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Massive Government Report Says Climate Is Warming and Humans Are the Cause (npr.org)
227 points by jonbaer on Nov 2, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 222 comments

It's hard enough to know how to approach a tragedy of the commons problem like climate change if everyone could agree that it is a problem, but it's difficult for me to understand why some people will argue that it is in fact happening.

I would be interested in understanding the root cause of why people will disagree about this point.

For example, a conservative friend of mine, who I think is one of the most intelligent people I know, will argue that climate change does not exist.

I've asked him what he makes of e.g. the rising level of CO2 in the atmosphere. His response was there are scientists interested in self promotion and are willing to fabricate data, and/or that we can't actually measure CO2 accurately. Those are very unconvincing counterarguments in my view. I'm led to believe there must be a deeper root cause that prevents someone from objectively looking at data and seeing that some change is occurring (without even coming to a conclusion about what that change means or what to do about it).

Yet, I have no idea what that root cause could be. Any ideas?

My own opinion after talking with conservative friends and on the 'net is that if climate change is real, the only known option for countering it requires government (or world) regulation. It is hard for people to accept a problem if the only solution violates their strongly held political/moral beliefs.

In other words it's easier to deny the problem than admit that your politics has no room for the solution.

There is a slightly more subtle point to be made here. Politics is too complicated to generalise, but here is the kernel of the idea for others to mull on.

In my view, the part of the government most mobilised to deal with climate change is likely to be aligned to the (hopefully small number of) political actors comfortable with the idea of people getting less energy/more expensive energy/no growth in available energy.

I don't want these people in the seat of power under any circumstances. They have views that are a direct threat to my comfort and standard of living. Cheap energy should always be a priority.

EDIT Just for reference, focusing only on electricity and ignoring the broader energy market, I have read that South Australia (where Elon Musk is building his big battery) is competitive for world's highest electricity prices. The German energiewende has driven them to top 2 or 3 in Europe for prices paid by consumers. France, who has some of the cheapest and cleanest electricity in the world, runs nuclear. Ironically, in Australia, the most pro-nuclear party is also the anti-climate-change party.

>Cheap energy should always be a priority.

Environmentalists agree with this statement. As an energy source, coal has a relatively low price sans regulations. However, the true cost is not captured by markets.

Burning coal causes smog, soot, acid rain, global warming, and toxic air emissions and produces ash, sludge, and other harmful pollutants as waste products, externalizing and diffusing the cost to society.

Your 'cheap energy price' strategy is like an apocryphal example of the tragedy of the commons

What about cheap energy that is known to cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm? Are they a direct threat to your standard of living? Because, you know, a lot of politicians against climate policies are aligned with these energy sources.

Unfortunately, you've fallen for factually incorrect propaganda.

On-shore wind is the cheapest source of energy at the moment. Which side of the political aisle is against that?

Coal is only cheap if you ignore all the costs borne by those affected by its pollution, which literally kills people in large numbers. Which side of the political aisle is keen to ignore these costs of energy and force people to continue paying them.

But, even if you ignore those externalities, it's still more xpensive than the alternatives. Shutting down coal plants could save electricity customers in the US up to 10 Billion dollars a year. Which side of the political aisle is trying to subside it further?

> They have views that are a direct threat to my comfort and standard of living. Cheap energy should always be a priority.

I'm seriously wondering if you're being sarcastic here.

As a South Australian who has read a lot about the energy price issues we're experiencing, there's a lot of history to the story.

The big Tesla battery is about 80% completed and is there to be essentially a UPS - it will bridge the gap between a sudden loss of 'normal' power supply and the bringing online of additional sources to make up for the emergency shortfall. Gas plants that have X turbines, but only Y are 'spinning' can fire up their remaining X-Y turbines and the battery will cover us until X-Y are online.

A large coal plant in Port Augusta was shut down because it was no longer economically viable to run. It was offered to the SA government for $1 (that's how commercially unviable it was, some people say the SA Govt should have purchased and run it - I disagree with these people).

Somewhat ironically, this gave more market power to the gas generators who, due to 15+ year-old electricity market rules (because our regulators had been asleep at the wheel) can game the market to make massive profits during the relatively infrequent times when alternative energy supplies aren't meeting demand.

It's these peaks of demand coinciding with low supply and the gaming of the old-rules market that's responsible for a good percentage of the high prices.

Another good percentage of the energy prices is also a regulatory issue where the owners of the 'poles and wires' were guaranteed a return on any spending they committed to infrastructure. SO they went wild and we've ended up with a gold-plated (not literally) infrastructure that's cost end-users thousands of dollars over the years, and has made the "networks" huge profits, despite it being over-engineered to the nth degree (see: https://www.themonthly.com.au/issue/2014/july/1404136800/jes... - $45 billion Australia-wide on 'poles and wires')

Going way back, the SA government sold off its previously state-owned end-to-end power company, ETSA, to pay off a massive debt caused a huge government screw-up / scandal that bankrupted a local bank. Some say anbother part of the high power prices is due to privatisation, but this is murky territory, difficult to prove either way.

Nuclear takes too long to bring to market from scratch to be viable anymore.

"the only known option for countering it requires government (or world) regulation."

Disagree. The regulation is only neccesary, if the common people/companys don't acknowledge the problem.

And even then, I don't think regulation helps much. More likely the opposite. Because if it is just ordered from above, then many just get childish rebellish and do the opposite. This is in my opinion the main problem.

Conservative people also like unpolluted citys I believe (side effect of electric cars) - most of them just taken a anti position to the leftish-green-hippi-liberal pro-enviroment stand.

So if people wants it, then it will happen. But I believe, we are allready on a good way. It just takes time to change the core of our industry and transport ... it is a huge effort. And will it be too late? That depends. I don't think it will be the end of the world, if the polar bear goes distinct or the netherlands get flooded. And we are allready causing great distruction to nature and people are starving by the millions. And this might get worse, but it is all connected, as the global population numbers are still greatly increasing who all want more things. So I don't see how regulating things down in Europe or US can help with that on a global scale.

So we as humanity have big problems, yes, but climate change is only one of them. And the solution to most, in my opinion, is better technology which will supply humanity in a sustainable way. Once people are not hungry anymore and are educated and connected with the rest of the world, then they usually tend to think, before just making more babys - about wheter they really want to raise a child and into what world they want to raise that child ...

And back to the topic, if you don't tell the conservatives what to do and think, but just show them how it can be done differently, then they will change, too, I believe.

> My own opinion after talking with conservative friends and on the 'net is that if climate change is real, the only known option for countering it requires government (or world) regulation. It is hard for people to accept a problem if the only solution violates their strongly held political/moral beliefs.

It's unfortunate too, because I don't even think it necessarily requires government to solve it. There are real decisions individuals and companies can make (and have been making) on their own to improve things. (But some people deny or don't take the problem seriously, and therefore don't try to help out.)

Among the conservatives/libertarians/etc in my life, who I broadly consider among the smartest people I know, there is a broad unwillingness to have a real discussion for fear of being shamed.

The climate debate has become more about moral posturing and smearing people who disagree as "deniers", which has made it impossible to convince anyone who's not already convinced.

It has also deprived climate activists of substantive critiques that could help them move past their own biases (which are substantial).

Reasonable people can disagree about what our course of action should be and what sort of incentives we should use to bring it about. Reasonable people cannot disagree about the science, which is overwhelmingly on the side of possibly catastrophic climate change that has been brought about by human activities. They are /right/ to be shunned as science deniers, just as we "smear" anti-vaxxers, etc.

>Reasonable people cannot disagree about the science

Reasonable people do disagree about scientific theory quite a bit. There are some parts of climate science that are pretty settled, for instance the earth has warmed and human activity has played a big part in the recent warming. There are other parts that are not such as to what extent positive or negative feedbacks will kick in beyond the basic CO2 forcing. I'm not sure how helpful it is shunning people as deniers.

Also I don't know if shunning people is the best approach, especially if you're talking about things like anti-vaxxers or climate change. There really needs to be intelligent discussion and education on these issues, they only really get solved if people agree. Shunning someone can only bully them into submission it doesn't change minds. Shunning only adds to the tribalism that's dividing the left and the right, it really doesn't help.

I'd like to point out that yes there is evidence of the possibly of catastrophic climate change. But we do not know enough to have any certainty on probability of catastrophe, we also don't know enough to be sure we could properly mitigate the current changes. Or that any mitigation will have a net positive effect on life on earth.

There are very dogmatic people involved in this argument that want to put in place very expensive measures to avoid a catastrophe but we have to be careful. We could drive our global economy into the ground if we go to far. The cost to the environment would be far worse. Industry gets very dirty when people go into survival mode. Clean technologies could alter the balance, but they're only going to get developed if we have the money to invest in them.

That sounds like something that could be tackled further down the line. I see people against any changes.

Even if global warming wasn't a thing reducing pollution is worth investing in for all sorts of reasons.

The problem, as your comment beautifully illustrates, is the scope of what is considered a "scientific" question. You left that ambiguous, and in that ambiguity lies the problem.

For example, the greenhouse effect is a piece of well-established science. Climate change is even less scientific. To what extent humans contribute to the problem is even less scientific. Analyzing the costs/benefits of climate change is an even less scientific question. And what sorts of policy prescriptions might be effective is the least scientific question of all.

Climate activists fail to acknowledge any of that nuance, instead lumping all of those things together and labeling anyone who has a nuanced opinion on one of those points as a "denier".

It's total intellectual corruption.

> For example, the greenhouse effect is a piece of well-established science. Climate change is even less scientific. To what extent humans contribute to the problem is even less scientific.

I've run into conservatives who believe that, and invariably it turns out they have only looked at a small part of the evidence.

For example, they might dismiss the extent of human contribution to rising CO2 levels as mere correlation, claiming that scientists are just noting that the CO2 curve matches some other human activities and are assuming that those activities are responsible for the CO2. Maybe it is just coincidence and the rising atmospheric CO2 comes from natural sources.

If that was all scientists had, that would be a good point. But that isn't all scientists have. CO2 from burning fossil fuels has a different isotopic composition that CO2 from natural sources so scientists can directly distinguish "our" CO2 from "natural" CO2.

Then there is atmospheric oxygen levels. Burning fossil fuels should not only release CO2 into the atmosphere. It should also take oxygen from the atmosphere. Guess what? The atmospheric oxygen levels have been doing just what they should be doing if scientists are right about how much of the atmospheric CO2 comes from us.

The point is that the questions I outlined become increasingly less scientific. There are genuine scientific questions, but there are lots of others that are kind-of scientific, and others that are not scientific at all.

Climate activists won't admit that.

This shuts down the possibility for a reasonable discussion because one party (the activists) is overwhelmingly guilty of acting and arguing in bad faith.

What does it mean to be less scientific?

For instance, I believe that there are fewer experiments that confirm general relativity than there are that confirm quantum mechanics, so does that mean GR is less scientific than QM?

Does this mean GR-skeptics are on firm scientific ground? No, it does not. The evidence for GR is overwhelming. That QM may have even more evidence does not cast doubt on GR. Both GR and QM have overwhelming evidence, and there is no meaningful sense in which one can say that one is less scientific than the other.

> This shuts down the possibility for a reasonable discussion because one party (the activists) is overwhelmingly guilty of acting and arguing in bad faith

No, what shuts down the possibility for reasonable discussion is people discarding 90% of the experiments and measurements, and then claiming that there is no evidence. It's not the activists that are doing this.

When you start to enter the realm of modelling, especially of complex systems with feedback loops, you aren't really conducting science any more.

Unfortunately the brand of science is used to promote these models, which is disingenuous. These models aren't like physics models, they are like economic models.

Unlike economic models, however, the climate systems have boundary conditions and underlying assumptions based on real science -- physics.

> What does it mean to be less scientific?

I'm not a fan of the "less scientific" phrasing, but the point of science is to be convincing to even a skeptic. That's why reproducibility (try it yourself in your own lab!), statistical analysis (there's basically no chance this is a coincidence!), control groups (it's not just an endemic property of the lab), random sampling (it's not selection bias) and other things are so important.

In some kinds of inquiry, it becomes difficult or impossible to apply certain standards. It's flat out unethical and immoral to not treat a man's syphilis just to have better quality evidence. So if you're studying syphilis, you need to find other ways to be convincing. It's impossible to have a statistically significant sample of Earths or a control group of Earths, so the bar for convincing is also higher in climate science.

"Less scientific" probably means "doesn't have access to many standard scientific techniques, so stronger evidence in other ways is essential to be convincing".

Wait, no, it's not "the point of science" to be "convincing to even a skeptic". Scientific reasoning is not a vote, or a talent show.

> Scientific reasoning is not a vote, or a talent show.

Sure it is. It evolved from "natural philosophers" showing off their work to each other. People have always been able to convince themselves of things, but scientific rigor is about convincing other people (i.e., being objective).

The hallmark of scientific objectivity is not convincing other people, but making correct (and testable) statements about reality.

Why is testability important? How do we know if something is correct?

The point is to be convincing to a rational mind. It's not a persuasion contest, no. The evidence should speak for itself. But it needs to speak to an audience.

Otherwise it would be a self indulgent exercise and not a corporate one.

So far I have yet to see a climate change denier who has looked at any of the IPCC reports [0] -- they operate on the same scale of evidence as religious fanatics. It was actually fascinating to see the improvement comparing AR5 with the AR4, and they are only 6 years apart!

>For example, the greenhouse effect is a piece of well-established science. Climate change is even less scientific.

Even looking at this sentence, which is the foundation of your arguments, the way you express yourself is that the greenhouse effect itself is not scientific! The actual science part of climate change is actually pretty great science, and very much scientific. You can check out the physical science IPCC report [1] for the starters. It contains many references to actual scientific articles, but by itself is a great piece of work.

The political part -- policies, denial of facts, media coverage, bribery by the fossil fuel industry representatives and continuous slander of climatic researchers is a problem, I agree.

[0] -- Here's the IPCC Synthesis report, a short summary, for starters: http://ipcc.ch/report/ar5/syr/

[1] -- IPCC Physical science report: http://ipcc.ch/report/ar5/wg1/

It's a question of risk mitigation. Would you say that a 5% risk of humans going extinct it worth it, for an oil company to collect an extra $50 billion in profits?

I would say no. An oil CEO might say yes.

Who should have a bigger say in public policy, the civilians facing the 5% possibility of human extinction and no extra paycheck, or the oil CEO weighing their paycheck against possible human extinction?

The current head of the EPA clearly thinks oil industry profits are more important. Trump clearly thinks oil industry profits are more important.

It's _not_ just about an oil CEO. It's about everyone who uses energy. Gas tends to be a high percentage of poor people's cost-of-living, and cheap oil tends to act as a progressive reverse-tax. In cold climates, heating one's house is also closely linked to energy prices.

When you hamper the economy, everyone loses a little. It weakens wealth creation slightly.

We're at a moment in history where we're pulling people out of poverty, through economic growth. So any actions that limit economic growth need to be judged with a high bar. https://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21578665-nearly-1-bil...

I'm not saying that we shouldn't do it, and if it is actually a 5% catastrophic risk then I think it would be prudent to take action at the cost of leaving millions of people in extreme poverty. But there is a trade-off, and it needs to be examined.

Your worries about the economy are purely hypothetical, and most likely wrong. Infrastructure spending generally stimulates economies and there is no reason to suspect that building clean energy infrastructure will be any different. Additionally, clean energy prices will most likely be cheaper and more stable in the long term due to decreased maintenance costs and lack of dependency on energy inputs from politically volatile regions.

And even if energy prices rise slightly, the reduction of externalities will more than make up for those increased costs. It is well known that pollution from fossil fuels causes a variety of health issues. I would gladly pay a few more cents per kwh if it reduces my chances of getting cancer or heart disease.

The chance that anthropogenic climate change will lead to human extinction is much less than 5%. There just isn't any plausible mechanism for this. The one exception is extinction due to climate change triggering a war in which extinction-causing biological weapons are used. Unfortunately for risk mitigators, the chances are about equal that such a war would be cause by an economic collapse resulting from attempts to prevent climate change.

I think you have provided a great example of why people don't feel comfortable expressing doubts about climate.

A thought exercise to hopefully make it easier to empathize with these people. Imagine you are transported back several hundred years into a Catholic ruled country. You don't believe in God but you don't discuss that with strangers because you often hear people say things like "Reasonable people cannot disagree about Scripture, which is overwhelmingly on the side of eternal damnation on those who don't believe."

Imagine you hear this stuff in the market, at your job, and from the street corners. No amount of hearing this is going to convince you to believe in God. If anything this reinforces the feelings you have that religious people are hateful and ignorant.

This is a bad metaphor. Religious belief is predicated on faith in the absence of evidence. Climate change science is based on acceptance of the best available body of evidence.

> Religious belief is predicated on faith in the absence of evidence.

At least in the Christian sense, "belief" and "faith" are the same word and are synonyms of "trust". So you just said "Religious trust is predicated on trust in the absense of evidence". That really doesn't make sense. So maybe you'll see why Christian's are making a point of disagreeing with your definitions around religion and "belief".

Belief isn't the opposite of reason or evidence. They're not in conflict at all. Belief is the opposite of self-reliance and distrust.

No, belief and reason are orthogonal. But you're playing an equivocation game, redefining the words I used to suit your purpose.

As I understand it, the "faith" Christians refer to is a deeply held belief in religious principles regardless of the presence or absence of empirical evidence to support that belief.

Contrast that with a "rationalist" it skeptic's practice of rejecting beliefs not supported by evidence, and only tentatively adopting beliefs as true until they are disproven.

I'm am really trying not to moralize religious belief. That is difficult for me to do and perhaps explains gaps in my perception here. My point was a religious person will continue to hold religious beliefs despite observable phenomena that directly contradict scripture and dogma.

> No, belief and reason are orthogonal.

The Greek root word for both "faith" and "belief" in the Bible is "pistis".

"In Greek mythology, Pistis was the personification of good faith, trust and reliability"


There's no reason one couldn't be skeptical, find satisfying answers to questions, then have a lot of faith (trust) in something.

> My point was a religious person will continue to hold religious beliefs despite observable phenomena that directly contradict scripture and dogma.

I'm not sure what scientific evidence would disprove that an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent God exists. Any real objection to a god's existence would have to be predicated on some metaphysical assumptions (like, God wouldn't design evolution or create fossil records). What looks like misplaced trust might actually be a disagreement or misunderstanding about metaphysical axioms.

This is a great comment, so thank you for that. Obviously one cannot disprove the existence of a God. I suppose I am thinking more of dogma that contradicts with observable phenomena, things such as the age of the universe and the planet, the evolutionary process, and things of that nature. And to their credit, some churches have adjusted their dogma in the face of contradictory scientific discovery.

I suppose I am painting with a broad brush when I assume the motivations behind religious beliefs. Either way I am way off topic here.

This is an interesting essay, but I do not think it contradicts what I said above. I am being careful to avoid ascribing a moral value to faith-based belief.

I understand that reasoned knowledge is inductive, which is why I claimed it is based upon "the best available body of evidence". When a belief is shown to be false we must reject it and reevaluate what we believe to be true. That is why one of the most exciting events in the scientific realm is proving a belief to be false, as that means we have fundamentally altered the corpus of human knowledge.

Not during medieval times. Scripture and philosophy were the standard for best evidence at the time.

That is only nominally true if you ignore the world outside if Europe, and also if you ignore the pursuit of knowledge undertaken by various religious institutions and other curious individuals (see Moses ben Maimon).

Can you remind me of the example you were replying to? Isn't it being transported back into medieval Europe, where scripture and philosophy are considered the standard of good evidence?

"...broad unwillingness to have a real discussion for fear of being shamed..."

That's not exactly what I've observed.

I've observed people driven to be contrarian, who use an assortment of tactics:

- cherry-picking evidence for one side (this one study shows ice melting may be smaller than expected in one place, thus, I dismiss the entire AR5 report without ever even reading the executive summary);

- providing contorted arguments they would never accept in a context involving, say, their own home ("the effect is small by historic standards"; "warming will have benefits that have been overlooked");

- dismissing the expertise of others in favor of their own undergrad-level science judgements ("we can't even predict the weather past 14 days, how can we predict climate") -- again, with a degree of skepticism they would never exhibit in relation to, say, their architect ("you need more shear strength there"), gardener ("it's a root fungus"), or car mechanic ("it's your oil pump"), or even Stack Exchange ("change permissions on the file and reboot").

Broadly, HN avoids the worst of the above problems - for which I'm thankful. But you will still see them here in any climate-related discussion thread. I possess some of the same contrarian tendencies, and seeing how easily skepticism turns into ignorant defense of the status quo has been a useful corrective for me.

It depends what your null hypothesis is. Your contrarian friends only need one piece of evidence to disprove the climate catastrophe narrative.

Whilst you've taken the worst case as your default assumption, which is why their train of thought seems off. You sound like you need a large body of evidence to disprove climate catastrophe.

About large bodies of evidence that I find convincing, please see the AR5 synthesis report (http://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/syr/).

I'm not aware of a similarly convincing counterpart on the side that says nothing new is happening.

I suppose denying that CO2 is increasing, or claiming that it doesn't cause climate warming or isn't a problem, is a lot easier than trying to find a solution consistent with conservative or libertarian principles.

a broad unwillingness to have a real discussion for fear of being shamed

Oh for heaven's sake. There are a lot of websites, books, and spokespeople who are claiming to 'debunk' climate science, and this debate has been going on for decades now. Are you seriously arguing that your friends have the right answer but they're sitting on it because they're worried some leftie know-nothings will say mean things to them?

I had an eye-opening conversation with a co-worker recently, who unexpectedly disagreed with me about the fact that CO2 was causing global warming. She is an intelligent mechanical engineer, who seems to be very progressive otherwise.

Eventually she revealed that the reason that she feels this way is because she is a pretty serious Christian who is trying to reconcile her creationist upbringing with modern science. Since historical CO2 levels are obtained from a "fossil record" of arctic ice cores and geological samples, the evidence for the historical correlation between global warming and CO2 presupposes a certain age and history of the earth which contradicts the creationist myths.

I am sure that this is a common issue among such people, since if such a person is to accept the geological evidence for anthropogenic global warming, they have to face a deep contradiction to a long-held worldview and belief system (a contradiction that is actually tangential to the issue of global warming.)

I also had a conversation with a liberal yet church-going person who would refuse to believe that humans are causing the world to fall apart. The argument here is God created the world for humans and with bountiful resources. So then why would the Earth be heating up and if it is, how could that be bad?

It is a common behavior among many conservatives to find holes in climate change like the theories mentioned in your anecdote, but it is extreme and a sign of desperation. I would not give too much importance to it.

But what seems to give conservatives and religious individuals reasons to go green is that

* Going green increases efficiencies in our consumption of resources

* invents new solutions to old problems

* and excessive waste corrupts individuals and societies.

If climate change activists can beat these three drums more often than waste time telling stories of an Armageddon that may or may not come true, I think we could lead a more healthier march towards green tech.

I'm pretty sure that belief in a "young Earth" is not the mainstream Christian belief. I'd guess it's held by a sizable minority (maybe ballpark 30%).

It's because of the way the issue has been politicized. In people's mind it's a binary issue: either you agree that warming is happening, we are causing it, it is likely to be catastrophic, we can substantially improve the outcome by acting now, and the cost/benefit of this intervention makes sense, or you don't. In reality the basic science is but one small piece, and reasonable people can disagree about the economics or politics of it. But the tribalism of politics make most people boil it down to only two possibilities.

All part and parcel of the anti-climate-change coalition's efforts to poison the well.

As long as people are divided, they can continue to pollute the planet while reaping windfall profits.

Meanwhile, wind/solar will get killed with new congressional tax plan and state/local legislation that makes them infeasible.

Ironically I think only China will have global power to do something about climate change because their air (Beijing) is so damn dirty.

There are a number of questions here.

Is CO2 rising? Fairly unequivocally, yes.

Has the planet warmed? Again, faily clearly yes, since pre-industrial times.

Is it still warming? Ok, here we get more contentious.

How much of the warming is down to CO2? Contentious, again - e.g. see this book for an argument of how we could explain much if not all of the warming down to various natural cycles: https://www.amazon.com/Neglected-Sun-Precludes-Catastrophe-I...

Is a warming planet a problem? Again, debatable. Rising sea level and ocean acidification scares aside, history suggests that we tend to do better with a warmer climate.

This is actually one of the scarier articles I read recently about why rising CO2 is bad - and it's nothing to do with climate: https://www.politico.com/agenda/story/2017/09/13/food-nutrie...

> Is it still warming? Ok, here we get more contentious.

No, no we don't.

> How much of the warming is down to CO2? Contentious, again

Sadly, not contentious at all. The influence of changing solar output has been looked at again and again. It is not neglected.

> s a warming planet a problem? Again, debatable. Rising sea level and ocean acidification scares aside

So, rising sea levels and ocean acidification are not scares, they are occurring. The Great Barrier Reef is struggling, the Artic ice is retreating.

I can't believe that there are people so determined to stick their heads in the sand.

>> How much of the warming is down to CO2? Contentious, >> again

>Sadly, not contentious at all.

Excellent, then you can give me the percentage of warming which is CO2 driven, with error bounds, and references to 3 authoritative sources for it. Inquiring minds want to know!

You'll find estimates of this in the latest IPCC report, surely an inquiring mind as already read this.

Not interested in an IPCC estimate by itself, although you are welcome to cite it as one of the papers if you give me a reference to where I can find this in the IPCC report. I want a few papers, peer-reviewed, which go through the facts and reasoning leading to the conclusion that the majority of warming is anthropogenic. And error bars, I want to know the confidence level in the conclusion.

What makes you reject the IPCC estimates?

I'm not rejecting the IPCC estimate. But I want to see this conclusion--obviously a very important one--in actual scientific papers. Is that too much to ask?

Not at all- if you want to find them, they're there to be found. You're rejecting them before you've read them apparently. Oh and the IPPC report has plenty of error bars if you want them.

So basically: I know better than all the scientists that have studied the issue deeply and who keep sounding the alarm more and more urgently.

What, exactly, do you want to do about it?

What, exactly, do you want to do about it, that's politically viable?

Should we tell a billion people in China, and another billion in India to shut down their coal-fired plants? Back to the farms and rural poverty?

Do you want to convince rich westerners to stop eating meat in such large quantities? Tell them to stop driving so much?

Both sets of suggestions are politically unpopular positions and forcing them on their respective populations would lead to strife and lives lost far beyond what we'll see with climate change.

We push for incremental changes in the US, but even their proponents admit they won't make much of a difference in a global context.

The Earth is warming. Almost everyone is on board with that now. Absent a global totalitarian government that can constrain carbon emissions by fiat, what can we do that will make a difference?

It seems like the answer is "not much," so the revealed preference of most of the world's citizens seems to be rolling the dice that the change won't be catastrophic, hope for a tech breakthrough that obviates the problem, and assume that we'll deal with the disruptions as they come. It's not an inspiring message, but it's where we're at.

Me personally? I'm no economic policy expert but they do exist. Some kind of carbon tax/credit, and cap and trade, seem to be popular recommendations among economists. The first step is to have the political will to make it happen. Admittedly, going by the last 30 years of denial and propaganda, it doesn't like we're ever going to achieve it. The denialists have won, I believe humanity is doomed. Our grandkids will curse our names.

There is plenty that can be done. First off, stop denying there is no climate change and start educating people on what they can do to help stop it. You would be amazed at what social conscience can do. While doing that, start making industries pay for the CO2 they emit. Incentivize companies to do a better job at lower their C02 foot print and companies that are better at this will do better in the market place.

Do you believe that the opinion of older citizens who, if climate change is happening and they wont have to live with its effects, should be somewhat disregarded?

Throwing your hands in the air because it's 'too hard' is not an acceptable reaction. What is popular is rarely what is good. I'd venture to suggest that what is popular is often vapid, self-serving and short-sighted.

The longest journey starts with a single step. The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones. Many hands make light work. There is precedent for accomplishing great things by 'just starting and keeping at it until you get there'. Start local. Start small.

Waiting for a 'tech breakthrough' is akin to waiting for 'the rapture'.

It may not be acceptable to you, but it's a decent description of what's happening today.

Pretty much nailed it.

The linked book is a classic of the genre. It's by an honorary PhD (Vahrenholt) with ties to the oil industry and, this is key, seemingly zero peer-reviewed publications to do with climate (but a couple of English-language op-ed pieces -- https://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&as_sdt=0%2C5&q=frit...).

What's the point (I ask myself) of even engaging with junk comments like that?

There is a huge difference between science (research) and panic (person belief systems). The parent comment avoided bias by avoiding both, but you jumped right into stereotypes and accusations.

This comment could be used to support everything from the geocentric model to the four humors.

That's a subcategory of one of the major arguments about CO2 being bad for as long as I can remember. Namely: the earth will do absolutely fine with rising CO2, but the ecosystem as we know it in the form we rely on will go through a period of unpredictable adaptation which could be catastrophic for us in various ways.

>Is a warming planet a problem? Again, debatable. Rising sea level and ocean acidification scares aside, history suggests that we tend to do better with a warmer climate.

The IPCC reports that "There is medium confidence that approximately 20-30% of species assessed so far are likely to be at increased risk of extinction if increases in global average warming exceed 1.5-2.5 °C (relative to 1980-1999). As global average temperature increase exceeds about 3.5 °C, model projections suggest significant extinctions (40-70% of species assessed) around the globe."

As a bioengineer, it saddens me that we do not value species diversity, dooming us to ignorance of the survival strategies and adaptations of unknown or little studied organisms and the accompanying nanotechnology

If you're interested, warmer climate in the past hasn't been a clear boon. Its a more nuanced relationship Here is a writeup of it: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/how-climate-ch...

>How much of the warming is down to CO2? Contentious, again - e.g. see this book for an argument of how we could explain much if not all of the warming down to various natural cycles: [...]

Unfortunately, you have your conclusion in this sentence wrong: the natural cycles barely affect the global temperature increase, found in [0]. You should stick to scientific literature for scientific facts instead of some quack.

[0] -- http://ipcc.ch/report/ar5/wg1/

Archeologists regularly are going off shore to see settlements a few thousand years old, in 30 feet of ocean water. What does this say about the warming trend going back a few thousand years pre industrialization?

That depends on the settlements. There are many Greek settlements far under water, but this has nothing to do with climate. It has everything to do with earthquakes. There is more that changes the world than climate.

Archaeologists also regularly go to mountains to see fishing villages that are thousands of feet above sea-level. What does that say about ocean level decreases back over a few thousand years pre-industrialisation?

In relation to areas that were once occupied and were just above sea-level, which are now below sea-level or well above it, what are the various known methods to achieve this?

Islands have risen out of the sea and other islands have sunk back into the sea even in the 20th century. Investigations at the time established that tectonic or volcanic activity was the likely source of this up-down movement.

Don't be so quick to jump to the conclusion that the sea level is rising to any significant degree..

One question that is completely ignored is where has the energy been coming from to melt the land-based ice to cause significant ocean level rises in the short periods envisaged. The quantity required is so huge that there would be other effects on the environment before any large scale ice melt would occur. These effects would have long wiped out all life on the planet first.

I'm not quite in your friend's boat, but I don't worry at all about Climate Change. I buy that the Earth is warming and that it's likely human-driven. But I'm not convinced addressing it is worth radically regulating global industry.


Al Gore lives in a 10,000 square foot mansion that uses more energy in a month than the average American home uses in a year. I have no problem with this. It does make me believe that the catastrophic case he makes in his movies may be overblown. It makes it easy for skeptics or "deniers" to dismiss activism around this issue as moral posturing rather than an urgent, evidence-based call to action.


I believe Elon Musk, or someone of his ilk, is more likely to solve the problem with a tech breakthrough, than a treaty drawn up in Brussels.


If GW is the existential threat many make it out to be, why is nuclear energy given so little consideration? I understand the risk of meltdown and the solid waste management issues, but those seem like manageable risks in comparison with the scary unknowability that global warming brings.


Data seems to show the negative effects of global warming are arriving more slowly than expected. It seems like we'll have the ability to slowly adjust to changes that come, rather than imposing radical sanctions on us today. This may turn out to be a mistaken assumption, but it is what it is.

> Al Gore lives in a 10,000 square foot mansion that uses more energy in a month than the average American home uses in a year.

I don't know if this is true, but if it is it has no bearing on the truth or urgency of the climate change problem.

> I believe Elon Musk, or someone of his ilk, is more likely to solve the problem with a tech breakthrough, than a treaty drawn up in Brussels.

This seems unlikely to me. Everyone has an incentive to pollute because they don't have to pay for the externality of destroying the environment. Without regulation factories and plants would be dumping effluent into rivers and belching oceans of smoke into the sky. Governments and international cooperation are the only practical way to pressure everyone to play fair and pay for the negative externalities.

> If GW is the existential threat many make it out to be, why is nuclear energy given so little consideration?

If GW is the existential threat many make it out to be, why are solutions to GW in general given so little consideration? It's a polarizing issue fraught with political perils. By the way, there is a huge amount of support behind thorium reactor research but it hasn't gained enough traction to compete due to the political environment and people's fears of nuclear. And it's extraordinarily capital-intensive to build a nuclear plant; very few profitable opportunities for one exist in the first place.

> Data seems to show the negative effects of global warming are arriving more slowly than expected. It seems like we'll have the ability to slowly adjust to changes that come, rather than imposing radical sanctions on us today.

An unfortunate aspect of this problem is that we have to make investments now when the catastrophic effects aren't being felt yet in order to head off disaster in the future. Even if follow the Paris accords we're still a long way off from being projected to weather worldwide environmental disaster. Projections will be adjusted as we gather more data, and those projections may have moved forward in the past, but what the best available data shows now is that we need to start making radical changes now.

+ Re: Gore's house, here is a Snopes article:


I understand that it's an unpersuasive to you, but don't underestimate how high-profile hypocrisy like helps skeptics reinforce their priors. If you want to change minds, you need to understand how they work.

+ Re: International Cooperation. Getting 195 companies to agree on meaningful change seems less likely than the consistent progress of tech.

+ Re: Nukes, they're expensive to build in part because of regulations and non-stop scare campaigns.

+ Re: Making radical changes, now. While there is plenty of data to support the general warming thesis, the data on the pace and severity of change is not so impressive. Keep up the good fight, but don't be surprised when your proposals receive opposition.

> But I'm not convinced addressing it is worth radically regulating global industry.

This shouldn't only be looked at as an issue that doesn't affect you. Diesel and the like aren't exactly the most healthy energy sources. Why not focus on it right now because it won't go away if we're not gonna pay attention to it.

> more likely to solve the problem with a tech breakthrough, than a treaty drawn up in Brussels.

These "treaties" as you like to call them help the tech advance so we can get a breakthrough earlier. Why would the whole world would want to advance something when there is no financial drive for it? The government speeds up the process.

> If GW is the existential threat many make it out to be, why is nuclear energy given so little consideration? I understand the risk of meltdown and the solid waste management issues, but those seem like manageable risks in comparison with the scary unknowability that global warming brings.

Nuclear energy is given a considerable amount of consideration. The major breakthrough that is bound to happen the coming 10 years hopefully is how to manage nuclear fusion. How we can use the energy that is released when 2 atomic nuclei "merge"? (to put it bluntly)

> Data seems to show the negative effects of global warming are arriving more slowly than expected. It seems like we'll have the ability to slowly adjust to changes that come, rather than imposing radical sanctions on us today. This may turn out to be a mistaken assumption, but it is what it is.

Completely false, global warming is happening faster than was anticipated and it keeps climbing to a level at which we can no longer control it. We cannot simply stop this from happening and there is no switch to turn it around, we need to stop it from rising before we no longer can.

I think a large part is that a bunch of separate questions are lumped into a sine question.

1. Is CO2 rising? 2. Is that planet warming? 3. Is CO2 causing the planet warming? 4. Is this due to human caused changes? 5. Will bad stuff happens because of it? 6. Can we actually prevent it? 7. Will mitigation actually be better than prevention? 8. What are actual effective things we can do to prevent it?

I think 1-5 is mostly settled, the others are still open questions. However, many people act like it is all just 1 question.

This would be akin to somebody supporting a ban on all abortions because it is settled science that a fetus is genetically human and is genetically distinct from the mother, and accusing everyone who disagrees with them of denying genetic science.

The denialists have been moving the goalposts on these questions for the last 30 years. At first they strongly denied 1, but slowly they have been conceding on 1-5. Meanwhile their delay tactics have caused 6 to become more and more false. I suspect the 2000 election of Bush over Gore will go down as one of the most consequential elections in human history because every decade of delay will have effects for thousands of years.

But the fighting on steps 1-5 was so intense, every step of the way, and the character assassination against the scientists who advocated for them so consistent - I've lost a lot of respect for those responsible, including people close to me. It would be different if they were willing to consider possibilities and work together to find answers and solutions.

I more or less cut off contact with several people I used to consider intelligent and open to facts, but they were so blinded by their politics it became pointless to argue with them. I doubt anything will change their minds at this point, which is sad. It's one thing to debate the most appropriate response to this, it is another to deny the underlying physics exist.

> I think 1-5 is mostly settled,

Denialist still deny, generally, 3-5, and sometimes 2. Scientifically they may be settled, politically they are not.

6 is also essentially scientifically settled (we can't prevent it, we can probably reduce the rate at which things get worse, and may be able to limit the maximum effect.)

7 is either moot due to six or misphrased (there is a potential trade-off in the balance that goes into mitigating the severity of warming and that devoted to mitigating the severity of the consequences of warming without addressing the warming itself, but these are both forms of mitigation.)

8 is, again, moot because of 6, unless “prevent” is really “mitigate the severity of the warming”.

> the others are still open questions.

The bad news is that if we wait just a luttle longer, they'll become closed questions.

Why does anyone care whether it's caused by humans? If we knew an asteroid was going to hit the earth, it wouldn't matter that humans didn't cause it.

The reason it matters whether it's caused by humans is: mitigation. If global warming is significantly affected by our release of massive amounts of CO2, we could theoretically help mitigate the issue by stopping, and possibly reverse it. If on the other hand the rise of CO2 levels is not a significant factor, then there goes our primary idea to solving the issue.

That has nothing to do with who caused it.

You have asked a number of general questions here. Each question has a number of sub-questions that also need to be asked.

1). Is CO2 rising?

1a). What is the distribution across the planet and does this actually correlate to a general overall rise or is it more nuance than a simple rise?

1b). If CO2 is rising, is that a bad thing? What are the effects on the environment (both fauna and flora)? What are the actual detrimental levels beyond which fauna will be adversely affected?

1c). If CO2 was to be reduced, at what point is the acceptable limit? If it is reduced below that limit, what are the consequences on the environment (both fauna and flora).

1d). What are all the contributing factors to the CO2 rise (or fall, if it starts to head that way)? What factors can be influenced to change CO2 levels?

2). Is the planet warming?

2a). What is the temperature profile across the planet? Where do we measure these temperatures and how? Is there differences in the profiles with different measuring regimes? Are the temperature measurements made in odd places, like within cities but not the surrounding areas, etc.?

2b). What are the various factors that contribute to the temperature profile across the planet (seasonal variations, solar activity, city power usage, etc.)?

2c). Is there a up/down variation across years and/or decades that depend on how the statistical methods are structured (i.e. data manipulation of any kind)?

2d). Is there relevant data that is not used?

3). Is CO2 causing the planet warming?

3a). What are the various mechanisms under which warming will occur due to energy retention or generation?

3b). Are there other chemicals (such H2O, CO, NO, etc) that have a bigger or smaller energy retention effect?

3c). Are there other physical attributes of the planet that contribute to heating/cooling effects?

3d). Are there chemicals that ensure a lower retention of energy?

3e). What are the energy retention profiles of various chemicals with increasing concentration?

4). Is this due to human caused changes?

4a). What are the actual profiles of different human activities that cause either heating or cooling of the planetary surface and atmosphere?

4b). Are there geological phenomena that contribute to local or general heating/cooling effects?

4c). Are there heating/cooling effects due to other non-local phenomena (such as solar)?

4d). What are the actual profiles of these effects? Do some of the cooling effects offset the heating effects?

5). Will bad stuff happen because of it?

5a). Define what "bad stuff" means and with these definitions ask if there are multiple causes for defined "bad stuff"?

5b). How likely is this "bad stuff" to occur? Over what time period is it likely to happen? If the time period is extensive, are there other "good stuff" that can happen to alter the outcome?

5c). Is there other "bad stuff" that is more likely to occur that dramatically diminishes the effects of the originally defined "bad stuff"?

6). Can we actually prevent it?

6a). What are the various prevention methods and what are the pros/cons of each methodology?

6b). Are any of the prevention methods actually feasible?

7 and 8 are sub questions for 6.

In relation to 1. The detrimental effects of CO2 on fauna occurs at a level about 20 times the current promulgated level. The detrimental effects on flora begin when levels are reduced about 1/4 of the current levels. The beneficial effects of increasing CO2 levels on flora are seen by many horticulturists and various research programs that are currently running around the world.

In relation to 2, this seems to depend on the methodology in used by various groups. Even if it is, the effects of even a 2 degree increase worldwide hasn't been detailed with any sort of accuracy yet.There have, of course, been many claims of disaster scenarios, but the driving energy for those scenarios has been conspicuously missing. I am still wondering why.

In relation to 3, there are many nuances here that are not being discussed.

In relation to 4, there are many who are "true believers" in this view, but the detailed evidence is sparse. This needs a great deal more investigation. It may well be true, but based on the wide variety of causes, we still have no clarity about the processes.

In relation to 5 and 6, much has been claimed, but little is logically presented.

The rhetoric needs to stop and the partisanship needs to diminish, so that we can do real actual research into the entire subject. It has become so politicised that we cannot separate the wheat from the chaff.

It is also interesting to note that many who promulgate the idea that climate change is predominately anthropogenic and deliver disaster scenarios as if they are certain and call for all people to restrain themselves, do not themselves do anything to restrain their own influence. It becomes a case of "do as I say, not do as I do." This occurs from the senior figures right down to the little angry followers.

What can you say, what can you do but shrug your shoulders?

I find this "self-interest" kind of argument very common among conservative friends and family. They also say "follow the money". I have had great difficulty in understanding why they choose to apply these conspiratorial standards to those who promote addressing climate change but not to the massive oil cabal in plain sight that all but controls the global economy.

I have an alternative conspiracy theory. There's a cabal of scientists who want to encourage CO2 emissions because of the endless research projects that global warming will enable. It's a massive global climate experiment. They are only claiming that it's a problem because they know that human society will do the exact opposite to what they recommend.

We are doing the experiment, it's marketing departments encouraging us but we are mostly doing exactly what they recommend.

> I have had great difficulty in understanding...

Well, as a thought exercise, imagine that there exist people who apply the "follow the money" standards to military spending, oil cabals, lobbyists, and sugary drink manufacturers but not to green energy companies, abortion providers, unions, etc.

Abortion providers? Really? Who’s getting rich in that space?

The Planned Parenthood story about the fetus parts was entirely about monetary incentives. It doesn't have to be about people getting rich necessarily.

Are you talking about the debunked, misleadingly edited video?

If PP’s goal were to make money from abortions, they’d stop offering contraceptives. The fact that essentially nobody argues for abortion but against contraceptives is an easy proof that essentially nobody favors abortion for monetary reasons.

Sure. Abortion providers have no incentives to make sure abortion is subsidized and lightly regulated.

Besides, the inability to entertain the thought experiment is basically my point. The result of the skeptical deliberation is beside the point.

Everyone is subject to cognitive dissonance and perverse incentives. Money is just a particularly easy to quantify incentive.

I entertained it. The result is above. I imagine lots of people are capable of entertaining it. That they don’t reach the bizarre conclusion you seem to think they should doesn’t mean they haven’t tried.

It’s true that everyone is subject to these things. That does not mean that facts don’t matter, that every opinion is equally valid, or that every belief is due to them.

> The Planned Parenthood story about the fetus parts was entirely about monetary incentives.

Well, sure, but the story wasn't true so what it was or was not about had no bearing on reality.

Whoever is getting to charge money/get paid to provide them.

And yet most abortion advocacy is done by groups which try very hard to reduce the number of abortions, so it doesn’t add up.

So are you saying the abortions cost too much?

Nope but someone clearly makes money doing them otherwise they would not do those. Unit economics dictates that those who make money on them would like to do more of them.

There's a lot more money and power in the first group of industries than the second group, so I can't take that as a fair equivalence.

Yes, let's not forget about those fat cat abortion tycoons

I've thought about this a little too, and ultimately I think it comes down to our culture in the US, and the human individual's tendency to view themselves as inherently good.

Most (all?) other countries seem to have accepted climate change as fact, except the US. The culture and way of life of the US is one driven by extreme consumption, sprawl, waste, and cars--the major drivers of climate change. Baby boomers grew up with that way of life, they passed it along to their kids, and (for example) many don't even know what it means to not drive your car to the grocery store. How else would you get food?

To step back and say to yourself, "my entire way of life, the only way I've ever known of living, is causing massive destruction" is too much. People can't do it. Individuals all see themselves as inherently good, and to acknowledge that one's very way of life (as opposed to an isolated action, like one day being cranky to a cashier) is causing harm is too self-destructive to the psyche. To accept climate change as real means needing to accept that one's entire way of life has been wrong this entire time. It's much easier to rationalize around reality, than to make serious and sweeping lifestyle and cultural changes.

(I can only speak about the US here, though China might possibly have a similar problem; but China acknowledges climate change and their government is taking big steps.)

Ultimately this is why I'm growing increasingly pessimistic about climate change. For climate change to be mitigated, the US has to be on board 100%; but the only way we in the US have known how to live since the 20th century started is with unbelievable waste and naked environmental irresponsibility. Changing a whole culture is too slow a process compared to the increasingly fast feedback loops of climate change.

My guess is that most people who deny climate change, may actually mean that humans are not the primary reason for climate change. Since this topic has been politicized a lot, it has shifted the meaning of what people mean when they deny climate change.

Regarding the data, it's not very conclusive. Given the scale of time over which data has been collected, is it sufficient to create a reliable model and predict the future changes in climate?

Even if we were to assume that everyone agreed that human activities are the cause of climate change, it would still require huge amount of participation and co-operation among countries across the globe to fix it. That is impossible.

> Regarding the data, it's not very conclusive. Given the scale of time over which data has been collected, is it sufficient to create a reliable model and predict the future changes in climate?

I think this part of the debate hinges critically on whether or not you think that core samples can be used to project temperature samples. If so, the data available to the models is vast and conclusive. If you reject that, the amount of climate data we have covers only hundreds of years.

It's more than just accepting the current data.

In order to verify if the current data can predict temperature or other key metrics accurately, more data needs to be collected, which needs time, in the order of a few decades. But a wait of that long, may bring more changes, which would render the model inefficient or incorrect. A very tricky systems optimization problem!

Then how did things like the Paris accord come to exist in the first place? It's strange, somehow the world manages to cooperate on things like the internet, international banking, and all sorts of other stuff - not perfectly, but substantively - and yet the notion of cooperation on this one issue is 'impossible.'

It seems tome that no amount of evidence will ever be sufficient for folks such as yourself, no matter how many predictive milestones are passed.

Paris accord hasn't been around for long enough to see if it'll actually produce meaningful results. Kyoto Protocol was around longer, and would you call it a success? If it was, then why have a Paris accord? The examples you have listed are things where the benefits are pretty immediate, not a couple of generations away.

To get to the level of co-operation needed, a significant investment needs to made in educating people of all mindsets, about the benefits of this co-operation. That itself is going to take a couple of generations.

I didn't say it was easy, but dismissing it as impossible doesn't do anything to accelerate that process because it drains people's morale at the beginning of the task.

It makes more sense if you ask: "what economic interest group would be significantly impacted if consensus was achieved?"

Basically, follow the money.

Asking a skeptic how to change their mind,


Asking a believer? "The science is settled!"


I think that's the main problem.

> I'm led to believe there must be a deeper root cause that prevents someone from objectively looking at data

Because almost nobody does this.

Most people want to feel smart so they read science journalism, which isn't the research conducted by climate scientists. There is much that gets lost in translation. Consider the following:

* "Humans are primarily to blame for global warming". This means the majority of blame falls to humans. Majority is 51% or more but not necessarily 100%. There is more that happens in the world than people driving cars to work.

* "The primary cause of the problem is CO2." That doesn't necessarily mean atmospheric composition, but rather a huge host of variables to include feedback mechanisms and cycle durations. You could easily argue humans do more to change the surface of the planet (and oceans) than they do to change the composition of the atmosphere, which in turn dictates the frequency at which feedback mechanisms collect CO2 from the atmosphere.

* "CO2 is the worst greenhouse gas." No, the science doesn't indicate this. CO2 is a primary concern because it has the greatest ratio of cyclic duration in the atmosphere to the percentage of atmospheric composition. Water is a more effective greenhouse gas and, in many parts of the world, a larger composition of the atmosphere than CO2. Water's feedback duration is about 8 days (speaking liberally) while CO2 sticks around in the atmosphere closer to 72 days, though.

* "A primary cause for alarm is rising oceans." This is a cause for alarm, but one among many and likely not the most important. It is just something clearly visible for simplistic commentary.

* "Summers are going to get warmer." This goes without saying, but it isn't complete. Weather will likely become more extreme in many areas, which means warmer summers (actually median average temperatures for most seasons) and likely also cooler winters in temperate areas. Global warming isn't as simple as turning up the house thermostat a degree.


Bottom line is that most people don't read science. They want to feel informed and smart, but cannot be inconvenienced to decipher facts and analysis written for experienced meteorologists. Most people need the real work dumbed down (substantially), which is what feeds the absolutely unscientific personal belief systems that many people cling too (both for and against).

In my experience, it's usually a lack of trust. Sure, we can bombard conservatives with hard data all day long, but they'll just scoff at it because they have no way of validating whether that data is even slightly accurate. The fact that this data then seems to justify stronger federal regulation means that the average conservative will distrust it entirely, treating such research as "propaganda" or "fake news".

This is not unique to stereotypical "conservatives", either. For example, a lot of American Indian / First Nations tribes firmly believe - as they always have - that they originate from the Americas. Convincing folks otherwise (i.e. that their ancestors were more likely to have immigrated via Beringia, as current archaeological evidence suggests) is difficult; after centuries of the "white man" lying through their teeth in the name of "science", their skepticism toward some new scientific "fact" is unsurprising and understandable (and unfortunate).

Same thing with climate change deniers. They've been conditioned to distrust most outside information already; distrusting the evidence for climate change is thus unsurprising and unfortunate.

In my own experience, I've found that convincing folks that climate change is actually happening is the easy part. The hard part is convincing them that humans are causing it.

I'm willing to be that many of his family and friends are Conservative, his trusted sources of information are Conservative, and that the famous people and politicians he looks up to are Conservative. All those authority figures in his life are likely unanimous is denying climate change.

Then since he self-identifies as Conservative there's a very strong desire to be consistent with those beliefs and community.

Being intelligent doesn't mean you're suddenly immune to psychological tricks and ploys. If anything it can be used to make more sophisticated sophistries.

>Being intelligent doesn't mean you're suddenly immune to psychological tricks and ploys. If anything it can be used to make more sophisticated sophistries.

And yet here you are being extremely presumptuous about some person's background, motivations, and intelligence because they are labeled 'conservative'. Bigotry aside, that's just poor logic.

I have to assume you would be equally presumptuous when it comes to interpreting the scope of climate change.

Upton Sinclair said "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!"

Another way to put it is that it is difficult to get a man to believe something when everyone one he loves and respects does not believe it. I think that was the explication being provided.

Belief systems. When something is not in your sensory environment, and not in your experiential history, you are relying on a belief of what might happen - like, will our crops get rain next week?

To illustrate, you might enjoy Joseph Henrich's example of how the Ilahita tribe of Papua New Guinea was able to expand their tribe size beyond the Dunbar number (>300 people). In their case, having a large enough tribe to battle neighboring tribes was a matter of survival against an existential threat. (11:20 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kmpSwbtWopM)

What's interesting in the scenario presented was the tribe expanded their religion to a dual moeity system. This introduced new rituals and gods that helped the tribe form economic, social and emotional bonds - ultimately allowing the tribe to expand in size.

Its an example of how _belief_ in gods that are contradictory to our modern science provided an organizational fitness function to combat their environment.

I'd imagine very few people actually interpret their world through a scientific belief system. Further, what some consider scientific, might not fit the belief system of others who are more rigorous. The lack of widely accepted model for beliefs based on _scientific thinking_ might be the scariest part of our society today. Personally, I blame the short-comings of our language as it is not well suited to communicate scientific knowledge efficiently (ie, for 3rd grade readers) and without ambiguity.

The general tone of those claiming global warming is unconvincing. It is shrill, yet based on handwavy evidence like "concensus" or particular examples, and doesn't effectively address counter arguments. Personally, the biggest issue is CO2 is only a minute part of the greenhouse effect compared to water vapor, and human contributions only a portion of that. When we work it out, human contributions to the greenhouse effect are less than a percentage point, if memory serves. Why should I believe poorly understood feedback cycles will amplify the human contributions into untold catastrophe? Plus, there is the generally poor track record of catastrophic environmental predictions, such as global cooling a half century ago, or global warming predictions in 1920s. The whole enterprise is too shrill and shaky.

Another point is the only very smart people I know who accept global warming do so because it is intellectually fashionable. They do not offer compelling evidence that global warming is true.

When you don't have expertise in a field and don't have time to study it, the wisest decision is to trust the scientific community with expertise in that field (and verify as soon as you are able). Even if they are wrong they are the best informed on the matter, and are probably wrong for good reasons. Siding with non-experts who offer no serious counterarguments to the claims and evidence scientists put forth is not rational.

I have met and discussed climate change with climate scientists much smarter than me. These people research at institutes world renowned for ground breaking fundamental research and that I personally highly admire. At this point there is no question of whether it is happening or human-induced. They're now using state of the art techniques to research and predict innovation, technology's future ability to reduce climate change, impact on ecosystems and natural resources, impact on urban economies, technologies and social changes that can reduce emissions, infrastructure changes and policy that could be put in place to prevent catastrophe.

I understand most people don't have the opportunity to meet climate change researchers like I have. I don't mean to make an appeal to authority beyond acknowledging that I am not an authority and don't know much about climate science compared to these people. But I do think calling it intellectually fashionable is hugely understating the amount of intellectual and financial resources being out into solving this issue. It's the driving academic force of our time.

If the case for global warming was so compelling and the driving force of our time, I'd expect there to be a fairly direct way to explain it and easily debunk common counters, and perhaps put it up on a cheap webpage like deniers do.

For example, the two crucial points I'd like to see addressed are:

1. what percentage of the greenhouse effect is directly attributable to humans, and

2. if this is a very small percentage why should I believe humans have a big impact on the global climate?

If the evidence is so good, the problem is so important, and the dedicated resources are so great, I'd expect proponents to go out of their way to communicate clearly and graciously to deniers like myself, since from a PR perspective browbeating with unclear evidence tends to have the opposite effect on skeptics.

Not that I'm entitled to such treatment, I have a duty to investigate the evidence as best as I can, yet my own investigations have led me to the opposite conclusion.

Complex problems are not always simple to explain. I sell data about complex social systems and I've found that when my customers are finally deciding whether to buy or not, only very rarely do they want to look at numbers. They want the story and solutions. They want the product. A marketing team that tries to get Americans to remember specific figures about climate change is not going to be effective. There are ways to do it - Gore's Inconvenient Truth did a good job of visualizing global warming in a way that made sense and could be plainly understood without a scientific background.

Also, scientists are not marketers. They might present at technical conferences, maybe TED, or other occasional larger venues, but for the most part they hunt for funding, do their research and publish in academic journals full of jargon and abstract formulas. They're not trained to reach the public. Some nonprofits seem to be picking up the marketing torch but that's only started in the last decade or two and the result has been massive pushback by climate change deniers. Strategies for concisely expressing the issue are still being worked out.

Personally, I would love to spend a few weeks reading major reports on climate change so I could better understand the precise scope of contemporary research and help provide some of these answers to you and others who are skeptical (or talk myself out of it if need be). My life isn't there yet, though. I know very few people who have that capacity and interest.

Here are some resources along the lines of what you were asking for:







And related:





s/global warming is true/anthropological global warming is true/

There's a style of debating where you split into two teams to argue for and against a proposition and it doesn't really matter what you believe, the winners are the ones making the best argument. For instance the Cambridge Union https://cus.org/members/debating/what-debating

Your friends points sound like he's making arguments against warming because that's the team he's on as it were. There's a bit of a human tendency to split into warring teams rather than all pull together. Blame evolution perhaps.

I think the reason people disagree about this point is pretty simple actually. Yes, there are corporate interests, etc, but I think it boils down to the five stages of grief.

The earth as we know it is in serious trouble, everyone knows it, and that's too much to handle, so the vast majority of people are in the first stage of grief, which is denial.

When one’s identity is being challenged, cognitive dissonance kicks in…

Intelligence have little effect on preventing CD. My opinion is one humility have more (positive) effect.

> Yet, I have no idea what that root cause could be. Any ideas?

I don't know, and haven't read anything remotely convincing yet. Accounts based on individual psychology (cognitive biases etc) don't do the job, as this form of irrationalism is peculiarly concentrated in parts of the Anglosphere (notably the US, Australia, and the UK). An explanation can only emerge from the domain of history and/or culture: what has made these regions so distinctly dysfunctional?

Are you trying to argue that the US, Australia and the UK are the most irrational and dysfunctional countries in the world?


Not 'most irrational/dysfunctional' in any sense beyond the topic at hand:

> this form of irrationalism

Nor 'most in the world':

> is peculiarly concentrated

Arguments from ethos and pathos are stronger than those from logos. In my experience you'll find that these people also tend to believe highly in one authority over another. More so that the other authorities are actually malicious. Which as a scientist I find this funny but frustrating. Because I can say things like "Hey, I've gone through the data myself and checked some of the basic analysis, but I don't see anything that would cause alarm." And I will get responses about how the data is manipulated (even though I have a decent understanding of how it is gathered and that you know, a lot of this data can be pulled from the local airports....).

What I find interesting is that these people believe in this grand conspiracy. And personally I think that is where you start looking when trying to understand the root cause. There are definitely a lot of factors involved though. (Not in any order)

For one, I think people believe scientists are rich. Which not only couldn't be further from the truth, but that we specifically don't go into it for the money, but the love. I think this comes from the idea of "if you're smart you'll be rich", that is so pervasive. Even just the scientist community is small, and I don't know a single person that knows a person that would purposefully falsify data. Maybe there are some there, but not within a few degrees of freedom.

tldr: People think scientists are interested in money. They are, so why aren't scientists?

The second part I think is the lack of trust for authority. I think this has to do with the fact that people treat all "science" as equal (and I think we call things science that shouldn't be). An example would be that our certainty in the detection of a gravitational wave is much different than our certainty that having a glass of wine a night is good for you (not going to get into p-values here). The error analysis is completely different. You can't even compare them. One has significantly more variables that contribute to error. Hell, most people think math and engineering is science.

tldr: People don't understand basic science or error.

The third point is that people do lie. And there definitely is p hacking going on in some of the softer sciences. Combine that with media that use the word scientist as a rubber stamp for credibility, and these people definitely have evidence for "corrupt" (mistakes and naivety aren't malice) researchers. Plus, we definitely are developing an atmosphere of where we are distrustful of authority, especially in politics. So I think when you add all these factors in, it doesn't actually become unreasonable for them to be suspicious.

tldr: There is actually reason for them to be suspicious.

But how to combat it is an interesting part. From experience I can tell you that going through the data and analysis with these type of people won't get you anywhere. Their eyes glaze over. So you actually have to find a piece that they can understand and agree with. As an example, this guy I drink with has been hard line anti-global warming and hit all three points I mentioned above. Then one day he started to talk to me about how he read about the deforestation for farm animals is changing temperatures. Well from that piece I had my in, and could actually break his barrier and slowly get him to understand. He likes the environment, most people do. But from there I could talk about lack of oxygen production because of deforestation, albedo, carbonation of the oceans and its effect on coral (tie back to oxygen) and other aquatic life, methane production, and other effects. I had his ear because I was talking about what he cared about and eased into it. These topics are easier to understand than CO2 equivalent levels. Because they are right when they say that H2O is a worse greenhouse gas (). Saying things like "100% of scientists agree" or "look at the data" don't mean anything. They've been trained against that. You HAVE to cross the isle. You HAVE to find their interests.

tldr: Gain their respect. Talk about easy to understand things that THEY care about the most and ease into the more technical parts.

It is human to fight. That when we discuss we tend to more argue. That it is my web of beliefs vs another person's. We really like to be right. So you have to stop arguing and just talk. People LOVE to talk about what they are interested in. DO THAT.

Imagine you are a climate scientist, and your mission is to save the world by working out how we are hurting it.

You constantly run and re-try computer models until you find one that you can publish.

After 1000 different models you build one that seems to say there is some catastrophic effect caused by by humans with 99% confidence.

The model then gets published, adds to the growing body of climate models that were made the exact same way your one was.

Tell me - do you not see what is utterly incorrect with the above process?

I do and and don't, but you are bringing up some good points. Unfortunately you're also demonstrating point two. An unfortunate limitation to my above statement is that it doesn't work so well with strangers on the internet. So instead let me talk about the scientific process, as a scientist myself.

The above isn't how it works. But if it was, it might not even be wrong. Let's start with that. First off, why were they creating 1000 or even 1000's of models? You're on HN so I assume you program. In a big program how many times do you have to rewrite things before you get them working perfectly? Then how are these models accuracy determined? Well, with predictive power. The current weather models have high predictive power to 3 days (the European model has about 5). After that it is clear that error greatly increases. But that's weather, not climate, and I want to differentiate the two here. Climate modeling really is different from weather modeling. We have a lot of data on it, so it is more performing analysis to figure out the cause for changes. So let's ask ourselves how can we check the prediction power of our climate model? Well if our analysis is correct we can go about it two ways, or really check with both. We can use historic data (if you've ever looked into stock analysis, this is a common practice there). So we feed in our key variables and ask what temperature we get back. Does it match what we measured? And how well? We can also use it on new data, because as each day goes by we get more data.

I'll stop there, as I don't want to write an entire paper. But a key part to science is its predictive power. If we don't have predictive power it isn't science, plane and simple.

p.s. If you just plot the raw data (not modified for methods in which that data was gathered) you see a trend much worse than what current climate models predict.

p.s.s Current models have held up in predictions over the past few decades. But there is always room for improvement.

You have, quite obviously, created a straw man. ("Tweak computer model until catastrophic outcome emerges.") This is not how influential climate science research works.

Here's a paper (~200 citations) in JGR-A, by a colleague, to illustrate how it really works: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2008JD010015/full

Briefly, it's well-known that model representations of cloud ice are a significant source of uncertainty in climate modeling. This is because the ice scatters light upward out of the atmosphere, and can also trap emerging long-wave radiation from below.

Cloud ice is hard to represent for many reasons - to mention just two, the particular form of the ice crystals (spherical or planar, termed "microphysical properties") matters, as does the vertical profile of the ice/water mixture in the cloud.

How to improve their representation? One way is to measure cloud properties over years-to-decades time scales (which is now being done - no accident) and use this data to introduce the right cloud-process components into climate models. The paper surveys the measurements, proposes specific model improvements, and model-vs-data checks.

As I said, I happen to work with the lead author of the paper above (although I'm not a climate scientist at all). He is, in fact, not twiddling knobs until catastrophic outcomes emerge. Sure, that's a logical possibility, i.e., someone could do that, but it does not correspond to reality by any stretch. Honestly, the notion is ridiculous, the gap between that notion and reality so large as to be hard to convey.

Probably, at macro scale, the difference is that your straw man is purely open-loop (no checks on the knob-twiddling) whereas the one in the paper is brutally closed-loop (we will identify and make independent satellite measurements to quantify your model's accuracy).

The paper describes working with others to design new measurements to get information about the key processes driving climate, so that the models can be improved and we can see what large-scale human forcing is doing to the climate system. Humanity is not a bit player any more, we're a driver, and we have to own up to that role.

A massive push to clean electricity tech and infrastructure funded by the Federal government may seem expensive, but is SO much cheaper than Climate Change related war+starvation+sea-rise+giant storms.

But what if climate change isn't real and all we end up with is a cleaner, healthier and quieter environment to live in? /s

According to this economist in this TED Talk, the money could save and improve millions of other lives:


It really doesn’t help when people aren’t informed about what other people are arguing.

Many Republicans, for example, think the damage is manageable, and they’d rather deal with the consequences later. You simply are considered an alarmist for bringing up climate change.

It would have been a nice quip 20 years ago, but we have amassed so many evidences that this is now more or less a meaningless thought exercise.

I might as well ask "But what if hurricanes aren't real and we end up building a better sewage system for nothing?"

The difference is that half of the American electorate doesn’t deny the existence of hurricanes. If they did, that hypothetical could be useful.

Half? That's a bit of a broad generalisation. I doubt 90% of voters have an informed opinion on the matter worthy of critiquing their position. Nor is indifference from voters equal to active denial.

People love to extrapolate every position of Trumps and apply it to half the country, and usually well beyond that to all 'conservatives' globally'.

Climate change denial was a core Republican value long before Trump. I don't see why having an informed opinion would be a requirement here. Climate change denial is uninformed almost by definition, but as long as the opinion is strongly held (which it is by a huge number on the American right) that doesn't really matter.

No, denial of humans as the source of global warming has been a core value of lots of people, including of scientists that as late as 1970s were claiming that all their data indicated that humans were causing global cooling. The science was settled at that time as well.

That's a myth. There was a brief media craze over global cooling in the 70s, but the science never pointed that way. Some scientists proposed global cooling, but it was never the most common view. See: https://www.skepticalscience.com/What-1970s-science-said-abo...

In any case, thinking the planet was cooling in the 1970s, when there was much less data, much less understanding of how the climate works, and much less of a warming trend to examine, should not be considered equivalent to thinking the planet is cooling now.

Yes, of course. The line of "heresy" is before the current data and it would never never never be changed. Because, you know, science!

Sorry, I can't understand this at all. Could you restate it?

t0 = science dataset S1 => claim "cooling!" -> everyone disagreeing is heretic! There will not be a dataset S1+S2 contradicting implication of S1! Our science is correct 4 evah!

t1 = science dataset S1+S2 => claim "warming!" -> everyone disagreeing is heretic.

There will be no t2 with a dataset of S1+S2+S3 that would contradict S1+S2! Our Science(tm) is correct 4 eveh!


> [W]hen people thought the earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the earth was spherical, they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together.

Ok, now I get it, but I’m not really interested in continuing the conversation with such weapons-grade sarcasm.

If climate change isn’t real, there’s no good reason for us to cause the unemployment, crime, and suicides that will result from dismantling the main industry of America’s 4th largest city (Houston).

Hmm, the health of the whole planet vs. one large city with an insufficiently diverse economy? Decades' worth of empirical evidence and analysis from thousands of scientists filling thousands of pages vs. hand-waving predictions of economic doom?

I agree that dismantling the fossil fuel industry would result in some economic dislocation, but it really feels like the advocates of that position expect to have their worries just taken at face value, while simultaneously expecting everyone to ignore the lamentable record of the fossil fuel industry in both pollution and obfuscation.

I'm sorry, but I'm running increasingly low on patience for people who work in this sector. Yesterday I was reading that coal miners who are being offered free training to transfer out of the coal industry are choosing to study coal mining technology in the belief that a coal resurgence is going to happen any day now.


I'm strongly in favor of policies that would mitigate or alleviate such people's economic problems, but not in favor of propping up an industry that's putting everyone's health at risk.

Yes, there is.

>>> cleaner, healthier and quieter environment to live in

That's inevitable. Will it be replaced by nuclear or solar is basically the only question.

Nuclear has been around for a long time and has never caught on. Barring large changes in public opinion or price it's probably on the way out, too

Unless we can mine enough lithium to make grid-scale battery farms viable or can make large-scale flywheels work, both forms have issues with demand response that are currently being solved by natural gas.

Or we use electricity to make gas, and then burn the gas.


Take the money out of the F35 program, and there you go.

Won't anyone think of all those poor oil company profits? They would be at risk in your clean-tech "paradise".

No, it really isn't.


If you eliminated 100% CO2 emissions from electric generation, you still have a few gigatons of CO2 to go.

Has anyone spoken to you about air conditioning?


Why wouldn't NPR publish the source report?

According to the org website the report will be delivered late 2018 http://www.globalchange.gov/nca4

Yes, but why wouldn't NPR publish what they have? I'm sick of news organizations hoarding documents so they can report on the contents. Redact any information that might identify the source and release it, otherwise the news value (and by proxy, the credibility of the investigating outlet) diminishes substantially.

Downvoters: the NPR article says they have obtained a copy. It's in the second sentence. So not publishing is a matter of choice on NPR's part.

What if you can't be sure what level of redaction is safe? What if your source is compromised by some watermark or steganographic content you missed?

The Intercept had contacted the NSA on May 30 and sent copies of the documents to the agency, in order to confirm their veracity. The NSA notified the FBI about the situation on June 1. The FBI realized the documents had been printed out because the PDF copies sent by The Intercept "appeared to be folded and/or creased, suggesting they had been printed and hand-carried out of a secured space".[22] Next, the NSA did an internal audit, confirming that Winner was one of six workers who had accessed the particular documents on its classified system

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reality_Winner#Intelligence_re...

Print it out and scan it again. OCR it and change the fonts, say you're doing it to protect your sources.

It's easy to obfuscate stuff, and sometimes you should be willing to take risks, especially when the stakes are sufficiently high. Someone was willing to take the risk of leaking it to NPR to start with.

Someone was willing to take the risk of leaking it to NPR to start with.

You're right, but when you say that one "should be willing to take risks" do you mean that the journalist should make that decision? If so I disagree; risk tolerance should be up to the source, as frustrating as it is to get news third-hand.

I see your point, but let's also acknowledge that NPR and many other established media outlets often report on things without linking to the source material even if its freely available, so that they can maintain their audience rather than having them bounce off. Few of their science articles link back to the journal of original publication, for example, or arxiv preprints.

Now as for risk tolerance, I think that should be a two-way conversation. I do think that failing to give people access to the material massively compromises public engagement.

NPR doesn't have the report, it's not published yet. Considering the OSTP vacancy and the current administration's stance on climate change[1], even the anticipated late 2018 date is doubtful.

Alley notes that "there's a little rumbling" among climate scientists who are concerned that the Trump administration will ignore this effort. "I think the authors really are interested in seeing [the report] used wisely by policy makers to help the economy as well as the environment."

The report has been submitted to the Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House. Trump has yet to choose anyone to run that office; it remains one of the last unfilled senior positions in the White House staff.

[1] https://www.whitehouse.gov/ostp/news

If ever there was a case for an anonymous leak - this doesn't even have the downsides of questions of releasing military or intelligence secrecy attached to it. It would likely carry other risks to the leaker though.

2nd sentence of the article: The climate report, obtained by NPR [...]

The scientific method means making a prediction based on a theory and seeing if it matches the observed results.

So honest question - have any predictions from climate science about the change in global temperatures come true? Have what climate scientists said ten years was going to happen in ten years actually happened? Global climate dynamics are very complicated and it's very hard to understand, but real science makes testable predictions and then theories are accepted as 'our best theory at the moment' when the observations match predictions within a small tolerance and the theory is thrown out when it doesn't, regardless of how hard or complicated it is.

Every week, I read an article about this, all I say in my head is 'but then what'. Unless there is money bleeding no politicians will take this to rest. It's sad but true and this will keep on continuing.

It’s ok for a politician to spend money to clean up a disaster. It’s far more troublesome to spend money to avoid a disaster. Politically it will always be advantageous to wait with adressing a problem until after its negative consequences are fully felt.

I always wonder why people need to "feel the pain" before they make a decision - when it's usually too late.

My mom and dad read wikipedia and a couple investment books, and so when the 2008 crash happened we didn't lose all of our savings because we were potently diversified - why did most of our friends have to "start over?" Because "a crash will never happen again?" This coming from people who became adults in the dotcom bust?

Then you have people living through Desert Storm convincing their kids it's "safe" to join the military "just for the scholarship." "Just do 4 years, America will never go to war again." Shock and surprise when 9/11 happens and a ton of my highschool buddies are called off to Afghanistan for uh... some reason? Does it matter? Did they think that wouldn't happen for any made-up reason regardless of if 9/11 happened, when their grandparents lived through Vietnam and their parents through Desert Storm?

What's with this short-sightedness and ignoring of history / professional advice? Not that I'm immune, I got my credit card info stolen for being comically arrogant at defcon.

Its a shame you can't pay a "core 80%" set of taxes, then choose what other things your "extra 20%" would go towards. NASA, climate stuff, recycling, bee stuff, extra education... etc

I wonder how hard would it be to just start building the infrastructure like this in some sort of 'wikibudget.org' and then using that as political leverage? Everyone who liked the system well enough to participate in it could get behind that, even if their individual allocation preferences did not win out or were different from others'. this might overcome the divide-and-conquer strategy of the polity-industrial complex.

For example, suppose Alice wants to spend less on defense and more on schools; Bob wants to spend less on schools but more on veterans, and Carol hates the F-35 program but likes both schools and veterans. As individuals they might donate to and volunteer for different organizations with different missions, but if they were all able to participate in dividing up an imaginary budget they could work together to get their compromise budget enacted even though they would be doing so for different reasons.

My gut says it would take between 5 and 10 years for such a thing to gain sufficient political momentum to seriously threaten the current system, maybe longer; but then the idea that Wikipedia might become the introductory reference source of choice was once considered laughable too, notwithstanding its current imperfections.


The problem with this reasoning, and political funding generally, is that it demands near immediate results. That isn't going to happen.

The problem of global warming will eventually work itself out economically. Industry has been evolving towards a carbon neutral solution since the 1850s.

The large carbon footprint exists because people started consuming and requiring energy faster than energy related technologies were evolving, but this has started to change in recent years. This said people will start off-loading their energy demands onto cheaper more sustainable technologies as they become available, which in time will increase the expense of fossil fuels as an energy source, comparatively speaking.

Even if the problem of energy consumption induced global warming is solved the next consideration is how long it will take for the implications of global warming to be resolved in the effects upon climate.

Well some politicians have spent political capital on this, but have been heavily attacked for it. Let's not pretend that all politicians are equally at fault when they manifestly promote different positions and policies.

Hate the fact that politics intervene, fund or don't fund this kind of stuff and hence interfere with almost every study on this topic.

The irony here is that under Scott Pruitt, the EPA is removing any references to climate change from the department. Yet, the same government that gives him the power to do that also made this report.

I’m thinking it’s too late for just CO2 reduction alone. We need to get CO2 sequestration going.

As long as we're using fossil fuels, reducing CO2 emission will always bring more bangs for the same buck. It's simply much more effective to not generate CO2 than try to suck it up from the air (which is only 0.04% CO2!).

Get the mankind carbon neutral, and then we can talk about sequestration. (Of course it would be wise to research the technology now, so that we can use it later, but industrial deployment is another story.)

Still, I think, CO2 reduction would be the less costly variant, that we could do today. It might not be enough, though. But at least we should make a start. But with the current political climate, we might stop, when it is already to late. Humanity is working on its own doom steadily.

Newest reports say, that the CO2 values rose most drastically in the latest years.

And no, Mars is no substitute for Earth.

IIRC, that's is already accepted by most scientists, as the Paris accord takes in to account CO2 sequestration as part of the solution to limiting warming to 2 degrees.

Not really.

Plant a ton of trees and the CO2 problem solves by itself. The problem stems also from the huge deforestation that has taken place in the last couple of centuries.

> Plant a ton of trees and the CO2 problem solves by itself.

Citation? Obviously we're emitting CO2 at some rate E and a ton of trees will sequester that CO2 at another rate S.

But it's not clear that you've measured and compared those two numbers.

Here we go [1]:

This has to do with a study about the measurement of the impact deforestation of tropical forests has on global warming.

> How big is three billion tons?

Three billion tons of anything is a lot, but it’s hard to grasp just how much — particularly when it’s tons of CO2, which we don’t have any everyday experience in weighing. One way to look at it is that the average U.S. car emits about 5 tons of CO2 a year from the tailpipe, so three billion tons is the equivalent of 600 million cars — about twice as many as there are in the whole United States. Another way of expressing it is that this is the equivalent of about 13 million railcars full of coal, which would stretch about 125,000 miles (half the distance to the moon). It's also equal to the total emissions from Western Europe, including Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, all the Scandinavian countries, and Finland.

[1] http://www.ucsusa.org/global_warming/solutions/stop-deforest...

Plantation forestry grows about 20 cubic meters per hectare-year [0]. Doug Fir weighs ~600 kg-m3 [1]. 3B US tons / (20x600 kg) per hectare-year = 6,796,166 hectares. Plantation lumber is harvested in 7, 14, and 21 year cuts [0], so to ensure you're always sequestering enough carbon you need 21x6.8 million hectares of new forest to defray the current CO2 production... which is about 551,000 square miles, which is approximately [2] Texas + California + New Mexico... or [3] France + Spain + Italy.

The new forest would still be ~20% of the size of the Amazon rain-forest though [4].

[0]: https://www.quora.com/How-fast-do-pine-trees-grow

[1]: https://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/weigt-wood-d_821.html

[2]: https://state.1keydata.com/states-by-size.php

[3]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_and_dependen...

[4]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amazon_rainforest

Given that this starts with 'It is "extremely likely" that human activities...', that is enough for folks and organisations behind pushing that there is no global warming and it's not human's fault if there is. To say "they don't know for sure" and stop reading it.

Terrifying if this report has an impact on policy.

Ctrl-f sun

(No matches)

Garbage article with no source

Surprised this isn't flagged.

Why was this flagged the first time? The number of flagged articles on HN is becoming ridiculous. It's creating a precedent where any group with an extreme opinion can shut down conversation by deciding a topic is 'controversial'.

any idea why my comment below is flagged?

so maybe we should reign in the largest polluter in history? The US Military. As a citizen, I think this is a logical first step. Isn't it fully within the government's control?

sorry, but how is the U.S. military the largest polluter in history?

Surely the billions of people using electricity and driving cars and living off of products created with fossil fuels have managed more pollution than a few million in the U.S. military?

I think what he is saying is technically true, though the conclusion doesnt follow. It is technically true because the US Military could easily be the largest single polluting organization in the world (because it has way more employees and vehicles than any other organization). By that token, the next biggest gov't agency would probably be USPS because of the miles of driving they do. That does not mean, however, that the most effective path for stopping pollution starts there. For example, automobile fuel efficiency standards, or subsidies for solar power, etc could all offer more opportunity for reducing climate emissions than what is possible in reducing the US military usage of fossil fuels.

This provides absolutely no basis for comparison, jut a few slightly quantitative anecdotes. I am, without doing any research, supremely confident that US civilians and private industry are far more environmentally destructive than the US military in 2017.

"The U.S. military is the largest institutional consumer of oil in the world. Every year, our armed forces consume more than 100 million barrels of oil to power ships, vehicles, aircraft, and ground operations—enough for over 4 million trips around the Earth, assuming 25 mpg."


Scary how ive been censored on here. Flagged, buried, and couldn’t answer any comment till now. I’m done with HN.

Right, the single biggest maybe. But more than US citizens combined, as the parent comment indicates? No.

Right, but the US military is top down control, which means changes are easier versus herding hundreds of millions of individual consumers to the right solutions.

Nobody likes a dictatorship until something needs to get done fast.

Not only top down, but 100% accountable to the government already. No new laws necessary (under Bush, Obama, or Trump). In fact, MOST Americans want to end these useless dragging wars.

Really reveals how much they truly care about pollution versus posturing for more control.

It's quite possible that the US military is a bigger polluter than any private corporation or government agency. It's an organization of truly colossal size.

But the sum of all US corporations is, in aggregate, much, much larger.

I don't know if it is true, but it's not obviously false.

Military uses huge numbers of powerful diesel engines and the US military is larger than most of the rest combined.

> reign in the largest polluter in history

You mean China, right?

what are you basing that claim on?

I've long been on the human-caused GW band wagon - ever since I learned about global warming 10+ years ago.

But the alarmism turned me off to the idea that dramatic legislation is actually needed, or that GW is even all that big of an issue. As far as I can tell unabated GW would never have a big impact on my life [edit:] even if all the change happened within my lifetime.

Your children would be so proud.

They wont care. It'd be even less noticeable to them than it us for us - the people that will be alive for most of the changes. Unless someone spends a lot of effort trying to convince them to be mad about it, I don't see them being less happy than we are today because of GW.

Screw future generations?

*even if all the change happened within my lifetime.

You don’t think you’d be affected by the massive economic disruption from having so many major cities flooded, or ocean ecosystems devastated by acidification, or refugee crises on a scale never before seen when productive agricultural regions become unproductive?

Well definitely a small small fraction of how I was affected by the 2008 financial crisis or even the recent refugee wave.

GW will happen slowly over many decades... Not suddenly like either of those. I think people forget that. In fact, we're already living through the speed of these changes! Cities are already flooding more and more and refugees are already leaving, it's just such a slow process that it's barely noticeable and not even a daily concern. And this is predicted to be the same speed for the rest of GW.

A city slowly flooding more and more over 50 years is not too different than the emigration from Detroit over a smaller timespan.

Same goes for agricultural shifts. Markets are already adjusting.

There will be no crisis.

There’s a pretty big difference from a city doing it, and dozens (hundreds?) all doing it at once.

"at once"

meaning slowly over 100+ years. How many people left these flood cities over the last decade? Because this pace will be the same going forward. There is no refugee crisis.

I'd be concerned if GW was going to increase ad infinitude, but it's not. We eventually use up all the fossil fuels, and the results will be minor.

Why would it be the same pace going forward? The rate of rise is accelerating and the consequences become much more severe as it gets higher.

That's the alarmism talking...

The rate of increase is linear with population growth. Meaning we are also linearly more ready to handle the small flow of refugees to linearly more cities and food market changes.

How is the rate of increase linear with population growth?

Can we just give Al Gore and his buddies 15 trillions and settle this issue?

For Christ sake, the Earth has been warning before human was here. There are a lot of extra factors that we don't know yet. At the very least, have a debate about it. This is not settled like the government funded research tell you.

If there is a solution, it will not be more government regulations. Just look the past 20 years in the financial markets, how many scandals were there and have SEC and their regulations prevent anything?

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