When Words Fail


I ALMOST NEVER write about writing — in my aesthetic, the writing should disappear, the thought linger. But the longer I’ve spent working on global warming — the greatest challenge humans have ever faced — the more I’ve come to see it as essentially a literary problem. A technological and scientific challenge, yes; an economic quandary, yes; a political dilemma, surely. But centrally? A crisis in metaphor, in analogy, in understanding. We haven’t come up with words big enough to communicate the magnitude of what we’re doing. How do you say: the world you know today, the world you were born into, the world that has remained essentially the same for all of human civilization, that has birthed every play and poem and novel and essay, every painting and photograph, every invention and economy, every spiritual system (and every turn of phrase) is about to be . . . something so different? Somehow “global warming” barely hints at it. The same goes for any of the other locutions, including “climate chaos.” And if we do come up with adequate words in one culture, they won’t necessarily translate into all the other languages whose speakers must collaborate to somehow solve this problem.

I’ve done my best, and probably better than some. My first book, The End of Nature, has been published in twenty-four languages, and the essential idea embodied in the title probably came through in most of them. It wasn’t enough, though, nor were any of the other such phrases (like “boiling point” or “climate chaos”) that more skillful authors have used since. So in recent years I’ve found myself grasping, trying to strip the language down further, make it communicate more. This year I find myself playing with numbers.

When the Northwest Passage opened amid the great Arctic melt last summer, many scientists were stunned. James Hansen, our greatest climatologist, was already at work on a paper that would try, for the first time, to assign a real number to global warming, a target that the world could aim at. No more vague plans to reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, or keep it from doubling, or slow the rate of growth — he understood that there was already enough evidence from the planet’s feedback systems, and from the quickly accumulating data about the paleoclimate, to draw a bright line.

In a PowerPoint presentation he gave at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco last December, he named a number: 350 parts per million carbon dioxide. That, he said, was the absolute upper bound of anything like safety — above it and the planet would be unraveling. Is unraveling, because we’re already at 385 parts per million. And so it’s a daring number, a politically unwelcome one. It means, in shorthand, that this generation of people — politicians especially — can’t pass the problem down to their successors. We’re like patients who’ve been to the doctor and found out that our cholesterol is too high. We’re in the danger zone. Time to cut back now, and hope that we do it fast enough so we don’t have a stroke in the meantime. So that Greenland doesn’t melt in the meantime and raise the ocean twenty-five feet.

For me, the number was a revelation. With a few friends I’d been trying to figure out how to launch a global grassroots climate campaign — a follow-up to the successful Step It Up effort that organized fourteen hundred demonstrations across the U.S. one day last spring and put the demand for an 80 percent cut in America’s carbon emissions at the center of the political debate. We need to apply even more pressure, and to do it on a global scale — it is, after all, global warming. But my friends and I were having a terrible time seeing how to frame this next effort. For one thing, the 180 or so countries that will negotiate a new international treaty over the next eighteen months are pretty much beyond the reach of effective lobbying — we can maybe influence the upcoming American election, but the one in Kenya? In Guatemala? In China? And for another, everyone insists on speaking those different languages. A Babel, this world.

But a number works. And this is a good one. Arcane, yes — parts per million CO2 in the atmosphere. But at least it means the same thing in every tongue, and it even bridges the gap between English and metric. And so we secured the all-important URL: 350.org. (Easier said than done.) And we settled on our mission: To tattoo that number into every human brain. To make every person on Planet Earth aware of it, in the same way that most of them know the length of a soccer field (even though they call it a football pitch or a voetbal gebied). If we are able to make that happen, then the negotiations now under way, and due to conclude in Copenhagen in December of 2009, will be pulled as if by a kind of rough and opaque magic toward that goal. It will become the definition of success or of failure. It will set the climate for talking about climate.

So the literary challenge — and the challenge for artists and musicians and everyone else — is how to take a mere number and invest it with meaning. How to make people understand that it means some kind of stability. Not immunity — we’re well past that juncture, and even Hansen says the number is at best the upper bound of safety, but still. Some kind of future. Some kind of hope. That it means kids able to eat enough food, that it means snowcaps on mountains, that it means coral reefs, that it means, you know, penguins. For now 350 is absolutely inert. It means nothing, comes with no associations. But our goal is to fill it up with overtones and shades and flavors. The weekend before we officially launched the campaign, for instance, 350 people on bicycles rode around the center of Salt Lake City. That earned a story in the paper and educated some people about carbon dioxide — but it also started to tint 350 with images of bicycles and the outdoors and good health and pleasure. We need 350 churches ringing their bells 350 times; we need 350 spray-painted across the face of shrinking glaciers (in organic paint!); we need a stack of 350 watermelons on opening day at your farmers’ market; we need songs and videos; we need temporary tattoos for foreheads. We may need 350 people lining up to get arrested in front of a coal train.

It makes sense that we need a number, not a word. All our words come from the old world. They descend from the time before. Their associations have congealed. But the need to communicate has never been greater. We need to draw a line in the sand. Say it out loud: 350. Do everything you can.

Bill McKibben is an author and environmentalist who in 2014 was awarded the Right Livelihood Prize, sometimes called the ‘alternative Nobel.’ His 1989 book The End of Nature is regarded as the first book for a general audience about climate change, and has appeared in 24 languages; he’s gone on to write a dozen more books. He is a founder of 350.org, the first planet-wide, grassroots climate change movement, which has organized twenty  thousand rallies around the world in every country save North Korea, spearheaded the resistance to the Keystone Pipeline, and launched the fast-growing fossil fuel divestment movement.


  1. My comment comes in the form of a song–anybody want a lead sheet?

    CO2 is getting higher
    Together we’ll turn down the fire
    Gotta get down
    Gotta get down
    To three-fifty

    Three-fifty parts per million
    Whether you’re Texan or Brazilian
    Gotta get down
    Gotta get down
    To three-fifty.

    Three-fifty, that’s the number
    Three-fifty, no time to slumber
    Gotta get down
    Gotta get down
    To three-fifty.

    Too much fuel to fly the plane
    See the country, take the train,
    If you go I’m gonna grieve,
    Turn the light out when you leave

    It’s the new low-carbon diet,
    Gonna save us if we try it
    Gotta get down
    Gotta get down
    To three-fifty.
    Gonna get down
    Gonna get down
    To three-fifty.

  2. You mean “CO2eq” I think as methane and other gasses also act as heat blankets.

    What length is a soccer pitch? 100m?

  3. I live in a town of 450 people, and can hardly wait for the price of gas to get these people out of their cars. They are still driving like gas was 39cents. There is however no public transportation. There was a little train, the Doodlebug (yes) that ran from Coffeyville to Wichita once a day roundtrip. It stopped in the 50s. Doodlebugs were all over the country, serving rural and small town folk. Trains need to make a comeback, with new technology. You can’t be for small farms and against corporate farms without supporting rural people, even if those rural people need to have the concept of CO2 critical mass, shoved down their meat eating throats. That being said, I need easily digested clearly explained materials to distribute in the least condescending way. You can’t get anywhere with an attitude here. These folks know all about hard work, and the perception is that city folks are great at pushing papers. We have a funny situation here, too. The low production oil wells which were not being pumped at 20 a barrel, are now pumping and more are being drilled. Some families are doing right well for themselves….

  4. I actually don’t quite get this idea. Given the number of variables in play, given the sheer complexity of the climate systems in question, etc. etc. etc., how can anyone believe that picking a number like 350 ppm makes any real scientific or policy sense? Scientists can’t even agree on something far simpler — say the level of cholesterol that is safe or dangerous in one’s blood — much less on what level of C02 is sane or not.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m convinced that global warming is a reality, that high CO2 levels are significantly to blame and that continuing to consume fossil fuels as we do is just nuts, but by slapping a number on the issue we do nothing to promote understanding. We encourage people to repeat slogans.

    It reminds me of all the canvassers who come to my door asking for money for various causes. Few know anything about the issues beyond the facts in the brochures they try to give me.

    I think we can do better.

  5. As much as I respect Bill McKibben, and his ‘transparent’ writing, I have to wonder about some things he has to say.

    But first one thing with which I agree with: this is a dilemma of metaphor, of image, of ‘story’ even more than it is of fact or process. We convince ourselves, and we trick ourselves, on the strength of the story we listen to.

    So how about another number, and not the 350 McKibben proposes? This other number is right there in his article, too: 25 feet.

    Yes, 25 feet, the rise in sea level that he presents. (Not only he, of course.)

    And – so what?

    How many OTHER ‘numbers’ would descend from that 25 feet figure? How many thousand – million square miles flooded? Billions displaced? Trillions indebted?

    Maybe we should start saving…

  6. I applaud Bill McKibben’s attempts at “getting the words right.” Maybe, a number will help. At this point, I know that when his article came up on my slow telephone modem, I didn’t read a word while I tried to understand the photo. What I saw was a backward “E” and then “SO.” For a minute or so, I wondered about it. It was only when I read the article that I understood the photo. In this case, the picture was a total bust without the accompanying words.

    For me, it is best to approach this from the perspective of addiction. George Bush said more that he knew (or meant) when he said that we are addicted to oil because as Anne Wilson Schaef wrote over 20 years ago, society has become an addict. Thus, for me, it is clear, the most important response for me in engaging this issue is honesty. Dishonesty is at the root of all addiction. Knowledge cannot save us; only perservering wisdom can.

  7. I think the freight train is roaring downhill out of control.

    Words or numbers won’t make it.

    It’s still too easy to intellectualize and wander around in our heads. Actual experience is what will make the difference, but by then it’s too late.

    The people having the actual experiences are those in the third world who aren’t even responsible for the disaster. This is what we in the industrialized west have done to Earth with our life styles, as if Earth belongs only to us. And all we can do is wring our hands and try to buy the latest green technology.

    I’m sorry, but technology is not going to save the Earth. We have become a cancerous tumor and Earth’s immune system will have to eradicate the tumor in order to survive.

    Think about it: We haven’t accorded Nature any rights to existence. Many people try to advocate for Nature but Nature has no legal rights in our frameworks of jurisprudence or even in our collective consciousness. Humans are the only creatures accorded rights–and even that is not universal.

    In the meantime, officials are still flying around to world meetings on global warming or academics to international conferences on the latest scientific evidence, or just merely vacations. Even Sierra Club still promotes outdoor tours, world treks, etc. What should they be saying?

    What 350 (or above) means is that W E H A V E T O S T O P N O W! Flying does even more damage than putting all those people on the ground in cars, buses, or trains, and we know how bad those are. We need to let the air out of our cars’ tires and start walking, biking, or riding in whatever mass transit still exists, and don’t forget horses and mules.

    We need to change in ways we can’t even imagine, but within Nature’s convulsive attempts to heal herself, we will be forced to adapt or die–and there will be lots of dying. We, the privileged, will feel the effects last.

    We’re living in a consensus trance.

  8. “.. and even Hansen says the number is at best the upper bound of safety, but still. Some kind of future. Some kind of hope.” I’m not sure what McKibben means here. Is it that beyond 350 there still is hope, snow-capped peaks, etc., or that beyond 350 we are going down inexorably?

    In any case, I believe that human life will survive, but that our great-grandchildren will live in a horribly degraded, ugly environment. We will not be able to take corrective action on global warming in time or at a proper scale. I think there is evidence that the primitive parts of the human brain, which stongly influence emotion and behavior, are evolved to operate with a short-term perspective. The dominant psychic objectives are for power, security, and comfort. Long-term, “modern brain,” cerebral considerations of over-the-horizon threats to these basic goals do not rise to the level of taking action. Action to avoid danger is only taken if it threatens our power and security in the present. And even then, incredibly, people are still building houses on the beach!

    It is hard to imagine what kind of force will be able to accelerate the pace of human evolution in time to avoid our savaging the biosphere. Our technical abilities have simply overwhelmed our evolved mental capabilities to control them.

  9. Lots of good responses thus far. I have to agree with those who do not think using the number “350” is going to do much good. Quite frankly I do believe that nothing is going to stop anyone from their private path until there is nothing left – no oil, no water, no food, NOTHING! I teach school and the majority on the staff in my school refuse to believe there is a “real” problem. They are convinced it is all a big scare tactic to make the oil companies even wealthier than they already are. They are convinced this will all “turn around” like it always has in the past. They do not see that things this time are not like they have been in th past. In the past the earth caught a cold and got over it. This time the earth has been diagnosed with terminal cancer but most people are still in denial – this cannot be happening – we will get over this too.

    Susan Willis stated it quite eloquently and succinctly: The freight train is roaring downhill out of control and we are all living in a trance.

    Some of us do see what is happening even if we do not fully understand the scope. We want to do something and we are doing what we can but we don’t know what else we can do. We feel helpless, one hand is tied behind each of our backs. We look for leadership and find it sorely lacking in all departments. Our leaders are at loss as to what to do.

    Bill Tyson made an excellent point when he asked a question regarding what will happen if the sea level rises 25 feet. “How many thousand -million square miles flooded? Billions displaced? Trillions indebted?” We need to put these numbers – with graphic pictures (pictures speak much louder than words)out for all the world to see and to feel. This is what we all need to know. It will not be enough to ride our bikes to work or change a few lightbulbs or even to learn how to grow some of our own food. If billions of acres of land become flooded and billions of people are left homeless and must flee to safety elsewhere those little things that we are trying to do today are not even a drop in the proverbial bucket. We are all in this together, global warming and population explosion, water and air pollution, destruction of forests – I could go on and on – these things are happening to each and every living organism on this planet and they are happening at a rate no one ever expected. This is the freight train and it is already out of control. What are we going to do to stop it before it wreaks total destruction of all life on planet Earth?

  10. While the 350 number may seem an inadequate symbol at the moment, we have to start someplace, and it is just such simple devices, repeated endlessly, that eventually resonate with people. Any Madison Ave. advertising executive knows that.

    For some entertaining “messaging” on the subject, listen to Eliza Gilkyson’s latest album, “Beautiful World”, in particular the songs “Runaway Train” “Unsustainable” and “The Party’s Over.” Go to http://www.elizagilkyson.com.

  11. Like Bob Tyson, I agree with Bill McKibben about the problem of finding the right metaphor, story or image to wake the public up about this crucial moment in time. And while I empathize with Susan Willis that we must ACT NOW and stop intellectualizing the issue, I also find that there are otherwise wise, caring, thoughtful folks everywhere who simply don’t see what the issue is, how this mysterious “Global warming” in any way will impact them. In other words, they have no “reason” or motivation to act. And unless a person feels a personal stake in an issue, they will NOT Act.

    I’ve heard statements like, “Oh, it’s hot today. Must be global warming. Thank God; I hate the cold,” or “these (fill in the blanks: tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, etc.) are simply Mother Nature’s normal cycles.” I shudder when I hear these statements. I think it is vitally important that we make this real in a way it is obviously not “real” to the majority of people.

    Part of it is the yawning disconnect that our society has with Nature. When you are a true observer and engager with nature, you organically learn how interconnected everything is. Yes, it matters that bee hives are collapsing; yes, it matters that polar bears are endangered; yes, it matters that glaciers which have been around for thousands and thousands of years are now melting at alarming rates. And YES, it’s all connected and we are a vital thread in that weave. I don’t know how to best teach this, though I try with my poetry students, I’ve tried while raising my own son.

    But the time is NOW for us to act. What is the compelling story, the story that will touch someone’s heart and make the stop thinking about the damn price of gas (the obvious answer to that one being: stop driving your car!), to stop imagining that this world is simply about the one, the individual and to start thinking that every part of this remarkable natural world, including humans, plays a role in keeping every other part of the web intact, healthy, alive, growing. The Native Americans knew this. Where do we find the new story?

  12. Sadly, I believe it’s too late to save the world we live in. However, in the long run, the world will be just fine, but I don’t think that our species will. After all during the Carbonaceous period, CO2 levels were at 6% of the atmosphere and life thrived.

  13. Old timers here in Oklahoma say the Panhandle is hotter and drier then it was during the Dust Bowel..We thought of using little Christmas lights to spell 350 so airplanes could see it..I have to step up wearing my Polar Bear suit around town.If Senator Inhofe could be defeated Oklahoman’s would be a lot better off..I will do more chalk art.Buckminister Fuller’s grandson said on “Democracy Now” we should remember Bucky for stressing the importance of what one person can do..Jean

  14. Small point of correction (Post 12, John Weiss):

    During the Carboniferous Period, CO2 levels were similar to what they are today, or if anything a bit lower, while atmospheric oxygen levels were quite a bit higher.

    Life indeed thrived between glacial lowerings and raisings of sea level, especially in broad continental-margin swamps, leaving the deposits of coal now mined, for example, across Appalachia.

    On the other hand, this thriving life might or might not interest, or be compatible with, a world ‘as we know it’ since it was dominated by ferns and bugs. Large ones.

  15. “Susan Willis stated it quite eloquently and succinctly: The freight train is roaring downhill out of control and we are all living in a trance.”

    I haven’t always lived in Kansas, and in fact, volunteered at the Ecology Center in Berkeley in 1970. We had a chance then, I think. We were dismissed as doom and gloomer. Maybe we had the science wrong, but there was a gut/heart feeling that we were on to something. That the consumer culture was going to ruin things for generations of living beings.

    All the naysayers now need to participate in an experiment. What if we are right and by drastically changing our ways of living we can turn it around. What if we are wrong and changing our ways of living make the world a healthier, greener, sweeter place. Either way is a winner. When LA had terrible smog, I couldn’t leave my parents house and bicycle when I visited from Montana. And they didn’t SEE it. Now, it is less smoggy and they realize it was worse then. Something changed (though you still shouldn’t breathe out there). When the Chinese regulate vehicles for the Olympics, they will see a change, will they demand keeping it up? Do you remember the beautiful skies after air traffic was grounded after the trade towers, etc. I was in Denver, and it was beautiful, no streaks no haze. The two days previous were bad.

    I don’t think that having a new cute website will help. I think visibly living lightly might. I think images of not the scariest future might help, if we can get them ‘out there’. Subtle things that people don’t want to see changing. I don’t know. Maybe I am crazy. We are the problem. So only we can be the solution.

  16. I do appreciate that we have to “start somewhere” and I applaud most of what Bill McKibben writes. I am afraid I am completely ignorant of what any Madison Ave. advertising executive knows as I am a school teacher and not a corporate executive.

  17. Hanna said, among other thoughtful things,

    “I don’t think that having a new cute website will help. I think visibly living lightly might. I think images of not the scariest future might help, if we can get them ‘out there’. Subtle things that people don’t want to see changing. I don’t know. Maybe I am crazy. We are the problem. So only we can be the solution.”

    The best solution would be fewer of us, I think. Second best? Quit burning fossil fuels, of course.

    *Sigh* The problem will take care of it’s self and my sons will have to live with it. Makes me very unhappy.

  18. Frankly, not to be rude, but I just think the 350 slogan is a little embarrassing. I can’t imagine getting behind it or promoting it. I’d feel silly. It’s even worse than Obama/Bob the Builder’s “Yes we can” as the Will.I.Am video using that slogan showed. It’s just painful.

    And it’s totally lacking in content other than a simple measure of carbon levels in the atmosphere. It does not convey a vision of a better way of living — we could get to 350 through collective action that transforms the planet or we could get to 350 through more corporate oligarchism like we have now. 350 could be one more slogan to further entrench capitalism. The slogan is empty.

  19. Me, too, John. I have already apologized to mine. They know I tried, and I raised them to live lightly.

    This is turning out to be a better conversation than I thought.

  20. McKibben’s has an excellent idea. Go with it.
    Doubters must realize that no one idea is likely to be a homerun. To scratch our heads and wonder if 350 will work is absurd thinking. I see Mckibben’s 350 idea as of one of many waves that will combine at some point to bring understanding. To dwaddle around waiting for the perfect pitch will leave us standing at homeplate as nature calls strike three! You’re out!

  21. Numbers, slogans, demonstrations … what ever we can use to proclaim the message must work for people take notice of the global climate crisis. I resonate most with Susan’s and Lindy’s comments and add: Yes, new technology, clean energy, and the notion of sustainable living will help but the “train is roaring down hill” and will take some time (distance) to stop. The earth’s climate is changing. The earth’s ecosystems and her agricultural and economic demographics will change. The earth’s systems will self-regulate and humanity will be affected. Yes, we can slow and mitigate the impacts of global climate change, by changing our self-centered culture of greed. We can change habits to live into a sustaiable life-style and ethic that includes the welfare of our neighbors – all of humanity, all of nature, all of creation. Left unchecked, humanity, as we know the species today, will go the way of the dinosaur. The earth will survive.

  22. What about 350 in 350 days? A campaign. I’m in public radio and for our membership drives it’s all about ownership and attainable goals. 350 days to 350, with something real and tangible to do each day, would help make it real for people. A way to get from here (385) to there (350)in a real way.

  23. hmmm… how about 350 in one day-see my millerfamily.stumbleupon.com for a friend’s take

  24. Is this article being read in China and India? Isn’t that were brand new old-fashioned coal fired energy plants are fuelling the burgeioning economies while they’ve become the new leaders in producing reall pollution (not just CO2), like soot (which by the way is doing quite a bit to melt the ice) and heavy metals which, if we’re worried about the white maritime bears (a much better name since there is nothing biologically that makes living on ice essential for the modern polar bear that used to range well into the temperate oceans just a few hundred years ago)…anyhow, those Kyoto sanctioned power plants and their soot and mercury smoke is suspected of causing one in five female polars bears to develope as hermaphrodites and thus non-reproductive.
    I would love to see a line drawn in the sand and it would be well before the concentration of CO2 becomes anything to worry about, but the destroyed ecosystems, the decimated coastal areas, modern habitation being built on exposed and sinking land, and always the expanding hungry mouth…yeah, I’m all for a line in the sand but the worries about CO2 seem like it should be far down on the list or we’ll find ourselves with a nice climate controlled planet but our old practices show that we’ll just squander what we’ve saved at such great expense.

  25. A number, whether it represents money, mileage, weight or inflation, just to name a few numerical measures, appears to greatly, if not predominantly, influence us humans these days. That is, judging, for instance, by the way we measure economic safety or wealth.

    So, parts per million it will be! Thanks Bill! Our numerical representation of parts per million of CO2 as a guide to remember the urgency of our task! Our task being in essence to trade-off, sacrifice, our current unsustainable ways of life, for a future for our children, grandchildren, etc and all the living communities on Earth.

    Our challenge, and thus our opportunity, will remain to wrong-foot ourselves, i.e.primarily our egos. Our challenge will be to drop all sleepiness around this approaching thundering global warming train. Slow it down, stop it or in any other way get at least our children and grandchildren and hopefully ourselves off the track.

    You would think that, especially given that what our egos ultimately value, i.e. life and survival, this would be a piece of cake. But, judging by our history, we might or might not be that smart! We face the ultimate test. Can we all get together on this issue and trade business as usual for an expressed love for all our communities. What a great opportunity! The ultimate opportunity.

    Let’s go,

    Karel J Samsom

  26. okay i am doing a test on stumbleupon, have changed my avatar to 350 and will see if I get any questions. or whatever.

  27. 350ppm – there’s an echo in there from dance music: bpm = beats per minute. Get “350bpm” out to them, maybe we get an anthem that sinks in? (Not even speedcore exceeds 200bpm, so the message is, with climate heating we’re going way over anything feasible)…
    Problem is, global emergency or not, activism of any kind has a poor image in badass culture, which as a hangover from ex-slave self-assertions, still has a lot of life in it, & will prob control lots of young minds for a while yet.

  28. I do not think activism has a bad image..I dress as Polar Bear and stand on a busy corner w sign”Stop Global Warming” I encourage other to do the same.The situation is DESPERATE<DESPERATE if we do nothing..I am very positively received..teenagers wave and yell wildly ,people at work stop to have me meet their families as the person who does this .It does not cost anything ,except just to get your nerve up..Can be done without the Bear suit also.Activists are beloved people!!.Father John Dear ,the great Peace Activist says we must make public actions and statements..Read his books

  29. Thank you Veronica for the link to Eliza Gylkison’s powerful songs. Music reaches us on the cellular level unlike either words or numbers, which are far too cerebral.

    Sharon, your thoughtful comments about the disconnect between culture and nature hit the target dead center, but your closing query epitomized our cultural blindness.

    You stated that Native Americans understood their place in the web of life and then asked “Where do we find the new story?”

    There’s no need to re-invent the wheel. Round has always worked just fine, thank you. And the indigenous story has worked for tens of thousands of years.

    The Hopi and the Kogi have been trying to warn us and offering to help point the way back (not forward) to a truly sustainable way of living lightly on the planet in respect for “all our relations” and with concern for the next “seven generations”.

    We are living a story that was doomed to failure from the start. There are no “fixes” and no “reforms” and no technological solutions, nor piecemeal incremental changes that will stop this out-of-control train.

    The train cannot be stopped or even appreciably slowed. The only way out of this suicidal predicament, As Karel pointed out, is to get entirely off the track and back onto the land. And this means, necessarily, a drastic reduction in the human biomass on the planet.

    Honor life, celebrate the impending demise of the arrogant human race, be willing to sacrifice your own life for the good of the planet. We have overstayed our welcome. If we do not act responsibly and make room for the entire web of life to flourish in Earth, Gaia will do what needs to be done.

  30. …a drastic
    reduction in the
    human biomass
    on the planet.

    Honor life,
    celebrate the
    impending demise
    of the arrogant
    human race, be
    willing to sacrifice
    your own life
    for the good
    of the planet.

    ……and?????? H=O=W?? May one ask? Specifics? Contradictions?

    Noooooo!!! Or just – huh?

  31. Apparently, my comments left “raw-cuss” sputtering and incoherent.

    At present, the global human population is using the resource equivalent of 1.25 Earths – and that’s if we assume that the entire planet belongs to us and we need not leave anything for the millions of other species.

    A reasonable assessment would conclude that the planet can support a human population of perhaps 1 billion (about the world population at the time of the Civil War), if were were consuming resources and emitting wastes at the rate we did in the mid nineteenth century.

    It is only by rapidly depleting the “capital” of the planet in the form of fossil fuels, with the use of clever technological crutches, and with an emphasis on quantity rather than quality that we have been able to temporarily expand our global population to its current extent.

    We are now experiencing the costs of our folly, extravagance, and exuberance – a cost that the less affluent world has born for centuries.

    The biosphere (Gaia) will correct this imbalance regardless of our protestations. Those of us who have benefited most from our short-sighted and excruciatingly selfish ways should, in good conscience, be the first to volunteer to go.

    The only lesson that remains to be (re)learned is that we serve the web of life – it does not exist to serve us. Green plants and microbes are the indispensable foundation of life on Earth. We are the least important species and the only one to deliberately despoil the nest.

  32. I think you have to ‘listen to’ what ruhk-us wrote recited in a very very high-pitched squeaky voice…

    I was left more or less sputtering myself at that post, and the offer it proposes that folk of good will ought commit a sort of seppuku. But not incoherent. Vehemently, I respond that Mr. Riversong is off the mark, factually and morally. Unless – but no, not even then – I was tempted to write that he, having shown himself to be one who has ‘benefitted most’ (by his presence in this forum, above all!) must lead the way, literally. And SOON.

    But. Ugh.

    The notion that a value of resource use of ‘1.25’ or any other ‘x’ value of the earth’s capacity is notional suicide, if nothing else. Per capita food production has squeezed itself into progressively smaller and smaller land areas. Enormous arable regions remain under used or not exploited at all. Realizing how loaded the term ‘exploited’ is, of course. One may go far back in literature to passages that give humanity ‘dominion’ over nature, and not that I would insist that such references be rigidly held, nor literally. Nor would I exclude the ethics of wise stewardship from the broader sense of ‘dominion’.

    Assuming that writer was serious in his proposal, I for one would like to hear much, much more about how he recommends we reduce our gross population from almost 7 billion to around a billion. Or even to half what it is now. And when.

    How? When? Only by exploring those questions can Mr. Riversong’s proposal to be the first to go be treated as anything but cruel farce. Or something absolutely obscene.

  33. You must have heard this proposed before. VHEM “May we live long and die out”

    I think we need to look at the more reasonable idea of exterminating the part of us which is living in a past we never had the right to. The citizen as consumer. The instant gratification craving. The external over the internal. I have a bumper sticker which says ‘creation before consumption’= regrettably it probably goes over the heads of most of my neighbors.

    I don’t think it appropriate to call for Mr. Riversong to lead the way and soon. Very not in the spirit of civility we should have here. Really makes me read the rest of that post skeptically.

  34. Hannah, Mr. Riversong -may- be writing in a ‘metaphorical’ mode, but the imagery he uses has a hard, practical, material edge to it that I forgive myself for mistaking, if this IS a mistake, for literally proposing violent or self-immolating action. You have read his posts. A ‘drastic’ reduction, in context with the rest, leaves a moral question of insurmountable proportions in my mind.

    I take it that you think me to have been uncivil to have pointed this out. If so, I offer an apology. But none for vigorously, or as I did write, vehemently protesting the substance, if not the tenor, of those posts.

    If no one else who has followed this discussion sees that, then I withdraw. Not as a matter of civility, but as a gesture of acknowledgment of futility.

    I know when I’m licked.

    My renewed salute to rack-rust, too!

  35. No doubt about it.

    There should be fewer humans on the planet. There are a few options.

    Exodus, but we’re not there yet.
    Birth control, but many folks think that it’s a right to push out as many babies as they can.

    Most likely, mass die offs from (fill in your favorites) starvation, lack of potable water plague or a man-made disaster such as another world war. Or any combination.

    We’ve left my children (and yours!), a real mess. I’ve already apologized.

  36. You see, Hannah, Mr. Weiss adds to the sense of futility I take from this discussion, and that is a shame. Note that as you follow his thread you end up with an apology – but otherwise a ‘mess’ and hopelessness.

    Re-reading your response to me, you are right to view my offering skeptically. And that was exactly how I took Mr. Riversong, whose contributions, if I may say it, are in substance truly uncivil.

    I guess I feel your barb with some intensity and wish to suggest your judgment of me, or of what I previously posted, is misplaced, or at least undeserved. As well as unkind, in creating the straw man of reading my post as requiring a solution ‘soon’ of Mr. Riversong, or of anyone else.

    That’s unfortunate, because I do think he ‘owes’ (and DO see the quotes :) his reader a follow-on to the dire scene he at first offers.

    Perhaps you do, as well. I hope that in all that I have written here, and on other Orion forums, has served to express the undertone of continued wonder and optimism, even humor, with which I see the real crisis we all face.

  37. Bob, it was your suggestion to him personally which I took to be uncivil. You said ‘you were tempted to write…’ and then did write that he must show the way. and SOON.

    I am a lifelong pessimistic optimist, or an optimistic pessimist, whatever. I don’t take loss of life lightly, and I know from my personal experience you can regain your hope, even after tragic loss, but I will admit to thinking the same thoughts as Riversong. I also plant a garden, nurture my adult children and friends, and make soup. I am hopeful, but realistic. We may have gone too far with this false civilization, and not far enough with creativity and conservancy.

  38. Hannah, although you are correct that I wrote ‘soon’ about Riversong, you do me the further injustice of quoting out of context. For if you follow the rest of the post, to say nothing of the expression ‘guides’ for the passage you have lifted from its place, you will see that what you infer is incorrect.

    You disappoint, for it is clear you yourself see through the distortion of my meaning.

    That is uncivil, on your part.

    As to Riversong, I stand by how I put it. By voicing what had been implicit in his post I have merely pointed to the Emperor.

    So I repeat my offer from an earlier post: if that is sufficient to you to be ‘inappropriate’, then I retire.

  39. “Vehemently, I respond that Mr. Riversong is off the mark, factually and morally. Unless – but no, not even then – I was tempted to write that he, having shown himself to be one who has ‘benefitted most’ (by his presence in this forum, above all!) must lead the way, literally. And SOON.”

    Still too much out of context? it is at the top of the page, your complete post, too.

    I am willing to agree to disagree with you.

  40. Hannah (40) do you REALLY believe what you have quoted is as you wrote, my ‘complete post’? It is all there at the top of page 5, indeed. And continues well beyond the fragment you’ve quoted.

    So what is it with which you disagree? Certainly, surely, disagree. And if you wish I’ll be willing to re-state my post which so provokes you, just to be certain what I wish to express is not misunderstood.

    I do think something important is at stake here. Mr. Riversong was out of bounds, that is, if I understood him. I think I did; you at least have not suggested otherwise, so it appears you agree with my ‘take’ in some fundamental way.

  41. Wow, the posts went from the 360 idea to finding a way to exterminate ourselves!

    Increased population is certainly the base of our problem, but what that increased population has done is the problem.

    I don’t see how we can reduce our population, we’ve tried that before and it didn’t work. We’ve had endless war, killing off people including two world wars that attempted it on a global scale. When we have possible world wide diseases come around, we work hard to solve them. We keep inventing ways to extend lifetimes and save people that in past times would have died quickly (heart stents for instance).

    It just seems it’s not in our genes to reduce our population. Although I’ve done my part by not siring progeny, I don’t feel like I somehow made a difference to global heating as I myself live in a society (the U.S.) that essentially forces me into being a contributor to the problem.

    Happiness is a basic emotion that makes life living. We all do things great and small out of happiness (or perceived happiness). Just discussing global heating and what to do about it, could be described as happiness for some people.

    So, though I’m typing away using electricity on a piece of equipment that took resources and energy to produce that operates in a system that needed those same things to assemble the infrastructure so that I could eventually convey my feelings and ideas to others, I must know I’d probably be better off not using the damn thing, as to global heating. Catch-22. My happiness is negated by the reality. We can’t win.

    I suppose that ultimately sacrificing my own life is the really the only answer, but I would lose my happiness. Catch-22. I can’t win.

    As to the 360 idea. I guess I’m a bit saddened that it takes a publicity gimmick or some sort of Madison Avenue imitation to get out the truth. It speaks to the society we’ve created and the tools that are perceived to work to get out a message to the masses. But things like this sometimes work, so give it a try I suppose.

    The success of it really depends on it being an addition to other previous gimmicks and publicity attempts (concerts, protests, etc.). Isn’t it too bad we can’t just give everyone two or three books on the subject and make them read those book?

    But as I’ve stated in other threads, there are people in the U.S. (as well as the rest of the world) that are simply not interested in a solution or are not interested in giving up their perceived happiness or don’t even believe there is a problem. The percent of those people are far too many to probably solve global heating as they are a big block blocking solutions.

    The way I feel is that I’m captive on some gigantic Titanic knowing that a huge iceberg is waiting for the ship to hit, insanely captained by someone who desires the crash. So instead of jumping into the icy water to my death prior to the crash, I await to watch the drama unfold as I occasional throw a deck chair overboard thinking I might help alleviate the future disaster. I even tell the other passengers of my goal, an activist trying to get others to “DO SOMETHING!”

    Not everyone will die when the gigantic Titanic hits the iceberg (which probably broke off of Greenland). Some will be “saved” though at a reduced passenger list, but many will suffer including possibly myself.

    I wish my bad dream were to be interrupted by a changed reality. The answer within my bad dream would be to stop the insane captain, easier than the reality of stopping the World’s power elite.

  42. That my quite reasonable suggestion should have provoked such an outpouring of defensiveness and offensiveness, only proves my thesis.

    That Tyson’s primary challenge to my statements is that it is “uncivil” makes evident the moral and cultural blinders he wears.

    Absolutely true that my comments were “uncivil”, for it is civility and the civilization that spawned it that is the root of the biocidal crises that face the planet today.

    It is western civilization which is the train following a philosophical track to oblivion, and not incidentally taking half the extant species of Earth along to Armageddon. And that track is exactly, as Tyson suggests, one which spells “Dominion” for the human race.

    Fine tuning this train-bound-for-collision will only adjust the nature of the the impact, not the outcome.

    When humanity lived in harmony with the web of life, and during seasons in which there was insufficient food for the entire tribe, elders (such as in Inuit culture) would walk into the snow to release their life force back into the web for the sake of the other generations.

    This has been viewed with the same kind of horror that Tyson suffers for my remarks by good Christians who believe themselves to be God’s chosen creatures. Yet it evidences a much greater morality than any to be found in “civilized” culture.

    Each of you lives daily by the death of others, whether that be animals or vegetables or insects or fish. Yet who among you mourns for their sacrifice?

    And who among you grieves the loss of 300 species every day directly attributable to our excesses? Who among you cries for the world’s suffering poor who put food on our overflowing tables, whose poverty is a direct result of our lifestyles?

    Tyson’s discomfort aside, the only just and moral decision that we wealthy humans can make is to return our life force back to the web from which it was cruelly taken to satisfy our lusts and inhuman desires.

    After all, that life does not belong to us – it is borrowed from the ebb and flow of the greater body of Gaia, and it is only to her that we owe our loyalty and our responsibility.

    To bask in the false optimism that has fueled this misbegotten experiment in “civilization” is to continue the greatest crime against life that the Earth has ever known.

    “Better a cruel truth than a comfortable delusion,” said that great iconoclast Edward Abbey. I concur.

  43. To all, and to Mr. Riversong in particular,

    Let me revisit what you wrote earlier, to be sure, from the bare bones of what you posted, that I have understood you. Here:

    We are living a story that was doomed to failure …
    no “fixes” … no “reforms” … no technological solutions…

    …only way out … is to get … back onto the land. And this

    …celebrate the impending demise of the arrogant
    human race, be willing to sacrifice your own life…
    We have overstayed our welcome.

    … the planet can support a … population
    of perhaps 1 billion … consuming resources … at the
    rate we did in the mid nineteenth century.

    Those of us who have benefited … should … be the
    first to volunteer to go.

    In those passages, from two of Mr. Riversong’s posts, I read a crushing despair, for which I can only try to reach across and urge some sort of ritual or celebration or engagement with a ‘what-if’ stance: ‘What-if’ holding the controls even when the plane seems it must crash might raise the odds of turning failure into a successful landing? (Which among pilots, needs only be one you can walk away from, to qualify.)

    I also see in these passages a frankly mindless rejection of ‘technology’ and a hollow call to go ‘back onto the land’. Question: are not hoe, shovel, and gardening gloves, ‘technology’? There IS no escape. We are a ‘technological’ species, and that just may be cause for real celebration. Fire, anyone?

    Reading through Mr. Riversong’s passages I call on the reader to return to the original posts, to test whether my excerpting is in the main fair to the original context. We move from an abandonment of technology to a ‘celebration’ of the end of the human race. That is, if I correctly read the word ‘demise’, here, and ‘human race’ as the population of ‘people’ who inhabit the earth at present. I admit that I beg the modifier ‘arrogant’ so perhaps I’ve misunderstood that ‘demise’ will be the fate of those who fall under the sub-rubric of the arrogant race (human). But I’ll retort that ‘human race’ usually means the species Homo sapiens sapiens, and that the definition of ‘species’ is the inclusion of all individuals which can mate and produce viable offspring. Since arrogance, last time I checked, didn’t work at all as fertility control I retreat to my interpretation of this passage as pre-defining the extinction of humanity. Arrogant humans are, depending on your personal viewpoint, either a subset of all humanity, or just people, all of us. Take your pick!

    I addressed the logical weakness in the assertion that the planet is limited to successfully carrying a human population of 1 billion in an earlier post, to which I refer the reader, or, better yet, to many outside and more authoritative sources…

    And then I came to those last lines. What do YOU make of that, dear reader? What am I to take from it? In, or out, of context, here? It worries and upsets me. If Mr. Riversong’s purpose was to get ‘up my nose’ as an Irish friend puts it, he has succeeded. Moreso if he is sincere. Yes, I can, with a squint, take it as a metaphoric hint that we must be selfless, might needs bear sacrifice. Unfortunately those actual words, ‘first to go’ have a ring to them that I found, and still do, after re-reading and re-considering Mr. Riversong’s words, very sinister. Quote from an old VW manual of procedures for the compleat idiot: ‘The driver of the VW bus is strapped on right out front where he’ll be the FIRST TO GO. Get it??

    On reflection, the posts are ‘civil’ but they manage, cleverly, to tread a certain margin. The bottom line, and the last ones in Mr. Riversong’s post, suggest something akin to the hiddean meaning of the gift of a sharp kitchen knife to the newlyweds, from the bride’s former and still-jealous boyfriend.

    I would not take the time to respond at such length except that another new post, from Jon B, says much that needs to be said, and in a voice of good cheer in spite of the shadow we face. I can only add that he has articulated something I too feel, and probably more poetically and warmly than I could. Bravo! Read THAT post again!

  44. Bob Tyson,

    I think perhaps you are giving me too much credit, but I’ll take it anyway.

    I just am a human trying to understand so many things and I try to see things from all angles. The glass IS half full, the glass IS half empty, both are true and I can observe it in either view. And then I also realize that a glass with fluid isn’t a stable amount. We can physically add to the volume or let it sit and evaporate. Or we can drink it quickly because of thirst or slowly to savor the taste like a good wine. There’s no one way to see the world or a glass of fluid.

    I understand Riversong’s point. It doesn’t upset me in the least. To reduce the world’s population is desirable, and to sacrifice one’s own life in the cause seems brave in a way. Countless wars have witnessed soldiers and warriors sacrifice themselves in battle for the goal of victory or to save a comrade. Is Riversong’s idea any different? Only in the scale of the battle, to save a friend, the Earth as a vessel for so many other species besides humans.

    Did not Vietnamese monks immolate themselves in protest for a cause? Have people not sacrificed themselves in the past in order to not reveal secrets or in refusal to believe in someone else’s God? People have chosen to die rather than be subjugated.

    We tend to think of these choices as bravery, could we not think of Riversong’s idea the same? Of course he would need to do that…WAIT, I’m not encouraging this at all! One death is not even noticeable. A mass public suicide might get noticed…but then again it would be too much like Jim Jones or Heaven’s Gate. Repeated mass public sacrifices might get others to understand the depth of conviction and it would have to be thousands of people. Yet, the world is so cynical that even that wouldn’t get the right kind of attention.

    Nope, I think it will be the more frequent weather disasters that kills people unexpectedly that gets the world’s attention. And I do believe we are seeing that sort of awakening to global heating reality. It’s common enough now when the weather zaps us for people to wonder aloud about global heating.

    By the way, there’s more to my bad dream. You understand that it was another passenger that had spotted the iceberg using high powered binoculars. He showed others including myself. I could see it, the moonlight glinting off of it as a sort of warning light. Some of us accepted the evidence, others denied it.

    Some of the people who spied the iceberg through those binoculars decided to take action. They ran down to the glitzy dining room pleading for the revelers to come see the danger, but only a few would be bothered, they were having too much fun. Off in the cigar room where the powerful smoked and planned the future, there was no interest in deviating from their future plans. The attendees of the evening prayer service didn’t believe God would place an iceberg in the way, but some also thought that if true, God works in mysterious ways.

    Meanwhile up in the bridge, Captain Insane had taken all the guns on board and armed his crew to protect his mission. He paid good money for his newly formed army, the dollars would buy loyalty. He had promised them survival as well, money can blind people to reality.

    Myself? Just feeling helpless as the gigantic Titanic cruised to some sort of destiny, yet it an odd way the events were too interesting not to see how it all turned out.

    As any human, I’m attracted to a good story and then being in the story as it happens is an emotional ride. Nothing is more intense as when events unfold in that slow motion feel. That’s how I feel these days.

    Plenty of good stories have surprise endings. The gigantic Titanic might not hit that iceberg, but the problem is that it’s hard to predict a surprise.

  45. Dear Jon B (I hope it’s ok to capitalize here — :)

    I’ve quickly read only your first 8 or 10 lines and I confess I can’t follow you. I’m kind of a Bear of Little Brain. I’ve ‘had it’ with ‘sacrifice’ of the kind you indicate and think it has all but never brought about ‘the good’. YMMV as they say and it all depends on specifics.

    I really responded to your previous post, however, and I hope that offering that ‘credit’ (who ever said such power was within MY grasp?) isn’t the last straw.

    This time I stopped reading, on the other hand, because I think YOU are placing undue credit on a text or texts that are way too raw to stand the load. In other words, what the writer in that case ‘may have’ meant is a bit myterious.

    I have to stand by my take, and by what I’ve already said. I think the overall center of gravity there was ugly. I’m disappointed, and discouraged, when I read the discussion sliding onto that slippery slope of despair, which is what I can’t escape reading in what we’ve seen here over the past day or so.

    What I believe is called for might not be the cup of tea of the Orion ‘faithful’ but it consists of diligent, hard work. First off, to learn, understand, and push science and it’s bawky offspring in technology. We are, in so many cases, so ruefully underinformed and misinformed.

    While I can ‘agree’ on specifics, such as a generality like ‘we need to reduce human population’ I can’t see where that facile point of rapport gets us, by itself.

    That’s why my challenge stands, even to someone who presents the rough-hewn and perhaps manipulative screeds to which I’ve objected, to offer some sort of map for the kind of work, and change, that helps.

    I know that is a tall order. I’m not making that challenge in the vacuum of self-satisfaction, I can tell you. I write, on a forum such as this, to help clear MY mind, to further develop my own understandings and thoughts, even when I might indulge a bit of talking to myself along the way.

    That’s ok. I know you’ll survive MY patter, no matter what. Even when I feel a kind of community-focused responsibility to run up the caution flag.

  46. Jon B, You have much clearer perception than those, like Bob Tyson, who are so deeply challenged by my words that they read their own abiding fears into them.

    Despair? I have none. I celebrate the coming Earth Changes that so many indigenous prophesies have foretold for this time. These changes, which necessarily involve a major die-off of the teeming masses of humanity, are a corrective to the imbalance that our overly-developed egos and (not so) clever minds have created. That Gaia is returning herself to balance is a cause for joy not despair.

    Despair is the response only of those who so desperately cling to their personal lives that they would sacrifice all of Creation for a bit more longevity or the satisfaction of leaving progeny swarming the planet.

    The “arrogant” off-shoot of the human evolutionary tree are those who invented a god in their own image and used that illusion as a rationalization for desecrating the very creation that they ascribe to their god.

    For tens of thousands of years, humanity rested harmoniously within the bosom of creation. It was when we stopped accepting the gifts that nature offered for our subsistence and instead began to extract our “pound of flesh” from her loins that we went awfully astray of our destiny. And it is for this hubris and greed and gluttony that we are now paying the price.

    We will go to the edge, either willingly or by the inexorable force of nature. The Tysons of this world will cling to their illusions until the bitter end.

    Interesting that Tyson interprets my critique as “mindless”, though it is based on a lifetime of learning, research, experience and rational investigation. Yet it is very true that if were to stop living so exclusively in the mind and return to a heart-centered existence, we would not only understand clearly our role in the web of life but also accept our destiny without anxiety or fear.

    Fear and despair are the results of an addiction to life. Once we abandon our attachment to outcome, we can live joyously in each moment and we can tap the power to create wondrous possibilities.

  47. Whoa! – Let’s jump off this bi-polar express. I believe the original train has jumped the tracks. I thought these comments were in response to McKibben’s 350 icon. The world is suffering from the impact of the industrial and technological revolutions; so, can we stop the button pushing that has occurred from post 41 on? Ego-mania abounds. Personally, I think that jon b, Robert and Bob have kicked up enough verbal dust to block any further global warming. Great writing though gentlemen.

  48. I went back to the original McKibben article and also read over the first several posts in response. It’s a real challenge to pull out of the ozone or CO2 haze some hook or catch-phrase that will stick in the mind. Looking for something that could serve the purpose is at the heart of the article, yes? And the first post, a song, goes right at the challenge. And bravo!

    Even so, there is something under the surface I wonder about. (This could be a long-ish post.)

    First of all that number, 350 ppm of CO2, might not be so magical. Returning to that level only gets us part way back to geologically historical levels. Why not 320? 292? Anyone interested can search a bit and find the basis for the lower figures in various articles, published over many years.

    Second, there is ample controversy over what the consequences of the present levels, above 350, will bring. And about what the mitigations of cap-and-trade or other emissions restructuring will actually accomplish. One estimate, by the same UN crew that got the Nobel along with Gore last year for its findings, is that the reductions under cap-and-trade as proposed by McCain and Obama would only delay arrival at a certain INCREASE in global temperature by a couple of years, and would cause a global rise of 0.4 degrees celsius by the end of this century. (I’ll give a link to an article in the next paragraph.)

    I’m not certain that a 0.4 degree rise is NOT still quite serious but, without wanting to spark a shouting match, I do wish to encourage informed consideration of these aspects. Today there is an article in the Guardian by Bjorn Lomborg – if it’s permissable here is the url: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/jul/03/climatechange.usa?gusrc=rss&feed=worldnews – titled McCain, Obama, and Hot Air – that I recommend.

    Lomborg is new to me and I’m not quite sure how to take what he has to say, but in detail he makes thoughtful points. One is that cap-and-trade only addresses the emissions side of the problem, and he thinks the benefits won’t repay the costs. If he’s right, we should be looking elsewhere. He would instead invest heavily in technologies for zero carbon energy PRODUCTION – wind, solar, wave, and so on.

    But more interesting still is his placement of the CO2 problem in context with other priorities which include reduction of poverty, AIDS, and more. The article says it very well and if you look around a bit there are other places where Lomborg states his case.

    Maybe the ‘WHAT’ that we face (high CO2 levels) is only AS IMPORTANT as the ‘WHY’ (historical factors that got us here) and – even more to the point – the ‘HOW’ to go on from here. If, as one poster wrote, agreement on what is a dangerous cholesterol count is hard to come by, and the specifics of what CO2 at 350 will mean are also debatable (but only in detail, please note I consider the situation IS grave), then it should be worthwhile to work out a strategy based on something else. Too. In addition.

    That could be to find an image or catch-phrase that ignites the imagination by showing ‘sexy’ the kinds of win-win solutions that put us in a better place, and above all at the point of origin: by HOW we produce the energy we use, rather than by what we do about it AFTER the waste we produce becomes WHAT we have to worry about. Doing so, for the US especially, would go a long ways to restore faith in American leadership and moral strength, too.

    More and better systems for zero-carbon energy production are in development. Many are, to me, surprising to see, especially in their esthetics. There are wind turbines, and not all the huge, horizontal propellers, that are – wow – quite beautiful to look at! There are strong improvements in protecting birds and animals at the same time, and in efficiency at many levels. Same for solar, where some of the new hardware, besides promising to become competitive with coal and other old-wave sources, look and feel sexy. Approaches to wave energy and – who knows? – are very intriguing, deserve to be pushed hard.

    So this post is running long, and there is something else of importance I wish to add, even though I’ve pushed it clear down here in hopes that will signal my sense of its importance, but of its rank as secondary to the argument of this forum. ‘Argument’ that is, in the sense of the Italian word ‘argomento’ or main subject. I encourage anyone to keep looking around, be informed, armed, and bring that added context into this discussion, which is an important one, and difficult enough.

    . A word on civility and acceptable content .

    A series of posts, here, which began with one of my own, have turned into a shouting match and become uncomfortably personal. I accept my role in that downturn of spirit. I’m not certain where the the confines of manners might be in a forum such as this; is it not acceptable to voice disagreement? To indicate what appear, from the writer’s perspective, to be errors or inconsistencies, in the reasoning or argument of another poster? And what to do, when the content or the tenor of postings crosses some line of acceptability of a moral or spiritual character?

    If someone posted a call, literally stated, to pick up guns and kill people who had names beginning with letters in the second half of the alphabet, it would be obligatory, I hope, to object, if not to call the police. What prompted me to intervene has not, I want to stress, of that explicit nature, but it was and is a matter of seriously loaded and objectionable content. I used the word ‘obscene’ early on. I don’t call the police over obscenity (unless it accompanies physical threat) but I do note it, at least, and object, when appropriate.

    My post, I think it was 33, was in response to what were ambiguous but loaded declarations in a preceding post. I thought at the time that the poster may have been joking, or even ‘trolling’ but no matter, the way it came across, on reflection, was that the matter was serious enough to deserve my response. If the poster had been joking, then I, too, was joking in the manner of my framing of my reply.

    But I don’t think this is a matter of a joke, and that, as I have written before now, disturbs me. It would disturb me to hear anyone speaking, in a public place, in such phrases; surely in a written discourse in a public forum such as this one, the effect, and the gravity, are of like kind. I can’t just walk away from it, although I have no stomach to ‘confront’ (do note the quotes) the individual who wrote the lines that bother me. And, if the silence from others here on the same matter is an expression of better judgment, that is, if you all see what I see and choose the path of letting it go in the nonce, then I salute you and say, you are right, and why am I caught up in this way?

    But just in case there is more to the story, I will point back to the same poster’s most recent message. It contained lines to the effect that the writer would celebrate the deaths of – not quoting but recalling from memory here – masses of humanity in natural catastrophes following human-caused climate change.

    What that says to me is that we have a person who would throw a party on the graves of those who died during Katrina, or the Indonesian Tsunami, the Chinese earthquake (not sure either of those can directly be tied to global warming, but where there’s a will there’s a way…). It’s easy to induce and infer that the writer of that post would cheer the deaths, on all sides, in Iraq, since they devolve from our thirst for oil. And, retrospectively, the Holocaust, which resulted in part from geopolitical and economic disruptions as the Post-WWI order shifted. In fact, that writer, it seems safe to say, would go back and smile at the Armenian Genocide during WWI, too. Those were events that arguably took place in the context of post Industrial Revolution changes, political and environmental.

    I may be accused of putting hard words in someone else’s mouth, so let me be clear. I follow a trail here, based on what the poster has written in this forum. Not once but several times, tightening the focus of what he has had to say each time. I’m not amused. If the point was to draw in someone like me and have the occasion to gloat at this successful button-pushing, I yield! You know who you are, you have succeeded!

    I sleep well. I’m not losing lunch over this, but, to repeat, it is important. I would not accept having these statements read out within my community, my church, my university, my atelier d’arte.

    Of course there is one more facet of this, at least. I can’t guage very well the poster’s motive. In that, I must cut some slack, as they say, and leave allowances for what I don’t know to be the case. But do take notice, one and all: while I stand up and reject the notions proposed, as I denounce their substance with all of my strength, I allow them to be expressed. Forever.

    As I am doing now.

  49. BT (I assume Bob Tyson),

    Kudos on at least recognizing the possibility that you are misconstruing my motives and my meaning, as you most assuredly are.

    That you can so completely turn my words on their heads is, most assuredly, a reflection of your own inner demons and not my outer demeanor.

    As a lifelong practitioner of Ghandian non-violence (which, by the way, includes articulating uncomfortable truths), and a four-decade peace and justice activist, one can hardly equate my celebration of Gaia’s return to balance as “dancing on the graves of victims”.

    But I will point out that most of those victims that you cited died for the sake of the “progress” of western civilization. As Edward Abbey so perceptively said, “The industrial way of life leads to the industrial way of death. From Shiloh to Dachau, from Antietam to Stalingrad, from Hiroshima to Vietnam and Afghanistan, the great specialty of industry and technology has been the mass production of human corpses.”

    And you force me to point out, once again, that you cannot fail to rejoice at the Web of Life reclaiming its integrity and harmony – even if that means the demise of the human race or much of it – unless you place your own life (and that of humanity) above that of the rest of the life of Earth.

    And that is the essential hubris and arrogance of modern humanity: that we are the pinnacle of creation and are entitled to persevere even at the expense of all other life forms and even the planetary biosphere itself. And that is why we have initiated the sixth great extinction for the sake of our own temporal comfort and why we continue to look for “solutions” precisely in the manner which created the crises.

    My life (and yours) is worth nothing other than what it can offer in service to the Whole of Creation. That is our only rightful role in the Web of Life. Death is nothing more than Nature’s method of recycling. Wise people would celebrate it. Not the deliberate infliction of death by others, but the mere fact of it.

    It is our desperate clinging to life that has strewn death in our wake for thousands of years. We are but buds on the greater Tree of Life. Do we mourn the loss of a few buds if the tree continues to live?

  50. BT…Bob?

    I guess I missed the “shouting matches,” as I considered it more or less discussion, but with some misunderstanding of points made. You haven’t seen on-line shouting matches if you thought that’s what was going on.

    Riversong has a sense of how I feel or maybe vice versa. In the last decade or so, I’ve thought that humans may be the most destructive species ever to appear on Earth. Our dominance seems to confirm that. Even dinosaurs didn’t rape the Earth of resources to the extent that they caused the world to transform the temperature of the Earth. Heck, they even allowed our predecessors (small mammals) to live during their reign. As opposed to humans who have purposely made plenty of species go extinct, and in some cases for sport and even hatred!

    I have perceived of causes that would completely wipe humans off the face of the Earth, such as all-out nuclear war, an asteroid hitting or a severe disease that we can’t cure or avoid (even then, some remote island of people could continue to live on). But if something did kill off all the humans, so what. It would be some other species turn to evolve to dominate the planet.

    All species have the motivation of survival within. It’s what makes humans (as thinking animals) have the ego that we are better than other species and that we are good for the world and thus must survive. We think we can control the world or will be able to control it someday…this depends on who you talk to.

    We tend to expound on all the inventions we create and our advancements, but our legacy is really about our destructive nature. We have murdered or own kind in so many ways for so many reasons from the dawn of man it amazes me that we have arrived at this point to even increase population at such a high rate. And what we’ve done to other species and to the Earth is nothing but destructive selfishness.

    And the solutions we look for are not for the Earth but for own survival first. If we woke up one day and realized the Sun was preparing a blitz on Earth, we would not be about looking to protect the Earth. No, humans would be building spaceships to leave the Earth as fast as possible, our survival first.

    Solutions that I see are much about keeping our level of advancement, our standard of living, our status quo. We still must have cars! We still must have suburbs! We still must have any of the other species on our Earth as dining choices…as long as we can make them taste good. We must have malls, chain-store restaurants, advertising, internet porn, professional sports stadiums, summer blockbuster movies, cross country airline flights, cities for gambling, and Viagra.

    What if the solutions for global warming were to have to give up many of those things and countless other pieces of our culture? I’m inclined to think the solutions ARE going to cause us to change our ways. Is humanity ready to sacrifice its’ “advances,” our modern society?

    I believe that most people that have come to enjoy these things aren’t willing to give them up voluntarily. I thus don’t expect we will “solve” global warming.

    I understand the better technology of wind and solar, but to have these replace what we’ve got will be a tremendous use of energy to produce the infrastructure. A tremendous use of natural resources in creating these things. And of course a tremendous contribution to greenhouse gases as we make alternative energy become dominant.

    Just trying to come up with a clean vehicle that everyone will drive has been a failure so far, and in that meager effort, waste was made, resources used, greenhouse gas produced. And the concept of every human needing the option of a personal moving machine that can move one person thousands of miles is a bad concept in the first place, at least in a world of 7 billion humans.

    The solutions are drastic. Our culture must change and change like yesterday. Why yesterday? Well, the main article said that 350ppm (sorry I posted before the number 360) was actually below the current 385ppm and 400 is right around the corner. And from I understand 2 more degrees is already built into the system. The world is not going to stop warming anytime soon, we figured it out too late and we aren’t drastically reacting to stop it, so more warming will come.

    Ultimately, humans will group together in the most tolerable regions at a reduced population and with a different way of life because survival is the number one priority, not the status quo of wasteful luxury that injures the Earth and so much of it’s other inhabitants.

  51. Robert:

    I, too, have studied Gandhi. Your spin on his teachings rings false in my ears, or at best, sounds like what Stephen Colbert memorably classes as ‘truthiness’. I’m sorry but from what you have posted I take the same message as before, that, from your perspective, we are fated to live, suffer, and die without redemption. The closest thing to admiration or gratitude for life and creation and for joy you have articulated is in what you wrote as celebrating the mass deaths of your fellow creatures. No, thank you.

    If this forum, or Orion itself, is in the end a poorly-camoflaged hideout for contemporary Old Testament (and other culturally sourced) ‘End Times’ prophecy, then it is I who have missed the boat. So be it, I’m pretty good at hopping back on to the dock!

    john b:

    You do me honor to quote my words and parse them so well, but you, as did Hannah, have created a straw man by taking what I wrote out of context. If you would care to respond to the idea I expressed, in context, I will be glad to respond.

    To all:

    I think I have ‘had my say’ on unacceptable declarations. I began my last post with the pragmatic issue that ‘When Words Fail’ was about. The two responses so far ignore that small matter, and instead home in on ‘personality’. They engage the issue I raised in the second part of that post but they don’t touch my core concern from either part of my post, and that I find a bit discouraging. So, now that I’ve yelled ‘fire’ and pointed towards the emergency exits I would like to leave it at that.

    Now I hope someone, anyone will offer a good sharp ‘hook’ for real discussion about finding an image, a metaphor, a catch-phrase that can move all of us OFF of the hook of our energy gluttony, inefficiency, inhumanity, and self-absorption. Unless we stop where we are and surrender to hopelessness and the belief we are doomed regardless, it’s a job worth doing.

  52. Some thoughts on themes from recent posts:

    Humans as ‘arrogant’ or considering themselves better than other species; probably if you ask any scientist you will discover a humility in the face of creation that will astound you. A memory from my college years, a philosophy major housemate, deeply involved in anti-Vietnam activism, and in framing the intellectual motives for that resistance, spent a weekend at an observatory in the company of the astronomers there. He came back bug-eyed, literally muttering, ‘They’re talking about millions of light-years and billiions and trillions and – and and-‘ In other words, a perspectiv shift, not absent a large dose of old-fashioned WONDER.

    Various expressions of fear we will go extinct by our own hand, or apparently so, or from some insurmountable natural event such as a meteor strike; it could be. Again, reaching back to a childhood memory, during the post-WWII years, the 50s. A bit of history, penicillin and widespread use of antibiotics was only a couple of decades old. I heard from family and read, over and over again, of the deep shadow of childhood mortality that had existed just a generation previous. Was I going to be next? Or my best friend? Sure, we learned to look both ways crossing the street, but of the possibility of being offed by some sickness there was no shelter in ‘looking both ways’. What strikes me, and this is not something I’ve thought through deeply, is that from that time to this the shadow of disease has been lifted, for us in the developed world. Yes, there are cancers, heart disease, AIDS. No argument there, but along with those are abundant strategies and counsel to help avoid them or to treat them when they strike. Somehow it is the lessening of overt threat, in spite of the actual danger those illness pose, that has changed the psychic landscape from my parents’ or grandparents’ generation to this one, of my children’s, and their children’s. I wonder – perhaps that helps explain a shift of anxiety-focus towards the fear of some geological or cosmological ‘end’ – or one possibly within our grasp to influence, that is climate change.

    That is NOT to dismiss the threat nor to devalue discussion or action, nota bene. It happens that I teach a course in photographing ‘cultural assets’ for the Catholic University in Brescia, Italy. Now, if you look at the academic org chart, you see that my boss is a fellow called Benedict XVI, who lives in a palace in Vatican City. And me, a Presbyterian by birth and upbringing. Two springs ago Italy had a referendum on stem-cell research, worded and implemented in such a way that unless a minimun number of ‘yes’ votes were recorded it would fail, and the much-needed liberalization of access to this work would not go into effect. One day as I hurried to my class I noticed a poster flogging the ‘official’ position on this matter: ‘Just Don’t Vote’. Of course that would prevent the matter from being qualified. But in the academy this was distasteful. Where was the poster that fronted the many good reasons TO vote, to vote YES, and to engage this important work?

    Part of the problem is finding the right questions to ask.

  53. BT’s utter inability to hear my commentary without the misinterpretation engendered by fear is emblematic of our cuture’s abject fear of death. And this is due to our culture’s utter focus on the individual (human) as the pinnacle of value. Which is why we no longer have viable community, let alone a wholesome community of life.

    If it were possible for us to rediscover our place in the Web of Life (as opposed to the pyramid of evolution that our minds and egos have constructed), then we would lose not just the fear of death, but all related fears as well – such as the fear of loss.

    There is no Nature without a constant cycling of death-to-birth, and dying is as vital a part of the cycle as birthing. We are only beginning to appreciate the vital importance of recycling, and yet this is the fundamental operative principle of Life.

    Life doesn’t end with personal death. It begins. All wisdom traditions understood this.

    We humans are no more important in the grand scheme of things than the leaves that rot to humus each year to give up their life force for new growth. When we feel this in our guts, we will know humility.

    BT’s cultural blinders also lead him to confuse Old Testament End-Time stories (which close the book of life) with the indigenous prophesies (much more reliable) which point only to Earth Changes and the beginning of another cycle in the endless flow of Story that we are part of.

    The Story will go on, with us or without us – and that is the grandeur and wondrousness of the Universe. That story is uninterested in Madison Avenue slogans or “hooks” or magic numbers. It is not “sexy” as some have suggested. But it is beautiful and awesome.

    The one thing of value that BT has contributed to this discussion is his (hopefully) final statement: “Part of the problem is finding the right questions to ask.” Though I would suggest this is the entire problem. And to find the right questions, one must have clear perception. To have clear perception, one must stand outside of the narrow cultural mythology that so encompasses us that most are as oblvious to it as a fish is to water. Yet it is the air we breath.

    Try holding your breath long enough to break out of the fear of death. Then you will truly know LIFE and will rejoice.

  54. Bob Tyson,

    I was a bit confused if you were BT, sorry about that.

    Yeah, many scientists do have that humility that gives them a different perspective on so many things. Climatologists are certainly in that category and their words of warning are only beginning to seep into the mass public.

    But when I refer to the arrogance of humans it is really much of the masses I speak, particularly when you examine the philosophy of Christian fundamentalists. Their arrogance comes straight from the Bible as instruction to have dominion over all the species of the world.

    Beyond that, far too many Americans are just plain ignorant of so much in the world. Polling shows this. Seniors in college can’t even remember important civil knowledge such as the three branches of government, what is covered by the First Amendment, or who their representatives in Congress are. Polling of all sorts of grouping in the US find low knowledge of all sorts of simple things. This dumbing down is a sense of arrogance, that previous learned knowledge is to be forgotten because it is perceived unimportant to career knowledge or the latest cultural fad…tunnel vision of self absorption. History in particular is a subject of disregard.

    If you want the Americans of this memory hole type to rally to the global warming cause, you’ll need to turn it into a cultural fashion in every form, TV, YouTube and I-phones. The fundamentalists? They will never come around.

    If I’ve led you to believe that I fear some end of the world, not true. First, I don’t think the end of the world will occur until the sun goes nova. It’s already survived plenty that the universe has thrown at it. But, the end of humanity, it could happen…but I think somehow humans will adapt to the worst that can occur, but adaption will probably be at a hugely reduced population depending on the cause of course.

    But to fear it? No, it will be something that just happens. And if we cause our own demise, then I guess we deserve it.

    Yes, people in the US are certainly fearful of all sorts of end of the world scenarios. The majority of the population in the US has grown up in the nuclear age, that probably has a psychological aspect to it. But even prior to nukes, the end times of Christianity existed and now thrives. Throw entertainment such as sci-fi movies into the mix of real possibilities that could mirror them. Imagination of humans is quite remarkable.

    And so is our growing knowledge that has led us to understand things like global warming and epidemic disease. Interesting that you mentioned antibiotics. Did you know that medical research is barely staying ahead of mutating viruses? There is an anxiety among drug researchers that we won’t be able to produce new antibiotics anymore. The viruses that we’ve kept at bay in the later half of the twentieth century have a good chance of beating our dwindling weapons.

    The jury is still out but it’s possible we are causing the rising tide of autism through child immunization shots. What kind of trade off is that, if true?

    It appears to me that science finds solutions and also creates new problems. Splitting the atom is a good example.

    This is a prime reason I don’t have faith that humans will cure global warming. Our science and inventions helped create it. If we solve it, we will probably create other problems. Further, global warming is easily the biggest problem we’ve ever spawned. But, again I think there is no wrong in trying to reduce CO2. I just feel that it’s going to take a more drastic change of our way of life than most people will want to do, and it’s certainly not even close to happening yet.

    Have you read…Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet by Mark Lyman? Of all the recent global warming books out there I’ve read, this one impressed me the most in its articulation of what happens to the world, degree by degree, region by region.

  55. Dear jon b, yes, BT is Bob Tyson. I didn’t mean to be coy.

    First, I can second what you write in detail that certain possibile events (meteor strike? sun going nova?) either will (or won’t) just happen, and that’s that. If that can dispose for the moment of that side of the dilemma, fine.

    Much of your theme relating to the lost societies of fundamentalism, if I may greatly abbreviate what you have described that way, is pretty much what I see, also. And it is the case that in these layers of society there IS an arrogance present. Or a tenacious and defensive reliance on ‘belief’ as a prop against anxiety, oversimplifying once again. (Error: mine, not yours, here.) Coupled with the dreadful failure of education that you note, we’ve got a truly ignorant population. Is it by some sort of grace, or a further element of this chaos, that so few of us actually vote? Insert smiley or whatever here.

    Just a couple of minor points, it is bacteria that have almost turned the tide against antibiotics. Since it is they rather than viruses that can be treated antibiotically. Yes, I’m aware of that, and of multiplying channels of response in terms of research and developing technologies. Is the glass half-empty? Or?? If you ask me it’s not time to say, either way. Yet.

    Disclosure: I am a geologist by training and career experience. I’d be curious to read ‘Six Degrees’ but I must warn that I have read and listened to the various projections and scenarios based on the increasing temperatures, and I’m not sure if ANY are convincing, in detail. I hope I can make that statement without leading any reader to conclude I do not BELIEVE that changes are taking place, however. To put that in scientific-speak, the evidence FOR climate change is preponderantly conclusive and persuasive. I will be quite pleased to review the data that testify to the opposite, the moment it is published.

    The catch-phrase in use, ‘global warming’, suggests, simple enough, right? — that things will get hotter. Place a pan of water on the stove and heat it up: the water, all of it, and the pot all get warmer. But the land-sea-air system we inhabit is not a pot of water, and it won’t behave like one. ‘Warming’ means ‘increasing the total energy’ of the system. The effects will be varied. In some places at some times things will get ‘better’ with respect to what had been. In others, worse. (I don’t make predictions, but where I live a dry, cold winter has gone into a rainy late spring and maybe we’ll have an unseasonably COOL summer, with occasional spikes of unbearably hot days, instead of the more ‘traditional’ long run of pretty damned hot, humid, oppressive weather. That would be ‘different’ and possibly a result of global warming, but you see, NOT what you would expect from a uniform, democratically-distributed increase in global temperature.)

    Maybe the pot on the stove example works, in a way. Heat it to boiling and the water bubbles and surges. In some small regions the pot is hotter than boiling, in others the water, cooler than boiling. The increased energy drives the convective motion and the result is this ‘tempest in a teapot.’

    I am a global warming believer, but not based on ‘faith’ which, for me, WOULD be arrogance in this case. Reading geologic literature back to my undergrad days in the 60s it has long been apparent that something is up. In 1997 articles on the Greenland ice coring nailed the story for most in the field, and for me when I read them were a slap across the bow, impossible not to understand, accept, and think about. That was data that not only plotted temperature changes but also CO2 concentrations, ocean salinities, and other chemical variables. The literature is available to all, check into http://www.geosociety.org, the website of the Geological Society of America. Among others.

    The corollary to my acceptance of the evidence for global warming is that it is producing consequences. No argument. It is rather in the dogmatic predictions of specific scenarios that people get their asses in a sling and foster difficulty in putting forward the reasonable and convincing evidence that exist for particular aspects of the situation, and to formulate workable responses that are politically and economically persuasive. Including to the unwashed, ahistoric masses.

    I may address that more in another post. Fundamentalism of many stripes, a cultural blindness entrenched by reading and re-reading old texts selectively and inaccurately stripped from their contexts only reinforces that problem. My counsel, realizing this and a couple bucks will get you coffee these days, is to leave that one aside for a moment and dig a little more into the rest that we’ve had in front of us.

    To wind this up, we, in our energetic ways, HAVE contributed to global warming. Yes. (Remember that since about the 15th century we have been emerging from an anomalously cool spell known as the Little Ice Age, so on the one hand the effects from human activity are superimposed on a pre-existing warming trend.) So now I pose this question: ‘How is it helpful to repeat that WE are the cause?’ If you were camping in the rain and you accidentally poked a hole in the tent roof, letting the water in, would you waste time muttering a self-blaming mantra (other than swearing a couple of times in your native language to let off steam), or would you set about patching the hole?

    I don’t know how much change can take place at this point in history through popular action. The last time in my generation that it did so, or seemed to have done so, was with the Vietnam War. Hindsight offers ample reason to doubt just how much the popular uprising against that war actually accomplished. I know that, also, is a large and controversial theme, but I raise it to suggest that at present ANY channel that seems open is worth pursuing.

    Individual action, voting, stockholder action, full-court press in the media, educational reform….you see my imagination is very weak on this. I’m sure you, and you and you, can do me better. And back to ‘When Words Fail’ and the search for that image, that ‘hook’ for the imagination. Also of the leaders, chiefs, oligarchs, rulers.

  56. “Did you know that medical research is barely staying ahead
    of mutating viruses? There is an anxiety among drug researchers that we won’t be able to produce new antibiotics anymore. The viruses that we’ve kept at bay in the later half of the twentieth century have a good chance of beating our dwindling weapons.”

    Antibiotics don’t treat virus, fungi and bacteria, yes. Do you know what you’re talking about?

  57. To jon b,

    Alas, spotting a point I wish I had included, but here: in one of your paragraphs you mention in one sentence both nuclear weapons and Biblical end-times. Could we posit (?) that the two are distinct? The Bible, in company with other cultural works (‘beni culturali’ in Italian, or cultural assets) is a work of metaphor, of literature. And I would bet that not one of us here (but show me to be wrong!) has read the Bible in its original languages, Greek or Aramaic, or ‘Other’. Nor are we much conversant with traditions of interpretation, argument, and discussion around what specific passages, even individual words, may signify. Such is the literalism with which many of ‘us’ (but not all) approach this text. Religions fundamentalists, take heed.

    So the end-times speak of a certain fate, yes. But nuclear weapons are NOT metaphoric, they are real. It has been pointed out that ‘primitives’ such as the Indian tribes in North America, often (but, nota bene, not always) practiced a form of warfare that was more pageantry and symbolic contest than engagement of violent main strength. Even by the time of Little Big Horn (1876) there remained among the Native peoples a certain amazement that the White Man actually set about killing, using such efficient and ugly instruments for the purpose.

    Consciousness is a geologic process in which time is a significant element. By Wounded Knee (1890) the story was different, but someone managed to erect an interpretive sign at the site years later with the title ‘Battle of Wounded Knee’. By the time of my visit there a hundred years after the fact an iron plate had been riveted over the word ‘Battle’, revising it to read ‘Massacre’. Sic transit…

    I’m afraid of nuclear weapons. I take heart, when I read the Bible or another saga of ‘end times’ becasue, in parallel with hearing Leon Fleischer play Bach’s ‘Sheep May Safely Graze’ it reminds me to be awake, to love, to feel. And to protest, where it might make a difference.

    I’m afraid of nuclear weapons, and more than when I was 5 and we did ‘duck and cover’ in kindergarten. I’m not afraid of the Bible, nor the Q’uran, nor the Sutras…

    Even though, to wrap on lighter note, it might be a case, to invoke yet another metaphor, of ‘Never mind the dog – beware of OWNER.’

    Robert, hope you’re still tuned in! -giggle. Couldn’t help myself!

  58. Well, Robert. You remind me of one of my favorite stories. A rabbi, a minister, and a priest are discussing the problem of when life begins. First the priest opines, ‘Why of course, life begins at conception!’ But the minister disagrees, saying ‘No, no, it’s when the fetus is viable—‘ to which the rabbi, after a moment of thought, comes back with, ‘I think life really begins when the children leave home and the dog dies.’

    So much for your ‘death-to-birth’ cycle, my friend. Or maybe that reminds me of another story — this one from ‘Peanuts’ in which Lucy is ‘teaching’ Linus the facts of life. Pointing to a telephone pole she informs Linus, ‘You see? That is a special kind of tree the telephone company plants so it can have the telphone wires up above.’ Charlie Brown of course lurks in the last frame and mutters to himself, ‘It’s gonna take that poor guy the rest of his life to UN-learn all that Lucy is teaching him.’

    Your cultural blinders are pretty impressive, too. If I speak as artist, in which I think I may say that I’ve hit this barrier of cultural limits pretty hard, I have to say that you maintain a terribly distorted and cleverly focused misreading of some ancient texts. The death to birth model comes from an inversion of what had been taken from artifacts and texts at sites in places with names such as Alma Ata….and lots of interpretive wisdom has contextualized them and compared them with other literatures. Scholars on those ancient writings have summarized the life cycle image they invoke as ‘birth-copulation’death’ instead of how you’ve stated it. It’s a measure of the shortcomings of that imagery as ‘life model’ that they are so lacking in ‘oomph’ for modern ears and minds, even ones as jaded as some of ours.

    But ripping fragments from the textual autochthon and re-presenting them to us as if ‘wisdom’ isn’t bad enough! You also fragment and leave allochthonous within your OWN text the howler that ‘Life doesn’t end with personal death. It begins.’ This is your literal belief AND follow-on to the despair (disguised as ‘celebration’ of mass death) you posted earlier, and the only way I can read it is that (you posit) ‘life’ starts when one literally ‘dies’ – physically – full stop.

    Far be it from me to even try, from the little that you have provided, the tortured and tortuous process of extracting some other, and hopefully brighter, metaphoric – poetic – expressive nuance from those barest of bare bones of your words.

    Either you haven’t phrased this clearly or you believe somthing that I do not. EIther way, you exhibit a cultural blindness equal to any you suppose for anyone else! There’s an old bit of Eastern wisdom: For him who knows not, but knows that he knows not, teach him, for he may learn and grow and thrive; but of him who knows not, yet knows not that he knows not, is a fool. Shun him.

    I hope that last shoe is not in your size. And that you’ve read Paul Valery also: ‘The world is always more interesting than any of our ideas about it.’ Between that and the message-in-metaphor of the NEW Testament, although I am not a practicing Christian, I find more reason to celebrate life, actual here-and-now-physical-loving-fucking (birth, copulation, and….) life (abundant), than I ever can its negation in the fragmentary and inaccurate re-framings of cultural teachings as you have introduced them. It is not enough to quote a sage, to assume that mantle of wisdom, I’m certain you must agree, given your assertions regarding perception and consciousness!

    You are a teacher in a Vermont alternative life methods school and you enjoy standing as an activist, instructor, and social-political critic. I have read some of your contributions on other forums, and I can respect some of what I have read in your voice there. I regret that the tenor, quality, and some of the substance of what you have shared here are far below standard I found in your voice elsewhere, although I have no idea why. THAT was what I meant in my earlier post about leaving slack for factors I don’t or cannot access, nor understand. To be blunt, I have to consider that you may be in a bad way, in heart, in spirit. Someone suffering difficulty, despair. Or, and I hate to say it, but I’m being blunt, remember. A kook. I grant that whatever the truth the reasons must be important, and neither they nor the effect something for me to judge.

    But if my son or daughter were your student and brought home a paraphrase of what you’ve offered here in mis-quoting Gandhi, or in your present post, and if that child of mine didn’t walk straight past me to the reference materials to check things out for herself (which, being my child, she would have done, 98/100), I would have challenged her myself. I might have thought about dropping by to discuss it with you face to face too, and had the notion to ask your faculty ombudsperson to reassure me. Even. I hope you see that as fair. And humane. And human.

    So long as the meteor holds off.

  59. BT said: “I think I have ‘had my say’ on unacceptable declarations…So, now that I’ve yelled ‘fire’ and pointed towards the emergency exits I would like to leave it at that.”

    If only he was a man of his word.

    BT attempts to dismiss, with a clever joke, the biological reality that life feeds on death and death is the womb of life. No one who has farmed or hunted or lived closely with the land would deny that.

    And, further, he attempts (once again) to ascribe to my assertions a source so thoroughly unrelated that it begs the question of how a photographic artist can so misperceive what is in front of his eyes. Perhaps he has been looking so long through an artificial lense that he can no longer see clearly with his eyes.

    The obvious and simple truth that Death is the necessary condition for life does not source itself in texts or gospel or doctrine or dogma, but in the world we inhabit.

    Neither does such fundamental truth rest on belief, as BT also speculates. We believe only what we do not know, and we fail to know only in so far as fail to perceive. Clearly, those such as BT who base their lives on fear and loathing, are self-made victims of their own blindness.

    And it is those who are most blind who stumble around telling others to stop describing what they see, for it scares them to know lest it shatter their self-protective beliefs.

    Yet we cannot act responsibly if we do not know what is in front of us. And we cannot know what is here unless we are willing to shed old skin and see the world freshly.

    We cannot live in celebration of the Great Wheel of Life as long as we remain desperately attached to it, for that will leave us only dizzy and confused and fearful of letting go.

    Those clinging madly to this self-destructive engine we call civilization, confuse detachment with despair – for they must project the subconscious realization of their suicidality onto those who stand along the track witnessing the train rushing headlong and headstrong to destruction.

    A celebration of life is necessarily a celebration of death – for they are but two sides of the same coin.

    “Lose your mind – find your way”. This is the timeless wisdom we need at this moment. Few, however, will be willing to know the unutterable joy of letting go.

  60. Robert writes:

    BT said: “I think I have ‘had
    my say’ on unacceptable
    declarations…So, now that I’’ve
    yelled ‘fire’ and pointed towards
    the emergency exits I would
    like to leave it at that.”

    If only he was a man of his word.

    BT replies: ‘He is. The post to which Robert refers is not about ‘unacceptable declarations’ but about Robert’s inaccuracies in interpreting ancient texts. Distorting an ancient text may be dishonest, intellectually, but it’s not ‘unacceptable’, at least in BT’s view. He also thinks Robert knows better than what he’s written above, because he’s clearly twisted, and then misapplied, what BT wrote. (And does it matter? Perhaps. Or then again….) Robert, correct English grammar would be: ‘If only he WERE a man of his word.’ ‘

    Robert continues that …life feeds on death
    and death is the womb of life. No one who
    has farmed or hunted or lived closely
    with the land would deny that.

    BT responds: ‘Tautology. And who doesn’t know this tru-ism? Or, as a Polish colleague liked to put it, hearing such things: ‘And???’ ‘

    Robert: ….ascribe to my assertions
    a source so thoroughly unrelated…

    BT: ‘I don’t really understand, less know what Robert’s ‘sources’ are, but it had occurred to me to ask. Robert, what WOULD you list, as your influences? We have Gandhi….and?’

    Robert: Perhaps he has been
    looking so long through
    an artificial lense that
    he can no longer see
    clearly with his eyes.

    BT: ‘Well, in fact I wish I WERE able to ‘photograph’ what is in play here. But that isn’t possible, obviously. So much for that dis-cursion! However what I CAN see, with my own eyes, in the poetic sense, is what I have READ in these forum pages, from Robert and others. Most of what pertains to the former seems to me irrelevant to the theme of the article, ‘When Words Fail’ and Robert specifically and insultingly rejected my usage of the term ‘hook’ to refer to something, under the rubric of words or of image, that could move us along in this discussion. So I don’t know where that leaves us.’

    BT struggles through some of the rest and come to Robert’s

    Clearly, those … who base their lives
    on fear and loathing, are self-made
    victims of their own blindness.

    …and wonders about anyone who doth protest so. BT does not ‘fear’ death. He heeds his own heart, knowing his fate. Perhaps, surprise of surprises, he and Robert converge here: that a realization, a recognition, a struggle first against, and then in acceptance deeply, of one’s own fate, is at the heart of leading a joyful life.

    But he also notes that we ONLY know about that life during our journey in the flesh, among the living. BT can’t buy the framing Robert promoted so tenaciously previously, and again here:

    A celebration of life is necessarily
    a celebration of death – for they are
    but two sides of the same coin.

    From BT’s perspective Robert is what we called in the 60’s ‘hung-up’ on this rhetoric about death. Yes, we have the shadow ever at the edge, yes, when we remember a life and acklowledge loss in death, we ARE celebrating life, yes, we may follow the Tibetan conscious-practices regarding death’s approach. And just perhaps, in a complete exposition of Robert’s philosophy it will be that the lopsided ‘cri’ he utters will spin another way.

    For now, no. It’s humorless – one of the, pardon this, most deadly of all possible sins in artistic production. So BT will leave the last words to Robert, with the caveat: Robert, it takes one to know one.

    “Lose your mind – find your way”.
    This is the timeless wisdom we need at
    this moment. Few, however, will be
    willing to know the unutterable joy of
    letting go.

  61. I want to add a note for any other readers who might still be following all of this.

    It is not that I want to hijack a discussion, less into a mostly-personal exchange with one person, or two. I do consider the exchange occupying Robert and me to have important elements, though, and I’m willing to let it continue, and to call those shots as things unfold, if they continue to do so.

    At the same time, what brought me here in the first place WAS the article ‘When Words Fail’ and I have posted in that vein, wanting to dig into that Gordian Knot some more.

    If anyone has further thoughts, especially because I consider myself very much challenged, but short of answers for that, I’d be pleased to see more discussion.

  62. Having greater concern for “grammar” (form) than meaning (substance or truth) is, of course, exactly what has led us to the brink of catastrophe.

    Perhaps the greatest of all human sins is to use the overly-developed mind for obfuscation rather than illumination.

    With that, I leave what light I’ve shed on this topic and move on to fields where people have ears to hear and eyes to see, and those with mouths to speak have something worth saying.

  63. Arrgh Robert-o, HOW could I have been so foolish? Of course (slapping forehead) function FOLLOWS form. NOW I see….

  64. Hannah – this discussion aside for a moment. While you were in CA (volunteered at the Ecology Center in Berkeley in 1970.) did you know Stephanie Mills – author, ecological activist, and
    bioregionlist? Ms. Mills is one of (many) my favorite authors and is now living in my native neck of the woods in northern MI where I will be returning next summer.

  65. To: Robert Riversong and BT/Bob Tyson:

    As an early participant in this forum who has read every post, I respond, “Enough already! I benefited from your conflict. Now, please stop. I want the discussion of Bill McKibben’s and readers’ ideas to continue.”

    To that end, I am reminded of a Supreme Court justice’s comment years ago about pornography. He said something like, I can recognize it easily but it is hard to put into words.

    I am also reminded of the search for a logo 30 something years ago at Hospice Atlanta. It was agreed early on that we would recognize it when it we saw. Quite a few ideas were suggested including a couple by me but none resonated throughout the group. Then, one meeting, one of the founders of the group came it saying, “It came to me last night!” She was so certain of her idea that she went to her ex-husband (a commercial artist) and got him to make manifest her idea. When their work was shown to the group, it resonated with everyone and was immediately accepted and helped propel the hospice movement forward in the Atlanta area.

    My last reminder comes from the movie, “Escape from Sobibor.” It is the story of the successful mass escape of Jews from the Sobibor death camp during WWII. Another escape attempt had just failed and the Nazis have forced every recaptured participant in it to pick another prisoner to be executed with him. Each selected a friend. One selected his son. All died without complaint. In the aftermath, the leader of the prisoners, played by Alan Arkin, said something like, “I know for certain that the next plan must include everyone for to no do so would be unethical.” There was immediate complaint as no one had ever successfully escaped. Arkin responded, I know but I, also, know that the plan already exists. Our job is to find it.

    Maybe there is no ONE galvanizing number, idea or image. Maybe we will need a hundred. Maybe one does. I don’t know.

    What matters is that I know it/they exist AND that we can uncover it/them.

    For my and my parent’s generation, it was inconceivable that the USSR could break up except in a terrible bloodbath. Despite that, it did–just like the tsars before it–almost entirely peacefully.

    Those are but 2 of many precedents that positive change which is inconceivable to most is not only possible, it does happen. As a bumper sticker popular several years ago said, “Expect a miracle!” I would, “To do otherwise is to be unrealistic.”

    And our job is to continue to work for that miracle, while we are awaiting its arrival.

    For me, the catalytic image is a photograph of a polar bear standing on a small piece of ice not much bigger than it in an open sea with no other ice/land in sight. That is the present, not just the future.

    Hope proceeds from faith; not faith, from hope. My faith demands that I have hope.

    So, I want to keep this discussion going for it may reveal such a number/image/idea.

  66. To Harry,

    I respect what you say, and agree – in your first paragraph as to the direction of discussion.

    Note I am holding off further, as to the reasons inescapable for my dismay at Robert Riversong’s declarations, AND, PLEASE — take note of the considerable effort, and written attempts I have made to go ahead in the discussion, based on McKibben’s article.

    I think McKibben would be agreed, actually, that both areas of concern have ‘weight’ and deserve attention. Although I certainly agree that the balance swerved very far in one direction….

    …to which the counter-balancing thing is to keep on discussing the important parts, according to … you, and you …. ‘in ogni caso’that is regardless. (Insert smiley.)

    In my own reflection after the most recent posts to which you refer I can see a way to bring that other full circle, which I may, or may not, return to in future post(s). Beneath the rancor, which IS unfortunate, there IS substance, and it is relevant.

    Meanwhile I will digest all that you have added, and see where that may lead.


  67. In the Italian city of Turin, during the Napoleonic Wars, the population declined from around 76,000 to about 50,000, or by one-third. Twenty-six thousand, mostly dead by war or its consequences, disease, exposure… Then, in the recent past, this city again lost one-third of its population. This time the actual number involved was much larger, but with the important difference that the driving force was not war but economic and industrial change. Those lost from the population have not died, but moved elsewhere in search of work, following closures at firms such as Fiat and Olivetti. Another subset, having realized sufficient wealth on the strength of the economy, have moved away to preferential living zones and life styles by choice.

    In either case there is something to mourn; but in the second at least, the changes have ultimately helpful consequences. Those who leave and their children do so for better, more significant venues in which to apply their labor and harvest the benefits. Despite the discomfort and sacrifice of dislocation there are more winners than not.

    That is obviously a huge over-simplification, in both historic contexts. As an earlier poster pointed out, historical outcomes have often included unforeseen positive development or growth. (One might quarrel over the violent end of the Tzars in 1917-18, demonstrating that there is, usually, room for honest debate.)

    This year is the sesquicentennial of Darwin’s ‘Origin of Species’. One feature of Darwin’s reflections and direct observations of living systems was that for most species the production of offspring far exceeds the number that can actually survive to reproduce. Thus the mechanism of selection may operate…. It may actually be that we, too, are fated to collapse back to a small population through processes of starvation or fire. From a geological perspective that isn’t impossible to believe, although here again this observer thinks the time-frame for such an outcome is actually more likely to be longer rather than shorter, in spite of recent news concerning rapid change in the geosphere.

    And yet, even if such a fate were to be truly unfolding, what is the deepest response we might make? One answer might be pragmatic: work to understand the processes, forces, factors driving events and organize our response. Fire? Water. And so on. (See, in today’s LA Times, an article on a salt-loving plant that looks promising: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-seafarm10-2008jul10,0,3389394.story ) Another, for the sake of remaining sane and perhaps joyous, might be artistic, or for those who prefer it, religious: expressive celebration of the human condition. Or just telling good jokes. (A colleague, saying ‘see-ya-tomorrow’ the other day, quipped, ‘Well, if every you feel a little depressed, or sad, or — you can just drop by when you need to.’ To which of course my answer was, ‘And when would I NOT feeel that way??’ Great laugh by all present…)

    Black humor is better than resignation, and resignation isn’t worth the energy it sucks away. I wish I could heal the nay-sayers. Comfort the fearful of controversy. Harden, but not too much, the too-tender of sensibility.

  68. BT,

    Your Turin example of recent years should be thought only in terms that reflect that history has yet to play out.

    I live in the Detroit area. The city has been devastated because of relocation to the suburbs. And even older suburbs have their problems as second and third waves of suburban migration have left their mark.

    I suspect that the Turin situation is far different than American cities that go through suburbanization. I imagine that what is left in Turin is probably worth saving as opposed to cities such as Cleveland, Detroit, Gary, IN, etc.

    This is one of the things that cause me to wonder about the years going forward in America. We’ve moved out of our cities using the suburban car culture. We’ve built freeways to get around rather than mass transit. We sit at $4.00 gas today, wait until $6.00 or $7.00 in a couple of years.

    Our way of life must change, we can’t keep driving away from our problems and then building upon our forests, wetlands and farmland to escape those problems, because the new problem is now becoming the fact that we’ve done just that.

  69. ….Turin example of recent years should be thought only in terms that reflect that history has yet to play out.

    Why? Rather, I don’t understand what you mean by this, can you say it ‘in other words’?

  70. PS, gasoline in Turin costs 8-9 $ per gallon, today.

  71. I do usually respond to what I read in ‘waves’ so I guess this must be about the third on this one, unless I’ve already lost count.

    Turin does have much that is worth preserving, but it also has a hell of a lot that deserves to be trashed and built over. The post-war boom here produced look-alike, inhumane expanses of vertical housing blocks that are the pretty-bad equivalent of post-war surburban expansion and blight in the US. Coincidentally there is a huge architecture conference in town at which a principal speaker emphasized that very point.

    So what’s wrong with tearing down freeways, with re-colonizing the inner city? I actually did visit Detroit not too long ago, from the glowering hulk of the Ford River Rouge complex to the glittering symphony hall. And the WW-I-inspired urban desolation that surrounds it, punctuated by the gated palace towers currently under construction. Between that and the blandness of the new Tigers’ stadium there’s much to howl about, but also plenty of room for correctives.

  72. ….and. Detroit, and every American city, has lots worth saving. Celebrating. Let’s not toss de babe wid’ de bat’ wattah.

  73. Another odd thought, make of it what you will.

    Looking at the photograph of McKibben’s group spelling out ‘350’ something had been bothering me. Speaking as artist, some formal dis-synchronization, a note out of tune.

    Now I see what it is. Notice how the ‘3’ is aligned at the left edge of a patch of grayish floor tiles. Then the ‘5’ slops over from that gray zone into the next, tan one, but in a haphazard way. Leaving the ‘0’ to fend for itself, to hunker and squeeze, not quite successfully, into what’s left on that tan panel.

    Try a visual-mental exercise.

    Imagine, or sketch, the ‘3’ as being nudged over to the right, so that a narrow margin of gray is left over between it and the tan area. Move the ‘5’ to the right, so it leaves an equal margin open between it and the gray zone to the left, and by default pretty well fills out the tan panel. That leaves the ‘0’, which I’d center on the narrow gray band that it right now just touches.

    See if that formal adjustment doesn’t come forward visually with more force and clarity.

    Or – maybe it will seem useless. What it is not, is unimportant. A successful symbol or logo hinges its potency on just such devilish details.

  74. “Turin example of recent years should be thought only in terms that reflect that history has yet to play out.

    Why? Rather, I don’t understand what you mean by this, can you say it ‘in other words’?”

    In other words…we don’t know what results that changes that have been made in the recent past will bring about in the longer run. History has to play itself out, run its’ course. History has to pass to see what kind of repercussions, unintended consequences, blow back (call it what you will) will occur. Global warming is a prime example of unintended consequences at the largest scale.

    For instance, when Detroit started carving up its’ land for freeway building (a supposed change for future progress) it actually divided up and separated decent neighborhoods that later was judged to be part of the cause for the decline of those neighborhoods. Further those freeways led to the exodus to the suburbs also known as “white flight.”

    Detroit is a mess. Comerica Park is one of the few bright spots. I’ve been there a number of times and it’s a good ballpark.

  75. We may disagree about Comerica Park’s virtues, but it is, actually, one thing I would save in Detroit, along with some spectacular Art Deco palaces, and that symphony hall. And the hulk of River Rouge, for a bunch of reasons.

    History has to…run its’ course.
    …to see what kind of…unintended
    consequences…will occur. Global
    warming is a prime example of
    unintended consequences …

    Well, this puzzles me, because it seems to say we can’t really know what we’re doing, or that any decision is likely to have unintended consequences, that is unforeseen ones, and so it’s better to do nothing? That, after all, is the negation of human energy and ability to which I’ve objected in these pages.

    There will always be unexpected outcomes. Which will it be, to give up and not decide? Not examine, observe, analyze, discuss, confront, on the way to sifting priorities and evaluating possible strategies?

    Or to engage in those things, to the furthest possible extent of what we know and may learn? And take action accordingly?


    I went back to McKibben’s article where the first paragraph lays out the challenge in very interesting terms:

    But the longer I’ve spent working on global
    warming…the more I’ve come to see it as
    essentially a literary problem. A technological
    and scientific challenge…
    But centrally? A crisis in metaphor…
    How do you say: the world you know today…
    the world that has remained essentially
    the same for all of human civilization,
    that has birthed every play and poem
    and novel and essay…is about to be…
    so different?

    (I would apologize for severely truncating his prose with my ellipses, but he badly needs an editor; I trust I’ve not warped his intended meaning, or if I have, his full text is only a click away.)

    I couldn’t agree more, from my twin crouches, on a scientist’s lab stool (or as geologist, more like some outcrop out there), and in the dim cave of the camera oscura, the studio of art. It really IS about finding that image-istic nexus, that lens, that hook of some kind that can leave its after-image on the retina and the brain – and the hearts – of millions. And do it in some way that also stokes willingness to take action, and a second look at what we are up to.

    I’ve expressed my doubts about the ‘350’ formula, or number. I doubt it’s going to resonate, so to speak, nor that it actually represents a ‘defensible’ real quantity of anything. But I’m certain there must be another, another number or fact or formulation of some kind that can be a lever. I just don’t see it, yet. But ‘absence of evidence’ isn’t the same as ‘evidence of absence’. It’s out there.


    There was an article yesterday about public pay-toilets that might be helpful. The gist was that an advertising company has succeeded in persuading some US cities to install its fancy public johns and to profit by sharing the revenue gained by posting ads on the exterior space of the toilet kiosk. Users of course have to pay to pee or whatever, a quarter or more per drain-dump.

    However in parts of LA with large homeless populations there is no use fee. The street folks have no quarters to contribute and do their business in the gutter anyway. So they are now rewarded to not pollute, by doing that, if they come to the ‘free’ toilet and use it. In India also, there is a setup where the town installed toilets and now PAYS locals to use it. The reason is that if they didn’t, people would continue to defecate in public, fouling the environment for everyone. It’s a money-making proposition since it avoids cleanup costs and disease that otherwise are consequences of public elimination.

    We might want to think about that. How can we do more to pay people for the energy they save, for the CO2 they do NOT emit? And how can we rig up any such solution so it connects to some catchy phrase, image, or number, yes, that helps it float into people’s heads? Kind of like 9-1-1 did years ago. I’m sure, if you are old enough, you remember comedy routines, to get people NOT to think of it as ‘nine-eleven’. THAT came later.

  76. BT,

    “Well, this puzzles me, because it seems to say we can’t really know what we’re doing, or that any decision is likely to have unintended consequences, that is unforeseen ones, and so it’s better to do nothing? That, after all, is the negation of human energy and ability to which I’ve objected in these pages.”

    I didn’t say anything about being better to do nothing. It’s impossible to not do anything. But, whatever we do does in fact cause something else into the future.

    What I see about humanity is that far too often we do things with this sort of optimism that every thing will work out in the end, and too often things don’t work out simply because every outcome couldn’t be foreseen. Or for reasons of greed (since making money seems to be the first consideration in almost every project or endeavor) the unwanted consequences are simply dismissed.
    And then there is this “magical thinking” that projects done in a capitalist society are guided by the unseen hand of the market.

    All of these ways of going into some sort of effort, is a history being written, but the full history can’t be known for many years.

    So for your Turin example, just because people moved away, I don’t consider that a good thing or even a bad thing…it’s just a thing that still needs the judgment of history. The story still needs to be filled out. I could give you my personal predictions, but history isn’t written from predictions.

    As to Italy’s or other countries gas prices, it’s all relative. In the U.S. we subsidize gas prices in at least a few ways. One, we give actual subsidies to the oil companies directly from our government that begins from our taxes. Two, we all know the Iraq War is about the oil. We are paying a trillion and counting for that war.

    So, our taxes we pay that goes to the government for oil company subsidies and the Iraq War should be added to the price of gas at the pump. And those are just the most obvious inputs into why Americans might have lower prices at the pump. Tax structure in America is so convoluted it’s simply too hard to understand the dollars in/dollars out of the federal government, but it does affect gas prices and probably that it only appears as if we pay less at the pump.

  77. It does seem that at some point one has to, as they say, fish or cut bait. What would YOU do, at present? How would you – vote, or pay or not pay your taxes, what sacrifice, if any, might you consider at a personal level, if indeed you even consider that needed change requires it? How do you come down, on that question, while we’re at it?

    Really, we make calls on the outcomes all the time. Certainly we’re not always right, and time tells us that. I’d hoped that the Turin example might carry a certain flavor of decisiveness, because history HAS had some time to mull over the Napoleonic Wars from 200 years ago. Even the changes of the past twenty CAN be judged, or at least compared with that earlier era, or, say, with the fates of populations during the Second World War. Or, how about with what is happening to displaced Iraqis right now. I don’t really think we have to hold off making certain calls for too very long. What would you answer to the question who is making better progress now, a displaced Iraqi in Syria or even inside Iraq, or a laid-off Olivetti worker in Italy?

    Something feels a lot more ‘right’ in the case of the Italian, even though there’s much to worry about in Italy. The Iraqi, it seems to me, is in terrible shape. I wish I could reach out to him, to her, to whole families. Just compare Iraq to Germany after WWII with the Marshall Plan. Was that the last sign of American enlightened policy? (Being a brat – an American brat, here. Excuse me.)

    The market and it’s mythical ‘efficiency’. Ah, yes. Maybe and maybe not, I’m not savvy enough to say. But if we only say ‘markets’ and no more than that, maybe we’re fighting with one hand behind us. A lot about markets, economics, trade and development is sort of like gravity. It’s just there no matter what. Part of reality, so we deal.

    What are the details? Maybe that gets us closer to McKibben, too, and to this search for a relevant, compelling image or metaphor.

  78. The usual further thought.

    Maybe the pay-toilet example is worthwhile. ‘Doing something’ when it combines engaging individual self-centeredness (or greed) with a beneficial shift in behavior seems to me a good thing to encourage.

    So in the US we impose pretty small tax burdens on gasoline directly. I forget the number but it’s not much, in terms of the actual pump price for a gallon of gas. Contrast, in Europe about half that price is taxes.

    While it is true that we’ve figured out how to set up subsidies and bury the actual mechanism or money path, in the US, we might find that connecting that subsidy load more directly to the user price could be constructive. Nobody will like it of course. All the same it might 1) discourage consumption 2) encourage alternatives that are less destructive 3) foster dialog on all of the above.

    Which might just circle back to the toilet example, which, instead of using a stick – higher taxes, a user fee – dangles a carrot – payment for doing one’s business. How about paying people to park their bicycle at the office? So long as they don’t sneak-drive.

  79. I’ve told you my first suggestion of what to do, gas rationing with no sort of cap and trade. A reasonable amount of miles of driving at a reasonable price, anything beyond those miles, a huge price increase. This forces the biggest users to pay the most and makes them consider alternative answers to their use.

    This is important for at least two reasons, our use of oil for motoring (because we will need oil for the continuing production of so many things that use oil within the product…our computers for instance) and to reduce greenhouse gases from the tailpipe.

    This should even include the trucking industry (sorry truckers), but we need to use our rail system more. It’s going to require improvements and expansion of rail, this is starting to happen, but in fits and starts. That expansion should involve more electric rail. Ultimately a certain balance between trucks and rails will be needed.

    Certainly we need more solar and wind power generation, both large and small, power plants, individual homes and neighborhoods. I’m a bit tired of the not-in-my-back-yard crowd as to wind turbines. I say to them, “fine, then we’ll plop a nuclear plant or another coal plant in your backyard. Willing to change your mind?” I’m tired of the turbine complaints as to birds getting killed. I ask, “Well, global warming is increasingly killing off all sorts of species. Birds that aren’t going instinct or many species going instinct? Choose.”

    Here’s the thing, any plant building turbines or solar should be on a solar or turbine grid use. To build the infrastructures it seems important to contribute the least amount of CO2 as possible during this transfer of our energy infrastructure.

    More mass transit. This is particularly aimed at the U.S. At one time in this country there was electric light rail in virtually every city with a population over a few hundred thousand. We should have never ended that, but now we have to return to it.

    America again. Limits to suburbanization. Large metro areas need to draw the line around their area and stop building beyond. Our suburban stretching is unsustainable as we go forward due to oil prices. Besides the inner cites are becoming wasted space. A few metro areas have done this, Portland, OR., for example.

    I’m critical of the U.S. for a few reasons. Because I know it best, and what I know is that we are the biggest CO2 users per person in the world (in other words, the most selfish). We also can be so late to the game, waiting until the last possible moment to make changes. That must change.

    These are the major changes to be made and really the first things. Without the impetus of a national “Marshall Plan” for energy there is less motivation at the personal level. A simple example for a person to say, “Why should I walk or bike to work when our members of Congress don’t?” Or, “why should I care about global warming when the government doesn’t?” And ultimately the big changes result in the biggest reductions of CO2.

    But you know I’m pessimistic about action. You’ve seen my reasons why. Because all of the above changes need to be done, not a few things, all. There are other big changes as well, those are just what I deem the most important. And they needed to be started yesterday. We are behind the curve in America, we need big leaps forward and soon.

    I’m a bit pessimistic about the idea that we must preserve individual driving habits. I’m not even a big proponent of hybrids (still uses gas), I’m in favor of all-electric vehicles as the vast majority of Americans only make small trips that electric can handle. For longer trips, then rent a hybrid. But more mass transit can even reduce electric personal vehicles.

    As to paying people to do the right thing, pay to park a bike for instance. That just seems so modern American, “I’ll do it, if I’m paid.” But somehow that idea just shows how selfish we’ve come since the 1930s and 1940s.

    People use to save and use everything, very little trash per person in comparison to today. Rags were recycled for Pete’s sake. During the war years, much was rationed, including gas. Nobody had to be bribed with money into doing the right thing. And where does that money to pay bike users come from? Taxes. Those taxes are really needed to make all those changes I’ve mentioned.

    Crisis seems to be the impetus in America. Maybe we are about at that crisis point. The mortgage meltdown continues, people are cutting back on things beyond basic needs. The federal government is in huge debt, from about $5 trillion in 2000 to probably $10 trillion when Bush exits…this doesn’t bode well for some sort of Manhattan Project for energy, but on the other hand a massive public works will create jobs. We have an ongoing credit crisis in finance, this could be a problem as well for a national building project, or the changes could help those financial institutions in the long run.

    Just plenty of ifs and buts, but I’ve said it plenty…go ahead and start the big changes, I just don’t see it happening.

  80. As to paying people to do the right thing,
    pay to park a bike for instance.
    That just seems so modern American,
    “I’ll do it, if I’m paid.”

    Well, maybe. Suppose for a moment you’re planning to go somewhere. Might be across town or across the country. Let’s say there are two of you. You have a car. Or you can take the bus, or fly, or a train. Do the math. Right now, in most cases, it can be said that the car is cheaper. Deciding to drive may be selfish, but it only demonstrates a basic self-preservation at work.

    What it does NOT make obvious, of course, are all of the external costs, especially with the car. The manner in which roads and services are subsidized in such a way that the driver won’t ‘feel’ them by the mile driven. There are also hidden supports for rail, bus, local transit, and so on. No local system pays its own way from rider fares.

    Remember also that the example of paying people to use a certain service, instead of insisting that THEY pay, in order to accomplish a communal good, was from India, and not from the US. What does that mean, if anything?

    Have I presented the following story in this forum? If so, I accept that I am repeating myself. To paraphrase Whitman, ‘Then I repeat myself.’

    I worked on a project, years ago, to estimate the total project cost for a new underground subway for Buffalo, New York. At some point the project chief muttered to me, ‘We think it’s gonna cost about 800 million bucks, but if these people were smart they would take half of that amount, buy buses with half of THAT, and invest the other quarter of the 800 mil so that they could maintain and run the system forever on the investment income.’

    And nobody would ever need to put a quarter in the slot.

    If that kind of thinking can be encouraged, there’s one way to proceed. But turning things around and paying to encourage changes in behavior isn’t as simple as ‘bribing’. If I stop driving to the station and use my bike, partly because I GET a quarter every day I do that (or maybe a ‘free’ enclosure where I can safely leave the bicycle), it not only saves me the enormous per-mile costs of driving, parking, insurance, maintenance, it also saves the community the up-front costs, that now run to the tens of thousands, sometimes hundreds, to construct and maintain each parking stall for those cars, including mine.

    Think about that. And how about ‘bribing’ me by easing a shift, for me and my neighbors, that results in LOWER TAXES. And less – or no – carbon, by the way.

  81. The article to which I referred was titled (I am NOT making this up) ‘Crap and Trade’ by William Saletan in Slate. Might be worth a look. http://slate.msn.com/id/2195071/

    Now, there is an example of the kind of compelling ‘bit’ of stuff to energize people that McKibben gets at in his Orion article. 350? Crap? Which one -uh- makes your spine tingle more? I’d argue the four-letter version has more ‘legs’ (four!) just because it’s a tad off.

    It’s off in another way of course, because it is not a word or image that sits squarely on the CO2 debate. At all. It may be that what will work will not come out of the CO2 numbers debate itself. What else could there be to nudge people and point to changes tipping the boat in the right directions?

    The underlying theme in Saletan’s Slate article relataes to the structure of such ‘trades’. In the India example the town set up the pay(you!)* toilets because there existed a great downside cost if they did nothing: the problems of sanitation, spread of disease, cleanup, hospital treatment, the indirect costs of inaction, in that example.

    In some cases the pay-the-user strategy can be offset more directly when the resulting behavior change reduces expenditures for the infrastructure or services no longer needed to meet the same user need, such as the bicycle vs. car parking example.

    The line between these categories is fuzzy, but the objection that often arises, as it did in post 80, is that we in effect either expect something to be ‘free’ – or even be paid to do what is right – or we complain that the costs we ALREADY pay by NOT changing course, such as, in India, giving hospital care to indigent people, ought somehow not to come out of the public treasury. Psychologically, politically, the difficulty lies in getting many people to see, and to act, on the connection, while acting, also, to re-direct the kinds of disinformation put forth by vested interests from the status quo. (Highway departments….)

    We overcame these objections and mandated seat belts in cars. The lives and serious injuries saved also paid us handsomely in costs not requiring reimbursement; same thing when airbags came in. (There’s a story that a month after cars came on market with air bags the police were called to a head-on collision. The officer who first arrived said that when hesaw the cars he thought, ‘Nobody gonna be alive here, but who are those two people calmly standing at the side of the road?’ They turned out to be the drivers of the two cars, neither seriously hurt thanks to the air bags.

    How about the elimination of fluorocarbons as refrigerants, because of the damage they caused to the ozone layer in the atmosphere? How many cases of skin cancer, or acclerated damage to ecosystems, did that avoid? And what monetary saving did that leverage for everyone, despite the foot-dragging by industry and many consumers at the time?

    I hope the examples trigger reflection.

    ‘Hey YOU!’ (or) ‘Pay YOU!’ (or) ‘Gold Lamé’ (or) THAT was lame (or) ‘Lame ME’ (or) . . . .

    One last example. I am a photographer, for years I used a conventional darkroom to print on gelatin-silver black and white papers, and processed films that were silver based. In the fixing process the unused silver in the film or paper coating is removed and chemically held in the hypo solution. When the hypo is exhausted it is a toxic material that requires specific disposal or after-treatment.

    For awhile I investigated a piece of hardware and a recovery service offered by Kodak, by which the silver could be removed from the hypo and returned to Kodak which would purchase it. So, a possibility of reclaiming a cost (getting paid) and leaving the exhausted hypo in a less-noxious form for disposal. Note, without this recovery process the hypo rightly should go to a toxic waste processing center, which became possible where I lived in the late 1970s, but in fact many small operations like mine simply poured the materials down the drain. As did industry, contaminating hundreds of square miles of riparian and bayside habitat in ways that may never be repaired, at least directly.

    So the moral is that because the scale of my work was small it could not be economical to use that recovery method, that is too costly both in money and in effort, to use. For me it suffered from the ‘last straw’ defect: yes, I can save up the hypo until I have a quantity that makes the recovery workable; yes, I can put the gadget over there; yes, I can operate it; yes, I can pack up the sludge per specifications and send it back to Kodak; yes I can wait for the check. But darn it. That’s a lot of work and the projected return is peanuts. Now if I were a really BIG operation, for the same time and energy that check would amount to something, and—-

    So you see where that heads. The measly check was the ‘last straw’. For the commuter thinking about using a bicycle, maybe it’s the worry about having the bike stolen at the station, or the expense of a Y membership so she can shower before going to the office. The Crap and Trade model offsets that last straw and replaces it with a last treat, or an ultimate payoff. Let’s search for more.

  82. I wanted to write to Bill McKibben to tell him about an action that our church had on Sunday, July 13. Our church, First Presbyterian Church of Evanston, Illinois, tried an Alternative Transportation Sunday event to help promote the new website -www.350.org/

    On Sunday morning, we had a big board outside our church where we asked the question: “How did you come to church today?” Then we kept track of those walking, biking, or taking mass transit. We used 3M sticky flags color coded- green for walking, yellow for biking, and blue for mass transit.

    Then we asked folks to put their names on the flags, posting them for recognition. We designed the board so that it is reusable. We also put a star sticky note on each person’s clothing which indicated
    Walker, Biker or CTA user. (Chicago Transit Authority)

    This is the second year our Environmental Stewardship Group has tried this activity, but this year, we tied it into the number 350 in order to spread the word and generate both knowledge and enthusiasm about this issue.

    Our response this year was much greater than last year — though still not as good as we hope to do…. We are going to repeat the activity in the Fall and hope to keep encouraging our congregation to walk, bike or take mass transit (or carpool, if necessary) rather than drive alone. Most were incredibly grateful that we did this — and even thanked us for the encouragement. One said that it is a way to break habits — like the habit of driving. My feeling is that with Climate Change imminent, God cares just as much about how we go to church as whether or not we do.

  83. Steven Wilde, who has been a professional meteorologist for 40 years and who has studied the issues surrounding climate change has published an excellent review of how the atmosphere warms in response to solar radiation and how heat is assimilated and stored on our planet. It describes the air/radiation interaction accurately and in detail. Anyone who chooses to read the article will learn a great deal about the physics of atmospheric warming and the relative contributions of the air, the oceans and the land to climate change.

    The article is posted at; http://co2sceptics.com/news.php?id=1562 I am sure that you recognize, by the site name, that the article describes (in understandable language) reasons why carbon dioxide at any concentration can have little to no effect on the temperature of our climate. It provides the physical basis for long held observations by meteorologists of the lack of any physical signature of carbon dioxide-induced warming.

    Please, read the article.

  84. Thank you to the moderators for removing the Stephen Wilde material. I’m not much of a fan of over-controlling posts such as that, but had debated replying at all. Now that I see another post with a come-on to look up Wilde’s stories it might be worth a word.

    Wilde may be a decent lawyer in England, although frankly to plow through his turgid prose makes me wonder. I’d hate to be a judge or juror faced with digesting that bulk feed.

    The bottom line, and the truth, however are that what Wilde presents as ‘fact’ is, in just about every detail, NOT the case. I more or less assume that most readers here already have enough of the climate changing factors under their belts that they can see that. But it seems worth standing up and saying so: Wilde is out to deny something, climate change, and the mechanisms that contribute to rising global temperatures, that is quite well-established and beyond argument over the big picture. That is to say that scientists (Wilde is not one) agree, far more than not, that the factors are in place, that real changes have occurred, and are still happening, and that the consequences may be grave.

    That’s about as gentle a formulation as I can come up with late on a Friday afternoon! Wilde: take a wild ride and steer clear. Even skeptics fail us when what they really have to offer is just another dull axe to grind.

  85. I’m not sure that Bob’s description of my prose as turgid is reasonable. There’s a lot of information squeezed in and I use an informal style which appeals to most.

    I’ve also had a look at Bob’s style which is no less turgid than mine.

    I’m curious to know from Bob how the points I present as fact are in his view incorrect. An awful lot of experienced scientists and educated laymen seem to think I’ve got most if not all of it right.


  86. Stephen Wilde asks in what factual matters he may be questioned. Let’s begin with his professional ‘front’. He is an attorney in England, and not a meteorologist. He may be a member, that is a Fellow, of the Royal Meterological Society, as indicated. But, in the promotional material for the Society found on its website at http://www.rmets.org/index.php one discovers that (quote) Anyone with a genuine interest in the weather and climate can join the Royal Meteorological Society. (unquote) Annual membership costs sixty quid. I’d join but I’m tight this month.

    Mr. Wilde is not stating an un-truth in presenting his membership in the Society, but a more complete truth is that membership in this organization says nothing at all about the member’s preparation or standing in the professional or scientific communities most concerned with climate change.

    Mr. Wilde may be well able, by dint of self-instruction and applied interest, to express valid opinions on the scientific matters relative to climate change, but he is not so qualified, on the strength of his curriculum vitae.

    I am a geologist and life-long professional member of The Geological Society of America. http://www.geosociety.org/ When I joined up in 1969 a letter from a superior, colleague, or professor was required to vouch for my application.

    Otherwise, where to begin? Perhaps someone else with a question or specific point to examine may care to speak up, including Mr. Wilde. In the meanwhile I’ll take another look and bring back two or three salient points.

  87. The first sentence of my first article clearly states that I acquired my Fellowship before there was any need for a professional qualification.

    The Contibutor section at CO2 sceptics.com clearly describes my background.

    Mr. Tyson has clearly wron footed himself by making inappropriate allegations.

    I trust that the ‘salient points’ to be forthcoming will have a little more merit so that I can use them to refine my material as necessary.

  88. Perhaps Mr. Wilde would reply to three questons:

    Are you a scientist?

    Have your articles been accepted for publication with peer review, for example in a journal such as ‘Nature’?

    Who are the scientists who agree with you?

    If I have incorrectly repeated information from your qualifications note on the Skeptics ‘contributors’ page I apologize and would appreciate standing corrected. As to the RMS, if you joined when it required no vetting for professional standing, it is curious that you write, here as if it later DID require that. As if to say you had ‘grandfathered’ in. Moot point though, because at present no vetting is necessary, just 60 pounds’ membership fee per year to join up.

  89. I again want to see if I can push the discussion, sparse though it be! – back in the general direction of the article by McKibben, and the ‘350’ number.

    ‘Greenhouse’ gases are so-called because they cause the same process to occur in the transparent atmosphere, that takes place inside a glass-roofed horticultural greenhouse, or inside your car when it’s parked in the sun.

    The oceans, referred to as the ‘hydrosphere’ to be clear and separate from the ‘atmosphere’ also participate in a cycle of heat reception from the sun, and re-radiation of that energy back into space. But that process does not participate in the warming we experience because of rising atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations.

    The full story is better-explained in many other places, but I thought a summary here would not hurt.

    Consider that car in the sun, or the plant greenhouse. Sunlight enters through the glass or the windshield of the car. The white light entering contains light at many wavelengths, from ultraviolet through the visible spectrum, to infrared. When that light is absorbed by surfaces in the greenhouse or the car those surfaces reflect back in the ‘color’ that we see: a blue car seat reflects back blue light but absorbs the other wavelengths.

    But by absorbing light, an object becomes warmer. It then radiates heat, that is infrared wavelengths. Consider holding your hand near a hot radiator. You can feel the heat, because the heated object radiates in the infrared part of the spectrum, which is invisible to our eyes although our ‘sensors’ in our skin can feel the warmth across some distance.

    In the car or the greehouse this re-radiated infrared, or heat energy, cannot pass back through the glass, which is actually only transparent to a limited range of wavelengths. (Conveniently for us, in the visible spectrum, hence glass’ utility for windows.) Instead of passing back out of the enclosed space of the car or greenouse, these heat wavelengths are reflected back, and further heat the surfaces, and so on.

    That is the ‘greenhouse effect’. In the atmosphere, gases such as CO2, methane, and water vapor behave ‘transparently’ to many light wavelengths, but selectively reflect back the infrared or heat radiation. That is how the ‘greenhouse’ of the earth-air system behaves, and is the root of the concern over the increases in CO2 and other such substances. ‘Small’ increases have a kind of multiplier effect.

    CO2 is at a higher level than at any time since the Devonian-Permian extinctions, and global temperatures are going up. Evidence includes ice-core data from the Arctic and Antarctic which shows correlation between temperatures and CO2 levels for more than the last 120,000 years.

    A complete rundown on the evidence and the most widely-accepted models for global climate change is not possible in this space, but this may hint at the nuts and bolts of scientific thinking, warts and all.

  90. No,but nor is Al Gore
    No,but nor is Al Gore,
    I’m not inclined to list them.

    10 years ago the RMetS DID change the rules to restrict use of the Letters FRMetS to professional meteorologists. Those of us who were already Fellows are allowed to keep using it as a courtesy title but cannot use the Letters.

    For the avoidance of doubt I am an environmentalist as regards pollution, resource depletion, excessive consumption and overpopulation. I just say that the movement has made a grave error over CO2 and may well be damaged as a result.

    Thank you for your fuller post as regards the greenhouse effect. If you read my article you will find most of your points dealt with and I see that your view of the science is faulty.

    The essence of your error is to take the greenhouse analogy literally. The re radiated heat from the car seat is not added heat, it is accumulated heat. In the atmosphere that cannot happen due to convection.

    As regards re radiation please read the paragraph of my article that deals with it then come back to me.

    I am relieved that so far you are no threat to my article.


  91. Ralph F. Keeling Scripps Institution of Oceanography University of California states that only one in one thousand scientists are skeptical about human-induced global warming. Most of the skeptics — as we have seen in arguments surrounding other industries — tobacco… etc —
    are paid for their view. This is eco-political not a scientific debate.

  92. That may be so.

    It really does need bringing back into the scientific arena but some seem determined to avoid that at all cost. I wonder why?

    As for me I’m aligned with and paid by no one and I have no funding or career progression at stake.Perhaps the warmists would like to pay me a large sum to keep quiet. Retirement seems an attractive option.

    If the warmists can prove their case on CO2 in the real world then so be it but the real world is not doing what the models anticipated.

    There is a flaw in the theory and it must be addressed if we are to do the right thing for the planet, the environment and humanity.

  93. To Stephen Wilde,

    You write (quote)…your view of the science is faulty. (unquote)

    Where is the fault? You may write privately if you prefer: i (at) see.to.it , since as you also wrote that you would appreciate reminders of the ‘salient points’ (your phrase) in order to ‘refine’ your material.

    This exchange has strayed from the arena of Mr. McKibben’s article. However: your articles on the Skeptic website all begin by declaring that you are a Fellow of the RMS. But nothing about joining (quote) before there was any need for a professional qualification. (unquote)

    Your website and what you present here might be misleading: your RMS Fellowship, declared at the top of each of your articles, may be said to imply that you are a specialist in the field. But that is not the truth.

    Better to be an informed, critical lay person, methinks. And propose informed, critical argument.

    Judy Cummings, 92, points to the truth, the consensus, among contemporary scientists…

  94. Just read the first sentence of my first article on the CO2sceptics website. It is perfectly clear.

    Your view of the science is faulty because you think re radiation adds to total heat. It doesn’t. All that the greenhouse effect is is a once and for all adjustment for density of atmosphere.

    Either you understand my article or you don’t. Unfortunately I still have to earn a living and cannot devote time to private correspondence but your invitation to do so is appreciated.

    Although I do have political views which probably differ from yours I regard the science as paramount and so far I do not think you have rebutted anything in my article.

  95. Mr.Wilde (95): (quote) Your view of the science is faulty because you think re radiation adds to
    total heat. (unquote)

    That is not my view. It is also not something that I said!

  96. You said “small increases have a multiplier effect”.

    Apologies if I misunderstood.

    The fact is that if you have convection in a planetary atmosphere then the greenhouse analogy breaks down. The heat eventually escapes to space after bouncing around for a bit quite unlike a greenhouse.

    One has to net out all the interactions in the atmosphere between the arrival and departure of radiant energy from the sun and that results in a once and for all temperature increase dependent on atmospheric density not composition.

    My article is correct.

  97. I am not a scientist — but would like to refer this discussion to
    an article that I read in Creation Care Magazine by Dr. Dorothy Boorse entitled “Conflicting Claims” — a primer for non scientists. Her article states that through her observation, most scientists are convinced that A. global climatechange is real B. that it is at least significantly human-caused and C. that it will result in significant negative consequences for much of the globe. She does go on to state that there are various skeptics but goes on to present general advice on sorting through competing claims on the subject by
    referring to: 1. Premier Scientific Groups — The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC 2001a.b.c.d. 2007). This represents the research of thousands of scientists around the world. In the U.S., the National Academy of Sciences representing the top scientists in the country — which have now concluded that global warming is real and a significnt amount of it is human-cauased (NAS 2001). 2. She also suggests looking at Key Documents such as the IPCC’s most recent climate change report (2007) and statements by other key groups such as the American Meteorological Society, the American Geophysical Union, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science — all issuing states arguing that human-caused global climate change is real. 3. Boorse advocates avoiding views from the most polarized groups (extremist) or those with a clear ideological bent– no matter which side they represent. 4. She recommends getting more information from reliable sources. One of these is James Hansen, NASA scientist who testified before Congress on climate change and is, I believe, the source that Bill McKibben quotes as saying that 350 is the earth’s upper limit for co2 ppm — hence the number, website — and grassroots movement– all discussed in the Orion Society article. http://www.350.org.

  98. To the ‘When Words Fail’ discussion, and to Stephen Wilde:

    I write as one who is deeply concerned as scientist (by training, career) and citizen. Honest, informed discussion, including opposing points of view, supported by observation and reason, are critical to forming clear understandings, to say nothing of arriving at decisions for wise action. We have had in these pages many expressions of similar concern, and reminders of the pragmatic science behind those concerns. We have also seen poorly-informed, incomplete, or misleading arguments proposed. Unfortunately the contributions from Mr. Wilde or posted on his behalf fall in this category.

    Mr. Wilde may be accommodated when he writes that his article(s) are ‘correct’. It may also be said that they are not complete. And, because of that, dis-informative and misleading. Why? Because the points made, while generally accurate in describing various parts of the physics of heat in the geosphere (atmosphere + hydrosphere + terrasphere) in some detail, do not actually discuss, at all, the mechanism of heat retention by atmospheric components that behave, as do CO2, methane, and so on, to create what we refer to as the ‘greenhouse effect’. Wilde’s contention instead is that it is the DENSITY alone of atmospheric gases that is responsible for the retention of heat in the atmosphere, in the way that a wool blanket on one’s bed, as insulation preventing conduction or convection, retains one’s body heat on a cool night. According to Wilde the density of the atmosphere has not changed, even though the concentration of CO2 has, and so there is no change in the heat-retention. The increases in measured global temperatures must be due to something else, which for Wilde is changes in the intensity or irradiance of sunlight. But not to any ‘greenhouse gas’ concentration changes.

    This is denial pure and simple. Wilde’s discussion simply omits any consideration of the greenhouse mechanism in the atmosphere.

    I have offered to discuss Mr. Wilde’s papers with him, outside of this forum. It would be appropriate of me to ask not only that we do so privately, but that we also execute a services contract for this critical discussion and editing work. (I, too, have a living to earn!)

    What I now propose is this. I’m willing to state, in a bit more detail, on this forum, the mechanism of the greenhouse effect, for the sake of information and discussion. I invite anyone, and Mr. Wilde, to attack, or to criticize this model. If Mr. Wilde can point to his other writings to show where they obviate the model for the greenhouse effect, so much the better.

    I will wait a day or so at least before I post again. If anyone who has been participating or lurking in this discussion is not comfortable with this idea, either now or (if it proceeds) as it unfolds, a single post to that effect will be enough for me to stop.

  99. I’m happy to consider an alternative description of the greenhouse effect from anyone but I can say that after 50 years of observation and thought I’ve already heard and considered every available combination which is why I felt the need to prepare a clarification in the first place.

    To my mind and to many others my description is clear, reasonably complete and useful to the debate.

    I’m well aware of the different views of the IPCC and Mr. Hansen but I am also aware of quite a furore about the accuracy or otherwise of what they say. That furore seems to be increasing rather than decreasing over time especially as the planet’s climate diverges more and more from their expectations.

    Time will tell. I accept it may take a year or more for my ideas to gain traction or disappear in ignomony. In the meantime a serious attempt should be made to falsify my assertions but it seems difficult for anyone to do that.

    I am as surprised as anyone that out of 6 billion people and innumerable scientists I seem to have been the only person to apply first principles and knpwn physical processes and come up with something so clear and simple.

    I had expected my ideas to be trashed in minutes but now 3 months into all this I am gaining ground rather than losing it. Sometimes I feel as though I am dreaming it all because it seems so unlikely but as time passes it gets more real not less.

    I must admit to having been diss atisfied at the way my ideas were initially picked up only by the sceptic camp. It is far more important that they be tested by those who believe in AGW as a real global problem and this forum is a start.

    If I am wrong then show me.

  100. A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,
    adored by little statesmen
    and philosophers
    and divines.

    Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

    Hi Stephen. You signed off your most recent post by asking, ‘If I am wrong then show me.’ That word, wrong, is a potent one, but I will point out some of what I question in your articles.

    (QUOTE) The fact is that if you have convection in a planetary atmosphere then the greenhouse analogy breaks down. The heat eventually escapes to space after bouncing around for a bit quite unlike a greenhouse. (UNQUOTE) Post 97.

    Comment: No. Convection operates in the ‘greenhouse’ of the atmosphere, certainly, but the greenhouse mechanism, and atmospheric dynamics, are distinct processes.

    Convection in heated fluids is normal. In an actual greenhouse heated air rises towards the roof. Heat transfers from that air to the glass of the roof by conduction, and from there escapes by RADIATION into space and by CONDUCTION into the adjacent air. These processes or events are NOT what causes the ‘greenhouse effect’ in the greenhouse, and they do not cause the greenhouse heating to ‘break down’ at all. The same is true in the earth-air system. The greenhouse mechanism, reinforced by CO2 and other gases, operates in the same manner. Their presence is analogous to the glass roof in the greenhouse, admitting solar radiation but trapping heat that tries to re-radiate from warmed objects inside the greenhouse. Or in the case of the earth from the surface, from the seas.

    Convection in the atmosphere helps produce weather, wind, storms. It is one mechanism by which local heating is transferred throughout the system. As you point out, that heat eventually radiates into space, and escapes.

    Convective processes in the atmosphere DO NOT negate the greenhouse effect; but the concentrations of CO2 and the like DO influence the degree to which the ‘greenhouse effect’ reinforces solar heating by retaining and increasing the lagtime for heat to escape the system back into space. That in a nutshell is why greenhouse gases are significant to global warming, or global heating as another poster tags it.

    Your statement ‘…if you have convection in a planetary atmosphere then the greenhouse analogy breaks down…’ is wrong.

    On the CO2 Skeptics website, you commented on your article on the hot water bottle effect that (QUOTE) My main point is that the oceans set Earth’s atmospheric temperature not any atmospheric greenhouse effect. (UNQUOTE)

    It would be closer to the truth of the earth-ocean-air system to have stated something more like ‘…the oceans’ thermal capacity and mass moderate or counterbalance the Earth’s atmospheric temperature…’ To say that they ‘set’ the atmospheric temperature suggests a mechanism that does not exist, while the notion that oceans control or influence atmospheric temperature and how quickly and how much it can vary would accord with observation. Ask anyone who lives on a coast, in contrast to another somewhere inland.

    Whether ‘greenhouse’ effects influence global temperatures is separate from the influence of the oceanic thermal mass. That is, if one imagines an actual greehouse with it’s glass roof, and for this analogy 2/3 the interior space occupied by a swimming pool, it will be seen that on a bright sunny day, with the pool empty of water, the interior temperature will rise rapidly, and cool rapidly once the sun sets. But if the pool is filled, the temperature rise during the day will be less, and take longer. At night, the drop will be less, and proceed more slowly, both thanks to the thermal mass of the water in the pool.

    Just like the ocean, the pool receives and stores a much larger heat charge than the air or the solid objects in the greenhouse, as you point out in your article. And can give back that heat as conditions permit, as well.

    I hope this will help in your process of refining and clarifying your articles for the lay public.

    In your Post 91 you responded to three questions I posed:

    Are you a scientist?

    No, but nor is Al Gore, you replied.
    (Ed. note, since when do we care, in this context about Al Gore? The Easter Bunny?!)

    Have you published peer-reviewed papers, say in ‘Nature’?

    No, but nor is Al Gore, you replied. This time you are caught in another false-hood. Mr. Gore, by force of his co-authorship of the IPCC report, HAS published in a peer-reviewed manner.

    Who are the scientists who agree with you?

    I’m not inclined to list them, you replied. This is unfortunate. It ties in with the second question, of course. It was also, I’m afraid a bit of a ‘trick’ question. Science does not progress by agreement, but instead through vigorous, skeptical confrontation and challenge to hypothetical models.

    What is most unfortunate about your stance, your writings, and the so-called ‘community’ of CO2 Skeptics is that you are wanting to prove something does not exist, in the face of evidence that it does. Really, the only force you have to muster is your ‘agreement’ or your common faith, in a certain opinion about the world. That isn’t enough.

    You begin a number of your articles, at the Skeptic website, with this lead:

    (QUOTE) Stephen Wilde has been a Fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society since 1968. (UNQUOTE)

    Returning to the motive for this long response to you, you had asked to be shown what was amiss in any case where you were wrong. You assert, in Post 88, that (QUOTE) I acquired my Fellowship (in the Royal Meterological Society – Ed.) before there was any need for a professional qualification. Wrong, on two counts. One, your boilerplate declaration, as above in QUOTES, says nothing at all about joining ‘before there was any need for a professional qualification’. Two, a review of membership categories on the Royal Meterological Website reveals no sign of your name as a member, in ANY category. The category of Fellow of the RMS in fact requires:

    (QUOTE) a formal qualification (eg. a first degree in a science subject and/or post-graduate degree or an NVQ in a relevant discipline) and at least five years of professional experience within or directly related to meteorology. (UNQUOTE) From the RMS membership website page.

    By your own bio, you would not have qualified. Your (somewhat nasty) retort that I had ‘wrong-footed’ things on this point is rejected. Post 88.

    You seem well-intentioned, if misguided. I salute your energy and enthusiasm, but unfortunately your conclusions are suspect and your reasoning incomplete. As one who does seek a certain truth in things, it was on reflection that a response to your last post was something I felt worthwhile. Other than that I point readers back to my first reply to you in this forum, Post 85, and leave it, for now, at that.

    There are, throughout your posted articles, details and themes that trouble me for the inaccuracies, or one might put it, the incompleteness of the arguments you present. It is far from clear to me, in reading your articles, what you are trying to say in your discussions of the greehouse mechanism in the atmosphere, and the mechanisms of CO2 dissolution and release into and from the oceans. In the case of the former I can’t follow your thesis at all, as you’ve presented it; that is, the presentation is not sufficiently resolved, as a matter of clear writing. In the second there is a suggestion that another element of importance ought to receive consideration, but the thread is left dangling.

    CO2 held in the oceans is another important element in the earth-ocean-air system, not only as it participates in the regulation of climate, but also for its role in conditioning the biological regime in the seas. Changing ocean temperatures, changing CO2 levels in seawater and the consequent variations in oceanic pH, have significant effects on marine life, especially the benthic and planktonic forms that make up the majority of sea organisms. The fate of coral reefs, and their role in the planetary ecosystem is but one aspect that demands deeper consideration.

    There are many, many sources of detailed scientific argument in support of the mechanisms of the greenhouse effect, and the significance of changing atmospheric CO2 levels. Most who participate here have already picked up on that, and of course Mr. McKibben has. It profoundly disturbs (and one might say, radicalizes) me to see disinformation such as this, and to which I feel it important to respond here.

  101. BT

    Gosh, you leave town for a weekend and look at all the good stuff you miss.

    You misunderstood what Mr. Wilde meant by his comment that “if you have convection in a planetary atmosphere then the greenhouse analogy breaks down . . .” and then proceeded to attribute your misunderstanding to his lack of verity. It is clear that he meant that your analogy of the atmosphere to a greenhouse (an automobile in your rendition) breaks down because the enclosure (car or greenhouse) cannot disperse the received radiant heat throughout the entire column of air above itself. The air above the empty parking space beside your car can convect heat upward and therefore does not get as hot as the air inside of your car.

    Your analogy about the swimming pool inside of a glass-enclosure also is off point. I believe that Mr. Wilde’s point was that neither the air nor the land holds absorbed solar radiation for long. Your posts imply that you agree. The ground and the air both lose heat rapidly at night. Solar radiation into the oceans can be absorbed and held for long however, because the ocean currents and down drafts remove at least some of the heat from the surface thereby protecting against its loss by evaporating water. Every beachgoer knows that shallow water trapped in low spots by receding tides gets very hot even though the deeper water in the turbulent surf does not.

    I am afraid that you over rate Mr. Gore’s contribution to the science of global warming. He did not, as you aver, co-author any IPCC report. He merely shared the proceeds of a Nobel Peace Prize with the authors of the IPCC committee. While we are on the subject of the IPCC, let’s explore the widely bandied “consensus of thousands of scientists”. The 2,500 IPCC has divided its 2500 or so scientists into several Working Groups. Working Group 1 (WG1), which devotes its efforts to determining the causes of climate change, has about 500 participants. The others belong to Working Groups that consider ecological effects, political effects, and mitigation possibilities.

    The 500 members of WG1 work in a multitude of committees that consider various aspects of the cause of climate change. Each committee has a chairman and a Lead Author. Those authors, there are approximately 30 of them, compile the contribution of their committee and submit it as a portion of the final IPCC report. Each of the 500 can review the completed WG1 section and submit comments. Very few of the 500 actually bothered to submit comments and the politicos who work full-time for the IPCC rejected and declined to publish over 75% of those comments. Therefore, we can perhaps claim that the IPCC report is the consensus of 30 lead authors and some political appointees. Shall we compare that to over 30,000 competent scientists and engineers who signed the OISM petition?

    I won’t comment on your ad hominem attack on Mr. Wilde and his credential except to say that your statement “. . . but unfortunately your conclusions are suspect and your reasoning incomplete.” cannot be true because you have not understood the reasoning behind Mr. Wilde’s conclusions.

  102. Dennis Falgout,

    I took what Wilde wrote, and replied to it as it was presented. You fill in the blanks in a way that I can’t follow. What you wrote must be because you and Wilde share a psychic communication; you’ve added details that just weren’t there in what he earlier presented!

    No matter. For the sake of one of the examples you cite, you wrote that (quote) …your analogy of the atmosphere to a greenhouse … breaks down because the … greenhouse … cannot disperse the received radiant heat throughout the entire column of air above itself. (unquote) I suppose one can never be too careful in what he writes. I could have added that for the sake of the analogy we could assume there is no air above the greenhouse. I presume that by the argument you give the heat would ipso facto be able to escape into space. But even in the real world, with that air column present, heat can and does escape from the roof skyward. By radiation as the glass heats up and gives off so-called ‘black body’ radiation, by conduction into the air in contact with it, and of course indirectly when that heated air rises, convecting away from the roof.

    So I don’t see where your objection holds. I DO see that you are advancing a straw-man argument. The real point of the analogy is to show how the greenhouse model works, and how it is at work in the atmospheric system of the earth. It is that connection, and the existence of that model for understanding global warming as consequent on a greenhouse model, that Wilde, and you yourself I see, wish to deny.

    There IS no ad-hominem in what I write. What concerns me is the creepy lack of transparency, and, it appears, of fundamental honesty in what Wilde presents and in how he articulates it. If you will, I certainly do question his academic or intellectual integrity, and I’ve cited examples that have their own legs, as it were, to show what I mean by that. If that is ad-hominem then the basis for discussion is indeed one cuckholded by the timidity of ‘correctness’. If you care to respond, fine, but it would be best if Wilde himself would clear up the shady areas. That, as you have read, begins with how he chooses to represent himself in terms of qualifications. Interesting to me is that you’ve artfully skipped discussing any of those specific points from my last post. And by so doing have further advanced a straw man by attempting to draw our attention away from the heart of the matter.

    You’re right! Stay away for a few hours, and look

  103. Dennis Falgout correct, and I was mistaken, to suggest that Al Gore was a co-author of the IPCC report. I stand appropriately chastened for not doing my homework on that detail.

    He merely shared the proceeds of a Nobel Peace Prize with the authors of the IPCC committee, as Mr. Falgout wrote.

    Merely???! Hmmm. At least we do agree that he took the prize. If not on what that may mean. In a poetic sense it could be that it signalled public recognition for Gore’s valued contribution, of some kind, to knowledge.

  104. BT

    You either cannot or will not follow the logic of the correct argument that a greenhouse is not analogous to the warming of the atmosphere by absorption and re-emission of heat by molecules in the atmosphere. There is nothing arcane about the argument. The situation you describe is tantamount to a greenhouse on the moon. As we know, a planet without an atmosphere is subject to wild temperature swings, e.g. Mercury is up to 1,000 degrees F on the hot side and down to -800 degrees F on the cold side.

    The atmosphere mitigates those swings by absorbing heat emitted from the dark side and re-emitting the heat. The re-emission direction is random; half goes upward, half goes downward the proportion of heat going in any direction is equal to the reciprocal of the number of designated directions. The process of absorption and re-emission retards the rate at which the temperature falls after dark. You may have noticed that the warming in the morning usually is more rapid than the cooling at night.

    Mr. Wilde’s science credentials or lack thereof does not concern me. My concern is the logic and conformance to physical reality of his arguments. Any argument predicated on his lack of credentials ignoring (or dismissing without understanding in this case) is by definition “ad hominem”. My science background tells me that he could be right. He has offered an alternative explanation of the mechanism of the ongoing climate change.

    On the subject of definitions. American Heritage Dictionary “cuck•old (kŭk’əld, kŏŏk’-) A man married to an unfaithful wife, cuck•old•ed, To make a cuckold of.”

    Let me cite an article by a man who probably has credentials closer to your ideal. He begins his article by saying, “I devoted six years to carbon accounting, building models for the Australian Greenhouse Office. I am the rocket scientist who wrote the carbon accounting model (FullCAM) that measures Australia’s compliance with the Kyoto Protocol, in the land use change and forestry sector.
    FullCAM models carbon flows in plants, mulch, debris, soils and agricultural products, using inputs such as climate data, plant physiology and satellite data. I’ve been following the global warming debate closely for years.”

    You can read the article at http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,24036736-7583,00.html

    He goes on to make the points that the carbon dioxide-induced warming hypothesis is wrong, that the ongoing warming cannot be because of carbon dioxide.

    His first reason is that the signature of carbon dioxide-induced warming would be a “hot spot” at about 10 km altitude over the tropics and that nearly 40 years of looking for it have demonstrated that it does not exist. In other words, the atmosphere is not behaving as the carbon dioxide hypothesis predicts that it should.

    He also points out that there has been no warming since 2001 in spite of continued increases in carbon dioxide concentration. He does not mention the fact that the current temperature is below the lower error band of recent IPCC projections. It is not even close.

    The most interesting of his points is that the ice core data from the 2003 expedition plainly show that throughout the last 600,000 years the temperature increases have preceded the carbon dioxide increases by approximately 800 years. The 1993 data touted by Al Gore show that the temperature and carbon dioxide concentrations rise simultaneously. The equipment used in 1993 was capable of 1,000 year resolution. The 2003 equipment could resolve time to 100 years. The 2003 data were available long before Al wrote his book and made his movie. Al is still using the 1993 data in his presentations. I wonder why that is, don’t you?

    I said “merely” because the Nobel Peace Prize committee lost any claim to credibility when it awarded a Peace Prize to Yasser Arafat.

  105. Dennis Falgout,

    The earth IS a greenhouse on the moon. And?

  106. ….and the qualifications of those who present themselves as authorities are rightly open to scrutiny. Wilde’s representations about himself are open to question. And questionable in some particulars.

    Same for your Dr. Evans formerly of the Australian Greenhouse Office. (And just why, formerly, one wonders?) A brief search reveals that Dr. Evans has no formal training as a climatoligist, biologist, geologist or any other relevant science in the field of global warming. He is a PhD electrical engineer; his tenure at the AGO did involve his work to do the math(s) in developing software to model carbon in the geosphere. However it is apparent that he was an order-taker, a technician, so far as responsibility for the substance of the model or the overarching geological-climatological regimes were concerned.

    Debunked. Period.

    If you can’t get your head around a poetic invocation of a word I pity you. Just so you don’t think, moreover, that you will succeed in playing some of us here for a (quote) man married to an unfaithful wife (end quote), e.g. a fool!

    Your long ramble is barely coherent otherwise and rife with wordy descriptions of processes that can be embraced rather simply. It runs through my thoughts that if discussion is the objective, here, it might be worthwhile to draw up a series of agreed-upon statements that describe the underlying elements of the world, and only then to begin arguing over which ones consequent on those basics actually apply, in terms of the debate about CO2 and global warming.

    I must say that among the more absurd tidbits of evidence you deniers (or skeptics, but that really is unfair to what that latter word actually implies) like to present is one version or another of twin graphs, one displaying global temperature, the other CO2 levels, for the past several decades. The temperature graph in particular is quite spikey and usually is presented with a line superimposed to represent some degree of curve averaging or smoothing.

    So far so good. It does happen that this graph dips a bit, at the ‘spikey’ or un-smoothed annual level, after about 1999, and the denier folk like to say this proves that the temperatures and CO2 really don’t go along together. What ought to be obvious is that in the realm of margins for precision these graphs do not show whether the last several years of less-rapidly rising temperature consitute short-term variation or a trend. I’d bet that a trend it is not, but take my lumps and thank my lucky stars if it turns out that it is. It’s too soon to tell in any case, and the denier voice trumpeting something else is – pardon the metaphor – standing on very thin ice.

  107. Damn! You guys, some of you, just don’t get it, eh?

    Higher loads of ‘greenhouse gasses’ does make for warmer conditions. I don’t care for the – eh – speculative physics. Fact is, the more CO2, methane whatever is in the atmosphere, the hotter the planet becomes as less heat is released to space, more retained down here. If one truly does not understand that, then creation “science” is for you.

    Not for me.

  108. John Wiess, THANK YOU! Hear, hear! Tiny quibble though: it ain’t speculative, this physics, and, moving right along:

    Stephen Wilde, THANK YOU, too! Hear, hear!! For a perfect reference in support of the observations and physics that confirm anthropogenic warming.

    (SEE: Oceanic Influences on Recent Continental Warming by Compo and Sardeshmukh, as reproduced at the website you linked.)

  109. Which bit do you consider assists the AGW theory ?

  110. Stephen, read the abstract, on the page you refer to. If that isn’t enough go to Pielke’s conclusions link, where he writes that (quote) Humans are significantly altering the global climate, but in a variety of diverse ways beyond the radiative effect of carbon dioxide. The IPCC assessments have been too conservative in recognizing the importance of these human climate forcings as they alter regional and global climate. (unquote)

    Pielke clearly considers that the issue is complex, including factors IN ADDITION to CO2. But the firm implication of the above is that we can’t forget CO2, while we ALSO need to look at even more, in terms of AGW.

    Pielke should know. Look at HIS bibliography! AND his sidekicks, Compo and Sardeshmukh.

  111. Well I’ve read it 3 times now but the gist is that the scales of various natural influences have to be established before we can identify the amount of any anthropogenic influence.

    The point being that because the natural forcings have been underestimated the anthropogenic aspect has been overemphasised by the IPCC and others.

    Pretty much my view on the matter but I’ve pulled the whole thing into an overarching theory linking solar, oceanic oscillations and global temperature changes which in my view wipe out the anthropogenic aspect completely but admittedly that final point is yet to be determined.

    Can you point up the words which lead you to a different interpretation because I cannot see them ?

  112. Ok I’ve found it now in the ‘main conclusions’ tab on the right but that is nothing to do with the article he has posted and which I have referred to.

    All credit to such an AGW believer to have posted a link to a new finding that goes against his established position. Perhaps he is atarting to back off as well ?

    After all when he set out that ‘conclusion’ the new finding was not available to him and no doubt the current global cooling phenomenon was not so well established.

  113. Re: 113, 114
    The gist of it is that the earth is warming for certain, although the particulars are under investigation to tease out whether more of the warming is direct, across the continents, or indirect, via heating of the oceans and give-back of that heat to the land in some other way.

    BOTH articles, and all three authors involved come to overlapping, mutually reinforcing accounts.

    Can’t see how you can possibly see that as dismissing AGW.

  114. It would be real intersting to hear from you who and where the observational investigation and modeling are in progress to test your ‘overarching theory’.

    Remember that theory and hypothesis are opinion, not fact, counselor.

  115. I would encourage regular visits to Mr. Pielke’s site.

    Although he is a believer in man’s effect on climate his main concern is the pollution aspect which I support.

    Additionally he is balanced in his presentation of the science and is happy to provide details of ongoing research which goes against the establishment view.

    His priority is quality and relevance rather than content.

    The global temperature has been
    stable or cooling since 1998 and there is a flurry of activity as a result. The involvement of the oceans in global temperature change has only now been fully realised and all climate theories are now in play.

    In just a few years the planet will hand us enough information for a proper diagnosis and the involvement of human CO2 is far from assured.

  116. BT,

    Once again, you reject the argument without considering the argument. You reject Dr. Evans article because you do not like his credentials, but have offered not a shred of evidence that he is wrong.

    Thirty years ago, when all of this started, there were few persons holding degrees in climatology. There were a lot of meteorologists, but not many climatologists. There was no prior demand. Many competent persons with technical degrees got into the field because it got hot. James Hansen, for example holds a MS in astronomy and a Ph.D. in physics. Do you reject his arguments because he has no degree in climatology? I think not. I think you “debunk” analyses that you find distasteful and use the education of the author as a convenient excuse. That process requires less thought and less research than actually understanding the article and looking for technical faults.

    The crudity of the cuckold comment did not bother me and your “poetic license” did not confuse me. I just thought it an inapt allusion.

    I do not know what graphs you are referring to when you say “. . . one version or another of twin graphs, one displaying global temperature, the other CO2 levels . . .”. The graphs that I have seen (drawn by the researchers who made the measurements) show the carbon dioxide concentration and the temperature on parallel and proportioned axes plotted against time. It is a straightforward approach to displaying the data and it plainly shows that temperature changes have always preceded changes in carbon dioxide concentration. Correlation does not prove causation, but Henry’s Law would appear to rule here. You do know that there are thousands of times more carbon dioxide dissolved in the oceans than there is in the atmosphere, don’t you?

    Have you looked at the graph of temperature vs. carbon dioxide from 1930 through 1970? Why does the temperature decline through the 50s and 60s in spite of the rising carbon dioxide concentration?

    You still have not commented on the fact that the surface temperature is rising faster than the upper temperature in the troposphere, in spite of the fact that the carbon dioxide-induced warming hypothesis demands that the temperature of the troposphere rise 3 times faster than the surface temperature. How do you reconcile that anomaly?

  117. What a bunch of how-many-angels-on-the-head-of-a-pin drivel from half a dozen (mol) ego-centric self-styled intellectuals! Fact is – something’s up folks, it is evident in the weather extremes of late. It may or may not be global warming. It may or may not be human-caused, but I’d wager it’s at least human-aggravated. In any case, it won’t hurt to pay attention and change our ways – I’ve already begun. What about you?

  118. Intellectuals, eh? :-) Watch out, complaining makes a person sound like, well, it takes one to…

    Then again there’s no law against having one’s say here, even ignoring one fracas (intellectual or otherwise) and contributing something else.

    Yes, those are the temperature graphs, that (quote) …show the carbon dioxide concentration and the temperature on parallel and proportioned axes plotted against time… (unquote) and (quote) …the graph of temperature vs. carbon dioxide from 1930 through 1970… (unquote)

    The parallelism is present through all of the 20th century at least, with periods of departure, like you say in the 50s-60s. The trend is apparent enough, along with the correlation. My point was that the deniers point to another departure from parallel increases in the past few years and say that the tracking breaks down and the earth is now cooling. That’s poor logic, based on a pretty shaky reading of these data.

    Of course correlation is not causation, but isn’t it just this data that helped trigger interest, and alarm, at the workings of the CO2 mechanism?

    I’m sorry but I couldn’t see that Evans had anything original to say. His rants on the subject are no more than the same denials of the science, and reveal plainly enough that he’s not an original nor a very generous thinker on the subject, no matter his brilliance in mathematics and EE.

    Cool, cloudy morning here in Turin today. Global warming at work? May be an offset to the warm, dry winter we had, and the dramatic, thunderstorm-punctuated late spring… (yes, anecdotal evidence is not reliable data! I just enjoy the weather.)

  119. Gals, Fellas

    The permafrost is melting…

    What do you imagine that means?

  120. Pielke (Post 117) really seems to be saying that the earth is warming; and that the relatively slower rate of some years since 1998 isn’t significant. Any other paraphrase of his conclusions seems pretty distorted.

  121. The permafrost….right. It means that we have cooler weather in Turin, is what it means. :) :)

    No foolin’ one thing it means is that heat we otherwise would be ‘enjoying’ here in the Mediterranean has been absorbed in the Arctic, melting the ice and thawing the permafrost.

    That’s not a fact, and it’s not even my actual opinion. But at least it demonstrates one hypothesis for changes that can be driven by the heightened total energy (warming, heat) that come with the climate changes we see.

    It’s very real and very serious.

  122. John Weiss reminds me of something, and it might even haul some of the angels-on-a-pin stuff back around towards the original focus of this discussion.

    Long ago, a few years after the close of the Precambrian Era, I was a geology undergrad in a hilly part of California. Many homes had been built after WWII on steep hillsides, especially where there little benches or level spots. A lot of those houses later slid down hill because the level spots were the tops of huge landslides that had been dormant but reactivated when the lawn watering and swimming pools added enough water to the slide mass and lubricated the interface with the bedrock.

    One student project involved mapping landslides, dating them, and correlating that history with climate cycles from tree-ring data. The harder part was in advocating for inclusion of that data, and the landslide and earthquake fault itself, into building codes and ordinances.

    The deniers or skeptics of the time assured us that powers-that-be would stall anything like that. For a time they were right. We were accused of being communist sympathizers and worse. Eventually the mapping was picked up and made part of local and then broader policy and law; for a time I earned my living as consultant for homeowners and buyers, advising on property selection and design mitigation in light of geologic conditions. I confess some pride at pulling out the Portola Valley geohazard map in the process of assisting a client.

    In fact my very first assignment was spectacular. On the actual coast in South San Francisco are a series of homes, constructed post-War, that face west over the abyss of a giant landslide. But in the years they were constructed that fact was conveniently ignored. (Word choice intentional.)

    The client on that first job proposed to buy a house that then stood 75 feet from the precipice, which had advanced twice that distance towards the property in the 40 years since the neighborhood had been developed. There were fissures and cracks in the ground, inboard between the scarp and the house.

    You may imagine the conversation with the client. It was actually hard to convince the person. Standing in the yard, looking west, you saw a spectacular ocean and sky view. You couldn’t really appreciate the setting, for its danger, without driving several miles and hiking another mile to a vantage point from below.

    All by way of noting again the kinds of dilemmas we face and just a small part of the mental brakes on change to habits of mind.

    McKibben, 350, and so on. I’m still scratching my head for that telling image, that picture of the cliff and the fissures, that comes into mind that can activate new habits of mind. And soften the hearts, gentle the minds, of those who choose not to see. It’s harder than it looks, too, because 2/3 of the job is uphill to raise unconscious barriers.

  123. Hmmm. Rereading what I just wrote, besides comsymps it seems we WERE called intellectuals, too. Pointy-headed ones… Hee hee.

  124. I’ve had enough of the nuts-and-bolts climate science, in this forum. (Or was that angels-on-pins?) The deniers have had their day, here, largely thanks to me; I’ve responded to the gist of their arguments elsewhere and that’s enough.

    Although it is very important to me that the science be well-understood and that the discussion of the processes involved be part of so-called lay discussions (and they are) it is, hard as this may seem from the previous many posts, more important still to me to seek out ways of invoking image, or metaphor.

    This is ultimately a religious quest, not, please note well, as a matter of belief, but as one of poetry.

    It is that, poetry, in its largest and most magnificent reach, that has carried us through that which should have driven us to extinction, not just once.

    Poetry need not be that which survives us.

  125. BT,

    It is hard to imagine why you believe that you have discussed the science of climate change on this site over the past few days. You have not made a single supportable argument or provided any information that demonstrates that carbon dioxide plays a significant role in the warming climate.

    You do understand do you not that the entire exchange has been on point to Mr. McKibbon’s article. The science makes it clear that carbon dioxide does not contribute significant warming to the climate. Therefore, there can be no tipping point. Neither 350 ppm nor any other arbitrary number will cause our climate to spin out of control. The concept is a fantasy.

  126. I am not a professional scientist but I am a citizen of this planet. I have followed the exhaustive discussion regarding the role of Carbon dioxide in association with climate change and the pros and cons of the “greenhouse” model. I am unable to see angels dancing on the head of a pin. But, I do see (via the media) the evidence of significant changes occurring and affecting the ecology of planet earth: melting glaciers, dying coral beds, ice masses sluffing off the Antartic at an alarming rate, the increase in the number of significant and damaging storms, new variations in flight patterns and migration patterns of both fowl and beast, life changing droughts and major floods. Yes, one can say that these are natural events but more and more people are saying that these are signs of climate change.[Even GW admits to it – go figure!] Whether natural or born by uncontrolled human activity and energy use, the evidence of global eco-change is here. The immediate (in geological time) number of impacts due to climate change and the increase in human populations are logarithmic in scale compared to other time periods. My concern as a citizen is who is preparing for the eventual impacts: migration, crop displacement, development sustainable resources to serve changing environments, energy needs and eco-systems? Discussions need to eventually evolve into action – that is McKibbon’s call. Even our neighbors and creature citizen are seeking relief and solutions from the heat …. I hope you click on to this icon ( no need for further words)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNy9jTeolUk

  127. How can we meld what John Weiss, Frank, Judy Cummings, jon b, Harry Hamil, Nancy Schimmel, Martin, and even Robert Riversong and myself have said into something, like a logo or a mission statement, that embodies this search for a better way?

    One thing that nobody has written about is the potential for CO2 reduction and other strategies that directly or incidentally contribute to climate stabilization to make life BETTER. To reduce pollution, to raise people out of poverty, to better manage financial systems and redistribute wealth so that it becomes a longer lever for the well-being of the many and not merely a goal in itself for the lucky few.

    Is that off-topic? Perhaps, but only if one does not see the interrelationships among earth systems, human systems, culture, psychology, civilization, political structures, and human imagination.

  128. Frank,

    You listed the litany of woe that the media bombard us with continually in your post. Fortunately, not much, if any of it is true.

    Some glaciers are melting, others are increasing and on balance, glaciers are receding. The first signs of retreating glaciers were recorded in the 1840s, long before anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions began increasing. Apparently, the changes that began near the end of the last Ice Age (about 10,000 years ago) are ongoing.

    Some coral beds appear to be dying and many news articles attribute that to global warming. However, it was warmer during the Medieval Climate Optimum and during the Roman Warm Period, and about 1,000 years before that than it is now. The corals did just fine. The coral reefs also survived the past eons when carbon dioxide concentrations were 10 times what they are today. Experiments prove that coral reefs can precipitate their calcium carbonate shells even at carbon dioxide concentrations many times higher than they are today.

    The ice sheets always break off the Antarctic floating sheets. The rate at which they are doing so now is not unusual.

    NOAA data demonstrate that there has been no increase in the severity or frequency of damaging storms. On the contrary, the severity and frequency of damaging storms has decreased since 1900.

    I know nothing about flight patterns of migratory birds. I had not heard that one.

    Again, there is no demonstrable increase in droughts or major floods during the past century.

    The changes that we have seen because of climate warming have been mostly beneficial. Fewer and less sever storms. Longer growing seasons and increased plant growth rates attributable to higher carbon dioxide concentrations have meant that we have enough food to provide every human on the planet with at least 2,000 calories per day. That is unprecedented.

    In addition, the increased food production occurs on less farmland, which has allowed more land to return to wild. Other research indicates that the Pole ward advance of warmth does not displace flora and fauna. Rather they extend their ranges while remaining in their previous habitats. The result of this is more diversity in more areas.

    The UN predicts that human population will peak at about 9 billion and then decline to about 6.5 billion assuming that the spread of financial success like we have seen in India, China, Brazil and many other societies is allowed to continue.

    My fear is that we will cripple our economic expansion by paying homage to the discredited hypothesis that carbon dioxide is causing the warming and thereby stop the spread of prosperity that will ultimately lead to a stable population. It also would attenuate our ability to deal with whatever consequences do accrue as the climate continues to warm. Curtailing carbon dioxide emissions is not a solution to anything. Carbon dioxide is not the cause of climate change.

    The action needed is to lobby the politicians who appear to be on the verge of making a horrible mistake. They need to step back and look hard at the evidence. If we can get them to do that, we can prevent a terrible tragedy.

  129. Well said Dennis.

    It needs pointing out that a panic over a potentially non existent effect of Co2 will kill far more people and cause more damage to the environment than concentrating on problems such as pollution, resource depletion and overpopulation.

    Those who think Co2 is the problem are more of a problem for humanity and the planet than any other problem we face.

    We need more emissions producing activities to get poor nations to a level of prosperity whereby they voluntarily limit breeding rates.

    Only rich nations reduce their breeding rates voluntarily because poverty means that one needs more children to help one survive in old age. In a rich nation children use up the resources of the parents in old age so less are born.

    On this issue my article ‘Co2 a breath of fresh air’ at Co2sceptics.com is relevant.


  130. Re: BT’s post 87

    This morning I faxed him a recent letter from the RMetS confirming that I am entitled to continue referring to myself as a Fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society. I also sent him a copy of my membership card which says ‘Fellow’ not ‘Associate Fellow’.

    Any confusion has arisen because of a rule change within the RMetS in 2003 and is not in any way my fault.

    I require an apology from him or from the moderator of this forum.

    Stephen Wilde

  131. Dennis,

    You are in denial. The fu**kin’ permafrost is melting world wide!

    Don’t see that as serious?

    Why not live on this planet with the lightest ‘footprint’ possible?

    We don’t know much about the place, the only place, that we can live. Why mess with it?

    If the ‘global warming’ is due to humans or the sun, why contribute to it?

    I cannot understand your position on the effects of CO2! Scientific fact, pod’ner: increases in CO2 raises the amount of captured insolation.

    Are you simply a troll?


  132. The lightest possible human footprint is indeed what we need.

    It will only come about from a population that is stable and probably less that we have now.

    That will only happen if we remove poverty worldwide first as the voluntary Western breeding restraint has already shown

    To remove poverty we need as much emissions producing activity as we need.

    We must be certain that Co2 is a problem before we start to ration energy on a wprldwide basis but many of us are not convinced for basic scientifically valid reasons.

    Pollution and other problems are entirely seperate. Unless it drives climate Co2 is not a pollutant. It is generally a benign gas.

    The Law of Unintended Consequences always bites where human activity is comcerned. Blind reaction over an alleged but unproven Co2 effect will damage the planet and humanity more than anything else.

    Name one nation that has ever been kind to the planet as a result of centralised government control. Every large rigidly centralised top down government that has ever existed has left chaos suffering and environmental devastation in it’s wake. We are still tidying up from the mess left by the USSR. Imagine that worldwide after a century of resource wars and political monopolisation of energy.

    We need to be sure of the real threat here.

  133. Stephen Wilde,

    You are quite right and I agree with you in your 134 that we must tread with the lightest footprint possible, and with fewer. The CO2 point is a quibble, in one way, but really it’s that you and I simply disagree at a certain point, in detail. The science is the science, it intrigues me that scientists including ones cited here who work on pretty far-out, technical mechanisms in the geosphere have been saying things like, ‘Wait, it’s not CO2, DIRECTLY…’ And then going on to describe research that does get at complex interrelationships among various parts of the earth systems.

    It is most affecting for me to read abstracts and conclusion paragraphs in such research where the investigator write on the lines of ‘we conclude x and y and see CO2 as separate from z mode of q (heating, perhaps), while all along we are still struck by and watching closely the roles of l, m, and n (in which one or more of those variables quantify the role of CO2 or global temperatures).

    We’ve had enough, here. I heartily agree with John Weiss, in substance and in ‘expressive mode’!

    I’m sorry that you, in 132, are uncomfortable at being asked to confirm your qualifications and at having them independently verified. Being prepared for such seems only professional. That’s the only apology I have for you, and remind you that you do publish your credentials with the Royal Meterological Society, and in such a way that they can’t be verified directly. In at least one case the text of your declaration appears to diverge from the facts as recorded by the Society.

    I might consider were I you requesting that 132 be removed.

    No apology asked.

  134. Going on, or back, to something else. I read an Atlantic Monthly remark today on a Christopher Hitchens piece (yes, gag or shout, but ain’t he fascinating??) in which he reminds that the Andromeda galaxy is out there in plain sight on a collision course with us.

    Egad. Well, I still say we rise and thrive by making things better, the best.

    If I may and if it might be considered by those I seek, I wish to apologize to Robert Riversong and Hannah, from way back in this discussion. I’m especially sorry that the pitch of the exchange escalated to rapidly and I became unable to hear very well what you had to say. Hear it, in its deepest sense. Yes, I was very disturbed at the apocalyptic, macabre tone that was part of Robert’s way of putting it about the possibility of mass deaths from climate change. I would be, if I read the same bits again, but at least I now understand better his context and his genuineness.

    Maybe, and not to toss off any of this, maybe the part about Andromeda fits in here somewhere.

  135. John Weiss,

    The contributions that carbon dioxide and the other minor so called greenhouse gases make to climate change are miniscule. Carbon dioxide is not the cause of climate change.

    If the satanic gases were the cause of climate change, there would be a distinctive pattern in the warming. The most prominent aspect of the signature would be the existence of a hot spot in the upper troposphere up to 10 km above the tropics. The air in that volume would be heating 3 to 4 times faster than the surface. This is not my opinion; this is a result of the physics of the hypothesized warming mechanism. Look at the output of the general circulation model (GCM) runs that IPCC publishes you will see this hot spot. The models predict its existence.

    It is not there. The satellite and balloon data show conclusively that the hot spot does not exist. In fact, the surface temperature is rising faster than the temperature in the putative hot spot. That warming pattern is the signature of increased solar radiation; that is, the surface warms first and slowly transfers heat to the troposphere. The hypothesis has failed to describe reality therefore, the hypothesis is wrong.

    If carbon dioxide is contributing to climate warming its contribution is undetectable.

    Reducing our carbon dioxide emissions will have a minuscule effect on climate. Curtailing carbon dioxide emissions will massively disrupt the world economy and produce no benefit.

  136. Oddly enough there’s an article in MIT Technology Review today that dovetails. Various strategies of re-incorporating CO2 back into concrete and cement during their manufacturing processes look to offer a way to offset or actually reduce below zero the CO2 release in these industries. In one strategy the process also strengthens the resulting mix, which seems to say that you can get by with less, in the bargain.

    Not all gloom or doom? And yes, I know, never quite so simple, either. We’ll see.

  137. I’ve been reading all these posts, but I had to stop at this from Wilde…”

    Only rich nations reduce their breeding rates voluntarily because poverty means that one needs more children to help one survive in old age. In a rich nation children use up the resources of the parents in old age so less are born.”

    It’s a theory, I guess, but I don’t agree with it. In America, where I live, population decline (subtracting out immigration) has a whole host of reasons that should be considered. But one reason I believe is simply self absorption. More kids means less time to do all the things a modern society provides, those multiple distractions from family. Studies of American society certainly have shown that parents and women of child bearing years delay having kids in order to begin a career and also sustain it for a number of years. “Success” is the motivation at those ages, not worrying about being supported in their old age as Wilde seems to think.

    Just the fact that America has a road of life that now includes college before the work career, takes the family beginnings farther out into their road. In undeveloped countries, their road does not include college (except for a few) and for many even lesser education levels. There are far less roads that lead to avoidance of family and giving birth.

    Add to that things like divorce rates in America (breaking up of a family potential, having more kids), the breakdown of families within larger families living near each other (a support factor), and a society of people that in general don’t want to “grow up.”

    Of course, this “not growing up” attitude is thrust into our minds by our advertised culture, which is a result of people wanting to be a success out in that advertised world they create. We’ve looped our way into creating a culture that tells us to delay having a family until one succeeds (and the secondary reason to have fun instead, and if you can’t afford it use the credit card…that’s the general feeling I get out of advertising these days), why would anyone be surprised we have less children?

    And then there is the older theory…that agrarian societies needed more child bearing in order to work the land. Most Americans don’t farm, increasingly farming is a corporation thing.

  138. Jon B,

    I suppose that there are many reasons why the prosperous societies eventually slow their birth rates to sustain or slightly shrink their populations. I too, have seen data that show the population of Americans to be in decline. I also understand that the populations in Europe and Japan have leveled off or begun shrinking. Europe too, is growing only because of immigration and birth rates among immigrants.

    I also suppose that the converse might be the case. Perhaps prosperous societies do not shrink so much as abjectly poor societies tend to overproduce offspring. We know that trees and other plants produce copious quantities of seeds when under stress to ensure survival of the species. Could humans be doing the same thing?

  139. BT,

    Your rather limited apology is acceptable but I should mention that your offending post assumed lack of integrity on my part before I had even been asked for some sort of verification.

    Furthermore I explained the matter in a subsequent post which was enough for everyone except you.

    Indeed everyone else in the blogosphere who has been confused by the RMetSoc rules (and not by me) has accepted that my declaration in the first sentence of my first article was an open and honest and sufficient disclosure. You are way out on your own on this matter.

    The fact is that whether you approve or not I am entitled to describe myself in the way that I do and you now have written proof of that.

    I suggest we leave it at that.


  140. Stephen Wilde, thank you. I do have a question, in what year did you become a RMets Fellow, to confirm for my memory? It wasn’t covered in the information you faxed to me.

  141. jon b,

    I don’t disagree with you and I don’t think you disagree with me. All those other factors you mention are just side effects of a wealthier society and all will apply in any nation that becomes wealthy enough.

    However you cut it prosperity and it’s consequences result in lower breeding rates so that is the way to go and if we need to produce more CO2 to get to long term sustainability then so be it.

    Provided it doesn’t initiate a catastrophe of course and the accumulating real world evidence is building up to a CO2 acquittal.


  142. I really appreciate jon b’s reflection on directions of population growth and decline, and on reasons for that. I think I share much of what he described. I recall, talking with a historian who specialized in relationships among population dynamics, human fertility, land fertility, and diet, who said there is only one iron-clad correlate with fertility in the developing world: level of education for women, in inverse measure.

    The inferences, that rising education for women in the Third World goes with smaller families, better decisions, and a better life for all, seems positive to me.

  143. Was it ?

    I’ll have to fish out my old certificate.

    Shoot me for 3 years out of 40.

    And why not just remind me instead of setting a trap ?

  144. Trap? What trap? But I probably can’t answer that question, publicly, in this forum, without expressing through the worst obscenity the anger I feel. Those who won’t, or can’t, play straight…enough said.

    Besides, besides, this really seems beside the point, whether it’s important or not. I’ve felt the shadow of human caused planetary grief since I was so high, and the frustrated powerlessness that goes with it. I walked 250 miles down the top of the Sierra Nevada one summer to see how things looked from there. I became a geologist because I thought it opened my eyes, my mind, and my heart to the earth. (It did, it sure did! You can take the person out of geology – I am not active professionally now – but you don’t even think of taking the geology out of the person.)

    Now we have the return of the nuclear threat, which awhile ago felt like it might be going away. And something, what ever it is, about the climate.

    Some image, of some kind. A (quote) poem (unquote) which can lever us up. Post 1 was one of those. McKibben, with whom I have plenty of disagreement, is pointing the right direction on this one.

    If you don’t agree, fine. If you can convince me I should change my mind and agree with you instead, fine. So far you haven’t even begun, and worse, have shown me you are impervious to any enlargement of your own idea.

    As to your question, I’ll give it some thought. Now it’s time for a long bicycle ride out in the Piemonte evening. And a very cold shower. Good evening.

  145. Things aren’t so different after all.


    An informative article from the great H H Lamb from 1963.

    Note the references to the Arctic in the 1930’s and the lack of hard winters for nearly half a century.

    The US had it’s highest temps in the 1930’s.

    We didn’t reach the warmth of the early part of the 20th Century but already the trend has turned downward.

  146. …one fact remains indisputable, namely that end-20th century temperatures were higher than at any time during the last millenium.

    From ‘PALEOCLIMATE: Enhanced: 1000 Years of Climate Change’

    Ray Bradley, in ‘Science’
    Science 26 May 2000:
    Vol. 288. no. 5470, pp. 1353 – 1355
    DOI: 10.1126/science.288.5470.1353


  147. BT

    Research during the past 8 years has bypassed the article in Science Magazine that you cited. It now is clear that the Medieval Climate Optimum was worldwide in scope and warmer than the current temperature. We also now know that there have been at least two other warm periods in the past 3 millennia that were warmer than the end of the last century.

    My brief scan of the extended abstract also showed that Bradley was using the now discredited tree ring data to bolster his conclusions.

    Enhanced: 1000 Years of Climate Change

    Ray Bradley


    It has long been believed that the 20th warming was preceded by the “Little Ice Age” and the
    “Medieval Warm Period” as a result of the natural variability of climate. But as Bradley
    explains in this Perspective, recent research has shown that these climate patterns may not
    have been global, and are much more variable in time and space than previously assumed.
    However, one fact remains indisputable, namely that end-20th century temperatures were
    higher than at any time during the last millenium.

    The author is at the Department of Geosciences, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA
    01003-5820, USA. E-mail: rbradley (at) geo.umass.edu

    (no trees)

  149. Stephen, I would like to respond to the question you asked in 147, if it was not merely rhetorical. Privately. It’s not material to this list. You may email me; my address is in 94, and this would be an opportunity also to respond to the invitation you held out to receive corrections to your material, in a preceding post.

  150. Bob,

    I’ve found my old certificate and it was 1971 but no matter. Not surprising after so many years I suppose.

    Your offer of corrections to my material is appreciated but on the basis of your earlier contributions I don’t think it would be a good idea.

    Anyway I’ve been getting plenty of positive responses in the meantime.

  151. Here’s something – may be a little kookie – but hey, free association. I live right under the approach for airplanes arriving at Caselle airport. I’m convinced the pilots line up on my street. So there’s a fairly regular hum and woosh of planes. Usually not especially disturbing, but it’s a presence.

    When I think about it, it’s sort of comforting or fascinating, as it might have been for people like me a generation or two ago, when trains had more panache.

    (After all this neck of the woods is home to Italian Futurism. It was all about speed, once the domain of – trains. But – planes too. We can skip over the adulation of war and certain forms of government, for now.)

    Connecting to that is how degraded and degrading air travel is getting to be. Like what’s happened to trains, in the US, but also other places. Except that there’s a resurgence, too. The top-end trains across Europe are running at – hold on for the number – 350 kilometers per hour. Some a bit less, Alta Velocità in Italy presently: 300 and some others pushing higher than 350.

    There’s that stoopid 3-5-0 in there. Now how to warp it back around into a sword – sorry – ploughshare – that can rip through the psyche. Or words to that effect.

    One fantasy of mine IS more, better, decently comfortable, and FAST trains. They’re coming, across Europe, much more than the TGV in France and so on. If the US had the gumption we could see that kind of service, too. The savings, in so many dimensions, can be huge.

    The image is nice, too. Front-page photos of one newly-design consist show a super-sleek, red model, with the headlines trumpeting the Ferrari of the rails. Come no?

  152. BT,

    In post 154, you made further reference to 8-year old information that new information has thoroughly discredited.

    Did you actually look at the material that you linked in 155? For starters none of the material relates to the credibility of Bradley and his henchmen Mann and Hughes, which I thought was the subject of discussion.

    The first paper, by S.H. Lam, discusses the natural occurrences that caused the temperature to fall from a high in 1937 to its extant low in 1963. Mr. Lam does not even mention carbon dioxide as a possible cause of temperature increases. It may be that such a thing did not occur to him since the carbon dioxide concentration was increasing at the rate of .04% per year, which persists today throughout the period of decreasing temperature.

    The graphs beginning on page 9 of 72 actually show trends for solar activity, temperature, glacier shortening, sea level rise, coal oil and gas use from about 1850 through 2000. The accompanying text says “. . . all qualitatively confirm each other by exhibiting three intermediate trends – warmer, cooler and warmer.”

    Farther on the text adds “. . . So, the trends began more than a century before increases in hydrocarbon use.” Later still, while discussing sea level rise the texts says, “This trend” (sea level rise) “lags the temperature increase so, it predates the increase in hydrocarbon use by even more than is shown.” The graph shows sea level rise predating increased hydrocarbon use by approximately a century. The next sentence says (about the rate of sea level rise), “It is unaffected by the very large rise in hydrocarbon use.”

    In summary, the symptoms of climate change began at least a century before humans began increasing their use of fossil fuels and presumably, a century before carbon dioxide concentrations began increasing. Furthermore, the rates of the changes did not change when the concentration of carbon dioxide began increasing. All of this leaves little room for belief in the carbon dioxide-induced warming hypothesis.

    The paper that follows the extractions from the CO2 Skeptics’ web page describes a model for calculating emission reductions necessary to meet various total carbon dioxide concentration goals. However, this paper assumes that the carbon dioxide induced warming hypothesis is correct. Because the preceding graphics have clearly demonstrated that the major effects of warming i.e. temperature increase, sea level rise and glacier shortening began before the carbon dioxide concentration began to increase, this paper is moot.

    The last paper demonstrates that the IPCC has greatly overestimated the surface temperature increases that increased carbon dioxide carbon dioxide concentration might cause. The point of this paper is that the temperature increases from a doubling of carbon dioxide would be less than 1-Celsius degree, not the 3.0 to 5 Celsius degrees that IPCC would have us believe. So, even if you believe that carbon dioxide causes significant temperature increases, the increase in temperature that would result from a doubling of existing carbon dioxide concentrations would be so small as to be insignificant.

  153. Re post 159, the graphs and articles referred to by the poster are exactly those most beloved by the skeptic or denier folks, in other words the ones they trot out to prove their point. I thank post 159 for reminding us that the skeptics don’t even believe their own most beloved sources!

    Ready, aim pop-gun at foot, FIRE!

    (still no trees)

  154. I suspect that not a few of you out there are grinding your teeth that Tyson and his ilk have hijacked the discussion and made a mess. If it lets your lightning find ground any quicker, mia (or is it mea) colpa (culpa).

    But I think I can show that even if the toast landed jelly side down, at least it still HAS jelly on it, or something.

    If the ranting back and forth demonstrates anything it is that the struggle to move Juggernaut in the a constructive direction is less technical-scientific, or even technological, than it is psychological and political. In miniature what we have here and in many such discussions is a tug-of-war over control of the discussion itself, in which any rhetorical tactic may be used. The ’60s coined the phrase ‘mind-fuck’ for some of this; re-education, disinformation, spin doctoring and public relations all come to mind.

    Even without rereading previous posts one brings to mind, here, examples of reframing, damning with faint praise, straw man arguments and the like, to name a few.

    Susan Sontag, in ‘On Photography’, inverted McLuhan to read ‘…the message is the medium’.

    Now, just because I have presented that quote here OUT OF CONTEXT I want to add that I wish you all could read, or maybe you already have, Sontag’s enclosing and really lovely meditation on media and content. It’s like ancient runes or something, packed with suggestions for departure into fertile journeys of thought. Among what I take from her is that we are powerfully in thrall now to our machines, AS THEY BECOME EMBODIED AS MEDIA; and that this poses a trap, and an opportunity.

    When words fail. This is the nexus of our epoch. We are faced with a challenge to overcome through awareness a boundary.

  155. … need a (sic) editor.

    Last line of last post:

    We are faced with a a challenge to overcome, through awareness of a boundary.

  156. Thank’s for pointing out your strategy BT.

    Basically: “Im going to win this regardless of fact or truth and all strategies are legitimate.”

    You are a true child of the 60’s which gave us all those simple muinded bigots who now wish to control us.

    Some of us have respect for fact and truth. Dennis in particular.

  157. BT,

    It seems that you were aware of many of the weaknesses in the carbon dioxide-induced warming hypothesis. The material that you posted appears to be sound science. The authors of the material presented and interpreted data. Their conclusions appear to be justified by the data and they contradict many of the important tenets of the IPCC position.

    You heaped scorn onto those articles. I assume that you have some sound scientific reasons for that scorn. Perhaps, you could present those reasons so that the rest of us could understand your position.

  158. What’s the matter? Don’t you like Susan Songag? McLuhan? Or was it Caravaggio?

    Look, you guys. You’d be great fun during Journal Club meetings at the Hop on North Charles – but you’d wind up alone for the beer afterwards at this rate.

    The focus of discussion here grows from a shared concern about a fundamental condition of the earth that is accepted among scientists. It isn’t helpful to have a barroom spat over this or that detail, and I consider it rude to have continued this long. I’ve done my best to say so diplomatically already.

    One is tempted to respond ‘QED’ to the sum of the two preceding messages. Or maybe, res ipsa loquitor. Enough. Already.

    For anyone else who is interested, the bundle of articles, graphs, and one important work of art that I linked to includes things that, in the main, I find interesting and well-reasoned or researched. That isn’t the same as claiming they contain the utter lodestone of universal truth, for god’s sake. I did select what I did partly because many of the items are ones cited by the skeptics or deniers to buttress their case.

    A careful reading will show that the points deserve discussion and argument; for me the shadow of the thing still falls where it does, and what we are trying to do here is important.

    Forza, coraggio!

  159. Hot off the presses. It seems that scientists from around the globe have been measuring carbon dioxide concentrations by wet chemical methods since 1812. Researchers from the University of Bayreuth have compiled the data and have made some fascinating discoveries, which should make the entire global warming industry nervous.

    The first fascinating discovery is that the concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere has been higher than the current concentration on three separate occasions since 1812. Circa 1820, the concentration of carbon dioxide reached approximately 450 ppm, circa 1855, the concentration reached about 390 and circa 1935, the carbon dioxide concentration was about 400 ppm.

    A second fascinating discovery was that none of those occasions was a tipping point.

    A third discovery was that the increases in carbon dioxide followed increases in temperature. It seems that “Conclusion: Atmospheric CO2 concentration varies with climate, the sea is the dominant CO2 store, releasing the gas depending on multi-decadal changes of temperature”.

    The entire article is available at http://www.biokurs.de/treibhaus/180CO2/bayreuth/bayreuth1e.htm. This address opens the paper to the graphics. Click on the page number at the bottom right hand corner of a page to advance to the next page. Click on the capital M just to the left of the page number on any page to go to the text and graphics.

    The wet chemical data dovetail nicely with the infrared detectors at Mona Loa but appear to give an answer that is about 10 ppm higher than the instrument. The ice core data do not show the short-term spikes because they represent 100-year average values. Those values for the 19th and 20th centuries were 321 and 338 ppm respectively. That is a 5% increase.

    Someone should tell Bill McKibben about this.

  160. Stephen,

    What makes you think we have to produce MORE CO2 to create long term sustainability? We have technologies that don’t produce CO2, why not use those?

    This is what I don’t get about global warming deniers. Even if they are correct, what is the problem with going to non-CO2 energy producing methods anyway? Notwithstanding CO2, the carbon based energies produce other pollutants that I can’t imagine even global warming deniers can deny.

    Every time a car leaks oil or gas it ends up in the environment. Every time two ships collide as they did in the mouth of the Mississippi River about a week ago and spews oil into the river, it ends up in the environment. All the oil, gas, coal, etc. was essentially locked up within the Earth and we’ve proceeded to unlock it and dump it into the air, the land and the waters in a relatively short period of time. If you actually think that this is somehow good for humans (and nature’s)long term sustainability, then you must have some sort of ties to these extraction industries.

    The US is making a mistake not amping up solar, wind, wave power as other far-sighted countries are doing. The next empire will not be based on oil, just as the last empire (Great Britain) became outdated as a coal power. Either the EU, which is ahead of the US on clean and renewable power technologies or China (which has shown in the past two decades a remarkable ability to change, and in proving that can change again) will emerge as the dominant power (or maybe both), certainly if the US decides to depend on oil and coal for too long.

    Forget about CO2, the reason to get out of the oil, coal and gas power is that these are non-renewable. Why wait to create a new infrastructure away from these until they become more and more expensive to produce and find? Why hold ourselves ransom to nations that will have the last resources when we can begin now to abandon our need for those resources?

    But, I know how the power structure in America thinks. Powerful interests make oodles of cash in these extraction industries, even when they are extracted in other countries. And powerful interests have no problem even going to war to get those resources, after all they don’t die in those wars, do they?

    Oil as the lubricant of society is the status quo and that kind of thinking dies slowly because too many people depend on being powerful in that status quo.

    And I wonder how many people in those countries (many of which need an improved standard of living) that will die in resource wars will consider their life better for oil or gas extraction, which their country will be raped of those resources as the people will get nothing out of those resources but a war in their own country.

    This story has been played out in countless nations in the past century already, why would it be any different in the future…because the next promise of rewards for the people will be a true one? They’ve found oil in Chad and the oil vultures are circling, but of course the people of Chad will benefit enormously when they begin to pump them dry, right? I’m laughing right now, but in a sad way, because I know their country will end up screwed, and mainly Americans will get to drive our gas guzzlers a few more years, glory to other peoples’ oil!

  161. jon b,

    If it can be done I support it.

    Forget CO2 the real problems are pollution resource depletion and overpopulation.

    I just don’t think it can be done in a blind panic without killing people, impoverishing them or starting resource wars.

    And I don’t appreciate being called a denier. It is meant to be an insult you know.

    I could call you a denier for being unrealistic about our power to reduce carbon dependence quickly.

    It needs time, thought and caution to avoid the potential for damage to humanity and ultimately the planet.

  162. Hey jon b, NICE write! I’m on – amen – kudos. Thank you.

    In the part where you wrote about powerful interests going to war to protect oil interests, Iraq sure looks to qualify as a war over resources.

    (Off to wind the next phase of a home-brew wind-driven alternator I’ve been building. Missing part: the round tu-it. Fits in about here, somewheres.)

  163. Jon B

    I have no objection to changing the means by which we energy. However, I think that any replacement energy source must compete with the cost of current energy production methods. I think that poorer persons everywhere will suffer needlessly if we increase the cost of energy. If a more cost effective means of producing energy comes along, and I believe that it will eventually, I will be all for it. Whether it releases carbon dioxide is not a consideration.

    I think that the ecological costs of oil spills are way overrated. Nature apparently has restored the ecosystems in Prince William Sound in less than 20-years after the Exxon Valdez spill. (http://www.newsrx.com/newsletters/Health-and-Medicine-Week/2006-07-31/073120063335715W.html , Alaskan Ecosystem Appears to Have Fully Recovered from the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill).

    I think that the fact that the health and welfare of humans who live in advanced, industrialized societies demonstrates that the things that we are doing are good for all of us. We now live longer, healthier and more rewarding lives than we did just 100 years ago. The carbon-based energy sources may release pollutants, but their effect (if any) on our health and welfare is small compared to the benefits of inexpensive energy. The least healthy and most disease-ridden humans live in backward, energy-poor economies under the thumb of despotic governments.

    I think that we are not making a mistake by investing heavily in wind and solar power because the energy they produce costs at least twice as much as the energy that we produce by conventional means, i.e. coal, hydro and nuclear.

    I do not think that we can maintain our current welfare state if we increase the cost of energy as much as conversion to wind and solar would cost.

    The Chinese are more adaptable than we are. They are making major investments in nuclear in preparation for the inevitable end of their supply of coal. We may be beginning to move in that direction also but our progress is slow.

    I think that as the costs of recovery of fossil fuels begins to increase; we will find competitive alternatives. The response to increased gasoline prices illustrates the point. Americans immediately gave up their big vehicles and began purchasing smaller, more fuel-efficient models.

    I think that you weaken your arguments when you invoke the specter of evil men in smoke filled rooms plotting to kill us all for their own gain. Remember that the persons who run our corporations are humans, with families too. They do not wish to poison the earth.

    Your last two paragraphs contain no real information; only purple prose with little basis. The paranoia is unbecoming.

  164. My. My. The polar-remnants are still at it. jon b is still working on a common element you can all agree on. In regard to comments made in 170, “Alaskan Ecosystem Appears to Have Fully Recovered from the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill,” ‘appears’ is the operative word here. Go to Prince William’s Sound and scratch a few centimeters below the surface cobble and soil and you will still find hydrocarbons (oily muck). Disturb the soil cap and hydrocarbons will still leach out into the Sound. The damage is still evident blow the scared landscape. Looks good …. and it appears to be fully recovered,yes; but the deepr ecology is not. Also, in response to 163, “winning” is not the point of this narrow dialogue. Improving one’s perspective, knowledge or empathy for the welfare of the global community may be the better goal. And, as for the children of the 60’s, many, for example, women, minorities and fringe groups have gained a voice and benefited from your initiatives. Social, cultural and political changes have occurred because of your protests. But time has chipped away at your integrity, your youthful and wonderful ideals have faided or have been suppressed, buried by consummerizum and over indulgence. Fat cats are not pretty. My hope is that the children of the new millennium will pick up your tattered banners and initiate further changes. Who knows the first may read 350.

  165. On another blog a contributor posed a simple question: ‘show me the climate crisis’. I’ve followed (and contributed) to that thread for some days but instead of providing any evidence of a ‘climate crisis’ those contributors who don’t believe in AGW have by and large been personally insulted by supporters of AGW – insults are always a sign that an argument/debate has been lost – AGW belief is more faith than scientifically based.

    I’m convinced that any sensible debate on what casues climate to change is almost impossible because the debate has been hijacked by:
    * anti globalists
    * anti americans
    * anti capitalists
    * anti humans
    * anti technologists
    * anti industrialists
    * far left socialists

    Much of the AGW faith is based on unproven computer models rather than observed data and a thorough analysis of the historical climate record.

    If we need a sign of the disaster awaiting us if the AGW believers win the day it’s the unmitigated mess called ‘bio-fuels’. How many millions have faced starvation because if ill-thought through policies that have ruined tracts of rain forest and other arable land, producing more CO2 not less – I could go on and if it wasn’t so serious it would be laughable.

    These so-called climate do-gooders need to be kept away from the kitchen or else they’ll set us all on fire!!

  166. Frank,

    I will admit that I have not visited Prince William Sound, but I have read several articles whose authors purport to have visited and who have reported that the ecosystem has recovered. It may be that you are correct that you can dig beneath the surface in some places and find evidence of the oil residue, but that those residues are having little if any effect on the fauna and flora. I do believe that even those residues will decompose over time, exposed as they are to oxygen and microbes. Even polyethylene in landfills decomposes.

    I agree with you that most of the changes which the 60s activists supported resulted in improvements to our society. As you say, they were social, cultural and political changes. The present situation is different in that we are debating a technical issue, which has profound implications for our future. The IPCC, which is a political body disguised as a scientific body has distorted the discussion by corrupting the facts of the science. They are succeeding in presenting a biased and inaccurate picture of what is happening because the media have bought into their message without thoroughly examining the scientific data. The media seem ill equipped to perform that examination, focused as they are on political, cultural and political issues. I have heard the media described as “the math free zone”.

    I think that Bickers (172) is correct. The only evidence that IPCC has for its assertions that carbon dioxide is the cause of climate change is the output of computer models; models which have never made accurate predictions. For example, the average global temperature is now below the low-side error band of model predictions made just 5-years ago. I have written previously about the hot spot in the upper troposphere that the models predict and measurements by two different methods confirm refute.

    There are many other factual deviations from the IPCC litany, which the IPCC never addresses. For example, the recently published summary of data that shows that carbon dioxide concentration has been exceeded its present level 3 times during the past 200 years if it passes scrutiny, will obviate the IPCC claim that the present carbon dioxide concentration is unprecedented in the last eon.

    They (the IPCC and the media) always retreat into an appeal to authority by claiming that the “overwhelming consensus of scientists” supports their view. In fact, only 2,500 scientists participate in the IPCC and just 500 of those adjudge the causes of climate change. Approximately 30 of those agree with the IPCC position, we don’t know what the other 470 think. Meanwhile 17,000 competent scientists and engineers signed the OISM petition, and about 2,500 signed the Union of Concerned Scientists attempt at a counter petition. What consensus?

    Meanwhile, our politicians, beguiled by the press and overwhelmed by loud activists groups have put us on a course toward economic disaster for no reason. If you are looking for an issue that is critical to our future, this is the one for you. Help stop the insanity.

  167. Oh?? Another bickerer for the denial dragoons. Sorry bub, you’ve been preceded here by a wildman and his fallguy. We’ve been warned! :-) Orf! We’re on to yuh.

    An ex-hippie (I think – born in mid ’40s it sez here but I don’t rightly ‘member much o’ dem sixtees) AND fat-kat-come-lately. I guess. Hee hee. (Thanx Frank!)

  168. Stephen, You’re insulted by being characterized as a denier? Really? It seems like fact, you presented a denial argument,…or did I misread it, you believe global warming?

    You also didn’t read many of my previous posts, I don’t think it is going to be easy to change over to wind, solar, wave here in the US. I’ve stated many reasons…go way back to far earlier posts in this thread.

    But if I were to deny something, I have no problem being called a denier, I take credit for what I am, you don’t?

    Dennis, you haven’t noticed energy costs for the carbon fuels are rising right now? The trend line will be up from here on. What are they going to be like 10 years from now? 20 years? At some point only the rich will be able to afford carbon fuels, so moving away from those as soon as possible is in most peoples best interest. Why not get off the grid (or reduce the need for the grid) as a way to take control of ones’ own energy needs? That’s what any independent minded person should want anyway. That idea goes all the way back to Edison.

    Personal energy independence is not the interest of extraction industries, because they can’t make so much money. It’s why they still get oodles of federal largess called subsidies (despite the fact they are making record profits) and renewable energy gets a few drops of dollars in comparison. Yet, in Germany they are building solar all over the country and leaping into the future, it’s up to 20% of their electric in less than a decade. Farmers have them on their property and sell electric to the power company. They are being built in the center section of their autobahns.

    But we can’t do that (except in small cases) because the political will isn’t there. And it’s not there because politicians get financed by oil, gas and coal. So Americans can’t become independent energy-wise because the status quo won’t change. Most Americans aren’t part of the status quo except in being passively accepting of what we are told is impossible or “too expensive” as if we have no say in what happens to our tax dollars.

    Don’t forget our current infrastructures were expensive and plenty of our taxes in years past was used. But now, we are being told, “sorry, too expensive.” At least you are telling me that, I can’t tell if you are a politician or an extraction exec….which sometimes seems like the same person/people.

    We keep paying to widen the freeway lanes, when we could just as well pay for a train to run alongside those freeways. Then the bumper-to-bumper crowd could be entertained by the train blowing by them. But trains aren’t part of the plan of the status quo. And plenty of other things aren’t either. But what is? Higher oil prices for one thing, and they will go higher…so see you in ten years, how much then?

  169. Another memory. Gee. This one is from – the 60’s, actually. Must not have been totally stoned all of the time.

    1965: Structural geology course, Ben Page, instructor. Last meeting of the quarter, Ben puts a cartoon slide on the screen showing a cross-section of the crust and the transition from the ocean floor to the California coast and the continental crust.

    There’s some crazy machinery below the sea-floor and little men (with horns, I think) cranking at various winches and pulling on ropes, yanking the sea-floor crust under and down below the continental margin. Hey: Plate Tectonics. Except that no one would come out and SAY it. We were all shy of that, not enough data, only models, going back to Weggener and his noting how neatly the coastal profiles of West Africa and South America fit together across the Atlantic.

    Woo boy. Got stoned. Dropped out. Fast forward to 1967: Special seminar on ‘current issues’ with Dick Jahns, the mining geologist and dean. Shows the same cross-sections, but now all the detail has been filled in, especially the rock types (variants on basalt), their magnetization (N-S and S-N bands, alternating, in mirror-image strips either way east and west from the mid-ocean ridges), the seismic data, and on and on. Plate Tectonics is now vocabulary. A generation of geologists turned loose to dig for more observations, but now with this framework. A whole lot of things suddenly make sense.


  170. Both these pieces by Philip Stott are brilliant, highly intelligent and incisive explanations of the AGW mythology:


    From the Babylon of Gilgamesh to the post-Eden of Noah, every age has viewed climate change cataclysmically, as retribution for human greed and sinfulness.

    In the 1970s, the fear was “global cooling.” The Christian Science Monitor then declaimed, “Warning: Earth’s climate is changing faster than even experts expect,” while The New York Times announced, “A major cooling of the climate is widely considered inevitable.” Sound familiar? Global warming represents the latest doom-laden “crisis,” one demanding sacrifice to Gaia for our wicked fossil-fuel-driven ways.

    But neither history nor science bolsters such an apocalyptic faith.

    History and Science:

    Extreme weather events are ever present, and there is no evidence of systematic increases. Outside the tropics, variability should decrease in a warmer world. If this is a “crisis,” then the world is in permanent “crisis,” but will be less prone to “crisis” with warming.

    Sea levels have been rising since the end of the last ice age, most rapidly about 12,000 years ago. In recent centuries, the average rate has been relatively uniform. The rate was higher during the first half of the 20th century than during the second. At around a couple of millimetres per year, it is a residual of much larger positive and negative changes locally. The risk from global warming is less than that from other factors (primarily geological).

    The impact on agriculture is equivocal. India warmed during the second half of the 20th century, yet agricultural output increased markedly. The impact on disease is dubious. Infectious diseases, like malaria, are not so much a matter of temperature as of poverty and public health. Malaria remains endemic in Siberia, and was once so in Michigan and Europe. Exposure to cold is generally more dangerous.

    So, does the claim that humans are the primary cause of recent warming imply “crisis”? The impact on temperature per unit CO2 goes down, not up, with increasing CO2. The role of human-induced greenhouse gases does not relate directly to emission rate, nor even to CO2 levels, but rather to the radiative (or greenhouse) impact. Doubling CO2 is a convenient benchmark. It is claimed, on the basis of computer models, that this should lead to 1.1 – 6.4 C warming.

    What is rarely noted is that we are already three-quarters of the way into this in terms of radiative forcing, but we have only witnessed a 0.6 (+/-0.2) C rise, and there is no reason to suppose that all of this is due to humans.

    Indeed the system requires no external driver to fluctuate by a fraction of a degree because of ocean disequilibrium with the atmosphere. There are also alternative drivers relating to cosmic rays, the sun, water vapor and clouds. Moreover, it is worth remembering that modelers even find it difficult to account for the medieval warm period.

    The Real Crisis:

    Our so-called “crisis” is thus neither a product of current observations nor of projections.

    But does it matter if global warming is a “crisis” or not? Aren’t we threatened by a serious temperature rise? Shouldn’t we act anyway, because we are stewards of the environment?

    Herein lies the moral danger behind global warming hysteria. Each day, 20,000 people in the world die of waterborne diseases. Half a billion people go hungry. A child is orphaned by AIDS every seven seconds. This does not have to happen. We allow it while fretting about “saving the planet.” What is wrong with us that we downplay this human misery before our eyes and focus on events that will probably not happen even a hundred years hence? We know that the greatest cause of environmental degradation is poverty; on this, we can and must act.

    The global warming “crisis” is misguided. In hubristically seeking to “control” climate, we foolishly abandon age-old adaptations to inexorable change. There is no way we can predictably manage this most complex of coupled, nonlinear chaotic systems. The inconvenient truth is that “doing something” (emitting gases) at the margins and “not doing something” (not emitting gases) are equally unpredictable.

    Climate change is a norm, not an exception. It is both an opportunity and a challenge. The real crises for 4 billion people in the world remain poverty, dirty water and the lack of a modern energy supply. By contrast, global warming represents an ecochondria of the pampered rich.

    We can no longer afford to cling to the anti-human doctrines of outdated environmentalist thinking. The “crisis” is the global warming political agenda, not climate change

  171. Why is it that the most rational, and thoughtful contributors are invariably sceptics ?

  172. It has been said that, had the whole US had adopted the same pollution limits, efficiency standards, and building codes now in place in California, the NEGATIVE marginal costs would amount to some THREE TRILLION dollars.

    That is, efficiency and better practices can save that much.

    What would you do with some of that, if not reach out to directly address poverty, AIDS, and the rest? Last I checked California had a good living standard, too. Confirmed by someone who recently moved to LA from Beijing and remarked that his son, with asthma, was no longer suffering the effects as he had in China. Last I looked, China was poor.

    Ecological surveys in the Yosemite region show that from baselines taken nearly 100 years ago the fauna and flora have responded to a general upward trend in temperature by moving north, geographically, and up, in altitude.

  173. BT (174) I assume you’re responding to me (172)having joined what I thought would be a sensible debate on what drives climate (the jennifer marohasy blog has been hijacked by immature, illogical, name calling AGW believers and has descended into playground nonsense!).

    Please provide evidence that the types of groups I alluded to are not part of the AGW supporters club. More importantly can you provide evidence that the recent warming period (which now looks like it’s ended), of which we have had a number of in the past, has anything to do with mankind’s activities.

  174. Because the skeptics are intelligent, questioning, thoughtful types who enjoy the quest for arguable, convincing truth.

    As opposed to the deniers…

  175. Bickers, Wilde, Falgout:

    All THREE of you are like clones of one another. I have responded, but you like to play a game of ‘gotcha’ – if not resort to defamation (Wilde).

    I think, Bickers, since what you’ve posted repeats, tiresomely, what Wilde and Falgout have endlessly harped on previously, one can only, and not too gently reply: ‘It’s all out there, only those who are so blind as will not see.

    Your first name isn’t ‘Will’ I hope.

  176. BT (183)

    I see you’re like many of the other AGW believers – you can only resort to playground banter rather than put forward coherent points to support your claim that mankind is responsible for climate change, i.e. a little recent warming. I assume it if now cools or even becomes cooler that’ll be our fault also – brilliant win, win position of course from your position!

    Those of us who are sceptics have a plethora of evidence that strongly indicates CO2 does not cause climate change – please put forward your evidence and I’d be grateful if you’d put it in the context of other warming periods in our recent history – thank you.

  177. Although one might respond to points in the discourse on the mechanism of greenhouse warming, in this forum, that is NOT the express focus of this discussion.

    The Three Mouskiteers have not noticed, but there is a dedicated group here who understand that a certain situation does exist, is amply supported by data and research, and that an important challenge is to work out strategies to activate honest, open human energy towards solutions.

    This is NOT a venue to hash over what has been hashed and rehashed ad-nauseum. If YOU prefer not to accept the direction of the group, please butt out!

  178. Frank,

    I think that the price of fossil fuels for electricity generation is rising only because the cost of natural gas is rising. I do not think that the cost of coal has increased faster than the inflation rate. I think that we should stop wasting natural gas by burning it to generate electricity and concentrate on coal and nuclear only for electric generation. The total cost (construction, operation, fuel overhead licensing and decommissioning) of nuclear and coal are comparable. Those costs are less than half of the cost of presently available wind and solar. The costs of coal and nuclear may increase, but the reasons (construction, labor, licensing) that cause those increases will cause increases in the costs of the alternatives.

    Both wind and solar can never provide base load power. Both can only augment coal and nuclear base load power plants unless we are willing to build pump storage or some other means of storing wind and solar power when they is available and dedicate huge land areas to them. I think that the best solar collectors are approximately 18% efficient; they must reach 40% efficiency to compete with conventional power generators. Persons who wish to go off grid and generate their own power certainly can do so. However, I do not wish to double my power bill by doing so. In addition, I have no desire to supplement yours by paying taxes that provide incentives to install such systems. Nor, do I wish to pay higher electric bills to comply with laws that require utilities to purchase excess power generated by wind and solar.

    As alternative methods of generation become more cost-competitive, they will take their place among the conventional means of generating power. We should not distort the economics of electric generation by subsidizing them. We certainly should not do so in response to the bogus claim that carbon dioxide is the cause of climate change.

    All of that said, I recognize that the sources of our oil lie in countries with unstable governments and can see the need to find other ways to fuel our cars and trucks. Additional sources in our country and use of natural gas come to mind. The attempt to use ethanol has been a debacle.

    Yes, our government subsidized rural electrification, construction of interstate highways, development of oil resources construction of municipal wastewater treatment plants, and many other things. However, what they all had in common was a demonstrable benefit to our people and our economy. Those benefits are lacking in the push to subsidize the marginal technologies of wind and solar power. I am neither a politician nor an extraction executive. I am a retired environmental engineer.

    I live near Washington DC, an area that has one of the cleanest and most convenient light rail systems in the country. The Metro cannot attract nearly enough riders to pay its expenses; the local and Federal governments subsidize the system. In theory, taxes pay for construction of highways and gasoline taxes and tolls pay for their upkeep. The people are voting for the freedom of personal transportation units, i.e. cars, even though they might be less convenient. Democracies are supposed to bow to the wishes of the people. Your job is to change their minds, but not by inventing fantasies, such as global warming to scaring them into bending to your will.

    I think the reduced demand for big vehicles and the reduced sales of gasoline that have occurred in response to the recent increases in fuel costs answers your question about what will happen as fuel prices increase. It is automatic; we do not have to mandate

  179. BT,

    Please, provide a description of the data and research that support your contention that carbon dioxide is causing climate change. Having just recently joined this forum, I have not seen the information that you describe.

  180. Dennis: if you say ‘jump’ I see the only thing -I- may ask YOU is, ‘How high.’

    I find your contributions here to be insincere. You insult my intelligence. If not your own. (That is what I meant, many posts back, by saying you want to play us for a fool.)

    This is a courtesy to you. Otherwise there is nothing I can add that you aren’t already well familiar with. You are arguing for argument’s sake.

    No thank you.

  181. The planet is warming, the permafrost is thawing. Debate? No. Fact.

    CO2 is a ‘greenhouse gas’. Fact.

    There may be other factors involved. But why make it worse? By tossing megatons of it into the atmosphere.

    Light footprint, gals and guys. WTF is wrong with that?


  182. Dennis (186) I am sorry that I have been sucked into your vortex …. what did I say to initiate your long winded response (186)? All I hope for is that the citizens of this material-resource-limited planet will begin to live, make and conserve energy, insure clean water and provide ample food and medical assistance responsibly for the welfare of all humanity and the global ecosystem. Yes, my project is to change minds and to change their behavior at the grass-root level. Living in the capital city of this state, I have noticed that the mind’s most legislators are ten to fifteen years behind the mind of the general public – until they are enlightened by the public voice. Change will not begin in the halls of institutions until change is demanded from the streets.

  183. John Weiss,

    The planet has warmed. I accept your conclusion that the permafrost is thawing. I can even accept that carbon dioxide can absorb infrared at wavelengths that neither air nor water vapor absorb and is therefore a greenhouse gas.

    I cannot accept the conclusion that carbon dioxide is a major player in the climate warming; too much data demonstrate that it is not.

    I think that carbon dioxide contributes only a small amount, probably an indiscernible amount to climate warming. I think that tossing megatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere makes no difference to the climate. I know that the additional warmth and carbon dioxide have been beneficial to all forms of plant growth, including agriculture.

    I have no objection to a light footprint as long as it does not require wrecking our economy.

  184. Frank,

    I had no intention to be long-winded; I merely wished to give a response to each of your points.

    We obviously have different opinions on most of these subjects. For example, I ask myself, “Which natural resources that were critical in 1900 are still critical and in short supply?” I cannot think of any. Can you? Therefore, I tend to believe that as we always have we always will find superior substitutes for the things that we now need. Eventually that list will include fossil fuels; I just do not believe that their time has arrived. We did not run out of stones, bronze, or iron; we moved on.

    I also think that we must ensure the availability of low-cost energy if we are to continue to provide the kind of food, shelter and medical technology that is providing us with the standard of living that we have. In addition, we must ensure that plentiful, low-cost energy is available to humans in undeveloped economies so that they too might enjoy our living standard.

  185. Dennis, that 3 trill was POSITIVE cash flow INTO the economy, and would have been OURS by now, over the past few years…plus another tril or so had we not wasted ourselves in Iraq.

    See 185 again. Please. Unless having those big bux in our pockets is what you mean by ‘wrecking’ the economy.

  186. Well, nearly NO ONE on earth at the consumer point ‘gets to’ have energy at the point of use that costs him what it’s true cost of delivery actually is.

    Every ‘traditional’ energy medium – oil, kerosene, gasoline, gas, hydro, nuclear – has long been heavily subsidized, in EVERY country on the planet. Some more than others.

    How about SUBSIDIZING wind, solar, and – ta-da – EFFICIENCIES? Better building codes? The cheapest kilowatts these days are the ones we save because we find ways to live as well or better than we do now – on LESS.

    Or would that amount to a ruined economy?

  187. What we in the advanced West/Northern hemisphere so easily forget is that any change to climate (winter to summer as the easist example) is easy for us to adapt to – we’re relatively wealthy. However millions of our fellow citizens in the 3rd world struggle to make it through every day. What they need is our help to modernise their economies so that they can start to enjoy the luxuries we have for the last 50 years (it’s not that long ago when the majority of people in the West were truly poor – end of the 19th/beginning of the 20th century – have we so easily forgotten what enabled us to progress – capitalism, warts and all).
    Are AGW supporters saying that in order to support their unproven theories we must keep the 3rd world in poverty and deny them the means to modernise and as we have done be able to adopt to what life throws at us (including weather/climate). The hypocrisy of the AGW believers is disgusting.
    Our first priority is to help the 3rd world modernise – that means at a basic level enabling them to have power and grow their own food, rather than
    telling them to grow unnecessary bio-fuels and forego electricity.

    Oh! I forgot the answer is that the AGW mob wants the West to have a significantly reduced standard of living so that we can be seen to repent our capitalist ways.

    Once you start looking at who tends to support AGW it’s not too difficult to see what ‘they’ want – the climate has become a useful proxy to achieve what socialism/communism failed miserably to do.
    As I’ve requested before please provide evidence that CO2 has been responsible for any climate warming, now or in the past – goods luck!

  188. To the AGW propogandists: I’m sorry but you’ve only yourselves to blame for not allowing un- biased/evenly funded research science to run its course!

    The Greens are Going Crazy
    By Alan Caruba (07/27/08)

    It’s hard to ignore the fact that the Greens are going crazy, not just in the United States, but around the world. They are increasingly frantic over the opposition being voiced against global warming, one of the greatest hoaxes in modern history.

    The Greens have bet everything on global warming as the reason for giving up the use of long established sources of energy such as oil, coal and natural gas. The object has been to slow everything the modern world calls progress.

    In India, a spokesman for that nation of one billion people has flatly refused to accept the global warming hoax. China shows no sign of yielding to the global warming lies. The greatest agricultural and mercantile economy to have ever existed, the United States of America continues to thwart its own growth by yielding to the lies.

    Recently the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, said that “coal makes us sick. Oil makes us sick. It’s global warming. It’s ruining our country. It’s ruining our world.”

    No, what makes us sick is listening to such preposterous lies. A Rasmussen telephone survey taken after Sen. Reid’s absurd statement found that 52% of voters surveyed rejected his views about coal and oil, double the amount of those who agreed.

    What is troublesome, however, is that the same survey found the voters evenly divided on whether global warming exists or poses a threat. Fully 47% of those surveyed believe that human activity affects the climate. Both candidates for President are publicly committed to the global warming hoax by varying degrees.

    Despite an intense, decades-long propaganda campaign, coupled with indoctrination in our nation’s schools, the truth is beginning to emerge.

    In March, an international conference on climate change organized by The Heartland Institute brought together over 500 of the world’s leading climatologists, meteorologists, economists and others for three days of seminars and presentations that completely refuted the pronouncements of the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and disputed the lies of Al Gore’s famed “documentary.”

    As recently as July 8, the Space and Science Research Center held a news conference in which it stated that the warming that has occurred since the end of the Little Ice Age in 1850 was completely natural, i.e., had nothing to do with human or industrial activity.

    More significantly, the Center went on record saying that, “After an exhaustive review of a substantial body of climate research, and in conjunction with the obvious and compelling new evidence that exists, it is time that the world community acknowledges that the Earth has begun the next climate change.” The current warming period is not only at an end, but a distinct cooling cycle has begun and will bring “predominantly colder global temperatures for many years into the future.”

    Just how crazed has the environmental movement become? On July 7 it was announced that Argentine scientists have been strapping plastic tanks to the backs of cows to collect and measure how much methane gas they produce.

    Methane, like carbon dioxide, is a minor component of the Earth’s atmosphere. Methane is also released from swamps, landfills and other sources. If it and CO2 played a significant role in determining the world’s climate, it would be a cause for concern, but it is the Sun that primarily drives the Earth’s climate cycles. Solar activity has gone quiet in recent years as fewer and fewer sunspots, magnetic storms, have been seen.

    To maintain the global warming hoax, thousands of events and natural phenomena have been blamed on it. A recent example is the floods in America’s mid-West. The National Wildlife Federation released a statement on July 1 blaming global warming.

    Climate experts at The Heartland Institute were quick to respond. Dr. Joseph D’Aleo, Executive Director of the International Climate and Environmental Change Assessment Project, said, “Alarmists have adopted the can’t-lose position that all extremes of weather—cold, warm, wet, or dry—are all due to global warming”, adding that, “The record snows, severe weather, and heavy rainfall have been the result of rapid cooling in the northern tier of the United States and Canada, not global warming.”

    Early in July, Bret Stephens, writing in The Wall Street Journal, called global warming “a mass hysteria phenomenon”, noting that “NASA now begrudgingly confirms that the hottest year on record in the continental 48 was not 1998, as previously believed, but 1934, and that six of the 10 hottest years since 1880 antedate 1954. Data from 3,000 scientific robots in the world’s oceans show there has been slight cooling in the past five years…”

    The global warming hoax has never been about the climate. It is about competing economic theories. “Socialism may have failed as an economic theory,” wrote Stephens, “but global warming alarmism, with its dire warnings about the consequences of industry and consumerism, is equally a rebuke to capitalism.”

    The United States Senate refused to consider the UN Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that requires massive reductions in carbon dioxide emissions based solely on the global warming hoax, but other nations did sign on. None have ever met their obligation to limit CO2 emissions, nor need they have bothered.

    At the recent G8 conference an international agreement to cut CO2 emissions was given serious consideration despite the fact that the Earth is now a decade into a cooling cycle likely to last several decades or longer. The impact of this proposal on the lives of ordinary citizens will prove needlessly costly. Proposals in some nations for various taxes based on global warming are a form of fraud.

    The sensible refusal by leaders in emerging economies such as China and India would make it impossible for any limitations on carbon emissions by Western nations to have any impact, even if such reductions had anything to do with the realities of the Earth’s climate.

    The only thing that can be predicted with certainty is that the Greens will become increasingly unhinged and crazed by the failure of the global warming hoax.

  189. BT,

    I have described about a dozen reasons why I think that carbon dioxide does not cause climate change. I have provided citations for some of them and would provide citations for all of them if you or anyone else expressed an interest.

    Your responses have fallen into 2 categories. They attach me personally or they attack my writing style.

    I will not respond to any more of your responses that fall into those categories.

    If you wish to provide technical reasons why I am wrong, or provide descriptions of evidence of carbon dioxide having an effect on climate, I will gladly respond.

    Until then, bye.

  190. Dearest Dennis, caro mio,

    I would not ever think to attach (sic) you personally! And I know you have a dozen or a thousand reasons for your line of belief. So have the Creationists, as they attack Darwin, and teaching of science, as science.

    You are about belief. I am about facts. Not to put too fine a point on it.

    The cockamany rant that ‘AGW conspiracists’ are out to profit on the suffering of the world’s poor is a very cruel thing to be saying, not just because it is a lie.

    Then again, we do all agree that the world climate has been on a warming trend – a less-steep riseb over the past 5-8 years notwithstanding (since when is any of this so absolute?) – and that the sea levels are on the rise – else why the fuss over Venice?

    So you AGW apologists frame your denial. And you would let the millions of Bangladeshis and others on the lowlands of Southeast Asia – what – drown? THAT is what I call true callousness. And worse, stupid, by letting pass such great opportunities, for profit on all sides in the course of devising solutions. Including the elevation, not of sea levels, or not only of those, but also of lives, out of poverty.

    We’re looking at a potential win-win here. Unless you, Dennis, you Stephen, and you Bickers prefer obstruct, confuse, bamboozle, and plain argue-fy and whine your way to snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

    let the poor Bangladeshis drown. AGW is a crock.

  191. BT (199)

    Your rant is long on emotion, short on logic – not a very good way to conduct a debate or form policy on how we properly manage the challenges that nature will present to us (as she always has done)

    I think the issue with Venice is that it slowly sinking (it’s built on piles) rather than the sea rising – check out the Maldives – the alarmists said they’d disappear – they’re fine and sea levels have dropped slightly.

    The Bangladeshis point is sheer madness: (i) there’s no evidence of sea level rise, (ii) if they were to become as wealthy as the West (need power and food) then they could adapt as we have done e.g. Holland and their dykes, or (iii) move to a less dangerous place as man has done throughout history when nature has ‘forced’ him to do so.

    You still haven’t presented any evidence that CO2 causes global warming – why?

  192. Wow! As we say in the Art Biz, ‘A Bad Review Beats No Review A-tall!’

    Short on ‘logic’ huh? Look bub! Venice has been there for 1000 years more or less. Why is it that it suddenly began ‘sinking’ faster – only in the past 100 or so years? In fact one of the remarkable aspects of ancient buildings, i.e. the Basilica of San Marco in Venice, the great cathedrals of France, others, is that they ARE stable and often represent a history of loading, i.e. building, on a site such that the foundations are actually far more stable than they would be without that history. (Engineering note, this has to do with cyclic and long-term compaction, et cetera.)

    Yes, we do know about Pisa’s famous tower (and many others in Italy that leant) and we know that Venice has undergone BOTH settlement AND crustal lowering, as is frequently the case around the Mediterranean. We know as well that, by the same crustal processes, what goes down also comes up. (Did I get that part right? YES: see classic-period buildings, now high and dry, with marine worm holes in the stone.)

    Your axe to grind, that climate effects, warming, polar ice retreat, sea level rise, and anthropogenic processes can not be involved is just plain nuts.

    I no longer take anything you present here as being credible because every time I’ve double-checked a statement of yours I’ve discovered it to be false, misleadingly torn from a larger context, or otherwise distorted or dis-informative. Your first post described Stephen Wilde as a meteorologist. Not so, as we now know.

    Farther on you appealed to authority by citing a disgruntled ex-employee of an Australian agency who claimed that organization’s conclusions were rubbish. Not so, nor was the individual you named qualified to make those assertions – nor were that person’s supporting evidence convincing.

    In citing Pielke, I believe it was, you ignored how that scientist so carefully contextualized his specific, narrow conclusions within a larger sense of his strong opinion that warming IS taking place and needs to be addressed.

    You attempted to undermine another piece of research by stating that the work was based on ‘discredited’ (sic) tree-ring data. As I replied to you then, I reply to you now: NO TREES. Still. Do you really think you can ‘win’ by making it up like that? I suppose the unwary might be jolted by the declarations you make, for a moment, but it only takes another instant of reflection to see right through your falsehoods. The real misfortune in this is that, if you were correct in YOUR posture, you undermine and discredit your position by presenting facts which aren’t facts. Worse than crying ‘wolf’ you leave one to wonder that you would even know a wolf, if one were standing at your door.

    You’ve got a LONG way to go to develop credibility. Meanwhile how about putting some focus on the many problems at hand and offering some way towards a solution, instead of poo-poohing EVERY initiative that you, personally, are so jealous of?

    By the way, do you happen to be the same person as a Dennis Falgout PhD who signed an anti-global warming petition online, in one of the magazine forums? Sorry, can’t recall but it was one of Slate, Wired, or Salon. Curious, that. If so, what is the field of specialization for your advanced degree? Your field of professional endeavor?

  193. …..and Dennis, you actually support what is the point of this disussion, as in your 200, was it, where you remind us of the control-of-nature works of the Dutch. If they can do it, and have for so long, let’s us do it too, and control the sea level globally. And the climate.

    And the consequent well-being of humanity.

    If it’s that way, it’s that way not only on those few occasions you are kind enough to bless, but on all fronts.

  194. Sorry for the confusion: in 201 a line is missing.

    ‘For Dennis:’

    …should precede the paragraph that begins ‘I no longer take…’

  195. BT

    You attributed two statements to me that I did not make. I did not write:

    “AGW conspiracists’ are out to profit on the suffering of the world’s poor”

    Nor did I

    “remind us of the control-of-nature works of the Dutch”.

    In answer a couple of your questions: I am the person whom you identified as having signed the OISM petition, but I cannot know where you saw the list. Apparently, several web sites have published it. My Ph.D. work was in the Chemical and Environmental Engineering departments. My dissertation was about my study of chemical reactions in photochemical smog. I worked for state and local air pollution control agencies for about 5-years; but was a consultant for most of my career. Approximately 70% of my consulting was contract work for the US EPA in the areas of regulation development, monitoring and control technology.

    What you characterize as a “less steep rise” in the temperature is actually a small decline in air temperatures. Ground-based thermometers, balloon and satellite data all agree. The ocean temperatures, measured by the NASA diving buoys also are decreasing slightly. Of most concern however, is the fact that the current temperature is less than the IPCC model predictions by so much that it is below the error band. There is no doubt that the models are wrong. That makes me less enthusiastic about altering my life or risking the lives of persons who are less able to defend themselves because the models tell me to.

    The earth has been warming since the end of the last ice age. The slope of the temperature curves has not changed since the carbon dioxide concentration began increasing. That makes me think that carbon dioxide is not the cause of the warming. In fact, the data support the conclusion that the warming climate causes the carbon dioxide concentration to rise. Old Sol and Henry’s law are at work.

    We also know that there is a 600 to 800 foot deep layer of salt water on top of the Black Sea. Theory is that the rising sea levels broke through Bosporus a few thousand years ago. We also know that the rate of sea level rise did not change when the carbon dioxide concentration began rising. Nor has rate of glacier retreat.

    I think that you will find that Roger Pielke Sr. has said that the thinks that the IPCC has greatly exaggerated the contribution of carbon dioxide to climate change. He believes that the primary human influence on climate has come from land use changes, e.g. conversion of forest to farmland.

    The IPCC had copies of the subject tree-ring data in seven different locations in the TAR. The investigations of many qualified statisticians thoroughly discredited the work of Mann, et al. The graph does not appear in the most recent IPCC assessment.

  196. Dennis, please comment on (180) the fact that ‘It has been said that, had the whole US had adopted the same pollution limits, efficiency standards, and building codes now in place in California, the NEGATIVE marginal costs would amount to some THREE TRILLION dollars.’ (That negative cost applies to approximately the past 8-12 years, in the words of the source.)

    BTW, in your 205 you accuse me, twice in the first lines of your post, ascribing statements to you. FWIW, you are incorrect, I did not do so, in either case that you note.

  197. BT,

    The quote about the Dutch was in post 200 as you said, however Bickers posted it, not I. It happens that I agree with the intent of Bickers’ argument that is, peoples (the Dutch) who live in successful economies can deal with the adverse effects of environmental change, and peoples who live in poverty cannot. If we weaken our economies by serving a false message, such as the hypothesis of carbon dioxide-driven climate change we will have fewer resources to contend with the climate if it becomes onerous.

    I have never said or written anything similar to your second misquote of me, nor do I know where it is. Perhaps, you could look for where you found it and report back.

    I also have said from the beginning that I have no objection to increasing our energy efficiency. I would object if the proposed efficiency methods were not cost effective. A few years ago, a friend told me that the manufacturer for whom he worked consumed more energy adding insulation to clothes dryers in response to EPA standards than the increased insulation could ever save. I consider that requirement foolish.

    I do not know where you read an article that claimed we could have saved $3 trillion in savings by incorporating California building codes, so I cannot comment on it. If you will provide a reference, preferably a link, I’ll read it and let you know what I think. Caveat- We now have houseguests and a party schedule, which will lessen the time that I have for the next week or so.

    Meanwhile, why don’t you explain why the observations that the climate is not behaving as the carbon dioxide-induced warming hypothesis predicts that it will are wrong or irrelevant. Please start with these:

    Temperature increase always precedes carbon dioxide increase.

    Slopes of glacier recession rate, temperature, and sea level rise rates inert to carbon dioxide increase.

    No hot spot in the troposphere.

    Cooling, not warming for past decade.

    Three periods of carbon dioxide higher than now, no tipping point.

  198. Dennis,

    On the negative marginal costs bit, I think you can dig it out if you wish. Let’s just try it this way: what if that were likely? Can you respond?

    Meanwhile, are you saying through all of this that a mechanism of ‘greenhouse’ heat retention in the atmosphere just does not exist?

    As to your bit on the Black Sea, I don’t understand your point, but I think the statement you made is false, or at best, arguable among several possibilities. At any rate it appears you are trying to use that to shore up the notion that sea levels were higher than at present. But an examination of the Black Sea history probably will show the opposite.

    The notion that ‘rising sea levels broke through’ is but ONE among several theories about the history of this region. Submarine deltas and strand lines in the Mediterranean at the south end of the Bosporus, mapped at the 600-800 foot depth you cite, testify to historic outflows FROM the Black Sea and INTO the Mediterranean. Features of a similar sort, in the Black Sea and at similar, or greater depths, imply historic flows INTO the Black Sea, FROM the Mediterranean, as well.

    Whether or not the notion of a catastrophic break-through (dated at something like 7,500-8,500 YBP) took place will stand up, one element is clear: the Black Sea’s water level at that time, towards the end of a cycle of glaciation, was at least 600-800 feet lower than it is today. The Mediterranean, and global sea levels, were ALSO lower than presently, because so much water was tied up in glacial ice. Not 600-800 feet lower, but lower. So of course a land-barrier between the Bosporus and the Black Sea that existed then, also prevented water from flowing from the Mediterranean into the Black Sea. And, as the global sea levels again rose during the waning glacial period, they reached a level that overflowed such barrier. This did not require sea levels higher than at present, as the current flow regime and geography of these seas and their interconnetions show.

    (Geologic side-note, one terrane that did experience a catastrophic flooding during the post-glacial period in North America is the part of Eastern Washington referred to as the Channelled Scablands. Lake Bonneville, of which a remnant in Utah is now named the Great Salt Lake, drained suddenly when a natural ‘dam’ in western Montana failed. The hundreds-of-feet deep flood that charged out across the eastern Washington plains scooped the huge gullies of coulees, of which the most famous now contains a man-made dam, Grand Coulee. A visit to Missoula, Montana includes the chance to look up and see the strand lines, or ancient beach ridges, that Lake Bonneville left at its greatest extent. They are at least 600-800 feet above the contemporary valley floor. So far as I know from a brief review – this goes back to long-ago reading, among other things – the equivalent large-scale catastrophic flow features, that is structures and deposits comparable to the channels, bars, and so on of the Channelled Scablands, have not been noted in the Black Sea – Bosporus – Mediterranean terrane.)

    Sorry about mis-ascribing the remark about the Dutch to you. You’re right. But not about the tree-ring exchange. That referred not to the IPCC report, in your exchange with me, but to the Bradley article in Science, PALEOCLIMATE: Enhanced: 1000 Years of Climate Change. Still no trees.

    Party on!

  199. Can someone explain how so many well-intentioned people are failing so miserably to share a common understanding of what is happening in our planetary home in these early years of Century XXI?

    There are moments like this one when it appears to me that we in the family of humanity must be living within some huge manmade construction reminiscent of the ancient Tower of Babel. Whatever the reasons for our spectacular failure to communicate meaningfully and sensibly about what somehow could be real about the workings of the Earth and the placement of the human species within the natural order of living things, these circumstances are incredible and present the human family with a potentially colossal threat to life as we know it and the integrity of Earth as a fit place for human habitation.

    As an example, let us look at the growth of absolute global human population numbers. In 2008 there are more people literally existing on Earth on resources valued at less than $2 per day than the total human population in the year of my birth. Our population numbers have been skyrocketing in our time and are projected to continue skyrocketing to the middle of this century when our numbers are anticipated to reach 9+/- billion and then somehow, magically I believe, automatically stabilize. The is no unchallenged scientific evidence to indicate how this “demographic transition to population stabilization” can possibly occur. This has not kept many so-called experts from continuing to say that the preternatural ’science’ on which they rely is outdated and fatally flawed. A mere 108 years ago, at the beginning of the 20th Century, human numbers worldwide were between 1 and 2 billion. Most people can agree, I believe, on these numbers.

    Now let us look at the relatively small, evidently finite, noticeably frangible planet we inhabit. Many experts have asked the question, “How many people can the Earth support?”

    No reasonable and sensible person would say that an unlimited number of people can exist in a limited world. That cannot be. It also follows that the size and make-up of Earth naturally limits the growth of human production and per human consumption activities worldwide. The growth of these activities are subject to certain biophysical limitations of Earth. Endless growth cannot occur in a finite world.

    What do you expect will happen if human propagation, production and consumption activities continue to grow, given their current scale and expected annual rate of increase? Please know that comments are welcome.

    Steven Earl Salmony
    AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population
    established 2001

  200. All good points SES but nothing to do with CO2.

    My point is that if one keeps most of the world in poverty by rationing energy then poor nations will never get rich enough to voluntarily limit population size.

    If it’s not voluntary then it will be war or famine.

    You takes your choice.

    Were already committed to 9 billion or so. Wew have to stop it at that level or less and just do what we can to mitigate environmental impact.

    Limiting CO2 emissions producing activities is pretty much the worst of all possible worlds unless of course there really is a climate link. That is why the issue is so important today.

  201. To respond to a couple of good questions, especially Steve Salmony’s ‘…how…well-intentioned people…’, I recommend what Stephen Schneider at Stanford University has to offer. His website is at http://stephenschneider.stanford.edu/ and his dossier includes his positions as Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, Senior Fellow, Stanford Institute for International Studies, and Professor, by courtesy, Civil and Environmental Engineering.*

    Schneider points out, on a page titled ‘Mediarology’** that expert witnesses often spout diametrically opposing views, and not infrequently do so intentionally to obscure and confuse issues. Schneider goes on to note that this is hardly surprising given the politically-charged nature of the issues and the vested interests in play. He has a nice term for this, too: ‘Science Friction’. Bravo Dr. Schneider! His complete and nuanced article can be found at http://stephenschneider.stanford.edu/Mediarology/Mediarology.html#CourtRoomEpistemelogy under his clever subheading, ‘Courtroom Epistemology’

    The question I ask myself, and which I pose for everyone and especially for those who arrive here to challange the postulate that presumably motivates this discussion, is this: What IS your underlying position? Your bias? And your primary influence? I above all address those questions to the individuals who most forcefully wish to draw the discussion away from its framework in outward-looking overview, and into the smallest, most arguable particulars, no matter how vital those details may appear to be in isolation from the larger picture.


    * SW, NB! Also see: Courtroom Epistemology.
    ** The post saying SW was a ‘meterologist’ should have read, ‘mediarologist’, apparently. 😉

  202. From Bickers…”Our first priority is to help the 3rd world modernise – that means at a basic level enabling them to have power and grow their own food, rather than
    telling them to grow unnecessary bio-fuels and forego electricity.”

    This is a joke??? When has the Western world ever given a rat’s buttocks about the third world. The main reason the West is rich and the South is poor is because we stole, killed, dominated, warred, etc. to get their resources.

    You sound like Kipling’s White Man’s Burden, only now you coat it with neoliberalism or neoconservatism (whichever, these two terms are only slight degrees of difference) which in quick explanation is nothing but White Man’s Burden for the 21st century. It’s still “we know better” so do as we tell you to.

    The World Bank told many third countries to grow food for export, and now they (and you) complain that they can’t grow their own food. Actually, it was more than “told” it was deception because the World Bank is dominated by the West and the West wanted food imports. And the deception involved dangling loans, that these countries had trouble paying back. And let’s not forget corporate dead-end seeds where farmers became forced to repurchase seeds from corporations instead of being able to collect seed from the harvest.

    Maybe we should just leave them and their resources alone. Let them decide how to deal with their countries without Western “advice.”

    And what do you mean by modernize? You mean saddling them to an oil based economy? Are you suggesting getting them to become addicted to a resource that will increase in price as it becomes more scarce? Yeah, good idea, be like us. Worse, let’s get more countries that will need to compete for dwindling oil supplies.

    If we really cared (which we don’t) we’d be helping them go solar and wind, thereby skipping ahead of the oil economy. But we know that the extraction industries and politicians here in the US want more customers, here comes the status quo to help. What a joke. White Man’s Burden repeats itself.

  203. Dear Stephen Wilde,

    You report,

    “We’re already committed to 9 billion or so.”

    If we are considering a species like Homo sapiens with raw intelligence, ingenuity and other gifts, how can anyone say a current population 6.7 billion human beings is “already committed to 9 billion or so”?

    From whence comes such specious thinking? I do realize many so-called experts have insisted upon holding onto the preternatural ‘science’ that supports the politically convenient and economically expedient idea that absolute global human population numbers will somehow, (magically, I believe) stabilize in the middle of this century. This line of thought and the “theory of the demographic transition” to population stabilization around 2050 appears to be a colossal misperception. Unchallenged scientific evidence directly contradicts this thinking, this view of what could somehow be real.

    If the UN was empowered and funded to promote contraception, family planning and health education programs worldwide, what line of reasoning or common sense suggests to you that human population numbers worldwide cannot amount to less, much less than 9 billion people in 2050?

    As examples of programs of action, what if the FOED Proposal (international food and education proposal) I have already put forward in the Orion Blog was fully implemented in a timely fashion? If a voluntary, humane “one child per family” policy was propounded and realistically expedited? Programs of this kind will bring the global population of the human species down almost as rapidly as human population numbers have risen in the past 160 years.



  204. I believe one of the issues that has manifested itself due to the Global Warming debate relates to how the bureacracies mainly in The West take control of ‘big issues’ and use them to further their own goals.

    In Europe and the US Goverment agencies and institutions hace become very powerful at both a political and financial level.

    By taking control of what appear to be ‘big issues’ like climate change it enables these agencies to justify their own existence, expand their powerbase, accrue more funding and become a form of Goverment within Government.

    Once this happens these ‘big issues’ take on a life of their own and are almost impossible for the man in the street to oppose as the ‘Government Machine’ marches forward

    As Ronald Reagan said to one of his civil servants: “Don’t just stand there, do nothing”

  205. BT,

    Sorry for the delay in responding to your 208.

    No, I do not deny that carbon dioxide absorbs a few narrow wavelength bands that neither air nor water vapor absorb. What I deny, emphatically, is that the effect of carbon dioxide and the other satanic gases has a measurable effect on our climate.

    On the subject of the building codes, if you will provide a means by which I can find the article that you cited, I will find and read it. I won’t discuss a hypothetical.

    My point was, which you reinforced nicely with your discussion of Bosporus and Bonneville, was that the current warming began about 10,000 years ago. Lacking any direct evidence that carbon dioxide is contributing significantly to the present warming and having evidence that the warming does not have the signature of carbon dioxide-induced warming, we must conclude that we are still in the process of recovering from the last Ice Age.

  206. Building codes? Dunno what you refer to but my experience is with San Mateo County, California and specifically the town of Portola Valley. You can look up their landslide and geologic hazards maps which have been part of their basic zoning and building permit kit for over 30 years now.

    You worked on qualifying emissions levels from asphalt plants in so-cal, yes, so I guess you can find this stuff pretty easily.

    Good grief. Sure it was warming through the end of the ice age but you were arguing about sea levels. So what? You were wrong about the sea levels, do we have to go through every single detail where you twist the truth? How about this, please. Go back through the long listings I’ve presented to you, pull out every notation of your inaccuracies, and respond, to each one, in detail. THAT will clear the docket. Meanwhile, how can we miss you if you won’t go away?! :-)

  207. Note also that CO2 is essentially opaque, that is totally absorbing for radiation beyond 10-12 microns. That includes palpable heat radiation, exactly what comes off warmed bodies – yours at the beach, the sand, the continent, the seas……

  208. Dennis (216)

    Thankyou for restating the obvious:

    That there’s no evidence that CO2 has any, or any significant impact on global warming, which itself has happened at least twice before in the last 1000 years.

    I remain perplexed when in the face of the historical record and the current warming period peaking (in spite of rising CO2 levels) AGW supporters won’t accept that (i) their holy computer models are a busted flush & (ii) they need to let unfettered scientific research find out more about why our planet has warmed and cooled in the past.

    Does it bother AGW supporters that the Goracle is involved in venture capital funds that are raising $100’s millions to invest in companies that’ll benefit from the lobbying he and his acocolytes are engaged in the get the US Government to pass restrictive carbon emissions law – don’t you smell a little snake oil or rat!!

  209. In Poetry is the preservation of the Word. Of the World.

  210. Bickers, which venture capital funds are those? Where can I sign up? Sounds like a real win-win! How can we connect ‘350’ on CO2 to bux in the bank?

  211. BT,

    This same Stephen Schneider (quoted in your 212) once wrote, “We have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we may have. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest.” [Quoted in Jonathan Schell, “Our Fragile Earth,” Discover, October 1989, p. 47]. How refreshing to find a man who has such a devotion to science and truth. You never have to wonder if such men are telling the truth.

    No, I was not wrong about rising sea level. The sea level has been rising steadily since the end of the last Ice Age. Your post confirmed it.

    Your comment 211 requests that I review all of your comments about my inaccuracies. Insofar as I know, you have not documented any inaccuracy in any statement that I have posted. If you care to provide conflicting information, as opposed to the unsubstantiated opinion that you have provided, please do so and I will respond.

    In 217, you ask which building codes I meant. I don’t know. You cited (in 180) some pollution limits, efficiency standards, and building codes, which if enforced nation wide would have saved a bunch of money in energy costs. I asked you to provide information about the source of your data, but you declined.

    Your comment (in 218) about carbon dioxide absorbing strongly in the wavelength range from 10 to 12 micrometers is true but misleading. Water vapor also absorbs in the same wavelength range. As your graphic shows, the absorption coefficient for water vapor appears to be about half of the carbon dioxide coefficient. However, the concentration of water vapor at 70 degrees F and 50% relative humidity is approximately 12,300 parts per million. Therefore, even though carbon dioxide absorbs in that waveband, it can only increase the absorption provided by water vapor by about 3%, which is not significant.

    Carbon dioxide does have an absorption band at about 4.2 micrometers (where water does not absorb), but objects whose temperature is about 500 degrees F emit that wavelength. The surface of the earth rarely, if ever gets that high. Your graphic does not show that the total width of the carbon dioxide absorption band is from about 13 to 17 micrometers, because it truncates at about 15 micrometers.

    The data on water vapor concentration and black body emission temperature came from the “Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, 70 ed., Chemical Rubber Company, 1999-1990.

  212. I read the part about Prof. Schneider on Discover and I can tell Dennis Falgout he’s guilty of distorting what the professor really said. Falgout takes a fragment out of context, and I bet he knows darned well that’s what he’s doing. Can’t fool me.

    I couldn’t get what Bob Tyson was saying about asphalt before that so I googled Falgout and asphalt and the first hit was some kind of EPA report on plants in LA that make asphalt. I had to search the document and found a place where it said a Dennis Falgout was responsible for some sort of inspection on a plant, but he wasn’t present for the testing.

    What on earth IS all of this?


  213. Vittoria,

    I have to admit that I find it hard to imagine a context that would make the sentence that I quoted OK. I also admit that I have not seen the entire article. However, if you have a link to the entire article, please post it and I will read the whole thing and let you know.

    It sounds like you and he have found a copy of a report of tests that engineers and technicians did under my direction. There are many other such reports (perhaps a dozen) out there. We did all of the tests while under contract to the USEPA. Those and many other tests by other firms (not under my direction) were part of the Background Information Document for the USEPA rule that regulates combustion of hazardous wastes in boilers and industrial furnaces. A Background Information Document contains all of the technical information and data that USEPA accumulates during its development of rules. The tests (if I have guessed right about what they are) were to determine if industrial boilers, cement kilns, lime kilns, expanded aggregate (the light-weight spongy rocks you often see outside of McDonalds) and asphalt plants could destroy hazardous organic compounds well enough that there would be no harm to persons living and breathing in the vicinity of such furnaces. The answer was yes.

    I was present at many of the tests, but did not go to California.

  214. This is Orion, thanking you all for the lively and interesting discussion.

    We are closing the discussion now, and hope to see you all at the next article!

Commenting on this item is closed.