Climate Change Editorial

The Chicago Tribune, for those not familiar, is a conservative newspaper. In general, of course. Their endorsement of Obama for President was the first time in their history that a Democrat was endorsed.
I am inclined to believe that man-made climate change is a problem. Mainly because those who support this idea tend to be scientists, and those who oppose it tend to be politicians.
Which brings me to the Tribune’s editorial today…

Dopers, what do you make of this?

Even Republican scientists already knew:

Indeed, it is mostly the Republican politicians and thanks to the support of FUD think tanks that unfortunately next to nothing will be done until the situation gets worse.

Wow. The climate is changing on Earth? That certainly is news. Because up until now it’s been such a stable and predictable environment.

Of course the climate is changing. Apart from speculation, no one can prove humans have anything to do with it.

In order for “global warming” to be regarded as a truth, it would need to be shown to be:

  1. A genuine upward trend and not a short-term fluctuation
  2. Truly global (i.e., all areas of the globe are warming)

In order for it to be something for which we should change global policy, it would have to be shown to be:

  1. Anthropogenic
  2. Reversible (as in, we could actually do something to stop it or at least slow it down

In addition, it would have to be shown to be

  1. Harmful (This is not a “well, duh.” The populations of high-latitude landmasses, such as Canada and Siberia, would benefit from global warming.).


  1. The cost of doing something about it would have to be not prohibitive (and “cost” includes the reduction in the activities of not only developed, but emerging economies that would be needed).

It’s only VERY recently that 1, 2, and 3 were all shown to be true with scientific rigor. The jury is still out on 4). 5) depends on where you live. 6) is also a question yet to be resolved.

What has kept this from being, as the Tribune noted, a purely scientific issue? Two reasons, IMHO. First of all, the climate change issue created a divide between the developed and the developing world. It was used as a club for the developing world to beat the developed world, particularly the US, with, in two ways: the rich nations had crapped all over the planet and the poor nations were going to suffer for it, and the rich nations, having plundered the world’s resources and gotten rich, were now having the gall to tell the poor nations they couldn’t do the same. Second, climate change became an American political football, since in populist lore, Republicans=business; business=environmental damage, the Republicans suddenly found themselves blamed for global warming. They then blundered by denying it–although initially and for quite some time after that, the “science” behind it was badly done and inconclusive.

The point I’m trying to make is that a heavy dose of skepticism was the proper attitude to take up until fairly recently. The fact that the debate became so politicized stifled the scientific aspect. “It sure seems to be getting warmer these days” wasn’t, and maybe still isn’t, enough reason to spend the equivalent of the entire US GNP for twenty years and throw sand into the gears of every developing economy in the world. It’s a big, complex issue, and warrants much further study.

Of course that only works by willfully ignoring what researchers have found in the last 60 years.

Those who mention the very high probability that Greenland will be lovely always forget that other areas of the world will not be so.

Well, I guess you would love to live in a world were human waste was not disposed, one should not ignore the costs of adaptation or the cost of controlling the issue vs the costs of doing nothing.

A society can indeed make changes to control a problem brought by modern civilization as scientist Richard Alley reports:

Of course, but not at the level the Republicans in congress are doing it, it is worse than inaction, they push for a complete refusal of the evidence of even the first points you mentioned…

The total amount of landmass that is not arable due to extreme cold climate is much greater than the amount where it is not arable due to extreme heat. Global warming would increase the amount of the world’s arable land.

I’m not going to bother to CITE CITE CITE here because there are other factors involved, including the fertility of existing farmland, and the net effect of global warming on the world’s crop yields could well be negative. I merely wish to point out that the simple premise, “Global warming is bad” would need to be proved with scientific rigor as well (despite the fact that popular thinking treats that as a given).

I think we need to deal with this more, no, the science was actually very good, even from the 70’s, most of the published science papers on the issue actually predicted that warming was coming, (the item that in the 70’s most scientists predicted global cooling was actually popular media getting it wrong.)

Many experts on the matter already told us many times before Muller came to verify this that the science was very well done and not inconclusive.

As Michael Mann and others pointed out:

As even Republican scientists like Emmanuel notices, there are other reasons why the Republican party has gone against the science, and there are made by the descendants of the same ones that seeded doubt on taking any action against the tobacco industry.

Of course that is the arctic, as pointed before, other areas will not do “that nicely”

Sure. But what about the effects of global warming on Canada, Alaska, Siberia, Greenland, and Scandinavia?

I’m always surprised that the study of GLOBAL warming doesn’t take into account its effects on the entire GLOBE. The list you give only mentions harmful effects to existing, settled, farmed landmasses.

As far as the Arctic goes, I would imagine that an ocean exposed to sunlight, i.e., not covered by an ice cap, and yes, warmer, would be more fecund than the existing state of the Arctic. You’ve already mentioned the opening of the Northwest Passage, a benefit which would be very significant in view of the shortcut it would provide for shipping between the developed and the emerging economies.

And far as the polar bears are concerned, they’ve already come ashore and started to mate with Alaskan brown bears. So we’ll still have polar bears, just fewer white ones.

Already mentioned, and not impressive when one realizes that the changes will not lead to a new stable climate to enjoy and “increase crops” until we have stabilized the constant increase of global warming gases.

Nope, I and many did before and in this thread also, what it is clear is that you do not check the cites.

Uncertain economies you mean, and thank you for admitting that your snide of “doesn’t take into account its effects on the entire GLOBE” was a silly one to make.

You’re absolutely right…But, noone can prove that the sun will rise tomorrow and that the next time I “drop” an apple, it won’t float up instead of dropping down. That is because science is not about proof, it is about looking at the totality of the evidence and using this to construct and test theories and models for how things work. It has served us very well…but if you want to reject science when it disagrees with your ideological prejudices, go right ahead. Just don’t pretend that your view is in any way scientific because it is not. It is anti-science.

But, we are forgetting the ones that still insist the science is incomplete, as the editorial pointed out, it is not hard to find out who are the ones in the spheres of government that are still denying the evidence:

No, I meant what I said–“emerging.” And I “admit” no such thing. Don’t use junior high school debate tactics.

In any case, this particular football can be kicked back and forth, but I see NO study done on the effects of global warming on the entire GLOBE. I only see how it would affect certain areas. Again, I’ve seen no studies of the possible benefits (or for that matter, the effects at all other than drowning polar bears) for the Arctic/sub-Arctic landmasses. But of course, since global warming examination has been politically driven, that only makes sense since the population of those areas is small. If all the Nigerians get cooked, it doesn’t matter much if there are also a lot of happy Eskimos basking in the sun, at least not to the U.N.

My point is that no study that I am aware of has considered the totality of all effects of global warming. The net may be positive or negative–there will definitely be losers and winners. It also may be only slightly or moderately negative–not enough to justify drastic, hugely costly action. I, personally, don’t know one way or the other, but IMHO it’s information we need before we act.

First of all, it’s clear and expected that the earth is warming. It was warming before man was pumping CO2 into the atmosphere. At this point in the inter-glacial period, it’s not surprising at all that the Earth is warming up. So the fact that we’re setting temperature records is by no means proof of global warming.

That said, it’s also pretty clear that man is contributing significantly to a rise in atmospheric CO2, and basic atmospheric chemistry tells us that this should contribute to additional warming.

There is widespread scientific consensus that the above statements are correct. Those surveys of scientists used to build that consensus basically limit themselves to these basic facts - the earth is warming, and man is contributing to it. Republicans who deny this are flying in the face of reasonable science. Of course, the science isn’t settled, because science never is. But at some point, the preponderance of evidence is great enough that you have to accept global warming as the null hypothesis.


From there it starts to get more speculative, and the error bars get bigger. Extrapolating current trends 100 years into the future requires assumptions that are pretty shaky. Making claims of catastrophic change puts you on the outside edge of the scientific envelope in terms of what we can reasonably say. We still don’t know enough about long-term feedback mechanisms, how long CO2 stays in the atmosphere, how the ocean currents and their changes play a role, etc. We’re discovering new things about the atmosphere every day.

In addition, predicting what will happen in the future also requires being able to predict the amount of CO2 we will emit over that period, and that is subject to a lot of errors. Hell, CO2 emissions in the States are down 20% over what was predicted just five years ago, due to a rapid shift to natural gas and the recession. Market forces did it, not the government. For all we know, there will be an economic collapse in China in the next few years and global CO2 consumption will decline dramatically. We don’t know when fossil fuels will become non-competitive with alternatives. There’s a lot we don’t know.

Also, jumping from “the earth is warming and man is causing it” to specific policy proposals like carbon taxes assumes that we have the ability to control global CO2 output at all. The ‘green economy’ that was supposed to save us is a bust. All those subsidized solar and wind companies are going broke.

It’s sheer arrogance to believe that a few technocrats in Washington and Brussels can change global CO2 emissions when the large producers like China, India, and Russia will not play ball. Hell, even many of the ‘green’ countries that signed on to Kyoto wouldn’t enforce it when it became clear that it would have real economic consequences. Asking people to go against their own economic interest for the next 100 years is folly.

“Doing something” when you don’t know what the hell you’re doing has a good chance of backfiring on you. For example, there is now a black market in one of the most potent greenhouse gases, thanks to European carbon trading credits. cite. It turns out, the smart people in Brussels put too high a price on greenhouse gases, making it profitable for companies to actually manufacture the gas specifically to sell to other companies so they can turn it in and claim the credits. The result is a large flow of money to China, and the production of more greenhouse gases than would otherwise happen.

In addition, CO2 restrictions in the U.S. have every chance of increasing global carbon output, by diverting production from relatively energy-efficient factories in America to less energy efficient factories in China and elsewhere.

Consider a plant in the U.S. that makes a product that has $1 in energy costs, and $2 in labor costs. China can make the same product for $2 in energy costs, and 1 in labor. So there's an equilibrium, and production is roughly shared between the two countries. But now, a well-meaning but stupid regulator in the U.S. decides to slap a .50 carbon tax on the product. What happens? Manufacturing moves to China, and the energy footprint of each product DOUBLES. How much of that has to happen before carbon taxes in the U.S. actually make global CO2 emissions worse, and results in little more than a transfer of wealth and jobs from America to China? The answer is that no one really knows, because markets respond chaotically to command inputs from central authorities.

But before we even try to implement carbon taxes or other solutions, we have to know if the cost of doing so is less than the cost of the damage that will result if we do nothing. And that is even more speculative than the long-term predictions of change, because even if the change happens as predicted, trying to model the cost of warming is damned near impossible. One hundred years is a long time to allow people to adapt, and a long time for inventions and technological change.

In addition, damage that happens in 100 years has to be discounted in present-value terms, just as a gift that you’ll receive in 20 years has a much smaller present-day value. We can’t even agree on what a reasonable discount rate is, because if you use historical economic discount rates you rapidly run into diminishing returns on current investments. So environmentalists have to convince us that the discount rate in this case must be much lower, and so far they haven’t made a good case for that.

In short, we’re a LONG way from “Climate change is real” to, “We should pass laws X, Y, and Z”. The “we need to do SOMETHING” crowd has their head in the sand just as much as do the ‘deniers’ who won’t even admit the Earth is warming.

But here’s the rub: The reason the left is fully in support of accepting the most radical theories of climate change is because the proposed solutions are things they want to do anyway - more taxes on business, wealth transfers from the wealthy northern countries to the poorer equatorial countries, ‘sustainable development’, alternative energy and ‘green jobs’, a stronger global government, more centralized control of industry, etc. To them, climate change is the perfect tool for making the changes they want to make in any case.

And many conservatives understand that climate change gives the left a great argument for seizing the commanding heights of the economy, so they oppose it regardless of what the facts are. So the entire debate is infused with politics, which makes it very hard to see the science through the smoke - on both sides.

Anyway, arguing the science of this has been done many times. Maybe it would be more fruitful to start from the assumption that global warming is happening, and debate actual policy. And of course, the burden of proof should be on those who want to make these changes, to show how they will actually reduce global carbon emissions, and to show us how these plans are cost-effective compared to doing nothing.

Most importantly, I would like to know how anything the west does will do ANY good if China, Russia, and India won’t play ball. Are they ready to threaten war to force change in these countries? Perhaps blockade oil supplies, and bomb coal plants? Just how are you going to get emerging countries to agree to cut off their own path to first-world status?

I can think of one way - nuclear power. I can’t think of any others. But the left won’t even consider that option, which suggests to me that their real agenda is the taxes and industrial policy and all the rest, even if it doesn’t do a damned thing to stop global warming.

If global warming is as dangerous as you say, then why don’t the western countries start subsidizing nuclear development in the emerging nations? Why not shift to nuclear power at home? Obama’s stimulus package would have paid for about 200 nuclear plants - which would be enough energy to power every vehicle in America. But the greens have taken that completely off the table, because they believe it’s too dangerous. My response would be, “Compared to what you say is going to happen with global warming? Because there aren’t any other solutions to that which make any sense.”

Ok then you are serious, seriously pushing the straw man.

Why do you think it is called **global **warming? I think you are very late to the party, it was by taking into account what are the most likely effects of global warming gases all over the world that raised the concern of the scientists, it is on very specific effects or pieces of the puzzle were you see the skeptics making a lot of hay. And Fake skeptics like Inhofe still making hay out of the whole deal.

Thank you for a reasoned and cogent discussion of the totality of the issue.

As I attempted to say but was not nearly so deft at doing so as you were, the fundamental thesis, “Global warming is bad” still needs to be examined, as in, is it really bad at all, bad for whom?, etc. And even if it is “bad,” would it be as net costly to mankind as the solutions that would (hopefully) arrest it?

As I said above, what we need is an objective study of the totality of the effects of global warming, without bias toward the political left or right, without bias to or against the developing or the developed economies, and without considering the effects on some areas of the globe as more important than the effects on others. Maybe the visiting Vulcans can do that for us as I can’t see there being such a thing as an impartial human study anytime soon.

You are obviously ideologically driven as well as heavily emotionally invested in this issue, so I won’t attempt to reason with you, other than to note that many things are named inaccurately. But I didn’t say that the name was inaccurate, only that a study of what is purported to be a global phenomenon should include its effects on the entire globe, not just selected areas. Whoops, sorry, I used reason there.

And now that we got the usual ideological nonsense* items surrounded by good info from **Sam Stone ** one should notice once again that you also skipped the fact that Kerry Emmanuel is conservative scientist ideology is not a reason why I came to this issue, it was logic and science.

And you do not have reason there, once again, scientists like Calendar and Plass applied science and research to come with the best estimates of what the whole globe would do with an increase of CO2 gases, as it turns out, most of the skeptical points done to still go against the conclusions of what those early scientists proposed that could take place globally were counteracted by noticing warming or cooling incidents in selected areas, not only geographic areas, but in time.

The saddest thing is that even when scientists go back to look for data that shows how global those incidents were the fake skeptics still think that selected areas trounce what has been found taking place globally.

Getting back to subject, the issue now is how to deal with the ones that continue to deny even the basics of the science in our government.