Zombie alert

We last encountered anti-Kyoto activist John Humphreys in this post when I tried to get him to correct a post that incorrectly claimed that satellites showed a cooling temperature trend and he responded by repeatedly accusing me of lying. Now he’s back with three more zombie arguments:

Humphreys’ comments on the Peiser affair are particularly misleading, since he is aware that Peiser admit that he had wrongly classified 33 of the 34 abstracts that he claimed disputed the consensus. Here’s what Humphreys wrote:

One part of the debate (used by Gore in his movie) comes from the study by Naomi Oreskes that claimed 0/928 abstracts for academic papers on global warming doubted the mainstream position and that 75% back the consensus view. Benny Peiser tried the same trick and found different results with less than 2% explicitly backing the consensus*, some showing skepticism and most giving no opinion (and 15 not even offering abstracts). Both papers have been criticised and both authors have admitted mistakes. Peiser continues to insist that Oreskes is wrong to claim unanimous support of the consensus view and cites numerous examples to the contrary.

Notice how he glosses over Peiser’s 97% error rate in classifying abstracts by saying that both authors had admitting mistakes. Oreskes’ mistakes* did not affect her point — that the debate about the consensus we see in newspapers does not exist in the scientific journals. Peiser’s mistakes, on the other hand, destroy his argument — the debate he claimed existed in the literature did not exist.

Humphreys also tells his readers that Peiser found that some of the abstracts showed skepticism without also telling them that Peiser eventually retracted this claim. As for Peiser’s claim that less than 2% (13 abstracts) explicitly supported the consensus, given how wrong Peiser was about the number that doubted the consensus you’d expect him to have gotten that wrong as well and he did. I did a quick check and looked at just two years worth of abstracts (2002 and 2003) and found 15 that explicitly accepted the consensus. And in any case, papers which implicitly accept the consensus, for example by proposing to mitigate global warming by sequestering CO2 should also count.

Humphreys then misrepresents Oreskes’ argument by suggesting that she said that there were no papers anywhere that disputed the consensus, when we she really said that there were no such papers in her sample, implying that such papers were very rare.

When I raised these points in Humphreys’ comments, true to form he responded by repeatedly accusing me of lying.

*For example, while there were 928 articles 24 28 did not have abstracts.

Comments

  1. #1 John Humphreys
    December 10, 2006

    Because you did lie Tim. Though more often you’re simply misleading.

    My original article you had a problem with was a parody. It even said “this is a parody”.

    You say “Peiser was wrong” as though that is relevant. We’ve all agreed Peiser was wrong. That doesn’t make Oreskes right. Peiser’s error rate is immaterial to the issue of whether skeptics have published. Once again you are missing the woods for the trees.

    People can read Oreskes paper for themselves and decide whether she was dismissing the existence of published skeptics (as Gore and I interpret her) or whether she has been tragically misunderstood.

    It would be wrong to use implicit endorsement of the science. It makes sense to consider “what if…” scenarios even if you’re less than 100% convinced that those scenarios will happen. One small example, when I analysed the benefits and costs of the Iraq war I assumed Saddam had WMDs even though I was skeptical. Tim seems to think that this proves I thought Saddam had WMDs. Obviously not true.

    Bray’s survey may have had problems, but it’s hard to believe that it is useless. You have a tendency to throw the baby out with the bathwater (when it’s convenient).

    Oregon: Doubt about catastrophic global warming is exactly the position I (and many other skeptics) hold, so it’s fair to site Oreskes. If the suvey denied the existence of warming or of co2 increases or the link then it would have got fewer signatures. But the skeptical position is more nuanced than that. And while most signers weren’t climate scientists, many where and the number of climate scientists is clearly indicated at the petition home. You are trying to make it look worthless, when it clearly does show skepticism.

    Interesting to see that you now admit that some of Oreskes papers don’t have abstracts. Originally you denied that and called Peiser a liar. I guess you were wrong on that — so using your tactics I can now safely dismiss everything you have ever said.

    I think the problem is that your’e an IT guy. If you write some wrong code then your whole program doesn’t work. Consequently, when you see some “wrong code” in an argument you assume the whole argument is worthless. That simply isn’t the case. You need to search for the point… not just search for an excuse to dismiss things you don’t like. And the point of Peiser, Oregon & others is to show what we all know is true — skeptics still exist and the debate hasn’t finished.

  2. #2 dhogaza
    December 10, 2006

    Intersting juxtaposition here …

    You say “Peiser was wrong” as though that is relevant. We’ve all agreed Peiser was wrong.

    And the point of Peiser, Oregon & others is to show what we all know is true — skeptics still exist and the debate hasn’t finished.

  3. #3 JB
    December 10, 2006

    John Humphreys said: “I think the problem is that you’re [Tim] an IT guy. If you write some wrong code then your whole program doesn’t work.”

    Nearly everyone who has ever used a computer understands that this is most certainly not the case.

    All software has bugs but most of it works nonethless.

    Microsoft bases their entire business model on this. They call it “good-enough software” . Though some might legitimately debate their “good-enough” claim it’s hard to deny that their stuff does work most of the time. If it did not, no one would buy it.

  4. #4 JB
    December 10, 2006

    It is no secret that there were serious problems with the Oregon Petition (pointed out by Tim Lambert and others), casting serious doubt on its validity and even on the motivations and honesty of those who distributed it.

  5. #5 Ken Miles
    December 10, 2006

    Bray’s survey may have had problems, but it’s hard to believe that it is useless. You have a tendency to throw the baby out with the bathwater (when it’s convenient).

    Actually Bray’s survey is pretty much the textbook defination of useless. An online survey which was rigged by a special interest group.

  6. #6 John Humphreys
    December 10, 2006

    Big day for me. Get called a zombie for being skeptical of a big scare and big government program (AGW). Get called a faggot for being skeptical of a big scare and a big government program (Iraq). I should get danger pay. :)

    Dhogaza, I missed your point. Just because Peiser made mistakes doesn’t mean everything he wrote was wrong. It’s exactly that attitude that I objected to with Lambert.

    JB, many people who use computers don’t code. When I learned some basic code back at my uni days a typo often crashed the program. Bloody painful. But perhaps that isn’t the norm. But to the issue you raised about Oregon, you link to the same article I linked to in my article and I fully consider everything written there. I used to think Lambert had destroyed various arguments when he claimed to. Then I started checking the links. He has vastly overstated his argument-destroying abilities.

    Ken — if you only had the Brey survey and you had to pick a percentage of scientists who were skeptical (meaning skeptical about the exact feedbacks, or the exact historical or estimated mix of forcings, or the harshness of the expected consequences or whether any cure will be worse than the disease) would you pick zero? Saying it’s rigged count be interpretted as saying it was intended to be misleading. I’m not sure if you were trying to say that, but I don’t think that’s true.

    I must admit that I’m not sure if I’m going to keep up with all the back and forth on this. I appreciate you guys being civil but life’s too short for me to keep getting trapped in long comments debates. Please feel free to check my articles (& associated comments) on global warming and you may perhaps be disapointed by Lambert’s continuous subtle misrepresentations. You can find my musings: http://australianlibertarian.wordpress.com/activities/kyoto-campaign/

    and my latest response to Stern: http://alsblog.wordpress.com/2006/12/07/gw-discounting-the-stern-report/

  7. #7 John Humphreys
    December 11, 2006

    Actually Ken, my question to you doesn’t make sense because I’ve defined skepticism more broadly than Bray did. He seems to just be asking about skepticism about the mix of forcings in historical changes. This narrow definition would obviously bias the results down.

    I suggest reading about the survey & the brief discussion about it at Real Climate before totally dismissing it (both linked in my original article). The results were slightly less skeptical than a previous study done by mail out (1996), which is consistent with greater certainty in the mainstream position. There was a simple test for duplicates (looking for identical answers) & self-selection bias could work in either direction. Some skeptics may have biased the results through self-selection, but I find it hard to believe that the skeptical position would have been zero without that problem. I don’t think anybody honestly thinks that is likely.

  8. #8 frankis
    December 11, 2006

    JH, if you define “skeptical” that loosely then everybody qualifies. This problem is worsened by the fact that if you don’t, dirty tricks campaigns such as the petition thingy vanish like the smoke and mirrors phenomena they are. The scientists’ opinions are represented fairly by the IPCC, while other people’s opinions are just that.

  9. #9 jb
    December 11, 2006

    “you link to the same article I linked to in my article and I fully consider everything written there.”

    The information provided about the Oregon petition ( in the wikipedia article that I linked to) has been confirmed time and again.

    That’s not stuff that Lambert made up. You seem to imply that I simply take lambert’s arguments at face value, without checking his claims against other sources. Perhaps you did this at one point, but I don’t.

    I think I’ll judge for myself, whether “He has vastly overstated his argument-destroying abilities”, thank you very much. In the case of the Oregon Petition, I don’t think so.

    Actually, I don’t take much (if any) stock in petitions when it comes to scientific issues anyway (I think they are rubbish, basically), but it’s downright silly to even be arguing about the Oregon petition now, given that it was distributed 7 years ago, when the science of global warming was less certyain than it is today.

    Who really cares what the people who signed that petition (most of them not even climate scientists and some not even scientists) thought back in 1999 or 2000?

    The only thing that matters is what most climate scientists think at this moment in time, based on the latest data. Science does not stand still so that the politicians and pundits can make their arguments (as as some seem to think).

  10. #10 John Humphreys
    December 11, 2006

    Frankis — I don’t think everybody counts as a skeptic under my definition. All reasonable people accept that temps have gone up, co2 has gone up and there is a link. I would classify the mainstream position is that most historical warming has been from co2, that feedback mechanisms will lead to a lambda of about 0.8 meaning a doubling of co2 leads to a 3 degree temp increase, that this will lead to significant (though not catastrophic) costs and that direct public policy aimed at reducing co2 can create more benefits than costs.

    Skeptics will disagree with one or more of those positions. Personally, my primary disagreement is the last point.

    Unfortunately, many mainstreamers pretend that all non-activists are denialists and many skeptics pretend that all activists are alarmists and many on both sides ignore the better arguments of their opponents. Lambert denies that there are good skeptical arguments. I find this disapointing.

    —————

    JB — I sometimes call myself “jb” (John Brett) too. When I said I considered everything in the wiki article I didn’t mean I countered it. I took it all as fact. You should check my original article. You’ll find it much more sensible that Lambert implies and quite unworthy of his crude “zombie” comment. If you still have faith in his judgement, that’s up to you.

    I agree that petitions aren’t very important. And as you say, the oregon petition is quite old. As I wrote in my original article (I get the impression nobody read it) in 2005 Scientific America found that 6/21 PhD signaturies to Oregon has since changed their mind.

  11. #11 Meyrick Kirby
    December 11, 2006

    John Humphreys:

    People can read Oreskes paper for themselves and decide whether she was dismissing the existence of published skeptics (as Gore and I interpret her) or whether she has been tragically misunderstood.

    You’ve misinterpreted Oreskes!

    Hopefully this is the last time I have to explain this to anyone (probably not).

    Oreskes used the ISI Web of Science citation database to produce a sample of 928 scientific peer-reviewed articles (of which 900 had abstracts). Oreskes claims to have found no dissenting papers in that sample (and so far no one has produced valid evidence to refute this).

    This allows an inference to be made, if not quite a statistical one, that there exists no significant body of dissenting papers in the population of scientific peer-reviewed articles.

    She is not claiming there are none. That is an inference that cannot be made about a population from a sample. (I suppose the statistically minded could put a probability on it, but it would be well below 50%)

    Anyone who understands the difference between a sample and a population should understand this.

  12. #12 Meyrick Kirby
    December 11, 2006

    Tim Lambert:

    For example, while there were 928 articles 24 did not have abstracts

    Oops, you’ve forgotten this one Tim. It’s 28 without abstracts (24 is Peiser’s incorrect count).

    John Humphreys

    Interesting to see that you now admit that some of Oreskes papers don’t have abstracts. Originally you denied that and called Peiser a liar.

    Err, when did Dr Lambert (or anyone else) claim Peiser was lying about some of the papers missing abstracts?

  13. #13 John Cross
    December 11, 2006

    John Humphreys:

    I think that Meyrick points out the problem very clearly. While there are skeptics, these people don’t publish their skeptical views in peer-reviewed journals. The last one I recall off the top of my head was the Soon one in Climatic Research (or was the McKitrick – 1 radian one after that?).

    That is what Oreskes was saying. In light of this both the Brey and Oregon petitions are not relevant since they don’t produce peer-reviewed work. Unless you want to call the document circulated with the Oregon petition a scientific article, in which I would be happy to go through it with you and show you how anyone who signed based on the content of that article would have to withdraw their signature based on what we know today.

    Regards,
    John

  14. #14 John Humphreys
    December 11, 2006

    Meyrick — what did you think you were explaining that I didn’t know?

    This is the quote from Oreskes: “This analysis shows that scientists publishing in the peer-reviewed literature agree with IPCC, the National Academy of Sciences, and the public statements of their professional societies.”

    I interpret this as saying that the scientists publishing in the peer-reviewed literature agree with the IPCC. I think my interpretation is the most logical. That is certainly how Gore and many others have interpretted what she meant, and it’s not true.

    She also said, regarding whether there is a real debate “this is simply not the case” and regarding the impression of disagreement “that impression is incorrect”. I think she is wrong.

    Also, while Oreskes found no skeptical papers, she also found very few consensus papers. Most papers in her survey expressed no opinion and most papers that explicitly express an opinion weren’t in her sample. It would therefore have been better if she was more modest in her conclusions.

    Err, when did Dr Lambert (or anyone else) claim Peiser was lying about some of the papers missing abstracts?

    In the comments of my evil “zombie” post he said Peiser was wrong on that issue.

    John — I agree that skeptics are very outnumbered in peer-review published material. I just think some people have intentionally over-stated their case and declared the debate over… and they have allowed that impression to extend past the points of real consensus.

    The Bray & Oreskes contributions are relevant to the debate about whether there is a debate. Which (if you read my original post that provoked Tim’s attack) was the topic.

    The paper associated with the Oregon petition was not peer-reviewed (as far as I know) and is out of date, especially with regards to satelite temperature records. I mention this in my original “zombie” post that is apparently so evil and wrong and still apparently unread.

  15. #15 John Humphreys
    December 11, 2006

    So to sum up on my zombie post (without Lambert bias). My point was that there is still debate between the mainstream & skeptics:

    * Oreskes was wrong to say there was no published skeptics and no disagreement. If she didn’t mean to say it, then we are in agreement that skeptics do publish (allbeit rarely) and the debate exists, and it’s unfortunate that Gore and others have spread the wrong message. Either way this supports my point.

    * There is a Bray survey which shows some skepticism. Besides the possibility of self-selection bias it’s hard to believe that all skeptical answers are fraudulent.

    * The Oregon petition still shows the existence of skeptics across the scientific community and among climate scientists. This is true despite all challenges.

    It’s also important to remember that the above three contributions have a more narrow definition that the one that I used, so they would all underestimate the number of skeptics. I strongly recomend actually reading my post instead of believing Tim’s artistic summary.

  16. #16 Abe G.
    December 11, 2006

    Just because skeptics publish a few scant papers, that does not mean there is a “real debate.” A “real debate” implies two factions arguing theories, but the skeptocs have no coherent position. Lindzen has the “Iris effect.” Bill Gray has the THC. Khyliuk and Chillangar have…well, they have nothing. Then there are the myriad solar skeptics who think the sun is warming the planet in some way that defies measurement. Oh, and those who think there is some undiscovered forcing. The internet skeptics believe any and all of these in order not to have to believe in AGW.

    Now, other climate scientists respond to these theories and show why they don’t work. Then the theories are written about no more and adhered to only by their proponents and whatever right-wing internets folks tag along. If you call that a debate, that’s fine, but I don’t.

  17. #17 John Cross
    December 11, 2006

    John Humphreys:

    I agree that there is still debate between the mainstream and the skeptics and there will be forever. However the point is that the skeptics are not willing to subject their work to peer-review. Anyone can call themselves skeptics, but unless they are willing to put their ideas forward in the literature then they have no more weight than that of my 8 year old’s. Consequently I don’t consider non-published points all that relevant to the debate.

    Regarding the Petition Project, you did acknowledge it was out of date, but I would argue that it is so out of date that all you can conclude from it was that skepticism existed when it was done in 1998. Since then the satellite data (which the paper took great pains to point out was the best record to use) now confirm global warming. The Christensen & Lassen data has been corrected and there are arguments about how the Keigwin data was used. Not to mention the slew of papers on the effects of CO2 on plant growth over the last couple of years. These errors, taken together would give reasonable doubt to anyone who signed it.

    regards,
    John

  18. #18 Meyrick Kirby
    December 11, 2006

    John Humphreys:

    I interpret this as saying that the scientists publishing in the peer-reviewed literature agree with the IPCC. I think my interpretation is the most logical. That is certainly how Gore and many others have interpretted what she meant, and it’s not true.

    Your interpretation is wrong, and your logic faulty by taking the quote out of the context of the paper! She is saying that most, not all, scientists in the peer-reviewed literature agree.

    I haven’t seen Al Gore’s film, but I suspect you’re misinterpreting that as well.

    Also, while Oreskes found no skeptical papers, she also found very few consensus papers.

    The only evidence of this is the work of Peiser. Given he was wrong about the number of dissenting articles (which I believe you’ve admitted), why on earth do you trust him on the number of articles that agree with the consensus position?

  19. #19 Meyrick Kirby
    December 11, 2006

    John Humphreys:

    She also said, regarding whether there is a real debate “this is simply not the case” and regarding the impression of disagreement “that impression is incorrect”. I think she is wrong.

    A significant body of papers rejecting/doubting the consensus position would add up to a “real debate”. A handful of papers does not.

    I suppose if the “handful” where being cited numerous times by other papers agreeing, that would be significant. But that would most likely show up with the citing papers being classified as dissenting as well.

  20. #20 Meyrick Kirby
    December 11, 2006

    By the way John, you didn’t answer my question:

    when did Dr Lambert (or anyone else) claim Peiser was lying about some of the papers missing abstracts?

  21. #21 Tim Lambert
    December 11, 2006

    John,

    I did not call you a zombie. I said that you were presenting zombie arguments.

    I did not deny that some of the papers did not have abstracts. I said that Peiser was wrong when he said that there were 24 without abstracts (there were 28).

    I did not call Peiser a liar. Saying that someone made a mistake is not the same as calling them a liar.

    Oreskes did not say that there were no dissenting papers in the literature but theat there were none in her sample. Her meaning is perfectly clear and you seem to be the only one who has misunderstood her. I have seen how her study is presented in Gore’s book and movie and there too, the statement is about the sample.

    You haven’t presented any reason to believe that all skpetical responses to Bray weren’t made by the folks from the skeptics mailing list rather than climate scientists.

  22. #22 Dano
    December 11, 2006

    Some shill still using the Oregon Petition.

    We know that septics have to recycle tired arguments to get play. We also know that the level of readership that would not reject such an argument is pretty low – I suspect the average IQ of someone believing such cr*p must be in the 80s.

    Tim, I propose expanding upon your Skeptic Bingo(TM) game.

    You should write a post detailing Skeptic Indicators. Certainly using the OR petition is an indicator. Maybe you can break the indicators down into shill and dupe. Shill being someone working to deceive others, and dupes mindlessly parroting shills’ arguments.

    Best,

    D

  23. #23 Meyrick Kirby
    December 11, 2006

    We know that septics have to recycle tired arguments to get play.

    Talking of which, in the Glasgow Herald, Professor Emeritas Mike Jackson casts some doubts over global warming … and guess what old argument rears it’s head … the DDT hoax (on page 3).

    Sad isn’t it. (Imagine how depressed I was to read this in what is usually a high quality newspaper)

  24. #24 John Humphreys
    December 11, 2006

    Abe & John — check my definition of skeptic and see if you still think there is no debate. Do you accept uncertainty regarding the level of feedback? Do you accept uncertainty regarding future co2 emmissions? Do you accept uncertainty regarding the various consequences of warming? Do you accept uncertainty regarding the benefits & costs of action. You might think these things are set — but some people are still skeptical.

    It is wrong and intellectually dishonest for people to delcare this debate over.

    John — I’ve already addressed the issue of the old paper attached to the Oregon petition. Specifically relevant is the Scientific America check which was done in 2005.

    Meyrick — you insist that my interpretation of Oreskes is wrong. My interpretation was a direct re-statement of what she said. I know you need to keep to your biases, but I think that looks embarassing. Perhaps she didn’t mean to write what she wrote — but she did. The context was clear enough — she was trying to show the non-existence of disagreement. Gore did indeed use Oreskes to argue there was no disagreement. And I did answer your question.

    The civility lasted for a little while… but with the enterance of Dano there is obviously no room for normal intellegent discussion here so I’ll leave you guys to your group-think.

  25. #25 John Humphreys
    December 11, 2006

    Oreskes: “There have been arguments to the contrary, but they are not to be found in scientific literature, which is where scientific debates are properly adjudicated. There, the message is clear and unambiguous.”

    Five pennies for anybody who knows what “not to be found” means…

  26. #26 Ken Miles
    December 11, 2006

    John H,

    I don’t mean to suggest that Bray rigged his own poll, but rather the poll was rigged by Timo Hämeranta. I have read both the survey and the real climate article.

    if you only had the Brey survey and you had to pick a percentage of scientists who were skeptical (meaning skeptical about the exact feedbacks, or the exact historical or estimated mix of forcings, or the harshness of the expected consequences or whether any cure will be worse than the disease) would you pick zero?

    If I only had the Bray results, I would state the percentage of scientists who were skeptical was unknown. A poor quality poll like that simply doesn’t give any useful information.

    One of the most important things in science is to have a good idea about the quality of the data on which you base your theories.

    Have fun with the groupthink over at alsblog.wordpress.com

  27. #27 Meyrick Kirby
    December 11, 2006

    John Humphreys:

    And I did answer your question.

    Sorry, I missed your previous answer, although it does not answer my question. When did Tim say Peiser had lied?

    Meyrick — you insist that my interpretation of Oreskes is wrong. My interpretation was a direct re-statement of what she said. I know you need to keep to your biases, but I think that looks embarassing.

    Your continued misinterpretation of Oreskes comes from your continued reference to out of context re-statements. More to the point your position is a fairly blatant strawman argument (most of us around here have been in the trenches long enough to spot these). As I pointed out before, Oreskes paper relies on a sample, and therefore it is impossible to make the type of inference you accuse Oreskes of making.

    she was trying to show the non-existence of disagreement

    No, see was trying to show the non-existence of a significant disagreement.

  28. #28 Meyrick Kirby
    December 11, 2006

    A fuller quote of Oreskes:

    We read 928 abstracts published in scientific journals between 1993 and 2003 and listed in the database with the keywords “global climate change.” Seventy-five percent of the papers either explicitly or implicitly accepted the consensus view. The remaining 25 percent dealt with other facets of the subject, taking no position on whether current climate change is caused by human activity. None of the papers disagreed with the consensus position. There have been arguments to the contrary, but they are not to be found in scientific literature, which is where scientific debates are properly adjudicated.

    You don’t think her statement should read in conjunction with her evidence of a sample?

  29. #29 Tim Lambert
    December 11, 2006

    John, have you even seen “An Inconvenient Truth”? Gore contrasts Oreskes’ study with another one of reporting in newspapers to show that the debate about the consensus that you see in newspapers does not reflect any such debate in the scientific journals. Nowhere does he say that Oreskes showed that no dissenting journal articles have ever been published.

    I would ask that everyone here be civil, but really, after Dano gives you a taste of your own medicine, you’re going to run away?

  30. #30 jb
    December 11, 2006

    ‘I said that you were presenting zombie arguments.’

    what exactly is a ‘zombie argument?’

    indeed, How can a zombie even argue?

    i thought zombies were mute.

  31. #31 John Humphreys
    December 11, 2006

    I keep saying I’m leaving but I keep responding. I should know better, but Meyrick seems reasonable and deserving of response.

    Meyrick, I know she is drawing her conclusion from her survey. That doesn’t change the fact that her statement is wrong. What does “not to be found in the scientific literature” mean? Why couldn’t she say “not to be found in my sample”? Are “sample” and “scientific literature” synonyms?

    If I say “I found that many cats are black. Some argue there are white cats, but those cats have never been found” you would rightly accuse me of a non-sequitor. It is reasonable for a white-cat advocate to respond to clear up the record. Peiser has consistently claimed that this was his main point — and on it I believe he is correct.

    The interpretation of Oreskes comments is not a strawman, but it is a moot point because it makes no difference as to whether there is a debate. And if you’re used to picking subtle arguing tricks you might like to pick Tim up on them more often.

    Tim didn’t said Peiser was a liar and I was wrong to say he had. Pre-emptively, I would note that this mistake does not invalidate everything else I have ever written.

    Ken — if you had to guess for a million dollars you would just turn down the million? Go on — have a guess. And remember that I’m not trying to show a fixed percentage of skeptics… just that they exist. And please consider my definition of skeptic before you dismiss that idea.

  32. #32 John Humphreys
    December 11, 2006

    I don’t know jb — I think zombies could talk. Though they would probably only do stupid things like disagree with Tim. :)

  33. #33 Meyrick Kirby
    December 12, 2006

    John Humphreys:

    Tim didn’t said Peiser was a liar and I was wrong to say he had. Pre-emptively, I would note that this mistake does not invalidate everything else I have ever written.

    No it doesn’t, in pretty much the same way that while Oreskes published the wrong search term “climate change” rather than “global climate change”, and confused the word “abstract” with “article”, neither invalidates her paper.

    That Peiser got the wrong search parameters and misclassified most (all but 2) of the articles does invalidate his claim to have found dissenting abstracts in Oreskes sample, which I believe he’s admitted. Furthermore these two mistakes brings into question his claim to have found few concenting papers, and by extension your reliance on this claim.

    I think it’s clear we are not going to agree over the interpretation of what Oreskes actually said, so to simplify things, I’ll state my propositions:

    1. There are no dissenting abstracts in Oreskes’ sample of 900 abstracts.

    2. Ergo, there is no significant body of dissenting papers in the population of scientific peer-reviewed papers.

  34. #34 Jeff Harvey
    December 12, 2006

    Yesterday John Humphreys said, “a doubling of co2 leads to a 3 degree temp increase, that this will lead to significant (though not catastrophic) costs”.

    On what scientific foundation does he assume that a 3 degree temperature increase will not have catastrophic costs? NONE. NIX. NIL. ZIPPO. A mean increase of 3 C means that some regions will experience increases well over that – perhaps of over 10 C in less than a century. Its clear that JH knows diddly squat about population ecology and about the effects of abiotic stresses on ecosystem functioning. If he did, he wouldn’t make such a totally vacuous remark. He’s a part of the ‘anthropocentric, humans are largely exempt from the laws of nature’ club.

    Let me make it clear to JH and to those who believe the twaddle embraced in his statement above. The costs and consequences of a mean global surface temperature increase of 3 C – with, of course regional variations very much above this – WILL be catastrophic for much of nature and for the services emanating freely from it that are critical for our survival as a species. There is already ample evidence that food webs are becoming seriously stressed – to the point of unravelling – as a result of regional climate change in what few studies have been performed in temperate systems. In other words, the current change, a fraction of what is likely to happen, is already having strong phenological effects. As human existence hinges critically on the health and resilience of natural systems and their services, nobody with any common sense would make such a half-brained statement as saying that a mean global 3 C temperature increase will not have catastrophic effects.

  35. #35 John Humphreys
    December 12, 2006

    Meyrick: “No it doesn’t, in pretty much the same way that while Oreskes… [made mistakes] …neither invalidates her paper.”

    I agree. It’s rare to find a perfect person, but there are many people you can learn from.

    And if we’re going to open our hearts to what we believe, I’ll state my position:

    1. I think it most likely that man has contributed to at least half of the warming over the last century;

    2. My best prediction for the future is that we are likely to see further AGW of a few degrees (ie well within the IPCC projections);

    3. This will not lead to huge worldwide catastrophy or significant costs and those costs is does create will be largely hidden withing the benefits of economic growth;

    4. Technology will continue to advance at a good pace and will eventually make this debate seem like the Malthusian population debates of the early 19th century; and

    5. Even on standard assumptions there has not been any proposed government responses that pass a rigorous benefit-cost analysis and given the track record of government I think the burden of proof always lies with the advocate of government action.

    Given that credentials seem to be vitally important to this debate I should say that I’m not a scientist, but I am an economist with experience in public policy analysis, modelling and benefit-cost studies. Like many other economists, I found Stern underwhelming and very much on the fringe of mainstream economic thought.

  36. #36 Jeff Harvey
    December 12, 2006

    John, you are ‘doing a Lomborg’: crossing your fingers and hoping that all will be well given the magnitude of the current and projected future patterns of AGW. You openly admit that you are an economist (clearly from the ‘neoclassical school’ and one who probably does not place much importance on the environment in terms of human welfare other than for consumptive value). Sadly, your views lack a fundamental scientific understanding of the dependence of humans on a range of critical ecosystem services, and you mostly therefore exempt humans from the consequences of climate change.

    On what scientific basis do you believe that (a) a mean global surface temperature rise of 3 C will only be ‘significant’ but not ‘catastrophic’, and (b) that any problems that do arise will be based on pulling the old technological rabbit out of a hat?

    These are the facts: a mean 3 C rise is projected over the entire planet’s surface. Of course, this means that there will be some areas with much greater short-term increases (e.g. higher latitudes, such as temperate and polar regions) and other areas with lower increases (e.g. tropical regions). This suggests that some biogeographical realms will exerience rises of 10 C or even more – effects that will almost certainly be catastrophic to the stability and resilience of these sytems and their ecological communities. In other words, we are going to see ‘ecological meltdown’ in the functioning of these systems, and their certain collapse, given the unprecedented temporal scale on which the warming will occur. Indeed, existing empirical evidence is already showing that food webs are fraying as a result of climate change effects, such that the longer term phenological consequences are likely to be grave. When food webs unravel, the services that emerge from them are likely to be impeded at best and eliminated at worst.

    Let me make it very clear. There are no technological substitutes for the vast majority of ecosystem services that freely emerge from mostly intact natural systems. Nor are there likely ever to be. Climate control, water purification, pollination, the provisioning and maintenance of soil fertility, seed dispersal, pest control, nutrient cycling and other critical services permit human existence. It is as simple as that. However, climate change, in combination with a range of other anthropogenic stresses, is pushing natural systems beyond a threshold where they can sustain themselves and us.

    John, before you postulate any more simplistic assertions lacking an empirical foundation, I suggest that you read economist Geoffrey Heal’s “Nature and the Marketplace”, which provides a good grounding in understanding how natural systems represent a foundation on which civilization rests.

  37. #37 Meyrick Kirby
    December 12, 2006

    Err, I think we’re going well outside the bounds of this particular thread, but …

    Worldwide catastrophy, no. Significant costs on the other hand?! As I understand it, one of the big questions over the economic analysis is over the right social discount rate and output functions (I guess Cobb-Douglas or variants) to use. To be honest I simply don’t have time to read up on such matter to form an opinion.

    However, I would caution your view of private capital vs. governments. There are few unregulated markets in the western world. For instance, the UK stockmarket is subject to statutary laws, the most obvious of which is the requirements for audited accounts, required by law. To be fair in the UK listed companies can get away with a qualified auditors report, but in the US they can’t. My point is most economies live with a mix of capitalism, government intervention, and regulation.

    However, I think I’m right in saying that the existence of significant anthropogenic global warming is beyond reasonable doubt. There are of course other questions within the AGW debate that currently have less certain answers, and to which scientists can add, at least partially, to the answers.

  38. #38 Ian Gould
    December 12, 2006

    It’s interesting how people who are (in John Humphreys case rather halfheartedly) defending the denialist position often also just happen to be remarkably pessimistic about the costs of reducing GHG emissions and believe that the likely costs associated with global warming will be minimal.

    Logically, these positions are quite separate and therefore one would not necessarily expect to see this particular set of beliefs popping up together over and over again.

    It’s almost as if these people came to the debate with a fixed prejudice against action to reduce GHG emissions and simply adopted any and all arguments that would bolster their predetermined position.

  39. #39 Abe G.
    December 12, 2006

    First off, everyone knows zombies stagger around saying “Braaaaaiiinsss.” (I cite Groening 1991.)

    Do you accept uncertainty regarding the level of feedback? Do you accept uncertainty regarding future co2 emmissions? Do you accept uncertainty regarding the various consequences of warming? Do you accept uncertainty regarding the benefits & costs of action. You might think these things are set — but some people are still skeptical.

    Of course there is uncertainty. But skeptics say things like “AGW is a hoax.” They also assume that any uncertainty will always fall in their favor.

  40. #40 John Humphreys
    December 12, 2006

    The discount rate is the important variable in the models. Normally it wouldn’t be such a key issue, but Stern has used 0.5% for the time value of money which drastically changes the outcome compared to standard discounting practices. The output function is comparatively less influential to the outcome.

    I agree most markets are mixed.

    When you say the existence of significant AGW is beyond reasonable doubt are you talking about the past or projections? I wouldn’t describe the recent past as showing significant anything.

    Ian — I consider it to be both rude and intellectually dishonest to continue propogating the confusion of denialists with skeptics. A denialist would now deny the temp increases, deny the co2 increases or deny the existence of a co2-temp link. Peiser, Oregon, Bray have not proposed denialist positions & I have never defended the denialist position.

    I don’t think it’s particularly surprising that people who are naturally skeptical are then skeptical on more than one thing. Indeed — I am skeptical about many things, especially when they lead to huge government programs.

    And if somebody is skeptical that there will be significant warming in the future, then it’s not surprising they don’t think there will be significant costs. And if they don’t think there will be significant costs it’s not surprising they don’t think intervention is necessary. I would be more suprised at the reverse.

    And your argument can equally apply to GW activists. It just so happens that those people most certain & scared of AGW are also the ones most trusting of government action. It is no secret that many environmentalists are anti-free-market and many would be more than happy to find another excuse to justify bigger government. We have a whole field of economics (public choice theory) dedicated to the political bias that goes with working in a field.

  41. #41 John Humphreys
    December 12, 2006

    Abe: “Of course there is uncertainty. But skeptics say things like “AGW is a hoax.” They also assume that any uncertainty will always fall in their favor.”

    I suggest the need for a more nuanced understanding of the non-activist position. Non-activists can be denialists or skeptics.

    Denialists might claim there is no warming, no co2 increase and no co2-temp link, but skeptics often take a much more robust position. Many skeptics accept a large part of the mainstream science but might doubt one or two elements or doubt the certainty or doubt the conclusions that follow (big danger, need government).

    I think there has been intentional bluring of the two groups for rhetorical gain. By pointing to an idiot denialist and saying “look, a skeptic… aren’t skeptics idiots” the mainstream position is able to convince themselves that they are even more right.

    An analogy would be a skeptic looking at an idiot alarmist and saying “look, a GW activist… aren’t GW activists idiots”. And there are idiot alarmists out there (though they never seem to be criticised on this blog).

    I suggest that more productive debate comes from considering the best (not the worst) of your opponents arguments. Alarmists & denialists should be ignored when possible and rebutted when necessary so that the skeptics and the mainstream can have a reasonable (and hopefully respectfull) debate.

    Roger Pielke Snr & James Annan seem to be some good examples of how debate could progress.

  42. #42 Abe G
    December 12, 2006

    John,

    First I’d seperate the scientific skeptics from the impact skeptics. I think Ian’s point is a good one in that a disproportionate number of science skeptics are also impact skeptics.

    I agree with your distinction between denialists and skeptics, but I would also add those who deny there is great scientific agreement. You seem to think that those scientists who believe in a lesser effect of AGW are skeptics. That’s an interesting definition, but then they are not AGW skeptics. Do these types of skeptics dissent from the range proposed by the IPCC? If so, where do they publish this dissent?

    As to the lumping of denialists in with skeptics, there is some self-lumping going on here. An example would be climateaudit whose members see themselves as exposers of a great scientific fraud. Yet, they embrace popular articles like Monckton’s which are rife with intentional inaccuracy.

    As to the ipact of AGW, it all depends on what you value. I value biodiversity and the welfare of those already at subsistence level living in the third world. I don’t think we can deny that these will be adversly affected by even a rise in temps on the low range of the IPCC’s projections.

  43. #43 Dano
    December 12, 2006

    A mean increase of 3 C means that some regions will experience increases well over that – perhaps of over 10 C in less than a century. He’s a part of the ‘anthropocentric, humans are largely exempt from the laws of nature’ club.

    Humans appropriate ~45-55% of the Net Primary Productivity (NPP) of the earth. We are utterly dependent, in both our economy and our social and personal functioning, upon nature.

    Folks who have never taken a natural sciences class yet purport to understand future ‘costs’ should include NPP in their argumentation. Or biodiversity. Or ecosystems.

    If they don’t they can be ignored if their influence is small. If they have wider influence they should be asked why they are influencing people yet are lacking key information (thus misinforming the public).

    Best,

    D

  44. #44 JB
    December 12, 2006

    ‘skeptics say things like “AGW is a hoax.”

    the people who say ‘agw is a hoax’ are not real skeptics. ON THE CONTRARY, they give real skepticism a bad name.

    a true skeptic bases his or her judement on the best available evidence.

    The ‘agw is a hoax crowd’ is made up of fools and/or shills.

  45. #45 frankis
    December 12, 2006

    JH you shouldn’t cavalierly overlook comments from scientists such as Jeff Harvey. If you believe that average global warming of 3C over a century would not have catastrophic consequences on the ecosphere and consequently on humanity as well, while simultaneously holding to a belief that something like a carbon tax would have catastrophic economic consequences … you would be dreaming. At any rate it’s clear that we need economists and scientists collaborating in the great game of the third millennium. The blind man tugging away at the elephant’s tail won’t know much more about the nature of the beast than his fellow who’s been feeling up the trunk at the other end (but one of them may be more likely to die in the exercise, while the other may be more likely to get himself covered in sh*t).

  46. #46 Tim Lambert
    December 12, 2006

    Just freed from the spam filter: [this worthwhile comment from Jeff Harvey](http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2006/12/zombie_alert.php#comment-287509)

  47. #47 Dano
    December 12, 2006

    Thank you Tim.

    Jeff’s excellent little essay reminds me of the argumentation I see over at Sylvia Tognetti’s place (I like her, BTW), that Costanza’s valuation is ludicrous [bolstered by this paper [John H., if you don't know this paper you can't speak to the issue and should go away and stop misleading people].

    No one thinks about ecosystem services until you have to replace them, at a cost. Then folks start saying those costs are ridiculous, because costs are what people would pay to replace them, and golly Costanza et al valued ecosystem services higher than people are willing to pay!! Therefore, those valuations can’t be true!!

    Of course, we won’t know for sure because if there is large-scale collapse by the time we get to counting, it’ll be too late.

    So, John, as I said above: take a natural science class. Biology is a good start. Good luck with that.

    And I look forward to reading Jeff’s stuff.

    Best,

    D

  48. #48 jb
    December 12, 2006

    agree that jeff’s post is very eloquent.

    many mainstream economists simply do not recognize the value of the goods and services provided by natural ecosystems, so it’s not surprising that many in this group would view global warming as as a minor problem that can be addressed by burning more oil to produce more electricity to run the air conditioner more days per year.

    they label the ecologists ‘fear mongers’ or ‘alarmists’ when they use words like ‘irreplaceable’ and ‘vital’ to describe the services provided by ecosystems.

    it’s much easier to dismiss the ecologists out of hand in this manner than it is to admit that they might be right. one has to assign an infinite value to a service provided by an ecosystem that is both vital and irreplaceable and for most people (with the exception of physicists, who make them disappear with renormalization and other sleights of hand), infinities cause headaches.

    therefore be assigned an infinite value in an honest economic analysis.

  49. #49 John Humphreys
    December 13, 2006

    frankis — I didn’t ignore Harvey’s comment. It wasn’t there last time I visited this blog.

    Jeff Harvey — I’m not crossing my fingers and hoping anything. As for “openly admiting” I’m an economist, it’s not a disease or something to be admitted. Check your rhetoric. And no, I’m not a neo-classical economist (which you somehow think is obvious) and all value in a political system does come from the fact that humans value things. I didn’t exempt humans from the consequences of anything — that would be impossible.

    You’re not doing very well so far.

    Judging the consequences requires a lot more than understanding the science. No study (not even Stern) has total welfare going down in the future under global warming. Technology is more than a rabit in a hat and it would be a far sillier assumption to believe it wouldn’t progress.

    You say “these are the facts” and your first fact is stating a projection. Well, it’s true that there is a projection. But the value of the projection isn’t a fact. And all of your prediction doom and gloom are not “facts” either. You talk about ‘ecological meltdown’ and pushing the ecology to a point where it soon can’t handle humans. Do you think this likely under a 3 degree change? Sounds to me like you’re a fringe alarmist who makes up the embarassing part of the GW activists (and probably a member of the Greens).

    Does the peanut gallary really believe there is no debate over the nature of these horrible outcomes and that humans are on the brink of extinction? If so — I suggest you have too much fear. Don’t be scared. Predictions of doom well outnumber doomsday events.

    If this is the best that the alarmists have (and everybody seems to think it is great) then I feel fairly safe. An obnoxious Greenie trying to lecture me on economics when he clearly has learned his economics from Clive Hamilton and Naomi Klein (that’s not a good thing), and then insisting that we’ll all die soon if we don’t give in to huge government programs… this fear-mongering is exactly why people become skeptical.

  50. #50 John Humphreys
    December 13, 2006

    Abe — I thought I responded to Ian’s point. Skeptical people are often skeptical and that’s not surprising.

    We seem to be using different definitions of skeptics. I mean anybody who doubts any part of the whole story, while others mean people who doubt every part of the story.

    One problem in the debate I want to avoid is that some areas of the mainstream position become more certain and so people assume that all skeptical positions are wrong. I’m not saying you’re doing that — but that impression exists in some places and it’s inappropriate.

    I agree there is “self-lumping” in denialists don’t want to call themselves denialists. Alarmists don’t want to call themselves alarmists either. I think you’re being too hars on climateaudit though & even Monckton accepts the main points of AGW (his substantive complaint seems to be about our knowledge of feedbacks).

    Evaluating the public policy isn’t so much an issue of what you value, but how you value things (ie the methodology). I wouldn’t suggest ignoring the value of biodiversity, but at the same time it would be wrong to put an infinite value on it. No modelling is perfect… especially economic modelling… but I believe it does help.

    frankis — you give no reason for your belief that AGW costs will be higher than action costs so it’s hard for me to evaluate your position. The burden of proof is on the activists & they haven’t shown a strong case yet.

    jb — I think you’re understimating economists. The value of goods and services aren’t dictated by where they come from (ie natural or man-made), but by how much people want them.

    It is a strawman to say that economists believe GW can be addressed by burning more oil, produce more electricity and run airconditioners. A joke obviously, but one indended to mock the contribution of economists.

    People are not labelled fear-mongers when they say “vital”. They are labelled fear-mongers when they say that humans are “pushing natural systems beyond a threshold where they can sustain themselves and us.” Predictions of human extinction is fear-mongering, but you thought that was eloquent.

  51. #51 Tim Lambert
    December 13, 2006

    JH:

    >It is a strawman to say that economists believe GW can be addressed by burning more oil, produce more electricity and run airconditioners.

    Julian Simon [writing in 1994](http://www.juliansimon.com/writings/Norton/NORTON05.txt):

    >My guess is that global warming will simply be another transient concern, barely worthy of consideration ten years from now in a book like this one. … The alterations that air conditioning – let alone central heating – make in the environment in which we spend our hours dwarf any alterations required by any conceivable global warming.

    And speaking of strawmen John, who was it who predicted that GW whould lead to the extinction of the human race? You didn’t just make that one up did you?

  52. #52 Ian Gould
    December 13, 2006

    John Humpheeys: “You talk about ‘ecological meltdown’ and pushing the ecology to a point where it soon can’t handle humans. Do you think this likely under a 3 degree change? Sounds to me like you’re a fringe alarmist who makes up the embarassing part of the GW activists (and probably a member of the Greens)”.

    Does this sound like the CV of a “fringe alarmist”:

    BSc: (Honours, 1st class, Zoology), Liverpool University, 1991

    PhD: (Nutritional Ecology of a host-parasitoid interaction), Liverpool University 1995

    1995-1995: Post doctoral research fellow (Keele University, UK)

    1995-1997: Royal Society post doctoral research fellow (Wageningen University, The Netherlands)

    1997-1999: Post doctoral research (University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA)

    1999-1999: Associate Editor, Nature, London

    2000-present: Senior Scientist, Netherlands Institute of Ecology

    http://www.nioo.knaw.nl/ppages/jharvey/#cv

    If you object to Jeff lecturing you on economics, perhaps you should defer to him on matters of ecology?

  53. #53 Ian Gould
    December 13, 2006

    Not to get overly wrapped up in qualifications but after checing Jeff’s CV I thought it only fair to do the same for John.

    From his wikipedia entry:

    “He is studying for a PhD through part-time, long-distance learning at the University of New England.”

    Apologies John if this is a different John Humphreys or if you have now completed your Ph.D.

    Tell me John, have you read Warwick McKibbin’s work on the economic impact of Kyoto?

  54. #54 Jeff Harvey
    December 13, 2006

    John Humprheys,

    Nice try but you are out of your depth. Stick to basic economics – in understanding the stupendous complexity of natural systems and its importance in underpinning civilization you are going in reverse. Because you don’t understand the basic link between human welfare and the myriad of conditions emerging from natural systems that permit human existence, you dismiss them. This is the standard refrain of the sceptics and denialists. If you don’t understand the way something works, then you don’t believe it is important and you ignore it.

    Like other sceptics who are pushed into a corner when their ignorance is nakedly exposed, JohnH is forced to resort to smears like calling me a fringe alarmist while having no knowledge of my scientific credentials. If this gives him comfort in his hour of need, so be it. But facts are facts, and what his response lays bare is that he has not factored the environment into the tiny little econometrc models he and his ilk peddle.

    To rehash some basic facts: 3 C may not seem like much to you, John, but then again, humans have evolved to perceive what we perceive as instantaneous threats – a flood, an earthquake, a bear at the mouth of a cave, a tiger crossing our path. And, to reiterate, there will be regional and temporal variations in the rate of temperature change. Soem areas will experience unprecedented warming of more than 10 C, and night temperatures will increase proportionately more than day temperatures.

    However, adaptation to what we perceive as gradual change is not evolutuionarily programmed into our genomes. This may be out undoing. We feel that 80 years is a long time, whereas in an ecological system it is the blink of an evolutionary eye. Humans are rapidly altering and simplifying systems that are unimaginably complex whose functioning we are only barely beginning to understand, and in our arrogance we either feel that we can live and thrive in an eclogically depauperate world, or else that nature is resilient enough to withstand our continued assault. Certainly, ecological systems exhibit some redundancy, and it is this that has provided some element of buffering against the extent of the human assault thus far. But there is no guarantee that this can go on indefinitely, and the consequences of seriously simplified systems is a great reduction in their capacity to support human life in a manner that we know.

    The fact is that a 3 C increase over a century or less represents a major change even at the local level. The planet’s surface has probably not experienced this rate of change (on a temporal scale) in many millions of years. And when and if a comparable change occurred in the past, the planet was not utterly dominated by an intelligent bipedal primate that co-opts more than 40% of net primary production and 50% of freshwater flows. In constrast with your arguments, no species is more dependent on nature than we are. This is why we have the most to lose when systems collapse, as they have done and are doing. Luckily for us, current ecological collapses have been regional and fairly local in scale: the conversion of the once-forest rich Meditteranean basin and parts of the Mid-East to semi-desert, the expansion of the Sahara Desert, the hypereutrophication of many North American Lakes and parts of the Gulf of Mexico, the draining of the Aral Sea and the destruction of forests and ecosystems on islands across the Pacific. The Amazon is experiencing its second year of major drought, a very worrying development that threatens to create massive die-back and a consequent spiking of atmospheric levels of C0 2 plus an exacerbation of the current extinction spasm underway; groundwater supplies in critically important agricultural regions are being drained at rates far beyond rates of recharge, humans are biologically homogenizing the planet, with enormous consequences for system resilience, and climate change is unraveling tightly co-evolved phenological interactions with huge repercussions on food web structure and function. The fact that humans are disrupting global biogeochemical cycles, which are largely deterministic and operate over stupendous spatial and temporal scales, is a grave concern. Moreover, if the Arctic ice cap melts by the summer of 2040, as was predicted yesterday, the ecological consequences will be catastrophic.

    Scientsts, including myself, are trying to elucidate the effects of rapid climate change on ecological interactions and on ecosystem functioning. We need to explore the responses of different components of ecological communities – primary producers and consumers – to local changes in temperature and other abiotic stresses (e.g. moisture, soil chemistry) and how this affects interactions with other species and ultimately their persistence and food web vitality. What we know thus far is that different species respond differently to a given increase in temperature, and that important ecophysiological traits of above and below ground communities may be affected. Chris Thomas and colleaues have provided evidence for the possible ecological consequences in his 2004 Nature paper; mechanistic studies underway are reporting that population freefalls in some migratory insectivorous birds are linked with climate change occurring now in western Europe, as it is affecting the seasonal abundance and accessibility of their prey. More studies are desperately needed to better understand the broader consequences.

    As for Slyvia Tognetti’s piece attacking Costanza’s classic study, its the usual gobbledegook by those who just cannot fathom that the value of nature can be worth more than GNP. She should realize that some things are worth more than the sum of their parts. Costanza wrote the paper because he was fed up with economists telling him that their estimation of the value of nature was as about 2% of GNP. His article set the record straight.

    What is gratifying is that views like those expressed by John Humphreys belong in the Permian, and that an increasing number of economists are recognizing the dependence of humanity on the range of ecological services I described in an earlier post. In addition to Geoff Heal and Herman Daly, economists like John Gowdy, Stephan Viederman and others recognize the importance of nature in sustaining civilization.

  55. #55 richard
    December 13, 2006

    “He is studying for a PhD…..”

    Hmmm, if John Humphreys lives in Australia he is likely above-sea-level. Jeff Harvey is in, according to the CV, the Netherlands. Is there a correlation between one’s concern over the adverse effects of global warming and whether or not one lives above or below sea level?

  56. #56 Tim Lambert
    December 13, 2006

    Let me save John Humphreys the trouble of writing his response to Jeff Harvey, by writing it for him: “You’re a scaremonger. La la I can’t hear you!”

  57. #57 Dano
    December 13, 2006

    I don’t presume to be able to add to Jeff’s comment above, but if I can try to add my 2¢:

    My long backpacking trip this year was in southeastern British Columbia. In that place there are millions of hectares of dead and dying evergreens, mostly spruce and pine. Millions of ha. I have seen it. It is vast. I associate no cause.

    However, this fact is instructive, as disturbances on this scale are not factored into our economies. The USA complains that Canada is dumping softwood lumber into the market. No f-cking sh-t, Sherlock. There are billions of bf that must – I say again: must – be cut down. What are you going to do with all those bf? Burn that wood? Well, the USA thinks this disaster is bad for Wayerhauser so we have our widdle timber wars. Fortunately someone has listened to scientists and it’s sorta worked out.

    Why do I bring this up? Because as Jeff sez above, we are not adapted to perceive change on this scale. This ecological disruption – that most folk can’t perceive – has affected the economy of two large wealthy nations. It has also affected the ecosystem. It will continue to affect the economy, yet the reasons why this is happening are never discussed.

    Think about why that is, and then think about the discussion going on upthread.

    Best,

    D

  58. #58 guthrie
    December 13, 2006

    I think theres a huge need for a book written to appeal to “normal” people, about what Jeff Harvey is talking about. I have come across bits and pieces of it all before, but a book putting together all the research, all the current knowledge, would be something worth having.
    And thanks for the posts, they are informative.

  59. #59 Meyrick Kirby
    December 13, 2006

    John Humphreys:

    When you say the existence of significant AGW is beyond reasonable doubt are you talking about the past or projections?

    I would say the consensus position is that the current state of the art knowledge of climatology is that the link between human emitted GHG’s and global temperatures is such that reasonable models can be built to forecast changes in global temperatures over the long term.

    Therefore I am referring to projections, although obviously those are conditional on how much GHG’s we end up emitted in the future.

  60. #60 Meyrick Kirby
    December 13, 2006

    Some Thoughts

    It occurs to me that the discipline of economics only really got started with the publications of Adam Smith’s “An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations” in 1776. Since that time, most of economic research has concentrated on current economic issues. Even a quick look at texts on economic history (eg) shows a concentration on dates and societies on or after the renaissance. I have heard the claim that Keynes “General Theory” is only of relevance to economies undergoing a period of depression. Therefore our knowledge of how economies behave under less stable climatic conditions than we have enjoyed for the last few hundred years is probably fairly thin. Of course this is all arm-chair theorizing, but I would have though our current ignorance of things outside our current experiences is cause for caution.
  61. #61 guthrie
    December 13, 2006

    Meyrick- the end of the medieval warm period heralded huge problems, in terms of poor harvests and suchlike, that had a negative impact upon the population. Nowadays we in the developed countries are somewhat cushioned by our technology from all this, but you can still expect some economic effects if the climate gos bad enough to affect harvests over large areas.

  62. #62 Ken Miles
    December 13, 2006

    Ken — if you had to guess for a million dollars you would just turn down the million? Go on — have a guess. And remember that I’m not trying to show a fixed percentage of skeptics… just that they exist. And please consider my definition of skeptic before you dismiss that idea.

    Of course if there was a million dollars riding on it, I’d have a guess. But if Bray’s survey was all that I had to go on, then a random stab in the dark is all that it would be.

    It’s just as well that Bray isn’t all that we have. So I can make an educated guess. Using your incredibly broad defination of skeptic (meaning skeptical about the exact feedbacks, or the exact historical or estimated mix of forcings, or the harshness of the expected consequences or whether any cure will be worse than the disease) then most (perhaps >80%) climate scientists would fit into that defination.

  63. #63 jb
    December 13, 2006

    John Humphries said: “It is a strawman to say that economists believe GW can be addressed by burning more oil, produce more electricity and run airconditioners. A joke obviously”

    Hardly. There are many economists who believe — presumably based on little more than faith because they understand next to nothing about ecology — that humans can adapt to any changes in the climate that we are likely to see.

    The real joke are the economists who fail to factor in the value of natural systems.

  64. #64 Jeff Harvey
    December 14, 2006

    Guthrie,

    A really good book is Yvonne Baskin’s “The Work of Nature: How the Diversity of Life Sustains Us”. Yvonne is a science writer who spent time at Stanford University with researchers involved the SCOPE Project (Scientfic Committee on Problems in the Environment) and her book is a gem. Gretchen Daily edited a volume, “Nature’s Services”, which is also outstanding. As far as I know, both are available in internet shops. Geoff Heal’s book, “Nature and the Marketplace” is also excellent.

  65. #65 Jeff Harvey
    December 14, 2006

    One last point about extinction which I forget to include in my long ramble yesterday. JohnH ridicules any notion that human extinction is a possibility in the near future. I seriously doubt this possibility too, although I believe that many people will die and the quality of life for the surviving population will decline markedly if we do not change course in the coming decades. This is based on the fact that at present humans are living off a one-time inheritence of natural capital accrued over many millions of years. If we look at overall consumption patterns (admittedly, the developed countries foster the largest ecological deficits), then the three major aspects of natural capital are all in decline: deep, rich agricultural soils, groundwater stored from the melt of the last ice-age, and biodiversity. The last is worrying because species and genetically distinct populatons are the working parts of our global ecological life-support systems, and their combined biological activities over variable spatial and temporal scales generates the services I have discussed earlier and that permit humans to exist and to persist.

    There is no doubt that humanity is now in a bottleneck of our own making, and it will take all of our collective efforts to get us through it. It takes incredible hubris to argue that whatever we do to the planet’s ecological infrastructure our existence is guaranteed. All species have ‘shelf lives’ and become extinct after a certain time – this usually varies between several hundred thousand and about ten million years. Like it or not, our time for extinction will come, irrespective of the inane views of people like the late Julian Simon who believed that humans will persist for the next 7 billion years. But the vast majority of scientsts are in agreement that we should not be doing whatever we can to hasten its early arrival. The ecological debt we are building up will have to be paid, and we are entering a period of consequences. The longer that humanity collectively takes to deal with this growing debt, the more serious the repecussions of it will be.

  66. #66 John Humphreys
    December 14, 2006

    Too much for me to respond to everything now. Random comments…

    I note that Super Jeff thinks he’s not an alarmist because he has credentials. I didn’t know there was a “alarmists can’t have credentials” law. I wonder if any skeptics have credentials? But that doesn’t matter.

    Jeff said that humans are “pushing natural systems beyond a threshold where they can sustain themselves and us” and “we are going to see ‘ecological meltdown’ in the functioning of these systems, and their certain collapse”. What does that mean if not a prediction of doom?

    Simple question — do people here think that humans will be able to adapt to a warmer earth, or is an average 3 degree increase going to lead to meltdown, certain collapse & the unsustainability of natural systems and humans?

    Do people on this website believe that the above comments represent the mainstream position on AGW? And if anybody thinks humans will survive a 3 degree temp increase… what impact do you think it will have on world welfare? How did you come to that estimate?

    And am I still a neoclassical economist Jeff? How have I contradicted the idea that humans are more dependent on nature? When did I except humans from the consequences of climate change? Obviously your mispresentations are considered strong arguments here… but they don’t inspire confidence.

    The confident but ignorant comments on economics here also fail to inspire confidence. I note that nobody wants to defend Stern’s economic anlaysis. But maybe that’s because he’s a hopeless skeptic who fails to believe in imminent doom! Be scared! You’re all about to die!

    Tim — Simon didn’t say that air-conditioning could fix global warming. You false analogy may be convincing here, but to an objective reader it doesn’t inspire confidence.

    Ian — that’s me. I’ve only read summaries of McKibbon. Good guy though… I used to work with him back in my consulting days. If you really want to find dirt on me you can find the whole sordid story at http://www.chapter5.wordpress.com — where you’ll find that my PhD study is half-hearted at best.

    Meyrick — I agree that significant (does 2-3 degrees count as significant) AGW is likely. But it’s healthy to be skeptical of models & there are still areas of uncertainty. For example, the fact that historical temps have decreased 800 years before co2 levels have decreased. It doesn’t disprove anything… but it raises questions.

  67. #67 Ian Gould
    December 14, 2006

    Andrew – I think that th likely costs of global warming if we fail to curb GHG emissions will be extremely high but that it is unlikely to lead to human extinction. Fortunately, I believe the cost of action to reduce GHG emissions to be relatively minor.

    Given those assumptions, he case for action to reduce emissions is quite strong.

    To be honest, I believe your excessive and ideologically-driven hostility to government action of any sort has led you to overestimate the costs.

    I mention McKibbin because his most recent (AFAIK) costings of MAJOR reductions in GHGs (well beyond Kyoto)suggested global GDP in 2050 could be reduced by a cumulative 1% per annum or so.

    O at least that’s what I seem to remember – it’s late and I’m tired.

  68. #68 John Humphreys
    December 14, 2006

    Good to hear that Jeff doesn’t think we’ll ALL die yet. Phew. I guess we’ll avoid “collapse” and “meltdown” for a bit longer. And I guess humans aren’t quite yet “pushing natural systems beyond a threshold where they can sustain themselves and us”. Lucky nobody ever said such silly things.

    But more silly things have been said…

    “I believe that many people will die and the quality of life for the surviving population will decline markedly if we do not change course in the coming decades.”

    Do you think life expectancy and death rates will increase or decrease over the next century? Do you really think human welfare will “decline markedly”? How much is markedly? There has not been one study that predicts a worse future. The Stern report predicts that we will have significantly higher human welfare in the future. As does every reasonable and vaguely informed person.

    “There is no doubt that humanity is now in a bottleneck of our own making”

    There’s big doubt. In fact — there’s so much doubt the exact opposite is known to be true. There is no doubt that humanity has more than ever of the most important resource for our continued prosperous survival — knowledge. Your absolute ignorance of economics is scary and you are doing the GW activist cause a major disservice. Serious GW activists should be distancing themselves from this garbage.

    If people don’t oppose the comments of Jeff — should I assume that you all agree with them? This is one of those credibility turning points people… choose your relevance.

  69. #69 Meyrick Kirby
    December 14, 2006

    John Humphreys:

    I agree that significant (does 2-3 degrees count as significant) AGW is likely.

    The significance come both the size and the speed.

    But it’s healthy to be skeptical of models & there are still areas of uncertainty.

    Does uncertainty make a case for inaction or action?

  70. #70 John Humphreys
    December 14, 2006

    Ian — Who is Andrew? If it’s me — I must say I prefer that to the various other names I’ve been called in online debate. :)

    “To be honest, I believe your excessive and ideologically-driven hostility to government action of any sort has led you to overestimate the costs.”

    Not an unreasonable accusation. I would disagree with “excessive” and “overestimate”… but I would agree that my ideologically-driven hostility to government action of any sort leads me to be skeptical of government policy. Especially when it follows the time honours “be scared — give us power” formula. For a previous example of the same tactic, see: Iraq.

    I don’t think “ideology” is a dirty work. I’ll freely admit having ideas and believing they’re important. I think I have good reason to be skeptical of big government action… but as I’ve already hijacked and distracted this comments thread in various OT directions perhaps we can (at least for the moment) agree to disagree on political philosophy.

    Depending on what McKibbon is measuring, 1% isn’t surprising. If you can find a link — I’ll read it with an open mind. I should note that 1% of GDP (forever) is not an insignificant amount. To dramatise (god forbid) it is literally the difference between life and death for potentially millions of people. But such impacts are abstract and far-off and hard to directly measure so it’s often overlooked. Much like climate change perhaps.

  71. #71 John Humphreys
    December 14, 2006

    Meyrick: “Does uncertainty make a case for inaction or action?”

    A good question. I believe the answer is “neither”, though if we are to have a precautionary principle I think it should be a precaution against bad public policy. We have suffered the consequences of bad government much more often than we have been saved by “good” government (sic).

    I understand that a libertarian (ie me) is more likely to have this bias than a more pro-government person, and I doubt I’ll change your political philosophy any time soon. That will take me at least a year. :)

    I’ve said it before, but this time it’s real. Even if I wanted to stay around and debate the friendly and dodge the nasties… I won’t be able to do that after today because I’m heading down to Sydney for the blogbash and will be offline. Godspeed.

  72. #72 Jeff Harvey
    December 14, 2006

    JohnH,

    It would be good to discuss some of this with you if you even vaguely understood the essential connection between the environment and human welfare. But its clear that you are not up on any of the empirical literature and thus you largely dismiss arguments suggesting that things are going in the wrong direction. There are economists from whom you could learn something – literature from Herman Daly and Geoffrey Heal would be a good start. Brian Czech’s bbok, or that from Tom Athanasiou are also excellent reads. They realize that nature provides the essential infrastructure on which civilization rests. A combination of overconsumption and population growth (the former is of greater concern at present) are eating away at that infrastructure with alarming speed. This is indisputable. The real debate is how much of this can be eroded before these systems begin to shut down. No environmental scientist can accurately say when this will happen, but there is a pretty strong consensus amongst us that we are headed towards an abyss of our own making.

    You are implying – again while lacking an even basic understanding of the processes involved and with no empirical foundation – that ecological systems are either fine or are strong enough to withstand continued assault from human actions, and that climate change (ignoring a suite of other serious stresses humans are imposing on natural systems) is unlikely to have much of an effect on humanity over the course of the next 100 years, or if it does, that our ‘limitless ingenuity’ will save us from any potential disasters. In other words, you are crossing your fingers, looking to the tooth fairy and hoping for the best. What else can one conclude?

    In answer to your questions, yes, life expectancy will decline in many parts of the world if we stay on the present course. Thanks to the ‘Washington Consensus’ and its attendant free market absolutism and predatory capitalism, I am very pessimistic that things will change in the short term. The world is in a neoliberal torpor at a time when we need some sort of colelctive effort to deal with burgeonming environmental problems. By ‘markedly’ I mean that civilization as we know it will implode – there just are not enough resources given the current overdraught in the developed world alone to support 9 or 10 bllion people.

    As Dano and I said yesterday, at present humans co-opt more than 40% of net primary production and 50% of freshwater flows. At the same time, as a report published last week suggested (based on data from 2000), 40% of the world’s wealth is controlled by only 1% (the richest) of the world’s population, whereas the bottom 50% of the world’s ppulation only control 1% of the world’s wealth. This is a staggering inequity that is getting worse thanks to the kinds of policies (e.g. ‘free trade’, a misnomer which in effect menas ‘unregulated corporate control’) being promoted by the world’s corporate and political elite. This appalling fact alone is going to push our planet towards disaster. All of the world’s developed nations foster enormous ecological deficits – meaning that our economies can only be maintained by reaching beyond our borders and plundering capital from less developed poor nations in the third world. This is all part of the reason why rapaciously unfair terms of trade, a refusal of developed nations to share technologies with undeveloped nations, a race to the bottom as far as environmental laws and wages are concerned, and other forms of deregulation are being promoted by western governments, financial institutions and corporations. The ‘shock therapy’ imposed on poor developed nations and augmented by structural adjustment programs is just another means of transferring wealth from the poor to the rich. Unless real democracy can be recaptured from the ‘bottom up’ in developed nations, then the environmetal prognosis is bleak.

    Call this an infusion of Keynsian ideas into the global economic order, but the neoliberal model is just not working, except for the bank accounts of those commanding great wealth and power who want to retain the status quo. Why do you think the US is waging preventive economic wars? Why is the corporate media disfigured by a usual ‘subservience to state power’ combined with a ‘hostility to progressve movements’ who are arguing for change? These are not my words, but the words of historian Paul Farmer. And they are appropriate.

    When George H.W. Bush said that ‘Our way of life is not up for negotiation’ in 1992, or when planner George Kennan famously remarked in 1948 that the US controlled most of the world’s wealth and needed to take steps to ‘maintain the disparity without threat to [our] national security’ which meant ‘abandoning notions like altruism and world benefaction’ while thinking in ‘straight power concepts’, they were basically saying that ‘we’ should do whatever ‘we’ can to ensure that the planet’s wealth remains in the proper hands. In recent years an increasing number of writers have begun to link these policies with important contemporary environmental issues such as climate change. It is no small wonder that those with wealth and power who do not want things to change are trying to push environmental issues frm the political agenda.

  73. #73 guthrie
    December 14, 2006

    Thanks Jeff, I’ll add them to my buy list. I note that they were published in 1997 though. I wonder if they will be updated at some point, there must have been a fair bit of research done over the past 9 years.

  74. #74 Dano
    December 14, 2006

    I think theres a huge need for a book written to appeal to “normal” people, about what Jeff Harvey is talking about.

    Start here guthrie. It’s an excerpt from this book, which is further explained in a talk with the author here and here.

    A good start at more reading can be found here, here, or here (last linky presupposes an ecological education, though) depending upon your predilection.

    Best,

    D

  75. #75 Ian Gould
    December 15, 2006

    “Depending on what McKibbon is measuring, 1% isn’t surprising. If you can find a link — I’ll read it with an open mind. I should note that 1% of GDP (forever) is not an insignificant amount. To dramatise (god forbid) it is literally the difference between life and death for potentially millions of people.”

    Actually a cumulative 1% decrease in economic growth over a 50 year period in a world economy growing at 4% per annum means that average incomes will only grow seven-fold rather than 7.1 fold over the period.

  76. #76 Ian Gould
    December 15, 2006

    http://www.abare.gov.au/publications_html/climate/climate_06/cc_policy_nu.pdf

    Not the McKibbin paper I had in mind but this ABARE paper says that stabilising atmospheric CO2 by 2050 would reduce output in that year by 5% compared to the business-as-usual scenario.

    I would argue that that is at the extreme upper end of likely costs -for starters, they modeled the imposition of a uniform global carbon tax with no changes to other taxes.

    In practice, introducing a carbon tax would be an opportunity to abolish a range of other inefficient taxes.

    They also made no allowances for costs from global warming in the business-as-usual scenario.

    Again, a cumulative reduction of 5% in output over 44 years in a global economy growing at 4% per annum means average incomes will “only” grow by 5.1 times rather than 5.3 times.

    Of course, if people are really concerned about extreme poverty they might abandon the libertarian “Rising Tide” ideology and take a look at why extreme poverty persists in countries like Mexico and Brazil which have strongly growing economies and GDP per capita comparable to or above those of eastern Europe.

  77. #77 Chris O'Neill
    December 16, 2006

    “But it’s healthy to be skeptical of models & there are still areas of uncertainty. For example, the fact that historical temps have decreased 800 years before co2 levels have decreased. It doesn’t disprove anything… but it raises questions.”

    It’s just amazing how people who think they are just skeptics keep bringing this up over and over again, apparently without any real interest in trying to find out the answer themselves. This has been dealt with a long time ago and anyone who brings it up does their credibility a disservice.

  78. #78 Meyrick Kirby
    December 16, 2006

    but it raises questions

    The only question it raises, is what caused the initial (first 800 years) of temperature rises.

  79. #79 Eli Rabett
    December 16, 2006

    While the Oregon Petition has often been discussed, the paper that accompanied it was only seen as a provocation, and so silly that it was almost not worth discussing. However, this was a mistake, because it is eternally cited by the denialists. It has long lacked a deserved fisking. I have started along that path. All contributions welcome.

  80. #80 andrew
    December 17, 2006

    “Ian — Who is Andrew? If it’s me — I must say I prefer that to the various other names I’ve been called in online debate. :)”

    Sorry JH – its me Andrew MBChB 1990(Ak) BSc 1984 (biological science)STD (house of ill repute)
    Recently cured of rabies.
    AGW agnostic – keen to learn – and have just read the ref by Chris O’Neill re CO2 “along time ago”
    (I think that Ian may have inadverntly used my name as I recently referred to govt inertia on the “not getting it” site.)
    Anyway for those who do not understand the CO2 lag bit here’s a cut and paste from the ref
    “From studying all the available data (not just ice cores), the probable sequence of events at a termination goes something like this. Some (currently unknown) process causes Antarctica and the surrounding ocean to warm. This process also causes CO2 to start rising, about 800 years later. Then CO2 further warms the whole planet, because of its heat-trapping properties. This leads to even further CO2 release”
    That’s for the Antarctic.
    For the Arctic its different – CO2 rise apparently precedes warming.
    In conclusion there has been an unknown process operative in the Antartic initaing Global warming and a process preceded by CO2 which has led to gobal warming in the Arctic.

  81. #81 z
    December 17, 2006

    “It doesn’t disprove anything… but it raises questions.”
    It’s just amazing how people who think they are just skeptics keep bringing this up over and over again, apparently without any real interest in trying to find out the answer themselves.”

    Chris, Chris, Chris. The point isn’t finding out the answer; the point is to just raise questions. Finding out the answers? That would ruin everything!!!

  82. #82 Eli Rabett
    December 17, 2006

    Try Milkanovitch Cycle, under unknown. What you meant to say is that YOU did not know. Evidently your ignorance is our problem.

  83. #83 andrew
    December 17, 2006

    Dear Eli
    I am aware of Milankovich cycles.
    The abovepiece was a direct quote from the referral to a site by Chris O’Neill above.
    Please refer me to the site that explains Milankovich cycles as the initiator.
    Thankyou in anticipation

  84. #84 John Humphreys
    December 18, 2006

    Ian — I have seen that report & discussed the present value cost of a 5% GDP reduction at the http://www.alsblog.wordpress.com blog and it is a significant amount. You might be surprised.

    Chris — I’ve seen that link before and it doesn’t remove the questions raised by the co2-temp timing paradox. The reality is that there is no answer on this issue yet. Perhaps there will be soon.

    Meyrick — actually, I think the bigger question is what caused temps to go down while co2 remained high for another 800 years.

    Tim — if you’re still reading this comments thread, it was good of you to brave enemy territory on Saturday. We didn’t really get to talk, but I hope somebody made you feel welcome.

  85. #85 JB
    December 18, 2006

    Isn’t it interesting how every John, Dick and Harry with a Bachelors in economics calls himself an “economist”?

  86. #86 andrew
    December 18, 2006

    What is your point JB?

  87. #87 Ian Gould
    December 18, 2006

    John,

    Sorry, I waded through the first page of pro-gun/taxes are too high/assimilate-the-blacks-for-their-own-good rhetoric but couldn’t find the relevant entry.

    Care to provide a date for the entry?

    That’s assuming its more than the usual argument from stupefaction – “This is a very large number” – while ignoring the projected overall size of the world economy in 2050.

    If ABARE is even vaguely correct about the rate of economic growth over the period and the benefits are more or less evenly distributed in percentage terms, stabilising CO2 concentrations MIGHT delay the total eradication of absolute poverty (defined as an income of less than US$1 per day) by six months or so.

    On a slightly different note – would you agreed that the ABARE cost estimates totally discredit the alarmist nonsense put about by the likes of Steve Malloy?

  88. #88 JB
    December 18, 2006

    John H is representing himself as an “economist” and talking as if he is some sort of economics expert.

    He may have an undergraduate degree in economics.

    Big deal.

    That does not make him an economist and a bachelors degree certainly does not make one an expert on economics — or anything else, for that matter.

    If he really wants to call himself an economist, perhaps he should get more serious about getting an advanced degree.

  89. #89 Ian Gould
    December 18, 2006

    I wonder if greenhouse policy is probably one of those issues on which John agrees with Hayek and various of his Australian libertarian compatriots that democracy is good but its even better if its limited to the Right People.

    http://alsblog.wordpress.com/2006/11/16/shock-horror/#comments

  90. #90 Ian Gould
    December 18, 2006

    “John H is representing himself as an “economist” and talking as if he is some sort of economics expert.

    He may have an undergraduate degree in economics.

    Big deal.

    That does not make him an economist and a bachelors degree certainly does not make one an expert on economics — or anything else, for that matter.”

    In Johns defence:

    - if he is working on his PHD he may already possess a Master’s.

    - I only possess an undergraduate degree, despite this I worked for the better part of a decade for the Queensland EPA as an economist specialising in regulatory impact assessment and cost-benefit analysis.

  91. #91 andrew
    December 18, 2006

    It’s probably better to look at the quality of the argument than the quantity or quality of the qualifications.

  92. #92 Ian Gould
    December 18, 2006

    Andrew yes it is – however I believe it is worthy of note in passing that John Humphries has relied on his credentials as an economist to bolster his arguments while dismissing Jeff Harvey’s much more impressive qualifications in ecology.

    Argument from authority is not actually a logical fallacy but it is a pretty weak argument. However if you are going to employ it yourself, you can hardly object to others doing so.

  93. #93 andrew
    December 19, 2006

    Fair comment Ian.
    With regard to the issue I raised above I would be grateful if Eli or someone else could respond to my query regarding the CO2 lag in the Antarctic.
    What I presented was a cut and paste from the site I was referred to. This site contained a reference which I also read. Eli has asserted that Milkanovitch Cycles are the promoter. I would like him to substantiate this assertion.
    On an interesting note wrt qualifications – Al Gore was apparently a drop out from first year BA.
    I think it is best for all of us to admit areas of lack of understanding and adopt a co-operative approach. In this way understanding advances more rapidly.

  94. #94 Ian Gould
    December 19, 2006

    Andrew,

    As someone pointed out somewhere on this blog, the temperature in the polar regions is affected by a whole range of factors besides CO2 levels.

    For example, precipitation patterns change when temperature changes which could lead to more or less rainfall and snowfall in particular areas.

    Increased runoff from melting icecaps can also affect ocean currents – fresh water is denser and tends to sink to the bottom – which could affect climate in the two areas differently. Similarly, much of the arctic is ice floating on water which tends to moderate the temperature in the area (i.e. the north pole is warmer than the south pole to start with.)

    We can also take a look at what’s happening currently – the northern polar region is warming faster than almost any part of the planet. Much of the northern area has relatively thin ice and snow and as this melts it exposes soil and rock which has a much lower albedo and absorbs more of the sun’s heat. Antarctica has generally thicker ice which means that so far where the surface has melted its just exposed more ice.

  95. #95 andrew
    December 19, 2006

    Thankyou Ian. I have been reading widely on the issue and derived the same understanding from this reading wrt the scenario you have presented.
    Dare I say it – but there are unanswered questions – which I will need to present when the brain is depickled.
    Cheers Andrew M

  96. #96 llewelly
    December 19, 2006

    Increased runoff from melting icecaps can also affect ocean currents – fresh water is denser and tends to sink to the bottom – which could affect climate in the two areas differently.

    Thinko: Salt water is denser than fresh water, at a given temperature. The downwellings of the THC actually rely on a supply of water more saline than most of the surrounding water.

  97. #97 ian Gould
    December 19, 2006

    In the words of that great philosopher Homer Simpson: D’oh.

    I knew it was one or the other and if I weren’t so tired I would probably have gotten that right.

    The underlying point regarding increased run-off potentially altering ocean currents remains valid though.

  98. #98 Chris O'Neill
    December 19, 2006

    “I’ve seen that link before and it doesn’t remove the questions raised by the co2-temp timing paradox.”

    There’s no timing paradox so what questions are these? There’s always questions but are any of them important to AGW? It’s nice to know what initiated climatic changes in the past but they make no difference to the warming effect of CO2. Looking at the ice core graphs it’s obvious that earth’s climate has a bistable behaviour which implies a strong positive feedback effect during transitions between warm and cold, especially going from cold to warm. Of course while it is warm or cold, the climate is relatively stable which implies at least one process in the feedback loop is relatively weak during these times. But now we’re adding so much CO2 that there doesn’t need to be any positive feedback to get substantial temperature increases.

  99. #99 jb
    December 19, 2006

    ian said; ‘I only possess an undergraduate degree, despite this I worked for the better part of a decade for the Queensland EPA as an economist specialising in regulatory impact assessment and cost-benefit analysis.’

    having a bachelors does not preclude one’s being an economist, but it does not make one an economist either…any more than having a bachelors in physics makes one a physicist.

    i’m willing to bet that you probably learned most of what you know about economics on the job.

    ‘John Humphries has relied on his credentials as an economist to bolster his arguments’

    …which was precisely my reason for questioning his credentials.

    as andrew, i also believe that the argument is (far) more important than the credenetials, but to be very honest, i am not impressed with jh’s arguments either and when he is flaunting the fact that he is an economist so he is fair game for criticism on this.

  100. #100 andrew
    December 21, 2006

    To all those wishing for a white Xmas in the Southern Hemisphere.
    Come to New Zealand – a beautiful country.
    Cool and wet in many areas of the country- we are looking forward to snow flurries down to 600m in the South Island and temps of 16 to 19 degrees C in the North.
    I like it and would be sad to lose it
    Merry Xmas

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