Why I Must Speak Out about Climate Change

Over thirty years ago, James Hansen was lead author of a scientific paper titled Climate Impact of Increasing Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide. They estimated that doubling the amount of CO2 in the air would raise global temperature about 2.8 degrees (C, equal to about 5 degrees F). They projected that from 1980 to 2010, earth would warm a little more than 0.4 degrees C. High northern latitudes, however, would warm at a much faster rate. We would likely see the start of melting of the great ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland. They further suggested that we could start to lose much of the sea ice in the Arctic, which might even open the Northwest and Northeast passages.

That was over thirty years ago. What has happened since then?

From 1980 to 2010, earth warmed about 0.5 degrees C. High northern latitudes, however, warmed at a much faster rate. We’ve seen rapid melting of the great ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland. We’ve already lost much of the sea ice in the Arctic, which has opened the Northwest and Northeast passages.

The science is clear. Those who don’t want to believe it are fond of screaming that “the science isn’t settled, science is never settled!” That’s a lie. Certainly not all the science is settled, it never is. But we know some things for sure, like gravity works and smoking cigarettes causes lung cancer. And — the globe is warming, it’s caused by human beings, and it’s dangerous. Very dangerous. Extraordinarily dangerous.

James Hansen is NASA’s chief climate scientist, director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies. He describes himself as a conservative Republican. He was born and raised in Iowa, and is now in his 70s. Yet in recent years he has actively protested against policies that threaten to put even more CO2 into our atmosphere from burning even more fossil fuels. In spite of numerous arrests during his protests, he continues to warn, repeatedly, that we’re playing with fire and it’s gonna blow up in our faces.

That part of the science really is settled. Yet there’s a powerful movement to deny it. Some stems from political ideology, some from mistrust of government, and yes, a heckuva lot of it is spread by the fossil fuel industry — because it’s their product that is the cause of the problem. They make immense profits, and they see any interference or accountability — any at all — as a threat to their already bloated wealth. So, rather than accept that something has to change, rather than adapt to the situation, they deny reality and fight tooth-and-nail to preserve the status quo.

Wake up! We can’t afford to let them build their wealth on our misery. The science really is clear. Stop letting PR pundits and politicians in denial send our future down the toilet. Stop letting them sucker you.

And for those of you who haven’t been suckered, who trust the climate scientists more than the oil companies — stop fooling yourself into thinking that this problem isn’t urgent. It is. If we act now, we can deal with it, without too much misery. If we wait two years, it’ll be much more expensive, much more difficult, and much less successful. If we wait until 2020, then an outright crisis is unavoidable. If we wait any longer than that … game over.

Why would a conservative Republican in his 70s endure arrest to protest about the urgency of the climate problem? Because he fears for the safety and the future of his grandchildren. Yes, he is genuinely afraid. You should be too.

I know we’re in a very difficult economic situation. I know we’re hard hit by gas prices, that jobs are hard to come by, that a lot of you are struggling just to keep your heads above water. It’s very hard to think of something as abstract as global warming as a crisis, when real problems are staring you right in the face. But think about this: if you were tired, and hungry, and desperate for work, and then you saw your own child playing on the railroad track while a locomotive sped toward him — what would you do? Would you think, “That’ll wait while I deal with these other problems”? Or would you move heaven and earth to get your own kid to safety?

That’s really how urgent, how dangerous, climate change is. It’s why James Hansen recently delivered a talk about why he must speak out about climate change. It’s well worth listening to. His reasons are the same as mine.

139 responses to “Why I Must Speak Out about Climate Change

  1. Excellent points. I might suggest that the problem is no longer the physics of the changes – rather the problem is human intransigence and inability to face the situation. Rarely has our species been required to make a unified collective effort.

    • Last year I became involved with Citizen’s Climate Lobby, at the behest of a public statement of Dr. Hansen’s- so far it’s a growing effort, but if there’s anything that promises better results I haven’t heard of it. Right now it focuses on media and meeting with legislators and their aides, mostly in support of Pete Stark’s HR3242, putting a price on carbon. I bet activity could also be directed to these and other contacts and relationships to lobby for county or state governments to change incentives to utilities.
      Join it! Or tell me what else might be better.

      • I’m asking all of my district’s U.S. House&Senate candidates and incumbents whether they would support a bill (Sanders/Ellison EPWA) to eliminate fossil fuel industry subsidies (only) , & if not, whether they’d support a bill reducing these subsidies to be on a par with the subsidies to renewables. (Does anyone know if these are still 1/6 of F.F. subsidies, as reported in 2009? (link))

        Which climate (or other) group is focused on getting & reporting candidates’ climate-related policy views (and perhaps also views on ending money&lobbying-in-politics corruption?) on the record, before they’re elected? IMO we should really push to get this done.

    • Bernard J.

      Excellent points indeed. And there’s one with which I especially agree:

      And for those of you who haven’t been suckered, who trust the climate scientists more than the oil companies — stop fooling yourself into thinking that this problem isn’t urgent. It is. If we act now, we can deal with it, without too much misery. If we wait two years, it’ll be much more expensive, much more difficult, and much less successful. If we wait until 2020, then an outright crisis is unavoidable. If we wait any longer than that … game over.

      In fact I endorse this sentiment so much that I’ll repeat it again:

      And for those of you who haven’t been suckered, who trust the climate scientists more than the oil companies — stop fooling yourself into thinking that this problem isn’t urgent. It is. If we act now, we can deal with it, without too much misery. If we wait two years, it’ll be much more expensive, much more difficult, and much less successful. If we wait until 2020, then an outright crisis is unavoidable. If we wait any longer than that … game over.

    • irascibleexaminator

      You are partially correct. What is not understood or not fully taken into account by those who support ACC is the research into Behavioural and Neuro psychological research, is that simply swatting flies (lies) with facts is not going to solve anything practical.
      In truth there are *three* types of payers here . Those that see and believe the facts. Those who have a neuro psychological NEED for a simplistic explanation of life and it’s purpose (aka instinctual need and response).
      Put another way some people NEED the comfort of surety, a god et al. That is a manifestation of a combination of their hard wired instinct and conditioning. People tend to believe what is closest to what they are most comfortable with. e.g. those who vote republican associate with those who think in republican terms. These I call Deniers
      Keep in mind we must accept the research that shows that our instincts, (aka emotions, Human nature) are more primary and fundamental (also largely subliminal) than rational thought (involving different parts of the brain. Any professional salesperson (politicians, media editors/owners, marketing/ advertising person) knows that emotion makes the sale and reason justifies it. (this latter group in ACC context are the ‘Denialists’ .
      Their modis operandi is to wantonly deny and bury, out manoeuvre, stop alternative arguments by the third group… the believers .This they do by (ab)using the skills/tecniques of the propagandist.
      They have a few advantages firstly they are (ab)using the more fundamental part of human nature… the emotions et al.
      The believers are trying (unsuccessfully limited success) using the secondary higher function of reason.
      The denialists are also redefining the popular meaning of complex words and concept. firstly to deny the believers the appropriate vocabulary.
      Secondly to disassociate reason with straight talk (i.e. what the deniers believe is the truth and something they believe they do) and instead offer a more comforting message of status quo.
      The point it that we’re playing in two different fields and we’re hobbled by not appealing to the emotions only scaring the b’jesus out of the deniers .

      • irascibleexaminator

        PS we’re simply not talking THEIR language… one they feel comfortable with.

      • IE, the frailties of human psychology are not controversial. What is needed is a way of overcoming those frailties. If humans cannot accurately perceive reality, they will eventually go extinct. Indeed, since we are social animals, the deniers will probably drag down even those of us who are reality-based.

        I had hoped that science could serve the role. Indeed, given that it has utterly revolutionized the way people live in 4 centuries, and given that anti-science has had to try to mimic science in order to try to counter it, perhaps it still can. However, this would require that humans become sufficiently smart to distinguish between real and fake science. So I expect we are screwed.

        To hell with THEIR language! Screw their comfort! They need to learn science.

  2. Nice post Tamino.
    I would add, even if you deny AGW, or perhaps don’t think it’s gonna be *that* bad, that oil use presents other clear and present dangers. Dangers that we’ve already seen – war, genocide, terrorism, etc that had nothing to do with increasing temperatures, but everything to do with the skyrocketing value of a scarce commodity.
    As for coal, it is unfathomable to me that in 2012 we are still digging rocks out of the ground and burning them for energy. We should be smarter than that by now, and AGW is just one of many problems with coal.

    • Good points, to add to your list, IMO the air pollution health effects from fossil fuels alone should make us move briskly away from them…

  3. The projections in Hansen et al. (1981) really were remarkably accurate.

    I certainly share Hansen’s (and tamino’s) concerns about the dangers posed by climate change, and the frustration that we’re not doing anything serious to mitigate those dangers.

  4. John Mashey

    Our LEED Platinum town center opened a few years ago, and we were lucky to get Amory Livins and then Jim Hansen as first two speakers. Jim’s schedule was jammed, but a few of us grabbed sandwiches with him beforehand.
    Unlike another fine scientist, Steve Schneider, who seemed born to also be a passionate communicator/advocate, my sense was that Jim didn’t come to advocacy comfortably, but indeed from real fear for his young grandchildren,, whose pictures he pulled out over “dinner.”

  5. Well that is clear and simple. I think a reality check like this is good once in awhile.

  6. Excellent essay. Thanks for posting it.

  7. I’ve been playing the climate prediction markets at Intrade.com, and I’m shocked to find that very few science deniers are willing to put their money where their mouths are. So, they’ve gone from “it’s cooling” to “it’s not getting warmer” to “it’s getting warmer but we don’t know why” to “it’s getting warmer but it’s natural.”

    I encourage everyone to challenge any denier with whom you cross paths to go bet on it:


  8. Until climate change came along I hadn’t realised how powerful and persuasive denial could be in some people’s minds. It’s almost like people who refuse to accept the facts are wired differently.

    I mean; I personally have done very well out of ‘the system’ in my 62 years. I’ve travelled the world on business, I ran my own companies and I was once the worst kind of petrolhead — I even raced cars. But around ten years ago, once I understood what we’re doing to our climate, I immediately began making radical changes to my life to make it low carbon and to start doing my best to explain the problem to others. So why did I, who had so much invested in the fossil-fuelled economy, accept the scientific consensus; and why do so many others like me find it impossible to accept? Our whole society seems so locked into life as we know it and so unwilling to embrace change.

    The only answer I’ve come up with is that I’ve always been someone who puts the long-term ahead of the short-term in terms of importance. Does this give me, you, and others like us, a different perspective on life?

    • John, I’ve seen a lot of evidence to support the notion that some people are unable to conceive the notion of long term. Lots of people who argue against science put up as ‘evidence’ the fact that what is projected as possible by 2100 hasn’t happened yet. It’s a common and recurring theme from denialists.

      There is no sign at all that such people are willing to consider the impact of today’s decisions and actions on people living 200, 500 or 5,000 years from now. Yet at the same time they point to the situation on earth 2 or 3 billion years ago to ‘prove’ that the atmosphere was different in the past or that climates change.

      My approach is to just keep nibbling away on general discussion websites and elsewhere – often referring people to this website and other top climate science websites. Getting involved locally is worth while, too. (I rarely post on sites that specialise in anti-science propaganda and when I do attempt it, my posts are often not published.)

      Some people have told me my posts have helped them understand the science and motivated them to learn about climate. So even though we’ll never change the mind of the hard-core denialists, we must keep speaking out. It does make a difference.

      • I could well have written that myself, Sou. I am now involved locally — since I became a Parish Councillor — and I make my views and the arguments for climate science very vocally. The fact I am a successful business person helps to break down the false image of environmentalists as dread-locked tree-huggers.

        You’re right about writing comments on denial websites — it’s generally pointless — but I prefer to target websites where the discussion is not polarised and where I try to present a calm voice of reason linking to credible science (particularly those of NASA and the UK Met Office). I do this in the hope that the vast majority of ‘don’t knows’ who read the comments will know there are alternative responses to the sea of denial memes they meet on line and in the press.

        As I hope Edmund Burke would have said if he’d been alive today: “All that is necessary for climate denial to triumph is for people who understand the science to keep quiet”.

      • Bernard J.


        John, I’ve seen a lot of evidence to support the notion that some people are unable to conceive the notion of long term.

        The sad thing is, this phenomenon extends to people who are otherwise very intelligent and perceptive. One that stands out for me at the moment is Satyajit Das, who had a lot of sensible things to say about the nature of current economic practices, but who dropped the ball spectacularly just before the final whistle:

        Yeah I think that’s absolutely right because I think the level of growth that people got accustomed to; the 4-6 per cent since the 1980s was artificially engineered.

        So you have to go back to a normal rate of growth. That’s not in itself bad but you’re now captured by things like how quickly the population grows, what new products you can do, how you can improve productivity, what new markets are; all of those types of things.

        And that’s a much more realistic, sustainable long-term growth but it’s just not as high as the types of growth that people have A. become accustomed to and B. need because the entire financial, social and economic system is built around higher levels of growth.

        Albert Bartlett would weep.

      • @Bernard J.: I agree, Albert would weep. Your quote displays another facet of the problem we, together, face: the word ‘sustainable’ has been hijacked, as so many otherwise useful memes are, by those who seek to claim the high ground. “Sustainable growth”? There ain’t no such beast.

      • Pedantry,
        I would beg to differ. Growth based on increased technological sophisication could be sustainable.

      • Bernard J.

        Growth based on increased technological sophisication could be sustainable.

        In a manner of speaking it could, but only within the contraints of energy and resource requirements. It’s analogous to the increase in biodiversity that occurs over evolutionary scales as species specialise to maximise their capacities to inhabit particular niches. Or if one prefers to be crude, it’s a process of salami slicing.

        Such a maximal development of complexity most efficiently comes about with competition, which would delight the free-marketeers, until one points out two things – it requires true freedom (not the faux freedom, preferred by many business interests, to fiddle things so that only their chums get a bite at the apple), and it requires a suspension of some of the characteristics of ‘civilisation’ that differentiates us from the ‘beasts’ that too many humans disparage. Oo, and it also requires no more than minor perturbations of the ecosystem (or the econosystem) in which the biodiversity (technodiversity) occurs. Big upsets reset…

        But I digress. The laws of thermodynamics dictate that complexity (≡ information density) would approach an asymptote* based on the amount of free work that can be wrought from a system. This progress toward an asymptote is the “increase” in technological sophistication. The asymptote isn’t necessarily a peak of possible technological sophistication (although there is likely a correlation), but it is largely analogous to the area under the overall curve that describes a society’s overall technological base. The ultimate height of technological achievement can be raised to some extent, but at the cost of sacrificing broad technological application elsewhere – just as we can’t all be kings, we can’t all have our own teleporters, especially if some want to have their own worm-holes as well.

        Another way to imagine it is if our complete energy/materials/innovation resource base was a big lump of modelling clay. We can share lumps out to members of a group for them to model as they will, and some could perhaps model exquisitely refined and complicated works of art with their share – and larger ones if they co-opt more from others – but the total potential of sculpting mass is directly dictated by the size of the original lump. Of course, one can always take a sculpture and rework it into something new, but this isn’t ‘growth’, it isn’t ‘development’, it’s redevelopment, it’s recycling, it’s reprocessing, it’s all those other “re” words that describe an equilibrium system. “Regrowth”? Yeah, that’d fit too, but whatever it is it isn’t the process of exponential growth and perpetual borrowing from others in space and time that characterises the current (flawed) Western economic paradigm.

        It might seem somewhat pedantic, but in describing system-wide processes it’s important to ensure that one never loses sight of the thermodynamics that underpin the universe – the real and true Science of Doom. I apologise to Tamino if this post has strayed too far from topic but I believe that without moving toward an understanding of the fundamental limits of resource use, humans will not be equipped to make the best decisions about how to deal with the impending problems of system damage that we are currently gleefully inflicting on our little blue marble.

        [*Many people insist that human technological development is unbounded and exponential, or at least linear. I would argue that whilst the laws of thermodynamics operate, such development is ultimately likely to follow a sigmoid style trajectory, and that the illusion of unboundeness is simply a reflection that the point of inflection has not yet been recognised. But not having yet bumped into it doesn’t mean that the inflection point, and the related asymptote, are not there.]

  9. Brilliant as usual.

    The “difficult economic situation” is mostly difficult because of unemployment but a carbon tax used to create employment solves this.
    Look at my piece “Tax carbon to create jobs for the young” on the Brussels Blog. http://www.brusselsblog.co.uk/tax-carbon-subsidise-jobs-for-the-young/

    The significant thing here isn’t what I’ve written but the article in the latest Fraser Economic Commentary, “The impact of the introduction of a carbon tax for Scotland”. It’s not on the Fraser website yet so I’ve uploaded it to one of my sites. There’s a link at the end of the Brussels Blog piece.

    The advantages of a carbon tax to create jobs are:

    – It creates jobs

    – It reduces domestic demand for energy so it

    –closes the energy gap

    –reduces imports

    –increases exports

    – It redistributes from rich to poor

    It may even help the climate.

    The Fraser of Allender work is excellent economics but there are other hopeful signs in Australia and Europe …

    On Mother Jones: As Austerity Falters, European Economists Say “Price Carbon!” http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2012/05/carbon-pricing-answer-europes-debt-woes

    I haven’t heard about Hansen’s excellent carbon fee lately. Has anyone done any economic analysis on that?

  10. Don Fontaine

    preserve not
    preverse the status quo.

    Although they are perverse.

    [Response: Thanks. Fixed.]

  11. john byatt

    A good read also from Lyn bender



    • From John’s link: “This now seems almost utopian and has been revised up to four degrees.”

      There’ll be no “adapting” to four degrees. Four degrees will be game over.

  12. Great post, as always. A big thank you from me for all the work you are doing with this blog.

    Apart from the obvious value in supporting climate science, your blog is also a fantastic resource for learning about statistics (as is your book Analyzing Light Curves: A Practical Guide).

  13. Good job, a minor nit: ” It’s very hard to think of something as abstract as global warming as a crisis, when real problems are staring you right in the face. “, may we hear someone say “See, even Tamino thinks global warming is an abstract problem than a real problem!”? The concrete examples like the shrinking glaciers, more intense heatwaves and risen atmospheric moisture->larger clouds->heavier rain -causal chain would be good to mention too, but this was more about a conservative talking point in the 1970s…

  14. James E. Hansen will, without a doubt, keep the company of Newton, Einstein, Darwin & other scientific titans in the history ebooks our grandchildren.

  15. … & their grandchildren.

  16. Very thought provoking post. Having studied climate for many decades and human nature even longer, I would offer the following observations:

    1. We have so far been spared the worst of the effects of AGW because of the large uptake of energy by the oceans. This has both good and bad consequences, but even he good may turn out bad. It is good from the sense that we are a land dwelling species, and thus the atmosphere has been spared from the worst of the warming from the ongoing GHG induced energy imbalance. Thus, despite some of the climate disruptions that have been occurring- it could be worse if the oceans were’t such a great heat sink. Unfortunately, this masking of a lot of the warming by it being shifted from atmosphere to oceans allows skeptics and the outright deniers a chance to claim such outright nonsense as “no warming for the past decade” etc. Even scientists who should know better repeat this nonsense, and it just creates confusion among the public and policy makers. Message to all honest scientists- the Earth continues to warm. During the latest 3 month period the ocean heat content down to 2000 meters was at its highest level on instrument record. This represents thousands of times more energy than the much more variable atmosphere even could hold. Of course the fact that a lot of the excess heat and CO2 are going into the ocean and being hidden from at least some humans, oceanographers know that the oceans are in trouble- big trouble. They may be reaching a breaking point and this will of course have huge ramifications for we land dwellers.

    2. My second observation is about addictions and why doing something about climate change will prove so very difficult. I’ve studied addictions even longer than I’ve studied climate, and all the classic signs of a mass addiction on a global level are present. Humans are addicted to relatively cheap and easy to come by energy, mainly in the form of fossil fuels, and this core addiction leads to all sorts of secondary addictions such as the automobile, mass consumerism, and even, dare I say it, mass communication including the Internet. Compounding this mass addiction is the fact that developing nations want a piece of the “good life” as well, as it is of course human nature to want better and better living conditions. China is a model for what all developing nations would aspire to, and the congested highways of China, replacing the bicycles of just a generation ago, will not be a deterrent to others following in Chinas footsteps. The draw and eventual addiction to the “good life” powered by cheap and abundant fossil fuels makes CO2 control much more difficult to achieve.

    3. The path ahead will be interesting to say the least. Jim Hansen’s concern for his grandchildren and the world they may inherit may be well founded. The health of the world’s oceans should be the most pressing issue, as it is connected to the whole global biosphere, and to properly put the oceans back in balance will of course mean solving both the CO2 issue and our addiction to fossil fuels. The first step in overcoming an addiction is fully admitting you have one.

    • R. Gates:

      Unfortunately, this masking of a lot of the warming by it being shifted from atmosphere to oceans allows skeptics and the outright deniers a chance to claim such outright nonsense as “no warming for the past decade” etc.

      Funny you should mention that. Just yesterday at the “most-read anti-science site in the whole blogosphere”, they have erected their latest straw man:

      Latest farcical WUWT post replete with weapons-grade stupid comments

      They completely discount the massive amount of heat the ocean has absorbed in the past 50 years. Instead, they point out how little the ocean *surface* temperature has changed. Of course, that’s how denialists roll: “Don’t worry about that scary-looking graph”, Anthony says. “Hey, look, there goes a squirrel!”.

  17. We all do what we can. The thing that makes my heart ache is the same as Hansen’s – grandchildren. Mine will start arriving soon.

    I’ve decided that they’re likely to live as long as the rest of the family, so they will be living past 2100. In 5 or 10 years time, I’ll be sure to spend a fair amount of time with some littlies on the beach and a camera. When they have their own grandchildren, they’ll be able to say See, that did used to be a beach. Here’s the proof. I was there! in much the same way as my children recoiled in a bit of embarrassment seeing photos of my 2 years old in 1920 dad in the traditional ‘girlie’ dress of the time. The memories of the family’s ‘old farts’ are often as uncomfortable as they are interesting.

    One thing we should bear in mind. Our grandchildren and their grandchildren will know only the world they grow up and live in. Unfortunately, the “good old days” of parents and ancestors will, for the first time in history, genuinely have been better than what they’re living with. But they will get by reasonably well if they’ve been taught about raising some food of their own – even high-rise dwellers can raise sprouts and baby greens on a kitchen shelf and mushrooms in the linen cupboard.

    How soon and how quickly we can lower carbon releases will be a big factor in how many, how often, how bad droughts, famines and border disputes over water, or even outright war, will be in that critical 50-80 year period while the world gets its collective act together. It will almost certainly be worse than the wars, plague, depression and revolutions of the WW1 to end of the Cold War period, if only because far more people will be affected. But we should be able to get to the other side.

    • Goodness knows I’ve become much more motivated about climate science since my son was born this past September.

    • Bernard J.

      My heart already breaks for my kids, born over the last few years, and who will suffer from the loss of fossil energy as much as they will suffer from its combustion.

      I wish for them a decent life, but more and more I can’t see how they’ll have it. The numbers just do not add up.

      • Bernard, we can feel that for our grand/kids. But it’s worth looking back at my parents and grandparents generation. They managed to be fairly happy much of the time in Australia despite living through that period I mentioned. My mum occasionally refers to dancing during WW2 – she and her friends would go along and have a good time, knowing full well that they might hear a month or so later that one of the nice young men they danced with had been killed in battle. And they’d weep. But they kept on going to dances anyway.

        Our offspring and their descendants might feel anger or resentment about their ancestors wrecking the joint for them. But that’ll be their environment, they’ll cope, they’ll do their best, they might weep when some really bad things happen. What we can do is ensure that our own descendants are educated and informed enough to do the personal and the political things that will need to be done.

  18. While I entirely agree with the content of this post, it only mentions implicitly the real reason I speak out, because that reason is not a scientific one per se.
    (Climate science often involves the assessment of feedback mechanisms. Such a mechnaism, but a non-scientific one, is much involved in this.)

    It is actually the continued mis-match between the scientific message & the resulting public policy that sets the alarm bells off for me (& likely you too).
    Even where national policy talks of significant cuts in CO2 emissions (eg here in the UK), this is little reason for rejoicing. It is not just that the results of these policies have yet to be realised; even the means of that realisation are absent. And those initial steps that are in place (or planned for) like giant off-shore wind farms, they are roundly riduculed by many for being, amongst other things, entirely ineffective. The supporters of these policies are far less evident.
    Those with a tendency toward denial (& if this is not a majority of the public, it tends to be a large outspoken minority), they do not find the UK’s plans for reducing emissions at all convincing. So all the talk of impending doom cannot be true, can it?. Coz if it was, they’d be doing something about it. Wouldn’t they!
    This public opinion impacts on public policy as politicians (themselves not entirely won over to the science) rely on popular support. Thus they do not speak out against denialist nonsense. Some even join in with the calls of the deniers. Soon the policy becomes watered down, kicked into the long grass. (This is what happened under Tony Blair.)
    With nothing doing, the denialist ideology is reinforced and the feedback loop is up and running.

    And that is why where possible I do speak out, as loudly as I can & as often as I can.

  19. I looked at this Hansen et al paper in my own blog.
    Only to have Steven Goddard claim that;
    “a 1981 prediction which no one ever heard of before a few weeks.ago.”

  20. In 1965, at the end of The Russians Are Coming (x2) there’s a scene where the two sides (American and Russian) join together to rescue a small boy. Flash forward almost 50 years. We just attended a talk give by the Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid. The discussion was a compendium of the intractable problems of the region — among Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Al Qaida, the Taliban, etc. Disputes that have lasted millenia. Not a word — not one — during the evening about the succession of floods the last two years which wiped out Pakistani agriculture.

    AGW can be the common crisis which focuses the attention of the combatants on a world stage like the little boy in the movie, but it’s more likely to be just a backdrop. A melodramatic trope that isn’t taken seriously. There’s too much money to be made. Too many scores to settle. The men in power who will benefit from Business As Usual are too old, and they’ll be dead before the bill comes due.

    By the way, Rashid talked about how young the region is. How the young want secular states. They want the kind of lives they see in Europe and America! Sometimes irony is too vast and comic and bitter to be believed.

    • Andrew Dodds

      You mean that people who actually *do* live ‘close to nature’, and in a society where religion has political power tend to want a western, secular lifestyle as soon as possible..

      I do this that this is a problem for the environmental movement; it has historically been based in the West. and in the west (and the US in particular), it’s generally easy to look at waste and extravagance, and develop an idea that simply by being more efficient and doing less we can fix the problem. Which sound great, but it has two big, big problems:

      – For the western person, it’s asymptotic – the first 20% is simple, the next 20% doable, the 10% after that hard… and then you reach the stage where you are contemplating a 20 mile cycle round trip a day to make any more reductions. I’ve been down this route. And because this approach is very individualist, many people just won’t bother. There are many people on my road who would rather have their rubbish bags split open and scattered by the local cats, than make the tiny effort to put food waste in the provided recycling containers.

      – For someone on a developing country – most of the world’s population – the message is a complete waste of time. People want a more energy intense lifestyle – which means things like refrigeration, heating/air conditioning, personal transport, cooking, hot water… things that have a finite energetic cost.

      The problem to solve is not, in my opinion, one of making sure that western consumers drive cars with 30% better fuel efficiency; it is about working out from first principals how you would power a world of 10 billion people at first world levels of energy usage without massive environmental side effects. Not that it could be done with fossil fuels anyway for more than a couple of decades. This means electricity production perhaps an order of magnitude higher than today. It means synthetic liquid fuels sufficient to replace current oil usage at least twice over. It means making industrial processes closed-cycle.

      From the point of view of basic physics this is achievable – if we can overcome the political resistance to the use of breeder reactors. A program that was positive in intent – ‘develop the world’ is a much easier sell than anything on offer today (ever increasing energy prices anyone?). And I’m yet to see any other idea that keeps the coal in the ground.

      • Bernard J.

        From the point of view of basic physics this is achievable…

        On this point I have to disagree. There just isn’t enough natural resourcing/biosphere to keep 10 billion humans doing what Westerners have done over the last 100 years.

        The laws of thermodynamics -the laws of nature trump human nature.


      • Andrew Dodds


        I could summarise my position like this:

        – For the average First-worlder, energy needs are finite and describable; space heating/cooling, water heating, refrigeration, transport.. and other bits and pieces which don’t add up to a lot.
        – Therefore, the notion of applying exponential or even linear growth to energy use vs. economic wealth is not bounded in physics. Even if we assume the Home Of The Future is vacationing on the moon and drives a set of flying cars, their use of energy is finite and bounded.
        – The replacement of fossil fuel resources – which cannot possibly support the hypothetical 10-billion-first-worlders even with the most conucopian estimates – can be done with existing chemical engineering, GIVEN sufficient primary energy. Food is not far behind in this regard. We have pretty much reached the limits of the biosphere, therefore the logical position is to build our own..
        – So, if you wish to tell me that we don not have sufficient fissionable resources (total U+Th) to support this, then your argument about thermodynamic impossibility would be correct. As a geologist I would doubt this proposition.
        – I agree with the thrust that efficiency alone cannot do much – indeed the perverse economics of the situation can mean that efficiency results in higher total emissions (since the lower the fuel bill is for an activity, the the more people can afford it).

        Can you tell me which bits you disagree with?

  21. An excellent example of Dunning-Kruger syndrome–or else a really long-running Poe.

  22. Horatio Algeranon

    “Fossil Fools”

    — by Horatio Algeranon

    “Fossil Fools” is what they’ll call us
    If extinction doesn’t befall us.
    Posterity won’t forgive or forget
    That on their future we did bet.

  23. “Who is Steve Goddard?”
    A reminder that we truly are living in the age of stupid.

  24. Wonder if you’d like to have a go at this, Tamino

    It’s a weird mix of truth, falsehood, overstatement, strawmen, cogent reasoning, bad reasoning, and non-sequitur.

  25. OT, but this should be fun: Nir Shaviv is at it again, saying the greenhouse effect “saturates,” period, because if a planet’s atmosphere is optically thin in the visible range of wavelengths, there’s a maximum temperature it can get to.

    I.e., it’s a pure fallacy of composition. “In some cases the greenhouse effect saturates, therefore in all cases the greenhouse effect saturates.”

    Here’s the URL:

    Click to access 1202.2644.pdf

    Note this is a preprint _submitted_ to Icarus. I don’t know if the editors at Icarus were stupid enough to buy it.

    • Andrew Dodds

      I’d suggest he volunteers for the first lot of colonists on Venus. Since the amount of solar radiation reaching the surface is about the same as Earth thanks to Albedo effects, the temperature must be the same, right? If the greenhouse effect saturates, anyway.

  26. The fossil-fuelists are going to go to Hell, I’m sure of it. We just need to make sure they don’t take our kids with them.

  27. Telegraph Cove

    We all do what we can. Yes sure!
    But a single uman generation cannot save the word.
    Yes, i would leave the planet ‘clean’ for my grandchildren but ‘before’ i must help my son to live better now on planet earth.
    And in 2100 we will stop AGW (perhaps) but he will be died.

  28. How I learned to stop worrying and …

    While I believe that climate change will cause real damage to both ecosystems and human infrastructure, I think its effects over the next century or two will be roughly the same order of magnitude (or less?) as other human impacts such as deforestation, desertification, overfishing, overhunting, and other similar human pressures. I am not persuaded that either the potential temp swings or the rates of change are unprecedented. I am aware that the ecosystem degradation and the “island” effect (human towns, fields,and roads disconnecting ecosystems from each other) will make natural adaptation that much more difficult.

    Similarly, while CO2 is high on a time scale of the last million years, it is not on the scale of 10 million years. And I am not persuaded that ocean life has shifted/evolved so much that acidification will trigger an extinction event.

    My mind is not closed on any of this.

    • ” I am not persuaded that either the potential temp swings or the rates of change are unprecedented”

      Who cares? They’re enough to crash our agriculture and our civilization with it.

      “Similarly, while CO2 is high on a time scale of the last million years, it is not on the scale of 10 million years.”

      See above.

      • IMO, what will crash civilization is either a criitcal disruption or the eventual depletion of fossil fuels unless we make a sucessful transition to another energy resource.

        I’m happy to read anything you care to link as to modeled/anticipated agricultural disruptions. But overpopulation, water scarcity and soil depletion (leading to desertification), and disease attacks on monoculture seem to be creating the worst pressures. IMO, climate change is an additional stress, exasperating the above problems, but it is only one of a set of issues. On the flip side, the long term (natural) trend of the Holocene (of every interstadial) is a cooling trend which would introduce its own set of problems.

      • RB: I’m happy to read anything you care to link as to modeled/anticipated agricultural disruptions.

        BPL: That’s from my own unpublished research so far. “F,” the fraction of Earth’s land surface in “severe drought” (PDSI -3.0 or below) was pretty steady at around 12% from 1948 to 1960. Recently it’s been going up irregularly, peaking briefly at 31% in 2003 before dropping to 21% in 2005. I’m trying to get later data. I have managed to show that F is 86% explained by past drought and current temperatures.

    • Ron — While one mile thick ice sheets down to Long Island, New York are ‘normal’ in the past 1 Ma; I would prefer us to not willfully encourage them or their opposite: epeiric seas covering most of the North American craton.

    • Andrew Dodds

      Not quite sure where you are going with all this..

      There are rapid changes of 10K associated with an increase on CO2 of 80ppm in that diagram. Now.. the response to CO2 is not linear, and much of that 10K increase is down to ice-albedo effects, but this is still not reason for comfort.

      Likewise, an increase in temperature of 2.7K (best estimate sensitivity for CO2-doubling) pushes us back to Pliocene conditions – with sea levels perhaps 25m higher if the analogy is maintained. That’s catastrophic by any measure.

      Essentially, like many people, you are betting everything on the dynamics of ice sheets.. how lucky do you feel?

    • Oh great, we can just live the same way that advanced civilizations lived 10 million years ago… Oh, wait, there were no advanced civilizations 10 million years ago…and we didn’t have 10 billion people to support on a planet with carrying capacity nearer 1 billion…and we hadn’t degraded the planet to the point where vast regions of the ocean cannot support life.

      You speak as if the effects of climate change are independent of deforestation and desertification, when in fact they will exacerbate one another. And how do you envision the depletion of fossil fuels playing into this? Do you think people won’t simply burn wood to stay warm until they’ve burned the last tree? It looks to me as if you haven’t really thought this through.

      • Exactly. They exaceperate one another. So in the adaptation/mitigation policy basket, land use policies (which require only regional coordination) might be more effective in adaption efforts than CO2 restriction policies (which require global coordination) intended to mitigate it.

      • Ron, Again, you haven’t thought this through. When climate change kicks in with a vengeance, we are stuck with the effects for thousands of years. That will undo any careful land use reform we shepherd through the legislative process. It will do no good to preserve habitat for tropical forest if the climate turns that habitat to desert. It will do no good to preserve forest if people do not have fuel, since desperate people will burn the forest no matter how draconian the penalties for doing so.

        Equally, it will do no good to combat climate change if doing so consigns the developing world to poverty–as poverty will lead to greater population growth and ultimately eat up any gains we make in controlling our CO2 emissions.

        The goal must be sustainability, and we cannot afford to ignore any of the threats to it. To single out any one problem as paramount while ignoring others is a recipe for failure.

    • jasonpettitt

      “While I believe that climate change will cause real damage to both ecosystems and human infrastructure, I think its effects over the next century or two will be roughly the same order of magnitude (or less?) as other human impacts such as deforestation, desertification, overfishing, overhunting, and other similar human pressures.”

      Can I ask rhetorically why you think this?

      While I don’t doubt that lesser impacts are in the range of possibility, if we’re being grown up about stuff we have to do risk analysis (which is all about dealing with uncertainty) based on the range of uncertainties including the ‘known unknowns’ that exist.

      Once you’ve been alerted to icy conditions ahead would you say it’s wise to sail your proverbial Titanic into dangerous waters confident that you’ll probably only bump into a very small ice-burg, or do the uncertainties involved dictate that you swallow the expense and change course early, because if there is a biggun looming the uncertainties and inertias involved collude in such a way that we may not get good information about it until it’s too late…?

      In short, how lucky do you feel? Are you confident enough to take the rest of us with you?

      And before you do ask, personally speaking, I am fully confident that we can solve the technical and economic issues that come from switching course to low carbon economies and that we can simultaneously deal with global problems like poverty and disease (in fact, I think it’s almost certainly impossible to do one without the other – Google Hans Rosling on population growth). And I think, if we want it, there’s every chance we’ll end up healthier, wealthier and happier for it.

      I’m confident because physics and economics says we can, because the world is full of smart people, and because those problems are less bedevilled with uncertainty than the climate issue. Those are the kind of problems, if we put our minds to them, that we’re good at solving.

      The only thing that really bothers me are those that insist that our very modern civilisation is unsinkable and demand that we steam on.

    • re: “Similarly, while CO2 is high on a time scale of the last million years, it is not on the scale of 10 million years. And I am not persuaded …”

      Welcome to the cognitive dissonant world of accelerated, abrupt, anthropogenic climate change denial:

      “When you tap your brow on the wall, you barely feel it; but when you hit that wall at 100 mph, your head explodes.”

      As Spencer Weart so poignantly puts it:

      “The 1980s and 1990s brought proof (chiefly from studies of ancient ice) that the global climate could indeed shift, radically and catastrophically, within a century — perhaps even within a decade.”

      Rapid Climate Change

    • Ron Broberg
      You say “My mind is not closed on any of this.”
      Present CO2 levels are high on a 10 million year timescale because we are breaking 15 million year records.
      20 million year records are well within reach if a “it’s not a big problem” attitude is taken & cuts are not made quickly.
      Add in a helping hand from nature in the shape of reduced ocean sinks & thawing permafrost & we could be knocking on the door of 40 million year records, 50 million year records.
      So where would that put us on your annotated “65 Million Years of Climate Change” graph?

    • I did not intend to derail Tamino’s thread.
      For those who wish to take about arms against me,
      please feel free to post your counteraguments at the following location
      where I have attempted to summarize my “arguments” against catastrophism.

      I am stepping out for a movie and dinner, though. So no replies until tomorrow.

      Tamino – my apologies.

      • Ron Broberg
        You haven’t been put in detention for, say, speaking too much Latin, yet you exit to a new location.
        You put forward there that because you can give reasoned arguments for why AGW will not result in either a mass extinction event or a collapse of civilisation, it does not then rate as “catastrophic.”
        As you say here that your mind is not closed, I will reluctantly transfer my question there with the intention of maintaining civility if not civilisation.

  29. Tamino

    Just to add my voice to the others thanking you for your work on this blog.

    I’ve learnt a lot here.

  30. Horatio Algeranon

    “Blissful Thinking”

    — by Horatio Algeranon

    If ignorance is bliss
    Americans are blissful.
    And as for Fortune’s kiss
    Our thinking is quite wishful.

  31. Tamino, I love your blog. But I cannot agrre with this:

    “Wake up! We can’t afford to let them build their wealth on our misery.”

    You know, I have no car, I have no mortgage, no children (I am 31)… I talk about climate change and peak oil to students and wherever possible, but… I am also a looser,

    do you expect many people to be loosers intentionally?


  32. Broberg:

    “O Fortune
    like the moon
    state variable,
    always increasing
    or decreasing;
    hateful life
    now difficult
    and then easy
    it melts them like ice.”

    NB: This is the first stanza of “O Fortuna,” the opening chorus of “Carmina Burana,” by Carl Orff. (You’ve heard it, even if you think you haven’t.)


    IANVUS (ie., “Janus”):

    “Blessed is the one can be called outside of the truth, FOR PROJECTING”

    (Though I think one can find a better translation, and certainly one reflecting better the traditional wording of the “Beatitudes.”)


  33. Excellent post. This is the defining issue of our day

  34. Horatio Algeranon

    If Latin’s our fate
    It’s prolly too late.

  35. Thanks again Tamino. I’ll be doing my part with a presentation next week in Ottawa. Didn’t get an invite to the Heartland “conference”….

  36. Just curious, what are the benefits of climate change?

    [Response: Huge profits for fossil-fuel corporations.]

    • Benefits? Well it gets warmer, more precipitation falls as intense precipitation even as drought increases in many areas, sea levels rise resulting in far more hazardous storm surge events. Recent work (Lin, N., K.A. Emanuel, J.A. Smith and E. Vanmarcke (2010) Risk Assessment of Hurricane Storm Surge for New York City,Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres, 115, D18121), suggests the 100 year storm could become the 10 year storm. The list could go on… Benefits? Not so much?

      • I disagree, to some extent, Tokodave. The wealthy will be able to capitalize on the misery and destruction (and look good while doing it, through their charities). These environmental factors should drive down the cost of labor quite a bit. As long as the rule of law (well, with its current content) is enforced with some enthusiasm, come hell or high water the middle class will survive.

        Actually, we could see a forced localization and collapse of much of the last 60 years of globalization (and all those nice info/capital/law management jobs). That would be a train wreck for people who buy 90% of their food in boxes and plastic containers. It really wouldn’t take much to send the hyper-efficient global supply network (and everything that depends on it) into a tailspin. City dwellers are at high risk.

        Of course, I recently read Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy again, so I may be both overly pessimistic and overly optimistic.

    • SallyG, the positives and negatives of climate change are weighed in this post at Skeptical Science:


    • See here
      for a take on the benefit(s) of climate change according to my good firends the Global Warming Policy Foundation. (I say ‘good friends’ but as a Brit I actually consider them a national disgrace.)

    • Benefits are that this provides a severe test to the human species that will force a leap in evolution.

    • When we manage to make it more profitable to address anthropogenic climate change, then change will surely come. Until then, we languish in doubt & denial & wasted opportunity.

  37. Ken Fabian

    The success of climate denial has been astonishing and dismaying. A recent report in Australia looking at the likelihood and impacts of more and more severe heatwaves saw a mainstream news service give prominence to laypeople who think it’s nonsense along with a diatribe from a denial campaigner. Beyond a few initial sentences from an author the entire coverage was disparagement.

    I constantly encounter educated people who either don’t believe it’s a problem or if it is, it’s a problem that is beyond solutions, so they want to stop the carbon tax, build new coal fired power plants if needed to keep power for air-conditioning cheap and blame China for buying and burning so much Australian coal if the problems get serious.

    • Ken Fabian: “I constantly encounter educated people who either don’t believe it’s a problem or if it is, it’s a problem that is beyond solutions,…”

      And therein lies the difficulty. Climate change is presented as an open-ended problem that will require revolutionary change of some unspecified duration, and even then may bite us on the tuckus. Humans don’t do well in races where we cannot see the finish line, especially if the course ahead is not all mapped out. Depending on their propensity, they either enter denial or give up hope. Those few of us who have accepted reality and refused to give up hope need to do a better job of outlining the push and actions that will be needed.

      We are embarking on the moral equivalent of war. Wars are always sold to the public as an easy, quick and successful endeavor. Those that are won are those where the public cannot back out without facing annihilaton.

      • Ken Fabian

        I believe those views are widespread because of the legitimacy and credibility they get from leaders and respected voices within politics, religion, business and the news media. Those lending denial credibility don’t know better than our scientist. Some mis-estimate the state of scientific knowledge as well as their own comprehension of it. Others, I believe, understand quite well that the climate problem is real and, for short-sighted reasons – political or other forms of advantage, or else fear of the difficulties facing the problem head on present – choose a stance of opposition to action. We have all that we need to deal with the climate problem except strength of motivation to do so. As long as we are divided over whether the effort is worth it we will fail to do what is necessary.

      • Ken Fabian,
        To say that we have everything we need to address the issue of climate change is, I think, misleading. For instance, I don’t see how we grow and transport food to feed the 10 billion people who will be living on Earth by 2050 without fossil fuels. I do not see how we continue to bring out of poverty the >50% of mankind who dwell there now–an absolute prerequisite if we are to stabilize population. I do not see how we deploy a brand new energy infrastructure based entirely on renewables, as we must if we are to achieve sustainability. Perhaps most challenging, I do not see how we adapt to the negative growth that will ensue when human population begins to decrease toward sustainable levels. Every other time in human history when population was decreasing was a really bad time for those living at that time.

        In short, we have the knowledge to make a start and a vague idea of what a sustainable societ might resemble, but we have a piss poor map of how we get there. The map is what people need before they commit to the trail.

      • Brian Dodge

        Oh, we gots a map. It’s a contour map, and all the lines perpendicular to the way forward are real close together, defining a feature known as a “cliff”, not a trail.

      • Andrew Dodds

        Regarding Fossil Fuels in 2050..

        The first case is to assume flat consumption, which is the lowest-use case(!). For oil, this translates into approximately 1.2 Trillion barrels of oil – otherwise known as ‘Every known drop (proven + probable) plus some assorted tar sands’. For coal and gas
        *, it’s not quite as bad – you may merely use around half our remaining resources by 2050. Bear in mind that this is Resources, not reserves, which would give much smaller numbers.

        *Gas: 6000 Tcf resource vs 100Tcf/a use. Coal perhaps 800Gt vs 7Gt annual use.

        If, however, you wish everyone to have European levels of consumption, you must at the very least triple our consumption figures (and, therefore, emissions). If you did that, you’d be lucky to have a gram of conventional oil, coal or gas left in the ground by 2050 (we are looking at 3.6 Trillion barrels of oil, 12,000 Tcf of gas and 800Gt coal) – although it is unlikely that such extraction rates would even be possible. In short, even if you completely disregard global warming, ocean acidification ,acid rain, heavy metal pollution, particulates, and the rest, the promised development cannot happen with fossil fuels.

        Note that the first scenario raises CO2 to perhaps 550ppm, the second, if feasible, to perhaps 1000ppm.

        Anyway.. the message really should be that even assuming no political constraints on fossil fuel use, and that current resource estimates are not over-optimistic, for any reasonable set of figures on resources and usage, we do not have sufficient carbon based fossil fuels to develop the world, or even maintain current usage for more than a few decades. Although we do have enough to mess up the climate.

  38. Following my earlier post, would anyone like to support the petition I have started “Tax carbon. Subsidise jobs”? It’s at http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/Tax_carbon_Subsidise_jobs/

    • Paul Butler

      There seems to be more that could be done. The employers’ contribution to National Insurance (here in the UK – I expect there are equivalents in other countries) is essentially a tax on employing people. That could be replaced with a carbon tax. So companies are discouraged from using resources (rather than discouraged from employing people!). And they can’t complain about ‘new’ taxes since the total burden wouldn’t change.

      • In Canada, our current prime minister (Harper) in a previous election ran partly on the other candidate’s (Dion) wish to replace income taxes with carbon taxes. See, replacing income taxes with carbon taxes OBVIOUSLY means increasing taxes!

        He got a lot of votes from that argument.

  39. John Abraham speaks out On Blogging, Comments … and Online Civil Discourse

    and hate mail attacks on climate scientists:

    “Make no mistake that climate scientists do, in fact, receive threatening mail and phone calls and e-mails, both at their work and at their homes. Some of it is humorous, but most of it is vile. My own experiences have taught me that letters having no return address are likely to be hate mail. Much of this hate mail results from climate change deniers having encouraged their followers to contact faculty members and their universities — to bully and intimidate them. There is no room for such behavior, and anyone encouraging or condoning threats to science researchers should not be afforded public venues to further this behavior.”

    • Bernard J.

      Deltoid and Eli are both reporting on the latest media kurfuffle about hate campaigns directed at climatologists in Australia.

      Severe language warning.

  40. re: “Or would you move heaven and earth to get your own kid to safety?”

    And the world needs more outspoken climate scientists of the caliber of James Hansen, Michael Mann, & Peter Gleick to stand up to the fossil-fuel funded climate denial.

    “A review has cleared the scientist Peter Gleick of forging any documents in his expose of the rightwing Heartland Institute’s strategy and finances, the Guardian has learned.”

    Peter Gleick cleared of forging documents in Heartland expose

    • While I always felt that Peter Gleick had no conceivable motive for forging the strategy document, it would be nice to see the evidence that vindicates him. Yes, Gleick was wrong to use social engineering to obtain the other documents, but the deniers have been getting way too much mileage out of this manufactured ‘Fakegate’ controversy.

      • TrueSceptic

        It seems crucial to me to have the evidence made public. If Gleick did not forge the strategy memo, that leaves only 2 possibilities: someone else did so; or Heartland has lied about it all along.

      • I’m really curious why this is unsourced hearsay rather than Pacific Institute (or Gleick for that matter) shouting it from the rooftops.

      • Perhaps, any evidence gleaned from the review is being forwarded to the proper authorities for further investigation & action.

        Odds are Joe Bast & friends had something to do with the preparation of the explosive 2-page strategy memo; an internal draft outline or summary that, perhaps, someone on the inside thought Peter Gleick should confidentially peer-review before release to the general public, no?

        Place your bets, ladies & gents.

  41. Susan Anderson

    I assume you all now know that it’s official, Gleick has been cleared on the forgery charge:


    “Peter Gleick cleared of forging documents in Heartland expose
    Scientist who admitted to deception to obtain internal Heartland documents was found in investigation not to have faked material ”

    I sure would like to have him back, miss his voice!

    • Brian Dodge

      If Dr. Gleick didn’t forge any documents, perhaps their are not any forged documents.
      A google search for the words “forged” and “document” at heartland.org gives about 3450 hits; Heartland doth protest too much, methinks.

      • TrueSceptic

        Well, yes. I’m bending over backwards to give Heartland the benefit of the doubt. I’m sure we all want to know the true origin of the “forged” strategy memo. This will be a big deal IMO.

  42. Science is not real. It is only quantifiable once it becomes engineering. Once engineering it becomes debatable. Once debatable its expert opinions can be purchased. Then it is just paid expert opinion. I can hire an expert guy to cancel out your expert guy. Lies will always win unless you change the rules of the game to disfavor the liars.

    • Doug,
      I disagree. The truth always wins out even if the truthtellers do not. Nature gives the same answers to the same question. Lies shift and change until even the liars cannot remember what their story is. And if the liars suppress the question, it yells out that much more loudly in the silence.

      As Mark Twain said, “If you tell the truth, you’ll eventually be found out.”

      Truth is the only effective weapon we have. It would be a shame to blunt its edge.

      • “Finding the occasional straw of truth awash in a great ocean of confusion and bamboozle requires intelligence, vigilance, dedication and courage. But if we don’t practice these tough habits of thought, we cannot hope to solve the truly serious problems that face us — and we risk becoming a nation of suckers, up for grabs by the next charlatan who comes along.”

        [Carl Sagan, The Fine Art of Baloney Detection]

    • A strange comment to me, given that few other human endeavors are as obsessed with quantification as science.

      And I don’t see how ‘engineering’ is both ‘quantifiable’ and ‘debatable’ (except in the trivial sense that everything is potentially debatable.)

      Finally, I have no idea how we are supposed to “change the rules of the game.” (Possibly had I actually received a rule book I would not be quite so ignorant.) In the meantime, I’ll just keep telling the truth as best I can discern it.

    • Your cynicism is proven true by the fact that your computer works. Or if I buy an expert to tell you it doesn’t, will you believe the expert and toss it in the trash?

      • Susan Anderson

        Exactly. And it appears he would also be persuadable that his car does not work, nor his phone, camera, medicine, the list goes on and on. Satellite pictures? A would be caveman, forsooth, in modern guise.

        This fits with the recipients of Medicare and Social Security and users of schools and roads who say they receive no benefits from government.

    • re: “Science is not real.”

      sci·ence [sahy-uhns], noun

      1. a branch of knowledge or study dealing with a body of facts or truths systematically arranged and showing the operation of general laws: the mathematical sciences.

      2. systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation.

      3. any of the branches of natural or physical science.

      4. systematized knowledge in general.

      5. knowledge, as of facts or principles; knowledge gained by systematic study.


      Looks pretty real to us.

    • Good point Doug, but the irony is getting lost. As long as deniers pretend that there is no reality check in science, they twist it into a shouting match and rhetoric contest.

  43. john byatt

    We must all speak out and not just on the internet, to get to the public requires letters to the editor in regional newspapers,
    The newly elected conservative government in Queensland has announced the closure of the office of climate change,
    I have just spent some time emailing a letter to most regional newspapers throughout the state,

    set up an email news group for your state and send one letter out per week, the sceptic’s flood the regional newspapers much like the creationist letters some years back in Queensland,

    Any people from Queensland reading please get to work.

    It is not just mitigation work that was carried out by the office being dumped, adaptation planning will also be dropped along with renewable energy strategies

  44. OT–albeit tangentially related, though with the current state of the science this is ‘weather,’ not climate–I’ve written a short account of our experience with the “Great Derecho” of 2011:


    Tamino, in it I’ve taken the liberty of linking your post about tornado frequency last April, and even appropriating your graph from that post. If you’d like it taken down, or just credited differently (more explicitly?), please let me know.

  45. NB–I’ll be offline for a time beginning with ‘close of business’ today, so later requests will take a while to fulfill.

  46. I am curious to find a quote where James Hansen describes himself as a conservative Republican. Can anyone find such a thing?

    There is a James V Hansen, from Utah an retired Republican Congressman from Utah. Is this causing confusion?

    • James E. Hansen has mentioned in a number of his communications that he is/was Republican and conservative.

      Try his website http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/

    • Susan Anderson

      I believe he mentions it early (forward?) in his book, but don’t have the copy here so can’t look it up.

      • Storms of My Grandchildren, Preface, pg X:

        “(a registered Independent who has voted for both Republicans and Democrats over the years)”

    • Statement of Political Inclinations, James E. Hansen, February, 2006

      Click to access Inclinations_20060313.pdf

      “I can be accurately described as moderately conservative. I am registered to vote (in Pennsylvania) as an Independent.”

      “My favorite politician then, as I indicated to friends, was Senator John
      Heinz, a Pennsylvania Republican, who I hoped would one day run for President.”

      “In my “Iowa talk” … I indicated that my favorite for President in 2004 would have been John McCain, but he was not on the ballot.”

      “In summary, I do not have close political ties to a political party. I believe that Republicans and Democrats alike must abhor the partisanship that now infects the operation of technical government agencies.”

      “As for religion, I was baptized and raised as a Reorganized Latter Day Saint. Our long-time Sunday school teacher, Sarah Goeser, would be isappointed by the fact that I married a (Dutch) Catholic. By pure coincidence, both of our children married into strong Catholic families (Galileo, forgive them!).”

    • Rattus Norvegicus

      If I recall he talks about his background in “Storms of My Grandchildren”.

  47. Susan Anderson

    For what it’s worth, people should know that a preemptive attack is being mounted claiming that environmentalists are going to kill or maim someone. I have to assume it’s an effort to get ahead of the waves of persecution now flooding our friends.

    • Susan – I noticed the drive to appear to be ‘victims’ here http://judithcurry.com/2012/05/24/heartburn-at-heartland/#comment-204010

      Joe Bast and Anthony Watts both trying to ‘big up’ the protests at the recent Heartland conference. Perhaps they realise that their aggressive stance has back-fired?

      • Susan Anderson

        Louse, that’s what I had in mind, thanks for fleshing it out a bit. Glad to see Tamino’s new and thoughtful post on the issue.

        I got interested when I was attacked about how “aggressive” we all are on DotEarth! It’s not a new tactic.

  48. In keeping with the theme of “speaking out,” for those interested, I am starting a new blog to discuss some of the more technical elements of climate. My aim is for a level of discussion somewhat comparable to here, or Isaac Held’s site for example, though my plan is to not discuss climate change exclusively but a wide range of planetary climate topics- ranging from extrasolar habitability to feedback theory to paleoclimate. I hope people will get some use out of it! I have my first post up on the simple planetary temperature energy balance model most people have seen.

    I still write occasionally for a laymen-oriented blog assoicated with a local newspaper of mine at http://blog.timesunion.com/weather/ and will probably be taking down my previous wordpress site in the very near future.