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Initial post: Oct 15, 2009 1:38:27 PM PDT
My organization, the Union of Concerned Scientists, had the opportunity to review the book's fifth chapter on climate change science. It misrepresents our scientific understand of climate change in a number of ways.

http://www.ucsusa.org/global_warming/science_and_impacts/global_warming_contrarians/book-superfreakonomics.html

New Book "SuperFreakonomics" Mischaracterizes Climate Science

A follow-up to the bestselling book "Freakonomics" features a chapter that grossly mischaracterizes climate science, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The new book, "SuperFreakonomics" by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, is slated to be officially released on October 20, 2009. Experts at UCS found that the fifth chapter of the book, "Global Cooling," repeats a large number of easily discredited arguments regarding climate science, energy production, and geoengineering.

The authors appear to have taken a purposefully contrarian position on climate change science and economics. While such a position may help draw attention to their book, their reliance on faulty arguments and distorted statistics does a disservice to their readers.

In 20 short pages, the authors:

* Repeat tired global cooling myths
* Unfairly trash climate models
* Highlight irrelevant statistics about carbon dioxide without context
* Extol the virtues of excess carbon dioxide while ignoring the downsides
* Ignore a major source of sea level rise
* Cherry-pick short-term climate fluctuations while missing the bigger picture
* Use faulty statistics to trash renewable energy
* Advocate rolling the dice on unproven technology
* Use a silly analogy to attack plans to reduce emissions



Repeat tired global cooling myths

First, the chapter rehashes 1970s global cooling myths (pages 165 and 166). In fact, the 1970s "cooling scare" is largely an invention of the opponents of addressing climate change. Only a few news organizations reported on a handful of scientific papers regarding cooling in the 1970s. What was going on? Scientists noted that sulfur-dioxide production and other particulates that reflect sunlight were on the rise, outstripping the effect of heat-trapping gases such as carbon dioxide and methane. Over time, industry reduced emissions of these cooling pollutants, which also cause acid rain. Meanwhile, fossil fuel emissions and deforestation have exploded, leading to an over-abundance of warming gases in our atmosphere. The scientific research on global warming is orders of magnitude larger and more robust than the science underpinning a handful of cooling articles in the 1970s.

Unfairly trash climate models

The authors claim climate models have a very wide range of future temperature projections (page 168). This is true, but it misses the point. Climate models have a wide range because scientists don't know how much more heat-trapping emissions human activity will put into the atmosphere. Models project that a decrease in production of heat-trapping emissions would lead to less warming-around 2 degrees F by the end of the century-while continued high emissions would lead to greater warming-closer to 10 degrees F. The authors gloss over the fact that reducing heat-trapping gases will lower warming. This simple fact undercuts most of the authors' discussion regarding whether or not reducing emissions is an effective tool for reducing global warming. According to climate models, it is the method for doing so.

The authors emphasize the fact that climate models don't account for relatively small-scale phenomena such as hurricanes (pages 181 and 182). Climate models by their nature focus on the macro-, not the micro-scale. The authors' complaint is akin to criticizing a desk stand globe because it doesn't display the street where they live. Climate models all agree that on the large scale, land and ocean areas worldwide will experience warming as heat-trapping emissions continue to rise.

Highlight irrelevant statistics about carbon dioxide without context

The authors note that carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere were higher 80 million years ago (pages 181 and 182). This is true, but largely irrelevant to the question of whether or not we should do anything to address global warming today. Carbon dioxide and temperature fluctuate naturally on well-understood cycles that take place over tens of thousands of years. Current warming, brought about by human-induced emissions, has been happening over a condensed period of time. To flourish, our civilization has relied on the relatively stable climate of the past few thousand years. Rapid change to that climate is a serious threat.

Extol the virtues of excess carbon dioxide while ignoring the downsides

The authors point out that many plants benefit from higher carbon dioxide concentrations (page 184). While this is true, they ignore how plants suffer when the planet warms. A warmer world would disrupt agricultural production, shift the areas suitable for many tree species, and increase the range of pests and pathogens. And while beneficial plants may grow faster with increased carbon dioxide, so do weeds, allergens and invasive species. Overall, a higher rate of growth for some plants is a minor benefit compared with the major disruptions for human society scientists project under an extreme warming scenario.

Ignore a major source of sea level rise

The authors maintain that sea levels can rise only 1.5 feet by 2100 (page 186). How did they arrive at that statistic? It seems they only considered sea level rise due to a warming (and expanding) ocean, but failed to include additional sea level rise from melting ice sheets.

Over the last few years scientists have gained greater understanding of how land-based glacial ice responds to warming and how much it may contribute to sea level rise. A new study using the latest climate science suggests sea levels may rise 2.6 to 6.6 feet by the end of this century depending on our emissions over the coming century. In addition, unchecked warming may at some time in the future cause the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets to melt completely, leading to catastrophic sea-level rise.

Cherry-pick short-term climate fluctuations while missing the bigger picture

The authors briefly repeat the false claim that global temperatures have decreased over the last decade (page 186). This is an indefensible way of looking at the Earth's temperature record. Warming is a long-term trend and temperatures continue to increase over time, though they do fluctuate year-to-year. Counting only a few years in the global temperature record is akin to trying to determine who is winning a baseball game by only counting runs scored in the 7th and 8th innings. It ignores the broader, longer-term picture. In reality, the eight warmest years on record for the globe have all occurred since 1998, and the 14 warmest years in the record have all occurred since 1990. Global mean temperatures every year this century (to the end of 2007) were all above the average of the 20th century.

Use faulty statistics to trash renewable energy

The authors criticize renewable electricity sources, notably solar power (page 187). Energy expert Joe Romm does an excellent job debunking their claims on his blog.

Advocate rolling the dice on unproven technology

The authors discuss the idea of using geoengineering to address global warming (beginning on page 193) as if it is a panacea to the global warming problem. But according to climate scientists, such technologies are unproven and the possibility that they might work is no excuse for failing to curb emissions now. While geoengineering deserves research, the authors' implication that it could be a substitute for reducing heat-trapping emissions is unfortunate. It is also worth nothing that in addition to warming the climate, carbon dioxide is also acidifying the oceans, making it less able to support marine life. Geoengineering the climate would not stop that.

Use a silly analogy to attack plans to reduce emissions

The chapter concludes with a story about doctors failing to wash their hands. The authors say this example shows how hard it is to change human behavior. This argument is a red herring. Energy efficiency, renewable electricity production, and cars that maintain performance with better fuel efficiency are all examples of technologies that reduce emissions without forcing people to change their behavior. While individual choices are incredibly important when it comes to addressing climate change, the authors' implication that it is the only way the problem can be addressed is fundamentally wrong.

Posted on Oct 16, 2009 6:46:33 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 16, 2009 6:53:48 AM PDT
Guy LaCrosse says:
They just joined the list of authors for me to ignore. Hint: Don't write about a topic when you know next to nothing about it because you'll just look like idiots. It's common for economics centered people to get scammed by the deniers promoting junk science and straw-man arguments. They guys are fairly smart so they really have no excuse.

Posted on Oct 16, 2009 9:10:18 AM PDT
SuperFreakonomics, the forthcoming sequel to the pop-economics bestseller Freakonomics by economists Steven Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, devotes 44 pages to a contrarian view of climate change, calling global warming a "religion." Much of the chapter praises Microsoft billionaire and scientific dilettante, Nathan Myhrvold, whose solution to global warming is to pump acid rain pollution into the atmosphere. Levitt and Dubner also claim that prominent climate scientist Ken Caldeira does not think carbon dioxide is the "right villain":

The authors say: "Caldeira is thoroughly convinced that human activity is responsible for some global warming and is more pessimistic than Myhrvold about how future climate will affect humankind. He believes "we are being incredibly foolish emitting carbon dioxide" as we currently do. Yet his research tells him that carbon dioxide is not the right villain in this fight."

Levitt and Dubner's portrayal of Caldeira is false. As he told Climate Progress's Joseph Romm in an e-mail interview, he believes carbon dioxide is the central villain:

"Every carbon dioxide emission adds to climate damage and increasing risk of catastrophic consequences. There is no safe level of emission. I compare CO2 emissions to mugging little old ladies."

Levitt and Dubner spend much of their time channeling conservative columnist George Will, complaining about a "drumbeat of doom" growing louder from "doomsayers" even though the average global temperature, they say, "has in fact decreased." The book also repeats Will's obsession with a supposed consensus about "global cooling" in the 1970s.

- - Brad Johnson.
See more at Thinkprogress.com

Posted on Oct 16, 2009 9:23:04 AM PDT
Moe Plank says:
I think that this book should be boycotted. For a detailed take-down of its take on climate and CO2, see
http://climateprogress.org/2009/10/12/superfreakonomics-errors-levitt-caldeira-myhrvold/

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 16, 2009 2:00:58 PM PDT
Doug Hartman says:
I'm trying to get my brain around any still-living scientist being completely against ALL CO2 emissions. That seems to indict most of the animal kingdom, yes?

At any rate, I would have a hard time taking them seriously as a scientist with quotes like that.

Posted on Oct 16, 2009 5:12:35 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 6, 2010 1:54:10 PM PDT
d34dluk3 says:
.

Posted on Oct 16, 2009 5:51:18 PM PDT
J. Schneider says:
Yadda yadda yadda. Climate science is climate religion. I downloaded the data myself and my statistical analyses indicate that global temperatures correlate much better to solar irradiance than to atmopheric CO2. Sell your fear someplace else and give hard data if you want to contradict the contrarians (who are the only ones I ever see actually produce their data and publish their methods).

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 16, 2009 7:36:48 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 16, 2009 7:38:35 PM PDT
"I'm trying to get my brain around any still-living scientist being completely against ALL CO2 emissions. That seems to indict most of the animal kingdom, yes?"

No! The CO2 we (and all animals) exhale is strictly equivalent to the CO2 that was absorbed from the atmosphere by the plants we eat (or the plants eaten by the animals we eat) during their growth. It's a short term cycle that can sustain itself indefinitely thanks to the energy input coming from the sun and the transformation of that energy via photosynthesis by the plants. The CO2 due to the burning of fossil fuels is different because the carbon comes from under the earth, where it accumulated over millions of years. It was taken long ago out of the equation, and we suddenly (over mere decades) send it back into the atmosphere, changing the climate and not allowing the ecosystems the time to adapt.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 17, 2009 1:47:51 PM PDT
Have you read the chapter yourself or are you relying on the work of others for your opinion?

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 18, 2009 8:47:33 AM PDT
T. Tucker says:
"Not to say that he's right, but more people will believe him."

Truly a classic conservative argument: who care who's right or wrong?

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 18, 2009 11:12:44 AM PDT
Guy LaCrosse says:
How many deniers are really climate experts or are they just jumping on whatever contradictory theory (typically junk science ) that supports their views? Many deniers claim to be skeptics but their obvious lies usually pushes my B.S. meter into the red zone.

Posted on Oct 19, 2009 8:35:30 AM PDT
Jacqulyn says:
While I have not yet had the opportunity to read the book, I think all this arguing over credibility (or whatever it actually is you are angry about; I can't really tell, there is just too much finger-pointing) is silly. I have my own beliefs about global warming, and rather than arguing, you should just let everyone read the book for themselves and decide whether it makes sense to them. There are credible scientists on both sides of the global warming debate, though anyone that furthers political agendas is going to get the spotlight. Let the writers do their jobs. You don't have to read it if you don't want to, but don't take that privilege from others. And as far as the writers taking a contrarian stance on a debated issue, read their first book. They do it there too (abortion leading to lower crime rates, for example). Levitt and Dubner are trying to broaden the average person's horizons, since the media, schools, politicians, etc. are generally feeding us the same information -- information that they want us to believe is the only information. You need an open mind in order to read these things. Close-mindedness is really the root of this sort of anger -- you need to accept other people's ideas, whether you agree with them. And because there are scientists (each with research and findings and Theories) on both sides of the global warming issue, you need to look at both sides and form your opinion from there.
Do I need to mention again that there are Scientists on Both sides of this issue?

Posted on Oct 19, 2009 9:24:55 AM PDT
Guy LaCrosse says:
I just read the chapter and I think the most fervent of the deniers are going to be disappointed. It does have some misleading statements, pokes fun at Al Gore and generally is opposite of what many environmental groups would accept. It's not quite as bad as one of Bjorn Lomborg's books or the book "Shattered Consensus" by Michaels.

It proposes the argument that Geo-engineering the climate to be cooler is more palatable, less costly and more likely to work than forcing us to drastically reduce our Co2 emissions. If that is true or not remains to be proven (or dis-proven), but it's certainly worth a looking at. They could have approached this using a different tone, use a better sub heading (global cooling references the cooling consensus myth) and avoided the tripe about global warming being a religion.

Posted on Oct 19, 2009 11:13:16 AM PDT
Scoob Edoo says:
The lack of scientific knowledge in this country and others is truly astonishing. ANYONE with a scientific background must understand that there is no consensus view that obviates the need for further investigation on the contrary viewpoint. That is the very basis of the scientific method and what pushes science along toward new discoveries. "Consensus science" which the left and enviros like to claim for Global Warming is lazy, anti-science, or junk science if you prefer. And the way that it has evolved over the last decade, global warming is becoming, or has become, something much more akin to religion than science. If you can step back and view the movement objectively, I think it's the obvious conclusion.

Note that I never denied or agreed with the theory of global warming... 1. I can't because scientifically speaking, global warming is not a scientific theory (because it cannot be rigorously tested), and 2. the climate may indeed be warming, but it may also be cooling depending on the data you choose to analyze. My challenge to you thinkers out there: can you point to a time when the climate was not changing? Either warming or cooling? Probably not since there is no such thing as a static climate.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 19, 2009 12:52:50 PM PDT
K. Bagley says:
Why doesn't everyone take a step back and try t oact reasonable and rational for a change?

Here is the author's response to all of the crap flung at them over this chapter.

http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/10/18/global-warming-in-superfreakonomics-the-anatomy-of-a-smear/

Read it - and read the actual Chpater (the book isn't even available until tomorrow). And try to act like you're not in thrid grade anymore. Then maybe we can have an intelligent discussion on the issue. The authors are certianly right about one thing: Global Warming has become less of a science and more of a religion for people in the country.

Posted on Oct 19, 2009 2:29:09 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 20, 2009 10:11:55 AM PDT
Guy LaCrosse says:
Here's an article on what Caldeira's real opinion on geoengineering is. Compare it with Chapter 5.
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=geoengineering-to-combat-climate-change&page=2

'Caldeira says that, in any case, geoengineering is probably not the first option in controlling climate change. "The risk-averse strategy," he says, "is to reduce emissions." '

It's misleading to imply that Caldeira supports the geoengineering solution when he clearly stated otherwise.

Posted on Oct 19, 2009 6:01:44 PM PDT
Historian of science, Naomi Oreskes of UC San Diego, states: "Scientific knowledge is the intellectual and social consensus of affiliated experts based on the weight of available empirical evidence, and evaluated according to accepted methodologies. If we feel that a policy question deserves to be informed by scientific knowledge, then we have no choice but to ask, what is the consensus of experts on this matter."

Climate change has been extensively researched and the overwhelming majority of climate scientists agree that the observed modern day global warming is unprecedented and is very likely caused by humans. Although there is strong consensus among climate experts, many in the general public still think that these scientists are unsure about climate change and the role that humans have played in modern day global warming. The real science is primarily represented in peer-reviewed science journals but these journals are typically not accessible to the general public and are also highly mathematical. Global warming misinformation is primarily published on Web pages, blogs, television shows, radio, books, and other forms of mass media, all of which are much more accessible to the general public than scientific journals. The result is that the misinformation is reaching more people than the real science.

A case in point is Michael Crichton's State of Fear. A book of FICTION that many believe is non-fiction. I loved Freakonomics but now, based on their loose investigation of global warming and mitigation strategies, I wonder if I was fooled by their first book?

See my Global Warming: Man or Myth? site for more information about the current state of climate science

www2.sunysuffolk.edu/mandias/global_warming/

Posted on Oct 19, 2009 9:05:46 PM PDT
I've read the infamous "fifth chapter".

It basically repeats many common denier talking points that are aimed at a scientifically illiterate audience. These guys are smart. They should know better. Just look at Brad DeLong's list, which is easy to find by Google. Often it's just injected into the narrative, and not argued as being true or relevant, but none the less they let it stand unchallenged. If something is not relevant to the discussoin (like the brief 70's media sensation of 'global cooling', or that human activity accounts for 2% of CO2 emissions), when why do they include it?

I will not be reading this garbage any more than I'd read a book by Glenn Beck.

@Non-fiction Reader
"Global Warming" certainly has some religious characteristics among the general public, but that does not detract from the science. The very fact writers like the Freakonomics guys have to resort to falsehoods and presenting irrelevant facts out of context should tell you something about them.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 19, 2009 9:50:11 PM PDT
Doug Hartman says: I'm trying to get my brain around any still-living scientist being completely against ALL CO2 emissions. That seems to indict most of the animal kingdom, yes?

This is exactly the kind of idiotic thinking that Levitt lets go unchallenged on page 171. ("..the agnostics grumble that human activity accounts for just 2 percent of global carbon-dioxide emissions, with the remainder generated by natural processes like plant decay.")

No, it does not "indict most of the animal kingdom".

Where does the CO2 come from that animals emit? It comes from the food they consume, which leads back to the plants which pulled the CO2 **OUT** of the air. Plants and other organisms take CO2 out of the air, animals and decomposition put it back in. On a net basis it's a wash. The same cannot be said for burning of fossil fuels.

Posted on Oct 20, 2009 7:25:09 AM PDT
Scoob Edoo says:
M. Sanford: Er, burning biomass (peat and trees and leaves) puts far more CO2 into the air than burning fossil fuels on a like for like basis. Not to mention the other things it puts in the air. Are you proposing that we go back to burning biomass as our main method of heating homes, offices, retail outlets, etc? I'm just trying to figure out your alternative(s). Keep in mind that there are about 7 billion people and much of the world's population cannot afford luxuries such as solar power.

And you're sticking to the 'science' of climate models? Can you name one climate modeling program that can accurately 'forecast' past observed climate conditions based on inputs up to the climate period in question? I'll wait, but I shan't hold my breath. The dominant fact of climate science is that there are no models that can accurately portray what has, in fact, already been observed, let alone future conditions, because the models assume far too many things and cannot, yet, account for all of the contributing and confounding factors in such an enormous and not-very-well-understood system. To prescribe 'solutions' based on flawed models is folly and potentially ruinous for worldwide economies for (probably) no benefit.

Again, Global Warming cannot be considered a scientific theory until such time as the theory can be subject to rigorous testing. It's an interesting hypothesis, but so is the hypothesis that the solar cycle has caused much of the warming seen in the late 90s and that as the cycle winds down, so too will observed temperatures. The best way to refine these hypotheses is with further observation and learning more about how the climate actually works. Understanding all of the contributing and confounding factors will lead to better models and actual theories that CAN be rigorously tested. Hopefully some of the money being dumped into climate science today will make that a reality in the next few decades.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 20, 2009 9:23:19 AM PDT
"M. Sanford: Er, burning biomass (peat and trees and leaves) puts far more CO2 into the air than burning fossil fuels on a like for like basis. Not to mention the other things it puts in the air. Are you proposing that we go back to burning biomass as our main method of heating homes, offices, retail outlets, etc?"

You entirely missed my point. I did not suggest we start burning biomass for fuel. I said that the fact it puts more CO2 into the air is IRRELEVANT, since it also took that CO2 OUT of the air when it grew. Growing biomass, and then burning for fuel it has *zero* net effect on CO2 concentration in the air.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 20, 2009 10:52:19 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 20, 2009 11:23:36 AM PDT
Scott C. Boito states: "Can you name one climate modeling program that can accurately 'forecast' past observed climate conditions based on inputs up to the climate period in question?"

Absolutely! Here is what climate models do well:

According to the IPCC 2007 WGI, Chapter 8 report by Randall, et al. (2007):

1) There is considerable confidence that Atmosphere-Ocean General Circulation Models (AOGCMs) provide credible quantitative estimates of future climate change, particularly at continental and larger scales.

2) Models now being used in applications by major climate modeling groups better simulate seasonally varying patterns of precipitation, mean sea level pressure and surface air temperature than the models relied on by these same groups at the time of the IPCC Third Assessment Repport (TAR).

3) Model global temperature projections made over the last two decades have also been in overall agreement with subsequent observations over that period.

4) Some AOGCMs can now simulate important aspects of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO).

5) The ability of AOGCMs to simulate extreme events, especially hot and cold spells, has improved.

6) Atmosphere-Ocean General Circulation Models are able to simulate extreme warm temperatures, cold air outbreaks and frost days reasonably well.

7) Models also reproduce other observed changes, such as the faster increase in nighttime than in daytime temperatures and the larger degree of warming in the Arctic known as polar amplification.

8) Models account for a very large fraction of the global temperature pattern: the correlation coefficient between the simulated and observed spatial patterns of annual mean temperature is typically about 0.98 for individual models. This supports the view that major processes governing surface temperature climatology are represented with a reasonable degree of fidelity by the models.

9) The models, as a group, clearly capture the differences between marine and continental environments and the larger magnitude of the annual cycle found at higher latitudes, but there is a general tendency to underestimate the annual temperature range over eastern Siberia. In general, the largest fractional errors are found over the oceans (e.g., over much of tropical South America and off the east coasts of North America and Asia). These exceptions to the overall good agreement illustrate a general characteristic of current climate models: the largest-scale features of climate are simulated more accurately than regional- and smaller-scale features.
10) Models predict the small, short-term global cooling (and subsequent recovery) which has followed major volcanic eruptions, such as that of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991

11) Simulation of extratropical cyclones has improved. Some models used for projections of tropical cyclone changes can simulate successfully the observed frequency and distribution of tropical cyclones.

12) The models capture the dominant extratropical patterns of variability including the Northern and Southern Annular Modes, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, the Pacific-North American and Cold Ocean-Warm Land Patterns.

13) With a few exceptions, the models can simulate the observed zonal mean of the annual mean outgoing LW within 10 W/m2 (an error of around 5%) The models reproduce the relative minimum in this field near the equator where the relatively high humidity and extensive cloud cover in the tropics raises the effective height (and lowers the effective temperature) at which LW radiation emanates to space.

14) The seasonal cycle of the outgoing LW radiation pattern is also reasonably well simulated by models.

15) The models capture the large-scale zonal mean precipitation differences, suggesting that they can adequately represent these features of atmospheric circulation. Moreover, there is some evidence that models have improved over the last several years in simulating the annual cycle of the precipitation patterns.

16) Models also simulate some of the major regional characteristics of the precipitation field, including the major convergence zones and the maxima over tropical rain forests, although there is a tendency to underestimate rainfall over the Amazon.

17) Confidence has also increased in the ability of GCMs to represent upper-tropospheric humidity and its variations, both free and forced. Together, upper-tropospheric observational and modeling evidence provide strong support for a combined water vapor/lapse rate feedback of around the strength found in GCMs (approximately 1 W/m2 oC-1, corresponding to around a 50% amplification of global mean warming).

See: www2.sunysuffolk.edu/mandias/global_warming/climate_models_accuracy.html
for more information.

Solar cycles have never been able to explain the warming of the past century. In fact, 1998 was a record warm climate with a relatively weak sun. The warmth of 1998 was primarily due to an El Nino that was more than 2 standard deviations above the norm.

The underlying trend in the past century, and especially in the past few decades, can only be explained by AGW. There are no known natural forcing mechanisms that fit this record, especially when one look back over the past 2000 years.

Posted on Oct 20, 2009 7:14:15 PM PDT
Scoob Edoo says:
I guess I didn't make myself clear enough. My point was that everyone talks about the evils of burning fossil fuels contributing to extra CO2 which supposedly leads to Global Warming. My question is: that is the alternative you're offering up? The easiest alternative, being the most readily available, is the old standby biomass. So by stopping the production of cheap electricity by traditional fossil fuel burning, you'll likely make the CO2 situation worse.

Scott: Thanks for the best, most thorough reporting on what the IPCC says. It should, however, be noted that the IPCC is, in fact, much more of a political institution than a scientific one. And in all of those points given, I still see no actual concrete evidence that any one model is accurate enough to base any 'solutions' on. In fact, what I see is pretty much what we should expect to see from a semi-scientific assessment: Hey, the models are getting better and we're able to predict some things pretty well. The models certainly ought to be getting better with all of the money and attention being dumped into the field over the last two decades. But the fact remains that the models must continue to improve as more and more contributors and confounders are identified and worked into the models. We are a ways off until the work is far enough along to really rely on the results.

In all seriousness, we need more input and better reliability in the models before we make world-changing decisions on how to 'fix' the problems we think we're seeing. It's only the arrogance of man that leads to the idea that 'we must do something now' even if it's not well-understood what the effects (if any) would be.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 20, 2009 9:04:59 PM PDT
Scott, I am not interested in debating climate policy here or alternatives. I don't have the time for it, and this is hardly the place.

Reasonable people can argue over the accuracy of predictions, or the proper role of government policy.

However, it is *NOT* reasonable to inject nonsense, that anybody with a scientific background can recognized as nonsense, into such arguments. Unfortunately, this is exactly what Levitt and Dubner have done in this book.

Posted on Oct 21, 2009 6:49:25 AM PDT
Guy LaCrosse says:
We can't know for sure what the effects of global warming will be, but we do know that rapidly changing climate puts us at great risk of catastrophe. We also know how we can avoid this catastrophe; reducing carbon emissions. Climate policy should be considered as an investment in the future. It is analogous to investing in your 401(k) early in life so you can have a comfortable retirement later in life. We start investing in carbon free infrastructure now and the dividends pay us back later with a sustainable future. It's seems simple and obvious to me. I think the cost estimates are only about 1.5% of global GDP. Compare that with how much you need to be investing in your 401(k).
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