Just some things

I haven’t written anything for a while. Partly I’ve been rather busy with other things, and partly I’m just going through another phase of just wondering about what the whole point is. The whole climate debate seems so polarised, that real dialogue really doesn’t seem possible. I kind of wish I had Stoat’s ability to venture into the denialosphere, but I don’t and I can’t imagine it would do much good if I did. I did have a brief exchange with David Rose on Twitter about how the climate debate could be more grown up and less nasty. Yes, it certainly could, but it doesn’t just need to people to be nicer. It also needs people to realise that someone pointing out that you’re talking bollocks isn’t an Ad Hominem.

On another note, I notice that Lennart Bengtsson has written a guest post on Uppsalainitiativet where he says

Were Karl Popper alive today we would certainly have met with fierce critique of this behavior. It is also demonstrated in journals’ reluctance to address issues contradicting simplified climate assessments, such as the long period during the last 17 years with insignificant or no warming over the oceans, and the increase in sea-ice cover around the Antarctic. My colleagues and I have been met with scant understanding when trying to point out that observations indicate lower climate sensitivity than model calculations indicate. Such behavior may not even be intentional but rather attributed to an effect that my colleague Hans von Storch calls a social construct.

If I didn’t know that Lennart Bengtsson was someone with impressive scientific credentials, I would never have guessed. Richard Tol said something similarly nonsensical in his Fox New article, but then he’s not a distinguished climate scientist, so maybe doesn’t know any better.

I will say that I’m looking forward to Mark Brandon writing some blog posts that will discuss why the decrease of Arctic sea ice is not balanced by an increase in Antarctic sea ice extent. I’ve tried to discuss this before, but am no expert. Maybe those who continually invoke increases in Antactic sea ice whenever the decrease in Arctic sea ice is mentioned, will read Mark’s upcoming posts and give the topic some thought. I doubt it, but then again maybe sheep might fly.

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168 Responses to Just some things

  1. Michael 2 says:

    “discuss why the decrease of Arctic sea ice is not balanced by an increase in Antarctic sea ice extent.”

    I have not encountered this claim of balance, rather, the claim was shrinking Antarctic sea ice and fear of sea level rising as a consequence. It is sufficient to show that Antarctica is NOT losing its massive land-based ice, not yet anyway, and because of that huge sea level rise is not imminent.

    What is clear is that many people claim the science is settled and there is no debate, or more importantly, that there should not be a debate.

    I’ll admit it has been a long time since I participated in a debate on the existence of gravity. I *have* had debates with a sailor in the Navy that wondered if he existed or was just a dream in someone’s mind. He was my roommate. It wasn’t very pleasant but at least gave some interesting existential arguments.

    Anyway, debate will happen EVEN IF every participate agreed 100 percent on the science and the conclusions. The debate is still going to be about allocation of public labor and resources, lifestyle changes, how many people you are willing to kill to force this lifestyle or that lifestyle. Russia is rattling chains, North Korea; we already know the human capacity to impose lifestyle changes on others. Let us for now “debate”.

  2. jsam says:

    Antarctic sea ice extent? 3% of a trillion gigatonne global ice loss per year, at least according to David Appell. Is this another contrarian example of focussing on the minutiae of the paint finish to distract from noticing the paint is on a train heading in our direction? It seems reminiscent of the consensus discussion, another 3% of distraction.

    http://davidappell.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/how-fast-is-planet-losing-ice.html

  3. Rachel M says:

    I haven’t been engaging much lately in the climate stuff. In fact, the only climate-related stuff I’ve done of late is to read your blog. I haven’t been reading Twitter either. But a couple of days ago I did take at peak at Twitter to see what was going on there and it made me sick. The dialog is quite unhealthy and so I decided it’s a good thing that I’m avoiding it.

    I think you should just stick to writing about what interests you and try to avoid all that other baggage if that’s possible.

  4. OPatrick says:

    Talking of real dialogue (or not), do you have an opinion on the latest Climate Dialogue?

    To my untrained eye it seems to be kicking off a bit, relatively speaking. The dialogue seems to have followed much the same pattern as previous ones, a fair bit of polite looking for areas of agreement before agreement start wearing a bit thin. Noticeable also how much more time and effort the ‘sceptics’ have to put in. I’m not sure if this is a reflection of character or something else, perhaps just having more time on their hands.

  5. jsam,
    Quite possibly.

    Rachel,
    It has been quite poor. I see various exchanges that sometimes include me, but I just ignore it now.

    OPatrick,
    I haven’t had a good look. I’ll do so.

    Michael 2,

    I have not encountered this claim of balance, rather, the claim was shrinking Antarctic sea ice and fear of sea level rising as a consequence. It is sufficient to show that Antarctica is NOT losing its massive land-based ice, not yet anyway, and because of that huge sea level rise is not imminent.

    Well, you’re clearly not reading the same things I am. Maybe you mis-spoke, but noone’s worried about melting sea-ice causing sea levels to rise. It’s land ice that does that. As far as Antarctic land ice is concerned, it is losing mass and there was a recent paper suggesting that we may have passed a tipping point. As to whether or not you find that concerning, that’s entirely up to you.

    What is clear is that many people claim the science is settled and there is no debate, or more importantly, that there should not be a debate.

    That’s largely a strawman. There is a great deal of agreement in the literature. That doesn’t mean there should be no debate, but you’re going to have to do a great deal better than “you’re wrong”.

    Let us for now “debate”.

    If you can do so without mentioning climategate, grant funding, and other largely irrelevant conspiracy-like issues, and can stick to well-founded science/physics, maybe we can. If not, I’d rather not bother.

  6. dhogaza says:

    “… how many people you are willing to kill to force this lifestyle or that lifestyle”.

    This statement raises a red flag …

  7. Morph says:

    Name calling, another blog off my list.

    Bye.

  8. AnOilMan says:

    I have yet to hear a reasonable argument against the reality of climate change despite looking for promised evidence for 4+ years.

  9. dhogza,
    Yes, I rather missed that part of the comment.

    Morph,
    Am I missing some kind of subtle joke?

  10. Joshua says:

    ==> “What is clear is that many people claim the science is settled and there is no debate, or more importantly, that there should not be a debate. ”

    I Agree. Every time I go to a website filled with “skeptics,” I find both of those claims well-represented.

  11. Anyone who thinks the slight increase in Antarctic sea ice extent (not volume, because reliable long term measurements aren’t available there) is incompatible with mainstream sensitivity estimates might want to read Manabe et al. 1991 page 811: “… sea surface temperature hardly changes and sea ice slightly increases near the Antarctic Continent in response to the increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide.”

  12. Anyone who doesn’t think Antarctica is losing its land ice might want to examine the IMBIE results which reveal accelerating land ice loss in West Antarctica and likely overall mass loss for Antarctica as a whole using several independent methods.

  13. Anyone who thinks that scientists would say that shrinking sea ice would raise sea levels as a consequence might want to float some ice cubes in a glass of water and watch the water level not change as the ice cubes float. Then think carefully about why scientists only attribute sea level rise to melting land ice and thermal expansion, not melting sea ice.

  14. Oops, “as the ice cubes melt.”

  15. Mike Fayette says:

    I mostly just lurk here, since I am not a scientist and I almost always have far more questions than answers. I try to regularly read and understand this blog, SkepticalScience, WUWT, Climate Etc and a small group of others. Rachel has kindly answered a number of my questions and pointed me in directions to read the literature…. Thank you!

    At this moment, call me a skeptic of CAGW, but that’s not what I want to discuss. Instead I want to share a suggestion and an observation.

    This observation is not new. The Climate Change “debate” has become a political one – not a scientific one – and that the only way that EITHER side can convinciingly build its case is to drop the name-calling, “the campaigning,” the legal threats, and the personal attacks against people simply because they hold different opinions on what they see as murky evidence.

    In my opinion as a professional communicator (working for years to help documentary filmmakers and politicians as varied as Barrack Obama and George Bush tell their stories) the skeptics have the better “story” to tell right now and they have the better style to tell it. They are winning this argument.

    The reason for this is that we now live in a world where everyone is increasingly skeptical of everything. Our politicians lie to us – or at best – give us partial truths, usually when they want us to do something – often by spending our money. We have been taught not to believe authority figures.

    Arguments like the “97% consensus” are simply viewed as the sales pitch of snakeoil salesmen looking to find their next patsy. Surpression of dissenting opinions and threats to the careers of scientists who don’t “toe the party line” instinctively make people want to defend the skeptics – not the Al Gore’s of the world.

    So – in this blog and others – I suggest just stopping the sales pitch. The best way to “sell something” is not to sell it at all. Use this blog to present interesting data on BOTH sides of this debate. It’s important we hear your voice, because physics DOES matter,

    If the case for CAGW is strong, it will become obvious over time. And so will the opposite.

    You will risk just becoming more and more frustrated if you and your readers use this forum as a place for advocacy instead of a place for learning.

  16. JCH says:

    I’ve taken to just completely ignoring any and all references to “the science is settled” unless they say who said it and the exact parameters of what science is settled; as in, the globe is warming and human behavior is causing northwards of 1/2 of it. Which makes no mention of ice, extreme weather, hurricanes, drought, etc.

  17. Mike,

    So – in this blog and others – I suggest just stopping the sales pitch. The best way to “sell something” is not to sell it at all. Use this blog to present interesting data on BOTH sides of this debate.

    I’m really not trying to sell something. If it seems that way, maybe I’m not expressing myself very well, but this isn’t meant to be a sales pitch. The other problem is that your suggestion – to me – doesn’t make sense. What does it mean, in science, to present BOTH sides? In a sense, there’s only one side. I’m more than happy to question science, but I can’t just present some contrarian view so as to seem balanced. That would be dishonest. Of course, there are aspects of mainstream science that are still not well developed and that may turn out to have errors or be wrong, but that’s not the same as presenting both sides of the debate.

    I should add that I don’t particularly like the term “debate” in this context. Scientific discussions aren’t really debates. They’re just discussions and sometimes people don’t end up agreeing, but you don’t “win” by being more convincing. You “win” by collecting more and more evidence.

  18. JCH says:

    April was very hot, and ENSO ONI is in La Nina territory. That’s who is winning the argument.

  19. Michael 2 says:

    Dumb Scientist (May 22, 2014 at 8:00 pm) “(because reliable long term measurements aren’t available there)”
    “Dumb Scientist (May 22, 2014 at 8:04 pm) “might want to examine the IMBIE results which reveal accelerating land ice loss in West Antarctica”

    So which is it? Reliable measurements or not? Okay, not that simple. Thank you for the citations; I’ll go have a look if it is something feasible over the internet.

  20. BBD says:

    @ Dumb Scientist

    IMBIE looks to have been superseded by the Cryosat results which show that now even the slight EAIS mass gain has reversed:

    Overall, Cryosat finds all three regions to be losing ice, with the average elevation of the full ice sheet falling annually by almost 2cm.

    Cryosat’s double antenna configuration allows it to map slopes very effectively In the three sectors, this equates to losses of 134 billion tonnes, 3 billion tonnes, and 23 billion tonnes of ice per year, respectively.

    The East had been gaining ice in the previous study period [IMBIE], boosted by some exceptional snowfall, but it is now seen as broadly static in the new survey.

    As expected, it is the western ice sheet that dominates the reductions.

  21. dhogaza says:

    Mike:

    “If the case for CAGW is strong…”

    Since “CAGW” is not a scientific term, and is an invention of denialists who commonly refuse to define the term in any testable way, please, in your own words:

    What is “CAGW”? How much warming? Give us a number. 1C? 3C? 10C? By when?

    A case can not be built – be it weak or strong – for something which is not defined.

  22. BBD says:

    ATTP

    I will say that I’m looking forward to Mark Brandon writing some blog posts that will discuss why the decrease of Arctic sea ice is not balanced by an increase in Antarctic sea ice extent.

    Me too. But in the mean time, Tamino deals with this in his usual quantitative and incisive way.

  23. Joshua says:

    Mike –

    ==> “Arguments like the “97% consensus” are simply viewed as the sales pitch of snakeoil salesmen looking to find their next patsy. Surpression of dissenting opinions and threats to the careers of scientists who don’t “toe the party line” instinctively make people want to defend the skeptics – not the Al Gore’s of the world.”

    Where is your evidence that the process you describe takes place in any significant degree. People who are predisposed to being “skeptics” make that argument quite frequently, but I have yet to see any evidence that any significant % of the public corresponds to your description. People filter information in ways that confirm their beliefs. “Realists” hear about a 97% consensus, and it confirms their beliefs. “Skeptics” hear about a 97% consensus, and it confirms their beliefs. Same ol’ same ol.’ “Disengaged” hear about a 97% consensus and it….well…it…well, we actually don’t know, now do we? We can common-sense speculate all we want, but having some evidence before formulating conclusions would be useful.

    So, despite that I have asked “skeptics” many times for their evidence, and despite that they make your argument frequently, it seems that actually their belief in that pattern you describe is not consistent with honest-to-God skepticism.

  24. Speaking of social constructs, here’s an interesting one:

    This comment thread may soon become a toy model of the contrarian process.

    http://www.staatvanhetklimaat.nl/2014/05/14/bengtsson-resigns-from-the-gwpf/#comment-7952

  25. Reliable measurements of sea ice volume (and thus mass) aren’t available around Antarctica because we haven’t been surveying the sea ice thickness for decades using submarines like we have in the Arctic. Reliable measurements of land ice mass can be obtained from GRACE, ICESat, radar interferometry, and the input-output method.

    BBD, that’s a good point. Cryosat has higher resolution than GRACE and can certainly establish that elevation of the ice/snow is dropping across Antarctica, even in East Antarctica. Translating this to mass (which is necessary to obtain equivalent sea level rise) requires a model of snow-firn density (as I explained in the above link) but GRACE doesn’t because it senses mass directly using gravity.

    GRACE’s fuzzy resolution makes it more susceptible to GIA uncertainties which are large in Antarctica but only affect the linear trend, not the acceleration. Cryosat and GRACE both agree that West Antarctica’s land ice loss is accelerating, and my personal results show that Pine Island Glacier alone has approximately doubled its land ice mass loss in the period 2007-2013 compared to 2002-2007. So I’m not surprised by the new Cryosat results, but I’ll try to find time to search through East Antarctica’s recent monthly GRACE solutions to see what happened to the large snowfall mass gains seen by Boening et al. 2012.

  26. dhogaza says:

    Mike:

    “This observation is not new. The Climate Change “debate” has become a political one – not a scientific one – and that the only way that EITHER side can convinciingly build its case is to drop the name-calling”

    As you say, climate change is not subject to “scientific debate”, there is broad acceptance within science of mainstream climate science. Indeed, most disciplines which deal with natural resources accept the mainstream science in the same way they accept gravity. Hydrologists don’t debate gravity, their work is built on the knowledge that all things being equal, water will flow downhill. In the same way, much work is being done on *how* climate change will impact water resources in various regions. Likewise biology and ecology. The effects of climate change are very visible ecologically. Scientists at the Nature Conservancy have been working on land acquisition strategies that take climate change into account for at least a decade, now. Likewise managers for the USF&W, USFS refuges, as well as DOD, incorporate expectations of climate change in their day-to-day work on strategic planning.

    So the “debate”, by its very nature, *must* be political – those who wish to thwart action on the problem have no other grounds to debate on.

    You seem to recognize this yet label yourself a science skeptic.

    This is odd.

  27. dhogaza says:

    “USF&W, USFS refuges” – USF&W refuges and USFS National Forests of course …

  28. Andrew Dessler says:

    It’s sad to see LB invoke a version of the Gallileo syllogism: They laughed at Popper and they’re laughing at me, so therefore I am Popper. That’s why my “Rule #1” of climate debates: if someone compares themselves to a historically great figure, then are nuts.

  29. Michael 2 says:

    And Then There’s Physics says:” I can’t just present some contrarian view so as to seem balanced. That would be dishonest.”

    Agreed, and such a thing would not be believable anyway, it would be seen as a straw man or red herring.

    Let us consider sports — football, futbol, hockey — the stadium is filled when two excellent but opposing teams meet, and victory is that much sweeter when your opposition is WORTHY.
    Even defeat does not sting so much when it is at the hands of a worthy opponent rather than against some second division college team that got lucky.

    Confident, daring, knowledgeable bloggers not only let in contrary opinions, but seek it as a way to “fill the stadium”. But there’s no need to provide your own opposition. If you are worthy, they will come!

  30. Michael 2

    Confident, daring, knowledgeable bloggers not only let in contrary opinions, but seek it as a way to “fill the stadium”. But there’s no need to provide your own opposition. If you are worthy, they will come!

    Possibly, but if the contrary opinion is “No, energy is not conserved” then it really isn’t worth letting it in.

  31. Andrew,

    That’s why my “Rule #1″ of climate debates: if someone compares themselves to a historically great figure, then are nuts.

    Seems like a rule that’s consistent with the evidence. My Rule #2 would be “if someone invokes Occam’s razor, they’re wrong”.

  32. > If you are worthy, they will come!

    What happens when you beat them good and clean?
    They begin physical play and dirty tricks and when tackled
    They dive to the ground, in agony [1], and complain to the ref

    Then they cry booh! or mock or huddle up over Twitter, licking their wounds
    And whine, and whine, and whine, and whine
    And whine a bit more about some imaginary scars.

    Honor is scarce in Climateball ™.

    [1]: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/21/sports/soccer/21diving.html

  33. idunno says:

    Merchants of Debate, more like.

    Sell evidence; buy debate.

    Au revoir, the Enlightenment.

  34. John Mashey says:

    With regard to sheep in trees, see goats in trees, so maybe the sheep can learn …
    and so can skeptics, but:

    Broken record: Pseudoskeptics Are Not Skeptics, unless people agree with Jo Nova’s We reclaimed the word Skeptic — next we reclaim the word Scientist.

  35. BBD says:

    John

    JN’s weirdness is stranger than goats in trees. Unless they astrally translated themselves up into the branches, in which case JN’s use of “reclaimed” might be in the right universe.

  36. Steve Bloom says:

    The other day I used Occam’s Razor to criticize Bond et al. (2001) (referring to the Holocene “Bond cycles” that got Singer and Avery so excited. It’s been a dead letter for years, but word of that had somehow not reached a certain blogging Capitalist Imperialist Pig (a physics PhD FWIW). Anyway, I don’t think my OR application was inappropriate give the paper’s dependence on a long string of serial correlations.

    Anders, isn’t “a recent paper suggesting that we may have passed a tipping point” overly conditional given the claim (actually from two papers)? IMO the casual observer would conclude the claim is much weaker than it really is.

  37. Steve Bloom says:

    I am exactly like Popper (well, except for the being dead part), and I say Bengtsson and the denailists are wrong about his views. Case closed. 🙂

  38. John Mashey says:

    dhogaza is certainly correct on CAGW (or C/AGW), but if anyone is in doubt, attached to Pseudoskeptics Exposed In The SalbyStorm is a PDF with collected comments.
    Look at first 3 pages, then use Advanced Search for CAGW or C/AGW. or any other interesting phrase to see context.

  39. uknowispeaksense says:

    Anders, it won’t be long before you adopt my position and resort to blocking unsupported views by reasonable people as well as trolls. The integrity of the science is underpinned by rigorous review standards and the presentation of untested unsupported feelpinions undermines the inherent trust we all place in science. Expertise is important as is trust in that. While comments like this are known to invoke accusations of censorship or whatever, the fact remains that as long as the faux debate is allowed to continue, inaction on climate change will also continue. These faux sceptics should be placed in the same category as antivaxxers and treated with the same distain. Like antivaxxers, the information they peddle has potentially serious ramifications.

  40. Michael 2 says:

    AnOilMan says: (May 22, 2014 at 6:50 pm) “I have yet to hear a reasonable argument against the reality of climate change”

    Same here.

    What seems a bit more common is disputes over how much the climate is changing — and that’s just the models themselves disputing. Throw in some human beings and things get much more interesting. But that some decades Seattle gets more sun than other decades, that’s sort of indisputable.

  41. Mike Fayette says:

    Lot’s here to respond to here, but I will give it a shot…..

    First the question from our host:
    “What does it mean, in science, to present BOTH sides? In a sense, there’s only one side.”

    I don’t thing you mean that. Astronomers argued for and against the “Big Bang Theory” versus the “Steady State Universe” for more than 40 years before a consensus was reached. This was healthy for everyone. Theories were advanced. Predictions made. Observations gradually confirmed one theory. But taking one side or the other in this debate was “risk free.” Fred Hoyle died a respected astronomer, even though he was proved wrong.

    We need that same civility today. Predictions has been made. The observations are – so far at least – a very mixed bag. Discussing this (which you do on occasion) is the way to keep minds open on both sides.

    —————————————————————————-

    Next the question from Joshua:
    “Where is your evidence that the process you describe takes place in any significant degree?”

    You are asking for evidence that no one could reasonably provide. My point is – if your goal is to convince readers that you are right about something, then using the “97 consensus” argument is hopelessly ineffective in 2014. You have to understand your audience and how persuasion works in a world full of liars and worse.

    —————————————————————————-

    Finally, the question from Dhogaza, which has lots of moving pieces:
    “Since “CAGW” is not a scientific term, and is an invention of denialists who commonly refuse to define the term in any testable way, please, in your own words ……What is “CAGW”? How much warming? Give us a number. 1C? 3C? 10C? By when? …….. So the “debate”, by its very nature, *must* be political – those who wish to thwart action on the problem have no other grounds to debate on. You seem to recognize this yet label yourself a science skeptic”

    In reverse order:

    I am not a “science” skeptic. That is your phrase, not mine.

    I am simply skeptical that a proven theory has been developed that leads to the conclusion that the human release of CO2 into the atmosphere over the next hundred years or so will inevitably lead to catastrophic climate change.

    I am not a “denier” of anything, and that is a loaded term that also generates the opposite response in a reader than you intend. I believe in Climate Change. I believe the Earth is warming. I believe in the Greenhouse Effect and that man’s use of carbon fuels has contributed to that warming.

    What I DON’T yet believe is that there is convincing evidence that the various Global Climate Models are accurate enough to be relied on to force the spending of Trillions of dollars to mitigate a threat that seems still unproved.

    I have SO many other places we could spend that money – including money on climate adaption if it turns out the warming trend of the last 100 years continues and is NOT caused by human beings. With a Trillion dollars, we could build a network of nuclear powerplants and desalination stations that could end water shortages in California and the American southwest forever….

    And yes – that is a political argument – not a scientific one…..

  42. corey says:

    ^^^ I agree. I enjoy your posts here and your comments on other blogs, and voices like yours and many of the ‘regulars’ here are needed now more than ever. You (and the world) have nothing to gain (IMO) by entertaining comments that intentionally distract and mislead.

  43. AnOilMan says:

    I’m with UKnowISpeakSense on this… I cheered desmog in getting rid of (those cute guys). They were just spouting garbage anyways. As often as not they are just trying to get more hits on their web sites.

    But then I’m not as patient and polite as Anders.

  44. Skylanetc says:

    @Michael 2

    If the opponents were worthy, they would speak to the science with more science. They wouldn’t be faux skeptics with obvious ideological axes to grind. For instance, they wouldn’t attack straw men who advocate nonsense such as “how many people [we] are willing to kill to force this lifestyle or that lifestyle.” As dhogaza flagged, you really gave yourself away with that one.

  45. Mike,
    Astronomers argued for and against the big bang for ages because they didn’t have conclusive evidence.

    You are asking for evidence that no one could reasonably provide. My point is – if your goal is to convince readers that you are right about something, then using the “97 consensus” argument is hopelessly ineffective in 2014. You have to understand your audience and how persuasion works in a world full of liars and worse.

    Even if some do that, it isn’t the point. The 97% is not about being right, it is simply to counter claims that there is no consensus. How does it help someone with no scientific background if the Daily Mail (for example) continually tells them there’s no consensus when there is?

    What I DON’T yet believe is that there is convincing evidence that the various Global Climate Models are accurate enough to be relied on to force the spending of Trillions of dollars to mitigate a threat that seems still unproved.

    Why do so many “skeptics” end up discussing money?

  46. AnOilMan says:

    Michael 2: You are trolling. Pure and simple. If you want to talk about weather go to a weather blog and talk about the weather. Otherwise. [Mod translated: please go somewhere else :-)]. Stop wasting electrons.

  47. John Mashey says:

    Here’s a good quiz for someone who claims to be a skeptic as opposed to a dismissive:

    0) You presumably have a list of reservations about the consensus, which if resolved, would convince you that it was true. Please enumerate a complete list, so that helpful people might discuss, being convinced there are no moving goalposts.

    1) What do you regard as reliable information sources, where do you get your information?
    Books, scholarly journals, science magazines, science society position statements, blogs, etc … and which ones? How long have you been seeking information on this, and how?

    2) How many talks have you attended by climate scientists (and which ones?) and with which ones have you discussed your reservations? Did you change your mind on any?

    3) Have you attended (AGU, EGU or similar conferences) and talked to the researchers?

    4) If there are concerns about computer modeling, what is your experience with relevant sorts of physics-based models? With economic models? Do you trust economics models far more than physics models? Have you talked to climate modelers and asked them questions? Have you looked at code (and do you read f90)? How familiar are you with modeling on supercomputers? How close did Arrhenius get with pencil and paper? How complex must models be to convert an expected CO2 level into equilibrium temperatures?

  48. ATTP,

    You write:

    If I didn’t know that Lennart Bengtsson was someone with impressive scientific credentials, I would never have guessed. Richard Tol said something similarly nonsensical in his Fox New article, but then he’s not a distinguished climate scientist, so maybe doesn’t know any better.

    In a comment you add

    What does it mean, in science, to present BOTH sides? In a sense, there’s only one side.

    To me the article of Richard Tol appears perfectly reasonable, nothing even remotely nonsensical. You may certainly disagree on some statements (as I may disagree as well), but that does not make them nonsensical. Sometimes I do also wonder, why Tol makes the statements he makes, but this particular article does not have such problems. The article is not about physical climate science but about related economics and policies, and Tol has beyond doubt impressive scientific credentials in that field. While your main interest may be in science, you go very often also to policy related issues. If you go as far as stating that an article like that says “something nonsensical”, you go very clearly to a domain where you are an the opposite side with a well known scientist of the field. It seems that there are more sides than one.

  49. andrew adams says:

    Mike,

    You are asking for evidence that no one could reasonably provide. My point is – if your goal is to convince readers that you are right about something, then using the “97 consensus” argument is hopelessly ineffective in 2014. You have to understand your audience and how persuasion works in a world full of liars and worse.

    Sorry, I’m with Joshua here and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask for something more concrete than just assertions in order to back up this argument, because it’s not at all obvious that citing the existence of the scientific consensus on climate change is necessarily counterproductive.

    Of course it depends on which “readers” we are trying to convince – I’m assuming here we are talking about those who are undecided/unconvinced about the need for action on climate change or weakly skeptical and open to changing their mind, most of whom will be regular members of the public who don’t have any particular expertise in the subject and don’t comment on climate blogs. Those who are “convinced” skeptics are of course highly unlikely to be persuaded by that or any other argument.

    And of course we should be wary of generalisations about how people will react as different people may be open to different lines of persuasion. I do agree though that many people are distrustful of politicians in general and of people making strong political arguments on subjects on which they don’t feel strongly themselves. And it does depend on how the argument is framed – for example using the consensus for personal vindication, “97% of scientists say I’m right”, is not going to be a winning argument. But trust in science and scientists is relatively high and although I agree that the debate around action on climate change is an essentially political one there are some people who first have to be convinced that there is a problem which needs to be addressed, and the fact that there is high agreement amongst scientists and in the literature itself is highly relevant to that argument and will be persuasive in some cases as it kind of “de-politicises” the argument. I’m not saying that it necessarily constitutes an argument for action in itself – many people will quite reasonably want to know more about exactluy what the science is telling us but it certainly can form part of the overall argument for action.

  50. John,
    Yes, very good summary.

    Pekka,
    Given the context of my post, what I was referring to was this

    By the time the report was finished, however, it hadn’t warmed for 17 years.

    In my view, this is wrong on many levels and verges on being a denialist meme. I would expect better from a serious academic who’s work relates to climate change. If he means the entire planet, then it’s simply wrong. If he means surface temperatures only, then he’s probably playing the p-test game without justifying his null and he should probably spend some time talking to Doug MacNeall, who clearly does understand statistics. So, I stand by my nonsensical.

    If you go as far as stating that an article like that says “something nonsensical”, you go very clearly to a domain where you are an the opposite side with a well known scientist of the field. It seems that there are more sides than one.

    Possibly, but – on the other hand – maybe Tol should stop saying nonsensical things (oh, and he’s not a scientist).

  51. ATTP,
    As I see the situation, you pick one sentence out of context and interpret it in bad faith.

    You might argue that Tol wrote that sentence to allow for such interpretation, but the rest of the article is not really consistent with that interpretation.

    There’s a lot of discussion on the quantitative significance of the pause/hiatus/.. but it’s a fact that the surface temperatures have not followed the expectations presented about ten years ago, and that this deviation is of some significance. The quantitative details are a subject of legitimate and real scientific dispute.

  52. Pekka,

    As I see the situation, you pick one sentence out of context and interpret it in bad faith.

    Just to be clear, are you sure you’re reading the same article as me? Maybe I missed it, but I don’t see much discussion about the quantitative significance of the pause/hiatus. The article appears to be mainly about economics but throws in a the classic denier claim about a 17 year pause so as to make the science seem less certain and hence the economic arguments against action stronger. That’s my interpretation at least.

    Let me try and reign this in a little. The point I was trying to make in the post is that it would be nice if we could be nicer, but that’s doesn’t really mean much if that means we shouldn’t criticise what others say and if others aren’t willing to take some criticism and think about it.

    So, I could have framed what I said in a different way. That would have been nicer. Maybe nonsensical is a bit too strong. However, I would argue that what Tol said was wrong on many levels. The world has warmed. It has not stopped. The 17 years claim is a classic denial meme. In my opinion, it is not something a serious academic should say without qualifying. That’s my view. You could have argued otherwise (which you have a little) but instead you’ve accused me of taking a sentence out of context and interpreted it in bad faith. So, we’ve achieved nothing and all you’ve done is focus on my use of the term nonsensical. Were you intentionally trying to illustrate ClimateballTM.

    And that’s – in a sense – the issue. Instead of focusing of the actual issue, discussions end up focusing on whether what someone said was mean or not. It’s a bit pathetic.

  53. andrew adams says:

    I guess one can argue that Tol using the term “it hadn’t warmed for 17 years” rather than the more technically correct “the trend in surface warming over the previous 17 years was relatively small compared to the model projections” or something similar doesn’t affect his underlying point, although I’m not sure he would be so forgiving of such sloppiness by others and it’s reasonable to wonder how much he was tailoring his choice of words to the audience he was writing for. But the section about the “inbuilt alarmism” of the IPCC just seems to me to be flat out wrong, and to be honest rather silly.

    He does make some fair points, particularly about the way the WG3 SPM was neutered because of political considerations, but overall I don’t think it’s a good article.

  54. In fairness to Pekka, one could read the article with a more generous eye and you might see the broader point being made and not perceive the 17 years claim as being anything significant (since Pekka criticised me, I’ll put my money where my mouth is and acknowledge that I could have been more careful in my criticism of the article and not simply said “similarly nonsensical”). However, it is such a standard “skeptic” statement that you would think that anyone who wanted to avoid being mis-represented would be more careful about how they phrased that.

    Overall, in my opinion the article is awful. Even the title has the word “biased” in the wrong place. It’s full of weak forms of conspiracy ideation and how scientists intentionally make their papers more alarmist so as to get noticed. There are bits and pieces that make sense, but overall it reads like someone who thinks that they’re right, everyone else is wrong, and that everyone else is fundamentally biased and lacking in objectivity. It just seems like a case study in unintentional irony.

  55. ATTP,

    There’s not much discussion of physical climate science, but that’s not needed. Tol is discussing future warming implying clearly that he expects warming to continue, but at a rate that may be lower than foreseen in TAR and AR4. The 17 y pause is indicated as a factor that supports a lower rate. Many climate scientists agree on that, I would think that most do although I certainly don’t have statistics to prove that. That’s all that Tol takes from climate science for his argument.

    His main point concerns estimates of mitigation costs. In that you must remember that EU has decided to reduce emissions by 80% to 2050. That’s a really huge change, and claiming knowledge that such reductions are possible at low or moderate costs are impossible to prove. It’s at least reasonable to think that such reduction is not likely possible without really major economic consequences at a level of disrupting normal operation of the economy.

  56. Pekka,

    The 17 y pause is indicated as a factor that supports a lower rate. Many climate scientists agree on that, I would think that most do although I certainly don’t have statistics to prove that. That’s all that Tol takes from climate science for his argument.

    If he’d made clearer that he was discussing a discrepancy, I might agree. However, if you put his two sentences together (13 years, then 17 years) he essentially says “the world has not warmed for 17 years”. This sends a very different message than one in which someone says “the world is warming slower than models had predicted”. Also, given how this has been a typical “skeptic” theme recently, I would hope that those who want to not be mis-represented would be more careful in how they presented this information.

    I’m also not sure that what you regard as his main point is the same as what I’ve taken from the article. As I read it, it is essentially “everyone else is biased and lacking in objectivity, apart from me who withdrew from the SPM because of this”. I find it hard to take people who frame things in this way particularly seriously, but that’s just me.

    In a sense, that’s not really the point and I don’t really want to get into a long argument about Tol’s article. I think it’s awful; you’re welcome to disagree. I don’t think it has no merit, but I think the broad picture that he paints is flawed. If we go back to the dialogue issue, it’s true that I could have put more effort into my critique and said something other than “nonsensical”. Would it have made any difference? I doubt it. If people could put more effort into considering what others say and possibly acknowledging where maybe they aren’t quite correct or maybe the situation is more nuanced than it appears, we’d all benefit.

  57. I emphasized in my previous comment what Tol wrote about WG3 report. Giving less weight on WG2 was perhaps not justified as there are even more lines on that in the article. The field of WG3 is more familiar to me and that may have biased me.

    The problem of bias is serious for both WG2 and WG3. The science is not as clear as it is for WG1. Selection of research problems in the areas covered by WG2 and WG3 involves always bias, in most cases a strong bias. Scientific methods are not well defined or clear for most issues of WG2 and WG3. Thus the conclusions involve in most cases very much subjective judgment. How badly that biases the full report is virtually impossible to judge. The disagreements between people like Tol on one side of the spectrum and those on the other side are genuine and very large. It’s not that the reports involve some uncertainties, they are fundamentally produced by a method that introduces biases that may be very strong. We simply have no handle to tell, whose judgment to believe and whose not.

    What Tol writes in the article is in my judgment well within the range of legitimate concerns, not even at the extreme edge of that. Certainly not at the center of views of people working on the issues, but then the center of views may well be highly biased. We just don’t know, and have no objective way to find out.

  58. Pekka,
    As I said, I don’t really want to get into a lengthy debate about Tol’s article. A few comments, though.

    What Tol writes in the article is in my judgment well within the range of legitimate concerns, not even at the extreme edge of that.

    As I thought I’d quite of illustrated, my issue isn’t so much that the article doesn’t have any merit, it’s that he has completely failed to really acknowledge any bias on his own part. I think the article could well have been titled “Biased UN climate change expert reveal bias in global warming report”. How seriously should I take an article from someone who – as far as I’m concerned – is incredibly biased when it comes to the IPCC and seems to hold his own work in extremely high regard and dismisses that of anyone else who disagrees with him?

    As far as actual bias is concerned, you may well be right. I certainly don’t think that the IPCC is beyond criticism or that it couldn’t be done better. I’m sure it can. It may well be true that there is more bias in WG2 and WG3 than in WG1. Now that you mention it, if I read the article again, there are parts where this is explicit, but then it becomes an overall criticism of the IPCC, rather than just of WG2 and WG3.

    The disagreements between people like Tol on one side of the spectrum and those on the other side are genuine and very large.

    I’m sure this is true. I just don’t think Tol does his credibility any good when he claims that the world hasn’t warmed for 17 years. So, if I bring this back to the theme of the post. My point would be that it should be possible – in an ideal world – to suggest to Tol that his claims about warming is over-simplistic and isn’t really consistent with the evidence. In an ideal world he may response with “fair enough, I could have been more careful in how I phrased that”. We don’t, however, live in an ideal world.

  59. OPatrick says:

    It seems to me that there is a very real risk of falling into type II style errors by looking at each piece of evidence (in this case, what Tol wrote in the Fox News article) in isolation. Part of a more ‘grown up’ debate must be to allow and trust people to come to broader conclusions based on cumulative evidence and not to constantly challenge every phrase, sometimes even every word. (And if you want to see the antithesis of such grown up debate I recommend Steve McIntyre’s treatment of Nick Stokes’ comments on the ‘cleansing’ thread at Climate Audit.)

  60. OPatrick,

    It seems to me that there is a very real risk of falling into type II style errors by looking at each piece of evidence (in this case, what Tol wrote in the Fox News article) in isolation.

    I agree. It seems amazing that some many who claim to be Bayesians, refuse to approach this issue from a Bayesian perspective.

  61. Mike Fayette says:

    ATTP:

    You wonder “Why do so many “skeptics” end up discussing money?” Isn’t the public and private allocation of money really the central issue of the climate change debate? Or am I missing something fundamental here?

    As a person interested in both the science and the public policy aspects as this debate, it seems to me that the way we spend money is the ONLY lever we have to influence the future growth and health of our civilization and our planet.

    Eventually, actual weather measurements will prove which Global Climate Model was the most accurate – if any. Temperatures will rise as fast as predicted or they won’t. Oceans will flood the coasts or not-so-much. Theories will change to reflect new data.

    But here’s the bad news. If climate change really is driven by increased CO2 emissions, then there is nothing that any of us in the Western World can do to realistically influence that outcome without the expenditures of vast sums of money to force behavior changes in how the world uses energy.

    Ultimately – and don’t kid yourself – it would mean war to force the growing economies in Asia, Africa and South America to abandon their growing use of fossil fuels. As a practical matter, that will never happen…..

    So why not find common ground with the skeptics and actually try to get something useful done?

    The central problem is that the true believers in CAGW (many scientists, educators, politicians and the press) often exaggerate the evidence because they believe it is the only way to get action on this issue. They are not evil. They are just using the wrong tactics. For example, we frequently see ridiculous statements like California’s Governor Brown’s speech this week that the collapse of West Antarctic glaciers will soon force them to spend Billions to move LAX away from the ocean.

    Not-so-much, I am afraid…..

    When you exaggerate the risk – and get caught at it – you quickly lose the ability to do anything at all.

    Only the Looney Tune fringe says that our climate is not constantly changing. The trend is very likely a warming one. But in the court of public opinion – the skeptics are winning the battle.

    There is only one way to fix this. You guys have to become skeptics too. Mock the folks the exaggerate the threat the same way you mock the folks who deny basic physics. That will give your voice – and your blog – enough credibility with both sides of the issue to actually influence public policy……

  62. Mike,

    You wonder “Why do so many “skeptics” end up discussing money?” Isn’t the public and private allocation of money really the central issue of the climate change debate? Or am I missing something fundamental here?

    Except that it has no real relevance to the science. Whether or not the cost of taking action is high or low doesn’t – or shouldn’t – change the scientific evidence one little bit. So, when some start mentioning money/cost what it appears – to someone like me at least – is that the reason they’re questioning the scientific evidence is because they don’t like the policy implications, not because they have any credible reason why they are skeptical of the science.

    But here’s the bad news. If climate change really is driven by increased CO2 emissions, then there is nothing that any of us in the Western World can do to realistically influence that outcome without the expenditures of vast sums of money to force behavior changes in how the world uses energy.

    Ultimately – and don’t kid yourself – it would mean war to force the growing economies in Asia, Africa and South America to abandon their growing use of fossil fuels. As a practical matter, that will never happen…..

    So why not find common ground with the skeptics and actually try to get something useful done?

    For starters, not all of this is demonstrably true. There are many possible policy options. The problem I have with your last sentence is that I would be happy to do so, but I’m not going to suddenly do so if it requires dismissing credible evidence or promoting conspiracy ideation. Why don’t “skeptics” give some thought as to whether or not their views about the scientific evidence are credible and possibly consider that maybe they’re wrong about the science (or, at least, a large part of their skepticism is unfounded).

    You guys have to become skeptics too. Mock the folks the exaggerate the threat the same way you mock the folks who deny basic physics. That will give your voice – and your blog – enough credibility with both sides of the issue to actually influence public policy……

    You misunderstand the role of my blog, or rather you think I have a role that I don’t. Firstly, it’s just me. Secondly, I’m not trying to influence policy. I’m trying – if I’m trying to do anything – is comment on the science and, if possible, correct scientific errors. So, if you think my goal is to influence policy, you’d be wrong. The other issue I have is that although there are extremes on both sides, it’s not symmetric. Those who deny the greenhouse effect are , in my view, much further from what is likely to be the “truth” than those who are extremely alarmed. There is the possibility of a mass extinction event. That is an alarming possibility. It may well be that climate sensitivity is low enough to avoid this, or we do something sensible and clever before that happens, but it’s hard to be too critical of people who are genuinely concerned about this possibility.

  63. OPatrick says:

    Mike Fayette, sorry, but it’s embarrassing to read.

  64. Joshua says:

    Mike –

    ==> “You are asking for evidence that no one could reasonably provide. My point is – if your goal is to convince readers that you are right about something, then using the “97 consensus” argument is hopelessly ineffective in 2014. You have to understand your audience and how persuasion works in a world full of liars and worse.”

    I’m not asking for evidence that the 97% consensus argument is effective (I don’t evidence of that does exist). I am asking for evidence of the phenomenon you describe.

    You have to admit that it is quite interesting that you’re convinced that a phenomenon exists even though you have no evidence of such.

  65. Mark Ryan says:

    Mike Fayette’s comments, and his experience, are very interesting, and make me think about the problem of how scientific communities relate to evidence, compared with how the public –and particularly the political communities in the public- relate to it.
    There is a lot of confusion about the fact that knowledge is fundamentally a social property –no individual can claim decisive knowledge across a domain (actually, some individuals obviously do, but they’re invariably wrong). What happens instead is that individuals build on what they understand to be established knowledge, do their work, and add it to the constellation of previous and contemporary contributions.
    Some elements within the knowledge constellation are much better established than others, and are therefore more likely to be true –with the well-worn caveat that no question is ever 100% closed. But this caveat is actually much more trivial than those who misunderstand it would have us believe; this point was never made better than in this short essay by Isaac Asimov: http://hermiene.net/essays-trans/relativity_of_wrong.html This is the best response I can think of to Mike’s earlier remark about competing theories in science.
    There must be a hierarchy of knowledge for scientific knowledge to be possible. Core ideas support the contingent or peripheral ideas, otherwise every researcher’s work would arbitrarily re-establish first principles. Core ideas are sometimes overhauled, but never without a great struggle –and that is how it should be, because for every genuinely revolutionary idea in science, there are countless self-proclaimed revolutionaries who are just plain wrong and can’t see it. Every discipline has dozens of Richard Lindzens, and it is trivially true that some of them will sometimes be right, but most trained researchers would think it imprudent, if not foolish, to give outlying theories equal time with established theories. Almost all research deals with anomalies or minor controversies, but based on established foundations; if someone wants to remake the foundations, they quite rightly find it hard going.
    My point in this overlong description of scientific reasoning is that it doesn’t work like popular notions of participatory democracy –particularly the one-sided libertarian demands for freedom without responsibility so prevalent around us. Scientific consensus is actually a form of evidence for the community of scientists. One of the key preconditions for this is that a research community knows that their fellows have undertaken the training, follow the same standards of writing and evidence, and understand the same scientific foundations. A person must demonstrate they have earned the right to add their piece to the constellation of scientific knowledge, which they do via literature reviews, acknowledgement of prior art, and the other requirements of peer review. Framing science as politics makes it seem like a matter of free access, thwarted by gatekeepers, and treats participation in science the way people might demand the right to vote.
    We have had over four decades now of a constant conflation of politics and science, a response to the culture of scientistic authority promoted in mid 20th century, and the new kinds of health and environmental risks that modern life has created. The net result is that complex and specialised knowledge is counterposed to commonsense and intuitive, easy to relate to, (but incorrect) alternatives. This is the “better story” that Mike mentioned, and large percentages of the public just buy into this without a second thought, because they are now conditioned to look straight past specialist scientific knowledge to project political motives onto the people making it. For people who buy into this politicisation of science, there is no need to educate themselves to understand the complex theories and jargon of the scientists, because in any case, they imagine scientists use facts the way we all see lawyers use facts in various media. It does not occur to them that the simple explanation has already been considered and improved on by the people who study the topic.
    I’ve been thinking more and more over time that the question of skepticism needs to be reversed. Why would any genuinely skeptical person walk around a mountain of knowledge built up by thousands of highly trained and dedicated scientists, to instead choose the outliers? Why would a reasonable person not be skeptical of a community of people who can’t seem to agree on their own explanation, but are united only by their hostility to the established one? Why would a genuinely skeptical person take their science from people who actively avoid publishing in scientific literature, but choose instead to impress the unqualified audiences of blogs and public debates? And if they only looked at scientific literature, why would a genuine skeptic believe Lindzen, Spencer et al, instead of the majority viewpoint? Barring conspiracy theory, the majority viewpoint in a scientific community will always be more reliable than the dissenting view of a handful –and since when is it skeptical to choose a conspiracy theory over the simpler explanation? Even accounting for the uncertainties, why would a layperson take it on themselves to imagine they have spotted, or have calibrated, uncertainties better than the established research community?

  66. andrew adams says:

    Ultimately – and don’t kid yourself – it would mean war to force the growing economies in Asia, Africa and South America to abandon their growing use of fossil fuels. As a practical matter, that will never happen.

    Or alternatively those countries might realise that they are vulnerable to climate change themselves and recognise the need to develop their economies without reliance on fossil fuels. Which is in fact exactly the case. Of course they may need some assistance from Western countries and there are political and financial issues surrounding that but the notion that action on climate change is something that western countries are forcing on the reluctant developing world is just false, if anything the pressure is going the other way.

  67. Mark Ryan says:

    ATTP, you said in your post that you were going through a phase of wondering what the whole point is.
    It is a few years back now, but I started reading blogs like this one as a skeptic. My training is in politics and the philosophy of science, which at least gave me some basis for spotting patterns in the literature I was reading. My interest in climate came from my interest in the philosophy of statistics, but I had read social theorists like Thomas Kuhn, Harry Collins and Michel Foucault, and was predisposed to a very political take on the production of scientific knowledge.

    Not having the appropriate scientific background, I needed to visit sites like this – at the time is was Tamino, Skeptical Science, Real Climate etc, just so I could understand what I was looking at when I tackled even things like IPCC papers. Eventually, the most striking pattern I found in the so-called ‘mainstream’ climate literature was a constellation of arguments converging towards consilience, and a rigorous commitment to explaining the science. I didn’t find sites like Joe Romm’s very helpful, by contrast.

    On the so-called “skeptical” sites, and in the small amount of scholarly literature, the pattern is negative -mutually contradictory arguments. This body of literature was not converging to an alternative, but was fixated on driving wedges into any cracks of uncertainty they could find. It was the comparative ‘shapes’ of the two different bodies of argument that convinced me.

    I want to say I think what you do is tremendously valuable; it is clear, articulate, and sets a tone that encourages skeptical people, like the one I used to be, to stay with you. In this intensely polarised environment, that is a delicate act to pull off, but if I was running a blog, you would be one of my models. It is one of the unfortunate things about blogging, that you send your missives out into the void and never quite know whether you’re making any difference -it’s a kind of alienated form of social being, in a way. But you create a rare environment here, so well done.

  68. JasonB says:

    I’m not normally the kind of person who cheers on from the sidelines but I’m going to make an exception for Mark Ryan’s last two comments:

    Hear, Hear!

  69. Mark and Jason,
    Thanks for the feedback. It’s appreciated.

  70. Mike Fayette says:

    I agree. Mark Ryan’s observations are thoughtful and appropriate.

  71. dhogaza says:

    Mark Ryan:

    “On the so-called “skeptical” sites, and in the small amount of scholarly literature, the pattern is negative -mutually contradictory arguments. This body of literature was not converging to an alternative, but was fixated on driving wedges into any cracks of uncertainty they could find. It was the comparative ‘shapes’ of the two different bodies of argument that convinced me.”

    Well said.

  72. dhogaza says:

    Mike Fayette:

    “The central problem is that the true believers in CAGW (many scientists, educators, politicians and the press) often exaggerate the evidence because they believe it is the only way to get action on this issue.”

    I am still waiting for a definition of CAGW that gives me some basis for judging whether or not mainstream climate science exaggerates the evidence …

    The only “true believers” in CAGW are denialists like yourself, because CAGW is a denialist term which is left undefined. Claims that evidence regarding CAGW is exaggerated is arguing against a strawman absent any objective definition of CAGW.

    So, please, define your term so we can judge the accuracy of your claims.

  73. dhogaza says:

    Mike Fayette:

    ” Isn’t the public and private allocation of money really the central issue of the climate change debate? Or am I missing something fundamental here?”

    I do believe this is the fundamental motivation for denialism regarding the subject, yes, and it is clear that it is your motivation, as well.

    But do you really believe people who put in years of work to get a PhD in a relevant field like atmospheric physics are motivated to do so because of their beliefs about how public and private money should be spent?

  74. BBP says:

    Mike,
    I don’t mean to pile on, but one of the advantages of a site like this is that the hosts example encourages civil discourse. You gave one example of an exaggeration, that sea level rise would force LAX to be moved. However, this was from a politician, not a scientist, and Governor Brown’s office has admitted that this was an error.
    Do you think that the evidence is exaggerated in the IPPC reports, or in the recent National Climate Assessment? In my opinion, these should form the basis of the required political/monetary debate. What we do is up to us, but simply because we may not like our options is not reason to doubt the science.

  75. AnOilMan says:

    Mike Fayette: I think you’re conflating many issues and groups here. I’ve been called all kinds of of green and nutty for having the audacity to read scientific journals.

    The first groups groups to pick up the ball on Climate Change were most definitely enviro-nuts and modern day hippies. Those folks most definitely paint the scientific work in a negative light.

    And as Anders said… the cost of mitigating Global Warming should be quite separate from understanding Global Warming.

    I have no idea what CAGW is. Its not defined in any journals. It not talked about in any blogs. Its only brought up by those more or less deemed ‘deniers’.

  76. BBD says:

    You guys have to become skeptics too.

    This is offensive.

  77. Mike Pollard says:

    Another “Here, here” for the comments by Mark Ryan. I particularly liked.

    “Why would any genuinely skeptical person walk around a mountain of knowledge built up by thousands of highly trained and dedicated scientists, to instead choose the outliers? Why would a reasonable person not be skeptical of a community of people who can’t seem to agree on their own explanation, but are united only by their hostility to the established one? Why would a genuinely skeptical person take their science from people who actively avoid publishing in scientific literature, but choose instead to impress the unqualified audiences of blogs and public debates?”

  78. John Mashey says:

    Perhaps Mike Fayette would offer his answers to my little quiz, to motivate idea he should be taken seriously as a a real skeptic, not a pseudoskeptic. Evidence is always helpful.

  79. Mike Fayette says:

    There is real danger that this thread is about to descend into a place that is not helpful for the reasoned dialogue that would be of benefit to everyone. If so, then I am sorry I commented and I will soon stop and just listen to other voices and learn what I can.

    There are at least three questions here, right?. The first involves the science – what might be happening and how sure are we about it? The second is what can we actually do about it? And the last question is what SHOULD we do about it?

    The skeptics focus of the term “CAGW” mostly because it gives the clearest description of what many people fear may be happening.

    “dhogaza” and “anOilMan” demand that I define the term as if it was a scientific measurement. I can’t and I won’t try – but here is how casually the spectre or CAGW is raised, even on this site.

    Earlier in this thread, ATTP said, when referring to climate change and greenhouse effect: :

    “Those who deny the greenhouse effect are, in my view, much further from what is likely to be the “truth” than those who are extremely alarmed. There is the possibility of a mass extinction event. That is an alarming possibility. It may well be that climate sensitivity is low enough to avoid this, or we do something sensible and clever before that happens, but it’s hard to be too critical of people who are genuinely concerned about this possibility.”

    I quoted our host in it his entirely, but what the press – especially a liberal press supportive of the message – would make from that statement is a headline that reads:

    “ATTP warns of a MASS EXTINCTION EVENT!”

    The word “possible” would disappear in a flash, just as it did from Jerry Brown’s idiotic statement on LAX. As a communications professional, I can assure you that this is not a sound bite that will convince anyone of anything, and it shuts down the reasonable dialogue that reasonable people should be having about this important issue.

  80. Mike,
    But haven’t you just illustrated the point. There is evidence (here is a post with some IPCC figures showing possible risks) for a possible mass extinction event if we continue increasing our emissions. The catastrophic/alarmist element comes from mis-representing what’s being said. Whether that happens in the liberal press or not, is largely irrelevant. It doesn’t change that such an event is possible and doesn’t change the scientific evidence. If we could focus on that and not focus on who said what where, it would be an improvement.

    I guess what I’m saying, is that we shouldn’t be avoiding saying something simply because it might be mis-represented. I can’t stop people from doing so. All I can do is try to qualify what I say. Also, it would be nice if people didn’t then continually come back with “but you said ….”.

    If so, then I am sorry I commented and I will soon stop and just listen to other voices and learn what I can.

    To everyone else, I think Mike is trying to engage honestly, so maybe we could bear that in mind when responding. I know this is a frustrating topic, but let’s try to give the benefit of the doubt.

  81. AnOilMan says:

    I for one haven’t been thinking in terms of mass extinction at all. But I would point out that irreparable harm to the environment is most definitely being done. Destruction of industries and jobs is underway, now and today.

    Given that we know that we are geo-engineering the planet to a new state, it would seem ludicrous to continue without a clear description of what we intend to do. No engineering project is successful without a clear goal.

    Right now we are currently going about this all backwards. We are heating the place, then walking around going, “Hey… that broke… and that… and look at all that ice melting, do you think the cities will mind?”

  82. BBD says:

    Not when he says things like this:

    You guys have to become skeptics too.

    That’s just offensive.

  83. BBD says:

    That was a response to ATTP:

    let’s try to give the benefit of the doubt.

    There are no grounds for benefit of doubt.

  84. BBD says:

    Given the fragility of food webs and the inability of many organisms to respond to a very rapid change in temperature, a mass extinction event is virtually unavoidable under any plausible emissions scenario.

    Ask an ecologist.

  85. BBD,
    In terms of the scientific position, maybe not. In terms of whether someone is attempting to engage honestly, possibly.

  86. BBD says:

    Until Mark recognises quite how risible his remark was, he isn’t going to be in a position to engage honestly.

  87. I presume you mean Mike 🙂

  88. BBD says:

    ATTP

    Have you heard the expression “the Overton Window”?

    Because that is what MF is attempting to move.

  89. BBD says:

    Yes, sorry – I meant Mike.

  90. > As a communications professional, I can assure you that this is not a sound bite that will convince anyone of anything, and it shuts down the reasonable dialogue that reasonable people should be having about this important issue.

    As a ninja, I can assure you that raising concerns about people you never met eye to eye is not conducive of anything. Except perhaps thankfulness, of course, for we should always be thankful for concerns.

    Speaking of which:

  91. BBD, yes I have heard of the Overton window, but haven’t quite come to grips with it’s significance.

  92. BBD says:

    Well, for example, let’s talk a lot about how CAGW is implausible and how S is low and we shouldn’t panic. Then let’s talk about climate policy.

    That’s how you move the Overton Window.

    And that’s what MF is doing here.

  93. BBD says:

    Think about this:

    You guys have to become skeptics too.

  94. dhogaza says:

    Mike:

    ““dhogaza” and “anOilMan” demand that I define the term as if it was a scientific measurement. I can’t and I won’t try…”

    Of course you won’t. We knew you wouldn’t. Denialists never do. Because if you ever define the term, we’ll be able to pin you down and force you to defend specific points.

    And you wouldn’t want that, would you?

  95. dhogaza says:

    I think Mike has given us ample evidence that, not only is he not interested in “debating” (or even learning) the science, but that he’s not INTERESTED in the science.

    He is only interested in the possible implications of the science, and he is not happy with the implications, therefore insists upon basing discussion based on hand-waving, undefined terms like “CAGW” …

    Oh, and Mike, listen up:

    Many prominent biologists and ecologists claim that we are *already* in the midst of a mass extinction event, and that climate change will only increase an already unnerving rate of extinction.

    That is no exaggeration.

    Whether it indicates a possibility of “CAGW” or not, I have no idea, since I have no idea what that term means.

  96. dhogaza says:

    Mike:

    “I can assure you that this is not a sound bite that will convince anyone of anything, and it shuts down the reasonable dialogue that reasonable people should be having about this important issue.”

    ATTP – here is another term that you might find useful in this context:

    Concern Troll

  97. John Mashey says:

    ATTP:
    The reason for my quiz is observed behavior:
    1) Any real skeptic is happy to answer, even if they aren’t yet able to yet answer Yes to many fo the questions, because they are fairly new to the area, but such will also ask for advice such as “can you recommend good books/websites?” or “where I can attend good lectures and meet real scientists?”*
    I.e., this tends to start a useful dialog.

    Any serious skeptic will have a list of reservations that they are pursuing.
    Generally, anyone who follows such approaches tends to be treated helpfully by knowledgeable people, from my experiences.**

    2) Others tend either to cite a book they just read, like SInger&Avery, or Heaven And Earth, or The Hockey-Stick Illusion, etc … and not much more … or just avoid answering.
    There is of course, good reason for that, because “I learn from WUWT” may not be a useful answer.
    Now, “Michael Fayette” may not be a unique name, but perhaps he will verify if these were from him:
    Mike Fayette says: January 21, 2014 at 1:21 pm
    “Please forgive a novice question from a lurker…..
    If you assume that Don has correctly identified a long-term cooling and warming cycles that occur on (roughly) a 27-30 year period.
    And if you further assume that Bob’s Air-Sea temperature charts correctly do NOT show that cooling started around 2000, but that temperatures merely flattened (MAYBE slightly down to 2014).
    Then can you theorize that the reason that the expected decrease in temeperature did NOT occur might be because of manmade increase of CO2?
    That way, everyone is “right.” the warmists AND the doubters.”

    Mike Fayette says: April 29, 2014 at 3:32 pm:
    “I think you folks are all missing the most important post in this thread, by JonF, I believe….
    Let them make 1895 cooler by whatever means they choose.
    This introduces a HUGE rise in temperatures well before manmade CO2 could have possibly played an influence on our climate. It simply destroys the theory that the 1970-1997 rise HAS to be CO2….
    Game over
    …..”

    Perhaps this is a different Mike Fayette … who I hope recalls that I suggested the straightforward quiz (with the sort of questions I ask people who I think might honestly be trying to learn) and I asked a second time. … even though use of the CAGW term was a red flag.

    * That of course, is a function of where one lives, and it’s much easier for some of us than others. However, in UK, I’m pretty sure a majority of people live within 60-90 minutes’ of universities with climate expertise. Curiously, some intense dismissive pseudoskeptics work at universities with decent climate-related departments, but strangely do not seem to interact with them.

  98. Mike Fayette says:

    Yes John Mashley – those are my posts – and there are a few others that you missed, although I not sure what your point is. As I have said repeatedly, I am currently skeptical that the GCM’s are proving accurate, and I am asking folks like you to help me understand what you believe these reports mean.

    I found my way here from the previous site about 6-9 months ago, since I was looking for something to balance out WUWT. I enjoy readinmg and thinking about the the posts – and I have learned a lot from both sites (and a handful of others)

    Please dont get any more hung up on my use of CAGW that your use of the term Denier. It is not a dog whistle.

  99. dana1981 says:

    FWIW I agree with ATTP that Tol’s Fox News piece was terrible. Not only because it repeated the ‘no warming in 17 years’ myth, although that was probably the worst part of the article. It also implied the IPCC is alarmist in intentionally highlighting bleeding-edge research that exaggerates climate impacts/threats. That’s absurd. The IPCC reports are overall exceptionally conservative (i.e. see its intentional sea level rise underestimates).

    Ironically one area where Tol’s criticisms are applicable is in the revisions to the climate sensitivity range that Tol and other contrarians put so much weight on. That change was based on just a couple of recent papers (basically Otto, Lewis, Ring), all basically using the same approach. Now Shindell and Kummer & Dessler have shown their estimates may very well have been biased low. But the IPCC revised its estimated climate sensitivity range based on these few studies that had yet to be fully scrutinized by the scientific community. Of course that goes entirely against Tol’s narrative.

    One point Tol made that I do agree with is that the IPCC process works too slowly. Other than that, most of his aritcle was pretty terrible.

    [Mod edited: probably best to leave this last paragraph unsaid]

  100. Steve Bloom says:

    Oh yes, let us engage in exposition at the behest of someone who just a few weeks ago was happy to claim “It simply destroys the theory that the 1970-1997 rise HAS to be CO2…” Well, no it didn’t, and no we shouldn’t.

    But on the slight chance you’re sincere, it would be better for you to start by reading something comprehensive from climate scientists, e.g. the just-released (U.S.) National Climate Assessment. After that, I for one would be happy to try to field any informed questions you might have.

  101. JasonB says:

    I don’t want to dogpile Mike Fayette but there’s something I’d like to comment on:

    I don’t thing you mean that. Astronomers argued for and against the “Big Bang Theory” versus the “Steady State Universe” for more than 40 years before a consensus was reached. This was healthy for everyone. Theories were advanced. Predictions made. Observations gradually confirmed one theory. But taking one side or the other in this debate was “risk free.” Fred Hoyle died a respected astronomer, even though he was proved wrong.

    I’ve emphasised an important part of your comment. Before a consensus was reached, theories were advanced, predictions made, and observations gradually confirmed what is currently the mainstream view.

    Just over 100 years ago the consensus was that Arrhenius was wrong, thanks in large part to a publication on the results of an experiment by Knut Ångström. The consensus turned out to be wrong then for two reasons: (1) the logic was flawed, in that even if it turned out that CO2 was saturated at sea level that wouldn’t mean that adding more couldn’t warm the climate, and (2) the experiment was flawed and CO2 wasn’t saturated at sea level anyway. See RC for a good exposition.

    It was only through more detailed experiments and improved understanding (thanks to the US Air Force’s desire, in the 1950s, to produce heat-seeking missiles that could see past the end of their nose) that the competing theory of AGW began to have its predictions confirmed, and over the next few decades became the mainstream view and a consensus was reached.

    What is happening now — and what is not risk free — is that people are ignoring the fact that all the important and basic questions were asked and answered decades ago as part of this process, and many keep circling back to those questions over and over again, not in an attempt to attain enlightenment, but in an attempt to obfuscate — to paint a picture of uncertainty, with the goal of delaying action, in what has become a well-worn approach to everything from tobacco to acid rain to…

    If someone wants to do that, without taking the time to actually inform themselves of what’s been ascertained before, then they can’t complain that their actions are not without consequences.

    We need that same civility today. Predictions has been made. The observations are – so far at least – a very mixed bag. Discussing this (which you do on occasion) is the way to keep minds open on both sides.

    And here’s where your argument really falls down. The observations are not “a very mixed bag”. The theory has made many successful predictions, and all of the “failed” predictions I’ve seen so far are really misunderstandings of what is being predicted. For example, any prediction of warming over any period of time shorter than climate trends can be reliably measured over. Any observation that compounds short time frames by measuring a subset of the climate system (e.g. atmosphere). Any observation that compounds short time frames and small subsets of the climate system with failure to account of exogenous factors, like ENSO. Any observation that compounds short time frames, small subsets of the climate system, and failure to account for exogenous factors, with measurements that aren’t actually measuring the same thing (e.g. the “average global temperature” of a climate model with the temperature calculated for the real earth using a subset of measurements that fail to capture the areas that are warming the fastest).

    And what is the “other side”? What’s the competing theory we’re supposed to be comparing it to? Where are its predictions? How can anyone keep their mind open on both sides when only one side is science and the other is a hodge-podge of mutually contradictory ideas that range from wishful thinking to completely wacko?

    There is nothing wrong with discussing civilly what predictions have been made, what the observations are, and what the significance of those observations is. In fact, if you pay attention, you’ll see scientists doing that all the time. Hence recent papers highlighting the effect of incomplete station coverage; papers attempting to remove exogenous factors to see what the underlying trend really is; new efforts to apply novel techniques to calculating global temperature changes; and so on. But that’s not what is usually going on with “skeptics”.

  102. andrew adams says:

    JasonB absolutely nails it.

  103. > JasonB absolutely nails it.

    Without dogpiling, contrary to what he feared.

  104. Jac. says:

    After I finished writing this, I found that Jason B. already said a lot of things that I was going to say. I will post it anyway, sorry for being long.

    I am not a scientist. I am working in the legal/judicial system.
    The number of climate change cases that are brought to the courts is growing, and so is the body of literature about climate change liability that I am especially interested in. I think I am quite well informed on the legal liability aspects of climate change and the potential role of the judiciary. I started reading off and on some blogs about climate change some months ago, because I wanted to try to understand some of the science as well, and I also wanted to learn and understand about the way scientists and skeptics interact en discuss about their arguments and what these arguments are.

    So my background and reason to start reading this blog seems to be somewhat similar to Mark Ryan. I completely agree with what he wrote (23/5, 1.30 pm) about the ‘shape of the two bodies of arguments’. I made the same observations, and arrived at the same conclusion.

    I also noticed that generally speaking there is a difference in ‘tone’ and ‘style’ in the way the scientists argue and the way ‘skeptics’ argue.

    Typically, the question of the scientist is one out of curiosity, whereas the questions of the skeptic are typically more like an aggressive cross-examination. Also typically the skeptic is not satisfied with the answers he gets; there is always another question following, never mind if it is coming from quite a different perspective, or he just changes the subject or disappears. Therefore, in my perception the typical skeptic is not interested in finding common ground with the scientist; he is on a ‘fishing expedition’ to see if there are any contrarian arguments that cannot easily be discarded by scientists, so he can claim that the science is far from settled and too uncertain for political decisions.

    So my conclusion is that the skeptics in the blogosphere are not genuinely interested in the (advancement of) climate science.
    If that analysis is correct, scientists have little if anything to win in engaging in discussions with skeptics on scientific issues because the skeptic has nothing to offer there and has a different agenda altogether. I am not at all surprised then that for scientists, discussions with skeptics can be irritating and tiresome. I assume that is what ATTP meant when he started this post.

    For me these discussions are not pointless. For me, seeing how the arguments flow was helpful in understanding the climate debate. Like Tucholsky said: the understanding that the people have is usually wrong, but in their sensing the people are usually right. This blog has been guiding my ‘sensing’ of the climate debate and who is right probably just as much as it has been guiding my understanding of the arguments.

    Some of you have been complaining that the science is getting so politicized and that skeptics always start talking about the money. You claim that science is non-political. Well, in my view that is only the convenient part of the truth. There is an inconvenient part as well.

    There is a strong causal relationship between CO2-emissions and prosperity. Our economies and our economic growth are fueled by energy, and more specifically; by energy from the combustion of fossil fuels. The nations with the biggest GDP per capita, are also the nations with the biggest CO2-emissions per capita (leaving out small island-states, those are non-typical and have emissions that as a whole are completely insignificant). The economic growth of China and India in recent years is indeed ‘fueled’ by a steep increase of their CO2-emissions per capita – however still lagging far behind the West. Our infrastructure is on many levels designed and built to accommodate the use of fossil-fuel-energy. For our present and desired energy-needs, there is no alternative for the combustion of fossil fuels. Maybe there will be in the future, but at the moment there isn’t, and also it will take a shift (e.g. in infrastructure) that will cost fortunes. I think that all this is an undisputed fact that the public knows and understands very well, or at least that most people will perceive and ‘sense’ this as reality.

    This was for backdrop. Entering ‘climate science’, saying: it is a fact that if you do not urgently stop this combusting of fossil fuels that has proven to bring you so much wealth and prosperity and for which you have as yet no alternative, you will be causing a dangerous climate change that could be devastating, especially for people who are poor and vulnerable and live in faraway countries you only know from the television.

    Well, you may want to claim that this is merely a scientific, non-political message, but surely you will acknowledge that it is also a message with inseparable major political implications (politics of course being all about making choices) . Setting aside how it is framed and magnified in some media, I find it hard to deny that basically the message climate scientists are bringing to the people is: either you have to give up your prosperity, or you will be responsible for possible ‘mass extinction’ and bringing the life-supporting ecosystems of the planet to another equilibrium– what’s your choice? You must choose now!

    I think people simply do not want to make that choice, for many reasons that are all perfectly understandable and legitimate. So it is only natural that they should argue that this is a false choice that is being forced on them, and that the science is wrong, must be wrong, just possibly can’t be right. Or the scientists are lying and have a hidden agenda.

    I think this is an important part of what the discussions with skeptics on your blogs are really all about. It is my suspicion that the skeptics will keep on challenging your science, and you will never convince them about the science if you are not able to address the underlying political problem that is really driving them. That is why they always start about the money. You may find money is not a valid scientific argument against your scientific findings, true, but it also is a very REAL argument against those scientific findings.

    If scientists just want to discuss the science amongst yourselves in splendid isolation of the rest of the real outside world, that is OK and up to you and probably you will less be bothered with skeptics then, and your discussions will still be useful – only so for less people.
    On the other hand, if you think your scientific findings ought to have political consequences for the real world (but that is a political conclusion you’re making then, not a scientific one), be ready to accept that the real world is entering your scientific discussions, bringing with it very legitimate other concerns and interests than scientific concerns, and accept that when there is so much at stake, it is going to be a street fight to keep your science up straight and the rules of scientific arguing won’t be considered sacred.
    Personally, I think this blog has been holding itself quite well and I enjoy and very much appreciate what you are doing.

    I wonder what it would be like if scientists would not engage in discussions with skeptics with the intention of convincing them – they won’t allow you to – but with the intention to demonstrate to other lurking readers (like me) that science has better (and more polite) answers and deeper understanding to offer than the skeptics have. It might turn out to be a whole other kind of ballgame, one that is far less frustrating for scientists.
    And if you don’t feel like playing anymore, I think it would be perfectly OK to say ‘we have tried to explain you the science more than once, but either you seem not able to understand the science which is regrettable, or you just do not want to understand which is fine, but either way and with all due respect you have offered nothing to this discussion that has any merits and you and your repetitive comments are becoming a bit of a boring noise, so thank you for participating but we will block you from this post / this blog.’ I think scientists could be a little more assertive about sticking to the rules of their discussions.

    .
    Jac.

  105. > It might turn out to be a whole other kind of ballgame, one that is far less frustrating for scientists.

    No more ClimateBall ™ ?

    http://www.khaaan.com/

  106. Rachel M says:

    Jac,

    Your comment is awesome! As are so many of the comments in this thread. I pretty much agree with everything you’ve said except for this bit:

    Setting aside how it is framed and magnified in some media, I find it hard to deny that basically the message climate scientists are bringing to the people is: either you have to give up your prosperity, or you will be responsible for possible ‘mass extinction’ and bringing the life-supporting ecosystems of the planet to another equilibrium– what’s your choice? You must choose now!

    Is it really such a simple choice? Some scientists, James Hansen for instance, have provided solutions to this problem which as far as I’m aware do not involve giving up our prosperity. His proposal involves nuclear power and a carbon tax on fossil fuels. The proceeds of this tax, according to him, should be delivered to the public.

    The other side of this choice is the possible mass extinction which will surely have an impact on our prosperity. And if not our prosperity, then our quality of life.

  107. Steve Bloom says:

    Rachel, in a rational world we’d already be starting along some such path, although IMO the best one has distributed renewables as its main component and no nukes, but as I should not need to remind an Australian there is the slight problem of the existing fossil fuel stock/infrastructure and the perception by its owners and their employees that they will inevitably be losers under any transition. I don’t recall Jim having addressed that issue in any direct way, although I should look again.

  108. Rachel M says:

    Steve,

    It’s called diversify!

  109. jsam says:

    I found Jac.’s post both thoughtful and thought-provoking. Thank you.

  110. Jac made a very good comment. Rachel answered that Jim Hansen has provided a solution. On that I disagree. He may claim that he has a solution, but I don’t believe that. That’s also largely what Richard Tol wrote about in the Fox News article. All claims that we have a solution readily available and that such a solution is not likely to incur very high costs are simply extraordinary wishful thinking.

    It’s possible to prove me wrong by:
    – presenting a full explicit plan for the solution, not only generalities, That plan must include reliable cost estimates.
    – explaining, how that plan can be realized in the real world of nations and politics.

    As long as either one of the above is missing, we do not have any real solution.

    That does not mean that nothing can be done, but that means that the value of what can really be decided immediately is very limited.

  111. Pekka,
    Back on Tol’s article are we 🙂

    That’s also largely what Richard Tol wrote about in the Fox News article. All claims that we have a solution readily available and that such a solution is not likely to incur very high costs are simply extraordinary wishful thinking.

    I don’t know enough about this, but my understanding from the most recent IPCC report is that there are credible economists who disagree. One think I will say is that I never quite understand what people mean when they say the costs are too high. Globally, spending money is part of economic activity. Just because the cost of something is regarded as high, doesn’t mean that that money is wasted. People will be employed, money will be spent, economies will still grow. What I would quite like to see more of is discussions of how doing one thing compares to doing something else. Just because the money associated with something happens to be a large number, doesn’t really mean anything.

    As long as either one of the above is missing, we do not have any real solution.

    That does not mean that nothing can be done, but that means that the value of what can really be decided immediately is very limited.

    I agree with you in principle but – again – what you say in your last sentence is important. AFAICT, we can never really know the solution. What we can do, though, is start considering options and trying to do something. It seems to me that what we end up doing may be completely different to anything we’re considering today. Without trying, though, we’ll never actually get there. To quote Richard Tol People who think that change is necessarily bad would be well-advised to read David Hume. 🙂 .

  112. ATTP,
    One problem is that strong incentives are needed, it’s not possible to direct the economy to do only those decisions that are most efficient. This is not a small correction. As an example I was involved in a small study in the 1990s where we looked at the technically optimal changes that would lead to some specific CO2 target in Finland. The total economic gross transfers would have been at least ten times as large as the actual cost of the optimal change. In that some actors would have received large windfall profits paid by the rest of the economy. The incentives would have led also to very extensive practically worthless activities, which would represent direct reduction in total well-being as those activities incur costs, but produce very little or nothing. (That has happened on a large scale already in many countries based on badly formulated support schemes for renewable energy.)

    The largest problem may, however, be that the whole operation of the economy might be disrupted. We have seen, how some specific disturbances in the financial sector have led whole economies to a lengthy recession. Europe has great difficulties in getting its economy on track again. The changes required by the EU targets for 2050 are likely to be hugely more disruptive.

    There are always two separate but interrelated questions:
    – The performance of the economy assuming that it operates well given the external conditions.
    – The actual performance of the economy taking into account the deficiencies in its operation.

    All the low cost estimates of mitigation are based on:
    1) Highly optimistic (unrealistic in my view) expectations of the technology development.
    2) Assumption that all mitigation measures can be implemented optimally with zero inefficiencies of the nature I discuss in the first paragraph.

    The real cost may well be higher than those optimistic estimates by a factor significantly higher than 10. That’s the problem.

    The other problem is that we continue to discuss in general terms without that concrete plan I asked for in my previous comment. We are discussing some imaginary virtual world, not the real world.

  113. Pekka,

    The other problem is that we continue to discuss in general terms without that concrete plan I asked for in my previous comment. We are discussing some imaginary virtual world, not the real world.

    I agree, but I certainly don’t know – or claim to know – enough to do anything different. One obvious concern is, if the climate change projections are about right, that we’ve already moved beyond the point where the solution wouldn’t be disruptive.

    To be honest, I find this kind of discussions tricky because I do think that the hardest part of this issue is determining the best possible route forward. In a sense, my frustration is that we’re – by which I mean society, not us specifically – still arguing about the science, rather than starting to seriously address the solutions. The only thing I really feel comfortable discussing in detail, is the science. I certainly have views about how we should proceed as a society, but they’re my opinions and my knowledge of economics/policy is sufficiently poor that I would be reluctant to express these with any confidence.

  114. The discussion is not productive, when the participants are:

    1) Someone who is interested in science and convinced that the risks are really sever, but not knowledgeable of practical problems of mitigation,

    2) A person worried about the economy, and believing that the cost of mitigation is excessive, while not fully convinced that climate scientists give the correctly balanced picture of the situation.

    The participant (2) does not really know science, while he is convinced about his general starting point. He may try to criticize specific scientific points based on what he has learned from other skeptics. He knows that his knowledge of science is lacking. Thus being shown wrong on one point doesn’t matter, he can easily try the next one. All that is just rhetorics, his trust in the basic conclusions is not based on the science arguments.

    To solve really the problems we need something better. The intuitive conviction of many that putting great costs to mitigation has not been justified must be accepted as fact. It’s also largely a justified view, because the connection between the science and the policies has not been made properly. To make that connection properly an equal weight must be given on technology knowledge and economics, without that it’s not possible to even start considering what’s right on balance.

  115. Joshua says:

    Pekka –

    Some clarification?:

    ==> “The intuitive conviction of many that putting great costs to mitigation has not been justified must be accepted as fact.”

    Are you saying that it is a fact that they have that conviction, or that what they are convinced of is a fact?

  116. Joshua says:

    Pekka –

    In order to calculate the relative cost of the inefficiencies that would accompany mitigation, you need to first calculate the relative cost of the inefficiencies that would accompany a continuation of that status quo and therefore you must also calculate the inefficiencies that exist now as the result of the status quo.

    In other words, you need to know the current costs and benefits, including those from externalities (positive and negative) that exist currently, so that you can quantify any “opportunity cost” from not acting.

    I can understand why you say taking action might involve wishful thinking, but I fail to see why saying that there is insufficient evidence to act does not also involve wishful thinking. If you have not determined a clear ratio of cost/benefit from the status quo, including externalities such as the cost of particulates that result form burning fossil fuels, or the geopolitical costs of maintaining the status quo of current energy policies, then IMO you are, by definition relying on wishful thinking to reach any certain (or near certain) conclusions.

    On top of that, it is really impossible to know what might result from comprehensive efforts on policies that target conservation. IMO, that is another missing piece that is missed in these economic projections to determine the merits of mitigation.

  117. Joshua,
    I was saying that existence of people with such a conviction is a fact.

    Issues that are difficult to estimate include:

    1) The damage from changing climate in each of the potential future scenario.
    2) Cost of the chosen approaches to mitigation.
    3) The technical level of success of the chosen approach.
    4) The influence of the chosen approach on the future climate and through that on the damage from changing climate.
    5) All kind of indirect effects both from the damage of changing climate and from the chosen approach.

    This list is on comprehensive, but it should be sufficient to tell, how difficult it is to present convincing justification for any major action.

    I don’t believe that a real cost-benefit analysis is possible, but it’s really not possible to justify any action without some attention having been paid on all the factors, and that requires some quantification of each of them.

  118. Jac. says:

    Thank you all for your kind responses.

    @Willard
    Still Climate Ball I suppose, but how scientists want to play it. If scientists start perceiving (and thus expecting) that the game is not about trying to find common scientific ground with the skeptics or about advancement of science, but about proving how wrong/mistaken the skeptics are (while still maintaining the cool, rational, unbiased and open-minded, fact-based balanced way of truly scientific reasoning that, in my view, really is the stronghold of scientists that earns them credibility), scientists might find it less frustrating to be playing the game. In this other version of Climate Ball moving the goalposts is considered as acknowledging you have lost the previous argument. Don’t complain about moving the goalposts but instead explicitly claim it as victory and as soliciting for another beating on another subject.
    My selfish reason for suggesting this is that I would not want the scientists getting so frustrated that they are pulling out of the debate.

    Jac.

  119. Joshua says:

    ==> “This list is on comprehensive, but it should be sufficient to tell, how difficult it is to present convincing justification for any major action.”

    But in this context, inaction is action. Where is the convincing justification for a lack of action?

  120. Inaction does not mean no consequences, but unproductive action adds to that costs without benefits.

  121. Steve Bloom says:

    This new Friedman column and its comments are a topical read.

    On the bright side, that sort of conversation wasn’t happening ten years ago. One thing we can know for sure about how our society operates is that any action at the needed scale will be preceded by lots and lots of such talk.

  122. I feel the need to return to the of one of my earlier comments.

    I do not say that nothing should be done. What I say is that just stating that something must be done leads nowhere. We need specific proposals and decisions based on those. To get the decisions made those specific proposals must be supported by some evidence that they are justified.

    As long as we discuss about doing something we are stuck with nothing.

  123. Steve Bloom says:

    Jac, as I’m sure you know, most scientists, even climate scientists, choose not to play at all. But is it helpful to imagine the response to this blog (and the climate science blogosphere generally) of such a non-player who is considering starting to play? Is the lesson that other forms of engagement and outreach (e.g. reaching out to their local media and giving community talks) are a better use of their time? Or maybe it’s most effective to instead focus their research efforts onto things that will inform a better policy direction?

  124. Steve Bloom says:

    I’m not informed enough to know if his analysis is correct, but the Thailand scenario Nafeez Ahmed describes in his new column is IMO a harbinger of things to come. Such crises mean there is little time to develop a response and (at least a perception of) few resources to devote to long-term solutions such as a transition to a renewable-based economy. At earlier times, accurate predictions of the coming crisis are ignored in favor of perceived higher priorities and vested interests (noting that a lot of influential and wealthy Thais doubtless will have been doing very well by importing and distributing fossil fuels).

  125. Joshua says:

    ==> “..but unproductive action adds to that costs without benefits.”

    Of course. And unproductive inaction adds more cost than benefit.

    –> “What I say is that just stating that something must be done leads nowhere. ”

    Agreed. But just saying that there is insufficient evidence to justify action also leads nowhere. That position leads to the maintenance of status quo – which is occurring even though we don’t really understand the cost/benefit ratio of the status quo, let alone the cost/benefit of the status quoe projected into the future.

    ==> “We need specific proposals and decisions based on those. To get the decisions made those specific proposals must be supported by some evidence that they are justified.”

    But we don’t really have that running in the other direction either. We don’t have specific, justified proposals to maintain the status quo. Again, where is the evidence that inaction – which in reality is an action to continue emitting ACO2 into the atmosphere an increasing rates – is justified?

    I realize that you aren’t saying that inaction is justified, but saying that action isn’t justified does not occur in a vacuum.
    .
    For me, the question becomes one of risk assessment, and decision-making in the face of uncertainty. For me, the first step in that process needs to be the creation of a communicative paradigm where good faith discussion can take place. Otherwise, questions about the economics related to ACO2 are reduced to a proxy for identity aggression and identity protection.

  126. Joshua,
    There’s an infinity of possible action, one of them is non-action. As long as no other alternative has been specifically selected and justified as better, the choice is likely to be non-action. Anyone who wishes to change that should either propose a specific alternative and justify it or make someone else to do it.

    To argue on merits of action in a blog a specific proposal is also needed, it’s not possible to compare non-action to something that has not been specified.

  127. For me, the question becomes one of risk assessment, and decision-making in the face of uncertainty. For me, the first step in that process needs to be the creation of a communicative paradigm where good faith discussion can take place. Otherwise, questions about the economics related to ACO2 are reduced to a proxy for identity aggression and identity protection.

    That’s exactly what I have been calling for for years (on this site only for months). Unfortunately very few people take the bait. On Climate Etc Peter Lang has done that, but our attempts to create productive interchange fail regularly. I have also been reluctant in making specific proposals as I feel that some preparatory interchange is needed on the details of the approach to make it productive.

  128. Joshua and Pekka,
    Yes, I too agree with that point about it being a question of risk assessment (I think I may have made such a point myself somewhere). One thing I did consider about Pekka’s comment that

    presenting a full explicit plan for the solution, not only generalities, That plan must include reliable cost estimates.

    is that this doesn’t seem – to me – to be quite consistent with this being an issue of risk assessment. To do a risk assessment, I don’t think we necessarily need reliable estimates and specific solutions. What we need is to understand the risks and costs associated with different options and to consider what is the optimal path. Of course, the more accurate the cost estimates and the more specific the plans, the more robust the risk assessment can be, but it can take place anyway even without reliable estimates, as – as I understand it – the uncertainty associated with each possible pathway is, to a certain, one element of the risk assessment.

  129. ATTP,
    I presented that requirement so strongly, because I was discussing claims that we know good low cost solutions. When no good solutions are known we may face the requirement of choosing among highly uncertain alternatives.

    I was arguing against wrong simplification of difficult questions. That kind of simplification is, unfortunately, very common.

  130. Pekka,

    I was discussing claims that we know good low cost solutions. When no good solutions are known we may face the requirement of choosing among highly uncertain alternatives.

    Okay, then I see what you were getting at. I agree that we probably don’t know/have guaranteed low-cost solutions and that – as you say – the actual decision will have to be some kind of risk analysis based on optimising across a complex set of highly uncertain possible pathways.

  131. In practice there are few alternatives for either carbon tax or cap and trade as the principal policy instrument supported possibly with some other regulations and incentives. Most economists agree that carbon tax works better than cap and trade, but the present agreements are based on cap and trade, because agreeing on harmonized taxes seems to be politically even more difficult than agreeing on cap and trade.

    Even when one of the two is chosen, further decisions are needed on the level of the tax or the cap. A high tax or stringent limits are naturally more effective, but they tend to be less cost-efficient as they lead to the implementation of many wasteful practices. A modest tax initiates only the most cost-efficient solutions, while a high tax may initiate alternatives that are highly inefficient but easy to implement rapidly. A high tax (or stringent cap) is likely to lead also to carbon leakage and other ways of circumventing the purpose of the rule. All that can be disruptive for the local economies.

    It may turn out that taxes that are politically possible do not lead to the level of mitigation set as goal. In cap and trade the problems surface in a different way, but are likely to be even more severe due to the weaknesses of this approach.

  132. Joshua says:

    Pekka –

    I agree with what you said in the 4:18 and 4:24 comments.

    It has been my impression that you are one of the relatively few who are quite consistent about focusing on constructive dialog more than on tribal warfare. For example, Peter Lang, IMO, is too busy demonizing “progressives” to get out of his own way long enough to engage in constructive dialog.

    IMO, there is a long list of people who sacrifice constructive dialog to launch tribalistic weaponry. Such behavior, from what I’ve seen, almost universally characterizes the discussion.

    I think that the most important point is, as you state, the need for preparatory interchange, but I don’t see how such is possible within a blog discussion format. I’ll give you a quote I just ran into from Judith Curry from a while back:

    I further stated my concern that owing to this inflammation that debates at professional societies are being cancelled, and the public debate is occurring the media and on blogs, which is to the detriment of our field.

    How amazing that she has transitioned from thinking that debate in the media and on blogs is to the determine of her field. I think her transition is testimony to the simultaneous allure and futility of the current debating format.

    W/o preparatory interchange and related followup, we get same ol’ same ol’ W/o a change in communicative paradigm, nothing will change, IMO, until the uncertainty is significantly reduced, – and the science tell us that will only happen over a period of decades in the very least. The tribalistic pattern is so blatantly obvious and so ubiquitous I see little reason to expect otherwise.

  133. Dear Pekka,

    The discussion is not productive when one:

    – excludes just about everyone from a meaningful conversation;
    – expects everyone to leave you the floor.

    Here’s what someone who plays that move looks like:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/You_kids_get_off_my_lawn!

    If what you said was true, schools would be empty.

    Teach what you know, sensei.

  134. > My selfish reason for suggesting this is that I would not want the scientists getting so frustrated that they are pulling out of the debate.

    That’s a good reason, Jac, and since you’re not a scientist, I’m not sure why you claim it’s a selfish one. See? ClimateBall ™ can be fun! Stripped down to its bare essentials, ClimateBall ™ is just a scientific discussion disguised as a conversation. Humans converse since a long time:

    http://scientistscitizens.wordpress.com/2011/08/05/some-communication-principles-for-an-e-salon/

    Unless we make sure that these exchanges get more formal, like it’s done in climatedialogue.org for instance, the most basic conventions hold. Mileage varies from place to place, of course. But unless and until we get something like a more professional moderation, we can’t expect that scientists won’t stay or pull out of the climate blogosphere.

    I might be very biased, of course.

  135. Erratum:

    > is just a scientific discussion disguised as a conversation

    is the converse of what I should say:

    > is just a conversation disguised as a scientific discussion

  136. How could I exclude anyone from the conversation? While I cannot do that I may think that those who insist on playing within their select group in their own corner cannot create anything common with others restricted to their separate select group and corner.

    If getting something done for all requires rare skills, then those possessing such rare skills may be invaluable. I just hope that making contact with other groups is not really possible to so few. A willingness to understand and respect what the others are saying is essential, but that does not mean giving up own values. Some flexibility is, however, needed.

    When issues are as complex and as foreign for our intuition as long term risks of climate change and potential policies to mitigate it are, finding the necessary common language may take time and effort. Without willingness to even try it will never succeed.

  137. > How could I exclude anyone from the conversation?

    You whine that their presence affects the constructiveness of the discussion. But of course, the presence of whom? You merely were talking in general, I’m sure.

    Any other question, Pekka? Today, I do two for the price of one.

  138. Jac. says:

    @ATTP

    ” The only thing I really feel comfortable discussing in detail, is the science. I certainly have views about how we should proceed as a society, but they’re my opinions and my knowledge of economics/policy is sufficiently poor that I would be reluctant to express these with any confidence. ”

    What I like about this blog is that it is about the science and a sincere attempt at explaining the science to non-scientists, but also is not afraid to now and then think and discuss about – as a sort of spin off – the political implications of that science. It is where science and politics meet that the scientific debate is relevant (and hence heated) for everyone.
    I am not advocating you should use this blog to make political statements about how to proceed as a society, and certainly not if you feel uncomfortable with that. I can also see how that could be used to discredit the objectivity of your scientific work.

    I do think however, that strengthening and expanding the science is in itself already of political significance, and therefore important. Because after all, it is not the scientific community but the very real factual threat of a pending climate change that urges political decisions be made. Exactly how real and severe that factual threat is must and will determine the political response.
    Scientists are the specialized scouts that on behalf of the public explore how real and how severe that threat is; they are also the messengers that are telling the public the results of their explorations. The more robust and detailed their findings, the more important they become – but of course only so if the message of the scientists is accepted by the public.

    That is why – to me – it is important that climate scientists are determined to take the trouble (and the heat) of explaining and fiercely defending their science, again and again, to the public. They need not be advocating solutions nor exaggerate the facts or obscure the uncertainties – all that will even be counterproductive; just explaining the facts and why and how you are so sure about them, will do. The public may still not understand the science that makes you so sure; but the public will understand or ‘sense’ that you have a very deep understanding indeed and that your understanding has given you genuinely great concern – and in the end that is what will give them great concern too.

    I think this blog is a fine example of speaking out and explaining and defending the science.
    Other scientists (and this is also in response to Steve Bloom) may feel more comfortable in reaching out to local media or giving community talks. Others may prefer to concentrate on just expanding the science.
    That is all equally good. Horses for courses. With a blog like this, I suspect you will reach out to the intellectual part of the public that is interested in understanding, whereas in giving community talks you may get a more diverse audience that might be easier to convince of your genuine concern when they can look you in the eye. I think we need them all to build up enough concern of the public to get the policymakers moving. When the policymakers are not leading the people forward, as they ought but clearly fail to do, than the people must push them forward.

    It all begins with people realizing, that not moving is unacceptable; only then there is common ground for discussing in what direction we shall move. I admit to Pekka that not moving is also an option. In a democracy, you have to respect if the people’s consent is that they will accept climate change with all its consequences to happen; but at least let scientists make sure it is an ‘informed consent’ then.

    Jac.

  139. cutholen says:

    Pekka:

    “The discussion is not productive, when the participants are:

    1) Someone who is interested in science and convinced that the risks are really sever, but not knowledgeable of practical problems of mitigation, …”

    Having discussed global warming on the internet with people who seem genuinely to believe that the threat of climate change can only be mitigated by immediately ending all fossil fuel use, and reducing the Earth’s population to a quarter or less of its current value, it is hard to disagree. However, I think your target are those people who have a reasonable grasp of WG1 material, but only the vaguest idea about WG2 and WG3 material – who want a carbon tax now and are happy for compulsory renewable energy targets, compulsory feed in tariffs, and other regulations as well. And with regard to those people, I must disagree.

    The fact is that at the high end of potential BAU emissions, or at medium estimates with high end climate sensitivity, it likely that humans will make the tropics seasonally uninhabitable within 150 to 250 years. That level of climate change would represent close to a total welfare loss. In contrast, switching to a 100% renewable economy will, with current technology, not drop per capita energy usage below 1950s levels in developed nations. That represents a level of welfare which, while low compared to current values in developed nations, is high by world terms and give even the moderately well of a level of welfare significantly greater than that of kings in past eras. That means there is a large difference in the welfare cost of doing nothing, and taking action (even inefficient action).

    Further, no matter what action we take, the quicker that we must do it, the less efficient it will be. If we can transition to a renewable economy over 50 years, much of the cost can be defrayed against normal capital replacement costs. The money for new solar power stations can largely come from money saved by not building new coal power stations. In contrast, done over twenty years, most of the cost will be an additional cost, as coal plants which have not operated long enough to pay of the initial capital will need replacement on a regular basis. Consequently, even inefficient action now (so long as it is not directly counterproductive), by extending the time over which we can take action, pays of in greater efficiency in the schemes that may replace it. That is, the total cost of a bad scheme started now followed by a good scheme later is likely to be less than the total cost of a good scheme started later without any action in the interim.

    Consequently, even bad policies started now (provided they are not directly counterproductive) are better than delay while we find the best possible scheme, and relative ignorance about the costs of mitigation are no impediment to getting some scheme in place.

  140. Cutholen,

    The task you describe is huge. Succeeding in that without more damage than gains requires good execution. I live in Europe. EU as a whole and many EU countries independently have implemented various policies over the last 10 years. Those policies have certainly had some effect, but only little really on CO2 emissions. Existing cap and trade and renewable energy policies have resulted in a combination that has increased very much the total cost without any gain in the reduction of CO2 emissions.

    That’s just one example of what happens, when the consequences of the decisions are not understood well enough, when they are made. Actually all those problems were foreseen by economists but their advice was disregarded.

    The future targets are far more demanding. We cannot afford making as big mistakes all the time. There’s a lot of understanding that’s not given appropriate weight. The actual mechanisms of political decision making mimic on a somewhat more moderate scale the polarization of public discussion. People fight for their solution rather than collaborate to find a better one that produces ultimately the same benefits with far less cost or more benefits with a cost bearable for the societies.

    It’s unavoidable that some errors will be made in a large change, but we should do our best to avoid multiplying the number of those errors.

  141. I have got the impression that many people consider my arguments as an attempt to postpone action. That’s not the case. What I advocate is accelerating deeper analysis of the alternatives. I do believe that the further such analysis is delayed the less can be achieved by the measures taken. Acting without best available knowledge of what’s wise does not speed up progress but slows it down.

    Many actions can be taken rapidly with little risk of being counterproductive, but those actions are not strong. They do not solve much of the big problem, but they can be used as the first step. To proceed wisely we need better understanding of the whole that includes climate science, but also engineering and economics.

  142. guthrie says:

    Pekka – I’m afraid that merely accelerating analysis of alternatives is the same as fattening a pig by weighing it, or educating children by making them do more and more tests which take more time to carry out.

  143. I cannot understand, how anyone thinks that good decisions can be made without analysis of the alternatives.

    If that analysis is postponed by arguing without analysis (and without decisions) or by doing something that fails, how can that be useful.

  144. Pekka,

    If that analysis is postponed by arguing without analysis (and without decisions) or by doing something that fails, how can that be useful.

    I don’t think anyone is arguing that one should postpone the analysis and simply charge ahead with something that isn’t well understood. I think the suggestion – and I largely agree – is that if we insist on some kind of complete and detailed analysis before doing anything, we might wait forever. So, some combination of trying and, possibly failing, while also analysing what works, what doesn’t, and various alternatives is possibly a reasonable way to proceed.

    I have got the impression that many people consider my arguments as an attempt to postpone action.

    I didn’t actually get the impression that you were attempting to postpone action. I did get the impression, though, that you were setting a very high hurdle for discussions about this topic.

  145. Jac. says:

    @Pekka

    I agreed with a lot of what Cutholen said, and then I tried to understand your reply.

    Are you saying we shouldn’t act until we have a much better understanding (and therefore should accelerate our understanding) of how effective and efficient the alternative policies are and what their impact will be on the economy and/or economic growth?

    If that’s correct: isn’t it so that, like new technologies or -more appropriate – climate models, policies develop and improve as they are applied because applying them is the best way to understand their effects? Could the climate models have been designed from scratch the way they are now without putting them to the test and learning and improving as we go? In Massachusetts vs EPA one of the complaints was, that the EPA-regulations to mitigate CO2-emissions were not sufficiently effective to be justifiable and would only have an incremental effect. The US Supreme Court said: “Agencies, like legislatures, do not generally resolve massive problems in one fell regulatory swoop.”

    And as a side note: I’m very uncomfortable with accepting ‘economic growth’ being the measure of effectiveness. In fact, that’s what bothered and even worried me most about what Richard Tol wrote in the Fox News: ‘the first rule of climate policy should be: do no harm to economic growth’. I seem to be the only one here that has serious trouble with that.
    (I feel it is a new way of framing the climate debate. For clarification: if on the one hand mitigation means that the big economies have to slow down considerably; and if on the other hand climate change means that the big economies may longer flourish and grow and only the small economies and the poor people will be swept away; than ‘economic growth’ clearly dictates that climate change is better than mitigation. Economic growth is a concept that ignores justice and ethics.)

    Jac.

  146. Jac. says:

    I want to get back to the last sentence of my previous post. I should have written: Economic growth is a concept that measures only the sum of economic effects on a given scale (national/regional/global), and not how these effects are distributed within that scale, while most people would find that distribution relevant.

    Jac.

  147. Jac,

    And as a side note: I’m very uncomfortable with accepting ‘economic growth’ being the measure of effectiveness. In fact, that’s what bothered and even worried me most about what Richard Tol wrote in the Fox News: ‘the first rule of climate policy should be: do no harm to economic growth’. I seem to be the only one here that has serious trouble with that.

    No, you’re not the only one. I’m also uncomfortable with that being the only measure of effectiveness. There were just so many issues with Tol’s Fox News piece, that I didn’t get around to mentioning them all 🙂

    Pekka mentioned Partha Dasgupta in some comments on earlier posts. I haven’t encountered Partha Dasgupta often, but it was my understanding that part of what he has been suggesting is that simplistic measures like GDP growth do not allow you to properly evaluate economic performance.

  148. jsam says:

    Jac.

    Along with ATTP, you are not alone in your discomfit with Richard’s new rule. Mind you, it looks like we’ll have a growing economy from adaptation. Just look at all the sea walls to be built and cities to be moved. It takes a special type of blinkered economist to value economic growth over everything else including mass migration, loss of arable land. etc.

    There are costs of business as usual. There are costs of change. Superficially, BUA seems both the default path and yet the most expensive, along multiple dimensions, and most uncertain alternative.

  149. My view is that many actions can be taken promptly but that those will not bring us far enough. Decisions that really matter and bind the future development to a particular path must be understood well before they are taken. Anything else may also be impossible in a democratic society, where even well justified decisions may be impossible to get accepted, when any large change means that some will be on the loosing side.

    I do not consider economic growth essential, but I do consider economic development really essential and major disruptions of the economic system really bad. In a changing world even the concept of economic growth cannot be defined precisely as some parts of the economy grow while other decline, and while different economic activities that occur at different points of time are not really commensurable. (Inflation is not uniform, and products and services change in quality and detail.)

    Our political system is some form of democracy and our economic system is built on markets. Neither is perfect or ideal, but in some form I consider them essential, and I assume that others reading this blog agree. Both of these set limits on what can be done, hoping for something that requires giving up democracy or taking in use central planning of economy is not realistic.

    Market economy is fundamentally based on quest for growth, it doesn’t work without. Therefore quest for growth is essential, but it need not result in overall growth as other activities may subside.

  150. Jac. says:

    ATTP,
    Glad I am not the only one. Will see if I can find something on Dasgupta. Thank you.

    Jac.

  151. Concerning the limitations of GDP as a measure I would propose the short book Mismeasuring our lives – Why GDP doesn’t add up by Joseph Stiglitz, Amartya Sen, and Jean-Paul Fitoussi. It’s available as a pdf or as a book. I’m not sure, how closely these two forms agree. It may be that the book (or its Kindle version) is in a more readable form (It’s a small paperback of 136 pages, while the pdf has two parts that add to 292 pages.

  152. Jac. says:

    @Pekka
    thank you.

  153. First: I planned to close the italics after Fitoussi of the above comment, but failed to do that.

    I made some comparison between the book and the pdf. The main part of the book seems to be virtually identical with the Executive Summary and part I of the pdf. Part II is not in the book. The book has also a 9 p. foreword signed by president Sarkozy, and 16 p. preface by the authors. Both of these are missing from the pdf, and they are of same interest. Additional working papers can be found from the site

    http://www.stiglitz-sen-fitoussi.fr/en/index.htm

  154. guthrie says:

    Pekka @ 9:36am –
    I don’t know where you live, but I can assure you that here in the UK we’ve got studies coming out of our ears/ libraries/ internets about various aspects of global warming and what best to do about it. We’ve got duelling reports, some written by environmental organisations, others by corporate wind farm sponsors, others by anti-environmentalists or genuine conservatives, or by free marketeers. WE’ve got political committee reports on energy generation.

    Now the issue is not of course studied to death, since climate change isn’t, nevertheless, as I think you tacitly admitted earlier, we know enough to do things, as you pointed out that the EU cap and trade scheme was condemned by people who knew stuff.
    The best is enemy of the good, as is found out frequently in warfare, and this is rather like a war, with its own time pressure.

    Thus I simply don’t understand what you are talking about.

  155. guthrie says:

    It has been well known amongst evil leftists and greenies for decades now that GDP is simply not a useful measure for such things as global warming etc.
    The difficulties lie in making sure that policy is decided upon that knowledge, which is where politics comes in.

    Sure, It’d be great if everyone sat down around a table and dispassionately discussed the problems and came up with the best solution, but I might have mentioned I live in the UK, where the politicians are a combination of stupid, bribed, spineless and simply ignorant, and so we are sleepwalking towards an electricity generation crisis as ageing power stations are shut down.
    Given this comparatively straightforwards problem (no electricity = lots of dead people and wastes of money, and all within a decade) it seems rather idealistic to go on about making better studies in what to do about global warming.

  156. I don’t imagine that I have any silver bullet, but that doesn’t stop me from having my pet idea on, where my miniscule influence might have even a small positive contribution.

  157. The main problem with Tol’s argument is that he does not differentiate. The mitigation will be done in the rich countries, whereas growth is important in the poor countries. For us in the rich countries, growth is no longer that important for our overall well being and we should probably focus much more on other aspects, fairness, community, mutual respect and less chronic stress.

    For poor countries economic growth is very important. For health, well being, self-respect, actualisation and also for adaptation to climate change.

    How much one can ask people to contribute to mitigation thus depends on how rich their are. At the moment, I would not dare to ask the poorest countries to do anything that would not help themselves. In practise that could already be some contribution as solar power makes much sense and is likely cheapest in rural regions that are not connected to the (expensive) grid.

    This differentiation is clearly an accepted principle in the international climate negotiations. The accusations that climate scientists are responsible for genocide on the poor often found in dark humid places like WUWT is thus grotesque.

  158. Joshua says:

    ==> “For poor countries economic growth is very important. For health, well being, self-respect, actualisation and also for adaptation to climate change. ”

    True, but the discussion about growth often takes place in a vacuum. There are many factors that relate to growth in addition to energy costs:

    http://www.amazon.com/Development-as-Freedom-Amartya-Sen/dp/0385720270

    It’s easy for “skeptics” to say that higher energy costs from mitigation will lead to starving children, but there are myriad factors that lead to poverty; for example, limited access to institutions of civic society. Avoiding carbon taxes is not a sufficient condition to prevent poverty. Poverty is not a direct function of energy costs. And anyway, there can be any number of ways to address access to energy in poor countries — methods that can be implemented at the same time as carbon taxes or other policies that primarily, or differentially, target energy cost in wealthier countries.

    “Skeptics” make some legitimate points, IMO, when they discuss the positives of access to cheap energy, but they hold “starving children” hostage to point-scoring in the climate wars.

  159. AnOilMan says:

    I find myself agreeing largely with Pekka. I think that what he is saying is that altering the economy to reduce or eliminate CO2 emissions goes much deeper than just the simple actions taken by consumers, which is often how it is portrayed. i.e. changing your energy cost ripples through your economy in a big way.

    It should be far more disruptive than just knocking me out of a job. 🙂

    Furthermore much of our economic shift historically have been improvements in efficiencies. This kind of change is lateral and in many respects unheard of, far reaching, and difficult to fathom.

    Personally, I’m leaning to Hansen’s Carbon Tax which has been implemented in British Columbia Canada. But as Pekka hinted people will find a way around it. (British Columbia, is the only place on earth with zero emissions on completion of a Frack, while the US EPA is currently trying to legislate Green Completions.)

    I’m of the opinion that Carbon Taxes work in that they allow industries and consumers to decid which issue is more cost efficient to tackle. While legislation can result in enormous expense to achieve small gains. I’m also of the opinion that Carbon Taxes enable a shift to greener technologies like solar because we know for a fact that carbon pollution costs, a lot.

    I have no idea how to tackle other issues like food production, and deforestation. I would think a carbon tax would make other technologies appear more affordable.

    I don’t really see the harm in giving the economy a kick in the pants in the right direction, and adjusting as we go.

    Ready, Fire, Aim.

  160. guthrie says:

    AnOIlMan – but I don’t see Pekka saying that altering tyhe economy goes deeper than changing consumer habits, or rather that’s such a small part of what he is saying. In fact it’s well known that we have to alter the trajectory of our ‘development’ and carry out major changes in factors such as electricity generation, which cannot be carried out simply by consumers switching supplier.
    And your kicking the economy in the right direction and adjusting as we go is not the same as his apparent desire to properly study things before we move in the right direction.

  161. The economy is never static. Knowing that there’s even a possibility of future incentives of the type of carbon tax influences decision making immediately, but not strongly. Implementing immediately a rather low carbon tax is not a risky decision that would have significant negative influence on the economy, but its effect on the CO2 emissions would also be small. The possibility of a high future tax may influence investment decisions more, but the influence is non-uniform. If one company leaves a particular investment undone, some other company may do it.

    To get optimal effects on investments the future must be predictable for the companies. Therefore my favorite basic model is as follows:

    A relatively low carbon tax is taken into use immediately. The tax rate is fixed always for 5 years to the future (but not necessarily at the starting level of that period). Every year the rate is fixed for one more year to keep the period at 5 years. A maximum level for the annual change in tax rate is also fixed permanently (or for a longer period than 5 years). That scheme might lead to the future tax rates Nordhaus has found optimal in his calculations with the DICE model, but the actual development path would depend on what we learn on the way.

    Nordhaus proposes an initial rate of $25 per ton CO2. That’s one possibility, but I don’t want to say that his proposal is necessarily the best one. That value falls, however, within the limits that I called relatively low. In his average case that value approximately doubles every 10 years reaching $160 /ton in 2050. The maximum rate of change I have in mind would not be much faster than that.

  162. andrew adams says:

    To get optimal effects on investments the future must be predictable for the companies.

    This is certainly true – there are complaints here in the UK at the moment that the mixed messages coming from our governments on climate change policy are making investment decisions very difficult.

  163. That uncertainty is also the main reason for the better efficiency of carbon tax as compared with cap and trade. The cap is fixed at the level of the total economy with no obvious connection to what an individual company will face. The history tells already, how variable and unpredictable the resulting price of emission right is.

    The companies cannot foresee government policies, but even if they could foresee them in the form of level of cap, they would still not know, how it affects the profitability of potential investments.

  164. Jac and Mark. I am just writing a post on the use of science blogging and generously cite from your comments, I hope you and Anders do not mind.

  165. Patrick says:

    What is nonsensical about what Bengtsson said? Is it not reasonable that climate model calculations of climate sensitivity match with other estimates and vice versa? Does the existence of such a mismatch not point to a gap in our knowledge? With regards to the Ad-Hominem attacks, I can guarantee you that this is by far the most common thing you hear if you voice even the slightest bit of dissent about the mainstream view of global warming catastrope.

  166. Patrick,

    What is nonsensical about what Bengtsson said? Is it not reasonable that climate model calculations of climate sensitivity match with other estimates and vice versa?

    The main issues about his paper was that his calculation had an error, it had all been done before (very recently), and it didn’t acknowledge issues with the method he was trying to use. There are indeed some interesting aspects to the mismatch between models and observations, but he wasn’t really presenting anything new, and he didn’t manage to do it right anyway.

    With regards to the Ad-Hominem attacks, I can guarantee you that this is by far the most common thing you hear if you voice even the slightest bit of dissent about the mainstream view of global warming catastrope.

    Really? With regards to Bengtssson, we have no real evidence – apart from what he said himself – that he suffered any ad hom attacks.

  167. Marco says:

    Patrick, what is nonsensical is that Bengtsson throws around accusations without any evidence. For example, anyone paying even the slightest attention to the scientific literature will have seen several papers addressing the ‘hiatus’. Increasing sea ice around Antarctica has also been discussed many, many times. His own comparison of models vs observations ignored several of the known(!) issues. For example, Bengtsson used a model that covers the whole globe, and then compares it to an observational data set that does *not* cover the whole globe. Fyfe et al (in Nature Climate Change) did take that into account, and thus had no problem getting their paper published. Incidentally, that publication provides further evidence that Bengtsson is talking nonsense.

    The supposed “ad hominems” are in reality people wondering how somebody which such impressive credentials can make claims that are so easily rebutted. It’s not about his dissent, but the lack of substance in his arguments. Add evidence that Bengtsson is not nearly as objective as he tries to portray himself, and people like Patrick get all upset that Bengtsson is called out for his obvious political bias.

  168. Jac., BBD and Mark the final article on why I blog and comment on pseudo-sceptics with some ideas on how to do so effectively is now published. Your quotes are received very well on twitter. Thanks.

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