Monday, August 29, 2011

"Republicans Against Science": the silly season opens

A new Krugman editorial has some eye-popping figures:

According to Public Policy Polling, only 21 percent of Republican voters in Iowa believe in global warming (and only 35 percent believe in evolution). Within the G.O.P., willful ignorance has become a litmus test for candidates.

I'm sure it's the fault of poor science communication in both cases. Get you to your public speaking courses, evolutionary biologists!

Come to think, though, you don't read a lot about the failures of evolutionary biologists to win over their critics. Nor do doctors get slammed for failing to convince anti-vaccine activists. Few blame NASA for the persistence of moon landing deniers. Only climate scientists get blamed for failing to persuade the unpersuadable. Funny, that.

Where the mob goes, those that aspire to lead it follow:

Mr. Perry, the governor of Texas, recently made headlines by dismissing evolution as “just a theory,” one that has “got some gaps in it” — an observation that will come as news to the vast majority of biologists. But what really got peoples’ attention was what he said about climate change: “I think there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects. And I think we are seeing almost weekly, or even daily, scientists are coming forward and questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change.”

Do you have to ask what Romney thinks? Put it this way: if elected, Romney has promised to make our national shoe the flip-flop. Despite previous common sense on this issue, Romney is running from science as hard as he is from having helped sick people get medical care:

In the past, Mr. Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts, has strongly endorsed the notion that man-made climate change is a real concern. But, last week, he softened that to a statement that he thinks the world is getting hotter, but “I don’t know that” and “I don’t know if it’s mostly caused by humans.” Moral courage!

This doesn't have to be a negative development, or not entirely. We know that the right is the driving force behind climate denial. As the leading representative of the mainstream right takes up the torch (and pitchfork) of climate denial, we have an opportunity to get this debate into the open, fight this fight, and win it. If -- and this is a big "if" -- if the Democrats chose to stand up for science and make this a real point of differentiation between themselves and the Republicans.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Meanwhile, in other anti-science denier news, vaccines are safe, and Hitler is dead

Yes, the frustrating refusal of climate deniers to acknowledge the massive weight of empirical evidence has its analogues elsewhere . . .

Yet another panel of scientists has found no evidence that a popular vaccine causes autism. But despite the scientists’ best efforts, their report is unlikely to have any impact on the frustrating debate about the safety of these crucial medicines.

“The M.M.R. vaccine doesn’t cause autism, and the evidence is overwhelming that it doesn’t,” Dr. Ellen Wright Clayton, the chairwoman of the panel, assembled by the Institute of Medicine, said in an interview. She was referring to a combination against measles, mumps and rubella that has long been a focus of concern from some parents’ groups.

Denialism exists in many fields:

The foundation of this cognitive glitch is debatable, but in addition to preexisting ideology that is threatened by science, an additional requirement -- or consequence, or both -- of denialism is a paranoid belief in the sinister power of the evil puppetmasters who have semi-successfully suppressed the truth:

Darwinism and the Nazi Race Holocaust
by Jerry Bergman

© 1999 Answers in Genesis
First published in Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal 13(2):101–111, 1999
All Rights Reserved.

Leading Nazis, and early 1900 influential German biologists, revealed in their writings that Darwin’s theory and publications had a major influence upon Nazi race policies.

The addition of a psuedo-scholarly citation in a "Technical Journal" (hey! They must be trustworthy! They have "Technical Journal" right in the title!) points to another phenomenon endemic among deniers: even as they vilify scientists, they seek to impersonate scientists, and ape the forms (though sadly not the substance) of science. They recognize the credibility scientists have, and they alternate between attacking that trust and seeking to exploit it through fraud.

With Rick Perry surging in the polls, we are witnessing the opening of another silly season of American politics, but the examples of anti-evolution crusaders and anti-vaccine crusaders should give us hope. They're still around; no one ever talked them out of their beliefs, no evidence changed their minds; yet they are as marginal as they deserve. Hopefully as the evidence continues to pound away relentlessly at the foundations of their nonsense, their climate-denier fellow travelers will join them in relatively obscurity.

Epilogue -- NAZIS!

Landing believers claim that rocks brought back from the Moon prove that the landings took place; ... hoax believers raise concerns about ex-Nazi and NASA's chief rocket scientist Wernher von Braun's trip to Antarctica two years prior to Apollo missions. They contend that no credible explanation for the trip was ever offered, and that he would have been susceptible to pressure to agree to the conspiracy in order to protect himself from recriminations for his Nazi past.

(Moon landing deniers get partial credit for identifying an actual, literal Nazi in connection with their conspiracy theory. Metaphorical Nazis are overdone and trite. Vaccine and climate deniers, take note.)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Arctic sea ice plunge: still making a run at 2007

As you can see, the low pressure system that drifted through a few weeks ago seemed to push 2011 out of contention for the all-time record, but it's fighting its way back, yard by yard. The ultimate outcome is still in doubt.

Idiot comment of the day: listing right, ctd. Anosognosia edition.

Bruce | August 20, 2011 at 2:21 pm | Reply

I used to read 2-3 newspapers a day. Now that most are left-wing rags peddling AGW, they don’t get my money. I don’t have cable and don’t watch the MSM propaganda.

Now what do you think about Obama’s 20 years of hate-filled indoctrination?

Wikipedia has a good list of cognitive biases. We are all affected by them. Bruce, like many deniers, is suffering from an advanced case of the hostile media effect:

The hostile media effect, sometimes called the hostile media phenomenon, refers to the finding that people with strong biases toward an issue (partisans) perceive media coverage as biased against their opinions, regardless of the reality. Proponents of the hostile media effect argue that this finding cannot be attributed to the presence of bias in the news reports, since partisans from opposing sides of an issue rate the same coverage as biased against their side and biased in favor of the opposing side.

Usually by the time someone rejects all printed news and television as biased, they recognize that advertizing that delusion makes them appear crazy and discredits them. But Bruce is not big on the insight.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Idiot comment of the day: listing right

David L. Hagen | August 20, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Reply

Central planning already massively funds Darwinism. Why not equal time for major theories? PS The scientific alternative to Darwinism is Intelligent Design, not Creationism.

Yes, here's more fundy goodness from "Climate Etc"'s week in review. Like yesterday's, from the same thread, this comment illustrates the overlap between climate deniers and the religious right, which is quantified empirically in the Six Americas study, and driven home emphatically by the climate denier ravings of far-right terrorist and mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik.

Does no one come to global warming "skepticism" via an honest misappraisal of the evidence? Surely it's not so, but they seem to be a small -- vanishingly small -- minority. (Climate deniers identify as "conservative" as opposed to "liberal" at a rate of more than forty to one.) The political clot and media presence of deniers comes back to their support from this hard ideological core of rightists, for whom Planned Parenthood is a "eugenics experiment that is well funded by the state to kill" and the jury is still out on Darwin. These are people for whom the world is filled with "statists" and "parasites" dreaming of dragging the world into a Stalinist hell. This very naturally segues into climate change denial:

My claim to fame is having discovered the hidden structure of expressed thought (writing and speaking) or, in simple terms, how sentences fit together. This is science, Logic to be precise, not philosophy.

This is how David Wojick, a prolific global warming denier, presents himself as a meta-science expert. But if you push him a little -- I did, dear reader, I'm afraid I did -- the mask slips:

Robert, between 1966 and 2004 I analyzed and tracked the climate debate for Electricity Daily and several other publications, writing hundreds of articles about the great green menace. I also did a dozen or so major studies for the coal and oil industries. They, unlike rabid CAGW, provide an invaluable service, because our civilization is still based on fire. The coal burners are my heroes and I am proud of my advocacy work, especially as I am winning and you are losing.

If you believe Planned Parenthood practices eugenics and Darwinism is a big-government conspiracy, you are more likely to believe there is such a thing as "the great green menace." And if you do believe in "the great green menace," well, you're hardly going to listen to any concerns scientists have about our environment, especially concerns that imply the need to alter a major element of our economic system like the mass burning of fossil fuels.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Idiot comment of the day

Bruce | August 20, 2011 at 2:12 pm | Reply

Planned Parenthood is an interesting eugenics experiment that is well funded by the state to kill.

Why are you in favor of such a massive state intervention?

What can you say?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Skeptical Science on modelling

A great review of what climate models actually are (expressions of the known principles of physics at work in the climate), how they work (really well, actually), and the terrific hypocrisy of "skeptics" who look down their noses at modelling but embrace spectacularly crude and error-riddled models touted by Spencer et al.

Money quote:

However, intead of constraining his variables using physical measurements and then running his model to see if it fits observations, Dr. Spencer just runs his model without limits and tweaks the parameters until it matches the data. This is a practice known as "curve fitting" or "cooking a graph". In one instance where he concluded the climate is not sensitive to changes in greenhouse gases, Dr. Spencer's results used a mixed layer depth of 700 meters. In a recent study in which he concluded that more heat is lost to space than climate models show, amongst numerous other problems, Dr. Spencer's model used a mixed layer depth of 25 meters. In other cases, Dr. Spencer has used models with as many as 30 fully adjustable, unconstrained parameters. With so many variables and apparently no desire to match physical reality, Dr. Spencer's model could spit out literally any answer. As the famous mathematician, John von Neumann said,

"With four parameters I can fit an elephant, and with five I can make him wiggle his trunk."

And as Dr. Barry Bickmore added,

"give me more than 30 parameters, and I can fit a trans-dimensional lizard-goat and make rainbow monkeys shoot out its rear end."

I can forgive the hypocrisy of those that hate models that give answers they don't like and fall in love with those that do. What is frustrating is the irrational hostility towards models, period. Deniers loathe models, they say, because they are a substitution of computer calculations for experiment. They promote, and I'm sure they sincerely believe, the idea that climate scientists are exploring the virtual world in their computers rather than investigating the real one.

Again, it's easy to be pulled up short by the staggering hypocrisy of deniers trying to promote their "blog science" curve fitting from the comfort of their local WiFi enabled Starbucks, while climate scientists, to take one example, have trekked to some of the most remote and inaccessible regions of the earth, moving 21st century scientific equipment by pack animal, in order to create the ice core data sets of temperature and CO2:

That is a fundamental mistake, and it is compounded, unfortunately, when scientists talk carelessly about experiments using models.

But again, we're ignoring the hypocrisy -- move along, move along. The key point about models is that they are not experiments, they are hypotheses. They are simply a set of rules and descriptions of conditions, the unfolding of which requires more calculations than a person can do comfortably on a sheet of paper. When Svante Arrhenius created the first real estimate of climate sensitivity, in 1906, he used a climate model, and a "run" took him years, as he laborously performed tens of thousands of calculations broken into individual "cells" of the consequences of doubling atmospheric CO2 (considering what he was working with, he did amazingly well, getting a climate sensitivity of about 2.1C).

A model is a hypothesis about how the world works. Its rules are nothing more than guesses about the nature of the world, and the necessary simplifications, when we know a model doesn't reflect the full complexity of reality, represent our guesses about which factors matter most in determining the outcome. We use models because the world is too complicated to test our guesses on a blackboard or in our heads. We need a way to bring vast amounts of information and a large number of hypotheses about physics together and see if they fit. That's what models do, that's what computers do in general, and if you don't like it, I don't want to hear from you about it via the web, because modelling is nothing more than using computers to do exactly what computers are made to do -- keep track of things, and do simple calculations really fast -- and if you hate models, you hate computers. So posting your Luddite views to the nearest blog is kind of like -- what's the word again -- begins with "H" . . .

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Greenland 2011: melt records fall again

Mittivakkat Glacier, seen above, has suffered its most significant ice loss ever recorded -- the biggest decline since at least 1931, probably 1898:

The observations indicate that the total 2011 mass budget loss was 2.45 metres, 0.29 metres higher than the previous observed record loss in 2010. The 2011 value was also significantly above the 16-year average observed loss of 0.97 metres per year.

The 2011 observations further illustrate, even comparing the mass balance value against simulated glacier mass balance values back to 1898, that 2011 is a record-breaking glacier mass loss year.

The melt season in Greenland now stretches into September, so it will likely be early 2012 before we know if the 2011 Greenland melt season has broke 2010's record. But Mittivakkat Glacier appears to be representative of a large classes of similar glaciers:

These observations suggest that recent Mittivakkat Glacier mass losses, which have been driven largely by higher surface temperatures and low precipitation, are representative of the broader region, which includes many hundreds of local glaciers in Greenland. Observations of other glaciers in Greenland show terminus retreats comparable to that of Mittivakkat Glacier. These glaciers are similar to the Mittivakkat Glacier in size and elevation range.

So a new record seems more likely than not. The basics on the Greenland ice sheet are:

* It holds about 700,000 cubic miles of ice, enough to raise sea levels by 20 feet.
* It is melting, and that melt is rapidly accelerating:

* If the melt would stop accelerating, it would take a long time (many thousands of years) to melt the whole thing. Unfortunately, there's no reason to think the acceleration will stop.

For more on Greenland's ice, check out our newly blog-rolled Cryospheric Processes Laboratory.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

"A slain greenhouse dragon"

For months "Climate Etc" has been plagued by thousands upon thousands of comments triggered by her effort to debunk some obvious denier fallacies about the greenhouse effect, which she has collectively labelled a "greenhouse dragon." Presently Judith's lead is a rather mundanely titled effort: "Postma on the greenhouse effect."

But I rather like what must be her original title:

Monday, August 15, 2011

Hot July: GISS anomaly is 0.60C, third hottest on record

It's like global warming or something. 2009 (0.66C) and mighty 1998 (0.65C) share the podium.

Right now we are just peeking at the middle of the solar cycle:

And La Nina, recently ended, is probably exerting some cooling effect on temperatures, but is fading, without being replaced by a strong El Nino effect:

So very naively, what we might expect to see in the coming months, with these two major sources of short-term variability running close to average, is something resembling the underlying trend since the GISS baseline was set at the 1951-1980 average. Plug 0.60C into that, and it comes out to about 0.16C/decade, right where the models predict it would be.

That's the lovely thing about real science: the numbers actually add up.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Lukewarmers lyin': Pielke Jr asserts 28% of IPCC Working Group I findings "are incorrect"

Is this click-whoredom? No doubt.

I suspect that headline will raise some eyebrows.

No kidding: Untold thousands of hours by frustrated "skeptics" combing through the 3,000 page IPCC report have turned up a total of two factual errors, neither in Working Group I report, which lays out the physical science basis for AGW. No errors have been found, not the hundred Pielke is claiming.

This is what he says he means:

More generally, of the 360 findings reported in the full text of WG1 across all likelihood categories and presented with associated measures of likelihood (i.e., those summarized in Table 2 below), then based on the judgments of likelihood associated with each statement we should logically expect that about 100 of these findings (~28%) will at some point be overturned.

There is nothing worse than a legalistic nitpick that is legalistically and nitpickingly wrong. Twenty-eight percent is an estimate -- based on the IPCC's own estimates of uncertainty -- of how many of the things that may come to pass will come to pass. But since the finding assesses the probability they will come to pass, it is only incorrect if the probability estimate is incorrect -- not simply because something was judged to be probable and did not happen.

You access the accuracy of predictions like this statistically -- if you have a hundred 66% likelihood predictions, and ninety percent or only ten percent come to pass, then your assessment of their likelihood was off. Claiming the IPCC erred based on their own acknowledgement of uncertainty is wrongheaded and deceptive -- Pielke knows that that 28% figure will be picked up on blog and by the media and repeated endlessly, even though it is completely wrong both literally and in what it is being used to imply.

Lukewarmers. You want to like them, because you are relieved that somebody on the other side is semi-rational about the science. But in terms of integrity and honesty, they often seem no better than their noose-waving fellow travelers.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Reprinted for truth

Why do deniers hate Al Gore? Because he is, bar none, the most effective science communicator in the entire freaking debate. And he's had just about enough of their bullshit:

The model they’re using in that effort was transported whole cloth into the climate debate. And some of the exact same people — I can go down a list of their names — are involved in this. And so what do they do? They pay pseudo-scientists to pretend to be scientists to put out the message: “This climate thing, it’s nonsense. Man-made CO2 doesn’t trap heat. It may be volcanoes.” Bullshit! “It may be sun spots.” Bullshit! “It’s not getting warmer.” Bullshit!

There are about ten other memes out there. When you go and talk to any audience about climate, you hear them washing back at you the same crap over and over and over again. They have polluted this — There’s no longer a shared reality on an issue like climate even though the very existence of our civilization is threatened. People have no idea! And yet our ability to actually come to a shared reality that emphasizes that this matters — It’s no longer acceptable in mixed company, meaning bipartisan company, to use the goddamn word “climate.” They have polluted it to the point where we cannot possibly come to an agreement on it.

H/t the Rabbit.

Peak denial?

The Dish points to new polling:

They only have 33 percent national favorable ratings, which means Independents have all but abandoned the brand. That 33 percent is statistically indistinguishable from the Tea Party, because most people recognize there is no difference between the two. The GOP hasn't been this unpopular since the CNN polls started measuring these things in 1992. They are now regarded less favorably than they were when Obama was elected! 66 percent of non-whites view the GOP unfavorably, alongside 64 percent of Independents. 57 percent of Independents want their own congressman to be thrown out at the next election.

The Tea Party's unfavorables, meanwhile, have doubled in the last eight months.

While the Democrats have been disappointing on climate change, it is the Republican base, and especially the Tea Party fringe, that has embraced climate denial. The "Six Americas" polling reflects this strongly: 42% of "dismissives" (climate deniers) consider themselves part of the Tea Party movement, compared to just 10% of the general public. Two percent -- two percent -- of climate deniers are Democrats. Eighty-four percent of deniers identify as conservative, compared to only 3% who identify as liberals.

So the self-immolation of the Christianist, pro-default, anti-EPA, pro-tax-cut and anti-Medicare right is a piece of unqualified good news. It's long been clear that there's no persuading the core of the anti-science movement -- they are fanatics on a crusade. Therefore the best outcome we can hope for is that they become isolated from the other 90% of the public, their views stigmatized, their support shunned.

Harsh, maybe, but this is how social debates work: you pull people out of the middle to your side, and without them, the people on the edges are toothless. And it certainly helps if your opponents sound and act as crazy as a truck of bedbugs.

Permafrost and climate change: a primer

This great 2008 article runs through the basics of what we know.

Point the first: there's a lot of carbon there.

Still, 1672 Pg could be an underestimate of total soil C pools in the permafrost region, because deep soils were only considered for one area in northeastern Siberia and for river deltas, and because the soil C content in the 2- to 3-m layer of most mineral soil orders was conservatively estimated because of data scarcity. Both the 2- to 3-m layer and the deep soil C estimates should be considered preliminary because a relatively small number of data points are extrapolated to large areas, but this provides a general outline to the size of this deep C pool. Overall, this permafrost C pool estimate is more than twice the size of the entire atmospheric C pool, and it is more than double previous estimates of high-latitude soil C (Gorham 1991, Jobbágy and Jackson 2000). The 0–3 m permafrost-zone soil C estimated here at 1024 Pg represents a large fraction of world soil C stocks; global soil C stocks from 0 to 3 m depth (peatlands not included) have been estimated to be 2300 Pg (Jobbágy and Jackson 2000).

While the general picture is clear -- permafrost warms, and some of the carbon stored therein makes its way into the atmosphere -- there are a bewildering array of factors that affect how much and what kind of carbon is released in warming conditions by a particular piece of permafrost.

The freezing point of water is a change of physical state that causes orders-of-magnitude threshold changes in biotic processes, including decomposition rates (Monson et al. 2006). It is important to recognize, however, that microbial decomposition of organic C occurs below 0°C in films of liquid water (Price and Sowers 2004). Subzero increases in permafrost temperature can, in theory, have impacts on C losses to the atmosphere, albeit at lower levels. The phase change from water to ice also controls thresholds in abiotic processes. Although permafrost thawing can occur gradually as the thickness of the active layer increases, it can also occur more abruptly through development of thermokarst (ground surface subsidence caused by thaw of ice-rich permafrost) and erosion. The extent and rate of these processes depend highly on initial ground-ice content and other landscape attributes (Osterkamp et al. 2000). They have major impacts on whole- ecosystem C cycling and on the fate of thawed permafrost C because erosion and river transport are significant C loss pathways at regional scales (Berhe et al. 2007).

The particular composition of the permafrost -- the mineral content of the soil, the proportion of water, the local biota -- strongly affect the scale and nature of the emissions. Relative emission rates are calculated for bogs, acidic fens, intermediate fens, cedar swamps, tamarack swamps, and meadows (I was happy to see that meadows proved to be the least GHG-producing terrain type. I've always liked meadows, and I wouldn't want to have to change my opinions. The worst, by far, are the bogs, but who likes bogs to begin with?)

The article discussion four separate mechanisms of permafrost thawing that vary in importance at different stages of warming:

Four different mechanisms that can thaw permafrost. Each panel represents a hypothesis of the relative importance of that mechanism through time as permafrost thawing progresses. (a) Active layer thickening is the most important mechanism early in permafrost thawing as air warming affects the surface permafrost, but then decreases in importance as taliks begin to form. (b) Talik formation occurs only when active-layer thickening has become deep enough so that the entire summer-thawed layer does not refreeze in the winter. Once this has occurred, by definition, deeper permafrost thawing occurs through talik expansion, and thus active-layer thickening does not contribute directly to permafrost thawing at that time. (c) River and coastal erosion increases through time, but after some maximum effect, this mechanism decreases to zero because the influence of the river and coastal processes is limited in spatial extent. (d) Thermokarst development is represented as a threshold process; the first peak is conceptualized as the loss of Little Ice Age ice. Thermokarst subsequently declines in importance until enough thawing has occurred to affect Pleistocene-age ice, typically somewhat deeper in the soil profile, causing the second peak in thermokarst development. This time course is conceptualized as the course of a single latitudinal band through time; if multiple latitudes are considered simultaneously, then more southerly and northerly regions would be on different points on the axis of permafrost thaw at the same time. The actual number of years these time courses take is not yet known and depends on the progression of climate change, but the range is on the order of multiple decades to centuries. Lastly, the importance of the different mechanisms relative to one another is poorly known. It is clear that river and coastal erosion are the most spatially limited. Here, active-layer thickening and talik formation together are shown as roughly equal, or somewhat greater, in importance to thermokarst formation, which is more restricted to areas with higher ice content.

Carbon leaving the permafrost may leave as CO2, as the more potent greenhouse gas methane, or be captured by vegetation or groundwater flows before it reaches the atmosphere. Methane is liberated (sometimes) by anaerobic reactions, while the product of aerobic reactions is CO2. This might seem to make anaerobic (low oxygen) decomposition the major villain, but the authors believe that it is actually aerobic environments which constitute the greater threat over human timescales, because the decomposition, even though it produces little methane, is so much faster:

Decreased microbial decomposition rates attributable to oxygen limitation in aquatic environments are, therefore, offset in part by the greater length of time spent in a thawed state, and by release of CH4 in addition to CO2. Based on (a) net C emissions from long-term laboratory anaerobic and aerobic incubations of various wetland soils (Bridgham et al. 1998) and (b) the global warming potential of CO2 and CH4 (IPCC 2007), a simple calculation suggests that aerobic decomposition has a greater feedback to warming on a century timescale, ranging from 1.3 to 6.9 times greater than the effect from the same soil decomposed in an anaerobic environment (table 1). This is largely due to differences in C emission rates: aerobic CO2 release is about an order of magnitude higher than anaerobic CO2 release, and about two orders of magnitude more C loss than anaerobic CH4 release (table 1).

Confused? Try this helpful diagram:

Did that help? It didn't help me much. Better press on.

So imagine this pool of carbon, unfrozen and exposed to the world, but not immediately injected into the atmosphere. Microbes are doing what all nonphotosynthetic life does, taking up carbon and oxidizing it to derive energy. Respiration, in other words. This doesn't suck up all the carbon and burn it overnight. Unfortunately, there is a process rather famous for burning through fuel.

In addition to biological decomposition, disturbance by fire could be an important abiotic mechanism for transferring C thawed from permafrost to the atmosphere. Fire oxidizes organic C primarily to CO2, but also releases smaller quan- tities of CH4, carbon monoxide, and other volatile C com- pounds. Because organic C emerging from permafrost is typically located deeper in the soil profile when the active layer thickens, it is less vulnerable than surface organic C to burn- ing. However, extremely warm years, when large amounts of permafrost C thaw, are also more likely to have more extensive or severe fires than average. Model scenarios of fire in Siberia show that extreme fire years can result in approximately 40% greater C emissions because of increased soil organic C consumption (Soja et al. 2004). In combination with dry conditions or increased water infiltration, thawing and fires could, given the right set of circumstances, act together to expose and transfer permafrost C to the atmosphere very rapidly. Lastly, fire can interact with decomposition by creating warmer soil conditions and deeper permafrost thaw, which in turn promote the loss of C from increased microbial activity.

My take-home from this is, first, if you want to second-guess scientific conclusions in this area, better settle in for some long days at the library. This stuff is not simple. Second, we have a load of carbon coming our way, exactly how much and how fast to be determined (one estimate here) -- and after going over this article in detail, I have a better sense for why it's a hard number to estimate. Finally, the Brothers Grimm and Disney have it right: meadows are good; bogs are bad.

Climate change: The Economist gets it

I don't know what it is with The Economist's climate coverage recently, but it's dead on. From a July 31st editorial:

Droughts, floods, deadly storms: the news is full of them. While it's not easy to attribute any individual event to climate change, it is clear that a hotter planet translates into a higher frequency of extreme weather events.

So there you have "the problem of attribution" -- solved. Like cigarettes and cancer, extreme weather is not always cause by global warming. But more warming get you more extreme weather, just as smoking three packs a day gives you a higher risk of cancer. Simple enough?

When we emit carbon into the atmosphere, we impose a tiny cost on society as a whole in the form of more rapid global warming and a greater intensity of the accompanying social ills. Views of the magnitude of this cost differ. Many studies peg it at somewhere between $5 and $150 per tonne of carbon. Other studies indicate that it could be far higher—perhaps more than $1,000 per tonne. But the cost is positive, and a crucial first step to dealing with climate change, therefore, is to charge people for the carbon they emit. If you put a positive price on carbon, this price will be reflected in the cost of transactions, people will internalise the effect of their behaviour on the climate, and emissions will fall.

Why is this so hard for Andy Revkin, Judith Curry et al? The cost is positive. So you internalize the externality. The Economist is a freakn' libertarian journal and has been for a hundred and fifty years. They get it. Where are you?

There's no shortage of crises in the world today, and these troubles collectively reveal the many shortcomings in the institutional arrangements of our modern world. But in some ways, the continuing failure to address climate change in an appropriate fashion is the bigger indictment of government today. The fall-out from an American default would be hugely costly, but it almost certainly wouldn't represent an existential threat to humanity.

Whoa, you're starting to depress me, guys. Can't you give me something hopeful to go away with?

Anyway, it's just about the least surprising political outcome ever, but it's nonetheless noteworthy that in the whole of this major American fiscal debate no one has proposed taxing carbon. Forget the nitpicks; it would be easy to design a tax so that it didn't kick in right away, and so that its impact would be progressive. But people in Washington would literally laugh in your face if you presented a carbon tax as a good policy choice to include in a deficit-reduction package.

Well, that image is going to be stuck in my head for a while. We're in a bad place on the politics, no question. But on the bright side:

1. Politics change -- often quickly, often dramatically. See marriage, gay.
2. Global warming can be relied upon to get worse. And while we should be starting now, or, more accurately, should have started some time ago, as things get later, more people should come around. And late is better than never.

Idiot comment of the day: Salby follies

Note the tone of faux-authority:

philc | August 5, 2011 at 11:10 pm | Reply

What you are missing is the ~190 GtC/yr that cycles through the oceans and land mass, with an uncertainty of about 40 GtC. The mechanisms of that cycling are largely unknown and unstudied. We don’t even have enough data to analyze whether or not there might be oscillations in that cycle. Given all the known cycles in the climate(PDO, AMO, ENSO, etc) forgive me if I think that a 1-2% change in the global carbon cycle over a period of 50-100 years is probably more than likely.

"Unknown and unstudied," gosh. Sounds like scientists have really been laying down on the job. But just to confirm what our expert has told us, let's check Google Scholar and see if the carbon cycle is really "unstudied."

“Carbon cycle” pulls up 138,000 results on Google Scholar. “Carbon sink” — 21,100. “Soil respiration” — 32,600 articles. "Biological pump" -- 5,090. And so on. And on.

"Philc" is not just causally wrong, he exemplifies the psuedoskeptical tactic of presenting himself as knowledgeable about matters of which he is totally ignorant. "We don’t even have enough data to analyze whether or not there might be oscillations in that cycle." You would think from the way he writes that he is just on the verge of sitting down to do the analysis himself, and straighten the matter out once and for all. Yet this clown thinks the carbon cycle is "unstudied."

Having duped unskeptical skeptics, he move to his big finish:

Given all the known cycles in the climate(PDO, AMO, ENSO, etc) forgive me if I think that a 1-2% change in the global carbon cycle over a period of 50-100 years is probably more than likely.

He doesn't claim to have made an argument for this -- good thing, since he can't -- but instead very directly invokes the "authority" he asserts with his faux-expertise: "forgive me if I think." No thank you. We're all out of forgiveness for dishonest and obnoxious morons today.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Ignoring Salby: An apology

A certain Professor Murry Salby has become the toast of the denialosphere after a talk in which he gives academic CPR to the long-flatlined myth that natural sources account for the recent rise in CO2 concentrations.

Along the way he revisits other "skeptical" golden oldies, arguing that CO2 has a short residence time, and slipping in the old non sequitur that human CO2 emissions are a small fraction of the "emissions" from natural sources.

Despite the fact that these points have been more or less done to death, despite the fact that there is no publication to refer to (one is promised soon) and no slides from the talk (an inexplicable and frankly dodgy omission) Salby has been everywhere. The Mothership. Jo Novo's virtual antiscience coffee klatsch (come to think, she's entertaining. Added to the denier blogroll.) Judith Curry, most bizarrely, gave it a quickly infamous "Wow."

Aside from the System Lords of Psuedoskepticism, the minor Goa'uld of denial are in full on dittohead mode: Bishop Hill, Andrew Bolt, and plenty of obscure bloggers you've probably never heard of (not that there's anything wrong with that).

Takedowns have quickly followed, including a bracing post from Open Mind, a takedown from Deltoid, and a typically devastating off-the-cuff analysis from Gavin Schmidt.

And so of course you must ask, why not me? Where is my enthusiastic, amateurish analysis upon which the true climate change news junkie has come to depend after they have read literally everything else on offer? Well, I'll confess: I haven't listened to the lecture, and I'm not going to. I'm not willing to waste an hour of my life on a lecture in which the lecturer spends much of their time explaining slides I can't see. It's one thing to spend precious hours of your life on repetitive, nonsensical, anti-intellectual, oft-refuted crap. That's what we do here; it's right on the masthead. But to waste time on an argument without being able to see any of the evidence or data -- no. That's a bridge to nowhere too far. Call me when he posts his slides.

Let's talk about the reaction for a minute, though. The reaction we can see. The reaction tells us a lot. The first thing it tells us is that good or bad, original or hackneyed retread, we're in for many, many repetitions of this argument. Once a piece of nonsense has circulated through Watts Curry Jo Novo et al, deniers will be repeating it endlessly, as fact, for years to come. Congressmen will endorse it. The bellignorant will throw it in the faces of their opponents and demand to know why the sublime Truth of Selby which overturns the entire Global Warming Conspiracy is being suppressed.

So Selby is going to be around. For a long -- long -- time. So once he produces his slides, there will be time to review his argument. In the meantime, note the way Selby has effortlessly breathed life into two or three hoary denier myths, despite being up against mountains of empirical evidence wielding nothing more than slides which he will not show us.

This is happening because for all their noise about the nobility of dissent from the consensus and the folly of appeals to authority, deniers recognize the tremendous importance of scientific credentials in determining credibility on scientific matters. And so when a professor who has published climate science arrives on the scene and says something "skeptical," it doesn't matter if his evidence is alien telepathic communications or Egyptian hieroglyphs he has discovered in his mash potatoes. He is instantly a star.

Which is fine -- we should be more interested in what climate scientists have to say about climate science than the ill-informed amateurs that form most of a "skeptic's" daily caloric requirement of misinformation. But the hypocrisy is thick. If they are so easily seduced by an argument with literally nothing to support it but the speaker's identity as a climate scientist, how can they justify ignoring the vast majority of climate scientists who are telling them AGW is real and dangerous?

Ozone recovery will accelerate global warming

The Montreal Protocol is one of the great success stories in global environmental protection. In 1987, the world's government recognized the threat of ozone-depleting chemicals and agreed to phase them out. The treaty to that effect came into force in 1989 and now has 196 signatories. It can be done.

Unfortunately, the necessary and desired recovery of the ozone is going to slightly accelerate global warming, as ozone is itself a greenhouse gas. A recent study (h/t AGWObserver) quantifies this warming:

Tropospheric temperature response to stratospheric ozone recovery in the 21st century – Hu et al. (2011) “Recent simulations predicted that the stratospheric ozone layer will likely return to pre-1980 levels in the middle of the 21st century, as a result of the decline of ozone depleting substances under the Montreal Protocol. Since the ozone layer is an important component in determining stratospheric and tropospheric-surface energy balance, the recovery of stratospheric ozone may have significant impact on tropospheric-surface climate. Here, using multi-model results from both the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report (IPCC-AR4) models and coupled chemistry-climate models, we show that as ozone recovery is considered, the troposphere is warmed more than that without considering ozone recovery, suggesting an enhancement of tropospheric warming due to ozone recovery. It is found that the enhanced tropospheric warming is mostly significant in the upper troposphere, with a global and annual mean magnitude of ~0.41 K for 2001–2050. We also find that relatively large enhanced warming occurs in the extratropics and polar regions in summer and autumn in both hemispheres, while the enhanced warming is stronger in the Northern Hemisphere than in the Southern Hemisphere. Enhanced warming is also found at the surface. The global and annual mean enhancement of surface warming is about 0.16 K for 2001–2050, with maximum enhancement in the winter Arctic.” Hu, Y., Xia, Y., and Fu, Q., Atmos. Chem. Phys., 11, 7687-7699, doi:10.5194/acp-11-7687-2011, 2011.

Full text here. At the time of the IPCC's 2007 report, the effects of ozone on warming were held to be doubtful:

Hence, the net heating or cooling is subject to large uncertainty, and available model simulations do not give a consistent picture of future development of ozone, particularly in the Arctic.

While the IPCC models do include the recovery of the ozone layer (and are among the resources used by the authors), it seems fair to say that if this result holds up, we are looking at more warming "in the pipeline" than projected in the Fourth Assessment Report; a not-insignificant 0.03C/decade, or 15% of the overall expected trend of 0.2C/decade.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Inside the strange world of the climate dismissives, Ctd

Ever notice climate deniers seem a bit mistrustful?

You're not imagining it:

Percent of "dismissives" (vs all groups) who "strongly trust" a given source:

NOAA: 3% (vs 22%)
Scientists: 5% (vs 21%)
The EPA: 1% (vs 14%)
The CDC: 0% (vs 15%)
The National Park Service: 0% (vs 13%)
The Department of Energy: 1% (11%)
President Obama: 0% (11%)
Television weather reporters: 2% (5%)
The mainstream news media: 0% (4%)
Their congressional representative 3% (2%)

Now, don't get distracted by the points of trivia herein, such as the fact that deniers trust television weatherpersons more than the EPA or the fact that even among deniers, the scientists are the most trusted source of information about the climate, suggesting the denier smear campaign against scientists is not the great success they like to pretend it is.

No, what's truly interesting here is how globally mistrustful they are -- they don't trust anybody. No one is strongly trusted by more than one in twenty deniers (of course, the pollster couldn't very ask them the critical follow-up question: "And what if the source was telling you something you wanted to hear?") It would be one thing if they trusted their own sources of information and distrusted "alarmist" sources, and vice versa. That is what we would expect, in line with the whole narrative of isolating, self-reinforcing ideological positions in the internet age.

What we find is more disturbing than that. Deniers are globally mistrustful. Every single group is less trusted by deniers than by the general public, with the single bizarre exception of Congress. Even adding "somewhat trust" to "strongly trust" does not change the picture much:

NOAA: 25% (vs 76%)
Scientists: 27% (vs 76%)
The EPA: 19% (vs 68%)
The CDC: 12% (vs 62%)
The National Park Service: 24% (vs 75%)
The Department of Energy: 11% (59%)
President Obama: 3% (46%)
Television weather reporters: 10% (52%)
The mainstream news media: 3% (38%)
Their congressional representative 14% (36%)

Wow: the number of deniers who have any trust at all in our president is three percent. Not that there's any ideological component of . . . no, trivia, staying away from trivia.

No more than a quarter of dismissives have any trust in any group polled . . . the exception, against, is climate scientists, who are trusted, again, more than any other group as a source of information, "Climategate," and sundry psuedoscandals notwithstanding. Once again, the public as a whole trusts these sources variably, but always twice as strongly as deniers do. On average they trust or somewhat trust 14.8% of the time, compared to 58% among all polled. A normal person is more than four times as likely to have at least some trust of one of these sources as is a climate denier.

Deniers are existing in a world that does not just close off opposing views and sources perceived as unfriendly, like a political ideology. There world closes itself off from all outsiders that might challenge their beliefs -- like Christian fundamentalists with the Bible, they believe they have all they need:

Question: On some issues people feel that they have all the information they need in order to form a firm opinion, while on other issues they would like more information before making up their mind. For global warming, where would you place yourself?

Percent answering "I do not need any more information":

National average: 23%
Alarmed: 28% (+5% vs average)
Concerned: 9% (-14% vs average)
Cautious: 11% (-17% vs average)
Disengaged: 14% (-9% vs average)
Doubtful: 39% (+16% vs average)
Dismissive: 70% (+57% vs average)

Deniers aren't looking to get questions answered -- this is the fallacy of those, like Judith Curry, who blame climate scientists for incurring the wrath of "skeptics." They believe they have all the answers already. Which is perhaps why they don't trust any of the many, many different groups of people telling them they're wrong.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Forest-killing fungi

This is why it is a bad idea to make the planet hotter than it has been in the last fifteen million years. We don't know what might happen.

The demise of the world's forests some 250 million years ago likely was accelerated by aggressive tree-killing fungi triggered by global climate change, according to a new study by a University of California, Berkeley, scientist and her Dutch and British colleagues.

The researchers do not rule out the possibility that today's changing climate could cause a similar increase in pathogenic soil bacteria that could devastate forests already stressed by a warming climate and pollution.

Are these scientists right about the role of these fungi in the Permian mass extinction? Maybe. Will warming now produce a similar outbreak? Hard to say. Would a massive die-off in the world's forests hurt us? Let me count the ways. Habitat loss. Watershed damage. Loss of agricultural productivity, including lumber. Loss of a major carbon sink, with accelerated CO2 accumulation in the atmosphere. Worsening fires (dead things burn.) And so on.

This is the sort of story that makes deniers see red -- no one can tell them, with certainty, what will happen (which they think is what "real science" does) and so this in contrast is hyperventilating alarmist nonsense, apocalyptic thinking, doomsday paranoia.

I don't think that it is. No one is in a panic; no one is promising that the seas will evaporate and the moon will be as blood. It's just a matter of simple, practical reality that if you keep rolling dice, eventually they will come up snake eyes. We have a limited understanding of our climate, we have never in the history of mankind seen warming like this, and the farther we progress down this unknown path, the greater our likelihood of something like this -- a previously unexpected interaction of biology and climate that will violently shift our ecology into a less friendly set of operating parameters.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Threats against climate scientists -- a glossary

I looked around on the interwebs and didn't find a good glossary of the relevant articles. So here are a few of the sources, starting with one of the few articles to directly quote the threats.

Bullying, lies and the rise of right-wing climate denial

"If we see you continue, we will get extremely organised and precise against you."

When Pitman politely replied to the last, the response was more aggressive:

"F**k off mate, stop the personal attacks. Just do your science or you will end up collateral damage in the war, GET IT."

All threats have to be taken seriously, and at times warrant calling in the police. The police are able to trace anonymous emails to their sources and take action against those who send them. The police are now advising those who received abusive and threatening emails to resist the immediate urge to delete them and keep them in a separate folder for future reference.

Climate campaigners have also noticed a surge in the frequency and virulence of this new form of cyber-bullying. The following was received by a young woman (who asked that her name not be used):

"Did you want to offer your children to be brutally gang-raped and then horribly tortured before being reminded of their parents socialist beliefs and actions?
"Burn in hell. Or in the main street, when the Australian public finally lynchs you."

Another campaigner opened her inbox to read this:

"F**k off!!!

"Or you will be chased down the street with burning stakes and hung from your f**king neck, until you are dead, dead, dead!

"F**k you little pieces of sh*t, show youselves in public!!!"

Especially widely publicized have been the death threats against scientists at Australian National University in Canberra, which promoted police to move several scientists to more secure housing:

Australian climate scientists receive death threats

After Death Threats to Climate Researchers, Australian Universities Take Tough Protection Measures

A spokeswoman at the University of New South Wales didn't respond to questions about the threats but noted in a press release that scientists there had "reported receiving abusive e-mails and phone calls, including threats of violence, sexual assault, or attacks on family members." A recent article in the university's magazine, Uniken, described the ridicule and vitriolic personal attacks heaped on one professor, Andrew J. Pitman, director of the Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science, as a result of his media appearances.

A public-affairs officer at Australian National said the death threats there had occurred over the course of three years and had escalated in recent months. As a result, nine scientists were "moved to a more secure location that requires card access."

US climate scientists receive hate mail barrage in wake of UEA scandal

The scientists revealed they have been told to "go gargle razor blades" and have been described as "Nazi climate murderers".

Mann, of course, is a favorite target:

"6 feet under, with the roots, is were you should be," one e-mail reads. "How know 1 one has been the livin p*ss out of you yet, i was hopin i would see the news that you commited suicide, Do it."
Mother Jones documented further threats against Mann:

         "Your work is finished. YOU ARE GOING TO HANG SOON!"

Scientists are pushing back against these tactics:

Scientists’ Group Raises Alarm Over Threats to Climate Researchers

The world’s largest general scientific body, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, says it’s getting alarmed by a growing pattern of threats against climate researchers.

But the threats continue.

Climatologists targeted by climate deniers with hate mail, death threats

Climate denier brandishes noose to scientist at climate conference

Besides the well-publicized threats like the public noose-waving, there are hundreds if not thousands of violent threats by climate deniers posted to climate denier blogs on a daily basis, like this one from the Mothership:

Tucci78 says:
May 4, 2011 at 9:07 pm

Hm. I thnk the “painted themselves into a corner” imagery is entirely inadequate.

How about “stuck their necks in a noose” instead?

Dunno about other readers, but I’m ready to haul up on the line and make it fast.

The fact that threats like that are still tolerated at places like WUWT tells me the climate "skeptic" movement has really not adjusted to the fact that one of their own stepped beyond rhetoric and murdered dozens of members of what he called the "eco-marxist conspiracy."

Brevik is in police custody, but his ideology lives on:

shame on you physicist for throwing your lot in with the collectivist vermin plotting to destroy the one example in human history which gives the proverbial “little guy” a fighters’ chance to better himself on his own terms; not to mention, where will you be, physicist, when the defenders of freedom and personal liberty are dead and gone and the totalitarians wish to purge the dead weight of the useful idiot?

with each hysterical yellow smiley you are revealing the true ecomarxist face under the warm and fuzzy gaia worshiping veneer

It's important to realize, in this context, that despite the wish of many right-wingers to disassociate themselves from acts of violence and specific threats, the gap between calling someone "vermin" who are "plotting to destroy" you, and advocating violence against those conspiring "vermin," is very small.

Those engaging in the rhetoric of dehumanization and paranoia share responsibility for people who translate their words into actions -- if you really believe that certain people are "vermin" who are plotting to destroy your society, violence against them would certainly seem justified.

There is evidence of a direct link between the violent vilification of climate scientists by "mainstream" deniers and the threats:
[The late climate scientist Stephen] Schneider described his attackers as "cowards" and said he had observed an "immediate, noticeable rise" in emails whenever climate scientists were attacked by prominent right-wing US commentators, such as Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh.

What causes the rise? Publication of his email addresses on the sceptic website Climate Depot presumably helped. The comment Schneider made in July make sobering reading in the light of the Giffords attack:

Schneider said the FBI had taken an interest earlier this year when his name appeared on a "death list" on a neo-Nazi website alongside other climate scientists with apparent Jewish ancestry.
UPDATE: We're seeing an emerging meme from Jo Nova, Anthony Watts and their many useful idiots trying to downplay these threats or deny them outright. One of their completely absurd talking points is that police are not investigating these threats. On the contrary:

Two of the scientists involved in "Climategate" – the e-mail hacking incident at the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia, UKhave been emailed death threats since the contents of their private e-mails were leaked to the world. No further information can be revealed about these particular threats at present because they are currently under investigation with the FBI in the United States.

And further:

The scientist at the heart of the climate change email scandal was today interviewed by police about the scandal. . . . Sources said the interview concerned the theft of emails from the university and alleged death threats since the contents of the emails were released, adding he was being treated as a 'victim of crime' rather than a suspect in any criminal investigation.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Yet another independent line of evidence for global warming

Scientists looked at changes in the length of hundreds of glaciers measured over the course of the twentieth century. Money quote:

The temperature record obtained from glacier fluctuations confirms the pronounced warming of the twentieth century, giving a global cumulative warming of 0.94 ± 0.31 K over the period 1830–2000 and a cumulative warming of 0.84 ± 0.35 K over the period 1600–2000.

The pronounced warming of the last hundred years is old news to most of us, but sixty percent of climate deniers still think the world is not warming at all. Among many others, there circulates the myth that climate science is merely a collection of computer models:

"More Trouble For Global Warming Alarmists":

Because global warming alarmism is based almost entirely on computer climate models rather than, you know, actual scientific observation. The models have already been shown to be unable to accurately predict historical climate changes on a backward looking basis for periods in which we have observational data. Now, they are once again proven wrong. Garbage in; garbage out.

"Joe Dallas" repeats the meme:

The alarmists’ claims are based entirely on hypothetic­al indirect consequenc­es of additional CO2. But these alleged indirect effects are not based on empirical observatio­n, they are merely hypothesiz­ed by the alarmists and incorporat­ed into their computer models. For a long time, we have known that the models’ prediction­s are contradict­ed by empirical observatio­n. In the world of science, this is called refutation of a theory, but global warming exists in the realms of politics and religion, not science.

"Abovetopsecret," a favorite hangout of mass murderer/climate denier Anders Behring Breivik, ties this myth to Roy Spenser's latest modelling misadventure:

In order for human emissions to cause any real change in climate, alarmist scientists have to incorporate “feedback” mechanisms in their models that greatly amplify the known effects of human CO2 warming.

These “feedback” mechanisms are entirely hypothetical constructs which are incorporated into alarmist computer models.

The fact that this commenter, like so many others, uses a paper that is no more than curve fitting a crude and poorly executed model, to criticize the use of computer models, is an indication of how ill-thought-out (or deceptive) these criticisms are. And the hypocrisy is widespread. Not just Roy Spencer's recent paper but any sort of computer model that produces results deniers like garners almost delirious praise, with all their former skepticism of "computer models" temporarily forgotten.

The truth of the matter is that scientists are still very much in the business of observing the physical world. Take just one variable, global temperatures over time, and you will find scientists measuring it in every conceivable way you can think of and more than a few that never occurred to you. A partial and incomplete list:

!. Direct temperature measurements at fixed sites.
2. Changes in the ranges of plant and animal life.
3. Changes in sea level.
4. Changes in glacier size, mass, and distribution.
5. Direct measurements of outgoing radiation and incoming radiation at the top of the atmosphere.
6. Changes in the shape of the earth (really!)
7. Changes in plant growth (like tree ring data).
8. The isotopic composition of snow, corals, and stalactites.
9. Sediment core records of Arctic lakes.
10. Ice core data.
11. Flood markings.
12. Records of crop and grape harvests.
13. Weather diaries and historical maps.
14. Records documenting the timing and extent of Christian agricultural celebrations.
15. Instrumental records of humidity (which varies directly with temperature).
16. Satellite measurements.

The list goes on and on. All these data sources, like all data, has strengths and weakness and limited resolution. That is not my point. What the data proves and what it doesn't is a discussion for another day. My point is that scientists measure things, and climate scientists measure things a lot -- many different kinds of things, collecting information over large spans of time. Once those data sets exist, computer models become an essential adjunct in understanding the data and what is says about our climate and our future. But let's not lose sight of who is spending long hours at low pay collecting real observations from nature, and who is obsessively mathturbating.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Idiot post of the week: Blackboard edition

It's been interesting in a morbid way to watch the transformation of Lucia Liljegren's "The Blackboard" from a technical science blog with a skeptic slant to a pale imitation of Anthony Watt's wildly popular hate machine.

In the riveting "Adapting to global warming: Winnetka park district" Liljegren gives us her best effort at aping Watt's patented sneering chuckle:

The Chicago Tribune alerts us to this horrifying possible consequence of global warming:

Global warming presents a potentially dire future for Winnetka, warns a Park District report.

“This would obviously mean the end of outdoor (ice) skating in Winnetka,” the report says.

Evidently, ice skating “is a part of the fabric of this community”. To avoid tearing it, the park district report suggests “a refrigerated outdoor skating rink to provide consistent ice for close to three months”.

Going on, of course, to ridicule Winnetka for worrying about their ice skating rink, especially when there are so many, many other things for kids to be doing, such as "surf[ing] the web"(!)

This is a favorite denier defense mechanism in two parts. One of the many hundreds of impacts of global warming comes up in discussion, including local examination of the specific impact one one of the millions of communities affected (as in this case). The response goes like this:

Is the specific impact catastrophically destructive for the entire society or humanity as a whole?

If not:
Mock it as a minor inconvenience. If this is not possible (say, because at entire community is at risk of destruction) contrast the cost of adjusting to this particular impact (solving that one problem) with the cost of mitigating global warming over the entire earth (as if this one problem was to total impact of global warming, and you could do a cost-benefit analysis on that basis.)

If so:

Mock those investigating the impact for catastrophic thinking, mock the end that global warming could ever result in such apocalyptic scenarios, compare scientists to end of the world cultists, etc.

This is obviously a closed system, non-falsible. A small cost is derided as insignificant; a large cost is dismissed as an overdramatization. There is yet to be discovered any "goldilocks" impact, neither too small nor too large, that would make a climate "skeptic" concerned about the consequences of global warming. Their past efforts to prove global warming wasn't happening have collapsed in humiliating fashion; that there will be impacts on people all over the world is now obvious. So finding ways to defend their belief system from the steady drumbeat of these problems is job one for climate deniers.

Lucia is obviously prepped and ready to repeat this sort of dreck ad nausem, as evidenced by her closing appeal:

If you know similar stories about global warming representing a threat to the social fabric of a community — by virtue of something as horrifying as putting and end to outdoor ice skating — I’d like to read those too.

Of course, if she were really interested, she could read about the many communities in Alaska threatened by melting permafrost, the Inuit villages on the Arctic coast being slowly destroyed by storm surges, the island communities that are threatened with extinction via rising seas in the next century. But don't waste your virtual ink on stuff like that -- she's telling us outright that she wants funny little stories about impacts "as horrifying as putting and end to outdoor ice skating" -- i.e., this is an exercise in making her feel better, harsh realities need not apply.