A Trench View of Climate Change

On Sunday, this blog received an instructive (and anonymous) comment that accidentally landed in the spam folder.  It’s from someone who works in U.S. state government on water-related issues (likely in the West). The comment is part of this thread, which was lively until all the typical jousting and preening by combatants overwhelmed it.  I’m featuring the comment as a stand-alone post because it offers an unvarnished perspective of someone on the ground level of government, who is positioned at the intersection of science and policy.

I work in state government on water resources management. I interact a fair amount with federal and other state officials regarding climate change mitigation and adaption policies. Executive government, in this country and elsewhere, is focused, nearly exclusively, on issues of AGW adaptation and mitigation. Much of the debate I observe on this and kindred blogs is no longer that relevant to this work.

Michael Tobis’s posts here have it about right in terms of how the policy community has  ample evidence to be obliged to move forward on mitigation and adaptation (Especially as the suite of ‘solutions’ are easily justified for other reasons and are not as deleterious economically or socially as some would claim.) [[KK: I believe the writer is referring to this comment.]]

This is not to say that transforming global energy production and consumption isn’t a massive set of challenges. But no one could dispute that the pace of technological and scientific evolution has been extraordinary since WWII (if not since the late 19th century.). Why would one assume that pace is going to slow now? It will continue to be rapid, perhaps even more so.

From the perspective of government in general, the risks of inaction on CC are huge and must be addressed now as best as possible. The science issues that inspire so much angst among the skeptics, eg Mann et al.’s composite proxies work, or analysis of met station data globally , simply don’t have much play in our current concerns and calculations.

I don’t agree with Dr. Curry’s theses, but, given her sincerity she provides a useful triangulation point for policy folks seeking to assess the impact of scientific uncertainties on current and future policy, management, planning decisions, including how ideologues of all stripes respond to and manipulate those uncertainties. With all due respect (it’s not easy!) such triangulations could be done better, and are being done better by others. [[KK: I’m very keen for the writer to suggest who some of these “others” are. Perhaps readers can offer names? Additionally, I’m not sure which “theses” the writer is referring to, but this, this, this, and this are among the comments Judith Curry contributed to that thread.]]

Those others just don’t spend a lot of time playing in the blogosphere. Despite all your energy and interest, much of the blogosphere discussion on climate science is a little limited with regard to how science/policy interfaces work and continue to evolve. Many of you must realize that those who write incessantly about climate change on blogs don’t number more than a couple of hundred. Those observing are larger in number and many, I hope, are those who actually will have to make the legislative and executive decisions that over time will determine our collective future. It would be good to keep in mind that such readers are pretty skilled and experienced at separating the wheat from the chaff, and in assessing risks to public health, safety, and welfare from a systemic perspective.

Fundamentally, the use of science to advance particular political positions is hardly unique to climate policy. It occurs continually in every public policy domain.

Having said that, here’s my truncated take on the sciences relevant to CC: In my experience, with regard to AGW the policy consequences of our current state of scientific knowledge and data, the risk spectrum, are unusually clear. The debates y’all are engaged in are particularly heated because the outputs of contemporary climate and geosciences are extraordinarily consequential for human civilization, not because the science itself is imbued with unusually significant uncertainties (and certainly not fraud).

110 Responses to “A Trench View of Climate Change”

  1. Judith Curry says:

    This is an interesting post.  For clarity regarding my own statements, they refer to issues surrounding the integrity of climate science, not about climate/energy policy (which I explicitly stay away from).

  2. Curry: For clarity regarding my own statements, they refer to issues surrounding the integrity of climate science, not about climate/energy policy (which I explicitly stay away from).
     
    That is pretty much why some of us think they are problematic.
     
    The critiques would not generate any interest outside a fraught policy context. To bend over backwards to address all the critiques, as Judith advocates, while avoiding addressing the policy context is scientifically sound and politically unsound
     
    Because the purpose of the critiques is primarily political, not scientific, scientists taking them at face value enhances their political clout. It is necessary for the scientist addressing such concerns to explicitly state the policy implications of any doubts raised. Otherwise it is nearly certain that the conversation, however intended, will be (perhaps willfully, perhaps merely from well-intentioned wishful thinking) misconstrued and misused.
     
    We climate scientists simply don’t have the option of an apolitical conversation with the public. Consider this story told by Kevin Trenberth (from Tom Yulsman’s site):


    Recently, a news crew from a television station in Denver came to speak with Kevin Trenberth, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder.



    “They were interested in the role of El Niño in the cold weather we’ve been experiencing,” Trenberth said during a presentation today at NCAR to the CEJ’s environmental journalism fellows.
    So far, so good. But then after the interview was over, the reporter said that his superiors back at the station wanted to know “who was going to do the other side.”

     

  3. willard says:

    > Fundamentally, the use of science to advance particular political positions is hardly unique to climate policy. It occurs continually in every public policy domain.
     
    It would be interesting to have some examples of comparable discussions in other public policy domains.

  4. Judith Curry says:

    Michael, you are basically describing postnormal science, and my efforts have been to try to keep climate research from becoming postnormal. I agree with the original post, energy policy and adaptation to  to weather/climate extremes can and should proceed without any need for climate alarmism or artificially reducing the uncertainties associated with climate change science to try to “motivate” policy.

  5. Steve Bloom says:

    willard, the commenter’s own field of Western (U.S.) water policy is a prime example.  The Aquafornia blog would be a good place to get a sampling. 

    Judy, you ignore (rather obtusely by now, IMHO) that “energy policy and adaptation” (did you intentionally omit mitigation?) suitable to the scale of the problem is having a hard time proceeding given the activities of the forces of denial and delay.  Mere inertia would make things quite hard enough.

  6. Keith Kloor says:

    Steve,

    Can you connect the dots for me on that one. I’m not seeing any evidence of cause & effect there, that the “forces of denial and delay” are impeding climate mitigation or adaptation.

    What “forces” are you referring to?

  7. willard says:

    Steve,  we need as many examples as we can.
    ***
    Judith Curry,
    .
    Here is a paragraph where Ravetz describes  normal science :
    .
    > Now, as Kuhn saw, this “˜normal’ science has been enormously successful in enabling our unprecedented understanding and control of the world around us.  But his analysis related to the sciences of the laboratory, and by extension the technologies that could reproduce stable and controllable external conditions for their working.  Where the systems under study are complicated, complex or poorly understood, that “˜textbook’ style of investigation becomes less, sometimes much less, effective.  The near-meltdown of the world’s financial system can be blamed partly on naïvely reductionist economics and misapplied simplistic statistics.  The temptation among “˜normal’ scientists is to work as if their material is as simple as in the lab.  If nothing else, that is the path to a steady stream of publications, on which a scientific career now so critically depends.  The most obvious effect of this style is the proliferation of computer simulations, which give the appearance of solved puzzles even when neither data nor theory provide much support for the precision of their numerical outputs.  Under such circumstances, a refined appreciation of uncertainty in results is inhibited, and even awareness of quality of workmanship can be atrophied.
    .
    Without entering into the exegesis of Kuhn, we could see that your idea of staying out of the post-normal science (about which Kuhn had the concept of crisis anyway, so IMHO there is no real need for any post-normality) is not Ravetz’.  As he seems to imply that getting back to normal science might not be the best idea, if possible at all.

  8. Steve Bloom says:

    I don’t think anyone else here is unclear on the concept, willard, maybe because in the U.S. such disputes tend to be more apparent than elsewhere since they’re focused on legally-required environmental review documents.  As for specific examples, I really did point you to a good place. 

  9. JimR says:

    I think examples would be interesting for comparison. Additionally since the question regarded “every public policy domain” I don’t think a blog related to the original author’s area is going to provide examples from across the public policy domain.
     
    Personally I feel that climate science moved from a purely academic field to the center of a major public policy area so quickly that it hasn’t had time to adjust.   I agree with Willard that it would be interesting to have some examples of comparable discussions in other public policy domains.  How do other areas of science deal with the public interest that comes with public policy discussions?

  10. Steve Bloom says:

    Re #6:  Be serious, Keith.

  11. Judith, the fact is that the whole cast of characters at Heartland are extremely postnormal.
     
    This is obvious from the way Heartland arranges their meetigns, as opposed to the way normal scientific meetings of comparable scale are designed.  Most smallish meetings have a narrow focus and a broad range of speakers, whereas  Heartland has a very broad territory and welcomes anyone with a half-coherent story as to why the greenhouse sensitivity must be small. And their mission statement is explicitly market libertarian. Do you really consider the participation of such an enterprise in climate science anything but postnormal?
     
    There are huge swaths of climate science that are unaffected by this, and one can manage to stay there and never answer the dreaded “do you believe in global warming” question or the even more hopeless “is Al Gore right” one.
     
    (Of course, one needs to have cocktail party deflection techniques. When I’m asked my profession and am not in the mood to be the center of controversy at a party, I just say I’m a geophysicist and talk about sonar. Most people move on quickly enough that they fail to discover that I’m not, for the most part, that kind of geophysicist.)
     
    It’s true that you never know when postnormalcy will bite. I know of a promising line of tropical storm research that was abandoned when the investigator found out what sorts of absurdly political and hostile irrelevancies had gotten attached to the question.
     
    But surely engaging with people whose motivation is highly political is not the way to avoid the issue. Now I am not saying nobody should engage them, obviously. I’m just saying that once you do engage, you can’t just play the game on their terms.
     
    They are not really playing the game that we are playing, although they say they are and many of them actually think they are. Engaging with Heartland types is a political, not a scientific act.
     
    There’s nothing wrong with that. Denning did a creditable job. But it seems to me and to others that you have to be doubly clever, and play both games at once, as he in fact did very nicely.
     

  12. Judith Curry says:

    As described in this essay from the science media centre, other issues like genetically modified foods, vaccines, human-animal embryos, swine flu have been surrounded by controversies that share a few elements with the climate change issue.  The issues related to human/animal embryos (point #8) in this essay were especially interesting to me, and also points about communicating uncertaint.

  13. Excellent post.

    Scientific uncertainty (either way) is often used as a proxy for a policy argument (either way). As mt pointed out in the other thread, it is often done incoherently. (Advocating against emission reduction requires a high certainty of benign effects/low climate sensitivity; all other quarters in the x-y space of (un)certainty and sensitivity would rationally mean that emission reduction should be stepped up as compared to current efforts.

    I’d say that the main problem now is, that given our current understanding of climate change, how are we going to respond? There is no such thing as “˜no response’. Any action (including business as usual) is a response, and it better be decided on rationally and based on all the available evidence. 

  14. Judith Curry says:

    Here is another interesting article that is relevant, with a quote:
    “Bringing about sound public judgment requires two distinctly different steps. The first is to get the issue onto the forefront of the public agenda, endow it with urgency, and present a range of choices for dealing with it. The second, more difficult, step is to engage the public with sufficient intensity and focus to achieve resolution.

    Our society has excellent mechanisms for the first step: placing issues before the public. The media, as well as political and civic leadership, are highly skilled at raising awareness of key issues, as can be seen in the increased public concern about global warming. Awareness by itself, however, is not enough. All too often, the media beat the drums for an issue, get people aroused, and then abandon it for the next issue, leaving the public hanging and the issue unresolved. Moving people beyond awareness to judgment and resolution is far more arduous. It requires considerable “working through” as the public seeks to reconcile possible courses of action with their own deeply held beliefs and habits.

    Global warming, for example, is stalled at the threshold of this phase: Awareness of the issue is growing, but thus far the public has resisted coming to terms with the tradeoffs involved in any serious solution. Should we permit an international agreement such as the Kyoto treaty to constrain our domestic policies? Is a push for alternative fuels worth the high cost of the investment? Should our control of carbon dioxide emissions be so stringent that it limits economic growth? The public must come to judgment on these and similar questions of values before any sustainable policy can be put into place.”
     
    Blaming the “activities of denial and delay” misses the most important issue, which i think is described very well in the above quote.  “We”  (policy makers and scientists) have failed in presenting a range of choices:  right now, the perception is that there are two choices, do nothing and the UNFCCC policies.

  15. […] Quote of the day Posted by ScruffyDan on May 27, 2010 at 9:47 am | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0) In my experience, with regard to AGW the policy consequences of our current state of scientific knowledge and data, the risk spectrum, are unusually clear. The debates y’all are engaged in are particularly heated because the outputs of contemporary climate and geosciences are extraordinarily consequential for human civilization, not because the science itself is imbued with unusually significant uncertainties (and certainly not fraud). ““Anonymous U.S. state government on water-related issues (likely in the West) […]

  16. willard says:

    Craig Venters and his team has created a bacterial cell controlled by a chemically synthetized genome.  Here is a moderated discussion:
    .
    http://www.edge.org/discourse/creation/creation_index.html
    .
    It would be interesting to see how a blog conversation about this kind of topic would evolve.  We could already imagine a Team Jekyll and a Team Hyde.

  17. Steve Bloom says:

    Judy:  “the perception is that there are two choices, do nothing and the UNFCCC policies.”

    That’s painfully, obviously wrong.

  18. Sloop says:

    I appreciate the call for me to fill out some of the points I sketched in this post. I can’t now but will try to do so later. I work for a New England state on advancing  systems-based approaches to managing fresh and marine aquatic environments and their sustainable development.

  19. Agree with Steve -re public perception.
     
    But Judith I can’t see how you can believe “denial and delay” has not confused the public and created the conditions for paralysis or  being stalled. That was the goal of many pushing the denial agenda.

  20. Judith Curry says:

    Conduct a thought experiment:  lets say everyone agrees that the science is settled, that we can expect 2C warming by 2100.  That still doesn’t remove all the obstacles to climate policy.  The libertarians will still think that the best solution to reducing vulnerability is economic development, and will argue against any policy that impairs economic development. People will be arguing whether and how the various caps will actually help the climate (and people will start arguing about what the optimal climate actually is).  The evangelicals that buy into dominion theology will still think it is ok to do what we want with the earth, 2nd coming and all that.  And then there are the technological issues of actually accomplishing the transition from fossil fuels even if we have the political will.  And then there are the economic issues associated with the transition from fossil fuels, which could cause more net harm than climate change.  So to attribute the lack of a climate policy to the science deniers and delayers is simply mistaken.

  21. Judith Curry says:

    oops make that 3C warming
     

  22. willard says:

    The thought experiment supposes that the attribution is logical.  But it is not.  It is supposed to be factual.
    .
    Besides, talking about science still is more interesting for those who endorse unpopular, if not outright refuted, political beliefs.
    .
    The thought experiment should lead to questions like, for instance: do the evanlegicals prefer to talk about science, or about their economical and religious beliefs?

  23. Judith Curry says:

    Jon Foley has an interesting essay that raises an issue that could rival global climate change in importance (and isn’t entirely unrelated)

  24. dhogaza says:

    ” So to attribute the lack of a climate policy to the science deniers and delayers is simply mistaken.”
    Arguing about solutions is qualitatively different than arguing about whether or not there’s a problem in need of a solution.
    When we get to the point of arguing about solutions, that will be a step forward.  For a few years it seemed like we were almost there.  We’ve taken steps backwards, and if you don’t believe the concerted effort by deniers to undermine the science – an effort you’re participating in – has had no effect is patently silly.
    Remember John McCain, who once was vehement about the existence of the problem?  He’s caved.  He’s not the only one.
    I can see why you want to argue that the McIntyres and Heartland Institutes of the world aren’t the problem, seeing as you’re aiding and abetting and are yourself part of the problem.  I can see why you don’t want to accept responsibility.

  25. Steve Bloom says:

    Some people here have a hard time with reading comprehension.  I wrote in #5:

    ‘Judy, you ignore (rather obtusely by now, IMHO) that “energy policy and adaptation” (did you intentionally omit mitigation?) suitable to the scale of the problem is having a hard time proceeding given the activities of the forces of denial and delay.  Mere inertia would make things quite hard enough.’

    Could it be that I meant something by that last sentence, which is to say the literal mneaning that we are faced with a problem that would be difficult even in the absence of the forces of denial and delay?  

  26. Steve Bloom says:

    Oh yes, Foley.  There’s no doubt that we have problems aside from climate change, and land use is very high on the list.  But did you notice how he declared victory on climate change in the first paragraph?  If only.

  27. Steve Bloom says:

    Re #20:  Oh, why not let’s make it 5C warming per Lunt et al. (2010).  Charney is so 20th-century.

    But of course you’re right, even that won’t overcome the resistance, in considerable part because most people will still think the worst effects will be beyond their lifetime.  As I’ve mentioned to Keith, some sociologists believe that people will have to be whacked up side the head with some pretty nasty events in order to get them properly focused on the problem.  A few weeks of ice-free summer Arctic ocean isn’t going to do the job, I’m afraid, however riveting the climate literate may find it.

    While I’m on the subject, something that might do it for the U.S. is a series of especially nasty hurricane seasons, which per Kerry Emanuel and Jim Elsner may be in our near future.  Starting this year, even, so long as all the pieces of the puzzle maintain their present status. 

  28. Keith Kloor says:

    Judith (23):

    I discussed Foley’s essay here. The premise of his piece (which i agree with) gives some climate advocates heartburn.

  29. GFW says:

    J. Curry wrote (with correction): “Conduct a thought experiment: lets say everyone agrees that the science is settled, that we can expect 3C warming by 2100.”

    Er, but isn’t the point that different policies can actually influence that number? It’s more like “if we go whole hog on every fossil fuel available, then 4-5C, with mild mitigation 3C … ”

    Agreed that the number doesn’t matter to a Dominionist, but if the consequences of 2C are compared to the consequences of 4C, everyone from Marx to Rand is likely to express a strong preference for achieving 2C. Disagreement on the specifics of *how* to achieve it are perfectly reasonable, and to be expected.

  30. I think Judith Curry is correct in her thought experiment that there are many hurdles besides denialism in dealing with the climate change challenge. But it’s a bit too easy to then jump to the conclusion that therefore denialism/contrarianism is no problem. The argument is really about conflicting ideologies, but is fought over science as a proxy. It’s not only contrarians who are guilty of doing that; many on the green side also contributed to that dynamic. It seems however that right now, it is mainly the contrarians who are trying to block efforts to move the discussion forward into how to deal with this challenge, and they do so by attacking the science. In response, scientists and activists alike retort to defending the science, instead of re-framing the discussion in terms of ideologies/politics/response strategies. To which the defense is always: “But first we have to agree that there actually is a problem worth addressing!” Mission succeeded.

  31. sod says:

    i disagree completely Judith. if we all agree on 3°C change, we would start acting NOW.
     
    there would be minor differences about what to do when, but nothing even remotely comparable to the nonsense we are seeing at the moment.
    the “uncertainty” is produced by denialists organisations for a reason: they know that it is their strongest weapon against action. they have learned this, for example, during their tobacco campaign.
     
    with out it, the world would be a different one. you are, again, completely wrong on this.
     

  32. sod says:

    oh, and one final point: take a look at the AR4 report on 2100 temperature projections: (page 13)
    http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/wg1/ar4-wg1-spm.pdf
    you need to be really optimistic, in picking your scenario, if you want a warming range that does not include a 3°C rise.
    so Judith’s <i>”lets say everyone agrees that the science is settled, that we can expect 3C (EDIT) warming by 2100.”</i> is actually what scientists agree on already. it is as settled as science gets!
     
    so who do we need to convince for Judith? the George Marshall Institute??

  33. Judith Curry says:

    The statement in America’s Climate Choices is

    “Projections of future climate change anticipate an additional warming of 2.0 to 11.5 oF (1.1 to 6.4 oC) over the 21st century, on top of the 1.4 oF already observed over the past 100 years.”
     
    So the science might be “settled”, but that is still a very large range.   Again for the sake of argument, lets “settle” on 3C.    We probably wouldn’t start acting now even if this was settled.
     
    There is a new book out that I have found very insightful by Brunner and Lynch entitled “Adaptive Governance and Climate Change“.   Excerpt from the description:
     

    “While recent years have seen undeniable progress in international acknowledgement both of the dangers of climate change and the importance of working to mitigate it, little has actually been done. Emissions continue to rise, and even the ambitious targets set by international accords would fall far short of the drastic cuts that are needed to prevent catastrophe.

    With Adaptive Governance and Climate Change, Ronald D. Brunner and Amanda H. Lynch argue that we need to take a new tack, moving away from reliance on centralized, top-down approaches””the treaties and accords that have proved disappointingly ineffective thus far””and towards a more flexible, multi-level approach. Based in the principles of adaptive governance””which are designed to produce programs that adapt quickly and easily to new information and experimental results””such an approach would encourage diversity and innovation in the search for solutions, while at the same time pointedly recasting the problem as one in which every culture and community around the world has an inherent interest.”
     
    Cap and trade, cap and tax, cap and dividend, whether the cap is 450, 550 ppm etc., is one policy option under different guises.  Until we figure out how to secure the common interests (and they are local), I don’t think the capping policy options will be viable.
     
    A much better selling point might be “vulnerability“, which touches on Jon Foley’s point also.   A quote from Roger Pielke Sr.:
    “There are 5 broad areas that we can use to define the need for vulnerability assessments : water, food, energy, health andecosystem function. Each area has societally critical resources. The vulnerability concept requires the determination of the major threats to these resources from climate, but also from other social and environmental issues. After these threats are identified for each resource, then the relative risk from natural- and human-caused climate change (estimated from the GCM projections, but also the historical, paleo-record and worst case sequences of events) can be compared with other risks in order to adopt the optimal mitigation/adaptation strategy.”
     
    These are are examples of other policy options that aren’t getting much air time, and I think they should.

  34. Keith Kloor says:

    Bart (30):

    For the purposes of this discussion, I think it’s worth reiterating that climate change is already on the table at a policy and management level. That’s the take-home message for me of this post. This water management official is saying, essentially, we’re (at a state level) already factoring climate change into our decision-making, regardless of all these debates over uncertainty and the controversies that consume the media and the blogosphere.

    BTW, this is not foreign to me. Most of my career has been spent writing about wildlife and the environment, so one year ago, shortly after I started this blog, I called up a bunch of U.S. Fish & Wildlife biologists (some of whom I worked with on stories 12 years ago) to ask them how climate change was or wasn’t affecting their management plans. Their responses were very similar to this guest poster, at least in terms of how integral climate change has become in their decision-making. You can see those posts here, here, and here.

    So  if we know adaptation to climate change is already part of state and federal management, then we can safely assume that ideologues are not blocking those efforts. Now, as for the larger mitigation policies necessary to reduce carbon emissions, yeah, no doubt that Climate Depot et al is working against that. But I really believe that Morano and Inhofe are just a convenient foil to blame inaction on (along with the media).

    Until climate advocates engage in good faith with the criticisms raised in the Hartwell paper (rather than reflexively dismissing them), then that sort of blame game will continue to be played.

    As you observe, The argument is really about conflicting ideologies, but is fought over science as a proxy. It’s not only contrarians who are guilty of doing that; many on the green side also contributed to that dynamic.

    In this vein, I think climate advocates are more comfortable having that proxy war over science. Otherwise, they’d have to really engage in the messy policy debate and all its complexities, which were on full display at Copenhagen. I’m not seeing much evidence of that in the blogosphere (just people arguing over carbon tax vs cap and trade, offsets, and so on.)

    So I find it rather interesting that the biggest reaction to posts at this blog are often in response to science and not policy issues. Last week I tried to kickstart a dialogue on climate policy by posting Q & A’s with the Hartwell authors and it raised few hackles. Of course, I didn’t need that tepid reaction to tell me that climate advocates just aren’t comfortable dealing with the messy policy equation.

    In fact, based on the little progress made on the international front (and here in the U.S.), I’m starting to think that climate advocates are denialists with respect to the ineffectiveness of climate policy. (The exceptions are people like James Hansen and Bill McKibben. They get that the framework for existing carbon policy is failing.) Yet, there is no honest and open debate about this by the climate establishment. (And this guy does all he can to keep it that way.)

    If there is one thing I would agree that the media can do a much better job on, it’s engaging full on with international and national climate policy issues.

  35. Sashka says:

    Bart (13)

    I don’t thing anybody is against emission reduction per se. The question is how much we are willing to pay for it. We’ll it depends on uncertainty. People who are incoherently pushing forward for reduction tend to ignore the cost-benefit analysis under uncertain probability distribution. I agree that’s very hard but it’s not an excuse to turn the table and to accuse the opposing side of the same sin. The burden of proof is on them and they don’t have it.

  36. Judith Curry says:

    Speaking of hurricanes, it does indeed look like a very active hurricane season.  In NOAA’s forecast that was released yesterday, 14-23 named storms.  It is my “prediction” that if the NOAA forecast fails to bound the actual observations, it will be because their forecast was too low.  Its possible that this season could be worse than 2005.
     
    For the sake of argument, assume that 2010 hurricane season is as bad as 2005, with multiple landfalls of major hurricanes.   In 2005, Hurricane Katrina became a major focusing event for global warming.  For the first time, people understood that a temperature increase of 1-2C could have substantially adverse impacts if it caused hurricane intensity to increase.
     
    So if we do have a very bad hurricane season (and in this instance, i can only hope that my “prediction” is incorrect), it will be interesting to see how the public, policy makers, and climate advocates react, and how the reaction is different relative to that in response to the 2005 hurricane season.  There is obviously a large element of natural variability (the 2009 hurricane season was decidedly wimpy).  The main thing I will be watching is the number of cat 4 and 5 hurricanes, which is the metric that has been most consistently linked to increasing SSTs.

  37. Sashka says:

    Dr. Curry,

    I don’t see why this hurricane season should be of any particular importance in the context of this conversation. It’s just another data point.

  38. Judith Curry says:

    Sashka, from a scientific and rational perspective, I agree with you.  But we already have Steve Bloom in #27 talking about the role of “nasty hurricane seasons.”  It will be interesting to see if any “climate alarmists” attribute a high hurricane season to global warming, and whether a strong hurricane season reminds the public of why they were worried about global warming following Hurricane Katrina.  I hope that both scientists and the public have matured beyond this, but it will be interesting to see.

  39. Keith Kloor says:

    If there is a nasty hurricane season, I think it’s a pretty safe bet that climate advocates will try to make the global warming link.   (And if the press doesn’t oblige, then it’s also a safe bet that they will hear about it from America’s fiercest climate blogger.)

    How scientists will react is far less certain. That will indeed be interesting, Judith.

  40. So, Joe Romm’s blog will be running the national climate news cycle re: hurricanes, but the denial blogs aren’t significantly driving the inaction on climate change response.
    wheres’ that  ‘rolleyes’ emoticon when I need it?
     

  41. Rather than just be snarky, let me give a POV.  Over the long term, ‘skeptical’  views — call them ‘denialists’ and ‘lukewarmers’  if you like — have had a varying influence on the public debate over the science and the policy.
    For much of the 2000’s,  ‘accepting’  views  — call them  ‘alarmists’ and ‘warmists’ — were ascendant.  But I think it’s undeniable that in the SHORT term — since last November — ‘skeptical’ voice has been amplified in the debate,  probably increasing their influence in high places (at least on the Republican side).    We may not be seeing all the policy blowback of that yet, though we’re already hearing the rhetoric informed by it,  from Inhofe, McCain, et al.
    It could to some degree get neutralized by the oil spill and by a bad hurricane season, or even an especially hot/dry summer.   That’s the way public perceptions work. But right now we’re in a part of the cycle where ‘skeptic’ voices are prominent.  They  *aren’t* beside the point, which is a narrative that Kloor and Curry seem to be pushing.
     
     

  42. Keith Kloor says:

    Steven (40):

    I’m not getting your point, but I will note that some readers at WUWT are gearing up for big hurricane season too.

    I’ll ask the same question that I asked of Steve Bloom: where’s the connection between “denial blogs” or the “forces of denial and delay” (Steve’s term) and policy inaction?

    Steve asked (#6) me to “be serious.” I am being serious. I would like you or anyone on this thread to explain to me how climate skeptics or “denialists” or the Heartland group or conservative/libertarian think tanks/oil companies influenced the outcome at Copenhagen.  Please, just humor me. Connect some dots for me.

    When will climate advocates see that this continuing obsession with “denialists” is a major distraction from talking about climate policy. I’ve already demonstrated that I’m willing to engage on the policy issues and I will continue to do so.  Are you ready to talk about policy? Or do you want to keep harping about “forces of denial and delay” that have no demonstrable impact on international climate negotiations and policy.

  43. Keith Kloor says:

    Steven (41):

    Maybe if a Republican president was still in the White House, or maybe if Republicans held one chamber in Congress, I’d consider you had a leg to stand on.

    The only thing that’s undeniable is that you have nothing but your point of view to make this grand claim that “denialists” have such sway. All you’re doing is giving Morano undeseserved credit and he’s eating it up.

  44. sod says:

    Jim Inhof is a denialist and an influential seantor. without the senate, there is no action on climate change.
    the republicans are against CO2 legislation. the denialists give them “scientific” reasons to support that position.
     
    hell, Monckton was called up as a “scientific” witness by the republicans!

  45. Keith Kloor says:

    Sod (44):

    John Kerry is a AGW proponent and influential senator and lead sponsor of the climate bill. Democrats have a majority.

    Are you telling me that if the Congressional climate bill doesn’t get passed, it’ll be because of Inhofe and people like Monckton?

  46. Sashka says:

    Dr. Curry,

    I agree with Keith: there is nothing interesting to observe in this respect. The alarmist have long established their position and it’s not going to changed by any observed facts:

    Nasty hurricane season is due to GW. Mild hurricane season means nothing. Amen

  47. Steve Bloom says:

    Re #38:  Matured to the point of ignoring the clear connection between increasing Atlantic TC trends and AGW-induced lower stratospheric cooling?  Now that is mature indeed.

    Re #39:  Keith, why open your mouth on the subject if you have absolutely no idea as to the state of the science?  For myself, I’m entirely open to an explanation from Judy as to why Emanuel and Elsner are wrong, but until then I’ll have to accept their results.

  48. Judith Curry says:

    Steve Bloom, i was not referring to a trend in hurricane activity, but rather to the effect of a single damaging season on the public’s perception of the hurricane-global warming issue.
    For the latest assessment of the hurricane and global warming issue (includes Emanuel as a coauthor), see here:
    “Whether the characteristics of tropical cyclones have changed or will change in a warming climate “” and if so, how “” has been the subject of considerable investigation, often with conflicting results. Large amplitude fluctuations in the frequency and intensity of tropical cyclones greatly complicate both the detection of long-term trends and their attribution to rising levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases. Trend detection is further impeded by substantial limitations in the availability and quality of global historical records of tropical cyclones. Therefore, it remains uncertain whether past changes in tropical cyclone activity have exceeded the variability expected from natural causes. However, future projections based on theory and high-resolution dynamical models consistently indicate that greenhouse warming will cause the globally averaged intensity of tropical cyclones to shift towards stronger storms, with intensity increases of 2″“11% by 2100. Existing modelling studies also consistently project decreases in the globally averaged frequency of tropical cyclones, by 6″“34%. Balanced against this, higher resolution modelling studies typically project substantial increases in the frequency of the most intense cyclones, and increases of the order of 20% in the precipitation rate within 100 km of the storm centre. For all cyclone parameters, projected changes for individual basins show large variations between different modelling studies.”

    In his most recent presentation at the AMS Hurricane and Tropical Meteorology Conference (a few weeks ago in Tucson; note the AMS is way behind in updating its website), Kerry Emanuel says he has little confidence in any of the climate model projections of future hurricane activity owing to the inability of the 20th century climate model simulations to capture the observed trend in upper tropospheric temperatures (the topic of debate between Douglass and Santer; the latest unpublished research makes me side with Douglass on this one).  This issue is highly relevant to Emanuel’s model of hurricane intensity, which depends on upper tropospheric temperatures.

    Bottom line:  the issue of hurricanes and global warming is not settled.  I think the the IPCC AR4 got it right in their assessment:

    “There is observational evidence for an increase of intense tropical cyclone activity in the North Atlantic since about 1970, correlated with increases of tropical sea surface temperatures. There are also suggestions of increased intense tropical cyclone activity in some other regions where concerns over data quality are greater. Multi-decadal variability and the quality of the tropical cyclone records prior to routine satellite observations in about 1970 complicate the detection of long-term trends in tropical cyclone activity. . . Based on a range of models, it is likely that future tropical cyclones (typhoons and hurricanes) will become more intense, with larger peak wind speeds and more heavy precipitation associated with ongoing increases of tropical SSTs. There is less confidence in projections of a global decrease in numbers of tropical cyclones. The apparent increase in the proportion of very intense storms since 1970 in some regions is much larger than simulated by current models for that period.”
     
     
    For anyone interested in further background on this issue, see here

  49. Steve Bloom says:

    Keith, as they are the public face of opposition to progress it’s very easy to imagine that the overt denialists have over more influence than is in fact the case.  I think it’s better to describe them as the tip of the iceberg, but regardless it seems peculiar to try to discount their role to zero.  The Kochs and Scaifes of the world know what they’re buying and I’m pretty sure they think they’re getting their money’s worth.

    The non-denier forces of delay are the larger, more important grouping, although we should not ignore the extent to which the deniers create a comfort zone for them.

    As for Copenhagen, it’s been clear for a while that the dog of a broad international agreement will have to be wagged by the tail of an agreement between the major players.  Regardless of that, though, we can examine what factors in U.S. domestic politics have resulted in a lack of a consensus favoring a strong climate policy, since that in turn makes it very difficult for progress to be made in international negotiations (although it’s not the only factor in that).  

    It’s difficult to deny that the U.S. Senate’s 60-vote “requirement” and its unrepresentative nature are a roadblock, but then they’re a roadblock to lots of other things just now.  It might be more instructive to look at the Waxman-Markey bill passed by the House.  It was relatively weak primarily because of Democrats (not deniers for the most part) representing economic interests insisting that if things are to go ahead the pain must be shared equally.  

    That sort of legislative process would be difficult regardless, but I think it’s hard to make a case that the steady stream of denialist propaganda had no effect, in this case by watering the bill down.  Would the bill have been adequate in the absence of that propaganda?  Very probably not. 

    The foregoing is a very brief take on a subject that could easily fill a book.  Come to think of it I believe Naomi Oreskes just came out with one.

  50. Keith Kloor says:

    Steve,

    I was in the process of opening my mouth ever so slightly with a citation of the same Nature Geosciences paper, just to show you that I’m doing my level best to keep up with you. But then Judith beat me to it.

    But while I have my mouth open, let me share some quotes that put this in a larger context.

    “One gets used to being mistaken, and we follow the evidence and sometimes the evidence is contradictory and then we have to sort it out.”

    That would be Kerry Emanuel in this 2008 article.

    Here’s another quote from someone in that same article, on a related issue that doesn’t seem to be part of the debate:

    “Pretty much every hurricane scientist that you’ll talk to will say that coastal overdevelopment is probably the biggest issue affecting hurricane damages in the coming century.”

    That would be Jeff Masters, of Weather Underground.

  51. Steve Bloom says:

    Re #48:  Staking your academic reputation on Douglass being right, Judy?  No doubt his prior record of scholarship gives you the necessary confidence.

    Re the hurricane business, what persuaded me to pay extra-special attention to Kerry’s latest was the amazing finding that the people doing the hurricane modeling had neglected to account for the sharp decline in lower stratospheric temperatures.   I believe there’s a word for that:  D’oh!   

    And why do you say upper tropospheric temps?  Kerry doesn’t.  His conclusions:

    “Observations suggest that the lower tropical stratosphere has been cooling over the last few decades. While the NCAR/NCEP reanalysis captures this cooling over the Atlantic during hurricane season, GCMs largely fail to simulate it. The cooling, especially when coupled to increasing SSTs, results in a large reduction of outflow temperature, an important component of potential intensity. The potential intensity, in turn, not only governs the intensity of tropical cyclones, but is an important component in setting the frequency of storms, as suggested both by downscaling studies and contemporary genesis indices. Atlantic tropical cyclone activity downscaled from NCAR/NCEP reanalyses after 1980 show remarkably good agreement with observed tropical cyclone activity during that period, but when the same technique is applied to two AGCMs forced by observed SSTs and sea ice, the substantial increase in Atlantic tropical cyclone activity after 1990 is almost completely absent, even though the simulations agree well with the historical data before about 1965. Since all the simulations use very similar SSTs, this suggests that the upswing in Atlantic activity since about 1990 is largely owing to the cooling of the stratosphere, which the GCMs fail to simulate.

    “Whatever the cause of the observed stratospheric cooling, the fact that climate models do not simulate it and that it is apparently an important influence on tropical cyclones together warrant lower confidence in recent projections of the response of tropical cyclones to global warming.” 

    “Lower confidence” is quite delicately put, don’t you agree?

  52. Steve Bloom says:

    Re #50:  You’re not keeping up with me, Keith.  What’s ironic is that Kerry would have been figuring out that the conclusions of that earlier paper were incorrect just about the time it saw print. 

  53. Keith Kloor says:

    Steve (49),

    As it happens, Merchants of Doubt is sitting on my desk, already marked up. I highly recommend it, if you haven’t read it yet. (I’m also familiar with this kind of history.)

    The problem I have with Oreskes’ (and Conway’s)  book is this conflation, on page 267:

    “The failure of the United States to act on global warming and the long delays between when the science was settled and when we acted on tobacco, acid rain, and the ozone hole are prima facie empirical evidence that doubt-mongering worked.”

    The key difference between the former and the latter three examples is one of impacts. The negative impacts from tobacco, acid rain and the ozone hole could be felt/observed. It was in your face.

    That’s not the case with AGW. You’ve already admitted as much yourself (#27: A few weeks of ice-free summer Arctic ocean isn’t going to do the job.) And that’s why the disaster/global warming link is so important to you, I understand that much. However, as Judith says in #48:  “the issue of hurricanes and global warming is not settled.”

    So I keep coming back to the central front the climate policy debate is waged: our bequeathment of scary weather and other climate-related disasters to the next generation or the one after that.

    Now, just to be clear, I think we should have an ethical debate on that possibility. But is it the strongest plank to rest your climate policy on? Well, all I’ve been saying is this: at some point, if the actions deemed necessary to reduce greenhouse gases aren’t happening and you can determine why this is with a cold-eyed assessment (which would show that skeptics are today playing a marginal role in this outcome), then why wouldn’t you consider alternative approaches? Why stay with a failing strategy?

  54. Steve Bloom says:

    Tell me this, Keith:  How would you gauge the success of such an alternative strategy?  In particular, how do you do that without reference to avoiding dangerous climate change?  Finally, is it possible to contemplate the latter without both major and rapid reductions in GHG emissions?  If an alternative strategy makes no reference to these things, haven’t you in effect redefined the problem, with the consequence that the alternative strategy isn’t one any more?  I hope you can begin to see why the Policy Lass judged the Hartwell proposal to be “capitulation.”

  55. Keith (53): since we have amped up the global avg temperature .8C how can you say it isn’t in your face? All my friends smoked and none them got lung cancer… It really is not different, except we are at the early stage of the awareness of the impacts of CC. Take extreme weather events – causal link to CC? My late uncle smoked for 20 yrs died of lung cancer.  What’s the difference?
     
    Scary is already here for most of the world but those of us in the richer parts of the world are buffered from the impacts. This reality should not be forgotten.
     
    And I can’t fathom how you and Judith can think that the denialists have not had an impact on policy decisions – politicians make their choices based on public opinion which has been confused by denialist propaganda.

  56. Judith Curry says:

    The so-called “denialist” position of anti-science flat earther types is pretty much a myth at this point.   I recognized this several years ago in my “cooler heads” rebuttal to Bjorn Lomborg:
    “Bjorn Lomborg rightly notes that skepticism about climate change is no longer focused on whether it the earth is getting warmer (it is) or whether humans are contributing to it (we are). The current debate is about whether warming matters, and whether we can afford to do anything about it.”
     
    Most of the so-called deniers are actually “lukewarmers”, see for example this statement by Warren Meyer, host of Climate Skeptic.  Lukewarmers don’t deny the basics of AGW, they are dubious of the catastrophe and concerned about bad policies.
    This group of lukewarmers, which comprises most of what people have been referring to as “deniers”, are arguably “delayers.”  I recall in 2006 that Jim Hansen made a statement that “we have 10 years to act.”  Well if that is the case, then we still have 6 more years to delay a little and try to come up with some viable policies.

  57. Steve Bloom says:

    Visited a thread at WUWT lately, Judy?  There’s no shortage of the more troglodyte variety of denialist.

    Re some of the others, I would point out that attacks on the science are more effective if they aren’t based on overt denial.

    You may also wish to familiarize yourself with the concept of dog-whistle politics.

  58. Keith Kloor says:

    Steve (57),

    Lately, I’ve been reading quite a bit over at Climate Audit, Lucia’s and Bishop Hill. And you know what: there’s lots of civil discussion over there, even between people that have major disagreements. Not much of the troglodyte denialist stuff, either. I’ve been impressed with the level of discourse. Quite a contrast from the insultathon that I’m regularly subjected to here, or the amen chorus that passes for a thread over at Romm’s.

  59. sod says:

    Judith, you are wrong, as always.
     
    Inhofe for example, is a denier:
     
    “We are also in the midst of a natural warming trend that began about 1850, as we emerged from a 400 year cold spell known as the Little Ice Age.”



    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2005/01/senator-inhofe/
     
    you simply can t spent any hour on a “sceptic” blog, without reading denialist comments. plenty of people still deny that CO2 is a greenhouse gas. the whole “surface temperature project” crowd denies the majority of warming. WuWt is currently posting denial of the shrinking arctic sea ice every other day.
    The current debate is about whether warming matters, and whether we can afford to do anything about it.”
    that is false, and you showed this yourself above, when you decided to “assume” that we would see 3°C warming till 2100.
     
    denialists are using the uncertainty to great effect. they have experience with this tactic, from the time when they fought tobacco legislation.
     
    the tactic is completely the same, just with a couple of new methods: oil industry funds right wing politicians, like Inhofe. big industry funds conservative think tanks. both invite “sceptic” bloggers, and boost their reputation by making them “experts” in political hearings or at bogus conferences.
    they also publish their papers, giving them a scientific look.
     

  60. Steve Bloom says:

    Re #58:  I recall learning in school that over the years the most polite — nay, not just polite, courtly — group in the U.S. Congress were the defenders of slavery and Jim Crow.  Well, except for that unfortunate caning incident, but I’m sure that was undertaken as politely as possible.   

  61. Steve Bloom says:

    Re #56:  Judy, am I being overly picky when I point out that Meyer doesn’t accept that there’s a positive water vapor feedback?  I have to say I’d call that denialism.

    This <a href=”http://www.climate-skeptic.com/2009/09/ocean-acidification.html”>thread</a> on ocean acidification, in which I briefly participated, is a good example of Meyer’s thought process.  Read it and weep.

  62. Steve Bloom says:

    Please don’t forget about #54, Keith.

  63. sod says:

    Sod (44):
    John Kerry is a AGW proponent and influential senator and lead sponsor of the climate bill. Democrats have a majority.
    Are you telling me that if the Congressional climate bill doesn’t get passed, it’ll be because of Inhofe and people like Monckton?
     
    yes. your comparison shows a massive fault: Kerry is not an “AGW proponent”. he is following the scientific majority. we call that “he has common sense”.
     
    the Inhof position is completely crazy and flat out false. the Kerry position is scientific mainstream.
     
    your comparison makes a typical “sceptic” error: you compare a extreme anti-AGW position, with a very moderate pro-AGW one.
    this leaves a “both sides do it” impression, with the truth supposed to be somewhere in the middle. and that is plain out wrong.
    you will have to look really hard, before you find anyone similar to either Inhofe or Monckton on the pro-AGW side. (and no, Al Gore is NOT similar to either one of them!)
     
    the same is true with basically all other comparisons.  Romm and Morano? are you for real? Morano links every false article he can find. Romm writes stuff that is based on FACTS.
     
    the denialists have an effect, because they are spreading the doubt, that the inactivists need. this is a well tried tactic. (tobacco) they are impotrtant, even though their argument are complete nonsense.
     
    if you think that he is not important, please explain, why a person who is obviously in contradiction with facts, could be the this:


    Standing Committee on Environment and Public Works (Ranking Member)
     
    http://inhofe.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Legislation.CommitteeAssignments

  64. JimR says:

    Keith(58), civil discussions are possible and do take place as you have observed. I don’t think certain people who dominate the comments here want that to happen. The “insultathon” mentality exhibited by some here does stifle actual discussion. It doesn’t seem to matter if the topic is climate science or climate policy, they view civil discussion as capitulation and will have none of it.  It’s almost a characture of the ugly know-it-all environmentalist talking down to anyone who doesn’t fully agree with their entrenched position.

  65. sod says:

    Keith(58), civil discussions are possible and do take place as you have observed. I don’t think certain people who dominate the comments here want that to happen. The “insultathon” mentality exhibited by some here does stifle actual discussion. It doesn’t seem to matter if the topic is climate science or climate policy, they view civil discussion as capitulation and will have none of it.  It’s almost a characture of the ugly know-it-all environmentalist talking down to anyone who doesn’t fully agree with their entrenched position.
     
    being an ugly know-it-all environmentalist and talking down to you, but wouldn t it have been better if you had answered some of our valid points, instead of calling us names?
     
    so why wouldn t the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Environment not matter?

     

  66. Keith Kloor says:

    Steve (54):

    That’s the whole point of the Hartwell approach: redefining the problem. The problem you and the climate establishment have is that your wedded to one approach, and you’ve convinced yourself that this in the only way to address climate change.

    I find Hartwell intriguing because it offers ideas out of this box.

    So while there’s  congressional climate legislation on the table, I don’t expect anyone to seriously consider a new approach. But there is a political calculation to bear in mind, which David Roberts points out in this defense of the Senate climate bill:

    If this bill doesn’t pass this year (and the filibuster remains in place), it could be another four to eight years before it comes up again, likely in weaker form.

    Leaving aside the issue that many environmentalists don’t even think this bill will do much to stem climate change, let’s say the legislation dies in this Congress. What do climate advocates do then? Just regroup and try again when the political landscape is more favorable in four or eight years? To me, that’s a pretty status quo strategy. Wouldn’t you want to at least entertain new ideas to achieve your goals?

  67. Steve Bloom says:

    Keith, your answer assumes that time is not of the essence.  Now, there’s nothing wrong with any of the programmatic specifics the HG proposes, so they should, you know, get out there and make them happen.  My only objection is the pretense that their proposals are in any manner a substitute for large-scale mitigation.  In the meantime, it may be that the push for mitigation will fall short until we do get that collective whack upside the head, in which case that’s life (or, more to the point, human nature).      

    “I find Hartwell intriguing because it offers ideas out of this box.”  Oddly I saw nothing new.  Did you, really?

    I think DR is entirely wrong, BTW.  One thing he fails to take into account is that current political circumstances are almost uniquely bad for getting major neew initiatives of any sort through Congress.  That too will pass.

  68. Steve Bloom says:

    Just so I’m clear: 

    “Wouldn’t you want to at least entertain new ideas to achieve your goals?”

    Sure, I’d like all that and the pony.  But I get the impression you haven’t been paying attention to what I’ve said, so to repeat: 

    I need to see a case made that the new ideas would do the job, do it soon enough, and not substitute some other job (however otherwise laudable) while leaving undone the one that matters most.

  69. Melon says:

    The Hartwell approach has been thrashed out by some impressive intellects and certainly deserves attention.
    However, as a more simple soul, it seems such a shame that faced with the reality of global warming in response to anthropogenic CO2 emissions we have to address peripheral issues in order to try and mitigate the effects of climate change, as a consequence of our collective inability to face the mounting evidence of the hazards we face.
    The Hartwell approach is like trying to tell a heavy smoker  to cut down drinking , take moderate exersize and have a massage in the hope that he’ll cut back on cigarettes.

  70. sod says:

    i agree with Steve-. there is absolutely nothing new in the “Hartwell approach”. but i am sure, that Keith will educate us on this matter and point out all the really new stuff in it.
     
    perhaps in the same response, in which he explains why Inhof is unimportant?
     
    the “adaptation” approach boils down to a simple question: will americans pay for dams to be build to protect places like Bangladesh from the equivalent of a cat 5 storm.
     
    adaptation is just a different word for doing absolutely nothing.
     
    the call for a carbon tax is just another attempt to delay things: the people proposing the tax know very well, that their own allies will fight such a tax to the death.

  71. Judith Curry says:

    The “denialists are derailing AGW policy” argument requires the following premises:
    Inhofe, Morano and Watts have sufficient power to derail the IPCC, UNFCCC, U.S. legislation
    Such power can be bought for order $1-10M (Koch et al. aren’t exactly spending billions on this), in contrast to billions that the top 10 enviro advocacy groups have at their disposal.
    Until AGW proponents get past this flawed argument, there will be no meaningful discussion on this topic.
    Calling someone a denier because they are questioning a positive water vapor feedback is wrong.  The feedbacks are highly uncertain, and it is this topic that is motivating the Royal Society to re-examine its statements on climate change.  Scientific results should always be questioned, especially uncertain ones like feedbacks.
    The endless circular logic of AGW is a threat, therefore we need drastic reductions in CO2 emissions, and therefore we need to squash any science that challenges the AGW narrative is just going to result in the “world’s longest monopoly game” (quote from Watts).  Get over it, the science is uncertain. This is no reason not to pursue clean green energy policies and increase resilience to weather/climate extremes like floods, droughts, hurricanes.

  72. sod says:

    Such power can be bought for order $1-10M (Koch et al. aren’t exactly spending billions on this), in contrast to billions that the top 10 enviro advocacy groups have at their disposal.
     
    you are wrong Judith. as always.
     
    http://www.greenpeace.org/raw/content/usa/press-center/reports4/koch-industries-secretly-fund.pdf
     
    and this is Koch alone.
     
    and we know from tobacco, that pretty small money can derail legislation for a very long time.
     
    you comparison between total money at disposal of environmental organisations and direct anti-AGW lobby efforts are extremely dishonest.

  73. sod says:

    The “denialists are derailing AGW policy” argument requires the following premises:
    Inhofe, Morano and Watts have sufficient power to derail the IPCC, UNFCCC, U.S. legislation

     
    you are in denial of the “climate gate2 effect, which was mainly carried by denialists.
     
    you really think that the highest republican member in the senate commitee on environment has no influence??? (he is the one who will call people like Monckton as expert witnesses, giving a completely false impression of the science and giving additional credibility to these kind of peoples!)
     
    as Kyoto showed, forming an international treaty is pretty difficult, even without vocal denialist groups.
     
    Until AGW proponents get past this flawed argument, there will be no meaningful discussion on this topic.
     
    until “sceptics” accept the importance of denialist think tanks and the oil lobby there can not be a meaningful discussion on this subject.
    i was really shocked, when you brought up the CEI during a discussion about partisanship in the climate debate. stuff doesn t get more biased, than the CEI is!
     
    Calling someone a denier because they are questioning a positive water vapor feedback is wrong.  The feedbacks are highly uncertain, and it is this topic that is motivating the Royal Society to re-examine its statements on climate change.  Scientific results should always be questioned, especially uncertain ones like feedbacks.
     
    you obviously failed to follow the link, provided by Steve.
     
    http://www.climate-skeptic.com/2009/09/ocean-acidification.html
     
    Meyer is in denial of facts on ocean acidification. that is the simple truth.
     
    The endless circular logic of AGW is a threat, therefore we need drastic reductions in CO2 emissions, and therefore we need to squash any science that challenges the AGW narrative is just going to result in the “world’s longest monopoly game” (quote from Watts). 

     
    ah, citing Watts again. why is Judith Curry silent, on the complete bogus posts on arctic sea ice, that are flooding WuWt these days? why not take a stance against anti-science, once in a while? why mostly side with it?
     
    Get over it, the science is uncertain.

     
    we are well aware, about the parts that have some uncertainties. but the important stuff is not uncertain at all. but people who call themselves “sceptics” constantly claim that it is.


    This is no reason not to pursue clean green energy policies and increase resilience to weather/climate extremes like floods, droughts, hurricanes.
     
    so tell me, will americans fund dams being build to protect other countries beaches? a simple yes or no will do.

  74. Keith Kloor says:

    JimR (64):

    You’re right that some mistake civil discussion for capitulation. Michael Tobis, who is one of the more thoughtful climate bloggers (though he can be just as stubborn on some issues and also prone to hyperbole), has been chastised numerous times by Eli Rabbet for conceding points during some threads. It drives Eli particularly crazy when Michael extends an olive branch to Roger Pielke Jr.

    And you know what: I view the Eli’s, Steve Bloom’s and Sod’s as well intentioned. I disagree with their tactics (ripped from the Joe Romm playbook) and some of them can be downright nasty (which is counterproductive), but their hearts are in the right place. I do believe that. I just wish they would grant the same of  the Pielkes and the authors of the Hartwell Paper, instead of always treating them like the enemy.

  75. afeman says:

    Keith,
    The complaints so far here about the Hartwell paper have been mostly wondering what is new about it.  Considering that it seems to split the difference between what’s been aimed for and what’s been achieved, and calls that radical, what do you find so compelling about it?
    I’ll grant that Eli is prickly — he’s prickly to everybody — but sometimes it looks like you regard failure to embrace a middling viewpoint, regardless of the reasons, is ipso facto unreasonable.

  76. Steve Bloom says:

    We’re not sure that the WV feedback is strong and positive, Judy?  These guys e.g. beg to differ.  What’s funny is how some of your new friends go on and on about how the CO2 feedback is only about 1.1C and that nothing else is going on, but never seem able to address the irresolvable conflict between such a small overall feedback and the paleo record.

    “The feedbacks are highly uncertain, and it is this topic that is motivating the Royal Society to re-examine its statements on climate change.”  Not according to the Royal Society:

    “The Royal Society is presently drafting a new public facing document on climate change, to provide an updated status report on the science in an easily accessible form, also addressing the levels of certainty of key components. This had been planned for some time (it is 3 years since the last such document), but was given extra impetus by a number of Fellows who were concerned that older public facing documents could be interpreted as an unwillingness to accept dissenting views. This is not the same as saying that the climate science itself is in error ““ no Fellows have expressed such a view to the RS. ”

    That to me sounds like tone, not substance.

    Also, Judy, I haven’t seen you over at Rabett Run lately, which is too bad because folks have been beavering away demolishing all those Heartland presentations regarding which you kindly provided notes.  It turns out that many of them are not merely wrong, but commit fraud in order to be wrong.   Anyway, please do have a look and let us know if you think any of the refutations are off-track.           

  77. Steve Bloom says:

    Re #74:  They’re not the enemy as such, Keith.  It’s just that their views, if adopted, would result in a lot of needless death and desolation. 

  78. JimR says:

    Keith(74), yes, I agree. These people are well intentioned I’m sure, but the rigidity of their position combined with the insulting tone only stifles legitimate discussion. And that does serve their purpose as they don’t want this discussion to take place.
     
    What really stands out to me is that we are lucky enough to have a climate scientist involved in the discussion and in most cases this would be welcome. I think Judith Curry has put forward some very interesting ideas, but they are drowned out by the shrill of a few extremists. Early on you asked who on the skeptic side would step up as Dr. Curry has for cooler heads. I have to ask if you still think this is needed? I would say that the extremist skeptics are not nearly as prominent in the discussion as the shrill of extremist AGW advocates. Possibly we still need someone on the AGW tribe to speak up for actual dialogue instead of this constant effort to “squash any science that challenges the AGW narrative” which drowns out the ideas we see being put forth.

  79. For all the skeptic bashing, there is not a single skeptical voice here.
    1)Steve Bloom, your method of ‘one citation defeats another citation’ is best suited for a small kids playing with card collectibles kind of thing.
    2)Eli Rabett’s buddies are beavering at Heartland??
     
    Points 1) and 2) demonstrate the absolute futility of the climate ‘debate’. There is a debate because there can be a debate. We could all debate endlessly for n number of years and then die off – it wont make one bit of difference (except fattening the purses of carbon billionaires).
    Kloor: You post the observations of a US government official in a separate post of its own. On what merit? Government officials
    of all stripe and color believe in catastrophic anthropogenic global warming as their byword, whether they possess any deeper understanding of the whole situation or not. The bureaucracies of the world form the cloud of whispering parrots that keep the climate whispers alive from one conference to the other.
    Show me a government official who does not believe in global warming.
    Regards

  80. Keith Kloor says:

    Steve (77):

    That’s quite a statement. Can you tell me how the Hartwell group would be responsible for “a lot of needless death and desolation” if their suggested policy approach was adopted.

  81. Steve Bloom says:

    Re #80:  Well, Keith, I wasn’t going to blame them personally, but now that you mention it…

    Re your question, I’m moved to wonder if you understand what the Hartwell proposal is.

      

  82. Keith Kloor says:

    Steve (81),

    I’m asking a simple question.  You wrote: “their views, if adopted, would result in a lot of needless death and desolation.”

    I asked you to explain how that would come to be. Now you write back, wondering if I understand what the Hartwell proposal is.

    Well, here’s your chance to kill two birds with one stone. You can explain what you think the proposal is, and why, if it was adopted, “would result in a lot of needless death and destruction.”

    I’m open to persusasion.  Go ahead and make your case.

  83. Steve Bloom says:

    We have a big problem which, if not solved, will result in death and desolation.

    The Hartwell proposal asserts that the political will to solve the problem directly (via mitigation) is not to be had, and that any viable steps that can be taken will need to be associated with compensating benefits (i.e. have no net cost).   They make no claim that this will avoid dangerous climate change, and indeed it would be hard to do so.

    Thus, death and desolation. 
     

  84. Steve Bloom:
    Your stance  therefore is, since you have predicted death and desolation for Hartwell, that everyone should listen to you.
    Very convincing indeed.

  85. Keith Kloor says:

    Steve (83):

    You’re making a faulty assumption. And that’s because you object to the paper not advancing the premise that action on climate change should stem from an imperative to avoid “death and desolation.”

    The paper explicitly says “there are many other reasons why the decarbonisation of the global economy is highly desirable.” They are for decarbonisation! How is that not avoiding dangerous climate change? All they’re putting forth is a different way to get there. They may not say it in the terms you prefer, but anyone who reads the paper can see that the end goal would be the same.

     

  86. Steve Bloom says:

    Re #84:  First Keith says they’re responsible for death and desolation, now you say they deserve it themselves?  Wow, you guys are bloodthirsty.

  87. Steve Bloom says:

    Re #85:  Sure they’re for decarbonization, Keith, just as long as it has no net cost.  They explicitly oppose mitigation steps that “injure economic growth” (i.e. cost something) since in their view democratic societies will never allow them.  Their premise that decarbonization can be achieved at the needed scale solely via advancing technologies without a net cost is absurd on its face.

  88. Keith Kloor says:

    Steve (87):

    You have a habit of arguing your position via grand statements. So I think this is a fruitless mini-debate.

    Here’s what I like most about the Hartwell treatise:

    “We write this paper as a first, not as a last word on the radical reframing that we advocate.”

    Your attitude, Steve, stands in stark contrast to this spirit of openness and debate. So you can have the last word in this exchange, because clearly, you believe that your view on all things related to climate change science and policy, is the last word.

  89. Steve Bloom says:

    Re #88:  That last wasn’t a grand statement, Keith, it was an accurate summary of their core position (which by the way they state in one rather short paragraph).  I can understand your not wanting to defend it.  The problem is that the salvation via free techno-pony thing is their only distinguishing argument, even though it’s not especially new. 

  90. Steve Bloom says:

    Oh, BTW, avoiding dangerous climate change means proposing something that actually has a shred of a chance of accomplishing it.  Refusing to mitigate via regulation, and instead instituting a carbon tax that is by design not large enough to induce significant emissions reductions on the expectation that new technology funded by the tax will be cost competitive enough soon enough to do the job without having any idea whether that will be true (remember we’re talking technologies that don’t yet exist) is a non-starter.

    One might even call it the “Top Kill” of climate policy.   

  91. JimR says:

    So I guess the question is: with such entrenched positions is there a way forward? Steve Bloom may be one of the most outspoken, however I do not believe he is alone in his tunnel vision. Judith Curry has taken quite a bit of criticism not for her views on climate policy but because some are worried her views on climate science may delay or alter climate policy even if she is correct.
     
    And if some haven’t noticed there has been little progress in climate policy for many years. Obviously current strategies are not working. Shouting down and calling people frauds or in the pay of big oil didn’t work. Apocalyptic tales are not driving the public even if they drive the fears of the CAGW crowd.  Some hope the next big hurricane or other natural disaster will raise fears to the point of that people will support the things that have little support now.
     
    I feel energy policies are the best option. The world simply isn’t going to accept binding limits without an alternative. We need to be proactive and look to 21st century energy and not be reactive over fears of catastrophe. Such reactive behavior might gain minor support for a short time after a disaster but it simply isn’t going to create a long term change in public attitudes.
     
    Regardless, new strategies should be welcome since the current strategies are not working. For there to be progress people have to come together in agreement. Expecting to shout down anyone who differs is never going to achieve the desired result.

  92. sod says:

    And if some haven’t noticed there has been little progress in climate policy for many years. Obviously current strategies are not working.
     
    this is flat out wrong. Denmark for example is producing 20% wind electricity. and that is a level, that nearly every country could achieve fast.
     
    the majority of countries have all decided to make a pretty aggressive switch to alternative energies. we will see many of them between 20% and up to 50% rather soon.
     
    you shouldn t take all your information from denialists blogs.  the time is good for a change. have you heard about that oil spill? or did denial-central not report about it?

  93. Keith Kloor says:

    As well intentioned as they are, the Sods and Steve Blooms are just not part of the reality-based world.
    The magnitude of the problem we face is accurately defined here by Andy Revkin. There again, though, reframing the climte debate as an energy challenge is unwelcome to most climate advocates such as Bloom, because it is not a debate on his terms.
    Like I said earlier, if the climate bill dies in Congress and there is no discernible progress in Mexico later this year (which is virtually guaranteed if there is no U.S. climate bill), it’ll be interesting to see if the climate advocate community continues with its present strategy or is open to pursuing alternative approaches to achieve its goal.

  94. Judith Curry (71),

    It is indeed too simplistic to claim that “denialists are derailing AGW policy”. But, as I also stated in my reply to you at 30, I do think that denialism plays a significant role in influencing the public discussion. E.g. several “skeptical”bloggers are celebrating that opinion polls showing belief in AGW going through the floor.

    Scientists have no intent on “squashing any science that challenges the AGW narrative”, though admittedly some staunch supporters of the the scientific consensus sometimes make it wound that way.

    Your last statement is at least as applicable to “skeptics” as to acitivists:

    “Get over it, the science is uncertain. This is no reason not to pursue clean green energy policies and increase resilience to weather/climate extremes like floods, droughts, hurricanes.”

    Exactly because uncertainty is used as a bogus-reason to not undertake meaningful action. As Michael Tobis has repeatedly stated, that is an incoherent, yet very popular position to hold.

  95. Keith (34),

    Good point, that in policymaking denialism isn’t really playing a major role. Not visibly at least. I’m not entirely convinced that it has no significant influence to speak of behind the curtains.

    I also spotted that the more policy minded posts got only a fraction of the discussion as the more science minded posts here. Peculiar indeed. Speaking for myself, I’m more comfortable discussing the science, since I’m a scientist. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of people participating in these discussions have more affinity with the science than with policy. After all, these blog discussions are still focussed primarily on discussing the science. And also with supporters of the scientific consensus the feeling is still strong that this (the faux-controversy re the science) is still a hurdle to overcome before being able to discuss politics in a meanigful way. But indeed, by doing so, we’re a bit like a snake biting our own tail.

  96. Bart thinks the controversy surrounding the science is false.
    How then, is a serious discussion possible?

  97. Keith Kloor says:

    Shub (96):
    I’m not interpreting Bart’s comment that way. In fact, I wish I had ten more like Bart on this thread. He’s civil, he’s willing to engage points of view other than his own without resorting to insult or ridicule. Hell, he even does what the Eli Rabbets command thou shalt not be done: concede points in a debate.

  98. Steve Bloom says:

    Re #93:  Keith, last time I checked the same environmental groups that are pushing mitigation hardest are also the strongest advocates for alternative energy research, development and deployment.  Most leading climate scientists seem to endorse the same approach, which is to say that the Hartwell group is quite marginalized.  I’m sure they appreciate your support, though.

  99. Steve Bloom says:

    Re #94:  “Going through the floor” is an overstatement, Bart.  These polls are heavily swayed by cold weather.  Oddly few of them seem to be taken at the height of NH summer.

  100. Hank Roberts says:

    A thought on the way journalists cover these issues — This was the single best suggestion for improvement in journalism I’ve seen in a long time, that understanding and explaining is fundamental and usually not done.  Most journalists don’t understand the basics and just report on arguments or newsbites.
    http://journalism.nyu.edu/pubzone/weblogs/pressthink/2008/08/13/national_explain.html
    “… there are some stories … where until I grasp the whole I am unable to make sense of any part.”
    ————–
    That’s why I am puzzled over the notion any scientist (at least any scientist who’s done well in an ecology class) can separate ‘global warming’ from land use, water, biodiversity, trophic collapse, erosion, and the rest.
    Puzzled?  I’m astonished.  The Trenberth anecdote MT refers to above is, however, typical — of news coverage.
    To an ecologist it’s one living planet, it doesn’t have another side.
    I’d argue it’s journalists who fail to get the underlying explanation themselves who imagine scientists don’t get it.  Until a journalist understands ecology he isn’t going to be able to understand climate change, or land use, or any of the other views into human-caused ecological forces or rates of change.
    Jay Rosen says more on this today; he’s talking about CNN but I think it’s highly pertinent to the kind of writing discussed here:
    http://journalism.nyu.edu/pubzone/weblogs/pressthink/2010/03/31/what_cnn_should.html
    “… media reporters [assume] that the View from Nowhere, also called “straight news,” [“I’m just the messenger”] is inherently superior and always preferable.

    But audiences seem to like their news delivered with opinion: right wing in the case of Fox, left leaning in the case of MSNBC, these reporters say.  And so the choice is framed: whether to continue with the journalistically superior “we don’t have a view, we’re just giving it to you straight” coverage, which is sometimes called “hard news,” or to cave into a ratings-driven trend: ideologically inflected news.
    But not everything in the world fits into that frame. …
    … nothing will improve … until the people running the news report consider that viewlessness may not be an advantage but ideology-in-command is not the only alternative.

    Maybe … most of the time it practices ‘leave it there’ journalism, as Jon Stewart <a href=” http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-october-12-2009/cnn-leaves-it-there“>so brilliantly explained</a>.
    ———-
    [Stewart addresses getting the numbers right and explaining the statistics and checking the facts, and why that would be innovative.  What he’s saying applies in great part to most journalistic writing about science and most blog posts too.]
     
     
     
     

  101. Hank Roberts says:

    A bit transcribed from that Jon Stewart clip that Jay Rosen points to, in his piece about the lack of fact-checking and explanation:
    “”Fact checking is a function of news …. That is an impressively high citation-free completely made-up number…. You’re only off by a factor of — Australia…. Five or ten, it’s only double.  You know it’s interesting because I weigh between 150 and 300 pounds. Now that’s normal for someone who’s six to twelve feet tall…. Make him show his work!… But numbers exist, and I’m sure we can agree that one of them is probably okay.  You know statistics is a funny game …..”
     

  102. Hank Roberts says:

    Keith Kloor Says: May 26th, 2010 at 10:31 pm

    “forces of denial and delay” … What “forces” are you referring to?

    Keith, maybe you could look into this story?  It’s just possible there may be some overlap in the approach.

    “the industry is working overtly and behind the scenes to fend off these attacks, using a shifting set of tactics that have defeated similar efforts for 30 years, records and interviews show. Industry insiders call the strategy ‘delay and divert'”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/30/health/30salt.html?src=me&ref=general

  103.  
    “John Kerry is a AGW proponent and influential senator and lead sponsor of the climate bill. Democrats have a majority.””
     
    Keith,
    To ignore the adamant obstructionism that the Republicans have been practicing towards in earnest since Obama took office, would be obtuse of you.  Or do you seriously believe that it has had no significant effects on the policies the Democrats have been able to ‘ram’ through?
    “Are you telling me that if the Congressional climate bill doesn’t get passed, it’ll be because of Inhofe and people like Monckton?”
    I , at least, am not saying that.  I’m saying that those people will have had a ROLE in it if that happens…and not an insignificant one. You and Judy Curry need to stop implying that denialism is insignificant.
    Have you seen the polls here and overseas, on public perception of the need for urgent climate change action? Do you think THAT has no policy implications too?

  104. And do you think THAT had nothing to do with ‘denialist’ memes — be they ‘warming ain’t happening’ or ‘it’s happening but it’s not gonna be as bad as Al Gore says’ — percolating through the media  (or do you, like Judy Curry,  prefer to frame it as the scientists’ fault for not playing nice with the Climate Auditors)?
    As for ‘civil discussion’ on WUWT etc, how many ‘warmists’  — or lets call them ‘skeptics of skeptics’ to be more civil about it — actually post there on a given topic?  As opposed to, say, the number of ‘skeptics’ who decide they need to teach Gavin a thing or two over on Real Climate?
     
     
     

  105. Sashka says:

    Leahy (55)

    since we have amped up the global avg temperature .8C how can you say it isn’t in your face?

    Easily. Any part of it (in theory, up to 100%) could be due to natural variability. In reality, it could be 25% or it could be 75%. One looks scarier than the the other but neither seems dramatic.

    Bloom (57)

    There’s no shortage of the more troglodyte variety of denialist.

    We have two specimen of troglodyte variety of alarmist here and I’d say it’s too many by two.

    Bart (94)

    Scientists have no intent on “squashing any science that challenges the AGW narrative”

    You haven’t read Mann-Jones emails, have you?

  106. dhogaza says:

    “You haven’t read Mann-Jones emails, have you?”

    Yes, we all are aware that these e-mails make it clear they were trying to keep JUNK SCIENCE out, which is after all the entire purpose of having journal editors and reviewers.

    Other work that meets minimal standards isn’t squashed.  People like Lindzen and (when not too crazy) Spencer don’t have any problem getting published.

    You know this.  Be brave, rise above the level of insisting that journals publish any ‘ole junk as long as it questions the AGW narrative.

  107. Sashka says:

    dhogaza,

    I believe you should be a little more careful when you use the words like “all”. In this case, “all” could mean as many as five people on this planet (Romm, Bloom, Rabbett, sod and you). The rest of us (at least those who have read the actual emails) know that the conspirators wanted to keep the disagreeable papers away even if it meant to redefine the peer review process (quoting by memory but I’m sure it’s pretty accurate). If “junk science” means something that Mann & Jones don’t like then you are certainly correct. Those who define junk science differently put Mann’s work in that category.

    Be brave, rise above the level of insisting that journals publish any “˜ole junk as long as it questions the AGW narrative

    Would you mind pointing out when I insisted on that?

  108. dhogaza says:

    “Those who define junk science differently put Mann’s work in that category.”

    Yes, we know.  Those would be those who are dishonest.

  109. Sashka says:

    That would be those who know that cherry-picking data is dishonest.

  110. Hank Roberts says:

    “the industry is working overtly and behind the scenes to fend off these attacks, using a shifting set of tactics that have defeated similar efforts for 30 years, records and interviews show. Industry insiders call the strategy “˜delay and divert'”
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/30/health/30salt.html?src=me&ref=general
    and hat tip to afeman for the link to the Onion in the recent topic.

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