Turtles all the way down

One of the favorite claims of ‘skeptics’ — and I’m growing more and more hesitant about using that term without scary quotes because there just doesn’t seem to be any real ones around, at least as far as I can see — is that NASA or NOAA or CRU or other climate researchers selectively alter the temperature record in order to create an artificial warming trend in the data — to confirm their bias, get more $$ and research grants, implement the global socialist government, invoke Satan — whatever.

 

Now, I admit that for a while there, when the CRU emails were first unleashed unto the world, I was seriously considering a skeptical turn. However, I’ve tried to spend the last couple of months peering into the claims and research as best I can as a layperson in order to judge if this skeptical bent is warranted. I’ve not been a nice girl about it. I’ve tended to be quite skeptical of the s0-called skeptics, and I’m sure I’d never be invited to one of Mosher’s dinner parties, but I do feel far better acquainted with the whole debate than I was previously. And as I have indicated lately, I’m feeling better and better about my skeptics skepticism. I’ve seen far too much bad science, junk science, innuendo and smear, deliberate misrepresentation of facts for me to feel comfortable in that camp.

The latest bit of skeptical science of which to be skeptical happens to be a paper I’ve come across before — the Watts and D’Aleo paper “Surface Temperature Records: Policy Driven Deception?“. A while back, Ron Cram pointed me to this paper.

Here’s the exchange:

Susann,

Your second unexamined and unnamed pillar I described as:

2. Surface temperature records accurately reflect warming without any unwarranted or unjustified adjustments to the raw data.

Again, if you reject this pillar, just let me know.

This pillar is having more trouble again yesterday. Have you seen this? http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/01/26/new-paper-on-surface-temperature-records/

Perhaps you will need to turn your attention to criticizing Anthony Watts, Joseph D’Aleo and E.M. Smith.

D’Aleo and Watts wrote a nice Summary for Policymakers on page 4. You might want to start with that to see if any of your pillars might be shaken.

Comment by Ron Cram — January 27, 2010 @ 8:37 amEdit This

Ron, I perused Watt and D’Aleo paper — it does not meet the standard I would expect for a scientific paper — it’s a lot of opinion without much fact backing it up and it was published by a clearly global warming skeptic organization on which D’Aleo is a member.

In the first section on the temperature record, there is referenced Pilke Sr. paper and “Klotzbach et al” which is a paper co-authored by — wait for it — Pilkes Sr. and Jr. and Christy. Which was pretty much trashed by Gavin Schmidt.

It cites blog posts, editorials in clearly skeptic / denialist media. It quotes non-peer reviewed papers published by skeptical orgs.

It’s not science, unless a parody of it. It’s opinion masquerading as science that will fool only the ignorant and gullible.

It’s embarrassing that you’re using this as evidence of anything.

Comment by shewonk — January 29, 2010 @ 6:31 pm

This paper got some legs in denialist and other circles, including a number of television and blog stories indicting NOAA in fraud.  Here is D’Aleo in a paper published at IceCap:

NOAA is seriously complicit in data manipulation and fraud. After the Climategate emails were leaked, the East Anglia Hadley Centre has been the focus for data obstruction, destruction and manipulation issues and Phil Jones has temporarily stepped aside during a three year investigation as director of the Hadley Climatic Research Unit (CRU) until the completion of an independent Review resulting from allegations of inappropriate scientific conduct.

John Coleman at KUSI News has a one hour broadcast on global warming in which these allegations were repeated, prompting this statement and response from NASA’s James Hansen:

NASA has issued the following statement in response to the KUSI Special Report. This statement is from Dr. James Hansen, Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City:

“NASA has not been involved in any manipulation of climate data used in the annual GISS global temperature analysis. The analysis utilizes three independent data sources provided by other agencies. Quality control checks are regularly performed on that data. The analysis methodology as well as updates to the analysis are publicly available on our website. The agency is confident of the quality of this data and stands by previous scientifically based conclusions regarding global temperatures.” (GISS temperature analysis website: http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/)

Not being a scientist, I was unable to do an adequate refutation of the paper based on its science — or lack thereof. But now, Tamino over at Open Mind has done it for us non-competents titled “Dropouts“, and I am pleased to see that Zeke Hausfather has also done one at the Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media.

Tamino’s post covers many issues raised in the W&D paper, but here’s the one I want to focus on.  It’s based on the claim in the paper that there was a wholesale attempt to deceive the public on the part of NOAA and GHCN by removing a number of stations post 1990 — stations that were rural and thus, “colder” or so they claim.  Note: this is not just “perhaps they did” – it’s a blatant accusation of fraud.

Here’s Watts and D’Aleo:

Around 1990, NOAA began weeding out more than three-quarters of the climate measuring stations around the world. They may have been working under the auspices of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). It can be shown that they systematically and purposefully, country by country, removed higher-latitude, higher-altitude and rural locations, all of which had a tendency to be cooler.

The thermometers were marched towards the tropics, the sea, and airports near bigger cities. These data were then used to determine the global average temperature and to initialize climate models. Interestingly, the very same stations that have been deleted from the world climate network were retained for computing the average-temperature base periods, further increasing the bias towards overstatement of warming by NOAA.

What does Tamino find in his analysis of the data?

…it’s the cold stations which show more global warming over the last century+, while the hotter stations show less.

This belies the claim that favoring hot stations over cold ones will inflate the global average temperature anomaly to create false warming. There’s absolutely no reason that using cold or hot stations would bias the trend, unless one or the other tends to have a greater or lesser trend. And the available evidence is that it’s the cold stations which will show more warming — so biasing the sample in favor of hot rather than cold stations will, if anything, tend to underestimate the global warming trend.

D’Aleo and Watts are dead wrong about NOAA undertaking any effort to control which stations are included in the GHCN and which are not. They’re dead wrong about NOAA even being able to do so. They’re dead wrong about “The number of stations that dropped out tended to be disproportionally rural.” And they are dead wrong about the idea that favoring hot rather than cold stations will introduce a warm bias into the global temperature anomaly record.

So I have to wonder, once again: are they counting on the fact that readers are too lazy or stupid to find out the truth? Or do they really not get it themselves?

Here’s Zeke over at the Yale Forum:

There is no significant difference between the temperature from discontinuous and continuous stations, suggesting that there was no purposeful or selective “dropping” of stations to bias the data. If anything, discontinuous stations have a slightly higher trend over the century than continuous stations. This result strongly suggests that the discontinuity in station data results from having inadequate resources to gather those records, rather than from some pernicious plot to exaggerate warming trends.

He concludes:

After examining the evidence, there seems little indication that either the discontinuities in recent records from many GHCN stations or the adjustments made to the raw data have any substantive effects on global temperature trends. The accusations by D’Aleo and Smith aired as part of the KUSI “The Other Side” broadcast seem to be mostly unfounded, and certainly do not justify the seriousness of their allegations.

Creating global temperature records is no simple task, and the process might not always be pretty. But there is no evidence of major methodological problems that would compromise the validity of the records, and certainly no evidence of deliberate manipulation.

If so-called skeptic papers can be so full of dreck as Tamino and Zeke have shown, who can believe anything either of them write any longer?  They either don’t know what they’re doing or don’t care or both.

I can’t believe they can get away with making such claims about NOAA and the scientists who work there. The only reason their dreck gets any traction is that laypeople are just not able to see through their deception / stupidity or whatever it is – or they don’t care to try because the message sits right with their personal biases.

Shameful. I’d be embarrased to align myself with such people and I’d be damn angry that they give the term “skepticism” such a bad name.

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32 Responses to “Turtles all the way down”

  1. Add another gem from Watts and D’Aleo deconstructed by Tamino:
    http://tamino.wordpress.com/2010/02/15/summer-and-smoke/

    If they were scientists, I would have sent a complaint of serious scientific misconduct to their university.

    Somehow I doubt that these examples make Ron Cram change his views of Watts (and, by proxy, Pielke Sr, who keeps on feeding Watts).

  2. Also worth reading is John Nielsen-Gammon, especially for his dry wit:

    http://tinyurl.com/ykfy8aa

    …and do remember to read to the end 😉

  3. Susann,
    I suppose I should not be surprised that your find the defenses put forward by Tamino and Zeke as convincing. I do not.

    Formerly, those in tamino’s camp said Smith was wrong about stations being dropped from the calculations. Now tamino is admitting there are fewer stations, but he is claiming it was not done intentionally. He is also claiming the dropped stations would have showed more warming if they had been retained.

    I cannot say I am convinced by Tamino’s arguments. I cannot help but wonder if Tamino would release his data, methods and code he used to create these figures. If he will not, then Tamino is a pseudoscientist and not a scientist.

    • Ron, I think the issue is that W&D allege, accuse and assert that NOAA “dropped” station data deliberately to create a false warming trend.

      A bit of research shows that this is not the case. Here’s an interesting source: Ross McKitrick, An Economists Perspective on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol:

      Equally problematic is the collapse that occurred around 1990 in the number of climate monitoring
      stations around the world. Figure 2 (Peterson and Vose 1997) shows the numbers for the Global
      Historical Climatology Network (GHCN), graphed in terms of the number of stations with at least 10
      years of reliable data (a) and the corresponding geographical coverage (b). In the early 1990s, the collapse
      of the Soviet Union and the budget cuts in many OECD economies led to a sudden sharp drop in the
      number of active weather stations.

      Here’s an article about the loss of weather station data due to government cutbacks in 1995 in Canada. Here’s Susan Rowntree in the Times Colonist on why there were so few stations reporting:

      During the 1995 federal government cuts, as an Environment Canada scientist, I was ordered to provide station data in order to cut up to 70 per cent of our hydrological inland water stations for B.C.

      This was just part of cutting lighthouses, weather stations, hydrological stations and networks, etc.

      Simultaneously, 40,000 federal engineers and scientists were laid off by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien.

      Environment Canada research was deliberately decimated, data collection was to stop and future research was only to use old stale data.

      What Rowntree fails to reveal is that this budget cutting exercise hit many government ministries including health, where I work. We are still trying to recover from those 1990 budget cuts. According to budget documents from 1995, the budget cut some departments by 50% and reduced the public service by 45,000 positions over three years.

      You see, I don’t get some right-wing conservative and libertarians — they complain that government is too big and demand cuts, but when those cuts lead to a reduction in services, then they face the fallout which was, in this case, fewer weather stations, water stations and stations to measure ice, fewer scientists to measure them and less reporting.

      It seems that the “skeptic” take is that the Prime Minister cut Environment Canada’s budget on purpose so they would have to cut out all the “cold” stations, and thus would make it appear as if Canada were warming.

      Horsehockey. The feds cut $25 billion dollars from the budget and Environment Canada was but one department, losing $250M or 31% over three years. They cut rural stations, stations that were hard to service or keep operating.

      Tamino is asserting that in fact NOAA did not “drop” anything, let alone deliberately. Many researchers have commented on the drop in stations in the 1990s during the global recession and many national budget crunches. What Tamino has shown is that those cuts did not artificially “warm” the record.

      Give up this lie.

      • “What Ross McKitrick fails to reveal is that this budget cutting exercise hit many government ministries including health, where I work.”

        do you mean Susan Rowntree? From the RM quote you provided, while he doesn’t talk about other areas of cuts (not surprising given the topic/title of the paper), it’s clear that the collapse of the Soviet Union and budget cuts in OECD economies are the reasons, and one would expect those same cuts to affect other parts of governments as well (definitely inferred by how he phrases his comment). There isn’t a sense that he is claiming weather station cuts were made by climatologist trying to limit data or that governments cut stations in a deliberate attempt to skew data a specific way (which explains your use of him as a source for you reply). RM is just making a factual statement — budget cuts led to fewer weather stations. So I’m not sure why the dig of “fails to reveal”.

        Susan Rowntree on the other hand does assign bad intent to the actions in her claim that Environment Canada was “deliberately decimated”. I’d imagine it was, but more because politicos don’t really appreciate/value the sciences (or in your case, health services) not as some conspiratorial attempt to limit data. The “fails to reveal” could be applicable to her comment, as her column can be seen to imply that it was only Environment Canada that was targeted.

        • Sorry, it should be in reference to Rowntree, who does not make it clear that the budget cuts affected the entire government, not just environment and that the cuts were likely not designed to decimate environment but to get a better credit rating… I’ve edited accordingly.

          McKitrick does not suggest in this paper that the reduction in the number of stations was done on purpose. Other deniers and contrarians did that for him. However, he does suggest that it biases the record such that we cannot trust it.

          Heck — he denies that we can really even talk about average global temperature! Luckily, over at Deltoid, his paper was pretty much shredded.

          Some “skeptics” in the wake of his paper have used his words to justify arguing that the temperature record is biased because it lost a bunch of stations and thus it is not reliable. Once again, Deltoid does us all a service in addressing it.

          Another group, like D’Aleo and Watts, outright charge that the stations were cut purposely to create an artificial warming in the record.

          McK is seen as a credible authority because he is a PhD in Economics and does econometrics, which I suppose is the closest the dismal science of economics can get to real science, although even then one thinks of spurious correlations…

          But I digress.

      • Susann,
        I am referring to claims made by some in Tamino’s camp that Smith was wrong about stations not being used. For example, if you go onto GISS site and can find data for certain stations, one would expect those stations to be used in the calculations. It appears Smith learned some of them are not used. From my reading of Tamino, he is not challenging this part of Smith’s story. Am I correct about this or not?

    • Ron, another lie from your side. Those ‘in Tamino’s camp’ did not claim no stations were ‘dropped’. They argued against the supposed *willful* removal of stations. And rightfully so.

      Of course, Tamino describes exactly what he does, and others corroborate his findings, so you could easily repeat his excercise. Why don’t you, Ron? Why don’t Watts, D’Aleo or Smith do it? That’s right: because they *know* it does not show what they want. Just see their cherry picking regarding Central England Temperatures (My first comment on this thread). Lying bastards is the only proper term for these guys, and you are their “useful idiot”.

      • Marco, I am busy running a business. I do not have the time or the expertise to check these things out for myself. I thought D’Aleo did check them out and convinced Watts.

        The fact Dr. Nielsen-Gammon has checked out Smith’s analysis and found it wanting means Smith has probably made some mistakes. The fact Tamino criticized Smith does not matter to me at all. Tamino has made too many mistakes for his word to carry much weight with me.

        See below.

        • You don’t have the time and expertise, and yet put credibility on people who are shown time after time to have none. And you attack those that *do* have credibility with loads of handwaving (“Tamino has made too many mistakes”: such as?).

          What I just realised is that you put credibility on John Nielsen-Gammon mostly because he has published with Pielke Sr. His criticism isn’t different from hosts of others, but *his* criticism you accept as credible, while you were waving away any prior criticisms. It’s telling, very telling.

  4. “I’ve tended to be quite skeptical of the s0-called skeptics,”

    If only more “skeptics” were…

    There are some psychological factors at play.

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/The-Dunning-Kruger-effect-and-the-climate-debate.html

    The latest Watts/D’Aleo claims are garbage – meant for a political audience. If such a demand didn’t exist, such claims would survive a minute.

    “Shameful. I’d be embarrased to align myself with such people and I’d be damn angry that they give the term “skepticism” such a bad name.”

    I hope these concerns are expressed to Pielke Sr., a scientist who has recently tainted his once decent reputation by aligning himself with Watts, presumably to get his recent shaky work promoted.

  5. I have posted a comment on EM Smith’s Musings from the Chiefio blog asking him to defend his work against the attack by Tamino. My comment is still awaiting moderation.

    It seems the Texas State Climatologist, Prof. John Nielsen-Gammon from Texas A&M, also criticized Smith’s work. You can read his critique at http://www.chron.com/commons/readerblogs/atmosphere.html?plckController=Blog&plckBlogPage=BlogViewPost&newspaperUserId=54e0b21f-aaba-475d-87ab-1df5075ce621&plckPostId=Blog%3a54e0b21f-aaba-475d-87ab-1df5075ce621Post%3a316fd156-fbba-46b0-b3ec-a6748f70d579&plckScript=blogScript&plckElementId=blogDest

    It may be Smith has misunderstood exactly what is going on. Prof. Nielsen-Gammon is an honest guy and issued a correction when he learned he had made a mistake in his earlier statements about Smith’s work. That earns a lot of points with me.

    We shall see how Smith responds. It is my view we still do not have a reliable surface temp record even if Smith’s analysis is incorrect. I say this because the disagreement between the surface temps, the satellite record and ocean heat content is too great.

    • I probably should have pointed out that Dr. Nielsen-Gammon is one of many co-authors with Roger Pielke Sr on the paper “Documentation of Uncertainties and Biases Associated with Surface Temperature Measurement Sites for Climate Change Assessment.”
      See http://geotest.tamu.edu/userfiles/222/biases.pdf

      I point this out so you will know Dr. N-G is not necessarily a huge fan of Hansen. He is just an honest scientist. I wish there were more like him.

      • This whole debate is getting more and more interesting. Smith has responded on his website that Dr. Nielsen-Gammon is wrong and he has closed any more discussion of N-G because he wants to publish in a journal.

        Also, my comment regarding Tamino did not make it through moderation. Evidently he does not consider Tamino worth discussing. But if Smith hopes to publish, he is going to have to deal with the objections of Tamino – similar to how a salesman has to predict what objections may come up and handle those objections during the presentation.

        I am convinced of one thing. This is not some kind of attempt to deceive. Smith is convinced his work is correct. It is going to be very embarrassing for him if he is wrong. Time will tell because the truth will out.

  6. I’m beginning to have a hard time keeping all the players straight. We should probably have something like baseball cards for the climate debate. They could have pictures of the different players, which team they play for, or have played for if they’ve switched sides, and when they moved from one team to another, etc. 😉

    shewonk wrote (as part of the exchange with Ron Cram):

    “In the first section on the temperature record, there is referenced Pilke Sr. paper and “Klotzbach et al” which is a paper co-authored by — wait for it — Pilkes Sr. and Jr. and Christy. Which was pretty much trashed by Gavin Schmidt.”

    I know there is much disrespect here for non-scientist skeptics, deniers, and contrarians. Fair enough. But I’m not sure where the disrespect comes from for the Klotzbach paper or some of the authors. I’d remind folks that it’s published in the AGU’s Journal of Geophysical Research, not exactly a minor publication for shoddy work that can’t make it elsewhere. Here’s a copy that I found, so you can read it:

    http://pielkeclimatesci.files.wordpress.com/2009/11/r-345.pdf

    Since shewonk dismisses the paper as being trashed by Gavin Schmidt, I went to read his comments on it:

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/11/muddying-the-peer-reviewed-literature/

    The second comment on the blog is from Pielke, Jr. with a link to his response to Gavin’s blog:

    http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2009/11/response-to-gavin-schmidt-on-klotzbach.html

    There is some additional comments/replies between Pielke, Sr. and Schmidt:

    http://pielkeclimatesci.wordpress.com/2009/11/12/comments-on-gavin-schmidts-statement-regarding-the-paper-klotzbach-et-al-2009/

    I’m not sure that GS “trashed” or even really rebutted the Klotzbach, et al paper. I guess that’s a matter of interpretation. I’m pretty sure in the world of science, with its value on the peer-reviewed literature, etc., that Gavin’s comments on his blog, while informed, are not the definitive word on the value or robustness of the Klotzbach paper. The authors are certainly within their rights to claim that his comments don’t affect their conclusions. I’m sure the JGR would be more than happy to publish Gavin’s comments on the paper. Then the interested scientists, with the most relevant experience and knowledge, can weigh in.

    Not to mention that this scientific spat is really over a rather minor little issue in the larger scheme of things (and seems to be less about the science and more about Gavin and Roger Jr not liking each other). Pielke, Jr, when talking of the paper, is quite clear that the paper assumes global mean temperatures are rising, that the likely cause is anthropogenic greenhouse gases. Everyone, including Gavin, agrees that there are statistically significant differences in the lower tropospheric and surface temperature trends. From Pielke, Jr’s post on Gavin’s blog (from Jr’s site w/o GS comments):

    “Our paper depends upon a warming trend accompanied by increasing greenhouse gas concentrations. It is perfectly consistent with anthropogenic greenhouse warming (in fact it depends on it), and may suggest a mechanism for better reconciling divergent temperature trends at the surface and lower troposphere (See Urs Neu above at #43). The details will be worked out in the literature and our work is certainly not the last word. That is how the peer review process works. I hope that Gavin does submit a comment as that is how science works. ”

    Seems like pretty normal science operating as pretty normal science. There’s even the admission that “our work is certainly not the last word.” I believe somewhere else, Roger Jr made the comment that some of Gavin’s points are valid and would be a good topic for another paper (just that his points weren’t really relevant to the current paper).

    The only issue here that I see is that it got quoted by and is being used in the D’Aleo/Watts paper. Whatever issues there are with that paper (I haven’t bothered to read the paper, don’t plan on reading it, and only casually read shewonk’s critique of it) and however they are using/misusing the Klotzbach paper, those are really separate from the Klotzbach paper itself.

    Perhaps I’ve missed the memo, but it appears some scientists get a pass and some don’t. And it doesn’t appear to be based on their acceptance of warming trends and AGW. Clearly I’m missing something.

    • More Klotzbach:
      http://julesandjames.blogspot.com/2009/11/klotzbach-ad-nauseam-2009.html

      A problem is that Pielke Sr has been much more dismissive than Pielke Jr in accepting the criticism (but the latter apparently not really understanding the impact).

      It *is* odd that they changed the Lin et al interpretation (but only half-hearted, see James Annan’s criticism), but did nothing with Gavin’s correction, which came earlier.

      A small issue, indeed, but a similar small issue in another paper was enough to get a congressional hearing…

  7. You would think that given the importance of this debate–all life on Earth depends on us getting it right…The possible extinction of half of all species and the end of civilization would require that before we spent tens of trillions of dollars to alter the climate with unpredictable consequences that we might spend a few tens of million to get the T-data, meta-data and code sorted out properly.

    You know, just to double check that the apocalypse is really on the admittedly somewhat dodgy CRU/IPCC schedule as promised.

    Hey, Phil admits he can’t even find some of the data anymore. Ethically, can we bet the lives of billions on sloppy science, whether from the CRU or the skeptics?

    After all, it’s a zero sum game, people.

    Should we do a global ETS with near zero global growth, retarding development at this technological level in the third world, 100’s of millions will die and billions continue to live in extreme poverty over the next half century. These are people within reach of some of what you already have–plentiful food, clean water, electricity, a few appliances and broadband to post whiny comments on clueless blogs.

    So are you willing to bet the lives of billions that the “science is settled” and the “debate is over?” That there is “no room for growth” on planet Earth? If so the only moral thing to do is to drown your children, because that in effect is what you are asking the peoples of Asia and Africa to do to theirs.

    Or could we just do a bit more due diligence, transparent science, data, meta-data all reproducibly placed freely on the Internet for the whole world to test– before we commit a significant percentage of our fellow human travelers on this planet to another few generations of destitution?

    It’s that simply. The choice is yours.

    • You would think that given the importance of this debate–all life on Earth depends on us getting it right…The possible extinction of half of all species and the end of civilization would require that before we spent tens of trillions of dollars to alter the climate with unpredictable consequences that we might spend a few tens of million to get the T-data, meta-data and code sorted out properly.

      I think you fail to appreciate the evolution of the discipline in its larger historical context. Remember that the discipline is not all that old when it comes to it, and it seems to me that a lot of the research that now falls under climate science started in another branch of science — physics, chemistry, geology, biology, etc It wasn’t started with the idea of addressing perhaps the largest man-made threat to our civilization yet developed outside of nuclear weapons. It was just scientists pursuing their work according to the common practices and values and processes of their disciplines. Take the temperature record — so much of it is reliant on national weather services, cobbled together from stations across the globe with various technologies, etc. I know that ‘skeptics’ won’t accept this, but I think a certain amount of disorder can be understood, although we should fund these projects much better so that they are as up to date as possible now that we have a better idea of what is at stake. Also remember that when it first started out, AGW was really just a theory with not much empirical evidence. It was based on the physics and chemistry of the atmosphere and energy budget — Spencer Weart covers this early history quite well. Warming really only became apparent in the past couple of decades and methods of measuring it only recently – satellites, computer models, etc.

      In other words, it’s a work in progress.

      • Of course, your not an economic alarmist, Shewonk! LOL. We in the West are already so rich that our idea of poverty is junk food induced obesity!

        The UN IPCC could outlaw the building of coal fired energy plants tomorrow and that wouldn’t dent our lifestyles. But it would literally condemn a billion people or so in the next few decades to life in the dark, disease, continued poverty and an early grave. So would a global ETS.

        This is the social justice issue of our day. It is far too easy for us rich western nations to demand progress now on reducing CO2 at the expense of the poor in Africa and Asia.

        I love how you understand that it won’t be easy and or “without consequence” (for the world’s desperately poor) but you’re “pretty damn unsettled” for the future of your own children. KInda reminds me of Blair’s arguments for invading Iraq.

        Thanks for your concern.

        • Wes, of course it’s easy for me to be willing to reduce the use of carbon emitting technology and I am very rich and prosperous where I live — admittedy, given that I live in a northern country, most of it is premised on the availability of cheap and plentiful fossil fuels.

          Here’s the thing — you are making a big assumption that is not necessarily valid and second, you’re posing a false alternative.

          The assumption is that the only path for development involves the use of conventional technology that burns fossil fuels, such as oil, gas, coal and coal-fired electricity generators. That is not the case. In fact, given that we are approaching peak oil, the cost of oil is going to start gyrating before rising sharply, according to analysts. If this is the case, it will potentially making oil and gas out of the reach of really poor nations. That leaves coal, the burning of which is not only bad for the atmosphere and global climate but also the health of the oceans and people. We need alternatives so our reliance on fossil fuels is reduced and we need better technology so that the fossil fuels we do use are less damaging.

          You’re also posing a false alternative — either we address global warming or we assist developing nations to rise out of poverty. I think we can do both.

          Now is the time to develop alternatives and transfer that technology to developing countries so that they have alternatives that are carbon neutral or low carbon. There is a huge potential market for this in the developing countries. There is a need to fund new technology to either make renewables more efficient and cost-effective but also make coal cleaner and do research into lower carbon technologies and carbon capture technologies.

          I have faith in human ingenuity. But given human greed, it’s not enough to just let things develop as they will. If AGW is real and the threat that even the Pentagon says it could be, then we need legislation of some kind and a process that ensures that new technology in the developed world is transfered to the developing world — for our own sake’s as well as for theirs.

    • Should we do a global ETS with near zero global growth, retarding development at this technological level in the third world, 100’s of millions will die and billions continue to live in extreme poverty over the next half century. These are people within reach of some of what you already have–plentiful food, clean water, electricity, a few appliances and broadband to post whiny comments on clueless blogs.

      You are an economic alarmist. Can you show me analyses that predict this level of death and destruction resulting from a restriction on carbon dioxide? And not studies funded by anyone linked to fossil fuel?

      If AGW is real and the planet has a quite high sensitivity, and we do nothing, there’s lots of negatives in store for those very people, who are also at most risk from the effects of global warming.

      Besides, I’m a skeptic of economic alarmism. I see negatives in both directions but to me the risk of not acting seems greater than the risk of acting, given what the science says, even considering the uncertainties. That’s not a firm conclusion and I am always open to consider more evidence and counter arguments.

      if we do nothing to address carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels, at some point we may see very serious consequences which will be very hard at that point to address. If we do something and warming doesn’t turn out to be as severe, we can always retrench, pull out the coal and burn hell out of it for the next 300 years or however long it lasts. I’m not saying it will be easy or without consequences, but the prospect of >2C and up to 6C warming (at the extreme) is pretty damn unsettling to me. Yeah, I’ll likely be dead by then, but I have young children and don’t want to pass onto them a hothouse planet.

    • Exactly, shewonk! Climatology is “a work in progress.”

      If so, then the science isn’t settled and the debate isn’t over. Now we are making progress.

      Therefore – if as you believe we are facing a climate apocalypse – don’t you think we should stop playing Micky Mouse academic games dominated by one tiny clique of good ol’ boyz… Like you said that was all fine when paleoclimatological dendrochronology only matter to like 35 people on the planet.

      Now the lives of billions of human beings literally depends on whether the Earth was as warm or warmer in the Medieval Warming Period as today!

      Skeptics are fine with fluidity, complexity and the disorderly march of scientific progress. But I suspect that Phil Jones, Michael Mann, et al are not so thrilled with subjecting their pet hypothesis to the tests of the scientific method–ie transparency in research, reproducibility of result, data made available open-source the Internet.

      Ultimately, this is an debate about Social Justice. Are you willing to gamble the lives of 100’s of millions of fellow human being on the contemporary state of our knowledge in the climate sciences?

      • As usual with you, Wes, you lean towards oversimplification or misrepresentation of other people’s words and a tendency to caricature.

        First, just because climate science is a work in progress does not mean that its findings aren’t based on solid science and reliable evidence. What it means is that there is more to learn and more evidence to accumulate to answer yet-open questions. This does not mean that it is useless as we decide what to do about a warming climate.

        Second, the games being played in the political realm by denialists far far outweigh any in climate science.

        Denialists and contrarians who insist on repeating mistakes about the MWP are getting on my nerves.

        You are as wrong about this as you have been about everything else. The MWP may have been as warm as today — the evidence is not complete enough to claim it is anything more than a regional phenomenon. More evidence may clarify this question.

        Regardless, as I understand the arguments, the cause of the MWP is natural variation. That cannot be said about the CWP. We do know that one big change today is the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere — that is the big variable that has changed since the LIA. Whatever caused the MWP, the CWP is largely due to CO2 according to the best research.

        And I think from what I have read – and someone correct me if I’m wrong — but we had better hope that the MWP wasn’t as warm as today because that would mean that our climate is even more sensitive than we previously thought.

        Why do I suspect that you really don’t care all that much about social justice and the 100’s of millions of fellow humans in the developing world that you seem so concerned about?

        That has become the latest bit of deception on the part of denialists — a false and actually truly ironic faux concern for “the poor”.

        What a joke.

  8. You think it’s a joke?

    I have lived much of my life in the “third world” and worked for the UNHCR building health clinics so I’ve been there first hand. I’m currently working on an indigenous land conservation project in Australia.

    Your brand of condescending talking points are the fluff of cocktail parties in the capital cities of both the continent and America… a bit of disconnect from both the daily reality of life on our planet for billions of people and the ethically challenged implications of asking others to go without what you take for granted.

    Developing countries are low tech by definition. If the US can’t do better than 1% solar, don’t ask Africa and Asia to wait until your “faith in human ingenuity” sorts out the technology. They need electricity now, not in 2030 or whenever it trickles down to them. You wouldn’t know what ingenuity is until you visit a village living around a single Honda generator with only a few can of petrol to go on each month.

    So anything you do or say (this is your policy blog, right?) to make it more difficult to build coal or whatever fired energy plants in China or India or Guatemala literally kills people. It really is that simple of a trade off.

    To wave it off as…Oh, well we are going to reach peak oil, maybe, so maybe they’re all doomed anyway is a morally bankrupt position as well as a factually dubious one.

    Nor is the question that we either address global warming or assist the poor. Fact is the poor in many places are developing themselves at an incredible pace, just fine, thank you.. Life in Indonesia, India, Thailand, Vietnam, China and much of the Middle East is much improved from the 1970’s. China alone is building a new coal-fired plant every few weeks and you have no moral authority to condemn them for it.

    Don’t put international regulatory roadblocks in the way of developing nations bringing electricity, water and transportation to their people just so spring doesn’t come a week earlier in New Haven.

    No doubt that our dependence on fossil fuels is not a good thing regardless of whether the AGW hypothesis is true or not. So why don’t you quit using it, instead of asking people who never had it not to lift their families up out of the darkness with available and affordable technology?

    AGW apocalyptic fear mongering could kill more people than it saves in the long run, especially if the moderate-to-worse case scenarios turn out to be utter rubbish. It’s not good enough to pretend we have to frighten people into action before the science is done properly. We live in a moral and physical universe where every decision we make has a price both to our own well being and to others we do not even know.

    No joke.

    • Your brand of condescending talking points are the fluff of cocktail parties in the capital cities of both the continent and America… a bit of disconnect from both the daily reality of life on our planet for billions of people and the ethically challenged implications of asking others to go without what you take for granted.

      Hey if you don’t like the people at a cocktail party and think the hostess is a total jerk, what’s stopping you from leaving?

  9. Hello,

    Thanks so much for including my Turtles All The Way Down artwork in your blog post. I did notice, however, that the image is only linked to itself. Would it be at all possible to change it so that the artwork links directly to my online shop? In this manner, anyone who might want to could find and perhaps purchase the artwork for themselves. It would mean a great deal to me. The address to my shop is http://krougeau.artfire.com

    Thanks & have a wonderful day!
    – Kenneth Rougeau

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