There’s no question in my mind the “Intelligent Design” movement has lost all its arguments with Science. Unfortunately, post Trump-it, that fact is now an irrelevance. With Trump’s appointment of Betsy de Vos as Education Secretary, it looks like religious fundamentalism no longer needs its figleaf. What concerns me much more is that a similar fate awaits climate research if his appointment of Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State is any indication of future policy on combating climate change.
The science and politics of Global Warming seem to have roots going back to 1950, the year I was born. Two irrefutable examples of rapid climate change stand out for me. Around then atmospheric was not much more than 250 ppm. Today it is pushing 500 ppm and shows no sign of tailing off. We have ice-core samples showing how atmospheric has changed previously over 800,000 years and present levels and rate of change are unprecedented.
Also the extent of land and sea ice globally appears to be changing rapidly. I can look out of my window now across at les Monts d’Olmes in the Pyrenees, which are almost devoid of snow cover. Glaciation has reduced to 10% of what it was in the Pyrenees at the start of the nineteenth century. The story of retreating glaciers is repeated on every continent.
The Arctic sea ice seems to be on a rapid trend of shrinkage, especially when one looks at volume and not just area. There have been suggestions that the loss at the Arctic was being balanced by increases in sea ice at the Antarctic but latest information suggests this is no longer happening.
Today I see Barry Arrington has posted a “Friday Chuckle” cartoon mocking change as if it were a myth created by scientists. That his attitude is widely shared, even in the US administration, is worrying. One would expect the argument to move to considering whether the undeniable change is caused in whole or in part by human activity and whether changes we make now can help reverse the trend and if that is achievable or desirable. Has electing Trump condemned us to four lost years of denial and inaction?
What do others think?
ETA password protection removed, sorry!
I’d like to see the folks who doubt global warming state their views clearly. Are they saying
1. That global warming is not occurring, or
2. OK, it is occurring but it is not due to human activity, or
3. OK, it is occurring and it is due to human activity but it’s good for you
Because I have a feeling that as glibal warming becomes more and more undeniable, they are each going to be denying one more thing — that they ever said any of these. Suddenly you won’t be able to find anyone who ever took any of these positions.
Hi Alan Fox,
I have a quick question. I put it to you that there are very few (if any) intelligent people who would deny that global warming has been occurring in recent decades, and that much, and probably most of it is man-made. The real question is whether it is likely to be catastrophic or not. So here’s my question: what would you say to a lukewarmer, such as science writer Matt Ridley or to climatologists Judith Curry and Roy Spencer, who forecast modest, manageable warming in the 21st century (say, 1 to 1.5 degrees Celsius), and an equilibrium climate sensitivity of a little under 2 degrees?
May I remind you that while Arctic ice is melting, as you point out, sea levels will probably only rise about 40-60 centimeters this century, and 60-100 centimeters by 2300?
I would also ask you to bear in mind that the total cost of stopping global warming has been estimated at 100,000,000,000,000 dollars, or about 13,333 dollars for every man, woman and child on the planet.
You might argue that’s money well-spent, citing the Precautionary Principle. But there are a lot of other good things we could do with that kind of money – such as curing Alzheimer’s, eliminating malnutrition, and giving every Third World child a decent education (and every adult a Smartphone). Does anyone really want to let children die now in order to prevent a future catastrophe that may or may not happen? What’s more, there’s every chance that our plans to stop global warming will run over budget: it may well amount to 200,000,000,000,000 dollars.
It’s likely that America will be expected to pay around one-third of that, or about 70,000,000,000,000 dollars. Right now, the US federal debt is just under 20,000,000,000,000 dollars. Finally, let me remind readers that Bill Gates has said it’ll take an energy miracle to fix global warming. Is it any wonder that some of us are getting cold feet about spending all that money?
There is one thing I do agree with Bill Gates about, though: we definitely need to spend more money on research. That would be money well-spent. Forget federal subsidies for solar panels and wind farms. That’s hippy nonsense. The energy supply is not dense enough, and it’s too intermittent. Anyway, wind currently represents just 1.2 per cent of global consumption of energy, and solar 0.2 per cent. Like it or not, nuclear energy is an essential part of the mix.
I will start taking catastrophic global warming seriously when the Greens finally crack and admit that we have to go nuclear. As long as they dig in their heels and remain wedded to infeasible solutions, I’m digging in mine, in opposition to their pie-in-the-sky solutions that simply won’t work.
“I will start taking catastrophic global warming seriously when the Greens finally crack and admit that we have to go nuclear.”
So you will only accept reality when some people you think are wrong change their minds.
I can’t see anything wrong with that process.
“Today I see Barry Arrington has posted a “Friday Chuckle” cartoon mocking change as if it were a myth created by scientists. That his attitude is widely shared, even in the US administration, is worrying”
It makes sense that creationists would also be global warming deniers. Those specific items are just particular examples of the more general anti-intellectualism and rejection of acquired knowledge in favor of received and tribal knowledge.
My fundamental take on all of this is that reduction in fossil fuel burning, for whatever reason, is A Good Thing. Ultimately CO2 levels will reach a peak because we will run out of things to add to them. Whether that is before or after a Climate Catastrophe, I can’t say. And whether we can cope with this level of population after we run out of energy, I can’t say either. But let’s head for the cliff more slowly, eh? Who’s with me?!
There seems a mood, which seems to go hand in hand with right-wing policies, that any interference with oil-fired economies is Bad. Even, puzzlingly, to the extent of suppressing alternatives which are themselves of economic significance. Our own solar industry is facing some significant threats now, having grown up on the back of incentives.
“Why run this crazy experiment of changing the chemical composition of the atmosphere and oceans by adding enormous amounts of CO2?… That’s crazy. That’s the dumbest experiment in history, by far.”
Yeah, somehow doesn’t seem much when you stick ‘only’ in front. Only two feet … Still, I don’t care; top of a hill, me. The river only rose 6 feet above the highest level I’ve ever seen when the highest rainfall ever recorded in the UK (and that includes famously wet Scotland) thundered down just up-valley from us December last. Washed a house away. Still, I don’t care, top of the hill still.
All praise to our savior, Ayn Rand, the goddess of greed.
In Japan, sea-level rise of 3.3 feet (1 meter) could put another 4.1 million people at risk of flooding, and inundate more than 900 square miles of land (2,339 square kilometers) in major cities. Such a rise is well within the range of scientists’ projections, if today’s trends in global warming pollution continue.
What little it is worth, I believe the following three claims are all true:
1) The problem of climate change is the most difficult collective action problem humanity has ever faced;
2) Humans are neither naturally nor culturally skilled at solving difficult and large scale collective action problems;
3) If humans do not solve the problem of climate change, then humans will go extinct.
We’re looking our our extinction right in the face and are unable to see it. It would be comical if it weren’t tragic.
This couldn’t be more true. I post on several science discussion boards and every YEC I’ve seen is also a vocal AGW denier. There seems to be some fundamental problem that causes an inability to reason and process evidence. No matter what the science says if they don’t want something to be true then it isn’t true.
My position exactly. We could kill three vultures with one stone by developing thorium reactors.
We could stop messing with politics in the middle east and let them solve their own problems. I find it interesting that the trouble spots in the middle east also have a lot of sunlight. If we reduced the demand for petroleum, they could still be energy exporters.
We could cut carbon emissions by 80 percent in twenty years. Or more.
Thorium reactors do not produce the raw materials for bombs.
I can’t see how greenhouse warming will be so modest, especially once the permafrost really starts melting and the accumulated peat rots, accelerating the CO2 rise greatly. Some have warned that methane clathrates in the oceans may release a good deal of the much more potent greenhouse gas methane with the oceans warming too. The latter may be rather uncertain, but the peat release of massive CO2 appears to be quite likely, indeed.
The fact that the nuclear option (problems, but the only baseload low-carbon source we could employ now) is far too much ignored by most of those who push for measures against global warming is a problem, but it won’t be fixed by pretending that the CO2 problem doesn’t exist.
“Fixing AWG is too expensive”
Better die rich than live poor. Jesus would be proud
I think 1 is a minority position these days but 2 is fairly popular. I’ve seen our regular commenter, Frankie, argue for 3.
More like: “Better to send the world to Hell than let those hippies tell us how to live.”
I used to think that our self-reliant pioneer heritage in America was a good thing, but in this case I think it will be our undoing.
I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I just can’t get all heated up over this.
Starting a foundation to support the species that ought to replace us when we go extinct. Who are you rooting for?
If you have a book that tells you how it’s going to end? GW won’t fit in with your worldview. Like evolution!
Hi Vincent, if I may address you thus. Please feel free to call me Alan.
Are you sure? Or are you labelling quite a few folks as “unintelligent”?
Sure. The problem with waiting until there is catastrophic change (if that is not already happening) is it will soon be too late to do anything.
I’d say I hope they are right. I’d also say most things suggested to alleviate man-made climate change are worth doing for other reasons.
Yes but we are talking mean sea level rise here. If you have the elevation of Vanuatu, one powerful storm added to the modest rise in sea level we are already seeing spells ruin.
I’d question those figures.
I’m surprised at this alarmist line you are taking.
As I said I question the figures.
Agreed. I am optimistic that short, medium and long-term solutions wait to be developed. Nuclear is a much neglected possibility for the medium-term.
The problem, especially with wind, with renewable energy is storage and distribution. This is where research and development needs to go.
As I said, it could make a huge contribution in the medium term and we should not rule out the possibility of fusion power in the long-term.
Ideas should be examined on their merits. Taking philosophical and political attitudes is the nub of the issue. We need a large dose of pragmatism.
Is there also the point that it is all God’s will and who are we to question that? And we’re gonna be OK in Heaven soon. But why not think of the grand-kids?
Makes plants grow aster! Just look back to the Carboniferous Era.
I think some solar was intended as a political sop. Domestic installations don’t really make much sense. Putting large arrays in deserts with efficient DC power-lines looks much more promising. Domestic energy consumption can be reduced by simply encouraging higher insulation, direct solar capture using glass windows, atria and so on and direct hot water production. Heat pumps from ground and air add to the mix.
One thing you, me and Kairosfocus agree on. Wow!
The technology is available now and lots of new ideas on storage and transport. There are areas in Spain that are not very productive agriculturally and sparsely populated that are ripe for large solar installations. US has its desert areas too, I guess.
It’s a shame “nuclear” has become such a scare word.
The rise in atmospheric methane seems to get much less attention than CO2 but, as you say, when the permafrost starts to melt…
I think man is adversely affecting the environment, but the question of warming because of C02 is dubious because it is not just the issue of heat conduction but heat convection. C02 may actually aid heat convection near the stratosphere and thus oddly, even though through conduction CO2 enables a quasi green house, the thermally lifted heated bubbles of air are able to attain higher altitudes because of C02 and thus actually dump more heat at high altitudes than before.
But one can’t run away from the number 7 billion people now, trillions at some point at the rate of population growth. Cutting energy usage per person by 50% will be a drop in the bucket if the population grows by factors of 10.
So even if the climate change guys are right, what are the global warming advocates like Al Gore actually doing about it? He had 4 kids, that’s not setting a good example for what actually has to be done.
Nations with land want to expand their population so they have more power. Bigger armies, bigger economies, bigger politcal say, etc.
Disagree, but I respect your opinion. The ID arguments against OOL is stronger today than ever. Also science is destroying evolutionary theory. “If ENCODE is right, evolution is wrong.” ENCODE is right. Ayala and Ken Miller and Dan Graur and Richard Dawkins have embarrassed themselves making claims now falsified by experiments.
On the other hand, as far as culture, ID is losing, to paraphrase Barry Arrington.
So as far as ID goes, it’s a mixed bag, some losses, some gains. Polarization is probably the most apt description of what is going on. The middle ground is disappearing.
Do you think it’s all our imagination or is it that there’s nothing we ?can do and we’re all off to Hell in a handcart. Is it you are old enough not to worry what happens twenty years down the line? Do you not have kids, grand-kids, other young people you care about?
I think we need to take conservative view regarding adding carbon to the atmosphere so having plans to reduce it is a good thing. The problem is that it is very hard to demonstrate scientifically that the trend is man made.
the current trend does not appear to be statistically different then changes in the past
-the climate models don’t work yet
As far as the intelligent design goes, I agree that it has made little progress as a replacement theory. It has however created positive debate and shaken out some of the dubious claims of evolutionists.
As the political situation cycles, the public will become aware of some of the untested claims that the evolutionist political movements (NCSE, ACLU) has sold to the public as fact.
All evidence to the contrary, of course. ID has a testable methodology whereas blind and mindless/ unguided evolution does not.
But anyway- yes climate change is happening as that is what the climate does. But no there isn’t any evidence that humans are causing it and even less evidence that CO2 is causing it. The added CO2 has made the earth greener than it was.
Scientists have been challenged and failed to find the statistical signature for human induced climate change:
global warming fails the random natural variation contest.
History demonstrates that humans prosper during the warmer periods. History demonstrates that the warmer periods do not last forever. CO2 is causing the planet to become greener- we need those plants to live.
We were told that global warming was going to bring more and stronger hurricanes- that hasn’t happened.
But the circumstantial evidence is hard to avoid. Greenhouse gases contain heat within the atmosphere. People are producing prodigious quantities of these gases. Things are heating up. Not quite as clear as the trend toward more highways being man-made, but nearly.
This is at the very least disingenuous. Different sets of factors can produce similar results, but you can’t turn it around and say that similar results aren’t due to observed causes, simply because they occur with other causes.
Granted the models don’t work very well. But it was a very very long time before we had any model of how aspirin worked (or how curveballs curved), and sure enough, there were people who denied that aspirin worked (or curveballs curved) AT ALL, due to lack of good models. There seems to be a problem here. It’s rather foolish to say that what we observe simply is not happening on the grounds that we can’t fully understand it.
To my knowledge, it has done no such thing. It’s not even a theory, it’s simply another fig leaf for denying evolution because god (their version). Of course, every time evolutionary biologists learn something, the ID folks take credit. But this is like the guy who tosses out the ballast taking credit for hot air balloons working.
Aware of what? The claims, or that they’re untested, or something else? Do you think the ACLU is a scientific organization? What is an evolutionist political movement? This collection of meaningless phrases seems constructed to create FUD where there is none, and makes it clear that while science is not political, denial of science is purely political.
Or a reasonable test for design. Since it’s just minimalistic creationism/anti-evolutionism, it could hardly be expected to come up with anything worthwile.
What positive debate? All you ever do is complain about evolution while ignoring the fact that ID has no meaningful evidence at all. That’s not positive debate, it’s a bunch of hackneyed, biased attacks.
What untested claims? Like that the patterns entailed by evolutionary theory are found throughout life? You ask for evidence for the evidence, indicating your lack of understanding, but that doesn’t translate to “untested claims.” ID has been seriously losing support, not gaining at all, under the onslaught of evidence coming from actual science.
What do you think we should teach the public as fact? That we know nothing of human origins? That we are unrelated to any life we see? That there is no fossil record?
What would you like to see taught, instead of the “untested claims” of the evolutionist political movements? Care to share?
Wrong. ENCODE is not right about its claim that 80% of the genome is functional. Or at least, that has yet to be demonstrated. Breathless reports about another paradigm shifting addition of 0.1% to the total nothwithstanding.
Every activity involving more than one person is political. The ACLU and the NCSE are both evolutionist political movements.
The admission over the last 20 years that natural selection is not the driving force of biological innovation is a big victory for the ID movement.
So, as Sal says, the admission that the origin of life is poorly understood.
Many evolutionists support the theory for ideological reasons. When serious doubt about the theories mechanism, random variation and natural selection as the cause of life’s diversity surfaced, the ideological war against religion took a big hit.
IMHO both Michael Dent and Michael Behe contributed to this sea change.
IIRC there was also 35% oxygen. Not directly comparable!
In order to get the most favourable tariff, you have to upgrade the energy efficiency of your home anyway. And it makes people think about energy use (not my wife, sadly, who just rolls her eyes when I suggest she wait till sunrise to put the washing machine on). It doesn’t have to be the solution to be a contribution.
Umm according to at least some evolutionary experts, evolution is too complex a process to leave behind simple patterns that we could discern. Nice if it does but one shouldn’t expect it given the nature of the beast.
If nuclear is the simple answer to all our needs, let’s get on with it then. Are politicians thick or something? Oh hang on, it costs billions upon billions, has serious environmental side-effects and it would be a relatively simple matter for some nutjob to fly a plane into, crippling any eggs-in-one-basket economy. Also need a lot of water, but susceptible to tsunamis.
And bloody huge dragonflies!
We should teach that there is common biochemistry among all living things.
We should admit to discontinuity in the fossil records and that sudden appearance of complex life forms is hard to explain.
We should admit that the origin of life is poorly understood.
We should also admit the major evolutionary transitions are poorly understood because they require significant new biological information.
We should educate them on what biological information is.
We should admit that the origin of biological information is poorly understood.
The alternative is that we could continue to withhold information with the intent of indoctrination.
France still generates 80% of its electricity from nuclear power. Nuclear energy is not inherently an environmental disaster. Chernobyl and Three Mile Island [and Fukushima*] are lessons that should be learnt.
What do we do about China and India’s non compliance. The rest of the world seems to be reducing the carbon foot print.
Ramen to that.
Sal: “If ENCODE is right, evolution is wrong.”
How so? Junk DNA is not a prediction of evolution. It is an observation.
Build a great wall and have the Mexicans pay for it!
Aye, we are with EDF so that’s 80% of the electricity coming down our pipeline too! (Damn clever the way they reroute those electrons to their customers!) 😉
France … nuclear … look, I don’t want to put any ideas in anyone’s head, but …
I’m not fundamentally against nuclear. Just not so gung-ho about it being the answer.
It is a prediction of Susumu Ohno, subsequently confirmed by observation. The statement is by evolutionist Dan Graur, which Sal trots out at every available opportunity. ENCODE found biochemical activity in 80% of the genome, and mistakenly (IMO) equated that to 80% function.
Not the answer by any means, certainly with current technology. But perhaps deserves to be back in consideration for the medium-term rather than dismissed out of hand.
Why should they be denied their Industrial Age? I think that’s part of their thinking.
Did anyone say it’s the simple answer to all our needs? Why not make an argument, rather than attack strawmen?
Really, costs money? What would, say, baseload solar/electric storage cost? Or are you just going to keep pumping out CO2 while complaining about the major largely untapped alternative that works?
Well, welcome to reality. Could try to deal with it rather than attacking strawmen and invoking commonalities.
WTF? We’d only have one reactor? And I think that chemical plants could have planes flown into them as well. Bhopal?
What baseload generation doesn’t need lots of water? Susceptible to tsunamis if you don’t heed the recommendations to put the back-up generators where they belong.