"Our greatest responsibility is to be good ancestors."

-Jonas Salk

Saturday, January 8, 2011


The press: co-conspirator or innocent bystander? The article that Scott Mandia and I (and to be honest, Gavin, who improved it immensely) posted on RealClimate seems to have stirred Kloor and Yulsman and even Revkin into defending the mainstream press. It seems a good opportunity to address the problems we see there, even though this is very distinct from the business press's extremism.

Libertarianism and the environment: The Asimov quote currently at the top of the page leads neatly into the question of collectivism vs individualism and how the balance changes. Judith Curry is running an especially noisy thread on libertarianism right now. I've been planning to address this myself but Curry's gang oddly sort of obviates the responsibility a bit. Lots of Ayn Rand addled folk seem to be saying "libertarianism, therefore not the IPCC", an argument that I find to be, let's say, missing a few steps. That said, I remain a fan of Tokyo Tom, of whom I've said "if all right wingers made this much sense I'd be a right-winger myself". Tom leaves an introduction to his way of thinking at Curry's. I will leave this on hold. Joe Romm, I think, has it right, though. If you value your liberties, act sooner rather than later.

Uncertainty: I have been thinking about the white zone on the flag and what it might be trying to achieve. I have started to come up with something much more complicated which may nevertheless clarify the issue of meta-uncertainty. Paul Baer has been nagging me about this for a year now. In short, there really is something to be said for "how sure are you about your uncertainty?" once we try to think collectively.

The Forbes Piece: A shorter version of the RC piece needs publishing, in Forbes if possible. It won't appear here, of course, but it takes some of my writing energy.

Economics: More about the growth/sustainability problem; it seems we have a critical mass of interested people and it would be a shame to drop it.

and don't miss this:

Whether we want a steady state or not, perhaps we have to adjust to it...


But striking while the iron is hot means replying to Kloor and Yulsman.

Update: And instead of any of that I spent Sunday trying to strike up a conversation at Curry's. If you want to see our problem up close, check out the thread.


Marion Delgado said...

Not agreeing with them but some of this is Nature killing itself. I believe we evolved to play primate dominance games over solving problems.

David B. Benson said...

Before you speak, ask yourself if what you have to say will improve on silence.

Unknown said...

Revkin's related post preceded yours and was aimed at Romm. Same with Tom Yulsman's first post on this topic.

My post played off theirs but included yours at RC to discuss the pattern that I've raised.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of economics, there appears to be a bit of a kerfuffle surrounding our anti-authoritarian friend Richard Tol.

Village Article: Our Deluded ESRI

Deltoid: Tolgate

Steve Bloom said...

But never the pattern that you're a part of, Keith.

David B. Benson said...

Maybe I should repeat my earlier comment?

David B. Benson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...


Perhaps instead of speaking of 'wealth creation', we should be speaking of wealth unlocking. Discovering oil in some plot of land in Texas doesn't 'create' oil, it merely unlocks the oil that's been there all along. And one can't 'create' oil from nothingness.

Anna Haynes said...

> we evolved to play primate dominance games over solving problems

OK; but that one's partly soluble, so let's not play primate dominance games about it.

Namely, soluble by engaging in interesting cooperative games against a common non-human foe; such as (for us ancient, creaky board game types) Pandemic.

It's a very good way for habitually-oppositional folk to experience working together as problem-solving colleagues.

Also see talks by Jane McGonigal on games, and another one (Tom Chatfield?) likewise, at TED.com; not sure I 100% agree, but the idea of being able to harness those game energies is compelling.

CHansen said...

You're probably already aware of this, but your RC article was boingboinged today. (http://www.boingboing.net/2011/01/10/climatologists-pick.html#comments) - You may want to react to some of the comments, perhaps.

Anonymous said...

"trying to strike up a conversation at Curry's."

Conversations: Are overrated.

I agree with a certain commenter at Pharyngula: (emphasis mine)

"I am so tired of people saying that this [Loughner's shooting spree] will 'start a conversation' about toning down the rhetoric. It seems like having conversations is all we do nowadays. I'm sick to death of it. What I really want isn't a conversation, I want Obama to instruct the Justice Department to start putting together charges against Sarah Palin for whatever they can come up with. What we need is a good test case that can create some law defining the responsibilities of those who speak in public. And if Palin can be successfully prosecuted, then go after Limbaugh, and then go after Ailes. I just can't believe that what these people do is legal."

guthrie said...

I had a look at the thread at Curry's. It was disturbing how many people think that saying "Everyone else does it so we should to" and "Its impossible to change course" and "we don't even know if there is a problem" are somehow rational arguments.

Jim Bouldin said...

Curry thinks Schneider and his website were at Berkeley huh? And I'm then supposed to waste any more time reading on? Yeah, Berkeley, Stanford, Scripps, Davis, whatever it's all the same.

Anonymous said...

MT says:
"And instead of any of that I spent Sunday trying to strike up a conversation at Curry's. If you want to see our problem up close, check out the thread."

One of "our problems" is the enormous lack of support for you, or other scientists, like Colose, Lacis, etc that show up there. It's impossible for a scientist to make their point if the next several commenters, whose ideas are already hardened, paint the scientist as a biased activist. You made a great point about scientist's duel role remaining a reticent referee, as well as a reporter of risk. I especially liked the comment about scientists staying silent. Instead of that being discussed, you were made out to look duplicitous. I think it would be nice for the people who agree with MT to say so. There's already enough back and ass slapping over there to rival a Major League dugout. What's a little more?