My CO2 Emissions / Global Warming History

It all started because I decided to watch Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. I said to my wife, “we should watch Gore’s movie because everyone is talking about it and it won all these awards and I want to know what it’s all about.”

Then I quickly added, “I have my doubts global warming is a real problem, but who knows. Let’s see what he has to say.”

The movie was better than I expected, though it still basically stunk like a snunk in need of a bath. I felt like it was two hours of watching good-ole-Al stand in front of people and give a Power Point presentation inter-cut with somewhat better shots of him traveling around the world while intoning sage advice. I was particularly glad that he only included 10 or so potshots at “the current administration.” Considering how sore Gore was over losing the presidency to George W. Bush, and considering how popular Bush-Bashing later became, this really wasn’t that bad and probably to be expected.

The Hockey Stick

In particular, I was impressed with one memorable piece of evidence Gore presented: a graph showing relationship between CO2 emissions and average global temperature. I found out later that the temperature portion of this graph is known as the “hockey stick” graph. Gore did a good job of explaining how ice core samples can be used to determine the levels of CO2 centuries back. Likewise, through studying width of tree rings, scientists can determine temperatures centuries back. By correlating both of these data, we can recreate the correlation between CO2 and global temperature.

After the movie was over, I was still feeling mighty skeptical. I really wanted to hear “the other side of the story.” I had remembered Orson Scott Card writing an article bashing on global warming zealots, so I wrote to Brother Card and asked him about the hockey stick graph. He was kind enough to respond to me and sent me a link to a movie called The Great Global Warming Swindle which I watched with rapt attention.

The Hockey Stick Graph – The Truth Revealed

It turns out that the hockey stick graph isn’t as convincing as Mr. Gore made it out to be. If I remember correctly, Gore said something like “one thing that jumps out at you is… do they seem to fit together?!” He then showed how the temperature and the CO2 emissions follow the same up and down pattern almost perfectly. Then, with a flourish, Gore revealed the final few years of CO2 levels and we see a huge spike in CO2.

We are left with the impression that we’ll see an equal spike in global temperature and that it’s going to be very bad.

Hockey Stick Graph

The Infamous Hockey Stick Graph

It turns out that the “complex relationship” between CO2 and global temperature is actually usually reversed. In general, as global temperatures rise, CO2 rises, not the other way around as Gore implied. It would seem that if you raise the global temperature it causes the ocean to expel CO2, thus creating the relationship Gore referenced. Likewise, if you cool the global temperature, the ocean will absorb CO2. I slapped my head with frustration over Gore’s ruse.

Worse yet, the hockey stick graph has a huge margin for error. Take a look at the “gray” in the graph above. That’s the margin for error. Not exactly confidence inspiring.

Carl Wunsch and Ocean CO2

But just as I was about to conclude that Al was full of baloney and, by induction, so was the whole global warming enthusiast community, my natural skepticism kicked in again.

So I looked up The Great Global Warming Swindle on Wikipedia to review any controversy over it. I love Wikipedia because both sides of a debate have to negotiate as to what the article will say. Wikipedia is the greatest resource that has ever existed when it comes to summaries of controversial topics. (It’s not so great on less controversial topics where the two sides don’t have to negotiate.)

I quickly discovered that The Great Global Warming Swindle was not exactly a movie to be trusted either. Through out of context quotes, they had manufactured the illusion of evidence to make their case. I was particularly disturbed that two of the scientists interviewed has lodged complaints that they had been taken out of context. Take, for example, this quote from Carl Wunsch, one of the interviewed scientists.

In the part of The Great Climate Change Swindle where I am describing the fact that the ocean tends to expel carbon dioxide where it is warm, and to absorb it where it is cold, my intent was to explain that warming the ocean could be dangerous—because it is such a gigantic reservoir of carbon. By its placement in the film, it appears that I am saying that since carbon dioxide exists in the ocean in such large quantities, human influence must not be very important—diametrically opposite to the point I was making—which is that global warming is both real and threatening.

My forehead was red from all the slapping! Who could I trust? I didn’t want to have to earn a PhD in climate modeling before making a decision over whom to politically support! This was beyond ridiculous. As far as I was concerned, both sides were being overtly dishonest and I couldn’t trust either.

Water Vapor vs. CO2

Frustrated out of my mind, I started Googling looking for sites about global warming.  I quickly came across several, all of which were polemics for one of the two sides.

One of the claims in The Great Global Warming Swindle had been that water vapor was a much more important greenhouse gas than CO2, apparently by a considerable factor. I had heard this claim multiple times before talking to skeptical friends about global warming. This quote is probably typical of how I’ve heard this argument presented by global warming deniers.

Contrary to what is said in the popular media, water (H2O) is the most important greenhouse gas in Earth’s atmosphere, not the small amount of demonized CO2.” (link)

I’ve also heard bantered about that water vapor makes up 95 to 95% of the greenhouse gas effect:

Water vapour is the most important greenhouse gas. This is part of the difficulty with the public and the media in understanding that 95% of greenhouse gases are water vapour. (link)

So, as the argument goes, how could CO2 play any significant role? [1]

So I tried Googling about this new point, wondering how the Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) Believers would respond. Within minutes I had the answer. It turns out that this is a false dichotomy. Global Warming models already do include water vapor.

There is believed  to be (according to their climate models) a catalyst effect. CO2 goes into the air, causing a bit of additional warming. But now that the temperature is slightly higher, the air can take some additional water vapor right at the very moment a bit water more is evaporating. This in turn (or so says the model anyhow) raises the temperature even more. As the temperature rises, this causes the ocean to start releasing CO2, just as Carl Wunsch explained above. This cycle repeats until you end up with a much warmer earth. The fact that usually CO2 follows global warmth doesn’t save you here. A small increase in temperature may lead to a larger increase in water vapor resulting into a self-destructive cycle.

To see an example of the catalyst argument, see this article. In addition, there is an issue where water vapor is seasonal and CO2 is not, so CO2 will (according to the AGW Believers), have a longer term impact. (This article is an example of this argument.) To use an analogy, we would generally think of a swimming pool as consuming more water than a leaky faucet. But what if you let that faucet leak for years?

Now it turns out there is still controversy over this counter argument. Consider, for example, this article called “Climate Models Blown Away By Water Vapor.” It sums its point up as the following:

If something as seemingly simple as water vapor can have such complex and bewildering impacts on Earth’s climate why does the IPCC and the climate crisis crowd continue to insist that all fault lies with CO2?

Still, I am deeply bothered by the fact that Global Warming Deniers routinely use and reuse the simplistic argument that water vapor is a bigger greenhouse gas than CO2 without additional explanation. The Anthropogenic Global Warming Believers have never made the argument that CO2 is a more significant greenhouse gas than water vapor, so this isn’t a contest between CO2 and Water Vapor. False arguments like this make Anthropogenic Global Warming Deniers look bad. Indeed, it makes them look dishonest.

Now that I knew the simple Water Vapor vs. CO2 argument was a fraud, I knew I could ignore any site that tried to use this argument because I knew for certain that the author was not making a sincere effort to understand the problem being discussed. (Note that this is a significant strike against The Great Global Warming Swindle movie since they made the water vapor vs. CO2 argument, intentionally misleading viewers.)

Furthermore, take a close look at that last quote. Does it actually address the AGW Believers fear of a CO2 / Water Vapor feedback loop? Is this addressed in the article? The article’s main point (as summarized in the quote) is merely that we don’t understand the atmosphere well enough to model it! I’ll come back to that point later, as it’s a more valid objection. But it leaves me uneasy that this otherwise well put together article never even addresses the argument it’s supposed to be countering.

In my next post, I’ll continue the story of my frustrating attempts to make sense of AGW.

Notes

[1] …how could CO2 play any significant role? In reality, that 95% number is not agreed upon and you only hear it from those that are professed global warming skeptics.

75 thoughts on “My CO2 Emissions / Global Warming History

  1. Bruce, still not sure where you’re going with this. I’ll listen to your entire argument before making any real comments.

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  3. “There is believed to be (according to their climate models) a catalyst effect. CO2 goes into the air, causing a bit of additional warming. But now that the temperature is slightly higher, the air can take some additional water vapor right at the very moment a bit water more is evaporating. This in turn (or so says the model anyhow) raises the temperature even more. As the temperature rises, this causes the ocean to start releasing CO2, just as Carl Wunsch explained above. This cycle repeats until you end up with a much warmer earth. The fact that usually CO2 follows global warmth doesn’t save you here. A small increase in temperature may lead to a larger increase in water vapor resulting into a self-destructive cycle.”

    A fair bit of my fluid dynamics education went to studying instability. Under linear stability regimes, three responses to a perturbation are possible: the perturbation vanishes with exponential decay; the perturbation oscillates; or the perturbation grows exponentially without bound. The first two possiblities wouldn’t give much concern, and the third can be ruled out because if it were a possibility, the proverbial butterfly’s wings would have already started the ball rolling long ago. Also, the idea that CO2 lagged temperature prehistorically should place some bounds on unstable feedback mechanisms.

    Non-linear stability is another matter, though. Flow in a circular pipe, for example, is linearly stable and would revert to a laminar state, no matter how fast the flow, if disturbances were sufficiently miniscule. Disturbances larger than a critical threshhold, however, will grow and initiate a transition to turbulence. This is hard to analyze even for very simple systems. I should really study some time to see what sort of stability analysis the global climate researchers have put forward.

  4. Is it possible that that the temperature of the earth is affected by that giant ball of fire in the sky?

  5. I’m so thrilled to see you doing this. I’m doing a five part series on climate change too.

    If you want to understand climate change I would first look at Naomi Oreskes new book: Merchants of Doubt. She is a historian of science that traces the history of climate change denialism and its roots in the players who worked for the tobacco industry to deny connections with cancer (you’ll recognize their names as CC deniers), and were hired by oil companies to spread their word.

    Then turn to the peer reviewed scientific literature. You’ll have some trouble finding the denier side because the papers are running, quite literally, 1:1000 in favor of AGW. The appearance of debate is being driven completely by internet, media and very well funded disinformation campaigns. Seriously, turn to the science, those actually studying the phenomenon. There is no debate, because the evidence is overwhelming and coming from multiple sources. Once you go to those doing the science on this the denier side evaporates.

  6. I’m not sure where you are going with this either. Controversy exists all over the place regarding this subject. Perhaps you are simply communicating to us that the real causes of global temperature change are not completely understood by either camp. I prefer to view the eath’s changes as a part of the life cycle the earth was already meant to complete.

  7. A climate skeptic who pulls a lot of weight with me is Hendrik Tennekes, probably because the Tennekes and Lumley text A First Course in Turbulence was such a staple of fluid dynamics education for decades. I don’t think Tennekes ever made any money from tobacco, and wading against the current doesn’t seem to be paying him either. Tennekes had been director of research at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute and had been a member of the Royald Netherlands Academy of Arts and Science from 1982 until his resignation earlier this year. So, probably not a paid-for quack. He doesn’t think the models employed in global climate predications are up to the task.

  8. Thank you for writing a reasonable, researched and well thought-out article on global warming! I was beginning to think such a thing wasn’t possible anymore. I’m definitely looking forward to your next installment.

    My personal thoughts on the issue is this that it is waaaaaay too politicized for any reasonable and responsible outcome anymore. There are two reasons for this:

    1) The scientific process of determining the truth of a theory is very slow and methodical. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_method) This is especially the case with the typical worldwide peer review evaluation of a thesis. An example of this would be dark matter, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_matter) and how it is still a hotly contested hypothesis after quite a few years of intense research. And so the pattern we have seen of scientists questioning the validity of different theories of global warming is pretty typical, and is not a proof that is is either true or false. The mutual understanding by scientists is that by peer review, replicating tests, data sharing, arguing, etc., the scientists will eventually find and agree on the truth. However…

    2) Unfortunately global warming has become heavily politicized. On the Right you have the deregulators who wish that government would stay the heck away from business practices. And of course the powerful multinational corporations who don’t want the extra prohibitive costs that would be forced upon them by anti-polution laws. And so they began the politicization of the science by pushing money at the congress and the public to stall any such process. And on the Left we have the rabid tree-huggers who demonize anything that’s anywhere to the Right of being a pot-smoking vegan, and are more than happy to continue the politicization of global warming to further their cause. These are the idiots who wish to “bring the man down” no matter what the costs to anyone else. Both sides are extreme in their rhetoric. Both sides are yelling at each other instead of listening to the other side’s occasionally valid ideas.

    In addition, both sides completely misunderstand how the scientific method works and so both sides are guilty of using half truths and misdirection to further their POLITICAL goals at the cost of the actual scientific process of finding the truth. They really don’t want to understand the science. They want to pick and choose what parts of the evidence that fits their own preconceived partisan objectives, and then completely disregards everything else that doesn’t. And just to muddy the waters even further, quite a few very vocal scientists themselves are extremely partisan and biased, and they let their own scientific principals take a back seat to their political beliefs.

    The result of this is that the global warming scientific process is so warped and corrupted by outside interests it is extremely difficult for anyone to get at the actual truth of the issue. And, as you’ve written above Bruce, it’s hard to believe anything that is written on the subject without first doing a great deal of research yourself, which hardly no one bothers to do. It’s a complete and utter mess, and I’m thoroughly disgusted by all of the mindless, prejudiced bickering and small-minded, petty attacks (like iamse7en’s post above).

    At the bottom line I think that even if we don’t personally agree that man is causing global warming, or if it is eventually shown to be a false theory, we should still clean up our world. The BP disaster itself is a good enough reason for me all by itself. I don’t need global warming to tell me that we are poisoning our environment. I can already see it myself.

  9. Interesting. I’m looking forward to the next installment.

    I completely agree with your attitude that once someone has tried to make a point by deliberately withholding information they’ve become untrustworthy. That’s exactly why the global warming debate is so frustrating — both sides seem to be doing exactly that.

    Even SteveP’s assertion that the 1000:1 ratio is evidence in and of itself is in doubt after the email scandal from the Climate Research Unit at England’s University of East Anglia, in which climate experts discussed how to spin data and freeze contradictory articles out of peer-reviewed journals.

  10. “Controversy exists all over the place regarding this subject” except among scientists. And James you’d be surprised how many scientists actually do understand how the scientific methods works and actually use it.

  11. Here’s an article on Hendrik Tennekes:

    HET GELIJK VAN HENK TENNEKES, De Telegraaf, 23 February 2010

    English translation: link

    An interesting tangent, though not entirely off-topic:

    Er is één soort grutto, die non-stop in één week de Stille Oceaan over vliegt. Elfduizend kilometer van Alaska naar Nieuw-Zeeland! Hoe kan dat? Hoe neemt hij genoeg voedsel mee? Andere soorten halen maximaal 5000 kilometer achter elkaar! Wat blijkt? De rosse grutto heeft een veel betere aërodynamica dan we dachten. Enorm efficiënte vliegspieren. En hij ondergaat krankzinnige fysiologische veranderingen tijdens de vlucht. Bij aankomst is al zijn vet en de helft van zijn vliegspieren opgebrand. Zelfs zijn hart is gekrompen. Mensen hebben geen flauw idee van de flexibiliteit van alles wat leeft!

    The bartailed godwit flies non-stop over the Pacific Ocean in a week. Eleven thousand kilometers from Alaska to New Zealand! How is it possible? How can it feed itself? Other species of wading birds manage only 5,000 kilometers! What is at hand here? The bar-tailed godwit has much better aerodynamics than we thought. Enormously efficient flying muscles. And it undergoes crazy physiological changes during the flight. All of its fat and half of its flight muscles are burned up by the time it reaches its destination. Even its heart has shrunk. People have no idea of the flexibility of living things!

  12. SteveP @ #11,

    You must have misunderstood what I had written, or I had said it poorly. I never meant to give the impression that -all- scientists were corrupted by the political machinations surrounding global warming. I’ve seen that the vast majority are doing very good work on this, despite the firestorm surrounding them.

    I only meant to say that there are a few, usually the most vocal ones, who have subjugated their scientific principals in favor of one political extreme or the other. The “email scandal” that layman linked to is one example on the Left. And there’s a number of scientists in the pocket of big business who pick and choose their facts, as an example on the Right.

    But I agree with you SteveP, the vast majority are doing good work. We just need to dig under the cesspool of politics to see it.

  13. I was going to let Bruce state his case first, but SteveP claim’s that peer-reviewed articles are running 1000:1 against AGW is so obviously false that it cannot go unchallenged.

    SteveP cites old information that has been conclusively rebutted.

    http://www.dailytech.com/Survey%2BLess%2BThan%2BHalf%2Bof%2Ball%2BPublished%2BScientists%2BEndorse%2BGlobal%2BWarming%2BTheory/article8641.htm

    The so-called consensus on AGW is much overblown.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_change_consensus

    In fact, claims in the IPCC report that thousands of scientists support the AGW theory has been corrected to indicate that actually only a few dozen do:

    http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/index.php/heraldsun/comments/rudds_4000_scientists_turn_to_just_dozens#71697

    Although it is clear that the majority of climate scientists support the AGW theory, there is widespread debate on the issue and the amount of doubt increases every year.

    Here is a partial list (very partial) of prominent scientists who oppose all or part of the AGW theory:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_scientists_opposing_the_mainstream_scientific_assessment_of_global_warming

    The vast majority of meteorologists, who rely on temperature figures on a daily basis, oppose the AGW theory.

    http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/292117

    The constant — and false — claim of “consensus” despite the clear evidence that the consensus is manufactured is one of the reasons that more people believe in haunted houses than in manmade global warming.

    http://www.climatedepot.com/a/3579/Polls-More-Americans-believe-in-haunted-houses-than-manmade-global-warming–37-vs-36

  14. James writes, ‘And of course the powerful multinational corporations who don’t want the extra prohibitive costs that would be forced upon them by anti-polution laws.’

    I don’t see why corporations would care about increased costs when all they have to do is pass the costs on to consumers. If anyone has a vested interest in avoiding increased costs it’s consumers themselves, i.e. you and I.

  15. “Meteorologists = weather news people”

    SteveP, if you can write that and think it accurate, then you are not as familar with the field as you think you are. Kind of funny to think of Julian Hunt as a TV weather man.

  16. Agellius,

    It’s quite a bit more complicated than your description, although it is a valid point in and of itself. As an example of one of the additional factors in this case is the fact that the populace will eventually no longer just accept the increased costs and will stop buying their product, usually going to another provider who is cheaper. And so yes, a forced anti-polution initiative by the government will most likely mean higher prices for us because the corporations will not want to take the cut themselves.

    However, most of the laws I’ve heard in congress take that into account and forbid them from passing the buck to us, so as to save the taxpayers the burdensome cost. Someone has to pay for it, and the politicians don’t want it to be their constituents if they want to be reelected. And since the corporations will essentially be losing a great deal of money to implement anti-polution technology, they fight tooth and nail against it.

    There’s a few other examples of this, but they all boil down to the fact that it’s all about money: The almighty dollar. The BP disaster is an excellent example of the widespread corporate mentality of not spending money on something that they consider unimportant to their bottom line. The huge multinational corporations, who have more GDI than some countries, have no inherent conscience to their actions. As long as the money is coming in, it doesn’t matter how the money is made and who was hurt in the process. The investors are happy and that’s all that matters to them. (Of course this is nothing new, similar things have happened all through history. The only difference here is that the scale is now global instead of restricted to a small local area.)

    The World Heath Organization estimates that 25 percent of all deaths in the developing world are directly attributable to environmental factors created by pollution. The third world is the dumpster for the developed world and there are huge locations that can not sustain any life anymore.

    The industrial world, for the most part, have laws or structures in place to contain most of the pollution. The US used to have much better laws on the books than it does now to reign in corporations such as BP. But they have been removed or softened by politicians (on both sides) in the deep pockets of corporations. For example, the E.P.A. determined that a Simplot factory was the main source of a potentially deadly amount of phosphorus dumped into the Portneuf River. (Simplot produces more than 3 billion pounds of french fries annually and supplies McDonald’s with over half of its potato inventory.) A Cargill plant in Virginia has been overwhelming wastewater-treatment facilities, causing the dumping of toxic substances into the North Fork Shenandoah River. Cargill’s corn-processing plants have been significant sources of carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds (which can cause cancer), and smog. American Electric Power is one of the biggest mercury polluters in the U.S. And as one of the largest practitioners of a mining technique known as “mountaintop removal,” Massey, the fourth-largest coal company in the U.S., is responsible for leveling peaks across the Appalachians and polluting miles of streams with waste from the blasts. And so on.

    And it’s not just the corporations, governments leave chemical weapons, munitions, and highly polluted areas in their wake as well.

    As I said above, even if global warming is false we still need desperately to clean up our act.

  17. Whoops my bad, I thought you were actually reading the links you provided, which was a survey of TV meteorologists.

  18. One problem with bandying about “consensus” is that it can get lost just what that consensus is. The actual reports of the IPCC are milder than what they are commonly taken at second-hand to be. You may recall that mildness was a complaint made by many when the 2007 assessment came out—that the IPCC didn’t go far enough.

  19. SteveP, there are literally hundreds of peer-reviewed articles out there that questions the AGW position. Richard Lindzen from MIT is a prominent skeptic who is respected by both sides. The Wiki link above mentions dozens of other prominent skeptics who are widely published. In addition, I will link to a few peer-reviewed articles that question the AGW “consensus.”

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v316/n6029/abs/316591a0.html

    A 150,000-year climatic record from Antarctic ice
    Abstract: “During much of the Quaternary, the Earth’s climate has undergone drastic changes most notably successive glacial and interglacial episodes. The past 150 kyr includes such a climatic cycle: the last interglacial, the last glacial and the present holocene interglacial. A new climatic-time series for this period has been obtained using delta18 O data from an Antarctic ice core.”

    A Variable Sun Paces Millennial Climate

    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/summary/294/5546/1431b
    Abstract: “Paleoceanographers report that the climate of the northern North Atlantic has warmed and cooled nine times in the past 12,000 years in step with the waxing and waning of the sun. Some researchers say the data make solar variability the leading hypothesis to explain the roughly 1500-year oscillation of climate seen since the last ice age, and that the sun could also add to the greenhouse warming of the next few centuries”

    Possible solar origin of the 1,470-year glacial climate cycle demonstrated in a coupled model

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v438/n7065/abs/nature04121.html
    Abstract: “We conclude that the glacial 1,470-year climate cycles could have been triggered by solar forcing despite the absence of a 1,470-year solar cycle.”

    Widespread evidence of 1500 yr climate variability in North America during the past 14 000 yr

    http://geology.geoscienceworld.org/cgi/content/abstract/30/5/455
    Abstract: “Times of major transitions identified in pollen records occurred at 600, 1650, 2850, 4030, 6700, 8100, 10 190, 12 900, and 13 800 cal yr B.P., consistent with ice and marine records. We suggest that North Atlantic millennial-scale climate variability is associated with rearrangements of the atmospheric circulation with far-reaching influences on the climate.”

    Influence of Solar Activity on State of Wheat Market in Medieval England
    http://xxx.lanl.gov/abs/astro-ph/0312244v1
    Abstract: “The database of Prof. Rogers (1887), which includes wheat prices in England in the Middle Ages, was used to search for a possible influence of solar activity on the wheat market. We present a conceptual model of possible modes for sensitivity of wheat prices to weather conditions, caused by solar cycle variations, and compare expected price fluctuations with price variations recorded in medieval England.

    We compared statistical properties of the intervals between wheat price bursts during years 1249-1703 with statistical properties of the intervals between minimums of solar cycles during years 1700-2000. We show that statistical properties of these two samples are similar, both for characteristics of the distributions and for histograms of the distributions. We analyze a direct link between wheat prices and solar activity in the 17th Century, for which wheat prices and solar activity data (derived from 10Be isotope) are available. We show that for all 10 time moments of the solar activity minimums the observed prices were higher than prices for the correspondent time moments of maximal solar activity (100% sign correlation, on a significance level < 0.2%). We consider these results as a direct evidence of the causal connection between wheat prices bursts and solar activity.”

    Climate Models

    Progress in Physical Geography 27,3 (2003) pp. 448–455
    Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
    http://www.cfa.harvard.edu/~wsoon/myownPapers-d/Aug27-PIPGreview2003.pdf
    Abstract: Climate models are now being used extensively to diagnose the causative, especially anthropogenic, factors of observed climatic changes of the past few decades (Palmer, 2001; Stott ., 2001; Thorne ., 2002). These models are also used to make long-term climate projections and climate risk assessments based on future anthropogenic forcing scenarios (Saunders, 1999; Palmer, 2001; Houghton ., 2001; Pittock, 2002; Schneider, et al S.H., 2002). Many such exercises help to shape public policy recommendations concerning future energy use and various ‘climate protection’ measures in order to prevent ‘dangerous climate impacts’ (e.g., Schneider, S.H., 2002; O’Neill and Oppenheimer, 2002). But meaningful and credible scientific confidence, resting either on the traditional deterministic method of quantification or the probabilistic mode of measuring change (as favoured by, for example, Washington, 2000; Räisänen and Palmer, 2001; Schneider, S.H., 2002) cannot yet be made to such computer experiments because climate models do not yield sufficiently reliable, quantitative results in reproducing well-documented climatic changes around the world. (This work was supported by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research grant AF 49620-02-1-0194 and by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration grant NAG5-7635.)

    Effects of bias in solar radiative transfer codes on global climate model simulations
    Albert Arking – Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
    http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2005/2005GL023644.shtml
    Abstract: Codes commonly used in climate and weather prediction models for calculating the transfer of solar radiation in the atmosphere show systematic differences amongst each other, and even the best of codes show systematic differences with respect to observations. A 1-dimensional radiative-convective equilibrium model is used to show the effects of such bias on the global energy balance and on the global response to a doubling of CO2. We find the main impact is in the energy exchange terms between the surface and atmosphere and in the convective transport in the lower troposphere, where it exceeds 10 W m-2. The impact on model response to doubling of CO2, on the other hand, is quite small and in most cases negligible.

    Anthropogenic:

    Implications of the Secondary Role of Carbon Dioxide and Methane Forcing in Climate Change: Past, Present, and Future
    http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/bell/pgeo/2007/00000028/00000002/art00001
    Abstract: “A review of the recent refereed literature fails to confirm quantitatively that carbon dioxide (CO2) radiative forcing was the prime mover in the changes in temperature, ice-sheet volume, and related climatic variables in the glacial and interglacial episodes of the past 650,000 years, even under the “fast-response” framework where the convenient if artificial distinction between forcing and feedback is assumed. Atmospheric CO2 variations generally follow changes in temperature and other climatic variables rather than preceding them.”

    On global forces of nature driving the Earth’s climate. Are humans involved?
    http://www.springerlink.com/content/t341350850360302/
    Abstract: “The authors identify and describe the following global forces of nature driving the Earth’s climate: (1) solar radiation as a dominant external energy supplier to the Earth, (2) outgassing as a major supplier of gases to the World Ocean and the atmosphere, and, possibly, (3) microbial activities generating and consuming atmospheric gases at the interface of lithosphere and atmosphere. The writers provide quantitative estimates of the scope and extent of their corresponding effects on the Earth’s climate. Quantitative comparison of the scope and extent of the forces of nature and anthropogenic influences on the Earth’s climate is especially important at the time of broad-scale public debates on current global warming. The writers show that the human-induced climatic changes are negligible.”

    The Continuing Search for an Anthropogenic Climate Change Signal: Limitations of Correlation-Based Approaches
    http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/1997/97GL02207.shtml
    Abstract: “Several recent studies claim to have found evidence of large-scale climate changes that were attributed to human influences. These assertions are based on increases in correlation over time between general circulation model prognostications and observations as derived from a centred pattern correlation statistic. We argue that the results of such studies are inappropriate because of limitations and biases in these statistics which leads us to conclude that the results of many studies employing these statistics may be erroneous and, in fact, show little evidence of a human fingerprint in the observed records.”

    Falsification Of The Atmospheric CO2 Greenhouse Effects Within The Frame Of Physics
    http://xxx.lanl.gov/abs/0707.1161
    Abstract: The atmospheric greenhouse effect, an idea that authors trace back to the traditional works of Fourier 1824, Tyndall 1861, and Arrhenius 1896, and which is still supported in global climatology, essentially describes a fictitious mechanism, in which a planetary atmosphere acts as a heat pump driven by an environment that is radiatively interacting with but radiatively equilibrated to the atmospheric system. According to the second law of thermodynamics such a planetary machine can never exist. Nevertheless, in almost all texts of global climatology and in a widespread secondary literature it is taken for granted that such mechanism is real and stands on a firm scientific foundation. In this paper the popular conjecture is analyzed and the underlying physical principles are clarified. By showing that (a) there are no common physical laws between the warming phenomenon in glass houses and the fictitious atmospheric greenhouse effects, (b) there are no calculations to determine an average surface temperature of a planet, (c) the frequently mentioned difference of 33 degrees Celsius is a meaningless number calculated wrongly, (d) the formulas of cavity radiation are used inappropriately, (e) the assumption of a radiative balance is unphysical, (f) thermal conductivity and friction must not be set to zero, the atmospheric greenhouse conjecture is falsified.
    Quote:
    Global climatologists claim that the Earth’s natural greenhouse effect keeps the Earth 33C warmer than it would be without the trace gases in the atmosphere. 80 percent of this warming is attributed to water vapor and 20 percent to the 0.03 volume percent CO2. If such an extreme effect existed, it would show up even in a laboratory experiment involving concentrated CO2 as a thermal conductivity anomaly. It would be manifest itself as a new kind of `superinsulation’ violating the conventional heat conduction equation. However, for CO2 such anomalous heat transport properties never have been observed

  20. As an additional point, I would like to address the whole issue of “peer review” when it comes to climate science.

    One of the first important points to realize is that there are not that many sources of worldwide climate data. Two of the most important sources are the Climate Research Unit (CRU) and the NASA/GISS data. Both of these units were at the forefront of the climategate scandal that broke seven or so months ago. What did the scandal uncover and why was it important?

    First, that the data was manipulated for political purposes to show an exaggerated increase in global temperatures.

    Bruce, you should take some time to read about the hockey stick scandal.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hockey_stick_controversy

    It was this scandal that led to climategate in the first place. The reality is that the climate scientists who control most of the data are a rather tight group. You will notice my link in #16 above that there is a cabal of climate scientists (a few dozen) who control the climate data and are cited by the IPCC.

    What happened with the hockey stick controversy is that Steve McIntyre asked for the source code from the CRU and NASA/GISS on which they had based the hockey stick graph. Michael Mann from NASA and Phil Jones from CRU refused to release it. McIntyre filed a freedom of information (FOI) request to get the information.

    In the meantime, Mann was forced to admit that his original hockey stick graph had significant errors and that the projected increase in global temperatures was exaggerated.

    This same small group of climate scientists, who control the data involved, also worked behind the scenes to pressure science journals not to print articles critical of the AGW view. Again, the many e-mails involved in climategate prove that this happened. Phil Jones from the CRU was forced to admit at one point that he had “lost” a large percentage of the data that he claimed proves AGW. He later also admitted that he had exaggerated the concerns about global warming and that there has not been any significant increase in global temperatures in 15 years. He also said (remember, this was after the climategate scandal broke) that global warming was significantly worse during the Medieval Warm Period.

    http://www.redstateupdate.com/forum/topics/phil-jones-admits-no-global

    So, when we discuss peer review in climate science it is important to remember a few important facts:

    1)A small group controls the climate data and has refused to release the source code in the past.
    2)This same group has worked actively to prevent articles that question their veiwpoints from being published.
    3)When the data was finally released in dribs and drabs it was proven to be incorrect.
    4)When actually confronted with the data after the climategate scandal broke, one of the primary proponents of the AGW theory admitted there has been no significant warming in the last 15 years and that the MWP was warmer than now.

    This, my friends, is our great scientific consensus on global warming.

    If this sounds like a “secret combination” to you, you are not alone. Jones has been reprimanded for his actions, by the way.

  21. I’m just curious. What do you think about this website and the scientists that are listed that state that “[t]here is no scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing, or will in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth.” There is only 31,487 scientists that have signed this petition.

    Here is the website:
    http://www.petitionproject.org/

    Just curious…

  22. James:

    I admit that it’s more complicated than my simple statement.

    I am skeptical that Congress can force companies to absorb costs without passing them on to consumers on some way. The reason for their existence is to make money. Compliance with government regulations goes on the cost side of the equation. If the books don’t balance then prices go up.

    I realize that legislators don’t want their constituents to be mad at them for causing prices to go up. But what proportion of voters is alert, aware and intelligent enough to be able to connect the dots between an anti-pollution law and the prices of products? And if they do connect the dots, I think they are for more likely to blame the greedy corporation for the price-rise than the do-gooder lawmakers.

    Oil prices go up for legitimate reasons all the time, but people simply don’t believe that prices are not going up out of pure greed, even when they later go down just as fast as they went up.

    Finally, I don’t believe in the almighty dollar canard. You would have people believe that heads of corporations are all greedy and wicked. But evil people generally are not reliable people. You never know what they are going to do. Yet, to get a highly responsible job in a large corporation, you have to have a reputation for being reliable and trustworthy. This is not to say that corporate executives are never evil. There is always a bad apple here and there. But generally, trustworthy and reliable people are not evil people. Those qualities just don’t go together, generally speaking.

    My conclusion is that when a corporation appears to be doing something evil, nine out of ten times it’s a mistake, incompetence of some kind, one hand not knowing what the other is doing, etc. This is often born out when executives are prosecuted for one kind of malfeasance or another, which the media has blown up into some dastardly and wicked plot. For example recently the case against some Oracle executives for alleged backdating of stock certificates was flat-out dismissed by the judge before it even went to trial, with harsh words for the prosecutors for even bringing the case in the first place.

  23. Just after the Civil War, when the 14th Amendment was ratified that provided the ability for African Americans to be given legal citizenship in the country, among many other very good things. However, soon after that amendment was made into law, many corporations (which had been heretofore tightly regulated and restricted) attempted to and succeeded in using the 14th Amendment to declare themselves “persons.” By this and many other legal battles, the corporation continued to build power until today’s multinational behemoths came into being.

    You said, “You would have people believe that heads of corporations are all greedy and wicked.” Not necessarily. I’m sure a few of them are, of course, but I severely doubt that most people would say that this or that CEO is a wicked or evil person. But, that said, they *are* greedy. That is their job: to obtain more money for the owners. And it is there where the trust you mentioned lies. Not with the personal guilt of an individual, but with his or her ability to be trustworthy within the context of their job.

    In other words, it doesn’t matter if the CEO of a corporation is “evil” or not, the actions of the corporation as a separate and complex entity can be, and has been a force for what many could consider to be evil in the world. Specifically in this case: pollution.

    The individuals within a corporation, from the cleaning lady up to the CEO are most likely just as good as you or I. With the same foibles as we have. But because of the way business works in todays world, and how critical it is for a huge business to continue to make money to succeed, those individuals are placed in many positions where they have a choice: either make money for my boss and keep my job, or do the right thing.

    And it’s not even that melodramatic. Knowing personally many people who work for a very large tech company, I can tell you a lot of stories where incompetence, infighting, personal egos, and many more very human errors created a terrible situation within the company time and time again. Now extract this into a multinational corporation run by similar very human beings. It doesn’t need to be the fault of one person, team or business to create the failure of ideals that can cause the horrible pollution we are seeing in the world. It’s the typical, “it’s someone else’s problem.”

    This is what I meant by the corporations do not have a conscience. When a business becomes too large that the personal conscience of the individuals within it are lost, then it becomes a problem.

    Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m decidedly not anti business at all. We need businesses similar to these if we are to maintain our current quality of life, among other things. However, I am very much in favor of *responsible* regulation. Not because all corporate entities are “evil.” But because of the typical bad apple that is always in the basket that will poison the world if they don’t have any restrictions. I use BP as my example of this. With proper regulation of their practices, the disaster in the Gulf would have been prevented. It’s not a guarantee of course, but it’s a heck of a lot better than what we have now where the fox has the key to the henhouse.

  24. “4)When actually confronted with the data after the climategate scandal broke, one of the primary proponents of the AGW theory admitted there has been no significant warming in the last 15 years and that the MWP was warmer than now.”

    With all respect, no. What he actually said is here: BBC interview. An admission that the MWP was warmer than the 20th century does not exist. The most that can be said is that he entertained the idea that further data might show that to be the case.

    The bit about statistically significant warming in 15 years is easy to misunderstand. Statistical significance is essentially an expression of confidence that a measured difference is not due to chance. By convention, scientists usually use 95 or 99%. The usual meaning of the word “significant” does not apply here. In other words, something that is statistically significant is not necessarily important.

    Phil Jones was asked if the warming over the last 15 years was statistically significant. He answered that the warming trend over that period just barely fell short of the 95% statistical significance level. But 95% is not a magical line that divides “warming happened” from “warming didn’t happen,” and it certainly doesn’t change the measurements. It only means that if you look at the trend for ONLY those 15 years, there is a slightly higher possibility (presumably just a few percent) that the trend is a result of chance.

    HOWEVER, he also said that statistically significant trends are more difficult to find in such short time periods and that the warming from 1975 to 2009 is statistically significant (presumably at the 95% level).

    Turning the above into ‘it has not warmed significantly in 15 years’–as a layperson would understand that statement–is simply not correct. Break any trend into small enough chunks, and statistical significance will disappear. The introduction to the interview states that questions from skeptics were included. It seems likely to me that this particular question was designed to exploit confusion about statistical significance.

  25. You’ll have some trouble finding the denier side because the papers are running, quite literally, 1:1000 in favor of AGW

    A thousand or more papers in favor of anthropogenic global warming? That is ridiculous.

    The evidence for anthropogenic global warming is dangerously close to coincidental. There is no real evidence. Just a bunch of shoddy computer models that couldn’t predict their way out of a paper bag.

  26. Jared, I think you make some decent points. Thanks for your input. I would point out that the reason we are even having this conversation in the first place is that Phil Jones and his ilk helped contribute to the exaggerated perception (promoted by “An Inconvenient Truth”) that disaster was imminent in the days ahead without immediate action. What has happened instead is that the world has warmed slightly, not enough for it to be statistically significant. Not quite the story you get from Al Gore, is it?

    I would add that you and SteveP should join together to fight the exaggerations that have caused the climate science movement to lose much of its credibility. As I say above, more people believe in haunted houses than they do in man made global warming. Why is that? Because of the exaggerations. People do not like being told the sky is falling, and when it doesn’t fall (one of the coldest and snowiest winters ever in 2009-2010), they discard the entire story, rather than looking at it more dispassionately. I truly believe you could accomplish a tremendous amount by pointing out the exaggerations and concentrating on the areas of real concern. Instead, what most scientists tend to do is “circle the wagons” against the skeptics, which is exactly what caused climategate in the first place.

    I don’t completely agree with Mark D’s point above, although I join him in his skepticism. There has been a lot of important scientific work done in the last two decades. One small example (and there are hundreds): global warming very likely has contributed to the pine beetle infestation in Colorado that is destroying my beloved pine trees. The beetles are killed by sustained sub-zero temperatures, which used to happen more often but has not happened recently. But again, is the solution a massive carbon tax or cap and trade scheme? No, the solution may be a civilian conservation corps scheme to spray the beetles, or it may be something completely different. But when the solution comes, it should be local and focused specifically on that problem.

  27. I mentioned above the mildness of the actual IPCC “consensus.” Here is the Summary for Policymakers from the 2007 Fourth Assessment Report. On page 8 is “Table SPM.2: Recent trends, assessment of human influence on the trend and projections for extreme weather events for which there is an observed late-20th century trend.” Seven weather phenomena are tabulated with assessments as to 1) likelihood that trend occurred in late 20th century 2) likelihood of human contribution to an observed trend, and 3) likelihood of future trend. Tabulated likelihood levels are “virtually certain,” “very likely”, “likely,” and “more likely than not.”

    For the assessments of likelihood of human contribution to an observed trend, two phenomena were rated likely, and the other five as more likely than not. None were considered very likely or virtually certain to have had a human contribution. If the IPCC couldn’t assess human contribution as very likely, I suppose it is because that’s not a finding that legitimate research supports.

  28. Geoff B, My point was limited to evidence that global warming is caused by human activity, i.e. anthropogenic, the “A” in “AGW”.

    The effects of a small rise in temperature on the pine beetle population has nothing to do with whether the primary cause of the increase is anthropogenic or due to other factors.

    The vast majority of “global warming” research is along similar lines – documenting the existence or effects of warming over the past thirty years. Relatively little has anything to do with causation, and that research is inconclusive at best.

    The proposition that the gradual warming trend over the past three decades is natural in origin is not even remotely close to being falsified.

  29. In the past the Earth was covered with ice right into the 30s in Latitude. It has happened several times to varying degrees. The sun has the biggest influence on the planet’s temperature. But during these ‘snowball’ earth phases the planet was a giant mirror which dramatically reduced the sun’s ability to heat the planet.

    This was a tough situation because left unchecked a snowball Earth would never have evolved humans. So what changed these conditions so we are here today? Who was our buddy way back when? It was the volcanoes. They continued to spew out all kinds of things including CO2 for many 10s of thousands of years increasing the CO2 content of the world to 1000s of ppm. There was no place for the CO2 to go … cold oceans covered by ice absorb CO2 we know that but they could not match the rate of volcanoes over time.

    So it turns out that CO2 was our real buddy back then. Its concentration eventually reached a level where the atmosphere retained enough heat to re-hydrate and start the melting process.

    CO2 was our buddy back then.

    I not too sure whether CO2 is our buddy today.

  30. I think these comments are the perfect example of why most people throw their hands in the air and just choose a side (usually following their political persuasion in my experience). People like Bruce that try to thoughtfully examine both sides are very rare.

    Comment number 2 typifies most of the people I know. A quick comment putting down Al Gore and that’s all that needs to be said on the subject.

  31. Back when I was in graduate school taking courses in convective heat and mass transfer, environmental fluid dynamics, stability theory, dynamics of chaotic systems, etc., and moving forward my research on turbulent flow and vortex dynamics, some public issue regarding evolution made me reflect one day on how glad I was to be engaged in a field that the public didn’t care about.

  32. James:

    You write, ‘But, that said, [corporate executives] *are* greedy. That is their job: to obtain more money for the owners.’

    Doing something for the purpose of making money does not make you greedy. Or if it does, then everyone who has a job is greedy, including climate scientists and employees of environmental organizations.

    As to the rest, my initial comment to you was based on your comment that ‘of course the powerful multinational corporations who don’t want the extra prohibitive costs that would be forced upon them by anti-polution laws.’

    My response to that was that, again, anyone who has to work for a living doesn’t want prohibitive costs forced upon them, including me and you (and climate scientists and employees of environmental organizations). You don’t have to be a huge, impersonal corporation to be averse to prohibitive costs.

    And as far as corporations not having consciences, that may be said of any large group of people acting as a group rather than as individuals. People will do things in groups that they won’t do alone, that’s a fact, and one which applies, again, to groups of scientists and environmentalists as well as anyone else.

    The incentive for a corporation may be the dollar, but everyone has one incentive or another, including scientists and environmentalists. It may also be the dollar in their cases, or it may be political goals, or jobs or pretige, or who knows what. I don’t accept demonizing corporations in particular just because their incentive happens to be making money.

  33. A well researched, intelligent discussion like we are having here is what is needed in Washington instead of the insane extremism we hear from them. It’s nice to know that a civil conversation on AGW can still exist. Thanks for the breath of fresh air. (Pun intended.)

    Geoff B. said, “People do not like being told the sky is falling, and when it doesn’t fall (one of the coldest and snowiest winters ever in 2009-2010), they discard the entire story, rather than looking at it more dispassionately.”

    I’d say that the warming deniers are also guilty of overreaching in their rhetoric about this topic. Neither side is innocent in playing to the emotions of the public to further their belief’s adoption. As and example of this, the extreme Right wing has constantly used Geoff’s example of the recent bizarrely cold winter we just had as a firm proof that AGW is false. But in the scientific process, one small, independent data point can not be used to prove any theory false or true without reference to multiple outside indicators to show that data point’s relationship to the whole process you are studying. In other words, to truly prove any modern scientific theory, you need to look at the “big picture,” the macroscopic view, and how it relates to other processes.

    And so the recent winter we had in the US can not, by itself, prove the validity of either sides’ viewpoints. It could have been a simple anomaly and means nothing, or it could have been (as some theories have shown) another indication of the increasing occurrence of extreme weather effects created by climate change.

    Personally, I haven’t had the time to research for myself which of these two theories in the paragraph above seem more likely. However, my take on the general issue of global warming is pretty simple:

    1) It is a scientific truth that CO2 in the atmosphere does act as a greenhouse gas. And CO2 does have the ability to cause the sun’s radiation to increase and decrease upon the earth based upon it’s concentration in the air. (It’s a lot more complicated than that, CO2 is not the only greenhouse gas in the atmosphere for example. But the basic, simple premise is sound: more CO2 = warmer temperatures.) As co2hound said above, CO2 and volcanoes were our buddy back then.

    2) Some forms of pollution increases the level of CO2 in the atmosphere. Again, this is a provable phenomenon as it has been recorded over and over again that the levels of CO2 near sites that pollute are significantly higher than the surrounding area (eg: smog over most of our big cities) and can reach up to 10 times the background levels. Given that this is true and verifiable, then it is obvious that man is adding a significant amount of of non-naturally produced CO2 into the environment that would normally not be there. The anthropogenic production of CO2 amounts to about 27 billion tonnes per year world-wide. And that is roughly more than 130 times greater amounts of CO2 than the quantity emitted by volcanoes and other natural occurrences during the same time.

    Now I’m all for discussing the *degree* of which the 130 times more unnatural CO2 in the atmosphere is affecting our climate; it might be just a little or it might be significant. I personally don’t know those numbers and I’ve heard a few good theories from both sides, some of which have been discussed above. But it will take some pretty impressive argumentative skills for someone to convince me that man has absolutely *no* impact on climate at all. That just doesn’t make any sense to me. It’s like someone pointing at my pet dog and telling me it’s an elephant.

    But as I’ve said repeatedly above: even if we have a small effect on the climate or even if AGW is proven wrong somehow, it is still critical for the world to stop polluting. If we’re not going to do anything about CO2 because it’s so politicized, then let’s focus on soil or water contamination. Let’s get rid of or significantly reduce the production of hazardous waste. Let’s put some restrictions on the use of chlorinated hydrocarbons and heavy metals. Let’s see if something can be done about ocean’s increasing dead zones caused by nitrogen and phosphorus. And please, let’s get rid of our love affair with fossil fuels which not only has caused pollution, but has completely wrecked the Gulf Coast and (most importantly) caused thousands of innocent lives to be lost in decades of endless war.

  34. Agellius said, “I don’t accept demonizing corporations in particular just because their incentive happens to be making money.”

    Oooh, back to the corporation discussion! :-)

    Believe it or not, we are more in agreement than not. You have some very good points in your post. And so because of that I’m not sure where your disagreement with me is. But I thought I’d use your last statement I copied above to see if I can clarify my position.

    I’m not demonizing corporations just because of the incentive of money. There is a little bit of scorn to be placed upon a corporation who appears to have no interest in the personal wellbeing of either it’s employees or those innocents who are affected by it’s actions. But realize I placed the words “appears to have” in that sentence. It is a blanket statement, and a false one to state that a corporation is “evil” if it is seen to be negatively affecting a group of individuals. Mistakes are made constantly in large businesses, and the larger they are the bigger the mistakes. Also, the negative effects of typical human foibles or uninformed decisions are oftentimes greatly exaggerated by the significant power that a corporation holds. And so no, just because a corporation’s incentive happens to be making money, it is no good reason to demonize them in good conscience.

    However that said, there is another side to the coin. There are unending examples of how those in charge of corporations have made decisions that have negatively affected people because they would otherwise lose money. This is called by economists a negative externality (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Externality). The vast majority of these examples are pretty benign. Things such as not putting enough money or effort into customer service and so increasing the frustration of customers, or the cutting back of the quality of components of their product to save money, and so on. This is done all the time by every company. And while it can be very annoying for those affected, it’s overall a pretty small effect and can be shrugged off.

    But when it comes to the *minority* of large businesses who’s negative externality creates a significant problem for others, we have a big problem. This is the type of “it’s someone else’s problem” style of externalizing a business’s negative effects that creates a great deal of the issues we are facing in the world. Things such as our recent systemic financial collapse in the US, horrible amounts of pollution, vast overfishing, health issues from poor working conditions, among many other things. And, of course, the BP catastrophe.

    BP is the poster child of how negative externality works within a corporation. It’s all over the news how they cut costs by deciding to not install the required safety equipment that would have prevented the explosion and thus the leak. So is BP “evil?” No. Should BP be demonized for being just like every other corporation who’s incentive happens to be money? No. But should BP be castigated and demonized because of their abysmally poor choices? Hell yes! And so should every other corporation that does not internalize their negative effects upon others.

    At the bottom line it comes down to responsibility. Can we afford to let the huge corporations free reign over the responsibility for their action’s effects upon others? I think the BP disaster pretty much answers that rather loud and clear.

  35. James:

    You write, ‘Believe it or not, we are more in agreement than not.’

    Oh yeah! I’m sure we agree on practically everything — except the things we disagree on. ; )

    You write, ‘At the bottom line it comes down to responsibility. Can we afford to let the huge corporations free reign over the responsibility for their action’s effects upon others? I think the BP disaster pretty much answers that rather loud and clear.’

    It seems all you’re saying is that if a person (whehther a natural person or a corporation) causes problems for other persons, then he should be held accountable. But no one disputes that.

    Regarding externalities, again I would say that they are not limited to corporations. Any group can cause negative externalities.

    In my opinion the Democratic Party is responsible for huge numbers of negative externalities, consequences of ill-considered policies of which average people are involuntarily forced to bear the brunt, whether financially or otherwise. The increase in my California state income taxes last year springs to mind: An increase per se was neither legislated nor approved by the voters, yet was ushered in through the back door nevertheless (which I didn’t find out until I calculated my tax return), in order to stanch the State’s financial losses due to its having overburdened itself with various obligations while cash was plentiful, yet refused to unburden itself when cash became scarce.

    And sure, the Republican Party no doubt has caused a lot of negative externalities as well. I also think the ACLU is guilty of plenty of them, as well as the Sierra Club, the American Trial Lawyers Association, and any number of other non-profit groups.

    Again I object to your placing corporations in a special class of offenders, apparently on the sole basis that they exist for the purpose of making money — or as I prefer to refer to it, earning a living for their shareholders and employees.

  36. Geoff’s links : First link from 1985 yes there was not consensus yet.

    Line from paper in second link: “The sun could also add to the greenhouse warming of the next few centuries.” This just shows sun was involved does not change the consensus.

    How is the third relevant? It explains abrupt changes but says nothing about current conditions? It’s irrelevant.

    Line from fourth: “his exercise can lead to a better understanding of scale interactions within the climate system with implications for global warming scenarios due to human-induced CO2 greenhouse gas forcing.” They are part of the consensus.

    OK I’m burned out. I’ve got to go home. Typical denier tactics. Articles which upon closer examination don’t say what they are propertied to say.

  37. Agellius said, “Again I object to your placing corporations in a special class of offenders, apparently on the sole basis that they exist for the purpose of making money — or as I prefer to refer to it, earning a living for their shareholders and employees.”

    I thought I made it clear, but I guess not. Please let me try again: I am not placing corporations in a special class of offenders based *solely* upon the fact that they are in the business of making money. I may have given that impression, true. And for that I apologize if there is a need, but that is not what I was attempting to say at all.

    Money is the primary driver for the excesses of corporations (and is the reason I mentioned the “almighty dollar” quip above). But the fact that a corporation is “earning a living for their shareholders and employees” or that it “exist for the purpose of making money” does not mean that it is also creating a disaster for someone else. A corporation that does responsibly internalize their negative externalities is also earning a living for their shareholders and employees; it is also in the business of making money. There is no direct correlation between the two, and if I gave the impression that I thought there was, I apologize.

    My focus was not to demonize *every* corporation. It was to instead say that there will always be corporations (and others such as in the list you mentioned above) that harm others with no regard to their plight. And that the main motivator for these actions is the acquisition of money and/or power.

    And so, unless I am completely misunderstanding you, I do still think we are in agreement here.

    What I *do* think we strongly disagree on is my opinion that when a business becomes too massive to effectively control completely, it becomes more “soulless.” Or in other words, when the multinational behemoths (such as Blackwater, Newmont and Harmony Gold) get so massive that a CEO’s decision to pollute a third world village is already made for him, because to do otherwise would ruin the business, then we have a problem.

  38. James:

    As I said before, if all you are saying is that those who cause problems for others ought to be held accountable; and that this applies equally to individuals, corporations, government agencies, non-profit organizations, and every other kind of organization, then we have no dispute.

    However that is something that has so long been enshrined in law and agreed-upon by virtually everyone, that I’m not sure there’s any point in emphasizing it. Which is one reason I thought you were singling out corporations as a special kind of offender, i.e. that there is something particularly heinous about committing offenses while in the process of making money (as opposed to committing them while pursuing, for example, an ideological goal).

    If not, then we’re cool.

    You write, ‘What I *do* think we strongly disagree on is my opinion that when a business becomes too massive to effectively control completely, it becomes more “soulless.” Or . . . get so massive that a CEO’s decision to pollute a third world village is already made for him, because to do otherwise would ruin the business, then we have a problem.’

    See, again you bring up a criticism which you think may only be leveled at corporations, which is why I feel you are targeting corporations as being a particularly bad problem.

    In response, I would say that there are plenty of individuals and non-profits in our society that are “hard to control completely”, who go around creating massive problems for people and for the culture at large (I won’t fatigue you with a list of names this time). And common people like myself feel we can do nothing about them.

    Personally I feel like a corporation is a more manageable entity for the public at large, because they depend on public goodwill in order to make money, and therefore cannot afford to be reckless. This doesn’t mean they won’t screw up, but it means they generally try like the dickens not to screw up in ways that are going to outrage the public.

  39. This has been a great discussion. It’s laughable that I’m the one making these posts since you all obviously know tons more than me on the subject.

    I think James and co2hound have come the closest to my own point of view so far. (At least in so far as co2 emissions are concerned.)

  40. Here’s a quote from a new paper by Mike Hulme and Martin Mahony:

    “Claims such as ‘2,500 of the world’s leading scientists have reached a consensus that human activities are having a significant influence on the climate’ are disingenuous. That particular consensus judgement, as are many others in the IPCC reports, is reached by only a few dozen experts in the specific field of detection
    and attribution studies; other IPCC authors are experts in other fields.”

    Here’s the link to the paper:

    http://mikehulme.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/Hulme-Mahony-PiPG.pdf.

  41. And don’t miss Hulme’s clarifications on that statement:

    “Various newspaper and internet blogs are reporting me as saying that the IPCC has ‘misled the press and public into believing that thousands of scientists backed its claims on manmade global warming’ whereas in fact only ‘a few dozen experts’ did so….I did not say the ‘IPCC misleads’ anyone – it is claims that are made by other commentators, such as the caricatured claim I offer in the paper, that have the potential to mislead.”

    http://mikehulme.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/Correcting-reports-of-the-PiPG-paper.pdf

    http://mikehulme.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/Further-Clarification-of-my-Remarks.pdf

  42. I’m noticing a disturbing trend here.
    Namely, half the arguments from experts against global warming are taken entirely out of context, and aren’t actually arguments against global warming after all.

    Reminds me a bit of some of the anti-Mormon stuff I’ve read…

  43. From Jared*’s second link:

    I should therefore instead have written in the original PiPG article, “Claims [made by commentators, not the IPCC] such as ‘2,500 of the world’s leading scientists agree that most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid 20th century is very likely [greater than 90% likelihood based on expert judgement] due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations’ are disingenuous”.

    Do you concur with the revised statement Jared* and SteveP? And to make sure there is no suggestion of unwarranted assumptions about Hulme, “And for the record … I believe that the warming of the climate system is unequivocal and that most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid 20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.”

  44. Boy I hate your software. When the number of comments goes over 50 couldn’t the next set begin with comment 51 and not 1?

  45. Agellius said,

    See, again you bring up a criticism which you think may only be leveled at corporations, which is why I feel you are targeting corporations as being a particularly bad problem.

    I obviously am not communicating this very well, and for that I apologize. If you’ll bear with me, I’d like to try once again to see if I can clarify what I’m attempting to say. I’m probably not explaining myself clearly because I’m attempting to be too inclusive in my description. And so it will most likely benefit us both if I try to distill my opinion down to the bare essence. So basically it is this:

    You said, “if all you are saying is that those who cause problems for others ought to be held accountable and that this applies equally to individuals, corporations, government agencies, non-profit organizations, and every other kind of organization, then we have no dispute.”

    I agree with this. But with one difference where I see that huge corporations do not completely fall within this description.

    That difference is the size and power of the enormous multinational corporations. A number of them essentially have the power and influence of a small country. But such a behemoth does not have the same inherent restrictions upon it’s power that a sovereign nation does.

    And so my complaint isn’t about corporations specifically. There’s nothing wrong with the idea of a corporation in and of itself. My complaint instead is about the power of the massive multi-national corporations. Here’s a few reasons why:

    Media outlets are heavily influenced by various very powerful corporate interests. And more directly, the ownership interests may affect what is and is not covered (eg: Fox News and CNBC, among many others). Stories are constantly being biased or omitted so as not to offend advertisers or owners. The ability for citizens to make informed decisions is unquestionably crucial for a free and functioning democracy, but the concentration of ownership by these powerful conglomerations radically skews the information the public receives. That kind of grip on commercial and political power is potentially dangerous for any democracy. You can’t have a true democracy when the people are force fed a filtered, one-sided view of events. There’s a reason the founding fathers called for a free press.

    There is a massive loss of tax revenue throughout the world. Estimates say that $255 billion or more is lost each year to governments around the world because of the no or low taxation of funds in offshore centers. Every multi-national corporation does this, as do quite a few extremely wealthy individuals because it affects their bottom line. However, consider how quickly the American deficit could be erased if every huge corporation would simply pay a reasonable tax like everyone else. Consider what benefit that would be to our rapidly crumbling infrastructure. This is an example of how a massive corporation has the power to heavily influence entire nations to allow them to keep the key to the henhouse. The rich get richer and the poor are ignored, as is typical. The major casualty of the tax avoidance industry are ordinary people, who are forced to pay higher taxes while corporations and the rich avoid theirs. But the difference and the catastrophe is that now it is on a world wide scale. And it is crippling the poorest nations who have no defense against it. In addition to this, the ability of multi-national corporations to take advantage of tax havens heavily distorts national markets. It gives them an unprecedented edge over nationally based competitors, which has nothing to do with the inherent quality or price of the goods and services they are selling. This undermines the basic notion of capitalism. A good example of this is Wal-Mart and how it has pretty much erased it’s competition throughout the world.

    Powerful pharmaceutical corporations have turned the health of the world into a monopoly. They are using the world trade organization’s rules for their own ends to control pricing, forcing other countries to stop researching competing drugs and ensuring there is a dependency upon only their products. The cheapest generic versions of new patented drugs are being blocked from developing-country markets by the U.S. and Europe at the urging of the drug companies that benefit from the monopoly position that patents confer, thus inflating prices hundreds of percent over cost at the expense, again, of the poorest countries of the world. To make this clear: a company is forcing entire nations to follow it’s orders.

    There’s much more such as massive human right’s violations, environmental disasters and so on. But in essence, the political power that is held by a small number of people impacts the planet significantly, and a few of these corporations make up some of the most influential sources of political and economic power in the world. We are witnessing a form of massive global political transmutation into extremely powerful non-governmental entities who wield an unprecedented amount of power not seen before in history.

    That said, I’m not a doomsayer. There’s been some reasonable efforts by many governments to reign in some of this power. For example, a federal appeals panel ruled in 2002 that these giants can be held liable in U.S. courts for aiding and abetting human rights violations committed by others abroad. Unfortunately this is a slow process.

    But anyway, it is this reason that I am in favor of reasonable laws limiting corporate power and influence. Unfortunately the recent Supreme Court decision to give corporations “personhood” doesn’t help mattes.

  46. Make that:

    Unfortunately the recent Supreme Court decision to give corporations “personhood” doesn’t help matters. Stupid typos… :-)

  47. James:

    I understand that it’s not the idea of a corporation per se that you have a problem with. If I may presume to boil it down to a nutshell, what you object to is people causing problems and getting away with it.

    Specifically, you think the size and wealth of certain corporations (though you don’t specify which, with the exception of Wal-Mart) enables them to do things that you think are wrong, such as avoid taxes. Therefore … What? You want to have a legal limit on how large a corporation can be? How much money it can make? Here’s where it gets fuzzy to me.

    Other than that, you spend a lot of time painting with a very broad brush concerning a lot of bad things that corporations allegedly do, things that I can’t argue about because I don’t know what specific things which specific corporations are alleged to have been doing too much of. I don’t even know if you have specific instances in mind, or are merely imagining the possibilities.

    You write, ‘A good example of this is Wal-Mart and how it has pretty much erased it’s competition throughout the world.’ They’re still working on erasing Target and Kmart, eh? : )

    I agree that news outlets are influenced by their owners and advertisers. What’s your solution? Have the government control the news? There’s a comforting thought… Personally I think the Internet is a good start at solving that problem.

    Regarding tax havens and shelters: Frankly I find it difficult to get upset over the thought of governments, particularly our government, not being able to get their hands on enough tax money. I would be more disturbed if there were no place in the world where people could hide money from the government.

    As far as tax deductions, it must be born in mind that they are implemented for the purpose of encouraging certain behaviors and discouraging others. For example deductions encourage charitable giving, not to mention investments in certain geographic areas, certain kinds of technologies, etc. It’s unfair to say to a company, “Hey! If you contract with minority-owned firms, we’ll give you a tax deduction!”, then later complain that the company took the deduction and thereby paid lower taxes than it would have otherwise.

    Besides which, what I think you are forgetting once again, is that when corporations pay taxes, ultimately those taxes are paid not by some impersonal behemoth, but by, yes that’s right, you and I. If a corporation’s tax burden is increased by 10%, the corporation’s costs have increased by 10%. In order to recover that cost, it will have to raise the prices it charges consumers. If it can’t raise those prices, then it will have to cut expenses, and there’s a fairly good chance that would mean cutting jobs. If jobs are cut then tax revenue is lost, since someone who previously was working to earn a salary on which he paid taxes, may now become a net drain on the government by collecting unemployment benefits.

    Further, if the company recovers the 10% in increased tax burden by raising consumer prices, the consumer ends up paying triple taxes at least: He pays tax on the income he earns; he pays sales tax on the things he buys; and he pays the corporation’s 10% increased tax burden through higher prices.

    Finally, I think it’s worth reflecting on what the word “corporation” means: It means a group of people joining together to act as one. So “corporate profits” doesn’t mean “the profits earned and hoarded by an impersonal entity”, it means the money made by people who have decided to join themselves to a group by investing in the group through the purchase of stock. And contrary to popular belief, those people are not always rich. I personally have made thousands of dollars by having money set aside in a retirement plan, through which it is invested in, you guessed it, corporations.

    So corporate profits ultimately are individual profits. It may be that your actual problem is with rich individuals, but I’m not sure about that. If you do have a problem with rich people, then again, you will have a hard time gaining sympathy from me. I’m not rich (ho, ho! indeed not), but I think being rich is a wonderful thing for those who can manage it — aside from the fact that they might have trouble fitting through that ol’ needle’s eye.

    Oh, and you write, ‘We are witnessing a form of massive global political transmutation into extremely powerful non-governmental entities who wield an unprecedented amount of power not seen before in history.’

    Rich, non-governmental entities wielding power over governments and governmental policies? Unprecedented!! I assure you I am shocked, perfectly SHOCKED at the prospect. ; )

  48. Jared,

    If you read Hulme’s paper you’ll see that he *does* have a beef with how the IPCC is structured and how that makes it difficult to determine what the true consensus is on certain aspects of the debate. Now he may be covering his tracks in order to be sure that his readers understand that no one is *intending* to mislead — that there’s nothing unethical going on. But he does have some serious objections to how the IPCC is run. And most of his dismay boils down to the natural sciences not giving enough voice to the “softer” sciences — his expertise primarily having to do with geography.

  49. Agellius said,

    Rich, non-governmental entities wielding power over governments and governmental policies? Unprecedented!! I assure you I am shocked, perfectly SHOCKED at the prospect. ; )

    Well there’s no need to get snippy about it. :-)

    He also said,

    Regarding tax havens and shelters: Frankly I find it difficult to get upset over the thought of governments, particularly our government, not being able to get their hands on enough tax money.

    Ok, well there’s two things we disagree on then. As long as it is a fair tax on all, rich and poor, I see no problem.

    And he said,

    I may presume to boil it down to a nutshell, what you object to is people causing problems and getting away with it.

    Nope. That’s not it at all. It is instead the unprecedented amount of power that is held by a non-governmental agency. And specifically the amount of control and influence such businesses have over the world’s nations. Any business that does not have such a vast dominance over the populace, I have no problem with (if they are not polluting, etc.).

  50. James:

    You write, ‘[quoting me] “Regarding tax havens and shelters: Frankly I find it difficult to get upset over the thought of governments, particularly our government, not being able to get their hands on enough tax money.” Ok, well there’s two things we disagree on then. As long as it is a fair tax on all, rich and poor, I see no problem.’

    I didn’t say I have a problem with taxes. I just don’t think government suffers from a shortage of tax revenue. On the contrary I think it has way more than it needs in order to do the jobs that it should be doing.

    You write, ‘It is instead the unprecedented amount of power that is held by a non-governmental agency. And specifically the amount of control and influence such businesses have over the world’s nations.’

    The fact that something is unprecedented can hardly be a reason for opposing it. I don’t suppose you would have a problem with unprecedented prosperity, would you? (Which, coincidentally, is just what people have been enjoying since the rise of corporations. Hmmm….)

    Any business that does not have such a vast dominance over the populace, I have no problem with (if they are not polluting, etc.).’

    If you want to talk about huge, powerful organizations having control over our lives, I’m just as concerned about government in that regard as corporations. At least a corporation only takes my money in return for some good or service that I want. Government takes it against my will, often in order to do things with it that I find abhorrent.

  51. Pingback: CO2 and Global Warming Debate | Junior Ganymede

  52. Jack,

    I skimmed the document and I’m not really seeing where Hulme has problems with the IPCC. It seems much more descriptive of how different people have looked at different issues. I’m not so much disagreeing with you as saying that it doesn’t seem like an inflammatory document to me. It seems pretty straightforward and ho-hum.

    BTW, I had no idea that geography of science was a field of study.

  53. re:#4 (page 2)
    John,

    I’m not going to pretend like I’m an authority on the IPCC, but the statement seems fine to me.

    I have a copy of Fields Virology, which is one of the leading reference books on viruses. Each chapter, written by a different person (or persons) who are prominent in their field, reviews the literature pertinent to the subject of that chapter. Hundreds of references are cited in each chapter. Obviously not every author of every chapter is an expert on the material of every other chapter, nor are the editors. And I’m sure that if you sought out the opinions of all the researchers working on, say, HIV, you would find points of disagreement with what was written. But just as it would be silly to attribute the chapter on HIV to all the authors, it would also be silly to dismiss the chapter on HIV as one person’s opinion. Yes, it was authored by one person, but it is based on the literature of the field, and the continued success of the book depends on people’s confidence in its quality of representing the field.

    It may not be sophisticated, but I view the IPCC similarly–and it’s worth pointing out that some of the scientists criticizing the IPCC think it was too conservative.

    But we’re beyond the 2007 IPCC assessment anyway. The National Research Council of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences has issued a recent report–America’s Climate Choices which includes data generated since the last IPCC report. And while I haven’t had a chance to review it closely, I don’t see any sign that the NAS thinks the IPCC report represented the science poorly. To wit:

    “A strong, credible body of scientific evidence shows that climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for a broad range of human and natural systems”

  54. I didn’t say I have a problem with taxes. I just don’t think government suffers from a shortage of tax revenue. On the contrary I think it has way more than it needs in order to do the jobs that it should be doing.

    I’ll wholeheartedly agree that our tax money should be much better spent than it is now. There’s a vast amount of our money going to waste, or to line politician’s pockets or a myriad of other “special interests.” That should be stopped or significantly reduced if possible. And it’s entirely feasible that if we significantly reduce waste in government, the current tax funds will be sufficient. But as it stands now, our country is falling apart; I mean specifically our infrastructure. (http://tinyurl.com/ye6y8d9) This is money that must be paid to continue our way of life, and not even close to enough money is being spent on it. And it’s heartbreaking to me that the greatest country in the world is letting such a basic need of it’s people fall apart.

    Now is the reason for that is lack of funds from taxes or lack of will from congress? I personally don’t know; probably both. But I do know that if those who are rich would pay their fair share of taxes like the rest of us, it wouldn’t be quite the mess it is. I’m just talking about a fair share, not some overburdening or crippling amount of money that would put all companies out of business. I’m not holding my breath for this though. :-)

    The fact that something is unprecedented can hardly be a reason for opposing it. I don’t suppose you would have a problem with unprecedented prosperity, would you? (Which, coincidentally, is just what people have been enjoying since the rise of corporations. Hmmm….)

    Nope. I’ve no problem with unprecedented prosperity. I’d love to have some unprecedented prosperity myself. :-) The fact that the immense power that multi-national corporations now hold is unprecedented is not even close to the reason I’m voicing my opinion against them.

    If you want to talk about huge, powerful organizations having control over our lives, I’m just as concerned about government in that regard as corporations. At least a corporation only takes my money in return for some good or service that I want. Government takes it against my will, often in order to do things with it that I find abhorrent.

    Just because my opinion that huge multi-national corporations is a terrible problem for the world doesn’t mean that I think that government is all posies and peonies. Yeah I’ll definitely agree there’s a great amount of monstrous things that every government in the world does every day to innocent people and the environment, and I personally oppose their actions just as strongly. And it is often the case that the huge corporations and world governments work hand-in-hand to cause most of the horrifying “negative externalities” in the world I mentioned previously. So yeah, government doesn’t get a free ride from me.

    As an aside, I’m curious what exactly is it that government is taking against your will?

  55. Other than that, you spend a lot of time painting with a very broad brush concerning a lot of bad things that corporations allegedly do, things that I can’t argue about because I don’t know what specific things which specific corporations are alleged to have been doing too much of. I don’t even know if you have specific instances in mind, or are merely imagining the possibilities.

    I didn’t include the specifics of what I was talking about in order to more clearly illustrate my opinions. However, since you called me out on it:

    A list of companies by revenue: ://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_companies_by_revenue

    Royal Dutch Shell: http://wiwavshell.org/, http://tinyurl.com/2dkw5gs (PDF file), http://tinyurl.com/2fydupu, http://tinyurl.com/299qj7c, http://tinyurl.com/29a2n42, http://tinyurl.com/2fmng42, http://tinyurl.com/2amlw2r, http://tinyurl.com/23txtf6, http://tinyurl.com/25slf67, http://tinyurl.com/2arzcxf, http://tinyurl.com/269dzx4, http://tinyurl.com/2wmffq4, http://tinyurl.com/2fxdtxp, http://tinyurl.com/22mqznn, and so on.

    Exxon Mobil: http://tinyurl.com/yzatst9, http://tinyurl.com/22qhlsk (PDF file), http://tinyurl.com/25a2ea9, http://tinyurl.com/2d7v66j, among many others. And for a link more suited to the original post about global warming: http://tinyurl.com/v8u2d

    But it’s not the ones at the top of the revenue list who are the worst offenders: http://tinyurl.com/2eto348 (PDF file), http://tinyurl.com/2fwqfk6, http://tinyurl.com/2cdwftd, http://tinyurl.com/22s84zm, http://tinyurl.com/2dzjqlh, http://tinyurl.com/8e64r5, http://tinyurl.com/9hyfly, http://tinyurl.com/2brncbu, http://tinyurl.com/2emheuh, http://tinyurl.com/2b3r3zk and so on.

    You did call me out… :-)

  56. James:

    You write, ‘Now is the reason for that is lack of funds from taxes or lack of will from congress? I personally don’t know; probably both. But I do know that if those who are rich would pay their fair share of taxes like the rest of us, it wouldn’t be quite the mess it is.’

    I think you’re overly optimistic. If corporations were paying more than they are paying, then the “more” would be spent, and overspent, just like the rest of our taxes have been. For example when California was flush with cash during the housing boom, some people suggested putting aside money in a rainy day fund. Did that happen? Don’t make me laugh. Instead they spent it like drunken sailors, and now we’re up the proverbial creek whose name begins with S.

    The more you give them, the more they’ll spend, it’s that simple. If they didn’t already have something they wanted to spend it on, they will find something that they think will buy them some more votes and spend it on that. I say give them as little as possible. Which is what I consider one silver lining of the recession: State and local governments are having to cut spending to the bare minimum. These are the times when you have to decide what really is government’s responsibility and what isn’t.

    You write, ‘I’ve no problem with unprecedented prosperity. I’d love to have some unprecedented prosperity myself.’

    You are enjoying unprecedented prosperity. Maybe not unprecedented in the context of your lifetime, but in the context of human history without a doubt.

    You write, ‘As an aside, I’m curious what exactly is it that government is taking against your will?’

    Are you kidding?? Money! Now I’m not saying that if taxes were put up for a vote, I would vote for no taxes at all. But I would vote for a helluva lot less than, for example, $600 a month in real estate taxes for a family of modest means such as my own. And a sales tax of a lot less than 10% (if any), which is what we pay now in the county where I live.

  57. I think you’re overly optimistic. If corporations were paying more than they are paying, then the “more” would be spent, and overspent, just like the rest of our taxes have been.

    Yeah, unfortunately you’re probably right about that; I am being too optimistic. And unfortunately at the moment the government is so paralyzed by partisanship that nothing constructive can be done about this.

    But nonetheless, there are still other problems with the abuse of hiding taxes by corporations. Outside of the US there is the very common practice of large corporations building a plant in a third world country, not paying any (or an extreme fraction of) taxes to that country, paying abysmally poor wages to the local populace, and then leaving them in the lurch once the country wises up to what they are doing. Thus making matters much worse for that country than before they showed up. If you want I can find some URLs for this too.

    So the government is taking your money against your will, huh? I didn’t realize I was talking to an extremist.

  58. Jared,

    Saying that Hulme has a “beef” with the IPCC was my own hyperbole — probably a little too strong. I think it’s evident though that he’s hoping for some improvement — especially with what he sees as interdisciplinary problems.

    Re: Geography of Science–

    I don’t know either. But as his conclusion ends thus (see below) it’s plain that he’s talking about geography generally and winding up his thoughts with a challenge — that the two major divisions of geography (the physical and the human) need to work together (thus concluding with the major theme of his paper: “harder” and “softer” sciences working better together in the IPCC).

    “Revealing the local and situated characteristics of climate change knowledge thus becomes central for understanding both the acceptance and resistance that is shown towards the knowledge claims of the IPCC. It is a task for physical and human geographers to take seriously, and to do together.”

  59. James:

    I really wasn’t “calling you out”. Of course I understand why you didn’t include all the details. I was just telling you why I could not argue against the points you were making.

    And I’m still not going to because I don’t feel like reading all those links. But if you want to pick out one case and argue about that, I’m game. But if so, maybe we should take it to private email. We have long been off the topic of the thread. If so I’m at agellius 1 at g-mail dot com

  60. James:

    You write, ‘So the government is taking your money against your will, huh? I didn’t realize I was talking to an extremist.’

    So anyone who believes he is being overtaxed is an extremist, huh? I didn’t realize I was talking to a pro-tax extremist either. : P

  61. Agellius wrote,

    But if you want to pick out one case and argue about that, I’m game. But if so, maybe we should take it to private email.

    I appreciate the invitation, and I’m interested in continuing the conversation as I think it’s been a good one. But it is probably wise to move on, I think. I would suggest that you read at least one or two of the links I posted however. Specifically those under the “worst offenders” paragraph.

    He also typed,

    So anyone who believes he is being overtaxed is an extremist, huh? I didn’t realize I was talking to a pro-tax extremist either. : P

    I guess I must have misunderstood your position. It is a big difference between thinking you are overtaxed and saying the government is taking taxes against your will. I’ll agree with the former. The poor and middle class are overtaxed while the rich are under taxed. But then that’s the way it’s always been.

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