Climate De-Bait and Switch

Dealing with facile arguments that are supposedly perfect refutations of the climate skeptics' position is a full-time job akin to cleaning the Augean Stables.  A few weeks ago Kevin Drum argued that global warming added 3 inches to Sandy's 14-foot storm surge, which he said was an argument that totally refuted skeptics and justified massive government restrictions on energy consumption (or whatever).

This week Slate (and Desmog blog) think they have the ultimate killer chart, on they call a "slam dunk" on skeptics.  Click through to my column this week at Forbes to see if they really do.


  1. NL7:

    Also, the fact that scientists might agree on a given phenomenon does not require any specific policy response. Policy is shaped by economics, ethics, and of course politics - none of which scientists pretend to be experts in.

    Plus, yeah, the fact that the Earth has warmed is distinct from the idea that the Earth is in imminent danger of catastrophic warming. But even if catastrophic warming is likely imminent, that doesn't lead to any particular policy prescription. If anything, it would lend toward geoengineering (e.g. dust in the air to block heat), direct mitigation (e.g. building infrastructure to cope with anticipated weather changes) or other measures, rather than simply forcing the rich countries to send poor countries money and asking the rich countries to spend more money on fast trains.

    How would cash transfers from the US to Africa make the temperature change any better? If anything, it seems like maybe Scandinavia and central Asia, as some of the coldest countries, ought to be reimbursing the carbon emitters for making their countries less bitterly cold.

    The scientific discussion and the political discussion are connected, but neither one can dictate answers to the other. If scientists don't want politics and economists to dictate scientific outcomes based on personal worldview, they have to acknowledge that they cannot dictate political and economic outcomes based on personal worldview either.

  2. Rob:

    What if the temperature is rising just because of natural tendencies. Let's even say that that this natural rise in temperature is going to put all the coastal cities underwater. Should we forcefully try to change the temperature to be colder? Are man-made climate changes O.K, as long as we change it to what we (in our infinite knowledge) deem as the right direction?

  3. Matthew Slyfield:

    By the way raw tornado counts are up. However according to the scientist at the US NWS the increase is almost entirely F1s (the weakest category). This speaks strongly to the increase being the result of improving detection technology over the years rather than a real increase.

  4. obloodyhell:

    I believe Warren has made this point himself on occasion. Certainly I've seen it before.

  5. obloodyhell:

    "Yosemite Valley in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California is one
    of my favorite places on Earth. When the glaciers, which formed its sheer
    vertical walls, receded some ten thousand years ago, they left a large lake
    in the upper half of the valley, dammed up behind the detritus of gravel
    and boulders deposited by the melting ice at the lower margin of the active
    glacier. Over a few thousand years, the lake silted up, creating the flat
    floor of the valley. When tourists first started visiting the valley in large
    numbers, less than a century ago, the valley floor was a mix of forest and
    meadow, with a large, clear lake at the upper end of the valley, reflecting
    the spectacular, granite faces which surround it- - Cloud's Rest, Half Dome,
    North Dome, and Washington Column. Today the forests have taken over
    more of the valley floor, and the siltation of Mirror Lake continues, so that
    even in years of normal precipitation the lake is reduced to an expanse of
    mud with a small stream meandering through one side during half the
    summer and fall. A conservation ethic, dedicated to the preservation of the
    biosphere in its status quo, would be just as lethal- - both to ourselves and
    to the rest of the system- - as it would be to pave the entire planet with
    concrete and asphalt. If we were to attempt to preserve Yosemite Valley,
    unchanged forever, which Yosemite should be preserved: the Glacial Lake,
    the silted marshland of a few thousand years ago, the Yosemite our
    grandparents knew, or the Yosemite to come, with very little meadow space
    and no Mirror Lake?

    How shall we use and shape the planet?"

    - J. P. Vajk, 'Doomsday Has Been Cancelled' -


    "We are the legitimate children of Gaia; we need not be ashamed that
    we are altering the landscapes and the ecosystems of Earth. But we do
    owe our mother careful attention to our handiwork and to our treatment
    of Gaia's other species of life."

    - J. P. Vajk, 'Doomsday Has Been Cancelled' -

  6. HenryBowman419:

    Charts such as the one shown are designed merely to convince simpletons of the positions that they already hold.

  7. Daublin:

    It's good to keep the reminder up, as well as to link back to your earlier articles.

    One thing I would add to the discussion is that the chain of causality in your earlier Forbes article is even longer than you give. You give a three step derivation: base warming from CO2, followed by large positive feedbacks, followed by this actually mattering to human life on Earth.

    There are a couple of other steps in the reasoning that are even weaker: CO2 controls will have a large effect on the temperature, and CO2 controls will be modestly inexpensive to implement. Even if one accepts the earlier steps of reasoning, it looks impossible to come up with a public policy choice where these two claims are both correct.

  8. votingmachine:

    There is no telling which specific homeruns were attributable to steroids or how much extra power Barry Bonds added with steroids. But his homeruns TOTAL went up. Likewise, people should not try to generalize from a single event as support for a complex theory of climates. But neither should the inability to apply the complex theory as contributing to a specific event be used as a denial of the theory. The theory is not proven or disproven by hurrricane Sandy.

    There is no denying that steroids added to homeruns in baseball. Even though no specific homerun can be identified as a "steroid" homerun, the overall numbers indicate that steroid use increased homeruns.

    Climate science shows evidence that the average air/surface temperature of earth may be increasing. There is a model with broad acceptance that the heat conductivity of the atmosphere is a contributing factor, and that the conductivity is affected by CO2, which is attributable to humans. I am not convinced that the temperature effects are from atmospheric changes that influence radiative heat loss. The evidence is much more correlative than a sound cause-and-effect mechanism.

    Increasing temperature is not an insignificant thing. If the increase is substantiated by careful measurement, then it is important to consider the consequences and implications for humans. If it is also true that there is a mechanism for influencing that temperature, this also should be considered. Your opinion is that any response which might effect temperatures is more problematic than simply responding to the effects of climate changes. This opinion seems hasty.

  9. SamWah:

    More peer-reviewed articles agree w/ climate change. Well, what would you expect, when those that don't get rejected by the "in-crowd"?

    "Postscript. I thought I would offer one small example
    of how poor your understanding of global warming probably likely is if
    you rely on the media for all your information." Or, about Obama. I call that

    'Proof Positive'.

  10. Eris Guy:

    I am in favor a energy restrictions:

    No entertainment, a movie, a sporting event, etc., should use more energy than used by the average American home in a year. That should put an end to CGI-intensive movies.

    Each elected politician has an energy budget equal to one-third that used by the average American home in a year: that includes travel, media appearances, publications, speeches, etc.

    And as soon as those restrictions are implemented, I'll be a whole-hearted supporter of greens.

  11. Eris Guy:

    "But we do owe our mother careful attention to our handiwork and to our treatment
    of Gaia's other species of life."

    And think of how many species will benefit from our annihilation of parasitic worms.