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At The Wall Street Journal, Ronald Bailey reviews Michael Crichton's State of Fear.

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  1. Mr. Crichton was interviewed on BBC radio this morning. I don’t know how devout envirohysterics reacted. I found him to be anything but an extremist wackjob when he calmly explained that many reputable scientists do not agree with predictions of doom from the effects of global warming. Was Tony Blair listening?

  2. “It is well established scientifically that average temperatures in Greenland and Iceland have been falling at the rather steep rate of 2.2 degrees Celsius per decade since 1987. As for temperatures in most of Antarctica, they have been falling for nearly 50 years, and ice there has been accumulating rather than melting.”

    The ice age is fast approaching!!! Keep driving everyone, we need to warm this place up in a hurry!!

    WSDave

  3. If nothing else it’s fun to watch people’s expressions when you tell them you don’t believe in global warming.

  4. I’m with you, Todd. I did that the other day and I’ve never seen someone so completely apoplectic. She was simply speechless. The only thing she could muster was, “But don’t you know that’s been decided by a majority?!” I kid you not.

  5. Todd: I don’t think any credible scientist is denying that global temperatures are increasing. What’s disputed is how rapid the increase is, what the effects will be, and to what extent the warming was generated by human activity.

  6. Well, here’s one Crichton novel that Speilberg isn’t likely to touch.

  7. I know it’s trendy and contrarian and libertarianish to doubt global warming, but as Jesse says, all the best climatologists are as certain as they could possibly be that global warming is real. They’re also fairly certain that we’re causing at least some of it. The open questions is, how much are we causing, and how big a problem is it?

  8. When talking about Global Warming, it’s important to note that many of its advocate activitists used to predict the great Global Freezing back in the 60s and 70s. When more data indicated that the overall temperature might be rising instead of falling, they change their chant without missing a beat.

  9. I can’t speak for Todd, but “not believing in global warming” does not mean that one necessarily believes that temperatures are consistantly getting cooler or are remaining stagnant. Global warming, as a cataclysmic human-caused event leading to apocolyptic devestation lest the state interfer, is a dubious claim, and one to which I do not subscribe. I don’t believe that temperatures will only get cooler, nor, would I bet, does Todd. I just don’t buy the hysteria that is shrouded in the phrase “global warming”.

    Can I still be trendy, now, Steve?

  10. OK, wellfellow, that’s cool. I don’t believe in global warming either, if that means “global warming hysteria.” But when I read, “I don’t believe in global warming,” it sounds like “I don’t believe the earth is getting warmer as a likely result of human activities.” I guess I misunderstood.

    I see the irony with the global cooling stuff, but I’m still waiting to see a decent rebuttal of the current scientific evidence for global warming. The case seems to be getting stronger — 5 or 10 years ago there was a lot more doubt among scientists.

    None of this means that I support Kyoto, or think we all need to stop driving and start hugging trees. On the science, the moderate position that global warming exists and is likely tied to emissions seems correct. That doesn’t have anything to do with the political questions.

  11. I don’t doubt global warming and cooling. The climate fluctuates. We can’t stop it no matter how much we try. I doubt the doom and gloom scenario peddled by envirohysterics.

  12. Funny, Slashdot just had an article a few days ago entitled Consensus on Global Warming which reminded me of Crichton’s Aliens Cause Global Warming speech at Caltech. The money quote:

    I want to pause here and talk about this notion of consensus, and the rise of what has been called consensus science. I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you’re being had.

    Let’s be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.

    There is no such thing as consensus science. If it’s consensus, it isn’t science. If it’s science, it isn’t consensus. Period.

  13. Steve,

    Twba said more elegantly what I meant. The warming/cooling concepts seem a bit loaded because the only remedy would be to eliminate climate variation.

  14. Wellfellow hit the nail on the head. The term “global warming” has come to mean a lot more than a simple increase in global temperature.

    It’s like UFOs. If you ask somebody if they believe in UFOs, they’re not going to think you’re asking them if they believe that sometimes things are spotted in the sky that aren’t identifiable by the observer. They’re going to think you’re asking them if they believe that aliens from other worlds are visiting earth in their spaceships.

  15. Nathan,

    That’s a good point, and it illustrates the limits of climate resarch: You can’t experiment on the global climate, so we’ll never really know.

    On the other hand, the “consensus” in favor of global warming is not some groupthink. It’s many scientists doing independent research that reaches the same conclusions. Of course, the minority view could be right, but it’s not right because it’s a minority view. It has to be proven, and it hasn’t been.

  16. Jesse’s comment:

    “I don’t think any credible scientist is denying that global temperatures are increasing.”

    is odd. Seems to be a variant of the Argumentum ad Populum fallacy.

  17. Steve, I question your whole premise of majority vs. minority view. I have yet to see a poll of the scientific community on this subject. From what I’ve seen, there is a significant number of scientists, many of them climatologists, who regard the whole notion of man-made global warming as a fantasy concocted by extreme environmentalists and promoted by politicians.

  18. There’s no fallacy, Vlad. It’s just a comment on what the debate is actually about. I know a number of people who dispute the received wisdom on global warming. As far as I can tell, none of them argues that temperatures are not going up. They’re debating why they’re going up, how much they’re going up, what the consequences of them going up are, and what response, if any, is necessary.

    “Global warming” and “global warming hysteria” are two different beasts. And while I appreciate Dan’s comment about UFOs (literally speaking, unidentified flying objects do exist), I don’t think the language has been corrupted that far in this case.

  19. I’ll write it again, anyone with a modicum of knowledge about the subject at hand calls it “climate change” and not “global warming.”

    As a rule, I’ve found that Crichton writes trash (no matter whether I agree with the political position he is pushing or not), and Bailey has given me no reason to think otherwise.

  20. Jesse Walker,

    There are valid reasons to contest the one degree uptick that is claimed to have occurred over the past century.

  21. Tom,

    The reason I’m relying on the majority view of scientists is because I lack the expertise to evaluate what’s in various academic and popular science journals. The credentials of the pro-global warming people are much more impressive than those of their opponents, and their arguments seem better, too, from a layman’s perspective. Again, I can’t tell whether global warming is real — the science is way over my head. And again, being in the minority doesn’t make you right. Sometimes it just makes you a crank.

  22. Tom,

    When I worked at AccuWeather, the meteorologists there considered man-made global warming a huge joke. We were constantly forwarding concerned questions about El Nino and the influence of human activity on global weather systems to the meteorology department, and their responses were only slightly on the polite side of ‘Don’t be an idiot.’

    At the time, I found it endlessly entertaining that the strongest proponents of global-warming-as-disaster-movie were physical scientists — physicists, astronomers, geologists, engineers. The skeptics were all climatologists and meteorologists.

    The analagous situation: my dentist tells me not to worry about the pain in my arm. My doctor tells me to get an x-ray. I decide to believe my dentist.

  23. The credentials of the pro-global warming people are much more impressive than those of their opponents, and their arguments seem better, too, from a layman’s perspective.

    In the early and middle part of this century the collective credentials of the economists who believed that central government management of the economy was the best path to wealth were much more impressive than the collective credentials of those who argued that central management restricted growth. We now know from experience that the first group, despite all their prestige, were catastropically wrong.

    Like macroeconomics, climatology produces untestable predictions about an incomprehensibly chaotic system. Like macroeconomics, climatology is incredibly politically sensitive. When you mix unverifiable science with politics and throw in a healthy dose of funding from groups who are predisposed towards wanting a certain set of results, the end result is not reliable.

    You don’t need to understand how the climate works. All you need to understand is that the people doing climate research ALSO don’t understand how the climate works, and are working in an environment in which most of the people holding the purse strings don’t want to hear answers like “there’s no problem to solve” or “there’s nothing happening here”.

    Even ordinary NON-politicized science has a well-known problem with giving proper airing to research that fails to yield “interesting” results — for example, a study suggesting a link between chicken eggs and brain cancer is a lot more likely to be published than a study which finds no such link, even if both are equally rigorous.

  24. Dan,

    …climatology produces untestable predictions…

    They can be tested and are tested all the time; indeed, that’s what they are doing when they run climate simulations. Now, maybe they aren’t tested with the rigor or complexity that you would perfer, but that’s another matter.

  25. Gary, when you run a climate simulation, all you’re testing is what the results of a climate simulation are.

    Simulations serve a purpose, but they don’t serve as confirmation of a scientific theory.

  26. Dan,

    They are a test of a theory.

    …when you run a climate simulation, all you’re testing is what the results of a climate simulation are.

    No, you’re wrong there. A good climate simulation runs backwards and forwards; if the simulation works well backwards and comes up with data similar to the known past climate, you can are indeed testing the validity of the climate model you are looking at.

  27. Gary, that’s nonsensical.

    You’re either testing the model, or we’re testing a theory with a known model. You can’t do both at the same time.

    You can claim that a ‘good climate simulation runs backwards and forwards’ but no such climate simulation exists, and even if it did, this would not make it a reliable and valid test of your theory’s applicability to reality. All it would be a test of is the conformity of the theory to the model.

    I could write you a ‘climate simulation’ right now, in about 20 lines of code, that would accurately report average global temperatures for the past 100 years, and would predict a massive cooling trend starting, say, next week. Just because I can write it, and just because it’s accurate for data points we already know, doesn’t mean a damn thing about its predictive power.

    Models are useful for giving a starting point — like talking with some colleagues, bouncing ideas off a friend, noticing a strange phenomenon — or giving direction to research, when actual data gathering would be prohibitively expensive without sufficient cause to believe it would be useful. But models don’t supply data. Data come from only one place: observation of reality.

  28. Here are some snippets from that paper in the journal Science that was mentioned on Slashdot.

    Policy-makers and the media, particularly in the United States, frequently assert that climate science is highly uncertain. … Such statements suggest that there might be substantive disagreement in the scientific community about the reality of anthropogenic climate change. This is not the case.

    The scientific consensus is clearly expressed in the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). … “Human activities … are modifying the concentration of atmospheric constituents … that absorb or scatter radiant energy. … [M]ost of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations”

    The drafting of such reports and statements involves many opportunities for comment, criticism, and revision, and it is not likely that they would diverge greatly from the opinions of the societies’ members. Nevertheless, they might downplay legitimate dissenting opinions. That hypothesis was tested by analyzing 928 abstracts, published in refereed scientific journals between 1993 and 2003, and listed in the ISI database with the keywords “climate change”.

    The 928 papers were divided into six categories: explicit endorsement of the consensus position, evaluation of impacts, mitigation proposals, methods, paleoclimate analysis, and rejection of the consensus position. Of all the papers, 75% fell into the first three categories, either explicitly or implicitly accepting the consensus view; 25% dealt with methods or paleoclimate, taking no position on current anthropogenic climate change. Remarkably, none of the papers disagreed with the consensus position.

    Admittedly, authors evaluating impacts, developing methods, or studying paleoclimatic change might believe that current climate change is natural. However, none of these papers argued that point.

    Many details about climate interactions are not well understood, and there are ample grounds for continued research to provide a better basis for understanding climate dynamics. The question of what to do about climate change is also still open. But there is a scientific consensus on the reality of anthropogenic climate change. Climate scientists have repeatedly tried to make this clear. It is time for the rest of us to listen.

    I think you would be surprised how often the public opinion is out of line with the consensus opinion; and all the much worse for the public opinion.

  29. I don’t have the expertise to know whether the consensus represents science or just populist fear-stoking, but are there any concrete predictions made by the pro-GW advocates? Preferably, near-term ones. I remember reading in the news about some honcho at some Indian meteorological agency, predicting that sea-levels by the coast of Bombay and Kolkata will rise by a couple of feet by 2020.

    Now, that’s a 15-yr prediction. Any, that deal with stuff in the next 3-5 years?

    In any case I hope to read this book (Weart, 2003) soon. Any reviews from folks here?

  30. isildur,

    You can claim that a ‘good climate simulation runs backwards and forwards’ but no such climate simulation exists…

    Sure they do; I know of climatologists who work on such models at Oregon State University. They are quite common.

    I could write you a ‘climate simulation’ right now, in about 20 lines of code, that would accurately report average global temperatures for the past 100 years, and would predict a massive cooling trend starting, say, next week. Just because I can write it, and just because it’s accurate for data points we already know, doesn’t mean a damn thing about its predictive power.

    Well, you can fudge anything (be it PCR or whatever), that doesn’t mean that a non-fudged version isn’t useful or scientifically rigorous. In other words, your criticism borders on the disingenuous.

    But models don’t supply data. Data come from only one place: observation of reality.

    Sure they supply data.

  31. Bailey wrote a fine review of what looks to be an interesting book. Thanks for the post.

  32. Jesse:

    “I don’t think any credible scientist is denying that global temperatures are increasing. What’s disputed is how rapid the increase is, what the effects will be, and to what extent the warming was generated by human activity.”

    There is another aspect that’s in dispute and that is the consideration that; in some places where recorded temperatures are increasing, this change may be due to measurement anomalies such as the increasing proximity of measuring locations to urban areas. Also, considerations of detection enhancement may determine if it is true that higher *recorded* temperatures means that global warming is actually occurring. (See 1st link in this post)

    Rikurzhen:

    “But there is a scientific consensus on the reality of anthropogenic climate change.”

    That’s just not true. In fact, there is mounting scientific evidence to the contrary:

    “Better Detection, Not Global Warming, Behind Increase In Large Antarctic Icebergs, New BYU Study Shows”

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/10/021024070050.htm

    If it is indeed happening, there is mounting evidence of the contribution of the Sun to global warming. (Last time for the Sun being this active was the medieval period)

    “Sun more active than for a millennium”

    http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99994321

    It was baffling at first, since a more active sun shows more sunspots, which are cooler. But as it turns out, the energy total from the whole sun during these solar active periods is increased and the energy increase in the non-sun spot areas more then make up for the greater number of sun spots.

    And, here is a strong critique of the whole “human caused” warming paradigm:

    “New Perspectives in Climate Science: What the EPA Isn’t Telling Us”

    http://www.independent.org/tii/media/pdf/2003-07-28-climate_report.pdf

    Now, there are some in the scientific community who, when they take up advocacy for political action concerning the global warming issue, become alarmingly unscientific and even anti-scientific. National Center for Atmospheric Research (NOAA) researcher Steven Schneider and global warming action promoter said that “We have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we have. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest.”

    http://worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=36643

  33. Jesse:

    “I don’t think any credible scientist is denying that global temperatures are increasing. What’s disputed is how rapid the increase is, what the effects will be, and to what extent the warming was generated by human activity.”

    There is another aspect that’s in dispute and that is the consideration that; in some places where recorded temperatures are increasing, this change may be due to measurement anomalies such as the increasing proximity of measuring locations to urban areas. Also, considerations of detection enhancement may determine if it is true that higher *recorded* temperatures means that global warming is actually occurring. (See 1st link in this post)

    Rikurzhen:

    “But there is a scientific consensus on the reality of anthropogenic climate change.”

    That’s just not true. In fact, there is mounting scientific evidence to the contrary:

    “Better Detection, Not Global Warming, Behind Increase In Large Antarctic Icebergs, New BYU Study Shows”

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/10/021024070050.htm

    If it is indeed happening, there is mounting evidence of the contribution of the Sun to global warming. (the last time for the Sun being this active was the medieval period)

    “Sun more active than for a millennium”

    http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99994321

    It was baffling at first, since a more active sun shows more sunspots, which are cooler. But as it turns out, the energy total from the whole sun during these solar active periods is increased and the energy increase in the non-sun spot areas more then make up for the greater number of sun spots.

    And, here is a strong critique of the whole “human caused” warming paradigm:

    “New Perspectives in Climate Science: What the EPA Isn’t Telling Us”

    http://www.independent.org/tii/media/pdf/2003-07-28-climate_report.pdf

    Now, there are some in the scientific community who, when they take up advocacy for political action concerning the global warming issue, become alarmingly unscientific and even anti-scientific. National Center for Atmospheric Research (NOAA) researcher and global warming action promoter, Steven Schneider, said that: “We have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we have. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest.”

    http://worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=36643

  34. Sorry about the double post. Also, it should have read: “National Center for Atmospheric Research (NOAA) researcher and global warming action promoter, Steven Schneider, said that”…

  35. consensus is BS. Studies which look at who writes more articles are especially bunk because the nay-sayers are not spending their time writing articles to refute all the junk being published. I find this to be very true in Economics journals, and I imagine that the same is true here; neo-Keynsians dominate in numbers and are the largest chunk of articles written, but I am very confident in my conclusion that this only proves that most people are easily misled. Furthermore, quoting the IPCC is like going to church and taking a poll to see if people believe in god. 5 years ago when I was getting a degree, I asked several of the environmental studies phds what they thought of global warming. Every single one of them said something along the lines of “way over-hyped by extremists who shout louder; natural variations likely explain 99% of the warming.” In addition to variations in the sun cycles, periods of volcanic activity can temporarily cool the planet but release large amounts of the so-called “warming gases” for instance. The amount of “warming gases” released in the pacific northwest thanks to the limited activity there recently is greater than all the emissions of every human living there I understand. Jesse Walker’s comment seems to right on the mark as far as where the reasonable debate is. There has never been a conclusive study proving that humans play a measurable role in any weather fluctuations.

  36. Notice that the consensus is limited, but precise:

    “Human activities … are modifying the concentration of atmospheric constituents … that absorb or scatter radiant energy. … [M]ost of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations”

    If you think you’ve got a good case against the consensus opinion, write a letter to the editors of Science.

    Here’s the URL for the paper I quoted from:
    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/306/5702/1686

    Here’s the URL to submit a letter in response:
    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/eletter-submit/306/5702/1686

    Or to submit a letter for print:
    http://www.submit2science.org/

    Notice they said zero of 928 papers disagreed with the consensus. Sure, there can be plenty of speculation about other explanations, but how can people evaluate these claims if they’re not published. If there are all these dissenting voices, why don’t they put something in print? Without a publication, no one should believe them.

  37. Curtis,

    Crichton (as usual) wrote a book which largely plays off the efforts of others.

  38. There is abundant evidence that the claim that “Most of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations” is not substantiated. I cited some of it. Note, that there is a real difference between scientific consensus (evidence) and a consensus among scientists, which Rikurzhen is citing. Which scientists? What disciplines? etc. See: The Skeptical Environmentalist by Bjorn Lomborg where he covers this.

    Anyway, “zero of 928 papers” is clearly not accurately representative of the current state of the debate, no matter how you sample it. Also, scientists change there minds when the evidence warrants it. Good ones do, at least. Not politically motivated ones.

    Note that the abstract tabulation cited by Rikurzhen was between 1993 and 2003. In the global warming investigation, over the years, there has been great stress put on the current ice sheet break up into icebergs It was only in late 2002 that this was shown to be a consequence of better detection methods. (see my link in previous post) It’s safe to say that many of the authors in the paper sample between 1993 and 2003 who addressed this issue would now be of a different opinion. This is only one of the considerations. The effects of solar activity on global temperatures are also only very recently coming to be understood:

    “Sunspots reaching 1,000-year high”

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/3869753.stm

    From this article: “The data suggests that changing solar activity is influencing in some way the global climate causing the world to get warmer.”

  39. It just occurred to me, another thing that is clearly wrong with trying to make a point with the Science abstract survey that Rikurzhen cites, is that someone had to come up with this “consensus” and then decide that none of the 928 papers disagreed with it. This is not science. This is ax grinding!

  40. Rick, you’ve got to be putting me on.

    That same BBC news article says: This trend is being amplified by gases from fossil fuel burning, they argue. But that’s just a news story. Unless you’re a climate scientist — I am not — we really don’t know how to intrepet that new data into the bigger picture.

    I’m entirely willing to accept that the scientists are mistaken, but I’ll wait for them to decide that. In the meantime, they are telling us in very clear terms that they think humans are affecting the climate. We should take them at their word.

    I’ve seen this disconnect between the scientific community and the public understanding happen with all kinds of science. For example, around the time of the publication of the Bell Curve we saw how out of sync the public was with IQ research. The public is always out of sync on the question of evolution. This just looks like another case of that to me.

    The Science paper demonstrates that both the consensus among climate scientists and the consensus from the “climate change” literature are clear and certain on at least the one point highlighted.

    People do meta-analyses of the scientific literature all the time. I’ve seen PhD defenses that are largely based on literature surveys. It’s a legitimate type of investigation, and no one calls it ax grinding when they do it — although people might call it not enough to warrant a PhD.

    However, I also find it highly plausible that political groups (e.g. the Natural Resources Defense Council) are exagerating and distorting the science to achieve their goals as Bailey and Crichton describe. What else can we expect from politicians?

  41. Rikurzhen,

    When scientists are certain about something, they don’t use the word “likely”. Science magazine is a left-leaning science publication. It clearly picks and chooses the articles it publishes based upon political considerations. This was obvious to me even when I was a young, liberal science student in college. There is no evidence–not a single valid study–that has proven a significant link between climate change and human activity.

    Gunnels,

    You sure seem like a smart guy, but when it comes to science, you don’t know shit. If you have a science degree, it should be recinded based alone upon the following:

    Sure they supply data. [models]

    I hate to tell you, dude, but only data-gathering using scientific instruments supply data. Models never, ever supply data. Nobody that actually understands science would ever say otherwise.

  42. Hi Rikurzhen,

    From the report I cited:

    “But the most striking feature, he (Dr. Solanki, who presented the paper on the reconstruction of past solar activity) says, is that looking at the past 1,150 years the Sun has never been as active as it has been during the past 60 years.”

    “Over the past few hundred years, there has been a steady increase in the numbers of sunspots, a trend that has accelerated in the past century, just at the time when the Earth has been getting warmer.”

    Now, the BBC story also notes:“Over the past 20 years, however, the number of sunspots has remained roughly constant, yet the average temperature of the Earth has continued to increase.”

    I think that this may be explained in the same way that on the summer solstice, the start of summer, (june 21) the sun is at its highest in the sky (Northern Hemisphere, of course) and starts getting lower after that. Yet, our warmest days occur after that, during the summer, because there has been a build up of heat throughout the spring as the sun arched higher in the sky.

    I have nothing against meta-analyses in general, although it seems that it is subject to bias errors; 1) statistical, mostly via sample selection. There was just a meta-analyses just out that showed a higher death rate for folks who took more than 200 IU of Vit. E. I suspect that among the studies that they sampled, there were folks who were taking Vit.E because they were sick. And 2) there is also intentional bias, which, BTW, may use sample bias to achieve its ends. But, I find the Science meta-analyses that you cited to be a weak case for the reality of human engendered global warming, for the reasons I gave.

    There is an essential difference between the cases of the Bell Curve and evolution on the one hand, and global warming on the other. Global warming is a situation that, if caused by humans, can be used as a justification for government action and government money to intervene. So in many ways there is money to be made from something being wrong and in need of “fixing”. This makes it more likely that the public is right on this one if indeed, as you contend, there is a consensus the other way among scientists. And, I think that the scientific evidence is mounting, especially solar activity type evidence, that the global warming is not human made.

  43. Hey, Bjorn Lomborg ,who is hardly a left-winger, says C02-caused global warming is real. He just draws different conclusions about it than many others do, as his article in today’s *Telegraph* shows:

    ***

    Save the world, ignore global warming
    By Bjorn Lomborg
    (Filed: 12/12/2004)

    Global warming has become the obsession of our time. From governments and campaigners meeting for the climate summit in Buenos Aires right now we hear the incessant admonition: making global warming our first priority is the moral test of our age.

    Yet they are wrong. Global warming is real and caused by CO2. The trouble is that the climate models show we can do very little about the warming. Even if everyone (including the United States) did Kyoto and stuck to it throughout the century, the change would be almost immeasurable, postponing warming by just six years in 2100.

    Likewise, the economic models tell us that the cost is substantial. The cost of Kyoto compliance is at least $150billion a year. For comparison, the UN estimates that half that amount could permanently solve the most pressing humanitarian problems in the world: it could buy clean drinking water, sanitation, basic health care and education to every single person in the world.

    Global warming will mainly harm the developing countries, because they are poorer and therefore less able to handle climate changes. However, even the most pessimistic forecasts from the UN expect the average person in the developing countries to be richer in 2100 than we are now.

    So action on global warming is basically a very costly way of doing very little for much richer people far into the future. We need to ask ourselves if this indeed should be our first priority.

    Of course, in the best of all worlds, we would not need to prioritise. We could do all good things. We could win the war against hunger, end conflicts, stop communicable diseases, provide clean drinking, step up education and halt climate change. But we don’t. And we have to ask the hard question: If we don’t do it all, what should we do first?

    Some of the world’s top economists ? including three Nobel Laureates ? answered this question at the Copenhagen Consensus last May, prioritising all the major requirements for improving the world. They found that dealing with HIV/Aids, hunger, free trade and malaria were the world’s top priorities. This was where we could do the most good for our dollar. Equally, the experts rated urgent responses to climate change at the bottom. In fact, the panel called these ventures ? including Kyoto ? “bad projects”, simply because they cost more than the good they do.

    The Copenhagen Consensus gives us great hope because it shows us that there are so many good things we can do. For $27 billion we could prevent 28 million people from getting HIV. For $12 billion we could cut malaria cases by more than a billion a year. Instead of helping richer people inefficiently far into the future, we can do immense good right now.

    We live in a world with limited resources, where we struggle to solve just some of its challenges. This means that caring more about some issues end up meaning caring less about others. If we have a moral obligation, it is to spend each dollar doing the most good that we possibly can.

    So in a curious way, global warming really is the moral test of our time, but not in the way its proponents imagined. We need to stop our obsession with global warming, and start dealing with the many more pressing issues in the world, where we can do most good first and quickest.

  44. Bill, you’re cracking me up. I’ve never heard Science being called liberal, although I would expect that journal editors in general would approximately reflect the political inclinations of scientists. If you’ve got a citation for that, it would thrill me to read it.

    However, that wouldn’t seem to matter in the case of the literature analysis. That analysis looked at all abstracts in ISI containing the phrase “climate change” for evidence of any publications that are contrary to the consensus view that modern climate change is due to human activity.

    Rick, I think we may be talking past one another a bit here. I am merely asserting that we (the public) currently should accept the scientific consensus until new data/analysis is revealed. That does not mean that we need to agree on the correct political response.

    For example, the piece that David T posted by Bjorn Lomborg is completely consistent with the consensus. However, I would suggest that some kind of attempt to reduce the relative economic attractiveness of fossil fuels would be prudent.

  45. Rikurzhen,

    I’m saying that there is no current consensus of the scientific *evidence* that global warming is anthropogenic. And, that the meta-analyses of the Science abstracts doesn’t present a good case that there is. Also, the strongest case seems to be the one for a “solargenic” 😉 cause.

    I think that we not only do not need to agree on the correct political response. I think that *any* political response would be needless, wasteful, done in service to those who made the argument that global warming is human caused, and perhaps even tragic.

    David T,

    Could you be so kind as to provide a link?

  46. Rick, people have been talking about solar input to global warming for 10+ years as far as I can tell. The strongest claims I can find are that the cause of the temperature increase is partially accounted for by solar output, but that a majority of change in more recent years has been from green house gases. If it hasn’t convinced the experts, then what reason would we have to think otherwise? Far too often, data sounds like it overturns a theory until you really get a good look at it. That’s a big part of what makes publication key to good science.

    I also don’t get why people think that responding to the possibilties of future climate change has to be drastic. For example:

    Doing a little now to mitigate long-term climate change would cost much less than doing nothing and making an adjustment in the future, say scientists whose paper appears in the Oct. 15 issue of the journal Science. Implementing a carbon tax of five cents per gallon of gasoline and gradually increasing the tax over the next 30 years is the optimal solution, the researchers report. “You can think of the tax as a low-cost insurance policy that protects against climate change,” said Michael Schlesinger, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a co-author of the paper. “The policy premiums could be used to develop alternative energy technologies.”

    The really key part being the development of new technologies.

  47. Rikurzhen,

    The evidence for the warming-solar activity correlation has become quite compelling recently. The data fits, including current periods, are very good. There has been much published about it. Explore the links that I provided and google it up. The paradigm seems to be winning the day. The prospect of government programs such as the one that you link to are part of what’s motivated some of the sloppy science and advocacy of dishonesty on the part of global warming activists.

    Even if there was good scientific evidence that there is a substantial human activity-global warming connection, I think that any tax and spend (on alternative energy technologies) response would be harmful to both liberty and prosperity. Market based, and other voluntary responses are much better.

    I think that it’s likely that global temperatures will start to fall as this most recent period of solar activity that has accompanied their rise comes to an end. If this happens sooner rather than later, the argument for any government coercion in this area will evaporate.

  48. Rikurzhen,

    Shouldn’t you be suspicious of any meta-study – such as the one that you linked to – where out of a sample size of 928 there are zero incidences that oppose the consensus position as defined by the authors of the study? It seems that caution is especially called for in any question that is as politcally loaded as global warming is.

  49. The whole global warming scare is a Zionist plot.

  50. Rick, you’ve posted links to three academic press releases and two non-academic organizations. Of the three press releases, none of them are committed one way or the other about the implications of their findings to global warming. I don’t see how we — as non-experts — are going to be able to be any more confident than they are.

    I obviously cannot commit to the position that your preferred theory of solar activity is wrong. But I can commit to the position that experts who are in the position to evaluate these data don’t seem swayed. Indeed, from the language in the Science essay, they seem very confident on at least one point.

    What else should we do but to trust the consensus opinions of the various groups of scientists — IPCC, National Academy of Sciences, etc. — that anthropogenic climate change is real? These are judgments of facts; and only the most informed can make them reliably.

    If we could point to two sizable groups of scientists, and say that they disagreed over global warming, then perhaps it would be good to reserve judgment. However, there doesn’t seem to be such a split among scientists. To that end, we have to no good reason to doubt the consensus.

    As to judgments of values, these are obviously open to broader discussion. If we grant that the consensus presented by IPCC et al is correct, then a debate is certainly warranted. I personally see the failure of libertarianism to (cost) efficiently be able to deal with (external costs of economic activity like) global warming as a liability for libertarianism. But that’s a step beyond the point I’m really trying to make.

    That point is: judgments of fact need to be based on the best science, regardless of our value preferences. After that, judgments of values can be made on those facts.

  51. Rikurzhen,

    There is a growing body of scientific evidence that supports a solar cause. It seems as if you’re trying to ignore it.

    Global temperatures were cold during the early part of the twentieth century then rose through the dust bowl days of the 1930s into the 1950s. Temperatures declined during the dip in solar activity in the 1960s and 1970s only to rise again as the sun became more active in the last 20 years.

    Notice (referring to graph) how closely the changes in Northern Hemisphere mean temperature anomalies fit the changes in solar activity in their chart.

    (go to the link and check out this graph!)

    From:

    “QUIETER, LONGER SOLAR CYCLE NUMBER 23 COULD SIGNAL SIGNIFICANT CLIMATE SHIFT”

    http://www.intellicast.com/DrDewpoint/Library/1186/

    Scientists at Armagh Observatory claim a unique weather record could show that the Sun has been the main contributor to global warming over the past two centuries.

    The researchers point out that the mean average temperature at Armagh seems to be related to the length of the Sun’s activity cycle.

    “I suspect that the greenhouse lobby have under-estimated the role of solar variability in climate change,”

    From:

    “Sun’s warming influence ‘under-estimated'”

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/1045327.stm

    Concerning the “scientific consensus” that you claim that the Science meta-study lends credence to:

    “In the spring of 1989 I prepared a critique of global warming, which I submitted to Science, a magazine of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The paper was rejected without review as being of no interest to the readership.”

    From:

    “Global Warming: The Origin and Nature of the Alleged Scientific Consensus “ by Richard S. Lindzen, Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

    http://www.cato.org/pubs/regulation/reg15n2g.html

    Rikurzhen, you really need to read this one!

    Libertarianism allows the voluntary interaction to accurately value “external” costs of economic activity. It, in effect, makes them less external.

  52. Rick, I’m not trying to evaluate the data on global warming myself because I’m not capable of doing so. At least not without dedicating a huge amount of time to the project.

    Instead, I need to rely on the review papers, etc. If you’re really interested in convincing people of your position, you’ll need peer reviewed papers to that effect. Preferably one written in the last few years so that it takes current data into account.

    The reason you need this is that what prima fascia looks like contrary data might turn out to be consistent with the existing consensus. Without full command of the data a person really can’t tell.

    As a kind of example of this, consider the line you excerpted: “In the spring of 1989 I prepared a critique of global warming, which I submitted to Science, a magazine of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The paper was rejected without review as being of no interest to the readership.” To a lay-person that sounds like a stone-walling, but in fact that’s what Science (and Nature, Cell, etc.) says to the vast majority of manuscripts that are submitted to them. They are very selective. Notice that he later resubmitted to another journal which published the paper.

    On top of that, this essay was written in what looks like 1990-1991. But that is really beside the point.

    The point is that a scientific consensus exists, and as recently as a couple weeks ago scientists were standing up to say that they still stand behind it. I cannot see a good reason to disbelieve them.

  53. Rikurzhen,

    Trying to decide which competing scientific theory is correct solely by majority vote of the scientists is fraught with peril, especially if you’re using that Science survey of the literature. Remember, in the 1970’s, a majority of scientists active in the issue used to contend that global *cooling* was the nemesis. Of course the solution was the same, controls and taxes on industry. Steven Schneider, who I cited earlier as urging fellow scientists to lie on behalf of global warming, was also big name in the global cooling scare.

    EOS Transactions, a publication of the American Geophysics Union is a peer reviewed journal and the paper that I cited from it, reported by sciencedaily.com, said: “The issues are — is this strictly man-made or is it part of normal cycles? There is evidence to support both sides on that one.” In my brief pulling up of a few articles, I have already found one that disagrees with the “consensus” but was in the right type of journal and the right time frame that it should have been counted.

    The case of the turning down of Lindzen’s anti-human caused global warming paper by Science without review, on the pretext of its being of “no interest to the readership” seems like a clear case of bias by Science because if you read the link, you’ll find that after they rejected it, they actually attacked the paper, even prior to its publication in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

    Also, when scientists disagree we can still learn a lot by studying the positions and also by observing the cross fire.

  54. Rikurzhen,

    For this debate you urge “preferably relying on papers written in the last few years so that it takes current data into account” This seems like good advice, (and this advice BTW, will currently favor the solar cause over the human cause explanation because that’s where the more recent science seems to be pointing) yet this pro- anthropogenic consensus that you want us to accept is from that Science survey that samples articles from 2003 all the way back to 1993!

    Not to mention that omission that did not fit their “consensus”, that I found after only a very brief look.

  55. Alright then, you’ve gone and made me do a literature search.

    My first hit:

    Title: Solar activity and terrestrial climate: an analysis of some purported correlations.
    Author: Laut, P
    Affiliation: Dept. of Phys., Denmark Univ., Lyngby, Denmark
    Institution: Tech Univ Denmark, Dept Phys, DK-2800 Lyngby, Denmark ; Tech Univ Denmark, Dept Phys, DK-2800 Lyngby, Denmark
    Journal: Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics; May 2003; vol.65, no.7, p.801-12
    Abstract: The last decade has seen a revival of various hypotheses claiming a strong correlation between solar activity and a number of terrestrial climate parameters: Links between cosmic rays and cloud cover, first total cloud cover and then only low clouds, and between solar cycle lengths and Northern Hemisphere land temperatures. These hypotheses play an important role in the scientific as well as in the public debate about the possibility or reality of a man-made global climate change. I have analyzed a number of published graphs which have played a major role in these debates and which have been claimed to support solar hypotheses. My analyses show that the apparent strong correlations displayed on these graphs have been obtained by an incorrect handling of the physical data. Since the graphs are still widely referred to in the literature and their misleading character has not yet been generally recognized, I have found it appropriate to deliver the present overview. Especially, I want to caution against drawing any conclusions based upon these graphs concerning the possible wisdom or futility of reducing the emissions of man-made greenhouse gases. My findings do not by any means rule out the existence of important links between solar activity and terrestrial climate. Such links have over the years been demonstrated by many authors. The sole objective of the present analysis is to draw attention to the fact that some of the widely publicized, apparent correlations do not properly reflect the underlying physical data. (32 refs.)

    My second hit:

    Title: Solar variability and global warming: A statistical comparison since 1850
    Author: Krivova, NA ; Solanki, SK
    Affiliation: Max-Planck-Institut fur Aeronomie ; Katlenburg-Lindau 37191 ; Germany
    Institution: Max Planck Inst Aeron, D-37191 Katlenburg Lindau, Germany ; Max Planck Inst Aeron, D-37191 Katlenburg Lindau, Germany
    Source: Advances in Space Research; 2004; v.34, no.2, p.361-364
    Abstract: The magnitude of the Sun’s influence on climate has been a subject of intense debate. Estimates of this magnitude are generally based on assumptions regarding the forcing due to solar irradiance variations entering climate modelling. Given the complexity of the climate system, however, such modelling is perforce based on simplifying assumptions, which leaves it open to criticism. We take a complementary approach. We assume that the Sun has been responsible for climate change prior to 1970 and that their interrelation remained unchanged afterwards. Then, employing reconstructions and measured records of relevant solar quantities as well as of the cosmic-ray flux, we estimate statistically which fraction of the dramatic temperature rise after that date could be due to the influence of the Sun. We show that at least in the most recent past (since about 1970) the solar influence on climate cannot have been significant. CP 2004 COSPAR. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. (20 Refs.)

    Like I was saying, things in science aren’t always what them seem from the outside. It’s just not feasible for a non-expert to make critical judgments about a modern science without immersing in the subject.

  56. Rikurzen,

    Thank you for those, but could you please supply links. Considering the Max Plank-Solanki citation, the quote you give lists 1970 as the end of the suns active influence but this description of this graph from Solanki’s group at the institute lists 1980, which fits the data…

    http://www.linmpi.mpg.de/english/projekte/sun-climate/group/sunearth.html

    “Clearly, prior to 1980 the irradiance reconstruction runs parallel to or ahead of the climate curves. This is consistent with a solar cause of a considerable fraction of the temperature variations prior to that date.”

    Now, the temperature continuing to rise for a short time is consistent with the model of heat build up like the delay of the hottest weather till after the summer solstice that I described earlier. Also, note that from that graph that the temperature is now staring to fall. I’m going to research this delay effect further including writing Dr. Solanki if I need to. I’ll post back here when I find something, even if it’s after this has gone into the archives. Please feel free to e-mail me if you would like, and I’ll send what ever I find to you.

    This is also interesting:

    “Ice cores reveal high solar activity”

    http://www.spacenow.org.uk/index.cfm?code=theplanets&subcode=article&recID=437

    Dr Solanki notes, ?The most striking feature of the reconstruction is that during the last 1150 years the Sun was never as active as during the last 60 years.?

  57. The graph that I’m speaking about is the one at the bottom of the page.

    http://www.linmpi.mpg.de/english/projekte/sun-climate/group/sunearth.html

  58. I pulled those abstracts from ISI, but Google Scholar has lots of hits too.

    http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=anthropogenic+climate+change+solar

  59. Another cause of warming, from Nature:

    Cities and fields make the world seem warmer
    Impact of land use on climate change has been underestimated.

    http://www.ecology.com/ecology-news-links/2003/articles/5-2003/5-29-03/warmer.htm

    I couldn’t find the whole article from Nature, just that abstract, but here is a review from the popular press:

    http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/0205/p21s01-sten.html

  60. Rick, you should check this site out:
    http://www.realclimate.org/

    Especially this:
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?cat=4

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