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Decision Squeeze

March 8, 2010

According to a Friday article in Washington DC’s moon-rag, a few scientists at the National Academy of Sciences are preparing to fight back against climate contrarians. The NY Times picks up the thread, Andrew Revkin wonders whether scientists should do this, Matthew Nisbet offers an intelligent commentary on how such a response may place the climate community on a war footing, while Randy Olson argues that scientists should absolutely tackle this issue head on.

There are a few things to say about this. First, it’s not clear that an aggressive response from the scientific community will do the trick. Judy Curry notes in the Washington Times article that such responses haven’t worked in the past, though she doesn’t offer a clear reason why. Nisbet does. Second, it’s sure to fuel the fires of the contrarian community, as Nisbet points out. Fighting fire with fire can’t help.

Surely, some folks will suggest that rather than fighting fire with fire, a better response is to change the frame of the debate entirely, to focus on the energy discussion (say) or on a new jobs bill. From my vantage, these views are only partly correct. They begin by assuming what they purport to address: that the policy discussion should move in the direction of climate-friendly policy.

Climate contrarianism is alive and well not because there’s not enough information out there — there’s plenty — and not because there are people who don’t value the state of the earth, the lives of other people, or potential impacts on future generations — though, obviously, there are pathological jackasses who actually don’t — but for other reasons, partly associated with the ideological and political predispositions of given actors, but also associated with generalized clashes of approaches to practical reasoning. The latter may be too big an issue to take on here, but I’ll give it a quick go.

Consider the following parallel:

Consider:

One can have all the right information and all the right values, say, but still fail to make the connection between values and information such that one might be motivated to act. I may want to help my child, for instance, and I may have all of the vaccination studies, but I may still have suspicions about vaccinations. (I personally don’t have suspicions about vaccinations, but some well-meaning people do.)

Maybe I’m nervous that I will harm my child if I give him a vaccine, for instance, and I don’t want to be responsible for harming my child in this way. “Are you sure that the vaccines are safe?” may be my question. In those cases, I can have lots of information and the right values, but still have a reason to doubt that I should get my child vaccinated. I couldn’t bear it if I caused my child to be autistic, for instance. It doesn’t matter if most of the data points in the direction of medical safety; what matters is whether I’m going to be safe from blame.

Only in some cases is a more sophisticated scientific discussion going to get me to believe that vaccines are safe. Sure, they may be medically safe; but if I screw up, are you going to carry my guilt? I’ll take your data and raise you 20.

Unfortunately, much of our understanding of practical reasoning follows this rudimentary Humean model — Belief + Desire = Motivation — and so we often get caught up in fleshing out our beliefs or trying to shape desires. But I’m not at all persuaded that this is anywhere robust enough; and I strongly suspect that this rudimentary view leads us to continue spinning our wheels.

“No, but are you really sure??” I may follow up. In these instances, it’s not that I don’t believe the data, and it’s not that I don’t understand the science, it’s that I don’t want to be responsible for giving something to my son that will cause him great distress. I may say that I don’t believe the data, and I may even justify to myself that my position is the right position by questioning the data, but I think there’s something else going on here.

What’s going on is that I don’t want to do something to my son that I may later regret.

Okay, you may be thinking, fine and well. But if you don’t vaccinate your son, then you’ll be taking on an equivalent, if not greater, risk with his health. To argue this point, you may cite statistics on the devastating effects of meningitis, for instance. But notice that, even in these cases, it’s not entirely irrational for me to persist on my concern over your numbers.

What I’m concerned about here is my complicity in harming my son. Where information about potentially catastrophic outcomes may well move some people to switch directions, if I’m really concerned about my complicity, even the very strongest appeal to catastrophe will be saddled with some question about the avoidance of catastrophe. It is better and more rational to be skeptical of “the facts that move me to act” than to be skeptical of “the facts that fail to move me to act.”

What may be creating the confusion is our collective failure to understand what makes a given decision practically rational and how our decisions relate to what we’re responsible for.

Note that the above case is not the only possible reason that may drive some to harbor reservations about the science. Others may, in fact, not make decisions based on data at all, but rather on gut feeling, or instinct, or trust, or faith, or something like that. It’s not the facts (or the information) that will be doing the work in these cases, but the reasoning. The information and the state of affairs discussion is a distraction from the bigger-picture question about practical reasoning…and both climate skeptics and climate scientists repeatedly fail to understand this point.

There is a role for scientists in combating climate misinformation, to be sure; and there may well be a role for great debaters and bloggers to shift the discourse away from (or toward) a focus on climate catastrophe; maybe there’s even a role for folks to shift the policy debate to more aspirational questions, like the burgeoning energy economy — but I’ve gotta believe that part of the problem lies in a failure to understand how policy-making or decision-making should and/or maybe does occur. This isn’t a failure of science or of political ideology — what can scientists say that will alter the perspective of those who discount science due to its elitism? — but a clash of views about what counts as adequate or good practical reasoning.

In my very humble opinion, more information, better science, more positive framing won’t do anything to move this discussion forward. It’ll much more likely result in further entrenchment.

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32 comments

  1. Ben:

    I think you are correct, at least as to some of the skeptics.

    However, it seems to me that there is also a large number of skeptics, such as myself, who actually question some of the “information” – which we are all supposed to take as a given.

    For example – I agree that we have warmed, and will warm further – but don’t think it will be very much. Maybe 1 – 2 degrees C by 2100 – not 2.5 – 6 degrees C. That is because I don’t agree with the “information” on the climate sensitivity calculation and think it is overstated.

    If the climate sensitivity calculation relied on as “information” is in fact wrong – then how the system will react to a doubling of CO2 is not correct, and may be much lower than the current “information” reports.

    I also question whether the current warming is unprecedented in the last 1000 or 2000 years. Not the actual temperature record, but the more tenuous proxy temperature record.

    Therefore, spending trillions of dollars to decrease the amount of CO2 we put into the atmosphere may not have as great an effect as reported – and therefore is arguably money largely wasted.

    Balance that against the harm of increased energy costs, etc.

    I don’t want to act until I am sure we actually have the science correct – and I still think there is basic disagreement over the climate sensitivity number.

    So for a person like me – the further appeal to authority in an ad campaign such as you discuss, will not have an impact on my opinion.

    Which I guess proves your point.

    It won’t make me angry – I will just ignore it and continue to see if the temperatures over the next 30 years cause the models to be found invalid.

    If they are found invalid – than the science is not well enough understood to base any policy on.

    If they are not found invalid – it would be nice if we could actually scientifically validate the models, which has not yet been done. That would cause me to change my opinion.

    In the meantime, I would rather see any extra spending go into research on CO2 free energy production, rather than into mitigation or shutting down current power stations.


    • It’s interesting RickA, that you frame the decision in the following terms

      “Therefore, spending trillions of dollars to decrease the amount of CO2 we put into the atmosphere may not have as great an effect as reported – and therefore is arguably money largely wasted.

      Balance that against the harm of increased energy costs, etc.

      I don’t want to act until I am sure we actually have the science correct…”

      whereas I frame it as

      “Based largely on paleoclimate, the climate system is an angry beast. We are poking it with a stick. Perhaps we shouldn’t poke so hard.”

      Very similar to

      “I don’t want to the risk of harming my child by vaccination.”

      versus

      “I don’t want to the risk of harming my child by not vaccinating.”


    • I will just ignore it and continue to see if the temperatures over the next 30 years cause the models to be found invalid

      Since the temperatures over the last 30 years haven’t caused the models to be found invalid, and post-prediction of the last thousand years hasn’t caused them to be found invalid what promise do we have that in 30 years you won’t ignore those temperatures if they don’t cause the models to be found invalid?


      • luminous beauty:

        I hope that in the next 30 years we can either validate or invalidate the models.

        The post-prediction issue is not an issue, because the models are tuned using past performance. It is only future temperature data which can validate or invalidate a model.

        If we are in the same situation in 30 years as we are today – namely that the models can neither be validated or invalidated, that is a problem for climate science.

        Who has the burden of proof?

        The people proposing the model have the burden of proof. Relying on a model which cannot be scientifically validated (in the hypo even after another 30 years) is problematic.

        Still – I will be sure to post on this issue in 30 years (if Ben’s site is still here).


      • Rick,

        You seem to be under some misapprehension of how GCMs work. They aren’t statistical regressions against historical time series, they are ab initio calculations from known physical properties, some few of which are empirically derived, but mostly well established enough to be fundamental scientific principles, aka the Laws of Physics.


      • luminous beauty:

        I understand that.

        However, I was under the impression that none of the GCM’s have been validated yet.

        I understand some short term weather models have been statistically validated – including the very fine resolution hurricane model – but none of the GCM’s.

        So we have these 22 or so models – but none have been shown scientifically to accurately forecast the climate (i.e. with statistically significant skill).

        Is that not correct?


      • Rick,

        Your misapprehension persists. Validification is a term of art for statistical models. GCMs, being physical models, are subject to falsification.

        They have passed falsification tests, which include post-diction consilience well within the bounds of validated statistical uncertainty vis~a~vis historical records and proxy records as well as 65 years of accumulating evidence and refinement.


  2. Sorry for dreadful proof-reading.


  3. Okay…a little confused. I thought the point of re-framing was to try motivate action based on values that people agree with. That is, your libertarian instincts might lead you to oppose cap-and-trade. But perhaps you can be persuaded with national security type arguments. And so we re-frame the debate to ensure that we appeal to values that are more widely shared.

    You state at the beginning of your analogy: “One can have all the right information and all the values, say, but still fail to make the connection between values and information such that one might be motivated to act.”

    But later on you describe the refusal to vaccinate in terms of fear of complicity. That’s a good point. But people who are afraid of complicity rather than, say, preventing disease do not share the same values. So I would say that people can have the same information but still diverge on the policy response based on their values. I’m not sure how you can agree on the information and values (including weighting and order) and still disagree on the policy preference.

    Would be great to see you expand on the end…why would more positive framing result in greater entrenchment? I agree with you on the better science, but not sure on the framing part.

    I think there are two things you’re trying to address which got a little muddled in my mind (please correct me if I’m wrong). First, you discuss how values and information result in personal decisions. Second, misunderstanding this process inevitably means that framing and more science won’t improve the debate. I think that link needs to be teased out some more.

    Sorry for rambling so much.

    Thoughts?


  4. Oops. That should read “all the right values.” Fixed. And the apologies for rambling should come from my end. I’ve been grading all week. I’m starting to write like an undergraduate.

    I think you’re right that that’s the objective of those who propose to reframe the debate, but I disagree that this is a question of framing. The question about framing is more-or-less agnostic on the right reasons and the right values. Among one thing it suggests is that we ought to frame the debate in such-and-such a way so as to acquire adherents. If what we’re after is adherents, we’d do well to have all of our values and priorities straight before then.

    I think it’s incredibly hard to know what the right course of action is; and I further think that information and values together aren’t sufficient to guide us. That’s what I’m challenging here: the view that having all the right information and having all the right reasons is sufficient to get us to move in the right direction. (I’m actually an internalist about reasons, FWIW, but there’s a longer story to tell there.)

    IMHO, we need to have serious discussions about how we’re going to steer policy, or what we’re willing to accept responsibility for. I don’t, for instance, think that this can be boiled down to a difference in values, as you appear to want to do above… though that is a very, very common way of speaking.

    On one way of putting it, it’s true that our values are different — if I’m worried about complicity in giving a child autism and so therefore don’t vaccinate, I presumably value complicity over precaution — but I don’t think that’s an adequate characterization of what I’m doing. It’s too easy to think that I value complicity over precaution.

    So another way of putting it is as a difference in conceptions of practical reason. On this latter view, my precaution may stem from my concerns about my complicity, in which case, precaution is simply caught up in my view of what I’m responsible for, but it is not superseded by or valued over my concerns about complicity. I still value precaution highly, I still value a child’s welfare highly, and I still have all the information and data I need — but I have concerns, deep concerns, that I may do something really, really terrible.

    If I do nothing, I may be persuaded, even if something terrible happens as a result of my having done nothing — say the child dies from meningitis — I am not responsible for having done something to make this terrible thing happen.

    I know it all sounds a bit strange, but if I had a book to spell it out — and hey, I’m working on a book that spells it out — I think it would be clearer.


    • Ben:

      I wonder if the issue you are posing is another way of asking the question – which is better acting with inadequate information or taking no action at all?

      Some people argue that even though the science isn’t all in yet (assuming you agree with that assertion) – that we should take action anyway – because of the large risk of inaction.

      Others say that no action should be taken unless we are sure we will not make the situation worse. I fall into this camp myself.

      As a parent I have always opted for vaccination – despite the small small risk that 1 in 1,000,000 (or whatever) can have a terrible reaction and die. So I understand your analogy.


  5. Basically what the NAS has to do is shout bullshit to the crap that Singer, Lindzen, Pileke and Co are slinging. Deprived of the cover from a few formerly semi-competent former scientists (yes, Eli knows….) climate denial gets to slink back into the swamp that eventually (at great cost, and thank you very much Fred Singer and Fred Seitz for the millions of deaths you contributed to) consumed tobacco denial.

    The serious point is that the academy (broadly defined) thought that the Moranos of the world would leave them and theirs alone. Mooney was right, it is a war against science and it has to be starved of oxygen.


    • Eli:

      Accusing someone of contributing to the deaths of millions, because they disagree with a scientific theory, does not starve the war of oxygen. It feeds oxygen to the flames.

      Climate denial – what is that. Who is denying climate?


      • You should figure out that about 25% of all male deaths in the first world were due to tobacco. You should also trawl through the tobacco archives and see how Fred Seitz was recruited to lead their science disinformation campaign and how Fred Singer was paid to produce a report that environmental smoke was just hunky dory.

        In short, inform yourself. There is evil in the world. Another fine example is Roger Bate who pitched a pro DDT campaign to Philip Morris as a way of distracting the World Health Organization from a campaign against tobacco.

        Not only can I call the Freds on their actions, thanks to the tobacco archive I can prove how evil they were.

        And, oh yes, Ben, your friend Roger thinks it was just hunky dory


      • No wonder I was confused. I thought we were talking about climate change – not tobacco.

        You display a symptom of what is wrong with the debate on our policy towards climate change – namely the need to demonize your opponent.

        It is not enough that you think they are wrong on the science – you find it necessary to call them evil.

        I personally do not think that is helpful to the debate at all.

        My advice is to stick to the objective science and avoid getting into ascribing motives, calling people evil, etc.


    • Rick,

      So we should just close our eyes to evil?


      • Of course you can do what you like.

        I would point out that calling someone evil doesn’t change whether they are right or wrong on climate science.

        A good person can be wrong on the science and an evil person can be right on the science.

        What matters is whether the persons view on the science is objectively right or wrong.

        So all this evil stuff is irrelevant.


      • Every dog gets one bite. Singer and Co have a long history


      • Rick,

        Might I suggest; evil isn’t so much a fixed characteristic intrinsic to the personality of the individual or group, but rather a measure of one’s willingness to take responsibility for the consequences of one’s actions, or, in this case, inaction.

        One can be motivated by the most altruistic of ideals, but unless one is attentive to the necessarily pragmatic and messy details of reality, one’s idealism is forever realized only in the abstract and forever divorced from the concrete. Thus allowing evil seemingly to arise, through the lens of one’s blinkered perceptions, as if of its own accord. Or else, as is all too frequent, projected on those by opposition to whom one defines one’s identity.


  6. Hi, Ben: VERY interesting post, it took me some time to sort it out. I think I’m beginning to become more clear about some of your previous remarks. And I look forward to even more clarity as your book project proceeds!

    Here’s one comment: In the vaccine case, both those reluctant to take responsibility for autism and those reluctant to take responsibility for meningitis share common values–each side would admit that autism and meningitis is bad. In the case of climate change, however, an *additional* problem is that the two sides may not share common values. How would you phrase the basic reluctance?–maybe something like: a reluctance to take responsibility for an expansion of government intervention in our lives as opposed to a reluctance to take responsibility for the end of civilization. Isn’t the first a more parochial value than the second?

    OK, my other comment is that what you’re saying resonates with the concept of “burden of proof” (or “probative obligation”–the responsibility to provide evidence) in my field, which might give a direct tie-in to how policy is *debated*. Do the AGW folk have the burden to prove their case up to some standard, because they’re the ones that are proposing we do something different? Or do the anti-AGW folk have the burden of proof, because of the potential catastrophe if we don’t act (i.e., a “precautionary” approach). I’m not sure quite how it would go, but I think this distinction may line up with the distinction you’re drawing here.

    If so, you might be interested in R. Gaskins’ Burdens of Proof in Modern Discourse. He thinks the debates over burdens of proof are a distraction.


    • Jeangoodwin:

      I guess I don’t understand why a debate over burdens of proof are a distraction.

      If society decides to divert trillions of dollars from poverty relief to AGW abatement – resulting in higher expense for food and energy for everybody – I think who has the burden of proof before a decision is taken does matter.

      Of course this is merely an example. I am sure an example could also be drawn that went the other way.


      • Hi, RickA: I don’t want to claim to be speaking for Gaskins, but here’s one consideration. Assume the goal is to make a decision and actually do some poverty-reduction or abatement. Wouldn’t a debate over the relative merits of poverty-reduction and abatement be more likely to achieve that goal than a debate over who in a democracy has the burden to produce how much of what kinds of evidence?

        Here’s another consideration. I observe that some of the same people who are insisting on the “scientific consensus” on AGW are also producing doubts about GMO crops–and vice versa for some of their adversaries. In each case, people seem to want to define the burden of proof as being the one that let them win that particular debate. This makes me think that ideas about burden of proof are just a surrogate for underlying political positions. Might as well debate the real thing!


      • Rick,

        When society decides to commit trillions of dollars to poverty relief, I might consider your argument to maybe having some merit, were that in fact what was actually being proposed.

        In the meantime, our reliance on non-renewable energy and related nitrate sources brings us inexorably closer to a regime where food and energy expenses become less and less affordable, if indeed, some turning points have not already been breached. Indeed, at some point, energy and inorganic fertilizer availability, combined with the continuing loss of organic soil and other natural ecological services, will fall to a point that rebuilding our energy and agriculture infrastructure with renewable sources and methods may well become impossible.

        Imagine all this in the face of increasing climate disruption.

        Oops!


      • Jeangoodwin:

        Of course, you are right – if people only debate over how many angels can fit on the head of a pin (or the burden of proof), and never engage substantively, a decision can never be reached.

        I am a patent attorney – and so look at these sorts of issues from that perspective.

        I don’t find the argument to act, just in case something will happen, to be particularly persuasive.

        Especially if there is a risk that acting will either make things worse, or do nothing.

        In any sort of cost benefit analysis – I think one should only act if the calculated benefit is shown to outweigh the probable risks.

        We know it has warmed – there doesn’t seem any scientific doubt about that.

        Is the current warming unprecedented over the last 1000 or 2000 years – it seems that there is significant doubt over that point.

        If the temperature keeps going up at the trend it has since 1978 – it will only go up about 1.3 degrees C.

        Some scientists argue that the feedbacks will increase this rate of increase.

        This is where the debate really needs to be.

        Personally, I am not persuaded that the temperature will go up double, triple, etc (2 degrees C to 6 degrees C) based on the current understanding we have on climate sensitivity.

        Now if the temperature will only go up 1.3 degrees C by 2100, is it worth the cost, in jobs, increased costs for food, fuel and energy, diversion of tax revenue to CO2 mitigation, etc. – in order to achieve the benefit of slowing this temperature increase.

        What about the risk that by taking action we actually cause cooling, rather than merely slowing the warming. What is worse – going up 1.3 degrees or going down 1.3 degrees.

        That is what the debate should be about.

        So back to burden of proof. In the absence of scientifically validated climate models (none of them are) – I think the default position is to take no action.

        One only takes action when one is convinced of the potential harm – and there are many skeptics that are not there yet.

        Science has not yet answered these questions to my satisfaction:

        1. What is the plan to validate the climate models so we know they are scientifically and statistically valid? Right now we have to rely on just trust, not science.

        2. Why is the warming trend going to double, triple, quadruple, etc. – when it has been 1.3 degrees C since 1978?

        3. If there is a 60 years ENSO or other ocean current cycle – how do we know that we aren’t panicking over just ½ (the warming phase) of the entire cycle. In other words, might the trend actually drop with another 25 or 30 years of data, rather than increase?

        4. Given all the other influences we have discovered that bear on the current warming – carbon black causing dirty ice, methane leaking out from under the permafrost, low solar activity, etc. how do we know that cutting carbon emissions will actually achieve any slowing of warming? Or might not the effort be a waste of money?

        5. What does science have to say about how much warming will we avoid by cutting back CO2 emissions, by various percentages? And what is the cost for these various cuts.

        6. What is the risk that we will actually trigger cooling by taking action? After all – we are at or near the end of the normal interglacial period.

        7. What is the cost benefit analysis of mitigation (closing coal power plants for example), versus spending the money on carbon free energy sources?

        8. Nuclear is carbon free – why not start building so we can generate 50 % of our power from nuclear? What is the cost benefit of that (storing the waste) versus the increased price of solar and wind power?


      • Hi, Rick: Gaskins suggests that “burden of proof debates” are being imported from legal settings into civic deliberation/ policymaking settings. So it makes sense that someone like you with a legal background would be more sensitive to & comfortable with that kind of “meta” debate (debate about how to have a debate).


    • Jeangoodwin:

      Yes – I am afraid law school molded the way I approach debates.


  7. RickA

    I’m going to go a little off the topic to respond to something you said in your first comment and your latest:

    “Is the current warming unprecedented over the last 1000 or 2000 years – it seems that there is significant doubt over that point.”

    I agree, more or less. The judgement of people who know more about these things than I is that the current warming is probably (to what degree of confidence I am not sure) unprecedented over that period, BUT I don’t find that question anywhere near as critical as you and many others seem to. Even if the current global temperature is unprecedented over the last 1000-2000 years, maybe since the present interglacial started, I understand we’re still short of the temperatures in the previous interglacial, the Eemian. And one has to say that the consequences of the recent warming, while discernible and in some ways significant, are well short of catastrophic.

    What is unprecedented is the level of CO2 and other greenhouse gases. Having oscillated between 170(?) and 270 ppm over the large swings in climate during the last 800,000 years (at least), CO2 is now over 380 ppm and rising (in geological terms) *very* rapidly. We know the rise is anthropogenic. We understand the increase in other greenhouse gases (CH4, N20) less well, but when an unprecedented rise coincides with an explosion in human activity, you have to at least suspect a cause-and-effect relationship.

    We know CO2 and other greenhouse gases change the radiative balance of the Earth. We have a pretty good idea of the sensitivity that links the radiative forcing to the response. The models that have been used to investigate these effects have been validated *as far as they can be*.

    In this situation I find your default of “taking no action” (i.e continuing the current action of increasing the forcing) hard to justify.


    • Mark:

      I agree that part of the CO2 rise is anthropogenic, although how much I do not know. However, science has shown that CO2 will rise naturally after temperature rise, caused in fact by the temperature rise, releasing additional CO2 from the environment.

      So, some part of the CO2 increase is caused by the temperature rise and some part is caused by manmade emissions. What the relative proportions are I have no idea.

      I do not think we have a good idea of the sensitivity that links the radiative forcing to the response. We certainly need to direct more science to better understanding this number, but the reason the IPCC range of warming to 2100 is so wide (2 to 6 degrees C) is because of the uncertainty we ascribe to this number.

      With that said – I just hope that we spend our money cost effectively. In order to switch over from coal to a carbon free power source, it needs to be cheaper than current dirty power sources. Spending money on reseach for that is better, in my opinion, than closing coal power plants willy nilly to lower emissions.

      I cannot help but see that we really have no plan on how to cut carbon emissions by 70-80% (not sure of the necessary cut amount – going off memory).

      I do know nuclear is carbon free – but there is a great reluctance (although falling) to use that power source.

      Wind and solar are not available 24/7 and therefore you still need baseload power to supplement – which makes them inherently more costly.

      So we have no real plan – but everybody wants to act.

      I am most worried that we will pass laws, require draconian changes, jack up taxes, increase the cost of food, fuel and energy and find out in 100 years that it made absolutely no difference to the temperature trend.

      I would counsel waiting 30 more years – to gather good quality temperature data through the rest of the ocean cycle (30 years warming 30 years cooling). See what the temperature trends are at that point, maybe be in a better position to validate the climate models, and then make our decision as to what best to do.

      In the meantime, lets plant trees, increase R&D for cheaper carbon free power sources, and R&D for CO2 scrubbers for coal power plants.

      Hows that for compromise?


      • I agree that part of the CO2 rise is anthropogenic, although how much I do not know. However, science has shown that CO2 will rise naturally after temperature rise, caused in fact by the temperature rise, releasing additional CO2 from the environment.

        So, some part of the CO2 increase is caused by the temperature rise and some part is caused by manmade emissions. What the relative proportions are I have no idea.

        All of it is anthropogenic, as demonstrated by the fact that only 60% or so of human emissions have been retained by the atmosphere. So far, the oceans and, to a lesser degree, the biosphere have been able to absorb much of the excess. At some point the oceans will reach their solubility limit and, if we continue BAU, atmospheric CO2 concentrations will massively accelerate. This is one of those ‘tipping points’ you’ve heard about. By that time sea water acidification will already have had catastrophic consequences for the oceanic food chain.

        Rick, a friendly suggestion, learn some real science and don’t rely so much on pseudo-science you gather from denialist blogs.

        David Archer has an on-line undergraduate course for non-science majors on climate science. Get the books, listen to the lectures, and learn to play with the models, so you can get a feel for their very valid utility.

        Then you won’t be so prone to argumentum ad cloaca, and rather than being perceived as an advocate for the continuance of a commitment to deep and profound ignorance, you might be able to propose something apt and useful.


      • I agree that part of the CO2 rise is anthropogenic, although how much I do not know. However, science has shown that CO2 will rise naturally after temperature rise, caused in fact by the temperature rise, releasing additional CO2 from the environment.

        So, some part of the CO2 increase is caused by the temperature rise and some part is caused by manmade emissions. What the relative proportions are I have no idea.

        All of it is anthropogenic, as demonstrated by the fact that only 60% or so of human emissions have been retained by the atmosphere. So far, the oceans and, to a lesser degree, the biosphere have been able to absorb much of the excess. At some point the oceans will reach their solubility limit and, if we continue BAU, atmospheric CO2 concentrations will massively accelerate. This is one of those ‘tipping points’ you’ve heard about. By that time sea water acidification will already have had catastrophic consequences for the oceanic food chain.

        Rick, a friendly suggestion, learn some real science and don’t rely so much on pseudo-science you gather from denialist blogs.

        David Archer has an on-line undergraduate course for non-science majors on climate science. Get the books, listen to the lectures, and learn to play with the models, so you can get a feel for their very valid utility.

        Then you won’t be so prone to argumentum ad cloaca, and rather than being perceived as an advocate for the continuance of a commitment to deep and profound ignorance, you might be able to propose something apt and useful.


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  9. […] these two comments by RickA on a different Hale post.  Here’s  a short excerpt: Science has not yet […]



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