Climatic Heresy: 4.

Nigel Lawson book cover


(Charles Platt is a guest blogger)

Here are two more books that examine climate change from other perspectives. They differ in their tone and message, but they’re both intelligently written.

An Appeal to Reason by Nigel Lawson is a small but heavily referenced overview by a former Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Secretary of State for Energy, and Chancellor of the Exchequer in the UK. Lawson is not a scientist but does understand politics, and he sees a lot of it in the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), which is the primary source of global-warming projections. If you want an erudite introduction by a shrewd observer, this is a good place to start. This book almost failed to find a publisher because, as one editor put it, it defies the “prevailing orthodoxy.” Contrary to allegations, Lawson inists that he receives no money from special interests.

Bjorn Lomborg book cover

Cool It by Bjorn Lomborg. Formerly an avid Greenpeace supporter, Lomberg wrote his previous book, The Skeptical Environmentalist, after becoming convinced that many strategies advocated by environmentalists do not have a good cost-benefit ratio if we are primarily concerned with saving lives and fighting the spread of disease. Cool It uses a similar economic approach. He argues convincingly that if world hunger and mortality are our priorities, an immediate reduction in carbon dioxide emissions is a foolish way to allocate resources. Unfortunately this kind of economic assessment tends to be ignored in favor of emotional appeals featuring pictures of polar bears, raising the depressing possibility that people may care more about arctic animals than about third-world human beings.

In any case, the affect of climate on polar bears should not be a significant concern right now, since the observed area of arctic sea ice has continued to fluctuate seasonally from year to year (see the graph below, reproduced from the International Arctic Research Center), and the primary factor affecting the bears has been “harvesting"—i.e. people killing them (see this site sponsored by the International Institute of Forecasters), which is now prohibited by federal law.

Arctic ice seasonal fluctuations

As for that picture of bears “stranded” on a piece of ice, here’s the back story according to Denis Simard, the Environment Canada representative who distributed it:

“. . . have to keep in mind that the bears aren’t in danger at all. It was, if you will, their playground for 15 minutes. . . . This is a perfect picture for climate change, in a way, because you have the impression they are in the middle of the ocean and they are going to die. . . . But they were not that far from the coast, and it was possible for them to swim.”

The picture was taken in 2004 by marine biologist Amanda Byrd, who refused to draw any conclusions, positive or negative, regarding the welfare of the bears. She was pissed, though, that her photograph was used without her permission.

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  1. Unfortunately this kind of economic assessment tends to be ignored in favor of emotional appeals featuring pictures of polar bears, raising the depressing possibility that people may care more about arctic animals than about third-world human beings.

    Yes, it is depressing how people care more about polar bears than the population of Bangladesh or the Maldives.

    But if pictures of polar bears is the only thing that will help save the people of Bangladesh and the Maldives…

  2. I know that civility is valued in these comments, a value I agree with, but I have to say it:

    Worst guestblogger ever.

    Giving space for expression of controversial opinions is admirable, but post after post of crankery is a blight on a site defined in part by a longstanding enthusiasm for science. It’s also bad form on the part of an invited guest to hit the front page so hard with what he surely knows will annoy the readership. I don’t know how invitations to be a guestblogger here work, but I assume the idea is to make a contribution. A little shit-stirring can certainly count as a contribution, but a lot of shit-stirring just gets shit everywhere.

    I was really disappointed to come here and see this.

  3. Why the hell is this crap on BoingBoing? What’s next, the Discovery Institute assuring us that “Evolution is just a Theory, not a Fact”?

  4. I have to say, the whole climate change argument pisses me off a bit. It feels far too much like a bait and switch.

    The fact is that there are real environmental problems caused by a real lack of collective action needed to assess the effects of externalities and mitigate their production. In *addition* almost all the things that cause global warming are fucking stupid things to be doing *anyhow* for reasons that can’t even come close to be considered controversial. Everything from air quality (i.e. not getting cancer from breathing) to oil prices should leave the rational person to tell the climate change nutters to fuck off because it doesn’t matter if it causes global warming or not. We’ll be screwed *regardless* of whether if does if we continue on a path of total fossil fuel dependence.

    Let’s get the argument straight. It isn’t a question of global warming vs. not global warming. It’s a question of fossil fuel dependence or not fossil fuel dependence.

    Personally I don’t see anything really being done until we come up with economic systems that can assess externalities. HINT – that isn’t capitalism.

  5. It is possible to cherry-pick factoids from the historical and scientific literature to support an argument against human-caused climate change. It’s even possible to do enough of this to fill several books (padded out with some political paranoia).

    This does not negate the overwhelming bulk of evidence, from the overwhelming number of scientists working in completely different fields, from geology to meteorology to biology and so on, all converging on the same conclusions. I’m sure that most members of this community understand these conclusions and the urgency of facing facts and taking action.

    Perhaps the best way to look at the postings by the guest blogger is that they give an opportunity for the claims he puts forward to be debunked, as Cory has done…

  6. It’s almost too easy, but let’s take one more piece of Platt’s rhetoric and look at how he argues in bad faith:

    As for that picture of bears “stranded” on a piece of ice,

    Here Platt refers to “that picture” of polar bears as if one particular picture is well known to us all that apparently he doesn’t even feel the need to reproduce it in the post. This iconic picture, he wants us all to think, is a central plank of the evidence for climate change.

    “This is a perfect picture for climate change, in a way, because you have the impression they are in the middle of the ocean and they are going to die. . . . But they were not that far from the coast, and it was possible for them to swim.”

    Here Platt tries to represent the analysis of a picture used to *illustrate* climate change, and an admission that the bears shown are not in immediate peril, as somehow constituting evidence that polar bears as a species are not threatened by climate change.

    Nobody denies that polar bears can swim – the issue is that they need ice to use as a platform to hunt off; they can’t just swim around forever like seals or whales. Loss of polar ice reduces their available habitat, so threatens their numbers. Pretty straightforward argument, but that doesn’t stop denialists making a big deal of the fact that polar bears can swim, so therefore… they will be OK when more ice melts… which won’t happen because the climate is actually cooling… or something. Again, intellectual coherence isn’t really relevant, it’s just about spewing talking points.

    I look forward to more excellent guest bloggers on Boing Boing. Perhaps we could have someone rehearse the heretical science which proves that dinosaurs and man co-existed, or that black people are racially inferior after all?

  7. Dissenting opinions in the force of overwhelming evidence, especially if they’re of the sort that encourage politicians with vested interests to kill our future, *should* be shouted down.

    I think this is an experiment of some sort.

  8. This is a comment I posted as a reply to Rambledeggs comment on Doctorow’s last post, and since Rambledeggs is being such a dick about it thought I would too.

    Thanks Rambledeggs and Transit for opening my eyes to the discipline and rigor of the scientific method.

    I was all in a quandry wondering how to fit the dissenting views of Nigel Lawson (not a scientist), Bjorn Lomborg (Formerly an avid Greenpeace supporter), Christopher Horner (Ex Enron attorney (!) ), Bob Carter (a scientist, on a research committee for a group that receives funding from oil interests) and Lawrence Solomon (an old-school environmental activist) into my scientifically disciplined view of global warming and its origins.

    Then I compared that with the views offered by The American Institute of Physics, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and peer reviewed articles in Nature.

    I came to the fully informed scientific conclusion that Charles Platt is posting a load of horse shit from popular lay authors with far more questionable motives than the organisations he seeks to criticise, and is generally stinking up the place.

  9. I made this same point elsewhere, but the least I can do is think up new ways to say it, instead of just copying and pasting between threads. Communication requires at least that much; otherwise we’re just fighting for volume.

    I came to the fully informed scientific conclusion that Charles Platt is posting a load of horse shit

    “A load of horse shit” being objectively measurable by science, of course.

    I’ll echo the advice given by others elsewhere to go out and actually read the scientific journal articles. Nothing really replaces that except replicating the research yourself.

    What really doesn’t replace that is appealing to the Authority of the Scientific Consensus. Anyone who’s showing doubt or skepticism ain’t likely to be swayed by that (think about how well “But my Church says…” works for convincing you about Jesus.) And of course, one of the things that makes a practicing scientist different than ye olde priest is that they don’t appeal to any such Authority, either. Instead they present evidence and, in the absence of evidence, an open mind (usually.)

    So the overwhelming feeling I’ve had toward this whole conversation here so far has been, “Science, save me from your followers!” I thought Rambledeggs put it excellently:

    Platt doesn’t appear to be a scientist, but he advocates having an open mind about every topic under the sun. Something which anyone approaching any topic under the sun, needs to maintain.

    [MOSTOFUSHERE] isn’t a scientist either, but his lack of skeptisicm is truly breath-taking in its arrogance and, dare I say it, as unscientific an impulse as you’re ever likely to come across.

    I feel like excepting scientific followers to comport themselves as well as scientists seems as likely as expecting Christians to comport themselves as well as Christ. But it’s great when either happens.

  10. Ahh there’s nothing like an economist to completely miss the point.

    Lomberg’s argument is flawed.

    Essentially he says we should spend our resources on improving healthcare, food supplies and development.

    Well no one can argue against that, but why should spending on climate change (which will greatly exacerbate all of those problems in the coming centuries, increasing their associated costs) be cut, when in excess of $1 trillion is spent each year on “defence”?

  11. ‘Lawson is not a scientist but does understand politics’

    Never a truer word said. Lawson, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, ignored economic advice and cut taxes to secure a further Conservative term. The result was an inflationary spiral that ended up in tens of thousands of people losing their jobs and homes. He was a spiv with a single policy – tax cuts for the rich – no matter what harm they did to the majority of people in the long term.

    After reinventing himself as a climatologist, he’s regularly interviewed on British television, and he has no answers to the scientists who are put up against him, just the same old lies and distortions.

  12. Hi again Jack,

    You’ve got a bit of a theme going, haven’t you? Good science, real good science, means always considering both sides of the argument. And that pesky scientific establishment is constantly overstating the certainty of some issues.

    I see you’ve listed among those issues, climate change, the Big Bang, neo-darwinian theories on evolution. And after a dramatic pause, God.

    You make claims to special insights from various specialists, and you never forget to mention that you are skeptical about religion, too, but I’m not buying it.

    This is classic Discovery Institute wedge strategy, as I have previously noted.

    If we can’t accept that the best method of establishing the veracity of scientific claims is peer review, then how can we establish their veracity? Through long discussions canvassing every possible point of view no matter how insubstantial?

    You don’t seem to be genuinely interested in debating the scientific method, you seem to be very carefully sowing doubt according to the exact method proscribed by the Discovery Institute.

  13. Being open-minded is very different to wilfully ignoring an unheralded amount of evidence. Open-mindedness and credulity aren’t the same thing, and sometimes if your mind’s too open your brain falls out.

  14. To all the folks who say they are pleased about this blogger because his posts are allowing the other side of the discussion to be heard:

    You know, there are spirited discussions on Boing Boing all the time. But there are arguments, and there are arguments. This is, as earlier posters pointed out, as annoying as if we had some damn creationist as a guest host.

    I don’t think Boing Boing is under any obligation to present both sides of every argument. If you all want to hear the opinions from the moronic side, and the trolls who post comments here aren’t enough to satisfy you, you can just tune in to “Fair and Balanced”â„¢ Fox News.

    >_<

  15. Platt doesn’t appear to be a scientist, but he advocates having an open mind about every topic under the sun. Something which anyone approaching any topic under the sun, needs to maintain.

    Platt doesn’t have an open mind he has fixed opinions that are controversial. If you’re still arguing that climate change is a lie and that the free market is always rational that’s not an open mind that’s refusing to accept evidence that contradicts your opinion.

    Skepticism is a virtue but constant skepticism is the enemy of action. Science as a discipline has places for skeptical input (such as peer reviewed journals) so it’s able to come to a consensus about new research. It doesn’t need people writing books on the “climate change conspiracy” and accusing anybody who refutes them of being close minded or willfully deceiving people for cash. And it certainly isn’t helped by opening the book on closed issues just because somebody doesn’t like the conclusion. You think climate change isn’t real? Great. Prove it through science, not by attacking it.

    When does Platt leave by the way? I’m looking forward to BoingBoing again being a directory of wonderful things.

  16. Interesting strategy, to invite a conservative to guestblog on a site that has quite clearly demarcated its liberal ideology on a variety of issues.

    And while I for the most part find myself agreeing with Mr. Doctorow and others here who have expressed these liberal opinions, and while I have read three posts by Platt this week, disagreeing with the thrust of two of them, I still think that employing Platt is not just an interesting strategy, but a wise one.

    Nothing galvanizes critical thought like having to rebut someone who disagrees with you, and nothing retards the use of your brain like being in a room with a bunch of people who agree with you.

    So Mr. Platt, bravo. You’re wrong about Wal-Mart, and wrong about climate change, but bravo nonetheless.

  17. You have spent a post and a half, to view it generously, on the actual science you use to back up your claim. There’s nothing wrong with dissent from the mainstream, but you do have a larger burden to carry in proving your point. Blaming the lack of peer-reviewed scientific journal articles favoring your argument on a chilling effect brought caused by the scientific mainstream will be little more than a weak excuse until you present evidence of such an effect.

  18. Charles, I’m your newest fan. Science and skepticism FTW. Stay brave.

    – Linda
    Mechanical Engineer, zealous about anti-zealotry :)

  19. Robulus writes:
    This is classic Discovery Institute wedge strategy, as I have previously noted.

    For goodness sake, Rob, I’d never even heard of the Discovery Institute until you mentioned it. If there’s anything I want people taking literally in this world, it’s the Book of the Subgenius. But I only suggest taking that literally to see who does, so I can weed out the Pinks.

    If we can’t accept that the best method of establishing the veracity of scientific claims is peer review, then how can we establish their veracity?

    By reviewing them for ourselves, or asking someone who shares our priorities and outlook to review them for us. Only if I knew that an individual shared my priorities and general outlook would I completely hand my discretion over to them. There’s a lot more than science that goes into deciding how much of a risk climate change poses.

    As things stand, I’ve reviewed the most recent stuff myself and my views lean slightly toward taking major action against climate change, but not necessarily along the lines recommended by this or that institution. I reserve the right to exercise my own nuanced discretion on any individual proposed law or collective action, without pledging allegience to any polarized sides. Why is that suddenly so tough around here?

    I ask you, and those chastizing the skeptics, this: Why do you think there even exists one clearly superior method for establishing the veracity of anything? Science doesn’t give us that. Science gives us tools to make our argument more convincing, helping us avoid most of the usual pitfalls of less rigorous thinking, but it claims no absolute certainty, not even for the best it has to offer. Since when do only creationists believe that?

    Seems to me that human beings have such a complicated ever-changing mix of goals and concerns that building consensus on anything is only ever a temporary success at best. Stop treating dissenting posters as if they’re part of a secret cabal to undermine reason, and start treating them like they’re your fellow smart creative Boing-Boing readers with a different and perhaps worthwhile perspective than yours. That’s the only thing I’ve ever seen build real consensus; the stuff I’m seeing here at best only ever builds an angry majority and an even angrier polarized minority.

    I could care less if this debate ends with fantastic agreement regarding the existence or nonexistence of climate change. I’m pouting because the place where I usually come for positive models of an open, creative mind seems to be spiraling into a Rush Limbaugh caricature of the left as of late.

    Charles laid down some pretty yummy bait for our jerkiest knees, pretty explicitly to make the point that our knees tend to jerk. If you want to prove him wrong, step one would be to talk to him and the people agreeing with him as if we have brains of our own, rather than treating us as an ill influence that doesn’t deserve your attention.

    This is so unbecoming of Boing-Boing, but not because of anything Charles has said. :-(

  20. It is nice to hear the opposing side’s opinions, even when those opinions are idiotic and devoid of scientific basis. So yes, we welcome Mr. Platt, even if we find his opinions laughably myopic. And frankly, to accuse others of kneejerk, when the whole Climate Contrarian movement is one big Exxon-funded, Detroit-backed, government-supported (for the last 8 years) kneejerk, is the height of absurdity.

  21. This is interesting. I initially took Platt’s vehemently anti-union, Wal-Mart apologist post as a fluke, but in combination with this he’s filling out the profile of a common geek archetype.

    I’m going to predict that he’s strongly opposed to vegetarianism, and maybe recycling too. He probably thinks anti-GMO activists are hysterical over nothing. Liberal myths, you see, which are easily cleared up by a sufficiently rational-minded Skeptic.

    There’s a point where skepticism stops being a strategy – a way to determine what’s likely – and becomes an identity. At this point, the skeptic themselves has a conflict of interest between a) determining what’s actually likely, and b) getting to play the marginalized but eminently rational skeptic.

  22. Rule 1 of Camp AGW: Attack the man, not the science.

    I see many members of Camp AGW are not forgetting said rule.

  23. My €0.02:

    I’m a skeptic, period. This included the “rationale” for the U.S. Military invading Iraq, as well as anthropogenic climate change.

    The latter debate (far more than the former ever received) has way too much rhetoric and fear-mongering on “both” sides of the issues. (Over-simplifying that there are only two sides.)

    However, the two penetrating issues that convinced me are this:

    1.) CO2 itself is demonstrably causative of the greenhouse effect. You can even reproduce the experiment at home with an aquarium, CO2, a lamp, and a thermometer.

    2.) Being made aware of the carbon cycle and where CO2 on Earth is stored.

    The problem is too much being stored in the atmosphere, namely by humans putting it there, which increases the greenhouse effect. That’s it. That’s the problem.

    No appeals to emotion over drowning polar bears invoked.

    For all its doom, I think James Lovelock got it right.

  24. @22 JackDitch:

    If we can’t accept that the best method of establishing the veracity of scientific claims is peer review, then how can we establish their veracity?

    By reviewing them for ourselves, or asking someone who shares our priorities and outlook to review them for us.

    I’m sorry, but you’ve completely misunderstood the concept of “peer review.” Peer review does not mean your peers, or my peers. Peer review refers to ones peers in the scientific community, people who can actually be expected to understand the science behind the articles.

    This is not to say that one is not allowed to use their own brains, but rather that one should be humble about what they do not know.

    For some reason, there are two disciplines in which everyone believes that they can put their feet in and get involved in the argument: evolution and global warming. But why is it that these people would never start reading articles on, say, the Higgs particle, or Baryon asymmetry, or the Cosmological constant, and start making opinions about them?

    If anything, scientific controversies, real scientific controversies like the ones I posted, are much more fertile ground for dissenters, because there are actual raging debates on either side. So why don’t the “heretics” pitch in and start arguing about those? At least then they might choose a side that maybe 30% of relevant scientists agreed with, instead of 2%.

    Do they actually think that they understand climate science better than they understand Baryon asymmetry?

  25. @ Jackditch (#22) — The last three paragraphs of your post are the best commentary I have read about this ongoing “discussion”.

    @ Cujoquan (#24) — I can’t tell if “AGM” means “anthropogenic global warming” or “anti global warming”. But it doesn’t seem to matter, does it?

  26. @cujoquan: You might be misunderstanding – I’m not really interested in winning a formal online debate about the cause of global warming. I’m already convinced, and I know that Platt and the skeptic camp are too. Their opinion is marginalized – as it should be, so I’m not terribly worried about personally disproving it. I think it’s more interesting to consider the world-view which gives rise to such misguided skepticism.

  27. Sorry, the blockquote formatting mangled my post. The paragraph underneath the quote was JackDitch’s. The rest was my refutation of that.

  28. I really do find it interesting that THIS article –> http://co2sceptics.com/news.php?id=2247 — previously referenced, was “missed” by mainstream media. Global Warming is the hip new cause kids, even Al Gore does it! Stop producing CO2, but keep using up precious fossil fuels, because running out of those is no big deal. But boo-hoo for the polar bears (just ignore the starving 3rd world children in the corner).

  29. @26
    I’m sorry, but you’ve completely misunderstood the concept of “peer review.

    No, I haven’t. Your question was predicated on the notion that I don’t accept that peer review is the best method for establishing the veracity of scientific claims. I explained what I thought was better–review by someone who shares my priorities. Preferably the one with the most expertise on the subject, I’ll give you that.

    one should be humble about what they do not know

    Funny how I thought that was the point I was trying to make. Being humble about what I don’t know has got nothing to do with towing the line of someone who claims to know. When it comes time to defer to someone else’s authority, I defer to the people I trust.

    Part of being trustworthy to me includes humility regarding our ignorance; another part is a high regard for the methods of scientific investigation. But even that’s not the sum of it.

    That trusted authority might go with the scientific consensus, or against it; by the time I get to that point, you’re gonna have to convince my chosen authorities to convince me.

    I rarely get to that point, though. If I care about something enough, I take my time to study it for myself until my own questions and concerns are answered. Did that really recently with climate change, got a good sense of what I know and how much more the scientific consensus knows, and figured out what bets I’m comfortable making at this time.

    New evidence, unique viewpoints–these will help me flesh out my understanding even further. Ragging on people for not trusting the Scientific Consensus? Not really giving me anything I can use.

  30. I add my voice to those saying “quit with the ad hominem against Platt”.

    Too much comfort is dangerous. Too much needless and counter-productive dissension is bad too. Honestly though, we have good discussions here but we are just as prone to human weakness as those we love to dismember at a distance.

    Exercise can be unpleasant sometimes but it remains essential. Trot out your best arguments, review them,repair them and polish them.

  31. @Wordguy (#27) I’m referring to anthropogenic global warming. You’re right that both sides of the debate have members who have based their opinions on evidence on the personal merit of the person presenting said evidence… but its tiring seeing someone called a troll simply because they are asking questions about something that has yet to be definitively proven correct (as much as so many bb readers like to think in a Gore-style “the debate is over” manner).

    To everyone who is criticizing Platt… Mark Twain once said “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” Have you paused an reflected, or have you jumped on the bandwagon and never looked back since?

  32. I enjoyed Platt’s posts better when they were leading to spirited debates about the relative costs and benefits of cryonics.

    As a skeptic I do value dissenting opinions, but if you’re trying to convince me that most climate scientists are wrong then I’d like to hear from a source more credible than someone who “is not a scientist but does understand politics.”

  33. Did we notice that the graph shows minimum sea ice has been significantly lower for the last two years? We did not. Let’s see…about 15% in two years…that means we’ll have zero sea ice in September by 2020! OK, maybe not, but I think it’s interesting that no one, including Mr Platt, is actually looking at the pretty picture.

  34. I don’t mind having Platt post his stuff – I’ll just agree to disagree and move on.

    But PLEASE quit posting so many posts in a row on the same topic! Spread them out or something. It’s annoying and bad form to flood my RSS feed with (essentially) the same post over and over.

  35. C’mon kids, let’s have less “meta” in this discussion.

    Less criticising the poster and more OT chat.

  36. I have to say that I am 100% in agreement with Zuzu and that doesn’t happen too often.

    Regarding Charles Platt, I’d say I’m on the fence so far. A really good, tough but fair argument could be a good thing no?

    One of the more common complaints I see from climate denialists is that of being “shouted down”. I see this as more of a psychological defense mechanism. Sort of like: “I just made a fool of myself, it must be my opponent’s fault that I did so.”

    I’d also like to add that I don’t see any, you know, actual argument from the climate skeptics so far. All I see is meta argument.

    So JackDitch, hit me with your best shot.

  37. As I consider myself somewhat of a collector of heretical ideas, I would like to point out that there are much more interesting implications than “is CC ACC or not?” to be found in the realm of another (not contradictory) climate change theory, and one that is quite scientific:

    i’m still confused and fascinated about why it is people get so emotional about this topic. i hate it when people are wrong and all, but i’ve discovered that the best way to change people’s minds is to be nice and try to see the other side as well.

    i’m mostly agnostic about global warming. this inspired someone to call me a “moderation nazi” once. that amused me greatly.

  38. Climate is a symptom. It’s all about the Earth’s albedo.

    Pollution is ugly and against the waste of finite petroleum resources through burning is stupid.

    To decrease pollution and waste, we need either massive investment in technology and public works, or massive and lasting reduction of the human population.

    Either approach should do the job; “climate deniers” are functionally working towards the latter by defending an unsustainable social order, and “global warming alarmists” are cheerleading for the former.

  39. I’d also like to add that I don’t see any, you know, actual argument from the climate skeptics so far. All I see is meta argument. So JackDitch, hit me with your best shot.

    *shrug* All I got is meta-arguments. Like I said, I recently researched this (in the context of a similar blog debate) and drew my own conclusions. I’d lay down evidence if I was out to make my own argument regarding climate change, but I’m not. I’m here for new ideas, and have for years stayed completely out of the comments section (where even the best ideas echo out into the same old feuds.) I only dove in this time because Cory took the fight to the top level.

    I’m keeping my eye out for further really unique stuff to incorporate into my own views, but the only thing that’s hit the spot so far has been Charles’ first post on that bred-green “denier”, which at least had uniqueness going for it. Which is why it makes me a bit pouty to see him told he shouldn’t have even posted it.

    Anyway, I think the meta-arguments are relevant to the conversation. Lots of folks seem to be talking past each other just because they’ve got different metrics for investing their confidence; lots of attacks are being made based on a presumption to know everyone else’s metric. All I care about is defusing that. I’ve found a few layers of gentle reminders often help, but I’m pretty close to “I’ve done all I can here,”
    so unless anyone actually heeds my advice, you’ll be through with me soon enough.

  40. So what’s it going to be, Charles? At the end of your guestblogging do you pull off your rubber mask and announce your grand experiment of baiting the internet with incompletely presented, questionably reasoned assertions? (How long did you work at Wal-Mart?)

    Voicing a contradictory argument is one thing, but voicing a contradictory argument with huge, gaping holes in it and then ignoring them is something else entirely. You don’t get to stand there proudly as some sort of defender of the downtrodden just because you said ‘I’m against it!’ and then gave incomplete reasons why.

    What the heck kind of scientist when asked ‘Well what about X?’ just says nothing?

  41. Platt is a great prestidigitator, but waving around graphs and positing about the temperature fluctuations Sargasso Sea are a smokescreen. So are the arguments about the economics of carbon caps.

    What are the commonalities of the skeptics? Well, they aren’t new, they are, in many cases, the same polluting corporate interests and their sock puppets who in the past fought for their ‘right’ to pump lead, mercury and other heavy metals into the air, fighting pollution standards all the way. Remember how bad the air was in the early 70s? Laws were passed in the US (which the Bushco EPA tried mightily to roll back) which resulted in demonstrably better air quality, and, gee, the businesses didn’t all go bust after all.

    It’s not about carbon emissions, it’s about not polluting and poisoning our planet–whether or not Platt and the skeptics care to admit it, they are fighting for the ‘right’ to keep polluting with impunity.

  42. I thought so JackDitch, because if you actually had something you’d be shouting it out load for all to hear.

    “I’m here for new ideas”

    There are few if any new ideas in climate change. It was pretty obviously correct back in the eighties and little has changed since then. In fact, I remember reading (and agreeing with) Issac Asimov way back when I was a kid in the 70’s. In one of his non-fiction books he predicted (in fairly broad generalizations but none the less accurate) both a warming climate and our upcoming freshwater crisis.

    The science itself is fairly basic and easily understood. All that has changed is the level of certainty. We know for a fact that our climate is warming. We know for a fact that we are responsible for the majority of that. We also know what must be done if we wish to avoid catastrophic change. All that is lacking right now is the political will to do what needs to be done.

  43. No one with any recollection of the utter horror of the Thatcher Dictatorship era should have any problem in understanding why it is quite impossible to trust anything written or said by Lawson. Really.

  44. next up i hope to see a guest blogger expound on why the new star wars trilogy is superior to the original. hopefully hell get some excellent reviews done by some local fox news critic in alabama who is usually the fill in weather dude, a 12 year old who started only watching movies with the phantom menace, but knows what he knows, and maybe hell throw in some sales charts showing that the new trilogy is better because lucas made a ton more money off of it.

    then the people that agree with this point of view will paint themselves as brave, victims and plead for open and honest debate after they get laughed out of the room.

    but the problem is, that debate isnt serious and has no serious consequences.

  45. Could we be nicer to Charles? Civil at least? You may be insulted by his ideas, but he’s not sharing them to insult you.

    I think.

    If so many people feel on the outside of climate science, what does that say?

    It says to me that a community college level class would be plenty to explain the science to a dis-believer, and that the comments section of a blog is not.

    Charles (or the people Charles is here to give voice to) may never understand, but we can still convince their children that being educated does not equal having an agenda.

  46. So if “everyone” is in agreement that GW is our biggest threat, and “everyone” agrees that CO2 is the cause, can we finally start building nuclear power plants AND get rid of the STUPID law that prevents us from reprocessing the waste?

    BTW, quit using polar bears as the poster child (animal): It IS legal to hunt them, if you are 1/4+ eskimo (as many bears as you need), and if you are in Canada (NWT) the hunting license is $10CAD. Also, their population has TRIPLED in the same time period that the satelite photos show artic ice shrinkage.

    http://alaska.fws.gov/law/pdf/polarbear.pdf

  47. @The mage,

    SURE, but let us not build plants designed in the 70’s, and let us not try to put the waste in the middle of a geologically unstable mountain in the middle of a postage-stamp Shoshone Reservation.

    Is it a deal?

  48. Noen,

    I wrote a response detailing the sources that have informed me; it’s being held for approval by the blog moderator, dunno if it’ll ever get posted. Maybe it’s being posted while I’m writing this. Anyway, one more try at a shorter response, in case length was the problem, then I’m out:

    http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/ar4-wg1.htm

    That’s what I’m basing my opinion on. The certainties in this report are well stated, but leave enough room to bet against various propositions regarding global climate change. You’re welcome to place your bets differently than I do.

  49. FYI,

    Bjorn Lomborg was embarrassed by the Danish Committee for scientific dishonesty when he LIED about the science behind global warming, among many other controversial topics.

    He has been refuted over and over and over again by the scientists whose work he misrepresents.

    Go here:

    http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Bjorn_Lomborg

    And here:

    http://info-pollution.com/lomborg.htm

    for information on him.

    He’s the Ann Coulter of the scientific community, writing inflammatory and dishonest material while laughing all the way to the bank.

  50. MDH,

    Do you seriously believe the designs have not evolved? I used to work at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station and over the 5 years I was there, they implemented so many upgrades to the equipment and designs, I lost count.

    Also, if you reprocess the fuel, all of the long lasting radioactive elements tend to be the type you are going to put BACK in the reactors as fuel.

    Total processed waste for a family’s (of 4)lifetime of power useage: 1 cup

    Then, you can turn the waste into a ceramic (no leaching). This technology has existed since the 70’s.

  51. @themage – did i say I believed that? no, I asked if we could agree on new things, on new ways to handle current problems.

    If you need to ridicule my valid questions* then it is clear we cannot agree, and that’s on you.

    * – go, please actually read them. Can we agree on those two points? Can we? Less ridicule, more cowbell.

  52. @ JackDitch – So once again you have nothing. Just a vague ‘here are the sources that have informed me’. Honestly, I don’t know what your position even is, what is it? Second, why do you hold your position? What is your reasoning behind it? Is this too much to ask?

    Apparently it is, which makes me suspicious that you cannot defend it.

  53. @ JackDitch – So once again you have nothing. Just a vague ‘here are the sources that have informed me’

    Did you even follow the link? I’m told it’s a somewhat reputable source.

    Honestly, I don’t know what your position even is, what is it? Second, why do you hold your position? What is your reasoning behind it? Is this too much to ask?

    Like I said, I had a longer response detailing my personal opinion and how it formed, but it didn’t get past moderation.

    I’m not really out to convince you of anything here, anyway–the whole “treat the person who’s disagreeing with you like a reasonable human being” thing is simply advice, not scientific assertion, and if you wanna disregard it, good luck with that. I’ve really said my peace at this point, and you can lay down another round of “Haha Jack and all those others clearly don’t know what they’re talking about” if you want. I’m happy enough to just tell everyone to go read the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2007 Report (the summary for policymakers, at the very least) and think for themselves.

  54. I love the people who blast the OP or his sources because they’re not climatologists, yet they have their own expert opinion on the matter.

    I’m not saying I agree or disagree with Platt, but what’s wrong with having a dissenting opinion on here once in a while? If you think he’s the worst guestblogger ever, skip over his posts. Or do you feel some sort of obligation to read and post, as if without your brilliant insight someone might come along and believe what was written?

  55. Is it possible that you could look at your own posted chart and not note that in the last 5-6 years the overall thickness of sea ice has fallen by between 0.5 – 2.0 X 106 KM2?

    That’s 500,000 – 2,000,000 square kilometers of melted sea water.

    Faced with this loss of area, how can any intelligent person make the statement below?

    “the affect of climate on polar bears should not be a significant concern right now, since the observed area of arctic sea ice has continued to fluctuate seasonally from year to year (see the graph below, reproduced from the International Arctic Research Center), and the primary factor affecting the bears has been “harvesting”—i.e. people killing them.”

    Science, Mr Platt. Check it out sometime.
    It is more than a liberal buzzword.

  56. I’d like to take the opportunity to say, in all sincerity, how impressed I am by the quality of the comments on BoingBoing. I used to just read the articles, but, for the most part (and quite uniquely for the internet, in my experience) the comment threads here actually contribute to my understanding and enjoyment and don’t lead me to clench my fists and scream “WHY? HOW COULD SUCH FOOLS BE LET TO LIVE?””

    Even after Charles Platt’s epic (if suspect) attack on Boingian values, and even far down the comment threads, there’s still genuine discussion, introspection, fact-checking and careful logic.

    After spending a few minutes on the Fox News comment thread about the closing of Gitmo, entitled something like “Do you want terrorists in YOUR back yard? Have your say!”, this is bracingly, wonderfully refreshing.

  57. MDH,

    Sorry, but if your first question was serious and valid, then I HAVE to ridicule you. NYAH NYAH NYAH. If we reprocess the fuel, then the storage facility would be meaningless.

    Apologies to WOMBATSAM for degrading the comment quality to that of an elementary student.

  58. There is a wide variety of scientific opinion on global warming. Unfortunately, most of the peer-reviewed material ranges from “It’s bad” to “It’s catastrophic”.

    I do not have an expert opinion on this matter. I rely on the increasingly confident and increasingly well-supported expert opinion that points out evidence such as increasing carbon dioxide and methane levels, increasing temperatures, and their historical context. There are more than a few nice sources of information in the articles posted by Cory in response.

    I do not have time to become an expert on global warming and its byzantine evidence and consequences. This is largely because the global climate is incredibly complicated.

    I, apparently, have time to read long threads, varying between diatribe and argument, about scientific topics where predictions have consistently supported one side.

  59. Just a quick note to point out that the talking points that have been endlessly repeated in the media and in these posts are thoroughly debunked on pages linked on the RealClimate Wiki, which you can see here:

    http://www.realclimate.org/wiki/index.php?title=RC_Wiki

    Skip down to the By Myth section.

    By the way, even if you buy the usual slander of the IPCC perpetrated in these posts, and you don’t want to listen to them, the following scientific bodies have endorsed the overall conclusion that Global Warming is happening and it is caused by human greenhouse gas emissions.

    American Association for the Advancement of Science http://www.ourplanet.com/aaas/pages/atmos02.html – American Geophysical Union http://www.agu.org/sci_soc/policy/positions/climate_change.shtml – American Meteorological Society, http://www.ametsoc.org/policy/climatechangeresearch_2003.html

    http://www.ametsoc.org/policy/jointacademies.html – The Academies of Science of Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Russia, UK and US (joint statement) http://nationalacademies.org/onpi/06072005.pdf – The Academies of Science of Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Caribbean states, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, New Zealand, Sweden, and UK (joint statement) http://www.royalsociety.org/displaypagedoc.asp?id=13619 – among others

  60. @ JackDitch
    “Did you even follow the link?”

    Yes, I know what the IPCC is. Annnnnnnndddd……??

    “I had a longer response detailing my personal opinion and how it formed”

    Interesting, you’ve spent three posts now explaining… what? Are you unable to sum up your position in one paragraph? I find that rather odd.

    “the whole “treat the person who’s disagreeing with you like a reasonable human being” thing is simply advice, not scientific assertion, and if you wanna disregard it, good luck with that.”

    How have I mistreated you? I’m just asking for a little info. Throw me a bone here. What is your position vis-à-vis climate change? Do you have any specific objections. Apparently you do but are unwilling to share them. Again, I think you’re just snowballing us. I don’t think you have a defensible position and you know it.

  61. #9: Well put, Transit. I have a lot of sympathy for Charles Platt attempting to put forward an unpopular point of view, and then having that merchant of smug pettiness, Doctorow, fire off a few posts to drown out the point he was making.

    #15: Lawson, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, ignored economic advice and cut taxes to secure a further Conservative term. The result was an inflationary spiral that ended up in tens of thousands of people losing their jobs and homes. He was a spiv with a single policy – tax cuts for the rich – no matter what harm they did to the majority of people in the long term. After reinventing himself as a climatologist, he’s regularly interviewed on British television, and he has no answers to the scientists who are put up against him, just the same old lies and distortions.

    So, we have a crank with an agenda against Cory complaining about how “dissenting opinion is shouted down”, no evidence though, and then we have a guy who posts evidence that Lawson’s “dissenting opinion” is in all likelyhood about as trustworthy as Rush Limbaugh supporting the invasion of Iraq, and therefore should be shouted down.

    I’m not against people giving their opinion about topics outside their field. Freedom of speech and all that. But getting an economist’s opinion about Climate Change is about as useful as posting a video on youtube and expecting useful feedback and information in the user comments.

    Did I miss something, or do the vast majority of people who actually specialize in climate say that climate change is real and it is caused by man? I thought that was the case.

    Of all the biologists in the world who actually work in biology, don’t like the vast majority of them support the notion of evolution?

    There is a logical fallacy called “appeal to authority”, but when the authority being appealed to are the actual experts on some topic, and they all forward a non-fallicious, valid logical argument supporting the notion that climate change is real and caused by man, (or supporting the notion of evolution) then it stops being an “appeal to authority logical fallacy” and becomes a matter of “they made the argument, its logically valid and scientifically sound, I’m not going to repeat it here”.

    And at that point, when Joe the Plumber, who doesn’t know his toilet seat from his elbow pipe, comes in blustering that he has an opinion about climate change and it should be given equal time, then that is nothing more than a logical fallacy called “argument ad populum”. It is little more than saying “All these people disagree, therefore their opinion should be given equal time”. “teach the controversy” is nothing more than argument ad populum. There is no logical argument that can support creationism, but a lot of people believe in it, so that is enough to somehow cast doubt on evolution’s valid logical argument, and therefore creationism should be taught in school alongside and as an equal to evolution.

    argument ad populum.

    This post seems to be doing nothing more than attempting to appeal to popularity. If enough people disagree about climate change, then they must be saying something valid. And it’s using many of the same tricks as creationists use. The main one being casting doubt on a valid argument for evolution by arguing that it isn’t “proven” therefore there is room for doubt. No one but people with a religious agenda seriously doubt the validity of evolution. Having gaps in the evolutionary history that led to mankind (the missing link bullshit) isn’t the same as having gaps in a sound logical argument and a sound scientific theory.

    And people who want to cast this debate as nothing more than “dissenting opinion being shouted down” are committing another logical fallacy called a strawman, presenting the valid logical argument for climate change as if it were nothing more than an “opinion”, and therefore all “opinions” are equally valid. Which then leads to Argument ad Populum, and whoever has the most opinions, wins. Throwing in a personal grudge against Cory is just more strawman, saying that the shouting down is just some irrational thing that Cory does, rather than having a legitimate basis.

    Some “opinions” are wrong and deserve to have a spotlight shined on just how wrong they are. I don’t feel the need to shout it down right now, but I’ll be damned if all these logical fallacies and false accusations are going to pass without putting some light on them.

  62. I think what we can take from Platt’s posts is that WHOA PEOPLE, some of you are entirely too invested in the polar bear tears of Al Gore’s vision of ultimate ecological devastation and not thinking things through.

    James Hansen is the progenitor of the whole “tipping point” movement that has kind of been latched on to the AGW idea. Hansen claims that if we don’t “do something” we are definitely going to see calamitous changes that will invariably destroy or irrevocably harm the planet, humanity, etc.

    This is probably the most contentious point of the AGW debate, does an increase in mean temperature necessarily mean the end of the world?

    Griffin, the HEAD of Nasa nearly lost his job a while back for saying that he didn’t think a few degrees would have to mean the end of the world.

    That should tell you something about the quality of the debate that is going on, you have someone like Hansen making a highly contentious claim about what an increase in temp will do, and then you have Al Gore acting as a demagogue berating/attacking/calling for the head of anyone who might not think that a few less meters of ice is necessarily the biggest problem we are facing as a race, planet, what have you.

    This is a pretty damn hard point to argue scientifically, because what evidence can either side provide for any claims to contrary or otherwise? Does Hansen know what caused the previous ice ages and warming periods? IF he did, he might have a good case for the Nobel Prize. IF you are absolutely certain that rising temperatures mean imminent doom, then show me some evidence that proves this theory.

    I think that’s probably the weakest and most annoying leg of the whole carbon cutting crusade.

  63. It seems to me that the climate change sceptics make a lot of noise. As such it tends to seriously misrepresent their numbers.

    Deniers appear to either have a vested interest in spreading FUD about the climate change industry (yes, I’ll give them that much, there is an industry), or they’re simply grumpy old men (Lomborg, at 44 is (probably) the youngest of Platt’s authors – Horner I couldn’t ascertain but looks a similar age or older). In the case of Lawson , he’s clearly both a grumpy old man (b. 1933) and has vested interests.

    The age issue is important. It is well known fact that it can take generations for some scientific ideas to permeate and gain credence. Climate change has vast scientific support but naturally there are a few stragglers left behind who have found an audience in conservative think tanks.

    There is no argument to be had. Any attempt to argue with the trolls, as with the ‘intelligent design’ advocates is simply letting them win. Any argument should not be about whether it is real or not but how bad is it going to be.

    The financial loss argument in Platt’s first post really amazed me in it disingenuousness. Any money spent on climate change mitigation will end up somewhere. Does it make much difference whether it goes to your cronies or my cronies? Well yes, if my cronies manage to reduce greenhouse gases while they get rich surely that’s preferable to your cronies getting rich whilst emitting ever greater amounts. To put it another way, would you rather sit next to Cheney feasting on a big rich roast and farting profusely or Gore munching away and trying his best hold it in? Either way someone’s going to help themselves tot the planet’s wealth, they may as well be trying to help our ecosystem at the same time.

    f

  64. Unfortunately this kind of economic assessment tends to be ignored in favor of emotional appeals featuring pictures of polar bears

    Yes, the entire basis of climate change is nothing more than an emotional appeal pulling the heartstrings of scientists everywhere about the plight of the poor polar bear about to drown.

    Strawman much?

  65. @Jackditch

    Every single post you have made to BB has been on message about the failure of the scientific establishment to accept dissenting views, even if those views don’t pass the test of peer review.

    Thats an awful strange subject to be passionate about.

    Smells like astroturf for intelligent design to me.

  66. @#72: Griffin lost his job because he instructed his employees to not cooperate fully with the administrative review conducted by the Obama transition team.

  67. Noen @69 writes:
    Yes, I know what the IPCC is. Annnnnnnndddd……?? …Are you unable to sum up your position in one paragraph?

    Jack @59 writes:
    The certainties in this report are well stated, but leave enough room to bet against various propositions regarding global climate change. You’re welcome to place your bets differently than I do.

    That’s exactly my opinion summed up in one paragraph. You’re welcome to argue that level of statistical certainty expressed in that report doesn’t leave much room for betting at all, and that what’s contained therein constitutes “fact” despite all those pesky percentage signs. I’m not going to argue against you. I’d be happy enough just to see more folks looking at the actual figures.

    I know it’s a long report and hence intimidating; what I did was I searched on the page for their rigorously defined expressions of certainty (“very likely” etc) to get a general lay of the land, then dug deeper in those areas that I actually cared about.

    How have I mistreated you?

    I wouldn’t call it mistreatment per se, but you don’t seem like you’re interested in convincing me of anything so much as you’re just digging for something to refute. “C’mon! Disagree with me! If you don’t throw down with me here, we can all presume you’re wrong!” Man, I tried that crap for years on the internets, and it never really made me any friends. But if it’s working for you then hey, run with it.

  68. “There is no argument to be had. Any attempt to argue with the trolls, as with the ‘intelligent design’ advocates is simply letting them win. Any argument should not be about whether it is real or not but how bad is it going to be.”

    This is trolling, if anything. Inane statements like this make you look, quite frankly, stupid. Evolution is an established theory with tons of evidence.. the idea that a few degrees increase in temperature from human emitted CO2 is going to wreak havoc on the planet is an incredibly contentious and highly arguable point. I can cite climate scientists left right and center arguing that an increase in mean temperature might not even be bad, but good. Of course, if you want to argue how about how bad it will be, go ahead. How bad will it be? Show me some well thought out theory of how temperature increases inevitably destroy all life on the planet? Oh wait, fossil records show that life thrives during warm periods. Th bll s n yr crt, f y cn cll t bll r crt.

  69. Every single post you have made to BB has been on message about the failure of the scientific establishment to accept dissenting views, even if those views don’t pass the test of peer review. Thats an awful strange subject to be passionate about.

    *shrug* I grew up around scientists and liberal Christians, didn’t even really grasp that there was such thing as conservative Christians until I hit my teens, and didn’t really believe it until I left college. Follow my profile to my webpage and you’ll see that, yeah, I’ve got some pretty wacky religious views; ain’t no denying that.

    But these repeated insinuations that I’m a front for the Discovery Institute? Puhleeze. They don’t even believe in the Yeti of Atlantis. There is more strange diversity among the people disagreeing with you than is imagined in your philosophy, Robulus.

  70. I have really enjoyed Charles Platt’s contributions. I’ve also really enjoyed the responses that challenged his assertions, and his sources. There’s been a good debate here, and I think anthropogenic global warming has withstood the skepticism pretty well.

    I’m not well-versed enough on climatology to make any sort of contribution to the discussion, and would have just lurked normally on this topic.

    However, I just wanted to chime in and plea for a return for open-mindedness and civility. Although I think I have come to different conclusions than JackDitch, I have to say I agree with him 100% on his views of what and what isn’t welcome in the BoingBoing discussions. I really wish there were fewer ad-hominems, smug dismissals of Charles Platt. I REALLY found the attempts to bully JackDitch to be adolescent. I expect this kind of newsgroup behavior when I hang out on video game boards, not Boingboing.

    I’ve only been reading boingboing for 3 or 4 years, but have been operating under the assumption that it seemed to be populated by a lot of members of my tribe- non-conformists who had probably been punks 20-30 years ago, and still operated on a lot of those core values. This thread has really made me question whether or not that is the case.

    Come on- we can be better than the fundamentalists the crazed ditto-heads, and the party loyalists that adhere to political causes like jocks and their football teams. We’re intellectually tough- we can take someone asking us if we are SURE yet again about something we believe in. And we’re not so naive that we assume that the status quo must be right.

    Insulting the poster, or his right to make his post only makes you appear insecure in your beliefs. It makes you look like an uncritical thinker. It makes you look like a poser. Boingboingers might lean to the liberal, but I like to think we do so with open eyes.

  71. Here’s another review of Lawson’s book, over at Nature’s website:

    readers of Lawson’s offering on climate change ‘An Appeal to Reason’ are probably unaware it has been scientifically discredited in almost every review, including one on Nature Reports Climate Change by Sir John Houghton, Honorary Scientist at the UK’s Hadley Centre.

    As Sir Houghton (sic) writes:

    Promised as a “rare breath of intellectual rigour” and a “hard headed examination of the realities” of climate change, this offering is neither cool nor rational….and is largely one of misleading messages.

    Lawson’s fundamental misunderstanding of basic scientific concepts is first displayed in his interpretation of the temperature records for the first part of this century, with which he attempts to discredit the science of climate change, and the work of many thousands of researchers who’ve dedicated entire careers to the problem.

  72. OK, with just a little bit of digging on all four of Charlie’s “Heresy” posts, this is clearly nonsense.

    Here’s the rundown of the “evidence”:

    Heresy 1

    http://www.boingboing.net/2009/02/04/climatic-heresy-1.html

    “The Deniers” by journalist Lawrence Solomon.

    The charge? Some scientists labeled with the mean and nasty term of “deniers” believe warming has occurred, but say it isn’t as simple as IPCC makes it seem.

    My favorite bit of “evidence”? The CO2 levels now are the same as they were 11,000 years ago.

    11,000 years ago, the Earth was in an ice age.

    Yeah, nothing to worry about there.

    Heresy 2

    http://www.boingboing.net/2009/02/04/climatic-heresy-2.html

    “PetitionProject.org”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_Warming_Petition_Project

    The charge? 30,000 scientists signed a petition saying climate change is a bunch of hooey.

    Turns out the “list” is full of “John Does”, “Mickey Mouse”s, duplicate names, and non scientists.

    from the Seattle Times:

    Several environmental groups questioned dozens of the names: “Perry S. Mason” (the fictitious lawyer?), “Michael J. Fox” (the actor?), “Robert C. Byrd” (the senator?), “John C. Grisham” (the lawyer-author?). And then there’s the Spice Girl, a k a. Geraldine Halliwell: The petition listed “Dr. Geri Halliwell” and “Dr. Halliwell.”

    http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19980501&slug=2748308

    From Scientific American:

    Scientific American took a random sample of 30 of the 1,400 signatories claiming to hold a Ph.D. in a climate-related science. Of the 26 we were able to identify in various databases, 11 said they still agreed with the petition —- one was an active climate researcher, two others had relevant expertise, and eight signed based on an informal evaluation. Six said they would not sign the petition today, three did not remember any such petition, one had died, and five did not answer repeated messages. Crudely extrapolating, the petition supporters include a core of about 200 climate researchers – a respectable number, though rather a small fraction of the climatological community

    http://web.archive.org/web/20060823125025/http://www.sciam.com/page.cfm?section=sidebar&articleID=0004F43C-DC1A-1C6E-84A9809EC588EF21

    From the Hawaii Reporter:

    In less than 10 minutes of casual scanning, I found duplicate names (Did two Joe R. Eaglemans and two David Tompkins sign the petition, or were some individuals counted twice?), single names without even an initial (Biolchini), corporate names (Graybeal & Sayre, Inc. How does a business sign a petition?), and an apparently phony single name (Redwine, Ph.D.). These examples underscore a major weakness of the list: there is no way to check the authenticity of the names. Names are given, but no identifying information (e.g., institutional affiliation) is provided. Why the lack of transparency?

    http://www.hawaiireporter.com/story.aspx?fded5949-97a0-41e8-ad66-bba0fa15e61f

    It looks like this “petition” was created by Diebold.

    Heresy 3

    http://www.boingboing.net/2009/02/04/climatic-heresy-3.html

    “Red Hot Lies” by Christopher Horner. CHris is a FELLOW at the “Competitive Enterprise Institute”, a think tank that supports laissez fair capitalism. Contributers to CEI include the Ford Motor company, Exxon Mobil, and Pfizer.

    THe charge? Al Gore has a conflict of interest advocating for green power while he has investments in green power.

    The irony of that charge, given CEI’s contributers and their laissez fair capitalism position, is pretty gawdamn funny, if you ask me.

    Heresy 4

    http://www.boingboing.net/2009/02/04/climatic-heresy-4.html

    “Appeal to Reason”. a book by former Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Secretary of State for Energy, and Chancellor of the Exchequer in the UK.

    The charge by these three politicians? THere are “politics” at play in the IPCC. (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).

    politicians accusing someone else of playing “politics”. That’s pretty funny.

    “cool it”. By political scientist Bjorn Lomborg.

    The charge? short term rises in temperature are inevitable, so we should instead put our money fighting other problems like AIDS or malaria.

    Er, right.

    The man has scientific evidence that conclusive shows that temperature rise is INEVITABLE.

    But we must be skeptical about everything else.

    Do we seriously have to put up with more of these “heresy” posts???

  73. “My favorite bit of “evidence”? The CO2 levels now are the same as they were 11,000 years ago.

    11,000 years ago, the Earth was in an ice age.

    Yeah, nothing to worry about there.”

    Are you sure you meant that as a rebuke? I mean, if CO2 levels were high during an ice age that might mean that CO2 isn’t the main driving factor in the average mean temperature of the planet. Hardly shot that one down champ.

    Heresy 2 was meant to show that there is a community outside of IPCC consensus circle. It’s true whether or not that particular survey is valid.

    “THe charge? Al Gore has a conflict of interest advocating for green power while he has investments in green power.

    The irony of that charge, given CEI’s contributers and their laissez fair capitalism position, is pretty gawdamn funny, if you ask me.”

    So you’re comfortable with political demagogues using their status to influence GLOBAL policy that fattens up their wallets, as long as its for an unproven scientific crusade? Glad we’re clear now.

    “The charge by these three politicians? THere are “politics” at play in the IPCC. (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).

    politicians accusing someone else of playing “politics”. That’s pretty funny.”

    Ha ha ha.. what? Politics are at play in the IPCC, and the potential for irrelevant policies to damage the economies of every country in the world by suppressing the growth of developing nations is a pretty big threat.

    And Heresy 4 is probably the best one yet.. How is it bad to focus on real world problems that can save lives now, then to pour gigantic amounts of money into stopping something we can’t even begin to understand the complexities of? As Platt puts it:

    “I’m no longer willing to believe that anyone has a complete model of the complex, chaotic systems that determine global temperature, and I regret that the simplistic fear-metaphors used by people such as Al Gore have tended to demonize those who simply feel that the evidence, at this point, is still inconclusive. ”

    Do we seriously have to put up with any more of your “rebuttals” ?

  74. @78
    I refer you back to the _overwhelming_ consensus amongst peer reviewed scientists, as best summarised in post #44 from the first ‘heresy’ post (http://www.boingboing.net/2009/02/04/climatic-heresy-1.html#comment-398894)

    A 2004 article by geologist and historian of science Naomi Oreskes summarized a study of the scientific literature on climate change.[76] The essay concluded that there is a scientific consensus on the reality of anthropogenic climate change. The author analyzed 928 abstracts of papers from refereed scientific journals between 1993 and 2003, listed with the keywords “global climate change”. Oreskes divided the abstracts into six categories: explicit endorsement of the consensus position, evaluation of impacts, mitigation proposals, methods, paleoclimate analysis, and rejection of the consensus position. 75% of the abstracts were placed in the first three categories, thus either explicitly or implicitly accepting the consensus view; 25% dealt with methods or paleoclimate, thus taking no position on current anthropogenic climate change; none of the abstracts disagreed with the consensus position, which the author found to be “remarkable”. According to the report, “authors evaluating impacts, developing methods, or studying paleoclimatic change might believe that current climate change is natural. However, none of these papers argued that point.”

    It is evidence like that which leads me to conclude that to participate in any argument with the sceptics is to let them win. By accepting that there is still any debate to be had between those unqualified to engage in it (I include myself in that group) lets them set the agenda when there are other real and pressing issues to discuss.

    f

  75. @ JackDitch
    “you don’t seem like you’re interested in convincing me of anything so much as you’re just digging for something to refute.”

    What is it I am supposed to convince you of, “various propositions”? You are correct that I am looking for a discussion on the issues. Isn’t that what this thread is all about? In order to have a discussion people must take up contrary positions. I don’t think you want that because you know you’d lose any such discussion so instead you wish to have a meta discussion. You want to talk about why we can’t talk about the issues that you refuse to talk about.

    I’m calling you on your BS.

  76. if CO2 levels were high during an ice age that might mean that CO2 isn’t the main driving factor in the average mean temperature of the planet.

    Might? This is argument from ignorance.

    So you’re comfortable with political demagogues using their status to influence GLOBAL policy that fattens up their wallets, as long as its for an unproven scientific crusade?

    Hm, it couldn’t be that a guy whose organization gets funding from Exxon Mobile might be simply lying about Al Gore. No. That can’t possibly be the case.

    Yes, it’s much more reasonable to assume that Gore is sayign what he is saying for money, and what Gore is saying is a lie. But that CEI fellow is saying what it is saying because of money, but what CEI fellow is saying is true.

    Yea. That makes much more sense.

    Oh, and to call Al Gore a demagogue? No, no absurd ad hominem there. He’s all demagogue, certainly. Gosh, one can just see all the power he weilds in the world, causing people and governments to cower at his feet. We’re lucky to be alive. Charlie Platt probably has a price on his head right now, which will be paid for in stock options in some windmill-electric power generation company.

    Even Darth Vader is afraid of Al Gore.

    fear-metaphors used by people such as Al Gore have tended to demonize those who simply feel that the evidence, at this point, is still inconclusive

    Yes, I simply feel that the evidence is inconclusive. Help. Help. I’m being oppressed for simply feeling. I’ve done nothign wrong, you know, just feel. And mean ol’ Al Gore is sending out his secret police to black bag me and wisk me away to some secret detention center in Sarhadistan. Where my genitals will be electrocuted by solar-powered torture devices.

    Oh, the inhumanity.

  77. “Might? This is argument from ignorance. ”

    I never claimed knowledge, I just was trying to get you to admit that maybe both parties are arguing from ignorance. And only one of them is admitting it.

    “Hm, it couldn’t be that a guy whose organization gets funding from Exxon Mobile might be simply lying about Al Gore. No. That can’t possibly be the case. ”

    Yeah, because Exxon Mobile are the only people in the world who like money. Everyone is just worried about the plannnet mannnn.. It’s trying to tellll uss somethinggg..

    Gore is certainly a demagogue in the realm of climate science. Don’t think that man is irrefutably causing global warming? Get ready to be labeled a denier, compared to a “Flat Earther” and hounded out of your government/scientific position. Is there a better word?

    Regarding feelings, you seem to have some strong ones. You really just feel like it’s so true that the earth is melting, and the polar bears are sad. You saw those pictures and your convinced its all so very true.

    What are your feelings about why the earth warmed or cooled before man ever existed?

  78. seriously boing boing, wtf. i’ve read you for years now, religiously, and always enjoyed the fact that you would tackle topics that other blogs might leave alone, but you did it with reason and logic and well reported facts. this is too much

    i’ve never felt compelled to make a comment until now and i even spent the time filling in the login etc etc to leave a few lines on a now forgotten post so that a few hardcore commentors will read me, but i am so incensed at platt’s ill advised and ignorant views. does he have any qualifications in this field at all? i do, i recently finished a masters in climate change and renewable energy and now work in the field of european climate change policy, and i can assure platt that he just displaying his stupidity here. I wouldn’t profess to have a valid opinion on a topic that i was not qualified in, on a blog read my millions after i had read a few books/articles that have been shown to be bunkem many times over by those with any education in that same field.

    sure there is a place for playing devil’s advocate but in this case i think that the value of debate generated by such an approach pales versus the harm such skepticism can cause. i hope boing boing will consider there guest bloggers more carefully in the future. or maybe get rid of them as they offer little to those that had enjoyed the posts of cory xeni david and mark.

    ps thanks cory for all your posts following platt’s, but what a waste of your time to debunk such a fellow!!

  79. trn,

    Srsly dd, wtf? Y r ffndd by smn xprssng skptcsm twrd n xtrmly hrd t prv scntfc prncpl, nd y hv “mstrs n clmt chng nd rnwbl nrgy” ? ‘v nvr vn hrd f sch dgr. ssr y, y’r dsplyng yr stpdty hr by clmng sch thngs.

  80. palindromic, it’s not hard to prove, it’s just hard to prove to you.

    Uturn, I was with you until the third paragraph. As the moderators are wont to say, enjoy the free ice cream.

  81. Dear BoingBoing:

    Please stop giving fascist a forum to speak. They have their own forums and caves deep in the ground where they worship Ronald Hitler or whatever, and they can stay there and yell and scream about how terrible unions are, how much soul there is in a fertilized ovum, how many PhDs in theology they can find to dispute global warming, and how Bush is the great unrecognized genius of our time. I’m sick of hearing them. I like boingboing. It is a traditionally reasonable publication. It is not a place for this regressive, anti-intellectual, pseudo-scientific hogwash regurgitated from Rush Limbaugh and the oil industry by halfwits with keyboards.

    Thank you

  82. Tht’s ll y gt?

    well, if you enjoy the beatings:

    I just was trying to get you to admit that maybe both parties are arguing from ignorance.

    Uh… maybe???? Who is citing evidence? Who is citing propaganda? Who points to charts of CO2 levels measured annually? Who keeps calling Al Gore a “demagogue”? Who points to glacier melt, iceberg melt, and snow melt? Who throws their hands up and says ‘well, maybe its something else!’??? Who is backed by climate related scientific organizations? Who is backed by some phony “petition” with 30,000 signatures, most of them fake?

    And only one of them is admitting it.

    Wait, you admit you’re arguing from ignorance? You admit to committing a logical fallacy?

    Everyone is just worried about the plannnet mannnn.. It’s trying to tellll uss somethinggg..

    yes, anyone who thinks climate change is real and caused by mankind as nothign but a bunch of tree-hugging, no-nothing, hippies. That clearly represents the reality of everyone who is concerned with climate change. Glad you could weigh in with such an accurate appraisal of the facts.

    Gore is certainly a demagogue in the realm of climate science.

    You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means. “demagogue” would be someone like, oh I don’t know, George W. Bush, who fires General Shinseki for giving an estimate on the invasion and occupation of Iraq as taking hundreds of thousands of troops and years to complete.

    Al Gore never fired anyone that I know of. Calling him a “demagogue” because someone else fired a climate denier doesn’t make Al Gore a demagogue.

    please look up the logical fallacy called “Non causa pro causa”. Someone got fired. You claim Al Gore fired the person, therefore Al Gore is some kind of demagogue. He didn’t. He isn’t.

    Just because some Intelligent Design nut gets fired from his job as a biologist at some genetics lab, doesn’t mean he got fired because of Richard Dawkins, and therefore Richard Dawkins is some sort of evolutionist demagogue whose sphere of influence knows no bounds.

    You’re simply demonizing.

  83. I’m one of the agnostics, mainly because (trying to phrase this for myself at the moment) I don’t know how to find an introduction and review of the field such that I would know how to tell whether the methods–and I’m talking about both methods of doing a review and methods of the science reviewed–are sound. So much popular writing about science immediately trashes the meat and descends into cartoon characterizations of methods and baby-talk preaching of conclusions.

    Thanks to Charles Platt. Thanks to BoingBoing for having him, I hope you’re glad you did.

    Here are some random responses to this thread, trying to be interesting and not offensive or simply frustrating, to people who disagree with me in either direction.

    One would like to measure sea ice volume rather than top-surface area. That’s harder to do, but I’ve heard there’s definitely work on it. You might imagine the yearly fluctuations being on thin outer edges, but the longer trend eating into a thicker center and thus more important.

    A big– I think the main– issue here is not the particular science itself but how laymen should deal with science. For instance, should the regulars (e.g. Cory Doctorow) who are science-literate but (as far as I know) not full time climate scientists, here on BoingBoing, a pro-science, anti-quackery blog, have detected Charles Platt’s views or individual posts as not just non-mainstream but so anti-mainstream as to be anti-science? How could they (if they wanted to) decide whether this is a case similar to creationists wanting kids to be taught “both sides” of the “evolution debate”?

    One difference between controversies over evolution, climate change, and (making this up) charge-parity-time symmetry violations in muon decays, is that evolution and muons aren’t widely believed to be about to make a mess of life on Earth. It’s not just natural but rational that some urge immediate large-scale action while others are highly suspicious.

    The kind of actions being considered are even scarier than, say, quarantines, mandatory vaccinations, DDT, oil on lakes. Instead every proposal has potential side effects on close to if not equal to the order of the issue being addressed.

    One single method of measuring historical temperature trends might be better than others, but a survey of many methods, their strengths and weaknesses, and results, is better. I’m sure such comparisons exists, this is a comment on Charles Platt’s Sargasso Sea graph.

    Another difference between climate change and evolution for laymen: evolution is much easier to understand. It’s a qualitative principle rather than a factual, policy- and data-oriented question.

    I believe that scientific consensus is how science wiggly makes long term theoretical progress. I don’t know what it means in the short term; a poll means something, but I’m not sure how much. As someone already said, what’s important in science is the convincing evidence and arguments, not so much who’s convinced at any one time. As far as science is concerned, it’s all right if most scientists are wrong. The truth will out, eventually.

    But since (to repeat) this is more a tough, messy, short-term and charged a question than a theory question, the questions of both the measuring of and importance of scientific consensus seem even more problematic to me. In any case, I would like people arguing in favor of what they consider a consensus, to try hard not to use or seem to use that consensus in support of any scientific points.

    Likewise, I’d prefer people not to use arguments about scientists being in the pockets of, oh say environmental business lobbies, to support a scientific conclusion. Same goes for arguments about Exxon.

    I both respect and suspect peer review. I’m on another list discussing the systematic defects as well as merits of peer review in another area at the moment. Getting published, or a preponderance of publications, doesn’t in itself prove papers’ conclusions.

    My own general conclusion is something like Jackditch’s: “…what I thought was better–review by someone who shares my priorities. Preferably the one with the most expertise on the subject, I’ll give you that.” Because science and scientists are imperfect and politics exists, one has to be skeptical of the whole process, which throws one back on one’s own point of view to start with, and working out in steps from there. Part of the starting point has to be humility or you won’t get far. Some people on this list seem to trust science as it exists more readily than I do, maybe I’m misreading.

    One problem with science as a whole is its bad interface to practical questions. Science in general avoids as much as possible mixing uncertainty with certainty. They have no systematic method for that (statistics are mainly for sorting the reliable from the speculative, not for mixing them). Or, we have no systematic ways of sorting and rewarding those different kinds of work. That’s one reason why when scientists turn to a Very Relevant Question I suspect them of being out of their element, working in ways that don’t carry the same kinds of reassurances.

    I would like to learn gentle non-platitude ways for a laymen like myself to approach territories like this.

    I would like more political or philosophy of science ideas about better systematic ways for science, the public and government to relate. (I know of Robin Hanson’s work.)

  84. I was open minded 10 years ago.

    For bunnies sakes, it is time to act on the advice we are receiving now, advice based on scientific evidence (just check a later post in this same website).

    The argumentation about global climate change feels more and more like argumentation about evolution by natural selection: all the crackpots keep saying it can’t possibly be so despite the overwhelming, peer reviewed, verifiable evidence.

    Whose brilliant idea was to invite this guy to post here? Boing Boing is 10 or 15 years too late in stirring debate regarding this matter.

  85. The thing that really annoys me about this post is the sea ice graph. Why are there no p values? How do we know whether differences between the different years traces are significant or not? The local minimums for the summer of 2007 and 2008 sure look like they are different from the average of all the other years, but since the stats are not reported, we can’t make any conclusions about whether this graph shows that ice levels are statistically different in recent years from what they’ve been in the past.

    This graph does a great job of being misleading and devoid of any real real information.

  86. Noen writes:
    You are correct that I am looking for a discussion on the issues. Isn’t that what this thread is all about? In order to have a discussion people must take up contrary positions. I don’t think you want that because you know you’d lose any such discussion so instead you wish to have a meta discussion.

    See, I’d call that a debate, where one side wins and another loses. The kind of discussion I’m looking for tends toward either everyone wins, or everyone loses. There’s been some of that going on in these threads, and I haven’t commented on it mostly cuz everyone seems to be winning, so I can just kick back and enjoy. But yeah, you’re right, I’m pretty sure I’d lose if I tried that with you.

    I’m calling you on your BS.

    As much as I love talking about my Belief System, for hours and hours on end, this isn’t really the place. So please, stop trying to throw down with me, kick back and enjoy the winning discussions.

  87. On lomborg:

    i haven’t read his newest thing, but I did read the skeptical environmentalist, and what struck me is there is a fundamental problem with his assumptions/conclusions. (to paraphrase) “Things are better now for humans than they’ve ever been, we’re living longer, healthier lives with more leisure time than ever before in history, and things are only getting better”. This just seemed a little off. When did human happiness become the most important measure of the environmental health of the world? I don’t remember him addressing, say, the happiness of bears, or ideas about reducing human population / impact. His “how are we doing globally” meter needs to be recalibrated.

    on taleb:

    i liked what this dude had to say on the issue. basically, “these systems are more complicated than we know, and we would do best to leave them alone”. ( http://www.boingboing.net/2009/01/29/black-swan-authors-r.html ) to do otherwise is the height of arrogance.

    check out michael soule: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1525/is_4_88/ai_104682143

  88. @Charles Platt from post #51 –

    Well heres just one easy example …

    On your link from “Climatic Heresy 2”, comment number 7 had me wondering exactly what Robert Carters qualifications are, so I googled him ..

    Here are the highlights and the links to the information …

    He is a geologist specializing in palaeoclimatology, stratigraphy, marine geology, and environmental science. Carter is a former Director of Australia’s Secretariat for the Ocean Drilling Program and a Co-Chief Scientist for drilling leg 181

    Impressive! I does make me do a double take when an environmental scientist aligns himself with the oil industry, but lets just say im overly cautious, nothing here im ready to hang my hat on, lets look a bit more.

    Carter is active in the media, volunteering letters and opinion pieces on science topics to a variety of newspapers, magazines and web magazines. Carter is a member of the conservative think tank the Institute of Public Affairs

    Even more interesting, the conservative think tank “institute of public affairs”, have to read up on them as well.

    Heres a quick snippet from sourcewatch about the IPA.

    The IPA key policy positions include advocacy for privatisation, deregulation, reduction in the power of unions and denial of most significant environmental problems, including climate change.

    What else do they have to say about the IPA?

    More recently, the IPA has been the driving force behind the establishment of a number of new non-profit front groups, including the Australian Environment Foundation – which campaigns for weaker environmental laws – Independent Contractors of Australia – which campaigns for an end to workplace safety laws and a general deregulation of the labour market, and the ironically named Owner Drivers Australia, which campaigns against safety and work standard for truck drivers.

    and theres more …

    For all their talk of ‘transparency’ though, the IPA has beem embroiled in controversy over failure to disclose funders of its work. In June 2004 it was revealed that Australia’s largest irrgation company, Murray Irrigation Limited, contributed $40,000 to the IPA. The IPA’s environment unit director Jennifer Marohasy played a critical role in persuading a government committee to overturn recomendations to increase the volume of water released into the Murray River
    However, Marohasy did not disclose the donation to the committee. When asked by the Australian Financial Review about the MIL donation, Marohasy would not confirm or deny whether she knew about the donation while writing her report or giving evidence to the committee. She said she did not take “an interest in who funds IPA”

    So Robert Carter, a supposed environmentalist is part of a group that really doesnt sound concerned about the environment, it actually sounds like he ends up supporting weakened environment protections led by corporate interests solely, be they his connections with the oil industry or not.

    Lets read some more!

    Research and Background
    According to a search of 22,000 academic journals, Carter has published over 50 original research in peer-reviewed journal mainly in the area of stratigraphy, in other words the study of rock layers and layering.
    Carter and the “Institute for Public Affairs”
    Carter is on the research committee of an organization called the “Institute for Pulic Affairs” (IPA). The IPA is an Australian-based organization that, according to Sourcewatch, has received funding from the fossil fuel industry. In reference to his involvement with the IPA, Carter stated in a March 15, 2007 Sydney Morning Herald article, that: “I don’t think it is the point whether you are paid by the coal or petroleum industry.”
    Carter “not a credible source” on climate change
    In response to claims made by Carter that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change uncovered no evidence that global warming was caused by human activity, a former CSIRO climate scientist stated that Carter was not a credible source on climate change and that “if he [Carter] has any evidence that [global warming over the past 100 years] is a natural variability he should publish through the peer review process.”
    Carter and Tech Central Station
    Carter has written articles for Tech Central Station. TCS is an organization that has received money from ExxonMobil. Until very recently, TCS was run by Washington lobby/PR firm DCI Group, whcih in turn was at the centre of controversy over a YouTube Al Gore spoof video they produced and posted under the guise of 29-year old amateur filmmaker. ExxonMobil is reported to be a client of the DCI Group.

    Theres more information to be read, this is what I was able to find in about 5 minutes worth of searching …

    You can go after the sources if you like but im sure youll find it all true.

    Robert Carter is oil backed shill whos expertise is mostly in rock layers, hes part of a group whos agenda is to deregulate business, weaken government, destroy unions and hes backed by corporate interests that dont want to be subject to environmental standards.

    With all due respect Charles Platt, your posts get TROUNCED repeat TROUNCED with just a little googling.

    This was in regards to one small posting that u made, I think I made my point, its a shame you didnt do this work in the first place.

    Links:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_M._Carter

    http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Institute_of_Public_Affairs

    http://www.desmogblog.com/rm-bob-carter

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Institute_of_Public_Affairs

    P.S. I hate having to post with any sort of code here, I cant use regular BB code and the HTML doesnt seem to allow me to put quotes in properly or even seperate text without losing the bold function or opening a WYSIWYG editor, blah.

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