Science ignored by politics


We have known what we know for several decades now (it’s warming; it’s due to us; it’s bad), and serious policies to tackle the problem aren’t even in sight. Of course I’m aware that there is more that influences a political decision than ‘just’ scientific expertise about important societal issues (i.e. that the “linear model” of science and politics is not realistic, to use Pielke Jr’s terminology). But still, the disconnect is just huge. Warnings based on science are ignored at our peril.

But perhaps this is more common that I’d thought? Listening to the radio the other day, I heard someone making the case that economists have warned for years that the Dutch housing market is unsustainable (economically speaking), referring to the large tax-rebate you get on your mortgage (“hypotheekrente-aftrek”).

Politicians don’t want to touch that rebate though, for fear of losing a lot of voters.

Richard Tol wrote over at Judith Curry’s

economists strongly agree that carbon taxes are superior to tradable permits

whereas often I hear that a carbon tax and rebate is politically infeasible, probably because fear of losing a lot of voters (and/or because of strong lobbying against it?).

I remember a professor (of soil science I think it was) once describing his frustrations in trying to tell politicians about important issues regarding his field of expertise, where politicians were doing things that according to him didn’t make any scientific sense.

Is there a pattern there?

And the more difficult and more important question: What can we do about it?

What makes scientific sense doesn’t necessarily make political sense. If the scientists are right though, the bill and/or regret will come sooner or later. When will we learn?

Or to quote Nobel Laureate Sherwood Rowland (referring then to ozone depletion):

What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions, if in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?


Tags: , , ,

110 Responses to “Science ignored by politics”

  1. TimG Says:


    The theory behind a carbon tax is it will motivate people to reduce carbon emissions in order to save money.

    The problem with that theory is it assumes that people care about carbon emissions. They don’t they only care about the money they have to pay because of carbon emissions.

    This means a carbon tax really only creates an incentive to reduce the carbon tax paid. This can be accomplished by reducing emissions but for most people and businesses it is actually less work to get the tax itself killed.

    In short, it is politically impossible to impose a carbon tax because the theory behind the carbon is correct and people are reacting exactly as the theory predicts. The only problem are naive economists who assume that people will follow the artificial rules they plugged into their computer models.

  2. Jeff Id Says:

    Start promoting working solutions and start recognizing that people are part of earth too, and you will get a lot closer to my vote.

    Honestly, non-working answers are no answer. The sooner the enviro’s get this, the sooner you get to solve the problems. Of course, there is the detail of whether warming really is a problem. Because on that I”m still unconvinced.

    Tell me we’re cooling off, I’m scared. Tell me it’s warming — good news.

    Tell me it’s not good news, then tell me how to fix it. IMO, even if the worst predictions are true, which they aren’t, we can’t stop emitting CO2.

  3. plazaeme Says:

    Hello, Bart. “You” may have known for several decades it’s warming, but there are many who don’t now:

    – whether it’s actually warming now, or not.
    – Buy how much, and whether that’s a problem or something good.

    So, I guess it is a betting situation. How much of what “you” think you know its real? It would be very stupid not to trust astronomers if they told you a big comet is hitting the earth. Because they have demonstrated quite enough they know what they are talking about. For many, it doesn’t seem to be the case with climate change science.

    And then, we can try to get some perspective, and remember other instances where there was a huge disconnect between scientists and politicians.

  4. Bart Says:

    Plazaeme, luckily for you there are some people quite willing to take you up for a bet. How lucky, and how confident do you feel?

    “It would be very stupid not to trust astronomers if they told you a big comet is hitting the earth.”

    Indeed. That’s exactly what I mean. But I don’t share your contempt for climate science. Check out climate science’s history and try telling me with a straight face that it’s all bollocks/fraud/giant conspiracy/dummies sitting together. It won’t fly.

  5. sailrick Says:

    Given that you say you are not convinced of AGW, I thought you might like to know who you disagree with, and who agrees with you.

    We have two lists here.

    LIST # 1
    Professional scientific societies that agree with the IPCC on global warming.

    National Academy of Sciences (U.S.)


    Woods Hole Resesarch Center

    US Geological Survey (USGS)

    National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)

    NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS)

    American Association of State Climatologists

    Federal Climate Change Science Program, 2006 (the study authorized and then censored by Bush)

    American Chemical Society – (world’s largest scientific organization with over 155,000 members)

    Geological Society of America

    American Geophysical Union (AGU)

    National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    American Association of State Climatologists

    Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

    American Astronomical Society

    American Institute of Physics

    American Meteorological Society (AMS)

    American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)

    Stratigraphy Commission – Geological Society of London – (The world’s oldest and the United Kingdom’s largest geoscience organization)

    Chinese Academy of Sciences

    Royal Society, United Kingdom

    Russian Academy of Sciences

    Royal Society of Canada

    Science Council of Japan

    Australian Academy of Sciences

    Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Sciences and the Arts

    Brazilian Academy of Sciences

    Caribbean Academy of Sciences

    French Academy of Sciences

    German Academy of Natural Scientists

    Indian National Science Academy

    Indonesian Academy of Sciences

    Royal Irish Academy

    Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei (Italy)

    Academy of Sciences Malaysia

    Academy Council of the Royal Society of New Zealand

    Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

    Union of Concerned Scientists

    The Institution of Engineers Australia

    Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society (CMOS)

    National Research Council

    Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospherice Sciences

    World Meteorological Organization

    State of the Canadian Cryosphere (SOCC)

    International Council on Science

    American Physical Society (APS)

    Australian Institute of Physics (AIP

    European Physical Society

    European Science Foundation

    Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies (FASTS

    Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN)

    Network of African Science Academies

    International Council of Academies of Engineering and Technological Sciences (CAETS

    European Academy of Sciences and Arts

    InterAcademy Council (IAC)

    International Arctic Science Committee

    Arctic Council

    European Federation of Geologists (EFG)

    European Geosciences Union (EGU)

    Geological Society of Australia

    International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics

    National Association of Geoscience Teachers (NAGT

    Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society

    Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society

    Royal Meteorological Society (UK)

    American Quaternary Association (AMQUA

    American Institute of Biological Sciences

    American Association of Wildlife Veterinarians (AAWV

    American Society for Microbiology

    Institute of Biology (UK)

    Society of American Foresters (SAF

    Deniers would have you believe that somehow all these organizations and the thousands of scientists from 120 countries, who have been doing the research for 20 years, and over 30 years for some, are all scamming you in some dark conspiracy. Wow, and they call the scientists alarmists!

    Okay. Are you ready for List # 2? Drum roll please.

    LIST # 2
    Professional scientific societies that Do Not agree with the IPCC on global warming.

    American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)

    Canadian Association of Petroleum Geologists (CAPG)

    That is the whole list.

    Who do you think is fooling who?

  6. sailrick Says:

    If you’re interested in what real honest to goodness scientific skeptics have to say, read this from the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. The author is Mark Boslough, a physicist at Sandia National Laboratories

    “Denialists have attempted to call the science into question by writing articles that include fabricated data. They’ve improperly graphed data using tricks to hide evidence that contradicts their beliefs. They chronically misrepresent the careful published work of scientists, distorting all logic and meaning in an organized misinformation campaign. To an uncritical media and gullible non-scientists, this ongoing conflict has had the intended effect: it gives the appearance of a scientific controversy and seems to contradict climate researchers who have stated that the scientific debate over the reality of human-caused climate change is over (statements that have been distorted by denialists to imply the ridiculous claim that in all respects the science is settled).”

    “the Global Climate Coalition, which represented ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, the American Petroleum Institute and several big motor manufacturers.
    In 1995 the coalition’s own scientists reported that:
    “the scientific basis for the Greenhouse Effect and the potential impact of human emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 on climate is well established and cannot be denied.”
    The coalition hid this finding from the public, and spent millions of dollars seeking to persuade people that the opposite was true.
    “These people haven’t fooled themselves, but they might have fooled you. Who, among those of you who claim that climate scientists are liars and environmentalists are stooges, has thought it through for himself? ”
    By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 8th December 2009

  7. plazaeme Says:

    Bart, I don’t have any “contempt” for climate science, but I do have it for some climate scientists who find very natural to hide the decline so we don’t realize thermometers and treemometers doesn’t run on agreement as often as they pretend. Nor do I think we are in a case of fraud / conspiracy and dummies sitting together. But I do see quite a lot of symptoms of grupothink.

    Thanks for telling me about Annans bet. I’ll check if we are talking about the same think. But you know what I am trying to say: It is not the same thing:

    Warnings based on science are ignored at our peril


    Warnings based on climate science are ignored at our peril.

    Because not all sciences have the same level of maturity, and predictions come true, and so on. We may discuss on the level of climate change science (we already have), but I don’t think we can discuss all sciences have the same level.

  8. plazaeme Says:

    And, Bart, if we can’t think not all sciences have the same level of maturity, then it may be the moment to put climate change science into context and perspective.

  9. Tony Says:

    plazaeme – By that reasoning, HIV/AIDS research is a very young science.

  10. plazaeme Says:

    Professional scientific societies that Do Not agree with the IPCC on global warming.

    American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)

    Canadian Association of Petroleum Geologists (CAPG)

    That is the whole list.

    Not quite so:

    Polish Academy of Sciences, 2009.

    But I don’t think this is the question. It wouldn’t be the first time a whole brunch of science gets it very wrong, with all the academies included.

    I did cure myself a very bad chronic gastritis, just because a couple of Austalian doctors where saying something quite reasonable, against all academies of medicine. It was a bet: just get some antibiotics and do the experiment by yourself. It worked, and apparently forever. About ten years earlier than academies.

  11. plazaeme Says:

    Tony, I never said maturity was a matter of age.

  12. plazaeme Says:

    And sorry, one more thing, just to explain myself better. A science may have a huge amount of knowledge, (known aspects of the matter), without having a great deal of understanding. Maturity refers to the later.

  13. Bart Says:


    The divergence problem has been discussed in the scientific literature, so there’s no basis for your first (mostly unrelated) claim. Of course not all science have the same level of maturity. But if it’s not contempt that you hold, then perhaps you’re confusing uncertainty with knowing nothing.

    Please do read the link I provided to the history of climate science. Or buy Spencer Weart’s book. It’s well written and very informative.

  14. plazaeme Says:

    And Bart, thank you, but no. Annan’s bet is not what I am talking about. It says nothing about a problem with man-made climate change.

    We will compare global surface temperatures in 1998-2003 with those in 2012-2017 (6 year average in both cases), using the USA National Climatic Data Center data (which can currently be found here for annual and here for monthly analyses)

    You could have a temperature 0.1 – 0,2 K warmer, and still being quite below IPCC “projections” (we should be near +0.4 by then). And I also think, with Pielke, sea is a quite a better metric.

    And it is not a matter of how confident I feel. I don’t feel confident at all. I even think you may be right. It is just that I haven’t seen any reason to think you are (probably) right. Comparing what Lindzen and others say, and what “consensus” says, I think Lindzen puts a better case on the table.

    I don’t think my claim on hiding the decline is unrelated at all. It’s a very good example, among quite a few, of a reason to have a contempt for some climate scientists who happen to be the top of the pyramid. The fact that it has been discussed in the literature, which I perfectly know, is not a good excuse. When a scientist is talking (trying to convince) to politicians and general public, it is not at all an acceptable pratcice to hide such a discrepancy (uncertainty) on the small letter.

    I don’t think I am confusing uncertainty with knowing nothing. I tried to tell you: knowing a lot does not imply understanding a lot. You may know a lot, and still don’t know what is going to happen. Or you may think you know what is going to happen, and be very wrong in your thinking.

    So, to demonstrate climate change science is a mature science, you need to make me read a book. Do you think in the same situation a quantum mechanic specialist, or an astronomer, would tell me about a book, or you think they would just provide me with some fast examples? The “consesnus” tried the fast examples, but they didn’t work. And that is quite a difference, I would say.

    And then, it seems very possible I read the book, and I still find a lot of partial knowing of many, but not all aspects of climate change science, and no understanding (predictability). I’ll let you know.

    Thank you so much.

  15. Hans Says:

    Science is indeed ignored.
    Fossil fuels are limited resources.
    The easy fossil fues have already been used. It is becoming harder every year to extract the same amount of coal, oil and gas.
    It will proof to be impossible to continue CO2-emissions at the current level for more than 10 years.

  16. Jeff Id Says:

    sailrick Says:
    October 4, 2010 at 10:02

    Given that you say you are not convinced of AGW, I thought you might like to know who you disagree with, and who agrees with you.

    It’s always amazing to me when I read these assumptions. I wonder just where I’ve ever written that I don’t believe in AGW and what about all that time I’ve spent carefully explaining the opposite.

    Your premise is wrong.

    So is the appeal to authority.

  17. Scrooge Says:

    I blame it on dopamine and rationalisation. Wouldn’t it be great if AGW was a hoax. So for people that don’t want to hear bad news its convenient to believe a politician that says it will be OK. No matter how many deaths AGW will cause it won’t matter because the dead don’t have a voice. The world is taking baby steps to combat AGW now. How fast that can be ramped up in the coming years I don’t know, more and more I find myself hoping that geo engineering will find. The silver bullet. I worry not for me because I won’t be here but for my grandchildren. You have a gift when it comes to explaining things in this format, when I see your frustration and feeling of urgency set in, which I’ve noticed among other scientists as well, all I can say is if we were talking bullets instead of AGW I’d be ducking about now.

  18. MapleLeaf Says:


    “So is the appeal to authority”

    And there you go again. That is a lame cop out argument used by amateur ‘skeptics’ Jeff, surely someone of your smarts is above that or can do better than that? Sadly it seems not.

  19. JMurphy Says:

    plazaeme, your link to the ‘Polish Academy of Sciences, 2009’ doesn’t work. Which is just as it should be, I believe, because they don’t argue against AGW at all, as far as I know.
    Were you thinking of one particular subsection of it, rather than all of it ?

  20. MapleLeaf Says:


    You raise an important point– that is ultimately what it seems to boil down to does it not? Will I lose votes over this, and the ‘skeptic’ movement knows that all too well. IMHO, one has to bridge the gap between politicians thinking on a four-year term (it varies of course, but close enough), and a problem that is developing over many decades.

    Unfortunately, there is unlikely to be a Pearl Harbour moment in this story– although when we ultimately look back in 100 years form now there will have been many events which were clearly signs that all was not right– such as the rapid loss of summer Arctic sea ice. We are kinda like the frogs sitting in the slowly warming water but debating whether or not the water is warming, or by how much it is warming, or if it is warming as much now as it was 10 seconds ago. When the we and the politicians figure out it all out it will likely be too late.

    It could be that the only thing next to a Pearl Harbour moment that brings them around is grass roots action by the masses.

    For that to happen, one has to educate the masses and overcoming the gaping divide between what the science is saying and people’s perceptions and misunderstandings on the science.

    Hopefully the IPCC dedicates way more resources to communicating and explaining the science in terms and concepts that lay people will be able to appreciate the gravity of the situation.

    John Cook’s handbook is a great example what can be done in that regard.

    PS: In Canada right now science is being ignored, muzzled even by the Harper government. I fear that the same will happen in the USA if the Tea bagger government gains control.

  21. Deech56 Says:

    Bart, maybe this post should have been entitled, “Science actively opposed by politics”.

    Just sayin’.

  22. plazaeme Says:

    Sorry, JMurphy. De document (in Polish) is here:

    Click to access 2.Stanowisko%20KNG%20w%20sprawie%20zmian%20klimatu.pdf

    An explanation in English is here:

    And, yes, it is a subsection of the academy. Position of the Geological Science Comitee of the Polis Academy of Sciences on the threat of global warming.

    It looks like a funny discussion. Nobody denies there is a majority of scientists with the consensus. Those not involved in climate will probably follow their academies. And the question is the validity of such consensus. Would you consider the same validity to a consensus in, say the mean distance to Uranus, as the consensus in, say the effect of olive oil in human live expectancy? Maybe you would, but I certainly wouldn’t, consensus or not consensus. I’ve seen the consensus changing opinion too often. So the argument of authority does not have the same weight in all the cases.

  23. MapleLeaf Says:


    “Those not involved in climate will probably follow their academies.”

    What an odd statement. What are you insinuating?

    Anyways, the academies base their statements on what the science says, and that probably includes science published by many of their members who are actively publishing in the field. That is, scientists who are qualified to speak to the subject at hand.

    Do you not see the logical fallacy of your argument. You are arguing to authority by citing the “Geological Science Committee”, yet you suggest that others doing so is poor form. Why does a committee from one cherry-picked society carry more weight than the integrated knowledge and science from thousands of scientists (across many disciplines, including their fellow geologists such as the CGU, AGU etc.)?

    Actually re-reading your post at 18:04, you are clearly just trying to obfuscate and derail the discussion.

  24. plazaeme Says:

    Deech56, you make an interesting point, which is also in Bart’s post. Science ….

    Have you ever heard a medicine doctor saying “science knows your gastritis is because of your bad live (and so on)”? It wasn’t true, in spite of a much bigger consensus, but this is not my point now. Have you ever heard an aerodynamics specialist saying “the science says planes can fly bla bla bla”? No, you haven’t; because they will say something as “our knowledge says, or medicine says, aerodynamics says, etc. What is so particular with climate change science it is always speaking in the name of “science”, instead of in the name of their own science, or knowledge?

    My guess: insecurity. Immaturity. It’s not the first time it happens, and it’s always the same process: a highly speculative and not demonstrated knowledge, trying to appropriate the good name of science, which by itself lacks. Notice I am talking about climate change science, as a diferent thing as climate science. I never heard Lindzen or Pielke talking in the name of “science”.

    MapleLeaf: No, I am not using the authority of any academy; I was just saying the list of “opposing views” was incomplete, with an example. And I clearly stated: But I don’t think this is the question. No fallacy at all.

    Those not involved in climate will probably follow their academies.”

    What an odd statement. What are you insinuating?

    I am insinuating many scientists not directly involved with climate will probably not care to go into much depth, and will naturally trust their colleagues.

    Why does a committee from one cherry-picked society carry more weight than the integrated knowledge and science from thousands of scientists (across many disciplines, including their fellow geologists such as the CGU, AGU etc

    Did I say so? I didn’t mean it. I never thought a committee has more weight than other committee, nor more weight than an individual scientist. The weight is in their arguments; and better, in their evidence.

    I don’t realize how am I doing to obfuscate the discussion -maybe it’s a natural ability ;). Any case, I am only saying one thing, and I don’t find it extraordinary at all. I see a complain on politics not following the recommendations of a very immature science, and I am just asking: Why should politics (and people) follow blindly an immature science? Particularly when there are

    a) Some eminent members of such science not agreeing with the consensus, with very reasonable arguments.

    b) No evidence, but “attribution”.

    c) A clear misconduct of the main members of such science

    d) More than evident symptoms of thinkgroup

    You may try to convince me of the maturity of this science. Bart did, but I have to read a book first. Seems to be a more difficult task than usual. And you are not addressing what I am saying, which I think it goes quite to the point of the post.

  25. Bart Says:


    I agree that the prospect of meanigingful action is not looking good.

    In Holland a right wing coalition government is about to be sworn in, one party of which flat out denies everything we know about climate change. One newspaper already quoted a climate scientist as saying “don’t count on us for the next 4 years” similar as US scientists apparently said at the onset of the Bush years.

  26. MapleLeaf Says:


    OK, I see now where you are coming from. Sorry for the confusion and thanks for clarifying.

    Someone talked about HIV/AIDS research being an immature science, to be consistent are you advocating that policy makes and politicians should not “blindly” follow what the science is saying on that front?

    And I think we need to establish what you mean by “immature” versus “mature”. What metrics are you using to quantify that?

    a) You have to very carefully state what “consensus” applies to. Yes there are a few eminent dissenting scientists. Trouble with your argument is that they (Lindzen, Spencer, Christy) do not refute the theory of AGW, they accept that. They are of the opinion that the climate sensitivity to doubling (we will likely more than double CO2) is low.
    It is also important to note that Lindzen and Spencer are focussed on transient climate response (TCR) which is not the same as equilibrium sensitivity) to doubling (or more) CO2 is low. Lindzen, however, has not been able to present convincing evidence in support of his hypothesis that has held up to close scrutiny.

    b) There is plenty of evidence of “attribution” and “fingerprinting”. I can post links if you wish.

    c) There are only a few individuals who worked at CRU. Don’t generalize– there are almost 3000 scientists working in the field (not to mention scientists from related disciplines). Four inquiries have largely, there was some valid critique made, exonerated them and Mann. They found no evidence of scientific misconduct (i.e., fudging data). Please read the reports from the inquiries.

    d) Sorry, an unsubstantiated allegation and you seem to be parroting a meme that has been doing the rounds on ‘skeptic’ internet blogs and/or certain think tanks.

    Give me reasons why we should, at incredible risk to future generations, ignore the science and evidence before our eyes (Arctic sea ice loss in summer and many more examples) and do nothing?

    The arguments for delay put for by the ‘skeptics’ have either not been subjected to close scrutiny, or when they have, they have repeatedly been epic fails. Not very reassuring. If you want me to convince me to do nothing, you are going to have to do a heck of a lot better than that.

    Me thinks that you are thinking of excuses to rationalize your decision to do nothing. Some may argue that doing so is a symptom of you being in denial.

    Anyhow, it seems to me (I could be wrong) that no matter how much evidence is presented to you, you have already made up your mind.

    Have things to do. Gotta go.

  27. plazaeme Says:


    I am using the term “maturity” without a proper definition. Sorry. I guess we can understand ourselves. The idea should be simple: maturity –> full development, which for a science means being able to understand how the system works and behaves. There will always be details to know, but a mature science understands the generality, and will probably lack many details. An immature one knows many details, but lacks the general understanding. How can we mark the difference? I am not the expert, but on a first thought I would say by the capability to provide right prognosis. What I am saying is you need to be able to differentiate, and take it into account before following a science blindly. I guess that’s pure common sense, but often forgotten.

    a) Yeah, I know what Lindzen, and Christy, and Spencer (and others) say. I know they accept the theory of AGW, and so do I. But “warming”, without quantifying, is meaningless. You may light a small candle in a castle, and you will be warming the castle, no doubt. But nobody will be very happy, nor worried, about the heating. The castle may even be cooling, for other reasons.So, accepting AWG is not a problem for my argument. Which by the way is not a real argument. It’s just the statement that IPCC argument, theory, whatever, is not substantiated enough to follow it blindly at such an expense. And when talking about the expense we are not only talking about money.

    b) I always appreciate links, thank you But I would bet I have a rough idea on AGW attribution and fingerprinting and so on.

    c) I have read the inquiries and some comments on the inquiries. We won’t agree. More then that, my feeling is that any one being happy with the inquiries, and saying this is a non problem, does really lack perspective. But so is life: disagreement. Nothing personal.

    By the way, the misconduct I see is not restricted to CRU, nor to climategate. But it would be very long.

    Give me reasons why we should, at incredible risk to future generations, ignore the science and evidence before our eyes (Arctic sea ice loss in summer and many more examples) and do nothing?

    I’ll do: Is not “the science”, but certain immature science (and here I should repeat myself, which I won’t). And the example is very bad. Arctic sea ice loss may sound dramatic if you look only at 30 years (there are no more good data), but even though we don’t know exactly, we do know it is very less dramatic (or maybe not loss at all) if we look at 70 years. And your choosing of just this example as the first and only one, looks quite telling to me.

    I am not really trying to convince you of not doing something about what you see as a problem. I respect your opinion, and you, as far as we don’t begin to hide the decline and other tricks during a public discussion. I only believe in arguments over the table, available for he who chooses to check them. And, repeating myself, I am making the point of -what’s the merit of climate change science to ask for such a trust in so extraordinary claims, with such a lack of evidence, and such a lack of manners on the public discussion?

    Me thinks that you are thinking of excuses to rationalize your decision to do nothing. Some may argue that doing so is a symptom of you being in denial.

    I can demonstrate it (written in Spanish), but I will not care. You may believe it or not, as it suits you. I did believe in IPCC claims, and alarmism, as I saw there was a scientific consensus, without the slightest problem. (Always with the care that climate science didn’t look very mature at first glance). I knew there where some not accepting it, but i didn’t give a dam for them, as I thought they where right wing politically motivated, and I am not particularly fan of Bush et al, nor of Big Oil. But then, I don’t even remember why, I happen to read other opinions (Lindzen). I looked for more, I compared, and I changed my mind.

    In case you ask, yes, there are ways I can be convinced. Nothing out of usual: a theory which makes falsifiable and meaningful prognostics, and they coming to be true. Something better than playing the “not inconsistent with” game.

    However, It’s a pleasure changing opinions with you.


  28. Crackpot Says:


    Does the fact that we have a centre of right government in the making any difference to how you feel about climate? It is beyound me how you can state something like this. Please, leave this out. The climate will not change accordingly.


    I really like your comments. They are honest, open, and as far as I can see , sincere.


  29. HotRod Says:

    ‘ If the scientists are right though, the bill and/or regret will come sooner or later. When will we learn?’

    I’m trying to think of a test for this. A list of issues over the last 50 years, say, that scientists have warned on, like CJD, HIV transmission rates, bird flu, swine flu – I guess one could go through WHO reports, or the UK Chief Medical Officer.

    And see how many they were ‘right’ on. And how many ‘wrong’. And how right, and how wrong.

    I have preconceptions, as we all would, I suspect there were a lot of well-substantiated scientific opinions that turned out wrong.

    Bart, what would you expect to find?

    Jeff I was staggered by the above poster who deduced from your post that you disbelieved AGW. It’s like they can’t read or something.

    If I say I don’t believe in swine flu as a problem, it doesn’t mean I don’t believe in swine flu, it means I don’t think it’s a big problem.

  30. HotRod Says:

    Mapleleaf: Anyhow, it seems to me (I could be wrong) that no matter how much evidence is presented to you, you have already made up your mind.

    Am I the only reader who finds that funny?

  31. HotRod Says:

    Bart, sorry to bang on…

    ….. when you say ‘when will we learn?’ it suggests that we should have learned, that we have had the opportunity to do so. Do you have in mind a ledger of examples where science has warned, with coherence and credibility, we have ignored it, and been presented later with a nasty and unavoidable bill.

    I’d be interested in such a list. And please don’t quote tobacco!

    It would also need to be offset with forecasts, acted on or not, that turned out to be ‘wrong’.

  32. Jeff Id Says:


    Sorry your thread is so derailed.

    “whereas often I hear that a carbon tax and rebate is politically infeasible, probably because fear of losing a lot of voters (and/or because of strong lobbying against it?)”

    In the US, and I suspect the rest of the world, politicians are about power and money. Expecting a government agency to tax and then rebate is against their incentives. Even if they agreed, the managing of such a thing would quickly become bloated with bureaucrats. What’s more, the bosses always want more of the bureaucrats because that is more convenience, more votes and more power.

    Tax and rebate will never happen. Even if it did, in 20 years it would look nothing like when it began.

    I can go on and on about how taxes won’t solve CO2 emission. In fact I think nothing will. What gives the best chance though, is fission power, unleashed consumerism and incentivization of technological development and time.

    Of course none of that matches up with today’s environmental movement. Limitation leads to poverty leads to slow technology leads to feed your family any way you can.

  33. Leonard Weinstein Says:

    I am a scientist. I have read much of the technical literature including the IPCC reports. I initially went in accepting the possibility of CAGW, and concluded that at most there is a small and unimportant amount of AGW. I also concluded that it is good for the greater amount of CO2 to be present to sustain the needed crops to feed the world. Unfortunately, we are near the end of the holocene unless the small amount of AGW is able to stretch it out, and I do fear the coming ice age, although the most extreme part would come slowly over thousands of years.

    From your statement at the beginning “We have known what we know for several decades now (it’s warming; it’s due to us; it’s bad)” you got the first correct, although the amount of warming is not much different from a natural recovery from the little ice age. The second is mostly wrong, and the third is almost certainly wrong.

    If you would like to read a reasonable analysis on the subject, please read my short writeup at: (Limitations on AGW)

  34. Paul Kelly Says:


    You will not succeed until you give up the science argument. Once you do, you’ll find that the solution to the climate problem lies in actions whose primary benefit is something other than climate.

  35. Marco Says:

    HotRod: one of the biggest problems in analysing past predictions is that in just about all cases remedial action HAS been taken. Moreover, in many of those cases worst case scenarios have been taken to drive policy *on purpose*. You see, as a policy action for health concerns taking the most likely outcome as starting point can lead to major disasters.

  36. Marco Says:

    Leonard: what is the driving force for the recovery from the Little Ice Age? A “natural recovery” still includes a forcing (just like going into the Little Ice Age was the result of a forcing). So, what was it?

    And what is your hypothesis that states we are supposed to go into another ice age in a few thousand years? Milankovitch cycles? In that case you are not aware of the literature, showing we are no in for another ice age for several TENS of thousands of years.

    Finally, why do we need more CO2 to sustain the crops that feed the world? CO2 is hardly ever the limiting factor for crop growth…

  37. Tony Says:

    Further to Marco’s point about the prospect of an ice age — even if Leonard were correct about an ice age coming in, oh say 3,500 years. That’s 100 generations. If only the disruption from warming temperatures were as distant.

  38. plazaeme Says:

    Dr. Weinstein, thanks for pointing to your excellent analysis.

  39. kdk33 Says:

    “Warnings based on science are ignored at our peril.”

    What in the world makes you think the warnings are ignored. Is there anyone in the developed world who hasn’t heard the warning. People have heard the warning, evaluated the case for “action”, and decided (quite correctly) to do nothing.

    The incessent hand-wringing over narratives, communication, presentation, etc misses the point. People have heard, they (the majority) simply disagree.

  40. Alex Heyworth Says:

    The problem is the discount rate: economists apply a discount rate to future values (eg of assets, incomes) when calculating their current value because having the asset now is more valued than having it in the future (this is distinct from the issue of discounting for inflation). A similar discount principle applies to bad things that might happen in the future. We rate bad things in the future as being less bad than if they were to happen now. This is human nature.

    When it comes to something that may or may not happen fifty or a hundred years in the future, a heavy discount factor applies. Saying that this is selfish is irrelevant. In fact, that is the point. It is selfish, and that is both human nature and rational. “What about your descendants?” you might plead. My response would be that I do not know if I will have any descendants in fifty or a hundred years, and if I do they will have to cope with the world as it is just as all their human (and non-human) predecessors have done.

    Now you know why politicians aren’t all that interested in the science. They will only follow the science if the public leads them, and although the public wants (in principle) to do the right thing by the environment, most of them are not willing to pay a high price to do so.

    All that leads to the “no regrets” policy approach espoused by Pielke Jr.

  41. Marco Says:

    Alex, ‘the public’ are not even willing to pay NO price / save money. I know my share of people who own a gas gussling car, with really no other reason than “I like how it looks and drives” (note: usually they’ve never really tried anything else). I know plenty of people who go to pick up something from a store less than a 1 mile away…and *always* by car, while they also own a bike. The number of times I have seen people use an incandescent bulb of 100 Watt where a 40 Watt would suffice are also numerous. Leaving TVs and computers on standby (or, even worse, just on, period) is so common, it almost surprises me if they are not. Throwing three t-shirts and a few socks in the washing machine (and repeat the next day with a few other clothing items) is pretty common, too. And then it’s thrown in a dryer… I can go on and on and on and on with examples where saving money is easy, while also reducing CO2 emissions. And ‘we’ are not even doing THAT. “Money” is in many cases not the decisive factor, it is habits.

  42. MapleLeaf Says:


    “And the example is very bad. Arctic sea ice loss may sound dramatic if you look only at 30 years (there are no more good data), but even though we don’t know exactly, we do know it is very less dramatic (or maybe not loss at all) if we look at 70 years. And your choosing of just this example as the first and only one, looks quite telling to me.”

    What an odd statement. I am not sure what is so telling about it– you seem to be insinuating something negative or nefarious on my part. Actually, your quote above, is more telling about the disconnect between your position on this and where the science is at, but more about that later.

    Ironically, the Arctic is one AGW-related issue that politicians are actually taking action on, because the sustained and accelerating loss of Arctic sea ice extent (and volume) is very real, and is especially concerning when placed in the appropriate context. It is intriguing that despite politicians unwillingness to potentially lose votes over taking action on AGW, they are willing to propose drastic action and spend money to address issues surrounding Arctic sovereignty– I could be wrong, but my guess is because that they are doing so because such bravado wins votes.

    You dismissing the rapid loss of Arctic sea ice volume (and of land ice) is telling about your understanding of Arctic sea ice, its historical context and implications of its loss. A new paper out by Polyak et al. (2010) has concluded that:

    “The current reduction in Arctic ice cover started in the late 19th century, consistent with the rapidly warming climate, and became very pronounced over the last three decades. This ice loss appears to be unmatched over at least the last few thousand years and unexplainable by any of the known natural variabilities.”

    This is not entirely surprising given that polar amplification (predicted way back when by Manabe and Stouffer in 1980, and again by Manabe et al. 1992, and a phenomenon which is consistent with paleo data) has been confirmed (see Serreze et al. 2009 for an overview) and recently found to be largely driven by the loss of Arctic sea ice during the summer months (e.g., Screen and Simmonds 2010). Screen and Simmonds conclude that:

    “We conclude that diminishing sea ice has had a leading role in recent Arctic temperature amplification. The findings reinforce suggestions that strong positive ice–temperature feedbacks have emerged in the Arctic, increasing the chances of further rapid warming and sea ice loss, and will probably affect polar ecosystems, ice-sheet mass balance and human activities in the Arctic.”

    Additionally, the loss of ice volume has been much faster than predicted by scientists and than reported in AR4. In fact, even the folks at WUWT have estimated that we will likely have lost most of the summer Arctic sea ice before doubling CO2– Goddard estimated 2065. Real experts in the field suggest we will likely lose most of the summer Arctic sea ice before 2040 (e.g., Wang and Overland 2009)– that would be before we are even close to doubling CO2.

    The Arctic is the canary in the coal mine….not something to be cavalierly dismissed.

  43. MapleLeaf Says:


    I’m afraid to say that some people with political agendas refuse to stop harassing scientists and leave them alone:

    Click to access New%20Mann%20CID.PDF

    Cuccinelli should be disbarred.

    Fortunately, some politicians do get the science (CRU vindicated yet again):

    Click to access 7934.pdf

  44. Steve Fitzpatrick Says:

    Alex Heyworth,

    Good summary.

    It is also a fact that uncertainty about what will happen in the future leads to additional discounting of what is currently justified. If increasing CO2 will in fact cause substantial problems in 50, 100, or 150 years, then actions taken today to reduce CO2 emissions need to have a much nearer term payback as well. You will never get people to pay a high current price only to reduce a distant and uncertain future cost, unless they are forced to by a non-democratic (totalitarian) government.

    Those who are very concerned about rising atmospheric CO2 should support efforts to replace coal fired power plants with nuclear fission plants, since this is the most economical and immediate way to substantially reduce CO2 emissions. More importantly, those same people should support efforts to simplify the long delays (and enormous costs) in site approvals and permitting of nuclear plants; these are 100% due to political considerations. I find it almost unbelievable that the self-same people and organizations who want to reduce CO2 emissions also strongly resist the most immediate and economical way to reduce those emissions. Talk about self-defeating behavior….

  45. MapleLeaf Says:


    “Mapleleaf: Anyhow, it seems to me (I could be wrong) that no matter how much evidence is presented to you, you have already made up your mind.”

    That would be wrong. The science has already decided on certain fundamental issues pertaining to the theory of AGW (or ACC). I do not know what EQS is going to be, nor do I have a number cemented in my head. Right now, multiple independent lines of evidence point to an EQS near +3 C for doubling CO2 (and we will easily double CO2). So who am I to decide that the science is horribly wrong? Lindzen has tried and repeatedly failed…not convincing. I am open to the idea that EQS is higher or lower than that.

    You probably won’t believe me, but I’m sincerely hoping that EQS it is lower than + 3 C. Unfortunately, it looks that it is highly unlikely that EQS will be less than +2C (e.g., Turney and Jones 2010, Annan and Hargreaves 2009, Knutti and Hegerl 2008).

    Plazaeme has changed his/her mind before, maybe they’ll do it again as the evidence in support of AGW continues to mount.

    Anyhow, this is off topic.

  46. Steve Fitzpatrick Says:


    Cuccinelli is not going to be disbarred over this investigation. He is an elected official, of course, so the voters in Virginia can choose to replace him if they think his actions are not justified.

    I agree that the investigation is just a fishing expedition to pressure Michael Mann, and in the end it will likely generating nothing of substance. Politicians routinely apply pressure to their political opponents, and Cuccinelli clearly considers Micheal Mann a political opponent. Should the Republicans gain control of the US House of Representatives in November, the investigations of climate science that follow will likely make Cuccinelli’s efforts look like child’s play.

    I do think that the University will ultimately be compelled to comply with the request. They could choose to fight it in the courts, of course, but based on the judge’s earlier ruling, Cuccinelli has modified the request to eliminate what the judge appeared to object to, so the judge could very well choose to not block the revised request. Any appeal of a judge’s decision favoring Cuccinelli would almost certainly fail, at which point the Rectors would face criminal prosecution for any further failure to comply.

    I noted that Cuccinelli has upped the ante; he is demanding a sworn statement of complete compliance at the time of delivery of the documents. This is a not so so subtle warming that he will bring charges of perjury if he thinks they have not produced everything they have. My guess is that at some point, the University will likely blink.

  47. Marco Says:

    Actually, Steve, you may want to read the comment at Realclimate, and then come back with your evaluation:
    Cuccinelli specifically cites two papers by Mann as his targets for fraud & manipulation, neither of which is of any relevance to the one application he was allowed to target. If it’s the same judge, he won’t be amused by Cuccinelli’s antics.

  48. MapleLeaf Says:

    Oh the irony of Cuccinelli citing the fraudulent Wegman report as evidence that Mann has allegedly committed fraud (well, if his claims are entertained, practically all scientists would be guilty of fraud as he defines it). If that were not bad enough, the papers in question do not even deal with paleo climate reconstructions (i.e., MBH98 and MBH99).

    Steve you may be right about him not being disbarred, we’ll see. But he should be removed form his position one way or the other. He is in clear violation of Virginia bad ethics guidelines, which state:

    “A lawyer should use the law’s procedures only for legitimate purposes and not to harass or intimidate others.”

    The Tea baggers and Republicans are a right honorable bunch eh? If they represent traditional American values, as they claim, then be very afraid.

  49. Steve Fitzpatrick Says:

    Marco, MapleLeaf,

    We will just have to wait to see what the University decides to do. If they ask for a judge to block the request, then we will have to wait on what the judge decides. Cuccinelli could be blocked again, of course, but maybe not. Depending on their estimate of winning in court, the University might consider coming to some kind of agreement with the AG for providing information of reduced scope.

    It is difficult to say for sure what will happen. Circuit judges in Virginia are nominated by the local State Representative and elected by a vote of the full State Legislature, to an 8 year term. So the judges probably hold political views that are representative of the the State Legislature, and for sure pay attention to the political winds if they are not ready for retirement.

  50. MapleLeaf Says:

    Thanks for your insights Steve.

    This is all very troubling…

  51. plazaeme Says:

    Thank you very much, MapleLeaf.

    I am really grateful, because you are providing the perfect example of what I am talking about. A multi proxy thing, with a hockey stick -no less, as the word of God against well written and known history.

    Listen, and try to make a picture in your head. We know there was a sudden and strong ice loss in the Arctic between 1910 – 1950 (approx). And we know there was a halt, and probably some recovery from then until 1975 (approx). And we know (measured) a strong ice loss from 1979 to now. So your picture is something like sine wave, or something like a ladder with two steps, or something in between. OK? So whatever the case, it is very less dramatic if we look at 70 years, and not only at 30.

    I am not “insinuating something negative or nefarious on your part”, unless being dramatically unidirectional and advocate is nefarious. I don’t think it is; it’s very human. Not very rational, tough. As it is, we humans are quite less rational than we dream to be.

    So, you bring your multi proxy, multi study, multi Serreze thing, and God came and talked to us. With a new prediction which, taking into account Serreze’s record of predictions (if a remember well), I am sure is going to convince very fast the whole crowd.

    But, I guess your study is not the only one. Particularly since it contradicts known history. So, a quick search brings a comparison Macias – Kinnard (the base of Polyak 2010 for the early XX century). What a surprise! Just what I said… Arctic sea ice loss may sound dramatic if you look only at 30 years (there are no more good data), but even though we don’t know exactly, we do know it is very less dramatic (or maybe not loss at all) if we look at 70 years.

    ¿Arctic amplification? Yeah, sure Serreze can see a huge Arctic amplification. This would be very long but I suggest you to go to GISS Stations, select the isolated ones, and compare their curves with HadCruT3 for the globe. If you can show me the amplification for the last global warming (1975 – 2000. approx), I’ll pay you a dinner very happily.

    MapleLeaf, as I said, I am not trying to convince you. I know perfectly well it is an impossible task. What I am trying to do here is presenting the case why so many people are not quite convinced by the proposition to ruin the world on the basis of such claims as yours- or IPCC’s. The fact is the people is not being convinced, and you can choose to try to understand why -in which I am helping, or to think people is stupid, crazy, ignorant, whatever -by which you are not going to achieve nothing. Well, you may get some upset people -not me. It’s up to you.

    And the fact is even worse than we thought. A seasonal ice free (or almost ice free) Arctic sea is not necessarily a drama. It was so relatively recently, with no end of the world.

  52. Marco Says:

    Plazaeme, try this publication: which includes references to (and graphs from) the publications by Macias-Fauria and Kinnard that some people have been cherry picking. Cherry picking, I say, as the title of Macias-Fauria’s work summarises the publication quite well: “Unprecedented low twentieth century winter sea ice extent in the Western Nordic Seas since A.D. 1200.” (note also that it is a regional study).

  53. Crackpot Says:


    CO2 is more often than not he limiting factor for plant growth. Why do you think plant growers in the Netherlands have big companies involved for the supply of purified exhaust fumes? This is multi million business. with a large new contract fo a new supply line just inked two weeks ago.

    You have your facts wrong. Check them.

  54. MapleLeaf Says:


    Snarky and sarcastic rhetoric only undermines your case and credibility. So does misrepresenting the science…see below.

    “If you can show me the amplification for the last global warming (1975 – 2000. approx), I’ll pay you a dinner very happily.”

    Satellite MSU data (e.g., RSS) show that the lower troposphere over the Arctic (not truly Arctic, b/c the data only go to 82.5 N) is warming at twice the rate as global temperatures– don’t take my word for it, download the TLT data from RSS and calc. the long term temperature trends for different latitude bands. No surface station data required. If you don’t want to be bothered crunching the numbers yourself, look at this:

    “So, a quick search brings a comparison Macias – Kinnard (the base of Polyak 2010 for the early XX century)”

    Great, a link to an image with no citation. Actually, Kinnard’s work (from 2008) does show the Arctic ice loss to be significant since circa 1870. As for Macias-Fauria, I can only presume that the graph is adapted from their 2009 paper:

    Isaksson,E.,Eronen,M.,2009. Unprecedented low twentieth century winter sea
    ice extent in the Western Nordic Seas since A.D.1200. ClimateDynamics.


    The title in the adapted graphic from Macia-Fauria that you link to is misleading — they actually looked at sea ice over the western Nordic seas (not the entire Arctic basin as Polyak did). Regardless, Macia-Fauria et al’s paper title speaks for itself. You are playing fast and loose with the facts plazaeme.

    And who said that we are talking about the “end of the world” ? Please stop distorting.

    Sorry for the OT post Bart, but I could not let the gross misinformation and distortion go unchallenged. Anyhow, I’m done. If plazaeme insists on responding, might I suggest we move to the open thread.

    PS: And the planet has continued to warm since 2000.


    Hansen, J., R. Ruedy, Mki. Sato, and K. Lo, 2010: Global surface temperature change. Rev. Geophys., in press, doi:10.1029/2010RG000345.


  55. MapleLeaf Says:


    We cross-posted. I only just saw your post now. OK good, so you confirmed what I found….

  56. Crackpot Says:


    We are using currently CO2 fertilisation on a commercial basis in the Netherlands at 1200 ppm, and it pays (in greenhouses, under controlled environments). Some greenhouses have only a connection to the gas grid to suplly CO2.

    So please stop the blathering that CO2 is not limiting. It obviously is. Check the data, they are freely available.

  57. plazaeme Says:

    Yes, Marco, Thanks. It could then be the case that also the history is talking basically about the Atlantic side, and there is no contradiction to Polyak (but the sailing passages take from ocean to ocean). Could be. Lets see how it stands.

    But we can try to fly a bit, and get some perspective.

    Science, scientist, paper are not very meaningful out of context. Not all “sciences” are as much certain, not all scientists are as much well-balanced, and not every paper has the same interest or the same credibility. There are many things to be considered. How extraordinary the claim? What facts does it contradict? Is it using a lot of “gymnastics” or is it applying direct measures?

    Last time y looked for it, there was not quite a difference in the Arctic between the temperatures of the last cycle of warming and this one. Is the present situation very unusual? It doesn’t seem so, but yes, there are some papers saying so. Nothing strange, knowing the many scientists there are willing to find such result. Have them been studied and checked as the original hockey stick? Would they stand a good scrutiny?

    Let’s see. I am not very keen to take seriously those who shout with the first obscure paper that happens to appear, taking it as the word of God. Papers come and go, and are refuted, and so on. And from what I have seen from this paper, it’s not as evident as beaches formed where there is constant ice nowadays.

    I don’t think the Arctic ice knowledge, so far, is going to convince more people than already convinced.

    Thank you.

  58. Crackpot Says:


    These facts are adorsed by the politicians, who were involved in the signing of the contracts for the CO2 delivery. If you give a damn for their endorsement. Which I do not.

  59. plazaeme Says:

    MapleLeaf, I can stop answering you with disinformation and distortion if you ask me to.

    Satellites won’t serve me to my purpose, because I want to compare temperatures in the Arctic between the two warming cycles. As temperatures there are too similar in both cycles for isolated stations, it seems Arctic amplification was quite stronger during the last heating.

    Yes, I am sarcastic. But I didn’t say anything on your considerations of my “odd statements”, or the intentions and suggestions you imagine I have, etc. So, or we all can play a bit, or it is not a fair game.

  60. Crackpot Says:


    I like your contributions. Please continue.

  61. Harry Says:

    You are wrong with the CO2 statement. We use 1400 ppm to fertilize our growing bell peppers in a green house. It pays.

  62. plazaeme Says:


    Some more misinformations and distortions. From my blog.

    Dear Colleagues,

    Thank you for discussion of my conclusions presented at recent IPY conference
    held in AARI (St.Petersburg, Russia).
    My vision of future climate is based on comprehensive analysis of available climate index series analysis, which permits to reveal fundamental quasi-periodical oscillations in most components of climate system:
    -Solar activity
    -SST of ocean (AMO and PDO)
    -Surface air temperature
    – Surface irradiance (modulation of cloudiness)
    -Ice extent in Russian Arctic Seas
    I found that that those are in strong coherence when inter-annual climate noise was removed in each of them
    I revealed that solar activity (next after 11-year) quasi-periodical cycle is close to 68-70 years. It drives ocean. There is 17- year delay between North Atlantic and Pacific due to global conveyer found by Prof Brocker in 90-th. Deep water branch of the conveyer has a scale of 800-1000 years. But there are several other scales for solar oscillations. Next one is close to 380-420 years. That is why I assume that solar activity minimum (analog Maunder) and cold climate is close ahead.

    My motivation might be illustrated by a set of figures presented at recent Arctic Frontiers Conference (Tromso, Norway)

    See also
    Pokrovsky O.M., 2009. The North Atlantic SST impact on the Ice Extent in the Kara and Barents Seas.-”Sea Technology”, Arlington, COMPASS Publ., v.50, N 9, p. 27-32.
    Pokrovsky O.M., 2009. Coherence between the winter Pacific Decadal Oscillation and the Surface Air Temperature trends in the continental regions adjoining the North Pacific.
    – CLIVAR Exchanges, Southhampton, UK, N 49, p.32-35. (
    Pokrovsky O.M., 2008. Relationship between the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation and the ice extent in Kara Sea. – CLIVAR Exchanges, N 46, p.8-9. (

    Is it we word of God? No, not at all; it’s just … interesting. Polyak is interesting too.

  63. Crackpot Says:

    I like your “misinformations “. Will read then tonight, I will come back on then tomorrow.


  64. Crackpot Says:

    Sorry Plazaeme,

    I will not be able to reply, since I started listening to Berlioz, La damnation de Faust, which will take me 4 hours off line. See you.

  65. Bart Says:

    All: Please move off topic discussion to the open thread.

  66. Marco Says:

    Will do, Bart. Harry/crackpot, see you there.

  67. toby Says:

    British Columbia has a working carbon tax, inspired by Jim Hansen I believe, that survived a tough election battle by a narrow margin.

    The idea is that energy companies pay the tax and the amount collected is either divided up among citizens or set against payroll taxes (thus creating jobs).

    I can’t figure out why this example is not being publicised and followed more widely.

  68. joe Says:


    As a British Columbian, I can tell you that the carbon tax has been an interesting exercise in moving money around within the government. The tax is “revenue-neutral”, so what they collect is redistributed to lower taxes in other areas, and to give everyone a one-time $100 “climate rebate”! Ah, socialism…

    The tax is around 4 cents/litre of gasoline, which isn’t enough incentive to actually curb fossil-fuel consumption, when gas prices can jump/drop that much overnight. The good news in all this (for Jeff Id) is that this carbon tax is a non-issue now – carbon taxes *can* work, our economy hasn’t shut down (at least any more than any other region), mass rioting and political instability have been kept to a minimum, and people still have money to buy food. Greenhouse gas inventories are not yet available, but my hunch is that they’ll show the carbon tax has been ineffective at reducing CO2 emissions from personal transportation.

  69. MapleLeaf Says:


    Yes, managing this stuff is a pain, but not an excuse for inaction. Like most new legislation it will have some hiccups and I’m confident that they will work out the worst kinks.

    It may not have reduced GHG emissions, but we do not know yet. Besides it is still early days and, please correct me if I am wrong, but the plan is to steadily increase the tax with time, and that is likely what is going to curb emissions.

  70. Steven Mosher Says:


    At what point does one question the theory that the best way to attack the problem of global warming is with “global action” and emissions controls.

    I will stipulate that AGW is true.
    I will stipulate that the effects will be devastating.
    I will stipulate that something must be done.

    personally, if I want to figure out what will work in an area where we have no experience, I’d suggest an approach where many solutions are tried. We’ve wasted too much time and political capital on the globalist, control emissions approach. Time for that theory to be taken to the woodshed. It is, after all, a theory of how best to approach the problem,

    “With Adaptive Governance and Climate Change, Ronald D. Brunner and Amanda H. Lynch argue that we need to take a new tack, moving away from reliance on centralized, top-down approaches—the treaties and accords that have proved disappointingly ineffective thus far—and towards a more flexible, multi-level approach. Based in the principles of adaptive governance—which are designed to produce programs that adapt quickly and easily to new information and experimental results—such an approach would encourage diversity and innovation in the search for solutions, while at the same time pointedly recasting the problem as one in which every culture and community around the world has an inherent interest.”

  71. Bart Says:


    I will abandon that theory if I come across a better one. Or let’s rephrase that: Multiple avenues could be tried of course. But the problem is global in nature, so it stands to reason that the solution should also act on a global scale; at the very least a solution should be scalable.
    Adaptive governance sounds great. What is it exactly? In the quote or link you give I don’t see how it would tackle the problem; they’re just nice words; a sales pitch.

  72. Alex Heyworth Says:

    Bart, I personally am not convinced that the concept of “the solution” is helpful. Perhaps better to think in terms of many partial solutions.

  73. Bart Says:


    I agree. There is no one silver bullet/solution.

  74. Paul Kelly Says:

    “But the problem is global in nature, so it stands to reason that the solution should also act on a global scale”

    Five countries – U.S., China, India, Russia, Japan – account for almost 60% of CO2 emissions. The entire continents of Africa and South America contribute less than 5% each. Global in nature is a false premise that inevitably leads to wrong solutions.

  75. MapleLeaf Says:


    What you say about the big emitters is true. But there is a domino effect. Today’s economy is truly global and intertwined at many levels. For example, Canada and Mexico will not commit to targets in reducing GHGs unless the USA does, and so on.

    India won’t feel compelled to move unless China does…

    I do not know how we fix this.

  76. Paul Kelly Says:


    International yes, global no. The idea – that positive action is governments committing to targets reached via unpopular and economically dangerous policies borne by their people – is fancifully naive.

  77. Tom Fuller Says:

    The problem, as Paul Kelly notes, is not global in origin. Nor will the effects be global. Moderate latitudes will actually gain from warming through 2050. The energy requirements of emerging nations make it suicidal for them or their leaders to stifle energy usage. It will not happen.

    This limits our options somewhat.

    What is available to us boils down to:

    Making utility level storage work well and cheaply enough to enable adoption of intermittent generation sources.

    Using a lot of nuclear power

    Hoping solar power continues its price declines

    Better use of traditional, but neglected energy efficiency mechanisms, such as CHP, WtE and hydroelectric (which is being eagerly adopted in the developing world, but increasingly ignored in the richer countries).

    Making it harder to develop near threatened coastlines and in flood plains

    Adopting GMOs for agriculture in the developing world

    Studying neglected areas such as the threat of salination of ground water due to sea level rise

    Declaration of a stated sea level rise for this century to allow for building planners to code up as needed.

    Planning and study for potential geoengineering

    Encouragement of hybrid and EVs and even high mileage ICE cars.

    Commitment to public transportation

    Fighting black soot specifically

    Much… more… research

  78. MapleLeaf Says:

    “governments committing to targets reached via unpopular and economically dangerous policies borne by their people – is fancifully naive.”

    Paul you are arguing strawmen not to mention making vague and unsubstantiated comments.

    And there is in fact a term “world or global economy”, argue with the economists if you wish.

    The globe is going to continue to warm, with the greatest warming occurring at higher latitudes of the N. Hemisphere.

    Arguing that the impacts may be beneficial in mid latitudes (reference please) until 2050, even if true, is a red herring. And I’m not sure what your point is. Even if what you claim is true, what about after 2050? And what about the rest of the planet?

    I’m sensing a lot of arm waving and obfuscation going on here by contrarians.

    That all said I do surprisingly agree with many of your points about what needs to be or should be done. Problem is, what are the incentives to invest in those projects if your trading partner and/or competitor is just going on with business as usual? How do we level the playing field?

    The power to move forward lies with our leaders– and that brings us full circle to what Bart was speaking to. How do we motivate them to take concrete action?

    I can only hope that you and Paul (if in the USA), will not be voting for Tea baggers come November.

    I think that these are questions fro great minds and economists etc., I do not think we will solve this issue on an internet forum.

  79. Paul Kelly Says:


    What straw man? Government committing to targets is the concept you and Bart support. If your desired policies were popular or economically beneficial to the people, they would already be in place. Just the belief that such policies will be enacted is indeed fanciful, given the results of more than two decades of effort. It is naive to think they will be effectively enacted any time soon.

    You can try to graft the term global economy on the non global emissions if you like, but it makes my point. Like CO2 emissions, the global economy is not much affected by the lower 90% of countries. Eliminating either their economies or emissions would make little difference.

    The power to move forward does not lie with our leaders. It lies with us.

    I assume you’re Canadian, so you may not know that calling tea partiers “teabaggers” is the kind of juvenile, off-color maliciousness that really doesn’t belong on a high minded site like this. That said, I will be voting in November and, since I live in Chicago, will be voting early and often. I’ll be voting for some Democrats and some Republicans, none of whom are Tea Party candidates.

  80. Bart Says:


    I’m not so hung up on targets as you make it out to be (not sure where you got that from actually). Targets without specifying how to reach them or without some enforcement are useless (as e.g. Jim Hansen repeatedly points out). You’re quite right with your comment about international vs global. Though it will become more global if you look at where we are going.

  81. MapleLeaf Says:


    “If your desired policies were popular or economically beneficial to the people, they would already be in place.”

    It is not a simple as that, there has been a lot of push back and lobbying to stall taking action. Not to mention the fear mongering and conspiracy theories put forward by “skeptics” about world governance etc. Now that has not helped, nor has it been constructive nor has it been conducted in good faith. Sad to see that it has worked.

    Just b/c something has not happened does not mean it is economically destructive, you do not know that for sure any more than the next person (and provide no substantive evidence of that) , and by saying that you are engaging in the same kind of rhetoric that I alluded to above. Perhaps is was not a straw man, but it was pejorative.

    “I assume you’re Canadian, so you may not know that calling tea partiers “teabaggers” is the kind of juvenile, off-color maliciousness ”

    Please stop exaggerating, and I am note sure how my poke at the Tea Party amounts to what you describe. Ironically, the Tea Party is synonymous with “off color maliciousness” comments and depictions. Surely I do not need to point that out to you…

    “The power to move forward does not lie with our leaders. It lies with us.”

    Yes, that is true– we do live in a democracy after all. What I was trying to say is that true leaders, do just that, they lead by example, they motivate and encourage voters. I do not sense that, not even with Obama.

    I am curious, are the Republicans that you are going to vote for planing on tackling AGW (and by that I mean mitigation and adaption)? Just how many Republican candidates running even believe in the theory of AGW. Anyone know?

  82. Heiko Gerhauser Says:

    My view on this is that the public and policy makers have an accurate view of the most policy relevant facts, which is the same as that of the experts. In so far as there is a difference in policy preference, I think this is mostly due to climate scientists and ecologists being significantly more left and eco minded than the average policy maker, member of the public or average well educated engineer.

    I think it is a delusion to think that the difference in policy views is due to a misunderstanding of the really relevant facts. 90% of the public know little about what temperatures were like in the Middle Ages, or whether aerosols cause net cooling or net warming. Nor does it matter a great deal whether warming to date is 0, 50 or 150% anthropogenic or not, or whether it is warmer now than in 1450.

    What does matter is, what types of risks and benefits are incurred by emitting CO2, other greenhouse gases and aerosols, and what the costs and benefits of various climate related policy measures are. On these questions, I would argue that the public and policy makers are right where the experts are.

    I do think that experts tend to be trusted as experts, as long as policy makers or the public do not have good reason to believe that said experts are trying to push their policy preferences by giving a coloured view of reality.

    I am not particularly convinced of your other examples. Say in the case of housing in the Netherlands I think the issue is not so much mortgage interest rate relief, but tight planning restrictions, much the same as in the UK where the mortage interest rate relief was abolished years ago and the housing market is in about the same shape as in the Netherlands.

    If you were to push me for examples of policy makers doing things wrong, I’d say it’s more about trusting self-interested experts far too much, namely in fields such as health care or education or the military, where said experts always have a tendency to advocate for more spending, more blind trust and less oversight and independent review of the effectiveness of fellow experts (be they medical doctors or military planners).

  83. MapleLeaf Says:

    Re Fuller’s comment on mid-latitudes fairing well under AGW until 2050. This may be of interest:

    “Researchers also established that on 40% of surfaces, photosynthesis is mainly influenced by precipitation. In other words, on these surfaces, the ‘water stress’ of vegetation has a predominant influence on capacity for photosynthesis. It also turns out to be the case that tropical areas are less sensitive to this than was previously thought, while temperate areas are more sensitive than expected.

    These results show that, when it comes to the climate change expected in future, and particularly the rise in temperatures and resulting change in rainfall patterns, temperate ecosystems (including large cultivated areas) will be more vulnerable and tropical areas more robust than expected.”


  84. Paul Kelly Says:


    I support candidates who agree with me on energy transformation. Since I believe climate is the wrong basis for transformation policy, I’m hoping the candidates I vote for oppose carbon taxes and/or cap and trade.

  85. MapleLeaf Says:


    Interesting. “I’m hoping the candidates I vote for oppose carbon taxes and/or cap and trade.”

    So what does that leave then? And I’m assuming that you do wish for the USA to significantly reduce its GHG emissions, right?

    There seems to be a disconnect between what people want to happen and what people are willing to pay. Ther ewill be a cost, to think otherwise would be naive.

    A survey I read recently reflected this, the majority of respondents were in favour of reducing GHG emissions, having some kind of binding and international agreement in place, but the last questions was “Would you be willing to pay 25c more per gallon of gasoline” to reduce GHGs and guess what, the majority of the respondents were opposed, a complete flip from pervious questions. Sorry, but I can’t find the survey right now.

    I think the answer to that last question speaks volumes….yet, legislation in BC is evidence that it can be done.

  86. willard Says:


    I agree that “agile” words are nice. Sometimes, in software development, they’re more than that. As far as I am concerned, the methodology is good and leads to good result for most problems.

    Adaptative solutions seem a good idea for adaptation. But what about mitigation? Mitigation effort looks more like market creation. In that sense, it takes something like a new economic framework, where CO2 emission would be something akin a commodity. Building that kind of economic framework will have to be global. If not, it’ll be easy to build CO2-paradises akin to fiscal paradises.

  87. Paul Kelly Says:

    Since I believe the solution to the climate problem lies in actions whose primary benefit is something other than climate, I’m not at all focused on emissions. Focus on energy transformation and the emissions take care of themselves. I do note that since Dr. Hansen’s famous 1988 testimony to Congress, US emissions have grown faster under Democratic presidents than Republican. Strange, but true; you could look it up.

  88. MapleLeaf Says:

    Not that strange Paul, and I could be wrong, but the economy has done better under Democrats than under Republicans. If I recall correctly, the same applies here in Canada with the economy doing better under Liberals than under Conservatives. Anyhow, we are talking about the future are we not?

    “climate problem lies in actions whose primary benefit is something other than climate”

    Do you agree that we are going to have to change our lifestyles somewhat? Because what you are talking about sounds more like reducing emission intensity, and not reducing net GHG emissions. And besides, “energy transformation” alone is not going to cut it.

    The best solution I have seen proposed to address this problem is the wedge framework developed by Pacala and Socolow [Pacala, S.; Socolow, R. Stabilization wedges: Solving the climate problem for the next 50 years with current technologies Science 2004 305 968 97]. So maybe you could consider voting for someone who supports something along those lines.

    Have you seen this?

    Well, I have to stop procrastinating and get some stuff done. IMHO, we are screwed, it will be the same old story, too little too late because we humans are so myopic and selfish by nature.

  89. MarkB Says:

    Paul Kelly writes:

    “If your desired policies were popular or economically beneficial to the people, they would already be in place.”

    Polls and studies show they are both popular (defined as >50% support) and carry with it manageable economic costs, with costs to “the people” mitigated with rebates. I question your premise, though. It presumes that legislation always passes when when it’s popular. Given the powerful influence of fossil fuel industries, I would beg to differ.

    “Just the belief that such policies will be enacted is indeed fanciful, given the results of more than two decades of effort. It is naive to think they will be effectively enacted any time soon.”

    They were enacted in California, the 5th largest world economy the last I checked. I wouldn’t consider that fanciful.

    Cap and trade passed the U.S. House for the first time in U.S. history, and was probably would be enacted absent the Senate filibuster rules.

    Your argument also presumes that pushing for legislation that targets emissions and pushing for general energy transformation are mutually exclusive and diametrically opposed.

  90. Paul Kelly Says:


    My argument is that targeting emissions is a poor way to go about energy transformation. California, in addition to it’s emissions legislation, has high unemployment, nearly bankrupt state and local governments, and an alarming rate of business flight. Proposition 23, which would Suspend AB 32, the Global Warming Act of 2006, is on the November 2, 2010 ballot in California as an initiated state statute.

  91. MarkB Says:

    Paul Kelly writes:

    “My argument is that targeting emissions is a poor way to go about energy transformation. California, in addition to it’s emissions legislation, has high unemployment, nearly bankrupt state and local governments, and an alarming rate of business flight.”

    Thank the national credit and housing bust for that. AB32 has nothing to do with it.

    “Proposition 23, which would Suspend AB 32, the Global Warming Act of 2006, is on the November 2, 2010 ballot in California as an initiated state statute.”

    It’s not looking very good for passage either, despite massive funding from fossil fuel industries.

  92. Paul Kelly Says:


    I’m not willing to wait for the legislation needed by your approach which, for you is just around the corner and, for me, far beyond the horizon. Nor will I be dissuaded that energy transformation is a social problem, rather than a political one. The solution is in the aggregate of millions of individual actions. Is personal initiative the whole enchilada? Of course not. I see it as additional wedge, a very powerful wedge that every person can implement right now.

  93. Bart Says:


    From numerous surveys of both the general public and of climate scientists it is clear that they have a very different view of climate change.

    You’re right that it doesn’t matter politically what the temperatures were in 1450; to what extent warming to date is anthropogenic starts to be policy relevant; what really matters politically is what the future has in stock, and indeed what the associated risks (in all areas: climate; economy; geopolitical situation; environment, etc) are with different courses of action.

    Risk perception is partly subjective, but ideally should be based on the best available knowledge. And a large part of the public uses a very different assessment of this knowledge than the relevant experts do. I find that problematic.

    The most problematic areas in policymaking though I find those where the elected leaders don’t take the lead in working towards the long term common good, but instead let fear from lobby groups and fear from losing voters guide them in taking a short term and narrow view.

    I agree that the other direction as you describe in your last paragraph also occurs: Self interested experts being trusted too easily. E.g. where the experts have a direct stake in the outcome. But I’ve also noticed it with engineers from different areas, each strongly favouring technologies from their own niche: The biomass researcher favors biomass; the hydrogen person favours hydrogen based transport; etc.

    However, with climate science there is no such thing as pushing for a particular technology/policy. As long as the problem is tackled, because climate scientists are –rightly so IMO- concerned about the impending problem getting bigger and bigger. They push for the scientific insights to be taken seriously (and in some cases for action to be taken to reduce the future risks to the climate)
    Their situation is more akin to that of medical researchers warning of the health risks of smoking. They didn’t advocate for a particular brand of nicotine patches, but they did advocate for their science not to get twisted and for meaningful action to be taken to reduce the health risk. And rightly so. See also my previous post on the public role of scientists.

  94. Alex Heyworth Says:

    Bart, I think the issue you are neglecting is that politicians in the West have a severe political credit problem. For decades they have led their nations in spending money in ways that are ultimately unsustainable. The GFC has now brought matters to a head, and the public are rapidly realizing that they have been betrayed by the political class with false promises of welfare heaven. They are realizing that the government coffers are not only empty, but unlikely ever to be full again.

    This is not the climate (pardon the pun!) in which to be introducing measures with potentially open-ended costs to the public. Recent election results in both the UK and Australia reveal widespread dissatisfaction with politicians (in the case of Australia, this is despite minimal government debt). Politicians are scared of voters, with good reason.

    I notice, however, that David Cameron in the UK has said that he is resigned to the possibility that his will be a one term government, but he is determined to implement the cuts necessary to get the budget back on track. We shall see. I suspect he will be less brave in three years time.

    As for what the solutions are, my list would start as follows (in chronological order):

    1. Natural gas
    2. Nuclear (current generation)
    3. Geothermal
    4. Nuclear (Gen IV)

    This is an Australian-focused list. I have put nuclear second rather than first because of the difficulty of getting public support. For some reason, Australians are quite happy to go to France or Japan or the US or the UK or Finland or … as tourists without worrying about getting irradiated, but don’t want nuclear power here. I think this could be turned around with the right approach by government.

    As regards other technologies, for some developing nations, hydro would have a significant part to play. Other technologies (wind, solar hot water, solar panel, concentrating solar, geothermal) will be modestly important in some areas, niche players in others, uneconomic in yet others.

    What would be a real killer ap breakthrough would be a means of storing power in grid-scale quantities. Nothing on the horizon that I know of, though.

  95. TimG Says:


    The public uses a different assessment than your experts because the public weighs the harms done by implementing the policy against the risk of not doing anything. Your experts simply ignore the harms done by the policies themselves or assume they are small.

    Also your premise that scientists do not advocate policies is wrong. By insisting that “something” be done scientists are advocating a policy choice. Choosing to do nothing is always a legimate choice when balancing hypothetical long term risks vs. real upfront costs.

  96. crackpot Says:


    If the US econony is doing better under the Dems, than I will put my money into the yuan, with the midterms coming along. Can it get worse than worst? Obama is able to surprise us all with even worse results.

  97. Ron Broberg Says:

    The public uses a different assessment than your experts because the public weighs the harms done by implementing the policy against the risk of not doing anything.

    The public weighs the harms done to each of them individually by implementing the policy against the risk to each of them individually of not doing anything.

  98. TimG Says:


    What is your point? Some people look at the issue from an invidual perspective but just as many look at the issue from the perspective of society as a whole and still come to the conclusion that doing nothing is better than the policies that are being put on the table now.

  99. Heiko Gerhauser Says:

    Hi Bart,

    on the surveys I think they show the following:

    1. Experts know better than the public whether temperatures today are higher than 300 to 400 years ago

    2. Experts understand the roles of solar, aerosol and GHG forcing better than the public

    3. Climate scientists are politically to the left of where the public is

    4. Experts, policy makers and the public have a similar picture of the risks posed by climate change and the benefits and drawbacks of particular policy options

    On short termism:

    I think that the long term is taken into account by both the public and policy makers and I don’t think there’s a big undue influence on climate policy by lobby groups, particularly not the obvious ones, like energy intensive industries. In the case of health care or education I am a lot more worried about “lobbying”, because it is often not sufficiently obvious that the people doing the lobbying aren’t independent, objective experts. In the case of energy intensive industries the public and policy makers may even overcorrect for perceived self interest I increasingly think.

    For cap and trade I now more readily see why it makes sense to saddle car users with taxes and subsidise a steel company with free permits. This is done, because the car user can be reimbursed in other ways and has many ways to change his behaviour short of emigrating, while steel companies may be bankrupted or forced to move production to China, and the free permits may fund extra low emissions steel production in the EU, rather than merely being a gift from tax payers to steel company shareholders.

    On tobacco:

    All comparisons have their short falls. I think the tobacco comparison is attractive when you think that the key problem is that independent, objective experts pointing out a problem are being thwarted by a self-interested industry that tries to discredit them.

    I think there may be a little truth to that in that some energy companies may have supported some pretty shoddy publicity and climate research with an ulterior motive.

    On the whole though I think the points where the comparison fails are far more significant. The self interest of industry is far less clear. Car companies or utilities or oil companies can thrive in a policy environment with strict GHG reduction, as long as the policies are made such as to not unduely penalise them. GHG emissions related activities bring many benefits and everybody is an emitter.

    There’s no simple choice here, with one benefiting (the smoker) and one suffering (the tobacco industry) or vice versa with independent experts being on the side of the smoker against a self interested industry.

    I think the situation is rather that the topic is very complex and uncertain. Much of the risk hangs on issues such as the interplay of agriculture and climate and technology or the interplay of the economy and the probability of wars. Issues in other words where experts can only make informed guesses that are in truth no better than the informed guesses of the general public.

    What I think is that climate scientists as everybody else will have an inherent bias to overstate the importance of their own discipline. I think that this together with them being more left wing minded fully and completely explains any perceived difference in preferred climate policies between them and the general public, and that none of this mostly perceived difference is due to a superior understanding of the facts.

  100. Marco Says:

    Heiko, could you point out the survey that shows “Climate scientists are politically to the left of where the public is” ?

    And what exactly do you mean with “left”?

    I would guess that scientists (in general) are on average more open-minded, which I guess would make them “left” in some “left-right” definitions. But where do we put a libertarian?

  101. Bart Says:


    I agree with your points 1 and 2.

    Your third point seems to be an assertion for which I haven’t seen any evidence. One could speculate that the older generation of climate scientists, who got into the field via some other discipline (e.g. physics, oceanography, astronomy, geology, maths) would on average have the political outset that that discipline has on average, whereas the newer generation of climate scientists who got into the field out of interest in climate issues may have a more worried outlook to begin with. By itself that would have not much to do with a traditional left-right distinction though. Plus, it’s still mere speculation.

    Your 4th point is not correct IMO. Esp regarding the risk posed by climate change, climate scientists have a very different view than the public (as I think is clear from surveys), and probably also than the policymakers (see e.g. the current Dutch government or the tea party in the US).

  102. TimG Says:

    Here is one study on political leanings of scientists that show a definite tilt to the left:

    Such a tilt should come as no surprise since many people have the skills required to be an academic scientist but instead choose careers in industry. It follows that the group of people who choose to be an academic scientist are going have some things in common.

    In my opinion, only people who see government as a good thing are going to volunteer for a life of chasing government grants. This attitude towards government shows up in the policies advocated by academic scientists which tend to always be calls for more government regulation/funding/control. This pro-government policy stance puts scientists far to the left of the average american.

  103. Marco Says:

    TimG: I see government as a necessary evil, and I know many of my colleagues consider it the same. The main reason most of us don’t apply for a job in industry is the intellectual freedom in academia. No boss yelling at us when we find something the company does not like. Limited demands of secrecy when we find something interesting. Projects that are exciting and new are not closed down because it does not fit in “corporate key areas”. With the exception of funding issues, no demands and limitations on who we collaborate with. Educating young people in critical thinking. Etc.

  104. TimG Says:


    1) Can you give me a few examples of scientists speaking on policy that called for a reduction in government regulation?

    2) How much of your time is spent chasing funding? How often do you skew your funding requests to better meet the needs of your ‘customer’ (mostly the government)? How many projects never get funded because they offer nothing of interest to the people paying the bills?

  105. Bart Says:


    I don’t share your logic at all. I have yet to hear of any academic who went into academia (partly) because they like chasing government grants or because they like government (however nonsensical that sounds).

    People go into academia because they have an academic interest, a deep curiosity to figure out how things are.

  106. TimG Says:


    It is not just about what you like. It is about what you are willing to put up with. People that are willing to put up with a lifetime spent chasing government grants are more likely to become academic scientists. Those that are not willing to put up with that find something else to do.

    I argue that people who are generally mistrustful of government will rarely choose a career that leaves them forever beholden to governments. This will make academic scientists, as a group, more left leaning than the total population of smart people with the required skills.

  107. Marco Says:


    1. I have seen plenty of economists promoting less regulation. I myself have recently argued that a large organisation makes too much rules that limit progress. Or take stem cell researchers going after Bush for introducing a policy that limited stem cell use.

    2. Many of us get our funding through agencies that are indirectly linked to the government. The government may set priority areas, but the applications are judged by fellow scientists.
    I myself get half my funding from companies. The latter are far more difficult to convince, unless I write how it will directly benefit the company. I have never ever in a single grant application to a government-linked agency written how my research would benefit the government. Society, yes, government, no.

  108. Heiko Gerhauser Says:

    I have seen this (point 3) in various surveys and discussed one referenced by Bailey on my blog.

    I suspect that you (Bart) did not actually click through the link, which would have led you to this survey:

    which incidentally is quite similar (or maybe the same I’d have to check) as the one you (Bart) quoted to show how increasing expertness gave more consensus.

    What I find interesting about it is that at least for scientists as a generic class party affiliation is enough to explain their views on global warming. Just assuming that scientists act like generic members of the public, but adding in their party affiliation will be enough to explain their views.

    On point 4, I don’t think the survey you cite shows at all that there is a different perception of risk, in so far as it shows a difference it’s my points 1 and 2. Why do I use the singular? Because to get that progression to more and more expertise you have to rely on a single survey that for the most qualified scientists uses a sample of 80 or so individuals.

    And that survey doesn’t ask about risk in any way. When you do look at willingness to pay, Richard Tol gives work:

    Click to access WP285.pdf

    on what the public think. I’ve seen similar elsewhere and it is in close agreement to the review he did of scientific studies on cost benefit analyses.

    What have I seen elsewhere? Namely a survey that also asked about the future, and it showed that something like 90% of the US public thought there was enough evidence to think that CO2 caused climate change could eventually be a serious problem, if we continue emitting. I have also seen other surveys looking at willingness to pay of the public (I think Roger Pielke quote one quite recently).

    I see a pretty consistent picture, and that’s of left leaning scientists who think the public does not properly value their expertise and underestimates the risk of climate change, but whose actual assessment of the risks and need for action is roughly the same as that of the public.

    And this assessment covers a wide range, quoting from Richard Tol’s abstract:

    “One hundred and three estimates of the marginal damage costs of carbon dioxide emissions were gathered from 28 published studies and combined to form a probability density function. The uncertainty is strongly right-skewed. If all studies are combined, the mode is $2/tC, the median $14/tC, the mean $93/tC, and the 95 percentile $350/tC. Studies with a lower discount rate have higher estimates and much greater uncertainties. Similarly, studies that use equity weighing, have higher estimates and larger uncertainties. Interestingly, studies that are peer-reviewed have lower estimates and smaller uncertainties. Using standard assumptions about discounting and aggregation, the marginal damage costs of carbon dioxide emissions are unlikely to exceed $50/tC, and probably much smaller.”

  109. Heiko Gerhauser Says:

    Reading through what I wrote again I noticed an unclear phrasing. The Pew study may be the one you used to show the first step in the progression towards more expertise, it is not the single study that you used for the last step of that progression.

  110. Heiko Gerhauser Says:

    I’ve found one survey also asking the timing of harm question:

    Click to access SixAmericas2009.pdf

    It’s Figure 12 in that report.

    It also contains loads of other survey questions and analysis. The way I’d summarise the view of the public is that close to 100% are willing to support true no regrets options to fight global warming, and 90% believe there’s sufficient evidence of harm now or in the future to support very low cost options that are nearly no regrets.

    Now I haven’t seen surveys that ask a bit more detail about the type of harm and the timing, but I’d be surprised, if the spectrum of opinion differed much between the public and experts, especially the more concrete the harm. If asked say how many people in Bangladesh were likely to die of flooding as a percentage of the population in the 50 year interval between 2050 and 2100 with emissions business as usual and with an abatement policy that reduced emissions to zero in 2100, with information provided on how many died in the interval 1950 to 2000, I would expect the spectrums of opinion to overlap with little skew either way.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: