How it works

For anyone who does not read enough Chris Mooney, I strongly endorse this thorough outline of how the climate doubt industry works at Wonk Room.

However, I have to point out that Wonk Room’s flow chart of how the business works, although accurate, also illustrates what makes the doubt business so pernicious. The graph (and the industry) is a forest of organizations, businesses, media outlets, scientists and pseudoscience institutes, political interest groups, thinktanks and so on. It dazzles you in the worst sense: the eyes defocus and your brain (at least my brain) freezes up trying to track what goes where. This is the magic of arbitrary complexity: anyone can bury a ridiculous idea in a maze of apparently credible but irrelevant stuff until it overwhelms the ability of an ordinary person to evaluate it critically. This is how the Big Mortgage Shitpile got so big – nobody would buy a mortgage written on toilet paper, so investment guys put hundreds into a box, wrote ‘mortgage’ on the side of the box with a Sharpie and shuffled around the boxes until nobody had any idea what was in each box except ‘mortgages’ in the vaguest possible sense. Yesterday Tom wrote an elegant post that showed how David Brooks stands out from less impressive conservatives like Douthat through the clever use of arbitrary complexity.

To simplify things, I tidied up the flow chart a bit:

Also, that unfortunate bit about a time lag between cause and effect.

All that complicated stuff – the organizations, the scientists, pseudoscientists and cranks, interest groups and their pet politicians – comes inevitably from the incomprehensible amount of money that fossil fuel interests have invested in us burning compressed algae and dinosaur poop. Cigarette firms held public health science at bay for something like fifty years, and the $380 billion global tobacco trade fits neatly inside the $405 billion market capitalization of a single oil company.

Look, unlike a lot of people I don’t see it as inherently evil for a company to serve its shareholders. Companies do not exist to save the Earth. They exist to make money. If something threatens their cash flow then they have a rather strong incentive to make it go away. Maybe the ostrich strategy will hurt them in the long run (also: the rest of us), but these are not omniscient beings making decisions. Few of them were hired for their science knowledge nor their sense of charity. Beyond that, as Upton Sinclair used to say, it is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it. If we want them to behave differently then we need to either change the economic calculus (as public shaming campaigns try to do) or else do it through public policy.

Anyhow, denying climate has an enormous pile of money at its back. Want an easy $10,000 plus travel perks? Write an editorial that criticizes the IPCC. Campaign cash? Not a problem (there goes the public policy option…). Maybe you want to start a thinktank where Ivy League legacy cases can draw six-figure slaries and build a reputation doling out rephrased press releases in conservative journals, on broadcast networks and in discussion panels that need a douchebag for “balance”. Choose a name that evokes eagles shooting apple pie machine guns and the money’s there.

On the other hand maybe you want to make a serious contribution to climate science. Get ready for years of difficult graduate study* while living on ramen and cheap beer. Graduated with your degree? Have a tenure track job? Congratulations! Now you get to compete with some of the smartest people in the world for a shrinking pool of stingy grants, crappy pay, abuse, threats and bad-faith attacks from the most powerful people in the world. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it. Or maybe you want to end a very successful public career by speaking out too aggressively about the STUPID CLIMATE METEOR THAT IS ABOUT TO SCREW UP HUMAN CIVILIZATION, like Al Gore did.

As with tobacco the glorious moneygasm only works because of the long delay between cause and effect. You would never see a doubt campaign by the punching-guys-in-the-groin industry, for example, because punching dudes in the groin hurts right now. A tobacco habit might kill you later. Epidemiology and climate science are arcane enough that a determined troll can create all kinds of confusion, even while Marlboro Men kept dying of lung cancer. It takes a long time to build up carbon in the atmosphere. Even then the ocean absorbs both heat and carbon for a while longer. Only when that slows down does the bill really start to come due, and feedback effects kick in such as methane and open water absorbing vastly more solar energy than sea ice. Svante Arrhenius figured out how warming will work in 1906, yet my local dog park will only this year become a living mat of deer ticks thanks to the hot rods that his grandkids drove fifty years ago. The worst case scenario keeps getting worse, but it always gets worse twenty or more years in the future and is therefore easy to ignore or deny. Until it isn’t, of course. But by then it is too late.

(*) I have a relevant graduate degree, among other areas of science where I have worked. I can tell you that those climate credits are some of the most painful brainwork that I have experienced. No amount of drinking will help me forget a 50-page dissertation on the bloody g0%$@mn calcite cycle.

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85 replies
  1. 1
    Birthmarker says:

    The bottom line with Republican politicians is always money. Every issue comes down to what impedes profit for big business, or social wedge issues to make people vote for them so they can continue to protect corporate interests.

  2. 2
    MosesZD says:

    I should like to point out that many of the bad actors here were bad actors vis Seat Belts, Cigarettes, the Clean Air Act, Obama Care, OSHA, the Clean Water Act and pretty much any limits on any business no matter how unsafe and harmful their practices might be, such as toxic waste dumping…

    In short, if someone’s short-term profits may be slighly impaired (even though it doesn’t actually happen because the costs are passed on to the consumer), it’s just another damn evil Commie/Facist/Liberal plot to destroy America!

    USA! USA! USA! Wolverines!!!!

  3. 3
    General Stuck (Bravo Nope Zero) says:

    EXACTLY, thank you for this post!

    edit – and cool chart

  4. 4

    There is a new book, The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars by Michael Mann. I read it yesterday. Mr. Mann was part of the team that developed the chart of past, present, and predicted earth surface temperatures that ended with the now-famous hockey stick.

    The book describes how they generated the chart and then how the anti-climate-change people attacked him and his team, as well as other climate scientists. Interesting read.

    I bought the book for Kindle from Amazon for 10.00. I’m not a scientist and much of the data mining stuff wasn’t really that interesting to me. YMMV. But I think that 10.00 is enough for the book. Don’t bother with the hard copy. [You can get Kindle for PC from Amazon for free.]

    However, it is difficult to exaggerate how far the climate war people will go in order to discredit the idea. You might find his account interesting.

  5. 5
    MariedeGournay says:

    “Choose a name that evokes eagles shooting apple pie machine guns…”

    I’m trying to decide if the gun is made of apple pie or actually shoots out apple pies.

  6. 6
    Tim F. says:

    @MariedeGournay: The gun is made of bibles, and it shoots apple pies.

  7. 7
    Svensker says:

    Look, unlike a lot of people I don’t see it as inherently evil for a company to serve its shareholders. Companies do not exist to save the Earth. They exist to make money. If something threatens their cash flow then they have a rather strong incentive to make it go away. Maybe the ostrich strategy will hurt them in the long run (also: the rest of us), but these are not omniscient beings making decisions. Few of them were hired for their science knowledge or their sense of charity. Beyond that, as Upton Sinclair used to say, it is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it. If we want them to behave differently then we need to either change the economic calculus (as public shaming campaigns try to do) or else do it through public policy.

    On Saturday we went to a talk by Polly Higgins, the Scottish lawyer who is leading the charge to get ecocide declared a crime by the UN. Not a tort punishable by a fine, but a crime punishable by jail time. Her point is that because it is a corporation’s first duty, legally, to maximize profits for its shareholders, the penalty for ecocide must be serious enough to offset profit. I went into the lecture very full of doubts, came out thinking it’s a damn good idea. The website is here, for anyone who’s interested. Polly is doing a speaking tour across the US and then on to Australia right now, and if you see she’s in your burg, go listen. She’s a powerful speaker…and very cute, besides, as my husband has pointed out many times.

  8. 8
    MariedeGournay says:

    @Tim F.: Ah, well that simplifies it. Thanks for the awesome image either way, and the great post. Mammon, in the end, is always the man in charge.

  9. 9
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    As with tobacco the glorious moneygasm only works because of the long delay between cause and effect.

    Human beings in general have problems with this, as our evolutionary history didn’t equip us very well for long term decision making. Societies that find effective ways to overcome this psychological deficit and deal with this class of decision making problem enjoy a big long term advantage over those that don’t. The ones that screw it up but good end up in the history books for somebody else to study. I’m thinking that in a democracy, investment in the system of public education is a pretty good proxy for how well we are doing in this regard. Which is not a happy thought, given our current level of investment in public education here in the USA and which way it is trending thanks to the for-profit charter school vultures.

  10. 10
    Mr Burns says:

    Oh, so mother nature needs a favor? Well, maybe she should have thought of that when she was besetting us with droughts and floods and poison monkeys.

  11. 11
    Mr Burns says:

    Mother Nature started the fight for survival, and now she wants to quit because she’s losing. Well I say, hard cheese

  12. 12
    Mattski says:

    Stupid funny quotes stuck in moderation

  13. 13
    Brachiator says:

    @Tim F.:

    The worst case scenario keeps getting worse, but it always gets worse twenty or more years in the future and is therefore easy to ignore or deny. Until it isn’t, of course. But by then it is too late.

    One question, though, is whether the worst case scenario is the only or most probable scenario.

    By the way, interesting recent BBC article about how Canada may be messing with their scientists over climate issues.

    The allegation of “muzzling” came up at a session of the AAAS meeting to discuss the impact of a media protocol introduced by the Conservative government shortly after it was elected in 2008.
    __
    The protocol requires that all interview requests for scientists employed by the government must first be cleared by officials. A decision as to whether to allow the interview can take several days, which can prevent government scientists commenting on breaking news stories.
    __
    Sources say that requests are often refused and when interviews are granted, government media relations officials can and do ask for written questions to be submitted in advance and elect to sit in on the interview

    Globala intellectual chilling.

  14. 14
    sharl says:

    Excellent post. And Chris Mooney does good work in this area (on the subject of Science-vs.-Religion, maybe not so much).

    I’ll just note that there is at least one other factor that helps the global warming denial folks, in addition to the large temporal displacement of consequences from their causative activities. That other factor is disparities in economic privilege (article authored by Naomi Klein featuring… The Heartland Institute!). Those who are less well off will likely feel the consequences earlier on, and have limited options to cope.

    The individuals who are leading and funding the climate denial campaigns have the wherewithal to live and work away from those areas most impacted by the warming (or they at least have the money to create their own comfy biospheres). They can’t hide forever, of course, but they can do a lot of damage before they (or their children) personally come face-to-face with the consequences of their own destructive advocacy.

  15. 15
    kerFuFFler says:

    Thanks for a great post. I have always thought it mind-boggling that deniers assume that scientists fake the data to bilk the system for grants—–small change.But then they don’t blink an eye accepting the “research” funded by corporations whose bottom lines are helped by “debunking” climate science.
    When creating fancy titles for deniers to give them more apparent authority in this debate is not enough, they set their sites on intimidating scientists who dare to go public with their knowledge. Just check out these emails to a climate researcher (an evangelical no less!) who is well positioned to challenge the deniers among the faithful:

    you are nothing but a liar; you lie

    AGW [anthropogenic, or manmade, global warming] is a hoax […] Where are the facts? Prove your unproven hypothesis. Prove it. Show the world. You can’t. You are a fraud. […] Your name and the names of the other warming alarmists will be mud as the years go forward. You are a disgrace. You are a nut

    .

    DUMPED FROM GINGRICH’S BOOK HA HA HA […] IT’S A GREAT START!!! SEE YA, FRAUDSTER – GET A REAL JOB, MCDONALD’S IS HIRING

    [Misogynistic vulgarism] Nazi Bitch Whore Climatebecile […] You stupid bitch, You are a mass murderer and will be convicted at the Reality TV Grand Jury in Nuremberg, Pennsylvania. AGW has never been anything but a Rockefeller depopulationary eugenical scam. […] After the Grand Jury indicts you, I would like to see you convicted and beheaded by guillotine in the public square, to show women that if they are going to take a man’s job, they have to take the heat for mass murder, just like the men do when they get caught. If you have a child, then women in the future will be even more leery of lying to get ahead, when they see your baby crying next to the basket next to the guillotine.

    [This writer was reacting to a Twitter message that Hayhoe sent after learning from the media that her chapter would not appear in the Gingrich book. In it, she said the chapter represented “100+ unpaid hrs I (could have) spent playing w my baby.”] I read your whiney comments about researching for a rejected book chapter instead of spending time playing with your baby. Perhaps you should take responsiblility how you choose to use your time. In my opinion, the problem with America is women refuse to stay at home taking care and nurturing their offspring while prioritizing their selfish ambitions attempting to carve out a career for themselves. Be a good mother or be a good researcher.

    Stop using Jesus to justify your wacko ideas about global warming. First, it is an insult to the Lord Jesus. Second, it is insulting to those of us who actually take our Christianity seriously. Third, it is juvenile.

    Do you believe in God? If you do, then you must believe that He is all powerful. But believing in AGW contradicts that, because to be able to change the climate in such a manner as you prescribe to would mean that we are more powerful than He is. I know better than that, but it would both take another look at your belief system. I think it needs some adjusting.

    It’s hard to know what to be more disgusted by, the hatefulness, the misogyny, or the extreme willful ignorance.
    But clearly the deniers feel very threatened by an evangelical christian who could make a big difference in getting the facts understood.

  16. 16
    Judas Escargot, Your Postmodern Neighbor says:

    @ThatLeftTurnInABQ:

    Human beings in general have problems with this, as our evolutionary history didn’t equip us very well for long term decision making.

    Individually, none of us is particularly forward-thinking, especially since most of us barely live past fourscore years. This is why we developed institutions, to ‘hold our memories’ for us, and to transfer them from generation to generation. This is arguably our greatest advantage over the other species on the planet.

    As times change, the institutions that adapt (i.e. change to provide us with better survival value), survive. The ones that don’t, well– don’t. Or at least they shouldn’t.

    It’s almost trite to point out that we’re in the midst of one of those periods where we have a glut of institutions that are failing to adapt, even as certain individuals are doing everything they can to prop up the bad ones, and thwart the good ones. But that’s where we are.

    You could probably look at the BJ front page on any given day and abstract our troubles and complaints to this general principle. Whether it’s the Catholic Church, the GOP, the capitalist class vs. labor, climate change debates, the failure of education, the failure to plan for a post-oil economy, saber rattling in the Middle East, etc etc etc– so many of our difficulties seem to stem from the general problem of ossified mindsets and institutions “getting in the way” of any real attempt at problem solving. And it’s all happening at once.

    In this context, ‘Conservatism’ is basically just a respect for existing institutions, which has a great deal of survival value in normal times.

    But these are not normal times: So-called ‘Conservatism’ is, quite literally, threatening to kill us.

  17. 17
    chopper says:

    i like the alt text for the dollar sign.

  18. 18
    Citizen_X says:

    @Brachiator:

    when interviews are granted, government media relations officials can and do ask for written questions to be submitted in advance and elect to sit in on the interview

    Yeebus. How is this different from the standard dictatorship practice of having journalists followed around by government minders so the citizens don’t get too mouthy? The only difference is you don’t have the fear of being disappeared to the Lubyanka/re-education camp/rape room–just of being fired, and dumped on the street during a recession, instead. FREEDOM!

  19. 19
    eemom says:

    @Svensker:

    ecocide

    cool word.

    and very cute, besides, as my husband has pointed out many times.

    plus, she presumably has a Scottish accent. I’d swoon too.

  20. 20
    Tim F. says:

    @Brachiator: So far actual warming has consistently exceeded long-term worst case scenarios. Scientists aggressively constrain their predictions to avoid looking too alarmist, but as a result the boundaries of predicted warming almost always skew conservative relative to reality.

  21. 21
    wvng says:

    “So far actual warming has consistently exceeded long-term worst case scenarios. ” I was in a deeply frustrating conversation the other day with a conservative on Face Book where he insisted it was exactly the opposite, then another showed up flaming “libtards” and the fake hockey stick. It is an endlessly frustration and ultimately hopeless “debate” with these people.

  22. 22
    chopper says:

    yet my local dog park will only this year become a living mat of deer ticks thanks to the hot rods that his grandkids drove fifty years ago.

    just move the dog park to the forest after the beetles get through killing all the trees.

  23. 23
    trollhattan says:

    @chopper:

    Recommend waiting until after the horrible conflagration. On the plus side, the soil will be nice and sterile.

  24. 24
    Citizen_X says:

    @kerFuFFler: Yikes, that report is frightening and enraging. And it ain’t just in Texas, it’s global: wingnuts are threatening climate researchers up in New England and down in Australia.

    Science: what a threat to us all, huh?

  25. 25
    Zifnab says:

    On the other hand maybe you want to make a serious contribution to climate science. Get ready for years of difficult graduate study* while living on ramen and cheap beer. Graduated with your degree? Have a tenure track job? Congratulations! Now you get to compete with some of the smartest people in the world for a shrinking pool of stingy grants, crappy pay, abuse, threats and bad-faith attacks from the most powerful people in the world. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it. Or maybe you want to end a very successful public career by speaking out too aggressively about the STUPID CLIMATE METEOR THAT IS ABOUT TO SCREW UP HUMAN CIVILIZATION, like Al Gore did.

    I’m sorry, but I’m calling bullshit here.

    Are you telling me that when Goldman Sachs commissions an internal report on the price of french fries, it wants a giant side of turd pumped out by the “Everything is Fine” division of the American Bullshit Association?

    Are you trying to claim that when HCA or State Farm needs to price an insurance policy, it asks a bunch of RJ Reynolds flunkies for stats on cigarette mortality?

    Not every scientific investigation is pro bono and for the benefit of saving the whales. Plenty of people turn a buck finding out real, useful, factual information and passing that information along to major decision makers.

    Now, the shit that goes on cable news? That’s free to consume. And you get what you pay for, so its no surprise the latest “Is Global Warming Really Just Al Gore Noticing He Got Fat?” hit piece is totally divorced from reality. That’s infotainment, not news.

    But when Al Gore releases another flow sheet predicting flooding in Angola or a drought in Nebraska, you sure as hell better believe there are people with money reading and listening and even paying to hear it first. Being right when everyone else is wrong can make you a fortune.

  26. 26
    Brachiator says:

    @Tim F.:

    So far actual warming has consistently exceeded long-term worst case scenarios. Scientists aggressively constrain their predictions to avoid looking too alarmist, but as a result the boundaries of predicted warming almost always skew conservative relative to reality.

    I see your point here. But I was asking how actual warming has resulted in consistently bad outcomes anywhere in the world.

    @sharl:

    The individuals who are leading and funding the climate denial campaigns have the wherewithal to live and work away from those areas most impacted by the warming (or they at least have the money to create their own comfy biospheres).

    This makes a nice science fiction story. I’m not sure that it would actually work out that way, even for the topmost of the one percent.

  27. 27
    PeakVT says:

    @Tim F.: Warming or carbon emissions? Warming (of the atmosphere, at least) has basically been in line with the 1999 IPCC projections and below Hansen’s 1988 projections, which were based on much thinner data and cruder models. (Note that I’m not saying global warming isn’t happening or isn’t bad.)

  28. 28
    Zifnab says:

    @Tim F.: Isn’t that a country western song?

  29. 29
    wrb says:

    The chart should contain a special box for the fully-owned faux media: News Corp, Clear Channel etc.

  30. 30
    Svensker says:

    @eemom:

    Yup and yup.

  31. 31
    chopper says:

    @Brachiator:

    But I was asking how actual warming has resulted in consistently bad outcomes anywhere in the world.

    ask the sudanese.

  32. 32
    Heliopause says:

    Look, unlike a lot of people I don’t see it as inherently evil for a company to serve its shareholders.

    Why not? I’m going to go full Godwin here: I’m not sure what “inherently evil” means but insofar as we judge groups to be such why not corporations? We don’t hesitate to label You-Know-Who and his You-Know-What movement as such, and their purpose was to “serve its shareholdersGermany’s citizens. CompaniesCountries do not exist to save the Earth. They exist to make moneyprotect their national interests. If something threatens their cash flowcultural purpose and national hegemony then they have a rather strong incentive to make it go away. So, again, I don’t know how much sense it makes to label such entities “evil” but if we are going to do so in some cases then let’s be consistent about it.

  33. 33

    @Brachiator:

    But I was asking how actual warming has resulted in consistently bad outcomes anywhere in the world.

    Ask the ranchers in South Texas. Or West Texas, for that matter.

    Soonergrunt is down there in the drought/heat bowl. Maybe he could contribute something to the discussion.

  34. 34
    trollhattan says:

    When, at long last, the Bush 43 administration papers are prized from their Zuper Zecret vaults, we’ll probably find that Cheney’s energy task force damaged the nation, and world, as much as the two wars, “unfunded” tax cuts and judicial appointments did.

    IMO companies maximizing their profits and stock values by perverting our government and our laws are operating far beyond what should be considered reasonable or acceptable.

  35. 35
    chopper says:

    @trollhattan:

    Cheney’s energy task force damaged the nation, and world, as much as the two wars

    who says the iraq war wasn’t related to the findings of the energy task force?

  36. 36
    scav says:

    @Brachiator:

    consistently bad outcomes

    Is this now the new low bar for a problem? So long as someone, somewhere benefits, no harm? Is confused. I think the funeral industry benefits from the proliferation of cancer so . . .

  37. 37
    trollhattan says:

    @Linda Featheringill:

    The entire intermountain west’s lodgepole forests are dying of the beetle infestations mentioned upthread. Winters are neither cold enough or long enough to retard their spread and the trees cannot fight them off with their natural defenses. The affected area is vast and the eventual outcome will be monstrous wildfires.

    The Aussies have a few things to add to the discussion, as do the Thais, Chinese, Vietnamese, Russians….

  38. 38
    trollhattan says:

    @chopper:

    “This war will pay for itself” does ring a bell.

  39. 39
    Tim F. says:

    @Brachiator: Aside from Sudan and Texas and Russia, which experienced a severe drought that nearly capsized the global wheat market, you could ask anyone in the boreal arctic or in the Rocky Mountains, where bark beetles have survived consistently mild winters and destroyed millions of acres of forest. You could bring up that Atlanta came very close to running out of water last year. You could mention the Pacific island nations that soon will no longer be inhabitable when the rising sea level displaces their fresh water table.

  40. 40
    Tim F. says:

    The other problem with warming mountain zones is that much of the mountain west depends on steady runoff from summer snowpack. When the snow season shrinks and spring arrives sooner and hotter, snow that does accumulate in the winter melts in a dangerous spring flood and then streams run dry out for the rest of the year. Big ag will just go on tapping the water table (for now) but local agriculture is wrecked.

  41. 41
    Brachiator says:

    @chopper: RE: But I was asking how actual warming has resulted in consistently bad outcomes anywhere in the world.

    ask the sudanese.

    Ask them what, exactly. And am I asking the Northern or the Southern Sudanese?

    @Linda Featheringill:

    Ask the ranchers in South Texas. Or West Texas, for that matter.

    And where are the dots directly or even indirectly connecting the Texas droughts to climate change?

    From the August 2011 NYTimes

    Scientists hedge, particularly when it comes to the drought, because they are reluctant to pin any single weather event on climate change. They point to La Niña, an intermittent Pacific Ocean phenomenon that affects storms, as the immediate cause.
    __
    “We can’t say with certainty whether this particular drought is in and of itself a product of climate change,” said David Brown, a regional official with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

    Climate change is real. But when you try to pin any specific weather event or pattern on climate change, you need more than anecdote and guesswork.

  42. 42
    Tim F. says:

    I forgot about those unprecedented floods in Thailand which wrecked the global hard drive trade.

  43. 43
    The Snarxist Formerly Known As Kryptik says:

    The whole climate change situations depresses me to no end, because it honest to god feels like it’s become an insurmountable wall. The deniers have succeeded in putting almost the entire will toward doing ANYTHING about it on complete hold and even forced it to regress in non-insigifnicant ways, and it seems like Australia is the same way. They win and they keep winning, despite the science becoming more and more certain. At a point where the scientific community has been more convinced of the reality of global warming, the public has never been more skeptical and hardened against the idea ever, and our Politicians refuse to do jack shit because of the bracing fear of being seen as ‘part of the hoax’ and getting the full force of the energy industries down their throats.

    The deniers seem like they’ve won outright, and there’s no way to overturn this until it’s completely too fucking late.

  44. 44
    pragmatism says:

    wignut projection response automator sez: Yes, the $ is the driver. Al Gore made all of this up so he could be rich and have an energy guzzling 400K sq. ft. home. FOLLOW TEH MONIES!

  45. 45
    Brachiator says:

    @Tim F.:

    Aside from Sudan and Texas and Russia, which experienced a severe drought that nearly capsized the global wheat market, you could ask anyone in the boreal arctic or in the Rocky Mountains, where bark beetles have survived consistently mild winters and destroyed millions of acres of forest. You could bring up that Atlanta came very close to running out of water last year. You could mention the Pacific island nations that soon will no longer be inhabitable when the rising sea level displaces their fresh water table.

    Your note popped up while I was replying to others, referencing the NY Times story on the Texas drought. If there is science demonstrating that these conditions are the result of climate change, point us to it.

    @scav: RE: consistently bad outcomes

    Is this now the new low bar for a problem? So long as someone, somewhere benefits, no harm? Is confused. I think the funeral industry benefits from the proliferation of cancer so . . .

    There is an assumption among many people that the worst case scenarios involving climate change will result in univseral globabl catastrophe. I don’t know that this is demonstrated by the science.

  46. 46
    chopper says:

    @Brachiator:

    Ask them what, exactly. And am I asking the Northern or the Southern Sudanese?

    the war in sudan and darfur is linked pretty heavily to climate change.

  47. 47
    Tim F. says:

    @Brachiator: You have mixed up weather and climate. One flood is weather. A pattern of heavier rains and more severe droughts: climate. Warming mountains and arctic regions: climate. Warmer winters: climate. Rising sea level: climate.

    Do you honestly want to argue that consistent warming of the planet is not harmful? You are insane.

  48. 48
    scav says:

    @Brachiator: But insisting that the outcome be proven to have universally bad outcomes as a precondition for it being a problem seems a bit extreme. You seem far more interested in playing cute games with unrealistic levels of idealized evidence (Scholistic pinhead dancing angels is what springs to mind) than having a concrete discussion of the actual ranges of impacts of any sort that are probable. In short, have fun being a shit.

  49. 49
    Tonal Crow says:

    @Brachiator:

    Climate change is real. But when you try to pin any specific weather event or pattern on climate change, you need more than anecdote and guesswork.

    What happens to the frequency of prior extremes when you shift a normal distribution’s mean? From the abstract to Hansen et al Climate Variability and Climate Change: The New Climate Dice:

    The “climate dice” describing the chance of an unusually warm or cool season, relative to the climatology of 1951-1980, have progressively become more “loaded” during the past 30 years, coincident with increased global warming. The most dramatic and important change of the climate dice is the appearance of a new category of extreme climate outliers. These extremes were practically absent in the period of climatology, covering much less than 1% of Earth’s surface. Now summertime extremely hot outliers, more than three standard deviations (σ) warmer than climatology, typically cover about 10% of the land area. Thus there is no need to equivocate about the summer heat waves in Texas in 2011 and Moscow in 2010, which exceeded 3σ – it is nearly certain that they would not have occurred in the absence of global warming. If global warming is not slowed from its current pace, by mid-century 3σ events will be the new norm and 5σ events will be common.

  50. 50
    HelpThe99ers says:

    Insurance companies, and more importantly, reinsurance companies, are already starting to factor in the costs of global warming into their policies:

    “Swiss Re’s climate experts remain in close contact with the climate research community. Recent initiatives have looked at the effects of climate change on coastal flood damage and storm damage in Europe as well as the economics of climate adaptation… around the world, including Florida.” — Swiss Re AG (CH:SREN) (source)

  51. 51
    Tim F. says:

    Here are the arguments that carbon-driven climate change might not be a disaster:

    * Plants grow on carbon dioxide. Too simple. Our crops are mostly grasses, C4 monocotyledonous plants which use the hatch-slack cycle to concentrate carbon dioxide from the air. Weeds are almost all dicots that take CO2 directly. Crops benefit when CO2 is relatively low whereas weeds have a huge advantage at higher CO2 concentrations. In controlled experiments more CO2 and higher temperatures did nothing to increase crop yields, whereas weeds went nuts.

    * Um, less shoveling in the winter? Misguided for two reasons. One, it is wrong. Climate change will bring more big dumps. The reason is complicated but quite well understood. For similar reasons, while I was at college in Colorado the biggest snow days always came on relatively warm days in early spring. Two, much of the American south will be more or less uninhabitable. Not a trade that I would choose to make.

  52. 52
    pragmatism says:

    @HelpThe99ers: also, too, city planning and budgeting for coastal areas take it into account.

  53. 53
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    @Tim F.:

    Do you honestly want to argue that consistent warming of the planet is not harmful? You are insane.

    Consistent and accelerated. Bark beetle infestation in the mountain west is a pretty fucking good example, where the climatic regulators that have pretty clearly sustained forested regions (evidence: a lot of big old trees) are no longer kicking in. We already know the consequences of deforestation when it’s people with chainsaws.

    The denial industry exploits people’s inability to grok orders of magnitude with relation to time. But as TPM’s David Kurtz said, it’s pretty fucking cowardly to do that if you know you’re not going to be around for the shit hitting the fan.

  54. 54
    Tonal Crow says:

    @Brachiator: Also too, from the abstract of Dai: Drought under global warming: a review:

    This article reviews recent literature on drought of the last millennium, followed by an update on global aridity changes from 1950 to 2008. Projected future aridity is presented based on recent studies and our analysis of model simulations. Dry periods lasting for years to decades have occurred many times during the last millennium…. These droughts were likely triggered by anomalous tropical sea surface temperatures (SSTs)…. Over Africa, the southward shift of the warmest SSTs in the Atlantic and warming in the Indian Ocean are responsible for the recent Sahel droughts…. Global aridity has increased substantially since the 1970s due to recent drying over Africa, southern Europe, East and South Asia, and eastern Australia. Although El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), tropical Atlantic SSTs, and Asian monsoons have played a large role in the recent drying, recent warming has increased atmospheric moisture demand and likely altered atmospheric circulation patterns, both contributing to the drying. Climate models project increased aridity in the 21st century over most of Africa, southern Europe and the Middle East, most of the Americas, Australia, and Southeast Asia. Regions like the United States have avoided prolonged droughts during the last 50 years due to natural climate variations, but might see persistent droughts in the next 20–50 years….

    (emphasis added).

    See especially Fig. 11. Rain fail means grain fail; grain fail means….

  55. 55
    Brachiator says:

    @Tim F.:

    You have mixed up weather and climate.

    I have not mixed up anything. Some hear have made the claim that the Texas droughts are connected to climate change. Climate scientists do not make such a definitive claim, at least according to the NY Times article. What do you have that adds to or refutes the NY Times article? A simple question.

    Do you honestly want to argue that consistent warming of the planet is not harmful?

    That’s odd. I did not make that assertion in ANY of my posts. In fact, I noted consistently that climate change is real. And yet you misread my posts and also tack on a gratuitous insult. Pathetic, especially for a front pager.

    The question is how do we accurately measure that harm? It is not enough to scream “Bad shit is happening” and expect nations to throw money at the problem. As is indicated by the implications of the article I linked about Canada, even countries that are or previously have been convinced about the potential problems caused by climate change have been backing away from agreements to fight the problem.

    @chopper:

    the war in sudan and darfur is linked pretty heavily to climate change.

    Bullshit. And you seem to have missed South Sudan becoming independent in July.

    @scav:

    But insisting that the outcome be proven to have universally bad outcomes as a precondition for it being a problem seems a bit extreme.

    Sorry, I am not insisting on anything. And the bottom line is that Balloon Juice posters make bolder claims about the impact of climate change than do actual climate scientists (Tim F partly excepted).

  56. 56
    El Cid says:

    @Tim F.: Of course, the atmospheric CO2 which affects rates of longwave infrared photon escape to space (i.e., the ‘greenhouse effect’, and the sole mechanism by which energy coming to the Earth from the Sun is re-released into space) is at the top layers of the atmosphere, where there aren’t any plants.

    So functions of patterns and rates and types of mixing of atmospheric gases at altitude become crucial when talking about how increased plant growth would affect high atmospheric CO2 in relation to global energy balance increase (i.e., global warming) and within any particular time frame.

  57. 57
    chopper says:

    @Brachiator:

    Bullshit

    tell it to the UN then.

  58. 58
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    @Brachiator:

    even countries that are or previously have been convinced about the potential problems caused by climate change have been backing away from agreements to fight the problem.

    Bzzt. Stephen Harper has a parliamentary majority; Stephen Harper no longer has to hide his crazy. Stephen Harper is also thinking about the ka-ching of systematically raping the Alberta tar sands.

    The question is how do we accurately measure that harm?

    No, that’s a fucking Lomborgian dodge. It’s saying “I need to know exactly how dangerous this wildfire is before I start running the fuck away”, followed by “well, now that 200 square miles are burnt to a crisp, we know.”

    The trendlines suggest that we’re heading towards overall temperature rises that set off massive feedback loops, such as the release of trapped methane from melting polar icecaps. Saying “we need to wait until we know the potential harm” is effectively no different from denialism.

  59. 59
    chopper says:

    @pseudonymous in nc:

    but there’s no scientific definition of ‘danger’! therefore, climate change cannot be dangerous.

  60. 60
    Tim F. says:

    @Brachiator: Oh I get it. You are trying to illustrate my point about epidemiology and climate science being too arcane for a normal person to grok. Did smoking cause any single cancer? Who knows. Maybe it was air pollution. We can never be 100% sure so why worry about it? I know, right. Really a pernicious form of denialism. Thanks. I had forgot about the performance art approach to point making since DougJ went straight.

    @El Cid: Look up how fast the troposphere mixes. There is only one gas, methane, that shows a meaningful variation in its global distribution. That is because its half life in the atmosphere is extraordinarily short (for a gas).

  61. 61
    Tonal Crow says:

    @El Cid: CO2 is well-mixed. If there’s 390 ppm at sea level, it’s pretty similar well into the stratosphere.

  62. 62
    Joel says:

    These guys rely on their bottom feeders to intimidate scientists from going public with their results, or defending them, or challenging “skeptics” on their bullshit. And it works. It works very well. As a scientist in an unrelated discipline, I can only imagine being harangued for reporting my findings truthfully. I hope someone tracks these scumbags down and throws their sorry asses behind bars.

  63. 63
    trollhattan says:

    @chopper:

    I’m stealing this.

  64. 64
    chopper says:

    @El Cid:

    (i.e., the ‘greenhouse effect’, and the sole mechanism by which energy coming to the Earth from the Sun is re-released into space)

    actually a nice bit of insolation is reflected back into space regardless of greenhouse gases.

  65. 65
    Tonal Crow says:

    @Tim F.:

    @Brachiator: Oh I get it. You are trying to illustrate my point about epidemiology and climate science being too arcane for a normal person to grok. Did smoking cause any single cancer? Who knows. Maybe it was air pollution. We can never be 100% sure so why worry about it? I know, right. Really a pernicious form of denialism.

    Ya. Also, uncertainty is not our friend. We don’t know exactly at what point global warming causes large-scale grain-harvest failures. Maybe it’s 7 degrees C. Maybe it’s only 2 or 3. You have to be an idiot or in denial to risk it. BTW, it’s informative to note that global average temps changed barely 6 degrees C from glacial maximum (Ohio and northward under kilometers of ice) to pre-industrial times. Shall we guess what another 3 degrees might do?

  66. 66
    Tonal Crow says:

    @chopper: I think what El Cid meant to say is that basically all the energy that earth loses to space is in the form of electromagnetic radiation.

  67. 67
    Tim F. says:

    @Tonal Crow: Meter long dragonflies, if the fossil record has anything to say about it. Me, though, I worry about the centipedes. God I hate centipedes. Please stop driving.

  68. 68
    Tonal Crow says:

    @Tim F.: Ever wonder what proportion of the people who pushed the “1% doctrine” on Saddam also deny that global warming is happening/is caused by man/is a problem?

  69. 69
    Brachiator says:

    @Tim F.:

    Oh I get it. You are trying to illustrate my point about epidemiology and climate science being too arcane for a normal person to grok.

    No. You don’t get it. I detest scientists who act like high priests, and who expect the ignorant and unteachable masses to just fall in line. I don’t believe that there is any subject that cannot be explained to lay people by by the right scientists.

    So, let’s keep it simple. Are you saying that the drought in Texas is caused by climate change? Then reconcile the statements by climate scientists that we cannot be sure that this is the cause. Point us to the links if you cannot explain it adequately.

    If the consensus of climate scientists is that the American Southwest will become uninhabitable in X years, then point us to the links, and also to the links that show what has to be done, and what it will cost to prevent it.

    Did smoking cause any single cancer? Who knows. Maybe it was air pollution. We can never be 100% sure so why worry about it?

    You know this is ignorant bullshit, don’t you? This is not how the cancer research was done, nor the reasonable conclusions that were reached about the harm caused by smoking.

    If you can’t write clearly about climate change, without suspecting people who basically agree with you of bad motives, why don’t you just point people to a great and informative site like skeptical science, and just move on?

    Some of this reminds me of the stupidity of the tech community over attempts to throtle the Internet. The geek high priests gloat over how the “normals” in Congress don’t understand the InterTubes and should just leave it alone. Meanwhile, Congress is busy crafting another bill that will make the entertainment industry happy.

    Similarly, climate change scientists have got to be able to talk the science and make understandable policy recommendations. Simply talking about what risks you are not willing to take is irrelevant when a consensus has to be reached about what real money to spend to deal with the issue.

    @pseudonymous in nc:

    Bzzt. Stephen Harper has a parliamentary majority; Stephen Harper no longer has to hide his crazy. Stephen Harper is also thinking about the ka-ching of systematically raping the Alberta tar sands.

    The whole point of my link about Canada stifling debate about climate change was to point out the stupidity of the Harper administration.

    The trendlines suggest that we’re heading towards overall temperature rises that set off massive feedback loops, such as the release of trapped methane from melting polar icecaps. Saying “we need to wait until we know the potential harm” is effectively no different from denialism.

    I never said that we have to wait until we know the potential harm. But “trendlines suggest” mean a lot less than you think it does.

  70. 70
    auntie beak says:

    i want to further explore career opportunities in the punching-guys-in-the-groin industry. what exactly is my career path? is there a punching-guys-in-the-groin major at any us university? i want to make an immediate impact in my career.

  71. 71
    Tonal Crow says:

    So, let’s keep it simple. Are you saying that the drought in Texas is caused by climate change? Then reconcile the statements by climate scientists that we cannot be sure that this is the cause. Point us to the links if you cannot explain it adequately.

    Haven’t read “New climate dice” yet, I see. Why not try it? Hansen et al discuss exactly what role global warming played in the Texas drought and similar recent events.

  72. 72
    Tim F. says:

    @Brachiator: ok, single syllables then. How do you know whether smoking caused a specific person’s cancer? Not possible. The best you can do is ask whether smoking makes cancer more likely. Use statistics, inform it with animal studies to understand that smoking causes DNA damage in lung cells and inhibits the DNA damage repair pathway. That is epidemiology.

    The analogy with climate science is nearly perfect. You cannot say whether carbon-driven warming caused one individual event. You can study the past (paleoclimatology) to learn that that some places like the American southwest become drier in a warmer climate. You can simulate the climate on a computer and figure out that the southwest will most likely become dry again.

    If we smoke we risk cancer. If we flood the atmosphere with CO2 we risk a lot of things. Frequent and more severe droughts are one of them. Whether Texas has become drier than it ever has in recorded history because of climate change I cannot say. I also can’t say that smoking caused my grandmother’s lung cancer. I do, however, know that it made the cancer much more likely and I know why, and I sure as hell would have suggested that she quit had I been around and aware of these facts fifty years earlier.

    Now maybe you can move on. You asked for an example of climate change causing negative consequences, people gave you at least ten. You pick one and fight about it to the death. How about the rest? That is troll behavior.

  73. 73
    Tonal Crow says:

    The analogy with climate science is nearly perfect. You cannot say whether carbon-driven warming caused one individual event. You can study the past (paleoclimatology) to learn that that some places like the American southwest become drier in a warmer climate. You can simulate the climate on a computer and figure out that the southwest will most likely become dry again.

    And, as Hansen et al did, you can examine temperature records and see that temperature extremes are basically normally distributed. You can derive the distribution, shift it rightward to account for the increasing mean, and derive probabilities for what used to be various multiple-sigma events. Then, using the probability differences between the old and new means for a given event, you can decide — within a given level of statistical significance — whether that event can be attributed to global warming. As to Texas 2011, Hansen et al use this reasoning to conclude “…with a high degree of confidence that events such as the extreme summer heat in the Moscow region in 2010 and Texas in 2011 were a consequence of global warming.” (New climate dice at 11).

  74. 74
    Brachiator says:

    @Tim F.:

    You can study the past (paleoclimatology) to learn that that some places like the American southwest become drier in a warmer climate. You can simulate the climate on a computer and figure out that the southwest will most likely become dry again.

    This is good and useful. Then, the questions become when might this occur, what can be done to mitigate it, and how much will it cost.

    The other question is where can lay people find references to this modeling. For example, is this a reasonable, and still accurate discussion of what you are talking about: An imminent transition to a more arid climate in southwestern North America

    If we smoke we risk cancer. If we flood the atmosphere with CO2 we risk a lot of things. Frequent and more severe droughts are one of them. Whether Texas has become drier than it ever has in recorded history because of climate change I cannot say. I also can’t say that smoking caused my grandmother’s lung cancer. I do, however, know that it made the cancer much more likely and I know why, and I sure as hell would have suggested that she quit had I been around and aware of these facts fifty years earlier.

    You are using the smoking analogy incorrectly. Again, show me not your personal observation, no matter how well considered, but the consensus of climate scientists, that recent Texas droughts are connected to climate change, and how they are connected. Again, you claim more than the quoted scientists. The NYT article may well be wrong or incomplete. Fine. Expand on it. Show where what is quoted falls apart.

    Now maybe you can move on. You asked for an example of climate change causing negative consequences, people gave you at least ten.

    There you go again. Balloon Juicers, none of whom are climate scientists, gave examples of what they believed to be climate change causing negative consequences, without citation or backup. It is hardly troll behavior to note that this is insufficient. It is as dopey as TV weathercasters denying climate change.

    I can appreciate the discussion about climate change, and agree with the sentiments expressed. But specific claims require a higher degree of rigor. It’s kinda like when people talk about bonobos and human evolution or the “certainty” of Neandertal and human interbreeding. More noise than real science.

  75. 75
    chopper says:

    @Tonal Crow:

    clearly, Hansen isn’t a real climate scientist then.

  76. 76

    […] Balloon Juice simplifies the graph to a single huge dollar sign: Anyhow, denying climate has an enormous pile of money at its back. Want an easy $10,000 plus travel perks? Write an editorial that criticizes the IPCC. Campaign cash? Not a problem (there goes the public policy option…). Maybe you want to start a thinktank where Ivy League legacy cases can draw six-figure slaries and build a reputation doling out rephrased press releases in conservative journals, on broadcast networks and in discussion panels that need a douchebag for “balance”. Choose a name that evokes eagles shooting apple pie machine guns and the money’s there. […]

  77. 77
    Brachiator says:

    @Tonal Crow:

    Haven’t read “New climate dice” yet, I see. Why not try it? Hansen et al discuss exactly what role global warming played in the Texas drought and similar recent events.

    Thanks for this reference. There is also this analysis by Judith Curry, Professor and Chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology and President (co-owner) of Climate Forecast Applications Network (CFAN).

    JC conclusion: I like several aspects of this paper. It puts longer term climate change into context of year to year natural variability (both globally and regionally). The analysis is straightforward and clearly presented. The writing is accessible to a general audience.
    __
    The problem that I have with the paper is that the analysis does not support some of the inferences. The major conclusion (stated in the abstract) is:
    __
    We conclude that extreme heat waves, such as that in Texas and Oklahoma in 2011 and Moscow in 2010, were “caused” by global warming, because their likelihood was negligible prior to the recent rapid global warming.
    __
    First, an anomalously warm season may not correlate with the existence of an extreme heat wave. The study did not systematically consider all major heat waves during the period (they only mentioned the 2010 and 2011 heat waves), and assess whether these were predominantly associated with anomalously warm seasons….
    __
    IMO, if Hansen wants to draw this conclusion, the following analysis needs to be done. Go through the temperature data records since 1900, and search out the individual heat wave events. I would define heat waves in the context of two different definitions: 1) relative to the average local temperature for the entire period; 2) relative to the average local temperature for the decade. The combination of these allows interpretation of what is associated with the trend, vs interannual/decadal variability. Interpret the statistics globally and regionally, in the context of known modes of internal variability (e.g. ENSO, AMO) and the global warming trend. Then we would have the basis for assessing whether their conclusion is true or not.

    I don’t know Curry from a hill of beans. If she is a known climate change denier, I would easily discount everything that she writes. But otherwise, what she writes seems reasonable.

  78. 78
    Tonal Crow says:

    @Brachiator: Curry is one of the (very few) go-to climate scientists for denialists, and treads close to denialism herself [1].

    Her angle is “the uncertainty monster”. Basically she ignores the fact that uncertainty around global warming’s future magnitude and effects does not play only in the direction of “it’s OK”. What we don’t know could also be very bad.

    The question is, given what we do know, how much risk are we willing to take? I recall some years back that many people argued that Saddam Hussein must be deposed — irrespective of the cost — if there was even a “1%” risk that he might use WMDs. Given that, what should we do if there is even a “1%” risk that our current uncontrolled climate modification experiment might cause global famine? (Not that we know it’s that small).

    On Curry’s criticism of Hansen’s paper, I’ll have to read it in depth. I would note that “known modes of…variability (e.g., ENSO, AMO)” are cyclical (hence the “O” — oscillation), and they just move heat energy around. The issue with global warming is heat accumulation, not just in near-surface air and sea (which is what global average temperature measures), but also in the deep ocean and as absorbed by the ice-melt phase change.

    [1] See, e.g., http://judithcurry.com/2011/08.....questions/ , wherein she flirts with the ludicrous idea that we have little to do with the 40% increase in CO2 since preindustrial times, to levels not seen in (at least) the last 800,000 years. To be fair, though, she has criticized that particular form of denier insanity that holds that the greenhouse effect does not exist or cannot exist because it “violates” the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics.

  79. 79
    Heliopause says:

    @Brachiator:

    To put this in terms a political blog might understand, Curry might best be called a “climate moderate.” I suggest this Scientific American article from November 2010 as a good summary of where she’s coming from.

  80. 80
    sharl says:

    Ah, I see Tonal Crow replied while I was off researching – good thing too, since TC sounds like s/he actually knows the area. I won’t let the following links to go waste, though, especially since they get at the politics of global warming a bit more…

    I’d never heard of Judith Curry – no surprise, since my area of expertise lies elsewhere – but poking around a bit suggests that she might have some credibility problems. Joe Romm of Think Progress’ environment-oriented site knows her from back when (see here and here). And Dave Roberts at Grist had an interesting exchange with her a couple years ago; that post includes a discussion on the incredibly difficult politics of this topic.

    The science can be a bit complex for even reasonably well educated folks, but when vested interests with deep pockets start throwing a ton of chaff into the mix, the resulting blizzard of contrary “information” is a major impediment to understanding. The added difficulty, of course, is that the message is one so many people fear, and they therefore would rather shut it out, whistle past the graveyard, plug their ears and yell lalalala, I can’t hear you. The real problem here seems to be one based more on the hidebound aspects of human nature, and the limitations on the “politics of the possible” that arise from that.
    .
    —————–

    chopper @59:

    but there’s no scientific definition of ‘danger’! therefore, climate change cannot be dangerous.

    I also plan to steal this. Unfortunately, I think it kinda-sorta describes the political challenge of global warming science.

  81. 81

    Look, unlike a lot of people I don’t see it as inherently evil for a company to serve its shareholders.

    Fuck evil. It’s *stupid*.

    What a business wants is delighted customers (and the resulting profit). What kind of complete fucking moron decided to turn that into wanting “delighted shareholders”?

  82. 82
    sharl says:

    Ruh-roh.
    In a B-J post that went up well after this one, commenter Arm The Homeless links to this post by NYT’s environment blogger Andrew Revkin – that NYT post is here.

    Basically, environmentalist Peter Gleick was the guy who obtained, and subsequently leaked, the internal Heartland Institute files regarding their program to advance climate warming denial, and to inject that meme into U.S. classroom instruction.

    Dude’s gonna quickly find himself in the middle of a shitstorm. The same folks who gleefully bought into the phony-baloney “Climategate scandal” while showing no interest in the underlying crime involved – theft of privileged communications/documents – will jump all over this guy.

    Good luck Mr. Gleick.

  83. 83
    chopper says:

    @sharl:

    curry was on the BEST team. remember that? noted Berkeley physicist and climate change denier richard muller decided that nobody had done ‘the real research’ (physicists are notorious for their disdain for the other sciences), and with a bunch of Koch money performed a large scale analysis of climate date. muller basically wanted to prove that climate change wasn’t really happening. curry was a co-author.

    the results came in and they pretty much exactly matched the consensus. muller, to his credit, said ‘welp, i guess i was wrong’. curry split off and disavowed the results.

  84. 84
    Herbal Infusion Bagger says:

    No. You don’t get it. I detest scientists who act like high priests,and who expect the ignorant and unteachable masses to just fall in line.”

    Tell that to those Evangelicals who believe that AGW is disproved by God’s covenant to Noah in Genesis.

    “I don’t believe that there is any subject that cannot be explained to lay people by by the right scientists.

    I think you underestimate the difficulty of communicating when there’s an active disinformation campaign out there. The cancer-smoking link is a good analogy for this reason.

    You have, at least in surveys by the AGU, 98% of climatologists believing in Anthrogenic Climate Change. Amongst the public, the number of those believing in AGW is roughly the same as those who believe in evolution, and it’s declined in the past decade, despite observations and modeling increasing the confidence scientist have that AGW is a valid hypothesis.

    The funny thing is, that at least at the technical level, it’s rare to meet anyone in the energy industry who doesn’t accept AGW, and if anything the industry wants clarity over what CO2 emissions policy is going to be so they can make their investment decisions. But the zombie disinformation campaigns they started up a decade or more ago will stagger on.

    The other question is where can lay people find references to this modeling.

    I’m sorry, but sometimes you just gotta hit the primary literature rather than a second-hand account. Even New Scientist and Scientific American can screw it up. Which is often behind a Elsevier paywall.

    Anyway, on the impact of climate change: there is very good work coming out of Columbia U. on this. They have some very intriguing research linking the ENSO oscillation with the timing of conflicts in countries affected by that oscillation. There’s also indications of a potential link between influenza pandemics and ENSO. That’s more tenuous because influenza pandemics are rare, but the mechanism (ENSO alters bird migration: influenza is an avian gut disease: altered bird migration means more chance of an avian influenza strain jumping to mammalian species).
    So those are two cases where we can see a link between climate variability and adverse converses. By inference, ratcheting up the unpredictability of climate with more CO2 risks more of these adverse consequences.

  85. 85
    Jimbo316 says:

    @Brachiator: No, there is the business-as-usual (BAU) scenario, which is the worst, of course and there are two or more reduced emissions scenarios. However, the world has done very little of significance to get off the BAU scenario even when it would actually save money (efficiency) and yield a lot of health and environmental benefits (got to Beijing sometime). Point is that carbon loading in the atmosphere means long detention times in the upper atmosphere that means global warming a long, long time.

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  1. […] Balloon Juice simplifies the graph to a single huge dollar sign: Anyhow, denying climate has an enormous pile of money at its back. Want an easy $10,000 plus travel perks? Write an editorial that criticizes the IPCC. Campaign cash? Not a problem (there goes the public policy option…). Maybe you want to start a thinktank where Ivy League legacy cases can draw six-figure slaries and build a reputation doling out rephrased press releases in conservative journals, on broadcast networks and in discussion panels that need a douchebag for “balance”. Choose a name that evokes eagles shooting apple pie machine guns and the money’s there. […]

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