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Climate Hustle

Why does Anthony Watts drive an electric car?

Posted on 3 June 2010 by Rob Honeycutt

Guest post by Rob Honeycutt

In my last posting on Skeptical Science I cast myself as a spectator in a kung fu match observing the bare knuckle conflict over the famous hockey stick.  Since that time (what, two weeks) I've not managed to complete any courses in physics or climate science.  I've earned no degrees.  I still do not hold a PhD in any field of science.  None-the-less I maintain a strong interest in this issue.  This time around I cast myself as a sort of Stan Laurel to you smarter Oliver Hardy's of the science world.  Maybe, in this position I can help illuminate something new to the world of climate change.  If I get this horribly wrong please feel free to pull my derby hat down around my ears in the comments section.

Fig 1.  One of Laurel and Hardy's famous routines where Stan uses his thumb as a lighter.  Don't try this trick at home kids.

I want to take up an issue that has perplexed me for a while.  Why is it that deniers choose to deny climate change?  The overwhelming evidence is in support of anthropogenic climate change being real.  But the opposition to the science is fierce!  In fact, it seems that the more we understand about climate and it's relationship with CO2, the more fierce the opposition becomes.  Shouldn't this be the opposite?  Shouldn't the science being more and more sure produce more acceptance of the issue?  Apparently not.  I believe this counter intuitive result is embodied in one of the fiercest deniers on the planet.  Anthony Watts.  He claims to drive an electric car because it costs less.  But he also has a 10 kw photovoltaic array on his roof which, at this point, has cost him more for energy that just pulling from the grid.  I mean, Watts up with that?

To begin to try to explore this I've created a diagram of what I believe goes on in science.  Again, from my non-scientific perspective, this is what I understand about the process.  On any given science there is research performed to better understand that topic.  Scientists produce studies, review material, create conclusions.  Slowly a picture emerges.  Old ideas that don't fit are discarded (sometimes begrudgingly) but the reality of the matter slowly becomes more clear.  There are always differing opinions.  Researchers critique each others work (blue arrows).  Some put forth studies that try to reject the general consensus.  But ultimately we accept what the greater body of evidence tells us.  This, I believe, is what works well about science.  This is how we have come to understand a great deal of the world around us.

Fig 2.  The Sphere of Peer Reviewed Science

In this diagram (Fig 2) I'm trying to paint a general picture of the state of climate science as it stands.  This is not a detailed study so I'm not trying to make any definitive statements about the positions of any of the people whose names I've used.  I'm trying to paint a picture that gives a sense of where the science is.  I've spent some time reading a fair number of scientific papers on various aspects of climate change.  What I'm getting out of it is that current warming is real and it is primarily through anthropogenic CO2.  Of course, in science, it's not a black and white question so there are people producing results that show a variety of nuanced answers.  But I believe the predominant peer reviewed science is pointing to the upper right quadrant of more warming and human influence.  There are, of course, contrarians also doing good research that are producing results that suggest less warming and less influence from man-made sources.  But these are far fewer.

Fig 3.  The Realm of Modern Media

If the issue was the evolution of various species of dinosaurs or aspects of continental drift, from the outside world it would be a non-issue.  Scientists might wage a fierce battle over whether birds were once dinosaurs but the general public is largely not going to care much.  It makes for an interesting moment in a Hollywood movie.  But climate change is different.  Because it has an economic factor it also becomes a political issue.  If it's a political issue then people take sides.  The battle lines are drawn.  Now, if you believe AGW is real then you're a liberal.  If you believe it's not real then you're conservative.  It doesn't matter if you are or not.  Those are the lines that have been drawn.

In this diagram (Fig 3) the inner sphere is the world of real science.  The outer sphere is modern media interpreting science.  I use the term "modern media" in a very specific way.  The internet has dramatically changed the way people get information.  Essentially, now, you can take a position and find the news that fits your preconceived notions of what you want to believe.  Media has become less an interpreter of issues and more a bunker from which sides take aim to bombard issues.  Admittedly, from my own biased standpoint, I see one side trying to present the science of climate change, with some extremes that fall outside of the science, but I think they are trying to highlight the findings of science.  The other side, while often trying to point out the contrarian aspects of climate science seem to take a great deal more liberty with the facts.  They act to try to pull the public perception of the issue away from legitimate science.

Fig 4.  Ideological Influencers

This graphic is getting increasingly complex and I hope, as Stanley, not to bang too many of you in the back of the head with my 2 by 4 as I work my way through this logic.  Have a little patience, I think it'll make sense.

Moving on, in Fig 4 I see backing up each of these sides are larger financial and ideological interests.  These are the big guns.  These are the parties that drive or fund the opposing sides on the issue of climate change.  Again, from my likely biased perspective, I see one side trying to push the predominant scientific position and one side going far outside the science.  I do believe that both sides stray from the core science but I believe the conservative side take a great deal more liberties with the scientific facts.  But I believe there is a reason behind these positions.

Fig 5.  The Resulting Dynamic

In Fig 5 I'm showing the resulting dynamics that come from this battle of ideologies.  When you step back from the picture it really doesn't matter how correct the science of climate change is.  The more conclusive the science gets, and the more the left hammers on how conclusive the science is, then the further and further the right will move to counter that position.  I'm not trying to say this is right or wrong.  It just is.

Sometimes I hear people say that it's going to require dramatic climatic events to "prove" to the general population that climate change is real.  I don't think that will even work.  It will only serve to push the side opposing the general scientific consensus further away.  Political divides will greatly widen perhaps with disastrous consequences.  What kind of awful conundrum is this?  By doing more research into climate change and by being more assured of climate change we might be pushing the world toward a worse outcome?

Again, I go back to Anthony Watts.  According to his website he loves his little electric car.  He hates everything about climate science but loves that electric car.  I've had other similar experiences where I (all too often) get into debates online with climate change deniers.  I have a favorite Youtube video that I pass along from Oregon Public Television of a guy who has converted a 1972 Datsun into an electric dragster.  He takes his little Datsun out to the drag strip and knocks the proverbial socks off the muscle cars.  Why?  Electric motors have full torque from zero through ~13,000 rpms.  Electric engines, turns out, kick frickin' butt!

Every time I get a climate change denier to watch the video this odd transformation takes place.  Suddenly, well, all the climate science is still bunk but I've made a buddy.  They start talking about how energy independence is a good idea.  They say they aren't against clean energy.  They like it, in fact.  It's the right thing to do.  They want an electric car that kicks frickin' butt.  They want US jobs.  They want to pay less for energy.  They want everything that is totally in line with all the solutions to climate change.  Ironically, I think Anthony Watts probably does too.

This is where the magic is.  At risk of comic over simplification (watch out, here comes that 2 by 4 again), I think it's basic human nature.  We are monkeys who like stuff and this is the mistake being made.  People have it in their heads that climate change means they're going to lose their stuff.  Want to start a fight?  Tell someone they have to give up their SUV.  Want to win that same fight?  Give them something better.

There is an excellent TED talk given by Bill Gates on climate change where he says, "We need miracles."  He is exactly right.  The science is clear.  Global warming is real and is a serious concern.  But if we want to leave a better world for our grandchildren we need to make the Anthony Watts of the world happy.  We need to give them solutions.  Cheaper, cleaner energy.  Butt-kicking electric cars.  Domestic jobs.  The same thing we all want.

I don't want to suggest that anyone let up on the facts of climate change.  But I would like to suggest that the solution is not only about knowing.  The solution is in the world we create in response.

As Stan would say with a nod of his head, "That's right, Oli."

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Comments 51 to 100 out of 122:

  1. theendisfar. Well you'd know all about making incorrect conclusions, wouldn't you? So are you *honestly* saying that the Greenhouse Gas theory is wrong, and isn't the cause of our planet being 33 degrees warmer than its Black-Body temperature? As I said above, if you're going to challenge a theory that was established over a century ago-& has been built on via experimentation & observation over the intervening period-you'd better have something better than "well, it's wrong 'cause I just SAY SO"-which is, in effect, what you're doing. What you're also doing is applying extremely *simple* mechanics-like convection & evaporation-to an extremely complex thing like our climate. As to your answer to point (b), the thing is that global temperatures fluctuated between 18 & 24 degrees C over that 400 million year period-largely in line with shifts in CO2 concentrations. If your explanation held true, then the planet would have *only* gotten cooler. As to the 2nd part of your "proof", I could just as easily say that the reason Earth has been locked in ice over these time periods-in spite of a warmer sun-is that, compared to the pre-Quaternary era-Planet Earth is relatively CO2 constrained. That the coldest parts of Earth's history coincide with the lowest levels of CO2 in its history are surely not a coincidence, & highlight how much more important these gases are than incoming solar radiation (within reason) in government average temperatures.
    Similarly with your answer to (c). Long-term studies of past climate & sunspot proxies have shown an *extremely* close correlation-with the exception of the last 30-60 years, when CO2 emissions have been rising. Again, coincidence? Sounds to me like you're the one trying to spread red herrings around Theendisfar. Like I said before, there is plenty of empirical evidence out there for the Greenhouse Effect-& the enhanced Greenhouse Effect. When you can provide proof to rebut this evidence, then you might have some credibility. At the moment, though, you have precious little.
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  2. John Russell writes: I could add more but perhaps it's best just to ask, do others share my unease?

    I do. In fact, my first reaction on seeing this new thread was "Oh no...."

    Clearly, some people would like to discuss "meta" issues, in ways that bring in all kinds of normally shunned topics (politics/ideology, other people's motivations, etc.)

    I guess my one suggestion or humble request would be that everybody try to keep the politics etc. "quarantined" in this one thread. And if this post attracts a lot of new visitors[1], let's all do our best to gently help them learn the standards that are maintained in the more normal science-centric threads on this site.

    [1] With the prominent reference to Anthony Watts in the title of this thread, I'm half expecting an influx of new visitors from WUWT-land.
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  3. @ doug_bostrom 18

    "You're simply wrong."

    Sorry, you won't convince a nonbeliever until he/she can repeat the methods and arrive at the same conclusions.

    I am most certainly open to persuasion if someone can give me their methods so I can repeat the test. And we don't need 1,000's of Earth to do tests.

    One simple exercise is to measure the cooling rate of an object in a vacuum, and then measure the cooling rate with 1 ATM of dry air, then add water.

    This will give us a good idea of the efficiencies of radiative and convective cooling. This will help determine if the models are calibrated correctly.

    You won't find a more reliable source. If you don't understand the weight this report carries I'm afraid there's really no perfectly kind way of saying you're quite out of your league in making judgments about this topic.

    Sigh, I'm often amazed that so few today take the time to check things for themselves and leave it up to others. Moody's Investment Ratings is a perfect example. You won't find a more reliable source. They still rate US Bonds as AAA. That's laughable at best and quite sad when you ponder it.

    Check out on occasion. There I will point out exactly how the Greenhouse Effect is only a small piece of the Earth's thermo-system.

    Let's do the peer-review right here at Skeptical Science, no need to take someone else's word, right? We have scientists here.
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  4. @tobyjoyce:

    I stated that both sides receive money and both sides are fueled by politics. Pointing out that Hansen and "libertarian" think tanks receive money from this or that organization only proves my point. Moreover, saying that it was "probably spent on lab equipment, salaries, etc." is akin to shrugging your shoulders: we'll never know what that money was spent on, but we do know that Hansen received money from a politically connected organization.


    Bias exists in the scientific community. Not only in climate science, but in psychological science, biological science, and so forth. That "single scientist bias" is actually representative of the whole scientific community, regardless if someone is pointing out the bias. Impartial science is impossible and we're going to see bias on both sides of the argument. My point, which was eventually backed up by tobyjoyce, shows that climate science is not impartial. Whether some of these scientists are trying to be biased or hiding it is irrelevant.

    @Berényi Péter:

    I pointed out the exact same thing with a rather scathing response, but my post was deleted. I think anyone who wants to inject politics into the science (both of which I've shown to be inseparable - at least in the US) on this website can now do so because this guest post violates the comment policy and violates Skeptical Science's choice of "taking the politics out of the science."

    Mr. Cook, I'd like to know why my first post was deleted when others are saying the exact same thing I am and their posts are not getting deleted.
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    Response: Early in these threads, I try to keep the discussion focused on science and adhering to the comments policies. I deleted comments from both sides (lately, it seems I've been deleting more "pro-AGW" comments than skeptic ones, particularly on the Monckton thread where people just couldn't help themselves.

    Unfortunately sometimes the discussion degrades to the point where I just have to wash my hands of it - I only have limited hours in the day to get stuff done - and hope that discussion will move onto a more fruitful topic on the next post.

    I wish I could give a more satisfying answer but at this point, I'm not particularly impressed by comments from both sides and would sit down and shred much of this whole thread if I could spare the time.
  5. Hmmm, seems like your little "Convection/Evaporation" pseudo-hypothesis was still-born, theendisfar, given that you've got absolutely nothing solid to back it up. Your "theory" does nothing to explain current warming trends in the lower atmosphere, & is directly contradicted by the cooling in the upper atmosphere. All-in-all I'd say that this, & a lack of a little thing we like to call EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE gives your little pseudo-hypothesis the one-two knockout punch. I mean, I could claim that the atomic theory is *wrong* & that the universe is made up of gnomes, but if I can't back it up with PROOF, then I'd just end up looking a little bit silly-kind of the way you do right now!
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  6. Berényi Péter wrote :

    "There are twenty two occurrences of expressions like "denial", "denialism", "denialist", "denier" or "deny" under this post so far. If it is not ranting, I don't know what the current rules are supposed to be."

    I have always been bemused by the way so-called skeptics are sensitive to those words you have highlighted, as if they can see the danger in being tagged with such descriptive words, while simultaneously showing how precisely those terms DO describe them exactly : anyone who denies the science is, by default, a denier, surely ?

    The fact that we have different words to describe those who hold the other types of denial (Creationist, Troofer, Birther, etc.), only shows that one word is not capable of encapsulating the whole gamut of Global Warming denial. Except, of course, for a word that involves the various forms of the verb 'to deny'.

    And the reason why all those forms of the word 'deny' are not ranting, as you think, is because 'ranting' involves anger, hyperbole, extravagance, noise, vehemence, bombast, etc. See any presentation by that Monckton chap for a good example of such...
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  7. @Blessthefall,

    You made the allegation. I investigated and found it had no real foundation (excuse the pun), especially when compared to the moolah flowing to denialists. As you made the allegation, and cannot substantiate it, I think we can dismiss it. Let's have a communal shrug on that one.
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  8. Wow. A lot of activity took place here over the evening. Not sure where to start...

    1) I find it interesting that so much of the discussion has revolved around the politics of my post rather than the larger point of my post. In the body of the post my intent was to paint VERY broad strokes regarding ideological influences hopefully without pegging anyone into any position (maybe an impossible task). In that I was trying to feel out the mechanisms for the ever expanding gulf in people's positions on AGW not create a discussion on political positions. I tried to go out of my way to diffuse conflict by saying this was my own biased perspective.

    2) I actually believe that my post is very much in keeping with John's wonderful website here. The whole concept of Skeptic Science is to "take back" the term "skeptical" from those who claim to be skeptical of AGW. Science is inherently skeptical. I would hold that everyone in that inner sphere of peer reviewed science (Fig 2) is a skeptical scientist, from Svensmark and Lindzen to Hansen and Mann. The real science, the real skeptical science, is clearly coming down on the side of AGW being real (again, in keeping with the position of this site). That is NOT a political position, it's just where the data are pointing. That is a skeptical science position and the basis for the whole argument I laid out.

    3) Please don't miss the actual point I'm trying to make in this post people! I'm saying there is common ground. There is a place in the middle where the ideologies dissolve and we find we're all sitting in the same boat together. If Anthony Watts gets giddy over electric cars then that says to me there is a silver lining to this incredibly divisive issue. Let's explore THAT rather than whether my biased vision of why it's the case is true or not.

    I'll reiterate the end of my post. Don't stop fighting to make sure the science is right. BUT we should all be looking for the clean energy solutions that make us as giddy as Anthony Watts is over his car.
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  9. OK, I am finished with this thread. My post was definitely ontopic, was not ranting, was rational, had references and involved far less politics than the article itself.

    With no nuke and no carbon Anthony's electric car would never recharge. On top of that billions are bound to perish. Not a big deal.

    If you abhor views different from your own, you have the right to write all the comments as well.

    Moderation here is oppressive and unreasonable. Enuff said. Now, you can delete one more piece.
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  10. @255 Marcus,

    Hmmm, seems like your little "Convection/Evaporation" pseudo-hypothesis was still-born, theendisfar, given that you've got absolutely nothing solid to back it up.

    Listen, I'm a grown man, your sarcasm may feed your ego, but to me it is simply an annoyance at best, and at worst an attempt to exit a debate that you are not capable of attending. Please feel free to continue, but also understand I have no beef with you and these annoyances only introduce unneeded typing and take up space.

    Please join us at

    Let's Peer Review each other's understanding of this subject and I guarantee we will all learn something new.
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  11. One other note... I very intentionally tried to use the term "climate change denier" rather than "climate denier" in my post. I think it's a little absurd to suggest that anyone would deny the existence of climate. I don't think "denier" is an inaccurate term being that these they are going against the broader body of scientific work in this field. Probably AGW denier would be a more accurate way to say it. "Climate change science refuter" just doesn't work. "Climate change skeptic," as I suggested above, is something that I would reserve for ALL scientists working in the field of climate science.
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  12. @ Berényi Péter
    You posted about nuclear. I have already pointed out that Watts' 10kw system is large enough to charge the car. Others have pointed out that nuclear has a VERY significant carbon footprint from the concrete in the construction.

    I am not sure what you are upset about? Perhaps I am missing something?
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  13. BP, the deletion of your comment might have had something to do with the suggestion that those who disagree with you have no option except "mass murder on a truly apocalyptic scale".

    It would be great if people on all sides would work hard to keep this thread as calm as possible, and to keep the inevitable politics etc. from spilling out of this thread and into others.
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  14. My electricity is hydro, if I had an electric car, I wouldn't need nukes or carbon. I'm not opposed to nukes as a matter of principle, BTW.

    Billions are bound to perish? What's that about now? Didn't someone earlier complain about emtionally charged language?
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  15. @61 robhon,

    One other note... I very intentionally tried to use the term "climate change denier" rather than "climate denier" in my post.

    'AGW Denier' is more accurate if not also more appropriate, though AGW Skeptic would be the most accurate.

    The term Denier assumes that we have something to deny. Without a proper Theory, or hypothesis for that matter, no one can truly deny what no one is claiming.

    As a skeptic I typically refer to 'believers' as AGW Advocates.
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  16. @theendisfar... But I still hold that every scientist is a skeptic by nature. It is an inherent part of the scientific process that makes it work so profoundly well.

    So, I would say the entire scientific community is skeptical of AGW and that is not what we're referring to. "Refuter" or "rejecter" might be better but those are somewhat clumsy words for some reason. I would still hold that you "deny" that AGW is real in the face of the greater scientific body of evidence, where the other side "believes" the science behind AGW is correct.

    I honestly think "AGW denier" and "AGW believer" are the most accurate terms for anyone who is not an active publishing scientist if the field of climate science.

    I don't think "advocate" is a good term either. No one "advocates" for AGW, the same as no one "denies" climate.
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  17. #40, JMurphy : "Does that mean that you are on the side of the Creationists ? Or the 9/11 troofers ? Or the Flat-Earthers ?"

    No. Who said anything about me? I was talking about 'people'.

    When Al Gore started out, he was the under-dog, doubtfully beaten by Bush (whom people around the world did not think highly of), and with a great sympathetic interest in science and environment. His movie travelled around the world and was a great success. But after that he became rich and famous, and got the Nobel prize. Rumours had it, he was living in a 20 room mansion with 8 bathrooms, all heated by natural gas, and of course travelling around the world in a private jet. Suddenly he is not the hero he once was, and people become skeptic towards his message, many errors are found in his movie, and so on.

    I am sure that if Michael Moore (for example) now made a movie that proved AGW is a myth, that could be the next successful climate movie. People like to see self-assured scientists proven wrong. Another example: no matter how many revered scientist are trying to explain why astrology is occult mumbo-jumbo with no scientific basis whatsoever, people still believe in it.
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  18. Does Anthony Watts dream of electric sheep?
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  19. @CBDunkerson - post 44
    You mention the rate of fuel cost increases. Natural gas, which is a reasonable stand in for the rate of electric (marginal unit of electricity comes from natural gas), propane and (identically) natural gas has been rising at an average rate of 6% since 1967.

    Over the last 10 years, including the precipitous (and clearly short term) price drops in 2009 and 2010 (through March) the rate is 4.5%

    The rate over the entire 41 year period (but now excluding 2009/2010) is 7.2%

    And finally, the trend we were on, and will soon be on again - the rate of increase for the ten years ending in 2008 was 7.5%

    So the rate of increase in fuel prices is at least 6% and more likely over 7% annually. This has been true through 40+ years of energy exploration, booms, busts, energy crisis, new discoveries, etc.

    My source is
    (although I use the monthly data). 1967 is as far back as data was recorded.
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  20. Sorry, you won't convince a nonbeliever until he/she can repeat the methods and arrive at the same conclusions.

    Give that the NRC report I mentioned and indeed the entire field in discussion here includes observations derived from such work as ice cores requiring years of effort to retrieve, radiometers on orbital platforms and the like, you're then doomed forever to wander a wilderness of disbelief, theendisfar.

    Some people are objecting to the tone of this thread because Rob's original essay necessarily must speak of people who for one reason or another find themselves in contradiction with a fairly smooth continuum of research findings stretching back over 200 years. Apparently we are not to apply any form of general identification or linguistic shorthand to classify this rough category of persons. That's a fundamentally sound demand-- avoiding generalizations to classify humans in all their variety is one of the lessons of history most of us can agree with.

    Still-- labels aside-- we're left with a phenomenon to discuss, namely how and why this diaspora of understanding should arise. Further, this phenomenon of disagreement can and does have an impact on our physical world. How we think clearly can change our world; we know of the power of thought from such evidence as recent problems with acid rain, chlorofluorocarbons and the like, issues that could not arise without human mentation.

    Among those disagreeing with climate research findings we include in our companionship a variety of people who in a selective way do not subscribe to the process and results of scientific inquiry that have proven effective time and again in improving our understanding of our natural environment. This group is fairly insistent that findings from the arena of research topics that produce understanding of our climate system should not be applied to our world of human affairs, a sphere of activity which given our large population and intensive economic activity necessarily produces noticeable effects on our physical environment.

    We may reasonably conclude that such a choice to selectively exclude a broad array of knowledge from our evolution of behavior will produce measurable changes in our physical world. Failure to apply newly acquired understanding is not a matter hermetically contained within our heads, it reaches beyond our discourse and will in fact affect the Earth's climate system.

    So how can it be that discussing why and how people choose to accept one part of scientific inquiry yet for whatever reason will not accept another is not a legitimate subject of discussion at a site that is explicitly devoted to the subject of thinking about climate? For my part I cannot think of an answer to that question that is sufficiently compelling to arrest my sense of curiosity about it, nor my concern that ignoring the topic will result in knock-on effects in the world I live in.
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  21. @66 robhon,

    Fair enough, but again in order for me to deny something, I need a well defined theory or hypothesis to 'deny'. Agree/Disagree?

    Your claim that there is a 'greater scientific body of evidence' is not sufficient and often a Red Herring. I worked 3 years at a major US Scientific Agency and know quite well the effects of 'mountains of evidence' both how and why they are often used.

    The evidence shows the Effects, not the Cause of GW. The A in AGW is quite questionable.

    May I ask your opinion as to why there is no AGW Theory? If we had one to test, this would quickly end any debate as to what we should call each other.

    This is not trivial. While we cannot do tests with multiple Earth's, we can take the statements to describe the AGW phenomena and verify whether they are accurate based upon known sciences.

    In any event, AGW Denier and Believer is good enough for me. Count me in as a Denier.
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  22. #9

    "From a political standpoint, (C)AGW is a liberal issue - it argues for bigger government. Thus, liberals tend to support the theory and conservatives tend to oppose it on that grounds."

    That view is too simplistic, in my opinion. In the USA, at least, there's no consistent "big government" or "small government" party. Both sides will argue for more or less government power, depending on the issue.

    In regards to AGW, conservatives tend to see it as an "environmental" issue -- as opposed to, say, a national security or personal responsibility issue -- and so they tend to oppose it on principle.

    Many liberals believe that more government action on AGW is necessary, granted (just as many conservatives believe that more government action is needed on immigration). But I don't know anyone on the left who'd oppose a viable "free market" solution to AGW on principle. I certainly wouldn't.
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  23. "May I ask your opinion as to why there is no AGW Theory? If we had one to test, this would quickly end any debate as to what we should call each other."

    Please see The Discovery of Global Warming.
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  24. #56, JMurphy is making the world a simple one, indeed (see full quote below!). This is because 'anyone who denies the science is, by default, a denier'. - It's that simple: you cannot deny 'the science' without being a denier. The science is always right.

    So the branch of climate science that stands behind the AGW hypothesis, represents True Science (or 'the science')!

    Other climate scientists that happen not to be AGW believers, are 'deniers', because they deny 'the science'. Their science is not True Science, because there can only be one science.

    It sounds like a religion to me.

    ''I have always been bemused by the way so-called skeptics are sensitive to those words you have highlighted, as if they can see the danger in being tagged with such descriptive words, while simultaneously showing how precisely those terms DO describe them exactly : anyone who denies the science is, by default, a denier, surely ? ''
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  25. Good post. Paranoid fear about losing one's "stuff" is certainly a reason for science denial. There's also the general paranoid fear of government intervention, which cripples many WUWT readers from engaging in critical thought.

    As eluded to above, I also think denial is partly a result of tribalistic tendencies. The tribe wants to "win". Those who listen to right-wing radio know that you can't be a real conservative or patriotic American if you buy into the global warming "hoax". Related...

    Al Gore's work on communicating the science is a double-edged sword. He's inherently a polarizing figure, with the 2000 election dispute cementing that view. So some have a tendency to oppose climate science because Al Gore supports it. Doing otherwise would make Gore wealthier, and liberals would "win". I think Watts (a Republican activist) drives an electric car (or more importantly, makes a big deal out of driving an electric car), because he wants to establish cred. Unlike that "hypocrite elistist Gore", who has a big house and flies in airplanes while preaching about emissions, Watts does the opposite. It's a bit of a marketing ploy.

    Note also that U.S. Republicans tend to be strong supporters of nuclear power. For most of them, this is generally preferred over any renewables. When you ask them to explain, their reasoning isn't very robust, and reveals that they see it as a way to win the environmental issue. Most enviros/liberals opposed nuclear power in the 1970's. Expand nuclear power to help the environment and the Republican tribe "wins".
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  26. Argus, for scientists this is not a matter of unquestioning belief but of useful demonstration whether by robust numerical treatments or physical observations or a combination thereof. That's what Rob is addressing when he says scientists are skeptics by nature.

    Scientists who skip those steps or fail to use them as an effective means of rebuttal yet assert that AGW is a false premise categorize themselves.

    There are in fact a few researchers who are threading this needle correctly yet have still failed to produce an effective contradiction to the theory that we're able to substantially change some important characteristics of the ocean-atmosphere system.
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  27. This has probably already been mentioned.
    But electric cars aren't much good unless you have a clean energy source.

    In the UK the grid mix of electricity generation sources gives a typical carbon footprint of between 500 and 600 grammes of CO2 per kWh.

    So that's what your pumping into an electric car when it's being recharged. Add on the losses of the battery and really the carbon footprint of an electric car is similar to an internal combustion engine car, when the CO2/passenger km is worked out.

    In the US your grid mix is dominated by coal, so I have doubts whether any electric car is currently going to make much difference, until you sort out the coal problem.

    The problem of electric vehicles and energy supply has recently been highlighted by a recent Royal Academy of Engineering report:§ion=Electricity

    But they do indicate the way forward.
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  28. Done, the last 4 pics link to larger versions.

    Thank you! Just noticed.
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  29. But electric cars aren't much good unless you have a clean energy source.

    Name your poison, BP* or Massey Energy? :-)

    But as you suggested, the matter is not simple. Someone upthread mentioned the desirability of more efficient use of generating plant. Thank you for the link which I am now going to read.

    * Speaking of, the video shows the latest interception device being lowered to the floor of the ocean even now. If you pray, please put in a good word...
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  30. @Argus... I actually think you're over-simplifying. There is a BODY of science on climate change. Science is rarely, if ever perfectly consistent on all fronts. It's important to look at all the work being done by researchers and try to take a reading from there. Yes, Lindzen, Svensmark, Spencer and others have put forth real science. They are a considerable minority. They are outliers in a greater body of evidence. The greater body shows, TO DIFFERENT DEGREES, that climate is changing quite rapidly and that man-made CO2 is the primary driver of that change.

    What I'm trying to say is, that even within the circles that believe AGW is real there are differing opinions. It's not a religious "believe it or you're going to hell."

    I would also point out that those contrarian scientists who are putting forth well researched work are getting published. Their work is taken seriously. I just believe it's, for the most part, not agreeing with the greater body of evidence. So, you either throw out the greater body of evidence or find out why it doesn't fit.

    So, again, skepticism is an essential function of the scientific process. We, on the outside of that process, have to determine for ourselves if that process is operating correctly. I, for one, believe it is and therefore accept the greater body of evidence. If you do not believe it is operating correctly then you are in a position where you have to "deny" the greater body of evidence.
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  31. actually thoughtfull #69, thanks for the corroborating data. I think this really drives home the point about the relative costs of renewables vs fossil fuels. If fossil fuel costs are rising (conservatively) at 6% per year then the average fossil fuel cost over a 30 year period (a conservative estimate of the 'lifespan' of wind and solar plants) is going to be about 287% of the current cost. So we shouldn't really be comparing current renewable costs to current fossil fuel costs... we should be comparing them to 287% or more of current fossil fuel costs. And by that standard wind goes from costing a little more than coal to substantially less. Solar is more expensive than wind, but even that comes in below coal with rising prices factored in.
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  32. The Ville, looking at the report you mentioned caused me to be struck with the thought that electric vehicles are an excellent fit w/sometimes fickle (at least on small geographic scales) sources of energy such as wind and solar capture.

    Dissipation of energy stored in automobile batteries is rather decoupled from the demand they impose as they are charged; a sufficient mass of vehicle batteries will act as a sponge for electricity, wrung out asynchronously with generation.

    Related but slightly different to the notion of using motive power batteries to backfeed the grid; the net effect is similar but the mechanism is different. Obviously I'm not the first to notice that but it was all the same a striking realization for me. I've been intrigued by the concept of using idle vehicles as a capacity leveling system but even as more simple sponges they'd be useful.
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  33. The Ville... I think you are probably correct about coal, CO2 and electric vehicles in the US in general. The mix is different here in California where natural gas is 37%, coal only 20%, hydro is 17% and nuclear 14%.
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  34. CBDunkerson at 81
    I did some more math, both with the 40 year average of 6%, then with what actually happened from one decade to the next. A smooth 6%/year means that every 30 years, prices will be 541% higher. In other words take the base price and multiply it by 5! (rounding down to be conservative).

    So the data is not so nice as to be a smooth 6%. For every 30 year average available from 1967 (two of them 67-97 and 1977-2007) the fuel multiple is over 7! Not ever wanting to overstate the case, I went back and took the multiple for each decade (Divided 1977 avg fuel price by 1967 avg fuel price and repeated for 1987, 1997, 2007)
    1977/67: 2.26
    1987/77: 2.50
    1997/87: 1.26
    2007/97: 1.91

    average multiplier per 10 years: 1.98

    So you can count on natural gas prices doubling every 10 years, and be right more often than not. Note that 2007 is just before the current extreme price volatility began.

    I note that electricity has only gone up 20% since 1997, and that coal has a multiplier of 7 over 40 years (not 30).

    So useful data, but using natural gas as a stand in for all fuel is probably painting with too coarse a brush.
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  35. Just on energy source for electric - David MacKay made case for electric car EVEN if all the electricity came from burning fossil fuel. This is because the efficiency of a power station + electric moter is so much higher than that of internal combustion engine.
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  36. @85

    Efficiency of a power station is better than a IC engine?
    Depends of the power station!

    There is a good reason why CHP is considered better than a 'standard' coal fired power station and there is a good reason why the PRIMARY energy output of a CHP plant is heat energy, not electricity.

    That reason is because fossil fuel 'thermal' power plants waste over half the energy as heat.

    Yes indeed electric motors are very efficient, but a standard power station is not efficient.
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  37. The Ville... I don't know how accurate this is but a quick google search turned up (for me) that fossil fuel power stations are about 35-40% efficient. IC automobile engines are about 30% efficient. And electric motors are about 95% efficient.

    Now, I'm not sure how that plays with peak and off peak generation, or drive/idle time in automobiles.
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  38. In the US, the "big governent/small government" debate is mostly electoral talk. One party is supposedly that of smaller government. Yet when that party had long stretches of time with a good handle on several branches of government, neither the size nor the spending decreased. Deficits raged as badly as with the other party. Reagan's TEFRA was a historically high tax increase.

    People's peceptions about this are quite separate from reality. The reality is that the economics of the moment largely dictate what the government's actions (or reactions, most of the time) will be, not the professed ideology.

    Re scaddenp: Without actually working the numbers, I believe that MacKay is likely right. What matters is the carbon per kW and an efficient plant, like combined cycle or better, will probably fare better than a corresponding sum of I.C. engines for the same amount of watts (the unit, no pun intended). If you factor in everything (transport, refining etc), it might be even better.
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  39. Philippe... But you also have to account for the fact that most areas have a mix of power generation, not just fossil fuel. As stated before, here in California we only use about 20% coal so the carbon generated per unit of energy for an EV is likely to be far less than a standard IC engine.
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  40. OK, if we assume that *all* the electricity comes from coal then this is the comparison: 1kw-h of coal-fired electricity generates 0.9kg of CO2. Assuming T&D losses of 10%, then this amounts to a flat 1kg of CO2 per kw-h of electricity. The average electric car gets about 12kw-h/100km traveled, which means the electric car generates 12kg of CO2 for every 100km of travel. By contrast, the average car consumes 10L petrol per 100km traveled (assuming highway travel) & every litre of petrol burned generates 2.3kg of CO2. So the IC-engine car generates about 23kg of CO2 for every 100km traveled. So even assuming the dirtiest electricity grid, the *average* electric car generates half the emissions of a conventional IC-engine vehicle. Once you through in petrol consumption during peak-time idling, the numbers come out even more in favor of the electric vehicle. Of course electricity grids like the US, Canada & much of Western Europe have a mix of electricity sources-resulting in an average CO2/kw-h of electricity of closer to 0.6 to 0.8 kg-which again tips the balance even further in favor of electric cars. Lastly, whatever ones view of AGW, switching to electric cars also *eliminates* source emissions of particulate emissions, benzene (which causes cancer), & the various components of photochemical smog. So from any standpoint (even life-time cost) the electric car wins hands down!
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  41. theendisfar. Who was being sarcastic? I was merely pointing out the simple fact that, without *evidence* to back it up, your little hypothesis doesn't really bear up very well-yet you seem loathe to provide that evidence. Indeed, the evidence of Stratospheric Cooling seems to kill your Evaporation/Convection hypothesis stone dead. Evaporation definitely explains the movement of heat from the surface of the earth to the troposphere layer but-given the short-lived nature of a single water vapor molecule in the low to mid troposphere-compared to the long-lived nature of CO2, NO2 & Methane-it is extremely hard to picture evaporating water molecules as a major source of heat transmission out to space. Even if you significantly increase the rate of evaporation, this will only change the rate at which the heat gets transferred to the lower atmosphere. It is the then the rate at which these atmospheric gases (greenhouse gases) then transfer that heat out into space which dictates the overall warmth of the planet. The greater the concentration of these greenhouse gases, the slower that rate of heat transfer to space will become-a view backed up by the cooling of the stratosphere, the reduction in outgoing long wave IR-emissions in the spectrum absorbed by CO2 & methane (but not water) & the simple fact that concentrations of CO2 & methane have been rising rapidly for several decades. When you can provide a similar level of empirical evidence to back your hypothesis-starting with *how* & *why* we're getting increased evaporation-then maybe your view about CO2 being a "red herring" will have merit. Until then, you just sound incredibly silly!
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  42. Argus, your beliefs with regard to Al Gore are confused. I think you will find that he was rich and famous before his movie and the number of its 'errors' (as they were expressly described, with those quotation marks, because they were more a matter of interpretation rather than substance) added up to nine - 'many' to you.
    As for rumours about him, why do you believe what you read about him and where did you read them ?
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  43. Okay, that settles it. I want my Tesla Model S right now.
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  44. Put all the oil (minimal refining) through gas turbine combined cycle at around 60% and you do even better efficiency. Internal combustion doesn't compete with that.
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  45. doug bostrom #10. "It might be possible to sell conservatives on the idea of a carbon tax, if it were revenue neutral(all taxes raised would be offset by tax cuts elsewhere).

    That's been offered, rejected. As an exercise, try looking it up. Any other ideas?"

    I did try looking it up through Google. Most of the links are to a story out of my neighbors to the West, British Columbia, that actually *approved* a revenue neutral carbon tax(I only looked at the fist couple of pages though). While BC is not a conservative province (especially by US standards), it does suggest that this is definitely an attainable goal. Do you have a counter example?

    #16:"Further to shawnhet's points, I believe that when we begin talking of ideological considerations such as the "free market" (no more existent than ever was Communism, by the way) and even more abstract notions such as an imaginary desire to "grow government" as an end in itself, we've quite departed from what we know of the useful relationship between science and human affairs. Quite simply this matter we're discussing is no more ideologically freighted than is the notion of responsible disposal of sewage or any other potentially noxious byproduct of our daily existence."

    I thought that this post was supposed to be about why different groups respond differently to the scientific evidence. IAC, I don't believe it is at all imaginary to believe that some people are more enamored by the power and efficacy of government than others. (BTW, in what sense was Communism "nonexistent"?)

    As to whether the issue is ideologically freighted it clearly is, regardless of whether you think it should be or not.

    Cheers, :)
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  46. Phila #72,

    "Many liberals believe that more government action on AGW is necessary, granted (just as many conservatives believe that more government action is needed on immigration). But I don't know anyone on the left who'd oppose a viable "free market" solution to AGW on principle. I certainly wouldn't."

    Well, maybe it's simply the folks that I talk to, but I know a fair number of people who if you had a cost-free fix to AGW(say viable fusion) would be disappointed, because it would make it more difficult to make the sorts of changes they are in favor of.

    Cheers, :)
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  47. Shawn (mind if I call you that?), here in the U.S. a revenue neutral carbon tax was heavily promoted by a familiar politician by the name of Al Gore, and despite fitting many stated requirements of so-called conservatives was laughed away by about half the electorate because of a combination of ideological considerations, confused thinking about climate science and personal dislike of the man mentioning the idea. Not a success story for conservatives, all in all.

    Regarding your second remark, what I fail to see is how considerations of the "free market" are useful or appropriate when discussing an almost exact analogue to other pollutants, of the sort we've discovered are technical problems amenable to solution, with a scientifically demonstrated compelling requirement to be corrected, and which the free market has historically always proven incapable of addressing on its own.

    Finally, there has never been a functioning example of a pure "free market" any more than there ever has been one of communism. Fortunate, because each would be intolerably obnoxious in its own unique way, more so than we've experienced with the corrupted implementations with which we've so far experimented.

    Your assertion in #96 is rather difficult to believe, by the way. Have you actually explicitly asked these folks you speak of whether they'd reject a quick and reasonably clean path to solving both our energy requirements and our present C02 pollution problem?
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  48. Shawnhet @95 - a web site devoted to the idea. Senators Cantwell and Collins have introduced a bill to create this tax as law.

    It is going nowhere. I find it disheartening as it is a pure play on reducing pollution but OUR representatives will only talk about severely damaged legislation, like the Kerry/Lieberman/(the guy who dropped out)/House version.

    I am actually at a loss why this idea isn't winning over people of all world views. It just make sense. It harnesses the power of the free market to solve the problem.
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  49. robhon #93, the Tesla Roadster is out now and the Fisker Karma will probably be released before the Model S. All nice electric cars if a bit on the pricey side.

    I've been hoping that someone would come out with something along the lines of a Chevy Volt, but with ~100 mile all electric range. All the 'electric with gas backup' vehicles I've seen are designed around the assumption that you'll always have a full tank of gas in the car because you are likely to need to use a little every week or so. I think electrics would catch on much faster if the all electric range were large enough that most people would only need to use gasoline a couple of times a year... so you could drive around on an empty tank except when you were going on a long trip. The technology for this sort of design exists, but nobody seems to want to go that way. 'Gasoline backup' is going to be needed to get people to buy electric cars en masse until quick charging stations are everywhere... which will never happen if people don't buy enough electric cars to warrant it.
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  50. #92 JMurphy. You can google yourself on Al Gore and his house, or go to the following sources for a starter:
    Glass houses
    Al Gore's Energy Use
    thedailygreen follow-up

    The rumours about him wasting energy were once true, but in the last couple of years Gore has made some changes. Apparently he became aware that you ought to live as you teach.

    As for errors and exaggerations in the movie, only nine were treated in court, due to lack of time, but there are easily 35 identifiable errors.

    ''The first nine were listed by the judge in the High Court in London in October 2007 as being “errors.” The remaining 26 errors are just as inaccurate or exaggerated as the nine spelt out by the judge, who made it plain during the proceedings that the Court had not had time to consider more than these few errors. The judge found these errors serious enough to require the UK Government to pay substantial costs to the plaintiff.''
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