Open Thread 56

Time for more open thread.

In an interesting coincidence, Brian Dunning is here in Sydney to talk at TAM Australia, so I thought it would be interesting to go to the TAM fringe open mic night (tonight!) and talk about, oh, DDT.


  1. #1 warren
    December 10, 2010

    Jeff,all of that self-aggrandizing waffle that you put into your posts does not change the fact that CO2 ferilization in the vast majority of cases produces more biomass and greater yields.The science,at the moment,strongly suggests that the benefits way outweigh the costs,by far,and until we know differently[for sure],then it looks like extra CO2 in the atmosphere will be a boon for our agriculture.

    IF you have any really pertinent data/results on these deleterious effects that you allude to above,then present them here for us to evaluate.Otherwise stop whining.

  2. #2 warren
    December 10, 2010

    Jeff,Cassava does not invest more c-based allelochemicals in roots for defense.There was no increase in toxicity for the tubers,only the leaves.And this is a good thing as it should mean less leaf loss to herbivores-another boon for yields.

  3. #3 Jeff Harvey
    December 10, 2010

    *Jeff,all of that self-aggrandizing waffle that you put into your posts does not change the fact that CO2 ferilization in the vast majority of cases produces more biomass and greater yields. The science,at the moment,strongly suggests that the benefits way outweigh the costs,by far,and until we know differently[for sure],then it looks like extra CO2 in the atmosphere will be a boon for our agriculture*.

    Incorrect. We cannot extrapolate the effects of closed laboratory experiments on conditions in nature where, as I said, biotic and abiotic constraints are prevalent. These are either excluded or controlled in greenhouses or climate-controlled facilities. We simply do not know enough about these effects to make any kind of confident prediction on the effects of increasing C02 on the assembly and functioning of complex adaptive systems. What we do know, incorporating studies that have measured changes in other parameters in the field, is that there will almost certainly be effects that will simplify natural systems, given the rate at which the atmospheric concentrations of this gas are increasing. And since primary productivity and plant quality are based on stoichimetry involving C, N and P, changes in the availability of these other vital nutrients will have consequences that are impossible to predict but which may be highly deleterious.

    You can b*s all you want, but you are way, way out of your depth on this issue. What is refreshing is that I know the scientific community by and large would stand by me on this. They do not listen to third rate right wing pundits, who have pre-determined worldviews, and who think that cause-and-effect relationships in nature are linear. Yours is a primary school level understanding of the world. If the world was made of nothing but billions of small glasshouses, with one plant species grown in each under high nutrient regimes and where biotic factors are expunged, then fine, yields of most plants will increase. But this is certainly not at all the case in the field, where there are a million or more other constraints that must be factored in. There is growing empirical evidence that some natural biomes, for instance grassland ecosystems, are not more productive under increased C02. Furthermore, at smaller scales we know that herbivorous insects often feed more on plants under elevated C02 to compensate for lower foliar N levels, and that the performance of mutualists like mycorrhizal fungi are also negatively affected. Scale these small-scale asymmetrical effects to the level of communities, ecosystems and biomes, and the outcomes are almost certainly likely to lead to simplified systems characterized by much lower plant diversity and in turn the diversity of higher trophic levels.

    In summary: you do not understand basic ecology. I ask anyone here to suggest who theyb think is winning the scientific ‘debate’ on this issue, if one can call it that. Its hard for me to debate you when your understanding of broader ecological and physiological processes is so poor. Therefor, I think its a slam-dunk. Most importantly, I am sick of your ignorant musings. I have actual science to do.

  4. #4 Wow
    December 10, 2010

    > The queensland university of technology let me graduate.

    It’s quite common, warrenidiot, that when you want to get rid of someone, you give them what they want and let them move away, praising their abilities to make sure some other sucker takes them on.

    In other words, you know nothing.

  5. #5 Wow
    December 10, 2010

    > Britain is having the coldest December for 100 years so far.

    So when did you emigrate from Australia?

  6. #6 warren
    December 10, 2010

    Jeff,you mentioned only one word that was of any value in that post.The word was ‘evidence’.You said there is some.Can you post it please.Thank-you.

  7. #7 Jeff Harvey
    December 10, 2010


    That one word was probably all you could understand of what I wrote. As I have said, you do grasp basic ecology. Why should I waste my time with another D-K disciple?

    Here’s a simple question for you: wild plants exhibit enormous genetic variation in phenotypic traits in nature. These traits include primary and secondary metabolism. Some of this variation is expressed over very small spatial scales. Constrast that with most cultivars, where most of the variation has been greatly reduced or even eliminated. So my question is this: what maintains this variation in nature, and what are the consequences of reducing it under natural conditions?

    Of course I don’t expect you to have a clue about what I am talking about, given that you never discuss real ‘science’ with me but only the results of a few studies done in greenhouses, as if this is conclusive. But my question is intimately connected to the discussion.

    Unless you can answer this satisfactorily, go away.

  8. #8 Chris O'Neill
    December 10, 2010


    I play tennis with a guy who has a Russian wife,and they said to me just a week ago that the Russkies are predicting the coldest winter ‘EVER’ this time around.

    Is that this denialist scam?

    They did not tell me the source of their information.

    As long as you’ve helped spread misinformation, you’ve done your job. As they say, misinformation gets half-way around the world (spread by the likes of warren) before the truth gets out of bed.

  9. #9 Jeff Harvey
    December 10, 2010

    Ooops, I don’t want to swell this guys already massive ego. I meant to say “DOES NOT understand basic ecology!!!!”

  10. #10 Chris O'Neill
    December 10, 2010


    The assumption that the IPCC makes is that CO2 has caused most of the warming we have had in the last 150 years.That assumption is neither demonstable nor observable.

    From a simpleton denialist point of view that leaves out feedbacks, aerosols and everything else but the direct effect of CO2, the warming due to CO2 can be calculated from its measured infra-red absorption. This is about 1.2K/CO2 doubling. We are nearly at one-half a doubling now, so the direct warming effect of CO2 alone is about 0.6K compared with the observed warming of 0.8K. So the CO2 on its own has demonstrably produced more than half the warming.

  11. #11 sunspot
    December 10, 2010

    Quantifying the negative feedback of vegetation to greenhouse warming: A modeling approach

  12. #12 chek
    December 10, 2010

    Probably too late Jeff.

    If science was based on ignorance and assertion, Warren would imagine himself to be our visiting Hawking of enlightenment.

    As it plainly isn’t, obviously he’s not.

  13. #13 Jeff Harvey
    December 10, 2010

    Here are several examples of complex, unpredictable non-linear effects of increased C02. What these show is that extrapolating sytem-wide effects of increased C02 is virtually impossible unless many other processes are factored in. There are some studies which show net positive effects of C02 on local biodiversity over short time scales, but there others that do not and which, in fact, illustrate the reverse. What I have tried to explain to Wells, over and over and over and over and over again, but which he clearly does not understand, is that a stupendous array of factors regulate biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. C02 is just one of them. Like all laypeople promoting an agenda and looking for quick and easy answers, Wells uses the tried and trusted tactic honed by the anti-environmental lobby of arguing that “Without 100% unequivocal evidence of negative effects over larger scales, then there is no problem”. The same trick has been used to downplay acid rain, habitat loss on biodiversity, extinction rates etc. Wells cherry picks a few studies (mostly in greenhouses) with a few crops, and then argues that, because these generally show a positive relationship between C02 and plant biomass (but not necessarily quality), then, until we have more solid evidence from natural systems, this proves the net benefits of increased C02. End of story. And he also habitually leaves off addendums in the studies he cites to support his views, where the authors often admit that our understanding of C02-related effects in terrestrial ecosystems is very poor. He also habitually ignores the growing number of studies showing that increases in atmospheric C02 are leading to ocean acidification, with potentially serious consequences for primary productivity in marine systems and thus effects right up the food chain.

    Wells thinks he can win a debate with anyone using this strategy. Speaking as a scientist, I am doing what we all should be doing: expressing caution and being rigidly sceptical. To use an analogy I used before when Wells waded in here with his ignorance on this topic the first time, its like the scale of complexity in nature goes from 1 to 100 (1 represents a greenhouse or laboratory, 5 a simple ecological community, 10 and ecosystem, 30 a large biome and 100 the biosphere, for arguments sake). Our understanding of this complexity starts to dilute after level 5 and is very weak by the time we get past 10. This means 90-95% of the factors that regulate biodiversity and ecosystem functioning are poorly understood. What does Wells do? Ignores the complexity and says that we can understand the world on the basis of what we do understand between numbers 1-5, and until definitive evidence comes in showing conclusive deleterious effects on scales 5-100, then we ought to ignore it and stick with the tiny bits that we do know. However, given that the effects of elevated C02 may be system-specific and dependent on the interactive effects with an infinite number of other biotic and abiotic processes, we may never be able to understand the longer term consequences until it is too late.

    Below I give examples of studies where this complexity is discussed. There are many more with evidence showing net bnenefits for small scale plant communities as well as negative effects for small scale plant communities. The effects on consumers is also being studied but only at very small scales. Basically, the pumping of C02 into the atmosphere represents an experiment in which the outcomes are vast and unknown, but potentially disastrous.

    Bolker et al. (1995) 2486.1995.tb00035.x/pdf

    Rillig et al. (1999)

    Shaw et al. (2002)

    Morgan et al. (2007)

  14. #14 MFS
    December 10, 2010


    >”MFS,it appears that you do not understand the scientific method.”

    Oh, that IS a good one!

  15. #15 jakerman
    December 10, 2010

    Sun freckle, don’t trust anything from The Register, they are hopeless.

    Lewis Page at the Register writes:

    >*The NASA and NOAA boffins used their more accurate science to model a world where CO2 levels have doubled to 780 parts per million (ppm) compared to today’s 390-odd.*

    Wrong, they modeled a doubling of CO2 from pre industrial levels which is from 280 to 560 ppm.

    “Without the negative feedback included, the model found a warming of 1.94 degrees C globally when carbon dioxide was doubled.” (the low end of the 2 to 4.5 range) with vegetation feedback they a reduction of 0.3 degrees.

    Taking 0.3 degrees off the 2 to 4.5 degree range is not the answer to our prays, and there is strong action required to ensure CO2 does not reach 560 ppm. So far were heading to a tripling rather than a doubling. And we need to reverse our deforestation to take advantage of this 0.3 degree boon, something that requires strong action.

    Here is a [better source](

  16. #16 warren
    December 10, 2010

    Jeff, now you’re talking!An interesting question,atlast.I will have a stab at it.
    Genetic variation in nature is generally maintained by the wide dispersal of genetic traits.So nature through it’s own processes of fertiliztion[eg widespread seed dispersal,insects taking different pollen to other plants etc]keeps the genetic stock in healthy good order.What maintains it?Well,the general genetic health of a species is maintained bt the mixing of genetic material,which inturn should have benefits for disease resistance etc.So large populations, and hence a large variety of genetic information, are good.Small or isolated populations may be susceptible to genetic degradation and therefore maybe extincton.So,anything that effects the availability or distibution of genetic variations probably results in a reduction of genetic ‘robustness’ to coin a phrase.The consequences of this reduction would ultimately be species loss.

    There how did I go?Give me a grade please.

  17. #17 Jeff Harvey
    December 10, 2010

    Not bad. I will give you an A- (I am a generous marker). Was this off the top of your head? I would go further:

    Genetic variation is based on local responses of species to a suite of biotic and abiotic selection pressures over time where different genotypes posses traits that make them better adapted to one set of selection pressures whilst other genotypes are selected for under another set of selection pressures and *so on*. The optimal phenotypes are generally selected on the basis of trade-offs between certain traits when metabolic resources are limiting. Given that most plants harbor multiple attackers (e.g. pathogens and herbivores), as well as multiple mutualists (e.g. pollinators and natural enemies) then the abundance of certain phenotypes may change over time. Most importantly, genetic diversity reinforces the resilience and persistence of a species by allowing certain genotypes to maintain themselves in populations when conditions change.

    Where you fall short is in applying this knowledge to cultivated plants. Why are these plants generally much more susceptible (and poorly adapted) to environmental stresses than wild plants? And what will this mean under elevated C02 regimes?

    This is where I want our discussion to go. This is because I want you to appreciate how much we don’t know…

  18. #18 Bernard J.
    December 10, 2010

    In its simplest form, Bernard J., you’re full of it. Didn’t happen the way you said. Did happen the way I said. And any Deltoid who wants to check it out, can confirm my claim by referencing the Stoat Blog’s post “Can’t think of any more amusing Curry jokes” of 30 October 2010 comments #’s 46, 64, 71, 87, and 89.

    Ah yes, it was at Stoat and not at Deltoid…

    My error at post #276, Mike, was that I remembered it as occurring that you were “tightening up” someone else’s post, but on checking just now it turns out that you were merely “tightening up” your own, to wit:

    Please allow me to tighten-up the language of my previous post…

    Unfortunately for you, it makes no difference to my original intent several months ago… It was upon exactly that “tightening up” that I was basing my comment when I corrected you: if you can’t deal with that when you’ve already expressed your own pedantry on language usage then it’s not my problem.

    The only* comment in our exchange, Bernard J, that was “binned” (you’ll recall now that I’ve refreshed your memory), was the one in which you tried your hand at trash-talking and showed yourself to be a shambling dork in such matters. I was embarrassed for you. And as I recall you even issued a public apology for the spectacle you made of yourself (comment #89).

    Mike, I pulled you to pieces. It was not the sort of thing that William Connolly permits on his blog however (and fair enough), which was why he deleted it, along with several of your own posts.

    As for the apology, that was to William Connolly for cluttering his blog with my very barbed snipe at you – I made no apology to you, nor would I have in the circumstances. You are misrepresenting my actions – which makes you a liar.

    You kinda led with your chin on this one, Bernard J. I mean, like there’s a public record and all that readily exposes your little “fib.”

    And I’m not “stewing” about anything.

    So, contrary to your fantasy, there is no” fibbing” on my part Mike, even if I misunderstood in the first place whom it was that you were correcting. And I don’t know what dictionary you’re using, but by most normal folks’ standards this whole grammar thing, and it’s origin, has you in a cauldron of stew.

    Seriously Mike, you need to let go of this issue. I took a swipe at a trivial grammatical peculiarity after you started on your own excusion of pendantry, and you’ve been clutching to your bossom ever since, this assault on your use of English. I even [noted at the time]( that it was not really a subtly-sparked snark, but you’ve completely missed the point.

    Now, if you are willing to get back to the cause of all of this and discuss Judith Curry’s woeful behaviour in climatological commentary, let’s have at it. There’s even [a thread on Deltoid]( where such a discussion can be held.

    I am most curious to read your analysis of that particular situation…

    [* Except that it was not the only comment that was removed, as [you yourself subsequently admitted](]

  19. #19 warren
    December 10, 2010

    OK thanks for the high grade.It was off the top of my head.

    Your next question.Why are these plants much more susceptible…?
    Well we have almost already answered that one.Firstly because they are a mon-culture,but also because they have very little genetic diversity and are therefore susceptible to disease/predators/competition.Strong genetic variation means that many members of a genetically diverse population can survive or resist various selection pressures.The simple answer is less genetic variation equals less adaptability.

    This characteristic of our modern agriculture is very worrying as you know.All we need is one super pest and an entire world-wide monoculture could fail.That could be a disaster- in theory

  20. #20 jakerman
    December 10, 2010

    Did I read correctely, did Tim Wells almost say that our food sources are less adaptable to change.

    I wonder if Tim will next almost say that changing CO2 and associated changes like disease, temperature, water, competition is the type of change that our food stock are less adaptable to?

  21. #21 Jeff Harvey
    December 10, 2010


    Now we are getting somewhere with Tim Wells.

    My point was that, under global change scenarios, crops will be harder hit than many wild-types because they are not adapted to cope with challenges posed by pathogens, herbivores, or abiotic conditions. We do know that N is the most limiting nutrient for herbivores. Given the fact that many (though not all) crops have been directionally selected to reduce levels of defense compounds, then these plants are often exceedingly susceptible to attack from their own enemies. If foliar N concentrations decrease, then these plants will potentially become even more susceptible to herbivory, because herbivores will consume enough plant biomass to ensure that they obtain enough N in their diet. If this means compensatory feeding and/or supernumerary instars, then this is what will happen.

    There are many other possible scenarios, with the one I have described above being the most basic because it represents just a single constraint.

    By the way, I only now became aware of the horrific article by John O’Sullivan (“Global Warming Biologist Suspected of Fraud in Suspicious Study”) in describing Ros Gleadow’s recent research. IMHO the guy is a vicious hack. His article was puerile and insulting, and I cannot believe, Tim, that you would condone such a thing. If these are the kinds of people the ‘sceptics’ rely on for their support, then I am glad to want nothing to do with them. Its also very dangerous for pundits to throw around words like ‘fraud’ as well. Furthermore, the Imai study you cite as your ‘rebuttal’ was published in an innocuous journal (Japanese Journal of Crop Science) and has only 5 citations since 1984 when it was published. Which makes it almost invisible. Besides, what makes it so robust?

  22. #22 John
    December 10, 2010

    >No science from Warren nor mike.

    Who needs science or peer review when you have a dodgy petition?

  23. #23 mike
    December 10, 2010

    Bernard J,

    Your comment #316

    For the most part Bernard J, I think it best to just leave your comment to speak for itself. Especially the part where you acknowledged I was right and you were wrong. Two minor comments:

    If you think your “binned” comment referring to a “fork in your mouth” (or something like that–that’s my best recollection of the “barbed” portion of your “snipe”) was a snappy retort, then I’m willing to allow you your little face-saving illusion.

    You wrote: “…I made no apology to you…You are misrepresenting my actions-which makes you [i. e., me] a liar.” C’mon Bernard J, you’re supposed to be a smart guy. So why are you so perversely dumb? Anyone on this blog can read my comment #284 where I said, “And as I recall you issued a public apology for the spectacle you made of yourself.” As plain as day, anyone can see I did not characterize your public apology as one addressed to me. You made that up, Bernard J, so that you could then call me a “liar.” Didn’t you, Bernard J? You’re a freaking joke, guy. And unethical, too.

    And just so you know, Bernard J, I’ve got nothing to “let go.” On the other hand, I find self-appointed grammar fuss-budgets, like you, to be annoying blogosphere pests that arouse my predatory instincts. That’s all.

    Engage in civil discourse with fellow commentators and leave off the grammar minder business and you’ll deprive me the means to engage with you, Bernard J. Is that too much to ask? In the meantime, as I advised you previously, that trick, used by Brit (and Anglophile) elites, to put peasants in their place by nit-picking their grammar doesn’t work with Americans. We don’t have that class “thingie” in the States.

  24. #24 frank -- Decoding SwiftHack
    December 10, 2010

    Shorter mike:

    Look! I am really, honestly, frankly, extremely, totally, willing to actually discuss climate science and Judith Curry’s commentary of climate science!

    Really, honestly, frankly! — I am really, honestly, frankly, extremely, totally, willing to actually discuss climate science and Judith Curry’s commentary of climate science!

    But at the same time, I really can’t resist the opportunity to lash out at Bernard J.’s ‘grammar fussiness’!

    I really want to talk about climate science! But I really can’t resist talking about something else! It’s not my fault! I really want to talk about climate science! Honest!

  25. #25 mike
    December 10, 2010


    Not quite there, but a nice try. This is an open thread, Frank. I want to talk about grammar and grammar in relation to Bernard J. The detail of my interest is available in my various posts on this thread. I never pretended otherwise.

  26. #26 frank -- Decoding SwiftHack
    December 10, 2010

    Shorter mike:

    Aha, I’ve fooled you! The talk about climate science was just an excuse! My real aim is to beat the crap out of Bernard J.! I win! Haha!

  27. #27 Chris O'Neill
    December 10, 2010

    as I advised you previously, that trick, used by Brit (and Anglophile) elites, to put peasants in their place by nit-picking their grammar

    What’s wrong with pointing out bad grammar, or in this case, consistently bad punctuation? If someone wants to show how little someone else thinks about something then what is the problem with drawing attention to that?

    doesn’t work with Americans. We don’t have that class “thingie” in the States.

    And the US never had slavery either.

  28. #28 Chris O'Neill
    December 10, 2010
  29. #29 Bernard J.
    December 10, 2010

    Engage in civil discourse with fellow commentators and leave off [alone] the grammar minder business and you’ll deprive me [of] the means [with which] to engage with you, Bernard J. Is that too much to ask?

    Not at all.

    In the meantime, as I advised you previously, that trick, used by Brit (and Anglophile) elites, to put peasants in their place by nit-picking their grammar doesn’t work with Americans. We don’t have that class “thingie” in the States.

    Really? Don’t get out to the Hamptons much then, eh?

    Yet another important feature of the upper class is that of inherited privilege. While most Americans, including those in the upper-middle class need to actively maintain their status, upper class persons do not need to work in order to maintain their status. Status tends to be passed on from generation to generation without each generation having to re-certify its status. Overall, the upper class is the financially best compensated and one of the most influential socio-economic classes in American society.

    Ehrenreich B. (1990). Fear of Falling, The Inner Life of the Middle Class. Perennial Publishing. ISBN-10:0060973331.

    See also:

    1. Domhoff GW. (2009). Who Rules America? Challenges to Corporate and Class Dominance. 6th ed. McGraw-Hill Humanities. ISBN-10:0078111560.
    2. Zweig M. (2004). What’s Class Got To Do With It? American Society in the Twenty-First Century. Cornell University Press. ISBN-10:0801488990.
    3. Kalra P. (1996). The American Class System: Divide and Rule. Antenna Pub Co. ISBN-10:0964717352.
    4. Gilbert D. (2002). The American Class Structure in an Age of Growing Inequality. 8th ed. Pine Forge Press. ISBN-10:141297965X.
    5. O’Sullivan E, Beeghley L, Rassel GR, and Berner M. (2008). The Structure of Social Stratification in the United States. 5th ed. Prentice Hall. ISBN-10:0205702635.
    6. Carrier J. (2010). The Making of the Slave Class. Algora Publishing. ISBN-10: 0875867693.
  30. #30 mike
    December 10, 2010

    Bernard J,

    You’re right about one thing–I don’t get out to the Hampton’s much. In addition, you’ve half convinced me that there may be something to the oat-driven life. For sure, you’ve got more energy than me, I concede, Bernard J. So I’m takin’ a break. Did enjoy the chit chat, though.

  31. #31 Chris O'Neill
    December 10, 2010

    I’ve heard of oat-driven horsepower but WTF is the oat-driven life?

  32. #32 MFS
    December 10, 2010

    >”I’ve heard of oat-driven horsepower but WTF is the oat-driven life?”

    Dunno, but I enjoy my porridge in the morning… should I be worrying?

  33. #33 sunspot
    December 11, 2010

    Japan pulled out of Kyoto because …….

  34. #34 Chris O'Neill
    December 11, 2010

    It’s called Tragedy of the Commons.

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