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Handy or erect ?

December 18th, 2003

Talking of the Scientific American, the November issue has a very interesting article on the discovery of some early human fossils in (the former Soviet Republic of) Georgia, generally assigned to Homo erectus but having a lot of characteristics in common with the earlier Homo habilis. One scientist quoted in the story even uses the phrase “missing link”.

This should be a big problem for scientific creationists, who generally argue that fossils classified as Homo erectus are just Homo sapiens and that Homo habilis is an extinct ape.

But, as we’ve seen from the debate over global warming, it’s unlikely that the accumulation of evidence will change the minds of those whose commitment to a particular viewpoint wasn’t based on empirical evidence in the first place.

Update Bargarz has more.

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  1. Dave Ricardo
    December 18th, 2003 at 09:09 | #1

    An interesting discovery, but who cares what these crack pot creationists believe?

    If they had an influence on social and educational policy then they might have to be taken seriously, but they don’t, except in some of the backwoods part of the United States, like Kansas.

    Here, they have no influence. Even the Catholic Church has finally come to terms with evolution. Evolution is taught throughout the education system.

    The creationists will always be with us. Some people’s minds are simply impervious to reason and evidence. There is nothing we can do about it, and we shouldn’t waste time trying.

  2. December 18th, 2003 at 11:18 | #2

    “But, as we’ve seen from the debate over global warming, it’s unlikely that the accumulation of evidence will change the minds of those whose commitment to a particular viewpoint wasn’t based on empirical evidence in the first place.”

    John. The point is that proponents of Global Warming are determined to shut down debate on the subject. It’s your side of the debate that’s determined not to change their minds, not mine.

    As you are the ones demanding financial commitment, the burden of proof lies at your door, not mine. If you can provide scientific proof for your claims, I’ll happily switch sides.

    Predictions of what the weather will be like in 2100 is an object of faith, not science. There is simply no way to know. What you’re offering is the dressing up of opinion to have the appearance of science.

    This is shown by the vicious personal attacks on Lomborg, and SciAm’s refusal to let him respond. You yourself attacked him on this blog, calling him a “fraud”. There were threats to shut down CUP, Lomborg’s publisher, much like the Nazis burnt books. The book was peer reviewed by 3 prominent Earth scientists, although many have claimed it wasn’t peer reviewed.

    Why lie, attack and refuse debate? This is the way religious zealots behave, not scientists.

    Whatever happened to “I may not agree with what you say, but I’ll fight to the death for your right to say it”?

    There’s something ugly going on in the world of the Green Left. They are determined to suppress anything that disagrees with their worldview.

    This wasn’t always the case, and I’m disappointed with what the movement has become.

  3. tipper
    December 18th, 2003 at 11:36 | #3

    Lomborg has been vindicated.

    “The Ministry of Science characterized the DCSC’s treatment of the case as “dissatisfactory,” “deserving criticism,” and “emotional.” It found that the ruling was “completely void of argumentation.”


  4. John Quiggin
    December 18th, 2003 at 11:57 | #4

    So you accept, as an authority, the Danish Department of Science, and reject that of the Danish Committee on Scientific Dishonesty? On what basis?

    Unfortunately, links are troublesome due to the database disaster, but this topic was covered extensively at the time on this and other blogs and went beyond argument from authority.

  5. John Quiggin
    December 18th, 2003 at 11:59 | #5

    PK, would you say that since supporters of evolution want people to change beliefs sanctioned on the authority of the Bible, the burden of proof is on them, and the test of meeting that burden is their capacity to convince creationists ?

  6. December 18th, 2003 at 12:16 | #6


    Believe whatever you want. If you want a financial commitment and a change in policy based on your beliefs, then the burden of proof lies on you.

    Can I say “Aliens are invading next year and I want $10b to build a temple to honour them”, then demand you give me the money unless you can prove otherwise? I can even build you a few good computer models and write up some formulas to support my belief if you like.

    How is this any different from the demands of the global warming crowd?

  7. Homer Paxton
    December 18th, 2003 at 12:23 | #7


    There is no biblical authority for creationism. I have stated this before and don’t really wish to go on stating this fabrication.

    The early chapters of Genesis is about WHY God created the earth and for WHOM not how.

    If he deemed that important he would have told us.

    For further information quite of few of the writers of the FUNDAMENTALS ,a great series of papers on biblical doctrine, saw no inconsistency between evolution and the bible, Warfield probably being the most wellknown. I am agnostic on the topic.

    As aside it was from these papers the word fundamentalist was derived before this term was prostituted to its current term ( which is the opposite of its original meaning).

  8. John
    December 18th, 2003 at 17:50 | #8

    Let’s take a more realistic version of the same example, PK. Most scientists think that there’s a significant chance that the earth will be hit by an asteroid large enough to cause millions of deaths sometime in the next hundred years. Various proposals to guard against this are being considered (again, the Scientific American has an interesting article on this)

    By your argument, as long as there remain some ‘sceptics’ who aren’t convinced, it is inappropriate to do anything, unless it is funded by primary donations.

    Homer, I didn’t mean to assert that the Bible does in fact support creationism, merely that creationists think it does.

  9. December 18th, 2003 at 17:55 | #9

    PK, there is literally massive amounts of evidence for global warming, theoretical and practical. Each year hundreds (maybe thousands) of scientific papers are published on the topic, only a tiny handful could be described as being sympathetic towards the global warming skeptics.

    The American Geophysical Union recently released a position paper on human impacts on climate. It can be found here:


    and is well worth the read. There position is by no means unique, and similar statements have been made by many scientific bodies (see http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/summary/292/5520/1261 for some examples). In telling contrast, as far as I am aware, no respected general scientific body has made a statement which supports the climate change skeptics.

    While we can’t predict the weather in 2100, we can make projections about the climate in 2100 (climate is very different to weather).

  10. Factory
    December 18th, 2003 at 18:04 | #10

    Hmm at least in Australia the burden of evidence is on the creationist crowd and the anti-global warming crowd, since most ppl do not believe in these viewpoints. And being a democracy Australia will be run in a way that accepts these viewpoints as ‘truth’.

    As for the article, erm, will not the skeptics now demand to see the links between the middle species and the two other species?

  11. December 18th, 2003 at 18:39 | #11

    The asteroid situation is completely different, as there is lots of hard evidence that asteroids have hit the Earth before. No such precedent exists for human created global warming.

    Why is global warming more realistic than my assertion? I’ve predicted an occurrence that has no historical precedent with no hard scientific proof, just like human created global warming.

    Ken, this evidence looks suspiciously similar to that put forward to “prove” the population bomb, nuclear winter and second-hand smoke. This isn’t hard science, it’s opinion dressed up as science.

    “While we can’t predict the weather in 2100, we can make projections about the climate in 2100.” Can’t anyone do that? I project the climate will be -150C, now give me some money. The history of these types of projections is extremely dubious. There is no reliable scientific framework to make these kinds of projections, full-stop.

    Consensus isn’t science, it’s politics. If what you had was science, there would be no need to revert to the consensus argument. Michael Crichton has a good refutation for you, read here…


    Factory, we are a democracy, and our current government doesn’t support Kyoto.

  12. December 18th, 2003 at 19:01 | #12

    PK, what I gave was opinion representative of the scientific community. Perhaps you would like to point out similar statements made about the population bomb?

    If it’s hard science that you want, then I would suggest that you read the scientific journals. Given that you didn’t appear to know the difference between weather and climate, I’d be very surprised you have read any peer reviewed science journals on it.

    Nice strawman argument with the projection. If you think that the scientific projections are made in the same way, your sadly mistaken.

    John’s comparison between the climate changes skeptics and the evolution deniers is being increasingly more accurate. Your now offering a science fictions writers opinion while dismissing offhand statements for a large number of scientific bodies.

    Incidentally, there is plenty of evidence that gases that absorb in the infrared warm the earth (this arises from fundamental thermodynamics). If they didn’t, the earth would be a frozen dead planet.

  13. December 18th, 2003 at 19:28 | #13

    Ken. I’ve read the peer reviewed science journals. There is no hard scientific evidence for human created global warming, it’s based on models, not observational evidence.

    Please read the Crichton article for many similar examples of now debunked theories based on similar “science” and consensus. I’ll put the link again, as you don’t seem to have read it yet…


    The methodolology used to make climate predictions is irrelevant. What matters is the reliability of the results. Science involves the creation of testable hypotheses. The eventual real-world testable results of these types of projections, however impressive their methodology may be, is risible.

    May I recommend you read The Fortune Sellers by William Sherden, where he creates a convincing case that modern model-based prediction gives no better results than astrology.

    “Incidentally, there is plenty of evidence that gases that absorb in the infrared warm the earth (this arises from fundamental thermodynamics). If they didn’t, the earth would be a frozen dead planet.”

    That’s true, but there is no hard evidence for how human created gases affect the climatic system. You must also remember that the Earth’s climate is a dynamic system, affected by what goes on underneath us as well as in space. It’s not closed or stable.

    Our understanding of the variables that affect climate is actually much poorer than most people realise.

    There’s every possibility that the Earth could start cooling at any time for reasons that we don’t understand and are out of our control. It may also heat up. Or it may stay the same. Nobody knows, simple as that.

    Trying to control the climate using current science, technology, public policy or any other tool available to us today is pure hubristic folly.

  14. December 18th, 2003 at 19:33 | #14

    By the way Crichton is also holds a medical degree from Harvard University.

  15. December 18th, 2003 at 19:57 | #15

    Just a few passages from your AGU article…

    “levels of carbon dioxide may be rising faster than at any time in Earth’s history.”

    “It is virtually certain that increasing atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases will cause global surface climate to be warmer.”

    “The complexity of the climate system makes it difficult to predict some aspects of human-induced climate change: exactly how fast it will occur, exactly how much it will change, and exactly where those changes will take place.” (or indeed if)

    “projections of future global warming vary

    “and also because of uncertainties in climate models.”


    If they are so certain, where are the statements of fact? Why do they have to qualify every statement? Science is supposed to be about certainty.

  16. December 18th, 2003 at 19:59 | #16

    Ok, PK, you’ve provided plenty of assertions by non-scientists (including Crichton, who doesn’t know the difference between weather and climate – which pretty much rules out any authority which he may have). Unfortunately, these carry exactly zero weight with me. It’s good that you’ve read scientific papers, because perhaps you can start citing them as a substitute for bad science fiction writers, who don’t appear to understand even the very basics of climate science.

    I’ll put it another way:

    Theory tells us that greenhouse gases will have a heating effect on the atmosphere.

    Because not all of their absorption bands have reached saturation, the addition of more GHG’s leads to more warming.

    Humanity is producing significant amounts of GHGs.

    So far, no models.

    It seems reasonable at this stage to say that humanities actions are causing a warming influence on the climate.

    We also know that the earth has been warming throughout the 20th century. By comparing solar variability and volcanic effects with temperature variability, we can say that their ability to explain the variations in temperature become increasingly poor. However, the correlation improves massively when we incorporate in solar, volcano and CO2 concentrations.

    Still no models.

    However, we can take the models, see what their predictions of CO2 warming is, and compare it to the estimated effects. Here’s a surprise, they match.

    If you want references for any part of this, please ask.

  17. December 18th, 2003 at 20:01 | #17

    I don’t have time to expand upon PK’s other posts, so I’ll simply quote him as saying:

    If they are so certain, where are the statements of fact? Why do they have to qualify every statement? Science is supposed to be about certainty.

    Which provides strong evidence for him having a poor knowledge of basic scientific principles.

  18. Norman
    December 18th, 2003 at 20:39 | #18

    There is MASSIVE evidence that our species relies very little on evidence, “massive” or otherwise, whenever there’s an issue about which an individual feels strongly. We’re reasonably good at spotting logical flaws in the ideas of our opponents. Spotting them in our own ideas, however, tends to be a task too difficult.

    Just analyse the “debate” above.

  19. Dave Ricardo
    December 18th, 2003 at 22:05 | #19

    “If they are so certain, where are the statements of fact? Why do they have to qualify every statement? Science is supposed to be about certainty.”

    It’s not my area of expertise, but doesn’t quantum mechanics,which is very rigorous science, and whose predictions have been confirmed in experiments over and over again, demonstrate conclusively that science (at least, sub-atomic physics) cannot be about cetainty?

    But, apart from that, science is a process of theories being tested by data and then discarded in favour of better theories if they are proved to be wrong. Scientific theories are never certain.

    PK, you truly have no idea what you are talking about.

  20. December 18th, 2003 at 22:31 | #20


    Your position appears to be a form of epistemelogical nihilism, or radical skepticism, of the kind semi-facetiously proposed by David Hume.

    We can only know our own minds, so we can never really know the world, only posit causation from correlation. All attempts to project the future from the past are habit dressed up as science.

    This is a defensible in philosophy tutes where no decisions have to be made, only debating points scored. It does not reflect the prevailing philosophy of statistical science, which works on probability functions.

    There is plenty of evidence of massive human-created ecological disasters, eg Sahara desert.

    The evidence of atmospheric evolution indicate some forms of life, ie plants, can cause massive climate changes. It was the photosynthetic effects of plant respiration that converted the carbon in the earth’s atmosphere into oxygen.

    Thus ocean growing plants appear to have been responsible for the first great wave of ecocide, when their oxygen waste killed off carbon respiring forms of life.

    If plants were able to take the carbon out of the atmosphere, I don’t see why it is so implausible for humans to put it back in.

  21. December 18th, 2003 at 23:41 | #21

    Well, according to Encyclopaedia Britannica…

    “In general, a science involves a pursuit of knowledge covering general truths or the operations of fundamental laws. ”


    Since you all seem to think evidence, certainty and proof aren’t necessary, will you hand over $10b to build my alien temple?

    The idea that I have to prove your theory wrong is the opposite of science. You have to prove it right for it to be considered fact. If mankind spent it’s time proving every theory presented to it wrong, we’d never get anything done. This is especially true if you want financial or policy commitments made on the basis of your theory.

    Nevertheless, you may wish to go to some of the links below:






    While I’m sure you can hit me with a large number of links that show the opposite, I don’t think it’s a worthwhile exercise either way.

    The truth is, with the climate we simply don’t know. That’s why all your proof is filled with “maybes” and disclaimers. Most of the scientific articles on climate change say just that “we don’t know”, although they try to play it down. See my pulling of quotes from Ken’s article above.

    Physical laws don’t contain maybes. What would be the value of “Every action might have an opposite and equal reaction?” Answer: none whatsoever.

    Do you really think we can control the climate? Or control it in any way that’s useful to us? Can we predict the future? What evidence is there that we can? Especially with relation to the climate. Think about what you’re saying for a minute.

    To make a worthwhile case for countering human-made global-warming, you have to prove four points:

    1. It exists

    2. It’s undesirable.

    3. It’s undesirable enough to be worth the cost of countering.

    4. It’s within our power to counter it.

    You’re a long way from fulfilling that position. And all the insults in the world aren’t going to change that.

  22. December 18th, 2003 at 23:43 | #22

    “All attempts to project the future from the past are habit dressed up as science.”

    No, Newton’s laws can reliably predict the future. That’s why they’re called scientific laws.

  23. December 18th, 2003 at 23:47 | #23

    Further Jack, the Sahara and ocean plants have nothing to do with the Global warming debate. This isn’t logic.

    Can I say “Charles Manson is a serial killer, therefore all bearded men are killers”?

    I don’t say human created global warming is implausible, simply that it is far from proven. The flat-Earth theory was plausible.

  24. December 19th, 2003 at 10:32 | #24


    Are you being deliberately obtuse?

    My paraphrase of Hume was uttered with a wink towards his notoriously “semi-facetious” skepticism.

    Of course we can use science to reliably infer the future from the past. We do it every year when we go shopping for seasonal apparel, or consult a map based on the orientation of true north.

    But caveat questor although science is very handy as a future-predictor, moreso than any other method (intuition, revelation, scripture), it is not infallible. Thus scientists are concerned to add fallibility riders to their hypotheses. Accordingly, scientists frame many of their conclusions tentatively, using statistics to assign probabilities to outcomes.

    Thus Einsten found that the Great Newton’s theory of celestial motions had limited applicability, and failed at macroscopic extremes eg great speeds, long times, extreme masses, extended distances.

    And the quantum phycists found that Newtonian causation breaks down at microscopic extremes eg small distances, short times, low energy

    As the Good Book says,

    science involves a pursuit of knowledge

    Your request for apodictic certainty from science implies it’s inherently proabilistic activity will be of no real use. This is a recipe for cognophobia, intellectual nihilsim and, what Stove calls, epsistemological paralysis.

    In the skeptical space, no one can hear knowledge whisper, let alone scream.

  25. December 19th, 2003 at 11:11 | #25

    “Your request for apodictic certainty from science implies it’s inherently proabilistic activity will be of no real use.”

    Certainty beyond reasonable doubt will do me just fine.

    For a good overview of just how close we are to reaching that point. Please see the below…


    I agree that reality means we can’t always operate from a position of certainty. For example, just because we don’t know how to cure AIDs, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

    However, by my four tests above for whether we should try to counter global warming -

    1. It exists

    2. It’s undesirable.

    3. It’s undesirable enough to be worth the cost of countering.

    4. It’s within our power to counter it.

    - there is a great deal of uncertainty. Certainly much more than many other problems humanity has. The only honest answer is “we don’t know”.

    NASA satellite data says there has been no discernable warming trend in the Earth’s lower atmosphere for 18 years.


    What does that tell you about how certain the assertions of the global warming crowd are?

    Is that a good way to make policy? By directing it at a problem which any honest scientist will admit we’re not even sure exists?

  26. December 19th, 2003 at 11:13 | #26


    My citation of “the Sahara and ocean plants” effect was suggestive-analogical, not definitive-logical.

  27. December 19th, 2003 at 12:47 | #27

    Simple minded. A rock is rolling down a hill, on which a child is playing. You are mining for gold on the slope.

    At what point do you move the child? How much trouble do you take?

    If the rock squashes the child, is it a defence to say:

    - the hot sun has many mirages and I could not be sure the rock was real

    - it was not certain that the rock would hit the child and I should only give up my profitable activity if I know for sure the child will be hit…

    - I decided not to move unless everyone else did too..

    What is the probability of climate disaster if we do nothing? If all the world’s fossil fuel is converted to CO2? (at which point we have to use other sources anyway). If we agree the effect at that much larger scale is destructive – wrecks the mine as well as the child – then the discussion is about when we stop, not if…

  28. December 19th, 2003 at 13:11 | #28

    A more fitting analogy to the reality of the present situation would be:

    You are mining for gold on the slope of a hill. You have never seen any children or falling rocks on the hill. Two strangers approach. One argues that a rock may fall down the hill and kill a child unless you act. The other argues that that would never happen. Neither of them can back up their claims with definitive evidence.

    The pessimistic man demands you stop mining gold and start securing all the rocks on the hill. There are a lot of rocks and you won’t be able to mine while you’re doing that.

    What do you do?

  29. Grant
    December 19th, 2003 at 21:20 | #29

    David wrote:

    “Simple minded. A rock is rolling down a hill, on which a child is playing. You are mining for gold on the slope.

    At what point do you move the child? How much trouble do you take?”

    I guess to some extent you have to balance the emotional (why is the child playing in this example? Does it increase the intended emotional response for the ‘innocent’ beings of the world?) with the rational. If not there would be no excuse for failing to rush tons of DDT to various parts of the world to be used sensible and economically (for that is all that they can afford) to reduce the deaths of children due to malaria. To take just one example.

    One concept which seems to have some support across the panoply of ecological philosophy is that all things will only become manageable if human population is stabilised and reduced. It is likely that that would have a naturally beneficial effect on CO2 output (unless of course there is a good argument for welcoming higher levels of CO2 on the basis that it would solve more problems than it is likely to create) in which case several problems can be solved with one solution.

    Now, since this reduction would need to be achieved within one or two generations if we believe the – very broad I feel – ‘consensus’ of the climate models, the sooner we start the better.

    Since the child has an unidentified but potentially large breeding potential it stands to reason that it represents huge risk of inducing further population growth and, since human factors are thought to be the cause of all the world’s problems (particularly the biosphere in this example) the rational decision would seem clear. And of course it is …

    I assume also that the rock will be recovered and returned to its original location and state.

    Of course the observation of a rock rolling down a hill and a child on the hill does not necessarily mean that we can predict the path of the rock and be sure that it would hit the child nor should we feel arrogant enough about our ability to control rock rolling events around us. There is no guarantee that an attempt to move the child would, of certainty, ensure that the rock and the child failed to collide.

    However, if the rock is only showing potential for rolling down the hill we might to better to re-double our efforts to mine the gold and use part of the proceeds to invest developments that would make the movement of ANY of the possibly unstable rocks less significant to the ability to survive such movement.

    Unless of course you follow the concept of rapid de-population when yet another view may be a better option.

    Overall I think PK’s analogy is representative of where we are right now. I am sure that most people do believe that global warming is real but even if it is that is not the important thing snce the climate is forever cycling (as we define it.) But that is a feeling not necessarily anything like a fully judged understanding of the issues.

    How uneasy people feel about it is much more dependent upon how often they have heard alarming reports. It’s the principle of advertising in a way. And old style education. Say something often enough and people will come to believe it and repeat it even if they have no direct knowledge of that about which they speak.

    Bad news sells papers. Bad news that projects several decades to the future is great for those doing the projections. They are very unlikely to be around to find out if they were right but in the meantime it is equally unlikely that their reputations will ever be tested – so long as they don’t change the story without settiing up some good alibi’s (like GW may cause a new Ice age) first.

    All reasonable stuff for the game of politics I guess. Pretty useless as the basis of science though, as one or two of the more balanced scientist debaters are beginning to say in the public domain, irrespective of their personal position on the science.

    That’s good in my view. Another ten years or so of proper honest study and we may know enough about what is really going on to take a properly measured view and at the same time have some technological advances that makes any necessary intervention viable.

    Either that or de-population will have become an accepted moral strategy and will eliminate the worst outcomes of any lingering rise in levels of alleged pollution.


  30. Andrew
    December 19th, 2003 at 23:42 | #30


    A reduction in population will have no effect if the huge majority of the world’s population lifts its living standards to western levels.


    The sheer gravity of the consequences of global warming (if it indeed is so) must weigh into the political decisions that must be made.

    I am quite certain that if it did not potentially spell disaster for the human species, it would remain an interesting academic debate for decades to come. But as it does, and a very significant number of very eminent scientists in the field of climatology (not medicine which is more a trade than a science) feel that it is a very real concern then it is realistically not enough to demand absolute proof before acting.

    The only true proof for the atomic bomb was to let one off. Similarly, by the time climate change becomes incontrevertible, it is already too late.

    Besides, it’d cost less than a single minor war in Iraq, – certainly far less than WW2.

  31. Grant
    December 20th, 2003 at 04:51 | #31


    “A reduction in population will have no effect if the huge majority of the world’s population lifts its living standards to western levels.”

    Are you sure about that? The implication behind your logic seems to be that a certain level of output (presuming irreparably damaging output) will be arrived at irrespective of population levels. If we assume, for the hell of it, that population looks like it may plateau at 9 billion, i.e. 50% more than the estimate of current population as far as I have read, but that the reductionists think a halving of the population is required, you are suggesting that in effect 9 billion people at whatever level of development will only produce the same outputs as 3 billion all living at current ‘western standards’. (Theoretical figures to allow discussion of the point. ‘Actual’ figures would be guesswork anyway.)

    So, currently we have what proportions? 1 billion living at western standard and 5 billion not? Let’s make it 1.5 Billion at Western standard – 25%

    If we halved the world population, using these numbers, we would end up with 3 billion people. If they all lived at ‘western levels’ the effect would be, for the sake of the argument, to double the apparently harmful outputs. That, simplistically, brings the outputs back to the level of today as you suggest would be the case.

    Therefore, if there would be no difference between 3 billion people at western levels and 9 billion people it suggests that you are proposing some form of equilibrium point, with complete equality required, at a level about a third of the current level. On that basis a fairly large number of people would gain a little (but not anywhere close to current western levels), a large number of people would stay where they are, more or less, and about 1.5 billion people would notice a large drop in standards from their current level, let alone any aspirations of further improvement they may have. All round nobody wins much at all – possibly nothing – even if the various technologies that currently support the western lifestyle somehow manage to survive reduction in standards that the changes seem to imply.

    (In making some assumptions here I might be wrong. It might be that one could push technology hard and fast to discover solutions to the percieved problems through efficiencies that allowed for lower costs, financial and all the others, leading to raised standards but more controlled outputs of whatever worries us at the time. However I don’t hold out much hope that we would accept that without finding something else to be worried about so I don’t suppose we would ever recognise the benefits anyway.)

    Aldous Huxley had his faults and in his lifetime admitted that things were occurring much faster than he had anticipted. But when he wrote Brave New World he added some scene setting narrative that suggested that the world he was describing to the reader had been established following a 600 year war. Well, I doubt that such a war – at least in the form that he would have thought of it – would last 600 years these days. Perhaps not even 600 days. But I would be very surprised if the massive changes required to achieve the notional targets for wealth re-distribution in line with the figures above could be achieved without worldwide chaos.

    Perhaps the population reduction will be achieved but not in the way that the Optimum Population Trust might hope.

    Maybe we should all volunteer for euthenasia at, say, 70. That way we could solve the pension ‘problem’ at the same time as reducing the population bubble and perhaps even persuade the authorities that 5 years of riotously enjoyable and properly funded retirement whilst most are still able to dress and feed themselves would be an acceptable return for the years of service given. Reduce it to 60 if you like. A few hundred years ago you were old if you reached 35. We may as well take that as a guideline for the future.

    You also mention:

    “a very significant number of very eminent scientists in the field of climatology (not medicine which is more a trade than a science) feel that it is a very real concern”.

    I think it is fair to observe that the converse also seems to be true. The middle ground looks very empty. But then what ‘we’ – humanity – know, about how the climate system (or anything else for that matter) works, seems very limited. My guess is that the Romans and the Greeks could claim to be as well informed after a visit to a Temple somewhere. Naturally we hate knowing that we don’t know. Denial comes easily to us all as long as we deny it.

    What exactly is the ‘field of climatology’ anyway?

    I do tend to agree with you about the lack of need for ‘absolute proof’. However, some proof would be nice and much more meaningful than a number or theories. Or should I say a small number of theories presented repetitively and incestuously referencing each other?

    I really don’t see the connection for your atomic bomb analogy at all and I am not up on the figures for the costs you ascribe but would be happy to consider those points if you want to put some number in the frame as a starting point.

    Does anyone have them to hand? Are they absolute numbers or ranges? Real or estimated?

  32. Tom
    December 20th, 2003 at 05:05 | #32

    PK – “No, Newton’s laws can reliably predict the future. That’s why they’re called scientific laws.”

    Newton could never explain the precession of Mercury’s orbit. That’s why his work on gravitation has been relegated to a lesser role because of Einstein. (And Einstein will eventually meet the same fate because relativity and the quantum don’t mix).

    That’s why real scientists qualify their statements. Science says “this is the best interpretation of the facts at this time”. In a sense, science is ALL models.

    And to restate David Tiley and Andrew, as long as the outcome is trivial, you can argue ’til the cows come home. But when the outcome is serious, you weight your actions appropriately toward the theory advocated by the vast majority of experts in the field in question, because the cost of being wrong isn’t worth having won the debating trophy.

    We know that the final chapter hasn’t been written in physics, but I wouldn’t want to moot the need for nuclear disarmament based on that fact. After all, even before the first bomb was detonated, the majority of researchers in that field felt the idea of an atomic bomb was sound. And the cost of allowing uncontrolled proliferation is deemed too high to bear while waiting for that final chapter to be written.

    (disclaimer: that last paragraph is an analogy, and, like a theory or a model, should be taken for what it’s worth, but not literally).

  33. Grant
    December 20th, 2003 at 10:54 | #33


    I seems to me there are some subtle differences here. I’ll stick with the analogies in play.

    Let’s start with the bomb.

    The planet provided some base material which had some specialist properties that man discovered could be used for some of his more agressive purposes. Scientists, seeking funding for the work that allowed them to do the things they enjoyed doing and were good at, suggested they could make a really good bomb – different to anything that had gone before.

    Politicians agreed. The product was produced, tested and then used in anger. The effects were more than most people imagined they would be. Over time the benefit, if I might call it that for now, and power that the device offered those who had was eroded as the technology became more readily available to others.

    In effect the product has been highly successful at preventing major world wars for several decades. To some extent the continuing threat of others developing capabilities greater than their notional power would normally support, continues to keep most of the world under some form of controlled diplomacy.

    To perform the work to create the technology was a positive human decision. The device had only one primary physical purpose – destruction – and one secondary purpose – inducing fear of its use.

    We cannot know what the world would be like now if it had not been invented.

    Science pretty much knew what it was doing and what the expected outcome would be. Funding would not have been provided otherwise.

    Newton’s laws, as you point out, along with other laws of science are not immutable. However they are, for the most part in most practical aspects of day to day life, good enough. In fact more than good enough for the last several hundred years. So it is reasonable to make use of them and rely upon them for most of the things most humans do. For now.

    It would be great if science understood the rules of climate to anything like the same degree as it does the rules of Newton.

    On that basis I fail to understand why people believe they can predict anything at all about climate, let alone be certain about the terrible problems it MIGHT lead to in the future no matter how much variation there appears to be in the predictions being put forward.

    Even more than that, many have categorically stated that X will happen and it is because of Y. How do they know this? Has it been observed to the point of conclusive proof?

    As you said:

    “That’s why real scientists qualify their statements. Science says “this is the best interpretation of the facts at this time”. ”

    Might I suggest then that it would be better as

    “This is MY/OUR best intepretation of our observations, estimates and predictions at this time”.

    And might it be useful if they then tried to educate the public to what they are really saying, starting with the ladies and gentlemen of the media.

    Or are you suggesting that “the vast majority of experts in the field in question” are so lacking in scientific ethics that they find it acceptable to overlook them? And, if that be so, why should I trust their judgement?

    So we have a group of people who are specialists in an inexact and little understood scientific specialism (of relatively recent ascent measured by historically perceived importance) who can tell us with absolute certainty that disaster will befall mankind due to mankind’s activity but, though nobody knows how any of this really works, they can be totally sure that it is caused by the only greenhouse gas that may offer potential for any form of manipulation, no matter how small the effect may be.

    On the other hand in this case they are not setting out to make something. They are, it seems, setting out to stop something being used and the only similarity is that the planet has provided the raw material.


    “even before the first bomb was detonated, the majority of researchers in that field felt the idea of an atomic bomb was sound”

    So the MAJORITY of the expert scientists in the field felt their activities were, in context, safe. Subsequently I guess a few of them decided they might have been a little wrong in that.

    And now we have “the theory advocated by the vast majority of experts in the field in question” being blared at us incessantly.

    Since we have far less idea about the outcome of this endeavour than those involved with the nuclear bomb had at the time about their likely results I would see this as a very dangerous method indeed.

    But, if we go down the path, as with the bomb, we will never know how things would have turned out if the other path had been followed.

    So far it seems to me that the attempted responses are putting the cart before the horse. The experts, believers or disbelievers, learn more day by day about what they don’t yet know. And from that position they can see a way forward to obtain the next observation or a new measurement. Rushing on blindly may well produce a worse result for mankind than a patient assessment and development.

    We will never know.

    The major difference as I see it is that mankind deliberately, through development of Atomic and Nuclear bombs, undertook to manufacture something that, being a bomb, had a purely destructive primary purpose and a relatively short gestation period.

    The use of fossil fuels on the other hand has, on balance, had an overall positive effect on human development for an extended period and may continue to do so for time to come. To attempt to severely and rapidly restrict that benefit at this time seems to me to offer a potentially similar effect to an atomic or nuclear device. It could be highly disruptive to human endeavours and hasve unpedicted consequences. Yet this is the route that those we call expert woould prefer to follow.

    The other similarity of course is that both concepts are devices that seek to deliver control over populations and to subjugate peoples. I think that that is what makes the climate change issues such an important one in the eyes of the EU. The EU politicians and bureaucrats may not understand the science or be able to look further into the future than the ends of their noses but they can certainly spot a social change control mechanism from a fair old distance. Whichever way the science pans out the current politicos won’t be around to pick up the pieces!

    On the other hand I suppose it keeps a number of people in academia employed in an environment that is more exciting for them than it would be undertaking less public research.

    Grant – offering more than was intended when starting out.

  34. December 20th, 2003 at 13:54 | #34

    PK, rather than try to address all of your posts, I’ll just comment on some the themes contained within them.

    * On scientific laws… they are old terminology. It’s best to think of them as guidelines rather than laws. As Tom pointed out, Newton’s law do not accurately reflect reality. The same applies to other scientific “laws”. All what science does is try to find evidence to support or disprove hypothesises. Or put another way, scientists try to find the best possible story to explain all of the available observations.

    * On Crichton’s medical degree… so what. Medical doesn’t include training in the climate science.

    * On your constant citations to non-scientific sources… this is simply working to prove John’s connection between creationists and global warming skeptics. You’ve claimed that you’ve read scientific papers, so why not cite them?

    * On “no discernible warming trend in the Earth’s lower atmosphere for 18 years”… your using old data and a flawed analysis. There is a warming trend in the troposphere. If you want references for this, just ask.

    In conclusion, you’ve got no case.

  35. December 20th, 2003 at 14:43 | #35

    I linked to scientific sources before…






    Funny you think Nasa’s data is flawed. Nasa apparently doesn’t agree with you. The data covers 1979-1997. How is that not relevant?

  36. December 20th, 2003 at 15:28 | #36

    Your own source also appears to contradict your previous conclusion.

    You -

    “However, we can take the models, see what their predictions of CO2 warming is, and compare it to the estimated effects. Here’s a surprise, they match.”

    Your source (http://www.agu.org/sci_soc/policy/climate_change_position.html ) -

    “projections of future global warming vary”

  37. December 20th, 2003 at 17:10 | #37

    I think that I’m starting to see the problem here, you seem to be under the impression that a webpage from CATO and co is a scientific paper. Wrong. I’m talking about papers from journal such as Nature, Science, Climate Change etc. The sorts of journals where scientists publish. Propaganda does not equal science. I’ll help you out, by citing some scientific references in the next section of my post.

    Once again, your wrong about tropospheric warming. The data you cited is old. The methods used to extract the trends from the raw data has been found to flawed(1). The original authors have made some corrections to their analysis, and included more recent years. Now it shows a warming trend.(2) However, there is an active debate on how to extract trends from the data. Three other groups have examined the data, and all obtained different trends.(3)

    All of these trends involve rising tempertures.

    (1) F. Wentz AND M. Schabel (1998) “Effects of orbital decay on satellite-derived lower-tropospheric temperature trends” Nature, 394, 661 – 664.

    (2) Current trends as calculated by Spencer and Christy can be found here: http://vortex.nsstc.uah.edu/public/

    (3) Relevant papers are:

    Prabhakara, C., J. R. Iaacovazzi, J.-M. Yoo and G. Dalu (2000). “Global warming: Evidence from satellite observations.” Geophysical Research Letters 27(21): 3517-3520.

    Carl A. Mears, Matthias Schabel, Frank J. Wentz (2003) “A reanalysis of the MSU Channel 2 Tropospheric Temperature Record” Journal of Climate.

    Konstantin Y. Vinnikov and Norman C. Grody (2003) “Global Warming Trend of Mean Tropospheric Temperature Observed by Satellites” Science, Vol. 302, Issue 5643, 269-272.

  38. December 20th, 2003 at 17:18 | #38

    PK, my sources don’t contradict me, but rather you haven’t understood them.

    If you reread my post from which you grabbed my quote from, you would note that it refers to climate models successfully modeling 20th century climate change. Climate models are getting increasing sophisticated at this, and can even model parameters such as tropopause height relatively successfully.

    What happens in the future depends on variables such as population, economic growth and future technologies. These can’t be known in advance, but rather a sensible range of possibilities can be determined, and fed into the climate models. This leads to a range of future projections.

  39. December 20th, 2003 at 19:00 | #39

    In fact the sepp link I provided cites a large number of peer reviewed papers, as does the cato paper.

    “my sources don’t contradict me”

    Your assertion was that climate models have been shown to match reality. If that’s the case, the variation should be extremely low. They either match or they don’t. You said they did, your source said they vary. That’s a contradiction.

    “What happens in the future depends on variables such as population, economic growth and future technologies. These can’t be known in advance, but rather a sensible range of possibilities can be determined, and fed into the climate models. This leads to a range of future projections.”

    So you admit that you’re only guessing.

    So you admit that you’re only guessing. Can I assume that you agree with the below?

    - the number of variables affecting the future climate is extremely high. Not infinite, but it might as well be.

    - the number of those variables we have is extremely low. They are also poorly understood, as you yourself have said of the NASA data.

    - if you divide the variables we have by all the possible variables, you’d get a number so close to zero that it might as well be zero.

    These are facts, which all the peer-reviewed papers in the world aren’t going to change.

    I’m curious to know how it’s possible to draw any kind of useful conclusion from any model which starts with what is, lets face it, zero information.

  40. December 20th, 2003 at 19:42 | #40

    To demonstrate my point, I’ll give you a problem to solve. If you, John, one of your peer-reviewed scientists or anyone else can solve it, I’ll admit that I’m wrong:

    a + b + c + d + 78.6 = y

    I’ve given you 20% of the information you need to solve this equation. This is a thousand-fold more than the climate scientists have. It’s also a thousand-fold simpler a problem. But hey, I’m feeling generous.

    If you can tell me what y equals, or even make a close guess, I’ll give in.

  41. December 21st, 2003 at 13:39 | #41

    PK, creationists cite scientific papers all the time. That doesn’t make their work science.

    Your equation analogy is irrelevant. Climate modeling is nothing like this.

    Once more, your strawman description of scientific modeling is once more evidence of the close similarities between climate change skeptics and creationists (here’s a hint: extracting temperature trends from absorption spectra as measured by satellites is completely unrelated to climate modeling – one is a measurement technique, the other a modeling technique).

  42. December 21st, 2003 at 17:32 | #42

    There’s one other thing creationists believe in – miracles.

    If scientists could predict the future climate using the extremely limited data it available to them, it would be a miracle.

    If scientists could prove a causal effect between a (still controversial) slight increase in temperature and human created emissions using the limited data available to them it would also be a miracle.

    Generally there’s no talking miracle believers out of their beliefs. You’re a case in point.

  43. Willmott Fribbish
    December 21st, 2003 at 17:52 | #43

    The problem with this debate is not with the science, but with the political and economic questions surrounding what (if anything) should be done. The decision to ratify Kyoto is political, not scientific, and is also likely to have a huge economic impact, were we to take our responsibilities under Kyoto seriously. Those political activists taking the strongest pro-Kyoto positions also tend to identify with a bundle of other ideological positions, (from anti-Americanism to veganism, via coercive big government) which are unpalatable to around half the population of most developed countries. The real problem is to find a form of debate in which science can effectively inform political debate. As things stand at the moment, I think that’s less likely than the next Ice Age.

  44. December 21st, 2003 at 18:03 | #44


    “creationists cite scientific papers all the time. That doesn’t make their work science.”

    So your citing of scientific papers is legitimate, while citings by those who disagree with you aren’t? There’s some serious moving of the goalposts going on here.

    “Your equation analogy is irrelevant. Climate modeling is nothing like this.”

    All modeling is like this. The quality of the data you put in affects the quality of the outcome. Garbage in – garbage out. Are you suggesting this isn’t the case for climate modelling?

  45. December 22nd, 2003 at 12:27 | #45

    Wilmott – you put your finger of course on a major perceptual problem in Greenhouse politics, and the left has endured this for centuries. Murderous Jacobins, hooligan Chartists, homewrecking Suffragettes – its the same old, same old song where the powerful smear the rebellious.

    I am sure none of the commentators to this thread actually fit the cliche you have identified. Walk into any CSIRO caff (for instance) and you will find a hugely endearing bunch of friendly, thoughtful suburbanites. (whose only scandal ever was the Bogle-Chandler affair). But of course they are all “pointyheads” who don’t understand “the real world” and probably need another government enquiry and some more private enterprise partnerships. Right?

    I am taking the trouble to spell this out because it feeds into dangerous currents of anti-intellectualism which would horrify everyone who posts here, no matter what our surface political persuasions.

    Greenies are not fascists, or ferals (as we have seen laid out this last few months often by people who should know better). There is a serious argument about science and values that needs to be engaged. The internet is one arena.

  46. December 23rd, 2003 at 13:52 | #46

    PK, the problem with the “scientific” studies that you quote is that (with the exception of the NASA article, which is simply out of date) they selective quote facts, ignore context, and generally act like a pack of creationists.

    One name which pops up consistently in the skeptic’s literature, is Pat Michaels (he’s an author on a couple of the articles that you cite). He has a bad record of selectively citing only the upper level climate change models results in order to show that their projections haven’t been observed. Had he quoted the range of projections, then he would be wrong. See here for details: http://www.giss.nasa.gov/edu/gwdebate/

    In short, they are propaganda designed to fool those who aren’t familiar with the scientific literature.

    On a sidenote, all of your cites are old. Climate change research has advanced massively in the last few years, so much so that Science put climate change science on it’s top 10 science list of 2003. Many old statements are now out of date (especially concerning the magnitude of uncertainties associated with climate change models).

    If you think that climate modeling has anything to do with solving equations such as a + b + c + d + 78.6 = y, then you’ve demonstrated quite conclusively, that you have no idea about how climate modeling works.

  47. Grant
    December 23rd, 2003 at 21:28 | #47


    I have to confess that I have somehow missed any direct access to the GISS site. My mistake. Most illuminating.

    You are right on terms of the age of many of the cites. One wonder if that is because once they have been marketed into acceptance as recieved wisdom nobody goes back to the subject and reconsiders it (or can find funding to do so), at least for several years.

    Your Hansen debate cite appears to be from 1998. His contemporary and later reports are also interesting.

    These mention, among other things and assuming that I have read them correctly, that CO2 output has fallen since the peak measured in 1980 and is is showing no change in concentration in more recent years.

    The latest estimates from the models he uses seem to put the predicted increase in temperature by 2050 (2100 seems less prevalent in the reports) at the bottom end of the original projections. (latest = Max 1.2C by 2050 IIRC)

    Solar effects are thought to account for 25% of the observed warming effect.

    Soot is thought to account for 25% of the observed warming effect. (So fossil fuel in the form of diesel for example may still be not good news BUT a specific solution to THAT problem and others related to soot is perhaps more within humanities grasp than managing the CO2 issues.)

    So that leaves 50% for everything else. CO2 levels are a PART of that 50%. Or at least that is the implication as I read it.

    If GW is happening it’s happening. If it turns out that it does indeed introduce dangerous changes to the climate AND that there was no way this would have happened without unnatural human input (Hansen seems to suggest ‘more research required’ or more data will be available in the next few years)then, yes, it would be sensible to do something about it. But if all effort and resource is focused on one aspect which turns out to have a lesser influence than had been thought, then the project will fail BECAUSE of the focus rather than through lack of it.

    “Measure what is important, not what can be measured.”

    We just need to have some more observations (many of which have only become available as technology has advanced and accuracy has, probably, improved the ability to see changes – something that will also be true for the future) to try to identify what does and does not have a significant effect.

    Then science can inform the politicians and suitable strategies for whatever control is truly possible can be formulated.

    Until that time I don’t feel it is appropriate for the wannabe control freaks to be given any excuse to commit the world to some randomly selected course of action offering unproven benefits of any sort.

    That said, if the actions can be shown to have significant and proven benefits in other areas of humankind welfare then we should certainly consider them, but in a calm and logical and supportable fashion.

    Quite what any of this has to do with the original thread about hominids from several thousand years ago remains unclear – unless they died out due to inappropriate developmental policy assessment of some kind. Maybe a faulty ecological impact assessment.

    But then, I’m no expert. I could be wrong in my ntrepretation of Hansen’s reports.

    Sometimes though it is not so good to be too close to the subject. Brains are naturally ‘lazy’and look for processing short-cuts for greater efficiency. Sometimes, in those areas where we think we have above average experience, we can miss some fundamentals. Science, with hindsight, can offer many examples I suspect. Both for theories accepted and theories rejected.

    Final comment.

    On a debating board elsewhere earlier in the year I read a comment from a committed Global Warmer to the effect that, some years ago, Pat Michaels had told him, personally, that he, Michaels, accepted that warming was happening to some extent but NOT to the degree being predicted at that time by the more extreme GW torch carriers and nor was he convinced that causes were as simplistic as those being proposed at the time. As I recall the dicussion they were having was deeply related to the early days of Kyoto Protocol actions.

    From what I have read just now I would say his position, if I got it right, is not far from how things may be turning out according to Hansen’s work.


  48. dsquared
    December 23rd, 2003 at 23:16 | #48

    Just a minor tangent:

    >>If not there would be no excuse for failing to rush tons of DDT to various parts of the world to be used sensible and economically (for that is all that they can afford) to reduce the deaths of children due to malaria.

    DDT is used worldwide as a means of controlling malarial mosquitoes and has *always* been legal to use for this purpose. It is, however, a much less effective agent for this purpose than it used to be, because we now find increasing prevalance of DDT-resistant mosquitoes, mainly because of the irresponsible overuse of DDT as an agricultural pesticide.

  49. Grant
    December 24th, 2003 at 10:15 | #49


    That seems to be at odds with the information I have read on the subject.

    Got any useful pointers?

    My understanding is that various African countries still refuse to use DDT on the basis it is a banned substance and has been for 30 years. Or at least it is so rowned upon by many that it is effectively banned even if there is no legal ban. The problem is that they can’t afford the alternatives which tend to suffer from short useful life spans.

    South Africa has reportedly re-introduced the use of DDT spraying in buildings and seen a renmarkably beneficial effect. Unless that is a false report it would seem to suggest that the efficacy of DDT is not diminished – or at least no to the point where it is a poor way of treating he problem.


    Sorry, can’t see a relevant way of getting this back to hominids … yet.

  50. December 28th, 2003 at 18:45 | #50

    Grant, do you have any cites for Hansen’s views. I am exceeding cynical about statements such as:

    These mention, among other things and assuming that I have read them correctly, that CO2 output has fallen since the peak measured in 1980 and is is showing no change in concentration in more recent years.

    If you go to: http://cdiac.esd.ornl.gov/trends/co2/graphics/mlo144e.pdf (link downloads small pdf), you can see data upto 2002 from Mauna Loa. This shows CO2 levels increasing. I would be very surprised if they have leveled since then. I suspect that you have misinterpreted Hansen on this matter.

    I suspect you refer to a 2000 paper by Hansen (Global warming in the twenty-first century: An alternative scenario), however, this paper doesn’t not present a prediction. Rather, it tries to make a case for non-CO2 gases playing more of a role than traditionally assumed. It’s small increase in temperature by 2050 requires large scale reductions in the amount of non-CO2 GHG’s being produced, coupled with significant reductions in CO2 emissions. So rather than being a prediction of future warming, it is more of a proposed action plan.

    From my readings of Hansen’s work, I think that he believes that the IPCC scenarios have probably overestimated future GHG emissions, however, he also appears to more worried about abrupt climate change than the IPCC (he proposes a maximum increase in temps of 1K, to avoid the possibility of this). I’ll do some literature searching to see what has been said about his scenario in the scientific literature.

    Thanks for an interesting post.

  51. Grant
    December 30th, 2003 at 03:56 | #51


    Quite right that you should be cynical, I should have written ‘the rate of growth has fallen’ and referenced to all GHG’s rather than just CO2. I do appreciate that this is somewhat different to ‘fallen’ although the accompanying graph does appear to imply a fall in the forcing effects.


    A few quotes:-

    “The decrease is due in large part to cooperative international actions of the Montreal Protocol for the phase-out of ozone depleting gases,” said Dr. James Hansen of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York. “But it is also due in part to slower growth of methane and carbon dioxide, for reasons that aren’t well understood and need more study.”

    “Another warming agent deserving special attention, according to the authors, is soot. Soot is a product of incomplete combustion. Diesel powered trucks and buses are primary sources of airborne soot in the United States. Even larger amounts of soot occur in developing countries. ”

    Note the last paragraph particularly. This is what happens when the developed countries export their older (and therfore more affordable) technologies to all the developing nations that ask for them. Export of the hardware is closely followed by export of the production work that the older technologies were originally used for. Which products are then imported by the developed countries since they offer a ‘cheapest supplier’ source. Such policies may be useful for re-distributing wealth but do little for global ecological issues as far as I can estimate. Still, they allow claims of emission reductions and allow a financial return on obsolete machinery.

    “Currently, technologies are within reach to reduce other global air pollutants, like methane, in ways that are cheaper and faster than reducing CO2. ”

    That is a statement that I can relate to and makes the point much better than I did (as should be expected).

    “….Over the next few decades, Hansen said, it is important to limit emissions of forcing agents other than CO2, to buy time until CO2 emissions can be better managed.”

    And it would also allow time to do the research with better measurements, more effective models and a greater knowledge of the benefit to debenefit balance available from enhanced levels of CO2.

    Logically we should consider what will happen when (perhaps if?) the supply of fossil based fuels does indeed decrease to the point of unusability for any practical purpose. The focus would automatically turn to whatever alternatives seemed possible with the technologies available at the time. Presumably these technologies would also be assessed for negative environmental impacts. If the fossil fuel supplies do indeed expire by around 2050 I can’t see that there would be much of a problem by 2100.

    “In a new study, James Hansen of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Makiko Sato of Columbia University found that the growth rate of climate forcings have slowed substantially from almost 5 Watts per square meter (W/m2) per century to about 3 W/m2 since their peak in 1980.”

    So, in effect, Hansen seems to be saying that there are many factors involved, some more immediately addressable than others;

    that the predicted temperature increase is at the lower end of the published figures but he feels the even so the effect might be worse than others have predicted for that level;

    that there is still a lot to understand.

    That’s fine by me. And this was his position 2 years ago.

    Not Hansen, but still GISS, this report adds to the debate.


    “Since the late 1970s, the amount of solar radiation the sun emits, during times of quiet sunspot activity, has increased by nearly .05 percent per decade, according to a NASA funded study.

    “This trend is important because, if sustained over many decades, it could cause significant climate change,” said Richard Willson, a researcher affiliated with NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Columbia University’s Earth Institute, New York.”

    Hansen has something on Ocean warming here;


    and some more on soot here;


    “The calculated global warming from soot in snow and ice, by itself in an 1880-2000 simulation, accounted for 25 percent of observed global warming. ”

    Here’s a thought.

    These days a lot of soot comes from diesel fuel usage. However diesel is considered better than petrol in ecological terms from an emissions perspective. People opposed to diesel were worried about the effect of particulates on health. So new diesel fuels with smaller particulates have been developed out of legal necessity. These have a less clogging effect on the lungs and so on. Very much less. The particlates are now small enough to pass through the membranes and enter the blood stream.

    Good move! Unintended consequences I suppose.

    However I assume that the volume of soot particle output is much the same, just more difficult to see. So presumably the affect on planet albedo is also about the same – or might it be worse by spreading further and more consistently?


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