Climate noise amplification

Ever notice that once in a while, when observing scientific matters, you have a signal to noise problem that’s really difficult to overcome?

I’m not talking about the actual problems of signal-to-noise in building studies, especially out of short and uncorrelated pieces of data. I’m talking about the amplification that goes on in the denialist quarters of the blogosphere, picking up on phrasings or terms of trade that happen to be easy to misconstrue into a soundbite “club” to beat layfolk over the head with. This happens in pretty much every field of study, but never to the extent or effectiveness seen in the field of climatology.

Take, for instance, Phil Jones’ interview with the BBC, from which an intentional misunderstanding of the concept of statistical significance by a question sent in by a climate skeptic entrapped Jones into saying something technically correct but easily misconstrued.

BBC: Do you agree that from 1995 to the present there has been no statistically-significant global warming

Phil Jones: Yes, but only just. I also calculated the trend for the period 1995 to 2009. This trend (0.12C per decade) is positive, but not significant at the 95% significance level. The positive trend is quite close to the significance level. Achieving statistical significance in scientific terms is much more likely for longer periods, and much less likely for shorter periods.

BBC: How confident are you that warming has taken place and that humans are mainly responsible?

Phil Jones: I’m 100% confident that the climate has warmed. As to the second question, I would go along with IPCC Chapter 9 – there’s evidence that most of the warming since the 1950s is due to human activity.

Emphasis mine. Of course, the important thing about using a fourteen year period is that it is impossible to make a statistically significant trend out of any climate dataset with the 95% confidence you need to be able to declare statistical significance. You would need the effects of global warming to be massive to gain that amount of confidence. Nonetheless, as Phil Jones says, that specific period shows warming, and it was very close to 95% confidence. It was 93% in fact. And if you expand the window by even one year, it becomes statistically significant. Like I said, entrapment, intended explicitly to build a pullquote that denialists could use to pull stunts like this one over at the Daily Fail.

Or how about the lowball figure for ocean rising? A study was produced that was later withdrawn by its authors after it was pointed out to them exactly how they messed up the figures and why their figure of 82cm rise was far, far lower than figures generated via a better model — a model which suggested up to two metres in sea level rise. They underestimated the amount sea levels would rise, and their figures were parroted by denialists as showing that climate change would be far less severe than we originally projected. Once they realized their errors, they withdrew the paper to correct the record. And amazingly, the denialists got a second turn at the well when the paper was withdrawn, by claiming the withdrawal of that paper proved the oceans wouldn’t rise at all.

The whole “Climategate” fiasco was a similar case of shenanigans. I won’t recap the whole thing (Peter Sinclair does it so much better), but to sum up, some asshole leaked a bunch of internal emails discussing the sausage-making behind the scenes for a scientific study that has been referred to since it came out as “the hockey stick graph”. A few key phrases sounded kind of dodgy pulled out of context even though they had perfectly reasonable explanations (we’re talking Mr. Roper level misunderstanding here). The discussion was perfectly reasonable, involving dropping one of the six temperature proxies at a certain point when it stopped correlating with any of the other five, and including instrumentation temperature data to represent the parts of the graph that they didn’t have proxy data to show — e.g., they didn’t have (for instance) ice core information from the last twenty years, but they DID have real temperatures instead. That was the “trick”. And the one proxy they had to drop because it stopped matching five other proxies or (more importantly) real temperature, was the “decline” they hid.

All of this perfectly reasonable procedural stuff… and yet it’s STILL the focal point of a hundred thousand astroturf comments on every article or blog post across the entire internet. Some of them might legitimately be people’s opinions, but there’s decent evidence that it’s mostly bought dissent. And this dissent, and this ginned up controversy, keep going strong despite the Climategate scientists and the methodology being vindicated no less than seven times.

There’s a bit of light at the end of the tunnel, though. Via Greg Laden’s Scienceblogs blog:

A study published in late July made false claims and was methodologically flawed, but still managed to get published in a peer reviewed journal. The Editor-in-Chief of that journal has resigned to symbolically take responsibility for the journal’s egregious error of publishing what is essentially a fake scientific paper, and to “protest against how the authors [and others] have much exaggerated the paper’s conclusions” taking to task the University of Alabama’s press office, Forbes, Fox News and others.

[…]

The numerical results presented in the paper lack statistical significance, but this is hard to detect because error bars or estimates of statistical uncertainty are presented poorly or left out. The methods used in the paper are not described well enough to verify that they could work.

When these results were examined more closely they were found to be not replicable.

The statistical strangeness of the results are explained in part by looking at the scale at which the work is being done. Standard climate models look at climate variables over various time scales from less than a decade to centuries of time. The Spencer and Braswell research inappropriately mixed time scales in a way that seems to have given them results they were looking for rather than a valid finding.

People are willing to fight back. If the Editor-in-Chief was willing to quit in protest of such a shoddy piece of climate denialism being published in his journal, this proves that scientists are willing to put humanity’s future before their own profits — or even before their short term career concerns. And honestly, as I’ve said a dozen times before, conspiracy is more likely from the side that stands to lose billions. I’m tired of being shouted down by people who have every reason and opportunity to obfuscate the truth, twist our and scientists’ words, and outright dismantle the goalposts such that it’s literally impossible to kick a field goal even with the mountains of evidence we have on hand. We call them denialists because they refuse to even look at the evidence, and on the off chance they do, it’s solely to search for a chink in our armor — not the science’s armor, but ours. They’ve already lost the science war. Now it’s all shouting, distortions, propaganda and lies.

See also Greg’s list of links at X Blog.

So what do we do about this? What CAN we do? Are we inexorably headed straight off a climate cliff and the entrenched powers have succeeded in subsuming our long term species survival prospects for their short-term gain? I don’t want to give up on humanity just yet!

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Climate noise amplification

77 thoughts on “Climate noise amplification

  1. 51

    What really damages the prospects for the world’s poorest people is the international development agenda’s emphasis on ‘sustainability’.

    People’s capacities to adapt and mitigate are driven by similar sets of factors.
    These factors represent a generalised response capacity that can be mobilised in the service of either adaptation or mitigation. Response capacity, in turn, is dependent on the societal development pathway. Enhancing society’s response capacity through the pursuit of sustainable development pathways is therefore one way of promoting both adaptation and mitigation [18.3].

    Well then. No wonder I was having trouble reconciling your views and the IPCC’s. All you have to do is completely reverse your meaning, and you’re in full agreement!

  2. 52

    I can’t find a single quote in amongst the bits you just quoted that disagree with me and agree with you. There are a number we probably both agree with. Which do you think disagrees with my view of the urgency of action and necessity to overcome economic challenges back home or else risk damaging the poor countries to safeguard the rich?

    Here. Click on this one and read. Then click the next page button (it’s the link with the less-than symbol (>)), and keep reading. That should make things nice and easy for you to find all the doom.

  3. 53

    You’re not used to critical thinking, are you Jason…

    Well then. No wonder I was having trouble reconciling your views and the IPCC’s. All you have to do is completely reverse your meaning, and you’re in full agreement!

    What’s the actual issue? What’s the contradiction?

  4. 54

    IPCC: “Enhancing society’s response capacity through the pursuit of sustainable development pathways is therefore one way of promoting both adaptation and mitigation”

    Ben: “NO, SUSTAINABILITY IS BAD FOR THE POOR”

    You’re right! You’re in total agreement!

    Stephanie just clued me into what you’re doing, too. Pointing to the introduction and pretending like it’s the conclusion. That way you can make it seem like they didn’t make any case for mitigating or promoting adaptation. (e.g., didn’t call for action.)

    Have you got ANYTHING but accusations of poor critical thinking and other unevidenced assertions about my ability to read or comprehend the very things you’ve just proven you can’t read or comprehend? Seriously. I have to get to bed sometime soon and I’d like you to either complete your epic megacombo that blows me out of the water, or at least flounce and declare victory despite your limp and bloody nose.

  5. 55

    I can’t find a single quote in amongst the bits you just quoted that disagree with me and agree with you.

    I was trying to explain to you that the ‘impact’ of climate change is socially determined, not determined by the magnitude of the climate phenomenon in question. Most of those quotes emphasise this point, over the ability of scientific models to make predictions.

    Here. Click on this one and read. Then click the next page button (it’s the link with the less-than symbol (>)), and keep reading. That should make things nice and easy for you to find all the doom.

    I think I understand now… You can’t actually point to the doom. So you sort of wave in its general direction, where it might be.

    I wonder if you’re even aware of the problems that IPCC AR4 had with its predictions about fresh water and glaciers. It caused quite a storm.

    I saw this a few pages on, though…

    Poor communities can be especially vulnerable, in particular those concentrated in high-risk areas. They tend to have more limited adaptive capacities, and are more dependent on climate-sensitive resources such as local water and food supplies. ** N [7.2, 7.4, 5.4]

  6. 56

    You didn’t even take the bait on the “less than symbol”? Come on. I knew you weren’t paying attention.

    You and I have different ideas of the word doom. I define it to mean “bad things are going to happen to poor people if we don’t do something”. The linked report damn well shows that bad things are going to happen to poor people, and you know it. Nothing you’ve linked actually says otherwise. What you’re trying to say is that it’s ALL socially determined. But what if you took away global warming? “It’s not the match that’s the problem, it’s all the powder that’s there! Also, why are you talking about matches and powder when there’s a fire a county over? Never mind that if this one blows up it’ll divide up resources and make both worse!”

    Seriously. Come on. Get real, argue properly, or go away.

  7. 58

    IPCC: “Enhancing society’s response capacity through the pursuit of sustainable development pathways is therefore one way of promoting both adaptation and mitigation”

    Ben: “NO, SUSTAINABILITY IS BAD FOR THE POOR”

    You’re right! You’re in total agreement!

    The IPCC suggest it’s one course of action. I suggest it’s another. Both I and the IPCC recognise that the decisive factor is adaptive capacity, not the magnitude of the phenomenon. There’s no contradiction so far.

    I suggest that sustainable development is a mistake, because it necessarily limits the development, often completely precluding the possibility of industrial society. Eg. Oxfam’s campaign to ‘preserve’ traditional pastoral societies. Neocolonialism, in other words.

    You seem to be a bit too angry — and possibly too eager to score points — to actually participate in a discussion.

    That way you can make it seem like they didn’t make any case for mitigating or promoting adaptation. (e.g., didn’t call for action.)

    I only intended to point out that the IPCC recognise the social component of an assessment of impact. Yet you were claiming it was ‘science’ which predicted ‘doom’.

    Have you got ANYTHING but accusations of poor critical thinking…

    … it’s a bit like you crawling out of the sewer, into my home, and saying ‘have you got ANYTHING but accusations that I stink and should have a shower’. I think you’re batshit mad, and haven’t really got the grasp of the subject, of even of reason itself to have a conversation with someone of a different perspective… You just know that you’re right. Typical of the angry atheists, I guess.

    I only commented to point out that you’d wrongly cited my post, which you obviously felt deserved reading. Though, god knows why, since you seem to think the other case — the conspiracy theory, no less — deserved equal (or more) attention. There are paid climate trolls, you were so sure.

    …and other unevidenced assertions about my ability to read or comprehend…

    Evidence? It’s all there, in black and white. Your prejudices, and ideas about the debate precede your knowledge of the facts. Everything you think is ‘science’ everything else is lies. It’s a conceit.

  8. 59

    You and I have different ideas of the word doom. I define it to mean “bad things are going to happen to poor people if we don’t do something”.

    Yeah, the clue is in the word ‘poor’, or in ‘poverty’. Christ. Cos, obvious, poverty, and being poor aren’t problems. They’re not bad things… Guess what… Things are worse for the poor. No shit. Yeah. Science says so.

    The linked report damn well shows that bad things are going to happen to poor people, and you know it.

    And, as I’ve been saying along, bad shit happens to poor people, whether or not the climate changes. 7.5 million of them, in fact. Minimum.

    What you’re trying to say is that it’s ALL socially determined.

    There’s plenty of wealth in the world. There’s no actual physical barrier, caused by meteorology stopping poorer people integrating with the industrial economy. Thus the decisive factor is social. The emphasis on the putative material causes of such inequality epitomises scientism. It’s is a grotesque abrogation of responsibility. It’s a massive shrug, a washing of hands, a two fingers up, and a slammed door, all in the face of the poor.

    I am aware of the controversy over a few errors in the IPCC AR4…

    Ha! It claimed that hundreds of thousands of people were dependent on glaciers that would be dry within decades. Nearly 1 in 7 people would have been affected. It was going to cause wars. Now *that’s* environmental determinism.

  9. 60

    I suggest that sustainable development is a mistake, because it necessarily limits the development, often completely precluding the possibility of industrial society. Eg. Oxfam’s campaign to ‘preserve’ traditional pastoral societies. Neocolonialism, in other words.

    And if you were to back your ideas with any sort of evidence from some sort of peer-reviewed study, I’d be happy to read it and maybe even change my mind. As it stands, you say you’re in complete agreement, then when I point out the disagreement, you say “no, I was agreeing with it about something else tangential to the point that you never argued against”.

    … it’s a bit like you crawling out of the sewer, into my home, and saying ‘have you got ANYTHING but accusations that I stink and should have a shower’. I think you’re batshit mad, and haven’t really got the grasp of the subject, of even of reason itself to have a conversation with someone of a different perspective… You just know that you’re right. Typical of the angry atheists, I guess.

    You’re on my blog, friend. You walked into my house (after I accidentally exposed you to my house’s address by pointing my readers to the billboard on your front lawn) to tell me that I have no critical thinking skills and that you are underwhelmed by me. You’ve given me nothing but abuse and rancor. Any harsh words I’ve had for you have come after you’ve done likewise. I’m willing to trade insults with random people that walk into my house, sure, but I’m not willing to let them lie about whose house they’re in!

    As for my grasp of the subject, the only parts we disagree on, you’re wholly unwilling to provide any direct evidence for. You’ve shown me the breadcrumbs that led you to make your conclusions, but you’ve given me no reason to draw the same conclusions you have.

    Evidence? It’s all there, in black and white. Your prejudices, and ideas about the debate precede your knowledge of the facts. Everything you think is ‘science’ everything else is lies. It’s a conceit.

    There are things being said about global warming that are lies, and they’re what I call lies. There are three major ones listed in the post at the top. I’m sure you agree that they’re lies, since you understand that global warming is real and that humans did it. You’re distorting the vector this whole conversation has taken because you simply don’t like that you’ve not been able to argue with an “alarmist” with no grasp of the reality of the situation.

    My one conceit in this universe is that everything can be known given infinite resources and infinite study. And some very large subset of that can be known with far less than infinite resources and study. You’ve pointed me to many things I agree with, and use them to bolster conclusions that you’ve made that are simple bald assertions, with nothing to hold them up but your utter faith that everyone who thinks we should do something about climate change is an alarmist who doesn’t understand what the IPCC recommends based on the science at hand.

    YOU don’t understand what the IPCC recommends. You’ve proven it repeatedly. And what bits you do understand, but disagree with, you say “I DISAGREE” really loudly and expect I’m going to fall in with you because I agreed with those other points.

  10. 61

    Yeah, the clue is in the word ‘poor’, or in ‘poverty’. Christ. Cos, obvious, poverty, and being poor aren’t problems. They’re not bad things… Guess what… Things are worse for the poor. No shit. Yeah. Science says so.
    […]
    And, as I’ve been saying along, bad shit happens to poor people, whether or not the climate changes. 7.5 million of them, in fact. Minimum.
    […]
    There’s plenty of wealth in the world. There’s no actual physical barrier, caused by meteorology stopping poorer people integrating with the industrial economy. Thus the decisive factor is social. The emphasis on the putative material causes of such inequality epitomises scientism. It’s is a grotesque abrogation of responsibility. It’s a massive shrug, a washing of hands, a two fingers up, and a slammed door, all in the face of the poor.

    Then you agree with me that we should try to help the poor! Perhaps now you could tell me how ending our dependence on fossil fuels harms the poor in any way whatosfuckingever. Perhaps you could also tell me how saying that we should help the poor by stopping pollution and finding greener energy sources is a grotesque abrogation of responsibility. Perhaps you could explain how ending one problem prevents us from working on another. Because you’ve made zero attempts at it so far.

  11. 62

    Ha! It claimed that hundreds of thousands of people were dependent on glaciers that would be dry within decades. Nearly 1 in 7 people would have been affected. It was going to cause wars. Now *that’s* environmental determinism.

    Yes, the inclusion of a non-peer-reviewed article from the India Environment Portal and the typo that changed 2350 to 2035 was regrettable, and corrected. How does that undercut the rest of the peer-reviewed stuff?

  12. 63

    As it stands, you say you’re in complete agreement, then when I point out the disagreement, you say “no, I was agreeing with it about something else tangential to the point that you never argued against”.

    You’re making shit up! What’s the point?! I said IPCC WGII AR4 *REFLECTED* my argument. I didn’t say we were at one. Maybe it really is as simple as you just not being able to read.

    As for my grasp of the subject, the only parts we disagree on, you’re wholly unwilling to provide any direct evidence for. You’ve shown me the breadcrumbs that led you to make your conclusions, but you’ve given me no reason to draw the same conclusions you have.

    I’ve given you links to articles on my blog, from where you can follow the links to the relevant literature. Otherwise, you’ve not asked for any links to ‘direct evidence’. What ‘evidence’ did you want? I can’t help it if you weren’t convinced by the idea that 7.5 million lives might be worth prioritising, over, for instance, 300,000… Maybe you need a peer review study… But as I point out, your emphasis on ‘the science’ and ‘peer reviewed’ studies actually disarms you, and removes you from the debate… You become no more than a parrot, whose only response to a challenge is to, well, parrot the litany, again, and again, and again.

    YOU don’t understand what the IPCC recommends. You’ve proven it repeatedly. And what bits you do understand, but disagree with, you say “I DISAGREE” really loudly and expect I’m going to fall in with you because I agreed with those other points.

    Well, the IPCC report is a big document, Jason. Some of it fairly contradictory. What you were claiming earlier on in the discussion was that ‘the science’ said that ‘global warming is happening’ and that ‘humans did it’. I’ve been trying to show that it’s a little more complex, detection and attribution being just a very small part of the whole project, which is, by itself, inconsequential.

    I think what happens is, you’re still trapped within the idea that anybody broadly challenging the political claims of… let’s call it ‘ecologism’ for now… must be ‘denying’ the simple claim ‘climate change is happening’. Thus everything must be a denial of the science, somewhere.

    I counted the number of scientists involved in WGII once. You’d be surprised. http://www.climate-resistance.org/2007/12/physician-heal-thyself.html It’s not quite as scientific as you think it is.

  13. 64

    Then you agree with me that we should try to help the poor! Perhaps now you could tell me how ending our dependence on fossil fuels harms the poor in any way whatosfuckingever.

    Well, ending our ‘dependence’ kind of makes things like transport very difficult. Oh, and then there’s the heat and light. And then there’s the Harber Bosch process.

    Without these things, we’d all be very poor indeed.

    Even if there are energy alternatives, they are relatively expensive. When you make things expensive, or rather scarce or labour-intensive, you make people poorer. Ending our ‘dependence’ on fossil fuels would thus make people poorer.

    No, if it is important to reduce our ‘dependence’ on fossil fuels, I suggest the way it ought to be done, is by first developing the means, rather than the target — eg emissions limits, administered by large, supranational institutions. Because such things are likely to steepen inequalities. I would also suggest they ought to be done with consent.

    Perhaps you could also tell me how saying that we should help the poor by stopping pollution and finding greener energy sources is a grotesque abrogation of responsibility.

    I didn’t say it was. You’re making stuff up again. I said: “The emphasis on the putative material causes of such inequality epitomises scientism. It’s is a grotesque abrogation of responsibility. ”

    Perhaps you could explain how ending one problem prevents us from working on another. Because you’ve made zero attempts at it so far.

    I’ve told you three times, at least: opportunity cost, cost, and political priorities. These things become even more problematic as you limit the resources that can be mobilised in general.

  14. 65

    I question not the figures you’ve given, but the idea that fixing global warming a) affects only 300,000 lives,

    That was the figure given by the GHF.

    … and b) necessitates ignoring 7.5 million.

    Read the links. The point, again, is political emphasis and priority. The GHF and WHO report between 7.5 and 10 million deaths, but ***themselves*** emphasise the problem of climate change, even though it is, according to their own statistics, one of the smallest problems faced by HMDCs. Of course there are still efforts to reduce poverty worldwide, but are i) subordinate to the climate/sustainability agenda ii) not given the same emphasis, iii) inevitably going to be limited in their reach as resources (i.e. renewables) become more expensive in the ‘transition’ to low carbon economies. Renewable energy just *is* more expensive, necessarily, than stuff like coal.

    Could you prove that, please?

    This is a blog. It’s a discussion. What do you mean ‘proof’? Even in a university department, I think it would be unusual for such a discussion to be met with demands to ‘prove it’.

  15. 66

    Jason, data is at http://www.climate-resistance.org/2009/06/the-age-of-the-age-of-stupid.html

    And here is what I argue there:

    Even according to WHO’s own statistics, climate change is just about the least pressing problem for anyone in the developing world. Even being overweight or physically inactive in regions where we typically understand life to be characterised by scarcity of food, and hard physical labour are each bigger problems than climate change. The WHO table attributes 404,418 deaths in the high-mortality developing world to being overweight, nearly three times as many as it claims die from climate change (144,714). That’s nothing, of course, compared to the problem of being undernourished, which kills 5,610,300 – 38 times as many as climate change. Yet, arguably it is a much much easier problem to solve, at face value, than climate change. Moreover, the likes of Armstrong repeat the claim that ‘climate change is the biggest problem facing mankind’, and that ‘climate change will be worse for the poor’. Is this really the picture that emerges from this research?

  16. 67

    If you don’t know how to use blockquotes, maybe you shouldn’t use them.

    Can we help the poor by, say, giving them technology? Not just physically delivering them technology, but giving them the ability to make it themselves? Get them onto the internet so they can learn ways of increasing crop yield? Develop new foodstocks for them? Or hell, how about letting them bootstrap themselves by letting them emit CO2 to a point. It would be better than unfettered CO2 production in developed nations.

    Without some kind of emissions target, there’s no motivation. Without removing subsidies for coal or oil, there’s no motivation. How the hell are we going to get the corporations to consent to actually improving their technology when they’ve got all this really cheap old technology and all the oil they need to keep milking the technology for more and more cash as long as humanly possible?

    You know the people already consent to bringing about future technology. And they even consent because they realize that the future presented to them by climate scientists is pretty fucking bleak. The problem is not that the people won’t consent, the problem is that the MONEY won’t consent.

    The problem here is that first, the problem of poverty is a massive one and needs to be addressed; and second, that the problem of global warming is a massive one and needs to be addressed soon because it has far worse implications than a mere three hundred thousand. Yes, the WHO talks about that in their report, that three hundred thousand *per year* will die due to climate change, and that 150,000 died in the year 2000 alone due to the warming that’s occurred since 1970. Do you understand that that compounds all the issues that the 7.5 million will face? Like malnutrition, due to less arable land. And yet I’m a big supporter of giving them (unencumbered) GMO crops that will feed them better. Which won’t make a lick of difference in mitigating the problem of the poor if we just let global warming take its course and use all our resources supporting them directly instead of trying to stop the underlying issue that will exacerbate the whole situation.

    Anyway, I’m going to bed now. I expect you to insult me about a dozen more times, make about thirty more specious unevidenced claims about how much more serious a thinker you are than I, make more pie-in-the-sky recommendations that all we have to do is stop trying to limit global warming and the poor will be fine just fine (because those resources devoted to stopping global warming will NATURALLY be used to help the poor!), and roughly seventeen other unrelated tangents (with links to other things you’ve said on your blog) by the time I wake up tomorrow. That way I can waste another whole day arguing with you instead of blogging about other ways we can help the poor. I’m glad you find this blog so compelling!

  17. 68

    Ben, are you aware of the fact that the vast majority of poor people in South Asia live within the region that would become totally flooded if sea levels rose only 10meters (and the ice caps hold far more than that amount of water), and that storms are increasingly severe problems in that area?

    So, take South Asia alone. Climate change is critical there Is the fact (which I do not concede but you seem to be in love with) that climate change is not the biggest problem facing the WORLD’S poor a reason to ignore South Asia?

    Are you aware of the fact that climate change is the main cause of dessertification in Africa, and thus, a major cause of the severity of most of the famines there? Are you suggesting that WHO and other agencies are not concerned with these famines?

    Do you have any idea how many people in Pacific nations, the Indian Ocean and elsewhere live off of the coral ecosystems? Have you heard of Ocean Acidification? Do you know what the consequences of that may be?

    Is the fact that Kiribati will be wiped out as a nation and a people of no concern for you? Is your lack of concern because you personally don’t live there?

    Ben, I think it is time for you to check your own privilege as a citizen of the world who has the luxury to engage in your quixotic crusade to return us to 19th century Man Vs. Nature values.

  18. 69

    I question not the figures you’ve given, but the idea that fixing global warming a) affects only 300,000 lives, and b) necessitates ignoring 7.5 million. Could you prove that, please? I beg of you. It’s your entire argument with me. And I’m not saying what you think I’m saying about it.

    Meanwhile, you’re attacking the scientists involved in the IPCC WGII in the linked post. I don’t see any disconnect between saying you believe in the science and you doubt the scientists! Perhaps you’d like to debunk the scientific consensus next, then declare that global warming is still happening despite all the scientists you’ve so neatly eviscerated from the equation?

  19. 70

    The problem here is that first, the problem of poverty is a massive one and needs to be addressed; and second, that the problem of global warming is a massive one and needs to be addressed soon because it has far worse implications than a mere three hundred thousand. Yes, the WHO talks about that in their report, that three hundred thousand *per year* will die due to climate change, and that 150,000 died in the year 2000 alone due to the warming that’s occurred since 1970. Do you understand that that compounds all the issues that the 7.5 million will face?

    The 300,000 figure — if it’s to be taken seriously — is indeed a shocker. But it shouldn’t be taken as representing the fact that things are getting worse. For instance, there are 10,000 fewer infant deaths per day than there were in 1990. So in just 20 years, 3,65 million fewer deaths occur — an improvement that’s 12 times the magnitude. At the same rate of improvement — i.e. the abolition of malaria, malnutrition and diarrhoea as development increases — the WHO/GHFs predictions for 2030 would exist in the context of many improvements to people’s conditions. Many millions fewer people live in poverty than just a few decades ago — and that’s a far more interesting trend.

  20. 71

    are you aware of the fact that the vast majority of poor people in South Asia live within the region that would become totally flooded if sea levels rose only 10meters (and the ice caps hold far more than that amount of water), and that storms are increasingly severe problems in that area?

    That’s a terrifying scenario, Gregg. But I think we should take comfort from the fact that according to the science — the stuff that Jason has been telling us we should listen to — a 10m rise it very unlikely in the near or mid term. And the link between storm severity and climate change has proved extremely difficult for researchers to demonstrate.

    The other thing about ‘storm intensity’ is that it too isn’t a problem given just by the magnitude of the storm. The far, far more important thing is who it lands on. The same category of storm could cause devastation in one area, but relatively little elsewhere. If we compare hurricanes Mitch and Andrew, for instance, we discover that the first storm landing in the Americas, killed more than 20,000 people, and made nearly 3 million people homeless, and caused $5 billion in damage. Andrew, however, caused 5 times as much damage in $ terms, but caused only around 30 deaths directly. Andrew was no party, of course, and caused havoc for those it affected. But people living in the regions it did affect have been much better able to restore their lives than those who endured hurricane Mitch were able to.

    So, take South Asia alone. Climate change is critical there Is the fact (which I do not concede but you seem to be in love with) that climate change is not the biggest problem facing the WORLD’S poor a reason to ignore South Asia?

    Trying to make sense of that, Greg… You’re suggesting that I’m saying that we ignore south Asia? I don’t see where I’ve suggested any such thing.

    Are you aware of the fact that climate change is the main cause of dessertification in Africa…

    Land use is the biggest cause of desertification, which, by itself is a natural process. The attribution of ‘desertification’ to ‘climate change’ is unsound, and even less sound attributed to AGW, (if it isn’t a tautology in the first place).

    And again, the biggest problem for people living in desert regions — which, are, by definition, subject to extreme, spontaneous and rapid NON-anthropogenic climate change — is that they have been unable to change the land to their advantage as we, in the richer world have.

    and thus, a major cause of the severity of most of the famines there? Are you suggesting that WHO and other agencies are not concerned with these famines?

    I’m sorry, Greg, you’re simply wrong. Nobody can attribute the current famine/drought in the Horn of Africa to climate change. Even the development NGOs have been quite clear about it. Read this, for a primer. http://www.climate-resistance.org/2011/08/against-development.html The interesting comment from Oxfam was, in my view that “famines do not occur in functioning democracies.” Again, the point being that people experience drought and famine far more for social and political reasons than climate factors.

    Acidification… yeah, very speculative, new, and not much in the way of any evidence… Just one or two sites, giving a very short record of ocean ph… Not much in the way of an increase, plenty of reasons to be very sceptical that laboratory conditions will reflect actual conditions in the future. Etc. I can see why it excites you, however.

    Ben, I think it is time for you to check your own privilege as a citizen of the world who has the luxury to engage in your quixotic crusade to return us to 19th century Man Vs. Nature values.

    That’s an interesting claim, Greg.

    You’ve just described to me the condition of many millions of people who have to endure a proximate relationship with nature, which I, and indeed you, don’t. I would like to extend the benefits that we have — to distance ourselves from nature — to the millions or billions of people who can’t afford to. Once we do that, we discover that people are far less vulnerable to climate change, and to climate generally. Such development has occurred in some parts of the world in generations. Some very advanced economies were, just a few decades ago, third world countries.

    Climate change is being used as an excuse to take development off the agenda. And your comment about C19th values epitomise the conceits and prejudices of the privileged perspective you aimed to criticise. The biggest and most dangerous mistake you make is to over emphasise poorer people’s dependence on nature. They should be able to enjoy life — as we are — which is characterised by greater dependence on each other, through advanced industrial economies. To deny them that is to consign them to a future of poverty.

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    Well, this has been a real blast, guys… Thanks. I’m very busy with work for the next few days, so will only have limited opportunity to reply to any more points, if you want to continue the discussion. I’ll be more free following the weekend.

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    So the solution to “we’re wrecking nature” is not “stop wrecking nature”, but “help more humans distance themselves from nature” in your eyes. Well then. Looks like you want the future I prophecied as possible — massive geoengineering, taking control of all of nature. Build our own climate. Are you a transhumanist too, by chance?

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    … claiming the withdrawl of that paper proved the oceans wouldn’t rise at all.

    It is entirely unfair, for a lousy Canuck or anyone else, to reject a scientific conclusion because it’s delivered in a Southron accent!

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