Robert Samuelson on the Great Global Warming "Denial Machine"

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Washington Post and Newsweek columnist Robert Samuelson takes on Newsweek's cover story attacking the evil global warming denial conspiracy. Samuelson scolds Newsweek:

We in the news business often enlist in moral crusades. Global warming is among the latest. Unfortunately, self-righteous indignation can undermine good journalism. Last week's NEWSWEEK's cover story on global warming is a sobering reminder. It's an object lesson of how viewing the world as "good guys vs. bad guys" can lead to a vast oversimplification of a messy story. Global warming has clearly occurred; the hard question is what to do about it.

If you missed NEWSWEEK's story, here's the gist. A "well-coordinated, well-funded campaign by contrarian scientists, free-market think tanks and industry has created a paralyzing fog of doubt around climate change." This "denial machine" has obstructed action against global warming and is still "running at full throttle." The story's thrust: discredit the "denial machine," and the country can start the serious business of fighting global warming. The story was a wonderful read, marred only by its being fundamentally misleading….

NEWSWEEK's "denial machine" is a peripheral and highly contrived story. NEWSWEEK implied, for example, that ExxonMobil used a think tank to pay academics to criticize global-warming science. Actually, this accusation was long ago discredited, and NEWSWEEK shouldn't have lent it respectability. (The company says it knew nothing of the global-warming grant, which involved issues of climate modeling. And its 2006 contribution to the think tank, the American Enterprise Institute, was small: $240,000 out of a $28 million budget.) [AEI defends itself here.]

The alleged cabal's influence does not seem impressive.

Samuelson also makes some pretty sobering observations about the political possibility of dealing with man-made global warming. To wit:

Democracies don't easily adopt painful measures in the present to avert possible future problems…One way or another, our assaults against global warming are likely to be symbolic, ineffective or both.

Samuelson does suggest a gasoline tax as a start. It should be noted that when oil prices soared during the OPEC-induced oil crisis, U.S. oil consumption dropped by 13 percent between 1973 and 1983. In other words, people will conserve when energy becomes more costly. My own proposal for beginning to deal with climate change is a gradually rising tax on carbon-based fuels. I discuss the magnitude of the future energy challenge here and here and here.

Whole Samuelson column here.

Disclosure: To many political environmentalists I am considered to have been a cog in the global warming "denial machine." My side of the story here.

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  1. Thanks for addressing this issue and working to bring to light the real issues surrounding the corporate-profit-driven effort to protect shareholders at the expense of the our environment.

    I’d like to have seen you take more of a stand, however. Do you agree or disagree with Samuelson? Where do you stand? You leave us a bit in the dark with this short post –

    Finally, if you think we as individuals should believe that corporations with real profits on the line won’t fight to slow government regulation of their practices, you’re crazy.

    The long history of corporate manipulation of laws and public opinion to stave off reduced future profits (read “stock prices”) is well documented.

    Ask the families of those who died as a result of the exploding gas tanks on Ford Pintos if they believe corporations will sacrifice people for profits if the price is right.

    Kevin
    http://www.21st-century-citizen.com

  2. “Finally, if you think we as individuals should believe that corporations with real profits on the line won’t fight to slow government regulation of their practices, you’re crazy.”

    The problem is that that goes both ways. Some corporations stand to make a fortune off of the efforts to stop man made global warming. Moreover, careers and the reputation of the entire field of climatology is staked on global warming being correct. If irrefutable evidence against global warming emerged tommorow, my guess is that the cliamtology establishment would burn it and try to hide it quicker than the Vatican would try to hide irrefutable evidence that Jesus didn’t claim to be the son of God. Either side is capable and likly to try to spin the facts their way.

  3. We’re in the triple digits all week. If you want to sell me on global warming, now is the time.

  4. John,

    That’s just not true. Scientists can garner just as much of a reputation for overthrowing the established position with reliable evidence as they can for confirming that position. The competition for reputation among individual scientists is one of the things that keeps the scientific process honest.

    Science is conducted by biased flawed humans, but the process is largely self-correcting. That is why it gets it right in the long run.

  5. I do find it interesting that if you doubt the official story of (say) 9/11 you’re considered by the media to be a “conspiracy theorist” but for some reason if you think that the entire global warming idea is a giant conspiracy then for some reason you’re never labeled that way. At worst, you’re a “denier”, whatever that means.

  6. Thanks for addressing this issue and working to bring to light the real issues surrounding the corporate-profit-driven effort to protect shareholders at the expense of the our environment.

    Let us not mention the perpetual efforts of the political class to protect its position at the expense of taxpayers/citizens. Or the similar efforts of the political/science establishment to obtain/maintain government research grants.

  7. I think global warming “deniers” are in part a natural reaction to overzealous global warming…”believers?” Some of the anti-global warming arguments are downright horrible. But in part, I’m sure it’s a response to people who have no idea what they’re talking about, scientifically, shouting about things they don’t understand. That makes academics very angry, and liable to take extreme positions they’d otherwise be more cautious about embracing.

  8. Dan. T. Don’t be suprised, it’s just an effort to conflate skeptics and Nazis.

  9. I don’t understand Samuelson’s piece.

    Is he claiming that ExxonMobil didn’t financially support the AEI and CEI (“Carbon dioxide. They call it pollution. We call it life.”) whose exact purpose was to cast doubt on GW in order to protect EM’s interests? That in labelling them a “bad guy” it oversimplifies the story, even though the allegations are true? That in labelling them a “bad guy” is true, but peripheral? Don’t do anything because it’s hard?

  10. That’s my comment at 11:50. Sorry. Totally spaced out.

  11. “”””Scientists can garner just as much of a reputation for overthrowing the established position with reliable evidence as they can for confirming that position”””

    It worked so well for them in the run up to the Iraq war. The experts and scientists that were discrediting the Bush admin were ignored or beaten up by the pundits and called unpatriotic among other things. I agree with John.

    I have seen no real proof that we cause global warming, or as I’ll call it, the current climate swing. It is well known that this planet can drastically without the existance of humans. That never seems to get factored in by the global warming crowd. I always ask them how much of the current trend is natural and how much is man made. I never get a straight answer. I’m half convinced that the man made global warming crowd want it to be man made because man would be the solution.

  12. Freeman Dyson on global warming.

    http://3quarksdaily.blogs.com/3quarksdaily/2007/08/global-warming-.html

    Please read the intelligent comments that accompany it.

    Dyson shows that you don’t have to be motivated by greed to get it wrong. He also demonstrates that scientists are not shy about challenging the established position. It is unfortunate, however, that those with an agenda not motivated by science will latch onto Dyson’s stature and use it to further their ends.

  13. I was in school when global warming started being taught to us kids. I was scared when I was told that global warming would cause my house to go under water. Later, when I learned about elevation (700′) I realized that what they were telling my was BS just to scare little kids.

    I saw a movie about a year ago where global warming got so bad that things started to instantly freeze to way below zero. More BS just to scare people.

    Is it any wonder that people are skeptical of global warming claims? If people like Al Gore stopped trying to scare people we might have a more reasonable debate. Maybe we could even debate the economics of global warming mitigation which has been largely ignored so far by everyone but the “denial machine”.

  14. “””(“Carbon dioxide. They call it pollution. We call it life.”) “””

    I think the biosphere project was almost killed by life. There was so much life they had to install a life scrubber to survive.

  15. Tricky Vic,

    That never seems to get factored in by the global warming crowd. I always ask them how much of the current trend is natural and how much is man made. I never get a straight answer.

    This statement just reveals that you don’t read the science on the issue, just the opinion pieces. Of course natural variation is factored into any claim of man-made global warming.

    For a basic review that will answer your questions, here is a good place to start.

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/05/start-here/

  16. Kevin is reading a different blog?

  17. Here is another good link to answer your questions…

    http://ipcc-wg1.ucar.edu/wg1/Report/AR4WG1_Pub_FAQs.pdf

  18. Tricky Vic,

    And here is even more detail to answer your question…

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=87

  19. Tricky Vic,

    And if you are really motivated. The IPCC chapter…

    http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar/wg1/095.htm

  20. de stilj: What about the possibility that money follow opinions rather than opinions following money?

    I realize using 20/20 hindsight, man-made global warming must appear as uncontroversial. However, there were good scientific reasons to doubt its seriousness, e.g., the satellite temperature record which showed only minimal warming.

    In addition, analysts at CEI and AEI and other think tanks had developed considerable skepticism with regard to prior exaggerated environmentalist claims of impending disasters, famine, population explosion, cancer epidemics from exposures to trace amounts of synthetic chemicals, genetically modified crops cause health problems, half of all species dead by 2000, running out oil, cooper, zinc, natural gas by 2000 and such. All of which were “scientifically” justified by political environmentalists. And they were wrong. So at the beginning of new highly touted environmental crisis like global warming, surely skepticism is warranted, or as Carl Sagan said, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

    I plead guilty to remaining skeptical perhaps longer than I should have, but the evidence for man-made global warming was not a slam-dunk. I know many of the analysts at CEI, AEI and others who remain skeptical, and I believe that they are intellectually honest people who have turned out to be wrong on this issue, not paid shills.

    And before you let the environmental lobby off the hook, remember they have every reason to sell fear in order to stay in business too. However, I don’t believe that environmental lobbyists are “green shills” who exaggerate dangers in order to boost their funding raising (btw, the top 12 environmental groups in the U.S. have total budgets that exceed $1 billion yearly). They are sincere people who have turned out to be wrong about a lot scientific (and economic) issues.

    Finally, as I have previously disclosed, the Reason Foundation has received grants from ExxonMobil in past.

  21. Just in case anyone is interested you can find 29 years of satellite temperature data here.

    One of my articles on the controversy over the satellite data, “We’re All Global Warmers Now” here.

  22. Science is conducted by biased flawed humans, but the process is largely self-correcting. That is why it gets it right in the long run.

    Neu Mejican,

    You are absolutely correct. Note that NASA has recently corrected their figures– 1934 is now the warmest year on record, not 1998. Some kind of Y2K bug thingy got fixed.

    For discussion, see also: http://www.dailytech.com/Blogger+finds+Y2K+bug+in+NASA+Climate+Data/article8383.htm

  23. Ron – call me when you locate 250 million years of satellite temperature data. Until then, I’m not convinced that we’re at fault.

    CB

  24. “””This statement just reveals that you don’t read the science on the issue, “””

    Actually, it reveals you didn’t understand my statement. I clearly referred to those whom I have spoken too, not anything I have read. I have read some which has lead me to believe that, 1. the solar system seems to be warming 2. It’s most likely caused by sun activity. 3 We were in a cooling trend in our most pollutive years. 4. The current trends do not match the global warming forcast. CO2 levels should be twice what they are under that model. 5. Humans are not very good at forcasting the weather a month in advance, forget about trying to predict what will happen next year. 6. The man leading the global warming debate is a politician. Politicians are great cheerleaders but they tend to roll with whatever supports their cause no matter how loose the facts.

    I’ll read your links this evening when I have time. I always seeking out new sources on this issue, which is why I’m not currently convinced we are causing the problem. Ever see “The Great Global Warming Swindle”, It’s in parts on Youtube, I saw it before they broke it up into sections. Check it out. If you expect me to read your links, I expect you to go to youtube and check it out if you haven’t seen it yet. It’s very good.

  25. Ron,

    I’m still surprised you continue to hump a proposal that is completely lacking in cost/benefit analysis. In fact, none of the GW chicken littles have any sort of cost/benefit analysis. It’s a typical bit of “OMG we must do something” absence of critical analysis. My guess is that you’re not really concerned about cost/benefit either…you’re just trying to make sure the chicken littles don’t complete emasculate the world economy.

  26. “Science is conducted by biased flawed humans, but the process is largely self-correcting. That is why it gets it right in the long run.”

    This may well be true, but the same is true of the corporate world. While some corporations certainly do have a vested interest in denying global warming, others, as John points out, have a vested interest in trumpeting it, e.g. big corn.

  27. As Tricky Vic said, 4 or 5 planets in our solar system are warming also. So that would indicate that at least a small part of our warming is due to increased solar output.

    For those of us too lazy to read all of the links, can someone tell me how much of our climate change is due to anthropocentric causes and how much is due to non man-made causes?

    Fuzzy estimates are fine. I geniunely want to know and have never read a man vs nature breakdown in the cause of our current climate swing.

  28. A quote from one of Neu’s links

    “””In summary, we know that the rise in atmospheric CO2 is entirely caused by fossil fuel burning and deforestation because many independent observations show that the carbon content has also increased in both the oceans and the land biosphere (after deforestation).”””

    I guess I’ll have to dig into their sources. I don’t think that conclusion follows that premise. Not to mention the claim that the ” rise in atmospheric CO2 is entirely caused by fossil fuel burning and deforestation” is a leap. If that was true, then the atmospheric CO2 levels would have been stable prior to our actions. Does any scientist believe that?

  29. We’ve got to do something. This is something, and so we’re doing it.

  30. Tricky Vic,

    RE: the Great Global Warming Swindle”

    Yes I have seen it.

    Worth reading regarding the film
    http://www.medialens.org/alerts/07/0313pure_propaganda_the.php

    If that was true, then the atmospheric CO2 levels would have been stable prior to our actions. Does any scientist believe that?

    No. And that is not the claim realclimate is making either. Keep reading.

    The recent rise is extraordinary in the geologic record and can be accounted for rigorously as being primarily the result of human activity.

  31. Well, even if a sizable chunk of the warming is caused by solar activity, could we at least decide it’s a good idea to not make it even worse by large man-made contributions to the greenhouse effect?

    (I’m one of those that believes that the solar link likely dominates–I don’t however think that gives us license to be as irresponsible as we want with adding more CO2 into the air.)

    And getting away from depending on liquid fuel coming out of a portion of the world where everyone is nuts and wants to kill each other would also seem to be a good idea.

  32. Of course natural variation is factored into any claim of man-made global warming.

    Not by Al Gore. That’s why he’s such a lousy spokesperson for global warming.

  33. And getting away from depending on liquid fuel coming out of a portion of the world where everyone is nuts and wants to kill each other would also seem to be a good idea.

    What, so now you want to stop drilling in Texas?

  34. Lurker Kurt,

    To keep it fuzzy…

    The trends over geologic time indicate that we should be in (or approaching) a cooling period.

    http://www.ace.mmu.ac.uk/eae/Climate_Change/Older/Interglacials.html

  35. Neu Mejican:

    Worth reading regarding the film
    http://www.medialens.org/alerts/07/0313pure_propaganda_the.php

    Forgive my cynicism, Neu Mejican, but I’m very skeptical about anything I read regarding global warming when the site name contains the words “media”, “watch” or “truth” and ends in .org. And yes, that includes both pro and con opinions.

  36. The trends over geologic time indicate that we should be in (or approaching) a cooling period.

    We are, it’s called “winter”.

    I’m here all week.

  37. could we at least decide it’s a good idea to not make it even worse by large man-made contributions to the greenhouse effect?

    No, we couldn’t. Because there’s limited agreement on how bad GW actually is, relative to how it will affect the lives of humans on this planet. And there’s no agreement as to what positives, if any, will result in a reduction of human generated CO2.

  38. The trends over geologic time indicate that we should be in (or approaching) a cooling period.

    Could it be that our burning of fossil fuels is staving off the next ice age and is actually a good thing?

    Just to be clear, I do believe it is getting warmer. What I am doubtful of is how much is due to man-made causes.

    Previous Doom and Gloom environmental claims from the likes of Paul Ehrlich have made me somewhat skeptical of the 21st century version of environmental Doom and Gloom claims.

  39. My own proposal for beginning to deal with climate change is a gradually rising tax on carbon-based fuels.

    Hey can Reason hire an economist reporter that suggests raising capital gains taxes to solve inequality also?

  40. jc: What’s wrong with inequality?

    Assuming that you’re being ironic, I don’t trust the government to spend my money more wisely than I would, but in this case I advocate carbon taxes as the most efficient way to fix a commons problem. The only other proposal is a cap-and-trade system which I argue is much less efficient in my article on carbon taxes.

  41. “””No. And that is not the claim realclimate is making either. Keep reading. “””

    Actually that IS the claim they are making, that was a quote I pulled from that site. If your check out some of their other writings you will see they further that arugement by making the claim that the proof is in the carbon isotopes. Their claim is that carbon isotope analysis PROVES the CO2 increases are strictly man made.

  42. Democracies don’t easily adopt painful measures in the present to avert possible future problems…One way or another, our assaults against global warming are likely to be symbolic, ineffective or both.

    Subsidized hybrids for everyone!!!

    There’s a cost, but people won’t think about it much if we don’t specify where the money is coming from. The benefit of a cheap car that gets 40 or 50 miles per gallon is much more visible than the cost of obscure budgetary shifts.

    And we could say we’re raising taxes on “the rich” to pay for it. A higher tax rate for upper income brackets is alot more visible than theoretical costs passed on to others in the form of reduced economic activity and higher salaries that organizations must pay to keep high skilled employees.

    In a democracy, considerations are weighed in proportion to how obvious they are.

  43. My preceding comment was a sort of half-satire-posible-kernal-of-truth type thing. I haven’t given too much thought to subsidized hybrids as a serious proposal (though I suppose there are worse possible proposals).

  44. “Humans are not very good at forcasting the weather a month in advance, forget about trying to predict what will happen next year.”

    I’m not very good at forecasting the next number to come up on one roll of a die, or even the next five or ten, but let me roll it a couple hundred times, and I can give you a *very* good prediction of the long-term trend.

  45. Tricky Vic,

    Their claim is that carbon isotope analysis PROVES the CO2 increases are strictly man made.

    Yes. But that is not the statement I was saying “no” to. You summarized their position as indicating this…

    ” If that was true, then the atmospheric CO2 levels would have been stable prior to our actions. Does any scientist believe that? ”

    This misses the point of their evidence entirely.

    Roughly…

    If the CO2 is coming from the ocean or the land reacting to a natural climate driver, and is therefore ending up in the atmosphere, that would mean there would be decreases in the C02 in the land-surface/ocean (heating moves it from surface to air). Instead we see increases in the land-surface, the ocean, and the atmosphere.

    So where is the CO2 coming from?
    We dig up fossil fuels and burn them.

    There is nothing in their argument that claims atmospheric CO2 does not respond to natural climate drivers. It just claims that the evidence for the current rise in CO2 results from a human activity.

  46. Ahhh, environmentalists. More effort spent fighting their political “enemies” than finding solutions to the problems at hand. (of course when they’re not busy gloating “we told you so”)

  47. Flagrant, indefensible bullshit: they call it pollution. Ron Bailey and Bob Samuelson call it life.

  48. “Money follows ideas” only when the people with the money are actively working to get the ideas they want. Even Bailey’s defense is an acknowledgement that the Denial Machine exists.

  49. “””There is nothing in their argument that claims atmospheric CO2 does not respond to natural climate drivers.”””

    They can’t have it both ways. If atmospheric CO2 rise is strictly a man made event as their statement said there could be no CO2 increases without human cause. Again here is their quote.
    “In summary, we know that the rise in atmospheric CO2 is entirely caused by fossil fuel burning and deforestation because…”

    That’s pretty straight forward.

    Not to mention they make the statment that CO2 has been on the rise for the last 150 years. Which is not really true, it’s had its ups and downs. That would be a kin to saying the stock market has been up for the last 70 years. It is true that it’s higher than it was 70 years ago.

    “””There is nothing in their argument that claims atmospheric CO2 does not respond to natural climate drivers. It just claims that the evidence for the current rise in CO2 results from a human activity.”””

    They do claim that nothing natural would increase atmospheric CO2 levels. I’ll agree my use of the word stable might have been incorrect in the sense that it excluded negative pressures. So I would amend my conclusion to say

    ” If that was true, then the atmospheric CO2 levels would have been stable or decreasing prior to our actions. Does any scientist believe that? ”

    But they do claim that atmospheric CO2 level increases are man made. Of course CO2 is not the main problem for global warming anyway.

    “”So where is the CO2 coming from?
    We dig up fossil fuels and burn them. “”

    Doesn’t that imply that there would be no CO2 increase absent the burning of fossil fuels?

  50. Even Bailey’s defense is an acknowledgement that the Denial Machine exists.

    No it isn’t.

  51. What’s the right temperature? What should we be shooting for?

    I think it’s a rather fantastic stretch to suggest a hypothesis is a fact.

  52. TrickyVic,
    you have tricked youself by skipping to the Summary of the RealClimate article, if you had read the first sentence of the first paragraph, the context of the summary would be quite clearly referring to the modern record, not the geological. And that natural occuring increases and decreases are accounted for.
    Here it is:

    “This question keeps coming back, although we know the answer very well: all of the recent CO2 increase in the atmosphere is due to human activities, in spite of the fact that both the oceans and the land biosphere respond to global warming.

    Reedig skilz r gud

  53. The “Denial Machine” is an attempt at a personal attack. If you don’t believe us you are X and all Xs should be beaten up whenever possible. As someone pointed out on a different thread of the same subject, the global warming crowd is trying to use the same attack plan as the Bush admin used on it WMD “Denial Machine”.

    “””I think it’s a rather fantastic stretch to suggest a hypothesis is a fact.”””

    That’s being nice about it.

  54. What’s the right temperature? What should we be shooting for?

    I’ll add…What amount of CO2 reduction will lead to the desired effect?

  55. What’s the right temperature? What should we be shooting for?

    Al Gore knows, but he’s not telling.

    We will summon all the ingenuity, all the innovation, all the skill and creativity of our country to protect a national asset: a clean, healthy environment. And we have to protect one of the most precious of all our treasures: the stable seasons God gave us. — Al Gore in a speech to the New York Historical Society.

  56. “””you have tricked youself by skipping to the Summary of the RealClimate article, if you had read the first sentence of the first paragraph, the context of the summary would be quite clearly referring to the modern record,””

    Prior to your post Sam I said.

    “Not to mention they make the statment that CO2 has been on the rise for the last 150 years.”

    So I DID read the “recent” part. Why did you not see that in my post?

  57. Ron, you forgot to mention that this is merely the latest iteration of the same article Samuelson writes every 1-2 months. The last one was dissing Prius drivers because “Prius politics won’t solve the climate crisis.” In another month, he’ll have another article mocking carbon offsets, or wind power, or carbon taxes, or something.

    Oddly enough, he always manages to critique something that’s being done about global warming, but never says what he thinks should be done about it. He’d rather stay a smartypants Serious Columnist.

  58. TEH CORPORASHUNZ!!!

  59. This statement just reveals that you don’t read the science on the issue, just the opinion pieces. Of course natural variation is factored into any claim of man-made global warming.

    OK, Neu Mejican, I’ll bite: what percent of global warming is due to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, how much due to other human influences, and how much due to natural variation? Cite the reference. Any other reference with different answers?

    Cause I haven’t seen ANY article ever answer that basic question.

    If you can’t answer that question with a high degree of confidence, then you shouldn’t be talking about statist political “solutions” to a possibly non-existent problem.

  60. Googled my own question and got this:

    mysite.verizon.net/mhieb/WVFossils/greenhouse_data.html

    which says that about 0.3% of global warming is due to anthropogenic greenhouse gases. Couldn’t find any other articles venturing to weigh in on that topic.

    Anyone else find something that contradicts this? If not, anyone want to explain why, on an allegedly libertarian website, we have people claiming we should allow a massive statist intervention to control something that affects about 3 parts out of a thousand of global warming?


  61. Googled my own question and got this:

    mysite.verizon.net/mhieb/WVFossils/greenhouse_data.html

    which says that about 0.3% of global warming is due to anthropogenic greenhouse gases. Couldn’t find any other articles venturing to weigh in on that topic.

    jh, you’re missing the central point*. It doesn’t matter what the percentage is. Here is what matters: the Earth has been in rough heat balance for a long time — the heat radiated out balances the heat from the sun.

    Since the industrial revolution, CO2 has doubled, and other greenhouse gasses have also increased. This means the Earth is trapping more heat energy. The heat balance is thrown off, and can only be restored by the Earth warming up to the point that it again radiates enough energy to balance what it absorbs.

    We’ve already changed the heat balance enough to lock in at least 3 degrees of increased global temperature, and we’re adding more to the total every day. We’re already seeing changes, but by 2150 (a date many of us will live to see, I hope), the evidence will be unmistakeable.

    If you believe what the scientists are saying, then intervention is justified because climate change will be a massive worldwide disaster. We should be looking for freedom-friendly solutions to the problem, not quibbling.

    Here’s a nice one-page summary of the topic:
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/08/the-co2-problem-in-6-easy-steps/

    I’d be happy to discuss it further, if you’re open to talking science.

    DannyK
    *the greater point, of course, is that the guy you cite is deliberately fudging the argument by referring to “global warming” without further qualification. Water vapor is, of course, the greatest greenhouse gas and without any greenhouse effect, the Earth would be a snowball. None of that is controversial, and none of it has any bearing on climate change.

  62. Since the industrial revolution, CO2 has doubled

    280 ppm to 386 ppm is not doubling. It’s not even close.

    We’ve already changed the heat balance enough to lock in at least 3 degrees of increased global temperature

    What on earth does this mean? If an industrial scale CO2 reduction process were invented tomorrow, and the CO2 levels were brought back to 280ppm by 2020, we’d still be stuck with at least 3 degrees of increased global temperature?

  63. DannyK — Still haven’t answered my question — what is the percentage of global warming caused by anthropogenic greenhouse gases, versus other human effects (such as paving over forests), versus non-human effects?

    Because if the ratio is 1% greenhouse, 10% paving, and 89% other, it would be foolish as hell to let statists take over industry to cut greenhouse gases slightly in one country — the same as if your life expectancy was reduced by 1 month due to being a bit overweight, 1 year due to smoking a pack a day, and 10 years by genetic factors you have no control over, would you panic and go on a crash diet because OMG your weight is reducing your life expectancy? Or would you conclude that either you should instead give up the cigs, or just not worry because the stuff you control was minor?

    Since you dispute the study I cited, show me one with percentages that bolster the case for massive governmental intervention.

  64. “However, there were good scientific reasons to doubt its seriousness, e.g., the satellite temperature record which showed only minimal warming.”

    There “were” good scientific reasons? There still *are* good scientific reasons why global warming shouldn’t be considered even among the top ten *environmental* threats to human health, let alone the top ten overall threats (including things such as biological weapons).

    How many *net* disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) do you think were lost last year to global warming? Obviously, the number is highly speculative, at best! But take a stab at it. Or choose some other recent year.

    For example, let’s say that in the 2003 heat wave in Europe, 35,000 people died. Let’s further say that on average, those people would have lived 10 more years (since the heat killed predominantly older people). That’s 350,000 DALYs lost in 2003 (nothing comparable to that has happened in Europe since then). That’s absolutely trivial compared to the DALYs lost to malaria **every year** (probably over 50,000,000…assuming 1 million deaths and an average of 50 years of life lost per premature death).

    Projects such as Bjorn Lomborg’s “Copenhagen Consensus” have been useful in showing a potential method for coming up with some sort of overall allocation of scarce dollars to benefit humanity. Global warming did not show up high on the list at all.

    And that’s not just Bjorn Lomborg’s own people reaching unique conclusions. Roger Pielke Jr. has had undergraduate students run a similar exercise, and his students reached similar conclusions:

    Students reach similar conclusion

  65. Still waiting for a cost/benefit analysis.

    Waiting.

    Waiting.

    waiti….

  66. Tricky Vic,jh,

    I have already linked to the material you need to answer your questions. The IPCC chapter linked above gives all the data you need.

    And if it ain’t in there, its covered in another chapter.

    http://www.ipcc.ch/

  67. MP,

    Cost benefit.
    Also available in the IPCC with a few scenarios to boot.

    Still not great work but certainly better than Lomborg’s

    For a detailed response to his points
    http://ecocouncil.dk/english/

  68. An interesting find for Lomborg fans…

    http://www.lomborg-errors.dk/

    You should, of course, also go to his website for responses.

    http://www.lomborg.com/critique.htm

  69. Neu Mejican — can’t find any text of the IPCC “findings” with your 12:32 link. Don’t want to slog through a steaming pile of bureaucratease … what are the percentages for each cause of global warming? Is that in the report?

  70. “We have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we may have. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest.”

    Stephen Schneider (leading advocate of the global warming theory)
    (in interview for Discover magazine, Oct 1989)

    ‘Nuff said.

  71. All of you folks are sophisticated morons. The land-based temperature record is F_CKED. The keepers of the records correct all of the good and bad station data to be more like each other. The details of these corrections are SECRET.

    There is very likely a significant man made influence on climate change, however, the basic data used to calibrate the models is WRONG.

    Increased carbon dioxide and methane may cause some warming. This may be offset by the big brown dust cloud spewing out of China that diminishes solar radiation. Then you have contrail (not chem trails) induced cloud formation, methane releases, deforestation, reforestation, asphalt and concrete covering of land, and the evaporation of lake, river and groundwater via irrigation.

    All of these big spewings of massive shit has some effect on climate. No one knows how it all works. The north pole sea ice appears to be melting back more and more. Maybe this is due to CO2, maybe the sun, maybe soot deposited from china that increases the heat absorption.

    Without knowing how all of these pieces fit into the overall climate change equation, any cost benefit analysis is worthless.

    In the mean time, the promoters of CO2 as the bogyman of Armageddon are fighting all efforts to evaluate the temperature record.

    A guy in Davis California and his volunteers (who seem a bit froth-mouthed deniers) have surveyed about 20% of the US long term climate stations. They have found that many of the sites used in the settled science are next to buildings and asphalt parking lots. These are photos that the realclimate government slugs do not want anyone to see because it makes their models just a pile of steaming bullcrap.

    But, the north pole is still melting. Maybe there is a CO2 induced temperature signal in the record. The fact is that the temperature record as now published and promoted by the alphabet soup bureaucrats and their blog is not useful, they don’t want it fixed and they refuse to disclose how they have manipulated it to make the current temperature look to an idiot like Nuevo Mexo the tops of the geologic record. I don’t know how the neuvo smart set explains the fern fossils above the Arctic Circle. Perhaps that follows porcine aerodynamics.

    Bottom line:

    1) the north pole melting may be caused by man not related to CO2.

    2) It is all natural and no matter how hard we all collectively scrimp and save, the pole will continue to melt.

    3) It may be some strange combination of factors, including natural and CO2 and a host of other man spewings.

    Right now, both sides are being played for fools and this thread is full of morons dancing to a tune they cannot hear.

    The biggest fool is Bailey who has covered science and the environment so long, he thinks that he actually knows something about science:

    Remember that the difference between the layman who understands science and the man who practices the art of science is that the layman, or critic, out of receptive experience, shares passively what the scientist, out of productive experience, creates. (Modified after Hofmann, 1948)

    Less opinion and more reporting would be in order Bailey. Quit thinking that you can have make conclusions of value to your readers. Since you are a reporter, why don’t you stick to that? Is it boring and career limiting? I thought so, the same is true in science.

    Thats why the government warming propaganda scientists and there megaphones are more concerned with the destination (models), not the journey (temperature data).

  72. I am a regular reader of your article. And I am very impress with your blog upon Global Warming. Now I am also write a blog upon effects and causes of Global Warming. This blog is collection of news & reviews like the study found that global warming since 1985 has been caused neither by an increase in solar radiation nor by a decrease in the flux of galactic cosmic rays. Some researchers had also suggested that the latter might influence global warming because the rays trigger cloud formation.

  73. Tricky Vic wrote:
    “So I DID read the “recent” part. Why did you not see that in my post?”

    The entire balance of your post I was answering suggest to me you think that they think that natural CO2 can neither increase nor decrease, that only man cause cause such flux. This is an incorrect assessment of their position. They know full well that natural CO2 increases and decreases for reasons which have nothing to do with human activity. They have stated as much many times.

    And of course the gist of their article is that this increase in CO2 during the past 150 years is almost entirely due to human activity.

    That the reasons for this is that we are obviously burning tons upons tons of carbon.

    And that this rise in CO2 concentrationscan be sensed by use of approtiate sensors in appropriate locations worldwide.

    And that that new CO2 can be distinguished from naturally occuring CO2 by the necessarily different proportions of isotopes of Carbon and Oxygen present in the increasing artificial CO2 molecules, as compared with natural CO2.

  74. oops! failed to end a tag there. sorry.

    Anyway to answer osmeones elses question about how much of the current warming is due to human activiites. My current ballpark estimate is based on a back-of-the-envlope reading I did recently of the recent IPCC report. I can’t recall though if this figure is the total Forcings or just the Global Mean Temperature. Nor can I recall if it covers the entire 20th century, or the second half of the 20th C. Much of the IPCC report concerned itself with the second half; and a large chunk of the warming of the 1st half of the 20th C. is actually due to changes in luminosity of the Sun, which is nothe case during the second half.

    My current ballpark:
    Natural Changes 09%
    Humans 91%

  75. And that that new CO2 can be distinguished from naturally occuring CO2 by the necessarily different proportions of isotopes of Carbon and Oxygen present in the increasing artificial CO2 molecules, as compared with natural CO2.

    Which proves nothing about what the atmospheric content of CO2 would be without anthropogenic sources. It there should be a higher content of anthropogenic CO2 in the atmoshpere, as that is where we discharge it.

    It is also known that when water warms, it outgasses dissolved gases. If the ocean is also outgassing, then it’s rate of CO2 absorption from the atmosphere will be reduced.
    If there were no anthro CO2 then the ocean can emit CO2 at a higher rate. There is evidence of past periods where warming precedes atmospheric CO2 increases.

    It is not yet time to take the pronouncements or research bureaucracies on faith.

  76. ‘Nuff said.

    And here jh gives us the heart of global warming denialism – he found someone on “the other side” who is approaching the issue in a political manner, so that’s “Nuff said.”

    It no longer matters to him what the science says. It no longer matter how overwhelming the evidence is, or how univeral the acknowledglement of that evidence is from the scientists in a position to know; a political line has been drawn, and that is all denialists need to know.

    The relevant WMD comparison here is to Jonah Goldberg – if liberals are on one side, he was going to be on the other, and it simply does not matter what the facts, evidence, and conclusions drawn by the professionals were.

  77. jh,

    Don’t want to slog through a steaming pile of bureaucratease … what are the percentages for each cause of global warming? Is that in the report?

    Do you really expect other people to do all the work for you? If you want to understand the issue, what it known, what is claimed, and how it is supported, you will need to read something longer than two sentences on a blog. The IPCC site has links to their report. It is free. The information you want is in the link I provided at 12:21pm yesterday. If it doesn’t satisfy your curiosity, read the rest of the report. If that doesn’t answer your question, go to realclimate.org or any number of other sites that do a good job summarizing the science. Hell, call your local University and talk to an expert.

    A lazy mind latches onto lazy rhetoric and makes lazy proclamations, apparently.

  78. sam-hec,

    90% sounds like a reasonable guess, but I think the wording the IPCC uses is easier to defend.

    “Primarily” it admits that the numbers are fuzzy.

    For jh,

    Land use estimated at 10-30% of the increased carbon, so that would go into sam-hec’s 90% figure.

  79. Neu Mejican,

    I’m not interested in a general discussion of whether any of Bjorn Lomborg’s books or analyses contain errors. Of course they do. And I’m not interested a general discussion of whether some of the “errors” identified are not really errors…that on some points it’s Lomborg’s critics who are wrong. That is also true.

    But I *am* interested in discussing whether Bjorn Lomborg is correct when he assesses that global warming is not even close to the top of the list of problems on which the world should spend its limited money.

    Do you agree or disagree with Bjorn Lomborg’s assessment in that regard, and why?

    I agree with his assessment, because I’m confident that the net damage-i.e., damage minus benefits-of global warming pales in comparison to other environmental problems, such as indoor air pollution from solid fuels burning in developing countries, and lack of clean drinking water in developing countries. Let alone other societal problems such as malaria, HIV/AIDs, tobacco use, etc.

    Mark

    P.S. Note that the World Health Organization attributes 800,000 deaths every year to iron deficiency:

    With all the talk about global warming, who is talking about iron deficiency?

  80. So what expains the warming on Mars?

  81. opps

    What explains the warming on Mars?

  82. http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/mars_ice-age_031208.html

    They believe global warming on Mars is a result of an ending ice age. Hummm, didn’t we have one of those?

  83. Mark B,

    The overall problem I have with Lomborg is somewhat counter-intuitive given that he bases his position largely on J. Simon.

    The Copenhagen Consensus seems to think that our ability to address these problems is limited. It assumes that addressing GW (or any of these other issues) will be a drag on the economy. While that may be true for some of the problems on the list, GW is best addressed by techniques that have a long term positive impact on the economy. If you buy into the arguments from the Ultimate Resource (which, btw, has some giant flaws in reasoning, despite a decent take on the role of human ingenuity), then these problems will be solved by improvements in technology and process as our ingenuity reacts to the challenge. These improved process create economic opportunities and increased efficiencies that are good for the economy and more than pay for themselves. Providing resources that can be used to address other problems on the list.

    To argue that there are certain challenges we should ignore so that we can concentrate on the more important problems hampers the natural processes of development that will take care of these problems as they arise. J. Simon’s premise only works if people actively engage issues as they arise. The Copenhagen Consensus argues that we should be passive on some issues…

    I like the work of Amory Lovins et al on this issue …

    http://www.rmi.org/

  84. Tricky Vic,

    Now you are just flailing around for a point to nit-pick.

    The solar drivers are well understood and taken into account in the work that tells us that our burning of fossil fuels is the primary climate driver in the current warming.

    realclimate.org does a good job of providing the case that includes extensive documentation and links to the actual studies with peer review and commentary. They will even respond to your questions directly in their comments section. You will get a more informed discussion there than you will here.

  85. Mark B,

    I would point out that the main thing I take issue with in Lomborg’s work is the way he attempts to frame the debate. These problems are not in competition with each other. They are inter-related and require integrated responses.

  86. Mark B,

    And since you are bringing the WHO into the discussion…
    Here is a recent position statement from them on Climate Change and Health

    http://www.who.int/globalchange/news/fsclimandhealth/en/

    Based on these assessments, WHO considers that rapid climate change poses substantial risks to human health, particularly among the poorest populations. The organization therefore supports actions to reduce human influence on the global climate.

  87. Mark B,

    For instance…if someone were to invent you magic fusion reactor to address global warming, what would the impact on the economy be? Would that help to address other issues on the Copenhagen list?

    I know you’ve made some pretty optimistic predictions regarding the economy in the future…those predictions are predicated on humans actively addressing shortcomings in current technologies and processes. Why not let the market place of ideas choose which issues are the most important and deserve our attention?

  88. Urm,

    “your magic fusion”

  89. A better link to the WHO take on things.

    http://www.who.int/globalchange/en/

  90. “”Now you are just flailing around for a point to nit-pick. “””

    Not at all. The premise that global warming is a Earth issue may be failing to recognize the true scope of the issue.

    I mentioned other planets warming in a previous post.

  91. @jh:

    Since you dispute the study I cited, show me one with percentages that bolster the case for massive governmental intervention.

    OK, I get your question. I don’t know. The albedo effect of turning light-colored land into dark streets and roofs is significant, but not nearly as much as the greenhouse effect. I can’t give you percentages, though.

    And talking about statists, you wouldn’t support a government program to whiten every manmade structure on the surface of the planet, would you?

  92. @MikeP:


    What on earth does this mean? If an industrial scale CO2 reduction process were invented tomorrow, and the CO2 levels were brought back to 280ppm by 2020, we’d still be stuck with at least 3 degrees of increased global temperature?

    MikeP, do you really not understand what I’m saying? The “atmospheric lifetime” of CO2 is estimated at between 5 and 200 years. The variance is due to the fact that there are many mechanisms that take CO2 out of the atmosphere.

    Here’s a table presenting the data.
    http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar/wg1/016.htm

    Since we’re dumping enormous amounts of the stuff (not doubling it, though, my mistake) into the atmosphere, and because it lasts a long time, we’re effectively committed already to at least 3 degrees of warming. If we keep emitting more CO2 under business-as-usual conditions, the amount of warming just keeps going up.

    None of this is controversial, by the way. Here’s a slide show from the IPCC presenting the facts:
    http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar/slides/ppt/01.17.ppt

    If you invent an amazing CO2-removal device tomorrow and suck all the extra CO2 out of the air by 2020, obviously there’d be less warming. There are other greenhouse gases like methane and CFC’s, so the amount of warming would be less than zero, though.

    By the way, if you invent that CO2-sucker, you should call it the Anti-Life Machine, in honor of the CEI.

  93. DannyK,

    Of course I understand what you are saying. You are ignoring any future potential for active sequestration of CO2 from the atmosphere in order to overstate a point.

    By the way, where do you get 3 degrees? The IPCC 4AR predicts 1?F by 2100 if no more carbon is emitted starting today. The graph in the slide you reference shows little more than 50% more warming after the first century. That would be less than 1 degree Celsius.

    I’ll take your Anti-Life Machine naming idea under advisement. It’s cute, but I expect marketing won’t go for it. Maybe for marketing it to Dr. Evil…

  94. “The Copenhagen Consensus seems to think that our ability to address these problems is limited.”

    This is not a notion unique to the Copenhagen Consensus! This is a basic, unquestionable fact of life, on which an entire system of study is founded. The whole foundation of economics is that it involves the allocation of scarce resources (money and time) in the manner that is most efficient.

    “It assumes that addressing GW (or any of these other issues) will be a drag on the economy.”

    The Copenhagen Consensus assumes that addressing global warming–or addressing malaria, or addressing contaminated drinking water–will cost money and time. Again, that is the foundation of economics: money and time are finite, but desires are not.

    “While that may be true for some of the problems on the list, GW is best addressed by techniques that have a long term positive impact on the economy.”

    If I buy a set of photovoltaic panels and put them on my house to reduce my purchases of electricity from the grid, it will have a *long term* positive effect on my financial position. That is, in 20+ years, the photovoltaics (and inverters) will eventually save more money then I’ve spent. But I haven’t gone out and bought a set of photovoltaic panels. Why not? Well, my 403b retirement investment is returning an astounding 22 percent over the last year, for example. So I could invest $10,000 in a photovoltaic system that would pay back in 20+ years, or I could invest $10,000 in my retirement, and at 7 percent per year (let alone 22 percent), in 20 years it would be worth $40,000.

    “To argue that there are certain challenges we should ignore so that we can concentrate on the more important problems hampers the natural processes of development that will take care of these problems as they arise.”

    No, it doesn’t. Again, this is the foundation on which economics is built. The amount of time and money that’s been wasted on global warming could have been better spent on more important problems. If the amount of money spent on global warming just in the last few years had gone into purchasing and delivering (at no charge)for no charge multivitamin/multimineral tablets to everyone on earth who can’t presently afford them, literally millions of lives would have been saved. The same is true for systems to treat drinking water to remove biological contaminants.

    “J. Simon’s premise only works if people actively engage issues as they arise.”

    No, J. Simon’s “premise” (it’s actually a conclusion based on large amounts of data) works best if people actively engage the most important and easily solvable issues first. There’s nothing in J. Simon’s “premise” (that human beings innovate to produce better futures) that conflicts at all with the fundamental concept of economics that problems that can most cost-effectively addressed should be solved first.

    “The Copenhagen Consensus argues that we should be passive on some issues…”

    Yes, exactly. We should be passive on some issues until more pressing problems are addressed. For example, last week my nose got broken by a bad-hop ground ball in a softball game. My car was also in the repair shop. On my way to the emergency room for my nose, I didn’t call the mechanic to see whether my car had been finished.

  95. “For instance…if someone were to invent your magic fusion reactor to address global warming?”

    First of all, it it’s neither “mine,” nor “magic.” There are several ways to produce fusion beyond conventional tokamak reactors. For example, one of the fusion reactors I find most intriguing is the dense plasma focus reactor…especially if it can be run with hydrogen and boron as a fuel (as opposed to deuterium).

    But that is not *my* idea, and there is absolutely nothing “magic” about it. Dense plasma focus devices have already achieved fusion?though not with hydrogen and boron as a fuel. They have produced abundant neutrons, which are unquestionably the result of fusion. So there is absolutely nothing magical about them producing fusion. It’s well-understood fusion physics. What they haven’t done is produce more energy output than input. And they haven’t run on hydrogen-boron fuel.

    I liken the situation to powered flight in the late 19th century. The physics was generally understood (though not completely), but the development of compact and powerful internal combustion engines hadn’t progressed sufficiently to allow powered flight. Now, you could say that the Wright Brothers or the Spirit of St Louis involved “magic,” and probably 100 or even 50 years before those flights, the ideas would have seemed like “magic.” But they weren’t.

    “?what would the impact on the economy be?”

    The development of hydrogen-boron fusion capable of producing electricity at a cost equal to or less than the lowest current-cost technologies (e.g. coal-fired power plants in the U.S.) would be a world-changing technology. It would allow rapid and essentially pollution-free electrification of Africa, India, and China. It would completely eliminate any need for a nationwide electrical grid in the U.S. or anywhere else (e.g. Iraq). In fact, it probably would even be a solar-system-changing technology, in that it would probably allow humans to live for extended periods on the Moon and Mars, and potentially even the moons of Jupiter.

    (One more potentially important impact: If it led to the possibility that small groups of nut jobs could produce fusion explosions by misusing the technology, that would be horrendous. Of course, so would genetically engineered viruses or bacteria used to kill people.)

    “Would that help to address other issues on the Copenhagen list?”

    Well, inexpensive electricity available anywhere in the world will go a very long way towards reducing microbiological contaminants in water and food. I don’t think indoor air pollution from burning solid fuels was on the Copenhagen list, but it would probably be even better at reducing that. It would allow long-term storage of medicines that require refrigeration to be preserved. Air conditioning would be a huge boon to reducing malaria.

    So, yes, it would help reduce some Copenhagen Consensus problems. And it would be a huge boon to solving problems like indoor air pollution from burning solid fuels that did not make the Copenhagen Consensus list.

    It would also essentially allow elimination of the need to mine and burn coal and to dam rivers for electricity.

    THAT’S why controlled (non-tokamak) fusion should be pursued. Not because it will reduce CO2 emissions…though it would do that, also. CO2 emissions simply aren’t a very important problem.

  96. Mark B,

    Don’t be such a twit.

    “Your” was a metonymy for “your favorite project to discuss”

    And…

    The word “magic” = “world-changing technology.”

    Lighten up.

  97. Mark B,

    There’s nothing in J. Simon’s “premise” (that human beings innovate to produce better futures) that conflicts at all with the fundamental concept of economics that problems that can most cost-effectively addressed should be solved first.

    There is nothing in economics that ties cost-effectiveness so tightly to time/order. Setting priorities, economic or not, involves other factors. A problem with a deadline and a long time-delayed solution might be less cost-effective, but more appropriately addressed first compared to problems with different characteristics.

    The point, of course, is that working on these problems in an integrated fashion, with a systems approach makes more sense than Lomborg’s step-wise approach.

  98. Mark B,

    The amount of time and money that’s been wasted on global warming could have been better spent on more important problems.

    Why do you (or Lomborg) get to decide what the more important problems are? If GW is winning out in the marketplace of ideas, then it is the problem that the process has chosen to focus on. A combination of top-down and bottom-up factors have chosen it. You just want to be in charge of the top-down factors… a very authoritarian take on the issue, at its heart.

    If Lomborg’s ideas are better, they will win out in the end. But to claim that the time and energy spent on GW is a waste requires a pretty restricted view of the nature of human progress.

  99. “Your” was a metonymy for “your favorite project to discuss”

    And…

    The word “magic” = “world-changing technology.”

    Lighten up.

    Hey, you’re the guy who thinks global warming is a big problem, not me.

    I simply wanted to make sure casual Hit and Run readers don’t think there is anything at all flaky or unscientific about achieving controlled fusion by methods other than the tokamak. (That’s not to say that techniques such as dense plasma focus fusion *will* achieve breakeven power production in the coming decade or more. But it’s in no way beyond scientific credibility that they might.)

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