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Second Thoughts on Climate Change


ollie
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For whatever reason I'm drawn to the naysayer argument when it comes to climate change. I'll be the first to admit that it's a topic that is way, way over my head but then I think it's way, way over most of our heads and so I wonder at the ferocity with which so many people cling to the Kyoto accord. If it's a matter of deferring to the experts well, looks like there is descension in the ranks.

FWIW, the section I highlighted in bold type is my general impression of the environmental movement. It's "feel good" but doesn't speak to me on a practical level.

Claude Allegre, one of France's leading socialists and among her most celebrated scientists, was among the first to sound the alarm about the dangers of global warming.

...

His break with what he now sees as environmental cant on climate change came in September, in an article entitled "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" in l' Express, the French weekly. His article cited evidence that Antarctica is gaining ice and that Kilimanjaro's retreating snow caps, among other global-warming concerns, come from natural causes. "The cause of this climate change is unknown," he states matter of factly. There is no basis for saying, as most do, that the "science is settled."

...

Calling the arguments of those who see catastrophe in climate change "simplistic and obscuring the true dangers," Dr. Allegre especially despairs at "the greenhouse-gas fanatics whose proclamations consist in denouncing man's role on the climate without doing anything about it except organizing conferences and preparing protocols that become dead letters." The world would be better off, Dr. Allegre believes, if these "denouncers" became less political and more practical, by proposing practical solutions to head off the dangers they see, such as developing technologies to sequester C02. His dream, he says, is to see "ecology become the engine of economic development and not an artificial obstacle that creates fear."

Full text of article:

Allegre's second thoughts

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a couple of thoughts:

- Disagreeing with the science of climate change and disagreeing with the political framework put into place for dealing with it are two very different things. I think canada does a shitty job on the homelessness issue, but that doesn't draw into question the fact that there are homeless people in canada. Which part of the issue are you sceptical about?

- Your quote argues both sides of the issue (the science and the policy), and I'd argue that the real the dissent is about how global environmental policy should be negotiated, no about whether climate change poses real risks, or is aggravated by human activities. I think you'd find there is very little REAL debate about the latter, more a matter of splitting hairs on how much/how quickly, etc.

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Asian pollution affects Pacific storms

Pollution from Asia is helping generate stronger storms over the North Pacific, according to new research. Changes in the North Pacific storm track could have an impact on weather across the Northern Hemisphere. Satellite measurements have shown an increase in tiny particles generated from coal burning in China and India in recent decades, researchers report in Tuesday's issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The team, led by Renyi Zhang of Texas A&M University, studied pollution and clouds between 1984 and 2005, concluding that increasing particles enhanced the cloud updraft to generate more intense thunderstorms than previously.

Comparing 1984-1994 with 1994-2005 they found an increase of 20 percent to 50 percent in deep convective clouds.

The Pacific storm track, they noted, plays a critical role in global atmospheric circulation, and altering this weather pattern could have a significant impact on the climate.

"The intensified storms over the Pacific in winter are climatically significant," the researchers wrote. "The intensified Pacific storm track can also impact the global general circulation."

A particular threat, they added, is the potential for increased warming of polar regions.

The research was supported by National Science Foundation, Department of Energy and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

In another report in the same issue of PNAS, researchers said that in addition to protecting the ozone layer, the reduction on ozone-depleting chemicals has slowed the rate of global warming.

The Montreal Protocol, signed in 1987, led to a reduction in chemicals released into the atmosphere in an effort to preserve the ozone layer that screens out many of the sun's damaging rays.

Those same chemicals are also potent contributors to greenhouse warming, and their reduction has resulted in a slowdown in global warming, according to a team led by Guus J. M. Velders of the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency. The savings in trapped heat are equivalent to about 10 years of growth in carbon dioxide concentrations, they estimated.

Joining Velders in that study were researchers from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and DuPont Fluoroproducts.

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For whatever reason I'm drawn to the naysayer argument when it comes to climate change. I'll be the first to admit that it's a topic that is way, way over my head but then I think it's way, way over most of our heads and so I wonder at the ferocity with which so many people cling to the Kyoto accord.

As Blane suggested, I'm confused too. You're skeptical of climate change, you're skeptical of the human impetus behind it, or you're dissatisfied with the Kyoto accord? All are fine positions to take, of course, but very different positions altogether.

You could, for example, acknowledge climate change and assert your belief that humans have played some significant role in it, and still have no love for Kyoto. Which seems to be what your (well Allegre's, but assuming the choice of emphasis is yours) bolded text is getting at ...

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As Blane suggested, I'm confused too. You're skeptical of climate change, you're skeptical of the human impetus behind it, or you're dissatisfied with the Kyoto accord? All are fine positions to take, of course, but very different positions altogether.

Skeptical of climate change - Yes

Skeptical of human impetus behind it - Yes

Dissatisifed with Kyoto Accord - Dislike the notion that it's something everyone should support because climate change is *so obvious*

Andre - I was expecting that

I have no idea if climate change exists and if it does, I have no idea what is causing it. I read reports that cite studies and contain words like "potential". And I read a lot of human bashing, like we're the one species of animal that has no right to live on the planet. And it makes me question the message.

And, it's cold as fuck this morning!!

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I for one am not skeptical of climate change and our contribution to it. The past seventy years have been like a train gathering speed when it comes to pollution and cause always comes before effect, remember.

I'm not going to let flawed policies and the political cult of personality get in the way of believing we need to change our ways. What's the matter with a little "human bashing"? We're greedy, inconsiderate, callous, indifferent and self-rigtheous and this plays out in the natural world we co-exist with. Shame on us.

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Skeptical of climate change - Yes

Skeptical of human impetus behind it - Yes

Dissatisifed with Kyoto Accord - Dislike the notion that it's something everyone should support because climate change is *so obvious*

Andre - I was expecting that

I have no idea if climate change exists and if it does, I have no idea what is causing it. I read reports that cite studies and contain words like "potential". And I read a lot of human bashing, like we're the one species of animal that has no right to live on the planet. And it makes me question the message.

And, it's cold as fuck this morning!!

One thing that you've got to remember Ollie is that the people who use terms like "potential" and "likely" are the scientists. Scientists aren't like journalists, who tend to throw around certainties without a second thought (in journalism, people don't want to hear about 'possible', they want to hear about 'imminent' or 'certain').

Science research has these qualifiers categorized right down to the percentage point (eg. 95% = very likely, 90% = likely, 98% =virtually certain, etc.) which makes for 'weak' press in comparison with the language used by politicos and journalists, so I think the fact that you see reports citing "potential" threats may have more to do with the discourse in which the research was conducted than the fact that it's just not that serious an issue.

HOpe I was clear.

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I for one am not skeptical of climate change and our contribution to it. The past seventy years have been like a train gathering speed when it comes to pollution and cause always comes before effect, remember.

I'm not going to let flawed policies and the political cult of personality get in the way of believing we need to change our ways. What's the matter with a little "human bashing"? We're greedy, inconsiderate, callous, indifferent and self-rigtheous and this plays out in the natural world we co-exist with. Shame on us.

Your ideas intrigue me. I'd like to subscribe to your newsletter.
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good point. In climate change lingo we call it the "precautionary principle". Do we really want to wait 'till all the science is neatly in line and 100% undisputed before we start doing something and the meantime potentially fuck ourselves even more?

Not me.

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Right. This is one of those cases where pragmatism probably trumps all. Even if we're out to lunch on the subject of climate change, most of the behavioural changes are worthwhile regardless.

And even though we've got no bloody chance of reaching Kyoto targets at this point - even if the political will were there - it's not at all a loss to exert pressure to act as though we could. Regardless of some of the undesirables of that particular accord.

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Do we really want to wait 'till all the science is neatly in line and 100% undisputed before we start doing something and the meantime potentially fuck ourselves even more?

Not me.

Cue invasion of Iraq on suspicion of WMD presence. It was argued in much the same way.

If Risk Assesment is the Yang to the PP's Ying with so many things, and you cant really meet between the two, it's a little hard to know what is rational, necessary, or safe to do with respect to climate change.

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Cue invasion of Iraq on suspicion of WMD presence. It was argued in much the same way.

Comparing the issue of WMD’s in Iraq with the science of climate change is a stretch.

The case that there were WMD’s in Iraq was argued by a small select cadre of individuals of the same political stripe and motivation. They alone held all the "evidence" and discouraged doubt or due process.

In the case of global warming, thousands of scientists have independently arrived at the same conclusion over many years with all evidence completely public.

Very different IMO.

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indeed. THe idea with the precautionary principle is to weigh

a) the likelihood of X event happening

B) the cost of dealing with it

c) the potential cost of not dealing with it

d) the potential benefits of dealing with it.

I think if the US had used the same principle with real evidence on Iraq they wouldn't have gotten past point A.

On the other hand, if you look at climate change, if scientists are even 90% sure (which, according to the IPCC, they are MORE than 90% sure), and the massive potential human and environmental impact of inaction, the cost of dealing with the issue (in terms of economic slowdown or whatever) seems pretty small in comparison.

Further, the principle is actually specific to environmental issues, for whatever that's worth.

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America: we must invade Iraq now, because weapons inspections have failed.

The World: what makes you think that weapons inspections have failed?

America: no weapons of mass destruction have been found.

The World: maybe there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

America: but how could we know that, when weapons inspections are so ineffective?

The World: but what makes you so certain that they are ineffective?

America: the fact that they haven't uncovered any WMDs in Iraq!

The World: *blink*

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Further, the principle is actually specific to environmental issues, for whatever that's worth.

I think it's worth is negligible, as I've always thought it equally valuable in circumstances outside of the environment. That's why I used it in reference to Iraq.

Hux is right though that a larger majority of scientists believe in the science of climate change to warrant taking action to curtail it. The economic gain/loss factor is really the only way forward since companies and industry as a whole...oh fuck well you might as well just say "polluters" to encapsulate all the possibilities...don't behave the way individual humans do. That is to say they don't behave altruistically and generally don't rely on Precautionary action so much as assessing the risk.

The reason I think the tool works both ways is simply because there is a risk to doing something, and there is a risk to not doing something. The 'polluters' who are turning the corner are realizing the latter is true...the risk to not curbing their emissions is a big-ass dent to their financial stability.

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Brings a point to mind -- scientists are supposed to be skeptics, and we've got to be cautious to not immediately flag skepticism as out-of-touch dissent.

Ding, ding, ding!!

The fervour among climate change supporters *sometimes* reminds me of the fervour among the religious right when questioned about the existence of God.

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Agreed. 'course that doesn't necessarily mean that the religious right is wrong about god, or that the supporters are wrong about climate change. (Actually I'd like to retract that particular analogy somewhat - the enlightenment era idea that religion should play in the grounds of science has been a disaster for both religion and science)

Your point is well taken, though. Blind parroting does not convincing make.

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