Less science, more social science!

Stoat has a new post called climate science identifies the problem – it can’t tell us what to do in response and – as he says – this is pretty bleedin’ obvious. Science can clearly provide information as to how a system might respond to various changes, but it can’t really tell us whether or not we should do anything to avoid these changes, and – if we should – how we should do so. Evidence can – and should, in my view – inform decision making. It can’t, however, define the actual decision that are made.

Stoat’s post, however, lead me to a recent Nature Geoscience Comment by Reiner Grundmann called Climate change as a wicked social problem. If I was being charitable, I would say that Grundmann’s article is essentially saying the same as Stoat’s post, but that would be incredibly generous. What it’s really arguing is that climate change has been mischaracterised and that it is not a scientific but a social problem, even going as far as to say

If social scientists had been involved significantly and from the beginning, this crucial error in categorizing climate change might have been avoided.

I find it hard to believe that if there had been more involvement from social scientists who had managed to define climate change differently, that we’d somehow have achieved more in terms of addressing climate change than we currently have. I can well believe that we might have convinced ourselves that we had – while being in the same position as we are now – but that hardly seems an improvement. Also, as far as I can see, there are lots of social scientists involved in addressing this issue already, many of whom are doing very interesting and worthwhile work. What was stopping others from getting involved; were they wanting some kind of special invitation?

He then says

The key issue lies with the fact that scientific insights are being used to derive policy. If climate policy is justified with science, opponents of the policy will attack the science.

Well, yes, this does indeed seem true. I, naively, had assumed that one role of social scientists might be to address this problem, not suggest that [t]his line of argument also highlights that the climate problem is not a scientific problem, but a social problem: one cannot derive climate policies from climate science. So, rather than helping to find ways to addres this issue, Grundmann argues that we should simply accept that climate change is really a social, not a scientific, problem. In other words, if any evidence suggested that we should consider policy options that might be inconvenient to some, they can simply attack the evidence, and we should then say: “fair enough, let’s treat this problem differently”. Seems pretty much guaranteed to ensure that evidence-based policy making will be the exception, rather than the rule.

The article then suggests that climate change is really – as the title suggests – a wicked problem, not a tame problem. The argument being that climate change doesn’t have a stopping rule:

We do not know when we have succeeded solving the problem, because we do not have an agreed metric.

Well, this seems rather confused. I don’t think there is much dispute as to what it would take to address climate change; reduce emissions and eventually get them to zero, or close to zero. Doesn’t seem too wicked to me. The difficulty comes in deciding whether or not to do so, how to do so, how fast to do it, and whether or not to possibly bank on technologies we have yet to develop. Of course, we will also have to adapt to various changes, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have some kind of stopping rule.

Having said that, addressing climate change is not easy, the available evidence does not define what we should do, and clearly many different disciplines will inform the decision making process. That doesn’t mean that

climate science provides no help to meet this challenge, once it has been acknowledged.

There are still many policy relevant aspects to climate science, even once the science has been acknowledged. For example, how do we plan for sea level rise, if we don’t have any idea of how much sea level rise to expect?

The article ends with Grundmann arguing that there are potentially serious consequences to the various policy options and that the social sciences can play a crucial role in understanding these consequences and helping to inform policy. Well, this seems pretty obvious and, as far as I can tell, is already taking place. What’s odd is arguing that we should essentially now dismiss the scientific evidence, while focussing only on the evidence from social science. So, only evidence-based when the evidence suits you?

The crux of the article appears in the final sentence:

[i]t is high time the expertise of the social sciences is recognized and assembled.

My impression is that a lot of good social science is already recognised. In my opinion, one way to ensure that more is recognised would be to write stuff worth recognising, rather than simply insisting that people do so.

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213 Responses to Less science, more social science!

  1. Steven Mosher says:

    Best dang thing I’ve read from Stoat

  2. I’ve realised that the title of my post was intended to be ironic, but that may not be particularly obvious.

  3. Vinny Burgoo says:

    ATTP, I have yet to see you recommend anything concrete as a solution to climate change apart perhaps from a belated acceptance that a carbon tax of some sort might help. What would you recommend?

    And what would your regular commenters recommend? They too seem to be more interested in policing the consensus than in offering solutions.

    What should we, as a species, actually do?

  4. I have yet to see you recommend anything concrete as a solution to climate change apart perhaps from a belated acceptance that a carbon tax of some sort might help.

    That’s partly intentional. As the post points out, science can tell us something about a possible problem; it can’t tell us what to do about it. I’m simply a lowly scientist, so I don’t claim to have any particular expertise that is relevant to policy making. My acceptance of a carbon tax is based on an understanding that it is what is suggested by those who do have relevant expertise.

    What should we, as a species, actually do?

    Stop making up claims that others are just interested in policing the consensus?

  5. Andy Skuce says:

    Many experts in the social sciences would not agree with Grundmann. Despite his implication that there’s some consensus view in the social sciences about how to address and frame the problem of climate change, there is not. Perhaps if there were, more people would be eager to accept and act on this wisdom.

    Even though Grundmann seems to think that policy makers, activists and science communicators should act on this non-existent consensus (i.e., his views) in the social sciences, Grundmann himself objects to people communicating a very real consensus in the the physical sciences. This is despite the fact that consensus messaging has some empirical support from social science experiments such as those done recently by Sander van der Linden.

    I’m struggling to unravel the contradictions from the ironies here. Maybe that’s because it’s such a wicked problem.

  6. Joshua says:

    ==> They too seem to be more interested in policing the consensus than in offering solutions. ==>

    Yes, If they really cared about catastrophe and children starving, they would act in the way that I think they should act. Just ask me and I’ll explain how they should act. Or just follow my example*

    *Purely a coincidence, of course, that the way they should act if they weren’t hypocrites is exactly how I act.

  7. Joshua says:

    ==> And what would your regular commenters recommend? ==>

    Personally, I would recommend an approach to policy development that recognizes that ACO2 emissions pose a risk.

    More specifically, I would recommend stakeholder dialogue as a means to implement such an approach. To get there, however, you have to engage with people who accept the basic premise (that ACO2 poses a risk), and that’s where it gets very tricky.

  8. I’m struggling to unravel the contradictions from the ironies here.

    Indeed, I found that really complicated writing the post.

    I’ve also somewhat fallen into the trap of referring to “science” and “social science”, rather than “physical/natural science” and “social science”. Apologies to any social scientists who might be offended 😉

  9. mt says:

    Vinny, when people ask this “what should we actually do?” question I roll my eyes.

    From the point of view of someone who studies climate as a physical system, and have some idea how that system imoacts on social and environmental systems, it doesn’t matter WHICH path we take to zero emissions anywhere near as much as WHETHER we do that. Next is how soon we start and how hard we work at it.

    Within the constraints of social stability, the sooner and the faster the better, since we’re already far outside any near-optimal path that was proposed in the 1990s.

    The time for hemming and fine tuning is long past. What we need to “do” is stop emitting. Those of us who understand that this is long overdue should focus on explaining why that is and why we are so sure.

    When we advocate specific plans, we are criticized for stepping out of our expertise, and when we don’t, we are criticized for not having a plan. It seems to me that this is because people prefer to criticize us than to take a serious look at the evidence.

    At present, we have little choice but to give the Paris process a chance, which means that individual nations must plan their own trajectory to zero net emissions. I have my doubts about it, but if it is taken seriously various strategies will be tried. Soon I hope.

  10. Vinny Burgoo says:

    [Chill, please. -W]

  11. Joshua says:

    [Chill, please. -W]

  12. mt says:

    Social philosophy is a reasonable and crucial pursuit, but calling it “social science” is an implicit devaluation of the epistemic power of the formal, mathematical sciences.

    Even if there is a consensus in some soft science, there is no telling when it will be overturned by a new one. Popper is a mess, but it is a mess in pursuit of a good question. There is something that makes some purported sciences more reliable than others. Many of us know it when we see it. It might be good to define it somehow.

  13. but an awful lot of them have been about heretics rather than the science itself.

    You might need to define “an awful lot” and what you mean by heretics.

  14. Joshua says:

    Just in passing, note the rhetoric of “… “They [too] seem to be…” [whatever].

    Sometimes you just gotta marvel at the lack of accountability.

  15. There is something that makes some purported sciences more reliable than others. Many of us know it when we see it. It might be good to define it somehow.

    Might be hard to get any kind of meaningful agreement.

  16. Magma says:

    If social scientists had been involved significantly and from the beginning, this crucial error in categorizing climate change might have been avoided. The environmental organizations and experts
    involved in framing climate change and prescribing policy pathways are mainly trained in natural sciences. As such, they do not have a good understanding of complex sociotechnical systems and problems, or about processes of political and cultural change.
    — Reiner Grundmann

    Nothing bothers me more than certain academics with their humility, modesty, and shy refusal to come out and say what they think about things. Not me, though. At our last brainstorming session, I told the Pope and Barack that the world would be run very differently if I was in charge. “Better?” asked Barack, deadpan. He always cracks us up, that guy.

  17. Magma,
    🙂

    jsam,
    I saw that. I was tempted to write about that. I was one of those who wrote to the RAS, but I certainly didn’t suggest they withdraw the press release (I suggested that mentioned “mini ice age” might have been less than optimal) and I exchanged a number of emails with Valentina Zharkova which didn’t achieve much, but were quite amicable. Maybe others were less pleasant, but it seems a lot like the standard blogosphere tactic of calling any form of criticism an attack when it’s aimed at yourself, or someone you agree with.

  18. Magma says:

    If climate policy is justified with science, opponents of the policy will attack the science. This logic only distracts from the problem of devising suitable policies to deal with climate change.

    I’d be slightly more impressed with Prof. Grundmann if he acknowledged that a major sector of the world economy — on the order of at least 10% of global GDP — is tied up in fossil fuel exploration, development, production, refining and transportation and related infrastructure and that those benefiting from the status quo aren’t going to meekly downsize their industry to a much smaller scale without a fight, and will fight using whatever rules benefit them the most.

    Bringing a sociologist to a gun fight isn’t the most obvious winning strategy that comes to mind.

  19. Magma,
    Indeed, that was partly why I found his argument that attacking the science implied that it wasn’t a scientific problem. Not only does that not make much sense, but it’s not clear how changing it into a societal problem would change this.

  20. FWIW, Reiner’s a sociologist in a very loose sense, and first and foremost an STS guy. I’d bring this sociologist to a gun fight with no problem.

    In my opinion, AGW is first and foremost an actuarial problem, so Reiner might be right for the wrong reasons.

  21. Reports of the UNFCCC process vary, but the existence of (at least) two levels of presentation and historically documented editing of the IPCC “Summary for Policymakers” suggest people in global leadership have already mastered the practical aspects of social sciences at the global level, and that is in marketing. That it is not more widely understood that the UNFCCC path forward, even with INDCs that succeed more than initially hoped (also planned in), implies a negative emissions program late in the century is something which, I think, shows the skepticism these same leaders have regarding public understandings.

    And, in at least a couple of social science circles (with Daniel Kahneman being at the center), the problem has been posed, and the pessimistic verdict rendered:
    * https://goo.gl/0DV0JN
    * https://goo.gl/hLNylE
    * https://goo.gl/3UDiAW
    * https://goo.gl/o3t9ZB
    * http://goo.gl/c467kJ

    And the argument for including psychologists and the like in the process has been advanced for a while: http://goo.gl/WZBU7N

    I don’t know what people think should be done other than present scientific facts and engineering options. Do they seriously think there is some magic potion for manipulating a public so they are goaded into action? The primary motivation, greed and self-interest, is being pursued via the energy revolution, which, by all evidence, will indeed happen and displace fossil fuels. The trouble is, left unto itself and with entrenched interests putting up a fight, there will be enough sunk costs and delays that this will take long enough to embrace a good deal of damage to climate, some of it irreversible, even with negative emissions technology.

    The people who know how to communication and motivate are doing what they can: YEARS OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY, for example, in its second season: http://yearsoflivingdangerously.com/

  22. Magma says:

    @ willard: Larry’s a gunfighter with sociology as a hobby.

  23. hypergeometric,
    Indeed, there does seem to be a lot of relevant social science research. Also, as pointed out on Twitter, the IPCC’s WGIII report seems to be predominantly social science research.

  24. I can’t tell if it’s special pleading or Drumpfian sarcasm, Magma.

    In any case, rest assured that social science bashing may always be suboptimal. Ad hominem mode seldom replaces more substantive arguments. For instance, your 10% argument might very well play into Reiner’s hands – financial interests could reinforce his point that the AGW problem is wicked, has social components, can’t be solved by science alone, etc.

  25. Spot on! I had very similar reactions reading this article when it came out last week. I’m a ‘social scientist’ (although I’ve never liked this term) focusing on the political economy of climate change and business and have run into several examples of this type of stance from political scientists, geographers and critical theorists who seem to think they have insights or even ‘answers’ that have been neglected or side-lined in the climate policy discussion.

    If anything, I’d argue the converse! Look at the way economists dominate in the climate policy discussion with their often misguided assumptions of emissions abatement cost curves and pricing ‘externalities’ (stand up McKinsey & Co, Nicholas Stern, Ross Garnaut, Richard Tol). Then are those who keep banging on about climate change as a ‘(super) wicked problem’ – well obviously given its complexity, temporality and spatial generality – but this doesn’t take us very far in my opinion. Added to this are the more post-structural critical theorists who can’t seem to get beyond their ‘everything’s a discourse’ view of the physical sciences! Here, due deference needs to be paid to the physical sciences in identifying the nature of the problem and the physical boundaries around the future of greenhouse gas concentrations, perturbations to the climate and the energy budget etc. Where the social sciences can make a significant impact, I would argue, is to highlight the way in which the problem of escalating GHG emissions are tied to our global economic system and that we need to confront some uncomfortable realities re the level of decarbonisation the science highlights (e.g. Kevin Anderson’s excellent work). This includes confronting the sacred cows of compound economic growth and fossil fuel based energy, and understanding the political and economic forces organised against these necessary changes.

    Social scientists are making important contributions to our understanding of climate change and humanity’s response, however these sort of articles in prominent science journals that ‘no one has included us in the discussion’ are both inaccurate and self-serving.

  26. John Mashey says:

    Good social scientists are extremely useful in all this and I’m happy to know some good ones, like the previously mentioned Larry Hamilton (who once rode to party in my car at an AGU, or folks like Riley Dunlap or Bob Brulle, all of whom have done great work.

    It may be useful to calibrate Grundmann by reviewing Claimategate and the Scientific Ethos, 2012.

  27. @christopherwrightau : Nice, and I would very much second the no-nonsense reports and papers by Kevin Anderson, http://kevinanderson.info/, not to mention his talks, e.g., https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i6Huz1a1lXI and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dMUzKe0NTns. His statements, understandably, may not be popular with certain people, e.g., climate scientists, other academics, and diplomats: https://goo.gl/yP5B6B

  28. Christoper,
    Thanks for the comment. I agree with this; seems to be essentially the way in which it should be working

    Here, due deference needs to be paid to the physical sciences in identifying the nature of the problem and the physical boundaries around the future of greenhouse gas concentrations, perturbations to the climate and the energy budget etc. Where the social sciences can make a significant impact, I would argue, is to highlight the way in which the problem of escalating GHG emissions are tied to our global economic system and that we need to confront some uncomfortable realities re the level of decarbonisation the science highlights

    hypergeometric,
    I notice you’ve just linked to the post where Marc Hudson called me a denier and I called him arsehole. We’ve since made up and met for a coffee a couple of months ago.

  29. Dan Riley says:

    My impression is that there’s social science in both WGII and WGIII, yet the anti-mitigation crowd seem to spend all their time and energy on WGI…

  30. mt says:

    Good social thinkers are indispensible, and academia should harbor them. But they are not diong science in an important (and in this case crucial) sense of science. Nor, in my opinion, are economists doing science in this sense.

    There is something Popper-like in my objection to calling these disciplines sciences, but I’m having trouble formulating it in a way that satisfies me, never mind the immense difficulty of convincing the rest of the world that I’d be making any sense if I did. So I’m not sure I really want the key to this puzzle, though I’m surprised that more philosophers arent tangling with it.

    Bear with me just the same, because I have a point that is more than hair-splitting about what is science and what isn’t. The point is that science converges on truth. Other disciplines have trends and schools of thought and never really converge. (I am somewhat familiar with psychology, economics, history, and philosophy itself.) The same history, for example, gets told in different ways by different generations of historians. Hard science may develop more powerful notations and deeper abstractions, but it doesn’t back-track.

    The absurd over-reach of Grundmann, William Connolley’s tiresome deference to macroeconomists, and Kahan’s endless shooting at the wrong sci-comm targets are to me of a piece. These are very important topics to think about and talk about, and some people do it better than others. There should definitely be professionals writing and thinking and talking about these things. But they are not doing science, and probably their successors never will be.

    ===

    That said, the climate policy problem really is wicked in the sense that the habits of mind of any profession or discipline will not suffice to navigate us out of this genuinely dangerous thicket into which we continue to wander. People trying to claim primacy for their discipline, be it economics, sociology, science communication, or what have you, are overreaching. The situation lacks any clear precedent. What we should be doing will not become clear until many decades after we have done it, if at all.

    It is certainly NOT a problem in climatology itself, in the sense that solving the policy problem requires vigorous support of climatological research. I’ll agree with that. We don’t need research in climatology to inform policy, at least until we are desperate enough to consider geoengineering. (There are other grounds for supporting this research, very strong ones in my opinion. But that’s another story.)

    But when people who don’t understand the broad outlines of the severity and duration of the problem come up with clever essays that end up as supporting still more procrastination, I am frustrated that they haven’t taken the time to know what is already known.

    In that sense the hard science is relevant. People who don’t understand our predicament tend to come up with arguments that minimize and procrastinate. Like almost everyone, they fall prey to the intuitive sense that things cannot possibly be as bad as the science seems to say.

    Grundmann is not the only recent example of a plausible, well-structured argument that horribly misses the point of our actual quandary. Another that comes to mind is “Against Sustainability” by Butman, which appeared recently on the New York Times website. I am sure I could come up with more.

    Such arguments miss the scope of the climate issue. If they were based in something that should be called a science, there would be ways of correcting them using the coherence and consilience of science. As it stands they are woefully obtuse. Academic turf arguments are well and good I suppose, but if they start to threaten the viability of the biosphere I find them just a little bit inappropriate.

    You can’t do good social analysis if you don’t understand the facts of the matter. When turf battles carry a lukewarmist baggage, that’s understandable, because the middle heuristic usually works. But that also means that their contributions are ill-informed and useless, because we do not live in a lukewarming world.

  31. mt says:

    +1 Christopher Wright. for what that’s worth

  32. Eli Rabett says:

    It’s pie cutting time and Gunderman wants a piece. Also explains the tiresome trio of Pielke Pielke and Kahan

  33. > There is something Popper-like in my objection to calling these disciplines sciences, but I’m having trouble formulating it in a way that satisfies me, never mind the immense difficulty of convincing the rest of the world that I’d be making any sense if I did. So I’m not sure I really want the key to this puzzle, though I’m surprised that more philosophers arent tangling with it.

    I don’t think demarcation problem can be solved, so I can’t say I care much about it. It lacks relevance to ClimateBall, because dismissing someone’s take as “non-science” mainly powers ingroups/outgroups dynamics.

    Reiner’s argument is of the same type as MT’s: some indefinite competitors C are making the mistake of treating problem P as belonging to the set S, while it’s obvious it belongs to the set T. Were I to use the same kind of argument, I’d simply say that both arguments are crap, and because they are crap, I won’t even take the effort to criticize them.

    Since this posture is self-defeating, here are tentative arguments. Only strawmen are dumb enough to believe that AGW can be solved by science alone, or that we can bypass science altogether to solve AGW. Assuming that AGW is the greatest problem mankind has ever faced, we need all the weapons we can bring to the fight, from whereever we can find them. One does not simply pretend doing social analysis when one basically dress up personal attacks behind a veneer of scientific forthrightness.

    While we can consider AGW as the greatest problem mankind ever faced, it is not a well-defined problem. I’d rather call it a mess, which goes well with my concept of crappiness. Some call AGW a Super-wicked problem. Whatever: besides the branding effort, the point behind these typologies is moot at best.

  34. Ken Fabian says:

    Community acceptance of the desirability – I would say necessity – of a transition to low to below zero emissions and how to achieve that acceptance seems like a legitimate role for social scientists. But it’s a legitimate role for ethicists, politicians, journalists, religious leaders… and everyone who is capable of acknowledging the world changing consequences of the energy/emissions/climate conundrum. When most of the expertise in understanding how people make sub-optimum choices is employed in marketing that seeks to encourage and direct those choices rather than improve their quality I’m left struggling to see how the question Vinny asks – “What should we, as a species, actually do?” – can lead to effective solutions.

    “The primary motivation, greed and self-interest, is being pursued via the energy revolution, which, by all evidence, will indeed happen and displace fossil fuels.” – hypergeometric. This is perhaps the greatest cause of my own optimism – that, beyond all expectation, low emissions renewable energy options have become, at least periodically and intermittently, the least cost one. It is being taken up in greater amounts on that basis.

    One consequence in a fossil fuel rich electricity system (that doesn’t deliberately exclude RE) is an emergent de-facto carbon price – because fossil fuel plant is forced into intermittency in response and must raise prices outside the RE rich periods to maintain their financial viability. I think that greater intermittency of fossil fuels is exactly the direction it should be encouraged to go, with regulatory intervention aimed at accommodating that shift to the role of intermittent backup. Because of the pricing effect increased incentives for storage, for time shifting demand and for greater efficiency are also emergent consequences and can be used to advance further transition.

    Another consequence is to undermine the real foundations of climate science denial and obstructionism. That denial and obstruction has never truly been about the quality of climate science, in my opinion it’s been about legitimising avoidance of climate responsibility because of the perceived costs and inconvenience that accepting responsibility bring. It has been the collective and very influential desires of commerce and industry countering their fears of climate responsibility being forced on them with economic alarmist fears that provided denial and obstruction with the backing required to sustain it.

    The feedback loop of commercial influence and politics – which decides where it stands on the basis of costs, competitiveness and profitability not the validity of science – should weaken as it becomes demonstrated that the transition can lead to lower energy costs. The greater parts of commerce and industry will not be so strongly aligned with the fossil fuel sector, upon which they had previously felt dependent and I think – hope – the collective unity of purpose in sustaining political opposition to a low emissions will diminish. And that will, I hope, flow through to more effective and less compromised policy and planning.

  35. Steven Mosher says:

    “Whatever: besides the branding effort, the point behind these typologies is moot at best.”

    What willard said.

  36. @mt: re “Against Sustainability”: when you find something at the NYTimes you don’t like, check out Readers’ Picks in comments if you need cheering up. I liked this one:

    “This essay is a powerful argument for keeping philosophers out of environmental policy.” It’s followed by: “That it pretends to be the first time someone has put forth the “humans are a part of nature! so nana nana boo boo!” line is just straight up embarrassing.”

    I’m trying to comprehend Stanford’s entry on Kuhn, and was staggered to learn that he and my father were close during his undergraduate and radar years (1940s), both studied with Van Vleck, etc. I won’t have a chance to ask him what he thinks of the theory there until late next week, but I do know he’s not overly fond of Popper. My problem with Popper is that laypeople hear false and think false; “falsifiability” is such a lousy word choice; the idea makes sense. Semantics again.

    Returning to topic, I agree Willard describes the dilemma.

    We need action, big action, action by all, now, not later. We don’t need more frames and more research about how people think, more words, more studies. We know enough to get busy.

  37. Sadly, what we need is to win the political battle. Instead we are getting regression to our lower nature, deception and looting by the rich and powerful. Politics, faugh!

  38. “If climate policy is justified with science, opponents of the policy will attack the science.”

    Cool, science benefits from being challenged. The problem is that those who attack science for policy reasons tend not to be able to accept being shown to be wrong on the sxience. The key problem is that the political debate isn’t rational. Perhaps a better use for social scientists here would be to see what they could do to make the debate more rational and less partisan.

    Mike Hulmes book on “Why we disagree about climate” is a good introduction to why the science isn’t the most difficult problem that stands in the way of doing anything about climate change. Generally the science is just being used as a screen for other considerations. Why we can’t just talk openly about the “other considerations” (political,economic,religious,ethical issues) rather than hide behind scientific disagreements (many of which are pretty silly c.f. Salby), I don’t know.

  39. Marco says:

    “It may be useful to calibrate Grundmann by reviewing Claimategate and the Scientific Ethos, 2012.”

    When doing so, it may be useful to know this actually is the originally accepted version, not the version that was ultimately published after revision. The latter has a few differences; for example, the supposed “double standard” example was removed. You can download it from academia, from Grundmann’s account there.

    The final version also contains the following disclaimer:
    “The story presented here does not attempt to provide an in-depth account of the climategate affair. It is based on a limited number of textual sources (such as Montford 2010; Pearce 2010, blog content, commentary, reports from official inquiries, and a subset of released climate emails). These limitations in the data need to be noted. The paper raises the question of how to assess knowledge production in a highly politicized context. Sources were selected on accessibility criteria with a special emphasis on critical accounts. The aim of the paper is not to adjudicate who was right and who was wrong about the science, but to discuss norms of scientific practice in the light of two theoretical frameworks.”

    Parse this statement carefully. We have a paper that claims to discuss norms of scientific practice, and in doing so primarily uses sources that are critical (that is, biased in one direction).

    And yes, the journal never indicated anywhere that the final published version was actually revised compared to the originally accepted version of April 2012. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

  40. The Opening Post argues that social science is important and well accepted, yet it is written by a man who routinely attacks social science findings with a haughty and then there’s physics.

  41. Richard,
    Either you’re suggesting that I actually attack social science (in which case I might ask you to show where, but you clearly won’t, so I won’t bother) or you’re claiming that calling the blog “…and Then There’s Physics” is an implicit attack, which is odd given that by using the word “and” so it implies it’s not only physics. I will point out that I now have 3 publications that would best be described as social science, which would seem odd if I had a particular issue with the social sciences – which I don’t.

  42. @wotts
    You mean your papers with Cook and co? They’re indeed not an attack. They’re an affront.

  43. I’ll post Richard’s comment just to illustrate the irony of him complaining about me supposedly attacking social science. Best ignored from now on, I think.

  44. Richard, I have found a clear error in your piecewise linear model paper, which I have pointed out here. I have also found a few more incongruities that I would appreciate you comments on. Thanks in advance.

  45. Responses on the “Short Memory” thread, of course, rather than this one.

  46. On the ” I strongly suspect you are just at the polite/subtle end of the denier spectrum” thing, admittedly, I did not look at Comments. I sometimes don’t. Are they to be considered an integral part of the posting? Don’t think so, even if they are part of the process.

    Clearly, ManchesterClimate was wrong, and quite guilty of jumping to conclusions.

    On the other hand, there is something to be said for people who are clearly in a position to know to lead by example, as Anderson (who is not the same as ManchesterClimate, even if there is limited agreement). And I am definitely not saying you are one of those.

    Four points.

    First, for the purposes of the general public, it sometimes seems to me the discussion about climate disruption and its impacts are conveyed with too much complexity. Sure, the science of geophysics consists of a lot of nuance, and the IPCC reports (not the Summaries) lay a lot of this out. But there’s a lot there which people just don’t need to know in order to act. I sometimes wish when Professor Zed is asked about whether or not Storm Gelda was caused by climate change that Zed would either hold their tongue, or simply sketch the general notion that radiative forcing provides more energy to the climate-weather system and, so, on average storms are stronger. The problem isn’t really attribution, in my mind, the problem is trotting out a cause-and-effect model, which is the kind of things people expect to see in a court. Science does not play out in a court.

    Second, it is important to lead in my opinion. And a lot of that comes by example. There is a sense, mentioned from time to time by others, that scientists in the know don’t look panicked and, so, the public thinks they are overstating the case. Sure, that’s poor rhetorical criticism on the public’s part, but, then, one’s demeanor is a part of the communication. Does it set one up to be considered a “nut case”? Possibly, but it depends upon which audience you or I want to reach. There are circles (e.g., our Town Board of Selectmen) who consider me an environmental nut case. I don’t care about them.

    Third, there is a category of what I call a liberal climate denier. What I mean by that is someone who is perfectly content to accept the science of climate in full, and understands people are having the impacts they do, and even supports (some) political action to fix it, but either fail to see a connection between their day-to-day lifestyle and practice and the problem, or rationalize their inaction by laying the blame on Others, whether it it the international community or most Republicans. I also see this in the local and regional leadership of some environmental organizations who so much want to “a seat at the political table” that they avoid taking strong stands on these matters, wanting to retain political influence. I have seen this most recently with an organization who has been fighting the extension of natural gas pipeline infrastructure locally who I pointed out was a position inconsistent with being supportive of natural gas as a fuel. I proposed the beginnings of a natural gas boycott, at least for new construction (of homes and buildings), and it was dismissed as being Not Politically Viable.

    Fourth, because of the implosion of the Republican party, it is definitely true that Democrats, by and large, have gotten a pass on the issue of the Environment, and especially climate disruption. This is true of the most liberal members of the Democrats, who, by their positions, may be popular, but who are failing to convey the severity of our collective plight. In particular, I found the positions of some of our national reps and senators from Massachusetts on FEMA flood insurance assessments completely inconsistent with any real understanding of the plight, that people who choose to build in high risk places must, at a point soon, accept the full responsibility for doing so, rather than continuing to be reimbursed for reconstruction by the rest of us.

  47. mt says:

    I agree with W that it’s a mess, for several values of “it”.

    I don’t agree with the suggestion that “Assuming that AGW is the greatest problem mankind has ever faced” because we cannot define “greatness” that is implicitly attributed to me.

    AGW is merely a part of the new small-world situation, emblematic of it, but only one of several existential problems, all of which must be resolved somehow. Despite its wickedness, it seems to me at least conceptually easier than the others (coping with automation, controlling population, saving soil for agriculture, keeping chemicals out of the environment and plastic detritus out of the ocean, and basically keeping some semblance of the natural world going, among them).

    The reason it’s conceptually simpler is that we have epistemically powerful methods for thinking about key parts of it. Specifically, a large part of the problem reduces to the trajectory of a single number, the CO2 equivalent greenhouse gas concentration over time. This conceptually simplifies the whole matter. We know this. We also know that CO2 accumulates. And we know that the accumulation is already disruptive and on current trajectories leads to outcomes that most people would consider intolerable.

    Unfortunately, it seems that many people offering opinions on the matter do not acknowledge these knowable and known facts.

    That is, whether W chooses to mock it or ignore it or what not, “C are making the mistake of treating problem P as belonging to the set S, while it’s obvious it belongs to the set T ” is something I’d like to defend, with the modification that the word “obvious” is wrong. The point I am making is that it has epistemically strong evidence in its behavior, so that failing to take that evidence into account leads to a very epistemically weak argument on the part of “C” (whatever “C” stands for).

    So substitute “demonstrable” for “obvious”, and tell me why that is an invalid position.

    I have enjoyed my numerous conversations with W, including on the occasions we have met in person, and I appreciate the vigorous disagreement. But I hardy agree.

    I would venture that philosophers are hung up on the mathematical worldview – a thing is either proven or disproven or uncertain. A key point of defending science is that there is a category of “almost certain”, “clear enough”, etc. This category affects our daily behavior – we do not walk onto the tracks in front of an onrushing train despite the lack of absolute certainty that the outcome will be terrible. In the end we can be certain of very little outside mathematics, if that.

    When we actually look at what the Charney Commission predicted in 1979, and what has occurred, we cannot escape the conclusion that the outlines of the climate problem, as a physical problem, have been well enough understood to make surprising but valid predictions. This gives climate science an epistemic status different form that of economics, political “science”, or social “science”.

    I don’t object to people thinking about “political science” or “social science” at all. Indeed, I do a lot of that and am doing it now as I write this. I object to people assigning comparable epistemic certainty to these pursuits than to the ones that have proven their abilities.

    When a blue ribbon committee of economists makes a prediction comparably outside normal experience to “global warming at the surface, amplified in the polar regions, accompanied by cooling of the stratosphere, becoming disruptive early in the next century” some decades in advance of the outcome, let me know and I’ll revisit my opinion about that field.

  48. mt says:

    Susan: “That it pretends to be the first time someone has put forth the “humans are a part of nature! so nana nana boo boo!” line is just straight up embarrassing.”

    Thanks. And amen.

  49. That we do not need science any more makes sense in two extreme cases:
    1. When you are not prepared to act no matter how big the consequences of climate change
    2. When you argue that politics is so much behind on a “rational” response that the current value range of the climate sensitivity is enough to guide mitigation policies.

    There could be a case for 2 if you only consider mitigation. Given the social circles Reiner Grundmann hangs out with, he is more likely thinking of 1. If you are proponent of a somewhat more moderate case you still would like research to be done to know how fast we should mitigate.

    More importantly, we need research for adaptation. I heard a historian argue (I think it was Sam White on the Climate History Podcast that the main problem of historical climatic changes was the variability, which made it difficult to plan and prepare. We will need nowcasting and weather prediction for the catastrophe response, seasonal weather predictions and decadal climate predictions for the short term planning and climate projections and imperfect impact studies for the long-term planning. If the mitigation sceptical movement is successful in delaying solving the problem, they are making Michael Mann more important.

  50. hypergeometric,
    I wasn’t trying to make a big deal out of that interaction with Marc; it’s somewhat amusing in retrospect 😉

    On the other hand, there is something to be said for people who are clearly in a position to know to lead by example, as Anderson

    I agree that there is a case for this, but I do think that we have to be careful of assuming that those who highlight the significance of a possible problem should be the ones who then lead by example; it’s not really their role.

    Victor,

    2. When you argue that politics is so much behind on a “rational” response that the current value range of the climate sensitivity is enough to guide mitigation policies.

    Indeed, but even if this is the case (and some might argue that it is) we’d still want to have information to guide various adaptation strategies. In a sense, this highlights the inconsistency of Grundmann’s argument; he’s not arguing that we should ignore science because we must simply get on with mitigating, he’s arguing that there are much more important social issues that should dominate the decision making. And yet, if we follow that strategy, we’d probably need to know how to adapt to sea level rise, heatwaves, extreme precipitation, and se would need information from climate science.

  51. mt says:

    Victor, yes, I hold to position 2. That it amounts to a sort of agreement with those holding to position 1 is indeed an unfortunate coincidence.

    What the role of physical climatology will be in adaptation is actually a very interesting question, albeit one that belongs to a different thread.

    Climatology, viewed primarily as physical climatology and paleoclimatology, and their various branches, is a very important pure science. As an applied science, insofar as the mitigation problem is concerned, climatology mostly about communication and outreach.

    The extent to which climatology can inform adaptation is very debatable.

    I will point out only that water management professionals in the American southwest have learned to ignore the long-range prognoses that are sometimes called “regional climate predictions”. (I think these predictions are still mostly heuristic.) That a dry season is more likely than not or a wet season more likely than not is generally not considered reliable enough information for them to change the management strategy of their reservoirs. (What’s more, these so-called “climate predictions” degrade the reputation of climatology among hydrologists.)

    Similarly, El Niño experts like to tell themselves that improved predictions of ENSO will affect agricultural planning, but I do not think that many farmers actually avail themselves of such information. Again, this is because the predictions are only modestly better than chance or very simple rules of thumb.

    These are my impressions only, and I’d appreciate being corrected if wrong, but my point is, you generally don’t adapt to things that haven’t happened yet.

    Trying to do so is a high risk proposition. If the water management agency sheds water in expectation of a slightly more likely than not flood season, and a drought ensues, the users of the water management system will be far more displeased than in a neutral policy.

  52. mt, I would really say that fundamental climate science does a lot more than outreach. In fact nearly all climate scientists do not do this at all.

    These are my impressions only, and I’d appreciate being corrected if wrong, but my point is, you generally don’t adapt to things that haven’t happened yet.

    Maybe not in the USA where in several states the civil servants are not allowed to talk about climate change, but in The Netherlands the norms for the sea and rive dikes have been increased by about 1m; that is adaptations. In several European countries climate service centres are now active to help communities and government adapt to climate change.

    Seasonal weather prediction and decadal climate prediction is not good yet for the mid-latitudes, but it works quite well in the tropics. Globally there is the Global Framework for Climate Services to make sure that such information is tailored to and communicated to poorer countries. The World Meteorological Organization is doing its best, but the impact of this information is likely hard to assess and it take time to build up trust.

  53. Willard says:

    MT,

    If we need to define greatness before considering something as the greatest such-and-such, we’d have problems writing sport commentaries, including ClimateBall ™ second-guessing. My point was that ill-defined and complex problems are not even problems. They’re messes.

    To say that AGW’s a mess more than a problem does not imply much. Such taxonomic argument only reminds us to curb our enthusiasm regarding our will to solve it by defining it, which I thought was your overarching point. That now you accuse me of the positivism I thought was your stance makes me doubt it.

    One important difficulty with not being able to define the AGW problem is that we don’t know when it starts and where it ends. This could imply, if we’re strict in our ontology, there may only be one great Mess. This should imply, however, that AGW doesn’t stand alone, even if it’s a precondition for the human predicament. To take but one example, it goes hand in hand with right-wing populism.

    As I see it this morning, there are three main difficulties with taxonomic criticism. First, it needs to be padded with more potent arguments. Second, it should be followed through with a conceptual analysis that leads somewhere more fruitful than Reiner’s crap, e.g. when he writes a paper paying lip service to Morton and Junior to peddle common contrarian concerns. Third, the idea that only science converges toward truth is a bit false:

    Outside science, facts abound. Even in philosophy we can see knocked-down arguments. Science makes useful and powerful theories about the world, a world we could not understand otherwise. Even if we accept that science converges toward truth, it is not alone in doing so.

  54. Steven Mosher says:

    ” Third, the idea that only science converges toward truth is a bit false:”

    Not to go post modern on u, but I would even question the application of a math metaphor of convergence.

  55. Steven Mosher says:

    “These are my impressions only, and I’d appreciate being corrected if wrong, but my point is, you generally don’t adapt to things that haven’t happened yet.”

    http://www.adaptationclearinghouse.org/resources/treasure-island-adaptation-strategy-for-sea-level-rise-part-i-background-and-projections.html

    perhaps some quibbling over the meaning of adaptation.

  56. mt says:

    >”mt, I would really say that fundamental climate science does a lot more than outreach. In fact nearly all climate scientists do not do this at all.”

    Fundamental science is about knowledge, not about application. As such I think climate science is not just a bit worth supporting, but is actually a cornerstone of complex systems science. This is because climate is arguably the best-observed complex system, as well as being one that is highly constrained by validated theories.

    The climate of the Earth should be studied to *at least* the extent of climate of other planets. This would seem to me obvious.

    It is true that sea level rise is an established prediction, and that resiliency to it is a science-informed adaptation. It is possible that future research will better constrain the anticipated rate of sea level rise. Though I have some doubt about this, this is indeed an exception if my point stands.

    Further, I admit increased attention to resiliency in general is a response to science, and that to some extent climatology played the role of an applied science in encouraging such resilience.

    But I don’t think this constitutes the primary reason we have a discipline of climatology.

    In general adaptation is local, and it’s unclear that we can rely on local climate prognoses. In my experience, local practitioners of civil engineering ignore local climate predictions and probably are well-advised to do so.

    >”Globally there is the Global Framework for Climate Services to make sure that such information is tailored to and communicated to poorer countries.”

    I have no doubt that information is conveyed. I do doubt that the information is used in short-run adaptation elsewhere any more than it is used in the water or agriculture sectors in the US.

    I’m not asking about the existence of information provision. There is plenty of provision.

    I’m interested in how such information is used operationally.

    I’m interested in whether defending climatology as an applied science comparable to operational meteorology is justified. Indeed, the traditions of meteorology and climatology place the disciplines on opposite sides of the applied vs fundamental divide.

    Again, I will acknowledge sea level rise as a clear exception. And certainly once we start talking about deliberate geoengineering, the reliance on physical climatology will be intense.

    But for now, the outlines of the mitigation problem are clear, and I suggest very few of the adaptation problems are amenable to further research in the foreseeable research horizons. Which is to say, for policy purposes the climate science is done. Every IPCC report says basically what Charney et al said in 1979. Many fascinating details have emerged, but the story, from the point of view of policy, remains the same.

  57. The height of the dikes is not just determined by sea level rise, but also by storms and which direction the wind comes from. Even if climatology would not indicate any change in storms and wind, the uncertainty on this estimate would need to be taken into account to make sure that the dikes are strong enough to only break once every 100,000 years (the Delta norm).

    These dikes protect most of the economy of The Netherlands (the 28th economy in the world) and the dikes themselves are expensive. Any knowledge brings benefits.

    I would be very much surprised if European (local) governments did not take climate change into account when it comes to rain and river water protection and storage. These are big investments and not done by gut feeling. If only taking into account that the past record in no longer a sufficient indicator and a risk margin needs to be added. Science can surely give some indication how large the additional uncertainty is, even if we we are not sure about the local changes.

  58. mt says:

    I vigorously agree with planning for resilience.

    I don’t know that advocating such policies is why we have climate science. I rather doubt it. Other sciences are funded without having such a case to make. And I don’t foresee much additional clarity from the science on how much resilience to plan for.

  59. @mt

    Well, the City of Boston is engaged in a pretty deliberate process to ascertain climate impacts, what should City policy and planning dictate, especially with respect to sea level rise and storm surge, and needed investments. It is informed by science, and climate projections for Boston, followed by three additional reports, an Integrated Vulnerability Assessment, a detailing of Resilience Strategies, and a Final Report and Implementation Roadmap. The last three appear to be late, but there is a hard stop of sorts in the form of a Climate Vulnerabilities & Solutions Symposium on the 15th of September, which I am attending.

    Attendees will include representatives from local financial firms, banks, insurers and re-insurers, as well as businesses, utilities, real estate people, government people, NGOs and attorneys. There already was a presentation of the Climate Projections Consensus at which there were many representatives of these stakeholders.

    Come September, it will be interesting to see how these groups think about the problem, and where they are landing in terms of a mix of the three basic choices, (i) wait-and-see, with willingness to take on and deal with damage as it comes, (ii) makes some preparations, but basically remain-in-place, or (iii) preparare to abandon some place down the road, and begin preparations to assess where to go. That’s in part because (a) major bankers have been thinking about this (see also), and (b) Boston has been thinking about this. I also attended the program at HUCE during HUBweek, and found Robert Young’s comments particularly compelling. This was part of a larger and longer discussion including the possibilities of moving the City.

    I like Carney’s description that “Climate change is an economic problem.”

  60. I do see utility, but we should never forget to study the climate system just for the complex beauty of it.

  61. mt says:

    I don’t claim that only science can obtain truth.

    My core claim here is that those writing on a given topic are to be expected to take some care to establish what is known to be true about it.

    In practice, many people making erudite claims about the AGW piece of the great mess make claims that are at best trivial and marginal, if not entirely wrong. They ought to be neglected in the face of what has been established, which they seem to ignore or be ignorant about.

    When they say this is a matter of “social science” and not “climate science”, they are in my opinion largely right if they have some idea what the climate science has already demonstrated, and irresponsibly wrong otherwise.

    My opinion is that social theory, economic theory, communication theory, etc. are not sciences in the same sense that climatology is. I’m not the first to speak of “physics envy”. I don’t like Popper’s explanation of the difference, but I strongly suspect that there must be one.

  62. Magma says:

    To clarify a slightly too sarcastic comment I made earlier, I’m not trying to paint all sociologists or economists with the same brush. Lawrence Hamilton has written some very useful and insightful posts and papers on the public perception of science and AGW and its politicization, for example, and Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow is a must read. (I’m much less impressed by Dan Kahan.) And some climate scientists from the physical sciences branches have done well when they have tackled the broader social implications of their research, on their own or with colleagues from other disciplines. As has been noted by others already, IPCC WGII and WGIII reports are heavily weighted towards the socioeconomic questions of climate change.

    But I’m underwhelmed by experts from one field waltzing into others to tell their practitioners what they’ve been doing wrong all the time. Expertise takes considerable time and effort to develop, and has limited transferability. There is a great deal to be said for 1) assuming that the majority of experts in a given field understand what they are doing and 2) devoting time to understanding key aspects of other fields before offering a strong opinion on them. Personally I’m pretty sure Michael Mann and James Hansen have much hard-won insight and expertise into the social and policy sides of the climate wars, with the scars to prove it. That the two of them have been targeted so long and so viciously by AGW skeptics and deniers suggests that they are doing something right in their approach to the public and to policy makers.

  63. My core claim here is that those writing on a given topic are to be expected to take some care to establish what is known to be true about it.

    Absolutely. As Magma says:

    But I’m underwhelmed by experts from one field waltzing into others to tell their practitioners what they’ve been doing wrong all the time.

  64. John Mashey says:

    Marco:
    “When doing so, it may be useful to know this actually is the originally accepted version, not the version that was ultimately published after revision. ”
    Thanks, I’ll have to get a copy of the final whenever I finish off the Medieval Deception series, given Prof. Grundmann’s reliance on the falsehood-laden Montford(2010), as it provides a good example of the way disinformation gets repeated.

  65. Steven Mosher says:

    ‘ That the two of them have been targeted so long and so viciously by AGW skeptics and deniers suggests that they are doing something right in their approach to the public and to policy makers.”

    otherwise known as the “flack over the target” fallacy

  66. > I’m underwhelmed by experts from one field waltzing into others to tell their practitioners what they’ve been doing wrong all the time. Expertise takes considerable time and effort to develop, and has limited transferability.

    I wholeheartedly agree, and would push this even further to specialty areas. We all have our ways of doing things, and there’s most of the times some method in what can be seen by onlookers as madness.

    That does not preclude from discussing INTEGRITY ™ issues, under the condition (cf. what MT said) that enough expertise is being conveyed for turning the exchange into political red meat. Let’s not kid ourselves, however: once we get into INTEGRITY ™ issues, things get political. Everybody becomes an authority, or at least a shareholder if like Brexiters we let go of the concept of authority altogether.

    If we assume that “for policy purposes the climate science is done,” then the ClimateBall ™ playing fields include social sciences. Considering what was said above, practitionners of the hard sciences need to embrace playing visitor. An alternative is to start doing one’s own soft science, which may explain why this is exactly what is being done.

  67. mt says:

    >”If we assume that “for policy purposes the climate science is done,” then the ClimateBall ™ playing fields include social sciences. Considering what was said above, practitionners of the hard sciences need to embrace playing visitor. An alternative is to start doing one’s own soft science, which may explain why this is exactly what is being done.”

    D’accord.

    To be honest, I myself just set out to do my own journalism, not my own social science.

    But they are analogous.

    As with journalism, social science generally is paired with a “beat”. Chris Mooney and Elizabeth Kolbert stand out as journalists who get the climate picture and reliably report on it responsibly and effectively. Steve Easterbrook and Stephan Lewandowski stand out for me as exemplars of knowing their own corner of the academic world and enough climate science to make sense when bringing their own expertise to bear on the climate world as a social construct. Thus they do good, valuable work.

    It doesn’t much matter who you are or what your expertise is, when you have a “beat” you need to develop a second expertise. This is sadly rare in practice, at least in cases when the soft sciences, or analogously, journalism, touch the hard sciences.

    (But unlike the journalist or science communicator, the practicing climate scientist’s only purpose in ClimateBall is to exit the field!)

  68. “Personally I’m pretty sure Michael Mann and James Hansen have much hard-won insight and expertise into the social and policy sides of the climate wars, with the scars to prove it.”

    Exactly. I’ve been subject to gravity for all my life, with the scare to prove it. Move over Newton!

  69. Richard,
    Brilliant. Keep it up.

  70. Marco says:

    [Mod: Hmmm, I think I will moderate this, but I take your point.]

  71. Prof. Tol, in case you missed it (again)

    Richard, I have found a clear error in your piecewise linear model paper, which I have pointed out here (please respond on the “Short Memory” thread rather than here). I have also found a few more incongruities that I would appreciate you comments on. Thanks in advance.

  72. Steve Mosher wrote “otherwise known as the “flack over the target” fallacy”

    it isn’t always wrong though, bowlers rarely bother sledging batsmen that they are confident they can get out cheaply (which is why the sledging is an implicit acknowledgement of a lack of confidence). Perhaps the same is true of scientific discussions, if you are confident of being right on the science, you should be keen to avoid discussion of the science being deflected onto other issues.

  73. @wotts
    So, introspection is an unacceptable method in the natural sciences but an acceptable methods in the social sciences?

  74. Richard,
    No idea why you asked that or why you think it deserves any kind of serious response (in fairness, you probably weren’t asking it in order to get a serious response).

  75. Prof. Tol, in case you missed it (again)

    Richard, I have found a clear error in your piecewise linear model paper, which I have pointed out here (please respond on the “Short Memory” thread rather than here). I have also found a few more incongruities that I would appreciate you comments on. Thanks in advance.

  76. @wotts
    Above, Magma argues that Mann’s and Hansen’s personal experiences made them good political scientists. So, I offered the hypothesis that my personal experience of gravity makes me a good physicist.

  77. Richard,

    Above, Magma argues that Mann’s and Hansen’s personal experiences made them good political scientists.

    Umm, no he didn’t. He suggested that their personal experiences gave them hard-won insight and expertise into the social and policy sides of the climate wars.

    So, I offered the hypothesis that my personal experience of gravity makes me a good physicist.

    I think the correct comparison would be that if you kept falling out of trees, your personal experiences would provide valuable insights to those who might want to study why people kept falling out of trees.

  78. @wotts
    I would submit that insight and expertise is gained from independent observation of multiple cases from all angles. But hey, I’m a card-carrying social scientist, so what do I know.

  79. Richard,
    Magma might be wrong, but misrepresenting what he said and providing a rather silly counter example would seem a poor way of indicating why.

  80. @wotts
    Magma’s fine.

    The attitude is not, however. We don’t study gravity by falling out of trees. We don’t study politics by engaging in political debates.

  81. [Mod: Sorry, but this thread risks becoming about Tol again, which is rarely a good thing. In an attempt to avoid that, I’m going to moderate this comment.]

  82. We don’t study politics by engaging in political debates.

    Indeed. Shall I repeat what Magma said again: hard-won insight and expertise into the social and policy sides of the climate wars. If you’re going to argue against what someone has said, could I ask that you argue against what they actually said, not what you think they said.

  83. Marco says:

    ATTP, can I just point you to my moderated comment again? I’m fine with it being moderated, but I think my recommendation still stands.

  84. Willard says:

    > We don’t study politics by engaging in political debates.

    Politics is exactly where the theory/praxis divide falters.

    One does not simply tell physicists and other practitionners of the hard sciences to go back to their baracks when we’re dealing with messes.

  85. izen says:

    Can anyone think of a good historical example of governance acting to mitigate a scientifically predicted danger BEFORE the reality of the threat is all too apparent?

    There are examples of commercial products and practises, SOx, asbestos, Lead CFCs, have all been abandoned, eventually and often with a degree of reluctance. Local response, such as building and infrastructure regulation to ensure resilience in earthquake zones and the Dutch dykes were also reactive as much as preventative. The Thames barrier might be an example of mitigation. But it was also a response to the 1953 flood, however it did take the best (then ) scientific estimate of future sea level rise and build something that would last 50+ years in a harsh salt water environment that could cope with double the predicted trend.

    Sensible action after the fact is the pattern. even then there is often resistance, or complaints about the immediate specific economic cost compared with the hypothetical general savings.

    There may be an argument that climate change is unique in being global, and its cause deeply embedded, in fact fundamental, to the logistics of supporting modern industrial society. But a practical example of how scientific knowledge has informed previous policy choices whether local or global would at least be a reassurance that such a process is is possible without a series of major catastrophes to prompt action.

  86. Bob Brand says:

    I do think Reiner Grundmann has something like a point here, where he writes:

    The key issue lies with the fact that scientific insights are being used to derive policy. If climate policy is justified with science, opponents of the policy will attack the science. This logic only distracts from the problem of devising suitable policies to deal with climate change. Nevertheless, it comes to the fore time and again. This line of argument also highlights that the climate problem is not a scientific problem, but a social problem: one cannot derive climate policies from climate science. Such policies must be the result of a pragmatic decision-making process in which many more elements are involved, such as costs and benefits, acceptability, political expediency and so on.

    What seems to be missing is the word “alone” after: “… also highlights that the climate problem is not a scientific problem“. Fact-based policy and societal change might be described as the outcome of a decision process, for instance:

    scientific findings —> value based judgments —> weighing alternative policies —> taking conflicting interests into account —> decisions on policy

    There are many steps between ‘science’ and ‘policy’ and value judgments, as well as interests, differ a lot between sociocultural groups. Short-circuiting such an inherently political decision process by ignoring different value judgments — which may be attractive to *some* natural scientists because they often tend to share the same set of values — does not help.

    It may make ‘sceptics’ (in reality: people with different values and different interests) attack the scientific findings, only because there seems to be no explicit recognition of these differing values. In that case a ‘hook’ is missing to address such differences explicitly.

    Now, I think Grundmann is overstating it where he seems to put the blame on (physical) scientists. By and large they do understand very well that science does not lead 1:1 to policy. However, in many media and in popular discussions this kind of ‘short-circuiting the decision process’ seems to be quite apparent.

  87. Bob,
    Yes, I agree that there are many steps between “science” and “policy” and clearly science doesn’t immediately define what should be done. The issue I had with that paragraph you quote is the conclusion that because opponents attack the science, it means it a social problem not a science problem. By that argument, if you want some evidence to be dismissed, just attack it.

    Now, I think Grundmann is overstating it where he seems to put the blame on (physical) scientists. By and large they do understand very well that science does not lead 1:1 to policy.

    Indeed, and my naive view when I started discussing this topic was that one role for social scientists would be to clarify the role of science in policy making, not perpetuate the myth that scientists thinks there is a 1:1 link between science and policy.

  88. Steven Mosher says:

    “One does not simply tell physicists and other practitionners of the hard sciences to go back to their baracks when we’re dealing with messes.”

    well, the science is settled, we knew as far back as 1896 that we could not emit with impunity.
    Send the troups back to their barracks is a bit extreme. The more interesting question
    is, how to you redeploy the brains who currently have expertise in understanding the physical
    realm ( please avoid hard soft metaphors ahem) ?

    I’d suggest that the veterans of the climate science wars should get some treatment for PTSD
    and then go work on one of the following problems

    http://www.vox.com/2016/7/14/12016710/science-challeges-research-funding-peer-review-process

  89. The problem I have with the “science is settled” argument is that it appears that there are still many in the media and in politics who think that there is far more disagreement than there is in reality. If those who wanted a smaller role for scientists and a bigger role for others were to spend some time supporting the communication of the science – rather than appearing to undermine it – maybe the role for scientists would diminish naturally, and others would develop more significant roles. Arguing that it’s the fault of natural/physical scientists because they mis-defined what climate change is and suggesting that they go back to the barracks until they learn to behave properly does not – IMO – help.

  90. Willard says:

    > The key issue lies with the fact that scientific insights are being used to derive policy.

    Let’s grant that we can’t “derive policy” from “scientific insights.” We can still maintain that “scientific insights” can be used to establish conditions that need to meet policies. To take one example:

    [Scientific insight 1] If we dump CFCs like there’s no tomorrow, the ozone hole may expand.
    [Scientific insight 2] The ozone hole expansion may have adverse consequences.

    From this, I think we can safely say that scientific insights lead us to the conclusion that policies to mitigate future ozone hole expansion may be a good idea. It is such a good idea, in fact, that we can consider that it is a precondition for any policy regarding ozone expansion. The same kind of scientific insights should delimit the AGW mess.

    Even if we can’t derive policies from scientific insights, scientific insights sure suffice to establish policy conditions.

    In other words, the “derive policy” looks like a caricature that imposes a false dichotomy between scientific knowledge and rational policy-making.

    Why are we still having to deal with this kind of caricature may always remain a mystery.

  91. Willard says:

    > If climate policy is justified with science, opponents of the policy will attack the science.

    If we accept that scientific insights ought to delimit rational policy-making, then the if-then construction is rhetorical. If climate science tells us that the only way to reduce risks of AGW is for us to stop dumping CO2 in the atmosphere like there’s no tomorrow, any sound policy should follow from it.

    To “attack the science” is a good thing, if the attacks rest on constructive scientific criticism. To “attack the science” is more suboptimal when it’s a proxy for political warfare.

    As proxies for political warfare, the auditing sciences may very well follow through whether climate policy is justified with science or not. One might even surmise that contrarian concerns might look less sexy were they not disguised under “scientific” proxies.

  92. Willard says:

    > This logic only distracts from the problem of devising suitable policies to deal with climate change.

    That sounds like the “I can’t walk and chew bubble gum at the same time” fallacy. We’ve got enough man-power and resources to deal with many messes at the same time.

    That also sounds like the “if you offer reasons for your position I will attack them, so you better not offer any reason at all” fallacy.

  93. Pingback: Can the City of Boston adapt to and help mitigate climate disruption? | Hypergeometric

  94. mt says:

    W. agree with all the above except your denoument:

    > “Why are we still having to deal with this kind of caricature may always remain a mystery.”

    Say what you will about Al Gore, he did start to answer the question of “why we are still dealing with this caricature” in his movie: it is that there are many billions of dollars of fossil fuel business yet to be done. At least that accounts for it in the climate world. I think similar conditions surround other false controversies.

    Why there are so many academics who deliver products reinforcing the caricature?

    I think that there is a willing and well-funded market for this sort of mediocrity is unlikely to be irrelevant. Few of these authors are bribed directly. That’s unnecessary. They just find that their work in this direction mysteriously garners more attention than their comparably insightful efforts on other matters.

  95. Bob Brand says:

    ATTP,

    I don’t think Grundmann is arguing that: “that because opponents attack the science, it means it is a social problem not a science problem“. Rather, he is saying:

    If climate policy is justified [ONLY] with science, opponents of the policy will attack the science

    I added the ‘ONLY’ because in my view it is a qualifier which is missing from Grundmann’s letter, in that particular sentence and elsewhere. For instance, in his: “one cannot derive climate policies [JUST] from climate science.

    Most opponents have neither the philosophical insight, nor the vocabulary, to discuss differences in value systems and in cultural identity in any kind of reasoned manner. That is quite understandable since putting up your core values and beliefs for discussion and criticism is a very hard thing to do.

    Nevertheless such differences are at the very core of any political decision-making process.

    What Grundmann is saying is that a lot of the ‘skeptical’ attempts to argue against the science, are just ‘deferred’ attempts to highlight differences in value systems and in cultural identity. This happens because value systems and interests are NOT made sufficiently explicit in the process:

    scientific findings —> value based judgments —> weighing alternative policies —> taking conflicting interests into account —> decisions on policy

    which then seems to collapse to: scientific findings —> decisions on policy. In that case there seems to be no other recourse, for people with different value systems, than to argue against those scientific findings.

  96. Bob,
    Always happy to be corrected, but his full quote is

    If climate policy is justified with science, opponents of the policy will attack the science. This logic only distracts from the problem of devising suitable policies to deal with climate change. Nevertheless, it comes to the fore time and again. This line of argument also highlights that the climate problem is not a scientific problem, but a social problem: one cannot derive climate policies from climate science.

    So, I interpreted that as saying the attacks distract from the problem of developing suitable policy (which is true) and that this implies that it is really a social not a science problem. I certainly agree that it is more than just a science problem, but if attacking the science distracts from devising suitable policies, then I would hope that social scientists would help to reduce the impact of such attacks, not argue that we should accept them and redefine how we deal with the problem.

  97. Bob,
    I should say that I agree with the latter part of your comment. I just don’t see how Reiner’s articles provides any real attempt to resolve this. Surely a more inclusive, rather than exclusive, approach would be more constructive?

  98. Willard says:

    I agree with the ONLY part, BobB. I excluded it because it reinforces the caricatural aspect of Reiner’s point. Even if we remove that ONLY, I think my argument hits home.

    I’m sure there are reasons why audits never end, MT. I still doubt we will ever find a scientific theory of every ClimateBall ™ aspect.

    Another reason to justify the unoptimized recursion of contrarian concerns is to talk past the sell:

    [Sandbagging Donald] issued a series of five tweets in quick succession as a response to the controversy over the Obama-birther guy at the [Sandbagging Donald] event.

    Why five tweets?

    I assume the two-dimensional chess pundits will tell you it is a sign of desperation from a campaign that was always destined to flame out. Sure looks like a guy grasping at straws, right?

    Maybe it is.

    The Master Wizard Hypothesis has another filter on this. According to this way of thinking, [Sandbagging Donald] just made you think about which of several reasons you will choose to agree with him.

    He made you think past the sale.

    And to get there he said at least one, maybe two, things you agree with. That’s pacing. It is a tell.

    What Reiner considers a bug may very well a feature of neverending audits that hard-nosed scientists can’t dismiss out of hand.

    The best they can do is to be thankful for all the concerns, and remind everyone that dumping CO2 like there’s no tomorrow carries risks.

  99. I’m with Willard. Why do we still have to deal with these caricatures? I disqualify Grundmann as soon as writes, “The key issue lies with the fact that scientific insights are being used to derive policy.”

    1) This is just wrong. As often as not policy is divorced from science. For most of the past 5 decades the policy has been inaction.
    2) Science rarely even attempts to derive policy – as ATTP notes it may compare *policy alternatives*; actions/inactions and the (scientifically derived) consequences of each.
    3)The converse is ludicrous. Scientific insights should NOT be used to derive policy (*policy alternatives*)? If this isn’t an appeal to ignorance as a prerequisite for making policy, then it sorely needs to be reworded.

    We’ve taken the ‘Wimpy’ approach – I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today. Social scientists (i.e., economists) are as much — if not more — to blame for this than physical scientists. The pure rate of time preference and the discount rate used in IAMs almost seem designed to minimize future costs (at the expense of reality for future generations).

    Given that the much of the economic discipline has spent the better part of 40 years chasing after the equivalent of climate fairies (EMH, and RBC), it’s hardly confidence inspiring. We may not need *more* social science – just *better* social science.

  100. izen says:

    @-Bob Brand
    “Most opponents have neither the philosophical insight, nor the vocabulary, to discuss differences in value systems and in cultural identity in any kind of reasoned manner.

    So ‘most’ contributions to the issue can be dismissed…

    @-“Nevertheless such differences are at the very core of any political decision-making process.”

    They are secondary.
    Sea level rise will happen without any reference to value systems or cultural identity. The means of mitigating that rise is also a physical process, unaffected by any subjective value system or cultural identity.
    If reality and your value systems and cultural identity are in conflict, then one of them will have to change.

  101. Bob Brand says:

    ATTP,

    Yes, I already gave his full quote in my first comment:

    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2016/08/12/less-science-more-social-science/#comment-83820

    and I mentioned that in my view the qualifiers ‘ONLY’ and ‘JUST’ are missing.

    What Grundmann is referring to with “This line of argument” is his preceding “If climate policy is justified [ONLY] with science”, once again adding the qualifier since, in my view, that is necessary for it to make sense.

    I must disagree somewhat with your interpretation. As far as I can tell Grundmann regards “the climate problem” not just as devising suitable policies — in the sense of getting emission reductions into place — but as a successful dialogue and continual consideration about something ‘that will always be with us’, just like the social problems of crime, substance abuse, health care etc.

    Prof. Mike Hulme has expounded much the same view, but he used a full book to do so:

    http://www.cambridge.org/us/academic/subjects/economics/natural-resource-and-environmental-economics/why-we-disagree-about-climate-change-understanding-controversy-inaction-and-opportunity

    For a successful decision-making process which can be supported by the large majority of society, it is necessary to not only (!) take the scientific findings into account. Different value-based judgments and interests need to be made explicit and be acknowledged as part of this process. Is it easy? No way! But currently opponents are kicking against the tires of science, while they ought to be having a serious appraisal of theirs and ours value systems. 🙂

  102. Bob,

    For a successful decision-making process which can be supported by the large majority of society, it is necessary to not only (!) take the scientific findings into account.

    But I think this is obvious and I don’t think anyone serious is suggesting otherwise.

  103. I must disagree somewhat with your interpretation. As far as I can tell Grundmann regards “the climate problem” not just as devising suitable policies — in the sense of getting emission reductions into place — but as a successful dialogue and continual consideration about something ‘that will always be with us’, just like the social problems of crime, substance abuse, health care etc.

    I’m not sure I agree with this. Clearly we will always have climatic/weather events that we will have to adapt to and deal with. However, climate change in this context refers to anthropogenically-driven changes and I don’t necessarily agree that it is something that will always be with us, like crime etc.

  104. izen says:

    @-Bob Brand
    “For a successful decision-making process which can be supported by the large majority of society, …”
    Success engenders support. Not the other way round.

    @-“it is necessary to not only (!) take the scientific findings into account. Different value-based judgments and interests need to be made explicit and be acknowledged as part of this process.”

    Can you give any historical or current examples where the same physical situation is a threat, but different value-based judgments and interests have resulted in dissimilar policy outcomes; can any lessons be learnt from such examples if they exist?

  105. “I mentioned that in my view the qualifiers ‘ONLY’ and ‘JUST’ are missing.”

    So, if one rewrites the article, it may no longer be wrong, just a straw man?

  106. Bob Brand says:

    Izen,

    Your comment is an illustration that values-based judgments are not explicitly addressed:

    They are secondary.
    Sea level rise will happen without any reference to value systems or cultural identity. The means of mitigating that rise is also a physical process, unaffected by any subjective value system or cultural identity.

    People with a different set of values than you or me, may say:

    — why precisely is that ‘bad’?
    — sea level has risen even faster before, nature thrived and survived;
    — yes, now that you mention it, millions of people will have to move and many may die;
    — is that so bad? They have to move right now too because of wars etc. and it has never been any different in history.
    — human existence IS essentially suffering: everyone dies. Bad luck for them.
    — now why should *I* go and suffer by cutting MY emissions, to spare SOMEONE ELSE, whom I don’t know and never will know, and who wil live long after I am dead that misery?
    — am I my brothers keeper?

    You may very well answer that last question with: “Yes, you are.” But someone else may have a different set of ethical values and may say: “No, I am not.” There is no scientific way to answer that last question — it is a matter of values which are not explicitly (!) discussed.

    Because there is no recognised, ‘safe’ way to put differences in values up for discussion, opponents start whining about tide gauges vs. the satellite record instead.

  107. Willard says:

    The argument above may suffice to cut through the whole “but it’s a wicked problem” mess, as both in the case of CFC and AGW, “scientific insights” can offer us conditions that have to abide by any rational policy.

    The reason is quite simple: once we acknowledge that “scientific insights” can give us logical conditions that must satisfy a problem, its wickedness becomes irrelevant. Whether we solve, address, or embrace a problem, once we know the source of the problem, we can’t pretend to unknow it by armwaving wickedly.

    I’ve left a comment at Hans’. Paying due diligence to Russell’s view on ethics may have been tempting. So much to do, so little time.

  108. Willard says:

    > Because there is no recognised, ‘safe’ way to put differences in values up for discussion, opponents start whining about tide gauges vs. the satellite record instead.

    I don’t see why contrarians would not continue to raise concerns about these issues, since all their lines of arguments form a compact matrix. I doubt there is not one single point that can be attacked that has not been attacked already. If you have another line of argument, with a more or less formal citation, I’d gladly add it to my Matrix.

    (Perhaps I should add Reiner’s concern – I need to check if I included something along the lines of “but framing.”)

    Besides, this if-then clause would be more relevant if we could correct the antecedent. Unless we can come up a recognized safe way to put differences of values up for discussion, why bother saying this?

  109. I doubt it is necessary to put the responsibility for climate mitigation entirely on human ethics, as important as that might be. Setting aside discounting games, there’s plenty of evidence that climate disruption will cause huge losses of wealth and natural disruptions to business features such as supply chains. One can claim caring about these is the result of embracing a certain values system, but that values system is, like it or not, influential upon people as well as powerful in the world.

    This is not at all the same as a personal judgment as to whether a particular dress has a certain color or not and to do so is laughable trivializing the question.

  110. Bob Brand says:

    Hi ATTP,

    You say:

    However, climate change in this context refers to anthropogenically-driven changes and I don’t necessarily agree that it is something that will always be with us, like crime etc.

    Well, even if we succeed in eliminating all emissions + negative emissions to bring CO2 back to the pre-industrial 280 ppmv, this would have vast consequences. It would entail:

    — a moratorium on future activities which would release carbon in the atmosphere;
    — vast changes in how we do agriculture, livestock, animal husbandry, etc.;
    — clear limitations on land-use change.

    So, in that sense, “it will always be with us.” From now on we will, for each and every decision, have to take the effect on the climate into account. That is very much a social (!) matter.

  111. Willard says:

    For what it’s worth, the CFC problem is still with us. Does it mean it’s wicked?

    I’ve added “We need to reframe AGW as a wicked problem” to the Level 2 of the Matrix, as I now have a formal publication to cite.

  112. Bob,

    Well, even if we succeed in eliminating all emissions + negative emissions to bring CO2 back to the pre-industrial 280 ppmv, this would have vast consequences. It would entail:

    But noone – I think – is arguing that we aim to get back to 280ppm. The suggestion is that we should consider reducing emissions (and getting them to zero) so as to stop it from continuing.

    From now on we will, for each and every decision, have to take the effect on the climate into account. That is very much a social (!) matter.

    Sure, but that doesn’t make it a wicked problem, it doesn’t mean that reducing emissions isn’t the manner in which it would be addressed, and doesn’t make it non a science problem.

  113. But noone – I think – is arguing that we aim to get back to 280ppm. The suggestion is that we should consider reducing emissions (and getting them to zero) so as to stop it from continuing.

    That is an interesting question, and gets into all the same ethical and geopolitical questions that weather modification does. For if we collectively set up a negative emissions apparatus as UNFCCC and COP21 are suggesting we need to do, at tremendous cost, of course, and have mitigated to zero emissions as is needed to keep the price ot the negative emissions apparatus from being higher than necessary, and possibly impossible, then the eventual target for CO2 concentration is up for discussion. Surely it is a process that will take a century or so to achieve. But once we’ve bothered to set it up, the recurring costs are quite small compared to the setup costs.

    I think the greatest distaste I have for the COP21 outcome is that they are celebrating a great achievement and, yet, down in the details, there’s this implicit need for “negative emissions technology” which they really aren’t mentioning. I mean, it’s there, but it’s [not] at the level of Summary for Policymakers, and it seems to me it should receive greater emphasis. It’s really an admission of failure.

  114. hypergeometric,
    One issue with aiming to get back to 280ppm is that it would require – I think – removing almost as much as we have emitted in total.

  115. ATTP’s remark is justified by and addressed here nicely, pointing out that as CO2 in atmosphere is drawn down there is a problem because CO2 outgasses CO2 and it gets more difficult, takes longer, and gets more expensive.

  116. Not that I’m trying to be negative here 🙂 but my understanding of BECCS is not only that you need to capture and store the emitted CO2, but the energy source is plants. However, for it to produce the required level of negative emissions might require an area twice the size on India.

  117. I think you meant “Ocean outgasses CO2” :-), but yes, that is the point.

  118. Bob Brand says:

    ATTP,

    But noone – I think – is arguing that we aim to get back to 280ppm. The suggestion is that we should consider reducing emissions (and getting them to zero) so as to stop it from continuing

    Even if we would ‘only’ reduce emissions to zero, it would still entail the societal consequences i mentioned above:

    — a moratorium on future activities which would release carbon in the atmosphere;
    — vast changes in how we do agriculture, livestock, animal husbandry, etc.;
    — clear limitations on land-use change.

    Theoretically, one might imagine some future means to actively scrub CO2 and other GHG’s from the atmosphere, but that would create a certain ‘carbon budget’ — portions of which would then have to be allocated to different economic activities.

    So, in that sense, “it will always be with us”, in one way or another.

  119. Physics: “But noone – I think – is arguing that we aim to get back to 280ppm.”

    Well. I would think it neat when The Netherlands and its history and culture does not become Atlantis. In the long run that likely requires going back to the old temperature. I realise that whether we want to go that way depends on the price tag. I hope that the price tag in 2100 will be low enough that we will do this.

    Isn’t it a truism that the kind of policies you would like ideally depends on reality and your values? We can rewrite GR article to state that, but then it would (still) not make any contribution to the scientific literature.

    That the mitigation sceptical movement *chooses* to focus on attacking the science rather than the more logical candidate (values) suggests that they do not expect that their values will attractive for a majority. Sad,

  120. Steven Mosher says:

    Look the science is settled and supports the policy of getting to 100% nuclear ASAP.
    Jeez I cant stand these anti science types.

  121. Bob,
    Yes, I agree. I’m not suggesting that it’s easy; maybe it’s not even possible because of the consequences of doing. I don’t think, however, that it makes it a wicked problem. We understand what is driving climate change and we understand what we would need to do to address it. Clearly whether we decide to do so, how we decide to do so, etc, are big societal/political decisions, but I don’t see why that is an argument for changing it to an entirely societal issue.

    Theoretically, one might imagine some future means to actively scrub CO2 and other GHG’s from the atmosphere, but that would create a certain ‘carbon budget’ — portions of which would then have to be allocated to different economic activities.

    I’m not quite sure what you’re suggesting here. If we can remove CO2 from the atmosphere (negative emissions) I don’t see why that implies a budget for different activities.

  122. Willard says:

    Since Reiner’s op-ed does not contain any citation regarding wicked problems, here are breadcrumbs:

    https://judithcurry.com/?s=wicked+problem

    Reiner certainly wasn’t there first.

    An interesting citation from his op-ed, now that I can copy-paste it:

    If social scientists had been involved significantly and from the beginning, this crucial error in categorizing climate change might have been avoided. The environmental organizations and experts involved in framing climate change and prescribing policy pathways are mainly trained in natural sciences. As such, they do not have a good understanding of complex sociotechnical systems and problems, or about processes of political and cultural change. Some social scientists on the margins have been making counter- arguments for decades, but their advice has not been taken on board [4]. Most of the social science contributions in this area come from economists whose expertise is rather narrowly focused on cost-benefit and efficiency considerations.

    The first emphasis seems to refute Reiner’s “who, me?” latest stance.

    You’ll never guess where [4] leads.

  123. Vinny Burgoo says:

    @ Steven Mosher +1

  124. I was thinking of Lackner’s artificial trees more than BECCS. And, yes, presumably they would need to be both widely placed and, in some cases, dense.

    As for the “it will always be with us”, well so, apparently, is the massive deforestation of the eastern United States (Penn’s Woods, and all that). Stewart Brands opinions come to mind.

  125. Bob Brand says:

    Willard,

    You say: “Unless we can come up a recognized safe way to put differences of values up for discussion, why bother saying this?

    Since people are not engaged in any kind of recognized, explicit discourse about differences of values, there is no other recourse for ‘opponents’ than to attack the science. So that is what they do.

    Now, I would agree with ATTP it is not the fault of the ‘physical scientists’. At most they may be somewhat complicit, because occasionally they do fail to point out that it is actually about differing values. Someone who is explicitly addressing the value-systems, is:

    http://ensia.com/interviews/katharine-hayhoe-bridging-the-climate-change-divide/

    That is one way to do it. Even then she is rather careful in not asking people to change their values, she just makes it clear how much unmitigated climate change would actually go against these values. That will reach some. It may fail to reach those with very different values. Victor says:

    That the mitigation sceptical movement *chooses* to focus on attacking the science rather than the more logical candidate (values) suggests that they do not expect that their values will attractive for a majority. Sad.

    Yes, that may be a part of it. Asking someone to adopt another set of values… is in essence asking them to change their identity. Not so easy.

  126. Bob Brand says:

    ATTP,

    I’m not quite sure what you’re suggesting here. If we can remove CO2 from the atmosphere (negative emissions) I don’t see why that implies a budget for different activities.

    I only mean that any technique for negative emissions would have: (i) a certain capacity e.g. 3 gigaton CO2/year; (ii) a certain cost per gigaton/year.

    Now, to keep the CO2-concentration in the atmosphere at a constant level — after we have succeeded in stabilising it — this would mean the 3 gigaton CO2/year of negative emissions would have to be divided between agriculture/livestock/cement production/steel forgeries etc. An allocation process.

    So, even in that case, “it will always be with us.”

  127. Steven Mosher says: “Look the science is settled and supports the policy of getting to 100% nuclear ASAP.

    That would be a rational response from the conservatives. That is what Angela Merkel wanted to do, but then just after that the nuclear power plant in Fukushima melted down and she was forced to retract.

    It is a pity that the conservative politicians in the USA instead have opted to claim not to accept the science. Not sure whether that was motivated by ideology (because other conservative politicians did not) or by money.

    http://wolf-pac.com/

  128. Bob,
    I think there is a difference between negative emissions (taking out more than put in) and net zero emissions (taking out as much as we put in). The former would be removing emissions we’ve already made. The latter would be removing at the same rate as we emit. What you describe seems to be more relevant to net zero, than to negative emissions. Surely in the long-term we should price things so that any activity that emits CO2 pays to remove as much as from the atmosphere as is emitted (or captures all their emissions and stores them).

  129. Willard says:

    > Since people are not engaged in any kind of recognized, explicit discourse about differences of values, there is no other recourse for ‘opponents’ than to attack the science. So that is what they do.

    I don’t think the antecedent is correct, BobB. Denizens are discoursing about differences of values all the time. Take just about any recent thread at Judy’s, Tony’s, Lucia’s, or Bishop’s.

    I can concede that people aren’t really discussing. When they do, it usually turns into another Waiting for Godot. Cf. a recent exchange involving BrandonG and MarkB (make sure you don’t use a VPN before clicking on the link), or just about any contribution by Joshua for the past, what, five years? Even as we speak, Reiner and AT are still armwrestling over what Reiner’s op-ed implies.

    In any case, we’re already switching to the idea that what we have is a failure to communicate. Reiner’s point was more cognitive than that – it was about framing. Even though I’m not a great fan of that communication thing, I’m even less of a fan of “framing,” or worse the “paradigm” thing:

    http://rabett.blogspot.com/2015/05/die-paradigmgemeinschaft.html

    Let’s repeat my argument, for I think it knocks down the Hartwell crap: even if science can’t (arguably) tell us what to do, its insights can help us frame preconditions for any kind of problem, mess, or else.

    Besides, don’t you find it funny that Reiner cites himself and Junior and otters as “some social scientists on the margins have been making counter-arguments for decades, but their advice has not been taken on board”?

  130. Me: “That the mitigation sceptical movement *chooses* to focus on attacking the science rather than the more logical candidate (values) suggests that they do not expect that their values will attractive for a majority. Sad.”

    Bob Brand says: “Asking someone to adopt another set of values… is in essence asking them to change their identity. Not so easy.”

    That is a hard and long process and they will certainly not do so when their “enemy” asks them to. That would have to come from their own peers over a long time.

    I was not suggesting that people change, but that people defend their values. Steve could hypothetically say that he likes the police state that would be necessary to defend the nuclear power plants against criminals and terrorists. Then we could make a compromise where we get solar power and he gets more police. But then you have to openly talk about your values and not childishly claim to believe that there is no problem.

  131. Magma says:

    Let’s get to the core of the matter. This is not the 21st century version of the Born-Einstein debate on quantum mechanics.

    This is a political and economic battle around a settled [settled enough] scientific issue in which one side is perfect willing to use any and every tactic — however unethical or sleazy or discredited — to play out the clock a little longer because every single hour that business as usual continues a billion dollars moves through the fossil fuel industry. This is leaded paint and gasoline, asbestos, smog and acid rain, CFCs, and tobacco combined and raised exponentially.

    To politely play along with the fiction that a handful of second or third-rate largely inactive contrarian researchers are motivated by genuine concerns about, let’s say, the parameterization of clouds in GCMs that they have never used seems naive.

  132. If we go the route of renewable energy the power supply with be variable. We can solve this with bio-energy, hydro, storage and making demand more flexible, but probably will also build an overcapacity of renewables so that most of the time there is too much power to make sure that there is always enough power. Couldn’t we use this electrical power we do not need somehow to remove CO2 from the atmosphere?

  133. Bob Brand says:

    ATTP,

    I think there is a difference between negative emissions (taking out more than put in) and net zero emissions (taking out as much as we put in). The former would be removing emissions we’ve already made. The latter would be removing at the same rate as we emit.

    Yes, I agree. The latter still means we would have to allocate portions of what we can (technically and economically) remove to different sectors in society, such as agriculture/livestock/cement production/steel forgeries etc.

    It is unlikely we can remove anywhere near current emissions of 40 Gt/yr. So, we might have a process (maybe the highest bidder? Societal need? Both would involve values) to allocate that emissions budget.

    My point is: even in that case, “it will always be with us.” 🙂

  134. Yes, but we’re running out of time. Energy investors and analysts are in broad agreement that domination of the energy sector by renewables is inevitable. Some parts, e.g., air transport, will be slower. However, that could take a few decades.

    It depends upon how you count, but, assuming the widely-agreed-upon targets of +2C is what we want to do, the OECD countries must peak by 2025, and then decarbonize. That’s really fast. We’re still building fossil fuel energy infrastructure.

    The COP21 determinations assume the international commitments (“INDCs”) are complied with, and to some extent exceeded, but, if you do the arithmetic, it comes out needing negatives. ATTP had a nice post and discussion about the recent Sanderson, O’Neill, and Tebaldi paper. The conclusion of the investigation, published in the peer-reviewed AGU GRL:

    In summary, the chances of avoiding the 2∘ and especially the 1.5∘ temperature target are highly sensitive to the timing of climate mitigation, which is in line with the findings of previous studies [den Elzen et al., 2010; Rogelj et al., 2013]. Current INDCs could not avoid 2∘ of warming without relying on substantially greater net negative emissions later in the century than was proposed in RCP2.6, a capability that is not certain to be realized [Fuss et al., 2014; Smith et al., 2015]. In order to achieve 2∘ with an RCP2.6 level of long-term carbon removal, 2030 net GHGEs must be reduced by 10% from 2015 levels, significantly more than the unconditional INDCs (which allow 2030 and 2015 emissions to be effectively equal).

    Avoiding 1.5∘ of warming altogether, even with immediate action, would require considerably greater effort—at least a 25% cut in effective global CO2 emissions from present-day levels by 2030, a rate of reduction which many would consider impossible. However, allowing for a 50 year overshoot of 1.5∘ gives more flexibility;we find a scenario in which immediate action achieves a 10% cut in effective CO2 emissions by 2030, combined with large-scale deployment of negative emission technologies which enable net zero effective greenhouse gas emissions in 2060 would likely allow temperatures to exceed 1.5∘ for 50 years, with temperatures peaking at 1.8∘. Such a 1.5∘ overshoot scenario would still require emissions in the 2030s to be reduced by over 4% of present-day values per year, and if theworld follows RCP8.5 for another 5 years, then a 6% reduction in present-day emissions per year would be necessary. The likelihood of a 1.5∘ world and even a 2∘ world can be maximized with substantial and prompt global action, and each year following the RCP8.5 pathway lowers the probability that either target can be achieved.

    Emphasis added by me.

  135. Willard says:

    More from the “social scientists on the margins [who] have been making counter-arguments for decades“:

    The “Kyoto” approach was constructed by quick borrowing from past practice, with other treaty regimes dealing with ozone, sulphur emissions and nuclear bombs. It was not unreasonable that hard-pressed officials at the Rio “Earth Summit” in 1992 looked for examples of treaties that had worked – the Montreal Protocol, the START Treaties, the internal US sulphur emission reduction regime – from which to bolt together the skeleton of the radical new attempt to regulate the climate that their political masters had decided they must do. Nor was it novel for them to do so: incremental adaption from past successes is what is usually done by diplomats in such circumstances. The task was fitted into what Nordhaus and Shellenberger called a ‘pollution paradigm’. But, in this case, the analogies were structurally unsound. [27] While superficially plausible, they are not applicable in the ways that the drafters assumed because these were all ‘tame’ problems (complicated, but with defined and achievable end-states), whereas climate change is ‘wicked’ (comprising open, complex and imperfectly understood systems). Originally
    described by Rittel and Webber in the context of urban planning, ‘wicked’ problems are issues that are often formulated as if they are susceptible to solutions when in fact they are not.[28] […]

    The consequence of this misunderstanding was that there was a fundamental framing error, and climate change was represented as a conventional environmental ‘problem’ that is capable of being ‘solved’.

    Nature readers ought to embrace the new frame, otherwise contrarians sharing Reiner’s commensalist niche will raise concerns about Sound Science ™.

  136. Willard says:

    From the citation [28]:

    Climate change is a wicked problem. I’ll tell you another story from my Oak Ridge days. I got interested in climate about 1985 and I proposed at that time to the Director of the Oak Ridge National Lab that perhaps the lab could support a small programme on the social science issues potentially associated with climate change, the policy issues and the human dimensions. Being a sensibly cautious person – you don’t get to be a Lab Director if you’re rash – he referred my suggestion to a group of grey beards, whose advice he relied on in making policy for the lab, and asked them if they thought this was a good idea.

    […]

    The framework convention on climate change, which was opened for signature in 1992 at the Rio Summit, has the objective of “stabilising atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations”, this is a quote, “at a level that will prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”. Now, who could disagree with that? I think it’s always very useful when looking at pronouncements to turn them into the negative, and I don’t imagine that anybody would advocate dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. The only problem was that nobody could seem to agree on the meaning of dangerous or indeed what constitutes interference.

    […]

    Climate change, the conceptualisation of climate change and the way it’s been dealt with, is very much based on the hierarchical model of the ozone regime. […] The only trouble is, it’s actually a very, very poor analogy because with the substances that were depleting the ozone layer you’re dealing with a small number of artificially created gases manufactured by a small number of companies in a few industrial countries and for which already at that time there was fairly high confidence that there were substitutes available to act as refrigerants and fire extinguishing agents and so on. Carbon dioxide, on the other hand, is a product of everybody’s daily life. It’s ubiquitous, it’s global, it’s not something that you can simply control by choking off the manufacturer.

    Somehow, Rayner’s argument looks less conceptual by the end of that passage.

    From Reiner’s op-ed we get to the Hartwell Paper, of which he is one of the co-authors, in which one of the citations for “but wicked problem” is a lecture by Steve Rayner, one of the authors of the Hartwell Paper.

  137. Willard says:

    The Preface tells how the ancestor of the Harwell Paper retrodicted the failure of Kyoto:

    In July 2009, a group of scholars from institutions in Asia, Europe and North America, including a number of the present co-authors, collaborated on a paper entitled ‘How to get climate policy back on course’. It explained why the “Kyoto” approach, in development since the Rio “Earth Summit” of 1992, had failed and was doomed to fail. It recommended an alternative approach centred on direct steps to accelerate decarbonisation of the global economy.

    The July paper also hinted at a much deeper fatal flaw in the dominant framing for climate policy:

    The … problem is epistemological. It is a characteristic of open systems of high complexity and with many ill-understood feed-back effects, such as the global climate classically is, that there are no selfdeclaring indicators which tell the policy maker when enough knowledge has been accumulated to make it sensible to move into action. Nor, it might be argued, can a policy-maker ever possess the type of knowledge – distributed, fragmented, private; and certainly not in sufficient coherence or quantity – to make accurate ‘top down’ directions. Hence, the frequency of failure and of unintended consequences [6].

    Without a fundamental re-framing of the issue, new mandates will not be granted for any fresh courses of action, even good ones. So, to rebuild climate policy and to restore trust in expert organisations, the framing must change and change radically.

    The “direct steps to accelerate decarbonisation of the global economy” might deserve due diligence.

  138. Willard says:

    Here’s footnote 6:

    ‘How to get climate policy …’ pp. 5–6, and fn 3 citing J.C. Scott, Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998. For a long time this point has been authoritatively argued from different philosophical standpoints and, as resolutely, it has been ignored by makers of policy, cf F.A. Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty, London: Routledge, 1960, p. 27; I. Berlin, ‘The decline of utopian ideals in the West’, (1978), The Crooked Timber of Humanity: Chapters in the History of Ideas, (ed.) H. Hardy, London: Pimlico, 1990, pp. 46–8.

    I don’t always enter epistemological fights, but when I do, I bring my Hayek and my Berlin.

  139. Willard says:

    From How to get climate policy back on course:

    If countries really aspire to cut emissions, we suggest that the motor of an effective mechanism is a direct approach to the decarbonization of the global energy system, rather than an indirect approach via manipulation of the economy.

    This reminds me of the true story of an honorable samurai who defended a bridge, but to challenge him, you needed to cross that bridge first.

    Compare and contrast the list of authors between the How to Get and the Harwell papers.

  140. Willard says:

    We can jump to the main selling point:

    The Kaya Direct Approach would focus on expanding the provision of carbon-free energy. To this end, we support a low ring-fenced carbon tax in one form or another to fund innovation policies. The core argument of the Breakthrough Institute is an elementary political truth, namely that clean energy will only advance radically when it is made cheaper than dirty energy at point-of-use by the consumer. [16] Accordingly, a switch to public intervention in this area, where governments are well capable of directing public finance to stimulate research, development and deployment of innovations that work to reduce the costs of alternatives to fossil fuels, is prescribed.

    Billions upon billions of breakthroughs. All incremental, so all good.

    No mention of oil subsidies.

  141. The late Hermann Scheer in his Energy Imperative was deeply skeptical of international agreements like Kyoto and the UNFCCC process which he saw, basically, as a mix of a high level greenwashing effort and an attempt for what Buckminster Fuller called The Pirates to retain control of trade and their “cut”, lest it slip through their fingers.

    Whatever one feels about that, it is true that locally generated and locally controlled energy is an inherently democratic idea, and the problem, before now, was that reliable delivery could not be achieved without building out generation capacity at scale. Concentrate energy, and you concentrate political power, another Fuller idea, and Scheer saw that, too. Scheer realized that by designing a system which put local first, and steamrolled away the obstacles to local control, that stronghold on central political power would be at first weakened and then dissipated. In Energy Imperative, Scheer points out that the biggest obstacles to a rapid build out of zero Carbon energy (or “solar energy”, as Bucky would call them, since he properly saw wind energy as solar energy as well) were not predominantly at the federal or state level, but written into zoning and other local, municipal legislation, especially with respect to building codes, and vehicles whereby neighbors might perceive developments of zero Carbon energy to be unsightly or lower their own property values. In my few years experience with zero Carbon energy in the United States, I have found this to be true, that well-heeled citizens like natural gas because it cannot be seen but, as one person said to me, “Those damn solar panels are an eyesore.” Whether it is solar panels, or made up ailments due to wind turbine flicker, it’s all the same.

    Y’all point to problems with Kyoto, and maybe those are real. I say the problems are on Main Street.

  142. izen says:

    I can see no suggestions of historical or practical examples of how governance solves these sort of problems. Just the suggestion that because they involve values – and value, it is a wicked problem.

    The closest historical comparison I can think of is the abolition of slavery. That was enventually a globally imposed constraint enacted against strong vested economic snd ethical interests.

  143. sidd says:

    “Couldn’t we use this electrical power we do not need somehow to remove CO2 from the atmosphere?”

    I seem to remember that absorbing current 10Gton/yr fossil C combustion at 400KJ/mol would take roughly 10 Terawatt, or roughly the same as worldwide electric generation. From doi:10.1016/j.jpowsour.2012.09.054 (Table 8) i see that even 99.9% renewable penetration into US grid results in average excess generation of on the order 50 Gwatt . So spilled renewable will no do the job on its own, but will help. We must curb fossil C combustion first.

    It is my feeling that CCS will eventually become a behemoth as large as the present coal and oil mining industry, with hopefully, smaller environmental footprint.
    sidd

  144. David B. Benson says:

    Lowering the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere to 280 ppm might not be low enough —

    Using, say, 100% nuclear plus some negative emissions to eventually stabilize at 400 ppm invites comparison to the last time carbon dioxide levels were as high as now. See the Wikipedia page on Pliocene climate. During the mid-Pliocene atmospheric carbon dioxide levels were about the same as now, the global temperature was 2–3 K warmer than now and the sea stand was 25 meters higher than now. It seems that just stabilizing at current concentrations is parilous for our decendents.

    Something like 280 ppm would avoid the bad consequences. But having gone well above that the hysteresis of ice sheet formation and decay needs to be considered. A period with, say, 245 ppm to promote ice sheet formation looks desirable to me. Restoring to 280 ppm would be easy.

    For the negative emissions one scheme is proposed in Ornstein et al., “Irrigated Afforestation of the Sahara desert and the Australian outback” shows that using most of these two great deserts would sequester about as much carbon dioxide as are the current excess emissions. That, together with eliminating the burning of so-called fossil fuels, might be enough.

  145. And, note, that no one really knows how to do clear air capture and sequestration (whether storage or simply combining into local minerals) at scales required, for centuries, as seems needed.

    This seems hardly an engineering development to bet a planet upon.

  146. Indeed, the consequences of a 350 ppm world, despite its association with a major, and good, political movement by the name, include sea level rise which by today’s investment standards are catastrophic. And, by my readings, you are correct, there are several deliberate, global decisions, like massively changing the ecosystems of the Sahara Desert, or of New Mexico, or of Arizona. which could do the trick. And that kind of decision or need or planning brings the question Right Up Front? Is there compensation to locals involved? What say do they have? Note that the medical establishment embraces The Greater Good idea. Individuals cannot be that important.

  147. David B. Benson says:

    hypergeometric — The Sahara desert is larger than the 48 contiguous states. Arizona plus New Mexico is but a splash in the bucket.

    Might consider adding the Empty Quarter of the Arabian peninsula.

  148. Yeah, but it’s not yours or ours to repurpose rather than the back yards of every domicile in the USA.

  149. David B. Benson says:

    hypergeometric — So we just let them die in the heat? The peoples living around the Sahara are likely to be pleased to have employment as tree farmers. Similarly for the Australian outback, although I know less about that.

    The hazards of a sea level rise of 25 meters, or more if we do nothing, mean that the situation needs to be explained to everybody in the world. Most will be agreeable to assisting provided their basic needs are met.

    I suppose social science might help identify those.

  150. dikranmarsupial says:

    Richard Tol wrote “But hey, I’m a card-carrying social scientist, so what do I know.”

    apparently not enough about maths to know that zero is not a positive number. ;o)

  151. My point is that it’s all well in good to dictate to people in other countries what should be done to save them, when we are on our own responsible for 30% of the entire problem, Europe another 30%, and the wealthiest of us (this time the top 56%) responsible for direct and indirect emissions amounting to 70+% of the problem. So, what, build a BECCS in the Sahara so we can carry on with our consumption-based and development-based lives? I think it’s time we accepted that responsibility and did something appropriate, like take that Arizona-sized chunk of uninhabited land out West and turn it into the world’s largest solar farm.

    Or create laws which stop unbridled development of businesses, malls, and McMansion developments.

  152. JCH says:

    This what the sea-level-rise argument gets… 3.3mm/yr times 84 years is 277mm, or 10.9 inches.

  153. Yes, but it is not at all uniform. Here’s the projection for Boston:

    The amount and rate of RSLR in Boston during the first half of the 21st century is
    nearly independent of emissions. The most likely estimates of RSLR from 2000 to 2050 (associated with exceedance probabilities of 83%, 50%, and 17%) are 19, 32 and 45 cm (7.5,
    13 and 18 in), thus a 2050 range of 19 cm to 45 cm (7.5 to 18 in) can be considered, but higher
    RSLR approaching 75 cm (30 in) is possible.

    After ~2050 the scenarios diverge sharply, with substantially more RSLR under the
    higher emissions pathways. Under the highest emissions pathway (RCP8.5), the most likely
    estimates of RSLR from 2000 to 2100 in Boston are 97, 149 and 226 cm (3.2, 4.9 and 7.4 ft).
    Under the moderate-emissions RCP4.5 pathway, RSLR estimates from 2000 to 2100 are 74, 111
    and 156 cm (2.4, 3.6 and 5.1 ft). Thus a 2100 range of 74 cm to 226 cm (2.5 to 7.4 ft) can be
    considered.

    Sea-level rise will not stop in 2100, and because some long-lived infrastructure and land use
    plans will likely extend into the 22nd century, changes in RSL should be considered beyond
    2100. If the high RCP8.5 emission scenario is followed, the rate of RSL rise by the end of the
    21st century may be 19-48 mm/yr (0.75-1.9 in/yr), an order of magnitude faster than today, and will continue to accelerate.

    That’s from the Climate Projections Consensus.

    Visual impact.

    Appealing to mean values without considering the variability about the mean is a useless exercise for most real phenomena.

  154. JCH says:

    You’re dealing with a wall of stupidity. If you could just move it to the shore, you would have a seawall made of stupidity. A few years ago there was a paper that showed a natural fluctuation of the AMOC would cause an acceleration of SLR along the east coast of the USA. And they reported finding an acceleration. Since then some east-coast tide gauges show a drop in sea level, so skeptics have concluded the paper was alarmist tripe that has been completely refuted. It’s hilarious… wildly entertaining.

  155. Bob Brand says:

    Hello Willard,

    In your comment above you say:

    > Since people are not engaged in any kind of recognized, explicit discourse about differences of values, there is no other recourse for ‘opponents’ than to attack the science. So that is what they do.

    I don’t think the antecedent is correct, BobB. Denizens are discoursing about differences of values all the time. Take just about any recent thread at Judy’s, Tony’s, Lucia’s, or Bishop’s.

    Not in any explicit and civic, socially recognised way.

    What happens on those blogs is that it starts off as as some kind of ‘question’ about climate science, or maybe a ‘technical’ question about a particular mitigation option. Next step is that some knowledgeable folk — such as yourself — try to answer that climate science question. Fair enough.

    From there it always devolves into a kind of shouting match, where your references to the scientific literature are questioned (e.g. Trenberth is an ‘alarmist’, so ignore all his papers), they say “it is not HARD PROOF” or some other nonsense. From then on both sides just shout at each other: about the supposed stupidity of ‘the greens’ or about the greed of ‘the fossil fuel industry’, etc.

    What is actually happening here is: it is an ersatz’ debate.

    It only seems to be about climate science. The science is just a ‘coat hanger’ for the underlying differences in values which are not explicitly put up for discussion (and possibly for amendment).

    The values ought to be the central, explicit subject of civic discourse. Instead climate science is victimised and on those blogs the science is just like some dressed up guy in a bear costume — if you attack him, you are not actually attacking a bear (science), but the guy hiding underneath the costume (values).

  156. dikranmarsupial says:

    Bob, I don’t think that characterisation is fair. There are usually some that are discussing the science, the fact that there are some having an “ersatz debate” doesn’t change that.

    As I said earlier, the fact that people attack the science is not at all the problem; the problem is that they attack it using “rhetoric”, rather than science, which is ineffective in resolving the scientific disagreement. The science can look after itself, provided the attack abides by the norms of scientific discussion.

  157. Willard says:

    BobB,

    I get your point – search for “proxy for political warfare.” Now, hear (some of) the ones I made so far:

    (1) Contrarian concerns might look less sexy were they not disguised under “scientific” proxies.

    If that’s correct, then what you’re asking for presumes that you succeeded in beating the overarching contrarian strategy. I agree with the suggestion, but it is of little tactical value. Being thankful for all the concerns may not be enough to convince a PR engine that is powered by proxy warfare. Which leads me to:

    (2) What Reiner considers a bug may very well a feature of neverending audits that hard-nosed scientists can’t dismiss out of hand.

    What you dismiss as uncivic might very well be our predicament. There are theorical alternatives, but we also have formal evidence that we may not be able to reconcile our values. That we share our values presumes that we communicate something, and not only play the ref about how we should share them. Which leads me to:

    (3) I can concede that people aren’t really discussing. When they do, it usually turns into another Waiting for Godot.

    Once we get into meta-communicative mode, we seldom go back to communicatin’. That’s an empirical observation – the discussion turns about the discussion, then about the other discussions, then about the discussants, then another blog post comes in.

    Take Reiner’s latest crap. For all its merits, it’s basically a sale pitch where he claims that Kyoto failed (or even stronger: was doomed to fail) because of some conceptual difficulties, and that using his own favorite framework would solve all this. Then underneath a citation to some decarbonisation armwaving. What’s between the framework and the breaktrough stuff?

    Two things. First, Gnomes. Second, deligitimization.

    That doesn’t preclude exchange of ideas, mind you. It’s not impossible to communicate on blogs. Even at Judy’s. Even at Eli’s. People are hard-wired to communicate: that’s what they do. Which leads me to a new point:

    (4) ClimateBall should be fun.

    That people are fighting online is not the mere result of clashing values or miscommunications. It’s part of who we are as political animals. Ingroup/outgroup stuff is here to stay. Rationalizing this leads nowhere.

    Remember: these are credibility races. Gavin dismisses Reiner’s op-ed as “scientists are to blame.” Reiner dismisses Gavin’s take as “fantasy.” What is there not to like? It is not this kind of crap precludes the two from exchanging ideas. It is because both are beyond talking to one another that an exchange won’t obtain.

    Let’s see if Reiner will address my points any time soon. At least he published my latest comment.

  158. Willard says:

    Seems that level 1 or parsomatics has been cleared: from wording we’re getting into substance.

    Stay tuned tomorrow.

  159. Willard,

    Yes *that* thread, a grand social sciences experiment ’twas. A few comments later, I wrote something more directly apropos to the present discussion:

    DeWitt P.: I, for one, would like to see another GLORY satellite built and launched, successfully this time.

    Me: Sure, more and better data can’t hurt. Omniscience would be great. My thing is, we don’t need to know any more than we do to know what fixes the problem, and the sooner we actually address the problem instead of simply studying it, the less need there is for hyper-accurate forward-looking models.

    Or in shorter form: Shut up and mitigate already.

    You being clever may still find a way to liken this to a Beckett play. As for myself, of late I find myself wracked with a more Camus-esque sense of the absurdity of it all. Schadenfreude kicks in. I want to be alive to watch the world burn just so I can say, “We told you so.”

  160. Ken Fabian says:

    At what point do sink saturation and carbon feedbacks mean that zero emissions no longer equate to cessation of atmospheric CO2 rise?

    Is anyone seriously suggesting we irrigate the Australian outback? And for sequestration forestry, not agriculture? As an Australian who is familiar with recurrent suggestions of making the deserts bloom – for agriculture – by damming and diverting water from vastly distant places but that get (and depend on) high rainfall, I suggest we ’em they’re dreamin’! As an alternative to emissions reductions it’s nonsense and as a carbon draw down and sequestration complement to emissions reductions it’s still highly dubious.

    Perhaps it’s ignorance on my part but is it possible to sequester the equivalent of the carbon released through centuries of deforestation with reforestation, even without the fossil fuel addition? And that would be reforestation of the agriculturally marginal regions, not the deep, rich soils in regions of reliable rainfall that have become our prime agricultural lands – where I suspect the greatest forests once stood and which would have the greater potential for carbon draw down. There are good reasons for reforestation where it’s feasible but significant and enduring carbon sequestration seems unlikely to be achievable by this means.

  161. In other news, over at Dr. Curry’s I question whether Steve Koonin fanning the flames of opposition is the optimal solution to addressing his concerns for the planet.

  162. I love that line: Shut up and mitigate already.

    I do think that, at this point in time, the purpose of the IPCC seems to be to constrain “How long we can continue to effectively ignore this problem and what will the costs be?” There is some attempt to bring climate projections in to support regional planning, something which, as has been noted here, is not going terribly well. And deeper dives into the paleorecords and ice sheet dynamics seem to harvest just bad news. (Not a surprise at all. Bigger sample sizes are likely to yield a greater number of extreme events.) But, really, given findings from behavioral economics or even how a town responds to fatal crashes at intersections, why should anyone be surprised? It’s how people are built, and action does not happen until a sufficient number of body bags are taken away from the scene.

    I just hope to heck those climate state surfaces are nice and smooth.

    And regarding “I want to be alive to watch the world burn just so I can say, ‘We told you so,'” I find it really hard having an active imagination regarding physics and geophysics. My greatest challenge, in which I have not succeeded, is trying to convey the sheer scale of some of the systems we are messing with. I appeal to basic facts about them whenever I can, especially with respect to the oceans, such as their heat capacity, or the size of a Sverdrup.

  163. Willard says:

    Yes, BrandonG, it’s not Sound Science ™, but it’s important:

  164. David B. Benson says:

    Stanford University hosts Plato, a series of essays on aspc of philosophy. One is on the scientific method, providing a decent review of different approaches from Plato to the present day.

    As many are not satisfied with Popper’s falsification criterion, even Sir Karl eventually was not, the review provides modern alternatives more reasonable than merely requiring mathematics. The review links to another considering the role of computation as distinct from experiment or observation.

  165. Plato at Stanford is great, and deserves support. It’s interesting it is hosted at a school which otherwise has a reputation for extreme indulgement of the idea of exigency as normative.

    What’s interesting, later on in the entry on “Scientific Method”, is their delving into Statistics as a philosophy, notably citing Neymann-Pearson hypothesis testing (NPHT). For those unfamiliar, this particular way of doing statistical estimation, inference, and model-building has come under serious, worthy, and deserved assault in recent years. Yes, the statistical world is trending Bayesian, with methods and means all the more available and computationally reasonable. Indeed, the obstacles that remain are ones of tutelage, even if excellent textbooks and related cousework are now readily available.

    But, as dynamic fields like this are accepted and develop, so do insights into their nature. Bayesianism can be seen as the pursuit of a particular optimization problem, that of the posterior distribution, properly set, with the solution set being more than just a point with some kind of minimal description of its possible range. In this regard, in practice, it shares a lot with Maximum Likelihood computations, except that the machinery is more attuned to applying devices like Gibbs Sampling or Markov Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) to the optimization problem. Being an optimization problem, however, it is also amenable to many other approaches, like SPSA or evolutionary computation.

    Moreover, I would say, as a practitioner, that Bayesianism has been influenced by insights from information theoretic considerations, notably the arguments eloquently advanced by Burnham and Anderson in their textbook on Multimodel Inference (see also and here)which I think any Bayesian should read and command. For otherwise, in my opinion, model complexity and misspecification are left untreated as error terms.

    Finally, I belabor all this because 20 years ago someone mentioned that Statistics and its world view could largely make irrelevant any Philosophy of Science, although not, probably, a philosophically sensitive history of Science. This has recently been championed by Deborah Mayo (See Also).

  166. Willard,

    Indeed, as if rewording the SPM and press release …

    … will make Figure 10.5 show more of a contribution from natural and internal variability. There are some real gems in that transcript. Witness:

    DR. HELD: The models look pretty linear. The observed seasonal cycle, that looks linear. Even if in the Ice Age times, things look pretty linear. We don’t know that much about it. So, why should I assume that things are, gee, the anthropogenic CO2 pulse is going to interact in some exotic way with internal modes of variability? Well, it’s conceivable. But I am not convinced. I don’t think that is particularly relevant.

    DR. KOONIN: But to come back to my earlier hobbyhorse, that means that the sensitivity you determined to, let’s say, CO2 from the last 30 years, you should use in extrapolating out of next century?

    DR. HELD: Yes, I don’t think there is much evidence that there is much secular variation in sensitivity.

    DR. LINDZEN: But I think this is important. For instance, when I presented the simple analysis, I was assuming it was all due to anthropogenic. Sensitivity is a separate question. And I think in conflating the two issues, we are confusing things.

    DR. HELD: I was trying to separate them here. I don’t think there is so much a collection of sensitivity as you are saying. I just think if you want internal variability to be important, you have to be in a low-sensitivity model by definition. And then you are going to have the heat going in the wrong direction. It’s just so basic to me, I don’t see why we talk about it.

    DR. KOONIN: Some of us haven’t spent 30 years.

    … except for Lindzen and Curry. Anyway … so long as perhaps the discussion isn’t about “‘believing’ or ‘denying’ the science” it sounds like Dr. K. is ready to get with some mitigation.

  167. pete best says:

    Is climate change a technology problem (that is, everyone carries on as they are and the next time you buy a car its zero carbon, then next time you take a aircraft its running on zero carbon fuel and all the food you eat is al of a sudden low carbon etc) or is it a lifestyle issue, if I didn’t drive or fly as much as a currently do then my emissions would go down or eat as much meat as I currently do then my emissions would be lower etc?

    I remember Tony Blair in a interview with George Monbiot saying that we could not expect anyone to willingly give up on their current lifestyle and that it was all about new technology or existing technology given more of a chance to thrive whilst not asking people to change their way of life.

    So now we move onto economics which presently requires growth in order to continue to work and hence that means 2-3% per annum growth which means a doubling in around 30 years and as we are now saying that renewable energy has broken the relationship between fossil fuels and economic growth for two years then all is well with the world and although we continue to be 80% reliant on fossil fuel we wont have to change our lives much if at all as technology has won the argument over lifestyle and now its only a matter of time before emissions come down.

    So carry on consuming in order to protect growth and the economy. Humans will find other ways to do what they do and cut fossil fuel emissions significantly. Even if we can feed 11 billion people by mid century and reduce our primary energy usage the required 80% and continue as we are then there will always be something else around that requires social aspects of our behaviour to be changed or modified in some way I am sure.

  168. dikranmarsupial says:

    “Humans will find other ways to do what they do and cut fossil fuel emissions significantly.”

    The problem is that only those humans with the resources to find other ways to do what they do will be able to do this. For the others this will require that they will need to be supported by those that do have the resources. History suggests we shouldn’t be too optimistic about that one.

    ” Even if we can feed 11 billion people by mid century and reduce our primary energy usage the required 80% and continue as we are then there will always be something else around that requires social aspects of our behaviour to be changed or modified in some way I am sure.”

    This reminds me of the end of the film “Rashomon”, however I don’t think the woodcutter was completely without irony.

  169. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    “We told you so.”

    If only we had deployed the expertise of the social sciences, framed climate change as a wicked problem without a solution right from the beginning, and come to some kind of consensus on metrics for progress, we could have avoided the colossal category error that caused all of this self-righteous finger-pointing…

    Next time!

  170. Of only we had accepted the IPCC’s conclusions beforehand, we would not have needed the IPCC.

    Now that we all accept them, leave everything to us, social scientists.

    Do you want a matte or glossy finish?

  171. Willard says:

    I left this comment at Hans’:

    > The role of physical scientists in informing society about “solutions” auf the climate “problem” will be reduced. Social scientists will add their knowledge for informing people and decision makers about consequences of options – and will learn after a while, that in some future also their role will be diminished.

    Reiner’s argument in his Nature op-ed goes beyond that – it argues for a change in framing the AGW mess and calls for more seats at the table for social scientists like him.

    The first point kicks off his editorial, and the second finishes it off. The two ideas are connected by this counterfactual:

    If social scientists had been involved significantly and from the beginning, this crucial error in categorizing climate change might have been avoided.

    There are many problems with this counterfactual. Let’s take the most important one. The “crucial error” is far from having been established, neither in the op-ed, nor in the Hartwell Paper (which cites Steve Rayner’s autobiographical lecture), neither in the Hartwell Paper’s predecessor, *How to Get Climate Policy Back on Course*, which pays lips service to Hayek’s Constitution of Liberty and Berlin’s “Decline of Utopians Ideals of the West”. None of these two papers (Hartwell & How to Get) contain any analysis that would indicate in what ways a wicked framing justifies the Breakthrough stuff that it helps sell.

    We can’t witness the effect of that wicked framing on the authors’ deliberations, since in at least the meetings followed Chatham rules. A more plausible explanation for the Breakthrough stuff than “that’s what emerges from a wicked framing” comes from the social network of the authors of these papers. Reiner contributed to all these papers, and is basically self-citing when he handwaves to “some social scientists on the margins have been making counter-arguments for decades.”

    ***

    If we can’t derive policies from the “scientific insights” of climate science, neither can we derive policies from the insights of the social sciences. That common ground we have, viz. “the construction or derivation of the right policy, but provision of knowledge for assessing different options,” should also apply to “the expertise of the social sciences.” Getting serious about the ought/is distinction (I’m not a fan of dichotomies, but can I play the ball where it lands, as the Auditor once said to the Bishop) means that what goes for the goose goes for the gander.

    Once we accept that sciences only constrain policy options by establishing physical or social conditions, then there’s no reason to accept *any* framing as crucially erroneous. Whatever ways we’d wish to envision AGW, the climatological constraints are the same for everyone.

    This is why Reiner’s “I argue that the reason for this failure is that […] climate change is not a scientific but a social problem” may rub the wrong way. It’s like saying that when car’s muffler makes too much noise or fumes, it’s not a scientific but a social problem. I could live with that language game, under the conditions that there’s no such thing as a scientific “problem” anymore (say becauce the notion of problem being value-laden), and we kick *all* the scientists from the policy table.

    Even if we ever come to this radical new way to reorganize our problem-solving institutions, reality still bats last.

  172. Willard says:

    Reiner’s response:

    As TPP and others here realize [1], social science knowledge is essential [2] to get to grips with an understanding of the issue of CC [3]. Nowhere can we assume a linear transfer [4] of knowledge into decisions. But some of that social science knowledge will have the form of expertise [5], which is knowledge appropriate for decision making (outlining courses of action and their consequences) [6].

    [1]: I suppose this excludes me.

    [2]: Essentialism may be essential to selling crap; notice the switch from scientists’ roles to their outputs.

    [3]: To get to grips with an understanding of an issue is nothing compared with envisioning a frame that would help us getting to grips with our understanding of an issue; notice the switch from “problem” to “issue”.

    [4]: From “derivations” to “linear transfer.”

    [5]: So “expertise” is the magic bond between social scientists and policy makers; cue to Judy’s angelology of expertise.

    [6]: Note the implicit exclusion of physical expertise in Reiner’s mandarinate model.

    What a mess.

  173. @pete best wrote:

    So now we move onto economics which presently requires growth in order to continue to work and hence that means 2-3% per annum growth which means a doubling in around 30 years and as we are now saying that renewable energy has broken the relationship between fossil fuels and economic growth for two years then all is well with the world and although we continue to be 80% reliant on fossil fuel we wont have to change our lives much if at all as technology has won the argument over lifestyle and now its only a matter of time before emissions come down.

    There are two problems, and climate mitigation is just the more serious and imminent of the two. The second one is having economies which depend upon continuous development and unbridled growth, not only in their consumption of resources (water, minerals), but of land. Growth is now king, but the inevitability of a transition to what’s now called a sustainable global economy has been appreciated and written about since 1927, although Buckminster Fuller called it comprehensive ephemeralization. And, as he argued in several of his books and lectures, there is evidence we are heading there anyway, although, he observed, whether the pace was fast enough to keep from running headlong into natural barriers was anyone’s guess. Fuller also observed that the economic system at present did not know how to solve these problems, merely how to finagle them, and temporarily get around them: Prices of things would go up, and this would incentivize people to look harder for depleting resources, or invent substitutes. None of that really addressed the core need to keep depleting.

    Interestingly enough, there is evidence that in some U.S. industries, they have “closed the cycle” and are recovering and reusing their old products, but this is hardly the rule.

  174. Eli Rabett says:

    What bunnies go to understand is that it is the old pros from Dover game and the models of physical scientists being set out are cardboard cutouts that advance Reiner’s arguments, weak as they are

    http://rabett.blogspot.com/2016/08/the-pros-from-dover-once-more.html

  175. Willard says:

    Manual pingback:

    And as far as Rowland not being a part of wider institutionalized bodies, one only has to read the National Academy press release memorializing him

    Rowland was elected to the NAS in 1978 and served as foreign secretary from 1994-2002. The Institute of Medicine elected Rowland in 1994. In 1995, he was a key figure in the creation of the InterAcademy Panel, an international organization of national science academies that has since grown to include the academies of more than 80 countries.

    Sherry Rowland was a very nice guy, but he also was a strong advocate for policy based on science and not the paper cutout that Grundmann has sitting in his office. Kind of reminds Eli of the Republican version of Martin Luther King.

    http://rabett.blogspot.com.es/2016/08/the-pros-from-dover-once-more.html

  176. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:


    …reality still bats last.

    Well, reality doesn’t bat at all. Reality never plays ClimateBall(tm), Willard.

    Meanwhile, from the 2010 Hartwell Paper:
    http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/27939/1/HartwellPaper_English_version.pdf

    Climate change – least of all the version of climate change we have chosen to construct – cannot be addressed through any single, governing, coherent and enforceable thing called ‘climate policy’.

    Nevertheless:
    “…a good crisis should not be wasted.”

    Which brings us full-circle to the Republican version of Martin Luther King Jr.:

    The aim of this paper has been to reframe the climate issue around matters of human dignity. Not just because that is noble or nice or necessary – although all of those reasons – but because it is likely to be more effective than the approach of framing around human sinfulness — which has just failed.

    Amen. And pass the hammer.

    Always go with the glossy finish – That way, if you don’t like the framing, you can still see your own reflection.

  177. Willard says:

    “Nature bats last” comes right from Texas, Rev:

    Nature always bats last. One way for Nature to arrive at a zero growth quantity is to have zero of that quantity.

    Also note how adding more constraints (e.g. human dignity) is supposed to be easier to sell.

  178. Well, I don’t know who has primacy, but I first encountered “Nature bats last” in a reproduction of a tapestry done by Sheila O’Hara in 1989 which appeared at the end of Raup’s book on Extinction.

  179. hypergeometric,

    I love that line: Shut up and mitigate already.

    Thanks. Let it not be said physicists are always useless.

    It’s how people are built, and action does not happen until a sufficient number of body bags are taken away from the scene.

    This.

    I just hope to heck those climate state surfaces are nice and smooth.

    Beware the boiling frog. Truth is, we’re already cooked; 7 million premature deaths per year due to air pollution, one in eight mortalities. Yet we collectively fret more about Fukushima and Chernobyl. Speaking of car crashes at intersections, just walking across the street is more deadly than nuclear power — 270,000 worldwide pedestrian deaths/yr, which is ten times greater than the current rate of deaths due to terrorism (a quarter of whom are the terrorists themselves).

    Not too long ago I mused that maybe what the world needed was a yuuuuge chunk of the WAIS to break off. Dramatic, but not immediately lethal to anything but coastal real estate bubbles. A sign from the Gods that climate boffins are not really just trolling us all for the lulz. Then it occurred to me that mitigation might not be the easiest sell after the economy has just gone t!ts up secondary to a collapsing mortgage market. Or: That’s just what glaciers do. Etc.

    I’ve often tried, and almost as often failed (“my” numbers are “made up”, obviously), to sell the air pollution angle as an immediate benefit to weaning ourselves from fossil energy. Annoyingly, I’ve also been told that if “greens” stuck to “real” pollution instead of hyping the “CAGW scare” we might have better success. I tell ’em that I might have better luck herding cats.

    I appeal to basic facts about them whenever I can, especially with respect to the oceans, such as their heat capacity, or the size of a Sverdrup.

    You know, I’d never worked it out. A Sverdrup will fill 400 Olympic-sized swimming pools (2,500 m^3) in one second. Heh … Niagra Falls’ mean flow rate is 2,400 m^3/s so 417 of them add up to one Sv. What a neat coincidence.

    This is interesting:

    After Peixoto, J.P. and M.A. Kettani. “The Control of the Water Cycle.” Scientific American. Vol. 228, No. 4 (April 1973): 46-61. Total precipitation 4.23 × 10^14 m3/yr or 13.4 Sv. A little dated, later estimates range between 16 and 18 Sv. The freshwater discharge into oceans by rivers is “only” 1.2 Sv.

    I’m totally geeked-out right now.

  180. Francis says:

    I am an avid reader of this blog for whom a fair amount of the science goes (whoosh) over my head. I’ve also practiced law for 25+ years and know full well the power of delay, denial and obfuscation when wielded well by the opponents of any particular project / legislation / litigation. My observation is:

    Humanity is seriously screwed, but most likely not for a few more decades. And over this time period, many of the participants in this issue will be dead and thus no longer bothered by the consequences of their actions (myself included). But those who are (say) 20 years old today will in 2075 look back over these years and just shake their heads.

  181. “But those who are (say) 20 years old today will in 2075 look back over these years and just shake their heads.”

    smart ones will nod.

    But generally speaking yes hindsight is 20-20

  182. You are welcome, and neat comparisons regarding Sv. I heard Kerry Emanuel discount the boiling frog analogy, dryly commenting that maybe frogs are smarter than people. And putting Sv units on precipitation really brings home the size of currents like the AMOC. And then there’s this, from one of my favorite places in the world.

  183. lol … hopefully we’re smarter than the proverbial lemming. The water animation is nifty. That first sphere would be 40% of the diameter of the moon, 1/16th the volume. And yeah, I definitely have a new appreciation for the major ocean currents.

  184. dikranmarsupial says:

    Steven Mosher wrote “But generally speaking yes hindsight is 20-20”

    pretty good the if you can predict in advance what you will see through it ;o)

  185. Very Reverend,

    After decades of rearranging chairs on a listing deck, it’s only natural for fights to break out about whether we should have sideswiped the ‘berg at flank speed in the first place.

  186. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    Brandon,

  187. Pretty much sums it up, Reverend.

  188. Pingback: Climate science identifies the problem – it can’t tell us what to do in response? – Stoat

  189. addledlady says:

    Ken Fabian
    “At what point do sink saturation and carbon feedbacks mean that zero emissions no longer equate to cessation of atmospheric CO2 rise?
    Is anyone seriously suggesting we irrigate the Australian outback? And for sequestration forestry, not agriculture? ”

    There are some deeply weird issues underlying some of these problems. I recently started watching some encouraging videos on reforestation and conservation agriculture (I was a bit worn out with articles on GBR and all the rest of it). As for weird … most of us have some difficulty understanding why people who cut down or burn trees don’t make any attempt to replace them. Turns out, in Africa at least, it’s a relic of 19th century colonial governance being continued either by explicit legislation or by continuing practice. The French instituted a regime declaring that all trees – and their products – were the property of the state, So people had no incentive to replant or to take care of trees because any government official could come along any time and accuse you of stealing if you cut firewood from a tree that you’d actually planted and/or nurtured yourself.

    A different problem arises in all sorts of places, from China to Ethiopia to Rwanda and all sorts of other places. Land rights. Getting farmers/villagers to cooperate in watershed/ landscape scale regeneration projects, and especially to give up rights to graze animals in the open, is near impossible unless they get some guarantee of continuing rights to use the land and its produce. Seems like a no-brainer, but that’s because the issue is more or less invisible to people from places like Australia where landholding and land use is explicitly formalised by titles or leaseholds.

    More weird relics of colonial Africa. Agricultural consultants tried to get people in Kenya to start terracing their hillside farms but they were half-hearted when they didn’t actively resist. Turns out the Brit colonial authorities were not very tactful when they insisted on their slave/ serf/ indentured labour terracing the plantations. The populations in those areas had been very thoroughly taught by their grandparents that terracing was A Bad Thing. I presume there are several other underlying issues unknown, _unthinkable_ to people like us when you start getting into this stuff.

    For those in need of heartwarming, encouragement or solace –
    China https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sK8JNXHcBMA
    India https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9hmkgn0nBgk
    Ethiopia https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mbEM6DCTK3Y
    “Leading with Agriculture” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZqXRWlm3_WM

    (For heart-stopping rather than heart-warming, try South Korea – from 5.30 to 6.00 minutes here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_3KkN8hvUCI Reforestation can be hard work, but this is extraordinary.)

  190. Bernard J. says:

    Reverend.

    The captain should have called a sociologist after they hit the iceberg, to decide to what extent (or even whether) they needed to deploy the life boats, or instead how to arrange the orchestra in a more pleasing formation.

  191. Pingback: Saving science? | …and Then There's Physics

  192. Pingback: Less Science, more Social Science – 4topher

  193. @brandonrgates, you wrote:
    “You know, I’d never worked it out. A Sverdrup will fill 400 Olympic-sized swimming pools (2,500 m^3) in one second. Heh … Niagra Falls’ mean flow rate is 2,400 m^3/s so 417 of them add up to one Sv. What a neat coincidence.”

    That is incorrect. (Sorry it took me so long to post. I was away for a time.) A Sverdrup is 10^6 m^3/s (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sverdrup), so Niagara Falls is 0.0024 Sv. All the rivers on Earth produce about 1.2 Sv.

  194. Steven Mosher says:

    “(For heart-stopping rather than heart-warming, try South Korea – from 5.30 to 6.00 minutes here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_3KkN8hvUCI Reforestation can be hard work, but this is extraordinary.)

    OMG 맙소사 맙소사 맙소사

    I thought I knew everything about Korea..

    First visit I fell in love with their work ethic… never give up or give in attitude.

    350 million trees!

    thanks for that link

  195. Chris says:

    brandenrgates:
    “Heh … Niagra Falls’ mean flow rate is 2,400 m^3/s so 417 of them add up to one Sv.”

    hypergeometric:
    “That is incorrect…. A Sverdrup is 10^6 m^3/s ….. so Niagara Falls is 0.0024 Sv.”

    ummmm… 0.0024 x 417 = 1.

  196. @brandonrgates,

    Sorry, of course you are correct. I remembered your comment as something completely different, and replied in a rush.

    Hearty apologies!

  197. Eli Rabett says:

    Try New England for reforestation

  198. hypergeometric, you’re wise to question my maths. No worries. 🙂

  199. Pingback: Why I find it difficult to discuss climate policy | …and Then There's Physics

  200. Pingback: Focus: Climate change and the social sciences | Discover Society

  201. Hey, I was wondering what you think about animal farming and its links to global warming as more land is cleared for agriculture which releases CO2 and then the methane released from the growing animals population which is rumoured to dwarf carbon emissions from vehicles. It seems like this is either ignored or its an exaggeration.

  202. BeingMulticellular,
    As far as I’m aware, a lot of that is included. However, there are some subtleties, I think. There are carbon emissions associated with land use (i.e., clearly and changing the use of land) and with agriculture (i.e., agricultural equipment, transport etc.). However, I think the animals themselves are carbon neutral.

  203. Vinny Burgoo says:

    ATTP: ‘However, I think the animals themselves are carbon neutral.’

    Yikes!

    You’re still not quite there sciencewise, then. My praise was premature.

    But keep at it!

  204. You’re still not quite there sciencewise, then. My praise was premature.

    Not that I care about your praise, but care to explain yourself? If the number of animals is approximately constant, if the animals don’t eat coal, then they would appear to be – averaged over time – carbon neutral. The emissions that matter (as far as I’m aware) come from changes to land use, or the use of fossil fuels in agriculture, not from the animals specifically. Of course, if we change the number of animals, that would have an effect, so we could reduce meat farming and that would probably act as an emission reduction, but that doesn’t really make animals not carbon neutral.

  205. Okay, I stand somewhat corrected. I hadn’t appreciated that the grain used to feed cattle typically uses petroleum fertilizers. That would then make the animals themselves not carbon neutral.

  206. Vinny Burgoo says:

    I clear land
    You fart in my direction
    His cattle belch forever

  207. Pingback: 2016: A year in blogging | …and Then There's Physics

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