Lack of Environment

A blog on the politics and psychology underlying the denial of all our environmental problems

Enjoy the Sun while you can

with 51 comments

Sunset comes early in the Himalaya

Sunset comes early in the Himalaya: Between Larja Bridge and Namche Bazar (86.72 E, 27.80 N), 12 Nov 2008.

OK, so it may be 5 billion years from now but, even the Sun has a finite source of fuel: Nothing lasts forever and in turning hydrogen into helium, the Sun is like a pig defecating in its (very large) pig pen; eventually all the hydrogen will be turned into helium and it will balloon in size to become a red giant like Betelgeuse (in the Constellation of Orion)is now.

So we are in no immediate danger but, nonetheless, humanity desperately needs to acknowledge that all things come to an end and, since this includes fossil fuels, the time to invest in our future survival is now.

In my recent response to hearing about Canada’s incredibly short-sighted policy of seeking to become the world’s greatest energy super power (i.e. sell as much fossil fuel to anybody that will buy it), I found myself saying, “…when you get so desperate for fossil fuels that you start digging up something that needs five times more energy input (compared to conventional crude oil) to get the energy out of it, it surely must be time to invest in cheaper alternative forms of energy.” This really does beg the question, why are energy companies chasing ever-harder fossil fuels rather than investing in easier ways earning a living?

Last December, the brilliant satirist Charlie Brooker, who previously gave us such delights as ‘How to Report the News’ in his Newswipe series, produced a mini-series called Black Mirror (i.e. a television when not in use), which included an episode entitled 15 Million Merits, which featured a dystopic future society where no-one goes outside (because the environment has been completely trashed?) and everyone is kept fit by peddling gymnasium bicycles (that generate all the electricity needed to keep everyone alive) whilst being entertained by all manner of TV programmes (including ruthlessly exploitative and amoral talent contests). It was immensely funny but also slightly scary; because it could so easily be where we are headed…

We need to stop treating nature as an enormous warehouse whose goods can be used up without paying for them; and start living in a way that reflects the fact that our survival as a species is dependent upon nature not being degraded to the point that it ceases to function properly. If we do not, the Sun is not going to go out but, in not so many decades from now, it might get hot enough that we cannot go outside (much) to enjoy it.

Last rays of sun on Lhotse

Last rays of sun on Lhotse: As viewed from the trail just north of Tengboche (86.78 E, 27.85 N), 20 Nov 2008.

UPDATE: As an addendum to this post, I would urge all climate change “agnostics” to read my response to John Kosowski’s questions posed in response to the above.

Also, yes, I did capture both of these images myself, and – yes – for the second time in a decade I flew in an aeroplane (six Hail Mary’s for that I guess).

Written by Martin Lack

3 February 2012 at 00:02

51 Responses

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  1. Martin,

    A SAGD oil sands extraction requires about a gigajoule of energy of burning natural gas to extract a barrel equivalent which is 6 gigajoules. What business venture do you recommend that would be an “easier way to earn a living?”

    In how many decades will it be too hot to go outside (much)?

    John Kosowski

    3 February 2012 at 00:25

    • Now that’s more like it, John! Thanks for jumping-in straight after this was posted. However, before responding to these comments, I should like to clear up one issue from your comments on yesterday’s post: You have said that you are an Engineer but also that you were “…fortunate enough to have been educated in the geological history of the Earth prior to the question of AGW”. However, as I said, so was I. Therefore, before asking these questions, I hope you took my advice and looked at my About page. This is because, irrespective of the nature and level to which you took your geological learning, you should be aware that, since I have a BSc in Geology and an MSc in Hydrogeology, we are straying here on to my ‘home territory’. I am sorry if that sounds pompous; but it is an undeniable fact.

      Firstly, I note that you have not attempted to refute my point that extracting energy from Tar Sands is five times less efficient than doing so from Crude Oil. However, the more fundamental point about all unconventional fossil fuels (i.e. including deep sea oil and shale gas) is that if humanity proceeds to burn them all, we have absolutely no chance of avoiding the runaway greenhouse effect. This will result in centuries of rising temperatures and/or sea levels, which will make adaptation and civilisation as we know it impossible. This is the central message of James Hansen’s Storms of my Grandchildren; and it is based on palaeoclimatology not modelling. See Hansen says we should FART (i.e. Fundamentally Alter Resource Trajectories) posted on 16 November 2011.

      Therefore, if you accept the principle that future generations of humans (and/or all life on Earth) have just as much of a right to inherit a habitable planet as we were fortunate to have, the current generation of humans now has a moral obligation to stop burning fossil fuels as soon as possible. The cost of not doing so is almost incalculable. This is why Hansen is willing to get himself arrested for civil disobedience (i.e. he believes we should also stop burning coal immediately because we cannot expect OPEC countries to stop selling oil or gas if they have little else to export).

      As for alternatives, there are many. Furthermore, given all of the above, it could be argued that investment in renewable energy generation infrastructure, technology, and R&D are the only things we should be doing in the midst of a global debt crisis: We simply must find alternative work for people employed in unsustainable methods of energy production. One immediate option would be to rapidly upscale the production of hydrocarbons from non-fossil sources (e.g. from algae, biogas and other forms of energy from waste). Being non-fossil fuels their associated CO2 emissions don’t count (i.e. this is quite difficult for some to grasp but their carbon is already in circulation within the biosphere).

      As to your final question, large numbers of people already die in heatwaves but, as for putting a timescale on when humanity will have to stay indoors most of the time because the climate has gone completely AWoL and/or it is routinely too hot, that is probably 100 to 200 years away.

      However, this is not environmental alarmism; it is all predictable from palaeoclimatology: It is beyond reasonable doubt that these things will happen if we do not change course. Therefore, call it the precautionary principle, the prudent path, or the only morally defensible course of action – it is the decision we simply must make in order to avoid the deaths of billions of people.

      Martin Lack

      3 February 2012 at 01:52

  2. Wow Martin, that was quite a lengthy way to not answer my question. You said “why are energy companies chasing ever-harder fossil fuels rather than investing in easier ways earning a living?” So I asked “What business venture do you recommend that would be an ‘easier way to earn a living?'”

    I only asked because it seemed odd that you would be too concerned about it being less efficient; as if the fact that just using it is going to eliminate the human race from the planet and threaten millions of species isn’t bad enough.

    If you really want an answer to your question, it is because there is a demand for the fossil fuel, and tar sands production is profitable. But again, that isn’t really relevant if it is going to kill everyone.

    And, your expertise in this matter is duly noted, thanks for re-emphasizing it for me.

    Also, Martin, I asked a question on the (S. Fred) Singer thread, and I am anxiously awaiting your answer.


    John Kosowski

    3 February 2012 at 04:29

    • John, even if I accept that you are not being disingenuous, I find these most recent comments to be almost incredible. Are you sure you are not deliberately choosing to misunderstand me? I was seeking to suggest that workers in the oil exploration business need to find (or rather be given) alternative employment. I have elaborated on this at length. The lack of efficiency is an argument that I thought might appeal to you (I have made it clear that it is the palaeoclimatic logic that concerns me). Tar sands is not as profitable; and indeed it has only become profitable at all as a result of escalating oil prices. Yet again, you are ignoring the main thrust of my argument against burning any fossil fuels.

      As for Dr S. Fred Singer being right and Carl Sagan being wrong on one specific occasion, big deal. No-one is perfect. Do you think 97% of relevantly-qualified climate scientists are wrong too (and have been consistently so for 30 years)? Whatever your level of interest in these matter is, neither of us is a climate scientist. However, there is only one of us who thinks he can second-guess the opinions of the planet’s genuine experts. Therefore, just as the world does not cease to exist when you close your eyes, so the confidence we may have in this understanding of palaeoclimatology is not diminished by your decision to reject the expertise on which it is based.

      I would wish you luck in your quest for truth but, in order to succeed, you will need to open your eyes. Sorry to be so blunt but, the vast weight of scientific evidence suggests that, even though I am no expert, everything I have written will be proven to be correct (if we do nothing to stop it happening).

      Martin Lack

      3 February 2012 at 09:48

  3. Dear John, I am starting a new thread because, having looked at the website of your company or employer, I believe I have gained an insight into your “agenda” (i.e. level of buy-in to the Growthmania status quo). However, with regard to the following statement on your Home page, I would recommend the correction indicated:
    “A business can’t survive as long as we have without proving yourself itself day in and day out, on projects big and small.”

    Martin Lack

    3 February 2012 at 11:02

  4. “The lack of efficiency is an argument that I thought might appeal to you”
    You wrote the blog article for me? I am flattered. The efficiency of oil sands production, of course, varies based on the kind of production we are talking about. But, it is what it is. If a company thinks that they can make a profit of it, that is their choice. It is obviously profitable because the companies doing it are having no trouble making money. That part is of no concern to me. I do prefer the SAGD method vs. the open pit mining method as it seems to have a lower environmental footprint. But, again, all of this is just trivia if the horrors that you suggest are on the way. What is disingenuous about that?

    “I am starting a new thread because, having looked at the website of your company or employer, I believe I have gained an insight into your ‘agenda’ (i.e. level of buy-in to the Growthmania status quo).”
    You investigated my employer? Wow, I am flattered again. However, I can’t help feel that it is a little creepy. My family shouldn’t be worried, should they? Is that how you operate, Martin?

    “large numbers of people already die in heatwaves.”
    People are already dying from Global Warming? Can you give me some specifics? Are people dying in greater numbers from heat than they did, let’s say, 100 years ago?

    On the Sagan/Singer thing, your first reaction was to disparage the scientist that was correct, and glorify the one that was dead wrong. Why is that? What is the point? What if Sagan is wrong on AGW and Singer is right? Is that impossible? The point is that it is far from impossible, and the very scientist that got it right in the past agrees with me. The genius that got it wrong agrees with you. Of course that doesn’t, in itself, prove anything, but it is a big reason to keep looking.

    Here is the thing, Martin, I am not proposing any changes for how you live your life. If you want to stop consuming, more power to you. If you want to live in the same house as all of your relatives, I couldn’t be more happy for you. But you want me to change how I live my life. You are demanding it. You want rules in place that force me to do so. When people start telling me what is best for me, I become skeptical. So, I am going to make sure the science is right before I let that happen. And, I think I have the ability to do so. So far I am not buying it. And, no amount of name calling is going to convince me otherwise. I operate on logic and reason.

    And, additionally, Martin, you want to impose policies on the world that I believe will prevent further masses from rising out of poverty. Those policies will delay our solving the world starvation problem. All of your arguments to the contrary depend on your version of the science being correct. So again, I am not going to defer to a certain % of who you say are the “experts”.

    John Kosowski

    3 February 2012 at 13:05

    • John, with some genuine but diminishing respect, I think your feigned sense of being flattered and/or indignation is ridiculous.

      If I may remind you, my efficiency comment was originally re-quoted by me from another blog; so I could hardly have written this for you. As it happens, I wrote this post 4 days ago but decided to defer it as a result of other matters arising so, again, I cannot have written it for you because you did not appear until yesterday. You are still ignoring the force of my argument (i.e. that of James Hansen) that burning all fossil fuels is a strategy from which humanity is unlikely to survive. Therefore, although I have no idea what SAGD means; I am not going to bother to find out.

      As I said, your feigned indignation (and/or alarm) over my visit to your employer’s website is also ridiculous. Given that your employer is self-evident from your email address (which I have by virtue of your comments), it hardly took much investigating. Furthermore, even if I did also visit your Facebook profile, is it really that sinister for me to try and understand the nature of the person with whom I am trying to effectively communicate?

      Although not a member, I am a “friend” of the UK’s Conservative Party. This is because I am conservative rather than progressive; and because I believe in small government and a “big society” (our PM’s catchprase). Thus, with the sole exception of Carbon Taxes, I believe taxes should be low. Yet again, therefore, your attempt to characterise me as being in favour of autocratic government and/or a nanny state is patently ridiculous too. All I am doing is suggesting that humanity needs to live in harmony with nature; and stop pretending it can have mastery over it and/or treat it with impunity.

      Your insistence that I should return to the Singer/Sagan issue is, once again, ridiculous; my question to you still stands unanswered because, apart from the UN/WMO/IPCC conspiracy theory, there is no answer: A vanishingly small – but no less vocal – number of contrarian climate scientists bouyed up by large numbers of non-climate experts does not give anyone a legitimate reason to assume and/or say that the vast majority of experts could be wrong. This is especially so when the people demanding the science is not settled; have previously sought to invert reality on so many other fronts.

      Martin Lack

      3 February 2012 at 14:08

      • “You are still ignoring the force of my argument (i.e. that of James Hansen) that burning all fossil fuels is a strategy from which humanity is unlikely to survive.”
        No sir. I submit that if I were ignoring the force of your argument that I would not even be here reading it, nor would I be spending any time at all investigating the issue. I even started reading James Hanson’s book last night. However, that does not mean I am convinced by your argument. But, it is not impossible that I might be one day – I have an open mind. Hence the investigation. Currently, I am having a hard time believing that 450ppm of CO2 will cause human extinction and threaten millions of species as Hanson claims in the first few pages [Why? – What right have you to judge whether he is right or not? This is the fallacy of the marketplace of ideas – ML], but I am reading.

        “your attempt to characterise me as in favour of autocratic government and/or a nanny state is patently ridiculous also.”
        I don’t remember doing any such thing. The only policy I recall discussing with you is AGW mitigation. We also did discus your opinion of capitalism.

        “All I am doing is suggesting that humanity needs to live in harmony with nature; and stop pretending it can have mastery over it and/or treat it with impunity.”
        I couldn’t agree more. Nature is awesome. I wish no harm to it whatsoever.

        “Your insistence that I should return to the Singer/Sagan issue is also ridiculous”
        It is interesting that you feel that way given that you brought it up on this thread out of nowhere. I was doing my best to keep the conversation contained to the topic presented in your blog.

        “Furthermore, even if I did also visit your Facebook profile, is it really that sinister for me to try and understand the nature of the person with whom I am trying to effectively communicate?”
        No worries, my friend. As long as it stays civil. The ridiculous part is trying to associate me having a political “agenda” based on the nature of my employers business. Sent you a facebook friend request. How is that?

        And, I am sincere when I say that I am flattered, as you obviously have some respect for my reasoning or you wouldn’t be wasting the time. The reverse is also true. In addition to investigating the science, I am sincerely interested in how a smart, educated guy, like you seem to be, arrives at the views that you have. So that is why I seek out alternative views: to either test or develop my own. I wouldn’t waste time reading the alternative views of morons, now would I? Nor does it any good for me to just banter back and forth with those that completely agree with me. Here I know that if I say something in error, you will challenge me. That is a huge benefit in a scientific or any other kind of investigaion.
        So please don’t read ill will in my comments, none is meant.

        John Kosowski

        3 February 2012 at 15:13

        • I am so glad we (or rather you) have cleared-up any misunderstanding; and thank-you for not taking offence at my repeated use of the word ridiculous. What I meant to say – and should have said – was “to me it seems ridiculous that you could say…” (but that is very verbose). Finally, I trust you don’t mind me tweaking the HTML and/or layout of your comment to improve its readability.

          It is very good of you to be willing to take the time to read Hansen’s book (which contains much of Hansen et al (2008) to which I have often referred elsewhere). I would be delighted to be proved wrong but, somehow, I don’t see Ken McMurtrie doing the same. I hope you will enjoy Hansen’s rambling but very personable style; I think he is nothing if not painfully honest (even about his own failings). I hope you will remain open-minded to the end of it.

          I think the rest of your comments do not really require a response from me; apart from to say that I agree my supposition of your agenda from your employer’s website was, you guessed it, ridiculous.

          With regard to Facebook, I hope you will not be offended if I decline that request: It is nothing personal, it is just that I do not believe I am in a competition to have as many “friends” as possible (not that you are either). For an idea of what I mean see this hilarious YouTube video: ‘you need to get off facebook’ (2.6 million hits and counting).

          Martin Lack

          3 February 2012 at 17:31

      • One addendum if I may – I believe my comments about autocratic government and/or nanny state were legitimate, given that you said to me: “But you want me to change how I live my life. You are demanding it. You want rules in place that force me to do so.” I have never said any of those things. But let’s not continue to debate this kind of stuff – it is utterly inconsequential.

        Martin Lack

        3 February 2012 at 17:45

  5. A devil for punishment, apparently both of us. OK Martin, I am moved to buy into this thread, although it is likely to keep me out of bed again! So we’re are looking at your post, “enjoy the sun”. I enjoyed reading it but will also enjoy commenting.

    Firstly, no problem with the assessment of the Sun’s potential to provide warmth to Earth for a long time, thank goodness. Although the chances of human survival for anywhere near that long is hugely unlikely, given our present bent on self-destruction. I am not talking about environmental destruction, but genocide. The plan may be to save the environment for the elite, (excuse the jumps to conclusions, but all the evidence is referred to in my blog), but the idiots seem to believe that they can survive without slaves. They haven’t read a great deal of history apparently, they forget that heads do roll.

    Moving on, to the current and near future. Our current fossil fuel life-style certainly is short-term, whatever variables exist. Without being too technical, at the current rate of usage, lets say we have a maximum of 100 years before there is no more oil and gas left. I know extraction costs come into the equation but I am talking relatively. If there is some left, it will be expensive to produce, AND, there would be catastrophic shortages. Lets just say its all gone.
    — Scenario 2: We reduce consumption per capita and eke out the supply but maintain our global population, no further increases in total head count but continued high consumption. Given the amount of waste due to wars, personal transport cf public, burning lights all night, etc., etc., much excessive use could be curtailed, but if we maintain a life-sustaining level of use to keep the cold ones warm or alive, and the warm ones cool, or alive, still we will run out of fossil-based energy but lets say achieve an additional 20 or so years.
    — Scenario 3: Due to any one of several factors, the earth’s population rapidly decreases to say 20% of its current level. Assuming a consequentual proportionate reduction in energy consumption, our survivors ‘buy’ themselves, still using fossil fuels, perhaps 500 years. If you have been reading my blog, you will realize that this is the suspected planned scenario, but not one I hold any respect for.
    In one case [Scenario 2] we have ‘too many people’, no fossil fuel left. In the other case [Scenario 3], fewer people and a longer survival period but eventually still no fossil fuel left. Both unsatisfactory in the eventual long term.

    Next we can consider the alternatives. Obviously, if survival is to extend beyond the fossil fuel era, alternative energy sources are needed. This is a definite! Probably a good time to bring up the cost aspects you have discussed with John Kosowski. In the big picture, although production costs are short term relevant, the supply is still not infinite and bigger problems exist. You need to move on from there. There are two accepted, (I didn’t say acceptable, necessarily), current source types of energy:
    — Natural: sustainable solar and wind, possibly tidal, possibly heat chimneys, possibly sub-terranian heat. Major, prohibitive limitations in replacing fossil fuels exist because of the enormous quantity of energy required. Added to this is the inefficient production cost, (equipment manufacture), not a straightforward alternative. Certainly not feasable if required to supply current or larger populations.
    — Unnatural (excuse my definition): Nuclear. Well we all know about nuclear. The usual polarised opinions, just like the global warming debate, to which I will return. Has the capability of completely replacing fossil fuel energy sources, but at what price? Again manufacturing costs are a factor, plus waste handling, plus accident proneness.
    [Costs are now relevant because they apply to future energy sources, not to a certain-to-end product]. Then a couple of currently unaccepted possible sources. Alternatives are mentioned but are not proven to be ‘real’ yet! For the sake of argument I need to bypass this, if I am ever going to get to bed!

    Now we come to our global warming issue. Whether or not the planet is self-destructing because of fossil fuel burning, the problem of human survival currently still reverts to the alternative energy sources. If we accept that AGW is real and demands immediate action, the proposed self-imposed phasing out of fossil fuel burning simply shifts the time-scales. We would then need to move sooner to alternative natural sources that are unable to support the existing population, or expand the extremely contentious unnatural nuclear industry with potentially life-destroying repercussions.

    So the only practical relevant issue is how do we successfully replace fossil fuel energy sources? Hopefully without killing off 90% of the population, either intentionally or by their inability to survive without energy sources. We need to do this regardless of AGW. You say soon, I say not necessarily soon. But I agree we need to do it. Definitely without destroying our political and financial futures. I agree individual bike pedalling with little alternators won’t boil too many jugs or cool the heat waves. We could all migrate to temperate climate areas, that would be interesting.

    Not being a very carefully constructed effort, there may be bits to tidy up. [I hope you don’t mind me having done it! – ML] However, I am willing to throw this into the ‘ring’.

    Regarding the personalities, credentials and who is sure they are right (because we all are, not necessarily right, but believe that we are!), I am not going there again, except to say, Martin, we are all human and fallible. Even Einstein didn’t claim to be necessarily right in every respect.

    Ken McMurtrie

    3 February 2012 at 13:26

    • After seeing John’s last comment:
      Getting personal is a bad policy.
      I am inclined to believe that more premature deaths occur due to cold than to heat.
      BTW I agree with his last paragraph.

      Ken McMurtrie

      3 February 2012 at 13:35

      • John’s last paragraph includes this key sentence:
        “All of your arguments to the contrary depend on your version of the science being correct.”
        Yet again, this is the fallacy of the marketplace of ideas. Neither you nor I is qualified to second-guess 97% of the world’s real climate scientists and the soberly-considered opinions of such august bodies as the American Association of Petroleum Geologists and the Geological Society of London. To say that such bodies (that have good reason to want to promote fossil fuel exploration) are all part of a conspiracy to stop it is therefore nonsensical.

        Martin Lack

        3 February 2012 at 19:44

      • Deaths caused by cold are affected by global warming too. ‘Global warming’ is better replaced by ‘climate change’ because too many misinformed people misinterpret the implications of the dangerous road we insist on following.


        4 February 2012 at 11:50

    • OMG, what a monster of a comment (in terms of size only)! Ken, as ever, thanks for your politeness.

      You make some intersting points but, as ever, I am afraid I am not swayed by your invocation of conspiracy theory. As I have said so many times before it seems, “my” conspiracy is a well-documented fact. For example (there being a number of similar books out there), see Merchants of Doubt.

      If I were to say anymore, I would merely continue to repeat myself; and I have not the desire to waste your time or mine in doing so.

      Martin Lack

      3 February 2012 at 14:16

      • Just a couple of small comments:
        “Neither you nor I is qualified to second-guess 97% of the world’s real climate scientists”
        If this is an accurate statement, that 97% of the real climate scientists support the need for the anti-carbon controls and the reasons for it, I would not be bothering with debating you. I would accept that all the remaining scientists and their supporters, all 3% of them are likley wrong. However, I do not believe your ‘97%’. I believe it’s more like 3% have created the scenario and maybe 50% support it.

        I am not qualified to “do the science” but I am able to develop an understanding and beliefs. All the commentary contrarian to AGW theory, from real scientists and bloggers indicates I am not alone. My ‘support group’ numbers tens of thousands of vocal people, including scientists, who make sense.

        So if you believe this ‘97%’ statement, it is easy to see that you can believe all that goes with it. I believe that it is significantly in error.

        Secondly, about reading Hansen’s book. It would be silly of me to say I don’t need to. But I would expect that he has written what he wants us to read, of course supporting his role and his case. Because he is a main AGW pillar, one of the ‘3%’ I suggested above, he carries a lot of weight. Nevertheless, he has his critics, and is not likely to be infallible.

        Ken McMurtrie

        3 February 2012 at 23:22

        • With the greatest of respect Ken, you are so bound up in conspiracy theory, I barely know where to begin. However, try putting your conspiracy theory to one side for a moment and consider Wikipedia’s evidence for this 97% – and how it has been arrived at. Furthermore, even if you were right and I was wrong, you would still have to explain to me – and the rest of the world – why just about every professional scientific body on the planet says that they support the consensus you dispute.

          Like I have said to John, I am not questioning your intelligence or ability to read a book. However, in your case, I would question your objectivity. This is because you suspect Hansen of trying to push an agenda. As would be very clear if you actually read the book, his only agenda is that we should all grasp hold of – and rise to the challenge of – preserving a habitable planet for future generations. He understands why Venus is the way it is; and is trying to stop humanity pushing the Earth in the same direction.

          Martin Lack

          4 February 2012 at 00:50

  6. Oh yeah, one other note. SAGD is steam-assist-gravity-drain. When you spoke of the efficiency issue I though this is to what you were referring, and I took your word for it on the numbers. Two well bores are drilled down into the bitumen, and then turn at 90 angles horizontally for some distance. So, the well bore goes under the landscape without impacting it other than the small area where the wellhead is. Steam (from burning natural gas) is pumped into the top horizontal pipe, melting the bitumen which drains into the lower horizontal pipe. So a wide area of bitumen can be mined without doing anything to the forest above. “Open pit” of course, means just what it says. Everything on top is removed to get what is underneath. That, obviously is not so good for the forest.

    John Kosowski

    3 February 2012 at 15:37

  7. ‘One addendum if I may – I believe my comments about autocratic government and/or nanny state were legitimate, given that you said to me: “But you want me to change how I live my life. You are demanding it. You want rules in place that force me to do so.” I have never said any of those things. But let’s not continue to debate this kind of stuff – it is utterly inconsequential.’

    I have read through the “Mitigation of Climate Change” section of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report. It is only to that kind of governmental action that I refer. Hansen, as you know better than I, advocates huge mitigation measures even beyond those presented by the IPCC.

    John Kosowski

    3 February 2012 at 18:08

    • You have me at a disadvantage, I have never read AR4 in that much detail. However, I would say two things:
      — When the IPCC was set up by Ronald Reagan et al., political censorship was built-in to ensure that the IPCC could never publish anything that would be difficult for UNFCCC signatories to swallow. That is why all IPCC reports have played-down the risks of climate change (rather than being unduly alarming).
      — As you will find out, Hansen is deeply critical of the entire UNFCCC/IPCC process for the reason just stated; and because it is fixated on emissions trading (due to said political interference) rather than promoting carbon taxes.
      Therefore, I am inclined to agree with Hansen that the potential for cataclysmic AGW necessitates drastic action. It’s not good news but neither is it a conspiracy designed to make everyone’s lives a misery.

      Martin Lack

      3 February 2012 at 18:49

      • “It’s not good news but neither is it a conspiracy designed to make everyone’s lives a misery.”
        I don’t think we disagree here. My point is that the costs are huge and not just monetary. Yours is that they are necessary to avoid catastrophe. I agree that “if” an extinction level catastrophe of the kind Hanson cites is coming, no cost is too great to prevent it.

        John Kosowski

        3 February 2012 at 19:01

    • John I have just inserted a comment into one of yours earlier (for the benefit of all subsequent readers). It is imperative that you take this on board while reading Hansen’s book, because otherwise you cannot claim to have an open mind. For convenience, here is the comment I inserted:
      Why? – What right have you to judge whether he [Hansen] is right or not? This is the fallacy of the marketplace of ideas.

      “an extinction level catastrophe of the kind Hanson cites is coming, no cost is too great to prevent it” – Exactly! (The word “if” has been deliberately omitted for the reason stated just stated).

      Martin Lack

      3 February 2012 at 19:31

      • Hey Martin,

        As I make my way through the science, I have had your “97%” of all scientists number in the back of my mind along with your premise that I have no right judging the scientific opinion of those in that group.
        The more I look, the sillier that 97% number gets. Firstly, I am finding a lengthy list of qualified scientists that completely oppose your view. I have no doubt that you already have prepared a list of derogatory descriptions for each and every one of them, but it seems their numbers are increasing daily.
        When one looks deeper, the 97% number becomes really meaningless. For example, take a look at James Hansen. I can find very few people that agree with his claims. Take a look at his sea level predictions. He is not in the “consensus” but is rather a “contrarian” as the IPCC “consensus” is for sea level rise drastically less than predicted by Hansen. Of course, as you know, that makes little difference to me as all it takes is one well reasoned “contrarian,” confirmed through scientific testing, to completely overrule the “consensus.” That is why the 97% number has so little meaning in the first place.
        The second thing that I am finding relates to what I told you early on, that I learned about the history of the earth prior to the notoriety of the global warming issue.
        Here is an example. In pre-school, I did this very long timeline of the geological history of the earth on a very long rolled up piece of paper. I labeled the all the different eons and periods. And, I had a temperature graph with red in the warm periods and blue in the ice ages. I labeled different points on that temperature graph and made pictures of the life that generally existed at the time, etc. At the end of my timeline, there was a more zoomed in area, otherwise the history of humans would just be a little line with no room to even write anything. That section had labels like “medieval warming period,” “little ice age,” and “Holocene climatic optimum.”
        So when I first started hearing things like Al Gore stating “last year was the warmest on record,” I knew it wasn’t the warmest “ever.” I knew that Gore was being a little disingenuous by limiting his statement to “on record” because he must know that temperatures were warmer in the recent past, and not just a little warmer either.
        But then I saw the “hockey stick,” and I couldn’t believe my eyes. Did they just re-write the time line?
        Turns out that they did. But the next IPCC report at least put the little ice age and medieval warming period back in, although conveniently dumbed down. The more I read, the more it seems that what we knew about the timeline is being “updated” very conveniently to fit their case. Of course, I followed the science and found their basis, but they are cherry picking data like tree ring data and using it when it works for them, and then ignoring the same data when it fails! I believe that was the “decline” in the climategate emails. The tree ring model showed declining temperatures during modern periods when we knew that they didn’t decline because, of course, we have the actual temperature data. Even Sinclair acknowledges this in one of his crock videos saying that we don’t know why it isn’t lining up with our observed data. But hey, it must be good enough to eliminate the medieval warming period, right?
        Now the Holocene climactic optimum doesn’t even exist any more! Turns out, it was only warmer in the north (where we have good data), and colder in the south (no idea how they know this). In fact it was now determined to be probability no more warmer than today. If you look at the explanation of Holocene climactic optimum on NASA’s website, it is actually described in terms of its impact on the global warming argument. Can’t we just look at the Holocene climactic optimum for what it was? Must we re-define it around global warming?
        And, of course, it “turns out” that the CO2 levels during the Ordovician Ice age were actually much lower than we thought all along. Really?
        Then we need to ask why past scientists got the name completely wrong. Shouldn’t they have called it “Holocene climactic disaster.” I mean, with the temperatures one or two degrees warmer than today, how did the life on the planet survive all the devastating weather, droughts, heat waves, and other bad things that would generally occur? In fact, how did the polar bears and walrus even make it through? The answer, of course, is that the scientists that studied this before 1980 thought that it was a really good environment for life, even “optimum.” Optimum rainfall, optimum climate for trees and all sorts of other things.
        I can already sense the disparaging remark about my “preschool” level science knowledge, and it might be appropriate had I not continued my education as I did. But, Martin, I can honestly tell you that a preschool level education and some common sense is so far all that is needed to poke holes in much of this nonsense. In fact my question about the lack of run away warming at the top of a temperature cycle is only as a result of my entertaining the concept that CO2 causes significant temperature rises in a Milankovitch cycle rather than the opposite when a first grader could look at the chart and tell you what causes what.
        Of course, it is the science that is important, and developments in science could very well have happened in the last 20 years that change what we know about the temperature timeline. But when the changes rewrite everything we previously knew in favor of that which lines up with their otherwise unproven theory, I get extremely “skeptical.”

        John Kosowski

        5 February 2012 at 16:11

        • Wow, John. Another monster-sized comment. The response I had been working on offline was to try and put our misunderstanding over Capitalism and Environmentalism behind us once and for all. I will post it separately afterwards, as it is off-topic (here at least) and I hope it will bring that matter to a mutually acceptable conclusion.

          However, to try and deal with all this new stuff you have now thrown up? Gosh. Firstly, I would love it if Hansen is wrong but, I do not recognise your assertion that he is in the minority. This sounds like sceptical propaganda that I just cannot be bothered to refute any more than I did in High profile scientist resigns over climate change (29 Sept. 2011). I hope you will read this because, I am not dismissing your assertions, I am merely choosing not to repeat what I have said elsewhere. However, I will say this, to question the validity of the 97% of relevantly-qualified, active climate science researchers with a history of peer-reviewed publications on climate science, by appealing to the views of a much wider pool of non-climate scientists and, some cases, non-scientists is, once again, to fall foul of the marketplace of ideas fallacy. More on this on Tuesday (i.e. I hope you will be patient and post your response on this matter there instead when the time comes).

          I am very impressed with your pre-school education, do you really mean age 4-6? I am sure I did not learn about the geological timescale and/or evolution until I was in my teens (or else I blanked it out for spurious religious reasons – only to begin to deal with it as an undergraduate geologist).

          As for all your “Hockey Stick is Broken” and Climategate stuff (i.e. the “those devious and disreputable climate scientists have colluded to make the MWP and LIA disappear” kind of thing one often hears), this nonsense has been repeatedly debunked on the Internet, but feel free to see how I have dealt with it previously (i.e. on my old Earth Issues blog back in June last year – this was linked to in one of the many posts I have directed you to here [but would have been easy-enough to miss]). BTW, are you sure you are not just an outright sceptic who’s pulling my chain to see just where the limits of my understanding and patience are? Because, my God, that is what this feels like. But, no matter, fool or not, I always try to think the best of people; and treat them as I would like to be treated so, I will persist awhile yet…

          As for all your questions regarding temperature changes over the full range of Earth’s history, Hansen deals with this. He is a physicist who has chosen to study the subject in great detail (having realised it – not modelling – was the key to understanding the dangers of anthropogenic climate disruption). To do this, he has had to rely on a wide range of relevant specialists, so you will either believe what he and they say, or you can choose to believe what the naysayers say but, yet again, we are back to the fallacy of the marketplace of ideas.

          I don’t know what to make of your “all that is needed to poke holes in much of this nonsense (emphasis mine), although to me it appears to imply a certain degree of prejudice (at a very young age) – were you a very rebellious, anti-Establishment kind of student?:-)

          As for your yet again seemingly suggesting that I have failed to answer your query about Milankovitch cycles and CO2/temperature time lags, I am at a loss for words. However, I have reworked what I said to you on Thursday and this will be published at 0002hrs GMT (i.e. in about 6 hrs time). Maybe I will get it this time?

          Martin Lack

          5 February 2012 at 18:11

  8. I very respectfully find that question offensive on very many levels especially since it is apparent that you believe that I don’t have that right. What right do I have? I have the right of expression and the right to vote for my government. In furtherance of those two rights I have the right to question and even petition the government. To achieve that, I have the right to educate myself, so I know what I am voting for!

    While I don’t earn my living engaging in climate science, I am an educated scientist! I have mastered subjects such as chemistry, physics, thermodynamics, mathematics, control feedback systems, fluid dynamics, statics and dynamics, etc. And, when I say “mastered” I mean, I got really good grades at a really good University. I am perfectly qualified to understand and question the science, so that I may intelligently question the actions of my government and even determine the actions of my government through my vote and my right to free political speech. Now, as it relates to AGW, I do realize that examining the science is quite the task, but so what?

    Furthermore, throughout my education, I have much experience with examples where the “experts” have been completely wrong. Like the guy that gave my commencement address. If the science is true, it can be explained beyond “its complicated.” And if false conclusions end up floating around the internet, they ought to be easy to refute.

    I have the right to judge whether Hansen is right or wrong, and I further have the right to speak freely about that judgment. You, of course, have the right to defer to whomever you think are the “experts.” I don’t really care about the number of people that hold a certain belief. I care about the truth of that belief.

    John Kosowski

    3 February 2012 at 23:42

    • Hold up a minute, John. The question I inserted into your earlier post (about our right to judge) is not meant as a personal attack upon you. It is a question for all of us non-experts. I have no more of a right to judge whether Hansen is actually right than you do; all we can do is decide whether he is probably right or probably mistaken: Neither of us has spent decades collecting data, analysing, theorising, predicting, and testing our ideas. So we must decide whether we are persuaded by the weight of that evidence as presented.

      You question who are the scientific “experts” but, with the exception of literally a handful of people like Richard Lindzen, Patrick Michaels, Fred Singer and Roy Spencer, there are only non-climate scientists acting as self-appointed arbiters of climate science. Furthermore, both these groups are – almost without exception – being paid to dispute climate science by the fossil fuel lobby. This is the truth I care about.

      You say, “I don’t really care about the number of people that hold a certain belief. I care about the truth of that belief.” but to dispute the numbers and/or say you care about the truth of that belief (which neither of us is qualified to judge) implies to me that you think mainstream climate scientists are lying to us.

      Martin Lack

      4 February 2012 at 00:27

      • I didn’t take it as a personal attack. I didn’t take it like that.
        I did not spend decades collecting data, but I can review the data and conclusions of those that have. I do think you raise a very interesting question about what motivates people to the results that they find. Were either Singer or Sagan lying? I only bring up that topic again because we have an example of two scientists looking at the same data and coming to very different conclusions. And that example involved time frames that allowed verification.
        I have no evidence or reason to believe that Sagan was lying. Or, for that matter, that Singer was lying but just lucky. I don’t pretend to understand the psychology but it might tie to a subconscious desire to find evidence to support an overall philosophical belief.
        I think a similar thing happens when people research stocks that they already like. They subconsciously give weight to evidence that the stock is good, and disregard evidence that it is bad. People don’t “intend” to do that, it just happens. And they lose a ton of money doing it. They do this against their own monetary self interest!
        So is Singer and Spencer lying for financial gain? They really believe that the humans face extinction, but for an oil company payoff, they are willing to just doom the human race? Or is Hansen lying? He knows full well that this is really no big deal, but for professional notoriety he is willing to concoct the big GW scare? Had he said everything was fine, would he have been the adviser to Presidents of the United States? Or maybe he thinks it poses some level of risk, but is frustrated by the lack of response from the world? Maybe that frustration causes him to subconsciously “find” evidence that it is more serious and more serious after that. I think some people have such disdain for capitalism and growth that they are happy to use anything that comes along as evidence to support their view. “See, I told you that capitalism is bad, you people are destroying our planet,..”
        Or maybe the AGW people have it wrong, but really believe it. Then, as the years go by, the alarmist results are not happening, and people are starting to doubt them. But they know that a few years of data doesn’t necessarily prove anything, so in an attempt to keep the message clear and on track, they “fudge” the data. Of course all of that is speculation. But I honestly suspect that there are sincere, well reasoned scientists on both sides that believe their positions.
        I think there are things that we have done that are harmful to the planet, and we should not do those. And, I think there are things we do that are no big deal, but environmentalists make a big deal about nevertheless. I can give you tons of examples of that. And, I can give you plenty of examples of “experts” overstating the harm that would actually be caused.
        But, I digress. On to the science!

        John Kosowski

        4 February 2012 at 01:56

        • I am very pleased that you do not see me as attacking you. Far from it, I see myself as still trying to help you… However, going right back to square one, the fact that you came to me unsatisfied by the responses of people like Peter Sinclair, suggests to me that you are unduly suspicious of his motives. If so, maybe Skeptical Science (SkS) is a better place for you to go (although I am not telling you to go away and not come back). It is just that, whereas Peter is prone to sarcasm (the clue is in the Climate Denial Crock of the Week name of his website), SkS is strictly factual (they even delete overtly political responses to posts). If neither Hansen nor I can convince you that real scientists are not being stupid, lazy, or malicious (all my words – not yours), then maybe SkS can?

          Now, to the substence of your latest comments:
          I have no reason – as there is no supporting evidence – to think that Carl Sagan was lying or being unduly alarmist (I don’t like this word but here it is appropriate); although he did turn out to be wrong (life is like that sometimes).

          However, I have good reason – as there is a great deal of supporting evidence – to think that Fred Singer decided that all those that express overt concern for environmental problems are either environmental alarmists or communists in disguise: For example, almost from the moment Hansen testified before the US Congress in 1988 that Anthropogenic Global Warming was a real and present danger, Singer – along with Robert Jastrow, Bill Nierenberg, and Frederick Seitz – set about debunking the work of the world’s best climate scientists for ideological reasons (i.e. they did not want it to be true because dealing with it will require fundamental re-shaping of Capitalism). Meanwhile, people like Richard Lindzen have graduated from denying that smoking is harmful to join the attack on environmentalism (for exactly the same reason). If you have not read Naomi Oreskes’ and Erik Conway’s book, Merchants of Doubt, you really must do so (or else visit their website to at least see a summary of their research into relevant recent history).

          This is why the world needs, so desperately in my view, to wake up and realise who it is that has been lying to them for so long (and why). These people (that I have named here) are very clever; they dress-up their arguments to make it seem that they are like Galileo – fighting against a secretive, obscurantist and ant-intellectual Establishment – but the opposite is actually true. These people are part of such an Establishment – call it the Fossil Fuel Lobby or the Status Quo or the Business as Usual Crew – it is they that are the enemy of humanity (or at least future generations); not the real climate scientists.

          I am going to stop now because, to go on, would merely be to repeat things I have said before. However, I really do hope you will consider very carefully the things I have said here; and look at the evidence to which I have pointed you. I am utterly confident that if you do this, you can only come to one conclusion – that I am right. This does not make me clever, it just means I have been enlightened by the dedicated work of others.

          Martin Lack

          4 February 2012 at 12:44

      • Hello John? It seems to me that, in all the mess, you never replied to the above comments. I hope you read them but please don’t feel obliged respond in detail (I think we are agreed we both need a break). However, I would be grateful if you could just reply briefly to confirm you read this (and the above) – by following my instructions (scroll-up till you find a reply button) – and let’s see if the comment appears in the right place (i.e. below this)?:-)

        Martin Lack

        5 February 2012 at 19:49

      • I saw your comments. I believe this is the first available reply button. I responded where I said that the skeptical science site was not very good, and the conversation went on from there…..

        [Thread continues here -ML]

        John Kosowski

        5 February 2012 at 20:00

      • You got it. Well done.

        Martin Lack

        6 February 2012 at 08:21

  9. Martin,

    I submitted my last post before reading your post asking to wait until Tuesday [now deleted – ML].

    I contacted Peter Sinclair, not because I think he is a liar, but because I thought maybe he could help with what seems to me to be a contradiction in the logical basis for his conclusion on Milankovitch cycles. If he could explain it, I could move on.

    My discussion about why people think what they do can apply equally to either side and is not evidence or support for any individual theory. The skeptics could very well be subconsciously giving weight to data that helps their case, no doubt about it. I even gave an example of how it causes people to act against their own interests. It is just a phenomenon that you got me thinking about with one of your previous questions. Thanks for that.

    I will give SKS a try, thanks for the suggestion!

    John Kosowski

    4 February 2012 at 13:01

    • Excellent. You will find that my SkS link takes you, not to their Home Page but, to a recent post with a very revealing graph in it (i.e. as in “a picture paints a thousand words”).

      Martin Lack

      4 February 2012 at 13:12

      • Martin, now that I look at SkS, I have already been there. Their explanation of the CO2 lags temperature issue is terrible. I could write their view much better for them. That actually lead me to the “crock” site which provides a much better explanation, but still ignores the contradiction at the top of the cycle.
        The SkS site also just skips right over the Jurassic question. They do try to address the Ordovician Ice age question, but add things like “Recent data has revealed CO2 levels at the time of the late Ordovician ice age were not that high after all.” It is statements like that, Martin, that only increase my skepticism and is exactly what I was referring to when I said I learned about the history of the Earth’s climate before the AGW issue came up. Then, they looked at the Ordovician without any AGW bias.
        The scientific bias question is something you should really think about. It goes way beyond the idea that the opposing view must be lying.

        Spencer actually writes a very insightful section in his blog about scientific bias including his own, regardless of where one stands on AGW. After reading one of Spencer’s books, I found that he has been highly defamed on the internet, not because of a logical fallacy in his arguments, but rather because of his religion. He is portrayed as a nutjob that believes in imaginary people. How does that make you feel having dealt with resolving your own religion with your scientific education? I ask because I read your “About” section where you talk about it. [I think you mean History – ML] Here is one little quote: “So, bias ends up being the enemy of the search for scientific truth because it keeps us from entertaining alternative hypotheses for how the physical world works. It increases the likelihood that our conclusions are wrong.” [IMHO Spencer is not seeking truth because his own bias has determined that he must find an ‘anything but CO2’ alternative explanation for what is happening – ML]

        So Martin, what I do to try to counteract the forces of my own bias is read sites like the crock, SKS and even yours. And, I will continue reading Hansen’s book. (Although so far it is just conclusions stated conclusively without detailing the basis. I would prefer to read the basis of those conclusions and get into the actual science).[I did also point you to (the first of) my posts summarising the book, which do exactly that (IMHO) – ML]

        So Martin, in closing, try not to let your own biases prevent you “from entertaining alternative hypotheses for how the physical world works.”

        John Kosowski

        4 February 2012 at 13:48

        • I have just discovered it is easier to reply to comments from the Dashboard/Comments section (funny that). It’s only taken me 6 months to work that one out (definitely not clever).

          “Their explanation of the CO2 lags temperature issue is terrible.” Was mine any better? I think it better than Hansen – it is certainly briefer!

          Sorry but, I don’t buy your scientific bias is complicated argument. Dr Roy W. Spencer is a propagandist first, scientist second – he has admitted it. If anyone attacks Spencer for any Young Earth Creationism or other illogical and anti-intellectual beliefs he may have, that is very unfortunate. However, in believing that climate change is not happening, he is at least being consistent.

          As for “alternative hypotheses for how the physical world works”, what need have I of alternatives if the one one most climate scientists, the palaeoclimatic record, 200 years of chemistry and physics (starting with Tyndall and Arrhenius), and predictions being borne out by reality – all tell me they are right?

          Please look at the animated SkS graph: “Global warming stopped in 1998” is just one of many pieces of rubbish peddled by the climate change denial movement. I am sorry if my use of the word “denial” offends you but, the facts are, in my view, clear.

          Martin Lack

          4 February 2012 at 14:28

  10. Propagandist? Martin, it is getting to the point where every time I see you attaching these inflammatory labels to people, I can take it as evidence of the opposite:
    “Nicholas, I would wager that my job has helped save our economy from the economic ravages of out-of-control environmental extremism. I view my job a little like a legislator, supported by the taxpayer, to protect the interests of the taxpayer and to minimize the role of government. If I and others are ultimately successful, it may well be that my job is no longer needed. Well then, that is progress. There are other things I can do.” – Dr. Roy Spencer.

    Martin, I couldn’t agree more with that statement. As an engineer, I am trained to apply science to a problem, not just ponder science for the sake of pure science. Because it is that problem I am trying to solve doesn’t make me a propagandist first and a scientist second. If I were trying to make a refrigerator evaporator more efficient, I would be applying all kinds of science. You might criticize me by saying “you don’t really care about the science, all you care about is the evaporator.” I would say, it is because I care about the evaporator that I care about the science! I might even be paid to apply the science thereto. Does that make my scientific basis flawed?

    As I have explained previously, [despite? -ML] being a capitalist I believe it is of the greatest importance that the government regulate the environment to keep the people from trashing it. But in order to do that, we must get the science right as there are many that would use “environmentalism” to hinder all progress. If the science says we are causing harm, we stop that conduct. If it says that we aren’t, we allow that conduct. I am not interested in using science to hurt the environment!

    Additionally Martin, so far I have found Spencer’s blog the most willing to discuss the science of all of them. If a skeptic has the science wrong in a way that benefits the skeptic argument, Spencer is right there to correct them. Additionally, Spencer analyses alternative scientific views all the time in a very welcoming manner:
    “While I applaud Ned Nikolov’s willingness to advance a controversial alternative, at this point I still must side with the greenhouse effect (despite its terrible name) as an explanation for the average surface temperature of the Earth being considerably higher than that calculated based upon the rate of solar heating of the surface alone.”

    The “crock” site is not like that at all. I see little discussion of the science, but rather just a festival of inflammatory name-calling. If Peter Sinclair were right, he wouldn’t need to be so offensive in his presentation. Now, one guy being offensive does not disprove AGW, but it doesn’t, in my opinion, further it as well as had he not been.

    By the way, your explanation was more informative than the skeptic site, but you didn’t get at the actual question. And, Martin, it is just a question. As I go through the science, many questions come up. With some, I can quickly find the answer, others take more investigation. The question does, however, get to some of the controversy in that how much “positive feedback” is really presented by CO2 in the Milankovitch cycle.

    John Kosowski

    4 February 2012 at 18:45

    • Can I first say, John, that you are the only sceptical correspondent on this blog in 6 months who has demonstrated his willingness (i.e. not sexist because all such people have so far been male) to read things to which they have been directed. I am very impressed with this, it does you great credit. Furthermore, unlike Peter Sinclair (who I confess amuses me greatly), I do try hard (please believe me) not to be inflammatory. For me, use of a word such as “propagandist” is short-hand but, one man’s shorthand is another man’s label, I guess, so apologies for that too. However, I think Spencer displays equally lamentable use of labels such as “extremism” – he is dismissing the opinions of what he must know to be the vast majority of his fellow climate scientists as being unduly alarmist (or else he must deny the existence of that consensus).

      I must confess that the “editor monkey” has been active again: As well as inserting the missing(?) word “despite” in front of “being” above (please tell me if am right or not; and I will clean it up), I hope you saw the comment I inserted into your previous to the effect that Spencer has “…determined that he must find an ‘anything but CO2’ alternative explanation for what is happening”. Furthermore, I trust that in my doing this – and in re-formatting and/or italicising quotes – you are content that I am merely improving presentation and readability? Call me obsessive (‘label’ alert!) if you want to, but I like this blog to look nice.

      I think your statements of environmental concern are fabulous – along with your self-evident readiness to pursue links given to you – they give me hope that this ongoing discussion is worthwhile. However, as to your views on the nature of Spencer’s blog, I cannot judge. This is because my confidence in the validity of the consensus view that he opposes – and the fact that I am not a climate scientist myself – lead me to conclude that there is no point my wasting time reading anything that he has to say. I listen to the consensus who say he is talking rubbish (i.e. it is not the Sun (etc); and that contrarians are not like Galileo (etc)). That is good enough for me.

      Thank you for your feedback on my explanation of Milankovitch etc, although I am disappointed to hear you still feel I did not answer your question. It may be that, as my ex-Wife used to say, I have answered the question I thought was being asked or even the question I thought should have been asked! However, either way, I believe there are no flaws in the experts’ understanding of what palaeoclimatology tells us; there are only deficiencies in non-experts’ understanding of it. Furthermore, if you are willing to persist through Hansen’s rambling self-deprecation (etc), I am also confident that you will come to agree. If you do not, then, in my opinion, that will only be because you may decide that he is disingenuous, insane, and/or part of a conspiracy to foist climate change alarm on a credulous world.

      With the greatest of respect to all your other questions to-date (that I may have chosen to ignore purely in the interests of clarity and brevity), I really do think it is as simple as this: Either he is almost-certainly right (because things have progressed exactly as he predicted but the IPCC did not – i.e. they left out feedback mechanisms), or he is one of the three things I just said. Why? Because there is insufficient uncertainty left in our understanding of palaeoclimatology – and because his predictions continue to match ongoing observations – for him to probably be wrong. This is why I believe Hansen should be listened to; and why we need to do all of the radical things he says we should.

      Martin Lack

      4 February 2012 at 20:08

  11. Hi Martin,
    I consider John is doing a great job in this debate, he is better than I with the science and has great patience.
    I suggest you exceed the boundary of respect toward your commentors, when you start editing their comments. I think arrogance is the word (or one of them).
    Had you done this to me, I would cease commenting on your blog forthwith. There again, I tend to be a bit oversensitive.
    I expect he will eventually come to the conclusion that we are wasting our time, but I have learnt from the debate. Not that I am wrong, however.
    Regards, Ken.

    Ken McMurtrie

    5 February 2012 at 00:46

    • At exactly what point, Ken, would my editing of your comments have offended you? Would that be my inserting spaces between paragraphs, italicising quotations, or would it be only if I dared to suggest you may have left a word out (as I think John did)? Dare I also to remind you that you once acknowledged the poor presentation of your arguments due to it being the early hours of the morning? Since you cannot edit your own comments on the blogs of others, I genuinely thought I was doing you favour. So, yes, I think you may be in danger of being over-sensitive.

      I think arrogance is the word for someone who does not even bother to insert the word “necessarilly” into a sentence such as “Not that I am wrong, however.” Therefore, unlike you, I would suggest, John is open-minded enough to consider the possibility that he is as-yet mistaken and/or misinformed and, as I have made clear, I am very impressed with his willingness to read extensively from sources that suggest that this is the case.

      Martin Lack

      5 February 2012 at 08:02

      • Actually, Martin, I think you know full well that I would not want “despite” inserted into that sentence. You know that capitalism and environmentalism are not mutually exclusive. As I have already explained in your growth blog, Capitalism works because of freedom and ownership. People will work for and take care of that which they own, but they tend not to take care of that which they share. Since there is no getting around “sharing” the environment, we must regulate how we treat it to prevent some trashing it to the detriment of everyone. And, while I certainly have my reservation about the ability and efficiency of government, I can think of no other way to regulate the environment.

        John Kosowski

        5 February 2012 at 11:35

        • With respect, John, I think it is now you who is indulging in semantics. I could hardly have been more explicit in praising you for your concern for the environment (which I do not question). For ease of understanding, I will cut and paste the offending(?) sentence with my comment:
          “As I have explained previously, [despite? -ML] being a capitalist I believe it is of the greatest importance that the government regulate the environment to keep the people from trashing it.”
          Can you not see that, even if the word is inserted, it does not alter your stated (and undisputed) belief, it merely acknowledges, as I hope you would acknowledge, that a great many Capitalists do not share your concern for the environment? Indeed, this reality underlies the perilous position that humanity now finds itself in because, as a Species, we have pursued Capitalism and treated the environment with contempt.

          However, having said all that, if you want me to remove my embedded comment I will do so but, know this, I was not seeking to distort what you were trying to say or have said.

          My second attempt to resolve this misunderstanding appears below.

          Martin Lack

          5 February 2012 at 12:22

  12. This is such fun! (not)
    1, Absolutely any editing, typos, grammar, omissions, whatever, would offend me. My comments, my input, not to be touched, Response concerning your detection of errors would be in order.
    2.Well now, I hadn’t picked up on your actually editing one of mine. So I am offended.
    3. People who think they are doing others favours, often find their well-meaning intentions misplaced.
    4. You have misconstrued my meaning:
    “I expect he will eventually come to the conclusion that we are wasting our time, but I have learnt from the debate. Not that I am wrong, however.”
    I didn’t say ‘I am not wrong”, I said that I have learnt things but not yet learnt from the debate that “I am wrong”.
    5. Arrogance is in the eye of the beholder. I may be becoming arrogant, but not for the reason you have given.
    6. Is this all worthwhile? I think I will just keep an eye on your debate with John to see how it goes, but further input from me is unlikely,
    7. If I was tempted to exceed the boundaries of respect to which I normally proudly adhere, I would then suggest that you have a problem with perceiving communication meanings as well as so-called scientific meanings. However, I apologise for my indiscretion. ie. No personal insult intended, just a statement of opinion.

    Ken McMurtrie

    5 February 2012 at 10:17

    • As it happens, Ken, I was mistaken: The only comment I have ever inserted into any of your posts was [I hope you don’t mind me having done it! – ML] (i.e. improved the presentation/layout as acknowledged by you to be poor).

      Of course I would not edit anything anyone says to alter its meaning, that would be deceitful. However, blog owners have the ability to edit users comments, precisely so that they can moderate them. I do not see anything wrong in inserting comments into anyone’s post (so long as clearly identified as such and I alert them to the fact it has been done). Furthermore, I only did this to John’s because they were quite lengthy, I wanted to ensure I addressed things systematically without re-quoting large amounts of his text, and/or I had already responded to him once. To repeat, then, I see nothing wrong with doing this (so long as I adhere to my own rules on politeness).

      With regard to your point no. 4, above, I must confess that to me you now appear to be indulging in semantics (but I will forgive you for that – aren’t I generous😉 ).

      That said, I am not offended by anything you have said; I am merely mystified because, as I see it, you have either misunderstood me, or you are being ridiculous (IMHO).

      Martin Lack

      5 February 2012 at 11:38

  13. John, this is my second attempt to resolve your feeling I was trying to twist your words by questioning whether you had left the word “despite” out of a key sentence. [Unfortunately the nesting limit and/or user error appears to be fragmenting this particular thread]….

    John, it seems to me that we have, almost by accident, come full-circle to return to the Growthmania issue underlying my post last Thursday (and this subsequent response to you in particular).

    You have made it clear that you believe Capitalism (C) and Environmentalism (E) are completely compatible; in response to which I have said they could be better-matched than they are but, to achieve this goal, this will require major concessions to be made by big business. I have also made it clear that I am not a Marxist or Socialist and, whilst I might occupy centralist territory I have significant sympathy with Conservative ideals (it’s just that Growthmania isn’t one of them).

    That said, for you to argue that C and E are synonymous just because you happen to think they are is a completely unsustainable argument. It is not just that you are extrapolating from the specific to the general; your argument flies in the face of the fact that the current Republican candidates for POTUS are engaged in a race-to-the-bottom to see who can promise to restrict, reform or repeal the most environmental legislation (in the interests of big business).

    So, despite saying I would remove the embedded “despite?” comment, I am not now going to do this because, (a) we have now explained our respective positions very clearly; and (b) to remove it would leave us arguing about something that isn’t there anymore. Far from rectifying any wrong, I think this would be totally confusing for any subsequent reader.

    Having said all of that, I can only re-iterate yet again that I really value our discussion and, despite some early uncertainty on my part, my respect for you has grown immensely over the course of these exchanges. So I hope you will not be put off contributing further. To this end, I promise to take more care to put all my questions to you in the course of my own comments. Given the amount of strife my failing to do this has caused, I am happy to apologise.

    Given all of the above, I think that this might be a good place to end this discussion (which has now gone way off-topic). On the other hand, we could hardly take it up again on last Thursday’s post could we (or could we)? We could just pretend this ridiculous misunderstanding (or whatever it is or was) had not happened? It’s your call, I think.

    Martin Lack

    5 February 2012 at 18:21

    • Just one more try to explain what I mean. Capitalism is not “anarchy” and requires a certain level of government involvement. Ownership rights must be enforced. People must be free from physical harm caused by invading nations or even other citizens. Without regulating the environment, it would get trashed. Capitalism can’t be sustained without protecting the environment, period. The only question is what conduct really hurts the environment, and what conduct has a very minimal impact. That is the question that most of those republicans are fighting about, and that depends on the science. I could point to plenty of governmental decisions done in the name of the environment that are a waste of time. But that is not relevant here.

      John Kosowski

      5 February 2012 at 19:00

  14. Martin, I didn’t see a reply button on your last post, so I am replying here. In one of my first posts, I stated “Currently, my conclusions are obviously different than yours. But I have an open mind and am only seeking truth like any good scientist would. ” So yes, I am skeptical that human produced CO2 is or will have a significant or detrimental impact on the planet. Skeptical, but investigating. Does that mean I am yanking your chain?

    I listed some of the issues relating to the AGW issue merely to indicate the context of my investigation, and the things that I have found along the way, not to attempt to open new discussions on each of them. The brief reference to one of the climate-gate emails is exactly as described on Sinclair’s crock of the week explaining what was meant by “decline.” He just didn’t explain why it was ok, then, to apply that same data to times past when it didn’t even match times that we could observe. I just watched it again. “Hide the decline” was phasing out the post 1960 tree ring data that didn’t match actual temperature readings. I got it. [Brilliant! – ML]

    Again, we need not raise any of these issues for further discussion, unless you would like to tell me very specifically which issue I have wrong. “this nonsense has been repeatedly debunked on the Internet” gets me nowhere. I have been through it line by line, and I think I know exactly what has been specifically debunked and what has not. I have the medieval/little ice age graph, the hockey stick, and the graph presented by the next IPCC report in place of the hockey stick.

    I went to the same school from age 2 to eighth grade. I am almost positive that I did that time line in the year before first grade, but it could have been first grade. Much, of of course came after that.
    Do you really not understand my comments about the 97%? I gave one example where Hanson sees projected sea level vastly different than other AGW proponents. He is a contrarian in that regard. But, so what, that doesn’t mean he is wrong. It just means the 97% has no meaning.

    John Kosowski

    5 February 2012 at 18:53

    • Ah, John, so it is you that is messing-up the threads in this discussion is it? When you see no reply button, it is because WordPress has reached its nesting/tiering limit. If you want to reply, you must scroll-up until you find the comment in the previous tier (where there is a reply button). WordPress will then append your reply immediately below that to which you are responding. However, as I have done elsewhere, I will now insert a link from your reply back to the one you are responding to.

      I know it must seem like I am flip-floping more than even GOP POTUS candidates but I just don’t know what to make of your comments. I try my hardest to address them point-by-point; but you just respond by throwing a load of other stuff at me. Is it that unreasonable for me to be suspicious? If it is, please just put it down to my having been through a messy divorce in 2008.

      Please read my Andrew Montford piece from June 2011, it debunks both the Climategate and the Broken Hockey Stick myths. However, do not feel under any obligation to give me a running commentary on your research. You’re right this discussion is going nowhere at the moment; and will be infernally confusing for anyone reading from top to bottom. As I said, I have done my best to stitch it back together but, unless you or anyone else out there knows better, I can only do this by inserting links (I cannot “re-shuffle the pack” so to speak). Get back to me if and when you finish reading Hansen.

      Apologies if my language is a little intemperate; I am probably just being a perfectionist. I firmly believe there are legitimate answers to all sceptical questions; it all seems so obvious to me (who’s lying to who out there, etc); and I get frustrated when I don’t seem to be able to satisfy people with my answers. But, in addition to reducing my 5 ‘Nutshell’ posts into 1 tomorrow (based on but re-worked from my very first response to you on Milankovitch, etc.), I have gone even further still and reduced 900 words down to under 120 (i.e. see tomorrow’s footnote).

      Martin Lack

      5 February 2012 at 19:27

  15. […] John on the currently-favoured insanity of proceeding to burn all the fossil fuels that we can find here (2nd paragraph onwards). […]

  16. […] you missed them, see other photos from my Trek here: Enjoy the Sun while you can (3 Feb 2012); and Nothing new under the Sun (18 Feb 2012). Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInLike this:LikeBe […]

  17. […] I said on this blog way back in February this […]

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