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Al Gore Won't Debate:

The Wall $treet Journal has an interesting subscribers-only op-ed by Jyllands-Posten culture editor Fleming Rose and Bjorn Lomborg on Al Gore's unwillingness to debate or take tough interview questions on his movie and book, An Inconvenient Truth. As Rose and Lomborg tell it, Jyllands-Posten, the Denmark's largest newspaper, had an interview scheduled with Gore to conicide with his visit to the country. The paper also planned to include Lomborg as a counterpoint in the interview, but it was not to be.

The interview had been scheduled for months. Mr. Gore's agent yesterday thought Gore-meets-Lomborg would be great. Yet an hour later, he came back to tell us that Bjorn Lomborg should be excluded from the interview because he's been very critical of Mr. Gore's message about global warming and has questioned Mr. Gore's evenhandedness. According to the agent, Mr. Gore only wanted to have questions about his book and documentary, and only asked by a reporter. These conditions were immediately accepted by Jyllands-Posten. Yet an hour later we received an email from the agent saying that the interview was now cancelled. What happened?

One can only speculate. But if we are to follow Mr. Gore's suggestions of radically changing our way of life, the costs are not trivial. If we slowly change our greenhouse gas emissions over the coming century, the U.N. actually estimates that we will live in a warmer but immensely richer world. However, the U.N. Climate Panel suggests that if we follow Al Gore's path down toward an environmentally obsessed society, it will have big consequences for the world, not least its poor. In the year 2100, Mr. Gore will have left the average person 30% poorer, and thus less able to handle many of the problems we will face, climate change or no climate change.

The article goes on to note that many of Gore specific claims are either based on extremely unlikely scenarios, or misrepresentations of the available evidence. For example, Gore shows sea-level rise scenarios far in excess of UN projections, makes claims about malaria that are contradicted by the historical record, and only discusses the health harms of higher temperatures without considering the benefits.
Al Gore is on a mission. If he has his way, we could end up choosing a future, based on dubious claims, that could cost us, according to a U.N. estimate, $553 trillion over this century. Getting answers to hard questions is not an unreasonable expectation before we take his project seriously. It is crucial that we make the right decisions posed by the challenge of global warming. These are best achieved through open debate, and we invite him to take the time to answer our questions: We are ready to interview you any time, Mr. Gore — and anywhere.
Unfortunately, Gore is not the only one running around promoting climate scenarios based upon questionable assumptions or otherwise at odds with the avaiable evidence. Another example is the infamous Stern report. For a good summary of why the Stern report does not provide an accuarate or even-handed assessment of the costs and benefits of greenhouse gas emission reductions, see this article by Robert Mendelsohn of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Mendelsohn points out that the problem is not just Stern's questionable approach to discounting, but also other assumptions embedded in his analysis that skew his results.

I should also add that those who claim that there is no "proof" of global warming are also engaged in a bit of sleight of hand. Of course there are uncertainties — but that hardly makes climate change different than other environmental concerns (or other subjects of scientific inquiry).

As regular VC readers already know, I believe the preponderance of scientific evidence supports the theory that human activities are producing an enhanced greenhouse effect that is altering the earth's climate, and is likely to produce significant (albeit not catastrophic) warming over the next century. In other words, I accept the basic scientific findings of the U.N. Intergovernental Panel on Climate, but remain dubious of some of the model projections, particularly those based on highly questionable assumptions about future trends in population, economic growth, and energy use.

The fact is that the vast majority of the available evidence conforms with our general understanding of the how the climate system works and how it is likely to respnd to increases in greenhouse gas concentrations. There are debates and disputes about specific questions, ranging from the extent and nature of various feedback mechanisms, the relative contribution of certain exogenous factors, and how climate changes will affect other global trends such as sea-level rise, but this does not mean climate change is a made up concern. Uncertainty is a fact of life. It is one thing to note uncertainties when the stakes are high — as they certainly are on all sides of the climate policy debate — quite another to exaggerate uncertainties when politically convenient. I genuinely fear many of the governmental policies climate fears may be used to justify, but it would be disingenuous for me to respond by denying the real threats posed by climate change. I wish more of my political or ideological "allies" felt the same way.

The issue to me is not whether human activities are affecting the climate system (it is almost certain they are). Nor is it whether there should be a policy response — I think there should be, even if it means measures that are otherwise in tension with my fairly libertarian views of government. Rather, the issues are how we assess a risk of this magnitude and how we develop policy responses when the costs of climate policy rival those of climate change itself. Neither apocalyptic environental claims, such as those put forward by Gore, nor ideologically convenient denial of the evidence, does much to advance this debate.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Al Gore Won't Debate:
  2. NYT Discovers "Middle" Ground on Climate:
Spitzer:
One of Lomborg's least-addressed points is not that climate change is not happening, but that a cost-benefit analysis suggests that there may be better ways to spend our scarce resources to enhance human happiness (which, after all, should be the point of environmentalism), such as poverty alleviation, anti-malarial programs, and the like. That is to say, if it would cost us $1 trillion dollars to reduce our carbon emissions sufficiently so that it would have a global effect, might there be more pressing concerns on which that same $1 trillion could be spent, in ways that would have a greater positive effect on humanity? It's an interesting argument that's rarely addressed, and requires us to ask ourselves whether anti-climate change policies might be addressing rich-world worries at the expense of the poor (despite assertions that the poor would suffer most from climate change).
1.18.2007 10:09am
Caliban Darklock (www):
What I keep telling people, to general disapproval, is that we are not really talking about saving the planet. The planet is just fine. In fact, it is the planet's natural systems that are creating the problem.

What we are actually discussing is how best to shield ourselves from the planet's wrath.

It really makes very little difference whether that wrath is a righteous fury at our perpetual abuses, or simply the capricious whim of a planetary Caligula. We are trying to agree on how we might appease the mighty Earth-spirit so it does not destroy us.

Once you say it that way, doesn't it start to sound primitive and childish and fundamentally stupid?
1.18.2007 10:15am
OK Lawyer:
I have one question, I don't mean to provoke or incite anyone, and am not trying to be some sort of "global warming denier," I just don't know the answer.

The planet has gone through numerous (2?) ice ages and come out of them, or warmed up. These occurred prior to industry and man. Why? Clearly, man had nothing to do with that. Since they did, why is it not reasonable to assume that is what is happening now, just a normal weather pattern?

Any links to any research would be appreciated.
1.18.2007 10:16am
JK:
Gore wants to sell book, promote his movie, etc. There's nothing really unusual or wrong about that. If someone is really interested in hosting, or printing, a serious debate on climate change I can't imagine you would have a hard time finding an environmental science professor, or similar expert to defend a position very similar to Gore's. The idea that because Gore won't commit to a certain debate, his position is significantly and fundamentally flawed is ridiculous. The fact that global warming minimalizers tend to attack (admittedly ridiculous) individuals like Al Gore or Ralph Nader instead of the science itself is at least as telling.
1.18.2007 10:27am
abean:
There is reason to believe the literature bends to a certain hypothesis even as substantial disagreement reigns in the details.

Students of history will know that the IPCC first found consensus to anthropogenic global warming in 1992. This was a truely irrational moment because in 1992, the evidence was very poor.

Fast-forward and evidence begins to accumulate that the '92 position was right, but we've already jumped off the rails because the outcome of the debate was already been determined. Everyone involved in the '92 report wedded their reputations to this hypothesis and spent the next 14 years accumulating 'proof' to fit the conclusion.

This is the very sense of Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions. So we, outside of the bubble, are skeptical that competing explanations are being adequately investigated and fairly judged.

What you have to chew on is that ~200 Gt of Carbon are produced yearly. ~6Gt of that is anthropogenic. ~3Gt of that seems to be accumulating in the atmosphere. A substantive question would be 'why'.
1.18.2007 10:32am
Centrist:

Any links to any research would be appreciated

try this one

Al Gore is not a scientist, he was the front man in the documentary. As such, I am not sure why he should be the one to engage in a debate on the subject. It is more valuable to have debate between the people who conduct and understand the science rather than debate between those who translate it into a form that is easily digested by the lay public.
1.18.2007 10:34am
Joe Gator (mail):
Can someone name a point in history where the Earth's climate was static?
1.18.2007 10:34am
abean:

The fact that global warming minimalizers tend to attack (admittedly ridiculous) individuals like Al Gore or Ralph Nader instead of the science itself is at least as telling.

Telling of what? Some people engage the scientific debate, but others are more concerned with the policy debate. Discrediting Al Gore is important for getting the policy debate right.

If you think this isn't being debated at a scientific level, I think you aren't paying attention/attending enough talks. I was just at a talk and rebutal given last week by a gentleman from JPL and a professor from Sweden.
1.18.2007 10:40am
Jim Hu:
There have been more than 2 ice ages in the planet's history. See Wikipedia for a brief review of theories about causes for their coming and going. One mitigation approach that has not been suggested is to move continents around or form new mountain ranges. These may be prohibitively expensive, even compared to Kyoto!

Ironically, the anthropogenic CO2 may get us via decreases in ocean pH before it kills us with warming. Just a cheerful thought to add!

Hope the HTML in this comment renders in the same as it shows in the preview...ack! it doesn't. The sub tag is not allowed!
1.18.2007 10:42am
abean:

Any links to any research would be appreciated

try this one
1.18.2007 10:43am
godfodder (mail):
What's $553 trillion when we are talking about Gaia? About the children? About the seal pups? About big, grand glaciers becoming puny and inimpressive? Please! Let's keep things in perspective.
1.18.2007 10:46am
alkali (mail) (www):
OK Lawyer writes:

The planet has gone through numerous (2?) ice ages and come out of them, or warmed up. These occurred prior to industry and man. Why?

(These are my best attempts to answer these questions; corrections invited.)

There are small cyclical variations in the regularity of Earth's orbit -- called Milankovitch cycles after the Serbian engineer who first systematically studied them -- which are related in part to the influence of Jupiter and Saturn and in part to Earth's "wobble" on its axis. These variations affect the amount of sunlight the earth receives, and over long periods of time give rise to climatic shifts. Feedback effects (e.g., if an ice sheet forms, the ice will reflect more sunlight back into space, making things still colder) and unusual events (e.g., meteor impacts) are probably also important.

[W]hy is it not reasonable to assume that is what is happening now, just a normal weather pattern?

The short version is that the change in global temperatures is happening too fast for it to be the result of natural cycles. A minority view is that variations in the Sun's radiation output might be responsible for the shift.
1.18.2007 10:52am
LTEC (mail) (www):
Continuing the path of OK Lawyer:

Do we understand what has caused historical climate change on Earth and (apparent) current climate change on Mars? If so, please give a link to specifically this information, and a link to specifically the reason why we know the same things are not causing current climate change on Earth. If not, please give a link to specifically the reason why we know that the same unknown things are not causing current climate change on Earth.
1.18.2007 10:53am
godfodder (mail):
Against a background of weather variability that includes multiple major Ice Ages and major Warming Periods, how can anyone not be skeptical? Our window on the climate even a few hundred years ago is almost entirely circumstantial and subject to all sorts of observer bias. Undoubtedly, the Earth has warmed up during the 20th Century, but... so what? It is not like that hasn't happened before.

Tree ring studies, and some ice cores do not make a compelling argument for costing humanity $553 trillion dollars. That figure represents an untold amount of human suffering. Before we are subjected to that, there damn well better be a good reason. I mean beyond Al Gore's narcissistic injuries.
1.18.2007 10:55am
Mr L:
The idea that because Gore won't commit to a certain debate, his position is significantly and fundamentally flawed is ridiculous. The fact that global warming minimalizers tend to attack (admittedly ridiculous) individuals like Al Gore or Ralph Nader instead of the science itself is at least as telling.

The fact that those two are 'admittedly ridiculous' is quite a bit more telling. Half a decade ago those men were deemed fit to lead the country and both remain movers and shakers in the green movement.
1.18.2007 10:56am
Bart (mail):
Where the manmade global warming argument runs into serious problems is when you attempt to find a correlation between human CO2 emissions over time with world wide temperature shifts.


If the genuine warming now being seen is caused by human emissions of carbon dioxide, it would have started earlier, according to the book [Unstoppable Global Warming] by two veteran American climate sceptics, Fred Singer and Dennis Avery.

Mr Avery, who was in London yesterday, said: "If this were a CO2 driven warming it should have started in 1940 and risen strongly from there. In fact warming started in 1850 and rose sharply until 1940 then decreased for 35 years."

Mr Avery believes that only half the warming that has happened since 1940 - 0.2 degrees according to his measurements - can be ascribed to man made emissions. The rest he says is natural variability.

"If you factor in the warming from the cyclical trends, it is not very frightening," he said.


What the authors are referring to is the fact that temperatures started rising before the Industrial Revolution until the late 30s, then dropped from 1940 through the 1970s (when it snowed on me in Ft Lauderdale and when climatologists were predicting a new ice age), then rose again in the 80s and early 90s, and they have been largely static since. These bouncing and relatively minor temperature shifts do not exactly correlate with constantly increasing human COs emissions.

Thus, I take Mr. Gore's claims concerning global warming with about as much credibility as his claim to have invented the internet. Given that the UN claims are based on similar, though more conservative, computer models filtered through politicized committees, I have a hard time granting their claims much more credence.
1.18.2007 11:00am
MnZ (mail):
The radical scaremongers of global warming are basically opportunists.

Al Gore is a short-term opportunist, who wants to sell his book and movie. He also probably also holds dreams of making another run for the White House.

The long-term opportunists are a hodgepodge including conspiracy theorists, Marxists, watermelon environmentalists (Marxists on the inside), Luddites, anti-American/Western radicals, and various other malcontents. They view global warming as a convenient lever to implement their policy goals.
1.18.2007 11:03am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
Part of the reason that it seems a bit premature to dedicate a half a quadrillion dollars to this is that we may actually benefit from Global Warming. For example, if you look at a globe, you may notice the distribution of land, and that a lot of it resides quite a bit north - in fact, too far north to farm. I am talking primarily about Russia and Canada. Moving the freeze line a hundred miles north could very possibly open up more than a billion acres to farming.

Yes, some Manhattan real estate may lose value if sea level rises enough. But is that enough for the rest of us who chose to live a bit higher (in my case, 9,000 feet higher) to mortgage our great-grandchildren, just to keep those values up?

The above suggestion about NYC property values was not serious, except to point out that when we talk about Global Warming, we never seem to talk about the costs of combatting it, whether there may be more efficient or economical ways of doing it, or whether it might also provide some countervening good.
1.18.2007 11:03am
Mark Buehner (mail):
Science aside, I'm always deeply troubled when the supposed scientific conclusions being pimped by activists like Gore lines up so exactly with their personal social and aesthetic preferences. Guys like Gore prefer command economies and here is a problem begging global government to solve. Guys like Gore are deeply skeptical of industry and here is a problem magically set to limit industry and commercialism radically.

Caliban is dead on. This debate isnt really about the science, its about the politics. The richer we get the simpler it is to limit the damage or even take advantage of the benefits of global climate change... whatever the cause. On the other hand if we intentionally stunt out growth based on the worst case scenario, what kind of resource flexibility will we have if we are obsessed with the wrong disaster? If we decide on slapping brakes on global GDP in a lunatic attempt to curtail industrial progress in the name of possible disaster, how will we stop the planet killing asteriod or comet that is statistically certain to be somewhere in our future. As just a for instance. I don't see any astronomers clammering to devote global GDP to giant space lasers- and thats a threat that could literally destroy human life on Earth... not just wreck some beach houses in malibu and push farming from Iowa to Alberta.
1.18.2007 11:03am
liberty (mail) (www):
My biggest problem with climate science is that the appropriate time scale in order to see whether today's climate [change] is part of the natural fluctuation, caused by some natural fluctuation but preventable or human-induced or something else is really on the scale of about 2 billion years. At that scale we can see real fluctuation and begin to understand what caused real changes in temperature.

If we prefer to limit the period to that which has affected humans (homo sapiens) in order to see whether humans have lived through these changes before and whether relatively recent temperature trends have come and gone and that this may be a similar fluctuation, then we must still look at a scale of 200,000 years. Global climate change fluctuations caused by factors other than humans could not be expected to be visible at any smaller scale - and so one cannot know whether something is caused by humans or not unless we look at data on this scale.

For a good look at unemployment data with a scale that shows historical fluctuations within a given economic system and with respect to major changes in the economic system, most people would agree that you should look at at least 25 years (in order to see many changes in administration and policy) if not 100 years or more. Lets even say that you should look at 200-300 years in order to really see how changes in the economic system might affect employment so that one can see whether a fluctuation is "natural" or induced by policy shift or technological or caused by other factors and how it compares with regular and past fluctuations.

So, any climate studies that only look at say 1000 years (instead of 2 billion) in order to make grand claims about global temperatures would be similar to an employment study which looked at 1.314 hours instead of 300 years and made grand claims about economic systems; and any study looking at 1000 years (as opposed to 200,000) and made smaller claims about recent fluctuations would be similar to an employment study which looked at 6 weeks of employment data instead of 25 years and made claims about recent policy.
1.18.2007 11:05am
rarango (mail):
The entire global warming "debate" is badly stated hypotheses and arguments IMHO. I think OK lawyer has really cut to argument with a good example of Ockham's razor in operation.

Is it warming? an empirical question best measured by thermometers--ans: yes

Is that warming caused by human activity? ANS: Possibly, but questions like precession and sun's output are far more significant than cow or human flatulence (inter alia)

Finally: if the answer to questions one and two are yes, then the policy consideration kicks in--what can we do about as humans in some sort of cost benefit tradeoff?

lets us remember that even though the left and right coasts of the US might be flooded, for conservatives thats a good thing, because as we all know real amerikuns live in the heartland--no one is going to miss manhattan nor LA or seattle

(tongue out of cheek)

Are there any BENEFITS to global warming? well yes: more acreage comes under cultivation and human food supplies increase--has anyone read of any possible benefits accruing from Global Warming? I thought not

interesting questions about science and "fact" that quite frankly I thought had been largely settled sortlly after Galileo was forced to recant by the inquisition. it more speaks to the arrogance of individuals, than truth or science.
1.18.2007 11:05am
rarango (mail):
apolgies to Bruce Hayden who beat me to the punch about benefits of global warming--damn you have to write fast around here
1.18.2007 11:10am
liberty (mail) (www):
"The short version is that the change in global temperatures is happening too fast for it to be the result of natural cycles. "

But do we have any confidence that shifts like the ones we see today have not happened in te past for short periods? There are far too many "holes" in our data (like most temperatures across the globe in most years over the the history of the Earth). We have no idea how much of a deviation recent trends actually are. Yes, compared against 1000 years it may seem big and rapid and crazy - but for all we know about 10,000 years ago the same thing happened. Perhaps people didn't think it was all that big a deal and didn't record it -- especially as each civilized people would only have known about the changes in temperature in their one area. Yes, we also have some physical evidence but not nearly enough to rule out fluctutations like those seen today. We simply don't know.
1.18.2007 11:11am
MnZ (mail):

Thus, I take Mr. Gore's claims concerning global warming with about as much credibility as his claim to have invented the internet.


Be careful, Bart. You might upset a lot of people with that statement. Al Gore never said that he "invented the Internet." Rather, he said that he "took the initiative in creating the Internet."

While I could never see a notable distinction between those statements, I am told by several Democrats that there is a critical difference between the two statements.
1.18.2007 11:11am
BobH (mail):
"Gore shows seal-level rise scenarios far in excess of UN projections...."

No WONDER I've been seeing so many of the damn things around lately!
1.18.2007 11:26am
FantasiaWHT:

godfodder-

Undoubtedly, the Earth has warmed up during the 20th Century, but... so what? It is not like that hasn't happened before.


Actually, I still haven't seen conclusive proof that the average temperature of the entire earth has increased in the last century. What data from 100 years ago are scientists looking at to determine that?
1.18.2007 11:30am
Angus:

Be careful, Bart. You might upset a lot of people with that statement. Al Gore never said that he "invented the Internet." Rather, he said that he "took the initiative in creating the Internet."

While I could never see a notable distinction between those statements, I am told by several Democrats that there is a critical difference between the two statements.


It depends on what you see as the "internet." There is the content of it: web pages, IRC, newsgroups, email, etc. Then there is the physical dimension of it: servers, network backbones, data lines, etc. While in Congress, Gore led the charge in transforming the latter part from a small, confined system, into a network that could reach globally.

Here is the lead from a 1988 News story in The Guardian:
(12/30/88): American computing scientists are campaigning for the creation of a "superhighway" which would revolutionise data transmission.

Legislation has already been laid before Congress by Senator Albert Gore of Tennessee, calling for government funds to help establish the new network, which scientists say they can have working within five years, at a cost of $400 million.
1.18.2007 11:34am
Angus:
As for the interview matter, it is just that--an interview. When the New York Times or Washington Times interviews, say, Condi Rice, do they insist that Hillary Clinton also be present at the interview to rebut every point?
1.18.2007 11:37am
plunge (mail):
"As Rose and Lomborg tell it..."

Yeah, well, to hear them talk, you'd think that people who get interviewed for newspapers commonly have critics asking them direct debate questions. That happens all the time, right?

No, wait, it almost never happens. But good luck trying to paint Gore as especially unwilling to debate.

And of course, I assume that every time you or anyone you support does an interview, you'll DEMAND that they have a critic get equal time and be able to debate them. Right? Wouldn't want to be a ridiculous hysterical hypocrite, right?
1.18.2007 11:40am
Mitchell J. Freedman (mail) (www):
I wish Gore had debated Lonborg, because I know I could take the guy down without any of the depth of Lomborg's scientific and environmental knowledge.

The fact that scientists were wrong about the quickness in which glaciers have fallen apart at the poles tells me that we should not be so quick to assume the correctness of a gradualist scenario. Sometimes the worst case scenarios are correct and if Lomborg is wrong, he is wrong for the whole planet.

Lomborg has also created a false choice and has little understanding of the dynamics of economic investment. We should implement some of what Gore is talking about, and we might find that environmental investment does add to GDP growth. There are plenty of sociological studies, starting with Seymour Melman's work in the late 1950s, that supports this point. And yes, we ought to use DDT to help avoid the spread of malaria (Ralph Nader has pushed this for the last decade at least). As people from Michael Harrington to George Gilder know, economic does not have to be a zero sum game. Lomborg sounds like Paul Erhlich more than Al Gore does because Gore is confident that we can improve our lives economically and save the planet. Lomborg is a doomsayer on economics and plays useful idiot to Exxon-Mobil excecutives.

Finally, I apologize in advance for this more general ad hominem, but find it might be helpful to bring down the overconfidence of those who want to undermine Gore's message: I can't help but wonder how many anti-Gore commenters were willing to give Bush the benefit of the doubt about WMDs and invading Iraq, yet are willing to bet the farm, er the planet, in saying that Gore is just a new version of "Chicken Little."

In closing, let's remember the following: There are tipping points in life and science. And let's also remember there is more and more evidence to support the Eldridge-Gould theory of "punctuated equilibrium" where catastrophic changes have significant consequences to life on the planet. Millions of years ago, this planet was dominated by a series of species who are no longer here. The Earth managed to survive, but the species did not. Our species is capable of destroying the planet and may someday do so, inadvertently of course. So, let's try to save ourselves and the planet, shall we?
1.18.2007 11:43am
Jonathan H. Adler (mail) (www):
BobH --

Oops. Meant sea-level, not seal-level. If seal populations were increasing, I think it would be much harder to get school-age children on the global warming bandwagon. After all, who would complain about more seals? (except, maybe, the fish).

JHA
1.18.2007 11:44am
abean:

Here is the lead from a 1988 News story in The Guardian:
(12/30/88): American computing scientists are campaigning for the creation of a "superhighway" which would revolutionise data transmission.

Legislation has already been laid before Congress by Senator Albert Gore of Tennessee, calling for government funds to help establish the new network, which scientists say they can have working within five years, at a cost of $400 million.


That's like confusing the Internet2 (itself a different beast) with the Internet.

FACT: The Internet aka (at the time) NSFNet started in 1986, not 1988.
FACT: In 1988 Al Gore sponsered a bill which provisioned funds to enhance the links connecting the NSF supercomputing centers from 56kbps to 1.5Mbps.
FACT: Private companies and private institutions already had their own networks and paid NSFNet to establish interconnection argeements
FACT: Commercial traffic rapidly outstriped the low level infrastructure investments being made by NSFNet and network providers began peering each others traffic. The most famous commercial interconnect being MAE. MAE started in '92 and was after the fact recognized by NSFNet in '94/'95

No one disputes that Al Glore was involved in the T1 upgrade of the interconnect between the five supercomputing centers. No one who knows the details, though, seriously believes that had much importance to the development of the Internet.
1.18.2007 11:53am
John Barnes (mail):
The entire global warming subject strikes me as utterly beside the point. Long before climate change could possibly become a threat to human life, demographic trends mean the following countries will be largely out of business: Japan, Italy, Spain, France, Germany and Russia. The list could be extended further, but that's bad enough.

Whatever threat climate change presents pales in comparison to what humans in those countries have chosen - quite freely - to do to themselves. The virtual disappearance of these countries' populations, and their replacement by large numbers of unassimilated immigrants (virtually all of whom happen to be Muslims), will have utterly unknown and incalculable effects on life as we know it. And barring some miraculous turnaround in the existing demographic death spiral, the numbers are not in dispute. This IS happening.

It seems our time and effort would be far better directed at finding some way of averting this future, or, failing that, finding a means of coping with it, than arguing about global warming.
1.18.2007 12:02pm
Houston Lawyer:
JHA

Seal populations, at least on the West Coast, have been rising for years and there are lots of complaints from fishermen and others.

I, too, would like to see a debate about the benefits of global warming. I live in Houston, and would not like to see it warmer in the summer, but it's cold outside today, and I don't like that either. If the Great White North became the Great Green North that couldn't be all bad.
1.18.2007 12:08pm
James of England:
The IPCC says that the single biggest action that governments can do to combat global warming is to increase international trade (check their models for policy makers). Gore doesn't mention this, and the people he shills for are on the other side.

Gore may make a lot of silly claims. Indeed, 6 metres of sea level rise seems to be out by 5 metres, whereas Larry the Cable Guy is only out by 1 metre. Still, although some of his science may be inferior to that of Mr. The Cable Guy's, Gore is better and more honest than many on his side. The real shame is the complete lack of a lobby to question protectionists on their commitment to Gaia when said protectionists decide that they wish to continue to impose sanctions on Vietnam, to name a recent example (the second attempt passed, but there were still a lot of people voting in a pattern that is hard to understand without the use of the word "gook").
1.18.2007 12:22pm
happylee:
Gore's reluctance to accept a little challenge reminds me of my federalist chapter in law school. We would invite lefty profs to accept a little challenge from righty profs (internal or from other schools) and almost always get a big NO. The reasons given were pure fluff. The real reason is that the lefties (and enviromonkeys) are on a propaganda mission and therefore do not want debate. They must marginalize anyone who questions the emperor's wardrobe, and they must personally attack and destroy anyone who dares advance the idea that the emperor is, well, in the buff.

It reminds me also of the great debates between classical liberals and socialists/communists over 100 years ago. The pinkos won by propaganda. Their ideas were proven wrong on strictly logical grounds. History subsequently proved them wrong on every possible level. (Might I add that hundreds of millions were murdered from Russia to Cambodia to China to South America to Africa, etc.)

And yet look around today? Who dominates the social science departments of almost all universities? Why, it's the pinkos. Gramsci lives!

(And now these pinkos have hijacked the environmental movement. Very sad.)
1.18.2007 12:42pm
Phil (mail):
rarango

I would miss Seattle
1.18.2007 12:46pm
Jeff S.:
The WSJ editorial also claims that "Mr. Gore's agent yesterday thought that Gore-meets-Lomborg would be great." That Gore may have agreed to a face-to-face with Lomborg is more noteworthy than the possibility that he reneged on the meeting, given that Gore's mantra of late has been that "the debate is over." For example.
1.18.2007 12:58pm
DeezRightWingNutz:
rarango said:


Is it warming? an empirical question best measured by thermometers--ans: yes

Is that warming caused by human activity? ANS: Possibly, but questions like precession and sun's output are far more significant than cow or human flatulence (inter alia)

Finally: if the answer to questions one and two are yes, then the policy consideration kicks in--what can we do about as humans in some sort of cost benefit tradeoff?


I'd say that the policy considerations kick in regardless of the validity of the AGW theory. If we knew that there was an ideal temperature different from the current one, it's possible that we may want to try to change the earth's temperature, if possible. Or if global warming is turning the earth into Venus, I want to try to stop it regardless of whether global warming is anthropogenic. I'm generally skeptical of statist solutions to problems, so I'd probably oppose intentionally changing the climate under all but the most extreme circumstances. However, the question of whether or not we should change the climate seems to me to be independent of AGW.
1.18.2007 1:04pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
DeezRightWingNutz is right. Maybe we should be talking about whether we want the climate warmer in the first place. Just because it has been cooler in the past doesn't necessarily mean that that is the preferred or optimal situation.

I am a bit ambivalent here. I love the Colo. Rockies, which is one reason that I live here. But the Canadian Rockies are even more spectacular. But that would mean living in Canada, which means socialized medicine and having to fly to India for timely hip and knee replacements. Its a bit complicated.
1.18.2007 1:14pm
Tony2 (mail):
In the year 2100, Mr. Gore will have left the average person 30% poorer...

Thirty percent poorer than what? Poorer than today? Or thirty percent poorer than what would result from the 4% economic growth compounded annually for 100 years that economists insist is essential to keep the world running but which mysteriously fails to improve actual quality of life for anyone?

The idea that "30% poorer in 2100" is a problem we can get a handle on, or even understand, is ridiculous. As a pessimist, I'd be happy if the world had just half the current GDP by that point. Ditto for the 20% reduction in GDP posited for the effects of global warming itself. Compared to the seemingly universal concept (delusion?) of infinite economic growth, contrasted with the belief that humans have already exceeded the world's carrying capacity, these numbers concerning global warming scenarios are less than persuasive: they are a fart in a windstorm.
1.18.2007 1:21pm
OK Lawyer:
Even the simple question of "Is there warming?" does not lend itself to an easy answer. yes, it is measurable, but what are the parameters? Where is it "warming?" Is taking the temp at the poles indicative of "warming" in sub saharan Africa? Do we need the temp from every where at the same time of day?

Another reason of my skepticism is that millions of variables must be taken into account when modeling climate change.

Is it really just a risk - reward analysis? Even then, how do we define risks/rewards? As some have stated above, the risks/rewards to the poorer countries might be quite different than those of the wealthy countries.
1.18.2007 1:25pm
Truth Seeker:
No one disputes that Al Glore was involved in the T1 upgrade of the interconnect between the five supercomputing centers. No one who knows the details, though, seriously believes that had much importance to the development of the Internet.

Whatever Gore was involved in, one can be sure it wasn't because he actually believed in it. He's an opportunist. He takes polls, sticks his finger in the air to see which way the wind is blowing and tries to catch a ride.

It seems like the left and the Democrats are more likely to support programs based on how many votes they would get and the right and Republicans are more likely to support something they believe in because it is the best thing.
1.18.2007 1:31pm
JK:

If you think this isn't being debated at a scientific level, I think you aren't paying attention/attending enough talks. I was just at a talk and rebutal given last week by a gentleman from JPL and a professor from Sweden.


The point was that it is being debated at a scientific level, and that Al Gore's willingness, or unwillingness to debate a certain person at a certain time has no baring on merits of what is roughly "his side" of the debate.


The fact that those two are 'admittedly ridiculous' is quite a bit more telling. Half a decade ago those men were deemed fit to lead the country and both remain movers and shakers in the green movement.

By ridiculous I meant that they are politicians, and act like it. They're no more ridiculous then the vast majority of politicians, including the majority on both sides of this issue. Politicians practically never hold positions that are serious from an intellectual or scientific perspective.
1.18.2007 1:38pm
dpt0101 (mail):
http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=299
1.18.2007 1:41pm
dpt0101 (mail):
I dispute your assumption that there are "significant" errors in the movie.
1.18.2007 1:43pm
Observer (mail):
It's interesting, don't you think, that Al Gore refuses to debate people who diagree with his views on climate change and Jimmy Carter refuses to debate people who disagree with his views on the Palestinian Arabs. I wonder if there's something about being a former Democratic President or Vice-President that makes one loathe to engage in reasoned debate.
1.18.2007 1:49pm
Tillman Fan (mail):
I think that if there's even a one-per cent chance that global warming might produce catastrophic results, we need to take all possible measures to stop it, whatever the cost. Just like our response to the possibility of a terrorist attack on the United States.
1.18.2007 1:50pm
tsotha:
I agree with rarango. The earth is probably warming (I assign that possibility about 60%). But there's absolutely no evidence human activity is the cause of that warming. We have computer models, yes. Do we know those models are accurate? How would we test them?

The fact remains the Earth has been both warmer and cooler in the past, and the climate can change very quickly, too. The last ice age struck in one generation.

Add to that the fact that the other planets are warming as well. Are the Mars Rovers causing global warming on Mars?

I'm all for putting whatever money we need into studying the science here, but I'm not ready to significantly alter my lifestyle until I see something a little more concrete than what's out there now.
1.18.2007 2:15pm
MnZ (mail):
Tony2,

Your argument is a bit difficult to comprehend. If I understand it correctly, it seems to be possibly self contradictory and an ill-informed argument.

First, the argument seems to go that, if we don't drastically reduce our economic growth now, our economic output will be drastically reduced in the future. While that is theoretically possible, it is also undeniable that reducing our economic growth now could make us poorer in the future. Isopathic policy perscriptions need to be critically analyzed and debated before they are implemented. That is one of Lomborgs points.

Second, evironmentally descructive productive methods are used because they are internally cheaper than the less environmentally destructive alternatives. In other words, the firms or individuals using them don't take into account the environmental externalities. If you incentivize people to consider the environmental externality they cause (e.g., Pigovian taxes), they will be conscious of the externalities and be more inclined to use less environmentally descructive practices. It is quitely likely that this would not reduce economic growth by much.
1.18.2007 2:16pm
MnZ (mail):

Or thirty percent poorer than what would result from the 4% economic growth compounded annually for 100 years that economists insist is essential to keep the world running but which mysteriously fails to improve actual quality of life for anyone?


Tony2, have you taken a look at the third-world poverty rates recently?
1.18.2007 2:17pm
Luther:
I take great solace in the adherence of Mr. Gore to the Protestant faith. One need only confess Global Warming and be saved. This doctrine is an understandable comfort to Mr. Gore's Hollywood acolytes in particular, living as they do in 10,000 square foot mansions and flying around the country in private jets. You need only believe and be spared the coming Apocalypse.

And for you recalcitrant Catholics: buy a Prius and get a free indulgence in the bargain.

What this means is that the actual desire to do anything concrete takes a very distant back seat to fevered proselytizing. All the sound and fury signifies very little. China is still building a new coal-fired power plant every week, and aside from a few wind farm projects here and there, every watt of base load electrical power coming on line in the U.S. in the next decade will come from burning fossil fuels.

(Frankly, the heavy metal and SO2 pollution from these plants is a far greater concern than the CO2.)

Kyoto exists to genuflect before. No true believer need adhere to its strictures. Wring your hands and raise your eyes to the heavens. The public show of piety impresses many a journalist.

Consider what is commonly considered the most straightforward solution to reducing gasoline consumption: raising the price. But Democrats started a-hollering when the price of gas tipped $3/gallon. And for all the gnashing of teeth about SUVs, I hear of no plans to levy heavy tax surcharges on large displacement engines, as is done in, say, Japan.

So to paraphrase Yogi Berra: Nothing's going to happen until it happens. (Or until running dog capitalistic market forces make it so.)
1.18.2007 2:18pm
Dick King:
It's fairly clear that Mr. Gore's book and movie are part of another run for the Presidency.

One of the lines from his standard stump speech talk about his movie is "I'm Al Gore. I used to be the next president of the United States".

-dk
1.18.2007 2:32pm
MnZ (mail):
Luther,

Hilarious and brilliant.

You know Al Gore and Hollywood's actions make a whole lot of sense if you view it through a "Great Awakening" paradigm.

-The Calvinist view that we are saved by grace and not deeds. Check.

-Inconvenient Truth = "Polluters in the hands of an angry environment" Check.
1.18.2007 2:48pm
JK:
MnZ,

Regardless the both the "30% poorer" and the "$533 trillion" figures are absurd. First of all there is no such thing as a reasonable 100 year economic forecast. Five year forecasts are to be viewed with skepticism, 20 year forecasts should be taken as a grain of salt... 100 years?
Second the "30% poorer" figure seems to imply 30% poorer then today. If they mean 30% poorer then what people would have been otherwise, it is misleading as well as almost certainly wrong. If they do in fact mean 30% poorer then today the statistic is too ridiculous to even spend the time refuting.
1.18.2007 2:51pm
Mark Buehner (mail):

Regardless the both the "30% poorer" and the "$533 trillion" figures are absurd. First of all there is no such thing as a reasonable 100 year economic forecast. Five year forecasts are to be viewed with skepticism, 20 year forecasts should be taken as a grain of salt... 100 years?


So what does that say about trying to predict the weather 100 years from now? We can't do that reliably 5 days in advance.
1.18.2007 2:57pm
Mark Buehner (mail):

I think that if there's even a one-per cent chance that global warming might produce catastrophic results, we need to take all possible measures to stop it, whatever the cost. Just like our response to the possibility of a terrorist attack on the United States.


When a rogue AGW induced wave flattens Manhatten and kills 3000 people I'll sit up and take notice.
1.18.2007 3:01pm
JK:

So what does that say about trying to predict the weather 100 years from now? We can't do that reliably 5 days in advance.

Almost nothing, weather and economics are two very different sciences. In fact "weather" and "climate change" are very different. One happens slightly faster then the other.


I take great solace in the adherence of Mr. Gore to the Protestant faith. One need only confess Global Warming and be saved. This doctrine is an understandable comfort to Mr. Gore's Hollywood acolytes in particular, living as they do in 10,000 square foot mansions and flying around the country in private jets. You need only believe and be spared the coming Apocalypse.


Do you really think there is an inconsistency between being for environmental legislation, and not abiding by the terms of that legislation it in the absence of it being enacted? What's the point of denying yourself luxuries if the same thing is going to happen to the planet either way?
I'm guessing concepts like, "free rider," "prisoner's dilemma," and "tragedy of the commons" mean nothing to you. This isn't exactly an area of economics/psychology were reasonable people disagree.
1.18.2007 3:07pm
AppSocRes (mail):
A fundamental issue here -- and I suspect few would disagree with me here -- is that current human institutions are not equipped to deal with a catastrophic event that affects a significant proportion of the earth's surface. (The US -- one of the most advanced countries in this regard -- had trouble dealing with hurricane damage to just one coastal region.) In light of this I find it intriguing that the people expressing the most concern about the potentially catastrophic effects of global warming basically ignore this underlying point. Instead, they advocate enormous expenditure of resources in an attempt to maintain the status quo. Wouldn't it be better to re-engineer current human institutions and infrastructure so they are flexible enough to deal with major catastrophes: Rather than a Canute-like attempt to maintain current sea levels might it not be better to think about creating urban infrastructures that make it easier to re-site coastal cities that may be threatened by flooding.
1.18.2007 3:08pm
Elliot Reed:
Why should Gore have any obligation to debate a fraud like Lomborg? He's like John Lott or Michael Bellesiles without the credibility.

I haven't seen Gore's movie and it wouldn't surprise me if it contained serious errors, but there's no reason for him to debate Lomborg.
1.18.2007 3:12pm
Fub:
Luther wrote:
Consider what is commonly considered the most straightforward solution to reducing gasoline consumption: raising the price. But Democrats started a-hollering when the price of gas tipped $3/gallon. And for all the gnashing of teeth about SUVs, I hear of no plans to levy heavy tax surcharges on large displacement engines, as is done in, say, Japan.

So to paraphrase Yogi Berra: Nothing's going to happen until it happens. (Or until running dog capitalistic market forces make it so.)
Maybe these will catch on with the running dog capitalists. Or maybe not. But they do save gasoline.
1.18.2007 3:15pm
MnZ (mail):
Elliot Reed,

The article to which you linked indicates that Lomborg is not a fraud.
1.18.2007 3:25pm
MnZ (mail):

Do you really think there is an inconsistency between being for environmental legislation, and not abiding by the terms of that legislation it in the absence of it being enacted? What's the point of denying yourself luxuries if the same thing is going to happen to the planet either way?


On the other hand, it could indicate a tendency to foist the cost of their legislation on others rather than themselves.
1.18.2007 3:37pm
PaddyL (mail):
Here are links to scientific analysis of Gore et al and references to peer reviewed research that repudiates or raises grave questions about the validity of the doom scenario.

Go to http://climatesci.atmos.colostate.edu/.

This is the URL for Climate Science: Weblog of Pielke Research Group at U of Colo State. Of particular interest is the 1/11/07 posting: Comments in the EU's Climate Change Strategy.
1.18.2007 3:51pm
TomC:
Ohfergawdssake.

You all are acting like Gore's supposed to be some brilliant scientist -- and deriding him for not being at the forefront of academic debate on the subject of anthropogenetic climate change.

He's a politician, people. That means, that like every politician -- Republican, Democrat, Green, or Whackjob Party -- he's a power-hungry narcissist who can fool himself into believing that he's far more important than he really is. Huzzah -- by showing his conceits and fallacies, you're proving that he's a politician. Politicians are not our best and brightest, folks.

As to climate change, I think I cautiously agree with EV's position. *IF* climate change is occurring, and *IF* humanity is responsible for it, then we need to make careful, sensible decisions about what to do. Doing nothing is an option if the costs of action are higher than the costs of inaction, but there are so many variables in that calculation that I, personally, know I'm not qualified to make any kind of judgement.

Since I personally am not a climatologist, an economist, or a policy maker, I'll do what I think most laypeople should do on this subject: wait and see, and reserve judgement until the facts are more clearly known.
1.18.2007 3:59pm
Toby:
There have been substantial efforts under the Bush DOE to create a technical infrastructure that would support the development of market-driven solutions to using less energy while creating market incentives for the creation of new energy sources, both on and off-site.

The pillars of the new market are

- True time of day energy pricing set by markets, not utilities commissions (this was discussed in this forum within the last two weeks)

- Actual clearing markets for alternative energies. Today a utility can sell the output of s single windmill 100 times and no one can tell. Without creating direct relationships between point producer and point consumer, no one can tell - and green energy remains under-capitalized.

- Separation of Transmission (long lines) from distribution (neighborhoods) to enable higher reliability and neighborhood sustainable generation and storage solutions to be developed and sold. If successfull, this might actually generate the revenue for early adoption of Hydrogen technologies sufficient to drive the manufacturing / knowledge / price curve.

There are other principles, but the vision is founded on the premise that there are a lot of smart people out there, not just a few smart people in government, and that the first thing we need to do is create a means whereby as many people as possible can see a way to make money by solving the problems.

One of the first efforts of the Spring will be seminars to get the new congress to not squash this aproach. Look to the new congress to throw money at a few large rent seekers, instead.

Guess which factions are more alligned with "Albert "I have the only answer" Gore.
1.18.2007 4:01pm
JK:


On the other hand, it could indicate a tendency to foist the cost of their legislation on others rather than themselves.

Hardly a tendency reserved for Hollywood elites.

BTW, don't get me wrong, the drive me crazy also, but people who spend their time bashing them strike me about as serious as the actors, etc themselves.
1.18.2007 4:23pm
Brian42:
As to climate change, I think I cautiously agree with EV's position. *IF* climate change is occurring, and *IF* humanity is responsible for it, then we need to make careful, sensible decisions about what to do.

I agree, except that the second *IF* should be removed. If global warming is a serious problem, we need to address it whether or not human activity is a primary or partial cause. Too many partisans are fixated on the "A" part of AGW; liberals want it to be true so they can use it as a club to attack capitalism, and similarly conservatives want it to be false. I'm more concerned with whether the "GW" is actually a threat, and if so what we can do to mitigate it, which may include but is by no means limited to reducing anthropogenic causes.
1.18.2007 4:26pm
Mark Buehner (mail):
If Gore and the environmental lobby were serious they would be screaming for nuclear power. If we really are catostrophically under the gun we could put a nice dent in carbon emmissions by shutting down coal fired power plants, certainly the risk of even a regional meltdown of even Chernobyl perportions pales in comparison to Gore's doomsday scenarios, so why the disconnect? Answer- nuclear power doesnt figure into the luddite, anti-capitalist mentality that is really driving this movement.

Coal burning is the second biggest cause of carbon pollution behind oil- why no push by Gore for nuclear reactor energy like France has? Because he isnt serious.
1.18.2007 4:31pm
Luther:
Do you really think there is an inconsistency between being for environmental legislation, and not abiding by the terms of that legislation it in the absence of it being enacted?
What environmental legislation? The U.S. Senate, remember, wanted nothing to do with Kyoto. Any support you hear for it now is purely in the abstract. Find me a quorum of politicians willing to support steep increases in the price of gasoline, let alone a plurality, let alone a majority. Or ramping up nuclear power production to Japanese or French levels. Or devoting massive acreage to wind farms. Let's see an actual bill. Let the sponsors step forth.

The cheap out is always CAFE standards, but CAFE standards reduce the unit cost of gasoline, making it cheaper to drive. The problem in the U.S. is not just people driving cars, but driving more of them (per capita) and driving them further (per capita).

Stricter CAFE standards only encourage this driving behavior. Simply refusing to build more highways would (eventually) encourage greater use of mass transportation. But find me a California governor willing to stake his political future on that proposition.

AppSocRes and TomC identify the real issue: this isn't about science but human behavior. How are jeremiads about global warming supposed to move people to action when those same people willingly live right on top of known tectonic faults? In flood plains? In the path of hurricanes? (Oh, and nobody listened to Jeremiah either. As a form of rhetorical persuasion, it just doesn't work.)
1.18.2007 4:34pm
JK:
Luther,
Did you read the post I was responding to? We weren't talking about politicians, we were talking about environmental activists who live extravagant lifestyles. I assure you that many of them would like to raise the cost of gasoline.

Please try to read posts before you respond.
1.18.2007 4:41pm
DeezRightWingNutz:
Brian42 hit the nail on the head. People living in earthquake-prone zones don't just throw up their hands in the face of the dangers because they they aren't anthropogenic. They take measures (hopefully ones that are cost effective) to mitigate the dangers, like better improving building standards and firefighting capabilities.
1.18.2007 4:42pm
Chimaxx (mail):
Since when can Gore's decision not to debate one man at the occasion of a newspaper interview--a man whose work was found to be so shoddy that he was sanctioned by the Danish Committee on Scientific Dishonesty and whose main support seems to come from the wingnuts at WorldNetDaily--be reasonably construed as a generalized unwillingness to debate the issues or the policy proposals?

Apropos Luther's comments about gasoline pricing: I think everyone can agree that sudden, unexpected spikes in gasoline pricing are disruptive and something to complain about, but I've already written to my congressman and senators (all Democrats) recommending Ray Magliozzi's Modest Proposal
1.18.2007 4:47pm
Mark Buehner (mail):
The more i look at energy production, it really gets me. Here's a breakdown of US carbon emissions.

We emmitted 5.8 billion metric tons of C02 emmission in 2003, and 2.1 billion of that was from coal alone. Thats 36% of US emmisions that could basically be completely eliminated via nuclear power inside of 10 years if we really were serious. France by comparison emits only 46 million metric tons of C02 from coal. Thats 2% of the coal emmissions the US produces.

So tell me who's serious about global warming being a planet threatening phenominon and who's not. We could spend 10 years replacing our coal plants with entirely nuclear, end up saving money, and make C02 orders of magnitude more than anything Kyoto would propose. Oh, but nuclear energy is scary. I forgot. Not too scary for France apparently.
1.18.2007 4:52pm
MnZ (mail):

Since when can Gore's decision not to debate one man at the occasion of a newspaper interview--a man whose work was found to be so shoddy that he was sanctioned by the Danish Committee on Scientific Dishonesty and whose main support seems to come from the wingnuts at WorldNetDaily--be reasonably construed as a generalized unwillingness to debate the issues or the policy proposals?


The Danish Committee sanctions on Lomborg were overturned by the entity that oversees them. Furthermore, they were rebuked by the same entity for not backing up their case.
1.18.2007 5:03pm
Kelvin McCabe (mail):
I dont get what all the fuss is about, the earth is only 6,000 years old. There are "scientists" who will make this claim. Scientists, in fact, will make any claim you pay them to make. Tobacco scientists will claim cigarretes are in fact safe, and nicotine is a safe, non-addictive, naturally occurring substance. Government scientists will claim that "marijuana" is a horrible and dangerous physically addicting drug, with no known medical uses and should be placed in the same restrictive category as heroine and pcp. All scientists mentioned above will have studies conducted to prove their point.

Of course, the studies dont "prove" anything. Regardless, it seems to me that the general scientific 'consenus' is that humans are contributing to the demise of our own planet. (by this i mean we are making it harder for future generations to meet basic needs, not that the earth will simply destruct) Whether it be through exponential population growth, the clear cutting of rain forests, polluting rivers, too many cars with too much exhaust, too much air borne pollution from factories, or a combination of all - we, as a species, are contributing to a problem. It may not be our problem, but if unchecked, it most certaintly will be a problem for future generations. If we can at least agree on that simple fact, maybe then we can look at ways to positively respond that require minimal individual effort and expense. Somehow, i think that agreement on even that minor point, would be met with heavy resistance.
1.18.2007 5:12pm
DeezRightWingNutz:

Somehow, i think that agreement on even that minor point, would be met with heavy resistance.


Somehow, I think you're right. I think that being poor (by world standards) is probably a much bigger problem than being middle class (by US standards) and dealing with Houston's or LA's (or Shanghai's) smog. Also, Population growth looks logarithmic to me, not exponential. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't give up my car in exchange for the elimination of the pollution from all automobiles worldwide.

The best thing we could do for future generations is to create massive amounts of wealth and increase our knowledge and productivity for them to live off. Do you curse our ancestors for their selfish industrial revolution that gave us a comfortable standard of living but a dirty Cuyahoga River?
1.18.2007 5:34pm
Aultimer:
Chimaxx: You might do better if the authority you quote isn't a comedian. Fortunately, the idea appeals to others.
1.18.2007 5:34pm
Mark Buehner (mail):

Whether it be through exponential population growth, the clear cutting of rain forests, polluting rivers, too many cars with too much exhaust, too much air borne pollution from factories, or a combination of all - we, as a species, are contributing to a problem. It may not be our problem, but if unchecked, it most certaintly will be a problem for future generations. If we can at least agree on that simple fact, maybe then we can look at ways to positively respond that require minimal individual effort and expense.


I didn't see any facts in there. Just a bunch of dire disaster scenarios that have been floated over the years, many of them (population explosion) which have taken care of themselves and indeed reversed course.

You can't argue very well with a mentality, and there is a certain mentality that seems to believe that the human way of doing things that has been wildly successful by historical context (wealth, health, life-span, leisure time, science, exploration, knowledge, art) must certainly have been so ill-gotten that we are on the verge of some horrific catasrophy of our own making... whatever the mechanism ends up being.

Seemingly it comes from whatever socialist mindset the activists that promote it almost to a person share- that capitalism, industry, and commerce are by their nature so unfair and big E Evil that they simply must be built on quicksand and certain to implode with disasterous results. That history keeps proving them wrong simply inflates the scale of the impending disaster to greater and greater heights.

Its more an argument with the nature of the universe and human society in particular than a political argument, and hence both unwinable and unfalsibiable. Which is why it is so akin to religion. It is religion.
1.18.2007 5:46pm
KactionJ (mail):
No, we can't replace all our coal plants with nuclear plants. Uranium and plutonium are not commonly occuring elements. The fact is, we don't have enough of them to replace all our coal-supplied energy needs. We get well over twice as much electricity from coal as nuclear, so we would have to more than triple our nuclear plant capacity. Not to mention that a nuclear plant generally runs over a billion dollars. With all the consternation in these comments over the economic impact of addressing the situation, where is the half a trillion to get these plants built coming from? This is not to say that nuclear power should not contribute to the solution of reducing greenhouse gases. I just get tired of people thinking there is one cure-all for the problem, rather than acknowledging the real solution is most likely to be a combination of methods.
1.18.2007 5:49pm
MnZ (mail):

Uranium and plutonium are not commonly occuring elements.


Between nuclear waste reprocessing and breeder reactors, this problem of scarcity can be largely mitigated. Furthermore, these technologies can reduce the amount nuclear waste produced.

Why haven't they been used? They haven't been fully developed. Why aren't we developing them? As Mark said, "Oh, but nuclear energy is scary."
1.18.2007 6:05pm
Mark Buehner (mail):

The fact is, we don't have enough of them to replace all our coal-supplied energy needs. We get well over twice as much electricity from coal as nuclear, so we would have to more than triple our nuclear plant capacity.


So? Like I said, France is overwhelmingly nuclear, and we still produce like 1/3rd of our electricity nuclear, yet there doesnt seem to be spiking Uranium prices noticeable enough to push our electricity bills through the roof and the com-ed nuke plants out of business.

You have any evidence Uranium is too scarce to use in power plants or are you just spit balling? Because the amount of Uranium used to produce energy is miniscule compared to coal- not to mention as far as i know it is still illegal int he US to reprocess uranium for fuel, which would obviously dramatically increase its utility per quantity.

This article claims the opposite: "Uranium is ubiquitous on the Earth. It is a metal approximately as common as tin or zinc, and it is a constituent of most rocks and even of the sea" and it goes on at length about its availability. Exactly the opposite of what you are claiming and then some.


Not to mention that a nuclear plant generally runs over a billion dollars. With all the consternation in these comments over the economic impact of addressing the situation, where is the half a trillion to get these plants built coming from?


Er, energy companies that would be chomping at the bit to build them if the red tape and lawsuits were prohibitive... just like they did 50 years ago when those hurdles werent there. Somehow nuke plants did get built lot hotcakes once upon a time.
1.18.2007 6:09pm
srp (mail):
On nuclear: In a pinch, you can use thorium reactors, too. Thorium isn't that rare.

On man-made vs. natural warming: Commenters above are correct that it should make little difference from a policy point of view IF we have policies available whose total costs (including rent seeking, political conflict, etc.) can adjust the climate to a better path. I actually think the idea is nuts on basic political economy grounds--even if there were a magic thermostat in Greenwich that could be twisted to create any average temperature desired, the fight over who sets the thermostat and where it should be set would make household fights over the living room temperature look simple. We can't even get agreement on whaling without creating a miasma of disinformation, posturing, and flouting of rules (on all sides). Oddly, we might be better off here if there were not good research on the regional impacts of average global temperature, because we could stay behind the Rawlsian veil of ignorance.

On measures to be taken: We should be putting R&D programs in place immediately to test the effectiveness of injecting reflecting sulfate particles into the upper atmosphere. This approach is vastly superior to any form of emissions reduction if it works, because it is quick to implement, can be tried out on a small scale, is reversible, and costs at least two orders of magnitude less than emission reductions. Won't do much for ocean acidity, though.
1.18.2007 6:34pm
Bored Lawyer:

If global warming is a serious problem, we need to address it whether or not human activity is a primary or partial cause. Too many partisans are fixated on the "A" part of AGW; liberals want it to be true so they can use it as a club to attack capitalism, and similarly conservatives want it to be false. I'm more concerned with whether the "GW" is actually a threat, and if so what we can do to mitigate it, which may include but is by no means limited to reducing anthropogenic causes.


The response to this is that if GW is NOT caused by anthropic sources, then there is probably very little we can do about it.

A well known (albeit debated) theory is that in approximately the 16th to the mid 19th century, much of the world experienced what was known as the "Little Ice Age" -- with bitterly cold winters and advancing of galciers in parts of the world. Some blame it on sunspots (or lack thereof) and/or volcanic activity. See this link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Ice_Age

At least part of our current warming trend may be the Earth's recovering from the "Little Ice Age."

In any case, if this theory is true, is there anything we can do to stop it? No, there isn't.
1.18.2007 6:35pm
Bored Lawyer:
Just one rather remarkable snippet from the Wikepdia article on the Little Ice Age:


Life was particularly difficult for those who lived under the constant threat of advancing glaciers in the French Alps. One, the Des Bois glacier on the slopes of Mont Blanc, was said to have moved forward "over a musket shot each day, even in the month of August."
1.18.2007 6:42pm
Luther:
JK: Dividing your conclusion into two parts, the first part I quoted (the IF statement) being irrelevant--there being no such pending legislation that one could chose to abide by or not (compare Michael J. Fox campaigning for specific legislation and candidates)--THEN the matter devolves from a pragmatic to a moral argument specific to those who offer themselves as exemplars. We would pay them no attention if they did not.

Hence, rather than an economic approach (the tragedy of the commons currently playing on the stage of China) I would offer as an analogy the fate of certain clergymen who held themselves up as our moral betters until they were shown to have feet of clay. Had the same fate befallen the guy next door we would likely shake our heads and cut him a break. It is their assumption of moral superiority that makes us less forgiving.

On the other hand, I do remember the left excoriating Reagan for talking balanced budget amendments while submitting very unbalanced budgets. There certainly is not an "inconsistency between being for environmental legislation, and not abiding by the terms of that legislation it in the absence of it being enacted." Though it does seem to depend on which foot the shoe is on. Augustine said it best: "Lord, give me chastity and continence, but not yet."
1.18.2007 7:07pm
Mark Field (mail):

Why haven't they been used? They haven't been fully developed. Why aren't we developing them? As Mark said, "Oh, but nuclear energy is scary."


I've made this point on similar threads before, but it's worth making again.

Solutions to global warming have to account for the fact that it's, well, global. That is, it doesn't matter which country is the source of the CO2; if the US reduces its share (and we do contribute a lot), not much will change if other countries make up the difference. So far, I doubt there's much dispute.

The consequence of this, though, is that any solution to global warming must be one which can be implemented in ALL countries. I think you can see where this is going: Iran has large supplies of domestic oil. If we want to wean them off that, we have to offer them an alternative. I trust few here think nuclear should be one of those options.

Nuclear may be part of the solution in the US, but unless people think it's a great idea to build nuclear power plants all over Iran, I would continue to look at alternatives.
1.18.2007 8:12pm
Toby:
As noted before (but not in this thread) one effect of vage efforts to impliment Kyoto in Europe has been the transfer of production processes from Europe, where there had been, even prior to Kyoto, much regulation of the environmental issues to the third world, where there is none.

Net effect of eary attempts at compliance in Europe? negative.

Ohh boy, we need to get us some more of that...
1.18.2007 8:43pm
JK:
Luther,
I agree that if someone was touting certain polluting practices as immoral, and at the same time engaging in those practices, they would certainly be a hypocrite. Maybe there are people doing that, I don't know of any examples, but then again I don't follow celebrity news.
My recollection is that people will say something like, "we as a country/world need to do something to limit CO2 emissions," and then they get criticized for producing these emissions in their private lives. To me this tastes of the same illogical bile as the old Republican line to the effect of, "if your so in favor of raising taxes why don't you just send a bigger check to the government." Some people may go the extreme of reducing their own pollution in order to set an example, but just because you are willing to do your part doesn't mean you have a moral obligation to be a martyr.
1.18.2007 9:09pm
Toby:
JK:
If the celebrities cited were merely using a normal amount of resources, your argument, perhaps, would carry weight. Bat as they are instead, as cited by Luther, using private jets in huge mansions, in othr words using a very much larger than "their share" of carbon, then, they are, indeed, hypcrites. And of the first order.
1.18.2007 9:19pm
Eli Rabett (www):
David Archer gives you a good idea why Avery and Singer are blowing smoke. If you want something more technical try Ganopolski and Rahmstorf in Nature, which concludes with

In the Holocene, the 1,500-year cycle is still present but is not amplied by ocean circulation instability, so that its signature is only weak.

Avery is not a climate scientist, Singer was one a long time ago, after that career he learned his new trade working for Big Tobacco.
1.18.2007 10:48pm
Eli Rabett (www):
Further with regard to Avery and Singer, there is a long comment by Eric Steig which I quote here:

Many records of past climate that stretch back 100,000 years or so -- notably ice cores, but also some marine sediments, lake sediments, etc. -- show very distinct evidence of what is typically called "millennial-scale variabilty". That is, variations in climate proxies that seem relatively large in magnitude, on timescales of 1000 years or so; arguably larger than might be expected from observed climate (we have only been watching it a bit more than 100 years). In some records, particularly those from the North Atlantic Region, but also in some other regions, the magnitude of this millennial-scale variabilty is much greater during the last glacial period -- around 11,000 to 90,000 years ago -- than it is during the most recent warm period, the Holocene (the last 11,000 years). The clearest example of this is the record of oxygen isotope ratios in the GISP2 ice core. GISP2 was one of the two deep ice cores (the other was GRIP) drilled in central Greenland, completed in 1992. It is characterized by very good dating (we know the age of the ice extremely well at each level). GISP2 is also characterized by very distinctive, abrupt increases in oxygen isotope ratios -- and we know from other, independent evidence that these are abrupt warming events. They are followed by periods of warmth, and then cooling, also abrupt sometimes. See the figure here for example, and note how much greater the variability is in the earlier part of the record that in it in the Holocene. The Vostok ice core from Antarctica is also shown in the figure. It also seems to show more variabilty in the glacial that in the Holocene, but the difference is not nearly so great, and neither the warmings nor the coolings are abrupt as they are in Greenland. In any case, the spacing of the warmings and coolings in both these records occurs on a millennial timescale. This is most easily seen in the GISP2 record, where the spacing between the obvious abrupt warming events is typically 1500 years. In fact, a spectral analysis of the record shows a very distinct period of 1500 years, that it statistically significant by most standard measures of probability. In other words, there is a "cycle" in this record. The "cycle" is not statistically significant in any other record, including in other Greenland ice cores. Nor does it appear in the Holocene in GISP2. So the case that it is a "cycle" is somewhat weak. Clearly, Singer is aware of this, which is why in his letter he writes "roughly 1500 years". But the important point is simply that these records show variabilty on timescales of millennia, and that variability seems rather large, at least prior to 11,000 years ago.

Now, it is clear from these records that climate can vary quite a bit without any input from humans. And it is tempting to attribute the ice core observations to some "cause", such a solar variabilty, as Gerard Bond did in an oft-cited paper in Science. Another standard explanation (which probably has a lot more merit) is variations in the strength of the meridional overturning circulation. It is also tempting to attribute recent variations -- e.g. the "Little Ice Age" to the same cause(s). And Singer would like, then, to attribute the current warming to the same thing(s). The problems with leaping from the GISP2 ice core to the current climate are many, and I'll just name a few. First and foremost, one would need some evidence that the purported causes are going in the right direction. If the natural cause is solar variabilty, then you have the immediate problem that the sun isn't changing measureably now. If the cause is changes in North Atlantic meridional overturning circulation, then you need evidence it is changing in the right direction. Second, one would have to explain away the forcing due to CO2. That is, if you are going to attribute the current warming to "all natural causes", you are going to have to explain why the CO2 increase is not contributing. That's going to be rather difficult, since it is very very well established physics. Third, you are going to have to explain why the entire planet (not just the North Atlantic region) is warming, which was not the case during the observed "1500-year" variations of the past.
1.18.2007 10:56pm
Truth Seeker:
Nuclear may be part of the solution in the US, but unless people think it's a great idea to build nuclear power plants all over Iran, I would continue to look at alternatives.

Talk about bogus anti-nuclear arguments! Iran is a relatively small backward country. They can use all the oil they want and it would not affect the world's CO2 much at all.

BUT even if it did, fine, let them have "nuclear power plants all over," but they are under the control of international agencies. Mullas get no access, and if they try, the plants permanently shut down with no way to restart.
1.18.2007 11:01pm
Eli Rabett (www):
Some of the grounds that Danish Ministry used to reject the findings of the Danish Committee on Scientific Dishonest are quite amusing, particularly 1, 2 and 3. Some here, I assume from their posts would find it difficult to conceive of social sciences as sciences, but 2 and 3 are funny.

1 The DCSD did not use a precise standard for deciding "good scientific practice" in the social sciences;

2 The DCSD's definition of "objective scientific dishonesty" was not clear about whether "distortion of statistical data" had to be deliberate or not;

3 The DCSD had not properly documented that The Skeptical Environmentalist was a scientific publication on which they had the right to intervene in the first place;

4 The DCSD did not provide specific statements on actual errors.

1.18.2007 11:02pm
Eli Rabett (www):
Gore did considerably more to contribute to the Internet than sponsor a bill which built out to T1. Robert Kahn and Vinton Cerf (if you don't know who they are and what they did, Google their names, but suffice it to say they should know) explain. Also there is an interesting analysis of all this as a failure in the marketplace by Heath and Bendor
1.18.2007 11:15pm
Stating the Obvious:
Gator asked: "Can someone name a point in history where the Earth's climate was static?"

Ironic way to phrase the question. As it happens, by definition Earth's climate is static at EVERY *point* in history...

As for the cost of $553Trillion dollars, please note that's over a *century*. So it's only $5.53 trillion dollars per year... :-)
1.18.2007 11:54pm
Jay Myers:
JK:

My recollection is that people will say something like, "we as a country/world need to do something to limit CO2 emissions," and then they get criticized for producing these emissions in their private lives. To me this tastes of the same illogical bile as the old Republican line to the effect of, "if your so in favor of raising taxes why don't you just send a bigger check to the government." Some people may go the extreme of reducing their own pollution in order to set an example, but just because you are willing to do your part doesn't mean you have a moral obligation to be a martyr.

On the contrary, I would claim that if you sincerely believe some action to be harmful then you have a duty non-malfeasance not to do it. Similarly, if you believe that people have some sort of duty to do something, whether it is to pay more taxes or reduce their 'carbon footprint' then you have a duty to do so regardless of what the rest of humanity does. Your duty is first and foremost a product of your personal ethical judgement and you are not any less bound by it if society fails to enshrine your conclusions in law or if all other humans act contrary to it. Neither is there any recourse to the excuse that your actions will have little effect because the rest of humanity is already acting contrary to your judgement. Even if it is true that things won't be very much worse if you follow the masses in acting wantonly, the fact remains that by your actions you are knowningly making things worse by doing something that you know to be wrong or bad.
1.19.2007 3:40am
Jonathan H. Adler (mail) (www):
Rabett --

Singer may be wrong about climate change (as I believe he is), but the evidence you cite suggesting he was "bought" on this or anything else is exceedingly weak. $20K to a think tank for a report he helped write or review is supposed to have bought someone with his credentials? Please. The case against Fred Seitz is equally weak (see, e.g., here).

More importantly, whether someone was paid to take a position has no bearing on whether the argument is true. It should be evaluated based on the evidence,. not ad hominem arguments. In the case of the Singer/Avery climate thesis, the arguments are questionable on their own terms (as some of the other items to which you link ilustrate), and that is the intellectually serious way to challenge them.

Interestingly enough, the same can be said about much (though not all) of the Surgeon General's report on second-hand smoke. Why? Because the report makes claims that are not supported or suggested by any of the studies it cites. So disputing those claims hardly illustrates "denialism."

On Lomborg, if youread the ful report and Lomborg's response, I think it is clear that -- whether one agrees with all of Lomborg's arguments or not -- the idea that he committeed "scientific dishonesty" is absurd. Ditto some of the other attacks on him, such as some of those in Scientific American.

JHA
1.19.2007 8:22am
Eli Rabett (www):
Adler, you think this was the only $$ Fred took for Tobacco?
1.19.2007 9:15am
raj (mail):
Why, thank you, Mr. Adler, but perhaps you are really too stupid to recognize that debates such as you are promoting, the one that you would like to see between Al Gore and Lombard, neither of whom are trained in the relevant science--climatology--and whose obvious intended audience--rubes such as you-- accomplishes nothing other than

(a) attract an audience of persons who are also untrained in the relevant science, which audience
(b) wants only their preconceived notions to be reinforced, by rhetorical fluorishes and unsubstantiated assertions of fact (a/k/a lies) that they will merely repeat at the debates to merely re-inforce their pre-conceived notions.

Now, given that, just how are such debates supposed to add to the public discourse on a topic of relevance to the public?

Let's understand something, Mr. Adler. I've seen too many of these "debates" that you suggest, mostly regarding evolution vs. creationism/"intelligent design"/whatever the new name of it is. The debates go along the lines as I have described. Nobody is going to be persuaded by the debates--the only thing that the attendees want is that their preconceived notions be re-inforced. So, Mr. Adler, just what would be the goal of a debate between Mr. Gore, and Mr. Lomborg regarding global warming, neither of whom is a specialist in the field? To entertain you?
1.19.2007 12:52pm
Tom952 (mail):
Its not about science, its about the process of seeking knowledge.

The truth will survive inquisition and debate. Doctrine and orthodoxy require that questions and doubts be suppressed.
1.19.2007 4:34pm
happylee:
Raj is a mean fellow. To answer his question: Adler probably likes to be entertained as much as the next fellow. Further the "debate" would confirm to the world that this matter is not settled. For this reason Gore will not debate anyone, or let anyone question the manmade global warming theory.

For some interesting additional tidbits regarding the ongoing war by the manmade global warming conspirators against truth, see this.
1.19.2007 8:12pm
Eli Rabett (www):
happylee, the science part of the debate is settled, the policy part of the debate is just starting.
1.20.2007 2:35am
dpt0101 (mail):
Raj may be a mean fellow. But I suspect he is right. First, let the climatologist do their thing. After we all agree about what the scientists say, then let the politicians/economists/lawyers debate the policy.

The fact that Al Gore is not willing to waste his time proves nothing.

Second, I agree with the people who have said the question of whether warming is man-made is irrelevant. Just because we're not to blame doesn't mean we shouldn't try to fix the problem. The relevant question is: is it a problem worth fixing?
1.20.2007 2:00pm
Well Armed Coward:
Dear Alkali,
you reply to O.K. Lawyer, who wrote:

W]hy is it not reasonable to assume that is what is happening now, just a normal weather pattern?

...by stating;

The short version is that the change in global temperatures is happening too fast for it to be the result of natural cycles. A minority view is that variations in the Sun's radiation output might be responsible for the shift.

really?

The same could be said of flat versus curved Earth.
The same could be said of heliocentric versus an Earth-centric solar (well, universe). The Pope knew the ruth, of course, but he liked the money and power. he was a whore for power (with the best intentions, of course...) so in this modern age, when things haven't changed a bit, you really need to ask yourself if the round heels are really necessary.
1.22.2007 9:01pm
Well Armed Coward:
Dear Alkali,
you reply to O.K. Lawyer, who wrote:

W]hy is it not reasonable to assume that is what is happening now, just a normal weather pattern?

...by stating;

The short version is that the change in global temperatures is happening too fast for it to be the result of natural cycles. A minority view is that variations in the Sun's radiation output might be responsible for the shift.

really?

The same could be said of flat versus curved Earth.
The same could be said of heliocentric versus an Earth-centric solar (well, universe). The Pope knew the ruth, of course, but he liked the money and power. he was a whore for power (with the best intentions, of course...) so in this modern age, when things haven't changed a bit, you really need to ask yourself if the round heels are really necessary.
1.22.2007 9:02pm
Well Armed Coward:
Opps, let's try that again...

Dear Alkali,
you reply to O.K. Lawyer, who wrote:

W]hy is it not reasonable to assume that is what is happening now, just a normal weather pattern?

...by stating;

The short version is that the change in global temperatures is happening too fast for it to be the result of natural cycles. A minority view is that variations in the Sun's radiation output might be responsible for the shift.

A minority view?

....really?

The same could be said of a flat versus curved Earth.
The same could be said of a heliocentric versus an Earth-centric solar system (well, universe). The Pope knew the truth, of course, but he liked the money and power, and was scared of the possibilities. he was a whore for power (with the best intentions, of course...). So, in this modern age, when things haven't changed a bit, you really need to ask yourself if the round heels are really necessary equipment.
1.22.2007 9:06pm