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Throwing Cold Water on a Hot Topic

by Michael Shermer, Nov 16 2010

This post is a review of Cool It, a film by Bjorn Lomborg, directed by Ondi Timoner, produced by Roadside Attractions and 1019 Entertainment. Written by Terry Botwick, Sarah Gibson, and Bjorn Lomborg. Based on the book by Bjorn Lomborg. 88 minutes.

COOL IT (movie poster)

I FIRST MET BJORN LOMBORG IN 2001 upon the publication of his Cambridge University Press book, The Skeptical Environmentalist, which I found to be a refreshing perspective on what had been the doom-and-gloom, end-of-the-world scenarios that I had been hearing since I was an undergraduate in the early 1970s. Back then we were told that overpopulation would lead to worldwide hunger and starvation, that there would be massive oil depletion, precious mineral exhaustion, and rainforest extinction by the 1990s. These predictions failed utterly. I felt I had been lied to for decades by the environmentalist movement that seemed to me to be little more than a political movement that raised money by raising fears.

Lomborg’s publicist thought that I might be interested in hosting him for the Skeptics Society’s public science lecture series at the California Institute of Technology that I organize and host. I was, but given the highly debatable nature of many of Lomborg’s claims I only agreed to host him if it could be a debate. Lomborg agreed at once to debate anyone, and this is where the trouble began. I could not find anyone to debate Lomborg. I contacted all of the top environmental organizations, and to a one they all refused to participate. “There is no debate,” one told me. “We don’t want to dignify that book,” said another. I even called Paul Ehrlich, the author of the wildly popular bestselling book The Population Bomb — another apocalyptic prognostication that served as something of a catalyst in the 1970s for delimiting population growth — but he turned me down flat, warning me in no uncertain language that my reputation within the scientific community would be irreparably harmed if I went through with it. So of course I did because (A) truth is more important than reputation, and (B) no one threatens me and gets away with it. My own Senior Editor, Frank Miele, who is an expert on evolutionary biology and biodiversity (and is one of the fastest and most facile researchers I’ve ever known), challenged Lomborg on several of the chapters in his book, and we had a lively and successful debate.

My experience is symptomatic of deep problems that have long plagued the environmental movement, and for a time the political pollution of the science turned me into an environmental skeptic. That alone would be meaningless, given that I have only ever written one article on the subject (my June 2006 Scientific American column explaining that I flipped from climate skeptic to believer), but I believe that the environmental extremists had a similar effect on millions of others who remain skeptical in the teeth of what now appears to be reasonably solid evidence for anthropogenic global warming.

In fact, the documentary film Cool It, based on Lomborg’s book of the same title that serves as the popular version of his more technical and scholarly first tome, opens with him stating unequivocally that global warming is real and human caused. Wait! I thought Lomborg was a climate denier? That is what his critics have accused him of being, in fact, which apparently is the charge delivered if one does not accept in full all the claims in Cool It’s erstwhile anti-avatar, Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth. Here it might be useful to distinguish the two films by breaking down the subject matter into 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?
Al Gore’s answers Bjorn Lomborg’s answers in Cool It
1 Yes Yes
2 Yes Yes
3 A lot Probably a little, very unlikely a lot
4 Cataclysmic. Debatable depending on how much warmer it will get, but very likely the consequences will be minor
5 Trillions of dollars, mostly top-down government programs to curtail oil and coal use and reduce greenhouse gases Billions

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. Lomborg (and myself) provisionally accept the estimate of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that the mean global temperature by 2100 will increase by around 4–5 degrees Fahrenheit, and that sea levels will rise by about one foot, which Lomborg reminds us is about the same level that sea levels have risen since 1860, without any major (or for that matter minor) consequences. In other words, man-made global warming will be moderate, causing moderate changes.

Examining question 4 more closely, Lomborg computes that if global warming continues unchecked through the end of the century there will be 400,000 more heat-related deaths annually, but he then notes that there will be also be 1.8 million fewer cold-related deaths, for a net gain of 1.4 million lives. This is a typical calculation that Lomborg makes in what is essentially an economic triage for global warming — he is not saying that global warming is good or inconsequential, only that its consequences must be weighed in the balance against other problems. 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) lower the mean global temperature by a fraction of a degree, or limit hunting permits?

This leads to question 5 — the economics of global climate change — which Lomborg notes that 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 4.7°F 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.

Economics is about the efficient allocation of limited resources that have alternative uses. If you had, say, $50 billion a year to make the world a better place for more people, how would you spend it? Cool It traces Lomborg’s attempt to answer this question through a group of scientists, economists, and world leaders whom he gathered in 2004 in Copenhagen to reach what he calls the “Copenhagen Consensus.” These experts 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.

Cool It is an uplifting film, filled with solutions that any green technophile would love: solar, wind, wave, and geoengineering technologies take up a lion’s share of the film. (And true climate skeptics will denounce Lomborg on this front as they do not believe that these alternatives can come close to replacing coal and oil as sources of energy.) To his credit, the unflappable Lomborg, with his boyish good looks and curiosity, includes in his own film harsh disparaging commentary by his long-time critic Stephen Schneider, the Stanford University climate scientist who passed away this past July. In a very classy touch, Cool It is dedicated to Schneider.

* * *

Note: 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 pressures of funding Social Security and Medicare, not to mention financing two wars, a failing public education system, and so forth, and suddenly global climate change is put into perspective.

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Rating: 3.8/5 (41 votes cast)
Throwing Cold Water on a Hot Topic , 3.8 out of 5 based on 41 ratings

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259 Responses to “Throwing Cold Water on a Hot Topic”

  1. Steve says:

    3…2…1…

    Let the flame war begin!

    • Badger3k says:

      Well, at least Michael still isn’t an AGW-denier any more. That’s a step. But why worry, Michael, the invisible hand of the market will surely save us all!

      Not much of a flame, but that’s about all I can muster for this. Sorry.

      • tmac57 says:

        Even if we concede that the market will provide a solution,one of the key elements for good market solutions is good information.Right now,there are ‘market’ forces out there that are waging an intense disinformation campaign to protect their markets.Bad info in,bad solutions out.

      • David Bussey says:

        I think Badger3k’s exclamation was expected to get a laugh, not a serious response.

      • Badger3k says:

        Basically, but if it does spark a serious conversation, then that is for the better. I do agree that there is a big need for accurate information, as opposed to the disinformation that many in the business world provide. I am not a believer in the “market will solve everything” idea – I know too much history and psychology to know that that is a false idea. Unless there is an incentive that will satisfy greed, businesses rarely will work for the “greater good” if it might negatively impact their profits. We are a very short-sighted creature, but that’s our evolutionary history. Hopefully we can change that.

      • Patrick says:

        The problem isn’t disinformation, its that the government isn’t working to create information. A carbon tax on emissions creates that information. Property rights in air and water can create that information.

        Look, we all benefit from pollution – even if you live in a freaking cave. We don’t have enough information because we don’t have a way to ID how much we benefit from clean air vs how much we have benefited from its pollution. Assigning costs to both will provide enough information for the market to sort the problem out.

        …just as the market working to eliminate absolute poverty.

        Finally, the enviornmental movement would do reach the public better if it wasn’t cramped with angry white, wealthy, socialists trying to tell everyone what to do.

      • More information for Shermer and Patrick to read. And not “information” in the sense Patrick says, but, facts on the ground, albeit anecdotal:

        http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/28/opinion/28hedin.html

    • I’ll reply. Shermer starts it again. (I had stopped reading this blog a few years back when he went off the libertarian deep end.)

      First, Lomborg shoots himself in the foot. If the costs of mild global warming are minor, then why spend anything? The book, the movie and the PR all smack of Lomborg pimping for money.

      Second, Shermer presents a CLASSIC false dilemma: address global warming more catastrophically OR address it less catastrophically while spending more on other things. C’mon, Michael, that’s pretty transparent.

      Third, gotta “love” the rock-star type tribute in the last graf.

      Fourth – Nordhaus?

      If I read more like this from Shermer, I guess I’ll stop reading here again.

      (Sidebar comment: Shermer says “My own Senior Editor, Frank Miele, who is an expert on evolutionary biology and biodiversity (and is one of the fastest and most facile researchers I’ve ever known) …” The author of “Race”? A borderline, or not-so-borderline, racialist?

      Oh, here’s my full review of this “expert’s” book:

      http://socraticgadfly.blogspot.com/2005/03/race-is-it-bell-curve-light.html

      • Oh, forgot to add that Lomborg attacked Rachel Carson as being more emotional than rational in Silent Spring.

        Yep, Shermer’s showing his libertarian, coroporatist-capitalist shilling again.

      • Patrick says:

        btw, libertarians and corporatists have very little in common. Words have meanings.

      • One can be a libertarian AND a corporatist, Patrick. Shame on you for implying a false dilemma. Don’t be a false diemma-ist. :P

      • Patrick says:

        I don’t think you get it and I don’t think you get it because you don’t think like an economist.

        You have to think of opportunity costs. Dollars spent today on problem x can’t be spent on problem y.

        If problem y is the reason why you want to solve problem x then you’ve got your priorities mixed up.

        Lomborg shows that. People who get flustered with his data are more interested in gaming social and economic outcomes than saving the environment – at least that is how it seems to me.

      • Nonsense in several ways.

        First, as behavioral economics shows, economics isn’t that rational.

        Second, we know about as much about “opportunity costs” as we do about consciousness or artificial intelligence, claims of the last 50 years notwithstanding.

        (To riff on the quote wrongly attributed to Goering, “When I hear the phrase ‘opportunity costs,’ that’s when I reach for my gun.)

        Read Tim’s quote below for more.

        As for why nobody will debate him? Red herring. How many true skeptics are lined up to debate Jenny McCarthy or Ken Ham?

    • Anthony says:

      Has anyone ever heard of the Dunning Kruger Effect? Just wondering.

  2. Somite says:

    Lomborg’s conclusions rapidly fall apart under the slightest scrutiny. His favorite tactic is to flood you with references that don’t actually support his arguments.

    For example:

    “One of Lomborg’s most interesting claims is that global warming will avert more deaths (as fewer people die of cold) than it will cause. But three of the five sources he cites (including this and this) reached the opposite conclusion, Friel shows. (Lomborg told me he included the three to criticize them, but a reader flipping to the endnotes might get the impression that they supported his claim.)
    Of the other two studies Lomborg cites for the claim that averted cold deaths will outnumber heat deaths, he told me by e-mail, “there is no question that they support my point. Indeed their support is so explicit that I am at a loss to see how Friel could have construed it otherwise.” One study, he said, is “the only peer-reviewed study to calculate all extra heat deaths and avoided cold deaths globally.” The two studies are here, from 2006, and here, from 2000. But the 2006 study concludes that 850,000 deaths from cold will be averted in a warmer world, not the 1.4 million Lomborg says, and it estimated deaths from only six causes (cardiovascular disease, respiratory illness, diarrhea, and three tropical diseases), not from everything. The 2000 study offered death-rate estimates only for people 65 to 74, so it is hardly a full population-wide analysis. Finally, Lomborg cites a report by the World Health Organization to support his claim that cold claims millions of lives—1.5 million in Europe every year, he writes. But the WHO report says nothing about that. (Lomborg told me he cited WHO “solely to provide an estimate of Europe’s population” but, as with other source notes, it appears to support his controversial claim, not something as unobjectionable as Europe’s population.)”

    http://www.newsweek.com/2010/02/21/book-review-the-lomborg-deception.html

    The whole point of climate change is that the consequences can not be entirely predicted much less attach an economic value.

  3. Somite says:

    By the way Nordhaus’ work criticizes Al Gore’s plan for not going far enough. Nordhaus argues for a global carbon tax.

    • MadScientist says:

      Many people argue for a carbon tax because other schemes (such as the EU Emissions Trading Scam) are demonstrably useless – too easy to game. People in the oil and gas industry also know that a tax would in fact be effective because they already have means for complying and thus avoiding the bulk of the tax, so the tax acts as a penalty for non-compliance as intended, provided the tax is high enough. The tax will not be simply passed on to the consumer because companies that do that will go out of business – people will simply buy the cheaper products from the compliant companies. As for new energy sources, that is a largely separate issue. Oil will run out in a few decades, but there is absolutely no economic incentive at the moment to replace oil as a source of fuel. Governments need to invest in developing new energy sources – the government doesn’t have to put up 100% of the cost, but they do need to give large corporations an incentive to invest. At the moment any investment by a corporation is seen by the board as an unnecessary slashing of the profits.

      • Troy Jordan says:

        “Oil will run out in a few decades..” And you know this to be a fact? Peak oil has been predicted for 150 years and has never happened. There is no evidence that it will in the next 100 years. Improved techniques for extracting oil from heretofore inaccessible places has kept the reserve curve going upwards since oil was first discovered

        “no economic incentive at the moment to replace oil as a source for fuel…” Pure nonsense. There are feverish efforts to develop alternative fuels by big bad oil companies. The incentive is huge profits to the first company to come up with a viable alternative.

        You will be driving around in a vehicle fueled either directly or indirectly from oil for the rest of your life regardless of your age.

      • MadScientist says:

        Where do you get your figures for your inexhaustable supply of oil? The oil industry is not as optimistic as you. Various oil companies are also the world’s largest investors in developing energy sources, but even they aren’t doing enough; there really isn’t a big enough economic incentive and boards of directors have not been convinced that it would be beneficial to invest much more. As for hydrocarbon fuels, when oil is exhausted (extremely expensive to produce, not 100% gone) we can still produce fuel by cracking coal. However, that still doesn’t help at all with the dependence on fossil fuels.

      • Troy Jordan says:

        The U.S. Energy Information Administration. In 1980 world proved reserves were 641 billion barrels. Since then the world has consumed between 64 and 85 million barrels per day while reserves have more than doubled to 1354 billion barrels. Which proves my point. We keep consuming but we keep finding more and more oil. Will it run out some day in the distant future? Probably. But it certainly is not a crisis. New discoveries will come along to take up the slack as oil becomes too expensive. It is a natural progression that has always worked and will work in the future.

  4. tudza says:

    Perhaps you weren’t lied to, rather people decided to solve the problem by making more food rather than reducing the number of people.

    I thought the reason increased global population turned out not to be a problem was because we improved how we produced food. So how would world hunger look if advances were not made and used in farming techniques and plant stock?

    • Max says:

      Indeed, scientists don’t specialize in predicting political, economic, and technological trends that drive things like food production and CO2 emissions. The scientists can only treat these things as independent variables and run multiple simulations with different values for the variables.

    • MadScientist says:

      This is where the Economist’s Fallacy comes in. Some economists (though certainly not all) have this bizarre belief that science and technology will always step in to magically fix an issue. The overpopulation/food issue is one such issue. The fact that the agricultural practices which are supporting the food production are decimating other resources in many areas is conveniently ignored, but the reality is that the current production levels in many areas can only be supported for another decade or two – then the aquifers with water suitable for irrigation will be exhausted.

      • Max says:

        Don’t worry, science and technology will step in to fix the aquifer problem ;-)

      • tmac57 says:

        The success of the Green Revolution is also somewhat of a ‘sharpshooter’s fallacy’ if it is being used as an example of why we shouldn’t worry about climate change.
        Just suppose that after Ehrlich et al had raised the starvation issue in the 70s,that there was a worldwide disinformation campaign denying that hunger and food shortages really existed,then maybe they existed,but that was natural because they always existed,and then maybe it was a problem,but there just wasn’t anything that could be done,and who says that everyone having enough to eat is the optimum state.Does Shermer really think that this is an analogous situation? Also,people that are sanguine about AGW seem to fail to take into account that one of the greatest problems is that CO2 persists in the atmosphere long after it is put there,making this a hard ‘ship’ to turn around,but continuing BAU will make the consequences much more severe.Imagine if in the food shortage situation in the 70′s,the Green Revolution happened,but the food could not be delivered to the people who needed it for 60 to 100 years later.Would that have been deemed a success?

      • Patrick says:

        “Just suppose that after Ehrlich et al had raised the starvation issue in the 70s,that there was a worldwide disinformation campaign denying that hunger and food shortages really existed,then maybe they existed,but that was natural because they always existed,and then maybe it was a problem,but there just wasn’t anything that could be done,and who says that everyone having enough to eat is the optimum stat”

        Seriously?

      • tmac57 says:

        Yes,Patrick.Seriously.

      • Patrick says:

        I think its logically fallacious because we’ve seen food shortages and the absence of food shortages. We’ve seen populations grow significantly in places with no shortages and shortages in others. Overall the worlds population grew with no real evidence of their being a global shortage and this was before Population Bomb.

        Note, countries with shortages implemented government controls over market forces. Yes, market forces help prevent food shortages.

      • Patrick says:

        Post hoc ergo proctor hoc – Population Bomb said their would be a shortage then people worked to prevent a shortage.

        It discounts and ignores all the human efforts that came before to stop food shortages, grow more food and sustain a larger human population.

        Your statement was a logical fallacy itself.

      • tmac57 says:

        “Just suppose that after Ehrlich et al had raised the starvation issue in the 70s…” Is what I actually wrote Patrick. That implies that not only Ehrlich,but others were raising this issue.But that was not the point anyway.It doesn’t matter who raised the issue.The question is ‘what would have been the outcome, if the world had listened to food shortage deniers instead of taking the looming implications of exponential population growth seriously?’ That is the analogy to AGW that I was drawing.

      • Patrick says:

        If the world had listened to the “food shortage deniers” as you call them the exact same thing would have happened. People would have innovated more ways to produce more food on the land. There is profit to be had – such has been the way for 200 years. The world was also globalizing and drifting toward capitalism rather than command and control (which, because of inadequacies of direct control over the complex economy almost always produces shortages).

        Such will be the way for global warming. Science will figure out solutions for fuel alternatives and energy efficiency with or without government intervention. Furthermore, the solutions will probably be something we haven’t even dreamed up at this point and it will make geothermal, wind, high speed rail, emission restrictions, ethanol look like silly and ineffective ideas.

      • Excellent analogy. And, yes, really, Patrick. Also, note to Patrick – on my blog, I use the phrase “salfivic technologism” for beliefs (and yes, that’s what it is) like yours. I’m not a Luddite, but, at the same time, I know there’s no guarantee technology will save the day. This belief is most strongly an American belief within the modern world. Anecdotally, I wonder how much it is connected to American exceptionalism. (Of course some liberals, though no left-liberals of which I am aware, hold to American exceptionalism too.)

        On, and don’t you have to use enough logical thinking yourself to know what a logical fallacy is?

        Ahh, next, the “neo-Marxist” comments.

        Patrick, you’re a troll. Go fellate Shermer in private.

      • Patrick says:

        Supply, demand and profits are pretty powerful incentives. If you weren’t busy being a neo Marxist (and maybe at least an old school Marxist) you might understand that. :P

        No seriously, profits are pretty cool. They provide very strong incentives to solving world problems – like food production, for instance. So yes, science will step in and solve the problem … so long as we let the market work.

        The most dangerous threat is socialism because that retards innovation and kills the profit motive. Socialism creates self-fulfilling prophecies.

      • Troy Jordan says:

        When governments allow free markets the results are always positive. See this early example: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2010/11/24/happy_starvation_day_108049.html

      • Patrick says:

        Market outcomes aren’t always positive that is why there exists market externalities where government is necessary (at least at this time because we don’t have the technology or rules for the market to provide information or the services to the people who want them). Think city surface streets, police protection, court system (but even things like surface streets can be completely privatized with technology we already possess).

        But yes, this is a good example of government or rather communal failure and it is one of many examples that shows how communism utterly fails – especially in food production.

  5. Tyro says:

    My problem with Lomborg is that he has peddled bunk so many times that it’s really hard to trust him far now. In a tilting-at-windmills moment, Climate Progress took a look at his film and found myths even in the trailer:

    http://climateprogress.org/2010/11/03/bj%C3%B8rn-lomborg-cool-it-film-trailer-debunked/

    http://climateprogress.org/2010/11/15/exclusive-redux-caldeira-calls-lomborg%E2%80%99s-vision-%E2%80%9Ca-dystopic-world-out-of-a-science-fiction-story%E2%80%9D/

  6. Tyro says:

    (breaking this up because links are spammy)

    And as for Lomberg (and Shermer) “accepting” the science on sea-level rise, Lomberg absolutely does not accept it and Shermer seems ignorant of it. A PNAS paper shows that, unless we take some serious changes, we aren’t on track for a 1 foot (0.3m) rise but closer to 1.4m

    http://climateprogress.org/2010/02/22/sea-level-rise-global-warming/

    This was pointed out to Lomberg in 2007 and yet he hasn’t made any acknowledgement or correction (http://climateprogress.org/2007/09/14/debunking-bjorn-lomborg-cool-it-sea-level-rise/)

    As for the lives saved by warmer weather, the IPCC deals with this directly and does not agree with Lomberg, saying “Overall it is expected that these benefits will be outweighed by the negative health effects of rising temperatures worldwide, especially in developing countries.” Lomberg is cherry picking the studies to ignore these issues and a relatively simple check on Lomberg’s credentials would show that this is typical. There’s not excuse for Shermer to buy into this fraud.

    Shermer – this faux-scepticism is an embarrassment. You aren’t a sceptic when you reject the scientific consensus, you’re a kook.

  7. Max says:

    “How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic”
    http://www.grist.org/article/series/skeptics/

    Stages of Denial:
    1. There is nothing happening.
    2. We don’t know why it’s happening.
    3. Climate change is natural.
    4. Climate change is not bad.
    5. Climate change can’t be stopped.

    Congrats, you reached stages 4 and 5.

  8. Oldskool says:

    The cold death v heat death thing is simple to dispove- if average temperatures increase in Africa, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, rising waters in bangaldesh, drought in Africa nad India, and pure heat will kill millions of people- there just aren’t enough people living on the edge of survival in any cold climate region to come even close to offsetting theses deaths.

    Tipping points? With the rise in temperature caused by the small increase in CO2 caused by humans means that the ocean, decomposition of the forests (already on the increase in the Amazon) and the release of CO2 from decomposing biomass previously frozen in permafrost will exponentially increase CO2 concentration levels.

    Oh, and a finally you are quoting an economist- so if there was a financial justification for creationism would you recommend that argument? Logic Fail.

    The vast majority of climate scientists are in agreement that a 4-5 degree rise in average global temperature is where we are headed, and would be catastrophic to the majority of human existence.

    Michael, the arguments presented by Lomborg are to climate science what ID is to creationism. It dresses things up in a pretty sciency way, but when you dig into the details, the science is very dodgy.

    Did you not notice the similarity to the result in trying to organise a debate with an evolutionary Bioligist and a creationist, and your trouble?

    The science is in and you and Lomborg are not on the side of skepticism or science.

  9. Bryan Elliott says:

    Nuclear power needs to be in that mix as well. Just sayin.

    • MadScientist says:

      Shhh… you’re not allowed to use that word. I wonder what the global fissionable fuel supply is like. If we had a world that were close to 100% nuke powered, how long would the fuel supply last? Anyway, it’s a good option but good luck getting the general public to agree – after all, there is an awful lot of opposition even for a gas-fired power plant in a neighborhood. Wind turbines? Hah – you should hear people scream when they’re told there’s a plan to put ‘em up just down the road from their house.

      • Chris Howard says:

        I used to surf near the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, because it was warm. (water coolant outtake into the ocean) and now I have three testicles, and x-ray vision!

  10. Petrucio says:

    “Economics is about the efficient allocation of limited resources that have alternative uses.”

    So if we save a million lives more than we lose because of global warming, global warming is good, right? That’s pretty fucking anthropocentric. You seem to take comfort on the fact that more bears are killed by humans then would be killed by warming, and that’s good enough to ignore all other impact on other species. That cognitive dissonance must be killing you.

    • Patrick says:

      Or you can save people from hunger, malnutrition, indoor smoke inhalation, poverty now,for significantly less money, and fix global warming when you have cheaper cost effective (and just effective) solutions later (like in 10 or 20 years – instead of retarding economic growth so a solution never comes around or comes around decades later than it otherwise would).

      My do global warming alarmists have to pick out THE MOST EXPENSIVE ways to solve the problem. I’ll just point to high speed rail as one example – its so bad, in Florida they rated the best enviornmental solution NO BUILD!

  11. Charlie says:

    Just a quick question: Where did Bjorn get his physics degree. I get no hits using Google. Puzzling.

    • Chris Howard says:

      Why is a physicist being asked about climate change? Shouldn’t we be asking climate and weather experts these questions? Is this just an “appeal to authority” argument?

      • Anthony says:

        Most weather and climate experts have a degree in physics. “Physics is everywhere.” It is not unreasonable to expect someone who claimed to have a credible opinion about climate change to have some qualifications in the science behind it.

    • Doug says:

      Egads! You are right! How dare a political scientist make arguments about policy? That should be left up to physicists.

  12. Petrucio says:

    I’d also point out that I do agree Kyoto does not properly address the issues at hand, and it’s almost pointless to aim to ‘reduce carbon emissions by X percent in Y years’.

    That not the way to go. We should be investing heavily on basic science in an effort to uncover new energy industries, and completely remove fossil fuel dependency. But that’s not ‘spending’ money. Basic science will usually give great returns, though unpredictable they may be. It’s probably a good use of public money even if there was no climate change involved!

    If we can not in some decades move away from fossil fuels (really move away – in the sense that it would not cost MORE more someone to use non-fossil fuel based cars or whatever their gadgets may be, but less), then yeah, it’s pointless to just hope humanity will use less energy instead of more, and we’ll have to ride that wave baby. But I think it’s gonna be a bumpy one. Hopefully I’m wrong – or hopefully the technological singularity comes around and saves all our energy problems!

  13. Mr. Shermer,

    It’s not our usual policy to preemptively deny membership to our organization, but due to your prominence in the skeptic community we felt it necessary to do so in this instance. While we would never presume to make a psychological evaluation, your fake skepticism and denial of the scientific consensus of the vast majority of climate scientists at least raises the issue of your mental competency. Please understand that we only bring it up out of concern for your well being because we have heard rumors of a cult of personality forming around the charismatic Mr. Lomberg. While we can not at this time accept an application from you, should you in the future regain your skepticism and belief in the science we will be happy to reconsider.

    Sincerely,

    Environmental Apocalypse Society

    • Brad says:

      The fact that their organization is called “Environmental Apocalypse Society” says a lot about their “psychological evaluation.” Creating a “sky is falling” mentality over an issue is done to shock the public into taking action…ANY ACTION. However, there is no evidence that any kinds of drastic action will be warranted either from a pure benefit standpoint, or a cost benefit standpoint. Action for the sake of action can cause more harm than good in both the short and long term. The best course of action is a reasoned approach to making the best, rational, long-term choice for a future worth living. I do not see anywhere in this article that expresses action isn’t necessary. Reasoned action is.

      Using the word “apocolypse” doesn’t sound like a reasoned approach.

      Neither does pre-emptively banning someone, now that I think about it.

      Stay classy EAS!

      • tmac57 says:

        I’m calling POE on EAS.

      • Badger3k says:

        Yeah, a quick (<1 min) google search has no hits, so that's evidence. That, and the mocking or sarcastic tone of the post might be good evidence that this is a Poe. Plus…seriously?

      • Okay, I give up. What’s POE? I assume its not Power Over Ethernet . . .

      • tmac57 says:

        POE is a hard to detect or missed bit of sarcasm.(I hope your question wasn’t a POE)

      • No, the question was genuine, and I figured from context that it must indicate the presence of sarcasm . . . though the sarcasm in the EAS comment is easy enough to detect.

        I wondered where “POE” came from, though. Is it after Edgar Allan, or is it an acronym?

      • tmac57 says:

        Robert-Do a search on ‘Poe’s Law’. I tried to post the link,but I guess Skepticblog thinks I am spamming.

      • Tim says:

        Hi Brad,

        1. Use of all caps, very classy.

        2. What exactly is a ‘pure benefit standpoint, or a cost benefit standpoint.’?
        Not speaking mumbo-jumbo here.

        3. ‘Action for the sake of action can cause more harm than good in both the short and long term.’
        Look up obfuscation, followed by pedantic. Put those words together in a sentence like ‘Brad causes obfuscation because he is a pedantic wingnut.’

        4. Have you ever heard of satire? (No EAS in google search.)

      • Tim says:

        Wait a minute… maybe I should call POE on Brad…

        D’oh!

      • Chris Howard says:

        Don’t Be a POE!

      • Brad says:

        You don’t understand cost-benefit analysis? Oh…but you use big words like “pedantic” and “obfuscation.”

        Again…if you don’t understand “action for the sake of action” nor how such action could be dangerous (and try to hide behind big words) then there obviously is no discussion to be had.

        As for the “ALL CAPS”…I used all caps for a total of 7 letters (not including the EAS abbreviation). Your comments came across as if I used all caps for the entire message. Apparently you don’t understand that, since tone can not always be grasped entirely from written word, that there are times an author of an email may need to use caps to express he is stressing a particular word or set of words. (sarcasm?)

        As for wingnut…really? Me? What in my email was “wingnut-ish?” That I asked for a reasoned approach before making a decision? Or that I belong to a group that has “Apolcalypse” in their name. Oh…wait. Never mind

      • tmac57 says:

        What would you consider an acceptable cost to reduce CO2 (assuming that you think that CO2 is a problem)? Do you support any efforts to slow AGW? Who do you trust on the science of climate change?

      • Tim says:

        Hi Brad,

        Yup, that’s just what a wingnut would say.

        You’re the wingnut who did not ‘get it’ when Damned Skeptic posted above, and you started to lecture the class on something that I heard once while wishing I was high. Something about cost benefit standpoints and for the greater good of society, blah blah blah. What exactly was your point? Were you trying to PWN Damned Skeptic? It didn’t work.
        The following quote is yours, and it supports my pedantic argument.
        “The best course of action is a reasoned approach to making the best, rational, long-term choice for a future worth living.”

        Did you mean, ‘look before you leap’? Seriously dude, man up and have a laugh. Damned Skeptic was having fun, and did a decent job of it. You didn’t get it, unless this is an elaborate POE. If so, then you PWND me. Somehow I doubt it.

        Wingnut.

      • MadScientist says:

        But Brad, *what* damage will be done if people develop technology to reduce CO2 emission to the atmosphere? The stuff about job losses etc. are all lies plied by people who don’t want change. The oil industry for example is not concerned about job losses, they’re concerned about finding enough people to get things done if genuine emissions reductions laws come into effect. Nor will jobs simply move overseas where there are no such restrictions (unless the legislators are daft and can’t imagine the most obvious tactics which corporations might use). Sure there will be a lot of money spent, but do you really imagine that the money somehow magically disappears and there are no associated jobs? Well, admittedly with the GOP running the show that’s not hard to imagine.

      • tmac57 says:

        Mad-Good points all around.I was bothered by Shermer’s zero sum scenario. The only way that I see the money just disappearing is if we funnel it back in to CDO’s.

      • This may be of interest. (Disclosure: this is a post to my own blog about apocalyptic rhetoric.)

        http://skeptics-creed.blogspot.com/2006/06/convenient-fabrication.html

        I would hasten to point out that skeptics may themselves be prone to apocalyptic thinking, the roots of which run deep in Western culture. It’s a kind of rhetorical ultimatum: “If people don’t start thinking more critically, the world as we know it will END in FLAMES!”

    • Zack says:

      Preemptive denial of membership? George W. Bush would be so proud. I guess the Environmental Apocalypse Society sees eye to eye with our former president on preemptive measurements.

  14. MadScientist says:

    “…the popular version of his more technical and scholarly first tome…”

    Well, that is if you consider “People” magazine scholarly. In my books Lomborg belongs with the worst of the scaremongerers – opinions are offered as fact and without any evidence, but little factoids are quoted liberally to suit the author’s own thesis. I can’t help but laugh at Lomborg when he makes claims such as populations can move around to suitable climates – as if this were a minor thing.

    • tmac57 says:

      Notice how when homeless people are caught out in the cold,how the ‘homed’ flood into the streets and invite these poor souls into their homes to feed,cloth,bath,and house them.Problem solved!

      • MadScientist says:

        I don’t see any homeless people at the moment – but I suspect they’re buried in the snow rather than in some stranger’s house.

      • tmac57 says:

        I suspect you’re correct.

      • sth says:

        So, is that what you do? Take them in and feed and clothe them? Because it takes everyone contributing and the only people allowed to criticise others for not doing so are the people taking in the homeless. But if you do not, I understand. Most of them seem to be mentally ill, right?

      • tmac57 says:

        No, The only thing that I do is donate money to our local food shelters,and give clothing to the various community groups,and donate toys and clothing at holidays.The rest of my charitable efforts go to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital,various environmental groups,and to Skeptic’s groups and causes.
        I could do more I guess.

      • LovleAnjel says:

        They’ve migrated to their winter grounds on Lower Wacker Drive.

      • MadScientist says:

        The city of Los Angeles used to bus ‘em to Phoenix back in the 1980s. The activity wasn’t confined to winter though – after all LA can’t really claim to have a winter.

      • Chris Howard says:

        Mad, that’s because the cops in the OC used to bus our homeless to LA, out of site out of luck.

  15. Logine says:

    I share that juvenile experience where ice age was looming behind the corner and deforestation threat made us use paper only if strictly necessary.

    Change has been a constant since the Earth was blast into existence, 99% of all life forms that ever crawled, flew or walked on its surface have gone extinct. So the question is once again who’s gonna be on the winners and who on the losers side. I guess the Groenlandians won’t mind a warmer climate, and the Netherlands are preparing as best they can to a rise in sea levels. Its as usual the poor of this world who are at risk, but warming is again not the primarily cause of poverty and bad living conditions. It “just” adds.
    BTW, OVERPOPULATION hasn’t vanished along with the good old light bulb, it still is and will be a major problem in coming years.

    • Petrucio says:

      BTW, OVERPOPULATION hasn’t vanished along with the good old light bulb, it still is and will be a major problem in coming years.

      The world’s population was 1 billion at the turn of the last century, it was over 4 billion when I was at primary school, and is close to 7 billion now. And yet Shermer simply dismisses it in a second as a non-issue. Dude, seriously, WHAT THE FUCK???

    • Badger3k says:

      I hope you know now that the “global cooling” idea that was tossed around in the 70s-80s was entirely the product of the media and not the scientific establishment. It’s been such a long time since I was involved in that debate that I can’t remember where it was. Maybe Deltoid? The information is available. I had to replace my hard drive on my computer and lost a lot, so I don’t have it immediately handy, sorry.

    • Tim says:

      Have you heard about LED lights? The good old light bulb will soon go the way of the lobotomy.

      • MadScientist says:

        That’s what I’m hoping. Fluorescents were never a great replacement because (a) the light blinks noticeably unless a high frequency circuit is used and (b) the control over the color isn’t very good and it changes as the lamp ages. Somehow the frosted incandescents are just nicer. With the continued development of LEDs there will be much better color control and even lower power consumption than with fluorescents. There are special interest groups who produce hilarious literature on how LEDs are horrible and will never be as good as fluorescents. At the moment there are some really good ones though and the only thing I don’t like is the price. LEDs can still improve substantially – the fluorescents are a dead end unless someone creates a radically different type which is far more efficient than an LED and also has a pleasant color. One project I hope to find time for is a high intensity LED lamp (array) which mimics sunlight (but no UV) and will also give me yellow to orange on sunset and sunrise. The LEDs I need for the job already exist – and they’re only 30 bucks in small quantities. Unfortunately I need about 60 of them for the lamp I want.

      • Tim says:

        Hi MadScientist,

        It seems the only concerns that hold up to scrutiny with LEDs are the same as any light source. One should not stare at a bright light source for too long, nor should one stick things into their eyes.

        Sounds like a fun project, a day-cycle simulator of sorts. Patent that before some lurker steals your idea.

        IMAO, there is a concern with LED lights and how the technology is changing the dynamic of the so-called war on drugs. For the control freaks out there, LEDs use much less power, emit less heat, and are much safer than other typical grow lights. Therefore, Marijuana grow-ops are much harder to detect.

        Yup, LEDs are part of the green conspiracy…

  16. Luis says:

    By Lomborg’s logic, it’s OK if the Chinese government arrests and tortures a few thousand dissidents, because the climate (no pun intended) of fear that these actions create greatly offset the suffering of millions of people that we would observe if said dissidents were afforded free speech and used it to create a counter-governmental movement.

  17. Max says:

    “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.”

    I don’t trust Lomborg to accurately represent WWF data, and I don’t even trust that the 49 “bears” are polar bears.
    Just recently, the Skeptoid episode on DDT took the fact that an epidemic of Newcastle disease caused by sick pelicans resulted in the culling of millions of “birds”, and assumed that those birds were pelicans, when they were more likely poultry.

  18. I would be the first to argue (and I have argued, in print) that environmentalists (and environmental ethicists) are prone to dogmatism and alarmism, and that the whole enterprise could use a healthy dose of skepticism.

    My assessment of Lomborg, based on his earlier book, is that he doesn’t really offer skepticism, just an alternative dogmatism. He is a statistician who has surrounded himself with economists. As such, his work is predictably myopic, with predictions based only on the extrapolation of current trends, based in turn on facile assumptions about human motivation and human possibility.

    In his earlier book, he freely admitted his ignorance of ecology, evolutionary biology, and natural history, even though such natural dynamics provide the platform on which any continuation of human “progress” must be founded. He doesn’t seem able to imagine that the platform itself might erode away.

    His relentlessly chirpy optimism also contributes to his myopia: he assumes that economic and technological systems are agile or malleable enough that we can adapt relatively painlessly to any new circumstance. He underestimates the degree to which we may be stuck in a rut while the world changes around us. (I think of this as Simon-Kahn Syndrome: Don’t worry! They’ll think of something to save our sorry hides!)

    In the end, Lomborg’s “skepticism” comes across as one-sided, merely a strategic pose, rather than the genuine article. Were he an actual skeptic, he would be willing to turn a critical eye on his own assumptions and biases.

    • TryUsingLogic says:

      I would say…..
      “In the end, Al Gore’s mis-representations came across as one-sided, merely a strategic pose, rather than the genuine article. Were he an actual scientist and skeptic, he would be willing to turn a critical eye on his own assumptions and biases.”

      Climate science is a traffic jam and it is better that Shermer directs the traffic towards reason than responding to most of the confused replies here.

      • I agree with the assessment of Gore, except that he doesn’t cast himself as skeptic. At least he’s more honest in portraying himself as a true believer.

        Lomborg and Shermer seem to share the One True Faith in the power of free markets and unlimited innovation to save us from ourselves. Their mantra: “Don’t worry! They – you know, clever people like engineers, who know about stuff other than economics – will think of something! Then we’ll all buy it! Everything will be fine!”

        All I ask is an open acknowledgment that this mantra is an article of faith, not a principle of reason.

      • TryUsingLogic says:

        I think it is an article that questions with fairness the infallable positions of “true believers.” It seems obvious to many that Gore made climate issues a religion that should not be questioned. It is also easy to recall the fear mongering that went on over hunger, global cooling, Y2K…..etc.

        There is credible evidence to show that science, free markets and democracies improve the lives of all as compared to the societies that are controlled and manipulated by oppressive big governments. America’s short life and massive progress through prosperity and freedom proves that.

        It seems to me that it is a done deal that climate change is happening and mankind is a player in the results. But the solutions are complicated and undefined.

        So many skeptics love debate, unless it questions their “true beliefs!”

        Shermer has looked at both side of this issue and continues to project the possibilities and concerns.

        I thank him for that……

      • Somite says:

        All this is irrelevant on the face of the scientific consensus. Isn’t it funny how Gore’s opinion matters most to the deniers and is never mentioned by climate scientists.

      • Beelzebud says:

        Ok we understand that you and many others hate Al Gore. We get it. Here is the thing. Al Gore didn’t invent this entire topic, and it is not a hoax as some right-wing congressmen call it.

        Al Gore did what any reasonable person should do. He listened to the experts in the field.

        Ignore Al Gore for a moment, and take a look at what the top climate scientists say about it.

      • Oldskool says:

        Try using logic- maybe one day you will
        Y2K was real- ask anyone in IT at the time, because nothing terrible happened did not mean that it couldn’t have, and many people put in many hours to ensure that was the case.

        Global cooling had no basis in science, look it up.

        Millions of people die of hunger every year, what is your point?

        So far you have just spouted media talking points- “teach the controversy” if you will. Given the acceptance of anthropogenic climate change, you are the equivalent of a creationist or flat earther to think otherwise.

      • TryUsingLogic says:

        tmac57 says:
        November 18, 2010 at 7:43 pm
        …….Probably misleading,but technically correct.

        Doesn’t misleading bother you at all? When people are misleading they tend to call into question many things and technically correct could be bogus or a scare tactic?

      • tmac57 says:

        Given the general public’s complacency or lack of awareness of AGW at the time of his movie,I think a little wake up call was good.Arguably,it did the job.I don’t think Gore was trying to mislead,but like most people trying to get across a message to people who seem not to be paying attention,he might have overstated the case.Also,compare Gore’s errors in his film /book to Lomborg’s,and then we can talk again.

      • Tim says:

        Hi TryUsingLogic,

        Try not being a Troll.

      • TryUsingLogic says:

        Beelzebud says:
        “Al Gore did what any reasonable person should do. He listened to the experts in the field.”

        TUL says:
        Then why didn’t he get it right?

        Beelzebud says:
        “Al Gore didn’t invent this entire topic, and it is not a hoax as some right-wing congressmen call it.”

        TUL says:
        Shermer, Lomborg, and I have not called the climate topic a hoax. It’s interesting how many “Skeptics here” come unglued [and call bloggers "a Troll"] when someone questions their politics or “true beliefs.” Kind of reminds me of why I am not religious and don’t believe in gods.

        It sure get’s “skeptically pious” around here.

        This debate seems to be more about what to do and spend to make any meaningful difference. And there is no clear solution to that….

      • Beelzebud says:

        All I did was ask you to ignore Al Gore and read what the top experts in the field say. You’re the one treating this more like a belief system.

      • Tim says:

        Hi TryUsingLogic,

        You are a Troll because you keep trying to swing the topic to Al Gore. This post by Michael Shermer had very little to do with Gore. If there is a discussion here, it is about the reliability of this Bjorn fella. You keep bringing up Al Gore, and that is a red herring. Thus, you are a Troll.

        Yours in skepticality,

        A Canadian named Tim who lives very near some often melting glaciers.

      • tmac57 says:

        What exactly did Gore get wrong?

      • TryUsingLogic says:

        Beelzebud says:
        “All I did was ask you to ignore Al Gore and read what the top experts in the field say. You’re the one treating this more like a belief system.”

        Tim says:
        “You are a Troll because you keep trying to swing the topic to Al Gore. This post by Michael Shermer had very little to do with Gore. If there is a discussion here, it is about the reliability of this Bjorn fella. You keep bringing up Al Gore, and that is a red herring. Thus, you are a Troll.”

        Shermer’s article brought up Al Gore and compared his major points with Lomborg’s and discusses why there might be a middle ground. Your Red Herring defense is bull!

        SO, Beelzebud AND Tim….
        WHAT THE HELL IS YOUR POINT?

        AND FOR tmac57…
        How about Gore’s claim that the world’s sea levels will rise up to 20 feet “in the near future.”

        I brought up Gore in the context of how he was being presented in the article for comparison……you all are bringing him up as if you have nothing else to say…….

      • tmac57 says:

        Gore in his book and movie said “IF Greenland broke up and melted, or if half of Greenland and half of West Antarctica broke up and melted, this is what would happen to the sea level . . .” “sea levels worldwide would increase by between 18 and 20 feet.” He did not say “in the near future”, it was a hypothetical scenario illustrating the volume of water locked up in these two resources. Probably misleading,but technically correct.

      • Beelzebud says:

        TUL: It’s trollish to focus on one person (Al Gore) on this discussion. It was also trollish when Shermer did it. “I hate Al Gore” is not a rebuttal to the science.

  19. Jeroen Versteeg says:

    How is this a review? The summary part is good, but it’s not followed by a critical (dare I say skeptical) examination of the facts or arguments as I would expect!

  20. Trimegistus says:

    Heretic! BURN the HERETIC!

  21. J.F.Soti says:

    I see the zealots are out in force with their pitchforks. Now, that IS highly predictable.

  22. watch says:

    watch as Atheists who would usually be skeptical on religion lose all skepticism when it comes to this topic. you’ve offended the globalologists, prepare for threats worse than that of religious fundamentalists. prepare to be ostracized from the “free thinker” community. environmentalism is not just a movement, it’s a freakin’ religion.

  23. watch says:

    i’m pretty sure the eas is a joke people

  24. Tim says:

    “Economics is about the efficient allocation of limited resources that have alternative uses.”

    Your words, and I suggest that is a truncated definition of economics.
    Economics is a social science, and it does not have the same methods as natural sciences. Discussions of economics and climate science should not co-exist, except to say that it is for economic reasons that there is a discussion at all.
    Constant reference to economics serves to illuminate your post however. This talking head Bjorn is getting paid, and I submit that is his motivation.
    Sir, you should recognise straw men when you see them.
    Whenever the discussion about climate science becomes economics, it is void.

    • Tom says:

      How can a discussion of any response to the potential that AGW exists and is dangerous NOT involve economics?

      You seem to believe that climate science is on a sounder footing than economics in terms of its predictive power. I’ll believe that when the various forecasts for Atlantic Hurricanes become more accurate than a random number generator.

      Of course, the typical rejoinder to this is that it’s easier to predict the global effects in 100 years than something as variable as the weather in six months. Why? Well, because I read something about that in Real Climate or Climate Progress…I’ll find the link somewhere…

      • Somite says:

        Because climate science is a natural science. Economics is well thought ideas separate from the natural world and is based on the objectives of its practicioners:

        http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2060#comic

      • Tim says:

        Hi Tom,

        My goal when posting on a site that alleges to promote skepticism is to to endorse the logical thinking that should be rigorous.

        Your statement ‘you seem to believe…’, allows me to respond thus: Being a Troll is not a heritable condition. You are not born that way. You have a choice, and there is help available. When the urge to Troll strikes, develop a coping stategy. Ask yourself questions like ‘have I been drinking’, ‘am I lonely’, ‘don’t I have something better to do’.

        I made no reference to the predictive power of either climate science nor economics.

        To simplify my point for the simple minded, the word truncated means ‘cut away or shortened’, and Shermers definition of economics did not include a reference to people, hence my use of the word social to clarify the point. Other ‘social sciences’ that pretend to have predictive powers are known as astrology and religion.

        We have been making this stuff up as we go along; economics is a matter of opinion. Some guys get it right sometimes, but there is no confidence that economics is reliable. You seem semi-literate, you should know this by now.

        Or really simply, its apples and oranges. Some pretty blond manboy swirling around the centre of a faux controversy that benefits some economically – apples.

        Real science and scientists doing what they do – oranges.

      • Tom says:

        Tim,

        Since you misunderstood my point, I suppose it is appropriate to respond.

        I freely admit that I misunderstood that you were implying that Bjorn was in this discussion solely for personal gain. My only excuse was that it seems so ridiculous that someone on your side of this issue would turn that argument on him. I’m sure you find it tedious when people claim that climate researchers foment alarm in a quest to secure more research funding. If that is a motive on one side, then I suppose it is a motive on both sides. Does that help us come to a solution? No.

        The point I was making is that you and others on this thread speak in reverent tones about the “Science”. Well, let’s step back a moment. Climate Science is clearly in its infancy. While any climate scientist knows a lot more about his subject than I do, the honest ones would undoubtedly admit that they don’t know a whole hell of a lot.

        Our knowledge of the climate is not nearly as strong as, say, our knowledge of chemistry. If a chemist warns me not to drop a lump of sodium in a tub of water, I am going to take his advice. If a climate scientist tells me to stop driving my car immediately or the temperature will rise by 4.7 degrees in 100 years, I am going to scratch my head and ask for more information.

        This is where my point about the need to introduce a little economics into the discussion comes in. If it cost nothing to address the potential danger, then of course we would do it. If it is going to cost trillions of dollars in lost growth, then maybe we better do a little NPV-ing of the future costs before we make that commitment.

        Maybe Bjorn is wrong about some of his assumptions. Fine, correct them. But I think his methodology interjects some much needed reality into a discussion that has so far been driven by platitudes like, “Save the polar bears! They can’t swim!”.

        So, it seems that both of us were arguing points that the other was not trying to make. I guess that makes me a troll and you an ass.

      • Tim says:

        Hi Tom,

        Thank you for the reply, very considerate. Now, let’s get down to business shall we?

        1.”it seems so ridiculous that someone on your side of this issue…”.
        -insulting me maintains the trolling point.
        -what again was my side of this issue? There are sides? If there is a side to take, put me on the rational side. (Hardly a side though; does anyone ‘choose’ irrational? Irrational is unfortunate circumstance, much discussion of heritability versus environment, the old nature nurture dialogue.)

        My original point was that Shermer used a terribly truncated definition of econmics to support his argument, and it failed. Another point that others had already made, and you have assumed is mine as well, is that Bjorn is talking out of his ass. I am on that side, if that is what you are getting at.

        2.”Climate Science is clearly in its infancy”,
        Now, this kind of dogmatic excrement is unforgivable. You are really wrong on that one. Next time you are in an airplane, think about how little we know about climate science. Next time you are in the Rockies, enjoying the view of glacier-carved valleys, wonder about how suprising it is that we know so little about climate. The point about Chemistry was cute, almost makes me wonder if you think that disciplines of science are, like, different somehow. It is most likely that a ‘climate scientist’ may also be described as a chemist, or physicist, or math geek, or even citizen. Nobody exists in a vacuum there Tom.

        3.”If it is going to cost trillions of dollars in lost growth,…”
        What is this magical growth paradigm I keep hearing about? Is it a fantasy that fits in nicely with perpetual motion machines and magic beans? I will admit to a limited grasp of most current economic scripture, however I do recognise dogma when I see it. If it looks like a dogma, smells like a dogma, acts like a dogma, then it is definitely going to produce shit like a dogma.

        4.”… his methodology interjects some much needed reality into a discussion…”
        What methodology is that exactly? How to lie with statistics?
        Wrong again puppet, unless the ‘discussion’ is how to get paid. If I was to agree on your point there, then I conclude we need more books and films that ‘teach the controversy’ as well.

        Enough.

    • Patrick says:

      “Economics is about the efficient allocation of limited resources that have alternative uses.”

      Actually that is the textbook definition of economics.

      PS, suggesting someone’s only motivation is who pays them or that they are getting paid is a logical fallacy.

      Besides why does economic void climate science. Does politics void climate science as well? Do you not understand that both politics and economics touch everything and those considerations must be taken into account when deciding what to do about problems science uncovers or predicts?

      • Tim says:

        Hi Patrick,

        Get some sleep; your usually well thought-out replies are incoherent.

        Just kidding.

        1. What textbook? Seriously, what textbook? There really is no point in making shit up you know. Already nailed Shermer on that one.

        2. Doesn’t sound like you have ever had a job Mat. It is very ordinary in the real world for people to be motivated by thems that pays one. Not really sure you thought that through at all with the PS.

        3. Everyone here understands that climate change will have economic impacts on the future. That was a good point to make around the 1850′s. Imagine living in London choking on the ‘pea-soup’. Then we had to make the point again with acid rain, and again with CFC’s. Barely a generation goes by, and here we are again.
        (BTW, good skeptics are familiar with Sir Charles Lyell and know that he gained much insight from observations of climate change on the landscape. Go ahead and figure that one out all by yourself.)

        What is getting past the con-o-nomics apologist follows; If allowed to run rampant, your cult will continue to rationalise ways that ‘externalise’ environmental destruction. That means short term self-interest rules the day.

        Is it possible to understand that life on this planet does not need us managing and innovating new ways to gradually eliminate it? What we need to do is manage ourselves. That is within the mandate of economics. When economics is found useful to halt the relentless destruction of habitats or the pollution of air and water, then I am paying attention.

        Your final observation that politics and economics touches everything – if you believe the paradigms of dogma. I suspect that you are a Christian, as they believe that invisible sky daddy touches everything also.

        Creepy…

  25. Petrucio says:

    I’ll pull out a Mark Edward here and make a bold prediction: Shermer won’t reply to a single post made here. Like religious zealots, he’s impervious to criticism, and probably isn’t even reading these comments.

    Heck, I’m still waiting for his reply on his post about the magic cube, the one the said IN THE POST he would be replying in a few days…

  26. cosimdm says:

    It seems to me that most climate warming believers would benefit from reading the works of Karen Horney, especially the parts concerning “vehemence out of proportion” There seems to be a lot of this going on in the global warming debates.

  27. Beelzebud says:

    Frankly I do not understand how you are a respected member of the skeptical community.

  28. Percy Sludge says:

    Com’n, guys!
    I’m waiting, I’m waiting…

    It’s been 24 hours now, and after 23 posts and many replies, I am still patiently waiting for Godwin’s Law to be invoked here.

    Well, we’ll let the argument heat up a bit more (like the planet),but I want some results soon! Ya hear?

  29. Barry says:

    If we wanted uncritical acceptance of Lomborg’s pseudoskepticism, we could have visited one of the many crank sites that peddle him. Once again Shermer’s libertarian bent overwhelms his critical thinking…

  30. Dr. Strangelove says:

    Dr. Shermer,

    You seems so certain that global warming is caused by humans. Reality check. Can you ask your climate scientist friends to show me an equation or set of equations that relates global temp. and atmospheric CO2 that ‘predicts’ the historical record of temp. from 1900-2000 within say plus or minus 10% error?

    I have not yet seen this equation but I hear a lot of scientific arguments on both sides – believers and skeptics – which I think all amount to speculations and logic. Not really hard evidence that will pass the burden of proof required in physical science.

    • Tim says:

      Hi Dr. Strangelove,

      1. Grammar is important. The use of proper grammar would be evidence that your arguments are intelligent. Poor grammar indicates that you may be an idiot.

      2.You wrote “show me an equation or set of equations” when what you are asking for is called data. There is a difference between ‘equations’ and data. This error also indicates that you may be an idiot.

      3. Even with the data being widely available, one does not ” ‘predicts’ the historical record”.
      My understanding of science does not make predictions about historical data. Fairly certain now that you are an idiot.

      4.”…I hear a lot of scientific arguments on both sides – believers and skeptics – which I think all amount to speculations and logic. Not really hard evidence that will pass the burden of proof required in physical science.”; your words.
      Overall, this is a bunch of crap. Go back to school fool.

      Speculations and Logic Unite!

      • Dr. Strangelove says:

        Tim,

        You are an idiot. I will not dignify your idiocy with a reply. Suffice it to say that I do research on climate science, correspond with climate scientists, and contribute to Journal of Geophysical Research. People like you destroy the credibility of the skepticblog.

        Pardon me for grammatical error. English is not my primary language. It’s German.

      • Tim says:

        Hello Mein Doctor,

        “I will not dignify your idiocy with a reply.”

        As much as I respect the work of Mr. Kubrick and Mr Sellers, I will not give you the benefit of the doubt.

        I really like to play Troll bait, and you bit hard. Thanks for playing, sorry no prizes. I also know how to swim, and I love to dive into the deep end. It is good advice to learn to swim before you dive in the deep end. Dude, you are so seriously in the deep end. ‘Suffice it to say’, you are just making shit up now, and that is uber-duper obvious.

        The old ‘english as a second language’ defense could still win points if you were not otherwise so ridiculous.

        Now, I admit that I baited you, and it worked. My bad. Could you make it up to me with an explanation of how people like me destroy the credibility of the skepticblog?

    • Max says:

      You haven’t seen any climate models, or just precise ones? Multiple models can be averaged to increase precision.
      http://www.grida.no/publications/other/ipcc_tar/?src=/climate/ipcc_tar/wg1/fig9-3.htm

      • MadScientist says:

        That’s right, because the average of a thousand wrong answers must be right!

      • tmac57 says:

        I worked for me in high school ;)

      • tmac57 says:

        ‘IT’ worked, that is.

      • Max says:

        The average of a thousand answers of the form truth+noise is truth+noise/sqrt(1000).

      • MadScientist says:

        But there is the assumption that there is some truth in there – and this has never been demonstrated. I have always wanted climate models left out of the IPCC because they are basically nonsense at this stage and they receive far more attention than they deserve, not to mention they undermine the facts. Among the denialists top excuses is “the model predictions are wrong”. If there were any truth to the claim that the aggregate results of many model runs (and runs with different models) were more precise, then why has there been no such evidence presented? I only see special pleading – cases are selected that support the claims and all other cases are conveniently ignored. I suspect the denialists can do us all a big favor here – they can put some of their millions into hiring people to collect all the published model results and claims and subject them to a rigorous statistical analysis – with any luck that would provide the information which the modelers themselves seem to fear and demonstrate beyond a doubt that the models are of no real value.

    • MadScientist says:

      Why would you expect any equation? There is no simple relation which can be described with a mere equation. We know that CO2 absorbs mid-infrared energy, so it is reasonable to assume that more CO2 ultimately means warmer global temperatures. Now we can do radiative transfer calculations on the atmosphere with any given concentration of CO2 and with various assumptions about the earth’s surface temperature and whether the surface is sand, forest, liquid water, or ice, and see if the increasing CO2 leads to a warmer or cooler system. In all such calculations the answer is that the surface temperature goes up, which is consistent with what we expect.

      Now when you look at the globe it is dynamic – the calculations suggest that the system is gaining energy under all conditions but you don’t necessarily see a temperature rise in any particular area because we have no idea how the energy is being redistributed across the globe. And so the “global mean temperature” was invented – if you average temperatures from as many points around the globe as you can, then no matter how the energy is redistributed we should get an increase in the global mean temperature. This is in fact what is happening. Well, there is *one* condition in which the energy can increase and yet the global mean remains unchanged – that’s if all the extra energy goes into melting ice. However, once enough of the ice is gone, we can expect temperatures to go up again.

      So there is absolutely no doubt that more CO2 = warmer globe, even if no one can predict the future climate. We can even put a lower limit on this expected warming – the limit is dependent solely on the characteristics of CO2. However, one common belief (probably even the majority belief) is that the actual warming will be greater due to water vapor feedback. There’s one area of investigation that can use a lot more work – can we put limits on what the feedback is. At any rate, people have only come up with credible suggestions for a “positive” feedback, which means temperatures go higher than they would if CO2 were the only significant contributor. It’s not for lack of trying that people can’t come up with a credible negative feedback. So, it is extremely likely (though I wouldn’t say 100% certain) that any warming will be greater than the minimum limit due to CO2 alone. How much warmer? Well, at the moment that’s anyone’s guess – we don’t have enough information or any useful models which may help with such predictions. However, there is still no doubt that overall we will have an increase (even if someone did come up with a negative feedback, it’s not going to get anywhere close to nullifying the warming).

    • Max says:

      The RMS error of HadCM3 was pretty low back in 2001.
      http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar/wg1/fig8-5.htm

  31. Somite says:

    Have you seen the trailer? It has Lindzen, Dyson and I think even McIntyre. It’s expelled all over again.

    • Beelzebud says:

      It made me think of Expelled as well. Pretty sad that Shermer is promoting this kind of nonsense at all, let alone here.

      He has truly let his economic beliefs interfere with his critical thinking skills.

    • MadScientist says:

      Ah, Dyson of the “artificial tree”. It’s a pity he has no idea how to create such a tree. He’s a renowned physicist, but his chemistry is not good at all.

  32. Lukas says:

    As somebody who doesn’t have the necessary background to really understand all the data, I have to look for where the consensus is. On the one hand, we have pretty much every scientist working on the topic telling me that this is going to be bad. On the other hand, we have a bunch of people who think it’s not going to be so bad — for political reasons: mainly economists and like Lomborg, and libertarians, like Shermer. These people don’t really do studies and publish papers explaining where the science is wrong. Instead, they disagree with the implications of global warming, and thus conclude that it can’t be true, or if the evidence is overwhelming, that it can’t be *that* bad.

    This is a perfect example of a cognitive dissonance. Reality disagrees with ideology -> deny reality.

    If I need to decide between trusting pretty much every scientist who researches this stuff, and trusting ideologues who “know” that the scientists must be wrong because their findings contradict their ideology, I have to go with the scientists.

    And finally, Lomborg on global warming:

    >”Global warming is real – it is man-made and it is an important problem. But it is not the end of the world.”

    Well, duh. Nobody claims it’s the end of the world, merely that it might be really, really bad for humanity. The world will of course be still around long after we’re gone.

    • MadScientist says:

      Whoa – if there’s any consensus that’s with the climate modelers and has something to do with their guesses about how much warming there will be. As far as the more CO2=warming goes, there is no room for consensus – it is established fact.

      I always like the “not the end of the world” arguments too. Natural selection is such a wondrous thing – and yet it is not pretty, not by any stretch of the imagination. I wonder if Lomborg understands that.

    • tmac57 says:

      “The end of the World” is also a relative thing.If someone dies from the effects of AGW,it’s “The end of the World” for them.

      • Mat says:

        Limiting the carbon economy and restricting the development of third world countries could get pretty ugly too…

      • Somite says:

        Even though there is no reason to think this would be the case. More likely they will leapfrog us with alternative energy sources.

      • Mat says:

        Alternative? What, like nuclear?

      • MadScientist says:

        I doubt it – the Third World is still cutting down the trees for firewood and not replanting. Most third world nations are fairly insignificant sources of fossil fuel CO2; they have a lot of developing to do to get anywhere near the industrialized nations. I don’t think it would be fair to put China or India in the “third world” category since they’re such large nations and have both extremes from heavily industrialized to almost the same as 2000 years ago. Anyway, the “first world” nations need to get their act together and do something; other nations will copy as they progress – it’s not as if they’ll have much of a choice because if CO2 reduction becomes common practice, even developing nations will eventually be required by other states to conform or else have their exports penalized. Unfortunately, as we can see from the international meetings, many people want to play games and indefinitely put off doing anything of value. At the moment it is primarily smaller governments, on the state or even city level, which are bringing in emissions regulations. Small entities can only get so far with their efforts though since regulations need to be widespread and somewhat uniform if they’re to have any beneficial effects. So I’ll be watching the governator to see if he manages to convince other regional governments to push for policies to curb CO2 emissions.

      • Tim says:

        Hi tmac57,

        Your use of Occams Razor is like French cuisine. Delicious and satisfying, somewhat fattening.

      • tmac57 says:

        I’m trying to cut down,Tim.Tell me the truth,does this metaphor make my sentence look too big?

  33. Tim says:

    As if this was a forum, I would like to introduce another talking point. It seems like not so long ago, there was a discussion about this mysterious stuff called ozone.

    After much debate, it turns out the climate scientists and chemists, et al, were totally right, and the greedy capitalists were totally wrong.

    Developed nations banned the use and production of CFC’s, and no suprise, the holy economy keep ticking along in its blind, oh-so-like evolutionary way. Or is that invisible hand-like way? Silly me, I keep confusing Adam Smith with Charles Darwin. Or was that St. Ayn Rand?

    • MadScientist says:

      The ozone story has more similarities than that. DuPont, one of the Big Evil Corporations in that story was also one of the biggest heroes. A number of large oil and gas corporations (and a handful of coal producers and consumers) have spent quite a few billion since ~1991 investigating various means of curbing CO2 emissions. The oil and gas industry are ready to get the job done but there are few regions in which they’re required to do anything (and so they don’t because it’s not in the interests of the shareholders). There are also some players in the oil, gas, and coal industries who are adamant that they’d rather go bankrupt than cooperate. Somehow I can’t imagine the top administrators in those companies retaining their jobs once any significant regulations come into place. So, like the producers of CFCs, the relevant industries are now simply waiting for regulations which force them to take action. The currently available schemes are not necessarily the best, but things will improve once companies have more incentive to change.

      • Tim says:

        Hi MD,

        Your posts are usually reasonable, yet I am confused by the apparent defence of Dupont. There is evidence that Dupont was initially reluctant to stop the production of CFCs. Then follows that with public knowledge of the damage caused by their product, that demand dropped like a stone, which is no good for business. A third point is the implied liability that if the corporation continued to produce the stuff, they would be legally compromised.

        In a bizarre turn, one of the family members actually argued that the business had a responsibility to continue production for the sake of those who had equipment that was reliant on the stuff. Something like ‘without the technology that our product is required for, millions of lives will be lost..’ and millions of gallons of ice cream I suppose.

        Dupont leading the charge was not heroic as you suggest. I submit that it was practical, necessary, and eventually respectable.

        Wondering if you get my Ayn Rand reference?

      • MadScientist says:

        Oh yeah, I get Rand.

        DuPont did develop the chemicals to replace CFC’s – their chemists knew it wasn’t impossible (although some replacements weren’t quite as good refrigerants) and they certainly didn’t wait until legislation was passed before the necessary research was done. Left to themselves I’m sure the corporation would rather do nothing since that’s the cheapest thing and their sole concern is keeping the major stockholders happy. The fossil fuel industry is in a similar situation now – there’s a lot which can be done, but it’s cheaper to do nothing. Corporations that spend hundreds of millions each year investigating new techniques and technologies may even spend a few million each year funding the denialists. Corporations are funny that way. Now we just need governments to grab the corporations by the nuts and squeeze a little, and things will start to happen pretty fast.

  34. Michael Miller says:

    As always, when the discussion of global warming, Inconvenient Truth and physics intersect, someone always brings up the Economists, who tell us how much we should not spend and how many lives we will spend or save if only we just keep on going as we are.

    I remind one and all that Economics is NOT a science…or we would not be in the midst of a global depression, desperately trying to stave off the ‘end of the world’ at the banks behest.

    If they can’t get their own house in order, DO NOT listen to them about future costs in non-differentiable complex systems. They clearly know nothing about their own business, much less Climatology.

    • Tim says:

      “If you had, say, $50 billion a year to make the world a better place for more people, how would you spend it?”

      How about 51 billion, or sixteen trillion, or a gazillion, or an unobtanium! (I believe that ‘we’ have all the money in the world to spend anyway we like.) All in favour of spending one unobtanium amount on fixing the climate problem, say meh…

      Since Lomborg is playing pretend with science, I have another idea.

      Let’s put Bjorn in a box with say, 50 billion dollars, and place an air valve on that box. Now, let’s say that a days worth of air costs one million dollars, and there is a pay slot on the side of the box. Everyday that Bjorn wants to breathe, he has to put one million dollars in the pay slot.

      Now let’s say, there is a fireplace on the other side of the pay slot, and everyday that Bjorn pays to breathe, he can see that the money is being burned to power the air pump into his box. And while we are at it, let’s say the exhaust vent of the fireplace is beside the very same air intake. Oh my, this is an awful scenario isn’t it?

      So everytime Bjorn wants to breathe, he has to pay for the priviledge, and his health deteriorates rapidly as everyday his lungs have to filter the crap out of the air he breathes.

      While we are at it, say, lets put Shermer in that box as well. And we get to watch as they come up with clever ways to buy their way out of the box, or innovate money-paper air filters, or perhaps calculate oragami paper folder technicues that burn more efficiently and thus reduce the smoke particles…

      And then they run out of money and die regardless.

    • Beelzebud says:

      Excellent point!

  35. MadScientist says:

    Oh, I wouldn’t want to waste any money on a bad film – if anyone sees this one, could they please update us po’ folk on how Lomborg’s ideas will save the planet (as intimated in the promotional image). The last time I checked with Reality, “let’s not do anything; everything will sort itself out” wasn’t a terribly good strategy.

    • Mat says:

      Frankly, none of the doom-mongers or hand-wringers on here have put forward a better strategy.

      • Somite says:

        Yeah because conservation and alternative energy are just crazy propositions.

      • Mat says:

        Absolutely! I could add ‘sustainability’. All these are already happening. Job done, argument won, I’d say.

        I doubt even Lomborg would argue against vague propositions such as these.

        Lazy answer, Somite.

      • Chris Howard says:

        Not only that, but we should curb pollution for the sake of the millions of people who are now suffering from an increase in respiratory illnesses, due in large part because of smog. Global warming is but one reason to heavily regulate pollution, the free-market has shown itself to be deficient, with regard to policing itself.

      • Chris Howard says:

        The Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz, says: “the reason that the invisible hand often seems invisible is that it is often not there.”[9][10] Stiglitz explains his position:

        Adam Smith, the father of modern economics, is often cited as arguing for the “invisible hand” and free markets: firms, in the pursuit of profits, are led, as if by an invisible hand, to do what is best for the world. But unlike his followers, Adam Smith was aware of some of the limitations of free markets, and research since then has further clarified why free markets, by themselves, often do not lead to what is best. As I put it in my new book, Making Globalization Work, the reason that the invisible hand often seems invisible is that it is often not there.

        Whenever there are “externalities”—where the actions of an individual have impacts on others for which they do not pay, or for which they are not compensated—markets will not work well. Some of the important instances have long understood environmental externalities. Markets, by themselves, produce too much pollution. Markets, by themselves, also produce too little basic research. (The government was responsible for financing most of the important scientific breakthroughs, including the internet and the first telegraph line, and many bio-tech advances.)

        But recent research has shown that these externalities are pervasive, whenever there is imperfect information or imperfect risk markets—that is always.

        Government plays an important role in banking and securities regulation, and a host of other areas: some regulation is required to make markets work. Government is needed, almost all would agree, at a minimum to enforce contracts and property rights.

        The real debate today is about finding the right balance between the market and government (and the third “sector”—non-governmental non-profit organizations.) Both are needed. They can each complement each other. This balance differs from time to time and place to place.[10]

        Noam Chomsky

        Noam Chomsky, while acknowledging the intelligence of Smith’s thesis, criticizes how the term of the “invisible hand” has been used. He also explains:

        Throughout history, Adam Smith observed, we find the workings of “the vile maxim of the masters of mankind”: “All for ourselves, and nothing for other People.” He had few illusions about the consequences. The invisible hand, he wrote, destroys the possibility of a decent human existence “unless government takes pains to prevent” this outcome, as must be assured in “every improved and civilized society.” It destroys community, the environment, and human values generally—and even the masters themselves, which is why the business classes have regularly called for state intervention to protect them from market forces. (…)[11]

        E. K. Hunt

        The political economist E. K. Hunt criticized markets and the externalities emerging from market exchanges as being a route for self-advancement at the expense of social good. Hunt helped contribute to the literature on heterodox economics, helping to coin the term “invisible foot” in contrast to a presumably beneficent “invisible hand”:

        If we assume the maximizing economic man of bourgeois economics, and if we assume the government establishes property rights and markets for these rights whenever an external diseconomy is discovered [the preferred "solution" of the conservative and increasingly dominant trend within the field of public finance], then each man will soon discover that through contrivance he can impose external diseconomies on other men, knowing that the bargaining within the new market that will be established will surely make him better off. The more significant the social cost imposed upon his neighbor, the greater will be his reward in the bargaining process. It follows from the orthodox assumption of maximizing man that each man will create a maximum of social costs which he can impose on others. D’Arge and I have labeled this process “the invisible foot” of the laissez faire … market place. The “invisible foot” ensures us that in a free-market … economy each person pursuing only his own good will automatically, and most efficiently, do his part in maximizing the general public misery. “

      • Tim says:

        I had been wanting to try some of that conservation you mention. Where can I buy some in my area? Is there a website where I can order a dozen or so conservation of resources, and maybe a six pack of sustainable? (Trying to cut back.)

        What’s that you say? I can’t afford it? But I have, say, fifty billion dollars to spend.

        Put that in with my regular order of fresh air and clean water. Send me some nuclear security as well. That makes an excellent stocking stuffer.

        Franchise available!

      • Mark Schaffer says:

        Tim,
        Sarcasm is what you use when thinking is just too hard. You could try looking before posting to avoid embarrassment:
        http://www.energysavers.gov/tips/

        Also, look at http://www.carbonfund.org/

        My own efforts have led to $20 (or less!) power bills, water bills, and natural gas bills. Perhaps if you spent less time ridiculing those who are working to make a better world you would save money and stop being a jerk?

      • Patrick says:

        Chris Howard,

        You pulled those quotes from Wikipedia and I looked up the single quote in question (I noticed the quotes were not continuous) and I found that Wikipedia has indeed pulled them out of context.

        “unless government takes great pains to prevent it” was from a section dealing with the great mass of labor employment falling idle and losing strength and skill. Not the invisible hand of the free market.

        quote here: http://books.google.com/books?id=rBiqT86BGQEC&pg=PA461&lpg=PA461&dq=unless+government+takes+pains+to+prevent%E2%80%9D&source=bl&ots=Zx85YiZNTY&sig=Hk11Jdled1y3zpFt0rLmlq9IkYE&hl=en&ei=Sz_xTPebCoPSsAOx9qG7Cw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=5&ved=0CDEQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q=unless%20government%20takes%20pains%20to%20prevent%E2%80%9D&f=false

        And the reason merchants want the state to subvert market forces, isn’t because merchants want to save the environment, but because market forces make them work for other people, create good products at reasonable prices. Subverting market forces with government power allows them to sell shoddy products at higher prices than the free market is otherwise willing to bear.

        In this case, it seems wikipedia has done a terrible job providing proper context to Smith’s work.

      • Patrick says:

        My bad, that was a Chomsky quote, Chomsky quoted Adam Smith out of context, not wikipedia.

  36. Canman says:

    I see a lot of distaste for free markets. What’s the alternative? A bunch of bureaucrats running everything? Remember the old Soviet Union?
    Chernobyl? The Volga River?

  37. Chris Howard says:

    You know who else liked free markets? Hitler.

    • Mat says:

      I hope that comment is in heavy on the irony… it’s hard to tell in print. I’ll give you the benefit of doubt and applaud your humour. lol!

  38. Tim says:

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for jumping in here. Those are some nice leads to follow up on.

    • Chris Howard says:

      I’m not completely Red, pinkish, really, but I find pure ideology, be it markets, political or religious beliefs to stifle thought. Capitalism seems to work best from a utilitarian position, greatest good, for greatest number, it’s current incarnation doesn’t seem to do that, very well. The U.S. version is one of unmitigated growth, and max. of profit, concentration of wealth. 80% of wealth owned by 1 to 5 percent of the population, depending upon which data set you believe. In fact, most upward mobility is occurring in western European, socialist, countries, while our free market middle class is shrinking, and our number of poor are increasing. I digress. The point being, government should act as a check, in a checks and balance system, that holds the private sector accountable, and visa versa.

      • sunny says:

        Chris: What percentage of wealth is held by the downtrodden in typical “red” countries. I can’t ask what percentage of wealth is held by the middle class in these bastions of the ” greatest good, for greatest number” because there is no middle class. You belief that Socialism offers upward mobility is a non sequitur. Do you even know what socialism is?

        You have made the classic mistake. You have defined capitalism as a form of government like socialism or democracy. It is not. Capitalism is a fact of life and is not political. All socialist/communist/fascist forms of government use capitalism but they reserve it for the government and deny it to their citizens/serfs. What we have in the U.S. is a constitutional republic. Our constitution assures us of basic freedoms and it is the freedom to practice capitalism that seems to offend you. You seem to believe that capitalism should be responsible for righting wrongs and equalizing inequalities. It is not and when we choose freedom that train left the station. What we have is freedom of choice and until and unless we all make equal choices and put forth equal effort we will not have equal results. You are free to succeed or to fail. My choice to succeed does not affect or negate your choice. Your success of failure is 100% up to you and 0% up to me. Government should NOT act as a check. Government should provide safety by supporting the military and police. They should provide justice by supporting our court system. What they should NOT do is put their hands in my pocket taking my money and giving it to those who won’t work. The good news is you have the right and freedom to choose NOT to use capitalism. Good luck.

      • Joe says:

        Capitalism’s only check should be the punishment for the initiation of force by one person or group against another. To try to control markets is what causes the problems with economies and advancements. What is currently practiced in the U.S. isn’t capitalism, but a mixed system where some have freedom and others don’t. We haven’t even been close to capitalism since the 1930′s and even before then the government was deciding who could have special privileges over others. If this favoritism didn’t exist, new alternatives for energy might have already been discovered and put in the open market.

  39. Ken Fabos says:

    Michael, I’m very disappointed. From the first paragraph it was clear you are not engaged in skepticism, you are engaged in taking sides. From criticising the Environmental movement (in general rather than specific people and publications) for being so wrong about population and food (when both remain ongoing and serious issues) and about rainforest depletion (still going on at a rapid pace) to oil depletion (consumption still going up, give or take a global economic crisis, but rate of new discoveries in serious decline) when they have mostly been wrong about the timing rather than the ongoing nature and seriousness of the problems they’ve highlighted. Your casual dismissal of the importance of these issues along with the criticisms of those who raise them pretty much set the tone for what followed.

    You go for cherry picked numbers not global trends and you don’t look past that magic 2100AD year – as if what happens after that doesn’t matter. No look at the catastrophic situation for our descendents if tipping points are pushed past and trends of warming are not merely continued by failure to take action but increased by it.

    Most of all I’m deeply disappointed that you’ve made this about the views and positions of a politician and advocate versus a writer and advocate – of one advocacy documentary versus another – and not made this about the state of peer reviewed science, the current state of knowledge about climate and the impacts of it’s changing and the what happens if policy is decided, not by true scientific skepticism but by PR battles. Such as you are engaged in here. I think your position is dangerously misguided and intentionally misleading on an issue of enormous importance.

  40. Tim says:

    Hi Mark Schaffer,

    You clearly do not recognise my attempt at satire. Regardless, here’s sarcasm for comparison;
    Oh good for you, you put on a sweater and bought a couple twisty light bulbs. I see a nobel prize in your future for sure. And such amazing skills at pasting weblinks. You must be hanging with Bill and Melinda… Working so hard to save our planet.

    I will admit that I am an amateur at the posting on threads and use of satire thingy. Can you admit that you have been smelling your own farts?

  41. Beelzebud says:

    http://wonkroom.thinkprogress.org/2010/11/22/scientists-debunk-lomborg/

    Here, Mr. Shermer. Here is what real skepticism looks like. You are pathetic…

    • Mat says:

      It’s easy to snipe and take pot shots at the guy. However, that article does not come up with details of any better plans, and seems broadly supportive of Lomborg’s position as an interim coping strategy.

      For fairly obvious reasons, guys with Lomborg’s outlook will connect with public opinion far more successfully than the ‘greens’ running around screaming ‘disaster!’, ‘apocalypse!’ and ‘armageddon!’ …

      A lot of green leaning activists are starting to realise that they have been their own worst enemy in the way they heave presented a picture of a doom laden future… Not to mention their knee-jerk opposition to nuclear power and GM crops – both of which could dramatically improve the carbon situation.

  42. Don Crawford says:

    Having read several of Michael Shermer’s books I expect that he will support, as I do, the power of the marketplace and Adam Smith’s invisible hand to provide the incentives for progress and material well-being. His first chapter in The Mind of the Market should be convincing to anyone with an open mind. After all, all around us in American is abundant evidence of the effects of free market incentives to create new and cheaper stuff to improve our lives. But when I read through the blogs an awful lot of the comments come from people who seem to have no clue, and less interest, in how the market works and why it should be left alone to work its magic. Sad to ruin what might be an interesting blog to argue with folks who haven’t even read and understood Shermer’s work.

  43. “Let’s not do anything; everything will sort itself out”

    Keep your hands off my money, NASA!
    You and your climatology and moon-landing nonsense.
    I know a scam when I see one.

    I have read a book.
    It’s written by some foreign guy who tells me what I want to hear.
    Market forces will magically take care of everything.
    I keep my money.
    Works for me.

    You and your commie, hippy, eco-fascist sciency-types at NASA!
    Bah humbug.

    Bjorn Lomborg.
    Believe this man.
    A quick search of the Internet reveals absolutely no solid scientific criticism of his ideas at all.
    Isn’t that right, Mr Shermer?
    Right?

    • Patrick says:

      Market forces don’t magically take care of everything don’t be silly. Market forces are you, me, everyone else out here acting in their own self interest.

      Gas prices rise, owing to more demand thanks to a globalized world. Not only do the fuel companies pump out more gas to meet demand and make a boat load of profits, but people realize they have alternative uses for the green pieces of paper and drive less (conservation) and seek alternative cars (with better fuel efficiency). The market responds to these new demands. Auto manufacturers build cards to meet consumers new demands (remember how popular Smart cars and the Prius became just a few years ago?). SUVs downsize to crossovers. With more fuel efficient cars and people who don’t switch conserving with what they have fuel prices drop.

      The market works because we’re all working to maximize our utility from the scarce resources that are available to us. It works, even if you are ignorant of how it works.

      • Market forces are you, me, everyone else out here acting in their own self interest.

        Exactly.
        It’s just like magic.
        It just happens even if I don’t know it’s happening.
        Market forces.
        Everything is being taken care of by itself.
        Let’s leave it to market forces.

        There’s no need to actually do anything.
        Market forces.
        Market forces.

        I get keep on doing what I want to do.
        Yay.

        NASA doesn’t get to take my money.
        Too bad, so sad.
        Losers!

        Why does NASA continue to lie to us about the global warming scam that even if it isn’t really a scam is nothing that market forces can take care of?

        Market forces.
        I trust Bjorn Lomborg.
        He wrote a book.

      • Patrick says:

        You just repeated your same points without adding anything new to the discussion. Claiming something is magic, doesn’t make it so, but it does show that you are ignorant to how the market operates.

        As to your question to whether market forces can take care of everything the answer is no. You’re not paying attention, you are building straw mane and substituting personal bias for facts.

        Market externalities exist – like problems with the commons. If something is non rivalrous and non excludable the market has trouble sustaining or providing the product or service. The enviornment is one example.

        That said, we’ve already seen technological advances make previous market externatlities irrelevant – like TV (thanks Dish network and the internet) or the mail (thanks AOL, FedEx…) Even roads are no longer a problem (thanks toll booths and gps).

        As technology grows it exapands humanities ability to solve market externalities there by reducing the need for government interference. Creating property rights in enviornmental issues as well as letting the market create alternatives (rather than having government pick winners and losers or rationing carbon output therby reducing our economic growth and thus potential to solve future problems) is a better solution.

      • Tim says:

        Yup, magical market forces fixed the acid rain problem.
        Market forces also solved the hole in the ozone thingy. What was that all about anyways, it was so long ago, I have forgotten. (Sarcastic smiley)

        I feel strongly that there is a tendency for people to substitute market forces (invisible hands) for their loss of a magical sky daddy. (invisible god).

        Thus, I am skeptical of some of the skeptics who post here.

        (Switches to Pharyngula)

      • Patrick says:

        Let me guess you think the only reason why cars are more fuel efficient today is because government demanded it so?

        High gas prices, desire to save at the pump had nothing to do with it.

        We’ve seen hollow victories for government before – minimum wage comes to mind so does child labor laws. Just because government declares something so doesn’t mean they’ve caused x to happen. Child labor in the U.S. was virtually extinct by the time the government outlawed child labor. But today when you talk about the issue the political left make believes that children will be torn from school and thrown into factories if it wasn’t for the government.

        it boils down to ignorance of history and economics.

      • tmac57 says:

        How do market forces ensure that the information that people get about climate change is correct? It seems to me that there is a great incentive for producers in the market place to push information that is compatible with their business model,rather than the objective truth/facts.Since many of those producers have a disproportionate economic advantage (deep pockets),isn’t there a danger of them controlling the public’s and government’s response to a real environmental threat by use of their economic clout? That is what many of us skeptics believe is now taking place.

      • Mat says:

        Cedric, Tim and tmac…

        Again, your targets are easy to attack, but at least “market forces” are an attempt at a way forward.

        From you guys, and similar on here, it’s just snipe, snipe, snipe (be it at Shermer, Lomborg and now Don and Patrick above)

        I see no vision for the future at all from your posts, and suspect you won’t be happy until the world is choking or drowning and you can scream “I told you so!”

      • Tim says:

        Hi Mat,

        Fine, you win. I will join the ranks of obedient consumers who pat themselves on the back for making choices in the market place.

        Meanwhile, is it O.K. if the wife and I decide to stay on the pill, and thus not reproduce ourselves?
        Is it O.K. if I continue in a career that for the sake of this thread I can describe as ‘professional communicator of natural history’?

        And is it O.K. if my family continues to manage a private woodlot in a sustainable way, and not just a quick clearcut? (invisible market forces would suggest we do that). Funny thing though; after three generations of management, there is as much volume on the half section as there was first time it was cruised about one hundred years ago. Ah… Forestry, my first love…
        If you want a discussion with an expert on the subject, drop a line; I know several.

        Mat, you are projecting; you have contributed nothing here except to flame other posters, and monotonously rant about doom-mongers et-al. Get over yourself, and spend more time outside. The natural world is beautiful, and some of us want to keep it that way. No make-believe sky daddies and no make-believe economics required.

        Reality is amazing. Come and visit sometime. Free admission.

      • Mat says:

        Hi Tim

        Again with the ranting. I was simply curious as to alternative strategies.

        It’s not as if Lomborg and Shermer are AGW deniers. Science has won that argument. How we proceed is a political and, dare I say it, economical question.

        Of course the natural world is wonderful – so is humanity! I suspect both will be around for a while yet.

      • tmac57 says:

        Well,Mat,it is obvious that cheap coal and relatively cheap oil and gas (for now) are more attractive for energy producers from a market point of view,right? But they are also a major contributor to CO2,right?So waiting around for their depletion to the point of them being on a par cost with alternatives is a recipe for trouble,right?So what other strategy would you suggest,other than some sort of interference with the natural price point of those offending resources,be it increased taxes on fossil fuels,cap and trade,or whatever (i.e. something not market based).Or,would you feel all that comfortable wishing and hoping that when the s**t hits the fan,that technology will swoop in and save us just in the nick of time?I have a lot of faith in science,but the history of technological prognostication has been pretty dismal,and I for one would not want to bet the farm on it,much less the future of my grandchildren.

      • Mat says:

        Sure – increase taxes on fossil fuels, particularly in the developed world, and subsidise lower carbon options (renewables, nuclear). Already happening.

        Governments and businesses around the globe are introducing countless measures, and spending billions of dollars, to address climate change. However, judging by some of the commenters on here that is perceived as just “waiting for the s**t to hit the fan”.

        Broadly, the argument is won with the people that count. Most governments around the globe accept the IPCC position. Science has won the day. How we proceed is not particularly a science question, but a political one. How approach the future is influenced by all sorts of personal value judgements. That is why I’m surprised Lomborg & Shermer are getting such a hard time – they don’t appear to be disagreeing with the science.

      • Patrick says:

        Tim,

        Over-population is not a problem, nor will it ever be a problem so long as we have functioning free markets and not government run markets (socialism, communism, fascism). Prices carry very important bits of information that influence us all daily and its why there will be no over-population.

        That said, I applaud you for putting your words into action and not being a hypocrite on the issue.

  44. Tim says:

    Hi Mat,

    I call Bullshit! Nothing about your posts shows evidence of curiosity. Read over what you have posted, and try to support a claim of curiosity. You so far qualify as a pedagogue though.

    • Mat says:

      Hi Tim.

      It’s tricky coming up with solutions, ay?

      Easier to call “bullshit”, and criticize those that try.

      And you think I’m a teacher? Hmm, perceptive… Who’s projecting now?

      • Max says:

        Shermer tries to come up with solutions for Global Warming? Looks to me like he denies that Global Warming is a serious problem, and argues for solving everything other than Global Warming. And I bet if we say, “Ok, let’s sink our resources into fighting AIDS and malaria instead,” he’ll come up with reasons to solve everything other than AIDS and malaria. The goal of deniers is to delay regulation, not to solve anything.

  45. Tim says:

    Hi Mat,

    1. “I was simply curious as to alternative strategies.”
    I called bullshit in specific response to your claim of being curious. I will submit that I see scant evidence that you are at all curious. Unless you can support the statement then the bullshit accusation stands. You sir are a bullshitter.

    2. “It’s tricky coming up with solutions, ay?”
    Be that as it may, I did give specific, real-life examples of ‘solutions’. In my family we have made choices that we think are important; no babies, educating others, no clearcutting. Yes it is tricky and that’s life for ya. So what was it you have been doing?

    3. “For fairly obvious reasons, guys with Lomborg’s outlook will connect with public opinion far more successfully than the ‘greens’ running around screaming ‘disaster!’, ‘apocalypse!’ and ‘armageddon!’ …”

    So here’s the root of it. Lomborgs ‘outlook’ (or just his looks maybe) will connect with the public, and to what end? The discussion on climate and science is not a popularity contest. Connecting with public opinion proves what point? Lomborgs ambition is to be a multi-billion dollar fund manager. He is presenting himself as some kind of economic smarty pants for a percentage of that fund. Is that not elephant-in-the-room obvious?

    4. “Greens running around screaming disaster,” etcetera.
    Mat, sometimes the discussion is raised to the level of a scream because it is a disaster. Not hypothetical nor a prediction based on a model. A review of climate science demonstrates that every time, the science has been correct, and the economists have been dead wrong. Completely wrong about acid rain, totally wrong about CFCs and the Ozone layer, and pathetic so far in attempts to understand the current situation. What don’t you understand about this? Economist do not understand the natural systems of this very fine planet we live on. No more so than the religious people do.

    And that is why you write,
    “I’m surprised Lomborg & Shermer are getting such a hard time.”; They may be also.
    I have been a fan of Shermer in the past, however it seems his love of money has compromised critical thinking.

    PS, I never really gave a dang about Lomborg. He is a fart in the wind.

    • Mat says:

      1. I am curious. I’m curious that folks like you ignore the measures being taken already by governments around the world. I’m curious as to whether folks like you would support more nuclear power and GM crops – both have potential to dramatically reduce carbon emission.

      2. What you’re doing looks worthy enough – although we can’t all have a bit of sustainable forestry, can we? !-) I’d also recommend having kids, mate – I’m sure you’d be a great, if a little serious, dad.

      3 & 4. Climate science cannot accurately predict how things will pan out in the future. Things are likely to get more uncomfortable for some of the world’s population. Probably those areas where life is hardest now. It could be a disaster, it may not be. But even that isn’t a scientific term – it’s a subjective value judgement.

      Again, once the science is in, and accepted, it informs policy. Governments act on the information provided by scientists. Scientists don’t – and shouldn’t – dictate policy.

      It’s political – and that is why connecting with the public IS important. What don’t you understand about this?

      • Tim says:

        Hi Mat,

        Thank you for the reply.

        1. ‘folks like you’.
        May I suggest that is not very polite. Me specifically, I do not have much optimism for more nuclear power. It is still using a fuel, of which there is a limited amount, and there is significant toxic pollution. The potential for disaster requires serious caution. As well, as long as we have potentially insane nation states like Iran or N.Korea with the technology, that is just cause for further caution.
        It seems apparent to me that nuclear energy will ‘steal from Peter to pay Paul’.
        Regardless, nuclear technology is vital to our future for reasons that are not strictly energy. The manufacture of isotopes for example.
        Regarding GMOs like algae and super-trees and such is not so easy. Hard to have an opinion on something I do not well understand. More research I guess.

        2. I am a strong advocate for equal female education, access to universal medicare, and freedom of choice in all societies. When that day arrives, I believe we will see a dramatic reduction in the human birth rate, and thus the major piece of the puzzle. (A Gattaca future is not so bad either.) She agrees, and we don’t have kids. I can hear my selfish genes shortening my telomeres now.

        3 & 4. Although science does not predict the future per se, it is a principle of science that one can make predictions. Stuff like orbits of planets, where to land on the moon, so on. However, it has no magic formulas for what people should do. There is often confusion there. Science can predict that CFCs will destroy life as we know it, but science does not predict what we should replace the stuff with and still have lots of yummy ice cream whenever we want. Same reasoning applies to the energy situation. Science reveals much, but it does not predict what we should do…

        However, all else being equal, you wrote
        ‘Scientists don’t – and shouldn’t – dictate policy.’

        To be honest, your final point don’t make sense on so many levels.
        That is the point of the climate discussion. Scientists should dictate policy. I am getting sleepy so I will rebut that with…

        Hiroshima. Nagasaki. Cold War. Agent Orange. Acid Rain. Ozone Holes. Osama Bin Laden. George Bush. Sarah Palin.

      • Mat says:

        Not polite? Sorry, but you did call ” bullshit” on me! :-)

        The point about politics is important, if you value living in a democracy…

      • tmac57 says:

        Mat,would you agree that the U.S. congress has a substantial number of obstructionist members that are unnecessarily delaying action on climate change?

      • Mat says:

        Hey tmac,

        I live in New Zealand and would admit to not being completely au fait with the political situation in the U.S. It’s probably why I’m taking a different slant on thins – my perceptions are different.

        The consensus in Europe and down here is that Uncle Sam is dragging his (oversize) feet when it comes to climate change. Maybe pulling out of Iraq/Afghanistan will push climate up the political agenda?

        Cutting Obama’s nuts off in the mid-terms probably didn’t help, though.

        Last night I went to bed quite troubled that Tim is so affected by this that he’s not having kids.

      • tmac57 says:

        That explains a lot Mat.Things are pretty frustrating here when it comes to science issues.Cheers!

  46. sunny says:

    Yes, thank god!

  47. sunny says:

    Even if you believe that this the current naturally occurring 33rd global warming cycle since the last ice age was caused by man there is no alternative energy source. Without exception every so-called alternative requires more energy (from fossil fuel) into the process then you get out from the alternative. At this point all the alternatives are designed to do one thing; extract large sums of money from federal coffers in subsidies, tax benefits and seed money. None of them are designed to solve the problem.
    However since this current 33 global warming since the last ice age is a natural cycle and cannot be stopped or altered what we really have to fear is the next part of the cycle; the 33rd naturally occurring global cooling since the last ice age. Global cooling cycles are much harder on all life and will probably cause the death of many people. All the taxes and grants to scientists in the world won’t stop it or delay it by one day.

    • tmac57 says:

      Hey,this is pretty weak even by denier standards (which are pitifully low to begin with).Indifferent skeptic says “meh”.

      • Tim says:

        Hi tmac57,

        My score card goes like this;
        Deranged: probable
        -danger to society correlation is low.
        Comic factor: high. prolonged LOLz.
        POE potential: fifty/fifty.
        Reference check: fail.
        Likely ‘gone with the wind’ sockpuppet.

      • tmac57 says:

        I thought that I detected a familiar note.Denier bot maybe?

  48. Tim says:

    Good morning Mat,

    ‘Last night I went to bed quite troubled that Tim is so affected by this that he’s not having kids.’

    I am still calling bullshit. Now you are playing ‘concern troll’ instead of ‘regular troll’? I am certain that you are not my mother, although I suspect now that you share her faith.

    Mat, are you a christian?

    • Mat says:

      What?! No! I have no “invisible friends”… Where did that come from?

      Having kids is amazing. Yep, even from a atheist/humanist point of view. Honestly, I’m not a concern troll (whatever that means) but I am troubled that the unsubstantiated fears you (and folks like you !-)) have about the future could mean that you miss out on a lot.

      That’s all.

      • Tim says:

        Hi Mat,

        You have never heard a godist say something like ‘children are a blessing?’.
        If I misunderstood your comment, meh. How do you write ‘sorry, but we just met’ in a post?
        In my posts I try to keep it real. Personally, I don’t believe in divorcing myself from my posts, in manufacturing some kind of persona. On the other hand, I do appreciate it is important to protect my privacy, and that of my loved ones. Color me skeptic, I really don’t believe that you actually give a shit about me and my better half, and our genes. Unless you are projecting again…
        If you are really curious, and interested in another skeptics opinion, I will elaborate.
        We live in marvelous times, and also very serious times. Never have we known so much about the world. In just a few generations, our species has gone from ignorance to enlightenment. There has been a price however. In this very short time, we have developed technologies and a population that is more than capable of destroying the biosphere of the planet. That is apparent. We have the bomb, we have Bhopal, we have DDT, we have a foolish long list of human caused environmental catastrophes.
        Your beautiful island nation has been spared much of the devastation I suspect, however I have no doubt that you could find a few examples there. Endemic species extinctions for example. Ozone holes as well.
        Were you around when the Rainbow Warrior was sunk? If you were, how does it make you feel that certain ‘democratic governments’ in our world felt so strongly that they needed to test nuclear bombs (designed only for mass destruction and murder) that they would do such a thing.
        The ‘democratic government’ of the US had already tested a fat man and a little boy on a few thousand civilians sometime in 1945. Yup, this technology works. (Twice? Why twice? Just to be really really sure I guess). We can hold the world ransom with our technology.
        I wonder if you get the point I am trying to make now? (winking smiley)
        If not, then time to summon Captain Obvious and his use of Occams Razor.
        Since before 1945, humanity has had the ability to destroy life as we know it.
        As well, on August 6, 1945, we should have learned that dogma will overwhelm reason.
        Furthermore, IMAO, we should have learned something about democracy. Since 1945, here in the Americas, we have seen (short list) Senator Joe McCarthy and his witch hunts, President Richard ‘I am not a crook’ Nixon, President Ronny Raygun and his astrology consulting wife, Arnold ‘the guvinator’, George ‘the Decider’ Bush, (and don’t forget about his daddy the secret sheik), and now we have the potential of Sarah Palin with her finger on the trigger. That is mind numbing scary.
        I admit I have lost the battle with relentless optimism. I feel that organic life is under attack, and I feel that reason itself is under attack. It has been all my life. And no, I have never been diagnosed with a bipolar condition, vitamin B deficiency, etcetera. Fairly considered healthy,and I get frequent exercise outside in the sunshine. For example, today I will do an easy twenty km on my skis. It looks like another sunny blue wax day, my favourite. Too bad my favourite partner has to work.

        This has been a rant in response to your concern troll Pollyannaism.

      • Mat says:

        Gulp. I concede, you were right all along…. Some people shouldn’t procreate.

      • Tim says:

        Mat, you have conceded nothing. This is a gosh darned internet thread. As I believe in ‘no skeptic left behind’, let’s do a review:

        “Frankly, none of the doom-mongers or hand-wringers on here have put forward a better strategy.”
        (Who is this rising star, I wonder?)
        Then you dismissed conservation, alternative energy, and sustainability with this comment,
        “Lazy answer, Somite.”
        (The conclusion of a considerate and well thought out reply.)
        “Not to mention their knee-jerk opposition to nuclear power and GM crops – both of which could dramatically improve the carbon situation.”
        (In this quote Mat, who are ‘they’, and in what way does nuclear power, GM crops, and I assume criticism of Lomborg become one? And for real credibility, what can you tell us about how either nuclear power and/or GM crops ‘dramatically’ improve the carbon situation?)
        “From you guys, and similar on here, it’s just snipe, snipe, snipe”.
        (What have you been doing here?)
        “I see no vision for the future at all from your posts, and suspect you won’t be happy until the world is choking or drowning and you can scream “I told you so!””

        That last bit was like a slap in the face. Are you insane? You really think that? That resembles a diagnostic for paranoid personality disorder. It was at that point I started to have a feeling that you needed attention. I gave that, yet you lack the courtesy to remain civil. I called bullshit on you Mat, because of your actions here on this thread. You accuse others of snipe snipe snipe, and that is all you do.
        You claim curiosity, and then do not decently respond to an individual who gives you undeserved respect.

        Read your own damn posts!
        You have been a total hypocrite and a poser so far. Yet it is not too late for a recovery. I appreciate the work-out you have provided, and sincerely hope you remove your head from your own ass.

      • Mat says:

        Cheers Tim, I’ll take all that on board… Albeit from someone whose idea of erudite debate is calling “bullshit”.

  49. sunny says:

    There is no viable alternative energy. All of the so-called alternative energy strategies are nothing more then attempts to extract the maximum amount of money from government. All of the favored alternative energy “solutions” require subsidies, tax credits, grants and higher energy prices. None of them are sustainable. None of them can replace fossil fuels.

    • Somite says:

      Ditto for fossil fuels.

    • Tim says:

      Hi sunny,

      Could you be more specific?

      For example, what do you mean by ‘alternative energy’?
      By using ‘alternative energy’ does that assume there is ‘regular energy’, or some kind of ‘status quo’ energy?

      When I bought a solar panel in the market place, is that equivalent to “subsidies, tax credits, grants and higher energy prices”?
      (The company I bought from would qualify as owned by its investors, the business exists because of shareholders; ranting greens like me understand and participate in the marketplace as well.)

      What do you mean by sustainable?
      Here is an anecdote; I live very near a water dam. Connected to that water dam is a power station that produces under one megawatt at peak. That dam was built by a crown corporation (Canada, eh), not the private sector. Certainly there are concerns with dams, however in balance, the concerns are less than associated with the hydrocarbon economy and its associated pollution. As long as there is rain, gravity, and engineers, there will be power in my neighbourhood. Is that sustainable?

      It is understood that not much exists to replace fossil fuels. Would it be acceptable to keep some for a future that may need the stuff as a material?
      Another anecdote for you, (and Mat);

      My friend the chemist said one day, and I believe he was paraphrasing a colleague of his,

      “The people of the future are going to be very upset with us. Such wonderful and useful stuff as the hydrocarbons, and they just burned it all.”

      Can you comment on that?

      • Mat says:

        I wouldn’t bother, Sunny

        This guy doesn’t accept nuclear power could reduce carbon emissions, doesn’t believe in democracy, and thinks climate scientists should be running the government in some sort of totalitarian dictatorship. Read through his posts, he’s unstable.

      • Tim says:

        Hi Mat,

        Thanks for the laugh. I am really glad that you are still here.
        Please answer any question you like. Perhaps try this one:

        How does nuclear power reduce carbon emissions?

        Let me get the ball rolling. Not burning stuff reduces carbon emissions. Not manufacturing cement (near 10% human carbon production last time I checked) would reduce carbon emissions. Allowing ecosystems to accumulate biomass would reduce carbon.

        Assume that ranting doomsayers understand that nuclear power is fission of uranium, and in context of this thread not producing carbon. Maybe contribute from that point.

        Is this your logic? Nuclear power does not produce carbon, therefore reduces carbon.

        Is that your argument for nuclear?

        Regarding Democracy:
        In my opinion, we should try proportional representation.
        -Funny thing with the ‘first past the post’ system we have here, it acts suprisingly like a totalitarian dictatorship. (At least we aren’t the U.S. with their ‘two parties pretending to be a choice’ democracy. Sorry ‘merkins, I love half you guys, honest.)

      • Mat says:

        Start by looking up ‘carbon footprint’ on wikipedia… Nuclear performs really well in carbon comparisons.

      • Max says:

        Nuclear power as an alternative to burning coal would reduce carbon emissions, no?

      • Mat says:

        Absolute fact, Max. But a massive ideological blind spot for some…

      • sunny says:

        If you buy a solar panel in the market place for the full price then your solar panel can never produce as much energy as you could buy from the grid at that price. If you have actually purchased a solar panel AND can do basic math then you know this. However if you buy a PV system and have it installed you will be elegible for various subsidies paid for by taxpayers. But my reference to subsidies was pointed at commerciala installations whcih are much more heavily subsidized and this is simly because solar panels are so inefficient.
        Hydro power is not considered an alternative energy source. I believe hydro is the one shining star when it comes to energy but those who make these decisions have decided it does not qualify as “alternative”.
        I agree! I have always felt that Petroleum is too valuable to burn.

    • tmac57 says:

      “None of them can replace fossil fuels.” So by that logic,when we eventually run out of fossil fuels(and we surely will),then game over? Alternative energy nihilism.Who knew?

      • Tim says:

        There you go again. Yumyum.

      • sunny says:

        tmac: I think that is the situation we find ourselves in. My point was that we are spending a lot of money and time following bad leads simply because powerful lobbies are controlling the alternative energy industry. Ethanol from corn is a disaster but we incease the subsidy every year. Commercial and private PV is even worse and we keep increasing the subsidy every year. Commercial windmills have the potential to pay for themselves but because wind is unpredictable they require a backup system to be in place to provide the energy when the wind isn’t blowing so they cannot compete either.
        What we should do is create an environment where inventors and industry could compete. Set some minimal requirements and who ever can invent/create an alternative energy process that can meet those requirements would win. As a minimum an alternative should be something that can create more energy out then it takes into the process AND it should not require subsidies to make it happen.

      • Tim says:

        Hi sunny,

        ‘invent/create an alternative energy process’

        ‘create more energy out then it takes into the process’

        I have enjoyed this thread, and I am glad you jumped in here. There is evidence in your posts that you are thinking about this stuff, and that should be encouraged.
        I will be leaving this thread, as there are fresh new horizons to explore. For you I offer some advice.

        Research something called thermodynamics. Pay close attention to a little something called ‘The First Law of Thermodynamics’. Usually covered in high school science class. It is considered to be important information for skeptics.

        One can infer your meaning from the posts, however the meaning is drowned out when you string words together like the above quotes. The above quotes, taken in context of your post implies that you may be incredibly ignorant of basic science. Or maybe just really high. (Ain’t no hater here).

        Really. I am trying to help here. Your posts come across really wacky.

      • Mat says:

        Tim retreats, licking his wounds…

      • sunny says:

        Thanks for your help Tim But it was not needed. You can easily parse any sentence and infer a meaning different then what the author intended. I can assure you I did will in college physics and I made no mistakes in what I said. Was I guilty of assuming that people reading my response were more intelligent? Perhaps. Let me explain that particular point a little for you. Ethanol from corn requires a considerable input of fossil fuel energy. Energy used to raise and harvest the crop. Energy used to convert the carbohydrates into ethanol. And considerable energy required to get the ethanol to the user. In brief there is about 1.3 times as much energy from fossil fuels used to produce the ethanol then is available from the ethanol. This is “more energy into the process then there is energy out”. Is that so difficult to understand? There is a similar problem with PV solar. The amount of energy into the process to build and install solar panels often exceeds the total amount of energy that will ever be created by the panels. In my opinion this is a mistake (DUH!). However with enough subsidy by federal and state governments and by mandates placed on electric utilities this inefficiency can be hidden. But eventually it will cause this particular “alternative” to collapse under it’s own weight.
        You should study this subject more, Tim, and then your ignorance of it wouldn’t come across so clearly in your posts. No hate, just trying to help out.
        By the way worked many years for an electric utility and I was a consultant to the largest electric power producer in the U.S. I infer from your post that your real world experience is ZERO!

  50. Tim says:

    Hi Max,

    ‘Nuclear power as an alternative to burning coal would reduce carbon emissions, no?’

    In a very strict sense, yes, it is understood that using uranium as fuel would not produce carbon.

    The logic fail is that there are too many assumptions.

    Extraction and refining of Uranium should also be carbon free and energy efficient. How do we ensure that? Non-market government regulations I suspect. The free markets guys will love that I am so sure.

    Construction of new sites that are safe for the surrounding human population, natural systems, and secure from threats is not easy. Safe and efficient disposal of waste must also be accounted for. Making a mess with that stuff is orders of magnitude worse than the situation we have with carbon.

    How does nuclear power reduce demand for energy? There is an assumption that if we build more nuclear power stations, that the hydrocarbon industry is just going to go away? It seems most likely that some may replace their old coal burners with nuclear, however it is just as likely that there will still be markets for hydrocarbons. I appreciate that this line of thought seriously challenges the paradigms of free market advocates, et al. It would be my assumption that this could be analysed within the context of cognitive dissonance theory.

    ‘My beliefs say that markets rule the day’
    ‘the market dictates supply and demand’
    ‘more supply of energy will reduce the demand for energy’

    Snap crackle pop, goes the sound of logic fail.

    Nature is not a Walmart world where ‘the more you spend the more you save’. More more more is the dogmatic mantra of the econo-cons that is so threatening to life on earth. If we get more energy from nuclear power, that also means we will run out of uranium sooner. Sure, investors in the mining industry will die rich, however those beautiful children of the future that some pretend to care about will be left in an even worse situation than we have today. That situation will be a world with many more people much more dependant upon massive consumption of energy to sustain itself. By looking at the current populations trends, that is not so far away.

    The critics of ‘environmental scare mongering’ tend to gloss over what is parsimonius. We greens are the voice of reason. We like fresh air, clean water, safe neighbourhoods. Greens do not like being held hostage by the nuclear technocracy. We do not like being lied to by an industry that claims it is our only hope for a brighter and better tomorrow. We tend to be skeptical.

    The world was just great before the human myths of progress and growth. More is not ‘better’.

    Final question: How do we avoid a totalitarian/scientific dictatorship if we become increasingly dependant on nuclear power? Last time I checked, it requires a rather high quotient of scientists to make everything work. Nuclear energy is not a matter of public opinion. We don’t vote on stuff like that even in Pollyanna land.

  51. Somite says:

    Here is an RT from @naomiklein

    “Bjorn Lomborg’s doc Cool It is Right’s answer to Inconvenient Truth. It grossed $11 over Xmas. 1 person saw it. http://nyti.ms/egSSxg

  52. Arno Arrak says:

    Dr. Shermer:
    You state that you flipped from climate skeptic to a believer in 2006. Apparently you knew about the misinformation the environmentalists were spreading but nevertheless chose to ignore it. I would like to tell you that their misinformation today is worse and is the only thing upholding their claim that global warming exists. Let’s start with Hansen’s presentation to the Senate in 1988. He said that global warming had started and that we were responsible because of all the CO2 we were putting in the air. Both of these statements were false. It is not well known that this was not his first but his second presentation to the senate. The first time was in November 1987, it was cold, no one wanted to hear about warming and the media just ignored it. This did not suit senator Wirth of Colorado, chairman of the Senate committe that called him to testify. But if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again, and he sure did. He called up the weather bureau to find out the warmest day in Washington, D.C. It was June 23rd so he booked that day for a new hearing. And to make sure that the air conditioning was not working his staff went out at night and opened all the windows in the hearing room. It worked: the star witness, the TV crews and the audience sweated profusely and global warming was on all TV sets that night. But what did he actually say that energized the global warming movement? He had three computer simulations, scenarios A, B, and C, showing how CO2 causes temperature increases until 2019. Scenario A was business as usual, scenario B was if moderate addition of CO2 was used and C showed what happens when addition of CO2 stops in the year 2000. They were based on extrapolating the then existing global temperature curve. I went to check what that curve was like and pulled out the temperature curve from the 1990 IPCC report. It turned out to be the ancestor of today’s NOAA temperature curve still in use by IPCC. According to that curve there was no warming from the fifties to the late seventies and the warming he was speaking of had not lasted more than ten years at that point. But then I read in his written report that warming had been going on for 25 years. That was strange until I realized that he came to the meeting with his own private temperature curve. He and Lebedeff had published it just before his 1987 presentation and they published an update to it just before the 1988 presentation. A Deus ex machina if ever there was one. As to that warming that the NOAA temperature curve showed, it just kept going up and was soon known as the late twentieth century warming. But was it? I did not jump into climate science until 2008 when Al Gore’s film was too much for me to take. By then I had been retired for many years but a twenty foot sea level rise was nothing less than an alternative universe to me. The first thing I established was that a twenty foot sea level rise was complete bullshit. The second thing I did was to analyze satellite temperature data. And this points directly at Hansen’s That “late twentieth century warming” shown in NASA, NOAA and the Met Office records is a fake. You have to understand what is in these satellite records to understand what was done. The record shows that in the eighties and nineties nothing much happened except an alternation of warm El Nino periods with cool La Nina periods. But this same period is shown as a period of rising temperatures by those three institutions. If you take say, HadCRUT3 from the Met Office and plot it on the same graph with satellite data you see what is going on. They have retained the high El Nino peaks but the cool La Nina Valleys in between have all their bottoms raised, and this gives their curve an upward slope. But this does not work with twenty-first century data so the entire curve gets lifted up an floats above the satellite curve. NOAA is even more outrageous: they completely eliminate any trace of the La Nina periods and lift the right side up as well. I am talking of the last thirty-one years now, not a momentary aberratio. They all start that at the end of the seventies. In the beginning it would have been impossible to see that anything unusual was happening. Now how likely is it that they all independently hit upon the same idea of starting to falsify records at the same time? Not very. A synchronizing signal and advice to play down or ignore low temperature values would have been enough. I can’t help seeing Hansen’s hand in it. In the seventies he was not a climate scientist but an astronomer attached to the Pioneer Venus probe. In 1978 he suddenly quit before the spacecraft reached Venus and took a job at NASA GISS “The composition of the atmosphere of our home planet was changing before our eyes.” His first assignment there was to define the basic GISS temperature analysis scheme needed for estimating global temperature change. And lo and behold! As soon as it was implemented it began to show a global temperature rise that other methods had missed. In three years he was in charge of GISS and the rest is history.

  53. Somite says:

    Just watched this video by Isaac Asimov and realized he would be spinning in his grave if he knew his beloved skepticism was being co-opted to deny climate change or its consequences:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LO0sCs8jI4k

  54. Somite says:

    All bad things must come to an end:

    Denia-geddon: Bjorn Lomborg Think Tank to Close http://t.co/m3CAtnzZ

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