February 25, 2006
How Much Will People Sacrifice To Reduce Greenhouse Gases?

An ICM poll of Brits for The Guardian appears to show a widespread willingness to sacrifce and reduce energy consumption to prevent global warming.

About a third of the UK's greenhouse gas pollution comes from domestic heating, and the poll reveals that people would be willing to spend an average of £331 to make their homes more environmentally friendly, even if the move brought them no direct cost saving. Only 16% said they would not pay anything, with 32% willing to invest over £100 and 8% more than £1,000. More than half (51%) said they or their family had boycotted a company because its products damage the environment.

Excuse me for asking a rude question but if these folks are so willing to spend for the environment why haven't they already done so? How can they be willing to spend an average of £331 (about $577 dollars)? They've had plenty of time (years, decades) to do that spending already. I doubt they are spending £331 per year on home insulation and just haven't gotten around to making their 2006 expenditures for their next triple paned argon glass window for another room in the house.

The poll suggest that voters do not share the prime minister's assertion that policies to drive the economy forward should take precedent over those to address climate change. Asked which two areas should be priorities for the government, 28% highlighted action to tackle climate change and 16% wanted the economy to grow faster. The signal from those aged 18-24 was clearer: 35% picked climate change and 9% the economy.

People want lots of stuff done by other people which they do not have to pay for themselves.

Oh, but look at what sacrifices we are making.

Some 82% of households said they had turned the central heating down, 75% had installed low energy lightbulbs, 25% had cycled at least one journey instead of using the car and 24% said they had decided against a holiday that involved flying.

Did they cycle for the exercise? To lose weight? To see the scenery? Or maybe to save money for that trip to Thailand next winter?

Do these poll results represent a strong willingness on the part of the British people to sacrifice for the environment? No, of course not. How did British aircraft emissions rise by 12% in one year if the British people are willing to curb their own fossil fuels consumption? Foreign tourists? I doubt it.

The text of the draft "open skies" treaty, obtained by the Guardian, is likely to alarm environmental activists who argue that the seemingly unstoppable growth in air travel is among the main contributory factors to global warming. Aviation emissions rose by 12% last year and now account for about 11% of Britain's total greenhouse gas emissions - the fastest growing sector. The government's chief scientific adviser, Sir David King, has described global warming as a bigger threat to the world than global terrorism.

Who is using all that aviation fuel? Basically anyone who can afford it. Why does the US use more fuel per capita than Europe? Higher average per capita GDP. More people can afford more airplane trips, bigger houses, bigger cars.

I'd love to see installation of R80 level of building insulation become enviro-chic like Toyota Priuses are in my neighborhood. But the Priuses are just so much more visible as a way to make a statement. Noone can see your insulation and few will notice whether your window panes have fresh putty to prevent air leaks. Besides, the money they save on fuel helps to pay for heating the hot tub and Priuses are cheaper than a big SUV.

Update: Governments that want to encourage conservation are missing the boat by not more loudly promoting improved building efficiency. Trying to force people into smaller vehicles runs up against the human desire to live the high life. But improved building efficiency doesn't face the obstacle of conflicting with basic human desires

Governments could make building efficiency differences more visible in the market through inspection when houses are sold where each house would get rated for efficency. Also, for new house construction in addition to a basic minimum ordinance for insulation local governments could adopt a standard for rating buidlings by scales that quantify how much a house exceeds the minimum. Then when houses go for sale the energy efficiency of a house could be a selling point and the market would reward more efficient houses with higher valuations. Market incentives would produce more efficient housing.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2006 February 25 10:31 AM  Energy Policy


Comments
Paul Dietz said at February 25, 2006 10:37 AM:

Why does the US use more fuel per capita than Europe? Higher average per capita GDP.

And lower population density.

Energy conservation and global warming is a quasi-religious issue over there. Of course people will say they're willing to be virtuous, particularly when saying so (as opposed to the actual act of conserving) would have no associated cost.

Randall Parker said at February 25, 2006 10:41 AM:

Paul,

The restrictions on industry emissions in Europe is just going to push steel, aluminum, and other energy intensive manufacturing to China and India. The emissions will still happen, just somewhere else. They'll have to import what they now buy locally. That's raise transportation costs and of course ships burn fuel.

simon said at February 25, 2006 12:09 PM:

I would like to make two points concerning this thread.

First, people's stated preferences (reported desires) concerning the environment will differ dramatically from their revealed preferences (those that we observe). This arises because talk is cheap. That is, conceptual opportunity costs are easy to manage when no material trade-off is demanded. Will these British subjects give up their annual holiday, forgo a new outfit, or give up drinking for six months? The likely answer is no. This type of research is weak at best and more appropriately judged to be of poor quality.

Second, global warming as a scientific issue is questionable at best. This movement is not a rational or data driven enterprise. It is an emotionally driven agenda. While we can say that the planet has warmed over the past decades, we cannot safely infer cause or consequences. To attribute cause solely or even primarily to man made gases is not justified given the facts. Further, there is still not a clear understanding of the actual trajectory the temperature will follow. In addition, we still have no robust understanding of the consequences of the warming. We have scientist predicting both higher temperatures and lower temperatures. Even when we take the dominant received view that the temperature is headed up we cannot get clarity around consequences. One group posits higher ocean levels while another group of scientists see not justification for the prediction.

Some argue that even though we do not have a consensus on the consequences, we must act given the magnitude of potential outcomes. I will assert that this is erroneous reasoning and leads to pure folly. This leaves of open to fear mongering who can paint horrible consequences but are not pressed to attach a probability. We cannot speak to the outcome or the probability of occurrence and must accept the two by faith. NO WAY!!! This is what our friends in the Middle east are demanding. This is NOT science or reason based.

I consequently am unwilling to accept the assertions that global warming amounts to a material issue. More specifically, I believe that the topic is marred by sloppy scientific inferences.

PacRim Jim said at February 25, 2006 1:01 PM:

Much, but only after it is accepted by ALL, not just the greenies, that GW exists and that this is not a normal cycle caused by hyperactivity of the sun, which has been accepted.

Rsilvetz said at February 25, 2006 1:24 PM:

And what is even more silly about the whole thing is that it is non-issue.

In the first place, the 600-lb gorilla is the sun, small changes in output have huge impact on mean temps.

In the second place, the correlation of ice-ages to the perturbations of the earth's orbit around the sun, is so striking, it's totally amazing anyone anywhere thinks that humans have anything to do with global warming.

***

And don't get me started on energy conservation. But for the enviro-wackos we would have all the energy we need from nuclear reactors like France has for the better part of 20 years.

Anyway...

Acid said at February 25, 2006 1:36 PM:

Many people are willing to "accept" a general increase in prices (read: taxes) that will force almost EVERYBODY to act. Doing something by yourself is hopeless and demoralizing. This, I think, is the way to read the article.

tdean said at February 25, 2006 2:49 PM:

Simon: "...global warming as a scientific issue is questionable at best. This movement is not a rational or data driven enterprise."

I can say for sure that anthropogenic climate change skepticism is driven by extreme right wing ideology and obvious massive business-as-usual economic interests – certainly not science. That gullible and ignorant people like Simon get sucked into these irresponsible positions is completely understandable given the amount of money spent on GW skeptic propaganda by Exxon – Mobil and the coal industry.

Since I am a geophysicist currently working in the petroleum business and have been actively studying the issue of GHG forced climate change since 1974, it is likely that my opinion on the subject is better informed than Simon’s. But, in fact, my opinion is of little consequence to someone trying to make sense of this issue. What is important is an understanding of the state-of –the-art work being done by the leading scientists in the field and the conclusions drawn by those scientists. Unfortunately, very few non-scientists can digest that work directly and so the significance of recent studies has to be explained in laymen’s terms to the public. Who better to make that explanation than the scientists themselves? James Hansen is probably the leading current researcher in the climate arena today (http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/308/5727/1431). He is expert at incorporating the latest scientific theory into super-computer models in order to understand the nature and implications of climate change. Whatever the limitations of super-computer climate simulations might be, that methodology is the only method available to isolate the effects of the myriad inputs and interactions in the incredibly complex global climate system. James Hansen’s expertise in this arena is beyond world-class. What does he say we should do about climate change?

“The confirmation of the climate system's lag in responding to forcings, imply the need for anticipatory actions to avoid any specified level of climate change.”

In other words, we need to get off our asses and start reducing GHG’s immediately. But, that would create hardships for Exxon-Mobil and to a lesser extent, the consumers of their products. So the bought off Bush Administration went right to work against Hansen to shut him up as he attempted to convey his critical research findings to the public at large (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/02/10/AR2006021001766.html?nav=most_emailed).
The Bush administration was so concerned that Hansen’s work could expose their industry-serving political agenda that they put a full-time punk, 24 year-old political hack named George C. Deutsch, on his case. Unfortunately for the credibility of the Bush administration, Mr. Deutsch was forced to resign because he lied on his resume about graduating from Texas A&M. Mr. Deutsch also was accused of unauthorized editing of scientific reports from government agencies to minimize the threats of global warming. See what interesting things happen when the government is owned by Exxon-Mobil?

Now, if it were only one world class scientist screaming out a warning, we could possibly attribute that to fanaticism or political motivations (as the Bush administration has done in Mr. Hansen’s case). But nearly all leading scientists doing current research in the climate change area concur that recent warming is driven by anthropogenic GHG’s and that it is prudent to adopt policies that reduce them (http://www.eesi.org/briefings/2004/Energy%20&%20Climate/9.15.04%20Abrupt%20CC/Dan%20Grossman.htm).

So I challenge Simon and Parker to try to extract their heads from their rectums and find one example of a current and competent researcher in the climate sciences, not associated with Exxon-Mobil or one of their associated propaganda “think tanks” that questions the fact that humans are causing climate change. Let us see which side is “rational and data driven.”

Dezakin said at February 25, 2006 3:17 PM:

"In other words, we need to get off our asses and start reducing GHG’s immediately."

This is only if climate change has a cost greater than the cost of mitigations preventing it after applying the discount rate.

Lets pretend that climate change isn't anthropogenic, but its rapidly occuring anyways; Would people favor emitting anti-greenhouse particulate aerosols to mitigate it? I somehow doubt it.

As far as I can tell its incredibly dubious that any of the mitigations that can have noticible effect will be worth the cost. Sure, we could elimate all coal power and replace it all with nuclear, that would have a big effect.

simon said at February 25, 2006 3:50 PM:

tdean,

You can hurl insults if you like. You can also question Randall and my motives if you like. But not only can you not observe our motives (which may or may not be similar), they do not support your argument on a scientific basis.

You can say that your emotional nature makes you better suited to understand this issue than others. This I will not contest. I will let Randall speak for himself.

The best argument to be made on this topic clearly are not modeled results, it’s the data pattern we now have at hand. Your desire to lead with modeled future outcomes is troubling. Modeled results are not facts my friend.

As for your assertion that your academic qualifications as well as those who support global warming alarmism are superior to mine again reduce the debate to peripheral cues to persuasion. I would strongly prefer a well reasoned argument.

Let’s look at your arguments. First you offer us the following assertion.

“I can say for sure that anthropogenic climate change skepticism is driven by extreme right wing ideology and obvious massive business-as-usual economic interests – certainly not science. That gullible and ignorant people like Simon get sucked into these irresponsible positions is completely understandable given the amount of money spent on GW skeptic propaganda by Exxon – Mobil and the coal industry.” What facts do you offer us here? None.

Your next assertion is that super-computer models developed by none other than James Hansen should silence questions. False. Models do not constitute proof. Simulations in particular do not constitute any type of proof.

Next, there are MANY scientists that openly challenge climate models. They can be found at MIT, Princeton, U of Colorado, U of Alabama, etc. The issues with the climate models is three-fold. One, is that they are not calibrated in a rigorous manner given their path dependence logic. Two, they fail to account for major climate dynamics, like the Iris effect. Three, magnitude of effects estimated are openly questioned even within the modeling community. Thus, we have a major problem with the models.

As a modeler trained at a couple of top 20 graduate institutions in the US and who has worked in the biological sciences, ecological systems, global financial markets and business markets for a number of years; I would happily sit down with yourself (and James Hansen for that matter) to challenge the models in the same fashion my clients have challenged me for decades.

simon said at February 25, 2006 3:51 PM:

Dezakin,

Excellent point.

gmoke said at February 25, 2006 4:46 PM:

S Fred Singer was at MIT a couple of years ago to talk about how silly this global warming idea is, the same kind of speech he used to give about how silly that stratospheric ozone thinning idea was. He was a "skeptic" about ozone up until the point that DuPont caved and stopped producing CFCs. Lots of folks, including the eminently reasonable Rush Limbaugh, scoffed at the notion that human beans could cause global atmospheric damage.

I asked Singer why we should believe him now since he was so wrong about ozone. He didn't have much of an answer. I also told him that it seemed most glacialogists believed that glaciers around the world were diminishing so fast that they tended to ascribe the causes to global warming. Singer replied that he wouldn't take climate advice from glacialogists. I wasn't quick enough to reply that Singer's field of expertise is actually rocket science rather than climatology, meteorology, or atmospheric chemistry.

I wonder what the cost benefit analysis is for the present losses in New Orleans.

Dezakin said at February 25, 2006 7:24 PM:

"I wonder what the cost benefit analysis is for the present losses in New Orleans."

Oh it certainly would have cost less to build better levies than to deal with the current damage. Its not quite so clear that shutting off industrial civilization for the sake of a few coastal cities after the damage is allready done makes quite so much sense.

tdean said at February 25, 2006 7:39 PM:

Dezakin: “(We should immediately reduce GHGs ) only if climate change has a cost greater than the cost of mitigations preventing it after applying the discount rate.”

Not an excellent point, Dezakin. We aren’t talking about buying computers or potatoes here. We are talking about risk weighted costs and the value of insurance. Right now, you are no doubt paying for liability auto insurance, required by the government, even though there is probably about a 1 percent chance that you will injure another person with your car. But if you did injure or kill someone, their family might end up living in your house. In the same way, it is far from certain that rapid climate change will create economic and environmental disaster, but it is a very real possibility, based on what we know about the climate record from ice core and other paleo-climate studies. It is also very difficult to estimate the probabilities of such disaster occurring and about as difficult to estimate the true cost of mitigation methods in a complex economic system. But one thing is certain; you can’t buy insurance after the car wreck. The last few years of record hurricane seasons gives us all a hint as to what is at stake in this business. I don’t think you would wrongly guess the position of the insurance industry in the great “global warming” debate. It is certainly a good idea to do our best to estimate the probabilities of climate disaster given various energy policy scenarios, but it is a hell of a lot more complex than your simplistic notion of applying a discount rate. Governments all over the world are doing very sophisticated and costly studies on these topics right now. I’m afraid your simple minded “logic” doesn’t cut the mustard.

Simon: “You can say that your emotional nature makes you better suited to understand this issue than others. This I will not contest.”

Please feel free to contest it if you like. But you missed my true point: that neither your opinion nor mine, based on our respective experience, amounts to a hill of beans in the real debate. What matters are the opinions of the top scientists in the field. And you have not met my challenge of finding a competent scientist not associated with Big Energy interests who discounts anthropogenic global climate change.

As a geophysicist, I have done many thousands of models to estimate economically significant results. I very well understand the limitations of such modeling and mentioned that in my post. I even wrote software to generate hundreds of distinct models which all perfectly fit the same input data set, so I understand the issue of non-uniqueness better than most scientists. Still, computer models are the only methods we have to investigate what the likely impacts of human activity WILL BE on the earth’s chaotic climate system. Your assertion that the “data pattern we now have at hand” is definitive is obviously nonsense. Even near perfect knowledge of the present state of a chaotic system does not allow us to compute future states with any certainty. Even very well characterized systems cannot be predicted with any precision if they are chaotic. An obvious example is predicting the future position of an asteroid. Even though we know the theory of gravitation and the locations and masses of orbiting bodies with great position, we cannot accurately predict the path of asteroids for more than a few decades. But we can accurately predict the probability that it will be in a certain volume of space with good precision. And that is the important objective of climate modeling. Certainly, scientists question computer modeling of the climate. It wouldn’t be science if that didn’t happen. But the efforts are very definitely worthwhile in understanding the sensitivities of the climate system to forcing events, and that knowledge is critical if we, as a society are to make wise energy policy decisions. Placing high value on the unsupported opinions of even very intelligent scientists paid by Big Energy supported groups like the American Enterprise Institute is a sure route to disaster. And that is the course that the Bush Administration is taking us down. Only scientists who support the pre-established political line created by Big Energy interests are allowed to brief administration officials. And without exception, those scientists are completely tainted by political and economic interests and are generally rasty-assed old, right wing has-beens, if they are climate scientists at all ( gmoke’s point about Singer taken).

Simon: “You can hurl insults if you like. You can also question Randall and my motives if you like.”

Well, thanks for that liberty, but that is not what I did. I clearly excused your ignorance and gullibility as reasonable given the amount of sophisticated propaganda generated by millions of dollars provided by Big Energy. Gullibility is not an intentional state of mind, so I wasn’t discussing your intent at all. While it may be true that a radical, right-wing political bent might predispose one to accept the propaganda from such entities as the AEI without critical thinking, I haven’t speculated on your ideological stance. Certainly my “in-your-face” debating style can be trying, but it does stimulate active and interesting discourse, I think. That is my intent, and it seems to have worked consistently. I hope you won’t take it personally, and if you did, you have my sincere apology.

Mark Amerman said at February 25, 2006 7:54 PM:

tdean,

There's something that I have long wondered about that perhaps you could
explain. Given the importance of global warming why can't I find a website
or websites that lay out in detail the scientific arguments pro and con on any
given subject relevant to the topic. I don't mean a superficial treatment
like an article in the Washington Post or for that matter a sophmore level
college course but a real detailed full blown explanation which would in fact
be useful to scientists already in the field. I would hope something
like this was being done informally already -- after all how do people
know what they think they know? Of course it's more work to lay it all
out on paper but I suspect the benefits would more than pay off the
effort, even if we ignore everyone but the scientists in the field.

Perhaps you're going to tell me it's already out there in all the accumulated
papers of the climatological and modeling journals. If so I'll note
that having spent significant time in university libraries it's a real
puzzle to figure out and have some suspicion that a considerable number
of professional climatologists aren't all that well-informed on the
content of these papers either.

I'm really arguing for more than just the free availability of this
storehouse of papers, althought that would be nice. What I'd like is to
strip it down to the relevant arguments and data and excise out the
seemingly extraneous (although of course this would always be a subject
of debate) while at the same time addressing, instead of ignoring,
critical counter-arguments.

I am by the way a member of AAAS and if you're going to claim that
"Science" meets the need, well, I disagree.

I've been discussing the subject of global warming with various people
online on and off since 1994, and have to say I'm consistently disappointed
by the quality of argument available to the public. As a scientist are you
happy with a situation where the substance of your comment is argument by
authority and then to go on to impugn the motives and intellectual integrity
of those who question?

simon said at February 25, 2006 8:57 PM:

tdean,

I do not think that I'm gullible nor misinformed. You truly are impressed with yourself to make your assertions of grandeur.

I built my first models in the mid eighties when acid rain was the hot topic. The professor I worked under was one of the first that challenged the received wisdom in the “scientific community” concerning acid rain dynamics. He was attacked by those who "knew" the correct answer. He was accused of being bought by big business. It is now clear that he was the one who stood on the side of facts and reason. Those who smeared him never were called to the table. They controled and continue to control the journals.

To be clear, he was up against all the big names and big models of the time. They were basically wrong. The models were elegant. The problem with the modeling was simple. The assumptions (read facts) that drove them were incomplete. They over estimated effects and they did not assign values for material factors.

When I look at the global warming craze of today I see a very similar phenomena at hand. Many experts who own fields exercising their raw power. How dare someone question their conclusions. How dare someone raise uncomfortable questions. This is a clear sign to me that we have a problem. If we cannot disagree, then we do not have science at work regardless of the titles that are being presented as credientials.

You can play the role of pit bull if you like, but please do not hide behind the veil of facts and reason. Pointing to Bush and his minions offers no consolation to those of us who seek facts and reason.

Now to your point that the data is not material is pure folly. It is the ONLY THING that matters. For you to claim that you are a scientist and dismiss the data is incredible. You prefer to extrapolation to facts. WOW!!!

simon said at February 25, 2006 8:57 PM:

tdean,

I do not think that I'm gullible nor misinformed. You truly are impressed with yourself to make your assertions of grandeur.

I built my first models in the mid eighties when acid rain was the hot topic. The professor I worked under was one of the first that challenged the received wisdom in the “scientific community” concerning acid rain dynamics. He was attacked by those who "knew" the correct answer. He was accused of being bought by big business. It is now clear that he was the one who stood on the side of facts and reason. Those who smeared him never were called to the table. They controled and continue to control the journals.

To be clear, he was up against all the big names and big models of the time. They were basically wrong. The models were elegant. The problem with the modeling was simple. The assumptions (read facts) that drove them were incomplete. They over estimated effects and they did not assign values for material factors.

When I look at the global warming craze of today I see a very similar phenomena at hand. Many experts who own fields exercising their raw power. How dare someone question their conclusions. How dare someone raise uncomfortable questions. This is a clear sign to me that we have a problem. If we cannot disagree, then we do not have science at work regardless of the titles that are being presented as credientials.

You can play the role of pit bull if you like, but please do not hide behind the veil of facts and reason. Pointing to Bush and his minions offers no consolation to those of us who seek facts and reason.

Now to your point that the data is not material is pure folly. It is the ONLY THING that matters. For you to claim that you are a scientist and dismiss the data is incredible. You prefer to extrapolation to facts. WOW!!!

tdean said at February 25, 2006 9:52 PM:

Mark,

Your points about the lack of information available to the general public that satisfactorily explains global warming is well taken. But, obviously I do take exception to your assertion that I “impugn the motives and intellectual integrity of those who question.” I do question the motives of those who spend millions of corporate dollars to influence public opinion on the matter because they have the obvious intent and motivation to maximize the profits of their corporate entities. That huge numbers of the population exposed to calculated and professionally presented propaganda are confused and misinformed on the issues is to be expected. I certainly don’t blame the targets of such a misinformation campaign. I do think that citizens should seek to inform themselves on the subject, as you clearly have. But unless you are very careful to evaluate the sources of the information, you will likely be misled by the side that spends the most money. Of course it is also easy to be misled by your own ideological predispositions, given that the issue impacts sensitive topics relating to appropriate levels of government control on private enterprise and behavior.

I am afraid that the climate change issue is far too complex for there to exist a handbook approach to ultimate truth. Even professional climate scientists can only develop true expertise in a narrow sub-field of climate change. Reasonable, just and informed conclusions concerning policy implications of scientific research can only be reached by large teams of the most informed scientists, engineers, economists and other specialists, interacting with policy-makers concerned about the welfare of the population they serve. Just in case it isn’t obvious to you, that is not happening in our country at the present time.

That is why I would insist that a layman’s best hope of coming to informed conclusions about climate change issues should rely mainly on the reports generated by teams of qualified scientists reporting their work to the public at large and government entities. You may dismiss that approach as “argument by authority” but in this case, I’m afraid it is the only one that really works. When you look at those reports, (and they are not hard to find on the internet) you will find that they quite uniformly accept the notion that humans are changing the climate because of the GHGs we emit and that there is a great potential for disruptive rapid climate change. Because of this uniformity, it is easy to get the impression that these statements are the products of some ideologically driven agenda, particularly since that idea is pushed hard by the industry propagandists. But I would suggest people consider which “side” has the greater and more powerful agenda; professional scientists or Big Energy corporate mouthpieces. Climate scientists get paid whether global warming happens or not. Energy companies stand to lose hundreds of billions of dollars if the demand for their products evaporate. If you want to break the debate down to two sides, I will choose the side with the scientists on it. The other side is generally populated by uninformed, ideologically driven types or those with pretty clear economic interests. But neither you nor I will become experts on climate change by reading even a very well designed and informative web site. Sorry.

tdean said at February 25, 2006 10:14 PM:

Simon: “Now to your point that the data is not material is pure folly. It is the ONLY THING that matters. For you to claim that you are a scientist and dismiss the data is incredible. You prefer to extrapolation to facts. WOW!!!”

Wow! Talk about debate by strawman! I never said that the data doesn’t matter, but when the issue is energy policy that affects the future state of the climate, only a computer model can provide an estimate of those future states and the present and past data are only inputs and calibration points to that process.

Your story about acid rain might be interesting if we knew what it was that your learned professor predicted and how and what relevance that has to the climate change debate. I think that the purpose of the incomplete story might have been to impress us of your own “grandeur”. I’m willing to listen.

val said at February 26, 2006 7:22 AM:

tdean,

I like Simon’s use of the term “pit bull” to describe your attacks on those who disagree with you. You bark and snarl but offer no material insight other than it is just too “difficult” for the average man (without your incredible intellect and ability to read the hearts of others) to comprehend the climate reality. Just “trust” the experts is too heavy handed. You are not a scientist, but a dogma driven bully. Only a fool would buy your reasoning. You need to stop bullying and start thinking for yourself (and let other do the same).

The simulations offered by climate scientists are regularly challenged in the scientific community. As a matter of fact there is a sharp divide in the climate community over the validity of the simulations. You only need to attend a conference or two to see it. Briefly, there are two major criticisms leveled against the models - 1) lack of in sample validation; and 2) omission of key climate effects. Both are material and generally accepted by the climate modelers.

In addition, being someone who just sat through a number of presentations given by very respected scientists from NOAA (for an industry that pays the consequences of bad weather), I cannot accept your assertion that the climate models are considered the definitive word. They just do not have that level of support. The evidence that bothers thinking scientists is the relation between man made green house gases and temperature over the past several decades. The multi decadal data analysis is just not that definitive for one to draw the conclusions you are asserting.

Dezakin’s point contrary to your assertions stands as a valid and very material policy question. As a matter of fact it is the most material question regardless of where you stand on the issue. For you to insist that asking the consequences of acting is not material is to say we do not have an issue that is material. If you believe this, then please stop snarling.

I must finish by saying that I do not know what your motives are, but I do not think you are open or genuine.


odograph said at February 26, 2006 8:09 AM:

Why haven't they?

Speaking as a lazy condo owner, it takes money and initiative to get any such improvement done. Who do I call? Where do I get the best deal? Etc.? If you want those folks to do the upgrade, you have to give them an easy way to sign the check and get it done. FWIW, I did accept free insulation at one point from my gas company. That's because they came out, knocked on my door, and asked me to "sign here." A week or two later, someone showed up with attic insulation.

My comment on the "quality of climate projections" is that critics are experiencing, and taking advantage of, the human discomfort with probabilities. They say "no one knows what will happen" ... but you know, no one knows knows what will happen in a coin toss. We do however have lifelong experience in the probabilities involved. We have a vastly more complicated coin toss going on in the atmosphere ... it's just a question of whether you try to do the math, or throw up your hands.

tdean said at February 26, 2006 9:09 AM:

Val,

I am just heartbroken that you don’t think I’m “genuine”. I’m pretty sure that I am.

Let me start by reiterating my motives in contributing to this forum. I can’t imagine why they aren’t obvious. I am writing because I am concerned that there is a very significant possibility that continued unrestrained increases in anthropogenic greenhouse gases will lead to catastrophic rapid climate changes that will deleteriously affect people, economies and ecosystems (including the acceleration of the extinctions of species). I clearly wrote initially in this thread to take exception to Simon’s utterly incorrect and unsupported statement that “global warming as a scientific issue is questionable at best.” I issued a material and reasonable challenge to him (and anyone else) to identify a single competent, current researcher in the field, not associated with Exxon-Mobil or other energy industry skeptic propaganda machines who does not accept the notion that anthropogenic GHG’s are causing significant climate change. Neither he nor you nor any of my other critics have met that challenge. My motive for the challenge was to illustrate the degree to which industry critics of the science of climate change are influencing the public debate and perceptions about the proper policy response to the climate change threat and to point out that it is their skeptical and tainted arguments are the ones that are scientifically unsupported. As a member of the industry that I am criticizing, I believe that my critiques are credible. My motivation for writing here also has to do with my clearly stated belief that establishing critical energy policy on the basis of industry lobbying efforts and economically motivated pseudo-scientific propaganda that disproportionately controls public debate is a great hazard given the potential consequences. Does that help you with my motivations? So what is your motive for incorrectly suggesting that I have not made my motivations crystal clear?

Your claim that I asserted “that the climate models are considered the definitive word” is an obvious a straw man argument. I stated in straightforward terms that accurately computing the future state of a chaotic system is actually impossible. I also acknowledged that scientists properly criticized climate models. Did you miss that? Or what would your motive be in misrepresenting my clearly stated position? I also stated, and stand by the assertion, that supercomputer climate models are the only tool we have to use current theory to predict what the future state of the climate will be in response to human behavior mediated by energy policies. Constant refinement and multiple runs establishing parameter sensitivities and probabilistic predictions make these imperfect tools useful. What methods do you suggest to predict climate response to anthropogenic effects? I have also pointed out that paleoclimatic studies are material to the case of climate change and that they make it clear that the climate tends to shift suddenly and catastrophically when forced, especially when forced in a warming direction. And again, not you nor anyone else has effectively challenged that position. Whining about my writing style is hardly a material contribution to the debate.

Last but not least, I stand by my critique of Dezakins statement that “(We should immediately reduce GHGs ) only if climate change has a cost greater than the cost of mitigations preventing it after applying the discount rate” for the straightforward reason that neither the cost of climate change nor the cost of mitigation are known. The proper economic evaluation of a particular mitigation policy requires very sophisticated risk analysis methods that involve many super-computer runs of the most reliable and sophisticated climate and economic models that predict climate and economic responses to policy changes. You say that my criticism is not valid, but you fail to say why and neither do you suggest an alternative analytical method. Instead you again mischaracterize my position as “insisting that asking the consequences of acting is not material.”

So what is your motive for using strawman arguments on a consistent basis? Is that being “genuine”?

Engineer-Poet said at February 26, 2006 9:09 AM:

I am among the least likely to take tdean at his word.  He does have a bulldog style, regardless of how firm his information is (I've been tempted to call him "tdeanous").  He sometimes takes up questionable positions and defends them as truth.  There's only one thing that can excuse this.

That's being right.  He is, this time.

Mr. Amerman:  There is a lack of good layman-level information about climate change on the web, but you might want to try Real Climate.  The material can get very dense (especially in the comments), but just about any question you have is probably answered there, somewhere.  The operators of the site spend a great deal of time answering questions, with pointers to followup data (they do not just tell you to take their word for it, like simon).

The solar-warming hypothesis is easily addressed in just a few words, and I'll do so.  If the sun were soley responsible for the observed warming trend, we would see the greatest effect where the sun shines most intensely:  the tropics.  Instead, we see the opposite; the poles are warming faster than anywhere else.  This is exactly what we would expect from an increased greenhouse effect, which insulates the entire earth better (with the greatest effect where it is cold and the air doesn't hold much water vapor) and atmospheric transport evens the temperature out more.

There's another misconception I see all the time, which needs addressing:

Dezakin writes:

This is only if climate change has a cost greater than the cost of mitigations preventing it after applying the discount rate.

There's an unstated assumption behind this statement, and that is you will have good (or even adequate) future investment opportunities after the unmitigated effects have done whatever they're going to do.  If the seacoasts are underwater and huge swaths of farmland have become dustbowls, one wonders what you'll have left to put your money into.

odograph said at February 26, 2006 9:18 AM:

Not only that, but the mitigation over prevention argument actually requires a much higher level of modeling complexity. Rather than say "how much is the world warming?" you have to figure (as EP notes) "how does each important region in the world change, in detail, and what can be done about it?"

If we can't even agree on the "trouble ahead?" question, I don't think we will ever agree on "build levees or plant trees?" questions.

But then, maybe that's what some people are really after ... another delay as new arguments ard built and argued.

Randall Parker said at February 26, 2006 9:24 AM:

Dezakin,

You can measure a greenies' seriousness about global warming by whether they oppose or support nuclear power.

One can divide climate change into several issues:

1) How much of it is man-made and how much is due to other causes?

2) What are all the costs of climate change?

3) What are all the costs of more CO2 in the atmosphere? (point being that CO2 has effects other than by changing temperature)

4) What are all the benefits of climate change?

5) What are all the benefits of higher CO2?

Keep in mind above where I say "climate change" most often people are thinking climate warming. But climates cool and warm. Also local areas can go in different directions. Also, precipitation can change. Also, temperature ranges are as important as absolute temperature. Warming during the night is key for longer growing seasons.

I think the doom mongers who think that climate warming will be a disaster are exaggerating. Might be a net benefit.

Randall Parker said at February 26, 2006 9:37 AM:

E-P says,

There's an unstated assumption behind this statement, and that is you will have good (or even adequate) future investment opportunities after the unmitigated effects have done whatever they're going to do. If the seacoasts are underwater and huge swaths of farmland have become dustbowls, one wonders what you'll have left to put your money into.

But E-P also states,

the poles are warming faster than anywhere else.

Well, if the colder regions are warming and the equator isn't changing so much then that'll increase growing seasons where cold limits growing seasons while not affecting the tropics much.

Also, if the world is warmer more evaporation will take place. That might increase precipitation in areas where crop growth is water limited.

Now, yes, we could see dust bowls. But we are eventually going to see a dust bowl in Oklahoma again anyhow. Some climatologists think that the average precipitation level in Oklahoma over longer time periods is much less than it has been most of the last century. Of course, if a dust bowl happens I expect to hear a chorus of folks claiming it is due to greenhouse gases.

How about the idea that global warming is causing hurricanes? Roger Pielke relays a recently released statement from researchers who are on very different sides of this debate:

Under the auspices of the World Meteorological Organization’s Commission on Atmospheric Sciences, its Tropical Meteorology Research Program Panel has just issued a statement on hurricanes and global warming (here in PDF).

The statement is significant not only because it was drafted by nine prominent experts, but because it includes in its authorship Kerry Emanuel, Greg Holland (second author of Webster et al. 2005), Ton Knutson, and Chris Landsea. Frequent readers will recognize these names as people not always in agreement. That they came together to produce a consensus statement is good for the community, and also gives a good sense on where they agree and disagree.

While the statement has enough background and language to allow anyone to selectively cherry pick from it in support of any perspective, here is the take-home message from the statement

“The research issues discussed here are in a fluid state and are the subject of much current investigation. Given time the problem of causes and attribution of the events of 2004-2005 will be discussed and argued in the refereed scientific literature. Prior to this happening it is not possible to make any authoritative comment.”

Therefore, for those of us not involved in primary research on hurricanes and climate change, any conclusions, or predictions about how future research will turn out, about the role of global warming in hurricanes will necessarily be based on non-scientific factors. If you are like the IPCC, then you will assume that observed climate phenomena can be explained by natural variability unless and until the thresholds of “detection and attribution” can be achieved. This is a high threshold for identification of greenhouse gas effects on climate, and it is of course not the only approach that could be taken. But it is the approach of the IPCC.

If you are politically or ideologically motivated to use the threat of stronger hurricanes in pursuit of some goal, then you will bet that a link will indeed be established. And similarly, if you are politically or ideologically motivated to discount the threat of stronger hurricanes in pursuit of some goal, then you will bet that no link is immediately forthcoming.

The reality is that the present state of science does not allow us to come to a conclusion that global warming has affected hurricanes (e.g., see this PDF). It is suggestive, and different experts disagree about what future research will tell us. I’d bet that this condition of uncertainty about future research will be with us for a long time. Thank goodness its resolution is not of particularly large importance for understanding and implementing those actions known with certainty to be most effective with respect to hurricane impacts (e.g., here in PDF).

I found that on Benny Peiser's CCNet list. Benny does a great job of reporting the climate debate among the actual researchers.

tdean said at February 26, 2006 9:44 AM:

E-P,

That is a very succinct and correct summary of global warming theory and completely shoots down the baseless assertions of most critics.

Call me a bulldog if you like. I view forums like this as an opportunity to debate. Others see it as an opportunity to preach. Well, it's Sunday, so go ahead, Parker. (BTW, I support nuclear energy, but only fusion.)

aa2 said at February 26, 2006 9:54 AM:

Fantastic post Randall, people will never sacrifice quality of life to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Look at what happened in California when there wasn't enough electricity as an example of how populations will react. California's governor was the first ever California governor recalled. He was humiliated, and even as he remained in office a dramatic building of coal and gas plants started.

Europeans use less electricity and other energy for the simple reason that energy is more expensive in Europe then America. About twice for electricity and twice for gasoline. And the EU in general has a slightly lower per capita gdp then America. 30,000$ versus 40,000$.

In comparison Norway uses twice the electricity as America per capita, and is far ahead of America in gdp. 55,000 for Norway versus 40,000 per capita for America.

carlos said at February 26, 2006 10:25 AM:

We are lucky to have a Geophysicist like tdean who also can read the hearts of man to attribute motive. We have a real Solomon in our midst. Tdean, was this part of your training or is it a gift you were born with?

The assertion that E-P makes concerning global warming is pure hog wash. The simple example presented is childish. There are Russian scientists who openly challenge the current global warming logic. They offer a far more robust argument that E-P.

The facts are mixed whether one likes it or not. Tdean super models (other than those featured in Victoria Secret) should not distract you from the real issue we have at hand which is to explain the evidence we have colected. The best model as the best theory explains the most data. You don't choose the one you like the best (again please feel free to use another approach when dealing with Victoria Secret models.).
- We have a set of facts that suggest that over the past several decades we have a rise in temperature on the planet earth. We also have nearly fifty years of satellite data indicating that the planet’s atmospheric temperature has decreased.
- We have models that tell us that soil moisture should be down , but it is fact up.
- We have recently received data suggesting that the Amazon rain forests are a net producer of green house gases.
- We also have conflicting data concerning melting at the poles. We have melting in some areas and accelerated accumulation of ice in others.

I am amazed that tdean would accept such a simple characterization without a complex super computer simulation as evidence. He must be reading into E-P’s pure heart.

E-P your choice of painting cataclysmic outcomes is the stuff of Hollywood (the movie has already been made). There is no reason to jump to such outcomes. There is NO data to suggest that sea levels are rising in a systematic fashion. We have as many data points indicating that we have falling water levels as we do rising water levels. We also have legitimate scientist still working to reconcile the differences (tdean, I am not sure if any have been bought off by greedy corporations. I will leave it to you to look into their hearts and come to the truth.).

E-P the point made by Dezakin is valid. Your muddling of it with conditionals is erroneous. The point made is simple, one must consider the ability change outcomes when selecting a policy actions.

I have noticed that tdean has yet to address anyone’s objections with facts.

Randall Parker said at February 26, 2006 10:26 AM:

aa2,

In purchasing power parity terms the CIA World Factbook (which makes me love the CIA) says Norway is at $42,400 and USA is at $41,800.

Of course, from an energy usage perspective PPP GDP is not ideal since the world market price for oil is in USD.

On the other hand, I wonder what electricity costs in Norway. Maybe it is cheap due to hydro. Canadian science journalist Lorne McClinton posted on a previous thread that Ontario and Quebec have electricity at 5 cents a kwh and below in Canadian dollars and cut by only about 15% for USD. He pays 4.5 cents in Montreal or less than 4 cents American. Amazingly cheap electricity. That's because they have lots of hydro. I bet their per capita electricity usage reflects their cheap prices. In the US the cheapest power is down around 7 cents per kwh and that in northwestern states with lots of hydro.

What's your source for per capita electricity use in the US versus Norway?

Anyone know of a per capita electricity chart for a large number of developed countries?

See this chart for a comparison of cents per kwh for each state in the United States. For residential customers the cheapest state in 2005 was Idaho at 6.31 pennies per kwh. Then Kentucky at 6.41 and Washington state at 6.52. Hawaii costs 20.48. Ouch!

I wonder what electricity costs in various European countries.

Parenthetically, a friend prepared a graph of energy usage versus per capita purchasing power parity (PPP) for dozens of countries and almost all countries fit very close to the line. Energy usage scales up with income. The US, Canada, South Korea, and Australia were outliers above the line and Germany and Britain (and maybe another country whose name escapes me) were outliers below the line. The rest fit the line. Even China fit the line when PPP is used contrary to claims in some quarters that the Chinese are energy inefficient. Not so. The Germans are probably efficient. Some of the upper outliers are there due to agriculture, rural populations, and cold weather.

odograph said at February 26, 2006 12:10 PM:

One can divide climate change into several issues:

1) How much of it is man-made and how much is due to other causes?

Irrelevant unless you are interested in "guilt" issues. The better questions are:

1a) Can we quantify the probability of risk to future human happiness from global warming?
1b) Would a change in human behavior slow the progress of that risk?

2) What are all the costs of climate change?

3) What are all the costs of more CO2 in the atmosphere? (point being that CO2 has effects other than by changing temperature)

4) What are all the benefits of climate change?

5) What are all the benefits of higher CO2?

Are you truly serious Randall, with 2 through 5? Because it would make a wonderful sliding defense, and another reason to just sit and talk for another decade or two while all those things are researched, countered, defended, ...

(expletive deleted)

Just look at the cycle of human behavior on the core question of global warming. It demonstrates that at best society can deal with and hold onto very simple concepts of climate science. Many are still stuck out there expecting a precise answer (without probability bands) of how many degrees change we get on such-and-such date! Because of this sad requirement for simplicity in public debate, we in practice have two alternatives available to us: reduce co2 emissions in a broad program (as grokked in Europe and Canada) ... or we can remain in the argument state and accept whatever befalls us.

I mean, it is freaking obvious that if so many agents fought an ill-conceived war of retreat on the central issue of climate change and global warming ... they will do that so much better and easier on the many more detailed questions of impacts on each ocean, continent, and climate region.

odograph said at February 26, 2006 12:16 PM:

Just so you can clearly understand my frustration, it comes in this form:

1. What if global warming is broadly true
2. What if global warming beyond human ability to "prove?"

Basically what if we are presented by nature with an intelligence test?

Randall Parker said at February 26, 2006 12:22 PM:

odograph,

You mean if global warming started happening due to natural causes you would be just as motivated to stop it as if it was happening due to human causes?

I've previously excerpted (search for "Edward Teller" or "Lowell Wood" in the comments here) some studies on how global warming could be mitigated cheaply using technological means. Are you opposed to or would you support such mitigation efforts?

"a wonderful sliding defense": You mean you do not think the benefits should be weighed against the costs?

If you do not think benefits should be weighed against costs then you are really arguing that human intervention in the climate is wrong because it is unnatural.

Oh, and telling me you deleted some expletive is not an effective debating tactic with me. I so much prefer reason and evidence to shows of emotion.

odograph said at February 26, 2006 12:53 PM:

It is Feb 26, 2006. I first heard of "global warming" and started balancing the truth of it 20 years ago, give or take.

You are misreading my expletive deleted as a tactic, when I honestly wonder how long it will take to chase this question out to its furthest corners.

Obviously those who favor discussion over action will view this differently than those who desire any sort of action. As a casual visitor to your page I don't know where you fit ... but I can be sure that some folks out there would just love another 20 years of (as I said) things researched, countered, defended, ...

Now, can you tell me now the answers to your five questions? Can you honestly tell me how long it will take you to get those asnwers? Finally, do you feel any "time pressure" on your answers?

FWIW I do favor immediate medation programs. Some, like tree planting are easy, inexpensive, and provide small downside risk. Some others, like iron fertilization of the oceans might be attempted, more carefully, and with serious monitoring for unintended consequences.

tdean said at February 26, 2006 12:54 PM:

Carlos: “I have noticed that tdean has yet to address anyone’s objections with facts.”

Well, Carlos, I’m having a hard time finding many factual objections from people to address. Most of the objections are to my style or nonsense, like yours that I am attributing motives to people. The only motives I have addressed are my own and those of corporate mouthpieces, who clearly have a motive to maximize profits. That’s a fact.

I’ve pointed out the fact that most of Val’s objections are straw men and mischaracterizations of my statements. Those were factual statements. I have pointed out the simplistic fallacy of Dezakin’s argument twice. My objections were factual and not challenged except by Val’s strawman argument. I’ve pointed out that most of the sources of the GW skeptic side are related to Big Energy propaganda machines in defense of their profits. That is a fact.

With regard to your objections all I can say is that they are flawed and/or not factual.
1) “The best model as the best theory explains the most data. You don't choose the one you like the best.” Well, wouldn’t you like the model that explains the most data? Is there a point in there? The models of Hansen and most other climate researchers are back tested for several decades of data and calibrated on that basis. That doesn’t by any means guarantee that they produce accurate results in the future, but they fit the existing data very well with anthropogenic GHG forcing hypotheses.
2) “We have a set of facts that suggest that over the past several decades we have a rise in temperature on the planet earth. We also have nearly fifty years of satellite data indicating that the planet’s atmospheric temperature has decreased.” Your information here is dated and incorrect. The papers that showed a significant discrepancy between surface and satellite measurements was found to be not properly corrected for orbital decay parameters. When those corrections were made by other researchers and then the authors themselves, the discrepancy disappeared. Eight years or so after the fact you and others continue to parrot the same old erroneous “facts”. You should read up to date scientific literature.
3) “We have models that tell us that soil moisture should be down , but it is fact up.” Lots of models say lots of things about soil moisture increasing and decreasing in lots of different places. Models using the same methodology and theory will give different results with minute changes in input parameters because climate is, as I have factually pointed out a few times, a chaotic system. Your point here is doing a very poor job of trying to masquerade as a fact. It is in fact a non-sensical generalization.
4) “We have recently received data suggesting that the Amazon rain forests are a net producer of green house gases.” Relevance? Maybe GHG warming is causing the release of more soil carbon there just as it is in arctic tundra soils. That would be a positive feedback to GHG forcing and supports anthropogenic global warming.
5) “We also have conflicting data concerning melting at the poles. We have melting in some areas and accelerated accumulation of ice in others.” As I have pointed out before in an earlier thread, this observation for thick continental ice sheets is entirely consistent with the GW hypothesis. GW increases atmospheric moisture so the colder high points of the ice sheet see more precipitation. Warming of the lower ice at the edges of the sheet increases summer melting and the water passes to the base and interior of the glaciers, rapidly speeding the flow of the glaciers to the ocean. This is currently being observed and most measurements indicate that the net effect is a loss of ice volume in Greenland.

Do you have any other “facts” for me to deal with? I really don’t understand the motives of someone to challenge the GW hypothesis with such weak arguments.

Randall Parker said at February 26, 2006 12:55 PM:

odograph,

On your later comment (which I didn't see when I made my previous reply): It is a strong possibility.

Look, doubling atmospheric CO2 has got to do something. But I'm just not ready to panic yet.

As I see it:

1) We might be in the process of causing a major climate change.

2) That climate change might generate major costs for us that outweigh the benefits. Surely if we cause warming there will be costs. But just as surely there will be benefits.

As I've stated on a number of occasions I think it only prudent to take some steps in response to the unproven potential for global warming due to fossil fuels burning. Yes, just because we can't prove a thing doesn't mean we shouldn't consider it a possibility.

But consider the arguments for doing nothing:

A) Costs might be far outweighed by benefits.

B) Technological changes might bring an end to the fossil fuels era in a couple of decades by making other energy sources cheaper. The problem might well solve itself.

C) The "Peak Oil" theorists might be right and the oil and natural gas age might end due to resource exhaustion and as a result we might not release as much CO2 into the atmosphere as linear projections lead some to expect.

D) The warming might turn out to be small.

E) We might be able to more cheaply cool down the planet with technology than by cutting CO2 emissions. Note that the cooling could be done after the anthropogenic warming effect is shown to be real.

F) Intervention technologies will get cheaper in the future as technology advances.

I argue for acceleration of non-fossil fuel energy technologies development because those technologies seem like a perfect response to the uncertainty. Even if the danger of global warming turns out to be exaggerated by doomsters (and there are certainly historical precedents where scientists did exaggerate dangers) the resulting technologies will provide other benefits (cleaner air, cheaper energy, reduced funding of terrorists, etc) that will pay back their development costs many times over.

Given that acceleration of energy technology development is already justified for non-global warming reasons and given that deployment of such energy technologies would, as a side effect, remove the threat of rising CO2 doing something undesirable to the climate that seems like the most prudent response to me. Cheaper solar, wind, and nuclear would replace fossil fuels by market mechanisms without need for treaties, taxes, and regulations. Seems the ideal solution to what is as yet an unproven problem.

Kurt said at February 26, 2006 1:30 PM:

The commitment to reduce greenhouse gases can easily be measured by the commitment to go full-out nuclear power. The integral fast reactor design eliminates all of the flaws that exist in current nuclear power plants. As fo global warming is concern, I think its junk science, just like cold fusion. The only difference is that you can get government money to "study" global warming whereas you cannot get it to study and develop cold fusion (assuming that it is real).

If global warming were to be real, it would be a very good thing and should actually be promoted. CO2 is good for plant growth. A warmer Earth is one more comfortable to live on and one more usefull to us. Siberia would become a new bread basket. Here is what a friend of mine had to say about global warming in a recent conversation with a fund manager:

"no, it won't just be warming.

Weather patterns will change.

There will be a LOT more rainfall (more energy added to the air, more
water due to warmer oceans).

Net result, currently 80% of land is arid, after this, less will be
arid, more get enough rain to grow stuff.

Significant severe weather patterns will be experienced in wider areas
than get them now, hurricanes, tornadoes, severe thunder storms, etc.

The climate on the central northern Russian plain and in northern Canada
will be similar to Minnesota or Iowa. Arable land suitable for cultivation
will go up several hundred percent in North America and North Asia.

The availability of more tillable land will greatly increase opportunity
for the poor and downtrodden by pushing food prices way down. Very muchmore good quality food available at low prices. The whole world could afford togo on the Atkins diet and eat organic food.

This means tons of ecological change and the liberals will go
psychotically ravingly insane, but normal human beings in farming and husbandry will probably figure out how to take dramatic economic advantage of this.

The quality of ecological niches may improve enough that commercial
hunting again becomes possible in north america (as it is in Australia today, and as commercial fishing is). All the sudden the indigenous subsistence hunters would be raking in the bucks.

This would also greatly reduce energy demand for heating. Less cold
weather. Less snow and ice, safer driving, etc.

I think the ocean also ends up with more plankton and a lot more fish,
but I haven't looked into that so much.

A lot of northern africa and central asia would become arable (and green
and wild) as it was 6-8 000 years ago due to increased rainfall that is more
widely distributed in the world.

Lots more overcast days in places subject to that.

Lots of migration of warm weather species northward, and squeezing of
cold weather species.

Lots more opportunities for outdoor activities and sports.

Actually skiing and winter sports wouldn't take as much of a hit as
you'd think due to the greater precipitation. Mostly it is in mountainous
areas - the exact location of the resorts may well have to change, but there wouldn't be a massive loss of the activity in most locations that have it now.

More storm activity and possibly mildly rising sea level would spell
problems for those with nice oceanfront property, or the need for a lot of urban renewal and modest relocation in seaside cities. No big deal. In a
real economy buildings get knocked down and put up all the time. But the parasites who love their beachfront condo they inherited, or who make a lot of money off of having today's key real estate, would not do well as things change."

It sounds to me like global warming would be good, not bad.

aa2 said at February 26, 2006 2:36 PM:

Randall - "In purchasing power parity terms the CIA World Factbook (which makes me love the CIA) says Norway is at $42,400 and USA is at $41,800.

Of course, from an energy usage perspective PPP GDP is not ideal since the world market price for oil is in USD."

The CIA world factbook is a great source. Norway's PPP isn't much beyond America's because many things like going out for coffee are very expensive, because of the extremely high labour costs. The 55,000$ per capita figure I cited is from the worldbank report for 2004, using standard gdp methods. I like purchasing parity and real gdp as they can both tell you a lot.

Like you guessed Norway is hydro, almost 100%, so once they pay off the capital of the plants, the cost of generation goes towards zero. And Norway is such a Northern nation, that they are going to use energy like Canada or even more. Can you imagine what it takes to heat an indoor swimming complex in Norway?

For the energy use per capita, I looked at the CIA world factbook, and took their yearly electrical consumption and divided by the number of people, and did the same for the US.

I think Norway is an outlier but probably still is a glimpse of what a wealthier future will mean in terms of energy for other parts of the world.

aa2 said at February 26, 2006 2:42 PM:

Randall - "He pays 4.5 cents in Montreal or less than 4 cents American. Amazingly cheap electricity. That's because they have lots of hydro. I bet their per capita electricity usage reflects their cheap prices. In the US the cheapest power is down around 7 cents per kwh and that in northwestern states with lots of hydro."

I pay 6 cents Canadian in British Columbia, so about 5.3 cents in USD. We are mainly hydro here in BC, and in honesty the power company which my father works at, could lower the power costs significantly. The province just takes a very large 'dividend' out each year.

One factor for electricity is in almost all places generation is 50% of the cost, and distribution is the other 50%.

Having said that our very low prices are imo too low, because we haven't been building new plants despite growing demand, and we haven't been maintaining and upgrading the distribution system. So if we were investing properly for the future we would probably be more like 8 cents a kwh. Which obviously is still low enough that the cost of power wouldnt' stop people from doing most things.

Paul Dietz said at February 26, 2006 2:48 PM:

The global warming skeptics would do well to look at what happened to the CFC/ozone layer skeptics. The latter either recanted or moved to outright kookdom as the evidence continued to accumulate (the case for CFCs being responsible for the ozone hole became effectively ironclad after NASA U-2 flights through it found incontrovertible evidence for chlorine catalysis.)

Bob Badour said at February 26, 2006 3:29 PM:

Hawaii costs 20.48. Ouch!

Two words take the ouch out of Hawaii's electricity unit prices: trade winds. I can sleep very comfortably in 85 F Hawaii with a window open to catch the trade winds. No need for heat. No need for A/C. I think Hawaiians can live comfortably with very little electricity use.

I would trade 10 cent PEI for 21 cent Hawaii in a heartbeat.

Real estate costs on the other hand: Ouch!

odograph said at February 26, 2006 3:39 PM:

I've got a headache and maybe should be attempting to read let alone answer right now ... if I miss somethign obvious, forgive me.

I think "do nothing" is presented out there in the world too often as half of a false dichotomy. Is is "do nothing, or spend X trillion dollars" or "do nothing, or bankrumpt our economy."

Obviously this is not a step function in practice or in theory. In practice we have a loose series of actions happening even here in the United States where the question is perceived as least "proved." And of course in theory, if we are a rational species, we will plot a course of action commensurate with the probability of danger.

I think that is key, action in proportion to belief or concern, but really that "do nothing" step function is out there and gets way more serious discussion than it deserves.

In your post you name a series of actions you support, and I agree with all of them. That's excellent common ground.

It's too bad this discussion in general is about false senses of proof (based on boolean logic rather than probability) and false senses of action (that there is this step function where we go from "do nothing" to full mobilization).

Again, if I missed something sorry, I'll read it again in the morning. Best Wishes.

Randall Parker said at February 26, 2006 3:43 PM:

Paul Dietz,

I think the CFC/ozone issue is different than the anthropogenic global warming issue for a few reasons:

1) Higher UV is so clearly bad that weighing costs and benefits of reduced upper atmosphere ozone was easy.

2) There was only one plausible response to the CFC problem: Stop emitting CFCs and the sooner the better. We have many options for responding to CO2 build-up including climate engineering via interventions in the upper atmosphere and in space.

3) The climate naturally goes through warming and cooling chamges even larger than what some models predict as coming from higher CO2.

4) The cost of eliminating CO2 emissions is orders of magnitude higher (at least if done quickly) than the cost of eliminating CFC use. That is why it was so easy to reach agreement to phase out CFCs.

Randall Parker said at February 26, 2006 4:07 PM:

odograph,

The human mind does not deal well with probabilities. People want something to be either true or false and they want to know now. I try to accept uncertainties and accept that I do not know the answers to lots of questions that matter (e.g. is there an afterlife?).

Some people in the global warming debate feign more certainty than they feel because they want other people to act on the basis if their gut feelings and intuitions. The people who feign certainty think they have to do that in order to get others to act on threats that are uncertain and whose probabilities can't be calculated with any sort of accuracy.

I keep returning to my basic point on energy: There are things we can do about energy development that can be easily justified based on other benefits (e.g. less conventional pollution, lower costs, national security) and will have as a side effect avoiding the risk that CO2 will cause the world to become worse than it is today.

We do not have to join the high church of global warming doomsterism in order to see that it is obvious we should rapidly obsolesce fossil fuels. Do you want cleaner air? Cheaper energy? No strip mining? Lower import costs? Less money flowing to the Wahhabis? These already seem like extremely compelling reasons to spend a few billion a year each on solar, battery, and nuclear reactor research. But unfortunately I haven't yet managed to convince the entire US population of this argument.

tdean said at February 26, 2006 7:57 PM:

Parker: “The human mind does not deal well with probabilities.”

Well, that’s an obviously true statement. Las Vegas and many Indian Tribes depend on it being true. There are many aspects of probabilistic computations that are counter-intuitive. The exploration for petroleum has a lot of similarities to the problem of navigating an optimum course through the uncertainties of climate change. The major difference is that in exploration we spend money to maximize future profits in an uncertain drilling environment and in the global warming situation we incur costs to avoid much greater losses in the future. The two situations are quite similar in cases where a drilling prospect has a large size but a relatively low probability of success. In such cases, the probability of success could be significantly below 10%, but it would still be economically feasible to drill because of the very large potential profits on the off chance that it hits. In such cases, the optimum course to follow is often to spend millions to drill a well that we believe has a 90%+ probability of failure. The other similarities have to do with the problems of establishing just what the probabilities of the success and cost parameters are. The amount of data available to establish the likelihood that the geological structure is closed, that the seal above the reservoir is intact, that the pore spaces in the reservoir rock are sufficient and well-connected, etc. can be quite sparse, yet probabilities have to be assigned to each parameter as well as all of the poorly known cost parameters involved in drilling three miles under ground as well as all of the poorly known income parameters like the price of oil three years from now. The fact is that many of these probabilistic parameters are pulled out of geologists butts based on gut feel or the thinnest of evidence. But if you let little problems like that bother you, you will never drill a well and might walk away from the next super-giant, and that would definitely not be good for your career. If you take the time and spend the money to do the geophysical surveys or otherwise “over-science” the project, your lease may run out or the cost of money sunk into the project will push it over the edge of profitability.

In the same way, the very poorly constrained probabilities associated with our current and likely future understanding of global warming require us, as a global society (whether or not you approve of that concept) to do our best to understand the likely costs and benefits of spending the money for GHG mitigation or walking away and taking our chances that we will “hit the big one”; in the case of climate change, that means doing nothing and then experiencing massive, rapid climate change, leading to disruption of agriculture, continual massive storms, drought, pestilence, the whole biblical ball of wax. Note please, that I am not even suggesting these things are likely to happen, but even if the likelihood turns out to be five or ten percent, which I’m inclined to think is conservative, that is probably plenty of likelihood to act now, rather waiting for the car wreck to happen and losing our homes. But, again, I’m also not suggesting that my opinion about these things really matters. But when the top people in the field who have spent their entire lives working on these matters say consistently that we need to act now, I will perceive far more value in their opinions than I will from bought off politicians, political hacks or energy industry spokesmen. Unfortunately, given the limitations of our big business media and for-hire political system, the nonsense coming from the Exxon-Mobil propaganda machine are given equal or greater weight relative to the well considered counsel of the experts. The petroleum industry analogy to that is to listen to the unanimous opinion of degreed geologists, geophysicists and engineers with over 25 years of experience each, and then stopping the janitor to ask what he thinks about the prospect. If the professionals all agree that the well should be drilled and the janitor thinks it’s a dog, the janitor could still be right, but if I were running the company, I would definitely go with the considered advice of the experts. Oil companies that take the advice of janitors or flip coins to decide which well to drill go out of business pretty quickly. The stakes with global climate change are infinitely higher.

tdean said at February 27, 2006 12:04 AM:

Kurt: "It sounds to me like global warming would be good, not bad."

Maybe so, maybe not. So where did you come by all of this factual information about global warming. From your friend. That is a pretty authoritative source.

The facts are that we cannot predict the precise nature of global warming on the environment in any particular spot at this point in the science. That is certain. What is also pretty certain, in my opinion, is that these sorts of rosy scenario predictions concerning global climate change is the response of those who, having flat out lost the "is global warming real" debate come up with nonsensical tales of "Global warming may be real, and it's a wonderful thing!" You don't know what is going to happen to the climate in North Africa and neither do I and neither does James Hansen for that matter. But I would take Hansen's assessments over yours or your "friend's" any day.

odograph said at February 27, 2006 3:24 AM:

Last year, or the year before, I was struck by two parallel trends. On the one hand this binary view of global warming was strong, and on the other hand poker was becoming a very popular game.

I've always thought that this would be a good teaching opportunity for global warming. Maybe someone who is a better writer than I could take a crack at it ... but basically, sometimes it's a good idea to fold after just seeing a few cards. You have not "proved" who will win, but you a good idea of the odds.

Abusing the analogy, the stereotypical global warming denier wants us to play out the game, prove who wins ... and then bet.

Unfortunately it's too late then, the game is over.

odograph said at February 27, 2006 3:26 AM:

BTW, on all those win-win situations for CO2 reduction ... of course I agree.

Paul Dietz said at February 27, 2006 6:41 AM:

Randall:

3) The climate naturally goes through warming and cooling chamges even larger than what some models predict as coming from higher CO2.

The warming predicted from continued unconstrained CO2 increases will eventualy dwarf anything since the Cretaceous.

4) The cost of eliminating CO2 emissions is orders of magnitude higher (at least if done quickly) than the cost of eliminating CFC use. That is why it was so easy to reach agreement to phase out CFCs.

And this is why you're seeing so much more astroturfed pseudoscience on global warming.

Rik said at February 27, 2006 7:56 AM:

There's a new book from Salomon Kroonenberg, a professor of (my literal translation) technical earth-sciences, in short: a geologist.
His book wants to put things in a different timeframe. He thinks the earth is at current, geologically, in high summer. In tenthousand years it oughta be autumn, at least, but we might not have to wait so long for another period of cold and falling sealevels.
His point was that climate was/is always changing and we shouldn't worry so much about short term effects, which are apparently a product of our limited view.
He was on a show about books and he commented how geological factors were never included in climate models. Does anyone whether this is true?

Philip Sargent said at February 27, 2006 12:54 PM:

If we could return to the subject of the original article for a moment...

The comments and analysis written so far miss the most important point about polls of the UK public on this issue.

Whether or not people actually do change their behaviour, the poll has an immediate and direct effect on politicians to encourage them to support policies that play to the expressed wishes of the electorate.

This is vitally important, because the UK government's Energy Review is happening this Spring.

There are no elections planned before this review will terminate, so polls of this type will have a great effect on the political decisions that are made.

From this poll (and others like it), we can expect that the result will be stronger manadatory housing insulation regulation, somewhat higher transport fuel taxes, political encouragement to support airline fuel tax (within Europe probably), and maybe even (unlikely, but I'm hopeful) a committment for govt. support for a minimum CO2 price level from 2016- to encourage carbon-free electricity generation (we have a 40% shortfall due in 2020) in a way that doesn't pre-select the appropriate technology (but allows long lead-time plant to be developed now).

So, hardly insignificant; and much more immediate (2006) than anything else discussed so far here.

Philip Sargent
Cambridge, UK.

momochan said at February 27, 2006 2:18 PM:

The problem with waiting until after anthropogenic GW is even more obvious to launch reflective shields into orbit is that ice will not be recovered without swinging too far back in the other direction. Sea levels will still rise, and heavily populated areas which depend on glacial runoff will have a more unstable water supply, to say the least -- even if we could bring average temperatures back down to Holocene normal.
Also, the science regarding ongoing acidification of seawater due to CO2 absorption looks quite robust.

Randall Parker said at February 27, 2006 4:06 PM:

momochan, odograph,

If the paper by Edward Teller and Lowell Wood is correct then we could intervene very rapidly to cool down the Earth and, no, we wouldn't experience a great deal of ice melt and rise in sea levels while doing climate engineering.

momochan,

I'm concerned about the ocean acidification problem. I wonder what it would cost to cancel out the acid.

Rik,

Yes, the Earth spends most of its time cooler than it is now and in some thousand years in future we are going to be faced with another ice age. I'm in favor of climate engineering to prevent the next ice age when it becomes clear the ice age is beginning. However, naturalists will complain we have no right to mess with mother nature.

Paul Dietz,

There are real scientists (and first rank at that) who are skeptical of the more pessimistic global warming scenarios. Sure, you can point to pseudoscience in some arguments by skeptics. But I can point to some really bad science among some of those who are loud about proclaiming the danger of global warming. Even if they turn out to be right that doesn't mean some of them aren't doing shoddy science.

Lots of stuff about global warming remain unproven. When you can't prove somethign that means you really do not know for sure.

Phil,

I think taxes give less benefit at higher cost than funding of accelerated research. I like the idea of raising insulations standards. Seems very cost effective. But some of the other proposals seem counterproductive or too costly given better choices that could be taken instead.

I also think much of the press is trying to encourage people to think politically correct thoughts. I hate being manipulated by those folks. An elderly neighbor of mine started telling me a couple of days ago that the Greenland ice is all melting. Never mind that by some measures the amount of ice in Greenland might really be increasing (ditto Antarctica). The press's selective reporting on that story has had its intended effect.

Andrew Wheeler said at February 27, 2006 7:34 PM:

Very interesting ,er , debate.

A point of interest, relevant to the article endnote/update, looks like the AIA is (and has been) trying to do their part.

http://www.aia.org/aiarchitect/thisweek05/tw0311/0311bp_ashrae.htm

Regardless of your environmental viewpoint (radicals of both stripes excepted), efficient use of energy is always a beautiful thing, and from an engineering point of view, always desirable. (Form follows function and all.....)

Philip Sargent said at February 28, 2006 2:57 AM:

Regulation is probably much more significant than taxes than you might think - in countries where there is political will to regulate. Which is why this poll is important: it will increase the political will in the UK.

The French minimum standards for distribution transformers, are a good example, where the "technology" required is simply thicker copper wire. Many countries have improved minimum standards of energy efficiency in white goods (the UK Energy Daving Trust has done a lot there), minimum requirements on automotive fleet fuel efficiency in the US (before the SUV loophole), the US energy efficient electric motor programme (about 1/3 of all industrial-use electricity is used in electric motors): the DoE "Motor Challenge" programme 1995-97.

Minimum standards are also a simpler mechanism for affecting public-funded bodies which have limits on how they can spend/invest money and so are less sensitive to (fuel) taxes - in the UK at least.

Also regulation is largely "invisible" to consumers: they don't see a tax bill personally, it is something that affects an economy as a whole.

tdean said at February 28, 2006 3:16 AM:

Parker: “Lots of stuff about global warming remain unproven. When you can't prove somethign (sic) that means you really do not know for sure.”

Jeez, this statement proves one thing for sure: Parker hasn’t a clue about science, good, bad or shoddy. Science, from quantum to celestial mechanics, is probabilistic. It doesn’t have a lot to do with proofs like high school geometry. Perhaps Parker got an A in geometry, perhaps he’s an engineer, but he, like most Americans, has a hard time understanding scientific uncertainty and probabilistic thinking. Global warming isn’t going to be “proven”; it is going to be increasingly well understood via application of the best science the international scientific community has to offer, and this state of the art science will be implemented primarily through enhanced observational technology and super-computer models applying developing theory more and more precisely as that theory and computer power increases. It’s this simple-minded “prove it” mentality that makes the extreme right-wing, Big Energy propaganda so effective in misleading the masses about climate change. Unfortunately, the scientific literacy in the US is bad and getting worse relative to other developed countries.

And speaking of extreme right wing propaganda, Parker opines: “If the paper by Edward Teller and Lowell Wood is correct then we could intervene very rapidly to cool down the Earth and, no, we wouldn't experience a great deal of ice melt and rise in sea levels while doing climate engineering.” How does Parker know what the response of continental ice sheets will be to anthropogenic forcing as proposed by Teller, a radical, senile right-winger whose last good science was done in 1959. Or maybe Parker is just talking through his butt. I’ve previously discussed the absurdity of Teller’s proposal. Teller is a star player of the Hoover Institute, a major recipient of Exxon-Mobil, and its “educational” foundations. How tedious.

Parker: “I'm concerned about the ocean acidification problem. I wonder what it would cost to cancel out the acid.” Well, that’s a good thing. That’s just one more thing we all should be worrying about. Of course, Parker could just ask Teller what it would cost to fix it, who I’m sure would say: “Oh, bout fi fiddy millon.” The last time the CO2 increased in the atmosphere like it is now was in the late Cretaceous when the Deccan Trap flood basalts in India were dumping billions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. This led to the extinction of hundreds of marine species starting with the deeper water dwellers and moving to the surface waters at about the time the big asteroid struck and killed most other critters around at the time. I just think it’s too bad that Parker and Teller couldn’t hop into a time machine and go back to that time to shoot H-bombs at that nasty asteroid and dump a few billion tons of limestone into the ocean to fix that little problem. Hey, time travel could happen in just a few years. There is always an engineering solution right around the corner. So why worry?

odograph said at February 28, 2006 6:31 AM:

Lots of stuff about global warming remain unproven. When you can't prove somethign that means you really do not know for sure.

Are you pushing the binary view?

It still seems to me that the only "proven" will be to play out the game, and then note after the fact, what we might have done.

I also think much of the press is trying to encourage people to think politically correct thoughts. I hate being manipulated by those folks. An elderly neighbor of mine started telling me a couple of days ago that the Greenland ice is all melting. Never mind that by some measures the amount of ice in Greenland might really be increasing (ditto Antarctica). The press's selective reporting on that story has had its intended effect.

Is "some measures" real, or is it cherry picking the data?

tdean said at February 28, 2006 7:06 AM:

Odograph,

I'd say definitely cherry picking, not just data and papers but parts of papers. In a previous case of Parker citing papers from Big Energy propaganda sites, I noted that the conclusions of the paper pointed out that their methods did not include all of the lower elevation areas on the edge of the ice sheet, which of course where all of the accellerating glaciers are. So they could not say whether the overall balance was positive or negative. Most other studies combined several methods and covered the entire area of Greenland and found negative balances and accellerating losses overall (http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/feb2006/2006-02-17-01.asp) Paleoclimatic and sea level change data indicate clearly that large volumes of ice in continental ice sheets can slide into the ocean catastrophically during warming periods, raising the sea level by several meters at a rate more than an order of magnitude faster than at present. The flow of solid materials like ice and the earth's mantle is inherently unstable because of thermal feedback effects, and both show exponential rate growth at varying time scales. These effects are highly non-linear and difficult to model accuately. But we know they happen from historical studies and we could be in for a big surprise if the current huge glacial surges in Greenland continue to accellerate.

Paul Dietz said at February 28, 2006 1:08 PM:

dump a few billion tons of limestone into the ocean to fix that little problem.

That's far too little, I'm afraid, and you'd probably need to dump finely ground olivine, not limestone (which already is loaded with mineralized CO2.)

The Telleresque proposal would be to nuke a few thousand cubic kilometers of basalt into very fine dust and let that stuff dissolve in the ocean. (Obvious problems are left as an exercise to the reader.)

Randall Parker said at February 28, 2006 4:47 PM:

Phil,

I certainly favor regulations to raise insulation standards, appliances efficiency (would love to see the US adopt standards closer to Japanese refrigerator efficiency standards), and the like.

odograph,

Cherry picking and ice caps: No, lots of scientists who have no axes to grind are coming up with evidence that suggests total ice is increasing in both Greenland and the Antarctic. It is possible for this to happen at the same time the globe warms if, say, the warming causes more precipitation in really cold places. But other scientists make contradictory claims.

Here's an October 2005 report claiming that Greenland's ice sheet is growing:

Science DOI: 10.1126/science.1115356

Recent Ice-Sheet Growth in the Interior of Greenland
Ola M. Johannessen 1*, Kirill Khvorostovsky 2, Martin W. Miles 3, Leonid P. Bobylev 2

1) Mohn-Sverdrup Center for Global Ocean Studies and Operational Oceanography / Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center, Bergen, 5006, Norway; Geophysical Institute, University of Bergen, 5007, Norway.
2) Nansen International Environmental and Remote Sensing Center, St. Petersburg, 197101, Russia.
3) Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, Bergen, 5007, Norway; Environmental Systems Analysis Research Center, Boulder, CO 80303, USA.

* To whom correspondence should be addressed.
Ola M. Johannessen , E-mail: ola.johannessen@nersc.no

A continuous data set of Greenland Ice Sheet altimeter height from ERS-1 and ERS-2 satellites, 1992 to 2003, has been analyzed. An increase of 6.4 ± 0.2 centimeters per year is found in the vast interior areas above 1500 meters, in contrast to previous reports of high-elevation balance. Below 1500 meters, the elevation-change rate is -2.0 ± 0.9 cm/year, in qualitative agreement with reported thinning in the ice-sheet margins. The spatially averaged increase is 5.4 ± 0.2 cm/year, or ~60 cm over 11 years, or ~54 cm when corrected for isostatic uplift. Winter elevation changes are shown to be linked to the North Atlantic Oscillation.

You can read the press release on that Norwegian study.

Is Greenland warming or cooling?

Chylek, P. Box J.E., Lesins G. Climatic Change, Volume 63, Numbers 1-2, March 2004

Abstract

The Greenland coastal temperatures have followed the early 20th century global warming trend. Since 1940, however, the Greenland coastal stations data have undergone predominantly a cooling trend. At the summit of the Greenland ice sheet the summer average temperature has decreased at the rate of 2.2 °C per decade since the beginning of the measurements in 1987. This suggests that the Greenland ice sheet and coastal regions are not following the current global warming trend. A considerable and rapid warming over all of coastal Greenland occurred in the 1920s when the average annual surface air temperature rose between 2 and 4 °C in less than ten years (at some stations the increase in winter temperature was as high as 6 °C). This rapid warming, at a time when the change in anthropogenic production of greenhouse gases was well below the current level, suggests a high natural variability in the regional climate. High anticorrelations (r = -0.84 to -0.93) between the NAO (North Atlantic Oscillation) index and Greenland temperature time series suggest a physical connection between these processes. Therefore, the future changes in the NAO and Northern Annular Mode may be of critical consequence to the future temperature forcing of the Greenland ice sheet melt rates.

Why'd Greenland dramatically warm in the 1920s? If that happened now the warming would be blamed on global warming. Why'd it subsequently cool down? Nature's out there doing massive scale changes.

Also, why didn't the islands of the world all flood when the Vikings lived in a much much warmer Greenland? I've read scientific speculations on how that could have happened. Can't remember the explanation offered now though.

I can toss a dozen other reports at you about Greenland that cut various ways on temperature, ice flow speeds (Eric Rignot and Pannir Kanagaratnam say ice flow speeds are accelerating and this'll reduce glaciers for example), ice amounts, etc. Ever since Benny Peiser put me on his CCNet distribution (which covers climate research, natural threats such as asteroids and hurricanes, and related topics) and I got to see groups of abstracts on various topics and correspondence to him from major climate researchers I've become thoroughly reserved on climate change. I realize some people here feel great certainty and moral righteousness on climate stuff. But I'm ambivalent.

Randall Parker said at February 28, 2006 5:05 PM:

odograph,

How about February 2002 reports on growing ice and cooling in Antarctica?

If the thickening is not merely part of some short-term fluctuation, it represents a reversal of the long retreat of the ice, say researchers Ian Joughin of the California Institute of Technology and Slawek Tulaczyk of the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Their finding comes less than a week after a separate paper in Nature reported that Antarctica's
harsh desert valleys - long considered a bellwether for global climate change - have grown
noticeably cooler since the mid-1980s.

...

"Perhaps, after 10,000 years of retreat from the ice-age maximum, researchers turned on their
instruments just in time to catch the stabilization or re-advance of the ice sheet,"
Richard
B. Alley of Pennsylvania State University, wrote in a commentary accompanying the Science paper.

From March 2005: Growing ice in Antarctica:

The West Antarctic peninsula only covers one tenth of the South PoleÕs ice. There are rarely spectacular reports about the much larger parts of the continent. These do not provide a uniform scientific picture. In total, however, the ice masses of the continent, which hold about 70 per cent of the world's fresh water resources, seem to be growing. This conclusion was reported at the Earth Observation summit in Brussels in the middle of February by Antarctic researcher Duncan Wingham (University College London).

Wingham presented new satellite data which show that the Antarctic ice cover is getting thicker.
"To claim that the ice sheets are melting is rather daring," Wingham said in an interview with
Die Welt. Wingham presented radar measurements taken by the European satellites ERS-2 and Envisat,
whose altimeter exactly measures elevations on the earthÕs surface down to two centimeters by
means of electromagnetic wave pulses.

Maybe these reports have since been contradicted by later reports that found opposite results?

aa2 said at February 28, 2006 5:27 PM:

Phillip - "There are no elections planned before this review will terminate, so polls of this type will have a great effect on the political decisions that are made."

Good point Phillip, no doubt the UK government will use this as an excuse to drive through draconian restrictions. I suspect that polls like this are paid for by special interest groups or the government itself and the polling companies ask the questions in such a way to get the answers their clients want.

Even if the questions were perfectly fairly asked and the politicians perfectly followed the people's wishes, I still would not be in favor of this way of governing.

tdean said at February 28, 2006 5:32 PM:

Parker: “Cherry picking and ice caps: No, lots of scientists who have no axes to grind are coming up with evidence that suggests total ice is increasing in both Greenland and the Antarctic.”

Hey Zeus, Christo! Do we really have to go through this one again? I already covered this one.

You see, what happens here is that when the minions of Big Energy and radical right wing ideologues who make up the GW skeptic corps search desperately for scraps of science that they can use to suggest that global warming is just liberal press hoopla, every now and then they see a title that says “Recent Ice Sheet Growth in the Interior of Greenland”. They then leap on it like a pack of hungry dogs howling “See! What global warming! Liberal conspiracy!” They don’t even stop to read the whole article. What the conclusion of the article says (for the 2nd time) is:

“There are, however, caveats to consider. First, we cannot make an integrated assessment of elevation changes—let alone ice volume and its equivalent sea-level change—for the whole Greenland Ice Sheet, including its outlet glaciers, from these observations alone, because the marginal areas are not measured completely using ERS-1/ERS-2 altimetry.” They clearly state that they are not measuring the edges of the ice sheet, which happens to be where the tripling of glacial velocities is happening and becoming an exciting tourist attraction because of the crashing and smashing of the huge chunks of ice sliding into the North Atlantic at record speed. Parker is so immersed in the fantasy world of the right wing blogosphere that he has completely lost touch with reality. Totally pathetic.

Randall Parker said at February 28, 2006 5:36 PM:

Phil,

I guess when I talk about regulation I'm talking about international treaties and CO2 restriction laws. Laws that require the use of more efficient products probably are net economic benefits because for a variety of reasons the market fails to choose the optimal products for energy efficiency. So I favor zoning ordinances to make buildings more efficient or appliances more efficient.

One reason the market fails to produce optimal energy efficiency is the rental problem. Landlords who do not pay for heat or who do not pay electric bills do not have incentive to choose efficient appliances or good insulation. Another problem is that many things affect energy efficiency and each buyer lacks the knowledge, intellectual ability, or even the incentive to make the many decisions that would have marginal effects on energy usage.

But while I favor those sorts of regulations that address some market failures I see the drive in Europe is toward CO2 emissions reduction using approaches that simply lower economic growth. Restrictions on emissions by, say, steel mills will just push steel production to China or Brazil. The big fight between Britain and the EU on emissions allocations for British industry comes down to a question of how much British production will be limited.

John Galt said at March 1, 2006 4:11 AM:

tdean:

I keep reading your comments and seeing assertions like "GW is far too complicated for mere laymen to understand" and "Trust me, I'm a trained geophysicist," and "Anyone who disagrees is gullible and has been fooled by the Big Oil Companies."

You've done everything but call us apostates and burn us at the stake.

GW may or may not have any scientific basis. If it has a scientific basis, then proponents shouldn't be afraid to explain it to the rest of us.

The quasi-religious way GW philosopher-kings have been trying to convince the rest of us to sacrifice for their vision that you claim is too complicated to explain is ineffective...especially when I notice that most proponents seem to be mystical scientists, NGO and governmental bureaucrats, and the same recycled Marxists who have been wanting me to reduce my living standard for years.

I vote, and I will prevent you from getting your way until you bother to explain it to me.

odograph said at March 1, 2006 4:34 AM:

I was thinking of dropping by to leave a general comment, having visited yesterday evening without commenting.

I think can step back and not answer any of you directly, but just note that you are all charictaristic of the "population response" going on around global warming. There is a tension between those who are "in" (investing time and energy understanding) and those "out" (who want a fast answer), as well as between all those along the continium of concern (from "no worries" to "we're all going to die").

My comment is that this is not a very good system.

My cynical early morning thought is ... we human beings are not really dealing with it, and are not going to come up with the right anser.

tdean said at March 1, 2006 12:26 PM:

Mr. Galt,

I understand your criticism but I don't agree. It is a true statement that global climate change is as complex a problem as science is currently undertaking, so no one person, even the most qualified scientist, understands all aspects of it. Super-computers run for months at a time trying to incorporate increasingly complete and complex quantitative theories into models that fit all observations as well as possible. It is not mysticism, however it is mysterious due to it's complexity. The basis for greenhouse warming is simple, that CO2 and other man-made gasses don't absorb visible light but absorb and trap infrared. But when that theory is incorporated into a system as complicated as the earth's atmosphere, oceans, land and biosphere, it becomes very, very complex. Sorry, but that is true.

And I am specifically saying, more than once, that my opinion matters little, other than my suggestion to trust the leading scientists in the field. They really are the only ones who have a good enough feel for the problems and uncertainties to understand the implications of their work. You can believe the people with ideological agendas and hundreds of billions in profits at stake if you want. I will trust the scientists who are doing the actual current work. And you can find their opinions concerning best policy responses to climate change on the internet. But given that no one has met my clear challenge to find a single scientist currently engaged in climate research and not associated with an energy company think tank or propaganda outlet who denies the reality of anthropogenic warming due to GHG'S, I am vindicated and you would appear to be a dupe.

Bob Badour said at March 1, 2006 5:11 PM:

In other words, if you find a scientist who has totally isolated himself from any opinion contrary to one held by tdean, tdean is right. And if you find a scientist who has any contact whatsoever with diverse opinions, you are a dupe.

That's otherwise known as "heads I win; tails you lose".

tdean said at March 1, 2006 5:49 PM:

Bob,

Cmon. Talk sense at least. It's not just opinion and sure not about diverse opinion. It is about a clear program of propaganda paid for by an easily identifiable corporate entity that has a huge financial stake in their position, spending easily tracked millions to promote that position. Even you can understand that.

Bob Badour said at March 2, 2006 3:58 PM:

tdean, get help.

Dezakin said at March 2, 2006 4:19 PM:

"Cmon. Talk sense at least. It's not just opinion and sure not about diverse opinion. It is about a clear program of propaganda paid for by an easily identifiable corporate entity that has a huge financial stake in their position, spending easily tracked millions to promote that position. Even you can understand that."

Still doesn't look at the issue of cost-benifit risk analysis.

It doesnt even matter if climate change is occurring. It only matters if it costs less to mitigate it than to deal with the effects, but the issue is allways sidetracked onto weather or not its anthropogenic, occuring at all, etcetera, when none of this matters; Arguments from authority and conspiracy theories are all fine and well, but really they are just rhetorical tools for continuing a political discussion.

Randall Parker said at March 2, 2006 4:36 PM:

Dezakin,

Suppose the climate really is going to warm. Seems to me we could reap some major benefits if we could just prevent ice in Greenland and Antarctica from melting. If we could do climate engineering that increased the precipitation and cooled the interior regions of those two places we could pile up lots of water in them. In fact, we could increase land areas by even building up more ice pack than currently exists.

Warmer weather would lengthen growing seasons. Higher CO2 would allow faster plant growth and also plant growth where now there are deserts. See my posts Rising Carbon Dioxide Causing Forests To Expand Into Deserts and Plants Will Grow More Rapidly With Higher Carbon Dioxide.

Could satellites selectively block light from falling on Greenland as a way to keep it cooler?

tdean said at March 2, 2006 7:57 PM:

Bob Badour: "tdean, get help."

I don't need the help, you do. I have an argument that I can support.

Dezakin, I don't deny that the debate as to what to do about climate change has to do with cost/benefit analysis, but due to uncertainty it becomes risk weighted cost/probabilistic benefit analysis, and you can't just pull the numbers out of thin air. How do you come up with a number for cost without estimating the probability of the cost-inducing event to occur? For example, many people warned that the levy system in New Orleans was insufficient and they needed to be upgraded to withstand a category five hurricane. But no one knew for sure when Katrina was coming until it showed up on the radar screens. Then it was way too late to fix the levees. Now, if the work on the levees had been finished just before Katrina hit, that levee project would have been hailed as a great example cost benefit analysis. But if Katrina didn't show up until 100 years after the work was finished, people would be screaming in year 99 that we wasted that money way back when. But even with uncertainty, it is possible to determine an optimum policy if the probabilities of future events are reasonable well known. And that is what the debate is and why it is complicated and contentious. We have to estimate the probabilities that arctic ice will quickly slide into the ocean, that the North Atlantic Thermo-haline circulation will collapse, that all this wonderful CO2 will allow us to double our agricultural output, that wild swings in climate will cause droughts in rain forest and they will burn up, releasing more CO2... There is almost no certainty in these debates at all with regard to what the effects of policy will be on the climate and on our children's society. But if there is a significant probability that GHG's could disrupt climate, wreaking havok on the earth and a reasonable probability that reducing emissions now will substantially reduce that likelihood at reasonable cost, then that is the best thing to do. We not only have to establish what the relevant probabilities are, but project future costs and technological developments into the future, and calculate the cost of doing nothing. These things are huge undertakings and it will take some time to get close to the point where we will understand which policy is really the best. Still, even with the great acknowledged uncertainties, many scientists believe that the worst case scenarios of rapid climate change are so bad, even with fairly low probability of occurance, that the costs of reducing GHG now are clearly warranted. We cannot at this point be sure that this GHG reduction policy will be the optimal one, but if disaster strikes quickly, we will all be saying "If only..." just like people are about the New Orleans levees. There is nothing simple about the science or the policy debate. Period. But we do have to decide what to do, based on our best information and on what is best for society as a whole.

tdean said at March 2, 2006 8:18 PM:

A few items from the internet that support my arguments:

Bush administrations industry friendly manipulation of government science: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3502867.stm
http://www.newscientist.com/channel/opinion/climate-change/mg18925403.900
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2004/04/04/EDG2R4SJ031.DTL

Union of Concerned Scientists statement signed by 20 Nobel laureates and many other world-renowned scientists: "When scientific knowledge has been found to be in conflict with its political goals, the administration has often manipulated the process through which science enters into its decisions...The scope and scale of the manipulation, suppression and misrepresentation of science by the Bush administration is unprecedented."

Statement of David Baltimore, president of Cal Tech: "Repeated administration statements questioned the science behind the position of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that the global warming seen in the past 100 years is associated with human activity. Now, at last, comes a statement from an interagency administration committee, signed by cabinet secretaries, confirming the IPCC position. In the policy domain, however, we still have a long-range research program aimed toward a "hydrogen economy," but no commitment to current mitigation of this growing crisis."

Lord May of Oxford, the president of the Royal Society and former chief scientific adviser to the British Government:
"If the public are misled into thinking climate change does not pose a serious potential threat, some policy-makers could more easily find an excuse not to act. The United States administration has shown that this is the case," Lord May said. "All countries must accept the case has been made ... We need to ensure our own leaders and opinion-formers in the media are not allowed to act as modern-day Neros over climate change, fiddling while the world burns," Lord May said.

The best and latest scientific studies shows striking accelleration of mass loss in Greenland ice sheet:
"Using satellite radar interferometry observations of Greenland, we detected widespread glacier acceleration below 66° north between 1996 and 2000, which rapidly expanded to 70° north in 2005. Accelerated ice discharge in the west and particularly in the east doubled the ice sheet mass deficit in the last decade from 90 to 220 cubic kilometers per year. As more glaciers accelerate farther north, the contribution of Greenland to sea-level rise will continue to increase. " Science 17 February 2006: Vol. 311. no. 5763, pp. 986 - 990 Discussing the results, the author says: "Much of the acceleration, Rignot says, is caused by meltwater penetrating crevasses and lubricating the glaciers' flow. The ice is in effect sliding into the ocean on rivers of water. He warns that the models glaciologists are using to predict ice-flow rates do not include these physical processes." Note: The radar interferometry methodology used in this study are more complete and at least an order of magnitude more accurate than the earlier study cited by Parker which was based on radar altimetry.

Dezakin said at March 3, 2006 12:19 AM:

"Dezakin, I don't deny that the debate as to what to do about climate change has to do with cost/benefit analysis, but due to uncertainty it becomes risk weighted cost/probabilistic benefit analysis, and you can't just pull the numbers out of thin air. How do you come up with a number for cost without estimating the probability of the cost-inducing event to occur?"

Thats kind of my point; You can't actually make reasonable policy on climate change without knowing any numbers one way or the other what effects mitigations will have. We may well end up spending trillions on what amounts to levees in Montana.

"But even with uncertainty, it is possible to determine an optimum policy if the probabilities of future events are reasonable well known."

Yes, and we really dont know much so how can we really justify throwing money at anything?

"But if there is a significant probability that GHG's could disrupt climate, wreaking havok on the earth and a reasonable probability that reducing emissions now will substantially reduce that likelihood at reasonable cost, then that is the best thing to do. We not only have to establish what the relevant probabilities are, but project future costs and technological developments into the future, and calculate the cost of doing nothing. These things are huge undertakings and it will take some time to get close to the point where we will understand which policy is really the best. Still, even with the great acknowledged uncertainties, many scientists believe that the worst case scenarios of rapid climate change are so bad, even with fairly low probability of occurance, that the costs of reducing GHG now are clearly warranted."

We dont even know how much reducing GHG will mitigate climate change effects. How can we possibly make any of this reasonable public policy? A large asteroid strike has a significantly worse scenario than significant climate change scenarios, but no one is proposing building massive anti-asteroid infrastructure...

Now there are certainly reasonable reasons to curb CO2 emissions couched in strategic reasoning: All baseload coal power can be replaced by nuclear power plants at reasonable cost and its wasteful to use coal for baseload power supply when we'll need it at some point for transportation fuel feedstocks.

Randall Parker said at March 3, 2006 5:53 PM:

Dezakin says about the risks of global warming,

Yes, and we really dont know much so how can we really justify throwing money at anything?

We pay to reduce many risks of unknown size. We each do not know our individual risks for colon cancer. The risks vary greatly for genetic reasons. Yet many go and get colonoscopies. Most women who get mammographies have not first bothered to get genetic tests for mutations that increase breast cancer risk. We think the potential benefit is so large we pay the costs.

I do not think we should ignore a potential threat just because we can not accurately calculate risks. I look at the CO2 build-up and figure it has to cause some measurable changes. Of course not all the changes would be harmful. Some of the changes would be beneficial. But it is not implausible that the CO2 could cause too much acidity in the oceans or too much water melting from glaciers.

What I find so frustrating about the debate about global warming is that there are ways to respond to it that do not involve just costs and no benefit beyond lower CO2 emissions. Research into non-fossil fuels energy forms can eventually lead to energy sources that are cheaper than fossil fuels. Instead of adding additional costs onto the burning of fossil fuels as a way to reduce fossil fuels burning we can develop energy sources that people will switch to to lower costs, not raise costs.

Bob Badour said at March 7, 2006 9:51 AM:
I don't need the help, you do. I have an argument that I can support.

tdean, I accept that you sincerely believe that, which is why I suggest you get help. Sophistry is not support.

tdean said at March 11, 2006 2:25 PM:

Bob,

So where's your argument? All you are capable of doing is not-so-clever sniping. My arguments are supported by the science that I cite in my posts. That is a good basis for my belief.

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