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David Brin

David Brin
San Diego, California, USA
October 06
Bio David Brin’s novels have been translated into more than twenty languages, including New York Times Best-sellers that won Hugo and Nebula awards. His 1989 ecological thriller, Earth, foreshadowed cyberwarfare, the World Wide Web, global warming and Gulf Coast flooding. A 1998 Kevin Costner film was loosely adapted from his post-apocalyptic novel, The Postman. ............................................ Brin is a noted scientist, futurist and speaker who appears frequently on television (Life After People, The Universe), discussing trends in the near and far future, on subjects such as surveillance, technology, astronomy, and SETI. His non-fiction book, The Transparent Society, deals with issues of openness and security in the wired-age. ............................................. David Brin web site: Twitter: Facbook:

Editor’s Pick
FEBRUARY 9, 2010 6:50PM

The Real Struggle Behind Climate Change - A War on Expertise

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The schism over global climate change (GCC) has become an intellectual chasm, across which everyone perceives the other side as Koolaid-drinkers.  Although I have mixed views of my own about the science of GCC, and have closely grilled a number of colleagues who are front-line atmospheric scientists (some at JPL), I'm afraid all the anecdotes and politics-drenched "questions" flying about right now aren't shedding light. They are, in fact, quite beside the point.

 That is because science itself is the main issue: its relevance and utility as a decision-making tool. 

Let there be no mistake, this is all about power, and the struggle goes way back.  In Britain, the "Boffin Principle" long held that technical people have no business making policy suggestions to their betters. In America, waves of anti-intellectual populism - like the 19th Century Know Nothing Party - were  deliberately stoked by aristocracies who saw the new, mental elites as a threat. 

There have been counter-surges. In the 1930s, propelled by ambitious modernism and depression-era desperation, a briefly popular "Technocracy Movement"  held that knowledge and skill should be paramount criteria for positions of leadership. A milder version of this eagerness for expertise was seen from Sputnik through the 1960s and 1970s, with glimmers during the Internet Boom years. (Notably, these were also lush times for science fiction literature.)

Of course, Technocracy was boneheaded and scary - though not as much as the new know-nothing era that we have endured during the last decade or so, a time when things became dicey even for the Civil Service and the U.S. Officer Corps.  Chris Mooney documents how relentless this agenda has been, in The Republican War on Science.  Though, let's be fair.  If films like Avatar are any indication, a variant of dour anti-scientific fever rages on the left, as well.

 This is the context in which we should reconsider the Climate Change Denial Movement.  While murky in its scientific assertions -- (some claim the Earth isn't warming, while others say the ice-free Arctic won't be any of our doing) --  the core contention remains remarkably consistent. It holds that the 99% of atmospheric scientists who believe in GCC are suborned, stupid, incompetent, conspiratorial or untrustworthy hacks.

As part of a more general assault on the very notion of expertise, the narrative starts with a truism that is actually true:

 "Not every smart person is wise..."

only then extrapolates it, implicitly, to a blatant falsehood

"all smartypants are unwise, all the time; and my uninformed opinion is equal to any expert testimony."

Does that sound like a polemical stretch?  But it is precisely the implied subtext - a perverse kind of populism - at all levels of the War on Science.  In the specific case of GCC, since almost all top atmospheric scientists accept human-propelled climate change, they must be all cretins, corrupt, or cowards.

Here's a telling point. This uniformity of craven venality has to include even the ambitious postdocs and recently-tenured junior professors who, in every other field, sift constantly for some flaw in the current paradigm in order to go gunning after the big boys and thus make a reputation.  What, even the Young Guns are sellouts?  Even the paladins of skeptical enquiry are conspiring together in a grand cabal to... what?  Ah, now the story gets even better.  All the scientists and post-docs are colluding to foist this scam, in order to win a few ten-thousand dollar grants.  This  loose-change-grubbing, paradigm slavery is cited to explain the GCC imbroglio -- while the oilcos and petroprinces, who operate major propaganda outlets and have TRILLIONS staked in the status quo... they have no agenda at all.

Of course, to typify any lawful profession as across-the-board corrupt or cowardly is absurd, but to so besmirch the one professional cohort that is unambiguously the most brave, individualistic, honest, curious and smart of all, well, there has to be an agenda behind such drivel -- and there is one. The good old Boffin Effect.

My late colleague, Michael Crichton, crystallized it when he claimed "there is no such thing as scientific consensus,"  and thus he deemed it reasonable to ignore measures recommended by 99% of the people who actually know stuff about a problem that might damage our nation and world.

Now, as many of you know, I have my own complaints against expert communities. I'm known for promoting the "Age of Amateurs."  But empowered citizenship should supplement, not replace  the people who actually know the most about a topic. Respect toward professionals is compatible with keeping an eye on them.

Especially since -- and this is the kicker -- all the major recommended actions to deal with Global Climate Change are things we should be doing, anyway.

That's the most bizarre aspect.  I'd listen patiently to GGC Deniers and strive to answer their endlessly refurbished narratives, if they would only say the following first:

"Okay, I'll admit we need more efficiency and sustainability, desperately, in order to regain energy independence, improve productivity, erase the huge leverage of hostile foreign petro-powers, reduce pollution, secure our defense, and ease a vampiric drain on our economy.  Waste-not and a-penny-saved and cleanliness-is-next-to-godliness used to be good conservative attitudes. And so, for those reasons alone, let's join together and make a big (and genuine*) push for efficiency.

"Oh, and by the way, I don't believe in Global Climate Change, but these measures would also help deal with that too.

"There, are you happy?  Now, as gentlemen, and more in a spirit of curiosity than polemics, can we please corner some atmospheric scientists and force them into an extended teach-in, to answer some inconvenient questions?"

When I meet a conservative who says all that (and I have), I am all kisses and flowers. And so will be all the atmospheres guys I know. That kind of statement is logical, patriotic and worthy of respect. It deserves eye-to-eye answers.

 But that isn't the faux-narrative.  Instead it boils down to "I hate smartypants."  And it is thereupon understandable that (being human) the boffins are losing patience with the new Know Nothings.


*The word "genuine" is important.  Paying lip-service to "energy independence," while sabotaging it relentlessly, was something diametrically opposite to patriotism.


An addendum on "The Fall of Civilizations."

We appear to be at a cusp point, where the Western World chooses between two paths. 

One is the trail of stupidity, leading to a cliff.  Almost 100 years ago, in The Decline of the West, Ozwald Spengler transfixed the public with his certain-sounding explanations for why Europo-American society would soon dissolve into pain and despair, decadence and dust.

Pain did come... largely dealt out by people who believed as Spengler did, in the cult of pessimism. And yet, the optimists prevailed. George Marshall showed the way into a better era, filled with challenges but also progress.  Today, most babies that are born actually live good lives, and we have been to the Moon, and race and gender and class are less deterministic of your fate, and you are sharing thoughts with me across a worldwide brain that we forged with our own ingenuity and hands.

Pessimism isn't dead.  It never went away.  Dire warnings, like Jared Diamond's COLLAPSE (see my review) and James Cameron's AVATAR serve partly as dire warnings, to help us see the dangers, but also deliver doses of poison, by railing that we westerners are all hopeless fools bereft of decent institutions or problem-solving skills. Or even hope.

In fact, the clear-eyed view is neither gloomy nor starry-confident. It was the great historian, Arnold Toynbee, who I believe got it right.  After studying dozens of past cycles, he declared that civilizations thrive when they invest faith and hope in their creative minorities. When they see the future as a destination and willingly adapt new ways to reach it.

Toynbee -- after surveying many tales of rise and fall -- concluded that cultures start to fail when those creative minorities become distrusted, or are starved of capital, or left out in the cold. Or when they are shunned by those in power.

I mention this, because the clear and distinct pattern the we see in the latest phase of the American Civil War... similar to what we saw in the earlier phases... has been an underlying them of populist hatred of society's brightest and most skilled.

This theme pervades everything we see from the "movement" nowadays.  Distrust of the Civil Service and the US Officer Corps.  The relentless War on Science.  The boos that surge, at sneering mention of the word "Harvard."  The use of anti-intellectualism to divert attention from a far more worrisome elite -- a rising aristocracy of almost-feudal wealth.

Let's be clear. I am not saying that intellectuals are always right.  I know plenty who are foolish. Nor is wealth inherently evil... I aspire to acquire more, through delivery of excellent goods and services, and I know some damn-fine billionaires.  Nor is there anything wrong with salt-of-the-earth fellows like those Redneck Comedy Tour guys, whose charm could win over even alien invaders.  (Even if they don't read sci-fi.)

Still, if anybody ever knew about what makes civilizations rise and fall, Arnold Toynbee knew what he was talking about. 

Moreover, the propaganda campaign against our creative people is so intense, so pure, and so relentlessly across-the-board, that it simply cannot be an accident.  The correlation is just too perfect.

Somebody wants us to fail.


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the anti science thing is troubling. yeah, there are much easier ways to get rich than working in a science lab. actually, its hard to get rich there at all. the anti science zealots are probably a sputtering and shrinking, but highly vocal, minority.... unfortunately, shrinking very slowly... maybe right now, even slower than the poles are melting....
David, here's the thing. The claim that climate change is a liberal plot is laughable on its face, but let's assume that all scientists are in on the plot and they're all liberals.

Know who else is in on the plot? All the corporate members of the US Climate Action Partnership. You know, those whack job members of the S&P 500 like General Electric, Caterpillar, Johnson & Johnson, Dow Chemical, Duke Power, and DuPont.

It's laughable. The plot is supposedly "liberal" but then you've got all these large companies in on it.

Idiocracy is here, folks.
To quote Chris Mathews: "Democrats fall in love. Republicans fall in line." It's possible that there may be Democrats who are global warming deniers, but they are also probably religious fundamentalists.

Global warming denial is part of the party line process. Pay no attention to competing viewpoints or conflicting evidence. Be only a Chatty Cathy doll that repeats mindlessly what you've been told to by the person who is giving you your marching orders, be it Rush Limbaugh or your fundie pastor.

While free and more intelligent thinkers can have competing thoughts and concepts about a particular subject at one time, the GOPsters and fundies have compartmentalization of their thought processes in some kind of stimulus-response mechanism filled with code words like "socialist, liberal, communist, feminazi, etc."

These people might refer to the Bible or the Constitution as their mainstay, but I would gather that few of them have actually read the entire things.

And you should know that scientists have done MRI scans of secular humanists, comparing them with religious fundamentalists, and they found that the fundies used the front part of their brain for praying. Once again, this proves that religion is better than thinking because with religion, you have The Truth and ALL the answers.
daamit...I was gonna write this article and you beat me to it...great post... you probably did the subject more justice than I could have anyway...
The worst thing you can do in American politics is act like you're smarter than somebody else. Hence, George W. Bush and Al Gore. (Though the Supreme Court had something to do with that one.)
The anti-science, even anti-knowledge attitudes are very troubling. Often I hear from people that they "don't read" with pride. The other thing that bothers me is the partisanship with which people argue from... not from facts, not from research, but from what their political allegiances tell them to believe. I am not a global warming believer or denier. I think deniers have their hewads up their asses for disregarding all the research taht has been done, and I think that the believers have their heads up their asses too because the research that has been done hasn't been vetted well. The Russians asserted that the data is flawed because it only used temperatures recorded from urban areas (which are heat magnets) and ignored rural data because it didn't jibe with the conclusions that were sought after.

Carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas? Greenhouse effect as a physical impossibility...

The first link has a discussion attempting to explain carbon dioxide concentrations and temperature as a function of solar wind... its ok... The second link is the more interesting one, it is a link to an article from the March 2009 issue of the International Journal of Modern Physics. It basically debunks the "Greenhouse Effect" and carbon dioxide based global warming because they violate the 1st and second laws of Thermodynamics... It's not that I believe that global warming isn't necessarily happening, but that we do not understand it.
Don't get me started on our abysmal lack of science education. My personal theory on why so many people want to believe in cure-of-the-day herbal quackery is a lack of science education. Science is good. Science is fun. Science is part of being a well-informed human being even if you never set foot in a lab outside high school.

If I had my way, I'd design a course for high school called "Interpreting Science in the Popular Press." I would teach students how to understand what a well-designed study looks like, what the conclusions say and do not say, and what questions are still open. As informed citizens, we will be reading about scientific studies for the rest of our lives. We need to know how to interpret what we read, and how to ask the right questions. What is a double-blind study? What is statistical significance? Every high school graduate in America ought to know these things.

(getting back off soap box)
The opposition to GCC on the grounds that it is a conspiracy is beyond crazy. There are tens of thousands of scientists working/contributing to this theory. The notion that a conspiracy with the players numbering in the tens of thousands is almost certainly an impossibility. Not saying that the GCC theory is correct, but it is certainly not cooked up, agreed upon, and coordinated for some hidden purpose.

The next notion is that it is possible, but not proved. Well, one wears a seatbelt while driving, yet having an accident is not "proved" on that particular trip. It is a reasonable precaution given the circumstances. To advocate doing nothing because the certainty is not 100% is foolish.

And the final issue regarding opposition to the theory involves those who obviously benefit from the status quo. It does not take a conspiracy of Carbon Dioxide producing manufacturers to oppose an change that might cost them money, or make their business process extinct. That is intuitive. Why anyone would listen to those who have obvious bias against such a theory is completely beyond me. It is not so complicated that a child could not see the game. Like the lines from that Dylan song, "All Along the Watchtower":

"businessmen drink my wine. Ploughmen dig my Earth. None will level on the line. Nobody offered his worth. No reason to get excited. The thief he kindly spoke. There are many here among us, who feel that life is but a joke. But you and I, we've been thru that. And this is not our fate. So let us stop talking falsely now. The hour's getting late.."
Besides the obvious promotion of misunderstanding (about the nature of climate change); misdirection (focusing on the occasional scientific stumble in order to discredit a valid scientific premise); and mistrust (of elites, intellectuals. and other studying particular subjects), the rise of populism has caused a reverse elitism: we the people know everything we need to know and in fact are wiser because we can see that expertise and intellectual aptitude are overrated. This is beyond dangerous - this is hubris without application, not a smartypants but a smart-ass. And I see it on the left as well as the right these days. Yikes!
Ocean acidification doesn't scare me that much... it is relatively linear. And thus ought to be reversible.

What frightens me are the vast stores of methane locked in permafrost or hydrate ices, in arctic seas. Those might see a sudden tipping point, as the planet heats up, abruptly releasing megatons of the stuff into the atmosphere, causing yet faster, accelerated warming. This kind of runaway effect is nonlinear and cannot be reversed by any conceivable kind of geoengineering.

I want to make an additional point, polemically useful toward deniers. Since they have chosen to spurn ALL qualified expert advice, their efforts to slow down energy research and efforts to achieve energy efficiency can be legally looked upon as knowing and open-eyed obstruction of efforts, by the majority, to avert a well-seen disaster. In other words, they can, according to common law and tort law, be held accountable for financial and civil damages, should that disaster come about

This point has (to my knowledge) never been openly stated. But it can really rock back your conservative neighbor. He tends to assume that, in the world to come, he will be one of the winners, regardless of what happens. Conservatives are used to suffering no consequences for being wrong -- about civil rights, womens' rights, Supply Side Economics...

...but here is a case where, if they prove wrong, those who suffer the worst effects of preventable GCC will have legal recourse to attach the assets of those who vigorously and knowingly thwarted measures to palliate the harm. Indeed, in the bitter angry world that ensues, the resources of such people will be politically and emotionally vulnerable, as well. No one will pity them.

I am not saying this in some hysterical threat-mode. It is parsed as a simple legal matter of cause and effect. And they have now been warned.

Oh, the northern climes might get a longer growing season. But they will still have onlyu ONE growing season. That is a poor tradeoff for sub-tropical climes that have several seasons, but turn into deserts or swamps. People who tout such should try living in Alaska. Summers there are already plenty fine. But Winter... and the mucky spring thaw... will NEVER be pleasant, even if the Earth as a whole bakes.
what froggy said to the second power
Why thank you, Numbers Guy! Feel free to borrow and re-use my rant any time.
This admission by an IPCC lead author in the UK’s Guardian is simply stunning:

“The Nobel prize was for peace not science … government employees will use it to negotiate changes and a redistribution of resources. It is not a scientific analysis of climate change,” said Anton Imeson, a former IPCC lead author from the Netherlands. “For the media, the IPCC assessments have become an icon for something they are not. To make sure that it does not happen again, the IPCC should change its name and become part of something else. The IPCC should have never allowed itself to be branded as a scientific organisation. It provides a review of published scientific papers but none of this is much controlled by independent scientists.”

Think about this for a moment. Now the IPCC insiders are admitting they cannot ’settle the science’ because they don’t do science and most of their ‘message’ is crafted by policy makers (with agendas of course). No wonder the latest IPCC report is full of junk science made from political organization press releases. No wonder Mann and Jones were really in the business of creating images of global warming (by hiding tree-ring declines and hiding details in ice cores) instead of doing real science.

Finally the IPCC has come clean - it doesn’t do science, it does political propaganda. Someone alert the EPA!

Posted by AJStrata at The Strata-Spara

No one denies that the climate changes—I just would like to see the government approve my grant to build a Global Temple of Apollo to Mediate Climate Change by Scientific Application of Psychic Energy ( for a paltry 500 billion- payable in gold to my Swiss bank account) rather than the far more expensive and much less effective Cap and Tax legislation that Al Gore wishes to use to line his and other designated green billionaires pockets
AND it would be good for anyone interested in the climate legislation debate to read Dr. Crichton’s work:

On January 4,2005 Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, recommended Michael Crichton's latest novel, State of Fear, to people wishing to learn about the science of climate change theory.

"In the 'Author's Message' at the end of the book," Inhofe noted, Crichton "refreshingly states what scientists have suspected for years: 'We are also in the midst of a natural warming trend that began about 1850, as we emerged from a 400 year cold spell known as the Little Ice Age.'"

Inhofe continued, "Dr. Crichton states that, 'Nobody knows how much of the present warming trend might be a natural phenomenon,' and, 'Nobody knows how much of the present trend might be man-made.'

And for those who see impending disaster in the coming century, Dr. Crichton urges calm: 'I suspect that people of 2100 will be much richer than we are, consume more energy, have a smaller global population, and enjoy more wilderness than we have today. I don't think we have to worry about them.'

While the story is told in Crichton's usual gripping manner, it is the science presented in the novel, complete with charts, footnotes, and a bibliography, that jumps to the forefront.

No open-minded person can read the novel without, at the very least, gaining a newfound skepticism toward the doom-and-gloom claims of global warming alarmists.

"State of Fear is, in a sense, the novelization of a speech that Mr. Crichton delivered in September 2003 at San Francisco's Commonwealth Club," observed Reason Foundation science correspondent Ronald Bailey in the December 10, 2004 Wall Street Journal.

"He argued there that environmentalism is essentially a religion, a belief-system based on faith, not fact. To make this point, the novel weaves real scientific data and all too real political machinations into the twists and turns of its gripping story."

"For those who do worry, or induce such worry in others," said Inhofe, "State of Fear has a very simple message: Stop worrying and stop spreading fear."
"In the 'Author's Message' at the end of the book," Inhofe noted, Crichton "refreshingly states what scientists have suspected for years: 'We are also in the midst of a natural warming trend that began about 1850, as we emerged from a 400 year cold spell known as the Little Ice Age.'"

Inhofe continued, "Dr. Crichton states that, 'Nobody knows how much of the present warming trend might be a natural phenomenon,' and, 'Nobody knows how much of the present trend might be man-made.'

Rather than talking about a work of fiction, we need to get to the real heart of the matter. I have yet to find someone who can explain to me why the observations for the CO2 and average temperature over the last 120 years are located beyond 10 standard deviations from the long-term mean of their respective distribution. If this is caused by a natural phenomena and the data generating process remained unchanged, the probability of witnessing such observations is 1 / 131,236,127,521,095,000,000,000, which is essentially equal to zero. This is even more puzzling given the fact that the other “natural” vectors, such as solar irradiance or volcanic activities that can influence these values have not shown the same magnitude of change (that is more than 10 standard deviations away from their respective mean). In fact, they have been quite stable (see link above).

In statistics, we start getting concerned when we see observations that are located between two to three standard deviations away from the mean. Those are either classified as errors or there is something else that is affecting the data generating process. If this is not caused by a natural process, what can explain these significant outliers?
Folks ... I wrote a post on an aspect of this you may want to see

It's worse than you are describing it. What is happening now is just pure organized "Swift boating" claims which are intended to play only to people who are unable (or unwilling) to actually think about the claims at even a fourth-grade level.

I'm a working "Climate Scientist" ... if there are any scientific questions you want an answer to send me an email.

But the real bottom line is just read the IPCC "The Physical Science Basis" report ... it's long, it's thorough, but if you are interested in any of this you need to read it.

The key question to ask the Denialists is WHERE is there any counter theory or explanation which actually is coherent or explains ANYTHING? There isn't.
I fear we may be experiencing an Emily Litella moment here.

The allegation is not that Urban Heat Islands somehow are the only places getting warmer- the allegation (by Russian and Australian scientists) is that climate data has been ACTUALLY COLLECTED mostly from places where it’s easy to collect (you know like city airports- ie urban heat islands) and far too often INTERPOLATED for areas where it’s harder to collect- like Siberia (oddly enough, interpolated from the nearest urban heat islands-often a mere 500 to 1000 miles away) Anyway, we might be able to figure this out if any of the original data was available, but unfortunately it was apparently all eaten by a very large vole before the FOIA demands could be answered. Can we get a “Never Mind?”

And yes, we engineers also refer to such deviations as “Errors”
Now the climate change deniers are pointing to the record snow in the mid-Atlantic region as evidence that it's not happening.


The global-average lower tropospheric temperature anomaly soared to +0.72 deg. C in January, 2010. This is the warmest January in the 32-year satellite-based data record….
It seem like tribalism. Because GCC was first embraced by the political left, the righties automatically opposed it.

Hence the argumnets like "The climate has always fluctuated" (geez, why doesn't someone tell the scientists), or "1998 was warmer than 2008" (so GCC was proven 12 years ago and has been steadily unproven ever since?) or "There are mistakes in some of the scientific studies" (and that discredits the lot of them). Or the way in which any dissenting view is offered up as unassailable refutation. Basically, the deniers won't admit they're wrong until the evidence is so ubiquitous that it's too late to do anything. After all, that would mean ceding a point to their political opponents.

The Deniers don't address the insurance argument. One buys property or car insurance against the small risk that they might get seriously damaged. But serious damage to the planet - nah, I'll believe it when I see it. The hell with the risk; maybe there isn't any.

A stronger version uses air safety. Would you take a flight if you had strong reason to believe that it had a 5% chance of crashing? Of course not. Is there a 5% chance of catastrophic global warming (say, 4-6 degres rise)? Probably. And because there's a certain momentum in the warming, drastic action would take several years if not decades to achieve anything.

Good post. Unfortunately this message needs constant repeating.
Anti tribalism, actually.

Us righties prefer to be left alone to go to hell in our own individual hand baskets, rather than being stuffed by some government mandate into one that the tribal chieftain’s crony the medicine man has had expensively built (at his huge profit) for our collective “Salvation”.

This is called Liberty, Independence and Free Will.

When someone starts muscling us into buying protection ( al la Audi’s Green Police ) whose ultimate cost is only our way of life ( not consumerism- liberty) we tend to want to kick the tires and be sure the medicine men who want to sell us this notion
a) Know what they’re talking about and
B) have no hidden stake or agenda involved.

Thank God the purveyors of Doom turn out to be the Greedy Profiteers and Egotistical Scientific (fudge factor) Frauds we always suspected them to be.

Now maybe our children’s children can inherit a world of further technical progress rather than a socialist state bankrupted by greedy eco-profiteers.

(Come on, greedy profiteers won't get rich trading in "Carbon Credits"?, or Al Gore, George Soros, and sechlike are just "above"
the desire to be Billionaires? RIGHT )

You should not just read "State of Fear", you should realize that it's the playbook for all of your "Corporate RIGHT WING profiteers" as well as the obvious Left Wing eco-saviors. Why do you think Audi likes the Green Police?
Token's rant has so many cliche'd arguments that it's almost too good to be true. It's like a satirical check list of No-Nothing talking points.
Token is hilarious! A right-winger/Republican who is irked that someone is making money! In America! How dare that democrat Al gore get rich off the free market! Why, that's for Republicans only!

The anti-science movement has been long growing in America. In my own youth science was regarded as the "growth industry of the future." People studying science were admired - Carl Sagan was a cultural hero, teaching science in our living rooms, appearing on the Tonight Show several times. Millions knew his name, face, and voice. There is no scientist with that kind of universal recognition or respect in America. While the 2000 election was clearly in some part about Jock vs. Brain, the 2008 election gave us a Brainy Jock. So maybe there's a smidgen of hope. We'll have intelligent leaders with very little character, perhaps, but they'll be much more clever about pulling the wool over our eyes. The wool will be engineered for maximum comfort, and will be lined with nanofibers which allow for the creation of holographic images. We won't even know the wool is blinding us. We will enjoy the shadows on the wall of our fuzzy cave. The system will be designed by James Cameron (or his clone). It will be sold in Walmart. Free sample will be available from vendors. You will be assimilated.
Well, it appears that the silly people have come out, in force.

Half a dozen have chimed in with their parroted talking points, while avoiding the fundamental issues that I raised here. That is natural, since the fundamentals are devastating.

A person who claims that 100% of the experts are biased and corrupt, because of vague talking points that he parrots from a news outlet that is owned by Saudi princes, Russian oligarchs, Exxon and an Australian tycoon, is a person not worthy of intellectual respect.

Michael Crichton was a colleague of mine and a nice fellow... and absolutely terrified of technology, science and progress. His hatred of the entire scientific community was legendary.
That's what I love about OS- It really doesn't matter what you say, everybody's already got his/her/its mind made up- you don't have to check out anything or think anything through, you can just see if it's Left or Right and go from there! Funny, I seem to look at you guys as parodys of Left Wing Whackos ! I love this place! Really a pity that all that "Science" turned out to be fudge
David, the damage Crichton did with State of Fear was very, very sad. He seemed to back-pedal a bit after-the-fact saying that people had misunderstood him.

I largely agree with you that most of the things we need to do about Climate Change are good for us anyway. But the way this argument falls flat for me is that it neglects timeframe. I think the argument we need to do them anyway does not explain the urgency with which we need to move. I very much fear that this argument leads naturally to the response “Well, if it's something we need to anyway, then surely the market will sort it out, so why are you in such a tizzy.”

And the more we delay, the more we risk that what will need to be done will not be what we need to do anyway. That is, it may be that we should drive electric cars. But if we don't do it, say, tomorrow, then the problem is that by the time we get to it, it may not be enough. And we may be talking filling the sea with algae or pouring sulphur compounds into the atmosphere—things we are much less sure we need to do anyway, at least now. I would make the analogy to China some years back, considering the birth control problem. One could imagine them saying they needed to use more condoms, etc. And maybe that was a good idea. But by the time they got around to realizing they had to act, that was no longer enough, and they ended up with that awful-but-arguably-necessary plan to do all those forced abortions, etc., because it was too late for a casual solution.
Kent, the smoking gun for the Denial Movement is that they do not specify measures they would take, even concerning the "lesser urgency" of regaining energy independence, improving economic efficiency and productivity, cutting the umbilical to hostil petro powers or any of that.

Even if we don't face a looming eco nightmare, they surficially admit we need to do those other things. Even George Bush admitted it - through his teeth - before savaging all our energy research.

No, they do not negotiate and hold to the all-or-nothing attitude toward HGCC, because the agenda is to do absolutely nothing. The agenda is to preserve the power and vampiric flow of cash into Big Oil.

Hilarious? They see 100% of scientists as corrupt... while the oilcos are all sweet reason innocents. Ah, humanity
Is it me or wasn't this post more about anti-intellectualism than GCC? That it has deteriorated into the usual cable news pissing match is a shame.
Sarah Palin at the Tea-baggers rally the other day practically sneered the word "Harvard" with a contempt that would be funny if not for the irony induced by her own intellect.
Great post.
Lee H,

You asked for questions so here is mine.

1. What is the temp of the earth right now?

2. What is the temp that the planet should be maintained at?

3. Who decided that is the correct temp and how did they decide

4. When we start to head into the next ice age, how are we going to make the temp rise to what "normal" is?
This may be an entire waste of effort on my part, but I want to answer a few specific "points" raised:

First, there are an ENDLESS number of crackpot articles attempting to "explain" why CO2 is not a "greenhouse gas," or Global Warming can't exist ... etc. I will get to the ones cited here in a moment ... but before doing that, here's what every working physicist or chemist knows:

1. The absorption spectra of tri-atomic molecules (i.e. CO2, H2O, O3 (Ozone)) are very well understood from fundamental quantum mechanics AND laboratory measurements repeated by scientists all over the world. These are not "in doubt." (other than very minor measurement uncertainties/errors) You cannot argue that they are "wrong" without simultaneously arguing that essentially EVERYTHING we know about physics and inorganic chemistry is wrong.

2. From physical principles, we can calculate the effects various concentrations of these gases will have on how light (aka "radiation") will pass through, and be emitted and absorbed, in our atmosphere. These calculations are mathematically complex, and need computers to actually grind out useful answers. But they are checkable and there are multiple groups around the world which do this math and the calculations and there is no scientific argument about the fundamental conclusions one reaches by doing this. The ordinary "lay person" cannot understand this math ... you need to know some quantum mechanics, be very well grounded in Differential Equations, and then be prepared to spend a year or so studying the particular systems of equations which arise and how to solve them. (There are now excellent books on these topics if you are prepared to try to learn this. )

The fundamental point is that the earth is in the vacuum of space. We get heat in the form of radiation from the sun, at short wavelengths (with a maximum around 525 nm wavelength ... visible yellowish-green) because the sun is very hot. The earth re-radiates that heat to space at wavelengths far longer than the eye can see (out in the infra-red, with a maximum around 10,000 nm) because the earth is much cooler. The earth CAN radiate to space because "space is black out there." The mean radiative temperature of space is only 2.7 "centigrade degrees" above absolute zero, ABOUT -456 Fahrenheit! That is COLD! Incidentally the fact that "space is black" is in fact a proof that the universe is finite and has a finite age, another point I won't go into here.

Due to the vacuum of space, there is no other way for heat to enter or leave the earth than radiation.

This math predicts the spectra we should see, if we look down at the earth from space (or up into the atmosphere from the ground), and these spectra are very complex, seen in detail. We have spectrometers in space and on the ground, and what we measure is what this math predicts. This could not happen by accident.

4. When you go through these calculations you see something very simple: if it were NOT for the CO2 concentration in our atmosphere, we would have a "snowball earth," the surface temperature everywhere on earth would be below freezing. CO2 is a greenhouse gas, and more CO2 will make the planet warmer

5. We can "read" the climate and chemistry history of the earth by studying isotope rations from geological samples. This is a complex field of its own and we cannot get every piece of information we want. But we can see the temperature history of the earth and infer reasonably accurately the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere. (We cannot tell how much methane was in the atmosphere, which is something we wish we could know.) The geological history of earth is consistent with a CO2 equilibrium sensitivity around 2.5 deg C/CO2 doubling. There really were epochs when there were "palm trees" and dinosaurs at the north pole, and those eras had very high CO2, much higher than today.

When you consider all of this, there is no viable scientific theory OTHER than "CO2 is a greenhouse gas." Note that I have not mentioning anything about "Global Climate Models," nothing about the time-series of surface mean temperatures in the current epoch, the battles over "heat islands" ... blah , blah.

The reasons above are why every competent scientist accepts the fundamental reality folks: CO2 is a "greenhouse gas" and the sensitivity of earth's climate to CO2 is "reasonably strong" (meaning we need to worry about the consequences of the CO2 we are emitting). Legitimate scientific uncertainties exist about details, exact predictions of future climates are tough (and hence not perfect) for a set of reasons ... but the fundamentals are simply not in doubt, to any rational scientist. This is why overwhelmingly scientists accept that "Global Warming is real."

The Denialists and the 'skeptics' engage in "FUD Will Robinson FUD" arguments of various kinds and have moved on to outright "Swift Boating," but there is no alternative theory which can explain the world as we see it, which avoids a strong "greenhouse effect." There is a rather more complicated set of arguments as to why no such theory can be constructed ... won't go through that here, but it simply isn't possible UNLESS some very powerful negative feedback mechanism we don't know about can be discovered AND this feedback mechanism works now ... but it hasn't worked any other time in earth's geological history.

There are Denialists who argue for this, but such an argument is tantamount to arguing "God will save us from ourselves, I know it."


Now, some of the comments made above, which frankly are nuts:

* "... Carbon dioxide concentrations (and temperatures) explained as a function of the solar wind" The solar wind is almost exclusively protons (hydrogen nuclei) and electrons. There is no possible way this can move carbon atoms to, and particularly from, the earth! This is nuts on the face of it.

* that crackpot paper which claims ".... essentially describes a fictitious mechanism, in
which a planetary atmosphere acts as a heat pump driven by an environment that is
radiatively interacting with but radiatively equilibrated to the atmospheric system." The fundamental claim a "heat pump" is nuts. A refrigerator is a heat pump: it USES energy to move heat against the direction "it wants to go," moving heat from cold to hot. This fundamental claim is stupidly erroneous because there is no "heat pump" in the earth's radiative system: we get heat from the very high temperature of the sun and we radiate that heat to the very cold temperature of space. That makes sense. Claiming otherwise is nonsense. The fact that somebody can spew a bunch of pseudo-erudite thermodynamic babble, does not make it right and you won't find any competent scientist who does anything but laugh at it.

* "Ocean acidification doesn't scare me that much... it is relatively linear. And thus ought to be reversible." Uh... do a simple calculation of the masses involved, and ask HOW you will reverse it. The only way is to neutralize it with something like Calcium, Magnesium etc (which is how our planet maintains the ocean chemistry and the long term CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere incidentally).

We sometimes DO deal with acidification of lakes (in the Adirondacks eg, by "acid rain," due to sulfuric acid produced by coal burning up wind) by bringing in TONS and TONS of Calcium Carbonate, and dumping it in the lake. Then the fish come back. But this is really expensive, even for a rather small lake. The idea of doing it for the oceans of the world is insane ... out of the question.

* "As far as conspiracies go, do you believe that there is a corporate conspiracy to undercut climate change as a viable scientific theory? If you do, why is it easier to believe in that type of conspiracy?"

I believe that there are small numbers of "corporate and political operatives" who are in fact doing exactly this. I certainly DON'T believe that all corporations are doing this and there is very clear evidence that most are not. My belief in this regard is thus NOT equivalent to the paranoid notion that ALL the world's scientists are in some conspiracy to institute "world goverment" via "Global Warming mind control."

* "I attended a talk today on the feedbacks soot in snow has in the climate system. When I asked the presenter about the transient response we see in the world (massive snowstorms like we're seeing this week) versus steady-state response he left me know that researchers can only get this model to make it 'drizzle' all the time. But he claimed that the drizzling was able to reproduce some stuff ok. He was discussing the Arctic. Not Oregon."

Uh, in the arctic you NEVER get tropical rains, or even mid-latitude frontal rains. We have models which do reasonably good jobs of precipitation, I have no idea what the real issue(s) are here but this is some sort of miscommunication or misused "factoid." Given the details, I could sort this one out.


And then there is the political/philosophical position:

"Us righties prefer to be left alone to go to hell in our own individual hand baskets, rather than being stuffed by some government mandate into one that the tribal chieftain’s crony the medicine man has had expensively built (at his huge profit) for our collective “Salvation”. "

If you actually could/would go to hell in your own private handbasket ... just about all lefties would be very pleased to see you do that. We really would leave you alone. I am actually a rather extreme libertarian, perhaps more so than you, on issues which really are individual.

The problem here is that we ARE in this together, and all our children and their children and their children etc. I have a child, I care deeply about her future, and her children's. I also have an abstract but very deeply felt appreciation of the beauty of our current ecosystem and the time it has taken to develop.

I see you like this: you are some crazed whack-job bus driver who is at the wheel of a bus, and I can't get off and my child can't get off and almost everything I hold valuable cannot get off. And you are driving 120 MPH giggling insanely and shouting out insanities like "SH*T happens, it's inevitable, I have MY RIGHTS, DON'T TELL ME WHAT TO DO, LEAVE ME ALONE ... and so on."

And right now I am at that stage where I am saying "slow down. See that tree up there? Don't hit it, please slow down, listen to reason, why don't you slow down and let somebody else drive ... "

I do want to put it to you that at some point in that scenario, somebody will get to the calculation "I better shoot this guy through the head and try to get control of the bus before he loses it, because talking isn't working here and time is running out."

Don't assume that all lefties are effete little milktoasts who won't get ugly ... when things get ugly. But the above analogy isn't literal of course ... where the analogy applies is that with the current population density of earth, what we are doing will be driving a lot of the poorer people of earth toward starvation and displacement ... and when that happens the wars and the terrorism and great refugee flight occurs. Poor starving people have Kalashnikovs. There is no shortage of Kalashnikovs in the world, nor really any shortage of the materials to make PETN, TATP, etc.
It is disingenuous to pretend that GCC skeptics have an issue with science. But they do have an issue with “politically driven” science. The interest groups are not merely those seeking and receiving grant money. There is a political feedback loop underlying the entire issue. The Green movement wants to raise funds, so they need and support GCC as a powerful fund raising tool. All solutions will harm, or at least hold back, the economic future of the country, so all dictators and tyrants of the world push the issue as strongly as they can. Poor regions of the world see GCC as a chance to extort money from us and they like GCC a lot. The “liberal academic industry” sees this as an opportunity to spread the wealth and remove the US from global power and influence. GCC fits their agenda very nicely. And finally government, which views GCC as a unique chance to take control of vast sectors of the economy while geometrically increasing tax revenues. In such a situation, “scientists” are not even the tip of the iceberg and are more like feeble pawns in a global chess match. But to pretend that they are more, and to pretend that skeptic views are not valid, shows this author and this publication to be very, very, biased.
Responding specifically to CatnLion, who asked:

You asked for questions so here is mine.

1. What is the temp of the earth right now?

2. What is the temp that the planet should be maintained at?

3. Who decided that is the correct temp and how did they decide

4. When we start to head into the next ice age, how are we going to make the temp rise to what "normal" is?

This is a very common "Denialist counter argument," I suspect you got it from Rush Limbaugh who has been parroting it around.

You know the current temperature, and there is no "should" temperature or "who decided."

Physics and the planetary properties of the earth and the sun have created conditions for us where life can exist. If you look at the history of the earth, the climate has wandered around, forced by a variety of things, often forced by CO2 from epochs of volcanism.

When this has happened rapidly, there have been major extinctions. Rapid increases of CO2 have also caused major extinctions of marine biota directly due to rapid ocean acidification.

The problem here is that mankind is in the process right now of driving a major CO2 event, the best analogue we know of in the geo-history is the Paleocene-Eocene Temperature Maximum (aka PETM).

If we continue on our path unabated, we will cause a major extinction event for marine biota, that will impoverish the world for evolutionary time. About 30% of all the protein mankind eats comes out of the ocean, we will lose most of that. Within 300 years or so the world's oceans will rise at least 50 meters. Take a look at where the world's population lives, and ask where these people will go. And ask what they will eat. And ask what they will do, so that they perhaps have a place to go, perhaps have something to eat.

The "earth does not care" if we do this. There is "nobody who decides the "RIGHT" temperature of the earth." The earth will survive, life will survive (although with a great reduction in species diversity), in all likelihood humans will survive, but with a greatly reduced human population.

This is not about "rights" this is about WHAT ISN'T STUPID.

Lord Monckton of Brenchley, who is one of the most ardent arguers against "Global Warming" is on the public record (ironically through those outed emails from the CRU) arguing/admitting that the real reason he is arguing is not because he actually thinks the science is wrong, but because he is certain there will be an inevitable human population crash shortly (something like 3/4s of humanity disappearing) ... and that this will "solve the problem."

Yes it would. Is that your position on the matter? I do not want to see 3/4s of humanity perish. I would not assume that my descendants or the United States would come through unscathed, indeed I rather think we would not.

I doubt all those people would go "gently into the night" ... so that you can have the high-consumption life-style you think is your right.
Oh ... and I forgot to talk about the "next ice age."

It is a myth that "in the 70s scientists were predicting an imminent ice age" ... find a legitimate article in a peer-reviewed scientific journal if you want to claim otherwise. There are none.

From Milankovitch forcing we expect the next periodic ice age to be more than 40,000 years away, so for starters, I'm not holding my breath. I would be really happy and feel that our generations had done our job to get us through the next 1000 years or so.

As the climate starts to approach and ice-age, mankind then will have a decision, assuming we are around, with technological capacity and so on. One decision would be to let nature "take its course." We could do that, the result would be that over the span of generations all the people and all terrestrial biota would live in low-to-mid latitudes. With our current human population density ... that would get ugly fast, I think.

Our alternative would not be to pump CO2 into the atmosphere to stop it ... we won't have the fossil reserves then to do that, and the ice ages last too long. But what we could do is actually remarkably simple: we build about 10 big factories on earth, each the size of a major petrochemical refinery, and we run them continuously, producing several artificial perfluorocarbon molecules, and releasing them into the atmosphere. These are non-toxic, and very long lived, and extraordinarily potent as greenhouse gases.

It's a lot easier to dial the temperature of the earth up, than dial it down.
Responding to Jaguar6CY -- Reality does not care why people make various arguments or whether reality is favorable for them or not.

There are some people whose agendas are as you claim. I think their number is considerably smaller than you do, but this doesn't matter.

Suppose I said to you that in order to defeat whoever it is that you see as enemies, that you needed to act on the belief that the world was flat? Or pick any other obviously-untrue proposition ... on the off chance you do believe the earth is flat? (Polls show that about 5% of the American public will answer a poll question that way ... are they just joking?)

Even people you see as enemies may speak the truth.

The issue is what is the truth, and then what rational behavior follows from that.

Surely you understand that there are many people who use fear and lies in an attempt to drive people into following them, that this has been a pattern of history?
The opinion one holds on GCC is more a reflection of geo politics than science. The first fallacy in logic is “after therefore because”. The second is “correlation is causation”. The question is interesting in that “scientists” unanimously agree that there have already been 10 to 100 ice ages in geologic history. They unanimously agreed only to continue the debate on exactly how many. This implies that there have already been between 11 and 101 global warming periods, all predating the existence of man. (In the last instance there may, or may not, have been 1,000 humanoids around, but they must have started a really big fire.) The “science” of computer modeling itself is doubtful because they cannot reliably correct for chaos theory, and they did not do well in something as simple as forecasting, or preventing, the last financial crisis, with a far simpler factor set than climate. If you have “faith” in manmade GCC you are welcome to, but it is more opinion based than science based, and all intelligent liberals know that “faith” is a very weak argument. That is the first principle they learned in college.
Jaguar5CY: "The opinion one holds on GCC is more a reflection of geo politics than science. "

You may believe this, doesn't make it true, nor can you know how others formed their opinions, beliefs and knowledge.

You might equally well say "the opinion you hold on whether 1+1 = 2 is more a reflection ... etc."

Or the second law of thermodynamics, or .....

What you are really trying to argue is that either there is no science at all, or that science should never matter when it gets in the way of what you believe.

Pick one, or both.
Lee H.

Thanks for the answer.

I have not listened to Rush since he had this TV show. Back then it was popular to put on the TV in restaurants to build the after lunch business, which it did.

All you hear is Al Gore saying "the planet has a fever." Nobody ever says what temp where we should try to level out. All you hear is Chicken Little the ice is melting, the ice is melting.

On the other side you hear that the basic data that good people are doing good research with has been rigged before it was given to them, and they have emails from those who rigged it saying they did. You also have NASA claiming from the 70's that if we don't cover the ice caps with soot to cause the temp to go up we are heading for an ice age.

Now I'm what I would call an educated person. If I walk into a room with the general population I would say that I'm over the halfway point on the ability to decide an issue. You my friend I would assume are way over that point.

I do have to compliment you on your ability to explain things. Your writing was at an understandable and clear level. My ex's father and step-father both have a Phd in Chemistry and a Phd in Physics. Her step-father couldn't explain how to screw the lid off a jar so that you could understand it.

So what is the "average person" to do? You can't believe the experts. Each side has their own who both make good points. I like the follow the money ideas.

Climate change, don't you like how they don't call it global warming anymore, people want to use this to put in Cap and Trade, aka Cap and Tax. On the face C&T makes no sense. The point is to lower CO2. So what are we going to do, say you have to quit producing CO2, unless you pay us? Since taxes are a business expense that are passed along to the final customer the polluter is just going to pay the tax, pass the cost along, and keep putting out CO2. How does this cut the amount of CO2?

One way is it claims it will make the product so expensive that people will quit buying it. That may be true at some price point. If it is something people really want or needs, they have no choice to pay the higher price. If it's a need item that only hurts those on the lower ends of the economic scale.

If people do quit buying it, the business will go out of business. Who does that hurt? The factory workers.

All I see from C&T is money transfer based on the Climate Change boogie man.
FireStorm McGrew -- Arguing that CO2 is NOT a substantial "greenhouse gas" requires overturning all of molecular Quantum Mechanics AND proving that an enormous number of spectroscopic measurements made all over the world are wrong. One of the minor ironies of all of this is that much of the early detailed spectroscopy was paid for by the US Airforce and collected and organized by the AFGL (airforce geophysical laboratory), which still maintains these data-bases. Why did the airforce do this? The same data is needed to calculate the performance of infrared "seekers" (homing devices for rockets, etc).

It's NONSENSE to argue that CO2 is not a greenhouse gas, on par with arguing for perpetual motion machines etc.

It's also, unfortunately nonsense to argue that the climate sensitivity to CO2 is "small enough" that we have nothing to worry about.

It is true that there remain significant uncertainties in predicting just how hot things will get, by when. It is particularly the "by when" which makes it difficult ... kinetics rather than equilibrium.

But if you start arguing well "OK, so I don't need to do anything" ... this is akin to saying that because a Doctor can't tell you the day you will die, that you will never die.
Replying to CatNLion:

>So what is the "average person" to do? You can't
>believe the experts. Each side has their own who
>both make good points.

Really? What GOOD points does anybody make against the fundamental SCIENTIFIC issue? What you here are lots of screaming and yelling arguments which are NOT actually directed against the science at all. They are claims that so and so is a crook, that such and such data are "wrong" or "hidden" or etc.

These claims could even ALL be TRUE, and it would not change the science one whit. None of the science actually depends on the data and people ClimateAudit etc are trying to impugn. The situation is rather like this: Imagine you've got somebody claiming that a large bank has had 50 Billion dollars embezzled. And somebody is claiming this because there is a dispute about a travel voucher for a trip somebody took 20 years ago, and not all the records of that trip can be found, and the money that might be in question is $500 or so.

The whole witchhunt going on is on par with that.

In the case of the climate data in question, it is genuinely irrelevant to the main issues in part because it simply is not central to the main question (Is CO2 a reasonably potent "Greenhouse gas?") and in part because there are entirely independent data sets worked up by US scientists who are civil service employees of the US government, and the data they show looks effectively identical to what the Hadley CRU time-series show. The US data are public, always have been public.

Why is there this raving looney political witchhunt where organizations in the US are screaming and yelling about UK scientists and ignoring American scientists ... who tell them the same result the UK scientists got? Is it because they have some embarrassing emails of those English scientists?

How does that actually change the science?

>I like the follow the money ideas.

If so, then all the money is in the coal and oil industries. The idea that the scientists somehow "make money" from this is ridiculous.

>Climate change, don't you like how they don't call it
>global warming anymore, people want to use this to
>put in Cap and Trade, aka Cap and Tax.

Look, I don't want to get into political arguments or tax equity arguments or any of that. My position, and I want to make it very clear, is that THE SCIENCE CAN'T DEPEND UPON THE POLITICS. It never can, and if it does, it's not science.

Now look, if you ACCEPT THE SCIENCE, and your position is "I don't want to do anything about it." That is OK, you have your vote. There are lots of people whose attitude is exactly that.

My only expectation of you is that you won't lie about your position or attempt to create a false understanding in the public of what the facts are.

I am going to answer the following, because it does contain provable errors of fact, as opposed to opinion or "politics:"

>On the face C&T makes no sense. The point is to
>lower CO2. So what are we going to do, say you have
>to quit producing CO2, unless you pay us? Since
>taxes are a business expense that are passed along
>to the final customer the polluter is just going to pay
>the tax, pass the cost along, and keep putting out CO2
>How does this cut the amount of CO2?

This is very simple economics, ordinary economics, "econ 101 economics." Anything which raises the cost of a product tends to reduce demand. The degree to which the demand depends on price is called the "price elasticity." Economists are pretty good at estimating short-term price elasticities from market data. In this regard every business which sells a product understands price elasticity for their product(s) and attempts to measure it various ways because it is what let's them decide an optimum price.

Now the reality is that if the price of emitting CO2 increases because there is an increased tax on it, people and businesses will use less. There are many ways people and businesses can do that. In terms of energy production this means shifts toward some combination of natural gas, nuclear, wind, solar ... and away from coal and oil ... unless "CO2 capture and sequestration" proves economically feasible.

Now it is important to note that the tax revenue from the tax (and I completely agree that C&T is a tax) is not lost or destroyed. It is money like any other.

The USE made of that revenue is a political question, a values question. It could, for instance, be used to reduce other taxes. It could also simply be returned to the citizens per capita ... rather the way Alaska returns pipeline revenues to its citizens.

The emissions tax is like a "sin tax," ... and sin taxes work.

The goal would be to set the tax rate at one where a combination of conservation measures and shifting to energy sources which emit less (or no) CO2 get the "job done." Common sense would argue (and indeed the legislation provided) that the tax would be introduced gradually so that people and businesses have time to adapt.
Climate change is the wrong problem to be concerned about.

Far more serious and closer in time is low cost energy. Energy prices strongly affect food prices. Fossil energy has to be replaced as it runs out or the models show population crashes to as few as a billion people by the end of this century.

Fortunately there are very large sources of energy that could be tapped. But you don't hare much about them over the arguments about climate.

Keith Henson
>I'm was talking more about the uncertainties you
>mention. As I described in the first comment, models >can't fully replicate what we see in reality, namely
>snowstorms in that instance.

You never said snowstorms, you said something about heavy rain. You are now talking snow. Models of cloud-physics processes include snow. The weather channel reports snow predictions .. .these come from weather models and there is no essential difference these days between a "weather model" and a "climate model" in that regard. One of the leading climate models is the ECMWF (that's weather model") run in "climate mode."

As far as the mean surface temperature of the earth is concerned, snow (as the precipitation of snow, not snow changing the surface albedo) is effectively irrelevant. It has little optical cross-section per unit mass (far less than the cloud droplets it came from) and a negligible fraction of the earth's area is snowing at any time.

You can find endless "you can't do this perfectly" arguments. All scientists agree. If you are a scientist then you also understand that the point of almost anything we ever calculate is to establish the physics which are the dominant effects, try to get that right, put an error bound on the rest of it ... and that's that.

We have a very good understanding of the possible error bounds. There's nothing there which comes remotely close to permitting a low CO2 sensitivity, and the geochemical record demonstrates that the earth has never seen a low CO2 sensitivity.

>It's the difference between steady-state and
>transient responses and I don't think that without
>fine-grained stability,

I have no idea what you mean by "fine grain stability" and suspect that this isn't at all appropriate here.


Folks ... the school break is coming and I'm taking my daughter and running away to a ski week .. .and will be blissfully out of touch. Have fun without me ... back on line sometime after the 23d.
Lee H thanks for your cogent and detailed discussion. I am frankly too exhausted to engage the fools in such detail. But I will mention one added factor from the field of astronomy -- that Earth skates JUST inside the inner edge of our sun's continuously habitable zone. That boundary has been moving outward, as the sun gets hotter. We are now RIGHT at the boundary, an astronomical fact, which explains why our Gaia balance has reached the point where Earth has almost no greenhouse gases in its atmosphere... because it can afford almost none. Within 100 Myears, the inner edge will cross our orbit. Even a total absence of CO2 won't keep the atmosphere clear enough to scrub out enough infrared.

What humans are doing is effectively crossing that boundary artificially, by altering our Gaia balance to simulate conditions millions of years from now.

All of this is from a completely other science. The Deniers who parrot the Fox-sau'di line now have to expand their grand conspiracy theory to include planetary astronomy, too. But relax, I have faith in them. Koolaid is strong stuff.

Oh, those arguing that CO2 is "not a greenhouse gas" should move to Venus. They can buy beachfront property cheap.
A compelling argument, well done. Now that the debate, which is over for all intellectual purposes, has been politicized, it comes down to "liberal" science, doesn't it? And to the deniers, how could liberal science ever be correct?
"Unlike the childhood game, Simon Says, in which a particular course of action is dictated by the person playing the role of Simon, science rarely proscribes any one response.

1. certain policies are "what science says is required to avoid catastrophic climate change"

2. "science says reductions of at least 25 to 40 percent are necessary"

3. such and such is "consistent with what science demands"

4. there's a need "to set a science-based national pollution cap" [bold added by me]

First of all, science is performed by human beings - who are fallible. All science, therefore, has the potential to be biased and mistaken.

When scientists observe, they make choices about what is worth noticing and what is not. When they calculate, they choose to employ one mathematical approach rather than another. When they write reports, they highlight some issues while sidelining others.

All these decisions, choices, assumptions and biases are part of the process that produces what we think of as scientific knowledge. There is no God of Science reaching down from the heavens with THE TRUTH carved into stone tablets.

Second, while scientific investigation can produce certain facts, even when we have full confidence in the accuracy of those facts we must still choose how to respond to them.

Do we put our faith in high-tech to solve our energy problems over the next few decades before matters become acute? Do we reinforce sea walls and levees? Do we make huge efforts to ensure clean and adequate water supplies in the Third World in order to minimize drought-related harm?

Or do we continue to put pretty much all our eggs in one basket by pursuing grandiose international Kyoto-style emissions treaties - even when there's little evidence that such treaties accomplish anything?

There are always a variety of responses to any given situation. These responses - whether at the local, national or international levels - should be examined, debated, and negotiated out in the open. We all deserve a voice in these discussions. We should all participate in making these choices.

Science does not tell us what to do. When political activists insist otherwise, they are attempting to preempt important discussions, to silence our voices, to substitute their own views for those of the community.

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Posted by TripodGirl "

I can’t help it, a David Brin column is like a train wreck, you shouldn’t gawk at it, but it’s just such a horribly fascinating spectacle. It reminds me of the South Park “Smug” episode- in case you missed that, you can watch it here :

Bring your wine glasses
For those who don't have time to watch the full South Park episode, here's the gist:
So many people to lazy to do the research - so many people mesmerized by information overload that they can't connect the dots.

Satellite photos and scientist provide vivid real time photos of the melting polar caps, and what do you think lies under those polar caps?


Anyone want to mobilize a global snowman brigade to patch up the caps AFTER the multinationals have their deep water rigs in place?

holding on to wealth is hard, that's why the rich are conservative: "i got mine, now nobody rock the boat."

smartypants are boat-rockers, at least until they get rich, when they or their children become conservative.

real smartypants should be democrats, it was no accident that art and science flourished in classical athens.
No hard science addressed in your article David Brin, it's just another political hack article that misses the key essential scientific aspect of requiring hard evidence for the claims made by those proposing the alleged AGW hypothesis - and requiring extraordinary evidence for the extraordinary claims that they are making. You put your foot into your mouth and chewed it off David. I'm sorry to see that as the rest of your fictional works are entertaining.

I have a more indepth article here:

There was a mistake in the comment immediately above. It should be written as follows:

No hard science addressed in your article pwl, it's just another political hack article that is trying to erroneously dismiss the science behind AGW. This is, in addition, to have been written by someone who does not even understand basic scientific principles. You put your foot into your mouth and chewed it off pwl. I'm sorry to see that your article was not even entertaining. In fact, your article and the rest of your blog are so dumb that it’s not even funny.
Kanuk, your plagiarized flattery will get you nowhere. At least be original when twisting and stealing someone's words dude.

The principles of science require evidence that supports a hypothesis to stand up to tests; the alleged evidence supporting the alleged AGW hypothesis has failed to stand up time and time again.

What you don't like is that I and others insist that the principles of science be openly applied to climate science which is in dire need of some integrity and honesty not to mention some of the scientific method's best standards.

David Brin you've got it backwards, this is a battle for science, this is a battle that science be brought back into climate science and that politics and political agendas be eliminated from what has become a soft limp science of political hacks. This is a battle for science at the highest standards.

Show the hard evidence that humans caused global warming. You can't because there isn't any as "causality" hasn't been proven, it's only been conjectured and that isn't enough as actual hard proof, as hard evidence with all the work shown in full detail with every step and calculation shown is required. If you think there is show the hard evidence and the work. I dare you to show even basic evidence. Show the papers. Show the programs. Show the data. In detail. In depth. Put it all up on a web site for the world to audit.
"They see 100% of scientists as corrupt... while the oilcos are all sweet reason innocents." - David Brin

David Brin, that is utter nonsense. David, you've got some weird conspiracy nutter chatter going on upstairs if you actually believe that. Where the heck do you David get the idea that people "see 100% of scientists as corrupt"?

Set your whacked in the head beliefs that create generalized falsisms like that aside David and embrace actual science rather than political dialog.

I don't deny anything that is actually real. I do deny made up crap because, well, it's made up or doesn't reflect the objective reality of Nature.

Prove to me the alleged AGW hypothesis is real in the actual objective reality of Nature were we exist and there can be no way that I'd deny it once I'm convinced. In the process I will certainly challenge any proof or evidence, that is the scientific method after all. If it doesn't stand up to challenges then the alleged AGW hypothesis should fall (as it looks like it has).

If you are simply regurgitating what is perceived to be real or what is "agreed" (aka "consensus") to be real then I'll challenge it, and if I have strong evidence to the contrary I will deny it based upon that strong counter evidence. That is the scientific method.

Oil companies do a service but that doesn't make them the best people on the planet. It can be reasonably argued that oil companies very likely embrace the alleged AGW hypothesis to take cover under the crazy political notion of being "carbon neutral" allowing their REAL pollution to go unnoticed as the false specter of CO2 fears capture and contain peoples attention. For example, Maurice Strong, billionaire oil man, was one of the key players over the past four decades or so setting that all up at the UN and pushing for carbon trading.

I certainly don't see 100% of scientists as corrupt, however it's very clear that Phil Jones, Michael Mann, Briffa, Hansen and many of their colleagues were and are corrupt or at least seriously lacking in integrity. This core group of over forty key climate scientists, and possibly over a hundred of them, have been at the nexus of climate science for a number of decades giving them the time and opportunity to shape the research agenda with their extreme political agenda. The "six degrees of corrupt scientists" network of papers and research linked in concept applies. All works and papers based upon this core groups papers either directly or indirectly are now suspect and must be re-peer reviewed and fully audited in the open with all data and program source code openly available. None of the work done can be trusted as a result of the core crimes of this core group. The entire network of associations these scientists have has been compromised and if climate science is to ever regain integrity all the work must be vetted again.

As I wrote in an article yesterday, it's also clear that scientists can take on a "mind set" of "beliefs" or "ideas" such as the alleged AGW hypothesis and go beyond just hypothesizing they are true but to go past that point and prematurely conclude that their hypothesis is true and then block out all other ideas. That is the power of the "meme" to take control of a group and lead them down the path to being lemmings blind to what is really going on. Group Think Lock In is a well known phenomenon that can happen to a profession and to scientists as well. Mix in funding and, well, it's much easier to see how a science can get corrupted.

Regardless of the crimes of the core group of climate science criminals, all the work of climate science related to the alleged AGW hypothesis must be openly and publicly audited BECAUSE of the wild and crazy claims being made that man is bringing doom and destruction to the environment. These claims are so extraordinary that the Carl Sagan principle applies: extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Climate Science can't make extraordinary claims without showing extraordinary evidence, well not if they expect to be taken seriously that is. So far zero evidence proving causation that man has caused global warming has stood up to any tests. All we see are flawed and vauge statistical correlations that can't even hold muster after being checked.

So proponents of the alleged AGW hypothesis need to either put up or shut up. Show the evidence that you think proves causation or stop yelling fire on a crowded planet so we can get on with dealing with important issues such as real pollution problems (e.g. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch).

Very funny. I did not plagiarized your text, just corrected your statement (since the content actually applied to you), especially given the fact that you do not even understand the difference between an opinion and facts based on scientific inquiry. For someone who’s boasting about showing you scientific evidence, you do not even owe to your (low) standards in your own text. Quite pathetic actually. Given what I have seen so far, you would not even be able to grasp the scientific evidence even if it were to hit you right into the middle of your forehead; hence the lack of interest in showing you peer-reviewed publications on this topic. While you’re trying to understand the difference described above, you might want to seek explaining why the probability of observing a natural increase, that is not caused by human activity, in average temperature and CO2 is equal to 1 / 131,236,127,521,095,000,000,000 (or 10 times the value of the standard deviation away from the long-term mean of their respective distribution).
Kanuck, I clearly comprehend the difference between opinion and facts based on scientific inquiry.

You make false statements Kanuk just because you don't like with what I have to say.

I don't need to show any peer reviewed publications on this topic as I'm not the one making scientific claims Kanuk.

I'm asking for those that are proponents of the alleged AGW hypothesis to put up and show hard conclusive evidence that humans are causing global warming climate change, or shut up if they can't.

The best anyone has been able to do is to produce nothing.

Those making the claims must show the evidence. Those making extraordinary claims - as those alleging the AGW hypothesis are - must show extraordinary evidence. So far not even ordinary evidence. That is a failure by the propoents to put up.

Why don't you explain your magic made up probability yourself Kanuk. I'm not interested in your silly childish mind games dude.
David Brin, regarding your comment seeking to punish people legally. I beat you to it David Brin. I called for the prosecution of Al Gore on fraud charges way back on August 28th, 2009. I'm sure I'm not the first either.

Sure speculate all you want David Brin but as soon as your wild speculations without conclusive evidence of causation are used to make public policy you've crossed the line and become involved in perpetrating a fraud against the public purse.


You write “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” and “zero evidence proving causation that man has caused global warming”. Now, the fact that the observations related to the average temperature and CO2 concentration over the last 120 years fall between 6 and 10 standard deviations away from the long-term mean of their distribution are caused by a natural variation meets your argument that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” You need to owe to your own standards and explain to us why the probability of witnessing such observations is equal to 7.62E-24 when the data generating process is assumed to remain unchanged (not influenced by human activity). In your explanation, you also need to give details as to why these observations are 10 standard deviations away when all other vectors, such as solar irradiance, volcanic activities and ENSO indices did not produce such values. In fact, all of those have remained very stable over the same time period, some by a factor equal to 150 times more stable than the CO2. Which data generating process will produce observations that far away from the mean with a probability which is essentially equal to 0? Should we be concerned? Like you said, either prove your extraordinary claim that this is caused by a natural variation or shut the hell up. And yes, everything discussed above can be found in the literature and have been discussed before. You might want to polish on your statistical analysis skills while you’re at it. You certainly need it.
@phunkjinky: I tried to work my way through the second link, but it looks like the author is spending literally a hundred pages debunking his own misconceived notion of the mechanism of global warming.

Finally, I decided the paper was above my pay grade, and googled the title for commentary. I figured that, if it was at all noteworthy, somebody would have translated the claims into layman-speak.

There is some interesting give and take here:

but the essential conclusion is that the paper is horribly, irresponsibly wrong. Read the comments by sylas.
Catnlion said:
Climate change, don't you like how they don't call it global warming anymore, people want to use this to put in Cap and Trade, aka Cap and Tax. On the face C&T makes no sense. The point is to lower CO2. So what are we going to do, say you have to quit producing CO2, unless you pay us? Since taxes are a business expense that are passed along to the final customer the polluter is just going to pay the tax, pass the cost along, and keep putting out CO2. How does this cut the amount of CO2?

You seem to be missing some essential features of cap and trade, so I'll try to explain it as well as I can. To illustrate, we'll go with a simplified form of cap and trade. The United States emits a total of 5.7 gigatons of emissions annually. To begin reducing emissions, say we implement a cap at 5.5 gigatons. Then, the government sells 5.5 billion permits, each one granting the holder the right to emit a ton of CO2. If a coal plant can't buy a permit, then it can't emit any CO2.

Within this system, individual actors can continue doing exactly what they've been doing, so long as they buy a permit from somebody, either the government or some private entity that has already purchased one.

But because there are only a limited number of permits, somebody has to reduce their emissions and sell their permits to those who wish to continue emitting. To reiterate: you have to have a permit to emit a ton of CO2, and not enough permits are available to emit as much as we did the prior year.

The companies which choose to sell permits are the ones who can most cost-effectively reduce their emissions, while those which choose to buy the permits are the ones which would find it very expensive to reduce their emissions.

Cap and trade makes great sense, because it doesn't matter at all which molecule of carbon was emitted where or to what end. All that matters is the aggregate amount. If we have to choose between two plans for stopping a gigaton of CO2 from entering the atmosphere, one which costs a trillion dollars, and one which costs six billion dollars, all else being equal we should go with the latter. Cap and trade sets a goal, and lets the market figure out the most cost-effective approaches to meeting the target.

Now, the cap and trade bill before the Senate is more complex, because it also includes unrelated research funding, but more because it has to deal with real-world issues like verifying emission levels and all the other things needed to keep people from gaming the system. But the overall effect is the same: give the market the ability to internalize the costs of greenhouse emissions.
Well, I wonder if anybody is reading this now, but for the record, am back.


>Cap and trade makes great sense, because it
>doesn't matter at all which molecule of carbon
>was emitted where or to what end.

Well, for the record, the same thing would be true for straight/simple "carbon tax" too, ditto the fact that micro-economic theory of price-elasticities would make it equally effective at minimizing system costs (the analysis is not different).

The fundamental difference between C&T and a "Carbon Tax" is that the former explicitly commands an exact emission. That may or may not be good.

Two consequences to think about of a C&T:

1. Suppose the C is set low enough (WRT current market demand) that the price of the emission permits goes "through the roof" ... what will happen? Realistically in this circumstance the government will "increase the cap" ... make more permits available to lower the price.

2. More generally the price of emission permits is likely to be somewhat volatile, and you'll have all sorts of futures/hedging "markets."

For both of these reasons (and another I will get to) I think some mix of a straight carbon tax and a ([presumably much smaller) C&T on top of that for selected large industrial sectors would in fact be wiser.

That other reason is the real kicker though: a C&T cannot be extended to imports; there's no way to do that, would be illegal under GATT.

A carbon tax can be, identically to a VAT. Goods coming into the US could have a carbon tax applied (under GATT it could be the difference between our carbon tax rate and any carbon tax rate applied by the originating country).

In my view we are virtually forced to take this approach to prevent obliteration of US production of products which have an energy cost of production ... and almost everything does.
What an insult to those who spent years in science training! If scientists produced from our education system can't be trust, how count no one doubt about the bank deficit claimed by the bankers resulting a flush of consumer's money to rescue them? The dramatic event is that those banks in deficit not only revert the deficit situation within a year, but also make a surplus profit to distribute to the managers.

Back to the climate issue, pretending the data is the bank income curve, can someone conclude the bank is loosing money when the curve is shooting up?
the problem for me is that most people feel thatthey cannot make a difference anymore. They probably never could in general. BUT in particular ... look at that guy that laid down in front of those tanks.

You see? On man can make a difference ... just not that often. I digress, basically everybody feel useless politically so with GCC it gets much worse ... how can I possible change that ... one way or the other?

Sorry for the mumbo ... not a great post but I feel better LOL.

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no, they don't. it's just that their wealth and power would be curtailed by policies the boffins are submitting. the haliburton crowd don't believe in cc because it would cost money to believe it. many or most would be sincere, humans don't believe inconvenient truth.

this particular crisis is new: population and pollution may well cause extinction, and cyclic views of history may be running up against the house bet limit.
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Think about this for a moment. Now the IPCC insiders are admitting they cannot ’settle the science’ because they don’t do science and most of their ‘message’ is crafted by policy makers (with agendas of course). No wonder the latest IPCC report is full of junk science made from political organization press releases. No wonder Mann and Jones were breast reduction for men really in the business of creating images of global warming (by hiding tree-ring declines and hiding details in ice cores) instead of doing real science.
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I find myself on the fence about the whole GCC issue. I agree completely that it is changing. Do I believe that it is natural, or man made . . . .I would say both. We are certainly not helping the issue, but I believe that we would see a climate shift even if we were not here. History tells us that. As for the science behind it all, I wish that the scientists received more credibility than society gives them. These are learned men and women with outstanding credentials. Politics needs to stop attempting to debunk or hype up all of the findings, and let the data stand for itself. It must be utterly frustrating for the scientist.
Great Post, it was a really long read, i agree with the comment made by uzn that the anti science issue is very troubling
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