Levitt and Dubner still haven’t engaged with their critics’ arguments and continue to respond with nothing more than name calling. Their latest piece in USA Today likens climate scientists to flat earthers:

Devoted environmentalists, meanwhile, as well as some members of the tight-knit climate-science community, find this sort of idea repugnant. Using sulfur dioxide to solve an environmental problem? It just doesn’t feel right to them. Of course, the idea that the Earth revolves around the sun didn’t initially feel right either. Nor did the assertion that the Earth might in fact be round and not flat.

The article is even illustrated with a picture of a flat Earth. Josh at EnviroKnow details many other problems with their article.

Levitt offers a solution to ocean acidification (on The Diane Rehm Show about 20 minutes in) (Listen to it here):

“Of course, ocean acidification is an important issue. Now, there are ways to deal with ocean acidification, right, it’s actually, that’s actually, we know exactly how to un-acidifiy the oceans, is to pour a bunch of base into it, so, so if that turns out to be an incredibly big problem, then we can deal with that.”

Does he understand how big the oceans are?

I have a suggestion for a nicely controversial chapter in their next book, Hyperfreakonomics. Advocate that instead of treating type 2 diabetes with diet and exercise, people should avoid the bother of exercise and changing their diet and just inject insulin. When doctors object to this advice, respond that you are just calmly and logically answering the question: “How can we efficiently control blood sugar levels” while your critics are hung up on moral questions like “How can we keep this person healthy”. And then finish with:

Devoted health nuts, meanwhile, as well as some members of the tight-knit medical-science community, find this sort of idea repugnant. Of course, the idea that the Earth might in fact be round and not flat didn’t initially feel right either.

Hat tip: Brian D.

Comments

  1. #1 Katharine
    October 29, 2009

    Therein is the problem. They are economists, not chemists, biologists, or geologists.

    As I said to my best friend, bloody cocksucking lizardshit skullfuck do I hate people whose career revolves solely around money.

  2. #2 Mandrake
    October 29, 2009

    I wonder what are the demographics of USA Today readers and how that might be indicative of their acceptance of the article’s arguments.

  3. #3 dhogaza
    October 29, 2009

    bloody cocksucking lizardshit skullfuck do I hate people whose career revolves solely around money.

    That deserves to be turned into a line of t-shirts …

  4. #4 Eric Lund
    October 29, 2009

    @Mandrake: I have no idea how big USA Today’s individual subscription base is, but IME a fair fraction of their circulation is supplying business hotels with papers they can distribute to their guests. At least, the only time I ever read that rag is when I’m staying in a hotel which supplies it for free (it’s better than cable news–but that’s a low bar to clear). The subscribers of record, in that case, would not be the actual readers.

    Unfortunately, there aren’t really any good alternatives for a US national paper, unless you happen to be close enough to New York City for a NYT subscription to be feasible (even then, it’s only a minor improvement). At one time WaPo would have been a decent alternative, but since at least the late 1990s they have been as bad or worse than USA Today. The WSJ is good for financial news but lacking in other regards.

  5. #5 dhogaza
    October 29, 2009

    Unfortunately, there aren’t really any good alternatives for a US national paper, unless you happen to be close enough to New York City for a NYT subscription to be feasible (even then, it’s only a minor improvement).

    You can get morning delivery of the NY Times in much of the US. Here in the PNW, it’s printed in Tacoma, Washington and trucked down to Portland early enough to show up at my favorite local coffee shop before they open at 6 AM.

    The news cutoff time is late afternoon east coast time but it’s a heck of a lot better than reading the Oregonian (which is better than USA Today, but that’s a bit like saying the Detroit Lions are better than the Oakland Raiders).

  6. #6 Majorajam
    October 29, 2009

    Katharine,

    Economists work does not ‘revolve around money’ but with the production and distribution of the goods and services that sustain our civilization, and in the context of that, people’s welfare. Those economists that specialize in the economics of climate change do important work. They try to balance competing considerations of societies stakeholders- something that theoretically should power decisions in a democracy.

    The best of this work highlights critical considerations, and illuminates prudent policy. A perfect example of said is Marty Weitzman’s work, wherein he has demonstrated through analysis the central importance of uncertainty, which is to say the risk of extremely bad outcomes based both on what we do and what we don’t know about what we don’t know, (as an aside, Loopy and Dumbshit don’t even seem to understand this work, which they cite). This analysis lays out why we must start mitigating and why we must do it aggressively. The justification is manifestly not that we need to “save the planet”. Whenever I hear that line, especially in the context of a policy discussion meant to persuade, I want to slam my head on a table. It is to save ourselves- our children, our grandchildren, and civilization as we know it- against the nontrivial possibility that climate change will lead to cataclysmic outcomes.

    It is important to recognize the need for and validity of that work both so that we can advocate the right solutions, and also so that we can present them in a way that demonstrates beyond a SHADOW OF A DOUBT that this is no ‘secular religion’, but a well reasoned analysis that makes policy action an absolute imperative.

  7. #7 A
    October 29, 2009

    Levitt: “..we know exactly how to un-acidifiy the oceans, is to pour a bunch of base into it,….”
    By saying so, Levitt must also have missed out on high-school chemistry. How do you make a base?
    Most rocks are not basic, but carbonates or silicates.
    Easiest way is to make lime: you heat limestone,
    CaCO3, until it decomposes into CaO and CO2; the CO2 goes into the atmosphere, so adds to the problem.
    Brilliant solutions by brilliant economists! Did they also at some time lecture on the benefits of derivatives, CDOs credit swaps and the ever-so efficient markets? [efficient for whom?]

  8. #8 Brian D
    October 29, 2009

    There’s also work by some economists to move beyond capitalism, of all things. Mark Anielski (author of The Economics of Happiness) is one I’ve dealt with personally, for instance. It’s revealing to note that “economics” and “ecology” share a root, drawn from the Greek word for “house”, for a reason – both involve the study of and management of affairs of our ultimate home, this planet.

    Of course, there’s still those nitwits of the Chicago school – while every discipline has its cranks, in economics they’re just slightly more accepted and mainstream.

    .

    .

    .

    By the way, in the previous thread, Brian Schmidt reminded me of something I forgot to mention. The Royal Society did a report on ocean acidification that basically puts the nail in the coffin on Levitt’s “just add base!” proposal (page 45).

    I’m bringing this up not only because it’s a proper scientific reference, but also for delicious irony: Ken Caldeira was an author, and it’s his research that’s cited frequently on this very subject.

  9. #9 DavidCOG
    October 29, 2009

    Off-topic: Multiyear Arctic ice is effectively gone – http://www.reuters.com/article/scienceNews/idUSTRE59S3LT20091029

  10. #10 Dave Andrews
    October 29, 2009

    Brian D,

    Can we move away from the Levitt bashing for a while?

    Well I just took a look at that RS report and the Summary says this -

    Para 5: “Reducing CO2 emissions to the atmosphere appears to be the only practical way to minimise the risk of large-scale and long-term changes to the oceans”

    Seems unequivocal then.

    But in para 9 it says,

    “From the evidence available it is not certain whether marine species, communities and ecosystems will be able to acclimate or evolve in response to changes in ocean chemistry, or WHETHER ULTIMATELY THE SERVICES THAT THE OCEAN’S ECOSYSYEMS PROVIDE WILL BE AFFECTED”

    This is much more equivocal. It then notes that research into the impact of CO2 on the oceans is in its infancy and, of course, recommends a major internatioinal research effort. (Which means,of course, more money for scientists such as Caldeira!)

  11. #11 ScaredAmoeba
    October 29, 2009

    Katharine@ 1 said:

    bloody cocksucking lizardshit skullfuck do I hate people whose career revolves solely around money.

    I think you are being too kind!

  12. #12 Michael
    October 29, 2009

    Shorter Dave Andrews:
    It’s all a scam for more research grants.

  13. #13 Phila
    October 29, 2009

    “Of course, ocean acidification is an important issue. Now, there are ways to deal with ocean acidification, right, it’s actually, that’s actually, we know exactly how to un-acidifiy the oceans, is to pour a bunch of base into it, so, so if that turns out to be an incredibly big problem, then we can deal with that.”

    Be sure to add some extra metric tons of baking soda, to make up for the acid rain you’ll cause when you fill the atmosphere with sulfur dioxide. TIA.

    But in para 9 it says,

    “From the evidence available it is not certain whether marine species, communities and ecosystems will be able to acclimate or evolve in response to changes in ocean chemistry, or WHETHER ULTIMATELY THE SERVICES THAT THE OCEAN’S ECOSYSYEMS PROVIDE WILL BE AFFECTED”

    This is much more equivocal.

    “It is not certain that this course of action would kill most or all marine species and leave us without the ecosystem services they provide…so let’s give it a shot!”

  14. #14 Mark Byrne
    October 29, 2009

    Brian D,
    Thanks for the link,

    Interesting that Ken Caldeira is cited several times in the Royal Society’s chapter on mitigation of ocean acidification.

    If the superfreaks thought the answer to ocean acidification was ‘just add base’, why did they leave that out of their book? They had access to one of the most relevant scientists who could have set them straight on this point.

  15. #15 dhogaza
    October 29, 2009

    Para 5: “Reducing CO2 emissions to the atmosphere appears to be the only practical way to minimise the risk of large-scale and long-term changes to the oceans”

    Seems unequivocal then.

    Yes, it is unequivocal regarding the existence of risk. “risk” doesn’t mean “certainty”.

    But in para 9 it says,
    “From the evidence available it is not certain whether marine species, communities and ecosystems will be able to acclimate or evolve in response to changes in ocean chemistry, or WHETHER ULTIMATELY THE SERVICES THAT THE OCEAN’S ECOSYSYEMS PROVIDE WILL BE AFFECTED”
    This is much more equivocal.

    Yes, it is equivocal regarding the certainty of such damage, just as the earlier statement was unequivocal about there being a risk (as opposed an equivocal statement of certain damage).

    In other news, DaveA would appreciate some help tying his shoes.

  16. #16 Marion Delgado
    October 29, 2009

    This is an old trope. Capitalism fanatics routinely lie and say environmentalists don’t understand things they don’t want to undergo public scrutiny.

    I am grateful to the superfreaks for being so obvious about it.

  17. #17 Marion Delgado
    October 29, 2009

    But to play their game for a minute – the round/flat thing is the dumbest possible example. We don’t even know when people first speculated the earth was round. We know things like Eratosthenes calculating its actual circumference in 300 BC or so.

    But that’s the difference between thinking the moon is “far away” and knowing how far away it is. For a long time before we knew how far away it was, we knew it wasn’t a nearby hole in the sky.

  18. #18 Brian Schmidt
    October 29, 2009

    #14 Mark: I suspect that acidification isn’t discussed in the book because L+D did too little research to understand its importance. Either it didn’t come up in their discussions with Caldeira or he mentioned it and it didn’t sink in. A little wikipedia research goes a long way, they might try it next time.

    I also suspect they still don’t know about regional drought issues with their “Stratoshield” or about the polar amplification problem (the shield cools everywhere evenly, and the Arctic has warmed more than the rest of the globe). A good interviewer might be able to catch them on that.

    Too bad Jon Stewart was such a putz.

  19. #19 Stu
    October 29, 2009

    Phila #13

    For the sake of balance, the SO2 that would be pumped into the stratosphere would be negligible compared to our current emissions into the troposphere.

    Not that I agree with geoengineering – it would be nice to have it as a failsafe if the climate does begin warming in an unmanagable fashion, but it obiously only solves the temperature problem.

    As for pouring a base such as lime into the ocean… perhaps he should have done a quick check as to just how much lime that would require? It would be more than 34 gallons a minute*, I’ll bet.

    *theorised rate of SO2 input into the stratosphere in a geoengineering example

  20. #20 Brian D
    October 29, 2009

    Dave, you can’t possibly be this dense, confusing risk and certainty. Unless, of course, you protest casinos, claiming that they shouldn’t be able to make money.

    Let me rephrase to a logically equivalent paragraph:

    “Capturing the arsonists in the city appears to be the only practical way to minimise the risk of injury and property damage.

    From the evidence available it is not certain whether the community will be able to adapt in response to the presence of these arsonists (say, with improved fire codes), or whether ultimately the arsonists will keep to themselves and not light anything else on fire.”

    Is that a bit clearer? We aren’t certain, but we know there’s a risk, and the only way to minimize the risk is to take action now.

    And I’ll lay off of Levitt when he owns up to his mistakes. But, I forget, he’s a Chicago school economist – pretending you’re an infallible, absolute authority in every conceivable field is apparently an undergraduate course there.

  21. #21 DavidCOG
    October 29, 2009

    Must-watch video of Rep. Jay Inslee sticking it to the Deniers and specifically The Super Freaky Boys: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxVxdQL4ois

  22. #22 Phila
    October 29, 2009

    For the sake of balance, the SO2 that would be pumped into the stratosphere would be negligible compared to our current emissions into the troposphere.

    Point taken. But it’d still be in addition to existing emissions, wouldn’t it? My impression was that they wanted to do this stuff instead of cutting emissions….

    As for pouring a base such as lime into the ocean… perhaps he should have done a quick check as to just how much lime that would require? It would be more than 34 gallons a minute*, I’ll bet.

    For an expert in “data and logic” like Levitt, it doesn’t seem like it’d be that hard. We know the pH of the oceans, we know roughly how much water they comprise…you’d think he would’ve done the math.

    From there, he could work on figuring out where to get it, how to transport it, how to distribute it evenly, etc.

  23. #23 Brian D
    October 29, 2009

    You’d think he would have done the math, indeed.

    However, this trained Chicago-school economist decided to write “Then there’s this little-discussed fact about global warming: while the drumbeat of doom has grown louder of the past several years, the average global temperature during that time has in fact decreased.” after – I am not joking – just eyeballing the data.

    When confronted with this, he said he only wrote the line ironically.

    Source: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gGAa00xryzkYa7FUhfip-CDPM_tgD9BIVLKO0

  24. #24 _Arthur
    October 29, 2009

    China is already doing its bit to realize Myhrvold’s dream; China emits 25 million tons of SO2 annually, albeit inefficiently, in the lower atmosphere.

    Canada could burn its vast stockpiles of surplus sulfur, a by-product of bituminous sands oil extraction. Canada would thus help cool the world, while producing clean-burning gasoline.

  25. #25 Ian Musgrave
    October 29, 2009

    Advocate that instead of treating type 2 diabetes with diet and exercise, people should avoid the bother of exercise and changing their diet and just inject insulin.

    Well, in type 2 diabetes insulin doesn’t work well and we use oral antiglycemics such as metformin (insulin resistance being a significant problem), so insulin injection (which basically doesn’t work all that well, if at all) is not strictly comparable to S02 injection (which would work, we think).

    The issue might be better reframed (sorry for using the *framing* word) in terms of *prevention*, by using diet and exercise we can prevent people from developing type 2 diabetes (while by reducing C02 emissions we can prevent serious increaes in global temperatures), while giving obese people oral antiglycemics will prevent a rise in blood glucose, but will not ameliorate other bad effects of insulin resistance and obesity itself (just like increasing high atmosphere SO2 will slow temperature rise but not affect ocean acidification).

    Sorry for being nit picky (just gave a lecture on diabetes therapy), but if might be more useful to say to people “we want to prevent serious effects, L&D don’t want to treat the cause, but to ameliorate some of the effects. Ask yourself which you would prefer; preventative measures to stop you developing diabetes, or being on diabetes medication for the rest of your life?”

  26. #26 _Arthur
    October 29, 2009

    “increasing high atmosphere SO2 will slow temperature rise but not affect ocean acidification”

    Uh, the SO2 will ultimately rain down over land and sea as H2SO4, no ?

    What was most recent pH of H2SO4 ?

  27. #27 mndean
    October 29, 2009

    Ian,
    Since you hijacked mildly about insulin and Type 2 diabetes, answer me this – if insulin is ineffective for Type 2 diabetes then why do they give those hospitalized Type 2 diabetics insulin while they’re in the hospital? Yes, I’m serious in wanting to know and I have personal knowledge in the matter.

  28. #28 Brian Schmidt
    October 30, 2009

    Per Tim’s subsequent post, there is a one-sentence mention of ocean acidification in Superfreak, with no discussion of its signficance. My comment above is wrong in saying it’s not mentioned. Whether they understood it while writing the book isn’t clear, though.

  29. #29 Jeff Harvey
    October 30, 2009

    Basically, the “Dave Andrews approach” to global environmental change and its effects upon our ecological life-support systems is to say that we should not conduct research on it (because it is a grant-funding ruse) under the assumption that humans are probably exempt from the laws of nature anyway, so why bother? Any environmental research must, in Dave’s warped lexicon, have an alternative agenda (those sneaky grants again) and scientists just cannot be trusted. Dave must think that the human approach to the biosphere – slash and burn, nickel and dime – is fine, but under no circumstances should scientists be funded to study the possible consequences of human impacts on communities, ecosystems, or biomes.

    Heck, Dave why do we employ scientists at all? Why do we test for the safety of new products, such as cars, drugs, GMO’s or pesticides, since you *must* believe that the only reason that this is done is to secure government funding. Why do we need safety officers or regulators at all? After all, Dave, are these people not just abusing the system to get jobs that we do not really need? Let us throw caution to the wind!!!!

    The fact is, Dave, your posts are utterly vacuous. I fully understand why people find what you say to be so utterly devoid of logic. I wish you would expend your wrath towards the mega billions of taxpayers dollars that are used to kill people instead of saving them. Your last post here was so utterly dumb that, to be honest, it did not deserve a response. There is little doubt that an array of anthropogenic processes are dramatically altering marine ecosystems. However, you appear to think this is OK and that any suggestions that the consequences need to be explored are nothing more than a ploy to get more grant funding. Good grief. How utterly sad.

  30. #30 Tim Lambert
    October 30, 2009

    Wikipedia [says](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diabetes_mellitus_type_2#Insulin_preparations)

    >If antidiabetic drugs fail (ie, the clinical benefit stops), insulin therapy may be necessary – usually in addition to oral medication therapy – to maintain normal or near normal glucose levels.

    I know very little about it, but I thought that insulin resistance just means that you need more insulin to achieve the same effect.

  31. #31 frankis
    October 30, 2009

    With or without Ian’s suggested modification that’s a great medical metaphor Tim. These guys are being remarkably precious about their newbie answers to the wrong climate science questions. Elsewhere people understand that just knowing enough to be _asking_ the right questions is hard work. Do L&D deploy their smart mouths and snappy insights when it’s their doctors or car mechanics telling them things they don’t like to hear? This is like being lectured at by over-opinionated, slightly stupid, children.

  32. #32 Brian D
    October 30, 2009

    A related, but slightly more generalized, metaphor showed up on a Think Progress thread I was reading as I updated the list.

    It’s like seeing a person being gnawed upon by a lion, and prescribing a blood transfusion. “I think the lion just hit a major artery! Quick, pump the blood faster!”

  33. #33 Spiny Norman
    October 30, 2009

    “Like every question we tackle in Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics, we approach the question like economists, using data and logic to conclude that the answer to that question is geo-engineering….”

    Like economists – not as economists. So happy they were clear on that point. [h/t Bouphonia]

  34. #34 Mark
    October 30, 2009

    > China is already doing its bit to realize Myhrvold’s dream; China emits 25 million tons of SO2 annually, albeit inefficiently, in the lower atmosphere.

    Note, however, that the US is complaining about this because the pollution is raining down on US land.

    I wonder if all those who yakked on about how acid rain was a myth are telling these USians complaining that there is no problem.

  35. #35 natural cynic
    October 30, 2009

    Tim

    Advocate that instead of treating type 2 diabetes with diet and exercise, people should avoid the bother of exercise and changing their diet and just inject insulin.

    Ian #25

    Well, in type 2 diabetes insulin doesn’t work well and we use oral antiglycemics such as metformin (insulin resistance being a significant problem), so insulin injection (which basically doesn’t work all that well, if at all) is not strictly comparable to S02 injection (which would work, we think).

    Type 2 diabetes progresses from early hyperinsulinemia with insulin resistance to late hypoinsulinemia with insulin resistance. Early on the high circulating insulin mostly compensates for resistance. The resistance continues, usually due to a lack of changes in activity and diet], however the body cannot make enough insulin to compensate, so antihyperglycemic agents are used to induce greater insulin secretion, increase insulin sensitivity or decrease the rate of carbohydrate absorption. As the diabetic ages further, insulin secretion is further reduced to levels below what a normoglycemic secretes and insulin must be given, sometimes in high doses, to control blood sugar. The real goal of Type 2 diabetes therapy is to use the combination of exercise, diet and medications to get the diabetic to live long enough so that insulin is needed. In many cases, supplemental insulin is good and necessary. As Ian writes later on

    …might be more useful to say to people “we want to prevent serious effects, L&D don’t want to treat the cause, but to ameliorate some of the effects. Ask yourself which you would prefer; preventative measures to stop you developing diabetes, or being on diabetes medication for the rest of your life?”

    Absolutely – this is the sensible thing. Unfortunately, many Type 2 diabetics are unwilling to make the effort to move more and eat less. They would rather take the pills. Getting back to AGW, excess CO2 production is the primary symptom, human stupidity is the disease and ocean acidification is a secondary symptom. SO2 in the atmosphere and adding base in the oceans are treating the symptoms. And, as usual, something that only treats the symptoms will usually have unfortunate side-effects.

  36. #36 Chris O'Neill
    October 30, 2009

    From the Royal Society’s Ocean Acidification report:

    To counteract the changes in acidity caused by today’s ocean uptake of roughly 2 Gt C per year (IPCC 2001) would require roughly 20 Gt CaCO3 per year (Caldeira & Rau 2000)

    No wonder Levitt and Dubner are just laughable.

  37. #37 Mark
    October 30, 2009

    > No wonder Levitt and Dubner are just laughable.

    > Posted by: Chris O’Neill

    I believe there are two (maybe three but the extra one is a close companion of one of the others) reasons:

    1) They were predisposed to disregard AGW and heard enough to say it wasn’t happening and so didn’t look any further

    2) They want a book that will sell and anything anti-AGW will sell like hotcakes even if it is full of crap

    on point 2 I’ve read Pauli’s quote below as an inspirational quote at work:

    > The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas

    but I’ve always considered this much more in keeping with commerce (and especially books like superfreakonomics and Heaven & Earth):

    > The best way to have lots of ideas is to have lots of crap ideas

    after all, it would take a lot more effort to find the subset of ideas that are good and you aren’t being asked to prove the idea, just come up with one. Minimal effort, 100% effect.

  38. #38 WotWot
    October 30, 2009

    As I said to my best friend, bloody cocksucking lizardshit skullfuck do I hate people whose career revolves solely around money.

    Smart, sassy, swears like a half drunk navvy with a poetic ear, and hates economists.

    I think I am in love.

    •••••••••••••••

    @9

    http://www.reuters.com/article/scienceNews/idUSTRE59S3LT20091029

    Oh fuck.

  39. #39 Katharine
    October 30, 2009

    mndean, this is what I found on insulin and type 2 diabetes:

    Insulin is indicated in type 2 diabetes if an individual gets hospitalized, because sometimes individual medications don’t work and the pancreatic cells can’t produce enough insulin to overcome a patient’s resistance to the insulin .

  40. #40 toby
    October 30, 2009

    This is a case of intellectual hubris … L&D spent a day with some geo-engineers & decided they knew better than all the climate scientists in the world .. I mean, they had written a best seller, hadn’t they?

  41. #41 WAG
    October 30, 2009

    I think these Calvin & Hobbes cartoons say it all:

    http://akwag.blogspot.com/2009/10/what-do-superfreaks-and-calvin-hobbes.html

  42. #42 Dave Andrews
    October 30, 2009

    dhogaza,

    “Yes, it is equivocal regarding the certainty of such damage, just as the earlier statement was unequivocal about there being a risk (as opposed an equivocal statement of certain damage).”

    Every time I get out of bed in the morning there is a ‘risk’ that something bad could happen to me but I don’t base my whole life on that possibility.

    What that summary effectively says is there might be a problem but our understanding is not sufficient to properly be able to quantify it. This statement is repeated numerous times across the board in all aspects of climate change. ‘The science is settled’ is the biggest lie in modern history.

  43. #43 Dave Andrews
    October 30, 2009

    Jeff Harvey,

    You repeatedly say that you hold my posts in contempt but you don’t half expend a lot words on them, so perhaps they are hitting closer to home than you might like to admit.

    Moreover, I am all in favour of scientific research. I just do not believe, however, that scientists, as people, are different from other human beings.If they see a ‘gravy train’ coming along many of them will be tempted to jump aboard.

    I have no idea how eminent you are in your field, but I am sure you are aware that there is a lot of mediocre science done in it, just as there is in all fields. If governments start throwing money at your field, however, would you decline to take it because much of the science being done was mediocre?

  44. #44 Chris O'Neill
    October 30, 2009

    Dave Andrews:

    If they see a ‘gravy train’ coming along many of them will be tempted to jump aboard.

    You’re absolutely right Dave. Tyndal, Fourier and Arrhenius knew more than 100 years ago that they could start a gravy train that would last for more than a hundred years in the future.

    Shame on Tyndal, Fourier and Arrhenius for starting the biggest lie in modern history. Good on you Dave for being smarter than them.

  45. #45 Dave Andrews
    October 30, 2009

    Chris O’Neill,

    Don’t be stupid! The station wasn’t even built for them and the ‘gravy train’ has only been running fot the last 20 years or so with a full head of steam only developing in the last 10.

  46. #46 Marion Delgado
    October 30, 2009

    Exactly how tight-knit is the climate science community? Since only devoted environmentalists and that hermetic group would ever criticize a Freakonomist.

    I mean, I suppose I’m a devoted environmentalist, but how do they know? Maybe I’m part of the tight-knit climate science community, as Gav and Jim said to me when I had them and Al and Joe over for solar-powered barbecue. I remember Joe said, with Mike (Mike M, not Mike T, he was over by the LED Tiki torches) and Jeff nodding approvingly, that you had to hand it to the Chicago economists. The last thing they are is some insular tight-knit community that support each other’s paradigms uncritically.

  47. #47 Marion Delgado
    October 30, 2009

    With a Dave Andrews type, I don’t think any possible response will gain him, you, or anyone anything.

  48. #48 Chris O'Neill
    October 30, 2009

    Dave Andrews:

    Don’t be stupid!

    Take your own advice before you give it to anyone else.

    The station wasn’t even built

    Try to get the point next time. Tyndal, Fourier and Arrhenius started building the station and the train according to your view.

    the ‘gravy train’ has only been running fot the last 20 years or so

    What? Haven’t you heard of Gilbert Plass or Keeling? Oh that’s right. You’re an arrogant ignoramus. How could I forget.

  49. #49 Jeff Harvey
    October 31, 2009

    Dave Andrews,

    There are mediocre people in EVERY field of endeavor. Heck, look at British and American politics – pretty well every character over the past 50 years has been an abomination. And yet these people get paid pretty well.

    Your “gravy train” statement might come straight out of an astroturf anti-environmental group, a PR firm or a right wing think tank. No evidence needs to be procured, it just “exists”. And it is dangled in front of the lay public – meaning people like you DA – as ameans of generating fury at scientists. Seems you take the bait pretty well.

    Fact: there is no “gravy train” in science, any more than there was 100 years ago. You would be better off saying that there has been a military “gravy train” operating in the Pentagon after the cold war began, and especially since 9-11. This “gravy train” is worth trillions of dollars and has made a number of corporations a hell of a lot of money, not forgetting that a lot of brown-skinned people have died as a result.

    Lastly, money is not “thrown” at scientists working in climate or environmental science. Grant funding has always been tight as a drum with most people’s applications failing to be funded. My last three PhD grant proposals have all bitten the dust, meaning that instead of training PhD students to do independent research I do the experiments myself. Do you honestly think I became a scientist because my eyes lit up with the thoughts of grant money? I became a scientist because I love the nature of scientific questions and because as a youngster I loved natural history. I never ever dreamed at any stage of my education that I pursued science because of a financial incentive, least of all from a grant-obtaining perspective. When grants are funded, the money goes to research for training PhD students and for advancing the careers of post doctoral researchers. There seems to be some kind of myth originating amongst the brainless denialist camp that grant money is used for other selfish purposes by the senior researcher. NOT TRUE. That is why I find this “gravy train” garbage so insulting. My last grant that I was awarded was used to train a student to do her PhD, a dream she had pursued for several years. Her PhD won several academic prizes and I am very proud of her achievements.

  50. #50 Hume's Ghost
    October 31, 2009

    “Nor did the assertion that the Earth might in fact be round and not flat.”

    Except it wasn’t the scientists who had trouble recognizing this; the denialists were “Zetetics” who believed real “science” demonstrated a flat earth consistent with their interpretation of the Bible.

    If anyone is analagous to the flat earthers, it’s the AGW deniers.

    Link

    Cashing in on public scepticism towards the rise of scientific rationalism and its attack on biblical authority, Samuel Birley Rowbotham (1816-1884) took the pseudonym ‘Parallax’, christened a new school of ‘Zetetic astronomy’, and toured the country lecturing on his flat Earth theory, much to the consternation of the astronomical establishment. As well as inventing fire-proof starch and a ‘life-preserving cylindrical railway carriage’, Parallax spent his time arguing that the Earth was a stationary disc, the Sun was only 400 miles from London, and the disappearance of ships over the curved horizon was just a trick of perspective and refraction.

    Parallax was a showman, but his disciples took up his Zetetic beliefs with the relish of the truly dotty fundamentalist. The Christian polemicist John Hampden enthusiastically published his own flat Earth works, attacking astronomers as ‘demented star-gazers’, condemning Newton as ‘in liquor or insane’, and insisting that the ‘fraud’ of a globular Earth be exposed, so that ‘our children no longer be taught that we are spun through the air like cockchafers, at the rate of thousands of miles an hour’.

  51. #51 Bernard J.
    October 31, 2009

    Ah, Dave Andrews.

    I despair… you really are just a silly troll with no real substance behind you, aren’t you?

    If you are not, then…

    Moreover, I am all in favour of scientific research.

    show where in any of your previous posts you have demonstrated an understanding of what climatological and ecological research entails, and how you have ‘favoured’ them.

    I just do not believe, however, that scientists, as people, are different from other human beings.

    It is immaterial to any argument whether “scientists, as people, are different from other human beings”. What matters is how their method of working circumvents the logical fallacies that those sonuntrained – such as yourself – fall prey to on all-too-frequent occasions.

    Your statement is a strawman.

    If they see a ‘gravy train’ coming along many of them will be tempted to jump aboard.

    There is a simple response to this claim, and that is – prove it, substantial it, or otherwise back it up.

    I bet that you will not do so within 24 hours, because you will not have the evidence to do so.

    I have no idea how eminent you are in your field,

    Jeff is extremely well regarded in his field. That you do not know this is simply a very poor reflection on you, and on your willingness to deride him with no understanding of whom or what it is that you are deriding.

    but I am sure you are aware that there is a lot of mediocre science done in it,

    Oh, there is, is there? Please, again, provide the evidence.

    Come on Sunny Jim – put up the substance.

    If governments start throwing money at your field, however, would you decline to take it because much of the science being done was mediocre?

    You really have no idea, do you? Jeff responded well, but your own words show that you are completely clueless about funding for ecology, or for any biological science.

    Walk a day in Jeff’s shoes, and mine, Sunny Jim, and you would be embarrassed that you ever placed your words on the Intertubes for All Time to remember.

    Prat.

    …the ‘gravy train’ has only been running fot [sic] the last 20 years or so with a full head of steam only developing in the last 10.

    Oo, now I am really interested. Please, please, PLEASE provide the evidence that backs up this particular gem!

    Your time starts from the time-stamp right here…

  52. #52 WotWot
    October 31, 2009

    Scientific research is a “gravy train”?

    Bwahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

    Only to the extent that every job where people get paid any amount at all is a gravy train. IOW, not at all. If anything research scientists are underpaid and have insecure career paths.

    Gravy train, my arse.

    And you wonder why nobody here takes you seriously? You are due no respect you when you make idiotic and libellous claims like that.

    ••••••••••••••

    I also repeat my question, that you failed to answer on another thread:

    Do you believe that the human population can keep doubling, without regard for the carrying capacity of the planet?

    I think you know the right answer to that, and the implications of it, which is why you are avoiding answering it.

  53. #53 Bernard J.
    November 1, 2009
  54. #54 Michael
    November 1, 2009

    Bernard, you’ll get as much sense out of Dave Andrews as you did out of Girma, or cohenite.

    You ask the hard questions – they disappear.

    Keep up the good work.

  55. #55 el gordo
    November 3, 2009

    Wish someone would ask me a hard question.

  56. #56 Chris O'Neill
    November 3, 2009

    Wish someone would ask me a hard question

    said the idiot to the scientist.

  57. #57 Mark
    November 3, 2009

    Well, if you don’t sweat the feasibility, all questions are easy to answer.

    Heck, just reply “God did it that way” and all questions become easy.

  58. #58 el gordo
    November 3, 2009

    You are no more a scientist than that carbon billionaire Al Gore. His new book is out, but now he thinks maybe CO2 is not the big bogey man that he first thought.

    This is an inconvenient truth as the Copenhagen circus gets underway.

  59. #59 Mark
    November 3, 2009

    You are no more than a blowhard, kid.

    Grow up and get a pair.

  60. #60 Brian D
    November 3, 2009

    Egads, El Gordo, you’ve stumbled upon a case worthy of the great Sherlock Holmes himself!

  61. #61 Dave Andrews
    November 3, 2009

    Jeff Harvey,

    Well Western governments have spent quite a large amount on climate research over the last 20 years and that amount has increased significantly in the years since 2000. Where has all this money gone?

    Bernard J,

    You prove within 24 hours that they haven’t jumped aboard. Obviously such proof is impossible just like your comment to me to prove they had. You cannot deny however that vast sums of money have been directed towards climate change research over recent years, nor can you deny that not all scientists are exceptional in their fields and that, as in all walks of life mediocrity abounds.

  62. #62 Mark
    November 3, 2009

    > Well Western governments have spent quite a large amount on climate research over the last 20 years

    And the US alone have spent 30 Billion dollars in a year on direct subsidies to oil. 7.2 Billion on nuclear subsudies and about 13 billion in a year to gas/other.

    Who wouldn’t jump aboard THAT gravy train!

    Spencer, Lindzen, McIntrye and the entirety of the Heartland Institute couldn’t help themselves. And there’s PLENTY more gravy left over! Tuck in!

    NOTE: Doesn’t include any other country, just the ONE country that has a small fraction of the people and the deposits of other countries. How much more gravy can there be!!!

  63. #63 Chris O'Neill
    November 3, 2009

    el gordo:

    You are no more a scientist

    If we’re not good enough for you sonny boy, you can always try realclimate. They will be climate scientists but you will still be an idiot.

  64. #64 el gordo
    November 4, 2009

    We can all become kitchen table scientists and I’ll ask the first question.

    Does CO2 force temperatures higher or does temperature rise and CO2 follow? Ice cores show quite clearly ‘large temperature changes are initiated before changes in CO2′.
    (Fischer, H., et al., Ice core records of atmospheric CO2 around the last three glacial terminations)

    So is AGW based on a false premise and is natural variability overwhelmingly stronger in defining our climate?

  65. #65 Mark
    November 4, 2009

    > Does CO2 force temperatures higher or does temperature rise and CO2 follow?

    Both.

    Excluded middle logical fallacy, tubs.

    > Ice cores show quite clearly ‘large temperature changes are initiated before changes in CO2′.

    Except the PETM record clearly shows that CO2 went up and then temperatures did.

    And current records show (by real actual direct evidence) that CO2 has gone up then temperatures have.

    So is your denial based on a false premise?

  66. #66 el gordo
    November 4, 2009

    Ahh…the fallacy.

    According to the paper by Zeebe, Zachos and Dickens ‘the rise in CO2 can explain only between 1 and 3.5 C of the warming inferred from proxy records.’

    ‘We conclude that in addition to direct CO2 forcing, other processes and/or feedbacks that are hitherto unknown must have caused a substantial portion of the warming during the Paleocene – Eocene Thermal Maximum.’

    http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v2/n8/abs/ngeo578.html

    What caused that ‘substantial portion’ of the warming?

  67. #67 Mark
    November 4, 2009

    Fuckit and Chubb’s quotes:

    > According to the paper by Zeebe, Zachos and Dickens ‘the rise in CO2 can explain only between 1 and 3.5 C of the warming inferred from proxy records.’

    Then asks:

    > What caused that ‘substantial portion’ of the warming?

    Well according to that paper you quoted:

    > We conclude that in addition to direct CO2 forcing, other processes and/or feedbacks that are hitherto unknown must have caused a substantial portion of the warming during the Palaeocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum.

    So more positive feedbacks than currently known.

    This is not going to make things better. A positive feedback makes things more different.

    How you conclude this helps to deny any problem with CO2 escapes me and, I’m sure, any sane person.

    Now you’ve managed to read the abstract of ONE paper. You seem to think that ONE paper is enough to overturn another.

    How about reading a little more:

    < http://news.mongabay.com/2006/1207-petm.html>

    Check out how much CO2 would have to be there to make the PETM record fit the data if it’s less than 1.5C per doubling.

    Since CO2′s effect is logarithmic, what would that mean for the 38% increase in CO2 and the 0.8C warming seen from it today?

    It doesn’t fit.

    The theory of less than 1.5C per doubling doesn’t work.

    Actual. Observational. Empirical. Science.

  68. #68 el gordo
    November 4, 2009

    I agree with Gavin over at RealClimate who made the point that there are still a lot of unknowns about the PETM.

    ‘The trigger, where the carbon came from and what happened to it?’

    At that point, 55 million years ago, we might have become Venus if the process wasn’t rectified.

  69. #69 Mark
    November 4, 2009

    > .’The trigger, where the carbon came from and what happened to it?’

    So you agree: CO2 preceeded temperature rises.

    Well done.

  70. #70 Bernard J.
    November 4, 2009

    Bernard J,

    You prove within 24 hours that they haven’t jumped aboard. Obviously such proof is impossible just like your comment to me to prove they had.

    Fatso, it was never about proving a negative, but nice attempt at a strawman.

    You did however assert the positive, that

    …the ‘gravy train’ has only been running fot [sic] the last 20 years or so with a full head of steam only developing in the last 10

    with, I observe, still no evidence to support this assertion.

    You then engage in another strawman:

    You cannot deny however that vast sums of money have been directed towards climate change research over recent years,

    Compared to [other sources of funding](http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2009/10/levitt_and_dubner_liken_climat.php#comment-2044962), the money spent on climate research is pocket money. As I find myself repeatedly saying over the last several days, your ‘fact’ makes a nice story though…

    …nor can you deny that not all scientists are exceptional in their fields and that, as in all walks of life mediocrity abounds.

    You really are ignorant of scientific process, aren’t you? “Mediocrity”, whilst not absent from scientific endeavour, is rather less of a problem than you are trying to promote.

    Sub-standard scientific prospectives are weeded out during the transitions from undergraduate to postgraduate education, and from postgraduate training to professional employment. If you worked in science you would be aware of such attrition.

    Further, in professional science most leaders of teams tend to be a cut above the ‘run-of-the-mill’ scientist, and the biggest grants are fiercely competed for and gravitate to the best groups. Then, in the bustle for the limited space in the most prestigious journals, only the best of the best get a foot in the door.

    And after all of this, the ‘best science’ says that AGW is happening, whether you like to hear this or not.

    Of course, as I said before this is not to say that mediocrity does not occur. It certainly does, and it is manifested in such manners as a particular contrarian who published one paper a decade ago, on one technical aspect of one other paper, and who did not alter the import of that second paper, let alone change the import of the science underpinning AGW. This particular contrarian has been remarkably unproductive in the peer-reviewed literature since, if one grants that the initial paper was actually significantly productive in the first place.

    I wonder who that might be…?

  71. #71 el gordo
    November 4, 2009

    Mark

    Yes, but it seems the heat was coming from huge piles of magma. The ‘flood basalt eruption, or large igneous provinces (LIPs).’

    http://seismo.berkeley.edu/~manga/LIPS/kerr07.pdf

  72. #72 Mark Byrne
    November 4, 2009

    el gordo, please re-read the paper you link to.

    The reserach by Storey et al supports the previous theory that:
    >Scientists have long thought that the gigaton burst of greenhouse gas—carbon dioxide or methane—that marked the beginning of the PETM must be linked to the 5 million to
    10 million cubic kilometers of erupted North Atlantic magma…

    The problem Storey solved what that previously sediment of the PETM and volcanic ash were dated with different methods. Storey used 50 age measurments on the twos to improve the accuracy.

    This increased accuracy shows that the case of the theory of volcanic induced greenhouse release is well supported.

    The magma form a thousand volcanos heats the surface like burning fuel in a few billon engines and turnbines heats the surface. That is, it make a tiny difference compared to the long term cummumlative effect of trapping more of the Sun’s heat.

    Perhaps you could quote the part in they story you linked to, where they confirm your prejudice that it is the direct heat from magma that casued the PETM warming?

  73. #73 el gordo
    November 4, 2009

    MB

    Had another look at the article and now I fully comprehend. It is also enlightening to discover that the dinosaurs may not have been knocked out by an asteroid burst 65 million years bp.

    If you hadn’t sent me back to re-read I may have remained ignorant, like everyone else.

  74. #74 Dave Andrews
    November 5, 2009

    Bernard J,

    I fear your rosy picture of how scientific excellence is assured through the rise from graduate to post grad etc is flawed. University science is not simply based on meritocracy and I’m sure your own experience tells you that>

  75. #75 Bernard J.
    November 6, 2009

    Dave Andrews.

    [You said](http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2009/10/levitt_and_dubner_liken_climat.php#comment-2035984) to Jeff Harvey:

    I just do not believe, however, that scientists, as people, are different from other human beings.If they see a ‘gravy train’ coming along many of them will be tempted to jump aboard.

    I have no idea how eminent you are in your field, but I am sure you are aware that there is a lot of mediocre science done in it, just as there is in all fields. If governments start throwing money at your field, however, would you decline to take it because much of the science being done was mediocre?

    I made several specific points.

    The first was that the ‘gravy train’ that you appear to so fervently believe in is a fairytale, as most funding for science is pocket money compared with the sums handled by business and by governments in general. Scientists have to work bloody hard for their grants, and mediocrity is rapidly weeded out in most instances.

    Which segues to my second point, which was not that mediocrity does not exist in science, but that it does not occur (in my experience) to the extent of “a lot”, as you seem to think that it does. In the field of climatology, which is not my area, the most-attacked papers are produced by scientitsts who are largely pre-eminent amongst their peers: interestingly, it is the Denialist rebuttals of this work that are much more in line with the mediocrity that you accuse the general body scientific of…

    In that regard, I would concede to you that there is quite a body of mediocrity out there.

    I would add that if “governments start throwing money at [my] field” I certainly would not decline to take it. My field is grossly underfunded, as demonstrated by the fact that ecologists are chasing their tails in order to garner some understanding of their subject before humanity obliterates much of it from the biosphere. The limitations of ecological work come not from any (perceived) mediocrity of its practitioners, but from the severe restrictions imposed by a lack of capacity to perform comprehensive work, resulting from the pittance that is ecological funding.

    Of course, Dave Andrews, if you have direct experience or evidence to the contrary, you should put it on the table, or otherwise just shut your trap.

  76. #76 Dave Andrews
    November 6, 2009

    Bernard J,

    Why did you have to spoil your post with the last comment?

    BTW, has it ever occurred to you that a possible reason for ecological research finding funding times difficult, is the overwhelming emphasis placed on climate change and the subsequent funding flows the accrue?

  77. #77 Janet Akerman
    November 6, 2009

    Dave Andrews, Greedy scientist disproportionately motivated by grant chasing align themselves with the interest of the dominant profit industry in their sector. The dominant industry relevant to climate research is fossil fuel, which happens to be the most profitable industry in history.

    Your grave train theory falls flat when scientist face constant surveillance at attacks from the profit machine. [Here is](http://www.democracynow.org/2009/10/22/university_of_alaska_scientist_rick_steiner) an example on a scientist being shut down by the oil industry.

    There are multiple similar examples of climate science facing similar assaults from the fossil fuel lobby.

  78. #78 Dave Andrews
    November 7, 2009

    Janet,

    You really ought to read beyond the headlines! It was NOAA that pulled his grant – nothing to do with the oil industry .

    Unless, of course, you are saying that NOAA, one of the foremost scientific agencies in the US working on climate and whose scientist are generally regarded as being pro climate change was somehow, in this particular situation, influenced by the oil industry! Do you have ANY conception of how the world outside your apparent fevered imaginings actually works?

  79. #79 Janet Akerman
    November 7, 2009

    Fear not Dave, I read beyond the headlines,

    That’s why I’m aware NOAA’s bosses and the universities bossess are influenced by (scared, wary, don’t want to mess with) the oil industries bosses, and that is part of the state funding model. Similar funding models are rampant in Oz especially since the 1990s. Universities and the CSIRO often need industry partners to apply for government grants.

    Which is the point I was trying to make when I said:

    >Greedy scientist disproportionately motivated by grant chasing align themselves with the interest of the dominant profit industry in their sector. The dominant industry relevant to climate research is fossil fuel, which happens to be the most profitable industry in history.

    Think about it Dave, you’ve reinforced my point.

  80. #80 luminous beauty
    November 7, 2009

    Squiggy, man of the world that he is, knows for a fact that scientists spend all that filthy grant lucre on caviar, private jets and gold-plated limousines.

    Don’t try to convince him otherwise. For sure, don’t insult him by challenging him to provide evidence, Bernard. It is a low blow and a threat to his god given right to make a public fool of himself.

  81. #81 el gordo
    November 13, 2009

    Ultimately, when we go to an election, politicians will be forced to take sides on climate change. Politicians are expert at shifting blame, scientists are not.

    They have my sympathy, in advance.