Climate Extremes

They monopolize the debate. And now we’re stuck in a negative feedback loop, I argue at the Yale Forum on Climate Change & the Media.

71 Responses to “Climate Extremes”

  1. Steve Fitzpatrick says:

    Great post Keith.  It is a conundrum. The only way I see out of it is for people who don’t hold the extreme views to stop encouraging/supporting the extremists on their side of the fence.  There is no need for descriptions like “fraud”, “criminal”, “shill”, “sociopath”, “evil”, etc. (I’m sure you have heard them all) applied to people on either side of the debate.  I have no doubt that those who hold extreme views believe what they say, but the best course of action is for everyone else to ignore their rants, since they will never accept any kind of compromise (or even listen to reason), so they have nothing of substance to contribute to the public discourse.  Ignoring the extremists is not easy (ask any elected official), but is required to faciliatate meaningful dialog.  The message to both sides is the same: curb your attack dogs.
    There are considerable technical uncertainties which need to be worked on (and I will admit here that I have honestly held technical doubts), and there are honest disagreements among reasonable people about the urgency of public action, based in large part, I suspect, on differences in personal values and political inclinations.  But extreme polarization mainly poisons the well and ensures no possibility of a broad consensus…. and almost guarantees no public action will be taken. 

  2. Anteros says:

    Keith –
     
    I agree with much of what you say. Polarisation in the climate debate is endemic and the internet is part of that polarisation.
     
    However you make a point that is frequently believed but I think not convincing. You say –
     
    this reflects the larger political landscape that has reduced dialogue on most issues to mud wrestling
     
    I think there is an implication here that things didn’t used to be this way. If that is your contention, I disagree.
    You quote this –
     
    “One thing that both sides of the political spectrum seem to agree on is the notion that political discourse in this country has become increasingly shrill, hyperbolic, and dominated by two extremes”


    I think history tells us that not only has the shrill hyperbole been prevalent since time immemorial, but so have people who have been saying “it has become more extreme”


    Think back to the dichotomy 50 years before the reign of Alexander – schools existed solely for the purpose of training sophists to argue one extreme point of view regardless of reality. Wasn’t there a divide in your country along North/South lines a while ago? With a lot of mud-wrestling and discord?


    It may appear that today’s polarised entrenchment is something unique. I have a suspicion it is just par for the course and the way of the world.

  3. EdG says:

    Anteros observes:

    “It may appear that today’s polarised entrenchment is something unique. I have a suspicion it is just par for the course and the way of the world.”

    Agree. It is a function of primate groupthink, and thus part of human nature and history.
     
    Mass media has amplified this tendency – by creating larger like-influenced groups – and now the splintering of the media has exacerbated that trend, as each side can find its own reinforcement.
    And the media eagerly encourages this trend because sensationalized conflict sells better than peace and flowers.

    This trend is most obvious in political questions, as is blindlingly obvious in US politics. That is why it is so prominent in the Great Climate Debate, which is a political debate masquerading as a scientific one.

    It seems to me that the big elephant in the room here is whether or not this polarization and ‘tribalism’ is actually a “bad thing.” After all, there are usually some reasons why it occurs, and there were definitely vital reasons why ‘us v them’ groupthink evolved. And back to the Climate Debate, where would we be now without it? As I recall, it developed when one side of this debate started calling the other side ‘deniers.’ What did the AGW promoters expect? I would say that what has developed was entirely predictable, and the result has been a very good thing.

  4. Joshua says:

    Anteros –
     
    I agree with your post.
     
    An interesting question, however, what influence the Internet has.  Maybe there is a higher degree of fanaticism represented in blog posts than we might have commonly found in most venues in the past – and that fanaticism has an exacerbating effect. The thinking might be that only a small % of readers write comments, and so by reading comments you’re reading a highly distilled product. We might also say that the Internet makes it easier for fanatics to get their voices heard.
     
    On the other hand, the greater difficulty in getting your ideas published in earlier days may have also served as a sort of filtering mechanism to create a tendency that people with more extreme views where more likely to be heard.
     
    I’m skeptical about claims of broad-scale societal changes. I have seen analysis that makes it very questionable as to whether there is greater dominance from the extremes in political discourse. It’s hard to find objective metrics.  One possible metric I’ve seen w/r/t the U.S. is that we have a more activist Supreme Court than in previous years (as measured by rates of over-turning precedent and over-ruling Congressional legislation), Interestingly, that has occurred when the majority of the SCOTUS has been “conservative” and during a time when many conservatives are animated by “concern” over activist judges.
     
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/02/opinion/02douthat.html
     
    My own personal perspective is that we have more extremist Republican politicians than I an ever remember. Organizations such as the John Birch society – that were considered extremist in the past and eschewed by mainstream Republicans – have been largely incorporated into the Republican mainstream in recent years.
     
    Still, as I mentioned on another thread recently, “kids today” have always been different than kids when “we” were growing up.

  5. Steve Fitzpatrick says:

    Joshua,
    Perhaps the lens of time distorts my memory, but my clear impression is that there has been a rather dramatic increase in the stridency and coarseness of public discourse in the USA, at least during my lifetime of 60+ years.  The difference, I think, is in the willingness (or lack thereof) to give the other side a measure of respect; which is to say, that while we may differ in opinion, we each accept that the other acts and speaks honestly and in good faith.  
    What seems most missing in the discussion of global warming (and a host of other contentious issues) is exactly that: a presumption of good faith and honesty of stated opinion.
     

  6. Joshua says:

    Steve –
     
    I don’t know. My question is how do we get above the anecdotal to make an assessment.
     
     
    I remember watching my father watch William F. Buckley. As much as my father disagreed with Buckley, there was a kind of respect there for Buckley as well for the intellectual solidness of Buckley’s positions. It’s hard to imagine how a “Firing Line” could exist in today’s environment.
     
    That said, I have seen reports on the coarseness of media discourse over history that indicates if anything, the discourse was even coarser in the past. 
     
    All that said, I agree completely with your assessment of what is missing. It’s hard to imagine any substantive progress as long as those elements remain so lacking.

  7. Steve Fitzpatrick says:

    Joshua,
    I do not doubt that there have been terrible actors in the past… though I can’t speak to that firsthand. 
    But I can remember reasoned, respectful political argument 40 years ago in the media, the kind of argument which seems pretty much absent today.  Politicians, serving carefully formed, politically uniform districts, do not have any need, nor any desire, to engage in meaningful debate.  But we do.
    The specific case of global warming presents a challenge to the status quo of extreme partisanship: a complex issue, with large uncertainties, potentially large public costs (present and/or in the future), and extreme (and I would argue irrational) views on both sides, which seems by its very nature to be inhibiting the kind of calm analysis that is needed.  If we could do away with discussions of “billions soon to die”, climate scientists described as “criminals”, skeptics described as “shills of big oil”, coal trains compared to trains carrying Jews to Nazi death camps, global warming called a “global conspiracy of the left”, etc, etc (without end), then perhaps, just perhaps, we could calmly address the substantive issues and strike a reasoned public course of action.
    Those on either extreme will object, of course, as is the nature of any extremist view; when all extremists are upset is when you know what you are doing is just about right.  There is no telling what the future course of public action, if any, will be, but whatever that course is, it will be better informed and more constructive if we can all agree to treat each other with a measure of respect.

  8. Jack Hughes says:

    How does this work? I am polite to the Jehovahs Witnesses but I don’t waste any time in dialog – I politely shoo them off the property.
     
    What would compromise look like? Could I half convert and just do it 3 days a week? Would anybody be happy?
    At least the JWs walk the talk. I respect them for that. It’s very hard to respect a hypocrite.

  9. Paul in Sweden says:

    Jack Hughes Says:
    February 7th, 2012 at 11:45 pm What would compromise look like?
    It would look like a tangible solution Jack.

    Many slick silver tongued climate writers(often with ties to the WWF, Greenpeace and other leftist NGOs, but not the Democrats I am told) argue that civilization is doomed if urgent action is not taken, and quickly, on climate change.
    No reasonable action has been proposed?
    Compromise would consist of an energy alternative that can cost effectively replace today’s carbon & nuclear energy sources. Slick climate writers say “climate change will cause billions of people to starve/drown/burn/die of horrible diseases” at some moving point way off in the future but ignore the BILLIONS that struggle today with starvation and poverty. These billions are further retarded in their struggle by NGOs, Political PACs, self-perpetuating governments who feel that doing anything(even if it is detrimental) is better than doing tedious research & planning. Implementation of non-working solutions is not the answer and will not yielda compromise.
    Can slick climate writers & the IPCC tack on Cancer & AIDS to their manifesto so we can legislate them off the backs of humanity along with dependence on carbon based energy?
    Compromise requires reasonable solutions. Laborious prolific eloquent rhetoric with pockets held out devoid of solutions is no basis for compromise.
     

  10. Jack Hughes says:

    Hi Paul

    I don’t need a “climate solution” – just like I don’t need religion. 

    This is what the analogy is all about – I am just not interested in ANY solution even a compromise solution because there is not a problem.

    Maybe we already have the compromise solution: the greenies have their windmills and their bio-fuel schemes – but not their world-wide tax on everything and climate stasi in every neighborhood.

    In return the climate has stopped warming for 15 years now and the polar bears are thriving. 

  11. Paul in Sweden says:

    @Jack
    People should know Jack. He speaks common sense.
    The multitudes of slick climate articles and the people who believe they should actually be paid to produce this one sided rant with the constant re-branding(global warming, climate change, climate disruption, different shade of lipstick on a pig) changes nothing.
    Present problem and reasonable solution, otherwise crawl back into your “Occupy Wall Street” tent where leftists thoughts are influenced by radical NGOs like the WWF, Greenpeace, etc but not by the Democrats as one writer would have us believe.
     
     
     
     
     

  12. Jack Hughes says:

    There are different types of conflict.

    Type A is 2 neighbors arguing about who owns a piece of land. There are some obvious compromises like splitting the land and both parties have an interest in seeing the problem solved so they can move on.

    Type B is like religious person versus atheist. There is no obvious compromise. 

    The “climate problem” is type B. 

  13. Steve Fitzpatrick says:

    Jack #12,

    It is like what you describe as a “type B”problem when you concentrate on the two extremes.  It just isn’t that way for those who are less extreme in their views.  If you don’t believe that rising GHG’s can cause warming and/or that warming could cause future problems, then you sit firmly in one of those extreme groups.  If you think energy company executive should beprosecuted for “crimes against humanity”,then you sit firmly in the other group.

    Of course those who hold extreme views see no need for and do not want compromise.  That is the whole point my friend. 

  14. harrywr2 says:

     
    Type B is like religious person versus atheist. There is no obvious compromise. 
    The “climate problem” is type B
    Only if the delivered price of coal is below $4/MMBtu and the delivered price of natural gas is below $6/MMBtu.
    Above those prices ‘saving the plant’ and ‘saving my wallet’ are the same thing.

  15. Matt B says:

    @5 Steve F – I agree with you that partisan hack attacks are alive and thriving in the Land of the Free & Home of the Brave, but here’s a reminder of where we were in the 1970’s……as Billy Joel said, “the good old days weren’t always good…..”:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k80nW6AOhTs

  16. Eric Adler says:

    I think there a myopic aspect to Kloor’s article, as well as a false balance.
    There is no doubt that the US is unique in the level of polarization between conservatives and those to the left of them. The Republican Party has moved far to the right, and there are practically no center right office holders among them. Centrist Republicans  have either been forced to leave the, or like Romney have moved sharply to the right. This is the result of a combination of FOX news, Rush Limbaugh, and big money poured into the political system and media by the Koch Bros. and their ilk. Republicans who previously accepted that the climate change due to GHG’s needs to be limited, now have switched to opposition to the science. Two of the top presidential candidates, Romney and Gingrich exemplify this switch. The Democrats are silent on this issue, because the public is preoccupied with the economy, and it has no political traction. The big money interests, using the power of their campaign contributions, have moved the Democratic Party somewhat to the right as well, but the recession has limited this motion.
    The myopia in Kloor’s article consists of not noticing that most of the democratic developed world accepts the need to reduce GHG’s and combat climate change.  The polarization is a phenomenon here in the US and to a lesser extent Britain, Australia and Canada.
    I don’t see scientists or any “serious people”  arguing that climate change will be the “end of mankind”. They argue it will destroy ecosystems and create climate refugees. It seems to me this is a plausible argument.

  17. kdk33 says:

    What a load.

    This is the result of a combination of FOX news, Rush Limbaugh, and big money poured into the political system and media by the Koch Bros. and their ilk.

     Of course, Eric, the ignorant public is being decieved; not capable of thinking on their own.  Two problems with this thesis: 1) the $$$ on the warmists side far exceeds that on the skeptic side, 2) Eric is part of the public, we must assume he is also unable to think independantly and is being decieved – but by different folk.  It cuts both way.

    The Democrats are silent on this issue, because the public is preoccupied with the economy

    Ya think.  Just wait ’till your decarbonization strategies take hold.  You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

    They argue it will destroy ecosystems and create climate refugees. It seems to me this is a plausible argument.

    It is plausible that it will not destroy ecosystem or create climate refugees. 

    Perhaps we shouldn’t destroy our wealth until we know what we are doing.

  18. grypo says:

    To add on to the spirit of Eric’s comment, the false balance is that one pole is accurate assessment of risk and the other is an inaccurate conspiracy theory.  When people strawman the argument to say something like, “climate change will cause billions of people to starve/drown/burn/die of horrible diseases” it only distracts from the debate in which the risks are that billions will starve, be forced off land due to sea levels, wildfire will burn acres of land, disease will increase and people will die.  These are all risks.  That is not to say that this will defiantly happen, but it is usually smart to prepare for risk.  I don’t know anyone making the other argument, so to say the argument is “dominated” by it is complete horse pucky.  I do wonder how we are supposed to make changes to the system without making a complete and accurate assessment of risk, first.  Perhaps many people have been talked into not doing that.  Which is silly of course. I imagine a world where a lot is spent on half-measures that we will ultimately regret attempting and wondering why we didn’t face the reality of risk.  I doubt affected folks will care what the future sociologists have to say if that is the case.  Catastrophe is local.

  19. Keith Kloor says:

    grypo (18)

    You must not be reading the same stuff as me, like Bill McKibben’s latest essay making the rounds on the web, in which he says  “we’re already seeing widespread climate disruption, but if we want to avoid utter, civilization-shaking disaster, many scientists have pointed to a two-degree rise in global temperatures as the most we could possibly deal with.”

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2012/feb/07/why-energy-industry-so-invested-climate-denail 

  20. Matt B says:

    The concerns some people have about Fox News never fails to surprise me. How much of a following can they have if that pinko Jon Stewart regularly kicks their butt? 

    http://www.politicususa.com/en/jon-stewart-fox-ratings

    And look at those demographics! The average age of a Fox News viewer is 65! How hard can it be to kick their geriatric butts? Don’t worry about Fox News viewers, if they mouthy just start talking about means-testing Social Security and they’ll get back in line real quick………

     they swing the pendulium

  21. grypo says:

    So then can I get you on record as saying it is not a risk that we are experiencing climate disruption/change/warming and that 2C will not be shattering to some civilization on Earth?

    Are you saying these aren’t risks? 

  22. Keith Kloor says:

    Is that what his quote says? Cause it looks to me like you took a few words out and changed it around.

    Oh, and did you approve the way he linked tornadoes, too, in his piece? 

  23. willard says:

    I found myself in full agreement with EdG’s comment in #3, until this:
     
    > As I recall, it developed when one side of this debate started calling the other side “deniers”.
     
     
    Besides the Yes, but “Denier” coupled with a They Did It First, we note that Popper would have termed such explanations historicism.

  24. Eric Adler says:

    MattB @ 20,
    Fox News is on 24 Hours a day. John Stewart is on for 1/2 hour.  The statistics don’t compare the total number of viewers who tune in to Fox news at some time over a 24 hour period to those who tune in to John Stewar.  The comparison is on a program by program basis. This ariticle you linked to is not a valid comparison of the numbers of people who are influenced by Fox News versus John Stewart.
     

  25. grypo says:

    These are good points to mete out, I believe.  So let’s say we both agree that the McKibbon’s tone and ‘matter-of-fact’ speech is closer to the the way you describe it in your initial article.  I could argue, but for intents here, you are correct.  Do you think the debate should revolve around the risks the way I have described them?  IOW, should it revolve around certain places that are at great risk, and soon?

  26. EdG says:

    19 Keith. Really. Quoting a McKibben’s article from the Guardian? Which in turn is nothing more than nothing:

    “we’re already seeing widespread climate disruption”

    False by any historical standard. Nothing.

    “if we want to avoid utter, civilization-shaking disaster”

    Unsubstantiated fearmongering, as usual. Nothing.

    “many scientists have pointed to a two-degree rise in global temperatures as the most we could possibly deal with”

    Unsubstantiated opinion based on unsubstantiated specualtion. More nothing.

    Or… wait. Did you quote that as an example of how far off the deep end the climate extremists have gone?

  27. NewYorkJ says:

    Keith: Is that what his quote says? Cause it looks to me like you took a few words out and changed it around.

    Ironic.  It looks to me like you’re falsely trying to equate McKibben’s words with someone else’s, namely in the false equivalence false balance piece regurgitated from Berezow stated as “One extreme argues that climate change will cause billions of people to starve/drown/burn/die of horrible diseases.”

    I don’t see McKibben arguing any of these specifics, especially the burning and drowning part.  Now by definition, this largely non-existent strawman is extreme, in that it differs from mainstream scientific views, as does the hoax rhetoric.  The difference is the hoax talk has become a staple part of the rhetoric of one U.S. political party, the other extreme is largely non-existent, confined to a few stray media examples at most.

    Keith: Oh, and did you approve the way he linked tornadoes, too, in his piece? 

    Nope.  But it’s nothing resembling Berezow’s caricature.

    Speaking of weather extremes, here’s a better piece that aptly summarizes the level of confidence applied to various extremes.  This is part of the Weather on Steroids title that deniers are fuming over.

    https://www2.ucar.edu/atmosnews/attribution/events-spectrum

  28. Eric Adler says:

    Ed G,
    The part about tornadoes in McKibben’s article appears to be wrong.
    But it is true that we are seeing Climate disruption brought about by global warming in the Northern Hemisphere as result of reduced Arctic Ice. The disruptive effects are explained in this article.
    http://www.wunderground.com/climate/SeaIce.asp
     

  29. Sashka says:

    @ Eric

    If you want to get more people on your side it’s best to at least try to be reasonable. Putting out stuff that could be construed by some as a piece of left liberal propaganda doesn’t help. Is the irony of your flaming speech following right after complaint about polarization lost on you?

    @ grypo

    I do wonder how we are supposed to make changes to the system without making a complete and accurate assessment of risk, first.

    Exactly. That’s what I’ve been saying all the time. I don’t think this is because “people have been talked into not doing that”. It’s just too hard.

    “I imagine a world where a lot is spent on half-measures that we will ultimately regret attempting and wondering why we didn’t face the reality of risk.

    I imagine a world where a lot is spent on unnecessary measures that we will ultimately regret for throwing money away from more important problems.

    “can I get you on record as saying it is not a risk that we are experiencing climate disruption/change/warming

    Risk is uncertainty. If we are experiencing climate disruption already (which we are not, as far as I know, but that’s beside the point) then it is no longer a risk but a reality.

  30. Matt B says:

    @ 24 Eric,

    Agreed, there is more opportunity to view Fox News than Jon Stewart and so the comparison in that article is pretty iffy. But, I do believe the cranky old man sterotype of a Fox News viewer has validity, that they truly aren’t that numerous, and that they mainly talk among themselves, making their influence fairly self limiting.

    And I still think Jon Stewart can, at will, influence more people than the entire Fox News network…..without breaking a sweat……… 

  31. EdG says:

    28 Eric

    I went to that link and it does not support your assertion that “we are seeing Climate disruption brought about by global warming in the Northern Hemisphere as result of reduced Arctic Ice.”

    Instead it speculates about what he suggests we might see in the future:

    “The impacts of an ice-free Arctic are far-reaching, and could be a trigger for abrupt, cataclysmic climate change in the future.”

    No ice-free Arctic, so it begins with a hypothetical worst case scenario, then proceeds to “could be” speculation.

    Or “Continued loss of Arctic sea ice may dramatically alter global weather and precipitation patterns in the decades to come.”

    Or “The freshening of Arctic sea water due to manmade climate change could lead to exceptional changes in the world’s ocean circulation and thus Earth’s climate as well.”

    All the same. No “we are seeing” because we aren’t.

    And the obligatory doomsday comments about polar bears, the AGW poster child, are more of the same kind of worst case scenario speculation based on worst case scenario projections. And it is as laughable as always given the real history and state of the polar bear population. (The polar bear story was what first alerted to the now obvious observation that there was something very wrong with the whole AGW story.)

    If pigs could fly we should all wear hats.

  32. Keith Kloor says:

    grypo,

    I would definitely agree that an argument based on risk can be made. Of course, the most prominent people making that argument exaggerate/dramatize the risk and those making a counterargument (also in the public eye) yell hoax.

    And that’s where we sit today.  

  33. Joshua says:

    EdG –
     
    “And it is as laughable as always given the real history and state of the polar bear population.”
     
    What do you know about the “state of the polar bear population?”
     
    I know that polar bears have become the icon of the “climate change is a hoax crowd,” and I wouldn’t exactly defend the iconic usage of polar bears by some”realists,” but from what I’ve read there actually are some populations of polar bears that are in decline, and in fact such populations outnumber those that are stable or increasing – and that the number of stable populations is decreasing over time.
     
     

  34. EdG says:

    32 Here’s some interesting perspective on where “we sit today.” An interview (by some not-too-friendly journalists) with one of the authors of the book that seems to be shaking up things in Germany.

    Vahrenholt: The long version of the IPCC report does mention natural causes of climate change, like the sun and oscillating ocean currents. But they no longer appear in the summary for politicians. They were simply edited out. To this day, many decision-makers don’t know that new studies have seriously questioned the dominance of CO2. CO2 alone will never cause a warming of more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century. Only with the help of supposed amplification effects, especially water vapor, do the computers arrive at a drastic temperature increase. I say that global warming will remain below two degrees by the end of the century. This is an eminently political message, but it’s also good news.”

    http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,813814,00.html

    If one wants to do a realistic risk assessment, one needs to begin with a realistic assessment of the risks.

  35. Sashka says:

    @ Matt

    “Agreed, there is more opportunity to view Fox News than Jon Stewart”

    How’s that”? JS is available on the web 24/7. Not the mention the rest of left media.

  36. Joshua says:

    EdG –
     
    I should specify that the trends I spoke of were for those subpopulations for which there is enough data to determine trends (there aren’t enough data to say one way or the other for 7 out of 19 identified populations).
     
    Also, please don’t forget to account for the impact of variables such as rates of hunting when you explain the “hoax” perspective on polar bears.

  37. Joshua says:

    I am dubious about increased partisanship, but I would also rate the impact of rightwing mainstream media as not insignificant:
     
    –snip–
     
    Pew researchers found in 2004 that 17% of the public regularly listens to talk radio. This audience is mostly male, middle-aged and conservative. Among those who regularly listen to talk radio, 41% are Republican and 28% are Democrats. Furthermore, 45% describe themselves as conservatives, compared with 18% who say they are liberals.
     
    –snip–
    –snip–
     
    Talk radio hosts such as Michael Savage (above), Rush Limbaugh, Neil Boortz, and G. Gordon Liddy have 48 million listeners altogether, which is more than twice the collective audience for the three TV network evening news shows combined.
     
    –snip–
     
    Michael Medved, Bill O’Reilly Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity, Bill Bennett, Dennis Miller, etc., etc (there’s a long list, isn’t there?)

  38. Sashka says:

    Ed’s criticisms are on target in 31. Also let me quote from the article:
    Scientists use numerical models to predict how fast Arctic sea ice is expected to melt in coming decades. So far, these climate models have done a poor job predicting the recent record loss of Arctic sea ice. None of the models used in the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report have foreseen the recent, remarkable sea ice loss.
    But we’ll trust the models anyway, no?

  39. EdG says:

    33 Joshua – I know this subject in great detail. Maybe Keith will post a blog on it and we could discuss it at length. Briefly, while acknowledging what you said, the bottom line is that there are more polar bears now than there have ever been historically and, I would argue, prehistorically – at least since the Inuit expanded across the Canadian Arctic during an earlier warming phase. 

    The main trick of the AGW promoters on this is to use the Hudson Bay population as their poster child. The southernmost population, most prone to any changes on the southern MARGINS of polar bear habitat. And even then, there are recent historical factors that skew what they report now.

    Just so you know. Some polar bears have always drowned, because they swim. But I hope you know how bogus the original ‘drowning polar bears’ story always was.

    And about that other poster story – cannibals! – some male polar bears (like other bears) have always been ‘cannibals.’ More polar bears, more cannibalism.

    And people who live in polar bear range have always killed polar bears, but do so much less often now. That is why the population has increased so much since about 1970.

    The Canadian government’s ‘species at risk’ body (COSEWIC) has repeatedly looked at the polar bear population and, despite incredible political pressure from the EPA gang, has never raised their ‘at risk’ status above the lowest minimal level. I know why. Do you?

  40. Matt B says:

    @ 35 Sashka,

    True statement about Stewart being available anytime you want to see him, but you only get one new half-hour Daily Show per day, while you get a full 24 hours of fresh Fox News hijinks daily! Lots of O’Reilly & Hannity & Greta to go around…………

    To your other point, yes indeed there is plenty of other media to the left of Fox (some of it owned by Murdoch), and so to my original point I think it’s interesting that the anti-Fox News crew needs that brand to be to build up in influence in order for them to take it down (a tribe’s greatness is figured on how mighty its enemies be). In my view Fox News has a voice but they are not relevant for > 90% of the general population, so who cares what they say?

  41. EdG says:

    Ratings
    The Scoreboard: Tuesday, February 7
    By Alex Weprin on February 8, 2012 4:41 PM
    25-54 demographic (Live +SD)

    Total day: FNC: 354 | MSNBC: 140 | CNN: 155 | HLN: 93

    Primetime: FNC: 582 | MSNBC: 279 | CNN: 307 | HLN: 111

    http://www.mediabistro.com/tvnewser/the-scoreboard-tuesday-february-7-2_b111415

  42. grypo says:

    Keith, the point is that even in conceding that McKibbon’s language isn’t optimal, it is still measurably closer to the conversation that you agree we should be having.  He’s likely acting on advise to not mince words when making points about future risks.  It’s not as if he claims to some fortune teller.  So, if we actually did have this conversation, McKibbon could actually take part in it, and would likely jump at the chance.  The hoaxers make the conversation impossible.  It’s even likely people like Sashka would refuse to discuss it, thinking that it is too uncertain to even frame the debate around upper bound risk.  So false balance is the wrong term, I just find it to be an illogical comparison, just measurably wrong.

  43. Eric Adler says:

    MattB,
    Fox News  appeals to a sizeable audience, as Ed G @41 has shown. On top of that, there is right wing talk radio, whose audience dwarfs FOX news. See Joshua @ 37.
    These forces are arrayed against the science that shows that  GHG’s are causing climate change. Talk radio, and FOX determine the Republican Party’s policy positions. The opinions of Republican voters echo the leadership of the Republican Party.

  44. Matt B says:

    @43 Eric,
     
    Ed G’s data is for cable news only. The 3 networks all have larger audiences for their newscasts than any cable channel and combined their viewership is 4v times larger than all cable networks combined:
     
    http://stateofthemedia.org/2011/network-essay/
     
     

  45. Eric Adler says:

    The Networks are centrist, and not a real counterweight to FOX News, which is basically a Republican Party advocate. 

  46. Steven Sullivan says:

    On Vahrenholt — here’s a part of the Spiegal article EdG @#34 didn’t quote:
    “[Vahrenholt] has only given the book to one climatologist, Jochem Marotzke, the director of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg, to read prior to its publication. Marotzke’s assessment is clear: Vahrenholt represents the standpoints of climate skeptics. “A number of the hypotheses in the book were refuted long ago,” Marotzke claims, but adds, on a self-critical note, that his profession has neglected to explain that global temperatures will not increase uniformly. Instead, says Marotzke, there could also be phases of stagnation and even minor declines in temperature. “This has exposed us to potential criticism,” he says.”
     
    So, Marotzke is saying that ‘the profession’ has at worst oversimplified when explaining to the public, while Vahrenholt is retailing multiple refuted hypotheses.  So I doubt the latter will be ‘shaking up Germany’ for very long, unless the denial machine backs him with big money.
     

  47. Sashka says:

    @ 45
     
    Eric, just because the networks are to the right from you doesn’t make them centrist.

  48. Sashka says:

    @ 42
     
     He’s likely acting on advise to not mince words when making points about future risks.
     
    Even more likely is that he actually means what he says.
     
     It’s not as if he claims to some fortune teller. 
     
    It’s as if he can’t stop lying. 
     
     It’s even likely people like Sashka would refuse to discuss it, thinking that it is too uncertain to even frame the debate around upper bound risk.
     
    Of course upper bound itself is uninteresting without probability attached. Think about the asteroid again. But if someone would come up with a workable framework for risk assessment I’d be most interested.
     

  49. Sashka says:

    @ 46
     
    I don’t know anything about the book but Marotzke’s comments were clearly unrelated to the quote posted by Ed. That bit was correct.
     
    Marotzke … adds, on a self-critical note, that his profession has neglected to explain that global temperatures will not increase uniformly. Instead, says Marotzke, there could also be phases of stagnation and even minor declines in temperature.
     
    That’s a nice try to wrap it up as a little communication problem. In fact, in 1998 nobody in the mainstream anticipated prolonged plateau in mean temps. Especially now, after 13 years of non-growth, nothing stops them from quantifying how long the stagnation would continue. I heard someone (Gavin?) staked out 15 years tops. Well, I guess we’ll find out in a couple of years, right?
     
    Probably wrong. If it doesn’t resume warming they’ll put out another explanation. Somehow I don’t think the mainstream would collectively admit that they were wrong. I’m not saying that they are but they are not even framing the conversation around the ongoing experiment that should confirm or reject their theories. The latter is not really considered.
     

  50. Paul in Sweden says:

    Show me the exodus of populations from the tropics. Show me the huge swaths of now reclaimed farmland in the arctic. Show me Hansen’s West Side NYC NASA GISS office under water as he predicted.
    Explain to me how the billions of people who actually exist today in poverty, starvation and energy deprivation are less important than the theoretical multitudes in the Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming political movement doomsday scenarios.
    On another topic Grypo #18, half-measures are a pet peeve of mine. My home(earth) is on fire and I am told by a bunch of rent seekers that I must mortgage my home, sell off my first born and in return my home will still be burnt down to the ground.
    When half-measures are presented the entirety of the proposal is invalidated.

  51. NewYorkJ says:

    Sashka: after 13 years of non-growth

    Where is that “non-growth” exactly?  I’m not seeing it…

    http://www.woodfortrees.org/plot/wti/from:1999/trend

    Now one can always pick out the “since 1998” cherry, but for as long as GISS has been putting out press releases for 10+ years, Hansen has referried to 1998 as a strong el Nino year 0.2 C above the trendline.  Seems that some recent years have had la Ninas below the warming trendline.  Seems like starting any trend analysis in strong el Ninos and ending in strong la Ninas is highly dishonest.  But of course trying to extend the “plateau” to more than 10 years, ignoring the ENSO swings, ignoring all forcings during the period, and ignoring what models say on the basis that one did not remember scientists communicating effectively to media on the topic, all helps the denier to claim “AGW debunked”.  Good lawyering.  Bad science.  

  52. Nullius in Verba says:

    #51,
    It depends on what conclusions you are trying to draw.
     
    When people plot graphs starting in 1973, at the end of a cooling spell, and ending in 1999, which they did for years, the El Nino wasn’t mentioned. When certain people chopped off the end of the graph after 1960, they neglected to draw people’s attention to it. “this does not mean that one could not improve a chronology by reducing the number of series used if the purpose of removing samples is to enhance a desired signal. The ability to pick and choose which samples to use is an advantage unique to dendroclimatology.” [Esper et al. 2003.]
    As Roseanne D’Arrigo said, you have to pick cherries if you want to make cherry pie.
     
    The basic problem is with this whole business of plotting trends at all. The method used in your linked graph is ‘ordinary least-squares’, a statistical method that assumes a linear trend plus independent identically distributed Gaussian noise for its optimality. But this data is neither independent nor Gaussian, so the result is invalid, and arguably meaningless.
     
    The very fact that picking different endpoints leads to dramatically different conclusions is an indication that the result is not robust. If the answer depends on minor methodological differences, something else is going on. There is no linear trend. The assumed statistical model is wrong.
     
    If you want to say what the temperature has done over the past however many years, you have to look at the data itself. Constructing trend lines and moving averages and other forms of smoothing or processing is fantasy data, unless you know from the physics that it has to work that way. You can’t delete the ENSO swings without also removing PDO and AMO. You can’t plug in the models unless you have validated them as fully capturing all the relevant physics. All you can do is say “this is what the data does”.
     
    You are quite right, though, that one cannot present the last 15 years of data with a trend line and declare “AGW debunked”. Although in the main, sceptics usually don’t. They make the statement, and then rely on the public intuition built up from years of AGW-promoters showing similar trend lines and declaring “AGW confirmed” to do that for them. All those people over the years who plotted the 1975-1998 rise, slapped a trend line on it, and said it “proved” AGW, that technique is coming back to bite you.
     
    The political sceptics’ aim in using such tactics is to force you to explain that you can’t conclude anything from linear trend lines. Educating the public on this point immunises them against your previous propaganda, not educating them leaves them vulnerable to ours.
     
    And there is a serious scientific point to it too. The early 20th century rise has been ascribed by the mainstream to natural variation, and only the second half of the 20th century is claimed to be “mostly” due to AGW. But looking at the data, it only really rose from about 1975 to 2000, roughly 25 years. So if 25 years rising adds support, how long a period of it not rising would be needed to take support away? And how close are we to seeing that?
     
    If a theory is not falsifiable, it is not scientific. If every possible outcome is an expected result of the hypothesis, then there can be no evidence for it. So there must be some set of observations that would falsify AGW. The question is, what? We are agreed that 15 years of no significant warming doesn’t do it. But would 20? 25? 50? How much?
     
    If there is no limit, or you keep moving the limits as we reach them, then AGW is an unfalsifiable, unscientific claim. If there is a limit, then knowing how close we are to it (or how far away we are) is of scientific interest to both sides of the debate.
     
    Climate scientists are interested too. Here’s Phil:
    “I hope you’re not right about the lack of warming lasting till about 2020. I’d rather hoped to see the earlier Met Office press release with Doug’s paper that said something like – half the years to 2014 would exceed the warmest year currently on record, 1998! Still a way to go before 2014.”

  53. NewYorkJ says:

    NiV: But looking at the data, it only really rose from about 1975 to 2000, roughly 25 years.

    NiV: When people plot graphs starting in 1973, at the end of a cooling spell, and ending in 1999, which they did for years, the El Nino wasn’t mentioned.   

    Although you think basic statistical methods are bad, I would contend that linear trends, or multi-year means are better than a “looking at the data” approach and a “only really rose” conclusion.

    NiV: If a theory is not falsifiable, it is not scientific. If every possible outcome is an expected result of the hypothesis, then there can be no evidence for it. So there must be some set of observations that would falsify AGW. The question is, what? We are agreed that 15 years of no significant warming doesn’t do it. But would 20? 25? 50? How much?
      

    If a big asteroid collided with the Earth, it would probably stir up some dust and cool things down for awhile.  That wouldn’t “falsify AGW”.  Your argument implies there are no other impacts on global mean temperature other than anthropogenic positive forcings, and that all forcings continue as expected.  I recommend Foster and Rahmstorf 2011 as well as the general model/data comparison discussion.  At this point, “skeptics” need to explain why it hasn’t cooled over the last 10 years, when all natural factors (real and alleged (i.e. cosmic rays)) have been strongly in that direction. Adjusting for the real ones, there’s not even a hint of reduced warming.

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2012/02/2011-updates-to-model-data-comparisons/

    Taking into account forcing that go into a model would get you closer to falsifying a model.  As for “falsifying AGW”, you could try some lab experiments, or observe the change in spectrum for CO2.  But that’s been done, and it won’t help your cause. Even some of the most zealous skeptics like Lindzen have published research confirming AGW.

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/empirical-evidence-for-co2-enhanced-greenhouse-effect.htm 

    Now maybe one defines AGW to imply a net positive feedback.  You could examine direct observations of water vapor and make dubious conclusions that the data doesn’t support, you could hypothesize that positive feedback from melting ice is a farce.  You could take great liberties with the uncertainties in cloud feedback, but direct observations would limit you.  You could examine paleo data.  But all of that would lead you to conclude the system has a strong net positive feedback.  So maybe you would be back to claiming AGW is falsified because with global mean temperature, you were “looking at the data” and concluded such.

  54. Sashka says:

    Good staff, NiV. I hope someone is paying attention.

  55. Joshua says:

    NiV –
     
    ” We are agreed that 15 years of no significant warming doesn’t do it. But would 20? 25? 50? How much?”


    A reasonable question. Even if we said that with a 95% CI, we wouldn’t see a lack of significant warming for 25 years, would such an occurrence equal falsification (as it would imply a 5% likelihood of such a period)?
     
    “If a theory is not falsifiable, it is not scientific. “


    People say that without the possibility of falsification, no theory is scientific. What theories have definitively been falsified? Seems to me that the notion of falsification or proof is always a relative question. As such, it seems to me that such absolute statements are not particularly valuable. Where do we draw the line on probabilities that determine absolute falsification? Can we always move that just a smidgen depending on our subjective evaluation? Can the theory of gravity account for the possibility of the supernatural?
     
    Maybe instead of absolutist statements, the focus should be on quantification of probabilities. Anything less seems ill-advised, IMO. The problem that I have with “skeptics” on the whole is that I very often see a failure to acknowledge the quantification of probabilities that “realists” to offer. That seems very un-skeptical, IMO, and counterproductive towards the goal of quantifying certainty. Argue about whether the quantifications of uncertainty till the cows come home. It’s a worthy endeavor. Misstating the quantification of uncertainty that is offered is antithetical to that discussion. 


    “You are quite right, though, that one cannot present the last 15 years of data with a trend line and declare “AGW debunked”. Although in the main, sceptics usually don’t.


    Without some qualification of the last clause, that statement isn’t consistent with my, anecdotal, observations.

  56. NewYorkJ says:

    All those people over the years who plotted the 1975-1998 rise, slapped a trend line on it, and said it “proved” AGW, that technique is coming back to bite you.

    Adding all the data beyond 1998 results in a similar trendline, with an additional 0.2 C of warming.  This doesn’t really help the “skeptic” case, unless one cherry-picks much shorter timeframes, as well as start-end points.

    http://www.woodfortrees.org/plot/gistemp/from:1975/to:1999/trend/plot/gistemp/from:1975/trend

    Does a 36 years of data “prove” global warming?  Well, General Relativity isn’t “proven”.  It’s, however, much stronger evidence than a noisy 10-year trend, or a 24-year trend for that matter.  Since Hansen’s 1981 model, it’s clear the signal has emerged from the noise.

  57. Joshua says:

    Niv –
     
    Sorry – w/r/t my last point, you did offer qualification; it’s quantification that I’m looking for.

  58. Nullius in Verba says:

    #53,
    If the temperature did not rise at all over the next 88 years, would you consider AGW claims to be vindicated?

  59. Joshua says:

    NiV –
     
    Well, actually qualification (which “skeptics” are you speaking of?) along with quantification (how have you determined “in the main?”)

  60. Paul in Sweden says:

    Nullius in Verba
    If you were part of some gifted advanced civilization…and stumbled across our big blue ball we call earth…

    What would you determine to be the ideal average phone number or global temperature?

  61. Nullius in Verba says:

    #55,
    I think quantification of probability is acceptable, if there’s a traceable account of exactly how it was calculated, and if it’s not about statements too vague to be meaningful.
     
    The IAC review said:
    “IPCC’s guidance for addressing uncertainties in the Fourth Assessment Report urge authors to consider the amount of evidence and level of agreement about all conclusions and to apply subjective probabilities of confidence to conclusions when there was “high agreement, much evidence.” However, such guidance was not always followed, as exemplified by the many statements in the Working Group II Summary for Policy Makers that are assigned high confidence, but are based on little evidence. Moreover, the apparent need to include statements of “high confidence” (i.e., an 8 out of 10 chance of being correct) in the Summary for Policy Makers led authors to make many vaguely defined statements that are difficult to refute, making them therefore of “high confidence.” Such statements have little value.”
    “Chapter Lead Authors should provide a traceable account of how they arrived at their ratings for level of scientific understanding and likelihood that an outcome will occur.”
     
    Would you agree with the second quote?

  62. Joshua says:

    NiV –
     
    I realized that maybe this statement is questionable mathematically:
     
    “A reasonable question. Even if we said that with a 95% CI, we wouldn’t see a lack of significant warming for 25 years, would such an occurrence equal falsification (as it would imply a 5% likelihood of such a period)?”
     
    I’m not particularly statistically-literate. A 95% CI, I suspect, is not directly translatable into at 5% probability – but I think that doesn’t obscure the larger point I was making.

  63. Joshua says:

    NiV –
     
    ” Would you agree with the second quote?”


    Sure.
    And whether or not existing data falls within a projected CI  is also something that can, in some situations, be determined in an absolute way.


    Questions of traceability are absolutely legit, IMO. Unfortunately, however, from what I’ve seen, traceability has also become an issue that has been demagogued on both sides of the debate.

  64. NewYorkJ says:

    A common technique among “skeptics” is to claim “but those dirty climate scientists never mentioned…”.  Such rhetoric often works because the target audience is unfamiliar with what climate scientists are actually saying.

    NiV: When people plot graphs starting in 1973, at the end of a cooling spell, and ending in 1999, which they did for years, the El Nino wasn’t mentioned.

    Maybe by “people”, NiV doesn’t mean scientists.  From Hansen, 1999, “GISS Analysis of surface temperature change”…

    First, the rate of warming in the past 25 years is the highest in the period of instrumental data.
    The warmth of 1998 must have been in part associated with a strong El Nino that occurred in 1997-1998.
    Quantitative assessment of the magnitude of global warming since the late 1800s requires consideration of…(3) the unrepresentativeness of the 1998 temperature, which was enhanced by a strong El Nino.
    Enough chasing the Gish Galloper for now…

  65. Nullius in Verba says:

    #59,
    Actually, I was speaking anecdotally too. Although having done a quick check on the top dozen links on a google search, I found one that did, from someone I’ve never heard of, and the rest didn’t, including such usual suspects as Pat Michaels, Cato, Fox, Morano, and Forbes. Most of them were referring to the David Rose article, a couple of old ones to Phil Jones saying it after the first Climategate.
     
    I don’t claim that to be statistically significant, though. I doubt the sample is uniform, for a start.
     
    #62,
    A confidence interval tells you that given the data follows a particular statistical model with a parameter, there’s less than 5% probability of seeing those observations if the parameter falls outside the interval. It doesn’t say anything about whether the model is valid – you have to rely on other arguments for that – and it doesn’t generally tell you the probability that the claim is true – that depends on the prior distribution. If you assume a uniform distribution (i.e. you knew nothing before the experiment) then you do get 5%.
     
    Confidence intervals are generally good, but you do have to be a little bit careful of them.

  66. Sashka says:

    Joshua,

    “If a theory is not falsifiable, it is not scientific.”

    This is not NiV. This is Karl Popper. The principle has universal applicability and is recognized by everyone in all sciences, with just one notable exception (hint). If science cannot be falsified it becomes a religion.

    “What theories have definitively been falsified? Where do we draw the line on probabilities that determine absolute falsification?”

    What’s the probability that the Earth is flat? That Sun rotates around Earth? That speed of light is infinite? That atom cannot be split?

    “The problem that I have with “skeptics” on the whole is that I very often see a failure to acknowledge the quantification of probabilities that “realists” to offer.”

    What quantification of probabilities? I hope you don’t mean the IPCC verbiage?

    “Without some qualification of the last clause, that statement isn’t consistent with my, anecdotal, observations.”

    I’d say you’re hanging out with wrong crowd.

  67. Joshua says:

    NiV –
     
    ” I’ve never heard of, and the rest didn’t, including such usual suspects as Pat Michaels, Cato, Fox, Morano, and Forbes.”
     
    Just to pick your most obvious of examples:
     
     
     
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/02/11/colbert-rips-fox-news-for_n_458075.html
     
    There are different ways to suggest that recent temperatures disprove AGW. WUWT does it all the time with posts about extreme winter weather. Go over to Curry’s and check out the debate on this thread:
     
    http://judithcurry.com/2012/02/07/trends-change-points-hypotheses/
     
    I have a very different interpretation of the reactions to the Rose article. We’re going to have to agree to disagree on this one.
     
    ” It doesn’t say anything about whether the model is valid ““ you have to rely on other arguments for that ““ and it doesn’t generally tell you the probability that the claim is true ““ that depends on the prior distribution.”


    That was pretty much my point.

  68. Joshua says:

    # 66 –
     
    Ask Roy Spencer whether or not Intelligent Design is falsifiable, or whether evolution is falsifiable. Then ask an the majority of evolutionary biologists those questions. How do you explain the different answers you’ll get.
     
    Ask Spencer (who believes in the supernatural) whether or not gravity if falsifiable. If he says yes, then ask him how he knows that what appears to be gravity isn’t just a manifestation of a supernatural being likes to make objects move towards each other. 
     
     

  69. Sashka says:

    I’m not sure what point you are trying to make. Obviously, any fact could be “explained” by supernatural. It’s not interesting (to me) and is not worthy of discussion. I believe majority of evolutionary biologists won’t say that ID is falsified. They can only say (as Laplace famously did) that they don’t need this assumption.
     

  70. Joshua says:

    Sashka – 
     
    “I’m not sure what point you are trying to make.”


    I get that. And I think it is an unresolvable dilemma.

  71. Sashka says:

    If you say so. As long as your point (of bringing supernatural into what was before – at least superficially – reality-based discussion) is not coming across there is nothing else that I can add.

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