Friday, September 25, 2009

Is Watch-and-Wait A Wiser Strategy Re Global Warming?

With so many compelling problems facing the world--from cancer to world poverty--I cannot understand why liberal leaders such as President Obama are so eager to immediately start spending so massively in perpetuity in an attempt to cool the planet when average global temperature has gone up just 1/2 of one degree since 1880 and flat or declining for the past decade, even if we don't count the aberrantly warm year of 1998. Here's another chart, this one from MIT, reporting that there's been essentially no increase since 1995!

Insisting on immediately and massively spending to try to cool the planet seems particularly foolish because key evidence suggests that even that 0.5 degree warming since 1880 is at least partly natural variation, not man-made. For example, there has been a major CO2 increase during most recent decade, a period in which temperatures have been flat or declining. Atmospheric CO2 is a proxy for man-made hydrocarbon emissions. If man-made behaviors were causing global warming serious enough to justify the world making massive efforts to cool the earth, global temperatures should not be declining. Even if other factors are masking the man-made contribution to global warming, the amount and rate of global warming is small, far less than predicted by Al Gore and his anti-corporation-motivated allies. And remember the climate change alarmists' data is based heavily on highly conjectural computer models: garbage in-garbage out.

Another untested assumption: Even if, over the next 50 years, average global temperature were to reverse trend and rise, would the net effect be so negative as to justify an immediate and massive indeed quixotic effort to slow it? For example, many areas, for example in Canada and Russia, previously too cold to grow crops, would become farmable. An article in Germany's leading magazine, Der Spiegel makes the case that it's impossible to predict whether global warming, if any, will yield a net positive or negative effect on the earth.

Perhaps the most dispositive reason to watch-and-wait instead of, right now, spending massively to try to cool the planet, is the extraordinary difficulty, indeed unrealism, of trying to get the worldwide spending of incomprehensibly large amounts of money, curtailment of development and of travel in perpetuity that would be required to possibly achieve even a one- or two-degree decline in average global temperature.

Charles Siegel of commented on today's New York Times editorial that said:
"The hope is these [Copenhagen] talks will produce commitments from each nation that, collectively, would keep temperatures from rising 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. That will require deep cuts in emissions — as much as 80 percent among industrialized nations — by midcentury." Siegel commented, "In reality, it requires at least an 80% cut in emissions in the entire world by 2050, not just from the industrialized nations." Is it realistic to do that?

There are only so many fiscal and human resources to go around. If we immediately and forever spend so massively on trying to cool the globe, we will have to shortchange initiatives with a higher probability of improving humankind--such as a true war against cancer or world poverty.

Of course, some efforts to cool the planet also facilitate energy independence, for example, nuclear energy and conservation efforts that minimally impinge on our freedom such as higher CAFE standards. I support both of those measures. But the sorts of permanent massive spending and incursions on our freedoms (for example, restricting road building thereby encouraging gridlock, and eliminating already scarce city parking spots, forcing us into inevitably time-wasting mass transit) being proposed by President Obama and other liberal world leaders is incomprehensible to me.

It seems to me that in light of the 15-year flat global temperature and below-average extreme weather such as hurricanes despite the CO2 increase (the opposite of what Al Gore and the IPCC's politically stacked panel predicted,) and that the money and effort could be diverted to better address the world's enormous pressing needs, a few years of watch-and-wait, accompanied by continuing, non-politically-motivated research on the above questions, along with private-sector research into improved alternative energy sources is a wiser path than immediate massive spending to try to cool the planet. What am I not understanding?


Jeff said...


It seems that the commonly accepted fact in this debate is anything but. As you point out, there is strong evidence to suggest that global warming is virtually non-existent, and that even if global warming is occurring it is difficult to track the cause.

So why are so many in the environmental movement insisting on propagating this as indisputable science? Some suggest corporate greed on behalf of the green industry. Some say it is the influence of Earth First types who insist that mankind is a scourge on the planet.

What is your opinion? I'm curious to hear your thoughts on the rationale behind the agenda.

Marty Nemko said...

I believe the movement is primarily spurred by the anti-development, anti-corporate hard left. They're largely an assortment of of socialists, 60s-style "ecology" hippies, and younger anti-corporatists, who believe that one of the best ways to stick it to corporations is to claim they're ruining the planet.

Of course, society's mind control vehicles (the colleges and the media)have, since the 60s, been taken over by the left and so they've been "educating" the public to embrace such positions so now, even moderate Democrats and Republicans are mouthing the "climate change" mantras, with no understanding of how frighteningly flimsy the dispassionate scientific case for trying to cool the earth is.

Dispassionate science is too often trumped by the frenzied enviro-religion. Such scientists are pushed off and to the side of important organizations such as the United Nations' ICPP and the U.S. Govt's NOAA, forced into marginalized roles at such peripheral think tanks as the Heartland Foundation and the few colleges that will consider hiring and promoting faculty who present non-liberal findings.

Anonymous said...

Heartland Institute, I think you meant, rather than Heartland Foundation.

I see you're still citing my favorite scientific climate change personality, Richard Lindzen, in this instance using one of his graphs as one of your linked articles.

How is it that you don't see the irony in one of your experts' view that tobacco smoking is only weakly linked to lung cancer and that health risks passive smoking are heavily overrated as well?

If Lindzen sees smoking as weakly associated with lung cancer, why are we to take his opinions as valuable on other statistical associations?

(I was floored by huge effect indoor smoking bans have on heart attack rate. A 30% decrease in heart attacks after three years, according to Circulation, the journal of the American Heart Association. A much stronger effect than I'd have expected. Why was I floored? Well, in part it was because I'd found the Penn and Teller argument about passive smoking to sound persuasive.)

Marty Nemko said...

Most recent anonymous, why would you stoop to the Right-wing-like action of attacking people rather than data. The Republicans continue to attack Obama because of his associations past and present. Just because Lindzen, who has a named chair at MIT in Atmospheric Science) and did research that found only a weak link between second-hand-smoke and cancer doesn't mean he can't report the average global temperature changes accurately. After all, THAT is his field. More important, look at the totality of evidence cited in this post and the logic inherent and you can do no better than to ignore all of it and question one of the researcher's past bits of research on a subject having nothing to do with this?

Anonymous said...

There lies, damn lies, and then there are statistics. Depending on how data is presented, you can often support almost any conclusion you'd like. The problem is, everyone seems to have an opinion before they start looking at the data (though I admit, the onus is on the "global warming is happening" advocates to show that it is, indeed, happening). I simply do not have the expertise or time to look at the data myself and make an interpretation, and I have a hard time trusting the impartiality of most sources on both sides. So what to do? I've decided to adopt many of the suggestions to stop global warming simply because they are good ideas regardless of what impact they have on the temperature of the planet. Wasting gas, for example, makes the air less pleasant to breathe (try living in a city and then driving to the country and taking a deep breath -- if you cannot tell the difference, you are a liar). It also wastes a precious, limited resource and increases our dependence on countries I would rather we not depend on. In fact, all resources are ultimately limited in some way, so I am in favor of conservation on virtually all fronts. I also love nature; the more forests the better. It's not because I hate corporations -- I just want my kids and their kids to be able to enjoy the outdoors. In general, the only argument I can see against most anti-global warming initiatives is that money is a limited resource, and protecting the environment may not be the best use of it at times. But the fact is, so many people are selfish and short-sighted that unless you tell them the world is on fire (or even if you do), they will not change their behavior. Eventually, that will ruin resources that truly cannot be replaced. So maybe global warming is a con, but at least many of the outcomes of the initiatives to counteract it have positive results.

Anonymous said...

Dr.Nemko, I wanted to emphasize something you touched on in your article. In talking about the green economy, there is so much technology, product development and eventually large cash flow that will come out of it.

I'm concerned that the U.S. is being left behind in that regard. In several examples, we innovate but then don't cash-in. For example, much of the wind-generated technology was developed in the U.S. but Europe is taking the lead in turning it into usable product. The U.S. was the inventor of the LED, however, Japan may take the market in developing low-cost LED-based lighting. Devices such as the photovoltaic cell that drive the solar panel industry have stemmed from U.S.-developed semiconductor technology. Here, we're letting China use the technology we developed to beat us to market and develop large-volume solar panels.

These are technologies that the U.S. should be turning into product, not necessarily because they're green, but because they will generate cash, a lot of it.

Marty Nemko said...

Most recent Anonymous,

Certainly, new products that would lead to cleaner air are worthy of research whether or not climate change is meaningfully anthropogenic and realistically controllable.

But many businesses are creating products and services merely in the service of attempting to control "climate change."

Those could well be wastes of enormous brainpower and money, which could have been better spent on problems more certain to improve humankind: whether to cure disease, reduce world poverty (e.g, high-protein corn), or simply to entertain us more.

I'd argue that the Wii (especially when you consider how many millions of people use it to keep them motivated to exercise) has done more to improve humankind than most businesses aimed at trying to control the world's climate.

Anonymous said...

My big question, Dr. Nemko, is not with whether or not there is something called "global warming" or "climate change," but why are we as a culture so interested in questioning our scientists? I've seen a number of lists of scientists who disagree with the theory of global warming, and usually these consist of people qualified in one area of science (such as physics or geology or engineering) but not in climate science. Why would I listen to these people? I would not, for instance, listen to a physicist tell me about my high blood pressure - I would go to a doctor. I would not ask a mechanical engineer about a volcano in my back yard - I would ask a geologist. So why are we so eager to believe some marginally qualified or unqualified person's opinion about something as potentially important as global warming? I have heard that no "peer reviewed" publications doubt the effect of global climate change? The doubt is usually expressed in non-scientific, popular press publications and, I hate to say it, online blogs by non-climate-scientists. Do you believe this to be true?

Marty Nemko said...

There are MANY climate scientists with grave doubts about the issues I raise in my post, including, Willie Soon at Harvard and Richard Lindzen at MIT, for example.

Anonymous said...

I guess then, Dr. Nemko, my question would be - why are you or I weighing in? Neither of us have the qualifications to judge the facts and theories about climate change?

I personally don't know what to believe - but I know that I do not know.

Wouldn't this debate be better left to scientists without our (generally politically inspired) voices clouding the debate? After all, I hate to point this out, but when I looked at your blog, I found a list exactly like the one I mentioned earlier...

Marty Nemko said...

Because it is a public policy question, there is value in presenting scientists' views in plain English to the general public, especially views that the mainstream media, for whatever reason, chooses to deemphasize or censor. To adopt your position, journalists would never report on anything--they do not have content expertise. They are, or should be, primarily scribes.

Anonymous said...

I hate to simply disagree with you, Dr. Nemko, but I am afraid I must simply disagree with you -

"Global warming" is not a "public policy question," it is a matter of science - either their is global climate change or there is not; public policy has nothing to do with what is actually happening or not happening in the atmosphere. What we chose to do about global climate change - whether we decide to act or not to act - that is public policy.

But we are in danger of making bad public policy decisions if we cloud the scientific issue - in other words, if we conflate science with our political leanings and our own layman's interpretations of science, we may (or we may not) be putting the environment and ourselves in danger because we believe "public policy" will change "science" - when in fact these are two totally different things.

Which still does not address the problem of laypeople like you and me debating whether or not climate change is a "hoax" - that is a strong term which designates a very particular thing, namely that the science presented by scientists is a sham (not to mention, this term clearly implies an opinion which someone, in this case yourself, has come to). But how do you or I know this? How can we make a "public policy" about global warming if we don't adequately understand the science? THAT is the big question facing us.

And I still don't see how we can post lists of "scientists" who disagree with global warming theories on our blogs when these people are not qualified to comment on the subject.

Nor, frankly, do I understand the comment about journalists as "scribes" - good journalism, I was taught, has to do with objective reportage - who is censoring and how do we know they are censoring? How do know that the media is not objectively reporting what scientists tell us?

Marty Nemko said...

Anonymous, there are many solid climate scientists, like the aforementioned Richard Lindzen at MIT and Willie Soon at Harvard who doubt the "consensus" Mr. Obama claims. It is writers' special responsibility to ensure their voices are heard. I agree that it is sad that most mainstream journalists are so steeped in the liberal biases that drew them into the profession that they are consciously or unconsciously unwilling to fairly present all sides of the issue. This post of mine is an attempt to provide some balance to their liberal bias. If the media were biased in the direction of saying, "There is no climate change problem," I'd be writing articles presenting the side arguing that it could be a problem. Fact is, it is very unclear whether it is worth making a massive effort to try to cool the globe.

Anonymous said...

So, Dr. Nemko, if I understand correctly, your entire post and the following ripostes are all done in the name of leveling the playing field on an issue that you perceive as misrepresented in the "liberal" media. You simply want to play devil's advocate.

But I have to ask one more time and then I will leave you alone - how are you, an expert in education and job counseling, at all qualified to judge whether or not the media (or anybody else) is biased toward climate change? Soon argues not so much that there is no global warming but that it is caused by an increase in solar radiation; Lindzen argues that climate models have not taken into account water vapor rates at the equator if the planet does continue to heat - very complicated stuff which I did not do a good job of explaining because I do not truly understand their arguments. Do you suppose you understand what they say well enough to be certain that what they say is legitimate? Again, the devil's advocate has no business questioning scientific fact.

I do not want to pick on anybody, but "Jeff" here actually asks your opinion as if you are an authority on the issue. I suspect he wants to hear an answer that will confirm his own already formed beliefs. Can you prove that "ecology hippies" alter scientific data?

And again, why would you publish a bogus list of unqualified albeit highly educated people as if they were prominent voices in the appropriate field? That is not debate - that is deliberate misinformation.

And why - since Lindzen and Soon truly appear to be voices in the wilderness who get a good deal of media attention because of their counter arguments (making it somewhat difficult to argue that "liberal bias" is censoring anyone) - do you suggest there is not a "consensus" among scientists? Are you sure that there isn't a consensus? And if there is consensus among scientists, shouldn't we listen to them?

Marty Nemko said...

You ask about my qualifications to comment. I have a Ph.D. from U.C. Berkeley during which I took and got A's in six five-unit graduate-level statistics and research methodology courses. As I read the work not only of Lindzen and Soon but others who cast thoughtful and troubling questions on the quality of the data and assumptions that go into the multiple regression prediction models as well as other quantitative and qualitative analyses used to justify spending massively to attempt to cool the globe, I have become convinced that the many (not just Lindzen and Soon) climate scientists who are very worried we're making a mistake are NOT getting fair hearing in the major media.

As a blogger, one of my responsibilities is to present important perspectives that are otherwise not heard. To merely re-present the widely promulgated pro-massive-spending arguments would render my efforts meaningless. I am NOT being a devil's advocate for its own sake. I am attempting to present important information that has largely been censored because of the political biases of the kinds of people who tend to enter journalism.

There is a reasonable argument that can be made for spending big to try to cool the globe but the mainstream media is doing a most thorough job of doing that so I needn't take that position.

I do not take a contrarian position merely to be a devil's advocate. For example, just because the media clearly supports evolution doesn't mean I'll write about "creation science." The latter is in my view, unreasonable and so I have no interest in promulgating it to the public. But the science and logical arguments for a watch-and-wait approach regarding spending massively to try to cool the globe is an underreported, responsible perspective that, in my judgment, is worthy my writing about.

Enough said. Probably much more than enough.

Anonymous said...

But Marty, what is your PhD in? "A"s are good - I've gotten more than a few myself - but that does not qualify you in anything other than your field of expertise, which I believe is education...

And why not make your case with specific, verifiable information - peer-review it, Marty, and prove your point rather than simply blogging generalities.

As a Ph.D. you should understand the value of presenting your material to the world for evaluation...if you can't do so, what are you doing?

P.S. - what about the list of bogus scientists?

Marty Nemko said...

The following 880 page synthesis of the dissenting research, conducted by hundreds of climate scientists is persuasive enough to me to justify a watch-and-wait strategy. Here's the link:

With regard to your characterizing the list of 31,000 scientists also urging watch-and-wait as "bogus" merely because many of them are not climate scientists, that is unfair. Intelligent people from related disciplines have opinions that shouldn't apriori be dismissed. I mean, in nearly all fields, we welcome interdisciplinarity, triangulation, as a wiser approach than siloed scientists in a narrow field.

Especially when the number of signatories is so large and the issue of whether to spend massively to cool the planet is of such import, I believe it is appropriate that we not dismiss as "bogus" the presence of 31,000 dissenting scientists.

I really have spent too much time on our tete-a-tete here so I'll end by reiterating that I am NOT saying we should ignore the issue. I'm saying that there is sufficient credible dissent that a few years of watch-and-wait while we conduct more solid, not-politically-motivated research seems to me a prudent approach. Clearly, you disagree and so we must, alas, agree to disagree.

Anonymous said...

Fair enough, Dr. Nemko, I too have other fish to fry - and for the record, I will once again say I do not know what I believe on the issue.

I do hope that if we "watch-and-wait" we do not make a colossal blunder that future generations will pay for all for the sake of the almighty dollar.

By the way - your list of 31,000 scientists is not the one I was referring to...I suspect you know where the other one is - but this is up to your conscience to work out.

Marty Nemko said...

I have no idea what other list you're talking about. I must admit feeling dispirited when my efforts to present information in as professional a way as I can yields snarky queries which deflect attention from the core science and logic related to the problem .

Anonymous said...

Your post on…
Monday, March 30, 2009…
“The list of climate change skeptics grows”…
Contains the following list, incompletely listed below.

Charles R. Anderson, Ph.D Anderson Materials Evaluation – this man is an engineer and businessman, not a climate scientist.

J. Scott Armstrong, Ph.D, University Of Pennsylvania – this man is a business professor, not a climate scientist!!!!!!!

Robert Ashworth, Clearstack LLC – another business man, not a climate scientist..

Ismail Baht, Ph.D, University Of Kashmir - ???? the only place this person appears on the web is this list / and it is not clear what the “U of Kashmir” is. Is he a climate scientist?.

Colin Barton Csiro – again, it is unclear who this person is; presumably he works for Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in Australia. Is he a climate scientist?

David J. Bellamy, OBE, The British Natural Association – this man is a botanist, not a climate scientist..

John Blaylock, Los Alamos National Laboratory – unclear who this man is, but he seems to be an electrical engineer or computer scientist.

Edward F. Blick, Ph.D, University Of Oklahoma – this man was a petroleum engineer

Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen, Ph.D, University Of Hull – tangentially qualified: she is a geographer

Bob Breck Ams, Broadcaster Of The Year 2008 – this guy is a TV weatherman.

Enough. First ten on the list are either unqualified, unknowns, marginally qualified, or are business people with, presumably, irons in the fire. Several commentators on March 30 pointed out the lack of legitimacy. Frequently your responders this lackof care in your posts.
Your response on this day indicated that there are a great many respected scientists in this group...there are only a few.

I do not mean to be disrespectful, snarky, or to dispirit you. But unless you are a more responsible blogger you will attract responders like myself.

And now, I really must be going.

Marty Nemko said...

I do not understand why you're focusing on these few. There are the hundreds of climate scientists who contributed research to the non-governmental IPCC report I just cited, the 31,000 scientists who signed the petition against the "consensus," and this additional list is just another group of people (who you diminish unfairly) to add to the contention that there is not a clear enough consensus to justify massive spending to attempt to cool the planet. And yes, please, let us move on.

ST said...

First of all, I wouldn't give the Oregon Petition any credence. One guy did an analysis degree by degree, and found that only a handful were qualified enough to be considered climate science experts. From what I've read, they were all given a mock "research paper" to read that went against the consensus, and were told to sign it if they agreed. Intelligent people? Yes, if all of them indeed had a math or science degree, they are intelligent enough to get that degree, but basically it was a survey of an uninformed opinion. I saw the "paper" once, and it was sort of a cut/paste job, and although neatly done, it wasn't real research out there if you dig.

Second, I don't know of any scientific field where there is a consensus. Part of science is to find holes in the theories. Even the theory of gravity continues to evolve. Although not a 100% like the politicians say, I'd say there is a vast majority of consensus among climate scientists.

I don't want to clutter this with a bunch of links, so I'll try to be as sparse as possible, but these may interest readers. I've been trying to keep an eye on the real research out there and not be swayed by Al Gore or any other politician for or against.

Here is a good general article on the state of the research as of the beginning of this year from Science Magazine, a reputable and peer-reviewed journal:

Here is a good general blog done by climate scientists:

Here are a couple skeptic sites. Although they are biased toward the evidence of global warming, they give a comprehensive list of all the evidence out there (not just computer models):

I think the temperature in the last 15 years is much too small of a window to look at. If it keeps going down or steady in the next 50, then I'd say we had something there. One of the things people confuse is the comparison of climate versus weather. Weather is much more chaotic and unpredictable, whereas climate is average weather over a long period of time.

The argument about the northern elevations being warmer and allowing more crops and tourism at first sounds plausible, but what if the weather becomes so volatile, erratic and having extreme events that on the average it really doesn't matter, because you'll have droughts and floods in other parts of the world while northern climes are enjoying their new found warmth.

Also, one of the phenomenon that may happen is not that there will be more hurricanes, droughts and other extreme weather events, but the probability of a much more extreme occurrence will be much greater when they do happen.

As far as wait and see, I have a feeling we'll be doing that anyhow. Although Obama is pushing it, I doubt anything will be done very soon. The economics of it is just too enormous. The fear among scientists, of course, is if there comes a tipping point, and hoping we have enough warning to react and not become a planet like Venus, which had a runaway greenhouse effect (of course all living now will probably never see it, on Earth, that is).

By the way I have a masters degree in statistics and work with mathematical models, but A) this does not make me a climate expert and B) I suspect the climate models are much more complicated than my direct marketing ones :)

My hope is that the real scientific evidence makes its way into the general public somehow, but as a nation, we are not very good at researching on our own and do rely too much on the media and politicians.

Anonymous said...

Hi Marty,

You suggest a watch-and-wait approach for a "few years," without defining what period of waiting you actually suggest. What evidence could you expect to see within a few years' time that might change your position? Is there some data collection effort that you think would change the picture significantly within a few years?

Perhaps by a "few years" you mean a few more decades, in which case, it will be too late to do anything, no matter how much we spend. Do you seriously believe that the negative consequences of climate change could be offset by the ability to farm remote cold regions of Canada or Russia? Anyone who has seen the effects of melting tundra due to development in Canada and Alaska knows that it does not produce arable soil; it produces quagmires incapable of supporting mechanized vehicles or structures. Furthermore, if the tundra melts, huge volumes of methane will be released into the atmosphere, leading to more rapid and severe climate impacts. And I'm just guessing that the resulting explosion of mosquito populations that would be in closer proximity to human population centers might not be so pleasant. You are being obtuse to ignore the overwhelming majority of scientific opinion, which is that the negative consequences of such great changes in climate will be severe.

I think you confuse the concept of scientific consensus, which has been achieved, with unanimity. See, for example, Naomi Oreskes’ historical reviews in Science 306: 1686, 2004:
and here:

There will always be a few contrarians (such as Lindzen, Spencer, Christy) who dispute any scientific hypothesis or theory. You really should be more careful in selecting your sources. For a critical review of the NIPCC report issued by the Heartland Institute (a notorious right-wing think tank known for promoting tobacco and fossil fuel interests) your readers should go here:(

When you bemoan the level of spending that it would take to mitigate the problem now, wouldn't it be fair to compare it to the likely costs of inaction, if the adverse consequences of human emissions of CO2 are even moderately borne out? Do you think it might be worth investing some reasonable fraction of the many trillions that have been wasted on the Iraq War and its aftermath, and on Wall Street bailouts, to reduce human emissions of CO2 while research into climate change and sustainable energy sources continues? I suppose spending money to reduce our CO2 emissions would limit the funds available for such high priorities as war profiteering and bankers' bonuses in the future.

You've mentioned that the burden of proof lies with those who advocate changes in public policy to deal with the CO2 problem. Yet, you've also stated (if you'll allow my paraphrasing) that the great majority of scientists who are doing research in this field can't be trusted because their livelihoods are supposedly dependent on receiving research grants that are predicated on there being a "crisis" to deal with. Therefore, it appears that you claim the problem hasn't been proven to exist, but any effort to understand the problem can't be impartially researched by anyone who claims there is a problem worthy of more research funding! By the way, there is a thing called "tenure" at research universities which tends to blunt this tired argument, not to mention that your hero, Dr. Lindzen, seems to be doing just fine despite his contrarian views. Do you think the problem can only be impartially researched by libertarian think-tanks such as the Cato Institute and shills for the fossil fuel industry?

Really, Marty. This is nothing more than a disinformation campaign posing as science. What an embarrassment. Why would you so debase yourself?


Anonymous said...

Hi Marty,

Just as a follow-up on my previous post, the bogus anti-science petitions you're fond of propagating on your blog are worthless as indicators of the remaining areas of uncertainty on the subject of human-caused climate change. If there are legitimate questions to be asked about the science, they are to be found in peer-reviewed literature, not in such meaningless and misleading petitions. Einstein (the physicist; not your lovable canine companion) was also the subject of a disinformation campaign by a group of German scientists who disputed his theory of general relativity. They published a list of "One Hundred Authors Against Einstein," to which the eminent theoretician responded, "Why 100 authors? If I were wrong, then one would have been enough!"

You've stated that there are "many" qualified scientists who have questioned whether human emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases are a cause for concern. As two examples, you named Willie Soon of Harvard and Richard Lindzen of MIT. Dr. Soon is an astronomer and physicist, not a climate scientist. He has published two articles on climate science, which have been criticized as severely flawed. (As some of your readers may be aware, the journal Climate Science, in which one of the articles was published, was the subject of several of the stolen e-mails in the recent controversy at the Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anglia in Britain.) Thirteen scientists cited in Dr. Soon's paper wrote rebuttals stating that Dr. Soon had misrepresented their work, and three editors of the journal resigned in protest after the publication of his paper.

If your readers would like to know more about the background of the contrarians and PR flacks who initiate and sign such petitions, here is an excellent source:


Marty Nemko said...


Your points are largely nonresponsive to those I made in my post.

Anonymous said...

Hi Marty,

I think the majority of my comments responded directly to your post, however some of them were directed to some of your references and comments in exchanges with your other readers, above. Sorry if I strayed too far off-topic. However, since you dismiss those who accept the conclusions of essentially all of the world's most authoritative professional scientific bodies about the human factors driving climate change as "largely an assortment of of socialists, 60s-style 'ecology' hippies, and younger anti-corporatists," or people under the influence of "society's mind control vehicles (the colleges and the media)," while the Heartland Institute is supposedly dispassionate and unbiased, I think there's not much to talk about, really.

By the way, I happened to graduate from the same mind control vehicle and department where Dr. Lindzen teaches, MIT (B.Sc. '87).


Marty Nemko said...

Cheryl, my post's core contentions remain unanswered:
1. Given the 12 year DECLINE in mean global temperature, what is the danger of seeing if the trend reverses before spending so massively to try to cool the globe, especially when the opportunity cost is so high.

2. It is well acknowledged that the amount of global compliance with CO2 reductions will NOT significantly cool the globe. As we make such token efforts as replacing incandescent bulbs with cfls and play around with the physics-delimited solar, wind, etc., China, not to mention the large majority of the world's nearly 200 nations, are greatly INCREASING carbon utilization.

Anonymous said...

Hi Marty,

Let’s consider the first of your post’s core contentions, as you restated it, “Given the 12 year DECLINE in mean global temperature, what is the danger of seeing if the trend reverses before spending so massively to try to cool the globe, especially when the opportunity cost is so high.”

There are several problems with this. First, you haven’t provided any data that supports your assertion that the mean global temperature has declined. Your post claims a decade-long decline, not a 12-year decline. Now you seem to be reverting to the long-debunked claim that the globe has been cooling since 1998, which is well known to have been a particularly unusual El Nino event. Now, why would you want to choose 1998 as the starting point to evaluate trends in global average temperature? This is what is known as cherry-picking data, a dishonest tactic.

Second, even Dr. Lindzen disagrees with your claim. Below the graph you linked to on “Watts Up With That?” a popular denialist website, he states, ”There has been no warming since 1997 and no statistically significant warming since 1995.” Even the most statistically challenged of your readers would recognize that “no statistically significant warming” does not mean a “decline.” Perusing the comments below Dr. Lindzen’s graph provides some interesting observations, for example, the reader PeterC, who stated “Call me ‘Alarmist’, but I still see a rising trend.” An interesting discussion on the question of statistical significance of the trends was provided by another reader here (, in which the author, Lucia, calculated a decreasing trend in recent data since 2001. However, she/he asks and answers the question, “Do I think AGW [anthropogenic global warming] is over? Absolutely not.”

Third, climate trends can’t be reliably discerned over arbitrarily chosen short time intervals that due to the fact that short-term natural variability has a similar magnitude (i.e. ~0.2 ÂșC), which can mask the anthropogenic effects. Here’s a good discussion:

Fourth, by “opportunity costs,” I assume you’re referring to the false dichotomy implied in your post, which presumes that spending to reduce CO2 emissions would automatically reduce spending to address such problems as global poverty and cancer. The 5th paragraph of my first post (Jan. 7@10:14) was an attempt to address this question, in which you ignore the opportunity costs of doing nothing if the negative consequences of AGW are allowed to develop. Can you cite any proposals to spend “massively, in perpetuity” to address these other problems, that would be compromised by spending to address CO2 emissions? Typically, such proposals to address any world problems are routinely met with similar obfuscatory arguments by the libertarian think-tanks you favor. Conversely, doing nothing about human-driven climate change (assuming that the problem exists) is highly likely to exacerbate world poverty and disease through droughts, loss of water supplies, ecological disruptions, and massive dislocations of human and other species’ populations. These opportunity costs are likely to increase dramatically if CO2 emissions continue on their present trajectories.


Anonymous said...

Hi Marty,

I should also point out that your post makes the unsupported assumption that "massive spending" would be required "in perpetuity." The purpose of investments in efficiency, infrastructure, and renewable resources is that these efforts would eventually result in reductions in per capita spending to reduce greenhouse gas emissions over time. That is why such resources are called “renewable,” and the goal of such spending is to achieve “sustainability.”


Marty Nemko said...

Mny of those efforts--e.g., not building roads, conservation efforts such as cap and trade, etc WOULD need to exist in perpetuity, and would, in fact, need to accelerate as world population and consumption inexorably increases.

And again, I bring your attention to the feasibility questions. Do you really believe that the world will unite behind this massive spending, yes in perpetuity? Do you really believe, MIT person, that research on solar, wind, etc., will transcend the physics limitations of these energy sources sufficiently to make them more than minor contributors to the energy and climate change issues?

Marty Nemko said...

Cheryl, you're nitpicking re the 12 years vs 10 years, flat vs decline. Certainly, despite the massive increase in CO2, temps haven't risen in the past decade, which is core to the argument that we should spend massively to try to cool the globe. The lack of increase should certainly make us more cautious and give significant weight to the opportunity costs.

If you don't like the decade-long time frame, how do you like the fact that since 1880, mean global temp is up less than one degree, with--even assuming your numbers--a decreased rate of increase in the most recent decade, a time when, according to the AGW advocates, it should have increased most rapidly.

I did not say anything about opportunity costs being automatic. But the trillions, yes trillions that will be spent to attempt to cool the globe, no doubt would otherwise be used for other causes, causes in my view, with a higher probability of improving humankind.

You nitpick the data I provide yet you feel okay about making ad-hominem predictions that not acting now is "highly likely to exacerbate world poverty and disease through droughts, loss of water supplies, ecological disruptions and massive dislocations of human and other species' populations." You need awfully good data to justify that in light of the past 130 years of climate change plotted against CO2 and in light of the plausible counterexplanations for any global warming (e.g., natural variation.)

By the way, may I reiterate that I am NOT embracing the do-nothing position, nor do I see the Heartland Institute as an unbiased source (any more than the IPCC is unbiased), only embracing the need for further study before embracing the massive-effort position.

And on that note, Cheryl, I need to end this thread. I do appreciate your passion and intelligence, although I believe your passion may be coloring your ability to view the issue dispassionately.

Marty Nemko said...

"Cheryl," you still have not addressed the core question of feasibility. I repeat: "Do you really believe that the world will unite behind this massive spending, yes in perpetuity? Do you really believe, MIT person, that research on solar, wind, etc., will transcend the physics limitations of these energy sources sufficiently to make them more than minor contributors to the energy and climate change issues?"

And now, this thread is truly closed.

Marty Nemko said...

NOTE: This is a previously posted comment by Cheryl. She inadvertently put her email address in it but doesn't want it made public. The only way I could remove it is copy and paste her post into a new comment under my name, and delete her post. Here's her post:

Anonymous said...

Hi Marty,

I know you've closed this thread. I wanted to say thanks for posting my previous comments in their entirety. I know I made some strong remarks. Also, I wanted to apologize again for my follow-up comment last night about the "missing comment." When I wrote it, you had only posted the second of my two comments, and I didn't realize you were in the process of updating your page with another response, so my first comment hadn't appeared yet. I didn't intend to be snarky.

Anyway, I did want to respond to your final comment, and I won't trouble you for more of your time. While my comment on the "decline" vs. "flat" temperature data and the time frame may have sounded nit-picky, I can assure you that it wasn't. I wouldn't have mentioned it if it wasn't significant. The reason is that there has been a coordinated effort by groups who want to delay any action to reduce CO2 emissions to deliberately misrepresent the data. You may not know that the claim that temperatures have been flat or declining (they are doing neither) is one of the common arguments of these groups, and it is a specious claim, at best. I know you think there is scant data to support the idea that humans are causing the climate to heat up, but the data are really far more robust than you seem to realize. I could elaborate, but I don't want to further wear out your ears. I don't want you to think I'm focusing on trivial points.

I also think that when you say you embrace further study of the issue, you're being a bit disingenuous, because you've often questioned the integrity of some of the best climate scientists in the world who've done an incredible job researching this issue. I really think they deserve gratitude for the quality of their work in such a difficult field, and I believe they're motivated by a desire for understanding the truth, not financial gain. As one scientist remarked recently, he's only in it for the fame and women, not the money (I hope you can appreciate the humor). It's not a very remunerative career, and the stakes are high if they are found to be in error on this issue.

Finally, while I can't cite specific studies or cost analyses beyond what's in the IPCC report (which, by the way, is a very conservative and sober assessment that likely understates the problem), I think there is ample evidence that many of the world problems you allude to will be made far more severe when the average temperature rises more than 2 deg. C. I would hope that you would want to engage the entrepreneurial spirit of your readers and listeners to find creative, win-win solutions to these and other problems. If you're correct that the technical and political issues are insurmountable, our descendants and planet are in for a very, very rough time ahead.

I don't think a return to the climate of the Miocene is in anyone's interest. I would be delighted if it turns out that the majority of the world's climate scientists are wrong about this issue, as would most, if not all, of these scientists, and I know one of them personally. Of course, any scientist likes to see her or his work validated, but no one is hoping that the negative consequences of climate change are allowed to develop. There is a multitude of other issues to confront, and we don't seem to be doing very well with them in the absence of climate change.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for being open to continuing the discussion, Marty. I don't have answers for the policy/risk management questions you raise. I wanted to focus on the scientific questions, because it's impossible to craft good policies when the scientific debate is so clouded by polarization and tribal instincts. There are legitimate questions and uncertainties about the science, but I think it's very important that these questions be understood properly. Many people are easily misled into one camp or the other, because they don't understand the science. What I'd like to avoid is the idea that all the science is motivated by political or ideological beliefs, and therefore everyone is free to accept whatever opinion seems to agree with their predetermined belief. I think there are objective answers to these questions.

I agree that mean global temp. has risen ~1° C or less since 1880 or thereabouts (I'll accept your number), and the rate of increase has apparently slowed during the last decade. These values are entirely consistent with both the climate models and the predictions for future climate change, given the rates of increase of greenhouse gases, and neither of these statistics provide any reason to take comfort.

Let me try to illustrate why this is so, based on my understanding (and I'm not an expert on this, just interested). The average rate of increase of C02 during the past 10 years is about 2 ppm/year, or 20 ppm (385 ppm @ year 2008 - 365 ppm @ year 1998). This amounts to about a 5.5 percent change in C02 concentration over a 10-year period (not as dramatic an increase as you might have thought, but unprecedented in terms of the natural carbon cycle in the Quaternary period).

The IPCC report and most climate scientists think the sensitivity of climate to a doubling in concentration of CO2 is about 3° C (Dr. Lindzen is one of the scientists who argue that the sensitivity is less, in the range of 1-2° C).

For example, doubling the C02 concentration from the pre-industrial concentration of ~270 ppm to 540 ppm would result in approximately 4 W/m2 of forcing, and so a sensitivity of 3° C per doubling is equivalent to a sensitivity of 0.75 ° C/W/m2. For the generally accepted sensitivity, this change in C02 would be expected to increase the global average temperature by about 0.2 °C over the decade. This is within the natural, short-term variability of global average temperatures, so the apparent slowing in the rate of increase is not inconsistent with the overall rising trend. Also, the response of the global average temperature to various "forcings" such as human emissions of C02 is not instantaneous or evenly distributed, given factors such as the El Nino/Southern Oscillation (ENSO). That's my layperson's understanding of it.

(continued below)

Anonymous said...

I think a climate sensitivity of 3° C is a pretty conservative, low-end estimate, but it could be higher than 7° C (see Leaving aside the most dire predictions, studies have projected the consequences of even a 2° C change by 2100 could lead to the extinction of over 30 percent of known species and raise the sea level by at least a meter, displacing millions of people.

Dr. Lindzen's estimates have tended to fall below the range that most scientists consider reasonable or likely, based on his unconfirmed theories of negative feedbacks, such as the "Iris effect." So far, I'm not aware that there has been much evidence found to support the magnitude of these negative feedbacks.

Here is a website that I find very interesting for information on the subject of climate: . I also read They are one of the most comprehensive resources on the web, in my view (and you already know where I stand). Some of those I do not find helpful or convincing include Steve McIntyre, Bjorn Lomborg, Tim Ball, "Viscount" Monckton, and Fox News, or the websites and, although they are worth visiting to know what the crazies are up to.

On the cost/benefit side (also not my area of expertise), there have been some studies that showed California's economy has benefited significantly from improvements in energy efficiency (for example, see However, our CO2 emissions have increased because of population growth. It remains to be seen whether these so-called "green jobs" actually reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

As I said, I share many of your doubts about the feasibility of achieving compliance with any global limits on greenhouse gas emissions, although perhaps not to the same degree. It's a really tough problem that's going to take a lot of good-faith effort and cooperation to solve.

Thanks again for allowing this discussion, Marty.