My Answer to Andrew Revkin

Andrew Revkin asks:

"A question for climate skeptics: I presume you agree there’s at least a chance you could be wrong, just as you assert those pointing to a clearcut climate apocalypse have little basis for their claims. On that front, I’d be curious to know what you’d propose as a backup plan if the climate’s sensitivity to CO2 turns out to be higher than you think?"

We are not talking about one potential disaster but two:  Potential Disaster #1 is some sort of climate apocalypse from CO2-caused warming.  Potential Disaster #2 is an economic apocalypse via contracting economies and drastically reduced energy consumption that result from aggresive CO2 abatement programs.

In all but the most dire climate forecasts, the economic disaster from aggressive CO2 abatement is at least as large in terms of its contribution to human misery as any hypothesized climate disaster from not abating CO2. 

This statement might be open to debate, but here is one that is not:  No matter which disaster is worse, what we know for sure is that the economic disaster is orders of magnitude more likely than the climate disaster.  Because if there is a 0-5-10% chance of a apocalyptic climate disaster from inaction on CO2, there is a near 100% chance that efforts that truly abate CO2 (current recommendations are to reduce it in 30 years by 80-100%) will result in an economic disaster which will cause untold human misery — particularly if alarmists refuse to accept nuclear as a viable abatement option.  We may actually not experience the disaster so much in the US — after all, as a nation we are quite rich.  But the disaster in terms of lost opportunity for the billions of people who for the first time in millenia have the chance to escape grinding starvation-level poverty will be absolute. 

This is what climate alarmists and their lapdogs in the press always fail to explain — in order to avoid a hypothesized climate disaster we have to set ourselves up for almost certain economic disaster.  And the only way that this might not happen is if some new technology, like solar energy panels that are two orders of magnitude cheaper, comes along to bail us out of this tradeoff.  But if that occurs, there is still little need for drastic action, since the market would adopt such a technology in seconds with or without a climate disaster looming.

  • Scientist

    This belief that economic growth requires carbon dioxide emission is pure bullshit. I’ve got just four words for you: Brazil, Norway, Iceland, France.

  • Adirian

    Let’s address those “Four words”:

    France – gets its power from nuclear sources, which, from the research I’ve done, simply can’t cover a significant portion of the world’s energy supply for any sustainable period of time. (And France is covering its marginal energy needs with coal power – that is, it cannot even afford to continue its previous pursuit of nuclear power.)

    Ah, Iceland. Yes, let’s use as our example a nation with a UNIQUE ENERGY SITUATION THAT CANNOT BE APPLIED ELSEWHERE. Geothermal energy sources on that scale aren’t available to most of the world.

    Sort of like… hydroelectric power, which Norway currently operates on. Which, like France, is incapable of meeting its marginal power requirements – as energy consumption continues to rise in a nation already using more power per capita than any other nation on Earth, they’re faced with two viable options, as their hydroelectric potential is tapped – carbon fuels and nuclear.

    Ah, and… Brazil? What? You’re using as your example a nation that is involved in a lawsuit because it violated medical copyright on the basis that its citizens couldn’t afford the AIDS medication in question? A nation which has clear-cut significant tracts of its forests to grow the sugarcane which produces the ethanol that is fueling its nation… but… wait a moment… ethanol is, that’s right, a carbon fuel. Its primary cost comes up front, as Brazil clear-cuts its forests and frees up immense quantities of carbon dioxide, as well as destroying existing carbon sinks, but the cost is still there.

  • Keith

    Scientist, you’re funny. GDP of Brazil, Norway, Iceland, and France combined = $4.174 trillion. GDP of US = $13.86 trillion. I suppose if we destroyed over 2/3rds of our economy, we could emit a lot less CO2 also. Oh, that paragon of carbon neutrality Norway? They are the world’s 8th leading producer of oil.

  • WJG

    I believe your response is only half right. The left do know that economic devastation will occur under their plans, and their answer has already been put on paper – in the Kyoto Treaty and in.

    Their plan, which coincides with their dreams of a world socialism is to reduce and destroy the economies of First World Nations. China, India left out of the Kyoto Treaty. Carbon Credits based on 1990 levels – before the re-unified Germany and Russia shut down inefficient factories (Try changing any treaty base-line levels to 2005 and the treaty will never see the light of day).

    Al Gore and company says that its only fair for China to wait until AFTER the US reduces it energy use (and economy). They want the economy of the US in particular destroyed that they will peddle the fantasy that China will just follow the lead of the US on new emission standards, as if China has ever followed what what the US doe sin any industry, or even in human rights which will not effect their economy.

    Explaining that their answer will destroy the economies of already poor children is meaningless. Their plan and intentions are to destroy the economy of the US, and reduce the economies of other 1st world nations.

    Your answer only works on people who have not already committed themselves to the religion of socialism and Al Gore.

  • Vermont Weatherman

    Andrew’s question is a good one, but it might also be part of the problem. “Skeptics” have no more or less expertise in economics than “alarmists”. The question is not a climate question, since it asks for “a backup plan” – an economic/industrial/technology plan.

    Some scientists, in the interest of getting policy makers to pay attention to them, have gone from science to advocacy. This is not always their fault, as policy makers have turned to them for advice. And it is so tempting, given this elevation in stature to “adviser”, to give advice on things they may not be qualified for.

    There was a piece on the World Climate Report website that tried to put proposed plans in context with the CO2 reduction compared to the difference in computer model projections of temperature change. See http://www.worldclimatereport.com/index.php/2007/11/20/
    the-big-secret-climate-bills-result-in-no-meaningful-impact-on-global-temperature/

    I feel climate scientists have their hands full trying to understand the climate. And as a meteorologist, I would NEVER trade places with an economic forecaster!

  • Scientist

    Adrian – you need to do more research. Nuclear is eminently viable. Iceland gets most of its energy from hydroelectric power, not geothermal as you seem to think. And seriously, what on earth does medical copyright have to do with energy generation? What a bizarre thing to mention.

    Keith – GDP per capital in Norway – 79,000USD. Iceland – 64,000USD. US – 45,000 USD. Interesting, eh? UN Human development Index – Iceland:1, Norway:2, US:12. How about that?

    WJG – I hope you’re not ignorant enough to think that China lags the US in terms of energy efficiency. Look up the efficiencies of Chinese cars, compared to US-made cars. Look up the efficiency of Chinese power stations, and compare it to that of US power stations. Look up the largest solar technology companies in the world and see where the largest is based.

  • Larry Sheldon

    Should I stop reading this blog, or just stop commenting on it?

  • morganovich

    scientist, you really are too much.

    both norway and iceland are at the top of per capita figures because they have tiny populations. you wanna compare something to norway? compare it to new york city. except that new york doesn’t derive most of its GDP from natural resources. ditto iceland. the examples you choose CANNOT be emulated by the rest of the world. small, sparsely populated nations rich in natural resources just do not provide an emulatable example for india or china or anyplace industrialized. your comparison is meaningless.

    don’t get me wrong, i think nuclear is a great idea, particularly if the new pebble bed reactors prove viable, but can it replace all the fossil fuels? not with current uranium capacity. been watching it’s price? how much could be mined and processed is an open and complex question.

    but if you think china is an efficient user of energy, you need to have your sources of data evaluated. that’s just not true.

  • Adirian

    Nuclear != Viable. Trust me, I’ve argued that perspective with a nuclear scientist, and lost. There just aren’t sufficient reserves of nuclear material in the world to power the economy we have for a significant-enough period of time to make it worth the massive investment, much less a growing economy – at least with current mining and extraction techniques. The United States might get by for a century or two on the global supply of uranium – but the rest of the world would have to avoid any investments whatsoever.

    And why exactly would you move from one energy source I dismissed to another I dismissed without addressing the reasons for dismissal of the second? Hydroelectric is no more an option for most of the world than geothermal is, and those nations that are seriously utilizing it are still having to meet their marginal energy requirements elsewhere. (And also killing off endangered species like river dolphins in the process.) You’ve failed entirely to address the broader point – that Iceland is not a situation that can be emulated elsewhere.

    And the medical copyright was brought up because it demonstrates a major deficiency in the Brazilian economy – its citizens cannot afford healthcare. Hence the question of why we would want to emulate them.

  • Keith

    Scientist, I’m not sure where you’re getting your data, but according to https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2004rank.html, Norway’s per capita GDP is $55,600, Iceland’s is $39,400, and the US is $46,000. France and Brazil, whose per capita GDP you didn’t mention for some reason, come in at $33,800 and $9,700 respectively.

    Let’s take Norway as an interesting example of how to destroy an economy. As I mentioned, they are the 8th largest producer of oil in the world at 2.978 million barrels per year (https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2173rank.html). That adds up to $109 billion a year (at $100/barrel). Since using fossil fuels is evil, this must be stopped, which would drop Norway’s total GDP from $257 billion to $148 billion. The effect would, of course, be much worse than this since it would also mean no oil equipment manufacturing etc. But just looking at the loss of oil production, this alone would drop Norway’s per capita GDP to $32,000. But I’m sure the Norwegians wouldn’t mind, it being for the global good and all.

  • joshv

    Adrian: Even reprocessing fuel using breeder reactors?

  • Scientist

    morganovich – looks like you don’t really know what ‘per capita’ means. And bizarrely, you seem to think China and India can’t use hydroelectric power. China has the largest output of hydroelectric power in the world; India has the seventh largest. And in a pattern I see repeated here time and time again, you appear to think that if you don’t believe something, it must not be true. Do a simple google search for ‘China fuel economy standards’.

    Adirian – the mere act of you saying ‘I dismiss this’ doesn’t actually mean that a power source is not viable. Do some research, for once. Look up the top ten hydroelectric power producing nations. Add up all their populations. Compare to world population.

    So somehow you think that if another nation were to emulate Brazil’s energy policy, its citizens would no longer be able to afford healthcare?

    Keith – you’re using PPP figures, I’m using simple GDP per capita. You can tell PPP measurements introduce unexpected effects if you notice that Equatorial Guinea comes out ninth in the world by that measure.

    As for stopping oil production, I presume you’re aware that oil is not an infinite resource, and Norway ultimately doesn’t actually have a choice about stopping using it? So if you think that stopping using fossil fuels means doom for any economy, always and inevitably, then economic apocalypse is completely unavoidable?

  • Stevo

    Scientist,

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

    Most countries are clustered randomly about the origin – both their economies and their emissions being very small. For nations with decent sized economies, examples you could have picked are Japan, Germany, the UK, France, and Italy. On the other side of the line are China, Russia, India, and Canada. Nobody else is worth bothering with. Japan and the Europeans are generally about twice as efficient as the USA. But I don’t conclude anything from that, because I don’t know why.

    You will find that the People’s Republic of China has a ratio of $450/tonne, compared to the US at $1936/tonne, indicating that the US is more than four times more efficient in its economic use of energy than China.

  • Scientist

    Stevo – I don’t really think you can describe the ratio of GDP to CO2 emissions as a measure of any kind of efficiency. GDP is not driven by CO2 emission. Can Chad really be usefully described as the most efficient country in the world in its economic use of energy? How can the difference between most and least ‘efficient’ by this measure be a factor of four hundred?

    Using more conventional measures of efficiency, Chinese cars are better at turning fuel into miles than US cars are, and Chinese power stations are better at turning coal into electricity than US ones are.

    No-one has yet offered a thought on how, if CO2 emission is vital to economic growth, we can possibly avoid a mega-crash when fossil fuels run out. Or do you all think we can’t?

  • Larry Sheldon

    “No-one has yet offered a thought on how, if CO2 emission is vital to economic growth, we can possibly avoid a mega-crash when fossil fuels run out.”

    I suppose you would do it the same you will when you artificial shut down the use of fossil fuels.

    Why not share the plan with us?

  • Stevo

    Scientist,

    GDP is used as a proxy for the economy. Since we were arguing about whether it was possible to have a buoyant economy while cutting CO2, I’d suggest it is relevant.

    The relationship between the economy and energy usage is noisy – subject to many other competing effects. When you look at small samples, the noise overwhelms the signal. Most country’s economies are so small that the noise is larger than their production, which is why the ratios are all over the place. There are local circumstances that shift it one way or the other without being generally applicable. If you plot the graph of GDP vs emissions, it all becomes clearer.

    By my rough reckoning the US generates power at a rate of 1.67 kg CO2/kWh while China does do at 1.73 kg CO2/kWh. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were specific subsets of their generating capacity where China had bought something more efficient, but I don’t think it’s a general rule. And building this infrastructure is costing them a lot of money, that therefore isn’t being used to alleviate poverty. But maybe you could point us to your sources?

    But none of that bears on the question at issue – can you cut fossil fuel usage by 80% over the near future without it costing you anything economically? I suggest to you that nothing you’ve said demonstrates that you can.

  • Stevo

    Oh, yes. And the reason nobody has offered any thoughts on what we do when fossil fuels run out is that they’re not going to. Technology will have moved on long before that happens.

    But that’s another subject entirely.

  • Scientist

    If technology will have moved on, why is everyone so fiercely resistant to the very idea of it being even remotely hurried along? Why would that be economic suicide? Doesn’t anyone perceive a vast economic cost in just waiting around and hoping that it will work out?

    How is building infrastructure incompatible with alleviating poverty? Surely it’s an absolutely vital part of it. You know that greater efficiency saves money, right? And that if US cars were built to Chinese standards, you’d spend less on petrol? So why are you opposed to improving efficiency?

    I’ve shown you four economies which don’t rely on fossil fuels. Two of those are the two most developed countries in the world. How do you conclude that not relying on fossil fuels will be economically harmful?

  • Keith

    Scientist stated, “I’ve shown you four economies which don’t rely on fossil fuels. Two of those are the two most developed countries in the world.” No, you have not. For example, I’ve shown you that over 40% of Norway’s economy depends explicitly on the production of oil. I’ve also shown you that the other countries you mentioned have per capita GDP’s well below that of the US.

    Your mention of Equatorial Guinea is also quite interesting. As stated at: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ek.html, “Equatorial Guinea has experienced rapid economic growth due to the discovery of large offshore oil reserves, and in the last decade has become Sub-Saharan Africa’s third largest oil exporter.” So just as this tiny 3rd world country starts to have a chance at escaping grinding poverty, the global warming alarmists want to shut down their oil production.

    As for running out of oil, I have no problem with developing alternative energy sources. I would love to see much more R&D funding, particulary for fission nuclear plant improvements in the short term and fusion in the long term. That way, decades from now as oil resources continue to be harder and harder to extract, we might have viable alternatives to provide the energy the world needs to continue to raise standards of living.

    Unfortunately, the global warming alarmists do not agree. Their shrill calls for a rapid cessation of fossil fuel usage will absolutely destroy our economies since there are no currently viable energy production alternatives available. As stated in the advertising for “An Inconvenient Truth”: “Humanity is sitting on a ticking time bomb. If the vast majority of the world’s scientists are right, we have just ten years to avert a major catastrophe that could send our entire planet into a tail-spin of epic destruction involving extreme weather, floods, droughts, epidemics and killer heat waves beyond anything we have ever experienced.” (http://www.climatecrisis.net/aboutthefilm/)

    Finally, it is becoming tiresome that you constantly spout supposed facts without ever supplying a single link for anyone to check your sources for accuracy or context. You may have interesting points to make, but you must pardon us for not accepting everything you say as gospel. For example, statements such as, “… Chinese power stations are better at turning coal into electricity than US ones are.” are utter hogwash. I’ve designed control systems for coal-fired boilers, and there is no magic techology which would make a Chinese boiler operate more efficiently than anyone else’s. Here is just one analysis which repudiates your statement: http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/media/D/E/final_draft_china_mitigation_power_generation_sector.pdf, “As a result of large numbers of small coal-fired units, China’s average coal consumption is 50g/kwh more than the advanced world standard. Currently 100 million tce per year are wasted in power generation in China, based on the advanced world standard.” (tce stands for tons of coal equivalent)

  • Scientist

    What’s tiresome is seeing people like you obviously not bothering to read the numerous links I’ve provided. And then to claim I don’t provide links? That’s just moronic. And your blinkers are obviously in very good working order because the link you provide (and how about actually linking, instead of expecting people to cut and paste? Too lazy, or don’t you know how?) gives no direct comparison with the US. Try reading What we know about climate change by Kerry Emanuel. That should tell you plenty about the current situation that at the moment you seem unaware of.

  • Stevo

    Scientist,

    “If technology will have moved on, why is everyone so fiercely resistant to the very idea of it being even remotely hurried along?”

    We’re not. I’m very much in favour of this. But scientific progress is not something you can make to order simply by throwing more money at it (something I have great difficulty explaining to my managers), and we have other priorities that need technology to move on too, arguably more urgently.

    Take that path from Colossus to pocket calculators, for example. How much money would you have had to throw at it to shorten the development time to a year? And to build the internet the next year? And what other science would you not have then done? I’m all in favour of development in computing, but not of throwing the entire national budget at the problem. Likewise, I’m all in favour of developing cheap solar cells and mini-nukes, but not at the cost of things like medicine, water purification, agriculture, and so on. It will happen, people are working on it already, but it is best that it happen when it’s ready to.

    It’s not the idea of progress that we object to, but the idea that you have to do everything now, like the impatient child who demands that dinner be provided half-cooked, because if he doesn’t eat he’s going to starve to death. Who demands that you drop everything else you’re doing to address this one issue, the importance of which is inflated with exaggerated predictions of doom and claims of dire emergency.

    They have been predicting the imminent depletion of fossil fuels for a hundred years now. It’s a well-studied subject, and one about which there is no urgency. Whether climate change is too is yet to be determined, but given what I know about it I suspect it’s just another in a long line – pesticides, acid rain, power lines, overpopulation, radiation, oil spills, genetic modification, species extinction, plastic bags, junk food, and so on, and so on. It never ends. It probably never will.

  • Scientist

    You say ‘we’ but I’m not sure you speak for everyone else posting here. They seem to honestly believe that replacing fossil fuels cannot be done without triggering a new depression.

    it is best that it happen when it’s ready to – and how does ‘it’ know when it’s ‘ready’? I find that statement bizarre and incomprehensible.

    Your last paragraph doesn’t exactly make sense, but are you really suggesting that acid rain is not a real and damaging phenomenon, that oil spills don’t happen and that species do not become extinct? If so, then is this actually the Stevo that seemed fairly reasonable before or someone else posting under the same alias?

  • Stevo

    Hi, Scientist,

    Yes, it’s still me!

    I suspect that if you asked people here whether we would still be dependent on fossil fuels in 100 years time, I doubt you would get many firm positive commitments. Everybody knows how things have moved on from 1908, and that things are tending to move even faster with time. Fossil fuels cannot be replaced now, or over the next two or three decades for that matter, but in fifty years time? Who knows.

    But please feel free to ask them.

    I’m perfectly serious about the last paragraph – the fact that you find those statements surprising is the result of the sort of mass media campaigns I’m talking about. Acid rain is real, and it does cause some damage, but that damage is actually very minor. A lot of the “dying forests” were actually perfectly healthy forests that had been incompetently surveyed. And I think something like 2% of rivers and streams were acidified, causing some shifts in fish species in favour of more acid-tolerant ones. Oil spills happen, but natural processes clean them up in a few years, ecosystems recovering far faster than was originally thought. And species do become extinct (just as others are created), but there’s no actual scientific evidence for the human-caused “mass extinction” that some campaigners are claiming, just extrapolation from some iffy computer models. The actual number of documented extinctions of named creatures over the past 500 years is under a thousand. And while the real number is undoubtedly more, it does not come near some of the best publicised claims, many of which are guesses.

    They are all real problems, like climate change is a real problem, but the level of damage, the scientific certainty, and the urgency with which they need to be dealt with are vastly overblown.

    But this story has so much become a part of the things “everybody knows” that nowadays even to question it is seen as evidence of either idiocy or a malign intent to deceive. That there is a pile of scientific evidence and official statistics to back those questions up is never mentioned, because by the time they come along the world has lost interest. The bandwagon has long passed, and is picking up new passengers for the next scare down the road.

    However, I’ve no intention of arguing those other cases with you. This blog is only about the latest scare, on climate change. And my experience in the past has been that people so committed to the green side of the debate are rarely able to let go of their beliefs. (It’s a human failing we all have in common!) If you’re curious as to what I’m talking about, go read Lomborg’s book (The Skeptical Environmentalist). He gives all the references you could ask for. But in such a polarised arena I don’t expect you to be converted, so there’s no need to tell me that you haven’t been.

  • Mesa Econoguy

    Coyote is dead on about the catastrophic effect of draconian (and ineffective) measures to curtail/abate CO2 output.

    Lefties (and other scientists controlling the climate disinformation) have zero concept of economics and markets.

    Iceland. Please…..

  • Scientist

    I don’t understand on what basis you think 30 years is too short a timescale over which to wean ourselves off fossil fuels. And you haven’t explained what you meant by it is best that it happen when it’s ready to.

    You seem to think I would derive my opinions from media articles. The media is dominated by arts graduates and is notably poor at understanding and communicating science. That’s why 50% of popular articles on global warming suggest that humanity might not be the cause, when 0% of scientific articles say that. Go to the source. Read the journal papers. You still need some scientific judgement, of course, but it’s much more reliable than believing what you read in the media. Acid rain – start with this. Got a link to substantiate your claim about poor surveying? Oil spills – this paper shows that effects are long lasting. But these are side issues. What makes you think that, just because the world has survived many minor environmental problems, global warming must be a minor environmental problem? That is a non sequitur.

    If you believe Lomborg, then you’re trusting the popular media over the published science, again.

  • Stevo

    30 years may or may not be long enough, but if governments have to force it to make it happen, it’s not long enough.

    By “it is best that it happen when it’s ready to” I mean that it is best to let events like technological shifts happen naturally. The market determines the optimum trade off between the rising cost of delay and the falling cost of implementation. Or at least, it does so better than any government can.

    It isn’t the case that 0% of scientific articles say that – only popular articles by arts graduates say so. There is a clear majority that favour, or at least accept AGW theory, but surveys have found about 20-30% of climate scientists to be sceptical. It is more difficult to get sceptical positions published (itself an indictment of journal bias) but there are quite a few that are. (McIntyre and McKittrick being a particularly famous example.) And many that are not, such as the IPCC’s, are not quite as supportive of alarmism as one might think if you read only the press statements and summaries for policymakers. It’s because you seem totally unaware of this that I’m suspecting media influence. I’m otherwise confused by your position.

    Lomborg makes a particular point of backing up his arguments with statistics and references, from organisations like the United Nations, official government statistics publications, peer reviewed journals, and so on. In particular, because of this principle he follows, he’s taken the line that the IPCC version on climate is the ‘official’ version and is therefore a believer in man made global warming. (A point on which I disagree with him.) All he does is point out the bits of that official science that the popularisers don’t emphasise, or its less obvious implications. Lomborg is on the side of published science, and is by no means popular as a result. If you dismiss him without having read him like that, then I can only assume you’re going by popular media dismissals of his position. If you had read him, you would know that your characterisation was inaccurate.

    But like I said, I’m not going to debate Lomborg.

  • Why do people respond to Scientist? He’s obviously not quite right.

  • Stevo

    Aaron,

    For practice.

  • Scientist

    Ah, Stevo, for a while there it really did look like you were a somewhat rational person interested in scientifically-grounded discussion.

  • Stevo

    Scientist,

    I am. But it’s exactly that sort of non-sequitur that makes everybody here think you’re not. Why does a statement that I debate the likes of you for practice imply that I am either irrational, or not interested in a scientific discussion?

    You follow, to some degree, a very familiar pattern. A lot of AGW believers patronisingly claim a superior scientific knowledge, but most show only a familiarity with the most basic arguments (and an ability to Google). They constantly insinuate that sceptics are or must be scientifically ignorant or incompetent. They demand the highest levels of academic rigour, precise wording, definitions, and references even in casual blog debate from others, and will pick up on any lapse as laughable incompetence. They claim the science is simple, and give schoolboy physics explanations that grossly oversimplify the subject, but if you point out the flaws they act like it’s your fault for not having understood that. They often can’t then expand on the simple version quickly with a more sophisticated version. They rely heavily on appeals to authority – peer review and the imprimatur of professional bodies. They commonly dismiss sceptical science by discrediting the authors rather than the content. They use flawed arguments, many of them picked up from AGW popularisations, like correlation implying causation, affirming the consequent, circular logic, misunderstanding definitions, raising strawmen, and ignoring uncertainties. They refuse to believe that they could possibly be biased or thinking irrationally themselves. They commonly have only a primitive, rather intuitive understanding of statistics, and little understanding of the philosophy of science. They constantly intersperse the science (if there is any) with snide and insulting asides. And they never, ever, concede any point, admit to being in error on anything, or thank an opponent for providing a perspective or piece of information they hadn’t previously known. Should their position become visibly untenable, they just silently switch to attacking another element – some irrelevant throwaway comment or poorly worded flub that makes no difference to the essential point.

    In short, AGW believers are just like everyone else you find on the internet. 🙂

    As I said previously, you’re better than many I have come across. You seem to have picked up a wider range of the standard arguments than usual, are willing to follow a contrary line of argument some of the way, and despite the comments from others elsewhere, you’re a lot more polite than some I’ve come across. Not all the characteristics apply. But having talked with you for some time, I’m also totally confident now that there is absolutely nothing I could say to you that would lead you to change your mind on AGW. And while there are thousands of scientists around who know a lot more about climatology than I do, you’re clearly not one of them, so I don’t think I’m going to learn anything interesting that might lead me to change or modify my position. Given that, the only reason to hold this conversation at all is for the entertainment and practice.

    If you don’t mind me asking, why are you debating here? You clearly are spending some considerable time and effort to be here, as a guest on private property and in an alien community. Is it to try to educate people? As a form of political activism? Out of annoyance that there are people out there who don’t agree with you? Or because a good argument is intellectually stimulating, and a lot of fun?

  • Scientist

    No, I very much doubt you could say anything that could convince me that global warming is not due due human activities. If you showed me evidence that CO2 is not a greenhouse gas, or that its addition to the atmosphere in large quantities will not affect the radiative balance of the atmosphere, or that temperatures are not actually rising, then I’d have something to think about. But I don’t think you can do that. Forgive me if I’m wrong but I don’t think you’ve cited a single scientific paper to back up your many claims about the climate system. I’m getting the distinct impression that you, like most people here, believe what you believe about climate because it fits in with what you think you should believe given your political outlook.

  • Stevo

    “If you showed me evidence that CO2 is not a greenhouse gas, or that its addition to the atmosphere in large quantities will not affect the radiative balance of the atmosphere, or that temperatures are not actually rising, then I’d have something to think about. But I don’t think you can do that.”

    But I haven’t claimed any of those to be the case, and nor are they.

  • OCrush

    My Answer to Andrew Revkin is no answer at all.

    LOL, talk about totally avoiding the question. It was a very simple question. If the climate change skeptics end up being wrong, what is your back up plan?

    You then went on a 4 paragraph tirade about economic disasters being more likly then climate disasters and in doing so 100% avoided the main question.

    So really this should be titled,

    “How I managed not to answer a very simple question by Andrew Revkin”

  • Stevo

    OCrush,

    Our backup plan is exactly the same as for any other natural disaster. What is our backup plan for another tsunami? Or an earthquake all along the San Andreas? Or an asteroid strike? Or a new plague pandemic? Or a global thermonuclear war? Or new agricultural diseases causing a global famine? The plan is simple: to develop as much of the prosperity, resources, and technology that we will most likely need to act most effectively when we actually do know we have a real problem. And in the meantime, to devote our efforts to more immediate problems for which the greatest benefits can be obtained for the given costs.

    Let me put it another way. The eco-scare back in the 60s was overpopulation – we had books like The Population Bomb and Limits to Growth telling us how we were all DOOMED, how India couldn’t be saved and should be written off to famine, how the famines would be killing millions by the 70s, how it was likely Western civilisation would collapse before the end of the millenium – unless we introduced immediate totalitarian population controls. Compulsory and near compulsory sterilisation. One-child policies. Punitive taxation systems. Sacrifice. Rationing. Industrial regression back to the level of subsistence farming. All the same old crypto-socialist stuff. This was taken seriously enough by governments that they actually made mass sterilisation programmes a condition of humanitarian aid. The US government actually did that. It was the received wisdom in the media and in middle class dinner party conversation – considered to be obvious and beyond debate. Prominent scientists and political statesmen endorsed it. Pop stars fretted about it. Much as they do today about another topic near and dear to our hearts.

    So there were some sceptical economists saying it was all bunk, the projections based on false assumptions and misleading propaganda, that things were getting better and that the future would in fact be brighter than it has ever been, if we would only carry on as we were. Technology and ever more economic development were by far the most hopeful means with which to save ourselves.

    They were, of course, criticised for being recklessly overoptimistic, and motivated by a greedy intention to carry on with their own personal overconsumption.

    So how should such an economist have responded if asked what their “back-up plan” was in the hypothetical case the population doomsters had been right? So you don’t like the idea of forced sterilisation camps and rationing – what measures would you like, to save us all from the coming apocalypse? How, realistically, can you save us from overpopulation except by forcibly reducing the population?

    It is essentially the same question, posed by the same political movement today. What do you expect us to say this time round?