climate change is off the charts

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Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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88 Responses

  1. Avatar greginak says:

    We’re not in an ice age, we are in warm period between ice ages. ( i believe it’s called an interglacial period)

    Going back to far with climate date, hundreds of millions or billions of years, is mostly useless since there have been many, many changes in the atmosphere, geology, climate that make comparisons difficult.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

      “Going back to far with climate date, hundreds of millions or billions of years, is mostly useless since there have been many, many changes in the atmosphere, geology, climate that make comparisons difficult.”

      Once you get the camel’s nose in there, you get to start asking why we should be able to compare 2009 with 1959, or 1859, or 1459, or 3041 BCE.Report

      • Avatar Nob Akimoto in reply to Jaybird says:

        I’d imagine the case has more to do with the timespan of the changes occuring rather than the fact that they’re being examined at all. A 2 degree celsius change over 10 million years is significantly different in impact from a 2 degree celsius change over 100 years.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

          Is the data used to make that chart contiguous? That is to say: do we know that the lines between points on that chart happened as smoothly as they seem to indicate?

          Do we know that the 2 degree change happened over 10 million years or might it have happened over 100, but we have data points only from the deepest troughs and the highest peaks?

          If it’s the latter…Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

        Because a few decades or centuries is not a big deal in a geologic time scale. Our atmosphere is affected by the plant life on the ground. A couple billion or so years ago the earth was covered with cyano-bacteria and there was little free oxygen. It took a lot of time and changes for life that uses oxygen to develop and change the atmosphere. Ocean currents and where the continents are also affects the atmosphere. So if there are comparisons to be made over time periods, the time periods have to be alike enough to be comparable.Report

  2. If we’re going with the “huge timescales” thing, what does releasing tons and tons of carbon sequestered over millions of years into the atmosphere in a timeframe of 150 years?

    Further the point about cynicism on geological timescales isnt’ that it’s unwarranted, but that it’s irrelevant to the impact it’ll have on current civilization on a short-scale impact. On a geologic timescale, in the old Keynesian mold, in the long run we’re all dead. But in the short to mid term we’re still facing significant land use and resource use impact from human activity which is almost certain to change how things behave. The cost of abatement will surely be primarily focused on the developed world, but we’re also looking at cost of adaptation which will likely come in the developing world. This is why there’s criticism on “let’s wait and see” approaches. It’s effectively cost-shifting from richer nations to poorer ones as the mix of solutions go from abatement to adaptation.Report

  3. Avatar Brian says:

    What’s with the obesession w/ Al Gore? Sure graphs are valuable. But the point is that the earth’s climate hasn’t changed this rapidly the way it has over the last 30-something years. And then you cite a combative Krugman quote. But there is a legion of well-mannered scientists who are sounding the alarm and who are not politicians, pundits, and don’t write 700-word hashings for the NYT op-ed page.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to Brian says:

      But the point is that the earth’s climate hasn’t changed this rapidly the way it has over the last 30-something years.

      Well at least over the past 650,000 years. But what about the billions of years before that? What I would like is better context.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        see my comment to JB above. billions of years ago ( said in a carl sagan voice) conditions on the earth were far to different to be comparable.

        Oh, you live in Arizona, you probably think it is an ice age if gets below 50 ( insert laughter here) we love to kid the warm states up here in the sub-artic.Report

      • Avatar Joe in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        I think you’re probably lying about wanting more context. I think you really want to do nothing, and are using the context argument as a distraction.

        But, supposing you’re not lying, what level of context do you think would merit what kind of response?

        Second, what kind of resources do you think it’s appropriate to invest to get the context? Right now, we’re funding atmospheric science (including such things as earth-monitoring satellites and basic science into climate) at significantly reduced levels compared to previous decades.

        How much should we invest in getting context? Where should that money come from?

        And what do we do while we await the results of this investment?Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Joe says:

          “I think you’re probably lying about wanting more context. I think you really want to do nothing, and are using the context argument as a distraction.”

          Always good to get stuff like that out in the open beforehand, if you ask me.

          Personally, I think that Joe is hoping for an attack in response to his post rather than one that answers his question… this will allow him to accuse E.D. of having emotional investment in what ought to be a scientific discussion and, from there, paint all of the people who hold viewpoints similar to E.D.’s with a similar brush.

          I think that that is fairly intellectually dishonest on Joe’s part but, well, we’ll see if it works.Report

  4. Avatar Francis says:

    ED, this is really beneath you. Yes, atmospheric CO2 was higher in the time of the dinosaurs. So what? What possible relevance does that have to the issue of how much CO2 we should allow in our own time? No one is really all that concerned about generating enough atmospheric CO2 to interfere with lung function; our civilization will be destroyed long before then.

    And yes, of course CO2 followed the temperature change in all prior periods. As a matter of physics, it’s a forcing (ie, more CO2 leads to a warmer planet, which in turn releases more CO2, which warms the planet …). In no other period in earth’s history was the dominant life form digging up stored carbon and gasifying it. As any number of scientists have pointed out, if humans were not changing the atmosphere (with SO2, CO2, dust, aerosols, CFCs, etc.), the earth would be noticeably cooler right now, simply as a result of changes in the solar cycle. Just keeping the temperature constant is a substantial increase against the environmental baseline.

    There is virtually no dispute that an increase in global average temperature of 6 deg. Centigrade would cause the crash of human civilization, through massive crop failure and inundation of coastal areas. Even 3 deg. Centigrade increase within a short period of time is widely believed to be very dangerous.

    (Just how much do you personally know about the fragility of our global food and water supplies? Do you have any factual basis to dismiss the concerns of those who argue for the 2 deg. cap?)

    And recent science suggests that the amount of CO2equivalent gas in the atmosphere is enough to cause that rise. This is the basis of the “350” movement, which argues that our global civilization needs to go carbon negative as soon as possible in order to forestall any more warming than is already coming. (There is little dispute that the Earth is not currently in equilibrium; even if the entire planet went carbon neutral tomorrow, more warming is inevitable.)

    If you want to challenge the science, then bring science of your own. But read this thread or the threads at Volokh or at realclimate. Skeptics have virtually no science to challenge the consensus. They have conspiracy theories instead.

    Alternatively, if you want to concede the science and continue to emit CO2equivalent in a business-as-usual manner, then be honest about the need to pay much much much higher taxes. Geoengineering, mitigation measures and wars are what that future holds, by 2050 to 2100. That’s within the lifetime of people now alive.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Francis says:

      “If you want to challenge the science, then bring science of your own.”

      Can he instead point out how the data is denied to people who make FOIA requests and how, recently, there were a bunch of emails that seemed to indicate that the scientific consensus was dealing with frustrating data by working the data rather than by modifying the theory?Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

        Yeah the e-mails that were “hacked” oops I mean stolen, so there is reason to believe that it was only the worst emails that were released. There could be a lot of context in those emails that weren’t stolen and released.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

          Sure. Tons of context.

          It kinda makes you hope that all of the emails come out, right? Let sunlight show exactly how bad those quotes were taken out of context, right?

          Boy, I bet the climate change deniers’ faces will be red when that happens!

          Right?Report

          • Avatar greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

            So you don’t see a wee problem with using stolen e-mails obtained by unknown parties?Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

              If they are inaccurate, I’d have a *HUGE* problem with it.

              If they are accurate, I’d look at how these are the people who are telling politicians what the government policies ought to be and, as such, find the content as troubling as if, say, a right-wing think-tank’s emails discussing how to best get the government to invade Iran got leaked.

              My problem with the emails has far more to do with whether they are accurate than whether they were hacked.Report

      • Avatar Francis in reply to Jaybird says:

        1. The requests were made under British law (FOI) not US law (FOIA). If you spent 15 minutes at Realclimate, you’d find that the reason for the denial was that the requested data was proprietary — the relevant office of the British government wanted to sell the data rather than give it away. The person to whom the FOI was directed did not own the requested data.

        2. ED, about 5 minutes of research led me to this chapter of the IPCC AR4 on paleoclimate, which answers a lot of your questions. How is it the fault of the scientists if you won’t even look to the most easily available and obvious source of information for answers to your questions?Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Francis says:

          Hrm, that does seem odd, though, doesn’t it?

          “Here is my model, here is the policies we need to undertake!”

          “Can we see the data?”

          “Yes, for a lot of money, besides, I don’t own the data.”

          I’ve probably read too much Popper and that probably makes me biased.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Francis says:

          “proprietary”

          It’s data. Submit it for peer review. My god, man. I’m just thinking about that and there are so very many things just UPSIDE-DOWN with that.

          Science does *NOT* have proprietary data!

          Galileo kvetched about astrophilosophers who refused to look through his telescope.

          Now we’re talking about telescopes that the scientists are saying other folks *CANNOT* look through without paying for first… but, trust them, the data fits the models they have.

          Whatever this is, it is not *SCIENCE*.Report

          • Avatar greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

            sounds like capitalism to me. there have been approxmetly a kajillion peer reviewed articles regarding AGW.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

              Which brings us back to… those emails, doesn’t it?Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

                urrr yeah…since…..ummmm….urrr…..wait ACORN, al gore is fat, jeramiah wrightReport

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

                I’ve said none of those things.

                But, since you’ve opened the door, I will engage in some light strawmanning of your position and couch it in morally outraged language, as any good scientific discussion ought to be.

                I find it absolutely disgusting that you don’t care about scientists lying about their data, hiding their data, manipulating their data, and engaging in conspiracies to prevent people who have different theories from publishing their own work. I see no difference between you and Pope Urban VIII. Oh, wait. Pope Urban VIII didn’t pretend to be a scientist to at least he wasn’t a hypocrite.

                (If you’re going to jump off the rails, Greg, *JUMP OFF THE RAILS*. “Jerimiah Wright”, my left butt cheek.)Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

                Yes I was also engaged in some light strawmaning for the holiday season. However the e-mails simply do not refute the large weight of scientific research supporting AGW. And if we are to look the scientists behavior ( which is reasonable) it is also, a good idea, to look at who funds just about all the anti-AGW research out there. would you like to see the e-mails between the petro companies and the anti-AGW peeps?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

                I’d *LOVE* to.

                Even if they’d have to be hacked.

                Then we can look at the emails from the “scientists”, right?

                And then, once we see that there is a lot of “pollution”, maybe we could look at the data and what the data is telling us.

                If the response to the data is to say “we need to lie about the data”, we have an unscientific response. Let’s look at the data, in a clear and open forum, writing transparently about it with emails that nobody will mind being exposed to peer review and see what we come up with.Report

              • Avatar Bob Cheeks in reply to Jaybird says:

                JB, easy on the “cheek” reference…. particularly the left-butt one!Report

              • Avatar Roque Nuevo in reply to Bob Cheeks says:

                For once, I’m happy to agree with Jaybird. He’s the only one on this thread making sense. Everyone else is trying to obscure the sence and not doing a very good job of it.

                The hacked emails/computer programs etc are a very big deal:

                Files from the UK Climatic Research Unit were hacked. They show that data was massaged, numbers were fudged, diagrams were biased, there was destruction of data after freedom of information requests, and there was refusal to submit taxpayer-funded data for independent examination.
                Data were manipulated to show that the Medieval Warming didn’t occur, and that we are not in a period of cooling. Furthermore, the warming of the 20th century was artificially inflated.This behavior is that of criminals and all the data from the UK Hadley Centre and the US GISS must now be rejected. These crooks perpetrated these crimes at the expense of the British and U.S. taxpayers. The same crooks control the IPCC and the fraudulent data in IPCC reports. The same crooks meet in Copenhagen next week and want 0.7% of the Western world’s GDP to pass through an unelected UN government, and then on to sticky fingers in the developing world.

                Liberals like greginack will applaud leaking national security information in the name of dissent and democracy and suddenly look askance at this situation, which may be a crime but in essence is whistleblowing for the good of everyone. Someday soon, we’ll be able to forget that we were all going to die of climate change.Report

      • Avatar Bob Cheeks in reply to Jaybird says:

        JB, right on, dude! Truth man, all we want is the truth!Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Bob Cheeks says:

          We can’t handle the truth.

          I’d settle for the data.Report

          • Avatar Francis in reply to Jaybird says:

            From realclimate (search the second thread on the CRU data theft to get the underlying links):

            [Response: What data do you want? Raw temperature records? Go to GHCN v.2. Code for putting that into a global average? Go to GISTEMP. – gavin]


            asically, despite one of the graphs being “prettied up” for presentation, the original data in constructing the graph remains unaltered. Am I correct in assuming that? Sorry for repeating the question, but when I first posted it, it was grammatically awful and incoherent. Though you did answer “of course”. Much appreciation in advance.

            [Response: Yes. All of the original data is downloadable from NOAA. – gavin]

            The estimates of the the forcing come from here – http://data.giss.nasa.gov/modelforce/, while the temperature record is available here: http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/graphs/ along with all the data.

            You want data? Go to NOAA. – gavin]

            [Response: Data. More data. Even more data. – gavin]

            etc.

            note: In each comment there are hyperlinks that I have not brought over that lead you to the data. Whether you’re qualified to interpret it is another question.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Francis says:

              “Whether you’re qualified to interpret it is another question.”

              You got me. I was a liberal arts major. If this data is going to be interpreted (wait, I thought it was proprietary?), it’s going to have to be done by someone (or group of someones!) who knows how to read it, sort it, and make it meaningful.

              This is why what the emails revealed was somewhat troubling.Report

    • Avatar jfxgillis in reply to Francis says:

      Francis:

      Right on.

      The problem for people who conceive of themselves as “conservative” or “of the Right” is that there’s no solution to CO2 emissions that is not “liberal” or “left wing.”

      That is because there’s only one atmosphere. We can’t divvy it up into little individual commodities that the market can efficiently distribute to those rich enough to purchase it. Any solution has to be collective, and that word just drives conservatives and right-wingers literally insane.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to jfxgillis says:

        There are, actually.

        “Nuclear power” is one I’ve seen. “How many nuclear power plants could have been purchased for the price of the Iraq War?” is a very, very interesting “conservative” question.Report

        • Avatar jfxgillis in reply to Jaybird says:

          Jay:

          LAUGH! Like the externalities of nuclear power are any less problematic?

          Maybe some Ayn Rand asshole living in Galt’s Gulch can figure out some way to use nuclear power’s radioactive toxic waste to sop up the extra CO2 from fossil fuel consumption and everything will work out perfect.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to jfxgillis says:

            I see the externalities of nuclear power as surmountable.

            The externalities of power becoming very, very expensive as it becomes marginally more green as much, much less so.

            Given the whole “democracy” thing, anyway.Report

            • Avatar jfxgillis in reply to Jaybird says:

              Jay:

              I see the externalities of nuclear power as surmountable.

              Lemme know when you surmount.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to jfxgillis says:

                Compared to the externalities of expensive power? Congress hasn’t yet found a way to make a law that the next congress couldn’t get rid of if they thought they’d not get re-elected because of it.Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

                i’m for more nuclear, but it will not be easy, cheap or a panacea like some nuclear advocates seem to suggest.Report

              • Avatar jfxgillis in reply to greginak says:

                Jay:

                Do you know what an externality is? It’s not just any old “bad effect,” it’s a cost of production borne by neither the buyer nor seller.

                Will there be consequences to properly pricing carbon emissions, i.e., internalizing the externalities? Sure. Bad consequences for some? Probably. But those aren’t necessarily externalities.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to jfxgillis says:

                If the consequences to properly pricing carbon emissions is the creation of a black market and/or repeal of the laws that properly priced carbon emissions… we’re back where we were, aren’t we?Report

              • Avatar MadRocketScientist in reply to jfxgillis says:

                France seems to have figured out how to deal with Nuclear Waste. Plus, the new reactor designs have almost little to no waste that can not be recycled or made safe with little effort.Report

              • Jay:

                Black market? Easy. Death penalty for anyone who trafficks in contraband. Later repeal? Actually, same solution.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to jfxgillis says:

                I’m not a fan of the death penalty, myself.Report

              • Avatar jfxgillis in reply to Jaybird says:

                Jay:

                Me neither, although I make an exception for genocidal maniacs.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

                “You will be put to death for dealing in solid carbon that had been sequestered and burning it without purchasing the proper credits first, you genocidal maniac!!!”

                “It was a yule log.”Report

              • Avatar jfxgillis in reply to Jaybird says:

                Jay:

                Yeah! Law ‘n’ Order ‘n’ Stuff!!

                Although frankly, I’d outlaw Yule Logs altogether with no allowable carbon credits for that purpose. Burn one, you burn, I say. Nice solar-powered electric chair.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to jfxgillis says:

                JFxgillis, I suspect you are rather unfamiliar with nuclear power if you honestly are citing the “waste” as a significant problem. As the French and the Danes have demonstrated what Americans call nuclear waste most other countries call nuclear fuel. If you take your “waste” and shove it into another reactor you can burn the waste getting even more power and the final unburnable “waste” is in such a small quantity that the French for one store their accumulated “waste” under the floor of a gymnasium sized room in glass cylinders. They don’t bury it somewhere deeper because they are not entirely certain that even that waste’s interesting mélange of isotopes doesn’t have potential applications in the future. You have no idea how much it pains me as an Anglophile and an American to be citing the French in this particular case.

                Of course reprocessing nuclear “waste” does involve the production of plutonium which caused the lefties and Carter (that wrinkled old idiot) to ban all reprocessing and essentially kick all American progress on nuclear power into a deep freeze for a decade while the bureaucracy merrily erected a labyrinth of regulations to make putting up a nuclear power plant as uneconomical as they possibly could. Now in America at least the left claims that nuclear “waste” problems and the artificially created uneconomic nature of nuclear power as reasons to try and power the country on the equivalent of hamster wheels instead (except hamsters at least could be set up to run constantly which is more than you can say for wind and solar).

                Oh and don’t even get me started on safety. Suffice to say that if you set aside Chernobyl (an unprecedented reactor built with no containment building specifically to produce weapons grade plutonium and run by a nightmarish socialist thug state) then nuclear power pretty much whups the ass of all other industrial power production mechanisms in terms of safety. Terrorists? It takes roughly 5 seconds to scram a reactor and then hours and hours to start it up again. If the 9/11 hijackers had rammed their planes into an American nuclear power plant they’d be lucky if they’d even bust through the containment building (suffice to say they were strategically wise to aim for a tall building instead).

                Now obviously nuclear power isn’t the total solution otherwise the Europeans and Asians would have thrown up a whole heap of them and called it a day. But knee jerk rejection of this technology is a red warning flag that the people advocating aren’t serious about their concerns about carbon emissions.Report

              • Avatar Bob Cheeks in reply to North says:

                North,
                My admiration for your erudition knows no bounds!Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Bob Cheeks says:

                Bob,
                Thank you for the kind words. Nuclear power is an old love of mine. It’s a truly fascinating field; if I’d discovered it as a teenager I might well be in the field myself, though the math… ugh! Ah hindsight, the 20/20ness of it. *sigh*Report

              • Avatar jfxgillis in reply to North says:

                North:

                Unless the waste is a hundred percent recyclable (I dunno enough, as you suggest, to know if that’s possible, could be for all I know), then we need to provide for ten thousand years of safe storage. I don’t think the French or Danes have that licked yet.

                As for Chernobyl AND THREE MILE ISLAND, one meltdown and one near-meltdown … “Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?”

                Having said that, I’m perfectly willing to consider nuclear. I’m a lot more scared of the increasingly probable carbon-cycle crisis than I am of a tiny but non-zero probability of a nuclear power crisis. I think the externalities are more easily and in long run more cheaply priced with nuclear. But I think we need those externalities–including risk of catastrophic failure–priced in upfront. I don’t trust the corporate sector to price it on their own if they think they can get away with not doing it and I find it hard to imagine you could construct an argument that would persuade me why I should trust the corporate sector to do so. But you’re welcome to try.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to North says:

                Jfxgillis,
                Actually, the waste that you have after recycling has a significantly lower half life and radioactivity. If my memory serves it’s a thousand years so that is a lot easier to deal with assuming we don’t figure out how to use them for practical applications in the meantime.

                Now if you’ll pardon my pointing out: Three Mile island is the worse nuclear accident we’ve ever had. And it involved a reactor using 1960’s era technology and released so little radiation that people are merrily living next door to the place today. At the time of the incident people were exposed to radiation equivalent to a chest x-ray or 9 months of exposure to normal environmental conditions. That would then be significantly less radiation than your average coal plant shoots out in its’ soot and tailings in a couple of months. So yes, Three Mile Island is the worst nuclear disaster we’ve had with anything approaching a normal reactor and that’s pretty damn good play then, thank you for asking. As I mentioned before Chernobyl was a Soviet abomination as typical to normal nuclear plants as Lector is to a milkman. This is without observing that modern nuclear designs are designed so that an out of control reaction like Three Mile Island extinguishes itself rather than runs out of control making that kind of disaster quite literally impossible.

                But in any event I think your end position is fair. If we agreed to get rid of the pointless hurdles, the no nothing hostile regulation and rules designed specifically to kill nuclear power I think it would be only fair (and necessary) to price in the externalities. Hell, if AGW is as big a problem as people claim I’d not have any problem with the government building the damn plants themselves and then figuring out how to privatize them later. And of course no matter what, any nuclear power industry will have to have solid careful government oversight because lets face it. If you’re going to do it you have to err on the side of caution and control. But what’s important is that we do it.Report

              • Avatar jfxgillis in reply to North says:

                North:

                … I’d not have any problem with the government building the damn plants themselves and then figuring out how to privatize them later.

                Can I quote you on that?

                :^{)>Report

              • Avatar North in reply to North says:

                Jfxgillis me lad, you can quote me any time you want (and I’ll thank you for it). I’m a miserable practical minded neoliberal, not a libertarian; government has its places and it’s uses. Making sure that a nuclear power plant is safely run and that it never even comes close to being able to produce weaponizable fissile material is as clear a case of government responsibility as I can think of. You cannot have a 100% private nuclear industry. The technology is wonderful but it’s not like diapers or televisions; there always needs to be some gimlet-eyed oversight.Report

        • Avatar Barry in reply to Jaybird says:

          Jaybird
          ““How many nuclear power plants could have been purchased for the price of the Iraq War?” is a very, very interesting “conservative” question.”

          I agree, and there’re a lot of other questions about what could have been done with >$1 trillion dollars (starting with not spending it, and moving on to spending it on things which were constructive, not destructive).

          They’re good liberal questions, as well.

          However, they’re not good right-wing/Republican questions, and that’s key.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Barry says:

            Hello, welcome to the league, great to have you aboard, etc.

            When pointing out the question I asked was not a good “right-wing/Republican” question (as opposed to “conservative” question) and then pointing out that it was a good “liberal” question… would it be fair to ask whether the question was a good left-wing/Democratic Party question?

            Is that key or somewhat immaterial?Report

  5. Avatar Aaron says:

    I think I get your argument about this… it seems you think it’s rather arrogant to assume that we know what the Earth’s ideal temperature or concentration of CO2 happens to be. I don’t know what that is, myself, and I don’t think climate scientists know that either. I think the point of that graph, though, is that the increase in greenhouse gases (including CO2) is very rapid compared to even relatively short geological time scales…. and we’ve yet to see the full consequences of that, thanks to the ocean uptaking much of that CO2.

    It’s kind of a dense read, but if you’re really interested in what a panel of experts has to say about climate change, perhaps you should check out the IPCC Synthesis report from 2007. http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/syr/ar4_syr.pdf They are probably more cautious in their assessment of their climate than many ideologues, only giving probabilities that certain things are or will become true.Report

  6. Avatar Barry says:

    Brian { 11.25.09 at 2:16 pm }

    “What’s with the obesession w/ Al Gore? Sure graphs are valuable. But the point is that the earth’s climate hasn’t changed this rapidly the way it has over the last 30-something years. And then you cite a combative Krugman quote. But there is a legion of well-mannered scientists who are sounding the alarm and who are not politicians, pundits, and don’t write 700-word hashings for the NYT op-ed page.”

    It really burns people that he is right and they are wrong. Especially as if Bush hadn’t been selected in 2000, he certainly wouldn’t have impressed people like Gore did.

    Another: ” But the point is that the earth’s climate hasn’t changed this rapidly the way it has over the last 30-something years.”

    E.D. Kain: “Well at least over the past 650,000 years. But what about the billions of years before that? What I would like is better context.”

    As has already been pointed out, talking about the earth’s climate changes over billions of years is both ridiculous and irrelevant to this debate. As for 650K, IIRC that’s longer than modern humans have been around; we’re looking at moving to a climate state which humanity has never achieved before, and that’s using underestimates of warming (i.e., glacial melting is exceeding models).Report

  7. Avatar Watts says:

    I find it kind of fascinating that over the years this debate has been going on, skeptics are convinced that Where The Money Comes From is Very Very Important to know when it comes to special interest groups and climate scientists arguing that humans are indeed having an effect on the climate that we could indeed mitigate — but never seem to concede the mere possibility that those arguing that humans are not having an effect and besides we couldn’t mitigate it even if we were and besides it would ruinously expensive to try even if we could might just have a vested financial interest in *their* position. I’d argue, actually, that environmental groups are always going to have something to be alarmed about and climate researchers are going to have jobs whether or not there’s AGW, but there are whole industries that will be radically downsized if there *is* AGW, and darned if those industries don’t keep coming up time and again in funding anti-AGW research. Anybody who really believes that “Follow the Money” is valuable in analyzing this debate can’t seriously contend that all that money leads, as it were, to Al Gore.

    It’s been my increasing impression that the case against AGW from conservatives and libertarians really isn’t about science — it’s about the implications. If the thesis that human activity has been having an increasingly negative effect on global climate is correct, and that this activity can be mitigated by taking steps on a global level to do so, then it’s very difficult to come up with proposed solutions that don’t involve widespread government involvement in the economy. This horrifies conservatives/libertarians. I get that. But either the science is right or it isn’t, and there are a mounting number of measurable environmental effects all around the world that support the AGW thesis. Changing growing seasons. Changing bird migrations. Animals and insects and microbes showing up in places they never were before, and leaving places they had been. And of course all that ice-related stuff. Maybe it’s all circumstantial evidence. *Maybe* there are other explanations for each and every such tidbit. Maybe. Maybe the notion that humans could possibly have been affecting the climate in the last 100 years in a way the planet’s never seen before is absolutely crazy, but it’s hard not to note that human civilization has changed in the last century more dramatically than it did in all the previous centuries and that change has affected the global environment more than it did in all the previous centuries, often times in ways we didn’t understand all the ramifications of until well after the fact.

    So crazy idea here. I think it’d be nice to start seeing a few more conservatives and libertarians respond not by trying to constantly attack the science and deride the notion that there’s anything at all to do, for anyone, for any reason, and do what in theory you guys are supposed to be best at: come up with market-based, non-government-driven solutions. Just *propose* them. So on the small chance that ten years from now we’re all not just sitting around laughing about how silly we all were to believe in that crazy global warming stuff, you can actually contribute something to the conversation other than, “Gosh, sorry about Key West being underwater.”Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Watts says:

      ” I think it’d be nice to start seeing a few more conservatives and libertarians respond not by trying to constantly attack the science and deride the notion that there’s anything at all to do, for anyone, for any reason, and do what in theory you guys are supposed to be best at: come up with market-based, non-government-driven solutions. Just *propose* them.”

      How about nuclear power?

      Oh, wait right.

      But what about Jerimiah Wright??? God bless America??? GOD DAMN AMERICA!!!Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

        well like i said, i think we should build more nukes, but they are , at best, only one part of the solution to GW regardless of the cause of GW. Conservation and energy efficiency should/will have some part also.Report

      • Avatar Nob Akimoto in reply to Jaybird says:

        Is nuclear power really a non-government solution? The start up costs involved with creating a nuclear power plant is usually on the scale only financiable as a government run utility… I mean the French model’s not reproduceable in the US, not because of regulation (thought there is that) but because a lot of “pro-nuke” people would freak out at the notion of a gigantic federally operated company that would handle centralized, rather authoritarian nuclear grid creation.Report

        • Avatar North in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

          I agree Nob. I don’t think you can (or should) have government completely divorced with nuclear power (that said nuclear power is still a conservative position in America at least). Oversight will always be required to verify that the plants are being built to modern requirements and that no funny business occurs at any point along the fuel cycle.

          That said, there are several nuclear plants that are puttering along slowly towards becoming operational despite the obstacles that have been put in their way. So it’s possible to privately fund and build a nuclear plant outside the French model.Report

          • Avatar Nob Akimoto in reply to North says:

            There’s a difference between puttering along and powering a huge portion of your grid with nuclear power though. Private funding will get you one or two plants. Large scale replacements will require both huge investments in transmission line and plant manufacturing. Not that they’re unattractive options, but because of the time horizons involved in breaking even, plants that cost somewhere in the order of $2000-3500/KW are not going to be mass produced by private investors.Report

            • Avatar North in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

              I’m open to agreeing with you on that. It would be pretty pricey to mass convert the whole grid to nuclear. I don’t think any private entity could/would do that themselves. Than again it’d be crazy pricey to mass convert to any system (nuclear definitly being top on the price list). You migh be able to do it with a private public partnership. It might partly depend on whether we get some wingding cap and trade system or a carbon tax.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Watts says:

      The problem is not as simple as you make it out to be Watts.

      For instance, assuming that AGW is real, human caused and preventable there is the question as to if the cure is more expensive than the disease. I am a neolib myself but I’m no libertarian. There are things that the government should involve itself in. But environmentalists, especially AGW proponents, very glibly wave away the human element of the -cost- of preventing AGW. A man who dies because Key West ended up under water is just as dead as the man died due to lack of economic growth in the third world. The fact that AGW proponents care deeply about one but not at all about the other weakens their argument.

      In essence the AGW issue contains a lot of questions nested within each other. Is AGW real? If yes then is it something we can realistically prevent? If yes then is the cost of simply dealing with its effects greater than the cost of preventing AGW? If so can we get the whole world to agree to do it? If so what do we do about the third and second world that really want to follow in our footsteps and lift their people out of poverty?

      Oh and in a nod to Greg and Jay it should be observed that when environmentalists are content goring the right wingers cows with government intervention but start swooning onto their organic loofas at the thought of their own anti-nuclear cows getting touched it weakens their arguments. A lot.Report

      • Avatar Nob Akimoto in reply to North says:

        I think this is a bit of a misleading bit of concern trolling. The whole “third world growth might be negatively affected” thing doesn’t really take into account that most of the costs associated with AGW will be borne by less developed countries, particularly when it comes to things like water resources and adaptation.

        In fact, one of the reasons why the entire problem is an equity problem is because most of the costs of abation of AGW tend to be from developed countries while most of the costs of adaptation to AGW will be from developing countries.

        So the likelihood is that there will be a dead man in Key West because of rising sea levels AND a dead man in India because there’s a serious economic development problem stemming from a lack of water resources in India.

        Moreover, the degree to which there is “third world economic development” is rather vastly overstated when you consider that most developed economies mostly invest in eachother anyway.Report

        • Avatar North in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

          Maybe Nob, but between their encompassing most of the worlds rainforests and their need for cheap power; the developing world is fully capable of rendering any carbon emission cuts the first world makes entirely moot unless they’re signed on to whatever deal is required to address AGW.

          But that’s only one piece of my overall point which is that the AGW question is a lot bigger than just environmental science. There’re a lot of other fields that are directly impacted and need to be taken into consideration.Report

          • Avatar Nob Akimoto in reply to North says:

            Which is why you need things like technology sharing agreements, development assistance, etc. I’m not saying don’t do anything, but my point is more that this is a common resource problem. Everyone acting “rationally” in their own self-interest will end up screwing themselves over in the long run.Report

            • Avatar North in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

              Well yes, which brings me back round to the “this is more complicated then most AGW proponents say it is.” position.Report

              • Avatar Nob Akimoto in reply to North says:

                To which I respectfully reply, “I don’t think any policy professional is going to suggest it’s a simple matter.”

                This is one of those horrible things that give us nightmares when we have to design policy proposals around and makes me wish I had gone for a MBA or something simple like that.Report

              • Avatar Nob Akimoto in reply to North says:

                Let me clarify a little. I agree that the issue is very complicated, but it’s not really a two sided matter, but a significantly complicated problem in terms of just how much is required, not in so far as “should we do something or not.”

                So yeah, it’s complicated. But no, it’s not a question of whether we should, but what we should be doing….to which the reply would be “a whole lot more than most of you people seem to think.”Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                That’s fair enough. Suffice to say there’s a lot of homework that has to be done before we jump in up to our necks in it.Report

    • Avatar Barry in reply to Watts says:

      Watts: “I find it kind of fascinating that over the years this debate has been going on, skeptics are convinced that Where The Money Comes From is Very Very Important to know when it comes to special interest groups and climate scientists arguing that humans are indeed having an effect on the climate that we could indeed mitigate — but never seem to concede the mere possibility that those arguing that humans are not having an effect and besides we couldn’t mitigate it even if we were and besides it would ruinously expensive to try even if we could might just have a vested financial interest in *their* position.”

      Freudian projection, perhaps? I do find it interesssssssssting that the first assumption of so many right-wingers is that the scientists are only saying what they’re saying because some backers are paying them.Report

  8. Avatar Zach says:

    “Oh and in a nod to Greg and Jay it should be observed that when environmentalists are content goring the right wingers cows with government intervention but start swooning onto their organic loofas at the thought of their own anti-nuclear cows getting touched it weakens their arguments. A lot.”

    If only you spent as much time actually attacking the argument as opposed to setting up the strawman.Report

  9. Avatar John Doe says:

    What I find baffling from the outset is this notion that we can measure the global average temperature. I don’t think that’s going to be a meaningful figure. Ever. There’s simply too much variation in every possible way — geographical, surface vs. atmosphere, etc.

    I imagine the following conversation:

    “I’ve measured the average global IQ, and I find that the average global IQ went up by 6/10 of a point over the past 50 years.”

    “Oh yeah? How exactly are you getting measurements that precise, given the enormous variation across the earth (different peoples, different languages, different levels of wealth, etc.)?”

    “We’ve adjusted for all of that.”

    “Oh really? But if you don’t have some objective knowledge about the real global mean IQ, how do you know that your adjustments are of the right direction and magnitude?”

    “Screw you, denier.”Report

  10. Avatar Barry says:

    John Doe { 11.26.09 at 9:07 pm }

    “What I find baffling from the outset is this notion that we can measure the global average temperature. I don’t think that’s going to be a meaningful figure. Ever. There’s simply too much variation in every possible way — geographical, surface vs. atmosphere, etc. ”

    Go to RealClimate, and ask them. They’ll give you so much information that your head will hurt.

    What *I* find baffling, in turn, is that this is science – the data and methods are generally far, far more accessible than corporate stuff, subject to peer review, and subject to ‘peer’ review paid for by corporations, who’d pay handsomely for debunking. But people just go around and say things like “I don’t know how they can do that…”Report

  11. Avatar John Doe says:

    Oh Barry, I’m well aware that there are people who say that they’re figuring out a global mean, and that they are sincere in pouring forth a bunch of verbiage in defense of what they’re doing. Unfortunately, it’s all BS, because there’s no meaningful way to do something that complicated with the precision that they claim.Report

    • Avatar Barry in reply to John Doe says:

      “…Unfortunately, it’s all BS, because there’s no meaningful way to do something that complicated with the precision that they claim.”

      I love this – a sweeping claim made by somebody who has given no evidence that he has the slightest basis of making even far, far, far,…,far,far less sweeping claims.

      I think that we can start with the fact that the scientists have been ~100x as right on this subject as the right, and then decide from there as to whom to believe.

      Now, if you’d like to post some positive evidence, I might listen to what you have to say.Report

  12. Avatar John Doe says:

    No, you first. You prove that “global mean temperature” is meaningful in any way whatsoever — given seasons, night vs. day, geography, land vs. water vs. air, El Nino and other cyclical weather phenomena, difference over time in locations being measured, differences in urbanization over time, and a zillion other factors that make it ridiculous to think you can pin down a yearly number to within a tenth of a degree. If you can’t point to the proof, you shouldn’t be so gullible and stupid.Report

    • Avatar Barry in reply to John Doe says:

      The thing that makes us doubt the honesty of deniers is that the information is out there:

      http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&source=hp&q=economic+impact+of+global+warming&aq=0&oq=economic+impact+of+global&aqi=g2g-m2

      yields good stuff in the first several links:

      1) Economics and effects of global warming from Wikipedia
      2) ‘The US Economic Impacts of Climate Change and the Costs of Inaction’ from University of Maryland
      3) A book: ‘Global warming and agriculture: impact estimates by country’ By William R. Cline

      4) Another book: ‘The Discovery of Global Warming’, by Spencer R Weart (if you don’t know the material in this book then you are frankly not qualified to discuss global warming; it’s clear, accessible and highly interesting).

      Going to the IPCC website quickly yielded:
      http://www.ipcc.ch/working_groups/working_groups.htm

      “The IPCC Working Group II (WG II) assesses the vulnerability of socio-economic and natural systems to climate change, negative and positive consequences of climate change, and options for adapting to it.

      It also takes into consideration the inter-relationship between vulnerability, adaptation and sustainable development. The assessed information is considered by sectors (water resources; ecosystems; food & forests; coastal systems; industry; human health) and regions (Africa; Asia; Australia & New Zealand; Europe; Latin America; North America; Polar Regions; Small Islands).”

      “The IPCC Working Group III (WG III) assesses options for mitigating climate change through limiting or preventing greenhouse gas emissions and enhancing activities that remove them from the atmosphere.

      The main economic sectors are taken into account, both in a near-term and in a long-term perspective. The sectors include energy, transport, buildings, industry, agriculture, forestry, waste management. The WG analyses the costs and benefits of the different approaches to mitigation, considering also the available instruments and policy measures. The approach is more and more solution-oriented.”

      The material is out there, and easy to find – for those interested.Report

  13. Avatar John Doe says:

    By the way, here’s a peer-reviewed article about the difficulties in calculating temperature trends: http://www.climatesci.org/publications/pdf/R-321.pdfReport

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Barry says:

      “denialist”

      Do you think, given the last couple of weeks, that this particular word will get people inclined to your position to feel a little bit prouder, those opposed to your position to feel a little bit more demoralized, and those on the fence to lean just a little bit more your way?

      Really?Report

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