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October 21, 2011

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Climate Change seems to be a problem that we're just not capable of solving from a purely process/human nature standpoint..

First, it's not clear to me what sort of changes in the day to day lives of people in the world writ large would be necessary to halt, let alone reverse, the current climate changes.

Second, it seems to me that any such changes are going to disproportionately fall on the citizens of the G-20 nations, you know, the ones with all the clout (that said, admirably, many of them seem to be willing to go along).

Third, assuming that the G-20 governments could put in place the necessary measures (cap & trade, carbon tax, rationing, etc.), I find it hard to believe that the citizenry would stand it for long because...

Fourth, such measures would seem to require a short-medium term reduction in the standard of living for most G-20 folks. This would fall disproportionately on the poor and middle class, who would be willing to vote for the "Bring back $4/gallon!" candidate.

Finally, any such remedial measures would have to be adopted currently while the benefits would be realized, what, 25 years from now? 50? 100? And, the "benefits" would merely be "things as we know them today?" A hard sell.

In sum, while it would be good if the policy would follow the science, and the public would endorse the policy and accept the (relatively) short term pain for long term gain, and that (ideally) some sort of low-cost solution would emerge in the meantime, I don't see it happening (not that we shouldn't try).

All that said, I agree with the hurt fee-fees point in Step 4.

Addendum to Step 4: This is a worldwide crisis, and we're all going to have to make sacrifices to solve it. Specifically, we need to gut entitlements. Maybe also some tax cuts for the rich to stimulate the economy in the face of the economic drag imposed by necessary regressive taxes on carbon.

I can see China taking unilateral action in some large climate-engineering project. Only they have the resources, engineering orientation, and social organization to attempt this.

Then we can all rally 'round blaming them for the awful side effects.

Stage 4.5:

Those Hippie solutions wouldn't have worked, anyhow: not enough upside. The only way we can avert certain doom is large scale, multi-gajillion dollar geo-engineering projects (various carbon-sequestration schemes), managed by the same folks who walked us through Steps 1-4, 'cause they're the only folks with the infrastructure to pull it off.

A War on Carbon, if you will.

Alternate Step 3: OK, the Earth is warming. We still aren't convinced that the change is mostly caused by human action. But we will (grudgingly) admit that, even if it isn't, human action could perhaps push temperatures down again. Except that it would be expensive, and disruptive, to do any of those things which might help.

Step 5: Well, bummer. Life as we know it is getting wiped out. I guess you were right, but in retrospect, it was inevitable.
On the upside, think of all the time & effort we saved in the meantime. Be seein' ya'. I'm Rapturing out of here. You can keep my shoes.

I don't see how we can solve this without torturing some Muslim somewhere.

Climate change denialists don't need to make sense. Corporations (namely, oil companies and coal) stand to lose a lot of money if regulations are adopted. They don't really need to convince anyone, do they? They just need to pay.

You're dealing with people who, lacking the technical basis to evaluate the claims in question, have to fall back on heuristics.

So, what do they see?

Al Gore lives in a mansion, and has made a fortune off carbon credits.

Global warming conferences aren't held by teleconference to conserve carbon.

People concerned about global warming don't seem to be willing to permit nuclear power as a solution.

But they do make the same demands they would be making if there were no such thing as global warming.

Global warming scientists get testy when demands for transparency are raised, and have just been caught creating a 'back channel' to discuss things while evading FOIA laws.

Bottom line is, all the heuristics scream 'fraud' and 'insincerity'.

Now, the problem is that heuristics don't prove anything. They just provide a guide to action when you can't prove something. And you're not going to stop people from using heuristics, or being suspicious when somebody demands huge expenditures to prevent something from happening a century from now.

So, what can you do? Well, you could try satisfying the heuristics. Hold the conferences by teleconference. Stop getting pissy when FOIA requests get made by people you don't like. Warm up to nuclear power.

After all, it's an emergency, right? Can't be bothered to act like it's one?

Some people seem to believe that:
1) Humans live in The Economy, not The Environment.
2) Money is finite, and petroleum is not.
3) Something can be a cost to The Economy without being an income in The Economy.
I'm not saying the professional climate denialists believe those preposterous things themselves, but they've made a living out of preaching them -- though not so baldly, of course.

--TP

"3) Something can be a cost to The Economy without being an income in The Economy."

Ah, the "broken windows" fallacy.

The "broken windows fallacy" conflates Humanity with The Economy, but leave that aside, Brett. Which is the "broken window" you refer to? Climate change? Higher oil prices? Or what?

--TP

it's not clear to me what sort of changes in the day to day lives of people in the world writ large would be necessary to halt, let alone reverse, the current climate changes.

The highest-leverage, most-bang-for-the-buck carbon reduction technology is contraception.

Support Planned Parenthood.

Warm up to nuclear power.

Yes, that's working out brilliantly for those who live near Fukushima, isn't it?

Eric, you missed Stage 5, which like all the other stages, is already in parallel action, and is "we don't have to lower carbon emissions: we'll just lower global temperatures via To Be Developed Technology."

In fact there are proposals that might work, but I don't feel like going there, as it would sound like I'm advocating going in that direction now, and that's not my view.

Ah, I see Model62 and wj have already gotten there. Okay, I'll throw in my old friend Greg Benford's piece from 1997 -- as I said, geoengineering is not a new notion, let alone one that awaits argument in the future; it's merely an approach that will increase in popularity among some.

On the plus side, it is real science, not crazy talk. Greg, for instance, points out that there are ideas that might technically work, but spending a trillion dollars isn't practical. (Other approaches than the space mirror are more practical, but I'm already going further than I care to in the sense that I don't have an interest in diverting the discussion into those approaches.)

I don't think Future Tech Projects are what folks should be focusing on as the better approach for now.

I do recall it not being long ago that "cap and trade" was the Republican, conservative, Sound Economics, Market, approach to global warming and pollution, unlike crazy liberal regulations.

On nuclear power, I'd still point to the overall statistics on safety between nuclear power, and deaths from coal mining, wars over oil, internal combustion engines, natural gas explosions, etc. I would argue that dismissing nuclear power out of hand as too dangerous, somehow, flies in the face of statistics.

Ugh:

Second, it seems to me that any such changes are going to disproportionately fall on the citizens of the G-20 nations [....]
I Am Not An Economist, but I'm doubtful. The rich countries are those that can best afford higher tech solutions to lowering emissions. The poorer nations, by definition, can't.

China, which is rapidly increasing in wealth, has hardly been a leader in pushing for carbon reduction, and neither, to my -- quite limited -- knowledge, have many poor (vastly poorer than China) countries. Whereas Europe has.

This isn't by accident or coincidence. It's because those who have already gotten the primary benefits of the Industrial Revolution can best afford to get rid of the older technologies, while those just gaining those benefits can't.

"Which is the "broken window" you refer to? Climate change? Higher oil prices? Or what?"

Expenses incurred to reduce CO2 releases. The money may not disappear, true, just like somebody breaks your window and the glazier gets paid. But just like the broken window, spending money on CO2 reduction makes us poorer, because it diverts the money from other, better things you could have spent it on. You think people can't figure that out?

"Yes, that's working out brilliantly for those who live near Fukushima, isn't it?"

Yes, let's pretend that nuclear is being compared to energy sources which have no downsides. That coal doesn't poison people and level mountains, that oil hasn't given primitive tribes the wealth to drive global terrorism, that hydro doesn't drown valleys, that solar doesn't involve toxic heavy metals with infinite half lives, and covering up huge swaths of territory, that windmills don't chop up birds.

You're willing to push carbon down at huge expense, because you count the carbon as a form of pollution. Guess what? Fukushima is an expense. Looked at rationally, it's a heck of a lot better than most of the alternatives.

But, of course, liberals have their cognitive failures, too, even if they like to pretend it's only conservatives who let ideology trump science.

Some people seem to believe that:
1) Humans live in The Economy, not The Environment.

One and done. Perfectly said, Tony P.

geoengineering is not a new notion

Allow me to say that geoengineering scares the living crap out of me.

Long story short - we're not smart enough to understand all of the downstream effects. We have never, ever, ever demonstrated the ability to understand and account for all of the downstream effects of things like those proposed under the banner of geoengineering.

We need to learn to live on the planet we have.

Yes, let's pretend that nuclear is being compared to energy sources which have no downsides.

This is a very very relevant point.

I'm not a cheerleader for nukes, but even factoring in Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Fukushima, and whatever else you can think of, it's not clear to me that it's worse than any of the alternatives.

How many folks dead from black lung? Been to West Virginia lately? We're at war in Iraq why, exactly? What happened in the Gulf in April 2010?

Here is what I think about global warming:

If we were going to address global warming in a sane and prudent way, we should have started about 30 or 40 years ago.

We did not do so, because we did not want to change the way we live in any significant way.

So now, to a large extent, the horse is out of the barn. We could do things to help keep things getting a lot worse, but we're not even doing many of those.

Now we need to start planning for dealing with the damage. We're going to run into the same kinds of issues - people may need to change their lifestyles to some degree.

So maybe that won't happen either.

So things are probably going to suck *a lot* for *a lot* of people for *a long time*.

You can bet that the CIA, and the DoD, and every major international corporation, are busy factoring all of this in to their long term planning.

The hurricane rider on my home insurance policy went up like 2x last year. Somebody is paying attention. Hell, somebody's paying attention, and is making money off of it.

Even if nothing else would convince you that something was up, that ought to.

But what's going to happen is that everything is going to be monumentally FUBAR for a a long time.

And then, being the crafty adaptive mammals that we are, we will make a new way of life that is congruent with the new reality.

Creative destruction, I think some folks like to call it.

It's going to be a freaking ugly mess, and a lot of folks are going to be in a world of pain. Maybe not anyone reading this, but there are a hell of a lot of other people in the world besides us.

Food, water, the basic ability to live wherever fate happens to have planted you. That's what a lot of folks are going to lose.

And they are going to be freaking pissed off.

Al Gore lives in a mansion, and has made a fortune off carbon credits.

So, Al Gore is a self-aggrandizing dick. So what?

Bill McKibben lives in Vermont and teaches at Middlebury College. He writes books. He's not a dick.

If people were actually interested in knowing what was what, they wouldn't stop looking into things when they encountered the first thing that annoyed them.

They couldn't be bothered to do something because Al Gore has a big house? In that case whatever happens is on their freaking heads as much as it's on anyone else's.

"A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals".

Everybody gets to choose which bucket they land in. I'm not sympathetic to folks who are put off by the fact that Al Gore bugs them.

Brett: "You're dealing with people who, lacking the technical basis to evaluate the claims in question, have to fall back on heuristics."

1. If we have two groups, one of which has the technical basis to evaluate the claims in question, the other of which does not, what's your instinct is to which group to listen to regarding the claims in question?

2. You list examples of what I infer you think are examples of hypocrisy. Please recall that hypocrisy does not mean that the position espoused is incorrect. That is a logical fallacy known as tu quoque.

Do you agree that climate change should be evaluated based on available data, and not the personal habits of the scientists and advocates who argue that climate change is occurring?

"And they are going to be freaking pissed off."

And they a "broken windows theory, too.

And they "have" a .....

I have a broken sentence theory

No doubt lots of people responsible for long (or even medium) term planning are working out what problems they will have to deal with as a result of global warming/climate change. (And those who let a disinclination to believe prevent them from looking at the issue are failing at their jobs.)

But it would be interesting to know who is looking at the opportunities that will arise as well. For example, while some places will experience droughts which destroy agriculture, othersmay well experience increasing rainfall to the point that agriculture becomes possible or more productive. Does anyone know of efforts to take advantage of that? Or, perhaps more accurately, to position now to take advantage of that once it happens?

You're dealing with people who, lacking the technical basis to evaluate the claims in question, have to fall back on heuristics.

That is, I think, the lamest excuse that I have ever heard. People who understand the science don't live like medieval hermits, ergo global warming probably isn't happening. Lefties are asked to perform absurd self-sacrifice just to convince those on the right that this is serious.
But wait, there's more! When DFHs appear on stage, the exact opposite argument is used to laugh them off: look at that DFH, walking everywhere, refuses to eat normal American food, refuses to live in the American way. And he makes a big deal about it, like he's better than everyone else.

This is paralleled by the limousine liberal/parasite paradox- if a liberal advocates for social policies that benefit them personally, then they're a leech. If they argue for social policies that don't benefit them personally, they're some snooty ivory-tower do-gooder, spending other peoples' money to assuage their guilt.

Finally, if we are in fact dealing with people who lack the technical basis to evaluate the claims, then this is almost entirely due to the people paid to produce FUD regarding GCC. After all, these same people have no technical basis to evaluate the latest chemotherapy or medical scanning technology. They have no technical basis to evaluate improvements in nuclear reactor design, or our national cyber-security initiatives. Lacking a subsidized chorus of naysayers, it's relatively easy for those who lack a technical basis to trust the collective opinion of expects. In the face of subsidized BS artists, it may become harder for them- but should you not blame those spreading the FUD?

There's a big gulf between living like medieval hermits, and burning tons of jet fuel to travel to exotic destinations to discuss the importance of... not burning tons of jet fuel. If you can't figure out that doing stuff like that is bad PR, and that, if everything that's claimed is true, you can't afford bad PR, that's pretty dense.

It's an existential emergency, and you can't skip Bali to change some minds?

Allow me to say that geoengineering scares the living crap out of me.

Long story short - we're not smart enough to understand all of the downstream effects. We have never, ever, ever demonstrated the ability to understand and account for all of the downstream effects of things like those proposed under the banner of geoengineering.

Seconded. Anyone that thinks we will automatically be successful in any geoengineering effort needs to sit for a while and watch the Army Corps of Engineers undo what they did to the Kissimmee River.

Unexpected consequences are a bitch.

In general, we as a species have shown some abysimally bad judgement in screwing with the ecosphere. Nature has different ideas than we do.

We have never, ever, ever demonstrated the ability to understand and account for all of the downstream effects of things like those proposed under the banner of geoengineering.
Yes. That's why I'd regard such projects as close to last resorts, only to be engaged in in any beyond small experimental ways, if forced to, many years from now.

I'm for research, not rolling the dice on uneconomic, unproven, schemes.

Brett, what would be your preferred, suggested, method for Al Gore, and others, to make trips of thousands or tens of thousands, of miles?

He thinks they should all Skype. Because there's no such thing as diplomatic procedures and so forth.

Seriously, he said that in the comments at RBC the other day. They should use Skype.

In general, we as a species have shown some abysimally bad judgement in screwing with the ecosphere. Nature has different ideas than we do.

Slartibartfast has said something with which I agree, but experience tells me Slartibartfast is always wrong....

Well, they won. The conservatives delayed work on global warming for forty years, which is exactly what they paid for.

Now it's the farmers vs the miners, no hippies need apply. The farmers are upset about drought and floods, the miners are upset about the new farm state senators (cause the old ones are way to compromised by all those campaign donations) block voting on taxing carbon to build levees and aquaducts.

Just to be detail oriented, it's not the farmers so much as the other people in the farm states who depend on the farmers to support the schools, drugstores, car dealers, pet groomers, pool cleaners, supermarkets, financial analysts, hot dog stands, etc. Lots of voters in the farm states live off agriculture, not just the voters who own farms.

The conservatives delayed work on global warming for forty years, which is exactly what they paid for.

Forty years? This is revisionist history, here.

Certainly there are innumerable indicators that global warming has been going on for forty years.

And Earth Day started in 1970, 42 years ago.

Which, as Senator Gaylord Nelson said, not unreasonably, led to, along with the general rise in consciousness -- led by dirty hippies, opposed vigorously by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and then-active conservative and business groups, as a rule -- to the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts.

How much one wishs to to argue that this is where one should date the global warming alarms from is up for debate, but it's not some crazy claim.

I'd call it a bit of a stretch, since it was largely just climate scientists talking about global warming that long ago, but certainly plenty of conservatives blame Earth Day for "the global warming hoax."

Non-loony brief history of global warming awareness.

"Revisionist" is perhaps an overly strong word/charge to use/make, but when would you suggest is a good date to use, Slart, as when we should date the start of climate scientists' alarm over global warming?

Or would you prefer to go by polls of public awareness? Or another dating methodolgy?

Sigh. Typepad decided my last comment, which had very few links, was spam. If you might untrap it, Slart, I'd appreciate it.

Here, though, is the text minus but one link; I'd be happy to have you delete this comment in favor of the one with the other links, please:

Certainly there are innumerable indicators that global warming has been going on for forty years.

And Earth Day started in 1970, 42 years ago.

Which, as Senator Gaylord Nelson said, not unreasonably, led to, along with the general rise in consciousness -- led by dirty hippies, opposed vigorously by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and then-active conservative and business groups, as a rule -- to the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts.

How much one wishs to to argue that this is where one should date the global warming alarms from is up for debate, but it's not some crazy claim. I'd call it a bit of a stretch, since it was largely just climate scientists talking about global warming that long ago, but certainly plenty of conservatives blame Earth Day for "the global warming hoax."

Non-loony brief history of global warming awareness.

"Revisionist" is perhaps an overly strong word/charge to use/make, but when would you suggest is a good date to use, Slart, as when we should date the start of climate scientists' alarm over global warming? Or would you prefer to go by polls of public awareness? Or another dating methodolgy?

Added comment: 1988 is certainly a defensible position.

Tony P. asked: Which is the "broken window" you refer to? Climate change? Higher oil prices? Or what?

Brett Bellmore answered: Expenses incurred to reduce CO2 releases. The money may not disappear, true, just like somebody breaks your window and the glazier gets paid. But just like the broken window, spending money on CO2 reduction makes us poorer, because it diverts the money from other, better things you could have spent it on. You think people can't figure that out?

Well, let's see what Brett is capable of figuring out.

What's the purpose of a window? To let light in and keep air out, that's what. Glaziers get paid to replace windows which prove inadequate to serve that dual purpose.

So consider two glaziers: one glazier gets paid to replace a window that somebody threw a brick though; a different glazier gets paid to replace a different window -- an unbroken window -- with a triple-glazed, well-sealed, "energy efficient" window. Either way, the glazier's pay is an incremental increase in the GDP. Either way, an existing window gets subtracted from the physical capital of the world, and a new window gets added to the physical capital of the world.

Throw bricks, and you make existing windows better (if anything) at letting in light, but inadequate at limiting air exchange to an acceptable level. Emit CO2, making summers hotter and winters colder, and you can likewise make existing windows inadequate at keeping air exchange to acceptable levels. Whether you throw bricks or change the climate, you "break" what used to be perfectly adequate windows.

Brett's "broken windows fallacy" assertion would seem to suggest that CO2 emissions, and NOT "expenses incurred to reduce CO2 releases", are the analog of thrown bricks, wouldn't it?

--TP

Sadly, you've pretty much hit it on the head...

@ Gary:

Actually, the first scientist to bring it up as a real possiblity brought it up in the 1930s... The US Military started working on the problem in the 1950s because climate and temperature effects logistics and the battlefield. By the 1970's we had good models and good data to show the rise in global temperatures.

FOr those old enough, Bell Labs used to make science movies with Dr Frank Baxter. One of their movies was about the progression of global warming, this is an excerpt from the 1958 Bell Lab movie on global warming:

'Dr. Frank C. Baxter: "Extremely dangerous questions. Because with our present knowledge we have no idea what would happen? Even now, man may be unwittingly changing the worlds climate through the waste products of his civilization. Due to our release through factories and automobiles every year of more than 6 billion tons of carbon dioxide, which helps air absorb heat from the sun, our atmosphere seems to be getting warmer."

Richard Carlson: "This is bad?"

Dr. Frank C. Baxter: "Well, it's been calculated a few degrees rise in the earths temperature would melt the polar ice caps. And if this happens, an inland sea would fill a good portion of the Mississippi valley. Tourists in glass bottom boats would be viewing the drowned towers of Miami through 150 feet of tropical water. For in weather, were not only dealing with forces of a far greater variety than even the atomic physicist encounters, but with life itself."'

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0lgzz-L7GFg&feature=player_embedded

The Unchained Goddess is the name of the short.

There's a big gulf between living like medieval hermits, and burning tons of jet fuel to travel to exotic destinations to discuss the importance of... not burning tons of jet fuel. If you can't figure out that doing stuff like that is bad PR, and that, if everything that's claimed is true, you can't afford bad PR, that's pretty dense.

As much fun as it is to watch you attempt a coherent defense of the ad hominem fallacy, I don't see how you justify this *particular* bar. That is, it's easy for you to claim that this set of sacrifices would've prevented you from invoking an ad hominem, but I don't see any reason to treat that as reasonable- especially in defense of an unreasonable principle.
So my *suspicion* is that this bar would just be lowered; if Al Gore took a boat, then we'd talk about how the boat emitted carbon, if he reduced his house from 10k ft2 to 5k ft2 then that bar would be lowered. Once Al Gore is living in an efficiency and biking everywhere, then you can ridicule him for that.

That's *one* of the many problems with ad hominems- the bar is infinitely adjustable. And since ad hominems are deployed by people who won't or can't handle debating the actual point at hand, again I don't see any reason to extend good faith to a bad faith deployment of a fallacious argument.

So, Al Gore was right. He spent much time and effort trying to convince other people of the danger. Other people actively prevented the spreading of this information so they could personally gain. But Al Gore is the bad guy for not sacrificing his own personal comfort. The people who worked to spread FUD and the people who believed it rather than the facts, they are blameless?

Side point: could all this business be handled over Skype? It would make an admirable example. On the other hand: 1)either businesses across the world are wasting many billions a year on face-to-face negotiations, conferences, etc or 2)there is a real benefit to face-to-face meetings over remote communications.
If it were my choice, I might well place the real benefits of face-to-face communications over a public relations gimmick intended to win over people who IMO are not intellectually honest to begin with. Maybe that's wrong, but there's no rationale for disregarding that tradeoff as you've done.

Back in 2009, Snopes on Al Gore's home.

I point out the global warming movement is making some huge, unforced PR errors, and you call that an ad hominem?

Look, like it or not, most people ARE going to judge 'experts' by heuristics like this. They've got to, or automatically cede control of their lives to anybody who claims to be an expert. And they're not going to do that.

So you've got to pay attention to the public relations, too, not just the science. If you're right, the situation is too dire to blow off the public relations, and have the world overheat because you were too pissy to do some logically irrelevant things to make people think you were on the up and up.

You're acting as though people trusting you, and doing what you tell them is best, is automatic. When you've already lost the people's trust acting like that. You might think that, in an ideal world, global warming leaders should be able to fly jets to Bali, that it's worth it if it even marginally improves their effectiveness.

But is it worth it if it means nobody listens to them?

Or, perhaps more accurately, to position now to take advantage of that once it happens?

A number of countries are currently positioning themselves to claim mineral and other rights in the Arctic Ocean, on the assumption that it will reliably be clear of ice Quite Soon Now.

So, I don't know if your post was snark or not, but either way, we're already there.

Added comment: 1988 is certainly a defensible position.

!988 was Hansen's testimony to Congress, which by rights ought to have inaugurated the 'holy sh*t!!' phase of our response.

Subsequent research and public scientific discussion really ought to have brought us to the 'my hair is on fire' point by the turn of the century.

But, 10 years after that, we can't even agree that using more efficient lightbulbs is a good idea.

It's an infringement on our sacred liberty to be told we can't use 100w incandescent bulbs.

It's really not that hard for even the most powerful societies to fall. All it takes is stupid + laziness + time. I might even call that one of the iron laws of history.

I point out the global warming movement is making some huge, unforced PR errors

It was all over when Jimmy Carter wore that stupid sweater.

And yeah, that was about conservation, not warming. But seriously, it's all the same kettle of fish, isn't it?

Turn down the thermostat? F***K YOU HIPPIE!!
Drive a smaller car? F**K YOU HIPPIE!!
Use a different light bulb? F**K YOU HIPPIE!!

I see a pattern. Do you?

You say 'PR error'. I say when your mind is already made up, any excuse to stick your head in the sand will do.

So yeah, Al Gore is fat, or grew a beard, or had that horrid Naomi Wolf pick his wardrobe in 2000. Or he flies in jets and has a big house.

So we can just ignore anything he says, because he's obviously a lying carpetbagging grifter liberal.

The bottom line is that folks who get as far as Al Gore and go no further are willfully ignorant, and their willful ignorance is likely to hurt a hell of a lot of people.

I also note that the 'but Al Gore is a jerk' argument seems to be some kind of new Maginot Line in the global warming debate.

'Yeah, the scientists might have been right, but Al Gore is a jerk, so it's not our fault we ignored everything they said'.

There is one and exactly one reason that people have been ignoring the climate change evidence for so long, and why they continue to do so:

IT MIGHT REQUIRE THEM TO CHANGE THE WAY THEY LIVE.

And people don't want to do that.

So, a change may be imposed on them. Or, not on them, but on their kids and grandkids.

It's amazing how often stupid wins the day. I wish I could find a way to monetize that, I'd be a rich man.

"You're acting as though people trusting you, and doing what you tell them is best, is automatic."

Is this a lie or are you ignorant of the scientific evidence repeatedly offered to support a theory of anthropogenic global warming? Proposing a theory supported by empirical evidence is the opposite of asking people to trust you. This is what the environmental movement to fight global warming has done, repeatedly, over the past several decades.

"So you've got to pay attention to the public relations, too, not just the science. If you're right, the situation is too dire to blow off the public relations, and have the world overheat because you were too pissy to do some logically irrelevant things to make people think you were on the up and up."

You write as though this is occurring in a political and social vacuum. If you really think that the "debate" about global warming arises out of the snooty liberals flying to scientific conferences, you must not read, watch television, or listen to the radio. The Republican party and Fox News zealously attack the environmental movement for what you concede is essentially, at worst, "bad PR." Ad hominem and tu quoque attacks are irrelevant to the truth of a proposition. The Republican party and Fox news actively seek to lie and distort the truth through the propagation of a logical fallacy (more than one, probably).

Your criticism reminds me of the scene in "The Last King of Scotland," after the doctor character is called in to Idi Amin's office. Earlier in the movie, Amin had been considering ejecting all aliens (even those with visas) from Uganda; he asked the doctor's advice, and the doctor urged him not to, since many of those aliens were educated and valuable members of the workforce.

After amin expels the smart aliens, there are terrible repercussions. Amin calls the doctor to his office and excoriates him for this policy decision. The doctor says something like, "but I told you not to do that!"

Amin says, "you should have convinced me."

Brett, you mean PR like this?

I point out the global warming movement is making some huge, unforced PR errors, and you call that an ad hominem?

Remarkably enough, the only people who perceive a "PR problem" are people like, well, you. Not to put too fine a point on it.

this. They've got to, or automatically cede control of their lives to anybody who claims to be an expert. And they're not going to do that.

On, nonsense. There is a large intersection of climate change deniers and people who will fall all over themselves to obey anyone who claims certain religious authority.

Tell me, Bellmore, if climate change conferences started being held over Skype tomorrow, what exactly would that convince you to believe/not believe or do/not do?

(Don't answer. It's rhetorical.)

I looked up "heuristic" (it's one those words, like "baroque", that requires expert -- whoops! ---help) in the dictionary ("Webster's World Dictionary -- College Edition", that second to last word is sure to make the heuristically-inclined skeptical) and it read, "helping to discover or learn: sometimes used to designate a method of education in which the pupil is trained to find out things for himself".

Odd that those who "fall back" on heuristics to avoid ceding control to experts apparently require "training" in heuristics by, presumably, an "expert" in heuristics, according to the definition above.

One wonders, for example, about the golfer who ignores National Weather Service scientific warnings about thunderheads and is struck down by lightening on the 7th hole in the midst of an approach shot.

Why, he ignored even the expert who trained him in heuristics -- his mother.

Though I can understand from my own heuristic point of view ignoring the badly dressed and poorly coiffed weather personality (smiling immaculately) who serves as an intermediary between me and the National Weather Service.

I'm trying to understand Rick Perry's decision to expunge all mention of Gulf of Mexico water rising in Galveston Harbor (surely an easy scientific observation) from government environmental reports in the seat of heuristics (unless the science is geology), Texas.

My own heuristics tell me that if global warming is man-made (I accept that it is to a large extent) and leads to large-scale catastrophic effects on the men who made it that Governor Perry, his toupe floating, will emerge glugging, gasping, and doing a saltwater spit take from his flooded basement, guns a' blazing, to get out in front of the lynch mob that's coming for the doubters who stood in the way of ameliorating measures.

His previous heuristics will be just as ephemeral to him as that coyote was.

I've nothing else to add except that the late writer Walker Percy had much to say about the inadequacy of science in the modern age (see "The Delta Factor" and "The Loss Of The Creature" in the essay collection "The Message In the Bottle"), but lest anyone be led to believe Percy (trained as a doctor of medicine) rejected the provisional (meant in the best way) truths of modern science, well, he ( also a devout Catholic who held the theory of evolution to be man's best explanation of our physical origin) certainly didn't.

He had much bigger fish to fry.

At any rate, maybe Al Gore should have a person on his staff to run out from behind a potted plant to yell ("let's pay attention to the heuristics; these optics are not good!") every time he plans a fete in Bali given the way the heuristic game is played in good ole America.

Not that I believe that attention to detail would convince anyone of the reality of global warming who has already made up their minds for their own reasons, or those whose heuristics are suspended completely because of a prophet with twelve tablets and a virgin birth (not that science and religion can't co-habitate amiably among reasonable people).

Finally: Skype War, Not Science.

Reduces the body count.

cite for the Perry heuristic:

http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2011/10/12/342210/flood-gate-perry-sea-level-rise-censorship/

I point out the global warming movement is making some huge, unforced PR errors, and you call that an ad hominem?

It is the definition of ad hominem to attempt to judge an argument based on the proponents rather than the argument itself. You are arguing in favor of that position. That is, you're not just observing the world, you seem to be an advocate for using this heuristic rather than shaking your head and saying "I know, this is a stupid way for people to behave, they ought to just either study the science and accept GCC or not study the science and accept the scientific consensus".

Look, like it or not, most people ARE going to judge 'experts' by heuristics like this. They've got to, or automatically cede control of their lives to anybody who claims to be an expert. And they're not going to do that.

And my position is that there are many areas in which we spend money or effort where scientific consensus isn't questioned. Where this critical heuristic of yours isn't even mentioned.
THis occurs, I believe, because there is no small & wealthy group able to hugely profit by spreading misinformation about, say, thorium reactors. The debate happens between scientists, engineers, and public policy wonks. Maybe we get the best outcome from the process, maybe we don't because of political or economic factors etc. But we don't have partisan tabloids feeding ignorance and exactly the sort of ad hominem argument you've suggested here into the body politic, and unsurprisingly we don't have segments of the public relying on those sorts of flawed arguments.

So you've got to pay attention to the public relations, too, not just the science. If you're right, the situation is too dire to blow off the public relations, and have the world overheat because you were too pissy to do some logically irrelevant things to make people think you were on the up and up.

As I said, I think there is no quantity of PR course correction that would convince those who profit from FUD, or to convince the people who get their information from those sources. And I still find you in the odd position of condemning those who are right and staying mum about those spreading the FUD.
Or, afaict both saying that public behavior is a bad heuristic but then also relying on it. That is, I havent heard you say "yes, this is a bad way of judging the matter and *I* personally rely on the demonstrated science, but still this is bad PR". Instead, I see eg scare quotes around 'experts'.
How big should Al Gore's house be? Can he fly at all, and when? Can he drive? Can he have more than one TV? Can his thermostat be above 65 in winter? Can you not see that this list of inane questions could only be considered relevant by someone who is not interested in actual debate?

You're acting as though people trusting you, and doing what you tell them is best, is automatic.

Science actually has a pretty good track record. It's had some misses, but it's done pretty well over the centuries. I expect people who don't have time to understand the basic science to- yeah- put some trust in the people who do.
You sound like the people who advocate for healing with crystals versus modern medicine- modern medicine has worked wonders even for folks who don't understand it, but the occasional parasite preys on that lack of understanding to spread some FUD and capitalize on the subsequent confusion. Doctors- they're a secretive tribe! They sometimes fail to explain what they're doing, act arrogant, etc!

Look, like it or not, most people ARE going to judge 'experts' by heuristics like this.

You will get no argument from me on this. And, it explains a lot of things.

The fundamental problem with resolving global warming is very simple: it costs a lot of money. The money will go from the people who currently have a lot of money, to other people who currently have less money.

Therefore, resolving global warming is impossible, because it costs too much.

And, of course, some people calling for resolving global warming issues own solar energy companies, so therefore they are dirty hypocrites.

Also: Hippies!
Also: Communists!

Incidentally, Ursula LeGuin's THE LATHE OF HEAVEN talks about the consequences of global warming (just the disappearance of mountain snow in Oregon, but it's clear what the cause is). And that was published in 1966.

"Tell me, Bellmore, if climate change conferences started being held over Skype tomorrow, what exactly would that convince you to believe/not believe or do/not do?

(Don't answer. It's rhetorical.)"

I'll answer anyway: It would convince me the people involved in those conferences actually thought there was a serious problem. Right now they look for all the world like con artists exploiting what might or might not be a real problem, for their own gain.

Which I'm pretty darn sure a lot of them are, even if global warming is a real problem. (Rather than a real phenomenon, which I am somewhat persuaded of.)

So a supposed engineer needs Al Gore to move into a smaller house and use Skype to evaluate the claims of climate change.

Do you have any idea how dumb that makes you sound?

Carleton and Brett: let me suggest you don't have to disagree. Every sane person who follows the science knows we probably have a problem, it makes a lot of sense to look for solutions, and the longer we put things off, the more difficult and painful those solutions will get. So in that sense I agree with Carleton. But I think this perspective misses something. Agreeing we have a problem doesn't solve it. Solving the problem will likely involve a great dislocation. Just taking money from the obscenely wealthy and giving it to the, well, less obscenely wealthy won't solve the problem. Too many people lead energy intensive lives and will have to change. That means reduce work hours, greater dependence on public transport, fewer (many fewer) cars, fewer long flights to far off destinations, and less stuff overall.

In other words, dealing seriously with global warming means adapting to a new normal. Remember the last administration that talked about a "new normal"? They promised to make the American people safe, then invaded a country (Iraq) that had nothing to do with your enemies, and set Olympic records for larceny and waste. If you have trouble getting someone to agree we have a problem, their resistance might have something to do with the nonsense they read on an astro-turf website (why doesn't my Norton Internet Security ever warn me about those). Or, they might resist your account of the problem out of a fear you want to sell them a bogus solution. And after years on engaging with bogus solutions that (surprise) just happen to promise to make those who propose them a lot of money, I have some sympathy with that view.

I've heard that Melle Mel was high on cocaine when he wrote White Lines (Don't Do It!). Assuming that this is true, I guess I can conclude that I should actually do cocaine, since it must be really good for you. Heuristics!!!

Eric, there are many that started at Stage 2, at least believing there is warming but not certain about AGW. We've been warming since the Little Ice Age. I'm not admitting to denial, but I will admit to being skeptical of absolute claims of AGW. And I agree with Phil's point that just because someone is hypocritical doesn't mean the science is unsure. However, it also doesn't change the fact that it is harder to accept data at face value when FOIA requests are rebuffed and troubling emails surface and the "investigations" are a joke. If scientists are that bad at an investigation and plain old logical thought, it doesn't bode well for their conclusions. At least that's what the attorney in me thinks.

That being said, I noted that McIntyre is looking forward to going over the data and has good things to say about Muller. I do wonder about all the noise when the results haven't been peer reviewed yet. I note that Muller specifically disavows any findings regarding AGW (either way).

And I'm looking forward to how the data is interpreted by such people as Akasofu. You know, sane scientists that have buildings named after them at research centers that study global warming who question the impact of AGW over natural causes. I bring this up because: a) I have met Akasofu; b) I believe he is not beholden to any interests and c) he is way smarter than me. When absolute comments come up ("any sane person") I wonder what that says about Akasofu and people like me that value his point of view and how such comments help the debate/non-debate.

"After all, it's an emergency, right? Can't be bothered to act like it's one?"

and Brett goes right up to the edge of step 4.

that didn't take long.

I do wonder about all the noise when the results haven't been peer reviewed yet.

the results of a review will change exactly zero denialist minds.

Look: Al Gore's personal behavior is some tiny epsilon short of being completely irrelevant to whether or not AGW is a matter for concern and action. Just as trees make poor thermometers, Gore makes for a poor test of the validity of the consensus opinion on AGW.

Applying "Brett's Razor" to Brett:
Brett claims to care about the fate of humanity. However, when faced with a potential problem which he admits could be bad for humanity, his surface acts (supporting admittedly bad heuristics, encouraging propaganda and not looking at the underlying science) suggest that this is a cynical ploy on his part- Brett's Razor suggests that he merely wishes to appear to care, while pursuing another agenda altogether.

On the other hand Carleton is spending his time debating with someone unlikely to change his mind (in Carleton's opinion) & unlikely to have any impact on the opinions of others in any case. He could be using that time much more wisely. Also, after work instead of working tirelessly to spread the word of GCC from a tiny spartan apartment, he'll have a drink and watch a movie in a much more comfortable space.
Using Brett's Razor, he is also a charlatan and is clearly using the myth of GCC to pursue other ends.

In other news, Christianity is BS because some preachers are hypocrites. Most of the medical advice we receive is BS, even the doctors I know don't get enough exercise and indulge in burgers, fries, etc.

In other news...

... "libertarians" vote for the GOP and refuse to move to a country that doesn't trample all of their freedoms, in every way, daily. frauds.

Solving the problem will likely involve a great dislocation.

Actually, it won't. Sure, if I cooked up 'Turbulence's optimal plan for dealing with global climate change' and became dictator-king of the world and implemented it, that WOULD cause lots of dislocation. But that's not going to happen. In the real world, the only plans that will be enacted are the kind of plans that make it through our crummy governing bodies that are full of veto points. Any plan that gets enacted will have to clear all of those veto points, which means it won't involve lots of dislocation.

Will that plan be optimal? Of course not. But that's life. You do what you can with the institutions you have, not the ones you wish you had. But in the meantime, you can't point to a plan that will never be enacted in a million years and say 'ZOMG! Massive dislocation! This is why people refuse to do anything at all!'.

That means reduce work hours, greater dependence on public transport, fewer (many fewer) cars, fewer long flights to far off destinations, and less stuff overall.

Cite? The analysis I've seen suggest that economic costs are likely to be extremely small. Plus, addressing climate change can lead to economic benefits. I mean, if you reduce air pollution, that reduces the number of sick people with asthma. And sick people are a drain on the economy too.

the results of a review will change exactly zero denialist minds

I think this is true of both sides that are entrenched. The study tells us is that it is warming, but doesn't break out natural causes. So AGW?

I think we'll know in the next decade. The mulit-decadal oscillation should cause temperatures to head downward in the next few years. If it doesn't . . .

And I'm looking forward to how the data is interpreted by such people as Akasofu.

Can you point to anything related to climate change that Akasofu has published in a peer reviewed journal? Looking at his publications, he doesn't seem to have published anything climate related ever: he's a geophysicist who writes about the aurora and magnetosphere.

You know, sane scientists that have buildings named after them at research centers that study global warming who question the impact of AGW over natural causes.

Er, this confuses me. In my experience, buildings at research centers tend to be named after donors, not brilliant scientists. Surely you don't think that 'whether a university has named a building after you' correlates well with academic brilliance in climate change?

Looking at his claims in more detail, Akasofu seems like a very ignorant guy when it comes to climate change.

He makes the point that ice core data suggests that historically, temperature increases came before CO2 increases and then suggests this discredits AGW. But that's silly. People have known for a long time that increasing temperature and increasing CO2 are related by feedback loops. Increase one and you'll increase the other, which will in turn increase the first one, and around and around the feedback loop we go. That's one reason why scientists are concerned. The fact that temperature increases lead to CO2 increases pre-industrialization doesn't do anything to discredit the idea that industrial CO2 increases will lead to temperature increases.

After that, he rehashes the McIntyre and McKitrick critique of Mann's hockey stick graph. Of course, he doesn't name them, so most readers will have no ability to follow up on his claims. Which is good, because they've been thoroughly discredited. M&M comprise an economist and a scientist working for the mining industry. Their claim to fame is that they think Mann's climate science work was flawed and that after they corrected his flaws, they were unable to reproduce his results. Alas, their critiques didn't hold up to scrutiny and their inability to reproduce results stems from their own mistakes.

You can bet that the CIA, and the DoD, and every major international corporation, are busy factoring all of this in to their long term planning.

Yes, the DoD has been all over this for many years, taking steps to become more fuel efficient/greener, as well as game-planning the various new conflicts/conflict zones that will likely arise as a result of droughts and other ecosystem disruptions.

But it would be interesting to know who is looking at the opportunities that will arise as well.

As russell mentioned, many governments and private companies (Exxon, ironically enough) are moving north to exploit opportunities exposed by retreating ice and freer sea lanes brought on by global warming.

So, Exxon is betting huge money on the continuance of a phenomenon that it is also spending huge money to spread skeptical "heuristics" to the gullible about.

Nice.

Speaking of which: what russell et al have said.

Those heuristics are adopted by people who are looking for a reason to discount the evidence - be it politcial tribalism or lack of interest in sacrifice.

Even if Al Gore never existed, they would invent him.

PS: The Bali/jet fuel/mansion talk is all a bunch of bollix anyway.

A few personal choices will not matter. We need massive, coordinated national and international efforts. Absent those, what a handful of people do or don't do will amount to nothing.

@Turbulence: you want a reference, fine. Let's start with George Monbiot's Heat, in which he claims we have to reduce greenhouse gas outputs by 90% and ground global aviation, in order to stop the planet from, in his words, cooking. Now, Monbiot manages to call for an agenda identical to the one he has always pursued on other grounds, something that also affects people's willingness to trust greenhouse gas campaigners. If you believe George Monbiot, and many people apparently do, a non-disruptive program of pollution reduction simply won't work. If we implement only those measures we can get past a Republican filibuster threat and past the objections of the UAW, we might as well do nothing. And if nothing we can accomplish politically will solve our problems, then why deal with the issue? What good does it do to acknowledge the problem if we can't trust anyone to deal with it?

Alternatively, you can google Gwynne Dyer. He actually points out that we have solutions that might work, but that paralysis and self interest keep us from addressing them. This explains why so much more effort goes into the anti-aviation movement than goes into dealing with the much larger problems of coal-fired electricity and automobiles. Shutting down an airport will do little or nothing about greenhouse gasses, but it provides opportunities for highly profitable real estate arbitrage.

This explains why people want honesty about climate change, and why many of us want climate campaigners to tell the truth and walk the walk. We don't want leaders who lie to us; if this situation really does threaten the next generation in a serious way, we want people to offer real solutions, not use the crisis as a way to enrich themselves or gather political power for their own ends.

"So, Exxon is betting huge money on the continuance of a phenomenon that it is also spending huge money to spread skeptical "heuristics" to the gullible about."

That's a hell of an arbitrage.

Shareholder money via Citizen's United to influence the heuristically-inclined to say NO to climate science and shareholder money spent via land acquisition and ocean drilling leases at upper (and lower) latitudes to say YES to climate science.

That's better than investment bankers betting against mortgage traunches with one hand on the joystick while convincing their colleagues to go long the same bundle of grift with a smile and a middle finger.

Possibly more profitable, and more murderous to boot.

Yet another twin political platform for the Republican Party.

Exxon now claims Al Gore is fat AND he predicted for them where the best future drilling opportunities might lie.

Fear not, Rush Limbaugh has the capacity to serve as a huge carbon sink, at gunpoint, one can only hope.

Shutting down an airport will do little or nothing about greenhouse gasses

For the record, per passenger mile, modern jet travel has about the carbon hit of driving a reasonably efficient car.

Air travel represents a fraction of automotive travel.

Closing an airport is not going to make that much difference. Shutting down *all US air travel* will not make as much difference as a 10 or 12 percent reduction in automobile driving.

The greenhouse gas of greatest concern at the moment is CO2. Yes, there was a Little Warming, just like there was a Little Ice Age, and yes, average global temperature fluctuates. But if I'm not mistaken, during the period we're talking about -- the historical period of human existence on the planet -- CO2 saturation has increased more or less monotonically, and *especially and dramatically so* since the Industrial Revolution.

It appears we are pumping CO2 into the atmosphere in large amounts.

The human activities that, *hands down*, drive CO2 emission are burning coal to make electricity and driving cars.

There WILL NEVER BE bulletproof conclusive proof that (a) we are in the middle of a long-range warming trend, and that (b) humans are the cause of it. At least not in any kind of time frame that will allow us to make an intelligent response.

We have to make an educated guess. Which is something we are entirely capable of doing.

For the last few decades, folks whose life-long practice has been the study of earth's climate have been modeling the effects of increases of greenhouse gases. They have made reasonably intelligent conjectures about what we would be likely to see if, in fact, increases in greenhouse gases were to drive large-scale changes in climate.

A large number of those conjectures are, in fact, manifesting themselves in reality, and many of them at tempos faster than what was expected.

The intelligent response would be to make some kind of concrete plan to (a) address the effects of what's already underway, and (b) immediately start looking for ways to not make things any worse than they already are.

We ARE NOT doing either of those things in any significant way.

The reason we are not doing them are (a) we're too lazy to change our lifestyles in any meaningful way, and (b) we're afraid it will cost us money.

The financial sector can perpetrate a systematic and widespread fraud, vaporizing some 20% of the wealth of the nation virtually overnight, and that's somehow OK. Where, by "somehow OK" I mean we do virtually nothing to hold the perpetrators responsible or prevent anything similar from happening again.

But some hypothetical potential loss of economic activity is enough to stop any effort to mitigate changing the climate of the f***ing planet dead in its tracks.

So, Tony P wins the thread with the first of his items above:

We think we're living in an economy, and not an environment.

At this point, a lot of the potential damage is simply going to happen. It's inevitable.

Because, what, Al Gore has a big house? The optics are bad? The Chinese wouldn't go first?

No. Because people are lazy, greedy, and too freaking stupid to come in out of the rain.

Nobody wants a lifestyle change, nobody wants to lose money. So, very large lifestyle changes indeed, and very large financial losses, will be delivered unto us.

Don't believe me, ask the DoD, or the CIA, or any insurance company or underwriting organization, or anyone in the risk management industry. Those folks are all on it, in spades.

If the science doesn't convince you, ask the money. Money don't lie.

If it doesn't . . .

If it doesn't it's going to cost more, in more kinds of coin, than we can even get our heads around.

And it will be too late to do anything halfway intelligent about it.

If Al Gore et al convinces mankind to spend resources combating and ameliorating global warming and its adverse effects, and it turns out that at some future date (when some sort of certainty can be assured one way or another) nothing happens and he was wrong, what should happen to him?

Let's say we can calculate that resources were diverted from other important priorities and we can estimate that five million people died around the world as a result.

What should we do to Al Gore, et al?

Should there be a trial of some sort? On what charges? What's the punishment?

Conversely, if the global warming naysayers (those who claim it's not happening, those who claim it is not a man-made phenomenon of any sort, and those who have claimed no harm will come as a result) are wrong and catastrophic effects are apparent around the globe to both person (someone estimate!) and property, what should happen to the naysayers?

Should there be a trial? On what charges? Punishment?

My druthers would be to exempt from trial and punishment scientists who argued on either side of the wager, science being what it is.

Whaddaya say we just put those who exploited the "heuristics" on either end up for charges of genocide?

Then everyone but the scientists will be incented to shaddup.

Then we'll kill all those who use the word "incentive" in verb form.

My moronic nephew claims: (1) but it's been warmer than this before and somehow we survived; (2) Al Gore has bought lots of carbon credits and has thus revealed this evil plan to redistribute wealth.

Did I mention my nephew is really dumb? But actually he isn't. He just lives in Orlando, FL where repubs and jesus-lovers rule.

I think this is true of both sides that are entrenched. The study tells us is that it is warming, but doesn't break out natural causes. So AGW?

personally, i'm willing to take the word of people who were right about the warming thing - despite the howling and mewling of oil industry shills, reflexively anti-environmentalist nitwits, and the well, librulz think X so X must be bad crowd - when they say that the rate of change can't be explained by anything else.

and if we act on it, and cut back on fossil fuel usage and related pollution, but it turns out that the A in AGW is misplaced, we'll have reduced pollution AND reduced our dependency on resources controlled by despots. worth it.

and if we act on it, and cut back on fossil fuel usage and related pollution, but it turns out that the A in AGW is misplaced, we'll have reduced pollution AND reduced our dependency on resources controlled by despots. worth it.

This is what I don't get - why anyone is against action to curb global warming when it is a winning strategy for a million reasons. Well, actually I do get it. It's in Eric's first sentence.

Koch.

I believe Frank Luntz invented the vocabulary of heuristics, which is, as far as I can tell, the science of making stuff up on your own.

More:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jonathan-bines/republican-dictionary_b_1028841.html

"You're dealing with people who, lacking the technical basis to evaluate the claims in question, have to fall back on heuristics."

Quite sensible of them. But why not rules of thumb like a) how does any reasonably identifiable community of experts fall on this issue? b) how has this group been trending? and c) does it survive contact with current events?

Of course, in this case that would give you a) the vast majority accept AGW, b) towards AGW - it's not an idea falling out of favor, but one that over the last few decades has won over almost everyone in the field, and c) as russell points out, what we're seeing suggests that if anything previous models were too conservative ...

But to be fair, that's a very specific kind of thinking, and faced with such a non-human scale problem in a wildly unfamiliar field, many folks probably will pretty reasonably default to familiar social-interaction heuristics. Makes sense, really.

And all things being equal, I'm all for better PR, I guess.

But: I'm thinking here about some of the other major issues dealing with denialisms - evolution and vaccination - and how they've faired. It's an interesting comparison.

Evolutionary biology - well, I can't think of anything lately that would indicate 'fraud and insincerity' to Brett's heuristic-using observers. (Not sure what would, to be honest; pop evolutionary psych can set off somewhat similar alarm bells, but that has little to do with actual creationism). Instead, what we've seen are creationists creating numerous long lists of quotemined quotes - including at least three full-length books - all pulled brutally out of context, wildly misrepresented, and cherry-picked with such a singular focus as to make the Bush Admin look like a bunch of amateurs ... all to give the false impression that modern evolutionary biologists don't actually believe in evolution, but are trying to put one one over on you. See, eg, TalkOrigins' Quotemine Project.

(Indeed, back when I had more free time to do this sort of thing, I once had the particular thrill of coming across a list that hadn't already been documented in the wild, and having to dismantle it myself - full of quotes from 19th century Canadian geologists and suchlike. - No disrespect intended to any 19th century Canadian geologists, of course, just that they're not most relevant to this particular question).

There's also a small cottage industry arguing that Darwin caused the Holocaust.

Granted, creationism is pretty much a special case, given the cultural aspects. But there's also the anti-vax movement. Again, it's hard to see any equivalent insincerity alarms. If doctors and researchers were quietly refusing to vaccinate their own kids, that would be quite reasonably worrying... but that doesn't seem to be the case. (There are issues that make vaccine denialism superficially plausible - history does suggest that putting absolute blind trust in medical researchers, doctors, and/or large corporations can be risky, and it's not impossible to imagine a horrible profit-driven cover up - but the evidence disagrees). And here too we see the use of quotemining, etc. to manufacture evidence of insincerity and fraud (see for example here (if several years old) and the follow-up 'lies, damn lies, and quotemining' article).

So again, maybe it would have been better if Al Gore lived in unremarkable teleconferencing middle-class comfort (that might have escaped the bar-lowering Carleton mentions, though probably not), and if Climategate never happened - yes, it's just about as damning as Whitewatergate (at worst), and covered similarly, too, but it may well have helped shift polling a few points. But creationism and vaccine denial both suggest that, well, it might not really matter.

Also: with anti-vaxers, we see some not-unreasonable skepticism of big corporations and runaway profit motives. But when we look at AGW denialism, we find these baffling conjectures about how climate scientists are con artists in it for their own gain, and sitting US Senators declaring that it's all a huge hoax, Big Lie-style, combined with a complete refusal to look at the obvious corporate beneficiaries. And while medical history/research does have some seriously horrible episodes, I'm not sure there's been much cultural awareness of climate science as a potential villain, unless some folks have gotten seriously confused about who the Weathermen were?

(And at least with vaccine- and AGW-denialism, press coverage seems to be a major issue too. They're both, to varying extents, collective action problems, too (some doctors have started simply refusing to treat kids whose parents won't get them vaccinated, in part because it's not just what happens to that kid - who might be alright - but what happens to the infant in the waiting room who catches pertussis from them and dies.)

This is what I don't get - why anyone is against action to curb global warming when it is a winning strategy for a million reasons.

The mineral extraction industry wants some more time to milk the big fat petroleum cash cow. And/or, to get ahead of whatever comes next, so they can make sure they're in a position to get a great big slice of that, whatever it is.

And they have the cash to buy policy outcomes.

That is why the 'winning strategy' is not adopted.

The big checks written to Congresspeople are signed by lawyers, the FIRE sector, health and pharma, and oil and gas, in approximately that order.

You write the check, the Congressperson returns your call. It's as simple as that.

That is why we have the national policy that we do regarding climate change.

Finance and health care too, for that matter. It's not a mystery. But this thread is about climate.

The mineral extraction industry wants some more time to milk the big fat petroleum cash cow. And/or, to get ahead of whatever comes next, so they can make sure they're in a position to get a great big slice of that, whatever it is.

Yes. I worry that any real solutions from new technology are subject to being stifled by the petroleum/coal industries. A friend of mine was fantasizing about geothermal technology, and how some innovation could create a boon for the environment and the economy, but I honestly think that the fossil fuel energy people would stifle it (with hit men, even - conspiracy theorizing) for fear that they'd lose their spot at the top of the world.

I guess I shouldn't take the conversation into crazy, but that's how pessimistic I am.

For the record, per passenger mile, modern jet travel has about the carbon hit of driving a reasonably efficient car.

That's true for large commercial aircraft. I don't believe it is true for small private jets at all.

Moreover, it misses the point: aviation has a major greenhouse gas impact beyond carbon. Remember, when you burn hyrdocarbons, you end up with carbon dioxide and water. We usually ignore the water because at low altitudes, the water vapor from combustion returns to the water cycle and doesn't matter much. But if you emit lots of water vapor at 40,000 feet, it won't return to the water cycle quickly. It will probably stay at high altitude for decades. And since water vapor is a more potent greenhouse gas than CO2, this matters, a lot.

If you insist that the only thing that matters for climate change is CO2, then yeah, large passenger jets are fine. But you shouldn't insist that: it is not true in general, even though it is mostly true for emission sources on the ground.

Finally, this all ignores the climate impact of aviation associated with contrails. This bit of the equation is very complicated and poorly understood, but there's some evidence that contrails have a surprisingly strong effect on the atmosphere.

Despite all this, there is no grand movement to ban air travel or to seize airports. The latter is nutty conspiracy theory thinking.

Moreover, it misses the point: aviation has a major greenhouse gas impact beyond carbon.

That's a very good point, my mistake for omitting it. Thanks for raising it.

Also: with anti-vaxers, we see some not-unreasonable skepticism of big corporations and runaway profit motives.

Actually, I believe that recent anti-vaxers were initially driven by a reasonable hypothesis, that autism (whose symptoms seem to resemble mercury poisoning) arose because of the use of mercury based thimerosal as a preservative agent in vaccinations. This suspicion increased because mercury poisoning was calculated for adult nervous systems on the basis of mercury ppm and not for infant exposure and didn't take into account multiple vaccinations. When the issue was raised, the question of compensation loomed, and given the nature of such claims, the pharmaceutical industry went to lawmakers for assurances of no liability, which triggered more suspicion. Also, the general pattern of behavior when pharmaceutical companies are confronted with these questions tends to raise suspicion.

This is not to say that the anti mercury anti vaccination movement is correct in any way, but this, coupled with the suspicion of large corporations and their profit motive, it becomes more understandable why they have been so reluctant to give up their belief.

@Turbulence: It does absolutely no good to pretend that George Monbiot has no influence, or that he has not effectively called for an end to aviation (or a curtailment so drastic it might as well amount to an end. It does not do to ignore the existence of "plane stupid" or hacan/clear skies, or any of hundreds of other local nimby groups riding on the coat tails of global warming concerns and divided between a few real idealists, some power hungry politicians or community leaders, and more than a few residents attracted by promises of significant real estate profits. They do want to destroy airports; to quote a leader of one egregious group that wants to destroy a local airport: "we'll only be happy when we see bulldozers ripping up the runways". No less an authority than NASA's Jim Hansen had to set the environmental movement straight on the inappropriateness of concentrating on aviation while ignoring coal-fired electricity.

I note that the arguments against high altitude aviation make free use of words such as "probably" and phrases such as "poorly understood" and "some evidence". In any case, the aviation industry has solutions to them. When I say solutions here, I do not mean back of the envelope drawings slated for implementation (maybe) two or three decades from now, I mean solutions embodied in actual aircraft, flying actual paying passengers, right now.

We all pretend, from time to time, that things we don't like to think about do not actually exist. When I argue that cities have an obligation to at least permit alternatives to the automobile (a source of pollution that outweighs aviation by a factor of at least four), I regularly get replies that claim global warming doesn't exist and we will never run our of oil. Like atmospheric CO2, Monbiot, Plane Stupid and their followers really exist. As Jim Hansen points out, they really do affect the priorities of environmental movements. That, in turn, affects the credibility of greenhouse gasses campaigns with the public.

It does absolutely no good to pretend that George Monbiot has no influence,

How many divisions does he have? ;-)

I think we can all agree: George Monbiot has zero influence in the US Congress. His policy preferences are not going to be implemented. I can't tell you how much influence he has, but having read a fair bit about climate change and having participated in my local government's climate change symposiums, I can tell you that I've never read Monbiot or heard anyone cite him. Perhaps he's more popular in the UK though.

It does not do to ignore the existence of "plane stupid" or hacan/clear skies, or any of hundreds of other local nimby groups

I'm sorry, but this is madness. Are there some people who want to destroy aviation? Sure. But they don't matter because they have no political power and because no one listens to them. Under Pelosi the House passed real climate change legislation. One can argue over whether it was good or bad, but it did not outlaw aviation. It didn't do anything close to that. That's the sort of policy that can happen in the real world.

(I am blown away though by the idea that real estate interests want to seize airports for themselves. Have you ever seen the area around Newark airport? Or Dayton? Airports are generally located in the middle of nowhere where land is dirt cheap. You couldn't pay real estate developers to take over most airport sites.)

I note that the arguments against high altitude aviation make free use of words such as "probably" and phrases such as "poorly understood" and "some evidence".

What you're seeing here is me trying to accurately convey my understanding of the science in a blog comment. I could ditch the qualifiers if I wrote at much greater length, but then no one would read it and conversation would grind to a halt.

In any case, the aviation industry has solutions to them.

Really? Can you point me to some? I'm very interested. I think the problems at work here are pretty fundamental: liquid hydrocarbons are a very very good energy store and burning them necessarily produces CO2 and H2O. What specific solutions are you talking about? Moving away from hydrocarbon fuels? Water vapor sequestration? What?

When I argue that cities have an obligation to at least permit alternatives to the automobile

I very much agree with this.

The last refuge of climate change skeptics is, in fact, the Republican Party.

I'm not a scientist, but my heuristics (observations and conclusions of the boss of me -- otherwise known as me) tell me that this is where we find (just in the ranks of the individuals running for the most powerful position on the face of the Earth) the greenhouse-gas-emitters of the following absurd heuristics, which gives me the right to judge their global warming heuristics:

Herman Cain's heuristics leads him to believe that the President signature is what permits Amendments to the Constitution, just to mention the latest.

Ron Paul's heuristics lead him to believe that his campaign manager's heuristics regarding health insurance were the right way to go. His campaign died of complications from pneumonia, ran up @ $400,000 worth of unpaid medical bills, which were presented to his mother after his death.

Her heuristics did no one any good. We paid for that f&ck's irreponsibility.

Rick Perry's heuristics led his territory (I don't believe Texas is a state -- another one of my heuristics) to expunge all mention of rising levels of seawater in Galveston Harbor, you know, among that twit's many heuristics.

Michelle Bachmann spells "heuristics" as "hysterics".

Mitt Romney has a new heuristic every day, and even when he gets it more or less right, as in the Mass. healthcare law, he quickly replaces THAT with another heuristic.

Newt Gingrich and his man, Frank Luntz, made heuristics into a new language with which to write political platforms.

Jon Huntsman is not very good at heuristics, and thus skips the debates.

Rick Santorum's middle name is heuristic.

Moe Lane is a heuristic in his own mind, but he doesn't matter.

I'm going to stick with my heuristics over the heuristics of all of the above, and I will not abide a government that abides their heuristics, which is ALL they offer.

Sometimes you have to fight for your own bullsh*t.

"What specific solutions are you talking about? Moving away from hydrocarbon fuels? Water vapor sequestration? What?"

Perhaps they can arrange for the water vapor introduced to the upper atmosphere to form clouds in places and times where it will cool the earth by reflecting sunlight, and not so much when it would warm the earth?

Airports are generally located in the middle of nowhere where land is dirt cheap.

I am raising a skeptical eyebrow at you.

Airports are constructed in the middle of nowhere where the land is dirt cheap. Absolutely nothing says the land has to stay dirt cheap, or that development cannot engulf the airport.

@Turbulence: let's backspace. I don't ask you or anyone to worry about the future of aviation. I simply want to deal with the comment by Eric that climate change skeptics would, as a last resort, blame the advocates of action on climate change for having an attitude that blocked compromise and made arriving at a consensus difficult. Brett pointed out that some climate campaigners do not "walk the walk", and I pointed out that some campaigners use the climate crisis to advance personal agendas, sometimes even for personal gain.

I don't claim that everyone should have heard of George Monbiot, still less that he exerts any serious influence over the U.S. Congress. I simply claim this: for those of us who have heard of Monbiot, for those of us who have had run-ins with the self-interested NIMBY movements whose approach he endorses, the experience tends to reduce our faith in the movement around climate change. You haven't heard of George Monbiot; fine, although I suggest you consider finding out more about him, because for good and ill he has a lot of followers. But that doesn't entitle you to dismiss the effect he and "plane stupid" and "hacan/clear skies", and "community AIR", and a hundred other NIMBY groups whose approach he endorses have on the public perception of the global warming debate.

Closing an airport often involves some highly profitable real estate arbitrage, less in the airport site itself than in residential or even commercial areas under or abutting the flight paths. This naturally does not apply to all airports, but a surprising number have homeowners and real estate speculators eager to reap a windfall from closing the local airport. At a meeting I attended, and anti-airport campaigner once promise the attendees (many of them property owners in the area) a windfall of up to a third of the value of their properties when the airport closed.

The problems of high altitude aviation have a simple solution: reduce altitudes from 35,000 feet to 27,000. At that level, water vapor precipitates out of the atmosphere. We already have high efficiency passenger planes that operate very well at this level.

Airports are constructed in the middle of nowhere where the land is dirt cheap. Absolutely nothing says the land has to stay dirt cheap, or that development cannot engulf the airport.

Meigs field being just one example (link is to the Wiki discussion of Mayor Richard M. Daley's unlawful actions in, basically, destroying the airport because he didn't like it).

I pointed out that some campaigners use the climate crisis to advance personal agendas, sometimes even for personal gain.

Are those climate change "campaigners" or are they just dishonest people obsessed with other issues who lie about climate change to further their other interests?

But that doesn't entitle you to dismiss the effect he and "plane stupid" and "hacan/clear skies", and "community AIR", and a hundred other NIMBY groups whose approach he endorses have on the public perception of the global warming debate.

I don't see any evidence that "community AIR" or "hacan/clear skies" has any impact at all on the climate change debate. I don't think most people have ever heard of any of these groups. If you have evidence, please present it. Until you do, the notion that they play a major role in public perception of climate change is just unfounded speculation.

This naturally does not apply to all airports, but a surprising number have homeowners and real estate speculators eager to reap a windfall from closing the local airport.

You know, most people are not really eager to annihilate the primary employer in their area. That usually works out really badly for nearby homeowners, what with eviscerating the local tax base and all. Airports bring in taxes and more importantly jobs; houses don't do that nearly as well.

At a meeting I attended, and anti-airport campaigner once promise the attendees (many of them property owners in the area) a windfall of up to a third of the value of their properties when the airport closed.

I'm struggling to see the relevance of this to...well, anything. Some shyster told a bunch of people some lies about a policy he was trying to sell. This happens all the time.

The problems of high altitude aviation have a simple solution: reduce altitudes from 35,000 feet to 27,000. At that level, water vapor precipitates out of the atmosphere. We already have high efficiency passenger planes that operate very well at this level.

But why do you think this will happen? There are reasons that aircraft fly at higher altitudes, including fuel efficiency and comfort. Are you suggesting that airlines will decide to spend lots more money on jet fuel out of the goodness of their hearts? If not, what makes you think that the FAA or EPA will force them to do so?

My point is that if your solution is politically impossible, it is not really a solution. I mean, if we're going to accept impossible solutions, then 'wave a magic wand and eliminate all problems' is a good solution too, right?

Absolutely nothing says the land has to stay dirt cheap, or that development cannot engulf the airport.

Meigs field being just one example (link is to the Wiki discussion of Mayor Richard M. Daley's unlawful actions in, basically, destroying the airport because he didn't like it).

Er, I don't see how Megis field is relevant to Slarti's point. Megis field wasn't replaced with a development, it was replaced with a park. So, tyrannical mayor who hates local airport destroys it at significant cost. The price of the land was irrelevant. Climate change was irrelevant.

Turb - that's fair, and I haven't gone through the entire thread (even though I commented first!) for a variety of reasons and so may have missed the whole context of Slarti's comment.

It just seemed to me that if a private developer wanted to buy Meigs field for whatever purpose, they would have paid a pretty penny for it given the location. As you note, this likely has nothing to do with climate change (and Meigs actual destruction seems to have nothing to do with private sector development).

So, I guess I should have led off with "OT."

Brett pointed out that some climate campaigners do not "walk the walk", and I pointed out that some campaigners use the climate crisis to advance personal agendas, sometimes even for personal gain..... for those of us who have had run-ins with the self-interested NIMBY movements whose approach he endorses, the experience tends to reduce our faith in the movement around climate change.

I would argue that any cause, group, religion, corporation, etc of significant size will have various issues like this. Hypocrites. Hangers-on. Those who use the organization for personal gain or power trips. Bumblers. etc.
I think that wanting to judge organizations by those sorts of fringe characters merely displays a pre-existing antipathy towards the organization. That this is an excuse to reach a (perhaps unconscious) desired end by any means necessary. And that this is usually obvious to everyone except those sharing the bias- eg if I were to say that the well-publicized moral failings of a few mega-preachers demonstrate that Christianity is a hypocritical farce, only the already-convinced will find it even remotely persuasive.

That's why I think Brett's suggested PR changes are mostly irrelevant; they propose to try to meet the concerns of those willing to indulge in every manner of poor thinking to reach a desired conclusion. I find it very unpersuasive that all of their imaginary concerns could be met in the real world.

No worries Ugh. The whole Megis field story seems really fscked up, so I'm glad you pointed it out. Bulldozers in the dead of night destroying a runway and stranding aircraft? WTF?

eg if I were to say that the well-publicized moral failings of a few mega-preachers demonstrate that Christianity is a hypocritical farce, only the already-convinced will find it even remotely persuasive.

They obviously demostrate that religion in general is a hypocritical farce.

There are reasons that aircraft fly at higher altitudes, including fuel efficiency and comfort.

They can avoid a lot of turbulence at those altitudes.

*rimshot*

HSH scores a hit!

My heuristic radar hummed and heuristic prickling laid siege to the back of my neck when I read this:

http://www.balloon-juice.com/2011/10/25/now-laughing-friends-deride/

This is the same right-wing media empire that has demagogued the heuristics of EVERY issue on behalf of the right wing corporate movement in this country, not the least of which is the matter of global warming science.

Now, the heuristic layman in me making up his own simple but free mind -- free of expertise, that is -- concludes that since FOX and a Republican candidate can spout the heuristic (lie, fantasy, bullsh*t, what have you) that cigarette smoking (and presumably going without health insurance to spread the expense, ewww, socialism) is somehow something real Americans do, as opposed to the smoking abstinence those pointy-headed intellectual anti-Americans on either Left Coast practice, then maybe the former's heuristic denials of global warming might be, I don't .... crap?

Heuristically-speaking.

Also, Brett Bellmore, you wrote:

"Perhaps they can arrange for the water vapor introduced to the upper atmosphere to form clouds in places and times where it will cool the earth by reflecting sunlight, and not so much when it would warm the earth?"

You're kidding, right?

Is that a kind of heuristic joke? I didn't know "Popular Mechanics" had a heuristic columnist who would suggest such a thing, but if they do, they need to sic their heuristics omsbudsman on the guy.

And who's "they?" The experts? If they met for this scientific conference in Bali, Bampf, or Belize to announce such a meteorological breakthrough, wouldn't the heuristics of their accommodations, attire, domestic living situations, and mode of travel discredit anything they might have to offer.

I once worked for some of the best cloud seeding research meteorologists in the world and I'm pretty certain they would, to this day, let us say, cast a skeptical eye on any claim that such an arrangement of water vapor and cloud formation could be induced and accomplished on anything close to a predictable, let alone, directed, controllable large scale basis.

That job with the meteorologists research the efficacy of cloud seeding-- I edited and helped write their publications -- was with the U.S. Department of Interior during the Reagan Administration.

The in-house scientists were top-notch, but we contracted much of the research with some of the top meteorologists in academia and the private sector as well.

In fact, what happened illustrates this discussion of heuristics winning out pretty well ...

... did the Federal scientists and our contractors hope that cloud seeding - in other words - introducing silver iodide into clouds to serve as nuclei around which water vapor would coalesce and result in greater snowfall amounts in mountain watersheds -- would work?

You bet.

But between the introduction of silver iodide via aircraft into the clouds and the collection of precipitation on the ground, we collected hundreds of billions of bits of data on the weather events, which were then statistically analyzed and compared, etc.

The conclusions, in several different multi-year studies, were not conclusive because more research was required, because the variables were mind-boggling. I mean, yes, sometimes, given the optimum conditions, it could be concluded (insert every "on the other hand", "maybe" "if, and, and but" that scientists use {why? because they want it get it right and objective whether it works or not}, it could be shown that changing water vapor levels to enhance precipitation kinda sometimes worked in small storm events.

Well, two words intervened: James Watt.

One more word: heuristics

The program was de-funded before large -scale demonstration projects could ensue.

I think the reason was that Federal scientists dressed funny while being Godless and their counterparts in academia and the private sector didn't wear pants on Thursdays.

Gummint research: bad. God: good. Dagny Taggert: Better

So, here's where the heuristically inclined managed to profit from the loss of this research, which if permitted to continue over the past thirty years might have maybe on the other hand maybe not yielded some useful data for Brett's scheme regarding water vapor:

The ski areas, always looking for more snow, decided to seed clouds over their properties. They hired a guy in a plane to dump silver iodide into clouds. It snowed, or it didn't. The only measurement taken was of what ended up in the precipitation gauges on the ground.

Nothing else. No measurements of in-cloud dynamics and processes. No regression analyses and comparisons with unseeded events or other season's events. Nada.

Just a news release announcing, hey, it worked.

How do you know? Cause we say so.

Now that's heuristics.

Course now, what we've got heading for the highest office in the land is a Texas-inspired prayer circle for rain during droughts.

Maybe they can pray for re-arranging water vapor in the clouds worldwide to deflect sunlight and warmth.

Maybe Brett was kidding.

Rick Perry and company are not.

Science, schmience will be the policy, on all fronts.

Heuristics in America is the developing plague that will kill millions around the world.

We're in the hands and the throes of Stupid.

Footnotes: Interestingly, one of the Federal scientists I worked with quit his job at the time to pursue his lifelong dream: to prove, through analysis of weather patterns, etc at the time (when was time? ask him) the literal truth of Noah's Flood. He is a Christian and has worked with some Christian Institute out West for years.

I don't know how that research has panned out but he's deep into the global warming thing now, on the contrary side -- I won't prejudice -- look him up -- Dr. Larry Vardiman.

Nice man.


That would be "Banff", in the 6:42 pm comment.

Editors need copy editors

hsh, that was pretty cool. Well played sir.

There is an anti-aviation movement that has little to nothing to do with GHG emissions. It's called people living in the neighbourhood of airports that can't stand the noise. It's currently very active where I live because a major new airport is opening soon at the other end of town while the one in my neighbourhood will close (luckily planes start and land not in our direction, so until now I could profit from it being there while not suffering the byproducts).

Interestingly, one of the Federal scientists I worked with quit his job at the time to pursue his lifelong dream: to prove, through analysis of weather patterns, etc at the time (when was time? ask him) the literal truth of Noah's Flood

I used to work with a guy who is a brilliant meteorologist. He is a long-time AWG skeptic. Great guy, and to my knowledge not on the take of the oil & gas industry. He certainly doesn't dress like a guy on the payola.

He's a signatory to this, which among other things includes this assertion:

We believe Earth and its ecosystems—created by God’s intelligent design and infinite power and sustained by His faithful providence —are robust, resilient, self-regulating, and self-correcting, admirably suited for human flourishing, and displaying His glory.

So, apparently, AWG can't be happening because God's creation is beyond tampering by humans.

Cue Pangloss.

The first boat we read of, floated on an ocean, that with Portuguese vengeance had whelmed a whole world without leaving so much as a widow. That same ocean rolls now; that same ocean destroyed the wrecked ships of last year. Yea, foolish mortals, Noah's flood is not yet subsided; two thirds of the fair world it yet covers.

So, apparently, AWG can't be happening because God's creation is beyond tampering by humans.

I always wonder how people who think this can deal with the existence of the ozone hole or acid rain in the northeast US. I mean, those were real measurable problems that we either started fixing or have mostly fixed.

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