Two urgent climate statements – but no impact?

In the last year, two different groups of Australian scientists have released joint statements, urging a more rapid and meaningful response from our society if we are to avoid global climate disruption.

The first was called the Bali Declaration:

UNSW climatologists are leading a consortium of more than 200 leading climate scientists who have warned the United Nations Climate Conference of the need to act immediately to cut greenhouse gas emissions, with a window of 10-15 years for global emissions to peak and decline, and a goal of at least a 50 percent reduction by 2050.

The scientists warn that if immediate action is not taken, many millions of people will be at risk from extreme events such as heatwaves, drought, floods and storms, with coasts and cities threatened by rising sea levels, and many ecosystems, plants and animal species in serious danger of extinction.

The researchers, who include many of the world’s most acclaimed climate scientists, have issued the ‘Bali Climate Declaration by Scientists’ in which they call on government negotiators from the 180 nations represented at the meeting to recognise the urgency of taking action now. They say the world may have as little as 10 years to start reversing the global rise in emissions.

The Bali Declaration emphasises the current scientific consensus that long-term greenhouse gas concentrations need to be stabilised at a level well below 450ppm CO2e (450 parts per million measured in carbon dioxide equivalent). Building on the urgency of the recent Synthesis Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released on 17 November in Valencia, Spain, the declaration calls on governments to reduce emissions “by at least 50 percent below their 1990 levels by the year 2050”.

The Bali Declaration endorses the latest scientific consensus that every effort must be made to keep increases in the globally averaged surface temperature to below 2 degrees C. The scientists say that “to stay below 2 degrees C, global emissions must peak and decline in the next 10 to 15 years”. The critical reductions in global emissions of greenhouse gases and the atmospheric stabilisation target highlighted in the Bali Declaration places a tremendous responsibility on the Bali United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Negotiations at Bali must start the process of reaching a new global agreement that sets strong and binding targets and includes the vast majority of the nations of the world. The Bali Declaration concludes: “As scientists, we urge the negotiators to reach an agreement that takes these targets as a minimum requirement for a fair and effective global climate agreement.”

The Bali Climate Declaration by Scientists was organised under the auspices of the Climate Change Research Centre (CCRC) at UNSW, Sydney, Australia. All of the signatories agreed to sign the Declaration in their personal capacities. The views expressed in the text of the Declaration do not necessarily represent the views of the institutions or international climate research programs to which any of the signatories may be affiliated.

The signatories of the Bali Declaration are being represented in Bali at the UNFCCC/Kyoto Protocol COP13/CMP3 meeting by: Professor Matthew England (Australia), Professor Richard Somerville (United States), Professor Andrew Pitman (Australia), Professor Diana Liverman (United Kingdom), Dr Michael Molitor (Policy Advisor, Australia).

This initiative was launched and managed by a small group of climate experts that includes Professor Matthew England, Professor Andrew Pitman, Professor Richard Somerville, Dr Michael Molitor and Professor Stefan Rahmstorf (Germany).

This statement was released to coincide with the Bali talks late last year (I’ll write more about this meeting in another post). Although I was supportive of the idea of a statement, I was somewhat critical of its targets:

Barry Brook said:

The sentiment behind the Bali Declaration is admirable, but I think the minimum targets they quote are inadequate. If the long-term aspirational goal is suggested to be ‘at least’ a 50% reduction in global emissions, then I’d argue that 50% is the number that wavering parties will latch on to – and no more. That is, why argue for a target that is 43 years distant and set at a level that has just barely a chance of being sufficient to avoid dangerous planetary heating? If the conclusions drawn by the 2007 IPCC working group III are accepted, then the stabilisation scenarios indicate that for reasonable chance of avoiding 2 to 2.4°C warming, we need global emissions reductions of 50-85% by 2050, relative to year 2000 emissions. So the 50% mentioned in the Bali Declaration is at best a minimally adequate target. It also does not acknowledge the fact that to achieve this target on a globally equitable basis, the burden on developed nations will be higher (80-90% by 2050) because of our disproportionately high per capita emissions.

Also, I wish the declaration had been more specific about the 10-15 year targets – it currently reads too much like a motherhood statement and the response time is too slow. The stabilisation needs to occur between 2000-2015, not between 2017 and 2023 as the statement implies. Indeed, a target of 25-40% emissions reductions by 2020 for developed countries has been put on the Bali negotiating table for discussion – this would be a fantastic outcome if agreement on this could be reached. It is just what is needed – a focus on significant short-term achievement. So why aren’t we scientists saying so?”

Other scientists also made comments on the above, to AusSMC – some supportive, others less so.

Then, a few months ago, I was involved in the drafting of a joint climate statement calling for immediate action to curb carbon emissions and avoid crossing tipping points that would lead to disaster:

Last call on climate change

Global warming is accelerating. The Arctic summer sea ice is expected to melt entirely within the next five years, – decades earlier than predicted in the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 4th Assessment Report.

Scientists judge the risks to humanity of dangerous global warming to be high. The Great Barrier Reef faces devastation. Extreme weather events, such as storm surges adding to rising sea levels and threatening coastal cities, will become increasingly frequent.

There is a real danger that we have reached or will soon reach critical tipping points and the future will be taken out of our hands. The melting Arctic sea ice could be the first such tipping point.

Beyond 2ºC of warming, seemingly inevitable unless greenhouse gas reduction targets are tightened, we risk huge human and societal costs and perhaps even the effective end of industrial civilisation. We need to cease our assault on our own life support system, and that of millions of species. Global warming is only one of many symptoms of that assault.

Peak oil, global warming and long term sustainability pressures all require that we reduce energy needs and switch to alternative energy sources. Many credible studies show that Australia can quickly and cost-effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions through dramatic improvements in energy efficiency and by increasing our investment in solar, wind and other renewable sources.

The need for action is extremely urgent and our window of opportunity for avoiding severe impacts is rapidly closing. Yet the obstacles to change are not technical or economic, they are political and social.

We know democratic societies have responded successfully to dire and immediate threats, as was demonstrated in World War II. This is a last call for an effective response to global warming.

Yet, on sober reflection, what do such statements achieve? Did the Bali Declaration lead to the Bali delegates committing unanimously to a multilateral target of less than 450ppm CO2e? No. Did the “last call on climate change” set the phones ringing and the emails zinging, from politicians or bureaucrats, asking climate scientists what the Government needed to do to avoid this approaching catastrophe? No.

Sure, both stirred up a bit of media interest, and even a speech in the Federal Parliament. Also, one would hope, they got more people thinking about the reality of the situation – how, as each month and each year passes with little meaningful action, the problem worsens and becomes ever more difficult to address. But I can only conclude that overall, these represent, at best, the first baby steps.

So I’d like to ask you folks. What’s going wrong? Why are there more words than action? Have you got any ideas about how we can more effectively invoke the meaningful societal changes needed to solve the climate crisis? I’ll look at this issue from other perspectives in future posts, but I’m always interested in a diversity of views on this vexatious problem.

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58 Comments

  1. “Two urgent climate statements – but no impact?”

    Why asks Barry.

    Well because you so called scientists have peppered us with so many absurd versions of the future for decades; from Alvin Toffler’s ‘Future Shock’ through ‘Silent Spring’ and ‘The Population Bomb’ to the impending new Carbonaceous Period predicted in the 1930s followed by the horror of a new Ice Age breathlessly foretolled by a ‘consensus of scientists’ during the 70s.

    Now its ‘Global Warming’ morphed into ‘Dangerous Climate Change’ where CO2 laughably becomes ‘carbon pollution’ followed quickly by ‘acid oceans’ and now ‘The Oxygen Crisis’.

    You lot, ‘the scientists’, have shot your bolt – too many cries of “wolf” and no follow through, so we; ‘the great unwashed’, the ‘hoi polloi’, the ‘proletariat’, the ‘rabble’, the ‘uneducated swill’, the ‘riffraff’, the ‘common people’, the ‘peons’, the ‘working families’ (barf) just don’t believe a word you say anymore.

    And I might add, we really do question the worth of endless research into wiggly tailed lizards and small furry rodents in far off places, especially as it’s our money you’re spending as you fly endlessly from one tropical paradise to another and beyond.

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  2. Interesting comment by PeterW.

    It may not be interesting scientifically, but it’s a pretty good summary of the problem from a political point of view. He’s got three themes going. First, there’s the idea that “scientists” have warned of doomsday repeatedly, and been wrong every time. We can get all huffy and point out that most of the things he cites have very little to do with the scientific community as a whole. (I particularly like the idea that climate scientists backed the idea of an imminent ice age in the thirties.) However, it is true that a lot of silly stuff has been put out as “science”, regardless of how the scientific community feels about it. Maybe the traditional response of ignoring it hasn’t served the public well.

    Second, there’s the idea that real problems somehow failed to materialize. I think this ties in well with the efforts to manufacture uncertainty that we’ve seen increasingly in the last 40 years. “Silent Spring” was an important, influential book that did a lot of good, but somehow all this has been replaced by a enormous amount of misinformation. I understand that she’s even blamed for modern cases of malaria in some quarters. Peter’s comments of global warming are of a piece with this. He doesn’t know anything about the science, but he knows that it’s all wrong.

    Finally, we have the idea that research scientists are a frivolous and pampered class, living on the public dole and returning nonsense whose only aim is to justify more research. I think most readers will know how bizarre this idea is, but anyone who takes it seriously is someone who knows neither science nor scientists, and has been effectively immunized from coming to grips with their ignorance.

    I have no solutions to offer that haven’t been gone over elsewhere.

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  3. “Why are there more words than action? Have you got any ideas about how we can more effectively invoke the meaningful societal changes needed to solve the climate crisis?”

    Part of it is because the crucial “societal changes” need to be put into practice by political law-makers, and if there’s anything that politicians are good at, it’s doing stuff without, um, actually doing it. Part of that is probably due to sheer laziness, while the other part will be due to an urge to make themselves appeal to ‘public opinion’ (and at the risk of riding my hobbyhorse too often, I’ll point out again that there are people out there actively trying to manufacture impressions of ‘public opinion’).

    Consensus isn’t science, but consensus (among the general public) does mean votes.

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  4. Ethan wrote “I particularly like the idea that climate scientists backed the idea of an imminent ice age in the thirties.”

    I wrote no such thing – I wrote “the horror of a new Ice Age breathlessly foretold by a ‘consensus of scientists’ during the 70s”.

    Newsweek for example contains these gems:

    “To scientists, these seemingly disparate incidents represent the advance signs of fundamental changes in the world’s weather. The central fact is that after three quarters of a century of extraordinarily mild conditions, the earth’s climate seems to be cooling down.”

    “A major climatic change would force economic and social adjustments on a worldwide scale,” warns a recent report by the National Academy of Sciences…”

    “Climatologists are pessimistic that political leaders will take any positive action to compensate for the climatic change, or even to allay its effects.”

    Time followed up with:

    “Scientists have found other indications of global cooling. For one thing there has been a noticeable expansion of the great belt of dry, high-altitude polar winds…”

    “As they review the bizarre and unpredictable weather pattern of the past several years, a growing number of scientists are beginning to suspect that many seemingly contradictory meteorological fluctuations are actually part of a global climatic upheaval.”

    And so on – both Time and Newsweek and other news publications of the time quote ‘scientists’ not plumbers, dentists or any other group when reporting the impending icy doom.

    I recall reading the Time report in 1975 and as it was considered to be an authoritative publication I took the article at face value and believed for a while that the predictions contained therein were true and I should invest in some thick socks.

    Though, as I worked in the north of WA at the time I resisted the urge.

    How the internet has changed forever that naïve trust in news media and the public utterances of scientists (that and a career in TV news and newspapers).

    However, it’s how most of the public see the world – through the words, pictures, sounds and moving images of main-stream media.

    These days scientists for some reason are wont to leap into the news cycle on a daily basis with our own rather tatty looking CSIRO releasing report after report warning of imminent global catastrophe.

    It looks and sounds like some nutter wearing a sandwich board at Hyde Park Corner screeching about the end being nigh.

    We are lectured over and over again that the sky’s falling, no water by 2010, crops will fail, Polar Bears are drowning, THE TIPPING POINT in 10, 20, 5 years or whatever the latest date is for whichever cataclysm being promoted.

    This blog is just as shrill at times (new as it is) with ‘mass extinction events’, bovine effluvia and the pejorative use of ‘denial’ vs ‘good science’.

    That’s not surprising given the strongly held views being discussed though the snarky denunciations of people like David Evans who dares to hold differing views are a disappointment.

    I might add Barry your attempt at refuting Evans in print and on radio wasn’t terribly convincing and came across as rather spiteful.

    Ethan’s right when he points to this being a political problem, but it’s of the alarmists’ own making. The ideologically one sided blogroll at left is an example – no contrary points of view, just a group hug.

    A quick skim through the posts on many of the sites reveals a rather petty and ‘superior’ tone once confined to the self described elites of a bygone age.

    If ‘the debate is over’ hadn’t been so loudly proclaimed many people who are now avowed ‘skeptics’ wouldn’t have been moved to react against the ‘consensus’.

    It put my nose out of joint – some dick wad staring down the barrel of a news camera telling me not to question – just to obey, to put on my hair shirt and go to the back of the cave.

    However his comment that “He doesn’t know anything about the science, but he knows that it’s all wrong…” is rather far from the truth.

    I accept that for as long as Earth has had a climate it has changed and that there is considerable evidence of a slight warming during the past couple of hundred years punctuated with short periods of cooling.

    The historical records in my small part of the country clearly show quite definite cycles of rainfall and temperature change during the past 160 years with a slight and gradual warming until recently.

    However nothing I have read convinces me that humans are responsible for anything more than a tiny fraction of the warming or that the planet is rushing towards a disastrous ‘tipping point’ or that the IPCC reports haven’t been corrupted by the process that created them.

    It’s amusing too that Ethan seized on marine biologist Rachel Carson’s ‘Silent Spring’ as a book to defend – I wonder if he thinks as highly of her second book ‘The Seas Around Us’ in which she discusses the drivers of climate change – no ‘carbon pollution’ there, just big old ocean currents.

    By the way it’s freezing cold here, but that’s global warming for you…

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  5. Heh. Newsweek. Time. Two noted peer-reviewed journals of climatology.

    Peter W, I will assume that you are well-meaning, interested in learning, and simply misinformed. Based on that assumption, I hope you won’t take it amiss when I point out that you are repeating a well-known denialist lie when you claim that there was a consensus among scientists about global cooling in the 1970s.

    You can figure this out yourself if you’re willing to do a little research outside the universe of dishonest denialist PR sites.

    As far as Silent Spring goes, as a matter of fact we’ve made huge changes in the pesticides we allow, in the manner in which we regulate and control their use, etc. DDT did, indeed, cause great declines in numbers of a variety of species of birds high up on the food change. Interference with the deposition of calcium in avian ovaries has been shown experimentally. At the time that Silent Spring was written, the mechanism by which DDT and related chemicals interfere with bird reproduction was unknown, so her book is inaccurate in that regard. The big picture was right, some details, wrong. That doesn’t diminish its value.

    And, oh, gosh, Rachael Carson wasn’t aware of modern climate science when she wrote her second book, before modern climate science had reached its modern conclusions. She’s not credible because she wasn’t clairvoyant. Oh my!

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  6. “Two noted peer-reviewed journals of climatology.”

    Read the post again dhogaza and look at the reason the quotes from Time & Newsweek were included. It was part of my broader comment that noisy ‘scientists’ have predicted doom and gloom over and over again and that many of us are cataclysmed out so we are inclined to just dismiss each new scare as the ravings of yet another end of the world prophet.

    As for Rachel Carson – not credible – I’m shocked, I rather liked her beautifully written descriptions of deep ocean currents.

    I wonder if she studied the science thoroughly.

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  7. “So I’d like to ask you folks. What’s going wrong? Why are there more words than action?”

    People are discovering that AGW / CC is a large load of horse manure, and that watermellons are pushing a social (socialist) agenda with no interest in drowning polar bears.

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  8. Uh, you wrote …

    I wrote “the horror of a new Ice Age breathlessly foretold by a ‘consensus of scientists’ during the 70s”.

    A consensus. Not a couple of scientists quoted by a couple of pop culture news magazines, but a *consensus* that there’d be a new Ice Age in a time frame near enough for us to worry about it.

    It’s a lie, pure and simple. There was never any such consensus within science, and the lack of this consensus is extremely well documented (and the only reason it needs to be documented is that denialists have been spreading this lie for over a decade in an effort to discredit science as a discipline).

    I wonder if she studied the science thoroughly.

    She was a biologist, and as far as Silent Spring, she studied what was known scientifically at the time very extensively. Of course it was 40 years ago, and we’ve learned a lot since then (including, as I pointed out, the mechanism by which DDT in particular interferes with deposition of calcium in avian ovaries). Can’t ding her for not knowing scientific knowledge that didn’t exist at the time, though.

    And you can’t ding her for climate science that wasn’t known at the time, either. Hansen’s 1988 testimony came 24 years after she died in 1964, for instance. Even if she were totally up to speed on the climatology of the day significant CO2-forced warming within the lifetime of her younger readers would not have been on the radar screen.

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  9. “…is that denialists have been spreading this lie for over a decade in an effort to discredit science as a discipline).”

    Really – well if ‘scientists’ stopped blabbing on about a new horrors 24/7 there wouldn’t be so many ‘lies’ out there to spread.

    It’s rather silly of ‘scientists’ to put their latest scare into the public domain on an almost daily basis and then bleat about it being taken out of context or not properly understood or it not being a consensus etc.

    The audience out there doesn’t read ‘peer reviewed journals’ or whatever you like to call them – it consumes ‘pop culture magazines’ publications like the Age which happily plot ridiculous sea levels on pretty CGIs and manipulate pictures of down-town St Kilda to give the impression one more molecule of CO2 will bring on the great ‘tipping’ and we’ll all be doomed.

    It’s why Barry’s ‘urgent statements’ have been lost in the roar of climate appocalypse on radio, tv and in the press.

    I’m not ‘dinging’ Rachel Carson’ for not having a window to the future but rather pointing out that her book and your critisism of it is a good example of why the current arrogant claims of the ‘science being settled’, no debate allowed, which is loudly proclaimed from every AGW pulpit rings so hollow.

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  10. For rhetorical sake, let’s say PeterW is right (I’m not arguing either way to make this point). How did the story of the boy who cried wolf end? The last time he cried wolf, it really was a wolf, and he and his flock were eaten as people ignored him. There are more ‘boys crying wolf’ about climate change than for any other scientific issue. PeterW – are you willing to risk the flock on the basis that you believe scientists have been wrong before, and therefore must by logical be wrong again?

    [I would argue that Carson was indisputably right and caused a lot of problems to be fixed, and Ehrlich just got his timing wrong by a couple of decades – anyone heard of the food crisis c2008? – the fundamental principles of carrying capacity are still sound]

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  11. For a rundown of the “scientists predicted global cooling in the 1970s” myth, see here.

    By the way, unlike our host, I’m not spending any time watching the olympics, partly because it has turned into a competition among pharmacists and partly because in the US (where I live) the last time I checked all they show of the olympics on TV is the reporters telling us what a great job they are doing of showing the olympics, with an occasional background piece on one of the American athletes eating breakfast. However, our friend PeterW’s interesting use of quotation marks (what’s the difference between a scientist and a “scientist”?) reminds me of an episode of an Australian TV program about the olympics in which an actor who portrayed a veterinarian was consulted as an expert on horses. I think this parody hits the mark: if the unwashed masses can be fooled into thinking real scientists are imposters and imposters are real scientists, it’s no surprise that they will believe the views they find most comforting.

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  12. “PeterW – are you willing to risk the flock on the basis that you believe scientists have been wrong before, and therefore must by logical be wrong again?”

    Yes – especially if the wolf turns out to be a puppy dog wandering about the ‘journals’ whilst a really nasty monster lays hiding in plain sight.

    How much has been spent trying to shore up AGW theories – did I hear $50 billion?

    Is anyone working on the possibility CO2 might not be the evil prince but just a bloke in a black velvet top with puffy arms and sheer cotton tights.

    Are you willing to risk the flock on the basis that you believe scientists promoting carbon as a pollutant cannot be wrong?

    The whole “you’re a denialist” is so primary school dhogaza – perhaps now it’s my turn I should chant “dhogaza you are an alarmist” over and over again or perhaps “miss, dhogaza doesn’t like Carbon and picks on him ‘cos he’s black.”

    You’ve just reinforced my view of the debate – well it’s not a debate from your perspective as you lot just keep shouting “shut up, shut up, shut up, the science is settled so your not allowed to comment anymore, so just shut up and turn off that plasma telly.”

    “For a rundown of the “scientists predicted global cooling in the 1970s” myth…”

    You just don’t get it do you? My argument is not that thousands of peer reviewed papers were rushed into print predicting icy doom. But that the impression the average punter is given by constant alarmist claims of planet killing black balloons destroying reefs, drowning polar bears and frightening frogs is that ‘scientists’ are competing with each other to claim the greatest disaster prediction rights.

    It’s become boring, which may explain the desire of AGW proponents to shout louder and louder just like Basil Fawlty does when speaking to a foreigner. Now the doomsayers’ chorus has been joined by Wong’s risible TV and radio spots it’s become like the cacophony at a well oiled party, where revellers just stop listening to the chatter and have another red or three whilst they eye off potential special friends.

    “…what’s the difference between a scientist and a “scientist”…”

    Can’t you answer that one? I would have thought the attack on David Evans was a perfect example of how someone can go from being a scientist to a ‘scientist’ with just one newspaper article in the eyes of some.

    How about Flannery for example – he’s probably a good mammologist and paleontologist but that’s not how he’s referred to in our ‘pop culture news magazines’. He’s now ‘renowned climate scientist’ or ‘climate science expert’.

    Oh and dhogaza , “I wonder if she studied the science thoroughly” was a ‘ding’ at smart arse frankbi not Carson, I thought it was obvious – it seems not.

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  13. How about Flannery for example – he’s probably a good mammologist and paleontologist but that’s not how he’s referred to in our ‘pop culture news magazines’. He’s now ‘renowned climate scientist’ or ‘climate science expert’.

    So PeterW, you actually do have qualifications in climate science then?

    And failing that, you surely have postgraduate qualifications in another field of science?

    You obviously claim the expertise to critique scientific material, although your lack of understanding on “[h]ow much has been spent trying to shore up AGW theories”, followed by an arbitrarily and ludicrously high $50 billion claim, argues strongly that in fact you have no idea at all.

    Look up the ‘Dunning-Kruger effect’, and then look in the mirror.

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  14. I’d say the lack of action is because, in spite of all the words, people still think climate change is something that’ll affect their kids or their grandkids. They don’t realise that the changes are happening now, not 30 years from now, and that some of them aren’t reversible. I hear a lot of talk from concerned people, saying they’re worried about their kids future – but they’re not worried about their own future, apparently! And this is from people who would describe themselves as wanting changes in policy, who want the government to do something. The sense of urgency just isn’t there.

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  15. Barry, there’s a lot of problems here.

    The first is that (as far as I can tell) a lot of senior politicians still don’t realize the gravity of the situation we find ourselves in. Aside from the outright denialists, there’s a lot who don’t seem to have grasped a) that 550ppm stabilization targets are woefully inadequate, and b) Australia will face steeper cuts than most other developed countries because of its particularly profligate use of coal and petrol.

    Secondly, like many politically difficult issues, there are certain groups of people who lose out particularly badly from taking action, while the benefits of taking action are distributed across the country and indeed the world. It’s like the situation with the car industry – most of us pay more for our cars because of industry protection, but the cost is relatively small. However, for the people who would lose their current jobs if the car industry shut down, the loss would be large.

    Thirdly, politicians have a well-developed sense of cynicism about the public’s appetite for real sacrifice for the greater good. While people might say they’re prepared to pay more for electricity, gas, and petrol under an emissions trading scheme, lots of politicians believe that when push comes to shove and electricity bills double, they won’t wear it.

    Fourthly, nothing serious can happen internationally until January 20, 2009. Whether we like it or not, the voters of the United States of America chose to elect an ostrich for two terms, and still have a sizable collection of them in Congress. It is the nature of US politics that meaningful reforms take aeons; it’s the way their constitution was designed, for better or worse.

    Fifthly, international negotiations always take years, and the political debate in other countries is sometimes very different to Australia. Climate change is a much less important issue in American politics than it has been here; India doesn’t seem to have any inclination to act despite the risk to their water supply.

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  16. Yeah. c’mon PeterW, where did you get this $50 billion being spent on shoring up AGW theory?

    How about a fact or two from you? I bet you don’t even know if it’s US dollar or Australian dollars.

    Hey, maybe it’s New Zealand Dollars.

    Or is it another fairy tale like the “new ice-age consensus” of the 1970s?

    “My argument is not that thousands of peer reviewed papers were rushed
    into print predicting icy doom. But that the impression the average
    punter is given by constant alarmist claims of planet killing black
    balloons destroying reefs, drowning polar bears and frightening frogs is
    that ’scientists’ are competing with each other to claim the greatest
    disaster prediction rights.”

    So why is this a reason to ignore the science?

    The average punter, according to you, has the impression that scientists are being alarmist.

    And how is this a reason to ignore, for example, the fact that the stratosphere is heating up and the troposhere is cooling down?

    Or that there is no credible alternative to the hypothesis that man-made greenhouse gases are causing this, and mountains of evidence to support it?

    And that the only serious issue for real climate scientists is not whether, but by how much, the Earth’s surface is heating up?

    OK, let’s not try to complicate things. Just try for some logic to start with. Then work your way up to some facts.

    Really, some of the stuff you come out with gives sophistry a bad name.

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  17. Hi Barry,

    I’ve been thinking about this a bit and I suspect that part of the problem is a democracy deficit. To elaborate: People in the west have become used to having a democratic input into the decisions, troubles, etc of their time. One reason the war in Iraq is so contentious is that Bush, Howard, Blair et al went into it against the wishes of the majority of the population. However, there is very little imput that the average person on the street can contribute to the debate on global warming.

    Unlike, say, what should be taught in schools, or what should be done about neighbourhood crime, or whether our army should invade Iraq, which are things most people feel justified in having an opinion about and being involved in the decision making processes of, one needs a PhD in a relevant field just to get in the door of any debate on climate change. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. It’s just the way it is; climate change is a highly technical, non-linear issue with many many causal steps between emissions now and higher global temperatures later, and it needs a lot of background knowledge to understand it and even more to contribute to any policy process. Even the economic impact of temperature rise vs that of mitigation is dominated by highly qualified experts.

    This gets up the noses of some people like Peter W above, who end up supporting various cranks and contrarians because that’s the only way they feel they can be involved in the public discussion of what the issue is and what to do about it. It’s a tension between meritocracy and democracy. Other people trust their scientists to tell them what the science says and their government to act on the science. This is at some level a more passive stance (though the correct one on this issue), though one that can be accompanied with action (e.g. changing the light globes, driving less). Hence the left-“elitist”/right-“populist” split on the issue.

    I’m not sure what could be done about this beyond better communication. Maybe Australia wide school science projects that contribute to a national climate database? Teach every science class how to measure the CO2 level of the atmosphere in their area and how to take temperature readings (plus various locally relevant variables e.g. tidal height, snow line level)? That would let kids (and their parents) feel that they were moving beyond passivity.

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  18. PeterW claims the ‘average punter’ has the impression that scientists are being alarmist about AGW, among other things.

    So how come, according to survey after survey, the substantial majority of ‘average punters’ (in Australia, at least) consistently support action on climate change?

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  19. A comment regarding “scientists were wrong about global cooling in the 1970s”.

    A degree of global cooling (about 0.1 – 0.3 degrees C during the 1960s was caused by (1) low sun-spot activity as a part of the 11-years cycle; (2) sulphate aerosol albedo cooling effects; (3) the El-Nina. Some climate scientistw wondered when the cooling would stop.

    While errors always occur, the scientific discipline is a self-correcting method. Claims made by scientist undrgo scrutiny by other scientists, a process named “falsification”. Scientific papers receive rigorous reviews and are often rejected, in an arduous process but one which progresses toward correct solutions, often achieved years later.

    By contrast climate change “skeptics” make assertions, i.e. the Earth is not warming, or if its warming its due to natural processes, then proceed to look for faults in the mainstream science, a method analogous for example to objections raised by creationists to Darwinian evolution. Real skepticism hinges on examination of quesitons from ALL POINTS OF VIEW, aiming to combine direct measurements with established physical and chemical theory.

    People have a choice between following the scientific method, try “Woodoo science”, adhere to beliefs, wishful thinking or denial. Given the serious nature of the climate issue, many find the latter avenue too tempting.

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  20. PeterW, I think you fundamentally downplay the risks involved. That said, I thank you for your contribution and for persisting in clarifying your viewpoint. There needs to be a better understanding of where both sides are coming from, or we’ll make little progress.

    I think Robert (#21) and James (#31) have put it very well. There is a great societal inertia and resistance to overcome, and “progress as usual” will is not equipped to cope with large scale emergencies. More on this in another post.

    I also think there is a way out of this mess that should please people on any shade of the political spectrum, from those that advocate strong top-down policy intervention to those who want a purely free market libertarian approach. I’ll cast it to the wind soon. It doesn’t involve an ETS or emissions reduction targets, incidentally.

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  21. I’d suggest that:

    1) Scientists are good at doing science, generally following the rules of science, which are generlaly aimed at buildign truth.

    2) The rules of politics, PR, and marketing are *different*, and many scientists are not so good at understanding them, much less being willing to use them. After all, occasionally truth is involved, but usually, the goal is either action (buy something, elect someone) or avoiding action (don’t restrict cigarettes, don’t restrict CO2).

    3) It’s much easier to create doubt than clarity, and for large numbers of people, the absolute certainty (but wrongness) of denialsts is far more attractive than the caveated, complex correctness of real scientists.

    4) Hence, it’s very hard work. In soem cases, scientists must start studying a little more, sad to say. The best example I know of is to study the successful marketing of cigarettes over the years, especially because the internal data is actually online.

    The best history I know there is Allan M. Brandt’s, “The Cigarette Century”, and the real hero, in the US, was Surgeon General Luther Terry.

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  22. The whole “you’re a denialist” is so primary school dhogaza – perhaps now it’s my turn I should chant “dhogaza you are an alarmist” over and over again or perhaps “miss, dhogaza doesn’t like Carbon and picks on him ‘cos he’s black.”

    Feel free to chant whatever you want. I was posting under the misperception that you were actually interested in learning something. It’s become clear to me, at least, that you’re not, which is why I’ve hung the “denialist” label on you. So there’s no reason for me (or others here, IMO) to waste their time trying to help you down the path towards increased understanding not only of the science, but of the fact that certain things you parrot are demonstrably lies. When I learn that I’ve been lied to, I drop the lie and get annoyed at the liar, rather than hang onto it beyond all reason …

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  23. Dhogaza …it does you no service to call someone a liar. Especially since PeterW put his case so eloquently and with conviction. I think that perhaps, by your confrontational reaction, he has possibly proven at least one of his points, that the AGW brigade are arrogant and believe that anyone with an alternative opinion must be lying (if not evil).

    One must remember that AGW is still a theory and yet to be proven. Thus using your yardstick, perhaps it is the likes of you that will end up being the liars. No doubt you lot appear to be more emotional about this and prone to random outbursts. This is generally not how clear thinkers act.

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  24. Dhogaza …it does you no service to call someone a liar.

    I didn’t call him a liar. I said he was repeated a lie, that he was lied to, and that he can easily verify that it is a lie and that those spreading it are lying.

    “parrot”, when used as a verb, means “to repeat” (repeatedly?)

    Especially since PeterW put his case so eloquently and with conviction.

    Yes, he has made it clear that he believes the lie. That doesn’t change the fact that it is a lie.

    I think that perhaps, by your confrontational reaction, he has possibly proven at least one of his points, that the AGW brigade are arrogant and believe that anyone with an alternative opinion must be lying (if not evil).

    Thick as a brick, or blinded by ideology, are real possibilities. I’d guess the latter.

    “alternative opinions” about historical facts … it’s an interesting concept. If someone told him that Pearl Harbor never happened, and he parroted that fact in public, and I pointed out that he’d been lied to, I imagine you’d react in the right way, right?

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  25. “So PeterW, you actually do have qualifications in climate science then?”

    And????

    Your point????

    Oh I see, because I’m a graphic designer I’m disqualified from participating in any discussion other than those that relate to blobs of colour and funky shapes.

    Et tu Bernard?

    As for the “Dunning-Kruger” comment – rather petty really.

    I’m not surprised though, it’s become par for the course in most discussions about this subject. When one party makes a ‘sceptical’ point they consider to be quite reasonable the other shrieks “denialist” or “you don’t have a science degree” or some similarly immature response.

    Barry and a couple of others here are the exception to the rule and I’d like to thank them for their well tempered posts.

    Gaz said “And how is this a reason to ignore, for example, the fact that the stratosphere is heating up and the troposphere is cooling down?”

    Your message is as lost as the rest Gaz – today’s post “The Earth today stands in imminent peril and nothing short of a planetary rescue will save it from the environmental cataclysm of dangerous climate change” is a case in point – sheesh it’s even worse than usual – the gratuitous use of words like ‘imminent’, ‘peril’, ‘cataclysm’ (one of my favourite) and ‘dangerous’ in one sentence make it fantastic in the true meaning of the word.

    And Gaz, ever been to an auction?

    Ever heard the bloke with the gavel ask for the first bid?

    Yup, that’s right, they start off the bidding with “…did I hear (insert sum here)?”

    You really need to get out more. The auction hasn’t closed; why not make a bid now? Do I hear…?

    James wrote “Teach every science class how to measure the CO2 level of the atmosphere in their area and how to take temperature readings…”

    Not a bad idea, it certainly beats showing them Gore’s film and then forcing them to learn anti-carbon chants by rote as they hold aloft their black balloons.

    That looks all too much like the closing scenes in ‘Cabaret’.

    James, once upon a time people trusted the scientists who told them that eugenics programs were the only way to keep their ‘race pure’ or to limit ‘inferior traits’ from polluting their community and many governments acted on this advice.

    Compulsory sterilization and forced abortions of minority races and any poor bastard with a perceived impairment such as hemophilia, deafness or a mental illness like epilepsy or depression followed.

    Laws were passed in many countries to restrict marriages between those of ‘inferior stock’ such as East Europeans and Asians or those from economically or poor social backgrounds.

    Ultimately the ‘science’ of eugenics was used to justify the attempted extermination of Jews, Gypsies and other ‘impure races’ during the Second World War.

    So why is it we should we trust scientists and governments unreservedly again?

    Dhogaza are you still digging that hole? There are many alternative ‘opinions’ about so called historical facts, Pearl Harbor is a good example. Some say Roosevelt provoked Japan, others say the US was an innocent victim of Japanese imperialist aggression. Read the relevant books or if you choose, read the primary source material and form your own opinion – which ‘truth’ do you believe?

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  26. Dhogaza are you still digging that hole? There are many alternative ‘opinions’ about so called historical facts, Pearl Harbor is a good example. Some say Roosevelt provoked Japan, others say the US was an innocent victim of Japanese imperialist aggression.

    Well, Mr Graphic Designer who imagines himself winning a Nobel Prize by overturning high school physics …

    Why do you think I posed it as being whether or not the Pearl Harbor Raid ACTUALLY TOOK PLACE?

    Those “altnernative ‘opinions'” you mention, none of them, deny the fact that it happened.

    Why not read a bit more for comprehension? It might help you with, say, your swallowing denialist lies about the scientific consensus regarding the near-term Ice Age predicted by the scientific establishment thirty years ago.

    Just sayin’ …

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  27. “Well, Mr Graphic Designer who imagines himself winning a Nobel Prize by overturning high school physics…”

    Oh really? Only high school you think? Well wrong again, bwahahahahaha – I want it all.

    I know it’s difficult for you to grasp sport, but the reference to ice age predictions in the popular press was to make a point regarding Barry’s initial post asking “Two urgent climate statements – but no impact?”

    I suggested that the public took such statements with a large grain of salt because they appear all too often and used the 70s icy scare amongst others as an example.

    Now settle down and take a Bex, scientists say it’s good for you or was that bran muffins or red wine or…

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  28. Kimbo Says:
    19 August 2008 at 4.51
    One must remember that AGW is still a theory and yet to be proven.

    No scientific theory is ‘proven’, in the absolute mathematical sense. Demanding that we hold off from action until AGW is proven in that sense simply means never acting. Current AGW theory is easily the best fit we have to the evidence available, no other theory/model even comes close.

    If you have a better one, let’s hear it.

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  29. Et tu Bernard?

    Bachelor’s, DipEd, Master’s, about to submit PhD. Fifteen years research in immunology, oncology, pharmacology; ten years in ecology and population biology, teaching at TAFE and university.

    Studied taxa: fish, amphibians, mammals (including humans, 13 years).

    And before you say anything, I have never claimed expertise in climate science, but I have enough undergraduate physics and a firm understanding of the fundamental processes of science to know that you are confused about the interpretation of scientific data. I know also that you confuse the voice of science with the voice of the media that report it, and that you confuse the actions of historic leaders and ideologues with the much of the activity of contemporary scientists.

    I know that you are way off base with your comment about frogs, and my countless hours in the field studying amphibians puts me in rather a more justifiable postion than you to comment on their status. And the hysterical reporting of the media notwithstanding, this taxon is indeed facing an ‘alarming’ threat (or several) to its member species.

    I know that Barry Brooks is remarkably tolerant of people who wilfully or ignorantly misconstrue climate science. I used to be much less inclined to go toe-to-toe with denialists myself, and tried the softly softly approach, but in most cases as a mere blog contributor I find that achieves nothing, because in the long term politeness makes no difference to people who do not understand science and who make their claims from a fundamentally ideological stance.

    Nevertheless I never use the potty-mouth language that I frequently see from the Denialist corner. I genuinely don’t like to be rude, but the world is past the kid-gloves stage in commencing action in this and in other areas of science.

    The only reason I bother to call people like you on your understanding, is to perhaps demonstrate to unsuspecting third-party readers that you and people like you are speaking out of the side of your mouth; that your credibility is low and that the comments you offer require especial deconstruction and cross-referencing to material that is actually trustworthy.

    I am sorry if this stings, but if I walked into your studio and told you that you had no concept of basic graphic design elements, that MS Comic is the only font to use and that magenta on blue is a wonderful combination for text, I think that you’d be justifiably cranky.

    You’re in a scientists’ sphere here, telling the scientists that black is white, and you have to expect a bit of a calling-out on this.

    If this offends, so be it.

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  30. “I walked into your studio and told you that you had no concept of basic graphic design elements, that MS Comic is the only font to use and that magenta on blue is a wonderful combination for text…”

    It happens every other day Bernard, when people offer their opinions I listen to their point of view – I don’t hurl insults and attempt to belittle them because they aren’t paid up members of the designers’ club.

    Sometimes such ‘advice’ out of left field produces wonderful results.

    And Bernard this year black is black again.

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  31. Re Barry’s amphibians, whatever happened to Spencer’s survival of the fittest (and related Darwinian evolutionary theory)? Not mentioned in the biblio of course. The beauty here is the superb tautology: not fit, tough tittie! Clearly we can look forward to a more fit bunch of amphibians. Can that be bad?

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  32. Thanks for the heads-up Barry. With my bibliography full-to-bursting, I hadn’t yet seen it.

    PeterW.

    It happens every other day Bernard, when people offer their opinions I listen to their point of view

    The difference is that an artistic critique is only going to cause, at the worst, an embarrassing artistic blunder that can be rectified.

    The delay caused by denialism of the science produced by those who understand what they are doing doesn’t leave any room for a second go at ‘getting it right’.

    ‘Left field’ exists in science too, PeterW, and is much appreciated. Many Nobels owe their awarding to such serendipity. However ‘left field’ is different to ‘hog wallow’, and the pseudo-science you are rolling around in has a particular aroma about it that any scientist can immediately identify.

    Apples and oranges, PeterW. Or to put is another way; life vs still-life.

    Tim Curtin.

    Your demonstrated lack of any grasp of climate science over the last few years is profound.

    However, it is exceeded by your lack of any grasp whatsoever of the significant implications of the ecological changes that are currently occurring, and that are in train to occur in the future, as a consequence of human activity.

    I look forward though to a pdf on your site explaining why the Tim Curtin tough-titties version of natural selection is so good for the planet’s biosphere, and especially for humanity’s resilience within it.

    If it follows in the wake of the quality of your CO2 theories, it will be an entertaining read indeed.

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  33. Bernard. Well with any luck you and I will be a natural experiment, adjusted for age and latent intelligence as evidenced here. But then, humour never was your strong point. Can you link to your own latest publications?

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  34. You are soooooooo superior Bernard, you and your taxons, so we’ll all just tug our forelocks and mumble “oright surrrr, oi knows moi place”.

    But wait, it’s Australia, a democracy, a free country, an open society, free of fascism and totalitarianism and you Bernard are but one small man amongst it.

    You know your posts read like a spoilt child’s, all fluster and bluster, “you don’t know anything about frogs, I’M THE EXPERT”.

    My comment about frogs was nothing more than an alliteration, a literary device used to create a snappy phrase oft used in advertising, poetry and song lyrics.

    Sadly you don’t seem to understand subtlety or irony.

    You see a word, ‘frog’ in this case and leap to your feet to condemn the writer of the word because it’s your word, a special word that only you have the right to use because this is a place where you talk to scientists.

    You’re not alone here though if it’s any comfort, other words that have sparked wordy denunciations include ‘silent’ and ‘spring’ (more of that pesky alliteration) and ‘consensus’ (especially if related to future ice events).

    Phrases like “do I hear $50 billion” also get the flock a screeching.

    You wrote “I know also that you confuse the voice of science with the voice of the media that report it” – at last someone other than Barry gets it – well almost. It’s the very point I’ve been trying to make in answer to Barry’s question about why the message isn’t being heard.

    It’s because scientists who enter the public arena and get out a big box of adjectives like those in Hansen’s polemic risk their message being swamped by their own enthusiasm.

    Well actually it’s beyond risk, it’s over, the message is a monotone in the background droning on and on – climate, cataclysm, drone, imminent, dangerous, disaster, horrendous, drone…

    People just switch off, you can protest how urgent it is, and how distraught you are we all won’t fall into step, but it’s lost in the clamor of superlatives and exaggerations.

    You wrote “the difference is that an artistic critique is only going to cause, at the worst, an embarrassing artistic blunder that can be rectified”.

    You right, the Thalidomide kids can attest to that.

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  35. PeterW.

    You see a word, ‘frog’ in this case and leap to your feet to condemn the writer of the word because it’s your word, a special word that only you have the right to use because this is a place where you talk to scientists

    No, what I condemn is the seemingly dismissive meanderings of someone who might be read by third parties as validly disparaging a serious issue, simply because any such third parties are not familiar with the true nature of the matter. Playing around with lingistic games is no excuse for doing this.

    Believe me, I understand both subtly and irony, and I almost didn’t say anything about frogs, but I have sat on my hand in the past over little things like this and then watched in dismay as the falsehood/misapprehension takes on a life of its own.

    And you’re free to say what you like Peter, whenever you like: just expect to be pulled up when you say something uninformed or misinterpretable in forums like this. Make all the jokes that you want to in your place of work, but don’t expect to be able to disparage scientific matters when you’re engaging scientists.

    As to the matter of ‘expertise’ – you asked (in the language of the ‘superior’, no less) for exactly this information, dufus, so you got it. There’s no point whinging because I gave you exactly what you requested!

    If you are going to engage with “so-called scientists” (as at #1), and ask for their bona fides, you will have to wear their answers, and their jargon. And if the mere use of ‘taxons’ makes your skin crawl, you’d evaporate in a biology tea-room…

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  36. You [sic] right, the Thalidomide kids can attest to that.

    PeterW, I am all for refining the conduct of disciplines such as pharmacology, and I am probably a bigger critic of lax scientific practice than you are. I’m curious though to hear how, in your example, and with your obviously intimate acquaintance of the state-of-the-art at the time that thalidomide was first brought out, those evil scientists cut the corners of the contemporary government-instituted standards, and also of the pharmacological and genetic understanding of the time.

    And keep in mind, if bean-counters like Tim Curtin and Graeme Bird had their way, there’d be much less capacity to check for any other potential disasters like this, than there is now. Either that, or the science that leads to so much of the technology you take for granted wouldn’t happen in the first place, and then I guess you’d whinge about the lack of ‘progress’.

    Hmmm… I think I smell trollshit…

    And my manure cart is full. Someone else can take over baby-sitting you for a while.

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  37. “You [sic]” – yeah where’s the preview Barry? Surely WordPress has that facility?

    Answer to own question – perhaps not, only a live preview for posts not responses.

    “…and with your obviously intimate acquaintance of the state-of-the-art at the time…”

    Can’t help yourself can you Bernard :-)

    “…those evil scientists cut the corners of the contemporary government-instituted standards, and also of the pharmacological and genetic understanding of the time.”

    And I just thought it was a case of a drug being ‘invented’ as a sedative but when tested on animals (not pregnant ones) was found to be ineffective. I guess because the invention cost time and money it was why it was shopped around a variety of diseases as an antibiotic. But no joy though until someone decided it was fine for treating morning sickness and epilepsy.

    I lived in West Germany at the time it first hit the market and my mother was offered Thalidomide as a matter of course when pregnant with my brother.

    Fortunately she decided not to take it and my brother was saved from its effects.

    The lesson for me is that no matter how reputable a scientific process might ‘appear’ and the manufacturer of Thalidomide was a reputable firm, it deserves to be questioned and not just by ‘peers’. Thalidomide was on the market for years and caused thousands of deformities before it was pulled.

    It took a growing number of anecdotal reports of deformities and a letter to Nature before the alarm was raised, but the company, just like the tobacco companies, continued to deny there was a problem.

    There is a sad addendum to the story wherein an employee of the drug company took a sample home for his pregnant wife before it was released and his child was born without ears – no alarm bells though.

    And yeah I’m bored with this post too, the original question asked by Barry feels like it was posted months ago – back to your tea room eh Bernard?

    Back to the Bezier curves for me.

    Taxon, Taxoff grasshopper.

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  38. Thalidomide was on the market for years and caused thousands of deformities before it was pulled.

    Not in the United States, fortunately, where our more conservative FDA didn’t approve it for use by pregnant women. Though conservatives in my country, who continuously push to weaken the FDA regulatory process, seem deaf to the lesson.

    What’s unintentionally funny about PeterW’s post, though, follows … I’ve edited it to broaden the scope of this excellent, accurate statement:

    It took a growing number of anecdotal reports of deformities and a letter to Nature before the alarm was raised, but the company, just like the tobacco and fossil fuel companies, continued to deny there was a problem.

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  39. PeterW’s exampple of Thalidomide is instructive. Thank you for bringing it up, PeterW.

    The parallels between thalidomide and increased greenhouse gas concentrations are really worth considering.

    Thalidomide was at first thought to be harmless, providing only benefits to those who used it, just like processes that generate greenhouse gases. (My mother was offered it when pregnant with me but chose not to use it despite terible morning sickness, otherwise I’d probably be typing this with my nose).

    It was subsequently found by scientists to have harmful side-effects so its use was restricted.

    However it was not an easy battle.

    Moves to resistrict thalidomide were frustrated by the deliberate actions of vested interests, including complicit scientists-for-hire, causing untold misery.

    This process is now playing out in the field of climate science, just as it played out with tobacco-related illness and CFC emissions.

    The two key figures (Lenz in Germany and Kelsey in the US) seeking to prevent use of thalidomide in their countries were subject to attacks eerily reminiscent of the attacks now being made on climate scientists by the denial industry at the moment.

    see http://www.k-faktor.com/contergan/files/political_engagement.pdf

    From the summary:

    “The degree of exposure to politically motivated attacks differed for these two
    experts; they nevertheless faced similar threats to their professional credibility and personal
    integrity when they publicized links between thalidomide and birth defects.”

    Sound familiar?

    And from later in the same journal article:

    “Events subsequent to thalidomide’s use in Germany and testing in the United
    States show that the ‘settled’ state of medical practice in both countries could be
    changed, in part through the activities of two prominent experts who challenged
    the ‘lords’ of industry. These medical experts, in turn, faced similar threats to their
    professional credibility and personal integrity when they sought to publicize
    thalidomide’s dangerous side-effects. Some medical researchers sought to discredit
    claims linking this drug to birth defects. More significantly, the manufacturers
    brought major resources to bear in the two institutional settings in order to apply
    pressure on Lenz and Kelsey.”

    It’s deja vu all over again!

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  40. Ooooh a new game…

    It took a growing number of anecdotal reports of deformities and a letter to Nature before the alarm was raised, but the company, just like the tobacco and fossil fuel companies professional greenhouse lobby groups that now dominate government environmental and energy policy bureaucracies continued to deny there was a problem.

    “Thalidomide was at first thought to be harmless, providing only benefits to those who used it…”

    Rather, Thalidomide was a molecule looking for a disease to cure just like CO2 was once a naturally occurring, beneficial trace gas in the atmosphere looking for a cataclysm.

    Moves to restrict Thalidomide the implementation of an unnecessary carbon tax were frustrated by the deliberate actions of vested interests, including complicit scientists-for-hire, causing untold misery.

    “The degree of exposure to politically motivated attacks differed for these two experts; they nevertheless faced similar threats to their professional credibility and personal integrity when they publicized links between thalidomide and birth defects human carbon dioxide emissions and “more droughts, rising sea levels and more extreme weather” as unbridled nonsense.”

    And it was my younger brother Gaz.

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  41. PeterW,
    I am aware of the history of Eugenics (is this the latest meme doing the rounds? I’ve faced this argument 3 times in the last month).

    The differences are:
    1) The eugenics hysteria took place before we understood the mechanisms of hereditary or what sort of things could be genetic traits – in other words, there was no fundamental scientific backing for it. By contrast the basic mechanisms of greenhouse gas warming are well understood. Where there is uncertainty (principally levels of feedback between CO2 and water vapour) it is made explicit and it is quantified uncertainty.

    2) Eugenics received widespread acceptance because it assured powerful people that things they already thought were true, were true – because there was a widespread social consensus back then that blacks, jews, the mentally disabled, etc, were “innately” inferior. Scientists, being human, also suffered from these prejudices and dressed them up in scientific-sounding rhetoric to justify them (though, as made in point 1 above, there was no fundamental basis for it). Global warming by contrast has told people that what they thought they knew (that humans couldn’t have an effect on the global climate) is wrong, in the face of vested interests like Exxon. In the 1930s and 40s only a minority of scientists thought AGW was possible, still less that it was happening. Science has followed the data, not led it with pre-existing prejudices. (I won’t deny that greenhouse warming appeals to some left wing prejudices, but everything appeals to some political group – the important thing is that Arrhenius, Callendar, et al were talking about global warming long before environmentalism was even invented, and the profession was won over by the accumulation of evidence).

    3) Implementing the Eugenic agenda involved doing horrible things to people – denying them their rights to reproduce, to freedom, even to life. Adjusting to AGW involves being more energy efficient and paying a higher (c.10-30% IIRC) tariff on your power bill. It also involves cutting off a significant funding stream to terrorists and dictatorial regimes when we stop buying so much oil from them. Hardly comparable.

    On the “crying wolf” argument: which would you prefer, a fire alarm that sometimes went off when there wasn’t a fire, or one that didn’t go off when there was a fire? Which has the worse consequences?

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  42. “…is this the latest meme doing the rounds?”

    Dunno, I just plucked it out of the air like a spore and used it as an example – the topic just happened to be at hand.

    “…when we stop buying so much oil from them…”

    Can’t complain about that, it beggars belief Australia hasn’t already cut its ties with the Arabs – CNG anyone?

    What do we sell LNG to China for – 10 cents a litre? Crazily LNG at the BP servo in Karratha, a stones throw from the massive North West Shelf LNG plant, was selling for 89 cents a litre last time I stopped for fuel.

    Here we have an enormous natural advantage; the Greater North West Shelf area reportedly contains identified natural gas resources of about 100 trillion cubic feet.

    One trillion cubic feet can produce about 20 million tonnes of LNG and we just flog it off to China for a pittance rather than use it at home to replace oil as a fuel for road transport and electricity generation.

    Rudd tells us he has a $20 billion ‘infrastructure fund’, maybe he should give up on the CO2 sequestration trials and coal port expansion for a while and get LNG into cars, buses, trucks, trains and power stations.

    If it’s profitable to make LNG and put it onto a boat to China, surely there is money to be made using the same boat to ship it a shorter distance to Sydney and Melbourne?

    But I digress… (again)

    “…a fire alarm that sometimes went off when there wasn’t a fire…”

    Depends if I was forced to evacuate then tumbled down the stairs and broke my neck during a false alarm.

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  43. Not that your post is addressed at me Bernard, but I have to admit that:

    i) I don’t personally think GM crops are a great option.
    ii) I don;t trust nuclear power
    iii) I don;t trust a lot of ADHD drugs
    iv) I kinda think that WTC7 falling down was a bit odd

    And although not the science, my personal stance on CLimate change has seen me in the minority for the best part of 15 years….

    Do do I in fact have a default scepticism of mainstream science. I do find it quite strange suddenly being in the popular majority on this one…

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  44. G’Day Benard,

    Just got back from the beach – been watching the sea not rise.

    I’ve had a quick look at the link you posted and the philosophy it attempts to expound and it interests me, so after I finish (making black blacker for this season) the job I’m currently working on I’ll respond to your challenge.

    However, before I start I feel I must point out that I don’t deny that the Earth’s climate is in a state of constant change – rather it’s you and your fellow travellers that seem to believe that the planet is, or rather has been, in stasis until you discovered that carbon was a pollutant.

    So you Bernard are a ‘natural climate change denier’…

    Anyway, let me read the rather long post you linked to and write a considered response – I’m looking forward to it – it’s not my raison d’être, but I should be able to find an hour or two to ponder ….

    Such is the extant of my life – driven by a business imperative…

    Only ‘stolen time’ for ‘discuter’.

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  45. Peter W – 57

    You obviously don’t read the suggested links or you would not make the outrageous statement that climate scientists “deny that the Earth’s is in a state of constant change….”. No scientist has claimed that the Earth’s temperature has never been hotter or colder in the past or that sea levels haven’t varied according to the amount of ice around the globe. They explain fully what caused these events before and that these same factors are not at play this time, leaving only greenhouse gas (CO2, methane etc) emissions as the most likely forcing (90% certainty). You only have to read Barry’s synopsis on his second seminar (last Friday) “Natural or human induced warming” in which he clearly states what I have outlined above. Better still download the podcast and the Power Point presentation (to be avaiable early this week) and LISTEN carefully before shooting off any more untue accusations about what scientists are saying.

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