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The Debate is Over
Alex Steffen, 22 May 06

This is the way the debate ends: not with a bang but a press availability. President Bush today in a backhand way admitted that climate change is here, but said we shouldn't get caught up in discussion about what is causing it and instead focus on solutions:

"And in my judgment we need to set aside whether or not greenhouse gases have been caused by mankind or because of natural effects and focus on the technologies that will enable us to live better lives and at the same time protect the environment."

We're all about solutions, of course, but this is no time to ignore science, because, as this Op-Ed notes, scientists are saying that none of the solutions we're yet considering are even vaguely on a par with the magnitude of the threat we face:

Here's the truly inconvenient truth: Scientists have long been warning that the world must cut back on greenhouse-gas emissions by as much as 70 percent, as soon as possible, if we're to have a fighting chance of stabilizing the climate. Yet even with full participation by the United States, the controversial Kyoto Protocol — the only global plan in the works — would hardly begin to do that. Its goal is to reduce emissions by 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. And so far, the best plan offered by American politicians — the Climate Stewardship act sponsored by Senators John McCain and Joseph Lieberman — has an even more modest goal: it aims to cut emissions in the United States merely to 2000 levels by 2010. And the Senate has rejected it twice.
Last June, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California became one of the few elected politicians with the courage to talk about climate change in the language it requires by promoting a plan to reduce his state's greenhouse-gas emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2050. But Mr. Schwarzenegger has since warned of the need to move slowly so as not to "scare the business community."
While the California governor backpedals, a team of scientists, economists and business executives have put forward a potentially revolutionary plan. Outlined by Ross Gelbspan, a former Boston Globe reporter and editor, in his book "Boiling Point," the so-called Clean Energy Transition [an update of the World Energy Modernization Plan we discussed back in 2004 - ed.] would start by turning over an estimated $25 billion in annual federal government payments now supporting the fossil-fuel industry to a new fund for renewable energy investments. It would also create a $300 billion clean-energy fund for developing countries through a tax on international currency transactions, while calling on industry to get in line with a progressive fossil-fuel efficiency standard, forcing greenhouse-gas emitters to immediately work on conservation. ... If megaproposals like the Clean Energy Transition, which would get the ball rolling on a global level, still strike us as romantic and implausible, it's only because our politicians, including the well-intentioned Mr. Gore, and smart, well-financed groups like Environmental Defense have denied us the leadership we need to achieve global warming solutions on par with the problem.

Indeed, it is precisely because the climate crisis is so profound that we need to encourage the American debate on the subject to move on, finally and for good, and start to focusing on how to build a bright green future as quickly as possible. The science, after all, is pretty unequivocal at this point. Indeed, essentially the last remaining credible skeptic, Scientific American columnist Michael Shermer announced this month that, despite his dislike for environmental groups

[D]ata trump politics, and a convergence of evidence from numerous sources has led me to make a cognitive switch on the subject of anthropogenic climate change. ... Because of the complexity of the problem, environmental skepticism was once tenable. No longer. It is time to flip from skepticism to activism.

In other words, the debate is over. It's just over. Climate change is here, it's scarier than we thought, we're causing it, and (especially in combination with other large-scale environmental and social problems) it's going to demand radical innovation and major reforms.

But how do we get the word out to a wider audience? Maybe we need some sort of slogan ("It's here, it's human, get movin'" is the best I can do without another cup of coffee). Maybe we just need to make An Inconvenient Truth the number one movie in the USA [it opens this week in select theaters].

Maybe, though, we in the blogosphere should start at home.

Over the last few months, we here at Worldchanging and our allies at related sites across the blogosphere have seen a noticable uptick in comments and trackbacks from climate denialists. Some folks I've talked speculate that this is an organized effort to try to inject one final round of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt into the debate in advance of what is likely to be a summer where climate dominates the news. I don't know that that's true. What I do know is that having this debate online is no longer helpful: many of the folks making these comments seem most interested not in learning more about the science, but rather in spreading propaganda and disrupting conversation about how to take action. Climate "skeptics" have become a new brand of troll.

But how do you deal with climate denialists? This has been a subject of great debate here at WC Planetary HQ this last week.

Ignoring them (which is the usual practice for dealing with those who would disrupt an online conversation) will in this case leave unaswered what are essentially lies (often lies whose funding trails we can trace back to Big Oil). And we all know that a lie, unaswered, is often taken for the truth. That seems contrary to the mission we're all pursuing, of putting forward better answers.

Nor do we feel comfortable deleting these comments: though many of them are clearly made in order simply to disrupt rather than add in any way to the conversation, and they are (as Joi Ito argues) a form of spam, and thus fair game for deletion, we feel that simply deleting them is a bad precedent, and that on principle the answer to bad speech is better speech.

So ignoring and banning are both bad ideas: where does that leave us? We think it leaves us with the responsibility to answer these comments with better information.

But that's time consuming, and we're all busy people. So here's our proposal -- and we'd like your help:

1) We want to build a post for WorldChanging with a simple, clear list of resource links and easy explanations for what climate change is, why scientists know it's real, and why we're no longer interested in having this debate.

2) We would then like to come up with a clear, no-more-than-one-paragraph message which can be posted after trolling comments a) informing the commenter that, if they are serious in looking for more info, that info is available and they can access it on this page, and b) letting other readers know that the debate is over, and those questioning the scientific consensus at this point probably have another agenda, and we're moving on. That message could even begin "The debate on climate change is over."

What links and information should be in that "Universal Climate Skeptic Response Post"?

What should that message say?

We'd really like to hear your ideas. We will make the final product available under a Creative Commons licence for all bloggers to use on their own sites. Indeed, the more folks working on it and using it, the better.

The debate is over. It's time to act.

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Excellent idea, Alex. You should enlist the folks at RealClimate for help with this. It's right up their alley.

Posted by: someone out there on 22 May 06

A very useful resource that I've been using a lot for these trolls is:

"That hypothesis was tested by analyzing 928 abstracts, published in refereed scientific journals between 1993 and 2003, and listed in the ISI database with the keywords "climate change" (9).

The 928 papers were divided into six categories: explicit endorsement of the consensus position, evaluation of impacts, mitigation proposals, methods, paleoclimate analysis, and rejection of the consensus position. Of all the papers, 75% fell into the first three categories, either explicitly or implicitly accepting the consensus view; 25% dealt with methods or paleoclimate, taking no position on current anthropogenic climate change. Remarkably, none of the papers disagreed with the consensus position."

Posted by: Michael G. Richard on 22 May 06

Very good idea. Maybe launch a wiki and develop for a week or two? - then turn into a post.

You might also be interested in "Case Closed: The Debate about Global Warming is Over: by Gregg Easterbrook of Brookings. Just came across today, have not read through the whole thing yet. From the abstract:

Here's the short version of everything you need to know about global warming. First, the consensus of the scientific community has shifted from skepticism to near-unanimous acceptance of the evidence of an artificial greenhouse effect. Second, while artificial climate change may have some beneficial effects, the odds are we're not going to like it. Third, reducing emissions of greenhouse gases may turn out to be much more practical and affordable than currently assumed... The pressing point of this briefing is not so much scientific as it is practical—that action against artificial global warming may not prove nearly as expensive or daunting as commonly believed.

Posted by: Pablo on 22 May 06

Thanks, guys, those are great resources/ suggestions.

Keep 'em coming!

Posted by: Alex Steffen on 22 May 06

Ditto on the wiki (blog entries always have an element of time to them, which doesn't seem appropriate to what you want to do).

Ideally, you'd want your own, but a site like will get you set up pronto (as in 1 minute)

Posted by: Tony Fisk on 22 May 06

There's always the information that was published in the recent issue of Time Magazine, which went a loooong way to mainstreaming the issue, particularly in the educated demographic you would expect to see reading Time.

Perhaps in giveing the whole discussion an air of credibility, rather than radical green nimbyism (Not In My Back Yard) this sort of journalistic integrity will add weight to our arguments.

Posted by: Michael on 22 May 06

Agreed, good idea. Wikis good idea too... Seems like a good way to keep the discussion running and up-to date.

One point that comes to mind is language. Ex: Prefer "Climate Change" to "Global Warming" (I think there was a recent post to that effect on WC). Look at the ratio of one word to the other in posts around the net. You can almost tell the perspective of the writer by which expression dominates. Most attacks and parodies I've seen seem to focus on doubting elements of global warming by shirking the significance of "a few degrees".

It's really a question of the net energy in the earth's biosphere. More energy retained means more fuel for big storms and the like. You don't hear that angle much. More revealing than the change in average temperature is the increasing number of extreme weather events.

Another key is to address the real "fear" portion of the climate change debate. What do emissions restrictions *really* mean. The recent adds from, for example, seem to imply that stopping CO2 emissions drives America back into the dark ages. If you can reiterate that lowering emissions and improved design make for better quality of life 10 times out of 10, then it becomes something people want instead of something they just have to deal with.

Posted by: Nathan on 22 May 06

How about a page with a basic breakdown of the current situation, written in an informal style, with a few important statistics thrown in, like so:

"Over the past X years, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have risen Y percent. It is a well-established fact that carbon dioxide causes effect Z in living creatures."

The key is that "have risen Y percent" and "well-established fact" would be linked to subpages, each with a list of relevant links. So you'd click on "have risen Y percent" and you'd hit a list of links like so:

Carbon Dioxide Levels Have Risen Y Percent
Link 1
Link 2
Link 3

etc. etc. Maybe even make it wiki-style so people could add links...maybe even links "refuting" the evidence, in the name of objectivity.

So what you'd have is a two-dimensional document: one that explains the situation in simple, clear English, but which has linked layers of statistical/scientific data behind it.

Posted by: Josh Ellis on 22 May 06

This guy has done most of the work already:

Real Climate link to him and have given his work their general blessing

Posted by: Mike on 22 May 06

That's a great resource, Mike, and we linked to it here:

but I think it's neither general enough nor simple enough for our purposes (though perhaps we can incorporate some of that good thinking into this effort...)

Posted by: Alex Steffen on 22 May 06

Consensus about climate change among scientists isn't new. There was already broad consensus when I wrote "Being Green in 2001" five years ago for Whole Earth Review. Jim White from Colorado University told me at the time that scientists could see the problem, but were prone to talk about tendencies and likelihoods vs certainty, because that's how scientific method works. Those into denial of climate change chose to interpret the scientists' care in dealing with hypotheses as uncertainty, but they were really certain about the urgency of the problem. Many scientists have spoken forcefully in the five years since, so it's odd to find that some folks are still in denial.

Here's a quote from the article:

"Scientists are taught to think in terms of hypotheses and conditional statements, not blatant warnings of doom. As a culture we're into denial, especially about problems that seem distant, but demand big money right now. George W. Bush disses the Kyoto accords as too expensive to implement. For him, they are, because short-term political costs to George Bush outweigh long-term climate damage in someone else's administration. Says Jim White, 'I think the sad reality is that we may, before all is said and done, get a big climate change, and that may be the mobilizing factor. Some people have argued that we'll need that. We'll need the big change, the grizzly bear set free in the house, before we deal with the bears in the yard.'"

Posted by: Jon Lebkowsky on 22 May 06

Alex -

A fabulous and timely idea indeed. We at the DeSmogBlog would love to collaborate on this much-needed effort.

I think a wiki is a great idea and would love to help work out the link list and the language to use for all this in that forum.

Cheers and here's to the dose of reality this "debate" sorely needs!

Posted by: Sarah Pullman on 22 May 06

On a related note, I know it sounds cheesy but one of the current hypes there's the idea of blog carnivals. The carnivals end up building a huge resource of information about a specific subject and there's usually one site (Worldchanging) working as aggregator.

Maybe something like this can be done with climate change, not only it would achieve the purpose of gathering links and information, but it will also pull together a community around the issue.

Posted by: gillo on 23 May 06

Like the Wiki, like the carnival, like the whole concept.

The opposition does, of course, detect shield frequencies and adjust phasers accordingly. Already we've heard the Mark II argument: OK, so maybe it IS happening, let's focus on impact ameliorations like flood protection and malaria control rather than CO2 reduction, as these are less economically disruptive than shifting away from a fossil-fuel based economy.

But agree: let's stop engaging with and fuelling the argument about

a) whether the house is really burning or
b) whether the burning house has been struck by lightening or set alight

and get on with the work of putting the fire out.

Greenpeace has got some basics to offer here:

And we'll gladly link to a "The Debate on Climate Change is Over" resource.


Posted by: Brian Fitzgerald on 23 May 06

How to talk to a climate skeptic:

Posted by: gillo on 23 May 06

Great post Alex and we at 1820 would like to help. Too good references are the (fairly recent) Stop Climate Chaos campaign: which has good practical information and also Rising Tide, the long established campaign group:

One question I would raise though is that there's a long practised art in elections where if the opposition party candidate comes to your door, you invite them in offer the tea and engage them in polite chat, long delaying them whilst never having any intention of giving them your vote, but safe in the knowledge that they are not spending time with a swithering voter.

The merits of your suggestion are that it could pool resources, and while we need to build a mass movement for change and massive reductions in emissions, I wont engage in long debate with someone who is an avowed climate change denier. Its pointless as in the face of overwhelming evidence you would have to conclude that they are either too stupid greedy selfish or actually in the pay of vested interests.

Interesting to know at what point people stopped debating the link between cigarettes and cancer?

Good idea though alex.

Posted by: Gus Abraham on 23 May 06

Gillo, aggregate blog activity is a good idea. Also thanks to Brian for the link!

Gus - I think the point in responding to those who deny that climate change is a fact is not to speak to them - if they're still in denial at this point, it's probably not realistic to expect them to change their minds in response to ... facts. However it's important to respond for the sake of others who are reading and may be aware of the problem but less aware of its urgency.

Posted by: Jon Lebkowsky on 23 May 06

Nice to have company in the field. As suggested by Sarah's comment above, we at have been trying to address this problem head on, taking the time to round up and identify the "trolls" for what they are, as well as pointing out the public relations tricks that they most commonly use to confuse people about climate change. Our page lists the links we found most credible and helpful. But we're happy to add yours at the top if you nail it.

Posted by: Richard Littlemore on 23 May 06

Jon, I agree the idea of a stock response, although putatively directed at climate change denialists, is best truly aimed at those who are unsure, almost convinced, etc. and looking to learn more. I also think that a response shared across key blogs could help dampen the denialists.

I get the sense from the post and many of the comments that people feel like there is not a good authoritative yet gentle central web source on climate change, something that argues for perhaps doing at bit more that a page of links. Perhaps nn educational site that counters FUD, explains the basics, gives action tips and leads to primary sources. Realclimate, Climate Ark, etc. are all great but, as Josh said, are limited by their formats.

I would also be happy to work on creating such a resource, perhaps as a wiki, but aiming towards a strong stable navigational structure. Timing is crucial in activism and it does look like this may be the break through year for CC.

Posted by: David Ottina on 23 May 06

Great thoughts Alex. I think the message can be fairly simple. We have to make a stark choice. We have to choose now, because the best evidence we have is:

  • Human-caused greenhouse gasses are already affecting climate;
  • Greenhouse gasses stay in the atmosphere for decades to centuries;
  • It will take decades to shift our industrial and energy infrastructure;
  • The consequences of inaction are intolerable to humans and other creatures;
  • Making the necessary changes is possible and, done right, can improve the quality of our lives.

Nothing is ever 100% certain, but we know that there are more bullets than empty chambers in the gun - and through inaction, we're holding the gun to our children's heads and deciding to pull the trigger. That's unacceptable. The only rational and decent course is to work now redesigning and rebuilding our society so it has a future.

As someone from NASA, working desperately to save Apollo 13, once said, "Failure is not an option."

Posted by: David Foley on 23 May 06


On top of all that's been said (which I will actually read later), I'd be particularly interested in something like "what do you do with Michael Crichton's book?" (State of Fear). What do you say to "the sea level is not rising", and everything he states (I'm still reading that book so I couldn't tell the details, but I'm sure many of you have read it).
Many skepticals probably hold this book as the holy Bible, since Crichton's used to doing good research for his books.

BTW, I'm in favor of a Wiki, with "layers" of links to access all the info that's needed while keeping a good overview at each "level". If by any chance you see what I mean. ;-)


Posted by: Pierric on 23 May 06


As with most _disagreements_ between people, parties, nations, I think empathy can go a long way here. 'Seek first to understand, then to be understood'. A great way to start is to try to really understand what the fears and concerns of — for lack of a better term — 'the sceptics' are, and acknowledge them. Really listen without prejudice and rephrase these couple of key points in their own words. Not as a gimmick, or as a technique, but out of respect, just as one would try to resolve a dispute in a relationship: everyone's point of view needs to be heard and understood.

So, a text might include following parts:
[1] Rephrasing/acknowledging of the key two or three points of sceptics
[2] Listing of evidence on climate change
[3] Addressing points in [1] one by one with compelling, positive arguments. (for instance: "saving energy can raise American living standards and even benefit the economy.")

_or so_

Posted by: Serge de Gheldere on 23 May 06

Spot on.

For signigicant cuts we investment in inexpensive, mass prodcible concentrating solar power.

This could initially be used to provide solar thermal energy to supplement coal fired energy in coal plants (already happening in Australia).


Posted by: Guy Lane on 23 May 06

Hi all, I'm the author of A Few Things Illconsidered, mentioned a couple of times in this thread. I have wiki plans as well and an account on seedwiki opened for it. I would hate to think of a ton of duplicated efforts.

The plan is similar to the blog layout though I want to change the tone and present the contrarian arguments as fairly as possible. It needs to expand into economic areas I am just not knowledgable about and also address the more sophisticated scientific arguments like Vizer's cosmic ray-cloud hypothesis and Lindzen's Iris hypothesis. I have definately targeted just the low-hanging fruit.

I have decided that the biggest challenge is an effective cross indexing to make it very fast for people to locate the answer to a given obective. There need to be categories of categories and an index by key words. I just have one listing by category:

The article format needs a couple of other sections: who uses this obection, a short answer, a long answer, a list of reference material for further reading, related arguments.

It would be good to have all in one place a talking points guide, a guide to septic websites with analyses of their respective FUD angles, a guide to septic people, a climate science primer, some energy and economic FAQ's. Alot of this material exists in various places around the web, I don't want to reinvent too many wheels, but it would be good to summarize info and link to other resources.

The scientists at RealClimate have expressed interest in having access to keep the scientific information correct and up to date. I have a job of course, otherwise this might have been done by now!

Posted by: coby on 23 May 06

In addition to the sites mentioned above (RealClimate and IllConsidered in particular), I always point people to Spencer Weart's wonderful site at AIP:

The Discovery of Global Warming -

which shows in detail how the science on this came from simple ideas to large-scale study to the present consensus.

Posted by: Arthur Smith on 23 May 06

i very much like the post of Serge de Gheldere ...

as money spending for new technologies is a big argument and causing fear of slowed economic wealth

it could help
to calculate how much less money will be possibly spent on medical treatment once the clean technologies are installed and the air is cleaner


and generally ... i think that a combination of co2, no2 capturing with filters installed in cars, aeroplanes, home heating systems and feeding this captured gases to algae, using the algae as biofuel

as described partly at

in best case, the governement would give a tax deduction when installing this greenhouse gas capturing filter and commercial algae for biofuel companies would pay rewards for the gases delivered to them in the filters

captured exhaust as a possible way of generating income

profit from "waste" ... thereby changing the idea of "waste" into "not utilised ressources"

also there are great infos at
with the thread title "algae and carbon sequesterization"

rather then fighting the "we do not want to get poor by climate saving" arguments, it might be wise to focus on the economical profit possibilites with new tech and the health benefits and therefore increased lifestyle quality

Posted by: andreas buechel on 23 May 06

I'd point people to a recent climate paper by the World Resources Institute. It scoured the major journals in 2005 and found dozens of papers supporting the idea that climate change is real; and more importantly, _not a single_ peer-reviewed paper that contested it.

The paper is here:

Posted by: Jonathan Talbot on 23 May 06

The debate can no longer be about is or isn't it happening, it needs to be about the solutions. Once you concentrate on what you should do the "why" becomes part of the landscape of the discussion. A foregone conclusion.

Almost forgotten in this argument is "WHY" folks are on the other side of global warming, and the apparent reason is stopping global warming equates to stopping world development and business.

This is not the case but this is the underlying argument : "don't stop global development".

So you don't need to convince them, you need provide them with alternatives. I could list answers but not the ANSWER, and that's where the good part is.

Finding the business and development with these new goals in mind. This should be the new BOOM, the new market, the great undiscovered frontier. Coming up with development that puts us in balance with the environment, whatever that environment is, rather than it's controller or it's master. This is just the beginning.

If you can make the above point you will be much further along than just pointing out that they are wrong.

Posted by: Andrew on 23 May 06

"The debate is over"

It's a sad day for science... I remember the fear mongering over global cooling... Now it's happening all over again with global warming.

Politics and science DO NOT MIX.

Posted by: Jason W on 23 May 06

Something like this:
"Joint science academies’ statement: Global response to climate change"

Posted by: P.H. on 23 May 06

A different but analogous science debate website has a useful research tool at the Index of Creationist Claims:

Creationist claims that were first brought out and debunked decades ago keep on getting trotted out as if they were new and exciting. So, people put together an index, grouped by type of claim. The short answers in the index get linked to longer essays. Variations on old claims are added as subcategories.

The eager creationist, upon presenting an ancient argument as if it stabbed to the heart of biology, can be asked to read and counter the relevant index claims.

Overlaps exist in some of the top-level categories. There also are, unfortunately, some overlapping topics that creationists might not speak of wrt climate. If the earth is only 6000 years old, then the 2/3 million years of ice-core data can't even exist. Or, if 5000 years ago the atmosphere held a global-flood's worth of water vapor without the earth being too warm (really, go read the claims if you don't think people can believe this), then a slight change in greenhouse gases today can't possibly have a major effect.

For this reason, you should include 'age of the earth' and 'global flood' creationist index topics in a climate claims index.

ICC major topics:
Philosophy and Theology
Astronomy and Cosmology
Physics and Mathematics
Miscellaneous Anti-Evolution
Biblical Creationism
Intelligent Design
Other Creationism

Posted by: kathryn from sunnyvale on 23 May 06

"anthropogenic climate change?" I'm glad that at least one of the quotes above acknowledges there is a difference between climate change (which appears to be happening) and the fact that humans are causing it (which is far from proven). The hubris of this site, and humans in general that they are influencing nature, is unbelievable.
Jerry Pournelle has an excellent treatment of this debate.

Posted by: doug on 23 May 06

Some people need to see with their own eyes. The pictures on the ice under fire site above show the effects of global warming dramatically in a way that words cannot describe. Trolls who claim humans are too insignificant to change global climate need to be reminded that single celled plants (green algae) changed the atmosphere from predominantly methane to predominantly oxygen. Are humans more insignificant than algae?

Posted by: Dave on 23 May 06

"I remember the fear mongering over global cooling... Now it's happening all over again with global warming."

Indeed, except this time you can find abundant evidence in the scientific literature that anthropogenic warming is happening. The global cooling hysteria had very little support in the scientific community and was largely a by-product of popular science magazines and media misconceptions.

Please read:

Posted by: Bolo on 23 May 06

It's a sad day for science... I remember the fear mongering over global cooling... Now it's happening all over again with global warming.

Not sure what "fear mongering" you're referring to, but it's better to avoid talk of "warming" or "cooling" and talk about climate change. The climate is clearly changing, and the most immediate manifestation of that change is an overall warming effect, exacerbated if not caused by fossil fuel emissions. The changes we're talking about have potentially catastrophic effects (already demonstrated on the Gulf Coast of the USA). WorldChanging doesn't advocate fear, we advocate creativity in finding solutions for mitigating the escalating change and living effectively with the changes to the extent that they can't be reversed.

The hubris of this site, and humans in general that they are influencing nature, is unbelievable.

All animals (and plants, for that matter) have an impact on the balance of terrestrial ecology, and human influence is greater because we've produced technologies that magnify our effect. When factories dump toxins in a river, that's "humans influencing nature." Chernobyl is "humans influencing nature." The Exxon Valdez also. And since we started burning fossil fuels at an escalating rate, CO2 levels have increased from a concentration of ~280 ppm to more than 370 ppm today as a result - and the concentration is still increasing, with an accompanying increase in the average temperature of the earth due to the greenhouse effect - all clearly documented. If Jerry Pournelle finds this hard to believe, then it appears he's more into fiction than science these days.

Posted by: Jon Lebkowsky on 23 May 06

see the following "scientific consensus paper by Karl Henrik Robert, founder and head scientists of the Swedish research organization The Natural Step

"The Natural Step and climate change."
What can we agree on when it comes to CO2 and climate change?

The debate on fossil fuels and climate change is so focused on detail, that we often forget the big picture as well as the fact that scientists actually agree on much more than people generally are aware of. From a systems perspective, it is important to first understand the big picture and describe it in a comprehensive way, and then look for the higher level of detail. Following that principle, I (Kalle) have good experience with the following exercise together with audiences of my lectures when the issue of climate change comes up:

“Could you all imagine that you are an assembly of world’s leading scientists of Climate Change? And furthermore, that I ask you what you agree on? Could you raise your hands for each of the following questions”:

1. Do you agree that we have a greenhouse effect at all, i.e. that the Earth is warmer because we have an atmosphere? (The audience is often a bit hesitant in the beginning, but after a while you see nodding and hands raised everywhere – they really believe that the answer to the question is ‘yes’ and get this confirmed by looking at each other).
2. Do you agree that of those gases in the atmosphere that the human society is emitting, CO2 has the most prominent effect on heating if you consider amounts emitted as well as the relative effects of those gases? (The audience is still a bit hesitant, but mostly arrive – eventually – to the conclusion that the answer is probably ‘yes’ once again).
3. Do you agree, that the increase of concentrations of CO2, mainly through the burning of fossil fuels, but also because of reduction of soil and vegetation in forests, is above 30%? (Now the audience starts to ‘get it’, the nodding and raising of hands goes faster now).
4. Do you agree, that the increase of CO2 has a heating effect on the average global climate, at some magnitude? (Often people are now more uncertain again. However, again the answer is ‘yes’ – it follows from basic physics that it is impossible to increase the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere and have no effect at all on temperature increase).
5. Do you agree, that once a primary heating effect is established from the increase of CO2, very complex feed-back loops in the climate system make it very difficult to foresee exactly how much hotter it will be for each new level of CO2, and even more difficult to estimate the respective impacts in social, ecological and economic systems? (Now people are nodding vigorously).
6. Do you consequently agree, that you – as a scientific community – are out of control and can make no joint guarantees as regards the consequences for this or that ambition in the trajectories for CO2 levels? (The sad but true answer, also from sceptics, must again be ‘yes’)

On top of this, a majority of climate scientists believe that ‘positive feed-back loops’ (i.e. feed back that enhance climate change) are somewhat more dominant than negative feed back loops, and that the worst scenarios already for trajectories stabilizing at CO2 levels of 540 ppm – may be much more costly than investments to curb CO2 levels at lower levels than this.

Based on this, the arguments saying that ‘nobody knows if it will be as bad as many believe, so we should not invest heavily in new energy systems until we know for sure’, can simply be trashed as a non-scientific statement. As Christian Azar says – it is true that it may really not become as bad as the majority of climate scientists believe, but it can – consequently and by the same reasons as stated above – also become much worse.

Finally, Christian Azar has calculated the costs for re-investing in renewable energy systems in GNP terms. Applying the most pessimistic figures from the most sceptic national economists, and disregarding any negative effects at all from NOT curbing CO2 emissions, the investment costs in a transformation of our energy system will mean that we only become 5.1 times richer than we are today (in the year 2050?), in comparison to 5.3 times richer if we don’t make the investments. Observe, again, that these figures to not take any negative consequences from further increases in CO2 into account, nor the secondary effects from the investments in new technology etc.
Karl Henrik Robert. August 29 2005.

Posted by: eric ezechieli on 23 May 06

Yup, Pournelle has been pushing this amongst the tech crowd for years - one reason I've never subscribed to Dr. Dobbs Journal in recent years was a highlighted Pournelle article claiming to debunk computer modeling of climate I found in one copy of the magazine I started to read a few years back - what a bunch of nonsense.

For ANYBODY who doubts that there is a scientific consensus, going back to at least 1998, that humans are causing global warming (and yes it is warming, not just "change") go read some of the sites mentioned here so far - I particularly recommend Weart's Discovery of Global Warming site for that. There is NO SCIENTIFIC QUESTION on the matter now, just as there is no longer any scientific question on special relativity, the existence of electrons, evolution by natural selection, etc. These are settled matters, and science has moved on to things that still need real investigation - like exactly how much warming we should expect, for instance...

Posted by: Arthur Smith on 23 May 06

A good idea for a structure could be something akin to

Posted by: FhnuZoag on 23 May 06

Just a suggestion, there should be information that addresses the claims in the CEI ads; that there are studies that show that Greenland's glaciers are growing, and that the ice in Antarctica is getting thicker, as well as the more general notion that cutting back on CO2 means going back to the stone age.

Posted by: Tavita on 23 May 06


I think that this is a great idea. Unfortunately, people just don't seem to get it, despite the evidence. So taking Andrew's point further, we need to go beyond facts and provide solutions.

I'm going slightly off topic here. I apologise for that.

But we also have pit into perspective the unaware majority with the climate skeptic. I think it's far more scary that most people don't know or care even remotely about climate change.

What we have here is a marketing problem. Rather than pointing out facts, we need to reposition global warming to be a huge opportunity, both fiancially and awe-inspriringly, rather than a threat. And to re-position the public as those who can be personally responsible for saving the world.

I wish I had the answer and the strategy to do this, but sadly I don't.

Joel Makowers' recent video at is the best example I've seen to inspire the world.

What we also have here in the blogosphere is an incredible wealth of knowledge. The some of the best minds on the planet are participating. This includes some of the best marketers too.

What solutions would the best marketers in the world come up with? And how can we team up with them?

Posted by: Ben Rowe on 23 May 06

The Winnipeg-based International Institute for Sustainable Development has covered a bunch of climate-related UN meetings and similar multinational meetings over the years.

Posted by: Dan on 23 May 06

Fighting astroturf, trying to propegate a message, and searching for answers is all well and good but I think it's time for those of us who care about this issue to do something ourselves because there are too many conflicts of interest delaying government or business responses.

At a local, state, national, and international level people can work together to not just learn about the issues but use an open source model to develop technologies for the dynamic points responsible for contribution to global warming. Rather than depending on lawmakers to force businesses to do something they obviously don't want to, it seems reasonable to suggest people develop their own solutions to the problem that offers no favor to those who refuse to progress.

I like the idea of developing a link page or even a short manual to help people where we've been at for a while now in understanding climate change but I think it's wise we start working together to provide a centralized workspace where we can have our own tangible impact.

Posted by: Shepherd on 23 May 06

Ben Rowe (hey, nice meeting you here!),

I think that the point of this exercise isn't so much to convince all trolls, but rather to stop spending lots of time and energy on them. Those that aren't troll might educate themselves by reading the stock response, though.

Posted by: Michael G. Richard on 23 May 06

Alex - have you checked out "Eprida"?

It's a new company - - that's got a scheme to create a carbon negative energy source. The idea is that they create charcoal based fertalizer from discarded woody biomass which is then used on fields, literally burying the carbon in a form that stays in the ground. the same process also produces sufficient biodiesel that a farmer can run his day-to-day operations on it.

Posted by: Nick Aster on 23 May 06

and yes it is warming, not just "change"

Arthur, the word "change" is preferable for a couple of reasons, as I understand it. One is that, though average temperature is increasing, there may be some areas where change isn't evident, and there may be intermittent periods of colder weather in some areas though overall temperature is increasing. The other is that the trend may reverse at some point, at least in some parts of the world.

Posted by: Jon Lebkowsky on 23 May 06

Using thorium as an energy source will allow us to reduce CO2 emissions by 70%, or even more if needed, while still raising the standard of living across the world to Western levels. It's just an incredibly dense energy source--it's right here, right now, and the system to use it safely (the liquid-fluoride reactor) was developed 50 years ago. I really think it's high time we got going on it.

Posted by: Kirk Sorensen on 23 May 06

Ok, to at least partially answer my own question here is a link to a post regarding one of the scientists dealing with the Antarctic Ice sheet who wants CEI to stop misrepresenting his research.


Posted by: Tavita on 23 May 06

Hi Jon - but a doubling of CO2, the baseline projection to measure sensitivity for climate models, means warming essentially everywhere in the next few decades, not generic "change". "Climate change" is fine as a term, but if the question is whether to prefer it to "warming", "warming" has to be the preferred term as it's more specific to the reality of the issue. Yes there's more warming at the poles and less in the tropics. Yes there may be ocean circulation changes at some point that cause other changes (like cooling Europe) but those are very long-term and only if CO2 doesn't keep on rising. And we're going to have to pull all the stops out from this point forward to even limit our emissions to just a doubling.

See realclimate's take on the "Gulf Stream Slowdown" issue here:

which Gavin summarizes here:

"A new ice age is not a concievable outcome from a shift in ocean currents. A small amount of regional cooling is possible, but more likely is a relative cooling in the North Atlantic - i.e. it won't warm as fast as the rest of the planet."

Posted by: Arthur Smith on 23 May 06


one thing I learned, is people learn a lot faster through visual aids.

I am not too well informed on the development in the arctic, but should the ice have been reduced in a notabale way sizewise get two pictures; one from today and one a couple of years ago, superimpose them over each other, thus showing how the icemass has deccreased.

Or make it a flash thing with a button to show the difference.

Don't know if this is workable, but well, just an idea...


Posted by: Christian Walter on 24 May 06

1 )sun is shining brighter
2 ) the emissions of greenhouse gases have increased

1 and 2 together cause global warming

3 the sollution may be in energy effiency, recycling of emitted gases and new tech which is
saving costs on fuel

The team studied sunspot data going back several hundred years. They found that a dearth of sunspots signalled a cold period - which could last up to 50 years - but that over the past century their numbers had increased as the Earth's climate grew steadily warmer. The scientists also compared data from ice samples collected during an expedition to Greenland in 1991. The most recent samples contained the lowest recorded levels of beryllium 10 for more than 1,000 years. Beryllium 10 is a particle created by cosmic rays that decreases in the Earth's atmosphere as the magnetic energy from the Sun increases. Scientists can currently trace beryllium 10 levels back 1,150 years.

Dr Solanki does not know what is causing the Sun to burn brighter now or how long this cycle would last.

He says that the increased solar brightness over the past 20 years has not been enough to cause the observed climate changes but believes that the impact of more intense sunshine on the ozone layer and on cloud cover could be affecting the climate more than the sunlight itself.

Posted by: andreas buechel on 24 May 06

Don't know if others mentioned this idea yet, but it might be helpful to provide a catalog of conversions - former skeptics who have come around.

This would be useful for a couple of reasons. First, People may be drawing their information from "experts" who have now changed their position. Second, A former skeptic is much more convincing to a current skeptic than your average enviro.

I got this idea from a post on grist about Greg Easterbrook's published "conversion." One of the replies also lists a few more prominent ones.

Posted by: Kif Scheuer on 24 May 06

What concerns me about this debate is:

1. Once again, progressive thinkers are caught flat-footed (maybe it has something to do with Birkenstocks...). While we discuss responses to the climate change debunkers and their comments on our posts, they continue to troll and populate the blogosphere with misinformation.

2. Our response is to REACT rather than ACT. Would it not be more productive to craft messages to debunk the debunkers and comment on their posts rather than reacting to their comments on our posts?

3. The only argument free-market boosters (I include myself in that category) will listen to is that there's money to be made in addressing climate change. We need to concentrate our efforts to demonstrate the business case for addressing climate change in as clear and precise a way as possible if we want to lead the world to the greener opportunities made available by reducing and adapting to climate change.

4. We should embrace the climate change debunkers and find common ground. Let's address their concerns about the REAL COSTS of addressing climate change (first, by admitting there ARE real costs to the kind of dramatic limits needed to address this issue).

5. Let's turn the focus around to the REAL BENEFITS to acting now rather than waiting for India or China or Europe to seize the day AND the economic opportunity. Let's appeal to their competitive instincts and spur the new economy that is needed to really tackle this issue.

6. We need to retain a sense of humor about this stuff. I mean, what's so bad about "global warming" anyway? Doesn't EVERYONE want to live in San Diego? And those ads were pretty entertaining as ads, don't you think?

If anyone is in what I've written about the subject, check out

Posted by: The Green Skeptic on 24 May 06

Great idea Alex. You can use to build out the wiki that several folks have proposed. The Science For Good section would be a perfect place for this. In fact, I've already started a climate change section under Science For Good. Here's the link...
If you decide to do this, let me know if want any help, or you can just start adding the information and any new pages you want/need. The site uses Mediawiki, so all the editing is just like Wikipedia.

Rob Berridge

Posted by: Rob on 24 May 06

"President Bush today in a backhand way admitted that climate change is here, but said we shouldn't get caught up in discussion about what is causing it and instead focus on solutions"

-How can we focus on solutions to a problem if we don't know the cause of the problem? The cause appears to be greenhouse gases, so the solution would appear to be to lower greenhouse emissions, or so it would seem to me.

Posted by: Matt on 24 May 06

I think it might be very useful to highlight the stature and number of people who have changed their minds on climate change. Though the current administration feels it is an utter embarassment to react to new understandings or new information - on anything - I think the stories of people changing their minds might well ease the process for others. It might also be useful to enumerate the organizations, churches, businesses, prominent individual scientists, and so on who do believe in global warming. I think a lot of skeptics might be surprised by how few peers they have, particularly if people in the United States could understand the overwhelming belief in other countries. Churches specifically might be useful to highlight.

Does anyone really doubt that the majority of skeptics like Doug up above simply can't reconcile faith in a god with man's ability to thoroughly screw up her creation?

Posted by: Jimmy on 24 May 06

Please find below my contribution to crafting a "Universal Climate Skeptic Response Post". The "check here, here..." portion is unlinked at the moment, but can easily populated (by myself or others under a creative commons). I think that in addition to creating a universal response, there should be an opportunity for people to start aggregating their support either for or against climate change. So please find below my attempt at crafting some words around these petitions.

Great idea Alex, hope this is useful.




Climate change is happening. Check here, here, here and here if you have doubts. We as humans are responsible for this climate change. Check here, here, here and here if you have doubts. The costs of climate change to our species and our planet far outweigh the benefits. Check here, here, here and here if you have any doubts. Meaningful and significant solutions to climate change are available to every developed nation with a hydrocarbon-based economy. Check here, here, here and here if you have doubts. To ignore or dispute these facts is tantamount to treason. Check here, here, here and here if you have doubts.

If you still believe that climate change is not happening and do not feel like you have a personal responsibility to addressing it, please sign this petition. If you believe that climate change is happening and feel like you do have a personal responsibility to addressing it, please sign this petition.

Petition #1

I do not believe that a) climate change is happening, b) we are responsible for it, or c) it will produce negative consequences for either our species or our planet. As a citizen living in a developed hydrocarbon based economy I do not believe that I have a personal responsibility to address climate change.

To address my concerns with climate change I believe that only two things are required, the commitment of the people and leadership of their government. By signing this petition I am indicating my commitment to refute climate change. I now call upon my government to provide the leadership needed to refute climate change in a manner, which is both meaningful and significant.

Petition #2

I believe that a) climate change is happening, b) we as humans are responsible for it and c) it will produce negative consequences for both our species and our planet. As a citizen living in a developed hydrocarbon-based economy I have a personal responsibility to start addressing climate change today. I accept that my personal responsibility to addressing climate change is not negated by those who chose to ignore there’s.

To address my concerns with climate change I believe that only two things are required, the commitment of the people and leadership of their government. By signing this petition I am indicating my commitment to address climate change. I now call upon my government to provide the leadership needed to address climate change in a manner, which is both meaningful and significant.

Posted by: patrick on 24 May 06

Worth noting on the economic agruments around climate change that environmental services have real economic value, especially for the poor. Check out the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment for more on that. So anyone who wants economic arguments for paying attention to climate change should hear the message that if the climate changes too much, all sorts of natural processes that support economies everywhere will be disrupted, with real economic consequences.

Posted by: Sarah on 24 May 06

Sarah is absolutely correct: environmental or ecosystem services (I've taken to calling them ecosystem benefits, in the wake of my post on the subject: are an important component of the economic argument.

Such services or benefits are also part of the moral argument being made by the Evangelicals in their support for action on climate change. The poorest of the poor depend upon biodiversity health, which is inextricably linked to human health and well-being. Those affected adversely by ecosystem degradation and climate changes are also most dependent upon ecosystems and biodiversity -- indeed it is their safety-net.

We need to find ways to make the links between climate change, ecosystem benefits, and human well-being more explicit, create mechanisms for valuing those ecosystems, and ensure the long-term viability of the habitats upon which people depend.

Posted by: The Green Skeptic on 24 May 06

You definitely need a thorough coverage of the bogus OISM climate petition, which used false NAS credentials to gain the signatures of a huge number of scientists. Many skeptics use that petition as the basis for immovably denying that there is a consensus.

Posted by: Tim F on 24 May 06

A very funny follow-up on Steven Milloy and an investment fund he created.

Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 24 May 06

Alex -- emphatically! -- please, go with Coby's existing, well respected site.

You think it's not simple enough and not detailed enough? Write contributory postings.

It doesn't matter WHERE your text is -- you're not looking for advertising income, you don't need to direct people here.

You're late to this party, it's great you're getting involved -- but Coby already did much of the work and is very smart, very widely read (and I mean that both ways -- he posts in most of the active climate discussions, and you don't -- and he posts readable, useful information, which you don't). P.S. - neither do I, okay? This is not criticism, this is honor where due, Coby's due that respect.

Please. Go with the good work. Realclimate lists his page at the top of the list of Other sources of information.

You can't displace him. You shouldn't distract from his efforts.

You should point to him and write better posts to appear in his collection. Please.

If we don't pull together we'll all pull in different directions, gratifying the purveyors of confusion. Some of the people vying to start over and write a brand new page of climate information are going to be trolls. Eschew!

What matters is having the collection all accessible

Posted by: Hank Roberts on 24 May 06

Great comments, everyone. This is really beginning to come together.

I will note, for Hank's sake, that Coby and I are trading email. We very much value "how to talk to a global warming skeptic" but that page is not what we're trying to do here.

Information is not our sole goal here - coherent presentation is just as important. This is a niche use, but an important one, and we need a niche tool to fix it,

Obviously we will link to other good efforts.

Posted by: Alex Steffen on 24 May 06

Emphatically -- the most important thing is having ONE data file and MANY links to it.

Great you're talking to Coby -- please agree on having one location and many pointers.

The scientific information _changes_ and has to be updated, as new information comes out.

Trolls don't footnote. People all the time retype what's common knowledge from memory, get it almost right, and almost up to date -- which means, it's wrong.

If we non-climate-scientists can do better, it's by not trying to be the expert opinionators but by being very good at finding and pointing to the primary sources.


---- an "updated as of" time stamp on every cite
--- a cite on every fact claim (this is something I want to see in Mr. Gore's slide show, it has to be kept nailed down to the information so those who don't believe can go to the original sources and learn.

I think it's great you have Bruces involved. But I'm not sure if Worldchanging can be the right place to bring on board each newly convinced former skeptic.

Coby has been talking to skeptics -- convincingly, much of it by citing directly to the primary references -- thereby giving them the chance to become science-based reasonable readers.

OK, I'm done. I'll watch and applaud and try to add pointers rather than opinions.

Posted by: Hank Roberts on 24 May 06

Hank, I think you're misunderstanding the purpose of this project. While it would be nice to convince the "skeptics", that's not really our job here, and indeed is better left to others. We simply want to refute them and prevent them from undermining the debate.

For that purpose we need exactly what we've been describing here: a universal RTFM post for climate change.

So, keep those suggestions coming!

Posted by: Alex Steffen on 24 May 06

Here's another link on the CEI ads, in addition to Antarctic ice sheet issue, it also addresses the question of the glaciers growing in Greenland. The relevant info is about half way down the post.

Posted by: Tavita on 24 May 06

One last thought:

I strongly suggest you take a few weeks to hang around Realclimate -- and practice writing what you think are good "RTFM" summaries when the climatologists post one of their discussions (often in Responses to comments made by visitors, a while after the comments, so look back).

Credibility has to come from the actual scientists agreeing that you understand.

None of us amateurs are real good at that yet, all of us learn a lot from their corrections and clarifications (and they learn to 'write down' to simpler clearer language).

Until you meet their standards -- all else is commentary.

My personal take is that there's an enormous self-esteem problem we really need to deal with. We have way too much of it.

Working scientists have theirs based on results. Commenters and RTFM-authors should aspire to their standards.

Again, not meant as an attack on your pride, but as a pointer to keep the focus on the working scientists as their work is published, always changing -- that's the line we need to keep up with as it moves.

Posted by: Hank Roberts on 24 May 06

I'm sorry, Hank, but again you're completely missing the point.

The point is that the objections of the denialists are not meant to advance any debate whatsoever: they're meant to stall action.

We HAVE a very clear scientific consensus on several key points: that climate change is real, that it's happening, that it's human-produced, and that it is potentially dire. And we know exactly what we need to do to stop it from getting worse.

We don't need to provide the average person with daily updates on the sciences of how dire in order to honestly and truthfully encourage action.

What we need is just what we've called for: a message which deflates those who would dishonestly cast doubt and offers an avenue of education for those who would learn more.

Now, let's please move on with the discussion of how best to build that.


Posted by: Alex Steffen on 25 May 06

Hi All: I am pleased to be mentioned here among the sites, that already try to get to the heart of rapid climage change (or as I sometimes call it, climate disruption, although I think global warming remains the most widely understood term for all of this). As I finish my book, trying to most succinctly describe the fix we are in with a hopeful or encouraging turn is top of my mind. Here is one try:
"This is not just about hot air. Rapid global climate change is advancing much more rapidly than most people realize, Its effects are disrupting the functions of the planet and reaching deeply into all the endeavors of human life. Children born today will see in their life rising temperatures and physical changes to their world that took thousands of years in previous geologic eras. Scientific disagreement with the cause of this has evaporated. Yet, most people and their leaders are ill informed of the multiplying factors that tend to deepen the crisis. We six billion on the planet now are deeply interconnected and affected by environmental changes. Whether we feel global warming directly or not yet, we are all living with it everyday. We are going to have to adapt to it, live with it, and change the way we get and use energy that makes it worse. Fortunately, there is a great deal we can do."
Anyway, I would like to help with this and look forward to posting a clear statement and call to action on my home page, a renewed set of links and actions to take, along with the photos and information I now have. Gary

Posted by: Gary Braasch on 25 May 06

I'm glad the debate is over. Every minute you spend arguing with a skeptic, the less time you spend actually doing something about the problem.

However, we need to take this to the next level. The U.S. isn't even complying with Kyoto, but as most knowledgeable people realize, we need to reduce co2 emissions by at least 60% to forestall disaster.

We need a commitment from politicians way beyond Kyota and we need to challenge them every chance we get to define goals that will actually solve the problem rather than just vague ideas "to do something" about global warming.

Posted by: t on 26 May 06

Cutting greenhouse gasses is a lot harder than planting trees. If we'd fill a few pieces of unused land with the total size of about Australia we'd have removed all the surplus co2 from the air and into a magnificiently nice bunch of forests. Remember that trees don't pull their main matter from the ground but filter co2 out of the air and turn it into wood. Within 25 years the whole greenhouse problem can be over.

Posted by: Han on 26 May 06

Regarding the last post: 'fraid not.

We currently burn 7-8 billion tons of carbon on the planet, and no amount of reforestation is going to keep up with that for long.

Sure, on the margins, sequestering carbon in forests is going to help -- and planting trees has numerous other benefits.

But do the math. It's nowhere enough to offset our emissions.

We need to plant trees *AND* dramatically cut our emissions. We've got about a decade left to get moving on this, and then it's too late.

Posted by: Anonymous Bastard on 26 May 06

Great in principle. I hope it works to silence some of the disruption, although I have no hope at all that anything will make worth reading.

I would be glad to help distribute the final product here and here as and when it is available. Please keep me informed.

Posted by: Hoggle on 27 May 06

My apologies for stepping on toes here in the forum. I am not a regular poster and have no status in the community. I am, however concerned with advancing public understanding of Science (big S.)

I suggest the resources be severely limited to the Science article mentioned in the first response (above by Michael Richard) and the Scientific American article as a single popluarization. Opening the discussion to anything that is not peer reviewed is suicidal. Try to see this as an educational mission rather than a debate. The roots of misunderstanding lie in basic concepts that need to be addressed, not dictated.

One of the problems with the public is that they confuse scholarly debate (RealClimate) with debate over the reality of the issue. Also, posters have continued to push their personal beliefs that are not borne out by scientific consensus. Anything WorldChanging publishes should be focused to prevent loss of credibility. Opinion should be clearly marked as such in some way, perhaps by marking everything opinion and only allowing an Administrator to mark something as worthy of more respect.

A section on a display of basic statistics would be appropriate because people continue to be unaware of the relative abundance of trees and particular plankton or the relative volume of particulate matter between sources such as volcanos and forest fires versus anthropogenic particulate sources.

You can see by this pathetic attempt at a list that there is background that people need even to begin to understand the various debates. It is probable that somebody with knowledge of the proposed early education curriculum should create a framework for readers.

Finally, creating graphic demonstrations of your own will likely fail unless they are reproductions from actual peer reviewed investigations. Graphs are often the only access the layman has to understanding a study. The adjustments used to clarify the data are often hot topics of debate in peer reviewed journals. Creating a mashup on your own is a poor idea.

Posted by: Bob Calder on 27 May 06

Understanding the context of any existing doubt could be a way of getting ojn the same page - introducing reason into skeptics' perception, by admitting first that there were errors along the way (early recordings by climate scientists were off-base circa 1972 due to a disconnect between those focused on heavy calculations ie. differential equations, etc. and those assuming certain geophysical relationaships ie. the nature of the stratosphere, the effects of global dust as uniform or concentrated in certain areas, etc.), as Stanford University climate expert Stephen Schneider points out in his essay "Accepting Uncertainty" from the amazing collection of essays "Wisdom for A Livable Planet" (McDaniel, Trinity University Press, 2005.)

Schneider went on to win the MacArthur Fellowship aka 'genius award' in 1992 for " 'his ability to integrate and interpret the results of global climate change research through public lectures, seminars, classroom teaching, environmental assessment committees, media appearances, Congressional testimony, and research collaboration with colleagues'. This recognition acknowledged Schneider's unusual talent for making climate science, and the choice before us, understandable."


"Because of the number and diversity of factors that determine climate, no scientist can predict with high level of confidence Earth's climate in 2050, or for any time beyond few years.

From history and paleoclimate records, we do know, however, that the climate will not stay the same. Thus we have two challenges before us: first, avoid human activities that might result in substantial, rapid climate change, because all existing life forms and human civilization are adapted to the present climate and large-scale extinctions might result from such change, and second, learn how to adapt to and survive the climate changes that do occur.The first situation has commanded the attention of natural scientists, because many are worried about our ability to do the second."

"The assessment that the climate is changing and that we are forcing the changecomes from several interrelated lines of evidence. Historic temperature records going back more than a hunderd years show the planet's average temperature has increased about 1.0ºF in the past hundred years, whereas some places have warmed much more - the north slope of Alaska and areas in western Canada have warme 1.8ºF to 3.6ºF per decade since 1976. Most of Earth's warming has come in the past several decades. Many documented changes provide indirect evidence for a warming planet: increased severity and frequency of heat waves; spread of diseases out of the tropics; changes in the timing of the seasons - spring earlier and winter later; sea-level rise and coastal flooding; coral reef bleaching; movement north of aquaticand terrestrial species' ranges in the Northern Hemisphere ; pronounced Arctic and Antarctic warming; and increasing extremes in precipitation and associated flooding, droughts and fires. All of these changes are consistent with a warming climate, and it is unlikely that all are random fluctuations. Taken together the direct and indirect evidence has convinced many scientists, and others, that the earth is warming."

"When the last ice age came to an end and ice retreated to the poles and into the high mountains, Earth warmed about 9.0ºF to 12.6ºF over a 5,000-year period, or an increase of about 2ºF per millennium. The 2001 IPPC report concluded that if we don't reduce human-associated carbon dioxide emissions by 60 to 80 percent, global temperatures will increase between 1.8ºF and 10.8ºF over the next century. Even the 1.8ºF increase in a century is ten times faster than the sustained average rise seen at the end of the last ice age. By continuing activities that substantially increase carbondioxide emissions, we are forcing climate changeat an alarming rate, thereby courting disaster."

"The greater the magnitude and the more rapid the change, the more difficult will be the adjustments for humans and the rest of life. Some organisms will do better than others, but the overall probability of extinction will increase for many species. The cascading effects for extinctions are impossible to predict, but the resulting biological turmoil is likely to reduce Earth's carrying capacity for many species in particular and for life in general."

"So it comes down to this: is it possible to metamorphose an economically centered culture into an ecologically one on a worldwide scale and in a way that accomodates human nature and behavior? Can we transform our current relations with each other and the rest of life so that we can reverse the course of dimishing Earth's life-support capacity that we have impposed upon ourselves? I don't know; however, the answer might be 'yes' if enough of us emerge from our cocoons and use our wings to take flight - keeping in mind the history of Icarus."

"What fraction of people in the world couldn't change their mind about something they deeply believe? A significant number; perhaps more than half. Of course, people are not irrational in every area, only some. What you have to do is try to find components of their intellect where they are willing to be reasonable and negotiate with you. It really involves a value system that has to be taught. And that value system is: argument and evidence can change my mind, my belief; I can be rational." - Stephen Schneider

Posted by: Francis Battaglia on 27 May 06

Just a casual scan of your blog has not revealed a favourite source for keeping up to date on climate change, and that is the BBC archives. They have (in the opinion of a scientest friend of mine) "the best simple, graphic model of what is causing climate change. They also have a high reputation for objective reporting."

Posted by: Frank Martens on 27 May 06

As climate change theory will almost certainly remain as such during our lives (it being notoriously difficult to absolutely prove cause and effect in formal science), it might be useful to describe the difference betwen theories and physical laws, to explain that our understanding of the movement of electrical current, for example, is also described by a theory, and to remind the doubters that even the laws of gravity had to be tweaked after a guy named Einstein found a couple of problems.

Do that, and you'll have a comeback for those who will seize on the fact that "it's just a theory."

Posted by: Jack Rosebro on 28 May 06

It is not that there is doubt about a scientific consensus, going back to at least 1998, that humans are causing global warming, but a doubt, that you'll have to fight against strenuously, about the reasons behind this consensus. People still remember that the science community LIED, and admitted that they lied, about the scope and magnitude of the spread of AIDS, because they felt it was important to fight AIDS more strongly than the goverment was fight it. I'm sure people are asking now, is this about climate change, or is it about environmentalists trying to get their way through a different avenue? I think this site should address this aspect as well as any other aspect, because people tend to be wary. "What is their real agenda?"

Posted by: Dwayne on 29 May 06

Dwayne, what do you think scientists would gain by exaggerating the threat of global warming? What are you thinking, specifically, when you talk about "environmentalists trying to get their way through a different avenue"?

Posted by: Jon Lebkowsky on 29 May 06

I think it would important to include tangible examples of how climatic change is affecting our lives and what we as individuals can do to combat it. Our actions could then range from modifying our own lives slightly to be more efficient and putting pressure on areas municipal / goverment for a greener solution.

For example:
- One can save a lot of energy when boiling water, by only boiling the amount one needs, rather than filling the whole kettle. This is a small change in behaviour required by an individual.
- One can seperate rubbish into glass, tin, plastic, paper. This might require a group of individuals to put pressure on their municipality to provide services that support their efforts.
- It is known that business and industry contribute more towards pollution and carbon emissions than individuals. People and organisations should put pressure on governments to make laws that do not favour capitalists taking short-cuts at the expense of the environment. What channels are out there that individuals could join to have an effect?
- Electricity suppliers enjoy the monopoly of being the sole income acquirer and therefore do not promote more clustered approaches . It would be possible for governments to subsidize efforts to decentralized electricity generation, which would make people more self-sufficient and release pressure from the central grid. People laugh at the prospect of solar-power as an energy source, but implemented in a clustered approach where it could cover over 50% of the power usage in a house, it could come a long way to addressing the problem of energy efficiency. The only requirement would be for the electricity monopolies to allow houses to hook into the grid. What can we as individuals do to put pressure on our governments to promote this?

These are just a few examples of how we can actively take part towards more economical, cleaner future. I am also part of the WWF ( who have campaigns for fighting for preservation of the environment. It takes less than 5mins to join a petition or send a pre-generated email to the person / government in question.

What other things are there that we as individuals can do to make an active change towards preserving our environment?

Posted by: Tracy on 30 May 06

Glad to hear it's final over... well perhaps more correctly the battle's just beginning but the arsenal of evidence is being mounted swiftly... :)

Here's some thought's on why there's so much scepticism lurking about when it comes to GW.


Posted by: Vincenze on 30 May 06

See "The Tempest," a long article in this past Sunday's Washington Post by Joel Achenbach. It portrays the climate skeptics and shows just how conflicted and marginal most of them are.

-- Philip B. / Washington, DC

Posted by: Philip Bogdonoff on 30 May 06

From someone in the real world, ie. someone who realizes just how thickheaded most people are on this topic and otherwise focused on their own little niche in the world, I must express some skepticism at the prospect of cognitively changing the direction we are going before we hit the wall. In fact though, we are going to hit the wall of monetary meltdown much sooner and this will do far more to throw the monkey wrench into the gears of human industrialization than any conscious efforts to reduce emissions.

When that happens though, a point to consider is that the modern monetary system functions as a form of public commons and it would be wise to regulate it as such. We still operate with the assumption, from the age of metal based currency, that value is inherent in the token. As it is the responsibility of the issuer to maintain the value of the currency, the tokens are the property of the issuer, even if the value belongs to the holder. Given that in a democratic society, the government is the property of the citizen and its currency is a form of public accommodations, similar to the highway system, it should be governed for the greatest good of the greatest number. This principle would not interfere with the basic rights of private property. In fact, if people were thus encouraged to invest their efforts into maintaining value within every aspect of life, rather then basing their sense of wealth on these reductionistic units of value, this would lead to a healthier society and environment. Just as we don't need to pave everything over to get around, neither do we need to base every aspect of life on the bottom line.

Something as big as civilization cannot be simply led around. It needs to be leveraged by governing principles, I have a theory on why this is so;

Time, it has two directions. The arrow of time for the observer goes from past events to future events. In turn, the arrow of time for these events goes from being in the future to being in the past. To the hands of the clock, it is the face going counterclockwise.

The unit of time goes from beginning to end, while the process of time goes on to the next, leaving the old. Our lives are units of time going from beginning to end, while the process of living goes on to the next generation, shedding the old like dead skin. Think of a factory; The product moves from initiation to completion, but the production line faces the other way, with its mouth consuming raw materials and finished product being expelled. A day is measured by the sun rising in the east and setting in the west, but the reality is the earth is rotating the other direction. This relationship of the unit and process is one of perspective. A unit at one level is a process at another and vice versa. What matters is energy consumed and generated, whether calories burned, or wages and profits earned.

This doesn't mean time doesn't exist, or that it is reversible, but that it is a method for measuring motion, not the basis of it. It is not so much a projection out from the present event, as it is a coming together of factors to define what is present. There is no fundamental dimension of time. As linear causality in a non-linear reality, it is an emergant property of subjectivity.

Temperature is another method for measuring motion, that of a level of activity against a prevailing scale. At the atomic level, the concept of temperature is meaningless, as it is individual atoms moving in context. On the human level, government economic statistics are a form of temperature reading, that of a level of activity against its prevailing scale.

To the individual, time is a primary concern, as past and future are the path we've traveled and the pitfalls and rewards ahead. Now we are not all traveling along the same path, but are expending and absorbing energy in the same reality. As individuals, we are content to others context, so to the mass of humanity, the linear is meaningless, therefore concepts related to the fluctuations of activity, such as the social and economic expansion of liberalism, or the civil and economic consolidation of conservatism, are of more consequence then specifically remembering the past, or planning for the future. Temperature, rather then time, is a more approximate concept for political activity. While particular movements have their own historical perspective, consideration for the past and concern for the future don't have the larger political resonance one would assume they should.

How we negotiate the many looming problems will make for interesting times. The earth has a fever. Unfortunately we are the virus.

Posted by: brodix on 3 Jun 06

The 4 Stages of Global Warming Denial:

Posted by: Michael G. Richard on 6 Jun 06

Having just spent the weekend at the Skeptics Conference in Pasadena (you and read and listen to all our coverage here), and then having read some of the blogger coverage by right-wing Christian fundamentalist skeptics, I've been left with a lot of questions about how to actually engage with these people. I know that many of us are inclined to say "IT'S BEEN PROVEN! We're not going to talk about this anymore", and that's one approach. But I think that - with this issue and with many others - we actually desperately need a strategy for engaging with the Fundamentalists (of all stripes). They don't take well to being dismissed, and to being called stupid, and too often that can be the frustrated progressive's approach.

I don't have an answer, but this is a very live issue for me right now. We need people who understand the way these people's minds work. They aren't convinced by ever-more scientific evidence and we can't afford to just ignore them. They have far too much power and influence.

For some interesting reading, check out

Frustrating for sure, but - I'll say it again - I'm starting to think we need to understand these people and the way their minds work, rather than just dismissing them.

Posted by: Sarah Pullman on 7 Jun 06

I was trying to figure out the shortest way to describe why climate change could be very bad. Yes, ...rising seas & warmer temperatures might not be enough to cause immediate action, without mustering up the REALLY BAD potential events if we don't act. I also tried to mend the idea that climate change is a natural event, with the fact that it's manmade; tipping points are a really good example of that! Feel free to snag, copy, change, or correct anything... Here is the result:

…There exist many different natural storehouses of greenhouse gases all over the planet; from the fossil fuels we dig up, to the plants & trees that absorb CO2, to the oceans and permafrosts that retain methane & other elements.

Humans, in particular, have hijacked some of those natural greenhouse gases and continuously vapourised them into the atmosphere. As we have been doing this, global average temperatures have been rising faster, lock step in line with our global CO2 emissions.

As temperatures rise, we risk setting off “tipping points” of other natural greenhouse gases or catastrophy-fueled events. These tipping points may include, but are not limited to:

* ice sheets melting resulting in less white ice bouncing sunlight back into space, fueling more warming as more blue waters soak up more sunlight & heat.

* warmer waters fuel hurricanes to grow bigger.

* melted ice causes sea level(s) rise; flooding, killing & displacing people in areas home to thousands/millions of people.

* oceans absorb CO2, and that’s starting to cause the oceans to acidify. Too much acidification destroys phytoplankton. When you destroy phytoplankton, pretty much the entire foodchain of the oceans risk a terrifying collapse since phytoplankton is the bedrock of the ocean food chain.

* hotter & hotter temperatures will eventually lead to the amazon catching fire in the not too distant future, releasing vast amounts of more greenhouse gases.

* the amazon rainforest is a big part of the air conditioning of the world. That much less plants & trees soaking up CO2 will mean much more CO2 stays in the atmosphere for even longer, driving temperatures further still.

* Drive the temperatures far enough, and ~10,000,000,000,000 tons of methane hydrates, a greenhouse gas 21 times stronger than CO2, starts to melt more rapidly from the bottom of the oceans & within permafrosts, causing the oceans to boil in a firy display some might refer to as “armageddon…”

Posted by: Francis Scully on 7 Jun 06

Wow brodix,

Thank you for the mind bending journey!

"How we negotiate the many looming problems will make for interesting times. The earth has a fever. Unfortunately we are the virus."

I have often thought of us as a virus (more like a cancer, though, due to the unlimited expansion) infecting the planet. In that context, Earth developing a fever to kill of the infection sounds like a reasonable response.

Posted by: zoot on 8 Jun 06



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