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Climate Hustle

Correcting Warren Meyer on Forbes

Posted on 8 February 2017 by Rob Honeycutt

In an online discussion last week I was directed to a 2012 article on the Forbes website written by businessman named Warren Meyer, titled Understanding the Global Warming Debate. The article contains a wide range of misleading and misinformed assumptions ostensibly to explain why there is a debate on climate change. I always see dissecting articles like these as a great opportunity to better understand the actual science over the perceived controversy of climate contrarians. Though the reference is somewhat dated now, this is the internet, so it lives in virtual perpetuity relative to how much traffic it receives. Over the past 5 years this article has received 186,000 views. That, in itself, makes this article worthy of addressing as an example of how motivated non-scientists get the science wrong.

Errors Straight Out of the Box

Mr. Meyer opens with a misleading attempt to frame the issue as a debate on "catastrophic man-man global warming theory." This approach conflates two very distinct elements of the science on anthropogenic climate change. Nowhere in the published scientific literature can you find the phrase he uses. When I did a search on this term in Google Scholar, what did I find? Mr. Meyer's Forbes article. Also searching "catastrophic man-made climate change" I get a smattering of non-research related materials coming from people who rejecting human influence on climate. Meyer has formed a completely irrelevant and fabricated framing of the issue for the basis of his discussion. 

In Mr. Meyer's article he claims this is the "core theory" and states that he will use the IPCC as the primary source for this, even though there is no place where the IPCC frames climate change in this manner. 

Compounding His Errors

In explaining "how this works" Mr. Meyer connects greenhouse gas effects, to warming, to impacts, but he immediately begins to demonstrate a lack of understanding about the science.

While he agrees that the adding CO2 will cause the Earth to warm and also agrees that this is almost universally accepted, he claims that climate science is a "young" area of research when, in fact, the research dates back to the 1820s and 1850s. The science on climate is older than the science on plate tectonics. It's older than the science on radiation. It predates our understanding of germ theory. The only way you could possible determine that climate science is a young science would be to define all science as young.

Mr. Meyer accepts the direct warming effects of CO2-only as ~1°C, which is accurate. But immediately he moves into simple errors. He states that, looking only at CO2, he ironically states the "relatively pessimistic" level of 800ppm would only produce a 1°C rise in temperature. This would be only if you also ignore warming since preindustrial, and that would be ignoring any warming already in the system due to thermal inertia from the oceans. 

Making up New Theories

Step three in Mr. Meyer's process is a theory of his own creation called "The Positive Climate Feedback Theory." While we get what he's talking about, it doesn't benefit his discussion to create, as a non-scientist, new terms that don't exist in actual science. 

New errors pop up when trying to describe this "theory" where he attempts to describe water vapor feedbacks. He states that the IPCC "assumed" a strong positive feedback from water vapor. The IPCC doesn't assume anything. The IPCC is a collection of leading experts in their fields who ware painstakingly cataloguing the scientific research. Meyer also makes an error suggesting the IPCC "just add" 2-4°C onto the 1°C for CO2 warming. Such figures, again, are completely manufactured by Meyer. They don't jibe with climate sensitivity figures and he provides no reference to what he means with figures like these.

The IPCC actually produces graphs such as the following to quantify forcings on the climate system, which also very clearly indicate levels of scientific understanding and uncertainty ranges.

One more error is, he claims Al Gore states that, "...we will see a tipping point where temperatures will run away, [Gore] is positing that feedbacks will be nearly infinite (a phenomenon we can hear with loud feedback screeches from a microphone)." Nope. Sorry. That is Mr. Meyer's misunderstanding and is nothing that Al Gore has ever stated. Meyer makes no attempt to reference such a comment, because no such quote exists. There are tipping points (plural) in the climate system. If we push past enough of them we will likely create a situation where we lose the capacity to affect the final equilibrium state of the climate through carbon emissions mitigation. It is well accepted that, even if we burned all fossil fuel reserves, we would not face the sort of runaway climate that Meyer describes. 

Lack of Understanding of the Published Research

Mr. Meyer goes on to claim that climate feedbacks might be high, but they also might be negative. After this he only bothers to discuss the negative, to the omission of positive feedbacks. Once again, there is no substantive support for such a position offered. By comparison, the IPCC and research scientists take the uncertainties involved with climate forcings and feedbacks very seriously. They clearly quantify and document them. The net result of the research suggests that our climate's sensitivity to forcing centers around 3°C for doubling CO2 concentrations. The low end probability is ~1.5°C, and the IPCC clearly state that anything lower than this is highly improbable.

Meyer is trying to claim there is some possibility that climate sensitivity could be less than 1°C, which is an extremely low probability. There is almost no research that can support that claim, and certainly no one could come to this conclusion looking at the full body of evidence available to scientists.

Observations on Observations

Meyer wants us to take the flawed argument he's proposed and compare those to temperature observations. But, he begins by stating that warming since preindustrial has been about 0.7°C. Clearly that is an error. This is not correct now and it was not even correct in 2012 when he wrote the article. He's most likely looking at the global mean temperature anomaly based on GISS or NOAA, which is based on a 30 year mid-20th century baseline, not preindustrial.

Right on the heels of this, Meyer claims that the surface temperature data are flawed. He does not offer any research supporting this position, he merely makes the claim. Then, after irrationally dismissing the surface temperature data, he turns to satellite data, which he claims, "...are not susceptible to these same flaws and coverage gaps..."

[Figure: satellite raw temperature data]

What Meyer clearly does not understand is that, for one, satellites are measuring something very different from the surface station data. Not only are the satellite data a temperature proxy, they are subject to far more adjustments and errors due to the fact the data have to be calibrated across different satellite missions, different sensors and have to compensate for various orbital adjustments. Surface station data are more consistent and more in agreement across the various groups compiling the data than the satellite data.

Beyond that, satellites are measuring an entirely different part of the atmosphere. Even the lower tropospheric satellite temperature data center about 3 miles up, not at the surface where we live.

Misunderstanding Attribution

At this point in Meyer's piece, things go a bit muddy. He rants a bit about Obama, Solyndra and Keynesian economics, which don't seem to be relevant as far as I can make out. This attempts to lead up to how the IPCC addresses human attribution with models. But here again, he's clearly not invested the time to fully understand the scientific research.

IPCC does use modeling to help eliminate other natural causes that might otherwise explain the warming we've seen in the past 50 years. Yes, models are imperfect, but climate modelers will tell you that we understand far more with models than we otherwise would without them. They help us validate other science. When climate modelers remove human contributions of CO2, they can't find a way to explain the warming we've seen. 

We get the same results when we look at forcings and temperature data. We get the same results when we look at temperature reconstructions. We get the same results when we look at many other areas of research. Models are merely one additional confirmation that what we observe is correct.

Meyer claims that the 0.7°C increase (observations), which he erroneously chose, can't be explained by the theory, which he's misguidedly constructed. He has essentially created a false scenario in order to prove something incorrect, which is the classic definition of a straw man argument.

There are a couple of points in there which I don't want to ding him for relative to Argo data and "the pause", since both of those issues have been put to rest since the time which he wrote the article. Both the points he makes about these are now shown to support man-made warming and are in full agreement with the body of climate research.

Gish Gallop Galore

After improperly defining the entire question at hand Meyer goes on a grand Gish gallop related to the Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO), aerosol effects, weather extremes, the little ice age (LIA) and the like. There is more than enough material written here on Skeptical Science to answer any questions about these subjects, so it would be redundant of me to individually take these on yet again.

"What is it exactly that skeptics 'deny'"

Meyer claims that most "skeptics" don't deny that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, but that's not always been the case. Still today, if you spend any time at WUWT or Roy Spencer's blog, you can see quite a few people who are stating emphatically that CO2 has no effect at all. Many have, over the past decade managed to finally accept the radiative properties of CO2 which have been understood for nearly two centuries. So there is some movement, but there still is much denial in play.

He claims what "skeptics" deny is catastrophe. That's a fascinating observation. I would agree that, if we can rapidly bring down our CO2 emissions over the coming decades to avoid a 2°C rise in global mean temperature, that would avoid much catastrophe. At very least it would act to slow the onset of the catastrophes we anticipate. The potential for catastrophe is a combination of climate sensitivity and emissions pathways. Estimations for climate sensitivity are many and they generally center around 3°C. But even if we err toward the lower end, that doesn't get us out of the potential crisis we face. A lower probability of 2°C for CS only buys us a little more time to decarbonize the global economy, and that would ignore the inherent risk that CS might actually be higher than 3°C.


Meyer ends with an unjustifiable conclusion, stating: 

So this is the real problem at the heart of the climate debate — the two sides are debating different propositions!  In our chart, proponents of global warming action are vigorously defending the propositions on the left side, propositions with which serious skeptics generally already agree.   When skeptics raise issues about climate models, natural sources of warming, and climate feedbacks, advocates of global warming action run back to the left side of the chart and respond that the world is warming and greenhouse gas theory is correct.    At best, this is a function of the laziness and scientific illiteracy of the media that allows folks to talk past one another;  at worst, it is a purposeful bait-and-switch to avoid debate on the tough issues.

The positions he's put forth in this article are the epitome of lazy analysis and scientific illiteracy. He's bizarrely framed his entire discussion attempting to attack the positions of the IPCC, a body composed of the world's leading researchers, as being scientifically illiterate. One has to ask, from where does his own "literacy" if not from leading climate researchers? It's certainly not based in the available published research which the IPCC reports are based on. 

In this, perhaps he's inadvertently answering his own questions in a manner that he would prefer to reject. What are "skeptics" denying? Answer: The scientific research.

Perpetuation of Misinformation

This article is just a run-of-the-mill exercise in climate denial Gish gallop. Meyer is picking points he thinks support his argument while actually only possessing a tenuous grasp of the science. So, why does it even matter? Why not just let this one go?

I can think of 186,000 reasons; the number of views of this Forbes article. Forbes is a very high profile publication and thus someone there, at Forbes, decided that it was fine and well to give this person an internet soapbox to promote a position rejecting the climate science which he has absolutely no expertise. He is not genuinely adding to the discussion on climate change but is being placed into a position as someone to listen to. Meyer is polluting the discussion with misinformation and poor analysis which has no bearing on the actual issue of climate change. And thanks to Google, these types of discussions, lacking in any substance, are given equal weight to actual science due to the traffic they generate. 


~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

 Rob Honeycutt 

Follow me on twitter @buzz509

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Comments 1 to 24:

  1. Thank's for an excellent point by point rebuttal of Meyers badly informed ranting.

    His style of rhetoric reminds me of "Sophistry". This was practiced by the ancient greek Sophists,and plenty of people today, including by my observation lawyers, politicians, lobby groups, and business people. Sophistry uses rhetoric that is superficially appealing, but is devoid of genuine logic, balance or content. It is full of strawman arguments, logical fallacies (those deceptive arguments with long latin names)

    But Meyers must also know many of his claims are at odds with the science. For example he must have read that the vast majority in the science community strongly believes on the weight of evidence that climate sensitivity is medium to high, and positive feedbacks outweigh negative feedbacks.

    So the question is really why is he choosing to ignore this? On what basis would he put his trust in a few of the more fringe scientists, that have contrary views, or non science based political websites? I can only draw the conclusion he put's his vested interests, or political leanings, above the peer reviewed mainstream science and what the vast majority of this says. On that basis we cannot take anything he says on the science seriously.

    Meyers says "So this is the real problem at the heart of the climate debate — the two sides are debating different propositions! In our chart, proponents of global warming action are vigorously defending the propositions on the left side, propositions with which serious skeptics generally already agree. When skeptics raise issues about climate models, natural sources of warming, and climate feedbacks, advocates of global warming action run back to the left side of the chart and respond that the world is warming and greenhouse gas theory is correct. At best, this is a function of the laziness and scientific illiteracy of the media that allows folks to talk past one another; at worst, it is a purposeful bait-and-switch to avoid debate on the tough issues."

    Well the two sides are not debating different propositions. That is another starwman argument. Clearly when sceptics claim climate sensitivity is low, to take one example, climate scientists do not run away and simply say global warming is correct. Climate scientists quite specifically argue why the weight of evidence shows climate sensitivity is considered to be medium to high.

    By the way temperatures over the last three years have destroyed the basis of the low climate sensitivity claims, as these were founded on belief in a large pause after 1998. One look at any of the many latest temperature data sets shows a weak, feeble sort of pause at best.

    And of course advocates of global warming will respond about the general strength of the global warming theory. The science is on their side, and it's their job to stick up for the science. Myers tries in his futile way to make it sound like some crime!

    However I do think the media are letting people talk past each other. Is it a purposeful bait and switch? Yes to some extent.

    So how does this work. The media are certainly turning the thing into a sport to entertain, and we see click bait article titles for the readers. Granted it's fair to say media have to get peoples attention, but click bait is becoming too extreme, in my opinion, and in many cases titles to articles are blatantly false, emotive or misleading and of course people sometimes only read the titles. And click bait and other empty rhetoric is filtering into articles themselves as well, and this is when click bait starts to seriously degrade articles.

    And we have the false news issues and alternative facts. Just what climate science doesn't need.

    And all we get are articles written by warmists and sceptics played off against each other. We have very few articles where the media evaluate the science in a responsible way, and ask the tough questions, and of both warmists and sceptics. But I think the media needs to look much harder at sceptical claims in this respect, as it is now well established that most of these have been provably deceitful or nonsense, or proven wrong when officially investigated (eg climate gate), so on that basis the media need to be putting them under far greater scrutiny.

    The media are in many ways perpetuating a false debate just to get readers.

    The media are either lazy, or captive to certain business orientated lobby groups, or both. Not all media are this way, and some media possibly favour environmentalism, but in my experience the majority of media are tilting towards corporate interests.

    And we are tired of false balance. Most climate scientists say we are warming the planet, (for example studies by Cooke, Doran, and several other studies of late) yet equal column space is often given to a few dissenting eccentrics, funded by groups with vested interests, and writing obviously deliberately provocative nonsense, that often has more to do with promoting some sceptics book.

    But regardless of media communications issues, Myers is clearly shown to be completely wrong about the science.

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  2. So let me get this straight. 

    You dismiss him because he uses the term CAGW.  

    Yet You use the term "Climate Change

    many CAGW proponents DO predict Catestrophic changes due to warming, so Catestrophic Anthropogenic Global Warmind IS an apropriate phrase to frame the issue.   

    You and your ilk have misused "climate change" and turned its meaning into something it is not, so should the world dismiss you?  

    As we enter the next ice age, how will you spin THAT "Climate Change"?

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Inflamatory sloganeering snipped.

    Please note that posting comments here at SkS is a privilege, not a right.  This privilege can be rescinded if the posting individual treats adherence to the Comments Policy as optional, rather than the mandatory condition of participating in this online forum.

    Please take the time to review the policy and ensure future comments are in full compliance with it.  Thanks for your understanding and compliance in this matter.

  3. "His style of rhetoric reminds me of "Sophistry". This was practiced by the ancient greek Sophists,and plenty of people today, including by my observation lawyers, politicians, lobby groups, and business people. Sophistry uses rhetoric that is superficially appealing, but is devoid of genuine logic, balance or content. It is full of strawman arguments, logical fallacies (those deceptive arguments with long latin names"

    yes, agree - it reminds me of the quote

    "That's the beauty of argument, if you argue correctly, you're never wrong."

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  4. Meyer: "catastrophic global warming advocates are wrong to over-estimate our understanding of these feedbacks." It's frustrating that Meyer doesn't identify which feedbacks he is referring to. The primary feedback is increased water vapor, and there is no controversy over its magnitude. The secondary feedback is cloud cover. While more controversial, Meyer misses the chance to explain why he thinks this is strongly negative rather than neutral, as most Climate Scientists now think. And as feedbacks go, that's pretty much it, so where is the controversy?  Meyer additionally seems comforted by the fact that natural systems tend to be stable.  True, but what is 'stable' to a planet may not appear 'stable' to a creature of biology.  Earth's sea level can vary by +/- 50 feet or more without the planet becoming unstable.

    Meyer: "[skeptics]… argue that the theory of strong climate positive feedback is flawed" Meyer has the ultimate platform to make that argument, which rests on the cloud feedback, but he punts. He claims that unless warming to date is 1.5C, feedbacks must be lower than IPCC thinks. Warming to date is 1.25C, since pre-industrial. His claim that it is 0.7 C is suspiciously wrong for someone writing with much apparent knowledge of the topic. But, since he doesn't want to talk about feedback physics, his entire argument rests on that 0.7 C.

    Meyer: "What [skeptics]… deny is the catastrophe…" Here is an opportunity to talk about the hysteresis of the climate system. First you get the radiative imbalance, then the heat imbalance, then the climate change, and finally the catastrophe. Meyer should at least admit that by the time we get to 'catastrophe' we are late by 50 years. Should catastrophe occur, I somehow think Meyer will have little to say about it.

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  5. nanuk @3:

    "many CAGW proponents DO predict Catestrophic changes due to warming, so Catestrophic Anthropogenic Global Warmind IS an apropriate phrase to frame the issue."

    I am sure that all people who argue that Anthropogenic Global Warming is catastrophic predict catastrophic changes due to unmitigated warming.  By definition, in fact.  

    The IPCC, however, (and myself come to that) say that there is significant uncertainty in the outcomes, and and the low end of the probability range, costs will be significant but not catastrophic; and that while there will be catastrophic weather effects, they will not significantly increase in number or intensity than under a no warming scenario.  The IPCC (and I), however, also point at that at the high end of the probability range, truly catastrophic outcomes are likely in this century, and a certainty in following centuries if action is not taken to mitigate climate change.

    Your inappropiate label indicates that those people of whom it applies claim certainty that there will be catastrophic outcomes with no mitigation.  But you apply it to people who only say there is a significant risk of catastrophic outcomes (with no mitigation).  It straightforwardly misrepresents the opinions of those you choose to label with it.

    Which I think is the point.  It is a rhetorical device to paint as unreasonable and extremist people whose opinions are well judged on far more familiarity with the evidence than Meyers or those on whose opinion he relies. 

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  6. Exactly Tom. Whenever I use the term I always include that's on a busines-as-usual emissions pathway. We will see impacts based on emissions so far, but if we can rapidly reduce emissions we can avoid the worst impacts.

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  7. Tom Curtis @5, yes fair enough comment Tom.

    But I think there is another rather obvious angle beings missed here. The climate denialist crowd paint a picture that implies climate science as a whole or the IPCC are all preaching about catastrophic global warming. As a semi retired guy, I read a lot, and I just haven't heard many climate scientists talk about catastrophic global warming, or catastrophic events. Serious yes but not so much catastrophic. They would be in a small minority.

    So the denialist crowd are just unfairly generalising. But hey, what else is new? I'm used to that.

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  8. It isn't wrong to expect catastrophe, but it isn't in climate science that you find it.  It is in human behaviour when civilization is stressed to the point of collapse, or when it actually collapses.  The stress is inherent in the future conditions we're creating now.  The resulting wars, starvation and disease however, are not climate.

    That's sort of a problem.  Climate Science doesn't talk about those results because they aren't "Climate Science"  -  they are "Social Science" and Psychology and History that tell us of those results.  Economics seldom discusses them correctly, labeling them as "externalities".   Pollies think about them as vote losing propositions.  It is... a problem.    Without good communication of the real risks to the future, and Forbes is almost as guilty as the WSJ of making sure that businessmen and high-rollers are completely misinformed (Murdoch has a criminal disregard of truth - I understand the Daily Mail has been effectively "de-listed" by wiki), democracy is doomed and civilization depends on the efforts of whatever enlightened autocrats are found in control of the world. 

    Catastrophe isn't in the climate... the planet will be fine... its just that we humans will have a hell of a time. 

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  9. It's unfortunate that so much time and energy needs to be expended debunking the denialists over and over and over again. Another approach is to inoculate young people and others with open minds who are capable of being reached before they fall into the rabbit hole of denialism.  Search "LA Times fake news vaccine" for an article in the subject.

    "The scientific consensus on climate change gets diluted as the public sorts between real news and fake news, facts and alternative facts. Misinformation can spread like a virus.

    But just like a virus, it may be possible to “vaccinate” people against the effects of fake news, according to a new study in the journal Global Challenges.

    “There’s phony arguments out there, but when you alert people to who’s putting them out and why, it may dampen their impact,” said Riley Dunlap, an environmental sociologist at Oklahoma State University who was not involved with the study."

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] The article you are referencing is:

    It's possible to 'vaccinate' Americans against fake news, experiment shows by Sean Greene, Los Angeles Times, Jan 26, 2017

  10. William Leslie @9,  I have seen several polls showing young people accept climate science in much greater numbers than older people, despite the disinformation campaigns. I expect this is partly because schools teach the science these days, and also more about critical thinking. The older generation didn't get all this, and are set in their ways.

    But your studies are really interesting.

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  11. bjchip@8,

    I would laso add to your observations the fact that those who benefit the current use of FF, polluting the air with CO2 and stomping the largest footprint on environment in general are not those who are affected by the resulting climate change as revealed by (Samson 2011). Further to that, most impacts will play out with 30-40 year delay, i.e. within the lifetime of next generation; the more serious impacts, the more current generation procrastinates the mitigation. So, intergenerational ethics are involved here.

    All of that confirms what I've been pionting throughout this site many times: AGW is not an environmental problem but social problem. If it was environmental problem only, it would've been resolved already, or at least contained for the next couple hundred years. The technology for necessary emission reductions already exists, and the lifestyle changes to further reduce our emissions are not that hard, certainly much easier IMO than e.g. lifestyle changes in allied nations during WW2 to combat nazism.

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  12. Chriskoz @11, just another thing, people like Trump who don't care about climate change have enough money, and probably gamble that their children, and their childrens children will be insulated by inherited money. But of course it's a gamble, because ultimately nobody will be able to escape the negative affects.

    Climate change is not really a cost problem, but I'm not sure it is a social problem. I would say climate change is not basically even a science denial problem, with the vast majority.

    Climate change is an ideological problem about community versus individual rights, and it is a problem of political will that is tied to campaign donations, and a problem of psychological addiction to fossil fuels that subconsciously distorts our thinking.

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  13. Chriskoz @11, one correction to my comment immediately above. I meant to say climate change is not "only" a social problem. Clearly it is a social issue in that those who currently benefit from buring the most fossil fuels are not those going to be most affected. And it's a self interest family weath issue that is perceived to be an insulator.

    But it's also the things I said related to politics and so on. This is why humanity is struggling with the climate issue, its complex and muti facetted. What's needed is some circuit breaker that cuts through all this.

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  14. nigelj@13, Climate Change is a cost problem, and so much more. The future costs and challenges are faced by "others", not by the ones hoping to benefit.

    And I think that the challenge of the science of climate change may be a tipping point regarding the development of broad based understanding of the tragic history of human failure to improve the future for all of humanity.

    Exposing the unacceptable actions and the unacceptable excuses made-up to impress easily made-up minds (minds easily tempted to be greedier or less tolerant), will have a powerful effect far beyond climate change. There is a massive amount of undeservingly popular and profitable activity in the global economy rewarding undeserving winners.

    It is clear that games of popularity and profitability have failed to improve the future for all of humanity. Part of the proof is that many people still suffer through short existences on this amazing planet even though measures of wealth have increased more rapidly than population (regionally and globally). The less helpful and more harmful a person can get away with being, the more of a competitive advantage they have, the more likely it is they will Win.

    I understand this because the charitable acts I participate in and support are efforts to deal with the damaging results of the games people play. Almost all the other helpful charitable acts face similar challenges.

    And it is frustrating that the combined charitable activity cannot 'fix' all of the damage, meaning that effort that could have been directed toward improving the future had to be directed at trying to 'fix or reduce' the damage done by Winners who did not care about advancing all of humanity to a better future.

    A particularly galling case of damaging leadership was when the Conservative Government in Canada chose to impose an investigation into charities that had determined that it would be helpful to promote public awareness campaigns to raise awareness of what causes the problems they are trying to address (the smae government declared that government funded scientists could not publically discuss their science - they had to get passed through the Government's message control filter). The Conservative Government of Canada declared that such 'education of the public' was 'political'. And charities were legally not allowed to spend more than 10% of their money on political action (a measure that had been put in place to block attempts by groups like the Conservative Party from getting more funding or political advertising through "a charity").

    It is undeniable that unacceptable developed perceptions of prosperity and opportunity can be very difficult to overcome, particularly if popularity and profitability are considered to be legitimate measures of who and what actions are "Winners". It is even more difficult when deliberately unhelpful/harmful people have Won control of leadership (in pursuits of business or politics or media or sports or ....)

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  15. One Planet Only Forever @14

    I meant by climate change not being a cost problem, that a  transition to renewables is affordable. The Stern Report calculated it will cost 1% of a countries gdp per year.  I should have been more specific. I think this is also what Chriskoz meant.

    But I agree with your post entirely. I totally understand where you are coming from on costs, and all the rest of your views on humanity. But with respect, I just think your writing style is rather convoluted sometimes, and others may struggle. There must be a simpler, shorter, or more ordered way of saying it, although granted these issues can only be simplified to a certain extent. But you have some great ideas.

    You are really talking about "cheats" who cheat the legislative rules, or who simply act unethically, or selfishly.Your insight here is to note that the more they get away with it, the more emboldened they become (and Trump might be a prime example). And the more power they get, the more they get to control the rules.

    The only solution ultimately are government rules and boundaries on economic behaviour, and trying to get the balance right between firm rules, but not overly punative or petty or complex rules. The latest Economist Magazine discusses this challenge in terms of the big Dodd-Frank finance regulation legislation in the USA. Of course the challenge is convincing politicians to have a strong but fair regulatory framework, and set of boundaries, and convincing the population to support political parties that stand up for the same things. It's easier said than done given vested interests opposing these very same things.

    We had the exact same charities issue in New Zealand. Personally I think they absolutely must be allowed to speak out on political or social issues etc ( and the same applies to government agencies), but I would accept some upper limit and 10 -20% would seem reasonable. Given they are tax payer funded, or get tax breaks, there should be some upper limit I guess for obvious reasons.

    But when conservative parties try to shut down all rights of charities or other groups to speak out, or protest, by threatening to withdraw funding or tax concessions, this is absolutely wrong. Of course we are seeing something similar now in America under Trump, on climate issues, and a whole range of others as well.

    I get the last paragraph. I would  say capitalism promotes winning, and this can be healthy. But winning promotes cheating and abuse of power, and the winners often control the rule book, and then have a record of making it easy for their associates to abuse power as well.

    The public ultimately also weild power at election times and sometimes throw out leaders who abuse power. It sort of balances but only sometimes.

    It appears that underlying your discussion is a premise a that we as a species should be planning what we do using criteria of how this affects future generations. This appeals to me 1) because it just seems right and 2) it has the virtue of a simple goal and 3) because it propogates the species within a stable world and has forward looking economic value. I also think it is affordable for us to do anyway. Something a simple as fisheries quotas and conservation does not mean we stop all fishing, for example.

    However your views on considering future generation  as a prime goal, is ultimately a statement of belief or morality, although in my view a good one. In environmental terms it is the sustainablity concept. How do you get people to subscribe to such a view? Start a political party?

    But as with many things in life, we could at least start with protesting against the antithesis or opposite of your ideas, which is Donald Trump.

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  16. nigelj@15, I understand that I am referring to a higher level objective or ethic. I am fairly certain that root of the problem is that the higher level objective is mainly missing from consideration in what is going on. And because it relates to so many aspects of human activity commenting about it really has no limit.

    I am attempting to distill it into a climate science limited presentation and submit it as an OP for SkS to consider posting.

    My comments to date are exercises in trying to present the point, limiting it to climate science. But providing supporting points of evidence comes from a massive variety of issues. Trying to create the comments and getting feedback has been helpful. I am not a fan of brevity. Use of terms always needs definition of the term, so I find I try to present descriptions rather than using terms. I also type comments as I think of things (more things come to mind as the comment develops) then review and edit to a degree. That leads to longer statements potentially out of sequence that I find as difficult to follow as they are difficult to reorganize and break down into smaller statements then tighten up without becoming more open to misinterpretation.

    My current best concise presentation of my thinking is the need to focus on a scale for evaluating human actions that is "Helpful through Harmful" with the objective basis for positioning actions being "Advancing all of humanity to a better future". Other scales can be useful for differentiating thoughts and perspectives, but the “Helpful through Harmful” would govern over the other scales which would be personal preference or ideological scales.

    Another way to say that is that actions that are on the Helpful side of the scale are valuable to humanity regardless of where they sit on any other evaluation scale (regardless of their popularity or profitability). And actions that are “harmful” are just harmful no matter where they are on any other scale, with no consideration of credit for a benefit someone may perceive they get. And any action that is in no way harmful but is also not helpful would be at the lower limit of acceptable personal entertainment.

    Establishing the higher order valuable objective of human activity is essential (and it applies locally and globally). It cannot be allowed to be considered to be just a matter of personal opinion or preference. And there must be no “Balancing of Harm with Help”. Without that clear truly deserving objective basis for measurement and setting limits on acceptability (and I am open to considering stronger clearer more valuable objectives), claims could be made that misleading marketing is "Helpful" (to the people it provides an advantage to). And people could claim that investigating or explaining the unacceptability of a developed popular and profitable activity is "Harmful" (to the people who do not want to give up their developed perceptions of prosperity and opportunity).

    Claims that reducing future challenges would be “too costly for people today” would clearly end up on the Harmful side. No amount of current perception of value having to be “given up” would justify a likely risk of future challenges being created. Businesses mitigate Risk. And the best way they do that, form their perspective, is set things up so that others will suffer the consequences or the evaluation of damage will be limited like the Horizon Disaster where only a living person who could directly prove how their life was financially affected could claim “Harm” and get the current shareholders to lose wealth (note that many shareholders benefited from the riskier more profitable approach to things that ultimately caused the Horizon Dister but were no longer shareholders when “payment for damages was required”). The fact that future generations cannot possibly continue to benefit from burning fossil fuels is an additional negative point about that activity, as are all the other non-climate related impacts of the activities related to extracting and burning fossil fuels.

    Of course the current challenge is undoing all of the damaging popular and profitable developments. That ultimately would happen quicker if leaders could be removed from positions of influence if it can be shown that they failed to be well aware and best understand what is going on (something that voters and shareholders should expect of their leaders) and apply that understanding to improve the future for all of humanity (the only worthy actions of a leader regardless of the potential popularity or profitability of other interests or objectives).

    A more difficult argument to make using what I have presented is claiming that exaggeration or misleading marketing is helpful if it raises awareness of an issue leading to the greater potential for people to realize the importance of changing their attitudes and actions to help improve the future for all of humanity. In the case of climate science, some people presenting the potential worst case future has developed a “Harmful” result, the creation of the CAGW argument as the excuse to discredit any and all climate science information.

    Nigel, I may have done it again.

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  17. nigelj@15, If Donald Trump truly honours his Inauguration Speech claim that he will end poverty in the USA. And he does it in a lasting way that does not harm the short-term future for people outside of the USA or harm or create challenges for future generations in any way. Then on that issue Donald Trump's leadership actions would not be the antithesis of my objective.

    I would love to see Team Trump, and all other leaders, succeed in legitimately honouring that Promise. However, I believe it is likely that Team Trump will only make-up more ultimately unsustainable perceptions of Winning on that issue. Making up appealing claims appears to be their only proven talent.

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  18. One Planet Only forever @16 &17,

    Some good points.

    Yes I agree your higher level objective or ethic should be front and centre. But read what I said, I already said it's a good simplifying goal, (and so obviously should be upfront).

    But the point is we need to consider is how we persuade people to adopt it, because it cannot happen at the point of a gun.

    In fact my country has a resource management act based around the idea of sustainablity, so we are half way there. Sadly it comes under a lot of attack.

    The rest of what you say makes sense.

    I personally think the use of the word "catastrophic" has been unwise. It plays into the hands of people who can then claim things like "hysteria, scarmongering, chicken little etc". Don't get me wrong, climate change is likely to be catastrophic in at least some regards, to those who have a bit of knowldege of earth systems, but sadly academics are not always experts in communication. I think the term very serious is accurate enough, and the better term.

    It's easy enough to get peoples attention without massive hyperbole. A few photos of shrinking glaciers is enough. I actually think most people do accept the science of climate change and that conesquences are serious. Polls tend to show this. The problem is everyone is kind of frozen in indecision and fear about what to do, and of course you have vested interests saying do nothing. In all fairness, humanity has never faced such a large and intractable problem before, or not many.

    But theres now no escaping we are altering a lot of things, partly due to the population explosion, and the only way forward is resource management on a global scale. This is challenging on several obvious levels.

    Donald Trump may have some fine objectives, to end poverty in America for example, and of course I hope he does well, and I try to take people at face value in good faith, "but" his detailed words and actions to date are very inconsistent to his objectives. Even if he "brings back" a few manufacturing jobs with his tariffs scheme, it's hard to see how that would help people in services industries on very low wages. My country tried tariffs in the 1970s, and although they pushed up some wages, they caused a vast range of other problems.

    And part of Trumps plan seems to be to "End Poverty" by sacrificing the environment. This does not make a lot of sense. You can't cure one problem by causing another problem.

    It all looks more like a transfer of wealth and power to the corporate sector. A few poor people might be slightly better off,in the process, at the most, but the net result will be lower overall wealth for America as a whole long term,  and mostly a win for the business sector in the short term. His protectionist thinking works short term, but not so much in the long term, imho.

    But obviously I hope I'm wrong, and it all works out well for everyone.

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  19. One Planet Only Forever, just adding to clarify my main repsonse directly above, we should obviously be trying to make it better for poor people, but with direct anbd genuine assistance of some sort, or higher minimum wage laws. Tariffs are not the way.

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  20. Warren like most skeptics got his idea from one of these posts (this response was previously posted on different topic -)

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  21. joe... Your comment is fairly nondescript. Can you clarify your point or be a little more specific?

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  22. Rob - thanks will gladly clarify.  The statement is made to the effect that Warren made up the second part of the theory catastrophic warming based on positive feedbacks.  (ie he pulled it out of his backside and/or his imagination) .

    I was only pointing out the theory has been put forth by many from the climate science community, including this site.  Granted, there has been some retreat from this position.  

    (my second part of my comment was pointing out that i originally posted to the same/similar comment to a different blog post in error)

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  23. joe...  I think you're misinterpretting here. In the article, I'm stating that Warren says the IPCC merely makes up positive feedbacks. That is clearly not true. On the other hand, Warren does make up the idea of negative feedbacks dominating, which would make CS lower than the direct effect of CO2. That is not scientifically supportable.

    And, no, there's not been any retreat from the position on the estimates of climate sensitivity. They remain basically where they've been for many decades.

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  24. "One more error is, he claims Al Gore states that, "...we will see a tipping point where temperatures will run away, [Gore] is positing that feedbacks will be nearly infinite (a phenomenon we can hear with loud feedback screeches from a microphone)." Nope. Sorry. That is Mr. Meyer's misunderstanding and is nothing that Al Gore has ever stated."

    I did a bit of research and managed to find the source for Al Gore's claims about "tipping-points".  It turns out to be a conflation of a comment Gore made to CBS news in 2006, and a review of An Inconvenient Truth, by James Hansen.

    CBS reported on January 26th, 2006 that:

    "And politicians and corporations have been ignoring the issue for decades, to the point that unless drastic measures to reduce greenhouse gases are taken within the next 10 years, the world will reach a point of no return, Gore said.

    He sees the situation as "a true planetary emergency.""

    You will notice that while the sentiment is Gore's, the initial sentence contains no quotations, and hence no indication that the term "point of no return" was Gore's.

    Meanwhile, in his review of "An Inconvenient Truth", Hansen expressed similar views when he wrote:

    "Any responsible assessment of environmental impact must conclude that further global warming exceeding two degrees Fahrenheit will be dangerous. Yet because of the global warming already bound to take place as a result of the continuing long-term effects of greenhouse gases and the energy systems now in use, the two-degree Fahrenheit limit will be exceeded unless a change in direction can begin during the current decade. Unless this fact is widely communicated, and decision-makers are responsive, it will soon be impossible to avoid climate change with far-ranging undesirable consequences. We have reached a critical tipping point."

    In January, 2016, Anthony Watts published an article by Jaclyn Schiff, which quoted the NBC article, before saying:

    "Well, the 10 years are about up, by now, warming should have reached “planetary emergency levels” Let’s look at the data:


    As you can see, little has changed since 2006. Note the spike in 1998, in the 18 years since the great El Niño of 97/98, that hasn’t been matched, and the current one we are in isn’t stronger, and looks to be on the way to decaying. So much for the “monster” El Niño."

    In the space covered by the ellipsis, Schiff published a graph of the UAH TLT temperature through to Nov 2015.  Why November, given that the Dec 2016 data was published by Roy Spencer on January 5th, 2016.  Perhaps it had something to do with the December values being higher than those of October, hence giving the lie to the claim that the temperatures "looks to be on the way to decaying".  Regardless, hindsight shows her claims to be utterly baseless:

    Indeed, so also did foresight for anybody aware of the relative delays of surface and mid troposphere temperature responses to ENSO fluctuations.

    More important than any shenanigans with out of date temperature data is the complete misunderstanding of what Gore is reputed to have said.

    Going back to the original NBC metaphore, a point of no return is that point in a flight, or expedition, were turning around will not leave you with sufficient fuel (or supplies) to return to base.  It could also be used of a scenario where you are driving rapidly towards the lip of the Grand Canyon, in which case the point of no return is that point at which no amount of braking, or rapidity of turning will prevent you from going over the lip.  In neither case is there any sudden change in your conditions.  The point of no return on a flight is not a point of sudden turbulence; and the point of no return as you follow Thelma and Louis to a premature death is as smooth as any other point you had traversed on the trip thus far.

    Applying this to Gore's thought, clearly he was saying (whether using that phrase or not) that if radical action was not taken by (approximately) 2016, then we would have reached a point where no economically achievable measures could prevent CO2 concentrations rising sufficiently to cause temperatures to pass the threshold beyond which their impacts are considered dangerous.  No sudden jump in temperature is predicted, and nor is it predicted that the temperature increase by 2016 will itself have passed a dangerous threshold.

    In any event, Schiff's misunderstanding was then picked up by the deniasphere, with Hansen's term frequently substituted.  From there, it was apparently further misinterpreted by Warren Myer.

    Ignoring the gross misrepresentations without which deniers have no argument, the question is whether or not we have in fact passed Gore's 'point of no return', or Hansen's "tipping point".  The answer is that we do not know.  We may have, and if we have not we certainly will do so soon.  My feeling is that we have for a 1.5oC increase above the preindustrial, but not quite yet for a 2oC threshold.  Unfortunately, whether we have or have not passed it, the actions of Trump in the US, and Turnbull in Australia seem geared to ensure we pass it very soon, if we have not already.



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