Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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June 25, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

TODAY'S FORECAST: GLOBAL WARMING DOESN'T EXIST BECAUSE I SAY SO....Today's op-ed in the Washington Post by Emily Yoffe is literally so inane I'm speechless. The last sentence, in particular, deserves an award of some kind. Can someone please give it the mockery it so richly deserves?

Kevin Drum 12:32 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (158)

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Yes, Gore ignores the all-important z axis!

Posted by: Plotinus on June 25, 2007 at 12:37 AM | PERMALINK

Emily Yoffe writes a column at slate.com titled "Human Guinea Pig." She writes: "In Human Guinea Pig I do things the rest of you have too much dignity to do yourself."

This week she's a Republican.

Posted by: bob on June 25, 2007 at 12:40 AM | PERMALINK

Well, shoot. If we're all just going to make up our own realities to live in, I'll go make up my own. Later, everyone! Call me if something terrible happens.

Posted by: Spirit on June 25, 2007 at 12:42 AM | PERMALINK

Global warming? Who cares? I just read "The Secret"!!! And guess what? It works!!! Watch this:

Go away little cloud. I'm thinking positive thoughts at you! I'm thinking, I'm thinking! Shoo, shoo! Happy thoughts, bad cloud! Go! GO!

Ah! There it goes! There it goes!

The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind isn't just a river in Egypt, you know!

Tee-hee, tee-hee!

Posted by: Emily, Emily: Me, Emily! on June 25, 2007 at 12:50 AM | PERMALINK

Perhaps this column was written purely to burnish her "contrarian" bona fides for her editors at Slate...

Posted by: Alex R on June 25, 2007 at 12:51 AM | PERMALINK

You know, they claim to be all contrarian and stuff, but they still won't publish my op-ed, "Is Democracy Evil?"

Posted by: mattsteinglass on June 25, 2007 at 12:55 AM | PERMALINK

Perhaps you need to take after Andrew Sullivan and create an Emily Yoffe Award for "incredibly inane contrarian punditry."

Posted by: Joel on June 25, 2007 at 12:55 AM | PERMALINK

"Well, shoot. If we're all just going to make up our own realities to live in, I'll go make up my own. Later, everyone! Call me if something terrible happens."
Posted by: Spirit on June 25, 2007 at 12:42 AM

That said by Slim Pickens in "Dr. Strangelove" would make for some decent added dialog.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on June 25, 2007 at 1:02 AM | PERMALINK

Just wait until Howler comments on her column.

Posted by: Quiddity on June 25, 2007 at 1:07 AM | PERMALINK

For what it's worth, here's my email to our friend Emily:

Your op-ed in the Washington Post displays such a childish attitude towards an extremely serious and well-documented phenomenon, I’m stunned that anyone would publish it. You demonstrate the emotional and intellectual depth of an 8-year old. You liked your evening on the patio, so you reject the science that links unusual weather patterns to climate change. You think that, if we can’t predict next month’s temperatures, we can’t possibly identify long-term changes in climate. You’re unhappy with all these films and books that demand that you think about something important. You think that, because there are some complex phenomena that can’t be plotted on a two-dimensional graph, you can dismiss the science warning of climate change with the same theatrical sigh you would give to that unpleasant man talking loudly at the next table.

In this debate, your thoughts carry about as much weight as the opinions of Paris Hilton on the problem of Darfur.

Posted by: DNS on June 25, 2007 at 1:15 AM | PERMALINK

She writes a humor column in Slate. It's often very funny, so it's a shame to see her go off on this jag.

I was actually hoping before reading it that it was a "Human Guinea Pig" type joke that maybe Kevin didn't get ("I pretend to be an op-ed columnist and write a dumb article posing as a right-wing Gore basher"), but that unfortunately doesn't seem to be the case. It also makes me wonder why it doesn't seem to bother the Post that she has no apparent qualifications of any kind to have written the piece, did no apparent research for it, etc. Again, raises the possibility that it was intended to be an elaborate satire, but it just doesn't work as one.

Posted by: bucky20816 on June 25, 2007 at 1:18 AM | PERMALINK

My mother-in-law likes to follow the same logic. She's often chided me for being so gloomy about the general political situation, telling me that if I were just a bit more optimistic, I'd be a happier person.

Apparently, happiness in these times means being ignorant and sheltered. Those partaking of this blinkered bliss consider themselves superior to all the gloomy gusses like me. I trace the modern incarnation of this attitude back to Reagan, who was proudly stupid, and managed to die a hero, the patron saint of the determinedly moronic.

Posted by: jimBOB on June 25, 2007 at 1:20 AM | PERMALINK

I tried to give it such mockery here. Do with it what you will.

Posted by: Minipundit on June 25, 2007 at 1:23 AM | PERMALINK

Hmmm... was she aiming at light-hearted humor? Perhaps.

But perhaps we should entertain the following thought: that climate change is so serious that it's beyond light-hearted humor. No one gets to joke about it. At least, not in the pages of a major newspaper.

Does anyone agree?

Posted by: DNS on June 25, 2007 at 1:24 AM | PERMALINK

Can someone please explain to me that if anthropogenic global warming is such a slam dunk how come it splits on a conservative/liberal axis?

I think its mostly because many people on the right already have a religion and don't need another one.

Some time in the future, you who put so much emphasis on the purported doomsday problems with GW will see another one of your scaremonger scenarios ( global cooling, depletion of oil, the population bomb...) drop by the wayside. I'm predicting about 2060... but who would pay a lick of attention to ignorant predictions slated for over half century away. Not any person who understands how difficult it is to say anything about the long term behavior of chaotic systems.

Posted by: John Hansen on June 25, 2007 at 1:49 AM | PERMALINK

Does anyone agree?

Agreed. Global Warming is worse than Hitler. And that is not a joke.

Posted by: Disputo on June 25, 2007 at 1:52 AM | PERMALINK

Can someone please explain to me that if anthropogenic global warming is such a slam dunk how come it splits on a conservative/liberal axis?

For the same reason that evolution/creationism splits on the liberal/conservative axis. It's called reality-based versus faith-based thinking.

Posted by: Disputo on June 25, 2007 at 1:57 AM | PERMALINK

She can't believe a scientific forecast of weather 100 years from now, because the weatherman is often wrong about tomorrow's weather.

I predict that her temperature tomorrow will be 100.1 degrees and that her temperature in 100 years will be about 57 degrees.

Posted by: jerry on June 25, 2007 at 2:06 AM | PERMALINK

I think you're all being a bit too hard on her. She does have this to say half way through:

All this is not to say that it's not getting warmer and that curbing our profligate environmental ways is not a commendable and necessary goal.

I think her point might be that over-selling the fear factor doesn't really help the cause.

Posted by: Jambo on June 25, 2007 at 2:12 AM | PERMALINK

Yoffe's article is kind of dumb, which is unfortunate since some evidence is appearing that is challenging conventional views on global warming.

This is not to say that GW does not exist, or that human behavior is exempt from responsibility for it, just that I heard a buzz about increased CO2 emissions being the effect of naturally occurring climate change rather than the cause. It's obviously not under my fingers yet.

I would wonder if Disputo would be generous enough with his team's monopoly of reality apprehension to shed some light on these developments. I'd look it up myself, but I'm waiting for Al Gore's manuscript, "The Truth About Everything" to come out on paperback.

Posted by: BC on June 25, 2007 at 2:30 AM | PERMALINK

"Just because someone gave Emily Yoffee a paycheck doesn't make her a writer."

Any campaign of mass persuasion is not amenable to contradiction or uncertainty? Seriously? And she says this about Gore? Who, as I recall, ran quite an extensive campaign in 2000, that, somehow turned out to be quite amenable to contradiction (to our lasting detriment)?

She might want to consult a thesaurus since I think 'persuasion' isn't actually the word she wanted. 'Indoctrination', perhaps, or 'inculcation', something a bit more forced and involuntary than simple persuasion, which often happens through rational, reasoned arguement. 'Propagandizing' might carry her meaning, as near as I can intuit it.

I fail to see how her, or her quite ridiculous friends', inability to apply, or even apparently understand, scientific reasoning entitles her to characterize Gore's climate change case as one of fear and absolutes. Has she even read his book?

Still, despite the strong case she makes for the failure of our educational system and our media gatekeepers, I shall refuse to see the apocalypse in every barmy op-ed in the WaPo.

Posted by: biggerbox on June 25, 2007 at 2:34 AM | PERMALINK

BC has discovered the concept of positive feedback loops. Congrats.

Posted by: Disputo on June 25, 2007 at 2:35 AM | PERMALINK

I fail to see how her, or her quite ridiculous friends', inability to apply, or even apparently understand, scientific reasoning entitles her to characterize Gore's climate change case as one of fear and absolutes. Has she even read his book?

If only every idiot who doesn't understand how the internal combustion engine works would refuse to believe in cars.

Posted by: Disputo on June 25, 2007 at 2:42 AM | PERMALINK

I think her point might be that over-selling the fear factor doesn't really help the cause.

After all, unprecedented massive movements in world temperature that could result in mass extinction events (of humans) aren't really anything to be alarmed over. You have to remember that the average U.S. citizen has a lot his/her beautiful mind, like the hijinks of blonde heiresses and popsters, or the results of American Idol, and it just wouldn't do to disturb him/her over something trivial. After all, if your warnings of coming catastrophe get disregarded because they're such a downer, it's your fault, you know.

Posted by: jimBOB on June 25, 2007 at 2:44 AM | PERMALINK

John Hansen

The existence of a chaotic system should make us *more* cautious about global warming, not less so.

The analogy to religion is inevitably false. What anyone sensible on GW is saying is the data is bad, the models say it could get a lot worse, and only a fool would trust that the models are the worst case possible. Therefore, given that the costs of doing something are not insurmountable, do something. It was almost an accident that we discovered the holes in the ozone layer soon enough to do something about CFCs.

This left/ right dialectic is mostly a North American phenomenon. David Cameron, the leader of the Tory Party in Britain, has made GW a major focus of his campaigning.

In fact the first world leader to sound the alarm on GW was none other than Margaret Thatcher herself. She had the cabinet briefed on the subject in the 1980s, and it was she who kicked off the process that led to Kyoto. As a chemist she understood the science better than anyone.

And Angela Merkel, the leader of the right wing coalition in Germany, and Reichschancellor, (and also a Phd in Chemistry) has sought to make GW the centrepiece of G8 discussions. Bush managed to wreck that (which was much commented on in our press, but much less so in yours).

So this ideological divide that you perceive is much more of an American thing, than a reality.

Posted by: Valuethinker on June 25, 2007 at 2:47 AM | PERMALINK

John Hansen

Just to go further on that:

- CFCs were a real threat to the ozone layer, and potentially the ecosystem

- overfishing the North Atlantic Cod really could kill them off, and as far as we know, has (they haven't come back)

- mercury really was toxic, and people really did die of mercury poisoning due to industrial release

- the US really did have a bad automotive smog problem, Los Angeles really did have more than 100 smog days a year

In each of these cases, there was an environmental 'alarm' which turned out to be true, and something was done about it.

Turning to your boogie men:

- peak oil - this is a new one so we don't know how it will play out. The facts the PO crowd have mustered are pretty impressive, and the response is pretty much the CERA 'we always muddle through'. Note the CERA forecasts for the last 2 years were massively optimistic.

That said, we'll see how it plays out. At the very least, it might be wise in our calculations to not plan on infinite supplies of conventional oil. Even optimists think we have until maybe 2030 before peak.

- population bomb - world birth rates declined sharply in the 1970s and 80s (and 90s). Total Fertility Ratio in India fell from over 6 to 3.
China was explicitly concerned about overpopulation and lowered TFR even more dramatically.

So once again you see a pattern: perceived problem implies human action to resolve it.

Hopefully the same will be true about global warming.

Posted by: Valuethinker on June 25, 2007 at 2:56 AM | PERMALINK

There was no mass left-scientist panic over global cooling. There was a single article published in a non-peer-reviewed magazine in the 1970's (Discover or Nature, if I remember correctly) that was soon forgotten by most. The right-wing picked up on this article decades later and ran with it and use it as a single data point towards a broader trend. This Hollywood-style, Michael Bay-like logic on the right of doubting everything that scientists say because they always reverse themselves (while pointing to religious explanations as more reliable) is childish and has to stop.

Posted by: Reality Man on June 25, 2007 at 3:28 AM | PERMALINK

Yoffe is a great example of why Slate blows. They should change their name to The Contrarian Chronicle. Slate is filled with Vichy Democrats who find it the height of sophistication and intellectual "integrity" to constantly put the knife in the back of their ostensive allies.

In fact the Contrarian Club is filled with pathetic careerist losers who are too afraid to take on the right wing menace and so instead pick on the weak, overpowered, Democratic left. Their highest "principles" are career advancement and misplaced intellectual snobbery.

Posted by: Junius Brutus on June 25, 2007 at 3:29 AM | PERMALINK

Valuethinker makes good points. The conservative/liberal divide is very different in the US from what it is in Europe and elsewhere. Faith-based nonsense, warmongering, creationism, fear of stem cell research, love of torture, and head-in-the-sand approaches to energy and environmental issues are really conservative positions only in the US. Many European conservatives are to the left of the US Democratic Party.

Posted by: JS on June 25, 2007 at 3:59 AM | PERMALINK

Can someone please explain to me that if anthropogenic global warming is such a slam dunk how come it splits on a conservative/liberal axis?

As ValueThinker says, this is largely a U.S. phenomenom. Ie. America's know-nothing-wing scoffing at global warming doesn't cross borders. When an idea can't cross borders, this is a red, screeching alert that the idea is probably more rooted in some form of human construct (culture, politics, religion, corporate propaganda campaigns...) than in anything real. see Lysenkoism, the efficacy of having sex with virgins to combat AIDs, how blood type determines personality and Intelligent Design for other examples of this (and any American journalists are free to use this rule-of-thumb to help them the apparently difficult task of thinking through situations).

Posted by: snicker-snack on June 25, 2007 at 4:06 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin asked for mockery? I can do that!

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on June 25, 2007 at 4:22 AM | PERMALINK

Jeez Kevin, Emily Yoffe's column is no masterpiece, but compared to a typical WaPo (BroderKrauthammerWillCohen) column it's rather sensible. There are all kinds of threats to humanity individually and collectively, but exaggerating the threat of global warming *is* a form of irresponsible fear mongering.

Few, if any, climate scientists think that human extinction is a likely consequence of global warming. Yes, it's going to get hotter, but likely not as hot as it has been in the (distant) past. Losing New York, Miami, and most of the Netherlands will be a shame, but hardly the end of the world.

Most of us will be dead long before the worst effects of global warming kick in, and there are lots of other threats to worry about in the meantime - notably nuclear proliferation, habitat destruction, overpopulation, and the likelyhood that humans are already obsolete. Our robot successors are unlikely to be much discommoded by global warming and likely to have plenty of other reasons to regard us as a dispensable element of the biosphere.

Posted by: CapitalistImperialistPig on June 25, 2007 at 5:06 AM | PERMALINK

Nice one, Blue Girl. Ms. Yoffe does trot out a nice sampling of denialist cliches, doesn't she?

There are ways to read the sentence Kevin highlights, "just because something can be plotted on an X and Y axis does not make it the whole truth", which are not completely inane. An unexpectedly warm day can indeed be delightful. There could even be a sort of beautiful justice in the extinction of the human race. Nevertheless, we'd do well to do what we can to avoid it.

Posted by: bad Jim on June 25, 2007 at 5:35 AM | PERMALINK

Blue Girl Fisk at work I see.

CIP,
1. I agree with the need to always question and agree that there are problems other than global warming but habitat destruction and overpopulation and global warming cannot really be considered independently.

2. Re. fearmongering, point taken in the abstract but where in this column was a well directed highlighting of irresponsible fearmongering?

3. Perhaps not extinction but it's pretty easy to predict that there are some pretty immense conflicts awaiting as we react to the environmental stress. Imagine dozens or perhaps dozens of dozens of Rwanda's all round the globe... Throw in mass starvations...

4. And while I won't ever be able to collect or pay out, I'd put any bet against our 'robot successors' But were Marvin Minsky to be right (and I'll assert categorically he's flat out wrong), you have a point. Think though our successors are much more likely to be rats and cockroaches. And until the earth's core cools the 80% or so of biomass that consists of bacteria dependent on thermal energy will keep on keeping on.

Posted by: snicker-snack on June 25, 2007 at 5:37 AM | PERMALINK

Melting ice doesn't kill people. Only people kill people.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on June 25, 2007 at 5:38 AM | PERMALINK

Losing New York, Miami, and most of the Netherlands will be a shame, but hardly the end of the world.

Also London, St Petersburg, Venice, Dhaka, Long Beach, Rio, Kolkata, Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Manila and most of the Midwest grain belt. Still, life goes on, right?

No, the human race won't be extinct, even in a worst-case GW scenario. Is that supposed to make me feel better? If JFK had gone ahead and implemented SIOP over Cuba, the human race would have survived. Does that mean it wasn't anything to worry about?

Posted by: ajay on June 25, 2007 at 5:48 AM | PERMALINK

My benchmark of what 'the right wing' thinks worldwide is what big companies are saying and doing.

Because if conservatives are all about the private sector, the big multinationals are the bleeding edge of any world trend on the private sector. It is big business that funds the conservative movement, and its issues become the issues of the conservative movement.

American conservatives may fuss about immigration or gun control. World conservatives fuss about cost competitiveness and corporate governance in China.

When Rupert Murdoch says, in an interview with Grist, that he thinks global warming is real, (this is no 'new' Rupert Murdoch: he also says in the same interview he thinks Bush is a good guy, whose contribution to world issues is underrated), you know the world really has changed.

It is for the same reason that the world's oil companies have pulled their funding from CEI and other denialist groups. Ditto the electric power industry. Of course the coal industry is holding out-- but coal is 35-40% of world CO2 emissions, so they really do have something to lose.

Backing the denialists are an interesting mixture of conservative evangelicals: the one who told the Guardian, for example that 'God wouldn't let us burn ourselves up'. Others have censured Richard Czizik (director of the National Association of Evangelicals) for addressing global warming when 'there are more important moral issues at hand'. Others have said that since the Second Coming is nigh, we shouldn't worry about things that won't play out before it happens, like global warming.

There are evangelicals who feel otherwise: a responsibility to God's creation, with which man has been entrusted. Richard Cizik for one, and Sir John Houghton, former Chief Meteorologist of the United Kingdom. The chapter in his textbook on global warming (Global Warming. The Complete Briefing) on the ethics of global warming is fascinating.

So yes, there is religion and religious belief in this one.

Posted by: Valuethinker on June 25, 2007 at 5:56 AM | PERMALINK

ajay

As with JFK and SIOP on China, we can't predict the outcome of global warming.

It's not like it would have stopped there. The USSR might have then attacked the US. Or years later, the USSR and USA might have had a nuclear war themselves. The Chinese might have found a way to strike back (sodium layered hydrogen bombs in cargo ships, detonated off the coast of the US-- a US congressional study concluded 3 such weapons, of the 50 megatonne class, would have killed most of the coastal population of the USA).

Nuclear winter has never been disproved. Recent studies using the latest atmospheric models show significant effects from even a limited regional nuclear war (India-Pakistan, say).

It wasn't just that killed 300 million Chinese was a bad idea. It's that JFK couldn't foresee the consequences of so doing and he was first and foremost a cautious man. I wish that same rationale had been applied to our invasion of Iraq.

Turning to global warming, we have no way of knowing that it would stop there. 300 foot sea level rises are possible. Mass migration could lead to the third world war.

(place to start: India and Pakistan. Already they fight an undeclared war in the Hindu Kush that has killed hundreds if not thousands of soldiers, and both depend on the glacial runoff from those mountain ranges for water supply for hundreds of millions of people. If one accuses the other of tampering with its water supply, then we have the same war threat that Turkey and Syria had a few years ago over the issue of Turkish damming of Syrian rivers.

Of course India and Pakistan both have nukes, and Pakistan's state is unstable, to say the least).

Once the positive feedback loops kick in, for example the death of the rainforests due to drought and heat, then we could lose control of the process, nothing we do will stop the inexorable rise in CO2 levels.

This is more or less what James Lovelock is saying in 'The Revenge of Gaia'. The planet will solve the question of global warming, by eradicating the life form that is causing it (us).

(Lovelock thinks humans will adapt. We will be like the Australian aborigines, living nomadically in a desert surrounding the Arctic Ocean).

Part of Lovelock's pessimism is that he believes this civilisation cannot, and will not, adjust. I am less pessimistic, but I didn't live through World War II, and he did.

Posted by: Valuethinker on June 25, 2007 at 6:11 AM | PERMALINK

Stupidity mocks itself.

Emily, and many conservatives, forget that the root cause of global climate change is pollution. Does she not want to bother her "beautiful mind", as Bar Bush put it, thinking about all the CO2, sulfur dioxide, methane and other pollutants we are pumping into the atmosphere? Al Gore isn't fear-mongering about pollution the way Bush fear-mongers about al-Qaeda. He is being a realist.

Everyone enjoys a beautiful spring day. Let's sensibly cut pollution so that our great-grandchildren can as well.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on June 25, 2007 at 6:29 AM | PERMALINK

Ah, Kevin.

Aw, turth hurts, dont it?

Posted by: egbert on June 25, 2007 at 7:24 AM | PERMALINK

Aw, turth (sic) hurts, dont it?Posted by: egbert

Truth never hurts, but your utter stupidity does. Go away and stop humiliating yourself.

Posted by: DJ on June 25, 2007 at 7:57 AM | PERMALINK

It always amazes me that editors can read an article with so many things that are just plain wrong, and then go ahead and publish it.

Children are right to be worried. They will be about 50 when things go badly wrong, to put the best possible face on it. They are surrounded by the most popcorn-brained adults the world has yet spawned, extremely large people who are still children themselves, ready to sacrifice the future so they can have a shiny new toy car.

What the Washington Post tells me about global warming tells me more about the Washington Post than it does about global warming.

Posted by: serial catowner on June 25, 2007 at 8:17 AM | PERMALINK

Emily says, "Math is icky, and that's the truth!" Then she screws up her little face like Lily Tomlin's Edith Ann and gives us all a raspberry.

The poor dear can't tell the difference between weather and climate. No wonder she scoffs at forecasts. She's thinking of the weather report on television. Scientists are thinking of mean ambient temperature.

Posted by: Zeno on June 25, 2007 at 8:23 AM | PERMALINK

Ms. Yoffe's apparent belief that global warming is either not so bad because January may be patio time and some scientists are holding out hope that we can fix things really is a problem. But what to do about it? Hysterical disbelief? Anger? What?

You just can't make someone determined not to care about something care about something. And someone with no incentive to care about something is a harder nut to crack. And someone with a disincentive to care about something is even less likely to come around to believing in something and caring about it.

Global warming is bad enough without the alarmists trying to make it seem doubly bad. There needs to be a longer-term strategy to deal with it, since everything being promoted is so rushed that industries and our own power needs cannot cope with the changes proposed (in the short term.) The cause of global warming is our overuse of energy, land, resources, animals, and water. And since we are the problem, it will take a long time convincing us of the benefits of changing our ways.

Of course, in a world where the Onion tells it most accurately (I believe the headline was "98% of Americans believe in public transportation for others") it's not just the opposing politicians and pundits that need to be convinced.

We need: smaller safe cars using hybrid technology and carbon fiber construction, better insulation in our homes, more solar and wind farms, to stop eating seafood so much, stop eating meat so much, plant hemp, drive less, diet and exercise (that extra weight isn't good for fuel economy, just for a start,) nuclear power to replace/offset coal and oil, a cleaner coal/electricity process, an end to dressing like it's 68 inside when it's 98 outside (in other words: kill the three-piece suit and wear something comfortable and accept comfortable clothing as ideal rather than an insult to decorum.)

There's so much to do and some time to do it, but it's going to be our choices over the next century that will change things. We won't solve global warming in two or three election cycles or with organic cotton and a hybrid car. This is a lifetime commitment, so don't be surprised that some will balk. And don't freak out that some will balk or they'll feel justified since you are a freak. Lead by example and save for the future and maybe some or even most will follow you. But don't do it to win the hearts and minds of others, do it because it is right.

(I'm getting so full of myself and so haughty with my opinions that I am starting to wonder if I have found a religion. Better finish well.)

And I sayeth unto you all, go forth and eat less seafood, buy less clothing, and open a window for your home heating and cooling needs! Mix in a salad! Blessed are the bicyclists, for they wear tight shorts and those small seats often lead to erectile disfunction! Turn off those lights! Try doing things when the sun is up, so you can actually sleep when it's dark and need less electricity. Use a damn clothesline!

Amen.

Posted by: jon on June 25, 2007 at 8:30 AM | PERMALINK
      100|\
         | \
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      IQ |   \
         |    \
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        0|      \
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         0        \     800
         number of "facts" attempted
         per GW disinfomation piece

600|
"Crying | |
children"| |
strawmen | |
/minute | /
| /
0|--~`
------------------
0 100
polar temperature C

All hail the mighty html PRE tag!

Posted by: asdf on June 25, 2007 at 8:47 AM | PERMALINK

The award would be "Writing That Most Seems To Have Come From The Colbert Report". It would compete with this gem from James Bowman in WSJ

This odd prejudice may be partly owing to the huge social premium we put on intelligence in the era of the cognitive elite.
Posted by: HL Mungo on June 25, 2007 at 8:47 AM | PERMALINK
      600|       |
"Crying  |       |
children"|       |
strawmen |      /
/minute  |     /       
         |    /        
        0|--~`      
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         polar temperature C
Posted by: asdf on June 25, 2007 at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK

First, you don't actually believe that folks like this writer GET mockery, do you? Or satire either for that matter. I fell off my chair laughing at her references to children being frightened/sleepless/worried...as a former teacher I'm betting they "worry" more about passing all the damn tests that NCLB has brought to them than they do about DYING FROM GLOBAL WARMING...and for anyone that has had support for this administration during the past 7 years to suggest that FEAR is bad just completely crosses the HYPOCRISY line!

Posted by: Dancer on June 25, 2007 at 8:56 AM | PERMALINK

How 'bout some Cowboy Environmentalism:

Just lasso them goldarn icebergs and keep 'em tied up north so they don't melt!

Posted by: pj in jesusland on June 25, 2007 at 8:58 AM | PERMALINK

Sometimes I wish I could flag comments as "Kevin Drum! Read this!" I'm not just blathering here, I have actual germane content to the discussion. Slashdot would understand.

Emily Yoffe wrote an article for Slate entitled, I'm a math moron. No, really, you don't understand -- I'm a math moron. In it, she takes a standardized test that places her math ability at a first grade level. She works hard at a course that raises her up to sixth grade level.

One night, my husband asked to see the packet I was working on.

He flipped the pages and asked, "This is hard for you?"

"Yes," I replied.

"Seriously?" he said, eyes widening. When I assured him it was, I realized I was looking at the face of a man staring into the evolutionary abyss. I could see he was regretting that he had allowed his DNA to be carried into the future merged with mine. Luckily, our daughter is good at math.

I admire her forthrightness in writing that article -- however -- I would be a little chary of publicly dismissing the utility of x and y axes after publicly disclosing my complete mental inability to comprehend things like x and y axes in the first place.

Posted by: Noumenon on June 25, 2007 at 9:15 AM | PERMALINK

Disputo: If only every idiot who doesn't understand how the internal combustion engine works would refuse to believe in cars.

Yes, and if only every idiot who admits he doesn't understand what a procedural vote is would stop boasting that Ron Paul votes against the Iraq war and in favor of restoring civil liberties.

But it's good to know you got under their skin to the point of having them follow you around whining.

Posted by: shortstop on June 25, 2007 at 9:27 AM | PERMALINK

An English or Journalism major whose glib style got her a BA and a job at an online mag. A book or two with the remainder sticker pre-attached. The ability to write 500 words on nothing three times a week. Willing to coast along in the drift of friends and co-workers.
It's a career, I guess.

Posted by: Steve Paradis on June 25, 2007 at 9:32 AM | PERMALINK

In fact the Contrarian Club is filled with pathetic careerist losers who are too afraid to take on the right wing menace and so instead pick on the weak, overpowered, Democratic left. Their highest "principles" are career advancement and misplaced intellectual snobbery.

Didn't Micky Kaus write for Slate?

Posted by: Ringo on June 25, 2007 at 9:48 AM | PERMALINK

Perhaps WaPo is trying out possible replacments for David Broder - you know, people sufficiently attuned to the danger posed to our Republic by all of this bickering over issues.

Posted by: brucds on June 25, 2007 at 9:48 AM | PERMALINK

JimBob wrote:
"My mother-in-law likes to follow the same logic. She's often chided me for being so gloomy about the general political situation, telling me that if I were just a bit more optimistic, I'd be a happier person."

I'm facing a similar situation with a difficult cancer relapse, chemo, and sixteen pills a day. My wife constantly asks if I'm taking my daily vitamin. I'd go off the deep end with this, but then I realize it's more for her consolation than any benefit to me.

manowar

Posted by: manowar on June 25, 2007 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

I don't know about you all, but I'm immensely relieved to learn from someone with absolutely no scientific credentials that global warming isn't all that big a deal after all.

Posted by: azportsider on June 25, 2007 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

It's interesting to compare this post with the following one about Cheney. By overshooting the Veep may have caused the President to get less power, since he inspired pushback. The same may be true here. Maybe Al Gore's overly dramatic presentation is leading to pushback, such as the cited article.

Two more points: Few people I know of have actually made massive changes in their lives to save CO2. My friends and relatives continue to drive, fly, heat their home, heat their swimming pool (if lucky enough to own one), etc. Leading Dems live in mansions: Al Gore, John Edwards, Bill and Hillary Clknton. Not to mention the six mansions maintained by John Kerry.

Second, the GW model implies the world will not reduce CO2 enough to reverse global warming for many decades if at all. China has now passed the US in CO2 production. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,285272,00.html So, believers in GW ought to be petrified and despondantor panicked. They should be demanding that a huge part of the federal budget be devoted to research into other methods of stopping GW. Yet, GW believers are living their lives normally, as if long-term GW isn't important.

This shows me that most who believe in GW have only a weak belief. Their belief is strong enough to blast President Bush but too weak to justify moving government spending from their pet programs into GW research.

Posted by: ex-liberal on June 25, 2007 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe Al Gore's overly dramatic presentation is leading to pushback, such as the cited article.

If blithering idiots like her (or you) are who we have to contend with, I'm cool with that.

It's too easy. She never cites any sources. Why is that? Can't understand 'em, or someone might ask who funded 'em? Right there you have it. She is either:

a.) Stupid - or -

2.) Intentionally committing a lie of omission.

Either way, she is not to be taken seriously.

Posted by: Isle of Lucy on June 25, 2007 at 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

Losing New York, Miami, and most of the Netherlands will be a shame, but hardly the end of the world.

Maybe it wouldn't be the end of the world, but it could mean major economic collapse in the US if the major financial hub of your country is submerged, especially in an unexpected catastrophe.
And it's not just Miami but all of South Florida south of Okeechobee, and also Washington, D.C., maybe Baltimore, Philadelphia. that's millions and millions of people who, if it's a catastrophic flooding, potentially lose their lives, but if it's gradual, at least lose their homes and livelihoods. Do you realize how expensive it will be to move the financial trading centers, the seat of government, all the ports and start anew?
And as someone else pointed out, St. Petersburg (Russia), Singapore, Hong Kong, Bombay, and so on and so on. So it would be a worldwide calamity. Yeah, the human race wouldn't die out, but it would suffer greatly.

Posted by: lou on June 25, 2007 at 10:25 AM | PERMALINK

A study from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution last month, looking at 5,000 years of Atlantic hurricanes, found "large and dramatic fluctuations in hurricane activity, with long stretches of frequent strikes punctuated by lulls that lasted many centuries" -- with the stormier periods occurring during cooler ocean temperatures. But talking about Earth's constant, and still inexplicable, climate changes and cycles is not useful if you're trying to shock.

That's all ok if you're a lay person who is totally mystified by science, and for you "cool" and "warm" have to each equal "hurricanes" or "no hurricanes," but it totally begs the question of whether a relatively warm period followed by a sudden increase in temperature can lead to at least, temporarily, a few more hurricanes, as compared to if the temperature had stayed relatively stable.

You're right, Kevin, that is a pretty bad article and there is a lot to criticize about it- it's eminently distortionist, and it's perfectly wrapped in the cute-modern-editorial-style.

Posted by: Swan on June 25, 2007 at 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

River cities inland will have to move out of the valleys, too.

Posted by: Isle of Lucy on June 25, 2007 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

Jerkface hack, that Ms. Yoffe.

Posted by: GREYDOG on June 25, 2007 at 10:34 AM | PERMALINK

Especially bad is how she characterizes us a being inundated because of the success of one guy's movie, plus a movie in the making, and how she characterizes it all as fear-mongering. What does she have to say about all the right wing books about the left in America and about the rhetoric about the war on terror?

Posted by: Swan on June 25, 2007 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

Can someone please explain to me that if anthropogenic global warming is such a slam dunk how come it splits on a conservative/liberal axis?

Can someone please explain to me that if the evidence of Saddam's actually having WMD was such a slam dunk how come it split on a conservative/liberal axis?

Posted by: Stefan on June 25, 2007 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

Next up: Emily Yoffe's Post Op-Ed on how math is really, really hard! And why shopping is fun!

Posted by: Stefan on June 25, 2007 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

re Emily Yoffe

We wouldn't ask Ms. Yoffe's opinion of a neurological problem nor pay any attention if she ridiculed the thesis that smoking causes cancer.

By her own admission math is not a strong suit, so I wouldn't ask her opinion of Fermat's last theorem, or Cook's complexity conjecture (hypothesis).

I don't see why we should take heed of her views on a scientific matter.

Any more than any of you would take my opinion of whether cellphones cause brain cancer.

Some of the things she says in the article are sufficiently inane that I doubt she really understands the policy implications of global warming (even if the science is beyond her).

Posted by: Valuethinker on June 25, 2007 at 10:54 AM | PERMALINK

Valuethinker:
In fact the first world leader to sound the alarm on GW was none other than Margaret Thatcher herself. She had the cabinet briefed on the subject in the 1980s, and it was she who kicked off the process that led to Kyoto.

Saint Margaret, who helped Saint Ronald save the world from the Soviet Union? Why hasn't she spoken up since, and helped wingnuts understand the threat? Most of them think she's all that and a buttered scone.

Posted by: cowalker on June 25, 2007 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

Oh please. Are all of you in constant terror about global warming, every. single. second? Probably not. Do you feel guilty if you aren't spending every. single. moment. concerned about A)global warming B)Darfur C)why the Dems can't stop the war in Iraq D)why the Dems can't impeach Bush and Cheney? I hope not.

Yes, the arguments in the piece are a bit straw-man-esque, simply because I don't know many people who DO spend every waking moment worried about global warming. But I do see the signs of someone burnt out on liberal guilt about issues that it's hardly likely one could change in the first place. A Republican probably wouldn't write a piece like this because a Republican wouldn't feel guilty about not wanting to hear more about global warming.

For all of you piling on, how many of you have given up cars and stopped using clothes dryers, to name the few fairly easy things an individual not involved in negotiating carbon emissions related treaties can do to combat global warming?

It's easy to wallow in dire news--after all, there's so much of it. But outrage itself is often insufficient to cause change, and if you're not changing, all you have is outrage (and too much stress).

Posted by: JMS on June 25, 2007 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

"River cities inland will have to move out of the valleys, too."
Posted by: Isle of Lucy on June 25, 2007 at 10:33 AM

Yep. Someone recently mentioned here that Sacramento is only 25 feet above sea level. Silicon Valley soon to be Silicon Sea? What about much of the San Fernando Valley's agricultural output?

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on June 25, 2007 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

On the non-evidence for global warming, besides the Australian drought (now as bad as the 'Federation Drought' of the 19th century which led to the formation of the country in response to the crisis) we now have the LA Drought-- as little winter rainfall as 1877.

www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,,2110628,00.html
www.lacitybeat.com/article.php?id=5674&IssueNum=210

Will be interesting to see if Kevin comments on it.

Now no one can prove that global warming is causing either of these droughts. But the propensity for extreme weather conditions has definitely increased here in the UK, and I suspect in other places, too.

Welcome to a warmer world. Buckle your seatbelts, please.

Posted by: Valuethinker on June 25, 2007 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

Can someone please explain to me that if anthropogenic global warming is such a slam dunk how come it splits on a conservative/liberal axis?

Prof. Kerry Emmanuel of MIT would be shocked to discover that.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on June 25, 2007 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

Yoffe's column in the Washington Post actually explains pretty clearly how we ended up with George Bush as president. Unfortunately.

Posted by: Nemo on June 25, 2007 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

"Oh please. Are all of you in constant terror about global warming, every. single. second? "

Yep. I've been pretty concerned about it since the mid 80's.

Posted by: forsythe on June 25, 2007 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

cowalker

Lady Thatcher has had several strokes. She is pretty close to senile.

At the time, it was simply seen as her pushing nuclear power (Britain built its last nuclear reactor, and its first pressurised water (American) reactor, at Sizewell in Suffolk, during her last term in office). Britain's Greens remain firmly opposed to nuclear power (although that front is cracking).

But having called environmentalists 'the enemy within' in the early 1980s, by the late 1980s she was prepared to make a speech highlighting the dangers of GW, and have the Cabinet briefed on it.

Of course the urgency of the situation is much greater now than it was then: we've had over 10 years in which temperature records were broken, since then.

Posted by: Valuethinker on June 25, 2007 at 11:04 AM | PERMALINK

There is nothing inane about the essay. What is truly mindboggling is how almost every commenter here so far doesn't see this.

The point she is making is that the alarmism is being overdone. She is completely correct- the movement is sowing the seeds of its own destruction. What do you think is going to happen 20 years from now when the weather is still the same as it is today, and the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are 25% higher? You can only proclaim the end of humanity so many times before becoming an object of ridicule. For a long time, the real climatologists have resisted this sort of apocalyptic sermonizing, but the popular and political rhetoric is beginning to draw them in as well, and, unless we see dramatic climate change in the next two decades, they too will be discredited- and it won't even matter that their predictions are for the apocalypse to happen at the end of the century.

Posted by: Yancey Ward on June 25, 2007 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

She's from Slate. Cranking out inane bullshit is her bread and butter. Why should she do any different in the WaPo, which is not exactly hostile to inane bullshit itself?

Posted by: sglover on June 25, 2007 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

when the weather is still the same as it is today

It won't be. The weather the last several years is different than it was in 1987, for example. Remember: half the CO2 put into the atmosphere has been put there since 1970.

The effect is going to keep getting more pronounced.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on June 25, 2007 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, Kevin's criticism (from his blog post title) is really good, is the main problem with the piece, and I just want to point it out in case anybody didn't really think about it: Yoffe dances around / never really tells us why global warming is incorrect and we shouldn't really be worried about it. As far as is she goes is just suggesting that some purported effects of global warming are in dispute.

Yoffe makes the case that children are being inordinately scared by the proponents of the movement, on basically no evidence, just one anecdote that doesn't really tell us how scared the kids mentioned really are- a lot of people are anxious and sleepless, and kids cry all the time, for all kinds of reasons.

For every threat facing humanity, of course, there are doubtless a few people who are more scared about it than they ought to be, who are just sensitive. Could be that the kids inthe article Yoffe references are really scared about global warming are just being raised in a dysfunctional household and just express their other problems in concern about an unrelated problem- could be any number of things. It seems like any kids who are properly explained global warming can't be that upset about it, because thing are not going to just necessarily become unliveable in their lifetimes- even if they get a lot worse. It's more like a problem we can do something about, for all the generations that are alive, and less an inevitable specter of doom.

Incidentally, just for liberal women out there who may see feminism are their principal issue and may be hesitant to really examine what this woman is saying because of that- maybe you see a successful woman expressing her voice in a savvy sounding way, and just because she disagrees with him, the white male liberal Kevin Drum is doing a blog post to attack her- I just want to urge you to think a little bit about how shallow that kind of a criticism is before you allow it to hold you up from really examining this woman's article. We all have to stop allowing the right to push our buttons- you all better believe that is just what the right wing sets out to do.

Remember, the Dominionists and a lot of wacky people are training and have been training their children to infiltrate all aspects of our society. You can alway find an article about it- there was one just the other day about some wacko fundamentalist Christians trying to encourage their children to go into the arts and the mass media and to spread their message. And it's not like you or I would spread Christianity- for these people, spreading a Christian worldview is rewriting history and inentionally lying, to get Americans to see things differently just so they'll support the worldview the fundamentalist blindly supports, based on nothing but pure preference. Just because this woman looks like one thing to you does not mean that that is what she necessarily is. A woman who grows up in a household of several brothers and no sisters, who are all saying "nigger" all the time and who are dumb jocks, may grow up in unjustified fear of being raped by a bunch of black men, even though she doesn't know anyone it's ever happened to- it may be her greatest fear. She may think, because of these fears, that all you liberal women deserve to be raped in hell, believe it or not. Or imagine a woman raised by fundamentalist Christians- she may think you deserve to got to hell if you sleep with women, or you've fornicated, or yopu support Lynn Cheney for having a "homonculus" child out-of-wedlock. And this same woman may be sent by whoever it is who tells her what to do to go and try to get a job writing- it's not her own idea- just so she can distort. And she adopts the writing style that's been pioneered by affluent liberals educated in good schools, and creative and truly talented peope- just because her and her bosses agree it's a good idea to ape it. It's not really her. That's who you'll be sticking up for if you let a woman who's so easily shown to be a distortionist get a pass just because of that feminist reflex you have. That's how easy it will be to push your buttons and to get you to face in exactly the opposite direction of where you should be facing.

Posted by: Swan on June 25, 2007 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

Jeffrey Davis,

I was 21 years old in 1987. Take my word for it, the weather today is not perceptibly different than it was then, and I am far more aware and interested in weather than the average person. This is the battle the alarmists are setting themselves up to lose- climate change, even if it is human induced, is so slow as to not be noticed by anyone other than those that study it, but the alarmists are giving the impression that the end of the world is just around the corner. And to top it off, any changes in carbon emissions on the downside are not even going to occur for at least the next twenty years because that transition, too, is going to be gradual, if it happens at all. In other words, the alarmists are going to have to be proven correct, or they will be seen as Chicken Littles.

Posted by: Yancey Ward on June 25, 2007 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

yancy - your term is undefined

If "perceptibly" means "measurably", then I aint taking your word for anything - the globe is hotter, & all sorts of things have changed.

If "perciptibly" means you haven't noticed anything from your chair - then fine, I'll take your word for it, but

I. Don't. care.

The notion that nothing much will change in the next 20 years, with all the ecological collapse underway, is utterly preposterous.

Posted by: Downpuppy on June 25, 2007 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK
.... Few people I know of have actually made massive changes in their lives to save CO2 .... ex-lax at 10:06 AM
The pushback against Cheney is coming from the Courts and the rule of law ( except, of course, from the legal idiot, Clarence Thomas who maintains against all law and precedent that that Bush can do anything as long as he claims it is because he's Commander-in-Chief.) Your personal experience, while meaningless, is in no way illustrative. Leading Reps continue to live lives of luxury in mansions of splendor. What other's experience shows are the early stages of action designed to change undesirable future consequences.
There is nothing inane about the essay. What is truly mindboggling is how almost every commenter here so far doesn't see this....Yancey Ward at 11:07 AM
What is mind-boggling is the continued partisan efforts of rightist to deny the obvious. Note, the 10 warmest years have occurred since 1995. That is a perceivable and measurable difference. Posted by: Mike on June 25, 2007 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

Take my word for it, the weather today is not perceptibly different than it was then, and I am far more aware and interested in weather than the average person.

What cabbage patch are such retards grown in? In ten years living in Chicagoland, I went from being able to Xcountry ski all winter to being lucky to get one decent weekend in. If that is too imperceptable of a change for you, move up to the northpole. Be sure to bring some floaties.

Posted by: Disputo on June 25, 2007 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

What about much of the San Fernando Valley's agricultural output?

In the southern midwest the fruit crop was devastated this year by a hot early spring followed by a late hard frost. Rising sea levels is probably the effect of GW that we should least worry about. All we need is one global-wide crop failure for civilization as we know it to come to a screeching halt. At which point I'd expect wingnuts like Yancy Ward to start touting the wonders of cannibalism.

Posted by: Disputo on June 25, 2007 at 12:02 PM | PERMALINK

What Brad DeLong says about the WaPo is so true...

Posted by: Neil B. on June 25, 2007 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

...What about much of the San Fernando Valley's agricultural output? -Doc At The Radar Station

The only "output" from the San Fernando Valley these days is pornography and marijuana dispensories.

Posted by: shnooky on June 25, 2007 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

In a nutshell, this is what she's doing- without explaining why we're wrong to be concerned about global warming at all, she's trying to guilt us for being concerned about global warming, to manipulate us.

In my opinion, there is only one way an article like this gets written, and it's not as an original expression of someone's thoughts they just happen to feel like sharing like us: the woman communicates with her boss- her real boss, who is doubtless an aged white man, and 10x as misogynistic as Kevin Drum, or as myself, or any of the real male commenters here, who tells her that we'd like an article on global warming to guilt the liberals from advocating on that issue. What guilts people, especially the kind of people liberals are, about what they're doing? Felling like they're hurting kids. Find an anecdote about hurting kids, construe it, and then write the article. Just try to write persuasively and well, like anyone does according to what they learned in Comp 101. Or, once the ctandard operating procedure becomes ingrained enough, it's just, "We found this article that looks like it says kids are upset about global warming. We want you to write something to guilt liberals with it."

It's nothing more noble or original than that.

Posted by: Swan on June 25, 2007 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

mhr nails it.

Gore was personally responsible for the CO2 increases during his tenure in office just so that he could make money decrying it after he left office.

Similarly, once Cheney leaves office he'll make a fortune fighting against executive office overreach.

Posted by: Disputo on June 25, 2007 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

Stefan: Can someone please explain to me that if the evidence of Saddam's actually having WMD was such a slam dunk how come it split on a conservative/liberal axis?

The explanation is that when the Iraq invasion was under consideration there was no such split. Leading Dems including both Bill and Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Senator Rockefeller, etc. had all made public statements affirming their belief that Saddam had stockpiles of WMDs.

There were a handful of non-mainstream public figures who disputed the existance of WMDs. The one who comes to mind is Scott Ritter.

Posted by: ex-liberal on June 25, 2007 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

... a single article published in a non-peer-reviewed magazine in the 1970's (Discover or Nature, if I remember correctly) ...

I don't know which article you're thinking of, but for the record, Nature is peer reviewed.

There was an article in Science (also peer reviewed) in 1971 that considered both warming (from greenhouse gases) and cooling (from airborne particulates) scenarios and suggested that cooling was the more likely near-term possibility. It fell quite a ways short of making any predictions, though.

The big stir came with an overblown 1975 article in Newsweek (not peer-reviewed). This may be the article you have in mind.

Posted by: noncarborundum on June 25, 2007 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK

Yancey

I was 27 in 1987.

Take my word for it, the world (or at least the northern part of North America and the British Isles) have distinctly warmer summers and winters than they did then.

The plants that I grow in my garden, and the birds and animals that I see there, have changed as well.

Oh and extreme weather events, particularly droughts and rain deluges, are more common.

Posted by: Valuethinker on June 25, 2007 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

One of the frauds committed by these skeptics (here, I mean just the dumb gee-whizzers who have no particular rebuttal, like this moron Emily Yoffe) - is their lack of appreciation for the concept of risk. So, it is OK to imprison and torture people, in violation of the Constitution, when there is flimsy evidence they just might be a threat, but there is something wrong with warning us about a very likely damaging effect on our climate, just because it can't be proven with utter certainty?
(BTW someone should look into Yoffe's background to see if her pretense of the housewife next door just being common-sensical is the real motivating force ...)

Posted by: Neil B. on June 25, 2007 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

Disputo,

In my 41 years, I have seen seasonal variations that are the equivalent of your lack of cross country skiing this past winter. For example, I lived in Chicago for four years in the late 80s and early 90s, and we had snowy winters and winters without hardly any at all. We had cold ones and warm ones. So what? Climate is variable year to year, and has always been. Growing up, the two hottest summers I ever experienced were in 1980 and 1988, and those summers have not been surpassed in that area in which I lived at the time. And where I live today, we set record low temperatures two days this past weekend. And what are you going to write when Chicago goes through another snowy winter, which it certainly will, and you get to cross-country ski all winter again?

Downpuppy,

All the evidence I have seen suggests that the average temperature of the planet has risen less than 1 degree centigrade in a century. Yes, there are predictions that the increases will be greater in the future, but those dramatic increases have not yet appeared.

Mike,

They may be measurable, but to the average person, they are not perceptible. I am not saying that global warming is not happening, by the way, only that people don't perceive an average temperature that is, for example, 0.4 degrees centigrade above the long-term mean. And to top it off, much of the warming that might be perceived could be seen as beneficial, especially if you don't enjoy cross country skiing as much as some people. Also, let me ask you this: what were the 10 warmest years prior to 1995? What were the coldest? All I am saying is that prediction of apocalypse can be self-defeating when the apocalypse keeps getting pushed into the future.

Posted by: Yancey Ward on June 25, 2007 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

In the Cheney articles in WaPo David Addington is quoted as saying that "Cabana Al" Gonzalez's views on terrorism, torture and first amendment protections were "not fully formed" when the President and Cheney began issuing directives to allow special investigation techniques, abandonment of habeus corpus, monitoring e-mail and international communications, holding "enemy combatants" indefinitely without access to lawyers or trials.

I love that phrase, "not fully formed." Yoffe's environmental views by her own admission are "not fully formed," just like Gonzalez's consitutional and legal views.

Neither Gonzalez nor Yoffe are not qualified to issue credible opinions on their chosen subject matter. I can only speculate how much of Yoffe's inanity is the result of the generally uncritical "climate" Cheney's secrecy has encouraged.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on June 25, 2007 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

I'm always reminded of James Lovelock's analogy of 1938.

Lovelock is old enough (80-something) to remember that date. He is also that rarity in the world: a truly independent scientist. Indeed his original conclusion on CFCs and the ozone layer (he invented a detector which made studying the ozone layer possible) was that they posed no risks and couldn't possible. He regrets that opinion, now.

Some people realised that war was coming, and that it would be bad.

But many other people in 1938, perfectly reasonable, intelligent people, thought that somehow war could and would be avoided, and we wouldn't have to choose sides. A big faction in America thought that until December 7th, 1941.

We have reached the point where we have to choose sides on this one. 'Wait and see' is an increasingly unviable option, given that the impact of any given emission of CO2 is felt for decades after.

From Elizabeth Kolbert's 'Field Notes from a Catastrophe':

www.wesjones.com/climate3.htm

After a while, I asked Socolow whether he thought that stabilizing emissions was a politically feasible goal. He frowned.

“I’m always being asked, ‘What can you say about the practicability of various targets?’ ” he told me. “I really think that’s the wrong question. These things can all be done.

“What kind of issue is like this that we faced in the past?” he continued. “I think it’s the kind of issue where something looked extremely difficult, and not worth it, and then people changed their minds. Take child labor. We decided we would not have child labor and goods would become more expensive. It’s a changed preference system. Slavery also had some of those characteristics a hundred and fifty years ago. Some people thought it was wrong, and they made their arguments, and they didn’t carry the day. And then something happened and all of a sudden it was wrong and we didn’t do it anymore. And there were social costs to that. I suppose cotton was more expensive. We said, ‘That’s the trade-off; we don’t want to do this anymore.’ So we may look at this and say, ‘We are tampering with the earth.’ The earth is a twitchy system. It’s clear from the record that it does things that we don’t fully understand. And we’re not going to understand them in the time period we have to make these decisions. We just know they’re there. We may say, ‘We just don’t want to do this to ourselves.’ If it’s a problem like that, then asking whether it’s practical or not is really not going to help very much. Whether it’s practical depends on how much we give a damn.”

Posted by: Valuethinker on June 25, 2007 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

"Can someone please give it the mockery it so richly deserves?"

It is not the Yoffe article that deserves mockery, it is the fear mongers of the hardcore environmentalist movement who deserve mockery, as they thought they could get away with their scam. Just as the neocons used the false spectre of "islamofascism" to scare the American people into giving the government more power, the environmentalists are doing the same with global warming.

Yoffe, unlike Gore, has many good points. She asks why, when predictions for weather over the next few days are often inaccurate, are we supposed to accept predictions made for what the weather will be a century from now as definete truth?

The only flaw in Yoffe's article is that she does not dispute "global warming" enough. She doesn't mention how the idea of a pending crisis is often good for a scientist's wallet. The idea that the Soviets would take over space led generations to waste taxpayer money on NASA, for example. Most of the climate scientists know that if they claim there is a deadly crisis, it will be a lot easier to get a research grant than it would be if they merely claimed that it is a possible the global temperature may change, and the extremity and dangerousness of this change is unknown. There are plenty of scientists who know how to what is in their interest, and how to do what will gain them money and prestige.

If worst comes to worst, and the predictions of the Global Warming Doomsday do come true, then it will mean that humanity will have to adapt. Human beings survived throughout our history by adapting, especially to different climates.

The worst thing about this global warming hysteria is that it will likely undermine the credibility of the legitimate environmental movement. There are many legitimate reasons to regulate pollution, providing that industry is compensated for the financial cost. For example, public health. Everyone knows that people who live in high pollution areas, especially poor neighborhoods, get sick more. Certain affects on pollution, such as mercury in fish, can endanger the unborn child. There are legitimate reasons for regulation of pollution.

But these important reasons seldom are heard, as scientists and an ex-Presidential candidate with a monstrous ego are too busy grandstanding on their pet cause.

Posted by: brian on June 25, 2007 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

Yancey, the one thing that is perceptible to everyone is smog. Smog has spread from an LA phenomenon in the sixties to a massive problem now. Everyone in North America has some smog, and most have a lot. It goes way up to northern Ontario, and we even have smog days in the winter in Ontario. I moved to a small town for the air, among other things, in 1989. Fresh air here is a rarity, for smog comes in from hundreds of miles away.

I think smog might be a proxy for global warming. It is certainly a major change in "the weather", and to some people who like fresh air, it is apocalyptic.

I appreciate your warning, but I do think people are rightly nervous about the weather.

Posted by: Bob M on June 25, 2007 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

the average temperature of the planet has risen less than 1 degree centigrade in a century.

Anti-environment conservatives always like to pull this one out, but the fact is it's an average of all locations across the planet, collected across latitude and longitude or what have you.

So, maybe the ave. yearly temperature raised 2 whole degrees at the equator and .4 at the caps (or vice versa) or what have you. So some areas across the board have experienced a more significant increase than that figure alone makes clear. Al Gore's movie makes this all obvious. If you haven't seen it, just see it, because chances are you won't have a real informed opinion about this is you haven't.

Posted by: Swan on June 25, 2007 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

Valuethinker,

We may decide that carbon emissions are no longer tolerable, however, that decision has not yet been made. Human beings don't make huge decisions like the one being proposed, the most colossal change ever proposed to be exact, without good reason to do so. Now, catastrophic climate change might be a good reason to do so, but predictions of catastrophic change are not likely to carry the day without some actual catastrophe to back it up. Katrina is not such a catastrophe, nor is a warm winter, or a series of warm winters in Chicago, or the British Isles. And if the trend reverses for, lets say, 10 years or so, how will you recover momentum for change? This is the danger in overdoing the alarmism- even if warming is human induced (and I think it is), the changes are not going to be dramatic in the lifetime of a person, and the trends will almost certainly not be monotonic.

Posted by: Yancey Ward on June 25, 2007 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK

That's to say, it's a figure for the whole planet, so some locations on the planet have increased on average above the quoted-less-than-a-degree centrigrade, or what have you, and some haven't.

Also, if you're an American, remember that the quoted figure is in centigrade, not Fahrenheit, which is more significant than Fahrenheit. There are only 100 Centigrade or Celsius degrees between freezing and boiling points of water; if you read the statistic and don't notice it's Celsius, you may be thinking of Fahrenheit, in which there are 180 degrees between the boiling point and freezing point of water.

Posted by: Swan on June 25, 2007 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

There was a very disconcerting article at Counterpunch a couple of weeks ago by Alexander Cockburn called 'Dogma for Dissidents' asserting, with many references, that global warming is not anthropogenic.

I was amazed that there has been so little response from the AGW crowd(of which I am a member, but now with some reservations). Have they decided just to ignore it?

Posted by: Michael7843853 G-O in 08! on June 25, 2007 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

Michael7

Start reading www.realclimate.org Better yet, read it from the beginning.

www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/06/cockburns-form/

Posted by: Valuethinker on June 25, 2007 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK
.... humanity will have to adapt.... scientists and an ex-Presidential candidate with a monstrous ego are too busy grandstanding on their pet cause. brian at 12:57 PM
When you can't attack the message, attack the messenger who is merely pointing out the cost of what you so blithely assume.
...they are not perceptible....Yancey Ward at 12:38 PM
The average person notices that Spring time arrives a littler earlier, that winter freezes aren't as long or sever and even in some cases, that southern flora and fauna is moving a bit northward. Gardners perceive that planting seasons are extending and ranges are shifting. It's even on some seed packets. Here is the temperature record for the past 1000 years. That should be trend enough for all but the most faith-based deniers.


Posted by: Mike on June 25, 2007 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

Yancey, I am 37, and I have lived in my current state, Minnesota, since 1988. The weather, especially the winters, are noticeably different now than they were when I moved here. We have had 10 out of 11 winters that were warmer than normal, including several that were *much* warmer than normal, and the one cooler winter (2000-01) wasn't cooler by much. We have had three Januarys with no below-zero temperatures in the Twin Cities. All of these have occurred since 1990. Summers are warmer and more humid, and autumns are longer.

It kind of feels like someone flipped a switch in 1998 or so.

Posted by: Norsecats on June 25, 2007 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

Yancey

To bet the planet on the basis that our models correctly forecast where we will be at 550 or 600ppm CO2 is foolish beyond belief.

What our models say is that with a 90% certainty the range is (roughly) 2 to 5 degree centigrade rise, eventually.

At the lower end of that band, we can cope, although there will be some severe environmental degradations. (the main problem being the places that will be more comfortable, like Siberia and Canada, have generally poor soils and can't sustain huge population migrations, and the places that become uninhabitable have large populations or are already quite dry, like the US Great Plains)

But these are Monte Carlo simulations ie repeated runs of the model with slightly different parameters. It's perfectly possible to have a 10 degree centigrade rise as an outcome. Which becomes more than we know how to deal with, and has deadly effects on the whole ecosystem.

We have to worry about the whole distribution of outcomes, not just the ones inside the 90% confidence interval. Because it is those high end ones which will cause exponsential damage (actually, anything above 3 degrees centigrade poses real problems).

The other factor is that there are embedded positive feedback loops in the world's climate systems.

Once it gets hot enough, we lose the rainforests. And then the planet loses a large chunk of its ability to restrain increase in CO2. There are other such 'tipping points' on the way (eg the Himalayan Ice Cap-- if it melts, then we lose several percent of the world's albedo).

At the most frightening end, the meltdown of the permafrost, leading to mass release of methane (which we know is there), and uncontrolled global heating. See the Permian Extinction, which killed 90% of the world's species, (except for a small pig which was our ancestor), and is linked to very high atmospheric CO2 levels (c. 1000ppm, which will reach on current course sometime in the 22nd century).

You don't want to trigger those positive feedback loops (we may already have done so: PPM of CO2 rose by 50% more last year, than in previous years, and we don't yet know why).

So we have to worry about what the world looks like at 500ppm, 550ppm *before* we get there.

The other factor of course is the length of time it will take to do something about this. Capital equipment is long lived, a CO2 spewing power plant or inefficient building built now will still be in use in 2050 (the average powerplant in N. America is over 30 years old).

So we can't just presume that we can change course in 2020, or 2030, if we don't like the way the weather is looking. Or that we can somehow reverse the damage.

Posted by: Valuethinker on June 25, 2007 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

Norsecats

It's likely the 'climate switch' was flipped rather earlier than 1998.

1. 1990-91 was the Pinatubo explosion. Remember the year without a summer? Interestingly, James Hansen and his team went out on a limb and predicted Pinatubo would lead to an 18 month drop in temperatures of around 0.5 degrees C-- and they were right, almost dead on.

2. The full SO2 aerosol effect is only just being understood.

Sulphur Dioxide only sits in the atmosphere for a few weeks, before dissolving with water to form acid rain. It exhibits a distinct and powerful cooling effect in the atmosphere.

(to the point where Paul Crudzen, the Nobel Prize winning chemist who discovered the effect of CFCs on the ozone layer, has had a paper in Science proposing we lob SO2 into the upper atmosphere, to fight global warming)

SO2 emissions rose exponentially until the early 1970s, then almost simultaenously Europe, US, Japan brought in clean air acts, which were progressively tightened. Also there was the Energy Crisis, which lowered energy consumption for a time.

Industrialisation continued, and in the 1980s Europe and the USA pushed through further emission controls to reduce Acid Rain.

So the SO2 effect was lessening. However China then entered into its explosive period of industrial growth, and since 1990 in particular, an explosive increase in the use of coal to produce electric power (coal is the main source of SO2 emissions).

Result, the cooling effect from the West dropped away, but from China it soared, masking the heating.

That has now dropped away, in the sense that heating due to increased concentrations of CO2 is now greater than the SO2 cooling effect (natural, because CO2 lasts in the atmosphere for hundreds of years).

So things were actually worse in the 1970s and 80s than we realised, but our SO2 emissions were blocking the overall rise in temperature. That effect is no longer shielding us to the same extent.

Posted by: Valuethinker on June 25, 2007 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

Michael78

See also George Monbiot's debate with Andrew Cockburn.

www.monbiot.com/archives/2007/06/12/the-conspiracy-widens/

Posted by: Valuethinker on June 25, 2007 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

Let me get this straight, the government is doing nothing about global climate change, and it’s because we are being too strident and alarmist. (Please note the use of climate change verses global warming – the changes will not be uniform in either time or geography.) Presumably if we sit around and do nothing it will bring W. and the rest of the right wing know nothings around?

As to why we aren’t all making personal sacrifices to stop global climate change – don’t open your mouth till you have read “Tragedy of the Commons” by Garret Hardin. It is the very nature of the environment as a commons used by all that it can only be saved by communal action.

When I was growing up it was widely thought that the planet Venus would have an earthlike environment, given the solar energy flux it receives is only slightly greater than earth’s. It was a big surprise when the first probes discovered the temperature on Venus was over 800 degrees Fahrenheit (hot enough to melt lead). Subsequent research showed the high level of atmospheric CO2 lead to a runaway greenhouse effect. But relax, what does that have to do with us?

Posted by: fafner1 on June 25, 2007 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

Valuethinker,

Maybe it is foolish to ignore the future consequences as you wrote, but that is not the issue. The issue is how you go about convincing them that a 2-5 degree increase in global temperature 92 years from now warrants a dramatic change in energy consumption and/or production. Right now, the movement is using apocalyptic language to persuade (see your "bet the planet" language for an example), but the problem is that you can't institute the changes very rapidly, and if the predictions begin to fall short of the dire warnings, the cause loses momentum altogether, if it ever gains any.

I, for one, am unconvinced that the planet will die, even if carbon dioxide makes it to 1000 ppm. In my opinion, there are far greater threats to human civilization than global warming, but I am willing to take steps to address it because I am convinced that fossil fuels will eventually be insufficient for our needs in any case.

Posted by: Yancey Ward on June 25, 2007 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK

First Yancyboy exclaims that there has been no perceptive change in the weather in 20 yrs. After being beaten around the head for such idiocy, he has now moved the goal posts and is insisting that the change that everyone has perceived in the weather is not anthropogenic.

*sigh*

Weather may not be predictable but wingnuts certainly are.

Posted by: Disputo on June 25, 2007 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

Yoffe...asks why, when predictions for weather over the next few days are often inaccurate, are we supposed to accept predictions made for what the weather will be a century from now as definete truth?

Because she's an idiot who doesn't understand the difference between micro- and macrosystems? In science it is well understood that while you cannot necessarily predict the precise state of a system at any one point in time, you can however predict the average trend.

(Think of the example of the stock market -- while you can't know exactly what the stock market is going to do tomorrow, you can fairly accurately gauge that the movement of the market trends generally upward over a long enough sample of time. Or think of a child's height -- you can't predict exactly how tall your six year old is going to be next week, but you can predict that he'll be much taller at sixteen than he is at six).

Also, Yoffe doesn't seem to understand the difference between TV weathermen and climate research scientists....

Posted by: Stefan on June 25, 2007 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

So things were actually worse in the 1970s and 80s than we realised, but our SO2 emissions were blocking the overall rise in temperature. That effect is no longer shielding us to the same extent.

SO2 and particulates.

Posted by: Disputo on June 25, 2007 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

I think when 'concern troll' is being explained this article by Yoffe could be linked to as an ideal example. I stopped reading Slate but several years ago Slate was the ideal example of concern trollism journalism. Always the race was close with Slate jounalism but lo and behold the wrong side always just narrowly squeaked under the wire first.

Posted by: apollo on June 25, 2007 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

I, for one, am unconvinced that the planet will die, even if carbon dioxide makes it to 1000 ppm.

The issue isn't whether the planet will die, you moron. The planet is value neutral -- it doesn't care whether it exists as a flaming ball of molten magma or as a blasted chunk of lifeless desert. We as a species, however, do rather care.

Posted by: Stefan on June 25, 2007 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

Zeno,
She's thinking of the weather report on television. Scientists are thinking of mean ambient temperature.

Yup. Whenever I hear the 'we can't predict weather how can we predict climate?' canard I think of some poor bum, looking out over the wealth of the Vegas casinos, proclaiming confidently "They can't predict the roll of a single die so there is no WAY they can predict the rolls of thousands of dice. There is no such thing as the house advantage."

Posted by: Tripp on June 25, 2007 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

Yancey

[I]The issue is how you go about convincing them that a 2-5 degree increase in global temperature 92 years from now warrants a dramatic change in energy consumption and/or production[/I]

Again. No.

The problem is we have no certainty for knowing whether it is 2 to 5 degrees in 92 years, or in 50 or in 20. And 10 degrees, not 5.

It's a non-linear system, with positive feedback loops.

[I]I, for one, am unconvinced that the planet will die, even if carbon dioxide makes it to 1000 ppm.[/I]

The existence of a known geologic precedent somehow convinces you that 1000ppm will not be disastrous?

On what basis do you base this conviction that 1000ppm will be OK?

In truth, life is very unlikely to die out, given the conditions (hot ocean vents, inside rocks) etc. that it already lives in. But humans probably would.

But losing 30% or 50% of the planet's species would be a pretty drastic loss. And that's the forecast scenario for a 4-5 degrees rise (50% loss of species or more).

If in 20 years time, the Earth's climate isn't changing as fast as we thought, then we have bought ourselves time (it takes 12 years to plan and build a nuclear reactor, so 20 years is hardly a long lead time).

Other, worse threats? Nuclear war, certainly. But then global warming could easily trigger a nuclear war (between India and Pakistan, say). Avian flu is only likely to kill 200 million or so of us, based on the 1919 incidence (and we know a lot more about it, now, than they did then). Off hand, I can't think of any worse threats. The Black Death killed 30% of Europe, but Europe survived.

This is all about buying ourselves the time to figure out what is going on, and to develop truly low carbon energy technologies.

But it's right to be 'alarmist' and focus on the worst case outcomes. Because even if the probability of those is very low, those are the outcomes we don't know how to deal with.

It would be inconvenient if America loses Miami. But quite frankly it's only 3-4 million people in the metropolitan region, I don't live there and have never been there, and Americans are rich, they can resettle in Houston, like the Katrina victims. A few hundred billion dollars of damage won't kill the US.

And if 30 million Mexicans and Central Americans migrate to the US, that too is a problem the US can handle. Ditto a few million Haitians or Cubans or Jamaicans. The US is a big country.

But a few hundred million people on the move in Africa and Asia? Bangladesh under water? Nuclear armed states suffering environmental collapse?

If you look at what the colony bee disorder is doing, then you can see how much is dependent on links in the web of life that we don't even really understand.

Posted by: Valuethinker on June 25, 2007 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

What has Bangladesh ever contributed to mankind?

Posted by: Emily on June 25, 2007 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

Fanatical environmentalism is the left's new religion. In the absence of any spiritual beliefs, libbies are searching for something to give their empty lives meaning.

Hey presto ... uber-environmentalism!

I successfully threatened the school board and got the forced viewing of "An Inconvenient Truth" canceled at the local elementary school. I'm extremely proud of that.

Low impact living is a great idea for the future, period. No disputing that. But alot of this stuff is about politics more than it is about conservation.

The left doesn't have a corner on conservationism.

Posted by: sportsfan79 on June 25, 2007 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

The left doesn't have a corner on conservationism.

No, but it does have a corner on the facts.

Posted by: Bob M on June 25, 2007 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

If I'm understanding Yancey's argument correctly, he's saying that people aren't going to care too much about a 3 to 5 degree increase. Well, scientists are using celsius, so to translate, if a place has an average temperature of 86 over a summer and the average goes up five degrees celsius, that goes from 86 to 95 F. And we're talking averages. uh, yeah, I think average Joe Blow would notice that.

Posted by: lou on June 25, 2007 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

you can't land on a fraction!
-- burned-out hippie freelance photographer (Dennis Hopper) Apocalypse Now

Posted by: jackifus on June 25, 2007 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

I enjoyed the column.

Posted by: Roy Moore on June 25, 2007 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

Al Gore would have done fine if he had used polar coordinates. X and Y axes are so square.

Posted by: idlemind on June 25, 2007 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

sportsfan79

Since 'An Inconvenient Truth' is, except for the last 5 minutes or so, almost entirely about the science of global warming, all you did was ensure your kids will remain ignorant of the reasons for the debate (which is about policy: what to do, when to do it, how to do it) and the science.

Great going.

Posted by: Valuethinker on June 25, 2007 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

Republican thought differs from masturbation in two ways:

it gets results

and/or

you finally give up on it

Posted by: cld on June 25, 2007 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

Correction:

masturbation gets results

and/or

you finally give up on it

Posted by: cld on June 25, 2007 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

idlemind nails it

Posted by: Disputo on June 25, 2007 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

sportsfan79

ps I am a practicing Anglican (Episcopalian). So is Sir John Houghton, the former Chief Meteorologist of the UK and author of Global Warming: the complete briefing.

Which spirituality were you suggesting we lack?

Posted by: Valuethinker on June 25, 2007 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

all you did was ensure your kids will remain ignorant of the reasons for the debate

I sincerely doubt that sportiespice has children. His mom hasn't given him permission to date yet.

He is, however, allowed to wear brown shirts.

He is extremely proud of that.

Posted by: Disputo on June 25, 2007 at 4:23 PM | PERMALINK

I think that when we encounter these conservative screeds and we can identify them as works of distortion from start to finish, and when they even in all likelihood have to be calculated works of distortion, then we should proceed from that conclusion to figuring out who the person who writes the article really is- and all remember the story of Zell Miller and others like him- no matter how unlikely it would have seemed without all those facts, instead of proceeding backwards from the assumption that the writer is exactly the kind of person they hold themself out as, and then go through all kinds of hoops to explain why someone like that would write something like what they wrote.

Remember, when a Zell Miller outs himself, there can be only two explanations for it: either he was a true liberal all along, and suddenly switched sides for some reason, or, he never was a true liberal in the first place, and was scamming everyone. There's no reason to think it can't be the second option, until there's a reason to think it can't be the second option.

Posted by: Swan on June 25, 2007 at 4:42 PM | PERMALINK
What has Bangladesh ever contributed... Emily at 2:56 PM
A few of my f riends, asshole.
....I'm extremely proud of that..... spotsfan at 3:10 PM
Know Nothings always are. Refer to the discussion of the Dunning-Kruger Effect in threads below. Posted by: Mike on June 25, 2007 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

Fanatical environmentalism is the left's new religion. In the absence of any spiritual beliefs, libbies are searching for something to give their empty lives meaning.

1. The "left" has a great variety of spiritual beliefs, raning from mainstream Judeo-Christian beliefs and Eastern religions like Buddhism to reconstructionsist faiths and even simple atheism with a life-valuing ethic. WTF are you talking about???

2. On what data are you basing your (idiotic) claim that the lives of progressive-minded individuals are devoid of meaning? Or are you obviously just talking out of your ass again?

I successfully threatened the school board and got the forced viewing of "An Inconvenient Truth" canceled at the local elementary school. I'm extremely proud of that.

The phrase "so damned stupid it hurts" comes to mind.

I sincerely hope you'll be getting biology field trips canceled next, then history programs and finally math. After all, scientists can't agree on what killed the dinosaurs, historians can't agree on why Rome fell, and theoretical physicists disagree on any number of matters. By your standard all that stuff is "more about politics than it is about science."

And when the kids in your community grow up and are stuck working the drive thru at McDonald's because of the inferior know-nothing education you helped create for them, I hope the community rewards you justly for your efforts.

Posted by: tRex on June 25, 2007 at 7:14 PM | PERMALINK

As a strong believer in the reality of AGW, I disliked Emily Yoffe's WaPo article, but I'm appalled by the hysterical reaction here. Kevin's headline is patently dishonest. Yoffe's final sentence may be inane, but it is true. The commenters are mostly equally silly.

Yoffe is no climate expert, but she is an intelligent and a skillful writer, so could the idiots kindly lay off trying to discredit her with nonsensical lies? Is fact and logic really such a heavy weapon that you are all afraid to wield it?

I regret my accidental contribution to the hysteria with my "losing New York and Miami" comment, which was largely tongue in cheek. In the worst scenario considered by the IPCC, the ocean depth increases by about two feet in this century, while in their minimal scenario, the rise is only 8 inches. Our cities can survive either one. Sacramento is in little immediate danger, except from the politicians.

Hysterics like the majority of commenters here only discredit those of us who are trying to make a reasoned, scientific case for action against global warming. That case can not usefully be made with absurd exaggerations, ad hominem attacks, or neglect of the uncertainties and costs involved.

Posted by: CapitalistImperialistPig on June 25, 2007 at 8:16 PM | PERMALINK

Value thinker said - The existence of a known geologic precedent somehow convinces you that 1000ppm will not be disastrous?

On what basis do you base this conviction that 1000ppm will be OK?

There is good reason to believe the Earth has seen 5000 ppm in the last 25 million years or so. It got hot, no doubt, and many species went extinct, but amphibians, reptiles, mammals and other major groups all survived. It's not an experiment we should emulate, but it's unlikely that 1000 ppm would produce catastrophic extinction. Wiping out the rainforests will, and that's a far more immediate threat.

Posted by: CapitalistImperialistPig on June 25, 2007 at 9:00 PM | PERMALINK

brian -

Your and Yoffe's tired canard about predicting climate years in the future versus a few days ahead: an increase in CO2 absorbs IR and thus has an effect on average temperatures. But the "weather" is about the noise, the variations from day to day - that is harder to predict, time frame aside. Even though there are indeed other factors than CO2 to consider, the risk is bad enough anyway as I pointed out ...

Posted by: Neil B. on June 25, 2007 at 9:26 PM | PERMALINK

Brian, study up on the basics, please. When you learn the difference between climate and weather, we'll talk. (Hint: weather is what is going on outside your window and climate is an aggregate thereof.)

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on June 25, 2007 at 9:34 PM | PERMALINK

Predicting weather and predicting climate are indeed very different. One difference is that we have lots of experience predicting the weather and hence know a lot about the uncertainties therein. That's not the case with climate. We have very little experience with climate prediction and the uncertainties remain large. there are some aspects of climate prediction that look simpler than weather prediction, but the fact is that we really can't be sure. Forcing due to CO2 and other gases seems sure to warm the joint up, but the feedbacks involved are not well characterized. There are very good reasons for caution, but panic is premature.

Posted by: CapitalistImperialistPig on June 25, 2007 at 10:18 PM | PERMALINK

In the worst scenario considered by the IPCC, the ocean depth increases by about two feet in this century, while in their minimal scenario, the rise is only 8 inches.

I don't think that's the worst scenario "considered" by the IPCC; it's the upper bound on their consensus document, which involved political approval by member states. Significant groups of scientists argued that this excludes some catastrophic scenarios which have come to look more and more likely as time goes on, including a much more rapid than expected melting of the Greenland ice sheet, which appears to be taking place. The argument is that an "upper bound" should really be the upper bound, not a sort of limited probable upper bound as long as things don't go really badly.

Posted by: mattsteinglass on June 26, 2007 at 2:29 AM | PERMALINK

CapitalistImperialistPig

Agree with you re rainforests. In fact both Stern Review and the McKinsey study for the EU have highlighted the relative cheapness of them, in terms of carbon emission abatement.

Not sure where you get your 5000ppm.

The 1000ppm was about where the Great Permian Extinction occurred. The latest theories suggest that there isn't persuasive evidence of a giant meteor impact, but there is evidence of a mass methane release from the ocean bottoms.

'hysteria here'. Not. You quote the IPCC forecast, which *specfically* excludes the possibilities of Greenland Ice sheet melting, or significant diminution of the Antarctic Ice Sheets. That was done so the US would sign the report-- they insisted on it. I am amazed you don't know that, or would cite the IPCC report without that important proviso.

One has to worry about the worst case outcomes of global warming, because those are the ones that present insuperable problems of adaptation.

The IPCC simply says 'all the model runs we have done, have a median outcome of X, with a 90% confidence interval of Y'. And they specifically exclude certain harmful effects (like the Greenland Ice Cap melting). They also exclude some positive feedback loops (like a complete death of the rainforest, or the loss of all the ice albedo from the northern hemisphere).

Only a fool would base his or her strategy when faced with that model, by ignoring the right tail of outcomes on the distribution. Down to at least the 1% level, if not the 0.1%.

Because we can't take a 1 in 100 chance of wiping out our civilisation, if not human life, assuming any reasonable cost of doing something about it.We only have have one planet.


And, indeed, if we start now, the cost of doing something about it is reasonable: from -3 to +10% of GDP in the year 2050, with a central case of 1% of GDP (both the -3 and the cases above +5 are not very credible). It rises, exponentially, the longer we delay.

Posted by: Valuethinker on June 26, 2007 at 5:29 AM | PERMALINK

You folks have done a great job dismantling this piece, but because it was so bad, I decided that piling-on was not only appropriate but perhaps necessary, and so added this
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chris-mooney/if-attacking-al-gore-was-_b_53747.html

Posted by: Chris Mooney on June 26, 2007 at 7:37 AM | PERMALINK

5000 ppm?

Matt is quite right. The 5000 ppm, if it occured ever, was a long time ago. Brain damage on my part.

a chart

Posted by: CapitalistImperialistPig on June 26, 2007 at 8:38 AM | PERMALINK

One of the great injustices that exists in our modern society is this notion that Republicans, like myself, have something against "science."

I am a man of facts, of science, of financial transactions and of currency. I believe in actuarial tables and using spreadsheets to estimate the amount of wealth that can be created from investing in certain things thirty years hence. I worship at the altar of science because that is where my Creator can be found. His brilliance is the detail of life on this planet.

THIS conservative Republican sees the writing on the wall--real climate change is here, and we need to act. One need only see the actual proof--the pictures--of melting glaciers in Central Europe to see that this is true. Glaciers throughout the world are shrinking--it is true that some are changing or increasing, but the best way to explain climate change is to recognize that the glaciers are the canary in the coalmine.

Liberals like to complain, but conservatives act decisively. I cannot countenance the thought that there are people--who do not know the difference between climate and weather--who are staking some ridiculous claim to being able to prove there is no climate change. Burying ones head in the burning sand is not the conservative way. Figuring out how to reduce greenhouse gases--more nuclear power, please! Thank you!--is what conservatives do best.

No more blathering, you mouth breathers. The liberals may have the "lead" on this issue, but like the slackjawed stoners they are, they will fall by the wayside as quickly as the groove changes on their IPOD. Conservatives will fix this problem, and liberals will roll under their couches, looking for munchies and dope.

Posted by: Norman Rogers on June 26, 2007 at 8:48 AM | PERMALINK

My congrats to Valuethinker for the yeoman work of refuting most of the bullshit that has appeared in this thread, especially from the concern trolls.

Good job.

Posted by: Disputo on June 26, 2007 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

Disputo

Thanks. We are losing the rhetorical war on this one, because all they have to do is focus on the areas of doubt and uncertainty, rather than grapple with the fact that we could (at least) as likely be wrong and be far too optimistic about the effects of global warming.

http://illconsidered.blogspot.com/2006/03/guides-by-category.html

www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/05/start-here/

The important thing to remember, I guess, is that in a sense we are talking to the unconverted spectator, rather than our interlocutor. Our interlocutor isn't going to be persuaded. The water could be lapping around the White House, and that would be natural climatic variation.

I am beginning to understand how Martin Luther King and John Wesley and William Wilberforce and Winston Churchill must have felt, when they set out to change the world. The energy to confront the same distortions, the same 'logical sounding' arguments, again, and again and again.

I think we are having what James Lovelock calls a 1938 moment ie where the lightbulb has turned on in our heads, but seemingly reasonable, intelligent people just can't see the danger. They don't see why Herr Hitler should be viewed as such a threat: he's just a funny little German.

Even people who think there is a danger hope that we can get by by doing as little as possible (I would put most politicians in that box).

The problem with climate change is that by the time we do know the full consequences of our actions, it's going to be too late to do anything about it.

Posted by: Valuethinker on June 26, 2007 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

Norman Rodgers

It would be great if true. But many of your 'conservative' allies are still obstructionist in the extreme.

See Rolling Stone this week.

As to 'solutions'. Nuclear power could be part of a solution, but it will require massive government subsidies (as it always has). My father built nukes for a living so I have a more than average interest in the subject.

James Lovelock, in The Revenge of Gaia, happens to agree with you.

www.amazon.com/Revenge-Gaia-Earths-Climate-Humanity/dp/046504168X

If the US doubles the share of nuclear power in its energy portfolio, that takes it from 20% of electric power to 40%. Assuming 100% displacement of coal fired power (no gas, no renewables) then that would be an 8% drop in US CO2 emissions. Note that that means taking 84 working reactors now, replacing them, *and* replacing them again (because the existing reactor fleet is old).

It's not enough, and not enough by a very long stretch.

Posted by: Valuethinker on June 26, 2007 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

Norman Rodger - re obstructionism

www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/15148655/the_secret_campaign_of_president_bushs_administration_to_deny_global_warming/1

Posted by: Valuethinker on June 26, 2007 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

Emily Yoffe: "But just because something can be plotted on an X and Y axis does not make it the whole truth."

She's channeling Barbie. Math is hard!

Posted by: nemo on June 26, 2007 at 11:52 AM | PERMALINK

Norman Rogers on June 26, 2007 at 8:48 AM

Yours is, without a doubt, one of the silliest comments that I've seen here.

On the subject of Kevin's post, yes, indeed, the last sentence of Yoffe's article was ganz dumm. It makes one wonder how many dimensions she requires in order to see "the whole truth."

Posted by: raj on June 26, 2007 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

Here's a poll showing 71% "of the public" in UK believe Gw is natural, but it was online:

Scary Link

Posted by: Neil B. on June 26, 2007 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

...What about much of the San Fernando Valley's agricultural output? -Doc At The Radar Station

The only "output" from the San Fernando Valley these days is pornography and marijuana dispensories.
Posted by: shnooky on June 25, 2007 at 12:05 PM


Thanks schnooky, for pointing that out. I'm from the Louisiana Purchase not California. Let's try this valley instead:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_Central_Valley

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on June 26, 2007 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

But Kevin: think of the children!

Posted by: masa on June 26, 2007 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

The latest Newsweek ("July 9") has a great rundown rebuttal to skepticism of anthropogenic global warming.

tyrannogenius

Posted by: Neil B. on June 26, 2007 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

Good God, that was awful.

I usually don't buy into the "Chinese will bury us because we're too dumb" stuff, but now I'm starting to believe it.

She does math a a first grade level and they have her argue with someone who's spent years researching the issue -- not to mention that she's also arguing with the world's climatologists.

God help us all.

Posted by: TomT on June 26, 2007 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

TomT

Americans aren't dumb, but American political discourse has raised the disregard for facts to a new art.

Maybe twas ever thus, but what is at stake seems higher now.

That and the widespread ignorance of even basic science amongst high school and college students.
Which is then reflected in the media.

Over half the pure and natural science Phds in the US are awarded to non-citizens. Post 9-11 the tightening of visa requirements has made it ever harder for US technology and biotechnology companies to recruit skilled workers. As a consequence, many are setting up more and more R&D functions in places that have more scientists.

Seems like science hasn't been an American national priority since the end of the post Sputnik period (say the early 70s?).

Posted by: Valuethinker on June 26, 2007 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, valuethinker, I am a an American-born math Ph.D. myself.

I tend to think that letting foreign born Ph.D's stay is a two-edged sword -- it drives Americans out of Ph.D. programs. I tell all of my undergrads not to get math Ph.D.'s unless they're willing to compete for a scarce pool of low-paying jobs.

On the other hand, we need some foreign Ph.D's to staff our needs. Roughly speaking (these numbers are likely not up to date, but the proportions are about right), there are something like 900 academic jobs a year, we produce 1000 Ph.D.'s (foreign and American born) a year, of which 500 are American born. The market would be great for Americans if they were given preference, but since they're not, there's over supply, resulting in low wages, etc.

The rough numbers I give are for math. They're similar for physics.

Posted by: TomT on June 26, 2007 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

Here's a poll showing 71% "of the public" in UK believe Gw is natural, but it was online:

I'm still more frightened that 70% of Republicans believe that the earth is 6000 yrs old.

Posted by: Disputo on June 26, 2007 at 6:59 PM | PERMALINK

I wish Yoffe had read my research on "polar cities" before she wrote her humor column, she might have started off on the right foot. See the Wikiepedia entry on "polar cities" or the link for my name here and weep. The future does indeed look grimm.....

Posted by: danny bee on June 27, 2007 at 11:20 PM | PERMALINK

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Jump to: http://climatechange3000.blogsite.com

Polar cities are proposed sustainable polar retreats designed to house human beings in the future, in the event that global warming causes the central and middle regions of the Earth to become uninhabitable for a long period of time. Although they have not been built yet, some futurists have been giving considerable thought to the concepts involved.

High-population-density cities, to be built near the Arctic Rim with sustainable energy and transportation infrastructure, will require substantial nearby agriculture. Boreal soils are largely poor in key nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus, but nitrogen-fixing plants (such as thevarious alders) with the proper symbiotic microbes and mycorrhizal fungi can likely remedy such poverty without the need for petroleum-derived fertilizers. Regional probiotic soil improvement should perhaps rank high on any polar cities priority list. James Lovelock's notion of a widely distributed almanac of science knowledge and post-industrial survival skills also appears to have value.

Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polar_Cities"

Posted by: danny bee on June 27, 2007 at 11:35 PM | PERMALINK

POLAR CITIES ENVISIONED TO SURVIVE GLOBAL WARMING

Webposted: July 1, 2007

Environmental activist Dan Bloom has come up with a solution to global
warming that apparently no one else is talking about: polar cities.
That's right, Bloom envisions future polar cities will house some 200
million survivors of global warming in the far distant future (perhaps
in the year 2500, he says on his blog), and he's lobbying on the
Internet for their planning, design and construction -- NOW!

"Sounds nutty, I know" the 58-year-old self-described "eco-dreamer"
says from his home in Asia, where he has been based since 1991. "But
global warming is for real, climate change is for real, and polar
cities just might be important if humankind is to survive the coming
'events', whatever they might be, in whatever form they take."

Bloom, a 1971 graduate of Tufts University in Boston, says he came up
with the idea of polar cities after reading a long interview with
British scientist James Lovelock, who has predicted that in the
future, the only survivors of global warming might be around 200
million people who migrate to the polar regions of the world.

"Lovelock pointed me in this direction," Bloom says. "Although he has
never spoken of polar cities per se, he has talked about the
possibility that the polar regions might be the only place where
humans can survive if a major cataclysmic event occurs as a direct
result of global warming, in the far distant future. I think we've got
about 30 generations of human beings to get ready for this."

Does Bloom, who has created a blog and video on YouTube, think that
polar cities are practicial?

""Practical, necessary, imperative," he says. "We need to start
thinking about them now, and maybe even designing and building them
now, while we still have time and transportation and fuel and
materials and perspective. Even if they never get built, the very idea
of polar cities should scare the pants off people who hear about the
concept and goad them into doing something concrete about global
warming. That's part of my agenda, too."

For more information: http://climatechange3000.blogspot.com
GOOGLE: "polar cities"
WIKIPEDIA: "polar cities"
BLOG SEARCH: "polar cities"

Posted by: danny bee on July 3, 2007 at 7:58 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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