Gary Greenberg (gberg) Fri 30 Jul 10 06:46
Roger PIelke, Jr., in his forthcoming book The Climate Fix, argues that certainty can't be had in climate predictions any more than in weather forecasting. He thinks that the fact that neither the timing nor the specifics of tipping points can be predicted has been way underplayed, and he suspects that a political agenda is at work in trumping up the science: the agenda of people who want to ratchet back consumerism, reduce global inequities in income, and generally enforce a green ideology. But he doesn't think that climate change isn't happening, or that it shouldn't be addressed. Instead he says that we should not behave as if tjhis were an emergency requiring a vast rejiggering of society. So, for instance, he says that carbon taxes aren't a bad idea, but that the point should be to raise revenue for technological innovation, rather than to change behavior. I'm sure you're familiar with this line of argument, and I wonder what you think of it. Is this apparent moderation a cover for a more radical denier agenda? And, having written extensively on the way that science gets used to provide (unwarranted) certainty for political agendas, I am intrigued by his argument. Is there a reason that we should treat the predictions of climate science as more like the predictions of cell biologists than those of meteorologists?
Jeff Dooley (dooley) Fri 30 Jul 10 09:28
> the point should be to raise revenue for technological innovation, rather than to change behavior. isn't that a main selling point for cap and trade?
Rip Van Winkle (keta) Fri 30 Jul 10 11:48
Eric >RAPID change, of course, is the disastrous kind, of course, because it gives human, animal and plant populations no time to adapt. Gary >Instead he says that we should not behave as if tjhis were an emergency requiring a vast rejiggering of society. Interesting juxtaposition of comments - reading Gary's I realize that what can be said for natural systems (that rapid change is the disastrous kind) can also be said for societies. So added to a lack of understanding of tipping points would come a natural aversion to rapid response...and even the perception that pushing the need for a rapid response is pushing a cultural agenda. This is actually the first time I've gotten that! I guess I'm one to think that tipping points are far closer than we think. What do you think of the views and approach of Bill McKibben and 350.org?
Gary Greenberg (gberg) Fri 30 Jul 10 14:31
>even the perception that pushing the need for a rapid response is >pushing a cultural agenda. This is actually the first time I've >gotten that! I don't thnk there's any question that the climate debate has gotten caught in the culture wars. ERic's book details the way that deeper ideologies explain some of the intransigence and outright weirdness that has infected the politics and made it so difficult for the Fdereral government to achieve any kind of policy response. And I think a lot of the conflict has to do with a suspicion that the tree huggers are trying to capitalize on the coming catastrophe by turning it into an opportunity to remake the world as they thought it should have been all along, regardless of whether there was climate change. Which seems preposterous, I know, but on the other hand, consider how easy it was to be suspicoius that GW Bush's response to 9/11 was merely his seizing an opportunity to do what he wanted to do all along: get rid of Saddam, turn Iraq into a democracy, seize oil assets, whatever. For that matter, consider what Bill McKibben said a few weeks ago at a conference I attended. (He was talking about the Gulf disaster and how it fit into the overall picture.) "What once was merely sinful," he said, "has now become a practical problem." In some weird and twisted way, this is actually good news.
Gary Greenberg (gberg) Fri 30 Jul 10 15:26
>> the point should be to raise revenue for technological innovation, rather than to change behavior. >isn't that a main selling point for cap and trade? I gather that PIelke is advocating for m,uch lower taxes, not enough to inflict the kind of pain that changes behavior, but enough to fund innovation. He figures we can innovate our way to some kind of new homeostasis before things get really bad.
Eric Pooley (ericpooley) Fri 30 Jul 10 18:35
Pielke is a hugely controversial and in my view dangerous figure. He advocates a response so mild we might as well be doing nothing, and dresses it up in moderate clothing by saying he agrees that climate change is real. The problem here is that if the overwhelming majority of climatologists are right, we can't afford to wait. There are plenty of seductive arguments for inaction; Pielke's happens to be dressed up in a lab coat. Why should we regard climatologists as closer to cell biologists than to meteorologists? Because they are scientists, committed to rigor, peer review and the scientific method, and because their predictions have been buttressed by observed fact over the course of decades. 'Meteorolgists,' on the other hand, are television announcers. This is not to say that some proponents of climate action haven't exaggerated some aspects of the science in a so far failed attempt to mobilize the public. Of course they have. Because the public needs to be mobilized, yet has a deep psychological aversion to recognizing what is already happening. THIS JUST IN: Plankton, the foundation of the ocean food chain, has dwindled 40% since 1950 due to warming oceans. What part of catastrophe don't we understand?
Michael C. Berch (mcb) Fri 30 Jul 10 18:40
> 'Meteorolgists,' on the other hand, are television announcers. Sorry to barge in like this, but I think my father (now 92), who has a masters degree from UCLA in meteorology, and taught a group of U.S. Army officers, among others, how to forecast weather for the D-Day invasion, might disagree with you. Along with a large number of serious scientists who work for the National Weather Service in the U.S. and similar agencies across the globe.
Jeff Dooley (dooley) Fri 30 Jul 10 22:37
So it's very likely that many highly trained meteorologists share with climatologists the view that climate change is a serious threat to the global ecosystem. In the dust I'd hate to see overlooked Eric's comment that trends predicted in the results of responsible scientific modeling from the 70s and 80s have indeed been buttressed by observed facts over the past 20 years. The caution that we can't predict what happens once a system goes into wild oscillation does not mean that we should't pay attention to the trends leading up to it, especially when out plots of these trends are so close to the empirical data collected subsequently.
Christian De Leon-Horton (echodog) Fri 30 Jul 10 23:22
If the time to take action is now, then what forms of action are most effective? Earlier Eric mentioned law suits, and also touched on some forms of direct activism. I'd like to hear more about the kinds of tactics that can be employed against the climate deniers.
Eric Pooley (ericpooley) Sat 31 Jul 10 03:34
Michael, I meant no offense to your father or other meteorologists. (TV weatherman are meteorologists, but you're right, that doesn't mean all meteorologists are TV weathermen.) My point is that forecasting weather is a vastly different endeavor than, for example, peer-reviewed study of the paleoclimate record that seeks to understand what factors have triggered past shifts in the climate system, what the impacts have been, and whether such a change is beginning to happen now. And Jeff's conclusion is well worth repeating: >The caution that we can't predict what happens once a system goes >into wild oscillation does not mean that we should't pay attention to >the trends leading up to it, especially when our plots of these >trends are so close to the empirical data collected subsequently.
Gary Greenberg (gberg) Sat 31 Jul 10 04:57
>TV weatherman are meteorologists, but you're right, that doesn't mean all meteorologists are TV weathermen.) Actually, many tv weathermen are not meteorologists. Meteorology is a bona fide academic discipline in which one can get a doctoral degree, and which is closely related to climatology. The TV guys are "weather forecasters," which is a branch of journalism.
those Andropovian bongs (rik) Sat 31 Jul 10 06:27
Yeah. Like "news reader".
David Gans (tnf) Sat 31 Jul 10 07:23
As I read this book I continue to be outraged by the behavior of the denialists. First of all, the character assassination they employ against the scientists is pure projection: "they're in it for the money." I have long believed that capitalism is a parasite that has taken over the host, and we're now in danger of losing it all. Does Ebell really believe his bullshit? Is profit so intoxicating that it will inspire us to drive our- selves right off the cliff?
Eric Pooley (ericpooley) Sat 31 Jul 10 08:32
Hey David. >Does Ebell really believe his bullshit? I don't pretend to know. >Is profit so intoxicating that it will inspire us to drive ourselves right off the cliff? The answer to that one appears to be yes. But it's more than profit. It's a way of life that we all share -- the juice powering my laptop and your amp, the gasoline in our tanks, the petroleum in the soles of our shoes, the plane that flew me home from that environmental conference, and on and on. That's why the Deniers, pernicious and hateful and dangerous as they certainly are, are not the only culprits in this murder mystery. We're all complicit, I'm afraid. Many of us are trying to make adjustments, grow our own food, reduce consumption, change light bulbs and try to change laws, and many more of us are distracted and oblivious, or struggling s hard to make ends meet we don't have the luxury to think about this stuff. That's why the goal hast to be to bring down the cost of clean energy, so it is no longer a premium product--luxury green electrons sold to those who can afford them, like organic food. Sometimes I wonder if the Deniers are just a projection, a manifestation of our own desire not to deal with this. They saw a market niche, an unmet demand, and occupied it. If they didn't exist we'd invent them. Because I if Myron Ebell and Professor Frederick Siegfried Singer had never been born, America would still be right where it is: needing to transform its energy infrastructure, not getting it done, and running out of time.
Eric Pooley (ericpooley) Sat 31 Jul 10 08:36
<scribbled by julieswn Sat 31 Jul 10 08:40>
Julie Sherman (julieswn) Sat 31 Jul 10 08:41
<65> scribbled because of double posting
David Gans (tnf) Sat 31 Jul 10 08:57
Thanks, Eric. I needed that.
Joel Bremson (jb) Sat 31 Jul 10 13:27
A lot of state and personal fortunes are built on fossil fuel reserves. A successful move off of fossils would mean those people would lose the financial source of their power and positions.
(fom) Sat 31 Jul 10 20:21
A friend of mine (who is not pernicious or hateful) is a scientist who thinks climate change is probably not due to human activity/carbon emissions. He's in a field where he would benefit if it were; but he maintains that the claims that we are causing climate change are rhetorical, not scentific. He's kind of dismayed by claims that it's been proven. He would like to believe it but he cannot bring himself to. (Meanwhile he recycles everything, buys local food, hardly ever drives his car, keeps his energy consumption low, and so on.) I asked him if he would participate in this discussion and he said no, but he'd give me some questions to ask. He sent me seven questions -- I can't evaluate them because I don't really understand most of them, but here they are: (1) How can you take 0.74 degree C seriously when the one-sigma error is one-fourth of that value? (2) How can you quote atmospheric models when they don't include clouds and rainfall properly? (3) How can you take this 0.74 degree bump seriously when the evidence is that over hundreds and thousands of years, changes of five degrees c or more have been estimated? (4) Isn't water vapor the most prevalent greenhouse gas? (5) Can you prove that human activity is even close to natural sources of greenhouse emissions, especially incluing water vapor and oceanic CO2? (6) Hasn't there been an increase in solar output that could explain everything?
Christian De Leon-Horton (echodog) Sun 1 Aug 10 00:44
And the seventh question?
(fom) Sun 1 Aug 10 02:52
Oops! Where did I get "seven"? Sorry, he sent me SIX questions.
Eric Pooley (ericpooley) Sun 1 Aug 10 03:38
<scribbled by tnf Sun 1 Aug 10 04:11>
Eric Pooley (ericpooley) Sun 1 Aug 10 03:43
Please scribble 72 - Sorry for the double posting, not sure how I managed that.
Eric Pooley (ericpooley) Sun 1 Aug 10 04:59
fom, if your scientist friend wants to educate himself about climatology he should visit sites run by the IPCC or climatologists such as realclimate.org. Realclimate has a library of FAQs, running discussion of emerging issues in climatology, and a staff of scientists ready to respond to questions not answered elsewhere. But all of his questions are very familiar. 1. For folks who don't know, 0.74 degree C refers to the global average temperature increase during the 100 years ending in 2005. To me, the pertinent question isn't whether you or I can take it seriously; the vast majority of working climatologists take it very seriously indeed. They are deeply concerned. There is at least an additional .6 degree C of warming in the pipeline--and according to Jim Hansen, perhaps as much as 2 degrees C--which means it is locked in due to the emissions already released. (There's a lag between an increase in atmospheric concentration and an increase in temperature.) The consensus among the nations of the world is that if we don't keep additional anthropogenic warming below 2 degrees C, we're going to experience dramatic impacts. But we are clearly sailing well beyond 2 degrees, and an increase of 3 to 6 degrees would be catastrophic. If you'd like to understand the potential impact of each additional degree of warming, I'd recommend a book called Six Degrees, by Mark Lynas. 2. Climate models do take clouds into account. Your friend's claim that they do not do so "properly" is badly out of date. Clouds have been a source of modeling uncertainty, because they can be both positive and negative feedbacks, but the models' ability to account for them has been vastly improved over the past decade. See http://www.grida.no/publications/other/ipcc%5Ftar/?src=/climate/ipcc_tar/wg1/2 71.htm 3.Swings of 5 degrees have occurred in geologic time--long before humans were around. Humankind has flourished in the Holocene, a period of climatic stability. The problem is that we are hastening the end of this hospitable epoch. http://www.ipcc.unibe.ch/publications/wg1-ar4/faq/wg1_faq-6.2.html 4. Water vapor is indeed the most prevalent greenhouse has, but it is a feedback effect, not a forcing agent. "Any artificial perturbation in water vapor concentrations is too short lived to change the climate. Too much in the air will quickly rain out, not enough and the abundant ocean surface will provide the difference via evaporation. But once the air is warmed by other means, H2O concentrations will rise and stay high, thus providing the feedback." http://www.grist.org/article/water-vapor-accounts-for-almost-all-of-the-greenh ouse-effect/ "Water vapour is the most abundant and important greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. However, human activities have only a small direct influence on the amount of atmospheric water vapour. Indirectly, humans have the potential to affect water vapour substantially by changing climate. For example, a warmer atmosphere contains more water vapour." http://www.ipcc.unibe.ch/publications/wg1-ar4/faq/wg1_faq-2.1.html 5) "Can you prove" is a question for schoolyards, not scientists. Scientists ask, "what is the evidence?" and in this case there is plenty. http://www.grist.org/article/there-is-no-proof-that-co2-is-causing-global-warm ing/ Water vapor, ocean CO2 and "natural variability" do not account for the warming. http://www.ipcc.unibe.ch/publications/wg1-ar4/faq/wg1_faq-9.2.html 6. Neither do solar variations. According the World Radiation Center there has been no increase in solar irradiance since at least 1978, when satellite observations began. This means that for the last thirty years, while the temperature has been rising fastest, the sun has not changed. http://www.pmodwrc.ch/pmod.php?topic=tsi/composite/SolarConstant
David Gans (tnf) Sun 1 Aug 10 08:59
I was telling a friend about your book last night, Eric, and I realized that you are doing for the climate what Michael pollen has Bern doing for the food system.
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