WSJ's partisan approach to climate change vs. science

The Wall Street Journal published a letter expressing skepticism about anthropogenic climate change signed by a group of engineers, retired weathermen, and scientists from fields other than climate science.

In response, a much larger group of actual climate scientists signed onto a letter rebutting the first letter. The WSJ rejected it. Instead, the pre-eminent science journal Science, which is know for its rigor in treatments of science, published it, as "Climate change and the Integrity of Science" on January 27th, 2012.

(i) The planet is warming due to increased concentrations of heat-trapping gases in our atmosphere. A snowy winter in Washington does not alter this fact.

(ii) Most of the increase in the concentration of these gases over the last century is due to human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation.

(iii) Natural causes always play a role in changing Earth's climate, but are now being overwhelmed by human-induced changes.

(iv) Warming the planet will cause many other climatic patterns to change at speeds unprecedented in modern times, including increasing rates of sea-level rise and alterations in the hydrologic cycle. Rising concentrations of carbon dioxide are making the oceans more acidic.

(v) The combination of these complex climate changes threatens coastal communities and cities, our food and water supplies, marine and freshwater ecosystems, forests, high mountain environments, and far more.

Two incontrovertible things: Anthropogenic Global Warming is Real, and the Wall Street Journal is Political Rag

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  1. MEMO : Please do not inconvenience us with facts which do not fit into easily-digestible sound bites and difficult to understand science. Anything which truly informs the public, contradicts carefully constructed fantasies about how the world works or interferes with our ability to make profits will be vehemently rejected, even if we know that all of it is true.

    Sincerely, American elites.

  2. Whenever I get into a friendly debate over climate change, I make two points.
    First is that if they are an average driver they put pollutants equal to the weight of their vehicle into the atmosphere every six months and they do that all by themselves. Then I ask they consider multiplying that weight by everyone who drives the same amount. Some people cannot comprehend this, so I ask them to consider if they had to lug 5-gallon Jerry cans every time they filled up where they thought the weight of that fuel went.
    If they comprehend that far, I ask them to add their share of the weight of pollutants from transporting the food they eat, the heat and power they use in their home, which is tons more every year. (Personally, I figure I’ve put about 90 Lincoln town cars into the atmosphere since I started driving in 1968.)
    Second is that most people haven’t a clue how thin the atmosphere really is. I’ll try to get them to look at a backlit picture of the Earth, or consider that if they could drive vertically at 60 mph for an hour they’d be in outer space.
    Most deniers are so brainwashed about the vast Gore conspiracy they can’t think straight, but with others, they can at least start to consider the reality.
    Obviously, my argument would not work with the Wall Street Journal.

    1. I thought your point about the 6 month car weight thing was a little high…I was like naw that can’t be right.  But I ran through some basic numbers and it’s not far off (but I drive a more fuel efficient car, so that helps some). 

      It is difficult to discuss or even come to basic terms with a lot of people on many of the hot topic science stuff.  A lot of people who feel passionately one way or the other don’t really have a good grasp of the basic sciences or have a firm grasp of the background on the facts they spew.  It all becomes talking points and regurgitation of what they have been told.  I’m all for civilized discussion on these topics, but a lot of people have more pressing (ie personal) problems in their daily lives then what the weather will be like next week or next month.  It also makes it that much harder considering things like climate change happen over decades if not centuries, unlike things like economic crisis, earthquakes, floods, ect..  Not that those reasons make it any less important, but when we as a people and a planet have a hard time dealing with the small things, dealing with big things like climate change becomes that much harder.

    1. Nearly every scientist I know has very strong political biases which taint their work and their opinions.  As a “minority politics” scientist, I have learned not to blindly trust scientists on politically charged topics.  As such, I have taken the time to look into this matter and evaluate consensus.  And you know what – I think the climatologists are right.  They may have political biases and every other personal foible common to mankind – but they are still right.  When I read some of the emails released in climate-gate, I thought to myself, “Wow, some of those guys can be real jerks.  Like a lot of people I know.  But it doesn’t make them wrong.”

  3. Cory Doctorow has the basic idea, but his facts are wrong on detail. The rejected letter I think he’s referring to was from 255 members of the National Academy of Science, 255 of the most eminent living scientists, but not all climate scientists. Then again very few of the 16 are climate scientists either (also one or of them are engineers, not scientists at all). 

    Also the NAS letter was not written as a rebuttal to the letter by the 16. The former was eventually published in the May 2010 issue of Science Magazine. The latter is much more recent.

    Peter Gleick, who is a climate scientist, explains:http://www.forbes.com/sites/petergleick/2012/01/27/remarkable-editorial-bias-on-climate-science-at-the-wall-street-journal/

    1. I agree, the details in this post aren’t correct – here’s more links.

      The letter from 255 scientists was published in May 2010.

      ‘Climate Change and the Integrity of Science’
      Gleick et al. in Science (7 May 2010 Vol. 328 no. 5979 pp.689-690 DOI: 10.1126/science.328.5979.689)

      http://www.sciencemag.org/content/328/5979/689.full?sid=3f4534d9-0587-4e73-8b89-9e265ae017d4

      The new WSJ article:
      ‘No Need to Panic About Global Warming’
      (in the Opinion section of the WSJ, January 27, 2012)
      http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204301404577171531838421366.html?mod=WSJ_hp_us_mostpop_read#articleTabs%3Darticle

      There’s also this new response piece by P Gleick:
      ‘Remarkable Editorial Bias on Climate Science at the Wall Street Journal’
      (also Jan 27 2012, on Forbes.com)
      http://www.forbes.com/sites/petergleick/2012/01/27/remarkable-editorial-bias-on-climate-science-at-the-wall-street-journal/
      (I guess an easy misinterpretation of Greg Laden’s blog by Cory + a wrong
      date on Greg Laden’s blog is what led Cory to write that the ‘255’
      letter was a rebuttal of the ’16’ WSJ letter, which isn’t the case –
      though Peter Gleick’s piece on Forbes is a rebuttal of it. sleuthed. phew.)

      Also… bloody hell.
      I recommend http://climatecrocks.com for some sanity

  4. If you would like to read the WSJ piece side by side with the Science article you can do so here:
    http://bit.ly/wbw1Aq

    Keep in mind that politicians don’t need facts, they are just a bunch of lawyers, very few are scientists. They only want to spread reasonable doubt, we need to figure out how to spread the truth.

  5. Color me a skeptic as to what level human activity is responsible for climate change. I think it is a factor – but I think the natural cycle is as well – probably more so.

    Where most of my skepticism lies is the reliance on computer models to predict what will happen.  Also we have very little detailed, hard data on temperature etc.

    That said – I think we should hedge our bets and work on lower emissions etc, and more importantly, work on adapting to the coming changes.

    1. I’m pretty sure Svante Arrhenius did not use a computer model to predict the green house effect. He actually though it was a good idea as it might improve agricultural production (conventional agriculture had reached its limit and world population was rising rapidly) . On that occasion it was inorganic fertilizers that saved humanity from starvation.

      (citation)Philosophical Magazine and Journal of Science
      Series 5, Volume 41, April 1896, pages 237-276.

    2. If the natural cycle is responsible, the current rate of change is positively unprecedented in the history of the earth, and it’s strangely coincidental with human activities whose effects we can predict based on basic chemistry and physics. We don’t lack hard data — the geological record provides solid evidence to those willing to invest the time to understand it. Of course, Joe Q Public doesn’t necessarily have the time or motivation to go in depth, and those for whom climate change offers political problems are more than happy to exploit our aversion to details.

      1. Some folks just don’t want to know.  It’s easier to falsely claim a lack of “hard data” than to face hard choices.

        1. It’s easier to falsely claim a lack of “hard data” than to face hard choices.

          Scientists have found via multiple studies that most conservative’s brains don’t tolerate ambiguity and conflicting ideas very efficiently to varying levels of impairment.

          In other words, once a conservative has come to believe something, their brains become nearly hard-wired (in effect) and very resistant to new facts that challenge their current, false “reality”.

          Most people are guilty of this and are uncomfortable with “being wrong”, but studies show that conservatives take it to another level of stubbornness and resistance to new facts beyond the rest of the population.

          The sad part is many studies show this isn’t a conscious decision on the part of the conservatives, they just can’t help themselves because of the way their brain works (or doesn’t).

          There’s plenty of selfish advantages to having a brain that doesn’t adapt well to challenging information.

          For example, if you think you’re doing the “right thing” in business and it makes you plenty of money, you won’t change your profit-winning behaviors simply because it’s brought to your attention that you’re causing harm to the environment.  Your conservative brain will subconsciously attempt to “rationalize away” the new information with false data.

          The scary thing is when you combine a conservative brain with sociopathic tendencies you end up with people like the Koch brothers who are very well-equipped to lead average (well meaning) conservatives (tea baggers, etc.) right off a cliff for their own gain.

          The ironic thing you’ll notice is that when a conservative brain is presented these studies, they react as you would expect with rabid dismissals, personal attacks, anecdotal “evidence”, and focus on statistical anomolies and so forth instead of countering with solid scientific studies.

          In other words, they often unwittingly “prove” (without any sense of irony) the basis of the studies to be true.  Many conservatives are well-meaning folks that are overall loving people (although they tend to deliver “tough love” or “soft hate”) and are smart and successful.  The ones to watch out for and vote the HELL out of office is conservatives with sociopathic tendencies combined who lead these more well-meaning conservatives on the path to hell (for us all).

          And, the republican party doesn’t have a monopoly on these people, either.  There’s plenty of conservative, bluedog democrats with sociopathic tendencies as well to watch out for and don’t get me started on libertarians who take mental gymnastics to an insane level of complexity.

          1. re: “In other words, once a conservative has come to believe something, their brains become nearly hard-wired (in effect) and very resistant to new facts that challenge their current, false “reality”.”

            Yes because a ‘liberal’ mind is very open minded and often willing to consider they might be wrong about an issue.  If I rolled my eyes anymore I’d pull a muscle.

            You could have saved yourself a lot of typing just saying, “Not-liberal is bad!! AARRRRGGGGLLLEE!!!! Stereotypes goooooddd! AAARRRGGLLLEE!!”

          2. You may or may not have missed this part of my post you were “responding” to:

            The ironic thing you’ll notice is that when a conservative brain is presented these studies, they react as you would expect with rabid dismissals, personal attacks, anecdotal “evidence”, and focus on statistical anomolies and so forth instead of countering with solid scientific studies.

          3. re: “You may or may not have missed this ”

            No, I saw it. My point was your interjection of politics where it really isn’t necessary.  Adding a post script that there are others who also think this way doesn’t take away from the initial attack.

          4. This research is frequently based on determining conservatism by asking if the subjects agree with a list of statements that have little connection to anything actual conservatives believe. For example, according to the “F-scale,” I am a liberal airhead. Everybody else calls me a reactionary crackpot.

          5. This research is frequently based on determining conservatism by asking if the subjects agree with a list of statements

            Some psychological studies also simply ask subjects if they consider themselves conservatives and get the same results.

            The psychological studies (with varied methodologies) keep pointing to the same results that show conservatives tend to be more persistent in their judgments. As I’ve already stated, this isn’t always a bad thing depending on the task at hand and it certainly doesn’t mean all conservatives are “bad people” or stupid. And, once again, there’s always anomalies.

            There have been studies that also show this isn’t just for political or religious opinions, but also with subconscious day-to-day actions where “the rules are changed” on the subjects and brain activity is monitored with electroencephalographs that record activity in the anterior cingulate cortex.

            For example, according to the “F-scale,” I am a liberal airhead. Everybody else calls me a reactionary crackpot.

            That’s only your anecdotal experience. Statistical anomalies exist in nearly any study, but that certainly doesn’t mean all studies that have them should be ignored.

            People such as yourself may not be comfortable with the results of the studies, but that doesn’t change the results.

          6. If you go to ANY college and ask ANY professor to audit, for free, his class in basic environmental science, I bet they’d let you.

            How about you educate yourself instead of claiming that other people are too vague for you to understand? Hmm?

            Actually, it doesn’t matter. We’ll get your kids.

          7. Thanks cow.

            Anti: Judging by 44’s perviously stated position, I don’t think he’s very interested in science.

            44: get off your high horse, bud. Cow was about as polite and apolitical as he could’ve been there and you still wanted to wave your dick around because his points were valid and made your position look stupid.

            If you are interested in how accurate the models actually are, check this clip

          8. check this clip

            Well… if nothing else, I at least really enjoyed that clip! Amazing stuff. I’ve never seen that before. I’m going to have to watch the rest of it somewhere when I get a chance. Thanks!

          9. NP – Yeah, the whole doco is pretty good, though the title means any mention of it will be distrusted by climate skeptics. “What, us? Attack science? Never! This must be some groupthink propaganda!”

            Since SOPA is dead this won’t threaten BB’s existence (But hey – Since the British taxpayer already paid for it, it should be free anyway):

            Standard Def BT
            http://goo.gl/f2WPa

            High Def BT
            http://goo.gl/REicb

            Filestoob:
            http://goo.gl/9LPKH

      2. There is no instrumental record or historical temperature proxy that comes close to supporting the statement “the current rate of change is positively unprecedented in the history of the earth”

        Proxies in the geological record simply don’t have the resolution to support that statement, however much the data are tortured.

        But can you elaborate; over which period are you considering the current rate of change when you say it’s unprecedented?

        1. Yes – this is another issue for me. The records don’t have the resolution to show short term spikes.

          I still think we should work on cutting emissions, but even if we all died tomorrow, the earth will get much much hotter than now, and much colder. We need to learn to adapt. I would say one of the biggest problems with our modern society is it’s rigidness. Used to be abandoning whole cities would happen if shit got bad enough. Now we just stick it out and hope Michael Moore throws us a bone while making a documentary.

          1. Yes, the film maker http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Moore.

            He has documented the Detroit area and how it went from riches to rags in Roger and Me. He does give to charities in the area. My less than eloquent statement was 1000 years ago, Detroit would have been abandoned, but today because of our non-migratory lifestyle, that isn’t possible for a lot of people.

          2. I also think there are many good reasons for kerbing emissions and reducing pollution, and wasting energy is stupid on principle.

            But the case for any / all of these should be based on merits; there is always a trade-off to make and we should understand in as dispassionate a way as possible what that trade-off is.

            We’re very certain that climate has had considerable variation in the past, so at the very least thinking about adaptation seems like a strategy that would reduce risk.

          3. actually, they very very much do have that resolution. Pollen counts in arctic and antarctic ice records come to mind. Similarly when you get into the fossil record.

            Educate yourself, don’t bellow about how what you don’t know yet absolutely doesn’t exist and therefore justifies your ramblings which even you seem to admit are not well informed.

            You’re being part of the problem. If you want to be part of the solution state your ignorance in the form of a question in future.

          4. Apologies, I can’t reply to @mdhatter03:disqus 
             as there’s no “Reply” link, so I’ll respond here, hope you don’t mind.
            In order to claim that

            “”the current rate of change is positively unprecedented in the history of the earth”

            you need to:

            1) define what period you *really* mean when you say “history of the earth”. We can all be guilty of approximation or hyperbole, so you don’t really mean *all* of history, but what period do you actually mean

            2) define what period you consider has a rate of unprecedented warming, i.e. 5 years, 10 years, 50 years, 500 years, 5000 years. 

            Without both of these clarifications, we can’t even discuss the claim you’re making.

            So what two periods do you mean? Be specific.

            Then, you make a general claim that “Pollen counts in arctic and antarctic ice records come to mind. Similarly when you get into the fossil record”

            Please provide a link to the data (or paper) that you believe supports your contention that these proxies (or other proxies of your choosing) have the resolution to support the claim you’ve made – when you’ve clarified what that claim actually is.

          5. It’s not that we are “non-migratory”, it’s that we have “real estate” which we have to unload on somebody else. Abandoning property altogether is discouraged by this system. I think, as a consequence, that instead of a shoreline we will end up with a wall.

      3. I’m a hard-line believer that humans are causing rapid global warming, but it’s entirely correct to be skeptical of the “hard data” that exists. For all we know, large, brief temperature fluctuations may occur on  a micro scale that isn’t visible in the geological record.

        Whether or not that’s true, however, doesn’t change the fact that we’re heading towards more acidic oceans and receding coastlines.

        It’s also worth noting that the point about carbon dioxide emissions does make it clear that the relationship between human activity and at least some aspects of global warming is causitive, regardless of any potentially unknown micro-scale climatic events.

        1. For all we know, large, brief temperature fluctuations may occur on  a micro scale that isn’t visible in the geological record.

          What evidence do you have for this assertion?  And, do you have any evidence that thousands of the world’s scientists would agree with your assertion?

          If not, you might as well say.. for all we know, sea elephants are space aliens and controlling our atmosphere.

          1. Not quite, but nice try. If I thought a mystical sky wizard was controlling our weather, I’d come right out and say it. Does the idea of micro patterns inside macro patterns seem too completely implausible to you? You know, given how often such patterns creep up in the natural sciences.

            I know we here at BoingBoing tend to treat published science as infallible, but it helps to remember that it’s science and science is often updated.

          2. I know we here at BoingBoing tend to treat published science as infallible

            I haven’t noticed this trend myself. If anything, I’ve found that many at Boing Boing tend to question a lot of science (published or otherwise), especially if it hasn’t been properly peer-reviewed.

            Does the idea of micro patterns inside macro patterns seem too completely implausible to you?

            Of course not. But I don’t see how that challenges the “hard data” as you conjectured. My point is, to say that we should all be skeptical of the data because of unfounded conjecture isn’t very productive. But, if you have garnered some evidence, then we’d all like to see it.

            If I thought a mystical sky wizard was controlling our weather, I’d come right out and say it.

            If I thought you thought that, I would’ve come right out and said that to you as well. :D

          3. I don’t disagree with you, but this is the sort of question that scientific studies are based on.

            Presumably, no one would conduct a study if there was no evidence, as you say. But, some grad student somewhere is probably sifting through data with a fine-toothed comb looking for such evidence, to determine if a more in-depth study is justified.

            To compare this to sea elephants and space elephants is disingenuous hyperbole. There’s no point in looking for evidence of that – it’s absurd. But large short-term temperature fluctuations are not absurd – we’re in one right now – so to look for evidence of similar fluctuations in the past is at the very least not a terrible idea.

            Edit: I want to add that I’m not a climate-change denier or anything like that. I have looked at the studies and the data (and as a geologist I’m even in a position to understand them) and can see for myself that it’s real.

        2. To get away from all this vague theorizing, there is only one comparable event in the fossil record, the PETM at 55Ma ago, or fifty-five million BC if you prefer. Resolution is not fine enough to prove that it was slower than the current pulse, but mechanistic reasoning argues that it probably was.

          We can’t prove that nothing of the sort occurred in the Precambrian but it seems unlikely that the system was complex enough at that time to shift so rapidly.

          So, yeah, probably this is unprecedented, with the PETM being the nearest precedent.

          If anything similar happened at another time it would take some thousands of years to resolve, and would leave a PETM-like signature.

          1. While I know I was pointing specifically to micro-patterns, I’d like to amend that to say “unique events.” Obviously, that’s completely irrelevant in the context of needing to change energy consumption habits and carbon emissions needing to be lowered.

            I had no knowledge of the PETM prior, but it provides some interesting context from the cursory reading I did. It sounds like our global temperature is going up at about 22 times the rate it did then, which is a rather massive spike if I were to say so myself.

            Comparing about 2860 years to the 130 in our time is a bit of a tough sell to anyone who doesn’t religiously believe that global warming doesn’t exist, if you ask me. I’m surprised that that isn’t cited more often.

    3. You *think* it is a factor. Nobody cares what you *think*. How did your *thought* appear on this page for all to see? Scientists and engineers who are experts in their field made it happen. Well the same kind of scientists and engineers who launch space probes to detect atmospheric changes, program systems to analyze the data, analyze ice cores millions of years old, conclude it’s real.

      So unless you are doing much of the same and have a deep understanding of the issues then you should listen to people who actually know what they are talking about rather than spouting generalities.

      1. You’re right. Your appeal to authority has trumped my thinking. You win. I also think Crest is the best toothpaste, and The Hangover 2 is the funniest comedy of the year.

        1. Referring to published scientists is not an appeal to authority. What they ‘think’ (i.e. the consensus) is based on peer-reviewed papers in scientific journals. This is how science works.

          Opinions about favorite movies are just that – they are personal and don’t need evidence. And anyone who thinks The Hangover 2 is the funniest comedy of the year is beyond help anyway :-)

        2. Mr. You’re sort of repeating yourself. So I will too. In future, please state your ignorance in the form of a question so that you might be placated.

        3. Their authority does trump your (alleged) thinking because they are the authority and you are just some random guy with an unsubstantiated opinion.

          The “appeal to authority” logical fallacy only applies when the authority being appealed to is in fact not an authority. Scientific concensus is the authority you smug MFer.

    4. Where most of my skepticism lies is the reliance on computer models to predict what will happen.  Also we have very little detailed, hard data on temperature etc.

      If the conclusion about anthropogenic CO2 were based solely on computer models, I daresay there would be a serious amount of skepticism within the climate science community itself, because those calculations are so difficult and complex (although I think the models are getting better with time).

      Instead, the conclusion that the current warming is due to human burning of fossil fuels is based on (1) some pretty solid physics: energy balance, physics of radiation, molecular spectroscopy, etc. (we know that the Earth must radiate as much energy as it receives from the Sun, or its temperature will adjust until that balance is reached, and we know pretty precisely how much infrared radiation will be trapped by the various greenhouse gases) and (2) some pretty solid data:  the concentration of atmospheric CO2 over time since 1958 (the Keeling curve), and historical records of how much coal, oil and natural gas has been extracted from the ground and sold (and presumably burned).   While there are a lot of unknowns about the CO2 balance in the atmosphere, the fossil fuels consumed by humans tracks very closely with the Keeling curve and are more than enough to explain it the observed increase by human activity.  There are also arguments using carbon isotopes that confirm this.

      The temperature records since 1880 show an increasing trend which is roughly what is expected from additional infrared trapping by the increased CO2 levels  (fossil fuel records go back to the 1800s).   The temperature and CO2 curves correlate quite well, as expected.  

      Lastly, there’s been no plausible alternative explanation that has withstood any detailed scrutiny.   The natural variations seen in the geologic records are believed to be ultimately due to slow various in the Earth’s axial tilt and orbit, which are effects operating much too slowly to match the observed increase.  The Sun’s energy output has been measured to be quite constant for the last 30 years or so (with a 11-year periodic variation of less than 0.2%) which also doesn’t explain the trend.  Numerous other mechanisms have been proposed (cosmic-ray induced cloud formation, etc) but those also fail to explain the observed trends.   And on top of that, because of physics, we know with a great deal of certainty that the observed CO2 will trap an amount of heat which already explains the warming, so any alternative explanation will also have to somehow make the expected CO2-trapped heat disappear.

    5. These ‘natural’ climate changes you refer to are often in response to events of global impact (large volcanic eruptions, large meteorites, etc) and are devastating to most life. We are currently mimicing one of these global impacts and returning atmospheric carbon compound concentrations to concentrations not seen since the dinosaurs roamed. It was hot then, because of all the carbon in the air.

      Models don’t tell us that. Fossils tell us that.

    6.  It makes me sad to see that you can be attacked for saying “I don’t agree with your dogma but I am willing to work towards the same goals as you.”

      Personally, I really don’t care why you want to help reduce emissions, I am just more than happy to welcome you on to my team!  I have no doubt the presence of skeptics will make the alliance stronger.

  6. I wonder if anyone’s investigated/ing the major funding sources of the scientists whose letter the WSJ published. 

    I’ve heard, but have no hard evidence, that the vast-majority of climate-change deniers among scientists are heavily corporate funded.

      1. Thanks, millie!! Great research.  I went to another link via yours and found this great chart.  Haha…

  7. The truth is spreading here and now right before our very eyes, but the public wishes to keep them shut. Most I speak to are only concerned about the COST of energy and not its impact to the ecosystem. The Tar Muck Sand Oil from Canada is an example, much has been published about it all…most sponsored by the very firm that will build the pipeline, Tans Canada! With the world’s population heading to 9 billion and the “have nots” becoming the “haves”, it’s hard to see CO2 levels decreasing…more likely rising. One only has to look at Obama’s “energy” plan to see that and the climate conference mandate to “start” in the year 2020!

  8. While I believe that pollution is causing climate change, I wonder: should we ignore “engineers, retired weathermen, and scientists from fields other than climate science” just because they don’t call themselves climate scientists?  History is full of groupthink science that spurned the ideas of scientists outside the clique, only to later find that the clique got it wrong. 
    My personal experience is that the scientists that do the best work are the ones that constantly question their assumptions. 

    Of course, what the WSJ should have done is print the rebuttal letter…although the rebuttal letter was not very good, and maybe that is why they didn’t print it. Complaining about the lack of proper science in the original letter, but not backing up the assertions with actual science, is NOT the way to argue this. The way to answer the naysayers is to show the proof, not spout off with rhetoric. The rebuttal letter should do just that: REBUT the arguments, not just say “no, you are wrong”. 

    Overall, climate scientists have done a great job of convincing people that we need change. In this case, I don’t know how much blame we can rest at the feet of the WSJ; I think the climate scientists needed to put more effort into it. “Show me the data” should be every scientist’s mantra. Don’t make claims, argue your case with both theories and measurements that support them! This is too important to be waffling around and waving hands.

    1. There isn’t any “rebuttal letter” (see above).

      Actual science can easily be found by the bucketload in the journals.

    2. History is full of groupthink science that spurned the ideas of scientists outside the clique, only to later find that the clique got it wrong.

      True, but not everyone is a Galileo or Wegener (the meteorologist who developed the Continental Drift theory).  In fact, those remarkable individuals tend to be quite rare.

      My personal experience is that the scientists that do the best work are the ones that constantly question their assumptions.

      Agreed, but my personal experience is that the best scientists are also the ones who have first thoroughly studied and have become well familiar with the existing scientific literature in the subject matter before publishing any grandiose claims which may contradict some or much of that literature.  There’s a certain tendency towards  “arrogance of  ignorance” – the Dunning-Kruger effect – when scientists from one field talk about science in another when they are not familiar with much of the lit.  Quite a lot of claims of problems with climate change, mmade by “engineers, retired weathermen, and scientists from fields other than climate science” are issues which have already been brought up and have been resolved by climate scientists, often many years ago.  Its okay to always question, but it behooves one to first research whether or not the question has been previously raised, in the field, and whether or how or how well the question was previously answered. 

      A case in point:  Claims of urban heat islands (UHIs) artificially elevating temperature records and exaggerating global warming.  This was proposed, examined and found to be a very minor effect by climate scientists in the last couple of decades.  Yet it continues to be presented by former weathermen as an unaddressed problem which should cast doubt on global warming.  This was even publicly claimed by physicist Richard Muller just a few years ago.  Muller announced, with much fanfare, that he was putting together an A-team of physicists that was going to re-analyze the temperature records, correct for the UHI bias, and show those climate scientists how to do it properly.   When Muller’s team finished (recently) they ended up confirming that the UHI effects were minor, and their resultant temperature calculations were numerically very close to those of three other major climate science institutions.  Basically they showed themselves that, yes, the climate science community had done the analysis properly, and had correctly deemed the UHI effects to be minimal. 

      …should we ignore “engineers, retired weathermen, and scientists from fields other than climate science” just because they don’t call themselves climate scientists?

      When those “engineers, retired weathermen, and scientists from fields other than climate science” go to the effort of studying the vast bulk of climate research which has already been performed, understanding all the arguments previously made, and the rebuttals, and can still make a strong case based on data and evidence that holds up under detailed scrutiny, which actually contradicts the current consensus, then the we should pay attention.

      1. Thank you, Sean.  I certainly hope @google-4da8f06a327d24bd6e22ae6d7b097e1e:disqus read your post carefully.

    1. Why give them more page-views when they refuse to print a rebuttal from more qualified sources?  Just to make Rupert richer?

    2. The first thing I think when I log on in the morning is “time to get my dose of ‘wrong thoughts’ from BB”.

      The post is complaining about how shit WSJ is – why the hell would Cory link it? Are you incapable of operating a Google? How many complete morons must now be BB readers if 4 people “liked” your comment? 5?

      Thanks for your valued input LUser 100. Don’t let the door hit your conspiracy-theorist ass on the way out.

  9. My list of scientists is better than your list of scientists!
    My opinion is better that your opinion!
    My knowledge of climate science is better than your knowledge.
    My computer model is better than your computer model.
    If you don’t agree with me you are an idiot. If you do agree with me then I am a genius.

    People are not as smart as they think they are.

    1. My list of scientists spent their lives studying climate.
       
      But, hey, at least you proved your final point.

      1. My list of scientists includes several with British accents, and my computer model runs on a mac.

    2. I hope that’s not really how you approach scientific debate, or debate in general. If so, you’re going to be terribly surprised to learn about these things we call “facts” that are generally backed by evidence and mountains of data from varying sources.

    1. “Sir, if you would take brain cancer advice from your proctologist, I encourage you to continue.”

      I see what you did there.

      Evolutionary biology is my other favorite field where other scientists occasionally pop in to tell us we’re off track. The Discovery Institute trots out various “experts” with PhD dangling off the end of their signature: typically chemists, physicists, and engineers, but almost never biologists.

  10. Human-induced climate change is undoubtedly occurring, but the more important point is that changes will only come about when it is perceived they don’t cause economic harm.  We could eliminate all CO2 emissions from the US, Western Europe, and Japan and it won’t really do a damn thing as long as India and China and other developing countries are bent on acquiring a first-world life-style. 

    1. Won’t really do a damn thing? By this logic, if a stabbin’ hobo stabs me ten times, and I have the ability to stop another stabbin’ hobo from stabbin’ me ten more times, I might as well not bother stopping him.

      Sure, being stabbed ten times is really, really bad, and I might not survive, but I will GREATLY increase my chances of survival by preventing another ten stabbins.

          1. The very best thing the US and other nations could to reduce carbon emissions is to boost energy efficiency.  We’ve been doing that for a good while now, and it needs to continue — today, we create $1.00 of GDP with 40 % less energy than we did 40 years ago. 

            But if the proposed solutions boost costs, they simply will not happen, at least not to any meaningful degree.

          2. Steve,

            Amen on energy efficiency. It truly is the only viable way. And not at all difficult once you try. As far as boosting costs, unfortunately, hidden costs are hidden.

          3. @boingboing-b7f91ee1b94f1ed3dbb2959607f4b784:disqus – “hidden costs” are less hidden and more procrastinated. Some day we’ll be paying them, just not today. And if you’re a rich 60-year-old white guy, what the hell do you care about something that only people several generations after you are going to have to deal with?

  11. I also apologise unreservedly for the formatting of the above. I shall blame the Science website. I just wanted to copy and paste and this is what I get, Science…grr

  12. These threads always make me think of Easter Island. When humans got there it was covered with trees. Trees that could, for instance, be used to build boats that could take them away from island if the need arose. They chopped them all down to, among other things, make rollers to move the big head statues to their final positions. Then when everything went wahoonie shaped, they didn’t have any trees left to make the ocean-going canoes that could take them somewhere that wasn’t ruined.

    I always wonder what was going through the mind of the guy that cut down the last tree. “This isn’t the last tree! There are plenty of trees on the other side of the island! Now watch this swing.”

  13. I was thinking last night that climate change adaptation may be immoral. For the long-term survival of the biosphere, when the real damage kicks in the best thing may well be for as many people to die as quickly as possible. If we keep more people alive as the climate gets worse, still warming the planet but adapting to the effects, that would increase the chances of the Earth eventually becoming completely uninhabitable. Whereas if the population immediately drops by a couple of billion, that might mean billions more get to have a habitable environment over the long term.

    1. Do I hear you actually volunteering to die?  Or are you only saying that, “someone” should do this?

      1. Doubt I will live long enough to have to worry about it anyway, but even if I did my opinion wouldn’t affect the moral question.

    2. If increasingly acidic rain proves to be a problem for food sources, we may very well see large die-offs in poor countries.

      1. I guess it’s a bit like say a group of sailors were stranded on an island, and the only possible route to long term survival was for the most bastardly group to murder and eat the majority in the short term. Say the officers who have the weapons eating all the galley slaves. Their descendants would eventually outnumber the number of people murdered, and otherwise there would be no-one left alive at all, but the descendants would look back in shame.

        There seems to be a strong echo with the history of colonization. Colonization is responsible for the whole situation, and the same inequalities are repeated but amplified.

    3. Is that what all those YouTube commenters are trying to achieve when they tell others to “kill themselves”?

  14. Dr. Jared Diamond, author of “Guns, Germs and Steel,” wrote an excellent article published in Discover magazine many years ago called, “Easter’s End.”  Well worth reading…

    Also, Oreskes and Conway’s book, “Merchants of Doubt,” comparing the human-caused global warming controversy to the tobacco-causes-cancer controversy, documents that not only same-leaning organizations but actually the same individual “experts” deny the science of global warming as they did the “studies linking smoking to lung cancer, coal smoke to acid rain, and CFCs to the ozone hole.”

    But a few copies for your local library.  (I already did.)

    1. Our local library refuses the donation of books.  And you can’t sneak extra books in…they throw out any book that isn’t already in the system.

      1. There’s actually a library worse than mine?!?  I’m impressed.  Mine accepts donations, but takes nine months to get them into circulation.

        1.  I think most libraries put out all the donated books for the book sales they have. You’ll notice that most books at the book sales don’t have the library markings.

          Probably easier than looking at each book and trying to determine if it’s worth putting into circulation – especially books like the aforementioned “Merchants of Doubt” which a librarian isn’t trained to know whether it’s a crackpot book or what.

          1. I’ve bought them books when they have a series with one volume missing. Which seems to be their specialty. Then I take in the book to donate and find the head librarian and explain to her that this is something to fill an obvious hole in the collection. And then it shows up nine months later on the shelf.

            Have I mentioned that they confessed that they haven’t done an inventory in more than twenty years?

          2. Probably easier than looking at each book and trying to determine if it’s worth putting into circulation – especially books like the aforementioned “Merchants of Doubt” which a librarian isn’t trained to know whether it’s a crackpot book or what.

            Actually, this is exactly what librarians are trained to do.  Do you think library science programs consist of “Shelving 201” and “Crowd Control: How to be stern without raising your voice”?

    2. I went to see Naomi Oreskes give a talk shortly after releasing Merchants of Doubt. It was such a calm and rational discussion of the issue and a major angle that is rarely discussed when the topic of climate change comes up (i.e. the moneyed interests who use their influence to muddy the waters for their personal benefit).

  15. Why are we still getting so worked up when people disagree with us about the reality of anthropogenic climate change? We have a consensus, after all. We’ve won.

    Even when we’re right, it’s dangerous to become psychologically invested in a point of view.

    1. By won, are you talking about public opinion (where belief in anthropogenic climate change has dropped), international law (where the last two major climate change conferences have been fiascos), or US legislation (where all initiatives have been postponed and the House is trying to gut the EPA)?

        1. @boingboing-e835b6e59c2bea369455be42a0ba85d3:disqus , are you reading this?  @boingboing-899f4f1e19b5e213352a0575df618d7c:disqus & @boingboing-2a2082392dfb32b984e6f20663604707:disqus are correct.  We can’t allow articles like these to stand unchallenged in the Wall Street Journal.  It does very real damage.

  16. “Two incontrovertible things: Anthropogenic Global Warming is Real…” Actually there has been no meaningfully measurable warming for the past ten years. So, your statement should be revised to read “Anthropogenic Global Warming may have been real….” But since you have reached an a-priori certitude quite independent of data, I won’t hold my breath waiting for a polite retraction.

    1. Here’s a really nice video which illustrates the difference between long term trends and short term variations:

      The timescale you use, 10 years, is too short to show the trend being discussed for global warming. To demonstrate, this graph of yearly temperature anomaly
      http://thinkprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/laninayeartemps.png
      shows a great deal similar variation over timescales of several years, but that is superposed on a strikingly clear warming trend over 60 years.

    2. But since you have reached an a-priori certitude quite independent of data, I won’t hold my breath waiting for a polite retraction.

      Independent of data? Incorrect.

      https://www2.ucar.edu/climate/faq/hasnt-earth-been-cooling-1998

      via link above:

      Thanks in large part to the record-setting El Niño of 1997–98, the year 1998 was the warmest year globally in the 20th century. Since 2001 the global trend has been relatively flat, and 2008 was the coolest year so far this decade. However, a simple calculation shows that global temperatures continue to run much warmer now than in the past: the average from 1999–2008 exceeds the average from 1989–1998, even though the latter period includes the record-warm 1998.

      Although scientists are confident that global temperatures will rise further in the coming decades, there could still be occasional “pauses” in warming that last a few years, like the one we’re seeing now.

      Some of the contributing factors to these breaks in warming could include erupting volcanoes that spew sunlight-blocking ash skyward, a lack of El Niño events, and/or the natural minimum in the 11-year solar cycle. Since we are now emerging from the most recent solar minimum, and an El Niño is developing in 2009, there’s good reason to believe global temperatures will climb significantly as the 2010s approach.

      I encourage you to check out the link, it will have the corresponding charts, more info, etc.

      More questions are answered here as well:
      http://www2.ucar.edu/climate/faq

    1. I’m just wondering who the heck has been shooting holes in her fence?

      The sprinkler rainbow conspiracy scientists, no doubt.

  17. I have a theory that when people sign petitions about a theory instead of stating their beliefs individually, it is because they are trying to hide behind each other. If the petition turns out to be nonsense, they can blame somebody else.

    For example, I don’t recall ever hearing about a serious pro-evolution petition, even despite all the attacks on evolution. (I don’t think the “Steve project” was serious.) I have heard about an apparently-serious anti-evolution petition.

    In the case of AGW, it looks like both sides are being dishonest. Let’s see… One side claims that there is no global warming problem and the other side claims that it requires a rethink of capitalism. Clearly, the global warming problem is potentially real and requires deregulation of nuclear energy.

    1. There aren’t many pro-evolution petitions because it doesn’t require any special action. You do see them from time to time, though, when teaching it is threatened.

      I saw where the one letter claimed there was no global warming. I couldn’t find where the other one said anything about capitalism or nuclear power, though. Do I still have to assume they’re all being equally dishonest?

    2. In the case of AGW, it looks like both sides are being dishonest. Let’s see… One side claims that there is no global warming problem and the other side claims that it requires a rethink of capitalism. Clearly, the global warming problem is potentially real and requires deregulation of nuclear energy.

      Who is claiming it requires a rethink of capitalism?  Links please.

      What we have is a bunch of scientists publishing real data and theory about real stuff happening in the real world.  Then we have a bunch of politicians and fossil fuel industry flacks saying they’re wrong and a few of the most extreme environmentalists saying the sky is falling.  Presenting this mess as “both sides are being dishonest” is incredibly dishonest.

  18. I’m curious whether the “pre-eminent science journal Science” would have published the letter that the WSJ ended up publishing and, if not, whether the journal Science would have been called partisan. 

    That the WSJ is partisan doesn’t bother me.  I don’t expect anything else from them.  That a Science journal is partisan does bother me.  

    1. Science is supposed to be “partisan” in the sense of preferring evidence. If you provide a lot of data to make a case, in this case mostly in the IPCC reports they refer to, you can expect them to consider publishing you.

      It’s a different matter if you use nonsense arguments and unsupported conspiracies. The 16 scientists letter starts with CO2 being natural and so safe, which is stupidly specious; then it tars the climate scientists with Lysenkoism, because governments are all so eager to take action on global warming.

      Guess what? That would be ridiculous even if there were evidence global warming is a bad model. It doesn’t belong in Science, and it doesn’t belong in any newspaper with standards. You might as well insist they be fair and balanced to creationist propaganda.

      1. If the WSJ letter is so easily disproved, then Science should publish it under the title, “Popular Misconceptions about Global Warming” with a rebuttal indicating why they are not correct.  Doing so would foster greater understanding for all.  

        1. Every time someone bothers to debate creationists, they only respond with “See! There is a legitimate dispute,” because sewing doubt is the only real goal. Sometimes material so obviously underhanded does not deserve to be treated with that kind of respect.

  19. I get bored when I see the same denialists asking the exact same questions, years later. 

    You know what, if you don’t get it, too fucking bad. It’s real, we’re done indulging your bottomless passive aggressive ignorance,

  20. Wall Street Joke, more like it.

    I haven’t read the comments yet but here’s to (foolishly?) hoping that there’s not some jackass playing the skeptic’s advocate. I live in Australia where the political Right is as retarded about climate change as their US counterparts, so the journalistic discourse here is very similar (trained, objective scientist Vs. paid liar for vested interests).

    My dad (who is a fervent climate change denier) sent me a link to some skeptic asshole’s talk which supposedly would convince me why climate change is a farce. This presentation was funded and held for some mining lobby group and the speaker was an infamous piece of shit who has for years been making a living from industry groups with his denialist stance which is based on nothing but deception. Out of respect for my dad I listened to the painful entirety of this presentation – subsequent to which I debunked every single point the fool raised (with nothing more than about an hour of Googling) in an email to my dad. Suffice it to say my time listening to and rebutting the stupid presentation was wasted. Lucky I did it during work hours, I guess.

    Sadly for some people it seems it’s more logical to trust their own (or some irrelevant talking head’s) best judgement rather than the best judgement of people who actually know what the fuck is going on.

    1. Sadly for some people it seems it’s more logical to trust their own (or some irrelevant talking head’s) best judgement rather than the best judgement of people who actually know what the fuck is going on.

      That’s even more likely to happen when the activists who supposedly believe, and act upon, the science are suggesting “You’ll need to start paying $5 or $6 a gallon for gas.  And double what you’re paying now for electricity.  And by the way, those less-developed countries – with which you are competing for jobs – don’t have to do any of this for years to come.”

  21. Man-induced global warming may invite debate, but it is a certainty that Man cannot be induced to stop it, not through laws, taxes, prohibitions, protests or any other means. Even if you lock-stepped every single First World country into your dream of bicycles and electric cars, you will not stop it. But we would get nicer air.

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