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World goes one way, scientists and donors the same

By Dylan Matthews

Besides their apparent inability to spot a scientific consensus in plain view, the thing that puzzles me the most about climate change deniers is why, exactly, they think those trying to stop climate change are so invested in doing so. Bret Stephens, in a particularly tendentious denialist column in the Wall Street Journal, thinks he's got the answer:

The world is now several decades into the era of environmental panic. The subject of the panic changes every few years, but the basic ingredients tend to remain fairly constant. A trend, a hypothesis, an invention or a discovery disturbs the sense of global equilibrium. Often the agent of distress is undetectable to the senses, like a malign spirit. A villain -- invariably corporate and right-wing -- is identified.

Then money begins to flow toward grant-seeking institutions and bureaucracies, which have an interest in raising the level of alarm. Environmentalists counsel their version of virtue, typically some quasi-totalitarian demands on the pattern of human behavior. Politicians assemble expert panels and propose sweeping and expensive legislation. Eventually, the problem vanishes. Few people stop to consider that perhaps it wasn't such a crisis in the first place.

Emphasis mine. Note the passive voice here – Stephens conveniently ducks the question of who would be sending more money to climate science. Why does he think wealthy donors are interested in climate change? Because they love "quasi-totalitarian" legislation that, Stephens thinks, threatens their livelihoods? Because they're easily hoodwinked out of billions? Donor interest in climate change research is a remarkable development that's happened despite intense business opposition to the very notion of anthropogenic climate change. One could see that as evidence that these donors are just gullible, as Stephens seems to. Or one could see it as indicative of the strength of the evidence that climate change is occurring.

More to the point, why exactly would scientists be creating and promoting these "environmental panics"? For more research money? If that's the case, they'd be demanding more funds to research a problem they don't think exists. For that to be the case, the kind of people who get PhDs in the hard sciences and devote their careers to studying climate must be in it for the money, and not care at all about the problems they spend their careers thinking about. The notion is fairly silly.

The interest of donors in and the unanimity of scientists on climate change are easy things to explain if one accepts that it is a real phenomenon. Trying to explain them while insisting climate change doesn't exist requires assigning bizarre and implausible motives to most parties involved.

-- Dylan Matthews is a student at Harvard and a researcher at The Washington Post.

By Washington Post editor  |  April 6, 2010; 8:37 AM ET
Categories:  Climate Change  
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Comments

Mr. Matthews,

You are quite naive if you don’t think that scientific research follows grant money. I worked in the biotech industry and saw firsthand how research labs would tailor their research to coincide with the latest technology that was attracting private and government money. Stem cell research was a good example of this. When liberals decided to politicize stem cell research, there was money available for any lab that just mentioned stem cells as part of their grant proposal. There are many private foundations and government organizations that will pour money into any research that supports liberal ideal logy.

Posted by: cummije5 | April 6, 2010 9:00 AM | Report abuse

There is also the fact that all that's being asked for is to use much more renewable green energy, and clean up more of our environment.

The first would help our strategic interests in promoting energy independence (stop sending our money to the Middle East for oil).

The second would make our lives better, in that a cleaner environment leads to a better, healthier life.

You have to wonder, in the end, what exactly is the argument of those that are against both of these. Other than political, that is.

Patriots, these guys are not. More like incapable of independent thought, or corporate lackies.

Posted by: JERiv | April 6, 2010 9:11 AM | Report abuse

Big business refuses to adopt the changes needed to fight climate change. This is because they do not wish to threaten their cash cows. The GOP is primarily controlled by big business (and to a lesser, but large, extent, the Dems too), and the GOP is in turn empowered by masses of people who are guided by fear (minorities, gays, loss of guns, etc) or greed (taxes). Hence, it is no wonder that climate deniers tend to be republicans. Most of them really don't care about the future because they will be gone by the time the worst hits us (that gets to greed too) or baby Jesus will save us all from our human misdeeds. Besides, even if the seas do rise, they will simply flood out those coastal bastions of evil liberalism and poor and impoverished foreigners who reside in the flood plains of the third-world and who have become such a nuisance to the financially blessed.

We in the USA won't effectively fight climate change until such time as the planet is suffering so much harm from it that fear of actual and visible climate problems (here in the USA) will make conservatives re-think their positions. Hopefully this paradigm shift will all occur before the tipping point has passed or too many millions of people have been displaced.

You'd think all that fear of sending oil money to Arab terrorists would be sufficient reason to change our ways, but sigh....

Posted by: Lomillialor | April 6, 2010 9:11 AM | Report abuse

You missed the point. Of course the donors and scientists believe it is real. The point of Stephen's article is to help us all see that they thought it was real all those other times before. It's the same kind of group think and bias that sees an imminent nuclear crisis in every third world threat, Malthus' overpopulation scare, eugenics and public health. All were draped in scientific analysis, yet flawed. The point of the article is remind us all that we tend to find what we're looking for, that no process - including science - can stop us from being human.

Posted by: vimrich | April 6, 2010 9:12 AM | Report abuse

Without endorsing the view of the WSJ article, I will point out that your use of hate speech in the first sentence discredits everything you write after it.

Since when has a liberal education taught dehumanization of your opposition? You're playing into the hands of the right wing by using language like that.

Posted by: Duncan5 | April 6, 2010 9:13 AM | Report abuse

I'd be interested to know what these panics are that have supposedly come and gone. The ozone hole and acid rain have caused concern, and they have been addressed through concerted action, not simply gone away by themselves. I doubt any alleged false alarms have any substantial evidentiary basis.

Posted by: jduptonma | April 6, 2010 9:14 AM | Report abuse

I've never understood where denialists get this idea that a bunch of dorky climatology PhDs, who care so much about the average global surface temperature that they devote their entire lives to accurately measuring it, would be so nefarious as to perpetuate such a massive conspiracy in pursuit of... something. Extra funding that can pay for another postdoc at $45K per year, I guess. Evil stuff.

The title of this post reminds me of The Wire, but I don't know why.

Posted by: cranaghan | April 6, 2010 9:14 AM | Report abuse

Humans are creatures of this earth having survived here for eons. Those of our ancestors who did not carefully anticipate life threatening problems are no longer among us. I am constantly amazed by the debate. It is never wise to foul one's own nest.

Posted by: BertEisenstein | April 6, 2010 9:20 AM | Report abuse

I've been a working scientist for over 20 years now and I have to tell you that there isn't much that scientists are interested in. Primary interest is in solving puzzles. Secondary interest is in the scientific community's admiration for being clever in solving puzzles.

Now there are two means to this end. One is to think of something no one has ever thought of before. The other is to demonstrate that someone else's clever thought is not right. This makes science a particularly brutal sport. It also means the only ideas that survive are those that can't be killed or circumscribed by any argument.

Money is just a means to an end and if there were a way to build lab equipment without it, no one would care. We didn't get into this for the money. That's why there are no wealthy scientists.

Posted by: pj_camp | April 6, 2010 9:23 AM | Report abuse

I will point out that your use of hate speech in the first sentence discredits everything you write after it.

Huh? Is 'climate change deniers' hate speech now? What should we call people who deny climate change, then?

Posted by: Talespinner | April 6, 2010 9:32 AM | Report abuse

Tailspinner: Can you think of another instance in which the term "denier" is used? Do you really think it's an appropriate comparison? If somebody expresses doubt about the received wisdom, call them a denier, say they're funded by Exxon, and never, ever address the substance of whatever their objection is.

Posted by: tl_houston | April 6, 2010 9:46 AM | Report abuse

The text is quite good and the pj_camp comments are also fair enough.

Posted by: jesrose | April 6, 2010 9:50 AM | Report abuse

wait, aren't they paying scientists to write books about global warming?

isn't Al Gore getting rich now from all of his books and "green initiatives". What is Al Gore's net worth now in relation to climate science? How much does he get for speaking engagements? I'm not a "denier" as some label people on here that don't slant their way but there's definitely money to be made and you are naive if you don't see that.

More people means more energy needs from more sources which equates to more cost.

Posted by: visionbrkr | April 6, 2010 9:56 AM | Report abuse

It never ceases to amaze me when deniers cite financial gain as the primary incentive for the promotion of AGW, when the big-money financial incentives so clearly point in the opposite direction. As others have said, no one goes into academia to get rich. As for those corporate consulting gigs, however, I understand they can provide a nice little additional income stream outside one's university salary.

Posted by: rayrick1 | April 6, 2010 9:59 AM | Report abuse

tl_houston: You have this the other way around. The deniers (yes, this is an accurate, literal description of them) never, ever address the actual facts and arguments collected by the climate scientists. Instead, they repeatedly require climate scientists to debunk the same arguments provided by experts they, the deniers, trust. It's tiresome. Before they site these counter-arguments they should use the Google, and they should evaluate the information they find. Comment threads aren't the place for this.

If you do explore the actual arguments of the climate scientists, or at least the many places where they debunk the arguments advanced by the denialists' "experts", you will find that there's no *scientific* debate. There's climate science; and then there's a bunch of dust thrown up by people who either don't want to adjust their lifestyles or who want to harm their partisan enemies.

Posted by: dfhoughton | April 6, 2010 10:02 AM | Report abuse

To me, the focus on global warming is proving to be an ineffective way of changing behavior for many people. The change is so slight, so long term, and the Earth has obviously undergone much more severe climate changes in the recent past. People walked from Russia to Alaska across an ice bridge. We'd need Sarah Palin up there with her moose gun to protect us from the Russian mob full time if that were to happen again.

Simply visiting Beijing and seeing the pollution and looking at polluted rivers and oceans around the world, leads me to believe that that measures to focus on changing visible environmental conditions are sufficient to get people to change their behavior.

There are many methods to address excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and more are being created every day. Planting more trees would see to be a positive approach that many people would get behind. Instead, since so many vocal Warmers are also Luddites and anti-industry in general, their complaints get lumped into that nonsensical point of view, creating unnecessary opposition to their proposed draconian, expensive solutions.

Scientists have a complicit role in fanning the flames of this public debate. Their status increases with prominence of the issue. By making global warming a major priority, they divert funds and energy from solving other problems. They aren't necessarily seeking money, but they are seeking to be great scientists, working on important problems.

This is science, not religion, they could be wrong about what is going to happen next. This isn't like the great cloud of smog that is here right now. Global temperatures could fall. Many of the recent predictions have not panned out on short time scales. That doesn't mean anyone should deny, it just means that we should take a more gentle and comprehensive approach to addressing the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and separate the concept from the "corporations are bad" lunacy that continually escapes from the mouths of the nutjobs.

Posted by: staticvars | April 6, 2010 10:03 AM | Report abuse

@tl_houston: Hate speech??? Seriously???

"denier - Person who denies something. "

Saying that's hate speech shows a very, very, very serious misunderstanding of what hate speech is.

"hate speech - a term for speech that attacks or disparages a person or group of people based on their social or ethnic group"

There, you've learned something today. Or are you a "etymology & definition denier" as well? ;-)

Oh, and ditto on what @dfhoughton said!

Posted by: JERiv | April 6, 2010 10:05 AM | Report abuse

Totally annoying pedantic point here, but in "Money begins to flow" neither of the verbs is in the passive voice. Both 'begin' and 'flow' are intransitive verbs in this context. This means that their grammatical subject is a patient instead of an agent, but they do not have a corresponding active form here. (very odd: 'Someone began to flow the money.')

In a passive, the subject is the patient, and the agent may be missing or it may be present in a 'by' phrase. And, crucially, there's a corresponding active version.
The sandwich was eaten./The sandwich was eaten by the boy. => active version The boy ate the sandwich.

At this point, probably because of the nefarious influence of Strunk and White (see discussion here: http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=1485 and here: http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=1530), 'passive' appears to have only a very weak connection to its technical linguistic meaning even among people with large amounts of high-quality formal education, but just thought I'd let you know.

Posted by: chitownmama | April 6, 2010 10:05 AM | Report abuse

If scientists were just in it for the money, then one-third of the grants/results would indicate we have global cooling, one-third would indicate we have global warming, and one-third would indicate no change at all.

Yes, there is fraud, waste and abuse--even in science. But there are too many independent lines of science research that agree about climate change.

Posted by: Lomillialor | April 6, 2010 10:16 AM | Report abuse

"the kind of people who get PhDs in the hard sciences and devote their careers to studying climate must be in it for the money"

Well, yes, of course. The sort of people who write WSJ op-eds can't imagine any other kind of motivation. If people are doing something, they must be in it for the money, full stop.

Posted by: vagueofgodalming | April 6, 2010 10:27 AM | Report abuse

It is status seeking, not merely money, that drives much of human behavior. Money is only one way to gain status. Having it verified that you are working on documenting an important scientific issue (as partially validated by the amount of money spent on it) is a much more likely motivation for a scientist.

Unfortunately, much of the interest in promoting global warming as major issue involves the opportunity it provides anti-capitalists to poke at their enemies and gain moral superiority status via their more environmentally friendly lifestyle.

http://www.overcomingbias.com/2009/12/ho-hum-nuclear-winter.html

Posted by: staticvars | April 6, 2010 10:47 AM | Report abuse

This column assumes that people writing for the WSJ editorial page actually CARE whether what they say is true.

They don't. They are nihilists whose interest is in profit NOW and whose motto is "Apres moi, le deluge."

Full stop.

The U.S., unfortunately, is run by such people. Do you think it's coincidence that China has consistently out-performed us in every way?

Posted by: tc125231 | April 6, 2010 11:02 AM | Report abuse

tc125231,


yes because China's good treatment of its people is the REASON behind their out-performing the US in the areas that they do. It has nothing to with unfair trade practices, rigging of their currency and the fact that their economy is just now beginning to develop similar to how the US was in the early 20th century.

Way to block out the truth for your ideological purposes.

Posted by: visionbrkr | April 6, 2010 11:28 AM | Report abuse

@staticvars

"Unfortunately, much of the interest in promoting global warming as major issue involves the opportunity it provides anti-capitalists to poke at their enemies and gain moral superiority status via their more environmentally friendly lifestyle."

This argument is either projection or I'm-rubber-and-you're-glue. Environmentalists, and liberals generally, aren't in it to antagonize their opponents. That's a conservative motivation. Sure, liberals enjoy some schadenfreude, but I've yet to meet a liberal who espoused their views because they wanted to lord their superiority over conservatives or make conservatives unhappy. This is what conservatives think motivates liberals, which in turn motivates the conservatives' vitriol in response, but the liberals really and truly aren't in it for their own gain.

Posted by: dfhoughton | April 6, 2010 12:15 PM | Report abuse

"Stephens conveniently ducks the question of who would be sending more money to climate science."

The same sorts of folks who tithe with the greatest enthusiasm at any church, and who derive the most satisfaction from their generous leavings in the donation plate. It's not a ducked question. In any religion, plenty of money flows from the true believers.

Religions talk in terms of "deniers" (why not just say "heretic"?) and "denialist" ("blasphemous") . . . and consensus? Sort of like the consensus that settles the final canon of Scripture, re: the Council of Carthage.

I'm just sayin'. Sin, repentance, holy nature and evil man . . . the First Church of Global Warming is the new Scientology. The main difference being that Scientology blames aliens for all our troubles.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | April 6, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

@dfhoughton:

"Environmentalists, and liberals generally, aren't in it to antagonize their opponents."

Perhaps not, but they certainly aren't shy about it. I think static's point was that perhaps sort of stuff isn't the best way to address the issue, not that it's liberals only motivation for their antagonism to "deniers".

"This is what conservatives think motivates liberals."

Well, not all conservatives, but let's say most of them do think that. That says something about conservatives, sure. But what does it say about liberals? Or what does it say about their arguments on those issue?

"but the liberals really and truly aren't in it for their own gain."

I think they probably are. Most human beings enjoy feeling good about themselves, feeling like they are doing the right thing, feeling like they are making a contribution, and that they are right about the fundamental things in life. The fact that there are "deniers" and "conservitards" and such out there to illustrate, by their deep wrongness, just how right liberals are may just be gravy. But I think the liberals like their self-congratulatory worldview with a liberal dose of gravy.

As do conservatives. Not saying this is a one-sided thing here.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | April 6, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

visionbrkr,

The real money in global warming is not Al Gore's investments in green technology or the books that are published or the admittedly hefty grants being provided to certain folks in academia. The motivation is not money, any more than the work of missionaries is motivated by money. Monks often live in poverty, but are often more dedicated to their work than the businessman who makes a great deal of money.

That being said, the real money in Global Warming is in Cap & Trade. If, by force of law, the government can create huge carbon credit markets that can be sold, then re-packaged as derivatives and resold, and so on, there's a huge carbon credit bubble waiting to make a lot of people very, very rich.

Before collapsing and leaving the American tax-payer on the hook for the bill.

But that's later. And that's the cynics--the Robert Tiltons with their Success in Life ministries--will show up the cater to, and sometimes fleece, the faithful. Most of the folks involved in the apocalyptic visions of the First Church of Climate Change do so out of a conviction that rivals any Charismatic speaking in tongues and then going into holy convulsions. They aren't in it for the money. They are in it to save the world--and save the souls of the infidels.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | April 6, 2010 12:41 PM | Report abuse

I do not deny that climate change is occurring. I do not deny that the average temperature of the Earth is rising.

However, I am a healthy skeptic, and I remain skeptical of our human impact, and specifically, the impact of our pollution, on that warming trend. Ice ages and warming periods have occurred before, with or without humans. We know a fair amount about this ball of mud of ours, but we still can't predict the weather more than a day or so in advance with certainty.

Quotes like this one: "We were surprised to find that the closing of the ozone hole, which is expected to occur in the next 50 years or so, shows significant effects on the global climate," said Lorenzo M. Polvani, one of two principle investigators and professor of applied physics and applied mathematics at SEAS. "This is because stratospheric ozone has not been considered a major player in the climate system." Which was published here: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080612141015.htm in June 2008. It doesn't give me a lot of confidence in those climate change models.

This article, published in 2000, taken in conjunction with the above is even more interesting: http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2000/ast12dec_1/

So they just found out that ozone holes have a significant effect on the climate, and the ozone holes are known to fluctuate wildly from year to year based on that non-predictable weather that can't be predicted long-term. So how can they predict the climate in 2030, and tell us exactly how much impact our actions have on it? Oh right, a computer model that is only as good as the known inputs and relationships that are fed into it. Probably similiar to the one that just told them there was a major player they hadn't considered before. Please excuse my skepticism. I wouldn't call it denial.

Posted by: MoftheMountain | April 6, 2010 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Talespinner | April 6, 2010 9:32 AM

JERiv | April 6, 2010 10:05 AM

The term "Denier" was specifically coined to equate anyone who strayed from alarmist orthodoxy with holocaust deniers. Look it up. Dance around it however you like, the use of the term denigrates you.

As to what to call "them", a liberal humanist would try to avoid group labels. If you must use labels, try to define the group as narrowly as possible. There are lots of people who don't buy specific parts of the alarmism who don't even warrant the title "skeptic".

But of course, acknowledging gradations wouldn't enable blanket exhortations to hatred quite the way holocasut denier does.

Posted by: Duncan5 | April 6, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Ah, another glorious 'comments' thread in the wake of a thoughful piece about this depressing topic. What a fertile growth medium for a new crop of denier arguments. Yet they disappoint and trot out, like aging athletes, the same old discredited arguments that we've been hearing for years now: 'scientists are in it for the money', 'there were vineyards in Greenland', 'they forgot to impute the effects of solar minimums', zzzzzzzzzzz.

Let's face it, deniers are tiresome. They're tiresome because there's no mountain of peer-reviewed science that will persuade them. Ever. Period, paragraph, end of story. They have absolutely no interest in listening to any evidene (let alone searching for it) objectively. None.

"Why are they the way they are?" is the better question. Fairly simple to discern. They're almost all conservatives and tea baggers. This cohort abhors one thing above all others: government interference in their lives. And therein lies the rub. The only things that can fix a market that fails to impute long term costs are laws that force producers and consumers to bear the full cost of their behavior. Laws are written by governments. Since they hate governments, they must deny any reality that compels rational people to conclude that governments to negotiate a global treaty....even at pain of death. (It is, incidentally, quite ironic that these self-proclaimed lovers of free markets have less faith in them than the progressives they deride. If they truly believed in free markets, they'd understand that putting a price on carbon unleashes the market for substitutes. Witness Denmark, home of the world's dominant wind turbine manufacturer: Vestas.)

This is going to get ugly folks (and you thought healthcare was nasty). Those of us who desire a serious solution know that the United States needs to lead if China is ever going to act. The US can't lead if we can't legislate.

It would be different if those of us who accept the science didn't also grasp what's at stake. We do, however, and we're unlikely to continue to countenance foot-draggers when the next b*@&ch slap nature has in store for us arrives.

Posted by: sdavis3398 | April 6, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

"However, I am a healthy skeptic, and I remain skeptical of our human impact, and specifically, the impact of our pollution, on that warming trend."

You are a fool if you think humans haven't impacted the environment or if the c02 we pump into the air every day for so many decades also doesn't affect climate variables in the same way that natural phenomena (e.g. volcanoes, sunspots, el nino, etc) do.

Scientists are well aware that they don't have all the answers to every climate variable. What they do know is how much carbon is being pumped into the air each day and that carbon absorbs heat and that the sun radiates heat and therefor the carbon in the atmosphere is absorbing heat in very predictable ways.

Posted by: Lomillialor | April 6, 2010 1:43 PM | Report abuse

I agree with the author's point that "Trying to explain [The interest of donors in and the unanimity of scientists on climate change] while insisting climate change doesn't exist requires assigning bizarre and implausible motives to most parties involved." I've worked in climate and other scientific fields for a few years: in my experience, rare is the academic whose primary motivation is to earn big bucks - it's simply the wrong career for enormous salaries. I have encountered a few individuals who wrote general audience books on their research topic. Some did it for the sake of teaching, and some, I'm sure, for publicity and the large advance. This is a phenomenon that occurs in nearly every field; to present it as evidence that all climate scientists are 'in it for the money' is rather silly.

A more typical career path in the sciences involves work in an obscure sub-field: after years of study (at least one graduate degree), writing countless grant proposals and funding requests, and toiling over research, a group of collaborators publishes their findings. As pj_camp touches on, most scientists hope to publish something new, original, and with far-reaching implications - in other words, something important. Working on quality research and publishing important findings are how scientists build a reputation and gain stature among colleagues.

After publishing his/her findings, a scientist may give mainstream media interviews detailing their practical import, and respond to criticism. Characterizing these activities as "fanning the flames of...public debate" or designed to "poke at their enemies and gain moral superiority status" is rather hyperbolic.

I suppose I can see how a scientist's public appearances and high-profile grant awards might appear like a profitable, self-driven cycle. However, grants are awarded based on scientific reputation, which comes from a strong publication record, thorough research planning, and a history of delivering solid research...not from television or radio appearances. And grant money isn't profit: it pays for lab equipment, field excursions, computing resources, and PhD students & postdocs (who, as cranaghan pointed out, typically make $25-45,000/yr), and often must be transparently and comprehensively accounted for.

I'm happy to see someone pointing out the inconsistency and inaccuracy of Stephens's positions. Perhaps it's also worthwhile to reiterate here an emerging maxim in the climate change discourse: weather is not climate.

Posted by: DueDiligence | April 6, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

I'm given to understand that there is a lot about climate science and AGW that is absolutely certain. Is there a summary of, say, 1000 words or less that everybody who is not a teabagger or on Exxon's payroll should believe unquestioningly? What, exactly, is "the science" that everybody accepts?

Posted by: tl_houston | April 6, 2010 3:34 PM | Report abuse

Though I will willingly agree that the American right wing is significantly more experienced in matters of hate speech, still, I find myself unwilling to cede definitional authority in this matter.

Holocaust deniers are called holocaust deniers because they're denying the existence of something that posesses a broad historical consensus because the existence of that thing is troublesome for their pre-existing political views.

Though the consensus is scientific rather than historic, the denial of that consensus is still in service of pre-existing political opinions.

If there are those who dislike the label, perhaps they ought not engage in the behavior? There's no name calling here ... merely calling a denial a denial.

Incidentally, that IS different from skepticism, as denial requires a positive claim ... but if you wish to adopt the mantle of climate change skepticism (and not be thought disingenuous), then it's worth explaining precisely what evidence or consensus would be required in order to win you over. I suspect that in most cases there is none sufficient.

Posted by: Talespinner | April 6, 2010 3:45 PM | Report abuse

If you really believe that a projection of future events based largely on computer simulations is as certain as a major historical disaster that was witnessed by millions, with living survivors, pictures, and all kinds of first-person accounts, then maybe it's appropriate to describe skeptics of both in the same terms. I think that's a huge stretch, no matter how confident you are of the computer models. If it's not really a valid comparison, than use of "denier" appears to be nothing more than a variant of Godwin's Law.

Posted by: tl_houston | April 6, 2010 4:04 PM | Report abuse

tl_houston

Yet, we also have first-hand evidence of climate change, not just computer models.

We have witnesses (and their photographic and other evidence) who have attested to the disappearance of vast stretches of ice and glaciers, shore erosion, etc..

And we have not just the computer models, but actual early verification of many computer models due to observable chaotic weather patterns such as increased moisture (and the resulting snow and rain and flooding) due to increased evaporation due to higher temps. All predicted and all came true.

We also have highly acidic oceans that no one is denying.

We have loggers and foresters testifying to the growing infestation of north american forests by hungry beetle populations (and other insects), which are destroying such forests as they spread their domain northward with the retreating cold.

We have melting permafrosts in areas that have been frozen for 100,000s of years, losses of villages, increased threats of a massive, uncontrollable methane release from those melting permafrosts.

We have seen first hand the effects of acid rain in past years and how a properly designed and coordinated mitigation effort can control the emissions and other things that caused it.

Those are just a few things we can easily prove with witnesses and such. The proof is there. The scientists and other witnesses have spoken or shown us their photos. We clearly have signs that a "natural holocaust" is imminent.

If you aren't accepting the science and the proof, then IMO you're just bending to your politic dictates. There are too many respected American (and other) scientists all saying that the science is definitive that we are causing havoc with the weather.

Posted by: Lomillialor | April 6, 2010 5:01 PM | Report abuse

@tl_houston: "If you really believe that a projection of future events based largely on computer simulations is as certain as a major historical disaster that was witnessed by millions, with living survivors, pictures, and all kinds of first-person accounts, then maybe it's appropriate to describe skeptics of both in the same terms"

It's an interesting term. It's descriptive, but so is "skeptic". But the connotations of "denier" have negative implications that appeal to Anthropogenic Climate Change adherents, who think Global Warming skeptics are dupes, knaves, charlatans, or propagandists. Calling them skeptics would give them and their position too much credit, despite being at least as accurate. So there is almost uniform agreement not only to lump Global Warming skeptics under a specific appellation, but what that label should be.

Just as there is general agreement in any church as to what non-believers or apostates should be called: infidels, heretics, blasphemers. There is also a negative, rather than neutral or respectful connotations to the terms chosen there, as well.

But there's also a trick. It seems like they are equating Global Warming skeptics with anti-semmites and conspiracy theorist kooks, and at one level they are. But there is a more important implication illustrated by your comment: they are attempting to equate the scientific consensus of the contemporary scientific community and projections of what may happen in the future based on limited and suspect computer models with a historical and completely documented historical event that happened in the past. These aren't the same thing, just as the evidence for anthropogenic global warming is not of a kind with the evidence that there was a moon landing or that the earth is round.

This doesn't mean there is no such thing as anthropogenic global warming, only that the comparisons between holocaust and climate change deniers, or the consensus for anthropogenic climate change and the consensus for the shape of our planet, are faulty and specious comparisons.

Ever hear a Christian scientist prove the existence and divinity of Christ by using the genealogies in the Old Testament against roman census records or some such thing? It's kind of like that.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | April 6, 2010 5:02 PM | Report abuse

@Lom:

"Yet, we also have first-hand evidence of climate change, not just computer models."

Of course we do. And we have historical evidence that there has always been climate change. It's one thing to argue that the climate is changing, and quite another to argue that the lifestyles of the ants in their anthills in the great forest of our planet are actually causing the climate to change.

Perhaps a virgin sacrifice is called for. I'm just saying. That used to appease the gods, so they say.

Also, it's one thing to say man is contributing to climate change, and still another to say that a great solution for that is creating a carbon credit market so that the superwealthy can game that new market, magic it up with derivatives and credit default swaps while claiming to be saving the planet, then leave everybody else holding the bag when the bubble bursts.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | April 6, 2010 5:09 PM | Report abuse

"The interest of donors in and the unanimity of scientists on climate change are easy things to explain if one accepts that it is a real phenomenon. Trying to explain them while insisting climate change doesn't exist requires assigning bizarre and implausible motives to most parties involved." --Dylan Matthews

"If" that collection of words ain't passive sentence construction and argument, I don't know what is ("are"?). If I were Mr. Matthews' English professor at Harvard, I would be tearing my hair out. By the way, do they still teach logic at places like that?

Posted by: walk2write | April 6, 2010 5:41 PM | Report abuse

Kevin: "It's one thing to argue that the climate is changing, and quite another to argue that the lifestyles of the ants in their anthills in the great forest of our planet are actually causing the climate to change."

It's false attributions like that which make it valid to lump climate deniers with flat-earthers or holocaust deniers or moon landing deniers.

You obviously choose not to take the science and the evidence seriously so you belittle it or pose strawmen.

You're not to be taken seriously.

Posted by: Lomillialor | April 6, 2010 10:53 PM | Report abuse

Kevin : "It's one thing to argue that the climate is changing..."

Until VERY recently, most science deniers were even denying the planet was heating. Only in the last year are they even starting to admit it is warming.

Those who don't admit it use intentional falsehoods (e.g. the earth has been cooling since 1998) to anchor their ideological positions.

The total lack of intellectual honesty by conservatives on this issue is one more reason I am no longer a Republican.

Any idiot with a pair of open eyes can see for him/herself how humans are impacting the planet in major ways.

Posted by: Lomillialor | April 6, 2010 11:03 PM | Report abuse

Kevin : "And we have historical evidence that there has always been climate change."

It's amazing people think such fatuous arguments are relevant.

There is NO historical precedent for what we are experiencing today. NONE. Climate change patterns in the past are fully explainable by natural phenomena or even the impact of humans. Scientists fairly well understand all of this. Just because you don't, it doesn't mean someone else doesn't.

Posted by: Lomillialor | April 6, 2010 11:08 PM | Report abuse

Dear Lomillialor:

You are factually incorrect on your assertion that: "There is NO historical precedent for what we are experiencing today. NONE. Climate change patterns in the past are fully explainable by natural phenomena or even the impact of humans. Scientists fairly well understand all of this. Just because you don't, it doesn't mean someone else doesn't."

I would suggest you refer to Dr. Phil Jones recent interview with the BBC where he stated:

Neither the rate nor magnitude of recent warming is exceptional. (Directly rejecting your assertion!)

There was no significant warming from 1998-2009. According to the IPCC we should have seen a global temperature increase of at least 0.2°C per decade. (Directly rejecting your assertion!)

The IPCC models may have overestimated the climate sensitivity for greenhouse gases, underestimated natural variability, or both. (Directly rejecting your assertion!)


This also suggests that there is a systematic upward bias in the impacts estimates based on these models just from this factor alone. (Directly rejecting your assertion!)

The logic behind attribution of current warming to well-mixed man-made greenhouse gases is faulty. (Directly rejecting your assertion!)

The science is not settled, however unsettling that might be. (Directly rejecting your assertion!)

There is a tendency in the IPCC reports to leave out inconvenient findings, especially in the part(s) most likely to be read by policy makers. (Directly rejecting your assertion!)

If you were familiar with data on Global Mean Temperature, (as one cannot infer from your incorrect assertions) you would know there has been NO STATISTICALLY SIGNIFICANT increase in temperature since 1995 and in fact there has been a slight cooling from 2002-2010 (please refer to the Jones interview above and also to Lindzen, 2009).

You may wish to view Joe Bastardi of Accuweather review this data if you are unfamiliar with it (which your comments certainly indicate) at:
http://www.accuweather.com/video/37129475001/debunking-global-warming-in-californias-wildfires.asp

Finally you may wish to hear Dr. Lindzen Deconstruct AGW at:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VwM_B4-5gaE

There is nothing odd about the current climate-other than how low C02 is (it was 470% higher in the Jurassic and 1800% higher in the Cambrian).


Posted by: TBEAR72 | April 6, 2010 11:48 PM | Report abuse

TBEAR : "Neither the rate nor magnitude of recent warming is exceptional. (Directly rejecting your assertion!)"

I never asserted that. So your powers of deduction and analysis are already seen as suspect.

The science of climate change is very complex. To understand my assertion means you have to systematically address many variables. You don't seem capable of such analysis.

I do not pretend to be a scientist. Nor do I pretend to be able to understand or properly represent or defend the science. Yet when I see armchair quarterbacks like you making claims that the IPCC "provide upward bias" I know you are full of ideological vinegar.

One such variable is the fact that 100,000 years ago we did not have an industrializes society on the planet pumping billions of tons of carbon per month into the atmosphere.

Here's a carbon clock everyone should look at and try to understand.

http://www.dbcca.com/dbcca/EN/index.jsp

"On June 18th as the counter started, long-lived GHGs in the atmosphere were estimated to be 3.64 trillion metric tons, growing at 2 billion metric tons per month, or 467 ppm, of which CO2 was 385 ppm."

So tell me. Prior to the industrialized revolution, when did humans ever pump trillions of tons of carbon and other gasses into the atmosphere?

As far as your silly claim that carbon levels were higher when t-rex was running around (a claim that only scientists couold possibly make, yet those scientists claim otherwise), well, here's a chart showing the historical carbon levels. (you may have to scroll down).

http://www.dbcca.com/dbcca/EN/carbon-counter/carbon_through_history.jsp

Posted by: Lomillialor | April 7, 2010 7:37 AM | Report abuse

TBEAR : "The IPCC models may have overestimated the climate sensitivity for greenhouse gases, underestimated natural variability, or both. (Directly rejecting your assertion!)"

I never made such an assertion.

Nonetheless, you are quite incorrect to claim what you claimed.

Here's one link from more knowledgeable and intellectually honest people showing how we are coming to understand that science models are UNDERESTIMATING warming and its consequences.

http://climateprogress.org/2009/07/17/climate-science-petm-methane-feedback-global-warming-nature-geoscience/

Posted by: Lomillialor | April 7, 2010 7:42 AM | Report abuse

TBEAR : "Neither the rate nor magnitude of recent warming is exceptional. (Directly rejecting your assertion!)"

So tbear, are you implying that warming isn't happening? If warming is not happening, why does NASA say the last ten years are the hottest on record, why is the ice melting and glaciers melting? Are you denying that is all happening too?

Nasa letter about warmest decade:
http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2010/jan/HQ_10-017_Warmest_temps.html

The link below is an analysis on Phil Jones's strengths and weaknesses. Phil Jones never meant to imply that mankind is not causing global warming or that warming isn't happening.

http://climateprogress.org/2010/02/16/bbc-interview-phil-jones-climate-science-when-did-you-stop-beating-your-wife/

Posted by: Lomillialor | April 7, 2010 8:05 AM | Report abuse

Mr Klein's alleged inability to see why "walthy donors" would be putting up the $10s of billions that have been put into warming "research" depends entirley on his alleged ignorance of the fact that virtually all of it it not put up by wealthy anybody but by government, using our taxes to sell us a story which would allow them to tax & control us more.

I have asked journalists, politicians & alarmist lobbyists now totalling in the tens of thousands to name 2 prominent scientists, not funded by government or an alarmist lobby who have said that we are seeing a catastrophic degree of warming & none of them have yet been able to do so. I extend this same invitation here.

There is not & never was a genuine scientific consensus on this, though scientists seeking government funds have been understandably reluctant to speak. If there were anything approaching a consensus it with over 31,000 scientists having signed the Oregon petition saying it is bunk, it would be easy to find a similar number of independent scientists saying it was true, let alone 2. The whole thing depends on a very small number of people & a massive government publicity machine, both very well funded by the innocent taxpayer.

Doubtless if Mr Klein realy believes in this "scientific consensus" he will be able to name such independent scientists supporting catastrophic warming. It will be interesting to see ;-)

Posted by: NeilCraig | April 7, 2010 9:37 AM | Report abuse

Neil : "There is not & never was a genuine scientific consensus on this"

You are either an idiot or a liar.

Since you don't realize Ezra didn't write the above blog entry, I am inclined to think the former.

Regarding consensus, which clearly exists, read this link:

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

Excerpt:

Scientific opinion on climate change is given by synthesis reports, scientific bodies of national or international standing, and surveys of opinion among climate scientists. This does not include the views of individual scientists, individual universities, or laboratories, nor self-selected lists of individuals such as petitions.

National and international science academies and scientific societies have assessed the current scientific opinion, in particular on recent global warming. These assessments have largely followed or endorsed the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) position of January 2001 that states:

An increasing body of observations gives a collective picture of a warming world and other changes in the climate system... There is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities.[1]

No scientific body of national or international standing has maintained a dissenting opinion since the American Association of Petroleum Geologists adopted its current position in 2007.[2] Some organisations hold non-committal positions.

Posted by: Lomillialor | April 7, 2010 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Neil

The oregon petition is itself bunk.

It was created by religious whackos who sued about Harry Potter.

The AP did a study on it and could not identify significant numbers of signatories.

Many scientists have spoken out publicly that they never added their name to the petition, though their name somehow was on it.

Petitions are not a basis of peer-reviewed factual science.

The fact you would cite the Oregon petition (or any petition for that matter) as a credible foil against peer-reviewed science or 100s of international science organizations shows how incapable you are of critical thought and honest discussion.

Posted by: Lomillialor | April 7, 2010 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Tax and control. I can't believe it, but it is repeated again and again.

People write that global warming science is an attempt to tax and control us.

But isn't it the case that you are already tax and controlled? Have you ever seen an electric car on the showroom floor?

Isn't it true that if an electric car were actually manufactured 30 years ago that there would be nothing but electric powered transportation?

Instead we are told that in Bagdad today 100 people were killed by terrorists. We are then led to believe that leaving Iraq would mean Osama Bin Laden would come kill you while you slept.

Truth is that the terrorists are being paid to keep the mideast in flames so the USA can keep spending nearly a trillion tax dollars a year to defend the oil pipeline for Exxon and cohorts who actually control our government.

So when you read that global warming is an attempt by a few to get rich you should remember what companies had more than a 30 trillion dollar profit last quarter. Exxon.

You government is already controlled by oil, so you are too.

Now if we could factor in the cost of oil security into a gallon of gas then electric cars would have replaced the gas combustion engine 30 years ago.

But people are too blind to understand that military expenditures are tax dollars not for USA security, rather oil security for private profits.

That's oil socialism and it has been around for about 70 years.

Posted by: ender3rd | April 7, 2010 11:09 AM | Report abuse

LOMILLIATOR:
You are awfully quick to make the discourse a personal assault, which makes me believe that this is of religious importance to you, not just scientific. But yu are on the wrong side of this religion.
Your responses to TBEAR are almost all wrong. It's best if you just stay quiet, try to learn something, and admit defeat. One thing, tough, really made me laugh. You made a point about the NASA statements (Jim Hansen is the lead news hog over there). Every time he has opened his trap with things like what you are stating (which HE doesn't even have the temerity to do any more!) he is forced to retract it. You need to check on the polar ice situation. Both south and north ice caps are at or above their seasonal averages, both in square kilometers and in volume. And the glaciers are growing, as well. In fact the letter you refer to has been challenged and corrected already.
About the consensus: Please refer to my posting. You're wrong there too, the consensus has fallen apart, as more and more people understand the political and ideological leanings, and the underhandedness, of the CRU and NASA. These people literally played with the data! Don't you get that? Science itself is a form of religion. It is a sacred process of finding knowledge (Thats what "science" means). When someone violates the sanctity of the scientific goal of finding truth and knowledge, as the CRU did, and as NASA continues to try to do, they blaspheme in the eyes of other scientists.
And this is borne out by the momentum on consensus. There are NO scientists who have decided to back the AGW myth over the past few years, and on the other hand, hundreds of scientists challenging the myth.
It's best, Lomilliator, that you just shush.

Posted by: gburton58 | April 7, 2010 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Dear Lomillialor Part2:

Here is just one representative quote on historic C02 concentrations:
"Earth's atmosphere today contains about 380 parts per million CO2 (0.038%). Compared to former geologic times, our present atmosphere, like the Late Carboniferous atmosphere, is CO2- impoverished! In the last 600 million years of Earth's history only the Carboniferous Period and our present age, the Quaternary Period, have witnessed CO2 levels less than 400 parts per million."

"There has historically been much more CO2 in our atmosphere than exists today. For example, during the Jurassic Period (200 mya), average CO2 concentrations were about 1800 parts per million or about 4.7 times higher than today. The highest concentrations of CO2 during all of the Paleozoic Era occurred during the Cambrian Period, nearly 7000 parts per million -- about 18 times higher than today.
The Carboniferous Period and the Ordovician Period were the only geological periods during the Paleozoic Era when global temperatures were as low as they are today. To the consternation of global warming proponents, the Late Ordovician Period was also an Ice Age while at the same time CO2 concentrations then were nearly 12 times higher than today-- 4400 parts per million. According to greenhouse theory, Earth should have been exceedingly hot. Instead, global temperatures were no warmer than today. Clearly, other factors besides atmospheric carbon influence earth temperatures and global warming."

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not your own facts. Why does NASA report they are the only thing standing between us and climate disaster-because with space exploration programs shutting down they might want to keep their jobs (see the FEMA story to understand how federal employees morph from mission to another).
By the way-NASA’s Jim Hansen who has been responsible for maintaining and “adjusting” the climate data sets (GISS) IS NOT A TRAINED CLIMATOLOGIST NOR STATISTICIAN. He is training is in planetary science-not climatology and he is (according to NASA current job description UNQUALIFIED to be a NASA Climatologist. While he is clearly not qualified to do the work NASA (we) pay him to do-you seem to blithely accept his credentials and “research”. I do not.
If you wish to read the work of real climatologists may I suggest that you start with Drs. Spencer & Christy at UAH (www.drroyspencer.com)?
In your next answer please address the IPCC QUOTE and the data.

Posted by: tbear721 | April 7, 2010 12:41 PM | Report abuse

gburton, tbear

links please. Make them credible and based on scientists or science organizations.

When you make claims like Hansen isn't credible or Nasa's just trying to save itself, your ideology shows.

The NOAA and other US bodies, including most scientists that work in various state governments also would laugh at your silly propaganda and anti-science rants.

I hate to be the one trying to defend climate science or counter propaganda such as yours because I am not a scientist and neither do I understand all the issues. Yet no one else is here, and it is clear that you are just regurgitating any old skeptic theory you can get your hand on. Google makes it very easy for you flat-earthers to quote neat stuff that on first glance would seem to be proof that the planet isn't warming, etc. However, I try to do due diligence and dig deeper into various sources. I wish you would too, and not just quote whatever google crap shows up on the browser (most of it is crap).

Your sea ice claims, for example, are simplistic. Ice (volume, depth) varies from year to year. It is the TREND you need to understand, which you clearly don't.

Here's a link that tries to explain the sea ice issue:

http://climateprogress.org/2010/03/22/thin-ice-arctic-winds-sea-ice-extent-global-warming/

Posted by: Lomillialor | April 7, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse

tbear : "Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not your own facts."

That is funny, coming from you. I've already provided links debunking some of your key claims. You obviously think if you can find one google link that corroborates your claim, then it must be true. However, for those of us with intellectual honesty who try to truly understand what is going on, we try to judge the quality and credibility of our sources.

Posted by: Lomillialor | April 7, 2010 2:48 PM | Report abuse

gburton : "And the glaciers are growing"

Here's an embarrassing (for you) story TODAY about glaciers melting

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/36224913/ns/us_news-environment/

Posted by: Lomillialor | April 7, 2010 5:03 PM | Report abuse

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