30 March 2011

Global Temperature Trends


THIS POST FIRST APPEARED 9 DEC 2009. SEE THIS FOR MORE.


In an earlier post I made the case that one needs to know only two things about the science of climate change to begin asking whether accelerating decarbonization of the economy might be worth doing:
  • Carbon dioxide has an influence on the climate system.
  • This influence might well be negative for things many people care about.
That is it. An actual decision to accelerate decarbonization and at what rate will depend on many other things, like costs and benefits of particular actions unrelated to climate and technological alternatives. In this post I am going to further explain my views, based on an interesting question posed in that earlier thread. What would my position be if it were to be shown, hypothetically, that the global average surface temperature was not warming at all, or in fact even cooling (over any relevant time period)? Would I then change my views on the importance of decarbonizing the global energy system?

And the answer is ... no!

My concern about the potential effects of human influences on the climate system are not a function of global average warming over a long-period of time or of predictions of continued warming into the future. A point that my father often makes, and I think that he is absolutely right, is that what maters are the effects of human influences on the climate system on human and ecological scales, not at the global scale. No one experiences global average temperature and it is very poorly correlated with things that we do care about in specific places at specific times.

Consider the following thought experiment. Divide the world up into 1,000 grid boxes of equal area. Now imagine that the temperature in each of 500 of those boxes goes up by 20 degrees while the temperature in the other 500 goes down by 20 degrees. The net global change is exactly zero (because I made it so). However, the impacts would be enormous. Let's further say that the changes prescribed in my thought experiment are the direct consequence of human activity. Would we want to address those changes? Or would we say, ho hum, it all averages out globally, so no problem? The answer is obvious and is not a function of what happens at some global average scale, but what happens at human and ecological scales.

In the real world, the effects of increasing carbon dioxide on human and ecological scales are well established, and they include a biogechemical effect on land ecosystems with subsequent effects on water and climate, as well as changes to the chemistry of the oceans. Is it possible that these effects are benign? Sure. Is it also possible that these effects have some negatives? Sure. These two factors alone would be sufficient for one to begin to ask questions about the worth of decarbonizing the global energy system. But greenhouse gas emissions also have a radiative effect that, in the real world, is thought to be a net warming, all else equal and over a global scale. However, if this effect were to be a net cooling, or even, no net effect at the global scale, it would not change my views about a need to consider decarbonizing the energy system one bit. There is an effect -- or effects to be more accurate -- and these effects could be negative.

Of course, not mentioned yet is that action to improve adaptation to climate doesn't depend at all on a human influence on the climate system, warming or cooling or whatever. Adaptation makes good sense regardless. So clearly my policy views on adaptation are largely insensitive to any issues related to global average temperature change.

The debate over climate change has many people on both sides of the issue wrapped up in discussing global average temperature trends. I understand this as it is an icon with great political symbolism. It has proved a convenient political battleground, but the reality is that it should matter little to the policy case for decarbonization. What matters is that there is a human effect on the climate system and it could be negative with respect to things people care about. That is enough to begin asking whether we want to think about accelerating decarbonization of the global economy.

To fully assess whether accelerated decarbonization makes sense would require us to ask, are there any other good reasons why accelerated decarbonization might make sense? And it turns out, there are many.

50 comments:

josh said...

I see your logic as being exactly equivalent to this:

Soccer has an influence on the economic system.

This influence might well be negative for things many people care about.

That is it. An actual decision to accelerate a global ban on soccer and at what rate will depend on many other things, like costs and benefits of particular actions unrelated to sports and entertainment alternatives.

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-1-josh

Let's set aside the silliness about soccer being negative for things people care about.

But, yes, I think the analogy is fine.

Frontiers of Faith and Science said...

Roger,
I think you have painted yourself into a corner on this.
So by your standard we should halt it now.
Everything you say after wards to support decarbonization is, in fact, not well proven.
The points you make that seem to have legs is that adaptation makes sense and that humans influence the environment and cliamte system in many ways.

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-3-FoFaS

Please read again. Where do I say anything about "halt it now"? And what does that even mean?

Here is what I actually wrote: "That is enough to begin asking whether we want to think about accelerating decarbonization of the global economy."

Raven said...

Roger,

I disgree with your premise that possible negative effects are a justification to stop doing something.

For example, urbanization and agriculture have wiped out ecosystems on a large scale. This has some negative effects but they are more than balanced by the positive. Yet, according to your logic, we must immediately engage in de-urbanization and de-agriculture-aztion because of these negative effects.

Clearly that is nonense yet that argument is no different than your rational for reducing CO2.

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-5-Raven

Please read again.

I said that possible negative effects are a reason to start doing something.

Is my piece really so poorly written that you can take from it that "according to your logic, we must immediately engage in de-urbanization and de-agriculture-aztion because of these negative effects"?

Roddy said...

Roger, I must confess it's not hitting me either with the usual awful clarity that you manage.

'There is an effect -- or effects to be more accurate -- and these effects could be negative.'

I'm not sure that persuades me into considering action. When someone says 'we mustn't have nuclear power because there will be effects when it occasionally goes wrong and those effects WILL be negative', all that does is persuade me to ask 'how bad do you think?'

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-7-Roddy

Fair enough.

But there are two points here. One is the one that you highlight -- "How bad do you think?"

The other is "Are there other reasons for thinking about action?"

Surely the risks of nuclear power are not the only important factor in decision making (even if some say otherwise). There are others, notably financial costs.

The point here is that issues related to climate science lead us to asking questions of policy, not answering them (and certainly not how to answer them).

Majorajam said...

"In the real world, the effects of increasing carbon dioxide on human and ecological scales are well established, and they include a biogechemical effect on land ecosystems with subsequent effects on water and climate, as well as changes to the chemistry of the oceans. Is it possible that these effects are benign? Sure."

Really? You know, the word 'possible' is only so elastic Roger. I think the more revealing verbiage comes in comments wherein you decree as silly the potential that soccer might be negative for things people care about. If that's the working definition of implausible then count me as at a loss.

The mainstream of the science community predicted rapid and significant temperature rise by consequence of rising GHG concentrations from as far back as the 1970s and it has unequivocally come to pass. Just as the two century old physics anticipate. Meanwhile the other 'negatives' associated with our voracious appetite for fossil fuels are legion and in many cases equally unassailable.

And we are to interpret this shoulder shrugging equivocation as reasonability? Really???

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-9-majorajam

Not sure I understand your point.

On the spectrum of possible impacts of CO2, see my reference to Steve Schneider making this exact same point in TCF.

On the negative consequences of soccer: Perhaps you are unaware of the trafficking of young players from Africa to Europe by unscrupulous agents, or mafia-style violence and gambling, especially in Asia, or corruption in FIFA ... these issues indeed raise questions about whether there ought to be football-related regulations or governance policies.

On the other negatives associated with fossil fuels, I suggest rereading this post.

Thanks!

Matt said...

I agree that your conditions are sufficient to start thinking about decarbonization. But that's not really saying much. "I don't like the smell of diesel exhaust" is also sufficient reason to start thinking about it.

However, I think you're overstating our certainty about "the effects of increasing carbon dioxide on human and ecological scales."

Majorajam said...

Roger, I don't think the fault for the misunderstanding is mine. I was struck that you counted it "possible" that our fossil fuel dependence was "benign". No more no less.

Of course, strictly speaking "possible" doesn't rule out very much, hence my interest in your comment about soccer and silliness., wherein you made explicit your calibration of the word (to exclude as implausible the potential that professional soccer is a 'negative' thing).

Your post and references don't speak to my criticism of it.

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-12-majorajam

A good rule in blog discussions is "don't make stuff up about what someone else has said"

You write: "I was struck that you counted it "possible" that our fossil fuel dependence was "benign"."

I think that if you re-read this post that you will see no such statement, nor anything remotely close.

Thanks.

Roger said...

Roger:

You say: “In the real world, the effects of increasing carbon dioxide on human and ecological scales are well established”. I don't agree with this statement, and apparently you have problems with it too because you go on to admit that we don’t know whether these effects are going to be positive or negative. In other words, the real-world effects of increasing CO2 really aren’t well established at all.

And if the effects of increasing CO2 aren’t well established then your case for decarbonizing the global economy rests entirely on the precautionary principle - we should do it simply because we don’t understand what the future impacts of CO2 on climate, humans or ecosytems might be, or for that matter even how the earth’s climate works. Or maybe I’m missing something.

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-14-Roger

That there are effects is indeed well established. What those effects will be and their significance over decades and centuries is of course subject to a wide ranging debate. Many experts do believe those effects will be profoundly negative.

If you think that I am invoking the precautionary principle then I would suspect that you are new here. If so, welcome, but please do your homework before trying to characterize my views ;-)

Thanks!

Matt said...

-15- Roger Pielke, Jr.

I'd like to believe that I'm not new here. I wouldn't disagree with your comment #15, but the statement in your post really does seem to imply more than the establishment of the existence of effects.

One example might be the effect of more CO2 on marine life, in specific with respect to shell building. The conventional wisdom seems to be that "acidification" leads to thinner shells. But recent research seems to indicate that the increased carbon actually leads to the animals having an easier time building thicker shells.

The subtleties that come from simple scientific principles (i.e., CO2 traps radiation) are difficult to predict, and often extremely nonlinear.

You may not have meant that the details and scale of the effects were well established, but that's the impression that I got.

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-16-Matt

Yes, fair enough.

I'd prefer to distinguish effects (e.g., rising CO2 concentrations, biogeochemical influences on plants, changes to the chemistry of the ocean) from impacts, such as shell thickness, crop productivity, storm occurrence etc.

I do see how this can be unclear and/or subtle, so thanks for your comment.

Mark B. said...

The reason - the only reason - we are here is because of the great global warming scare. We are not visiting the Roger Pielke Jr blog because of our concern over ocean acidification or the effects of soot particles on human health. I think that's a fair statement. Without global warming, Rodger Pielke Jr. is just another college professor.

So let's get this straight. Over the last couple of decades, we've been told that we need to decarbonize the world's economy because if we don't, we will destroy the planet. Millions dying, coastal cities destroyed, dogs and cats living together. And the response has been? A lot of talk. Germany - that world leader in global warming activism - burns more coal than in the past, and with anti-nuclear feelings in ascension, will have to burn more still. The same is true around the world.

So with the utter failure of the IPPC-driven program - in Copenhagen and beyond - now you tell us that no, the planet WILL NOT be destroyed? Millions will not die? And Manhattan will not be part of New York Harbor? But now we should do what we didn't do when threatened with Armageddon?

You seem to have left cost out of the equation. If global warming actually would threaten life on the planet, then it would be well worth out while to tax ourselves into penury and remake the modern industrial civilization to stop it - the AGW advocates are certainly right about that.

But if you take away the Apocalypse, then what is the correct cost we should be willing to pay for any potential benefits gained? How many jobs should be eliminated now to gain that benefit?

I spent the winter (and it's not over yet here in Boston) with my thermostat set at 50-52 degrees. How about you? I got the oil tank filled a few weeks ago and it cost me $600 for the winter. I'm sorry, but you can't squeeze any more blood out of this rock.

Unless you can pretty well guarantee plagues of Egypt, I just can't help you. There are homeless shelters, children's cancer research, AIDS care, and a never-ending list of demands on our altruistic wallets. The global warming project, absent, you know, global warming, is not going to be high on my list.

Whatever happens, I'll be dead before then, and those people will have to work it out for themselves. I dealt with air raid drills during the 1960s - they can deal with a CO2 surplus.

Gerard Harbison said...

Let me throw a different spanner in the works.

I have no issue with the reality of AGW. And I agree the effect are likely to be geographically separated. What happens when the net positive effects for some countries (e.g., for the sake of argument, the US) outweigh the net negatives, and the net negatives for others (e.g. the Maldives) are really bad?

Politically speaking, will the US take an economic hit to decarbonize, in order to save the Maldive Islanders?

The discussion about localization of negatives becomes a whole lot more complicated when the negatives and positives are also politically separated.

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-19- Gerard Harbison

Indeed, the issues of "winners and losers" is important (and I discuss them in Ch 5 of TCF).

However, the intractability of many of these issues is why I argue for obliquity in response (Ch 9 TCF).

Majorajam said...

So your claim, Roger, is that this

"I was struck that you counted it "possible" that our fossil fuel dependence was "benign"."

is nothing like this:

"In the real world, the effects of increasing carbon dioxide on human and ecological scales are well established, and they include a biogechemical effect on land ecosystems with subsequent effects on water and climate, as well as changes to the chemistry of the oceans. Is it possible that these effects are benign? Sure."

Nor remotely close, (this term, I do not think it means what you think it means). A good rule in blog discussions is that dissembling and prevarication are not consistent with good faith argumentation.

Frontiers of Faith and Science said...

Roger,
Good point and thank you for clarifying it.
From my view we have been doing something that results in decarbonization for a long time- since the early 1950's. If our enviro fear mongering friends would let us, we could do much more.
As you have pointed out in your excellent book and here as well, decarbonization has been occurring worldwide. With R&D into advanced nuclear power, we could accelerate this trned nicely.

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-21-majorajam

Well, I tried ;-)

Roger said...

Roger:

In your reply to my comment #14 you took me to task for not having done my homework and for claiming that you were invoking the precautionary principle when you weren't.

Well, I can't say that I've read everything you've ever written on this subject, but in your 2009 post you did say that Thomas Friedman got it "absolutely correct" when he wrote: "When I see a problem that has even a 1 percent probability of occurring and is irreversible and potentially catastrophic, I buy insurance. That is what taking climate change seriously is all about." And in this thread you added: "What matters is that there is a human effect on the climate system and it could be negative with respect to things people care about. That is enough to begin asking whether we want to think about accelerating decarbonization of the global economy."

I apologize if I mischaracterized your views on decarbonization, but these statements do appear to invoke the precautionary principle.

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-24-Roger

No worries, I don't think anyone has read everything I've written;-)

I am not a fan of the precautionary principle. I discuss it here:
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v419/n6906/full/419433a.html

If you do not have access I will see if I can get an accessible copy up on my pubs page.

Thanks!

matthew hincman said...

"In the real world, the effects of increasing carbon dioxide on human and ecological scales are well established, and they include a biogechemical effect on land ecosystems with subsequent effects on water and climate, as well as changes to the chemistry of the oceans. Is it possible that these effects are benign? Sure."

I read the "Sure" as somewhat sarcastic. Perhaps I have been reading this blog too long, and think I know how Roger's voice inflects when he says that. But really, the "Sure" implies to me (to which I agree) - it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter if the IMPACT of the observed increase in CO2 appears to be benign (in published, peer reviewed literature or not). The fact that we can detect the increase (ocean acidification & atmospheric CO2 content) should give us pause and initiate a move to decarbonize the economy. And this should be done taking into consideration all the various local, regional, and economic effects that decarbonizing will bring with it.

So while I do believe that the anthropogenic increases in atmospheric CO2 can have a negative effect, it doesn't matter to me in terms of decarbonization of the economy. It just makes sense to move towards a decarbonized economy.

The idea of the footprint has always been a good analogy. Or "Leave no trace" when camping. It's not that all of our actions will adversely effect the natural environment, but it is best practice to walk as lightly as possible.

Matt said...

-26- matthew hincman

"The fact that we can detect the increase (ocean acidification & atmospheric CO2 content) should give us pause and initiate a move to decarbonize the economy."

This really begs the question. We can detect evidence of a lot of things that we do. That doesn't mean we should stop those things.

OT: "Ocean acidification" is a horribly misleading term, at least until the ocean is actually becoming acidic. I've never heard anyone say that increasing water temperature from, say, 50 to 60 deg is water vaporization.

matthew hincman said...

-27- Matt

I agree that we shouldn't stop everything we do - we can't! I will not apologize for being, or for being a human, and needing food, water, and air to survive. Nor do I think we should stop doing all "those things" that we need to do to get food, water and air to survive.

But there are always better ways.

For decades the quality of the air we breathe in the US - especially in urban areas - has gotten markedly better. Better emission controls and technologies in cars are but one example of "doing better" and observing a better environment to be in.

OT: I agree about the "Ocean Acidification" term. A bit heavy handed, and I use it because it is in the common vocabulary of the debate. :)

Sharon F. said...

You know I am not a pedant, so I don't want to sound pedantic here, but Roger said "That is enough to begin asking whether we want to think about accelerating decarbonization of the global economy."

He said "begin asking whether we want to think about accelerating" not "turning our economy inside out in the pursuit of. "

I think any time we use a technology, say agriculture, and find out that some impacts are negative (say using certain chemicals) we need to begin thinking about alternative ways to get our needs met (other chemicals, other crops, integrated pest management, genetically engineered crops and so on and so forth.)

We examine and think about alternatives and whether they would work and how much they would cost. So what is so different about climate as a potential impact? Just that it is more difficult to put cause and effect together. This can be a small or an overwhelming problem, depending on your perspective.

Roddy said...

Interesting comments. 'The fact that we can detect the increase (ocean acidification & atmospheric CO2 content) should give us pause and initiate a move to decarbonize the economy.' My instinct is to agree with Matt who questioned this statement. It does need more justification.

Hannah said...

I simply read the piece to mean the following:
1) The climate system is complex and there is a lot that we do not know, however the CO2 that we put into the atmosphere stays there for many years and greenhouse gas emissions have a radiative “effect”. The fact that there are effects and that these may be negative should be enough. When in doubt think “no-regrets”.
2) Global average warming (or cooling for that matter) is not necessarily the correct or only indicator of the impact of increasing carbon dioxide;
3) There are proven effects of increasing carbon dioxide on human and ecological scales;
4) There are various other reasons why “a clean-power economy” makes sense (not relying on oil from Middle East, Africa etc would be one and am I the only one who has spent time coughing my way through the streets of Delhi?)
5) Given 2) our decision as how to “respond” or the decision as to if there is indeed a need to respond should not be “tied” to global average warming and given 1), 3) and 4) we should accelerate decarbonisation of the economy and try to identify “win-win scenarios”, yep, that is the hard one, keeping an eye on what is realistically possible to achieve and at what cost (“stopping everything we do” would clearly not fall within “no-regrets” :o) . Makes sense to me.

DeWitt said...

matt #27,

If you change the pH of a solution from 9 to 8, what do you call it other than acidification, making it less basic? Avoiding the term acidification for a reduction in pH would be like calling an increase in temperature 'making it less cool' rather than heating.

Vaporization is a phase change so your comparison to heating is invalid.

Matt said...

-32- DeWitt,

I think you missed my point, which is that basic to acid is also a state change.

I suppose "more acidic" may be a common synonym for "reducing pH," which is what I'd call it. At that point, it's simply misleading, since the ocean isn't actually acidic at all, nor is it expected to, AFAIK.

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

Just a follow up on the precautionary principle, as promised:

http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/admin/publication_files/resource-20-2002.19.pdf

Robert said...

Roger, I wonder what your policy recommendations would have been had you been alive during the MWP or LIA. You just might be a policy wonk in search of a policy. Dangerous

DeWitt said...

matt #33,

It isn't a state change, unlike vaporization/condensation. For aqueous solutions, activity of hydrogen and hydroxyl ions vary smoothly between pH 8 and 6. There is no step change and no step change in the enthalpy as would be associated with a true thermodynamic state change like vaporization or fusion.

People who complain about the use of the term ocean acidification are arguing semantics, not science.

Frontiers of Faith and Science said...

DeWitt,
In the same spirit, whoever is claiming there is significant acidification in the oceans is accepting faith as evidence. And whoever is claiming to have found strong evidence of current harm is engaging in fiction writing.
Call it what you will, but to call it much is to make much ado about very little.
OA is, like so much regarding the CO2 obsession, a marketing term designed to raise fear. If it happens to be a legitimate term, it is a coincidence.

Frontiers of Faith and Science said...

Roger,
Given the ambiguous (at best) risks of carbonization, maybe more attention should be paid to the risks and costs of decarbonization as a specific policy goal, rather than a natural outcome of improving technology?

Hannah,
In your comment to justify the precautionary principal, you note that CO2 may be bad, but ignore the realistic scale of 'bad'. Plowing a field of open grassland into a corn field has bad impacts as well. Do we stop farming?
To base action because something may be bad, when as the topic of this thread points out, one of the main underpinnings of 'bad'- temperatures doing unusual or dangerous things is not happening- seems unlikely to result in 'win-win'.
You claim there are proven effects of CO2 on humans. At current or projected levels of CO2, what would those effects be?
Beyond what appears to be a net increase in biomass worldwide, what environmental impacts at this time are due to CO2?

Guigue said...

Hi Roger,

Good point about global warming. It's hard to understand the global temperature deviations already measured, when one compares the instant extremes (+50C in Sahara, -50C in Antarctica) or when one compares the local extremes during a year. Then, 0.7C degrees means exactly what?

But, since you are an environment especiallist, what do you think about "green" technologies like biofuel? I worry about the amount of water vapor that would be emitted when **all** automobiles, trains, ships, planes, move to bioenergies. What can be the impact in the "demonized" greenhouse effect, what about weather?

supergreenfrog_99 said...

Roger, I agree with your ideas on decarbonization, but only in isolation - to address a few specific problems. The threats to human well-being are many (from super volcanoes to malnutrition). We can't ever plan for all contingencies, but we can make the human population more robust. If you widen your lens, don't you think there is a case for accelerated carbonization?

ferdberple said...

Doesn't the argument for de-carbonization apply to all human activities?

For example, should we not also "de-land" the economy because it might cause harm? Every year humans are using an increasing amount of the land of the earth, converting it from a natural state to agriculture or cities. How do we justify "de-carbonizing" without "de-landing" the economy?

The same also can be said for water. Should we not also "de-water" the economy, because every year we are using more and more of the fresh water resources?

Ultimately, where does this argument lead? It leads to the ultimate solution. "De-people" the economy to save nature, because people may do harm to the environment. As soon as we value the natural environment more than people, it is easy to justify the death of people to "save the world". Eugenics, Collective Farming, Hitler, Pol Pot, this solution is nothing new.

Concentrated energy has allowed humans to populate the earth in ever increasing densities with surprisingly little damage to the environment. Image that locust were to cover the earth to the same density as humans. The environmental damage would be staggering, as they would quickly exhaust their food supplies. Humans in contrast are able to make use of fossil fuels to grow sufficient quantities of food. In addition, there is sufficient surplus that a large portion of this human production is consumed each year by non-human species.

ferdberple said...

The paleo record shows that the oceans are currently at near record high pH levels. Given that life has evolved by and large at lower pH levels than at present, it is hard to see how a very slight lowering of pH levels will have any significant harmful effect. If anything, the current high pH levels are more likely harming life, because they are abnormal on evolutionary time scales.

see: Seewater pH, Richard Zeebe, 2001

mhummer said...

Dewitt # 32

"If you change the pH of a solution from 9 to 8, what do you call it other than acidification, making it less basic?"

Making it less basic would be more appropriate. By your logic if the pH changed from 3 to 4 we would have to call it "basicification" rather than calling it less acidic. How would you describe the impact of a pH 13 moving to a pH 14? It obviously has nothing to do with the acidic side of the pH chart.

You being a chemist know there is a line at 7 on on the pH chart, 7 being neutral anything higher basic and anything lower acidic. To try and compare this to heat and hotter or colder is flawed, because there is no line above which everything is considered hot and below which everything is considered cold.

The reason people use "Ocean Acidification" is simply for scare purposes. If you told people they either had to drink an acid or a base I bet most people would choose the base. If you told them they either had to drink lemon juice or bleach I bet most would drink lemon juice.

DeWitt said...

mhummer #43,


"The reason people use "Ocean Acidification" is simply for scare purposes."

Excuse me, but so what? Unless the term is completely incorrect, which it isn't, then you don't get to define the terms your opponent uses. We see this in public debate over many other contentious issues where each side chooses the most positive form to define themselves. Each side is pro- something while their opponents are anti- something. As I said, it's semantics not science.

Matt said...

-44- DeWitt,

When someone uses a misleading term (and yes, you need to consider the audience), I think it's appropriate to correct the semantics.

This blog isn't really about science, anyways, but policy, which, of course, means politics. Rhetoric matters. Misleading rhetoric matters, too.

After the destruction of trust in climate science, the last thing those guys should want is yet another way to mislead the public.

Frontiers of Faith and Science said...

DeWitt,
It is semantics. mhummer pegs it perfectly.
And the alleged problem of OA has
1- not been shown to be of any significance at all
2- to exist, as all AGW claims, buried in the noise
3- to be yet another of many props used by AGW promoters to keep the fear alive.

peter2108 said...

You are saying that energy policy can and should be developed without considering global warming at all? Consider (A) if emissions are not radically reduced we will all die, (B) if emissions are not radically reduced the planet will warm a bit more. (C) if emiisions are not reduced the planet will cool a bit. You say that your views on "decarbonizing the global energy system" would be unaffected by (B) or (C)(I take it that you view (A) as false). I wonder whether in fact you think that (B) is true and is undesirable and that we should pay higher costs to decarbonise than would be the case if (C) were true. And if so how much higher, a bit, a lot, billions?

DeWitt said...

Matt,
"When someone uses a misleading term (and yes, you need to consider the audience), I think it's appropriate to correct the semantics."

Good luck with that. Don't hold your breath.

Frontiers of Faith and Science said...

DeWitt,
From your comment to Matt, are you really comfortable with using misleading language to sell AGW?

Michael Tobis said...

Thanks for this.

There is discussion of this article, with which I agree, at my blog.

http://initforthegold.blogspot.com/2011/04/devil-his-due.html

It's interesting how uncomfortable it makes some people when I agree with you. Apparently on some views I am committed to disagree with you about everything. Apparently from the discussion here it works both ways.

A minor point: the use of the word "negative" to mean malign or unfortunate is confusing to those used to quantitative reasoning. For example, negative feedbacks are generally benign and positive feedbacks malign. A negative test for a virus is good news. And so on.

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