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whither US action on climate change?
November 9, 2010 5:35 PM   Subscribe

With half of the new GOP Congressmen affirmed climate science deniers,and facing opposition even within his own party, President Obama has acknowledged that "cap and trade" legislation on US carbon emissions is dead. Regulation of emissions by the EPA appears to be the only way forward. Republicans are seeking to nobble that option, while Karl Rove thinks that "climate is gone" from the political landscape. Thankfully, according to John Shimkus, God has promised no more climate change, so we're all right then.
posted by wilful (155 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
I like the use of the word nobble here, in the sense that to "nobble" a racehorse is to thwart it using a drug. The drug here is of course anger and the Republicans have used it to great advantage.
posted by dave78981 at 5:42 PM on November 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


My physical geography instructor taught the class (that I'm currently attending) that man-made global warming does not yet have enough proof to be regarded as factual.

Myself, I think if the vast majority of scientists have signed on to "compelling" evidence, that's good enough for me to implement cautionary rules and regulations for the future.
posted by uraniumwilly at 5:43 PM on November 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


I can't decide whether to go feel outrage over Republicans or thrill at the word nobble.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:43 PM on November 9, 2010 [13 favorites]


climate is gone

That's for sure.
posted by fuq at 5:45 PM on November 9, 2010 [20 favorites]


uraniumwilly, your physical geography instructor quite possibly isn't one of the sharpest minds going around. Maybe once he's got a publication record in climatology you'd consider giving his opinions due credence?
posted by wilful at 5:45 PM on November 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


wilful: "With half of the new GOP Congressmen affirmed climate science deniers"

Meanwhile, every single one of the 95 House and Senate candidates who publicly pledged to defend net neutrality lost their elections last Tuesday.

Oh, and the AFA is saying that we need to kill all the bears. Life imitates Colbert?
posted by Rhaomi at 5:45 PM on November 9, 2010 [10 favorites]


All of the measures proposed so far haven't been the kind of long-term solution that is needed to actually stop global warming anyway. The truth is, I think, the measures that are necessary are going to be huge, dramatic, and expensive. The change-over is going to suck, even in the first world, and the third world is in the unenviable position of hurting the worst from climate change and being totally unable to afford to the change-over (which is going to be crushingly expensive, even for us.) Plus, nobody really wants the third world to have nuclear power, which is probably the cheapest alternative to fossil fuels.

Basically, nobody is going to endure the huge reduction in standard-of-living that is necessary until it becomes blatantly obvious that the consequences of not doing it are much worse. It'll take a huge event, like the permanent submersion of several major cities, before anyone will be able to force themselves to do it. Finally, I doubt that everyone will ever be voluntarily on board - some countries might actually have to be forced.
posted by Mitrovarr at 5:52 PM on November 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


Uraniumwilly, when you say "physical geography instructor", do you mean high-school, or university? Is he/she a scientist?
posted by phliar at 5:53 PM on November 9, 2010


Cap and trade ain't all sunshine and rainbows.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 5:54 PM on November 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


AFA's Bryan Fischer is just like a real-life Ed Anger, only less charming. (Though from the comments, it looks like WWW's readers just might think Ed is real ... and really awesome.)
posted by grabbingsand at 5:55 PM on November 9, 2010


My Physical Geography teacher, back in '99 or so, said that anthropogenic warming was real, and possibly past the tipping point already.
posted by lekvar at 5:57 PM on November 9, 2010


while Karl Rove thinks that "climate is gone" from the political landscape.

This is one of the things that I hate about politicos like Rove. They talk about real things like the Earth's climate as if they were political ideas or movements. Like we can stop hurricanes if we have the right talking points or something.

Politicians come and go, but CO2 is real. Deadly real. I don't think we're going to try and fix anything until it's too late, though.
posted by Avenger at 5:58 PM on November 9, 2010 [23 favorites]


I really hate climate change.

I wish it was a gentle seasonal fluctuation between crisp mornings and sun-filled beach noons and snow sprinkled evenings... every day.

You know who I blame? Scientists, BP and Obama. (Jeebus/Unkle Moh will help out though)
posted by vectr at 5:58 PM on November 9, 2010


Feeling helpless about stopping climate change? Here's something you can do if you're in the Boston area:

Roll against coal.

I'll be there - good time, good cause, good exercise.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 5:58 PM on November 9, 2010


Even if Klaatu landed in Washington tomorrow and magically stopped all the industrial processes of the world, the planet would still (thanks to the last 150 years of cranking out CO2) be significantly warmer in the decades to come, with all the wacky weather, underwater Bangladeshis, and agricultural mayhem that that entails. I'd like to be outraged by this latest turn of events, but the fact is that even if the Green Party swept the House and Senate last week we'd still be in an impossible situation.

I don't mean to be defeatist - there's still a lot we can do to try to ameliorate things for future generations. But what the Democrats have been trying to pass for the last few years probably isn't it.
posted by theodolite at 5:59 PM on November 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


I don't think we're going to try and fix anything until it's too late, though.

Define late.

Late for humankind? Maybe. We usually have to kill off a good percentage of our own before we'll change anything. See: plague, crusades, WWI, WWII, inquisition, insert genocide here, etc.

Late for Earth? Mama Earth don't give a shit how much CO2 is or isn't around, in fact, she'd probably enjoy us sucking it down and dying off. If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 6:02 PM on November 9, 2010 [10 favorites]


My physical geography instructor taught the class (that I'm currently attending) that man-made global warming does not yet have enough proof to be regarded as factual.

I think a common misperception of climate change is that it is an observation rather than a prediction. We can say with great certainty that a hammer will fall to the floor when we let go of it a minute from now, while people like this teacher are saying "No-one has ever seen this specific hammer fall yet", ignoring that gravity is a fact firmly established elsewhere by observations of things that are not the hammer.

The thermal properties of CO2 is a matter of hard physics. It IS factual.
The CO2 emitted per gallon of gasoline burned is a matter of hard chemistry. It IS factural.
The volume of earth's atmosphere, and the changing balance of gases that make it up is, again, factual.

This "evidence" is asking to see the effects climate change after it has already happened. That's not where we want to go. That's just stupid.

(The extent to which oceans can soak up CO2 and turn it into acid before fisheries collapse is not as clearly known. There are many unknowns like that, but these are questions of where will the hammer stop after bouncing on the ground, not questions of whether the hammer can really fall once released. Gravity doesn't make exceptions.)
posted by -harlequin- at 6:04 PM on November 9, 2010 [32 favorites]


Meanwhile, every single one of the 95 House and Senate candidates who publicly pledged to defend net neutrality lost their elections last Tuesday.

That's bullshit. A bunch of congresspeople, who were losing their elections, decided to jump on the net neutrality bandwagon like a week before the election. It's not surprising that it didn't turn the election around for them.
posted by delmoi at 6:06 PM on November 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


See, this is why "We still control the Senate" rings hollow for me.
posted by kafziel at 6:06 PM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think a common misperception of climate change is that it is an observation rather than a prediction.

At this point, it's more the other way around.
posted by delmoi at 6:07 PM on November 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Late for humankind? Maybe.

I doubt it. We're pretty tenacious bastards, and I don't think much outside a comet strike would finish us off entirely. There might be a lot less of us in the year 2200, there will certainly be a lot fewer species in general, and the average person's quality of life might not be as good as it was in 2010 (although it's not too good right now for a whole lot of people), but there will also be new ecosystems appearing as old ones vanish, new ways of living, and (in the long run) new forms of life. I think that global warming might be the most important fact in the next thousand years of human history, but paradoxically I don't feel as if it's much of a political priority. The warming of Earth began a long time ago - we humans kicked that off long before we could imagine the effect we might have.
posted by theodolite at 6:11 PM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


-harlequin-, and others, I don't really think (hope) anyone here on metafilter is dumb enough to actually disbelieve climate science, I don't think we need to rehash very old ground regarding debates over 'theories' versus 'facts' or whether or not climate change is happening. I mean, nobody's actually that thick are they?
posted by wilful at 6:11 PM on November 9, 2010


When the Europeans arrived, you could drink out the Hudson River - or whatever it was called then.

We don't feel the current undrinkability of the Hudson as a loss because we can't imagine it otherwise.

If the oceans become fish-free, it will be only 18 years until there are college freshpersons who have never lived in a world that was not so.

That's as close to optimistic as I can get about this.
posted by Joe Beese at 6:11 PM on November 9, 2010 [27 favorites]


Maybe once he's got a publication record in climatology you'd consider giving his opinions due credence?

Be careful what you wish for.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 6:11 PM on November 9, 2010


...meanwhile mother nature, with an eased firm grasp, takes her portfolio to karl roves house.
posted by clavdivs at 6:15 PM on November 9, 2010


Perhaps the best and most feasible solution is a tax on fossil fuels. This would have several advantages over cap and trade. First, it is less intrusive and easier to implement. Most people seem to like their taxes simple and transparent. Secondly, it can be explained to the public as a means to offset the expense of maintaining a large military presence in the Middle East in order to secure access to oil. Not to tax oil users for this is a transfer of wealth from those who use less oil to those who use more. Americans should see this as a matter of fairness. Part of the money could be used to dispose of coal ash and deal with oil spills. That is another hidden or external cost of fossil fuels that needs to be made explicit. Removing these advantages would allow renewable technologies to compete on a more level playing field. The only downside I see is that it would hurt poor people living in rural areas disproportionately but if some of the money generated was set aside to expand public transportation outside of major urban areas that imbalance could be offset.
posted by Tashtego at 6:19 PM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't really think (hope) anyone here on metafilter is dumb enough to actually disbelieve climate science,

My experience has been that even people who take it on trust, including some people here, are prone to thinking the idea comes from and is based on observed climate changes, rather than A+B=C.

I also don't see it as a rehash because I'm not sure I've ever even seen the point addressed.
posted by -harlequin- at 6:21 PM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Even if Klaatu landed in Washington tomorrow and magically stopped all the industrial processes of the world.

well, superman just used his lungs and I do not recall Lex Luthors stance on this issue.
runs. fast.
posted by clavdivs at 6:23 PM on November 9, 2010


With half of the new GOP Congressmen affirmed climate science deniers...

If the Dems and the other half of the Republicans back Obama, that's 72%. A supermajority. That's enough to float an amendment (the most drastic and far-reaching action that the legislature is capable of). If half of the republicans agree on something that the Democrats also agree on, that's pretty much a slam dunk.

Of course, they'll vote along party lines, and nothing will be accomplished as a result. Misery Accomplished.
posted by schmod at 6:25 PM on November 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


And now... we wait and see.
posted by MeatLightning at 6:26 PM on November 9, 2010


If A = tiny atmosphere

and B = we've essentially filled our entire habitable ecosystem

then

C = things aren't looking up?
posted by vectr at 6:29 PM on November 9, 2010


I think the horse has left the barn. It's time to start focusing serious efforts on geoengineering.
posted by mr_roboto at 6:32 PM on November 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


In response, the American Geophysical Union is sending in what I'm dubbing "the climate brigade."
posted by Grimp0teuthis at 6:34 PM on November 9, 2010


Pascal's wager, anyone?
posted by stargell at 6:36 PM on November 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


Americans should see this as a matter of fairness.

Yeah, we should, but the doctrine of American Exceptionalism (which infects not only those on the far right but many people all along the political spectrum) means "fairness" is "America gets what it wants." I mean, how many tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis and Afghanis have died as "payback" for ~3000 Americans killed on 9/11?

Not trying to over simplify it -- certainly many (most?) Americans don't see it that way, but I'll bet that's the justification a lot of people used, consciously or unconsciously, for the invasions, and that many still probably use.
posted by Saxon Kane at 6:36 PM on November 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


As it turns out, modeling studies of incredibly complex phenomena like climate change are hard to do, and many have consistently made wrong predictions. The response of the authors taking this stance has been to then refine their models to better match the newly-arriving observed temperature data.

Now this is all well and good, and of course the nature of the phenomenon being studied is such that hypothesis testing cannot be done by actually manipulating experimental conditions. However, for many years now, there's been a lot of work put into continually revising these complex climate simulations, and very little actual hypothesis rejection.

Anybody here who has done massive regression analyses with messy data knows how this sort of thing can go -- and also how it can go wrong.

It's not appropriate to use the term denialist. There are a great many good, intelligent, and rigorous scientists out there who question the political mainstream of climate thinking, for instance, Roger Pielke. For a far greater understanding of what actually is going on in climate modeling, you should see what he has to say.
posted by phenylphenol at 6:37 PM on November 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Perhaps the best and most feasible solution is a tax on fossil fuels ... Americans should see this as a matter of fairness.

Hahahaha.

Hahahahaha.


Oh, God.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 6:37 PM on November 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yay God!

I was worried, for a minute there.
posted by pompomtom at 6:39 PM on November 9, 2010


In particular, What are Climate Models? What Do They Do?
posted by phenylphenol at 6:42 PM on November 9, 2010


Can I just saw how fucking batshit insane that Shimkus video is? The guy says he believes that the word of god is infallible and unchanging. Fact, every page of it, that we have to believe and follow. I mean, not to pick the low-hanging fruit, but DUDE. I could probably turn to a page in the Bible at random and find something that we don't, can't, and most certainly should not believe is infallible and unchanging. I have to wonder -- is he for real? How in fuck's name can someone be so oblivious? I've heard of cognitive dissonance before, but come on...
posted by Saxon Kane at 6:46 PM on November 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's a small data point in the grand and largely infuriating and depressing scheme of things, but Proposition 23 lost. —Karl Rove remains an utter moron who got incredibly lucky that one time.
posted by kipmanley at 6:46 PM on November 9, 2010


The guy says he believes that the word of god is infallible and unchanging. Fact, every page of it, that we have to believe and follow.

Even better: he says that the word of god is infallible and unchanging, while quoting the King James version of the bible.

That's got to be worth a giggle just by itself.
posted by pompomtom at 6:48 PM on November 9, 2010 [9 favorites]


Also: he quotes from Genesis, says God's word is infallible and perfect and then... mentions the age of the dinosaurs? Whuh? Did he mean those dinosaurs that were around 6000 years ago or what?
posted by Saxon Kane at 6:49 PM on November 9, 2010


Only half of the GOP congressmen? I'm surprised it's not more.
posted by circular at 6:52 PM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


That's got to be worth a giggle just by itself.

That sounds suspiciously like euro-commie talk. You best watch your mouth.
posted by aramaic at 7:01 PM on November 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


phenylphenol, it is entirely appropriate to use the term denialist.

a great many good, intelligent, and rigorous scientists out there who question the political mainstream

Oh yeah? Name one.

Pielke? Well he believes that climate change is a fact.

As for the "it's only modelled" nonsense. Garbage. No models are able to explain warming without CO2.

I'm not going to debate you on this further, because you're wither a willing dupe of vested interests, or don't understand science.
posted by wilful at 7:07 PM on November 9, 2010 [7 favorites]


I think Americans really do care about fairness. The problem with something like cap and trade is it's complexity lends itself to manipulation and institutional corruption. A tax on carbon fuels is fairly straightforward and the reasons for it can be explained to the average person as covering the military and environmental costs associated with the use of those fuels. That is important if you actually want public support for your solution.
posted by Tashtego at 7:14 PM on November 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm relieved that, thanks to our new Republican House of Representatives, we can return to raping the environment and getting rich while doing it.

When I say "we," I mean like nine really wealthy Mr. Burns from The Simpsons types who aren't likely to survive the decade anyways because they're really wicked old, but want to have so much money that they can be buried in a coffin made of carved orphan bone.
posted by Joey Michaels at 7:20 PM on November 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


There needs to be a heavy carbon tax on irrational, shortsighted, selfish and greedy windbags who exhale and bluster entirely too much, and I don't care what side of the aisle they sit on.
posted by loquacious at 7:28 PM on November 9, 2010


The truth is that the fight against global warming never had a chance. People are too selfish, short-sighted, and gullible to voluntarily make the massive changes that would have been necessary to prevent it.

I'm feeling very discouraged right now.
posted by callmejay at 7:34 PM on November 9, 2010


callmejay, the bright sparks here (clutching at straws) are that China is doing far more to wean itself off fossil fuels than generally gets credited for, and there are plenty of serious bottom-up initiatives starting to show up. California, I believe, is going ahead with significant economic restructuring to be less polluting.
posted by wilful at 7:38 PM on November 9, 2010


The American Geophysical Union plans to announce that 700 researchers have agreed to speak out on the issue. Other scientists plan a pushback against congressional conservatives who have vowed to kill regulations on greenhouse gas emissions.

John Abraham of St. Thomas University in Minnesota, who last May wrote a widely disseminated response to climate change skeptics, is also pulling together a "climate rapid response team," which includes scientists prepared to go before what they consider potentially hostile audiences on conservative talk radio and television shows.

"This group feels strongly that science and politics can't be divorced and that we need to take bold measures to not only communicate science but also to aggressively engage the denialists and politicians who attack climate science and its scientists," said Scott Mandia, professor of physical sciences at Suffolk County Community College in New York.


Call me an optimist, but as they say, the GOP may have won the battle but the war is far from over.
posted by tybeet at 7:40 PM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think a common misperception of climate change is that it is an observation rather than a prediction.

My own research intersects with climate change research, and it was just this week I pulled together some data showing that the both the number of days over 35 degrees C per annum, and the longest heat-wave length per annum, in Darwin, Australia, have doubled between 1940 and present. r2 of trend is ~.35 in both cases. Not the world's strongest correlation. Not peer reviewed, yet. But that's an observation, for you.

Climate change has been a prediction for around 30 years now. We are well, well into compiling the observations.
posted by Jimbob at 7:42 PM on November 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Well, luckily, there was absolutely no reason to vote for Democrats over Republicans, so this didn't change anything, right guys?
posted by klangklangston at 7:46 PM on November 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


Perhaps the best and most feasible solution is a tax on fossil fuels. This would have several advantages over cap and trade.

The problem with at Carbon Tax, rather then Cap 'n' Trade is that you have to set the carbon tax rate correctly to get the correct level. With Cap 'n' Trade, the market sets the price on carbon based on a fixed limit.

With a tax, lobbyists would constantly be trying to mess with the levels or give themselves exemptions that would weaken it. With Cap and Trade, you still have the same lobbying but the cap stays fixed.
posted by delmoi at 7:47 PM on November 9, 2010


Fuck.

This is a reminder that the real line of political tension in this country isn't between liberals and conservatives, it's between technocrats and populists, between those of us who believe that intelligent policy design matters and can actually effectively solve our problems (it's not outrageous to believe the same kind of system which has successfully regulated nitrous oxide emissions could do the same for CO2) and those who are reflexively suspicious of anything someone with a college degree thinks up (it's got death panels!). This is the kind of ridiculous incoherence that somehow let Republicans get away with calling a system which prices out and sells the negative externalities of pollution via supply and demand the onset of socialism.

Rest assured, the death of cap and trade is really just the canary in the coal mine for any attempt to fixing America's problems by actually thinking through them.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 7:49 PM on November 9, 2010 [21 favorites]


I don't really think (hope) anyone here on metafilter is dumb enough to actually disbelieve climate science

This attitude is really offensive - if you don't agree with me, you're just an idiot. You know what, skepticism of climate change is not like skepticism of evolution. It's certainly nothing like Holocaust denial - and the appropriation of the word deniers, comparing racists who deny the existence of the best-documented event in history to scientists who disagree about the factors affecting the most complex natural system we know of - is probably the most odious aspect of the climate change movement.

Climate science is one of the most complex fields of science, if not the most complex. The factors affecting climate are so varied, and their interactions so complex, that professional scientists can spend their careers just trying to understand how one small aspect fits into the puzzle. As others have noted above, fitting everything together relies on astonishingly complex computer models. It's emphatically not a matter of simply making observations and then drawing conclusions. And those models are easily manipulated to spit out the data. (Anyone who doubts that some of the most respected specialists in the respective fields that make up climate science have serious, non-oil-money-based doubts about the reliability of climate science needs to read these books.)

A true understanding of climate science is beyond the abilities of vast majority of people. I would be willing to wager that it's beyond the abilities of 99.9% of the people who spend their time on the internet calling people who don't agree with them climate change deniers. We are all dependent on highly specialized experts for our opinions on this, which means we are dependent on them to be disinterested and objective evaluators of the evidence who will open their underlying data to scrutiny. How anyone can believe that that is the case after Climategate is beyond me. The leading climate scientists are on the record treating skeptics like political opponents, who have to be blocked from seeing raw data and discredited simply because they are skeptics.

It's also undeniable that climate scientists have an immense financial incentive to tilt their research towards climate alarmism - that's where the money is. Scientists whose research questions the dominant GHG theory have a hard time getting published, and a harder time finding any funding from public agencies. They find themselves isolated and attacked by their colleagues - because this has left the realm of science, and entered the realm of politics.

It's not everyday that academics become relevant to the world at large. Climate alarmism has given many scientists a bully pulpit from which to inveigh against the free market and argue for something that many may have been in favour of already - more intrusive government regulation of the economy. Scientists who profess to be alarmed at the perilous state of the climate may be equally quick to reject geo-engineering-based solutions, preferring instead to argue for regulation or taxation that could cripple economies. In these debates, the potential harm of climate change is often wildly exaggerated. (A quick thought experiment: what would these scientists be saying if the world were cooling? They'd be saying what they were in the 1970s, that massive famines are just around the corner. And, indeed, the greatest famine in Europe, in the early 14th Century, were caused not by a warming climate but by an unusually cool one, occurring at the end of a warm period in history. Climate changes - and whether it's getting warmer or cooler, there will always be people who want to say the end is nigh. Personally, I'd rather try to grow food in a greenhouse than a cooler.) At the same time, the costs of attempting to dramatically change society's energy flows are ignored, or dismissed by saying, "but surely the costs of inaction..." by people who really know relatively little about economics or energy systems.

So excuse me if I don't sign on to a project to try to cut fossil fuel use by 20% in 10 years, or 80% in 40. It takes decades to change society-level energy flows, and nothing today approaches fossil fuels for energy density. The people who I have to rely on to argue for this are part of a profession that has shown itself to be financially, emotionally and politically invested in proclaiming imminent doom. (Climate-change skeptics would get laughed out of town if they tried to use an unseasonably cold day as evidence against climate change, but how often have you seen "experts" proclaim that a severe weather event is evidence of climate change?) Does this mean that the GHG theory of global warming is incorrect? No, it doesn't. But it definitely means that skeptics, far from being dumb, are doing what anyone should do when presented with a bandwagon political movement that seeks to use controversial science to effect a far-reaching political agenda: be skeptical. And I would say that proponents of stringent medium-term caps and taxes have yet to meet the persuasive burden that falls on them to show that the costs of their proposals are justified by the evidence.
posted by Dasein at 7:51 PM on November 9, 2010 [11 favorites]


A tax on carbon fuels is fairly straightforward and the reasons for it can be explained to the average person as covering the military and environmental costs associated with the use of those fuels.

It's been pretty clear for the last 40 years at least that the the average American does not care or want to know about the military and environmental costs associated with his behavior.
posted by stargell at 7:54 PM on November 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is all Ralph Nader's fault and I'm not talking about the 2000 election. He loaded up cars with hundreds of pounds of safety equipment making them heavier and driving down mpg. Then by reducing fatalities from automobile accidents he drove up usage thus increasing fuel consumption. Unsafe at Any Speed, made us shun light vehicles for the "safety" of the big car. Look at those 1970 gas guzzlers that followed and morphed into the SUV when CAFE came in. All those highway deaths would have deterred automotive usage and increased public transit. It also would have removed millions of high carbon emitting American Consumers from the world which woud have given us more time to solve this problem.

And that's how the Republicans will spin it when the polar caps melt away next summer.....
posted by humanfont at 7:54 PM on November 9, 2010


The LA Times article that tybeet links to conflates two separate efforts and is misleading.

One effort is the "climate rapid response team" that John Abraham is leading.

The AGU effort is to enlist members to answer climate science questions from journalists covering the upcoming Conference of Parties (COP 16) in a timely fashion. This is nothing new, they did the same thing last year. The AGU press release that corrects the article.
posted by plastic_animals at 7:57 PM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


All I'm wondering is who's gonna step up to be the Mutant to Dasein's Malor.

Or is it vice versa?
posted by notyou at 8:07 PM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's also undeniable that climate scientists have an immense financial incentive to tilt their research towards climate alarmism - that's where the money is. Scientists whose research questions the dominant GHG theory have a hard time getting published, and a harder time finding any funding from public agencies.


Whoa whoa WHOA. This accusation gets tossed around a lot but let's not forget that there are some very influential denialist organizations that are funded by large energy corporations. Organizations that are attempting to convince the public that:

1) climate change isn't happening
2) If it is happening, it's beneficial
3) The only solutions to climate change are financially impossible, therefore let's not worry about it

I think "denialist" is a perfectly good description of people who get paid to say that. I wouldn't say that climate-denial has reached the same level as evolution or Holocaust-denial, but we are certainly drifting into Tobacco-denial-territory.
posted by Avenger at 8:08 PM on November 9, 2010 [7 favorites]


Dasein, re-reading your comment above, I see that you hit denialist talking points 1, 2 and 3, in order. I'm amazed, actually. I was trying to be flippant and humorous when I described denialist talking points, but you had to go and make my point for me.

I think the fact that you've regurgitated corporate-sponsored talking points from memory should give you pause. Maybe you should think long and hard about who is swallowing who's propaganda, and the ulterior motives behind the people that you seem to support?
posted by Avenger at 8:15 PM on November 9, 2010 [11 favorites]


dasein, you are just an idiot. Not because you disagree with me, but because you don't believe the overwhelming consensus of the entire relevant scientific community.

To repeat: it is not just about the models. It has never just been about the models. It is observed.
posted by wilful at 8:20 PM on November 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


" How anyone can believe that that is the case after Climategate is beyond me. The leading climate scientists are on the record treating skeptics like political opponents, who have to be blocked from seeing raw data and discredited simply because they are skeptics."

Seriously? So, your link to "Climategate" says: "Subsequent inquiries rejected allegations that climate scientists had colluded to withhold scientific information, interfered with the peer-review process to prevent dissenting scientific papers from being published, deleted raw data, or manipulated data to make the case for global warming appear stronger than it is, but the UEA was criticised for a "culture of withholding information."

It then follows up by saying, "The investigations concluded that there was no evidence of scientific malpractice and Jones was cleared of any scientific misconduct.[11] They reported that while sharing of data and methods was in line with common scientific practice, it was desirable that there should be greater openness and information sharing."

The reason why "skeptics" are treated like political opponents is that the "skeptics" are politicizing and manipulating the public face of the debate in an extremely political manner, acting similarly to how you are right here. Your representation of "Climategate" starts with loaded terminology, then misrepresents the results of the investigation in order to score an ultimately political point, while simultaneously accusing people doing the real science of the same thing. It's remarkably cynical and poor form. That you can't just simply admit that the scientific consensus is that climate change is a real risk, that it's got a huge human component, and that it poses real risks means that treating you as if you've got a legitimate scientific point is to dignify your position with too much equanimity — and that's simply one tiny excerpt of a large, fallacious and misleading comment (which I imagine will be well-fisked by others).
posted by klangklangston at 8:24 PM on November 9, 2010 [13 favorites]


uraniumwilly, your physical geography instructor quite possibly isn't one of the sharpest minds going around. Maybe once he's got a publication record in climatology you'd consider giving his opinions due credence?

Uraniumwilly, when you say "physical geography instructor", do you mean high-school, or university? Is he/she a scientist?

Apologies for the delayed response. First a tip of the hat to harlequin for his interesting position on the factual nature of the C02 increases, etc. My instructor teaches a college level course. It's a credit transfer level course for UC so, since students want to save money they invade the cheaper colleges like mine. Anyhoo, I tried to make some points about the large numbers of scientists signing on to the man-made climate change position, but that was not the gist of her lecture. She was more interested in making the points Dasein made about the complexities, the disagreements on modeling, the medieval period climate changes and other shorter term climate changes. She also showed us a Newsweek article from the 80s, I believe, where scientists were predicting an up and coming ice age.

I admit to being more open-minded after her lecture. She never told us her opinion.
posted by uraniumwilly at 8:25 PM on November 9, 2010


Also, she's got a degree in climatology. I'm not sure if it's a PHD. She's got quite an edge. Probably a PHD.
posted by uraniumwilly at 8:26 PM on November 9, 2010


It's also undeniable that climate scientists have an immense financial incentive to tilt their research towards climate alarmism - that's where the money is.

Any reputable scientist who wanted to dispute the consensus position on climate change could become a very wealthy man overnight. The idea that climate scientists endorse the consensus because "that's where the money is" is the biggest stinking pile of bullshit on the political scene today. And that's saying something.

As a side note: does anybody else remember when Cap and Trade was the moderate, business-friendly, DLC approach to carbon reduction? Now it's socialism. The Overton Window strikes again.
posted by steambadger at 8:27 PM on November 9, 2010 [22 favorites]


You can't bring up the "But scientists in the 1970s said the world was cooling" myth and be taken seriously, Dasein.
posted by plastic_animals at 8:27 PM on November 9, 2010 [8 favorites]


It is observed.

Okay, I will ignore your rhetorical brilliance in calling me an idiot (how persuasive!) and point out something that is perhaps not obvious. If someone built a weather observation station in the woods in the 1930s, and over the decades the nearby city expanded until, in the 1980s, the station was surrounded by concrete, we would expect the heat island effect to increase the average observed temperatures at that station. This has happened around the world. How you correct for that is a matter of - guess what! - modeling. Which is incredibly complex and quite susceptible to manipulation. Only a...what's the word?...idiot would deny that.
posted by Dasein at 8:36 PM on November 9, 2010


More denialist claptrap.
posted by wilful at 8:37 PM on November 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


C'mon, hit me with every single argument, I bet they can be answered in five minutes or less with a simple link.
posted by wilful at 8:38 PM on November 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Up until this election I must admit I was willing to listen to some Republicans, not the Sarah Palins, or the Mich McConnels of the world mind you, but there where a few here and there that I could disagree with amenably. I could even, under some duress perhaps, imagine voting for individual Republicans.

2010 has changed that, it was the year that has irrevocably solidifies a hatred... yes hatred, for an entire political party. From this day forward I have no further benefit-of-the-doubt left in me. Not...one...shred.

The sheer level of repression, evasion and outright violence to be topped off with a rewarding of the same by electoral victory completely taints all who would serve under the banner of Republican. There are no moderate Republicans anymore, only those too afraid of the tiger they have by the tail. From city councilor to the highest office if you claim the mantel of Republican you claim a party of such low cunning and diseased paranoia it would make any tin pot dictator proud.

I would still hesitate to call myself a Democrat, but I am a feverent anti-Republican. I would vote for Stupak over Olympia Snowe, before this year I don't think I would have said that.

I will say one thing good that came out of the elections.. it has finally motivated me to envision and start implementing my 10 year plan towards as much self sufficiency as possible. New Job, 10 acres and an Earth Ship. 2020 baby.
posted by edgeways at 8:38 PM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Except I'm busy. but I bet you haven't got anything new that hasn't been nailed here already.
posted by wilful at 8:39 PM on November 9, 2010


Climate change 'skeptics' have something very important in common with evolution 'skeptics' - they're unable to propose alternate mechanisms that explain already-observed phenomena.

If your skepticism only extends to "nuh-uh, God/the sun did it", then you're not really a skeptic looking for alternate explanations. You're simply denying the only plausible explanation presented so far.

Global temperatures are increasing; oceans are acidifying. If you want to be a skeptic about the role carbon dioxide plays in this recorded data, then you have to provide an explanation of what's causing those rises, and then, more importantly, you need to explain why all of a sudden carbon dioxide is behaving differently than physics says it should.

Until the so-called skeptics do that, there's no reason why we should throw out hundreds of years of physics and chemistry and a hundred years of recorded climate data. Anything else isn't science, it's just whining, and not worthy of any respect.
posted by harriet vane at 8:42 PM on November 9, 2010 [13 favorites]


You can't bring up the "But scientists in the 1970s said the world was cooling" myth and be taken seriously, Dasein.

I note that your link says there was no consensus that the world was cooling. Well, there's no consensus that the world is warming, now - that's the point! - but there were undeniably a lot of scientists who wanted to make hay out of the theory.

denialist talking points

You know, dismissing opposing arguments by calling them "denialist talking points" is hardly a counter-argument. If I said you were just spouting "majoritarian acceptivist claptrap," would I be convincing anyone but myself? This sort of rhetoric just reinforces my point - that there is a monopoly within this discussion, and that skeptics get shouted down and compared to Holocaust deniers. Real charming. I know it makes good favourite-bait on Metafilter, but it's a problem when it goes on in universities, too, which it does.
posted by Dasein at 8:45 PM on November 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm not at all a violent person, but reading climate change denialists trotting out the same discredited arguments in forum after forum again and again fills me with a white-hot frothing rage. At least the professional liars in the media get paid to do what they do; amateur denialists like Dasein waste their time destroying the future for free, as a hobby. It's mind-boggling.
posted by gerryblog at 8:47 PM on November 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


is any/all of this true?
Its a cut and paste
this is from someone who read the ENTIRE cap and trade bill that was proposed:

I read HR 2454, the version that passed the House June 26, 2009. All 1428 pages of it. If passed, it would have fundamentally changed the way every American lives.

In addition to carbon trading:
* It would have put many organic/sustainable farmers out of business by making compost virtually illegal.
* It was a huge rationing project that had a stated goal of total energy reduction of 83% by 2050. This cut was across every sector of the economy: medical, industrial, residential, etc.
* It demanded all buildings to be retrofitted to green standards within 5 years.
* It also created "Green Banking". A new banking group to deal in government backed loans to literally everyone (regardless of income) for the purpose of this retrofitting. New financial products and underwriting guidelines were to be created to facilitate low income loans. Sounded like new CDS, MBS and liars loans to me.
* It demanded all manufactured homes built before 1976 to be dismantled and recycled.
* It required new standards on all vehicles and machinery, heavy and light.
* Created a program called WaterSense which included everything in regards to water. Pipes, infrastructure, toilets, shower heads, etc.
* The bill allowed for utility companies to raise their rates to cover any lost revenue from reduction in power use.
* It regulated fireplaces, charcoal stoves and outdoor grills. It set up a program to give green cooking appliances to 3rd world countries at US expense.
* It regulated and restricted all outdoor lighting, from street lights to swimming pools.
* It created so many new government agencies, I lost count half way through the bill. (page 574) it went into a new agency that was to measure the carbon content of products across the entire carbon life cycle. Product meant virtually everything: paper, cement, aluminum, chemicals, food, beverage, hygiene, cleaning, household cleaners, construction, metals, clothing, semiconductors......
* Created a Building Energy Performance Labelling Program to categorize and distribute the information gathered from building inspections.
* It required permits and studies for all new building to safeguard native plants.
* Created an infrastructure for electric car use.
* Created a new system of unemployment benefits and retraining for permanent job loss.
* Created new subsidies for those who could no longer afford energy.
* Mass data collection, use and storage was a frequently recurring theme throughout the bill.
* Oddly enough, it never stated what these new green energy standards were. It created a new government agency to figure it all out.

This is a very brief summary of that monstrosity. Strangely, there was little in it about real pollution and emitting truly toxic chemicals into the environment. I'm so relieved it's dead. It would have sent what's left of the economy straight into the depths of Hell.
posted by robbyrobs at 8:56 PM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Accounting for the urban heat island effect isn't all that difficult (and the modeling done is simple regression modeling, not physics-based climate modeling).

The UHI is not that much of a factor when compared to the large-scale temperature trends. This has been known for decades. Check outthis article from 1988(!). A more recent review article comes to the same conclusion for global temperatures.
posted by plastic_animals at 8:59 PM on November 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


destroying the future for free

Just out of curiosity, what do you imagine you'd be doing to a billion of the world's peasants if you prevented them from increasing their carbon emissions? Brightening or destroying their future? Has the future gotten brighter or less bright for the average Indian or Chinese in the last 20 years? It's amazing how lightly you have to scratch to bring out the violent sanctimony in some people. Even if the world is warming just as fast as the IPCC says it is (now there's an organization we can all trust), the idea that it's climate change, and not the attempts to stop people from using energy, that is the greatest threat to human progress is highly dubious.
posted by Dasein at 9:02 PM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Dasein: How you correct for that is a matter of - guess what! - modeling.

You misunderstood. He was saying that climate change is observed. You do not corrected for the 'heat island' effect in measuring climate change, because that is a strict measure of temperature. The temperature is rising and it's been statistically proven again and again - nobody credible disagrees with the idea that it is occurring, merely about the cause.

Nevertheless, the idea that the cause of climate change is seriously questioned within the field is generally false, in my experience. It is actually a lot like the evolution debate, because every time a researcher comes out against anthropogenic climate change, one of three things is typically found to be true: They're a crackpot who was previously misinterpreted as making sense (but in retrospect can be recognized as such), they have like three publications nobody cares about and are being controversial as a desperate ploy for attention, or finally (and this is the most common one) they're up to the elbow in the pocket of someone who has a lot to lose if global warming is accepted. I just do not see qualified science opposing anthropogenic climate change without massive conflicts of interest going on.

Do you really think there's a big conspiracy of scientists in it for the fat research grants and lulz? Scientists often have to go to college for over 10 years, and they're not really well paid later (you spend the research grant on stuff for your experiments, you know.) It would be just about the stupidest way to make money anyone's ever come up with.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:03 PM on November 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


Shit.
posted by limeonaire at 9:05 PM on November 9, 2010


That's a heck of a text bomb to accept at face value. Some of the wording reminds me of the scare tactics used regarding the health bill. Some of it is just plain silly,


Some of it actually sounds like good ideas, some of it sounds like padding or misreading.
posted by edgeways at 9:05 PM on November 9, 2010


" If someone built a weather observation station in the woods in the 1930s, and over the decades the nearby city expanded until, in the 1980s, the station was surrounded by concrete, we would expect the heat island effect to increase the average observed temperatures at that station. This has happened around the world."

But guess what guys, the earth isn't getting hotter!

"How you correct for that is a matter of - guess what! - modeling. Which is incredibly complex and quite susceptible to manipulation. Only a...what's the word?...idiot would deny that."

See, the problem is this: The consensus is that global warming is occurring and that a significant cause of that is human action. So even granting that modeling is complex, and even granting that it is susceptible to manipulation, you still have to prove that it is being manipulated. Otherwise, that's just ad hominem reasoning, attacking the scientists rather than the science.

I'm not saying you're an idiot. I am saying that the case that you're arguing isn't supported by your arguments, at least to me.
posted by klangklangston at 9:05 PM on November 9, 2010


Assuming that all that stuff was in the House bill, there's no way of knowing what would have survived committee, since the House was far more liberal than the Senate. Farm state conservatives like Nelson and Lincoln would most likely have demanded a lot of changes in exchange for their votes.
posted by Bromius at 9:08 PM on November 9, 2010


You know, dismissing opposing arguments by calling them "denialist talking points" is hardly a counter-argument.

But you haven't made an argument.
posted by wilful at 9:12 PM on November 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


I note that your link says there was no consensus that the world was cooling. Well, there's no consensus that the world is warming, now - that's the point! - but there were undeniably a lot of scientists who wanted to make hay out of the theory.

Well, that's some selective quoting of the paper! You paraphrased the first sentence of the introduction. Here's the full intro:
There was no scientific consensus in the 1970s that the Earth was headed into an imminent ice age. Indeed, the possibility of anthropogenic warming dominated the peer-reviewed literature even then.
Very convenient of you to leave off the second sentence. If you actually read the paper you'd find out that there were actually not "a lot of scientists who wanted to make hay out of the theory."
posted by plastic_animals at 9:15 PM on November 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Do you really think there's a big conspiracy of scientists in it for the fat research grants and lulz?

No, of course not. And for all I know, the majority of scientists are absolutely right. But you don't need an active conspiracy for science to be distorted - just enough grant bodies deciding to give money to scientists whose research aims to demonstrate AGW, and enough hiring committees who pass over candidates who disagree - for the effect to be real. Academics is incredibly political, insular and self-reproducing, and you definitely don't need any sort of conspiracy for these factors to distort the public debate in something so driven by experts. The people who teach this discipline are believers in AGW; the people who self-select to study it will be believers in AGW. When they start treating other scientists who disagree as the enemy, I think we have to ask whether we can rely on the consensus for our biggest public policy decisions.

There's certainly an argument to be made that it's worth hedging our bets even if we are uncertain about AGW - investing in renewable power/nuclear regardless, because of the risk if the majority are right and climate change will hurt us. But climate science is unlike other branches of science because of the immense political influence that scientists are wielding in making public policy that touches every facet of our lives. I think there's a real problem when people start arguing that the political response is an inevitable consequence of the scientific conclusion. Because we can accept that the world is warming, and we're causing it, and still say that the costs of stopping that warming outweigh the benefits. There's nothing evil (or future-destroying) in that.
posted by Dasein at 9:24 PM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Created a program called WaterSense which included everything in regards to water. Pipes, infrastructure, toilets, shower heads, etc.

I don't have time right now to look all of this up; but it would be odd indeed if a House bill passed in 2009 created the WaterSense program, which is a voluntary EPA initiative established in 2006:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WaterSense

Unless Congress has discovered time travel, I suspect your source is flawed. Do you have a link?
posted by steambadger at 9:32 PM on November 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Because we can accept that the world is warming, and we're causing it, and still say that the costs of stopping that warming outweigh the benefits.

Climate Change Vulnerability Index 2011.

India and China's glorious carbon-emitting future awaits.
posted by gerryblog at 9:35 PM on November 9, 2010


Because we can accept that the world is warming, and we're causing it, and still say that the costs of stopping that warming outweigh the benefits.

I certainly agree that we can and should distinguish between the economic and scientific. Since there's no argument on the science, but there are plenty of ways of skinning a cat on the economics.

However, all of the major economic reviews say that the costs of inaction are far higher than the costs of action. Which is pretty obvious really when you start thinking about 300 million people displaced by rising sea levels.
posted by wilful at 9:38 PM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


steambadger: "As a side note: does anybody else remember when Cap and Trade was the moderate, business-friendly, DLC approach to carbon reduction? "

Let's travel in time all the way back to the year TWOOOO THOUSAND AND EEEIIIGHT. [/jonstewartboomingvoice]
posted by Rhaomi at 9:42 PM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Dasein: There's certainly an argument to be made that it's worth hedging our bets even if we are uncertain about AGW...

But it's not uncertain, that's the thing. Temperature increases have been demonstrated by statistics so hard you could use them to cut glass, they correlate really nicely with greenhouse gas buildup, and the mechanism is well understood and physically proven. That's as close to certainty as you can really get in a system you can't manipulate in a lab.

"But we need to wait until we're sure" is the first argument in the denialist's arsenal - claim the research is incomplete and preliminary and we should wait until we are certain, and then fight like hell to make sure certainty is never reached. The anti-evolutionists do it, the climate-change deniers do it, and I bet the flat-earthers did it too. Successful theories don't usually run out of critics until a few generations have passed - some people are too invested in the old regime to ever think differently. You can't judge the theory as unproven because it has a few opponents - you have to examine the strength of the evidence. And the evidence here is just overwhelming.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:52 PM on November 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


Yeah, slowing global GDP by 0.12% per year isn't really a huge economic problem.
posted by harriet vane at 9:53 PM on November 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


More on HR 2454:
It demanded all manufactured homes built before 1976 to be dismantled and recycled.

Well, no. Section 203 of HR 2454 allows states to provide rebates to owners of pre-1976 manufactured homes who wish to replace said homes with more energy efficient models.

At this point, robbyrobs, I think it's safe to dismiss your source as fatally inaccurate. I'd still like a link, though.
posted by steambadger at 9:54 PM on November 9, 2010


To get back to the politics angle for a moment, what do people think of using the term climate hawks to describe people who are keen on preventing/mitigating the effects of climate change? It doesn't assume the person also agrees with the general tenets of environmentalism, allowing more people to buy into it without the fear of looking like a dirty fucking hippy. It's a particularly American phrasing, but I think it might be useful. Also it allows for the phrase climate dove, which might be helpful in making sure that people who aren't interested in agressively pursuing solutions don't get lumped in with people who don't understand science.
posted by harriet vane at 9:59 PM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, slowing global GDP by 0.12% per year isn't really a huge economic problem.

If you can, with a straight face, suggest that it would take that little to fundamentally transform global energy flows - that China, for instance, which is building a new coal plant like every week and a half, could start cutting its greenhouse gases with only a negligible effect on its economic growth - then I would like you to send me some of what you're smoking. Find me one country that has grown its economy while cutting carbon emissions. Burning carbon is how our economies grow. That can change, but it'll take decades, because all our infrastructure is carbon-based. Our energy grid couldn't handle fast-charging electric cars, for instance, even if the batteries existed to make them practical, which they don't. Our housing stock needs gas to stay heated, and replacing it takes decades. Our gas power plants last decades. It takes ten years just to build a nuclear plant - and we'd need thousands or tens of thousands to meet global energy demand in the coming decades. Fossil fuel plants take a fraction of the time to build, and a fraction of the skill to operate. The costs of these transformations are huge. If this is happening over 100 years, no problem. If it's supposed to happen in the next 20 or 30, it's just incredible to claim that it's not going to hurt.
posted by Dasein at 10:12 PM on November 9, 2010


Yes, please, let's have hearings on the evidence of climate change

...the new Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives "plans to hold high profile hearings examining the alleged 'scientific fraud' behind global warming...

...So let's do it. Let's have a national conversation about the facts and the evidence...

...Swear in the heads of all the property insurance companies and reinsurers (the greedy capitalists screaming bloody murder over climate change because they know it's real and that doing nothing about it will be very, very expensive)...

...Swear in the head of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity and invite him to repeat his previous statements under oath...

posted by straight at 10:18 PM on November 9, 2010


I'm glad cap and trade failed. Considering what happened when we financialized housing, I shudder to think what would happen if we financialized carbon trading. Just imagine people trying to bet on this stuff and then borking the system to maximize their profit and defraud people.

We'd wake up one day to see a few new climate "billionaire oligarchs" and have a climate with drastic fluctuations or some kind of massive crash. Screw that.
posted by wuwei at 10:25 PM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Dasein, I'm not pulling that number out of my arse. It's from calculations made by Sir Nicholas Stern, and replicated in many economic modelling studies. Don't forget that replacing all that dirty energy with new clean tech means more jobs, more GDP-relevant spending and so on. It takes more people to build, run and maintain clean energy tech in a distributed system than it does to dig coal and burn it in a centralised one. You're only looking at how much everything costs, without taking into account the money that will be made, and the money saved.

Historically, business predictions of the cost of new technology and new regulations have always been overstated when compared to what actually happens. They overestimated the cost of installing sulphur dioxide filters and switching away from CFCs. I'm not inclined to believe any dire predictions they make now, when their track record is so full of bias and failure.
posted by harriet vane at 10:28 PM on November 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also, countries grew their economies before we were burning fossil fuels. We've done it before and we can do it again. It's starting to happen in Africa even now - a combination of decentralised solar power, IT and mobile phone technology is bypassing (leapfrogging is the term often used) what we think of as 'normal' development based on large power plants and landlines and so on. It's not obligatory for developing nations to take the same path we did to prosperity, and it's better if they can learn from our mistakes and avoid a reliance on 19th-century energy sources like coal and oil.
posted by harriet vane at 10:39 PM on November 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


tl;dr

"Politics is the entertainment branch of industry"
-Frank Zappa
posted by palacewalls at 11:07 PM on November 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


The robbyrobs thing has to be a cut-and-paste from some conservative talking-points source. interestingly, the specific phrase "so many new government agencies" is pretty common on all sorts of right-wing screeds.
posted by maxwelton at 11:16 PM on November 9, 2010


There needs to be a middle ground between "the sky is falling" and "nothing to see here move along." The fact of the matter is that the climate has always been changing and has never been stable for any long(geologically) period of time. The fact that we may or may not be causing the change is really immaterial because it would be changing one way or the other.

Spoil the Earth, Spare the Child: Freeman Dyson’s Inconvenient Climate Views

You tube interview: part I part II

bonus video: Let's look for life in the outer solar system
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 11:43 PM on November 9, 2010


I really wish people would stop breeding so damned much. I really wish people would stop thinking that life just isn't complete unless they have children.
posted by Decani at 12:06 AM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Aelfwine, if we weren't causing it, it'd be happening slowly enough for plants and animals to adapt and evolve to it. Changing the climate isn't a problem, it's changing it too quickly that leads to difficulty.

Given more time, polar bears could change their range to warmer lands, maybe interbreed with brown bears in that region. But right now, they're drowning in summer for the lack of solid ice to stand on.

Some birds use temperature to know when it's time to breed - their chicks hatch in time to feed off the insects which breed in spring. But the warming temperature means that they're breeding early, their chicks hatch and have nothing to eat because the insects breed on a yearly time-schedule, not a temperature-based one.

People could migrate too (even off-planet if you like), but as well as international politics making that difficult, flooding and drought mean they don't even get a chance to move before it's too late.

Call me a radical, but I'd like to prevent a massive die-off of human, animal and plant populations while I'm around to watch it. What we do to our climate does make a difference.
posted by harriet vane at 12:29 AM on November 10, 2010


It's not so much "oh n0es no MOR animals" that I'm worrying about. Cockroaches and mice are ferociously resistant to all kinds of extreme conditions. Humans, and human civilization, on the other hand, not so much.
posted by wuwei at 12:35 AM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Decani nails it.
posted by sfts2 at 12:51 AM on November 10, 2010


I oscillate between loving your country and hating it with every fibre of my being.

You'll never guess where I am now.
posted by vbfg at 2:55 AM on November 10, 2010


Aelfwine, we've been over this before. You love Freeman Dyson, nobody else thinks his views on climatology deserve any special respect. OK. His views in the magazine you reference are down in politics and economics, they're absolutely nothing to do with the areas where he became famous. It's really ahrd to talk about benefits when the places where hundreds of millions of people currently live, where whole nations will disappear beneath the waves.

AS for the rubbish that "the climate has always changed", not this fast it hasn't, not as far as we know. Climate change is coming hard, and harder day by day because of people like that Shimkus tool and all the morons who voted him and the class of 2010 in.

Unfortunately most of us will be around to feel it. There oughta be a list of the most prominent denialists in each country, so that in a few years, when even they are convinced, when the whole stinking rotten con is finally laid to bed, and they try to back down on all the lies and bullshit that they spouted, we can remind them of the excuses and delaying that they were happy to engage in, while the planet warmed.
posted by wilful at 3:11 AM on November 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


The problem with at Carbon Tax, rather then Cap 'n' Trade is that you have to set the carbon tax rate correctly to get the correct level. With Cap 'n' Trade, the market sets the price on carbon based on a fixed limit.

With a tax, lobbyists would constantly be trying to mess with the levels or give themselves exemptions that would weaken it. With Cap and Trade, you still have the same lobbying but the cap stays fixed.


We've already seen the key problem with cap and trade in the EU system, its very vulnerable to the setting of the cap. In the EU, individual Member States set their own limits, though surpluses can e sold internationally. Some states allowed far too much in the way of allowances with resulting market collapse in the firstvinstance and very low prices since. This could be aovided through a single administrator of co urse. However, in the US system what would porevent political interference with setting caps, thus undermining prices, removing stability in the market, increasing risk for all those investing in environmental technologies based on the price of carbon and driving up the costs of investing in those technologies, and thus making them less useful.

We have already seen with the application of support for deployment of renewable energy that the more market based mechanisms, adopted on the basis that they would do the most to maximise competititon tended to increase risk, push up capital costs and actually cost more than the alternatives.
posted by biffa at 3:54 AM on November 10, 2010


China is building more solar and wind power than anyone else right now. They have announced plans to close 31.5 gigawatts of coal fired power plants. This is because while you were masturbating to Atlas Shrugged or Chomsky getting your bullshit liberal arts degree they were studying science and engineering.
posted by humanfont at 5:01 AM on November 10, 2010


The fact that humanities majors are entirely responsible for global climate change is so obvious as to be trite, humanfont. Can we move on rather than keep reiterating that self-evident truth?
posted by kyrademon at 5:18 AM on November 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


Aelfwine, if we weren't causing it, it'd be happening slowly enough for plants and animals to adapt and evolve to it.

You know the rate of evolution? I wasn't aware this ratio was a known quantity that was observable in all species. Maybe you should tell this fish about your ideas. You've heard of punctuated equilibrium right?

As for the rubbish that "the climate has always changed", not this fast it hasn't, not as far as we know.

cite?

Unfortunately most of us will be around to feel it.

I don't think you can say that with any certainty. I think Dyson's opinions that need to be taken seriously pertain to the fact that there are concrete land management steps that can be taken to mitigate a large percentage of the impact we have on the carbon cycle. But ignore that if you want and continue with your doom and gloom. Personally I would rather have the earth warm than cool. Geologically we are heading towards another ice age global warming may be just a speed bump on the way. You don't know for sure, scientists don't know for sure, and I don't know for sure. Climate science in case you haven't noticed isn't an exact science. Climate science is a lot like archaeology. It uses hard science to gather facts and data and then arranges those data sets to tell a story.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 5:32 AM on November 10, 2010


When the Europeans arrived, you could drink out the Hudson River - or whatever it was called then.

"Muhekun-etuk" ("Great Mohegan"), with Mohegan (which was the name of the people living in what is now the Albany area) meaning "wolf" if I remember correctly.

Drinkability may have been possible upstream of some shifting point in the lower Hudson Valley, but much of the river is technically an estuary and has more or less saline content depending on the balance of river flow and tidal pressure (and sometimes the lower portion of the river flows north instead of south).

(Sorry for the minutiae, I grew up in the Hudson Valley.)
posted by aught at 6:04 AM on November 10, 2010


The good news is, the United States will be a howling barbaric wasteland in a few years, ruled by priest-kings who shun anything more heretically scientific than a tea kettle. Maybe then the rest of the world can do some good without the interference of Wall Street.
posted by Legomancer at 6:04 AM on November 10, 2010


They have announced plans to close 31.5 gigawatts of coal fired power plants.

... and replace them with 50 gigawatts of new coal-fired power plants.

That they're replacing old coal plants in China with new more-efficient ones is not necessarily any indication that they're trying in some woefully ineffective way to do something about climate changes. They have plenty of incentive to be more efficient just for normal economic reasons, as their coal production and transportation infrastructure has a hard time keeping up with the continued rapidly-increasing use. Despite what you may have heard, there's pretty much no chance of any substantial fraction of it being replaced by "solar and wind power". They're building lots of *everything* to try and keep up with what is expected to be continued rapid growth in energy demand.
posted by sfenders at 6:17 AM on November 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


You've heard of punctuated equilibrium right?

Yeah, I have. The punctuation in that equilibrium is generally thought to be a 'burst' taking place over 50,000 years or so (give or take a few tens of thousands), rather than a little bit at a time over millenia.

Increased CO2 has had measurable effects over a period of 200 years, and we've got maybe 5 or 10 years before we hit the next tipping point. Punctuated equilibrium style evolution ain't gonna do shit to help.
posted by harriet vane at 6:35 AM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


You really need to get your head out of the geological time-frame, Aelfwine. It's not relevant to the problem, in the same way that atomic clocks aren't much use when measuring the turns of the seasons. You're using the wrong scale.
posted by harriet vane at 6:38 AM on November 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


More from robbyrobs' list of HR 2454 atrocities:
(NOTE: that is, the list that robbyrobs supplied. I have no idea if he or she endorses it.)

It would have put many organic/sustainable farmers out of business by making compost virtually illegal.


I was pretty sure this one was horseshit (sorry), and it is: but it's horseshit molded around a tiny grain of truth. Apparently, some environmental groups are concerned that HR 2454 emphasizes non-renewable technologies like waste-to-energy over sustainable practices like composting and recycling. There is, of course, no trace of a provision in the bill making compost "virtually illegal".

So far, robbyrobs, your source is 0 for 3 on the claims I've checked. I beg you to post a link to this list; you may have stumbled into denier central.
posted by steambadger at 7:07 AM on November 10, 2010


That email about HR 2454 gets the number of pages wrong too.
posted by harriet vane at 7:17 AM on November 10, 2010


I think it's pretty easy (easy, not necessarily correct) to be a skeptic of climate change, given that it's a massively multidisciplinary field that relies on thousands of different data sources as diverse as tree rings and arctic ice cores to calibrate an extremely complex computer model that ends up predicting relatively small changes in the average global temperature. After all, what's a degree or two in the grand scheme of things?

But when you consider:

1. The magnitude of the predicted outcome.
2. The massive amount of peer reviewed research supporting the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis.
3. The complete absence of in-field expertise of the people opposed to the idea.

A reasonable person can't come to many other conclusions.
posted by electroboy at 7:23 AM on November 10, 2010


Yeah, I have. The punctuation in that equilibrium is generally thought to be a 'burst' taking place over 50,000 years or so (give or take a few tens of thousands), rather than a little bit at a time over millenia.

That is for speciation to occur. We are not talking about speciation in this context but rather adaptation which happens over much smaller time scales. You are ignoring evidence contrary to your apocalyptic worldview.

We show that freshwater sticklebacks are able to tolerate lower minimum temperatures than marine sticklebacks and that this difference is heritable. We transplanted marine sticklebacks to freshwater ponds and measured the rate of evolution after three generations in this environment. Cold tolerance evolved at a rate of 0.63 haldanes to a value 2.5°C lower than that of the ancestral population, matching values found in wild freshwater populations. Our results suggest that cold tolerance is under strong selection and that marine sticklebacks carry sufficient genetic variation to adapt to changes in temperature over remarkably short time scales. (source)

Life will ahhhh find a way.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 7:26 AM on November 10, 2010


Some will. A lot of it won't. And because this is a very complex system that we live in, the loss of a lot of those species will have effects that are hard to predict, but are generally negative. Waiving your hands and saying "Punctuated equilibrium" doesn't fix that.
posted by klangklangston at 7:41 AM on November 10, 2010


So we're just posting astroturf email forwards now?
posted by vibrotronica at 7:54 AM on November 10, 2010


vibrotronica: "So we're just posting astroturf email forwards now"

*We* aren't; someone is. "We" are eviscerating it.
posted by notsnot at 8:10 AM on November 10, 2010


"And because this is a very complex system that we live in, the loss of a lot of those species will have effects that are hard to predict, but are generally negative. "

This.

Plus the accompanying political chaos as people try to migrate away from lands affected by rising sea levels/inland drought (or, pick your own regional effect) is going to increase demand on relatively unaffected agricultural areas. If our political systems are unable to come to terms with the climate change issue now, how are they going to fare in the future? The increase in propaganda for Randian-style unfettered Capitalism over the last few years does not bode well for adaptive change in North America.
posted by sneebler at 8:10 AM on November 10, 2010


So we're just posting astroturf email forwards now?

If there is a more influential force than this in American conservative populism, I'll eat my hat.
posted by [citation needed] at 8:12 AM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Waving your hands and saying "Punctuated equilibrium" doesn't fix that.

I don't remember claiming that it fixes anything but rather pointing out that there are natural mechanisms that allow species to adapt to rapid climate change. Waving your hands and saying the end is near isn't really helpful either. What would be helpful is that instead of trying to implement a fix involving taxes and the government having more power, implementing a land management policy that reduces our civilizations impact on the carbon cycle. Which as much as some people try to dismiss it is Freeman Dyson's point. When a debate such as this only has two default positions it is usually a sign that we are being played against each other by the power structures as they currently exist. My other point is that there has to be some middle ground that doesn't involve either the rapture or an extinction level event.

Is there a scientific consensus among biologists that a mass extinction is currently underway? Honest question. Links to peer reviewed papers would be appreciated no links to media outlets please. If there is a consensus that still doesn't change my position that we need to quickly implement a land management policy that reduces our impact on the carbon cycle. No one has of yet posited why this is not a good policy to follow. The only other option I guess is to tear my clothing and dump ashes on my head while wailing on the street corner.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 8:15 AM on November 10, 2010


Is there a scientific consensus among biologists that a mass extinction is currently underway?

Yeah, Google seems to think so.
posted by sfenders at 8:46 AM on November 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


They do indicate that there is a lot of evidence that an extinction event is currently or soon to be underway. If our current way of life isn't changed significantly this will most probably accelerate. But I'm not seeing any of these papers stating that a scientific consensus has been reached. This is most probably due to the enormity of the task of measuring extinction rates. Will extinction levels accelerate to the level of a permian style extinction event? I don't know and neither does anyone else. What we do know is that humans are having a huge impact on the environment and that we need to start making some serious choices. Why is changing our land management to reduce our impact on the carbon cycle not a step in the right direction? Is cap and trade and taxing carbon the only options available to us? If so where is the evidence that this will work any quicker or more efficiently than modifying our land management policies?
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 9:44 AM on November 10, 2010


skepticism of climate change is not like skepticism of evolution.

You're right. It's much more difficult to see obvious examples of evolution in my lifetime, whereas climate change is absolutely, 100% happening right now, and is easily visible to anyone who cares to look at world (and in most cases, local) climate patterns over the past 40 years.

There's no doubt that climate change is occurring. One would think that naysayers would catch on to this, and that it would make them look foolish every time they said that climate change is a myth. Additionally, one would think that, given the mountain of evidence that this change is affected by the billions of tons of pollutants we pump into the environment every year, even naysayers would accept that human behavior is at the very least tangentially involved.

But then, acceptance require an educated populace. Fortunately we have great teachers to help out. Oh, wait...

My physical geography instructor taught the class (that I'm currently attending) that man-made global warming does not yet have enough proof to be regarded as factual.

posted by coolguymichael at 9:58 AM on November 10, 2010


@sfenders

Epic answer.
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:00 AM on November 10, 2010


Epic answer.

I guess if you think that google search=scientific consensus. I would tend to agree that there is a danger of a mass extinction but hasten to point out that as of now the majority of extinctions are not due to climate change but rather human population density and overkill. Which is not what we are discussing here. Either way I agree that we as a species need to change our way of life but tend to disagree on the method and ability or lack thereof for us to mitigate any damage we have done or are currently doing.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:18 AM on November 10, 2010


whereas climate change is absolutely, 100% happening right now, and is easily visible to anyone who cares to look at world (and in most cases, local) climate patterns over the past 40 years.

See, that's the thing, you can't say that climate change is happening based on your unaided observations. That's the big problem with convincing people that it's a real threat. The average global temperature has increased 1 degree over the last 50 years, and it's not uniform over the entire globe.
posted by electroboy at 10:35 AM on November 10, 2010


Those new powerplant may run coal but they result in less co2 making it into the atmosphere because they are more efficient. So energy generation goes up and emissions go down.
posted by humanfont at 10:37 AM on November 10, 2010


Dasein: Just out of curiosity, what do you imagine you'd be doing to a billion of the world's peasants if you prevented them from increasing their carbon emissions? Brightening or destroying their future?

What you're doing here is misrepresenting the proposed solutions to argue against the existence of the problem.
posted by peeedro at 10:39 AM on November 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


> So excuse me if I don't sign on to a project to try to cut fossil fuel use by 20% in 10 years, or 80% in 40. It takes decades to change society-level energy flows, and nothing today approaches fossil fuels for energy density.

> Find me one country that has grown its economy while cutting carbon emissions. Burning carbon is how our economies grow. That can change, but it'll take decades, because all our infrastructure is carbon-based.
If this is happening over 100 years, no problem. If it's supposed to happen in the next 20 or 30, it's just incredible to claim that it's not going to hurt.


I hope you realise fossil fuels are finite and we'll be forced to start doing with less of them sooner rather than later, AGW or not.



> regulation or taxation that could cripple economies

Last I heard, the economy did a fine job of crippling itself without assistance from us mankind-hating eco-commies. Which brings me to...


> Academics is incredibly political, insular and self-reproducing, and you definitely don't need any sort of conspiracy for these factors to distort the public debate in something so driven by experts. The people who teach this discipline are believers in AGW; the people who self-select to study it will be believers in AGW.
But climate science is unlike other branches of science because of the immense political influence that scientists are wielding in making public policy that touches every facet of our lives.


Sounds like mainstream economics.
posted by Bangaioh at 11:06 AM on November 10, 2010


"But I'm not seeing any of these papers stating that a scientific consensus has been reached."

A meta-analysis concluding that anthropogenic climate change is already affecting living systems.

Meta-analysis finds that observed changes in ecologies match climate change predictions; genetic shifts mitigate local risks but provide little evidence at mitigating species-level risks.

Meta-analysis finds climate change is occurring, and has demonstrated stressing of world's largest ecosystem (Plankton in Northeast Atlantic), propagating adverse effects on fish and marine life populations.

More meta-analysis: Anthropogenic climate change especially damaging to patch ecosystems.

Meta-analysis shows that large-scale climate changes in European lakes, with attendant shifts in flora, are correlated strongly with anthropogenic factors; North Atlantic cyclical climate oscillations dismissed as cause.

Science Magazine reports that consensus on global climate change is clearly expressed.

The money quote? "Such statements suggest that there might be substantive disagreement in the scientific community about the reality of anthropogenic climate change. This is not the case."

So, frankly, this feels a little bit frustrating. You're making an argumentum ad ignoratum claim here, that because you haven't seen a paper with a "consensus" (a fuzzy word), that one does not exist and that therefore we shouldn't take claims of anthropogenic climate change as representing the truth.

But really, there is a consensus, that consensus has been articulated both through scientific papers (meta-analyses are the closest you'll come to an official default consensus on what has been proven) and through the statements of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a UN sub-body, that analyzes the science and states the consensus every single year it's been in existence.

It's like arguing with an Intelligent Design adherent, where you keep arguing that we don't know where the eye came from so maybe it's not evolution, except we do know how the eye came about and any claims of God have to be overlaid on top of materialism.

We do have a pretty good idea of what climate change looks like, the models have been largely accurate, the consensus is that it's happening, it's largely our fault, and it's going to make life on earth significantly worse for people and a huge amount of delicate ecosystems.
posted by klangklangston at 11:24 AM on November 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


klangklangson I am referring specifically to mass extinction not AGW.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 11:30 AM on November 10, 2010


Oh, and specifically relating to extinctions:

Meta-analysis of species extinction based on climate change models finds some uncertainty in projections, however methodological changes allow accurate estimates.

Meta-analysis: Minimum viable population sizes for climate change models.

Meta-analysis finds climate change a significant source of synergies in extinctions.

Climate change effects on extinction risk letter, with over 1500 citations.

Coral faces mass extinction due to climate change.

That it is happening is pretty much, yeah, consensus.
posted by klangklangston at 11:35 AM on November 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


klangklangson I am referring specifically to mass extinction not AGW."

Yeah, which is a weird hill to hold, but there is a consensus within science not just that climate change will lead to mass extinctions, but that we've actually got some pretty good models for saying exactly how that will happen.
posted by klangklangston at 11:37 AM on November 10, 2010


For mass extinction try "There are very strong indications that the current rate of species extinctions far exceeds anything in the fossil record." from a paper published this month, Biological diversity in a changing world, by Magurran and Dornelas.
posted by plastic_animals at 11:40 AM on November 10, 2010


Lets not spend all our time blaming the Republicans. Fact is, the Democrats had complete control in DC for 2 years. Their fixation on the derivative scam cap and trade approach is the reason. The solution is to just require less pollution, period. Orienting agriculture and transportation policy around the goal of less carbon emissions is key.
posted by chadmalik at 11:41 AM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, which is a weird hill to hold, but there is a consensus within science not just that climate change will lead to mass extinctions

I'm not trying to hold any hill. I asked an honest question about whether there is a scientific consensus that a mass extinction is currently taking place. You apparently aren't reading what I have said.

> Is there a scientific consensus among biologists that a mass extinction is currently underway?

> They do indicate that there is a lot of evidence that an extinction event is currently or soon to be underway. If our current way of life isn't changed significantly this will most probably accelerate. But I'm not seeing any of these papers stating that a scientific consensus has been reached. This is most probably due to the enormity of the task of measuring extinction rates. Will extinction levels accelerate to the level of a permian style extinction event? I don't know and neither does anyone else. What we do know is that humans are having a huge impact on the environment and that we need to start making some serious choices.

> I would tend to agree that there is a danger of a mass extinction but hasten to point out that as of now the majority of extinctions are not due to climate change but rather human population density and overkill. Which is not what we are discussing here. Either way I agree that we as a species need to change our way of life but tend to disagree on the method and ability or lack thereof for us to mitigate any damage we have done or are currently doing.

I don't understand what is so difficult to understand or subversive about my position. Climate change is happening whether we are here or not. The climate has always been changing and will continue to change even if we get CO2 levels under 350ppm. My point isn't to say that we shouldn't change our behavior but rather that current plans on the table are cost prohibitive and economically unfeasible. I asked before and no one has responded so I will ask again. Why is changing our land management policies to reduce our impact on the carbon cycle not a step in the right direction? Is cap and trade and taxing carbon the only options available to us? If so where is the evidence that this will work any quicker or more efficiently than modifying our land management policies? One reason I can come up with off the top of my head as for why this isn't being seriously considered is that this course of action isn't as profitable for the powers that be as cap and trade and taxing the piss out of us.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:13 PM on November 10, 2010


From your link plastic_animals.

We still have a very incomplete record of the biological diversity of the planet. Mammals and birds are reasonably well documented, plants, amphibians, reptiles and fish less so, many invertebrate species remain to be described, while microbes are a largely unexplored frontier. However, there is no doubt that this biological diversity is under threat as a result of anthropogenic change.

Although there are very strong indications that the current rate of species extinctions far exceeds anything in the fossil record (Lawton & May 1995; May 2002), a major challenge is assessing the extent of short-term and often local changes in ecological communities relative to the underlying or baseline change that all communities experience.

Separating anthropogenic change from the ongoing baseline change is not always easy, not least because we have a limited understanding of how communities vary through time, and the processes that are involved in this variability.


These quotes seem to indicate that current extinction rates are currently poorly understood and that as of yet there is no scientific consensus about whether we are currently undergoing a mass extinction. But then in the conclusion they state:

The planet has always been changing: current patterns of biodiversity are the result of past environmental conditions and ecological and evolutionary constraints (Benton 2010; Clarke & Crame 2010; Lyons et al. 2010). However, current rates and sources of change pose scientists and people in general with new challenges (Chown 2010; Jackson 2010). We must incorporate change into the way we view biodiversity, and learn to distinguish between necessary change and change we should aim to avoid or at the very least mitigate. Extinction per se is an inevitable (and perhaps necessary) process in the balance of the biological diversity contained in the world. It is the mass extinction currently underway, caused by overexploitation of natural resources, that needs to worry us. Similarly, environmental change has always been prevalent, and has helped shape biodiversity patterns of today. In contrast, never before has a single species driven such profound changes to the habitats, composition and climate of the planet. To deal with the challenges raised by these large-scale and intense modifications of the planet, we need to develop quantitative tools to quantify (Chao et al. 2010; Gotelli et al. 2010; Magurran & Henderson 2010) and understand (Colwell & Rangel 2010; Dornelas 2010) change; we must document change at multiple scales of space, time and organizational levels (Morris 2010; White et al. 2010; Womack et al. 2010); and we must develop management tools that take change into account (Mace et al. 2010; MacNeil et al. 2010).

So is there a consensus or not? I am asking this because I am genuinely interested to know the answer. Are there any Biology Phds here that can shed some light on this?
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:30 PM on November 10, 2010


I asked before and no one has responded so I will ask again. Why is changing our land management policies to reduce our impact on the carbon cycle not a step in the right direction?

Who said it wasn't? Land use change is one of the major causes of GHG emissions, not to mention biodiversity loss (because let's not forget that there are many environmental problems other than AGW). I don't know where you're getting the idea that taxes are the only proposed solution. There's no single magical fix.
posted by Bangaioh at 12:59 PM on November 10, 2010


So energy generation goes up and emissions go down.

Nope. Energy generation goes up and emissions go up, too. Just not as fast as they would have previously gone up. But they are still going up.

It's great and all that China is looking at wind/tidal/other electricity generation, but if you actually look at the policies and development in the context of the entire country's power generation, it's patently obvious that it's 90% spin job by the CCP, 10% actual development.

I don't criticise the CCP for this overmuch; here in Australia we don't even have 10%, and the arguments of the China's of the world are "you rich western bastards fucked everything up to have a nice standard of living, and now you want to tell us we can't? Screw you."

Of course, ultimately, we'll all be screwed in the end, but I can understand the sentiment behind that. But any claims about China's breakneck alternative energy developments and their deep and abiding concern for the environment and the atmosphere need to be taken with a Dead Sea's worth of salt.

They're doing something, but not much. They are certainly not the heroes of this piece. That would probably be Germany atm, or Spain.
posted by smoke at 2:12 PM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


So is there a consensus or not?

To elaborate on my previous answer and thereby give a worse one: Searching the web turns up many pages worth of serious people writing as if there is such a consensus, and often as if the fact is quite obvious. The query I gave is but one of many that can search scientific journals to get you similar results. Not a single person anywhere I could find is making any substantial argument that we're *not* in the midst of an anthropogenic mass extinction. That bit you quoted and misinterpreted from the Royal Society was not saying anything about your binary question, other than suggesting by way of introduction that they might be about to make their own attempt to determine whether their was any consensus about the subject amongst its own authors and the papers they were considering; it simply states that this thing is difficult to quantify. And then, in a surprise twist, the introductory remarks were followed by a discussion of evidence and analysis, and then a conclusion.

You'd probably have a harder time determining whether there's any "consensus" about whether "a hammer will fall to the floor when we let go" amongst the various theories of gravity. Seriously though, who cares if there is "consensus"? There apparently is, near as can be, but if you think it's an important question then do some more reading and make up your own mind. You'll have to read more carefully than you did just above, but at least on this question you won't have such voluminous misinformation to weed out as you would when trying to research climate change in general.

Why is changing our land management policies to reduce our impact on the carbon cycle not a step in the right direction?

To answer that question we'd have to have some specific idea of what you mean by "land management", where and how it would be done, what effect you think it would have. Do you mean this ancient Freeman Dyson proposal? It's interesting to be sure. Fertilizing forests and/or building artificial peat bogs on a gigantic scale. As he put it in 1976, "it is highly unlikely that the particular emergency program here proposed will ever be implemented. My discussion of it is enormously oversimplified." His ballpark estimate of cost would be in the trillions of 2010 dollars just by adjusting for inflation, but you'd also have to adjust for various other things that have changed for the worse since then. Not exactly the quick and easy thing you appear to be thinking of. Besides which it was imagined only as a temporary "stop-gap measure" to buy a couple of decades during which we could arrange to stop burning fossil fuels, in response to an imagined situation in which we're all doomed if we don't instantly stop with all the carbon this very minute. It would be an enormously expensive way to delay CO2 increase for a little while, during which time we'd still have to be taking on all the additional expense and difficulty of figuring out how to replace fossil fuels. Dyson proposed taxing fossil fuels to pay for it; "easily supportable" by the economy, simplest thing in the world, of course.
posted by sfenders at 4:20 PM on November 10, 2010


That bit you quoted and misinterpreted from the Royal Society was not saying anything about your binary question...it simply states that this thing is difficult to quantify

That was kinda the point of my reply. I guess you missed the part where I said:

These quotes seem to indicate that current extinction rates are currently poorly understood and that as of yet there is no scientific consensus about whether we are currently undergoing a mass extinction.

I guess I could have phrased that better so as to make my point more clear. Let my clarify: These quotes seem to indicate that current extinction rates are poorly understood and they fail to address the issue of scientific consensus regarding a current mass extinction.

I hope you do not take offense but with all due respect I'm probably not going to make up my mind based on a google search or what you claim.

To answer that question we'd have to have some specific idea of what you mean by "land management", where and how it would be done, what effect you think it would have. Do you mean this ancient Freeman Dyson proposal?

The reason I used the term broad land management is because there are so many possibilities for using biomass as a carbon sink that it would be hard to list them all. Here are a few of the more modern versions of Dyson's "ancient proposal".

Soil carbon sequestration to mitigate climate change

Greenhouse Gas Mitigation in U.S. Agriculture and Forestry

Trading Water for Carbon with Biological Carbon Sequestration

Carbon sequestration

I am currently browsing through hundreds of journal articles on JSTOR all of which seem to indicate that carbon sequestration is a viable, cheap, and relatively easy to implement. No taxes necessary.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 11:14 PM on November 10, 2010


If the problem is so dire why aren't we doing this pronto? Why isn't the media pushing this and only talking about cap and trade and the carbon tax?
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 11:16 PM on November 10, 2010


Sorry...last sentence should have read: Why isn't the media pushing this, but is instead only talking about cap and trade and the carbon tax?
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 11:18 PM on November 10, 2010


Because the media is crap, and would never do anything to get in the way of corporate interests (such as the massively profitable fossil fuel industry).
posted by harriet vane at 3:59 AM on November 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


These quotes seem to indicate that current extinction rates are poorly understood and they fail to address the issue of scientific consensus regarding a current mass extinction.

What I meant to say is just that the magnitude and nature of what's going on being difficult to more precisely quantify is not at all inconsistent with their unequivocal statement that it is nonetheless notable enough to be called a "mass extinction". As for "consensus", it's not such an interesting question to me, but I'm sure there's an opposing view somewhere out there if you keep looking. It seems difficult to find any reference to it in places you'd expect there to be some if it wasn't rather obscure.

Here are a few of the more modern versions of Dyson's "ancient proposal".

Ah, okay then. Just browsing through those and some others, many of the proposals that are out there seem to greatly underestimate the costs of agricultural land, in part simply because prices for it have increased so much since they were written. Many of them seem to share with Dyson's the temporary nature, taking up some amount of CO2 over 20-50 years and then running out of capacity to sequester much more of the stuff. They generally appear to be orders of magnitude too small to "solve the problem" on their own -- though of course there is nothing wrong with small steps in the right direction.

Taking the "Review of Forest Carbon Sequestration Cost Studies" you linked to for example: "It appears that in the cost range of 10 to 150 dollars per ton of carbon it may be possible to sequester 250 to 500 million tons per year in the United States, and upwards of 2,000 million tons per year globally." So capture of about 5-10% of current CO2 emissions could be possible, maybe. They are of course largely talking about converting agricultural land to forest for carbon sequestration, which I presume would be completely unacceptable to someone like Freeman Dyson who prefers to give priority to feeding people. It seems indefensible in a world in which we're probably going to face an increasingly problematic shortage of arable land even without climate change.

One more quote from this review you're using to make the case for this sort of plan: "Under some implementation scenarios, governments may spend billions of dollars and achieve no net increase in long term carbon sequestration. None of the studies have adequately addressed implementation issues that may prove to be the greatest determinants of the cost-effectiveness of the carbon sequestration option. The uncertainty, however, lies on both sides of the cost estimates. Studies have generally not addressed the secondary effects of afforestation. Preliminary results suggest that the secondary benefits may be significant, making carbon sequestration a ‘no-regrets’ mitigation option." So it's not exactly obvious how useful this idea might be. I'm sure there's probably been a lot more research done since that was written. One of the other three of your links for instance, which is all about a few of the unintended adverse side effects of this sort of thing.

Why isn't the media pushing this, but is instead only talking about cap and trade and the carbon tax?

Putting a price on carbon through a "cap and trade" or whatever is really a higher-order thing. It would encourage various changes that would reduce CO2 emissions. Those include reducing demand for stuff that produces CO2, increased efficiency of the fossil fuel use that remains, switching to "lower-carbon" technology where possible, avoiding deforestation, and promoting afforestation and other carbon sequestration schemes. Many of the sort of proposals you're promoting are designed with this in mind. Anyway, we so far cannot collectively even manage to stop cutting down the forests, never mind planting vast new ones. I tend to believe the economists who say that putting a sufficient price on CO2 and for the most part letting the market decide how best to handle it is by far the simplest and most effective way to go, and so do a lot of politicians around the world.

Not that I think any of the CO2 reduction schemes have the slightest chance of actually succeeding to the point they actually reduce atmospheric concentration. Politically impossible to do anything so grand, and it will become only more so as the world's other problems grow more acute. Worth a try, I guess. Logically, I think putting a price on CO2 should come before evaluating specific measures to reduce it. But international agreement about emissions reduction targets should come before that, and since the big coal users of the world so far look entirely unwilling to give it up, that doesn't look likely to ever happen at a level that would be effective.

It might not even have been such a good idea, I think, for the US to unilaterally go "cap and trade" or carbon tax. It wouldn't make much sense if it came without the "carbon tax on imports" tariff to prevent it simply shifting more energy-intensive industry to the rest of the world. And with such a tariff in the current situation, they'd risk starting some kind of disastrous trade war. Either way, in practice the answer would no doubt be to set the price too low to actually do anything much. It might've been useful as a symbolic gesture in the interest of encouraging future global cooperation, but that's about it.
posted by sfenders at 7:07 AM on November 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


It's also undeniable that climate scientists have an immense financial incentive to tilt their research towards climate alarmism

Financial incentive? What are you implying exactly? It's not as though these researchers are pocketing grant money from their projects; the grant goes towards conducting the research. As far as I am aware, climate scientists aren't limited to studying markers or developing models of climate change, nor are the various other disciplines generating convergent evidence. This financial incentive also doesn't change the outcome of the studies, unless of course you want to suggest that scientists are falsifying data and hang your hat on a complete denial of the entire establishment of science proper?
posted by tybeet at 8:49 AM on November 11, 2010


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