Criminally negligent?

I wrote this post a day or so ago and then decided not to post it as there was still quite a lot of activity on other threads. Given that it’s quietened down a little, I thought I would post it now. It’s really just some thoughts about Lawrence Torcello’s recent article in The Conversation, which considers whether or not misinformation about the climate is criminally negligent? The article has various people – Anthony Watts, Jo Nova, Christopher Monckton and James Delingpole, to name a few – up in arms. My understanding, though, is that he’s not arguing that those who believe that climate change is not anthropogenic, or who publish papers diminishing anthropogenic influences, should be regarded as criminally negligent. He’s referring to those who are knowingly presenting misinformation for political or financial gain.

Let me get my personal view out of the way. Irrespective of whether or not there is an organised misinformation campaign, the evidence for anthropogenic global warming (AGW), and it’s associated risks, is overwhelming and – in my view – pretty obvious. We have a UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that has now presented 5 synthesis reports, each of which considers the physical science basis and the possible impacts. The number of obvious dissenters is small. Our policy makers really should be able to work out what is credible and what isn’t, and who is credible and who isn’t. It’s not that difficult. If they can’t work it out for themselves, they should have better advisors or they should talk to them more. If they choose not to, and don’t understand the scientific subtleties themselves, then that’s probably our fault for allowing our political system to evolve into one in which a PPE graduate from Oxford is much more likely to have a successful political career than someone with a background in a hard science. So, if I were to apportion blame, it would be to our policy makers for not properly assessing the evidence, and to ourselves for allowing our political system to become what it has become.

So, in a sense, I think that talking of possible criminal negligence may not really be relevant. But there is an interesting issue. Let’s imagine that at some point in the not too distant future it becomes obvious that climate change is real (as I, obviously, think it will), that it is damaging, and that the risks we face are consistent with that presented by the various IPCC reports today (i.e., is consistent with the scientific evidence present today). Let’s also imagine that there is convincing evidence that certain people/groups have actively engaged in misinformation campaigns, knowing that the risks were real, and doing so for their own benefit. Again, I’m not referring to those who simply turned out to be wrong. If anything, you may expect them to be the most infuriated by such a scenario, as they could well have been amongst those taken in by such misinformation campaigns.

If such a scenario does come to pass, surely – irrespective of our views today – we’d all agree that those who knowingly misinformed for their own benefit, should be held accountable. This isn’t about trying to punish those who chose poorly, believed something that turned out to be wrong, or made mistakes in their scientific endeavours. It’s about holding to account, those who – cynically – tried to influence policy makers, and society, for their own benefit. It’s my understanding that this is essentially what Lawrence Torcello is suggesting in his article in The Conversation and, if so, I find it hard that anyone can actually disagree. Of course, having been involved in this contentious topic for a while now, I’m sure there will be many who will find reasons to do so. Anyway, these are just my thoughts about this particular issue. If others disagree, feel free to make your case in the comments, ideally keeping the moderation and comments policies in mind.

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476 Responses to Criminally negligent?

  1. Jodiah Jacobs says:

    I couldn’t agree more. I think it’s worthwhile to start a criminal investigation right now. Collect names and evidence for charges to be brought in the near future. Americans for Prosperity>>Koch Bros, Rupert Murdoch, those b*stards at Peabody Coal, Senator Inhoffe… could be quite a list.

  2. Jodiah,
    I’m guessing that until it becomes obvious that the climate change is real and a risk, many will oppose such an investigation, make claims of conspiracy ideation, violation of free speech, and anything else that undermines such an action.

    As I mentioned in the post, though, I don’t really see the point. If our policy makers can’t work out who is credible and don’t understand the strength of the evidence, then – in my view – it’s essentially our fault for allowing our political system to become what it has.

  3. While there’s some precedent in the tobacco industry, the problems faced re. climate change prosecutions are even more severe. What exactly would this legal action look like? Connecting specific damages to individuals or companies would be next to impossible. I’d guess you’d have to make a specific, new “prosecute the knowing deniers” act.

    Even presuming you could get over the hurdle of showing a person or company did, in fact, knowingly play down or deny the climate science, the whole idea seems unworkable, not to mention of dubious worth. I mean, if we’re say 50 years down the line facing extreme climate problems, what can possibly be gained from prosecuting some professional lobbyists? As a deterrent in the present?

    Not that I know anything about this, but I suspect it’s neither legally practical nor morally sound. Making new laws to prosecute subsets of people the state has determined were dangerous liars? Nah. I can entirely understand the feeling – surely they can’t get away with it!? But nah.

    That article made me quite uncomfortable: defending the L’Aquila prosecutions? Really? ” I don’t believe poor scientific communication should be criminalised because doing so will likely discourage scientists from engaging with the public at all.” That’s the only reason they think it shouldn’t be criminalised? Christ.

  4. Dan,

    I mean, if we’re say 50 years down the line facing extreme climate problems, what can possibly be gained from prosecuting some professional lobbyists? As a deterrent in the present?

    Yes, that’s one of my issues with the idea. As you say, not only is it legally a minefield, but what is the point of pursuing such actions once the risks become obvious?

  5. Steve Bloom says:

    More broadly, our legal system encourages environmental rapine by on the one hand not penalizing it to speak of and on the other framing greed on the part of both individuals and corporations as not simply admirable but necessary to the advancement of the common good. The BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico is an excellent object lesson in how this works. Yes, it was an exceptionally large event and it really did cost them (some), but note that right now the courts are entertaining arguments from them that they should be let off the hook for many of the promises they made in their haste to avoid extensive criminal prosecution. It’s a rigged game, and it needs to be unrigged. The guilty need to go to jail notwithstanding that the crime was in their job descriptions, and at a certain level of misbehavior offending corporations need to get the death penalty. That latter is of course disruptive in the immediate circumstances, but in my view necessary pour encourager des autres.

  6. Steve Bloom says:

    Also: What a state of luxury we live in, to consider even for a moment not taking such steps. Some might call it a fool’s paradise.

  7. Rachel says:

    Dan,

    Making new laws to prosecute subsets of people the state has determined were dangerous liars? Nah.

    I don’t think that’s what he means is it? I would be very skeptical of the making of new laws specifically for this purpose, but I wouldn’t object to charges of negligence using existing legislation for some of those astroturf organisations that George Monbiot writes about here, if it can be shown that they were created solely by fossil fuel companies for the purposes of misleading the public. Being charged with negligence does not take away your right to fight for your innocence of course.

    On the topic of those Italian seismologists, it’s my view that scientists, particularly those working at state-funded Universities do have a responsibility to communicate their findings to the public and to work towards what is inevitably for the good of society. This means communicating risks accurately and in a timely manner. I do think what happened to them [the Italian scientists] in the end was a bit unfair, but having said that, why didn’t they speak out? They should have. Just as scientists at the forefront of the climate change wars should be speaking out now about the risks we face.

  8. Rachel – no, it was me suggesting there would need to be new laws because there’d be no way existing ones could do the job asked of them, i.e. prosecute people who knowingly twisted climate science to sell a false message to the public. Again, not that I know much about this – I’m extrapolating from how hard it is to prosecute tobacco companies. The assignment of blame and causation there is difficult in a court of law; it’ll be an order of magnitude harder to assign blame to any one organisation or group of people for any climate change outcome.

    Italian seismologists: it’s one thing to say scientists should speak out. I agree, it’s a good thing if climate scientists are vocal. It’s quite another to suggest *not* speaking out should be a criminal offense, though. Maybe it was just sloppy writing on their part, but they seemed to be saying, “if it weren’t for the fact it’d put people off getting into the sciences, I think it should be a criminal offence to remain silent”.

    A bit unfair? Jail for six years?? Hum. As with the ‘prosecute the professional climate deniers’ stuff, seems like massively mixing up moral and legal.

  9. bratisla says:

    Since the subject of the Italian seismologists comes out once again, with the permission of ATTP I will provide some context.
    Seismic risk in Italy is a major concern – and this may even be an understatement. That’s why Italy has an organisation dedicated to deal with natural hazard, from scientific research to post-crisis action : the Dipartimento Della Protezionne CIvile, or DPC. But, since natural hazard is a big concern for Italy, DPC has powers far beyond the usual scientific organisation : in the case of a crisis, they basically take power from local governments to coordinate the post-crisis actions. This is an organisation with lots of power, even more than FEMA I would venture. And, in the case of a crisis, it is naturally the legitimate organisation through which ALL crisis communication is done – in a case of a crisis, you don’t want any confusion, do you ?
    This status makes DPC a powerful tool for government politicians, and therefore the nominations at the head of this organisation are a highly political move.

    During the l’Aquila crisis, Silvio Berlusconi was Prime Minister. I don’t know if you know him ; even though I’m located across the Alps from Italy, I have heard more than my share of stories about him. For those who have the chance not to know him, Berlusconi was an industrial tycoon who then built a media empire, before using it to take the power from a weak left-center.
    Berlusconi is the worst political bastard I’ve ever seen. Sorry ATTP for the strong language, and sorry fellow Americans but your bought off politicians are not even close to his level. Seriously. I lost count of the trials he had to face – and I’m not Italian ! – and he was notorious to propose laws that were tailored to make him avoid a guilty sentence – laws that were voted by his party because of the corruption. He later allied with fascists and North Italy xenophobs (Lega Nord) in order to keep his position a bit longer, without any hesitation.
    You can imagine that, given the kind of person he was, he preferred to nominate someone who was in his political debt. And Bertolaso did indeed profit from his ties with Berlusconi : nominated at the head of the commission of the waste urgency in Napoli (the situation was dire), he was apparently less than stellar at this position, but that didn’t stop him from being promoted to the head of DPC. After the L’Aquila disaster, Berlusconi tried to exfiltrate him from DPC by finding him a position in his government, but the move was so obvious that it was eventually not done.

    Now that the context is given, please allow me to come back to l’Aquila. After a serie of earthquakes going up in magnitude, DPC asked its scientific panel – including DPC scientists but also INGV director Bocchi, among them – to give advice on this crisis.
    1) we have proof from audio interceptions by the police that Bertolaso, head of DPC, intended to use this meeting as a communication tool to reassure the population. This shows that the head of DPC had already taken his decision based on political factors and not the science – whatever the scientists would have said, Bertolaso would have thereafter given to the media his reassuring message that proved deadly
    2) we have a transcript from this meeting. In this transcript, Bocchi states from the beginning, black on white, that no one can assume there won’t be any more powerful event. I say that again : Bocchi warned about a possible L’Aquila ! The meeting was concluded with a “we do not know what will happen”. To my knowledge, they did never say “no problem !”, but my Italian is weak and I may be wrong. In this case, Bocchi would have committed indeed a major crime.
    3) Bertolaso, after the scientists were gone, organised a press conferece and misrepresented the scientific panel’s opinion with his famous statement “do not fear anything, go back home and take a sip of grappa”. Notice how convenient it was that NO scientist was invited to this press conference ?
    4) Now, the crucial part : the scientific panel let the DPC speak to the media and the population. It was the main point of the prosecution : “they should have contradicted Bertolaso and not remain silent”. And this is what irritates me :
    – let me remind this fact : DPC is the legitimate spokesman in the case of a seismic crisis, and for a good reason : to avoid multiple and contradictory communications. The scientific panel had NO reason to speak to the media in the first place, it followed the usual rule
    – the deadly earthquake occured less than 48 hours after the meeting. If you are trusting the DPC, and if you are a normal person that does not follow closely every declaration, I do not see how it could be possible to a) learn about the catastrophic message delivered by Bertolaso b) decide that it is best to play maverick and openly contradict the DPC, instead of solving first the problem with DPC through messages c) organize a press conference

    As you can imagine, I am not convinced that Bocchi commited a moral fault, given the current elements I have. For the legal fault, it is a different matter ; I do not know Italian justice, but I believe it’s quite close to the French one, and you can be guilty of homicide by carelessness even though you morally didn’t do anything wrong. Dura lex, sed lex. If you contest that, you go on a very slippery slope.
    However, in any democratic justice, the sentence should be proportionate to the actual fault committed in the range of the options open by law. You do not give a life sentence to someone who killed a bystander because he lost control of his car if you don’t have a very good reason.
    And it gets me to the main point of my bitterness about this scandal : Bocchi who, for some reason, did not speak out, got the same exact sentence as Bertolaso the liar. Worse : Bertolaso saw his sentence shortened, contrary to Bocchi.
    Bocchi was a scapegoat, that’s all. That’s how all seismologists in the world feel, and they have a lot of resentment against Berlusconi and the judges.

    And the lesson I personally got from this story is : NEVER, EVER trust politicals. This is a terrible lesson, as it weakens DPC a lot while it has shown a great efficiency otherwise ; this is a bitter lesson, as scientists have to grow political skills in order to merely survive.
    Hansen did the right move, as Flannery did. And I urge other climate scientists to do the same, so that they don’t share Bocchi’s fate : becoming a convenient scapegoat and see his reputation torn to pieces by (sorry for the strong words) political slimy bastards more interested by their own fate than the people’s best interests.

    Sorry for the long post, this is quite OT but there is in my sense a lot of misinformation going on because people outside Italy/seismic risk are not aware of the role of the DPC and because people are usually not aware of some details (the audio interceptions, for instance). I could go conspiracy theory and wonder if Berlusconi’s media empire had played a role in this misinformation, but fortunately for the rest of the world it seems that his influence is null outside Italy.
    At least, Berlusconi got sacqued and DPC is now lead by someone less political and more skilled than Bertolaso.

  10. Rachel says:

    Dan,

    Ok, yes, I agree that the doing here – charging someone with criminal negligence – is likely to be quite difficult. Very expensive too.

    And the seismologists, my remark of “a bit unfair” is probably a bit of an understatement. I was pretty shocked about what happened too. There’s one thing you say which is not entirely true though:
    It’s quite another to suggest *not* speaking out should be a criminal offense, though.

    It was not that they failed to speak out; it was that the spokesperson said something incorrect and they did not correct it. Having lived through some big earthquakes which included a fatal aftershock, I look back and wonder how I would have felt had the seismologists at the time not warned that an aftershock like the fatal one which did strike was on the cards. All the seismologists did warn of this possibility though and I think I would have felt angry had they not done so. I don’t think I would have felt they deserved to be sentenced to 6 years in prison however had they failed to provide these warnings.

    bratisla,

    Wow! Thanks for the detailed comment. It’s good to get another perspective on this and one that is different from the usual media reports.

  11. Since Dr. Torcello is a professor of philosophy, I am sure he would not pour hemlock into the ear’s of skeptics, but he would nevertheless set lesser penalties for criminal speech concerning anthropogenic global warming..

    As I see it, the problem is not merely a moral and philosophical problem. The problem is that Dr Torcello is floating this idea in the wrong country and the wrong century.

    Criminalizing ideas would lead down the slippery slope to the way the law was in the time of Shakespeare, Donne and Milton. The first year of our engineering physics program included a compulsory course in English literature. Donne and Milton intrigued me because they had visited Galileo while he was under house arrest. Milton later wrote the Areopagitica in defense of books, the inspiration for the First Amendment to the American Constitution.

    Although freedom of speech is not absolute — a person may not shout “fire” without cause — the courts have interpreted the constitutional right of free speech broadly to include scientific, religious and political opinions. You may deny that God exists even if you might cause your hearer to burn in Hell. You may assert that gravity exists only as a property of the non-Euclidean geometry of space even if your hearer might be encouraged to fly out the window.

    Scopes was convicted for teaching evolution after the Tennessee court heard scientific and religious arguments about the truth or falsity of evolution. An appeal court would consider only whether or not a state has the power to make a law prohibiting the teaching of evolution.

    Long ago, the FDA asserted that it could outlaw or enforce promotion of scientific theories.. The FDA once asserted that promoting the theory that cholesterol is implicated in heart disease conflicted with FDA regulations. The question was and is not whether or not the theory is true, but whether the FDA has the power to make a regulation that outlaws promotion of a theory.

    The issue of whether or not CO2 is a pollutant has come before the Federal Court. The courts have so far decided cases narrowly on the grounds that the EPA has power to define what is a pollutant. As I understand it, the courts have refused to consider scientific theories relating to CO2 because the science is not relevant to the legal issue of whether or not the agency has power to make the regulation. The EPA is currently being challenged in the SCOTUS regarding CO2 emissions from power stations. The Supreme Court may again refuse to hear the scientific arguments. I expect the case will be decided on the basis of whether or not the Federal statute empowers the EPA to include stationary emitters in a regulation that specifies mobile emitters.

    Long ago the Founders already considered Dr Torcello’s idea and rejected it. Possibly Dr. Torcello should read some American history.and American jurisprudence. The philosophy underpinning American law is a fascinating subject, something that would surely interest a professor of philosophy.

  12. MikeH says:

    @Chris Marlowe

    You should probably read the article before commenting on it.

    Torcello has reposted the article here with what he says is the correct heading “It should be criminal to fund climate change denial”
    http://qz.com/188238/it-should-be-criminal-to-fund-climate-change-denial/

    Here are some relevant quotes.

    “With such high stakes, an organised campaign funding misinformation ought to be considered criminally negligent.”

    “We have good reason to consider the funding of climate denial to be criminally and morally negligent. The charge of criminal and moral negligence ought to extend to all activities of the climate deniers who receive funding as part of a sustained campaign to undermine the public’s understanding of scientific consensus.”

    “My argument probably raises an understandable, if misguided, concern regarding free speech. We must make the critical distinction between the protected voicing of one’s unpopular beliefs, and the funding of a strategically organised campaign to undermine the public’s ability to develop and voice informed opinions. Protecting the latter as a form of free speech stretches the definition of free speech to a degree that undermines the very concept.”

    And while we are on the subject of American history, it is worth looking at how Abraham Lincoln dealt with rats in the ranks.

  13. Eli Rabett says:

    Well, some, not Eli to be sure, might think that some banksters should be put in the dock for tanking the world’s economy, but they seem to be doing quite well.

  14. appaling says:

    I do not believe the misinformers ever will be held accountable for many reasons. A significant reason is that the deterioration of our society and the effects of climate change are mostly gradual, and very few people will see the connection of what is happening to the misinformaton 5-10 years before that. So, the misinformers will simply fade into oblivion.

    On the other hand, if we imagine someone practicing the same methods of cherry picking, intentional misinformation, fake statistics, etc within the financial sector, they would certainly be held accountable and probably go to jail. Ponzi schemes are criminal, but only when applied to money, not to environment we all depend on.

  15. “then that’s probably our fault for allowing our political system to evolve into one in which a PPE graduate from Oxford is much more likely to have a successful political career than someone with a background in a hard science”

    And another call for a dictatorship of the scientists.

  16. And another call for a dictatorship of the scientists.

    Don’t worry, Richard, soon you will be free to leave the planet where you can dictate to yourself.

  17. soarergtl says:

    And what if you are wrong?
    What if, as Prof Hans Von Storch (a real climate scientist) is right and we have decades to solve the problem?
    What if Richard Tol is right, and 1.5-2C is largely beneficial?
    What then do you do about those who want to reduce or reverse the increase in prosperity brought about my cheap energy? What if this removes the possibility of lifting another billion people out of absolute poverty?
    And what do you do with people who deny the science of Golden Rice, which could feed millions. Or those who deny the science of 3rd and 4th generation nuclear, which could give us cheap and safe baseload electricity? What do you do about those who deny that shale gas has reduced CO2 emissions in the USA, whilst the billions spent on wind & solar in Europe haven’t? And who oppose the settled science of gas extraction replacing coal generation?
    Are you then going to prosecute those who have artificially increased the cost of heating, sending thousands into fuel poverty (and perhaps hypothermia and death) in northern countries?

    AGW is real, but CAGW may not be. There are innumerates on both sides, and people who deny science may well be more prevalent amongst extreme Greens than sceptics. But I see no call to prosecute them.

    Why not?

  18. MikeH says:

    I had to look it up.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_University_of_Oxford_people_with_PPE_degrees
    “Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) at Oxford University has traditionally been a degree read by those seeking a career in politics, public life (including senior positions in Her Majesty’s Civil Service) and journalism.”

    I am not sure it helps. The one person in the Australian parliament with a PhD in science is a shocking climate science denier. I suspect that even Richard Tol would be embarrassed by Jensen’s views.
    http://www.watoday.com.au/national/jensen-uses-hitler-to-deny-climate-change-20090225-8hhm.html

  19. dhogaza says:

    “And another call for a dictatorship of the scientists.”

    No, a call for a more level playing field for scientists in the political realm is not a call for a “dictatorship of the scientists”.

    “I suspect that even Richard Tol would be embarrassed by Jensen’s views.”

    No, Richard Tol isn’t embarrassed by any denialist’s views. Get with his program :)

    My respect for economics drops every time Tol posts to the internet.

  20. Richard Tol,

    And another call for a dictatorship of the scientists.

    Are you really that [Mod: snipped]. A suggestion that we should hold ourselves responsible for how political system has evolved, is a call for a dictatorship of scientists? Part of me thinks you really are that [Mod: snipped]. Another part realises that you’re just a remarkably unpleasant individual who will say anything to try and score a point. Being an academic advisor to the GWPF would seem to be consistent with both of these characteristics. None of this counts particularly in your favour.

  21. @Wotts
    Your sentiment is clear. You claim that “scientists” are better political leaders than “PPE graduates”. You do not support that claim with any evidence. You also use the word “fault”, suggesting that there is something in need of repair.

    Note that PPE is, in fact, designed to prepare people for public office.

  22. soarergtl,

    And what if you are wrong?
    What if, as Prof Hans Von Storch (a real climate scientist) is right and we have decades to solve the problem? What if Richard Tol is right, and 1.5-2C is largely beneficial?

    You’re rather missing the point. I’m not in any suggesting that considering all the evidence tells us what to do. Our policies, in my opinion, should be based on considering all the available evidence. The evidence includes the possibility that warming will be low. The evidence includes the possibility that Tol is right (although that’s a rather simplistic interpretation of Tol’s study). The evidence also includes the possibility that warming will be high and damaging. So, the only thing I’m suggesting is that we – our policy makers – should consider all the evidence when deciding what to do. I’m certainly not suggesting that there is something specific that our policy makers should be deciding to do.

  23. Marco says:

    I see Richard Tol prefers the dictatorship of the PPE graduate…

  24. Richard Tol,

    Your sentiment is clear. You claim that “scientists” are better political leaders than “PPE graduates”. You do not support that claim with any evidence. You also use the word “fault”, suggesting that there is something in need of repair.

    What complete and utter nonsense. Do you realise how [Mod: snipped] some of what say appears to be? That is not what I’m saying in any way whatsoever. We have, as far as I’m aware, one MP with a scientific background. Virtually all have no scientific training or background. All I’m suggesting is that we would benefit if our politicians had a wider range of backgrounds.

    Let me just check what I actually said

    probably our fault for allowing our political system to evolve into one in which a PPE graduate from Oxford is much more likely to have a successful political career than someone with a background in a hard science.

    Hmmmm, yes nothing like the way you’ve interpreted it. The word “probably” implying me expressing an opinion. The words “much more likely” used to indicate that PPE graduates (by which I meant non-scientists) typically doing better than those with a scientific background. I guess I could look up to see if this is actually true, but I think it is and you could always look it up yourself if you wished to. Try reading it again without your GWPF goggles on.

  25. OPatrick says:

    Note that PPE is, in fact, designed to prepare people for public office.

    Erm, isn’t that exactly what Anders has noted? Although the ‘preparation’ involved is what is in question. I would suggest it is more that PPE is designed to get someone into, and to stay in, public office.

  26. I’ve just discovered that Tony Abbott apparently has a PPE degree from Oxford.

  27. As much as I’d like to see the people benefiting from climate change denial prosecuted, it would be legally impossible or the very best a legal minefield. That said, I do foresee possible future civil lawsuits being brought against local governements by businesses and individuals who find their coastal properties inundated by rising sea levels. Now, before I get shot down with talk about timescales, consider the issue of storm surges and king tides. Sometimes it is a matter of centimetres that determines whether a levy is breached or not and it isn’t a long bow to draw to consider that building approvals made now will come back and bite local councils in 20 years when they fail to consider solid science which is readily available now. I have lived most of my life in southeast Queensland and have seen whole suburbs pop up on reclaimed coastal swamps with front doors currently only 50cm to 1m above the average high tide mark. Do we claim it is a case of buyer beware when the amount of misinformation in the public domain is so prevalent or is it reasonable to expect our government bodies, who do have access to relevant scientific information and have a greater legal obligation to access that information when making planning decisions, to make the correct decisions? Personally, I’m a scientist and know how and where to access accurate information but Joe Bloggs doesn’t and shouldn’t be expected to.
    On that note, Karen Andrews is a member of the Australian government and her seat is on the Gold Coast. Sea level rise projection maps for the low lying Gold Coast paint a fairly grim picture unless significant mitigation measures aren’t undertaken and yet in her whole career in the Australian parliament she has only mentioned “climate” 5 times and only in the context that the “climate” on the Gold Coast is great in some sort of spruik to boost tourism. While she would have a successful defence of “stupidity” should anyone ever try to take legal action the same can not be said for her government or the local government which her federal seat sits in.

  28. MikeH

    “Torcello has reposted the article here with what he says is the correct heading “It should be criminal to fund climate change denial””

    You think that funding an idea is not protected by the First Amendment? What do publishers do then?

    It seems you have have not understood the implications of what Torcello has said.

  29. @Marco
    Apologies if that is what I seemed to imply.

    PPE is designed to prepare people for public office. I did not say that it is well-designed (although I think it is). I did not say that PPE adequately selects those who are suited for office from those who desire office (I don’t think it does). I did not say that non-PPE do not qualify, let alone that they should be barred (I in fact think the exact opposite).

  30. “You think that funding an idea is not protected by the First Amendment?”

    No first amendment here in Australia, or New Zealand, or Great Brittain, or Denmark, or China, or Canada, or Italy, or every other country in the world that isn’t the USA.

  31. Richard Tol,
    A sensible comment, wow. I would apologies too if it seemed that I was implying a dictatorship of scientists. Given that I cannot see how anyone with any sense could have interpreted it that way, I won’t. To be clear though, I am definitely not implying a dictatorship of scientists. I also don’t have any fundamental objections to the PPE degree. Given, however, that there appear to be many current UK MPs with Oxford PPE degrees and only one (Julian Huppert) with a science background (that I’m aware of) it would seem that, currently, those with PPE degrees from Oxford have more success in politics in the UK than anyone with a science background.

  32. soarergtl says:

    Why is it surprising that PPE graduates are in government? People who want to be in government study PPE, and go through the nonsense that is required to be a SPAD and later an MP.

    Scientists want to find stuff out. They are unlikely to submit to ‘collective responsibility’ when they believe they know that the policy in question is mistaken.

    The real problem is people voting for idiots because of the colour of their rosettes, and not their honesty, integrity and clarity of mind. What, if any, degree they hold is much less relevant. This is an issue on all sides, and only likely to be solved slowly, with better education and a more knowledgeable and inquisitive MSM (which is also mainly inhabited by arts & journalism graduates, not scientists).

  33. uknowispeaksense,

    When Mills wrote Areopagitica and addressed it to Parliament in defense of freedom to publish, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Italy did not exist. China had stricter controls than it does now. Both the US and Canada have constitutions that protect speech. In the US since 1791. In Canada, according to a 1938 decision of the Canadian Supreme Court, since 1867.

    If I understand correctly, in the UK, Australia, and N. Z. people are free to publish only so long as Parliament does not restrict the right by statute. There is no constitutional protection..

  34. Chris,
    You referred specifically to the First Amendment. This a typically Americancentric response to an article that was written on an Australian site with no reference to the USA at all, but thanks for the unnecessary history lesson.

  35. BBD says:

    What is required are changes in the law to make the funding of front organisations transparent.

    That is all.

  36. uknowispeaksense,

    Still it’s fair comment Dr Torcello is a professor in Rochester, New York. Are you suggesting that he is advising Australians to amend Australian law to criminalize funding of climate skepticism?

    That’s coming the raw prawn, isn’t it. In effect, he would be saying that in his country people are protected by the US Constitution, so Congress can make no such law, but in Australia you don’t have such protections, so why not go after them, wink, wink.
    http://www.rit.edu/cla/philosophy/Torcello.html

  37. BBD says:

    So, Chris, do you think it is okay for vested corporate interest to undermine democracy by paying for climate lies to be injected into the public and so the political discourse?

  38. Louise says:

    This site lists all MPs with an interest in or history of STEM activities http://sciencecampaign.org.uk/?page_id=1543

  39. I did not express a moral or political opinion, but a legal opinion. Dr Torcello is advocating a change in the law to criminalize speech concerning climate theory. As you state, he wants to criminalize public political discourse that he does not agree with. The Founders anticipated this might happen and amended the Constitution to protect public political discourse.

    What sort of democracy do you want? A democracy where the majority can silence the minority?

    What I said was that Dr Torcello is advocating suppression of speech protected by the US Constitution. When I was engaged by a US university, I took an oath to uphold the US Constitution and I believe that Dr Torcello did too. So he should come right out and say it: He advocates removing the speech clause from the First Amendment. He will need also to delete part of the 14th Amendment too..

    The US Courts have consistently refused to determine whether a specific scientific theory is true false. What the courts have said is that this is not a matter for the courts.

    I do wonder though, how a philosopher could teach his students the history of Socrates trial and execution and then promote trial and conviction of skeptics based on the corrupting influence of their political discourse.

  40. clivebest says:

    While agreeing with you about the basic science, I disagree with your conviction that there should be no debate about policy action. As I see it climate scientists are themselves taking on a political role by pushing too hard for action now of some sort, and then washing their hands of proposing solutions. Scientists just like anyone else are affected by their political beliefs. Scientists, just like sceptics, may need to be held to account if the “de-carbonisation” effort they are pushing for now proves to be fruitless because it is ill conceived. This lobbying has successfully diverted huge amounts of investment into “green energy”, pushing up energy costs while doing very little to curb emissions. The urgency to take action now depends critically on what the climate sensitivity is. After 5 IPCC reports and 25 years of research climate sensitivity still remains in the range 1.5 to 5C as reported in 1990. Anything less than 2C and there is no need to take any action at all right now – especially in the UK.

    Science and engineering made the modern world. Thermodynamics was developed to make better steam engines. Science has transformed the lives of billions. Science can make the transition to low carbon energy, but it will take more than 50 years. Current solutions like wind power are expensive, inefficient, unreliable and cannot work without fossil fuel backup. Every one of the 4500 turbines will need replacing every 15-20 years – but even then can only meet 5% of UK energy needs. By lobbying too hard now you are driving the UK down a renewable path to disaster. If instead scientists (Royal Society) concentrated instead on real solutions – new nuclear or fusion, then they would be following a long tradition of science doing good for society. Instead it seems to be focussing more on finger pointing and doom mongering.

  41. BBD says:

    I want a functional democracy, which requires transparency of funding for all lobby groups (aka “think tanks” etc).

    All that is required are changes in the law to enforce transparency of funding for said organisations to prevent corporate vested interest from subverting democracy.

    Do you agree? Yes or no.

  42. soarergtl says:

    Quite right.

    Most of us in Europe do not have the protection of The First Amendment, but most European countries are signatories to the ECHR which protects free speech (with some qualifications for hate speech, which might usefully be employed against those who call others ‘deniers’, for example).

    It has been a priority for dictators of all stripes to suppress free speech amongst the populace, continuing to this day in countries like North Korea. Dr Torcello would seem to be a useful ally for those whose arguments are not strong enough to withstand educated scrutiny, and who would suppress dissent by threats and imprisonment. He is just the latest in a long line of apologists for the removal of human rights from entire populations. We all know where that leads.

  43. BBD says:

    Lawrence Torcello:

    My argument probably raises an understandable, if misguided, concern regarding free speech. We must make the critical distinction between the protected voicing of one’s unpopular beliefs, and the funding of a strategically organised campaign to undermine the public’s ability to develop and voice informed opinions. Protecting the latter as a form of free speech stretches the definition of free speech to a degree that undermines the very concept.

  44. MikeH says:

    Chris. Good to see that we are at least discussing what Torcello actually wrote.

    In the wake of 9/11, the US passed “anti-terror” laws which were challenged on 1st Amendment grounds. The Supreme Court has generally overruled the challenges. Here for example.
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/06/21/us-usa-security-court-idUSTRE65K4B420100621

    The fact is societies will change rules or change interpretations of those rules to suit the circumstances. The USA is no different.

    Do you seriously believe that if a majority of elite opinion in the USA considered climate change to be a clear and present danger, they would continue to allow the climate cranks a free hand?

    [Mod: snipped]

  45. BBD says:

    soarergtl

    I want a functional democracy, which requires transparency of funding for all lobby groups (aka “think tanks” etc).

    All that is required are changes in the law to enforce transparency of funding for said organisations to prevent corporate vested interest from subverting democracy.

    Do you agree? Yes or no.

  46. soarergtl says:

    We must make the critical distinction between the protected voicing of one’s unpopular beliefs, and the funding of a strategically organised campaign to undermine the public’s ability to develop and voice informed opinions.

    And how does he propose to make that ‘critical distinction’? The Guardian, for example, publishes all sorts of opinion not backed in any way by science. Is the funding support of AutoTrader evidence enough to put them in gaol?

  47. “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”

    This sentence supposedly describes thinking of Voltaire, although it’s formulated by the author of a biography of Voltaire.

    It’s clear that the sentence does not imply a requirement to fund those who disagree, but it certainly means that a scientist should be free to tell that the goal of 2 C limit for warming is not based on solid scientific arguments, if that his honest opinion. It implies also that scientists should have the right to convene meetings with a participation that deviates from the statistical distribution of the whole field of science.

    Although the freedom of speech is more fundamentally a right of individuals than organizations, it’s quite clear that the organizations should also have the right to defend their interests, which are often economic interests.

    Everyone, who wishes to restrict those freedoms should think, whether that approach could be used also against views and opinions most dear to themselves.

    At some point an activity becomes criminal, but we make the limits too tight only at our own peril.

  48. MikeH says:

    My bad. I assumed Chris that you were arguing in good faith.

    Now you are back to lying about Torcello’s article and what he wrote despite you having been given quotations from it.

  49. Louise,
    I may stand corrected. That appears to be many more than I had realised. I guess quite a lot are people with an interest, rather than any specific training, but it is still more than I was lead to believe.

  50. Clive,

    While agreeing with you about the basic science, I disagree with your conviction that there should be no debate about policy action.

    I’ve never said that or even implied that. If it appears that I have, then either I was misunderstood or I expressed myself poorly. I definitely think that there should be debate about policy action. I think it’s crucial, so I’m confused as to why you would think that I have a conviction that there should be no debate about policy action.

    In fact, I don’t that I’ve really pushed for anything with respect to policy action. If I’m pushing for something, it is that our policy makers consider all the evidence. If they do so and decide that the best course of action is to do nothing, then that’s their decision. If they decide the best course of action is to do nothing because they think climate sensitivity is likely low, then I would regard that as a poor evaluation of the available evidence.

  51. MikeH says:

    “it’s quite clear that the organizations should also have the right to defend their interests, which are often economic interests.”

    Nonsense Pekka. We restrict the rights of corporations all the time.

    In Australia like many other countries we heavily control the activities of tobacco companies. They are not allowed to advertise, to sell to minors (very large fines for either). They are also required to use plain paper packaging. They squeal like stuck pigs but because the laws are supported by the legislators, the courts & the majority of the population, they have no where to go.

  52. soarergtl,

    Why is it surprising that PPE graduates are in government? People who want to be in government study PPE, and go through the nonsense that is required to be a SPAD and later an MP.

    I don’t know why you think I’m surprised. I don’t think I expressed surprise. I’m not really, for the reasons you say. That still doesn’t mean that I can’t be disappointed that our politicians don’t have a more diverse range of backgrounds.

    The real problem is people voting for idiots because of the colour of their rosettes, and not their honesty, integrity and clarity of mind. What, if any, degree they hold is much less relevant. This is an issue on all sides, and only likely to be solved slowly, with better education and a more knowledgeable and inquisitive MSM (which is also mainly inhabited by arts & journalism graduates, not scientists).

    Certainly, I agree. I think we would benefit from our politicians being more diverse and – of course – from electing people who show an aptitude for sensible policy making and not just electing them because they belong to one party or another. You should, however, probably be careful of suggesting that we need better education as that may result in Richard Tol accusing you of being totalitarian.

  53. soarergtl says:

    They squeal like stuck pigs but because the laws are supported by the legislators, the courts & the majority of the population

    but not by the science, especially in the case of plain packaging…

  54. “Are you suggesting that he is advising Australians to amend Australian law to criminalize funding of climate skepticism?”

    No and I’m not interested in playing the game where you try and attribute motives to me. I’ve had plenty of that from trolls before. As for Torcello being from New York, that is completely irrelevant to the article. Did you actually read it? Anyway, whatever. I don’t have time for you and am not going to facilitate you dragging the comments off-topic.

  55. BBD says:

    The answer is simple: legally-enforced transparency of funding for all lobby groups, “think tanks” etc.

    Otherwise vested interest will continue to subvert democracy by misinforming the electorate.

    An informed electorate knows who is paying for a particular message.

  56. BBD says:

    soarergtl

    Chris Marlowe

    I asked you both a simple and direct question and you have both refused to answer it.

    Perhaps you could answer it or explain why you are refusing to do so.

  57. BBD says:

    Here it is again:

    I want a functional democracy, which requires transparency of funding for all lobby groups (aka “think tanks” etc).

    All that is required are changes in the law to enforce transparency of funding for said organisations to prevent corporate vested interest from subverting democracy.

    Do you agree? Yes or no.

  58. soarergtl says:

    You should, however, probably be careful of suggesting that we need better education as that may result in Richard Tol accusing you of being totalitarian.

    Noted – hopefully my dad is bigger than his dad.

    I expect though that Prof Tol believes an educated and informed populace is as desirable as you and I do.

  59. MikeH says:

    “but not by the science, especially in the case of plain packaging…”

    A tobacco apologist. That figures.

    The tobacco companies have said that it will not work, won’t affect their sales, of that they are absolutely certain. That is why they have not stopped whining about the law and attempted every dirty trick in the book to get it overturned. :-))

  60. soarergtl,

    I expect though that Prof Tol believes an educated and informed populace is as desirable as you and I do.

    I get the impression that the interpretation that Tol places on the use of various words depends quite strongly on who uses them.

  61. soarergtl says:

    Fair enough.

    I agree with you – transparency is a good thing, and more of it is better than less.

    For example, the recent revelations that the BBC receives funding from the EU (revealed, though not fully, by FoI requests) threw an interesting light on their position vis a vis that body.

    I do think though that educated people make decisions based on the facts presented, not on the people presenting them and the reasons for them doing so.

  62. MikeH says:

    “I want a functional democracy, which requires transparency of funding for all lobby groups (aka “think tanks” etc).”

    Absolutely.

    The climate crank groups in Australia are not required to disclose their funding. If they were the public would quickly connect the dots.

  63. MikeH

    Yep. You’d think they’d be jumping up and down and high fiving with all the money they can save on ink, given their recent claims that it isn’t affecting sales, yet still they persist. Next they’ll be saying it’s because they have principles.

  64. BBD says:

    soarergtl

    People base their decisions on the information available.

  65. soarergtl says:

    A tobacco apologist. That figures.

    If you have any evidence that plain packaging reduces smoking incidence, I invite you to present it. Since there isn’t any, I think you may find that hard.

    Why do you deny the science on plain packaging? :)

  66. BBD says:

    It’s interesting to see who is unequivocally in favour of transparent funding for lobby groups and who hemms and haws and fudges and obfuscates around the point.

  67. clivebest says:

    ATTP,

    Let’s imagine that at some point in the not too distant future it becomes obvious that climate change is real (as I, obviously, think it will), that it is damaging, and that the risks we face are consistent with that presented by the various IPCC reports today (i.e., is consistent with the scientific evidence present today). Let’s also imagine that there is convincing evidence that certain people/groups have actively engaged in misinformation campaigns, knowing that the risks were real, and doing so for their own benefit.

    You may be right but this is still an assumption(belief). We could just as easily invert this to read

    Let’s imagine that at some point in the not too distant future it becomes obvious that climate change is benign, and that the risks we face are minor with that presented by the various IPCC reports today. Let’s also imagine that there is convincing evidence that certain people/groups have actively engaged in misinformation campaigns, knowing that the risks were exaggerated, and doing so for their own benefit.

    Unfortunately it is simply a question of the IPCC being wrong or right. Science must also: Propose a realistic energy policy for Britain. Propose a way for farming not to depend on mechanization and oil based fertilizers. Propose a replacement for the chemical, pharmaceutical and plastics industry.

  68. soarergtl says:

    People base their decisions on the information available.

    All shades of opinion provide information. Not all of it is evidence.

  69. BBD says:

    soarergtl

    Knowing which corporation(s) funded which messages is of material benefit to the electorate and decision-makers.

    I see you.

  70. soarergtl says:

    And I agreed that transparency is good. Why is my agreeing with you a problem for you?

  71. @soarergtl
    Yes, I do believe that an educated and informed populace is desirable. You should, however, discount my opinion because my salary is paid by educating people.

  72. BBD says:

    Stop being slippery.

  73. soarergtl says:

    [Mod : Okay, this is getting a little too confrontational.]

  74. soarergtl says:

    BTW – my comment about ‘dads’ was to Richard Tol, and references a post further up the thread. It was, gasp, a joke.

  75. soarergtl says:

    First time I’ve been accused of being confrontational for agreeing with someone.

    Most odd.

  76. Clive,
    Ahhh, but that was purely hypothetical. I’m not suggesting that they must do something. My view, for what it’s worth, is that they are still being presented with views that are not consistent with the best evidence, and that there are still policy makers who question the science associated with climate change. Just look at who has been present at parliamentary enquiries in the UK recently, and at Senate hearings in the US. If I believed that our policy makers were considering all the available evidence and taking advice from the most credible people and yet still decided that we should avoid any major action, then I would see that as a reaonsable democratic outcome. I may disagree with it, but that doesn’t mean that it was necessarily the wrong decision. My issue is simply that I don’t believe that our policy are considering all the evidence or, at least, it’s not obvious that they’re doing so.

  77. soarergtl,
    Okay, apologies. I misunderstood the context and it seemed to be inflaming the discussion.

  78. BBD says:

    Just look at who has been present at parliamentary enquiries in the UK recently, and at Senate hearings in the US.

    And what a shame it is, that as things currently stand, we – the electorate and our policy-makers – cannot know the full detail of their funding and affiliations.

  79. BBD says:

    Since Tol didn’t ask soarergtl a question it seems unlikely that he was addressing Tol above when offering to answer it.

  80. soarergtl says:

    No problem. I can see how it could be taken out of context, but that wasn’t my intention. Apologies if any offence was caused.

  81. MikeH says:

    @Richard Tol
    “Yes, I do believe that an educated and informed populace is desirable.”
    But just so long as they are not informed about the sources of GWPF funding.

  82. BBD says:

    MikeH

    Exactly. Staunch defenders of our right not to know who is paying for the message…

  83. MikeH

    I repeat, you do not understand the implications of what Dr Torcello is saying. You are reading the words but do not comprehend the ideas in context.

    As for the scope of the 1st and 14th Amendments, the relevant clauses include corporate persons as well as natural persons.

  84. BBD says:

    Chris Marlowe

    For the third time. Why are you refusing to answer this question?

    I want a functional democracy, which requires transparency of funding for all lobby groups (aka “think tanks” etc).

    All that is required are changes in the law to enforce transparency of funding for said organisations to prevent corporate vested interest from subverting democracy.

    Do you agree? Yes or no.

  85. BBD says:

    Torcello:

    My argument probably raises an understandable, if misguided, concern regarding free speech. We must make the critical distinction between the protected voicing of one’s unpopular beliefs, and the funding of a strategically organised campaign to undermine the public’s ability to develop and voice informed opinions. Protecting the latter as a form of free speech stretches the definition of free speech to a degree that undermines the very concept.

    Seems clear to me.

  86. BBD says:

    In case it isn’t obvious yet, I am not trying to limit the free speech of individuals nor the ability of corporations to promote their own interests.

  87. @MikeH
    In the UK, charitable donors are protected under the Data Protection Act of 1998.

  88. BBD says:

    But charitable status in the UK – and in the US – is abused, on occasion, by some organisations.

  89. @BBD
    If you have evidence of such abuse, you should report it to the authorities. Vague and anonymous allegations on a blog are less than convincing.

  90. kdk33 says:

    Every single policy perscrption to meaningfully address (C)AGW will reduce the availability of energy. The people who will suffer most are the poor. These policies will kill other human beings – and there is no debate about this.

    So before carrying on about criminally negligent prosecutions, one must first ask: how many people am I willing to kill to reduce CO2 emissions.

    The only justification for killing these people is if you believe CAGW will kill more. But if you are not willing to frame your argument in these stark terms, then you ought not be taken seriously.

  91. soarergtl says:

    I think you have a fixation on GWPF but your legislation would catch all sorts of other groups too.

    Greenpeace, WWF and the RSPB all do lobbying. They all believe this is a legitimate way to achieve their aims. The RSPB just produced a report lobbying against fracking, which ignores almost all the available science, for example.

    What you propose would mean that all donations to these organisations would need to be declared, and no-one would be able to donate anonymously. This may well reduce income for these and other organisations.

    Perhaps a better plan would be to deny charitable status to organisations which engage in lobbying, which I would probably support, but we need to define what is meant by ‘lobbying’ first, which I suspect won’t be easy.

  92. BBD says:

    Richard Tol

    If you have evidence of such abuse, you should report it to the authorities. Vague and anonymous allegations on a blog are less than convincing.

    In one particular case, action is being taken, as I’m sure you are aware.

  93. yet another [Mod: snipped] posting bald assertions without anything to back up their ridiculous claims.

    Please provide links to the modelling that shows that people will die from taking up renewables. If you can’t…….. mods?

  94. MikeH says:

    @Richard Tol.
    This was BBD’s question. You are yet to provide an answer.

    “I want a functional democracy, which requires transparency of funding for all lobby groups (aka “think tanks” etc).
    All that is required are changes in the law to enforce transparency of funding for said organisations to prevent corporate vested interest from subverting democracy.
    Do you agree? Yes or no.”

  95. BBD says:

    but we need to define what is meant by ‘lobbying’ first, which I suspect won’t be easy.

    It’s not beyond the wit of man.

  96. BBD says:

    UKISS

    That commenter was peddling that argument from assertion two years ago, elsewhere. They have learned nothing since. It’s not worth the bother.

  97. soarergtl says:

    It’s not beyond the wit of man.

    Which is fine, but it may well negatively affect the work of organisations with which you agree.

  98. @BBD
    Cases are taken and precedents set all the time. I would regret the day that a charity is closed because someone disagrees with its message.

  99. BBD says:

    Richard

    So would I. But the point here is that any organisation that abuses its charitable status has it revoked. That is all.

  100. BBD says:

    soarergtl

    Which is fine, but it may well negatively affect the work of organisations with which you agree.

    And it may well not.

  101. soarergtl says:

    And it may well not.

    The Law of Unintended Consequences is pretty clear on this point. It would.

  102. bratisla: thanks so much for the detailed comment, that helped me understand the Italian seismology story a lot more.

    Rachel, yes – following bratisla’s comment, I’m a little less quick to a kneejerk reaction, it’s more complex than the one-sentence headline version I’d had in my head previously!

  103. andrew adams says:

    Chris Marlowe says,

    Criminalizing ideas would lead down the slippery slope to the way the law was in the time of Shakespeare, Donne and Milton.

    Our host went out of his way in his post to make it clear he was not advocating the criminalisation of ideas, he was referring to specific actions. The same applies to Dr Torcello’s original piece.

    That’s not to say I agree with it. On all kinds of important issues there are people or organisations trying to influence policymakers and public opinion in order to further their own political and/or financial interests. This can be perfectly legitimate but there are often cases where they are not particularly scrupulous about the accuracy and honesty of the information they use to make their case. I don’t think this is healthy for democracy but I don’t think it’s either practical or even desirable to criminalise it – there are too many grey areas and too much scope for such legislation to restrict freedom of expression even if that is not the initial intention.

    BBD has it right – we need proper transparency laws so that the funding of pressure groups and the attempts they make to influence policy makers are fully out in the open.

  104. andrew adams says:

    Every single policy perscrption to meaningfully address (C)AGW will reduce the availability of energy. The people who will suffer most are the poor. These policies will kill other human beings – and there is no debate about this.

    So before carrying on about criminally negligent prosecutions, one must first ask: how many people am I willing to kill to reduce CO2 emissions.

    Wow, if that strawman were any bigger you’d have Christopher Lee and his villagers dancing round it singing ‘sumer is icumen in’.

  105. kdk33,

    Every single policy perscrption to meaningfully address (C)AGW will reduce the availability of energy.

    Really? Are you absolutely certain of that? Yes, I’m sure you probably are.

    The people who will suffer most are the poor. These policies will kill other human beings – and there is no debate about this.

    Are you sure about this too? Yes, I guess you probably are? No chance that some alternative may actually benefit the poor?

    The only justification for killing these people is if you believe CAGW will kill more. But if you are not willing to frame your argument in these stark terms, then you ought not be taken seriously.

    Given that my main argument is simply consider all the evidence I don’t think I have framed it how you seem to think I have. Of course, given that I’m not really trying to be taken seriously, feel free to not do so.

  106. Brad Keyes says:

    Let’s imagine that at some point in the not too distant future it becomes obvious that climate change is real

    Imagine? Some point? Future?

    Er, it’s already obvious. If there actually exist real-life flesh-and-blood people who still haven’t tweaked to climate change, then I’d humbly submit that communication may be the least of our problems as a species. Really. The mind boggles to picture the people who are succeeding in escaping all awareness of this near-truism. Are they hiding in the jungle? Has anyone gotten word to them of the Japanese Emperor’s unconditional surrender to Allied forces?

  107. Andrew,

    Our host went out of his way in his post to make it clear he was not advocating the criminalisation of ideas, he was referring to specific actions. The same applies to Dr Torcello’s original piece.

    In fact – as I thought I made clear – I’m not really in favour of suggesting criminal negligence given that we should have enough evidence now to ignore those who may be peddling mis-information.

    The actual issue I was trying to address was a hypothetical scenario in which it becomes clear that some were peddling mis-information for their own benefit and in which we can show that we’ve suffered as a result. I was trying to see if people would agree – or not – with the idea that this was wrong irrespective of their own views today. I don’t actually think anyone has really addressed this issue.

  108. BBD says:

    soar doesn’t get the joke.

    The Law of Unintended Consequences is pretty clear on this point. It would.

    The Law of Blatant Logical Fallacies is pretty clear that you are guilty of argument from assertion.

  109. BBD says:

    ATTP

    This was always going to degenerate into “yes but free speech” (TM Willard) because it always does. Hence my tiresome insistence that transparency is the key. Transparency is what the argument should be about.

    Notice the push-back and evasions upthread…

  110. Marlowe Johnson says:

    The good Tol has a habit of projecting his totalitarian fantasies on others. The interested reader can head over to Michael’s old hangout for a taste if they wish to see him in all his glory.

    now one wonders why Tol is so afraid of a little sunshine when it comes to his precious GWPF. surely they have nothing to hide? why then does he respond to a question about what *should* be done with an observation about the current legal approach to astroturf ‘charities’ in the UK? I’m sure BBD is as perplexed as the rest of us.

    oh and Richard, you wear more than one hat. one you use to educate young adults. the other you use to spread FUD in service to your ideological soulmates who unfortunately remain anonymous.

  111. Gingerbaker says:

    [Mod : Given that I was never all that comfortable with this comment, and given all the complaints it's generated from some (who are much more sensitive than I would have guessed) I've just decided to moderate it.]

  112. JustAnotherPoster says:

    [Mod: this comment has been removed by the Moderator]

  113. BBD says:

    You see, Gingerbaker, what happens when you make it personal?

    It’s easier to ask for – even demand transparency over funding. Even the staunch defenders of the right to misinformative free speech have no argument against that.

  114. Marlowe,
    Yes, I’m aware of Richard’s past accusations of totalitarianism. It’s become less significant the more he chooses to do it :-)

    Gingerbaker,
    I’m in two minds about your comment. You’ve phrased it as an opinion, so I will leave it (Rachel may later disagree with me). Despite how Richard Tol has tried to characterise my argument, the view I was trying to express was that our policy makers should be able to determine what is credible and what is not and, hence, the existence – or not – of a misinformation campaign should be irrelevant. If our policy makers can’t do that, then we – as the electorate – should have elected more appropriate and more suitable politicians (and, no, I don’t think they should all be scientists, diversity and a range of abilities and experience is what I would prefer).

    I would add that expressing the views that Anthony Watts – and others – do is not in itself illegal. It’s a democracy and people do not have to base their beliefs on credible scientific evidence.

  115. BBD says:

    Of course, the right to free speech also confers the right to remind the public – say a few years down the line, when things are not looking so rosy – exactly which political parties, corporations and in some cases, hyper-active individuals did the most to disseminate climate misinformation.

  116. BBD,

    It’s easier to ask for – even demand transparency over funding.

    Indeed, and the lack of agreement on this would seem telling. I notice noone has really addressed what I had thought was the main point of my post. The hypothetical future scenario in which it becomes obvious that some have knowingly mislead for their own benefit (just to be clear, a hypothetical scenario).

  117. Gingerbaker says:

    [Mod : Sorry, this one was not as carefully written as your first. Expressing an opinion is okay.]

  118. BBD says:

    ATTP

    I notice noone has really addressed what I had thought was the main point of my post. The hypothetical future scenario in which it becomes obvious that some have knowingly mislead for their own benefit

    But I did ;-)

    I suggested that we exercise the right of free speech to make the identities and activities of such people widely, even universally known.

  119. Gingerbaker says:

    ” It’s a democracy and people do not have to base their beliefs on credible scientific evidence.”

    Then why do you think the world thought it proper to prosecute Goebbels for crimes against humanity? If he had argued that since the German people certainly had the opportunity to vote his government out of power, he should not be held responsible for his actions. Indeed, he might argue, if anyone should bear the blame for millions of innocent people being murdered, should it not be those very same German people who kept reelecting his political party?

  120. Gingerbaker,
    I would argue that you can believe whatever you like. There are, I guess, certain views that one would not be legally allowed to express on a blog. The views that some (Anthony Watts, for example) currently express are not illegal. As I’ve already said, my current view is that if we were wishing to apportion blame in the future, then it would be to our policy makers and, implicitly, to ourselves. As I said in the post, it should be obvious that much of what is presented by dissenters is nonsense. If they are actually able to influence our policy makers, then that reflects more poorly on our policy makers and ourselves (in my opinion) than on the dissenters.

  121. BBD says:

    As in “we get the government we deserve”.

  122. @Not Marlowe Johnson
    I see that you are still posting under somebody else’s name.

    The totalitarian tendencies of a substantial number of environmentalists has indeed been a pet concern of mine for a while now. I would tread very carefully if it comes to disenfranchisement of voters, disqualification from election, forced re-education, or criminalisation of viewpoints.

  123. Marlowe Johnson says:

    BBD,

    I’m not so sure we’re necessarily getting what we deserve. to believe that you have to believe that there aren’t larger forces at work (e.g. capital) that actively seek to preserve the status quo. I give you Rupert Murdoch as exhibit A.

  124. BBD says:

    Marlowe

    I can see both points of view. On the one hand, political apathy and an unfortunate tendency to wallow in the status quo afflicting modern affluent populations – on the other, those who would maintain their positions at the apex of things by extra-democratic means. They are perhaps synergistic and mutually interdependent social problems.

  125. BBD says:

    Richard Tol

    You wouldn’t be conflating physical climatology and “environmentalism” there by any chance, would you? And a very jaundiced, partial and self-serving view of “environmentalism” at that? One has to be ever-so careful what one says, you know…

  126. bratisla says:

    I respectfully but strongly disagree with the in my view false analogy Watts/Goebbels. For one, contrary to Goebbels, Watts and climate “skeptics” do not hold by far a monopoly over medias (false media balance works for once both ways, and represents another case). The democraty is ensured through a variety of opinions, included opinions backed up by fact on how Watts gets lots of things wrong. Then Watts audience is willing to read the posts Watts hosts, contrary to (for example) german youngs enrolled systematically in the Hitlejugend and fed with propaganda everyday * -> you can not hold Watts responsible without pointing out that he is merely a crank magnet, while Goebbels/Schirach is really responsible for the broken minds in the german youth. And finally one has to admit despite all his prejudices that Goebbels was truly a propaganda genius.

    Watts is only a part of a complex machine partly autonomous, he is easily replacable. Imagine Watts site down for whatever reason – someone else would simply run another site, and the usual herd would arrive. Without Goebbels, the nazi machine would have been far less efficient.
    I firmly believe that, although Watts should be held accountable, one shall not oversell his accountability.

  127. Marlowe Johnson says:

    political apathy is a feature not a bug. in that sense I think that Huxley was far more prescient than Orwell, but overall I’d say that far too many of both of their fears have been realized over the past several decades.

  128. Richard Tol,

    The totalitarian tendencies of a substantial number of environmentalists has indeed been a pet concern of mine for a while now.

    The relevance of this rather escapes me, unless you’ve somehow decided that anyone who thinks climate change may be something to be concerned about is automatically an environmentalist (and, just to be clear, concerned about doesn’t automatically mean REPLACE ALL COAL-FIRED POWER STATIONS WITH BIRD-KILLING WIND TURBINES NOW!!!!!!!!!) . Of course, your concern appears to manifest itself by attempts to then delegitimise what those you seem to disagree with say. Ironic that.

  129. Richard Tol: “The totalitarian tendencies of a substantial number of environmentalists has indeed been a pet concern of mine for a while now.”

    Yeah, you and a number of others on the right. Apologies for self-link, lovely example from Oz (“at the heart of many scientists lies the heart of a totalitarian planner”) connecting straight back to Hayek’s original views on the totalitarian tendencies of scientists and engineers.

    Confusing physics and ideology mefinks, as well as – as several have pointed out – scientists and environmentalists.

  130. [Mod: this comment has been removed by the Moderator]

  131. BBD says:

    Oh come on Paul. Gingerbaker’s next comment was deleted by a moderator.

  132. Ian Forrester says:

    Marlowe Johnson:

    oh and Richard, you wear more than one hat. one you use to educate young adults. the other you use to spread FUD in service to your ideological soulmates who unfortunately remain anonymous.

    What proof do we have that he does wear two hats and not just the one?

    Hearltand is trying to indoctrinate students with its climate science propaganda effort headed by David Wojick. How can we be sure that some thing similar is not happening with respect to Tol’s GWPF?

    http://grist.org/list/how-the-heartland-institute-plans-to-wreck-education/

    In Alberta it has recently been revealed that the large Oil Companies with activities in the Oil Sands have been asked to help with “curriculum development” for K-!2 in schools.

    http://desmog.ca/2014/03/11/alberta-partners-major-oilsands-companies-develop-kindergarten-grade-3-curriculum

    I agree with BBD that we need transparency but we also need to limit the amount of industry money that is funneled to politicians.

  133. BBD no it wasn’t, it’s still there.

  134. @Ian
    I wear many hats. Why don’t you try and find evidence before making a comment.

  135. BBD,
    Don’t worry. Paul clearly enjoys popping in to make some kind of snide remark and then disappearing again.

    Paul,
    You may have chosen not to read any further, but my response to say “I’m in two minds” about Gingerbaker’s comment wasn’t about whether I agreed or not, but whether it should be moderated or not. I chose not to on the basis of it being expressed as an opinion. Rachel may – of course – tell me off later :-)

  136. BBD says:

    Richard Tol

    You are supervising some students at De Groene Rekenkamer, are you not? Can you tell us something about that?

    Ian Forrester will no doubt be interested.

  137. [Mod: this comment has been removed by the Moderator]

  138. wotty, I’m a full-time academic, so unlike you, don’t have time to be constantly writing blog comments.

  139. Paul,
    Read BBD’s response to you again. Gingerbaker’s next comment was moderated. I decided to leave the first one, because it was expressed as an opinion. To be clear, I don’t agree with it, [Mod : have removed this as it refers to something in a moderated comment], and I should probably have moderated it [earlier] (partly to avoid exactly this discussion). I’ve also disagreed with Gingerbaker’s views already in my responses. I may still choose to moderate the first comment, if there are more complaints. However, given the subsequent discussion, that may be rather pointless.

  140. Gingerbaker: sorry, it’s a silly and offensive comparison. To start with: you could put ten dollars/pounds in an envelope today and post it to any charity delivering medical aid to children dying of diarrhoea-related dehydration (second biggest cause of infant mortality globally) and save lives. It’s possible to link not sending that money directly to a specific number of deaths. Did you kill them? Should you be tried? Every day you don’t send money you’re more culpable. (Not an original idea; can’t find the essay I nabbed it from…) The causal link is stronger than the one you want to make to Watts.

    There is also a very serious question mark over the basic idea that “skeptics” are responsible for the lack of action on climate change. There’s a strong case to be made that, actually, it’s everyone else who’s responsible. I certainly am: I spend my time wiffling on blogs, mostly to people already at least as conversant in the issues and usually more-so. I say pretty much nothing to friends / colleagues / family. My friends are getting on with their lives – whenever I hear them mention anything about it, they’re clearly a little concerned but don’t really get any of the underlying issues in any depth, and certainly don’t know the scale of the problem. I do, I could disabuse them. I don’t, very much.

    To my mind, it could make much more difference globally if those of us who are engaged in this stuff started seriously engaging with the people around us much more. I worry this internet version of engagement feels like something more substantive than it is really is.

    Which implies, doesn’t it, that those of us who know the stakes but remain silent are just as complicit as the naysayers? If anything, they should be acting to provoke a protective immune response in global society. Their successes only serve to highlight weaknesses in our decision-making and information structures and should show how we fix them. Obvious scientific falsehoods should not have the power to derail our collective direction. There will always be those whose interests are threatened by large change who will twist the facts – our governance systems should be able to withstand that.

  141. Ian Forrester says:

    Tol, did you even read the “Who we are” statement on your [Mod: snipped] “think” tank?

    The Global Warming Policy Foundation is unique. We are an all-party and non-party think tank and a registered educational charity

    I don’t see any evidence of more than one hat there.

  142. @BBD
    Vague question.

    I advised two students who wrote their dissertation while doing an internship at the Groene Rekenkamer. They were given full academic freedom, as required by the degree-granting university. One wrote on the environmental implications of a ban on using palm oil in food products, the other on the economic implications. The environmental impacts were small and ambiguous, the economic impacts small and negative.

  143. BBD says:

    Paul

    [Mod: this comment has been deleted by the Moderator]

    As I said, you were mistaken. An apology would be appreciated at this point.

  144. BBD says:

    Richard

    The question was vague because I have no information. I am interested to hear that the research concluded that a ban on palm oil products in food would have “small and ambiguous” environmental benefits. Have these dissertations been assessed yet? Because I can rather easily imagine others finding problems with the first conclusion.

  145. BBD says:

    So vague – global food supply or regional, Nederlands? Eurozone?

  146. @BBD
    Both students passed. One with a merit.

  147. Mike Fayette says:

    By the same twisted logic that many of you are using in this thread, we should be holding politicians and their financial supporters “criminally negligent” if their policies cause harm instead of good – especially since – when looking backwards – you can ALWAYS find evidence to support both sides of an issue, thereby “proving” willful negligence on whoever caused the harm.

    Therefore the generals who bought the wrong weapons, teachers who harmed students by teaching badly, doctors who gave the wrong treatements, social-workers who increased poverty rather than reducing it, advocates of nuclear power after a meltdown, advocates of wind power when the wind stopped – would ALL be subject to jail time.

    [mod: snipped] Let the ideas flourish – even goofy ones. Let people with money on both sides of the issue use that money as a tool of advocacy. Governments have a huge power in influence opionion. So does the press. So do teachers. And even bloggers.

    Don’t stifle debate with threats of criminal prosecution…….

  148. [Mod: this comment has been removed by the Moderator]

  149. The immediate change of the subject from the topic of this post to credentials, degrees and honors by the deniers is easily predictable. Evidence, etc., not so much. British higher education reminds me of the cub scouts.

  150. Stalking and harassment is all Anthony Watts has left. Totally lame, as in the usenet lame.

    Anthony Watts is clearly an internet neeeewwwwwbieeee!

  151. BBD says:

    Paul

    Are you so graceless that you cannot bring yourself to apologise for screwing up?

  152. BBD says:

    Richard

    I’m please to hear it – could you however clarify the point about whether the analysis was of global food supply or regional, eg. Netherlands only, or Eurozone only?

    It makes a huge – indeed complete – difference. Hence my asking again.

  153. Scott Basinger says:

    “Trying to keep the discussion civil”

    And failing.

  154. jrwakefield says:

    Jodiah Jacobs says:
    March 18, 2014 at 9:19 pm
    I couldn’t agree more. I think it’s worthwhile to start a criminal investigation right now. Collect names and evidence for charges to be brought in the near future. Americans for Prosperity>>Koch Bros, Rupert Murdoch, those b*stards at Peabody Coal, Senator Inhoffe… could be quite a list.

    ———–

    Wow, just wow. Stalin would be proud of you.

  155. will says:

    Gingerbaker
    [Mod: snipped] The globe has warmed about 1-2C since the end of the little ice age ended in 1850. Have billions died because they have been unable to avoid the sudden rise in seawater? Any rational economist has demonstrated that the beneficial impact of increased CO2 on food growth productivity has outweighed any imaginative disaster scenario you can dream up. Scientists cannot even find one documentable species extinction due to climate change. The one frog in central america that went extinct was a result of the import of non-native frogs that brought in a contagious fungus. Coral bleachings turn out to be normal recoverable events. The list goes on and there are no discernable negative affects from any imagined co2 warming. We can state with certainty that wind power is devastating bird populations whereever they are erected.
    Take a chill pill. Your feigned outrage needs to be directed to something product like protesting NSA spying or IRS over-reach.

  156. Paul,

    Congratulations to wotty and ginger for being Quote of the week at WUWT.

    Oh dear, I decided that all the complaints were probably justified and so moderated the comment.

  157. andrew adams says:

    Anders,

    Fair enough, sorry I misunderstood.

    I’m not sure I can really answer your question because I think it’s already clear that the people you refer to are behaving deplorably, so my view of their antics won’t change in the future.

  158. BBD,

    Are you so graceless that you cannot bring yourself to apologise for screwing up?

    I’m guessing that the answer to this is, yes?

  159. BBD says:

    It does seem so.

  160. jeremyp99 says:

    [Mod: this comment has been removed by the Moderator]

  161. Magma says:

    Given that many of those arguing against the mere existence of anthropogenic climate change are already highly conspiracy-minded, raising the illusory specter of criminal negligence (and the associated criminal trial process) seems needlessly and pointlessly provocative. And making the analogy to the Nuremberg war crime trials, as one individual did, rather than to civil suits against tobacco companies is turning the dial to 11.

  162. I’m going to go out on a limb here, but I would guess that noone who’s complained about Gingerbaker’s comment is going to complain about jeremyp99’s comment or about this comment. Of course, happy to be proven wrong.

  163. hot tip. The last 5000 years show a cooling trend. Recent warming may well be a blip.

    This is a physics website visited by working physicists, you know that, right? I’ll check back with you in ten millennia to see how the blip transpired. These blips usually last 100 millennia or so.

  164. claimsguy says:

    A thought experiment: assume that citizen X knows that substance Y is a lethal poison, but one that leaves no forensic trace. Further assume that citizen X nonetheless advocates for the inclusion of substance Y in the food and water supply to a vulnerable population. (X’s motives are unclear: it could be financial self- interest or it could be an ideological issue.) The death rate in that population increases by the amount one would expect given the exposure to substance Y. Nonetheless, given the state of forensic evidence, no one can state with certainty that any particular individual was killed by exposure to substance Y.

    Is citizen X guilty of negligent homicide? Or was he or she simply exercising his or her right to free speech?

  165. seeker says:

    Wow. As an outsider looking at discussions on skeptic blogs (WUWT, climate-skeptic.com, etc.) and on blogs like this, the difference in tone is astonishing. I found a bit of snarkiness on the skeptic blogs, but mostly thoughtful discussion and analysis. Here I find name calling, ad hominem attacks, and palpable hatred of those who might have a different perspective. As an experienced engineer, I’ve spent lots of time analyzing data and working with models. I find many of the questions raised by skeptics to be worthy of discussion and clarification. What I find here does not further that goal.

  166. AnOilMan says:

    I believe this is a clear case of criminal negligence. Many nations are already squabbling over the soon to be revealed Arctic waters.

    There’s no ‘Luke Warm’ in that occurring.

    A nation like Canada is clearly paid and rewarded for promoting anti-science, censorship, and denial. It earns cash from selling huge amounts of Carbon pollution, it will see resources revealed by a thawing arctic, it is likely to benefit from increased food production. (I have serious doubts about this.)

    You can’t convince someone who’s pay depends on a particular view.

  167. Vinny Burgoo says:

    Wotts: ‘The actual issue I was trying to address was a hypothetical scenario in which it becomes clear that some were peddling mis-information for their own benefit and in which we can show that we’ve suffered as a result. I was trying to see if people would agree – or not – with the idea that this was wrong irrespective of their own views today. I don’t actually think anyone has really addressed this issue.’

    Is peddling misinformation wrong? More often than not, yes. If wrong, is it wronger if the pedlar benefits from his peddling? Yes. Is it even wrongerer if the pedlar’s misinfo hurts others and he knew it would when he peddled it. Yes.

    There. That was easy.

    Proving cause and effect would, of course, be much harder – indeed it’d probably be impossible – so the hypothetical is a bit pointless.

    Here’s a harder and even more pointless question from the Dark Side:

    Let’s say that plutocratic^Wenormously wealthy philanthropic foundations are funding organisations that peddle misinformation (perhaps in the form of gross exaggeration) for what they see as the benefit of the planet and everything that lives on it and that this misinformation can be proved to have led to measures (perhaps the introduction of laws or international treaties) that cause provable net harm to particular individuals, organisations, evil multinationals^W^Wcompanies or even entire countries. For example, let’s say that the measures are successful in mitigating global warming and that, in doing so, they halted climatic changes that would have brought more rainfall to an arid and impoverished region. Would that region have a legitimate gripe with the pedlars of misinformation and their wealthy funders?

  168. jsam says:

    Hmm, seeker, having read the comments on Watts I come to a completely different conclusion. Have you actually read the comments to “Quote of the Week”? Seriously?

  169. Vinny Burgoo says:

    @Wotts 5:36 pm. How is kdk33’s comment equivalent to Gingerbaker’s. (I didn’t see Jeremyp99’s now-censored effort.)

  170. Rachel says:

    I just want to say that I do most of the moderating on this blog. AndThen is the author and writes the posts and I do most of the moderating which for much of the time does not require much effort. I think this works fairly well. But I am in New Zealand and it’s just past 7am here so I have been asleep for much of this. So can people please cut us a bit of slack? Thank you.

  171. BG says:

    Just wondering about these things called “crimes against humanity.” usually used, I think, in terms of wars. but what about any eventual ‘death and destruction’ due to GW/CC? though even in the case of unnecessary and illegal wars they can be toothless and useless – as has been demonstrated by bush,et. al.

  172. seeker says:

    jsmam: That particular thread is responding to a particularly vicious attack (Godwin’s law applies in spades). Even so, the tone is much more restrained than here. For a fair comparison, find someone who is not a ‘true believer’ on either side of the issue and read the comments here and on any typical thread on WUWT.

    Clearly, most folks there are not going to agree with you, but pay attention to the style of discourse. As I said before, the snark-o-meter won’t read zero, but it’s an order of magnitude (or two) lower than here. That said, there are posts here that make valid points and raise interesting questions. However, it’s not for the most part a reasoned discussion. It should be.

    Skepticism is essential to scientific progress. Results MUST be based on clear and repeatable processes. Assumptions and data must be shared. The climate community has not always been above reproach in this regard, and that provides ammunition to detractors. In my view, the solution is transparency – not just in funding but in data and methodology.

    It appears to me that whether the skeptical community has come to the right conclusions or not, they are raising valid points that deserve respectful discussion. What IS the basis for the large positive feedback numbers that are used in most models? Why are current observed temperatures significantly lower than models have predicted?

  173. Alec Rawls says:

    [Mod: this comment has been removed by the Moderator]

  174. Marlowe Johnson says:

    i actually know quite a bit about the palm oil issue and the land use change its expansion is driving. while some like to tar biofuels for that particular problem over 85% of current palm oil is used for cooking. So I’m curious to know how a ban on palm oil wouldn’t have any significant impact on environmental outcomes. without knowing the details, i can only imagine that Tol’s students were restricting the ban to a relatively small share of the end-use market.

  175. BBD says:

    That’s what I thought, Marlowe, but Tol is oddly silent, despite now being asked twice.

  176. @Not Marlowe
    The issue is with the alternatives to palm oil, most of which need a larger area per litre. Fertilizers, pesticides, water use, transport, processing etc are different too.

  177. Wow. As an outsider looking at discussions on skeptic blogs (WUWT, climate-skeptic.com, etc.) and on blogs like this, the difference in tone is astonishing. I found a bit of snarkiness on the skeptic blogs, but mostly thoughtful discussion and analysis. Here I find name calling, ad hominem attacks, and palpable hatred of those who might have a different perspective. … For a fair comparison, find someone who is not a ‘true believer’ on either side of the issue and read the comments here and on any typical thread on WUWT. … As I said before, the snark-o-meter won’t read zero, but it’s an order of magnitude (or two) lower than here.

    Behold the “mostly thoughtful discussion and analysis” at WUWT. David M. Hoffer and ATheoK decided that I don’t deserve a human pronoun- apparently climate scientists only deserve to be called “it”. When I objected to being called a corrupt lying godless anti-American murderer, Anthony Watts banned me.

    But that’s okay because none of this qualifies as name calling, ad hominem attacks, and a palpable hatred of those who might have a different perspective. It was just a bit of snarkiness that’s orders of magnitude lower than here.

    Sadly, the biggest problem with WUWT isn’t their “bit of snarkiness”, it’s that they confuse people about science. For instance, scientists don’t learn about feedbacks solely from models. Basic physics agrees with 420 million years of paleoclimate evidence. WUWT has also apparently convinced many people that observed (surface) temperatures are somehow significantly lower than predictions, which is not true (see the last graph).

  178. Ian Forrester says:

    [Mod: this comment has been removed by the Moderator]

  179. What IS the basis for the large positive feedback numbers that are used in most models? Why are current observed temperatures significantly lower than models have predicted?

    What is the internet url of a good search engine? I am respectfully concerned. I am especially concerned about how I can develop critical thinking abilities!

  180. Bob Johnston says:

    Just stopped in from WUWT to see what all the fuss was about. Unsurprisingly it’s all about censorship of ideas and opinions that don’t agree with the commenters here. Don’t you guys ever see the slippery slope your thoughts on censorship and punishment would create? Or do you think you’ll always be on the “right” side of the argument so it won’t ever matter to you?

    Frankly I’m amazed at the certainty regarding CAGW displayed here. No warming for nearly 2 decades now and the divergence of actual temps with the GCMs has to be raising warning flags, doesn’t it?

    I think my favorite physicist of all time said it best (starting at the 40 second mark).

  181. jsam says:

    seeker – if you think the tone is more restrained than here, well, what can I say, we do not share the same calibration. I’ve read a few of the recent threads on Watts and the articles and I’ve comments are more vitriolic than those here.

    The “skeptical” community isn’t skeptical, is it? The oceans warm, rise and acidify. Global ice (sea plus land) retreats. Species shift polewards and upwards. Over statistically significant periods the surface is warming nicely. The realists publish in peer-reviewed journals. So-called skeptics publish on blogs.

    If you really want to be treated with the same level of respect as these comments on Watts you just have to ask. A sample follows:

    – I would prefer to build a 30′ wall around DC, and fill it with water. Some days, I tend towards replacing water with sulphuric acid.
    – Zeke is part of Yale’s Media propaganda arm [note other swivel-eyed lunatics on the board, like David Appell]. It is financed by Jeremy Grantham, a “carbon” scare believer who follows a long list of folks who have the Midas touch in stocks, but are certifiable crazies when they stray outside their specialty.
    – I can’t help but think, that NASA GISS, who as a space agency has access to all sorts of satellite data, chooses the highly irregular, biased, and over-corrected surface temperature record specifically because that is an area where their alarming claims perform the best. – Anthony
    – How do we know that NOAA and NASA aren’t fudging the data?
    – As always, Lord Monckton, an excellent presentation, which is guaranteed to have the bedwetters buying new sheets in bulk from Bed, Bath and Beyond…
    – However if fair to say that in line with normal climate ‘science ‘ practice , dishonest and hypocritical in application.
    – Mr Mosher continues to wriggle and squeal like a stuck pig.

  182. Vinny,
    Well you at least addressed the hypothetical and it seems we broadly agree. As for your hypothetical, I think that is one of the great complications of this issue. In fact, one of the comments in at least one of Tol’s meta-analyses is that even though we may benefit from up to two degrees of warming, there will be regions that will not and that those regions that do benefit may contribute most to climate change.

    How is kdk33′s comment equivalent to Gingerbaker’s. (I didn’t see Jeremyp99′s now-censored effort.)

    They’re not directly equivalent, but it’s the same kind of “if we do what you suggest, lots of people will die” kind of rhetoric.

  183. Vinny,

    Proving cause and effect would, of course, be much harder – indeed it’d probably be impossible – so the hypothetical is a bit pointless.

    Sure, I tend to agree. I think Dan made a similar point earlier in the thread. My reason for asking the hypothetical was mainly to see if people could agree on this scenario, even if we have different views climate change today.

  184. dhogaza says:

    “What IS the basis for the large positive feedback numbers that are used in most models?”

    If you don’t know then you are in no position to judge the physics involved. What kind of “skeptic” does this make you?

    As an engineer, I imagine you’ve read textbooks before (I find it hard to imagine that you got your engineering degree based on information posted to physics-denying blogs like WUWT).

    So, here’s a textbook:

    After you understand the basic underlying physics, then – but not until then – you will be in a position to perhaps judge whether or not the underyling physics are correct.

    And then perhaps you’ll understand that if the single largest feedback doesn’t exist, well, then, neither do lenticular clouds, rain shadows, monsoons, the “dew point” concept, and all sorts of other stuff. Our scientific explanations of how the world works will change in drastic, fundamental ways if you can prove that this feedback doesn’t exist.

  185. dhogaza says:

    Seeker:

    ” I found a bit of snarkiness on the skeptic blogs, but mostly thoughtful discussion and analysis. Here I find name calling, ad hominem attacks, and palpable hatred of those who might have a different perspective.”

    “That particular thread is responding to a particularly vicious attack (Godwin’s law applies in spades). Even so, the tone is much more restrained than here.”

    Here’s another example of the “thoughtful discussion and analysis” found on skeptic blogs, in this case by Christopher Monckton, much beloved by Watts and his followers. Seeker specifically references Godwin’s law so, have at it, seeker … educate us regarding the “restraint” shown by Watts and his merry band of ever-so-polite seekers of truth:

    http://resources1.news.com.au/images/2011/06/22/1226080/177345-christopher-monktons.jpg

  186. “If such a scenario does come to pass, surely – irrespective of our views today – we’d all agree that those who knowingly misinformed for their own benefit, should be held accountable. ”

    Wow, I agree too. And it would surely be applied both ways. When none of this comes to pass, Al Gore would be stripped of his mansions, houseboats, and all other investments made while knowingly misleading the public. Mann and Hansen and all others building their wealth and careers on scare tactics treated likewise.
    Government, EPA, NOAA stripped of its powers as trillions of dollars are wasted on largely useless and harmful programs.

  187. Rick,
    Sure, if by some freakish chance it turns out that thousands of scientists have been committing fraud, that the IPCC has been lying about the evidence, and that they have been doing this for their own benefit, then I would also agree. However, simply being wrong (as some involved in this topic will almost certainly be, given the range of views) isn’t – by itself – illegal.

  188. dhogaza says:

    the Monkton example was actually from a presentation, not a blog post, but he has done as bad or worse many times in the blogosphere, which seeker can research for him/herself.

  189. Alec Rawls says:

    [Mod: This comment has been removed by the Moderator.]

  190. > [I]f by some freakish chance it turns out that thousands of scientists have been committing fraud, that the IPCC has been lying about the evidence, and that they have been doing this for their own benefit, then I would also agree.

    Your counterfactual can be used against the proposition under consideration, AT: “if by some freakish chance it turns out that so-and-so were criminally negligent”, etc.

    Such claims are so tough to prove one way or another. They oftentimes insinuate what they’re supposed to help settle that they can be seen as question-begging. Their relevance rests on the facts they are presuming.

    Counterfactuals like this can be used for all kinds of unjustifiable speech acts. They only look theorical, but what is done is quite clear.

    We’re not in a seminar among ethicists.

  191. jsam says:

    [Mod: this comment has been removed by the Moderator]

  192. Addenda:

    > They oftentimes insinuate what they’re supposed to help settle, so much that they can be seen as question-begging.

    Anyone who despise audits against Manns should not condone such discussions.

  193. Willard,
    It’s nice to see you here. I suspect I may have just lost a round of ClimateballTM :-) .

    Such claims are so tough to prove one way or another.

    I thought my hypothetical would be nice and un-controversial. I was wrong.

  194. > I thought my hypothetical would be nice and un-controversial.

    The hypothetical itself may be, AT, but the use if such hypotheticals might very well be suboptimal. If you had kids, AT, you’d know that everything you say or do can be held and done against you.

  195. If you had kids, AT, you’d know that everything you say or do can be held and done against you.

    Yes, a good analogy.

  196. DirkH says:

    [Mod: this comment has been removed by the Moderator]

  197. jsam says:

    Transparency in funding is critical. Who funds the GWPF? What is done with Dark Money (http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/dark-money-funds-climate-change-denial-effort/)?

    What made up word is a leftard?

  198. bernie1815 says:

    dumbscientist:
    The last chart you reference from Greg Foster seems to indicate that the warming trend projected from 1990 using observations is roughly 1.5C for the next 100 years. Is that how you read it?

  199. bernie1815,
    The long-term trend (since 1990 is reasonable) is around 0.15oC per decade. If this continues till 2100, then that would mean about 2oC of warming since pre-industrial times. Of course, our future warming will depend on our actual emissions. If we follow an RCP8.5 pathway, then that implies an 8.5 Wm-2 change in forcing since pre-industrial times. So, the problem with only 2 degrees of warming by 2100 (from pre-industrial times) is that that would only increase the outgoing flux by 6.5Wm-2. So, even in the absence of feedbacks (and even today we know feedbacks must be operating) that would imply a 2Wm-2 energy imbalance. Feedbacks could – and likely will – increase this substantially. This just seems implausible.

  200. bernie1815 says:

    Thanks for the response. My question was to dumbscientist and simply addressed the interpretation of the chart which he seemed to think buttressed his argument.

  201. bernie1815,
    Well, as I understand it, what DumbSci was trying to illustrate was that the projection trends since 1990 and the observed trends since 1990 are quite consistent. Both, I assume, from 1990 to today. I’m not sure what you were implying by projecting to 2100, though.

  202. AnOilMan says:

    Willard… Not possible at all… 15000 active scientists are fed data from engineering efforts and governments. A true number is probably closer to 40,000. James Hansen and a few others may be on the name for a few of his papers, but it’s backed by NASA in more than just name.

    Governments and especially militaries would need to commit treason to perpetrate this kind of lie. Not possible.

    If something wrong were occurring, there would be way more squawking. Not just just a couple of [saving Rachel the time to censor] on Watts Up With That.

    I haven’t gone to Watts in a long time, mainly because of the lack of usable content, and frankly misleading and confusing claims. Had there been any real discoveries by them over the years, there would have been real follow up work, and real papers produced. (Other than the one by Anthony Watts proving he’s been wrong all along about Urban Heat Island effect. Batting a 0 success rate hardly makes Watts a credible source.)

    Watts is a pretty steady source of FUD (Fear Uncertainty Doubt), and nothing more.

  203. ATTP is correct; Figures 8 and 9 in the 1990 IPCC AR1 WG1 report show their projections to 2100 under various emissions scenarios, and only the most rapid emissions reduction scenario (D) had a projected warming less than 2°C (relative to 1765) by 2100.

  204. steverichards1984 says:

    [Mod: this comment has been removed by the Moderator]

  205. > Willard… Not possible at all…

    Then the counterfactual is not one, and only serves for plausible deniability:

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

  206. juandos says:

    He’s referring to those who are knowingly presenting misinformation for political or financial gain“…

    Hmmm, in other words doing the work of a philosophy professor…

  207. Marlowe Johnson says:

    Richard,

    If you’re starting from the assumption that the rainforests in in Malaysia and peatlands in Indonesia will be cleared/drained in any event, then of course banning palm oil won’t provide any environmental benefit from a AGW perspective; quite the opposite in fact. One of the reasons that palm oil is so cheap is that it is a very efficient low cost oilseed. So you’d expect even more land to be cleared if palm was simply replaced by other oilseed crops. However, I’m not convinced that that is a tenable or useful assumption for assessing land use change impacts from various environmental policies.

    we’re getting way off topic here, but those of you who thought that climate GCM’s were complicated might want to take a look at slide 71 from CARB’s latest LCFS presentation on indirect land-use change ;)

  208. To be clear, I was referring to Figures 8 and 9 in the Policymaker’s Summary of the 1990 report, which are on pages xxii and xxiii.

  209. kdk33 says:

    I’m somewhat fascinated by the warmest crowd who claim that skeptics are ignorant of, or willfully ignoring, basic physics. (as an aside it’s not generaly true – certain admitted exceptions notwithstanding – most skeptics agree with the underlying physics). What is fascinating is how readily this same warmest crowd ignores (or is wilfully ignorant of ) basic economics.

    Am I certain the policy prescrptions for meaningfully reducing CO2 will kill people? Of course, I am. Because it’s true. To describe this a strawman is silly.

    Lookit, I’m all in favor of research that may one day deliver a competitive renewable alternative to fossil fuels (though I’m not optimistic), but the reality is that it just doesn’t exist today. The only mildly interesting option is nuclear, but the same yahoos who lobby for cap and trade on Sunday want to shut down frakking on Monday are protesting nuclear on Tuesday (go figure).

    All the alternatives (nuclear included) cost more. Basic economics tells us that this will reduce availability (fewer people will be able to afford energy). Every meaningful quality of life measure correlates with energy availability. Ergo, people will die. Easy peasy.

    Put another way: the cost of a thing represents the (scarce) societal resources that are allocated to the making of that thing. If we devote more societal resoures to making energy, then fewer resources will be left to do cool things like: cure cancer, prevent childhood deases, invent life saving surgery, feed hungry children, lift people from poverty, etc. Ergo, people will die. Easy peasy pie.

    It is perfectly rational to argue that the risk adjusted and time value discounted expected CAGW casualty figure is greater than the expected policy casualty figure. But, I find so few willing to argue so. And it is disappointing and, frankly, dishonest.

    Perhaps criminally negligent.

    (All that being said; if you guys have sway among the anti-nuke crowd, you might wanna wind those fellas down. Which would be actually useful. And something to which lots of skeptics would agree. Just a thought.)

  210. Déjà vu:

    Lomborg says a carbon fee would harm the poor, so it can’t be progressive. That’s actually the most common reason contrarians accuse me of murder and genocide.

    A flat dividend protects the poor against higher prices, because heating/cooling/transportation costs are a bigger percentage of a poverty-level income. Ironically, some Republican members of Congress have expressed concern to me that their poorer rural constituents might not break even under a flat dividend. They were implicitly arguing for an even more progressive dividend structure.

  211. bernie1815 says:

    kdk33: You have neatly summarized my perspective. I remain dumb-founded that there are so few scientists involved in climate research who have not followed Hansen and pushed louder and harder for Nuclear options. Personally I would probably never have become so involved in background data and literature if it seemed that realistic solutions were being genuinely considered.

  212. bernie1815 says:

    ATTP & Dumbscientist:
    But they are not equivalent. Foster’s use of a per annum scale obfuscates the differences in the projections.

  213. Per annum or per decade, Tamino’s plot would look exactly the same except for the scale’s decimal points.

    Déjà vu:

    Good grief. For months, you’ve been trying to blame climate inaction on supposed non-support for nuclear power. That’s just not true. I’ve strongly supported nuclear power for many years. For example, here’s a link at the top of my first article on climate change where I said “I think we should do something about this matter”:

    http://dumbscientist.com/archives/abrupt-climate-change#nuclear_power

    (Many other links followed.)

  214. Rachel says:

    And just for the record, I strongly support nuclear power as well.

  215. I remain dumb-founded that there are so few scientists involved in climate research who have not followed Hansen and pushed louder and harder for Nuclear options.

    Well, for one thing I can do arithmetic. Entropy et al. But if you think you need several hundred MeV to do a 30 meV job then I guess you drive a big truck and [Mod: snipped]. lol.

    Go build yourself a freaking solar concentrator.

  216. That was unproductive. Solar concentrators and molten salt reservoirs can provide power at night, but I’d rather not put all our eggs in one basket. Building a new generation of safe nuclear plants might be cheaper than creating a smart electrical grid to balance supply from renewable sources like wind turbines. Putting a price on carbon will level the playing field and let us see if nuclear is more economical than solar. I welcome the competition, as should anyone who really thinks that nuclear power can help build a brighter future.

  217. bernie1815 says:

    dumbscientist: This is my first visit to this site. If you have been pushing for nuclear power then my comment obviously does not refer to you. Of course there is no real difference between per annum and per decade BUT the visuals are very different.

  218. Again, the visuals are identical.

  219. Paul B says:

    If he had argued that since the German people certainly had the opportunity to vote his government out of power, he should not be held responsible for his actions. Indeed, he might argue, if anyone should bear the blame for millions of innocent people being murdered, should it not be those very same German people who kept reelecting his political party?

    After the election of March 1933, the next contested federal election in Germany was held in 1949, and that only in West Germany, East Germany being under soviet control. The Nazi Party got 43.9% of a 71.6% turnout (making the Nazis the largest party), but Hitler managed to persuade other parties to vote for the Enabling Act which effectively gave him dictatorial powers.

    So although the Nazi Party received the largest share of the vote, it is not true that the German people voted him into power as without the Enabling Act he could only form a coalition government, and once he had usurped power, they certainly never had the opportunity to vote him out.

  220. Building a new generation of safe nuclear plants might be cheaper than creating a smart electrical grid to balance supply from renewable sources like wind turbines.

    You are totally not getting the concept of entropy. Let me explain, 300 MeV is 10 billion times 30 mev. [Mod: snipped]

  221. Your argument from entropy seems novel, if inscrutable.

  222. It’s pretty simple, look it up. Accessible states. There are other approaches as well, but that one lends itself to simple arithmetic.

    Now surely you have included the costs of a hundred year cleanup of Fukashima in your economic calculations, which surely also covers the decommissioning of thousands of nuclear power plants, nuclear proliferation, occasional loss of entire cities, etc. Please enlighten me.

    Remember, actual physicists are known to frequent this blog.

  223. dhogaza says:

    “It is perfectly rational to argue that the risk adjusted and time value discounted expected CAGW casualty figure is greater than the expected policy casualty figure. But, I find so few willing to argue so. And it is disappointing and, frankly, dishonest.

    Perhaps criminally negligent.”

    Well, seeing as no denialist will provide a quantitative value for “CAGW” vs. plain old warming, it’s not exactly dishonest to refuse to address the denialist strawman.

    For the record, what level of ECS divides “CAGW” vs. garden-variety warming due to increased CO2 concentrations (regardless of source)?

    Once you provide us a number, maybe we can talk.

  224. @Not Marlowe
    Which of the two scenarios is more likely? (1) Ban palm oil. People stop using oil. (2) Ban palm oil. People switch to other sources of oil.

  225. Steve Bloom says:

    I haven’t read all the comments and so may have missed a prior mention of this, but this article is instructive as to negligence. Note that the Justice Department has yet to take the further step of criminally prosecuting individuals, but they very much have the power to do so. So a template exists, it just has to be followed. See also RICO, which could be applied.

    Nuke advocates should be sure to familiarize themselves with this work from Mark Jacobson.

    I’m actually not impressed with the analysis behind Jim Hansen’s advocacy for nukes over renewables, although I’m entirely sympathetic to the impulse to throw everything possible at the problem.

    DS, can you point to any sort of comparative analysis of the costs of an HVDC grid vs. going substantially to nukes with the grid we have now? It seems a little tricky for several reasons, for starters the rather large assumptions about cost curves that have to be made for all of the sources involved and the fact that the current grid is an antiquated mess.

    BTW, a problem with non-renewables of all varieties is that they directly add heat to the climate system over time. While it lacks the short-term scale immediacy of heat from carbon in the atmosphere, eventually (on the order of a couple centuries IIRC) it adds up to enough to require the heat sources to be eliminated or at least scaled way back.

    Oh, speaking of Mark Jacobson, here’s an interesting co-benefit of wind power deployed on a large scale off the eastern US coast.

  226. Marco says:

    Snark. Snark, snark. Do we recognize it when aimed at us, and do we recognize it when aimed at others who we disagree with? The discussion about “our side is more civil than your side!” is really tiresome, and usually easily shown wrong. However, there is a problem in assessing that evidence: if you are part of a group, you usually adopt the language of that group. A word or description that is objectively an insult, snarky, or whatnot, is now part of your normal language and you would not easily recognize it as such anymore. We’ve already had the discussion about alarmist and denier. The frequent supposedly funny references to e.g. Mann on WUWT are, objectively, clearly insulting, and deep down those making the joke know it is and actually mean it that way, but I doubt most of the Wattsians consciously recognize it as such anymore. It’s become a truthism. They would for example not react to “hockey stick fraud”, even if they know there was no fraud, or at least they haven’t seen any evidence of such, simply because this is how MBH99 would be colloquially described at WUWT.

    In short: tiresome discussion, and ultimately just a diversion from the point at hand.

  227. alcheson says:

    Andthentheresphysics says “Irrespective of whether or not there is an organised misinformation campaign, the evidence for anthropogenic global warming (AGW), and it’s associated risks, is overwhelming and – in my view – pretty obvious.”
    The problem is and continues to be, the evidence is NOT overwhelming. It is NOT because of the Koch brothers or Watts that the public is turning against CAGW doom and gloom. It if because of one failed prophecy after another that “Each of you have decided for yourselves” how much exaggeration you should engage in, in order to move the populace into action. Most CAGW types still like to claim that 97% of scientists agree that AGW is real AND probably catastrophically dangerous. The CAGW types cant continue to spread such and obvious lie and hope to maintain any credibility with the non-gullible public.
    You say overwhelming evidence?
    1) No acceleration in sea level rise… been rising pretty much at a constant rate of 1.8mm/yr (as measured by tide gauges) since around 1850 (don’t try using a Mannian trick and say it was 1.8mm/yr in the 1970s and 80s but is 3.2mm/yr/now by switching from tide to satellite values). East Manhatten was to be underwater about now according to Hansen. Tuvalu should be nearly submerged by now….. both are doing just fine. Gore bought a multi-million dollar mansion on the beach, apparently he doesn’t expect to be flooded anytime to soon.
    2) Temperatures flat for over 15 years now… supposed to be curving exponentially upward according to the models. Heat is hiding in the oceans you say….
    3) Weather extremes supposedly getting worse. Data shows otherwise. Hurricanes and tornadoes are down. Droughts are not as severe or as long as have been in the recent past. California is known to have droughts that last over a hundred years. The dust bowl in the early 1900s was way worse than anything more recent. The current severe water shortage in CA is due more to poor water management (lack of dams and diversion of water to save the Delta Smelt) than to lack of rain.
    4) Temperatures now only about 1.5C higher than the little ice age. I guess the CAGW crowd prefers LIA temperatures. I’d say the 1.5C increase has been clearly net beneficial myself.
    5) Crop yields have steadily climbed with increasing CO2. Crop yields have increase 30% since the 1970s. The earth is overall 11% greener now than it was 30 years ago. The CAGW crowd would have us believe this is a BAD thing.
    6) Corrals that were supposed to be bleaced nearly dead by now have rebounded nicely.
    7) CO2 concentrations of 2000-3000ppm did not turn the oceans acidic but yet supposedly concentrations a little over 400ppm will? Really? Live was thriving at 3000ppm and the oceans were teeming with life.

    I can’t think of even ONE bad thing that can be linked to the increase in CO2 but a couple of very good ones. Sure, the Models all say life on earth should be hell any day now, but there is no actually EVIDENCE to support it.

    There are numerous prestigious scientists, including Nobel prize winning, that say AGW is way over-blown. Scientists such as Prof Richard Lindzen, Ivan Geiver, Hal Lewis and Freeman Dyson (an Obama supporter).

    If you CAGW types want to start winning with the public, need to drop the “Science is settled and the Debate is over”. The science is NEVER settled and there NEVER was a debate. I would suggest a series of televised national debates where the CAGW side pick their 10 best and the Skeptics pick their 10 best and we have a series of five, 4hr televised, national debates. Each side gets a one hr presentation followed up with a one hr Q/A session. Each side gets a copy of the oppossing sides one hr presentation at least one week ahead of time in order to prepare for the Q/A session. Once we have had the debates, THEN we can discuss what the best path forward should be. Propagandists do NOT want to do this because facts won’t be on their side.

  228. Marco says:

    Which brings me to the point at hand, which as usual has become changed into a strawman that can be attacked and ridiculed. It isn’t about being wrong and prosecuting those that are. It’s about deliberate funding of attempts to sow doubt with reckless disregard of the truth (and worse).

    I wonder how many of the same people who attacked Torcello here disagreed with the tobacco companies being fined billions for their diversionary tactics. Serious question!

  229. Marco says:

    And my final comment for now:
    It’s great to see some of the “skeptics” here argue that climate scientists should be more vocal in their backing of nuclear power. After all, it’s not like we’ve been told by “skeptics” that the prime reason they distrust climate scientists is that they propose specific policy…
    (please note this was a sarcastic comment)

  230. alcheson,

    If you CAGW types want to start winning with the public, need to drop the “Science is settled and the Debate is over”.

    You misunderstand what I mean when I say the evidence is overwhelming. Nowhere did “overwhelming that it will be catastrophic”. The evidence includes the possibility that warming be on the low side. The evidence includes the possibility that we may benefit from some amount of future warming. There is also evidence that the warming will be high and the risks severe, and evidence that the net benefits will be negative from today. My argument is simply, consider it all and do a proper risk analysis. I do think, however, that our politicians are exposed – disproportionally – to those who think the warming will be low and beneficial.

  231. Marco,

    It’s great to see some of the “skeptics” here argue that climate scientists should be more vocal in their backing of nuclear power. After all, it’s not like we’ve been told by “skeptics” that the prime reason they distrust climate scientists is that they propose specific policy…

    I rather missed that irony.

  232. AnOilMan says:

    Nuclear has never been profitable, and requires endless subsidy. The biggest subsidy of all is that it is uninsured world wide.

    The citizens of Japan are personally paying for the clean up of Fukushima, and that is no small bill they are paying; http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/11/12/us-japan-fukushima-borrowing-idUSBRE9AB0H520131112

    I’ve noticed that solar panels and wind turbines don’t explode, even when being transported by rail. :-)

    Oil transport is also uninsured.

  233. John A says:

    I wonder how many people here who make use of Nazi analogies and fantasies of Nuremberg-style show trials for skeptics have ever been to a concentration camp and seen the reality of the Nazi Holocaust for themselves?

    I have.

    If those people had, they would not be making flippant comparisons between the debate about climate change and Hitler’s Final Solution. They would instinctively know that such comparisons were and are a monstrous insult to the memory of the people who died. They did not die in such appalling circumstances so that decades later people could use their deaths as a convenient comparison to participants in an academic debate conducted on blogs.

    For the record, while I was moderating Climate Audit, I squashed as many Nazi analogies as I could regardless of the “side” they took, and complained about others on WUWT (successfully) whether they compared Democrats or Republicans to Nazis.

    There is more than a smell of totalitarianism in the commentary about climate change that repels me and not a few others.

  234. alcheson says:

    [Mod: this comment has been removed by the Moderator]

  235. BBD says:

    alcheson

    So far the only “Evidence” that exists for catastrophic as far as I can tell, is models. If you think otherwise, please point some out to me.

    End-Permian extinction.

  236. alcheson says:

    Wow, a reasonable and thoughtful response to “andthentheresphysics” and my comment gets disappeared. Really?? Surely you guys can defend yourselves without resorting to removing replies that make you uncomfortable.

  237. alcheson says:

    Im off to bed now, enjoy your echo chamber.

  238. Rachel says:

    I have emailed you about it, alcheson. Keep discussions about moderation off the blog, please.

  239. John A,

    If those people had, they would not be making flippant comparisons between the debate about climate change and Hitler’s Final Solution. They would instinctively know that such comparisons were and are a monstrous insult to the memory of the people who died.

    I, of course, agree. I think most others here do too. Unless, I’m mistaken the offending comments have been moderated (although, I imagine, not as fast as some would have liked) and the only references that I can find to such comparisons are disgareeing with them, and not making them.

    There is more than a smell of totalitarianism in the commentary about climate change that repels me and not a few others.

    Well, I don’t know about that. The only people who’ve mentioned this (apart from those responding) are Richard Tol and yourself and my personal view is that there seems to be a tendency to see those with whom one disagrees as being totalitarian. Maybe this isn’t true in your case and maybe you’ve seen things about which I’m unaware, but that’s certainly my impression.

    For what it’s worth, I find it hard to take seriously those who complain about comparisons with totalitarian regimes (which, I agree, is objectionable) while at the same time implying that others are proposing totalitarianism. That would seem somewhat ironic, unless I’m missing some subtlety.

  240. kdk33 says:

    It is also interesting to consider the politics of implementing meaningful CO2 reduction policies. Such a policy would have to be global and the world is currently organized around these inconvenient (and selfish) nation-states who seem to value their autonomy (the bastards).

    There are 3 possibilities:

    1) The world can’t agree on any path forward so nothing happens (where we are today, thankfully)
    2) All the world suddenly agrees and we go forward united (not even an interesting fantasy)
    3) enough of the (powerful) world agrees and coerces the rest of the (not powerful) world to comply.

    And 3 is, of course, the only real possibility. The (not powerful) rest of the world will suffer more because they need energy the most. The (good) nations that mandate fossil fuels away will be at a competitive disadvantage to those (bad) nations that do not. The resulting conflicts are perfectly predictable.

    Powerful nations impose their will on the less powerful by military force. Armies break things. People will die.

    (there are a host of other perfectly predictable nasty consequences that flow from the political structure and not-free-market mechanisms that would be required to implement a meaningful policy. But I leave those to the imagination of the educated reader and point only to the most simple).

  241. kdk33,
    Sure, an element of truth to what you suggest. I certainly don’t think that any attempt to address climate change is going to be easy, that it won’t have risks of it’s own or that it won’t indeed cause problems.

    You should at least be willing to acknowledge an addendum to your point 1, along the lines of : “we do nothing, emissions continue to rise at an increasing rate, the projections turn out to be broadly correct, the impacts are very damaging, we realise that maybe we should have done something”. Proper risk analysis has to consider all the risks, not just those that you think are worth considering.

  242. BBD says:

    Shorter kdk33

    “It will be difficult so do nothing”

    A formula that has elevated us from chipping flint to robots on Mars. Not.

  243. @Wotts, re John A
    Reread your opening statement. You argue, first, that natural scientists are Special and should have a greater say in policy making. You argue, second, that people who distort the truth out of self-interest and find themselves on the Wrong side of history (see you first argument) should be held to account (while linking to a call for imprisonment).

    Either you are so naive that you do not see that this opens the door to a vindictive technocracy (with John Schellnhuber as the Supreme Leader and Jim Hansen chairing the Council of Guardians) or you would welcome that.

  244. BBD says:

    No, no, Richard. We want a world run by economists, preferably right-wing economists. It’s worked out so well for us so far.

  245. bernie1815 says:

    ATTP: SInce Marco left and you understand him, perhaps you can finish his thought. What specific viable policies was he referring to and how does the discussion of nuclear power fit with these policies?

  246. Richard,

    You argue, first, that natural scientists are Special and should have a greater say in policy making.

    No, I don’t. Your strawman arguments are incredibly irritating – as are you, in case I haven’t made that completely obvious. I’m simply arguing that if our policy makers are having trouble understanding the scientific evidence then maybe we would benefit from our politicians having more diverse backgrounds and not having so many (as we do) who have no scientific experience or training. If anything, I’m simply suggesting that we – society, the electorate – get the policy makers we deserve.

    You argue, second, that people who distort the truth out of self-interest and find themselves on the Wrong side of history (see you first argument) should be held to account (while linking to a call for imprisonment).

    Again, I really don’t. If anything my post was arguing that the criminal negligence argument doesn’t really make sense as even if such a misinformation campaign does exist (and I’m not claiming it does) the evidence should be so obvious that if our policy makers are being taken in by it, it’s really their own fault (and, by inference, ours for electing them). Given your involvement with an organisation that is regarded by many as being involved in a mis-information campaign, I actually thought you’d broadly agree with my post. I’m rather surprised that you seem to object to it.

    I do end the post with a hypothetical scenario which I assumed most would agree with, but that hypothetical was very clearly not to hold those who end up on the wrong side to account, simply to agree that if we do discover that some have been involved in a cynical (by which I mean knowing that the evidence is against them) campaign to influence policy to their benefit and to our detriment, that this would be unacceptable. If you’d read through the comments, I happen to agree that even if this did turn out to be the case, any kind of legal action would probably be incredibly difficult and largely pointless, so my hypothetical was really just a moral question and not really a suggestion that we should seriously consider this.

    Either you are so naive that you do not see that this opens the door to a vindictive technocracy (with John Schellnhuber as the Supreme Leader and Jim Hansen chairing the Council of Guardians) or you would welcome that.

    Just to be completely clear, what I’m suggesting is nothing like what you think I’m suggesting, so no, I’m certainly not welcoming anything like what you think I’m suggesting (given that I’m not suggesting it).

    Either you have real trouble understanding basic English and basic logic, you don’t actually read things before commenting, or you’re just so incredibly unpleasant, devious, and dishonest, that any further attempts at discussions with you are entirely pointless. My guess is the latter, but I would be happy for you to prove otherwise.

  247. bernie1815,
    Marco was being sarcastic. Recently there have been suggestions that climate scientists can’t be trusted if they engage in policy advocacy. That this somehow implies a bias and hence that their science will be influenced by this bias. What Marco is pointing out is that people here have implied that climate scientists would be trusted more if they were more in favour of nuclear than other alternatives which seem to contradict the “no advocacy suggestion” and suggests that it’s okay as long as it’s advocacy for things that “skeptics” would support.

  248. kdk33 says:

    ATTP,

    I believe I pointed to that corollary in my first post.

    I think that what underlies a great deal of the “conversation” is that people assess or interpret the uncertainties about GHG impacts in the context of the risk and costs of doing something. It’s pretty to imagine that there are human beings who can do otherwise, but there aren’t (myself included, and you too).

    While there are fringes on both sides who abuse science or use silly science to either wave away radiative physics or posit that modern civilization is on the cusp of ruin, in the main, both sides agree on the underlying physics. But there is considerable uncertainty around the most basic effect – climate sensitivity – and the follow on consequences are even less well understood. If you view the cost/risk of policy prescriptions as high, you will seek greater certainty. And vice versa.

    It is common (where is Joshua) to accuse skeptics of interpreting science through a motivated reasoning filter. And that isn’t fair. What’s being interpreted through a filter are the uncertainties – and that interpretation is both necessary and subjective. The (subjective) filter is governed by the perceived cost/benefit/risk comparison between increased atmospheric CO2 and unpleasant policy prescriptions (which have their own attendant uncertainties). Conversations that can be had in this recognized frame are healthy.

    Which is not to say that there aren’t secondary considerations. Some of us think that the science that is reported is skewed. That funding, fame and power (and nobel prizes) are derived in some real sense from climate alarm. People, being people, tend to act in their own interests. All the climate models run hot and it is fair to ask why because that isn’t uncertainty, that is bias (by definition). Though this is an (obviously) thorny issue, it is a fair one. Financial, funding, career incentives act on every human population, there is no reason to think climate scientists are immune.

    (it’s also fair that crafting (non-pulitzer-prize-quality) missives in the wee morning hours for posting on obscure climate blogs ought not be considered high brow. But it is sometimes entertaining. You run a pretty good blog)

  249. @Wotts
    My command of English is fine.

    Your sentiment is clear from your opening statement. When challenged, you say “that’s not what I meant” only to repeat the same thing in different words.

  250. BBD says:

    Which is not to say that there aren’t secondary considerations. Some of us think that the science that is reported is skewed. That funding, fame and power (and nobel prizes) are derived in some real sense from climate alarm.

    And some of us think that this is an attempt to disguise conspiracist ideation and extreme contrarian bias beneath a veneer of fake reasonableness.

  251. Richard,

    Your sentiment is clear from your opening statement. When challenged, you say “that’s not what I meant” only to repeat the same thing in different words.

    It really isn’t. Firstly, I don’t really know what you mean by my opening statement? The only thing I can find in my post that seems relevant to what you’re suggesting is this

    If they choose not to, and don’t understand the scientific subtleties themselves, then that’s probably our fault for allowing our political system to evolve into one in which a PPE graduate from Oxford is much more likely to have a successful political career than someone with a background in a hard science.

    That is not, in any way, suggesting that the hard sciences are better than PPE. It’s not suggesting that they should have more say in policy making. It is simply pointing out that if our policy makers are unable to understand the scientific evidence, then that is our fault (the electorate) for not electing a more diverse group of politicians. I’m firstly suggesting that we get the policy makers we deserve, and secondly that a more diverse/balanced group would be beneficial.

    In fact, I also thought you might get this. If I remember correctly, you’ve tweeted various things in the past about gender balance in academia. Certainly in the physical sciences, there is a definite gender imbalance (not only gender). It’s certainly my view (and I had thought you shared this based on what I think I remember you retweeting) that we would benefit from more diversity. This does not imply, for example, that woman are better than men, it simply implies that the system would benefit if it were more balanced.

    I’m not going to put up with your nonsense much longer. I’m not saying what you claim I’m saying. There is no reasonable way in which you can interpret what I’ve said in the way you have. I don’t want what you claim to think I want. This isn’t difficult stuff. Either start engaging honestly or [Mod : snipped].

  252. @Wotts
    You keep saying the same thing: Policy makers who are better versed in the sciences make better decisions. You offer no evidence. In fact, you ignore that there is much evidence to the contrary. You may want to read up on, for instance, British Africa’s decolonization.

  253. BBD says:

    It is a bit of a nightmare scenario for Richard though. Imagine if there were a few more senior politicians who actually understood physical climatology because they had a scientific training. They would of course be more dismissive of contrarian rhetoric from eg. right-wing ideologues and the lobbying power of the latter group would abruptly diminish.

    And that would never do.

  254. Richard,

    You keep saying the same thing: Policy makers who are better versed in the sciences make better decisions.

    No, I have not said that.

    You tried the same tactic as you’re trying here with Michael Tobis, and I find it objectionable. I am not suggesting totalitarianism or a dictatorship, and suggesting that I am is offensive. I won’t put up with it much longer. It’s dishonest, devious and despicable.

    Your next comment had better be the following. A full quote from me saying what you claim I’ve said and a clear explanation as to how you’ve interpreted it that way. Or, an apology. Given that you’re unlikely to apologise and given that you won’t able to find me claiming that scientists are better policy makers, I would guess that you’ve made your last comment here. Again, feel free to prove me wrong.

  255. bernie1815 says:

    ATTP: That is a helpful clarification. It seems to me that anybody who makes policy proposals has to demonstrate that their proposals are objective and are not self-serving. Since that is seldom the case then those who make policy proposal where they have some stake or vested interest need to fully acknowledge those interest and meet higher demands for transparency and for making their proposals more discussable. I would be interested if you disagree and/or have other ideas for minimizing “confirmation bias”.

  256. bernie1815 says:

    Apologies for the typos in 11:40am post

  257. bernie1815,
    Personally – despite what you may think based on what some say about me – I’m not all that interested in the policy options. My interest is in the science, how it’s presented, and how it’s interpreted. It’s my view that a problem we face is that certain scientific views are getting more airing than they probably deserve, based on an assessment of all the evidence. So, from a policy perspective, I’d simply be encouraging (as I tried to make clear in the post) our policy makers to consider all the evidence.

    The main point – I think – of Marco’s comment was to highlight the irony of those who criticise scientists making their policy views known except when those policy views happen to be the same as their own.

    It seems to me that anybody who makes policy proposals has to demonstrate that their proposals are objective and are not self-serving. Since that is seldom the case then those who make policy proposal where they have some stake or vested interest need to fully acknowledge those interest and meet higher demands for transparency and for making their proposals more discussable

    Indeed, that would certainly be the ideal. I think that’s roughly what BBD has been asking others to agree about on this thread. More transparency would be good.

  258. jsam says:

    I, for one, enjoy Richard’s self-defeating posts.

    “then that’s probably our fault for allowing our political system to evolve into one in which a PPE graduate from Oxford is much more likely to have a successful political career than someone with a background in a hard science”

    And another call for a dictatorship of the scientists.

    I guess that’s his call for the continued dictatorship of philosophers, politicians and economists.

  259. BBD says:

    bernie1815

    It seems to me that anybody who makes policy proposals has to demonstrate that their proposals are objective and are not self-serving.

    Absolutely. So we need to know exactly which vested corporate interests are lobbying for what public policies (eg. fossil fuel industry lobbying against emissions restrictions etc).

    As I have pointed out upthread (several times) transparency is essential for functional democracy. More specifically, transparency of funding for lobby groups.

  260. > In fact, you ignore that there is much evidence to the contrary.

    There is much evidence that policy makers who know less science make better decisions, Richard?

    Good old Gilgamesh.

  261. > But there is considerable uncertainty around the most basic effect – climate sensitivity – and the follow on consequences are even less well understood.

    From more uncertainty to a lower CS and lesser consequences. Imagine that.

  262. kdk33,

    Which is not to say that there aren’t secondary considerations. Some of us think that the science that is reported is skewed. That funding, fame and power (and nobel prizes) are derived in some real sense from climate alarm. People, being people, tend to act in their own interests. All the climate models run hot and it is fair to ask why because that isn’t uncertainty, that is bias (by definition). Though this is an (obviously) thorny issue, it is a fair one. Financial, funding, career incentives act on every human population, there is no reason to think climate scientists are immune.

    The problem with this is that we are talking about a very large group of people from all over the world who work in different environments and who have different funding models and benefits. The chance that somehow they’ve all colluded seems remarkably unlikely. The other issue is that we could apply exactly the same logic to those industries that would benefit from continuing as we are. However, doing that is suddenly conspiracy ideation. Personally, I don’t really like either, but I believe there is more evidence for the latter than the former.

    But there is considerable uncertainty around the most basic effect – climate sensitivity – and the follow on consequences are even less well understood.

    As Willard has pointed out, this uncertainty works both ways. It could be less severe than we might expect, but it could also be much more severe than we expect. Balancing those risks is non-trivial.

  263. BBD says:

    willard

    The funny thing is that I remember – very clearly – kdk33 denying that he believed climate sensitivity to be low on another blog a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, he had in fact made that very claim some time previously and – apparently – forgotten about it. IIRC this caused him a certain amount of embarrassment at the time.

  264. [Mod : Nope, that's neither a clear explanation of where I've said what you claim I've said, nor an apology. You can try again if you want, or you can just go away. The latter may be preferred, but I'm willing to give someone a second chance.]

  265. bernie1815 says:

    BBD: Confirmation bias afflicts us all. Pointless snarks do little to make controversial topics more discussable. Assuming that many who disagree are beholden to moneyed interests or have been fooled by them or ideologically driven, IMHO, minimizes the chances of productive discussions. The problem I have with the Torcello article, besides its bad taste and limitations as a piece of rhetoric, is that it dramatically reduces productive discussions and reinforces negative stereotypes on both sides of the debate.

  266. Ooo this thread makes my eyeballs weep blood just a little. It occurs to me that it’s worth considering how certain approaches to topics will tend to trigger the flying monkeys (nabbed from MT) into a (often completely gleeful, faux) rage. I’m reminding of the 10:10 campaign’s complete shoot-self-in-foot moment: their climate video where anyone who disagreed with the mainstream science was instantly exploded via a big button (in fairly stomach-churning gory fashion).

    That was an odd episode: anyone who’d spent any time on the climate blogs having to put up with the sort of thing we’ve seen on this thread knew what would happen next: “skeptics” would gleefully display their absolute outrage: the enviros reveal their true fascist/terrorist murdering colours!

    In reality, what happened was the 10:10 people were just massively naive and thought the video would be funny. They were stuck in their own bubble, quite separate from the environment that’s been created by the deniersphere, and completely failed to understand the material they’d provided for their opponents.

    My point being: sadly, that’s the context we work in. If one posts a blog entry trying to talk sensibly about whether there’s any merit in the concept of climate reparations or criminal negligence, you can be sure if it can be used to paint us as enviro-fascists, that’s exactly what will happen. There will be no reasoned response because that’s not what the deniersphere does, it’s not it’s purpose. It’s purpose, in their eyes, is to “win” at any cost (I haven’t been to look at the WUWT post off ginger’s comment – I’m going to guess it isn’t brimming with nuance…?)

    This presents a problem for anyone wanting to openly discuss climate topics but I don’t honestly think there’s a way round having to be very aware how our discussions may be used against us.

    None of this is news: this Nature editorial is now four years old: “the integrity of climate research has taken a very public battering in recent months. Scientists must now emphasize the science, while acknowledging that they are in a street fight.”

  267. > You may want to read up on, for instance, British Africa’s decolonization.

    Speaking of anecdata, Richard might want to read up, for instance, South Africa’s aid policy:

    By 2005 only 23 per cent of South Africans were receiving treatment under the national anti-retroviral drug programme, and less than 30 per cent of pregnant women were covered. In comparison both Botswana and Namibia had coverage rates for pregnant women over 70 per cent, and ARV treatment rates of 85 per cent and 71 per cent respectively.

    In the paper, to be published in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, the Harvard authors concluded that 330,000 people died of Aids, and 35,000 babies were born HIV-positive, as a consequence of Mr Mbeki’s policies. In total 3.8 million years of human life were lost.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/southafrica/3526342/South-Africas-Aids-policy-caused-330000-deaths.html

    Let’s hope Richard don’t mind anecdata from a non-British non-colony sourced in Lord Lawson’s favorite news outlet.

  268. bernie1815,

    The problem I have with the Torcello article, besides its bad taste and limitations as a piece of rhetoric, is that it dramatically reduces productive discussions and reinforces negative stereotypes on both sides of the debate.

    Although it’s failed dismally (for the reasons that Dan highlights above, IMO) part of my motivation for writing this post was to suggest that talking about criminal negligence may not really make sense (we should be able to see through misinformation campaigns, if they exist) but also to suggest that even if so, we’d probably still agree that there are certain things that are unacceptable (cynically influencing policy makers for your own benefit, knowing that others will suffer greatly as a result, for example).

    So, in a sense, I agree. It doesn’t really help (as amply illustrated by this post, the subsequent comments, and the outrage at some comments, I suspect). In my opinion, though, it would help if people actually read what was written and took some time to think about it before becoming outraged.

  269. BBD says:

    bernie1815

    BBD: Confirmation bias afflicts us all. Pointless snarks do little to make controversial topics more discussable. Assuming that many who disagree are beholden to moneyed interests or have been fooled by them or ideologically driven, IMHO, minimizes the chances of productive discussions.

    What are you talking about? What confirmation bias? What “pointless snark”?

    I am simply pointing out a fact, namely that functional democracy requires transparency of funding for all lobby groups (aka “think tanks” and “educational charities” and other such front organisations). Astroturf fake charities should also be stripped of their charitable status.

    All that is required are changes in the law to enforce transparency of funding for said organisations to prevent corporate vested interest from subverting democracy.

    Do you agree? Yes or no.

  270. kdk33: “that funding, fame and power (and nobel prizes) are derived in some real sense from climate alarm. // Financial, funding, career incentives act on every human population, there is no reason to think climate scientists are immune.”

    This is definitely one of those things where I’m writing not to convince kdk33 but just because it’s so amusing. Climate models all run hot so scientists can carry on riding the amazing gravy train? Do you have any idea how hard you have to work / how long you have to train / how little the pay is relative to other careers that involve that much training and that many hours?

    Not to mention the basic logic fail: if climate scientists want to keep sucking on the state teat (to use rightwing-climate-critic language), there’s no incentive to run models hot. After all, that just suggests the science is in: we need to cut carbon output ten or twenty years ago. There’d be loads more taxpayer’s money involved in under-estimating: “plenty more time left to cut carbon but we don’t quite know how much – needs decades more research…”

  271. > The funny thing is that I remember – very clearly – kdk33 denying that he believed climate sensitivity to be low on another blog a couple of years ago.

    Beware that kdk has not asserted otherwise here, BBD. He simply implied that we don’t know as much as he’d like to feel comfortable making a decision regarding the possibility of a higher CS. We should know more and better, and wait a bit more. Meanwhile, we can try to deplore all those others who are not willing to consider CBA, even when there are ways to use such technical analysis that make little sense, e.g. the Climate Contrarians recycling Lomborg reusing Nordhaus:

    > The first problem is an elementary mistake in economic analysis. The authors cite the “benefit-to-cost ratio” to support their argument. Elementary cost-benefit and business economics teach that this is an incorrect criterion for selecting investments or policies. The appropriate criterion for decisions in this context is net benefits (that is, the difference between, and not the ratio of, benefits and costs).

    http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2012/mar/22/why-global-warming-skeptics-are-wrong/

    Plausible deniability is important when appealing to our systemic ignorance.

  272. BBD says:

    And bernie, read Dan Olner’s comment above, with your self-awareness goggles activated:

    If one posts a blog entry trying to talk sensibly about whether there’s any merit in the concept of climate reparations or criminal negligence, you can be sure if it can be used to paint us as enviro-fascists, that’s exactly what will happen. There will be no reasoned response because that’s not what the deniersphere does, it’s not it’s purpose. It’s purpose, in their eyes, is to “win” at any cost

  273. With apologies/credit to Willard, this seems like an appropriate time to post this.

  274. BBD says:

    Willard

    kdk33 can’t stop being what he is. Remember the punch-line to the story of the scorpion and the frog? That’s where this will go, given a river, and time.

  275. OPatrick says:

    3) enough of the (powerful) world agrees and coerces the rest of the (not powerful) world to comply.

    And 3 is, of course, the only real possibility. The (not powerful) rest of the world will suffer more because they need energy the most. The (good) nations that mandate fossil fuels away will be at a competitive disadvantage to those (bad) nations that do not. The resulting conflicts are perfectly predictable.

    Powerful nations impose their will on the less powerful by military force. Armies break things. People will die.

    (there are a host of other perfectly predictable nasty consequences that flow from the political structure and not-free-market mechanisms that would be required to implement a meaningful policy. But I leave those to the imagination of the educated reader and point only to the most simple).

    I’m surprised kdk33 has been allowed to get away with such a simplistic view of the way that international negotiations work. In reality any international action is likely to take place as a result of a mixture of leadership, cajolement and, probably most significantly, incentives through trade deals and the like. The assumption that it will necessarily involve military force does not seem justified to me.

  276. Making policy proposals is only making proposals. Thus I don’t consider it essential that the proposals are always objectively justified. It’s the task of decision makers to decide, which proposals warrant attention, and which do not. In that they are responsible for checking also the quality of justification, and very often for performing an independent analysis.

    Similarly lobbying organizations may be allowed to lobby rather freely. Even knowing their funding basis is not essential, because they show by their behavior what they are in a much more meaningful way than is possible to conclude from their funding. In the specific case of GWPF the memberships of the Board of Trustees and the Academic Advisory Council are informative enough about the nature of this organization. Knowing the funding might add a little to that, but not significantly at all.

    People who cannot identify the nature of a lobbying organization would not care much about the funding either. All this is very clear as long as we considering well known organizations like GWPF. The Heartland Institute or environmental organization from the other side of the spectrum. What may be a little worse are less known stealth activities hiding behind misleading names that sound like reputable research institutes or scientific publications, but are just some small outfits created to distribute misleading information as science. (Small, because they can remain stealth only in that way.)

    Many people who write comments to the net discussion give the impression of believing that they are the only ones who can see the nature of various actors. That underestimates the decision makers, and also the media. Both the politicians and some media may refer to the false information, but they do it mostly, because they want to spread that message (some media may spread that only to get content). The opinion precedes the argument and the argument is mentioned for rhetorical reasons. By that it’s also made available to others who again use it because it fits their needs, not because it has changed their view.

    We come back to the subject of another thread: One reason that makes communicating climate science difficult is that most of the time people are not in the stage of learning, rather they are in a rather stable state, where they accept or rejects arguments not based on their validity (which they often cannot evaluate anyway) but based on, how well they fit with their prejudices.

    What I write may sound fatalistic: What we do cannot have any effect. I’m not that pessimistic, but I repeat: I give the best change of getting real results for persistent repetition of factual information avoiding overstatements that often backfire. That involves trying to explain complex issues in various simpler ways, but remembering to emphasize clearly that the simplification has it’s limits. Many seem to think that this approach makes the message too weak, but I think that we must accept that to maintain the trust that’s essential in the long run.

  277. OPatrick: “I’m surprised kdk33 has been allowed to get away with such a simplistic view of the way that international negotiations work”.

    Yup. Meant to say: there are plenty of models of how it could work (or at least sort-of-function enough). The World Trade Organisation is the obvious one. My favourite quote on the point of the WTO: “a mast that politicians can tie themselves to to avoid the siren-like calls of lobby groups.” That is, when some special interest turns up demanding protection for their particular export, the WTO is a framework for keeping trade open. One can see that principle being applied to carbon output – and indeed may be the only way to stop the kind of outcome we saw in yesterday’s UK budget: protecting key carbon industries in the name of international competition.

    One can argue about the merits of free trade, that’s not my point. The WTO illustrates the principle of global parity is accepted for trade; for climate, it’s just a matter of applying it differently.

    That said, the thing that’s scuppered the WTO – entirely understandably – also presents huge problems for any climate agreement. It used to be the case (as kdk33 mentions) that the WTO (plus World Bank/IMF) had enormous power to cajole poorer countries to accept opening up to trade when it wasn’t actually in their interest to do so. That can no longer happen – the balance of power has shifted as a key group of countries have become richer. Global trade talks stalled as a result – we’ve moved into an era of bilateral agreements. (Though I don’t know much about the latest Bali package).

    There are clearly massive difficulties, but it’s not unprecedented, is my point. And it’s probably better to establish some base that can be improved over time than never agree anything.

  278. BBD says:

    Pekka

    Perhaps a subtlety of the argument for legally-enforced transparency has escaped you. Such enforced transparency acts as an effective deterrent to vested interest. It causes the funding for lobby groups to dry up as stealth advocacy for vested interests via misleadingly titled front organisations is no longer possible.

  279. OPatrick says:

    What I write may sound fatalistic: What we do cannot have any effect. I’m not that pessimistic, but I repeat: I give the best change of getting real results for persistent repetition of factual information avoiding overstatements that often backfire.

    I certainly think you’ve made a good case for this, by example at least, but I would be interested to know what you think should be done about deliberate understatements. In my experience the vast majority of what gets sold as overstatement is actually a response to repeated and persistent understatements (of the risks, impacts etc.) made by people who prefer not to accept the need for significant action. The focus on the counter-arguments may be perceived as an exaggeration of the negative impacts and an underplaying of the uncertainties, but it’s difficult to see how the points could be addressed otherwise. My question is really: how selective do you think we can be about which bits of factual information we give and when? I don’t think anyone would disagree with you that we should avoid overstatements and focus on factual evidence, but the choice of what evidence is presented when is also relevant.

  280. BBD says:

    No more GWPF. No more Heartland. No more Cato, Marshall etc. No more De Groene Rekenkamer, I suspect, either. All gone because with transparency, the light gets in and the money evaporates.

  281. OPatrick says:

    we’ve moved into an era of bilateral agreements.

    Yes, that’s my understanding too. It seems a realistic way to see some movement – obviously too little at present, as it will probably remain until the impacts become too obvious to ignore.

  282. BBD,
    Yes, I know that there are legal requirements that apply in many cases to lobbying organizations. (Parliaments allow often only registered lobbying organizations whose funding has been declared.) They are welcome in many cases, but I don’t believe that they are really essential.

    You seem to believe that revealing the funding of such organizations would make those organizations less influential that promote views you don’t like. I doubt that. And I doubt that even more, when such a rule applies to a very large number of organizations. The effect could be slightly more significant, if the funding of only a few organizations would be revealed.

  283. I add to the my above post that knowing the background and funding of a lobbyist is essential when the lobbying concerns very specific issues where the economic interests are also very specific (e.g. one oil company rather than all oil companies). When the issues are of general interest and also the economic interests are on the level of industrial sectors, the funding is not essential any more as the nature of the private interests is obvious to everyone.

  284. Pekka,

    You seem to believe that revealing the funding of such organizations would make those organizations less influential that promote views you don’t like.

    I don’t think that that is what BBD is suggesting. I think he’s suggesting that there are circumstances where the funder does not want it disclosed that they are funding an organisation. Hence, if it were transparent, some organisations may find it harder to get funding and those who fund would have to think about how their funding of that organisation would be perceived.

    I agree that the transparency won’t necessarily make organisations less influential. In a sense, I would argue that that isn’t the point. I don’t have an issue with the GWPF lobbying in a democracy. My issue is that the lack of transparency (and this applies to all, not just the GWPF) means that one doesn’t always know if there are vested interests at play. Knowing that would, I would argue, be beneficial. If organisations have the strength of their convictions, they should welcome transparency.

  285. Anonymous blogger complains about lack of transparency LOL

  286. OPatrick says:

    I wasn’t aware that anonymous blogger was lobbying to influence policy.

  287. Paul,
    Well, at least I’m willing to acknowledge an element of irony in that. I guess one could argue that I’m self-funded and by not de-anonymising people don’t know who funds me. Given that I haven’t spent anything other than time, I suspect that covers my declaration.

  288. Marlowe Johnson says:

    Pekka a few things to consider.

    First, policy is driven first and foremost by public opinion in democracies.

    Second, the vast majority of voters are of the ‘low information’ variety. Thus, the logical merit of a particular policy is secondary to how it is framed, i.e. marketed and sold.

    Third, in this environment, the monied class (i.e. the 0.1%) will use think tanks and astroturf organizations to shape public discussion and therefore policy in its favour. One need only look to Rupert Murdoch’s Fox network and the Kochtopus organizations to see how this plays out in the U.S.

    Will transparency in funding solve this problem? Of course not. But it’s an important part of a broader solution to the problems I referred to upthread in relation to Huxley and Orwell.

  289. OPatrick,
    I get the impression that some regard my suggestion that policy makers consider all the credible evidence as a form of lobbying as, technically, it’s lobbying against those who would like our policy makers to only consider the evidence that isn’t credible.

  290. MJ,
    Popular media that has an agenda is certainly influential. Owners and funding sources of such media networks can use economic power to influence people.

    Attitudes towards climate policies have strong links to other political attitudes, but are not forced by them. Thus a network like Fox might have chosen a different line and that might have changed significantly the spectrum of public opinion.

    Fortunately a major part of the the main stream media tries to honestly present knowledge about climate change. How well they do that is another question.

  291. Joshua says:

    kdk33 –

    “It is common (where is Joshua) to accuse skeptics of interpreting science through a motivated reasoning filter. And that isn’t fair. What’s being interpreted through a filter are the uncertainties – and that interpretation is both necessary and subjective. The (subjective) filter is governed by the perceived cost/benefit/risk comparison between increased atmospheric CO2 and unpleasant policy prescriptions (which have their own attendant uncertainties). Conversations that can be had in this recognized frame are healthy.”

    1) “Skeptics” and “realists” alike are affected by the biases described as motivated reasoning – as a result of underlying psychological and cognitive and psychological attributes of the human condition. One example of motivated reasoning is when people think that only those in disagreement are affected by such biases. Another would a tendency towards self-victimization that leads someone to mistake a statement that everyone is subject to biased reasoning with an “accusation”: of bias on their part.

    2) Motivated reasoning affects how people interpret the uncertainties related to the evidence of climate change as well as the uncertainties related to the outcomes of different policy initiatives. One example (IMO) is when people fail to acknowledge the uncertainties in either direction – such as you did above.

    “Healthy conversation” can only take place, IMO, when people are willing to examine for their own biases. That requires a trustful exchange of views. It is very tough to establish trust in this kind of environment.

  292. BBD says:

    Pekka

    First, ATTP has understood what you still have not about what I have written. Second, vested interest subverts democracy by misleading the public which paralyses policy making. This is done by injecting misinformation into the media. There are many examples, but here is one relevant to the UK, where the Daily Mail and its website are extremely influential. Please read this.

    This needs to be curtailed.

  293. BBD says:

    Sorry – Marlowe Johnson also points to this. I meant to say this in the comment above.

  294. BBD says:

    Paul

    Thanks for your gracious apology for your embarrassing screw-up yesterday. Much appreciated.

  295. Joshua says:

    kdk33 –

    “I’m somewhat fascinated by the warmest crowd who claim that skeptics are ignorant of, or willfully ignoring, basic physics. (as an aside it’s not generaly true – certain admitted exceptions notwithstanding – most skeptics agree with the underlying physics). “

    It is interesting that a few threads ago, when I asked you to speculate about the reasoning of some “skeptics,” you interpreted that as me asking for you to be their spokesperson, and decline to exchange views on that topic. Yet here, you seem quite comfortable speaking for other “skeptics.”

    I will point out that:

    1) Most “skeptics” don’t have much in-depth knowledge about the physics of climate change. Keep in mind, that the people who frequently write comments on blogs, and who are heavily engaged in the debate, are outliers. I read, often, on non-climate focused blogs, “skeptics” claiming making blanket claims that ACO2 does not warm the climate and that either no warming is taking place or that if there is warming taking place, it is completely because of natural forcings unrelated to ACO2 (which is not necessarily the same thing as disbelieving in the “basic physics” of the GHE from ACO2, but extremely hard to distinguish from disbelieving in the basic physics of the GHE from ACO2).

    2) I read many comments from “skeptics” on blogs who argue, at great length, about the “basic physics.” I question how you determine what the prevalence of viewpoint is among that outlier group.

    3) Of those “skeptics” who say that they don’t doubt the basic physics, there are many who (IMO) have accompanying arguments that are inconsistent with the basic physics. If someone says that they don’t doubt the basic physics and then states beliefs that are logically inconsistent with those “basic physics,” then how do you go about characterizing their beliefs with the confidence stated above?

    4) What do you define as the “basic physics?” Seems to me that there is a lot of ambiguity there – which is part of what leads to my points 2, and 3. One of the major problems in this debate, and indeed as in any debate that is so polarized (and influenced by cultural cognition and other biases), is that people argue vehemently about viewpoints, with great certainty, while basing their arguments on ambiguous terminology. How do you interpret how someone views the “basic physics” without defining the term?

  296. Marlowe Johnson says:

    I would also add that it’s fundamentally naive and misleading to think of the MSM as being independent of the the monied class. by and large that simply isn’t the case. again, i would suggest that the apathy of the public and its persistent misunderstanding of problems and solutions relating to climate change is a feature not a bug.

  297. BBD says:

    “It must be true because I read it in the Daily Mail”.

    Of course Marlowe is right. The plutocracy does not invest in media ownership simply for the advertising revenues.

  298. bernie1815 says:

    BBD: This http://www.carbonbrief.org/blog/2014/03/analysis-uk-newspaper-coverage-of-climate-change-hits-12-month-high/ should also be considered. Also I could not find Neil Roberts’ promised companion piece on the Guardian. Was it ever produced?

  299. BBD,
    I did, indeed, miss your point on the influence of the openness on organizations willingness to provide funding. I agree that it may have effect in some cases.

    I did already comment on the influence of media.

  300. jeremyp99 says:

    Vinny Burgoo says:
    March 19, 2014 at 6:09 pm
    @Wotts 5:36 pm. How is kdk33′s comment equivalent to Gingerbaker’s. (I didn’t see Jeremyp99′s now-censored effort.)
    =====================================

    I pointed out that there has been a cooling trend over the past 5000 years, and that recent warming was a welcome blip and that the author of this article has totalitarian tendencies, which is odd given he’s an American, and I always thought Americans believed in free speech and the diversity of opinion.

    Seems I was wrong.

    Here’s the Holocene, from NCDC/NOAA data

    http://c3headlines.typepad.com/.a/6a010536b58035970c0120a75431d3970b-pi

    you will see that ALL of the Holocene warming periods before the (now ended, not paused, ended) Late 20th C warming were WARMER. Ergo, co2 is not a problem, get over it and get a life.

    and here’s another view confirming that long term the globe is cooling. By the way, with regard to climate, it’s LONG TERM, that matters, not 30 year periods.

    Here’s another view of the above

    http://c3headlines.typepad.com/.a/6a010536b58035970c0154356c57fa970c-pi

    Let’s see if the censors delete this. We can’t have facts getting in the way of faith, can we?

  301. BBD says:

    bernie1815

    Why should the CB article “also be considered”? What is your point?

    WRT the other article you ask about, presumably you can google?

  302. Joshua says:

    Richard Tol:

    “You keep saying the same thing: Policy makers who are better versed in the sciences make better decisions. You offer no evidence. In fact, you ignore that there is much evidence to the contrary.”

    1) What evidence do you use to determine what Anders does and does not ignore?

    2) I would like to see you respond to willard’s comment. Do you think that being “better-versed” in the sciences does not, in balance, correlate with better decision-making by policy makers? Do you realize that “much evidence” of policy makers “better-versed” in the sciences making individual poor decisions does not stand to disprove that being “better-versed” in the sciences, in balance, correlates with better decisions by policy-makers?

    3) Do you think that being “better-versed” in the sciences merely has no influence, in balance, on decision-making by policy makers, or do you think that being “better versed in the sciences” negatively correlates with the quality of decision-making by policy makers?

    And as willard requested, I would appreciate it if you could provide some evidence for your views. I have noticed in the past that when asked to provide evidence for your views on these types of threads related to the interplay between politics and science communication, when asked to clarify your arguments or to provide evidence for your views, you often don’t respond. I am hoping this time will be an exception.

  303. BBD says:

    Pekka

    Given the mere existence of Donors Trust, I think enforced transparency will kill off much of the network of fake think tanks and fake educational charities.

  304. BBD says:

    jeremyp99

    The early part of the Holocene was warmer because of orbital (precessional) forcing which has long since waned, hence the ~5ky cooling trend.

    You sound badly confused.

  305. dhogaza says:

    Richard Tol:

    “My command of English is fine.”

    That leads to some rather unflattering conclusions regarding why you so persistently misrepresent what ATTP has posted …

  306. BBD says:

    And your first link is to GISP2 data. The top of the Greenland ice sheet is not a proxy for global temperature. Further severe confusion.

  307. Let’s see if the censors delete this.

    Those graphs could be very useful for teaching graphing to preschoolers.

    Tony is starting to sweat. Make sure to check his bib for us, ok? Thanks.

  308. BBD says:

    jeremyp99

    We can’t have facts getting in the way of faith, can we?

    You do not understand the facts and your comment is an example of faith-based assertion.

  309. Joshua says:

    Richard Betts –

    Please take note. Since you have expressed considerable confidence w/r/t the quality of Richard Tol’s economic analysis, I hope that you will give due consideration to evaluating the quality of reasoning Richard Tol has displayed on this thread. Of course, it is certainly understandable that you might think that his economic analysis should be evaluated on its own merits, but perhaps it is worth considering that if RT displays reasoning on related issues that is overtly biased, it might justify greater scrutiny of RT’s economic analysis.

  310. It’s pretty simple, look it up. Accessible states. There are other approaches as well, but that one lends itself to simple arithmetic.

    Now surely you have included the costs of a hundred year cleanup of Fukashima in your economic calculations, which surely also covers the decommissioning of thousands of nuclear power plants, nuclear proliferation, occasional loss of entire cities, etc. Please enlighten me.

    Remember, actual physicists are known to frequent this blog.

    Your first argument hasn’t become any less inscrutable, but actual physicists might want to glance at my CV before overdosing on snark.

    Again, Fukushima was a perfect storm of old reactor design, incompetent management, and apocalyptic tsunami. And yet the death toll is in the single digits. Yes, it’s an expensive accident that also cost large amounts of land and property. But the public seems to fear another Chernobyl which seems unlikely in the age of Twitter.

    Anyone proposing building thousands of identical copies of Fukushima managed in the same incompetent manner would be irresponsible. It’s inadvisable to conflate that strawman with me or Jim Hansen, etc.

    DS, can you point to any sort of comparative analysis of the costs of an HVDC grid vs. going substantially to nukes with the grid we have now? It seems a little tricky for several reasons, for starters the rather large assumptions about cost curves that have to be made for all of the sources involved and the fact that the current grid is an antiquated mess.

    No, I’m just speculating. If I were proposing nuclear subsidies then a comparative analysis would be crucial. Instead, I and CCL think we should put a price on carbon. This won’t give nuclear any special favors. Nuclear will compete on its own merits, and if it’s cheaper than an HVDC grid then it will be built. If fusion/solar/wind/geothermal/tidal/osmotic power is cheaper, I’ll be ecstatic.

    BTW, a problem with non-renewables of all varieties is that they directly add heat to the climate system over time. While it lacks the short-term scale immediacy of heat from carbon in the atmosphere, eventually (on the order of a couple centuries IIRC) it adds up to enough to require the heat sources to be eliminated or at least scaled way back.

    All methods of generating electricity directly add heat to the climate system over time, including renewables. This waste heat is inevitable and much smaller than the heat trapped by our CO2 emissions. If we make it through this crisis, future generations will have to start accounting for this waste heat even if they use 100% renewable energy. My guess is that we won’t have to start worrying about that for centuries or millenia, but that depends on our population growth and average energy use per capita.

  311. Joshua,

    I think Richard Betts has expressed an opinion on the GWPF:

    Steve (and Joe Romm, and others I could mention) seems to readily accept evidence pointing to very severe impacts but distrusts evidence that says it may not be so bad. Andrew [our beloved Bishop] and GWPF seem to be the opposite.

    http://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2014/03/17/why-is-communicating-climate-change-science-hard/#comment-17441

    My emphasis. I believe that Richard Tol is some kind of advisor for the GWPF. What would you conclude regarding Richard’s management of evidence about impacts?

  312. Yes, it’s an expensive accident that also cost large amounts of land and property.

    Can you give me a cost and timeframe of the cleanup operations? Thanks in advance.

    Let’s talk about the cost of those thousands of new nuclear power plants you are proposing. Construction, operations, fuel mining, refinement and purification, waste transport and long term storage, decommissioning and accidents, man made, natural or intentional.

    Let me explain it to you. You don’t know (preemptive snip snip) about entropy.

  313. ChrisGa says:

    Let’s see if I am interpreting KDK33 correctly

    This post is about criminal negligence. Which is more negligent – enacting policies that will certainly allow people to die in the near future or not enacting policies that will possibly allow people to die in the not so near future.

    FWIW I agree with this statement. If access to cheap non-renewable energy is restricted further then people will die that could have lived. I know this, I’ve seen this – I’ve been to South America and Africa setting up diesel power plants. Power = pure water, medical care, education etc. Stable power corresponds to a stable government (my observation – no references for this) > a stable government most often means a lower death rate.

    I’d rather act on certainty than probablity

  314. Joshua says:

    willard –

    >”What would you conclude regarding Richard’s management of evidence about impacts?”

    Which Richard?

  315. jeremyp99 says:

    BBD, We are still in an Ice Age, just an Interstadial. The next Ice Age may well be overdue; whilst history shows that warmer than today is just fine, we know that colder is not.

    Hence – money should be spent on mitigating what is bad for us, not what is good for us.

    It’s simple really.

  316. kdk33 says:

    Joshua,

    You miss my point. There is agreement, in the main, on radiative physics (ie the GH effect and it’s cause) There is uncertainty on the main effect (climate sensitivity) and even more regarding the consequences. That uncertainty is filtered and the filtering is but necessary and necessarily subjective. And the filter is governed by how one views the cost/benefit comparison of the proposed solutions.

    This isn’t motivated reason (especially put forth as a logical fallicy as you like to do). It is the way in which people must make decisions.

    BTW: I assume you are struck by the ironical claims that 1) funding for skeptical voices must be revealed but 2) any suggestion that climate science publications might be similarly affected is conspiracy ideation. Motivated reasoning indeed.

  317. jsam says:

    I look forward to reading jeremyp99’s reputable citations for his assertions. It’s simple, really, if you have evidence.

  318. BBD says:

    jeremyp99

    I think perhaps you should read Archer & Ganopolski (2005) A movable trigger: Fossil fuel CO2 and the onset of the next glaciation before pontificating about the onset of the next glacial.

    And not a word about your many errors and misunderstandings above? Not a peep? Nothing?

  319. ChrisGa,

    Firstly, this post isn’t about enacting any specific policies. It’s partly about the issue of criminal negligence (which I think is largely irrelevant) and partly a hypothetical future scenario. In a sense your view is consistent with my future scenario. If our policy makers are influenced so as to enact policies that ultimately do us harm so that those who did the influencing can benefit, we might agree that that would be unacceptable. In a sense, it’s irrespective of what policies we’re actually considering.

    I’d rather act on certainty than probablity

    But you can’t really have this. I agree that non-renewables have been a fantastic energy source. I’m certainly not arguing that we should be preventing access to cheap non-renewables. However, you can’t – in my opinion – ignore the risks associated with their continued use. You appear to be saying “They’ve been fantastic in the past. I’m therefore convinced they’ll be fantastic in the future. I’m certain of this. Therefore, we should continue as is, because we’ve established something that’s certain”. Except, you’ve chosen to ignore the risks associated with their continued use. It may well be that we would conclude that their continued use is the best option, but making that decision without considering the risks would – as far as I’m aware – be regarded as poor risk analysis.

  320. BBD says:

    whilst history shows that warmer than today is just fine, we know that colder is not.

    History? And how much warmer than today? You do understand that the Easterbrook graph you linked to is misleading rubbish, don’t you?

    When is “the present” in that graph, Jeremy? What calendar year?

  321. BBD says:

    kdk33 is making things up (again):

    2) any suggestion that climate science publications might be similarly affected is conspiracy ideation. Motivated reasoning indeed.

    He has a habit of doing this.

  322. I’ve already explained that I think the best way to compare costs between nuclear and renewables is to put a price on carbon. Anyone who’s concerned that nuclear is too expensive should approve, because presumably renewables would win on the basis of economics. Anyone who genuinely thinks nuclear power can help build a brighter future should also approve, because presumably nuclear would win.

    Let me explain it to you. You don’t know (preemptive snip snip) about entropy.

    Still inscrutable.

  323. > Which Richard?

    Richard Tol. You don’t need to tell me how Richard Betts fumbled the identity politics football.

  324. The real problem that Fukushima revealed is that the safety related attitudes were not right even in a country like Japan.

    I do believe that nuclear power can be operated safely enough given the attitude that all necessary steps are made to minimize risks from foreseeable internal and external events. While the tsunami could not be predicted, it was known that the probability of a tsunami larger than the design base was not highly unlikely to occur during the life-time of those power plants. It had been possible to improve the safety properties of the Fukushima plants to survive all foreseeable tsunamis, and the cost of that had not been excessive. Only the willingness to do that was missing.

    The big question is, whether it’s possible to develop and maintain the right safety attitudes everywhere nuclear power will be produced.

  325. I’m not looking at the expense, I’m simply adding up the damages. You aren’t even costing them out. You are ignoring them completely. There are appropriate uses of nuclear power. Providing electricity through steam generation for nine billion apes is definitely not one of them. Thanks.

    My advice to you is, stop doing what your bosses tell you to do and start thinking critically for yourself. Once you dig up a square of two dimensional surface space on this planet, you’ve got an entropy problem that just isn’t going to disappear by throwing ever more money at it. Get out of your cubicle and into the real world.

    [Mod : Sorry, that's just getting a little too offensive. Don't mind robust debates, but let's keep it pleasant.]

  326. BBD says:

    Pekka

    The big question is, whether it’s possible to develop and maintain the right safety attitudes everywhere nuclear power will be produced.

    Yes. Although arguably that should be a *constraint* on where nuclear build-out occurs. But it may well not be, and that is a genuine concern. Global regulation and oversight are likely to be required. Given this likelihood, it often puzzles me why contrarians with a dislike of big government and global oversight are frequently strong advocates for nuclear.

    I have a suspicion that some of them only say these things because they know it will start arguments between the rest of us about nuclear and renewables. So they do it on purpose. Perhaps we should be more aware of this in general.

  327. Damages = expense through insurance, which is actually one reason why nuclear is so expensive. Again, if this expense is as high as you suggest, a price on carbon would favor renewables. I’m not so sure, but again I’d be ecstatic if fusion/solar/wind/geothermal/tidal/osmotic power is cheaper when all expenses are considered.

  328. All methods of generating electricity directly add heat to the climate system over time, including renewables. This waste heat is inevitable and much smaller than the heat trapped by our CO2 emissions. If we make it through this crisis, future generations will have to start accounting for this waste heat even if they use 100% renewable energy. My guess is that we won’t have to start worrying about that for centuries or millenia, but that depends on our population growth and average energy use per capita.

    The waste heat from energy production will never be a problem. Global average surface temperature is a few milliKelvins higher and the Earth radiates therefore a little more IR. That effect will not build up as the CO2 concentration, but grow only by the amount the power of waste heat grows. The resulting contribution to the temperature will never exceed 0.01 K.

  329. Pekka, I agree that the warming from waste heat will be very small for centuries or millenia. But suppose after hundreds or thousands of years our population grows to trillions of people (like Hearth, Larry Niven’s Puppeteer homeworld) and each person uses gigawatts. There is a point at which the combined waste heat would be a problem, but it lies far in the future.

  330. Damages = expense through insurance

    I guess you just missed the extinction event we are currently experiencing. Don’t worry, insurance will cover it. I agree though that this conversation cannot continue pleasantly. Your CV says it all.

    Enjoy your slow motion fall of civilization. The carbon crisis, as bad as it is, is just the start of it. And it’s just a small part of it. You can’t see that, and I can’t help you see that.

  331. Déjà vu: We seem to want to recreate the end-Permian extinction… An exponentially growing population on a planet that stubbornly remains the same size is a recipe for increasingly serious disasters. Resources will become scarcer; waste products will become dangerously concentrated.

  332. ChrisGa says:

    AT,
    Thanks for your considered response.

    You write,
    “You appear to be saying “They’ve been fantastic in the past. I’m therefore convinced they’ll be fantastic in the future. I’m certain of this. Therefore, we should continue as is, because we’ve established something that’s certain”. ”

    Have you been talking to my wife because she can certainly read a lot from a few words from me though I usually end up apologizing to her for something I never said :)

    The certainty I’m referring to is an increased third world fatality rate if we limit access to dependable cheap non-renewable energy. I would be delighted if we could get green energy to satisfy these needs but it does not – yet. That is also a certainty – I’ve worked with solar quite a bit as we marry it to fossil fuel plants – but it can not stand by itself… yet.

    I’m well aware of the risks associated with fossil fuel plants operating. I believe the near term risks are acceptable (more than likely where we differ)

    I do see a future where coal plants are obsolete but that future is brought by other sources becoming more efficient – not by government policies. If a policy is to be effective then it should promote and encourage NOT restrict. This will be the only way to get emerging countries on board with green energy – cheap, efficient and readily available more so than fossil.

    Now I’m off to get my vehicle emissions checked – got to love irony!

  333. Putting a price on carbon will spur innovation in renewables (and nuclear) which will improve the technology we sell to developing countries. Much like rich people buying car phones in the 1980s helped lead to cell phones in rural Africa today.

  334. OPatrick says:

    If a policy is to be effective then it should promote and encourage NOT restrict.

    I’m no expert on it but how would you characterise the global response to CFCs? Did it involve restrictions and was it successful?

  335. bernie1815 says:

    That is not why I brought up Nuclear.

  336. Steve Bloom says:

    Thanks for your reply, DS.

    “Nuclear will compete on its own merits, and if it’s cheaper than an HVDC grid then it will be built. If fusion/solar/wind/geothermal/tidal/osmotic power is cheaper, I’ll be ecstatic.”

    Except how do you separate grid decisions (made by governments, at the larger scale anyway) from those cost curve assumptiions?

    “All methods of generating electricity directly add heat to the climate system over time, including renewables.”

    Hmm, how so? I can see an effect (minor AFAICT) from solar due to albedo change, but why wouldn’t wind be completely neutral in that regard?

    I remain curious as to what you think of Jacobson’s work.

  337. BBD says:

    Works a treat though, doesn’t it, eh bernie? And very glad to see that you are reading the thread with such close attention.

    Even though your intense scrutiny somehow managed to miss the fact that I asked you a question.

    I’m waiting for your response to my previous comment.

  338. BBD says:

    Steve Bloom

    Re Jacobson (or at least the much-touted Jacobson & Delucci 2009) I agree with Barry Brook who shows very clearly that it’s not sufficiently rigorous to be taken seriously. I wish it were otherwise.

  339. Steve Bloom says:

    “The resulting contribution to the temperature will never exceed 0.01 K.” It’s interesting what you are and aren’t willing to express complete confidence in, Pekka.

    To compare and contrast, here’s the article I recalled, a popular version of it from New Scientist, and the GS citations page (which I have yet to examine).

  340. Steve Bloom says:

    Yes, BBD, I recall reading all that, but came away with a different impression than yours, although probably it makes more sense now to consider Jacobson’s much more detailed recent work rather than the first attempt at an overview. Has Barry updated his critique? It seems to me that the elephant in this room is what has happened to solar and wind cost curves in the intervening period.

    Speaking of that elephant, while this is not a subject I generally spend a lot of time on, it seems significant that the German government thinks they can get off of both fossil fuels (not quite 100% IIRC, mainly because of transportation) and nukes, although the priority to get rid of nukes first has meant a reliance on coal as a bridge fuel. (Relating to some of the discussion above, this is a government headed by a PhD physical scientist. Of note, she recently appointed a couple non-governing coalition Greens to key climate/energy posts, not something she was politically obligated to do.)

    California, where I live, is headed in the same policy direction, albeit without a similarly sweeping directive.

  341. Except how do you separate grid decisions (made by governments, at the larger scale anyway) from those cost curve assumptions?

    I don’t know how we’ll actually separate those decisions, and I’m glad that I don’t have to negotiate that minefield in real life. But in an attempt to answer your question, it might be a good idea to only make decisions regarding interconnection standards at the larger (national/global) scales. That would give each city more control over the process and allow for more competition, as long as adjoining subsections of the new smart grid use the same interconnection standard.

    Just an idle thought.

    “All methods of generating electricity directly add heat to the climate system over time, including renewables.”

    Hmm, how so? I can see an effect (minor AFAICT) from solar due to albedo change, but why wouldn’t wind be completely neutral in that regard?

    All methods of generating electricity directly add heat because they convert various forms of energy (which are not all heat) into electricity which is then eventually used at which point it turns into heat in the climate. Hmm… unless it’s some sort of super-efficient laser pointed at a clear sky with the optimal wavelength to pass through the atmosphere. Even then I have trouble imagining that it would be possible to build a laser that could punch terawatts into space without generating any waste heat (nothing we’ve built so far is even remotely this efficient).

    But more to the point, that’s not how most electricity is used. Almost all electricity used turns into waste heat in the climate, though that amount is currently much smaller than the warming from our CO2 emissions.

    I remain curious as to what you think of Jacobson’s work.

    I think I’m not qualified to critique cost analyses like that, though I do think it’s worth reading. I share their concern about proliferation, and also mentioned that current mining/extraction and construction methods generate CO2. They’re probably right to say that current CO2 emissions from nuclear are ~20 times higher than wind’s, but I think it’s more important that current emissions from nuclear are a few percent of coal’s (and that mining/extraction can be improved, and that new forms of concrete are being designed that actually absorb rather than emit CO2, etc.).

    If Jacobson and Delucchi are right, putting a price on carbon will lead to wind/solar/tidal/hydroelectric dominating our energy supply because it’s cheaper. If that’s true then I’ll be ecstatic. But I’m wary of policy that chooses winning methods of energy production, because “governments are bad at picking winners but losers are good at picking governments.”

    That, and my inexperience regarding cost analyses, are why I prefer to simply endorse a policy that puts a price on carbon without endorsing any particular method of energy production.

  342. bernie1815 says:

    Since the Guardian publishes five times more articles on climate than does the Mail, it would be useful to compare their sources to those of the Mail. I assume that is why Neal Roberts promised to do such an analysis.

  343. bernie1815 says:

    BBD: Why the snark?

  344. Jonas says:

    AR5 TS.6 Key Uncertainties

    This final section of the Technical Summary provides readers with a
    short overview of key uncertainties in the understanding of the climate
    system and the ability to project changes in response to anthropogenic
    influences. The overview is not comprehensive and does not describe in
    detail the basis for these findings. These are found in the main body of
    this Technical Summary and in the underlying chapters to which each
    bullet points in the curly brackets.
    TS.6.1 Key Uncertainties in Observation of Changes in
    the Climate System
    • There is only medium to low confidence in the rate of change of
    tropospheric warming and its vertical structure. Estimates of tropospheric
    warming rates encompass surface temperature warming
    rate estimates. There is low confidence in the rate and vertical
    structure of the stratospheric cooling. {2.4.4}
    • Confidence in global precipitation change over land is low prior
    to 1951 and medium afterwards because of data incompleteness.
    {2.5.1}
    • Substantial ambiguity and therefore low confidence remains in the
    observations of global-scale cloud variability and trends. {2.5.6}
    • There is low confidence in an observed global-scale trend in
    drought or dryness (lack of rainfall), due to lack of direct observations,
    methodological uncertainties and choice and geographical
    inconsistencies in the trends. {2.6.2}
    • There is low confidence that any reported long-term (centennial)
    changes in tropical cyclone characteristics are robust, after
    accounting for past changes in observing capabilities. {2.6.3}
    • Robust conclusions on long-term changes in large-scale atmospheric
    circulation are presently not possible because of large variability
    on interannual to decadal time scales and remaining differences
    between data sets. {2.7}
    • Different global estimates of sub-surface ocean temperatures have
    variations at different times and for different periods, suggesting
    that sub-decadal variability in the temperature and upper heat
    content (0 to to 700 m) is still poorly characterized in the historical
    record. {3.2}
    • Below ocean depths of 700 m the sampling in space and time is
    too sparse to produce annual global ocean temperature and heat
    content estimates prior to 2005. {3.2.4}
    • Observational coverage of the ocean deeper than 2000 m is still
    limited and hampers more robust estimates of changes in global
    ocean heat content and carbon content. This also limits the quantification
    of the contribution of deep ocean warming to sea level
    rise. {3.2, 3.7, 3.8; Box 3.1}
    • The number of continuous observational time series measuring the
    strength of climate relevant ocean circulation features (e.g., the
    meridional overturning circulation) is limited and the existing time
    series are still too short to assess decadal and longer trends. {3.6}.
    • In Antarctica, available data are inadequate to assess the status
    of change of many characteristics of sea ice (e.g., thickness and
    volume). {4.2.3}
    • On a global scale the mass loss from melting at calving fronts and
    iceberg calving are not yet comprehensively assessed. The largest
    uncertainty in estimated mass loss from glaciers comes from the
    Antarctic, and the observational record of ice–ocean interactions
    around both ice sheets remains poor. {4.3.3, 4.4}
    TS.6.2 Key Uncertainties in Drivers of Climate Change
    • Uncertainties in aerosol–cloud interactions and the associated
    radiative forcing remain large. As a result, uncertainties in aerosol
    forcing remain the dominant contributor to the overall uncertainty
    in net anthropogenic forcing, despite a better understanding of
    some of the relevant atmospheric processes and the availability of
    global satellite monitoring. {2.2, 7.3–7.5, 8.5}
    • The cloud feedback is likely positive but its quantification remains
    difficult. {7.2}
    • Paleoclimate reconstructions and Earth System Models indicate
    that there is a positive feedback between climate and the carbon
    cycle, but confidence remains low in the strength of this feedback,
    particularly for the land. {6.4}
    TS.6.3 Key Uncertainties in Understanding the Climate
    System and Its Recent Changes
    • The simulation of clouds in AOGCMs has shown modest improvement
    since AR4; however, it remains challenging. {7.2, 9.2.1, 9.4.1,
    9.7.2}
    • Observational uncertainties for climate variables other than temperature,
    uncertainties in forcings such as aerosols, and limits in
    process understanding continue to hamper attribution of changes
    in many aspects of the climate system. {10.1, 10.3, 10.7}
    • Changes in the water cycle remain less reliably modelled in both
    their changes and their internal variability, limiting confidence in
    attribution assessments. Observational uncertainties and the large
    effect of internal variability on observed precipitation also precludes
    a more confident assessment of the causes of precipitation
    changes. {2.5.1, 2.5.4, 10.3.2}
    • Modelling uncertainties related to model resolution and incorporation
    of relevant processes become more important at regional
    scales, and the effects of internal variability become more significant.
    Therefore, challenges persist in attributing observed change
    to external forcing at regional scales. {2.4.1, 10.3.1}
    • The ability to simulate changes in frequency and intensity of
    extreme events is limited by the ability of models to reliably simulate
    mean changes in key features. {10.6.1}
    • In some aspects of the climate system, including changes in
    drought, changes in tropical cyclone activity, Antarctic warming,
    Antarctic sea ice extent, and Antarctic mass balance, confidence
    in attribution to human influence remains low due to modelling
    uncertainties and low agreement between scientific studies.
    {10.3.1, 10.5.2, 10.6.1}
    TS.6.4 Key Uncertainties in Projections of Global and
    Regional Climate Change
    • Based on model results there is limited confidence in the predictability
    of yearly to decadal averages of temperature both for the
    global average and for some geographical regions. Multi-model
    results for precipitation indicate a generally low predictability.
    Short-term climate projection is also limited by the uncertainty in
    projections of natural forcing. {11.1, 11.2, 11.3.1, 11.3.6; Box 11.1}
    • There is medium confidence in near-term projections of a northward
    shift of NH storm track and westerlies. {11.3.2}
    • There is generally low confidence in basin-scale projections of significant
    trends in tropical cyclone frequency and intensity in the
    21st century. {11.3.2, 14.6.1}
    • Projected changes in soil moisture and surface run off are not
    robust in many regions. {11.3.2, 12.4.5}
    • Several components or phenomena in the climate system could
    potentially exhibit abrupt or nonlinear changes, but for many phenomena
    there is low confidence and little consensus on the likelihood
    of such events over the 21st century. {12.5.5}
    • There is low confidence on magnitude of carbon losses through
    CO2 or CH4 emissions to the atmosphere from thawing permafrost.
    There is low confidence in projected future CH4 emissions
    from natural sources due to changes in wetlands and gas hydrate
    release from the sea floor. {6.4.3, 6.4.7}
    • There is medium confidence in the projected contributions to sea
    level rise by models of ice sheet dynamics for the 21st century, and
    low confidence in their projections beyond 2100. {13.3.3}
    • There is low confidence in semi-empirical model projections of
    global mean sea level rise, and no consensus in the scientific community
    about their reliability. {13.5.2, 13.5.3}
    • There is low confidence in projections of many aspects of climate
    phenomena that influence regional climate change, including
    changes in amplitude and spatial pattern of modes of climate variability.
    {9.5.3, 14.2–14.7}

  345. ChrisGa,
    I did say “You appear to be saying” :-)

    It seems our positions are less disparate than I may have at first thought. Although it may not seem obvious, I don’t have strong views about specific policies. I didn’t start this blog to promote certain policy options, I started it because I was disappointed in how the science was being presented and, in some cases, mis-represented. What I do think, is that deciding on the best/optimal policy will be incredibly difficult, harder than doing the science.

    If I have some specific views, it’s that we should avoid a high emission pathway and that all options should really be on the table. I find it frustrating when people express absolute views about what is feasible (for example, “renewables will NEVER be able to replace fossil fuels). Although I agree that we probably shouldn’t limit access to cheap non-renewables in the developed world, I also agree with DumbSci, that we can help by investing in technology development so as to bring down the price of alternatives. It does seem as though some are becoming remarkably competitive. I’m also, at this stage at least, in favour of a carbon tax as that will price carbon correctly and make alternatives more competitive.

    Although I think the market will clearly help, I don’t think it will do so by itself. I also think the near-term issue is more complex than you indicate. There is a lag, so the longer we take to start making suitable decisions, the more extreme they may have to be. So, it’s certainly my view that addressing things now is preferable to assuming that we can simply wait. What we do, of course, is still not obvious, but – in my view – we should start considering the options sooner, rather than later (by we, I mean our policy makers).

  346. Jonas,
    Were you trying to make a point, or simply adding that for information?

  347. > Why the snark?

    Because of smarm, perhaps?

    Climateball ™ and perhaps the Internet in general can be modeled as a fight between forces of Snark vs forces of Smarm:

    http://gawker.com/on-smarm-1476594977

  348. Marlowe Johnson says:

    @Steve Bloom,
    a few other things worth considering on the renewables question in addition to the emerging economies of scale that we’re starting to see (especially with solar), I’d also point out that biofuels are becoming much more cost effective relative to petroleum; based on the latest usda 10 year forecast, biodiesel will be cheaper to make than diesel within the next 6-8 years. and that’s with existing technology.

    @BBD,
    I’ve always find Barry Brook’s approach to this issue to be verging on fanatical. That’s not to say that his entire critique is without merit, but I wouldn’t rely solely on someone who is so pro-nuclear when assessing feasibility of large scale deployment of renewables.

    Which brings me to my second point. the whole ‘renewables vs nuclear vs fossil’ is an unproductive framing of the basic problem IMO. each regional grid will have its own particular advantages and challenges and I don’t find it particularly useful to think about the utility sector on a global scale since it quite obviously doesn’t operate at that scale. So it’s better in my mind to look at what folks who work in the utility business are saying (and not saying). As an example, NRG’s CEO David Krane’s recent remarks about the future of distributed vs centralized energy suggest that it’s not nearly as black and white as Brooks would have you believe.

  349. Marlowe,

    Which brings me to my second point. the whole ‘renewables vs nuclear vs fossil’ is an unproductive framing of the basic problem IMO. each regional grid will have its own particular advantages and challenges and I don’t find it particularly useful to think about the utility sector on a global scale since it quite obviously doesn’t operate at that scale.

    Yes, this makes sense to me. I’m no expert at this topic, but it would seem that different options may work in some circumstances and not in others.

  350. Steve Bloom says:

    “All methods of generating electricity directly add heat because they convert various forms of energy (which are not all heat) into electricity which is then eventually used at which point it turns into heat in the climate.”

    Maybe I’m thinking about this wrong. Let me lay out my reasoning: In the case of wind, energy is extracted from the lower atmosphere, presumably with the effect of slowing the wind down, and on the user end the work done largely ends up back in the lower atmosphere in the form of heat. energy. Is that incorrect, or is there some important distinction I’m missing between the form taken by the energy in (to the grid) versus the energy out (back into the atmosphere)? Perhaps more to the point, is the energy contained in wind less likely to be retained in the atmosphere than energy emitted as heat at the surface? I don’t see how, but truly I am no physicist.

    Re the grid, FYI one main reason the present one is such a mess is because most decisions about it are made at the state level. (The other main reason IIRC is that so much of it is just plain old, although this is not unrelated to the first reason.) Further balkanization doesn’t seem like it would improve things. IIRC in 2009 Steve Chu proposed a national grid re-build as part of the economic stimulus, but the idea was rejected because bureaucratic turf wars would have slowed things down too much. All of that said, AIUI some wind projects are already competitive enough to be driving decisions to build HVDC lines connecting them to populated areas.

  351. BBD says:

    bernie

    Since the Guardian publishes five times more articles on climate than does the Mail, it would be useful to compare their sources to those of the Mail.

    Only if you were trying to direct attention away from the fact that the GWPF uses the DM and MoS to inject misinformation into the public discourse. I can see why you are frantically trying to divert attention away from this fact, but it isn’t going to work.

  352. Steve Bloom says:

    Thanks for that latter point, Marlowe. It reminds me that there’s also a competition between distributed generation with local storage and large-scale generation with HVDC transmission. For the poorer parts of the world, once storage technology catches up some after the hobbling inflicted on it by the Bush regime (and present signs of that are good), not having to build a long-distance high-capacity grid to begin with will have huge appeal.

  353. BBD says:

    Marlowe

    I distinctly recall agreeing with you elsewhere that the ‘x vs y’ style of “debate” over energy infrastructure is a waste of pixels. Hopefully renewables will prove to be more capable than many currently suspect and there will be less need for nuclear. But let’s take the rough average of projections for world electricity generation by 2050: 30% nuclear, 30% renewables and 40% fossil fuels. It’s very obvious that we are unlikely to be able to do without an increased contribution from nuclear over coming decades unless we are prepared to see more than ~40% FF in the mix by 2050.

  354. Marlowe Johnson says:

    BBD

    my tendency to repeat myself seems to be increasing with age. imagine that ;)

  355. BBD says:

    Not fully expressed – what I’m trying to say is that I agree that there should be an holistic approach, not a prescriptive (and certainly not proscriptive) one. The best results will emerge from a pragmatic response to regional conditions.

  356. BBD says:

    Sorry Marlowe, we crossed there.

  357. I guess I’m slightly confused about the heat associated with renewables myself. I can see how wind power will extract kinetic energy from the wind and that will be turned into heat. It will also have done so eventually anyway, but if we extract it sooner than it would be naturally, does that imply the the loss in wind kinetic energy is replaced earlier than it would be otherwise and hence we’ve increased the heat. I would have thought that there would be no increase with solar since (ignoring possible albedo changes) we’ll just be directing the energy through our grid before turning it into heat (I think). I think we’ve discussed tidal before and that would imply that the moon will move away slightly more quickly than otherwise (I think) which may imply that we’ve essentially added more heat to our system. Or, I could just be very confused :-)

  358. Is this material of David MacKay familiar to many

    http://www.withouthotair.com/

    It’s certainly not perfect, and it’s a bit outdated being from 2008. Remembering such reservations, I think that the text is for most part very good and still worth reading. It applies directly to UK, but much of it is applicable also under different conditions. Even when later technology development has changed the situation, the approach is still valid.

  359. In the case of wind, energy is extracted from the lower atmosphere, presumably with the effect of slowing the wind down, and on the user end the work done largely ends up back in the lower atmosphere in the form of heat. energy. Is that incorrect, or is there some important distinction I’m missing between the form taken by the energy in (to the grid) versus the energy out (back into the atmosphere)?

    That’s basically correct, but note that the kinetic energy in wind isn’t heat, because it’s not completely random molecular motion. Harnessing wind energy converts kinetic energy to electricity, which is almost all put back into the climate as heat.

    Addendum: ATTP is right, but the small albedo changes are basically the effect in question here, which are usually ignorable just because CO2 warming is so much larger. Also, harnessing tidal energy would convert Earth’s rotational kinetic energy into heat faster. I’ve even daydreamed about extracting zero point energy, and even this source of energy (which might be considered the ultimate renewable) would result in waste heat. Geoffrey Landis convinced me I was wrong, but maybe someone in the next few millenia will find a way to exploit this energy source.

    Perhaps more to the point, is the energy contained in wind less likely to be retained in the atmosphere than energy emitted as heat at the surface?

    No, but the kinetic energy in wind is different than heat at the surface.

    Re the grid, I’m inspired by the rapid adoption of USB. Just a few years ago, each cell phone had a different charger which was completely incompatible with practically every other phone. Now they’re almost all micro-USB, and so many electronics use USB that airports now supply USB sockets next to electrical sockets.

    I think that agreeing on a global interconnection standard, like we basically did with USB, could avoid balkanization while allowing for individual cities to make their own choices. The resulting grid would also be resilient because it would be designed to operate in subsections from the very beginning.

    I agree with Marlowe that different regions will have different advantages and challenges, but this will add another measure of resilience because a homogenous energy source would have a single source of failure. If each regional grid makes different decisions but interconnects using the same standard, then we’ll have succeeded in putting our eggs in as many different baskets as possible.

  360. ATTP,
    You are on the right track. Wind turbines as well as tidal and wave power have a really negligible influence on the Earth energy balance. If they lead to anything observable that must be trough their influence on the local weather and related albedo effects. I don’t think that even those effects are at an observable level.

  361. Steve Bloom says:

    “No, but the kinetic energy in wind is different than heat at the surface.”

    Maybe I’m being obtuse here, but does this actually make a difference on net? I can’t see how it would.

  362. Marlowe Johnson says:

    Pekka,

    I remember reading that years ago. as you say some good information and by no means perfect; first page on nuclear section quotes Patrick Moore, that rather infamous industry shill for the nuclear lobby. not exactly the best way to build credibility.

    I would also add that Mackay includes this important disclaimer in the section on nuclear:

    “As usual in this book, my main calculations have paid little attention to economics.”

  363. Steve Bloom says:

    USB is an interesting example. IIRC it was forced on the manufacturers by the EU. All those wasted proprietary adapters were a nice profit center for the industry, and I expect we’d be dealing with them yet in the U.S. had we been left to our own, um, devices.

  364. As I understand it, when the energy is in the form of kinetic energy it is different to heat at the surface. However, presumably this kinetic energy is continually being dissipated (converted to heat) and replaced. Whether or not wind turbines add heat to the system presumably depends on whether or not wind power acts to reduce the amount of kinetic energy in the wind (and hence conserving kinetic plus heat) or the system quickly replaces the kinetic energy dissipated by wind turbines (increasing kinetic plus heat). As Pekka says, though, this is all probably negligible for any reasonable level of wind power.

  365. bernie1815 says:

    BBD:
    I am not trying to divert attention away from anything. I grew up in the UK. The papers are more dramatically politically aligned there than in the US. You raised the issue of the GWPF and the Mail and the author of that piece at Carbon Brief said he was going to do a similar analysis of the Guardian, presumably because he thought it might be interesting.

  366. Wind energy at low altitudes is converted soon to heat (a little may end up as waves or drive ocean currents before being converted to heat). Adding wind turbines speeds that transition a little, and transfers a fraction of that energy to another location as electricity, before it’s converted to heat at that location. On the scale of the global energy balance such changes are negligible.

  367. BBD says:

    Marlowe

    MacKay’s text is excellent. I’ve come across the meme that he is shilling for the nuclear industry and it is arrant nonsense. Read the book.

    Patrick Moore is not someone I would have quoted, but this is the quote, used presumably as a provocative header for the chapter entitled “Nuclear?”

    We made the mistake of lumping nuclear energy in with nuclear weapons, as if all things nuclear were evil. I think that’s as big a mistake as if you lumped nuclear medicine in with nuclear weapons.

    MacKay is a professor of physics at Cambridge University and the chief scientific advisor to the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change.

  368. We can all apparently agree that waste heat from renewables are negligible to the global energy balance at present, and certainly much smaller than the warming from our CO2 emissions. The only reason I even brought up the issue is that I wanted to emphasize that it applies to all energy sources, including renewables.

    Harnessing small amounts of wind energy wouldn’t warm the Earth, just like putting solar panels only on volcanic rocks that are already just as dark as the panels wouldn’t warm the Earth. But if our growing civilization is powered exclusively by wind, at some point we would exceed the natural conversion of wind’s kinetic energy to heat and contribute a very small amount of warming. (Same with putting solar panels on white sand.)

  369. BBD says:

    bernie

    Still wittering about the Guardian I see. But still nothing to say about the subversion of democracy by injecting misinformation into the UK press via its largest-circulation daily newspaper? Well let’s move on, or rather let’s go back a bit.

    You never did answer the first question I asked you. Why not?

  370. Clive Best says:

    Pekka,

    They also have a really negligible impact on human energy balance. The attempt to deploy them however does huge damage to the environment. Theoretical maximum energy density of wind power is 2W/m2. Replacing one large coal power station needs about 500 km^2 and millions of tons of concrete, often in pristine peat bogs. They kill bats and rare birds of prey, while 1-2 days a month they generate no energy at all.

  371. Clive,
    Just to be clear, I think all the factors you mention should be considered when deciding what options are best. I assume you’ll agree, though, that coal has it’s own risks – in addition to those associated with CO2 emissions.

  372. Rachel says:

    Clive,

    The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds supports wind farms. They say:

    Climate change poses the single greatest long-term threat to birds and other wildlife, and the RSPB recognises the essential role of renewable energy in addressing this problem.

    The Bat Conservation Trust in the UK supports wind farms provided they are well-sighted by taking into account the possible harmful effects on bats.

    The American Bird Conservancy supports wind farms saying:

    American Bird Conservancy supports wind power when it is bird-smart, and believes that birds and wind power can co-exist if the wind industry is held to mandatory standards that protect birds.

  373. Joshua says:

    kdk33 –

    >”You miss my point. There is agreement, in the main, on radiative physics (ie the GH effect and it’s cause) There is uncertainty on the main effect (climate sensitivity) and even more regarding the consequences.”

    Actually, I dealt directly with that point.

    1) I doubt your ability to judge what % of “skeptics” agree about the radiative physics related to the GHE of ACO2. There are many “skeptics” who flat out reject the “GH effect and its cause.” If you fail to define what is a “skeptic,” let alone what is the “GH effect and its cause,” let alone how you’re measuring what “skeptics” believe, then it seems to me that you aren’t applying due skeptical scrutiny before reaching your conclusions/

    2) I question whether, if someone thinks that the GHE of ACO2 is so negligible that we cannot determine any fingerprint of that effect on the climate, that we can really say that they agree with the “consensus” on the basic physics.

    3) Related to point #2 – if you fail to define what you mean by the “basic physics,” (or “the GHE effect and its cause”) – then you can say that everyone agrees on the “basic physics” because what you’re saying is basically meaningless. As a broadly defined term, I read technical arguments about many aspects of the “basic physics” all the time. And I often read arguments about what might comprise “the basic physics.”

    >”This isn’t motivated reason (especially put forth as a logical fallicy as you like to do). It is the way in which people must make decisions.

    Your statement suggests to me that you and I are operating with different definitions of motivated reasoning. What is your definition?

    >”BTW: I assume you are struck by the ironical claims that 1) funding for skeptical voices must be revealed but 2) any suggestion that climate science publications might be similarly affected is conspiracy ideation. Motivated reasoning indeed.”

    I see much irony (on both sides) in these debates. In fact, I see some interesting irony in that comment, and arguments related to funding are a very rich source of irony on both side, IMO.

    More specifically w/r/t your second point: I do think that funding for climate science is a valid subject for skepticism – but the problem is when “skeptics” lose their tether to actual “skepticism,” as you did with your “any suggestion that climate science publications….,” overstatement (as BBD pointed out).

    I don’t think that “any suggestion….” is attacked as conspiracy ideation. I think that overly-broad characterizations of funding for climate science publications is attacked as conspiracy ideation, and rightly so because it is freakin’ conspiracy ideation.

    I think that: (1) your statement reflects an inaccurate generalization of the sort that we see with motivated reasoning and that, (2) you are failing to recognize that a significant amount of what we can read from “skeptics” about funding for climate science does qualify as conspiracy ideation.

  374. At the present there are clear limits on, how much wind power and/or solar power can be taken by the power system. There are both technical problems and economic problems. The former should be easy to understand, but I say a few words about the latter.

    Wind and solar power are commonly supported by feed-in tariffs. Owners of those generators have the right to feed all the electricity they produce to the net, and to get payed a fixed tariff. Thus other producers must adapt to the combined variability in the consumption and in the wind+solar power. They get paid only for the power they really produce and the amount of that goes down, while they must keep enough capacity ready to produce to fill the maximum gap between consumption and feed-in-tariff production. Maintaining that level of operational capacity is costly even, when it does not produce, but those times bring no income.

    This has led in parts of Europe to the situation that power companies cannot afford the cost of all the needed capacity. Large sums of money have been transferred to feed-in-tariffs, and now it’s getting necessary to subsidize also the owners of all that other capacity. The more subsidies go to renewables, the more is needed to support capacity reserves. On top of that come large additional needs for building new transmission lines.

    The situation is on the verge of getting out of hands. Something must be done to restore a more stable system. Proposals include energy storage, very long distance transmission lines (HVDC) etc., but the problems have not yet been solved.

    One strange consequence of these problems is that the price of electricity is quite often highly negative in the electricity exchanges, when the generation of wind and solar power is so high that the balance cannot be restored by any standard approach. Under such conditions anyone, who can consume more electricity gets paid for that.

  375. Marlowe Johnson says:

    BBD

    Recall the hounds!!!

    It certainly wasn’t my intention to suggest that MacKay was shilling for the nuclear industry. Was just pointing out the limitations of his analysis and providing a obvious example of how the *book* is less than perfect ;)

  376. Clive Best says:

    ATTP,
    The danger is that by calling wolf too soon you are forcing irrational action on policy makers. We must anyway find alternatives to fossil fuels, but it should be solved by innovation not by legislation. You will do more harm than good by pushing too hard, especially since now CS seems likely lower than expected.

  377. Steve Bloom says:

    For most places, distributed generation rooftop solar with local storage seems ideal in so many ways (but not neglecting efficiency since the best watts are negawatts).

  378. Rachel says:

    Clive,

    An article in ScientificAmerican from 2009 says that if we wanted to use all the wind energy resources available then we’d need 3.8 million turbines. The authors compare this number with the 73 million cars and light trucks currently manufactured each year. Then they say:

    The worldwide footprint of the 3.8 million turbines would be less than 50 square kilometers (smaller than Manhattan). When the needed spacing between them is figured, they would occupy about 1 percent of the earth’s land, but the empty space among turbines could be used for agriculture or ranching or as open land or ocean.

  379. Rachel says:

    Ok, so I’ve just realised my last comment references the same Jacobson & Delucchi article discussed earlier somewhat negatively.

  380. Local storage is presently extremely expensive.

    Rooftop solar has much potential particularly in areas where the insolation is high and maximum load coincides with maximum solar generation. That’s most likely the case, when air-conditioning determines the timing of the maximum load. Thus I would think that it has the best potential in areas like Southern California and Arizona. In Europe parts of Spain and other Mediterranean areas are most promising (The insolation may be better in Spain that most other areas.)

  381. Steve Bloom says:

    “The only reason I even brought up the issue is that I wanted to emphasize that it applies to all energy sources, including renewables.”

    I’m not clear that case has been made for wind, but my original point is that fossil and nuke plants have a vastly larger global energy balance footprint that long-term will itself be a problem if the scale remains large enough. Beamed solar, note, would have the same issue.

    The question is whether it’s something that needs to be taken into account in planning in the present and, if not, when that would need to start. What does seem clear is that a nuclear future (fusion included, should it ever become practical) cannot be thought of as endless.

  382. Clive Best says:

    Pekka,

    Wind and solar power are commonly supported by feed-in tariffs. Owners of those generators have the right to feed all the electricity they produce to the net, and to get payed a fixed tariff.

    If the wind blows at 3 am owners get paid €130/MWh or 3 times market values, but the power is anyway discarded. Peak demand occurs at around 6pm in winter when solar power is zero and often wind power is also essentially zero. With no prospect of economic energy storage short term, europe is essentially punishing the poor and pricing out indigenous manufacturing industry. I was in Vietnam recently and they have large reserves of coal. There is no way they jeopardise increasing living standards by reading AR5.

  383. The lower bound on Charney sensitivity in AR5 is identical to the 1979 Charney report’s lower bound. And it’s very likely lower than the actual Earth system sensitivity.

  384. I don’t see, why nuclear could not be thought as effectively endless, if it’s based on fusion and/or breeder type fission reactors. Availability of fuel would not be a limiting factor for thousands of years, and there are possibilities to extend that far longer with further technical development.

    With trillion people the waste heat might be a problem, but I’m pretty sure that compared to other problems those trillion people would create that’s likely to be trivial.

    But all that is not directly relevant as fusion is not available, and only a small number of prototype reactors have been built as breeders.

  385. Steve Bloom says:

    I linked above to Jacobson’s updated info, Rachel. There’s a lot of it.

    I noted the storage shortfall above, Pekka, but pointed out that recent progress post the Bush R+D slump has been excellent, thanks to Steve Chu to a great extent.

    Interestingly, even assuming such technology doesn’t improve a lot, or very soon anyway, in California at least it may become practical to use electric cars for the purpose, noting that most cars spend most of their time not being driven. It’s not a complete solution, but could go a considerable distance toward reducing the need for relying on large remote generating plants.

  386. Pekka, we’re on the same page. I wish we didn’t subsidize the fossil fuel industry’s amazing “dig stuff up and burn it” technology because then we might have built more breeder reactors and have a better idea of how to best exploit that technology.

  387. Clive Best says:

    Yes , but the problem is that if we depend on wind, water and sun for all our energy, as indeed we did do in the 18th century then all human activity would depend on the weather. Our factories, steel works aluminium smelters etc. would need to be able to operate 24 hours a day. Perhaps we could have sirens to wake the workers up whenever there was sufficient power to run the production line. Perhaps people could only travel when their was sufficient power to charge electric cars. No-one has really thought this through.

  388. Steve Bloom says:

    Pekka, Jim Hansen thinks the fuel problem could be solved more or less permanently by extracting it from seawater. As to whether there could ever be enough nukes to be an issue in terms of heat balance, maybe not, but I’d like to see those calculations firmed up.

  389. Steve Bloom says:

    Clive, you wrote that last as if you hadn’t read any of the preceding discussion. This has been thought through, although that by no means means the implementation will be simple or easy.

  390. Steve Bloom says:

    BTW, Elon Musk, who interestingly is in both the rooftop solar and electric car businesses, has a plan to use retired Tesla batteries (not available yet) for distributed storage.

  391. There have been so many “breakthroughs” in energy technologies that have led only to getting forgotten or to bankruptcies that I believe in them only when they are truly available

    I switched from theoretical physics to energy research in 1980, and it’s amazing how limited the development has been since that time. Of course, a lot has come out, but pitifully little compared to expectations – and needs.

  392. Human activity wouldn’t depend on the weather in a world powered by renewables. As Steve notes, many have already discussed energy storage methods such as car batteries and molten salt reservoirs. We can also pump water uphill, and I’ve discussed underwater pressure batteries. If we put a price on carbon, we’ll get to find out which of these methods wins.

  393. Steve Bloom says:

    Well, expectations… I recall when nukes were going to be too cheap to meter and we’d all be driving Pu-powered cars.

    But personally I’m very impressed with the actual, not projected, cost curves for solar and wind. More faster would be better, of course.

    What sort of energy research are you (or were you) in?

  394. Clive Best says:

    I suggest you all read the short talk introducing the recent IEA report on future coal market

    Over the next six years, additional coal production capacity of a half million tonnes per annum will be added worldwide each and every day. Coal prices are also falling. Coal price in ASIA is $4/mBTU whereas LNG prices are $16/mBTU – 400% higher.

    60% of the increase in CO2 levels is now sourced in ASIA. All the stuff we love to buy is made in China and SE. Asia where energy costs are still low.

    Pekka is right. Only a new rethink of nuclear energy can get us out of this mess. Controlled nuclear fusion actually can work. JET proved that.

  395. My own field is energy systems and energy economics, but I have worked at a research organization and university, where I had close contacts with people studying bioenergy, nuclear safety, wind energy, and more. Some of my close colleges have also contributed to WG3 and SRES of IPCC.

  396. Commercially available fusion power is decades away at best, but our civilization is backed up into a corner now.

  397. Fusion is still only a dream, realistic enough to warrant further research, but a solution to count on.

    Breeders could be built after a reasonable amount of additional research, but the proliferation issues are much more severe than with the present reactors. There are interesting ideas for improving proliferation resistance, but then we move again to a domain that’s not known well enough.

    The cost of nuclear is a bit strange issue. The four present nuclear units of Finland have been very reliable and economic. The actual historical costs have been really low. A realistic reservation for disposal of the spent nuclear fuel is also included in that. The construction of a fifth unit has, however, been delayed by years and resulted to very heavy losses for Areva as the deal was for a fixed price turnkey delivery. It’s still unknown, how long it will take, before the unit can start producing power.

    I wrote that this development is strange as one might expect that costs would go down particularly strongly for a complex technology like nuclear power, but the opposite has happened.

  398. Steve Bloom says:

    The direction of this discussion leads me to make my usual point that about the many, many easy, simple steps that can be taken to save energy, most of them relating to efficiency. Example: Here in sunny California (northern, but still), a recent visit to my local Home Depot found that they *still* don’t have white/near-white roofing shingles available for purchase. Well, the state has no law requiring it and the local cities have no ordinances, so why should they? AFAICT, resistance to this is largely aesthetic. Meh. It is no surprise at all, then, that many of the big steps don’t get taken either.

    So Clive, how can we have a rethink when it’s clear we haven’t had a think?

  399. Steve Bloom says:

    Pekka, they keep redesigning rather than standardizing, and at this point many of the people working on them are trying to extract as much profit as they can since each project might be their last.

  400. Ian Forrester says:

    WOW, some people actually do dream in technicolour. JET is claimed to be a solution, has it gone any longer than 6 and a half minutes, has it ever produced more energy than is inputted?

    And some people get upset because wind energy only works for 33% of the time (that is an average of 8 hours every day not 6 and half minutes over 30 years, and solar works for 50% of the time.

    Anyone who thinks fusion is the solution is, in my mind, crazy.

  401. bernie1815 says:

    BBD: My last response was to your earlier question. I am sorry I simply missed the earlier question. If the question is about transparency of funding for think tanks and lobbying groups, I am absolutely in favor of transparency of funding by corporations and other public entities just as I am in favor of transparency for those receiving public funds.

  402. dhogaza says:

    Ian Forrester

    “has it ever produced more energy than is inputted?”

    No. No one has. The National Ignition Facility at LLNL was recently in the news and published in Nature because they’re getting close and think they can, soon.

    Soon, as in another 30 years.

    (sorry, that last is just me being snarky.)

  403. bernie1815 says:

    Ian: What do you mean by “works” in wind works 33% of the time? Besides Australia, in which countries is wind working anywhere like 33% of installed capacity? According to data in EWEA, the EU as a whole is about 25% for 2012.

  404. AnOilMan says:

    Bernie1851: load factoring for all energy sources needs to be taken into account. And I think you should learn a bit more about it. The numbers you speak of, are irrelevant, and are factored into the cost of producing reliable wind power. If you want to use wind when it’s not windy, you use a battery. Businesses that use solar 24 hours a day use batteries.

    But since you brought it up, coal is down 13% of the time for regular maintenance, so right off the bat, you want at least 2 coal plants of enormous expense to guarantee that it might work at all. (Alberta suffered a quadruple failure during peak demand, while 6 plants were down for scheduled maintenance. We tend to turn them off in summer and not winter, and, at about the same time.)

    Now we get to demand… You do know that we typically use about 20-30% of the power our grid is capable of supplying, right? The bulk of the grid is there to supply peak demands, and nothing else. You could hit peak demands by just adding batteries and not burning more coal, just in case, which is what we do now.

    Solar will destroy the entire utility business model. Don’t take my word for it, take theirs;
    http://grist.org/climate-energy/solar-panels-could-destroy-u-s-utilities-according-to-u-s-utilities/

    Renewables ease off all the issues of supply and demand. Utility grade batteries are in fact the only weakness, and you’ll note that this is a hot topic in industry. Bill Gates invested in Ambri which is a company I’m following closely.

  405. OPatrick says:

    Pekka:

    The situation is on the verge of getting out of hands. Something must be done to restore a more stable system. Proposals include energy storage, very long distance transmission lines (HVDC) etc., but the problems have not yet been solved.

    Isn’t this what drives innovation? If the situation weren’t on the verge of getting out of hand then there wouldn’t be the urgency to find solutions. It would be nice to think we could sit back and find the optimal solution with considered and coherent planning but 1) we don’t have time and 2) we seem, collectively, by and large incapable of consideration and coherency anyway.

    This is what makes me hopeful about Germany’s Energiewende. For all it’s incoherency and seeming counterproductive short-term impacts I think in the long-term it is likely to drive successful transition, compared to doing nothing.

  406. Steve Bloom says:

    “incoherency and seeming counterproductive short-term impacts”

    Most of which seems to be a consequence of doing it in a hurry, nukes first. That’s OK by me.

  407. AnOilMan says:

    Pekka, I guarantee your nuclear reactors in Finland are heavily subsidized. They never made money or a profit without subsidy. Look up Finish laws on insurance for Nuclear reactors (assuming they are private), and you will see that they effectively have none.

    I tend to think nuclear is safe, but I’d take a close look at how power failures are handled since that is how all the major disasters have occurred. I’d really like to see a big manual lever labeled ‘OFF’ that a worker could just pull.

  408. AnOilMan,
    I do know in great detail the economics of the existing Finnish power plants. At the time they had not yet operated very long I made a study of what had happened up to the point. In that the possibility of using also material that’s not publicly available. I know also the costs of nuclear related activities of the public sector, and I have gone in detail through issues related to insurance and liability. All these studies have been part of my work that I have done for the government at a national laboratory. Based on all that I can assure that a statement that they are strongly subsidized is not supported by the numbers.

    Some subsidies have probably been hidden in the price Finnish companies paid for the plants. On that I have no estimates.

    The nuclear liability issue is complex. Calculating the related cost based on probabilistic risk assessment, and using high estimates for the probabilities, the cost is not very large. On that basis there’s no significant subsidy. There’s, however, another issue. When the maximal cost is very high and the probability of that very low, even the resinsurance system is not capable of handling it well. Beyond a point the price of the insurance starts to be little dependent on the probability, and mostly determined by the maximum liability alone. Under such circumstances two (or more) very different values can be obtained for the related subsidy. As long as government guarantees are part of the practice, we will also see estimates that are very high. People may also declare almost without limit possibilities for damage that is in their view not included in any of the estimates.

    I know all the above, and I have discussed the issue with many knowledgeable people, and I remain convinced that no large subsidies have been given to the Finnish nuclear units. All the estimated subsidies are included in the calculated costs of the existing plants.

  409. AnOilMan says:

    So you have no laws limiting insurance? I find that odd… But ok. So when a disaster of large proportions happens you are completely covered? How many trillions of Euros in damages are you covered for?

  410. BBD says:

    Rachel & Steve

    Steve said:

    I linked above to Jacobson’s updated info, Rachel. There’s a lot of it.

    Steve’s right to point out that there’s been much more work by Jacobson since the 2009 J&D study. I also *failed* to respond to Steve when he asked me if I had read any of the more recent work – the answer is no (sorry Steve; just tired and the busy threads). So one shouldn’t necessarily allow my slightly jaundiced view of Jacobson’s work based on the 2009 paper prejudice against what he has done since. At least not until you’ve had a chance to read it.

    Same goes for me, of course.
    :-)

  411. Of course there are laws. Concerning nuclear liability the laws are based on international agreements.

    Yes. The existing arrangements, and actually any imaginable arrangement leaves some risks for the society. It’s not possible to cover everything by any insurance as the insurance cannot cancel all losses. In discussing subsidies the point is estimating as well as possible the net economic value of the risk that’s not covered by the insurances and the liability of the company itself. What I’m saying is that the estimates that have been done in Finland tell that this net economic value is not very high, and that it can well be included in the cost estimates of nuclear power without a major change in the outcome. This has, indeed, been done.

    As all that work was done for the government of Finland, it’s included in a number of reports written in Finnish at a time reports were still published on paper only.

  412. BBD says:

    I’m going to do something I never do, which is make an entirely unreferenced comment.

    Recently I had a discussion with a person working in the energy industry. They explained to me that there were outline plans for all car batteries from EVs to be stockpiled at end of cycle (still 60 – 70% charge efficient, he claimed) and fitted (in pairs, I think) into units the size of a domestic appliance, eg. dishwasher. One per average household. These to charge during low demand and discharge during peak, so smoothing domestic peaks, obviating the need for large inventories of load-following plant and at the same time providing off-grid reserve to compensate for renewables intermittency and slew.

    It sounded like a very clever, potentially workable solution, but this was a conversation. Sorry, no names.

  413. BBD,
    One problem with that is the shortage of raw materials (lithium in particular) in the situation where the number of electric cars grows. I would expect that there’s an urgent need to recycle the raw materials to the manufacture of new batteries. Batteries based on other raw materials would then be used for other applications than cars and portable devices.

  414. BBD,
    The operators are liable for the damage, but that leads to further questions on the size of guarantees they must maintain or cover by insurance, and on what’s the value of those potential damages that they cannot cover in spite of being liable.

    Furthermore, the liabilities have not always been defined as they are now. Thus the share the companies had to cover was less before.

  415. BBD says:

    This chap had a good deal to say about new battery technologies, which rather went over my head. Some of it may also have been proprietary information. How much do you know about non-lithium battery development (myself, nothing)?

  416. BBD says:

    Re nuclear damage liability. Yes, that’s my understanding. I put the link up for general reference and should perhaps have made that clear.

    The anti-nuclear myth that the industry is “uninsured” or essentially uninsurable is, all the same, a myth.

  417. I don’t know enough to state anything specific. My earlier comment on the point, where I believe on the promises applies particularly strongly on batteries. The search for better and better batteries has gone on for more than a century with variable rate of success. In recent years small lithium batteries have developed very much and making them applicable also in cars has had fair success, but I don’t know about any other alternative that would be close to this level of maturity.

    Lithium will have for ever some advantages. It’s the lightest metal and has also the highest electrochemical potential. Therefore it’s difficult to match in mobile applications.

  418. BBD says:

    It seems we were talking about solid-state batteries* on a 20-year phase-in timescale, with existing Li-ion re-purposed as domestic energy stores.

    *That’s where the non-disclosure kicks in. No details.

  419. Clive Best says:

    Iain, Jet produced 16MW of fusion power which is Q = 0.3 or 1/3 of energy breakeven. ITER under construction in France will produce 500 MW of fusion power or Q=10. After that a power generating demonstration reactor will be built producing 1 GW of electrical power. That could be working in 2030’s

    There is however a shortcut to power which is to use the fast neutrons produced in a tokamac to trigger fission in a blanket of for example thorium. This would act as an energy amplifier like that proposed by Rubbia, producing GW of energy from a ITER like machine.

    There are only 2 sources of energy on the earth and both are of nuclear origin. The sun is a fusion reactor and geothermal energy is produced by fission.

  420. Clive Best says:

    O’Patrick,

    The trouble with your argument is that Germany have had to built 18 new coal power stations to cover base load !

  421. OPatrick says:

    Clive – no, that’s you ignoring the simple point I was making.

  422. Clive Best says:

    I have a real-time monitor of which fuels meet the UK peak energy demand every day. This winter the UK has had consistent westerly winds. The 5000 turbines meet 7% of peak demand.

    The live energy supplied to the grid is shown here.

  423. Clive Best says:

    ATTP,
    There are local effects on surface temperature caused by large wind farms. see this paper in Nature climate change

    Scientists examining temperature readings for an area in Texas that contains a large wind farm have found a “warming trend of up to 0.72◦ C per decade, particularly at night-time, over wind farms relative to nearby non-wind-farm regions”.

    It is also likely that local weather conditions will be effected due to wind shadow effects. So whatever man does, it is bound to have an effect on nature. I agree that burning coal has probably by far the worst impact on the environment. There is still a future for coal, however if CCS can ever be made to work. It is the inefficient dirty plants being built across Asia that we should be concerned about. If just these new plants were instead built with modern technology then this alone would reduce CO2 emissions more than all of Europe’s wind farms combined.

  424. Clive,
    Sure, I was only referring to the effect globally, not locally.

    So whatever man does, it is bound to have an effect on nature.

    I agree, that’s why I don’t think the policy decisions will be easy. As I think I’ve already said, I don’t think anything should be off the table.

  425. bernie1815 says:

    AnOilMan:
    My comment was in response to Ian’s comment that wind power generation was running at 33% of installed capacity. This is simply not accurate.
    Thanks for the link to the GRIST article. Clearly large residential electric storage will dramatically change the viability of intermittent power sources. However, the GRIST author did not read the EEI report very carefully nor actually state what the bottom line of the report was – namely more effective pricing of power for customers who are using the grid for back-up. While it is true that distributed PV could well be disruptive to existing utility business models, the data cited in the report suggests that this is a long way off, is geographically constrained and dependent upon cost effective new battery technologies.
    On a more general level, it would be great if renewables and solar did contribute to our base power needs, but that seems a long way off despite the rapid growth of solar power generation. According to the US Energy Information Agency, in 2013 solar generated 0.23% of electric power generation (see here with roughly the equivalent coming from off the grid sources which presumably are not fully captured in the EIA data.

  426. jeremyp99 says:

    BBD says:
    March 20, 2014 at 4:35 pm
    jeremyp99
    ===================

    BBD. When the models start to match real world observations I and many others might take some notice of your gang. Until then, why should we bother. What is it? 103 out of 107 models used by the IPCC have over forecast warming. ERGO – they are not fit for purpose, as a real scientist, Richard Feynmann, explains, especially for you, here

    With one stroke, you are all dismissed.

    Take care.

  427. jeremyp99 says:

    “If it disagrees with experiment, IT’S WRONG. That’s all there is to it”

    Got it?

  428. OPatrick says:

    With one stroke, you are all dismissed.

    Is this just too unsubtle to be a poe?

  429. Jeremy,
    There are statements that are either right or wrong. Many statements of theories Feynman studied himself belong to those.

    Very few statements about the real climate are strictly right, but are also very far from wrong. Cherry picking disagreements (or agreements) proves nothing. Only the balance of all evidence is meaningful.

  430. jeremyp99,

    “If it disagrees with experiment, IT’S WRONG. That’s all there is to it”

    A few things. Firstly, the models are projections that are based on various different future scenarios. The Earth isn’t an experiment. Your argument would only begin to have merit if you knew that the scenario adopted by the models actually matched reality. Secondly, much of what you will probably have seen will be ensemble averages which will, by averaging, tend to remove much of the internal variability (because the models are unable to predict this variabilty precisely). Thirdly, the confidence intervals are there for a reason. They indicate the range presented by the models. We expect, therefore, that the observations will fall outside the 95% interval about 5% of the time. If it didn’t, we’d simply remove the outlier models, and reduce the confidence interval until the observations fell outside the 95% range 5% of the time. At the moment, the model comparison with observations is still within what is expected.

  431. Steve Bloom says:

    BBD, that sounds like what Musk has been talking about.

  432. OPatrick says:

    Perhaps also relevant here – Tidal lagoon power ‘cheaper than wind’

  433. BBD says:

    jeremyp99

    BBD. When the models start to match real world observations I and many others might take some notice of your gang. Until then, why should we bother.

    Once again, problems with topic knowledge devalue and undermine your commentary here.

    You have not considered that the model forcings might be wrong. If the models are forced with observed solar, observed ENSO and improved, updated estimates for volcanic aerosols rather than those used for AR5, they come into much better agreement with observations (Schmidt et al 2014). When the full effects of cooling from enhanced wind-driven ocean circulation are taken into effect (England et al. 2014), the agreement will presumably get better still.

    Then of course there’s the very real possibility that the instrumental record is itself biased cool because of coverage lacunae.

    Closer still and closer.

    Perhaps you should continue with your background reading.

    BTW what is “the present” in that Easterbrook graph you were waving about yesterday? You didn’t say and you need to find out.

  434. BBD says:

    bernie1815

    the data cited in the report suggests that this is a long way off, is geographically constrained and dependent upon cost effective new battery technologies.

    Maybe, maybe not.

    And while we wait for that to happen, there is a new battery technology being developed just up the road from where I live which is starting to look very promising.

  435. BBD says:

    Steve

    I need to look into this more closely – thanks for the pointer to Musk.

  436. Marlowe Johnson says:

    BBD

    “The anti-nuclear myth that the industry is “uninsured” or essentially uninsurable is, all the same, a myth.”

    This is where we part company at the moment. If you reread what Pekka’s has said you’ll note that one of the points that he’s making is that the insurance industry simply doesn’t have the tools or the practical ability to *accurately* estimate the probability of a catastrophic accident; so what’s left is essentially an engineering-level best guess. Nothing wrong with that in the absence of something better but it’s important to under the implications; the most important of which is that trying to assess the financial benefit of limited liability becomes a fools game.

    All energy technologies involve trade-offs and the socialization of risk is one that is unique to nuclear. I don’t see it as a deal breaker but I also don’t think its appropriate to ignore it.

    On the battery side, the main benefit of EVs in the medium term will be to provide utilities with additional voltage regulation capacity through V2G technologies. Longer term you might see load leveling incorporated as well, but it isn’t clear to me how the economics will play out.

    IMO lithium batteries will be used mainly for mobile applications since that’s where there benefits in terms of power density/weight ratio make the most sense. For stationary it’ll probably be a combination of traditional lead acid and other cheaper low density technologies. Regardless, we live in interesting times on this front.

    Pekka, given your background in energy economics and location, I imagine that you’ve heard of Neste Oil. For those who what refineries of the future might look like, this is a good place to start.

  437. MJ,
    I know something about this development of Neste Oil. Basically they have developed processes that can be used to convert many types of oils and fats to high quality diesel fuel. The more common FAME-type fuels cannot be stored for long and have also other weaknesses.

    Other Finnish (or partly Finnish) companies have developed processes for refining fuels from side streams of forest industry. Some steps of these processes are close enough to each other to result in patent disputes.

    http://www.upm.com/EN/ABOUT-UPM/biofore-in-action/from-residue-to-renewable-diesel/Pages/default.aspx

    http://biomaterials.storaenso.com/ProductsServices-Site/Pages/Biorefinery.aspx

    The government owned research organization VTT where I worked 1980-99 has for long been active in research of gasification and pyrolysis oil production from biomass. Aalto University (Helsinki University of Technology until 2010), where I worked from 1999 to retirement, has also contributed to the process development.

  438. Marco says:

    BBD, I doubt Bernie is really interested in investigating that. He’d have to conclude it is a highly questionable figure prepared by McLean to which he has attached his faith, adding the global increase in temperature to a local temperature record. It has already been discussed at Skeptical Science, and a temperature record in the vicinity would indicate that global increase underestimates the local increase by a factor 2.

  439. BBD says:

    Marco

    Never ask a fake sceptic a question to which you do not already know the answer…
    ;-)

  440. dhogaza says:

    Jeremy … if it isn’t galileo, it is feynman. then back to galileo once again. denialists are nothing if not predictable.

    As though feynman’s the only physicist to have ever lived and as if galileo was the first and only person to flip off the pope (rhetorically speaking).

  441. dhogaza says:

    Clive:

    “ITER under construction in France will produce 500 MW of fusion power or Q=10.”

    And the NIF at LLNL was supposed to generate power with Q>1 years ago.

    Working fusion plants based on ITER in 25 years? Once again, fusion’s known for being practical 30 years in the future … every year.

  442. bernie1815 says:

    Marco and BBD:
    Sorry to interrupt, but who or what is McLean? What figures are you referring to? What is it that I am not supposed to be interested in investigating? What is a “fake skeptic”?

  443. BBD says:

    Marco may have confused you with “jeremyp99″. See above.

    A fake sceptic is someone who isn’t sceptical but claims to be.

  444. BBD says:

    In fact jeremyp99 is an excellent example. He has unsceptically embraced a graph which – had he examined it sceptically – he would have discovered to be profoundly misleading. But he *thinks* he’s a sceptic and probably would self-identify as such. If the term bothers you, mentally edit to “pseudosceptic”.

  445. bernie1815 says:

    BBD: Well, that helps a bit. Let’s see if Marco agrees.
    By the way, I am not sure I understand the viability of your used EV batteries as residential energy storage units. If they have been replaced in EVs presumably it is because of their failure to hold a charge. Do they get reconditioned and, if so, why wouldn’t their best use be as reconditioned replacement batteries? Do you have more references?

  446. clivebest says:

    Dhogaza,

    Don’t confuse inertial fusion with magnetic confined fusion. We know the latter will work given the effort. I don’t see much else working apart from fast breeder reactors – Do you ?

    Don’t pretend that renewables could ever maintain society as currently envisaged.

  447. OPatrick says:

    bernie1815, as people who seem intent on undermining the viability of electric vehicles constantly bang on about, one of the issues is range anxiety (in reality range anxiety anxiety is a much bigger concern), and, whilst the problem is greatly exaggerated, batteries do lose a fraction of their ability to hold charge over time and there does come a point where the inconvenience of this makes it preferable to buy new batteries. This might be when a battery still has the potential to hold 50%, maybe 75% of their original potential. This means they are still useful for storing surplus electricity and in a residential, rather than mobile, setting their reduced energy density will not be a problem.

  448. Clive,
    We don’t know that any type of fusion will ever work well enough to produce energy at an useful level. I consider that likely given enough time, but I’m not ready to give any dates.

    A major contribution to the energy supply in less than 50 years seems, however, highly unlikely even if a few fusion power plants might be operating in that time frame, if everything proceeds well.

  449. BBD says:

    bernie

    What O’Patrick said. No reconditioning required, according to what I was told. Anything above ~50% charge capacity usable as-is, but on a 10 year usage cycle in an EV (I *think* this is what was said) then charge capacity is typically >60%.

  450. BBD says:

    Do you have more references?

    As I said in my original comment, I was taking the unusual step of unreferenced reporting of a private discussion. I have no reason to doubt the correctness of what I was told, but the sceptical thing to do would be to check for yourself.

  451. Steve Bloom says:

    According to this article, Musk’s solar company is now piloting residential battery storage linked with solar and is about to start doing it for businesses. I hadn’t known that, but it makes sense given that it will be 5+ years before used Tesla batteries are available. But even for new ones, the cost curves cited in the article look very good, although at present the program is possible only because of the federal battery subsidy program.

  452. dhogaza says:

    Clive:

    “We know the latter will work given the effort.”

    No, we don’t, and the fact that we don’t is why inertial fusion is being pursued. If magnetic confined fusion were just an engineering task, which is what you are claiming (‘we know it will work” is a statement that solving the problem is now in the realm of engineering) it would be much more hotly pursued than is the case.

    Pekka is absolutely right. I also consider it likely, eventually, but that eventuality is a long, long ways off and far too far off to be of any practical use in limiting warming this century.

    Your boundless optimism (ECS will be very low, fusion will magically be commercialized in 25 years, etc) is touching but asking that we bet the farm on successfully drawing to not one, but multiple, inside straights is very unrealistic.

    “Don’t pretend that renewables could ever maintain society as currently envisaged.”

    We’re terrible at envisioning future societies. When the automobile was invented, no one imagined the size and scope of the change it would have on societ. When the airplane was invented, no one imagined that Orville Wright would live to take a ride on an airplane capable of flying from Washington DC to LA nonstop in less than 7 hours.

    And, when I first started writing software a few [sic] years ago, no one imagined that I’d be able to contract for projects around the world and complete them without leaving the comfort of my couch.

    So, you’re right. I don’t expect us to maintain society as currently envisioned. I expect us, as a species, to continue to show unexpected creativity and for our lives to change, for the better. And in my world, “better” includes (but is not restricted to) taking steps to decrease future warming.

  453. Clive Best says:

    Pekka, dhpgaza,
    I worked on JET for 5 years and was involved in writing the control software to analyse the plasma diagnostics. I was also there when JET produced its first plasma. JET was built on budget, ahead of schedule and met all its goals. The last director of Jet J-P Rebut – a brilliant French engineer/physicist pushed to build ITER as an ignition machine, but was mainly defeated by politics. This has probably delayed fusion yet another 10-20 years.

    I am not an optimist but I try to be a realist. The politics of climate change if forcing the west to deal a losing hand before we even know what the card game is !

  454. Clive,
    I have not been directly involved in fusion research, but some of my close friends have, and I have also to the extent of participating in a couple of meetings in Brussels where the future of fusion research and specifically ITER was discussed. Thus I don’t present my assessment based on no knowledge.

    Some people involved in the process were more optimistic than others, some favored more cautious approach proceeding step-by-step, while others proposed shortcutting the process by more risky steps, which lead to faster progress, if successful, but might lead to major losses if they fail.

  455. Clive Best says:

    Pekka,
    OK – So let me ask you a direct question. If you accept the argument that under the worst scenario there is only about 30 years left, then what energy source do you think needs most investment in Europe ?

  456. Clive,
    The first answer is that not any single source, but several energy sources as well as energy efficiency need to be addressed.

    Avoiding the premature shutdown of nuclear plants would be wise (but does not appear likely in Germany).

    Additional capacity is perhaps not needed, but a lot has to replaced, and that’s the problem. I would like to see some more nuclear (and in more countries), perhaps some shale gas, and renewables at locations, where they perform best.

  457. bernie1815 says:

    OPatrick: A link to the details of EV battery life would help, if you have them. Otherwise I will have to rely on the hit and miss approach via Google.

  458. Marco says:

    Bernie (+BBD) you are correct in your confusion about my remark, and I offer my sincere apologies. I indeed confused you with jeremyp99. Don’t know how that happened, but my snide remark should be aimed at him, not you.

  459. dhogaza says:

    Pekka:

    “The first answer is that not any single source, but several energy sources as well as energy efficiency need to be addressed.”

    Exactly. These *do* mostly fall under the realm of engineering.

    Wake me up, Clive, when fusion exits the research phase.

    ITER, JET’s successor, is still a research machine. We are decades from moving fusion from the research to engineering realm, and when engineering prototypes are built, there will be years of gaining practical experience in operation and maintenance and real-world reliability before there is any possibility of integrating substantial fusion powerplants into real-world grids.

    We do not have the time to put our eggs in that basket. Yes, of course research should continue, but betting our future on that contingency leading to safe and reliable power while continuing to pour CO2 into the atmosphere in a BAU scenario makes no sense whatsoever.

  460. clivebest says:

    Pekka,

    I think we will need a lot more capacity because transport and heating will also need to be electrified. Otherwise I agree with you, except that I can see no other long term alternative apart from nuclear.

    Dhogaza,
    Yes you’re right. Fusion is an energy source for the second half of this century. The problem as I see it is that ASIA is following the BAU model to develop their economies, and therefore we can do nothing much to curb CO2 emissions for the next 20 years. During this time we must come up with a realistic clean energy source that can compete with coal. We also have to transform our transport and logistics systems to reduce dependence on oil. We will need to double electricity production.

  461. OPatrick says:

    Bernie, I’d be relying on google myself, but I don’t think there’s anything I’ve said that’s in question. Batteries do lose their capacity over time, so when they reach a point where their capacity is too small for the needs of the driver they will need to be replaced but can still be used to store electricity. I don’t think they’ve been around for long enough for anyone to know exactly how the economics of this will balance out. Someone I know who has a Tesla has had someone offering to buy an option on his old battery for when he gets it replaced. Sadly no-one is offering me anything on my ~2.5kWh electric scooter battery.

  462. Clive,
    Both heating and electric cars have the great advantage that they bring in energy storage. Therefore they do not add as much to the capacity requirements as they add to energy consumption.

    Heating is also an application where efficiency improvements have a very large potential both through better insulation and with heat pumps (although adding both for the same building may be economically questionable).

    Solar energy and wind have the problems of intermittency and timing. Best solution for solar might be locating almost all of that in Southern Europe, where air-conditioning may in future dominate timing of the local peak load. That might lead to overproduction in winter to be transmitted north, which requires more transmission capacity. Wind is produced more uniformly over the year, but calm and very cold weather may last at least in Scandinavia and Finland too long for the thermal storage and timing of loading of batteries of electric vehicles to fill the gap.

    Balanced development of all these solutions (also nuclear) is the best approach I can propose. Avoiding highly inefficient solutions requires some change in public attitudes. Very high subsidies work in the wrong direction as they often attract investment in solutions with little potential in foreseeable future, while modest subsidies do not have that disadvantage.

  463. Marlowe Johnson says:

    Pekka,

    “Balanced development of all these solutions (also nuclear) is the best approach I can propose. Avoiding highly inefficient solutions requires some change in public attitudes.”

    I absolutely agree with first point. Not entirely with the second. As you might imagine at this point, the part that I have a problem with is the emphasis on ‘efficient’. People simply don’t think in these terms,nor are ‘solutions’ evaluated strictly on these terms. As an example, why do you think Germans still overwhelming support Energiewende? I’d suggest that while cost is an important factor, so to is the ownership model (i.e. transition to community-based ownership).and the political implications that the shift entails.

    Curious to see if a certain lagomorph has an opinion on this one.

    On the isssue of EVs I would simply point out that the range anxiety issue is vastly overblown. Pure EVs are ‘second’ cars aimed at a very specific market segment. The real transformation will will happen with PHEVs which have exactly the same range as conventional hybrids.

    I should also mention that I’ve been test driving a Volt for the past few days and that while the performance and handling are fantastic, the wife is decidedly unimpressed with the cabin heating. Bit of a drawback for those of us who live in places that experience this thing called ‘winter’.

  464. MJ,
    I really dislike die Energiewende. I think that Germans could have produced much improvement more with much less, if they had not spent so much on deployment of photovoltaics, in particular. The approach they have chosen has also caused many unnecessary problems for the energy system. I do really see major problems to result from misunderstanding, what’s useful and what’s not.

    I’m no more convinced that the ownership model is so important.

    It has simply been too easy to mislead people to think that photovoltaics is a valuable solution or that they are in some way better off with another ownership model. These are exactly those attitudes that must be changed in my view to go forward and reach real benefits for the environment without highly excessive costs.

    Germany has been economically very successful by commonly applied measures. They have produced much more than they have consumed. Wasting a lot in inefficient energy solutions has not cancelled that. They have also had all the surplus to fund Greece and other deficit countries.

  465. OPatrick says:

    I’ve still to see a more recent balanced discussion of Germany’s Energiewende than this from The Economist, which concludes with:

    It is hard to think of a messier and more wasteful way of shifting from fossil and nuclear fuel to renewable energy than the one Germany has blundered into. The price will be high, the risks are large and some effects will be the opposite of what was intended. Greenhouse-gas emissions are likely to be higher than they would have been for quite a while to come. But that does not mean the entire enterprise will fail. Politicians cannot reinvent the Energiewende on the run, but they can stay a step ahead of the risks and push back against the costs—and they are beginning to do so. In the end Germany itself is likely to be transformed.

    Whatever its faults, and there are clearly many, the Energiewende has the huge virtue of doing something. We could wait around for years trying to work out the best solution, and rejecting every one because every solution will be flawed. Or we could go ahead and start something, find out what works by experience and improve it incrementally as we go. That seems to be what Germany is doing and I believe the long-term benefits, globally, not just for Germany, will likely far outweigh the short- and medium-term costs.

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  467. What I see as the main mistake in Energiewende is that most of the money is spent in large scale deployment of technologies that are too immature and too costly. Some people think that forcing large scale production is an essential component in getting ultimately costs down. I agree on that only when the technology is already reasonable close to cost-efficiency. In earlier phase of development I would prefer more research funding – and in research of a wider range of alternatives. I support also testing on a limited scale, which may in some cases be rather large, but still very much smaller than deployment in the way it has taken place in Energiewende.

    In my judgment premature deployment is not only wasteful of money, but also wasteful of human resources of scientists and engineers who could produce more new ideas and speed up technology development much more efficiently in a different funding model. Has Germany contributed to the development of better solar technology nearly as much as it’s share of subsidies is? I don’t think it has, but I don’t have data to support my view.

    There are always political restrictions. In a democracy some decisions are possible, some others are not, at least not as soon. The political attitudes of Germans have favored the Energiewende, I don’t argue with that. It might have been impossible to put up that kind of R&D funding I would prefer. Perhaps so, but I’m not happy with the outcome.

    There has always been opposition to the Energiewende in Germany. Opposing voices have been visible also recently. Living elsewhere, I cannot judge at all, whether the opposing voices are gaining in weight or not. Some people seem to think so, but that may well be a biased view. I do, however, think that the Energiewende may lead to a situation where the high costs strengthen the opposition to the point where all development of new energy solutions suffers. To me this seems to be a plausible possibility.

  468. Eli Rabett says:

    In the ideal world, everything occurs with maximum efficiency as directed by the central planning bureau.

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