Friday, February 23, 2007

Fever and recycling

Global warming hysteria is causing kids to freak out:

Global warming concerns are keeping children awake at night
Half of young children are anxious about the effects of global warming, often losing sleep because of their concern, according to a new report today.

A survey of 1,150 youngsters aged between seven and 11 found that one in four blamed politicians for the problems of climate change.
And then there is this line that had me rolling in the aisles and prompted me to post this story:

Most of those polled understood the benefits of recycling, although one in 10 thought the issue was linked to riding a bike.
Elsewhere I read that GW will cause fever in half the child population. I grew up in the subtropics where it was really hot and don't remember having had an unsual share of fevered days.

This site called live science has different views on GW. I has links to related topics that seem like a good source for teachers who want to have kids do research projects.


Anonymous said...


I wonder if they where they are picking up on these messages?

Is this something that is discussed a lot at school? Side bars in textbooks? Is it children's programming on tv?

I certainly don't discuss this at all the child I have that would be old enough to have anxieties over this sort of thing. He's never said a thing about it.

As a child, I do remember being in the second grade and being terrified of a nuclear war. The messages I got about this were all from the school since they'd make us practice for this event by sending us down to the basement and practice covering our heads.

Instructivist said...

I think it mainly comes from schools. It is indeed akin to the nuclear war scenarios, especially the 80s. Remember all that apocalyptic talk about nuclear winter and the like?

NYC Math Teacher said...

Remember all that apocalyptic talk about nuclear winter and the like?

Remember? As a high school freshman, I was assigned to watch "The Day After"! I always felt bad for the kid who was blinded. Didn't he know to look away from a nuclear blast?

Barry Garelick said...

I grew up in the 50's/60's and the threat of nuclear war seemed imminently real. I used to practice shielding my eyes so that if I somehow survived a blast, at least I wouldn't be blind. I remember a film they showed us in school of real live atomic bomb tests in the Nevada desert; the film was in slow motion and we saw the inside of a model house get blown apart. We saw the shock wave of heat spread across desert sands leaving molten glass in its wake. Why a school would show this to 10 year olds is beyond me, but it has stayed with me forever.

warming alarmist said...

January 1, 2008
In 2008, a 100 Percent Chance of Alarm
Correction Appended

I’d like to wish you a happy New Year, but I’m afraid I have a different sort of prediction.

You’re in for very bad weather. In 2008, your television will bring you image after frightening image of natural havoc linked to global warming. You will be told that such bizarre weather must be a sign of dangerous climate change — and that these images are a mere preview of what’s in store unless we act quickly to cool the planet.

Unfortunately, I can’t be more specific. I don’t know if disaster will come by flood or drought, hurricane or blizzard, fire or ice. Nor do I have any idea how much the planet will warm this year or what that means for your local forecast. Long-term climate models cannot explain short-term weather.

But there’s bound to be some weird weather somewhere, and we will react like the sailors in the Book of Jonah. When a storm hit their ship, they didn’t ascribe it to a seasonal weather pattern. They quickly identified the cause (Jonah’s sinfulness) and agreed to an appropriate policy response (throw Jonah overboard).

Today’s interpreters of the weather are what social scientists call availability entrepreneurs: the activists, journalists and publicity-savvy scientists who selectively monitor the globe looking for newsworthy evidence of a new form of sinfulness, burning fossil fuels.

A year ago, British meteorologists made headlines predicting that the buildup of greenhouse gases would help make 2007 the hottest year on record. At year’s end, even though the British scientists reported the global temperature average was not a new record — it was actually lower than any year since 2001 — the BBC confidently proclaimed, “2007 Data Confirms Warming Trend.”

When the Arctic sea ice last year hit the lowest level ever recorded by satellites, it was big news and heralded as a sign that the whole planet was warming. When the Antarctic sea ice last year reached the highest level ever recorded by satellites, it was pretty much ignored. A large part of Antarctica has been cooling recently, but most coverage of that continent has focused on one small part that has warmed.

When Hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans in 2005, it was supposed to be a harbinger of the stormier world predicted by some climate modelers. When the next two hurricane seasons were fairly calm — by some measures, last season in the Northern Hemisphere was the calmest in three decades — the availability entrepreneurs changed the subject. Droughts in California and Australia became the new harbingers of climate change (never mind that a warmer planet is projected to have more, not less, precipitation over all).

The most charitable excuse for this bias in weather divination is that the entrepreneurs are trying to offset another bias. The planet has indeed gotten warmer, and it is projected to keep warming because of greenhouse emissions, but this process is too slow to make much impact on the public.

When judging risks, we often go wrong by using what’s called the availability heuristic: we gauge a danger according to how many examples of it are readily available in our minds. Thus we overestimate the odds of dying in a terrorist attack or a plane crash because we’ve seen such dramatic deaths so often on television; we underestimate the risks of dying from a stroke because we don’t have so many vivid images readily available.

Slow warming doesn’t make for memorable images on television or in people’s minds, so activists, journalists and scientists have looked to hurricanes, wild fires and starving polar bears instead. They have used these images to start an “availability cascade,” a term coined by Timur Kuran, professor of economics and political science at Duke University, and Cass R. Sunstein, a law professor at the University of Chicago.

The availability cascade is a self-perpetuating process: the more attention a danger gets, the more worried people become, leading to more news coverage and more fear. Once the images of Sept. 11 made terrorism seem a major threat, the press and the police lavished attention on potential new attacks and supposed plots. After Three Mile Island and “The China Syndrome,” minor malfunctions at nuclear power plants suddenly became newsworthy.

“Many people concerned about climate change,” Dr. Sunstein says, “want to create an availability cascade by fixing an incident in people’s minds. Hurricane Katrina is just an early example; there will be others. I don’t doubt that climate change is real and that it presents a serious threat, but there’s a danger that any ‘consensus’ on particular events or specific findings is, in part, a cascade.”

Once a cascade is under way, it becomes tough to sort out risks because experts become reluctant to dispute the popular wisdom, and are ignored if they do. Now that the melting Arctic has become the symbol of global warming, there’s not much interest in hearing other explanations of why the ice is melting — or why the globe’s other pole isn’t melting, too.

Global warming has an impact on both polar regions, but they’re also strongly influenced by regional weather patterns and ocean currents. Two studies by NASA and university scientists last year concluded that much of the recent melting of Arctic sea ice was related to a cyclical change in ocean currents and winds, but those studies got relatively little attention — and were certainly no match for the images of struggling polar bears so popular with availability entrepreneurs.

Roger A. Pielke Jr., a professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado, recently noted the very different reception received last year by two conflicting papers on the link between hurricanes and global warming. He counted 79 news articles about a paper in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, and only 3 news articles about one in a far more prestigious journal, Nature.

Guess which paper jibed with the theory — and image of Katrina — presented by Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth”?

It was, of course, the paper in the more obscure journal, which suggested that global warming is creating more hurricanes. The paper in Nature concluded that global warming has a minimal effect on hurricanes. It was published in December — by coincidence, the same week that Mr. Gore received his Nobel Peace Prize.

In his acceptance speech, Mr. Gore didn’t dwell on the complexities of the hurricane debate. Nor, in his roundup of the 2007 weather, did he mention how calm the hurricane season had been. Instead, he alluded somewhat mysteriously to “stronger storms in the Atlantic and Pacific,” and focused on other kinds of disasters, like “massive droughts” and “massive flooding.”

“In the last few months,” Mr. Gore said, “it has been harder and harder to misinterpret the signs that our world is spinning out of kilter.” But he was being too modest. Thanks to availability entrepreneurs like him, misinterpreting the weather is getting easier and easier.

Correction: January 4, 2008

The Findings column in Science Times on Tuesday, about the way severe weather is tied to predictions of global warming, gave an outdated academic affiliation for Timur Kuran. He is a professor of economics and political science at Duke University; he is no longer a professor of economics and law at the University of Southern California.

January 1, 2008, 11:46 am
Are There Any Good Weather Omens?
By John Tierney

Tags: cascades, climate change, global warming, hurricanes, weather

On New Year’s Day, let us contemplate signs of future weather.
In my Findings column, I argue that “availability entrepreneurs” have been exploiting short-term weather in order to awaken the public to what could be a real long-term danger, global warming. Hurricanes, blizzards, floods, droughts, exceptionally hot years — all these have been linked to global warming. Sometimes they’re described as “evidence” or as “wake-up calls” or as “examples” of what’s in store. The more careful entrepreneurs like to say these events are “consistent” with the theory that the climate is dangerously warming.
But if all these things are consistent with the theory, are there any sorts of weather trends or events that would be inconsistent? Or, as Roger Pielke Jr. of the University of Colorado put the question on the Prometheus blog:
What behavior of the climate system could hypothetically be observed over the next 1, 5, 10 years that would be inconsistent with the current consensus on climate change? My focus is on extreme events like floods and hurricanes, so please consider those, but consider any other climate metric or phenomena you think important as well for answering this question. Ideally, a response would focus on more than just sea level rise and global average temperature, but if these are the only metrics that are relevant here that too would be very interesting to know.
Any answers?
Comments (115) E-mail this Share Digg Facebook Newsvine Permalink 115 comments so far...
1.January 1st,
12:07 pm Weather? It is amazing how many people talk about the weather as if it is the same things as “climate”. They are absolutley NOT the same thing. Climate change is a systemic average. Weather is a local and momentary detail. Climate is not whether we will have a storm here or there, or whether we will have drought.

Just because a few things do or don’t happen, does not change the fact that the climate (the systemic average) is and has already changed. Weather is always, and will always be, variable. Climate is the system in which weather happens.

As a comparison, “climate” can be likened to the calculation of the average age a person dies in a particular country. And the “weather” is predicting when a specific person will die. Predicting weather is extremely dicey past 5 days (past 2-3 days sometimes) - which is a miniscule period compared to the hundreds or thousands of years that climate is caluclated over. Just as it is practically impossible (without some known deadly disease) to predict when a specific person will die.

This means that when you want to see climate change, you look at averages over time (a decade, at least). That is where you will see the change. Whether this year or last year was not a record breaking year for hurricanes, or droughts (btw, it depends in which part of the world you are in whether climate change will bring more or less rain) - you are looking for the change in the systemic average.

And that has already been shown by all measurements.

Am I repeating myself? I hope so. Then perhaps people will realize that it is not about your personal rainmeter in your garden, state, or country in a particular day, year, or even couple of years.

Climate change is not about comparing last year with this year, but about comparing the last 50-100 years, with the previous thousands of years.

— Posted by Zoe
2.January 1st,
12:22 pm Glaciers advancing. Greenland not losing ice. A stretch of years without record numbers of high temperature records broken. Arctic sea ice returns. Tundra re-freeezes. In the Willamette Valley, pinot noir becomes as problematic as once it was.

— Posted by Martin Richard
3.January 1st,
12:25 pm My question is more basic. Why did you select Roger Pielke Jr., a political scientist, over any number of other more qualified actual climate researchers to quote in this fluff piece? Source watch notes many reasons that Roger is not to be trusted. See here: _Jr.

Is there any reason a reader should take you seriously when this is the quality of person you find worthwhile? Also, could you please stop scare quoting as you have done at the top of your opinion piece. It just makes you look more foolish than you already are.

— Posted by Mark Schaffer
4.January 1st,
12:28 pm Ah, to expand on my previous post and answer the question (directly - that would help), there is no specific weather that would be inconsistent with climate change - as climate change is not about time-specific or place-specific events. Climate is a systemic average.

Only when the systemic average goes back to the average we have had for hundreds and thousands (and it is a range, in case you think a sytemic average is a specific number), only then would there be a sign that climate change is not happening.

And since climate is such a complicated system (as you note it is more than weather - it includes the oceans, atmosphere, geological formations, etc.)- it would take all of them, as a whole, to change.

You can’t, and shouldn’t, point to one phenomena as a harbringer of anything.

We will know if climate change is/isn’t happening by looking at the whole system over decades (at least!). That’s the only way.

The next 1, 5, 10 years will tell little by themselves. Only when included in the systemic average for the past century.

— Posted by Zoe
5.January 1st,
12:31 pm None are possible.

Once “global warming” became a religion all observable weather is miraculous confirmation. Time itself will end the hysteria. My guess, 10 years or so as more scientists are willing to come out of the closet without fear of funding reprisals.

— Posted by patrick neid
6.January 1st,
12:33 pm Your point is well taken, but it is merely a footnote. This mistake of over-emphasizing local events is explicitly addressed by the IPCC and climate scientists, and even Gore from time to time.

Of course people have to be careful about applying too much weight to specific LOCAL events. For example, can we really blame the Dustbowl of the 1930’s on man made CO2?

So then: let us be careful with our language and emphasize global-wide events like:

What are the vast majority of glaciers doing over time?

What are the vast majority of coral reefs doing over time?

What is the global average temp doing over time?

Your reminder is heard, but it can also be just as misused and abused. It can be a clarion call to lazy-crankiness, apathy and avoidance of the major changes we need to make in the next decade.

We will be careful and holistic with our language and perhaps you should be as well.

-Christopher S. Johnson

— Posted by Christopher S. Johnson
7.January 1st,
12:41 pm Your last sentence of your Findings column opines, “Thanks to availability entrepreneurs like him, misinterpreting the weather is getting easier and easier.”


The column linked availability entrepreneurs to weather interpretation perhaps overemphasizing individual events. OK. It is an article not completely meretricious.

Except, of course, the misleading use of the note about increasing sea ice. Of considerably more relevance than floating ice is the Antarctic ice mass. NASA says, “The first-ever gravity survey of the entire Antarctic ice sheet, conducted using data from the NASA/German Aerospace Center Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (Grace), concludes the ice sheet’s mass has decreased significantly from 2002 to 2005.” (NASA Mission Detects Significant Antarctic Ice Mass Loss, March 02, 2006,

Anyway, you took way too large a step to “misinterpreting”. which would indicate sea levels are dropping, species diversity increasing, food supplies becoming more available and pollution associated lung diseases decreasing, at least one of these or similar.

Are not accusations of misinterpretation when only enthusiasm is evidenced beyond editorial license?

— Posted by JayNicks
8.January 1st,
12:48 pm 1) One year of data tells you nothing and a five year data sets tell you very little. Climate scientists understand that the affects of anthropogenic warming are superimposed on natural variability. We expect it at those time scales. What’s remarkable is how consistent the upward trend has been during the last three decades.

2)Ten year data sets may tell you something about a change in a 20 or 30 year trend, but not much about a century long trend. Once again consider that natural variability does exist, but is no longer the prominent factor. However, absent an increase negative forcings that drives temperatures down (volcanic eruption or particulate pollution from coal burning), I would find it inconsistent if we had a ten year negative trend in temperatures.

3) Any hurricane trend data would be useless in terms of being consistent with current ideas, since there is no consensus on this issue. Temperature is not the only thing that effects hurricane genesis and strength. Wind shear, which disrupts cyclones, is very likely to increase with global warming. The outcome of the interaction between increases in sea temperature and wind shear will determine the direction and strength of the trend in storm frequency and strength.

4) I have at least two issues with your current essay. First, 2007 is expected to be the among the top five highest global temperatures since 1880’s. That is quite consistent with the decadanal trends in climate change. Of the two NASA papers you cite regarding Arctic sea ice only one of them mentions cyclical variation as a cause. The other mentions an unusual (not cyclical) change in atmospheric pressure. In addition, the one that mentions natural variability mentions the likely prospect that the natural variability is being influenced by global warming.

— Posted by Pete H.
9.January 1st,
12:57 pm It’s far easier to find clever names to simplistically try and ‘prove’ a point ala voodoo economics and spin experts rather than to realistically assess short or long term risk in straightforward empirical terms buttressed by conservative computer modeling. IF any new industry is blooming from cumulative climate change observations and predictions, let it be. Better a fancy canary to warn us in a coal mine than none at all. Overwhelming scientific consensus is that the world is warming and at an increasing rate. To keep chortling at the existing evidence is both foolish and self deceiving.

— Posted by B. Granat
10.January 1st,
1:01 pm Once Pakistan gets a government more compatible with its popular sentiment (OBL has a 46% approval rating vs 19% for the U.S.) and Iran gets its nuclear bomb, barely detectable changes in the earth’s surface temperature won’t seem important any more. Except to Al Gore.

— Posted by E. O'Neal
11.January 1st,
1:49 pm Climate Science [] has weblogged on this subject.

With respect to global warming, here is what was written on the Climate Science weblog on April 4, 2007;

“A Litmus Test For Global Warming - A Much Overdue Requirement”
[ t-for-global-warming-a-much-overdue-requirement/]:

“For global warming to occur, the heat, as measured in Joules, needs to increase each year.

The heat accumulation for the period from 2002 to the present and into the future needs to be a high priority. For example to sustain a global warming rate of 1 Watt per meter squared since 2002 for the following ten years requires the accumulation of 1.6 *10**23 Joules within the climate system.

A figure, such as Figure 8 in Willis, J.K., D. Roemmich, and B. Cornuelle, 2004: Interannual variability in upper ocean heat content, temperature, and thermosteric expansion on global scales. J. Geophys. Res., 109, C12036, doi: 10.1029/2003JC002260.

should be widely communicated each year (or more frequently). For example, as a requirement to NOT reject the IPCC claim for global warming, Climate Science proposes that on the scale presented in Figure 3 in Willis et al, the left axis in their Figure 8 must exceed the following values in each year

2003 8*10**22 Joules
2004 9*10**22 Joules
2005 10*10**22 Joules
2006 11*10**22 Joules
2007 12*10**22 Joules
2008 13*10**22 Joules
2009 14*10**22 Joules
2010 15*10**22 Joules
2011 16*10**22 Joules
2012 17*10**22 Joules

This is actually quite a conservative test for the IPCC since the radiative imbalance (which includes all radiative forcings and feedbacks; see), and thus the actual ocean heat storage changes should be larger.

With the expected updating of the 2003 up to the present data…, we should soon be able to present the actual values of global warming (or global cooling) to compare with the hypothesized radiative imbalances presented above.”

Climate Science will weblog again further on this very important question that you have asked, including other climate metrics whose changes are inconsistent with the concept of global warming as reported by the IPCC.

— Posted by Roger A. Pielke Sr
12.January 1st,
2:27 pm Thankk you John Tierney.I am sure those followers[blindly]of Al Gore will find this “An Inconvenient Truth’!

— Posted by Tom Costello
13.January 1st,
2:33 pm Thanks to John Tierney for an article that discusses the alarmist nature of much of global warming reporting. It is the old adage of “if it bleeds it leads,” and if it is not alarmist, it is barely reported.
Thanks for citing the number of recent studies refuting global warming theories that were ignored by much of the media. Thanks for pointing out that 2007 was not an extremely hot year. Thanks for keeping an open mind.
Thanks for including:
“Once a cascade is under way, it becomes tough to sort out risks because experts become reluctant to dispute the popular wisdom, and are ignored if they do. Now that the melting Arctic has become the symbol of global warming, there’s not much interest in hearing other explanations of why the ice is melting — or why the globe’s other pole isn’t melting, too.”

Happy New Year.

Science Editor
Your Guide to News Around the Web

— Posted by SciEd
14.January 1st,
2:35 pm I would like to add an addendum to Dr Pielke’s statement: The energy values presented as a “consrvative” test for the IPCC may in fact be a lot stronger than that, as the there is good reason to assume that the time scales for the influence of the radiative forcings and feedbacks that IPCC uses may be too short (that is, exerting a much smaller influence annually than assumed). Schwartz has recently presented one such calculation derived from the reduction of empirical data and others are the subject of some continuing work

— Posted by Brian Valentine
15.January 1st,
2:42 pm @Mark Schaffer:

You know, it is really quite sad how close minded you are. Your requirement that every expert Tierny quotes needs to fit your political ideology puts you on par with most under the Bush Administration. Furthermore, you gave no good reason not to trust Roger Peilke Jr. (whose expertise in Science Policy- you know, the people who are expected to read the recommendations of the scientists and figures out how to turn them into something of substance- is more than good enough to be quoted.)

As for your sourcewatch page, it is completely ridiculous. While many Conservative bloggers like Peilke, most all them pick and choose among his writings. Unlike most such denialists, Peilke does not suppose that AGW is not happening. Rather, his take is that it will adversely affect large populations and that we must act now to try and counter the bad effects of such warming as soon as possible.

But then again, if you had actually read his blog, you would know all this already, wouldn’t you?

P.S. Despite its name, sourcewatch is horribly partisan. Their articles speak for themselves: ns:_How_the_Right_Wing_Is_Turning_America_Into_a_One-Pa rty_State

— Posted by T. Greer
16.January 1st,
2:42 pm As I discuss in my op-ed piece in the International Herald Tribune on Saturday, December 28, 2007, in 1991, several colleagues and I drew national and international attention when we used a computer model to forecast possible effects of global warming on an endangered species. The forecasts were for the Kirtland’s warbler, the first bird ever subject to a complete census and a speices once proposed as the state bird of Michigan, therefore a species much appreciated. Our computer forecasts told us that the bird’s habitat, jack pine trees, would be unable to thrive in conditions that climate computer programs forecast for southern Michigan, the only place and only trees where the bird nested. These declines should have been measurable even in the year we made the forecast.

We suggested that measurements of jack pine growth be started to verify the forecasts and to see whether the potential effects of global warming on the diversity of life were actually occurring. People could have started going to southern Michigan to check out our forecasts 16 years ago. Nobody did, and nobody has yet done so. But there is still an opportunity to make this test of whether global warming is having one effect forecast 16 years ago.

If anybody is interested, the scientific paper providing the basis of the forecast is available on my website, It is part of work I have done on global warming effects during the past 40 years.

Daniel B. Botkin

— Posted by Daniel B. Botkin
17.January 1st,
2:46 pm The 1st sentence in Mr. Tierney’s bio should be noted. “John Tierney always wanted to be a scientist but went into journalism because its peer-review process was a great deal easier to sneak through.”
So a scientist wannabe professes to know more than the most respected climatologists in the world. Okaaay… If he’s right, no worries, Mate. If he’s wrong and we ignore those scientists whose warnings he ridicules, and if we blithely continue on our current course, Whoops! We’ll have screwed up the planet. You’re not only pretty cocky about your climate science expertise for a jounalist, but you’re a ballsy gambler considering it’s your descendents’ survival that’s at stake.

— Posted by sandy
18.January 1st,
2:48 pm Roger Pielke Sr fails to note that the paper he calls a litmus test has many uncertainties and that his values have no error bars, making them useless as a science test. Readers should be aware that Roger Pielke Sr. most likely has biases that affect his ability to do good science. Also note that his link is not to the actual paper he is pushing here but to a secondary website with his own viewpoint, although the comment at the bottom with some dissenting viewpoints is probably more informative. html?pagewanted=all

— Posted by Mark Schaffer
19.January 1st,
3:12 pm Tierney’s approach to rebutting the phenomenon of global climate change is as perplexing as that of the so-called “climate entrepreneurs” he so clearly sets up as straw men. Yes, any of us can be persuaded of the the dangers of using sudden weather cataclysms as proof for climate change but neither do such events disprove the phenomenon.
It doesn’t take much effort to find trends throughout the world that have not been witnessed before and are consistent with an unprecedented warming trend. Many have been published in the Times. Anyone remember reading about temperate species such as robins ow living above the Arctic Circle? Inuit villages having to be relocated inland to avoid flooding? The loss of permafrost at higher elevations? Pine bark beetles marching inexorably northward and destroying forests? Inhabitants of Greenland beginning to farm crops that had never grown there before? The fact that maple syrup is now largely produced in Canada because the Vermont winter can no longer support a quality product? The list goes on and on.
The aforementioned trends do not in and of themselves constitute proof of climate change but they ought to give us pause, motivate us to wonder if we have a problem on our hands. From my reading, the majority of climate scientists accept the premise of climate change and its relationship to greenhouse gases. Moreover, they’ve concluded we don’t have the luxury of delaying action much longer. Shouldn’t we attention to those who are most qualified to discuss the subject rather than the Doubting Thomas’s with axes to grind elsewhere?

— Posted by Marc Wenzel
20.January 1st,
3:29 pm Can’t your Findings column be considered part of an availability cascade of reports that global warming is overstated or even false? I expect to see it quoted by global warming deniers.

Any report of news contributes to the availability issue. Of course news is biased to presenting things that happen (e.g. a storm) over things that don’t (e.g. no storm). That’s not restricted to climate, it’s true for everything (e.g. there aren’t many news reports that terrorists did not attack Ohio this week).

On the other hand, an availability cascade is limited both by events and by attention. The limitation by events means that, once reporting has ramped up, if there is not an increase in the actual events, it can’t increase any more, and the impression of continuing increase has to stall. The limitation of attention means that, after it has been ramped up to that level, people eventually get bored and reporting will fall. I don’t know if there is already a term for that, but if not, call it an “Attentional Collapse.” When that happens, it will have the reverse effect of an availability cascade — artificially creating the impression that the events are becoming less frequent.

For long-term trends (much longer than the span of of the availability cascade/attentional collapse process), the result is that people will pay more attention in the short term but eventually things get back to normal. The belief can only be maintained if real evidence continues to pass muster. In the long term, it’s not the reports tied to specific events and perhaps even to early theories (e.g. hurricanes are tied to global warming) but the big picture that has to prove itself.

So, while there is certainly a real effect of your cascades, I think you have significantly overstated its importance. Which is more important: the transient views of the general public, or the scientific evidence?

— Posted by JD
21.January 1st,
3:33 pm Mr. Tierney, you have stated elsewhere that you were too lazy to become a scientist and your articles regarding climate change continue to reflect lazy thinking, or is it just emotional denial. It is you who are guilty of selective use of evidence, you are a serial offender; selective use of evidence is almost as apparent (i.e., slightly better disguised) in this article as in your article last year regarding good news for polar bears, or whatever the title. I have to suspect your ego still smarts from having published such a foolish analysis of the polar bear scenario and that motivates you now to persist in denial of global warming. Yes of course theory must be based on objective evidence yet the point seems to be that the evidence of global warming has become overwhelming and not primarily or even secondarily due to an availability cascade.

The availability cascade you describe appears largely to be a media phenomenon and not a major issue for real scientists, which clearly you are not. Why not go back to graduate school if you are so frustrated about not being a scientist, no matter how hard you pretend as a journalist it will not make you into a real scientist and will not make your superficially slick but far from intellectually clever arguments convincing to the scientifically minded or the scientifically trained.

Scientific discourse and analysis is intended to be objective, I believe that is why your obviously biased, thinly disguised emotional rants are so offensive to the intelligence. You’ve made a mistake about global warming, why not grow up and admit it? Would that be so hard? Don’t compound the error with additional bluster, therein lies a graceless fall. Perhaps you’d make a good professor yet–I suppose there are few professors who are good at admitting their mistakes, although the ones who do command the greatest respect for their intellectual honesty, a prerequisite for scientific objectivity.

— Posted by Sat Kartar Khalsa
22.January 1st,
3:37 pm The answer in the geologic record of glacial fluctuations and ice cores is very clear–for at least the last 500 years (and probably longer), the Earth’s climate has oscillated in ~30 yr cycles between warmer and cooler. We have been right on target during the past 200 years and are now at the end of a 30-yr warm cycle, ready to begin the next 30 yr. cool cycle. The IPCC has predicted that temperatures will be 1 degree F warming by 2011 (as much as the entire past century), but the past climatic patterns suggest we will have begun the next 30-yr cool period by then. The IPCC totally ignores this past history, but check it out for yourself at
In fact, we may already be entering the next 30-yr cool period, as suggested by changes in sea surface temperatures. 2007 was the coolest since 2001, not warmer as predicted by the IPCC.
Thus, in 3 yrs (2011), we will have a strong indication whether or not the IPCC predictions are wrong (if global temperatures are not 1 degree warmer as they predict). In the next 5-10 years we should have a clear indication of whether my projection based on past climate cycles is correct, or if the IPCC predictions are correct.

— Posted by Dr. Don J. Easterbrook
23.January 1st,
3:37 pm What a shame that this is the best the NY Times can do with its “science writer.” Quoting Roger Pielke is like now-deposed (but unfortunately still in Congress) Senator James “global-warming-is-the-greatest-hoax-ever perpetrated on the American public” Inhofe. We need to face the reality that global warming is mostly caused by burning fossil fuels, and we in the U.S. burn more than just about anyone else on the planet. Our enormous consumption far exceeds our population. Our public policy is dictated by corporations with no interest other than to maximinze profits, everything else — clean air, clean water, civil and human rights — be damned.

Unfortunately, many of our great universities are now dependent on corporate cash, so university scientists are making decisions based on who is paying the bill rather than science.

Thank heaven for James Hansen. If he lived in many other places in the world, he’d have been killed by now. If he were in Europe, he’d be writing policy.

— Posted by Nancy LaPlaca
24.January 1st,
4:54 pm The science is truly alarming, but scientists themselves are restricted by their profession to sound the alarm as fully as it needs to be sounded. It is in fact too late to stop an avalanche of loss brought on by feedback loops that are already in place.

Tierney’s contribution to the solution seems to be to prolong the business-as-usual scenario. He does this by punching at the pathetic straw man of media fear-mongering.

His flippant attitude trivializes this massive tragedy, helping people to sleep at night who should rightfully be tossing and turning.

— Posted by Michael De Nola
25.January 1st,
5:23 pm Pollution!! Corporate robbery of the masses!!

Thank Heaven for people like Nancy LaPlaca, who will save us from these social ills by promoting the clearly unbiased viewpoint of such obviously disinterested parties as Albert Gore Junior!

— Posted by H R Clinton
26.January 1st,
6:16 pm I agree with the IPCC report that Global Warming is occurring and human actions are a contributing factor. But many folks have gone from this evaluation to the conclusion that global warming in a unmitigated disaster throughout the world, in every region, and for all people and species. This is simply not true.

While global warming is certainly having a negative impact in many regions and for many peopleand species, there are also many regions and people who will benefit from global warming effects.

What seems to be missing for the discussion about global warming is rational evaluation of the negative vs positive effects of global warming and of ways to enhance the positive effects while minimizing the negative effects.

Too much what passes for discussion of the issue is simply character assassination, as can too readily be seen in some of the posts to this blog.

— Posted by Herb Stoller
27.January 1st,
6:37 pm As a conservationist who works on the impact of global warming on wildlife in general, and on the polar bear in particular (my organization is one of those petitioning for protection of polar bears under the Endangered Species Act), I feel obliged to point out that your Findings column is way too conspiratorial. Scientists, journalists, and activists are not working together, as you imply, to create an “availability cascade.” Instead, a much more simple explanation is at work: the people you’re talking about are all working independently and believe what they are saying is true (or, if they are journalists, report what they think is news as objectively as they can). The reason the public is finally taking notice is that, in recent years, there has simply been a huge accumulation of both hard and soft evidence that we are right. I’ve laid this argument out in much more detail at NRDC’s blog:

— Posted by Andrew Wetzler
28.January 1st,
7:42 pm Thank you so much for going against the global warming tide. I too believe that the weather that we are having throughout the world is cyclical. Didn’t we have a ‘little ice age’ back in the 1800’s? That’s why this world is so great - nothing is for certain or forever or for a long time.
Georgia Browne

— Posted by Georgia Browne
29.January 1st,
7:42 pm Let’s assume that GW is happening because of burning fossil fuels and more co2. Please do a little thought experiment. Picture in your mind an arctic landscape. Now picture in your mind a tropical landscape. So if the world is moving ever so slightly away from an arctic to a tropical condition, in what sense is this bad?

Now consider the last 100yrs. We have burned enormous amounts of fossil fuels increasing the standard of living of we humans and increased the amount of co2 in the atmosphere. Do we really thing we would be better of today if we hadn’t burned all those fossil fuels the past 100yrs?

positive results from more co2 and modest warming

greatly increased standard of living
a greener earth due to co2 fertilization

negative results from more co2 and modest warming

less ice?

— Posted by charlesH
30.January 1st,
7:46 pm In response to #11. Dr. Pielka, your suggestion that there needs to be an increase each year is not consistent with how we understand how the earth’s energy budget operates:

“For global warming to occur, the heat, as measured in Joules, needs to increase each year.”

If CO2 were the only factor effecting global temperatures, you might be right.

A simplified model of the total energy budget of the earth is based on the amount of energy that comes from the sun, how much is reflected back into space, and how much is retained. Forcings are factors that either cause the amount of energy retained to increase or to decrease. CO2 is a positive forcing that increases the amount of energy retained. In contrast, volcanic ash is a negative forcing that reflects energy back into space. There are dozens of forcing factors and they are all dynamic and some are cyclic. Because there are many factors affecting the energy budget, we don’t expect every year to be warmer than the next. Rather we expect trends over multi-year intervals to increase. We also understand that trends can be temporarily interrupted by events like volcanic eruptions, which would mask an otherwise upward trend.

— Posted by Pete H.
31.January 1st,
8:44 pm Herb Stoller’s post # 26 is one of the few sober ones that I can see above.

Andrew Wetzler’s post # 27: “conspiratorial”. Really? I don’t read it that way. You can and you have. I only see human foibles. There is such a thing as herd mentality. Witness the courts being so receptive to hypnosis as a “scientific” tool for unlocking “repressed memories” — the whole phenomenon was transitory but created needless suffering for those convicted based only on such hypnosis-derived “evidence”. And this was allowed to be done by very learned judges. These are people who should know how to judge methods of inquiry and evidence for their relative efficaciousness.

We now belatedly recognize hypnosis as being one of the most effective ways to implant false memories that we know of. There are countless other examples from Hitler deluding a whole nation to stock market manias whipped up by brokers and Central Bankers.

“John Tierney always wanted to be a scientist but went into journalism because its peer-review process was a great deal easier to sneak through”.

Come on, Mr. Tierney. Who did you bribe to get that flattering description posted? Methinks you had someone place it there just to hook a few more trolls into your (spider) web (log). Not only do you appear to be a pretty good science journalist, you’re also a pretty fair psychologist. That doesn’t surprise me since journalists do work that exposes them to a broad base of factual knowledge and people-knowledge that many narrowly-specialized scientists are not always exposed to. Of course the caliber of the individual’s mind determines how much of the encountered knowledge is absorbed. Enough of the accolades.

I have read the responses above and I see that very few respondents have bothered to address your original question.

The responses and their nature mostly fall into two camps, both seemingly determined by their respective interpretations of your original article — that is, as to whether you personally are a denier or a supporter of AGW. (I personally found your article to be innocuous and not very controversial — sort of a recounting of some observations of the media, and how events are reported, and to what those events are ascribed. A neutral list of quirks of human nature.)

Very few have apparently thought that your actual question had any merit — or, more precisely, that the original question from Roger Pielke Jr. had any merit.

I suppose if one is a believer, there is no contradictory evidence to be found, so what would be the point to put one’s mind through unnecessary thinking to come up with any such scenarios. Or perhaps if these scenarios are just the declining relative incidence of AGW-blamed predictions already made (less ice melting, more ice freezing, fewer droughts, fewer floods, fewer storms, lower recorded temperatures) then the proponents might think the answer to your question is self-evident and think you are silly for asking the question.

If you are a AGW denier you will likely say that all the weather events and their frequency of occurrence used by AGW proponents thus far (hurricanes, droughts, floods, melting glaciers and ice caps, increasing temperatures) are local events far removed from being useful in showing any large-picture climatic shifts caused by something like GW. Or that climate is always changing and has very little to do with anthropogenic causes, so why get needlessly excited.

Both camps have their points.

But I accept your question as being meaningful. In science, as a wise person once said, the answers are not always that hard to generate, but the correct (that is, productive) question to pose can be very difficult to formulate. I believe this question is meaningful. But perhaps your question itself exposes a deeper problem with Climate Science. Are we asking the right questions?

I don’t have any evidence that we are asking the correct questions in Climate Science. But then I am not an expert but am just an observer like you.

If I saw that next summer brought the return of weather conditions seen last in the Dust Bowl of the 1930-s in the prairies I would not think that climate had anything to do with it. But if I observed sustained rains in the prairies over several summers (in an area that is mostly known as being semiarid) then I would start to think something was up.

If I saw that the same thing (sustained downpours of rain) was happening in the Sahara Desert then I would know that something was up.

We tend to look at weather and see a direct hit of hurricane Katrina on a major city like New Orleans as being caused by GW. But that is just random bad luck. A lot of hurricanes don’t even make landfall. Seeing “more of the same” is not necessarily evidence of anything. But seeing a Monty Python event — now for something completely different — that would be evidence of something.

If scientists could measure the heat content of Antartica’s ice (yes, even ice has “heat content”) and show it was increasing I would be impressed that indeed something akin to GW was happening. You don’t have to melt ice to show warming of the ice — in fact that would be needlessly waiting too long.

Once you had such evidence of GW you would be back to proving anthropogenic causes. Current media reports have this additional quirk with their weather event reporting. They just say “Climate Change might be to blame”. That is a non-thinking comment. There is no value added. It is filler. Unicorns might exist. UFO-s might exist. Intelligent life might exist elsewhere in the universe (it probably does). But all such “information” is only speculation. There is nothing that I can conclude based on such comments about “might”.

Please give me the NEWS.

If the item the media are reporting on were to say “these observations made in several areas of Antarctic ice over several years indicate that the ice pack as a whole in the Antarctic is warming” then I could accept the comment from the media outlets that “Global Climate Change is supported by this new evidence.” So something like the Arctic summertime ice pack being reduced to levels never before seen is akin to what I am looking for. Let’s face it. The popular media don’t always report science well, especially science that is as immature as is Climate Science.

So I guess if I saw Arctic summertime ice cover increasing over the next few years I would use that as evidence that this was an event which was inconsistent with GW. Either that or that we were wrong in the first place to include this observation as one that directly supported Global Warming.

Anthropogenic Global Warming — that is another dimension.

— Posted by Sudosai Entist
32.January 1st,
8:59 pm hmmm, this article reminds me of the old country definition of a mule: an animal that will work patiently all his life for a man in order to get a chance to kick him just one time. In this case, you worked for 19 paragraphs to get to the nasty little bit of Al Gore baiting at the end. Any intellectually honest consideration of the politics of global warming would recognize that the last seven years of deliberate foot-dragging, systematic misinterpretation of scientific data, forced rewriting of scientific conclusions, and general refusal to face the possibiltiy of global warming by the present administration represents a far more serious assault on scientific integrity than any exaggeration of the problem by any one individual. By sounding an alarm, at least Mr. Gore provides a motivation to address the problem.

— Posted by Paul Rossi, Philadelphia, PA
33.January 1st,
9:14 pm I notice that ad hominem attacks have yet to be directed at comment number 22. Why is that?

— Posted by Douglas Kallevig
34.January 1st,
9:38 pm quotes-text-he-hasnt-read.html


In an interesting column on weather hysteria, the New Duranty Times’s columnist John Tierney predicts that “we” will react to severe weather in the coming year with Chicken-Little hysteria:

But there’s bound to be some weird weather somewhere, and we will react like the sailors in the Book of Jonah. When a storm hit their ship, they didn’t ascribe it to a seasonal weather pattern. They quickly identified the cause (Jonah’s sinfulness) and agreed to an appropriate policy response (throw Jonah overboard).

Today’s interpreters of the weather are what social scientists call availability entrepreneurs: the activists, journalists and publicity-savvy scientists who selectively monitor the globe looking for newsworthy evidence of a new form of sinfulness, burning fossil fuels.

If he means that the MSM will react with predictable hysteria, he’s probably right. But he is completely wrong about the Book of Jonah. Go see for yourself. The incidents he describes are covered in just a few lines in the first chapter.
Here they are in the King James Version:

4: But the LORD sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken.
5: Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man unto his god, and cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it of them. But Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship; and he lay, and was fast asleep.
6: So the shipmaster came to him, and said unto him, What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not.
7: And they said every one to his fellow, Come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is upon us. So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah.
8: Then said they unto him, Tell us, we pray thee, for whose cause this evil is upon us; What is thine occupation? and whence comest thou? what is thy country? and of what people art thou?
9: And he said unto them, I am an Hebrew; and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land.
10: Then were the men exceedingly afraid, and said unto him, Why hast thou done this? For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them.
11: Then said they unto him, What shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us? for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous.
12: And he said unto them, Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you.
13: Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring it to the land; but they could not: for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous against them.
14: Wherefore they cried unto the LORD, and said, We beseech thee, O LORD, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not upon us innocent blood: for thou, O LORD, hast done as it pleased thee.
15: So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging.

Let’s compare Tierney’s version with the actual text.

Tierney says:

we will react like the sailors in the Book of Jonah. When a storm hit their ship, they didn’t ascribe it to a seasonal weather pattern. They quickly identified the cause (Jonah’s sinfulness) and agreed to an appropriate policy response (throw Jonah overboard).

The Bible says:

7: And they said every one to his fellow, Come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is upon us. So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah.

They didn’t identify the cause as “Jonah’s sinfulness;” they identified the cause as having something to do with Jonah.

8: Then said they unto him, Tell us, we pray thee, for whose cause this evil is upon us; What is thine occupation? and whence comest thou? what is thy country? and of what people art thou?
9: And he said unto them, I am an Hebrew; and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land.
10: Then were the men exceedingly afraid, and said unto him, Why hast thou done this? For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them.

Jonah told them that the storm had come about because “he fled from the presence of the LORD,” they didn’t identify his “sinfulness.” And it was Jonah who told them what must be done:

12: And he said unto them, Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you.

They resisted him:

13: Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring it to the land; but they could not: for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous against them.
14: Wherefore they cried unto the LORD, and said, We beseech thee, O LORD, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not upon us innocent blood: for thou, O LORD, hast done as it pleased thee.

And it was only with great reluctance that they cast him into the sea.

15: So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging.

And it worked. Because another thing that Tierney’s willful misreading of the text obscures, is that the mariners actually did determine the real cause of the storm, according to the Bible, and they did what Jonah knew needed to be done.

Although Tierney’ s overall point is a good one, he muddles it up with a misreading of the text upon which he wishes to base his column.

It’s a shame that the basic documents that are the foundation of our civilization are so unknown even to educated people.

Permalink - Posted by Punditarian @ 11:26 AM

— Posted by DAN
35.January 1st,
9:40 pm Some might think it “brave” of Mr. Tierney to report this information.

Some might think it “foolhardy.”

Some others might consider it “intellectual honesty.”

Note to Tierney’s detractors out there: If I ask a publication to print some “skeptical” information for discussion, I don’t necessarily consider that I “own” the position or viewpoints of the publication so that I would call them “inconsistent” not to print material to my liking

— Posted by Brian Valentine
36.January 1st,
9:49 pm Re 33. Why would you expect that? In any case, the post is irrelevant. Of course there are natural cyclic variations. But when one happens that does not repeal the physics of radiant heat exchange by gases. Whatever cyclic variations may be at work, the mounting blockage of infrared radiation to space by greenhouse gas molecules will relentlessly push temperatures higher until a new equilibrium is reached. If you get on an elevator and press the “UP” button, that does not mean you have repealed the law of gravity.

— Posted by Ron Taylor
37.January 1st,
10:15 pm If (seasonally adjusted) atmospheric C02 concentration were to decrease over even a 1 year period that would be inconsistent with current understanding. (In reality of course it has been increasing since continuous measurements began in the 50’s and based on ice cores appears to be much higher than at any time in the last several hundred thousand years.)

— Posted by Crust
38.January 1st,
10:49 pm “The year 2007 is on pace to become one of the 10 warmest years for the contiguous U.S., since national records began in 1895….” and
“Including 2007, seven of the eight warmest years on record have occurred since 2001 and the 10 warmest years have all occurred since 1997.” teupdate.html
Mr. Tierney’s article ignores this, as does comment 22, and any number of less-temperate commenters here. The data points overwhelmingly toward our vast releases of GHG as a major factor in climate change. I’ve tried for the last five years to look at skeptic’s positions with an open mind, but time and again I find disingenuous arguments. I am disappointed that Mr. Tierney is among the promoters of these.

— Posted by Doug Blair
39.January 1st,
11:03 pm There is warming. Whether it is as extensive as the temperature data suggests is problematic, given the poor quality of the measuring devices and the the guesswork required to adjust for man-made changes in the environments surrounding the measuring stations over several decades.

Nor has it been proved conclusively that CO2 is the major cause of the warming. The argument that CO2 has to be the cause because the scientists studying the phenomenon can’t think of anything else is accurately characterized by Dr. Lindzen as the “lassitude” argument.

The scientists need to get the science right before mankind embarks on multi-trillion dollar programs to alleviate a problem that may not exist, or may not be a serious problem even if it does exist.

— Posted by theduke
40.January 1st,
11:29 pm Anthropogenic Warming (A.W.) is not established to the extent many think. A consensus is not a substitute for a proven event. The probabilistic modeling used to predict climate changes are scenarios and only as good as the parameters & defined variables in the model. AW is rife with opportunity for fraud, and you are correct to point this out. As carbon crediting and other international for-profit & for-control schemes are floated. A few public servants have seen through AW to what it really is, namely those purely political measures for more government control of the private sector, then they deserve credit for not jumping on AW’s scare-em environmental activism & junk science, bandwagon.

— Posted by A Rosario
41.January 2nd,
12:24 am Note to #30: The IPCC analysis has included natural sources of climate variation.

As I interpret it the IPCC has concluded that, within certain concentration limits, the influence of CO2 will dominate all other influences - both natural and human of origin (within a greater or lesser time).

My position (as well as some others) is, the influence of CO2 on the climate, within those concentration limits, will be SWAMPED by most other natural influences - influences that are random, and those that are determinate - within any time period.

Thaty is to say, CO2 is not the source of a perceptible influence on the climate.

This, as far as I see, is consistent with the geological record

— Posted by Brian Valentine
42.January 2nd,
12:38 am Gee, Mr. Tierney, isn’t it curious that the Northern Hemisphere, where the vast bulk of greenhouse gases are emitted, is showing by far the most severe effects of warming, for example the melting of polar ice cap? When discussing annual trends in weather, Mr. Tierney ignores the year-to-year effects of El Nino and La Nina, which are due to the disruption of Pacific Ocean deep-water currents effected by climate change. In assessing the effects of global warming on local climate, the author ignores the devastating local effects of drought and torrential rains. Finally the author makes no mention of the disruption of circulating currents in the Atlantic Ocean due to the loss of polar ice, which helps to fuel the circulation, effectively an oceanic heat engine, or from Europe’s perspective, a heat pump. Europe is facing severe and imminent climate change, with colder winters due to the reduced flow of warming Gulf Stream waters. Hence we may expect that Mr. Tierney will interpret this in future articles as “further evidence” of global cooling. It is curious that the column appears under the banner “Findings”; I “found” the column dismissively speculative. It is amusing though to see Mr. Tierney chided for misquoting Scripture (#34), which nowadays has become something of a non-contact sport.

— Posted by J M Whelan
43.January 2nd,
12:45 am In the end, it shouldn’t matter how ‘true’ GW, AGW, whatever you want to call it, is exaggerated or not. It all should come down to whether you are selfish enough to be willing to take the bet that it’s not true. Seriously, if we cut down on our emissions, it really can’t hurt us. The need for new energy technology is present anyway, the idea of GW only makes it more pressing.

So why fight it so hard? We only risk hurting ourselves by not believing, where we risk nothing by making changes that will help us regardless of if GW is true or not. Why be so selfish and shortsighted to risk it?

And J. Tierney, you are twisting things as much as anyone you are talking about. You use the difference between the citations of journals - but you don’t note that whether hurricane season is affected by GW or not, that the article in Nature is not refuting GW, and you won’t find any truly peer-reviewed scientific articles that do this either (btw, just calling your journal peer-reviewed doesn’t it make it so if your peers are just your cronies).

— Posted by LizMo
44.January 2nd,
1:04 am Aside from the many inadequacies of the piece already noted, how does the essay qualify as reporting on science? It qualifies only if it is a social science piece on the phenomenon of “availability entrepreneurs,” but that line of discussion is not developed. As the on-line discussion indicates, the piece is -quite understandably, and evidently as intended - being read as science journalism on global climate change. But there is no presentation or even any evident research into the hard science of global climate change, only reaction to the hyperbole of some availability entrepreneurs. Thus Tierney sets up his illicit attack upon the thoroughly documented and highly warranted scientific findings regarding the reality and threat of global climate change (illicit because it responds not to the best available science but to the assertions of availability entrepreneurs, whom Tierney himself describes as unreliable). The absence of reporting upon science should have precluded this piece from the Science pages (let alone the front page of the section). Some other respondents (i.e., those offering what are, to those familiar with the science, the obvious scientific rejoinders) have made amply clear why the piece is probably beneath New York Times standards even for op-ed.

— Posted by W Greenway
45.January 2nd,
1:24 am Mr. Tierney,
May I direct your readers to an Op-Ed that appeared in the NYT on 27 July 2006, entitled “Cold,Hard Facts” by Peter Doran. Dr. Doran was the lead author of the paper on the alledged Antarctic cooling mentioned in the pile left here by Tierney on 1 January 2008. The fact that Tierney so blatantly and disingenuously twisted those findings destroys both his credibility, and that of this newspaper.
Between Judith Miller and John Tierney, the NYT is getting close to losing my subscription forever.
Rich Scillia
Wichita, KS

John: I don’t know what facts you think I’ve “twisted.” Dr. Doran’s article jibes with what I wrote — that a large part of Antarctica has cooled and that it, like the Arctic, is affected by global warming but also by other factors (which is why the Arctic has warmed more than the Antarctic). Dr. Doran is complaining about the attempts of some people — availability entrepreneurs on the other side of the global warming debate — to use the Antarctic cooling as evidence that the planet isn’t warming. I share his concern. We shouldn’t selectively and simplistically use conditions at either pole as proof of long-term climate trends.

— Posted by Rich Scillia
46.January 2nd,
1:38 am Funny. Mr. Tierney never disputes global warming. Many people here simply jumped to that conclusion, because they are too emotionally invested in the subject on both sides.

— Posted by Joe Maywalt
47.January 2nd,
4:00 am Yet again people fail to read the article, or to consider its status as a piece of journalism. Tierney is not a scientist, nor does he have the space (or the time) to address all of the nuances of the argument. Stop reading his entries as if they were published in Nature. They are not. This article was informative and well-written, and while there are definitely places to nit-pick, those who choose to do so miss the central argument: to remind us that the way the press reports things is inherently flawed, and when it goes unchecked can produce a culture of fear and falsehoods. Many of the commentators here would do well to read the article. Having a skeptical approach does not mean denying a claim as well-supported as global warming (only the most obtuse people would now deny that human activity is warming the planet). What it does mean, though, is that in order to honestly assess the nature and extent of the process we must continually question the basic assumptions, especially when they are in danger of becoming accepted as truisms. Everyone crucifying John for “getting the science wrong” misses his more important point, which is that we should be weary of the all-too-human tendency to select only those pieces of evidence that support our preconceived ideas.

— Posted by Brandon
48.January 2nd,
4:23 am We may debate the trend of the weather but one thing has struck all of us. Our global weather has become more erratic and turbulent. Several winters ago we had a total of three inches of snow here in Pennsylvania. Unheard of. The State of Georgia has an unprecedented drought. How many years has it been since we saw an unprecedented series of rain storms along the upper Mississippi that produced wide flooding? Katrina is just another example.

Do we have a method to measure this turbulence?

I plotted the number of tornados in the US since we started keeping records in the 1950’s. A definite upward trend is evident. But then someone will come along and say, “Oh, but we do not have good records!”

Clearly such articles as this are the result of fear, fear that perhaps indeed, the weather may becoming more turbulent.

If there is nothing to fear, if we have merely created additional statistical measures, why are we engaging in such debate?

I recall an article in one of the Industry trade magazines about 1970. The headline on the front cover was: What Pollution?

— Posted by Ernest Moyer
49.January 2nd,
7:31 am Wow. Kudos, Mr. Tierney. A brilliant setup for this little blog experiment, which shows rather definitively how nuts otherwise intelligent beings can be (the reference in one comment to intelligent life somewhere in the universe made me chuckle, since at that point in the comments it was rather obvious none was to be found here on Earth).

Sad that of the 40 comments above — from readers of The New York Times, yet! — only a few contained any sign of blood flow above the shoulders. The obvious mistakes are too numerous to list, but have all of you who are so rabidly “in favor” of (believing in) global warming (the “human-caused” kind, of course) really forgotten the hero of climate change, Carl Sagan? It was not that many years ago that he was warning all of us of the threat of “nuclear winter” caused by an increase in atmospheric reflectivity. Number 36, the physics is not so obvious, not even close. If increases in CO2 ultimately increase cloud cover, then will we be warmer or colder? Don’t know? Bummer; neither do I.

And yet, that is a simple example of just how “simple” the problem really is. Sadly, the bottom line for all the models and theories is this: What is A - B, where A = 100 (plus or minus 10%)(well, much more than 10%, actually, but let’s be optimistic), and where B = 100 (plus or minus 10%, too)? Oh, and please let us know the answer to within 5 or 6 decimal places, just so we can be sure!

Mr. Gore tells us that he personally knows the answer is greater than zero, and you believe him?? None of us will ever have enough data and enough precision in estimates to give a sufficiently accurate answer, which is why “trends” become so important as a method of guessing the future. But then, which trends?

Which goes to the original question asked. No one who “believes” in global warming needs, wants, or will accept any evidence against their belief. They believe. That’s all they need. That Al Gore picks a convenient length of time in order to “prove” a trend? Who cares that there might be a 30 year cycle that overwhelms Mr. Gore’s trend? That cycle can’t possibly be reasonable! Heck, looking at 500,000 to 1 million year temperature trends, some would suggest that the next ice age is just around the corner.

So, Mr. Tierney, the answer is easy: There is none. The only thing that will sway the general “consensus” is a politically popular movement that needs a different answer. Then, the vast majority of the comments will (just as adamantly) argue in whatever new direction is required by the new beliefs. Sad.

As for me, I was impressed with 22’s point and will eagerly await further word.

— Posted by T Broge
50.January 2nd,
7:36 am Mr. Tierney’s columns frequently make me angry, if only because his main purpose seems to be to debunk the thinking of those who believe climate change is a big problem, and to thwart efforts to rally the public in taking constructive action to alleviate it.

I’d like to agree with JD (comment 20) and ask why Mr. Tierney specifically selects points to talk about that follow climate skeptics’ point of view.

I’ve posted more thoughts here

In short, I’d like to say to Mr. Tierney that your point is well taken, that people often falsely attribute unusual weather patterns, especially bad ones, to global warming, when in reality they could be due to any number of short-term or longer-cyclical reasons.

However, I’d like to ask Mr. Tierney, what is your purpose in writing these articles, aside from making climate-change-is-a-problem advocates look bad, and making climate skeptics happy, and making yourself appear smart by debunking “popular wisdom”? Shouldn’t journalism be more responsible and purposeful than that, and be geared towards some positive end?

More alarm than is “true” is not necessarily a bad thing. It is like up-playing the risks of drunk driving, or focusing on the negative consequences - as opposed to talking about when people drive drunk and don’t die - to prevent people from doing it as much as possible. Maybe it is not so bad that people falsely attribute weather patterns to climate change. If people get more alarmed about global warming and take action (and even then, probably not enough action), then is this so bad?

I think that all Mr. Tierney accomplishes is to fuel skeptics’ fire and slow down the efforts of those who seek to spur action on climate change.

— Posted by Annie Jia
51.January 2nd,
7:55 am I think comment #1 from Zoe pretty well says it all… and adds further proof that, when it comes to climate science—and perhaps much more—the readers of the TiernyLab blog are better at critical thinking than the blogger is.

— Posted by Christopher
52.January 2nd,
8:05 am p.s.

One need only look at the two “founding principles” in Tierny’s bio to see how he starts off with a shakey foundation. He says those principles are:

1. Just because an idea appeals to a lot of people doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

2. But that’s a good working theory.

Well, that sounds cute (and is meant to), but also reveals how he takes a first principle grounded in fact and logic and marries it to a second principle grounded in nothing more than personal presumption. Toerny’s a rhetorician, not a scientist, or even a science writer.

— Posted by Christopher
53.January 2nd,
8:30 am Why has the earth’s climate been changing in all directions for millions of years before humanity even began to evolve? Everyone seems to be panic stricken without considering volcanoes, changes in the ellipses of the earth’s orbit,intense magnetic waves on the surface of the sun radiating into the corona, natural methane and other gas emissions,the earth’s ‘wobble’ on it’s own axis…etc, etc. I would like to see some real SCIENCE instead of political waffle.

— Posted by walter kaye
54.January 2nd,
8:36 am Weather is trickle down stuff. A bit of energy transfer water-wind mystery full of highs and lows and rational inquiry by knowledge seekers seeking algorithmic certainty already delivered by rainbows and sunsets to the faith based observers in stained glass wonder. Weather is a lot like fishing in timeless seas waiting for an epiphany always beyond the horizon. And that’s that.

— Posted by J Frank
55.January 2nd,
9:19 am Re 40. Wow. First, do you really believe that the United States became the world center of scientific advance despite having a scientific establishment and procedures that are fundamentally corrupt and driven by political ideology? That is what your post implies, since every professional scientific society in the U.S. now accepts the science behind global warming analysis.

Second, science never proves anything — that is for mathematics. Science only examines the evidence and describes what is most probable. As the president of the National Academy of Sciences told Congress, the evidence for human caused global warming is stronger than the evidence that smoking causes lung cancer.

— Posted by Ron Taylor
56.January 2nd,
9:27 am Much like the biased news folks who seek out WCWEs (warming confirming weather events), John Tierney finds various examples of the latest buzz word “cascades”. Ever since economists came up with this word, I have seen a, yes, cascade of cascades mentioned by diverse writers. This process can continue rising in abstraction until one has a “waterfall”. One might expect matters to end at that point, unless this obscure note causes a waterfall of waterfall citations. I accept no blame for this.

— Posted by Dick Swanson
57.January 2nd,
9:46 am I guess this blog demonstrates why responsible journalism is so rare: nobody seems to like it.

The responses here are obviously more about the emotions and psychology of the readers than they are about what Mr. Tierney wrote.

He is represented by both sides as a debunker of “global warming,” which doesn’t seem to be the purpose of his piece at all. I say “doesn’t seem” as an act of magnanimity. In reality, the piece is quite explicitly NOT challenging the notion that climate change is happening. Rather it makes three points:

1) It is impossible to attribute specific weather events to long arc processes like global warming. (This is why a poster above correctly states that global warming is not falsifiable by observation of individual weather events).
2) In spite of #1, there are phalanxes of journalists and pundits who are willing to draw a causal link between weather events and long-term climate trends.
3) Doing #2 may serve some good policy end, but it undermines good science, and without good science, can you really find the right policy ends? Since when is science suppose to serve the end of demagoguery?

Anyone with a modicum of honesty can see that global warming has become a quasi-religious dogma; the fact that a person who believes the planet is warming, probably in part due to human industry, cannot admit to misgivings about the pseudo-scientific claims made in the name of that theory without getting branded as a heretic merely proves the point.

— Posted by Mountainecho
58.January 2nd,
9:49 am Excellent observations. Your commentators not withstanding, you DID NOT deny that global warming is happening, who really would deny? The causes (natural cycles; human activities) and the proportion they contribute are at issue; and, of course, what to do about it, if anything.

But your point about “availability entrepreneurs: the activists, journalists and publicity-savvy scientists who selectively monitor the globe looking for newsworthy evidence” is well taken. They allow the dilettantes to wallow in facile righteousness almost on a full time basis once they’ve adopted a fashionable cause as their own.

— Posted by J.B Yahudie
59.January 2nd,
10:04 am Mr. Tierny askes a very important question:

“…But if all these things are consistent with the theory [of Global Warming], are there any sorts of weather trends or events that would be inconsistent?”

A basic test of any scientific theory is, thatif itis not falsifiable (that is, if there cannot be any observation that would disprove it), then it is meaningless word-mongering. Thus, if there is no possible observation that proponebts of Global Warming would accept as disproof of their theory, then their theory is in the same category that attempts an explanation in terms of invisible, undetectable angels!

— Posted by Mel
60.January 2nd,
10:11 am “If only the good were clever, if only the clever were good.” As journalist John Tierney unleashes the Times’ brand of cascading heurism…I am left with a sense of disappointment for our decendents. The Geodesic map developed by RB Fuller gave to us common folk a tool with which we might intuitively grasp the world’s dimensions. The atmosphere, and it’s volume can be surmised by simply stacking up the 20 triangles that form the icosahedron similar to one of RBF’s domes. Each prismatic “solid” of air is approximately 3 miles thick. Folding the triangles into retangular form, and eventually determining the volume of air, per human inhabitant, is a simple task. Last time I performed this calculation it yielded a cube, per person of ~1000 feet per side! Now, to assess your impact upon the Earth’s homeostasis, just pump all your year’s worth of activity into this rather paltry “cube” of air. The quantity of energy required to heat this air is indeed miniscule…given our penchant for millions of Barrels of oil per day, alone. Yes, oceans and land masses are helpful heat sinks, and our temporary salve. I bought my last down parka 10 years ago, with no need for replacement. Heuristicly speaking.

— Posted by J. Pitman
61.January 2nd,
10:13 am How can SO many readers SO misunderstand the point of your column?

Folks, the point is that those who blame climate change on Evil Man are turning ANY bad weather event into “proof” of climate change–as though severe weather didn’t exist before Al Gore discovered gold in normal planetary climate variations.

Back to Tierney’s original (playfully trick) question: What sort of weather would be the obverse of what the climate scare mongers falsely promote as proof of climate change? Answer: To remain intellectually honest (as manmade climate change skeptics are, I believe), you can’t point to ANY specific severe weather incident or pattern as proof that climate change is not happening.

That leaves skeptics at something of a disadvantage in today’s sound-bite-news world: Al Gore can say anything unprovable to “prove” his case, while skeptics’ sincere inability to disprove a negative doesn’t make for very good headlines. That unfair playing field is why manmade climate change fascists can so easily attack the integrity, intelligence, and motives of skeptics and brand those with normal, healthy scientific skepticism as “deniers.”

Excellent old-fashioned skeptical journalism, Tierney!

— Posted by Jeff
62.January 2nd,
10:18 am Mr Tierney notes that Al Gore, in his roundup of the 2007 weather, did not mention “how calm the hurricane season had been”. This was most likely because Mr Gore would have been wrong to do so. While not as bad as predicted, the season was far from “calm”. The United States may have been spared storms on the scale of Katrina, but other regions were not so fortunate: Two back-to-back Category 5 hurricanes struck Central America. As well, the rate at which one North American hurricane intensified near to shore was unprecedented.

John: Picking out two or three storms to summarize a season is just the kind of availability entrepreneurship I’m criticizing. If we’re going to talk about trends in hurricanes, we should look at more than isolated events. As summarized here, over the past year the number of hurricane days and the accumulated cyclone energy in the northern hemisphere was the lowest in three decades. One season doesn’t prove anything, of course, but then, neither did the unusually active 2005 season.

— Posted by Susan McAlister
63.January 2nd,
10:19 am John,

You asked the question “what behavior of the climate system could hypothetically be observed over the next 1, 5, 10 years that would be inconsistent with the current consensus on climate change”. In formulating your list of extreme events you omitted one very critical contingency, the activity of the sun itself. There is still no indication that Solar Cycle 24 has commenced and solar activity is low to very low with occasional Solar Cycle 23 sun spots appearing on the sun’s equator. For current updates on the activity of the sun you can reference the following resources.

In 2006 NASA had predicted that Solar Cycle 24 would be extremely strong.

Scientists Predict Big Solar Cycle tm

But Solar Cycle 25 would be “off the bottom of the charts”.

Solar Cycle 25 peaking around 2022 could be one of the weakest in centuries. .htm

In April 25, 2007 NASA issued two conflicting forecasts for Solar Cycle 24 because there was no longer scientific consensus on the strength of Solar Cycle 24.

Experts Split Over Intensity tml

Solar Cycle 24 Prediction

Solar Cycle Progression

The longer the delayed for Solar Cycle 24 is the more likely it will be weak and both NASA forecasts will have to be revised downward. Interestingly both forecasts predict that the Solar Cycle 24 maximum will be delayed. This projected delay, if accurate, has some interesting political implications. In 1997 the Kyoto Protocol was scheduled to expire in 2012 with renewal discussions scheduled for the summer of 2011, which by some strange coincidence just happened to coincide with the original forecast for Solar Cycle 24 maximum.

Yes, 2008 is going to be a very interesting if not entertaining year!


— Posted by Michael Ronayne
64.January 2nd,
10:20 am Re 53. Yes, all of those things, and more, have indeed been happening over the ages. One of those things was that nature removed huge amounts of carbon from the carbon cycle and stored it away deep underground in the form of oil and coal. That lowered the CO2 in the atmosphere and brought temperatures down dramatically, creating the hospitable climate that gave rise to humans and, eventually, civilization. We are now very rapidly reversing that process, taking the carbon out of storage and sending it back into the atmosphere.

— Posted by Ron Taylor
65.January 2nd,
10:44 am Tierney is right that occasional weather hick ups are too easily contributed to the changing climate. In this particular writing he seems at least to acknowledge that global heating caused by the greenhouse effect occurs.

Many skeptics in this forum even seem to doubt that. However, they forget that one practical definition of Risk = Chance * Costs. So even if there is some doubt, we should take precautions, either by reducing emission of greenhouse, or by taking precautions for the possible effects, such as rising sea level. Reducing emission is by far preferable (but probably not sufficient), since many nations (such as Bangladesh) cannot afford to take adequate precautions.

An interesting alternative that may satisfy everyone, skeptics and non-skeptics alike, why not make a global risk fund? We could do that by not taxing oil but by adding insurance payments to it. By 2050 we either pay out the amount in the fund to all those that suffered from direct consequence such as rising sea-levels, or we give the whole world a treat!!

I am aware of the complexities: e.g. how again to distinguish weather from climate effects? how to invest the money without boosting CO2 emission? and does everyone in the third world have a bank account in case global warming was a hoax? Nevertheless, it seems to me that the right way to look at the whole political problem is in the form of an insurance.

— Posted by Jacco
66.January 2nd,
11:17 am One of the above comments tells us that Mr Tierney’s columns frequently make him/her “angry”. Having read both this blog, and his recent piece in the Times ( ople/t/john_tierney/index.html?inline=nyt-per), I confess I can see no other reason for them whatsoever. An outpouring of loosely-stooled effluent, without even the justification of wit to merit its existence. Marvelously awful.

— Posted by Rob
67.January 2nd,
11:29 am Yet again, the US media is letting us down on educating the public about the possible risks and changes linked to global warming — and the end of cheap oil. Tierney, too is part of the problem. We ARE dealing with uncertain science, but by the time it is certain (if the answer is yes, Mathilda, we’ve really set off an irreversible feedback that will lead to the much warmer world that the Earth last experienced in the Age of Dinosaurs — back when palms happily flourished on the North Slope of Alaska), then it WILL be too late. The communications problem is that this issue really needs a rational assessment of risks and rewards. The same people who are building a super-expensive antimissle system that at best will barely work and which mostly benefits the Merchants of War industry, or which worry about building space defenses against possible asteroids striking the earth, willingly put their heads in the sand about the much more likely risks associated with the climate changes and sealevel rise in a much warmer world. We don’t need hysteria to deal with this, and this does need to become an issue where the public has a better appreciation of the risks and costs. Tierney is not helping by trying to paint the Gore approach as hysterical — what would help would be to look into the what-ifs associated with potential climate change, and make people aware that this is going to be a BIG problem facing us in the future. Furthermore, the good simple thing that we could do to deal with CO2 emission — BE SERIOUS ABOUT ENERGY CONSERVATION — is exactly what would best shield us from the economic consequences of another doubling in the cost of gas — even if it is not enough to stop irreversible global warming. (Personally, as an Earth Scientist, I think the evidence that the warming trend of the past 30 years will continue for the next 100 is pretty strong. It is now much stronger than most other uncertain science that shapes public policy choices (e.g. much stronger than the risks associated with genetically modified crops, or the longterm risks associated with the use of hormones and antibiotics in agribusiness), and definitely compelling enough for our country to plan for this possible future at the same time as we try to better quantify the magnitude and consequences of ongoing warming. A major problem for our country is that one major industry — the oil industry — is strongly against a rational response to global warming, while the only major industry exploring this issue — the insurance industry — is keeping its mouth shut in the public forum. A second major problem is that the media remains focussed on horse-race politics and paparazzi-scandalmongering that they think we most want to hear. (Why the media don’t realize that this race-to-the-bottom has no bottom is beyond me. The newest bottom I saw in Europe is televised strip-poker. Just wait till this is the next reality TV hit here….) And please remember that the global warming debate and looming energy-crisis debates are talking about the high risks of potential future changes that can happen during the time we pay off our current mortgages…

— Posted by Jason Phipps Morgan
68.January 2nd,
12:43 pm John, perhaps you would care to follow up with this question: If you are one of those who is NOT convinced by the overwhelming scientific consensus on Anthropogenic Global Warming, then what evidence would you accept as conclusive, not only that is is real, but that it is sufficiently serious to warrant changing our ways immediately? For it seems to me that the deniers and delayers are hanging their hats not on science but on conspiracy theories and demonization of the Al Gores, and they all huddle around a very small band of “experts” (very, very few of whom are actual climate scientists). So, deniers and delayers, what scientific evidence would you accept as conclusive of AGW?

— Posted by Ian
69.January 2nd,
12:58 pm “John Tierney always wanted to be a scientist but went into journalism…” Al Gore is also not a scientists, but an advocate. Therefore, your polemics and Al Gore’s are written to the general populace with the purpose of affecting the populace’s points of view.

By emphasizing how Al and journalists sometime glosses over the caveats in their reporting, you avoid confronting their main points while nicely feeding into the frenzy in the global-warming-denier blogosphere. I guess you know what you are doing.

What’s next? Perhaps you’ll write an expose on how Driver Education instructors are unscientifically terrorizing their students by showing them films of horrific crashes and mangled bodies?

— Posted by tungbo
70.January 2nd,
1:02 pm John Tierney: “But if all these things are consistent with the theory, are there any sorts of weather trends or events that would be inconsistent (over 1 to 10 years)?”

First (as established by many posters) it is questionable whether “ALL these things are consistent with the theory” but there might be SOME observations that are (i.e., consistent with dangerous climate warming).

Rising mean temperature readings world-wide, over the last several decades, for example, could be seen to support Climate Change, if not quite anthropogenic (CO2-caused) Global Warming itself.

These rising temperatures are seen to cause melting glaciers (brown Alps, etc.) among other events. If these observations were to go into “reverse” that is, into declining temperature readings, then we might have reason to believe that a “good” event was happening. If the Alps turned white again for example.

So there should be some “Good” weather events that would support the theory of Global Cooling (if they were actually observed over the next decade or so).

These would include shortening growing seasons in the temperate regions. We should see later frosts in the spring and earlier frosts in the autumn.

Whether these are “Good” or not depends on your personal perspective.

— Posted by I. S. Mel Arat
71.January 2nd,
1:18 pm Recently, the UN held a climate conference in Bali. The scientists from the International Climate Science Coalition were not even allowed to attend, much less present their research showing “global warming” to be part of the natural cycles of the Earth. Please do your own research and don’t believe everything you read in the mass media. The ICSC web site is

— Posted by Kelly Swapp
72.January 2nd,
2:10 pm Thanks for a reasoned, moderating perspective. Katrina is no more proof of climate change than the 8 degrees and foot of snow here in South Bend, Ind., is evidence against “global warming.” It would have helped your article to use what actually happens in the Jonah story — the sailors try every possible way to avoid throwing Jonah overboard and do so reluctantly only when there is no other recourse.

— Posted by Gene Stowe
73.January 2nd,
2:19 pm Frankly I think people need to stop focusing on weather and climate and move to the big picture: our effect on our home, the earth, as we approach 8 billion strong. To me personally the earth does have a fever that we are causing but the reality is that we need to do a lot to steward our earth and civilization more generally and that sadly has to do with controlling our population over the next generation or two. Otherwise, like George Carlin related, the earth more than likely will just shrug us off like fleas.

— Posted by George Baker
74.January 2nd,
2:26 pm Annie Jia and LizMo,

Your Luddism is irrational. One at a time:


Thak you for admitting your irrational basis for alarmism:

“Shouldn’t journalism be more responsible and purposeful than that, and be geared towards some positive end?…

…More alarm than is “true” is not necessarily a bad thing.”

It is precisely this kind of irrationality which is rampant in the AGW reform campaign. Your desire for journalists to raise alarms, and false fears, to motivate ‘reform’ towards some ‘positive end’ is already daily fare for scaremongering publications hungry for readers. We need less scaremongering, not more.

More interestingly, why is the ‘positive end’ that you and other Ludds claim to have absolute knowledge of regarding GW regulation, always involve limiting technological options, installation of a massive new carbon trading bureacracy, and a raising the cost of doing business to recessionary levels?

Your “anger” is symptomatic of the Ludd disease of Sanctus. Symptoms of Sanctus are Emotionalism, Altruism, and Paternalism. You advocate exaggeration of danger to scare people into safe behavior, with little proof that danger exists (paternalistic). Your other sanctimonies are implied, but LizMo makes hers explicit:

“In the end, it shouldn’t matter how ‘true’ GW, AGW, whatever you want to call it, is exaggerated or not. It all should come down to whether you are selfish enough to be willing to take the bet that it’s not true. Seriously, if we cut down on our emissions, it really can’t hurt us.”

While echoing Annie’s penchant for demagoguery, your charge of “selfishness” is patently Altruistic. You claim to know where selfishness ends and brotherly/sisterly love begins. Your assertion that emissions cuts “can’t hurt us” betrays your misunderstanding of the sensitivity of industry to hyperregulation. Europe is a prime example of stifled entrepreneurship and entrenched corrupt industries keeping growth stagnant, unemployment high, and efficiencies low. Your open-ended, unscientific, and irrational sentiments are not due to lack of intelligence, it is the Sanctus clouding your judgement.

If all AGW Ludds would excise the irrational argumentation from their communications, we could debate on the merits, as many in this thread have done well. But to do so often takes an Sanctorcism. As a minister ordained by the Church of the Flying Eagle, I prescribe saying the Hail Liberty 10 times. This will quiet the Sanctus, but once infected, it can be made dormant but can always come back.

Hail Liberty
Full of Hope
The Ludds have Caged Thee
Blessed Art Thou among Virtues
And Blessed is the Fruit of Free Men and Women
Holy Liberty
Mother of Growth
Pray that your Captors
Repent and Prevent your Death. Amen.

— Posted by LuddHunter
75.January 2nd,
3:59 pm Re 49. Actually there is nothing “nuts,” as you put it, about taking seriously the work of climate scientists, especially when their results identify a serious threat. Your facile dismissal of their work, it seems to me, is the more questionable stance. Your position seems to be that unless we know everything, we know nothing.

For the effect of clouds and aerosols, you might start with a look here: lobal-dimming-and-global-warming/

The models are not perfect (and never will be), but they are very good and getting better all the time.

— Posted by Ron Taylor
76.January 2nd,
4:24 pm Enough about the weather…let’s talk about the
“availability cascade” (cool terminology!).
Something like it turns up in surprising places.
On July 20, 1989 there was an airline disaster
whose preliminary cause was given as the failure
of three hydraulic control systems, and it
was much discussed in followup news stories over the next several days.

A little research with the New York Times Index
and the indices of other major U.S. newspapers will
show that in the next four months there was
a flurry of airline emergencies — eight to be exact, reported by five different airlines — due to hydraulic problems: three more in the
remaining days of July, three in August, one
in October and one in November. Then there were no
more. And there hadn’t been any in the year or so
leading up to the July 20 accident.

Were the news media suddenly sensitized to
an ongoing stream of these kind of incidents?
Were the pilots more sensitive to borderline
problems with hydraulic systems? Did a “landing
gear” problem just get re-categorized to

Anyway, the “availability cascade” is just
as real as global warming; it should be studied.

— Posted by Charles Packer
77.January 2nd,
5:38 pm Let me also make a prediction for the new year: our dear Science Times will feature op-eds from non-scientist John Tierney. They will be tendentious; they will cherry pick “evidence” from science popularizers and polemicists; they are sure to call those concerned with the state of the environment or human health ‘activists’, they will be delivered with a condescending, been-there-before world-weariness; they will gravitate toward a neo-conservative political pole as reliably as any compass–adjusted of course for declination. They will irritate, but will not help, because they will be, as always, essentially derivative. Plus ca change….

— Posted by Dan Hooley
78.January 2nd,
7:30 pm Note to 77: Perhaps you could elaborate a little, how one might recognize a “condescending weariness” in an approach to criticism of things that don’t appeal to someone?

— Posted by Brian Valentine
79.January 2nd,
7:44 pm I am someone trained in science, the scientific method, peer review, and all that goes with examining evidence through careful, objective analysis and data correlation. Therefore, it appalls me that Mr. Tierney would find a voice in the NYT Science section, much less anywhere else in the media, short of the Flat Earth Society newsletter or the Luddite website (oh, well, if they had one, that is).

Opinions are fine, and must and should be encouraged in a free society. However, opinion has absolutely no place in science or scientific debate. Doubts about evidence and interpretation of data are part of the normal landscape of scientific debate; however, when the enormous weight of scientific evidence comes down on the side of climate change, to openly scoff at it or disregard the conclusion wholesale is a sure sign of opinion, not science.

I have no argument with keeping skeptical about the particulars, or even the whole batch of conclusions; skeptical, yes, but completely disregarding them? That points to denial and reactionary thinking, not open-minded skepticism.

Mr. Tierney, as he has repeatedly striven to expound in column after column, demonstrates not “the other side of the story”, but a strident argument that the bulk of the world scientific community, including my own brother who works in climatology, are nothing but a bunch of “Chicken Littles”, or worse, self-serving opportunists as his most recent column blatantly claims.

Such is the same behaviour as a man who continually cooks a meal and sets a table for themselves and their deceased wife, years after she’d passed on. Then, when the doctors come to suggest that he needs to come to grips with the reality of his situation, reacts angrily by denying that their spouse is dead and in fact, claiming that all the doctors are just trying to steal his money.

If his ability to influence others who either wish to remain with their heads in the sand or who simply don’t know any better weren’t a factor, I would think this behaviour were simply sad. As it is, to continue down this path, with the voice and credibility the NYT offers, is potentially criminal, if he is somehow able to convince enough people, supported by shaky evidence and slanted conclusions, to doubt the reality all around them, thus delaying further any meaningful action to correct our world’s situation.

And just to set the record straight on Mr. Tierney’s “scientific evidence” that global “warming” isn’t real, because of his claims that such things as the really cold or snowy winters and increased ice formation in Antartica show that there isn’t any “warming” going on… the term Global Warming means that as the trapped heat in the atmosphere builds, it alters weather patterns and climactic conditions in unpredictable ways… record cold or record warm winters, snow in places it hasn’t in centuries, deserts getting more rain than they have in millenia, and lush jungles going through droughts. Don’t let the unfortunate term “warming” lead you to think that everything is just going to get hotter. It means EVERYTHING is going to get messed up, in every possible way.

The question becomes then… will we stand by as the Tierney’s of the world tell us not to worry, keep doing what you’re doing, enjoy your TV and celebrity news, everything will be fine? Or will we finally quit letting these few ranting, fearful voices in the night prevent us from destroying our planet?

— Posted by John Cline
80.January 2nd,
7:52 pm John,

The dynamics that accompany the transfer of science to the public arena are indeed very interesting. Thank you for raising awareness of the “availability” phenomenon. However, another interesting phenomenon is the public misunderstanding of the scientific process. In science, data and the process of obtaining them are subjected to a peer-review system that, while not absolutely perfect, is pretty damned good. You make my point: as you note yourself you can get away with a lot more in journalism than in science, and this article is evidence that you are succeeding in doing so. Your otherwise intriguing article badly confounds science and a public perception of science that is often, as in this case, fraught with basic misunderstandings that you are now implicitly perpetuating. You do nobody, least of all yourself, a service in this endeavor.

It would be refreshing to see you explore an issue you do know something about, a great deal, in fact: what are a journalist’s responsibilities in reporting on science? Journalism thrives on contrarianism. How ethical is it for a science reporter to succumb to this cheap tactic? Yes, science, being a human endeavor, may not be perfect. However, the approach that you advocate by example is much, much farther from perfect, and in many respects, reckless. I urge you to get back to the science and leave the psychohistory to folks who are qualified, like Hari Seldon.

— Posted by Les Kaufman
81.January 2nd,
7:57 pm I haven’t read this blog in weeks, but I just checked in today and found, disturbingly, yet another gratuitous put-down of Al Gore. Tierney never misses an opportunity (and even creates them!) to put down Al Gore. I find this very strange and immensely tiresome. In the meantime, I will be sure to speak out–every time–to defend Al Gore. I would like Mr. Tierney to explain why he is so invested in putting down Al Gore. And more importantly, why is he so routinely antagonistic towards academic scientists?

— Posted by Luisa
82.January 2nd,
8:51 pm re the column -
Timur Kuran is Research Fellow at “The Independent Institute“, which isn’t.

1998 - $10,000 ExxonMobil Corporate Giving
2000 - $5,000 ExxonMobil Foundation
2001 - $5,000 ExxonMobil Foundation
2002 - $10,000 ExxonMobil Foundation
2003 - $10,000 ExxonMobil Foundation
2005 - $30,000 ExxonMobil Foundation

And if you search the Tobacco documents for “Independent Institute”, many happy hours of reading will await you….

— Posted by Anna Haynes
83.January 2nd,
9:42 pm Luddhunter - You claim that hyper-regulation will stifle us. I’m saying that gw or no, our natural energy resources on this planet are limited. I’m fairly certain you won’t disagree that we don’t have an unlimited amount of coal and oil. Why wait to work on solutions to this until there is terrible world-wide energy crisis? Because companies can make plenty of money with the technology we have now, then why bother thinking about the future, huh? The alarmism, while admittedly not always the best way of dealing with things, allows companies to make more money by providing green energy. A serious incentive to increase technology that would be slower coming around. I never said anything about reducing technology, in fact, i believe i mentioned working on new energy technologies. I never said I believe in the carbon credit industry (didn’t the church already try that with sins?). Please, take your head out of your ass, and don’t try to extrapolate on what I wrote. If i were to do the same, i’d say you must not have kids, because the only eyes you see the future with are the ones filled with $$$$$.

p.s. I believe that the actual term is Luddite.

— Posted by LizMo
84.January 2nd,
9:49 pm “I notice that ad hominem attacks have yet to be directed at comment number 22. Why is that?” — Posted by Douglas Kallevig

“Re 33. Why would you expect that?” — Posted by Ron Taylor

Since Mr. Kallevig didn’t answer, I shall venture a guess. Seems to me that there’s a political spin out there (in the neo-con echo chamber) casting AGW as an ideological fad being hastily promoted by loud-mouthed zealots while being patiently opposed by mature skeptics. (Classic “Big Lie” stuff.) That POV is contradicted by the absence of ad hominem attacks on comment #22, and so one may find it surprising.

— Posted by Daniel D.
85.January 2nd,
11:20 pm Martin, your claims are partial truths at best. What percentage of glaciers are “advancing”?

Recent reports show a significant net loss of ice from both Greenland and Antarctica (see #25 at ). Accelerating as a result of amplifying feedback effects.

The last few years may not have been records, but were nearly so, and still in the top 10. This is while we’re at solar minimum, and following record years in which el nino pushed the averages especially high. There is such thing as inter-annual fluctuation, but let’s not forget that sea ice extent is also affected by precipitation (particularly seasonally and regionally). Something expected to be affected (though not uniformly) by global warming. Hint: sea_ice.html

— Posted by Alex J
86.January 3rd,
12:01 am Dan Hooley,

Polemics justifies return polemics, like gunfire justifies return gunfire. Mr. Gore is your Grand Dragon of Polemics. He has preached AGW as the primary cause of a future catastrophe to be an irrefutable sacred truth. He has emotionalized, paternalized, misinformed, misled, and proselytized (coerced conversions within his political base…something like the overplayed Bush doctrine of ‘you’re either with us or with the terrorists’).

In order to have any hope of return to meritorious debate, the demons of sanctimony must be compelled from the major debaters. In other words, replace your messiah with a bipartisan GW Policy Commission that can agree on the agreeable:

1. Carbon lags, not leads, global temperature change. Your messiah hides this fact in his movie.
2. Sun and geothermal activity leads global temperature change.
3. Increased carbon emissions are absorbed by the oceans, given enough time.
4. Even if the ocean rises the predicted 23 inches in 100 years (not the 20 feet portended by your apocalyptic leader), we are fast enough to move our dwellings before we drown.
5. What clean coal and CO2 sequestration technologies are promising AND effective?

These and other potential areas of common ground must be agreed before any reasonable policy be agreed, and Mr. Gore must be shelved, because he has lost credibility, his rationality hopelessly poisoned by his zeal for a government-centered society, and his lust for revenge against his enemies.

— Posted by LuddHunter
87.January 3rd,
12:35 am Mr Tierney, I am having a truly tough time convincing myself that you care about the quality of science journalism. The hard justification for this statement, which admittedly has a strong ad hominem flavor, is always close at hand when one considers your cavalier and careless writings, which as far as anyone could tell reflect thinking of equally dubious value. The latest example to catch my eye is in your Jan 1 Findings column: “When the Arctic sea ice last year hit the lowest level ever recorded by satellites, it was big news and heralded as a sign that the whole planet was warming. When the Antarctic sea ice last year reached the highest level ever recorded by satellites, it was pretty much ignored.” This complaint would make pretty good sense if the planet as a whole exhibited no temperature trend, with warming places and cooling places balancing out. Or even if, more narrowly, Arctic and Antarctic sea ice trends were more or less equal and opposite, producing an overall balance in at least the domain of world sea ice. Of course, as anyone who has spent a few minutes on the issue knows, neither of those circumstances is even close to true. Antarctic sea ice is nearly stable, with no significant trend, while Arctic sea ice, especially in summer, is disappearing at a startling rate. Which makes your falsely balanced statement nonsense to the initiated and grossly misleading to the unwary. (I suppose I should not speculate on which of these effects you intended.) Those wishing to read up can use, Wikipedia on polar ice packs, or, among a zillion other resources. You are welcome to principled disagreement with, for example, the RealClimate folks, but not to statements that support your position only by a wrenching distortion of starkly significant facts. This blog entry touches on some areas that might produce some fruitful conversation, but I just can’t get started on that on the tattered journalistic basis you provide. I would expect this kind of thing from “Imbecile Ike The Blog Commenter”, the type of writer who spews first and thinks later, if at all, but to be fed this from the NYT is just too much.

— Posted by Ric Merritt
88.January 3rd,
12:36 am If the CO2 that started out as fossil sunlight sucked itself back into ground and we returned to 1850s levels of it in the atmosphere, THAT would be a sign that we don’t have to worry about global warming/climate change.

Like a frog in a pan of water over low heat, most people won’t do anything about a long-term incremental problem in time to make a difference unless they are startled by a sudden change.

You can call it “scare tactics” if you like, but motivating people today by pointing out examples of increasingly-erratic weather beats the do-nothing alternative.

— Posted by Sue Green
89.January 3rd,
12:41 am I second Ian’s question (#68) for John Tierney (”If you are one of those who is NOT convinced by the overwhelming scientific consensus on Anthropogenic Global Warming, then what evidence would you accept as conclusive, not only that is is real, but that it is sufficiently serious to warrant changing our ways immediately?”), and raise it by this:

John, have you ever received undisclosed compensation (financial or otherwise, directly or indirectly) in exchange for writing an NY Times column(s) on a particular topic or topics and/or angle thereon?

(apologies for the awkward wording, I hope it’s clear enough. And maybe this issue has already been addressed (as Andrew Cline recommends ) and a disclosure is already somewhere on the NY Times site, in which case, more apologies…)

— Posted by Anna Haynes
90.January 3rd,
1:47 am Mr Tierney, Thank you for your response to my posting, which I have been considering. Two questions arise: Is it not possible that early signs of global warming might be individual oddities and unprecedented, one-off events rather than steady, overall changes in certain weather patterns? Climate scientists as well as advocates like Mr Gore have reportedly said that we should initially watch for isolated examples of “weird” weather rather than more comprehensive activity — a bit like the odd twinges that can herald a major headache. To extend the analogy, it seems to me that seeking early expert intervention after unusual episodes of pain or fever amounts to prudent action rather than availability entrepreneurship. Also, might the combined energy level of recent Atlantic hurricane seasons have been lessened because of the documented dampening effect of El Nino weather patterns rather than an absence of global warming?

— Posted by Susan McAlister
91.January 3rd,
1:50 am The reason average people are skeptical about AGW, is that there have been horrendous predictions that have also been refuted by qualified scientists. However, whenever those qualified scientists have spoken, they have been marginalized, if not totally ignored. Beyond that, many who ask questions have lost funding.
AGW will never be taken seriously so long as we are faced with “chicken little” type prognostications. We’ve been had too many times before to let this overwhelm us.
Additionally, no scientists have been willing to discuss the good warming may bring. Do NOT tell us warming will not have its benefits as well as it detractions. In short, lets figure out how to live with it, rather than destroying our economies, lifestyles, and most importantly, freedoms!
Those pushing the AGW theory (and it IS a theory), must realize that “ABSOLUTELY NO AMOUNT OF EXAGGERATION (Read: LYING)” is justified to get people to “do as you say.” That socialist babble is worn thin!

— Posted by Rubicon
92.January 3rd,
2:03 am John,

I suspect that you and I have one thing in common. When we were growing up, we thought it right and proper to question authority. Authority got questioned and good came of it. We rejoiced.

But then some of those who claimed to question authority set themselves up as the new authorities. They began saying “how can you, you who don’t have a doctorate in hyper-technical-sub-speciality-XYZ, dare to question my pronouncement that pigs can fly???”.

And now we know that new pigs are up on two legs and living in the farmhouse. So all we hear when Al starts talking is “oink! oink!”. The Left never really sought to replace authoritarianism with reason. It only sought to replace Rightist authoritarianism with Leftist authoritiarianism.

Why can’t we sleep through it like all the other sheep? Cursed, we are. Cursed!

— Posted by Thanatos Savehn
93.January 3rd,
11:38 am Thanks John Tierney for your observation.
Two Global Warming (oh I’m sorry, it’s the all encompassing Climate Change now)stories I like are the ice stories.
A glacier in Switzerland began retreating at an alarming pace. Availability entrepreneurs had a field day - “See, See! REPENT NOW” - until the glacier retreated enought to uncover a long forgotten mine, complete with tools still inside. From then on nothing more was said about this revered glacier. If the mine was there, that means that the glacier had to be absent from the area once before. If it was absent once before, I’m sure it was absent hundreds or thousands of times before.

Another example is the Artic ice melt. NASA satellites imaged it from every angle and the availability entrepreneurs quickly went to work. Only in a small number of places did I read that old sailing journals revealed that the Artic waters were ice free before; the last time only 100 years ago. Sadly too long ago to be imaged by satellites. Eyewitness descriptions appear to be no longer valid in todays age of the video tape.

Finally NASA satellites also have delivered information that Mars, Jupiter and Pluto are also warmer now then the last time probes visited. How do CO2 from fossil fuel burning here reach the outer planets? Go ahead say it, we all know. It’s the Sun’s output thats changing! Selling your car and riding a bike to work isn’t going to fix that.

— Posted by KT KIlkenny
94.January 3rd,
11:38 am #71 interesting to note that the site you reference has a science advisory board that has an unusually large number of economists, a marketing professor, a botanist, an expert in plate tectonics.

#22 After looking at your definition of cooling periods versus warming periods I was astonished to see you defining the period from 1940 to 1971 as a cooling period. Looks to me like a plateau with a small level of fluctuation compared to the steady increases in the periods before and after. There was a period of decline from 1940 to about 1955, but then it went up and down in the next 15 years. So, it is not accurate to call it a 30 year period of decline. Further you failed to mention that this was a period of accelerated industrial activity when there were no controls on particulate pollution. Particulate pollution is a negative forcing which would counter the effect of rising CO2. Beginning in the mid-1970 there was a marked decrease in particulate pollution due to controls.

When I look at your Fig. 14, I see an overall increasing trend in global temperatures superimposed on a 30 year cycle. So, even if you’re right about the 30 year cycle, you still seem to predict an overall warming trend. What accounts for the overall warming trend in your model? Finally, the IPCC projections are not meant to provide year to year predictions of temperature, but rather trends over decades. What happens in the next three years is not within the models resolution.

The models are based on several scenarios of CO2 increases. The best case in temperature increase by the 2100 is as little as 1.1 C and as much as 6.4 C. You’ll need to specify which projection your challenging. In addition for the best case we are talking about a 0.45 F rise per decade (not 1 F in three years). You’d need a longer period of time to discount the IPCC. projections.

— Posted by Pete H.
95.January 3rd,
11:59 am Liberals argue that one is “open” minded if the follow algore’s dire predictions, but “closed” minded, if you mention scientific evidence which
may be contrary. Could it be that global warming may in the northern hemisphere and global cooling in the southern hemisphere? After all, 90% of the world’s ice is located in the southern hemisphere,
the Antarctica, and that reflects cooling, not warming. It appears most of the global warming pundits are politicans, U.N. etc., while those wanting to debate are scientists.

— Posted by billclintoon
96.January 3rd,
12:02 pm There appear to be two types of answer to the question:

1) The same observed trends that are responsible for the consensus (eg, rise in average global temperature normalized to expected natural fluctuations) are observed to reverse course over a decade or so.

2) The observed trend is found to correlate to some natural phenomenon (ie not human industry). For example, a discovery that sun output had been underestimated during the study period, or that deep planetary geological changes affect the amount of energy absorbed from the sun.

The angry responses to this question–some by people who are undoubtedly well-educated and some by people who claim to be scientists–is a frightening example of intelligent irrationality. The lack of reading comprehension, the dogmatic and non-sequitur condemnations, the inability to follow a simple and relatively non-controversial chain of logic does not bode well for the future of the democracy.

— Posted by Mountainecho
97.January 3rd,
12:07 pm Regarding #79.

“I am someone trained in science, the scientific method, peer review, and all that goes with examining evidence through careful, objective analysis and data correlation. Therefore, it appalls me that Mr. Tierney would find a voice in the NYT Science section, much less anywhere else in the media, short of the Flat Earth Society newsletter or the Luddite website (oh, well, if they had one, that is).

Opinions are fine, and must and should be encouraged in a free society. However, opinion has absolutely no place in science or scientific debate. Doubts about evidence and interpretation of data are part of the normal landscape of scientific debate; …”

Hmm. “normal landscape of scientific debate”

Can you translate this? What landscape has to do with scientific debate?

Or this: “to openly scoff at it or disregard the conclusion wholesale is a sure sign of opinion.”

Was it wholesale landscape science, wholesale landscape scientific method, wholesale landscape peer review that you were trained in?

“Don’t let the unfortunate term “warming” lead you to think that everything is just going to get hotter.”

What a profound thought. Thanks

— Posted by countrylivingNY
98.January 3rd,
1:33 pm LizMo,

I can see the penance did not take.

1. Anger is not an argument.

2. Waiting for the market to evolve technology usually works when there is high demand for those technologies. We may disagree on demand, but I know of many current projects in alternate “clean” energy that are motivated more by private sector demand than public sector grants. The demand is there, so no need for additional bans/limits.

3. Alarmism is irrational, deceitful, paternalistic, and perhaps proselytizing, considering the dogmatic evangelism of Pope Gore in converting the great unwashed into his collectivist cult.

4. Like it or not, $$$$ (economic growth) is the long term best path to collective health and security. Overregulation indisputably stifles economic growth. Where we may agree is that the current oil energy industry is a de facto monopoly driven by OPEC’s supply control, which the U.S. government has decreasing influence over. Monopolies stifle growth as well. So I favor public research (maybe even a large “Manhattan Project”) to develop alternate energy technologies, but not because of global warming (an uncontrollable phenomenon), but to kill OPEC, and starve its tyrannical members into reform, which would increase our security from terror.

5. Ludds (my shorthand for Luddites) are those who put vague and ever-increasing thresholds of social justice or social welfare ahead of technological development. AGW Ludds exaggerate (by your admission) dangers to enact technological limitations to divert tech evolution in the direction they so wisely know is best. Most Nerds (the natural enemy of the Ludd) like me are not for unrestricted use of technology (nukes, for example), because social welfare is obviously threatened in that case.

6. Bringing kids into it is another emotionalist hyperventilation. It only works for indoctrination of the weak-minded, but you need real arguments to win over more free marketeers to your side if you really want reform. If you just want a Democratic majority, free birds see right through that.

7. My words are not pleasant, because you are caught between defending the launching of dogmatic firebombs by your leaders, and getting hit by the slings and arrows of polemicists like me. Dogma must be nullified by polemic, if real debate is to occur. The people who are qualified to render technical opinions get drowned out otherwise. I wish more of you would turn your energy on your own leaders to get them to stop the dogmatism and outright deceptions. Dogma and misinformation always attract polemic, not the other way around. The cease fire must originate from your side, because we can only retaliate.

— Posted by Luddhunter
99.January 3rd,
2:06 pm As everyone knows, 100 New York Times readers can not be wrong. However, have heart Mr. Tierney scientists on the IPCC are beginning to speak out more boldly about the Reality Distortion Field created by Gore and his Minions.

You should take a look at the recent article, “No consensus on IPCC’s level of ignorance,” by John R Christy, Professor and Director of the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama.

He gives a scathing review of those scientists who make false claims of certainty to achieve their political and professional objectives.

— Posted by Adam
100.January 3rd,
3:09 pm Regarding #97 from countrylivingNY:

Cute. Lame, but cute.

Oh, and my scientific training? Astrophysics and quantum physics. But I do like landscaping too.

— Posted by John Cline
101.January 3rd,
3:11 pm Luddhunter -

I am a science PHD student (occasionally to my surprise, at one of the top 5 places in the country!). I put in long hours for the sake of nerdery, and perhaps from that you should realize that i cannot, in reality, be a luddite (which you love to fling around, but you are just mislabeling). The real problem here is that each side makes plenty of assumptions and exaggerations as we have done for one another. Yes, you are also making exaggerations, and yeah, actually you sound just as angry as I might (funny how one interprets things online)

as someone in the scientific field (are you? because you would be the first scientist i have meet that disagrees that global warming is occurring), i see papers teeming with real data pointing towards global warming that has nothing to do with the rhetoric that is going on all around us. Most scientist don’t care much about that, we realize its not true. However, the information is either actually unavailable for most people to read (unless you pay a lot of money for the journal or article), or mentally much to difficult to understand, smart or not, technical papers in journals are not very easy for non-scientist to understand (yeah, really, we’re really bad, horrendous writers, plus there is all the field specific terminology)

So, in my ideal world, everyone would have time
to read these articles and work through the real argument. As a self-proclaimed nerd, perhaps you have already done this?

so now, realize that we have both made misjudgments on each other. that is why science won’t win out in the end. and that will or will not bring humankind’s demise.

also, i’d love to ask john tierney… what is your opinion on whether global warming, yea or nay? i understand completely your argument about the rhetoric. but i don’t think that being bothered by that actually clarifies what your position is. thx

— Posted by LizMo
102.January 3rd,
3:44 pm Thanks for calling out science by consensus for the sham that it is. You inspired me to write a quick article. n-fields-and-the-great-global-warming-consensus/

— Posted by Adam Saunders
103.January 3rd,
3:54 pm It’s obvious that changes in weather over a short period of time do not demonstrate climate change, but talk of long slow gradual change that takes place over 50 or hundred years is just as misleading. Anyone who has spent significant amounts of time outdoors over the last 40 years can see the evidence of global warming: a clear trend toward rising temperatures, earlier springs, and shifting zones for plants and vegetation. This evidence is much the same all the way from the Alps to Alaska. The science of predicting exactly under what conditions change will cease to be linear and gradual is complex, but what we are facing is as much a political and intellectual as a scientific problem. I’ve refrained from making this comment for a long time, but Tierney Lab is an example of what might be dubbed a libertarian reaction to a very inconvenient problem. Combating global warming will require some combination of government intervention and restrictions on consumer choices, but this is so inconvenient such anathema to libertarian orthodoxy that the problem of global warming must be, if not dismissed, minimized and those who call for action should be mocked. If buying gas guzzling cars, building huge homes, and powering all manner of devices from energy produced by coal-fired electricity plants feels good it must be good, and let’s just laugh at those who say otherwise. I expect to hear more of the same from Tierney lab this year, but it would be truly interesting to hear about real practical measures to combat global warming.

Ben Lieberman

— Posted by Ben Lieberman
104.January 3rd,
3:56 pm Posted as part of #79:

“Don’t let the unfortunate term ‘warming’ lead you to think that everything is just going to get hotter. It means EVERYTHING is going to get messed up, in every possible way.”

To John Cline, the poster (scientist-poser?): How do you reconcile the comment above with your introductory words:

“I am someone trained in science, the scientific method, peer review, and all that goes with examining evidence through careful, objective analysis and data correlation.”

Are you kidding us? No scientist I know would make the first statement above. Even the IPCC would be more judicious in its choice of words. Where did you get your training?

So to repeat John Tierney’s question to you, a scientist, could you please respond to “But if all these things are consistent with the theory, are there any sorts of weather trends or events that would be inconsistent?”

I guess you won’t have an answer if you really believe that “the term Global Warming means that as the trapped heat in the atmosphere builds, it alters weather patterns and climactic conditions in unpredictable ways… record cold or record warm winters, snow in places it hasn’t in centuries, deserts getting more rain than they have in millenia [sic], and lush jungles going through droughts.”

If I understand you correctly, there is absolutely NOTHING, if the climate were to begin cooling (as per Mr. Tierney’s original QUESTION), that could indicate to you that GW was being reversed.

Apparently, given your views that ANYTHING that happens in the future is definitely caused by AGW, even a new ICE AGE would convince you that we were in the deepest throes of extreme AGW.

Please give me a break!

— Posted by I. S. Mel Arat
105.January 3rd,
8:31 pm Thanks Mr. Tierney for exposing what has become a religious cult of “Global Warming”

Please read the Technical section of the IPCC report … it recognizes how many gaps there are in the models and data.

Below is the table in the IPCC report that directs contributors on how to “analyze” the data. It uses the statistical term “confidence” incorrectly. I have never read a technical paper with a reported 80% confidence level as “high confidence”. 80% confidence level means that the finding may be incorrect 20% of the time.

A 50% confidence level is “medium confidence”

That’s really a coin flip and if any pharmaceutical ever put out a drug with an 80% confidence or a 50% confidence that it would work …. They would all be in jail.

IPCC needed this new method … new math .. since there is a lot of uncertainties in the data and conclusions.

These are there words … not mine.

Confidence Terminology Degree of confidence in being correct
Very high confidence At least 9 out of 10 chance

High confidence About 8 out of 10 chance

Medium confidence About 5 out of 10 chance

Low confidence About 2 out of 10 chance

Very low confidence Less than 1 out of 10 chance

Uncertainties and data gaps and the need for more research is recognized in the technical sections, but the Executive Summary Report for Policy Makers uses absolutes and certainties and smoothes over any data gaps.

It is a political statement. And that is only what the media focuses on.

If you want to get funded … you better work on what Consensus Global Warming Politicians want.

But remember Einstein’s comment of the Nazi pamphlet “100 Scientists Against Einstein”
“If I was wrong … one would have been sufficient”

Global Warming Agnostic

— Posted by jgfox
106.January 3rd,
10:08 pm I first encountered John Tierney in September, 2004, when he wrote “The Autonomist Manifesto” in the Sunday magazine about transportation issues in the U.S. It caught my attention because I have professional expertise in the subject, and it was clear to me that it was an intellectually dishonest piece because he relied solely on the views of ideological libertarians, and didn’t bother to consult the professional and peer reviewed literature on the subject. He referred to Wendell Cox as a transportation expert, when he is anything but.

Although on his site he states: “John Tierney always wanted to be a scientist but went into journalism because its peer-review process was a great deal easier to sneak through.”, and he likely means that to be humorous, his columns make it clear that it is more revealing that he intended, as was noted by others above. His columns certainly confirm the statement.

Tierney clearly has a libertarian bent (and so do I), but his libertarian proclivities combined with an inadequate scientific and mathematical background lead him to prefer intellectually dishonest sources, and evidently cannot tell the difference. When there is uncertainty in science, there is room for disagreement, and even dispute, but it is generally over model assumptions and specifications. These disagreements generally lead to better science and knowledge of how the world works. Tierney should inform his columns by discussing decisionmaking under risk and uncertainty, but we see none of that.

To illustrate that he is out of his element, he also states on his web page:

“1. Just because an idea appeals to a lot of people doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

2. But that’s a good working theory.”

What he should have said is “But that’s a good working hypothesis”, as scientists do.

— Posted by HCG
107.January 3rd,
11:15 pm “What behavior of the climate system could hypothetically be observed over the next 1, 5, 10 years that would be inconsistent with the current consensus on climate change?”

On the one year timescale, nothing. Our “current consensus” says that year to year variability is to be expected.

On the 5-10 year timescale, an observation most inconsistent with the current state of knowledge would be one that causes us to question the fundamental processes that control climate. Any of the following would raise serious questions about our understanding of the atmospheric system:

-A cooling trend coupled with a significant increase in solar radiation.

-A warming trend following the eruption of a large, sulphur-rich tropical volcano (such as Mt. Pinatubo or Tambora.

-The sudden appearance of permanent snowfields on tropical mountains that have been ice-free since the LGM, as the atmospheric CO2 level passes 390.

— Posted by Lab Lemming
108.January 3rd,
11:46 pm I’d like to encourage everyone to visit the tobacco documents archive and search for the columnist of your choice, or the talking points of your choice, or whatever else strikes your fancy.

There seems to be some recycling going on…

— Posted by Anna Haynes
109.January 4th,
2:23 am Mr. Tierney,

Regarding those that claim you have no scientific climate credentials, please take solice in the fact they will also disregard anything Al Gore (or any other non-credentialed source) will say in regards to global warming in the future too.
I’m absolutely sure of it.

In post #1, Zoe said:

“Climate change is not about comparing last year with this year, but about comparing the last 50-100 years, with the previous thousands of years.”

Yet, many do compare temps from last year (or 2 or 3 years ago), and use this as proof of the reality (and dangers) of global climate change.

Even NASA & NOAA have been known to do it.

#23 (Nancy):
“We need to face the reality that global warming is mostly caused by burning fossil fuels”

How much of the rise in temps we’ve experienced is due to man, and, more specifically, how much has been due to GHG emissions?

Has it been .3 or .5 or .7 degrees?
Does anyone here know how much?

— Posted by zack
110.January 4th,
3:11 am I’m not a regular NYT reader and only stumbled across Mr. Tierney’s article by chance so I don’t know him. Notwithstanding all of the nasty comments on this blog I have to admit that I found Mr. Tierney’s article a rather intriguing and refreshing counterbalance after reading so much of the really depressing doom and gloom that comes from the AGW camp.
I’m a historian not a scientist. In the past year I have devoted a lot of time to reading up about climate change and have given what I feel to be a fair hearing to both sides of the argument. I am definitely concerned about the depletion of increasingly scarce natural resources,the contamination of the air that we all breathe, and overpopulation of the planet among other things. I strongly believe that we can and should be doing much more to harness natural energy resources while at the same time recognizing that they all have their pluses and minuses. I also accept that areas of the planet may be warming. Yet in spite of sharing many of the same values as the “global warmers” I find it more and more difficult to unquestioningly swallow the argument in favour of AGW theory.
There are several reasons for my gathering skepticism. One of the repellent things about the situation is the intolerant attitude that many AGWers have for not only dissenting scientific argument but even simple questions. Mr. Tierney didn’t write a particularly offensive article and yet many in the AGW fold would prefer that he be deprived of his right to free speech. Carried to it’s ultimate logical conclusion, we would have a “nazification” of knowledge. If AGW theory is so rock solid and unassailable, who would care what Mr. Tierney writes about?
As a Canadian, I’m somewhat detached from the acrimonious Bush/Gore political grudges that affect many American posters. But I have to admit that I am shocked by Mr. Gore’s rapacious appetite for money. If you go to his website,, you can’t leave a compliment,criticism or ask a question but you can certainly leave money. I read recently where his personal wealth now exceeds 100 million dollars. If Mr. Gore is intent on setting himself up as some sort of Moses example his actions certainly don’t indicate as much. One thing about it, right or wrong on AGW, he’s still got the cash. The most recent outrage was the revelation that 10,000 people found it necessary to fly to Bali for a UN sponsored AGW conference. In the process, Bloomberg News estimated that the grandees had generated the equivalent of the pollution created by 20,000 cars in a year. I find that astounding and a hypocritical waste.
Is AGW real, is it not real, who’s right, who’s wrong, who knows? I don’t know and increasingly, I don’t care. From what I’ve been hearing and seeing neither do the proponents of AGW.

— Posted by Free Thinker
111.January 4th,
4:04 am “Everything I learned in life, I learned from a coelacanth”

Evidently he didn’t evolve very far from his ancestors of some 400 million years ago, who apparently did evolve quite well along the phylum, Chordata.

Anyway Coelacanth’s ancestors lived in a world of a “True Planetary Emergency” - where the average (absolute) atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration was at least five times that of last Tuesday at 4:31 EST. (The average temp was about 3deg.C colder too.)

So Coelacanth told me, according to legend handed down to him from his ancestors,

- life wasn’t so bad them, really

— Posted by Brian Valentine
112.January 4th,
5:12 am In the last few decades ,a rising talking about Science of Disorder had been registered in the scientifical world ,and recently we hear about disorder in politics ,what i personally consider So Far from the Disorder inside Nature,of course Humans disorders of today affect the Nature from so close ,but the Science of Disorder or Hazard who governs the Earth massively, and very few in the space ,is much more different.
To understand very clear where the climate is going we should first realize very well that the earth’s climate had passed through billions of years in many successful Eras each one is very different from the previous and the next ,but of course each Era has some influence, that we cannot understand or analyze precisely, on the Climate as well as the weather of today.
For Scientists specialized in statistics it’s well known that all the micro phenomena who made the climate follow some unpredictable rules or ways but at macroscopic level we see a regular phenomena decealed with the human eye or brain ,like regular seasons or shiny day after the storm…
So all the predictions of upcoming disaters in the climate

— Posted by Dr Fayad Mehawej
113.January 4th,
9:55 am Thank you Sir for your very insightful article: “In 2008, a 100 Percent Chance of Alarm ” It is probably the best climate change article published this past year.

It seems to me most articles written about climate change have been written by journalists who believe in the old adage, “Never let facts get in way of a good story.” It is refreshing to read an article which not only addresses some ignored facts, but also questions the journalists and editors who practice such tactics.

“It fun until someone gets hurt” could be used to describe the end result of many of the fear mongering cascades world leaders have employed. The search for WMD in Iraq, Y2K, McCarthyism, the Holocaust, the Salem witch-hunt. Fear is the most persuasive of human emotions and world leaders have used the media throughout history to create a stampede of normally rational people to do irrational things. The mass hysteria which has been created over global warming is no different and the outcome of unquestionably following will be just as painful.

I do not know if global warming will continue or if we are entering a period of global cooling. I do not know if centuries from now the arctic will once again become a tropical paradise as has happened many times in the past or if glaciers will once again will extend down into the United States However, I can predict with 100 percent certainty that the climate will change just as it always has and always will. And regardless of what happens, man and nature will adapt, change, and renew.

— Posted by gp
114.January 4th,
11:50 am Note to Anna, #108

Some follks who lived around the town of Salem, Msss. about 1680 thought it was “impossible” for some old maids and some other rather stand-offish women who grew herbs in their garden and kept a couple of cats could be connected to the mysterious deaths of some people and poor weather, too.

Responsible people took it upon themselves to err on the side of caution, however, and make those women prove their innocence by being held under water for about 15 minutes.

Clearly, their innocence would be revealed in their successful outcome of the ordeal. That was the consensus, and who could argure with that?

Wouldn’t be such a bad idea to apply the same verification principle to make some of those “deniers” prove their claims, would it

— Posted by Brian Valentine
115.January 4th,
12:34 pm Mr. Tierney, thank you for starting this discussion. The responses to your question have given a revealing look into the mentality of proponents of both sides of this argument.

Some of the responses reminded me of a Star Trek episode from my youth. On a Star Trek web site I found that this episode was “The Return of the Acorns” from the first season in 1966. “Kirk defeats a superior computer by finding a bug in its program that had gone unnoticed for hundreds of years. As with all superior computers, as soon as its program enters an infinite loop, it immediately starts smoking and shooting off sparks until it explodes.” Kirk didn’t actually do any programming… he asked the computer a few questions that the computer was unable to respond to in a logical way.

The number of persons who have posted that what you have asked is not a proper question concerns me greatly. Your question is not only proper; it is the first question that a proponent of any scientific theory must be prepared to answer. It is one of the most basic responsibilities of the proponent to answer the question… how can my theory be disproven? This is one of the foundations of modern science.

How is it possible that so many highly educated persons can follow a path for which they are unprepared to ask even this most basic question? To me this is akin to high school graduates who can’t read. We appear to have a large number of persons with advanced degrees who are unable to follow basic scientific method. To me it appears that our institutions of higher learning have failed these people.

— Posted by Steven Miller
Add your comments...
Name Required
E-mail Required (will not be published)
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive. For more information, please see our Comments FAQ.

Search This Blog All Blogs »
About TierneyLab
John Tierney always wanted to be a scientist but went into journalism because its peer-review process was a great deal easier to sneak through. Now a columnist for the Science Times section, Tierney previously wrote columns for the Op-Ed page, the Metro section and the Times Magazine. Before that he covered science for magazines like Discover, Hippocrates and Science 86.

With your help, he's using TierneyLab to check out new research and rethink conventional wisdom about science and society. The Lab's work is guided by two founding principles:

1. Just because an idea appeals to a lot of people doesn't mean it's wrong. 2. But that's a good working theory.

Comments and suggestions are welcome, particularly from researchers with new findings. E-mail
Try This at Home
Mind and Health
Health and Cognition Study
Find out if you're eligible to participate in an interesting, paid, study in the U.S. and Canada examining the link between physical health and cognition.
Test Your Ethics
An online survey being conducted by social scientists at Carnegie Mellon University who are asking people's views on what constitutes ethical behavior.

Jump to Survey Survey
How Weird Are Your Daydreams?
How does your mindwandering compare to others?

Jump to Survey Survey
Procrastinate Now!
Take an online survey to measure how much of a procrastinator you are.

Jump to Survey Comments of the Moment
We suggested that measurements of jack pine growth be started to verify the forecasts and to see whether the potential effects of global warming on the diversity of life were actually occurring. People could have started going to southern Michigan to check out our forecasts 16 years ago. Nobody did, and nobody has yet done so. But there is still an opportunity to make this test of whether global warming is having one effect forecast 16 years ago. If anybody is interested, the scientific paper providing the basis of the forecast is available on my website, It is part of work I have done on global warming effects during the past 40 years. Daniel B. Botkin”
— Daniel B. Botkin
Are There Any Good Weather Omens?“I predict that the next 30 years will be somewhat cooler, rather than the 2 degrees F warmer predicted by the IPCC. I also predict that the global climate in 2100 will be less than 1 degree F warmer than present, rather than the 10 predicted by the IPCC. ”
— Dr. Don J. Easterbrook
2008-2108 Prediction Contest“I think the Science Debate needs to embrace some of the seeming pitfalls here and use them to its advantage. First, market the debate publicly as a debate about "innovation and progress" and take some of the buzzwords out of the candidates' mouths before they have a chance to overuse them. ”
— Kate Wing
A Presidential Science Debate? “Those of you who believe female circumcision creates and keeps women powerless must explain why the matriarchal Mane, the Kono women who have civic authority, sources of income and land rights, and other empowered women support female circumcision and are circumcised. . . . Those of you who are worried about Third World women being silenced or disempowered need to quit doing just that by refusing to acknowledge the validity of African women’s views on female circumcision. ”
"Circumcision" or "Mutilation"?Monthly Archives Select Month January 2008 December 2007 November 2007 October 2007 September 2007 August 2007 July 2007 June 2007 May 2007 April 2007 March 2007 February 2007 January 2007 Popular Tags
anthropology astronomy behavioral economics bioethics Birds body language brain carbon tax cascades climate change cloning D.E.A. DDT Dieting doomsayers doomsday emotions energy evolution extraterrestrial life fat gender glaciers global warming gossip humor Laughter Lonesome George Marijuana Mars mate preferences money Moon NASA opioids pain pesticides Poetry prizes psychology Saturn sea level sex simulation argument space sun trans fat twins virtual reality William Hurwitz Recent Posts
January 4
11 commentsWeather Alarmism as a Noble Strategy

Amidst the denunciations of my column and post on weather alarmism, there was a calm question from one critic, Annie Jia:
What is your purpose in writing these articles, aside from making climate-change-is-a-problem advocates look bad, and making climate skeptics happy, and making yourself appear smart by debunking “popular wisdom”? Shouldn’t journalism be more responsible […]

January 1
115 commentsAre There Any Good Weather Omens?

On New Year’s Day, let us contemplate signs of future weather.
In my Findings column, I argue that “availability entrepreneurs” have been exploiting short-term weather in order to awaken the public to what could be a real long-term danger, global warming. Hurricanes, blizzards, floods, droughts, exceptionally hot years — all these have been linked to […]

December 31
73 comments2008-2108 Prediction Contest

If you have any brilliant predictions for either 2008 or 2108, I’d like to offer you a prize. But I can guarantee delivery only for the 2008 winner.
The prize is a copy of “America 1908,” by Jim Rasenberger, a very good book about a very good year for technology. In 1908, the Wright brothers […]

December 24
153 commentsA Presidential Science Debate?

If the 2008 presidential candidates are forced, kicking and screaming, to debate science, what questions should they be asked?
An impressive array of scientists, academics, politicians and journalists have joined Science Debate 2008, the grass-roots group urging the candidates to have a debate on science and technology. I can’t imagine the candidates’ handlers are happy […]

December 20
88 commentsSmart Elevators, Dumb People

Now that Donald Norman and Lab readers have analyzed the water faucets in the office building of the future, let us contemplate an even more important topic: the elevators.
Dr. Norman, the Northwestern cognitive scientist and illustrious techno-critic, had no trouble dealing with the elevators in the New York Times new headquarters, but that’s because […]