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Sep 03 2011

Climate noise amplification

Ever notice that once in a while, when observing scientific matters, you have a signal to noise problem that’s really difficult to overcome?

I’m not talking about the actual problems of signal-to-noise in building studies, especially out of short and uncorrelated pieces of data. I’m talking about the amplification that goes on in the denialist quarters of the blogosphere, picking up on phrasings or terms of trade that happen to be easy to misconstrue into a soundbite “club” to beat layfolk over the head with. This happens in pretty much every field of study, but never to the extent or effectiveness seen in the field of climatology.

Take, for instance, Phil Jones’ interview with the BBC, from which an intentional misunderstanding of the concept of statistical significance by a question sent in by a climate skeptic entrapped Jones into saying something technically correct but easily misconstrued.

BBC: Do you agree that from 1995 to the present there has been no statistically-significant global warming

Phil Jones: Yes, but only just. I also calculated the trend for the period 1995 to 2009. This trend (0.12C per decade) is positive, but not significant at the 95% significance level. The positive trend is quite close to the significance level. Achieving statistical significance in scientific terms is much more likely for longer periods, and much less likely for shorter periods.

BBC: How confident are you that warming has taken place and that humans are mainly responsible?

Phil Jones: I’m 100% confident that the climate has warmed. As to the second question, I would go along with IPCC Chapter 9 – there’s evidence that most of the warming since the 1950s is due to human activity.

Emphasis mine. Of course, the important thing about using a fourteen year period is that it is impossible to make a statistically significant trend out of any climate dataset with the 95% confidence you need to be able to declare statistical significance. You would need the effects of global warming to be massive to gain that amount of confidence. Nonetheless, as Phil Jones says, that specific period shows warming, and it was very close to 95% confidence. It was 93% in fact. And if you expand the window by even one year, it becomes statistically significant. Like I said, entrapment, intended explicitly to build a pullquote that denialists could use to pull stunts like this one over at the Daily Fail.

Or how about the lowball figure for ocean rising? A study was produced that was later withdrawn by its authors after it was pointed out to them exactly how they messed up the figures and why their figure of 82cm rise was far, far lower than figures generated via a better model — a model which suggested up to two metres in sea level rise. They underestimated the amount sea levels would rise, and their figures were parroted by denialists as showing that climate change would be far less severe than we originally projected. Once they realized their errors, they withdrew the paper to correct the record. And amazingly, the denialists got a second turn at the well when the paper was withdrawn, by claiming the withdrawal of that paper proved the oceans wouldn’t rise at all.

The whole “Climategate” fiasco was a similar case of shenanigans. I won’t recap the whole thing (Peter Sinclair does it so much better), but to sum up, some asshole leaked a bunch of internal emails discussing the sausage-making behind the scenes for a scientific study that has been referred to since it came out as “the hockey stick graph”. A few key phrases sounded kind of dodgy pulled out of context even though they had perfectly reasonable explanations (we’re talking Mr. Roper level misunderstanding here). The discussion was perfectly reasonable, involving dropping one of the six temperature proxies at a certain point when it stopped correlating with any of the other five, and including instrumentation temperature data to represent the parts of the graph that they didn’t have proxy data to show — e.g., they didn’t have (for instance) ice core information from the last twenty years, but they DID have real temperatures instead. That was the “trick”. And the one proxy they had to drop because it stopped matching five other proxies or (more importantly) real temperature, was the “decline” they hid.

All of this perfectly reasonable procedural stuff… and yet it’s STILL the focal point of a hundred thousand astroturf comments on every article or blog post across the entire internet. Some of them might legitimately be people’s opinions, but there’s decent evidence that it’s mostly bought dissent. And this dissent, and this ginned up controversy, keep going strong despite the Climategate scientists and the methodology being vindicated no less than seven times.

There’s a bit of light at the end of the tunnel, though. Via Greg Laden’s Scienceblogs blog:

A study published in late July made false claims and was methodologically flawed, but still managed to get published in a peer reviewed journal. The Editor-in-Chief of that journal has resigned to symbolically take responsibility for the journal’s egregious error of publishing what is essentially a fake scientific paper, and to “protest against how the authors [and others] have much exaggerated the paper’s conclusions” taking to task the University of Alabama’s press office, Forbes, Fox News and others.

[...]

The numerical results presented in the paper lack statistical significance, but this is hard to detect because error bars or estimates of statistical uncertainty are presented poorly or left out. The methods used in the paper are not described well enough to verify that they could work.

When these results were examined more closely they were found to be not replicable.

The statistical strangeness of the results are explained in part by looking at the scale at which the work is being done. Standard climate models look at climate variables over various time scales from less than a decade to centuries of time. The Spencer and Braswell research inappropriately mixed time scales in a way that seems to have given them results they were looking for rather than a valid finding.

People are willing to fight back. If the Editor-in-Chief was willing to quit in protest of such a shoddy piece of climate denialism being published in his journal, this proves that scientists are willing to put humanity’s future before their own profits — or even before their short term career concerns. And honestly, as I’ve said a dozen times before, conspiracy is more likely from the side that stands to lose billions. I’m tired of being shouted down by people who have every reason and opportunity to obfuscate the truth, twist our and scientists’ words, and outright dismantle the goalposts such that it’s literally impossible to kick a field goal even with the mountains of evidence we have on hand. We call them denialists because they refuse to even look at the evidence, and on the off chance they do, it’s solely to search for a chink in our armor — not the science’s armor, but ours. They’ve already lost the science war. Now it’s all shouting, distortions, propaganda and lies.

See also Greg’s list of links at X Blog.

So what do we do about this? What CAN we do? Are we inexorably headed straight off a climate cliff and the entrenched powers have succeeded in subsuming our long term species survival prospects for their short-term gain? I don’t want to give up on humanity just yet!

76 comments

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  1. 1
    TylerD

    I really think better education is the answer to a lot of our woes. For instance, the propaganda value of the Phil Jones quote pretty much entirely flows from the fact that most people have no idea what a statistical hypothesis test actually consists of. I really do think that elementary statistics should be required to graduate at the secondary educational level.

  2. 2
    Jason Thibeault

    That would go a long way toward fixing the problem, yes. But so would teaching people what “theory” means. Or teaching them how to tell that you’re being hoodwinked generally by people with no real claim to authority.

    Ever wonder why education is assaulted so rigorously by pretty much everyone in power, all the time?

  3. 3
    lordshipmayhem

    I also think that part of the issue is that nobody wants to believe that we may very well be fucked. Another part lies in how often that it’s been predicted that bad things are going to happen, by so many different people with an axe to grind, that when scientists with data behind them and falsifiable theories that continue to be supported by experiments and real-life observations, there’s a tendency to ignore and/or discount them.

    Examples: back in the early 1970′s, there was a chorus in the popular media claiming that an ice age was on its way and would be here within 20 or 30 years. (Note the lack of snow in New England in August.) Many metals were supposed to become rarer and pricier – instead, between recycling and substitution, steel and other common metals are actually cheaper in constant dollars.

    Another problem was a report that the IPCC released, that was full of typographical errors like decimal points in the wrong place. Businessmen were rendered sceptical – that kind of error in their annual reports or regulatory filings could land the CEO of a Fortune 500 firm in the clink, so they are extremely careful about proofreading before releasing anything to regulators or investors. It kind of destroyed the IPCC’s credibility with the very leaders we needed for a successful push for reductions in climate change gasses.

  4. 4
    slc1

    Relative to the Phil Jones quote, it should be pointed out that the reason for the lack of statistical significance at the 95% level was the anomalous result from 1998. That year was abnormally warm due to a very strong El Nino condition and thus should be treated as an outlier. Remove the 1998 data and the warming over the period greatly exceeds the 95% confidence level.

  5. 5
    Ben Pile

    Some of them might legitimately be people’s opinions, but there’s decent evidence that it’s mostly bought dissent.

    I don’t understand why the above quote links to an article I’ve written, which argues the opposite point the post seems to want it to substantiate:

    The result in black and white is an ego-centric fantasy that says much more about the mythology of the environmental perspective than it says about its detractors. In positing that these detractors belong to an astroturfing outfit, Monbiot turns normal political debate and the exchange of ideas into a conspiracy. Normal discussion becomes a manipulated space, dominated and controlled by sinister interests. But worst still, in the process, Monbiot reduces anyone involved in, or following the conversation into zombies, easily influenced by the dark forces that seek to control the ideosphere. In his rush to explain why people simply don’t agree with him — and in fact strongly disagree with him — he insults the intelligence of anybody who dares to take issue with him. Like brainwashed cult victims, they merely respond to the misinformation they are exposed to.

    Ironic then, that the error should turn up in a post about ‘signal-to-noise’ problems. The author of this site might want to check that the ‘noise’ is actually there, and not simply an artefact of his own lousiness.

  6. 6
    Jason Thibeault

    Because in the writing of this post, I had about two dozen tabs open, Ben. In linking what I linked, I had intended to link you at “might legitimately be people’s opinions” because I thought you came by your dissent from the Monbiot piece (which I’d intended to link where yours was) rationally and without any sort of undue influence. I’ve corrected that issue and thank you for pointing it out.

    Now, that said, then you called me lousy. Oh snap. I can only imagine the thought process — oh look, a chink in this author’s armor! Perhaps instead, you’d like to engage on the points of the argument at hand here? The points being that whether it’s astroturf or not, demonstrable lies are being repeated ad nauseum despite being easily demonstrated as lies? Are any of the three examples I provided in question, or just the very idea that there might be a critical mass of stupid following the “there is no climate change” cult who are more than willing to spend all day every day searching Google for strong voices in the global warming debate and shouting them down?

  7. 7
    Ben Pile

    You call yourself lousy, to be fair.

    Engaging on the points at hand… I don’t there’s much else here but noise. Arguments expressed in terms such as “denialist quarters of the blogosphere” are generally no better — how could they be?

    There’s plenty of more important criticism of climate alarmism out there, but it’s much harder to turn it into a matter of simple sides.

  8. 8
    Jason Thibeault

    Yes, I do call myself lousy. In my blog title, which is explained by my tag line. Which is why I can’t help but think you went for that low-hanging fruit (put there intentionally) because you’ve got little better to criticize.

    I need to know something. I recognize that there are people pulling both sides of the overton window in different directions here. I recognize that there are explicit “alarmists” who know nothing of the science, who are shrilly screaming about the potential downfall of humankind without knowing the chain of evidence leading to their conclusions. These folks serve as a counterpoint to the explicit “denialists” who refuse to accept even that the globe is warming, much less that humans are somehow responsible. They refuse to accept that CO2 in too high of concentrations might be bad for life (because plants need it) — never mind that we need water, but if we were to breathe nothing but, we’d drown. There’s such a thing as too much of a good thing.

    So recognizing that there are ridiculous arguments on both sides of the equation, do you call *everyone* who understands the scientist an “alarmist”? Is it a descriptive for the extreme end of the spectrum, or is it a pejorative used to smear everyone who happens to agree with the science? Because if so, then I can call you a denialist with impunity.

  9. 9
    Ben Pile

    “do you call *everyone* who understands the scientist an “alarmist””

    The scientist? Presumably he’s the one in possession of the science? What is there to ‘understand’ about him? His long and difficult separation from his girlfriend, perhaps? Why he doesn’t like peas? His distrust of dogs?

    I’m against simple categories to explain the lie of a debate, in general. Nonetheless, alarmism is a phenomenon. I don’t make any claim about ‘alarmists’ and their understanding of ‘the scientist’ (or ‘the science’) in general. The phenomenon of the politics of fear is broader than the climate debate, and I prefer to see things from that perspective — there’s nothing unique about the fear deployed by climate change alarmists, and there’s nothing about ‘the scientist’ which makes him immune to such ideology. I think I understand him very well, rather than have him on something of a pedestal.

  10. 10
    Jason Thibeault

    Yeah. I made a typo. I said “the science” everywhere else in that comment so you can, presumably, answer the charge, rather than impugning my character for making a goddamn typo. You don’t even know what device I posted the comment on, so it could have been an autocorrect mistake, no? Seriously, if these are the chinks in my armor you attack — my blog title, a misplaced link, a typo in a comment — then my argumentation must be flawless!

    The “politics of fear” charge is difficult to swallow. If there actually is a danger presented by global warming (and the science says there is!), then effecting change on those problems with that fear as leverage is not necessarily a bad thing. I mean, your country went into an unending war with a country that had no weapons of mass destruction on the basis that they *might*, so yes, there is definitely a nexus of politics and fear that allows people to trick others into voting for things that might be otherwise against their best interests.

    That politics of fear can also be used to convince people to vote for things that ARE in their best interests, but only in the long term, and not the short term. Like curtailing CO2 production to mitigate global warming, at the cost of some short-term profit cuts.

    The argument I’d *like* to have with you, though, is whether or not people who understand the science are being shrill alarmists. If you’d like, I could also argue with you as to whether or not the science actually shows what I’m suggesting. Have you got anything to counter said science?

  11. 11
    Ben Pile

    Yeah. I made a typo. I said “the science” everywhere else in that comment so you can, presumably, answer the charge…

    I did ‘answer the charge’. Fully. Really. Completely. Sincerely. I just took advantage of the typo to make a more entertaining ‘defence’.

    The argument I’d *like* to have with you, though, is whether or not people who understand the science are being shrill alarmists….

    As I explained to you, I don’t think ‘the science’ is ‘the’ anything. There is science, but it means little by itself. Science is a process, not a thing (such that it can be the subject of the definite article). Its product needs interpretation. ‘The science’, insofar as it suggests “X degrees is possible”, says nothing that should cause alarm. It’s only when we try to understand the consequences of X degrees that we have a story that may — or may not — cause alarm.

    But alarm for who? When? Where? In which circumstances? And what are the conditions of this alarm — are they necessary by virtue of X degrees, itself, or is there more to the story?

    If you can find a word of ‘denial’ in the 3/4 million words of my blog, I’d be surprised. What I argue instead is that a great deal needs to be presupposed to justify ‘alarmism’ (or more accurately, the urgency, the suspension of normal democratic politics, and the secular canonisation of scientists, and the elevation of scientific institutions to churches &c &c)… In other words, a lot of the story happens to precede ‘the science’. The division of the debate into ‘scientists’ in possession of ‘the science’, for instance, versus ‘deniers’ and their conspiracies.

  12. 12
    Ben Pile

    That politics of fear can also be used to convince people to vote for things that ARE in their best interests…

    What bothers me about the politics of fear is that it is used to legitimise decisions that are made ‘above’ democracy.

    Nobody got to vote against climate alarmism in the UK — there never has been a choice. No debate. No democracy about it.

  13. 13
    Jason Thibeault

    Do you have any measure of reading comprehension? When I say “the science”, I’m referring to the body of evidence as produced by the scientific method that shows that global warming is happening and humans are responsible. If that turn of phrase is impossible for you to unpack, I suggest copying my comments into a text editor and doing a find-and-replace for “the science” and whatever phrase best represents the idea of all that body of evidence presented by scientists on the topic of anthropogenic global warming. Whatever phrase you want. It can even be derogatory. As long as you start actually talking about what I’m talking about, it would be nice, and would go a long way in fostering the dialog you pretend to want. I know language is a negotiation, but this is ridiculous.

    And it’s not even that you don’t understand that — you just feel the need to present “entertaining defenses” at every turn instead of seriously addressing the commentary I’ve given you. Do you have some other grammatical nitpick you’d like to base your next comment on? Perhaps the fact that I just ended that last sentence with a preposition?

    As for your comments regarding who will be affected, where, to what degree, et cetera, they are all corollary to your accepting that there actually is a problem. Do you concede that there’s a problem, that AGW is really happening and really anthropogenic? If so, why are you bitching about the fact that there are irrational actors on either side of the debate, and referring to people who accept the science — err, sorry, the “whatever you want to call the body of evidence proving AGW” — as mere alarmists?

  14. 14
    Jason Thibeault

    There’s also no democracy to sowing disinformation so as to ensure an ill-informed electorate. Why do you not care about that side of the equation?

  15. 15
    Ben Pile

    When I say “the science”, I’m referring to the body of evidence as produced by the scientific method that shows that global warming is happening and humans are responsible.

    Well, if that’s all you’re saying, nobody is contradicting it. (But there is no ‘body’ as such, either.) There are questions of degree, however, and then there are Nth order effects. And questions of degree about Nth order effects ad infinitum. Global warming, happening, or not, is by itself, inconsequential.

    “Global warming is happening” seems to mean different things to many different people. It’s not a concrete proposition, with scientific meaning, and it’s loaded with presuppositions, prejudices, many of which are barking mad.

    they are all corollary to your accepting that there actually is a problem. Do you concede that there’s a problem, that AGW is really happening and really anthropogenic?

    I can go one better. Climate is a problem, whether or not it changes. The extent to which it is a problem, however, is not something given in by the magnitude of the climatic phenomena; it is instead determined by the capacity a population has to respond to it. It may well be a problem for some people — but it certainly isn’t their biggest problem. So if people are vulnerable to climate because they lack wealth, the problem isn’t climate change; the problem is their poverty. Climate change mitigation does nothing to address that problem. Indeed, it makes it harder.

    There’s also no democracy to sowing disinformation so as to ensure an ill-informed electorate. Why do you not care about that side of the equation?

    I don’t beleive anybody is deliberately ‘sowing disinformation’, and so I don’t see why I should be concerned with it.

  16. 16
    Jason Thibeault

    Well, if that’s all you’re saying, nobody is contradicting it.

    There are definitely people contradicting that AGW is happening at all. There are definitely people who agree that the globe is warming but disagree that humans are responsible. They might not be interjecting in our specific dialog, but they exist. As surely as people who don’t understand the science but still act as environmental activists regardless (those people you call “alarmists”).

    (But there is no ‘body’ as such, either.)

    Yes there is. There is a body of evidence that shows that the globe is warming (there are some excellent papers cited on that post), and there is a separate but overlapping body of evidence that humans are responsible.

    “Global warming is happening” seems to mean different things to many different people. It’s not a concrete proposition, with scientific meaning, and it’s loaded with presuppositions, prejudices, many of which are barking mad.

    Well, for clarity, use this definition:

    (n) global warming – an increase in the average temperature of the earth’s atmosphere (especially a sustained increase that causes climatic changes)

    Include also the earth’s oceans. Because we’re measuring those too, due to warmth affecting how much of a CO2 sink the oceans can be, and how much sea ice we have at the poles.

    The extent to which it is a problem, however, is not something given in by the magnitude of the climatic phenomena; it is instead determined by the capacity a population has to respond to it.

    Is that capacity for response incumbent on the individuals who may or may not have enough money to respond? Can it also be incumbent on the people who have engaged in practices that demonstrably affected climate over the last century? Given that the rich are loath to ever part with their money, can governments step in and “encourage” participation in fixing and mitigating the climate problems that these rich folks had a large hand in causing?

    I don’t beleive anybody is deliberately ‘sowing disinformation’, and so I don’t see why I should be concerned with it.

    I addressed three instances of disinformation in a recent post. You might even have read it.

  17. 17
    Ben Pile

    “There are definitely people contradicting that AGW is happening at all.”

    How dare they!

    Yes there is. There is a body of evidence that shows that the globe is warming (there are some excellent papers cited on that post), and there is a separate but overlapping body of evidence that humans are responsible.

    What I’m taking issue with is the idea of a ‘body’, which speaks unequivocally, and says “Global warming is happening”, as you have suggested. As I point out, the expression is meaningless, or at best capable of meaning countless things — many of them contradictory.

    Is that capacity for response incumbent on the individuals who may or may not have enough money to respond? Can it also be incumbent on the people who have engaged in practices that demonstrably affected climate over the last century?

    Well, what does science say? Not much, of course. ‘The science’ doesn’t really have much to say at all about the human consequences of global warming, nor even how we should respond to it and them.

    Given that the rich are loath to ever part with their money, can governments step in and “encourage” participation in fixing and mitigating the climate problems that these rich folks had a large hand in causing?

    But the problem doesn’t exist, if there aren’t any poor people — wealth changes the relationship between people and climate. It makes us less vulnerable. So in what sense should ‘the rich’ be culpable?

    What really damages the prospects for the world’s poorest people is the international development agenda’s emphasis on ‘sustainability’.

  18. 18
    Ben Pile

    I addressed three instances of disinformation in a recent post. You might even have read it.

    You’re not very bright. I said deliberately… I don’t accept there is any deliebrate ‘sowing of disinformation’. I think you genuinely beleive what you write. I just think you’re mistaken. I think you’re forced to invent the idea of people deliberately ‘sowing disinformation’, however, because you’re just a bit to wrapped up in the idea of yourself being able to perfectly represent ‘the science’. It’s a crude attempt to create simple moral categories — goodies and baddies, rather than accept any other perspective, however poorly expressed it is. You don’t seem to think that you need to win the debate; it’s just sufficient that you know you’re right.

  19. 19
    Jason Thibeault

    So, though you’re not explicitly admitting it, you appear to understand that there is in fact global warming happening, and that humans are indeed responsible. Would the commentariat over at your blog like to know this nugget? Because they seem to think you’re fighting with “alarmists” in the sense of “everyone who thinks the globe is warming and humans are responsible”. Since definitions are so important for you, they ought to be for them as well, right?

    The question of who will “weather the storm”, so to speak, of the side-effects of global warming do indeed amount to the fact that the rich will make it out relatively unscathed while the poor will suffer from lack of potable water, arable land, or rising sea levels. The people who will suffer the most, have contributed the least to the release of CO2 in our atmosphere, however, and the planet’s fever will burn off people less dependent on wealth and technology before it will start normalizing population to a sustainable degree.

    My chief concern is that despite all these ill effects, we’ll go on burning fossil fuels instead of pursuing future, cleaner technology. If there’s some kind of reckoning — a global catastrophe that causes a civilization collapse, through which humans survive and evolve to rebound — then humankind will live on and will likely need to engage in widescale terraforming. If, however, we make our environment so unlivable that even our best technology can’t save us, then at what point can we look back on history, point to the people who refused to stop damaging the climate while there was a chance we could save ourselves, and say “j’accuse”?

    As for whether or not the misinformation is deliberate, do you concede that it is within the realm of possibility that there are people so blinkered by their own need to maintain short term profitability that they’re willing to attack, attack, attack? Who are willing to foster disingenuous and easily disprovable lies, associating every attempt at warning humankind of its potential downfall with some sort of liberal political agendas? And that these people lighting this spark would ignite in a tinderbox of scientific ignorance and hatred of all things “lefty” that have been cultivated over long years of deliberate misinformation?

    It doesn’t even need to be deliberate. But if it turned out to be, then it becomes a moral issue on the scale you’ve described. We don’t need it to be a black-and-white, moralistic issue. I am well accustomed to dealing with shades of grey in every aspect of my life. I am well versed in discussing problems with multiple layers of nuance, multiple confounds, multiple perspectives. My only moral absolute is that the truth is the truth, and that science is the best way to discover that truth. Everything else is shades of grey, because humans have that effect on things.

    An argument could be made that there is a moral imperative to allowing humans to accidentally wipe themselves out. It’s either that or we grow up and stop misusing the only habitat we have — it’s our sink-or-swim time.

  20. 20
    Ben Pile

    So, though you’re not explicitly admitting it, you appear to understand that there is in fact global warming happening,and that humans are indeed responsible. Would the commentariat over at your blog like to know this nugget?

    I’m not ‘admitting’ anything; I agree that average temperatures seem to be rising. And I expect the commenters at my blog already know, since I discuss the point all the time: the point being that the debate only divides on the claim “climate change is happening” in the alarmists’ heads — nuance being anathema to what is, after all their political agenda… Without urgency, no legitimacy, no moral coordinates…

    Since definitions are so important for you, they ought to be for them as well, right?

    I know language is a negotiation… — Jason Thibeault, 06/09/11.

    Maybe you should be the one to take them up on it.

    the rich will make it out relatively unscathed while the poor will suffer from lack of potable water, arable land, or rising sea levels.

    But the poor will still be poor — just more of them. And the rich will still be rich — they will just be fewer of them, and they’ll be richer. And there will still be the problem of climate. Mitigating climate change doesn’t change the fact of rich and poor, it just puts more distance between them. Allowing for development and wealth, however, would create the possibility of poorer people being less vulnerable to climate.

    the planet’s fever will burn off people less dependent on wealth and technology before it will start normalizing population to a sustainable degree.

    It’s an interesting prophecy. And it does sound prophetic. Did you ever wonder if the point of prophecies is that they are self-fulfilling?

    Dependence on wealth and technology — rather than nature — is a good thing. We should be doing more to encourage it. That is the only way people can become less vulnerable to climate, whether or not it is changing.

    If there’s some kind of reckoning …

    There you go again with the biblical stuff… I though you were supposed to be an atheist. Funny how you still need myths though. Why is it that you can only imagine a world following a ‘global catastrophe’ and a collapse of civilisation, or one in which we ‘make our environment so unlivable’?

    What about a world in which there are a number of problems, which take a fairly long time to manifest, cause a bit of disruption, but in the end we find answers to the old problems, and move onto the new. (Much as we have throughout history). It’s as if the prophecies The Science only allows for the discussion of doom, or mere survival.

    … there are people so blinkered by their own need to maintain short term profitability that they’re willing to attack, attack, attack?

    Well if they exist in shades of brown, they exist in shades of green in greater numbers. It’s a central tenet of environmental ideology that profit-seeking corporates have been behind ‘denial’. But the evidence for it is scant. Meanwhile there are $billions invested in the other direction. Serious amounts of cash spent on green corporate PR, for many many reasons. What you need to understand is this: it makes absolutely no difference to capital how money is made; green or brown… It’s happy. Capital can buy a plot of land and a wind turbine as easily as it can buy a mine. In fact, one of the benefits of ‘green’ from the perspective of capital is that it doesn’t have to get as dirty, or to invest as much in hardware or other liabilities. It can turn nothing — literally nothing — into a commodity: eg. emissions-trading permits.

    Who are willing to foster disingenuous and easily disprovable lies, associating every attempt at warning humankind of its potential downfall with some sort of liberal political agendas? And that these people lighting this spark would ignite in a tinderbox of scientific ignorance and hatred of all things “lefty” that have been cultivated over long years of deliberate misinformation?

    I have no idea what this is about. I think it’s a brain dump.

    An argument could be made that there is a moral imperative to allowing humans to accidentally wipe themselves out. It’s either that or we grow up and stop misusing the only habitat we have — it’s our sink-or-swim time.

    I call that moral blackmail.

  21. 21
    Ben Pile

    Sorry for the bad formatting.

  22. 22
    Ben Pile

    Just thinking about these two statements…

    i. I am well versed in discussing problems with multiple layers of nuance, multiple confounds, multiple perspectives.

    ii. It’s either that or we grow up and stop misusing the only habitat we have — it’s our sink-or-swim time.

    I think someone is kidding themselves about just how capable of accommodating nuance and diverse perspectives he is. He’s not kidding me though.

  23. 23
    Jason Thibeault

    Fixed. You’re welcome.

    That I’ve made a prophecy doesn’t mean it was handed down from a prophet. It means I’m using the knowledge that the body of scientific evidence has given us with regard to consequences of unchecked global warming, in order to make a projection. That this projection of the consequences of inaction is actually pretty dire, does not make the problem itself without nuance. I’ve already said it might not come to a global catastrophe. We could still head it off at the pass. We’re kind of in a prisoner’s dilemma though — nobody wants to take the first action, so it’s possible we’ll never escape the consequences of inaction. I’m explicitly fighting the disinformation that’s stalemating us all — that’s causing our political gears to jam and preventing any sort of effective action against this problem.

    I call that moral blackmail.

    You also say that you want this to be a democracy, but you’ve got no problems with a wholly uninformed electorate that has no idea how well-founded the science is, on which the AGW hypothesis rests. So it’s either blackmail, or we address the problem of disinformation I’ve mentioned in the original post.

    I’m amazed that you keep steering the conversation away from education, in order to turn me into an alarmist with no idea what the body of evidence says. Actually, I’m not amazed. It’s a good tactic, only it won’t achieve the ends you hope. It’ll only strengthen the crowd that says “AGW isn’t happening and if it is happening we didn’t do it and if we did do it it’s too expensive to stop doing what we’re doing and if we could stop it in a cost-effective manner then shouldn’t everyone have a say in whether we should or not?”

    And yes, there are actual conversations that go down that garden path. You’ve just come in at that last hop. I have to thank you for at least that. It’s a backhanded thanks though — because I see any effort at strengthening those spanners-in-the-cogs as deliberate obstructionism. Is it deliberate? Is that your actual aim?

  24. 24
    Jason Thibeault

    It’s a central tenet of environmental ideology that profit-seeking corporates have been behind ‘denial’. But the evidence for it is scant. Meanwhile there are $billions invested in the other direction. Serious amounts of cash spent on green corporate PR, for many many reasons.

    The corporate hijacking and “greenwashing” of their products to absolve themselves of moral culpability for the environmental issues we face, as well as to fleece consumers that have no idea about this stuff and see “green” as another buzzword in the ever-cycling series of buzzwords, is known. And hated. Yes, by me as well. That doesn’t mean that the money being made by companies in “greenwashing” is in any way actually helping the environment by addressing the core problem of fossil fuels.

    This is handwaving, misdirection, false equivalency.

  25. 25
    Ben Pile

    That I’ve made a prophecy doesn’t mean it was handed down from a prophet. It means I’m using the knowledge that the body of scientific evidence has given us with regard to consequences of unchecked global warming, in order to make a projection.

    This is where it gets interesting. So it’s you making the projection — not ‘The Science’? ‘The Science’ seems to operate in many similar arguments as a kind of a priori, that qualifies any old speculation as truth. Dogma, in other words, not unlike arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

    Professor Mike Hulme of the UEA has interesting things to say about all of this, actually.

    The language of catastrophe is not the language of science. It will not be visible in next year’s global assessment from the world authority of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

    To state that climate change will be “catastrophic” hides a cascade of value-laden assumptions which do not emerge from empirical or theoretical science.

    Is any amount of climate change catastrophic? Catastrophic for whom, for where, and by when? What index is being used to measure the catastrophe?

    The language of fear and terror operates as an ever-weakening vehicle for effective communication or inducement for behavioural change.

    The science really doesn’t make the argument for doom, and it really shouldn’t make you feel that you can speculate in this way.

    That this projection of the consequences of inaction is actually pretty dire, does not make the problem itself without nuance.

    Of course it does, because the moment we deprive the situation of its urgency — ohmygodwe’reallgoingtodie — it ceases to create an imperative to act, and only then can we admit nuance. It’s stark black and white until that point: death, or mere survival. Hobson’s Choice.

    that’s causing our political gears to jam and preventing any sort of effective action against this problem.

    Interesting… my argument is that the ‘gears jamming’ are the condition of climate alarmism’s ascendency. Having said that much, it’s not true that there’s been no ‘political action’. There has been a great deal of institution-building and bureaucratisation in the wake of the climate issue. In short, the politics of fear releases the political establishment from its own paralysis, and transfers it to democratic institutions — you can have democracy, but it will kill you; or worse still, it will allow someone else to kill you.

    I’m explicitly fighting the disinformation that’s stalemating us all — that’s causing our political gears to jam and preventing any sort of effective action against this problem.

    I think you flatter yourself somewhat, as some kind of warrior for truth. The ‘deniers’ really aren’t influential. They really don’t have any leverage over policy-making. The stalemate on ‘action’ — if there is one — is caused by the fact that environmentalism has never really sought to legitimise itself through the (admittedly sclerotic) democratic process. It was established in supranational political bodies long before it was even thought to test it properly at the ballot box. As I’ve pointed out elsewhere, what has embarrassed and beset the climate agenda is not ‘deniers’, but the actions of climate activists, and institutions who are defined by it, all by themselves.

    In fact, it is incredible that the climate agenda has failed. It has been given enormous resources. It has the backing of virtually every government and intergovernmental agency, in spite of completely lacking any grass roots movement whatsoever. The entire world’s political class WANTED ‘action’… But they couldn’t get it together. The fact that they couldn’t had nothing to do with ‘denial’. The idea that a
    couple of bloggers and maverick scientists stalled the process is absurdly disproportionate to reality.

    ou’ve got no problems with a wholly uninformed electorate that has no idea how well-founded the science is, on which the AGW hypothesis rests.

    They’re ‘uniformed’ as far as you’re concerned, but you presume to know their interests better than they. Isn’t that just the basis of Stalin’s or Mao’s communism — they better knew the masses’ interests. We could always use a knowledge deficit to legitimise any old social order and social engineering, then, because individuals will always have different levels of ability. Hey, look! You’ve reinvented Plato’s Philosopher Kings!

    There’s nothing new under the sun, Jason. These political ideas have been tried before.

    uninformed electorate that has no idea how well-founded the science is

    We’ve already established that your desire for ‘action’ does not rest on ‘the science’, but on your own speculation about ‘the science’.

    I see any effort at strengthening those spanners-in-the-cogs as deliberate obstructionism. Is it deliberate? Is that your actual aim?

    Indeed, anybody who disagrees with you, and the action you desire, must be a thoroughly nasty b*****d. I must be deliberately trying to scupper these plans, because I can’t wait for the end of the world, and the continued domination of the universe by evil.

    My concern, in fact, is for development, especially in the less industrialised world, which I see as the first causality of environmentalism.

  26. 26
    Ben Pile

    This is handwaving, misdirection, false equivalency.

    On the contrary, it’s absolutely and totally pertinent. There is a defacto mutually self-serving compact between state (national and supragovernmental), NGOS, and corporates. NGOs do the PR.

    Activists such as your fine ethical self do the arguing.

    Sucker. You’ve bought it completely.

  27. 27
    Jason Thibeault

    I really am trying not to rise to your namecalling, but you’re making it really hard to have a rational discussion. You wonder why people can’t talk rationally with you about these things? It’s mostly because you’re not showing your work. You’re presuming that AGW is not nearly as bad as the science shows it to be — and honestly, it’s me making the “prophecy” that humankind might pull out of it after a catastrophe, but the science shows the catastrophe to be well plausible!

    The science shows that the effects of global warming in the proximate and in the long-term are dire. Period. Regardless of what you or Mike Hume say.

    If we have to make the case that things are every bit as bad the science says they’ll be, I’m okay with that. I’m not okay with obstructionism for absolutely no discernable reason.

    No, wait, you said you have a reason. You say that the costs of mitigating global warming will affect the poor disproportionately. That we’ll stall their development while we in the fortunate countries already have all the wealth from the benefits of having industrialized before we knew what the fruits of our labor might eventually be. And yet, we already know (and you’ve already conceded) that the poor will be disproportionately affected by the effects of global warming (as predicted, again, by the science — no wonder the term is a bogeyman for you!). So you do a sort of judo, saying that the poor will be disproportionately affected by the effects of MITIGATING global warming. What a stunning trick that must be, if you could pull it off.

    I’m really beginning to like that Skeptical Science site. It’s a well-researched and referenced index for pretty much every claim a climate denialist of any stripe might ever make. If I didn’t already understand what’s happening and if I hadn’t already read the scientific side of the argument before seeing that site, I could use it like a script — I could build an automatic commenting bot for this post where I just paste links based on key words you’ve spat out. It would sure save me a hell of a lot of time in trying to hammer some sense into your anti-government, dogma-addled mind.

  28. 28
    Ben Pile

    You wonder why people can’t talk rationally with you about these things? It’s mostly because you’re not showing your work.

    I’m not sure where I’ve wondered that… All my workings are here, and in longer form at http://www.climate-resistance.org.

    You’re presuming that AGW is not nearly as bad as the science shows it to be…

    ‘The science’ doesn’t ‘show’ it to be anything. You do. And you seem completely oblivious to the presence of your own prejudices, speculation, and politics in the conclusion… No… It’s all science, what you speak. It’s a vanity, not unlike that of religious zealots — how could I be doing wrong, I’m doing God’s work…

    The science shows that the effects of global warming in the proximate and in the long-term are dire. Period. Regardless of what you or Mike Hume say.

    Well, so you say, but why should I take your word for it?

    You say that the costs of mitigating global warming will affect the poor disproportionately. That we’ll stall their development while we in the fortunate countries already have all the wealth from the benefits of having industrialized before we knew what the fruits of our labor might eventually be. And yet, we already know (and you’ve already conceded) that the poor will be disproportionately affected by the effects of global warming (as predicted, again, by the science — no wonder the term is a bogeyman for you!). So you do a sort of judo, saying that the poor will be disproportionately affected by the effects of MITIGATING global warming. What a stunning trick that must be, if you could pull it off.

    One might make the inverse argument, that it’s a master stoke, convincing the world that the poor will be better by remaining in their present condition, than by being allowed access to wealth.

    We can do the cost benefit with actual numbers, provided by the WHO and the Global Humanitarian Forum. They claimed that 150,000 and 300,000 people a year die from the effects of climate change respectively, through the increased proliferation of malnutrition, malaria, and diarrhoea. This will rise, say the GHF to 500,000 per year by 2030. But these diseases are first-order effects of poverty, even if they are Nth-order effects of climate change. So addressing the immediate problem of poverty, would save 7.5 million people in high mortality developing countries per year, versus just 300,000 per year if we only really address climate change. Moreover, of course, if we addressed the problem of poverty, there would be no need to address the problem of climate change so urgently.

    In fact, addressing just these three diseases of poverty would prevent 960 million cases of malnutrition, 4,600 million cases of diarrhoea and 247 million cases of malaria EACH YEAR. Climate change just does not register as an imminent problem, given the perspective these numbers provide.

    Those are my ‘workings’. More at http://www.climate-resistance.org/2009/11/dead-babies-conscripts-in-the-climate-war.html and http://www.climate-resistance.org/2009/06/the-age-of-the-age-of-stupid.html and http://www.climate-resistance.org/2009/06/the-illusion-and-politics-of-necessity.html

    I could build an automatic commenting bot for this post where I just paste links based on key words you’ve spat out.

    I don’t think what you’ve done is any more sophisticated. There’s certainly something preventing your intellectual engagement with criticism. The script has been entirely predictable, though I gave you the benefit of the doubt. You’ve regurgitated stuff that I’ve anticipated, and experienced many times before. You shouldn’t consider yourself much better informed than a drone.

  29. 29
    Ben Pile

    While I wait for you to allow my last comment to be published (I’m presuming its because the post contained links)…

    your anti-government, dogma-addled mind.

    This struck me as an interesting jab. So, what’s so good about government, for its own sake? Tyrannies, kleptocracies, and all sorts of brutal regimes have government. But to argue for the primacy of democratic political institutions, answerable to the people (rather than to cliques of scientists) is now ‘anti government dogma’.

    Yep. I’m a liberal, democratic fundamentalist. I’m dogmatic about it. I’m not going to compromise my preference for liberal values and democratic government without a bloody good argument.

  30. 30
    Jason Thibeault

    You’re right, it was moderated for having three-or-more links. You could avoid that if you had a registered account.

    And I only have so much time in the day to deal with people making ridiculous and unevidenced claims about my being “uninformed”, especially when I’ve shown a great deal of patience with your insults and ridiculous jabs. When I say “show your work” I don’t mean “point me to other places where you’ve said the exact same thing”. I mean “show me scientific studies by climate scientists that suggest anything approximating what you’re suggesting”.

    Don’t take my word for anything I’ve said. Try clicking on the links I provided when I said it. They usually show graphs and other visual aids built from the data collected via the scientific method. They are “The Science”. Your bogeyman.

    You pay lip service to wanting a representative government. You want an uninformed government made up of the uninformed, for the uninformed, by the uninformed. That is anti-government as far as I’m concerned. Especially if you’re against any sort of governmental action to act upon the recommendations of the “clique of scientists” (made up of 99% of all climate scientists!) who suggest that the government maybe might want to do something about the impending slow-burn.

    And kindly point me to any time when I’ve ever said we should stop trying to lift the poor out of their miserable lots in life. I would love it if we could both address climate change and address poverty. I strongly believe in GMOs to help starving folks, so long as they are unencumbered by intellectual property rights. I strongly believe that income disparity is the greatest threat to the stability of any country. I strongly believe that corporations that make hundreds of billions of dollars in profit every year should not get governmental subsidies paid for primarily by the working-poor in the aforementioned high-disparity countries.

    Meanwhile, the world’s still burning, because we didn’t do enough about it, because people like you are whining that it would be too hard to fix. Here’s a thought — how bout we fix both?

  31. 31
    Ben Pile

    And I only have so much time in the day to deal with people making ridiculous and unevidenced claims about my being “uninformed”,

    Likewise. I only posted here in the first place because you’d mis-attributed a claim to me… A careless lack of precision that dominates your thought… The only thing consistent about it. The point about regurgitating factoids at me being especially revealing: it demonstrates an unwillingness, an aversion, or a complete inability to exchange. I mean these in all seriousness, not as casual insults. Your blog is underwhelming. I thought I was being charitable in taking up the offer:

    I have opinions. So do you. You want to share them with me. I would like to do likewise. Please don’t expect a platform for proselytizing that will go unchecked and unchallenged, though.

    When I say “show your work” I don’t mean “point me to other places where you’ve said the exact same thing”. I mean “show me scientific studies by climate scientists that suggest anything approximating what you’re suggesting”.

    I pointed you to two authorities: the World Health Organisation, and the Global Humanitarian Forum (now defunct). Those authorities published two reports examining the sensitivity of certain human populations to climate change. I showed that emphasising climate change produced less social good than emphasising the abolition of poverty. Thus I questioned the broader emphasis on climate.

    We don’t disagree that the world has warmed. We don’t disagree that some of this warming may be a problem. Indeed, if we take the WHO and GHF stats at face value, we can see there is a very serious problem. But it is a problem which has been exaggerated, clearly, such that more pressing issues are diminished, creating a hazard. All “the science” in the world wouldn’t help you navigate that problem. How you prioritise 300,000 deaths a year over 7.5 million a year (including the 300,000) is up to you. You’re on your own.

    You pay lip service to wanting a representative government. You want an uninformed government made up of the uninformed, for the uninformed, by the uninformed.

    I think the answer is, simply, that you’re more comfortable with elitist and authoritarian forms of political organisation. You should just be honest.

    I think people can and do understand the issues that affect them — even complex issues. And I’m deeply suspicious of political ideas that intend to exclude the public from the decisions that affect them. It’s a problem that environmentalists have found hard to answer, usually ending up very dismissive of democracy, or of the public or both, and producing deeply regressive arguments in the process — nothing about them is ‘liberal’, or ‘lefty’. This explains the failure of environmentalists to develop a popular movement, in contrast to progressive movements in history: chartists, suffragettes, labour, trades unions, and so on.

    Especially if you’re against any sort of governmental action to act upon the recommendations of the “clique of scientists” (made up of 99% of all climate scientists!)

    Made up statistic. And as I’ve pointed out, “the science” can be interpreted variously, depending on what priorities you have. I don’t think ‘scientists’ really understand that — you certainly don’t. As often as not, then, ‘the science’ is used to close down debate, and to circumvent democratic politics rather than inform it. See, for instance your own insistence that simply regurgitating the science’ is sufficient to win the argument. Ultimately, however, although you wear ‘the science’ as though it were some kind of talisman, it means you don’t ever really engage in the argument: you’re not a scientist; you don’t really understand the science, or the argument; and you can’t really ever cope with an argument that seems to challenge the science because it is, a priori ‘false’ if it appears to challenge the science. You’re effectively a zombie. You can only regurgitate factoids.

    And kindly point me to any time when I’ve ever said we should stop trying to lift the poor out of their miserable lots in life.

    Well, Jason, you presume to know their interests better than they. That’s a sure-fire way of guaranteeing that their lot is not improved. And you’ve not taken the point about 300,000 vs 7.5 million deaths seriously at all. I’ve been trying to show you how emphasis on the climate comes at the expense of development, partly as opportunity cost, partly as direct cost, and partly as a consequence of political agendas.

    Meanwhile, the world’s still burning…

    No it isn’t. Stop being so melodramatic.

  32. 32
    Stephanie Zvan

    Funny, last time I saw someone sneer this hard at our collective ability to draw conclusions from a body of scientific evidence, it was a theist who wasn’t a creationist (no, no, no). He was just certain that we couldn’t know anything about the origin of life on Earth unless we had the original (stipulated singular) organism in hand. Until then, describing what we understood was just materialist myth-making designed to put down his god. Parallels abound.

  33. 33
    Ben Pile

    Funny, last time I saw someone sneer this hard at our collective ability to draw conclusions from a body of scientific evidence…

    Interesting… I’m pretty sure I pointed out that the science can’t help you make the decision between saving the lives of 300,000 vs 7.5 million people. So, you know, I was with you on so much of your journey of our ‘collective ability’.

    But you don’t get it it, if I’m not with you all the way… So if I’m not with you all the way, I must have been not with you any of the way. Thus I must be ‘against science’.

    I’m all up for science. It’s scientism I have a problem with.

  34. 34
    Stephanie Zvan

    I’ve been trying to show you how emphasis on the climate comes at the expense of development, partly as opportunity cost, partly as direct cost, and partly as a consequence of political agendas.

    Actually, no. You haven’t. You’ve been saying this is the case, using a bunch of emotionally charged language, but all you’ve linked to is a “Oh, you must fix this problem before you can talk about that one” combined with the ridiculous notion that the economic benefits of ignoring AGW somehow happen in undeveloped countries where undernutrition is common. “Look at the starving babies!!!” you’re telling us without proposing anything that helps them. As though that weren’t dishonest emotional blackmail in and of itself.

  35. 35
    Jason Thibeault

    Who says it’s a dichotomy? Why can we not address climate change, and since malaria is aggravated by climate change, we’d be affecting a very large slice of those affected by malaria’s spread.

  36. 36
    Jason Thibeault

    And what the living hell is scientism? Is it the belief that scientific inquiry is the best way to learn things about the universe, and the best way to collect data with which to make informed decisions about courses of action? Then sign me the fuck up.

  37. 37
    Ben Pile

    Who says it’s a dichotomy? Why can we not address climate change, and since malaria is aggravated by climate change, we’d be affecting a very large slice of those affected by malaria’s spread.

    As I think I said, the main issues are opportunity cost, cost, and political emphasis. Development is an expense that’s much harder to afford while living ‘sustainably’. By definition, ‘sustainable’ development is slower that development.

    And what the living hell is scientism? Is it the belief that scientific inquiry is the best way to learn things about the universe, and the best way to collect data with which to make informed decisions about courses of action? Then sign me the fuck up.

    Scientism is the tendency to make over-deterministic and reductive statements about the world, especially where it’s inappropriate.

  38. 38
    Stephanie Zvan

    And “scientism,” Ben, is defined as people who disagree with your economic “reasoning”? Because you’re in agreement with The Science on global warming? That’s hardly what you’ve been saying here. What you are saying is simply, “I don’t disagree with you,” while declining to actually agree that the bulk of scientific evidence points to catastrophic change (as discussed in Jason’s links in the post) because you don’t like the moral decisions Jason and others make based on that.

    After all, if it were really about a mere difference in values, you wouldn’t have to poo-poo the idea that “The Science only allows for the discussion of doom, or mere survival.” But no, you’re not saying, “Jason, I think your choice to focus on the 300,000 is an immoral choice.” You’re saying, “You’re taking things from The Science that aren’t there [despite the fact that they are]! Scientism!”

  39. 39
    Jason Thibeault

    Pray tell, oh sage and liberal science-believer, how exactly would sustainable development, which would disproportionately negatively affect the industrialized world, harm the poor and vulnerable countries in any way whatsoever? What exactly is the demon you’re fighting? Is it the idea of sustainability?

  40. 40
    Ben Pile

    You’ve been saying this is the case, using a bunch of emotionally charged language,

    Yeh. I was nearly gonna say ‘the world is burning’… But I thought that might be going too far.

    …but all you’ve linked to is a “Oh, you must fix this problem before you can talk about that one”…

    Steady on. I linked to articles you can get the data from, from the GHF and WHO. But the facts and stats weren’t in dispute. The emphasis on climate was. I was surprised, for instance, that both organisations emphasise the deaths of 150/300,000 people, whereas a much more significant problem — by a factor of 25 — exists.

    combined with the ridiculous notion that the economic benefits of ignoring AGW somehow happen in undeveloped countries where undernutrition is common.

    An interesting fact for you… Both over-eating and physical inactivity each cause more deaths in high-mortality developing countries than climate change-induced malaria, malnutrition and diarrhoea combined.

    I don’t make the argument that there are ‘economic benefits’ to ignoring climate change. I argue that the problem of climate change is dependent on context. The same is true of climate, regardless of whether or not it is changing.

    “Look at the starving babies!!!” you’re telling us without proposing anything that helps them.

    Development helps them. It’s saved countless lives in the West. And since 1990, 10,000 fewer infants die each day, thanks to development — a process that environmentalism, whatever you say, attempts to arrest.

  41. 41
    Jason Thibeault

    The facts and stats of who’s affected by what issue are not in dispute. Meanwhile, you can’t address one bad thing because this other bad thing has a larger effect size. Even if, when you address the first bad thing, you help to reduce the second.

    Keep waving your arms. Someone will be distracted.

  42. 42
    Ben Pile

    And “scientism,” Ben, is defined as people who disagree with your economic “reasoning”?

    Who said anything about ‘economic reasoning’? And no, I’ve given you a definition of ‘scientism’.

    What you are saying is simply, “I don’t disagree with you,” while declining to actually agree that the bulk of scientific evidence points to catastrophic change…

    “The science” DOES NOT speak about ‘catastrophic change’. If you read “the Science” (i.e. IPCC reports), it is extremely frank about it: it depends on subjective and value judgements. It is YOU who have turned “the science” into doom.

  43. 43
    Jason Thibeault

    Development helps them. It’s saved countless lives in the West. And since 1990, 10,000 fewer infants die each day, thanks to development — a process that environmentalism, whatever you say, attempts to arrest.

    And medical advances that save poor people’s lives will be arrested by trying to stop their land from becoming a swamp? You must be dealing with some extraordinary data to pull THAT out of it!

  44. 44
    Jason Thibeault

    The IPCC 4th Report on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability.

    So, in fact, the IPCC does talk about a whole lot of doom. But that doesn’t fit with your preconceived notions about this fight, so you’ll ignore it and perform more emotional blackmail about some other figure that’s only tangentially related (and would be mitigated alongside climate change if we fucking well did something about it).

  45. 45
    Ben Pile

    Pray tell, oh sage and liberal science-believer…

    You’re a bit of a drama-queen, aren’t you Jason.

    … how exactly would sustainable development, which would disproportionately negatively affect the industrialized world, harm the poor and vulnerable countries in any way whatsoever?

    You’re talking about some ‘contraction and convergence’ kind of scenario. Well, it would take the entire industrialised world and its ability to produce wealth away from the relationship with the poorer world. That’s not going to help anyone.

  46. 46
    Ben Pile

    So, in fact, the IPCC does talk about a whole lot of doom.

    Of course it doesn’t. Or show me that it does.

    But that doesn’t fit with your preconceived notions…

    Anyone can play that game… It’s your preconceive notions of doom that make you see it in AR4 WGII… Which, incidentally, contains an awful lot of social science, economics, and subjective interpretation, by the way. I.e. NOT SCIENCE.

  47. 47
    Ben Pile

    And medical advances that save poor people’s lives will be arrested by trying to stop their land from becoming a swamp? You must be dealing with some extraordinary data to pull THAT out of it!

    I have no idea what you’re talking about.

  48. 48
    Jason Thibeault

    You’re a bit of a drama-queen, aren’t you Jason.

    Well, it’s either the drama-queen part or the underwhelming blog part that’s keeping you coming back. I actually suspect you think you smell blood in the water and plan on pointing to this as an incredibly easy victory in your fight against governmental interference in the course of global warming. I also suspect the blood you smell in the water is your own, owing largely to the myriad own-goals you’ve made in this post, and your going to the ad hominem well so often. (Seriously, at least make the insult part of the conclusion, not a premise of the argument.)

    You’re talking about some ‘contraction and convergence’ kind of scenario. Well, it would take the entire industrialised world and its ability to produce wealth away from the relationship with the poorer world. That’s not going to help anyone.

    I am? Really? Says who?

    Let me reiterate. The rich industrialized nations of the world have all the money, and all the ability to pollute. Reducing their pollution allowances, or preventing them from polluting altogether, would help prevent the “externalization” of the negative effects of said industrialization.

    We would lose none of our current technology level by switching to sustainable power sources that don’t involve combusting anything. Hell, even nukes would be a good stopgap while we try to find something that won’t keep adding greenhouse gases to our atmosphere. We’d just have to live with the next problem, of radioactive material disposal and our inadequate engineering prowess causing Chernobyls and Fukushimas.

    Of course it doesn’t. Or show me that it does.

    I did. By linking you the report. Try reading it.

    I have no idea what you’re talking about.

    No shit.

  49. 49
    Ben Pile

    I actually suspect you think you smell blood in the water and plan on pointing to this as an incredibly easy victory in your fight against governmental interference in the course of global warming.

    Actually, I think it’s been a bit of a waste of time; as I predicted. And as I said, I gave you the benefit of the doubt. I can see from my server logs that you’ve generated barely any traffic to my site. And it’s not as if you’ve got any fresh new perspective on climate change I’ve never encountered before.

    You’re in no position to complain about ad-homs, pal.

    I did. By linking you the report. Try reading it.

    I have read it. Several times. Which is why I am surprised that believed it to be full of ‘dooom’. But it’s many hundreds of pages long, and so I don’t know which bit you mean.

    Which bits do you think are ‘doom’?

    Here are some bits that reflect what I’ve been saying…

    Virtually all of the world’s people live in settlements, and many depend on industry, services and infrastructure for jobs, wellbeing and mobility. For these people, climate change adds a new challenge in assuring sustainable development for societies across the globe. Impacts associated with this challenge will be
    determined mainly by trends in human systems
    in future decades as climate conditions exacerbate or ameliorate stresses associated with non-climate systems [7.1.1, 7.4, 7.6, 7.7].

    Vulnerabilities to climate change depend considerably on relatively specific geographical and sectoral contexts (very high confidence). They are not reliably estimated by large-scale (aggregate) modelling and estimation [7.2, 7.4].

    Climate change impacts spread fromdirectly impacted areas and sectors to other areas and sectors through extensive and complex linkages (very high confidence). In many cases, total impacts are poorly estimated by considering only direct impacts [7.4].

    The balance of positive and negative health impacts will vary from one location to another, and will alter over time as temperatures continue to rise. Those at greater
    risk include, in all countries, the urban poor, the elderly and children, traditional societies, subsistence farmers, and coastal populations [8.1.1, 8.4.2, 8.6.1, 8.7].

    Africa is one of the most vulnerable continents to climate variability and change because of multiple stresses and low adaptive capacity. The extreme poverty of many Africans, frequent natural disasters such as droughts and floods, and agriculture which is heavily dependent on rainfall, all contribute. Cases of remarkable resilience in the face of multiple stressors have, however, been shown (high confidence).

    Vulnerability is likely to increase in many sectors, but this
    depends on adaptive capacity.
    • Most human systems have considerable adaptive capacity.
    The region has well-developed economies, extensive
    scientific and technical capabilities, disaster-mitigation
    strategies, and biosecurity measures. However, there are
    likely to be considerable cost and institutional constraints
    to the implementation of adaptation options (high
    confidence) [11.5]. Some Indigenous communities have
    low adaptive capacity (medium confidence) [11.4.8].
    Water security and coastal communities are most
    vulnerable (high confidence) [11.7]

    People’s capacities to adapt and mitigate are driven by similar sets of factors.
    These factors represent a generalised response capacity that can be mobilised in the service of either adaptation or mitigation. Response capacity, in turn, is dependent on the societal development pathway. Enhancing society’s response capacity through the pursuit of sustainable development pathways is therefore one way of promoting both adaptation and mitigation [18.3].

  50. 50
    Stephanie Zvan

    Ben, you know that the report has more than just an introduction? It has headers and subheaders. Try reading those sections labeled “Costs.”

  51. 51
    Jason Thibeault

    What really damages the prospects for the world’s poorest people is the international development agenda’s emphasis on ‘sustainability’.

    People’s capacities to adapt and mitigate are driven by similar sets of factors.
    These factors represent a generalised response capacity that can be mobilised in the service of either adaptation or mitigation. Response capacity, in turn, is dependent on the societal development pathway. Enhancing society’s response capacity through the pursuit of sustainable development pathways is therefore one way of promoting both adaptation and mitigation [18.3].

    Well then. No wonder I was having trouble reconciling your views and the IPCC’s. All you have to do is completely reverse your meaning, and you’re in full agreement!

  52. 52
    Jason Thibeault

    I can’t find a single quote in amongst the bits you just quoted that disagree with me and agree with you. There are a number we probably both agree with. Which do you think disagrees with my view of the urgency of action and necessity to overcome economic challenges back home or else risk damaging the poor countries to safeguard the rich?

    Here. Click on this one and read. Then click the next page button (it’s the link with the less-than symbol (>)), and keep reading. That should make things nice and easy for you to find all the doom.

  53. 53
    Ben Pile

    You’re not used to critical thinking, are you Jason…

    Well then. No wonder I was having trouble reconciling your views and the IPCC’s. All you have to do is completely reverse your meaning, and you’re in full agreement!

    What’s the actual issue? What’s the contradiction?

  54. 54
    Jason Thibeault

    IPCC: “Enhancing society’s response capacity through the pursuit of sustainable development pathways is therefore one way of promoting both adaptation and mitigation”

    Ben: “NO, SUSTAINABILITY IS BAD FOR THE POOR”

    You’re right! You’re in total agreement!

    Stephanie just clued me into what you’re doing, too. Pointing to the introduction and pretending like it’s the conclusion. That way you can make it seem like they didn’t make any case for mitigating or promoting adaptation. (e.g., didn’t call for action.)

    Have you got ANYTHING but accusations of poor critical thinking and other unevidenced assertions about my ability to read or comprehend the very things you’ve just proven you can’t read or comprehend? Seriously. I have to get to bed sometime soon and I’d like you to either complete your epic megacombo that blows me out of the water, or at least flounce and declare victory despite your limp and bloody nose.

  55. 55
    Ben Pile

    I can’t find a single quote in amongst the bits you just quoted that disagree with me and agree with you.

    I was trying to explain to you that the ‘impact’ of climate change is socially determined, not determined by the magnitude of the climate phenomenon in question. Most of those quotes emphasise this point, over the ability of scientific models to make predictions.

    Here. Click on this one and read. Then click the next page button (it’s the link with the less-than symbol (>)), and keep reading. That should make things nice and easy for you to find all the doom.

    I think I understand now… You can’t actually point to the doom. So you sort of wave in its general direction, where it might be.

    I wonder if you’re even aware of the problems that IPCC AR4 had with its predictions about fresh water and glaciers. It caused quite a storm.

    I saw this a few pages on, though…

    Poor communities can be especially vulnerable, in particular those concentrated in high-risk areas. They tend to have more limited adaptive capacities, and are more dependent on climate-sensitive resources such as local water and food supplies. ** N [7.2, 7.4, 5.4]

  56. 56
    Jason Thibeault

    You didn’t even take the bait on the “less than symbol”? Come on. I knew you weren’t paying attention.

    You and I have different ideas of the word doom. I define it to mean “bad things are going to happen to poor people if we don’t do something”. The linked report damn well shows that bad things are going to happen to poor people, and you know it. Nothing you’ve linked actually says otherwise. What you’re trying to say is that it’s ALL socially determined. But what if you took away global warming? “It’s not the match that’s the problem, it’s all the powder that’s there! Also, why are you talking about matches and powder when there’s a fire a county over? Never mind that if this one blows up it’ll divide up resources and make both worse!”

    Seriously. Come on. Get real, argue properly, or go away.

  57. 57
    Jason Thibeault

    I am aware of the controversy over a few errors in the IPCC AR4. I don’t care that there was controversy. I care about getting them corrected and getting governments to actually act on them instead of solely in capitalistic self-interest.

    Also, here: http://www.openletterfromscientists.com/

    Edit: oh, I guess that doesn’t go there any more. Here. http://openparachute.wordpress.com/2010/03/19/open-letter-from-u-s-scientists-on-the-ipcc/

  58. 58
    Ben Pile

    IPCC: “Enhancing society’s response capacity through the pursuit of sustainable development pathways is therefore one way of promoting both adaptation and mitigation”

    Ben: “NO, SUSTAINABILITY IS BAD FOR THE POOR”

    You’re right! You’re in total agreement!

    The IPCC suggest it’s one course of action. I suggest it’s another. Both I and the IPCC recognise that the decisive factor is adaptive capacity, not the magnitude of the phenomenon. There’s no contradiction so far.

    I suggest that sustainable development is a mistake, because it necessarily limits the development, often completely precluding the possibility of industrial society. Eg. Oxfam’s campaign to ‘preserve’ traditional pastoral societies. Neocolonialism, in other words.

    You seem to be a bit too angry — and possibly too eager to score points — to actually participate in a discussion.

    That way you can make it seem like they didn’t make any case for mitigating or promoting adaptation. (e.g., didn’t call for action.)

    I only intended to point out that the IPCC recognise the social component of an assessment of impact. Yet you were claiming it was ‘science’ which predicted ‘doom’.

    Have you got ANYTHING but accusations of poor critical thinking…

    … it’s a bit like you crawling out of the sewer, into my home, and saying ‘have you got ANYTHING but accusations that I stink and should have a shower’. I think you’re batshit mad, and haven’t really got the grasp of the subject, of even of reason itself to have a conversation with someone of a different perspective… You just know that you’re right. Typical of the angry atheists, I guess.

    I only commented to point out that you’d wrongly cited my post, which you obviously felt deserved reading. Though, god knows why, since you seem to think the other case — the conspiracy theory, no less — deserved equal (or more) attention. There are paid climate trolls, you were so sure.

    …and other unevidenced assertions about my ability to read or comprehend…

    Evidence? It’s all there, in black and white. Your prejudices, and ideas about the debate precede your knowledge of the facts. Everything you think is ‘science’ everything else is lies. It’s a conceit.

  59. 59
    Ben Pile

    You and I have different ideas of the word doom. I define it to mean “bad things are going to happen to poor people if we don’t do something”.

    Yeah, the clue is in the word ‘poor’, or in ‘poverty’. Christ. Cos, obvious, poverty, and being poor aren’t problems. They’re not bad things… Guess what… Things are worse for the poor. No shit. Yeah. Science says so.

    The linked report damn well shows that bad things are going to happen to poor people, and you know it.

    And, as I’ve been saying along, bad shit happens to poor people, whether or not the climate changes. 7.5 million of them, in fact. Minimum.

    What you’re trying to say is that it’s ALL socially determined.

    There’s plenty of wealth in the world. There’s no actual physical barrier, caused by meteorology stopping poorer people integrating with the industrial economy. Thus the decisive factor is social. The emphasis on the putative material causes of such inequality epitomises scientism. It’s is a grotesque abrogation of responsibility. It’s a massive shrug, a washing of hands, a two fingers up, and a slammed door, all in the face of the poor.

    I am aware of the controversy over a few errors in the IPCC AR4…

    Ha! It claimed that hundreds of thousands of people were dependent on glaciers that would be dry within decades. Nearly 1 in 7 people would have been affected. It was going to cause wars. Now *that’s* environmental determinism.

  60. 60
    Jason Thibeault

    I suggest that sustainable development is a mistake, because it necessarily limits the development, often completely precluding the possibility of industrial society. Eg. Oxfam’s campaign to ‘preserve’ traditional pastoral societies. Neocolonialism, in other words.

    And if you were to back your ideas with any sort of evidence from some sort of peer-reviewed study, I’d be happy to read it and maybe even change my mind. As it stands, you say you’re in complete agreement, then when I point out the disagreement, you say “no, I was agreeing with it about something else tangential to the point that you never argued against”.

    … it’s a bit like you crawling out of the sewer, into my home, and saying ‘have you got ANYTHING but accusations that I stink and should have a shower’. I think you’re batshit mad, and haven’t really got the grasp of the subject, of even of reason itself to have a conversation with someone of a different perspective… You just know that you’re right. Typical of the angry atheists, I guess.

    You’re on my blog, friend. You walked into my house (after I accidentally exposed you to my house’s address by pointing my readers to the billboard on your front lawn) to tell me that I have no critical thinking skills and that you are underwhelmed by me. You’ve given me nothing but abuse and rancor. Any harsh words I’ve had for you have come after you’ve done likewise. I’m willing to trade insults with random people that walk into my house, sure, but I’m not willing to let them lie about whose house they’re in!

    As for my grasp of the subject, the only parts we disagree on, you’re wholly unwilling to provide any direct evidence for. You’ve shown me the breadcrumbs that led you to make your conclusions, but you’ve given me no reason to draw the same conclusions you have.

    Evidence? It’s all there, in black and white. Your prejudices, and ideas about the debate precede your knowledge of the facts. Everything you think is ‘science’ everything else is lies. It’s a conceit.

    There are things being said about global warming that are lies, and they’re what I call lies. There are three major ones listed in the post at the top. I’m sure you agree that they’re lies, since you understand that global warming is real and that humans did it. You’re distorting the vector this whole conversation has taken because you simply don’t like that you’ve not been able to argue with an “alarmist” with no grasp of the reality of the situation.

    My one conceit in this universe is that everything can be known given infinite resources and infinite study. And some very large subset of that can be known with far less than infinite resources and study. You’ve pointed me to many things I agree with, and use them to bolster conclusions that you’ve made that are simple bald assertions, with nothing to hold them up but your utter faith that everyone who thinks we should do something about climate change is an alarmist who doesn’t understand what the IPCC recommends based on the science at hand.

    YOU don’t understand what the IPCC recommends. You’ve proven it repeatedly. And what bits you do understand, but disagree with, you say “I DISAGREE” really loudly and expect I’m going to fall in with you because I agreed with those other points.

  61. 61
    Jason Thibeault

    Yeah, the clue is in the word ‘poor’, or in ‘poverty’. Christ. Cos, obvious, poverty, and being poor aren’t problems. They’re not bad things… Guess what… Things are worse for the poor. No shit. Yeah. Science says so.
    [...]
    And, as I’ve been saying along, bad shit happens to poor people, whether or not the climate changes. 7.5 million of them, in fact. Minimum.
    [...]
    There’s plenty of wealth in the world. There’s no actual physical barrier, caused by meteorology stopping poorer people integrating with the industrial economy. Thus the decisive factor is social. The emphasis on the putative material causes of such inequality epitomises scientism. It’s is a grotesque abrogation of responsibility. It’s a massive shrug, a washing of hands, a two fingers up, and a slammed door, all in the face of the poor.

    Then you agree with me that we should try to help the poor! Perhaps now you could tell me how ending our dependence on fossil fuels harms the poor in any way whatosfuckingever. Perhaps you could also tell me how saying that we should help the poor by stopping pollution and finding greener energy sources is a grotesque abrogation of responsibility. Perhaps you could explain how ending one problem prevents us from working on another. Because you’ve made zero attempts at it so far.

  62. 62
    Jason Thibeault

    Ha! It claimed that hundreds of thousands of people were dependent on glaciers that would be dry within decades. Nearly 1 in 7 people would have been affected. It was going to cause wars. Now *that’s* environmental determinism.

    Yes, the inclusion of a non-peer-reviewed article from the India Environment Portal and the typo that changed 2350 to 2035 was regrettable, and corrected. How does that undercut the rest of the peer-reviewed stuff?

  63. 63
    Ben Pile

    As it stands, you say you’re in complete agreement, then when I point out the disagreement, you say “no, I was agreeing with it about something else tangential to the point that you never argued against”.

    You’re making shit up! What’s the point?! I said IPCC WGII AR4 *REFLECTED* my argument. I didn’t say we were at one. Maybe it really is as simple as you just not being able to read.

    As for my grasp of the subject, the only parts we disagree on, you’re wholly unwilling to provide any direct evidence for. You’ve shown me the breadcrumbs that led you to make your conclusions, but you’ve given me no reason to draw the same conclusions you have.

    I’ve given you links to articles on my blog, from where you can follow the links to the relevant literature. Otherwise, you’ve not asked for any links to ‘direct evidence’. What ‘evidence’ did you want? I can’t help it if you weren’t convinced by the idea that 7.5 million lives might be worth prioritising, over, for instance, 300,000… Maybe you need a peer review study… But as I point out, your emphasis on ‘the science’ and ‘peer reviewed’ studies actually disarms you, and removes you from the debate… You become no more than a parrot, whose only response to a challenge is to, well, parrot the litany, again, and again, and again.

    YOU don’t understand what the IPCC recommends. You’ve proven it repeatedly. And what bits you do understand, but disagree with, you say “I DISAGREE” really loudly and expect I’m going to fall in with you because I agreed with those other points.

    Well, the IPCC report is a big document, Jason. Some of it fairly contradictory. What you were claiming earlier on in the discussion was that ‘the science’ said that ‘global warming is happening’ and that ‘humans did it’. I’ve been trying to show that it’s a little more complex, detection and attribution being just a very small part of the whole project, which is, by itself, inconsequential.

    I think what happens is, you’re still trapped within the idea that anybody broadly challenging the political claims of… let’s call it ‘ecologism’ for now… must be ‘denying’ the simple claim ‘climate change is happening’. Thus everything must be a denial of the science, somewhere.

    I counted the number of scientists involved in WGII once. You’d be surprised. http://www.climate-resistance.org/2007/12/physician-heal-thyself.html It’s not quite as scientific as you think it is.

  64. 64
    Jason Thibeault

    I question not the figures you’ve given, but the idea that fixing global warming a) affects only 300,000 lives, and b) necessitates ignoring 7.5 million. Could you prove that, please? I beg of you. It’s your entire argument with me. And I’m not saying what you think I’m saying about it.

    Meanwhile, you’re attacking the scientists involved in the IPCC WGII in the linked post. I don’t see any disconnect between saying you believe in the science and you doubt the scientists! Perhaps you’d like to debunk the scientific consensus next, then declare that global warming is still happening despite all the scientists you’ve so neatly eviscerated from the equation?

  65. 65
    Ben Pile

    Then you agree with me that we should try to help the poor! Perhaps now you could tell me how ending our dependence on fossil fuels harms the poor in any way whatosfuckingever.

    Well, ending our ‘dependence’ kind of makes things like transport very difficult. Oh, and then there’s the heat and light. And then there’s the Harber Bosch process.

    Without these things, we’d all be very poor indeed.

    Even if there are energy alternatives, they are relatively expensive. When you make things expensive, or rather scarce or labour-intensive, you make people poorer. Ending our ‘dependence’ on fossil fuels would thus make people poorer.

    No, if it is important to reduce our ‘dependence’ on fossil fuels, I suggest the way it ought to be done, is by first developing the means, rather than the target — eg emissions limits, administered by large, supranational institutions. Because such things are likely to steepen inequalities. I would also suggest they ought to be done with consent.

    Perhaps you could also tell me how saying that we should help the poor by stopping pollution and finding greener energy sources is a grotesque abrogation of responsibility.

    I didn’t say it was. You’re making stuff up again. I said: “The emphasis on the putative material causes of such inequality epitomises scientism. It’s is a grotesque abrogation of responsibility. ”

    Perhaps you could explain how ending one problem prevents us from working on another. Because you’ve made zero attempts at it so far.

    I’ve told you three times, at least: opportunity cost, cost, and political priorities. These things become even more problematic as you limit the resources that can be mobilised in general.

  66. 66
    Ben Pile

    I question not the figures you’ve given, but the idea that fixing global warming a) affects only 300,000 lives,

    That was the figure given by the GHF.

    … and b) necessitates ignoring 7.5 million.

    Read the links. The point, again, is political emphasis and priority. The GHF and WHO report between 7.5 and 10 million deaths, but ***themselves*** emphasise the problem of climate change, even though it is, according to their own statistics, one of the smallest problems faced by HMDCs. Of course there are still efforts to reduce poverty worldwide, but are i) subordinate to the climate/sustainability agenda ii) not given the same emphasis, iii) inevitably going to be limited in their reach as resources (i.e. renewables) become more expensive in the ‘transition’ to low carbon economies. Renewable energy just *is* more expensive, necessarily, than stuff like coal.

    Could you prove that, please?

    This is a blog. It’s a discussion. What do you mean ‘proof’? Even in a university department, I think it would be unusual for such a discussion to be met with demands to ‘prove it’.

  67. 67
    Ben Pile

    Jason, data is at http://www.climate-resistance.org/2009/06/the-age-of-the-age-of-stupid.html

    And here is what I argue there:

    Even according to WHO’s own statistics, climate change is just about the least pressing problem for anyone in the developing world. Even being overweight or physically inactive in regions where we typically understand life to be characterised by scarcity of food, and hard physical labour are each bigger problems than climate change. The WHO table attributes 404,418 deaths in the high-mortality developing world to being overweight, nearly three times as many as it claims die from climate change (144,714). That’s nothing, of course, compared to the problem of being undernourished, which kills 5,610,300 – 38 times as many as climate change. Yet, arguably it is a much much easier problem to solve, at face value, than climate change. Moreover, the likes of Armstrong repeat the claim that ‘climate change is the biggest problem facing mankind’, and that ‘climate change will be worse for the poor’. Is this really the picture that emerges from this research?

  68. 68
    Jason Thibeault

    If you don’t know how to use blockquotes, maybe you shouldn’t use them.

    Can we help the poor by, say, giving them technology? Not just physically delivering them technology, but giving them the ability to make it themselves? Get them onto the internet so they can learn ways of increasing crop yield? Develop new foodstocks for them? Or hell, how about letting them bootstrap themselves by letting them emit CO2 to a point. It would be better than unfettered CO2 production in developed nations.

    Without some kind of emissions target, there’s no motivation. Without removing subsidies for coal or oil, there’s no motivation. How the hell are we going to get the corporations to consent to actually improving their technology when they’ve got all this really cheap old technology and all the oil they need to keep milking the technology for more and more cash as long as humanly possible?

    You know the people already consent to bringing about future technology. And they even consent because they realize that the future presented to them by climate scientists is pretty fucking bleak. The problem is not that the people won’t consent, the problem is that the MONEY won’t consent.

    The problem here is that first, the problem of poverty is a massive one and needs to be addressed; and second, that the problem of global warming is a massive one and needs to be addressed soon because it has far worse implications than a mere three hundred thousand. Yes, the WHO talks about that in their report, that three hundred thousand *per year* will die due to climate change, and that 150,000 died in the year 2000 alone due to the warming that’s occurred since 1970. Do you understand that that compounds all the issues that the 7.5 million will face? Like malnutrition, due to less arable land. And yet I’m a big supporter of giving them (unencumbered) GMO crops that will feed them better. Which won’t make a lick of difference in mitigating the problem of the poor if we just let global warming take its course and use all our resources supporting them directly instead of trying to stop the underlying issue that will exacerbate the whole situation.

    Anyway, I’m going to bed now. I expect you to insult me about a dozen more times, make about thirty more specious unevidenced claims about how much more serious a thinker you are than I, make more pie-in-the-sky recommendations that all we have to do is stop trying to limit global warming and the poor will be fine just fine (because those resources devoted to stopping global warming will NATURALLY be used to help the poor!), and roughly seventeen other unrelated tangents (with links to other things you’ve said on your blog) by the time I wake up tomorrow. That way I can waste another whole day arguing with you instead of blogging about other ways we can help the poor. I’m glad you find this blog so compelling!

  69. 69
    Greg Laden

    Ben, are you aware of the fact that the vast majority of poor people in South Asia live within the region that would become totally flooded if sea levels rose only 10meters (and the ice caps hold far more than that amount of water), and that storms are increasingly severe problems in that area?

    So, take South Asia alone. Climate change is critical there Is the fact (which I do not concede but you seem to be in love with) that climate change is not the biggest problem facing the WORLD’S poor a reason to ignore South Asia?

    Are you aware of the fact that climate change is the main cause of dessertification in Africa, and thus, a major cause of the severity of most of the famines there? Are you suggesting that WHO and other agencies are not concerned with these famines?

    Do you have any idea how many people in Pacific nations, the Indian Ocean and elsewhere live off of the coral ecosystems? Have you heard of Ocean Acidification? Do you know what the consequences of that may be?

    Is the fact that Kiribati will be wiped out as a nation and a people of no concern for you? Is your lack of concern because you personally don’t live there?

    Ben, I think it is time for you to check your own privilege as a citizen of the world who has the luxury to engage in your quixotic crusade to return us to 19th century Man Vs. Nature values.

  70. 70
    Ben Pile

    The problem here is that first, the problem of poverty is a massive one and needs to be addressed; and second, that the problem of global warming is a massive one and needs to be addressed soon because it has far worse implications than a mere three hundred thousand. Yes, the WHO talks about that in their report, that three hundred thousand *per year* will die due to climate change, and that 150,000 died in the year 2000 alone due to the warming that’s occurred since 1970. Do you understand that that compounds all the issues that the 7.5 million will face?

    The 300,000 figure — if it’s to be taken seriously — is indeed a shocker. But it shouldn’t be taken as representing the fact that things are getting worse. For instance, there are 10,000 fewer infant deaths per day than there were in 1990. So in just 20 years, 3,65 million fewer deaths occur — an improvement that’s 12 times the magnitude. At the same rate of improvement — i.e. the abolition of malaria, malnutrition and diarrhoea as development increases — the WHO/GHFs predictions for 2030 would exist in the context of many improvements to people’s conditions. Many millions fewer people live in poverty than just a few decades ago — and that’s a far more interesting trend.

  71. 71
    Ben Pile

    are you aware of the fact that the vast majority of poor people in South Asia live within the region that would become totally flooded if sea levels rose only 10meters (and the ice caps hold far more than that amount of water), and that storms are increasingly severe problems in that area?

    That’s a terrifying scenario, Gregg. But I think we should take comfort from the fact that according to the science — the stuff that Jason has been telling us we should listen to — a 10m rise it very unlikely in the near or mid term. And the link between storm severity and climate change has proved extremely difficult for researchers to demonstrate.

    The other thing about ‘storm intensity’ is that it too isn’t a problem given just by the magnitude of the storm. The far, far more important thing is who it lands on. The same category of storm could cause devastation in one area, but relatively little elsewhere. If we compare hurricanes Mitch and Andrew, for instance, we discover that the first storm landing in the Americas, killed more than 20,000 people, and made nearly 3 million people homeless, and caused $5 billion in damage. Andrew, however, caused 5 times as much damage in $ terms, but caused only around 30 deaths directly. Andrew was no party, of course, and caused havoc for those it affected. But people living in the regions it did affect have been much better able to restore their lives than those who endured hurricane Mitch were able to.

    So, take South Asia alone. Climate change is critical there Is the fact (which I do not concede but you seem to be in love with) that climate change is not the biggest problem facing the WORLD’S poor a reason to ignore South Asia?

    Trying to make sense of that, Greg… You’re suggesting that I’m saying that we ignore south Asia? I don’t see where I’ve suggested any such thing.

    Are you aware of the fact that climate change is the main cause of dessertification in Africa…

    Land use is the biggest cause of desertification, which, by itself is a natural process. The attribution of ‘desertification’ to ‘climate change’ is unsound, and even less sound attributed to AGW, (if it isn’t a tautology in the first place).

    And again, the biggest problem for people living in desert regions — which, are, by definition, subject to extreme, spontaneous and rapid NON-anthropogenic climate change — is that they have been unable to change the land to their advantage as we, in the richer world have.

    and thus, a major cause of the severity of most of the famines there? Are you suggesting that WHO and other agencies are not concerned with these famines?

    I’m sorry, Greg, you’re simply wrong. Nobody can attribute the current famine/drought in the Horn of Africa to climate change. Even the development NGOs have been quite clear about it. Read this, for a primer. http://www.climate-resistance.org/2011/08/against-development.html The interesting comment from Oxfam was, in my view that “famines do not occur in functioning democracies.” Again, the point being that people experience drought and famine far more for social and political reasons than climate factors.

    Acidification… yeah, very speculative, new, and not much in the way of any evidence… Just one or two sites, giving a very short record of ocean ph… Not much in the way of an increase, plenty of reasons to be very sceptical that laboratory conditions will reflect actual conditions in the future. Etc. I can see why it excites you, however.

    Ben, I think it is time for you to check your own privilege as a citizen of the world who has the luxury to engage in your quixotic crusade to return us to 19th century Man Vs. Nature values.

    That’s an interesting claim, Greg.

    You’ve just described to me the condition of many millions of people who have to endure a proximate relationship with nature, which I, and indeed you, don’t. I would like to extend the benefits that we have — to distance ourselves from nature — to the millions or billions of people who can’t afford to. Once we do that, we discover that people are far less vulnerable to climate change, and to climate generally. Such development has occurred in some parts of the world in generations. Some very advanced economies were, just a few decades ago, third world countries.

    Climate change is being used as an excuse to take development off the agenda. And your comment about C19th values epitomise the conceits and prejudices of the privileged perspective you aimed to criticise. The biggest and most dangerous mistake you make is to over emphasise poorer people’s dependence on nature. They should be able to enjoy life — as we are — which is characterised by greater dependence on each other, through advanced industrial economies. To deny them that is to consign them to a future of poverty.

  72. 72
    Ben Pile

    Well, this has been a real blast, guys… Thanks. I’m very busy with work for the next few days, so will only have limited opportunity to reply to any more points, if you want to continue the discussion. I’ll be more free following the weekend.

  73. 73
    Jason Thibeault

    So the solution to “we’re wrecking nature” is not “stop wrecking nature”, but “help more humans distance themselves from nature” in your eyes. Well then. Looks like you want the future I prophecied as possible — massive geoengineering, taking control of all of nature. Build our own climate. Are you a transhumanist too, by chance?

  74. 74
    Jason Thibeault

    Additionally, Google Scholar turns up lots of hits on ocean acidification. Stop disparaging the current body of scientific knowledge, please. Especially by saying out of hand “very speculative”.

  75. 75
    Pierce R. Butler

    … claiming the withdrawl of that paper proved the oceans wouldn’t rise at all.

    It is entirely unfair, for a lousy Canuck or anyone else, to reject a scientific conclusion because it’s delivered in a Southron accent!

  76. 76
    Jason Thibeault

    OW. One’a these days I’ma gonna turn on my spellchecker.

  1. 77
    Roy Spencer Wants You to Believe the Magician Really Cuts Her Body in Half « Global Warming: Man or Myth?

    [...] Climate noise amplification - Jason Thibeault Eco World Content From Across The Internet. Featured on EcoPressed Another thought on our Food Supply Share this:TwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponEmailRedditLike this:Like3 bloggers like this post. [...]

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