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Discussing global warming: why does this have to be so hard?

Posted on 12 February 2014 by John Abraham

Climate change long ago joined the topics of politics, religion, and money as something you just can't talk about. It seems that whenever these topics get brought up, previously friendly people get beet-red faces and leave with clenched fists and indigestion. But why?

For people who work in this field, on either side of the issue, we tend to get focused on areas of disagreement and nuances. This leads us to quickly defend our positions with a fervor that would not otherwise be needed. For climate "insiders" (and yes, this includes folks who downplay concerns about climate change in particular), we sometimes need to step back. Let's begin the conversation a different way; perhaps we can come to a different outcome.

To start, we should all recognize that no one wants to injure the planet, the climate, and the future economies and societies that our children will inherit. Even the radicals don't want to pollute the planet. Can you imagine James Inhofe sitting around the dinner table asking his family to find more ways he can pollute the air and water of this planet? I can't; it just doesn't happen.

Next, let's be honest about what is known and what isn't. Starting with what we know:

1. Humans emit a lot of greenhouse gases each year and the amount of such gases in the atmosphere have risen significantly.
2. Greenhouse gas increase should cause climate change. They do so by theory, in experiment, and by computer simulation. The history of the Earth confirms this behavior.
3. The Earth's climate has been observed to change.

None of these items are confrontational or controversial. There really isn't much doubt about them, not even amongst the most ardent contrarians.

So, where does disagreement occur? Well, in my mind, it often occurs over risk. Part of the story about why this topic is toxic is because people handle risk very differently. Some people do not want to take risk when the consequences are severe. Other people are more comfortable with risk and need to have more convincing evidence before they are motivated for action. They really want to be sure before they act.

How does this play out with the climate? Well, first we have to get into what scientists don't know.

1. We don't know exactly how much climate change will occur. It may range from very little to a lot over the next 100 years or longer. If we are lucky, climate change will be a minor inconvenience. If we are unlucky, it will destabilize societies around the world. It is most likely neither of these extremes will occur, the future will be somewhere in the middle, but frankly we just don't know.
2. We don't know how fast it will happen. Will it take a few decades or a few centuries for some of the big changes to occur? We have a pretty good idea but we can't be certain.
3. We don't know exactly how climate change will manifest itself. How will drought/flood patterns change? How will hurricanes change? How will sea levels rise? How fast will the oceans acidify? We have educated guesses but we can't be certain.
4. It isn't clear how much of what we see is due to us and how much is just natural variability.
5. How will climate change affect economies and societies? What regions and people will suffer more? Who will be impacted less?

So, how do we make decisions with uncertainty? That is a value-judgment. Do we play it safe? Do we roll the dice?

Playing it safe would mean quickly reducing emissions
. First, by using energy more wisely so that we get more out of each gallon of fuel and each bag of coal. Second, maximize clean and renewable energy generation. Third, minimize any carbon-emitting energy generation, and finally begin adaptation plans so we can manage the changing climate. The advantage of this approach is we reduce our exposure to climate change impacts. We also will save money in the long run by using our energy more wisely. The disadvantage is we have to pay to develop new energy infrastructure.

Rolling the dice basically means taking a wait and see approach. Let's not develop clean and renewable energy industries. Let's not worry about using energy more wisely. Let's wait and see whether climate change is really happening as fast and as severe as scientists tell us. The advantage of this approach is no work is required on our part. The disadvantage is that by the time it becomes clear to everyone we have a problem, it will be either too late or too expensive to fix. The quicker we take action to halt climate change, the cheaper our options are.

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Comments 1 to 50 out of 55:

  1. There is one other major area of uncertainty that is being ignored here...  

    6.  How will climate change policies (and their unintended consequences) impact economies and societies?

    You might consider, as an example, the recent experience in Spain:

    Or, as another example, Ontario:

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  2. Russ R., I find it *incredibly* difficult to believe your assertion: I've read many, *many* articles, journals, and academic papers that show it's qwuite the opposite. Many study these effects, and it iis disingenuous to suggest it is "being ignored."


    There may well be an instance, here and there, that shows this --the effects of climate policies-- is in its infancy, but to suggest no one is looking into this issue, is not believable,

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  3. In my haste to argue about what John Abraham left out of his analysis, I neglected to commend him for presenting an otherwise very level-headed and even-handed perspective.  It's rather refreshing.

    Reasonable people can agree on facts, acknowledge uncertainties, and disagree about what should or shouldn't be done, without automatically resulting in "clenched fists and indigestion".

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  4. vroomie,

    John Abraham's post listed 5 areas of uncertainty:

    1. How much climate change should be expected?
    2. How fast will it occur?
    3. How will it manifest?
    4. How much is natural vs. man-made?
    5. How will it affect economies and societies?

    He failed to mention a sixth:  the uncertainty surrounding the costs and impacts of the policies being prescribed to "fix" this problem of uncertain size, timing, effect, source, and human impact.

    In the two examples I provided (and many others) the actual, realized costs of policy action have greatly exceeded what was expected, as Spaniards, Ontarians and others are discovering to their dismay.

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  5. "2. We don't know how fast it will happen."  Based on the last 40 million years of strong correlation, the sea level that corresponds with today's 400ppm of CO2 is 25 to 125 feet higher than today's sea level, or on average 75 feet higher.  Before 2000, Antarctica and Greenland contributed nothing to sea level rise.  Since 2000, the contribution of these two ice sheets has increased at an exponential rate (note: exponential function also useful for describing explosions).  As IPCC has related, five times more ice melted off these ice sheets in the last decade than in the decade before.  Since 2000, they have added 0.4inches (10mm) to sea level.  Suppose that rate doubles every ten years?  Then by 2100, 17 feet will have been added, so they'll 'only' have 58 more feet to go.  So, that is one estimate for 'how fast'.  I'm sure there are others.

    As for Russ R. above, do you know what else is growing exponentially?  Solar PV power.  Every two years the installed base doubles (a trend now 20 years old), and the price per panel drops by 40%.  Only 8 more doublings and Solar PV could power the World.  Google 'citibank energy darwinism' for more information.  Nick of time?  Hold on to your hats, it could be close.

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  6. I guess its more like 33 ft by 2100 but you get the idea.

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  7. Russ R@4

    Russ, I think this is called a hasty generalization. In the US, we've instituted mileage standards for autos and provided incentives for hybrids to promote development of that technology. Amazingly enough, the economy hasn't collapsed as a consequence of that action, and the desired result has occurred-- we're moving in the right direction on emissions.

    Those who are concerned about negative consequences need to be able to rationally project them, not just point out that 'stuff happens'; we already knew that. It's about balancing uncertainties.

    For the US, I would give the following hypothetical. Let's, by subsidy and regulation, promote the installation of rooftop solar everywhere reasonable, requiring that such installations incorporate a backup mode (capacity variable, but not needing the grid) for when the power goes out.

    OK, how confident would we have to be about any of the uncertainties listed by Abraham for that to be a reasonable idea, and how confident about a suggested downside to reject it? That's what an honest discussion would involve. But we never have those; we have rhetoric as usual.



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  8. Russ...  I would also add, unintended consequences going to happen one way or another, regardless. Renewables are on an unrelenting march toward cheaper and cheaper energy. Any problems that are going to rise from this are going to rise whether we manage that process or choose to just let it happen.

    What would be a shame would be if we did have all the technologies and abilities to address climate change but acted too slow to make a difference. That's a very real possibility as things are going right now.

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  9. What I often wonder is whether much of the conflict on this issue revolves around how people process risk differently. And that may play into the whole liberal/conservative aspect of it as well.

    My sense is there are people who respond to immediate risk and those who respond to long term risk. I think you see it playing out right now in the US in terms of the national debt. Conservatives view the debt as this problem that must be addressed immediately. Liberals tend to lean toward saying, the debt is important but is something that can addressed over a longer period. It's short term vs long term risk response.

    The same thing plays out relative to climate where conservatives tend to focus on economic risks related to addressing climate change now, whereas liberals tend to look at the longer term risks of not addressing climate change.

    The nit for all of this is that, honestly, I believe addressing the long term issue can have net economic benefits now. 

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  10. Russ R:

    In my view, Dr Abraham is overstating the uncertainties regarding global warming - or rather, that he has not clarified enough the distinction between the uncertainty regarding ultimate outcomes and uncertainty regarding timeframes and severity.

    For example, analysis of paleoclimate data suggests that, if CO2e were to stop dead at 400 ppm, we would still be in for substantial sea level rise due to the melting of the large ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica (e.g. see here for an estimate of sea level, relative to the present, in the last interglacial period). If that emissions continue unabated, we can be extremely confident that given time, all the ice would melt away eventually.

    The ultimate outcome of unabated greenhouse gas emissions - massive sea level rise following the melt-off of the continental ice sheets - follows of necessity from the assumption of unabated emissions and what is presently known regarding cryosphere response to global warming. There is, effectively, no uncertainty regarding the ultimate outcome: if we warm the planet enough we could end the current ice-house state of the Earth and return it to an ice-free, hot-house state. This would entail a sea level rise of some tens of metres.

    What is uncertain is how long it will take to get there. A higher climate sensitivity and more sensitive ice sheet response, for example, would suggest such sea level rise would occur very rapidly, in geological terms at least, and vice-versa for lower sensitivity and less sensitive response.

    As the ultimate outcome of unabated warming with respect to sea level rise is not in doubt, we must sooner or later look to decarbonisation and, if technology permits, carbon sequestration in order to avoid it (on the assumption that multi-metre sea level rise is undesirable).

    I could go on about other consequences of global warming - impacts on (agricultural) plant growth and distribution, heat stress on mammals, and so on. The ultimate consequences of unabated warming are, in my view, very cut and dried; the uncertainty lies in how quickly they will arrive (and/or how they will be distributed spatially, in the case of, say, changing weather patterns).

    What is more, the ultimate outcomes of warming are not avoidable just by virtue of climate sensitivity being, say, on the low end of IPCC estimates. All that means it that it takes longer to get there, assuming unabated warming.

    TL,DR: Assuming we want to avoid the ultimate outcomes of global warming, we have to abate it. And, as many people have pointed out in many articles and comment threads here and elsewhere, while there may be reasonable points of disagreement on how quickly and extensively to ramp up decarbonisation and sequestration, uncertainty is not our friend.


    As some final notes, with respect to the Globe & Mail article, I find the following paragraph very telling:

    It is also the latest sign of turbulence in the green-energy industry after the global recession reduced the need for power and an uncertain economy made less costly conventional electricity more attractive than pricey renewables.

    Leaving aside the fact that in Ontario about half of power generation is from nuclear power, the remaining proportion of "conventional" (that is, fossil fuel) electricity is only "less costly" than renewables because of (a) enormous direct and indirect subsidies paid out by various levels of government (in effect, we citizens pay fossil fuel power generators for the privilege of having lower numbers on our bills and at the fuel pumps), and (b) the rather large externalized costs of fossil fuel combustion (namely, global warming and its attendant consequences), which are not currently well-reflected in the prices we pay for, say, electricity from fossil fuels. (This latter point is the basis for arguing for carbon taxes, fee-and-dividend systems, and the like.) Their lower apparent cost compared to renewables is, in effect, an illusion.

    Further, the Globe & Mail article suggests that the growth of renewable energy in Ontario is not falling victim to some perverse consequence of pursuing renewable energy per se, but rather to such things as retrenchment during economic stagnation and what I assume would be a normal driving down of prices due to over-supply ("After a decade of rapid expansion, during which Ontario badly wanted to increase the power supply as it shut down coal plants to cut greenhouse-gas emissions, the recession drove down demand and the province wound up with an electricity surplus"), austerity measures and/or perception-management by the government ("The still-shaky Ontario economy has also made it politically harder to justify the cost of subsidizing green power both to cash-strapped households and industrial enterprises for whom power is a major business expense"), and competition ("The rise of low-cost solar panel manufacturers in China has put further pressure on Western-based companies").

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  11. ubrew12:

    "Suppose that rate doubles every ten years? Then by 2100, 17 feet will have been added,..."

    "Only 8 more doublings and Solar PV could power the World."  

    Your technique of extrapolating exponential growth into the future... you might want to rethink it.  It doesn't work so well in the real world.

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  12. Composer99@10: To tack on to your point, and add to my own (above), here, in red, is the shape of sea level rise from ice sheet melting, in the last 10 years:

    It's an exponential curve, as would be expected in a situation like this, and I found that a reasonable approximation to it is: Cum SLR = exp((year-2000)/4.1).  Assuming this trend continues out going forward, then SLR hits 5 feet by 2030, and 57 feet by 2040!! I can't believe it'll happen that fast, but I also can't believe it'll trend linear either.  We are in uncharted waters: a tipping point has been passed, in 2000, and nobody noticed.  Ice sheets are melting exponentially, as one would expect, and the nonlinear exponential function is no help when it comes to prediction accuracy.

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  13. Russ R.@11: google "ray kurzweil solar will power the world in 16 years".  It's not my idea. It's an extrapolation of a 20 year trend.  I certainly hope you're right about SLR, but nature reveals itself in exponential functions all the time, and I can think of no physical reason why it wouldn't apply with SLR as well.  The main thing, however, is the uncertainty: we're messing with a form of matter whose flow behavior gifted the English language the word 'Avalanche'.  That's like taunting a Shark.

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  14. This just doesn't match my experience. So far as I have seen, nearly everyone who contests AGW does so on the basis of disbelieving one or more of the three 'known and not controversial' items listed in the OP.

    Yes, it would be wonderful to have a logical discussion about risk and uncertainty and the best course of action in the face of proven realities... but that just isn't anything remotely similar to what I see. I'd estimate maybe one 'skeptic' in a thousand accepts the basic realities of global warming and is only questioning the details. Frequently, even those who actively say that they accept the science will 'slip' and repeat the most demented illogical arguments imaginable. Thus, I don't believe this is a 'rational debate' at all. Getting to that stage would require a significant change in beliefs by the vast majority of climate 'skeptics'.

    To take the Inhofe example, no it doesn't seem likely that he has a 'villain lair' where he plots new ways to destroy the planet, but he also certainly isn't anything like the 'rational skeptic' portrayed in this post. No, he is out there saying that human greenhouse gas emissions cannot cause warming. That volcanoes caused CO2 levels to rise. That AGW is all a big hoax. Et cetera. And he isn't alone. That is standard fare from Fox News, Limbaugh, virtually every GOP politician, and the rest of the 'conservative' (an even less accurate term than 'skeptic') faction in the U.S. Maybe it is different in other countries, but I for one would be unspeakably relieved to see anything like the level of sanity this post suggests exists.

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  15. I tend to agree with Russ R.  The cost of the baby steps we have taken to reduce emissions are going to be insignificant compared with what we need to do to stay at 400.  The costs are up front.  The benefits and costs avoided are a number of decades in the future. 

    HOWEVER, when I went to look for a specific example, it went the other way.  The five year ownershop costs for a Nissan Leaf, according to Edmunds, are about $4000 less than the five year costs of a Toyota Corolla.  And that doesn't include the $7,500 tax subsidy that the leaf gets. For someone who just needs a commuter car, the Leaf is a good deal. 

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  16. CBD @14...  But I think all that is a function of how many conservatives are processing the problem. Scientists say we have this looming issue that can have extremely severe consequences in 75-100 years. In the minds of many people that just doesn't compute at all. When you say, "75-100 years" you might as well be telling them the problem is on another planet. And then we're saying we need to adjust markets and taxes to compensate for this problem that exists on another planet.

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  17. What Russ R is pointing to for "unintended consequences" to my mind is actually the certainity of pursuing policies favoured by business lobby groups which nearly always turn out badly - namely using subsidies. That these will have unintended consequences is a near certainity not an uncertainity. I accept the need for government subsidies on health and education but in every other arena, they tend to be a disaster. "Dry" governments of both left and right here (NZ) in the 90s ended subsidies right across the economy - a good move. 73% renewable generation and no subsidy in sight. First step is kill subsidies on fossil fuel, second step is ban new generation using FF and let the market decide the next best source. The obvious foreseeable consequence is that you will pay more your energy. However, you are going to pay more future energy one way or the other - if not directly, then through your insurance bill if not worse.

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  18. In the '2014 SkS Weekly News Roundup #6' there was an article 'How to convince your friends to believe in climate change' that seemed fairly helpful.  Shortly, avoid trotting out Scientific facts or Scientific consensus.  Come from your heart, state that the issue is important to you.  Then offer 4 reasons why you 'came around': 1)taking action is like taking insurance, 2)taking action will involve nuclear power, 3)since illness hits people where they live, talk about how tropical illnesses are expected to spread if we do nothing, 4)mention that the US Department of Defense considers AGW to be a top threat.  If I get the psychology right, you aren't talking to people who care about Nature, and have probably already pegged you for a 'Tree Hugger'.  These people are prudent and buy insurance policies to cover most things, they like nuclear power because they know it irritates the 'greenies', like most people they feel illness in their bones, and they are apt to salute whenever you mention the Military.  Good Luck!

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  19. Abraham asks "why does this have to be so hard?"  I'm going to hazard a guess, take it as you wish.  Loosely translated, the 2nd law of thermodynamics applied to a system (such as, a human) surrounded by much larger Environments, says "Your Environments are bigger than you".  So it says you tend toward your Environments rather than the other way around.  But what is the Environment?  For Liberals, its Nature, for Conservatives, its humanity (i.e. the socioeconomic construction humanity has wrung from within Nature).  For us as humans, it's probably a bit of both.  Regarding the Conservative interpretation the phrase that applies is "there's the right way, the wrong way, and the Army way".  That means: you may have a strong opinion about Right and Wrong, but the way that is going to apply is the Army way.  You cannot ignore your socioeconomic Environment, even if it is poised to destroy Nature and with Nature, itself.  That's why its so hard.  The people you are asking to listen to the Natural Environment are fundamentally oriented to listen to their more immediate Socioeconomic Environment.  To them, you are a 'tree hugger': you hug the tree rather than the stock market.  It's your choice, but as we showed recently, the FED will make up whatever money it needs to support the stock market.  Of course this matters: trees have no such recourse.  The reason this is so hard, is that you're trying to convince people that the real environment still matters, is still powerful, and has the ability, as in days of old, to make your life miserable if ignored for long.  But they are increasingly trained to think that's not true, that humanity exists outside of Nature, and is the exception to it.  The reason this is so hard is that, in the short term, they are right.  Of course, in the long term, even Nature balances her books.

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  20. Dr Abraham presents a very conservative view. Admittedly there are many areas where our knowledge is less than perfect but surely we know enough to know that we are already, to use a technical term, in dire shtuck.

    Seems to me there is little, if anything, we can now do to retrieve the situation.

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  21. ubrew12@19

    An interesting analysis, but don't geographical demographics contradict your premise? Mostly urban areas are 'liberal', and mostly rural areas are 'conservative'. Maybe it has more to do with who is exploiting the natural environment rather than appreciating it in the abstract.

    Urban dwellers can romanticize about wilderness, and experience it as a sometime adventure. For those who make their living in extraction of one form or another, there is an adversarial and dependent relationship.

    Since we're being all psycho-sociological, I would agree that conservatives are more concerned with the 'human environment', but in the sense of us v them, group identity, hierarchical structure, and so on. Again, look at the urban dweller, tending to be far more of an 'individual' following her own path. Isn't that one of the reasons people leave their small town environments, stop attending church, and so on?

    Which leads me also to agree that "it's hard", but not necessarily for the rational reason that you suggest. We're all motivated by economic interests, but clinging to the team position is more important for some than others.

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  22. ubrew12 @ 5 and 12

    The sea level rise for the last 22 years looks to be occurring in a fairly straight line: the slope in the 90s has continued since - so far (see link below). There doesn't seem to be a 10 mm upturn during the 2000s decade or since. If the Greenland and Antarctic melt is a new and growing contributor and as significant as your link in 12 indicates then it's got to show itself soon. In fact why haven't we see it already? (My comments are based on eyeballing a graph I know but it does seem to be legitimate or am I mistaken?)

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  23. I had a long, heated, even angry, argument with a businessman from Ghana over dinner--it's the sun, he kept on saying, and we "don't know" etc.  Everyone finally got invovled.  By the end of the meal, everyone, including him, was offering possible "solutions"--things we can do now, and things governments can do now, and he was agreeing, at least, that coal is a major problem.  And, at the end of the dinner, everyone said they felt oddly refreshed that they had had a meaningful conversation--for a change.  Of course, I live in Brooklyn, but I think my point is that people are frightened to speak and to share and if "pushed to" and I was pushing, they might end up grateful.

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  24. I think it is unlikely that people can be as rational as this post.  I don't think people are weighing up the risks.  I think they are burying their heads, avoiding the problem, thinking of something else.  They are in denial, part of the process of accepting change.  Trouble is, in this case, that the world keeps moving, so denial is not passive.

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  25. well done guys,  I must concur with Russ R that it is refreshing to see an attempt towards a more objective and rational view on the topic. should be more of it: I am convinced you will attract more 'quality' attention for the 'right' reasons.

    So what kind of site do you want this to be?  A site that continues to concentrate on experimenting with communication strategies/propaganda:(that by now should be clear to you) that has done more to damage your credibilty than most anything else?

    Or would you like this site to be a "go to" site for credible, objective; balanced information on the state and development related to such a young and undeveloped topic as climate change?

    I see very few people discussing if the earth is flat, the topic is settled enough. Most reasonable people do know very little is settled in the area of climate/climate change/finite fossil fuels and how to do what needs to be done about it.

    So,.... how many more people do you truly want to inform well? Just imagine how many more people could visit this site and stay for the right reasons.

    Give some thought.


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  26. How do I edit my post?

    The last lines should read;

    "Give it some thought


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  27. just, I wouldn't worry about minor typos, the meaning was clear.

    The comment about propaganda appears to me to be itself propaganda.  If you have concerns about some particular article being propaganda, then do feel free to point out your concerns on the relevant article.  Likewise the following paragraph seems to be a rather transparent way of saying SkS is not balanced.  Here is a challenge, pick an article that you think is not balanced and make a comment explaining why and I'm sure there are plenty that would be willing to discuss it with you.  If you think climate change is a young field, I suggest you get a copy of the warming papers, you will find it isn't that young at all.

    Now if you want to see people arguing the world is flat, try going to some of the more popular skeptic blogs and try explaining how it is we know that the rise in CO2 is anthropogenic.  Sadly, you will find that there is still lots of communication that needs to be done on issues as basic as that.

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  28. Just to be clear, the point I was making in the above post was critcism/comment is fine, but it needs to be made in a sifficiently specific manner that it is possible to address the criticism, either by refuting it, or (better still) by seeing its value and updating beliefs (which is what scientists do).  Making vague critcicisms does nobody any good, and just comes across as a smear.

    Really, do post comments on specific posts where you disagree with the content, it is what the site of about, but do make sure you read the comments policy first.

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  29. 'Even the radicals don't want to pollute the planet. Can you imagine James Inhofe sitting around the dinner table asking his family to find more ways he can pollute the air and water of this planet? I can't; it just doesn't happen.' I think this is really important, and it ties in with something I've been trying (and failing) to say in various comments on various websites for some time now.

    I think the positions taken by climate "skeptics" are contradicted by overwhelming evidence, but I don't get the sense that these people are setting out deliberately to do harm or to deceive. In fact I think generally they are really trying to do the right thing, and in many cases they are trying very hard to get at the truth, it's just that the very normal human trait of confirmation bias gets in the way. I suspect that Anthony Watts truly believes he's exposing "damaging AGW fraud" and trying to protect humanity from unnecessarily cutting fossil fuel use. I don't know why anyone would put so much effort into a website unless they really believed in what they are doing. I often hear accusations of "bad faith" made against climate "skeptics" e.g. because they twist arguments, cherry pick, fail to back down when proven wrong, fail to back up their claims when challenged, and behave in other frustrating ways. But I really think this is generally all driven by confirmation bias and not by malice or "bad faith". (also, obviously I'm not claiming that behaviour is necessarily perfect on the side of those who broadly agree with the IPCC's overall conclusions, or that any of us is immune to confirmation bias).

    I think it's important to remember that climate "skeptics" may not have much control over how they see the world and the tactics they use to defend their worldviews. Why does this matter? Remembering it may at least help me to be civil in engaging with climate "skeptics". Personally I think civility is constructive and I would prefer to be civil, although I find it very difficult to achieve consistently. By the way, I don't have an issue with those who choose to employ a more "robust" style in their blog posts.

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  30. While even radical "skeptics" don't want to damage the environment, I would doubt that even radical "warmists" actually want to forgo the benefits of fossil fuels either.  So at the end of the day, we have to reach a compromise that uses (and spreads) the benefits of fossil fuel use, while at the same time minimising the environmental damage this will cause.  There is a spectrum of opinion on where this compromise should lie.  One thing is for certain though, which is that torturing the science to provide support for a socio-politico-economic argument is not the way to reach agreement on a solution to the compromise!

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  31. On other thing we know for sure  from ice cores from Greenland and mud cores from El'gygytgyn is that climate has changed rather rapidly in the past and that these two sources most likely under-estimate the rapidity of the change.  The Foen zone masks sudden changes in ice sheets and vegetation takes time to establish and leave pollen signals in mud cores.  The deniers will be more than red faced and dispeptic if even a fraction of the predicted outcomes for climate change eventuate.  We must keep being polite and calm but never holding back on the facts as they are known when explaining to them.  Our demeanor is as much part of the argument as the facts.  Unfortunately we need a few super Sandies to get the message across.  We don't want to get the backs up of the deniers since it will just make it harder for them to back down as various disasters take place. Just as a reformed drunk is the strongest advocate against alcohol, a reformed denier will be the strongest advocate for climate change.

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] in that spirit, please desist from terms like "denier" or "alarmist" which are inflammatory and counterproductive to a reasonable discussion. Thank you.

  32. If anyone doubts that there is still the need for the science community to learn debating techniques on top of the science, one has only to listen to this morning's BBC R4 Today programme (available on podcast and on Iplayer - about ten minutes from the end, give or take five minutes)

    There was a debate between Sir Brian Hoskins and Lord Nigel Lawson regarding whether climate change is having a bearing on the current extreme weather events that the U.K. is experienceing. It was a tour de force by Lawson. Never one to let the facts get in the way of winning an argument, he excelled himself, even using his knowledge of the regular timing pattern of the programme to get the last word in. And what a great last word it was! One guaranteed to win over those members of the public who might be in doubt, and one that was completely and utterly untrue.

    I urge anyone who might find themselves in a debate with Lawson, or those of a similar ilk, to listen to the podcast. They will then see just how easy it is to lose a debate despite having all the facts on your side.

    We are never going to get meaningful action on this issue until the politicians are scared of losing their seats and that will only happen when the public are convinced of the dangers climate change poses.

    Is there any chance of creating an A team for representing the science of climate change in media discussions and debates? I would be happy to contribute to a fund for them to get some media training. This morning, when Lawson tried to steer the discussion towards 'We have to keep the lights on' - a hot topic in the U.K. - and one guaranteed to burn more fossil fuels - Hoskins could have won the day by simply commenting that he would prefer the occasional blackout to having his children and grandchildren in body bags and what a pity it is that Lawson doesn't care as much for his family. But it needs training to come up with such ripostes (or 20/20 hindsigtht, as is the case with me.)


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  33. CBDunkerson @ 14,

    (snip) [PS] This is over the line.

    Rob Honeycutt @ 16,

    I agree that the reason so many people willingly accept the unjustifiable claims hey made by the likes of Imhof is that, like Imhof, they do not expect to face the consequences of how they enjoy a better life, make more money, have more comfort or get more personal pleasure.

    Rob Nicholls @ 29,

    I believe your heartfelt belief that all people are basically good hearted is naïve. Some people clearly are only ever interested in getting away with getting more power, money, comfort or convenience any way they can get away with.


    Your comment points out one of the unsavory characters I suggest Rob Nicholls and others need to accept are 'out there'.

    In my opinion:

    'Global warming and climate change' is a sub-set of the bigger issue of the 'acceptability of continuing the fundamentally unsustainable and clearly damaging pursuit of benefit from the burning of fossil fuels'.

    Developing a better understanding of aspects of the issue is important, but many people appear to seek opportunity to claim 'uncertainty’ about the larger issue that has no uncertainty by finding a way to raise a question about the minutia of a part of the larger issue. These attempts to create the impressions of 'significant uncertainty about something there is no uncertainty about' are not ‘accidental’, they are deliberate.

    The extraction and burning of fossil fuels cannot be continued for very much longer, and humanity has hundreds of millions, if not billions of years, to look forward to on this amazing planet. And there are many damaging impacts from the activity, including the impacts of the accumulation of excess CO2 (in the atmosphere and the oceans). There is also major harm caused by the conflict between powerful people fighting to get more of the potential benefit for themselves. Burning fossil fuels is an incredibly damaging activity ‘all things considered’.

    An acceptable use of an unsustainable and damaging activity would be to address an ‘emergency’. I would accept that ‘emerging’ economies should be allowed to use the burning of fossil fuels to more rapidly transition their entire population into sustainable economic activity. However, this would have to be a brief transient phase. The 'economic efficiency or return-on-investment needs to be excluded from determining how long the unsustainable and damaging stage is allowed to continue.

    After all, any activity relying on burning fossil fuels is ultimately a damaging dead end that needs to be stopped, the sooner the better. Those economic activities simply cannot have sustained growth. And since the objective is to ‘lift the least fortunate into a sustainable better way of living’ the only ones benefiting from the burning of fossil fuels should be those who are the least fortunate. The same goes for any other unsustainable and damaging activity like the use of harmful chemicals or using up (consuming), other non-renewable resources. Everyone already ‘more fortunate’ should be ‘getting by with sustainable virtually damage free ways of living’. That is the only viable future for humanity. Anything else would be unsustainable and unacceptable.

    This ‘required development to sustainable activity model’ is challenged by the fact that sustainable activities will always be less profitable and less desired than the more damaging or less sustainable activities that ‘can be gotten away with because of popular support’. The ‘profit motive’ and ‘potential popularity’ clearly cannot be allowed to determine what is acceptable…because they clearly haven’t and won’t.

    So the clear facts of matter are that the basis for determining the acceptability of prolonging the burning fossil fuels cannot be if it is ‘popular and profitable in the moment’. It cannot be based on the desires of the already fortunate to continue to benefit from unsustainable and damaging activity they have ‘grown fond of getting away with benefiting from’.

    The increased understanding among the global population of the unacceptable and significant impacts of excess CO2 is just one of the ways to help raise awareness of the fundamentally unsustainable and damaging ways that many among the most fortunate ‘strive to get away with for as long as they can get away with’. Discussing and debating details of sub-sets of the larger issue needs to be clearly understood to not reduce the urgency of ‘changing the minds, attitudes and actions’ of the population so that humanity actually develops a sustainable better future for all life on this amazing planet.

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] This is on thin ice. Please read the comments policy and abide by it.

  34. One Planet @33

    You have restated that you think return on investment needs to be ignored for developing nations to presumably build fossil fuel infrastructure for a short duration, and then replace that infrastructure as a transition to renewable energy. 

    I don't see how that works. Can you please elaborate on how that would work, particularly where the funding would come from given the return on investment is not there?? 

    Specifically, who would fund this?

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  35. CBDunkerson: >>This just doesn't match my experience. So far as I have seen, nearly everyone who contests AGW does so on the basis of disbelieving one or more of the three 'known and not controversial' items listed in the OP.<<

    I fully agree: I have not debated (actually, given the nature of the issue, that's too strong a word) with a single sceptic who goes along with Abraham's profile.

    I'm sure we've all come up against the same problem: the way that sceptics make completely illogical and/or false statements of "fact" and then refuse to answer the refutations and bring up yet more of the same. Many of the "facts" are spread via the "useful idiots" who have bought into the misinformation from the fossil fuel industries lock stock and barrell.

    I would like to think that head to head meetings with the likes of ******* and ****** to present the factual data (complete with full references) by real climate scientists could make them more aware of the scientific case, but I'm not that naive. People like ******** and ########## do appear to actually revel in their ignorance of basic science while at the same time repeating the same old arguments that have been shown time and time again to be invalid. (Be my guest and fill in the ***s and ####s yourself.)

    As a conservative myself (small "c") I like to think that I can see both sides of any position and make up my mind independently. I struggle with the fact that so many right-wing folk seem to have problems with that, and will repeat the party line right or wrong. Fox news being a classic case and comical in its approach.

    I don't see any answer, and Abraham's analysis is IMO just plain wrong.



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  36. >>Moderator Response:[PS] in that spirit, please desist from terms like "denier" or "alarmist" which are inflammatory and counterproductive to a reasonable discussion. Thank you.<<

    I think taking your line is actually playing from the deniers' hymn sheet: all too often they refuse to offer logical and factual arguments by falling back on semantics and the hair splitting of words.


    I may have posted the below previously but it's worth repeating in this context: I have kept a log containg just some of the names that deniers have given in blogs to those who accept AGW. Perhaps calling someone a denier isn't so bad after all?



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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] This is unhelpful.  Inflammatory litany snipped.

    [PS] Please read the comments policy. Terms like "alarmist" and "denier" do not help constructive debate. There are plenty of other places when rants are permitted.

  37. BC @22 said: "sea level rise for the last 22 years...[is] a... straight line"  Physically, it should be exponential since its caused by temperature which is itself caused by CO2 and they are both exponential (i.e. all are hockey sticks). Google 'skeptical science sea level hockey stick' for evidence that it is holding to that curve.  I took values from this sea level graph (1870-2010):

    and eyeballed a 'best-fit' exponential function and got SLR (inches) = exp((year-1870)/57).  This function gives an average rate of rise for the 20th century of 1.6mm/year, and an average rate of rise since 1990 of 3.4mm/year, so it's 'about right'.  This function gives 4 feet of SLR by 2100, so it looks like my earlier posts were a bit 'alarmist'.  But here's the thing: this function is based on SLR from the 20th century, which occurred almost exclusively without input from the ice sheets (that input started around 2000).  This means the SLR from just ocean thermal expansion will bring 4 feet by 2100 (if this function is accurate!).  Add meltwater to that and who knows where it'll end up.  I don't know.  More importantly, neither does the IPCC, and I think they need to communicate that uncertainty to the public because SLR can really loom as a property killer in the future.

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  38. The article is commendable, however the assumption is that we all work, and want to work, within a logical framework of rational, critical and sceptical thinking. We chose words carefully for the sake of political expedience but to what end?

    Fine if we are at a dinner party, and civility is a prerequisite for not embarrassing the host, but in the wider world the dynamics of the conversation have changed. It is no longer a simple case of presenting evidence and logically debating the finer scientific points.Reasonability and patience has its limitations, even with friends. Probably has something to do with differing 'world views' ...???

    I am sure there is no agenda to wreck the environment, but the motivation to maintain and extend a lifestyle pushes environmental impacts into a lower order of concern. The level of concern is perhaps inverse to the perceived value and limited by a short horizon. Strong headwinds blow against mitigation, despite, and perhaps because of an extremely muted and considered response from the scientific community. It is perhaps the time to turn off the 'impotent charm' and throw reasonableness out the window.

    For all the good work going on within acedemia, and a not inconsiderable number of busy climate communicators, my perception, rightly or wrongly, is that significant  will only be made once (excuse the pun) the temperature is raised.

    The lead taken by Michael Mann (as one example) needs to be emulated if any real progress is to be made.

    PS: To John Cook, Dana, John Abraham, Graham Readfern & Co. keep up the good work.

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  39. funglestrumpet @32


    It is interesting (and depressing) that the BBC set up a debate between a climate scientist and a politician. Such a debate obviously places the climate scientist at a intrinsic disadvantage, since they are percieved as offering impartial expert advice in their field, and cannot therefore comment on matters like whether wind turbines are "a waste of money" or "an eyesore", or really employ emotive arguments. Lawson was placed at an advantage since he could offer unsubstantiated opinion on aspects of climate change which were outside Hoskins remit as a scientist. It would seem to me to be a much fairer approach to have two politicians debate the issue, and afterwardds have a scientist offer an impartial assessment of how the politicians views corresponded with the established science.

    Another rather sad thought is that I, personally, cannot see a  politician that would go head-to-head with Lawson who commands respect, Ed Davey, Lord Deben and Tim Yeo are possible candidates, but I feel the UK is badly in need of a climate change advocate.

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  40. Phil@39

    This is an interesting suggestion, but then you would have the claim that the scientist is not offering an impartial assessment, and you would have to have a scientist 'from the other side' as well, and then you would end up with the same problem, since scientists 'on the other side' tend to use the same approach as the politicians.

    I'm just going to repeat the point I made earlier-- it's about what we in the USA call "playing to the base".

    Scientists play to their own base; they get approval by being detailed, adhering to the rules, using language correctly, articulating any potential contradiction to the point of appearing equivocal, and so on.

    Politicians do best when they can use simple slogans and emotive language, as you say.

    And in this case, I would have to conclude that one 'side' is all about style and group identity, not substance. I am puzzled that many with scientific training ignore certain simple facts that point to this. How is it that, in the USA at least, there is this very strong correlation between climate skepticism, evolution skepticism, and a particular constellation of social/economic/political claims. There is no logical connection among these things, so what do they have in common?

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  41. mgardner@21: Sorry I took so long to get back to you.  I guess, succinctly, what I was saying is there are two kinds of people these days: those who point to debt, and those who point to climate debt.  The success of the climate obfuscation movement is the idea that you're being unpatriotic to think you can point to both.  It's one or the other, pick a side.  Since you never know who you are talking to anymore, CC is one of those subjects about which "silence is the better part of valor".  And, of course, silence works for the fossils industry: The Silence of the Lambs.

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  42. I did not grasp the hypotheses where we can be lucky enough as to have AGW only as a "minor inconvenience". Even the lower end sensitivity means reaching more than 2ºC warming, even if after 2100 - specially if we have in mind that there's no credible policy proposal today of leaving any fosil fuel unburnt underground.

    The article should make it clear that mitigation is necessary even if we're lucky enough to have a 1.5 ºC sensitivity - which is very unlikely.

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  43. mgardiner @40


    Yes I agree it would be tricky; the scientist would need to be impartial (and sound it too) and it would be clear that he was reporting the politicians statement against the published scientific literature.

    The discussion that funglestrumpet referred to (embedded in a page here) concludes with a "discussion" about whether the heat uptake by the ocean that is responsible for the "pause" in atmospheric temperature rise is measured or speculation - it would be nice if someone, on air, could have referred to a paper that did report the measurements, perhaps with a comment along the lines of "If Lord Lawson, or his advisors, thinks there is flaw in this paper, he would do climate science a favour by submitting his reasoning as a peer-reviewed scientific paper"

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  44. Marcoh @34,

    To answer your question it is important to share my understanding of the fundamentals of the full issue.

    - Developing the understanding of ways of living that are truly sustainable, ways that everyone is able to develop to and continue forever, are the only valid 'development'. Anything else is unsustainable and likely damaging to the future.

    - That required development requires the best minds to be motivated to pursue that development, and the entire population to admire and support that effort.

    - Greed and Intolerance are two attitudes that persist in human societies and that are counter-productive to development of a truly sustainable better future for all. It is important that those attitudes not be successful or popular. I add intolerance in this discussion because there is clear evidence that some of the greediest have been partnering with intolerant people to gain more political popular power.

    - Benefiting from burning fossil fuels is not a sustainable way of living. It cannot be done by all current humans, leading to massive global conflict from the more powerful fighting to benefit more form it. And, in addition to being unsustainable, it is damaging in ways other than the harm caused by ‘fighting over it’.

    - Therefore, the burning of fossil fuels, like many other unsustainable damaging activities, must only be a short-term transition to more sustainable ways of living. And the real benefit should only accrue to those who are least fortunate, to help them develop to decent sustainable better ways of life.

    - Therefore the people benefiting from it most should have been focusing on development of more sustainable ways of living, no matter what their perceived 'lost opportunity' would be compared to how much more pleasure, profit, comfort or convenience they personally could get away from the unsustainable and damaging activity.

    - The profit motive in the current socioeconomic system will not 'fundamentally' lead to the rapid, or any serious, development toward more sustainable ways of living. The greedy will fight against what is required because what is required is for them to not be able to get away with getting as much profit, pleasure, comfort and convenience as they might be able to.

    - How the socioeconomic system gets changed to actually motivate humanity to develop toward the required sustainable better ways of life, to keep greed from succeeding, is the question that must be answered. Identifying greed and intolerance and affectively keeping those attitudes from succeeding is probably the first step.

    - Greed and Intolerance are choices. So an important step would be to try to help people tempted by such attitudes to understand the unacceptability of those attitudes. However, it is important to acknowledge that some of these people may be very heavily under the influence of greed or intolerance. This may be the reason ‘discussing climate change can be difficult’.

    Many people do not wish to support the development of a sustainable better future for all. Many people are only willing to ‘change their minds and their ways’ if someone else develops a cheaper and easier way for them to benefit more. The more sustainable and less damaging ways of living will always be more limiting for any current generation or group of people. That is the problem that must be solved, or a sustainable better future for humanity will not develop.

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  45. Russ @4 The economic and social costs of insufficient and belated action, severely  compromised by political processes can always be easy to appear or be portrayed as unwanted costs we can do without. But I don't think any actual policies so far, anywhere in the world, let alone international and globally inclusive, have been sufficient to the scale of the problem, or been anything like timely.

    The justifiable criticism of policies that aren't working or work insufficiently should not be the justification for failure to push ahead with policies that are sufficient and will work. But that is the major thrust of mainstream politics where I live; to seek to do as little as possible, and use the perceived failures of the insufficient efforts to date to justify the elimination of the climate problem entirely as a consideration for policy and planning.

    Political parties and elected MP's are not above making use of the abundance of manufactured misinformation on climate in order to enhance the perception of timely action as pointless and economically damaging.

    Of course the full costs of climate change are cumulative, long delayed, long running and remain unaccounted for in any meaningful way by the preferred economic metrics these policies get judged by. Yet it is irreplaceable environmental capital that will be lost effectively forever as irreversible global warming proceeds apace, aided by willfully weak efforts to mitigate it combined with strong, well organised and politically well connected efforts to defend and extend the 'economic benefits' of fossil fuel use.

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  46. I wish to elaborate on why I have the perspective I have been sharing to the best of my ability.

    My life experience is as a career Engineer with an MBA who has always been 'designing things' others want to profit from. I have also always had a stronger connection to the more real world than the artificial features that humans have built. I prefer a walk in the country and a moment to watch wildlife over any 'man-made condition or amusement'. I am also not a big 'buyer of stuff', and prefer un-powered recreation, under my own power, to any powered form of recreation. That may have given me a perspective that has not been as apparent to others.

    I have recognised that it is the Engineering core attitude I hold strongly to that has led to the perspective I have developed. Engineering is about striving to best understand as much as possible about an item that I have been requested to develop the design for. The uncertainties regarding that best understanding is a significant consideration. As an Engineer I am required to 'defer to safety' in any uncertain situation, and not wait until all uncertainties are resolved. I then evaluate the options to determine acceptable or safe, low risk, ways of designing the item. Then I strive to deliver the most effective solution 'from among the acceptable choices'. If the most effective 'safe by conservatively addressing uncertainties' solution is not profitable enough "The item may not get built"! And the evaluation of acceptability is never weighed against profitability or popular desires.

    This fundamental protection of the general population and environment, including future generations, from popular or profitable pursuits is 'not negotiable' for a Registered Professional Engineer in any of the regions of the planet where the importance of having such 'gate-keepers of acceptability' has been made the law of the land.

    It appears that many people, including people trained as engineers and other applied sciences such as geologists, can be tempted to give the profit motive and popularity pre-eminence to the point of reducing the standard of acceptability. Essentially what many people seem to do is determine what is desirable. They then attempt to defend or justify it so they can get away with unacceptable actions because of higher profitability or popularity.

    That attitude of trying to get away with 'desired actions' in spite of evidence of unacceptability is what needs to change. A clearly established basis of acceptability needs to be the first screening of any evaluation. The profit motive and popularity should only be applied to the limited choices remaining after screening out the unacceptable unsustainable and damaging actions.

    I care deeply about the development of a sustainable better future for all life on this amazing planet. And I recognize that the socioeconomic system is what needs to be changed. The current most popular socioeconomic systems lead too many people to be tempted to be greedy or intolerant. Even Soviet Communism never developed toward a sustainable better future for all, and neither has China's Capitalist-Communism, though their rapid transition toward more sustainable energy does indicate a potential.

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  47. I think people talking about uncertainty are ignoring the other, really wicked end of that stick - uncertainty means things also could be far worse than currently predicted.

    In fact, considering most predictions of the loss of summer ice in the arctic were for 50 years or so from now and Duarte and others are now predicting 5 years or less I'd say worse is the better bet. The much maligned climate models are wrong all right, but not in a reassuring way - they're missing important feedbacks and other mechanisms and are proving far too conservative. (

    No one can positively guarantee that climate change won't be catastrophic. Why not worry about that instead of worrying about spending money on solutions that everyone agrees must happen eventually? 

    I agree the fire insurance comparison is best: I don't have to guarnatee beyond a shadow of doubt your house will catch fire for fire insurance to seem like a great idea - assuming you're a "normal" person for whom losing their house to fire would be a financial catastrophe.

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  48. #33 One Planet Only Forever..."I believe your heartfelt belief that all people are basically good hearted is naïve." I wasn't really trying to say "all people are basically good hearted." I admit I'm not good at expressing what I'm trying to say here! I'll try again: Many vociferous climate "skeptics" seem to me to believe they are right about climate change. Either that or they are very, very good actors (to keep up such an act consistently for years doesn't seem easy). I'm sure there are many people who are paid by fossil fuel barons to say the opposite of what they believe on climate change, or who just don't have an opinion about it, but I just don't think many of the more notable "skeptics" quite fit that category. It seems more likely to me that they are true believers in their cause (which I think makes them more likely to be able to convince others that they are speaking the truth), whether or not they are paid by the fossil fuel industry. I could be utterly wrong, obviously.

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  49. Brooks makes a good point at #47. Carbon based fuels will run out and their end won't be pretty. Every aspect of our easy comfortable lives is dependent on the delirious energy use in which we are splurging. Our food supply is little more than oil transformed into edible products.

    The unfettered use of coal gives results like can be seen in China, with smogs so dense and toxic, they seem out of science fiction. The now infamous Asian Brown Cloud is a standard feature of satellite imagery of the region, sedning particles all the way to where I live, in the Pacific Northwest region of North America. China gives a preview of what the world and people's lives will be if we can't go away from carbon, except for the part where it will start running out. Nobody with some sense can look at this and not see that it is sheer madness.

    The only way we can make a less uncomfortable transition is to start to go away from industrial scale use of fossil carbon fuels as soon as possible. It will happen at some point. How difficult it will be depends on how much time we have. The forces resisting this change are mostly inspired by private interest groups who will not let go of the enormous profits they get from fossil fuels. I'm sure there are plenty of individuals in these industries bent on ensuring they extract every last penny they can. How much influence should they have on everybody else's lives and future?

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  50. This site is brilliant; this discussion is vital.  I'm eager to hear this community's response to a few thoughts.

    1. As others have noted, communication contexts vary considerably.  What constitutes effective communication over family dinners is not the same as what constitutes effective communication in publicized debates, or public exchanges with informed opponents, or with uninformed opponents, or in classroom lectures, or through songs and poetry.  Abraham's suggestions really do seem on target for exchanges with the most reasonable and best informed climate skeptics - those who genuinely think the climate science is on their side and try to defend this view using good faith reasoning.  

    2. I don't see much point in trying to figure out a communication strategy that will "work" with climate change "skeptics" in general.  What constitutes a successful exchange, what motivates "skeptics", and what they believe are too varied for there to be any silver bullet argument that would move most interlocutors or listeners in the same general direction.  The metaphor may be getting tired, but we need a buckshot approach.  Abraham's contribution is part of that buckshot, but there is more.  I recently saw a post from a park ranger who moved audiences best by using humor.  Many people probably saw the viral video of the woman who claimed to have been convinced by the film Chasing Ice.  I believe we need to build a knowledge base of what works and doesn't work (with clarity about what "working"means) in a variety of specific contexts.

    3. That said, there are two "general" strategies I would like to suggest and get your thoughts about.  

    First, I would like to see the scientific community (perhaps via bodies like AAAS) take a stand generally frowning upon media debates of the Nye vs. Blackburn, Hoskins vs. Lawson sort.  The media's false balance problem and the inherent disadvantage of debate format mentioned by Phil#37 is well understood from creationist debates.  Debates are specifically about winning, not enlightening, not connecting, or communicating, and we have known about the advantages of sophistry for millenia.  It would be great to see a lot more science education in the media, but that will have to involve refusal to participate in spectacles that have no significant educational value along with insistence on setting the terms of the formats that are acceptable.  

    Second, I would like to see the scientific community get together with the field of conflict resolution to put together a high profile national media campaign whose specific goal is to break the taboo and polarization paralyzing public discussion of climate change.  It's not my area of expertise, but my sense is that agreement on the groundrules of discussion is necessary for polarized parties to enter into good faith dialogue with one another.  This might mean pushing the conversation back several levels.  What would you count as impartial expertise? What do you think constitutes as evidence of bias?  The public seems deeply uninformed that there is such a thing as peer review or how it works, and therefore defenseless against conspiracy theories.  

    With Abraham, I think most people (not all people) are well meaning.  Like many commentors, I think most of the public has been duped about the degree of scientific consensus and so fail to accept the scientific basics that more informed skeptics accept.  Like Abraham, I believe on the basis of research (as well as experience with my own students) that many people come around when they realize how extensive the agreement is.  And like Abraham, I think we also share many fundamental values across the chasm of disagreement.  

    But that chasm is clearly deepened and widened by profound distrust between the climate science/advocacy and climate skeptic/doubter communities.  Neither facts nor brilliantly devised values-based arguments will rebuild that trust.  I suspect we'll need a lot of first-hand direct conversation with people who don't trust those on "our side."  But that will require the courage to trust that "they" care about the world and about the truth as much as we do.  (Rather in the way that the rapid shift in public opinion on gay marriage has had so much to do with people having the courage to come out, trusting family and friends not to shun them.  It's hard to distrust gays as  a group when your sister is a lesbian and your coworker is a gay man.)  One of the things I admire most about Abraham's post is that it helps demonstrate what that trust might look like.

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