Global Warming Rhetoric: Always Dark Clouds—Never Any Silver Linings

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Invaluable New York Times science journalist John Tierney ponders how bad weather figures in the rhetoric about man-made global warming. To wit:

You're in for very bad weather. In 2008, your television will bring you image after frightening image of natural havoc linked to global warming. You will be told that such bizarre weather must be a sign of dangerous climate change — and that these images are a mere preview of what's in store unless we act quickly to cool the planet.

Unfortunately, I can't be more specific. I don't know if disaster will come by flood or drought, hurricane or blizzard, fire or ice. Nor do I have any idea how much the planet will warm this year or what that means for your local forecast. Long-term climate models cannot explain short-term weather….

But there's bound to be some weird weather somewhere, and we will react like the sailors in the Book of Jonah. When a storm hit their ship, they didn't ascribe it to a seasonal weather pattern. They quickly identified the cause (Jonah's sinfulness) and agreed to an appropriate policy response (throw Jonah overboard).

As Tierney notes, man-made global warming occurs with almost imperceptible slowness which means that it's hard to get the public and politicians concerned about it. This is where "availability entrepreneuers" come to the rhetorical rescue.

Today's interpreters of the weather are what social scientists call availability entrepreneurs: the activists, journalists and publicity-savvy scientists who selectively monitor the globe looking for newsworthy evidence of a new form of sinfulness, burning fossil fuels.

Tierney notes that 2007 was the least warm year since 2001; while Arctic sea ice declined to the lowest extent ever recorded, Antarctic sea ice reached the highest level ever recorded by satellites; the Atlantic hurricane season was much calmer than predicted earlier and so forth. Availability entrepreneurs dramatize their concerns by always pointing to the dark clouds and ignoring any silver linings. As Tierney notes:

Slow warming doesn't make for memorable images on television or in people's minds, so activists, journalists and scientists have looked to hurricanes, wild fires and starving polar bears instead. They have used these images to start an "availability cascade," a term coined by Timur Kuran, a professor of economics and law at the University of Southern California, and Cass R. Sunstein, a law professor at the University of Chicago.

The availability cascade is a self-perpetuating process: the more attention a danger gets, the more worried people become, leading to more news coverage and more fear. Once the images of Sept. 11 made terrorism seem a major threat, the press and the police lavished attention on potential new attacks and supposed plots. After Three Mile Island and "The China Syndrome," minor malfunctions at nuclear power plants suddenly became newsworthy.

"Many people concerned about climate change," Dr. Sunstein says, "want to create an availability cascade by fixing an incident in people's minds. Hurricane Katrina is just an early example; there will be others. I don't doubt that climate change is real and that it presents a serious threat, but there's a danger that any 'consensus' on particular events or specific findings is, in part, a cascade."

Once a cascade is under way, it becomes tough to sort out risks because experts become reluctant to dispute the popular wisdom, and are ignored if they do. Now that the melting Arctic has become the symbol of global warming, there's not much interest in hearing other explanations of why the ice is melting — or why the globe's other pole isn't melting, too.

Whole Tierney article here.

Tierney also provocatively asks at TierneyLab, "Are There Any Good Weather Omens?" In other words what kind of weather events would count as being "inconsistent" with the man-made global warming hypothesis? I think that TierneyLab commenter Martin Richard lists some pretty good ones:

Glaciers advancing. Greenland not losing ice. A stretch of years without record numbers of high temperature records broken. Arctic sea ice returns. Tundra re-freeezes. In the Willamette Valley, pinot noir becomes as problematic as once it was.

Link to TierneyLab here.

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  1. Old mother earth has become so screwed up because of man-made global warming, even the experts can no longer accurately predict future weather events.

  2. Oh oh I got one!

    It’s going down below 30 tonight here in Fort Lauderdale. Yesterday I was at the beach and it was 83ish…

  3. A global warming thread? Quick, everyone, get your confirmation bias ready.

  4. I remember last January, when highs were in the 60s and 70s here in upstate NY, and the cherry blossoms were blooming in DC, and every talking head on TV as well as Al Gore at his congressional hearing was talking about how this was evidence for global warming.

    I don’t know how things went in DC thereafter, but I know we froze our asses off here in February and March…and yet no one used that as evidence of global warming being nonsense, did they?

  5. All I can say is, this global warming thing is great, our ski areas here have had record snow as of the last couple of years.

  6. crimethink, extremes becoming more extreme and more sudden swings in weather are part of the global warming models, aren’t they?

  7. Is there a Baked Penguin theory of Global Warming?

  8. Yeah, silver linings. For example, while China might see much of its farmland turn to desert, areas in Siberia which are currently useless for farming might become useful.

    Whadddya think that’s going to look like?

  9. Global warming alarmists remind me very much of born-again evangelicals. They find causes for imminent doom everywhere and we all need to convert immediately or our souls are lost.

  10. People have too short a lifetime to truly be able to understand any long term implications of global warming.

    We also have a tendency to view action as better than understanding…so regardless whether it does us any good, we feel better about ouselves for planting a tree than sitting at home doing extensive research on the “right” solution.

  11. When I first started paying attention to the national and world news (’68 or so) I was amazed at all of the weather disasters that seemed to plague this planet of ours. After 40 years of observation, I can confidently predict that 2008 will have numerous weather disasters somewhere on this ball of mud we call Earth. After watching the disaster mongers report the news for those same 40 years, I can confidently predict that the news reporting establishment will attempt to blame all natural disasters on global warming.

    Henceforth, I’m going to start blaming all weather (and other) events on anthropogenic climate change.

    Blizzard in January? – Global Warming
    Rainy April? – Global Warming
    Hot August? – Global Warming
    Dropping temperatures in October? – Global Warming
    Monsoon deaths in South Asia? – Global Warming
    Hurricane in the Caribbean? – Global Warming
    Tornados in Kansas? – Global Warming
    Volcano in Indonesia? – Global Warming
    Earthquake in Turkey? – Global Warming

    Can I be a “Science Correspondent” now?

  12. The key to the “availability cascade” is that it takes otherwise normal events and attributes them to a single overarching cause. Its really just conspiracy theory thinking, and reminds me of how the AGW true believers attribute all severe weather, hot or cold, wet or dry, to global warming, just like conspiracy theorists making all evidence, or lack of evidence, consistent with their pet theory.

    It just illustrates that, for most people, belief in AGW is generally based on a prior commitment to some flavor or other of environmental correctness, and not on the data. Any kind of strong belief in catastrophic AGW requires one to disregard too much – prior warming/cooling trends, concurrent warming trends on other planets, the plateauing of global temperatures over the last several years, etc.

  13. joe: seriously, who cares. I’ll either be dead or mounting machine guns on a souped-up post-apocalyptic hotrod.

  14. Yeah, silver linings. For example, while China might see much of its farmland turn to desert, areas in Siberia which are currently useless for farming might become useful.

    Whadddya think that’s going to look like?

    what about increased poverty because goods cost more to be “green”?

  15. “…otherwise normal events…”

    Assuming that each instance of unusual weather cannot be caused by global warming is as irrational as assuming that it must have been caused by global warming.

  16. Bingo wins.

  17. LIT,

    What about increased poverty because of stronger and more frequent storm events?

    Or because of expanding deserts?

    Or just because the really good farmland is no longer where the people who depend on it have been living for generations?

  18. Good for availability entrepreneurs. The whole “climate alarmism” rap is largely bullshit — scientists are temperamentally disposed to underplay the risks of climate change. We need more of this.

  19. Come one guys, everyone knows that climate change is caused by fluctuations in the polarity of the BUJM.

  20. What I’m going to love is all the people going apeshit in the thread below over ID being taught in schools, showing up here to defend the “any instance of weird weather proves global warming” hypothesis.

    The problem, in both cases, is one of falsifiability. As Bailey notes above, if there are no possible occurences that can disprove a theory, then it is not science.

  21. joe: hurricanes, snow, hot, cold, sun, storms, clouds, rain, droughts, and fog are all normal weather patterns and have been recorded throughout history.

    Although I suppose buying into snake oil cures for non-existent problems is pretty normal human behavior too.

  22. But there’s bound to be some weird weather somewhere, and we will react like the sailors in the Book of Jonah. When a storm hit their ship, they didn’t ascribe it to a seasonal weather pattern. They quickly identified the cause (Jonah’s sinfulness) and agreed to an appropriate policy response (throw Jonah overboard).

    OK. Who do we throw overboard this time?

  23. The vagueness of the whole thing bothers me. In the absence of anyone telling me what I’m actually accomplishing by devoting x amount of resources to a problem (do I actually get fewer hurricanes and fewer deserts, for example?), all catastrophes are equal.

    Why spend on global warming instead of asteroid collision? I’m afraid the answer is “We caused it,” instead of “We can do something measurable about it.”

  24. Never mind, joe’s already here.

  25. Assuming that each instance of unusual weather cannot be caused by global warming is as irrational as assuming that it must have been caused by global warming.

    This rather begs the question of what constitutes “unusual weather.” A single hurricane is not unusual weather, even if it is a Cat 4 or Cat 5.

    It also ignores that much of what is now blamed on or shown as evidence of global warming isn’t weather at all – fires aren’t weather, and neither are starving animals.

  26. “Or just because the really good farmland is no longer where the people who depend on it have been living for generations?”

    then THE LAW OF DAN T kicks in:

    don’t like the weather? move.

    [ducks]

  27. Tierney notes that 2007 was the least warm year since 2001

    Oh, come on. Last year at my house June 20 was cooler than June 1, which apparently disproves the old “summer weather in New England starts around May and gets steadily warmer until about mid-August” theory.

  28. joe,

    what about them..you point out the downsides of underreacting to global warming and I’m pointing out the dangers of overreacting to global warming. Its entirely possible that each is bad enough in its own way, but we have no idea. Human beings aren’t capable yet of understanding the long term effects of global warming.

  29. I’d really like to talk more about the standard reaction of humans to “do something” about a problem, even if the action performed does nothing to help the problem (or sometimes hurts). Forcing 300 Million people (more in the case of the UN) to all behave toward a problem in the same way will most certainly have an impact on something, but whatever the unintended consequence is that is associated with the action will be terrifically magnified.

  30. What bothers me about the global warming issue is that everyone is that the discussion is always skewed towards how to stop global warming, rather than how to mitigate the consequences thereof.

    I mean, has anyone looked into the possibility of mitigating sea level rise by towing Greenland icebergs each year to the coast of Morocco, then chopping them up into manageable pieces and helicoptering them over the Atlas Mountains and dropping them into the Sahara, where they would melt and form much needed water reservoirs?

    I know that might be a stupid and unfeasible idea, but it’s no more so than the idea that we can cut fossil fuel emissions by 90%, going back to the days of horse-drawn carriages, candles, and outhouses (and force China, India, and the rest of the world to stay in those days), which would-be global warming stoppers claim is necessary.

  31. They have a hard time predicting what the weather will be like next week. I pay little attention when I hear what the weather will be like next month, year, and beyond.

  32. I know that might be a stupid and unfeasible idea, but it’s no more so than the idea that we can cut fossil fuel emissions by 90%, going back to the days of horse-drawn carriages, candles, and outhouses (and force China, India, and the rest of the world to stay in those days), which would-be global warming stoppers claim is necessary.

    I have no idea what to “do about” global warming, but I’m pretty sure that putting my fingers in my ears and yelling “nyaah nyaah I’m not listening fuck you stupid greenies” isn’t it.

  33. And my only demand if my iceberg hauling idea is put into place is that the resulting body of water be named “Lake Crimethink” or whatever the Berber equivalent is.

  34. Jennifer,

    Do you think we can cut global fossil fuel emissions by 90%? ie, do you think that if the US and Europe do this, that China, India, and the rest of the countries of the world will follow suit despite the incredibly low price of oil that would result?

  35. Um, shouldnt it be pointed out that the sailors in Jonah were correct? Also, they tried to avoid throwing him overboard, even after he asked them to.

  36. Every country needs to invest into desalinazation plants. Then we can help prevent the rise in the oceans by drinking and bottling the water. lol.

  37. Even if global warming is real, and even if it is caused by human activity, the drastic things we would have to do to stop it the way many “experts” want is not feasible. What we should do is adapt and use the free market to develop alternative energy sources and ways to save energy, and also to develop ways to deal with changing temperatures (if it happens, which it probably will even if not caused by humans).

    What I always notice with this stuff is how extremely conservative most environmentalists are. Nothing can change! No species can go extinct (good luck)! The temperature must remain exactly the same as when I was growing up! We must have exactly the amount of forest that we had 30 years ago! And so on.

  38. You guys are nothing but Deniers of the Coming Apocolypse. It’ll be here real soon now. I don’t know what it will look like, but I’ll know when it’s here.

    You must have the Ceasless Faith of Divine Speculation?, lest ye be branded a heretic.

  39. Tricky,

    That wouldn’t work because the water would return to the oceans after it’s urinated out.

    Creating a massive reservoir of water in an area that’s not currently being used that much (like the Sahara) would in fact prevent sea level rise.

  40. I’ve come to the conclusion that, from a sociological standpoint, global warming is not and cannot be science because nothing, even in theory, can falsify it.

  41. Here’s another idea: build a massive, extremely tall circular wall at the 85th parallel, then start dumping icebergs or sea water into it. All that stuff will freeze in place, and it will stay frozen, because the temperature there is colder than at lower latitudes, where the sea ice would melt.

  42. What about increased poverty because of stronger and more frequent storm events?

    Or because of expanding deserts?

    Or just because the really good farmland is no longer where the people who depend on it have been living for generations?

    joe–Has any of this actually happened or was this pulled directly from someone’s ass?

  43. JW

    The Rapture DID OCCUR. On October 7, 2003.

    If you’re still here, you didn’t make the cut.

    Sorry about that.

    Enjoy the tribulations.

  44. There are several deserts that are expanding, but that’s not a new thing. A few thousand years ago, there were elephants and hippopotamuses in North Africa.

  45. Look, we just get all the robots to vent their exhaust in the same direction at the same time, thusly moving the Earth farther from the sun and eliminating the whole problem and saving all of robot kind!

  46. OK. Who do we throw overboard this time?

    Rationality…

  47. Sadly, Taktix, it’s already been flung.

  48. And my only demand if my iceberg hauling idea is put into place is that the resulting body of water be named “Lake Crimethink” or whatever the Berber equivalent is.

    We’re already planning the Pro Liberate Mountain Range running down central Florida, want to attach a rider?

  49. crimethink | January 2, 2008, 2:09pm | #

    Here’s another idea: build a massive, extremely tall circular wall at the 85th parallel, then start dumping icebergs or sea water into it. All that stuff will freeze in place, and it will stay frozen, because the temperature there is colder than at lower latitudes, where the sea ice would melt

    The white supremacy group, The Polar Bears, applaud your thinking, as this would stop the migration of many brown animals into their pristine white lands.

  50. The Rapture DID OCCUR. On October 7, 2003.

    If you’re still here, you didn’t make the cut.

    Rats. Picked last again. :::sigh:::

    Lucy and her football. Now, there’s an allegory for AGW doomsdayers. The doctor is In. 5 cents will buy you a global warming solution.

  51. What molarity, JW? For five cents I want to know how concentrated that solution is.

  52. Let me get this straight: a bunch of idiots conflate weather and climate, so that means we’re supposed to ignore the climatologists?

  53. The Polar Bears should be aware that after my wall is constructed, they’re going to be trapped inside with falling icebergs and torrents of sea water coming down on them. But I’m NOT returning their donation of 500 whitefish.

  54. I predict “extreme” will be redefined as any number more or less than the mean. We will have “increased extreme weather” each year there are a few more storms. Other years will have less storms, averaging it out over time, but these years will also be interpreted as “extreme” because they’ll have less storms than the mean.

    Meanwhile, pun intended, the average of extreme weather will be the same as it was 100 years ago and 200 years ago, because there has been no increase in extreme weather. But that’s “old
    math”.

  55. Curious minds want to know: how much will Americans need to cut back on CO2?
    The Bali conference proposed a 40% reduction in man-made CO2 going into the atmosphere.
    How many pounds/yr. are put there by Americans on per capita basis? The other developed nations? What % of the world’s output is this? Let’s stipulate that the UN will be able to force India, China, Brazil, etc. to stop their CO2 production when it reaches 60% on per capita basis of the present developed world’s output.
    So, if China, et al, are going to be permitted to increase from current levels, what is the real decrease that will be demanded of the developed world to meet Bali standards?

  56. Let me get this straight: a bunch of idiots conflate weather and climate, so that means we’re supposed to ignore the climatologists?

    Nah, you’re supposed to ignore the idiots. See my post above about conspiracy theory thinking.

    I understand the climatologists are having a rousing debate about all this. Unless, of course, you have decided that the test for whether a climatologist is legitimate or not is whether they believe in catastrophic AGW.

  57. Curious minds want to know: how much will Americans need to cut back on CO2?

    I have a diffrerent question: how do we get to the how much.

    IOW, what has to change, in concrete terms, as far as the average person goes? What will they have to give up? What will this change cost them in dollars?

  58. Why won’t anybody report the good news from the new swamps?

    And Jennifer (proving that our notions about seasons are wrong) and VM (invoking Dan T.) are tied for thread victory.

  59. There was a proposal floated several years ago to experiment with feeindg sea algae with iron particles spread form ships. The iron would cause the algae to grow like mad, sucking up huge amounts of CO2. What ever happened to at least trying that?

  60. Whether or not AGW turns out to be true, what bothers me to no end is the endless parroting of “we’re destroying the earth!” (CNN’s “Planet in Peril”)

    BULLSHIT.

    We may or may not be killing ourselves, but the Earth will survive.

    Hence the old bumbersticker, Save the Earth: Kill Yourself.

  61. I thought algae also removed oxygen from the water (hence algae bloom being such a problem for fish in lakes into which fertilizer flows).

  62. ^^^ “bumpersticker”

    Dammit.

  63. That’s one long, unwieldly bumper sticker…

  64. Earth First
    Uranus next

  65. thoreau | January 2, 2008, 2:43pm | #

    Why won’t anybody report the good news from the new swamps”

    That makes me wonder, will the sea rise restore the coastal wetlands so the big hurricanes will do less damage to man made concerns?

  66. kool

    I’d rather have a bumbersticker.

  67. “””That wouldn’t work because the water would return to the oceans after it’s urinated out.”””

    The Black Sea
    The Red Sea
    The Yellow Sea???

    If you bill the 85th parallel wall as an anti-immigration tool, it will attract republican support.

    “””We may or may not be killing ourselves, but the Earth will survive.”””

    I think George Carlin said the same.

  68. I’d rather have a bumbersticker.

    Pervert.

  69. words what kind of weather events would count as being “inconsistent” with the man-made global warming hypothesis? I think that TierneyLab commenter Martin Richard lists some pretty good ones…Glaciers advancing. Greenland not losing ice. A stretch of years without record numbers of high temperature records broken. Arctic sea ice returns. Tundra re-freeezes. In the Willamette Valley, pinot noir becomes as problematic as once it was.

    No, no, those would just be examples of “the increasing climactic unpredictability caused by global warming.”

  70. Yeah, silver linings. For example, while China might see much of its farmland turn to desert, areas in Siberia which are currently useless for farming might become useful. Whadddya think that’s going to look like?

    I’m supposed to care that China will import food from Siberia?

    Anyways, deserts can be reclaimed.

    http://www.un.org/esa/earthsummit/thal.htm

  71. They have a hard time predicting what the weather will be like next week. I pay little attention when I hear what the weather will be like next month, year, and beyond.

    Although, I retain a healthy skepticism about AGW (and if it’s true, whether we can do anything about it anyway), arguments like the one above are fallacious and should be avoided.

    Any complex system will have “noisy” unpredictable behavior on short time-scales (a day, a week, etc.), but that does not imply that longer-term trends are somehow even less predictable. It’s the averaged behavior that climatologists study (not the day-to-day weather).

    An analogy would be the stock market. On any given day, even the most intelligent and educated economists can’t predict it’s day-to-day behavior, but they can predict trends with reasonable accuracy for a given set of inputs (e.g. market “freeness”, tax burden, political environment, etc.).

  72. If only those global warming fanatics who are addicted to sensationalism would “do” as much as they talk.

    If some people are so concerned about global warming and it’s effects on the planet, why do they continue to support the industries that use more energy and produce the largest amounts of greenhouse gases? The main problem is that humans have become eaters of flesh and consumers of animal products and byproducts.

    Hybrid cars? Light bulbs? What a bunch of crap from an ignorant crowd and hypocrite leaders, such as as Al Gore.

    Do you believe that global warming is a serious threat and is caused by human activity? Want to “save the planet”? Go vegan. Otherwise, keep talking, and watch the planet die.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/04/060414012755.htm

  73. Do you believe that global warming is a serious threat and is caused by human activity? Want to “save the planet”? Go vegan. Otherwise, keep talking, and watch the planet die.

    You could just off yourself. That would be even more effective.

  74. plutosdad | January 2, 2008, 2:28pm | #

    I predict “extreme” will be redefined as any number more or less than the mean. We will have “increased extreme weather” each year there are a few more storms. Other years will have less storms, averaging it out over time, but these years will also be interpreted as “extreme” because they’ll have less storms than the mean.

    Meanwhile, pun intended, the average of extreme weather will be the same as it was 100 years ago and 200 years ago, because there has been no increase in extreme weather. But that’s “old
    math”.

    I predict scientists will continue to measure increases in the extremes by measuring the variance, and determine whether the variance in temperatures, rainfall, etc. is changing by using some sort of statistical test, perhaps the F-test, or Levene’s test of homogeneity of variance.

    OTOH, why do I bother?

  75. “Do you believe that global warming is a serious threat and is caused by human activity? Want to “save the planet”? Go vegan. Otherwise, keep talking, and watch the planet die”

    >throws a big fat steak on the grill and pulls up a chair.

  76. I predict that this discussion will continue in the manner that it has existed for the last 20 years: Real science will be done, results which are not earth-shattering will be concluded, and any truth and/or wisdom in those results will be immediately stripped of context by the culture warriors on either side, who will get approximately 99% of the attention.

  77. Episiarch,

    Close, but the real proposed solution will be to off others.

  78. Yeah, silver linings. For example, while China might see much of its farmland turn to desert, areas in Siberia which are currently useless for farming might become useful.

    Whadddya think that’s going to look like?

    A lot of agricultural trade between China and Russia?

  79. Yes, that’s usually what happens when a large country loses a good deal of its food supply and agricultural employment base: lots of peaceful cross-border trade.

    Good to see how seriously people are in thinking about this issue. About what I’ve come to expect.

    Sometimes, I can learn useful things by arguing with libertarians, but their “ideas” about global warming are a dry well.

    Don’t worry, folks, you will no longer have to worry about me interrupting your denialist meetings. I’m giving up global warming threads for the new year.

    There’s just nothing of value here.

  80. about global warming are a dry well.

    Ha! That’s pretty good…

    Oh, you were frowning when you said that.

  81. Glaciers advancing. Greenland not losing ice. A stretch of years without record numbers of high temperature records broken. Arctic sea ice returns. Tundra re-freeezes. In the Willamette Valley, pinot noir becomes as problematic as once it was.

    So, a return to the Little Ice Age is good, but a return to the Medieval Climate Optimum is bad? Do I have that about right?

  82. “””An analogy would be the stock market. On any given day, even the most intelligent and educated economists can’t predict it’s day-to-day behavior, but they can predict trends with reasonable accuracy for a given set of inputs (e.g. market “freeness”, tax burden, political environment, etc.).””””

    Really? Predictablity of the stock market? I don’t think so, not even long term. They sure didn’t predict the ’87 crash, the tech bubble burst, nor the current housing fiasco. In each of those examples some people said it was coming, but they couldn’t tell you when. I can assure you, our sun will die and life in this solar system will die too. How’s that for a prediction? Pretty lame because I can’t tell you when.

    Someone might have predicted success for Butto in Pakistan. Tax Burdens, political enviroments, and such can change requiring the prediction to be “updated” much like a weekly forcast gets updated as the weather conditions change. The same applies to long term market predictions.

    “””Any complex system will have “noisy” unpredictable behavior on short time-scales (a day, a week, etc.), but that does not imply that longer-term trends are somehow even less predictable.””””

    When speaking of the future, very little is certain, stocks or weather. When you have a set of data that changes over time, the longer the time period, the more of a chance it will. That increases the chance your prediction will be incorrect. The “noise” for unpredictable behavior is greater in a long term prediction.

    When it comes to weather, it’s easier to predict the short term than the long term simply becuse there is less time for the current varibles to change. Less “noise” affect.

  83. See what you people have done? You made joe leave. I hope you’re proud of yourselves.

  84. TrickyVic,

    You are right in saying that it’s much harder to predict what the temperature in New York City will be on January 3, 2108, than predicting the temperature there tomorrow.

    But that doesn’t say anything about predictions of what the mean global temperature will be during the span 2100-2109. You’re comparing apples and oranges.

  85. Climate is not weather.
    Weather is not climate.

    Solutions are not problems.

    They will come from changes in industrial practice and reconfiguring of regulations.

    http://www.rmi.org/
    http://www.motorwavegroup.com/new/motorwind/

  86. Someone recently told me that libertarians have an inherent understanding of emergent features of dynamic adaptive systems.

    c.f., comments above to confirm or refute that claim.

  87. Do you think we can cut global fossil fuel emissions by 90%?

    I’m not saying we should. I’m saying that people should stop grasping at embarrassingly bad anti-warming straws like “Well, this past year was the least warm out of the last six.”

  88. You are right in saying that it’s much harder to predict what the temperature in New York City will be on January 3, 2108, than predicting the temperature there tomorrow.

    But that doesn’t say anything about predictions of what the mean global temperature will be during the span 2100-2109. You’re comparing apples and oranges.

    Thank you, crimethink, nicely put!

  89. Yeah, silver linings. For example, while China might see much of its farmland turn to desert, areas in Siberia which are currently useless for farming might become useful.

    Whadddya think that’s going to look like?

    You mean over a hundred year period?

    Well if the changes over the last hundred years in land use for agriculture is any indication I would describe it as orderly and minor.

  90. China’s farmlands will turn into desserts? Will I be able to pronounce it? Can I just order by number?

  91. Assuming that each instance of unusual weather cannot be caused by global warming is as irrational as assuming that it must have been caused by global warming.

    And there it is folks…the state of the art in climate science.

  92. Someone recently told me that libertarians have an inherent understanding of emergent features of dynamic adaptive systems.

    We do, which is why we’re opposed to large, lumbering top-down government solutions to Global Warming(tm).

  93. Paul,

    Please elaborate.

    Demonstrate that understanding, that depth of insight, that nuance regarding the relationship between top-down and bottom-up solutions in complex adaptive systems…and when, how, and why they emerge.

  94. Example of a top-down solution: U.S. Constitution.

  95. Example of a top-down solution: U.S. Constitution.

    Well, duh. It was intended for the top; how it operates, what the powers of one branch are in relation to another, etc.

    Now, if you meant the Bill of Rights, it could be easily argued that since most of the original amendments are prohibitions against the top jackbooting the bottom, negative rights, it is a bottom-up solution.

  96. I would venture that no one inherently understands much of anything that they lack a direct experience of, i.e., hunger, heat, etc.

    I do have an inherent suspicion of claims to inherent understanding.

  97. Now, if you meant the Bill of Rights, it could be easily argued that since most of the original amendments are prohibitions against the top jackbooting the bottom, negative rights, it is a bottom-up solution.

    And by thus arguing you would demonstrate that you do not understand the terms “top-down” or “bottom-up.”

  98. “We do, which is why we’re opposed to large, lumbering top-down government solutions to Global Warming(tm).”

    you don’t seem to be much interested in bottom up solutions either.

  99. Example of a top-down solution: U.S. Constitution.

    Boy, NM, you just took the award for the biggest straw man of the year.

    The Constitution having been created at the top “works”, therefore all bureaucratic efforts to curb Global Warming must therefore “work”.

    Sam-hec:

    What? Have we met? Oh, wait, now tell me how many kids I have.

    A quick example of a bottom-up solution: Gas prices rise, and without any government interference, car companies start putting out more fuel efficient cars. Large established car companies (ford– government bailout probably assured if they continue to fail) start failing because they only produce large, gas guzzling cars. Some time later, the government mandates more fuel efficient cars.

    How’s this for top-down thinking:

    At the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the U.S. government is lobbying for “geoengineering” activities such as deliberately polluting the stratosphere to deflect sunlight and lower temperatures. At least nine national governments and the European Union (EU) have supported experiments to spread iron filings on the ocean surface to nurture plankton and sequester carbon dioxide. At least a dozen additional countries are involved in the modification of stratospheric weather. Commercial carbon traders are engaging in ocean fertilization as well. This experimentation by governments and corporations is taking place in the absence of public discussion.

    I can play this game, too NM and Sam-Hec:

    Why do you guys support these schemes?

    I seem to remember suggestions that we cover the north pole in soot during the global cooling scare of the seventies.

    Phew, aren’t we glad the top didn’t act quickly on that.

  100. Jargon-loving academics, this is the word, “hysteria”. I don’t believe you have met.

  101. “Why do you guys support these schemes?”

    I don’t. Nothing I have said supports the notion that I do.

  102. “This experimentation by governments and corporations is taking place in the absence of public discussion.”

    heh a pretty bizarre claim

  103. p.s.
    when was the last time Ron Bailey actually posted a review of actual science? …as opposed to regurgitating op/ed wonks.

  104. Here is some actual science that supports the theses that (a) climate scientists make mistakes and (b) results that decrease the apparent threat of global warming get no attention whatsoever from the media.

    From the Journal of Geophysical Research – Atmospheres, “Quantifying the influence of anthropogenic surface processes and inhomogeneities on gridded global climate data“..

    Local land surface modification and variations in data quality affect temperature trends in surface-measured data. Such effects are considered extraneous for the purpose of measuring climate change, and providers of climate data must develop adjustments to filter them out. If done correctly, temperature trends in climate data should be uncorrelated with socioeconomic variables that determine these extraneous factors. This hypothesis can be tested, which is the main aim of this paper. Using a new database for all available land-based grid cells around the world we test the null hypothesis that the spatial pattern of temperature trends in a widely used gridded climate data set is independent of socioeconomic determinants of surface processes and data inhomogeneities. The hypothesis is strongly rejected (P = 7.1 ? 10?14), indicating that extraneous (nonclimatic) signals contaminate gridded climate data. The patterns of contamination are detectable in both rich and poor countries and are relatively stronger in countries where real income is growing. We apply a battery of model specification tests to rule out spurious correlations and endogeneity bias. We conclude that the data contamination likely leads to an overstatement of actual trends over land. Using the regression model to filter the extraneous, nonclimatic effects reduces the estimated 1980-2002 global average temperature trend over land by about half.

  105. a) Scientists make mistakes, it’s how they learn things. It’s the wannabes who need to learn from their mistakes, ie the paper you just linked to is just a rehash of a problematic 2004 paper.
    b) Fox News.

    re: Michaels and McKitrik paper

    RealClimate details problems with this here: http://tinyurl.com/ytyr3w
    “- They do not properly account for dependencies.
    – They over-fit the regression.
    – Their results look unreasonable.
    – They “cherry pick” the MSU data that gives the lowest trend”

  106. And by thus arguing you would demonstrate that you do not understand the terms “top-down” or “bottom-up.”

    That depends on whether you are looking at the implmentation or the execution.

    Human rights/civil liberties flow upwards from me to the state, not the other way around. The state then enacts protections of these said rights. The BoR is merely an expression of many of these rights. (And you are proving Madison correct in his fear that the BoR would be construed as a limitation, not an expression, of rights.)

    Others, such as the due process and right to a speedy trial, are top down, since these are rights generated by state actions.

    IOW, The Constitution is a bad example.

  107. a) Scientists make mistakes, it’s how they learn things. It’s the wannabes who need to learn from their mistakes, ie the paper you just linked to is just a rehash of a problematic 2004 paper.
    b) Fox News.

    a) As this retread appears to be so well known, then peer review would either fix the problems or reject it, no?

    b) Fox News. Wow. I notice you don’t provide a link. Must be impressive.

    Meanwhile, screeching from the top of section B of the morning newspaper is the headline “CO2 levels, deaths linked”. The study — to appear today in Geophysical Review Letters, the same publisher as the McKitrick/Michaels paper — models the effect of warmer climate on urban ozone and the subsequent deaths. They find 1000 extra deaths in the US per year per degree C of warming.

    While such results are probably correct, there is no conception anywhere in the article that the actual correlation between CO2 and deaths is hugely negative. In particular, graphing CO2 emission versus life expectancy by country would show that emitting CO2 saves countless lives per year. And that would be right. And it would not get any attention in the media.

    But 2000 extra deaths from CO2-augmented ozone per year by 2100? “CO2 levels, deaths linked!!!”

  108. a) Not all peer reviews are equal and even the best can make mistakes. But thats how we learn.

    b) google search for: fox news global warming
    first link:
    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,177380,00.html

    From the linked article:
    “For the study, Jacobson used the computer model to determine the amounts of ozone and airborne particles that result from temperature increases, caused by increases in carbon dioxide emissions. Ozone causes and worsens respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses including emphysema and asthma, and has been linked to higher human mortality.
    He found that higher temperatures caused by carbon dioxide increased the chemical rate of ozone production in urban areas. He also found that increased water vapor caused by carbon dioxide-induced higher temperatures boosted chemical ozone production even more in urban areas.

    so that extra 1,000 lives in the U.S. per degree of temp C is from Ozone damage, and does not include: the rest of the world, floods, drought, famine, plague etc. This is just one more wrinkle of detail.

  109. so that extra 1,000 lives in the U.S. per degree of temp C is from Ozone damage, and does not include: the rest of the world, floods, drought, famine, plague etc. This is just one more wrinkle of detail.

    Nor does it include: reduced deaths from cold, reduced deaths from snow and ice, reduced cold-induced respiratory deaths, etc. Nor does it include the elephant that no one sees: that the wealth, opportunities, and choices derived from burning carbon so far greatly outweigh the “floods, drought, famine, plague etc.” It will take either truly disastrous sequelae of global warming or an authentically cheap fix to overturn that inequality.

    By the way, the predicted number of deaths from warming-induced ozone worldwide is 21,600 — pretty close to proportional.

    And by the by the way, your Fox News link does not seem to cover the McKitrick/Michaels paper. Was it supposed to? Or do you really think that pointing to a commentary on Fox News falsifies the statement “results that decrease the apparent threat of global warming get no attention whatsoever from the media”? Okay, I guess it does. Woo hoo.

  110. “Nor does it include the elephant that no one sees: that the wealth, opportunities, and choices derived from burning carbon so far greatly outweigh the “floods, drought, famine, plague etc.” It will take either truly disastrous sequelae of global warming or an authentically cheap fix to overturn that inequality.”

    Tricky subject indeed; one worth replying to. However, greenies have claimed that around a third of our (U.S.) emissions can be reduced at a cost neutral basis, more or less right now. I think this does have some truth.

    some further amount of emmissions reduction (call it the Second Third) will have some negative costs but not necessarily economically devastating, especially for the U.S.

    The Last Third of emmisions reduction would be highly costly…if attempted more or less right now. Not recommended.

    The Plan? I am hearing from the mainstream greenies (Treehugger, Gristmill, etc) is the 2% Solution?. Wherein, individuals aim to reduce their own actual CO2 output by at least 2% per year over the next 40 years. This ultimately leaves 20% of emissions reductions (the costliest) to be figured out later. If individuals are feeling aggressive they can offset the rest. Offseting is actually pretty cheap, though minimizing additionality is a must (at 20% in 2006). 2% per year isn’t much, especially since a chunk of this is cost neutral. It wont stop climate change, but will likely minimize the worst effects.

    Note the lack Big Government? being mentioned till now. Much of our (U.S.) society’s CO2 is produced via government activity. It is important to get the government on board with the 2% thing….and it can fairly go further by eliminating market protections/subsidies for fossil fuel companies.

  111. Here’s an interesting idea on what to do, Cap and Dividend:
    http://onthecommons.org/node/1239

    It does involve the government, but doesn’t seem to adversely affect most people’s wealth or liberty. …just passing along ideas.

  112. JW,

    Regarding you continued misunderstanding of the terms “top-down” and “bottom-up” and their relation to each other and to the system in which they work.

    That depends on whether you are looking at the implmentation or the execution.

    Please elaborate on how implementation and execution, which are essentially synonyms, change the validity of your argument.

    The rest of your post is so orthogonal to the issue, I won’t comment.

  113. Paul,

    The Constitution having been created at the top “works”, therefore all bureaucratic efforts to curb Global Warming must therefore “work”.

    Dude, you deserve the award since you built the strawman…when did I make this claim?

  114. Yes, that’s usually what happens when a large country loses a good deal of its food supply and agricultural employment base: lots of peaceful cross-border trade.

    Yes, joe, cross-border trade is quite common in the modern age. I guess the trillions of dollars in ag trade we regularly engage in has somehow escaped your notice.

    News flash: this isn’t 1000 B.C., when a crop failure meant you had to invade your neighbors to get their food or starve to death.

    Good to see how seriously people are in thinking about this issue. About what I’ve come to expect.

    Good to see GW alarmists are talking apocalyptic nonsense. About what I’ve come to expect.

    Sometimes, I can learn useful things by arguing with libertarians, but their “ideas” about global warming are a dry well.

    It takes balls to simultaneously ignore the existence of global trade and crow about everyone else’s intellectual inferiority. I salute your gumption, sir.

  115. In fact, it’s worth noting that in the modern age, virtually all famines have been caused by war or other government action — not the other way around.

    Hey, anyone remember what happened to the Soviet Union in the 1980s when their collectivist farming ouput was collapsing due to 70 years of “bad weather” (possibly caused by global warming!) needed grain?

    (Hint: we didn’t have World War III)

    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,919164,00.html

  116. “””But that doesn’t say anything about predictions of what the mean global temperature will be during the span 2100-2109. You’re comparing apples and oranges.”””

    I’m comparing weather predictions to weather predictions.

  117. No doubt that global warming is very debated. I, however, have never heard that man is causing global cooling. For this – all I can say is that I hope that the people that believe this is natural are not wrong. But if man is causing at least part of the problem then why not do all we can. One thing not in dispute is that we cannot continue to use non-renewable sources on energy forever.
    Are you familiar with the ground floor movement to take solar to the masses by a company called Citizenre? They are trying market solar with an approach similar to satellite TV, cellular telephones, and alarm systems. That is to provide the customer a complete solar system with no upfront charges and make money from a service contract. In this case the service contract would be a rent agreement. They intend to put a complete solar system on clients home. When the system produces electricity, it will lower the bill from the current utility provider. In most cases the savings from the lower bill will more than cover the rent fee that the company intends to charge. The company currently has no product available but intends to deploy in the middle of 2008. They are currently taking reservations and have over 26,000 takers so far. I have written several articles on this company in my blog and even have a couple of videos that I have recorded at http://www.solarjoules.com. Feel free to take a look. I welcome comments. As in any start up business, a chance exists that they may never get off the ground and fulfill any preorders, but if this is the case – the potential client has not lost anything. If you cannot afford the upfront cost of solar today, this may turn out to be a great alternative. This solution would mean that we could produce at least a little less pollution and would be a great step “just in case”. And hey, the fact that you will save money on your electricity bill over time is a pretty good reason to look into it as well.
    If anyone would like company information you can go to http://www.jointhesolution.com/razmataz.

  118. But if man is causing at least part of the problem then why not do all we can.

    Because it might be an enormous misallocation of resources that will cause a great deal of misery and pain for mankind for no benefit. There are lots of other very real problems out there to deal with: tsunamis, earthquakes, fires, floods, disease, the possibility of asteroid impacts. Our resources are finite; spending money on one means we can’t spend that money on the others.

  119. actually Reggie sounds like a salesman to me. anyway…

    “Because it might be an enormous misallocation of resources that will cause a great deal of misery and pain for mankind for no benefit.”

    A vast number things we do without a second though ‘might be’ an enormous miscalculation. But the 1% of GDP estimated needed to prevent the worst effects is much less than the growth of the global economy. There will be no misery from that minimal commitment

    “There are lots of other very real problems out there to deal with: tsunamis, earthquakes, fires, floods, disease, the possibility of asteroid impacts.”

    Global warming promises to make the first five of those more common or harder to cope with, and potentially distract us from the latter.

    “Our resources are finite; spending money on one means we can’t spend that money on the others.”

    Minimizing global warming is not as costly as it is made out to be.

  120. But the 1% of GDP estimated needed to prevent the worst effects is much less than the growth of the global economy. There will be no misery from that minimal commitment

    A 4% growth in annual GDP over a century yields a cumulative expansion of GDP of 50 times.

    A 3% growth in annual GDP over a century yields a cumulative expansion of GDP of 20 times.

    The difference in long-run resultant wealth from losing 1% of GDP per year is truly phenomenal. Effectively you are choosing for great-great-grandchildren you have never met that they will prefer a modestly cooler world to having 150% more wealth to do with as they wish — be that global warming mitigation or something else that turns out to be more important a century hence.

  121. MikeP,
    The Stern report, which recommended the 1% thing, does not include accounting the economic effects of truly catastrophic catastrophes which would potentially occur from out of control global climate change. The most likely of which would be a major war among the major powers…generally a VERY bad thing for economies and liberty.

  122. The Stern Review also does not include accounting the economic effects of trade wars between economic blocs willing to tax themselves to reduce global warming and those not willing to. This is more likely to cause a major war among the major powers than the effects of global warming itself.

    If you want to imagine causes for catastrophic worldwide war, you might start with causes that actually have in the past brought about catastrophic worldwide war…

  123. That’s a fair point. Though I would prefer to not see ‘taxes’ to do this. I would prefer to see instead my (-2%CO2/yr) behavior as an investment in a genuine Level 1 Civilization (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kardashev_scale) which necessitates controlling the planetary climate. I see fossil energy as cheating to otherwise meet the Lvl 1 Civ numbers, it doesn’t actually control the planets energies, and continuing to rely on such technology as ludditism. Yes Fossil fuel supporters are luddites! =P

  124. >hrumph

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