Monday, April 02, 2007

Correspondence with a climate change sceptic

It occurs to me that I should probably immortalize as a blog at least some snippets of my recent detailed correspondence with a good friend and global warming sceptic.
My friend, whom I shall refer to hereafter as "The Sceptic", is in the electricity industry, exceedingly well-informed on the issues (having prepared reports for Ontario Power Generation among others), articulate and thoughtful and has only come to his conclusions after a lot of research and heart-searching. His arguments are probably as good as any others I have read on the subject.
I took the position of committed climate change activist - even though my own research has left me less convinced than I used to be on some of the issues, I am certainly much closer to that camp than to the other.
I thought that the whole conversation, covering several emails back in January and February 2007, might illuminate some of the issues (and some of the irretrievably grey areas involved). I'm sure he wouldn't mind my repeating it here, and his name is withheld anyway, just in case.
It runs to some length, so please bear with me.

The Sceptic:
Off the top of my head, here is a summary of my current opinions on global warming.
1. In the last 100+ years the average global surface temperatures have increased. We do not know by how much because compiling all the varied and assorted data for year over year comparisons is pretty iffy. I generally consider 0.6°C ± 0.3°C to be a reasonable guess. So anywhere from 0.3°C to 0.9°C. I think the IPCC says 0.6° to 0.8°C depending which part of their Third Assessment Report you read.
Average global temperatures increased between ~1910 and ~1935. Average global temperatures decreased between ~1950 and ~1975. Average global temperatures increased between ~1975 and~1998. Since 1998 there is no trend in the annual data. The averaged annual data are all singing and all dancing. The periods where the average global temperatures increased, ~1910 to ~1935 and ~1975 to ~1998, were similar. People who claim temperatures have decreased since 1998 are idiots (remember, these are my opinions).
2. In the last 60 years (or so) the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere increased dramatically. This is all due to emissions from human fossil fuel consumption. Some people don't believe this, they are idiots (remember, these are my opinions). Prior to ~1945, CO2 concentrations were increasing but at a very slow rate. They had been increasing since before 1750. CO2 concentrations measured all over the world are fairly consistent (except for the really cool seasonal variations at lower latitudes).
3. CO2 is not a pollutant.
4. The measured temperature increase during the 20th century was caused by:
- greenhouse gas emissions (CO2, CH4, NO2, SF6, etc)
- changes in solar influences (luminosity, magnetic flux, surface activity)
- changes in land use patterns (urban heat island, farming practices, enhanced irrigation)
- other unknown causes (cosmic dust, UFOs).
The contribution of any or all of these are not known with any degree of certainty. Curiously, global warming in the last twenty or so years has been observed on Earth, Mars, Triton and Pluto which suggests that the global warming measured on Earth is more than just greenhouse gas emissions on Earth.
5. The poorly named "greenhouse effect" works when the Earth's surface absorbs solar energy and radiates IR energy back into space. Greenhouse gases absorb IR in the troposphere (generally) resulting in an increase in energy in the troposphere. This energy is either re-radiated or conducted to the other gases in the atmosphere. The conducted energy eventually results in an increased temperature in the troposphere. Because the troposphere becomes warmer the temperature differential between the surface and the troposphere decreases resulting in reduced heat transfer from the surface and therefore higher surface temperatures.
The largest contributor to the greenhouse effect is the water vapour that is in the atmosphere. If there were no greenhouse gases in the atmosphere the average global temperature would be something like -18°C, about 33°C colder than the current global average of about 15°C.
6. The enhanced greenhouse effect is alleged to be the result of human CO2 (etc.) emissions. If the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere doubled, global temperatures would increase about 1.0°C ± 0.4°C. This incremental warming should be more noticeable where there is less water vapour in the atmosphere. Water vapour warming would mask any impacts of additional CO2. This is more likely in very cold climates were the air is very dry, specifically in the Arctic and Antarctic. This is called Polar Enhancement.
7. It is guessed that the temperature increases resulting from extra CO2 (etc) will result in positive feedbacks (increased water vapour mostly) that will markedly increase this CO2 effect up to anywhere between 1.5°C and any number you would like to insert.
8. In the far past, (millions of years ago but long after the dinosaurs), atmospheric CO2 concentrations were much higher than they are today.
9. In the more recent past, (hundreds to thousands of years ago), average global temperatures were higher than they are today. The Medieval Warm Period, the Roman Warm Period and the Holocene Climate Optimum are thought to have been warmer than today (the last ten years). This has been contested but not very well.
10. "Climate Change" is a silly name because there is no such thing as "Climate Unchange" or "Climate Not Change" or "Climate The Same All TheTime". Temperatures are going up and down all the time trending either way over long periods of time, all the time. Personally I like that the average global temperature is increasing because the alternative terrifies me. Based upon the geological record, we are due for an ice age. By they way, we have been recovering from the last one for the last 10,000 years or so. Did you know there were Greenland-style glaciers in Quebec as little as 7,000 years ago?
11. No one can predict the future. General Circulation Models (GCMs) are interesting tools for testing our understanding of the mechansims that drive our climate. They cannot be used to predict the future. They can be used to suggest possible outcomes but there is absolutely no confidence in the results.
12. There you have it, global increases in CO2 and global increases in temperature, except for the last part. Sorry, what was that in number twelve?
13. Oh yes. Please note that in number one I was particularly careful in referring to "average global surface temperatures". If you go to either the CRU or GISS websites where global temperature trends are independently calculated and displayed, you can see that average global temperatures have increased as described in number 1. You can also see the average Northern Hemisphere (NH) temperatures have increased even more than the global average which means, if you are up on your math, that the average Southern Hemisphere (SH) temperatures have not. Of course, there is a great deal more ocean in the SH so that must be acting like a heat sink to temper any surface temperature changes, right?
14. Yes, except that global warming resulting from greenhouse gases starts in the atmosphere as described in number five. Tropospheric temperatures can be measured using either weather balloons (radio sondes) or Microwave Sounding Units (MSUs) in orbit around the Earth. The MSUs have been recording tropospheric temperatures since 1979. The results show little or no trend in the temperature data, i.e. the temperature is neither going up nor going down. And the weather balloon data concurs with this finding. So if the troposphere is not warming the surface in the SH then perhaps the surface is warming the troposphere in the NH? So, if the troposphere is not warming the surface in the SH, then what is?
15. I don't know, but see number four for a list of possibilities.
Well, at least the surface is warming in the SH.
16. Yes, in most places the measured surface temperature is increasing. However, Antarctica is actually getting colder (except for the relatively small Antarctic Peninsula). The amount of glacial ice and sea ice is also increasing in and around Antarctica.
Well, at least the Arctic is warming.
17. Yes, the Arctic has warmed. In fact if you take the data from the ten most northern long term weather stations available in the GISS database, you can see that temperatures have increased dramatically in the high Arctic, almost 1.6°C since ~1970. The highest average temperture was in 2005 and1943 (it's a tie). The second highest temperature was in 2006 and 1944 (its another tie). The warmest ten year period was 1936 to 1945. Apparently the sea ice cover was somewhat reduced then too, just check out the route the Bismark took to avoid British patrols around Iceland.
18. I believe that no one knows enough about how the climate works to risk spending large portions of our GDPs on something that may or may not be a problem. I believe that keeping economies strong and growing the poorer economies will make us more able to adapt to any problems that may come up in the future. Global population is projected to peak around 2070. I think if we can get through that we will be in a much better position to deal with climate.

Obviously you have put a great deal of thought into it (as I expected, in your efficient way), as have I, and we seem to have come to opposite conclusions. Arguably this is one of the great polarizing debates of our times, and it is funny to see the way the press and the politicians have swung on it recently (not that I intended to put you anywhere in the same sentence as HRH Harper, who will bend whichever way the political wind blows him and his advisors, and knows and cares very little on the issue(s)).
I could go through your (well-argued, well-written) points one by one - most of the arguments I have come across before, and several I consider spurious and/or misleading (e.g. the cooling between the 50's and 70's, warming on Mars, urban heat island effect, solar irradiance, water vapour, Antarctic sea ice and ice sheet increases, etc, etc) - but I don't think that would be particularly useful. You must have come across the counter-arguments yourself in your research.
Clearly there is a lot of ground for potential interpretation and bias - climatology is not a hard science, and no-one claims it to be ("lies, damn lies and statistics" - who WAS that? Mark Twain?). But even if I were to grant some of your points, it seems to me that the overwhelming majority of the many separate arguments on the issue (as well as the opinions of a large majority of climatologists) point in the same direction. It will be interesting to see what's in the new IPCC report too (the last one is 6 years out of date now).
Bear in mind also that, due to inertia, ocean sinks, etc, we are so far only witnessing the tip of the iceberg (if you'll pardon the pun), and the true effects of what we have done to date won't become apparent for several years, whereas if we are to do something about it, we need to act now.
But I think the salient point is your No 18. I 'm only guessing, but my feeling is that this is, at heart, what has driven you to search out the stats and arguments to support what is essentially a philosophical and political stance. And I suppose that, to a large extent, it has been the same in my case.
For me, if there is even half a possibility that we are making the mess, then my conscience dictates that we address it. All scientific arguments aside, logic, common sense and just plain gut feeling speak to me through the figures. As an engineer/scientist/mathematician that may not be enough for you, but I didn't install solar panels on our roof a year or two ago because I think they will pay for themselves.
You've probably seen the Stern Review on the possible consequences of non-action. I'm afraid I don't have any faith in your "keeping economies strong and growing the poorer economies" as a solution to environmental problems. And I wouldn't put too much faith in global populations peaking in 2070 either (another hotly-contested assertion, and a whole other discussion). But, even were it to be true, imagine having to deal with the problems of 50% more population on top of all today's challenges!

The Sceptic:
I don't think that dismissing my points as "spurious and/or misleading" is very sporting. Truthfully I would not have brought these points up if I had in fact discovered reasonable counter-arguments in my research. It seems to me that a majority of climatologists who are climate modellers agree with your opinion.
So I would truly appreciate it if you could be so kind as to:
1. Summarize what you believe,
2. List some of the compelling evidence that made you believe what you do, and
3. Tell me what is spurious and/or misleading about the points in my original e-mail.

I am not a climate change evangelist, and my purpose is not to convert people who disagree with me, just to understand them. (Incidentally, I don't have a problem with the label "climate change" in all this - obviously climate changes over time, but it is a just a convenient populist label which I think everyone understands, and we can't really go around saying things like "anthropogenic global warming" or whatever all the time.)
So, what do I believe?
I've never really thought about it in so many words, to tell you the truth, but I suppose what I believe is that:
- the earth in general has warmed significantly over the last century, and the extent and the speed of this change, particularly over the last 30 years or so, makes it very unlikely to be from natural causes or a result of natural variations in climate.
- many other factors, from retreating glaciers and polar ice, sea level rises, extreme weather, etc, in addition to the temperature evidence, support the model.
- increases in man-made greenhouse gas emissions over this period seem likely to be responsible for a good proportion of this effect.
- due to inertia and the long term nature of the effects, the temperature increases will continue and likely accelerate in future years, even if we were to stop all greenhouse gas emissions now.
- there may be some unexplained elements in all this and some anomalies, but the bulk of the evidence points in that direction.
- the bulk of so-called experts and climatologists, who know more than I do about it, seem convinced that global warming is happening and that it represents a major potential problem.
- this heating will lead to serious economic and social impacts worldwide (extreme weather, flooding, rising sea levels, species loss, crop yield declines, increased diseases, etc).
- if it is likely that we are causing long-term damage to the biosphere, then we have a moral duty to mitigate and if possible repair that damage, rather than prevaricating and allowing it to get worse, or hoping that it can be fixed some time in the future.
Maybe not as scientific or rigorous as your analysis, but it seems to me that arguing over 0.6°C vs 0.8°C or 40 years vs 60 years is fiddling while Rome burns, and time seems to be of the essence. I also think that the health of the earth (to which global warming is just one threat out of many, but potentially a big one) is more important than the health of our GDPs, although not all that needs to be done necessarily impacts on our GDPs in a negative way - as much as anything we need to change a lot of our expectations, habits and rules. I think I will hate it too, but I think it needs to be done, and sooner rather than later.
The whole thing is a big grey area, due to the nature of weather, climatology, politics, statistics and various other things, and it is really a matter of how close to black or white one sees the colour. I see it as very close to black; you see it as distinctly anaemic.
I make no pretentions to definitively countering all your points, just to point out that there are disagreements on most of them, and I tend go along with the majority view of the experts.
[RE numbered points in The Sceptic's first email]:
1. I find the CRU graph easiest to read, which suggests around 0.8°C temperature increase (IPCC is usually quoted as 0.6°C). But crucially it also shows the trend which, given the inertia in the system and the long-term effects involved, I think is very important. The new IPCC Report would probably help, but it looks like that will be a very long drawn-out affair. It looks like (from leaks) they are predicting 2.0-4.5°C over the next 100 years.
The dip in 1950-70 is apparently usually attributed to the dampening effects of particulate and aerosol pollution during those years.
3. The American Heritage Science Dictionary defines a pollutant as "A substance or condition that contaminates air, water, or soil. Pollutants can be artificial substances, such as pesticides and PCBs, or naturally occurring substances, such as oil or carbon dioxide, that occur in harmful concentrations in a given environment", but I think your remark about CO2 not being a polllutant was a bit of a throwaway one, and not an important factor in your argument.
4. The World Radiation Centre reports pretty even solar irradiance over the last 30 years or so, and sunspot activity tends to follow 11 year cycles, and GISS appear to play down the effects (see
Urban Heat Island effects are specifically adjusted for by GISS (and presumably other sources too, not sure), but if anything the more urbanised areas are showing much smaller effects than the less urbanized (see
The Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) issue confused me for a while - there seem to be several differing opinions on it - and it was a big issue at Kyoto. I tend to go with the National Centre for Atmospheric Research line that "Compared to global warming, land use is a relatively small influence. However, there are regions where it's really important". Obviously deforestation needs to be addressed too, but I am uncertain how much effect it has had (taking into account albedo effects, etc).
I don't entirely follow Real Climate's complex arguments on, but global warming on Mars, Triton and Pluto seems to be spurious or at least irrelevant. In addition, as far as I can tell, the readings are over such a short period as not to be very useful, and mainly involve localised phenomena.
5. - 7. There is of course no doubt that greenhouse gases are necessary for human life, nor that water vapour is by far the most important of them (although much shorter-lived and precipitated out of the atmosphere within a week or so - its effect in global warming is as a feedback effect not an instigating or forcing effect).
8. Disregarding scientific considerations completely on this one, just because the planet became uninhabitable/inhospitable/wildly erratic in the past due to CO2 build-up from whatever cause, does not give us carte blanche to allow it to happen again due to our own actions.
9. According to the National Climatic Data Centre: "the mid-Holocene, roughly 6,000 years ago, was generally warmer than today, but only in summer and only in the northern hemisphere. Moreover, we clearly know the cause of this natural warming, and know without doubt that this proven 'astronomical' climate forcing mechanism cannot be responsible for the warming over the last 100 years".
I haven't head about the Roman one, but NCDC also say that "The idea of a global or hemispheric 'Medieval Warm Period' that was warmer than today however, has turned out to be incorrect."
Either way, none of these historical events, whatever their causes, invalidates what is happening now and the reasoning behind the current events.
10. As I mentioned in my previous message, your objection to the label 'climate change' is moot semantics, but your comments on liking the increased temperatures are surely flippant and unworthy (along the lines of "if global warming means less snow shovelling, I'm all for it" - yes, I have actually heard that said).
Ice Ages will happen whether we are pumping out pollutants or not, of course. The phrase "due for another Ice Age" is bandied around with gay abandon, but realistically we are looking at 50,000 years or so (the current Holocene Interglacial Period is just beginning), and I would very much doubt that mankind as we know it will be around to see it. Incidentally, I have even seen a scenario where global warming precipitates the next ice age due to cold fresh water from the melting ice caps and Greenland shutting down the Gulf Stream which keeps Europe and North America warm.
11. Unfortunately, we don't have the luxury of waiting to see if the models pan out, but it seems to me that so far they have been remarkably on the ball. There is a good example of hindcasting on the United National Environment Programme website which shows the IPCC model's success in retrospectively predicting temperature anomalies. IPCC are always careful to use ranges and not specific outcomes, and frankly I'm surprised that you have NO confidence in them.
12. - 15. Rather a lot of if's, then's, except's and perhaps' in this section, so I sort of got lost, even after reading it a few times. But I think your point revolves around the supposed lack of recorded warming in the troposphere, which as far as I can tell was due to initial misrecording of data which was later (August 2005) corrected and now follows predicted models pretty closely. See for way more detail than you probably want on this. I'm not sure any of this would have invalidated the ground level recording anyway (it is more about corroborating models as I see it), though, and it is these we need to worry most about, as ground dwellers.
16. This (Antarctica getting colder) is usually put down to the surrounding ocean's thermal inertia and the effects of ozone depletion in the southern hemisphere, although actually the overall cooling is minimal, and over a longer time span (40 years as opposed to 20) there is in fact some overall warming (see Increases in temperature are expected to manifest more in the Northern Hemisphere with its preponderance of land. A slightly warmer and moister climate in Antarctica would be expected result in more snowfall which explains the thickening ice sheets (average temperatures in Antarctica are still between -15°C and -70°C!).
17. The Arctic warming in the 1930's-1940's was apparently likely due to the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (who makes these names up?) - see .
18. I think I already gave you my version if this manifesto in my last email.
As I have said before, I am not claiming that everything I say is right and everything you say is wrong. I'm sure we could argue ad infinitum on all this, and there are always refutations and counter-refutations to be found.
As you are well aware, much of what is claimed in newspapers and speeches is wrong, misleading, misinformed or in some cases arrant nonsense, and this happens on both sides of the divide (we seem to be entering a period where the press has lurched over to the global warming camp, after several years of erring grossly on the side of scepticism - although I notice that The Daily Telegraph hasn't changed much since I used to live in England...)
I just happen to believe, from my own investigations, that most of what the majority of climatologists now believe is closer to the truth than the opposite, and that being the case we have action to take.
However, I respect (but disagree with) your views on the subject, and the fact that at least you have arrived at them responsibly.

The Sceptic:
I appreciate that you are not a climate evangelist. I am searching for the grain of truth that will finally convince me that there is a serious problem. I believe my life would be easier if I could get some certainty into my mind about global warming.
However, once bitten, twice shy. A little over ten years ago I was tasked with preparing a procedure for monitoring and reporting CO2 emissions from our fossil fueled stations. It turned out to be one of the best documents I have ever prepared. Its about two centimetres thick. All my work. I am insanely proud of it. Before starting this project I was unaware of the global warming issue. Before starting I asked, "Why do we need this", and I was directed to our environmental people who provided me with all kinds of information about global warming. All bad news from Greenpeace, Sierra Legal Defense Fund, etc.
I was shocked to discover that we were doing such things to the planet. For about three weeks I was seriously contemplating quitting my job. I was starving for information and started looking everywhere. Slowly I started learning that some of the information I was originally provided was not quite right and some of it was completely wrong or framed to give a certain perspective. By the time I completed my report I had become skeptical that there was enough information to make a case for radical change. Since then I have been obsessed by the issue.
I have seen your points before and all the "yes buts" spring into my mind.
Global warming is supposed to be primarily caused by CO2. YES the world warmed over the last century, about 0.45°C between 1905 and 1945 and about 0.45°C between 1961 and 2001. It cooled after 1945 so the total increase is less than 0.90°C. BUT CO2 concentrations went up about 10 ppm between 1905 and 1945 and about 70 ppm between 1945 and 2000. So while the CO2 could have caused the warming between 1961 and 2001, it could not have caused similar warming between 1905 and 1945.
If the warming between 1905 and 1945 was not caused by CO2 then why couldn't the warming between 1961 and 2001 becaused by something other than CO2. The IPCC says that most of the warming in the last 50 years was caused by CO2 which means anything more than 50% of the warming was caused by CO2. The IPCC says the earlier warming was caused by something else but does not specify what that something else is.
YES glaciers are retreating BUT some are not. In fact some are growing. YES glaciers are retreating BUT when they do retreat in some cases they reveal farms, and trees that can be dated to earlier warm periods.
YES sea levels are rising BUT they have been rising for 14,000 years since the end of the last great ice age. The IPCC reports that this rate of rise has not accelerated during the 20th century. The IPCC reported that it is expected sea levels will rise about 30 mm over the next 100 years. Why does Al Gore need to scare my children by saying seas will rise 20 ft? Why is the Toronto District School Board allowing him to do so?
YES extreme weather events are being reported more frequently BUT the IPCC and the UN-WMO report that there is actually no increasing trend in extreme weather events. Apparently climate expert Al Gore thinks otherwise.
YES CO2 concentrations continue to increase and since it takes about 200 years for a molecule of CO2 to get removed from the atmosphere, it will take about 1,000 years (as today's papers say) to get the levels back down again, so if the hypothesis that increased concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere are causing global warming is true, then indeed we are in for a long period of accelerated warming.
BUT if the hypothesis is not true then we are not, and even if it was true there is little that we can do but adapt to the changes. It is generally accepted that if the Kyoto Treaty were implemented as written, global temperatures would be about 0.04°C cooler in 100 years and this bit of warming would be delayed by only five years.
YES the bulk of so called experts seem convinced that there is a problem BUT they appear to be remarkably unable to explain it to other so called experts in areas like geology, astrophysics, chemistry and engineering (ultimately the people responsible for the alleged problem and the people who will have to build the solutions). Engineers who design and build nuclear, solar and wind generators are very keen on it though, no bias there. I can attest that the so called experts at RealClimate are expert in dancing around questions like the questions I have written here.
YES if global warming turns out to be a real problem it seems logical that some species may be at risk BUT what happened to these species the last time it got hot? Why are there still polar bears? And if polar bears are at risk, why are there more polar bears in existence now than there were 10, 20, 30, 40... years ago?
Why are there still corals? At the end of the last ice age average sea levels rose about 120 metres (400 ft). At one point it is estimated to have risen 21 metres (70 ft) in 500 years, that's 2.1 metres (85 inches) per year. Corals don't grow that fast and yet there are Pacific atolls where cores have shown corals have lived there continuously for over 200,000 years. How does that work? I don't know.
YES we have a moral obligation to do something. I believe we have an obligation to make very certain we know what we are doing before we start implementing revolutionary changes in our societies. History shows us that revolutionary change, especially politically derived revolution is never good for the people it is supposed to be helping.
Have you read the IPCC's Third Assessment Report? Not the Summary for Policymakers but the actual report. Things are not as clear as they should be. I am looking forward to the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) due out in May I think. The report being released in February is the Summary for Policymakers which has been written by bureaucrats. Apparently they are keeping back the actual report to ensure that it supports the Summary for Policymakers. It didn't last time and was the source of some embarassment for the IPCC. Sorry, that sounded dreadfully strident, even when I read it.
PS: Al Gore?! What's with that, eh?

Yes, I know exactly what you mean. How can the contents of RealClimate's website and the Friends of Science website both be right? I recognize many of your arguments from FoS, by the way, and it is compelling stuff, especially the detail in docs like de Freitas' "Are observed changes in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere really dangerous?" ( which you probably have seen.
What do you do when there are always Yes...Buts (and when theYes...Buts always have Yes...Buts)? I know I may appear to be a rabid global warming acolyte, but I have to admit to you that my recent investigations have shaken the strength of my old beliefs to some extent. I think it may have been when "An Inconvenient Truth" came out. It made me think: if it is all as cut and dried as that, then why are we even discussing it? I tried to answer the points in your first email as a true believer, largely as an exercise to see if I could (although still with the knowledge that you would come back with a whole slew of Yes...Buts).
So, being pseudo-science and not mathematics, it all comes down to the balance of evidence and one's interpretations, and it is all necessarily fuzzy round the edges. I still believe that anthropogenic global warming is happening, as much on gut feeling as anything else, and I still believe it is important to question many of the technologies we now take for granted, and I still believe that we have to start that process now and not after several years' more studies.
I know that Kyoto is weak and flawed and all but useless, but I think it is important symbolically as a first step on the ratchet (to mix metaphors a bit), and if we can't even manage Kyoto then what chance do we stand of achieving the much greater changes which I believe will be needed soon.
Sure, there is some debate on the science, but I am starting from the standpoint that I think it is unsustainable and immoral to continue with our current lifestyles without some major changes in renewable energy technology, pollution control, species protection, forestry and farming practices, auto efficiency and the whole dependence on oil thing. If we can use a galvanizing issue like global warming to effect some of this, then I have no hesitation in supporting it (I'm hoping for a sort of 21st century Manhattan Project effect).
If we take some serious steps to clean up our act then, if global warming theory proves to be wrong, then the environment gains anyway; if it's right, (which despite the tenor of some of this email, I still believe), then double whammy. If environmental sins have been committed in the past, there is no excuse for continuing to commit those sins into the future, and certainly not at the altar of convenience and increasing GDPs.
So there you have it, from the heart. Really, I'm just an old hippy concerned with treading lightly on the planet and all that. I know you have a problem with Greenpeace, Sierra Club, etc, but their motives are pure and on balance (in my opinion again) completely laudable. I don't think they deliberately lie or misrepresent the facts, but obviously they have a position and they make no secret of that.
No, I haven't read anything other than the IPCC Report summary, but neither have I have read anything which convinces me that they are acting in bad faith or to some political end, as you clearly believe. What political motives do you think they have? Likewise with organizations like RealClimate. I can't see what axe they have to grind, and certainly what they (IPCC, Stern Review, etc) are saying doesn't meet the needs of any political force as far as I can see - all sides would much prefer not to have to deal with it.
Finally, (yes, I'm afraid I'm not going to go through your points one by one this time!), I don't consider this a revolutionary change we are calling for, and much less a "politically derived" revolutionary change. If it is anything, it is environmentally derived, and I don't have any problem with that.

The Sceptic:
Actually I do not know the "Friends of Science" though I have heard of them. I have spent considerable time at RealClimate but I find the peanut gallery to be annoying. They also have a disturbing habit of either disallowing posts or interjecting their comments in and over other people's comments. I like reading ClimateAudit but again the peanut gallery can be annoying.
When I was in University I went to an AAAS meeting where there was supposed to be a debate on nuclear energy. Each side had been debating the other for so long that they tended to waltz around each others points never really addressing the facts and rhetorical points of the other side. I called it The Dance. The GW/CC debate reminds me of The Dance.
I believe that adaptation will be the best response for whatever happens and that pretending we know how to control the climate is dangerous and wasteful. I believe that the rest of the natural world will adapt along with us.
I am starting from the standpoint that we did not arrive where we are today by chance. Our human society has continuously evolved and adapted to improve the human condition. What constitutes an improvement to the human condition has also continuously changed. We are better off now than we have been at any time in the past. I continue to believe that we will be better in the future.
I agree with Bjorn Lomborg that we have better ways of improving the environment than spending our time and resources combating global warming, though I disagree with his complete acceptance that global warming is caused by humans.
I believe that their (Greenpeace, Sierra Club, etc) motives were at one time laudable but have become less so over time. It is argued that they have drifted from perpetuating the environment to perpetuating themselves. I truly wish the UN was what it is supposed to be. I don't believe in a conspiracy but I do believe in self-serving incompetence.
Here is the chronology. The people behind RealClimate made a name for themselves by creating some alarming results that were used by the IPCC in the TAR to support the contention that GW/CC is seriously unusual and should be addressed. The results were subsequently found to be seriously flawed and insupportable. RealClimate was subsequently set up to support their "good" name and attack their detractors. While they claim to stick to just the science, they don't.
The Stern Review was completed to support the policies of the British government. In completing this review, Stern made assumptions about future climate that went beyond anything suggested by the IPCC. It is bizarre that an economist would make assumptions outside of his area of expertise to drive his economic model. Even the economic parameters (discount rate) incorporated into his model was unusual.
And so we are left with are divergent opinions. Should you be allowed to impose the conditions of your beliefs on me without first convincing me that these conditions are right and just?

Wow, and I thought I was pretty cynical! It's pretty clear from your comments here that our differences are going to remain unreconcilable.
I would take issue with several things you mention, but most particularly with your last sentence: I am not imposing anything on you (arguably I am the imposed on one, as past indifference and current inertia continue to condemn me to living in an environmentally unsustainable world, against my will). If any imposing is going on, it is the will of the people (as a result of the democratic system we live in), whether I or you like it or like it not.

So, a rather inconclusive, but nevertheless interesting, correspondence, I hope you will agree. Arguably, The Sceptic "won" the face-off as I ran out of energy first.
Despite the deteriorating tone towards the end, we remain good friends.

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