The benefits of acting now, rather than later

This is a post that I’ve been thinking about for a while, but have been somewhat reluctant to actually write. This is partly because maybe I’m wrong, partly because it is clearly going to be a bit too simplistic, and partly because I don’t want to suggest that issues other than climate change are not important; I think they are. However, I want to try to make an argument as to why climate change is a problem that is fundamentally different to many of the other issues we face.

You often see claims that people don’t regard climate change as a particularly important issue, or that there are other issues that are more pressing at the moment. Global poverty, inequality, healthcare, education, crime, to name but a few. It’s certainly not unreasonable that many people regard these type of issues as more important than climate change; something that they may regard as not (yet) impacting them, or something that will only start to clearly manifest itself in the future.

As a society we always have to make decisions about our priorities. Not everyone will agree, and in many cases we may well change our minds as to what problems we should focus on. Whatever we choose to do, some will benefit more than others and, in some cases, some people may suffer unnecessarily. However, in most cases, even if we delay addressing some issue, we can still do things in the future that will improve the situation. Climate change is something for which this is not true, and is why I think it is an issue that is quite distinct from many of the other issues we may wish to address.

Climate change is essentially irreversible on human timescales; whatever changes are induced by our emission of CO2 into the atmosphere will persist for centuries, if not millenia. So, the longer we take to address climate change, the bigger the change that we are committing ourselves to, and the more likely it becomes that climate change will severely negatively impact ourselves and natural ecosystems.

Even though we can’t easily reverse the changes that have already taken place, it is not technically impossible to stop it. Doing so, however, will require getting net emissions to ~zero. Since we can’t do this instantly, we will be committed to increasingly severe climate change, until we get net emissions to ~zero.

What I getting at is that, unlike many other issues we face, delaying action on climate change has very long-term implications. The more we delay, the greater the change to which we’re committing ourselves, and the more likely it becomes that this change will be severely negative. This is not, however, to suggest that we should focus on climate change above all else; there clearly are other important issues that we should be addressing. However, the implications of delaying addressing climate change are potentially serious and I think we should bear this in mind.

Additionally, climate change may well exacerbate many of the other issues that we regard as important. Therefore, it’s not a simple either or situation. Not only does delaying acting on climate change have long-term implications, addressing it now could have a positive impact on many of the other issues that we regard as important.

This is clearly a complex issue, and I’m not suggesting otherwise, but I do think that we should be careful of thinking that climate change is simply one of many issues that we need to address and that we can simply deal with it at some point in the future, when it’s more convenient to do so. What we might be dealing with then could be vastly different to what we would be dealing with today, and if we do delay action, we may well have locked in severely negative changes that will persist for many generations.

Addendum
Something I’ve ignored is the possibility that we could address climate change through geo-engineering, or through negative emission technologies. This is, of course, a possibility. However, geo-engineering carries its own risks and negative emission technologies are as yet undeveloped. We could hope that we manage to develop reliable technologies for artificially drawing down atmospheric CO2, but there’s no guarantee that this will be possible, or that it will be easier than trying to find ways of generating energy that doesn’t also involve emitting CO2 into the atmosphere.

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168 Responses to The benefits of acting now, rather than later

  1. There are other caveats you could add to reduce the whiplash effect of your this-but-that exposition.

    Those who advocate leaving climate alone to pursue other policy goals need to in fact pursue those other policy goals. As many on the far end of the anti-consensus spectrum are opposed to concrete policies that help the poor, aid developing countries, etc., I would submit that their viewpoint is framed merely by political exigency.

    On the other hand, the serial exaggeration by some on the pro-consensus side makes it impossible to either frame constructive solutions or even debate. Until such time as the consensus side is willing to stand with the science and say that the impacts of climate change will be messy, damaging and threatening to some, but will not rise to the level of an existential threat, people of genuine good will cannot find a starting place for the type of discussions needed to spur effective action.

  2. Tom,

    Until such time as the consensus side is willing to stand with the science

    Oh come on, the reason why we haven’t been able to frame constructive soliutions, or even debate, is not because those on the consensus side aren’t willing to stand with the science.

  3. BBD says:

    On the other hand, the serial exaggeration by some on the pro-consensus side makes it impossible to either frame constructive solutions or even debate. Until such time as the consensus side is willing to stand with the science and say that the impacts of climate change will be messy, damaging and threatening to some, but will not rise to the level of an existential threat, people of genuine good will cannot find a starting place for the type of discussions needed to spur effective action.

    In which Tom requires that we all accept low climate sensitivity (despite the scientific evidence) before he will deign to talk to us.

  4. verytallguy says:

    Climate change is essentially irreversible on human timescales…

    Absolutely. But it’s worse than that, there’s a double whammy:

    Human infrastructure is essentially irreversible on generational timescales.

    Which is to say that the really big levers to change emissions: design of cities, building efficiency,
    electricity generation, transport infrastructure etc cannot be reversed quickly, even if we want to.

  5. vtg,
    Indeed, which is why there is essentially some committed warming even if there is no physics/chemistry that says that we can’t halt climate change today.

  6. Andrew J Dodds says:

    And any way of drawing down CO2 will take significant amounts of energy, practically if not theoretically.

    Economically, we – at least in the West – are still operating well under capacity (witness high underemployment rates and flat wages). So a large scale operation to get CO2 emissions down may have little real cost, you are simply employing capacity that would otherwise go to waste. There is an analogy with WW2 here, especially in the way that the US was able to massively increase production when it suddenly became required, at no apparent long term cost..

  7. Umm, BBD, I’m here and I”m conversing. The scientific evidence has not yet changed the range of potential climate sensitivity from 1.5C to 4.5C. Observations suggest it is lower. Whatever the range, exaggerations of WG2 and WG3 issues are common and contribute to argumentation rather than discussion.

    ATTP, as you are doubtless aware, I have consistently differentiated between the scientific community and the advocacy community with regards to this issue. Although some scientists have become advocates (with very differing methods and results), the communications departments of environmental NGOs and numerous stalwarts in the press and among the blogging community do in fact state (contrary to both the IPCC and the scientific literature on which their reports are based) that the impacts of climate change will be ‘catastrophic.’

    But the impacts of climate change are not in fact prefigured to be catastrophic. They are in fact predicted to be very damaging, expensive to remediate and have a greater impact on the poor than the rich. Stronger storms, higher storm surge, more intense precipitation–all those are predicted by the science and we see examples coming to pass now. These impacts are very much worth fighting both by mitigation and pre-adaptation. Considerable resources can justifiably be brought to bear in doing so.

    But, as readers of public opinion polls have learned, putting climate change on a par with Armageddon does not produce calls for action. The same polls that show a majority of the public agreeing with the science of climate change show a dismissal of the actions demanded by those most strident in their characterization of what is needed to combat it.

    As this is mostly a verbatim repetition of arguments we have had in this space and others over the past decade, I will leave it there.

  8. Pingback: The benefits of acting now, rather than later - WORDPRESS.COMPASS

  9. Tom,

    But the impacts of climate change are not in fact prefigured to be catastrophic.

    They’re not, but the outcome does largely depend on what we do. If we continue to dump CO2 into the atmosphere then there is indeed a possibility that the impact of climate change could well be described as catastrophic.

  10. ATTP, I don’t claim to have an encyclopedic knowledge or memory of the literature, but I haven’t seen much in academic literature that says this. Perhaps you cal direct me to credible claims of catastrophe.

    What I have read is very much in line with the IPCC AR5 “Summary to Policy Makers, Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability”: http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar5/wg2/ar5_wgII_spm_en.pdf

    That is, expensive, messy, a threat to developing countries and not catastrophic.

  11. BBD says:

    Umm, BBD, I’m here and I”m conversing.

    No Tom, you are peddling.

  12. BBD says:

    Observations suggest it is lower.

    No, they don’t.

  13. Tom,
    What I’m pointing out is that the outcome depends on what we do. It seems very likely that if we were to do nothing and to simply continue to dump CO2 into the atmosphere, then it seems likely that the outcome would be reasonably be described as catastrophic. Whether or not this actually happens depends very much on what we choose to do in the future.

  14. ATTP, yes–I understand what you are saying. My reply is essentially that you are saying something that climate scientists are not saying.

  15. verytallguy says:

    My reply is essentially that you are saying something that climate scientists are not saying.

    You seem to be reading a different WG2 SPM to the one you’re quoting.

    Have another go, look at the impacts at 4C. Temperatures could already be above that of emissions are unabated by the end of this century, and would be certain to rise further.

    The science agrees with ATTP; all the RCPs reliably delivering 2100 temperature rises below 4C require abatement, and lots of it.

    Your position implicitly assumes mitigation *and* being lucky on sensitivity.

  16. Tom,
    There is clearly going to be a difference between the actual impacts described in the scientific literature, and how we might then describe them.

    My reply is essentially that you are saying something that climate scientists are not saying.

    Here’s a video of Kevin Anderson giving a talk. He says

    So, 4C, I would say most of the scientists I talk to on this, and the social scientists as well, would say it’s incompatible with organised global community.

    Maybe you don’t think that would be a catastrophic outcome? I think many would disagree. Is he actually right? I don’t know, but I would expect that the impacts of a 4C rise in the next ~100 years would be sufficiently severe that a reasonable descriptor would be catastrophic.

  17. Am I reading you correctly? You want to debate a 40C temperature rise?

  18. Tom,
    No, not particularly. Did you have a point to make?

  19. BBD says:

    4 [degrees] Celsius.

  20. Ahh, I see, I can’t seem to get html to work at the moment, so the degree symbol have some out as a zero (I’ll take it out).

  21. Cut-off for published research considered by the IPCC for AR5 was, what, 2012?

    SLR, just for one impact, would look markedly different if assessed now. That’s certainly looking pretty “damaging” under the Paris INDC’s and even under the Paris 2°C targets. Catastrophic, even, that is unless you don’t consider those kinds of things catastrophic… I suppose you can just wave away anything by just defining them as “not catastrophic”.

  22. Joshua says:

    Interesting logic:f

    First:


    serial exaggeration by some on the pro-consensus side makes it impossible to either frame constructive solutions or even debate.

    Then:

    I’m here and I”m conversing.

    So, “they” miss it impossible by exaggerating, but I’m here having a conversation even though “they” make it impossible.

    If only “they” would only stop exaggerating and msking it impossible to have a conversation I could be here engaging in the conversation I’m engaging in. But “they” make it impossible.

    Makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it?

    Kind of like if only those poppy heads would stop calling us poppy heads we could have a productive conversation.

  23. Joshua says:

    but I do think that we should be careful of thinking that climate change is simply one of many issues that we need to address and that we can simply deal with it at some point in the future.

    This is, IMO, the crux of the problem. Until people feel the impact in their daily lives, it can’t feel like an existential, or even a highly pressing problem.

    Thus, addressing the problem means addressing that problematic component.

    Some people seem to think that you can convince people that it is impacting them in their daily lives, by virtue of argument. That seeks unlikely to me, especially when people are ideologically identity-disposed to filter information to confirm biases.

    Is a dilemma.

  24. Canman says:

    The benefits of acting now depend on what acts are actually done. Wind and solar are obviously running up against intermittency limits. There are all kinds of claims about how they’re now cheaper than coal, so stop subsidizing them. What’s needed for renewables is clearly storage, so subsidize it. Tell Warren Buffet, “no more tax credits for wind farms — only big batteries!”

    Also, let’s increase the options. Get some 4rth gen nukes up and running to find which are best. Get some carbon nano-tube hypersonic flywheels up and running:

    https://wattsupwiththat.com/2018/10/26/space-race-game-changer-chinese-space-elevator-breakthrough/

  25. canman,
    Of course it depends on what we do now. However, that doesn’t change that climate change is probably irreversible on human timescales and delaying acting is likely to make it more difficult in future compared to what it would be like now.

  26. Wind and solar are obviously running up against intermittency limits.

    No. No, they’re not.

    By the way, you just declared in the previous discussion that you saw no immediate concerns with climate change, so it’s just weird that you are even here now. Is it a tic?

  27. Canman says:

    RNS, if they’re not running up against intermittency limits, why are the rocket scientists in Germany going to miss their 2020 emissions targets and why are they chopping down forests to mine dirty lignite coal? And yes, I’m not immediately worried about the slower than projected, logarithmic flattening temperature rise, but I don’t completely dismiss the methane time bomb. I’m thinking about prudent action for the future.

  28. Canman says:

    ATTP, there’s an old saying, “haste makes waste”.

  29. Canman,
    Yes, but sometimes it really is worth stepping on the brakes.

  30. Acting now is kind of a smoke-screen because we have been forced into action for the last several years as conventional sources of crude oil have significantly depleted. That has less to do with AGW and more to do with a change in the economic climate.

  31. Everett F Sargent says:

    World Energy Investment 2018
    https://www.iea.org/wei2018/

    “The decline in global investment for renewables and energy efficiency combined could threaten the expansion of clean energy needed to meet energy security, climate and clean-air goals. While we would need this investment to go up rapidly, it is disappointing to find that it might be falling this year.”
    Fatih Birol, Executive Director, IEA

    Tracking Clean Energy Progress
    https://www.iea.org/tcep/

    “Are clean energy technologies on track?

    Some technologies have made tremendous progress in 2017 – particularly solar PV, LEDs and EVs – but most are not on track. Energy efficiency improvements have slowed and progress on key technologies like carbon capture and storage remains stalled.”

    World Energy Outlook 2018
    https://www.iea.org/newsroom/events/publication-world-energy-outlook-2018.html

    “International press launch of IEA’s World Energy Outlook (WEO) 2018 in London on 13 November 2018.”

    So at least some of the we are not getting the part where there are numerous nation state FF actors and the rest are private sector FF actors that appear to just keep on truckin’ …

  32. BBD says:

    And so, although Tom may not like it, we could

  33. Good to swing by on occasion to see that nothing has changed. Glad to see some have graduated from JPEGs to GIFs. Technology marches on!

  34. izen says:

    There is no scientific dispute that we are locked in to the climate changes we have already caused along with some further intensification of extreme events and sea level rise.
    There is no dispute that further emissions will make it worse. At least I do not even see the most ardent AGW rejectionists arguing that 4.5 C is better than 1.6 C.

    But VTG has it right, the problem now is not with the science;-

    “Human infrastructure is essentially irreversible on generational timescales.”

    I suspect the perception that AGW is not catastrophic and is a problem to which we can adapt, depends on whether you have to catch or grow the food you eat, or can buy it from a local supermarket.

  35. Steven Mosher says:

    What did you expect Tom?
    It’s not so much the exaggeration of the threat that prevents the discourse or conversation. You are an outsider. Nothing you would say is acceptable. Even if you agree, you will be dinged for agreeing too late. The issue now is purity. As the damages mount and become more clear the drive for purity on the correct side of the debate will intensify. At some point in the future even guys like BBD Who are not hostile to nukes will be seen as impure. That is how these things flow, as the damages become more apparent the drive for movement purity intensifies. Blame day is coming ..

    My suggestion. Pick something where you can make an individual difference.

  36. Steven Mosher says:

    Joshua.
    Tom’s argument is that the catastrophe framing makes it hard to frame or have a debate..
    Of course we can still have conversations. Duh.

    So let’s take this 1 claim at a time. Is it harder to come up with framings for solutions when we have serial exaggerations or not. Your thoughts?

    Or we can just cut to the chase and say that a positive message for going green would have worked better than trying to sell fear all these years. And that in the end the fear peddlers own more of the impending doom than denialists.

  37. David B. Benson says:

    So long as carbon dioxide concentration remains above 400 ppm the situation, at equilibrium, is essentially the same as during the mid-Pliocene with global temperatures over 2 °C warmer than now and sea levels about 25 meters higher than now.

    This is just careful historical geology, not posited on any particular value of so-called climate sensitivity.

  38. Corey says:

    “Those who peddled impending doom own the impending doom.”

    Good to swing by on occasion to see that nothing has changed.

  39. Ken Fabian says:

    Steven – “Or we can just cut to the chase and say that a positive message for going green would have worked better than trying to sell fear all these years. And that in the end the fear peddlers own more of the impending doom than denialists.”

    I don’t see that this is true. I’m struggling to believe that even you really believe it is true, but I suppose you do. Cognitive dissonance maybe? Group think?

    To me it looks to slot neatly into the broader narrative of blaming, mocking, deriding of green politics and green messaging – which is Not all about fear. Or is even the main source of information people are influenced by.

    Between the green blaming and the undermining of trust in science and alarmist economic fear of ditching fossil fuels, I see three main memes of a denialist agenda – not all by the same sources or even excusively by denialists but with the same results; the issue stays divided and the most effective policy options are held out of reach.

    We do respond to legitimate, well grounded fears and ethical concerns, including multi-generational concerns and ethics. But it doesn’t work so well when people are encouraged by high profile people they trust to reject or ignore the science, to fear ditching fossil fuel, to blame the messengers and their alleged idealogical motivations, to be contemptuous of ‘green’ motivations or messaging.

    That is, emphasising legitimate fears and concerns would work effectively if denialists were not active and tireless in their efforts to undermine the message – including the positive messages – with an immediate counter message. Some have extraordarily prominent reach through partisan media that amplifies their influence.

    So, no, the green movement or fear peddlers do not own more of the impending doom than denialists. Less. A lot less. Denial has used lies and misinformation to profoundly diminish our abilities to manage the climate problem – far more blameworthy IMO than failure of the truth (in the presence of well promoted lies) to advance it.

    Note that I think the green politicking is only so prominent in this because other voices, with more conventional and mainstream credentials, have failed to provide convincing leadership. What was that cartoon with people lined up for reassuring lies and avoiding the line for uncomfortable truth? Denial starts with a home advantage.

  40. Steven,

    Tom’s argument is that the catastrophe framing makes it hard to frame or have a debate..

    Outright denial, which also clearly exists, also makes it hard to frame, or have a debate. In fact, even Lukewarmerism makes it hard; maybe don’t see the need for any ambitious climate policy.

    Tom,

    Good to swing by on occasion to see that nothing has changed.

    Indeed. Good to see you swing by, blame a bunch of other people for it not being possible to have a debate, rather than actually trying to have one, and then flouncing off.

  41. izen says:

    @-SM
    “Or we can just cut to the chase and say that a positive message for going green would have worked better than trying to sell fear all these years.”

    Some evidence in support of this might be appropriate.
    Do you think that delay and opposition would have been reduced in past cases of Lead, Asbestos, CFCs, SOx/NOx, DDT, OPs…if the risks had been minimised and the ‘positives’ highlighted?

  42. As far as catastrophist messaging goes, lets bear in mind that this is mostly framed in terms of having to act now to avoid it, not framed it terms of it being unavoidable. Also, if you regard this as a serious issue, complaining about how others frame it seems more like a way of excusing your own lack of action, than a serious attempt to move things forward (you don’t need others to change how they frame things in order to promote an alternative framing).

    Tom,
    If you’re still here, you still haven’t really responded to my showing that there are climate scientists who publicly seem to suggest that the outcome could be catastrophic if we were to warm by as much as 4C (which is possible if we don’t get net emissions to start reducing pretty soon). Here’s another example.

    But according to one of the world’s most influential climate scientists, John Schellnhuber, ‘the difference between two and four degrees is human civilisation.’ Thanks to the global paralysis since 1992, the ‘window of opportunity’ for reducing emissions fast enough to avoid this scenario is starting to look more like a crack in the plaster.

  43. Marco says:

    Ken and Izen already asked, and I’ll jump in, too: does Steven have any evidence that positive framing *would* have led to any (more) action?

    And what should be the “positive messaging”?

  44. verytallguy says:

    ‘the difference between two and four degrees is human civilisation.’

    And note that the 4C most people quote is the 2100 projection.

    If we get that without significant mitigation, we will overshoot very significantly, probably by at least a further 2C or so.

    In other words, beware of 2100 projections being quoted. For low mitigation scenarios, they are very much best case scenarios.

  45. verytallguy says:

    Positive framing:

    • We are on track to double the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by burning coal, oil and gas.
    • Temperatures are rising as a result, and will rise a lot more in future.
    • Glaciers are melting, sea levels are rising, severe weather and droughts are on the increase as a direct result.
    • All of these will increasingly affect both us and the natural world around us in the future.
    • Happily, we are smart enough to see what is coming and already have the technology to avoid the worst effects.
    • By changing the way we generate and use energy and organise our infrastructure, we can not only control climate change, we can hand on a better world to our children and grandchildren.

    Far too often, time is spent on the minutiae of contrarian concerns rather than mercilessly repeating this message (or your version of it).

  46. Dave_Geologist says:

    Canman, there’s an old saying, “a stitch in time saves nine”.

  47. paulski0 says:

    Regarding 4 degrees C impacts, there was a useful wide-ranging conference on that. It’s almost a decade old now but all the video and audio from it is available here.

  48. vtg,
    The discussion then normally goes along the lines of:

    Contrarian: You don’t sound all that concerned. Why should we make such large changes to key infrastructure if this isn’t such a big deal?

    Positive framer: Well, because it could be catastrophic if we don’t start acting now.

    Contrarian: Now, you’re just promoting catastrophist thinking. Can’t take people like you seriously.

    Positive framer: Huh???

    Rinse, repeat, etc.

  49. verytallguy says:

    suggested amendment:

    Contrarian: You don’t sound all that concerned. Why should we make such large changes to key infrastructure if this isn’t such a big deal?

    Positive framer: By changing the way we generate and use energy and organise our infrastructure, we can not only control climate change, we can hand on a better world to our children and grandchildren.

    Contrarian: You *still* don’t sound all that concerned. Why should we make such large changes to key infrastructure if this isn’t such a big deal?

    Positive framer: By changing the way we generate and use energy and organise our infrastructure, we can not only control climate change, we can hand on a better world to our children and grandchildren.

    Contrarian: You aren’t listening

    [aside] Positive framer: No shit! You have no intention of genuinely engaging, you’re parroting long disproven tropes and absolutely aren’t worth listening to. In the meantime…

    Positive framer: By changing the way we generate and use energy and organise our infrastructure, we can not only control climate change, we can hand on a better world to our children and grandchildren.

    Contrarian: You aren’t listening

    Positive framer: By changing the way we generate and use energy and organise our infrastructure, we can not only control climate change, we can hand on a better world to our children and grandchildren.

    Rinse, repeat, etc.

  50. Chubbs says:

    One area for improvement in climate change communication is the time frame for impacts and vtg’s point about the inertia in both climate+human society. Our 1C world in no big deal to most people, but, this is as expected. Per the previous post, with our current energy imbalance, we are still in a <350 ppm world, Hanson's safe level. In terms of policy though, the best we can do at present is 2C or so and that is with herculean effort. Its difficult for many to discount their recent experiences, but that is just what is needed.

  51. paulski0 says:

    I would guess the answer to the “discussion with contrarian” conundrum is that you don’t target contrarians at all, but rather all the non-aligned people or even people who agree that climate change is a big problem but aren’t necessarily geared towards solving it.

    The same polls that show a majority of the public agreeing with the science of climate change show a dismissal of the actions demanded by those most strident in their characterization of what is needed to combat it.

    So let’s take this 1 claim at a time. Is it harder to come up with framings for solutions when we have serial exaggerations or not.

    You’d need to define what are serial exaggerations, and who are making them. I’ve heard Tom make numerous claims in the past about “exaggerations” which were in fact entirely compatible with mainstream science. What happens if we disagree about whether something is an exaggeration?

  52. paulski0 says:

    Oops, that second paragraph I copied the wrong text in and forgot to delete.

  53. VTG said:

    “We are on track to double the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by burning coal, oil and gas.”
    Correction … by burning lignite, tar, and shale.

  54. Joshua says:

    Steven –

    Others have touched on most of what i’d have to say…but…

    Tom’s argument is that the catastrophe framing makes it hard to frame or have a debate..

    Actually, his argument was that “some people” exaggerating makes debate “impossible.”

    It’s interesting that in your paraphrase, you change one of the very aspects of his comment that I was criticizing the most.


    Of course we can still have conversations. Duh.

    Oh. So you mean you agree that Tom’s comment was an exaggeration? How deliciously ironic.

    So let’s take this 1 claim at a time. Is it harder to come up with framings for solutions when we have serial exaggerations or not. Your thoughts?

    Exaggerations are part of life. Get over it and get down to having discussions in spite of them. I would suggest that one of the single worst ways to get down to that business is to wade into discussions wagging your finger at people, and assigning guilt by association (with plausible deniability, of course) in a way that you know from years of previous experience will not generate productive discussion.

    Or we can just cut to the chase and say that a positive message for going green

    The delicious irony continues. Of course positive messaging could, and I stress could, have been less sub–optimal. But the reaction to (perceived) “exaggerations” is a two way street. Some people can address what they consider to be exaggerations in a positive manner. And others can focus on wagging fingers.

    The debate is complicated by the structure of the topic in discussion, as well as by the tendency of people to personalize the discussion, and feed the fire of identity-protective cognition.

    would have worked better than trying to sell fear all these years.

    Once again, responsibility for the sub-optimal nature of what has transpired previously lies with the full spectrum of participants. Singling out one sub-group, as if they “explain” the reason why we are where we are now, has a long history of sub-optimal results – and that is something that isn’t likely to change going forward.

    And speaking of going forward…engaging in the same tired (and I would say facile) identity-aggressive patterns of behavior about what has happened in the past is actually pretty fucking irrelevant to fostering productive debate going forward.

    And that in the end the fear peddlers own more of the impending doom than denialists.

    Aside from drawing facile conclusions about what explains “more” of why we are where we are now….how lovely, and deliciously ironic…

    …someone PERSONALIZING the debate, and effectively ignoring the STRUCTURAL components that make this debate complicated and difficult, complaining about how non-positive framing brings about sub-optimal results.

  55. Joshua says:

    Steven –

    Paul sez:

    What happens if we disagree about whether something is an exaggeration?

    This is the crux of the matter at hand in this thread, IMO. There are different approaches to that. One approach in particular – wagging fingers and blaming others and exaggerating about how those other people make debate “impossible” – IMO, is very likely to product sub-optimal results. Particularly when that pattern has played out countless times among the same participants previously.

    Other approaches have no guarantee of success…but I think that there are some where a productive debate following is more probable.,

  56. ATTP you ask for climate scientists touting catastrophe:

    Micheal Mann: “And that’s why we had this monumental agreement a few years ago, the Paris Accord, which commits the countries of the world to carbon emissions that will help us avoid catastrophic warming of the planet.”

    Michael Mann: “We have ZERO years left to solve climate change. Emissions have to come down steadily in the coming years to avoid catastrophic climate change impacts.”

    James Hansen: “Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth about the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity”

    Andrew Dessler: ‘The only encouraging thing happening today is the staggering drop in the price of renewable energy. I consider this our main hope to avoid catastrophic climate change — prices drop so much that emissions decrease without government policies.”

    “For some people this is a life-or-death situation without a doubt,” said Cornell University climate scientist Natalie Mahowald.

    I would also refer you to:
    http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2017/07/climate-change-earth-too-hot-for-humans.html

    It’s in the academic literature: “On Modeling and Interpreting the Economics of Catastrophic Climate Change “(Weitzman 2009), “Catastrophic Events and Stochastic Cost-benefit Analysis of Climate Change“, (Azar et al, 2003), “Insurance Against Catastrophic Climate Change,” (Adams, 2007) are three examples found in seconds using Google Scholar. The search term ‘catastrophic climate change’ returned 190,000 results in the academic database.

    When those papers are released into the wild, their authors make statements to the press. Like this:

    “What would happen with that kind of temperature increase? No one knows exactly, but Wagner and Weitzman properly view the outcome as “near-certain disaster.” “‘Catastrophic’ no longer seems to do it justice,” they say.”

    It’s in the IPCC reports: “The possibility of abrupt climate change and/or abrupt changes in the earth system triggered by climate change, with potentially catastrophic consequences, cannot be ruled out (Meehl et al., 2007).”

    It’s pervasive in political speech. As the BBC reports, “The costs of inaction on climate change will be “catastrophic“, according to US Secretary of State John Kerry. In a statement, Mr Kerry said: “Unless we act dramatically and quickly, science tells us our climate and our way of life are literally in jeopardy. Denial of the science is malpractice.” Mark Carney, head of the Bank of England, says the “catastrophic impacts of climate change” — including floods and storms and financial costs of shifting to a low-carbon economy — will only be felt over a longer period than the three to ten year horizon used in the financial industry.”

    It is very common in the messaging from environmental NGOs: “It’s nearly impossible to overstate the threat of climate change. Greenhouse gas emissions are rising more rapidly than predicted and consequently the world is warming more quickly. Global warming will have catastrophic effects such as accelerating sea level rise, droughts, floods, storms and heat waves.” “We are already experiencing dangerous climate change…we need to act to avoid catastrophic climate change.”

    A search for “catastrophic climate change” on Google returned 20,500,000 results. Much of it was from the media. Here are some representative examples:

    http://environment.about.com/od/globalwarming/a/ipcc_report_two_2.htmhttp://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/campaigns/climate-change/impacts/

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/31/climate-change-worse_n_4523828.htmlhttp://guardianlv.com/2013/05/global-warming-and-its-catastrophic-effect-on-humans-health/

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Runaway_climate_changehttp://www.climateemergencyinstitute.com/catastrophe.html

    http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-26824943

    http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/climate-change-catastrophic-impact-health-5931984

    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/georgemonbiot/2013/sep/27/ipcc-climate-change-report-global-warming

    http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2015-07-17/when-climate-change-becomes-a-climate-catastrophe

    http://news.stanford.edu/news/2015/october/susan-rice-climate-101415.html

  57. Willard says:

    > wagging fingers and blaming others and exaggerating about how those other people make debate “impossible” – IMO, is very likely to product sub-optimal results

    How about positive finger wagging?

  58. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:


    Is it harder to come up with framings for solutions when we have serial exaggerations or not.
    Your thoughts?

    I’ll take “Question-Begging Distractions” for a thousand points, Alex.

    Nothing in Tom Fuller’s hyperbolic “It’s impossible to have a conversation with serial exaggerators” remarks impinges on the content of ATTP’s post.

    Nothing in Steven Mosher’s pop-psych explication of the outsider-ness of some people impinges on the content of ATTP’s post.

    The benefits of acting now rather than later are not dependent on anyone’s “framings for solutions”, their “purity” or, god forbid, their “positivity”.

    The OP ain’t about identity-politics, blaming, anti-science consenus-extremists, victim-hood, or post-hoc messaging analysis.

    Here’s the rub:

    Climate change is essentially irreversible on human timescales; whatever changes are induced by our emission of CO2 into the atmosphere will persist for centuries, if not millenia. So, the longer we take to address climate change, the bigger the change that we are committing ourselves to, and the more likely it becomes that climate change will severely negatively impact ourselves and natural ecosystems.

    It’s physics. But it ain’t rocket science.

  59. Willard says:

    > A search for “catastrophic climate change” on Google returned 20,500,000 results.

    The CAGW rests on the usage of the C word as a prediction, not an eventuality.

    I don’t think the luckwarm playbook can afford to predict an absence or an impossibility of catastrophe, e.g.:

    Humans will use 3,000 Quads by 2075. If they all come from coal we’re ruined.

    https://3000quads.com/

    I like “ruined.” Sounds positive.

  60. I think Tom stated a few months ago that he had donated to democratic campaigns in the past, but when I asked him for race, year, state so that I could check and confirm, he went quiet. My sense is that Tom may have shown himself to be a simple liar with his initial discussions at this website. Am I remembering this incorrectly? Is this a different person? And, I guess, does anyone care or do we just engage with folks who don’t post honestly and act as trolls to be polite?

  61. I think conventional pollution will be perceived and rightly so as catastrophic if the energy we use to power development for 7 million people as they move up the ladder comes from coal. I also think that will worsen global warming dramatically. But the catastrophe will harken back to London in the 50s, not Waterworld

  62. I think our planetary situation is worse than climate scientists understand because the loss of planetary habitat and species numbers and diversity are not the kind of things that are normally on the radar for climate scientists. The destruction and depletion of the Amazon will be accelerated by the Bolsonaro victory in Brazil. It is similar to the Trump victory in the US in so far as it established an executive function that is expected to make things worse for global climate, for species diversity and extinction rates.
    https://www.cbc.ca/radio/day6/episode-414-george-soros-as-the-bogeyman-bohemian-rhapsody-losing-wildlife-salt-fat-acid-heat-and-more-1.4889039/nature-on-the-brink-why-the-global-loss-of-wildlife-is-a-threat-to-human-survival-1.4889045
    insects? how are they doing?
    http://www.pnas.org/content/115/44/E10397
    The potential unraveling of the web of life may not be completely captured from the lens of AGW and climate change. Maybe our predicament is not just about the science of how the globe is warming and how fast that is happening?
    Yes, I think we should act fast and act as if our lives depended on our actions.

  63. Joshua says:

    Willard –

    What is positive finger-wagging?

  64. verytallguy says:

    It’s in the IPCC reports: “The possibility of abrupt climate change and/or abrupt changes in the earth system triggered by climate change, with potentially catastrophic consequences, cannot be ruled out (Meehl et al., 2007).”

    This is getting tedious now. Your contrarianism is such that you’re arguing with yourself. Earlier you said

    Until such time as the consensus side is willing to stand with the science…

    But now you’re saying the science *does* support catastrophism.

    Which is it? Surely you’re not just here for a contradiction?

  65. Tom,

    ATTP you ask for climate scientists touting catastrophe:

    No, that isn’t what I’m asking. You said that I was saying something that climate scientists were not saying. I pointed out that there were examples of climate scientists saying that we could be heading for catastrophe if we don’t start cutting emissions soon (or something suitably comparable) and now you provide a list of examples of climate scientists pretty much saying exactly that. What precisely are you trying to suggest, because it does seem that what you’ve said now is completely inconsistent with what you said initially (either I’m saying something that climate scientists have said, or I’m not).

    Bear in mind that most of your examples are people saying (as Willard pointed out) that we need to do something to avoid this, not that this is a guaranteed outcome.

  66. Willard says:

    > What is positive finger-wagging?

    Can’t recall. I’d have to check back the luckwarm bible.

  67. verytallguy says:

    I also think that will worsen global warming dramatically. But the catastrophe will harken back to London in the 50s, not Waterworld

    Hmmmm. How many mass extinction events were ongoing then? How many areas of the globe rendered uninhabitable? How many civilisations have regressed to that degree *without* collapse?

    What you “think” on these issues might not be the best measure of their reality.

  68. BBD says:

    Good to swing by on occasion to see that nothing has changed. Glad to see some have graduated from JPEGs to GIFs. Technology marches on!

    It’s a shame that your understanding of the issues has not evolved similarly over time.

    The catastrophe is potential as ATTP and others keep saying. It is what may happen under BAU or insufficiently steep emissions reductions. All you ever do it twist things in such a way as to avoid facing the scientific evidence square-on.

    Those who refuse to learn about palaeoclimate will be forced to relive it. Or their descendants will, at any rate.

  69. Willard says:

    > Technology marches on!

    The Contrarian Matrix is now on teh Tweeter too. They still go with the CAGW gambit. They still conflate predictions with eventualities.

    Speaking of tech, here’s my Letter to a Young Academic:

  70. ATTP, I should think it is obvious that the scientists I cited, who are all very public advocates of specific policies, are saying something for public consumption that is not apparent in IPCC summaries of climate science.

  71. Willard says:

    > the scientists I cited, who are all very public advocates of specific policies, are saying something for public consumption that is not apparent in IPCC summaries of climate science.

    The second part is unresponsive to the fact that interpreting “if we do nothing, something bad may happen” as “something very very bad will happen” is more than uncharitable.

    The first part deserves due diligence: what specific policies? There’s no specific policy in

    Humans will use 3,000 Quads by 2075. If they all come from coal we’re ruined.

    https://3000quads.com/

  72. Tom,
    1. No, that isn’t obvious. Firstly, it mostly seems consistent with what I’ve been saying (if we don’t start reducing emission soon, the impacts could be severely negative and might reasonably be described as catastrophic). Secondly, the IPCC typically presents the actual impacts, not how we might then describe them.

    2. Your initial claim had nothing to do with the IPCC. You said

    you are saying something that climate scientists are not saying.

    This appears to not be true.

    3. At no stage did I ask you for climate scientists touting catastrophe.

    4. As Willard points out, you too seem to have suggested catastrophe under certain circumstances (continued and increasing coal use).

  73. verytallguy says:

    ATTP, I should think it is obvious that the scientists I cited, who are all very public advocates of specific policies, are saying something for public consumption that is not apparent in IPCC summaries of climate science.

    1) in general they’re not actually, *if* you actually read what they say
    2) the ippc report is the consensus. Views of individual scientists are, by definition, not synonymous with the consensus view.

  74. BBD says:

    So is Tom dogwhistling anti-renewables sentiment?

    Will he answer Willard straight about specific policies that aren’t implicit in the IPCC executive summaries?

    Or will be become evasive, as he normally does when his enthusiasm runs ahead of the facts?

  75. ATTP, what the science presents as projected impacts are cited above in the IPCC Summary for Policy makers I linked to. What they project, while bad and while worth working to avoid, is not catastrophe. Period.

    What you, Mann, Hansen and Dessler say repeatedly is that if we don’t stop emissions soon it may lead to catastrophe.

    I do not preclude the possibility that you, Mann, Hansen and Dessler may be right. But if you are, it is not by virtue of looking at what the science says. If you are right it is because you won the lottery in a horribly negative way.

  76. Tom,
    What would you regard as a catastrophic outcome?

  77. I’ll use this as it contains one of my only Wikipedia cites: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth_2100

  78. Joshua says:

    Tom –

    How does “the science” describe the range of low probability, high impact outcomes from a 4.5 sensitivity?

  79. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:


    But if you are, it is not by virtue of looking at what the science says. If you are right it is because you won the lottery in a horribly negative way.

    Tom – The science is clear that winning the lottery in a horribly negative way is a possible outcome of our actions.

    You yourself even quoted the IPCC up-thread…

    2.2.4 Risk of catastrophic or abrupt change

    This is not about ATTP’s personal beliefs or ATTP’s personal betting preferences.

    You are boxing with your own shadow.


    What would you regard as a catastrophic outcome?

    Kevin Costner and Dennis Hopper fighting it out on the rusted hulk of the Exxon Valdez. Obviously.

  80. Joshua says:

    Ok.

    Global climate change risks are high to very high with global mean temperature increase of 4°C or more above preindustrial levels in all reasons for concern (Assessment Box SPM.1),and include severe and widespread impacts on unique and threatened systems, substantial species extinction, large risks to global and regional food security, and the combination of high temperature and humidity compromising normal human activities, including growing food or working outdoors in some areas for parts of the year (high confidence). The precise levels of climate change sufficient to trigger tipping points (thresholds for abrupt and irreversible change) remain uncertain, but the risk associated with crossing multiple tipping points in the earth system or in interlinked human and natural systems increases with rising temperature (medium confidence).45

    = non-catastroohic.

    Got it. Thanks.

  81. Actually, this thread is bringing back fond memories of when climate blogs were much more active. My ClimateballTM is clearly very rusty.

    Let’s go back to the beginning. I actually didn’t use the terms catastrophe or catastrophic in the post. The first time it was introduced was by Tom in this comment. I then responded to say

    If we continue to dump CO2 into the atmosphere then there is indeed a possibility that the impact of climate change could well be described as catastrophic.

    Tom then claimed that this was not what climate scientists were saying. I then pointed out that some were certainly describing outcomes that sounded pretty catastrophic.

    Tom, then suggested that I was asking for climate scientists touting catastrophe (which I wasn’t). I pointed this out and pointed out that there are scenarios under which we might reasonably describe the impacts as catastrophic and suddenly I’m also touting catastrophe. Brilliant, I’ve really missed these kinds of discussions.

    So, let me reiterate what I was getting at in the post (which didn’t mention catastrophe, or catastrophic). Climate change is probably irreversible on human timescales. The longer we take to act, the more likely it becomes that climate change will lead to potentially severely negative impacts. Delaying acting has very-long-term consequences and we shouldn’t assume that climate change is simply something we can address in the future, when it’s more convenient to do so, because if we do delay acting we will probably have committed ourselves to a greater level of climate change that will persist for many generations.

  82. Willard says:

    > You are boxing with your own shadow.

    It’s worse in context.

    Here is one bind:

    [B1] What the science presents as projected impacts are cited above in the IPCC Summary for Policy makers I linked to. What they project, while bad and while worth working to avoid, is not catastrophe. Period.

    Here is another bind:

    [B2] It’s in the IPCC reports: “The possibility of abrupt climate change and/or abrupt changes in the earth system triggered by climate change, with potentially catastrophic consequences, cannot be ruled out (Meehl et al., 2007).”

    Hard to win against such ClimateBall double bind. Contrarians don’t even need them. We already know they seldom lose.

  83. Joshua says:

    You kniw, prior to today, I might have been inclined to think that widespread impact on threatened systems, and substantial species extinction, and large risks to global food security, and conditions compromising normal human activities (such as growing food), and the potential for crossing multiple tipping points for abrupt and irreversible change, might be reasonably considered catastrophic.

    But now, thanks to Tom, I know thst isn’t the case.

    Period.

    And now I can refocus my energy on solving the really catastrophic problems, such as whether or not Michael Mann exaggerates.

  84. izen says:

    @-thomaswfuller2
    ” what the science presents as projected impacts are cited above in the IPCC Summary for Policy makers I linked to.”

    The summary for policy makers is NOT a summery of the scientific consensus. It is a carefully filtered document that undergoes extensive modification by political/financial interests that can only include what every government delegation will accept.

    http://www.climatechangenews.com/2013/10/09/saudi-arabia-implicated-in-attempts-to-obstruct-ipcc-report/

    “The Saudi delegation, led by Khalid Abuleif, branded a headline statement saying warming of the climate system since 1950 is unequivocal as “alarmist” and urged qualifying terms.”

    And it continues with the most recent IPCC work.

    http://www.twn.my/title2/climate/info.service/2018/cc181002.htm

    “Among the contentious issues included a long wrangling over how to capture knowledge gaps in the report; how to reflect equity; how to address the carbon budget and historical emissions; whether to refer to the nationally determined contributions (NDCs) of Parties under the Paris Agreement, along with questions about the robustness of findings of studies in relation to the 1.5°C warming.”

    Note that this is not a discussion or dispute about the science in the main report, just about ensuring that nothing that would frighten the political horses makes it into the SPM.
    The SPM is a POLITICAL consensus that has consistently removed or downplayed the scale and impacts that are described in the main report. Or at the very least, reduce ‘high confidence’ judgements to medium or low confidence results in the SPM.

    If you want to base your understanding of climate change on the consensus science then read the main sections of the IPCC reports, WG1 and WG3 especially.

    If you want to keep to the political consensus of the government delegations of US, China, India and the Saudis then the SPM is for you. But do not present it as representing the science, in fact the differences between the main report and the SPM are a good measure of the gap between scientific understanding and political expediency.

  85. ATTP, you forget to note that when I first mentioned catastrophe I did not link you to those saying it. Of course Climatebowls are more fun, but what I actually wrote was, ” the communications departments of environmental NGOs and numerous stalwarts in the press and among the blogging community do in fact state (contrary to both the IPCC and the scientific literature on which their reports are based) that the impacts of climate change will be ‘catastrophic.’)

    Later you wrote, “It seems very likely that if we were to do nothing and to simply continue to dump CO2 into the atmosphere, then it seems likely that the outcome would be reasonably be described as catastrophic.” And of course, while you ask me to define what your catastrophe looks like, you make no effort to do so yourself.

    So obviously you were then forced to write, “Outright denial, which also clearly exists, also makes it hard to frame, or have a debate. In fact, even Lukewarmerism makes it hard; maybe don’t see the need for any ambitious climate policy.” Which had and has absolutely nothing to do with anything, especially what I actually advocate and believe.

    You can whine about ClimateBull all you want–but you’re the only one playing it.

  86. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    How DARE the IPCC reports include the possibility of climate change catastrophe…
    Shameful. Tut tut.

    Since Some Very Smart People know that climate catastrophe is not possible(1) – this sort of thing just proves that consensus-science is extremist.

    No wonder it’s impossible to have a rational conversation with the anti-science terrorists who accept the consensus.

    Fortunately, since there is no crisis, there’s all the time in the world to adapt the findings of physical science to the correct angle of rhetorical repose.

    (1) Unless it is, in which case “we’re ruined”.

  87. BBD says:

    You can whine about ClimateBull all you want–but you’re the only one playing it.

    Oh, I don’t think that’s true, Tom. You might not be aware of what you are doing, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t doing it.

  88. Willard says:

    > you forget to note that when I first mentioned catastrophe I did not link you to those saying it.

    How could we forget that peddling has occurred?

    Like AT’s, our ClimateBall is being rusty.

  89. Joshua says:

    Tom –

    you were then forced to write,…

    Ahhh. So marvelously skilled you are, “forcing” Anders to write that.

    Imagine what you could accomplish if you ever decided to direct your skills to climateball.

    Jordan and Gretzky* and Brady and Trout all wrapped up in one package.

    *Willard –

    Orr?

  90. BBD says:

    I’ll use this as it contains one of my only Wikipedia cites: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth_2100

    In which we read:

    According to Executive Producer Michael Bicks, “this program was developed to show the worst-case scenario for human civilization. Again, we are not saying that these events will happen — rather, that if we fail to seriously address the complex problems of climate change, resource depletion and overpopulation, they are much more likely to happen.”

    You do understand that, I take it?

    Now Tom, what were those ‘specific policies’ that climate scientists were advocating that weren’t implicit or explicit in the IPCC reports?

  91. verytallguy says:

    What they project, while bad and while worth working to avoid, is not catastrophe. Period.

    Bullshit. Period.

  92. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    . My ClimateballTM is clearly very rusty.

    FWIW, from my perspective your skills have been sharpened over time, as you have well demonstrated on this thread.

    It might be an interesting question (well, probably not 😏…) how the quality of climateball skills might be measured.

    Obviously, determinations are necessarily subjective, but from this observer, you haven’t taken the bait, demonstrated patience and confidence despite Tom’s numerous attempts to bait you, stuck to the relevant points rather than chased Tom down rabbit holes, mostly avoided Tom’s multiple invitations and provocations to play the Mann and the man (even LeBron can’t hit every shot).

  93. verytallguy says:

    re. bullshit, just for instance, table SPM.1 of WG3 gives the 90 percentile range for temperature rise at 2100 as:

    2.1-5.8 degrees for RCP6.0
    2.8-7.8 degrees for RCP8.5

    That’s right, 6 degrees of warning by 2100 is entirely credible. 8 degrees if we really go for it and are unlucky to boot.

    Are the SPMs showing potential catastrophe, Tom?

  94. Joshua says:

    I think perhaps the best skill of a climateball player is to not play climateball with a climateball player.

    There is nothing that can prevent a climateballer from “forcing” you to say the kinds of things you say in practically every thread. Or as Willard might say, a climateballer seldom loses.

  95. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:


    Which had and has absolutely nothing to do with anything, especially what I actually advocate and believe.

    What did you expect, Tom?

    Actually, I have to confess, that until today I did not know that what Tom Fuller actually advocates and believes is relevant to the benefits of acting now rather than later.

    It’s almost as though everyone commenting here, except Tom Fuller, and perhaps Steven Mosher, has come down with a bad case of Dunning-Kruger.

    If only others would accept one simple fact, it would be possible to have a rational conversation.

  96. Willard says:

    > Orr?

    No. Bobby Orr is John Nielsen-Gammon, while BartV is more Niklas Lidstrom. Eli compares me to le Gros Bill, although my playstyle is more like le Capitaine‘s.

    That’s less important than iZen’s point that the Summary for Policymakers is, wait for it, a summary for policymakers.

  97. paulski0 says:

    I haven’t in the past paid a great deal of attention to IPCC WGII, but something spurred me to take a look at the freshwater chapter in the past few days and the first item in the executive summary states:

    For each degree of global warming, approximately 7% of the global population is projected to be exposed to a decrease of renewable water resources of at least 20%

    To me that seems at least potentially catastrophic. And that’s just one reported impact among hundreds.

  98. Joshua says:

    Has Dave “The Hammer” Schultz already been taken? I have someone in mind.

  99. Ken Fabian says:

    Tom – what does “conventional pollution” mean?

    CO2 is – by a very big margin – modern civilisation’s largest single waste stream. For a more average Australian than me it works out at 6 times more CO2 than all other waste combined – 17 metric tons vs 2.7 per person per year for all other waste. Whilst Australia is amongst the high polluters per capita a similar ratio is likely to be true in other industrialised economies.

    That CO2 occurs in nature and is essential for life processes doesn’t mean adding lots extra of it to the atmosphere is natural, cannot have negative consequences or the consequences can be ignored. Or that somehow that means it isn’t a pollutant.

    Action and inaction are inverted in this – to delay policy action is to perpetuate ongoing climate altering actions that are effectively irreversible.

  100. Ken Fabian says:

    It is the denialist, delayerist, responsibility and accountability avoidist counter messaging that is our biggest communications problem. Making the messaging of the Informed and Concerned more palatable to the Misinformed and Apathetic and Denialists, by leaving out any sense of seriousness or urgency sounds remarkably like turning it into a version of Lukewarmer denialist style messaging. Why would anyone – except the M+A+D’s – think that would work better?

    Delay – as ATTP pointed out at the top – is not our friend. Taking precipitous actions is what we are already doing with high emissions – that is now the default outcome for policy inaction. Delaying a policy response in order to base it on best available knowledge only had legitimacy with the early round of expert reports governments commissioned and received. Asking again, once more, to be sure – since no-one liked the first round of expert advice – might have some, but less legitimacy. Seeking outside of mainstream science amongst non-experts and amongst credentialed scientist who disagree with the consensus of their peers, to find advice more to their liking – because the second (and third and fourth) round of mainstream advice was essentially the same as the first – is not and has never been legitimate.

  101. Willard says:

    > even LeBron can’t hit every shot

    “LeBron” was trending yesterday, and let me tell you, LA fans aren’t happy, e.g.:

  102. I didn’t realize this transpired so quickly:

    November 17, 2009 — ClimateGate hacking discovered

    January 14, 2010 — Book on ClimateGate by Mosher & Fuller published

  103. Corey says:

    I guess Mosh and Tom [snip -W] found Mann and co. to be “impure” climate scientists.

  104. izen says:

    There is another issue which shares many of the features that ATTP has identified as making CO2 emissions a cumulative, irreversible, and generational risk.
    (at least from some political perspectives)

    Immigration by refugees from low/mid income countries to high income countries has already had impacts that will continue and increase even if we cut admissions to zero immediately. Continued admissions will increase the problem with no way to reverse the changes, delaying action ‘locks in’ the impacts on society. The sources are multiple, the impacts global, although the local extreme impacts.

    It is characterised as an existential threat to the current social system, which will lead to cultural collapse the longer we delay in acting upon the threat.
    Those that promote this view of the future deduced from observations of current trends have no hesitation, or apparent doubt, that emphasising the potential catastrophic consequences of inaction is the best way to evoke a policy response.

    Some may even be prone to a little exaggeration, suggesting that 4000 people walking 800 miles away is an immediate and extreme threat requiring urgent action to prevent further admissions; a danger that is regarded as far worse than further CO2 emissions.

    Their political opponents claim such exaggeration is unwarranted and unhelpful. That while there may be negative impacts, there are also positive effects to the changes and they do not add up to an existential threat to civic society.

    There is an obvious linkage between the two issues.
    One way to prevent, or at least reduce the future rise in admissions is to reduce the flow that is driven by the impacts of CO2 emissions.
    Is it a positive framing to suggest that urgent action on climate change will reduce the impact of millions of refugees driven by famine and ecological collapse invading the less affected and more resilient areas of civilisation ?

  105. Joshua says:


    Some may even be prone to a little exaggeration, suggesting that 4000 people walking 800 miles away is an immediate and extreme threat

    Izen won the thread.

    Twice.

  106. No, because apparently Tom is a Democrat. Checkmate.

  107. Joshua says:

    Rust –

    I think we all know that (Tom likes to talk about it). What difference does that make?

  108. Agreed, no difference.

    But checkmate! :p

  109. BBD says:

    Some may even be prone to a little exaggeration, suggesting that 4000 people walking 800 miles away is an immediate and extreme threat requiring urgent action to prevent further admissions; a danger that is regarded as far worse than further CO2 emissions.

    It’s a small world, with fewer degrees of separation between (in)action and consequence than some suppose…

    The unseen driver behind the migrant caravan: climate change. (The Guardian; 30 Oct 2018).

  110. Willard says:

    That reminds me of this exchange with Clive, contemplating the benefits of a warming world for the UK:

    [C] Madeira!

    [W] If UK becomes like Madeira, what will Madeira become like?

    [C] Cape Verde!

    [W] If Madeira becomes Cape Verde, what does Cape Verde become?

    [C] …

  111. This is what science says: (http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar5/wg2/ar5_wgII_spm_en.pdf)
    “Key risks are potentially severe impacts relevant to Article 2 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which refers to “dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.”

    Many species and systems with limited adaptive capacity are subject to very high risks with additional warming of 2°C, particularly Arctic-sea-ice and coral-reef systems.

    Climate-change-related risks from extreme events, such as heat waves, extreme precipitation, and
    coastal flooding, are already moderate (high confidence) and high with 1°C additional warming (medium confidence). Risks associated with some types of extreme events (e.g., extreme heat) increase further at higher temperatures (high confidence).

    Risks are unevenly distributed and are generally greater for disadvantaged people and communities in countries at all levels of development. Risks are already moderate because of regionally differentiated climate-change impacts on crop production in particular (medium to high confidence). Based on projected decreases in regional crop yields and water availability, risks of unevenly distributed impacts are high for additional warming above 2°C

    Risks of global aggregate impacts are moderate for additional warming between 1–2°C, reflecting
    impacts to both Earth’s biodiversity and the overall global economy (medium confidence). Extensive biodiversity loss with associated loss of ecosystem goods and services results in high risks around 3°C additional warming (high confidence).Aggregate economic damages accelerate with increasing temperature (limited evidence, high agreement), but few quantitative estimates have been
    completed for additional warming around 3°C or above.

    With increasing warming, some physical systems or ecosystems may be at risk of abrupt and
    irreversible changes. Risks associated with such tipping points become moderate between 0–1°C additional warming, due to earlywarning signs that both warm-water coral reef and Arctic ecosystems are already experiencing irreversible regime shifts (medium confidence). Risks increase disproportionately as temperature increases between 1–2°C additional warming and become high above 3°C, due to the potential for a large and irreversible sea level rise from ice sheet loss. For sustained warming greater than some threshold, 35 near-complete loss of the Greenland ice sheet would occur over a millennium or more,contributing up to 7 m of
    global mean sea level rise.”

    This should be enough to motivate us all to take action. It needs no embellishment, no exaggeration. It doesn’t require hyperbole or invention. NGOs, activists and those scientists who have taken to advocacy may someday understand that facts are fine, while scare talk of catastrophe changes argument into diatribe and hinders effective action.

    I look at this thread and see no change from the tone and trajectory of discourse over the past decade. And I wonder–the past decade has seen many changes in fields (and the public discussion of them) ranging from GMOs, genomics overall, biotechnology, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, sociology, psychology and anthropology. Why are you stuck in the past, fighting the same fight using the same language and tired insults? I wonder not just why you stick with a losing strategy, but what you gain from it individually? Ten years of doing the same thing with the same lack of results and no impulse to change. Once can admire persistence while also observing that banging your heads into a brick wall may not serve your purposes.

  112. Tom,
    You seem to simply be objecting to the use of an adjective. I think people are quite entitled to decide if they wish to describe some impact as catastrophic, or not. You don’t have to like it, and they don’t need to stop simply because you don’t.

    Why are you stuck in the past, fighting the same fight using the same language and tired insults?

    This is you. You rocked up and complained about others. You didn’t need to do that. You could have simply made an argument. The post didn’t mention catastrophe, and didn’t complain about what others were doing. You decided that the discussion should focus on those who you think are exaggerating. Fine, but maybe don’t pretend that you’re somehow not the one stuck in the past.

  113. Joshua says:

    Tom –

    I look at this thread and see no change from the tone and trajectory of discourse over the past decade…Why are you stuck in the past, fighting the same fight using the same language and tired insults?

    A work of art and a thing of beauty.

    I feel reasonably comfortable in speaking for at least a couple of others here, when I thank you for your concerns

  114. Joshua says:

    Tom –

    Consistent with your concerns

    I would suggest that you revisit your very first paragraph from your very first comment in this thread.

    There are other caveats you could add to reduce the whiplash effect of your this-but-that exposition.

    I might suggest, that to pursue your goal of productive debate, you might think of how you could initiate engagement with less antipathy and condescension.

    Try some more positive framing.

  115. BBD says:

    In which Tom once again refuses to acknowledge that failure to get emissions down rapidly may well result in catastrophic climate impacts.

    Too weird for words.

  116. BBD says:

    AR5 WG2 SPM:

    Risks of global aggregate impacts are moderate for additional warming between 1–2°C, reflecting impacts to both Earth’s biodiversity and the overall global economy (medium confidence). Extensive biodiversity loss with associated loss of ecosystem goods and services results in high risks around 3°C additional warming (high confidence).

    Now it turns out that this may be rather conservative and that high risks kick closer to 2C. It also turns out that lukewarmerism is almost certainly bollocks, which is why peddling the not-really-a-problem Lomborgian cant gets peoples’ backs up.

  117. ATTP, you write: “I think people are quite entitled to decide if they wish to describe some impact as catastrophic, or not. You don’t have to like it, and they don’t need to stop simply because you don’t.”

    I agree completely. But if their definition is not accepted by large numbers of the general population, the person with an idiosyncratic definition of catastrophic will face an uphill struggle in getting her/his policy agenda enacted.

    Later you write, “You rocked up and complained about others.” I have just reviewed each of my comments on this thread. I don’t see where I complained about others. Perhaps, as with ‘catastrophic,’ we have different definitions of ‘complained’. And perhaps you would be kind enough to show me examples of such as well as your definitions of both terms.

    You go on to write, “You decided that the discussion should focus on those who you think are exaggerating.” Actually, the first point I made (which has been ignored by all those reacting to my comments, including you) was “Many on the far end of the anti-consensus spectrum are opposed to concrete policies that help the poor, aid developing countries, etc., I would submit that their viewpoint is framed merely by political exigency.”

    I did indeed go on to cite the destructive effects of exaggeration in claims related to climate change impacts. I believe them to be a serious impediment to effective action in response to what I perceive is a pressing need. However, I think it quite odd that you think I was trying to steer a discussion towards my contribution–it was a comment from a lukewarmer on a hostile consensus weblog. I didn’t steal anyone’s microphone or air time. I just kicked in my two cents’ worth. You and other commenters were and are free to ignore my comments.

  118. Tom,

    I didn’t steal anyone’s microphone or air time. I just kicked in my two cents’ worth. You and other commenters were and are free to ignore my comments.

    Indeed, but you’re the one engaging in same ol’ same ol’ while complaining about people engaging in same ol’ same ol’. You could always just stop doing this.

  119. BBD says:

    But if their definition is not accepted by large numbers of the general population, the person with an idiosyncratic definition of catastrophic will face an uphill struggle in getting her/his policy agenda enacted.

    Being scientific evidence deniers who deny the validity of the IPCC reports as quoted by both of us in the last few comments…

  120. angech says:

    The risks of acting now?
    We are at a peak growth in the development of scientific knowledge solely due to the benefits of a fossil fuel driven revolution in health, education, transport, population size, communication, warmth (home heating in cold climates), building and exploration and use of our environment.
    Any forced return/reduction risks killing off the chance of the very innovations that might save us.
    Good to see Thomas commentating.
    Agree with some of his views.
    A little more warmth could go a long way in reducing frigid relations.

  121. Perhaps, ATTP, you could turn your gaze towards whatever substance (or lack thereof) you find in my comments rather than on me, my behavior, attitudes and ultimate destination.

  122. Joshua says:

    Tom –

    But if their definition is not accepted by large numbers of the general population.

    What is your evidence for determining how “large numbers of the general population” define what catastrophic climate change would look like?

    Actually, the first point I made…

    Actually, the first point you made was to criticize, condescendingly and antagonistically., what Anders had written. After which you proceeded to chastise others for their “tone, ” which is beautifully ironic, in addition to exaggerating the effects on public discourse from the tone of people you disagree with (that it makes debate “impossible”) regarding what “the science” says about the probability of catastrophic impact from climate change.

    More advice for how you could better achieve your goal of productive debate – stop poisoning the well and tone trolling then portraying yourself as some kind of victim.

    Play the ball, not the Mann.

  123. Tom,
    As I’ve said many times, it seems that if we continue to increase emission of CO2 into the atmosphere, the impacts could be sufficiently severe that they might reasonably described as catastrophic. You seem to disagree. So be it.

  124. Willard says:

    > Perhaps, ATTP, you could turn your gaze […]

    Perhaps you could simply own your double bind and stop ripping off your shirt.

  125. Joshua says:

    each of my comments on this thread. I don’t see where I complained about others.

    1. serial exaggeration by some

    2. Until such time as the consensus side

    3. the communications departments of environmental NGOs and numerous stalwarts in the press and among the blogging community

    4. those most strident in their characterization

    5. Glad to see some have graduated from JPEGs to GIFs

    6. I should think it is obvious that the scientists I cited, who are all very public advocates of specific policies, are saying something for public consumption that is not apparent in IPCC summaries of climate science.

    7. You can whine about ClimateBull all you want–but you’re the only one playing it.

    8. NGOs, activists and those scientists who have taken to advocacy may someday understand that facts are fine, while scare talk of catastrophe changes argument into diatribe and hinders effective action.

    9. I look at this thread and see no change from the tone and trajectory of discourse over the past decade.

    10. Why are you stuck in the past, fighting the same fight using the same language and tired insults? I wonder not just why you stick with a losing strategy, but what you gain from it individually? Ten years of doing the same thing with the same lack of results and no impulse to change. Once can admire persistence while also observing that banging your heads into a brick wall may not serve your purposes.

    11. However, I think it quite odd that you think I was trying to steer a discussion towards my contribution–it was a comment from a lukewarmer on a hostile consensus weblog. I didn’t steal anyone’s microphone or air time. I just kicked in my two cents’ worth. You and other commenters were and are free to ignore my comments.

    Along with the structural problems (ideological polarization, the difficulty of addressing existential, low probability risk over generational time horizons, etc), many comments have invited you to discuss whether you conflated certain statements of catastrophe with statements about the probabilities of catastrophe.

    These would all points that are still available for discussion.

    Play the ball

  126. Willard says:

    > double bind

    Perhaps I should speak of double binds, for here’s another one:

    [B3] The serial exaggeration by some on the pro-consensus side makes it impossible to either frame constructive solutions or even debate.

    [B4] Why are you stuck in the past, fighting the same fight using the same language and tired insults?

  127. ATTP, even using your definition of catastrophic impacts, I am trying to argue that moderating your message, avoiding hyperbole and adhering to what the consensus actually says, as I’ve pasted in above, would be more effective in getting you where you want to go.

    As a lukewarmer I have a different destination than you and those who think as you do. But our paths are the same for a good long stretch of the road. I am making my recommendations in good faith.

  128. Tom,

    ATTP, even using your definition of catastrophic impacts, I am trying to argue that moderating your message, avoiding hyperbole and adhering to what the consensus actually says, as I’ve pasted in above, would be more effective in getting you where you want to go.

    It wasn’t my message. The way I would frame it is in my post. It was simply a response to your complaint about its use, a point that you seem to still not get. Pointing out that some framing may indeed be reasonable (despite your objections) doesn’t suddenly make it my message.

  129. Well, after taking your name off it entirely and accepting the theoretical legitimacy of said framing, my central point does not change.

    Moderating your message, avoiding hyperbole and adhering to what the consensus actually says, as I’ve pasted in above, would be more effective in getting you where you want to go.

  130. Tom,
    FWIW, the amount of weight I give to someone’s advice about how to achieve a goal is proportional to how seriously they appear to want to achieve that goal themselves.

  131. I’ve realised that my response to Tom makes it seem like we shouldn’t avoid hyperbole or adhere to the consensus view. I think we should. I don’t think, however, that this implies not using adjectives.

  132. Willard says:

    If only we could all refrain from doing whatever makes contrarian pull out the CAGW meme, something they do every single minute in the contrarian matrix.

  133. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    I’ve realised that my response to Tom makes it seem like we shouldn’t avoid hyperbole or adhere to the consensus view.

    I think that only someone who is motivated to shoehorn what you’ve said into that message, because their goal all along is to play the Menn and blame the Menn for making debate impossible, because that is the argunrht they’ve been making for a decade, would reach such a conclusion.

  134. ATTP, I won’t go into details unless asked, but I have tried to help combat the impacts of climate change on several levels.

  135. Joshua says:

    Tom –

    I am trying to argue that moderating your message, avoiding hyperbole and adhering to what the consensus actually says, as I’ve pasted in above, would be more effective in getting you where you want to go.

    Looking past your own anecdotal experiences (and accepting for the sake of argument that Anders has engaged in hyperbole that could be moderated) what is your evidence you use to conclude what the impact of moderating hyperbole might be on public opinion formation in climate change?

    The vast majority of the evidence I’ve seen suggests that ideology is what drives opinion formation on climate change, not the rhetoric it “tone” of individuals.

    For example:

    It doesn’t matter what Al Gore says about climate change, to a “skeptic, ” what matters is that he’s a lib and “skeptics” hate libz.

    If course, there are exceptions to the pattern, but it’s fallacious to extrapolate from anecdotes outliers as if theyre representative.

    What is your evidence? Just the sameo playing the Mann doesn’t qualify as evidence

  136. Joshua says:

    Tom –

    ATTP, I won’t go into details unless asked, but I have tried to help combat the impacts of climate change on several levels.

    I would suggest that if you want to get where you want to go, stop personalizing the debate. This isn’t about you, or Anders (or Mann).

  137. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    So, the longer we take to address climate change, the bigger the change that we are committing ourselves to, and the more likely it becomes that climate change will severely negatively impact ourselves and natural ecosystems.

    Stop using hyperbole to scare people about an impending catastrophe, like you did in thst statement.

    When you do, it makes it impossible to debate the impact of ACO2 emissions.*

    *At least for people who have had no intention of going so anyway, because they will make up hyperbole from what you said, so they can play the Mann, because they have been doing do for a decade and apparently get some sort of satisfaction out of it.

  138. David B. Benson says:

    I think I’ll go back to reading about dark matter. More illuminating than the endless descent into this black hole of climate change consequences discussion.

  139. Willard says:

    > because they have been doing do for a decade and apparently get some sort of satisfaction out of it.

    Or alternatively because otherwise we’re ruined.

  140. izen says:

    @-thomaswfuller2
    “This is what science says: -link to the ar5 wgII SPM”

    No it isn’t. It is the summary for policy makers. The politically expedient consensus of what the government delegations can unanimously agree can be said about what the science says.

    If you want to quote what the science says you need to go here;-

    http://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/wg2/

    and work through the chapters.

    The SPM is edited to minimise any implication that present of future climate change could be catastrophic, the word is never used and has clearly been veto’ed out of the SPM.

    If wading through the chapters is too onerous a task, try comparing the SPM with the technical summary. It may avoid hyperbole, but unlike the SPM it does discuss the potential impacts of warming between 2C-4C in ways that have been excluded from the SPM. It can be instructive to compare how the SPM uses more words to be less informative, more ambiguous and whatever the opposite of alarmists is, to frame its content.

    SPM-
    “Large-scale singular events:With increasing warming, some physical systems or ecosystems may be at risk of abrupt and irreversible changes. Risks associated with such tipping points become moderate between 0–1°C additional warming, due to early warning signs that both warm-water coral reef and Arctic ecosystems are already experiencing irreversible regime shifts (medium confidence). Risks increase disproportionately as temperature increases between 1–2°C additional warming and become high above 3°C, due to the potential for a large and irreversible sea level rise from ice sheet loss. For sustained warming greater than some threshold, near-complete loss of the Greenland ice sheet would occur over a millennium or more,contributing up to 7 m of global mean sea level rise.”

    TS-
    ” Risks of large-scale singular events such as ice sheet disintegration, methane release from clathrates, and onset of long-term droughts in areas such as southwest North America [19.6, Box 26-1;WGI AR5 12.4, 12.5, 13.4], as well as regime shifts in ecosystems and substantial species loss [4.3, 19.6], are higher with increased warming. Sustained warming greater than some threshold would lead to the near-complete loss of the Greenland ice sheet over a millennium or more,causing a global mean sea level rise of up to 7 m (high confidence); current estimates indicate that the threshold is greater than about 1°C (low confidence) but less than about 4°C (medium confidence) global mean warming”

    Perhaps contrary to your suggestion, the climate debate has got stuck in a rut of underplaying the risks and should take heed of the example of raising concerns over refugees, where the tendency to magnify the supposed threat, current and potential, has proved an effective driver of significant political change (US, Italy, UK, Philippines, Brazil…)
    Even the politically neutered SPM concedes;-

    “Climate change over the 21st century is projected to increase displacement of people (medium evidence, high agreement). Displacement risk increases when populations that lack the resources for planned migration experience higher exposure to extreme weather events, in both rural and urban areas, particularly in developing countries with low income”

  141. Willard says:

    I don’t always cite and endorse a summary, but when I do I reject what it summarizes and quote stuff from it as a gotcha.

  142. Susan Anderson says:

    Why is this useful essay prevented from becoming a useful discussion by one arrogant self-certain guy who has to prove he’s right, no matter the facts (with a few others taking minor parts)?

    Joshua says: November 5, 2018 at 7:11 pm I think perhaps the best skill of a climateball player is to not play climateball with a climateball player.

    This is the first comment that caught my eye. There are many good writers and thinkers here, but I wish they would be active rather than reactive. https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2018/11/04/the-benefits-of-acting-now-rather-than-later/#comment-131614 [Ken Fabian; there are many others]

    Between the green blaming and the undermining of trust in science and alarmist economic fear of ditching fossil fuels, I see three main memes of a denialist agenda – not all by the same sources or even exclusively by denialists but with the same results; the issue stays divided and the most effective policy options are held out of reach.

    … it doesn’t work so well when people are encouraged by high profile people they trust to reject or ignore the science, to fear ditching fossil fuel, to blame the messengers and their alleged ideological motivations, to be contemptuous of ‘green’ motivations or messaging.

    That is, emphasising legitimate fears and concerns would work effectively if denialists were not active and tireless in their efforts to undermine the message – including the positive messages – with an immediate counter message. Some have extraordinarily prominent reach through partisan media that amplifies their influence.

    So, no, the green movement or fear peddlers do not own more of the impending doom than denialists. Less. A lot less. Denial has used lies and misinformation to profoundly diminish our abilities to manage the climate problem – far more blameworthy IMO than failure of the truth (in the presence of well promoted lies) to advance it.

    Note that I think the green politicking is only so prominent in this because other voices, with more conventional and mainstream credentials, have failed to provide convincing leadership. What was that cartoon with people lined up for reassuring lies and avoiding the line for uncomfortable truth? Denial starts with a home advantage.

  143. Joshua says:

    Susan –

    I’m not getting where you were going with that.

    Are you disagreeing with me on the benefits of playing climateball with a climateball player?

  144. Joshua, I hoped to underline your point, sorry if I obscured that. I took some time today to read right through all these comments, and way too many of them have been kidnapped by supposedly setting the record straight with one respondent in an ever-expanding spiral, rather than dealing with aTTP’s stalwart effort to address a difficult subject. The trouble is that objecting to feeding it becomes another kind of feeding it. I’ve struggled with this for years.

  145. David B. Benson says:

    A standard result in control theory shows that a little effort now has the same effect as a lot of effort later.

    So, Susan Anderson, that provides one answer to the question posed by aTTP. Delay requires an ever bigger finger for the hole in the dike.

  146. BBD says:

    At least Lamar Smith is now circling the plughole and a non-denier likely to replace him as chair of the House Science committee. Every little helps, although I’d be the first to admit that it isn’t looking very hopeful now.

  147. JCH says:

    The new chair is likely to be Eddie Bernice Johnson, also of Texas. She is elected by huge margins (91%) because of extreme gerrymandering of congressional districts in the Dictatorship of Texas.

    Somewhere they elected a Democrat oceanographer, and hopefully she’ll be on that committee: Science, Space, and Technology.

    One thing they can investigate is various scientists’s roles in attempting to abuse the powers of committee to frame Karl and Peterson when there was absolutely no evidence at all of wrong doing.

  148. Willard says:

    > Delay requires an ever bigger finger for the hole in the dike.

    I think this applies to contrarian concerns too. Playing ClimateBall should be a way to tap in that kind of resource. It would have been harder to formulate double binds and mild gaslighting without an “history of violence,” so to speak.

    Contrarians won’t go away. They bring stuff on the table. If it’s only forms of manipulation, as Groundskeeper does, so be it.

    At the very least, this gives us poetry.

  149. Joshua says:

    Susan –

    Thanks for the clarification.

    The trouble is that objecting to feeding it becomes another kind of feeding it.

    As far as I’m concerned, they don’t need sustenance from the outside. There is a self-feeding mechanism in play, very much in line with and part of the self-sealing mechanism that Willard describes (and which helps explain why “skeptics” rarely [I would day never] lose) .

    IMO, the illusion that is easy to fall into is a belief that in some way we can change the trajectory of a “skeptic” or a climateball player such as our interlocutor on this thread. It’s human nature to believe that you can influence the course of a moving object. But the force behind some objects is so massive that effectively, the best you can do, IMO, is just decide if you want to go along for the ride.

    Not to get all zen and shit…. but it can be difficult, sometimes, to judge your potential for influence. Sometimes you can learn from history, but I find that often I am compelled by a certain resistance to accepting the reality of my own powerlessness. Letting go of an illusion that I can exert some influence if I just find the right fulcrum is difficult.

    Why would I bother with someone who has demonstrated intransigence time after time, who wades into a discussion by first, before doing anything else, raisesinf a flag of intransigence by throwing down a gauntlet of condescension and antipathy? It’s a question I ask myself quite a bit, with the knowledge that although the answer is certainly internal, this is a pattern that plays out so frequently among so many people.

    Dealing with an individual climateballer rather parallels the larger frame of how to engage in the issue of climate change on society. So I wonder if sometimes a reflexive head to wall pounding and dead horse beating engagement with a “skeptic’ is a (futile) way to try to reconcile the frustration of seeing society continue to fail to address the risk of climate change effectively.

    Maybe if I can just” defeat” this one climateballer…get him to acknowledge the obvious fallacies in his arguments….

    Maybe in the process of futile attempts to influence an immovable force, I learn something…

    Never mind that I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a climateballer acknowledge a fallacy, let alone even conceptualize their own defeat.

    At any rate that’s all just a long and navel gazing round about way of saying that while I agree that objecting to feeding looks like another kind of feeding, I take some consolation in my belief that the common view that feeding the beast (the “tr*ll,” the climateballer, etc.) makes things worse is probably wrong: neither feeding nor objecting to feeding make things better, but nor do they make things worse. And same old goes along. And maybe, boosting the shirt industry from the need to replace all those ripped shirts helps poor children in Indonesia or China.

  150. [I know you mean well, mike, but no playing the ref. AT’s blog, AT’s rules. -W]

  151. Ken Fabian says:

    Susan, I admit to being reactive, especially if I think someone who has significant public profile and influence is saying things that are seriously wrong or misleading. ie people who we should expect to know better. Green blaming and the related “Just use nuclear; that’s what I would do if I thought global warming was real” themes do work as triggers in my case, but my views do differ to the standard positions people mostly espouse or encounter (I think).

    Like Joshua said “Maybe if I can just” defeat” this one climateballer…get him to acknowledge the obvious fallacies in his arguments….” or just have an impact on someone who might otherwise think such arguments have merit…

    I can and often do try and avoid feeding the trolls; not a hard and fast rule but I will make my position clear and maybe once more to be sure and then move on. Whether I end up more eloquent or end up sounding like I’m ranting when I keep at it can be debatable.

    Unfortunately I do think the Doubt Deny Delay politicking has been and remains the biggest impediment to the development and implementation of effective climate/emissions/energy policy. Fortunately I think the successes of renewable energy have given us an opportunity to step out of the worn ruts and shift to different ground. Making the discussion NOT about Denialists may be as much a mistake as focusing on them – but there are no easy courses.

  152. BBD says:

    Green blaming and the related “Just use nuclear; that’s what I would do if I thought global warming was real” themes do work as triggers in my case, but my views do differ to the standard positions people mostly espouse or encounter (I think).

    However idiosyncratic or not your views may be, nuclear tr0lling seems to be widely effective as an irritant, hence its popularity among contrarians 🙂

  153. Willard says:

    Somehow related, a whole thread on conversations:

  154. Lerpo says:

    I for one cannot and will not advocate for sensible climate policy unless and until everyone adopts my definition of catastrophe which is certainly not limited to billions of dollars in economic damages but must include global pandemics along with the end of international trade and basic services, grid failure, failure of all modern technology, the end of democracy and civilization, etc. (as the prophets foretold)

    Change needs to start here people! Once Miriam and Webster accept my definition then people of genuine good will (like myself) can start having a sensible dialogue.

    But I guess you’re not interested in dialogue.

  155. Joshua says:

    Willard –

    Thanks for that 12:39.

    “unhinged pit folk” is perhaps my favorite.

    If only those unhinged put folk would stop talking about pits, we could have a positively framed debate [about] climate change.

    As long as there is one unhinged pit person left standing (in a pit), debate is impossible.

  156. Willard says:

    My favorite is of course the one featuring teh Turtle:

  157. Susan Anderson says:

    Thanks Joshua.

    Moving on, I’m not giving up. Though arguing, while satisfying to the inner writer and “logician” grounded in reality to the point of disbelief that anyone can be that stupid doesn’t get much of anywhere, there are many small and large things we can do.

    Local action is probably best. Speaking of which, though off topic, I showed up on hours notice with well over 2000 people last nigh along with about a 1000 other demonstractions all over. I was surprised there were that many of us, but it does feel like progress sometimes.

    Pleased that a judge put another kink in the Keystone pipeline megamess – https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/09/climate/judge-blocks-keystone-pipeline.html . Seems our courts are doing their best to protect us. Juliana (Hansen’s kids lawsuit) is stumbling, but not dead yet. The argument that we have a legal obligation to the future seems to be increasingly acceptable in legal circles.

  158. Susan Anderson says:

    Oops typos. Wouldn’t bother, but I do like “demonstractions” 😉

  159. John Hartz says:

    Susan:

    “All politics are local.”

    — Tip O’Neill (47th Speaker of the US House of Representatives from 1977 to 1987)

  160. Hyperactive Hydrologist says:

    My wife’s paper on climate impacts in Europe cities from earlier this year. The results seem fairly catastrophic in terms of the adaption required but I guess it depends on how you define catastrophic. The possible drought impacts are particularly alarming, as southern Europe has very limited capacity to adapt and has the potential to exacerbate existing migrant pressures. It may not be the impacts themselves that we define as catastrophic but instead the cascading impacts on societal cohesion and underlying political tensions.

    Heatwaves:

    An increase of both the number of heat-wave (HW) days and the maximum HW temperature is projected for every city under all scenarios. The number of HW days (calculated for May–September) increases more for cities in southern Europe, but the higher maximum temperature increases during HWs (HWTmax) are expected in cities located in central Europe where changes can reach 14°C. The increase in the number of heat-wave days is shown in figure 1(a)) and range from a 4% increase in the low impact scenario in Trondheim (Norway), to a 69% increase in Lefkosia and Lemesos (Cyprus) for the high scenario.

    Droughts:

    Drought conditions are expected to intensify in southern European cities under all impact scenarios considered, while in mid and northern latitudes the projections are scenario-dependent. Drought was assessed using the 12 month time-scale Drought Severity Index (DSI-12). Figure 2(b) shows the probability of any month exceeding the historical (1951–2000) maximum DSI-12 (HMD). For the high impact scenario, 21 cities in Southern Europe have more than 70% probability that the HMD will be exceeded in any given month, and may experience droughts up to 14 times worse than the worst drought in the historical period (figure 2(b)).

    HMD= Historic maximum drought

    Floods:

    For the high impact scenarios, only 9 cities are not expected to see increases in Q10 (most of them in Spain, but also Lefkosia–Cypress, Toulon–France and Siracusa–Italy). The areas with higher increases are the British Isles, Norway and northern Iberia. Half of the UK cities see increases above 50% and several European cities see increases above 80% (Santiago de Compostela in Spain, Cork and Waterford in Ireland, Kristiansand in Norway, Braga and Barcelos in Portugal and Derry/Londonderry in the UK). Norwegian cities (Trondheim and Kristiansand) show increases in all scenarios and a large increase in the high impact scenario (50% and 127% respectively). However, as snowpack and melting processes are not accounted for in our methodology this may not translate into the same change in observed Q10.

    A suitable framework for assessing the benefits of future adaptation, for the flood component of risk, has been proposed by Ward et al (2017). However, adaptation of cities for heat-waves presents a major challenge in design, and even more so to quantify benefits and costs. In Southern Europe, adapting to some of the projected changes could only be achieved by a fundamental, and expensive, re-engineering of each city or water resource system, as significant adaptation to climate extremes has already been implemented and radical changes will be needed to achieve more. By contrast, in Central Europe, although major, disruptive changes in hydro-climate are expected, there should be capacity and economic resource to support adaptation (Tapia et al 2017).

  161. Joshua says:

    Some pretty good stuff here, IMO – in particular the segment on the problematic economics of frakking:

    https://www.wnycstudios.org/story/financial-crash-and-climate-crisis

  162. Joshua says:

    …posted too soon…

    Much in that piece that relates to the themes discussed in this thread…unfortunately, much of it aligns with my view that there are huge structural problems when asking for a global society on a collective scale to deal with long-term risks for distal, long-germ damages resulting from individual-level decisions that bring much more proximate benefits.

    Will strategies for addressing climate change be adapted unless there is some kind of come to Jesus moment where mostly everyone thinks that immediate and significantly harmful impact is (more or less) completely unambiguous? Hmmm. I’m rather dubious. And I’m also dubious that people can be convinced (particularly by people who aren’t members of their identity-group) that signals they perceive to be ambiguous at a day-to-day living your life level are compelling reasons to address long-term, distal risks. Such a belief, IMO, rather flies in the face of much of what we know about human nature.

  163. wrt to our species’ ability to address climate change: I agree completely with the analysis put forward by Joshua. I scanned the financial crash piece and again, I feel like banging my head on the wall over the fact that Obama could not be a visionary leader who would have seized the financial crash to put the US economy on even a slightly different track by stabilizing the economy, saving jobs, stopping foreclosures etc with a green energy approach instead of primarily stabilizing the economy by propping up the banks and avoiding the kind of financial derailment that might have been allowed some fundamental restructuring of our economy through changed financial and energy sectors. People (dems) react badly to my disappointment with Obama and maybe think I am just bashing Obama as a function of radical politics, or as a duplicitous function of right wing politics, but neither of those is the case (well, maybe the function of radical politics to a certain extent) because the primary source of the disappointment is that “we” moderated the 2008 crash and didn’t significantly alter the trajectory and fundamental principles of the dominant financial model and that model is quite destructive of our environment and the future for our children and grandchildren. Oh, well. Shit happens, I guess. Heard from family and acquaintances with attachments to Paradise, CA. Towns burn to the ground sometimes now. Shit happens. No one in my various orbits injured or dead, so I am happy about that. Cousin lost a rental house, but insurance will probably support a rebuild in the existing location. The place couldn’t burn down twice, right?

  164. Joshua said:

    “Some pretty good stuff here, IMO – in particular the segment on the problematic economics of frakking:

    https://www.wnycstudios.org/story/financial-crash-and-climate-crisis

    Thanks, listened to it. Once again, this is a mixed message describing the underlying issues with fracking. In much of the podcast they discuss climate change as being the root problem, but then they talk to Bethany McLean who clearly says that oil fracking in the Bakken and Texas was the result of oil depletion and the opportunity afforded for cheap capital funding (i.e. low interest loans) stemming from the 2008 crash. All of the fracked oil production was thus highly leveraged and it’s not clear where the profit is.

    Again , this a two barrel shotgun aimed at us — one barrel is AGW and the other is significant oil depletion.

  165. Steven Mosher says:

    “Thanks, listened to it. Once again, this is a mixed message describing the underlying issues with fracking.”

    Mixed message and some mis information, but hey, New Yorker, Fake news.

    I dunno what you hear Paul, but flaring in 2010 was less than 1%, its grown some since due to the
    lack of infrastructure, Should correct with build out planned for Permian. i stopped tracking LNG
    exports

    From AGW standpoint we can be somewhat thankful for replacing Coal with NG,

  166. The Trump administration has opened up lots of land in the Rocky Mountain plains in a haphazard fashion, yet there are only a few sweet spots, so it’s essentially hit and miss extraction with lots of flaring.

    For crude oil, the vast majority of oil comes from rapidly depleting tight oil sites in Texas (partially into OK and NM) and North Dakota, and the problematic conventional sites in the Gulf of Mexico.

    Last week, a ballot proposition in Colorado to keep fracking at a setback distance from livable areas failed. That doesn’t matter because the amount of oil they would get is inconsequential.

    The oil production outlook is bleak and as Pierrehumbert says, the big concern will always be if they start tapping into the really low quality fossil fuels that form the base of the resource pyramid.

  167. Pingback: Limits to growth? | …and Then There's Physics

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