(AGW) Skeptical Environmentalists

by Judith Curry

The archetypal “skeptical environmentalist” is Bjorn Lomborg, although this post is not about him (for a recent interview with Lomborg, see dotearth).

This post is about the increasing muddiness between environmentalism and AGW.  A recent youtube animation highlights this confusion: which character in this discussion seems more protective of the environment?

The Wikipedia defines environmentalism as “Environmentalism is a broad philosophy and social movement regarding concerns for environmental conservation and improvement of the state of the environment.” A brief history of the modern green movement in the U.S. can be found here.

Many environmental advocacy groups have embraced the climate change issue:

Climate scientists are often accused of supporting AGW for political purposes associated with the environmental movement.  While this may be true of a few individuals, I have seen no particular sign of this among the climate scientists that I know.  Other than Bill Chameides, I do not personally know any climate scientists that are (to my knowledge) card carrying members of an environmental advocacy group.

And what to make of uber-environmentalist James Lovelock?

Writing in the British newspaper The Independent in January 2006, Lovelock argues that, as a result of global warming, “billions of us will die and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the Arctic where the climate remains tolerable” by the end of the 21st century. He has been quoted in The Guardian that 80% of humans will perish by 2100 AD, and this climate change will last 100,000 years. . . He partly retreated from this position in a September 2007 address to the World Nuclear Association‘s Annual Symposium, suggesting that climate change would stabilise and prove survivable, and that the Earth itself is in “no danger” because it would stabilise in a new state. . .  In a March 2010 interview with the Guardian newspaper, he said that democracy might have to be “put on hold” to prevent climate change. He continued:

“The great climate science centres around the world are more than well aware how weak their science is. If you talk to them privately they’re scared stiff of the fact that they don’t really know what the clouds and the aerosols are doing…We do need scepticism about the predictions about what will happen to the climate in 50 years, or whatever. It’s almost naive, scientifically speaking, to think we can give relatively accurate predictions for future climate. There are so many unknowns that it’s wrong to do it.”

And what about the environmentalist’s schizophrenia about nuclear power? Lovelock’s previously controversial views seem to be carrying the day:

Lovelock has become concerned about the threat of global warming from the greenhouse effect. In 2004 he caused a media sensation when he broke with many fellow environmentalists by pronouncing that “only nuclear power can now halt global warming”. In his view, nuclear energy is the only realistic alternative to fossil fuels that has the capacity to both fulfill the large scale energy needs of humankind while also reducing greenhouse emissions. He is an open member of Environmentalists for Nuclear Energy. . . In 2005, against the backdrop of renewed UK government interest in nuclear power, Lovelock again publicly announced his support for nuclear energy, stating, “I am a Green, and I entreat my friends in the movement to drop their wrongheaded objection to nuclear energy”.

At the same time, there are many individual groups that are skeptical of AGW that seem to be staunch environmentalists.  There is a recent article in the Washington Post about conservative Christians supporting stewardship and green architecture:

Zovath is a climate change skeptic. “Personally, I don’t buy into it,” he says. But he likes the bottom line of energy efficiency.

To further confuse things, there are numerous examples of climate change skeptics declaring themselves to be environmentalists and/or being strong supporters of green energy.  One example is Willis Eschenbach, who discussed his personal commitment to environmentalism in this post at WUWT (also see his further elaborations in the comments.)  Further, Anthony Watts describes himself as proactively energy efficient.

On the other hand, we have the “fat cat” environmentalists (e.g. Al Gore andJames Cameron), with very large carbon footprints.

So what are we to make of this?  I don’t think that environmentalism is a big rationale behind AGW from the perspective of most scientists.  And it doesn’t seem that AGW policies are particularly well thought out in terms of a broader sustainability perspective.  And it seems that there is broad support for the idea of economical clean green energy, from across the political and scientific spectrum surrounding the AGW issue.  Accusing climate scientists of pushing an environmental political agenda seems to me about as well founded as accusing climate skeptics as being in the pay of big oil.

389 responses to “(AGW) Skeptical Environmentalists

  1. I am afraid, Judith, you have lost me completely. I am an environmentalist, in the sense that I believe we must do everthing we possibly can to preserve our environemnt; without any exceptions. The point is that adding CO2 to the atmosphere does absolutely no harm whatsoever, and does a great deal of good. So, being an environmentalist, I am all in favor of adding as much CO2 to the atmosphere as we can.

    However, eventually we may run out of fossil fuels, so we need to do all in our power to find viable alternatives as quickly as possible. That is, we need to find out how to recycle CO2.

    • Jim, you make my point exactly. Many people accuse climate scientists of promoting an environmental agenda as the motivation for their support of stabilizing greenhouse gases. I am saying that I don’t see any evidence of this and that there are many environmentalists that are skeptical of AGW and the associated policies that have been put forward.

      • “Many people accuse climate scientists of promoting an environmental agenda of stabilizing greenhouse gases. I am saying that I don’t see any evidence of this ….”

        Say what?

      • actually that isn’t worded well. Many climate scientists are promoting the stabilization of greenhouse gases, but it does not seem to be motivated by an environmental agenda, let me change the wording in the post.

      • Many climate scientists may not be spruiking an environmental agenda but the most prominent and influential climate scientist of them all – James Hansen – displays a level of political activism in the name of the environment that is as extreme as it is inappropriate. Check this out from Bishop Hill’s excellent blog:

        ….which leads me to a wider issue. I don’t think that you can really separate environmentalism and politics, not in the current paradigm at any rate. Environmentalism itself has been hijacked by the Climate Change meme and is, for the forseeable future, inextricably entagled in its web, to the detriment of many far more worthy grass-roots environmental concerns.

        The Australian Green party, for instance, are led by Bob Brown, a true environmentalist for many many years who campaigned on many smaller scale environmental issues in his younger days. Now however, so obsessed is he – and his party – with greenhouse gas reduction at all costs, that really vexed issues such as the lead poisoning that is currently blighting the Queensland mining community at Mount Isa are completely ignored, left to fringe groups who are largely ineffectual because they lack the credibility of the “Greens”.

        I would agree that there are many environmentalists who are sceptical of cAGW – but they are either largely ignored or ridiculed by the “Green” movement, whose motives are not restricted to environmental concerns – seemingly they have bigger fish to fry these days. Also it seems to me that any scientist who expresses any cautionary tone in declaring his/her results is instantly declared a champion of the Green agenda, regardless of his/her views. Perhaps, for this reason, more caveats in expressed views are necessary for scientists to avoid being hijacked in this fashion.

        I think, for these reasons, it might be better if Mr Hansen kept his own counsel a little more and concentrated on the science.

      • Judith, I have tried, but I can’t imagine any desire to stabilise CO2 that isn’t motivated by an environmental agenda, as I understand the term. I see all sorts of evidence of climate scientists fixated monomaniacally upon CO2 as a danger to the environment – which I suppose could make it an “environmental agendum” – but other than the environment, what other reasons are there to stabilise CO2?

      • Amongst climate scientists anyways, stabilizing CO2 seems more motivated by preventing extreme weather events like drought and avoiding a catastrophic sea level rise (impacts on human safety and property). This is what you hear them talk about most, anyways.

      • It is honestly news to me that the distinction you are making exists. I would have called a fear of extreme weather events, etc. “environmental”, and I really don’t see the need for further qualification. You seem to be saying that only those environmental concerns which do not involve a concern for human welfare are truly “environmental”.

        As far as I am concerned, the bulk of the environmentally “sympathetic” population accepted CAGW with barely a second thought, and without a single sceptical one. It came along like the next instalment of an eagerly-awaited periodical, to which they had long ago bought a lifetime subscription.

      • Logical point, the motivation for climate research in the past related to food, natural resources, and impacts which hasn’t changed.

        I guess if Birds were in charge of Climate funding we would be seeing more studies about insects, worms, grass, and fish. Its also likely they would be squawking about humans.

        Its a good thing we have Environmentalists to voice the Birds opinion ; )

      • I suspect the birds would also have a good deal to say about cats. But your point is well taken.

      • Its probably reasonable to say that most climate scientists are focused on specific studies and aspects of the climate system and are not “promoting” a specific ecological agenda. On the other hand, Dr. Hansen is a poster child for climate scientists who are “promoting an environmental agenda of stabilizing greenhouse gases”.

        Hansen: Protests and direct action needed to stop emissions

        Interesting question, is Climate Science a discipline of Ecology?

      • Steve Fitzpatrick

        Hi Judith,
        Perhaps the majority of climate scientists do not have a set of policy goals in mind to reduce CO2 emissions. But if that is the case, then these are not the same climate scientists I see on television, interviewed in magazines, or who write the IPCC reports. There is to the ‘outside world’ a clear appearance of avocay for specific policies; the impression I personally have is that the vast majority of climate scientists are much more like uber environmentalist James Hansen in their views than like Richard Lindzen. Do you have any evidence that suggests otherwise?

  2. randomengineer

    Accusing climate scientists of pushing an environmental political agenda seems to me about as well founded as accusing climate skeptics as being in the pay of big oil.

    I reckon the conlfation occurs due to the emotional and overweening shrillness of the NGOs and their supporters and the climate science community meanwhile targets McIntyre. If “the community” had been even 5% as critical of the NGOs and the obvious misanthropes as they have been of McIntyre et al, it’s doubtful that we’d even be discussing this.

    While science done right is apolitical “the community” needs to be *seen* as even handed. Jabbing at McIntyre and ignoring abjectly wrong NGO claims seems decidedly one sided. And… it IS one sided.

    Meanwhile the pay of big oil thing is entirely made up and is a baseless accusation (and has been.) These are not equivalent.

  3. It seems more common for environmentalism to be presented as a mere pretext for the wider global conspiracy to grab power and force the various Randian supermen posting on internet blogs into servitude via taxation. Hence the use of metaphors like “Watermelon” to describe those green on the outside and communist on the inside.

    • randomengineer

      I was at the first earth day rally and that was back in 1970 or 1971 or thereabouts. Speakers spent a lot less time talking about earth than trashing Nixon and seemingly everything right wing. From the beginning “the movement” has been anti-establishment (right wing establishment anyway) and pointed decidedly left.

      Of course, I’d thought that this was indisputable.

      • left wing doesn’t necessarily equate with environmentalism and vice versa. there seem to be conservative environmentalists, notably some of the christian groups and also hunters and fisherman.

      • randomengineer

        left wing doesn’t necessarily equate with environmentalism and vice versa.

        Oh, please. Democrat politicians are constantly making gratuitous uninformed remarks and policy re the environment and have done so for 4 decades, which underscores why we don’t have any new nuclear power plants, no new refineries, no new dams (oh my the snail darter!), but we do have drilling moratoriums and government enforced purchase of windmills by utilities — all because of them dang right wing enviro types? The same right wing who is trying to expand drilling, build nuclear plants, build refineries and such but are blocked by congressional dems?

        Individuals who are environmentally conscious range from conservationists (hunters etc) to self-described “environmentalists” but the UNDENIABLE left wing politics of “environmentalism” is why we’re running on CO2 spewing coal in the first place instead of nuclear.

        Meanwhile contact Intel’s CEO and try telling him that. In a recent article in a biz magazine he says it’s the enviro rules in CA that prevent Intel from pursuing building fabs there. Ruinous policies. Cost of $4B to put a fab in. $1B is for the land, the building, and the equipment. The rest is tax and enviro regs. These aren’t the result of decades of rampant right wing CA politics.

        I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry here.

      • Right wing does note automatically equate with Christian many of whom support a left wing agenda. Conservative Christian political philosophy, while not ‘obligatory’ in the sense that Christianity does not impose a specific political creed, includes a very strong commitment to a communitarian ethic. Think William Wilberforce and the abolition of the Slave Trade in the British Empire. Think of a string of Roman Catholic papal encyclicals from Rerum Novarum of Leo XIII, Populorum Progressio of Paul VI ending in Centessimus Annus of John Paul II, much of which are anathema to the economic ultra libertarians.

        There’s been more than a few left wing hunters – think Ernest Hemingway and his service in the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War. Think Josip Broz Tito from the former Yugoslavia.

        Actually, the terms ‘left’ and ‘right’ are pretty devoid of meaning. They derive from the seating arrangements in the Estates General in Revolutionary France when the ‘liberal’ or ‘progressive’ members of the Third Estate sat on the left of the speaker’s chair.

        In reality, most groupings described as ‘left’ or ‘right’ wing harbour a portmanteau of beliefs and philosophies with considerable overlap. Think Lenin and his brutal suppression of his ‘Rightist’ opponents such as the Social Revolutionaries (a rather leftist group as their name suggests).

        The British Cartoonist summed it up very well in his 1939 cartoon:

        See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Davidlowrendezvous.png

      • The left-right thing is less helpful than it used to be. There is, at least in the non-US Anglosphere a pretty cast-iron coupling between “progressive” and “green”.

        Rather than the prodigal Lomborg, I would instance the UK’s David Bellamy as a sceptical environmentalist. He’s an amiable naturalist and environmental campaigner with a luxuriant beard that gives him the look of a man peering through a hornbeam hedge. For years he had a BBC career as Everybody’s Favourite Amiable Naturalist and Environmental Campaigner, until he had the temerity to dissent from the growing orthodoxy of CAGW. Not only was he reviled, but the BBC, who as we now know had a pension fund to take care of, stopped commissioning him.

      • More on David Bellamy: certainly a respected environmentalist and broadcaster, whatever the BBC may think of him. He is also co-owner of a climate blog at http://www.barrettbellamyclimate.com

        Bellamy’s colleague Jack Barrett is a chemist with a long list of publications on spectroscopy, in particular of small molecules such as the ‘greenhouse’ gases H2O, CO2, CH4, N2O and O3

        Barrett and Bellamy’s blog doesn’t currently accept comments or questions online, but is well laid out and provides clear and dispassionate explanations of a number of basic and more advanced aspects of atmospheric science from a ‘hard science’ perspective.

      • Judith,

        conservation got its start under teddy Roosevelt and the establishment of national parks. environmentalism as practiced now is a preservationism, attempting to keep things the same, or make them the same, as what the practitioners imagine they should have been which is unlikely to be the same as things have ever been. Both views lead to serious problems. conservationists have tried forest management, fighting forest fires and allowing the growth of lots of tender making fires far more devastating. Environmentalists have tried to get rid of fire access roads as well as selective logging, making the ability to fight the new megafires far more difficult.

        While Hansen is the poster child for the extremist environmentalist view, there seem to be plenty of others willing to promote the AGW or Catastrophic AGW, especially in the softer sciences unrelated to the actual thermodynamic aspects of climate science. These accept the scientific method as being accurate on all time scales and that peer review of a publication IS the scientific method part for independent duplication of results. This is a religion with undying faith in the scientific method. In reality, eventially the method yields results with plenty of error along the way – like going from point A to point B while dancing a waltz (every step does not take you in the right direction).

      • I’m a conservative, active member in the Canadian parties, I’m an atheist, would consider myself a staunch environmentalist having donated directly to on the ground science groups working to preserve, specifically, parrots ( I would never donate to the WWF). And totally reject AGW.

        I think if you look more carefully at those in the AGW movement, as opposed to the science of climate, that many of them look at the following with concern:

        –Resourse depletion, specifically food and oil.
        –Population explosion, which plays into resource depletion.
        –Lifestyle differences between the First World and the Third World’s abject poverty. The whole redistribution of wealth businesses (they feel guilty being better off).

        AGW is a convenient tool to mobalize the Western World to act (aka lower our quality of life) to reduce its “addiction” to oil, and to do the “right thing” and funnel billions into the Third World.

        All of this has nothing to do with environmentalism, and everything to do with politics. Hell, we even have some of these “scientists” calling on the removal of democracy and invoking a dictatorial one world government run by specially trained elites. You can’t get more political than that.

      • I agree very much with your assessment. Apparently the agw is the religious glue important for the sacrifices necessary to accomplish the consolidation of wealth and power among a few elites. I’m afraid though that zero population growth is not their solution but that it will be far worse than that if these elites ever do gain control.

      • Craig Goodrich

        Speaking from the Right, and having grown up surrounded by farmers, hunters, and fishermen, I have always been a conservationist, in favor of preserving wilderness for future generations and condemning needless pollution. But I have never been an “environmentalist.”

        What environmentalism now means is completely destroying the economy of California’s Central Valley to save a small number of trash fish (who are thriving elsewhere anyway) while utterly devastating millions of acres of rustic countryside and wildlife habitat with completely useless wind turbines. It means forbidding sustainable logging because of putative damage to an owl habitat while promoting a biomass plant that requires hundreds of tons of logs every day. It means screeching at the steam rising from a cooling tower, mistaking it for smoke, while paying no attention to mitigation of the real environmental problems of coal, which are in the area of mining and ash disposal, not burning.

        It means a fatuous quest for “renewable” sources of energy, which is in engineering terms absurd, and in practice involves feverishly pouring taxpayer dollars into the pockets of financiers who promise to replace sources of power that actually work with those that actually don’t. For a quarter of a million years, humans relied on “renewable” power sources; the African mother cooking the family supper in an unventilated hut over a fire of dried dung — the local forest having been denuded generations ago for fuel — still does.

        In short, “environmentalism” now stands for devastating both the economy and the environment in order to avoid future catastrophes which are either trivial (e.g. a few less delta smelt) or completely imaginary (e.g. disastrous sea level rise). Which I hope explains why this skeptic, at any rate, is not an environmentalist.

      • Earth day is Vladimir Lenin’s birthday. I was always under the impression that was intentional.

      • David

        It isn’t.

        Earth Day was named such by the creator of the campaign to purposely sound like “birthday”, and to take place on the Spring equinox that year.

        Of course, the Birthday Paradox can kick in for any of a number of coincidental mishaps, and communists _did_ exploit the coincidence.

        So to do Arborists, who point out that Julius Sterling Morton shares that birthday.

        It’s a matter of believe what you will, since the details of the origin are largely lost among the chaos of competing and ill-documented claims.

      • Isn’t the Spring Equinox in March?
        Perhaps it is just coincidence, but it wasn’t simply Lenin’s birthdate, it was his 100th anniversary.

      • Wait, are we crediting the organizers of the first Earth Day with being organized enough to get the date of the Spring Equinox right?

        Fishing through tales of the first Earth Day, one finds endless silly explanations of the date, the name of the date, its purpose, and its secret conspiracy theory origins.

        My personal belief is that it was selected to be nine months before Christmas.

      • Bruce Cunningham

        Yes. Earth day is I think Lenin’s b’day. The dates given for both are usually different if you look them up directly, but one has to realize that the date quoted for Lenin is usually from the Julian calender. Present dates are in the Gregorian calender. Allow for the difference and they are the same date.

      • Right.

        The dates are the same.

        The question is of intentionality.

        So far as can be found from looking up the actual details of the original event some four decades ago, the reason for the selection of the date was pragmatic because the planners wanted it near the Spring Equinox and April 22 of the coming year was when they could book the event most easily.

        They didn’t have Google to look up every birthday and other sinister event in the history of the world to time their event in concert with. It is an extreme parody of paranoid conspiracy theory to suppose the date was chosen for any particular reason. (Why would a communist choose Lenin’s birthday over Marx’s? Why would they use so borgeoise an artifact as a birthday at all?)
        So no, I don’t believe the date was selected to honor Lenin, or Arborist Morton, or cause people to have Earth Day babies for Christmas (because they’d actually be born about January 18) or because the Rosicrucians plan to take over the world, or there’s a conspiracy based in Brussels to force us all to eat sprouts.

        The events are unconnected. Forming the connection indulges a basic human urge to find patterns and construct fictitious explanations for coincidences, because our minds find narratives satisfying.

        A better coincidence is that it’s 3 weeks after April Fool’s Day, in terms of trying to explain the secret motives behind the commie pinko red watermenace.

      • You are being far too shy about the breadth of Ira Einhorn’s abilities.
        They range far beyond leading the way for enviro-extremists to highjack our society.

  4. This may be off topic, but I see it as an insight on what CO2 obsession will lead those suffering from it to say:
    This is especially relevant since shaper00 has decided that AGW believers are all about democracy and civil society.
    I love irony.

  5. “And it doesn’t seem that AGW policies are particularly well thought out in terms of a broader sustainability perspective.”
    well put. There is a bonus of unintended consequences here, from wind farms killing birds to palm oil plantations replacing rain forest.

    • Buzz Fledderjohn

      Craig… But how does this differ from any other large scale human activity? You’re trying to associate things that are negative to AGW actions without taking into account the impacts of NOT taking such actions. You can’t just point to one side of the equation and assign blame.

      • Buzz,

        neither Wind Farms or biofuels have shown that they reduce CO2 or costs to the society or environment of generating enough power to keep our lights on consistently.

        Both sides of the equation are negative at this point!!

      • But not using windmills and bio-fuels do not allow AGW profiteers to profiteer, and that is negative!

    • Dr. Loehle, add this unintended consequence to the list. PETA, Paul McCarthy, et al, haranged the Newfoundland seal hunt for years, and finally got the EU to ban Canadian seal products (unless from aboriginal source). it was just announced today, that China is now going to welcome ALL seal products, from their fur/skin to the meat/fat. Uhhm has anyone looked at China’s population lately compared to the EU?

      The thing that PETA never had the balls to state about the hunt, is that for many famalies that partake, it is a huge part of their diet, and for some their only income for the year. Also there is a case that the seal population is becoming unsustainable.

      Which leads me back many years ago, when Greenpeace had started working for a similiar ban against any Canadian fur products in the EU. They partially succeeded, only to have the Inuit show them the results of their , Greenpeaces’ efforts. Innuit communities devastated by poverty and booze and drugs. Their way of life almost destroyed. Greanpeace backed off, but they never to my knowledge ever admitted their mistake. That was the moment I lost all respect for these huge “earth Loving” companies.

      • Craig Goodrich

        “… there is a case that the seal population is becoming unsustainable.”

        Darn, there’s never a polar bear around when you need one…

        Another Green disaster for the third world: European Greens have succeeded in essentially banning the importation of any “genetically modified” foodstuffs. Since most of their food imports come from Africa, this means that African farmers have to avoid GM crops, since a field of GM rice or corn might cross-pollinate with a neighboring field, rendering the neighbor crop unsaleable. But researchers in the US have developed several strains of GM grain that specifically address common African diet-deficiency diseases — which Africans are afraid to plant, lest their export income be destroyed.

        And the Greens accuse us AGW skeptics of being anti-science…

    • Also let us not forget the sierra club that recently boasted that they had had a hand in blocking at least 50 new coal fired generation plants in your good ole USA. So what did Duke Energy do? they just signed a long term contract to ship coal to China. And from what I read, the amount shipped will be larger in the time frame, then what those 50 plants would have burned in same time frame!

  6. Accusing climate scientists of pushing an environmental political agenda seems to me about as well founded as accusing climate skeptics [of] being in the pay of big oil.

    Isn’t this something of a tautology? All climate scientists I’ve spoken to who aren’t activists, aren’t activists. The important point is that where they do cross the line and make political statements, they are almost always sympathetic to Green ideology, or at the very least of progressive, left-wing views.

    So you seem to be in agreement with Gavin Schmidt in saying that scientists like Oppenheimer (who campaigned against Bush in 2004), “are not taking a political stand”, which clearly stands in blatant contradiction to the facts.

    • Taking a policy/political stand is not the same thing as environmentalism. The point i am making as the policy/political stance does not seem to be motivated by environmentalism, or even entirely consistent with environmentalism tenets

      • I think it is. Environmentalism, or eco-socialism, is at least as old as Marx. Indeed Marx wrote about, “the metabolic rift between man and nature”. There has always been a strong link between socialism and ecology, especially throughout the 1970’s in Eastern Europe and onwards into the present day. I don’t believe you can so easily separate the two and perhaps that is why the political imperatives of a lot of AGW “solutions” seem to be more concerned with redistribution and against free market capitalism, then they are about the level of CO2 in the atmosphere.

      • There is a big debate whether Marx’s writings can be interpreted in terms of environmentalism. Certainly there are some indications in his earlier work (including the section you quoted) but other passages from Marx are antithetical to environmentalism. Either way, it takes considerable work to turn Marx into an environmentalist, and having read a fair bit of his writings I don’t see him being very concerned about man’s effect on the environment. This was simply not a big issue in the 19th century.
        There may now be some predisposition amongst socialists towards environmentalism (after all, socialism is about the common good, which is what a lot of environmentalists would say) but this has not always been the case.

      • Grouping people’s beliefs into bins is an exercise that has difficulties and limited advantages. Grouping people’s motivations into bins is much more difficult than grouping stated beliefs.

        As a climate scientist, I’m motivated to do my work out of a quest for basic understanding, and I suspect most are like me. As a citizen, I’m sympathetic to many of the less extreme manifestations of environmentalism, and I’m no activist. I’m conflicted about things like endangered species, for example, because some of these species were destined to go extinct even in the absence of human interference.

        In the area of AGW, my primary concern is that we have only one atmosphere on which to experiment. This simple fact ought to counsel for caution. More CO2 is not the same as more CO2 injected really fast, for example.

        You ask “what to make of this?” What I make of it is that, if I’m any example, individuals rarely operate out of the simplistic motives that others interpret based on their statements or actions. AGW blogs are full of people impugning motives on others in hopes of bostering their position. It is a flawed tactic. Most of them are probably politically motivated .

      • AnyColourYouLike


        “Grouping people’s motivations into bins is much more difficult than grouping stated beliefs.”


        “AGW blogs are full of people impugning motives on others in hopes of bostering their position. It is a flawed tactic. Most of them are probably politically motivated .”

        Bit of a contradiction there, no?

      • Forgot the ;-) emoticon at the end. Thought it might be obvious.

      • AnyColourYouLike

        My bad ! Unfamiliar with your sense of humour.

        Good joke! :)

      • How fast could we burn all the accessible fossil fuels on the planet? That would raise the CO2 level by about 50%.

        The measured atmospheric increase in CO2 has bupkiss to do with human combustion of hydrocarbons and carbon lumps (coal). The numbers just don’t wash.

      • Can you then address how what Hansen calls for in his essay is not some form of environmental extremism?
        I think this sort of sums up why, if your community wants to be taken seriously, you are going to have to stand up to Hansen:
        “Hansen also claimed that if no action was taken, and all fossil fuels were burnt, then sea levels would rise by 75 metres (246 feet)”
        You have Lovelock, who obviously went off the deep end a long time ago, but your guy Hansen is in a closely closing second place.
        He may be trying to define a new example of the definition of ‘loose cannon’.
        Until reputable people on his side of the discussion stand up and call bs to his increasingly deranged fear mongering, all of you are going to be tarred with his same brush of extremist madness.

      • And by all indicators, Hansen is in full charge of NASA’s position on any and every topic and research area that even peripherally relates to climate change.

        Are you prepared to repudiate him, Judith? If not, why not?

      • Hansen is actually an outlier in NASA. Ironically, the lack of study (hence lack of understanding) of the federal AGW network is part of AGW’s power. The names of the people in charge are generally unknown. They are the pro-AGW program managers who fund the $2 billion in pro-AGW research. Bob Corell at NSF used to be the leader but he retired ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Corell ). It is my hear-say understanding the he organized the USGCRP in 1989, the staffing of which is the key to understanding the politicization of US climate science.

        It is almost amusing that despite the political uproar these folks remain faceless. They have the choke hold on climate science.

      • It sounds more like how the Vatican selects a new Pope than how science with public money should be done- or any science that is normative, for that matter.

      • Indeed, you’ve made the key point. If, according to Judith, most climate scientists aren’t activists, then why don’t they ever pop-up on the radar to contradict people like Hansen and Gore, who are constantly making the most ridiculous claims?

        Is it possible that like Happer and the Scientist (drugs policy) I mentioned in another thread, you’ll find yourself out of a cushy government job if you criticise the paradigm? Or perhaps you’ll find it more difficult to publish, or get grant funding, thereby damaging your career? Or perhaps they actually really believe it all, which would lead me to suspect an unusually high level of gullibility in our scientific establishment, particularly with respect to claims made by peers.

        Is it really such a surprise there’s a consensus on this issue?

      • Hansen – is a puzzle. Not in what he says, does or is, but rather in how he manages to keep his job. Under the present Administration it may be understandable, but under Bush?

        Point is that under the Hatch Act, which prohibits political activism by Federal employees, he should have been canned long ago. I’ve seen people lose their Federal jobs for what, in any other context, would be a minor infraction. How DOES he do it?

      • Judith, as a scientist you are used to a doctrinal understanding of categories, and it’s no doubt tempting to analyse “environmentalism” “libertarianism”, “liberalism”, “socialism” etc., in terms of their ideal types. But these ideal types are only manifest in small cadres. To the extent that they are influences on wider society, each relies heavily on a vast army of dilettante, lifestyle adherents, many of whom reflexively hold mutually contradictory views. They continue to hold them because they never really examine them. Environmentalists have so effectively peddled their “four legs good, two legs bad” paradigm over the last half-century that large parts of the developed world contain populations trained from infancy to be predisposed to believe any story that demonises humanity. I see no reason why climate scientists born after, say, 1965 should be any more free of this predisposition than anyone else.

      • actually what i am trying to do in this series is challenge the stereotypes of environmentalists, libertarians, etc. towards a more complex understanding of why people hold various views about climate science.

      • Dr. Curry,
        I don’t think consideration of stereotypes in this blog as been beneficial at all. The failed Dr. Gushee post was more damaging than anything, because he is obviously an anti-conservative Christian who misrepresented the group, reinforced stereotypes and increased tribalism. The post on libertarians was not as harmful in my mind, but did not provide any insight either. At least I did not see anything new or unexpected.

        People hold various views on climate science because a scientific debate is going on. Scientists are supposed to be skeptical. I don’t trust scientists who buy into catastrophe scenarios without looking at the issue skeptically and really doing their homework.

        As a result, I trust Steve McIntyre, Roger Pielke Sr., Petr Chylek, David Douglass, John Christy, Roy Spencer and Richard Lindzen far more than I trust Michael Mann, Phil Jones, Jim Hansen and the Met Office. The failures, errors, data hiding and abandonment of scientific standards by Mann, Jones, Hansen and the Met Office are well established even if they are not well reported by the media.

        It is true that Christy and Spencer made errors but they did not try to hide their data. As a result, the errors were corrected quickly and science was advanced.

        If you want to a more complex understanding of why people hold various views about climate science, you have to look to the behavior of the climate scientists themselves. Why do some people trust the group of scientists which have acted less than honorably?

      • Another example of climate science abandoning the standards of science is the failure of climate models to have adequate documentation. This is another example of failure to archive and share data. The climate models are nothing but a black box with a lot of claims of authority.

        Perhaps you could go to a tribe in Papua New Guinea and convince them you have a black box which will tell the future, but scientists should not expect people who have developed critical thinking skills to buy such a claim.

        Proper documentation would include a description of the equations used, an explanation the attempt to model climate variability and full disclosure on what parameters have been set. Currently no GCM does this.

        Remove from the literature as unreliable papers by Jones, Mann, Hansen and papers based on black box climate models and what support does CAGW have? In my opinion, very little and none that cannot be quickly taken down.

        So why do people believe scientists who have behaved less than honorably?

      • The point i am making as the policy/political stance does not seem to be motivated by environmentalism, or even entirely consistent with environmentalism tenets

        It never was from the beginning. Maurice Strong started the IPCC for the purpose of destroying Western Capitalism, the same system that allowed him to make billions.

  7. Because the Green movement varies in its effect and reach from country to country, it doesn’t seem helpful to talk of ‘environmentalism’ without some context.

    In Australia, the Greens pull about 10 per cent of the vote at national and state/territory elections. We use the preferential voting (= alternative vote) system, in which voters allocate their preferences among the candidates, voting 1 for G, 2 for E, 3 for B, and so on. If no candidate has won an absolute majority of the votes, then the votes case for the least popular candidate are re-allocated to the candidate shown as next preferred, and so on until somebody has won an absolute majority. Complicated? No, and we’ve been doing it for nearly a hundred years.

    Now, 10 per cent of the vote in such a system is quite powerful, and Green ‘preferences’, which generally go to Labor ( = what passes for Left, here), have helped Labor to form governments at the national level and elsewhere. So there’s a certain amount of courting of the Greens from all sides, and a great deal of lip-service is paid to environmentalism.

    While there are, nonetheless, many sincere and active environmentalists who try to preserve wilderness areas, and all the rest, it is also true here that the Greens and the environmental movements generally have been strong supporters of the AGW proposition, almost from the beginning. There’s not much ‘muddiness’, at least that I can discern. Australia produces a good deal of the world’s uranium, but we have no nuclear power stations, and at least a decade would pass before we could have one actually operating. It is when the Greens move to thinking that nuclear power stations might be a good thing, or at least a less-worse alternative than coal-fired power stations, that the move to nuclear will gain some momentum.

    Personally, I am reluctant to style myself as an environmentalist, but in practice we have been doing the basic conservation things for decades, more on the principle of avoiding waste than for preserving the environment. I don’t respond to the Greens in politics, because their rhetoric bores me. But when they actually have to operate in a quasi-government role, as they do where I live, they realise very quickly that governing involves vastly more than being Green, and they learn.

    I hope this makes sense. I think that every country would tell a different story, but we might learn from the differences, as well as the similarities.

    • David L. Hagen

      The major danger from the Green’s is their policies to “damn the dam” – and consequently the people bear far greater tragedy and loss. See:
      Queensland floods: but at least the ‘endangered’ Mary River cod is safe, eh?

      Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett on Wednesday said he made the interim decision to reject the controversial $1.8 billion plan to dam the Mary River because evidence showed it could kill off endangered species.

      Consequently we have billions of dollars in damage and over 100 people probably dead – far greater cost than the original cost of the dam. There were probably other ways to preserve the cod!

      Alarming report on Brisbane River risks covered up

      But the recommendations in the report for radical changes in planning strategy, emergency plans and transparency about the true flood levels for Brisbane were rejected and the report was covered up. . . .
      The major finding of this study is that the calculated one-in-100-year design flood flow . . . is about 1m to 2m higher than the current development control in the Brisbane River corridor.

      The Green’s refusal to allow controlled burning or even thinning resulted in far more intense fires in Australia and similar loss of life with several hundred dead.

      I see environmentalism worships the earth with consequent harm and cost to people.

  8. “Accusing climate scientists of pushing an environmental political agenda seems to me about as well founded as accusing climate skeptics as being in the pay of big oil.”

    I patiently await my first big-oil check.

  9. I consider myself to be an environmentalist that is skeptic of AGW.

    And I feel that fear based campaigns, by some groups that want to revert AGW, are damaging the whole environmentalism issue by smothering debate on other subjects.

    Considering that AGW is a theory, of which I am still skeptical, I have some difficulty giving it more importance than the factual poisoning of rivers, the problem of handling waste from big cities, the constant changes we make on land use, animal testing of cosmetics, the way we produce meat and the amount of pesticides and fertilizers we use in farming .

    If, and when, we can stop burning fossil fuels that will be great news for an immense number of reasons, but the idealistic “zealot prophet of doom” approach that wants the whole world to engage a faith movement is something that really puts me off. I put my money where my mouth is, I have invested over 10,000 € to have a solar based central heating system at home, and I am a great supporter of electric vehicles and projects like Better Place.

    Because of this I usually feel ashamed of saying I am an environmentalist, I go straight into saying I am a skeptic of AGW.

    • Post Scriptum:

      It is a real puzzle for me to understand what drives policies, even if I accept that some people might be funded by big-green and some on the other side of the debate might be funded by big-oil.

      Everyone has an agenda, but overall I feel that that shows much more on the Media and NGOs that on the scientific community.

      • Rui Sousa, Post Scriptum 1/12/2011: “It is a real puzzle for me to understand what drives policies” Solution: Men Desire Power

        “For instance, Mr. James Mill takes the principle that all men desire Power; his son, John Stuart Mill, assumes that all men desire Wealth mainly or solely.” — George Jacob Holyoake: ‘The History of Co-operation’ .

        “Many men desire power, wishing to have good report, though they are unworthy of it; yea, even the most infamous desire this.” — Alfred’s Boethius: Modern English Translation

        “…the race of men – who, above all else, desire power.” — The Lord Of The Rings, The Fellowship Of The Ring, Prologue, Galadriel

        “Some of you may die, but it’s a sacrifice I am willing to make.” — Farquaad (Shrek)

    • Rui,
      If you want to get really annoyed, think about the opportunity cost of the resources squandered on AGW. How many actual enviro projects have been passed by so those resources could be flung at (not very)hot air?

  10. It is hard for me to speak of others and their thinking/motivation regarding environmentalism; so I speak only from myown point of view. As a Great Lakes sailor of >50 years, my yacht being 13 feet, I commune with nature and am a keen observer. I particularly observe the wind on the water as I look for cues regarding potential puffs of wind. When I am right, I fly along; I am joined with wind, boat and water. When I am wrong, I am dunked into the cold water. My lifetime activities both recreationally and in my day job involves observations and representations of turbulence, which at times I still do not do very well and frequently get “dunked” into the cold water of reality. My life has been the study of nature. I believe I am an environmentalist, I just am not a “greenie”; too many cold dunkings to have the hubris and certaintude to “know” how nature works.

  11. Judith

    I’m an environmentalist, in that I recognize that there’s an environment, and that it has value. I recognize that there are chalkboards and planets, and they have value too, so I guess I’m also a chalkboardist and an orbitist.

    I’m also so extremely skeptical as to be (near?) pathological. That voice that screams in my head, “No! No! No! That isn’t true! That can’t be true!” when I hear any statement, any claim of fact or opinion, any syllable uttered on any side even by myself, that’s skepticism, isn’t it?

    Takes a bit of discipline to evaluate my doubts through reason, logic, scientific method and SWAG enough to allow that there is some truth in some of what is said to make participating in civil discourse bearable given my particular bent, but then we all have afflictions.

    Unlike those who go wildly handwavy and abandon their common sense attributes of skepticism or democracy, ability to prioritize, rationality, power to apply estimation and sense of scope, my own worries aren’t about the world ending, but about the world being a little bit more expensive over time; not about having to throw out everything in a last-ditch effort but about getting the most value of what might best be preserved to hand down to others in trust.

    So, no, I don’t need to ruin the economy to solve the millennial issue of excessive CO2 emission. I don’t resort to the Precautionary Principle, or models, or to predictions of heat levels as anything other than an interesting mathematical puzzle.

    The skeptical economist recognizes the common sense principle that applies to all scarce resources applies to the balance of chemical components in our air — as the supply diminishes, the price must go up or it will be squandered.

    Once the skeptical economist does that, one knows the economy is not Newtonian with regard to the speed of CO2 emission, but that Einsteinian mathematics dominate at the limit, and past that limit we do not increase our economy no matter how much energy we put into emitting, or adapting to, or remediating CO2.

    Even better, the skeptical economist remembers that time and again we’ve imposed limits of exactly this sort on the economy to produce not a crash or disaster for nations, but a new world of opportunity, stimulation and growth. From every new tier of economies built on old, telegraphs to telephones, to computers, and later still, cell phones, and on and on, there was regulation, control, limit and agreement to surrender liberty for growth of value to all.

    It’s also no different for CO2 emission than it is for wheat or leather or timber: at some point, use exceeds sustainable capacity.

    The skeptical environmentalist need give no credit to arguments that 2100 will be a time of death to 80% of the human race.

    Which, it could be in the same way as it might have happened in 1962, any time since.

    Odds of it are low, uncertainty high, Doomsday Clock has always been wrong so far so it has utterly lost its currency.

    But then, the skeptical environmentalist doesn’t need to worry about 8 billion deaths to think 10 billion serious inconveniences are a bad thing, when those inconveniences can be avoided by mere principled conduct of ordinary life.

    A skeptical environmentalist doesn’t need to set a fixed date for when the catastrophe will happen.

    The catastrophe is accepting depletion of those things of value that we ought pass on in trust to the future for temporary faddish indulgence of excesses of gluttony, sloth and conspicuous consumption.

    The catastrophe is accepting the glib slogans of people who picked a side and think there’s an ultimate truth in it justifying whatever method of rhetoric or spin, propaganda or attack on others.

    Those are catastrophes, as they are here, now, entirely avoidable, and make us the sort of fools who will bumble into catastrophes of our own making.

  12. I think the terms are being misused/abused.

    An Environmentalist arbitrarily separates human beings from the rest of the environment. Its a romantic preservationist view — maintain the initial state at all cost with humans as little more than alien intruders.

    On the other hand, Conservationist is a steward of the environment implying a meaningful relationship with an environment that includes human beings.

    Skeptical is simply a state of questioning — can be aligned with any group.

    AGW Skeptic and Conservationist makes more sense as Environmentalists tend to blame humans for everything.

    • John from CA

      More nicely said than most.

      I’d refine your lines out of pure contrarity to, “Skeptical is simply a state of questioning — can be UN-aligned with any group.”
      Environmentalists tend to blame other humans for everything.

    • In a simplistic way, the youtube animation is fairly close to the truth. It paints the self-proclaimed AGW “Environmentalist” as a Denialist who supports pollution. Car manufacture generates more pollution than nearly anything else and Carbon Credits don’t address the true cause of the problem and also perpetuate pollution.

      Its actually odd that the term Denier is thrown in the face of the wrong group.

      • Well, it’s a (psychological) projection.
        Warmists actually deny (natural) climate change. They will of course per definition not admit that they do, but basically they all do in varying degrees.

      • Sorry, I meant “by definition”.

      • “Well, it’s a (psychological) projection.” I agree, projection intended to have (psychological) impact(s) which unfortunately impacts the topic as a whole.

        Its fair to say that people who support and do not support the IPCC consensus have any number of opinions about the science and therefore shouldn’t be categorized.

        Scientists who support and do not support the IPCC consensus typically don’t fall into the trap of name calling but its also fair to say their views vary widely (little consensus).

        It may be fair to say that 95% of Climate Scientists support the IPCC consensus publicly but do so in relation to the state of the science within the context of their research. AR5 for instance includes aspects of climate that are missing from AR4.

        I haven’t run across many who blindly think that AGW is the sole cause of climate yet many of the news media articles present disjointed and inaccurate views as if they were fact.

        Dismissing extreme Environmentalist views would be helpful but making sure the extreme and unsubstantiated views are properly identified in K-12 education is a Must.

      • “I haven’t run across many who blindly think that AGW is the sole cause of climate…”

        I agree, but even those who did not blindly think that AGW is the sole cause, mostly did not tolerate (and some still don’t) any scepticism thereby suppressing any healthy debate.

      • And that is the reason for this blog being so good. To see an “established” scientist like Judith tolerating scientific scepticism and dissent is refreshing. If more were like her…

    • AGW Skeptical Ecologist works for me.

      There is a big difference between Ecology and Environmentalism.

    • John,
      You are right about stewardship. One of Man’s first responsibilities. Conservatives tend to take such responsibilities seriously, although some may take issue with that..
      Genesis 2:15 “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” – NIV

      • IMO, these terms (Steward and Stewardship) also instill confusion but both revolve around Respect / Reverence.

        Dumping PCBs into rivers and lakes prior to enacted deadlines demonstrates a lack of Respect yet the law that triggered the event was poorly crafted (should have mitigated the situation). This is one of the major issues that needs to be addressed but how can one fix inadequate logic that sees a tree and not the forest?

        In the US it may be simple to fix. Remove the Congressional ability to enact poorly crafted legislation by empowering the States. States should first address and propose resolution to common issues that benefit their State, then gather and agree to a resolution, than pass the consensus for resolution to Congress. This would ensure proper vetting of the issue and its proposed solution and eliminate the Politics in favor of the Science?

      • randomengineer

        In the US it may be simple to fix. Remove the Congressional ability to enact poorly crafted legislation by empowering the States.

        Well that’s the thing, isn’t it? Empowering the states isn’t going to happen, and in part because the environmental movement is so wedded to the big government left that such issues would be impossible politically to extricate. Apparently the constitution is ignored.

        The skeptics talking about ‘big government’ being either a side effect (or more conspiratorially, the goal) of all of this have a point. Notions of the correct role of government (at least in the US) play a part in this discussion.

      • Your suggested approach clearly will not happen in the US.

        IMO, the critical conflict in the US will be the court cases againest the EPA’s designation of CO2 emissions as harmful.

      • My suggested approach is the way its “supposed” to work in the US. The problem is that the Federal Government has usurped the authority. The States are in the process of pressing the issues but aren’t in agreement.

        States like CA, MA, and CT are actually responsible for the court cases that are forcing EPA action. Note that Congress never empowered the EPA to address CO2 and Climate issues.

        If the State Governors can agree on an approach to reclaim the authority and take the funding stick out of Congress then we could see a very productive debate and resolution to this fundamental issue that causes most of the Ecological issues.

      • States like CA, MA, and CT are actually responsible for the court cases that are forcing EPA action. Note that Congress never empowered the EPA to address CO2 and Climate issues.

        For both Congress and individual states, the “advantage” to EPA regulation over legislation is one of cover. Far harder to blame an individual politician for a bureaucratic decision and/or lack of legislative action than for an actual vote on a bill.

        For the state, the “advantage” is also one of spreading any economic detriment. State regulations might drive a business away from that state, but there are only so many businesses willing/able to go offshore.

      • So here’s the way its currently working.

        Congress throws together generalized legislation related to a complex issue. They pass the mess into law and then task an agency like the EPA with the framing of specific regulations related to the poorly defined legislation. The EPA then crafts the regulation (takes about a year) and turns the new regulations over for review by the States (takes about 2 years). So here we are 3 years down the road from the enacted mess with States each adopting a different approach to meet or eliminate the need for the EPA to govern the regulations.

        Meanwhile, the taxpayer is picking up the tab for all this insightful effort.

        Ultimately, this costs the taxpayer several times the cost of an alternative approach and never adequately addresses the issues in an efficient and insightful way.

        Take the issues out of Congress, mandate all States to devise and share proposed solutions (solutions will typically stem from State Universities), and then require the States to agree on a set of solutions that meet the true needs of their State and the Nation as a whole before sending the highly refined legislation to Congress.

        Taxpayers save money and generally agree on their State solution before the law is enacted. Regulations are highly refined and appropriate to each State and we can reduce the Federal cost of oversight.

        For all the Politicians involved, this is an Objective role which doesn’t incur political backlash so its in their best interest.

      • John,

        No argument on my part that this is neither effective nor economical, which is why the sneer quotes are around the word “advantage”. Your proposal is certainly reasonable and far less likely to be abused as what we have in place now.

      • They’ve “leveraged” the Federal power for their local POV; it’s a form of proxy control over the other states. CA is certainly the worst offender. And a less desirable puppet master for the Federal Government would be hard to find.

      • Alaska?

      • John from CA: Surely you must be joking; the Clean Air Act is poorly crafted? It is merely “Broad”, “Sweeping”, “Capacious” and covers everything airborne. (sarc off)

        Justice Stevens. 2007. MASSACHUSETTS ET AL. v. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY ET AL. April 2. http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/06pdf/05-1120.pdf

        Page 04, 05 (Syllabus): #3. Because greenhouse gases fit well within the Act’s capacious definition of “air pollutant,” EPA has statutory authority to regulate emission of such gases from new motor vehicles. That definition— which includes “any air pollution agent . . . , including any physical,chemical, . . . substance . . . emitted into . . . the ambient air . . . , §7602(g) (emphasis added)—embraces all airborne compounds of whatever stripe”.

        Page 26 (Opinion): The statutory text forecloses EPA’s reading. The Clean Air Act’s sweeping definition of “air pollutant” includes “any air pollution agent or combination of such agents, including any physical, chemical . . . substance or matter which is emitted into or otherwise enters the ambient air . . . .” §7602(g) (emphasis added).

        Page 29 (Opinion): While the Congresses that drafted §202(a)(1) might not have appreciated the possibility that burning fossil fuels could lead to global warming, they did understand that without regulatory flexibility, changing circumstances and scientific developments would soon render the Clean Air Act obsolete. The broad language of §202(a)(1) reflects an intentional effort to confer the flexibility necessary to forestall such obsolescence. See Pennsylvania Dept. of Corrections v. Yeskey, 524 U. S. 206, 212 (1998) (“[T]he fact that a statute can be applied in situations not expressly anticipated by Congress does not demonstrate ambiguity. It demonstrates breadth” (internal quotation marks omitted)). Because greenhouse gases fit well within the Clean Air Act’s capacious definition of “air pollutant,” we hold that EPA has the statutory authority to regulate the emission of such gases from new motor vehicles.

        SCALIA, J. (Dissenting, Page 10 footnote 2): Not only is EPA’s interpretation (in opposition to Massachusetts’ suit) reasonable, it is far more plausible than the Court’s alternative. As the Court correctly points out, “all airborne compounds of whatever stripe,” ante, at 26, would qualify as“physical, chemical, . . . substance[s] or matter which [are] emitted into or otherwise ente[r] the ambient air,” 42 U. S. C. §7602(g). It follows that everything airborne, from Frisbees to flatulence, qualifies as an “air pollutant.” This reading of the statute defies common sense.

      • LOL, you’ve got to love Scalia.

        It follows that everything airborne, from Frisbees to flatulence, qualifies as an “air pollutant.” This reading of the statute defies common sense.

        It gets even worse when you review the proposed amendment to the Clean Water Act that seeks to regulate wet meadows and potholes and grandfathers regulatory changes to the late 1980’s.

        The EPA’s Farm Dust Regulation is another looney tune endeavor.

        This is the true cause Ecological issues — lack of an insightful approach.

  13. It would be disingenious of skeptics to try to tear down and topple all of the environmental along with the AGW/CO2 agenda.

    Industry is in the forefront of environmental work, using elaborate industrial standards (Environmental Management/ISO14001, Life Cycle Assessment), which include a commitment to describing its own (real) environmental impact as well as securing the necessary resources for implementing measures against such impact.

    Seen this way, industry will most likely be the most effective vehicle also in a rollback if needed, meaning disentangling CO2 measures from (real) environmental measures.

    If politics would find CO2-like measures important regardless of climate science (for reasons of e.g. fossil-fuel security, technology/innovation, infrastructure), then I guess to industry disentangling would seem worthwhile nevertheless since such other reasons probably call for sharing and lifting costs differently.

    • To the extent that CO2 obsession has corrupted things, it must be either healed or torn out.

  14. Sean Houlihane

    It seems that the confusion comes with trying or failing to differentiate environmentalism from green politics. I am not sure that there is any real common ground, at the level of the underlying ideologies. My impression is that the climate science population tends to be more strongly green rather than at one with nature. I have certainly seen people who want to be seen as interested in the environment who have no sensitivity for the fragility of an ecosystem which they are touristing in.

    • I would agree with you on the lack of common ground between environmentalism and green politics at the present time, although the latter was born from the former.

      The current problem is that the greens have successfully painted a distorted picture in which anyone who expresses any concern for any environmental issue is automatically a statistical supporter of their whole agenda, cAGW and all…….sort of like the IPCC’s overwhelming scientific consensus really.

  15. ..which character in this discussion seems more protective of the environment?



    The idiocy of the strawman aside, the profound arrogance of the respondent’s I-know-best assertions are equal, and equally bad.

    Recent studies?

    CO2 is good for plants?

    The joke is, however hard the animator works to make Denier-bear sound reasonable, sensible and correct, it still comes off as no more supported by evidence or logic than the obvious Hybridiot-bear.

    Propaganda isn’t bad only when it supports the other side.

    Propaganda is bad because as demagoguery, it encourages flacid reasoning and undercuts principle, understanding and democracy.

    • randomengineer

      CO2 is good for plants?

      It’s not? Higher than normal CO2 is what’s in greenhouses, which plants seem to like well enough.

      Where are you going with this?

      • CO2 is what is put into greenhouses during hours of daylight, when the well-fertilized, well-watered plants have a peak demand.

        Put high concentrations of CO2 into your greenhouse when other plant nutrients are scarce (as in nature is common) and you get no benefit.

        Put high concentrations of CO2 into your greenhouse at night and you suffocate your plants, which are trying to suck up as much O2 as they can and produce plenty of CO2.

        This is what you get when you don’t skeptically investigate claims like CO2 is good for plants, or thalidomide is good for pregnant women.

      • randomengineer

        I think the Idsos have a different perspective.


      • Wow.

        Imagine, using a reference to the rabidly anti-skeptical to answer a complaint of insufficient skepticism.

        Sure, you get some benefits for some plants under some circumstances with some CO2 changes.

        But it isn’t a panacea, without limits, nor is it proven or known how such unplanned changes will affect plants in the wild.

        But if you wish, by all means, can you set your “CO2 is good for plants” case within the context of Liebig’s Law of the Minimum as a starting point?


      • Bart R, where did you come with the thalidomide comment. That is what always get you guys in trouble – extreme and fictitious hyperbole.

      • Bob

        Not sure I follow?

        Are you claiming the thalidomide episode was fictitious, or that more skeptical questioning of the claims of benefit would not have made a difference to outcomes, or that CO2 couldn’t possibly have adverse impacts on anything because you’re so sure it needs no further examination before being applied widely?

        And who guys are you associating me with? Scientists? I’m not one by even self-applaudingly slim criteria. Climate scientists? Well, if not a scientist, then not a climate scientist. People with whom you disagree? Well, gee, that list has to be so overly broad as to be meaningless. Logical people? What? You’ve got me curious, Bob.

        I’m sorry if my pertinent and apt example has offended your delicate sensibilities or suggested that it’s just as idiotic to accept blatant unsupported claims of benefit as it is to accept claims of any sort without question.

        Maybe if you were more even-handedly skeptical?

      • Then plants must have really suffered back in pre-history when CO2 levels were several orders of magnitude higher.
        And how do you think plants are going to be smothered at elevated concentrations of around 0.1%?
        I would suggest that, instead of worrying about too much CO2, you check what the minimum CO2 level has to be to sustain healthy plant life.

      • Peter317

        You expect us to be in danger of falling below the minimum CO2 level needed for plants?

        It’s a big worry to you?

        Keeps you from sleeping at night, does it?

        When you speak of pre-history, how long ago do you refer to, exactly?

        What plants we know well today were extant then? All our modern plants? In the same ratios and with the same distribution? Do you know this? How?

        Do plants die out at elevated round-the-clock CO2 levels of 0.1% or 0.05%? No, of course not.

        Do they prosper better, uniformly, at these elevated round-the-clock levels?

        That’s what I’m questioning.

        Show me evidence suitable to justify an uncontrolled worldwide project of such magnitude. Something that would satisfy a skeptic.

        You know, skepticism, the supposed justification for the Climate Change debate?

      • Let’s have some references then, and less sarkiness.

      • That’s what I said, in brief.

        You’ve interpreted my request correctly.

      • Putting “extra” CO2 into a greenhouse doesn’t remove all the O2. Your argument is nonsense.

      • Huh.

        I’m going to go return my CO2 fire extinguisher to the fraudster who sold it to me.

        Imagine — it doesn’t remove O2 either!

      • If your “CO2 fire extinguisher” removed all the O2, you wouldn’t want to ever use it cause it would kill you.

        People have died like that.

      • Jim Owen

        Removal of O2 is a red herring.

        Plants use CO2 in many ways; it has a powerful impact on plant physiology, and its partial pressure in air always strongly affects plants, though some more than others, and often in different ways depending on plant and on other conditions.

        Adding CO2 changes timing and patterns of growth, fruiting, flowering, budding, leafing, shedding, die back and take up of nutrients; it either does no good or does positive harm if those changes it produces are not what you desire, due to stress, except during those hours of sunlight when it is mainly taken up for photosynthesis, and then only if all other nutrients are not already fully exploited.

        Do you want your roses to have puny flower heads and great leggy stalks? Flood your greenhouse with CO2 at night.

        Want kudzu to take over your indoor garden? CO2 will give it a leg up on every other plant in the room.

        Stress, outcompetition by inferior species, physiological pressure, these remain large unknowns overall.

        If you’re a plant biologist, botanist, agronomist, or licensed greenhouse grower, then I apologize for lecturing you on some of the concerns that leap to the mind of those skeptics even slightly familiar with the topic when some great insufferably arrogant ignoramus of a teddy bear alleges that CO2 is good for plants in the context of uncontrolled and unlimited emission in the wild.

        If you credulously believe it just because a teddy bear tells you it is so, then turn in your Skeptics Club card, because you’re not a member.

        If you’ve already researched all those questions, and satisfied yourself that CO2 in the air could not possibly have negative impact on plants, then by all means, share, because from the little I know of the literature on the subject, you’re way ahead in your knowledge than the published plant science, which pretty much sums up to “probably not as harmful as predicted.”

      • Removal of O2 is a red herring.

        Removal of O2 was what you implied. My comment was that it could kill you as it has others. IIRC, Launch Complex B is notorious in that respect.

        As for CO2 impact on plants, there have been several NASA studies over the last 10 years, none of which I kept because it wasn’t an area of interest to me. But they all have the same general conclusions – CO2 promotes plant (and tree) growth at significant rates. These are not hothouse studies. If you want the references, you can go to the NASA website and search the archives :

        I don’t think you care that much, but it’s your choice.

      • ‘Do you want your roses to have puny flower heads and great leggy stalks? Flood your greenhouse with CO2 at night.

        Stress, outcompetition by inferior species, physiological pressure, these remain large unknowns overall’

        Wow. If the choice is between ‘great leggy stalks on my roses’ or condemning half the 3rd world to poverty and squalor because you have moral objections to them having access to easy and reliable sources of power, then I think that the roses will have to come second.

      • Latimer Alder


        I remain skeptical of these ill-founded and unproven claims you subscribe to about the 3rd world; I don’t pretend to speak fo those diverse regions, and much of the 3rd world of which you speak appears to have entirely other issues than too little CO2 for their plants in the past century.

        Much of this 3rd world has had many of its mineral resources — among them carbon — exploited and exported with next to no consultation and next to no improvement in general welfare. Indeed the rule seems to be greater impoverishment every time some foreigner wants something from the 3rd world.

        So I will not succumb to the temptation to think you saintly, Latimer Alder, for finding the 3rd world a convenient excuse for something you want for yourself, without consultation of their interests, and have demonstrated neither involvement in the sufferings nor lasting solution for the problems of among your piety.

        Your concern for the 3rd world seems based on your willingness to attempt to exploit their misery for you argument as fake as Jim Owen’s claims about NASA, if one watches (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xjsvL23Sw9Q) and listens to what NASA says, not what Jim Owen says NASA says.

      • Latimer Alder

        I make absolutely no claims to sainthood and have rarely seen a better strawman.

        But it barely conceals the paucity of your argument.

        Simply put, access to convenient and reliable sources of power is a major driver for people to move from poverty and squalor to better sanitation (and hence less disease), better agriculture and life opportunities. The guys in China understand that this, they guys in India understand this, in Africa this is becoming understood.

        And yet you wish to deny them these opportunities because your flaming roses would have leggy stems. Seems to be missing the point rather arrogantly and spectacularly.

        Two other points – not directly relevant, but worth making nontheless:

        1. You know nothing at all about my involvement in 3rd world issues. So you are in no position at all to comment about them..favourably or unfavourably.

        2. You seem hung up on ‘diversity’. FWIW my paid employment is on the London Buses. Which means that I am out and about most days riding on those vehicles across London. Not just in the touristy parts. But all over the capital.

        That’s my job. London is one of the most culturally and ethnically diverse cities in the world. So I meet a lot of different people from all around the world every day. Nice people, nasty people, black people, white people, brown people, English people, chinese people, somali people, Polish people, even the occasional American. Short people, tall people, fat people, bright people, stupid people. Old people, young people, inbetween people. Christians, atheists, Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, Confucians, Jews……….

        That’s what I do daily. Not just on the occasional exotic holidays on breaks from driving my airconditioned commuter vehicle on the freeway as I commute.

        So I’ll take no lectures on ‘diversity’ from your quarter.

      • Latimer Alder

        Wow. “..access to convenient and reliable sources of power is a major driver for people to move from poverty and squalor to better sanitation (and hence less disease), better agriculture and life opportunities.”

        What a heart-tugging load of unsupported and contrafactual crock. You may be familiar with bus conducting, but this argument I know well, having seen it in many guises before. It’s been used to displace people to support building hydroelectric projects and expropriating farms for mining, to justify poisoning water supplies and inducing child labor in sweatshops and factories. It has never had the promised outcomes, and has only ever concentrated greater wealth, power and priviledge in the hands of fewer.

        You want to know what projects help the 3rd world most? Technical training in the building of bamboo bicycles and bed nets; neither of these are particularly energy intensive, and they address the five great needs of the 3rd world: education, mobility, disease-fighting, independence and employment.

        Contrast with the Chinese coal plant disaster, undertaken intentionally to give China and its state-controlled labor force the production capacity to flood the world market with cheap goods and crash production capacity in other nations and establish anticompetitive regimes.

      • Latimer Alder

        I look forward to your justification that the things that help the 3rd world *the Most* are

        ‘Technical training in the building of bamboo bicycles and bed nets; neither of these are particularly energy intensive, and they address the five great needs of the 3rd world: education, mobility, disease-fighting, independence and employment’

        I don’t doubt that they are of themselves good things. But that they help *the most* is no more than an assertion, unless you can prove otherwise. And I guess that this will be just another of the wild statements, with no evidence that i am coming to expect from you.

        I’m second to nobody in my championing of bicycles as a means of transport. As you knwo I do not possessa car and use my bicycle for daily transport. But they are not a universal panacea in every case. Old people cannot use bicycles. Young children cannot use bicycles. They aren’t much use in hilly areas. You cannot transport heavy or bulk goods (like building materials or water or food in any quantity) by bicycle. The power available is limited by that of the human riding it. Which is pitfully small compared with even the most puny moped.

        Mosquito nets are indeed a great idea to prevent malaria. (So btw was DDT until the green movement got their collective knockers so misguidedly in a twist about it). But they have no effectiveness against other diseases like cholera. For which clean water (inbound and outbound) is essential. To operate these systems -well understood since Bazalgette’s times, you need to move large quantities fresh and waste water. Moving these needs pumps, not bicycles. Pumps need decent amounts of power available in a convenient and reliable way. Solar does not provide this, wind does not provide this.

        In the 3rd world, just like in the 1st, it is dark for approaching half the time. People need lighting to read and study and watch TV and contribute to blogs. And all the other things they do in the evenings. Electricity is the best way to provide that. They also want to eat. So they need cooking facilities….unless you wish them to rely on raw pulses, they will need to heat water. Electricty or gas or burning naturally occurring fuel is the only way to do this.

        And so on and so on and so on. Everywhere you look, the answers to people’s poverty and squalor requires power. Otherwise they are limited to manual labour.

        That you choose to use some spurious argument about poisoning water supplies, the relevance of which has escaped me, to prevent poor people from having access to well understood technology and the benefits that accrue of health, diet, education because of some moralistic stuff about the sealevel rising half an inch in three centuries is the height of arrogance. And shows no understanding of the real problems facing the 3rd world.

        So either justify your statement that bamaboo bicycles and mosquito nets provide the *most benefit* or hold your peace.

        (And FWIW London Buses abolished bus conductors some years ago, apart from on two very special routes designed to attract tourists. All the others are one man operation by the driver. I am not a bus driver)

      • Latimer


        You have divined that my bus conductor reference was not what it appeared on its face, but a reference to quaint anachronistic views neither current nor productive. And you got most of the way there on your own logic. Well done.

        I see you anachronistically are still arguing the DDT case, a quarter century or more since it was put to bed by everyone but ardent supporters of better living through chemistry. Your tenacity must be applauded.

        Your arguments in favor of energy seem more to support, oh, say, education and technical training, a focus for health, employment and independent control over one’s own local policies than for energy. Certainly the technology of providing light has come a long way since the energy-sucking quaintly anachronistic halogen lamps and incandescent bulbs you still think are needed to read by.

        Clean water systems need a modicum of power, it is true, such as for millennia human, animal, and wind power have supplied where regional stability was the norm. Try maintaining that stability when the populace is subject to displacement and uproars, as follow in the wake of so many foreign interventions.

        Try maintaining that stability when untrained and uneducated unemployed locals tap pipelines and blow themselves up and immolate their neighborhoods.

        So, while I’ll take your word on the subject of how best to travel from Hyde Park to Whitechapel, if Google Maps is not at hand, you’ve shown nothing of the sort of knowledge of development policy to make the bold and unskeptical claims you’ve posted to date.

      • ROTFLMAO!!

        I send you to find NASA generated studies and you come back with a PR video from youtube?

        I won’t say it ……

        But I will say this – your video talked about Terra (the spacecraft) – and about 3 decades of data. And you have no idea show smelly that is. Terra was launched in Dec 99 – just over one decade ago. Yes, there were other spacecraft that could provide data but they weren’t the same instruments. MODIS was a redesign of the old MRIR instrument – for which I was the ops engineer in the 70’s. I was also on the Terra design team until the System Engineering section was cut from 45 people to 3. That saved da gubmint a few bucks – and cost them about 5 times as much.

        Anyway – back to business – from 2001 through early 2006 I probably got a dozen notices of papers re: biomass studies. I read some of them and deleted the references – it wasn’t my business and they were clogging my inbox. So — you want the studies, they’re out there. Go find them. I already told you what they said – but you’ll want to chick it out for yourself.

        Your video is nothing but PIO garbage meant for the lowest common intelligence. I gave you the website, use it. I think I’ll go play with the dog in all that Global Warming in the back yard. It’ll be more productive than playing with you. :-)

      • @BartR

        So, yet again you, make bold asssertions that you cannot substantiate when challenged. This is regular BSing is becoming a very bad habit with you.

        On this topic I’ll leave you to believe whatever unpowered fantasies you like.

        But remember that the Roman Empire achieved many great things without any real access to decent quantities of power. But the price that they paid was to have huge quantities of slaves to do the grunt work. You seem determined to keep the poor people of the world in slavery to satisfy your conscience about commuting and spoiling my football match.

        Suggest that you begin your moral re-education by adopting a bamboo bicycle instead of your air conditioned motor. The fresh air and exercise you will gain will help to wash away the arrogant patronising hypocrisy you espouse.

        And you don’t need Google Maps to tell you how to travel from Hyde Park Corner to Whitechapel, you need the TfL website at:


        It’ll even plot a route for you on your bike.

      • Jim Owen

        Perplexing. You’ve added to my search parameters from your link on biomass the year 2006. All that comes up is mainly about biomass burning, and the reduction in said burning.

        Can you do no better than vague memories of things you thought you saw in a press release sometime in the past decade?

        I tried your trick of pointing handwavingly at a whole institution, hoping Latimer would take the hint and spend more than five minutes hoping the answer to his questions would pop out at him. But he refused to do the work expected, which hardly surprising given the socialized welfare system that trains some Brits to duck legitimate effort at every turn. He seemingly wants to be fed everything, and not to have to think for himself.

        My, my. Imagine what Latimer Alder would say of your standards of citation, were he applying the same principles to your replies as to mine? How much work you ask of poor Latimer, for so little return.

        Or what you would have to say about his flacid and vague externalities?

        You’re building arguments against strawmen, not it seems because you believe in your arguments as skeptics — who could be a skeptic and rely on some half-remembered, long discarded, probably never read news releases? — but because apparently you have faith in the unfounded and ill-grounded claims a few make touting the benefits of CO2 for plants when they lack any real background in botany, and are scandalized that someone would have the audacity to skeptically hold them to account for the potential weaknesses in their case.

        You guys could give Trenberth lessons.

        Or you could, you know, give some valid and precise citations to back up the ardent and certain claims you are making.

        Start by relating them to Liebig’s Law of the Minimum.

        Compare and contrast the effects of CO2 on known inferior (from a cash return point of view) trees like aspen and poplar to oak and maple.

        Comment on the (probably overstated) claim that warming trends and high CO2 levels made the pine beetle infestation of North America worse.

        Explain the botanist’s concept that plants that devote their energy into longer stalks (say due to the effect of CO2) have less to put into flowering and fruiting; is it a real phenomenon, or merely a myth?

        What of the oceans, changes in clarity attributed to changing plankton concentrations, and coral (yeah, I know they’re not plants) bleaching? Is this alarmist nonsense, or is it more indication that a skeptic ought question the alleged benefits of CO2?

        Call me, if you will, a CO2-benefit-denier.

        Since, the science of CO2 benefits is not settled.

        And the evidence offered of these CO2 benefits is woefully inadequate, too. From a skeptic’s point of view.

      • Latimer Alder


        As you (I hope) well know, a CO2 fire extinguisher works by flooding the surround of the fire with the inert gas, and casuing the required oxygen concentration to fall.

        That is completely different from an increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration from about 1 part in 3,000 to about 1 part in 1,500 in the atmosphere. Which affects the O2 concentration (21%) very little.

      • Latimer

        Nice theory.

        Shows a lot of grounding in plant physiology.

        Where did you get your botany degree?

        If only your conclusions weren’t contrary to the evidence.

      • Latimer Alder

        ‘If only your conclusions weren’t contrary to the evidence’

        Evidence that you have so far singularly failed to provide. When first asked you provided a link to something completely different. Here’s a chance to make up the deficiency. Provide some evidence for your assertions.

      • Latimer

        I’m not your mommy, your daddy your nursemaid, your nanny, your servant, your butler or your geriatrician. I’m not going to spoonfeed you every time you have a fit or tantrum.

        If you’re trying to show by these pretenses that you’re a skeptic by asking for evidence of everything, and then rejecting it, then your lampoon is failing; this caricature of skepticism ignores the obligation to research for oneself, to acquaint oneself with the fundaments of a topic, to learn logic and apply deduction and induction carefully and correctly.

        If I make unattributed statements you earnestly can find no plausible commonplace support for, then there is an obligation on my part to furnish such to the degree and in the sense of my original point.

        The points you yourself introduce, the spins or slants you leap to on slim rational connection, are not my obligation.

        You’re really entirely unaware that CO2 and relatively small changes in CO2 concentration strongly affects plants, despite the evidence cited in this thread?

        I introduced fire extinguishers to mock Jim Owen’s silly claims about removing O2. You get it. Fire extinguishers _are_ entirely different. Congratulations, you agree with my point.

      • Well, Bart, you were the one who dragged in the silly idea of plants suffocating. :-)

        I’ll repeat – your argument was nonsense. Still is.

      • Jim Owen

        For ‘suffocating’ since you have such a pretty and delicate sensibility for definitions, try ‘suppression’ or ‘stressing’.

        I still hold that the common definition, ‘imparing respiration’ is acceptible, but as you have taken the stance of the Ministry of Truth, and must like Winston Smith define all terms that contain ideas you do not approve of out of existence, there’s what help I can offer.

        Doubleplus good?

      • Latimer Alder


        Like to give some references? Especially for the high concentrations of nightly CO2 ‘suffocating’ plants at night …which I haven’t heard before.

        How high? 500ppm? 5,000ppm? 50,000ppm?

      • I’ll start with:


        Care to offer whatever references you have supporting the case of proven harmlessness? I mean, other than a talking teddy bear?

      • Latimer Alder

        I’ve made no such claim. Hence need offer no references.

        Thanks for the sarky remark about teddy bears. It quite raises the tone of the debate.

      • Latimer Alder

        It appears you’ve lost track of what we’re talking about. Which is talking teddy bears. I’ll refer you to the video Dr. Curry cited at the start of this thread, http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=4QHatDvoWjU and my response http://judithcurry.com/2011/01/12/agw-skeptical-environmentalists/#comment-30765.

      • Latimer Alder


        You’ve obviously read the paper in detail, while I’ve only skimmed it.

        But the main message I get from it is that it rebuts previously published stuff about reduced growth as merely poor experimental practice (measurement artefacts).

        And nowhere can I see anything remotely connected with ‘suffocation’ of the plants.

        Please point in detail (Para number within heading) to the discussions that support your assertions.

        Because to my mind this article more closely supports the view (that I haven’t actually expressed, despite your earlier unfounded assertion) that increased CO2 is not deleterious and may be actually beneficial.

        Look forward to your early reply.

      • I’m satisfied with citing the last lines of the abstract:

        “Fundamental information is still lacking on how respiration and the processes supported by it are physiologically controlled, thereby preventing sound interpretations of what seem to be species-specific responses of respiration to elevated [CO2]. Therefore the role of plant respiration in augmenting the sink capacity of terrestrial ecosystems is still uncertain.”

        See, my argument is that there’s insufficient skepticism in unconditional claims of benefit; whatever the article supports in detail, it makes clear that this complex question still stands and is in serious doubt on either side.

        Glib credulity may be a perfectly satisfying condition for you, Latimer. By all means, continue to enjoy it.

        For me, it’s simply unsatisfying.

      • Latimer Alder

        The word ‘suffocating’, or any hint of any process that could be described as ‘suffocating’ remains stubbornly absent from the paper you cite.

        Should we take your remark

        ‘Put high concentrations of CO2 into your greenhouse at night and you suffocate your plants, which are trying to suck up as much O2 as they can and produce plenty of CO2.’

        as having any basis in fact at all? You have failed to produce any evidence of the effect you claim whatsoever. You cannot provide any definition whatsoever of what you mean by ‘high concentrations’. And the best the academic source you cite can say is ‘oo err we didn’t find anything much, but more research is needed’

        Elsewhere you claim to be sceptical…but I’d love to live closer to you so I could interest you in these Enron shares I happen to need to dispose of. Got them off a nice guy called Madoff………….

      • Quick question: did you actually read the paper you linked to? Because it’s all about plant repiration rates vs CO2 concentration, and so has little or nothing to do with what we’re discussing.

      • Right, right, right.

        Forest. Trees.

        You’re looking for ironclad support for some puny detail, and overlooking the flat out conclusion which flat out furnishes my point.

        You venture this diversionary tactic without doing the courtesy of providing any evidence whatsoever of the harmlessness that is claimed.

        Saying CO2 is good for greenhouse plants in greenhouses is worlds different from saying CO2 is good for plants in the context of the global biosphere.

        You are unskeptical and demand unquestioning acceptance of your Incomplete Truths from all others.

        You should go to work for Al Gore.

      • What on earth are you on about, man?
        You go on about things like plants being smothered by CO2, and then, when challenged, you produce ‘evidence’ which is nothing of the sort.
        And then you have the nerve to accuse me of diversionary tactics, etc, and of being unskeptical of others – without any substantiation whatsoever.
        Talk about strawmen – yours aren’t even made of stuff as stern as straw.

      • For Bart, who seems to need some help:

        Leads to this:

        And this:

        Which, in turn, lead to this:

        and this:

        You might follow the other links, too.

        There have also been several NASA studies over the last 10 years that confirm the CO2/increased biomass link.

      • Jim Owen

        Thanks for the help.

        To cite the article from your second last link:

        “We can’t forecast ecological change. It’s a complicated business,” explains Waller, a UW-Madison professor of botany. “For all we know, this could have very serious effects on slower growing plants and their ability to persist.”

        And what’s this tidbit in the abstract you point to lastly? Lower cloud cover in the tropics in the past 18 years due to global climate change? If only it weren’t paywalled, I’d have the opportunity to glean greater understanding of how Lindzen can say cloud cover is increasing, while this study says the opposite.

        Likewise, as you do not furnish links to NASA’s reports linking increased CO2 to increased biomass, I won’t furnish links to those nasty rumours that the biomass of the oceans is markedly decreasing.

        What sort of skeptic would accept such flimsy evidence? I don’t even know from this if each report uses the same grade and type of whitewash. And what about the Urban Aspen Growth Island Effect?

      • Put high concentrations of CO2 into your greenhouse when other plant nutrients are scarce (as in nature is common) and you get no benefit.

        Rubbish. CO2 improves the efficiency of, for example, nitrogen utilization (and water use). Where do you find this nonsense?

        Put high concentrations of CO2 into your greenhouse at night and you suffocate your plants, which are trying to suck up as much O2 as they can and produce plenty of CO2.

        Wait a minute. You are claiming that, say, 2000 ppm of CO2 “suffocates” plants? When all experimental data contradicts this? When plants grow just fine in submarines, for which the Navy’s atmospheric standard is 8,000 ppm (roughly 20 times current ambient)? Or are you talking about Venus, with a 95% CO2 concentration? Are you intending a serious contribution to the discussion, or simply armwaving?

    • Just to be clear, CO2 is what they PUT INTO greenhouses to make produce grow faster.

      • Indications are that CO2 levels had been steadily declining until we started burning fossil fuels.
        Had we not, it’s reasonable to assume that CO2 levels would have continued to fall until there was too little to effectively sustain plant life. And, unless you’re religious or believe that Nature is anything but indifferent, what would have stopped that decline?
        So perhaps we inadvertently saved life on Earth.

      • Until the next big basalt flood refreshed the supply …

      • They put CO2 in greenhouses because it gets depleted and it’s cheaper to pump CO2 in than cycle in fresh air because of the lost heat in that air and its cost. Plants can only use the maximum amount of CO2 they need, anymore is useless.

      • Latimer Alder

        So why do they pump CO2 into greenhouses at concentrations two or three times that found in ‘free air’. 1000 ppm , not c 3-400 as found at Hawaii? Commercial growers are not naive.

        I found this interesting presentation after typing ‘commercial greenhouse CO2’ into Google. It was the first hit, so there is nothing secret about this well-known practice. Just seems to be unknown among AGW alarmists…like so many other things. Enjoy!


      • This is a site worth prowling for issues of CO2 impacts on nature.
        CO2 Science

        Of interest here:
        Photosynthetic Responses of Seedlings of Two Eucalyptus Species to Increases in the Atmosphere’s Temperature and CO2 Concentration

        Ghannoum, O., Phillips, N.G., Sears, M.A., Logan, B.A., Lewis, J.D., Conroy, J.P. and Tissue, D.T. 2010b. Photosynthetic responses of two eucalypts to industrial-age changes in atmospheric [CO2] and temperature. Plant, Cell and Environment 33: 1671-1681.

        The seven scientists report that Asat (light-saturated net photosynthesis) increased by ~50% with each step-increase in the air’s CO2 concentration — i.e., going from 280 to 400 ppm, and going from 400 to 650 ppm — and that at the higher of the two temperature treatments, the optimal temperature for Asat increased by 2-7°C across the three CO2 treatments.

  16. It’s easy for anyone on any side here to claim environmentalist sympathies – don’t we all value the environment? (as an aside, it’s also generally easy, with details of how a person lives their life, to accuse them of hypocrisy if they claim to value the environment) For skeptics, this is an example of what Jonathan Potter (1997 – Representing Reality) would call “stake inoculation” – either addressing or preempting the discounting your statements on a topic because of some supposed stake or motivation people might think you have to make those statements (in this case, one’s skepticism of AGW could be discounted as motivated by self-interest or lack of environmental conscience). This type of argument is basically a way for a speaker to show that they don’t fit some stereotypical mold, or understand both sides and have chosen the better view (“I used to believe in AGW, then I took a closer look at the science”).
    I think you could argue that Lomborg has also made much of this, by accepting the reality of AGW but being skeptical of the consequences in various ways (at least up until recently, I still haven’t read his new book/seen the movie). By declaring himself to be serious about the environment, and even accepting many mainstream AGW claims, he gains credibility amongst those who also share these broad views but may need some convincing of his other arguments.
    I think it’s interesting why some people choose to divulge details about their lives, beliefs, political affiliation or funding sources when making an argument. Typically, the way this is done reflects the imagined objections to their argument.

    • At the level of nations, the only ones really brutally abusing the environment are the poor ones, and the socialitst ones. Often, necessarily, they are the same, of course.

      • typo: “…the socialist ones.”

      • Of course… since it seems any state other than a non-Obama US can be called socialist. We can also set the bar for “really brutal” in different places, but Western capitalist democracies are fully capable of… wiping out fish stocks for example (capitalism actually encourages it).
        But really, I have no idea where this is coming from, or its relevance to this thread.

  17. Accusing climate scientists of pushing an environmental political agenda seems to me about as well founded as accusing climate skeptics as being in the pay of big oil.

    Dr. Curry: Given the 80:20 liberal-conservative split among scientists, I’d say that climate scientists are, without even thinking about it, pushing a liberal political agenda which includes liberal-style environmentalism with standard liberal approaches of big government solutions with strong ties to the university system.

    This isn’t surprising at all and it’s not comparable to accusing them of being in the pay of big oil or in league with Greenpeace.

    How many scientists voted for Obama over McCain? I rest my case.

    • huxley

      It’s not a great place to rest a case.

      Many Republicans didn’t vote for McCain, too.

      A lot of scientists don’t vote for people they regard as out-and-out crazy, and John McCain had a running mate.

      • I didn’t say it was a perfect case, but whatever the specifics of the 2008 election in which people with Master’s and Doctorate degrees voted as enthusiastically for Obama — the least experienced and accomplished presidential candidate in living memory — as high school dropouts, scientists align themselves overwhelmingly as blue voters. The same was true in 2004.

        It’s a mistake in this topic to ignore the huge skew to the liberal side among scientists.

      • randomengineer

        It’s a mistake in this topic to ignore the huge skew to the liberal side among scientists.

        Correct. When you and almost everyone of any value you know is all on the same political wavelength, you tend to view this as perfectly mainstream. In your 80:20 setting, the left style big government approach is simply a given, and it’s not even questioned. It’s mainstream, after all. Who could possibly object to that?

      • Bart R, appraising lifestyles, wonder who in your mind would be the better enviromentalists/conservationist – BO or McCain’s running mate?

      • As governor of Alaska, McCain’s running mate argued strongly that her state suffered from the ill effects of AGW, and sought and received federal funding to the relief of that condition.

        So her qualifications are pretty solid as a pro-AGW.. wait. What’s this? She also campaigns strongly that there’s no such thing as AGW? But she kept the money?

        Lifestyle, you say, Bob?

  18. Gaia my own Queen;
    Unimpressed with CO2,
    Scared to death of Sol.

  19. Dr. Curry

    It appears to me that you are absolutely correct when you write that AGW has little to do with environmentalism, even though there are environmental activist groups that have jumped on the AGW bandwagon and a handful of climate scientists who have become environmental activists.

    As you point out, there are environmentalists who are AGW skeptics. That is not to say that they are necessarily skeptical of the GH theory itself, nor of the fact that CO2 is a GH gas, nor that human activity causes CO2 emissions. However, they are skeptical of the premise that AGW, caused primarily by human CO2 emissions, has been the principal cause of past warming and that it represents a serious potential threat to humanity and our environment.

    In the parlance that is often being used today, these individuals are neither “climate alarmists” nor “climate deniers”; they are sometimes referred to as “luke-warmers”.

    And some of the members of all three groups may well be dedicated “environmentalists”. Or they may not.

    As you put it, there is “an increasing muddiness between environmentalism and AGW”.

    Sure ‘nuff.


  20. Dr. Curry,
    I believe Dr. William Cotton, who works closely with Roger A Pielke, is card-carrying environmentalist. He says he rides his bike to work and recycles, yet he does not seem to be convinced AGW will be catastrophic.

  21. David Brower quote:

    The Sierra Club made the Nature Conservancy look reasonable. I founded Friends of the Earth to make the Sierra Club look reasonable. Then I founded Earth Island Institute to make Friends of the Earth look reasonable. Earth First! now makes us look reasonable. We’re still waiting for someone else to come along and make Earth First! look reasonable.” – Quoted by Ron Arnold and Alan Gottlieb in their book Trashing the Economy (1993)

    Lovelock has taken on the role of the CAGW uber-hyper-ventilator who makes all the others look reasonable.

    It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people’s minds

    David Suzuki (1972)
    David Suzuki on science, elitism and the apocalypse

    • Doc Suzuki has made very good money off the green movement and pushing the AGW fear mongering with his television show.

      Why is it I have the urge to do the opposite when someone pushes the “green” agenda?

      • @Joe Lalonde
        The 1972 clip of Suzuki’s is worth a listen.
        He warns about elite science becoming unaccountable and turning effectively into a priesthood (giving pertinent examples of the day).
        I agree that there is a marked contrast between his warnings at that time, and what David has become.

        all the best

  22. I propose that many of the environmentalists who rabidly support global warming actions are really out to get other targets. At the top of that list are those self labeled environmentalists who hate power plants in general, nuclear plants and coal plants in particular.

    My impression of a good percentage of those who label themselves as environmentalists is that they view the world as good and evil with little room for anything in between. For example the use of coal is demonized because coal is mined by mountaintop removal and it causes acid rain, all kinds of health effects and global warming. In their world if we could only get the unenlightened to include all the external costs of using coal it would be perfectly logical to ban coal. Of course they don’t recognize that coal can be mined without removing the top of a lush wooded mountainside (I personally believe that it will be possible to return mined land in the Powder River Basin to pretty close to what it was before the coal was removed). In the US SO2 and NOX emissions have dropped dramatically since 1995, so much so that if all the health impacts ascribed to those pollutants were completely true that I would expect there to be measurable decreases in say asthma rates (the latest numbers I have seen show increases and air pollution is always blamed as the cause). Their view of nuclear is similarly biased.

    So here comes global warming and coal has huge emissions. In their minds then this is a silver bullet to finally kill coal. However, because their real motive is shutting down power plants, the obvious solution to convert coal to nuclear is not on their table. That destroys their credibility for legitimate concerns about global warming in my mind. I believe that this gross characterization encompasses a significant fraction of the environmentalists publically advocating GHG controls.

  23. I’m frequently accused of being a denier which I don’t really care about. Except when I discuss AGW with people, many of the strongest believer like to show photos of all the exotic places they went around the world.

    Tom Brokaw put a while back emphasis on the fact that he bought Prius for him and members of his family, while working in New York and having a ranch in Montana which he visited by private jet every other week.

    Al Gore is maybe the most frequent flyer I know of, but many still excuse him because he is bringing light on an important cause.

    Meanwhile I’m a denier, a stooge of the oil industry, even though we don’t water our lawns, don’t use pesticide on it, we use an electric mower, wash my car (a civic) with a bucket, use my car only when strictly necessary. We recycle. for three people we produce less half a garbage can of waste per week. We don’t have a pool. we use less than average in electricity, etc.

    Yet I’m the bad guy because I don’t believe that co2 is the cause of climate change. Although I support energy policy toward auto-sufficiency, I don’t support policy that center on Co2.

  24. I consider myself an environmentalist. It’s hard to think otherwise when you’ve spent literally years of your life walking through the wilder places on the North American Continent. I’ve seen the so-called “devastation” – the mines (and strip mines), the clearcuts, the trash in the backcountry, the erosion, the results of massive wildfires and cattle and sheep grazing – all of it up close and personal. When you have to kick the cow patties out of the way so you can find a place to set up your tent, or walk through an active wildfire, it becomes real personal. I don’t like those things.

    But I’ve also seen that much (most) of the environmental whining is ignorant and misplaced. I’ve seen the recovery of the Earth and the eco-systems. Not through environmental activism but through natural processes in those places where Nature has a chance to do it’s own thing – whether the National Forests and BLM lands, an unused tract of farm or grazing land, or just a vacant lot. And I’ve found that those places that become designated Wilderness Areas are at greater risk from humans, insects, fire, etc. I oppose more Wilderness Areas, I oppose those who are anti-hunting, anti-logging, anti-grazing, etc because they have little or no understanding of what their policies do to the land. I can expand on that, but we’ll save that for when the screaming starts. So I’m not your typical environmentalist –

    But – I am an environmentalist in that I care for the land and would not see it abused by either those who would lock it up forever or by those who would damage it without thought.

    I’m also an AGW sceptic. For me, there are several issues.

    The first is the AGW hype. I’ve spent more that a few years being lied to – by the IPCC via the Hockey Stick among other things; by the media wrt the science, the consequences, and the catastrophes – among other things and by those who claimed (and still do) that the “science is settled” (it NEVER is). I don’t respond well to lies.

    The second is that wrt the consequences, I’ve seen that few people have any real understanding of what they’re talking about – and sometimes scientists least of all. To use the handiest example, how many climate scientists have any real knowledge about how the planet and the biosphere actually work? I know – they’re the “experts”. Fine, but what are they “experts” at? Do they know how forests regenerate after fires or logging? Or how trees respond to extreme weather conditions – or increased CO2 – or higher temps? Apparently most paleoclimatologists don’t.

    Third is the “solutions”. Nearly all of them involve “global governance”. Which would automatically make me an outlaw because I’m not likely to accept the UN as my Overlord. You know – that outfit that covered up massive fraud in the Oil for Food program, child prostitution and …….. how many more insults to humanity? Or is that “crimes against humanity”? The list is endless.

    Not to mention the massive taxation, the accompanying fraud, the mismanagement of the world’s food, energy and water supplies, etc that would come with “world governance”.

    I don’t think so.

    And then there’s the science. Which, I believe is the purpose of this blog. We’ll see how that goes, but so far much of what I’m finding is more “holes”, assumptions, questions, blank spots on the map and unknowns.

    Finally, as mentioned before – after spending most of 50 years working with science and scientists, for someone (ANYONE) to tell me that the “science is settled” is an automatic red flag with accompanying alarm bells, whistles, sirens, fireworks, etc. And on that note, I’ll leave y’all with another quote from a non-peer-reviewed source:

    “if ever a truly great man of science… pronounces with great conviction that something is impossible, it is a safe bet he will be proved wrong shortly. And should another equally great man of science rush to endorse his colleagues’ assertion, you are advised to mortgage the family dwelling and hasten to a betting shop to invest the proceeds at two to one and await the imminent announcement to the contrary.”
    From – “Bluffers Guide to Science” by Brian Malpass

  25. Perhaps we should take care about equating Socialism with Climate Science proponents of CAGW (and CO2 emissions control). As cited below, CAGW/CO2 is more a means to an end than it is an “environmental issue”. As for myself, I am more alarmed at the proposed remedy than I am about the warming.

    DSA. 2008. Toward An Economic Justice Agenda. Political. Democratic Left. May. http://www.dsausa.org/pdf/eja_may2008.pdf

    Page 11: “The challenge of climate change is an economic, scientific, and labor issue much more than a traditional environmental issue. Therefore, we advocate that the labor movement take the lead in pushing Congress to enact a massive program of public investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy, as proposed by the Apollo Alliance, which sees clean energy and more jobs as reinforcing each other.

    DSA Democratic Socialists of America. I must leave it to you to find out who is a major donor to the Apollo Alliance.

  26. I think the Climategate emails gave us something of a window into the minds of some climate scientists. I can’t recall much, if anything, by way of policy discussion, although there was at least one instance of somebody at CRU discussing how to adjust an official report to please an environmental NGO.

    I can remember more instances of discussions of funding and I think that consideration of economic incentives of climatologists is likely to be a more fruitful way of understanding what has happened to the field than looking at political and philosophical motivations.

    • Quite so. And there was a lot of discussion of how to overcome their enemies – in areas like release of data and code, thousand-year reconstructions and urban heat island effects. Not through proper debate of the issues raised but through shutting such people out of journals, manipulation of peer review and bending of IPCC processes.

      Nowhere can words in emails give you a precise take on motivation but what was shocking to me was the vindictiveness. Judith’s surely right that not many climate scientists are card-carrying environmentalists. But contempt for their shared enemies is something in common between the two groups – with Judith herself a shining exception and James Lovelock also apparently free from this kind of pettiness.

      Money can lie behind such ugliness but it’s also possible, we know from history, for motivations like revenge to gain the upper hand. Nice choice.

      • @Richard Drake

        You give Lovelock much too much credit IMO.
        Hulme has tried to reposition himself as a man of reason post Climategate.
        Monbiot was very quick to throw Phil Jones under the bus.
        Lovelock adopts the same tactics in “apparently” distancing himself from the hysteria that he himself was a prime actor in fostering.

        All three are writing “posterity papers” IMO to absolve themselves of blame .


      • Brent, I beg to differ. Here for example is what Lovelock said in the Guardian in March:

        Back when I was young, I didn’t want to do anything else other than be a scientist. They’re not like that nowadays. They don’t give a damn. …

        On climate sceptics: We’re very tribal. You’re either a goodie or a baddie. I’ve got quite a few friends among the sceptics, as well as among the “angels” of climate science. I’ve got more angels as friends than sceptics, I have to say, but there are some sceptics that I fully respect. Nigel Lawson is one. He writes sensibly and well. He raises questions. I find him an interesting sceptic. What I like about sceptics is that in good science you need critics that make you think: “Crumbs, have I made a mistake here?” If you don’t have that continuously, you really are up the creek. The good sceptics have done a good service, but some of the mad ones I think have not done anyone any favours. Some of them, of course, are corrupted and employed by oil companies and things like that. Some even work for governments. For example, I wouldn’t put it past the Russians to be behind some of the disinformation to help further their energy interests. But you need sceptics especially when the science gets very big and monolithic. I respect their right to be sceptics. Nigel Lawson is an easy person to talk to. He’s more like a defence counsel for the sceptics than a right-winger banging the drum. His book is not a diatribe or polemic. He tries to reason his case. There is one sceptic that everyone should read and that is Garth Paltridge. He’s written a book called the Climate Caper. It is a devastating, critical book. It is so good. This impresses me a lot.

        When have you heard people like Gavin Schmidt or Ben Santer come up with language like that? It would be a complete sea-change if they followed Lovelock’s example. In fact I believe progress on the ‘peer reviewed science’ would quickly follow. (A radical view but I believe it: the problems in climate science and policy are all about human beings and their relationships. Hence my great regard for the host here.)

        As for Lovelock’s earlier record I don’t know who’s willing to trust Marjorie Mazel Hecht (I know a little about the organisation she works for but it doesn’t necessarily negate her scholarship in this matter). Here’s her account of the seminal 1975 North Carolina meeting convened by Margaret Mead, where the ‘Global Warming Hoax Was Born’, with John Holdren, Stephen Schneider and George Woodwell also present:

        But unlike the three other scientists above, who attended the 1975 Mead conference, Lovelock has called for nuclear power to slow the disaster that he warns is coming. Again, unlike the three others, Lovelock sees mankind as a “resource” for the planet, its “heart and mind.”

        During the 1975 Mead conference, Lovelock occasionally pooh-poohed some of the more hysterical suggested disasters of man-made warming. In a discussion on ozone depletion, for example, Lovelock strongly criticized the National Academy of Sciences report of the coming danger of skin cancers from increased ultraviolet radiation. “To speak of ultraviolet radiation as analogous to nuclear radiation is most misleading,” he said.

        You may not agree with everything Lovelock was saying in those days – I don’t – but the emphasis on human beings as resource and not poison is I believe at the heart of the difference between the four men and their subsequent efforts.

        So I respectfully suggest that this nonagenarian is re-evaluated in some quarters. Isn’t painting all their enemies the same shade of black the problem we sceptics have with ours? Let’s not be like them.

      • @Richard Drake | January 13, 2011 at 3:12 pm |

        Hi Richard,
        Sorry , I cannot agree with your preferred interpretation.
        The fact that Lovelock has spoken out of both sides of his mouth, should be an important clue. (most demagogues do )
        I wouldn’t want to be lumped with Lovelock, and I didn’t make clear but I don’t think Judith should want to be either. Lovelock is the Icon for the poster child (CAGW) for Post Normal Science.
        I don’t see Judith in that light at all, and I think she is fighting the good fight to get science back on it’s proper keel.
        As per above quote from David Brower, Lovelock is the hyperventilator, that makes all the others look reasonable. He’s been the revered Pied Piper, the Prophet that led all others astray.
        If he now wants to absolve himself of blame post Climategate, on the grounds that he’s made contradictory statements in the past this simply doesn’t wash for me.
        (P.S. I closely followed former Chief Scientist David King’s reign, when his wild alarmist statements, were then followed by seeming calming statements as well. Exactly the same Modus Operandi)

        Lovelock’s uber-alarmist comments about CO2 speak for themselves. Either he’s now admitting he’s incompetent, or he’s just dissembling if he tries to convey that he didn’t understand the holes in his prophesy all along.
        It’s just a tactical move on Lovelock’s part to preserve his reputation, just like Monbiot throwing Phil Jones under the bus, or Hulme (prime PNS advocate) trying to position himself now as a man of reason.
        All I see is they are more astute politically and better at covering their behinds, than someone like Phil Jones.
        In some ways I actually have some sympathy for Phil, because he’s become the fall guy however he is by no means the most culpable in the larger picture. It’s the leadership that is the most culpable and Lovelock is at the pinnacle.


        Humans are too stupid to prevent climate change” Lovelock

        So now we need dictatorship?

        James Lovelock – Population Reduction “max 1 billion”

      • Brent:

        I wouldn’t want to be lumped with Lovelock, and I didn’t make clear but I don’t think Judith should want to be either.

        I find this an extraordinary statement.

        First, who was lumping you in with Lovelock? I wasn’t. I know nothing about you. How is it relevant?

        Second, you seem to be equating doing this to you with doing it to Judith Curry. Are you that close to Judith? Does she know you well? Does she even know your real name?

        In your two responses you have taken my words about Judith and about Lovelock and added in your various opinions about George Monbiot, Mike Hulme, Phil Jones and David King. For me it’s way too much to generalise across these five (maybe six) people. Forgive me, but seem to have confused every issue that I was trying to address. And they were for me important issues.

        However the YouTube clip of the interview with Stephen Sackur you’ve linked to is helpful. Because although Lovelock admits he thinks it likely that world population will fall to one billion in the next hundred years (something I find very unlikely, barring catastrophic conflict) he at once corrects the impression that this is something to be desired. That doesn’t, for me, come across anything like so clearly from others influenced by the likes of Margaret Mead or Paul Erhlich.

        I stick with what I wrote about James Lovelock. I don’t think you’ve addressed my ‘preferred interpretation’ – perhaps because you’ve been so keen to give yours about a lot of other people. But thanks anyway.

      • Hi Richard,

        My statement that I wouldn’t want to be lumped in with Lovelock, was simply my own assertion. I didn’t think anyone else was asserting I should be. It simply reflects my own revulsion with his ideology.
        My statement that I don’t think Judith should want that either, reflected my view that Judith is fighting to get science back on an even keel, while Lovelock is the ICON for PNS.
        That’s just my guess but Judith can speak for herself.

        I guess we will just have to disagree, because I do not accept your interpretation as I am not prepared to accept Lovelock’s pronouncements at face value as if he is acting in good faith.

        We do have some challenging problems, however unfortunately CAGW has been a diversion from addressing them directly, which is never a good sign IMO.

        Lovelock has done immense harm. The underlying issues about which he amongst many others worry have long been known and could have been addressed directly a long time ago.
        Wasting time has had consequences.

        all the best

      • Lovelock may as you say have done immense harm. I was focusing solely on his attitude to those who question his views – which is clearly far better than many others calling themselves (climate) scientists. And Judith was surely right to mention Lovelock as she cast around for scientists also regarded as environmentalists. Something so positive (albeit in a dark context) was worth emphasizing for me. The wider debate I’m happy to leave with you. But I do assume good faith with Lovelock. That seems to be what separates us.

        Thanks for the interaction!

  27. Here to my way of seeing things is the quintessential description of mixed up logic. It pertains to a wind farm project adjacent to the Appalachian Trail that was defeated with help from this group. Yet they do not oppose another WF that can still be seen from the trail because……?

  28. Here’s a beauty of a pic showing these graceful saviours of mankind. Notice that they are mounted on a ridge, that each one has a road and a huge cement foundation. And I thought that cement production was one of the real baddy’s in regard to CO2 production.


    • DeNihilist –
      The answer isn’t simple because it’s emotional. The Appalachian Trail (AT) is a designated National Park, even though it runs through many other National Parks, State Parks, Wilderness Areas, hunting preserves , etc. It’s also a National Icon (not an official designation). There are few people (in the States) who don’t know it and believe it to be a national source of pride and a 2175 mile long wilderness area in the midst of modern development. They’re wrong about the “wilderness” part, but then – people need their illusions.

      There are also about 10,ooo people, including myself and my wife, who have hiked the AT from end-to-end ( that’s called a “thruhike”). Most people can’t imagine anything harder to do than an 2175- mile AT thruhike. The AT is so well known that even though my wife and I have thruhiked the Continental Divide Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail and the Canadian Great Divide Trail, when we tell people about those, they ask “But have you hiked the Appalachian Trail?” As I said – it’s a National Icon and not to be despoiled even by something that might provide the power to heat their homes in the future.

      More – the proposed location was in the middle of a section of trail called the “100-mile Wilderness”. Not that it was really “wilderness”, but again, even hikers need their illusions. And it is a beautiful section of trail.
      So the opposition to the wind farm was fierce and unrelenting.

      And yes – I also opposed it. For more than the above reasons. But that’s the next post.

      • Thanx Jim. What I was trying to illustrate was how some fought the good fight on one section of the trail, but then allow other farms that could be seen from the trail, because, paraphrasing here, it is realized that the turbines are needed to fight GW.
        (also the cost of that one battle blew me away, no wonder these monstrocities are being dumped pretty well where ever they want.)

        Yet they destroy a natural area/sink. etc. etc. etc. Sorry, it may have been you on another post who suggested that in reality, windmills are only good for off grid applications, and this I agree with 100%

        The piocture was gotten late last night, so I didn’t find the example I had in mind. I wish that people who support these things would actually go out and see the devestation that is done to the ridges and forests and hills just to realize how offensive these things really are.

      • It’s not possible from the ground to show the true extent of the wind farms in the Mojave area. And yet they provide power for only a very small fraction of LA. How many windmills, how much land would be needed to provide a significant percentage (50% ?) of the required power? And why would anyone believe that “only” wind power, even in tandem with solar, would provide enough power that we could stop using coal/oil/gas? The answer, of course, is total bloody ignorance. Or — a desire to destroy the economy, the country and the people.

      • My back-of-the-hand calcs show that with the asymptotically declining utility of windmills as they reach higher and higher percentages of total capacity, it will require the entire land mass of the US to supply wind power for the US.

      • Plus a 10-mile deep band of offshore rigs around all coastlines.

        And all residences and other buildings will have to be moved underground to avoid interfering with air flow.

    • A continuation of my last post (had to go find the right photos) :

      First – the photo you show of an “Appalachian wind farm” is a pretty picture. But it is not on or near the Appalachian Trail. Nor does it show the true extent of what a “wind farm” eventually becomes. For a better idea about that, the header on this page will give a more realistic view:


      There are other photos on the same page and on the previous page (click on the photos to enlarge).

      Then there’s this one which was taken in 2000 :

      http://spiriteaglehome.com/PCT images/pct046windfarm.jpg

      That wind farm was no longer in operation in 2009. It’s just a “junkyard” now – waiting to fall down and be cut up for scrap. Care to speculate on the economics involved there? How much did the taxpayers pay for the less than 20 years operation of that “farm”?

      And that is why I opposed the wind farm in Maine – because they grow, because they’re supoortable only with subsidies and because the operational life (and therefore, the economics) doesn’t match the hype.

  29. Interesting post Dr Curry.

    As ever, i think it’s important in a debate like this to strip away any extraneous ‘matter’ such as wheteher they’re an environmentalist/lefty/righty/big corp supporter etc etc and just concentrate on their points. I think your post highlights this quite well.

    Regardless of who you are, wheteher you consider yourself ‘green’, whatever your political motivations or personal beliefs, it is what you say, not why you say that to me, is important (though of course underlying motives CAN be instructive).

    Many environmentalists will be skeptical of cAGW just as many will not. I think this goes for any profession/social group.

    If we can remove the ‘he said this because he’s an x, y, z” then i think we’ll be going great-guns in this debate and i think this post (yours not mine lol) is a grand starting point.

    • You make it sound like it’s about a 50:50 split. I think not. More like 90:10. Which comes awful close to justifying the generalization.

      • i’m not trying to suggest that at all- i’m only trying to highlight the inherant dangers of judging someones contribution to a debate on what they are associated with RATHER than what they say.

        This whole issue of a persons beliefs/associations is completely irrelevant (in most cases) and does nothing but detract from the issue at hand.

      • You mean like trashing somone – and their statements/ideas/facts because they one time long ago worked in the oil industry?

        Yeah – I get tired of bludgeoning people over that kind of stupidity.

  30. For the AGW promoters claiming that the Brisbane flood is due to CO2 in the atmosphere, here is a history lesson:


    Shame on you promoters and hypesters.

  31. Judith, if climate scientists aren’t leftist environmentalists, then at best they’re ‘useful idiots’. That’s a technical term; look it up.

  32. I always thought Lomborg more as a pragmtic economist rather than a sceptical environmentalist..

    ie he believes in global warming, rather than being sceptical about it.

    He is sceptical about the policy decisions at vast cost with little benefit, and pragmatically talking about adaptation/mitigation instead.

    ie even if you do not/do believe in CAGW/AGW he is in the real world, economically speaking…

    ie A future where China is going to keep burning lots and lots of coal to make electricity, whatever Hanssen says to them (interesting comments as well)

    From the comments:

    It’s interesting how the EIA takes the view that coal shortages are not a problem for China:

    Coal makes up 70 percent of China’s total primary energy consumption, and China is both the largest consumer and producer of coal in the world. China holds an estimated 114.5 billion short tons of recoverable coal reserves, the third-largest in the world behind the United States and Russia and about 13 percent of the world’s total reserves. There are 27 provinces in China that produce coal. Northern China, especially Shanxi Province, contains most of China’s easily accessible coal and virtually all of the large state-owned mines. Coal from southern mines tends to be higher in sulfur and ash, and therefore unsuitable for many applications. In 2008, China consumed an estimated 3 billion short tons of coal, representing nearly 40 percent of the world total and a 129 percent increase since 2000. Coal consumption has been on the rise in China over the last eight years, reversing the decline seen from 1996 to 2000. More than 50 percent of China’s coal use in 2006 was in the non-electricity sectors, primarily in the industrial sector. The other 50 percent is used in the power sector.

    [Emphasis added.]

    Source: http://www.eia.doe.gov/cabs/China/Coal.html

    Actually I hope you are right and not the EIA because (war, pestilence and social collapse aside) the only thing that can slow down Chinese industrialisation and its associated emissions (including black carbon) is a coal shortage.

    “China holds an estimated 114.5 billion short tons of recoverable coal reserves, the third-largest in the world behind the United States and Russia and about 13 percent of the world’s total reserves.”

    and still “imports are expected to jump a staggering 63 percent to more than 200 million tonnes in 2011, Citigroup said on Tuesday,as domestic output struggles to keep pace with blazing demand meanwhile Analysts say the affected coal production down under will influence the prices of imported coal in China.

    clearly more to it than reserve figures, 3rd largest coal reserve in the world, and they have to import 200 million tons? Has China’s coal production peaked or something ;^)

    Why do the greens keep on saying China is leading the world in green technology (from a very low base)

    Totally ignoring they have doubled coal use in 10 years, and have multiple coal fired powerstations (and nuclear) being built and planned to meet their energy demands.

    Adding an equivalent to there entire UK annual CO2 output every year.
    Yet in the UK, nothing is planned to meet the looming energy gap, despite near total dependance on coal/gas/nuclear for electricity.. A tiny tiny amount is generated by wind, which actually flat-lined in the cold weather (when electricity demand was at a peak).

    The BBC’s Paul Hudson has a nice article and graphic on this.

    BBC – Coal Takes the strain.. Again

    • Barry,

      A short list of chinese coal challenges

      The bulk of Chinese coal reserves are deep lignite. Lignite has a tendency to spontaneously combust and deep mines have a tendency to be ‘methane rich’. Chinese coal mines are the most dangerous and the world and efforts to increase safety result in substantially decreased per worker productivity.

      The average Chinese coal miner produces 600 tons per year. The average Australian coal miner produces 16,000 tons per year.

      A large portion of Chinese coal reserves are inaccessible by rail and have to be trucked out. The energy in-energy out ratio is pretty poor if you have to resort to trucking coal, not to mention the labor costs of needing 1,000 truck drivers to do the work one train driver could do.

      India has the same problem. Plenty of reserves but the cost of getting the coal to market is prohibitive.

      Trains and boats run on oil. If the price of oil doubles the cost of transporting coal goes up by at least 50%. So as the price of oil increases, the distance one can economically transport coal decreases.

      Nuclear,hydro and wind are already cheaper then burning coal in China.

      Hydro is limited by river flows, wind is difficult to integrate into the grid and global nuclear industrial capacity at the moment is no more then 1 nuclear plant every 4 weeks. China is already signed up for 2/3rds of that.

      In the short term, the Chinese and Indians are going to burn coal and pay whatever price they have to pay to get it. Their only other option is to stop economic growth.

  33. I consider myself a serious environmentalist and have so for a long time. And I was completely on the AGW bandwagon until pretty recently. What really tripped the alarm for me was seeing the extent to which the uncertainty in climate science was being swept under the rug by mainstream media and even some scientists. I was used to repeatedly hearing phrases such as “the science is settled” and statements to the effect that anyone who questions the results of climate science is crazy. I’ve only studied hard sciences like physics and chemistry at the college level, and it is fair to say that the basics of physics and chemistry have been settled… so I assumed that saying the same thing about climate science was reasonable. After reading up on the “hockey stick controversy”, Climategate and discovering that the original “hockey stick” paper had enough problems that I would frankly be embarrassed to be associated with it, and then noticing that the IPCC had not only cited this paper but put the graph on the cover page (!!!), (as well as the fact that said graph is the centerpiece of the Al Gore movie), I was pretty disturbed.

    Anyway, all this is probably familiar to readers of this blog, but as an environmentalist, it is worrisome to see the priority being placed on climate change by mainstream environmental orgs. To the best of my knowledge, there is no proof that man-made carbon emissions are responsible for even a single species extinction, while the thoroughly man-made problems of invasive species, pollution and habitat destruction have caused thousands. Climate change may or may not put pressure on ecosystems in the future, but other human activities are doing so right now and will probably get worse with increasing populations and the industrialization of huge third-world countries. We could make substantial progress on these problems for a fraction of the staggering cost of reducing CO2 emissions. Reducing and eventually eliminating the use of fossil fuels is, of course, a good idea for other reasons, but it needs to be balanced with other priorities.

    I think the wisest environmental approach to climate change, which is being taken by The Nature Conservancy (and maybe others), is to make sure that ecosystems are well equipped to deal with the climate change that may occur, by for instance making sure that there are “corridors” allowing species to migrate as needed. But not all TNC members are convinced that it should be spending the amount of money and effort on climate change that it does, even though it is small and relatively conservative compared to what other enviro orgs are doing.

    • hurdygurdy,

      ” To the best of my knowledge, there is no proof that man-made carbon emissions are responsible for even a single species extinction, while the thoroughly man-made problems of invasive species, pollution and habitat destruction have caused thousands.”

      Since I am not as smart as I think I am, could you point me to information on the ex-locations and id’s of the thousands of species extinct due to invasive species, pollution, and habitat destruction?

      • For starters you could look at wikipedia’s list of extinct birds:

        You’ll notice that a good portion of these are island species. When non-native species like cats, dogs, and pigs are introduced to an island, and birds aren’t adapted to the presence of such predators, they often go extinct.

      • At the top of that page:
        “This article needs attention from an expert on the subject.”

        Reading through several of the descriptions randomly the information ranged from pure thirdhand or worse to known animals with known introduced enemies. The list is mildly cooked.

        In the end man has mostly stopped the high rate of extinctions that happened from these isolated, sensitive species. The wealthier countries no longer do this. The issue becomes poorer groups where the people will do what is necessary to survive or LIKE the delicacy . Bankrupting advanced societies will do nothing to improve the survival rates of any species. It will endanger more.

        I wonder about the wails from many environmentalists. They are evolutionists and believe in survival of the fittest don’t they?? Isn’t this simply the natural order?? Saying we introduce invasive species ignores that the belief in plate tectonics and glaciations changes the enviroment drastically and occasionally brings disparate species together with the same results if not directly wiping them out. While we may have caused a higer rate of extinctions in this particular slice of the planets existence than would otherwise have happened, these species are mostly going to be gone anyway. We have also not caused any great die offs and will not.

        Another issue is that many of these are simply variations of a species. The species still exists, just this particular branch ended. I really don’t see the importance of slightly different coloration or call or beak shape… Yes it would be nice if they were still around. No I would NOT do anything knowingly to destroy even an offshoot unless the pressures were major. Still, there just isn’t much there there. The major portions of the DNA exists in the rest of the species.

      • It’s always mystified me that the greens somehow don’t see homo sapiens as a natural indigenous species. I think it’s a far more tenable position to accept mankind’s relative insignificance in evolutionary terms – we’ve got several million years to go at the top of the tree (if that’s indeed where we currently are!) to compete with the dinosaurs – and stop behaving as if we are somehow in charge of our ever changing biosphere.
        If environmentalism starts from this simple premise we are far more likely to make more rational judgements about the world around us, IMO.

      • randomengineer

        Man probably inadvertently wipes out obscure species all the time. Turn 1000 square miles of forest into farmland and towns and sure, something is going to die. Maybe a few somethings. The trick in this discssion re climate is to determine how many species get capped just from climate change.

        OK, so assume climate changes, and people move from some coastal areas due to slightly increased or more frequent flood threats and go upland. Clearing space etc will do the trick, as will introduction of livestock, dogs, etc. Some critters will become displaced and retreat further out from humans which of course introduces a chain reaction. Eventually other critters die 50 miles away from where the humans move to because their food supply is being eaten by the newcomers that used to not be there. And so on.

        Now, climate changes anyway, and the sea level has been rising at some small rate, so even if it remains at the same rate as now then within say 80 more years *some* coastal areas will become more prone to property damage etc regardless of CO2. Add CO2 to the mix and if this exacerbates sea level rise even somewhat then this same scene will play out in lots of additional places.

        Add to this any changes in habitat. While humans can easily move 50 miles north if need be, critters can’t really do that without impinging on food supplies of the critters already there. In some cases some critters will die off.

        This is the sort of thing the environmentalists are on about.

      • The question is how much pressure the species is already under. If not much pressure they will be able to move. Of course, the fact there iare more animals in an area doesn’t mean something is going to die off but that there won’t be as many. Again, depends on how much pressure the species are already under.

        The enviros START from a condition that the species are already maxing their range and under pressure. Any changes then will have serious affects. Of course, the range may be shifted so that it INCREASES instead of decreasing and the food supply may actually be better because of better topography/soil nutrients/water… Without doing extensive studies of the actual ingredients the models are usually worst case GUESSES!! For example, most birds have a southern most and northern most range they migrate through. With warming the range extends north BUT the southern edge will not necessarily move north increasing the range!!

        Unless the species really has a limited range, like isolated islands or is just extremely small, the effects of range shift will not be disastrous. Remember, the critters already occupying the extended range will probably ALSO get extended range!!

        Looking at only the negative aspects of a problem is a sure sign of activism and bias. This is just a sampling of what is being left out of the doomsday scenarios.

      • “Many of these are simply variations of a species”… well, yes, pretty much every single species on earth is a small variation of another species. The DNA of humans is only a few percent off of that of a chimpanzee.

        Although the list may have not been verified to your level of satisfaction, whatever that is, I have no idea why anyone would deliberately make up information on the list. Data about birds is actually some of the most reliable for any type of animal because of the huge network of amateurs and professionals that record bird sightings all over the world. As far as this “no longer being done by wealthy nations”, if you read the very top, two of the biggest places this is happening are Hawaii and Guam, both of which are owned by the US.

        The value of having these species around is a completely different question, but whether or not the extinctions are happening and we are causing them is not a point of debate, IMO.

      • No hurdygurdy, the list you sent me to is grouped by species and the birds in the groups are all part of the same species!!!! You know like poodles and chihuahuas and great danes are all dogs and can interbreed??

      • Umm.. no.

        The headings in the large font like “Anseriformes” are orders, which can contain hundreds of different species. There are a lot of different kinds of birds!

        Maybe you’re talking about the second half of the article which talks about subspecies, but the first half is all distinct species.

      • Thank you for the correction. I see that I was misled by the original heading and the fact that the quick look included several rail birds and several ducks. I apparently forgot a “species” was such a narrow term since there are so many SPECIES of duck!!

        So my point is good. A SPECIES extinction is typically a very minor affair unless there are very few species in the genus and family. A genus going extinct would then be worrisome while a family would definitely be bad.

      • It really depends why you value having different species around. Different species in the same genus can still be very different – for instance, grizzly bears and black bears. It’s also worth keeping in mind that groupings above the “species” level are often not all that well defined – it’s up to humans to decide how big a grouping of species should be to be called a family, genus etc. So saying that everything is OK just because the entire genus hasn’t gone extinct may not be looking at the whole picture.

        Obviously humanity can kill off a lot of species and survive just fine – we already have – but I think the aesthetic, scientific and cultural value of having so many different kinds of living things around is hard to underestimate. Species extinction also measures the rate at which we’re damaging or changing the unique habitats and natural places that the animals need to live, which also have intrinsic value. And of course, species extinction is irreversible, until we figure how to clone animals from their DNA or something like that.

      • hurdygurdy,

        our dancing around the fact that humanity has killed a lot of species and nature apparently has devastate the whole ecosystem several times still leaves one important question.

        Why are all these species important in more htan an esthetic way? Yes, I am asking for your opinion and/or references to scientific work that quantifies the negative effects on the ecosystem.

      • The species ARE the ecosystem! I can’t think of a much more “negative impact on the ecosystem” than the extinction of lots of species!

        Like I said, if you’re concerned about the ecosystem insofar as its ability to sustain US, I can’t argue with the fact that humanity can kill plenty of species and still do fine. Heck, once our technology gets good enough we could probably kill every living thing on earth and try supporting ourselves from synthetic chlorophyll or something. But even if that worked, do we really want to live in a world like that? Plenty of people don’t.. and that is why environmental movements have a lot of supporters.

        Every species is finely attuned to living in a particular environment and has evolved that ability over millions of years. This has scientific, and not just aesthetic, value. The cells of plants and animals are better chemists than humans are or will be for a long time. A lot of pharmaceuticals have come from the venom or other chemicals produced by various animals and plants.. some common, some not so common. Example: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/5165124.stm

      • News flash: 99.9% + of all species ever evolved are now extinct. They just didn’t/couldn’t cope.

        The BS enviro meme is that there is a massive extinction wave occurring. That is garbage. As for my note earlier about new species being discovered: of course we can’t see new ones arising. How would you ever be sure it wasn’t already there? But the point is that there is NO evidence that the “ecosystem” is under threat because of extinctions. It’s just more Greenie hype. As are all your posts.

      • Brian H, can you please point me to the factually inaccurate content of my posts that so offended you and led you to call them “BS”?

        As I’ve repeatedly asserted, but apparently no one wants to believe, there is little question that humans have caused a lot of extinctions, and they’re happening faster than they did in the geological record. The question of why these species are important to us is completely different, but apparently enough people like having different species around that they’re willing to spend money on saving them. Does that bother you? If so, why?

        New species normally evolve quite slowly. The rate of genetic change in a species is something that has been studied pretty extensively (look up “molecular clock”), it happens slowly, and it takes a long time for a group to become genetically differentiated enough to really be a separate species.

      • Nah, your comment is irrelevant. Actually all you are pushing for is a BIG payout from the US for spurious and non-existent damages.

        Another news flash: if the US and West has increased the CO2 level, it has helped boost agricultural production in Peru. The bill is in the mail.

      • Sorry, crossed threads. Posted in wrong one!

        The whole issue of speciation is much confused and in dispute. It’s a rough-and-ready abstract distinction which biologists have trouble with; ability to interbreed is the old standby standard, and it’s hard to know when it is crossed. Are polar bears a species? Etc.

        There is no crisis, and attempts to prevent extinctions are like forbidding the tide to advance. Canute demonstrated to his idiot courtiers that Nature doesn’t take orders. You might review the lesson.

      • Uh, was that reply on the right thread?

      • Sure, sure, biologists aren’t aware of that problem! Let’s just pretend the whole discipline doesn’t exist, and all go try to have sex with hummingbirds.

  34. Judith, you write:

    “Accusing climate scientists of pushing an environmental political agenda seems to me about as well founded as accusing climate skeptics as being in the pay of big oil.” Possibly, but that is certainly not true of the camp followers upon whom they have relied to sustain the groundswell of alarm and guilt which has been essential to their continued funding. But as became clear in the Bizarre Thread of Greg Craven, aka Sir Oswald Meusli, he and his cohort of eco-fascist “activists” are the real culprits. They are accountable neither to the academy of science nor the electorate. Talk about the prerogative of the harlot down the ages. Without their seductive procuration, the scientists and the politicians would never have compromised themselves so profoundly as they have.

    The fact that they were artfully seduced, of course, shouldn’t excuse the politicians and scientists their debauchery!

  35. Rather than climate scientists pushing an environmental political agenda, I would say it is the other way around. The political agenda is pushing the science, hence the scientists.

    Environmentalism is a political movement. (Google Scholar returns almost 43,000 articles on “environmental movement”.) A political movement is basically a growing number of people thinking there is a problem that requires government (hence political) intervention to be solved. Environmentalism has always been centered on chemical emissions (DDT, CO, PM10, PM2.5, VOC, HAPs, SO2, NOx, Hg, etc.) and as such it has always been based on scientific claims. Many people, including myself, believe that these claims have been exaggerated. Political power based on exaggerated science is itself a problem and that is the basic rub, the basic political issue with environmentalism.

    While there are many “card carrying” environmental activists, the movement itself includes anyone who accepts that the problem at issue is worthy of some proposed action. Anyone who thinks we need to reduce CO2 emissions or promote green energy, due to AGW, is part of the movement.

    How science and scientists fit in is therefore quite complicated.

    • The real question is what does it mean to say that a scientific community has been politicized? That is, it has been caught up in a policy debate driven by a specific political movement. We can start with the data.

      First, the climate research budget is probably ten times what it would be if this were simply a scientific issue. No one seems to notice this but the implications are huge. The policy issue is driving the research. Second, the people in charge of all this money are clearly advocates of a specific outcome. The CCSP and USGCRP reports are dramatically one sided, even more so than the IPCC reports.

    • randomengineer

      Rather than climate scientists pushing an environmental political agenda, I would say it is the other way around. The political agenda is pushing the science, hence the scientists.

      Bingo, and this is where I was going (above) re the US dem party having effectively adopted / owned environmental issues (as per the movement) starting in the rock and roll era.

      How science and scientists fit in is therefore quite complicated.

      Maybe not. As others note, scientists tend to be overwhelmingly dem (left) in their politics. When “the movement” is so well integrated into the political whole as to be taken for granted, then yes, scientists who might appear to non-leftists as pushing an agenda are utterly flummoxed that anyone could possibly think that they are. I reckon they see themselves as utterly centrist and mainstream.

      • The question is what does “pushing an agenda” mean? I do the science of science policy, within which this is a social scientific question. The activity of science itself is at least as complex as the activity of climate, and this is not a simple question. That is why I am talking about data.

        For example, the USGCRP has a roughly $200 million carbon cycle program, but no ocean cycle or solar cycle programs. This forces the scientists to look at carbon as the climate driver. What difference does this make in terms of the flow of scientific results into the concerned public? It makes carbon seem like the key aspect. Money buys attention and attention creates opinion.

        By the same token, the models seem to be funded (hence driven) to explain the supposed warming profile, first in terms of the carbon increase, followed by whatever adjustments are needed to match observations. In contrast, I recall a JGR article around 1993 that showed that a simple non-linear model of ocean upwelling could explain the entire 20th century surface warming estimates profile. That model never got funded. If it had the debate today might be completely different.

        The point of this thread is to get past the political slamming of climate science, to get to understanding what politicization actually means, in detail.

      • randomengineer

        You’re making a distinction that I’m not grasping. It would be helpful if you were to spell out precisely how the funding mechanism works.

        I was under the impression that funding was slaved to the requests for same in the sense that if you have 30 requests for carbon cycle studies and 3 for ocean cycle studies then the funding agency then funds that which represents the prevailing viewpoint (i.e. that which is likely to produce useful results.) The alternative is that the funding agency issues a diktat re what it is willing to fund.

        As such my earlier comment is addressing the requests.

        Anyway… help would be appreciated.

      • “I was under the impression that funding was slaved to the requests for same in the sense that if you have 30 requests for carbon cycle studies and 3 for ocean cycle studies then the funding agency then funds that which represents the prevailing viewpoint (i.e. that which is likely to produce useful results.) The alternative is that the funding agency issues a diktat re what it is willing to fund.”

        In my experience, the alternative you mention is more often the case than the former. The NIH, for example, has very strict mandates about the types of research it will fund, and grant-seeking scientist has no choice but to tailor his research in the direction of such mandates.

      • Brad is correct. Research funding begins with a request for proposals (RFP) which can be very specific about the questions to be pursued. In many cases the RFP is part of a specific program of inquiry funded by Congress. Even where the RFP is fairly general, what gets funded depends on peer review and program officer judgement about what is important.

        Thus the research system is very tightly controlled in its way. Scientists do not get to explore what they want to, far from it. That is what I think is missing from the discussion. People do not understand how science funding directs scientific inquiry. The money is in charge, as always. It does not dictate the findings but it does dictate the inquiry, and the inquiry itself has implications.

        In the case of climate research what should be an inquiry into the nature of climate change is instead an inquiry into making the AGW hypothesis work (even if it doesn’t). Almost all of the funding is for questions that arise within AGW.

        There is almost no funding for questions that suggest that AGW is not true. This is because questions have implications which the AGW proponents who control the funding reject. This is why you do not see a model that is exploring the hypothesis that the estimated temperature change is natural, even though it would be easy to build one. As in any endeavor, people who hold certain views do not fund their alternative.

      • I’ve started thinking about a post on this subject

      • Cool! Here is the place to start: http://www.globalchange.gov/about and here is the breakdown on the $2 billion annual climate science budget: http://downloads.globalchange.gov/ocp/ocp2010/ocp2010.pdf/.

        Mind you there are no smoking pro-AGW guns here. No Climategate emails denouncing skeptics. But the title alone — “global change” — assumes what is not yet known, namely that climate is changing, as opposed to merely oscillating naturally.

      • my take on this will be who is calling the programmatic shots on what gets funded, and what NOAA and NASA are soliciting for in recent announcements.

      • NSF and DOE may be more to the point, since I think they fund most of the modeling. NOAA and NASA are more in the data collection, satellites, etc., end of AGW. Still it is all relevant and I have not studied this for several years. You might look at actual awards as well as the FOAs, RFPs, etc.

      • Corrected URL (you had a spare / on the end)


      • Many thanks. The money stuff is in the back.

      • David Wojick

        There is almost no funding for questions that suggest that AGW is not true. This is because questions have implications which the AGW proponents who control the funding reject. This is why you do not see a model that is exploring the hypothesis that the estimated temperature change is natural, even though it would be easy to build one. As in any endeavor, people who hold certain views do not fund their alternative.

        So.. Dr. Ross McKittrick’s Ph.D. thesis, funded by the Canadian Government, qualifies in what sense by this argument? Was the Canadian government at the time anti-AGW, and funding to reflect that, or was Ross pro-AGW?

      • Latimer Alder

        Unless I am much mistaken, his doctorate was in economics. So the question may not arise.

        Perhaps you have further information that you so far have not felt able to share?

      • Latimer Alder

        Read his thesis?

        His doctorate was in Environmental Economics.

        His topic was Carbon Taxes.

        He came out supporting them, by the way, on the premise that AGW wasn’t real.

      • Latimer Alder


        That’s why I asked.

      • How can one support carbon taxes on the premise that AGW is false? Unless one’s support is tongue in cheek, on the grounds that taxes will not get enacted. I have seen that gambit played in the policy wars, but it is not a good approach to take in a Ph.D. thesis. Ross has a deep sense of humor but I doubt it is that deep.

      • David Wojick

        I assure you, his support does not appear on any reading to be tongue in cheek. His thanks to his sponsors appears immensely cheeky, but as that’s between him and them.

        Reading the original is the only advice I can as a skeptic offer.

        Since you seem to be more familiar with him than am I, perhaps you can ask him for a copy? My copy is not immediately at hand.

      • The Econometric Critique of Applied General Equilibrium Modeling: A Comparative Assessment with Application to Carbon Taxes in Canada.

        By Ross Ronald McKitrick
        June 1996.

        In short, a carbon tax is less harmful and distortionary than the taxes it replaces, in Dr. McKitrick’s view, even if there is no AGW.

        It’s on file at the University of British Columbia’s library, but has been removed from their website.

      • “So.. Dr. Ross McKittrick’s Ph.D. thesis, funded by the Canadian Government, qualifies in what sense by this argument? Was the Canadian government at the time anti-AGW, and funding to reflect that, or was Ross pro-AGW?”

        Not every bit of science that trickles out of a given funding opportunity has to agree with the grant application that funded it. The more steps you are away from the funding source and the smaller the funding amount is (e.g. a graduate student’s stipend), the more freedom there is to study whatever is of interest.

        However when you’re talking about big name scientists and big ticket grants (millions of dollars), the top down controls on the type of research being done are pretty severe.

      • Brad

        Good thing the Vienna Patent Office in 1905 was funded by such a far-sighted Chancellor at the top of the bureacracy, else we wouldn’t have General Relativity.

      • It’s always possible to find examples that deviate from the majority of cases. But it’s the majority of cases that shape the overall direction of the field.

      • Brad

        I respectfully disagree.

        It’s the seminal ideas that shape the overall direction of the field in science. The ones proven right by experiment and evidence.

        The fashion, the majority view, the authority opinion might make a great deal of difference to the dollars that go into this or that effort, but only if the dollar decisions are in the hands of incompetents who let their prejudices overrule principle.

        Given the regime most Americans are used to for the majority of our lifetimes, hardly surprising you’re confused about this.

      • Bart,

        I agree with you that at longer time scales (multiple decades) , empirical validation is the main underlying determinant of scientific inquiry. However it has been my experience that on shorter time scales, scientific fads are a more significant contribution.

        One can find countless examples in history of evidence based science taking a back seat to popularity for stretches of many years, and there’s no evidence that I can see in my own field that this tendency has changed significantly in the 20th century. In fact, I think one could argue convincingly that the development of government based funding has made the problem worse.

      • Brad


        That NASA thing, what a horrible failure.

        There’s egg all over Kennedy’s face on that.

      • “Brad


        That NASA thing, what a horrible failure.

        There’s egg all over Kennedy’s face on that.”

        Oh, you mean the program that was so expensive and developed so little technology good for efficient continuing use that the US is practically out of the manned space business?? + or – a foreclosure or two?? I seem to remember all the recent biggies have been private companies redeveloping the wheel cause NASA couldn’t seem to do it.

        Funny how gubmint bureaucracies get bigger, more expensive, and less accountable as time passes.

      • Bart,

        NASA exemplifies popularity based science perfectly. The enormous Apollo budget was only allowed to exist as long as Congress approved, and that was tied to public opinion. According to the accounts that I have heard, NASA was walking a tight rope to keep the public engaged for most of the program, especially after the Apollo 1 disaster.

        In the end, public opinion and congressional support eroded rapidly once the moon landing succeeded and several Apollo missions were canceled. So the Apollo program was not shut down because NASA scientists decided that it was for the best but rather because the fad was over and the funding was consequently reduced.


      • What sadly limited and narrowly blinkered understanding of NASA and its importance to the modern world.

        Sixty years ago, we saw the universe like this: http://codex99.com/illustration/26.html (call it an example)

        Today, we have this picture of our universe: http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap101227.html (yes, I know, we have a whole lot of other pictures, it’s a symbollic example).

        Largely through NASA and the Soviet space programs, what we’ve learned of astronomy in the past 60 years easily outstrips advances in the 6,000 years before.

        Certainly, not all advancement we’ve seen can be laid at NASA’s feet, but many attribute most of the advances of electronics and computing since the dawn of the space race to NASA and the Soviet program, and their competition.

        If even one tenth of one percent of such claims were true, then both programs have easily paid for themselves.

        Expensive disaster?

        What a bizarre interpretation.

      • Latimer Alder

        Seems to me (from afar admittedly) that the thing that made NASA great in its heyday was that it could do cutting-edge engineering.

        The ‘science’ bit was a secondary benefit. And used to justify the huge costs involved in letting ‘the boys play with their toys’

        I’m not knocking it at all, and yield to nobody in my admiration for what they achieved in applying and extending technology. But a ‘science’ based agency it wasn’t.

      • IF Bart??

        My armwave is that more could have been done for less if the US had NOT created NASA and had given “encouragements” to private companies. The Manhattan project should have shown them exactly what was wrong with Government organizations, but, the Government mindset is blinkered.

        Remember, Eisenhower warned us of Military Industrial Complexes AND Science and Learning Institution Complexes (not a direct quote). NASA inherited both sides of the inefficiency and corruption.

      • kuhnkat

        We can only speculate on the wonderful What-If of a Minarchist America in the 1950’s launching a privatised scientific engine of discovery and enlightenment.

        But absent computer modeling capable of generating the outcomes of such an adventure (perhaps we’d have such models by now if there had been such an adventure), we gotta go with what we know.

        We know NASA’s resulted in remarkable achievements, be they in engineering or in science.

        So, back to the original point, no policymaker can foresee where funding for any scientific project will lead, when funding even for an engineering project led to such unexpected discovery.

        It’d be like the head of the committee funding DARPA could foresee 3D interactive hentai blogs. What was that fellow’s name? Al something.

      • Bart,

        I agree completely that NASA has done a lot of good, and there are a lot of good things that government funded science (NIH, NSF, DOE) accomplishes, so that’s not the issue (for me at least). But I think the price we pay for that good is that science gets distorted in directions that the funding agencies prescribe. Sometimes those directions are very well informed but often they are driven by public opinion or political agendas.

      • I do not need to explicitly create a model to test. We have models in all the other highly expensive and inefficient projects that the US government, and most other governments since the beginning, have completed.

        The lesson is that government almost NEVER completes projects for less than a non-governmental organization. When the government provides the financing, the necessary oversight procedures does to the outside organization similar changes as the gubmint orgs already have.

        The F-35, SR-71/Blackbird, B-2, Abrams, Airborne anti-missile laser defense… The list will continue growing of the projects that are enormously overcost and time for development. The same for the boosters, shuttle, satellites…

        The current development of civilian hardware is a great example of how NASA has become institutionalized and blindered and originality was stifled.

        Like our Universites we have developed a narrow culture where you have to fit in and are required to jump through the hoops to stay. There may be areas where enormous resistance to new ideas are good, for example, insurance or banking, but, they have their own issues with government interaction.

        Tell me, what do you think of the fact that after a few high effort and cost trips with enormous amounts of basic science to be done, we never went back???? It is one of the points that drive the conspiracy theorists.

        It also shows that during the enormous effort and expenditure we never developed efficient methods to continue. The space shuttle itself was still horrendously expensive. The same expenditures spread over decades would have resulted in more time for new ideas to be developed and mature. Having a single path froze out the variety that is needed for a healthy industry.

      • @kuhnkat
        In 1957 there was no NASA – it was NACA and had an entirely different mission. By 1964, NASA had grown, with bases in Florida, California, Alabama, Virginia, Maryland, Louisiana. Big time expansion, took over the rocket program from the military, and started several major satellite programs.

        It was still the “Wild West” with the brightest and best flocking to new challenges, developing new technologies, new techniques, whole new sciences. It was captivating, exciting – and satisfying for those of us who were there. Even the early days of Manned flight were “Wild West” days.

        Then came the Shuttle – an underpowered, over-complicated, extremely expensive, over-hyped pig of a vehicle that couldn’t do the job it was intended and designed for. And, being over-complicated, it came with a low reliability factor. Much lower than was allowed by NASA management – and the few politicians who knew about it – to be advertised. Because it couldn’t meet it’s original mission, the mission was changed from being a stepping stone to further Moon and outer system exploration to — looking inward. And that was the end of Moon exploration – killed by the very vehicle that was supposed to enhance it.

        Then came Challenger and the end of those “Wild West” days, not just for the Manned program, but for ALL programs. After Challenger, the scientists and engineers were no longer in charge – the bean-counters took over. And that was the the end of the dream, the innovation, and the leaps of progress. Oh, those things hung on for a while – in odd corners of the space world, but NASA itself lost the drive to continue it’s own mission. Hubble was a good example. For all the praise it’s gotten, it’s a pig. It cost over $3 Bn to get off the ground and far more to keep operating. And at that, the launch was 6 years late and the main mirror was myopic because they cheaped out on a basic test. The program also decimated what was left of the ranks of competent NASA managers. And you REALLY don’t want to know about the crappy on-board hardware. For the time,energy and price, we could have launched 20 smaller observatories that would have done a better job (cheaper to operate, better science, better reliability, less repair cost, longer life). And yes, I still have that analysis sitting on the bookshelf across the room.

        It wasn’t “NASA” that failed – it was NASA management, the loss of political will, the idea that we could cheap-out on the cost, hide the probabilities (sound familiar?), and run the mission by tight control from the top of the management structure (i.e. – by diktat). The “bureaucracy” won – and we ALL lost.

        Ya – I was there, I was a part of it – and now I’m glad I’m not. I’m not bitter, but sad that “we” missed the boat on outward expansion. It was a failure of vision on the part of our government and our people. My attitude at this point was expressed very well some years ago by this quote:

        It sounds very pessimistic to talk about western civilization with a sense of retreat. I have been so optimistic about the ascent of man; am I going to give up at this moment? Of course not. The ascent of man will go on. But do not assume that it will go on carried by western civilization as we know it. We are being weighed in the balance at this moment. If we give up, the next step will be taken – but not by us. We have not been given any guarantee that Assyria and Egypt and Rome were not given. We are waiting to be somebody’s past too, and not necessarily that of our future.

        From – “The Ascent of Man” by Jacob Bronowski

      • kuhnkat | January 14, 2011 at 5:07 am | wrote:
        “Remember, Eisenhower warned us of Military Industrial Complexes AND Science and Learning Institution Complexes (not a direct quote).”
        Direct quote: President Eisenhower’s Farewell Address (1961) http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/dwightdeisenhowerfarewell.html:

        “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

        “Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers. The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present — and is gravely to be regarded.

      • I’m the last person on the planet to support government involvement in science or technology, in bureaucracies trying to determine the course of research and to run engineering projects of any scale.

        And yet, government involvement directly spawned NASA and the Internet, while private sponsors directly spawned homeopathic vaccines and magnetic bracelets. (I use these examples somewhat facetiously, as I know the government of France is behind homeopathy.)

        Sure, it’d be great if NASA hadn’t made bad decision after bad decision, but bad decisions happen in large projects, private or public.

        Maybe the lesson of NASA is that we aren’t mature enough as a world yet to sustain taking the big step into space ourselves, and that at this time we’re only competent yet to launch robots and telemetry probes. So long as we keep learning the lessons — for which I thank all respondents who have added their insights to my original claim — we’re making some sort of progress.

        Maybe enough that we won’t back the gatekeeping recommendations that empower anti-scientific control over scientific endeavor, however nicely packaged or urgently needed it seems.

        Because we made that mistake before.

        So, who cares to carry on this discussion as if I’d said, “Yeah, that ARPAnet. Al Gore sure has egg over his face for backing that.” ;)

      • Bart R,

        you are still ignoring the point. Gubmint involvement wasted enormous amounts of resources that could have been used in numerous other pursuits. Wtihout NASA there WOULD have been other technological projects from the private community with the money not taken from them.

        The problem with our government is that it rarely leads, only bribes and coerces!!

      • I don’t agree Kuhnkat. There are a lot of long term projects that can’t be squeezed into the profit cycle of corporations.

        I think that the Apollo program, for example, would never have been conducted by companies of the era. It was too risky, and the payoffs were too remote given the technology at the time.

      • I know Ross (a great guy who does great work) but I have no idea what his thesis was on. What was it? In any case my “almost no funding” is in the context of an estimated $4 billion/year global research budget. $40 million would be almost none, so would $100 million for that matter. I am not claiming that there is no skeptical research.

      • Latimer Alder

        Prepare to meet thy Bart who has a clever answer for you.
        Be amazed (not).

      • Seems I can’t even spell his name right today.

        So, I Googled to help my feeble recollection (as Latimer Alder says, I’m not very impressive).

        First hit was the much-beloved Sourcewatch, that says “Guelph Mercury, described his PhD thesis as doctoral thesis as being on the possibility of taxing carbon emissions as a way to reduce payroll taxes which he considered to be too high.”

        Second hit, http://www.uoguelph.ca/~rmckitri/ross.html the good Dr. says.. huh.. I can’t identify his thesis, but the 1997 article he lists has a similar title, “Double-Dividend Environmental Taxation and Canadian Carbon Emissions Control”

        Since Dr. McKitrick is a senior fellow of the Fraser Institute, an organization that is vigorous and extremely well-funded, and he is also an influential political consultant, it would be difficult to make your case in the context of Canada.

        Maybe you have some more particular breakdown of your global estimates?

      • randomengineer

        In the case of climate research what should be an inquiry into the nature of climate change is instead an inquiry into making the AGW hypothesis work (even if it doesn’t).

        I appreciate the reply and the perspective.

        How do you arrive at the quoted sentence? Is that based on looking at what programs are funded and why or a gut feel or…??

      • randomengineer

        In my experience, the alternative you mention is more often the case than the former. The NIH, for example, has very strict mandates about the types of research it will fund, and grant-seeking scientist has no choice but to tailor his research in the direction of such mandates.

        Brad, thanks for the input/education here. I suppose it’s reasonable to ask how they determine what they’re willing to fund, which is what David W refers to. As such, aren’t the NIH mandates in turn goverened by the same or similar mechanisms, i.e. prevailing POV of what’s likely to create usable results? I think what I’m failing to understand is what’s different about direct funding requests forming the assessment of what to fund vs assessment based on what research seems to be producing usable results; by and large these ought to be the same thing.

        David Wojick has mentioned the politics at the funding end and I’d sure appreciate a better understanding of that.

      • “aren’t the NIH mandates in turn goverened by the same or similar mechanisms, i.e. prevailing POV of what’s likely to create usable results?”

        From what I can tell, these mandates are set by whomever happens to be in charge of the NIH at the time, with some amount (though very little) of influence by external influences such as congress. Therefore, individual people (often called program officers) wield a tremendous amount of power in dictating not just what fields of research are eligible for funding, but what approaches and scientific perspectives are more likely to be funded.

        For example, there has recently been an outcry from the certain sectors of the scientific body for more funding being directed towards the basic behavioral sciences by the NIH (as opposed to applied research, which is currently in favor). Such effort has been largely ineffective.

        What I’ve said is even more true in military funding, wherein a program officer has almost limitless autonomy to direct money towards specific laboratories that he or she finds valuable/agrees with.

        I have no first hand experience with climate science funding however, but I know of no reasons why it would be different.

    • The short clip below is very revealing. David Suzuki was originally a geneticist, however has long been an activist and broadcaster.

      He relates asking Gore how he as a journalist can help the cause.
      Gore tells him not to look to the politicians, but to go sell the message of CAGW until the populace demands action from the pols.

      Forecast Earth In Depth: David Suzuki, Part 2

  36. Michael Larkin

    I don’t think climate scientists are necessarily environmentalists. But apart from the well-known sceptics, I haven’t seen very many of them try to play down the effects of AGW. Of course, I don’t know the actual range of opinion amongst them about this. But as there doesn’t seem to be groundswell opinion toning down the rhetoric, I’m not surprised if climate scientists as a group are assumed to be catastrophists.

    Whilst it seems entirely plausible to me that some environmentalists may be AGW sceptics or lukewarmers, I have a harder time imagining many catastrophists not seeing themselves as environmentalists.

    But what is an environmentalist? Is it someone active out in Amazonia or planting trees on the local common? Someone who is a political activist? Someone who has a composting toilet, solar-powered or geothermal heating, an electric car, and what have you? Does mere concern, independent of any lifestyle choices, an environmentalist make?

    What about Westerners who live frugal lives through choice or necessity (and have less environmental impact than well-off folk who make token gestures), even if they don’t express strong environmental concerns?

    Environmentalism seems to be most prevalent in relatively affluent secular or semi-secular societies. I often wonder if it fills the gap left by the waning influence of religion. People may still need something to hang a moral hat on, and perhaps its scientific aura lends it an acceptable legitimacy.

    I think the obsession with being healthy might be related to this. If you don’t believe in life after death, but think this is all there is, then maybe it’s your moral obligation to extend your existence, miserable and meaningless though it ultimately might be. And there’s lots of pseudo-science and general faddery associated with this.

    Maybe there’s an underlying nihilistic (and in a strange way, narcissistic) pessimism – an expression of the ennui of those who’ve lost a sense of awe at the inherent beauty and meaningfulness of an existence illuminated from within rather than without. Perhaps at some level this leads to anger at the loss of Eden, for which someone must be to blame. Maybe it’s an unconscious attempt to reconnect with the transcendent.

    If so, I think it might be better to separate the two things; the entirely natural and laudable desire to maintain a pleasant environment, and an equally natural and laudable desire to have some interior meaning to hang on to in the face of life’s inevitable vicissitudes. Best not to conflate and confuse them, IMO.

  37. There is no tax revenue in governments accepting natural change as dominant.
    There is some tax revenue in promoting environmentalism ( GOOD !).
    There is even more tax revenue in the AGW driven environmentalism (not so good, if not proven).

    • Vukcevic,
      Research and development has drastically declined due to profit grabbing. This just leaves bad technology pushed as “green” products by governments to push their own GDP and the taxes they generate. Banks love high interest rates to drive up profits to the shareholders.
      It’s all “where’s the money and how fast a return on that money”.
      This type of system just takes out all available cash and stiffles any new business or company as their are faster ways of generating a faster profit.
      Making the poor struggle more for food and the rich looking for that next great deal without any possible risk to their investment.

  38. Our comfortable lifestyle is actually an unnatural act to this planet. Looking into history is facinating at the stuggle to adapt to cold climates. Transportation and storing of food was very tricky in warmer climates due to spoilage. Winter storage of food allowed us to withstand colder environments and change or species adaptation.
    Our generations are forgetting this past and expect comfort. A power outage is now being considered a disaster. Our knowledge base of “living off the land” is erroding and people do not know what to do.

    Should be an interesting changing climate.

  39. Our knowledge base of “living off the land” is erroding and people do not know what to do

    Buy a Bear Grylls DVD?

    Seriously, there are too many people for us all to hunt and gather for a living, so your point is moot. The Clovis people decimated large mammal species in North America before civilisation had discovered agriculture. There is no moral certainty when it comes to survival. In fact morality is something of a luxury outside of your own gene sharing clade.

    Our species has a symbiotic relationship with various other living organisms (wheat and yeast for example). In those terms, there’s nothing “unnatural” about our way of life. The only difference I can think of is that nature herself is indifferent to suffering, whereas we (places like Sudan notwithstanding) tend not to be.

    Our generations are forgetting this past and expect comfort

    Can you think of any examples where other species have managed to transcend the natural order of things with some adaptation? I can think of hundreds. What is it in your value system that enables you to say one is morally good but the other morally bad?

    • You cannot live on ice unless your supplied or prepared. Clothing is not a luxury but a neccessity in the environment and so is food and water.
      Will you have in mind “morals and values” if someone attacks your home or loved ones? Or if they are starving?
      Manmade concepts to a planet that was not invited to the negotions with God that “man inherits the Earth”.

    • I think you mean pre-Clovis, and I think it’s a bum rap. :) There’s lots of evidence now (the Black Band soot layer) that 13,000 y.a. a huge air-burst comet impact just south of Hudson Bay firestormed the continent, and took out the pre-Clovis humans, and every large mammal from sabre-tooths to mammoths.

      • That’s one theory, yes. But it’s a remarkable coincidence that large mammals tend to die out on any continent as soon as Man arrives (North America included). Unless you’re suggesting that air-burst comets tend to follow man around, bursting the moment they arrive!

        Actually, I did mean Clovis – I will make an appeal to authority here: Richard Dawkins (The Ancestor’s Tale, pp. 226). He’s a scientist, so it’s unlikely he’s wrong :p. Apparently there were Mammoths and Mastodons in North America until ~12,000 years ago.

      • Sorry Brian, to continue – as a skeptic I had to hunt down and find out more about it, in order to be contrary just for the sake of it. It’s from a very reliable source (Sci-Am – yes my tongue is firmly in cheek):

        But the evidence does not convince everyone. “I don’t think much of this whole story,” says geochemist Christian Koeberl of the University of Vienna in Austria, “Diamonds of any sort are not uniquely characteristic of impact events.” He says that the major lines of evidence are still missing, including the presence of shocked minerals, including breccias and tektites as well as an impact crater. “At least three other groups searched for similar evidence in the same or similar samples and found none,” he adds.

        Sci-Am Article

        Actually that’s a dumb quote when I think about it. An air-burst comet won’t produce shocked minerals, breccias, tektites or an impact crater. But furthermore:

        “We have shown that in California, specifically, that there [was] no severe decline in the resident population.” He adds that other researchers have shown that the black mat varies in age across the continent and appears to have a variety of geologic origins.

        More research needed I think.

    • @Robinson –
      Seriously, there are too many people for us all to hunt and gather for a living, so your point is moot.

      True – BUT – if you were one of the few to survive the predicted CC events, you REALLY would want to have those skills. :-)

      • I’ve got the Bear Grylls DVD – I just need to rig up a diesel generator and it’s all good :p.

      • Heh!! DVD don’t get the coon. Gotta practice. Lots of practice.
        I started practicing 60 years ago. :-)
        Need more practice.

    • ” The Clovis people decimated large mammal species in North America before civilisation had discovered agriculture. ”

      Assumption similar to, what else could it be but CO2?? Lack of information makes many bad scenarios.

  40. Dr Curry: the second word in your post is more usually spelled ‘archetypal’.

  41. Dr Curry, In the WUWT article you link to, Willis Eschenbach describes himself as a ‘heretic’, not a ‘sceptic’. Maybe the distinction is unimportant. I think the term ‘sceptic’ was appropriate when used, for instance, by Sherwood Idso in the title of his 1998 review paper to describe his own approach to estimating climate sensitivity. However in recent years other heretically inclined climate scientists have rejected the worn ‘sceptic’ tag and in some cases prefer the blunter term ‘denier’ (Lindzen).
    Sorry, that was off topic pedantry.

    More relevant to your environmentalism/climate scepticism thread: one well-known’ climate sceptic’, Michael Crichton, wrote:
    “We now astonishingly little about every aspect of the environment, from its past history, to its present state, to how to conserve and protect it.” 1
    “Stable management of the environment requires recognition that all preferences have their place: snowmobilers and fly fishermen, dirt bikers and hikers, developers and preservationists.” 2
    „I wish natural environments to be preserved for future generations. I am not satisfied they will be preserved in sufficient quantities, or with sufficient skill.” 3

    On climate science Crichton wrote:
    “Open and frank discussion of the data, and of the issues, is being suppressed. Leading scientific journals have taken strong editorial positions on the side of global warming, which, I argue, they have no business doing. Under the circumstances, any scientist who has doubts understands clearly that they will be wise to mute their expression.” 4
    “…the intermixing of science and politics is a bad combination, with a bad history. We must remember the history, and be certain that what we present to the world as knowledge is disinterested and honest.” 5

    Ref: Crichton, M., State of Fear, UK paperback edition, 2005. 1: p 676; 2, 3: p 680; 4: p 686; 5: p 687.

  42. Correction: In my quote from Crichton a few minutes ago it should read ‘We know astonishingly’ (rather than ‘We now…’). Apologies.

  43. It’s exhausting, being a skeptic. I fight with my progressive friends every day. I insist AGW deniers are just as concerned about the environment as they are; we’re just less pious about it.

    Off topic Dr. Curry, but I’d love to see a thread on what it means, if anything, that 2010 ties 2005 for the “warmest year on record.” My brother called me to tell me that it was tied for the hottest year *ever*.

    Like I said, exhausting.

    • It is exhausting but we are winning nicely, so it is worth it. The simple, but hard work, answer to the “warmest year on record” claim is that there is no such record. There is no big thermometer in the sky that records global temperature. 1933 may have been warmer. Same for the year 1000 and the year 0, and lots of years in between. These so-called records are actually the output of questionable computer models. In fact there may be no global warming, just global oscillation.

      • “It is exhausting but we are winning nicely, so it is worth it. The simple, but hard work, answer to the “warmest year on record” claim is that there is no such record. There is no big thermometer in the sky that records global temperature. 1933 may have been warmer. Same for the year 1000 and the year 0, and lots of years in between. These so-called records are actually the output of questionable computer models. In fact there may be no global warming, just global oscillation.”

        David, That’s part of my answer as well essentially. But it would be great if there could be a whole thread devoted to it as I’d like to see the other side’s arguments. I’m genuinely open to hearing what they have to say. I’ve never hear them talking about the previous 10,000 years, and how warm they very probably were. Perhaps they do with another take on the matter no doubt, but if so I’ve missed it.

        I do hear them regularly dismissing the MWP however. Either it wasn’t as warm as the “deniers” claim, or it was a local event, or something along those lines…

      • Your friends are listening to the paleoclimatologists (or their proxies), some of whom apparently don’t understand how trees respond to extreme weather – or elevated temps or CO2. They continue to use bristlecone strip bark even after being warned by the NAS about such. If you follow Climate Audit (http://climateaudit.org/ ) for a while, I’m sure that’ll come up again. Or you could just do a search like this:

        Re: the MWP, you might want to nose around Craig Idso’s repository at http://www.co2science.org/data/mwp/mwpp.php

        There’s also a wealth of information in archaeological texts.

        But YOU will have to do the research – your friends won’t. They’re comfortable with their story and have no interest in changing it.

  44. hurdygurdy;
    You might like to check the details on this environmentalist cliché, too:
    “To the best of my knowledge, there is no proof that man-made carbon emissions are responsible for even a single species extinction, while the thoroughly man-made problems of invasive species, pollution and habitat destruction have caused thousands.”

    Those “extinctions” are also computer phantasms, like AGW. The actual counts of extinct species are, literally, handfuls over the last many decades. Try and find a list of actual recent extinct species; it will be very short. The quoted “thousands” are just more policy-leveraging hype.

  45. It seems that the take-away from this (and the libertarian and evangelical threads) is that the labels are too limited in dimension to accurately describe multi-dimensional people. While people routinely engage stereotyping one ideology as being a facet of another, the counter-examples are too numerous. The definitions of the labels themselves is sufficiently fuzzy to allow for a range of ideas within the same umbrella. Who would have thought that humans are insufficiently consistent enough to fit into a rigid taxonomy?

    Environmental sympathies, political leanings, religious belief, financial interest, and professional prestige have all been mooted as motivations for people on both sides. Perhaps the answer is all, none, and some combination – depending on who you’re looking at. It should also be noted that none of these other motives automatically invalidate the sincerity of a person’s position.

  46. This also seems off topic for this post, but Wikipedia has such lists that are easy to check. I haven’t gone through and counted the species that can be attributed to human impact, but they certainly number in the hundreds if not thousands. No models required.
    Attributing extinctions to climate change is extremely difficult however, as there are usually a confluence of factors involved.

    • Whoops, meant to reply to Brian H above.

    • Completely aside from the thorough gatekeeping that has occurred in Wikipedia on any subject remotely related to climate change, I then challenge you do do what you say is easy. Give us the count.

      But they must be NAMED species, not hand-waving guesstimates of numbers derived from buggy ecological models.

      • Why do you want a precise count? The lists are here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_extinct_animals) and the species are all named. Whatever the exact number that can be attributed to human impact, I would not characterize it as “handfuls”. The list for Hawaii alone includes 40 bird species extinct since human settlement (islands are especially bad for this as the species evolve in relative isolation, so you get birds that have no natural predators before humans arrive bringing rats and cats). Yes, computer models can be very dubious and extinction claims are often exaggerated, but I think it takes a profound amount of delusion or ignorance to think human settlement has not had a profound impact on many ecosystems.

      • Zajko, presumably there is a similar list of species heading for extinction with no anthropogenic assistance, since it must have been necessary to disambiguate them from those species threatened by man. Can you point me to it?

      • hah, no, but it would be nice. Luckily I think causality in many of these cases is easier to deduce on a practical level. Ultimately we can never know how evolution would have played out without human impact, but I think it’s fair to say that when you introduce a dominant predator into an isolated environment, or chop down a few thousand square kilometer section of forest, species will go extinct. So, in a way we can never blame humanity for any of these extinctions – the most we can truly say is that the organisms were badly adapted for their changing environments. But humanity has sure changed a lot of environments, for good or ill.

      • Nice? Essential, Zajko. If you are going to claim human agency for an extinction, you MUST be able to disambiguate the naturally expiring species – it isn’t a nice bonus. Is the attempt being made? If so, where can I see it? And what do you mean by “dominant predator” – mankind? Man survives overwhelmingly as a farmer, not a predator. Or is this just an appeal to the casual assumption upon which environmentalism trades “four legs good, two legs bad”, whereby man’s very existence is deemed predatory? If so, you’ll need better than that in these pages. In case you hadn’t noticed, feel-good, dog-whistle, enviro-drivel is at a distinct discount here.

      • The first part of your reply points to the difficulty I addressed earlier. How do you distinguish between naturally expiring and human influenced? This distinction seems easy in some cases, damn near impossible in others. I mentioned the easier cases, but even these may not be definitive enough for your liking. By dominant predator I meant an invasive species like a cat introduced onto an island populated by flightless birds (New Zeland). We will never know if those birds would not have gone extinct for some other reason but it seems reasonable to say that if the cats hadn’t been introduced onto the island by humans, then that particular extinction event would not have occurred.

      • Sorry about that last bit Brain H – hopefully you can back up your statements at least as well as I’ve backed mine. I’ve just had a growing frustration with people who cite flakey computer models as evidence that ecosystems are actually doing fine.

      • I quickly counted the birds (probably) extinct since 1900; it’s about 220, or 2 per year. Sad, but no accelerating disaster. The numbers of new species identified in all families etc. in the same time period far exceeds the extinctions. Compared to rhetoric about the Great Anthropogenic Extinction Event, tiny and trivial.

      • I’m not familiar with that particular brand of rhetoric, but you could be right. It could even be that rates of extinction have decelerated somewhat, now that most islands have been colonized (speculation, since this really isn’t my area). However, there will always be extinctions of unknown species, and the occasional extinct species re-discovered as alive, so we can never have a final count.
        Ultimately, I don’t like extinction as a metric of environmental destruction, and I don’t see it as necessarily a bad thing either – extinction happens. It’s what those extinctions reveal about changing ecosystems which interests me, and that is harder to measure.
        Also, discovering a new species does not bring it into existence, so I don’t see that being much of a counterweight to extinction.

  47. Speaking of WUWT, Judith have you seen Trenbreth’s speech to the AMS on the site? Or the blog commentary on TRF?

  48. that’s Trenberth…

  49. In the words of a fine scientist:

    “The scientists provided the initial impulse for this feedback loop back in the 1970’s and 1980’s. The enviro advocacy groups quickly saw the possibilities and ran with it, with the scientists’ blessing. The enviro advocacy groups saw the climate change issue as an opportunity to enlist scientific support for their preferred energy policy solution. Libertarian think tanks, the traditional foes of the enviro advocacy groups, began countering with doubts about the science. International efforts to deal with the climate change problem were launched in 1992 with the UNFCCC treaty.”

    The IPCC and the majority of climate science itself is founded on what I feel is a faulty premise (as per wikipedia):
    The stated aims of the IPCC are to assess scientific information relevant to:[4]

    1. human-induced climate change,
    2. the impacts of human-induced climate change,
    3. options for adaptation and mitigation.

    This anthropocentric lens (studying climate primarily in relation to humanity’s effect on it) is problematic because it immediately brings in a giant load of cultural baggage. For whatever evolutionary psychological reason, humanity has a proclivity for self flagellation and the assumption of apocalypse and humanity’s sinfulness as a given. While many climate scientists may not be card carrying environmentalists, the way the field of study has been framed has the deck stacked in favour of those looking to confirm deeply held cultural beliefs.

    Here’s how I believe the stated aim of something like the IPCC or climate science as a whole should look like:

    1.To understand how the climate system works.

    • I knew if I read all the comments, some one would offer up my position without me having to write a long annoying comment.

      Activist (NGO) environmental groups are like a hammer looking for a nail. The nail to smack down is mankind’s activities. Many other groups believe mankind has some original sin to be cleansed.

      CO2 AGW was just the kind of doomsday prediction they desired to cleanse the planet of sin. They jumped in front of the political parade because that’s what politicians do. Add in few well known climate scientists who also want to be in front of the parade to save humanity from itself. Hijacked science. I’m not willing to say the UN carefully planned and set this science hijack in motion because that assumes the UN is clever or skillful and there is no evidence the UN has helped more than hurt.

      Somehow, the UN and the NGO are leading the scientists like useful tools in thrall. Climate Science was hijacked a long time ago.

      • Hence my perdikshun of the next re-labelling: “Climate Damage”. It’s what we’re all being accused of, really.

      • To me the strangest concept in the environmentalist lexicon is “footprint”. Minimizing humanity’s “footprint”, carbon “footprint”, “eco-footprint” etc.

        It’s a bizarre quest that highlights the false dichotomy which environmentalism seems to be underpinned by: Man vs. Nature.
        Humanity rose from the dirt like any other organism but we’re supposed to pretend like we don’t exist? There is nature and only nature and in it’s own weird way a smokestack is as natural as an oak tree.

        Now this is not to say that we should be crapping in our own nest of course it’s just that I don’t think we should be collectively clenching our butt cheeks for fear of the dirty inevitability of human existence either.

        I’m going to stop now before this analogy really gets out of hand.

  50. I found Patrick Moore’s story illuminating on the issue of environmentalism and climate change. He wrote recently in the Vancouver Sun describing his evolution from one of the founders of Greenpeace to being presently a “sensible environmentalist.”

    The article includes a listing of his positions and concerns about human impacts on the planet, and global warming is mentioned as a non-issue. Article is here: http://www.vancouversun.com/opinion/Confessions+Greenpeace+founder/4073767/story.html

    • good article!

    • Latimer Alder

      I found especial resonance with this wise and sensible remark from Dr Moore.

      ‘There is no cause for alarm about climate change. The climate is always changing. Some of the proposed “solutions” would be far worse than any imaginable consequence of global warming, which will likely be mostly positive. Cooling is what we should fear.’

      A warmer world will be, on balance, a better world.

      • Latimer Alder

        The warmer world may, on balance, be ‘better’ by some measure, depending who chooses the scale.

        The prospect of weathering (excuse the term) the transition is one of high costs; and while certainly some proposed solutions are so nutty as to be worse than the cost of instable and unplanned transition to these imaginable paradises of warmth, most of them are patently not; some even preferrable to the status quo for their side effects.

        I mean, I’d much rather not sit behind an exhaust-spewing junker while commuting, as a simple quality of life issue.

      • You might want to read Matthew Kahn’s book “Climatopolis”. He’s even an economist. But he apparently lacks you’re pessimism. :-)

      • Jim Owen

        Possibly he also lacks my skepticism, as there’s no such thing as an economist who isn’t a pessimist.

      • Why are you commuting again??

      • Latimer Alder


        ‘I mean, I’d much rather not sit behind an exhaust-spewing junker while commuting, as a simple quality of life issue’

        Not sure I know what a ‘junker’ is. Last I heard they were a form of German bomber trying to blast my Mum to Kingdom Come in the London Blitz in WW2. Is it some bad comparison to Holocaust Denial?

        But assuming that it isn’t. I think I get your drift. And I agree with you. I don’t enjoy sitting in traffic either. Especially as I haven’t had a car for fifteen years and ride my pushbike or take public transport everywhere I need to go.

        But I’m lucky. I live in a place where this is a relatively easy choice ot make and am still fit enough to do so. For many others that is not the case. The best and most convenient way of currently providing that is the internal combustion engine.

        And as the only concrete physical effect that anyone has ever been able to predict of global warming is a very small (<3ft) rise in sealevel over 100 years. This is easily fixed by putting an extra few bricks so on top of the sea walls. A small and easy price to pay for all the other bennies.

      • Latimer Alder


        And WTF are you doing commuting anyway?

      • kuhnkat and Latimer

        What an interesting question.

        One supposes, that like ‘junker’, ‘commuting’ has an idiomatic North American meaning, which includes mass transit, and the use of low carbon vehicles, HOV (high occupancy vehicles) and car pooling or car sharing.

        Not that it’d be a particlar issue of hypocrisy for me even if the measures I take routinely to reduce my carbon footprint weren’t extraordinary, as I happen to live in one of those happy enclaves where carbon emission is charged a fee, and so in my commuting I pay a quite reasonable and balanced toll for the CO2 my commuting produces, as do my fellow commuters.

        Most of North America is built out by long and sloppy habit of suburbs and poor use of urban density, making it more attractive here on balance to travel greater distances than the average European in daily life, giving Europe a decided advantage in the low carbon footprint race; with Asia having an even bigger head start that way.

        Still, I’m not of the persuasion that believes life has to radically change, that extreme costs need be incurred, to address the very simple principles of Conservation of the carbon budget I uphold. If the average American driver reduced their peak driving speed range by a mere 3 mph (5 kph for you, Latimer), and the weight of their vehicle by a mere 15%, CO2 emissions would fall dramatically; telecommuting one day a week, reducing drafts and improving insulation, little capital improvements that increase the book value of a home and increase its comfort, I suppose my question in reply is, why would you assume commuting must be CO2 intensive?

      • I ride bicycles and motorcycles. I haven’t commuted in years, but, may have to again some day to pay the bills. If I do it will be on the motorcycle so I can lane split in this Southern California sunshine and not be stuck behind others exhaust!!

        You speak of reducing wieght and greater efficiency, try a motorcycle or other much downsized vehicle for the longer trips. The costs of the materials to build them are a huge reduction over any hybrid or electric 4 wheeler!! The mileage is better if you don’t go for the performance models!! Even they can give over 40mpg on the highway!

        I agree that more people should be telecommuting. Unfortunately a lot of people simply aren’t responsible enough to be off the leash!!

        Why would I waste money, time, and materials on more insulation?? I don’t use the air conditioner in the summer and rarely heat in the winter!!

      • Latimer Alder

        FWIW production model cars in Europe now give approaching 60 mpg routinely and suffer no lack of performance.

      • My 1987 SRX250 Yamaha gets over 70mpg and runs with production cars from Europe and only weighs 375 pounds. The new models are better. How much raw materials are required for your production cars from Europe??

      • Latimer Alder

        No idea. And not relevant. I was just pointing out that while 40 mpg seems to be a high value in US, it is nowadays disappointingl low in Europe.

        Wasn’t making any point about motorbikes at all. Indeed the last one I rode was my BSA Bantam (175 cc) in about 1973. Which was great. But probably less fuel efficient than a Ford Focus today.

      • kuhnkat

        Latimer does make some excellent points about the difference between American and European cars as they stand today.

        To get 40 mpg is, while far better than the American average, heinously low compared to what’s commonplace in Europe.

        Plus, Europeans regard distances that Americans think of as routine to be enormous.

      • But it is relevant Latimer. If you are only getting the same MPG, you will never make up the extra cost of the materials. Those modern European Production cars will have started out with an extra efficiency debt that can not make up compare to the motorcycle.

        Obviously there are situations where a motorcycle doesn’t work and you need a truck, stationwagon… You just have to use the extra then. For single or double without much luggage more than a 2 wheeler is wasteful!!

        It is one of those points against enviros who want ME to pay more for fuel when I am already using less fuel and resources than they are!!

      • kuhnkat

        So, you’d be in favor of making the market work for you to force those enviros to pay their share for the CO2 they emit, instead of shielding them from this obligation by upholding a system of intrinsic (and some explicit) subsidies?

        You, like Ross McKitrick, are in favor of Carbon Taxes?

      • NO.

      • kuhnkat


        Looking at Waxman Markey (which I’m told will never pass), I can hardly argue with you.

        I’d be somewhat satisfied if gubmint would just stop subsidizing private industries well out of their infancy. This money to people who build cars and roads for cars, who pump oil and burn coal, from your tax dollars.. must surely be an irritant to you.

        Compared to those outrageous subsidies, a little effort put into charging those who benefit most from the lasting changes they make to the air we breath and paying us all back from that dividend would be — in addition to the legitimate role of government — a tiny bit as intrusive into the lives of citizens.

      • Bart R,

        those subsidies to the big boys also started out small a long time ago. You are pushing just one more in an extremely long line of Gubmint interventions attempting to use a guise of reasonability. It is unreasonable to take money illegally, even one dirty penny. Where is the line in the sand saying there is no possibility that we will cross??

        We do NOT need to increase the stupid things government does. We need to STOP government from doing the stupid things it is doing!!!

      • kuhnkat

        Seems we’re closer in most regards than would appear.

        You think the government steals too much already but won’t do anything about it; I think the government is complicit in too much theft by people who use too much of our shared resources, but I can’t get you to commit to doing anything about it because the government steals too much already.

      • @Bart –
        You think the government steals too much already but won’t do anything about it; I think the government is complicit in too much theft by people who use too much of our shared resources,

        You’re both right.

        but I can’t get you to commit to doing anything about it because the government steals too much already.

        What needs to be done is to stop the unnecessary subsidies (are ANY of them “necessary”?), which would then provide enough money to keep even the politicians happy for a while (about 17 minutes?) .

        Just which politicians do you think would be willing to do that? Or is kuhnkat right?

        While we’re at it, we could stop foreign aid to countries that take it and then bite us. Might not eliminate the debt load, but it would sure help with the deficit.

      • Nice try twisting the positions Bart. YOU are proposing adding to the theft of the populace’s money not I!!

        YOU apparently are NOT willing to work with me to STOP the theft of the populace’s money.

        Try again.

      • Jim Owen and kuhnkat

        I respect the opinions you’ve expressed, and hold very close views in many regards.

        So, trying again, with the possible bonus of offending every political philosophy ever invented.

        It would be great if the social conduct of humans were ruled by human sense of reward from their respect for the rights of their fellows, and the earnest enjoyment of their own personal freedoms steered by their own personal ambitions within that co-mutual respect.

        The evidence, however, suggests that a system of adverse rewards is at play, where both the personal ambitions of free people to pursue their own hopes and aspirations, and the respect and regard of one’s social arrangements with one’s neighbors is twisted and contrary.

        When such a situation arises, as Thomas Paine notes, we turn to government with its power beyond society.

        In general, Paine and his colleagues, the Founding Fathers, preferred less government over more, and where given the choice of bad government or no government, opted for no government, at least in principle. Paine himself was villified as an old man for seeming betrayal of such principles in seeking plush government positions from his cronies.

        Paine fell into the problem of adverse rewards: broke, unemployed and nasty, his own ambitions thwarted he sought to pervert the new world order he helped found.

        While he may have been caught, and may have failed, he wasn’t the last to try, and many who have tried since have not failed; at least not immediately.

        So yes, some subsidies that started small are now huge — though many started huge and stay huge, not that it matters one whit — and many that began legitimized by the “Infant Industry” argument are now nasty corporate adults living off the fat of the land well past their time to stand on their own.

        We’ve seen these corporate charities, arguing they are “too big to fail,” which in many cases there is no truth to except what political parties manufacture.

        If you think the only way to correct this is to eliminate all government in one fell stroke, then you are sadly failing to pay attention to the original premise that out there are people who mean to thwart your every liberty, not just the ones governments impinge, and steal from you not just all you have but all your posterity too, rather than the mighty share governments take in taxes as fees for services rendered.

        You use currency? Government fiat makes it valuable, keeps it stable, and gives you the utility of it. Don’t want to pay for that? Well, then who is the one stealing?

        You want lower taxes? Then it’s simple: weed out the subsidy sucking corporate charities and cut down the government slice of your pie by moving the tax revenue source from your wages and your ordinary purchases to purchases of carbon fuels, and move the tax disbursements for every penny of carbon fuel tolls from general government pools of money to each and every citizen per capita.

        In this way, you stroke out the subsidies for those companies that have fed at the public trough too long, you stroke out the size of government, you put into the pockets of those who you ought trust with your own money — yourself — your own money as determined by your own taste for using carbon-based fuels.

        In short, if you don’t support this plan to correct the adverse rewards that warp our social fabric, you support the government stealing more from you, as I see it.

      • Owned my first motorcycle in 1983. I’d be glad if more people traveled by two wheels, and once held the opinion that the world would be a better place if everyone spent their first two years as a driver on a motorcycle.

        My non-hybrid, non-electric car’s mileage is about 80% of the efficiency of that little 230 cc bike, so with passengers it’s far more efficient, and can carry groceries.

        Of course not all ideas work in all situations.

        While I would never trade my current location’s problems for those I saw living and working in Los Angeles, everyone can agree that part of California has many blessings of climate in the times between the mudslide season and the wildfire season.

      • Oh ye of little faith. I can carry passengers AND groceries on the little thing!! Probably not on the freeway with both!! Of course If I really need more power the 2001 GSXR1000 will do the trick!! Being motorcycles I can afford two or more instead of one car!!

        The mudslides are mostly caused by poor engineering and ludicrous zoning. The wildfire season is caused by poor forest management and also contributes to the mudslides. What a little intelligence could do to improve this area!! In my area we get neither. I get to watch the scurrying around on telly like you.

        Of course, here we get into an interesting idea. Why don’t all environmentalists move to areas where they do not need to consume resources and generate power just to exist?? For some reason they say bad things to me when I question their choices!!

      • Latimer Alder

        Good point.

        Enviros and warmist are excellent at telling other people how to lead their lives and proposing lots of new ways to enforce their views. But they don’t seem to adhere to these ideas themselves.

        Proof point: 20,000 delegates at Copenhagen. Air Vast majority by plane. Similarly at Cancun (nice place for a winter beach holiday). Have they never heard of teleconferencing?

        One thing I dislike intensely is hypocrisy. The climate change industry is full of it. Add in a fair sprinkling of arrogance and you have a toxic mixture that will harm rather than promote their cause.

      • Latimer Alder

        H’mmm..where to begin?

        First, in UK we use miles, not kilometres. I find your remark patronising and ill educated. Whereas I am tolerably familiar with some parts of the US (Mn, Ca, Tx, La, Wi) from working and social visits you have clearly never visited UK. So please don’t make assumptions about things you do not know.

        Second. We do know the word ‘commuting’ here as well. And I have managed to do telecommuting pretty much four days a week since about 1996. So I need no lectures on that topic.

        Third, I don’t assume that commuting is necessarily CO2 intensive. But all forms of transport, unless walking, horse or bicycle – or electric powered by nuclear, have some form of burning of fossil fuel. And hence produce some amount of CO2.

        I find it however laughable that your defence of using this fuel (to which I have no objection other than the aesthetic one that sitting in traffic is unpleasant) is that you pay the government (I assume) lots of money. And so that’s OK then.

        Please explain how you think this improves matters. The CO2 is still there. That you have paid for an ‘indulgence’ may make you feel better, but it does nothing at all to mitigate your actions.

        And finally, please show some calculations that prove the ‘dramatic fall’ for

        ‘If the average American driver reduced their peak driving speed range by a mere 3 mph, and the weight of their vehicle by a mere 15%, CO2 emissions would fall dramatically’.

        I;m sure that they would reduce a bit – simple physics tells us that. But you’d also need to show that alternatives, like eliminating yourself from the traffic jams that you are causing, wouldn’t have an equal effect.

        Moral superiority can be a two-edged sword……….

      • In the early 70s in the UK, when the first oil crunch was on, I had a Mark 9 Jaguar, which is essentially an XK 150 chassis onto which someone with a sense of humour has bolted a small Victorian rectory – not an ideal vehicle in which to do battle with OPEC. For a while there was a blanket 50mph speed limit. I found that the Jag returned a slightly better MPG figure if I drove it at a steady 70. I presume the engine was optimised to run at that speed. Funny things, cars. The Jag was, anyway.

      • Changing your tire/wheel diameter or final drive gearing could have tuned your mileage to be optimal at 50. Yes, ICE’s with carburetors have narrower efficiency bands than with fuel injection and there are many tradeoffs with valve timing, camshaft profiles, combustion chamber shape and compression ratio, exhaust tuning…

      • Not sure about that. From memory the revs were 50/2500; 70/3500. If you raised the final drive ratio, you would have the engine running even slower at 50, so further away from its sweet range. But it’s academic, as it had 17″ rims, for which the range of tyres available was vanishingly small. In any case we’re talking 20-21mpg on a motorway, so it’s pretty academic. The car was a laugh, though.

      • You can go down on the gearing also, not just up. Using smaller rims would have done that and gotten you a wider selection of tires to boot.

      • Latimer


        I distinctly remember using both miles and kilometers when in the UK. But then, I imagine it’s a generational thing.

        You also left out of your list hydroelectric power, wind generated (which I know from your attacks on the German wind industry you’re familiar with), and other lesser alternatives, but one follows your gist.

        Again, you seem to think using fuel needs defending for those who wish fuel use to be reasoned and proportionate.

        Are you also of the opinion food must either be consumed to the point of bursting, or not at all?

        As for your other assumptions, I do not pay the government for CO2 emissions. I pay the people who the CO2 belongs to, my fellow citizens. The government doesn’t add these monies to its revenues, and does not keep any of it, by law, here. It’s all rebate.

        This habit you have of making up things that simply aren’t true, to make your own ideas seem sound or even plausible.. it’s not as clever as you appear to think.

        Show some calculations? Grow up. What a flat out disingenuous demand. What calculation adds up to a figure of ‘dramatic?’

        Likewise with your traffic jam crock.

        Speeding less doesn’t cause traffic jams (how could it?), but the dynamics of drivers too close together (generally because of volume of traffic) anticipating poorly events within the four seconds ahead of them on the road. Drive more slowly, that four second distance is shorter, there’s fewer triggers of traffic jams.

        I’m not making a claim of moral superiority, unless you’re counting logic and skepticism as moral values, oh preachy one.

        I’m making a claim that your unrealistic kneejerk demands of others does no one any good.

      • Latimer Alder

        Dunno when you were here or where you went.

        Nobody of any age uses kilometers in daily speech. Road signs are in miles (it is actually illegal to post them in km), speed limits are in mph. You may have been in the Republic of Ireland, who changed to metric a while back, but your memory of UK is faulty.

        Hydroelectric and wind generated power are (with the possible exception of hydro in one or two countries only) far too small a contrbutor to make a contribsution to the debate. And I do not attack the ‘German wind power industry’. I attack all wind power wherever located. Because it simply doesn’t work. It does not do what its proponents claim it does. It flies under a false flag.

        Lets go through the rest.

        1. You pay a toll that is a rebate to your fellow citizens.
        H’mm. How does this work, and where do I get my slice of it? Your CO2 supposedly affects me in UK just as much as the guy you live next door to. Similarly the poor peasant in Africa pumping a well by hand…or the bushman of Australia. How does salving your conscience work for us?

        2. ‘Again, you seem to think using fuel needs defending for those who wish fuel use to be reasoned and proportionate’ Sorry – don’t even understand the sentence. Please recast.

        3. ‘Show some calculations? Grow up. What a flat out disingenuous demand. What calculation adds up to a figure of ‘dramatic?’’

        Oh dear. You have boldly asserted that

        ‘If the average American driver reduced their peak driving speed range by a mere 3 mph, and the weight of their vehicle by a mere 15%, CO2 emissions would fall dramatically’

        And I asked you for some numerical justification for that statement. You are unable to do so. We must then attribute your assertion to pure speculation, rather than on anything more concrete

        4. ‘Speeding less doesn’t cause traffic jams (how could it?), but the dynamics of drivers too close together (generally because of volume of traffic) anticipating poorly events within the four seconds ahead of them on the road. Drive more slowly, that four second distance is shorter, there’s fewer triggers of traffic jams’

        I never suggested that speeding was a cause of traffic jams. Merely pointing out that you have consciously chosen a lifestyle and places of residence and work that mean you have to commute..I have no issue with either of those. That’s entirely your choice as far as I’m concerned. I might even have made the same choice thirty years ago.

        But please don’t start to tell others what terrible harm *they* are doing while ignoring your own personal contributions.


      • Latimer

        Irish. British. Anything past the Chunnel. It’s all Europe to me. ;)

        And while hydro is too small to make a contribution in your opinion to the debate, it still remains in the opinion of others real.

        1. If you want your share of the toll for eating into the CO2 budget, seems past time you appealed to your government to go about the act of regulating that use and — as governments are well positioned to facilitate such — helping collect and disburse the rebates. Or you could appeal to the coal and oil companies, as they’re far more the government of the UK than is Parliament. As for the indigenous people’s of the world, one supposes the conscience stung must not be of those already acting against the expropriation of the chemical balance of the air so much as of those who maintain the habit of taking what isn’t theirs from those without the means to defend their claims.

        2. The rather pointless diversion of discussing what I’m doing commuting, while I’m perfectly happy to entertain as a pointless diversion, doesn’t really cast any light on the greater debate, as the greater debate isn’t a binary condition of “status quo” vs. “use no fuel at all”, except as a strawman, or in the minds of those truly disconnected from reality.

        3. Did you also wish me to find the square root of some? The logarithm of many? To perhaps trisect a blob with straightedge and compass? My claim was of dramatic fall. It suited my purpose, and was to my meaning. Your need for numbers will have to go unsatisfied; you well know the statement to not be pure speculation, as you have already allowed that simple physics tells us that. Having that admission from you, and with the world of Google at your beck and call to satisfy yourself about these figures from original sources, I decline to indulge your demand.

        4. Again, I’ve made no traffic jam causing choices in my lifestyle. I do not encounter traffic jams when commuting. You project from a narrow view of the world onto correspondents you know little about.

        You’re patently trying to flatter yourself with building a case of hypocrisy, where there is no case to be had.

        The only preaching going on here appears to be yours, and therefore the only hypocrisy, too.

      • Latimer Alder


        Let’s summarise some of the basic points here.

        1. You are ignorant of some very basic geography of Europe. Despite your supposed visit, not much sank in. Shame.

        2. You don’t really have a clue about hydro..which undoubtedly has its place and is in my opinion an excellent way of generating electricity..emission free, cheap and (mostly) reliable. Unfortunately it relies upon certain aspects of physical geography and though very useful in very mountainous places, is of lttle help in flatter places. Which is where the majority of people choose to live……in part because they are flat.

        So in the overall scheme of things it may peak a=t a very small number of percentage points. But will never be a major global player.

        I note that wind has miraculously disappeared from your discourse. Though others may think it has increased in another guise. :-)

        3. ‘ My claim was of dramatic fall. It suited my purpose, and was to my meaning’.

        But sadly not backed up by anything c0ncrete. To me ‘dramatic’ would mean 40+%. My guess is that the effects of your proposed actions will be <10%…hardly 'dramatic'. Not specifying exactly what you mean leaves a warm fuzzy, so beloved of advocates, but with no substance.

        Similarly your earlier claim of CO2 'suffocating' plants at night has been shown to have no basis in fact. Or at least none that you have brought forward. But sufficeint perhaps to frighten a child that the plants will all be dead in the morning. Nice one.

        4. I assumed that you sat in traffic because of your remark

        'I mean, I’d much rather not sit behind an exhaust-spewing junker while commuting, as a simple quality of life issue'.

        But now I see that you probably have a choice that could easily fix your QoL issue. You can either overtake it or drop back.

        Simples! Problem fixed. No need for any further intervention. TGFT

      • randomengineer

        Latimer I am replying to this at the thread bottom.

      • Latimer

        Nice summary. Were you even there when you read what I wrote?

        I’m not ignorant of your European geography, I’m merely indifferent to your mostly imaginary geopolitical boundaries, despite my several visits. It’s all Europe to anyone lucky enough to not be from there. There’s less diversity in most senses from one end to the other of the EU than there is from end to end of most streets in North America. No offense.

        And it appears it would be more accurate for you to accuse me to have no clue about lack of hydro, as that appears to be the crux of your complaint. Speaking of geographic ignorance, that Niagara Mountain Range, as I grew up not far from Buffalo NY, I’d expect to be more familiar with it’s location and features. By all means, educate me as to its whereabouts.

        Oh, and “micro-hydro.” Look it up.

        As far as neglecting wind energy, I admit, I lack the energy to address every error you make. If you want a nursemaid to chase after you for every little thing, hire one. And, as you’re keen on numbers, can you provide a number covering the amount of energy all these lesser sources might add up to together economically, when balanced at a CO2 emission price fixed at $300/ton? (To pick the highest price I’ve heard suggested seriously.)

        To you, dramatic would be 40%?

        Thanks for introducing that tidbit so late in the discussion. If you were after 40%, then wouldn’t it be up to you to furnish the mathematics as to how to get there, and not me?

        Since you have divined the specific numerical meaning of the word, you also may want to consider writing a note to Oxford for them to update their dictionary.

        When I said dramatic, I meant dramatic, as in arresting or forceful in effect. As in, if a price were put on CO2 emissions at the more conservative price of $25/ton, either the 3 mph or the 15% lower weight changes would negate the price increase, and telecommuting one day a week would balance a $40/ton CO2 toll. If you need that math done for you, I recommend Google.

        As for CO2 suffocating plants at night, for more about this greenhouse grower’s interpretation of stoichiometry.. say, aren’t you some sort of chemist? Why don’t you explain partial pressure and gas laws and osmosis and gas exchange through porous membranes and respiration to us?

        As for #4, even in Europe they must still have stop lights. Though perhaps you’re so used to people turning off their engines so they don’t idle at the lights that you can’t imagine being stuck behind a late model SUV belching fumes at a red light.

        You keep trying to be Sherlock Holmes.

        You keep being Lestrade.

      • Latimer Alder

        ‘It’s all Europe to anyone lucky enough to not be from there.

        Seems to sum up the subtlety of your thoughts. And to reinforce every stereotype of ‘dumbass Americans’

        Which is a shame since I know from my personal experiences in your fine country that such cartoon caricatures are few and far between.

        But not entirely unknown it would seem.

        There’s little point in continuing this discussion. Ciao.

  51. In general I think it holds that environmentalists are not sceptical in the broad sense. They have accepted a philosophy and deduce their positions from it. They do not reason as an engineer or economist does, in terms of costs and benefits, but rather in terms of what things are good (trees, rivers) and bad (dams, power plants, humans). They then become credulous of any claim or “fact” that supports their POV. This is why we continue to get absurdities like it not being polite to talk about tens of thousands of birds being killed by wind turbines, or conversion of rain forest to oil palm plantations.
    As to Judith’s point about climate scientists not being “environmentalists”, there is some truth to that in the following sense. Most research atmospheric scientists don’t get much involved in activist groups (assuming they don’t work for one) but when their work leads them to conclude the sky is falling, they are rather quick to support environmental groups who present the same message. This can make strange bedfellows. It can also lead people like Hansen to make pronouncements about things he knows nothing about, like extinction of species.

  52. I am a skeptic who has for more than two years consumed large daily doses of information pertinent to the climate warming/change/disruption brouhaha. I also don’t know of a single climate scientist who is a card-carrying member of an environmentalist organization. All climate scientists, however, belong to one or more professional associations and many of those associations are led by those who champion the environmentalist AGW cause.

    The definition you cite from Wikipedia describes environmentalism as both a movement and a broad philosophy. Only a very small minority of people who subscribe to that broad philosophy are movement environmentalists. The remainder includes just about everyone currently in school or who has attended school over the last 20-30 years along with older people who have been exposed to environmentalist messages through the mass media. Finding a person who denies being an environmentalist is about as hard as finding one who confesses to being a sexist or racist.

    The soft, warm and fuzzy environmentalism we find in the every day non-academic world is quite a bit different from what we find in academic environments which seem to be hotbeds of extreme everything except libertarian or traditional values. The ordinary person needn’t be concerned about being ostracized by peers and neighbors if they bring their groceries home in disposable plastic shopping bags. Can the same be said of the wife of an academic returning from a shopping excursion? The academic world is both conformist and harshly punitive. Say something skeptical about global warming at a faculty party and you may not only lose all your friends but find your opportunity to gain tenure lost as well. Make a favorable comment about Sara Palin and you may be executed on the spot.

    So, just like most everybody else, academic climatologists subscribe to the broad philosophy of environmentalism. However, they conduct their work and make their careers in an extremist environment that rewards confirmation bias and punishes those who would challenge the conventional wisdom. Most academic climatologists are in some measure victims of their circumstances. I have no doubt Judith has paid a price for her open-mindedness and curiosity.

    While there is no evidence whatsoever that many or most climatologists are in league with movement environmentalists beating the AGW drum, there are a lot of incentives for climatologists to produce results consistent with AGW alarmism and hold their tongues if they have any doubts.

    What we see then is an overlap or coincidence of interests. The academic climatologist given the choice between likely career advancement and certain career ruin takes the less difficult road and produces the kinds of studies that can be used in turn by movement environmentalists to advance their political agenda. Skeptics note this coincidence and wrongly conclude that their is collision.

    Judith is right in suggesting that the great majority of climatologists are not movement environmentalists. At the same time we must take into account the power that movement environmentalism exerts in the academic environment and how that power is used to stifle dissent, enforce conformity and ensure confirmation bias.

    • Very good post, Ken…..and very depressing. You seem to speak from personal experience….any ideas how this sad situation could be encouraged to change? Regards, Rob.

  53. Please forgive the inadvertent their. I am terrible at reading my own copy.

    • old fashioned but effective way to proof: Read the copy aloud as if you were giving a speech (i.e. with meaning). Does wonders for most of the most frequent errors. Not so good on the it’s/it’s unless you read out all the contractions (cannot for can’t etc..). Also helps you sharpen the punctuation. And, with luck, to eliminate some of the flab/BS/poorly formed ideas.

  54. I think AGW and other environmental causes are branches of a common tree, at least in the way they get magnified into big scares: something like the boomers’ desire to save Bambi. The common thread is that nature is fragile, human beings are the bull in the China shop, or we are stupidly hurting ourselves by hurting the wilderness. The most radical view is that humans have a kind of ethical duty to commit mass suicide in a way that saves nature.

    Environmentalists can be skeptical about AGW because they are not convinced CO2 is the main way we affect nature. AGW advocates can be convinced that other environmental causes will make a small difference at most.

    The main thing AGW advocates want, as someone has said, is to transfer wealth from poor people in rich countries, to rich people in poor countries. There may be a rage for equality which is even deeper than the rage to save nature.

  55. Environmentalists

    In order to survive, man has to discover and produce everything he needs, which means that he has to alter his background and adapt it to his needs. Nature has not equipped him for adapting himself to his background in the manner of animals. From the most primitive cultures to the most advanced civilizations, man has had to manufacture things; his well-being depends on his success at production. The lowest human tribe cannot survive without that alleged source of pollution: fire. It is not merely symbolic that fire was the property of the gods which Prometheus brought to man. The ecologists are the new vultures swarming to extinguish that fire.

    “The Anti-Industrial Revolution,”
    Return of the Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution, 277

  56. Keith Kloor has an interesting thread at Collide-a-Scape called “Raise your hand” http://www.collide-a-scape.com/2011/01/13/raise-your-hand/
    with some interesting discussions and comments.

    “I keep reading variations of this line expressed by readers on various blogs, and it’s purely anecdotal. Also, a “great many” people who converted from believers to skeptics because of why?

    I’ve also heard such an anecdotal assertion expressed this way: that a great many people who believed in AGW are now skeptics.

    Is it both? Some clarification please, and how about some hard numbers?”

    • Looks a useful thread. I’ve always thought Michael Crichton’s account of how he moved on from ill-informed believer – told succinctly to BBC’s Kirsty Wark in 2004 – illustrates the typical process well.

      • Yeah, I think that happens a bit – having a poor grasp of the scientific case puts one at an increased risk of accepting a similarly flawed ‘skeptical’ case. I’ve come across this a few times inthe ‘real world’ eg – we’re having cold weather, AGW is a complete crock!!

    • sorry — s/b:

      What’s in a Name? Global Warming vs. Climate Change


      1. Global Warming – (Svante Arrhenius – 1896 | Wallace Broecker – 1975)

      2. Inadvertent Climate Modification – (? – 1970s)
3. Climate Change | Global Climate Change – (? – 1975)

      4. Global Change – (? – 1988)
      5. Catastrophic Global Warming – (? – 1990)
6. Climate Disruption | Global Climate Disruption – (John Holdren – 2007)
7. Climate Challenges – (Agriculture Department of Australia – 2011)

    • I suggested a ‘third way’, or position which reflects my experience at least.

      ie those who were merely indifferent to it all, and moved to a sceptical or pro aGW, AGW or CAGWposition, because of something (climategate for many)

      I suggested that the vast majority of people in the real world |(outsde of climate blogs) are just getting on with their lifes, and don’t really have a position.. and still don’t .

      They will never have heard of Mann, Mcintyre, let alone the rest of the climate blogs. I know of know one that has ever heard of Watts Up in my day to day aquaintances as an example.

      I had certainly not thought about AGW much, before stumbling across climategate. I might have grumble a bit about CO2 car taxation, or shake my head at Gores 20 feet sea level alarism, but thought ‘co2 is a greenhouse gas there probably is something to it all’

      I guess you can all guess which way I went.

      I stil think there are perhapoperhaps just several thousand people all talking amonsgt themeselves on blogs, as it all passes the rest of the world by

    • From long Internet experience, I think it’s primarily a debating tactic. ‘oh, I used to believe too, X but now……’

      you see it all over the Internet on different topics and it’s used to try and show how the ‘opposition’ is losing the battle. Is it ever true? Probably sometimes, but who knows.

  57. Interesting discussion. I am looking forward to the post on research funding bias. I would also recommend a post on the impact of published paper errors on the growth of skepticism. While there are plenty of obvious statistical errors, there are also perceived errors and judgment errors on both sides. We are human after all.

  58. O/T (I didn’t know where else to put this), have there been any studies of how much a plane’s ‘carbon footprint’ is mitigated by the albedo effect of its con trail? I seem to remember there being a quick study done during the 9/11 air exclusion event over US airspace that suggested the con trails were having a measurable effect on surface temps.

    Going on from this, are there any studies of a similar type that relate the ‘carbon footprint’ of Coal fired power stations, cars, etc to the amount of sun-blocking particulates, sulphur dioxide etc they produce?

  59. Michael Larkin

    An interesting article from a sceptical environmentalist (Patrick Moore) here:


    “There is no cause for alarm about climate change. The climate is always changing. Some of the proposed “solutions” would be far worse than any imaginable consequence of global warming, which will likely be mostly positive. Cooling is what we should fear. “

  60. This reply is a bit of a rabbit trail. Many of you have been dealing with sources of funding and the influence of bureaucracies and advocacy groups. (E.g., Bart R | January 13, 2011 at 4:13 pm and Brad | January 13, 2011 at 3:04 pm , but not specifically.) The tomes cited below are somewhere in my still-packed library. The books may be old, but I suggest their points are still valid. The theater may have changed, but the players are still human beings, who have not changed.

    The Peter Principle (1969)

    The Peter Principle is stated in chapter 1 of the book with the same title: “In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence”.
    Peter’s Corollary states that “in time, every post tends to be occupied by an employee who is incompetent to carry out their duties” and adds that “work is accomplished by those employees who have not yet reached their level of incompetence”. Managing upward is the concept of a subordinate finding ways to subtly “manage” superiors in order to limit the damage that they end up doing.

    Parkinson’s Law (1955)

    “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

    Much of the essay is dedicated to a summary of purportedly scientific observations supporting his law, such as the increase in the number of employees at the Colonial Office while Great Britain’s overseas empire declined (indeed, he shows that the Colonial Office had its greatest number of staff at the point when it was folded into the Foreign Office because of a lack of colonies to administer). He explains this growth by two forces: (1) “An official wants to multiply subordinates, not rivals” and (2) “Officials make work for each other.” He notes in particular that the total of those employed inside a bureaucracy rose by 5-7% per year “irrespective of any variation in the amount of work (if any) to be done.”

  61. Approximately 97% of the CO2 released into the atmosphere is natural. Only 3% is from humans.

    To stabilize CO2 you need only a 3% net reduction in natural sources to equal a 100% reduction from human sources. However, it is cheaper to reduce natural sources a small amount than it is to reduce human sources a large amount, due to the close tie between CO2, energy and prosperity. Without prosperity we can afford to do anything. Rather than die, people will burn the forests for fuel, regardless of the laws.

    So what are scientists recommending? Cutting natural sources a small amount, or human sources a large amount? Is it science or is it environmentalism?

    • ge0050

      Your math boggles me.

      Almost all natural sources of CO2 are cyclic, aren’t they?

      The more you decrease the proportion of these natural sources of CO2, the more the human-sourced proportion goes up.

      3/97 becomes 3/94, to use your numbers, which is bigger by a very slight one tenth of one percent.

      If you continued, you’d get to tehpoint by logical extention, where almost all CO2 emission was human-sourced, not natural.

      Or are you proposing mass forest-fire suppression measures?

      Don’t conservationists generally agree that strategy has led to a disaster of woodlands overloaded with ready fuel?

      • Latimer Alder

        Here’s the sums.

        Assume that there are 100 units of CO2 in total. Of these 97 are naturally produced, and 3 are human induced.

        If you eliminate all of the human induced, you get to 97 parts (97+0 = 97), an overall reduction of about 3%

        You could get to the same result by reducing the naturally produced parts by about 3% from 97 to 94, and leaving the human stuff the same (94+3 = 97).

        In the first case, the human sourced proportion is 0%. In the second it is 3.1%. But a carbon dioxide molecule is a carbon dioxide molecule and has teh same chemical and physical properties regardless of its source so this number is meaningless.

        NB: I do not necessarily agree with the analysis, but the maths is simple.

      • The analysis is OK, but the real question is how will human CO2 emissions be reduced, with what resulting reduction in warming and at what cost?

        In other words, what would a cost/benefit analysis of a specific actionable proposal show?

        A recent NASA-GISS paper in Env. Sci. Tech., co-authored by James E. Hansen calls for the shutting down of all coal-fired power plants in the USA by 2030, in order to avoid the global warming caused by the emitted CO2.

        What effect would this specific actionable step actually have on global warming?

        The paper tells us that 1,994 billion kWh/year were generated from coal in 2009 and that the average CO2 emission is 1,000 tons CO2 per GWh generated.

        So by 2030 Hansen’s plan would reduce CO2 emissions by roughly 2 GtCO2 per year.

        Roughly half of this “stays” in the atmosphere (with the rest disappearing into the ocean, the biosphere or outer space) so the annual reduction after 2030 will be around 1 GtCO2/year and over the period from today to year 2100 the cumulative reduction would be 80.5 GtCO2.

        The mass of the atmosphere is 5,140,000 Gt.

        So the net reduction in atmospheric CO2 would be around 16 ppm(mass) or 10 ppmv.

        If we assume (as IPCC does) that by year 2100 the atmospheric CO2 level (without Hansen’s plan) will be around 600 ppmv (“scenario B1”), this means that with Hansen’s plan it will be 590 ppmv.

        Today we have 390 ppmv.

        Using IPCC’s 2xCO2 climate sensitivity of 3.2C we have:

        Case 1 – no Hansen plan
        600 ppmv CO2
        ln(600/390) = 0.431
        ln(2) = 0.693
        dT (warming from today to 2100) = 3.2 * 0.431 / 0.693 = 1.99C

        Case 2 – Hansen plan implemented
        590 ppmv CO2
        ln(590/390) = 0.414
        ln(2) = 0.693
        dT (warming from today to 2100) = 3.2 * 0.414 / 0.693 = 1.91C

        So Hansen’s plan will result in a total reduction of global temperature by year 2100 of 0.08C.

        But what will this non-measurable reduction of global temperature cost?

        The total, all-in capital cost investment to replace 1,994 billion kWh/year capacity with the least expensive alternate (current nuclear fission technology) is between $4,000 and $6,000 per installed kW (say $6,000 on average). [Note: If we replace it with wind or solar, it will cost several times this amount per generated kWh, due in part to the low on-line factor.]
        1,994 billion kWh/year at a 90% on-line factor represents an installed capacity of:
        1994 / 8760 * .9 = 0.251 billion kWh

        This equals an investment cost of 0.251 * 6,000 = $1.5 trillion

        Globally some 6,700 billion kWh/year are generated from coal (around 3.4 times as much as in the USA).

        So shutting down all the world’s coal-fired plants by 2030 would cost $5 trillion and result in 0.27C reduced warming by year 2100.

        I think it is pretty obvious why Hansen and his co-authors do not run us through this cost/benefit analysis.

        And that is the real dilemma. There are no viable actionable proposals to reduce global warming – because we are unable to do so.


      • manacker

        Nice work!

        So, the US with its small fraction of the world population burns 1/5th the world’s coal?

        And with China coming on, should it choose to continue in its ambition to equal America’s quality of life as soon as possible, by 2100 be producing 10x America’s CO2 from coal burning alone?

        So, if China follows America (as it says it will), we see your Case 1 should be adjusted to 700 ppmv, and all else remains the same, no?

        Also, this is 1.5 trillion in capital costs over 20 years; you don’t include the depreciation and replacement of the coal plants over that same time scale in your figures, do you?

        Also, we know from Dr. Curry’s field of expertise that in category 5 hurricanes alone, the temperature difference even of your lower Case 1 figure could easily balance the costs through storm damage over the next 90 years if even one of these extra storms in 20 makes landfall every year and has damage figure like Katrina is said to have. (90 x 5/20 x $100 billion)

        So.. help me out with the math some more?

      • Bart R

        You wrote:

        So.. help me out with the math some more?

        Glad to.

        Your speculation about China is irrelevant. If the entire world (including China) eliminated its present coal-fired plants (as Hansen et al. have suggested for the USA), it would have an imperceptible impact on our planet’s climate.

        Secondly, the savings in depreciation of the idled coal plants is far exceeded by the added depreciation of the newly constructed nuclear plants to replace them, so that is a red herring, Bart.

        The postulated incremental costs of tropical storm damage based on a 0.3C globally and annually averaged increase in temperature are negligible as well, as I am sure you can see. Check with Dr. Curry if you have a problem with this.

        So we have a lot of money spent for absolutely nothing, as I am sure you can also see.

        Hope this has helped.


      • Max

        That helps immensely.

        Though I remain confused, as is readily apparent to many, I am sure.

        How does depreciation of coal plants not count?

        Aren’t most coal plants in the US today heavily depreciated and many well past their replacement date?

        How does replacing a coal plant (and coal vertical supply chain) with a nuclear one, when that replacement was necessary anyway, count as a new cost?

        How much of your $1.5 trillion are really old costs of coal you’re painting as new costs of nuclear?

        Speaking of vertical supply chain, coal is often or generally mined from huge tracts of potentially habitable, arable, or at least verdant wild land or takes huge numbers of unskilled workers for low pay in terrible conditions. Ever seen the comparison between the volume of coal and the volume of uranium it takes to produce a unit of energy?

        It takes something like an acre to produce the coal reserves that the nuclear industry gets from a spot on the map the size of a grain of sand, and those spots on the map are generally not very habitable, arable or verdant. Jobs in the nuclear supply chain are generally, too, much better than in coal, I’ve been told.

        These untallied costs, shouldn’t we be tallying them for the sake of a head-to-head comparison?

        As for what you say of negligible tropical storm postulates, as Dr. Curry is on record of opposing and questioning attribution, until the science is settled I’d prefer to ask if the costs are possible, not if they are certain.

        How is a possible conservative $2.2 trillion from just one aspect of just one area neglible compared to a maximum potential of $1.5 trillion that doesn’t discount properly?

        Can I have that $700 billion that you don’t want?

      • Bart,

        I doubt you are confused, but, for anyone who misses you hiding the pea, EVERY business gets depreciation as described by you. It is not just for evil fossil fuel companies.

        Join with me to get rid of tax exemptions for EVERYONE why don’t you?? Then when everyone is paying the same taxes we can maybe get them dropped to a reasonable level?

        Additionally you can join with me to get rid of the total tax exemptions for groups that are alledgedly doing good works like the Heinz and Rockefeller foundations and other groups who cheat us of billions in taxes on their income!!

      • kuhnkat

        The hidden pea is, existing coal plants are already depreciated, some of them so old and decrepit as to be negative assets on the books, maintained only out of local political pressure well past their viable lifespan.

        And while there may be some nuclear facilities with exactly this same problem on the day brand spanking new that they first go into production, they ought be the minority, and they ought never have been built (except for that local political pressure), and so yes, one day they will depreciate, too, but money 40 years from now is not money today.

      • Hansen’s “Plan” is save the planet by income redistribution, combined with population control by making kids expensive.

        Hansen, James. n.d. Tell Barack Obama the Truth – The Whole Truth. http://www.columbia.edu/%7Ejeh1/mailings/20081229_Obama_revised.pdf

        Tax and 100% dividend. A “carbon tax with 100 percent dividend” is needed to reverse the growth of atmospheric CO2. The tax, applied to oil, gas and coal at the mine or port of entry, is the fairest and most effective way to reduce emissions and transition to the post fossil fuel era. It would assure that unconventional fossil fuels, such as oil shale and tar sands, stay in the ground, unless an economic method of capturing the CO2 is developed.
        The entire tax should be returned to the public, equal shares on a per capita basis (half shares for children up to a maximum of two child-shares per family), deposited monthly in bank accounts. No bureaucracy is needed.
        A tax should be called a tax. The public can understand this and will accept a tax if it is clearly explained and if 100 percent of the money is returned to the public.

        Tax and dividend is progressive.

        The rate of infrastructure replacement, thus economic activity, can be modulated by how fast the carbon tax rate increases.

      • No tax, no matter how cleverly constructed, will change our climate one iota.

        It takes “actionable proposals” (such as the one made by Hansen et al. regarding shutting down all US coal-fired power plants after 2030).

        Problem is, these “actionable proposals” achieve nothing at very high cost.

        So far I have seen no “actionable proposals”, which would have a discernible impact on our planet’s climate.

        And that’s the problem – we can’t change our climate. So we’d better get used to adapting to it.


      • Exactly. So why the tax?

      • Pols like taxes. Gives them (other people’s) money to pass around and hence power.

  62. Typo in above post:

    Corrected sentence:

    The total, all-in capital cost investment to replace 1,994 billion kWh/year capacity with the least expensive alternate (current nuclear fission technology) is between $4,000 and $8,000 [instead of $6,000] per installed kW (say $6,000 on average).

    Rest is OK.


  63. Bart R | January 20, 2011 at 12:31 am |

    “You want lower taxes? Then it’s simple: weed out the subsidy sucking corporate charities and cut down the government slice of your pie by moving the tax revenue source from your wages and your ordinary purchases to purchases of carbon fuels, and move the tax disbursements for every penny of carbon fuel tolls from general government pools of money to each and every citizen per capita.”

    Bart, you have reverted to Jim Hansen’s proposal:
    Hansen, James. “Tell Barack Obama the Truth – The Whole Truth,” n.d.

    “The entire tax should be returned to the public, equal shares on a per capita basis (half shares for children up to a maximum of two child-shares per family), deposited monthly in bank accounts. No bureaucracy is needed.”

    We have lots of bureaucracy that is not needed, but there they are. In an era of “Social Justice”, as defined by the left-of-center, do you really think that the administration(s) can fore-go allocation? Remember, FDR called for Social Security to be put into a “Trust Fund” so that “the B*****ds on the Hill” could not spend it. How well did that work?

    • P,D

      It’s not entirely Hansen’s idea that you’re attacking here, it’s Pigou’s (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pigovian_tax).

      Which, while Pigou may be a socialist, has sharp distinctions in contrast to Hansen.

      Pigou’s idea as applies to CO2 was proven economically sound by McKitrick in his PhD thesis, though McKitrick did lean socialistically, as you might predict, to turning the CO2 tolls into general revenues.

      Hansen’s idea in distinction is partly that it is based on the idea that the air belongs to the commons, or to the people, and is in itself therefore as right of center as you can get without putting on a toga and learning Latin.

      The CO2 levy thereby is not a tax, but a user fee, and ought be returned on an equal basis to all equal holders in rights of air.

      This levy reduces relative size of government in the economy by several methods: in avoiding any more Cap and Trade than is absolutely necessary, it cuts down the size of that bureaucracy; in piggy-backing (Pigou-backing?) on the IRS systems already used to collect from distributors of carbon-based fuels, it efficiently employs pre-existing bureaucracy at only marginal cost; by recognizing the value of the air in the economy, it adds to the size of the whole pie, making the government’s piece of that pie relatively smaller; by the Pigouvian effects of increasing the attractiveness of alternatives like conservation and efficiency, as well as sending a meaningful price signal to the market, it throttles rampant adverse rewards for excessive use.

      While many hold the idea that all tax is theft in some sense, if government taxes CO2 emission and keeps the proceeds for its general revenues, that becomes theft in a very real and legitimate sense until the day the people surrender their inherent right to air. The thing you warn of is not unreal. However, it is neither inevitable, too.

      To fail to do the right thing because some scoundrels may be tempted to wrong gives scoundrels mastery of us all, and I for one reject such reasoning.

      There is a danger in the Pigouvian approach, if the price set is ill-considered, in that there is a budget paradox that may come into play: for some price points, an increase in the price of a good causes more of it to be used, making it an economic ‘bad’. This has to do with limited budgets and adverse elasticity of demand. Even with this esoteric consideration, Hansen’s approach can be not only successful at paying people rent on the use of the limited shared CO2 budget, but it would take little intelligent tinkering of price level to send a balanced, correct price signal.

      It would be left-of-center socialism of some form for the government to take money from some to distribute to all for no reason. I’m against that, and it is the opposite of most of what Hansen proposes.

      It is just fair payment for the government to enforce payment from those who emit the most CO2 to those who own the air — all of us — equitably.

      There is a natural and direct connection in Hansen’s idea that is lacking in socialism, and that is missing in McKitrick.

      While I think Hansen might be going off the deep end with the contingency for children in his plan, I’m not about to get distracted by that small codicile.

      So, do I think “your idea has been tried by othes and it failed miserably,” is a sound argument?

      Again, I answer, http://www.dilbert.com/2011-01-14/

  64. Thank you. :-) I enjoy your comments and benefit from them. Also, the Dibert cartoon is priceless! A few observations:

    I took your advice and looked it up. The Wikipedia diagram reveals that a Pigovian Tax is still a form of Turnover Tax: increase the price to limit demand to what the government permits. Whether one calls it a Tax or User Fee, the Supply/Demand curve still looks the same.

    The CO2 levy thereby is not a tax, but a user fee, and ought be returned on an equal basis to all equal holders in rights of air.

    So the government owns the “rights of air”? So much for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And here, the Government did not belong to “all of us” until January 3, 2011. “Some scoundrels may be tempted to wrong”? I do not reject it; eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. (– Ida B. Wells, Wendell Phillips)

    Indeed, Ross McKitrick did write on this; I had not realized this. He also observes that the more prosperous a society, the more it values the environment.

    BTW, Wikipedia entry started November 19, 2003 and still needs citations.

    • The link was wrong; it led to a modify panel (please don’t). The post is here:
      My (Pooh) posts following the link above are scattered over several pages.

    • P,D

      I likewise always find your posts worthwhile and enlightening.

      I fear though you have read me a bit backwards, which I attribute to my own longwinded ways. By citing Pigou (there are other, better sources than the wiki, I imagine), it was my intention to illustrate the distinctions between parts of Hansen and several other ideas in the spectrum of correcting adverse rewards in price signals to market. Pigou and Hansen are different in key ways.

      So the government owns the “rights of air”?

      Not at all, and I hope it never does.

      We own those rights, as individuals, that is as self-evident a right as can be.

      The question of ‘ownership of air’ is a thorny one, too, for many reasons in politics and philosophy as well as law, so I believe we will always have that ownership remain as it is now with no real evolution to another owner.

      So all CO2 emission levies will, for practical administrative reasons, be duly characterized as taxes, not because they are what we conventionally call tax, but because we’re nowhere close to settling such abstractedly intangible questions floating about the upper levels of academia and idealogy.

      So, if we each as individuals, in the simplest terms, own the air, where are we?

      If we were socialists, we’d say it was fine for our government to tax the CO2 emitters and then plow the tolls into general revenues, because what we all own, we would all as lefties be perfectly contented to let the government graze on.

      However, we’re not all socialists.

      So we would hope that our governments, after levying on our behalf the rents clearly owed us for the unconsented trespass onto our air rights from those who use up our CO2 budget, would turn over those fees to us directly and personally, per capita.

      This is the only result that makes sense, in the sense of equity.

      There ought be stiff penalties and effective vigilance in place to prevent any other expropriation of such monies from our individual pockets to any interloper.

  65. I am skeptical of AGW disasters, yet I hold the environment dear. I am amazed that many people think “green energy” benefits the environment. They don’t, and my big case in point is the 3-gorges dam. CO2 reduction will mean damming every availble river and turning tidal areas into energy producing ponds. CO2 reduction may very well be an ecological disaster in the making.

  66. Judith, the first video you linked was a hit. Here is the counter cartoon.