Scott Denning’s smashing presentation at Heartland climate conference ICCC6


Listen to Scott Denning’s sharp and to-the-point presentation, which he gave at Heartland’s climate conference, here. It’s worth the full 16 minutes of it. He rocks. Alternatively, read this little recap:

Denning attended the Heartland conference for the second year in a row and it seems like he’s outdone himself by giving an even better and sharper presentation than last years (which was excellent as well).

He emphasized some very important things:

– The big picture is what matters; details do not (at least in terms of policy relevance; for science nerds of course it’s different)

– Part of that big picture is that, whatever the sensitivity, a 400% increase in CO2 is going to make a big difference to the climate, because of the simple fact that adding heat warms things up.

– He offered a big challenge to the (strongly contrarian and libertarian) audience: Propose and advocate for effective solutions, otherwise others will. Policy will be enacted anyway. His challenge got particularly strong when he said “do you want Greenpeace to dictate the policy? (…) Are you cowards?”

He started out by emphasizing things that we all can agree on (copied from the video and audio):

Today is Friday (on this side of the timeline!)

Billions of people will need more energy to lift themselves out of abject poverty

Burning coal, oil and gas produces CO2

CO2 emits heat

Heat warms things up

He brought up his analogy from last year again, that a pot of water will heat up when the burner is on. 

Producing a decent standard of living to 3 billion extra people will quadruple CO2 (i.e. 400% increase relative to pre-industrial cf. 30% increase so far) if we chose to do it with coal.


You can argue about the sensitivity, about whether the 30% increase caused a half or a whole degree of warming. But if you believe that heat warms things up, 400% will make a big difference, to you too.

A Watt per square metre, over an extended period of time, produces a lot of climate change (as also shown by Harisson Schmidt and Nicola Scafetta). It always has during the geologic record. If the climate system really had such powerful negative feedback, climate could never have changed!

Deep ocean turnover time is around ~1000 years: We’ll be stuck with this (CO2 in the air) for a long, long time (thousands of years), since it takes multiple ocean turnovers to suck most of it up.

Effective solutions:

-decent quality of life for all

-Energy for all

-Free market needed

-Who will advocate?

Do you think Greenpeace will advocate for these? Is that what you’re waiting for? Evidently!

If free-market advocates shirk their responsibility, others will dictate policy.

Is that really what you want?

When will you stand up and offer solutions to these problems? Are you cowards?

Similar as in last year’s talk, he gave them a carrot stick by emphasizing the energy-for-all frame and the importance of the free market. I was a little critical of that last year (I don’t think it will be that easy), but I see the need to establish some common ground and mutual understanding in order to have a dialogue at all. He could probably pull off the “are-you-cowards” challenge exactly because he had established such common ground and mutual respect based on last year’s visit. The same words coming from, say, Joe Romm would not be received half as well.

There are important communications lessons in his masterful delivery. Yale CMF has an article featuring Denning’s comments on the communication aspects (partly based on his experiences from last year). The one thing I have difficulties with is his view that appeals to the vast scientific consensus are counterproductive with contrarian audiences. Don’t contrarians go to the doctor when they’re sick, and to a plumber when there are problems with the water piping? The only way in which this consensus can be put aside as meaningless is by assuming a vast conspiracy. That would be the message I would try to deliver. Though perhaps Denning is right and it would fall on deaf ears. So I’m glad that he rose to the occasion.

See also this Nature editorial on Heartland’s role in the climate debate, presumably aimed at non-climate scientists who are largely unaware of what’s behind the societal debate. A good piece for outsiders to this debate, though not much new there for avid climate blog readers.


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74 Responses to “Scott Denning’s smashing presentation at Heartland climate conference ICCC6”

  1. MikeN Says:

    Your analogy of the doctor breaks down because if someone is going to the doctor it is usually because they have already decided there is something wrong.

  2. danolner Says:

    That was genius. Brave man, brilliant message. MikeN, did you watch it? It’s good to hear a climate scientist say: the basic story of what’s happening is not rocket science. The best anyone’s going to manage is to argue over sensitivity, and as he pointed out, it would be incredibly short-sighted to think we can carry on through to the end of the 21st century on the path we’re on.

    I… urg. Am speechless. Here’s Sagan’s pale blue dot. That’s it, that’s all we’ve got (notwithstanding some people’s view that the idea of a planet is communitarian nonsense – we’re still a speck, floating in space). MikeN, are you sure that’s the best response to this you can manage?

  3. Neven Says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Bart. That was one hell of a speech. I have also tried in vain to explain to right wing minded people that they are needed to propose pragmatic solutions to the current global problems instead of investing all their efforts into denying there is a problem.

  4. grypo! Says:

    This is great. Much better said than my attempt. Although my message was similar.

    So, as the evidence accumulates in past observations, present observations, and future predictions in accordance with theory and basic physical reality, how does the Libertarian resolve this dilemma of property rights and individual liberty? How long can Libertarians place faith in a no consequences result from climate change? Is there any law system in play at the moment that can deal with these issues on a global basis? The answer is obviously, no.

    I would suggest they listen more to Jonathan Adler and less to policy handbooks from corporate funded Washington DC think tanks. I would suggest they research real free market solutions that deal with the first principles of Libertarian thought. Otherwise, this policy argument will move on without them. It’s time for Libertarians to get on board and bring their principles along too.

  5. Bart Says:


    The analogy was meant to illustrate that expertise matters, and as such is entirely valid.

    In the Heartland spearheaded NIPCC report is written:

    “Before facing major surgery, wouldn’t you want a second opinion?”

    That is another valid analogy, provided by Heartland itself, that a consensus amongst experts is important. I guess they can have it both ways however.

  6. MikeN Says:

    Sure expertise matters, but I think Denning is right that appeals to authority won’t work. Part of that is due to loss of credibility, and partly it is due to what I state, that the burden of proof of whether there is a problem is still out there, unlike with doctors.

  7. MikeN Says:

    >The best anyone’s going to manage is to argue over sensitivity, and as he pointed out, it would be incredibly short-sighted to think we can carry on through to the end of the 21st century on the path we’re on.

    Dan Olner, I was responding more to Bart than Scott. In terms of your summary of what he says, I think the problem is this. It’s possible climate science could be wrong. If the system has a negative feedback, then even a quadrupling of CO2 may not be so bad.

    Now you are saying that if we do nothing, which is pretty close to current policy, then we are left hoping that climate science is wrong. However, my response is that for most of the policies being proposed, we would still have to hope that climate science is wrong. China is well past the US in emissions and still growing fast. The idea that we will pass a carbon tariff or somehow reduce these Chinese emissions I find not plausible. So instead of the planet warming by 4C, it will warm by 3.5C or 3.7C.

  8. MikeN Says:

    There is one aspect to this climate science that I am curious about.
    It has been theorized that we can get economic growth without increasing CO2, and indeed this has happened in some countries.
    However, is the reverse true? If a country increases its CO2 output, it is probably growing its economy as well.
    Why this matters:
    The impact of CO2 and global warming is felt the hardest by poorer countries. Richer countries will have less of an impact.
    Now the worst amounts of warming and most catastrophic effects happens when you have more CO2 emitted. This means more economic growth, and thus means less of an impact from global warming, than otherwise.

  9. danolner Says:

    MikeN, did you watch the film? Denning responds exactly to your point about negative feedback. I won’t bother telling you what he said, it’s not a long film, watch it.

    I just watched `age of stupid‘ for the first time, chimes in well (well?) with Denning’s talk. Plenty of the politics of the film you might question, but the basic message is spot on.

    Question: what’s the current best thinking on when carbon output has to stabilise and start shrinking? The film said 2015, for a half-reasonable chance of staying below two degrees. It’s hard to be anything but hopeless about that. Which politician anywhere in the world is showing the necessary degree of urgency?

    MikeN, you’re right: doesn’t look like we’re going to manage. That seems a bizarre reason not to try. It also sounds like “I didn’t shoot him and anyway I wasn’t there.”

    MikeN again, the last comment: the economy is dependent on the planetary ecosystem, you know that, yes?

    Hey! Let’s argue about proxies some more! Sorry, age of stupid has unhinged me slightly. We’re so screwed.

  10. Eli Rabett Says:

    Eli has been saying for a long time that 100 years ago the best estimate for the effect of CO2 doubling was 2-5 K and today it is about the same and the range is not going to narrow basically because of variability. OTOH, there is no rational basis for picking the low end over the high end.

    Welcome back to the day job Bart. Hope the vacation went well.

  11. danolner Says:

    Apols for being miserable: here’s me being massively nihilistic after watching Denning then Age of Stupid in quick succession. I’d love it if anyone felt like a) not arguing about minutiae and b) giving me some hope. Thx.

  12. sidd Says:

    Mr. MikeN writes on the 13th of August, 2011:

    “It’s possible climate science could be wrong. If the system has a negative feedback, then even a quadrupling of CO2 may not be so bad.”

    ooo,ooo, so can I play too ? This seems to be an invitation to a Tea Party starring Russell’s Teapot. Thus, for example:

    It is possible that Mr. MikeN will be hailed as the leading climate scientist of our generation. So reading his posts might not be a complete waste of time.


  13. Deech56 Says:

    MikeN’s main point reminds me of the Rules of the Lab we had posted: “Do not believe in miracles—rely on them.” Basing one’s whole argument on the premise that the scientists are all wrong (except the skeptical few) seems far-fetched.

    Good video and analysis, Bart. Thanks for posting.

  14. willard Says:

    We should ban Comic Sans for all presentation slides except comics.

  15. Paul Kelly Says:

    The one thing I have difficulties with is his view that appeals to the vast scientific consensus are counterproductive with contrarian audiences.

    I believe this has been borne out by research as well as Denning’s personal experience. What he is saying is a leap forward.

  16. Bart Says:

    Regarding the merits of using the consensus argument, see this quote from Roberts:

    One thing that changes people’s minds is receiving signals that trusted people and institutions are in agreement on an issue, that it’s no longer contested, that it’s socially “safe” to accept it. This is why the right’s strategy has been so brilliant — they haven’t convinced the public that climate is a hoax, they’ve just managed to maintain the impression that it’s contested, controversial.

    One could quibble whether the public’s confusion about climate change is primarily due to a strategy at work or due to other reasons, but the first part remains true nevertheless: If one’s trusted sources and social environment are in agreement on something, that’s a powerful psychological drive to accept it as true.

    That may explain the vehement oposition to the consensus argument, because it shows how powerful it potentially is. Nevermind the fact that it’s entirely relevant, as accummulating evidence usually results in a consensus of experts.

  17. danolner Says:

    What Bart says. Also, imagine how things might have been different if the Democratic leadership had been half as brave as Denning, consistently over a number of years. Instead, what message are they sending? Exactly the wrong one: that climate change is a secondary issue. They’ll mention it, but only in a mumbling way in case anyone hears. Take their own webpage: climate change can only appear after jobs has been mentioned. Of course, “it’s the economy stupid,” but someone needs to step up and start consistently saying: the economy will be screwed if climate change isn’t addressed.

    That silence has been replaced by “climate change is nonsense, the economy is all that matters.” Which reminds me of a farmer I once heard talk: he’d been asked by many people: why do we need farmers when we have supermarkets?

    You don’t triangulate with that kind of thinking, you be straightforward and honest.

    p.s. apols for the self-pity last night, the beers probably didn’t help. My browser needs a USB breathalyzer.

  18. MikeN Says:

    >Basing one’s whole argument on the premise that the scientists are all wrong

    Perhaps I did the spacing wrong. My point is that the policies being proposed also depend on the idea that the scientists are all wrong.

  19. danolner Says:

    “My point is that the policies being proposed also depend on the idea that the scientists are all wrong.”

    MikeN, if I’m understanding you correctly: you mean the fact that pretty much every country in the world is merrily yanking as much carbon out of the ground as humanly possible? Which, by revealed preference, means they think the scientists can’t be right?

    Well, no: it just shows what happens if there’s no incentive beyond moral pressure to keep it there. This, again, is where Denning’s argument is spot-on: the dereliction of right-leaning thinkers is a disaster. We need bright people of all stripes working on building effective incentive structures able to circumvent the basic self-interest of nation-states.

    Note: that’s a description of something like the WTO. Quote: The WTO can be compared to a mast to which governments can tie themselves, to “escape the siren-like calls of various pressure groups.” (Hoekman, B.M., Kostecki, M.M., The Political Economy of the World Trading System: The WTO and Beyond, 2001)

    Oddly, you rarely seem to hear right-leaning folk attacking the WTO as proto-one-world-government. (Though you do hear exactly that on the left.)

    We need structures capable of binding us all against the siren-like calls of not only pressure-groups, but our own appetite for cheap energy, and our tendency to vote for whoever will give it to us.

    In principle, this is no more complex than any method one uses on an individual basis to meet personal goals: structuring things to get what you want in the longer-term, despite your short-term shortcomings. For example, I have to pull the cat5 cable out of the back of my machine, otherwise I spend all day commenting on climate bl


    Seriously: too many right-of-centre thinkers do what Hayek did – a quote again: “‘Hayek merely invokes the magic words `the price system’ without examining its entrails. It is as if correctly sensing the importance of sunlight for life on earth, we were to merely worship the sun rather than study astronomy or photosynthesis.” (Desai)

    Not good enough: that’s just as Denning said, going AWOL from the problem.

  20. danolner Says:

    p.s. if anyone’s not seen David Mitchell talk about climate change, watch it immediately.

    “I want to see a global warming expert acknowledge that burning oil, and the various machines we’ve invented that burn oil, is brilliant, and it’s a real pisser we can’t do it any more. But we can’t, because of facts.”

  21. cynicus Says:

    Well, well, Denning delivered a heavy punch at the lions den. Good points from him, but how dare he do that to all those elderly white men (and ‘I love you already, look, look, over there!’ Dellingpole)? I hope conference staff had an AED standy…

    Sorry, couldn’t resist it.

    I do wonder, why does the video recording stop so suddenly? It’s different from the speaches of e.g. Ball or Soon, did they boo at Denning when he finished? I wonder if the speach make them think (for a change) or that they knee-jerked en masse.

    So, Bart, who do you think, of the right wing no nothing climate change denying politicians in the Netherlands, is able to take leadership into leading their electorate (and our country as a whole) into a free-market solution for this problem?

    The elementary schoolteacher and PVV climate spokesperson “Al Gore will cost us billions” De Mos? Or VVD climate spokesperson and professional natgas lobbyist Leegte? Perhaps president and vice-president Rutte/Verhage will lead the way with their “Green Deal”, only no one knows what it is. Empty words, greenwashing, until proven otherwise.

    Do you see a way forward fixing the carbon problem initiated by the right wing? Especially by the free-market fundamentalists? Any way at all?

  22. cynicus Says:

    Few typo’s in there, sorry about that:
    make -> made
    no -> know
    Verhage -> Verhagen

  23. Bart Says:

    Dan, great comparison to the WTO situation and how various political stripes view that one.

  24. Bart Says:


    I may not be quite as cynical as you are, but like you I’m not optimistic about great initiatives coming forward any time soon from the political proces.

    That said, the VVD (Dutch classic liberals / conservatives) did have some strong environmental voices in its recent past. As I’m sure does the republican party in the US. I can hardly be the only one who was positively surprised by Schwarzenegger for example.

    There is no need for climate change to be divided along partisan lines. After all, we share the same planet. We should try to get rid of that partisan divide rather than to reinforce it.

    ps: this is not an invite for a full blown political party discussion…

  25. Bart Says:

    Dan, cool video of David Mitchell indeed (it’s only 2 minutes folks), but man, does he ever talk fast! I’m more atuned to the Canadian accent so that was a challenge to follow. Good practice though.

    I like him bringing in astrology, where he sais: “I wish that astrology were true, cuz that would make it a lot easier to decide what to do and to have something to blame for when things go wrong. And I wish AGW wasn’t true, cuz I love those fossil fuel burning metal machines just as much as the next guy. Unfortunately, it’s the reverse.” Bummer!

  26. Anna Haynes Says:

    Thank you Bart; that was indeed excellent.

    Next step: ask Heartland for permission to have it be broadcast on our local community TV station.

  27. In the belly of the beast — Irregular Climate Says:

    […] Bart Verheggen) Share this:Email Filed Under: […]

  28. Keith Kloor Says:


    I’m glad you did a post on Denning’s Heartland appearance. It’s pretty interesting to me that his speech this year–and his essay about the speech,,
    has largely been ignored on the popular pro-AGW and skeptic blogs.

    I thought that was rather revealing.

    What do I mean by that? The headline of Denning’s UCAR essay is: “Finding Common Ground with climate-change contrarians.” I don’t think the Watts/Romm camps have any interest in finding common ground and would rather not give the idea any currency.

  29. cynicus Says:

    Bart says: “There is no need for climate change te be divided along partisan lines”
    You are, of course, correct, and it used to be that way. E.g. in 1989 the VVD party program said: “Environmental policy is survival policy”.

    But political views are a lot like financial products: past performance does not guarantee future results.

    So, we’re not to talk about politics although that was the crux of Denning’s presentation. Ok, what in Denning’s \is/ debatable here?

  30. PeteB Says:

    To be fair Tim Worstall has been going on about market based climate change policies.e.g.

  31. Bart Says:


    That essay (july 2010) appears to be about last year’s speech (though it was the basis for the Yale Climate Media Forum article which I found to be more readable, so I linked to that instead). Initially I just wanted to blog about that essay, but the video was so good that that took the front seat instead.

    It is true that hardliners on both sides of the divide seem uninterested in building any bridges. I have to say that even though I think his performance was brilliant, I’m not sure if the Heartland audience is open to (climate-) scientific reasoning. If the word “consensus” makes them think of a communist world government (meaning they have “conspiracy” written all over their faces), then what sense does it make to discuss the science? Denning’s answer may provide an even so small opportunity: Forget the details about which we disagree. In the grand scheme of things (long timescales, global scale) they don’t matter, policy-wise (which is a view also strongly argued by Herman Daly and argued against -at least in terms of engaging with the public- by Judith Curry). Even with the lowest plausible estimate of sensitivity there’s a massive, though slow-motion problem unfolding.

    But what if the lowest plausible estimate of sensitivity is higher than their I-dont-want-no-climate-policy upper limit?

    As you can see, I am torn between wanting to overcome the divide while at the same time being cynical about its possibility.

  32. Bart Says:


    You’re right, how to engage right wing audiences and policies that may come to mind are indeed on topic. I meant more that a history of Dutch politics (which I was at risk of getting into myself) would be off topic (if it didn’t relate to the previous point). Sorry for the confusion; I’m not intending to do difficult.

  33. Leo G Says:

    What I would really like to see, is next year, you, Dr. Schmidt. Dr. Tobis, Dr. Curry, and anyone else that has strong opinions, take these guys up on their open invatation to climate scientists, and attend and do as Dr. Denning does. The phrase “are you cowards?” goes both ways here.

    Dr. Denning, through his courage and his will to bring in the right of the political spectrum to the policy process should be a shining example to the rest of you experts.

    Get on with it!

  34. Eli Rabett Says:

    Bart, bridges to where?

    To the Slaying the Greenhouse Dragon crew? Might as well build bridges to the classical quantum mechanics crew. No point, and you are not going to dent their stone heads.

    Pielke and his ilk?. Convice Eli he has an honest bone in his body after the latest statistical fry up.

    To lurkers, sure.

  35. JohnB Says:

    Hi all. A sceptic here who normally lurks around Judith place. (And others)

    Very interesting speech. I think Dr Denning makes some very interesting points.

    Regardless of an individuals views on CO2, the fact is that billions of people require access to cheap power. Demand is growing and is going to continue to grow. This demand must cross a threshold at some point.

    I’m an Aussie and we currently export some 300 million tonnes per year. If China (for example) keeps building power stations at the rate they are a point will be reached where you simply can’t mine and ship the stuff fast enough. On figures I’ve seen, a large station will use about 5 million tonnes per year, so if the Chinese build another 100 power stations that is another 500 million tonnes per year of coal. That’s 10 million tonnes per week. That’s a lot of coal.

    Again, regardless of your view on CO2, I think that one thing that both sides can agree on is this. Whether we have “mitigation” policies or not, whether we live in a high tech society or tear it down and all go and live in grass huts, the climate will still change and we will have to adapt. Dr. Denning hit it when he said that some people think that if we “did something” about CO2 then the climate would get back to “normal”. (The West changing their lightbulbs won’t make the smallest difference when compared with the energy needs of the developing world.) But there is no normal, it always changes.

    Maybe it’s time for both sides to ignore their differences and attempt to come up with a solution to the real problem. How do we provide enough cheap energy to lift the billions that need it out of energy poverty?

    Coal won’t do it because as I showed above, there is a limit as to how fast you can mine the stuff. Wind and Solar are doubtful at best. Nuclear is a good option, but can it be made safe enough in the areas where it’s needed?

    Forget CO2 and arguments about tree rings and hockey sticks. Forget about what models tell us may or may not happen 100 years from now. The people need the energy now. They are dying right now from energy poverty.

    That is the problem that needs solving, for them right now and for all our children and grandchildren.

    (Sorry for the long first comment, but this is an area I feel rather passionate about.)

  36. intrepid_wanders Says:

    Scott Denning sums it all up well.
    JohnB sums it all up well.
    James Hansen sums it up all well.

    Subsidizing the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy is getting us nowhere. Anchor posts for a bridge need to be on solid ground and so far, there is no solid solution that a worldwide treaty would fix. If there was a real solution on the table, the “cool dudes” will fall in line like they did before.

    According to CDIAC, Europe and North America are at 1990’s emissions levels (U.K. and Germany are at pre WWII levels) and China and India are at 2030 levels. Moving the CO2 around the planet is not going to fix the elevated CO2 levels. Renewables are not going to fix everything and efficiency can only go so far, so, for now we have got to use what we have. Where do we go from here?

  37. Quiet Waters Says:

    What I would really like to see, is next year, the Heartland crowd, and anyone else that has strong opinions, start writing and publishing decent papers that stand up in the literature, as Dr. Denning does, so that they are playing an active part in the science and not shouting (loudly and brashly) from the sidelines distracting the uneducated. The phrase “are you cowards?” means more than one thing here.

    Dr. Denning, through his courage and his will to actually do some science should be a shining example to the rest of those conference goers.

    Get on with it!

  38. Neven Says:

    Maybe it’s time for both sides to ignore their differences and attempt to come up with a solution to the real problem. How do we provide enough cheap energy to lift the billions that need it out of energy poverty?

    And don’t forget that it has to generate enormous amounts of profit for a relatively small group of people, and that of course economies everywhere must grow, grow, grow (in other words, increased production of goods and services which requires energy).

    Good luck with that!

  39. Chris Colose Says:

    I was somewhat disappointed that there was no Q&A session, because I’d be interested in the reaction.

    Though, I could not help feeling that Denning was forced to talk in a really dumb tone to start building points of agreement. I am sure once he got to the carbon cycle stuff (or much else after “today is friday”), people in the crowd cringed. Personally I don’t see much point in engaging with that crowd but I am glad some people are doing it.

    I am also impressed with his composure. I would have been a little bit more hostile toward the Scafetta lecture than simply saying that “we all agree the sun provided almost all the energy to the climate.” I am clearly not as patient. I am grateful for this, and to be fair to the skeptics, glad that they welcomed him. If only we could sneak a bit more science into Heartland…

  40. Bart Says:

    Hi JohnB, thanks for coming over.

    You make a strong case that providing energy to the world’s poor is a top priority. Few would disagree. However (you knew it was coming…), the way in which that energy is produced is a paramount importance to the long-term stability of civil society and the well-being of people, due to the undeniable heat trapping properties of CO2. We cannot, imho, risk solving one problem while creating a perhaps even bigger one (though stretched over longer time-scales, so its true size may not become evident over one generation). That is the conundrum we’re in.

  41. Bart Says:


    Good question. I’m not sure where the bridges could or should read. The easy answer would be anywhere where they can possible land without jeopardizing a solid grounding in science. The last part is esp important and probably excludes the Slaying crew for example; they’re just too far out there in fantasy land and they’re hardly the only ones. Lurkers are esp important indeed. But read what Denning wrote about how his talk (I think referring to last year’s) was received: Several ICCC participants told him his speech made them think and they appreciated hearing someone making a case for AGW. Think about the impact that it could have that they, probably for the first time ever, hear a bona fide climate scientist make (a very simplified version of) the scientific case. In person. While they’re establishing some kind of mutual understanding and respect through real-life interaction.

  42. Bart Says:

    Leo G and Chris Colose both seem to argue that it would be good if “more science would be sneaked into Heartland” (in Chris’ words), but both do so in very different ways. Interesting!

  43. Deech56 Says:

    Bart, I am glad that you mentioned Curry; she is much more mired in the details when Denning says that the details really don’t matter (as far as needing to iron out all the details before taking action). I also believe that there are open invitations to mainstream climate scientists, but Denning is the only one to have taken them up on this.

  44. Marco Says:

    John Nielsen-Gammon provided a nice comment on the Heartland invitation:

    I personally would not want to be caught dead at a conference that smears me and my colleagues in its announcement, not even to convince the few actual rational people that may be present. Those should already have seen from the announcement that the conference itself had an ideological starting point.

  45. danolner Says:

    Marco: think about Hearland’s larger goal – FUD. That’s all they need to happen – well, *has* happened. Make people doubt, job’s done.

    That’s why Denning’s talk is so good, though it’s a shame it can’t get wider viewing: not for its impact on those present, but on that larger goal of FUD. More people – qualified people – need to come out and constantly repeat: it’s not rocket science, this is happening, it’s rubbish, but we have to do something about it, because of facts.

  46. Deech56 Says:

    I admit to being torn on the “going into the lion’s den” issue. Denning’s talk was great, but it may have gotten little attention without the context of being delivered to “skeptics.” As a former vaccine researcher, I wonder what I would think about a colleague giving a talk to an audience at an anti-vax conference. Would an appearance legitimize the conference? OTOH, these people are not going away, and they are trying to attract opinion leaders.

    Engaging with a potentially hostile audience is not for the faint of heart, and requires a great deal of skill. Denning is able to pull it off; I wonder whether others could do the same.

  47. JohnB Says:

    Thanks for the welcome Bart.

    While I agree with you up to a point, I simply think that the developing world isn’t going to accept expensive power. They are going to opt for the cheapest power available and at the moment that is coal. I think that this is the simple economic reality for them.

    Their choice is to stay in energy poverty or to use coal, gas or nuclear. For any government that gives a damn about its people, the question is a no brainer. Get out of poverty ASAP, build the economy and change when you can afford to later.

    With that as a starting point, and with coal stations having a life of about 40 years, the question we need to ask is “What next?” What can we use to triple the worlds energy generation to provide cheap (hopefully clean) power?

    @Neven. Maybe, maybe not. I’m not big on trying to predict business, technology and energy development 60 years ahead. Companies come and go. I have great confidence in humanity and our future.

  48. Eli Rabett Says:

    John, delivery of the power (e.g. transmission and shipping) is a huge issue, which is why solar and wind have a chance in Africa. You may have to move a windmill, but you don’t have to deliver a ton of coal to the village every day and you don’t have to build power lines where the copper will be on the market tomorrow.

  49. Tom Says:

    Hi Bart–hope you’ve had a great summer. While you were on holiday, Bangladesh celebrated the 1 millionth installation of solar power on rooftops.

    For those who don’t think it can be done. Jumping generations of technology, putting solar on roofs that are flimsier than the panels, huge amounts of effort from NGOs, lots of contributions, lots of work.

    But it can be done.

  50. Leo G Says:

    Tom, the solar panels, as I understand it are for heating hot water more so then grnerating electricity. Is this correct?

  51. Leo G Says:

    Dr. Bart, not really sneaking in science as much as sneaking in scientists with an opposing view. There is one thing that I (and I really do mean just I) have noticed on the blogs, the sceptic sites tend to be more accomodating to the opposing view. The sceptic bloggers like Willis, McIntyre, even Anthony will push their crowd to sensible arguments (right now on WUWT Willis is trying to dispell the meme that DLR cannot heat the ocean.) and as you well know, Anthony has a standing invite to any climate scientist to post at his sight. Dr. Walt has taken him up on this more then once, and for the most has been treated with respect.

    Now I know the argument, that if you guys start going to these conferences, and posting on the wrong blogs, this will only give the “deniers” position more substance. I say BULLSHIT to that meme. If you look at what Dr. Denning has done and said, if you look at the state of discussion on Dr. Curry’s blog in the last couple of months, If you had really followed the sceptic blogs even for just the past couple of years, you would see that the majority of participants have accepted CO2 heating, have accepted the temp record rising, as Dr. Denning says, most of the trivial arguments are brought up by the shrinking minority, and the biggest question, in my mind, of the sceptic side now, is what is the sensitivity of the climate system.

    These people are not stupid or evil, they just want the science to be open and debated. As this has been happening more or less for the past couple of years, the majority of sceptics are now on your side for a lot of the science that you took for granted for years.

    You must remember, there are a lot of scientists from different disciplines and professional engineers that are within the sceptic side. These people have trained their whole life to ask questions, and if the answers are valid, they will accept them.

    What I appreciate Dr. Bart, are the individuals like you, Curry, Dr. Colose, etc, who take the time and put the effort in to try to bridge the divide, and talk to their critics. What I don’t need are the often ridiculous remarks that the like of Dr. Rabbet drops at most sites like his butt pellets.

    IF this concern over CO2 is truly as bad as Dr. Tobis believes, then ridiculing the opposition is not ever going to solve it. The only course open if this is such a huge dilemna, is to keep on trying to bridge that gap, and as Dr. Denning says, tell these sceptics, that only together can the appropriate policy’s ever be brought about.

    Off the soapbox now…..

  52. Leo G Says:

    Oh, and a question…

    Dr. Denning says CO2 emits heat, I take it that he is talking about the capture and release of the IR wave?

    Or is he talking about the combustion process when CO2 is created?

  53. Paul Kelly Says:

    I notice that everyone is studiously avoiding the criteria Denning sets out for effective solutions:

    -decent quality of life for all

    -Energy for all

    -Free market needed

    -Who will advocate?

    Discussion of matters unrelated to these criteria are, as Mosher says, a delaying tactic.

  54. PS Says:

    Paul Kelly,
    decent quality of life for all and energy for all don’t exist in our current system nor is there any practical way to create these conditions so why are they criteria for, well, anything?

  55. dhogaza Says:

    Keith Kloor says:

    What do I mean by that? The headline of Denning’s UCAR essay is: “Finding Common Ground with climate-change contrarians.” I don’t think the Watts/Romm camps have any interest in finding common ground and would rather not give the idea any currency.

    The invitation to the conference reads:

    The scientists speaking at this conference, and the hundreds more who are expected to attend, are committed to restoring the scientific method. This means abandoning the failed hypothesis of man-made climate change

    So Keith Kloor thinks that the common ground is for climate scientists to reject climate science.

    Watts actually could find common ground with that, which is probably why he’s been a speaker in the past…

  56. Bart Says:


    A natural reason for your personal observation that “sceptic sites tend to be more accomodating to the opposing view” is that they don’t have an explanatory theory: For some sceptics at least, it seems that as long as it can be presented in a way that makes it look as if it refutes AGW, it’s worth pushing/accommodating. WUWT comes to mind.

  57. danolner Says:

    Leo: ” the sceptic sites tend to be more accomodating to the opposing view.”

    I’ve only had much experience of trying to comment at WUWT, and found exactly the opposite. I guess it depends on your definition of ‘opposiing view’. If ever you try to highlight a factual error, you get stomped on and/or ignored. An example (me blogging about it) from a little while back: WUWT repeating a baseless Inhofe meme. If Watts would ever, even once, say “oh sorry, my bad, leapt to judgement there…”, but he hasn’t, ever, AFAIK. He recently said he *would* change his view if Muller’s temp record efforts proved him wrong. When they did, he attacked Muller.

    So – for WUWT at least – if you mean “tend to be more accomodating to anything questioning the reality of climate change,” I’d agree.

  58. PeteB Says:

    Paul Kelly Says:
    August 16, 2011 at 06:06
    I notice that everyone is studiously avoiding the criteria Denning sets out for effective solutions:

    From the article I linked to earlier

    …….However, look at that light green line. The RCP 2.6 one, the “whew, we dodged it” one. The highest economic growth model leads to the lowest level of emissions considered. Less economic growth leads to higher emissions.

    Note again that these are not my assumptions. They are those of the IPCC process. Which is something of a body blow to those telling us that we must cease economic growth if calamity is to be averted: the very assumptions built into the whole proof that climate change is something we should worry about say exactly the opposite. Economic growth is the way out, not the problem.

    By the way, the assumption there about the rate of economic growth, from a roughly $50 trillion global economy in 2000 to a roughly $300 trillion one in 2100. That’s not all that far off the growth rate we had in the 20th century

    This is how much energy we’re going to use and where we’re going to get it from. We need to be more parsimonious in our use of energy, yes. We need to use less of it per unit of GDP (which is known as “energy intensity” and their desired decrease in that isn’t far off what the advanced economies already manage) but we don’t actually need to use less of it overall. Less oil, yes, but we can near double our energy consumption and still hit that “we missed the problem” sweet spot. It’s also amusing to note what a small role for solar and wind power is necessary to hit that target. …

    Which leads to a very interesting conclusion indeed. We don’t have to stop economic growth at all, we can quite happily have around the same amount of it that we had in the 20 th century. So that’s a large number of the Green Miserablists shown to be wrong. We don’t have to reduce or even severely limit our energy consumption: we just have to get the growth in our consumption from other than the usual sources. A large number of the Energy Miserablists shown to be wrong there too.

    Or, to boil it right down, the IPCC is telling us that the solution to climate change is economic growth and low-carbon energy generation.

    That’s absolutely all we have to do.

    Or as I pointed out at book length recently, a globalised market economy with a carbon tax will do just fine.

  59. Bart Says:

    The statement

    The highest economic growth model leads to the lowest level of emissions considered. Less economic growth leads to higher emissions.

    is too simplistic. A more correct interpretation would be: Decreasing CO2 emissions does not need to go at the cost of economic growth. Which is a conclusion drawn from various scenario studies and roadmaps (e.g. European Climate Foundation, ECF) indeed.

    Rather funny that this is vehemently opposed at places like WUWT (where the claim that mitigation will wreck the economy is more commonplace), but now the same results are presented with a different spin on it (with some mild enviro-bashing).

    I responded at Forbes on this as well.

    The Kaya identity still holds:

    The Kaya identity still holds: CO2 emission = population * GDP/capita * energy/GDP * CO2 emission/energy.

    I.e. for a high GDP scenario to result in low emissions needs other factors to be low. That is because other things being equal, emissions are positively correlated with GDP. Of course, others things are never equal, but there still is a historically quite strong relation between GDP and CO2 emissions.

    The two graphs shown by Worstal indeed show that population is assumed lower in the high GDP scenario’s (makes sense). Haven’t checked, but probably the emissions per unit GDP are also lower in the high GDP scenario’s, i.e. choices are assumed to be made that decarbonize the economy (makes sense).

    It is thus a little too simplistic to say that economic growth causes the least emissions (over at WUWT); emissions are lower in the high GDP scenarios because population density and emission intensity of the economy are assumed to be low.

    On the current trajectory of increasing all three of them, there’s no way in hell that emissions would be lowest.

    See some graphs of population, GDP and emissions (and discussion of their roles):

  60. willard Says:

    In case someone missed Eli’s reference, Roger, Jr.’s latest “statistical fry up” is covered at James’, under the title

    > **How many of Roger’s findings about probability manage to be wrong? Answer: he’s more inventive than you might expect.**


    In case someone did read PeteB’s excerpt, here is a discussion regarding the concept of **energy intensity**, featuring Roger, Jr.:


    Both plots involve Roger, Jr. Both plots show the power of keeping tone in check. An interesting analysis:

  61. PeteB Says:

    The thing I like about Tim W is that he is a free market liberal commentator that is quite prepared to start from the assumption that the IPCC scientific reports are correct and suggests that Pigovian taxation is the way to correct the uncosted externalities.


    …How wondrous to find an environmentalist who actually gets regulatory capture, public choice economics and the economics of Pigou taxation!

    For, yes, this is exactly what we should be doing, assuming that the IPCC is indeed correct about climate change.

    We’ve even got two different approaches we could use to this.

    One is the Stern Review one: the social costs of carbon emissions are $80 a tonne, so tax carbon emissions $80 a tonne (in detail, CO2-e).

    Excellent, we in the UK already largely do that. We’ve not got the taxes properly distributed, it’s too much on petrol, about right on flying and not high enough on farming for example, but over all we’re at about the right level.

    There’s also the William Nordhaus idea, start with a low tax and (credibly) commit to raising it. Perhaps $5 or $10 a tonne now, rising to $250 or so around 2040. This allows both the development of new technologies and also works with the grain of the capital cycle.

    The Nordhaus solution is almost certainly better for those places (yes, USA, we are looking at you) which do not at present have anything like the required carbon taxes. Whacking $80 a tonne on right now would cause huge dislocation: better to let the economy adapt more gently.

    We’d also rather like to stop those $550 billion of subsidies to fossil fuels as well: the $100 billion that Iran spends on consumer subsidies for petrol and natural gas, the $70 billion or so Russia does and so on.

    But what really intrigues about what Hansen is suggesting is that it’s obvious that he’s actually been reading real economists on this problem. whether or not he’s actually got his ideas from these sources or not I don’t know, but the rising fee idea is what Nordhaus suggests and the cap and trade inviting corruption is a point Greg Mankiw has made (although he’s politer and calls it corporate pork).

    Isn’t that amazing? Someone who desires to change human activity actually going to the experts in how to change the incentives humans face so as to change their activities?

  62. PeteB Says:

    Oh another one

    [i]There are those who think that we don’t have to do anything about climate change. OK, the news that Australia is trying to do something about it won’t interest those. There are those, like myself, who agree that we do need to do something but despair at anyone ever actually doing the right things. At which point we should raise two cheers for what Australia has just announced that it’s going to do.

    Sadly, only two cheers, not three. For they’ve taken a great idea and then larded it with the usual bells and whistles of government picking technology winners, subsidies to favoured constituencies and so on. But leave those aside for a moment and concentrate on the one truly great point that they are making:…..[/i]

  63. Bart Says:


    Thanks for the quotes. He seems to say very sensible things indeed (including let’s trust that the IPCC is largely correct about climate change; what would that mean for the optimal economic policy?). I also like the way he describes Hansen. Good to see an economist respond to Hansen’s statements on the economic policy front. For example, even though they sounded intuitively sensible to me, I really had not much of an idea how “real” economists would view his economic ideas.

    That last sentence in the long quote is also relevant in another context. Let me re-phrase:

    Isn’t that amazing? Someone who desires to understand climate change actually going to the experts in how and why the climate is changing?

  64. grypo! Says:

    Free market ideas, carbon taxes, politics, etc. Links to use. I understand that it’s a lot of info, but a perusal should give free-market thinkers a starting point to argue from. Tim W’s articles are also good.

    Click to access Adler_ClimateProperty.pdf

    Click to access 20090226_WaysAndMeans.pdf

  65. Paul Kelly Says:


    Decent quality of life and energy availability is the aspiration of all mankind. In addition there are indeed practical ways to create these conditions.

    Bart and PeteB

    Denning’s decent, energy available quality of life criterion is easy to accept. It’s a bit like a doctor who’s first dictum is “Do no harm”.

    “Free market needed” is the great leap forward in Denning’s criteria. The free market is the place where those who desire change can purchase it. This criterion should lead activists to a better economic argument and focus.

    Denning’s last – who will advocate – was a challenge to the Heartland crowd to come up with something before greenpeace or somebody else does. It is better put as what and how will we advocate.

  66. andrew adams Says:


    Yes, energy poverty in the developing world is a problem, along with food shortages and loss of arable land due to soil erosion and other factors, lack of clean water supplies, the prevalance of diseases such as malaria, TB and HIV/AIDS, the debt burden etc. And, of course, climate change, which both raises entirely new threats and exacerbates some of the problems mentioned above.

    And you don’t seem to taking the latter into account in your reasoning. Yes, the leaders in these countries do generally want to improve the welfare of their people, but it is developing countries which are most vulnerable to the consequences of climate change and are least able to bear the costs involved, in both practical and financial terms. And they are not stupid, they know this very well – concern about AGW is not, as it is sometime portrayed, some conceit on the part of comfortably off Westerners. And it is naïve to sugest that they can just go full steam ahead now and worry about the problem later once they have better developed economies. It always bears repeating that humanity doesn’t get to dictate the timescales for taking action to avert dangerous climate change – the planet does.

    But of course, what they are going to do is only part of the problem, if we really care about the fate of people in developing countries we also have to ask what we are going to do about it. Unless we take action to reduce our own emissions we can hardly expect them to follow suit and in any case any action they do take will be futile, and if they are going to develop along low emission lines they are going to need our assistance in both practical and material terms. And of course it is our past (and present) actions which have brought humanity to the position it is now in so even if not everyone accepts the moral/ethical responsibiliy of those who are well off to assist those who are less fortunate there is still the responsibility to deal with the consequences of our own actions. I see a lot of skeptics expressing concern for the effects that climate mitigation policies will have on developing countries but they reject the notion that the developed world should do anything to help bear the costs itself. I don’t doubt your own motives but such comments often strike me as simply finding a stick to beat the “warmists” than expressing any genuine concern for people in poor countries.

  67. Bart Says:


    Excellent comment. I highlighted it in a head post.

  68. MikeN Says:

    >MikeN, if I’m understanding you correctly: you mean the fact that pretty much every country in the world is merrily yanking as much carbon out of the ground as humanly possible? Which, by revealed preference, means they think the scientists can’t be right?

    No that’s not what I mean, though that too is a possibility. It occurs to me my statement of scientists being all wrong is only true if you first make a detour into the scientists being correct. Let me try to explain it again. If the scientists are correct then the planet is getting warmer due to CO2. My point is that the policies being proposed to solve the problem stated by the scientists will not solve the problem. Thus at that point after the policies are implemented, we are still left hoping that the scientists are wrong.
    Simplified form, scientists are saying an 80% cut is required, and China is over 20% and growing, 80%+20%=100%. Developing world as a whole is over 50% and growing. Talking about cumulative historical emissions per capita and ethical responsibility and setting an example, isn’t going to get CO2 levels below the 20% target. I doubt whether even a global 20% cut is achievable.

    As far as the skeptic sites being more open to dissent, it is impossible to know what posts are deleted other than your own, so it is difficult to compare two sites.

  69. MikeN Says:

    I’m a little confused by the Don’t be Cowards! and Do you want Greenpeace to set the agenda?
    Individually they are OK, but together they are not coherent.

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  74. John Hughes Says:

    Link dead – new one here

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