hole in some of the most complicated interdisciplinary science out there? I'm not saying "Respect their authority." I'm saying this stuff is really hard and requires a lot of background knowledge to understand. You don't think anyone can just walk in off the street with no preparation and be an aeronautical engineer, or a nuclear physicist, or even a web administrator, so why are you so sure that just anyone can read a couple of articles and be a climate scientist?
posted by hydropsyche at 6:49 PM on December 5, 2009 [22 favorites]


Faze: pretty good indication that you're dealing with a cult. But when non-believers are literally threatened with "burning" -- as in burning in Hell -- the parallel is so strong you have to laugh. I think the global warming believers are one martyr away from becoming a big-time religious-political movement -- a new historical force in the 21st century. It will be an interesting development.

Good thing no one does that with any other issues. Vegetarianism, for example.
posted by spaltavian at 6:58 PM on December 5, 2009


You don't think anyone can just walk in off the street with no preparation and be an aeronautical engineer, or a nuclear physicist, or even a web administrator, so why are you so sure that just anyone can read a couple of articles and be a climate scientist?

Well, many people do believe you can walk in off the street and be an aeronautical engineer, or a nuclear physicist, or even a web administrator, because many people think that home-grown common sense trumps knowledge and expertise. With climate science, this usually happens when it snows somewhere slightly off season, and, well, it's just plain as day that this means global warming is a myth. With other fields of expertise, this is often characterized with the opener "Why don't they just....", as if the speaker has hit upon a simple solution that the experts are too high on their horses to see. When the opinions of these armchair Einsteins are dismissed, the experts are accused of having an agenda (or, in media terms, not being 'fair and balanced').
posted by troybob at 7:29 PM on December 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


I haven't exactly stopped listening. I heard my first ever reasonable contrary commentary last week. I found it interesting. I have no ideological skin in this game; I'm down with all efforts to stop treating the earth like a bloody garbage pail. As someone with an environmental cancer, I'm quite interested in cleaning up the environment.

I was pretty heart-broken hearing about the damage these carbon sinks are causing. I'm not qualified to evaluate the data. But not everyone with questions about the motivations behind the global warming machine is a meathead with specific ideologically-driven feelings about it.
posted by Hildegarde at 7:35 PM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Bora Horza Gobuchul : Okay, Hildegarde, the first ten minutes of that that podcast, point by point

Oh snap! SmackDOWN. Very well done!
posted by JHarris at 7:36 PM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Objections not addressed:

- Hyper-politicization of this issue makes it difficult for a non-expert to know if the information they are getting is agenda driven, or actual data.

- Apathy. What's the worst thing that happens? We all die. That's evolution. More likely, only 90% of the people die. At which point, the problem self-corrects.

- AWG is not a moral issue; humanity is entitled to deplete and destroy the Earth in order to advance itself.
posted by cseibert at 7:39 PM on December 5, 2009


And thanks, Bora Horza Gobuchul: please keep going with the criticism. I was disturbed and thrown by that program, but I'm not qualified to know where the inaccuracies are. Frankly I'm not a person who believes the climate change isn't happening; I'm more concerned about whether data is being obscured or research pushed in a particular direction in order to further the environmental mission generally. I support that mission, but I don't support emotional blackmail, if that's what's happening.
posted by Hildegarde at 7:47 PM on December 5, 2009


Something I haven't seen mentioned is that even if global warming is bunk, the CO2 we are pumping out will cause an ecological catastrophe in the oceans, as they become too acidic to support any of the calcifying organisms in them.

Ocean acidification in Wikipedia is a good place to start learning about it.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 8:08 PM on December 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


Why global warming is a fraud:
Why cannot 21st century scientists properly understand the basics of physics and chemistry that were known over a hundred years ago? It is due to the corrosive influence of an atheist worldview: if all life in the universe, and all the complex processes on earth, came about by chance, then everything is a fluke – it’s just a one in a quadrillion chance that it all came right on the night. This gives rise to the mentality that the slightest disturbance will upset this highly improbable chance arrangement, so highly unstable systems and positive feedbacks are to be expected and feared. Anthropogenic catastrophism thus flows naturally from atheism, and belief in anthropogenic catastrophism feeds atheism. However, in a worldview that holds that the universe and all life was purposefully designed then one would expect there to be very strong negative feedbacks and ultra-stable systems, because this is what a good designer would do – design extremely robust systems with extremely robust processes for extremely complex organisms that are to flourish for thousands of years.
How could it be simpler? Stupid atheists believe that the world is delicate and must be preserved, while religious geniuses realize that God would never do something so ridiculous, and therefore, no matter what the data shows, it must be wrong.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 8:33 PM on December 5, 2009 [11 favorites]


And then there are people who think that global warming is a ploy to empower America's enemies by reducing our demand on fuel, thus lowering the price and subsidizing their economic rise and subsequent dismantling of the USA.

Wait, lowering the price of oil subsidizes the economic growth of America's enemies? Which enemies is that referring to, exactly? Because I was under the impression that a lot of America's purported enemies depend pretty heavily on the price of oil being high.
posted by albrecht at 8:33 PM on December 5, 2009


Alright, Hildegarde, second 10 minute segment of the podcast. After a long discussion of "The media doesn't listen to me", Solomon gets to the Mann "hockey stick" graph. gompa has already mentioned that criticism of the graph originated with an economist and statistician, neither of them qualified to analyze meteorological data. Furthermore: I'm just getting to the point at which Solomon points out Hansen's re-ordering of the GISS data in August 2007 for temperatures in the US (note: not global temperatures) after a latent Y2K bug was discovered, which made 1934 the hottest year on record in the United States to that date. However, he goes on to suggest that this change made the entire decade of the 1930's hotter than the 1990s, which is false. (You can see the re-ordering on a denial site here.) Globally, the last ten years have been the hottest on record since continuous instrumental records were began in 1880. Even taking into account that 2008 was the coolest year since 2000, it is still the ninth warmest year on record.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 9:09 PM on December 5, 2009 [13 favorites]


HULK SMASH
posted by humannaire at 9:17 PM on December 5, 2009


The House panel that Solomon mentions was under Republican auspices, during a Bush presidency: the Representatives from Texas and Kentucky formed the Questions Surrounding the 'Hockey Stick' Temperature Studies: Implications for Climate Change Assessments hearing in 2006. Make of that what you will.

Not that Bora needs any back-up for this wonderfully thorough evisceration of Solomon, but if you're still wondering what to make of the nature of the climate conversation in Washington during the Bush era, it's worth recalling that Michael Crichton was once brought before the Senate to give expert testimony on the science of climate change.
posted by gompa at 9:28 PM on December 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm saying this stuff is really hard and requires a lot of background knowledge to understand. You don't think anyone can just walk in off the street with no preparation and be an aeronautical engineer, or a nuclear physicist, or even a web administrator, so why are you so sure that just anyone can read a couple of articles and be a climate scientist?

Oh, but the people on Slashdot seem to know everything about everything, even when they don't. Don't worry about climate change or any other major world problems folks, the internet skeptics (your local sys. admin) are on the case.
posted by peppito at 9:49 PM on December 5, 2009


There's nothing like global warming to separate the real skeptics from the overly argumentative contrarians.
posted by tehloki at 10:40 PM on December 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


Dasein: I don't see how anyone could think that we can continue to grow our economies while consuming significantly less power than we are currently.

It doesn't get talked about much, but I think in the longer term, the general environmentalist's view on economic growth must go something like this:
"You can't have every single country in the world striving year after year to grow their economies - in a system with finite resources it isn't going to be possible"

Granted, you can grow economies somewhat through efficiency gains, but in the longer term economic growth has to be tied to greater resource usage (doesn't it?) and, short of colonising other planets, there aren't enough resources to let every economy keep growing forever.

Correct me if I'm wrong though, my grip of the economics is a bit shaky.
posted by memebake at 12:57 AM on December 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


Here's what we need to do: We need to stop one volcano from erupting. That will in one fell swoop compensate for any damage our carbon emissions have created.

Problem: Solved. You're welcome.
Not only do volcanos don't emit much CO2. In fact, the particulate matter emitted by volcanos actually cool the earth down. In "Superfreakonomics" the authors actually suggest dumping sulfate aerosols into the upper atmosphere on a permanent basis, as volcanos do on a temporary basis.

Setting aside the difficulty in stopping a volcano from erupting, of course.
Almost as scary as people walking around with little global-warming catechisms, so they can pull them out and incant their beliefs to benighted family and friends at holiday get-togethers. The demand for "belief" in itself is a pretty good indication that you're dealing with a cult.
Lol.
Some people think "troll" means "a person who has a different opinion than I do." This is really scary.
Well, it's not so much "they disagree with me" as "they have an opinion that's so absurd it's hard to believe a rational person could hold it.
and our "carbon offsets" involve destroying forests and habitats in the third world to plant our carbon sink single-plant farms. The hysteria is making things worse.
Lol what? That's one of the most insane things I've read in a while.

Most carbon offsets go to pay for the creation of sustainable energy infrastructure, like windmills and whatnot, to reduce the need for fossil fuel use in the future. (i.e. $1 to pay for a windmill that wouldn't otherwise be built would save X pounds of CO2 over the lifetime of the windmill, or whatever)

The wikipedia article on the sources of carbon offsets doesn't mention anything about farms springing up just to sell carbon offsets. Maybe some hairbrained schemers out there have tried that but they would make a lot more money just growing ordinary crops. And furthermore the reverse is true. Some carbon credits actually go towards preserving rainforests from destruction for farming.

The idea that vast swaths of land are being converted into 'single-plant' carbon sinks because of the overall tiny carbon credit industry is absurd.

Fuel cell cars? Does anyone understand thermodynamics? It takes energy to make energy! For that to be efficient or useful in terms of net CO2 reduction, we have to have power plants that don't burn fossil fuels.

You do realize we have lots of power plants that don't burn fossil fuels, right? With more coming online all the time. France, for example, gets 80% of it's electricity from nuclear energy. Brazil is energy independent and uses lots of sugar cane based ethanol. There are hydroelectric dams, nuke plans, and wind farms all over the U.S.
One person? One person who interviewed a ton of top-echelon climate scientists. I don't just believe one person. Again, I must point to the podcast. It's a nice start, and I'd love to hear if you can find ways to avoid feeling some skepticism after hearing about his research on the matter.
Why would I waste my time listening to some crackpot just because they're a "Liberal" or whatever? Thankfully other people listened to it and have pointed out the actual problems.
It doesn't follow that reducing CO2 is the best answer to the problem. It could be that it makes more economic sense to relocate people worst-affected by global warming than to shock the global economy by trying to move off fossil fuels.
Yes, because if there's one thing people love, it's being forcibly moved from their homes and homeland and turned into refugees. But who cares, those people are mostly poor, right? God forbid that rich "economically productive" people be forced to make a minor sacrifice to prevent poor people from being forced from their homes with nowhere to go?
Maybe geo-engineering is the cheapest answer - block out a small percentage of sunlight with sulphur dioxide shot high into the atmosphere.
Because obviously there couldn't be any unforeseen consequences, and once we started we would have to keep going for decades, since CO2 stays in the atmosphere for a long time.
I was pretty heart-broken hearing about the damage these carbon sinks are causing.
Well, like I said, that isn't actually how carbon offsets work.
posted by delmoi at 1:26 AM on December 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


But not everyone with questions about the motivations behind the global warming machine is a meathead with specific ideologically-driven feelings about it.

But many people are, particularly when it comes to position pieces in the media. For example, your initial link about Solomon was written by a member of a right-wing free-market think tank, and there are links between this group and other pushing the climate skeptic view. It's all one big echo chamber.
posted by daveje at 1:54 AM on December 6, 2009


This is denial in the classic defense mechanism sense.

The possibility of worldwide starvation, collapse of civilizations, or, you know, the species? It's too big and too nasty to think about.

And you know? There's no point in trying to have these conversations on the low level- we're fighting generations of propaganda.

What we need is high end policy makers to make these choices, to choose future human survival over corporate money, to decide that it's better to NOT have to fight over arable land than it is to say, "Well, I'm sure glad we outspend the rest of the world in military funding!".

It's a good thing I do believe in a higher power, because I sure as hell don't believe in human benevolence.
posted by yeloson at 2:09 AM on December 6, 2009


Interesting. Once upon a time any refusal to accept the IPCC was shouted down on Metafilter. I detect a shift, perhaps even to recognising skepticism is not denial.
posted by A189Nut at 4:12 AM on December 6, 2009


Scepticism is not denial. Scepticism is swayed by evidence and reason.
posted by Bangaioh at 4:28 AM on December 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


>
and our "carbon offsets" involve destroying forests and habitats in the third world to plant our carbon sink single-plant farms. The hysteria is making things worse.
Lol what? That's one of the most insane things I've read in a while.


I believe Hildegarde was referring to biofuel production in SE Asia, which is a notorious example of greenwashing.

He is quite right that some things are indeed getting worse under the name of mitigating climate change, but that's not an argument against the science or excuse for inaction. It just shows that there are special interests in either side, and that the course of action must be carefully chosen.
posted by Bangaioh at 4:51 AM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter: Pumping different crap into the atmosphere when we don't know quite what's going on.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 5:32 AM on December 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


If the typical climate-change skeptic parrots a bunch of canned arguments that he doesn't really understand to a typical climate-change defender, who then parrots back a bunch of canned counter-arguments that the defender also doesn't really understand, does the excess heat produced by all this vigorous circle-jerking, in fact, contribute to global warming?
posted by dgaicun at 8:11 AM on December 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


Hey, Faze. You're interested in the possibility of a climate change martyr? Well, it might end up being me, one of my colleagues, or one of our bosses if we pass cap and trade. At our town hall meetings in August men wearing guns were holding signs protesting "cap and slave." The conservative media is full of assertions that climate legislation is using a hoax to advance a broader socialist takeover of the US, and it will destroy our economy and advance us towards world government. Commentors on these sites, and folks in our town halls, talk about blood in the streets and revolution if we pass cap-and-trade. So an unbalanced one of them taking a shot at someone he or she believes responsible for this monstrous evil is not farfetched at all. But I refuse to be intimidated, as do my colleagues. I write climate legislation while watching Glenn Beck. It only increases my resolve. But Faze, if someone tries to hurt one of us, I hope you'll think of us first, and not a smug confirmation of your prediction.
posted by oneironaut at 8:25 AM on December 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


I can keep going if you like, Hildegarde - right now I'm up to the part where Solomon says that the Medieval Warming Period made the planet hotter than it is today (it didn't [PDF]), but so far the podcast is doing pretty much exactly what I suggested: they are engaging in anomaly hunting, one of the hallmarks of pseudoscience and denial.

If I may wax epistemological for a moment: there is nothing wrong with pointing out anomalies in scientific data. It was, in part, observed anomalies in Mercury's orbit that prompted Einstein's law of General Relativity. It was an informed amateur who discovered the Y2K error in the GISS data I mentioned earlier. Those contributions, and many more like them, made for better science.

But no-one screamed "Newton was wrong!" when Einstein published his paper in 1915. Everyone recognised that Newton's mathematics continued to be perfectly adequate to describe the majority of motion in the cosmos to a degree acceptable for most purposes, including landing on the moon. Einstein's model of the universe was simply more accurate, met observations better, and maintained its predictions under a wider range of conditions.

Solomon isn't proposing a viable alternative theory. At the moment I stopped listening to the podcast I gained the impression that he was hedging towards the "natural processes" argument for climate change, which doesn't explain the sharp rise in observed CO2 levels, nor account for their effects. Solomon isn't proposing a better scientific model: he is picking holes, and attempting to discredit an entire field by doing so.

What it comes down to, at its root, is a fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose of science. Science doesn't set out to discover Ultimate Truth. Every scientist recognizes that her field, whatever its level of advancement, can only provide mathematical approximations and gross physical manipulation of an infinitely complex reality. Every scientist recognizes that pi to 2.5 trillion decimal digits is still short of what pi actually is, and will always be so, no matter how many decimal places we calculate it out to. There is nothing wrong with that. There is, in fact, something deeply humble about it. What is wrong are people who prefer simple unchanging stories and state that, despite all the evidence, "pi is 3".

Scientists are still human, and are entirely fallible. They have ego and pride and time invested in their field of choice. But they have also created a reliable truth-seeking mechanism in the form of the scientific process... and any good scientist, when confronted with a theory that contradicts his own yet explains more data with better predictions in a more robust way, will yield the debate.

Solomon's problem isn't scientific intransigence or a "brainwashed" media. Solomon's problem is with the implications of the research.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 9:43 AM on December 6, 2009 [12 favorites]


In regards to fuel-cell, electric, and other energy-transfer cars. The problem is that the internal combustion engine is notoriously inefficient unless you run it under constant load. Electric cars are ultimately more efficient because you shift the energy production from a poorly optimized system (consumer vehicles) to a highly optimized system (industrial electric plants). On top of that, it's easier to scrub and sequester some of the resulting CO2 at an industrial facility.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:16 AM on December 6, 2009


New Climate Change Hacking Event in Canada
posted by homunculus at 10:34 AM on December 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


Another “Climate Trick” Controversy: Copenhagen Prostitutes Giving Freebies
posted by homunculus at 10:36 AM on December 6, 2009


New Climate Change Hacking Event in Canada

Yup, there's way too much at stake in the Climate Change Argument for it not to be overtly political. Which sucks. But there you go. To me, this means that before we can have a rational, informed scientific discussion, we must first have it out on some ponderous, perhaps inconceivably vast, ideological battleground.

Shame on all who have allowed their "beliefs" to force this into the emotional realm and this includes the so-called "Climategate" geniuses at the University of East Anglia. Thanks guys.
posted by philip-random at 10:55 AM on December 6, 2009


I heart the MeFi people who take up the immense challenge of addressing each of the denier's ignorant and frivolous claims with comprehensive responses. You've much, much more patience than I for the self-inflicted stupid.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:09 PM on December 6, 2009


Here's a great video refuting the conspiracy theory/fox news take on it.

Johnnybeggs, that clip of Alex Jones doing a hysterical sobbing voice can only be described with the phrase "money shot". It's magnificent. I haven't heard any evangelist do it better.

Rest of the video's great too, of course. ^_^
posted by fleetmouse at 1:51 PM on December 6, 2009


The status quo, being what it is, doesn't require a very compelling argument to resist a challenge.

I don't know how people will bridge the gap between what needs to change and what is likely to change. More and more I have the feeling that there will need to be significant changes in the way we look at everything ( in the national and international narratives about "progress", "development", "quality of life", etc...).

Somehow we will have to accept a new way of life that is significantly different from our current day-to-day experience. I'm developing a vague, depressingly revolutionary presentiment... and praying that it's just some kind of exceptionalist, millenial, distortion in my thinking.

Maybe the flourescent bubs and recycling bins and stuff will fix everything and the hard changes will never come... or maybe everyone will stand up and face it, like WWII rationing and victory gardens or something, maybe everyone will see the necessity and embrace whatever changes come, giving up the status quo stories about how things should be, about happiness and success and productivity...

...or failing all that, I hope it is a hoax. I don't believe it is anyway, but I pray the scientists are mistaken... that'd be a relief, the status quo could stand and we wouldn't be doomed.

maybe one day, without an axe hovering over our necks, we'd change some of the stuff anyway, clean up some smoke stacks and regulate some practices, and we could all take our time getting used to tiny incremental changes... no one would notice a changed habit here, a law passed there, one type of business disappearing and another appearing to take its place...and one day we'd wake in a new clean world without a bunch of too-fast, uncomfortable, scary, big, changes.

Actually, I doubt that'd happen, if we were going to be fine we'd probably stick to the status quo. So I guess really I don't mind even if the scientists are wrong about us all dying soon from climate change. I'd like to clean up our act regardless of the threat to us. I feel like it's the right thing to do to stop screwing everyone and everything for the sake of more plastic garbage we throw out.
posted by ServSci at 9:07 AM on December 7, 2009


Shame on all who have allowed their "beliefs" to force this into the emotional realm and this includes the so-called "Climategate" geniuses at the University of East Anglia. Thanks guys.

And now, having just viewed the Alex Jones clip, I take back my read of the "Climategate" situation.

(he said, realizing how easily he could be swayed)
posted by philip-random at 9:13 AM on December 7, 2009


"The problem with the global warming debate just now is that tolerably well funded groups on both sides are using dubious science to advance their own agendas and push the debate further toward the extremes. The common habit of thinking in rigid binaries comes into play here; it’s easy enough for global warming believers to insist that anyone who questions their claims must be a global warming denier, while their opponents do the same thing in reverse, and the tumult and the shouting helps bury the idea that the territory between the two polarized extremes might be worth exploring. As a result, moderate views are being squeezed out, as the radicals on one side try to stampede the public toward grandiose schemes of very questionable effect, while the radicals on the other try to stampede the public toward doing nothing at all. "
ArchDruid report
Sorry for the recap, I just couldn't say it any better.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 4:09 PM on December 7, 2009


As a result, moderate views are being squeezed out, as the radicals on one side try to stampede the public toward grandiose schemes of very questionable effect, while the radicals on the other try to stampede the public toward doing nothing at all. "

What is a "moderate" view on climate science? Something like "Anthropogenic climate change is happening but we don't want to rush into actually doing anything that might alter the impacts we're having." Science isn't radical.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:46 PM on December 7, 2009


Considering how many millions of years earth made dinosaurs load up the crust with oil, I can't help but see it as the bait to trap and kill a planetary parasite, fully capable of disarming the natural deterents to out of control growth, such as the marvelously effective influenza and other plagues that used to keep our population within sustainable numbers. Get your shots, everyone. If you can't take the fun out of reproduction, or come up with a social system that satisfies without the aquisition of ever more stuff... go earth! Way to use our natural tendancies to poison ourselves back to manageable levels. Or beyond. On the planetary scale, species come and go. We may well turn out to be as stupid as the dodo, and just as ripe for extinction. Could a common enemy bring us benevolently together to fix what's wrong? CO2 levels are a symptom, not a problem. The problem is faulty programing in our core. You want peace on earth? It's coming..... earth will be fine.
posted by Redhush at 8:23 PM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Dasein - the first 30% or so of carbon cuts is pretty easy, it's low fruit from big central sources. The last 30% is very hard. The middle portion medium hard. I don't think the target cuts are that unreasonable when you look at the sorts of things they are cutting. Cars for example - they won't convert the enture fleet to electric - it will be a small percentage only. Gas flaring? Big cuts there, they account for like 10% of some countries entire CO2 output.
posted by stbalbach at 8:28 PM on December 7, 2009


maybe everyone will see the necessity and embrace whatever changes come, giving up the status quo stories about how things should be, about happiness and success and productivity...

...or failing all that, I hope it is a hoax


Even if climate change is a hoax or no cause for concern (not likely IMHO but IANAScientist), there's no shortage of inter-related problems to worry about: resource depletion, overpopulation, biodiversity loss, deforestation, ocean acidification, collapsing fisheries, topsoil loss, freshwater stress... We must be concerned with ALL of them, and even if for a few of these some magical solution (magical because it must both solve the problems in question and NOT create any additional unforeseen ones) appeared, there's still all the others to be concerned about. Climate change is just another symptom of our current unsustainable lifestyle, and I reckon it is often blown out of proportion in the sense that it seems as though it is the only "bad thing" we need to be worried about.


> He is quite right that some things are indeed getting worse under the name of mitigating climate change
And I'm quite wrong in assuming other posters' gender without bothering to take a peek at their profile first. Sorry, Hildegarde!

posted by Bangaioh at 5:44 AM on December 8, 2009


"Skeptics": if you're not in denial, why aren't you considering the huge risks involved? This isn't some interesting debate point. Humans are causing massive global change in a very complicated system; no one really disputes sharp increases in CO2. Yes, the impact of that change is hard to predict; this should make you more concerned, not less.

When a wild animal bites you and runs off, doctors have no way of knowing if it's rabid. Probably it isn't. But they start rabies shots immediately because the stakes are so grim if it is.
posted by msalt at 6:58 AM on December 8, 2009


And that's why when I'm bitten by an animal, I don't go to the doctor. Risks I don't acknowledge can't hurt me!
so far, so good. no rabies yet.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:47 AM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


No Slowdown of Global Warming, Agency Says
posted by homunculus at 12:20 PM on December 8, 2009


. "What is a "moderate" view on climate science? Something like "Anthropogenic climate change is happening but we don't want to rush into actually doing anything that might alter the impacts we're having." Science isn't radical.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:46 PM on December 7 [+] [!]


Science as I was taught, is not 100% certain of its conclusions. Especially when there is no experimental evidence to demonstrate its conclusion. That is the realm of religion and (bad) politics.

One possibility that could be called moderate in this debate, would be that the climate is going to change, even if we are successful in curtailing our carbon emissions and that we had better prepare to deal with it.

Just look here
5 million years of climate change
Our climate fluctuates dramatically, whether humans are around or not. We may have some small influence, but change is going to come.

Personally I think all the brouhaha, regarding global warming is a bait and switch, to get us to not worry about all the other pollution we are spewing out in the world. I would like us to take our resources and deal with the pesticides and fertilizer run-off into our oceans. The only positive thing I think this focus brings is if we can use it to stop rampant development and deforestation.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 1:15 PM on December 8, 2009


Our climate fluctuates dramatically, whether humans are around or not.

1) When did the climate shift as rapidly as what we are experiencing now?

2) What were the results?
posted by Jimmy Havok at 2:33 PM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Science as I was taught, is not 100% certain of its conclusions. Especially when there is no experimental evidence to demonstrate its conclusion.

Hypothesis: Increasing atmospheric CO2 and other greenhouse gases will increase global temperatures.

Background: This is due to the physics of light energy interacting with the chemical bonds of these molecules. This is consistent with the effect as seen on other planets.

Methods: We introduced increasing concentrations of known greenhouse gases into the atmosphere of our planet. We measured the concentrations of these gases in the atmosphere, as well as the earth surface temperatures, at various places throughout the globe.

Results: We found that global temperatures were increasing during our experiment and that the increase was correlated with the concentrations of greenhouse gases we measured.

Discussion: Although it would be nice to have replication in this experiment, the financial costs, as well as the costs to both human and alien life, are prohibitive. We feel that our results are conclusive and in this case replication is not necessary.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:58 PM on December 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Also: I would like us to take our resources and deal with the pesticides and fertilizer run-off into our oceans.

I'm glad you have an interest in biogeochemistry. My area of research is aquatic biogeochemistry, and I share your concern about the possibility of seriously altering our oceans. Although I agree with you that export of nutrients to the ocean from agricultural runoff is a serious concern, I am far, far more concerned about ocean acidification due to rising CO2 concentrations, which, as has been mentioned before in this thread, has the potential to destroy ocean food webs which depend on calcium, which is essentially all marine life.

Even if you are dubious of climate change for whatever reason, you can't deny that atmospheric CO2 is increasing and this is the end results.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:04 PM on December 8, 2009


Surely the ocean has been much more acidic. During the dino era, the atmosphere was CO2 heavy, so would the oceans not have been acidic? Yet weren't they also teeming with life?

Something doesn't add up here. Probably because I know nothing.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:31 PM on December 8, 2009


Surely the ocean has been much more acidic.

The organisms of that period had time to evolve to deal with the pH of their ocean. We are dumping that same CO2 that used to be in the atmosphere back into it at a rate that is too quick for anything except extinction.

Once the situation settles, organisms that can handle the new conditions will evolve. However, it won't be pretty in the meantime. I, for one, don't like the idea of a world without coral reefs.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 9:41 PM on December 8, 2009


Our climate fluctuates dramatically, whether humans are around or not. We may have some small influence, but change is going to come.

Gee, person with 34 total comments, that doesn't sound a bit like science or moderation to me. "We may have some small influence" is pure spin, 100% debating tactic, clearly aimed to forestall any change. What's your basis for calling the effect of humans small? What makes you think that 5 million years of change crammed into 150 years would be survivable? Or even 100,000 years of change?

FFF: Surely the ocean has been much more acidic. During the dino era, the atmosphere was CO2 heavy, so would the oceans not have been acidic? Yet weren't they also teeming with life?

True. Then again, most of that life became extinct as the climate changed. So that might not be the example you want.
posted by msalt at 11:22 PM on December 8, 2009


I am not dubious of climate change, I believe it is changing and has changed drastically numerous times in the past and will do so in the future. When I say a small influence, I am talking about our present impact relative to past temperature oscillations.

It almost seems that paleoclimatology is being ignored.

I don't question that the CO2 that we are dumping is bad for the environment and that measures to curtails such emissions will be beneficial. But I think our focus on this single thing above all other concerns is detrimental to all of our other environmental concerns.

Instead of proper land use, limiting our consumption, and managing all of the emissions that are poisoning our water and air. We are all going to buy new, low-carbon-emission cars and continue our rampant urban growth with carbon sequestering concrete. Meanwhile corporations are going to buy carbon credits from 3rd world countries that are not producing carbon or move their plants to those countries so that they can continue business as usual. And our climate will still change and cause suffering for millions.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 1:52 PM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


It almost seems that paleoclimatology is being ignored.

No reputable climate scientist is ignoring paleoclimatology. In actual fact, most of our modern understanding of processes directing climate, including how greenhouse gases work and how positive feedback loops have acted in the past, is based on the work of paleoclimatologists.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:52 AM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Psycho-alchemy: climate change deserves singular focus compared to other environmental issues because the full consequences are unknown, and catastrophic results on the scale of previous mass extinctions are well within the range of reasonable possibility. The scale of these risks comes precisely from paleoclimatology, because that is the only data we have on changes this massive.
posted by msalt at 11:30 AM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


This infographic is pretty sweet. [from InformationIsBeautiful.net]
posted by jonesor at 10:21 AM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


God it is so sad to see so many of you fall for this scam.
posted by GrooveJedi at 1:45 PM on December 23, 2009


Physics: the ultimate scam!
posted by Jimmy Havok at 3:41 PM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


« Older Stoney Knows How...  |  Eminem's "Lose Yourself" re-en... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments