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Climate Change Versus Loose Change

By Coryoth in Op-Ed
Tue May 30, 2006 at 01:41:27 PM EST
Tags: science, climate change, conspiracy theories (all tags)
Science

The arguments of climate change skeptics bear a striking resemblance to supporters of various conspiracy theories. Much work goes toward denying any consensus, and suggesting that "both sides of the debate" need to be considered. This call for both sides to be heard is particularly egregious because, in both cases, one side is a small but vocal minority that, instead of constructing a positive case for their own theory, argue via a scattered array of perceived problems with the generally accepted theory. In both cases the claimed problems are often overstated and don't point to any coherent alternative.


It is a common debate tactic, especially when arguing in favour of fringe theories, to point to perceived flaws or unexplained phenomena in the dominant theory, and claim that the dominant theory can't possibly be true. This is particularly popular for conspiracy theories, such as the "moon landing hoax" or the more recent September 11, 2001 conspiracy theories. The key is to focus entirely minor points that remain unexplained, and to overstate their importance, while ignoring, and making no case to counter, the vast amounts of data supporting the dominant theory. The aim is not to develop a coherent alternative - the incongruity of the various minor points of dispute normally preclude that - but simply to imply there is a need for debate. This lack of coherent alternative is important because it provides little to be refuted. Indeed the large amounts positive evidence for the dominant theory would stand as immediate refutation of any significant alternative theory, but by ignoring all such evidence and failing to posit any solid alternative the minority seek to shift the perceived burden of proof to the middle ground and create a perception of active and necessary debate.

Rhetorical Tactics

Equally telling is the fact that most of the popular talking points for climate change skeptics use the same rhetorical tricks and fallacies as conspiracy theorists. Let's have a look at a few examples:

There is global warming on Mars and elsewhere in the solar system!

This is, in many ways, akin to the September 11th conspiracy theorists' claims that the collapse of the World Trade Center towers looked like a controlled demolition, or arguments that because other buildings, even after prolonged fires, did not collapse the WTC could not have collapsed due to fire. Essentially it is an effort to argue by analogy when ultimately the claimed related cases are ultimately quite distinct situations. Yes the towers' collapse bears some superficial resemblance to some controlled demolitions but ultimately, when analysed by experts, the differences are clear and a controlled demolition isn't an adequate explanation for the collapse. And yes, there are buildings that have had sustained fires but not collapsed as the WTC towers did, however those were very different buildings with different structures and quite different fires: the analogy simply isn't that robust.

Similarly, Mars, and the rest of the solar system, are different planets with their own quite different climates with different factors affecting their climates: the analogy isn't that robust. More importantly, when analysed by experts, the warming of other bodies in the solar system can be well accounted for by the natures of their orbits and variation in solar intensity. The warming on Earth, which is more severe than elsewhere, however, cannot adequately be accounted for via solar variation and other natural factors alone. Ultimately warming elsewhere says little or nothing about the nature of the warming on Earth.

We know the Earth has been warmer than this in the recent past - the Vikings colonised Greenland during the Medieval Warm Period!

This is simply a false statement with supporting evidence that relies on a lack of context to be at all convincing. It is true that the Norse colonised Greenland around 1000 CE. This is meant to imply that, at that time, Greenland must have been much warmer than it is today with its 3km thick ice pack. The reality is that there were only 2 Norse settlements in Greenland, located in fjords on Greenland's west coast. The areas of both those settlements are quite green and hospitable today, and there are several farms there now, so Greenland need not have been any warmer than today to have provided the Norse with sustainable settlements. Further the archaeological evidence from the sites implies the Norse hardly had an easy life: Greenland cows were the smallest ever known, largely due to malnutrition, and it seems the cows and sheep may have had to be force fed seaweed over the winter to keep them alive. The Norse also tended to rely on trips to the Eastern Canadian coast, most likely the Labrador area, for many things, most particularly wood. In practice the apparently marginal Norse Greenland colonies say little or nothing about the temperatures a millennium ago.

So what do we know of temperatures from around that time? In practice such historical temperature records are reconstructed from proxy data such as tree rings, data from glaciers, and the isotopic data from ice cores, corals, and stalactites. The aim is to collect as much data from different sites around the world, and different types of data sources, then attempt to reconstruct global temperatures by cross referencing all the varying data series. Almost all such reconstructions show that, while there was a period around 800 CE to 1300 CE that was warmer than the period from 1300 CE to 1800 CE, current temperatures are significantly warmer than in any period in the last 1200 years or more. Wikipedia provides a chart that compiles 10 different temperature reconstructions of the last 1000 years, and while there is some variability the trends are clear, and Medieval Warm Period shows as significantly cooler than today.

This sort of approach - using a lack of context to give a false impression and imply support for an otherwise unsupported statement - is quite common in a lot of other climate change skeptics' arguments. It is, of course, also very common in conspiracy theorists' arguments. A classic example is the claim that United flight 93 didn't crash in Pennsylvania. This rather extraordinary claim is supported by such things as a quote from the local coroner that "I stopped being coroner after about 20 minutes, because there were no bodies there". Of course given the full context of the interview it becomes clear that what he meant was that there were no identifiable bodies. There were human remains, quite a lot of human remains, and that same coroner went on to identify 27% of the passengers based on DNA testing of those remains, just nothing that could in any way be called a body. Taken out of context, however, it sounds quite damning and seems to be a statement in support of the claim that no remains of the passengers were found.

They were worried about a coming ice age back in the seventies!

I think we can all remember the confusion and uncertainty that occurred on the morning of September 11, 2001. News reports were constantly changing and contradicting themselves as new information came in. In their effort to report something, there wasn't an awful lot of fact checking going, so, for example, reports of how many hijacked planes were still in the air and unaccounted for fluctuated up and down for several hours before finally settling on zero. With enough points of view available it was not hard to find a source claiming whatever you wanted. The media being as they are, reports tended to lean toward the sensational.

Conspiracy theorists love to take advantage of this period to mine for quotes, often from reputable news sources. For example there are the news reports that the planes were "not commercial airliners" and similar. Often these were preliminary news reports based on unreliable witnesses (one witness who was certain it wasn't a commercial jet because he didn't see any windows on the side of the plane was over 2 miles away at the time). There was, for example, some uncertainty as to what hit the Pentagon; once more witnesses had been interviewed consensus quickly settled on a commercial flight (over 100 witnesses testified to this). There was the report that United flight 93 landed in Cleveland which was simply a false report that was immediately corrected by the AP. There were initial reports of bombs in the buildings based on misinterpretations of various secondary explosions from within the WTC from the fire. The list goes on. All such reports are regularly cited by conspiracy theorists. The aim is to imply that there was a consensus which was subsequently covered up.

The very same quote mining from sensationalist media reports is what drives the meme about scientists predicting an ice age. The intention is to imply that in the seventies there was a similar scientific consensus about the looming threat of an ice age as there is today about global warming. This simply isn't true - there was no consensus. Serious climate research was effectively still in its infancy in the sixties and seventies, and there were plenty of opinions to go around. The media, loving sensationalist doom-sayers, and general fear-mongering (consider the recent round of TV specials on the threat of bird flu), seized upon whatever sounded the worst. In practice there simply wasn't any significant scientific claims of an impending ice age in the seventies. There were, at most, only a few papers ever published making such claims, and nothing even resembling a consensus. Compare that to the number of papers published on global warming, and the hundreds of scientists that collaborate on each IPCC report. The reality is that the "scientists fears of an impending ice age" was largely a matter of hype and misreporting from the media - though it does provide good material for quote mining.

Water vapour makes up 97% of greenhouse gases - why don't the scientists ever take it into account?

The ploy used here is to simply lie boldly. Water vapour accounts for around 80% of greenhouse gases by mass, or 90% by volume. But even that's somewhat deceptive because what really counts is how effectively it acts as a greenhouse gas to trap heat. In terms of percentage input to the warming effect of greenhouse gases, water vapour is somewhere between 36% and 70%, though most studies tend to find it to be around 65%. I have been completely unable to track down any solid reference for the 97% figure that is regularly bandied about (and even sometimes claimed to be water vapour's percentage input to greenhouse warming) in climate change skeptic circles. It seems to be something that was simply made up. Tell a lie boldly enough and often enough, however, and a lot of people will simply start believing it.

Still, 65% is a very significant portion, so why don't climate scientists ever take the effects of water vapour into account? The answer to that question is surprisingly easy: they do take water vapour into account. The difference is that water vapour, unlike carbon dioxide or methane, has a very short residence time in the atmosphere (around 10 days). This means that water vapour will very quickly find an equilibrium point and can only act as a feedback rather than a forcing with regard to climate change. None the less water vapour represents an important feedback and you'll find no shortage of scientific papers detailing its effects on climate change. You'll also find that tropospheric water vapour is a vital component in IPCC climate models, while stratospheric water vapour is treated specifically in IPCC reports. Again the key is to lie boldly and repeat the lie often.

This tactic of bold lies is also remarkably common in conspiracy theorist circles. Some popular ones include: the World Trade Center towers fell at free fall speed (they didn't); wreckage and human remains from United flight 93 was found in Indian lake, 6 miles from the crash site (some very light weight debris was found in the lake, which is actually only 1.5 miles downwind from the crash site); no significant wreckage of American Airlines flight 77 was ever found (a great deal of the plane was recovered); World Trade Center 7 was undamaged when it fell (on the contrary there's plenty of video evidence of significant damage). and so on. Of course these falsehoods just keep getting recycled amongst the conspiracy theorist community until they're widely held to be fact.

Concluding Thoughts

Both conspiracy theorists and climate change skeptics also make a point of completely ignoring, and trying to never mention, any of the vast amounts of evidence that stacks up in favour of the dominant theory. In the case of September 11, 2001 conspiracy theorists they conspicuously avoid any mention of the trail of evidence the hijackers left behind (including records at flight schools, ties to and meetings with Al Qaeda members, etc.), nor wreckage of the planes, and remains of the passengers that have been recovered and identified - almost all the passengers from all the flights have now been identified from remains, often by DNA).

Climate change skeptics similarly ignore the close historical correlation (using ice core records covering the last 650,000 years) of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and global temperature; the fact that there are very good reasons to anticipate causation based on absorption spectra of carbon dioxide; the dramatic increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide in the last 150 years which (via isotopic composition) can be tied to human activity; and the fact that detailed climate models (which can accurately reconstruct historical climate data they weren't trained on) clearly demonstrate that natural causes alone are insufficient to account for the current warming.

I do have some sympathy for the skeptics: I too am frustrated by the shrill claims of doom from some on the "pro" climate change side who are just as uninterested in facts and science as the skeptics. You'll find bizarre, and equally unsupported, claims of conspiracies by the Government, oil companies, "big business" and so on. The "debate" has become increasingly politicised, and as such only the most vocal get heard. This has reduced things to a bullet point yelling match between polar extremes. The problem is that this leads many to believe that the truth must lie roughly in the middle - in reality the best evidence and science we currently have lends far, far more credence to the position that climate change is real, and that human activity is a significant causal factor. As long as we give any time to the unreasoned arguments of conspiracy theorists (on either side) this reality will remain obscured.

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Display: Sort:
Climate Change Versus Loose Change | 144 comments (127 topical, 17 editorial, 0 hidden)
I am finding (2.00 / 6) (#2)
by UniverseCloud on Sun May 28, 2006 at 09:41:05 PM EST

the large paragraphs a bit difficult to read and make any sense of. Otherwise, it is interesting to say the least.
.. Albert Einstein: "Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, ...
Why 9-11? (2.00 / 5) (#4)
by khallow on Sun May 28, 2006 at 09:58:15 PM EST

I feel this story is twice as big as it needs to be because of the needless 9-11 comparisons. They don't add anything to the article aside from making it longer. And if the reader buys into the 9-11 conspiracy theories, then it's counterproductive.

Stating the obvious since 1969.

Contrast (3.00 / 2) (#5)
by Coryoth on Sun May 28, 2006 at 10:12:48 PM EST

9-11 conspiracies make a nice contrast because, due the way things fell amidst the forced false dichotomies of US politics most climate change skeptics will be against 9-11 conspiracies, and most supporters of 9-11 conspiracies tend to view anthropogenic climate change as a given. By comparing the two it makes the uncomfortable straddle attempted by various parties more apparent.

[ Parent ]
the problem with arguments about climate change (1.80 / 10) (#14)
by circletimessquare on Mon May 29, 2006 at 12:02:46 AM EST

is blame

how about no one is to blame. or rather, everyone is to blame. anyone who has derived benefit form the industrial revoltuion. which seems to be just about anyone capable of posting here

instead, we simply have a problem, and we need to fix it. end of discussion. isn't that refreshing?

it's not like we go "climate change is the fault of the industrial revolution... problem solved" or "climate change is the problem of (insert favorite political bogeyman here)... problem solved"

fault? blame? who gives a fuck? does that solve the problem? YOU, YOU READING THESE WORDS. YOU ARE TO BLAME. YOU DERIVE BENEFITS FROM BURNING HYDROCARBONS

so WHATEVER

the earth is clearly heating up. weather is more violent

solution?

seed dead areas of the ocean with iron. phytoplankton bloom sucks up CO2, sinks to ocean floor. problem solved. and its cheap. a couple of tankerfuls of iron over a decade or two will solve our problem. and please no OMFG! YOU'VE CHANGED THE MICROFLORAL BALANCE OF DEAD AREAS OF THE OCEAN!

please, shut th efuck up, no solution carries with it no side effects. seeding dead areas of the ocean, whatever side effects there are, ARE ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE LESS THAN THE FUCKING PROBLEM

perspective. isn't that an amazing concept?

there, look at that. no political hot air. no blame game, no pointing fingers. simple problem. cheap solution. no big fucking deal

but please, ignore little old straightforward me. you may now continue screaming and moaning about blame, as that seems to be the goal of most on climate change rather than ACTUALLY SOLVING THE FUCKING PROBLEM

we're ALL TO BLAME. so SHUT THE FUCK UP, and SOLVE THE FUCKING PROBLEM. CHEAP. EASY. QUICK. NO FUCKING DRAMA

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

Problem: (3.00 / 2) (#17)
by Eight Star on Mon May 29, 2006 at 12:54:17 AM EST

whatever side effects there are, ARE ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE LESS THAN THE FUCKING PROBLEM

Until it comes back and bites us on the ass because we killed the ocean.
It's easy to argue that the problems caused by the industrial revolution (Global warming) are ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE less than the problems it solved. Unfortunately, the people at the time had no way to know what those side effects would be, just as we do not currently know what would happen if we seeded the oceans.
I'm not saying your proposal wouldn't work, but it is not cheap, easy, quick, or without drama.

What we need now, is for people to actually think.

[ Parent ]
yes (2.00 / 6) (#20)
by circletimessquare on Mon May 29, 2006 at 01:45:31 AM EST

a bunch of assholes sitting around thinking and doing nothing is such a great help

howabout we do SOMETHING even though we know we don't know EVERYTHING

all in line with the crazy concept that we can NEVER know everything, that we WILL do something that will hurt us, but we still have to act?

welcome to reality: there are grey areas, and they will always be there, and you still must choose to act

you grasp that acting without thinking is useless and self-defeating

so why the fuck can't you grasp that thinking without acting is pretty much the same thing?

there is no such thing as an action in this world that doesn't hurt somebody or something somewhere

there is no magic bullet

wake the fuck up and get your head out of your useless idealistic ass

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

I'm all for acting... (3.00 / 2) (#46)
by Eight Star on Mon May 29, 2006 at 02:08:07 PM EST

But that doesn't necessarily mean seeding the oceans, and on global warming, it may not mean doing anything right now. The thing about thinking and acting is that it's possible to think without acting now, and then act very effectively later, but it's not so useful to do your thinking retroactively. In fact, retroactive thinking is remarkably similar to blame.



[ Parent ]
stupid fucking prick (1.25 / 4) (#47)
by circletimessquare on Mon May 29, 2006 at 02:29:39 PM EST

you say we don't know enough to act now

but you know for CERTAIN now is not the time to act

is that it?

how the fuck does that work in your mind?

how is that you are so certain we shouldn't act now?

can you justify that point of view?

face it: what's driving your pov is not intelligence, but your lack of character

some people never act, not out of intelligence, but out of fear of acting

they'd rather sit there and do nothing, and continually rationalize why now is not the time to act, no matter how fucking bad things get

you're worse than useless

asshole


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

read what I write (none / 0) (#115)
by Eight Star on Thu Jun 01, 2006 at 11:44:10 PM EST

I'm not certain we shouldn't act now, I am certain we should not seed the oceans now.
There are probably a number of things we should do right now, cutting back on emissions is a good suggestion.

As for procrastination, in this context I make no apologies.

[ Parent ]

i am not certain (none / 0) (#133)
by Zombie Stanislaw Lem on Mon Jun 05, 2006 at 01:14:13 PM EST

whether we should, or should not act now.

I think it is likely that we should strongly consider acting soon and be prepared to act now, as soon as the now is clear.

I think it is likely that we should be acting now, to reduce emissions, and investigate what means we can to abate existing excessive CO2 levels.

I think it is likely that exploring such things as ocean-seeding is good practice now. From the results of current research it appears that ocean-seeding is potentially very hazardous and harmful, and we should approach it only with extreme caution, if at all.

I think we should begin to act now; to reduce emissions, to explore possible ways to trap CO2 already generated, and to prepare for a very likely rise in sea-level over the next century.

That I am not certain which approach is best does not mean that I think we should not act; just that we need some healthy skepticism of all potentialities, and we should be damned ready for some damned major changes in our way of life.

I can't say for absolute certain that we need to act now, to protect the Earth's climate, but I can swear my adamant conviction that if we are not, now, prepared to act now we are fucked.

[note, any moderation or posts made on or after 01/04/2007 were probably made by the jerk/s who stole my account after I left.]
[ Parent ]

WAKE UP WAKE UP (1.50 / 4) (#67)
by Lemon Juice on Tue May 30, 2006 at 12:45:45 AM EST

SOLVE THE PROBLEM YOU ASSHOLE!

[ Parent ]
the REAL solution (none / 1) (#19)
by trane on Mon May 29, 2006 at 01:35:15 AM EST

is to get us the fuck into space before this planet turns into Venus.

[ Parent ]
da crackheadz will save us nt (1.50 / 2) (#21)
by circletimessquare on Mon May 29, 2006 at 01:46:24 AM EST



The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]
I LOVE YOU MAN (1.50 / 2) (#22)
by trane on Mon May 29, 2006 at 02:06:05 AM EST

for not using $.

[ Parent ]
ty $ (1.50 / 2) (#23)
by circletimessquare on Mon May 29, 2006 at 02:20:05 AM EST



The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]
not enough on its own (none / 1) (#30)
by khallow on Mon May 29, 2006 at 07:41:00 AM EST

I recall reading that silicon is the next element to be exhausted, and it apparently takes about 1000 times as much silicon as iron to keep things going. Can't find a link to that now. There are other problems with the process. It takes a while to set up, the amount of carbon actually captured is unknown, and there are possible counterproductive aspects to the idea, eg, generation of methane from the carbon trapped and depletion of nutrients in the ocean might have counterproductive effects.

It might work as a key part of an overall strategy, but there's a lot of potential problems here.

Stating the obvious since 1969.
[ Parent ]

silicon? exhausted? (none / 0) (#43)
by circletimessquare on Mon May 29, 2006 at 01:47:03 PM EST

isn't that over half the fucking planet's crust?

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]
moving the silicon (none / 0) (#54)
by khallow on Mon May 29, 2006 at 07:34:55 PM EST

isn't that over half the fucking planet's crust?

Yes, but you got to get that much mass there which is the problem.

Stating the obvious since 1969.
[ Parent ]

huh? wtf are you babbling about? (none / 0) (#57)
by circletimessquare on Mon May 29, 2006 at 08:33:55 PM EST

wtf does silicon have to do with burning carbon?


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]
my bad (none / 0) (#84)
by khallow on Tue May 30, 2006 at 10:39:50 AM EST

I messed up in my initial post. I intended to reply to this.

please, shut th efuck up, no solution carries with it no side effects. seeding dead areas of the ocean, whatever side effects there are, ARE ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE LESS THAN THE FUCKING PROBLEM

Seeding the oceans with iron depletes other nutrients as well. Apparently, the next element that needs replacing (at least in the experiments I recall hearing about) is silicon, and it needs orders of magnitude more mass in silicon to keep things going at that point.

Stating the obvious since 1969.
[ Parent ]

you're missing the point, fuck (none / 0) (#85)
by circletimessquare on Tue May 30, 2006 at 01:38:34 PM EST

there is no solution, NO SOLUTION, to any problem in the world that doesn't involve a tradeoff with another problem

the idea is to trade off to a lesser problem

please: show me a solution to global warming (that we can actually do with today's technology cheaply) that doesn't involve it's own problems

then you may criticize seeding the dead areas of the ocean with iron with intellectual honesty

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

Gah! (none / 0) (#104)
by khallow on Wed May 31, 2006 at 05:47:54 PM EST

I did not miss the point. Instead, it simply was outside the scope of my post. And do you really think it's intellectually "honest" to ask someone to provide an impossible thing in order to do something reasonable? My advice, let us forget this thread ever existed. It brings us no glory.

Stating the obvious since 1969.
[ Parent ]

my buck is on a sunshade [nt] (none / 1) (#32)
by boxed on Mon May 29, 2006 at 09:27:34 AM EST



[ Parent ]
too expensive nt (none / 0) (#42)
by circletimessquare on Mon May 29, 2006 at 01:45:05 PM EST



The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]
compared to cutting CO2 emissions? nt (none / 0) (#72)
by boxed on Tue May 30, 2006 at 04:14:44 AM EST



[ Parent ]
on second thoughts: expensive > impossible (none / 0) (#73)
by boxed on Tue May 30, 2006 at 04:17:11 AM EST

Cutting CO2 emissions globally is not politicially feasable, so arguing that a sunshade is too expensive seems kinda silly when you consider it's actually doable at all.

[ Parent ]
missing the point (none / 1) (#86)
by circletimessquare on Tue May 30, 2006 at 01:40:14 PM EST

the point is to solve problems as best you can with the tools you have. something you saw on star trek is not in your toolkit

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]
putting a sunshade at L1 is not star trek (none / 1) (#120)
by boxed on Fri Jun 02, 2006 at 08:28:09 AM EST

We've gone to the moon using what amounts to pocket calculators of today. Putting a sunshade at L1 is not infeasable. Not only is it totally doable, it's also fairly cheap, compared to trying to cut CO2 emissions globally in all industrialized states, and more importantly keep emissions down in developing countries, like China. In any case, it doesn't matter how hard a sunshade is or not, as long as there is no alternative...

[ Parent ]
I remember the first time I saw your mother. (2.40 / 5) (#48)
by Graeme Rasputin on Mon May 29, 2006 at 04:21:14 PM EST

It was the summer of 1969 -- the summer of love. I remember those dark eyes, how they told a story of distant land far removed from the bourgeois cares of fidelity and respectability. Beneath the quiet manner and supple breast hid something wild, untamed by the puritan manners of these fifty states.

In short, she screwed like a champ.

[ Parent ]

i remember the first time i tried to kill you (3.00 / 2) (#49)
by circletimessquare on Mon May 29, 2006 at 04:33:26 PM EST

i got you drunk. i fed you poison. nothing. so i stabbed you, then i shot you. you just went on drinking. finally i choked you and wrapped you in a rug and threw you in the icy river. i could still hear you singing siberian folk songs as you floated away

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]
Ah yes, the songs. (2.25 / 4) (#50)
by Graeme Rasputin on Mon May 29, 2006 at 04:40:18 PM EST

I remember the eerie melodic quality of her screams and shrieks of ecstacy. There was something of the Beijing opera to it, I think, coupled with the haunting airs of Javanese gamelan. In all my days since I left, I've not heard anything like it.

I hardly know how to describe it better, except for two words: genuinely arousing.

[ Parent ]

but rasputin, you're a homosexual (none / 0) (#53)
by circletimessquare on Mon May 29, 2006 at 05:54:15 PM EST

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

A St. Petersburg museum has on display a 30cm penis which they claim to have belonged to Rasputin.[2] While it has not been proven that the penis is authentic, legend spoke of Rasputin's physical oddity prior to the artifact having surfaced in the 1990's. The current owners claim that the item changed hands more than once before it was put on public display. Critics deny that the object is a penis, let alone that it belonged to Rasputin.

The penis story may be an urban legend started by Rasputin's daughter Maria. She had experienced Rasputin only as a kind and loving father to her and her sister, and thus vehemently denied the most defaming stories told of him and wrote a biography depicting his good aspects. Among other things, she claimed that the murder of Rasputin was not politically motivated but had to do with Rasputin's rejection of Felix Yusupov's advances (Yusupov's homosexuality was common knowledge among Russian nobility). She claimed that Yusupov raped Rasputin before killing him and subsequently amputated his penis. The reported behavior of Yusupov as seen by his fellow conspirators that night would seem to contradict this report.



The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]
SHUT THE FUCK UP AND SOLVE THE PROBLEM (2.25 / 4) (#66)
by Lemon Juice on Tue May 30, 2006 at 12:43:38 AM EST

WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?

[ Parent ]
Sober Up, Man (n/t) (none / 1) (#101)
by icastel on Wed May 31, 2006 at 01:44:33 PM EST




-- I like my land flat --
[ Parent ]
Logical Fallacies (2.28 / 7) (#15)
by vqp on Mon May 29, 2006 at 12:29:45 AM EST

I think that the whole article is about logical fallacies applied to your preferred subject.

I'm starting to believe that we should eliminate prose from arguments and replace it with an XML-style language to formalize the points being discussed. When a fact is under dispute, we can categorize it with the corresponding logical fallacy, this categorization being also an argument in itself. I think that people in the past tried to do that ;)

What I've found interesting was that you are forcing two different sets of people to think about their methods by reflecting themselves into them.

happiness = d(Reality - Expectations) / dt

Time to learn Lojban (3.00 / 4) (#24)
by rpresser on Mon May 29, 2006 at 02:56:52 AM EST

Lojban

Q: How many Lojbanists does it take to change a broken light bulb?
A: Two: one to decide what to change it into, and one to figure out what kind of bulb emits broken light.
------------
"In terms of both hyperbolic overreaching and eventual wrongness, the Permanent [Republican] Majority has set a new, and truly difficult to beat, standard." --rusty
[ Parent ]

I think (2.25 / 4) (#25)
by trane on Mon May 29, 2006 at 03:11:27 AM EST

it's possible to use natural language (what you call 'prose') without emotion to express logical arguments.

After all formal languages are just a subset of natural language. Many claim that natural language is ambiguous and formal languages aren't, but they fail to realize that the formal languages are all defined in natural language. Natural language is capable of anything that a formal language can do.

[ Parent ]

yes but... (none / 1) (#33)
by vqp on Mon May 29, 2006 at 09:54:25 AM EST

It'll make my K5 bot project damn hard ...

happiness = d(Reality - Expectations) / dt

[ Parent ]
dude (none / 0) (#58)
by trane on Mon May 29, 2006 at 09:13:57 PM EST

I been thinking about a k5 bot too. But I'm too lazy to do the screen-scraping code. I'm waiting for someone to do that and open source it for me ...

[ Parent ]
Why would we want to? (3.00 / 2) (#55)
by kitten on Mon May 29, 2006 at 07:56:54 PM EST

Pathos is a potent part of the process of argument and persuasion. Your statement is somewhat silly:
it's possible to use natural language (what you call 'prose') without emotion to express logical arguments.
Which is what we call "logos", already seperate from pathos. It's possible, but a good speaker knows how to use ethos and pathos as well to drive their point.

Compare these two statements:
All people have the right to fair and equal treatment under the law, and therefore it is wrong to segregate based on skin color and other superficialities.
Fair, logical. Also utterly boring. You're not going to convince many people to even stay awake for this, nevermind be swayed. Now, consider this:
I guess it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, 'Wait.' But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick, brutalize and even kill your black brothers and sisters with impunity; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see the depressing clouds of inferiority begin to form in her little mental sky...
This is from Dr King's "Letter From A Birmingham Jail", and I for one find it a much more powerful argument than "pure logic" could ever have given.

For the record I am not ignoring the fact that pathos and ethos can be used to push idiotic ideas either, as morons like Sean Hannity and the other attack dogs at Fox demonstrate daily, as they appeal to things like pride, patriotism, and duty to further their ideas of unswerving obedience and war. Kind of like a certain mid-century dictator once did.
mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
[ Parent ]
I think each has their place. (3.00 / 3) (#59)
by trane on Mon May 29, 2006 at 09:20:37 PM EST

Like you say, the emotionally-charged argument can be used for good things and bad. For me that makes it suspect (though I do feel King's passion, of course).

What I'd like to do is have a bot that could do both, and have it respond to a user's feedback to figure out which approach to use for which users and which situations ... kind of like how Buddha changed the way he presented his message depending on his audience.

[ Parent ]

how very aspergers of you. (2.40 / 5) (#34)
by a brief respite on Mon May 29, 2006 at 11:02:40 AM EST


"[in London] the wrong babes were hidden in black hijabs and long robes on the streets and in the parks."
[ Parent ]

Am I one of these foolish sceptics? (2.44 / 9) (#16)
by IHCOYC on Mon May 29, 2006 at 12:50:57 AM EST

I tend to the opinions that:

- The earth is still much colder than it has tended to be over most of its history.

- If the climate is changing, there is little we can or should do to try to change it back.

- If humans' fuel use can change the climate, that change is inevitable.

- If human emissions have already altered the climate, the damage has been done now, and the chance that the trend can be meaningfully altered within any living person's lifetime is slight.

- The costs of plans to change the climate to react to human-caused shifts are greater than the costs of learning to live with them.

- Any attempt to alter climactic trends caused by human activity would necessarily have to begin with a drastic culling of the human population. This may be a good idea, for reasons unrelated to the climate, but is unlikely to be a plan of action that will ever gain favour in a democracy where citizens have equal political rights.

I don't see my opinions lining up precisely either with the global warming theory promoters, nor with the hireling sceptics.
--
"Complecti antecessores tuos in spelæis stygiis Tartari appara," eructavit miles primus.
"Vix dum basiavisti vicarium velocem Mortis," rediit G

You mostly seem to be pro global warming (3.00 / 7) (#18)
by Coryoth on Mon May 29, 2006 at 01:23:11 AM EST

The earth is still much colder than it has tended to be over most of its history.

Very true. Not particularly relevant to the issue of unnaturally rapid change and the effects it will have upon creatures adapted to the climate conditions of the last million years or so (like, for instance, humans), but certainly a true statement.

If the climate is changing, there is little we can or should do to try to change it back.

If the climate is changing unnaturally rapidly due to human actions that we can take positive steps to mitigate - I don't see why we shouldn't. The watchword is "sustainable". Our current practices aren't even close, so if we want to have a long term future it might be wise to try and tilt more towards the direction of sustainability.

If humans' fuel use can change the climate, that change is inevitable.

I'm not sure I follow the logic here. Change in the climate was inevitable anyway. What human fuel use has done is unlock massive amounts of carbon that was previously safely sequestered away in a very short period of time. What that means is that we have artificially induced change that, compared to the natural climate change process, is rather more dramatic and may well be shifting the climate to a quite different equilibrium state (bifurcation in chaotic systems etc.) I would not say that what is presently occurring looks to be in any way "inevitable".

If human emissions have already altered the climate, the damage has been done now, and the chance that the trend can be meaningfully altered within any living person's lifetime is slight.

We pumped out enough CFCs a while ago to cause dramatic damage to the ozone layer. Action was taken (starting around 20 years ago) and today the ozone layer appears to be undergoing increasing recovery. The least we can do is to stop making the problem worse at quite the rate we currently are. There's also various mitigation actions that can be taken - there are a number of different carbon sequestration plans being bandied about. Realistically we don't exactly know how effectively the trend can be altered, but there are studies that suggest that it may indeed be quite possible.

The costs of plans to change the climate to react to human-caused shifts are greater than the costs of learning to live with them.

I think that really depends on what the costs of learning to live with changes are, and how you care to calculate those costs. Certainly it looks as though the rapidity of the climate change may have a serious impact on biodiversity - I am not exactly sure how you account for that. The costs adverse weather (such as hurricanes) looks to be potentially quite high. The issues with relocating populations could be not insignificant. The changes in rainfall and climate bands could have dramatic impacts on agriculture which could be extremely expensive to adapt to. And then there's the small things like the heatwave in Europe in 2003 that killed 27,000 people in France alone - what are the costs of dealing with that sort of thing on a regular basis going to be like?

None of these issues are insurmountable, but none of them are going to be cheap. I see no reason why a two pronged approach attempting mitigation as well attempting to adapt wouldn't present the more cost effective approach.

Any attempt to alter climactic trends caused by human activity would necessarily have to begin with a drastic culling of the human population.

I don't actually see why that's the case sorry. Scaling back carbon based fuels while pushing alternative energy, combined with carbon sequestration strategies, seems a legitimate approach that doesn't require any culling of human populations. You really seem to be presenting a false dichotomy here.

I don't see my opinions lining up precisely either with the global warming theory promoters, nor with the hireling sceptics.

Well to be honest, aside from the initial comment or two which might have been trying to suggest that the warming is natural (contrary to all the evidence), your views line up pretty well with those who believe in anthropogenic climate change. The point where your views differ does not seem to be in regard to whether climate change is happenning and whether we are causing it, but mostly with regard to what should be  done about it - which is more a political than scientific point. Persnally I don't really agree with the "screw it, let's just try and weather it" approach, but it is  valid point of view in some senses.

[ Parent ]

a few nitpicks (3.00 / 4) (#38)
by Delirium on Mon May 29, 2006 at 01:13:53 PM EST

The costs adverse weather (such as hurricanes) looks to be potentially quite high. ... And then there's the small things like the heatwave in Europe in 2003 that killed 27,000 people in France alone - what are the costs of dealing with that sort of thing on a regular basis going to be like?

There's no scientific consensus (or even preponderance of opinion) that the frequency or intensity of either of these sorts of events, at least currently, is caused by global warming. There isn't even evidence that the frequency or intensity has increased at all—the 2005 hurricane season is on par with many of the 1930s/40s/50s hurricane seasons, and only seems particularly intense due to a temporary lull beginning in the 1960s. That's not to say that climate change has no impact on such things, but the evidence doesn't support strong statements like "climate change caused the 2005 hurricane season's intensity".

As for the supposed French "heat wave", southern Europeans deal with such "heat waves" for several months out of every year and manage to avoid dying, even without air-conditioning.

[ Parent ]

Intensity, but not frequency (3.00 / 3) (#41)
by Coryoth on Mon May 29, 2006 at 01:24:33 PM EST

There is some consensus that the warmner seas will tend to cause higher intensity hurricanes. I do agree that no findings regarding frequency have been made, and it currently seems unlikely that any will.

My main point is that while a small increase in global average temperature may not seem that significant, its effects in terms of much greater variation in local climates, and potential to significantly shift climate bands, could result in a lot of adaptation being required - and all the little stuff can add up fairly quickly.

[ Parent ]

Don't be so fatalistic. (3.00 / 3) (#88)
by RadiantMatrix on Tue May 30, 2006 at 02:51:08 PM EST

Allow me to respond point-by-point; but first, let me explain that while I agree that Global Warming is occurring, I also tend to think there's a lot more hype about it than is really justified.


  • The earth is still much colder than it has tended to be over most of its history.

    Yes, but the issue at hand is rate of change -- we're changing the global temp at a rate that is cause for concern.  What happens if the rate increases to the point that we outpace our (or other species') ability to adapt?

  • If the climate is changing, there is little we can or should do to try to change it back.

    I agree that we shouldn't work toward climate change per se; however, if we can mitigate or elimitate the behaviors that have caused this rapid rate of change, we will lower the overall climate impact we're having.  Slowing rates of environmental change makes the changes that do (and will) occur much more managable.

  • If humans' fuel use can change the climate, that change is inevitable.

    I'm sorry, I don't follow this... if the way we produce and consume energy is causing a significant environmental impact, then we also have the power to alter that impact.  If we reduce the overall effect our existence has on the climate, then the climate will change less severely -- how does that make these particular climate changes inevitable?

  • If human emissions have already altered the climate, the damage has been done now, and the chance that the trend can be meaningfully altered within any living person's lifetime is slight.

    I have two issues with this.  First, just because "the damage has been done" doesn't mean we should feel free to make it worse.  If I dent my car by being careless, should I just say "oh, well" and continue to be careless, leading to more dents?  I would probably be more careful, since I've now realized the impact of my careless driving.  Likewise, we should realize that our actions are causing the climate to change too quickly, and try to keep from making the problem worse (at the very least).

    Second, who cares about "any living person's lifetime" as a limitation?  I'd like to think we give some thought to future generations when deciding on a course of action.

  • The costs of plans to change the climate to react to human-caused shifts are greater than the costs of learning to live with them.

    I agree that plans to dramatically change the climate (corrective action) are often extremely expensive, and carry their own specific dangers.  But, to me, part of "learning to live with" the climate changes is learning to lessen the impact we have on the environment.

  • Any attempt to alter climactic trends caused by human activity would necessarily have to begin with a drastic culling of the human population. This may be a good idea, for reasons unrelated to the climate, but is unlikely to be a plan of action that will ever gain favour in a democracy where citizens have equal political rights.

    That's a pretty bold statement, and a pretty questionable argument.  Yes, more humans means more consumption, and more consumption tends to mean more environmental impact.  However, we're tool-using creatures -- pretty advanced ones at that -- and we've already managed to come up with tools that allow each individual to consume in a lower-impact manner.  Things like wind and solar power are examples.

    Now, I agree that the current technological solutions are inadequate in the face of growing populations and growing demand.  But that doesn't mean we should give up developing technologies that allow us to use less fuel, use fuel in a lower-impact manner, and/or produce and use lower-impact fuels.

    Some examples of steps in the right direction that are already available:


    1. Lower consumption by driving fuel-efficient vehicles, using mass-transit when sensible, and using human-powered transport when possible (e.g. bike to work).
    2. Use fuel in a lower-impact manner by installing a desuperheater -- a device that uses waste heat (wasted energy) from an air conditioner to assist with heating water for your home.
    3. Use lower-impact fuel by buying an E85 or FlexFuel vehicle.  E85 is 85% ethanol, a renewable resource that burns significantly cleaner than petroleum (and requires less energy to produce than gasoline).

    None of such things is a panacea, and I think that trying to find such a "silver bullet" solution is a waste.  However, we should encourage low-impact technology, not stifle it out of a misplaced an myopic fatalism.



--
I'm not going out with a "meh". I plan to live, dammit. [ZorbaTHut]

[ Parent ]
Correlation vs. Causation (2.30 / 10) (#36)
by Rasman on Mon May 29, 2006 at 11:10:29 AM EST

My personal view on the whole topic of Global Warming is that we really have very little idea about how climate change works, and that anyone that claims to be sure of any direct causality relationship is pushing some non-scientific agenda.

All we know for sure is that the climate changes over time.  Period.  We have no idea why.

If it's really true (I've seen data pointing both ways) that the global temperature has been increasing over the last century, then it's true to say that the temperature has been increasing during the same time that human industrialization has been increasing.  But it proves nothing of causality.

If my outstretched arm follows an airplane across the sky, would you believe that my arm is controlling the airplane's movements?  No, of course not.  Not unless I could demonstrate for you that I could move my arm in the other direction and have the airplane stop and move backwards in midair.

Until we actually make a change that has a predictable affect on the global temperature, I think that claiming to have any control over Global Warming is an arrogant anthropocentric point of view.

---
Brave. Daring. Fearless. Clippy - The Clothes Pin Stuntman

Correlation vs. Causation (again) (3.00 / 7) (#37)
by Coryoth on Mon May 29, 2006 at 12:30:45 PM EST

All we know for sure is that the climate changes over time.  Period.  We have no idea why.

Actually we have pretty good ideas about why the climate changes. For starters the basic cycle of glacial periods can be put down to properties of the earth's orbit and Milankovitch cycles. Shorter term significant changes are Dansgaard-Oeschger events which seem to be restricted to the northern hemispehere, and closely related to Heinrich events associated with changes in north Atlatic thermohaline circulation.

In general we also know that CO₂ and CH₄, due to basic physics of the absorption spectra, will tend to trap heat and warm the planet. In the past these gases have tended to act as feedbacks (as can be noted by the slight lag in historical correlation) when warming was initiated by other factors (such as Milankovitch cycles) with permafrost melting and releasing methane, and warmer seas managing to hold less carbon dioxide (among many other factors initiating feedback cycles).

That all sounds like ideas as to why the climate changes over time to me, with a fair amount of data and solid reasoning to back it up. Do we know everything about how the climate changes? No. For instance Dansgaard-Oeschger events are still poorly understood. Still, we're quite a long way from having "no idea" why the climate changes.

If it's really true (I've seen data pointing both ways) that the global temperature has been increasing over the last century

For the last century we have intrumental temperature records (no reconstruction from proxy data required). Global avergae temperatures are rising. See for yourself, or download the publicly available data and do your own analysis.

then it's true to say that the temperature has been increasing during the same time that human industrialization has been increasing.  But it proves nothing of causality.

Ah, the "correlation does not prove causation" catch cry. I was actually thinking about including that amongst the fallacies in the article, but things were already getting quite long.

It is indeed true that correlation alone does not say anything about causation. Of course we don't have correlation alone. We know that since around 1800 there has been an almost exponential rise in levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Besides correlating with the industrial revolution and humans large output, analysis of isotopic composition ratios demonstrates that this rise is anthropogenic. This rise is significant compared to natural fluctuations - current levels are 5.5 standard deviations from the mean for CO₂ levels over the last 650,000 years. It also correlates well with the rise in temperature. The key point is that we expect, based on basic physics, that increased atmospheric carbon dioxide will lead to increased temperature. We do not have correlation alone, we have correlation combined with physical theories that predict causation.

Until we actually make a change that has a predictable affect on the global temperature, I think that claiming to have any control over Global Warming is an arrogant anthropocentric point of view.

Well we have continued to add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and the increased global temperature predictions of 10 and 15 years ago have proved to be quite accurate, so apparently that has already happened. Of course further evidence, particularly of a reversal of the existing trend would be particularly convincing. Of course to achieve that you would have to make the changes that would be necessary to reverse the trend...

[ Parent ]

Hmmm... (2.50 / 4) (#44)
by Rasman on Mon May 29, 2006 at 01:52:17 PM EST

All we know for sure is that the climate changes over time. Period. We have no idea why.
Actually we have pretty good ideas about why the climate changes. For starters the basic cycle of glacial periods can be put down to properties of the earth's orbit and Milankovitch cycles. Shorter term significant changes are Dansgaard-Oeschger events which seem to be restricted to the northern hemispehere, and closely related to Heinrich events associated with changes in north Atlatic thermohaline circulation.
Okay, so my statement was a little too absolute. It sounds like the Milankovitch cycles are reasonably understood, and can be ruled out for the current observed change.

From the Wikipedia page, it looks like Heinrich events are effects, not causes of climate change. That doesn't help explain why it changes. Ditto on Dansgaard-Oeschger events.

In general we also know that CO₂ and CH₄, due to basic physics of the absorption spectra, will tend to trap heat and warm the planet. In the past these gases have tended to act as feedbacks (as can be noted by the slight lag in historical correlation) when warming was initiated by other factors (such as Milankovitch cycles) with permafrost melting and releasing methane, and warmer seas managing to hold less carbon dioxide (among many other factors initiating feedback cycles).
Could you explain a little bit about how we know how much CO2 was in the atmosphere several thousand years ago?
If it's really true (I've seen data pointing both ways) that the global temperature has been increasing over the last century
For the last century we have intrumental temperature records (no reconstruction from proxy data required). Global avergae temperatures are rising. See for yourself, or download the publicly available data and do your own analysis.
Yes, I've seen that chart. And this big block of ASCII numbers is fascinating too. I trust the scientists ability to graph the data for me.

What I don't necessarily trust is the procedures and objectivity with which the data was collected. How were the thermometers calibrated? Who was paying the scientists that took the readings? Were things like "urban temperature bias" removed from the data in a consistent manner?

The key point is that we expect, based on basic physics, that increased atmospheric carbon dioxide will lead to increased temperature. We do not have correlation alone, we have correlation combined with physical theories that predict causation.
Wow! So we expect to see X, and when we look at the data, we see X? Are these the same scientists that are taking the temperature readings that hold these expectations? That's a tasty placebo!
Until we actually make a change that has a predictable affect on the global temperature, I think that claiming to have any control over Global Warming is an arrogant anthropocentric point of view.
Well we have continued to add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and the increased global temperature predictions of 10 and 15 years ago have proved to be quite accurate, so apparently that has already happened. Of course further evidence, particularly of a reversal of the existing trend would be particularly convincing. Of course to achieve that you would have to make the changes that would be necessary to reverse the trend...
That's why I said, "make a change".

Look, my point is that history has shown that human expectation and political motivations make a huge difference in scientific results, and I remain unconvinced of the objectivity of the global warming data.

And then there's the whole question of, assuming that humans are changing the climate, whether we should even be worried about changing our behavior or not.

----
On a side note, in arguing with you, I find myself trying to keep my balance on the rational side of the line that the crazy Creationist people are on the other side of. That would have been a good "debate" to parallel in your article.

---
Brave. Daring. Fearless. Clippy - The Clothes Pin Stuntman
[ Parent ]

So it is a conspiracy? (3.00 / 3) (#60)
by Coryoth on Mon May 29, 2006 at 09:23:46 PM EST

I have to admit, I'm curious: what is your working hypothesis here? Are the world's meteorologists and climatologists simply all incompetent (in consistently the same way) in collecting the data? Are they all perhaps ignorant of the subject area, and unaware of, or insufficiently knowledgeable about urban heat islands? Or perhaps they are all colluding in a grand conspiracy to falsify the data? And what of the multitudes of supporting data, such as tree ring data, isotopic data from coral and ice cores, the almost worldwide retreat of glaciers, the increasingly early melting of the arctic ice pack, and the warmer ocean temperatures around the world? Falsified data? Pure coincidence? Obviously it can't be any of those, but I am honestly curious as to exactly how you explain all this - I mean presumably you have a good reason to expect that all this data from a wide variety of sources is all significantly wrong, all with the same error?

Anyway, to address some of your questions:

Could you explain a little bit about how we know how much CO2 was in the atmosphere several thousand years ago?

Scientists have drilled ice cores in various locations in the ice packs of Antarctica and Greenland. Since the ice pack is formed by yearly snow deposition which gets compacted into ice in layers, this provides a historical record much as sediment layers provide a historical record for fossils. Since air bubbles get trapped in the ice we get a preserved record of air dating back for as deep as you wish to drill. Segmenting the ice cores and analysing the composition of air in the air bubbles provides a measure of carbon dioxide levels. Currently we have Antarctic ice cores that go back as far as 650,000 years ago.

What I don't necessarily trust is the procedures and objectivity with which the data was collected. How were the thermometers calibrated? Who was paying the scientists that took the readings? Were things like "urban temperature bias" removed from the data in a consistent manner?

Well you could always look it up: The dataset FAQ answers a lot of your basic questions, and the more detailed ones have their answers in the scientific papers specifically referenced regarding construction of the dataset, alternatively you can find further precis discussion of the dataset methods here. Further, from the IPCC with regard to the dataset I cited (and others), there is explicit and detailed accounting for effects of urban heat islands. Finally you can read a paper detailing error estimates for the dataset. It seems that there is very careful consideration of all your cited concerns (barring of course the possibility that meteorological stations are being bribed to falsify data).

Wow! So we expect to see X, and when we look at the data, we see X? Are these the same scientists that are taking the temperature readings that hold these expectations?

No, as it happens, the climatologists who collate and analyse the data are not the weather station meteorologists (and sailors on merchant and naval vessels providing much of the sea surface temperature measurements) who collect and record the data. Moreover much of the data was a matter of existing historical record long before there was significant speculation about the potential warming effects of the dramatic increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide, so looking at that pre-existing data and finding the predicted temperature rises were indeed occurring is actually rather significant.

Look, my point is that history has shown that human expectation and political motivations make a huge difference in scientific results, and I remain unconvinced of the objectivity of the global warming data.

I'm not sure - are you trying to make my articles point for me? You seem to be essentially claiming that there is a grand conspiracy amongst climatologists and meteorologists around the world to deliberately fudge or otherwise falsify data to suppress the truth.

[ Parent ]

My point (2.75 / 4) (#69)
by Rasman on Tue May 30, 2006 at 03:40:07 AM EST

My point is that we just don't know.

Care to explain this graph here? The scientists that collect that data must have a secret government agenda, huh?

This page (myth #2) states that only 17% of scientists agree that global warming is caused by human actions. You do a great job of making it sound like a sure thing. Perhaps you could write letters to the other 83% explaining how obvious it is to you that human actions are causing global warming. (Granted, that poll is a decade old, but I can't find any newer polls that actually give numbers rather than just say "majority". Feel free to supply some.)

This article is interesting too.

All I'm saying is that I'm not convinced that burning up all the remaining fossil fuels is going to do significant harm to the planet.

(I can make hyperlinks too!)

---
Brave. Daring. Fearless. Clippy - The Clothes Pin Stuntman
[ Parent ]

You are carefully selecting your sources. (2.50 / 2) (#75)
by mr strange on Tue May 30, 2006 at 05:18:19 AM EST

Your graph of solar/climate correllation dates from 1991. On this page you will learn that of five recent studies that considered solar variations, only one found a positive connection. You can read more about solar variation on the Wikipedia.

The "National Center for Policy Analysis" is not a scientific organisation. Rather, its is a right wing US lobby group that "prides itself on aggressively marketing its products for maximum impact". Why should anyone pay any attention to their marketing glossies?

intrigued by your idea that fascism is feminine - livus
[ Parent ]

Thanks (none / 1) (#78)
by Rasman on Tue May 30, 2006 at 06:05:44 AM EST

I have already read the Wikipedia page about solar variation, thanks. There are parts of it that say that solar variation makes up a very small part of global warming, and other parts that say things like:
The sun has been at its strongest over the past 60 years and may now be affecting global temperatures... the brighter sun and higher levels of so-called "greenhouse gases" both contributed to the change in the Earth's temperature, but it was impossible to say which had the greater impact. [link]
Good call on the NCPA link. It looks like there's quite a bit of disagreement about the results of that 1991 gallup poll. Sounds like some poorly written survey questions.

---
Brave. Daring. Fearless. Clippy - The Clothes Pin Stuntman
[ Parent ]
Good for you (3.00 / 2) (#89)
by Coryoth on Tue May 30, 2006 at 03:13:22 PM EST

I note that you've shifted from claiming warming isn't happening to claiming humans aren't causing it.

Care to explain this graph here?

Yes, it shows an interesting correlation between solar variation and observed warming. Definitely warrants further study. Luckily, the graph being from 1991, plenty of further study of solar variation its effects, and its degree of impact, have occurred. For the most partr the results have been largely inconclusive or negative with regard to  solar variation being the primary explanation for observed warming. Of course no one is denying it has significant effect either (except for those who mirror the skeptics and are equally uninterested in facts and science). You'll find the last IPCC report put solar variation as causing approximately 30% of the observed warming. Anthropogenic factors still remain the best explanation for the majority of the warming however.

You also cite material from a policy think tank/lobby group which I wouldn't think fares particularly well under your test of potential political bias - their job is to be politically biased.

The final article is interesting, but is still only one dissenting opinion. You might try looking for work by Solanki as well, he's one of the other major dissenters with regard to solar variation effects.

The important point is this: Yes, we do not know everything about the climate, nor all the potential factors that may be effecting the current climate - some points remain unexplained. However, currently the preponderance of evidence  most strongly supports the current theory of anthropogenic climate change.

You could compare this to the ID vs. evolution debate if you like: Yes, we do not know everything about biochemistry, nor all the potential factors that may effect change or development in organisms - some points remain unexplained. However, currently the preponderance of evidence most strongly supports the current theory of evolution.

Of course the weight of evidence for evolution massively outweighs the evidence regarding anthropogenic climate change - we've been collecting and analysing such evidence for a lot longer. Correspondingly we shouldn't be as certain regarding our conclusions about climate change as we are about evolution. Still, given the current evidence it comfortably remains the best explanation available, and it takes a kind of perverse skepticism to not just hold some doubts but to actively suggest that any other explanation, albeit with dramatically less evidence supporting it, should be believed instead.

[ Parent ]

Excellent (3.00 / 6) (#99)
by Rasman on Wed May 31, 2006 at 03:52:16 AM EST

I'd like to thank you. I've had a great time debating this with you. I started out with some mild skepticism (not unlike that of Mr. "I have a PhD", brought on by a combination of ignorance of recent research and the insanity of some global warming zealots), and magnified it in order to argue against you. You have argued your point magnificently, and I have learned a lot, both from you, and from my research in trying to argue against you.
Of course the weight of evidence for evolution massively outweighs the evidence regarding anthropogenic climate change - we've been collecting and analysing such evidence for a lot longer. Correspondingly we shouldn't be as certain regarding our conclusions about climate change as we are about evolution.
This statement of yours nicely sums up the compromise that, I think, ends our debate. (I say "compromise", but really you're still holding the rope and I'm lying in the mud.)
Still, given the current evidence it comfortably remains the best explanation available, and it takes a kind of perverse skepticism to not just hold some doubts but to actively suggest that any other explanation, albeit with dramatically less evidence supporting it, should be believed instead.
You've nicely defined the line between evolution and intelligent design that I mentioned trying to not tread on during our discussion. You can sit all day and pick "but it doesn't explain X" holes in any scientific theory, but that kind of attitude is counterproductive. Unless you're suggesting a new theory that can hold up to scientific scrutiny, you might as well keep your mouth shut.

Thanks again. It's threads like this one that make K5 worth reading.

---
Brave. Daring. Fearless. Clippy - The Clothes Pin Stuntman
[ Parent ]

Nothing wrong with being a skeptic, however.... (2.00 / 4) (#64)
by JetJaguar on Mon May 29, 2006 at 10:11:26 PM EST

There is such a thing as extreme skepticism, and you are exhibiting signs of it. It is the same sort of "skepticism" employed by intelligent design proponents, and it just doesn't work. You noted the parallel with ID proponents, but your argument does parallel ID/creationist arguments a little too closely.

Two additional things. Your are misusing the term placebo. It really doesn't apply here.

And this statement in particular caught my eye:

Look, my point is that history has shown that human expectation and political motivations make a huge difference in scientific results, and I remain unconvinced of the objectivity of the global warming data.

Care to back this statement up? Now you can certainly argue that the kinds of research that gets done is often politically motivated. I won't argue that point. However, the history of science is full of people who tried to influence the scientific process for all kinds of reasons, and there isn't a single instance where such an influence was ultimately successful. They have always failed, sometimes spectacularly.

The process might get influenced, you can even play games with fabricating data if you like, but in the end if your results can not be replicated, it doesn't matter how hard you try to influence the process, you will always fail.

[ Parent ]

Placebo (none / 1) (#71)
by Rasman on Tue May 30, 2006 at 03:43:28 AM EST

By using the word "placebo", I was merely making a reference to the kind of scientific bias that makes double blind experiments necessary.

I didn't mean to imply that what I was talking about was a placebo.

---
Brave. Daring. Fearless. Clippy - The Clothes Pin Stuntman
[ Parent ]

I realize that... (2.00 / 3) (#96)
by JetJaguar on Tue May 30, 2006 at 11:38:59 PM EST

and my point was that a double blind experiment in this context is impossible to do, and not only that, it doesn't make any sense to do so. The data has already been taken and nobody is really disputing the data. There are quibbles over the interpretation of that data, but that isn't the same thing as the placebo affect.

Let me put it this way. How would you even set up a double blind test to measure the temperature at noon at some particular place over some period of time? Does a double blind test even make sense in this context?

To put it another way. Outside of taking a thermometer and holding a lit match up to it or an ice cube(ie fudging the data), how is it possible for the person doing the experiment to bias the outcome of the measurement?

The data that has been collected which supports global warming theory is the same sort of data. The measurements themselves are not easily biased by the person collecting the data. Any bias that might show up is in the interpretation of that data not in the data itself, and that is a completely different thing from the placebo effect. Double blind methods do not protect against these kinds of errors, replication, corroboration, and repeatability is how you root out biases of this sort, and this is exactly the sort of validation that is being carried out.

[ Parent ]

Unfortunately ... (2.14 / 7) (#39)
by cdguru on Mon May 29, 2006 at 01:16:21 PM EST

the time for meaningful decisions has past.  What we can do today is decide between a few unpleasant alternatives.

The first problem is the word "sustainable".  The current level of human population invitably uses resources above the level that they can be replenished through natual processes.  The input into the equation is the sun - period.  If you use anything except direct and indirect effects of the sun, you are using a resource that is replenished through very long term natual processes involving biological decay and geological time.

What this means is that if you cut down a tree it will eventually be replaced.  But this does not scale.  If 100 people cut down trees, they will also eventually be replaced, but at some point we are cutting down all of the trees there are and then digging up the seedlings.  This is a result of the human population.

Long term, this means that any form of electrical generation is not really sustainable.  Sure, you can have solar cells that use nothing but the sun - except you are making the solar cells out of a finite resource that will eventually be used up.  It is not sustainable.  Not over a long period of time.

Sure, we can talk about sustainable practices over a short period of time.  But there are two real choices: limit human population to having a sustainable impact on the planet and resources or add resources from off-planet.  Period.  Long term this is the decision that is required.

Should we choose the unpopular approach of limiting the population, we must be prepared for drastic action.  Just allowing for some kind of decreasing birth rate is not sufficient as it would require thousands of years to accomplish that way.  Active measures are going to be required and the scope of those will astonish most people.  Killing a million people a day for twenty years is about what it would take.  Nobody is prepared for that, nor would this be event remotely palateable to most of the population.

It is not clear that half-measures are going to do much.  Ceasing all passenger air travel might be a start, but that ignores private automobiles and industry.  Removing private automobiles would require changing the structure of much of the US and a good part of Europe as well.  Not going to happen overnight.  Or even over the next fifty years without serious incentives.

Fortunately, population reduction could be implemented without the consent of the majority.  Starting the Islam-Christian war and escalating it to a nuclear exchange would go a long way to reducing the population and removing a great deal of incentives for bringing new children into the world.

That would be a truely green solution.

yer solar cell theology (3.00 / 5) (#62)
by Blarney on Mon May 29, 2006 at 09:46:49 PM EST

Man, this is why I hate pseudoscientific debates like this. You're as bad as any 'climate denier'.

Some things are impossible by the laws of nature, and some things are not. A heat engine with 100% efficiency is impossible. A perpetual motion machine is impossible. An infinite supply of fossil fuels is impossible, as is infinite atmospheric capacity to handle the combustion products - and who really cares which limit we hit first? Running out of fossils fuels or running out of air to put the exhaust in, I don't care which limit we hit first it's bad either way.

But solar cells that, over their lifetime, produce a net energy surplus over that used in their manufacture are not impossible. Maybe they exist, maybe they don't, probably nobody is closely tracking the energy budget for current solar cell manufacture. There is a simple approximation you can use, though. There are a lot of energy inputs for solar cell manufacture - and some are not obvious. Like the petroleum to run the tractor that grows the food for the guy who works in the solar cell factory. I'd say the only realistic approximation you can use is monetary accounting - can you get $100 worth of electricity from a $100 solar cell before it wears out? There are a lot of people out there who claim to have done so, in a few years time, and have continued to operate their PV system long past the payback point. I can't imagine that they're all lying. And I can't believe that the energy input to make a solar cell is LESS than the cost of that energy on the open market.

So net-energy producing solar cells probably do exist today and are commercially available. And even if they don't, there's no law of nature precluding them.

Another thing nature doesn't prevent is fusion power, which does not derive from our Sun. The deuterium in our oceans doesn't care if the Sun shines or not. All I can say is wait and watch the ITER project, I am in fact awfully jealous of France for getting it, but I do understand that if a new kind of 'nuclear' power is to be developed that it would be best to choose a country where people use 'nuclear' power extensively already, as opposed to a country like the USA where people would be picketing it every day.

See dude, you are making a fundamentally religious argument in part, only mitigated by your mention of space resource exploration - an argument that humanity just needs to stop doing all the techie stuff we do, quit breeding, and go back to the jungle. And in order to make this argument, you are willing to hold it on faith that certain technologies do not exist and can not exist - despite that there are people building them right this minute, and that you probably can buy some of them right now.

Peace out. Think about it.

[ Parent ]

Say what? (none / 0) (#106)
by nsayer on Wed May 31, 2006 at 08:20:39 PM EST

Starting the Islam-Christian war and escalating it to a nuclear exchange would go a long way to reducing the population and removing a great deal of incentives for bringing new children into the world.

That would be a truely green solution.

You're clearly a hypocrite - you're suggesting that the resulting habitat destruction and radioactive polution from the nuclear exchange would be an environmentally acceptable outcome? So global warming - bad, radiation and nuclear winter - good?

[ Parent ]

-1, painting all 9/11 skeptics with broad brush (2.00 / 9) (#40)
by HackerCracker on Mon May 29, 2006 at 01:21:06 PM EST

You do realize that the official 9/11 story is a conspiracy theory too, don't you? Why don't you go and paint yourself with the same broad brush?

I was thinking this might be well written until I saw that. -1 all the way.

A reactionary is someone who... (2.50 / 10) (#45)
by alexboko on Mon May 29, 2006 at 02:02:26 PM EST

...stocks up on canned food and ammo to defend himself against the FEMA/UN/immigrant/atheist/homosexual holocaust, and yet can't be bothered to prepare for or even admit the possibility of global warming and peak oil.

Did you get that through your heads, fools? We're not even talking about prevention anymore, that ship has sailed. We're talking about preparedness at this point. Is that ruggedly self-reliant enough for you?


Godwin's Law of video games: if a company is out of ideas for a long enough period, they will eventually publish another World War II shooter.

The unspoken assumption behind the resistance (2.87 / 8) (#51)
by alexboko on Mon May 29, 2006 at 04:47:50 PM EST

There is an unspoken assumption behind the rejection of peak oil and global warming. It's that the research is fraudulent and politically motivated. What political agenda do the deniers fear? Probably something along the lines of a luddite relinquishment of heavy industry and/or some kind of global regulatory regime that would stifle economic growth and piggyback on all sorts of other political mandates that have nothing to do with protecting the environment and delaying the oil peak.

There certainly are environmentalists with a fraudulent leftist agenda out there, and they are as much to blame for delaying the acceptance of the facts as the conservatives. But conservatives should be challenging them on how to best handle the problem instead of denying the problem exists in the first place.

I of all people am adamantly in favor of rapid technological and economic growth; I see conquest of nature and expansion of the human niche as manifest destiny. I am also against bureaucracies or any other centralization and entrenchment of power. I am concerned about climate change and resource depletion because I want to preserve our values and our way of life.

Some non-socialist solutions:

  • Cutting back on foreign aid to overpopulated regions of the world.
  • Tax breaks for companies that generate renewable energy or biofuel, the amount of the tax break tied to the size of the EROEI x kilowatts.
  • Tax breaks for property owners who set up renewable energy generators and victory gardens on their propery.
  • Gradual withdrawal of all subsidies for the petroleum and gasoline industries, in order to allow the price of fuel to reach it's true market level without the current distorting influence of government intervention.
  • Removal of all state and local ordinances that interfere with construction renewable energy generators and victory gardens.

...more to follow.

But really, government is not the solution. The solution is at the level of the individual household. Move out of areas that are expected to become uninhabitable. Learn to generate your own electricity and supply all your own "must-have" goods and services if the need arises. Buy local. Encourage your neighbors to do the same.


Godwin's Law of video games: if a company is out of ideas for a long enough period, they will eventually publish another World War II shooter.

I can see why that would be (3.00 / 4) (#65)
by Delirium on Tue May 30, 2006 at 12:16:34 AM EST

There's actually some blogs out there of climate-science PhD students who are pretty open about how they went into climate science specifically for political reasons—not to better uncover the truth, but to prove a predetermined conclusion is true, and gain the credentials to argue for it ex cathedra. That sounds like the tail wagging the dog to me.

That doesn't mean most or even much of climate-science research is politically motivated, but it's one of those areas where the possibility for that to happen exists, so I'm a bit wary.

[ Parent ]

-1, With extreme prejudice. (1.10 / 10) (#52)
by Graeme Rasputin on Mon May 29, 2006 at 05:49:58 PM EST

I'm not one to hold grudges, but this Coryoth fellow has so completely flaunted our most basic and hallowed community standard, viz. we do not mod down respondants in our own stories, that I feel I must voice my indignation and express it in the traditional form: -1.

I further remark that if we allow let beatniks like Coryoth besmirch our traditions with his sanctimonious airs and "groovy" sunglasses, we will soon find there's nothing left of the community we loved. We must send Coryoth and the rest of the liberals like him, that is those who view the past with the sort of arrogant contempt displayed today, that we won't let that happen.

Don't be gay Sparky, don't be gay {nt} (1.75 / 4) (#56)
by eavier on Mon May 29, 2006 at 08:11:07 PM EST



Whatever you do, don't take it into your house. It's probably full of Greeks. - Vampire Zombie Abu Musab al Zarqawi

Ufology Doktor in da house

[ Parent ]
0: Hide (editorial misposted as topical) (none / 0) (#76)
by mr strange on Tue May 30, 2006 at 05:23:56 AM EST

Pot, meet kettle.

intrigued by your idea that fascism is feminine - livus
[ Parent ]
Conspiracy theory? (none / 0) (#61)
by all tags on Mon May 29, 2006 at 09:39:49 PM EST

That's what they used to call global warming.

another tactic (3.00 / 3) (#63)
by minerboy on Mon May 29, 2006 at 10:04:11 PM EST

Is to write a headline like Global warming 'proof' detected when in fact the truth is that " The paper implies that it is possible to estimate quite accurately the global radiation imbalance," he told BBC News; other researchers, he says, have "explained why it is not possible to measure the imbalance with an accuracy better than several watts per metre squared" so basically they report a value of an 0.85 Watt m^2 but leave out that it is 0.85 +/- 1.5. So that there is no "proof" of anything. In fact, the words proof and computer simulation should not ever be used in the same sentence.

What's worse is that when someone calls a writer to task for their misuse of the word proof, they suggest that expecting an accurate representation of the science is somehow like a conspiracy theory. Remember just because some criticism of global warming science is specious does not mean that it all is.



Sure, I agree (3.00 / 2) (#90)
by Coryoth on Tue May 30, 2006 at 03:20:10 PM EST

It's exactly the same sort of fallacious presentation, in this case by people trying to argue the other side. You'll note that in my conclusion I pointed out that there are "shrill claims of doom from some on the "pro" climate change side who are just as uninterested in facts and science as the skeptics. You'll find bizarre, and equally unsupported, claims". I'm not denying that the politicised part of the "pro" global warming debate isn't just as stupid - in fact I specifically said it was. My frustration was that "This has reduced things to a bullet point yelling match between polar extremes".

The fact that there are stupid people making poor arguments on both sides does not, however, make any difference to the science. Currently the based on the evidence we have, and our best current understanding of the climate, anthrpogenic climate change is the most likely explanation of the data. Can we be certain that's the case? No, as with all science nothing is certain. It is, however, where the current preponderance of evidence lies.

[ Parent ]

What IS global warming? (2.84 / 13) (#68)
by Blarney on Tue May 30, 2006 at 01:06:44 AM EST

I think I might be a "global warming skeptic". Fair warning - I am a Ph. D. scientist. But not in the field of climate. I understand that climate scientists are actually kind of rare. But I'm not a skeptic in the sense you discuss in your article. Maybe you wouldn't call me a skeptic at all! All the same, I have serious reservations about the way that "global warming" is handled in the media. Perhaps there are some specialist journals that would give me a better perspective, but I don't know which ones they are and I might not have the background to read them anyway. I only know that the way "global warming" is explained to me just feels very, very unscientific.

I often see arguments like the one you're making, which hold up 'mainstream opinion' as something to be adhered to unless there is good reason to differ. However, this is periliously close to the behavior of a prudish kindergarten teacher in charge of one of my siblings, who when asked what gender the class hamster was - had the children vote! An excellent way of keeping young mouths free of naughty words like penis and vagina, but a really lousy way to determine objective truth. Not scientific. And being as there aren't a whole lot of climate scientists anyway, how many are there? How many principal investigators? Maybe a dozen? A hundred? I really wouldn't know. So the vote of a small group doesn't mean a lot to me scientifically, that's all I'm saying. And as you don't exactly see climate scientists every day, don't tell me it's a "small minority" of cranks who disagree with "global warming", there's certainly a lot more skeptics than there are climate scientists. Now, perhaps the cranks are laymen, but almost certainly most of the "global warming" supporters are laymen as well. This is a scientific debate with very little participation by scientists. It's politics. Like the class hamster.

Anyway, when I read "global warming" it seems to be code for a rather complex hypothesis. The hypothesis seems to have many points, which only a "skeptic" would disagree with. The hypothesis, as I understand it, and I do welcome corrections, is:

  1. The average temperature of the Earth is higher than it has been in recorded history, supplemented with ice core data and such going farther back. This is caused primarily by change in gas composition of the atmosphere.
  2. This average temperature is still rising.
  3. The rate of temperature increase is also increasing, perhaps even exponentially. Some people wish to show a 'hockey stick' graph to demostrate this.
  4. The economic and social benefits of this temperature increase are vastly outweighed by the drawbacks that would inevitably rise. While previous climatic warm periods have been marked by high agricultural productivity and societal progress in many places, particularly Western Europe, this current warming period will not do so.
  5. Global warming may trigger another ice age by disrupting the thermohaline circulation, particularly if a Canadian ice dam or two melt and dump fresh water into the north atlantic. This will cause Europe to become Arctic in climate. There will be bad effects worldwide as well.
  6. Not only will global warming be bad for people, it will be bad for animals and plants as well. Any positive reports of populations of various species thriving and increasing due to recent warm spells are entirely isolated against a background of inevitable mass extinctions.
  7. Not only is this phenomenon marked by increasing temperatures, but by greater climactic variability. The Midwestern winter of 1993, which set 120 year records for cold where I was living and also gave me frostbite, is not in any way evidence against "global warming". Neither are other cold spells observed in any other time and place. In fact, "global warming" predicts more really cold winters as well as globally rising temperatures.
  8. This phenomenon is almost entirely caused by human activity. The natural climate cycles of the Earth and Sun are dwarfed by the effects of human-caused carbon dioxide generation, methane from cattle herds, and other such emissions. No natural source of greenhouses past or present - such as volcanoes, or the great herds of buffalo which roamed the Great Plains for hundreds of millenia - compares to current emissions from human activity in effect.
  9. This phenomenon could be mitigated, if not avoided, by a total dismantling of any industry reliant upon combustion of carbon. Some would also advocate elimination of sulfur oxides emission. Or even water emission. And get rid of the previously-mentioned cattle, just to be safe. We need to use birth control to reduce our population by a factor of 10, and adopt an all-natural subsistence lifestyle. Only than can the Earth heal, if at all, and it will be a slow process possibly outlasting the human species.
Okay. Did anyone make it through all of that? Please note that I am NOT creating a strawman! I do not imply that every "global warming" supporter holds hypotheses 1-9 in every detail. Merely that these are all hypotheses that I have seen, and that in general any particular supporter of "global warming" who has seen fit to advocate their position to me holds nearly all of these beliefs. I have never spoken to a professional climate scientist and heard their hypotheses of "global warming". I must make do with the presentation that I am given in the media.

This article is especially egregious in that no attempt at all to explain what "global warming" actually is is made. I do not know which of these hypotheses the author advocates.

And now my position? I accept (1) as given by the data, with some reservations as to the spatial and temporal coverage of this data. In particular there are selections of atmospheric composition data and temperature data that do not overlap. Given (1), I will accept (2) unless strong evidence otherwise is found.

I do not accept (3), and consider the 'hockey stick' to be a blatant misuse of a notably finicky mathematical technique. Principal component analysis is not a great tool to use for a time series, among other caveats, and has a history of misuse dating back for centuries. A principal component is a pure abstraction, not a physical phenomenon, and must be carefully used when modeling physical data. However, I am open to being convinced - someone convince me! Argument by majority need not be bothered with, however.

I believe that (4) is more of a political argument than a scientific one. Same for (6). It seems more designed to gain favor for the "global warming" cause than to seek scientific truth, and is partially based on non-scientific, I would almost say religious or philosophical, ideas about how humanity 'should' live and the consequences for noncompliance. As far as (5), I really have not seen anything convincing for or against it, and rather suspect that it is mainly promoted as a support for (4). I am open to argument again - but please no argument by majority.

As far as (7), I have been shown no good evidence for or against it, and in fact I remember a time when nobody ever mentioned (7). I suspect that this hypothesis was added at some point (early 90's?) in order to keep "global warming" consistent with current weather observations. While logically dubious, it is still a hypothesis. Open to argument, so long as it is scientific argument and not 'majority'.

About (8) I am entirely skeptical until shown otherwise. I cannot help but suspect that, like (4-6), (8) has been added to "global warming" in order to encourage certain beliefs in the public. Some parts of (8) - the bit about cattle herds - are almost certainly scientifically falsified by historical zoological observations. Historical observations of climatic variation, even if not containing as pronounced a warming as some claim is happening currently, do tend to contradict that humanity is necessarily the major actor in climatic variation.

About (9), it would follow logically given 1-8. But without at least points 1-4 and 8 being true beyond a reasonable doubt, it would be senseless and wasteful to take the suggested actions.

So .... am I a skeptic? I don't think I am. I think I am a scientifically-educated person with an open mind and curiousity about the world around me, with a distaste for many sorts of politics. I fear that most arguments about "global warming" are not targeted at people like me, and I think it shows a generally unscientific attitude on the part of "global warming" partisans that such outreach efforts are generally not made. If this situation were to change, action quite likely would be taken. Mob appeal doesn't get the entire economic and social structure of human civilization changed, after all. The larger scientific community - by which I don't mean 100 climate researchers and a million political commentators - needs to be engaged if any such undertaking is to succeed.

Am I a skeptic or not? You can decide. Better yet, point out where I can learn more about the things that I would need to learn about in order to accept the "global warming" hypothesis as portrayed to me.

Have you actually read up on the matter? (2.50 / 2) (#77)
by mr strange on Tue May 30, 2006 at 05:34:13 AM EST

Or do you just watch the (US) media? You imply that you are mainly getting you information from the US media.

Why not read the 3rd Assessment Report of the IPCC? If you don't have time for that, why not try the Wikipedia?

intrigued by your idea that fascism is feminine - livus
[ Parent ]

The issue is highly political (2.00 / 3) (#91)
by tetsuwan on Tue May 30, 2006 at 04:36:31 PM EST

So of course the debate is going to be dominated by politicians and lobbyists, not scientists. If some scientists see a flood hitting their town in the near future, they may have the indecency to point it out to the town major. If only the solution to the sweep away town sized flood is to move the entire population, this decision is not going to go without controversy.

All evidence I've seen the latest ten years support the global warming theory. It is clear that on average (as a fellow scientist, I'm surprised to see you haven't grasped this concept) the surface temperature of earth is rising. There are many facts supporting the case that this is mainly caused by human activity.

As for effects, it is become all the more clear that rising sea temperatures will bring more violent weather. Hurricanes have been shown to be extremely sensitive to this. Rain patterns will likely change. And change inevitably means that agriculture will have to move to different areas. Most of the arable land will give less yield for solely probabilistic reasons. New land will probably primarily be found in Siberia, Canada and possibly Greenland. The soil in these land areas are usually not the best for agriculture.

The geopolitical consequences of major climate change are enormous. A massive loss of arable land in for example China could lead to a Chinese attack on Mongolia and/or Russia. Starvation in Mexico could be a disaster for the USA.

Njal's Saga: Just like Romeo & Juliet without the romance
[ Parent ]

Change (2.33 / 3) (#95)
by Xptic on Tue May 30, 2006 at 10:06:55 PM EST

Why does everyone think they can keep the world static?

I really hate the "global warming" crowd.  However, I'm willing to consent that the average temp is going up.

But, why do people think it's out fault?

There were ice ages in the past.  Those had nothing to do with humans.

There were mass extinctions in the past.  We didn't cause those.

Mountians rise and fall; climate changes and species die.

Volcanoes erupt and fall dormant; climate changes and species die.

Earthquakes, floods, landslides, fires; these things happen constantly with or without our help.  Every one will change climate.  Every one will cause a change in the roles that a species will fill.

The Earth is constantly changing.  Sometimes it will change slowly; sometimes quickly.  But, one thing is for sure; change cannot be stopped.

[ Parent ]

I tell you (2.33 / 3) (#98)
by tetsuwan on Wed May 31, 2006 at 01:54:15 AM EST

when you realize what climate change can do, you would want it to never have happen. Yes, change happens but fast change for te worse is not very good.

Njal's Saga: Just like Romeo & Juliet without the romance
[ Parent ]

Worse (2.50 / 2) (#105)
by Xptic on Wed May 31, 2006 at 06:44:39 PM EST

I guess the devil you know is better that the one you don't.

Look, it's not like the world today is some perfect Utopia.  We live in it.  We work with it.  Look at the vareity that humans survive in.

People live in Africa with virtually no water and 100+ farenheit.

People live in Asia and South America with 99% humidity and shit that'll kill you before you could pronounce it.

People live up in the Artic with mukluks and whale blubber.

There is absolutely nothing that is going to happen that we can't deal with.  We will survive as a species.

I can understand that you want everything to be just the way it was when you were a kid.  But it's not going to happen.  I'm sure the native Americans who walked across the land bridge were frightened when the glaciers started shrinking.  But they dealt with it.

So, to convince the world, you need to do a few things:

  1.  Is climate changing in an unnatural way?

  2.  What are we doing that is causing the change?

  3.  How can we stop the change without changing our current quality of life?

Not everyone is at a concensus on point 1.  It could be that we'll never agree on point 1.  But, until that question is answered, everything else is pointless.

[ Parent ]
Oh, things could change a little (none / 0) (#114)
by tetsuwan on Thu Jun 01, 2006 at 06:18:03 PM EST

Things could change so that a small minority of the people in the world are directly affected without anything really changing. But as soon as climate change has gone so far that a majority of the population is significantly affected, then the economic welfare of yesterday will be but a dream.

Simple consideration: the population density of Grenland is 0.026 inhabitans per km^2. The population density of China is 137/ km^2. Greenland can't support more than 56 000 people, and traditionally probably much less than that. If the average surface temperature of Earth rises seven degrees, and the see levels by ten meters, what will happen to the arable land? As I wrote in the comment above, new land areas would become attractive to agriculture as old areas yield less, are swallowed by the sea or become deserts. But they would be within the bombers of other countries (conflict) and initially not fit for agriculture.

What you are saying is that just because you want to drive your gas guzzler for ten more years, everyone should accept that in two hundred years, there might only be 1% of the current population of humans left. Am I understanding you correctly?

Also, your use of "unnatural" is pointless in this context. An earth with an average surface temperature above the boiling point of water would still be natural.

Njal's Saga: Just like Romeo & Juliet without the romance
[ Parent ]

Fuel (none / 1) (#116)
by Xptic on Fri Jun 02, 2006 at 12:10:04 AM EST

What you are saying is that just because you want to drive your gas guzzler for ten more years, everyone should accept that in two hundred years, there might only be 1% of the current population of humans left. Am I understanding you correctly?

Not really.  I drive a 4-cylinder Honda mini-van.

What I am saying is that to react without knowledge is a gamble.

It could be that what is happening now is perfectly natural and unstoppable.  If all 5 billion of us lived like hippies, there is no guarentee that we can stop it.

However, with our current level of production, there is a pretty good chance that scientists and engineers can cope with climate shifts.

So, we can all eat vegetables and shit in buckets while petting our spotted owls and praying to Gaya that it all gets better.

Or, we can continue on our current line and try and be prepared for what is to come.  We can irrigate deserts.  We can grow hydroponic food in giant warehouses.  We can heat and air condition our houses and offices.

Following hippies is a gamble.  Following science is a pretty good bet.

[ Parent ]

This is NOT about following hippies (none / 0) (#117)
by tetsuwan on Fri Jun 02, 2006 at 02:17:07 AM EST

You are totally out in the blue.

This is about directing our efforts. The gas guzzler example was bad, because it made you think about hippies.

My suggested course of action is to redouble our efforts in researching sources of energy that do not make the problem worse. Climate scientist pretty much agree that if we stop emissions more or less instantly, global average will still rise by two deg C. This is the minor catastrophy scenario.

We can't stop emisiions now. What we can do is damage control. If we in year X finally are able to do large scale fusion, and rapidly substitute all fossil fuel plants by fusion plants, it still makes a difference if the total human carbon dioxide emissions were Y instead of 2Y. Things like the Kyoto protocol do not solve the problem, but it is a good way to start thinking about damage control without ruining the economy.

Njal's Saga: Just like Romeo & Juliet without the romance
[ Parent ]

Energy (none / 1) (#119)
by Xptic on Fri Jun 02, 2006 at 03:41:37 AM EST

There aren't really any "clean" energy sources.  Nuclear fuel must be mined and disposed of.  Fusion has be "10 years away" for the last 40 years.  Batteries are full of toxic metals that must be mined and disposed of.  Hydrogen, ethanol, biodiesesl all must be burned.  That produces CO2, at the very least.  Not to mention that they have a lower energy density than gasoline.

We can't ever stop emissions.

We can do damage control.  But not in the way you think.  The best way is to figure out what are the worst greenhouse offenders then figure out how to scrub that.  In a confined space, you don't die from lack of O2, but rather an overabundance of CO2.  Therefore, submarines, spaceships, and secure vice-Presidential bunkers have CO2 scrubbers.  No reason we can't make a large-scale scrubber and suck that shit out of the atmosphere.

But, what should we scrub?  And how much should we scrub?

And, once we start the process of scrubbing, we'll have to listen to more hippy shit about how scrubbers kill those goddamed spotted owls.

[ Parent ]

small scale versus large scale (none / 0) (#121)
by tetsuwan on Fri Jun 02, 2006 at 10:42:28 AM EST

Your understanding of this subject is seriously lacking. Sorry to say that.

A though experiment: the bottom of the Baltic Sea is part dead, part dying because of oxygen depletion. The small scale solution (aquarium) to this is to pump in oxygen. It works marvelously well for systems up to some thousand cubic meters. Simple calculations can show that to mechanically provide the entire Baltic Sea with oxygen requires an amount of energy several times the consumption of energy in Sweden.

As for your "all sources of energy are as bad"-argument: it is simply wrong. The existing ecosystem already consumes a great amount of solar energy without destroying itself. Hydropower is limited and has local environmental problems (more or less solvable), but no global negative impact. Nuclear power has local problems but these are also possible to solve with existing technology. Cheap solar, biopower (input of CO2 = output of CO2) and fusion are possible technologies to solve the energy problems. Progress in fusion research has been slower than expected fifty years ago, but significant advances has been made. The research plants today already deliver more energy than they consume.

For "scrubbing" to affect the global temperature, you have to reduce the amount of CO2 on a global scale. This in itself will require enormous amount of energy, which will have to be produced in some way ... see what I'm getting at? This is why fuel efficiency and energy saving is a very effective tool in damage control. Energy that isn't produced can't cause problems.

With the same amount of light intensity from the sun, the earth can be an ice-ball as well as a greenhouse with average temperatures above the boiling point of water. It doesn't have to be hospitable to humans.

Njal's Saga: Just like Romeo & Juliet without the romance
[ Parent ]

Solar and Hydro (none / 1) (#122)
by Xptic on Sat Jun 03, 2006 at 12:50:39 AM EST

Solar, wind, and hydro all have a much greater impact on global weather than traditional coal power stations.

A modern coal station can scrub the output then incenerate the catalyst used in the scrubbers.  It's all very clean.  Other than the fact that we'll eventually run out of oil and coal, it's easily sustainable without a global climate impact.

Solar is a terrible idea.  The cells take enormous energy to produce.  Once produced, they need to run for 5~10 year to recover that energy.  Sure, economics of scale will help.  But no one really knows how much.

Furthermore, solar cells take energy that should have been absorbed or reflected by the earth and turn it into electricity.  Any energy that should have been reflected results in global warming.  Any energy that should have been absorbed results in global cooling.

You can't propose that we create mass solar energy collectors without thinking about the impact of fucking with the earth's main source of heat.

Wind energy has the same problem.  Oh, let's find a windy place and cover it with windmills.  What a stupid fucking idea.  Any energy you suck from the wind is directly impacting the Earth's self-regulating system.  Look at the studies of climate shift after the rise if the Himilayas.

Hydro is just dumb.  Sure, it works for a while.  Then the dams fill up with sedement.  Downstream, erosion removes soil that should have been naturally replenished.  Crops suck the nutrients out of soil that will never be replaced.  And, once the dam is full of dirt, what then?

Tidal power will seriously impact the oceans' currents.

And fussion is still 50 years away.  Maybe.

Just think for a second.  Everything you do has a negative impact on the earth.  Everything.  You can do what you want to minimize that impact, but, unless you actually know what the impact is, your efforts to minimize will probably do more harm than good.

[ Parent ]

I give up (none / 1) (#123)
by tetsuwan on Sat Jun 03, 2006 at 03:26:44 AM EST

I tried to hive you a perspective, and you weren't up to it. The reason I said cheap solar, is precisely because of the known limitations of silicon based solar power cells.

You can't argue physics with an idiot, without being able to hit his or her head with a nice experiment illustrating the facts. I've made some of your intellectual mistakes in the past, but you seem to hold them too dear to let them go.

I say it again: you don't understand scale and global impact.

Njal's Saga: Just like Romeo & Juliet without the romance
[ Parent ]

Scale (none / 1) (#125)
by Xptic on Sun Jun 04, 2006 at 09:05:41 AM EST

>>I say it again: you don't understand scale and global impact.

You are trying to have it both ways.  You say that we fucked up the Earth.  But then you say that we can't fix it.  What a moron.

Solar is a fucking waste.  You'll never get as much out of it as you put into it.

Right now, we have very few options.  We can continue to burn fossil fules, or go nuclear.

Fossil fuels are a dead end.  Both because we'll run out of them and because we'll fuck up the atmosphere doing so.  However, we can catalyze the atmosphere. It is possible.  It's just hard.

Nuclear is also a dead end.  Well, fission anyway.  We have to mine it.  We have to process it.  Just to get a fuel pellet, we fuck up a lot of things.  And, in the end, we still have to dispose of the waste.

Not to mention, we'd have to completely restructure our economy to run off of electricity vice gasoline.  Not impossible, but highly unlikely.

Face it, there is no easy answer.  Every choice is wrong.

[ Parent ]

Fix versus cause (none / 1) (#129)
by tetsuwan on Mon Jun 05, 2006 at 04:25:18 AM EST

It's not very expensive to dump phosphates in the sea and cause problems that are extremely expensive to fix. Maybe a fitting analogy is that it's much cheaper to blow up a building than to construct it. That's all about entropy. And chemistry.

You haven't realized that when you produce carbon dioxide, you get energy. To reverse the process you have to use energy. You talk of catalysts. But catalyzing means to lower a threshold for going to a lower energy state. Carbon dioxide is stable. Plants can process carbon dioxide because of solar power, which you think so little of. There might be an affordable way to get rid of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but rest assured that this solution will be biological in nature.

Restructuring the economy isn't as hard as you think. In ten years, you can replace all cars running on gasoline with cars running some other fuels just by making laws that applies for new cars. This can be shortened to five years if you make laws about phasing out old cars. Some people well scream and shout, but it's fully possible without destroying the economy.
For example, market forces alone has fueled (pun intended) a transition from gasoline to diesel in Europe. Diesel and gasoline engines are not compatible; a diesel engine is destroyed if fueled by gas, and vice versa.

You realize that human history is a history of success because of our ability to adapt. And the market economy has proved to be the best to adapt to the varying needs of people.

Njal's Saga: Just like Romeo & Juliet without the romance
[ Parent ]

Bioloical (none / 1) (#131)
by Xptic on Mon Jun 05, 2006 at 10:15:44 AM EST

>>There might be an affordable way to get rid of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but rest assured that this solution will be biological in nature.

I agree.  Algae seeded in the right places could do wonders.  However, they'd have to be engineered as "mules" and have a DNA stopwatch built in.  Sead thousands of miles of ocean and let them have at it.

>>n ten years, you can replace all cars running on gasoline with cars running some other fuels just by making laws that applies for new cars. This can be shortened to five years if you make laws about phasing out old cars.

This will kill the economy.  I drive a 15ish year old honda oddessy.  Paid about $3k for it.  I make $60k a year and it'd kill me to have to buy a $20k+ new automobile.  Sure, I could pay less.  But I'd lose out on power windows and locks.  Kiss A/C goodbye.  And forget keyless entry and nice CD unit.

For a lot of people, buying a new auto would be impossible.  I make a good living and have no debt.  Imagine those wankers who have cards maxed and only pay minimums...

I think 20 years would be a reasonable timeline for getting rid of most gasoline engines.

>>You realize that human history is a history of success because of our ability to adapt. And the market economy has proved to be the best to adapt to the varying needs of people.

A lot of people are going to starve before that invisible hand takes hold.  It's easy for people in the middle-bracket with low debt to say "fuck it, let's all buy new cars".  But imagine a college grad with $120k of debt and no real job.  Or a single mom.

And what about other countries?  The US got rich on slave labor and cheap oil.  Europe got rich by raping their colonies for all they were worth.  China has no colonies and we tell them to stop with the slaves.  How will they break out?  Now we tell them they can't have cars or burn coal...

TO make it worse, if we stop our use of oil, that'll set our economy back a bit.  China might slingshot around us.  Then you'll have a truly repressive, slave-owning, coal-burning regime as a world power.

Problems are easy to solve.  As an engineer or scientist, you find a problem and solve it.  But politics are much harder.  You want to cure AIDS, but there might be pressure to divert funds to a disease that prople have no reason for having.

There is a game, something political.  I suggest you try it before you just say "let's pass a law and make it so."

Oh, here it is:

http://www.democracygame.com/

Sure, it's a game.  But it'll give you a good lesson in comprimise.

Of course, you can just run for office, disband the senate, and become emperor of the US.  Then you can force everyone to live the way you think is right.

[ Parent ]

You are not representative (none / 0) (#132)
by tetsuwan on Mon Jun 05, 2006 at 11:36:45 AM EST

Most people can easily afford to change to the "next generation car" in ten years. Remember, after five years their will be many rather cheap used "next generation cars" in the market.

My example with diesel lacked quantification: in ten years the market share of diesel cars have gone from about twenty percent to about fifty percent.† Another example is the catalytic converter, which were introduced world wide in the 80s, and while not very cheap, the addition of catalytic converters was soon made mandatory in new cars in most of the industrialized world. No greater problem.

As for world wide policy decisions, the ban of CFC gases has been a huge success. The ozone layer has stopped deteriorating. Alternatives were more expensive in the beginning but that problem was also overcome. You also claim to be optimistic about huge engineering projects to get rid of carbon dioxide all the while you think that other big projects like cheap solar (solar power is getting cheaper every year) and fusion power (the Iter project in France will bring fusion technology to a new level) are doomed to fail. My perspective is that all of these approaches are important and promising. But I know very little about grand scale carbon dioxide scrubbing, so I have a hard time to be enthusiastic about it. On the international level, the key is of course to get China and India with the program. I don't think this is impossible. Both countries have a lot to lose if global warning gets much worse. India is a democracy and will hopefully cooperate with the other democracies. China has long ignored environmental issues, but recently they have admitted huge problems even officially. China can support 1.3 billion people today, and a climate shift where Canada and Russia gains arable land while it loses isn't desirable.

Considering that China does not nearly match the CO2 emissions of the US, it isn't more than fair that they get a little more room for maneuver. I believe it's entirely possible to cut the emissions worldwide and still get India and China in on it with somewhat generous emission goals. But of course China will not be interested to agree on anything if the US doesn't.

I say we need three things: a. damage control (trend change in emissions) b. damage reduction (scrubbing as you put it) c. Energy sources that do not add to the problem (in my mind, fission, solar and fusion). All things will be necessary.

In Europe, the market share of diesel cars increased from 7% in 1980 to 17% in 1985 and 23% in 1995, due in part to lower diesel fuel taxes (Perkins, 1998) and More than 50% of new passenger vehicles registered in were diesels[2004].

Njal's Saga: Just like Romeo & Juliet without the romance
[ Parent ]

lol what (none / 1) (#136)
by some nerd on Wed Jun 07, 2006 at 06:47:51 AM EST

The research plants today already deliver more energy than they consume.

I would like this to be true, but am fairly certain that it isn't. Last I heard the equation was still significantly in the negative, although encouraging little breakthroughs keep being made.

--
Home Sweet Home

[ Parent ]

That's what I heard (none / 0) (#138)
by tetsuwan on Wed Jun 07, 2006 at 12:30:54 PM EST

It might be that the amount of useful energy output is still much lower than the input.

Njal's Saga: Just like Romeo & Juliet without the romance
[ Parent ]

Having said that (none / 0) (#139)
by some nerd on Wed Jun 07, 2006 at 06:27:59 PM EST

it's thought that part of the problem is that research reactors just aren't big enough, so ITER and its offspring should do considerably better. Certainly in theory we should be able to get plenty of energy out of fusion.

--
Home Sweet Home

[ Parent ]
you are a total dumbfuck (none / 1) (#127)
by fenix down on Sun Jun 04, 2006 at 08:02:44 PM EST

No reason we can't make a large-scale scrubber and suck that shit out of the atmosphere.

The United States, just the US, produced around 6 billion tons of carbon dioxide last year.  CO2 is the biggest problem and the easiest to "scrub".  You scrub it by exposing it to deadly caustic chemicals.  It's about a 5 pound filter to absorb 5 hours of CO2 from a diver breathing, then it's used up.

So basically to pull off your dumbshit idea, you'd need access to about 60 billion new tons of calcium hydroxide every year, forever, to cancel out the US's CO2 production.  And for it to work you'd need a few thousand square miles of empty ground that nobody minds you covering in a layer of a chemical that produces blindness-causing fumes and will render the land sterile for the next 500 years.

To fix it alltogether, you'd need about a quadrillion tons of Ca(OH)2 to cancel out what we've done so far, and then about a trillion tons a year after that.

If you're going to be a dork about this, try and stick to the "durr, let's stick a mirror the size of Utah at L-1" dumbfuckery.  At least that's a retarded waste of money that isn't physically impossible.

[ Parent ]

Not a skeptic, no (3.00 / 6) (#92)
by Coryoth on Tue May 30, 2006 at 05:12:24 PM EST

I wouldn't call you a climate change skeptic in the sense I used it in the article. I agree that the media presentation of climate change is often poor. There is, with the media, a tendency to lean toward the sensationalist and the extreme which sees a lot of things greatly overstated in their effort to "simplify". What should you be reading instead of popular media if you actually want information about climate change? The IPCC assessment reports are probably a good place to start. They largely contain the science, are far more measured and sensible than anything you'll see in popular media, and are scrupulously referenced allowing you to follow up on any points you wish. The IPCC Third Assessment Report is the latest, coming out in 2001. The Fourth Assessment Report is due in 2007.

To discuss some of your individual points:

1. The average temperature of the Earth is higher than it has been in recorded history, supplemented with ice core data and such going farther back. This is caused primarily by change in gas composition of the atmosphere.

As you note, given the current data this looks to be the most likely description. Things may change, but there has been a high degree of effort to try and confirm this with alternative data and cross checking, and it's looking fairly solid at this stage.

3. The rate of temperature increase is also increasing, perhaps even exponentially. Some people wish to show a 'hockey stick' graph to demostrate this.

I think it's debatable as to whether the rate of increase is rising (and actually whether the intention of the "hockey stick" was to show that, or whether it was merely to clearly show the increase). Certainly the rate of increase is dramatic. Arguments can certainly be made that the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide has, so far, been roughly exponential.

4. The economic and social benefits of this temperature increase are vastly outweighed by the drawbacks that would inevitably rise. While previous climatic warm periods have been marked by high agricultural productivity and societal progress in many places, particularly Western Europe, this current warming period will not do so.

I believe the issue here is one of the rate of increase, and the currently expansive and fixed infrastructure which will have to be adapted. If you want more detailed analysis of this I suggest you read through the IPCC TAR impacts report which has relatively careful analysis of these questions.

5. Global warming may trigger another ice age by disrupting the thermohaline circulation, particularly if a Canadian ice dam or two melt and dump fresh water into the north atlantic. This will cause Europe to become Arctic in climate. There will be bad effects worldwide as well.

This is something that has been oversold by the media, particularly films like "The Day After Tomorrow" and Kim Stanley Robinson's latest series of books. There is a real issue here - certainly it seems this has happened in the past. Whether current trends make it likely is not very clear. The IPCC TAR, for example, states that while most models show a weakening of thermohaline circulation by 2100, they rate it as low probability that it will actually shut down. There has also been a recent study with shows some evidence of a slow down, but it was largely preliminary and didn't contain enough data to make any truly conclusive statements.

6. Not only will global warming be bad for people, it will be bad for animals and plants as well. Any positive reports of populations of various species thriving and increasing due to recent warm spells are entirely isolated against a background of inevitable mass extinctions.

I would suggest you are rather overstating the case here. Certainly some flora and fauna will thrive in new conditions while others will not. Much of the risk is due to the rate of change and the sensitivity and adaptability of those being impacted. Given that there are already a large number of species that are endangered and hence far more sensitive to any adverse effects there is a real issue here. Life will undoubtedly continued in its many varied forms, but there is certainly a risk of extinctions exacerbated climate change, and significant changes as the ecological system finds new equilibria. The IPCC has only medium to low confidence in specific predictions regarding impacts on ecosystems.

7. Not only is this phenomenon marked by increasing temperatures, but by greater climactic variability. The Midwestern winter of 1993, which set 120 year records for cold where I was living and also gave me frostbite, is not in any way evidence against "global warming". Neither are other cold spells observed in any other time and place. In fact, "global warming" predicts more really cold winters as well as globally rising temperatures.

This one is, I agree, false. The IPCC specifically predicts decreased probability of extreme cold days. Significantly studies of variability showed no clear indications of increasing variability. Of course that doesn't mean that extreme cold days won't occur, just that they are less likely to occur. What should really be said is that a regional extreme, such as the winter of 1993 in the Midwest US, does not imply that global warming is not occurring. This has tended to be warped by uninformed "advocates" of global warming that extreme cold is a positive indication of global warming.

8. This phenomenon is almost entirely caused by human activity. The natural climate cycles of the Earth and Sun are dwarfed by the effects of human-caused carbon dioxide generation, methane from cattle herds, and other such emissions. No natural source of greenhouses past or present - such as volcanoes, or the great herds of buffalo which roamed the Great Plains for hundreds of millenia - compares to current emissions from human activity in effect.

Again, I think you are vastly overstating the case. The IPCC makes no claims of changes being a result of "almost entirely" human activity. Increased solar activity, for instance, is a not insignificant factor. A fuller tally of the various radiative forcings can be seen in this plot. Some human impacts are having a negative effect. The claim is not that human activity "completely dwarfs everything else", but simply that natural factors are insufficient to adequately explain the observed warming. This chart gives a simple overview, and is sufficiently well referenced that you can follow up the details if you care to. More detailed analysis summarising reasons for attribution are given in chapter 12 of WGI (Scientific Basis) of the IPCC TAR where several different methods were analysed.

9. This phenomenon could be mitigated, if not avoided, by a total dismantling of any industry reliant upon combustion of carbon. Some would also advocate elimination of sulfur oxides emission. Or even water emission. And get rid of the previously-mentioned cattle, just to be safe. We need to use birth control to reduce our population by a factor of 10, and adopt an all-natural subsistence lifestyle. Only than can the Earth heal, if at all, and it will be a slow process possibly outlasting the human species.

The only people claiming or proposing this are idiots. If you want to know what sorts are mitigation plans are on offer, along with analysis of various costs, and predicted degree of mitigation etc. then try the IPCC TAR WGIII (Mitigation). You'll find no such ridiculous scenarios offered - most everything is practical and pragmatic, and costs are carefully weighed.

[ Parent ]

sort of (none / 0) (#110)
by Eivind on Thu Jun 01, 2006 at 04:37:02 AM EST

I don't think anyone really believes your entire 1-9. So if that was required to not be a global warming skeptic, then we'd all be global-warming skeptics.

I think it goes more like this;

  1. Currently temperature is rising.
  2. As is the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
  3. The main factor in this rise is likely the changed atmosphere.
  4. Human activity is responsible for a large part of the changed atmosphere.
  5. A large change in temperature is likely to cause large problems.
  6. We can change our behaviour enough to if not avoid the problems, then atleast mitigate them enough that the win here is larger than what it costs us to change behaviour.

I think the last point is by far the least supported of these, I honestly don't really have an idea if that's true, nor how one would go about guesstimating the likeliness of it being true.

[ Parent ]

Just because something is a conspiracy theory (2.66 / 3) (#79)
by Hung Fu on Tue May 30, 2006 at 06:14:42 AM EST

does not mean that it is false. In fact, as someone else pointed out, the publicly accepted, mainstream theory of what happened on September 11 is a conspiracy theory too, i.e. that an international conspiracy of Islamic terrorists secretly plotted to destroy US landmarks. Of course this has been well proven by vast amounts of evidence, but just because it's true does not mean that it's not a conspiracy theory. Conspiring is just what people tend to do, it's part of human nature and is often a political or practical necessity. That's why we have laws against it. Of course, the belief in gigantic, all-encompassing conspiracy theories is a sign of mental illness, but that does not mean small-scale conspiracies never occur.

Indeed, the problem is that once conspiracy theories are publicly exposed and shown to be true, they are no longer recognized as conspiracy theories because of the negative connotations of the phrase itself. In the 20th century alone there have been hundreds of enormously important coverups that have been publicly uncovered, such as various war crimes, various contrived Casus Belli and unlawful commercial conspiracies (e.g. price fixing). But once they are made public, somehow they are no longer conspiracy theories!

Indeed the large amounts positive evidence for the dominant theory would stand as immediate refutation of any significant alternative theory,
If you consider the history of progress and science, this is a downright dangerous position to take. Just because the mainstream theory is probable does not mean that other possibilities should be "immediately refuted". There are many cases of scientific theories being dismissed because they challenged the well-supported dominant dogma, such as heliocentrism and plate tectonics. And as for the "minor points" look at Relativity - in the vast majority of cases Newtonian physics can provide a satisfactory model. Relativity is only necessary to explain extreme, minor cases. Yet Relativity is true and Newtonian physics is false.
As long as we give any time to the unreasoned arguments of conspiracy theorists (on either side) this reality will remain obscured.
If you actually know the facts (or you know someone who does) you should be able to argue against conspiracy theorists on a purely factual level without resorting to attacking a theory simply because it involves conspiracies.

__
From Israel To Lebanon
Eh? (2.00 / 3) (#80)
by stuaart on Tue May 30, 2006 at 07:06:39 AM EST

``Yet Relativity is true and Newtonian physics is false.''

Eh?

Linkwhore: [Hidden stories.] Baldrtainment: Corporate concubines and Baldrson: An Introspective


[ Parent ]
Say eh one more time motherfucker (1.60 / 5) (#82)
by Hung Fu on Tue May 30, 2006 at 08:05:23 AM EST

I dare you, no I double dare you.

__
From Israel To Lebanon
[ Parent ]
An explanation would be nice £ (none / 1) (#93)
by stuaart on Tue May 30, 2006 at 05:30:13 PM EST


Linkwhore: [Hidden stories.] Baldrtainment: Corporate concubines and Baldrson: An Introspective


[ Parent ]
perhaps you would care to explain... (2.50 / 2) (#103)
by a brief respite on Wed May 31, 2006 at 05:05:04 PM EST

...how newtonian physics is false? speaking as an engineering student, newtonian physics is perfectly valid in all the work that i do.

"[in London] the wrong babes were hidden in black hijabs and long robes on the streets and in the parks."
[ Parent ]

Newtonian physics is false (none / 1) (#112)
by Hung Fu on Thu Jun 01, 2006 at 11:05:31 AM EST

in as much as it differs from relativity, i.e. that it premits energy, matter and information to travel faster than the speed of light and in fact supposes that gravitational waves travel instantaneously.

It's a satisfactory approximation and a useful physical model under certain conditions but it's still false as a scientific theory.

/surprised that, of all things, I'm being called on this.

__
From Israel To Lebanon
[ Parent ]

you have a weird definition of "false" (2.00 / 3) (#113)
by a brief respite on Thu Jun 01, 2006 at 11:15:15 AM EST

under your definition, all numerical simulations are "false" because there is some amount of error, however small, implicit in the method.

"[in London] the wrong babes were hidden in black hijabs and long robes on the streets and in the parks."
[ Parent ]

Hypotheses non fingo (none / 0) (#128)
by Lode Runner on Sun Jun 04, 2006 at 09:05:22 PM EST

that's the real problem with Newtonian mechanics.

Oh, and all numerical simulations are artificial.

[ Parent ]

A bit of humor and ... (none / 1) (#100)
by icastel on Wed May 31, 2006 at 01:41:45 PM EST

... more.

Definition found in the Urban Dictionary:

Conspiracy Theory: two words which are uttered whenever anyone is getting too close to the truth.  This renders said person null and void and gives said person the appearance of a paranoid twat with a tinfoil hat regardless of what facts or evidence or actual proof they have."

Now, for the "more" part, I think you're just taking a very winding road to try to clarify what "conspiracy theory" means, but you're adding nothing of significance to the debate, just like this reply to your post.  In fact, I have a feeling you're just nit picking the author's points.


-- I like my land flat --
[ Parent ]

A professional Skeptic (3.00 / 3) (#81)
by brain in a jar on Tue May 30, 2006 at 07:25:47 AM EST

Michael Shermer, is a leading contributor to skeptic magazine, and writes a column of the same name in Scientific American.

This week he details how he has come from a position of skepticism to realising that climate change is a problem that cannot be ignored.

This is a big problem and we need to pull together.


Life is too important, to be taken entirely seriously.

who cares what Shermer thinks (3.00 / 2) (#83)
by minerboy on Tue May 30, 2006 at 10:04:16 AM EST

Wikipedia says "Michael Shermer received his bachelor's degree from Pepperdine University in 1976 in Psychology/Biology, his master's degree from California State University, Fullerton in Experimental Psychology two years later, and his Ph.D. from Claremont Graduate University in History of Science in 1991 (with a dissertation entitled "Heretic-Scientist: Alfred Russel Wallace and the Evolution of Man: A Study on the Nature of Historical Change")."

The guy has almost no scientific training, and the books that he says caused his epiphany are popular science books, not peer reviewed science - basically, he doesn't know shit from shinola about climate science, or even atmospheric chemistry. It is in fact people like Shermer, who have sensationalized the issue for their own personal gain, that are responsible for the problem.

So, what is his solution - cut back CO2 emmissions when the 3rd world population ballons, as does there desire for energy.



[ Parent ]
The solution (3.00 / 2) (#108)
by brain in a jar on Thu Jun 01, 2006 at 01:46:16 AM EST

is, as you say to cut back on CO2 emissions. We are still at the point where the marginal cost of emissions reductions are rather small. I can buy enough carbon emission permits to cover all my emissions, direct and indirect, for a year for a paltry 100 USD.

The cost of cutting CO2 emissions is simply nowhere near as high as you seem to think it is.

On the issue of the emissions of developing coutries, in the short run we can support technology transfer schemes which help them to move to using more efficient technologies sooner (green development mechanism). In the long run we have to recognise that the planet has a limited capacity to absorb CO2 emissions and the only fair way to divide up that capacity in the long run is to share it equally on a per capita basis.

Clearly the growing population of the developing world is creating an increased demand for resources, including the assimilative capacity of the environment for pollutants, but it will not continue to grow forever. The more we help the developing world to achieve higher standards of living, health and education and enhance the freedom enjoyed by the women of the developing world the sooner the shift toward steady population sizes will occur.

There is much to be done and saying that nothing can, or should, be done is not going to get us anywhere.


Life is too important, to be taken entirely seriously.
[ Parent ]

Rather be warm and rich than cool and poor (none / 0) (#87)
by freakazoid on Tue May 30, 2006 at 02:15:26 PM EST

I'd rather be warm and rich than a little bit cooler and poor. I'd rather see the poor people who would be affected by global warming if it really exists get richer through economic development and unfettered trade so if they need to they can move or build levies or whatever. And most of all, if you really trust governments to implement a solution to global warming without making things worse, you live in a fantasy world.


No Yuo (3.00 / 3) (#109)
by brain in a jar on Thu Jun 01, 2006 at 02:01:13 AM EST

Abatement costs are nothing like as high as you think (I can buy a year's worth of carbon credits for 99USD) and secondly we are not talking about a bit warmer, we are talking about climate change.

change is good, I hear you say. But climate change basically sucks, changed patterns of rainfall means areas that used to be good for farming may become pretty hopeless. Sure, other areas will get better but there is no guarantee that the people will be able to get to said areas easily. Not only that buy consider the number of cities that are coastal, and not just cities but rich productive farmland e.g. about a third of the country of bangladesh floods on a regular basis as it is, even an extra meter of sea level rise would be catastrophic and they cannot realistically build levees around their whole coastline, especially when most of the country is on the delta of a huge river that gets even bigger every monsoon season.

You overestimate the costs of limiting emissions and underestimate the benefits.


Life is too important, to be taken entirely seriously.
[ Parent ]

carbon dioxide pollution abatement technology (none / 0) (#94)
by guidoreichstadter on Tue May 30, 2006 at 07:58:57 PM EST

a note on piping CO2 emissions from power plants through algae farms


you are human:
no masters,
no slaves.
If it works, that's a really great idea!. (none / 0) (#102)
by tetsuwan on Wed May 31, 2006 at 02:53:41 PM EST


Njal's Saga: Just like Romeo & Juliet without the romance
[ Parent ]

OK, fine. (none / 0) (#97)
by Entendre Entendre on Wed May 31, 2006 at 01:15:08 AM EST

"We'll grow oranges in Canada."

--
Reduce firearm violence: aim carefully.

We do (none / 0) (#107)
by Phil Urich on Thu Jun 01, 2006 at 01:11:37 AM EST

You should visit some place like Penticton sometime.  The Okanagan Valley in general is quite nice.

Now, where I live in Canada is less so . . . but that's another story.  I live far enough north in Canada that Canadians use my city in jokes about being really far north.

[ Parent ]

holy crap (none / 0) (#118)
by Entendre Entendre on Fri Jun 02, 2006 at 03:25:59 AM EST

Growing oranges in canada is interesting and all, but what really blew me away was searching Google for the source of the "we'll grow oranges in canada" quote, and finding this.

I had no idea Google was that fast.

--
Reduce firearm violence: aim carefully.
[ Parent ]

I missed this completely in voting (none / 0) (#111)
by The Diary Section on Thu Jun 01, 2006 at 10:45:39 AM EST

but well done Coryoth, this is an excellently written and very timely article. It says a few things I've always thought but never could quite articulate. Thanks.
Spend 10 minutes in the company of an American and you end up feeling like a Keats or a Shelley: Thin, brilliant, suave, and desperate for industrial-scale quantities of opium.
You've put it backwards (none / 0) (#124)
by trhurler on Sun Jun 04, 2006 at 02:38:32 AM EST

The arguments of climate change proponents bear a striking resemblence to those of religious zealots. They insist that "everyone" believes "this," without carefully defining "this." They ignore the plethora of reasons to doubt, and insist that because lots of talking heads say so, therefore "all real scientists believe that..."

Here are the reasons I'm not convinced manmade emissions are changing the climate:

1) If you read studies instead of listening to assholes who are paid to claim the sky is falling, you find out that there is known systemic and random error in most of the studies which is larger than the variation they claim to detect. Weather stations placed just above black asphalt surfaces in the desert, equipment that doesn't read consistently, and so on are quite common.

2) If you listen carefully to the more honest and less hype-machine scientists, you find out that while they're convinced the planet is warming, they cannot say what causes it.

3) We know there are naturally occurring climate cycles, but in addition to not knowing the period or magnitude of the ones we DO know of with any precision, we are quite certain that we have not done enough research to be sure we are even aware of all of them. This means without qualification that we don't know why the planet is warming, assuming it is(which it probably is.)

4) All our best climate models, all our best theorizing, all our best minds - all of them cannot even begin to understand the impact of clouds on our climate. We know that water (which clouds are composed of,) is a FAR more potent greenhouse cause than carbon dioxide. We know that there is far more water in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, and has been for practically ever. We know that warming by ANY means causes a rise in water vapor in the atmosphere, which probably creates a vicious circle of rising temperature. But we can't say for sure any details. In other words, it is entirely possible that a small variation in temperature caused by some other means is spiralling upward without our help at all.

5) Our computer models have so many free variables (in this case, variables we just don't have the body of research to accurately determine,) that you can produce "valid" looking input data that results in any output ranging from a new ice age all the way to boiling the atmosphere off and killing our entire biosphere. And yet morons claim these models are "predictive."

But of course, despite all these known facts, every "right thinking" person KNOWS we're warming the planet, right?

Idiot.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

nice try. (3.00 / 2) (#130)
by tetsuwan on Mon Jun 05, 2006 at 04:50:42 AM EST


Njal's Saga: Just like Romeo & Juliet without the romance
[ Parent ]

Thanks for making my point (none / 0) (#134)
by trhurler on Wed Jun 07, 2006 at 02:07:05 AM EST

The one about religious beliefs. :)

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Thanks for adding random bullshit (none / 0) (#135)
by tetsuwan on Wed Jun 07, 2006 at 03:01:40 AM EST

to the discussion. We/ve discussed this before, and you haven/t got an argument.

Njal's Saga: Just like Romeo & Juliet without the romance
[ Parent ]

Actually, (none / 0) (#140)
by trhurler on Thu Jun 08, 2006 at 08:23:29 PM EST

We discussed this before, and you dismissed the facts out of hand with statements like "all reasonable people believe..." and "everybody knows ..." and my personal favorite, "you're just wrong."

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
I'll get back to you with more hadrcore arguments (none / 0) (#141)
by tetsuwan on Fri Jun 09, 2006 at 04:18:22 AM EST

When I've discussed this with my best friends brother, who actually works in this field. But then again, I shouldn't bother, because all climate scientists who disagree with you are dishonest and incompetent, right?

Njal's Saga: Just like Romeo & Juliet without the romance
[ Parent ]

I'm Not convinced. (none / 1) (#137)
by brain in a jar on Wed Jun 07, 2006 at 08:00:54 AM EST

1). As far as I know this is largely a solved problem, if you have any peer reviewed references that say otherwise please share.

2)So, the scientists that happen to agree with your point of view are "the more honest ones", way to ignore that which you don't want to here.

3) We do have a fairly good handle on natural cycles, the e.g. the milankovic cycles, the el nino, the sunspot cycle and secondly this argument is dangerously close to being a false dichotomy. The presence of natural cycles doesn't do anything to disprove the presence of human induced climate change, human induced climate change, if present, will coexist with any other causes of climate change which are present. Also, while it may be difficult to say with certainty whether the current variation is being driven largely by CO2, we can be pretty sure that changing atmospheric CO2 will influence the climate due to its physical properties (there is no doubt that it absorbs infrared radiation) and the geological record of temperature and CO2 data (ice cores, coral records, tree rings etc.)

4&5)Yes there is uncertainty in climate models, but they are by no means capable of producing arbitrary results, because before they are used to do any forecasting they have to show that they can reproduce present and past climates when given the current or historical values of the imput parameters. Now extrapolation to a system with changed conditions i.e. higher pCO2, does create more uncertainty (and the scientists are very open about this, which is why fairly large ranges are given in the plots from the IPCC) but the uncertainty is to how much climate change, not whether it is present at all.

Essentially your arguments are along the line of, we can't be sure that climate change is occuring hence we should do nothing. This is only valid if we assume that all of the uncertainty is likely to result in reductions in the observed extent of climate change, which is unreasonable. Uncertainty cuts both ways, the problem could be much less severe than currently predicted, but it could also be much worse.

Secondly, given what we know about the physical properties of CO2, our default expectation should be that increasing the atmospheric concentration will have some kind of effect on climate. Although the extent of the effect is uncertain, knowing what we know it would be downright strange if it had no effect.

The big problem with this debate is that the debate on the science almost always ends up being a debate about policy by proxy. Underlying, the debate about data, models and evidence is an ideological debate. I tend to feel that those who argue that climate change isn't happening or isn't a problem are either in denial or corporate shills and you tend to feel that climate scientists and the media are a bunch of cruchy granola wannabe technocrats who are trying to mess with your lifestyle and find an excuse for the big government and UN interventionism that they have wanted all along.

Everyone involved has to try and see past their respective prejudices and hopefully find out what, if anything is going on, and decide what, if anything is to be done.


Life is too important, to be taken entirely seriously.
[ Parent ]

Excellent set of citations there. (none / 0) (#142)
by The Diary Section on Tue Jun 13, 2006 at 04:56:23 AM EST

Retard.
Spend 10 minutes in the company of an American and you end up feeling like a Keats or a Shelley: Thin, brilliant, suave, and desperate for industrial-scale quantities of opium.
[ Parent ]
Sweet! (none / 0) (#126)
by A synx on Sun Jun 04, 2006 at 05:02:36 PM EST

Best article on climate change ever!  I agree it is pretty stunning how fabricated an issue it is, when you look at how 100% of peer reviewed journals agree we're causing global warming by producing large amounts of greenhouse gasses, and how about 50% of mainstream sensationalist publications, the ones dependant on advertising and readership, agree and 50% disagree.  Something like those figures, a ridiculous disparity.  And what a great article to write for the coming of summer!  We'll have the next 4 or 5 months to cook in this heat contemplating your very careful assertions.  Kuro5hin once again proves itself better than any corporate newspaper or television news channel.  Not that that's hard to do...

Simple solution. (none / 0) (#143)
by Stickerboy on Fri Jun 16, 2006 at 03:45:01 AM EST

Plant a billion trees.

Seriously.

There is global warming occurring.  Man is dumping record levels of CO2 into the atmosphere; atmospheric CO2 levels are significantly rising, and CO2 is a significant greenhouse gas.  What level manmade CO2 is contributing to global warming is still up in the air.

All I hear from the left is "cut emissions, cut emissions, cut emissions", which, honestly, sounds a lot like the right on AIDS education: "don't have sex, don't have sex, don't have sex".

In either case, a political special-interest group is trying to push onto society their own little version of utopian ideals by scaring you (puritanism or treehugging).  And in either case, it just doesn't work.  People are gonna fuck no matter what you tell them.  And people are gonna drive the vehicles they can afford no matter what you tell them.

In the case of AIDS education, distributing condoms and educating about their use is a proven, workable strategy on cutting down the sexual transmission of HIV.  In the case of CO2, we need to look into ways to either A) cut emissions significantly and with little economic pain (doesn't exist... yet) or B) increase the number of carbon sinks.  Which means... trees.

The United States spends a billion dollars a month funding the Iraq war.  I think we can swing a few billion to plant a hell of a lot of young trees that soak up a lot of CO2.  And the drawback is... prettier scenery?  What if every nation did this?  At the worst, the world would look nicer.  At the best, the CO2 levels would go down appreciably, and we can waste a lot of time arguing whether or not it was actually due to the global tree-planting campaign.  

Problems (none / 0) (#145)
by brain in a jar on Mon Jun 19, 2006 at 06:52:13 AM EST

Trees don't take CO2 up indefinitely, so it only delays the need to switch technologies and reduce emissions.

Secondly, even the planting trees thing is more complicated than you might think. Soils, especially grassland or wetland ones, store a lot of carbon and that carbon tends to be released if you change the land use to forest. So it is possible to increase CO2 levels by planting trees in the wrong place.

It would be great if this problem was a simple as you imply, but it just ain't so.


Life is too important, to be taken entirely seriously.
[ Parent ]

Greenland (none / 0) (#144)
by jd on Sat Jun 17, 2006 at 10:37:05 PM EST

The name was a fabvrication by Erik the Red - a person so nausiating that even the Vikings kicked him out as a waste of space. It was an early piece of spin that had no bearing on reality.

It must also have been prior to 1000 CE, as it was the staging post for Leif Erikkson's voyage to Newfoundland which is an old saga indeed.

It is worth noting that the entire civilization froze to death around 1200 CE. Not a single survivor remained alive. The modern population is a much later colonization.

Climate Change Versus Loose Change | 144 comments (127 topical, 17 editorial, 0 hidden)
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