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Chill Out — An economic triage
for global climate change

by Michael Shermer, Sep 29 2009

Are you a global warming skeptic, or are you skeptical of the global warming skeptics? Your answer depends on how you answer these five questions:

  1. Is the earth getting warmer?
  2. Is the cause of global warming human activity?
  3. How much warmer is it going to get?
  4. What are the consequences of a warmer climate?
  5. How much should we invest in altering the climate? Here are my answers.

Global warming is real and primarily human caused. With questions 3 and 4, however, estimates include error bars that grow wider the further out we run the models because complex systems like climate are notoriously difficult to predict. I provisionally accept the estimate of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that the mean global temperature by 2100 will increase by 4.7 degrees Fahrenheit, and that sea levels will rise by about one foot (about the same as they have risen since 1860). Moderate warming with moderate changes.

Question 4 deserves even more skepticism. In his carefully-reasoned and politically-bipartisan book Cool It (Alfred Knopf, 2008), the “skeptical environmentalist” Bjorn Lomborg notes that if global warming continues unchecked through the end of the century there will be 400,000 more heat-related deaths annually; there will be also be 1.8 million fewer cold-related deaths, for a net gain of 1.4 million lives. This is not to say that global warming is good, only that its consequences must be weighed in the balance. For example, Lomborg sites data from the World Wildlife Fund that at most we will lose 15 polar bears a year due to global warming, but what doesn’t get reported is that 49 bears are shot each year. What would be more cost-effective to save polar bear lives — spend hundreds of billions of dollars to lower CO2 emissions and (maybe) the mean global temperature, or limit hunting permits?

This leads to question 5 — the economics of global climate change — which I think needs a sound dose of skepticism, particularly since the collapse of our economy. Even if all countries had ratified the Kyoto Protocol and lived up to its standards (which most did not), according to the IPCC, at best it would have postponed the 4.70F average increase just five years from 2100 to 2105, at a cost of $180 billion a year! By comparison, although global warming may cause an increase of two million deaths due to hunger annually by 2100, the U.N. estimates that for $10 billion a year we could save 229 million people from hunger annually today. It’s time for economic triage.

Economics is about the efficient allocation of limited resources that have alternative uses. And after the U.S. government allocated a trillion dollars of our limited resources to shore up our flagging financial foundations, those alternative uses have never seemed so pressing. Should we (can we?) really allocate the equivalent of a Manhattan Project to lower CO2 emissions 50 percent by 2050 and 80 percent by 2100, as the IPCC recommends in order to divert disaster? My answer is no. Why? Because the potential benefits for the costs incurred are simply not warranted.

If you had, say, $50 billion a year to make the world a better place for more people, how would you spend it? In 2004, Lomborg asked this question to a group of scientists and world leaders, including four Nobel laureates. This “Copenhagen Consensus,” as it is called, ranked reduction of CO2 emissions 16th out of 17 challenges. The top four were: controlling HIV/AIDS, micronutrients for fighting malnutrition, free trade to attenuate poverty, and battling malaria. A 2006 Copenhagen Consensus of U.N. ambassadors constructed a similar list, with communicable diseases, clean drinking water, and malnutrition at the top, and climate change at the bottom. A late 2008 meeting that included five Nobel Laureates recommended that President-elect Barack Obama allocate his promised $150 billion in subsidies for new technologies and $50 billion in foreign aid be allocated for research on malnutrition, immunization, and agricultural technologies. For a cool Kyoto $180 billion you can buy a lot of condoms, vitamin tablets, and mosquito nets and rescue hundreds of millions of people from disease, starvation, and impoverishment.

If you are skeptical of Lomborg and his branch of environmental skepticism, read the Yale University economist William Nordhaus’ technical book A Question of Balance (Yale University Press, 2008). Nordhaus computes the costs-benefits of various recommendations for changing the climate by either 2105 or 2205, primarily focused on the cost of curbing carbon emissions. Economists like to compute future profits and losses based on investments made today, adjusting for the value of a future dollar at an average interest rate of four percent. If we spent a trillion dollars today (the equivalent of the recent bailout or the Iraq war), how much climate change would it buy us in a century at four percent interest? Nordhaus’s calculations are compared to doing nothing, where a plus value is better and a minus value worse than doing nothing. Kyoto with the U.S. is plus one and without the U.S. zero, for example, and a gradually increasing global carbon tax is a plus three. That is, a $1 trillion cost today buys us $3 trillion of benefits in a century. Al Gore’s proposals, by contrast, score a minus 21, where $1 trillion invested today in Gore’s plans would net us a loss of $21 trillion in 2105.

Add to these calculations the numerous other crises we face, such as the housing calamity, the financial meltdown, the coming collapse of social security and medicare, two wars, a failing public education system, etc.

In my opinion we need to chill out on all extremist plans that entail expenses best described as Brobdingnagian, require our intervention into developing countries best portrayed as imperialistic, or involve state controls best portrayed as fascistic. Give green technologies and free markets a chance.

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181 Responses to “Chill Out — An economic triage
for global climate change”

  1. Jeff says:

    Is there any consideration of the effects of catastrophic weather (floods, mudslides, wild fires) in these skeptical calculations? Refugee costs? How about retooling a large portion of the world’s agriculture? Combating agricultural diseases caused by climate change? biodiversity?

    I don’t understand the point of this article. Is it to say that if we only look at some of the potential problems caused by global warming it’s easy to dismiss it?

  2. MadScientist says:

    Is Lomborg only looking at temperatures and guessing that more lives will be spared than lost? That’s quite silly really. First of all, 4.7 degrees is not “moderate” by any means; that can be all the difference between a successful crop and an abysmal crop failure. It also means higher evaporation rates; your nice green fields may turn into a sparsely vegetated semi-arid environment.

    I’d also like to point out the fallacy that the seas will rise by 1 foot; there have been discussions about such figures within the IPCC. The mistake many modelers make is they predict such-and-such by year X – well, in the case of sea levels, you won’t get to 1 foot and then suddenly stop; the seas will continue to rise. At any rate, that 1 foot is now looking horribly wrong even for any specific fixed date 100 years from now.

    Green technologies haven’t got a hope in hell on their own because of cost. Regardless of global warming there is a need to address future energy sources. Governments expect private industry to do this while private industry will not make significant investments because that’s a huge profit loss. There will be no urgency until some fossil fuels start to run low, and at that point it will be too late to come up with solutions. People will not spend their own money to develop solutions which they cannot sell today.

    Another thing to keep in mind is that a changing climate can wipe out your already stressed water supply. New York City without water – oh, Monckton has the solution – simply move. Yeah, just move an entire city – the dams will magically appear elsewhere and people will move overnight – no hassles! In fact all that building will be a great boon to the economy.

  3. Brett Hansen says:

    Jeff,

    Mr. Shermer States:

    “This is not to say that global warming is good, only that its consequences must be weighed in the balance.”

    I believe that this is the basis of the article. Mr. Shermer listed one example (polar bears); however all consequences that you mention warrant a tantamount dose of healthy skepticism.

    Brett

  4. foolfodder says:

    According to this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kffsux-ifKk the IPCC report does not include “future rapid dynamical changes in ice flow”. Some evidence that the ice is undergoing dynamic thinning: http://spacefellowship.com/2009/09/25/nasa-ice-satellite-maps-profound-polar-thinning/

  5. Chris says:

    Lomborg is not a real scientist, nor are his publications legitimate scientific papers. His “findings” have been discredited by many real scientists. Please search on realclimate.org for more information. This is a site with real published scientists that have had their results peer reviewed.

    I am disappointed to see this article from you, as you usually are very well informed. Perhaps this was your first introduction to Lomborg and weren’t aware of his shadiness?

    Finally, it doesn’t cost that much to avoid global warming. We just need to scale down and stop the excessive overconsumption. Ninety percent of what people buy in the US is unneeded and wasteful. We can easily reduce emissions without anyone starving or freezing in the dark with less of a burden than people endured in WWII. We don’t need any magic bullets and trillion dollar mega projects to do it.

  6. Doubting Foo says:

    Lomberg was the guy featured on Penn & Teller’s Bullshit. He seems to be the guy who climate change skeptics go to when they don’t want to be skeptics anymore but still want to be a contrarian.

  7. pjohnson says:

    Surprising to see some strong ad-hominem attacks on a skeptical site, but it does seem like the Kyoto protocol is a religous issue. Lomborg does not deny or dismiss warming, he just points out that we have limited resources and that we must ensure we get the best bang for our buck. We have many critical issues facing mankind, warming is just one of them. Also his conclusions on the top priorities come from polling experts, so why attack him for not being a ‘scientist’.

    So now even though I acknowledged warming above, I’ll wait to be called a denier,…

    • Have you read, or read about, Shermer’s new book? The entire book is based on libertarian philosophy touching on a variety of issues, far beyond just global warming. There’s plenty of evidence Shermer is ever more an UNskeptical libertarian, if anybody on a skeptical site is UNskeptical.

      Don’t believe me? Ask Bob Carroll at Skeptic’s Dictionary.

  8. Chris says:

    Btw, here’s more references:

    Scientific American discredits Lomborg and debunks his book:
    http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?articleID=000F3D47-C6D2-1CEB-93F6809EC5880000

    The prestigious journal Nature said that Lomborg “employs the strategy of those who argue that… Jews weren’t singled out by the Nazis”.

    The Danish Committee for Scientific Dishonesty said “the publication is deemed clearly contrary to the standards of good scientific practice”.

    More links here:
    http://www.logicalscience.com/skeptics/Lomborg.html

    I’d really like to see a public retraction here. This article is promoting pseudo-science.

  9. Mike says:

    “Ninety percent of what people buy in the US is unneeded and wasteful.”

    First, where does that “statistic” come from? Second, what is meant by “unneeded”? Who determines my needs and where is that bright line drawn? I probably don’t need a PC to survive, but I’m certainly more productive with one.

    I haven’t researched the topic, and if you can point me to someone credible who has I would appreciate it, but it seems naive to me to say that we could slash consumer expenditures in the United States by 90% without experiencing a huge amount of change, mostly for the worse. Maybe I’m wrong and the wealthy tail of our income distribution is throwing all our money away.

  10. Chris says:

    Mike, that’s just a rough number. Look at the basement, garage and closet of any typical American (or Canadian) family and this is obvious. If everyone reduced their consumption by ninety percent their standard of living wouldn’t drop appreciably. They would still be healthy, and wouldn’t starve or freeze. Of course, smaller houses, more apartments, more rail, less cars and other measures can assist with this.

    My point is that while this does involve some sacrifice, it’s a minor one compared to what the Americans, or especially the British, had to ensure during WWII. Get by with a bit less, save money, and ensure your grandchildren will have a decent world. Doesn’t seem like the end of the world to me.

    Of course, personal choice isn’t going to accomplish all of this, you still need international agreements, legislation, etc., my point is just that it’s really not that hard to do practically. Politically, that’s a different story.

  11. pjohnson says:

    Hey Chris,

    How about posting a link to Lomborgs response to the SciAm article.

    http://www.greenspirit.com/lomborg/ScientificAmericanBjornLomborgAnswer.pdf

  12. Mike says:

    “Look at the basement, garage and closet of any typical American (or Canadian) family and this is obvious. If everyone reduced their consumption by ninety percent their standard of living wouldn’t drop appreciably.”

    I’m not trying to single you out or launch any ad hominem, but you’re saying this is obvious? It doesn’t seem that obvious to me. I have anecdotal observations of my own and a few other households to go by, and sure there is a lot of discretionary spending going on. And I would even be inclined to agree that the American consumer body as a group could cut spending by a lot and maintain a fair standard of living. But to say that every American household could cut spending by 90% and maintain a consistent standard of living, or even just not die, seems way off.

    I think it’s fair to say that Americans should save more and be conscientious about their consumption. I am with you on that point. But given that Lomborg’s arguments are based on specific cost-benefit estimates with at least some level (albeit a debatable level) of scientific rigor, to criticize his stance by throwing a number like 90% of all spending in America is wasteful which is not substantiated with any evidence beyond the examination of a few garages and closets seems like the pot calling the kettle black.

    I welcome into this discussion a well-conceived notion of how much of our consumer spending is largely wasteful or unnecessary. What I will not abide is the leap from “Americans are the most wasteful consumers on the planet” to “If all the waste was eliminated from American consumer spending, we could fix the global warming problem” because I need to see the data to back that up. It’s easy to look at the average bloated American budget and blame that for our problems, but it’s not a convincing argument.

    • Nexus says:

      The rise in Self-Storage bins, containers, and facilities in the US is a telling example of a consumerism gone rampant. People, more than ever, are owning objects to such an excess that they no longer can be contained within one house-hold or apartment. So so they turn to the Self-Storage Unit:

      Self-Storage in America, by Tom Vanderbilt
      http://www.slate.com/id/2122832/
      “One in 11 American households, according to a recent survey, owns self-storage space—an increase of some 75 percent from 1995.”

    • Cthandhs says:

      I wonder if Chris is saving 90% of his/her income. I have a pretty good job, but 10% of my income would not pay rent on a cardboard box where I live, much less a 2 Bedroom apartment. Lets also not forget that America has a service economy. If we all cut our spending by some ridiculous figure, a lot of us would be out of jobs. I guess that makes it easier to cut our spending…

      • Chris says:

        It’s not about income, it’s about resources. You need a house or apartment, of course, and this is often shared amongst a family. Beyond that you can easily do without lots of junk.

        Think cars, deposible items, fancy gadgets, overdose of children’s toys, etc. All these things are nice, but they aren’t necessary. And stuff people do have, like appliances, clothes, kitchenware, etc. can be used for many years and don’t have to be replaced every couple years. There’s many other examples, you can search for yourself if you like.

        Yes, there will have to be economic changes, but nothing on the order of WWII where the entire economy was run centrally and all car factories were converted to make tanks, guns, etc, in 9 months. Sure, there will be changes, but nothing on that scale. What happened to the old American can-do attitude of the “greatest generation”?

    • MadScientist says:

      I’ve got loads of crap in my garage. Books that I haven’t got space for in the house, tools I need to make a living, etc. Although they do add up to quite a few thousand $$ in all, they were acquired over many years and in each year they’re a tiny fraction of my income. Most of my money (over 60%) is wasted on rent. My next biggest expenditure is my food, which takes up about 15% of my income, then car maintenance comes in very close so I’ll call that 15% as well. So if I live out on the street, don’t eat, and get rid of my car I can help save the earth!

      • Chris says:

        You know, the ninety percent is just a number. Some people waste more than others, some people live alone and some people live in groups so more resources can be shared. Obviously people in different situations need to do things differently. If you’re already living modestly and not wasting much, obviously you don’t need to do a lot!

        Anyway, please don’t go live on the street. :)

      • MadScientist says:

        I don’t see why I should think I’m unique or even a minority, but reducing carbon dioxide emissions is not a simple problem at all and lifestyle changes is not as big an impact as many people would think. If we look at a city like Sydney for example, everything is done backwards (not because it’s in Australia but because many cities do things backwards). Many people work in the city but live in the suburbs. Public transport is awful so a large number of people still drive into the city even though parking costs a fortune. Regulations are set up to keep places of business away from residential areas, thus guaranteeing long commutes. In contrast you can still find some places throughout Europe where industries are in a beautiful setting and very close to or even within residential areas and most workers either walk or take a bicycle. There are even the occasional factories right next to a river (but not polluting the river as people expect all industries to do).

        It’s not only the individual, entire communities and cities are geared to doing things inefficiently and in many cases individuals cannot reasonably change because of the social environment they are in. In my case for example, if I got rid of my 20-year-old rotting carcass of a car, I’d be out of a job and have no prospect of getting a job.

      • Chris says:

        I never said the changes required are easy, just that they are relatively straightfoward. It will require a large effort, by all governments in the world, but not as much effort as was needed, say, in WWII. It’s is doable. Politically, though, I worry nothing will be done until things get really bad.

  13. Mike says:

    Also, to get back to the point, the question Lomborg is attempting to answer is “Even if we could cut spending by 90% and experience no ill effects, is the best way to spend that money on abatement of global warming and alleviation of its effects?“. He comes to the conclusion that there are other global issues where we would get more “bang for the buck”. Climate scientists and and environmental scientists can argue about the evidence about warming and its effects; in fact, that is the point of science. At the end of the day, we still have to take the best data available to us and ask the normative question, “Is it worth it to spend the money we would need to spend to slow or reverse this problem?” Even if you convinced Lomborg that his estimates were wildly off and gave him the correct data to use, he would still attempt to answer this question with the new data and possibly still come to the same conclusion.

    • MadScientist says:

      Lomborg throws up a straw man and false dichotomy all wrapped up into one scarecrow. He’s every bit as bad as the modelers who make claims that they can somehow predict the future (and yet cannot even lay down a mechanism for testing the validity of their claims).

      Let’s look at that “isn’t money better spent elsewhere” thing. First of all, we know the globe is warming; we have no idea how much it will warm up but we have a fairly good idea about the minimum amount to expect. No one knows what all the consequences may be, although with what’s known about many crops (and trees), insects, and the desertification process, at the very least we’re talking about moving HUGE agricultural areas in a comparatively short time. Obviously you can’t move to other existing agricultural areas so you need to find a new wilderness to tear up and put infrastructure into. Imagine you may need to move cities as well. Are such expenditures really worthwhile? I’ll have to buy a new house (not that I own one at the moment), nor will anyone pay me for the house I’m abandoning, pack up and move (lost productivity), and so on. Is that really a “better way” than the projected doubling of energy costs and a moderate rise in the cost of goods?

      • madlogicist says:

        slippery slope!

      • MadScientist says:

        It’s only a ‘slippery slope’ in as much as you have a ‘slippery slope’ when I say don’t attempt to walk down the mountain via route X because it’s just rained and it’s slippery.

        If I tell you you’ll be badly burnt if you put a pot of water on the stove, switch on the stove, and leave your hand in the water, do you consider that a ‘slippery slope’?

  14. Chris says:

    Mike, I don’t want to sidetrack this post too much. The main point is about Lomborg and whether he has any scientific validity. There are many arguments about how best to address the problem of global warming. I would just say that I don’t mean to single out Americans, this is a global problem. But it is true that Americans have roughly 5 percent of the global population but consume 25 percent of the resources. Their per-capita carbon emissions are off the scale. Clearly other countries have shown decent standards of living are possible at vastly reduced levels of consumption.

    pjohnson, Scientific American responded as well. They don’t post all their stuff for free on the net though. Anyway, there’s a lot more links than that at the site I posted. Just go ask on realclimate.org if you want, it’s a highly respected site with many famous and respected scientists. Lomborg has no scientific credibility. He is making outrageous claims that go against the preponderance of evidence, and has not backed them up. His facts have been shown to be wrong and his math doesn’t add up.

    It’s easy for Lomborg to prove himself. Just publish his research in legitimate peer-reviewed journals.

  15. Chris says:

    Mike, sounds like you are saying Lomborg has already chosen his conclusion and is just searching for evidence to support that conclusion, and if one set of evidence doesn’t work, he’ll come up with another. That is not science.

  16. Mike says:

    Understood. Assuming that the scientific community has issued a verdict on Lomborg’s data and estimates, as you are indicating, it remains revisit the analysis with estimates more in line with the scientific consensus. My only point is that his question is still a valid one, regardless of whether or not he answered it correctly, and to my knowledge no one in the community has addressed his question to the satisfaction of the scientific community at large.

  17. Thomas says:

    I understand Michael’s reasoning behind this article. What he’s facing here is a crisis of faith. If global climate change really is as bad as the forecasts predict, then that means his free-market cures-all will provide plenty of jobs and spare change to buy Snuggies™ but will ultimately make the planet inhospitable.

    I agree that we need to be careful in where to direct our resources for finding solutions, but lets not do a cost-benefit analysis on our planet. “It will be cheaper to buy Water Wings for our children than to stop rising sea-levels”. Its important to plan, not panic, about climate change. A “prepare for the worst” sort of thing.

  18. Chris says:

    Mike, yes, asking how to spend money is a fair question. Some approaches are certainly better than others. However, Lomborg is very dangerous because he says things like this:

    “We will not lose our forests; we will not run out of energy, raw materials, or water. We have reduced atmospheric pollution in the cities of the developed world and have good reason to believe that this will also be achieved in the developing world. Our oceans have not been defiled, our rivers have become cleaner and support more life. … Nor is waste a particularly big problem. … The problem of the ozone layer has been more or less solved. The current outlook on the development of global warming does not indicate a catastrophe. … And, finally, our chemical worries and fear of pesticides are misplaced and counterproductive.”

    My jaw hit the floor when I read that.

  19. pjohnson says:

    Chris, nice quote from Lomborg you included. His books provide the data to back those claims up. Which of those claims do you think are way off base?

    • MadScientist says:

      1. “The oceans have not been defiled” – and yet when you look at reports, global fish stocks are declining. A very few areas have recovered well and seem to be doing OK (and they still have very stringent restrictions), but for most of the planet, the oceans are screwed.

      2. “We will not run out of energy”. Coal people tell me global extractable reserves are good for 200-600 years at current production rates (that was 2005). Oil and gas people seem to hover about 70 years at current production rates. Nuclear power can keep the globe going for a few hundred years. So Lomborg is correct in that the main contemporary energy resources will not be exhausted in his lifetime (and probably not in the lifetime of any human currently on the planet).

      3. “… run out of raw materials.” Well, gee, if Lomborg would only take the time to read, say, publications of the metals industry, he would see that there are looming shortages of a variety of metals.

      4. “… run out of water.” That reminds me of “water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink”. Many cities around the world already have severely oversubscribed water resources and things aren’t getting better.

      5. “Our rivers have become cleaner and support more life” – compared to what? I have seen pristine rivers, damaged rivers, and recovered rivers. None of the recovered ones bear much of a resemblance to what historical documents say the river used to be like. Besides, what does the current state of a river have to do with global warming? (Well, aside from the fact that they may be in a poorer state in a number of years.) Look at the Ohio river, the Thames, the Danube, and the Seine for just a few examples of rivers in developed nations. They may be cleaner than they were 40 years ago, but they’re pretty crappy rivers.

      Lomborg chooses whatever information suits him and doesn’t care to really look around. If you only read Lomborg’s work you’ll have a pretty skewed view of things because he only shows you the exceptions. When you only look at exceptions, the exceptions look normal.

      • Tony K says:

        Your criticisms of one small section from Lomborg’s writing is a great example of cherry picking.

        But a few things. First, none of the problems you cite above are adirect consequence of global warming. Rather, they are problems of over-population.

        Item 1, we share the concern. I believe tht the oceans have been used as a dumping ground and that overfishing is a serious issue. But, it’s not directly a global warming issue.

        On items 2, 3, and 4. We will not run out of raw materials, energy, or water. That is a fact. Their costs may increase, but they don’t run out. Ever.

        your item 5. Yes rivers are not what they were. But that horse is already out. They have improved over the lat 40 years. We can’t change what pevious generations have done. Lomborg’s statement is absolutely true.

        Reducing CO2 doesn’t help any of those except if the reduction is caused by a decrease in the use of fossil fuels (no. 2), which will keep those prices lower.

    • DavidCOG says:

      From http://www.lomborg-errors.dk/ :

      > … in the handling of errors, Lomborg is not a normal person. A normal person would apologize or be ashamed if concrete, factual errors or misunderstandings were pointed out – and would correct the errors at the first opportunity given. Lomborg does not do that. For example, when The Skeptical Environmentalist was heavily criticized in a review in Nature, Lomborg´s reaction was: “If I really am so wrong, why don´t you just document that?” – and then, when this was documented, he ignored the facts.

      Blindly accepting data and the interpretations presented by Bjorn Lomborg will make you very misinformed about the issues under discussion.

  20. Deen says:

    there will be 400,000 more heat-related deaths annually; there will be also be 1.8 million fewer cold-related deaths, for a net gain of 1.4 million lives.

    That’s fine if you happen to live in Alaska, but it sure sucks if you happen to live in Africa. And I wonder if drought-related deaths are factored in already?

    Far too often when these cost-benefit analyses are brought up it, it tends to get ignored that the people who benefit from the cost-savings of doing nothing are usually not the people who suffer the actual real-world consequences of doing nothing. That makes it really easy for companies who don’t want to pay carbon taxes, their think tank institutes and their lobbyists to downplay the possible effects of climate change, and to only focus on the costs. Kinda like you are doing.

    Unless society makes sure that those who cause most of the problems will feel the consequences the most, for instance with carbon taxes, I don’t actually expect much action from the free market other than denial and stalling tactics.

    What would be more cost-effective to save polar bear lives — spend hundreds of billions of dollars to lower CO2 emissions and (maybe) the mean global temperature, or limit hunting permits?

    Can’t we do both?

    Besides, this is a really dishonest argument. You can’t compare the costs to lower CO2 emissions to the costs of limiting polar bear hunting permits, as “protecting the polar bear” is nowhere near the primary goal of limiting CO2 emissions.

    The last part of your post seems to contain many more false dichotomies. Why can’t we both reduce hunger and greenhouse gas emissions? Especially since most of these issues are all interrelated: reducing climate change might be necessary to reduce risks of droughts, thus increasing crop yields and need for extra drinking water. Unchecked population growth creates both food demands and energy demands. Fixing the education system might get us more science-minded people to drive the green technology revolution. Solving the social security crisis might inspire more people to leave their jobs at big corporations and begin small eco-tech startups, to develop the green technology that the big corporations aren’t yet interested in. Less people will go bankrupt over their medical bills and might be able to invest in solar cells on their roofs instead. I can go on and on.

    And, of course, you need to factor in the risk of the consequences of climate change being more severe than you assume. Sea level rise models have so far not included secondary, non-linear effects of temperature rise. For instance, glaciers in Greenland may be flowing faster into the sea due to increased amounts of melting water that acts as a lubricant between the glacier and the ground. These effects have not yet been included in sea level rise estimates, because nobody knows yet how big they are. But it’s quite possible we’re in for a nasty surprise.

  21. Chris says:

    pjohnson, I have already answered this. Many links are here:

    http://www.logicalscience.com/skeptics/Lomborg.html

    Again, if Lomborg’s claims have merit, he needs to publish his findings and have them peer-reviewed.

    But, frankly, the above quote is obviously lunacy. For example, take his quote about the oceans. In fact 90 percent (!) of all large fish have been depleted. Here’s a National Geographic article from 6 years ago that references a Nature article:

    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/05/0515_030515_fishdecline.html

    Please research the rest yourself, this isn’t controversial stuff.

  22. Brian M says:

    The government should get out of all of this! We should rely on private philanthropy! The only reason medicare is going to fail is because the evil government runs it!

    Wait wait wait. I just read this article. It seems someone finally got the memo about how “socialism” is useful to capitalism when it comes to “moral” judgements… Congrats! Now, if you can just remember to put to cover page on your TPS reports…

  23. John Powell says:

    Paul Krugman is another rational person who has come to quite different conclusions based on his analysis of the situation:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/28/opinion/28krugman.html?_r=1&adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1254243743-HHatA4pDQNeZUneDoGxW9g

  24. Tom says:

    Climate models run on supercomputers are unable to predict the frequency and severity of storms in next year’s hurricane season with a degree of accuracy greater than a random number generator. An accurate ten day forecast of local weather conditions is still unattainable. And yet we are asked to believe that computer models have accurately predicted that temperatures in 100 years’ time will be 4.7 degrees higher than today?

    What thinking person would not be skeptical of the hype and hyperbole surrounding AGW? A fire starts in California…”Oh, it’s because of climate change”. Hurricane Katrina strikes a woefully outdated levee system…”Oh, it’s because of climate change”. A polar bear is pictured on a piece of ice…”Oh, it’s because of climate change”. Frankly, the AGW proponents do themselves and their cause a disservice by making such ridiculous claims.

    • Max says:

      Don’t forget that uncertain forecasts can underestimate problems, not just overestimate them. The ten-day forecast may underestimate the severity of a hurricane, and the 100-year forecast may underestimate the severity of AGW.
      The risk engineer Nassim Nicholas Taleb cautioned that even if there’s a large chance that the doomsayers are wrong, there’s a small chance that they’re extremely right.

      • Tom says:

        Max,

        I don’t dismiss that possibility. It’s something I have considered as well. I am not a “denier” as Chris would say. I am just skeptical of model-based predictions about something that has proven itself so resistant to models.

        Glaciers have been retreating for 10,000 years or so. I wonder if we are exhibiting some hubris by taking “credit” for it. Do you think some native Americans watched the glaciers retreating up the Hudson Valley and wondered whether their campfires were to blame?

      • MadScientist says:

        The climate modelers are insignificant to the issues. Far simpler physical models tell us the earth will warm due to carbon dioxide and we even have a pretty good idea of what the minimum warming will be; it’s a fairly straightforward calculation to do with a static system. However the earth is a dynamic system and climate modelers attempt to make predictions which prove woefully inadequate. There is no reason to expect that the results from a static system will be any greater than the results in a dynamic system though (all the energy is there – it’s just being moved around) – and so we have a handle on the minimum warming.

      • Max says:

        How are the models validated?

      • MadScientist says:

        @Max: The basic models used to establish the minimum expected warming are the same ones used to derive temperature and some atmospheric trace gas amounts from a variety of satellite instruments (and also to determine the composition of the atmospheres of the other planets). These are extremely successful models and in many cases can be used to predict observations to within a fraction of a percent. The models have been tested extensively in laboratories for over 40 years and have been used for earth observations for over 30 years. However, as I said, in the case of warming they are only useful for a static model of the earth and to establish the minimum expected warming due to CO2. These are radiative transfer models, not climate models; we do not need climate models to show that CO2 causes warming.

    • Nicole says:

      Climate refers to broader trends. When you refer to the day to day “Is-it-going-to-be-sunny-or-rainy” questions, you are now referring to weather. Though related, these are two different things. Climate (trends/trajectories) are much easier to predict than weather (specific instances).

      For example, medical research may be able to predict the likelihood a person will develop cancer based on that person’s risk factors as well as what percent of people in general develop the disease (I’m not in the medical field, so bear with me as this may not be the most accurate analogy). Despite this, not one doctor can ever tell one patient with absolute certainty that they will or will not develop cancer. This does not mean that the model is inaccurate, but that predicting individual instances from a larger model is ALWAYS difficult and full of error.

      So to cite meteorologists’ inaccurate predictions of whether tomorrow will be cloudy or sunny as a refutation of global climate change predictions is about as irrelevant as saying “I know someone who smoked their entire lives and never got cancer, therefore smoking does not lead to lunch cancer.”

  25. Chris says:

    Tom, here’s one suggestion on how to deal with people denying global warming:

    http://selfdestructivebastards.blogspot.com/2009/09/flat-earth-society-ain-so-bad.html

    I suggest you do some research on your own. A hint might be that long term climate analysis uses different science and methods than short term weather predictions. Please educate yourself.

    You are right, of course, though, that you can’t blame individual events on global warming, though you can blame the *incidence* of those events on it in many cases.

  26. Tom says:

    Chris, Thanks for the link. I think it illuminates your point-of-view quite clearly. However, I am hard pressed to recall a scientific debate that was ever enhanced by jailing dissenters. Some counter examples do spring to mind…

  27. Chris says:

    Tom, I generally agree with you, but this isn’t an issue of just science, it’s an issue of actual survival for millions of people, and maybe even the species, or at least advanced civlization.

    If things get bad enough, it may be a card that needs to be on the table.

    • Cthandhs says:

      Hmmm… people don’t agree with the nationally approved belief system… Jail them! That sounds a lot like fascism to me.

      • Chris says:

        See my comment below, it’s not about beliefs, it’s about behaviour that causes damage or death. People can believe anything they want, it’s what they *do* that matters. This is why holocaust deniers are put in jail. This is done in western democratic countries.

  28. Another Denier says:

    When appeals to authority and ad hominem attacks don’t shut us up, zealots like Chris suggest restricting our rights and locking us up. Whether they are saving souls or saving the planet, the call for repression is typical of fanatics around the world.

  29. Chris says:

    Another Denier, note I haven’t said we should put people in jail, just that if things get really bad, we might have to consider it. (You’d think when things get really bad, the deniers would have to accept global warming is real, but I’m sure they will come up with other excuses.)

    Also, note that many countries *do* put holocaust deniers in jail, which is in a similar category, so it’s not unprecended in western democracies.

    • Cthandhs says:

      That parallel just dosn’t work. We have pictures of the corpses from the holocaust. We have evidence and buildings and survivors. We just aren’t there yet with global warming. Does it exist? Sure. Will it devastate the earth and directly kill millions? Probably? Maybe? Not likely? Not yet. We don’t generally don’t punish people for expressing an opinion before we know the outcome. If you already know the outcome of something that hasn’t happened yet, consider that you may be a psychic or a True Believer.

      • Chris says:

        Fair enough, I did say it was something that might have to be considered in the future, not something we should do now.

      • Tony K says:

        Likewise then if the earth doesn’t warm, we should lock up the believers who will have caused irreparable economic damage?

    • MadScientist says:

      The Thought Police? Aaaahahahahahaha! Read your history boy, that’s one of the worst things that can happen to any society. Even today there are any number of groups who would want to be the Thought Police and take away your freedom.

      If Holocaust deniers are locked up simply for denying such a tragedy, that’s just plain nuts. We’re not locking up any 911 Truthers are we, no matter what demented imbeciles they are. Usually the Holocaust deniers are promoting hatred and violence as well, and that’s a jailable offense in many countries.

      • Chris says:

        As I made clear in a post below, no one should ever be arrested for their beliefs or thoughts, *only* for their actions.

  30. Max says:

    “How to Talk to a Climate Sceptic”
    http://scienceblogs.com/illconsidered/2008/07/how_to_talk_to_a_sceptic.php

    It goes through five “stages of denial” roughly corresponding to Shermer’s five questions.

    1. There’s nothing happening (Is the earth getting warmer?)
    2. We Don’t Know Why It’s Happening (Is the cause of global warming human activity?)
    3. Climate Change is Natural (How much warmer is it going to get?)
    4. Climate Change is Not Bad (What are the consequences of a warmer climate?)
    5. Climate Change Can’t be Stopped (How much should we invest in altering the climate? Here are my answers.)

  31. “Where facts are few, experts are many.” – Donald R. Gannon

  32. Tuffgong says:

    What’s amazing about skepticism is that no one can make the assumption that they are above another regarding their validity in an argument. EVERYONE is open to be shot.

    Anyway just as a great disclosure of my ideas before I get into this:
    1. Is the earth getting warmer? – Yes
    2. Is the cause of global warming human activity? – A mix of human and non-human factors
    3. How much warmer is it going to get? – Estimates vary too strongly to make strong conclusions. I hazard to say not that much.
    4. What are the consequences of a warmer climate? – The relevance of such is a function of what’s causing it. What happens to the Earth when it gets warmer anyway?
    5. How much should we invest in altering the climate? – I would say enough to make our technology more efficient and eliminate any direct pollution (CO2 I consider indirect).

    The thing that I love about this article is the economic side it takes regarding global warming skeptics. Like good ‘ole Shermer he fully discloses that he’s no absolute authority and understands that there are those who will be on both sides. In this way I saw it as a another skeptical (again that doesn’t mean absolute) nail in the coffin that is the Anthropogenic Global Warming theory.

    The economics argued here I don’t see as a problem as that should be a priority anyway. Economics and science are intrinsically not preemptive. Morals and politics are. So when the focus is the science and economics and the morals and politics pull different people to different sides, that’s when we get complicated levels of bias to consider.

    When I’ve seen every aspect of AGW theory questioned (correct or not) pretty reasonably if not definitively, I naturally am skeptical of the theory as a whole. What I enjoy is that you can still be skeptical of AGW but still believe quite a few of its assumptions, hypotheses, and conclusions. A determined skeptic would cry foul at even the usage of the IPCC’s data as a main point.

    Correct me if I’m wrong but last I remember, doesn’t the official IPCC report on Global Warming say that they have at most proven correlation? I don’t remember conclusions regarding causation, and if they did I remember them mentioning it as a tentative or probable.

    This is probably the most controversial issue in the history of science. Well, considering the complexity of the human factor that makes scientists who have been perceived to be at the top fair game for questioning, this has really been a real test of skepticism’s principles.

    I fully recognize my middle ground bias but then again over the years that has made the most sense. Regardless I find this emphatic focus on CO2 to be ridiculous. Not completely but goddamn it is it ubiquitous and ubiquity of a scientific controversy amongst laymen means things that alarmism, political/moral bias, and regurgitation run rampant.

    • MadScientist says:

      “doesn’t the official IPCC report on Global Warming say that they have at most proven correlation?”

      That would be incorrect. The graphs show correlations, but we have a solid understanding of what’s driving the process. What we can’t do is make accurate predictions. We can make fairly confident statements based on carbon dioxide increase alone, but even Svante Arrhenius over 100 years ago postulated that there could be a water feedback which leads to increased warming. It’s that whole complex feedback mechanism that no one has a handle on. At the moment the changes are relatively small and the instrumental record a bit short; more and better observations into the future will hopefully help us get a handle on things. Unfortunately we don’t necessarily have the luxury to say “let’s wait until we can make accurate predictions” and for a number of years now a few people have been saying there are indications that we really haven’t got a handle on things and that the future will be much worse than people are predicting (and these are sensible people, not the scaremongerers who will tell you that there will be more frequent and more severe storms and not offer any evidence or even any scheme for testing the claims).

      There is a lot of scaremongering and that’s not helpful at all; the likely reality is far worse than the sensationalist scaremongerer claims but change will be gradual and easy to miss without constant reference to what we know of the past and over a long period of time.

      Another thing that infuriates me are the dodos who will take your money and run ‘scenarios’ and tell you that your vineyard may experience less rain, more rain, or about the same amount of rain in 5 years and other such nonsense which doesn’t help farmers in the least; I see no difference between that and palmistry (except for the amount of money they fleece off you for each sitting).

      • Tuffgong says:

        My question regarding the IPCC was what was stated as being proven in the report itself, correlation or causation. I remember it stating they have definitive correlation, but causation due to the lack of predictability is a function of probability (which I personally think is based on a large number of small faults that add up overall).

        What I seem to find frustrating is the preemptive nature of the controversy means that the proper course of science is bypassed here. The luxury of time is taken away and as a result, the answer will always elude us in the short term if people deem it necessary to do something in the short term.

        It always made sense to me that the larger negative-feedback system of the environment (which make sense and fits evolutionary and systematic principles in biology, ecology etc.) has been vastly underestimated.

        I’ve found issues with each little bit that composes the theory and the problem arises when certain people believe certain bits are true and that changes across people. Hence it’s been hard to debate skeptically because the easy way out would be to just take a severe stance and hope your side wins.

      • MadScientist says:

        What sort of negative feedback do you have in mind? If it’s “plants will take in more CO2 and grow faster”, there are experiments dating back to 1918 (and maybe even some earlier which I don’t know of) which investigate enhanced plant growth with CO2 enrichment in the soil or in the atmosphere. Different plants respond differently and range from rapid increase in growth to not much increase at all. At any rate, nature is only taking in about 1/2 of the CO2 put out by humans so we can discard the CO2 fertilization phenomenon as a sufficient negative feedback.

        If we look at ice, ice reflects sunlight very well and in the evenings it’s not too bad at radiating energy into space. If you melt the ice and expose a land surface, more sunlight will be absorbed and less energy radiated in the evening (so the earth gains more energy with land exposed). The situation is also pretty bad if a water surface is exposed; water absorbs sunlight far better than land (oceans would appear black when viewed from space if the atmosphere didn’t scatter blue light to make the oceans appear blue). Water absorbs a lot more energy than ice, but isn’t all that better than ice at radiating the energy at night so there is a net gain in energy. Ice also has a rather high heat of fusion (energy which must be added to change from solid to liquid while remaining at 0C), so large chunks of ice can keep an area at freezing cold temperatures for some amount of time even though the energy of the system is increasing. Once the ice is all melted you can expect a far more rapid change in temperature – this is easy to show in an experiment by embedding a resistor and temperature sensors in an ice cube within an insulating container, then putting a fixed current through the resistor (constant input of known energy into the system) and monitoring the temperature sensors. Resistance does change slightly with temperature for the resistive element, but only by a fraction of a percent, whereas the change in temperature of the system once the ice melts will be quite drastic. So polar ice and glacial melting contribute to very large positive feedbacks once the ice is gone.

  33. Steely-Eyed Realist says:

    Chris wrote:

    The main point is about Lomborg and whether he has any scientific validity.

    Surely, you mean whether Lomborg’s claims have any scientific validity.

  34. Chris says:

    Steely-Eyed Realist, correct you are!

  35. Another Denier says:

    Chris, should I feel relieved that you only want to hold open the option of jailing the opposition? The fact that you apparently think it’s ok to jail holocaust deniers is not a hopeful sign. If you would jail someone for denying history then I hesitate to imagine what you feel is justified for people who question your position on global warming since you are out to save the species. Actual science doesn’t need political repression, so the question is why are you and others so enamored with it?

    Some comments on the actual topic of this blog. The term global warming skeptic is not really useful since I have yet to read or hear anyone say that the earth has not warmed since the last ice age. Also, I have yet to see anyone suggest that the last ice age ended because of human activity. Based on these answers to questions 1 & 2 wouldn’t it be accurate to state that global warming is real and not primarily human caused? Question 3 assumes it will get warmer which even if true the amount can only be guessed. Question 4 is interesting but the answers will be very speculative. And your answer to question 5 will probably get you a cell right next to the one reserved for me.

  36. Chris says:

    Another Denier, the problem is that the scientific evidence for global warming is overwhelming. There is no debate about this within the scientific community. It is happening, and it is caused, primarily, by human activity. I understand you don’t want to believe this or won’t take the time to read the evidence, but that doesn’t change the facts.

    People should never be jailed for what they believe, but they should be for their actions. For example, you can believe in human sacrifice all you want, but if you practice it, you go to jail! If you provoke a mob through hate speech, you will also go to jail. This is because your actions have injured or killed people, not because of what you believe.

    • Max says:

      Should Jenny McCarthy go to jail for spreading anti-vaccination propaganda?

      • Chris says:

        Hmm, interesting question. I think a case could definitely be made. I’d be curious to hear a legal opinion on this.

      • Dave says:

        IANAL, however: only if her claims are provably false.

        I could well advocate that people should never cross a road because they might get hit by a bus, and pull out statistics and pictures that might horrify some people, but no action should be taken against me unless those claims are provably false.

        I personally think it would be morally wrong to unnecessarily scare the cr@p out of people that way, however the dissemination of one (or more) persons perception of the risk isn’t a jailable offense; at least not in most westernized countries :-)

      • Chris says:

        I think the evidence that the claims are false has been proven, or put more accurately, her claims don’t stand up. The burden of proof is on her side. It has even been documented on this site:

        http://skepticblog.org/2008/12/22/skeptical-battlegrounds-part-iv-anti-vaccine-hysteria/

      • MadScientist says:

        Yes, because she is not a medical professional and yet she is dispensing medical advice, specifically advice on vaccination and on the cause of autism. She is helping to inhibit or even ruin a very successful and long standing campaign against a variety of serious infectious diseases. That goes for homeopaths and other medical woosters too.

  37. Beelzebud says:

    “give free markets a chance”

    That seems to be your solution, and mantra, for everything.

    I can’t help but get the feeling that you have replaced one type of fundamentalism, for another.

  38. Thomas Nickledock says:

    Easy for you to say, Shermer, but if nothing is done my homeland will flood. This blog post is an exercise in egoism and nothing else.

    • J.F.Soti says:

      Relocation, migration, been happening for thousands of years. Geography changes, been happening for millions of years.

      • Chris says:

        True, of course, but it is now happening at a faster pace by orders of magnitude. *Rate* of change matters.

        Someone is talking about a tragedy in their home country that could result in many deaths. Your response is cruel and coldhearted.

      • J.F.Soti says:

        Sorry the universe is a cruel place. And you don’t need to lecture me on tragedy and cold-heartedness. How about the real tragedy of socialism in its various forms that displaced many millions like myself and resulted in millions of deaths? What about the continuing tragedy in third world countries that are not encouraged to develop by environment extremists for fear that it will hasten environmental disaster? What about the hijacking of the environmental movement by the latest brand of socialists? Perhaps you and Al Gore should be dropped off somewhere in the bush and see what it is like to get Malaria and be without fresh water.

        And I recommend you double check you “Rate” of change info with the historical facts and not just take the propagandists word for it.

      • Chris says:

        Wow, I don’t know what any of that has to do with the topic at hand. I would think the normal response to suffering would be compassion.

        And please leave the bloody american politics out of it. I’m not american, I didn’t vote for Gore, and I wouldn’t have if I was. But my personal politics have no relevance to the discussion. You protest *way* too much.

  39. Aaron says:

    Can somebody point me to an article that rigorously addresses Question 2? How much of the warming is natural (the Earth’s climate has been going up and down over the eons and will continue to do so) versus how much is due to us (what % or C02 produced comes from us).

    • MadScientist says:

      The most conservative estimates of warming would be about 0.3C over the past century due to the direct effects of CO2. So the other ~0.5C is “others”, which would be a mix of the water feedback effect and anything else. If the cosmic factors (orbits, sun) make up the bulk of “anything else”, then most of that 0.5C is feedback.

      Just visit the IPCC website and get a copy of the various reports. :) Read through the science reports; don’t waste your time with the model predictions or policy reports. Sorry I can’t point you to any particular page or anything; I lost interest in this almost 20 years ago because the question was already conclusively answered back then: CO2 is causing measurable warming.

    • MadScientist says:

      I forgot to point out that essentially 100% of the increase in atmospheric CO2 is due to humans. Nature takes in about as much as it puts out + roughly half of what humans are putting out. So 100% of the direct CO2 warming (which is the part we’re most confident about) is due to humans.

  40. Chris says:

    Aaron, google will find you plenty of sources for this, but here’s a starting point:

    http://ipcc-wg1.ucar.edu/wg1/FAQ/wg1_faq-2.1.html

  41. Alan says:

    If it wasn’t clear before I think this post proves that Mr. Shermer is a Libertarian ideologue. The problem of course isn’t the former, but the latter — whenever it comes to views that Libertarians tend to hold as dear to their hearts Mr. Shermer doesn’t seem to possess any real perspective. He repeats common Libertarian talking points — in this case, the meme that Global Warming is a fiction or at least greatly overblown — with the same easy conviction that we might speak of the world being round rather than flat.

    Reading his posts concerning Libertarian views you get the sense that Mr. Shermer is so immersed in that particular worldview that it doesn’t really occur to him that Libertarian beliefs might not be universally seen as true let alone that they might in fact be wrong. His apparent genuine surprise at the fierce rebuttals he receives here helps demonstrate this. Another is how he often offers little more than what reads like cut-and-paste arguments from the Cato Institute in much the same way as, say, a fundamentalist Christian quotes scripture – they are taken so much at face value he doesn’t seem to even realize that there are deeper complexities and issues in play. He’s not some fanatic trying to impose his views on others, but more like an innocent who naively believes that merely stating his beliefs is enough to convince others of their righteousness.

    Take his use of Lomberg and his ideas. Here is a man widely known for his extreme views that clash badly with the scientific community at large. His claims haven’t been peer reviewed and are commonly seen by the climate scientists as ranging from at best speculation to at worse out-and-out absurdity.

    The issue here for Mr. Shermer isn’t that per se that he used Lomberg as the star attraction of his essay, but that he seems all but oblivious to Lomberg’s negative reputation. One would normally expect someone in Mr. Shermer’s position to take such facts into account, to offer some extra insight or substantive evidence to allay the concerns of Lomberg’s many detractors. Instead, Mr. Shermer just repeats Lomberg’s views backed-up with a few choice examples from other lone supporters. In the process Shermer completely ignores how Lomberg’s ideas fly in the face of the scientific consensus. This tactic seems taken straight from the Creationist (among other pseudo-science movements) playbook – state the ideas of a few fringe (maybe) scientists and imply their views are just as valid as that of the vast majority of the experts in the field. What’s interesting is that I don’t think Shermer does this consciously or realizes how he is using a form of argument he has no doubt often denounced when pseudo-scientists have used them.

    Let me say again that the problem isn’t that Mr. Shermer is a Libertarian, but that he offers his ideological views as if they are self-evident truisms. In doing so he just injures his own creditability even when it comes to unrelated issues such as the paranormal. After all, if his arguments are so unsophisticated here just how accurate are they in general?

    I would advise Mr. Shermer to take a few steps back and dig deeply into the vast amount of material available that disputes the views he seems to hold dear so innocently. It would give him a wider perspective. It might even convince him that to some extent he is wrong. Even if not they would at least allow him to offer strong, sophisticated arguments in support of his beliefs. As it is Mr. Shermer can’t seem to do more than naively provide statements of faith and then be surprised when people don’t universally agree with him.

    • Tuffgong says:

      Let’s see what can we pick apart here…ah this seems good.

      Out of all the articles Shermer has written (which are intended to be summaries of his elaborated opinions seen elsewhere) this is the one that makes him a Libertarian idealogue? People call themselves skeptics but goddammit I still see things like argument from authority and confirmation bias. It is natural that Shermer tends to tackle much grayer areas and hence make it easier to simply throw it in the bin saying “Yup! He’s a Libertarian, nothing to see here!”. Bullshit.

      Regardless of whether you are a libertarian or not, it is quality of the information stated that matters, not who says them. Lomberg is a perfect example of this. Who gives a rat’s ass who is, all of us are skeptics here and I see no reason why Lomberg should be dismissed as a quack where I don’t see any behavior that warrants it on his part.

      Besides, he takes a benign approach on the whole AGW theory. I’ve seen skeptics (who are also pretty reasonable) destroy aspects of the theory that Shermer is largely in support of. We’re talking people who could go off on the validity of the IPCC alone.

      The notion that Shermer is ignorantly following in the footsteps of his Libertarian views is bullocks. If anything the man has done a decent job of at least letting you know where he comes from. Instead of at least UNDERSTANDING his point of view and why he says what he does, people just made the decision to always disagree with it and take the psychologically sexy position of the decrier.

      There are quite a few points where I don’t see eye to eye with Shermer and I see where his bias can and has caused him to go a bit overboard with specific conclusions, but I never felt like he’s stopped being a skeptic at any time.

      I always find myself defending Shermer not because I’m his lackey, but it isn’t fair and it isn’t right that people always seem to abandon their skeptical middle ground and become severe assholes whenever Shermer makes a post. People who are so reasonable with safer subjects immediately jump to one side when good ‘ole Michael arrives. You see the same thing when level headed people debate politics or religion and they shed their outer layer and the inner dickwad emerges free to fall victim to the very things they would call out in others had they been the level headed observer.

      Call me what you will but somethin’ ain’t right here.

      • Alan says:

        I think you missed my point — I wasn’t faulting him for being a Libertarian, but for offering his ideological viewpoints as if to merely state them is to prove his point. I’d say the same thing if he was pushing Marxism — it’s not per se what he is arguing, but how he is arguing it. Thus, I am not casually dismissing him as one of “those” libertarians.

        As for the content of his posts they’ve been nothing more than a rendition of common libertarian talking points, the stuff we’ve seen repeated ad nauseum from various sources like the Cato Institute. He offers these arguments credulously as if he thinks they are so universally understood to be true that there is no need to actually defend them.

        At least >given his posts here< he comes off like some earnest believer who has never talked to anyone but other earnest believers. Thus, when he runs into the rest of the world he can't give us more than long-heard talking points as, apparently, he's never had to consider anything more detailed.

        One thing you see from people who have delved deeply into any particular belief system is an understanding of the common rebuttals to those beliefs. Accordingly, when they try to make their case they write with those objections in mind. In Mr. Shermer's case he doesn't seem to know what those objections are at all. As a result his arguments come off as naive and simplistic. Have you ever tried to have a discussion on a subject where the other fellow simply isn't up to speed with current developments? Mr. Shermer comes off as just such a person.

        It's not that he is dumb, or that he is one of "those" libertarians, or that somehow his subject matter is inappropriate. I'd love to read a good, soild article from someone with his point-of-view that challenges my own beliefs. However, all he has given us so far are unsophisticated arguments that would have been out-of-touch a decade ago. In the process he gives the impression of just being an ideologue who uncritically assumes his own beliefs to be "true" and can't really understand why others would disagree.

      • Tuffgong says:

        See I just don’t see that in this article. I can see where this argument can me made for some of his other posts but I just don’t see that. I think it’s an issue of making mountains out of molehills.

        Those are some damn severe conclusions. How much have you read of Shermer and his work outside of this blog? I’ve been a fan of Shermer’s for years (again have disagreed with him in the past) and nothing he writes here is out of step. The only bias I see here is the need to be a tad bit more stark in his wording/writing because of the limitations regarding the blog post style.

        You have to give him credit for not just linking to something he already wrote and just leaving it at that. However pretty much everything he has posted you can find in more detail or rephrased elsewhere. For a while I just glanced through his posts because I already knew what the ideas were about and more so.

        And who said that the Cato institute is all of a sudden not worth anything? Again where is the need to paint it all the same color and throw it away coming from? Ideas and conclusions should be looked at with a case by case basis in order to prevent that kind of bias and to have the focus on the quality of information, not who said them.

      • Alan says:

        1) I was commenting on his posts in this blog and the impression they give the reader. Maybe that’s not the case overall with his writings, but that’s not what we see here on the blog.

        2) His limitation is in offering only well used — stereotypical — libertarian talking points for which there is plenty of great disputing material. He responses suggest he is not aware of all of this powerful, contrary information. It’s stuff that anyone who has seriously debated the pluses and minuses of libterianism should well understand. I don’t see such an understanding being expressed from Mr. Shermer so the only logical conclusion I can make is that he is not familiar with the common rebuttals to libertarian claims — a strange situation for a famous libertarian trying to promote his ideological views.

        3) I didn’t say that the Cato institute is worthless, but rather that they always tend to put out the same endless talking points as if ideology is a marketing strategy, not a means to potentially run a government/society. There mission is to push a particular worldview, not per se test to see if that worldview is valid. After all, such validity is taken for granted. As such Cato is not an effective place to go to get information with a good perspective on the nature of libertarianism, warts and all.

  42. Another Denier says:

    After reading Alan’s comment, I was surprised when I read some articles by Bjorn Lomborg and realized that Lomborg is an AGW believer. Lomborg just has different views on what should be done, but unlike some of the AGW crowd, Lomborg seems to believe in free and open debate. Equating those who disagree with your position on AGW with creationists, flat earthers, holocaust deniers and pseudoscience, or suggesting repression of them does nothing to promote your argument while revealing much about you.

    • Alan says:

      What I think AGW deniers miss is just how out-of-touch they are with the scientific consensus. As far as science is concerned the debate is over — human caused global warming is real and if we don’t stop it there will be at least significant consequences. The details are still be worked out, but the overall question has been settled.

      As such, just offering up a few fringe scientists as rebuttals is not different than the tactics of Creationists — it’s not about “open debate”, it’s about false equivalence. The debate has already occurred and short of deniers coming up with spectacular evidence to the contrary that rocks the scientific world trying to pretend that the discussion is still up-in-the-air is misleading to say the least.

  43. Chris says:

    Another Denier, yes he doesn’t deny global warming, he just thinks it’s no big deal. As I have already said a couple times, he should publish his results and have them peer-reviewed. Until he does so, he has no scientific standing.

  44. Another Chris says:

    Question 1 is pretty much firmly agreed as “Yes”. Clearly, we have seen considerable warming and climate change since the 19th century. Question 2 is somewhat irrelevant: whether it is man-made or natural will not matter in the least as far as consequences are concerned. If we suddenly discovered an asteroid hurtling toward Earth, would we say “That’s OK, it’s natural”? (I concede that it does affect the answer to Question 3.) We don’t have solid answers yet to Questions 3 and 4. By the time we have the answers, it will be too late to change things. So, in effect, we are running a massive experiment on the Earth’s climate and hoping for the best. Given the uncertainty of 3 and 4, how can we weigh the costs and benefits to arrive at 5. So the question becomes, “Should we do little or nothing and hope for the best, or should we take action and hope that it’s right?” There is no correct answer to this one.

    Regarding Lomborg’s list of more critical problems, while I agree to their seriousness, they all affect the developing world. It is not a matter of getting the developed world (which has the resources, after all) to spend billions on one problem or the other. (Let’s face it, the amount the US is spending in Iraq could probably address all the problems on the list.) It is a matter of getting the developed world to spend resources on any of these problems, and naturally, they (meaning us) will be more willing to spend these resources on problems that may affect them directly. This is a short-sighted view, I grant you, as in the long run, the problems of the developing world will affect the rest of us, but unfortunately, short-sighted views are the nature of politics.

    Regarding reduction in living standards: while this is noble, it is unrealistic to expect that this will happen, and unreasonable to expect developing countries (such as China, now the world’s leading polluter) to forego improvements to their standards of living to levels we have been enjoying for many decades. Better technologies may not be the perfect solution, but they are probably the only ones that have a chance of happening. Especially critical will be energy sources that are renewable and non-polluting (including CO2: if it has a detrimental environmental effect, it’s a pollutant).

    Finally, all these discussions of costs ignore the side-benefits that may accrue. For instance, an improved energy source (replacing fossil fuels) would have enormous economic benefits as well. I admit, Mr. Shermer’s phrasing does sound “market-ideological” (is that a word?), but when we speak of putting the market to work on a problem, what we really mean is providing incentive to billions of individuals to solve a problem. That’s where the real power of the free market comes from.

    Not the Chris who has been posting above.

  45. Dennis Skala says:

    I’m not an anthropogenic global warming denier, but I sure am a big skeptic. And I find it somewhat amazing that a skeptic group such as this has such a large proportion of folks who buy into AGW. I have yet to see any credible, definitive data to convince me that whatever warming we have experienced in the recent past is either unusual or caused by man.

    Granted, there are a large number of knowledgeable, intelligent folks who believe in AGW, but there are also a large number who don’t. In any event, science is not done by majority vote. Remember eugenics in the early 1900′s, allegedly carcinogenic Alar and global cooling in the 1970′s? Those were all scary “issues du jour,” and widely believed in their time by many public figures, scientists, and celebrities.

    I have been following this discussion for a number of years, and I have yet to see any answers to the following:

    • What caused the warming periods 1200 years ago ( ~1.7C over 200 years); 2200 years ago ( ~1.2C over 200 years); and 3500 years ago ( ~1.8C over 200 years)? It surely wasn’t anything that man did. Those warmings were roughly what is being predicted for the next century.

    • If we are again entering into a warming period, why is whatever caused the previous warming periods not the culprit now? Occam’s razor would seem to imply that would be most likely. At the least I think we have to eliminate the previous cause(s) before going anthropogenic now.

    • The climate has been oscillating significantly (mostly cooling) for a long time. Why is the current climate, or that of optimal for mankind, the environment, or ?

    Does anyone here have answer(s)?

    I have an M.S. in science, and have spent a large portion of a career doing math/computer modeling. I’d like to see better evidence than rather questionable computer models before I commit to spending a gazillion dollars and seriously inconveniencing a large fraction of the earth’s population. Regardless of its newsworthiness, AGW is still a rather extraordinary claim, and extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. And Dr. Shermer’s thoughts on cost/benefit analyses are right on the mark. Even if global warming is actually occuring, is caused or accelerated by our activities, and a net problem for us, can we reasonably do anything to stem the tide; and is the net benefit worth the cost?

  46. Chris says:

    Dennis, you are misinformed, there are virtually no scientific groups that have any doubt about global warming:

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

    “Since 2007, no scientific body of national or international standing has maintained a dissenting opinion.”

    It is those denying it that are making the extraordinary claims.

    Btw, there’s nothing to be skeptical about with eugenics. People can be bred as easily as cows (Dawkins discusses this in his lastest book.) Most people just agree this would be wrong.

    Also, the global cooling trend is in fact true. The earth is on a long term very slowly cooling trend. The problem is that greenhouse cases are providing so much heating that they completely counteract this and make it negligible compared to the excess heating.

    Another Chris,

    I actually have no problem with a free-market approach, providing it really *is* a free-market approach. That means *all* costs must be internalized. Of course in this case gasoline would likely cost something like $15 a gallon, and oil likely $500 dollars a barrel or something on that scale. That would indeed provide a powerful incentive towards change.

    I don’t really have an ideological preference. We could use strict government regulations and rationing a la WWII. Or we could use the free market, with all costs included. Whatever gets the job done. Of course, a combination of both is probably most practical.

    • Dennis Skala says:

      Chris,

      These guys seem like a serious group to me –

      http://www.nipccreport.org/

      Of course if your *definition* of “body of national standing” is one that agrees with your position, then all bets are off. I’m sure I could find a bunch of other non-quack skeptical groups as well.

      And you seem to ignore the list of skeptical scientists referred to in the very Wikipedia article you reference.

      Eugenics — I am not skeptical of the idea that people can be bred — I am skeptical of the eugenic claim that some existing races of people are inherently superior, more intelligent, more capable, etc. to others.

  47. TryUsingLogic says:

    I’m always amazed at the variety of comments and solutions proposed to fix the environment and world problems. Half of the population on this planet live under the rule of totalitarian thugs who don’t care about anyone’s environment or the slaves they brutalize. These thugs will go to any means to destroy the environment and societies that oppose them. Our limited funds should be used reasonably to promote and encourage stability for freedom and democracy so that there is at least a small hope that sane countries will eventually have the funds and power to cooperate on measures that improve all lives. We should be much more concerned about Iran’s desire to kill all Infidels and fulfill a crazy religious prophecy than worry about Al Gore’s extreme environmental views and solutions that are unreasonable and unaffordable.

    If we socialize our economy and bankrupt our prosperity, there will be no hope for solving any world problems. It’s time for common sense and reasonable thinking. As Michael says….chill out.

    TryUsingLogic

  48. Chris says:

    TryUsingLogic, I suspect your grandchildren will spit on your grave. Sometimes I think the human race just doesn’t have a chance. :(

    • TryUsingLogic says:

      Some of us have our feet firmly planted in reality and others are trying to learn how to magically levitate to Utopia. I wonder which group you’re in?

      Sometimes I think the human race just doesn’t have a chance…..

      TryLogic

  49. Doug says:

    The problem with Lomberg is that he’s a statistician, rather than a domain-expert. He is extrapolating based on past trends, which gets pretty dangerous because we know for sure that past climate events have been characterized by thresholds and non-linearities — none of which can easily be accounted for using empirical analysis (full disclosure: I am a bioclimatologist and have done research in disease emergence associated with climate change). Having said that, I agree that we need to be cautious in how we use our limited resources to address climate change. I am not entirely sure we can really do anything to reverse the changes, we are probably better off learning to adapt. Unfortunately, even adaptation goals present problems that the market cannot fix all by itself. Ultimately, it will require coercion. For those who consider this an affront to the concept of freedom, consider the words of Garrett Hardin, who said that “freedom is the recognition of necessity.” We (I mean Americans) are very poor at recognizing necessity; our obsession with single source, market solutions is an example of this.

  50. Eduardo says:

    I don’t know why Chris is reading and participating in a Skeptic blog. He looks as if he knows everything and he is the owner of the Revealed Truth, while others dissenting with him, as Lomborg, should be tried in a Nuremberg style trial and sent to jail, or better executed -as they are human beings and humans are the cancer of the planet. So let us get rid of malignant tumors that consume so much resources that should be left to polar bear, lovely birdies, cute whales and friendly mosquitoes.

    Of course Chris sounds a lot as a warmaholic and a believer in Al Gore’s Holy Religion, that has sucked to much missinformatiom from Mann et al in Real Climate website. Skepticism is based on the premise that we may not know the whole truth, and that NOBODY does. So cool down Chris, as the climate, oceans and the sun are doing since about 10 years ago.

    Take a look out the window and see how the world is cycling back to cooler temperatures. The sky won’t fall over our heads. That’s a promise.

  51. Chris says:

    Eduardo, where does all this bile come from? It seems like everyone takes global warming as a personal assault. It sucks, but denying reality won’t help anyone.

    Being a skeptic means following science and being skeptical of anything that cannot be justified scientifically. All scientific organizations in the world have concluded global warming is real and humans are the cause. It doesn’t make sense to be skeptical of global warming, for the same reason that it doesn’t make sense to be skeptical of evolution, or the fact that the earth is round and goes around the sun.

    If you think you know better than all the scientific organizations in the world, please go ahead and prove it. Submit a paper and have it peer reviewed. If your claims stand up to scrutity, we will all apologize and maybe you’ll get a Nobel prize.

    • Eduardo says:

      Chris, indeed, denying reality will not help anyone. You should do just that: look at the real world through the window and NOT through the mainstream headlines and press releases. As you surely must agree, consensus is not science, as Chrichton used to say: “If it is consensus it is not science, it is politics.” Because you reach consensus ONLY in politics, never in science. Even today there is no consensus on Einstein’s Relativity theory, and that’s why it keeps being a theory and has not become a LAW. And the same applies to evolution –though there are too many people that believes in it (I do, but with some caveats).

      I beg to disagree with your “all scientific organizations in the world have concluded that global warming is real and human are the cause” and one of them is the Russian Academy of Sciences, and many scientific organizations that disagree with the extent of predictions by the IPCC.

      Most scientists in different organizations agree that there was a warming as a result from the cyclical variations in Earth’s climate, and many of those didn’t agree on the human causation as the PRIMARY factor. There is known effects on local or regional climate from some human activities, but many of them have been beneficial to populations living nearby (as dams, reforesting, desert conquer by agriculture expansion as in Israel, parts of Patagonia, Australia, etc.)

      You must start acknowledging that Earth’s climate changes continuously. It has always done it. It will keep doing it. A stable climate is ANOMALOUS. Denying now all the signs coming from nay sources indicating that the oceans temperature has been declining since 2003 (Argo project), that sea level is reducing its rate of increase (in some parts it has even going down, as you can check in different data sets in many sources as the Australian Tidal Facility, or in studies by Nils-Axel Mörner or Willis Eschenbach on coral atolls). See: http://omniclimate.wordpress.com/2009/09/23/coral-atolls-and-sea-level-rise/

      It is you who seems to be refusing to accept all the data coming from astronomers and astrophysicists on the Sun’s peculiar behavior and the astounding similarity that our present conditions have with the 1795 Dalton’s Minimum and probability that the Law of Repetition of Observed Effects applies here: if it applies (and there is no sign that it won’t) we are bound to a new small ice age of about 45-70 years. Astronomers and astrophysicists are becoming louder and louder on their theory of Jovian cycles and its influence on Sun’s magnetic activity that, as contrary to TSI (or Total solar Irradiation), strongly influence climate.

      And there is a nil chance that any skeptic scientists will have a paper accepted in Science or Nature, the “fashion” journals. The peer review process carried out by those once prestigious journals is a shame to the scientific process, as the Wegman Report to the USA Senate showed.

      And please don’t mention Nobel Prizes as a guarantee of sound science when it comes to climate science: Gore’s Nobel Prize cannot stand any scientific scrutiny or even under a humanistic point of view. Can you compare Gore’s Nobel to Borlaug’s Nobel Prize?

      • Chris says:

        Well, if you think that most scientists and journals are part of a conspiracy then we’ll never agree on anything.

        And you’re making the common error of mixing up definitions of “theory”. The scientific use of the term is different from the common everyday use. Dawkins explains this fully, I won’t repeat it here. This is the same fallacy you get from creationists.

      • Eduardo says:

        I never said there was a conspiracy. That’s is warmer’s little battle horse calling skeptics ‘conspiranoids’, Flat Earthers, deniers, or anything that reveals the lack of arguments warmers have for supporting a flawed HYPOTHESIS (better than calling AGW a theory, isn’t it?).
        There is no need of a conspiracy. Just a lot of people who know that jumping aboard the AGW gravy train they will be making money, or enhancing their careers, or getting more power until it last. Facts are facts, and there is an increasing number of flawed studies (or ‘doctored,’ should we say?) that began with the funny Hockey Stick by Mann et al, followed by other as Eric Stieg and Mann last January, and the latest discovery made by McIntyre once he finally got hold of the data Mann and others have been denying him (speaking of deniers!):
        Perhaps you are not aware of the scientific scandal that is casting a shadow over a number of recent peer-reviewed climate papers. At least eight papers purporting to reconstruct the historical temperature record times may need to be revisited, with significant implications for contemporary climate studies, the basis of the IPCC’s assessments. A number of these involve senior climatologists at the British climate research centre CRU at the University East Anglia. In every case, peer review FAILED TO PICK UP THE ERRORS.

        Present peer review process, at least in studies with political implications regarding climate change, is plagued by ineptitude or corruption? Make your pick. It only shows that the entire AGW hypothesis is built on top a bunch of flawed and fraudulent pseudo scientific studies.

        As mcIntyre publish a comment by The Guardian:
        http://www.climateaudit.org/

        http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/09/29/yamal_scandal/
        “The scandal has serious implications for public trust in science. The IPCC’s mission is to reflect the science, not create it.

        As the panel states, its duty is “assessing the scientific, technical and socioeconomic information relevant for the understanding of the risk of human-induced climate change. It does not carry out new research nor does it monitor climate-related data.” But as lead author, Briffa was a key contributor in shaping (no pun intended) the assessment. A small group was able to rewrite history.

        When the IPCC was alerted to peer-reviewed research that refuted the idea, it declined to include it. This leads to the more general, and more serious issue: what happens when peer-review fails – as it did here?”

        “The scandal has only come to light because of the dogged persistence of a Canadian mathematician who attempted to reproduce the results. Steve McIntyre has written dozens of letters requesting the data and methodology, and over 7,000 blog posts. Yet Yamal has remained elusive for almost a decade.”

      • Eduardo says:

        Sorry, the comment picked up by McIntyre was not by The Guardian, as they would rather ingest poison before saying anything against AWG. It is from The Register.

      • Chris says:

        Well, I don’t think we’re going to agree.

        I think if there’s so much evidence against global warming, it should be easy enough to get it published in a major journal and get peer reviewed. Others can then try to duplicate the findings and publish their results. This is how science works. If they are right, it will come out through this process.

        But when I hear that Nature and Science (two of the oldest and most respected scientific journals) are biased and won’t accept anything against global warming because they have an agenda to keep up the “false” belief in global warming, this I just cannot accept. For this to be true there really would have to be a conspiracy on a large scale. I find it more likely they reject articles saying global warming is false because they don’t stand up scientifically.

        I don’t care about anyone’s career or political position, or even what country they live in. Of course people have agendas, I don’t care about that either, so long as their agenda doesn’t affect their science.

        All I care about is the science and not leaving a messed up world to our grandchildren.

        So, if you think Nature and Science are deliberately lying or suppressing evidence, we’ll just have to stop arguing and agree to disagree on that point.

      • epicurus says:

        The NIPCC seems like a legit and serious group to me. They don’t seem like crackpots and deniers so I think their claims deserve serious consideration. I urge Dr. Shermer and the Skeptic Society to look deeper into the AGW theory. Look at the studies and evidences on both sides, pros and cons. This is a more controversial and more scientific debate than UFOs, sham medicines and the like.

        By the way, Eduardo, Al Gore’s Nobel Prize was for Peace. It was not for scientific achievement and it does not prove the science of AGW is correct. I hope those who disagree with me will not get personal. It’s not sinful to be skeptical. I’m not a denier. I don’t claim to know the truth.

      • Chris says:

        The proof, as they say, is in the pudding.

        Who cares how people look or “seem”. The focus should be on their claims, which don’t stand up scientifically. The controversy you are talking about only exists in the public (and mainly the American public), it is not even remotely considered controversial in the scientific community.

        As for Al Gore, he’s probably done more harm than good because of his political position, despite good intentions. I wish a Republican had made something like “An Inconvenient Truth”. (Although then, it wouldn’t surprise me if it was Americans on the left who were denying global warming.)

  52. John says:

    Good comments all, but I had trouble getting past Dr Schermer’s initial questions. I think that the discussion would be more productive if we didn’t omit certain points- and specifically mentioned certain assumptions. Here are *my* questions:
    1. Is the earth getting warmer?
    1a. If so, what is the rate of temperature increase?
    2. What are the *causes* of global warming?
    2a. How important are each of these causes
    3. How much warmer is it going to get in 50, 100,200,1000 years?
    4. What are the consequences of an increase of 1,2,5 etc degrees?
    5. How much can our current technology control the climate?
    5a. How much should we invest in controlling the climate?

    Here are *my* answers.
    1. Most evidence says “Yes”
    1a. There is more disagreement on this point, some say 1 degree over the next century some say much more. As a non-expert, I am not able to pick which makes the most sense.
    2. Some appears to be cyclical variations in theEarth’s climate (perhaps due to Milankovich cycles). Some may be due to Solar variations. Undoubtedly some is anthropogenic
    2a. Who knows? Since climate is a non-linear system, and factors likey interact teasing out the contributions of individual factors is very tough.
    3. Again, who knows? How do we know that today’s rate of change(which is unknown) is constant?
    4. Who knows? With a non-linear system, we cannot make linear extrapolations. We’d have to have much greater understanding of climate to predict this.
    5. Probably not much, but who really knows? We don’t even know how much our activities (and which activities) have contributed to it.
    5a. Until we get a better handle on things we’d be foolish to invest in projects with the sole purpose of fighting global warming. This is not to say that researching alternative, clean and renewable energy is not a priority – there are many other reasons to invest heavily in this (peak oil and pollution to name but two). Investing in greater energy efficiency, too, would benefit us in ways other than global warming. Encouraging us fat Americans to walk or bicycle more and drive less would reduce traffic, obesity and oil consumption – which are far more immediate problems than global warming.

    In many ways the Global Warming debate is a red herring – keeping us from looking at the Big Picture: many things in our way of life are known not to be sustainable and to be unhealthy. If we address the known problems, the solutions may help with global warming … and eventually, we’ll understand global warming enough to take effective action (if there is such a thing).

    • Tony K says:

      John, Very nice reply. Those who claim certainty or settled science are so misguided. After, the odds are overwhelming that any given hypothesis or forecast is wrong–no matter how many pople agree with it.
      Cheers,
      Tony

  53. Brian says:

    America’s fraction of CO2 emissions is shrinking, and will be dwarfed by the combination of China and India. If we are talking about reducing overall emissions, then what we are talking about is likely throwing a lot money at these emerging economies to stop using coal and start using nuclear. In the mean time China creates a new plant every 7 to 10 days. Every week it gets more expensive to reverse the contribution from China.

    The most relevant effects of global warming on humans (strictly) is the impact on our food and water supplies. Modern cities will not need to be moved because of temperature alone (Vegas does fine today – air conditioning will only get better). These changes in food and water are likely to shift the global power structure very significantly as previously self sufficient nations must buy from newly self sufficient nations. No doubt there will be areas of famine (one wonders what Africa will look like).

    The impact on plants and animals overall is likely to be disastrous. Some will adapt fine (rats and roaches as always) but others will simply perish as their food supplies disappear or their eggs don’t create the right ratio of male/female or any number of problems.

    I have yet to hear a plan of CO2 reduction that will make a significant impact on the overall warming. So when someone says it’s worth thinking about planning (investing) for the worst, I take a moment to consider it.

  54. Anthony O'Neal says:

    That would be great, Micheal, if the cost of cap and trad were actually 200 billion. In fact, the net economic cost is about 20 billion.

  55. If all warmists were like Shermer, there would be no time wasted in useless polemics and mutual accusations, and we could actually work all together towards dealing with a warming/cooling/anyway-changing planet.

    “If”…

  56. Scott Spear says:

    Please use real numbers. The CBO range for Cap and Trade from 2015 to 2019 range from $120 billion in 2015 to $153 billion in 2019.

    While the CDA analyzed 24 years of data and projects an avg GDP loss of $393 billion a year.

    The use of real numbers may help shed light on what Micheal pointed out in the article.

    • Mark Schaffer says:

      Nice bait and switch when you show a range of figures for Cap and Trade but one figure without error bars for GDP loss. Where is the uncertainty that would tell me you are not cherry picking your argument?

  57. Max says:

    Some answers for Dennis Skala, Michael Shermer, and other “sketics”.
    (I had to break up the some of the links so the blog doesn’t think it’s spam.)

    From “How to Talk to a Climate Sceptic”
    http://scienceblogs.com/illconsidered/2008/07/how_to_talk_to_a_sceptic.php

    “They Predicted Cooling in the 1970′s”
    http://scienceblogs.com/illconsidered/2006/02/they-predicted-cooling-in-1970s.php
    There was no consensus on cooling in the 70′s the way there is now on warming. No comparison.

    “The Medieval Warm Period was just as warm as today”
    http://scienceblogs.com/illconsidered/2006/02/medieval-warm-period-was-just-as-warm.php
    There is actually no good evidence that the MWP was indeed a globally warm period comparable to today.

    “This is Just a Natural Cycle”
    http ://scienceblogs.com/illconsidered/2006/02/this-is-just-natural-cycle.php
    Well, there is no identified natural cause (and they have been looked for one), there is no theory of climate in which CO2 does not drive the temperature, and the natural cycle precedents do not show the same extreme reaction we are now witnessing.

    “What’s Wrong With Warm Weather”
    http ://scienceblogs.com/illconsidered/2006/02/whats-wrong-with-warm-weather.php
    What we know about ecosystems and what geologic history demonstrates is that dramatic climate changes – up or down or sideways – are a tremendous shock to the biosphere and cause mass extinction events.

  58. BorgLord says:

    Preach it Mikey!

    It is amazing the clarity that can emerge when a little logical causality is applied to an ideological and emotional issue–and even though it is an environmental issue, you don’t have to be a Limbaughian know-nothing to do it!

    Keep it up!

    • Chris says:

      This is what most of the world doesn’t understand. Global warming is not an ideological issue in most countries, and we cannot understand why it is in the US.

  59. AZ says:

    Mr. Shermer please, please put Climate Progress http://climateprogress.org/ on your growing list of stuff you should have already examined. There must be a new daily refutation of Lomborg and the otherwise smart and thoughtful people who continue to repeat his thoroughly de-bunked opinions.

    The climate change is un-fixable because it’s political. I see some merit in your triage approach because drastic climate change will come sooner than we expect anyhow and there is no point in everybody being miserable AND dying broke.

    If our progeny can adapt to life on Mars, as some ardently believe, they can damn well adapt right here on Earth II. Solving severe climate challenges IS our life now. It will determine everything we do until we die (gives new meaning to “croak”!). No point in lamenting the loss of species or tillable real estate. That’s like missing the dinosaurs.

    Hell yes, it’s good for the global economy. Adam Smith’s finger-snapping quick, Invisible Hand wealth generating bundler of tax incentivized vapor-tech financial instruments is itching to go. History will call it the E-Bomb Green House Gas Bubble. As long as there are big bucks to be made from duck and cover-up carbon footprint swaps and the like the Global economy will prosper. Oh yea! Say, I’ve got an iGizmo re-charger propeller hat idea needs some start-up cash.

    AZ

  60. Jim says:

    Excellent post, Dr. Shermer. I’ve accepted the reality of global warming for some time, but I’ve remained skeptical about both its long term implications and the solutions that have been proposed to solve the problem. You and Lomborg both make some great points and offer a fresh perspective on the matter. We need to start applying this sort of sober, clear thinking to all of our problems.

  61. chris says:

    Mr Shermer, I am disappointed at the lack of knowledge and maturity of the your post, and much of the ensuring debate. I didn’t pick you as a climate homeopath.

    Climate skeptics are often not really skeptics but lobyists for entrenched power. They are using techniques developed by the tobacco industry to cast uncertainty and doubt to prevent action.

    Some real skepticism would be welcome.

    Can you please look more closely at the evidence. It is hard to predict complex non-linear systems of systems. The 2007 IPCC report is well out of date, with unprecendented and unpredicted melting.
    There seems to be a real risk of 6 degrees celcius by 2100, also there is a risk that the existing warming will cause positive feedback such as increase sunligt adbsortion in the arctic sea, melting permafrost and release clathrites under the sea causing atmospheric methane to go up. These positive feedbacks could lead to runaway climate change which our economy and technology is powerless to change. Especially as we grapple at the same time with social disruption cause by catastophic climate change.

    James Lovelock has long argued that the biota has regulated Earth’s climate. An this feedback mechansim is also being disabled by 9 billion (mostly poor) people. If there is a real risk, insurance is a good policy.

    For someone who has argued so well for evolution, I am surprised that you discount the rest of creation beyond Homo Americus and value only the economy in your argument. Is it ethical to ignore the sixth great extinction event?

    1. Is the earth getting warmer?
    2. Is the cause of global warming human activity?
    3. How much warmer is it going to get?
    4. What are the consequences of a warmer climate?
    5. How much should we invest in altering the climate? Here are my answers.

  62. Chris says:

    Just to clarify, the “chris” above is not me who has been posted through the thread. Thanks.

  63. chris says:

    Sorry Chris,
    Didn’t mean to confuse. Its true I am not the same
    - chris

  64. Lucy Hahn says:

    Please Google ’4th generation nuclear’ and ‘Senator Lamar Alexander’ re nuclear power, which is the only viable means of producing enough electricity to power the world’s industry AND which produces zero greenhouse gases. The new power plants use up the nuclear waste that already exists and produce a small amount of glassy waste that is only dangerous 300 years; it can’t be weaponized; we have already mined enough uranium to power the whole world for 500 years; the new nuclear plants cannot melt down. If we get one model approved for the US, this will reduce approval times and expense dramatically. Sen. Alexander proposes 100 new nuclear power plants for the US by 2030, if we start now getting the approval (which will take about 10 years because of the need to bring the public on board), then by 2020 we can start building the plants and have them providing most of the electricity we’ll need by 2030. James Lovelock, originator of the Gai Hypothesis, and Stewart Brand of Whole Earth Catalog fame, among others, believe nuclear power is the best alternative. Solar, wind, geothermal, tidal and other methods are good but can’t provide the reliable daya-to-day baseload power, especially in countries such as the US, China and India, which will need much more electricity in future. Please look into this topic and think about talking up nuclear power to your friends. One survey said that 68% of Americans already favor inreased use of nuclear power; there is no reason for nuclear hysteria; there are compelling reasons to adopt nuclear as our main source of power, and convert all cars, factories, homes etc. worldwide to nuclear-supplied electric power as soon as possible.

  65. DavidCOG says:

    Lomborg only escaped official censure for scientific dishonesty from the Danish ministry of science because they assessed him to be incompetent.

    It is obvious to anyone capable of using Google and applying some real scepticism that Lomborg is a totally discredited person with regards climate change. He cherry picks the lowest possible estimates of damage – even when they are years out of date and superseded by newer, more accurate data – and the highest possible costs for action. He distorts and misrepresents other data points. He then builds his case on these, ignoring any science that controverts his conclusions. He claims to accept the science behind global warming, but ignores anything that suggests it will be more than a ‘nuisance’.

    Lomborg’s errors and distortions are so numerous and egregious that an entire website has been devoted to them: http://www.lomborg-errors.dk/. Read the section on ‘Cool It’ that Shermer is plucking data from – it’s clear how flawed, distorted and dishonest it all is.

    And despite this, Shermer is citing him to build his case that “we need to chill out on all extremist plans”. Those “extremist plans” are what the credible scientific community are urgently calling for – immediate, drastic cuts in carbon pollution. We need to do that *now* to avoid society-ending climate heating. Or you can listen to a discredited, incompetent, dishonest economist and do nothing about it.

    Anyone listening to Lomborg is not a ‘skeptic’, they are some combination of credulous, gullible and in denial – or blinded by their own political ideology and eager to accept whatever fits within it. And that’s par for the course for this libertarian blog – the content is skeptical as far as it fits in to the narrow, short-sighted political / economic agenda that Shermer, et al subscribe to.

  66. I find Mr Shermer´s original posting to be of little value. Cost-benefit analysis is fine. What a true skeptic should be doing is looking at how any such analysis values various costs and benefits, because that´s very much an open issue.

    How does Lomborg or others value species loss, clean water, death, displacement, new wars over scarce resources, etc. And in what time-frame? If the effects of climate change last centuries, how do these long-term negative effects compare with the one-time (or short-term) cost of stopping them? Talking about these things would be more educational than just claiming that “the potential benefits for the costs incurred are simply not warranted”.

    • Tony K says:

      I think that what you are suggesting is what Lomborg really is about. Take a look at the entire picture, timeframe, and costs and come up with considered judgments of where to spend social good money.

      Our current system is based on whoever screams loudest. (Note DavidCOG’s comment above “…to avoid society-ending climate heating”).

      Regards,
      Tony

  67. I like Michael Shermer and have been a fan of his for several years.
    Yet he has this horrible blind spot when it comes to global warming.

    Take his use of Lomberg and his ideas. Here is a man widely known for his extreme views that clash badly with the scientific community at large. His claims haven’t been peer reviewed and are commonly seen by the climate scientists as ranging from at best speculation to at worse out-and-out absurdity.

    Excellent summary. Drop contrarians and their coffee-table books.
    Stick to the peer-reviewed science.
    Please.

  68. L Nettles says:

    I haven’t seen Shermer or CSI actually apply Skeptical principles to AGW. The claim that there was no LIA or MWP are extraordinary claims that would require extraordinary proof. Its hubris to belive that man has a significant effect of the global temperature.

  69. Its hubris to belive that man has a significant effect of the global temperature.

    Tell that to NASA or the APS or the NAS or the Royal Society or the British Antarctic Survey or any other scientific community on the planet.
    No need to “believe” anything.
    No “hubris” is involved.
    The science of AGW has been gathered the old-fashioned way. No short-cuts have been taken. All of it is freely available in peer-reviewed literature that has been steadily mounting for decades.
    There’s enough evidence gathered to sink several battleships.
    Global warming is happening.
    We are responsible for it.
    We need to try and limit the damage as much as we can before the feed-back effects kick in.
    Burying your in the sand and ignoring the global community of scientists is NOT HELPING!.

  70. Neil says:

    69 responses so far. Nothing heats up faster than our biosphere than a discussion about global warming. Good job MS.

    It seems that the line between contrarian and skeptic is….the validity of the source eh?

    • Chris says:

      The thing that doesn’t make any sense is that a so-called skeptic would give such anti-scientific theories any more credence or time than the theory that the Earth is flat.

  71. Neil says:

    Also I would add that question 2 may be a little misleading. I am not sure the scientific consensus is that 100% of this current warmng trend is anthropogenic. I think the Union of Concerned Scientists list it at about 80% human caused. Not sure how they measure that, and I do not know what they attribute the other 20% to, however, this leads to the idea that we came out of the Pleistocene ice age a mere 13,000 years ago, and the earth has been in a long term warming trend anyway. Human modernization and industrialization has just exacerbated it greatly. Plus the fact that the CO2 that we have pumped into the atmosphere in the last 150 years will remain there for about 1,000 more years according to most estimates means that basically, we are screwed anyway.

    Regardless of what we try and do, we are bound for an ice cap less planet. We better adapt and get used to it.

    • tmac57 says:

      “will remain there for about 1,000 more years according to most estimates” I am seeing estimates more on the order of 200 to 300 years. Still a major problem, though I don’t really agree with your fatalism. The faster that we rationally address the problem, the better (whatever that entails). The most obvious and immediate thing humans can do is to reduce their personal contributions to greenhouse gases. That will not cost us much (except some convenience perhaps), and might be a small price to pay for the benefits gained. Also reduction of personal consumption can potentially be profitable, something even a libertarian could love ;)

  72. Neil says:

    Oh and…Polars Bears being ‘shot’ is not the same thing as issuing hunting permits for them. There is such a thing as poaching, which is probably not calcuable. So this trade off is not necessarily acurrate.

  73. Charlie says:

    Thanks for the interesting, though provoking article.

    I’m afraid, however, that I don’t have the same confidence you do that free a markets deal will effectively with with externalities such as greenhouse gasses. I have serious doubts that the price of hydrocarbons will ever reflect these externalities without some kind of government intervention. Having worked most of my life as an active participant in physical and futures commodity markets I’m a bit jaded about the efficiency of a free market.

    Anyway, since you mentioned I just purchased “Managing the Global Commons: The Economics of Climate Change” by Dr. Nordhaus following your mention of ” A Question of Balance” a quick google of his work. Perhaps it will inform my thinking.

  74. lucklucky says:

    1) impossible to know with current sparse data available
    2) idem
    3) idem
    4) depends of how much, some good some bad, if too much all bad.
    5) lots if the idea is to be able to build a climate in spaceships and eventual planets

  75. chris(2) says:

    It took at least 50 years to gather enough evidence to convince courts and politicians that smoking conclusively caused cancer. So long as some doubt remained, or rather so long as someone could be paid to express a doubt, the tobacco companies could continue unhindered.
    The Oil, Coal and Energy companies, combined with the beneficiaries of cheap fossil fuel (most of us) will be a much tougher lobby group than a bunch of tobacco companies. Mr. Shermer understands statistics and how muddled we all get with them, so there is plenty of fodder for the fossil lobby. Unfortunately, it will take more regular hurricanes or disruption of US food supplies to melt the climate deniers’ hearts. By then it will be way too late.

    Don’t think I would like to say “I told you so”, some decades from now. Rather, I would like to say to any children still listening, “I tried as hard as I could”.

  76. Arlo says:

    Well, like all the issues in the world, there are ideal solutions and reality. Unfortunately, human nature being what it is, the reality is going to force us into an ideal solution before we take it up voluntarily. If mass consumer culture, for example, hasn’t already minimalized itself, it’s going to be forced to minimalize by lack of resources, or energy, or economy. And it ain’t going to be a pretty transition, either.

  77. Simon says:

    Oh, my. What kind of ‘skeptics’ have we here? “Global warming is real and primarily human caused.” Really? That’s not a skeptical thing to say! It seems to me that a few real ‘skeptics’ have found and shone a bright light on the fudged (and fictional) data on which the AGW theory is based: http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/fpcomment/archive/2009/10/01/ross-mckitrick-defects-in-key-climate-data-are-uncovered.aspx.
    As to the comments, not many skeptics there, either! What a misleading and disappointing blog. :(

  78. WScott says:

    Simon @ 77

    A skeptic is not someone who says “I’ll never believe anything unless it’s proved 100%! Until then, I’ll believe any “fringe researcher” with a website who tells me what I want to hear.” I think there’s another word for people like that…it’ll come to me…oh yeah: denialist.

  79. Neil says:

    Deniers. If humans have nothing to do with the current global warming trend, what exactly is responsible for the increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere?

    And just to pre-empt a bit, Milankovitvh Cycles and increased solar output have been studied at length and have already been ruled out FWIW.

    Carry on.

  80. I’m not surprised, given Shermer’s UN-skeptical embrace of many matters libertarian, and his sometimes lack of skepticism in the past (in one of his books, he repeats the urban legend about the QWERTY keyboard being slower that DVORAK) that he would ONLY cite Lomborg and Nordhaus as evidence for his beliefs.

  81. Michael says:

    Global warming is really a non issue. Regardless if it is happening, not happening, human caused or natural. Doesn’t make a single bit of difference because it is claimed to be a symptom of a real problem. Using a finite amount of energy (fossil fuels) like they renewable.

    Treat the real problem, and not the symptom.

    • Max says:

      Suppose we discover a source of renewable energy, say a fungus, that puts out CO2 and accelerates Global Warming. You wouldn’t see that as a problem? I think most scientists would.

  82. Jeff says:

    Mad Scientist wrote: “Another thing to keep in mind is that a changing climate can wipe out your already stressed water supply. New York City without water – oh, Monckton has the solution – simply move. Yeah, just move an entire city – the dams will magically appear elsewhere and people will move overnight – no hassles! In fact all that building will be a great boon to the economy.”

    I would like to expand upon this. A friend of mine from South Asia pointed out that the Ganges River system provides water for 400,000,000 people living in India. The Ganges is fed by melt water from glaciers in the Himalayas. These glaciers may disappear by mid-century as a result of global warming. Imagine all those people on the move and the conflicts that may be triggered. I think Michael is underestimating the consequences of climate change

  83. Dave McRae says:

    You’re correct in pointing out the scientific consensus regarding Global Warming.

    You’re not correct in assuming there is not a consensus with economists regarding climate change action, or incorrect in thinking that the consensus is that action is more expensive than inaction.

    This study demonstrates there is an economic consensus (>80%) that inaction is much more expensive than inaction with the majority supporting market based actions. Lomborg’s conclusions seem to be very much an outlier.
    http://policyintegrity.org/publications/documents/EconomistsandClimateChange.pdf
    http://www.thebigmoney.com/articles/hey-wait-minute/2009/02/11/surprise-economists-agree

  84. Andrew says:

    Michael;
    RE: “Global warming is real and primarily human caused.”
    RE: “I provisionally accept the estimate of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)”

    Who in turn get much of their information from The Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.

    You might want to re-evaluate your ‘provisional’ acceptance of any science that you believe originated from within the CRU in light of the most recent information on the operation of that organization.

  85. Andrew says:

    I would be a good idea for people to download the leaked information, examine the information and determine what theory of the information best explains all of the information. Then having drawn their own conclusion on the leaked information, apply the baloney detector kit to the claims of the Climate Research Unit in the light of their own theory of the information.

    • Max says:

      The conspiracy theory is that a team of researchers at one university managed to impose a scientific consensus on a community of thousands of scientists.
      Another theory is that a team of researchers was frustrated by loudmouth pseudoscientists, as any scientist might be.
      Apply Occam’s razor.

      I’d like to see the emails between climate skeptics and oil companies.

  86. Andrew says:

    Max;
    I said “download the leaked information”, not just the leaked emails, but all the information.

    You may of course choose to look only at the emails, if you think that they provide sufficient information upon which to make a decision.

    However you could also look at the computer program code and the data and see if your theory of, “The conspiracy theory is that a team of researchers at one university managed to impose a scientific consensus on a community of thousands of scientists”, is supported by the actual code (the model) that was used to create the results (the papers) that were published and distributed.

  87. D.L. McNamara says:

    I would like to see this topic revisited in light of the hacked info from CRU. It seems absurd that Global warming could be a hoax created by small group of scientists. Yet close following of this story is like walking in a circle. CRU is hacked, emails seem to show tight clique exchanging ideas on how to make data fit theory, exclude opposing views, avoiding FOIA requests and data that is corrupted. Phil Jones gives a statement
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/11/24/nov-24-statement-from-uea-on-the-cru-files/#more-13148
    in which he claims “independent” researchers have come up with the same results, yet the independents are NASA and National Climate Data Center both of which are involved in controversial email exchanges. This does not seem “independent” to me. Practically all the statements I could locate dismissing this incident as being irrelevant refer back to the IPCC report or RealClimate, both of which are dominated by this same small group.
    Just how much global warming research has been built upon the CRU data.

  88. Andrew says:

    D.L. McNamara;

    RE: “It seems absurd that Global warming could be a hoax created by small group of scientists”

    Yes it does, but that does not make it impossible. Keep in mind that it is not Global Warming that is in dispute, only the prefixing of the word Anthropogenic to something that occurs 50% of the time on this planet. Keep in mind also that it took them years and years to prefix that one word to normal process in the minds of many people.

    Yes, it looks like the application of a circular logic model. CRU inputs to IPPC and then claims IPCC report supports CRU and vice versa. Real Climate appears to be a website run by both CRU and IPPC people with the assistance of some NASA employees.

    I have been looking and checking and I feel that at the center of the issue are just a few lines of computer code.

    The modeling code actually appears to have been written to produce the wanted result. Since the CRU now claims to have lost much of the data it appears that it will be impossible for them or anyone else to verify all of the published results. If the original results can not be verified then the original papers should be withdrawn, and all papers that sited it for support, and so on until all of the infected papers have been removed.

    I have written up a somewhat light, possibly humorous, explanation of what could have been the root of the deception. It is three lines of IDL program code from 1998. It appears that those three lines could have been the beginning of prefixing the ‘A’ to ‘GW’.

    How much of AGW actually needs the support of the result of those three lines of code is not yet clear, and may never be.

    It is a very tangled web indeed, and I keep looking.

    My note about the three lines of code:

    Anthropogenic Global Warming Virus Alert

    http://www.thespoof.com/news/spoof.cfm?headline=s5i64103

    • Max says:

      “Keep in mind that it is not Global Warming that is in dispute”

      But the CRU is hiding the decline, right? They can’t account for the lack of warming, right? The GW deniers can cherry-pick enough quotes to claim that GW is in dispute.

      • Andrew says:

        RE: “Keep in mind that it is not Global Warming that is in dispute”

        Where I live it was once a few miles thick of ICE. It has become much warmer than that now, it will get warmer still. It will melt the ice caps, the ocean currents will change. Then it will start too cool down, the ice caps will freeze and North America will again be covered with mile thick layers of ice all the way down to Wisconsin. Then it will all happen again, and again and again until the Sun envelopes the Earth and collapses back into a dark star.

        There is noting that we can do to prevent it, it would happen with or without humans on the planet.

        At any point of time we are either leaving an ice age or moving into one. Right now it looks like we are still leaving the last one.

        It is normal.

  89. Peter Burgess says:

    Here are some links to the CRU files and emails (which the BBC would not publish last month). May the Algorians read and weep!

    ==============================================

    Climategate Document Database from PJTV/Pajamas Media
    PJTV and PJM now present a complete database of the Climategate documents with a comment section for readers to respond to the individual entries and a way to rank those entries according to interest level. Also available: a roundup of commentary and videos on the subject and Roger L. Simon on “Climategate: Terrified Liars of the UN”

    November 30, 2009

    On November 19, 2009, a large number of emails and other data pertaining to global warming research from the University of East Anglia CRU (Climatic Research Unit) appeared on the Internet via a hacker or whistleblower. These documents have created extraordinary controversy and called to question the scientific findings to which a substantial portion of the world economy could be dedicated.

    In conjunction with the Competitive Enterprise Institute/Global Warming.org, PJTV and Pajamas Media are now presenting a complete database of these documents. Several others have already done this, but ours differs in that we are providing a comment section for readers to respond to the individual entries and a way to rank those entries (emails, data) according to interest level.

    The ranking will allow the more pertinent items to come to the fore. The comment section will provide a forum for readers — particularly those of scientific and technical expertise — to analyze and explain the relevance of the various entries.

    This database can be found at: http://www.pjtv.com/climategatedb

    For PJTV/Pajamas Media videos and articles (including Lord Monckton and Ian Plimer) regarding Climategate: http://www.pjtv.com/climategate

    We also have a growing Facebook group — Climategate (PJTV/Pajamas Media)

  90. Max says:

    The emails shed some light on the global warming deniers as well.

    The following exchange gives an idea of the kind of crap the CRU had to deal with.
    http://eastangliaemails.com/emails.php?eid=804&filename=1182346299.txt

    From: “D.J. Keenan” (loudmouth crank)
    To: “Steve McIntyre” (GW denier)
    Cc: “Phil Jones” (CRU director)

    I intend to send the final version to Wang’s university, and to demand a formal investigation into fraud. I will also notify the media. Separately, I have had a preliminary discussion with the FBI–because Wang likely used government funds to commit his fraud; it seems that it might be possible to prosecute Wang under the same statute as was used in the Eric Poehlman case. The simplicity of the case makes this easier–no scientific knowledge is required to understand things…

    Phil Jones opined to Kevin Trenberth:

    Kevin,
    My problem is that I don’t know the best course of action.
    Just sitting tight at the moment taking soundings.
    I’d be far happier if they would write some papers and act in the normal way. I’d know how to respond to that. In a way this all seems a different form of attack from that on Ben and Mike in previous IPCCs.
    I know I’m on the right side and honest, but I seem to be telling myself this more often recently! I also know that 99.9% of my fellow climatologists know the attacks are groundless.
    Cheers
    Phil

    Kevin responded,

    Phil
    Hang in there. I went thru this on the hurricane stuff and it was hard to take. But responding to these guys unless they write papers is not the thing to do.
    Kevin

    • Max says:

      Seeing as how these guys are in the UK with its libel laws, I’d be pretty careful before accusing someone of fraud, though all the cases I’ve seen involve cranks suing the scientists rather than vice-versa.

      • tmac57 says:

        Good point on the fraud issue Max. SGU included a discussion about this on their last podcast. Dr Novella seems to think that they GW deniers are grossly exaggerating the implications of the emails exchanges, and basically said that here is no smoking gun there.

      • Andrew says:

        Look at the code, not the comments in the code, but the actual code. Look at what raw data has not been thrown away or lost. Remove all the human entered constant values in the code that can not be fully explained by the authors.

        Using the raw data and the cleaned up code see what you get.

        If you able to reproduce the SAME results the theory should continue to be considered among all other theories that also explain the results. The theory that requires the fewest human constructed elements that are not present in the data is often the most promising explanation.

        If you are not able to reproduce the SAME results then the theory must be immediately discarded and a new hypothesis proposed.

        That is the part of the scientific method that is absent in this instance. Since the method was not scientific the outcome has no basis in science. It is pseudo-science, it is fiction.

      • Max says:

        “The theory that requires the fewest human constructed elements that are not present in the data is often the most promising explanation.”

        Look up data reduction.
        Let’s say your raw data is: 1 2 3 4 15 6 7 8
        What’s the next number?
        You could perfectly fit an 8th degree polynomial that may go to negative infinity.
        You could fit a line through the raw data and predict a number higher than 9.
        Or you could reject the outlier, fit a line, and predict 9. If “outlier rejection” rubs you the wrong way, call it a robust fit. What matters is whether it makes accurate predictions.

      • Andrew says:

        Max:

        So, you would make a prediction based on whatever theory of the numbers you feel is correct, about what the next number would be. Then you would wait for the next number. If the net number matched the outcome predicted by the theory, which would of course have to predict outliers, then the theory would continue to stand. If at any point in the future one of the numbers that appeared did not match the expectations of the theory, event after a thousand next numbers, the theory is proven wrong.

        It only takes one wrong outcome to disprove a theory.

        If I could find or construct an element that had mass and was not affected by gravity, then that would immediately disprove the current theory of gravity.

        If CO2 causes global warming then an increase of CO2 must be followed by an increase in temperature. If it does not always occur with that relatonship then the theory is wrong, and a new hypothesis must be constructed.

      • Max says:

        Let’s say the data continues:
        9 20 11 12 13

        You might conclude that the data has a linear trend with outliers. You could predict with some confidence that the 100th number will be around 100.
        If you can predict outliers, then they’re not outliers. If you reject every theory that can’t explain everything, you’ll be left with no theories and no science.

        “If I could find or construct an element that had mass and was not affected by gravity, then that would immediately disprove the current theory of gravity.”

        First, you’d have to present extraordinary evidence to back up your extraordinary claim. And even if you do, then what? We immediately throw out the current theory of gravity and everything that relies on it? No, we try to improve the current theory while looking for a better alternative.

      • Andrew says:

        Max;
        I would not need extraordinary evidence. I would simply have to tell other people how to do it and let them reproduce my results by themselves. If they can then it’s out with the old gravity theory. If they can’t then it is out with my theory. Is really that simple.

        That is how science works. It only takes one wrong to disprove a theory. If the light from that star had not been deflected by that solar eclipse then that would have been the end of the theory of relativity. Yep, just like that, it is wrong, let’s move on….

        It only takes one wrong outcome to disprove a theory.

  91. Andrew says:

    Look at the code, not the comments in the code, but the actual code. Look at what raw data has not been thrown away or lost. Remove all the human entered constant values in the code that can not be fully explained by the authors.

    Using the raw data and the cleaned up code see what you get.

    If you able to reproduce the SAME results the theory should continue to be considered among all other theories that also explain the results. The theory that requires the fewest human constructed elements that are not present in the data is often the most promising explanation.

    If you are not able to reproduce the SAME results then the theory must be immediately discarded and a new hypothesis proposed.

    That is the part of the scientific method that is absent in this instance. Since the method was not scientific the outcome has no basis in science, it is pseudo-science, it is fiction.

  92. TheAnalyst says:

    “Max”, your false assumption exists with the fact that you espouse a divide between AGW Believers, vs. AGW Skeptics, in that you tout AGW Believers as representative of the “Scientists”, while the AGW Skeptics are not. You could not be further from the truth in this assumption, and quite to the contrary, I have NEVER come across a serious scientist yet who has been willing to equate observed effects to Anthropogenic origins. The so called “Scientists” who continually espouse AGW alarmism, and jump to its popular conclusions, are in fact ACTIVISTS who have sold out their integrity and investigate processes for a bandwagon hopping existence.

    • Max says:

      I guess you haven’t met many scientists.

      Pew Poll
      http://people-press.org/report/528/

      “While 84% of scientists say the earth is getting warmer because of human activity such as burning fossil fuels, just 49% of the public agrees.”

      • Max says:

        And lest you think that 84% is small

        “87% of scientists say that humans and other living things have evolved over time and that evolution is the result of natural processes such as natural selection.”

  93. Andrew says:

    Max;
    This is not so complicated.

    There are Vikings buried by other Vikings in the permafrost in Greenland.
    The permafrost was not disturbed since it froze.
    It was not frozen when they were buried.
    I would call that warmer then today, a lot warmer.

    This hapened hundereds of years before the Industrial Revolution.

    The ironic thing is that this evidence of the medieval warming period is in a museum in Copenhagen.

    The Fate of Greenland’s Vikings February 28, 2000 by Dale Mackenzie Brown
    http://www.archaeology.org/online/features/greenland

  94. Andrew says:

    Max;
    Also, the medieval warming period was global.

    Fraudulent hockey sticks and hidden data
    joannenova.com.au/2009/12/fraudulent-hockey-sticks-and-hidden-data

  95. Andrew says:

    The Climate Research Unit (CRU) in the UK was set up in 1971 with funding from Shell and BP as is described in the book: “The history of the University of East Anglia, Norwich; Page 285)” By Michael Sanderson. The CRU was still being funded in 2008 by Shell, BP, the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate and UK Nirex LTD (the nuclear waste people in the UK)

    This is important to know, for two reasons.
    Firstly, the key institution providing support for Global Warming theories and the basis for the IPCC findings receives funding from “Big Oil” and the nuclear power industry.

    Secondly, the research from the institution which is perceived to be independent publicly funded research, is actually beholden to soft money, CRU is in fact a business.

    The funders of the CRU are on the bottom of this page from their website:
    http://web.archive.org/web/20080627194858/http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/cru/about/history/

    You can not put coal through a pipeline and nuclear power is expensive.

  96. GoneWithTheWind says:

    So what caused the global warming of the 11th century. By all the evidence it was a LOT warmer then this one is. This is the 33rd naturally occurring global warming since the last ice age. It will be followed by the 33rd natural global cooling. The global warming periods are extremely friendly to humans and most animals. For better or worse we have 6.5 billion humans vying for food. When the next global cooling happens we will be unable to grow enough food for everyone and a lot of people must die. Do not “fear” global warming it is a good thing, it is natural and you can’t make it worse or better no matter how much fossil fuel you use. Beware the next Maunder Minimum.