Connecting climate change to everyday life: Guest blogger Christine Shearer

By: Dr. Ricky Rood , 1:30 AM GMT on December 31, 2010

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I regularly meet new people through this blog. Recently Christine Shearer contacted me to look over some paragraphs in her forthcoming book. Christine is a sociologist working on climate change. As my readers know, I believe that perspectives from many different fields are what we need to move our addressing climate change forward. I asked, and she agreed to write a guest blog.

Connecting climate change to everyday life by Christine Shearer

One of the interesting things, sociologically, about climate change science is just how political it has become. It is not, however, that people merely fall on different sides on the issue, depending upon their views concerning government regulation. In many ways this divide was socially engineered. In their research, sociologists Aaron McCright and Riley Dunlap track how those opposed to climate change regulations helped transform growing national understanding and concern over global warming into a “nonproblem”, creating a political climate conducive toward the US Congress rejecting the binding greenhouse gas limits of the Kyoto Protocol. Regulation opponents did this by borrowing tactics from Big Tobacco: demanding certainty as the only acceptable standard for action, while simultaneously funding research to deliberately create uncertainty. Historian Naomi Oreskes has traced how many of the same scientists that questioned the science on smoking also went on to question acid rain, ozone depletion, and climate change. These efforts are aided by the media, which too often confuse balanced journalism with presenting various views on an issue, ignoring the weight of scientific consensus.

After Kyoto, public perception of global warming as a problem shrank among U.S. Republicans, marking the beginning of a growing partisan divide concerning global warming and the need for action. Conservatives are arguably exposed to more media sources that question climate change, such as the recently leaked memo of a Fox News editor ordering its journalists to always state that climate change data has been called into question when discussing the topic. Gallup surveys also suggest there has been a measurable decrease since Kyoto in just how severe a problem much of the U.S. public – Republicans and Democrats – regard climate change.

This has been the brilliance of the climate change “doubt” campaign – to tame down the urgency with which people wanted action on climate change, and to create pockets of the US population that are absolutely convinced the entire issue is a hoax.

More concerning is that this is happening while the information on climate change is growing more alarming, with glaciers melting more rapidly than many models had predicted, with new studies suggesting carbon dioxide may stay in the atmosphere for longer than had been previously estimated, and with increasing signs that many of the world’s carbon sinks are growing stressed. The disconnect between scientific research and mainstream public opinion is huge, with many scientists quietly acquiescing that we should be performing small-scale experiments of geoengineering, since the social dynamics concerning climate change look so unlikely to change anytime soon.

That is why many organizations like 350.org have been calling for a social movement on this issue, to create the large-scale response needed to push social change. Activists have been trying to argue that action on climate change is a win-win-win: we clean up our environment, stimulate the economy with new technologies and jobs, and remove our dependence on unstable fuels.

What this movement needs, however, is some urgency. Research on climate change and risk perception show people think of climate change as a distant concern, not immediate to them, and not as pressing as other issues like the economic crisis. This is a problem, because the history of social movements and social change show that people often do not get active and involved in an issue until they can connect it to their daily lives, until it touches them personally. The economic crisis is touching people personally. Climate change, in the public mind - not so much.

This is where climate scientists could have a very important role to play: to begin shattering the taboo between weather and climate.

Right now, the conventional wisdom is that no specific weather event can be attributed to climate change. This is of course “true.” But it is the wrong question, and its persistence is having disastrous effects. First, it reinforces the public view that climate change is a remote, long-term concern not immediately affecting them. Second, it falls into the “uncertainty” argument - since you can't say that climate change “caused” a weather event, it ends up being an argument of doubt (and inaction) that plays into climate deniers' hands.

Again, the problem is it’s the wrong question, and we need to reframe the issue. Luckily, some are already doing this. In his paper “How Warm Was This Summer?” NASA scientist James Hansen suggests climate scientists reframe the question to: “Would these events have occurred if atmospheric carbon dioxide had remained at its pre-industrial level of 280 ppm?” To which he says: “An appropriate answer in that case is ‘almost certainly not.’”

Other scientists, for example, Ben Santer are using climate models as a “control experiment” for pre-industrial greenhouse gas levels, to determine how many times an extreme event of a given magnitude should have been observed in the absence of human interference, and compare that to present conditions, called “fractional attributable risk.

These are much needed advances, for both scientific and public understanding. The more people connect daily occurrences to increasing greenhouse gases, the more they’ll want to do something about it. Now.

The next step, of course, is getting the media and meteorologists to pay attention. But the more scientists discuss daily events, the more social scientists, activists, and other concerned people will demand attention be paid to it. And that will help raise the broader attention and concern we need around climate change. Because the best option, of course, is mitigation. And sadly it is an option we have yet to try.


Christine Shearer
Christine Shearer is a researcher for CoalSwarm, part of SourceWatch, and a postdoctoral scholar at the Center for Nanotechnology in Society at UC Santa Barbara. She is managing editor of Conducive, and author of the forthcoming book, "Kivalina: A Climate Change Story" (Haymarket Books, 2011).



Figure 1: Conceptual framework showing (in the shaded area) the steps involved in planned adaptation to climate variability and change from Application of environmentally sound technologies for adaptation to climate change; United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Secretariat, Bonn, Germany, Technical Paper FCCC/TP/2006/2, 107 p






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174. martinitony
7:54 PM GMT on January 10, 2011
Quoting LoveStormsatNight:
It turns out that Jared Loughner of the Gabrielle Gifford shooting was a real fan of Alex Jones and his wild theories. Really fits with what Alex Jones is all about.


Yeah, I heard he was fan of the Arizona Cardinals ,too. The whole team, their coaches and families must all be loons , too,no doubt.
Member Since: July 29, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 970
172. NRAamy
7:21 PM GMT on January 10, 2011
woot woot!

:)
Member Since: January 24, 2007 Posts: 317 Comments: 31946
171. cyclonebuster
7:20 PM GMT on January 10, 2011
Quoting NRAamy:
cb!!!!

:)


Big night tonight!! Go ducks!!
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20401
169. cyclonebuster
7:19 PM GMT on January 10, 2011
Quoting cyclonebuster:






January 5, 2011
Repeat of a negative Arctic Oscillation leads to warm Arctic, low sea ice extent

Arctic sea ice extent for December 2010 was the lowest in the satellite record for that month. These low ice conditions are linked to a strong negative phase of the Arctic Oscillation, similar to the situation that dominated the winter of 2009-2010.

Overview of conditions

Arctic sea ice extent averaged over December 2010 was 12.00 million square kilometers (4.63 million square miles). This is the lowest December ice extent recorded in satellite observations from 1979 to 2010, 270,000 square kilometers (104,000 square miles) below the previous record low of 12.27 million square kilometers (4.74 million square miles) set in 2006 and 1.35 million square kilometers (521,000 square miles) below the 1979 to 2000 average.

As in November, ice extent in December 2010 was unusually low in both the Atlantic and Pacific sides of the Arctic, but particularly in Hudson Bay, Hudson Strait (between southern Baffin Island and Labrador), and in Davis Strait (between Baffin Island and Greenland). Normally, these areas are completely frozen over by late November. In the middle of December, ice extent stopped increasing for about a week, an unusual but not unique event.Conditions in context

The low ice conditions in December occurred in conjunction with above-average air temperatures in regions where ice would normally expand at this time of year. Air temperatures over eastern Siberia were 6 to 10 degrees Celsius (11 to 18 degrees Fahrenheit) above normal in December. Over the eastern Canadian Arctic Archipelago, Baffin Bay/Davis Strait and Hudson Bay, temperatures were at least 6 degrees Celsius (11 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than average. Southern Baffin Island had the largest anomalies, with temperatures over 10 degrees Celsius (18 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than normal. By sharp contrast, temperatures were lower than average (4 to 7 degrees Celsius, 7 to 13 degrees Fahrenheit) over the Alaska-Yukon border, north-central Eurasia, and Scandinavia.

The warm temperatures in December came from two sources: unfrozen areas of the ocean continued to release heat to the atmosphere, and an unusual circulation pattern brought warm air into the Arctic from the south. Although the air temperatures were still below freezing on average, the additional ocean and atmospheric heat slowed ice growth.December 2010 compared to past years

December 2010 had the lowest ice extent for the month since the beginning of satellite records. The linear rate of decline for the month is –3.5% per decade.

Negative phase of the Arctic Oscillation

As in December 2009, a strongly negative phase of the Arctic Oscillation dominated the middle and high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere in December 2010, bringing higher-than-normal pressures to the Arctic region, with lower-than-normal pressures in middle latitudes. However, unlike 2009, when higher-than normal pressures centered near the central Arctic, in December 2010 higher pressures centered near Iceland and the eastern tip of the Aleutians in the Pacific, and yielded a different pattern of winds. As a result, different areas experienced warm anomalies in 2010, and a different pattern of ice extent emerged.

Our January 5, 2010 post discussed the connection between very warm temperatures over much of the high Arctic in December 2009 and a strongly negative phase of the Arctic Oscillation.
2010 year in review

Despite a late date of the maximum in winter sea ice extent, the minimum sea ice extent for September 2010 was third lowest in the 1979 to 2010 satellite record, above only 2007 (the record low) and 2008. The late summer of 2010 saw an open Northwest Passage: this year, the deep water channel (the northern route) from M'Clure Strait to Lancaster Sound was navigable. The Northern Sea Route along the Siberian coast also became briefly navigable.

2010 started out with a highly negative phase of the Arctic Oscillation, an atmospheric pattern that in the past has favored the survival of old ice through the winter, and more ice at the end of this summer. But this tendency seems to be changing. A recent study led by Julienne Strove of NSIDC showed that while wind patterns linked with the strongly negative Arctic Oscillation winter of 2009-2010 transported much old ice into the southern Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, most of this ice later melted. It may be that with a warmer Arctic, old rules regarding links between the atmospheric pressure patterns and sea ice extent no longer hold. So far the winter of 2010-2011 has also had a strongly negative Arctic Oscillation, but it is not yet clear how this pattern will affect summer sea ice.

Link


"Although the air temperatures were still below freezing on average, the additional ocean and atmospheric heat slowed ice growth."

See why we need Tunnels?
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20401
168. NRAamy
7:16 PM GMT on January 10, 2011
cb!!!!

:)
Member Since: January 24, 2007 Posts: 317 Comments: 31946
167. cyclonebuster
7:13 PM GMT on January 10, 2011






January 5, 2011
Repeat of a negative Arctic Oscillation leads to warm Arctic, low sea ice extent

Arctic sea ice extent for December 2010 was the lowest in the satellite record for that month. These low ice conditions are linked to a strong negative phase of the Arctic Oscillation, similar to the situation that dominated the winter of 2009-2010.

Overview of conditions

Arctic sea ice extent averaged over December 2010 was 12.00 million square kilometers (4.63 million square miles). This is the lowest December ice extent recorded in satellite observations from 1979 to 2010, 270,000 square kilometers (104,000 square miles) below the previous record low of 12.27 million square kilometers (4.74 million square miles) set in 2006 and 1.35 million square kilometers (521,000 square miles) below the 1979 to 2000 average.

As in November, ice extent in December 2010 was unusually low in both the Atlantic and Pacific sides of the Arctic, but particularly in Hudson Bay, Hudson Strait (between southern Baffin Island and Labrador), and in Davis Strait (between Baffin Island and Greenland). Normally, these areas are completely frozen over by late November. In the middle of December, ice extent stopped increasing for about a week, an unusual but not unique event.Conditions in context

The low ice conditions in December occurred in conjunction with above-average air temperatures in regions where ice would normally expand at this time of year. Air temperatures over eastern Siberia were 6 to 10 degrees Celsius (11 to 18 degrees Fahrenheit) above normal in December. Over the eastern Canadian Arctic Archipelago, Baffin Bay/Davis Strait and Hudson Bay, temperatures were at least 6 degrees Celsius (11 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than average. Southern Baffin Island had the largest anomalies, with temperatures over 10 degrees Celsius (18 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than normal. By sharp contrast, temperatures were lower than average (4 to 7 degrees Celsius, 7 to 13 degrees Fahrenheit) over the Alaska-Yukon border, north-central Eurasia, and Scandinavia.

The warm temperatures in December came from two sources: unfrozen areas of the ocean continued to release heat to the atmosphere, and an unusual circulation pattern brought warm air into the Arctic from the south. Although the air temperatures were still below freezing on average, the additional ocean and atmospheric heat slowed ice growth.December 2010 compared to past years

December 2010 had the lowest ice extent for the month since the beginning of satellite records. The linear rate of decline for the month is –3.5% per decade.

Negative phase of the Arctic Oscillation

As in December 2009, a strongly negative phase of the Arctic Oscillation dominated the middle and high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere in December 2010, bringing higher-than-normal pressures to the Arctic region, with lower-than-normal pressures in middle latitudes. However, unlike 2009, when higher-than normal pressures centered near the central Arctic, in December 2010 higher pressures centered near Iceland and the eastern tip of the Aleutians in the Pacific, and yielded a different pattern of winds. As a result, different areas experienced warm anomalies in 2010, and a different pattern of ice extent emerged.

Our January 5, 2010 post discussed the connection between very warm temperatures over much of the high Arctic in December 2009 and a strongly negative phase of the Arctic Oscillation.
2010 year in review

Despite a late date of the maximum in winter sea ice extent, the minimum sea ice extent for September 2010 was third lowest in the 1979 to 2010 satellite record, above only 2007 (the record low) and 2008. The late summer of 2010 saw an open Northwest Passage: this year, the deep water channel (the northern route) from M'Clure Strait to Lancaster Sound was navigable. The Northern Sea Route along the Siberian coast also became briefly navigable.

2010 started out with a highly negative phase of the Arctic Oscillation, an atmospheric pattern that in the past has favored the survival of old ice through the winter, and more ice at the end of this summer. But this tendency seems to be changing. A recent study led by Julienne Strove of NSIDC showed that while wind patterns linked with the strongly negative Arctic Oscillation winter of 2009-2010 transported much old ice into the southern Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, most of this ice later melted. It may be that with a warmer Arctic, old rules regarding links between the atmospheric pressure patterns and sea ice extent no longer hold. So far the winter of 2010-2011 has also had a strongly negative Arctic Oscillation, but it is not yet clear how this pattern will affect summer sea ice.

Link
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20401
163. martinitony
1:42 PM GMT on January 10, 2011
Quoting idontknowforsure:


Mr. Florida, did you ever watch the Smothers Brothers show. One time, Tom, the dumb one, explained how there must have been more people in the past than the present. He explained it something like this"
Well you had two parents, right?
And each of them had 2 parents. That makes 4. And each of them had 2 parents. That makes eight...etc. See, more people.

Now, suppose there was more ice area being created. The heat must be withdrawn from the water to create ice and we know that would be added to the atmosphere which would increase the heat in the atmosphere which would increase temperatures. Therefore the more ice area created the hotter the world would become, right?
Likewise the decrease in ice area withdraws heat from the atmosphere to melt the ice and that would, likewise cool the Earth. So, the melting Arctic ice and other glaciers are proof that the Earth is cooling. The global warming thing must be nonsense, right?


I didn't know that.
Member Since: July 29, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 970
162. idontknowforsure
1:22 PM GMT on January 10, 2011
Quoting idontknowforsure:


No


Mr. Florida, did you ever watch the Smothers Brothers show. One time, Tom, the dumb one, explained how there must have been more people in the past than the present. He explained it something like this"
Well you had two parents, right?
And each of them had 2 parents. That makes 4. And each of them had 2 parents. That makes eight...etc. See, more people.

Now, suppose there was more ice area being created. The heat must be withdrawn from the water to create ice and we know that would be added to the atmosphere which would increase the heat in the atmosphere which would increase temperatures. Therefore the more ice area created the hotter the world would become, right?
Likewise the decrease in ice area withdraws heat from the atmosphere to melt the ice and that would, likewise cool the Earth. So, the melting Arctic ice and other glaciers are proof that the Earth is cooling. The global warming thing must be nonsense, right?
Member Since: January 17, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 289
161. idontknowforsure
1:03 PM GMT on January 10, 2011
Quoting JFLORIDA:
Look I am sure we have talked about this before, and I have forgotten or wasn't paying attention  - but is the enthalpy of fusion significant in global heat content measurements?

I guess comparatively its not that important or significant but it would be interesting to know.

Not just glaciers and pack ice but permafrost also.  I wonder how it compares to seasonal ice. Certainly seasonal ice is a huge amount of ice produced in an entire hemisphere over a winter.


No
Member Since: January 17, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 289
157. martinitony
3:00 AM GMT on January 10, 2011
Quoting MichaelSTL:
The temperature at Barrow, on the Arctic coast of Alaska, actually rose above freezing today:

RECORD EVENT REPORT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE BARROW AK
1216 PM AKST SUN JAN 9 2011

...RECORD BREAKING HIGH TEMPERATURE FOR BARROW TODAY...

HIGH PRESSURE OVER INTERIOR ALASKA CONTINUES TO DRAW WARM AIR OVER
THE ARCTIC SLOPE SENDING BARROW TEMPERATURE TO A RECORD BREAKING 33
DEGREES
AT 1020 THIS MORNING. PREVIOUS HIGH TEMPERATURE WAS 25
DEGREES SET IN 1930. BARROW IS ALSO SET TO BREAK THE HIGH MINIMUM
WITH 10 DEGREES SO FAR TODAY. PREVIOUS HIGH MINIMUM WAS 8 DEGREES SET
IN 1981.


That is 40 degrees above the average high of 7 below.


So, given that average world temperatures have fallen so quickly during No-Dec., how would you account for this record breaker. You think it's climate change or just weather?
Here
Average Temperature Lower Atmosphere
Looks like the averages are about back to same flat line of the last 11-12 years.
If you explore that site a little further you'll find sea surface temperatures have really plummeted over the last six months. Given how warm the seas have been around Greenland, Hudson Bay, the rest of the world's seas must be really cold. Kind of freaky what ocean currents can do, isn't it.
Member Since: July 29, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 970
149. martinitony
11:33 PM GMT on January 09, 2011
Quoting LoveStormsatNight:
I don't see what the internet or Soviet economics has to do with global warming.


The internet is what we're using right now and soviet economics is the type of economics that developed ideas similar to the ideas evolving today to redistribute wealth under the banner of staving off global warming.
Those ideas will be about as effective as the Soviets five year plans and lead to destruction of the world's leading economies. But, hey, that's just my opinion.
Member Since: July 29, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 970
147. martinitony
11:19 PM GMT on January 09, 2011
Quoting JFLORIDA:
And Mart - this country was formed on the concept of individual freedom, equality, liberty and opportunity. The path that follows those most efficiently is independent of economics, or at least was intended to be.

Economics is a result, a conclusion documenting the distribution of wealth.


I have a BS in Business Administration. It sounds to me like you have a BS, a MS and maybe even a PHd in science, but don't know what you're talking about when it comes to economics and business. Saying that economics documents the distribution of wealth is like saying the study of medicine documents your heart rate. Quit being naive.

Economics is an analytical field of study. We can debate whether or not it is science, but it certainly isn't history or journalism.

The right to personal ownership of property is as important as the other rights you mentioned and that right and capitalism are not necessary to the study of economics. I'm sure the former Soviet Union had its share of economists. Incidentally, they weren't there to document the distribution ofd wealth either. They were there to make five year plans.They were bad at their work.
Member Since: July 29, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 970
144. martinitony
11:07 PM GMT on January 09, 2011
Quoting JFLORIDA:
139 we are conversioning on THE standard mart.

In innovative environments using open approaches and reason there is no need for regulation in establishing standards.

You are arguing the opposite, perpetual conservatism in a world that never changes.

AKA Denial.

Bit its a good point - in innovative environments adherence to reason replaces regulation in a more free, open and expressive state - embodying what liberalism should be.

Regulation is a inherently a necessity of Conservatism, a fix to allow the unreasonable within a level of control that prevents destruction and collapse; as all conservative environments are predestined to.

I think you just inadvertently dropped a piece of the puzzle into the correct place.


Pardon me. What is it EXACTLY that you claim I am denying?
What EXACTLY is it you think I am arguing with you about?

I thought my claim was that the internet was not discovered and advanced by a collectivist movement.

Are you saying that it is conservative philosophy that leads to standards and regulations?

I'm having a tough time trying to understand what your saying.
Member Since: July 29, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 970
140. idontknowforsure
4:00 PM GMT on January 09, 2011
For those of you who believe that the private sector conspires with some scientists. A little light shed on the money. Remember, follow the money:
Who gets all the money?
Member Since: January 17, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 289
139. martinitony
11:44 AM GMT on January 09, 2011
Quoting JFLORIDA:
Mart is there a single topic you are not ashamed to reveal your ignorance in?

The Red Scare part two was amusing but pointless.

I like also when people lash out at collectivism on the largest regulated, communal, publicly developed and funded network in the history of mankind.

I hate you mommy and daddy, you always loved me less.



Florida, you really demonstrate a lack of basic understanding. The internet was discovered and advanced by mankind. There was no more collectivism involved in its making than the making of language, reading , writing and arithmetic.
Collectivism is any philosophic, political, economic or social outlook that emphasizes the interdependence of every human in some collective group and the priority of group goals over individual goals.
The internet did not REQUIRE that the makers of it be forced to think and work as one. Do you grasp the difference?
No one is forced to be a part of the internet. We must abide by its rules much as you drive by the rules laid out by the state or city or for that matter your landlord. Those rules don't create a collective anymore than living in any town under its laws creates a collective.
It is the forced sharing of your labors, IMO, that is the fingerprint of the collective.
Member Since: July 29, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 970
131. martinitony
12:13 AM GMT on January 09, 2011
Quoting MichaelSTL:
This shows how much the deniers want to censor the truth:

I want to pass along a heads-up that a purge is underway at the Accuweather global warming blog, where Accuweather is using the “moderation” policy to silently eject participants who resist the deniar mantra. It appears that Brett Anderson, who has attempted to keep the blog somewhat sane, is being sandbagged by his management. They are using their “moderation” policy to boot members who offer even mildly-spirited rebuttals to the usual array of crackpot rants from cranks like Joe Bastardi.

Link


LOL. Your post is meant as a joke, right?
Member Since: July 29, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 970
130. martinitony
12:09 AM GMT on January 09, 2011
Quoting McBill:

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

EPA Superfund Sites

Foolhardy and stupid, indeed.



McBill, are you a collectivist?
A socialist?
A communist?
Oh, by the way, how many superfund sites are there in Poland,
In Hungary,
In the former Soviet Union?
In China?
Yes, history does repeats itself because of fools like...
Well you fill in the blank.
Member Since: July 29, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 970
127. sirmaelstrom
10:14 PM GMT on January 08, 2011
№ 123
Quoting MichaelSTL:


LOL! You both just plain flat-out deny reality.

Wonder how Mart explains this as well (his claims that it is cooling):



Even the denier's beloved Roy Spencer's UAH dataset says that it is warming in fact, it shows more warming than any other dataset (in recent years, less for the entire satellite record, thus it shows even more (relative) warming for recent years than the trendlines show)!


This graph is easy to explain:

1. The margins of error are so large what we're looking at is a statistical tie.

2. The graph starts during La Niña conditions (2000-1) and ends with El Niño (2010).

What else would you expect it to show but warming? There may well be an underlying amount of warming due to CO₂ within the past ten years, but your graph doesn't show that. At most, it's representative of each temperature measurement's variation in response to changing ENSO conditions.

It's not really proof of anything one way or the other but it definitely doesn't say what you claim it does.

Member Since: February 19, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 580
126. cyclonebuster
9:22 PM GMT on January 08, 2011
Quoting MichaelSTL:


LOL! You both just plain flat-out deny reality.

Wonder how Mart explains this as well (his claims that it is cooling):



Even the denier's beloved Roy Spencer's UAH dataset says that it is warming in fact, it shows more warming than any other dataset (in recent years, less for the entire satellite record, thus it shows even more (relative) warming for recent years than the trendlines show)!


It stands to reason that as the surface warms the lower depths will warm some also.
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20401
125. martinitony
5:01 PM GMT on January 08, 2011
Quoting jwh250:
Climate Scientists Deepening Skepticism of Democracy
Jan. 7 2011 - 1:40 am | 2,016 views | 0
By WILLIAM PENTLAND

Does a liberal democracy have sufficient resolve to stomach the economic and political sacrifices required to stabilize global warming?

A growing number of climate scientists believe the answer is “no.” In their view, democratic institutions are perpetuating climate change by precluding implementation of the politically unpalatable actions needed to reduce the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

For example, in The Climate Change Challenge and the Failure of Democracy, David Shearman, a professor of environmental sciences at the University of Adelaide in Australia argues that democracies are no match for the complex challenges posed by climate change. A liberal democracy are inherently incompatible with the governance measured needed to establish a sustainable society.

After arguing that democracy is impotent and destined to fail humanity, Shearman goes off the deep-end, concluding that an authoritarian form of government is necessary to combat climate change. The back-of-the-book blurb, which I would strongly urge readers NOT to buy, describes the author’s argument like so:

Climate change threatens the future of civilization, but humanity is impotent in effecting solutions . . . Society is verging on a philosophical choice between liberty or life . . . Having brought the reader to the realization that in order to halt or even slow the disastrous process of climate change we must choose between liberal democracy and a form of authoritarian government by experts, the authors offer up a radical reform of democracy that would entail the painful choice of curtailing our worldwide reliance on growth economies, along with various legal and fiscal reforms.

In my view, this argument wreaks of the worst brand of “hubris.” History is replete with examples of the dangers human arrogance of this ilk poses.

Winston Churchill worried that Britain would lose World War II because the nation’s legal system circumscribed his control over the military. Unlike Britain, Adolf Hitler exercised virtually absolute control over German military. Democracy, Churchill believed, could not prevail against authoritarianism, which enabled more effective governance for purposes of fighting a war. Ironically, Hitler profoundly hampered his nation’s military campaign by micromanaging the effort, which ultimately ensured Germany lost the war. Meanwhile, the restraint imposed by England’s democratic traditions prevented Churchill from similarly self-destructing. History is replete with similar lessons of the abiding value of caution and restraint.

Icarus, Julius Caesar . . . “Primum non nocere.”

This is where the rubber meets the road. Scientists are wrong to believe the public will act decisively against global warming based on a rational assessment of the scientific evidence. The great judges of the world know this well. Oliver Wendell Holmes put it like so: “the life of the law has not been logic, it has been experience.”

Soldiers don’t follow their commanders into the heat of battle because they have carefully considered all of the evidence and concluded that running into a field full of existential threats was the most compelling choice based on the cost-benefit calculus. Human beings are not calculators. Scientists can easily forget this, which is why politicians who failed math in high school – and not scientists – have historically led humanity.


It is truly astounding how foolhardy and stupid some are. We can look at modern history to learn that it has been capitalism and democracy that has controlled pollution and maintained the environment. All we have to do is look behind the former Iron Curtain to know this. And yet some fool will write an article and another a book defying what is so obvious. Wealth creation is the savior of the environment and even the arts. This has always been true.
Member Since: July 29, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 970

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About RickyRood

I'm a professor at U Michigan and lead a course on climate change problem solving. These articles often come from and contribute to the course.