In the Climate Debate, The Misunderstanding Is Mutual

By Chris Mooney | July 6, 2011 11:02 am

My latest DeSmogBlog post is about how climate skeptics basically seem to believe that their opponents are driven by socialism and communism. We aren’t, of course–duh–but it is fascinating to listen to how they explain this, in their own words.

The piece starts like this:

So recently, I’ve watched a few videos from the Heartland Institute conference on “Restoring the Scientific Method”—and it has been a fascinating experience.

I point you, for instance, to this session on public policy, and especially the Q&A starting at minute 56. (Also watch Marc Morano from minute 38 to minute 56, the dude is nothing if not entertaining.) Once the audience questions start coming for the panel, I was rather surprised to hear that most were basically about…uh, communism. And in response, the panelists—and especially Christopher Horner—were quite affirmative that the real reason that we, the “left,” want to restrict greenhouse gas emissions is that we want to hobble economies, redistribute wealth, and restrict individual freedoms.

“You can believe this is about the climate, and many people do,” said Horner. “But it’s not a reasonable belief.” Horner went on to argue that “it’s probably about what they’ve claimed they really want.” For many “luminaries” of the environment movement, Horner continued, “economic growth is not the cure, it’s the disease.”

You can read the full piece here.

Comments (121)

  1. 1985

    Now, Morano and Horner have various pieces of “evidence” that they use to support their assessment—including out of context quotations. But I, too, have heard some environmentalists attack growth, and say that it is the real problem.

    However, I do not believe in any sense that this is the mainstream view of those who want a cap-and-trade bill, whether they are President Obama, or Democratic senators, or the many corporations who supported such legislation—like GE and Duke Energy. Without economic growth, these companies could not maintain rising share prices, nor could they keep reporting rising earnings and annual dividend increases for their stockholders.

    That the mainstream view does not attack growth as the root cause of the environmental/sustainability crisis is a big problem, not something for you to point out as a virtue. That’s why the mainstream view is nothing more than mere greenwashing that’s absolutely inadequate and incapable of making any actual difference. And I am sorry to say it but if you don’t think that growth is a problem then you are completely ecologically illiterate and have no serious place in this conversation at all, the same goes for everybody that doesn’t understand that infinite growth in a finite system is a biophysical impossibility.

    I can also speak for myself. If there’s anything I don’t like, it’s extremes—including on the left. I very much want companies to thrive and succeed—who else is going to create jobs?—but to me, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be regulated. I actually do believe that they should be regulated as little as is possible–so long as it is enough to preserve public health and the environment.

    That’s a tragic fallacy that many people commit. “Extreme” positions exist only relative to the established orthodoxy of the place and time. And from that point people will take the label and use it to denigrate certain views and ideas, even though it has little relevance to whether the ideas are valid or not. You can attach the label “extreme” to a given position, but on its own it does not make that position invalid; it is how the position measures up against reality that determines it. This is exactly the same tactic that denialists are using when they attach the labels “socialism” and “communism” to proposals for dealing with climate change. Take a label that carries a lot of negative connotations, slap it to the position you want to denigrate, then use the negativity associated with it to seemingly invalidate the position. That the logic doesn’t work doesn’t matter. It is exactly the same thing with saying that those that dare to say that growth is a problem are extremist.

    It boils down to the ability/inability to question the assumptions that you have been brought up with – that people need jobs and business, markets and economic growth are the only way to provide them. People don’t need jobs, people need to be fed and clothed. You can do that without jobs and without growth. But for that to happen, the whole socioeconomic structure has to be completely redesigned, and people’s worldview and values have to change dramatically. Not happening, of course, but the alternative is growth at all costs followed by collapse and possibly extinction. And there is nothing extremist about this, that’s just how it is; that the people who dare to point it out are called extremist is simply a manifestation of the intellectual cowardice of those who call them so.

  2. William Furr

    I came here to post pretty much what 1985 at #1 said.

    Most liberals and republicans and libertarians and so forth agree on economic growth as the solution to our ecological problems, but disagree on how to bring that growth about (hence the name-calling and logical fallacies and so forth).

    All of them are wrong and miss the whole point. No one in power is willing to see or speak the truth, because it intrudes on the sanctity of our “way of life” and is thus electoral suicide.

    See you at the bottom of the cliff….

    http://questioneverything.typepad.com/question_everything/2011/06/what-gets-us-into-trouble.html

  3. Chris Mooney

    wow. are you guys trying to prove Horner right?

  4. Boris

    Are you aware that various prominent AWG proponents have been openly advovating using climate change laws to redistribute wealth? Here are a couple of URL’s from a quick google:

    http://www.theblaze.com/stories/u-n-official-admits-we-redistribute-worlds-wealth-by-climate-policy/

    http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2008/20081229_DearMichelleAndBarack.pdf

    I’ve even heard talk of a global government. Also, many AWG proponents do want to limit individual freedoms, not just which lighbulbs we use but actual population control. I’m sure that somebody even suggested that we put a (temporary) stop to democracy itself.

    I can see the logic in all of the above, making poor people richer would be nice, stopping various populations doubling every few decades would have many environmental benefits, democracy has it’s flaws etc. but before criticising the audience members for having raised these concerns, you should look at what AWG proponents have actually said on these topics.

  5. William Furr

    You have Horner quoted as saying “we, the “left,” want to … hobble economies, redistribute wealth, and restrict individual freedoms.”

    You clearly don’t. You think you can have your cake and eat it too. Meaning solve our ecological problems while continuing to increase our standard of living AND bring the developing world up to that standard as well.

    1985 and I are saying that’s impossible. Our ecological problems are due to hitting limits. Limits on energy production, limits on the biosphere’s ability to absorb pollution, and the limits of technology to solve old problems without creating new ones.

    Learning to live within limits as a society means some serious changes from the way things are now. Does it necessarily entail wealth redistribution, a hobbled economy, and restrictions on individual freedoms? I don’t know. Maybe.

    All I can tell you is that continuing to try to prop up “the economy” in its current state is not going to end well for any of us.

  6. Chris Mooney

    @4 I don’t think this is mainstream or the central driver of the push for climate action. I’m willing to be convinced otherwise.

  7. Eric the Leaf

    @1985 & Mr. Furr,
    You might be interested in Richard Heinberg’s newest book, “The End of Growth.” Don’t know if it is yet available at Amazon, but certainly at Postcarbon.org.

  8. Chris Mooney

    I may as well add that to make this fundamentally about growth, when you can’t even pass cap and trade, would be a classic political overreach, the sort liberal idealists have so often committed, and indeed, of the sort that partly fueled the conservative counter-revolution in the U.S.

  9. 1985

    8. Chris Mooney Says:
    July 6th, 2011 at 1:02 pm
    I may as well add that to make this fundamentally about growth, when you can’t even pass cap and trade, would be a classic political overreach, the sort liberal idealists have so often committed, and indeed, of the sort that partly fueled the conservative counter-revolution in the U.S.

    What is more relevant to reality:

    A. What is politically feasible
    B. What the laws of physics dictate ?

    I think the answer is clear. If what is politically feasible is hopelessly far away from what has to be done, then what this means is that what needs to be done will not be done and the logical extremely unpleasant consequences will follow. And what you’re saying is completely missing the point.

  10. William Furr

    To play into yet another right-wing characterization of global warming opponents, doing not enough isn’t any better than doing nothing. We’re screwed either way.

    Is it overreach to actually have policy based in reality and not how we wish things were?

    There’s already a good effort underway to decouple growth and wellbeing. GDP growth is used as a proxy for wellbeing, which all economists agree that it’s a pretty poor measure. The rivalries come in when alternatives to GDP are brought up.

    You’re too hung up on the political bickering and need to look at the biophysical and economic reality.

  11. Chris Mooney

    A and B are both highly relevant to reality and can be discerned empirically. Misunderstanding either is a bad idea.

  12. 1985

    7. Eric the Leaf Says:
    July 6th, 2011 at 1:00 pm
    @1985 & Mr. Furr,
    You might be interested in Richard Heinberg’s newest book, “The End of Growth.” Don’t know if it is yet available at Amazon, but certainly at Postcarbon.org.

    I know about it, I’ve been following the excerpts from it as they were posted on the website, but I haven’t read the whole thing yet. However he doesn’t really say anything new, and IMO he doesn’t go far enough in general in his writings because he usually only mentions the subject of population and he doesn’t really go into the specifics of how exactly are we to end growth in an organized manner.

  13. 1985

    10. Chris Mooney Says:
    July 6th, 2011 at 1:15 pm
    A and B are both highly relevant to reality.

    Not at all. A matters only within the constraints allowed by B. Yet, our society, you including, is totally ignoring B and focusing only on A. Huge mistake.

  14. Chris Mooney

    @10 why isn’t doing not enough better than doing nothing? there’s broad uncertainty in how bad it will be how fast. doing anything at all may put you in a better situation overall to cope.

  15. 1985

    5. William Furr Says:
    July 6th, 2011 at 12:51 pm
    You have Horner quoted as saying “we, the “left,” want to … hobble economies, redistribute wealth, and restrict individual freedoms.”

    Just to point one thing – the very opposition left-right and the following attempts to situate each and every issue along that axis on its own is a deep and very tragic delusion.

    In this case, pointing out that limits to growth exist has absolutely nothing to do with left, right, liberal, conservative, communism, fascism, capitalism, anything of the sort. The limits to growth follow from the laws of physics, and those are completely apolitical.

  16. Horner thinks worry about climate emerges out of ideology, specifically out of an ideology of limits to growth. For me it was very much the other way around.

    Worry about climate arises from physical principles. But then when you look at the way the world works, and the stunning incompetence we have had in dealing with this issue, you discover a growth addiction that impinges on every environmental problem, not just on climate, one which by the literal definition of exponential gets exponentially worse with time.

    Horner is absolutely wrong that concern about climate is driven by ideology. But he has a real weapon, in that concern about climate and similar issues (soil, water, sea life, trace chemicals, energy supply) inevitably leads to the old Club of Rome question about “Limits to Growth” (Meadows, 1972)

    http://www.amazon.com/Limits-Growth-Donella-H-Meadows/dp/0451057678

    The climate issue stands alone without a limits to growth concern, and we can’t let Horner and company get away with suggesting otherwise.

    But many people who think about the climate problem, or various other global scale problems, are quickly led to a limits to growth position. If you think about microroganisms growing in a Petri dish, you get the picture quickly. If condtions are favorable, growth is rapid, and the transition from an uncrowded dish to a crowded dish is rather abrupt. The micro-organisms are not smart enough to adapt to their new circumstances. Are we?

    Yes, this presents Horner with a propaganda opportunity.

    The obvious way to address it on the climate side is to stick to the science, which in this matter is absolutely compelling.

    But to address the broader question, we need to insist that it is not anti-capitalist, anti-corporate, anti-free-enterprise, even anti-competitive to recognize limits to growth. Indeed, it’s the creativity of the American society that can lead the world out of this mess.

    Some things can grow without bound. Books and movies and music can keep getting better. Education can improve. Our surroundings can get more pleasant and safer. We are not yet so overgrown that we cannot learn to live together, or that progress has stopped, or that ambitious people can do well. But in the end, full-time full employment in a world of forever growing aggregate economic activity is over in the west.

    We cannot sustain much more activity without falling into the most egregious colonialism; if the rest of the world is to be allowed to catch up there will be nobody to exploit. In short, the behavior of the average suburban American family does not scale to the existing world population. It can;t be done without some serious changes.

    Insofar as carbon use is concerned, there is no doubt that we are well into overshoot territory already. But solve that problem and several others wait right behind. This is not a bizarre coincidence. This is the inevitable second phase of the Petri dish. We have to get used to it, and the carbon problem, should we prevail, is just the first of many such battles.

  17. 1985

    14. Chris Mooney Says:
    July 6th, 2011 at 1:20 pm
    @10 why isn’t doing not enough better than doing nothing? there’s broad uncertainty in how bad it will be how fast. doing anything at all may put you in a better situation overall to cope.

    You are severely underestimating the size of the gap between what is politically feasible (the not enough part) and what has to be done relative to the uncertainty.

    We actually know with great certainty that with cap-and-trade or without cap-and-trade, civilization will collapse if all the other sustainability issues (overpopulation; peaks of oil, gas, coal, uranium, phosphorus, a long list of other minerals, water, soil; global ecosystem collapse both in the oceans and of terrestrial ecosystems, etc.) are not seriously addressed. In fact, it is quite likely that cap-and-trade won’t make much difference with respect to global warming alone, but given everything else I listed and that is actually much less disputable than AGW, global warming may very well not even exist and it wouldn’t have changed the picture at all.

  18. Chris Mooney

    Incredibly well stated, Michael.

  19. Nullius in Verba

    #3,

    As I said on an earlier thread:
    “So amongst Greens we have several different groups. There are those who think the action needed is cheap and easy – change your lightbulbs, turn things off standby, and invest a bit in energy-efficient technology research and all will be well. There are those who realise that it will take a great effort at an immensely high cost, and seek to persuade people that it is necessary; to make this effort voluntarily. And there are those who know that people will not ever willingly pay the price demanded, and so must be given no choice. Live Green or Die.”

    Green-lite, Green, and Deep Green as I sometimes think of them.

    I’m pretty sure that very few Greens are of the “Deep Green” variety. Nor do I think Greens as a whole any more monolithic, organised, or unified than sceptics. The extent to which Deep Greens influence matters politically is unclear to me. I don’t have any solid evidence and prefer not to speculate.

    But I’m in no doubt that such people do exist, and do have some explicitly anti-Capitalist, redistributive, “climate justice” sorts of authoritarian/totalitarian policy ideas – ahead even of any measures that would have any detectable effect on the climate. Several have written extensively on them – one or two have stopped writing/speaking about them once they got into government; they say they no longer believe in it. It’s speculation, but it’s not a completely unreasonable speculation.

    It’s not really Communism either – which was very much in favour of technology and industrial development – but possibly counts it as one of many parents. Perhaps that’s too fine a distinction for outsiders to take much notice of. Beliefs evolve.

    There’s a thread that’s inclined that way that runs through a lot of Green thinking. But I agree that it doesn’t form the basis of popular support for the movement.

    #16,

    I agree with a lot of that. I’d say it was a much more constructive attitude than some of those that particularly annoy and motivate opposition from right-wingers. It’s just that many of those changes you say are needed we regard as “business as usual”.

  20. 1985

    16. Michael Tobis Says:
    July 6th, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    But to address the broader question, we need to insist that it is not anti-capitalist, anti-corporate, anti-free-enterprise, even anti-competitive to recognize limits to growth. Indeed, it’s the creativity of the American society that can lead the world out of this mess

    But to do so would be to surrender the reality-based approach to the world to the ideology-based one. Why do you have to insist that something is not “anti-capitalist, anti-corporate, anti-free-enterprise” when what you need to do is to remove those things from the position of untouchable sacred cows they have been elevated to? There is nothing inherently good to capitalism, corporations or free-enterprise; what matters is whether they work to provide the basic necessities to people without undermining our long-term capacity to do so. If they fail in that mission, then they should be on the chopping block.

  21. 1985

    19. Nullius in Verba Says:
    July 6th, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    But I’m in no doubt that such people do exist, and do have some explicitly anti-Capitalist, redistributive, “climate justice” sorts of authoritarian/totalitarian policy ideas – ahead even of any measures that would have any detectable effect on the climate.

    Completely missing the point once again.

    There isn’t anything explicitly anti-Capitalist or authoritarian/totalitarian about this. It is about what works, what doesn’t and what actually threatens the existence of the human species. It is a product of a scientific approach to the really big picture on a really long-term time frame (as strange as it seems, some people actually care about whether there will be humans on this planet 1000, 10000, 100000 years from now, and if they still exist and in what conditions they will be). Logic applied to facts very quickly leads to the conclusion that infinite-growth-based free-market capitalism is a totally moronic, outright suicidal thing once one thinks about things from that perspective. Then one becomes anti-capitalist in a certain sense but it is a consequence of all of the above, not the starting position

  22. Nullius in Verba

    #21,

    I didn’t say it was axiomatic. Since you bring it up, I’d say it was the result of basic misunderstandings of how economics and resources work – just as Communism was the logical consequence of basic misunderstandings about how economics, business, and trade worked.

    We care about the long time frame, too. We just disagree about what is needed to get there.

  23. 1985, presuming you are not actually a troll, you are a gift to your opponents.

    I think it is a tall enough order to excise the growth imperative from capitalism. “There is nothing inherently good to capitalism, corporations or free-enterprise; what matters is whether they work to provide the basic necessities to people without undermining our long-term capacity to do so.” seems to contradict itself. These things do work very well to provide basic necessities, far better than any alternative. What they fail to do is account for externalities. Indeed, externalizing costs is a dramatic win for an enterprise. That works beautifully in an underpopulated world and fails grotesquely in an overpopulated world. So we need to repair that flaw.

    If you’re flogging USSR style communism or Amish technophobia, there is also the point, in addition to the fact that the first doesn’t work and the second doesn’t scale, that nobody is buying.

    Also, the more radical a change is, the more likely it is to fail. You seem to me to have more than a little Robespierre in you.

    Finally, the fact is that the reason Horner raises the point in the way he does is that he wants someone like you as an enemy, because what you are selling has very little marketplace appeal, which is Chris’ point I think.

    Growth is baked into capitalism and into economic theory and into politics so deeply that removing it from the system will be very difficult. But I don’t see it as impossible by any means. In fact, it is inevitable; the main point is that the sooner we understand it the better we can manage it. We can still have most of what we enjoy now, and lots of new and wonderful things. But the way forward is forward. Progress remains the key to a progressive future.

    The system is in great need of refinement, but we’re in no position to be talking about its destruction.

  24. 1985

    22. Nullius in Verba Says:
    July 6th, 2011 at 2:08 pm
    #21,
    I didn’t say it was axiomatic. Since you bring it up, I’d say it was the result of basic misunderstandings of how economics and resources work – just as Communism was the logical consequence of basic misunderstandings about how economics, business, and trade worked.

    Next thing I expect to see you say is that Julian Simon was correct…

  25. M Burke

    “There isn’t anything explicitly anti-Capitalist or authoritarian/totalitarian about this…. Logic applied to facts very quickly leads to the conclusion that infinite-growth-based free-market capitalism is a totally moronic…”

    I thought you said it wasn’t explicitly anti-capitalist?

    Most people are by default greedy bastards, so play to the greed and quit the altruistic non-sense. You’re not going to change the world into a bunch of happy-go-luck greens with the sermons.

    But make a green light bulb that people want, sell it for the price of the energy inefficient one or only slightly more, and you’ll save the freaking planet. This isn’t that difficult. As long as you attempt to force crappy products on people by threatening them. The means by which these ideas are being expressed to the public is in the form of sin taxes, removal of choices, and increased government… of course they see a leftist conspiracy, because there is one! Now, before you freak out, the conspiracy isn’t intentional as Glenn Beck would have you think, but it’s none-the-less part of the left’s mindset to encourage seemingly anti-capitalistic policies for the greater good.

    I’d love a 50mpg car, but I’m not going to endanger my family, or my livelyhood owning one… you make one though that looks as good and drives as good as my 20 mpg car AND doesn’t require me to take it in the rear, metaphorically speaking, and we’re golden. Capitalism CAN save the planet.

  26. TTT

    This thread is an epic OWNGOAL. As an environmentalist I’m kind of ashamed.

    We had this wonderful example of how the tinfoil-hatters at Heartland Spinstitute really do not know anything about basic chemistry or physics, and think all that thar fancy booklearnin’ really is part of the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids. Extra bonus points for the highlighted arguments from Christopher Horner from CEI, the same crackpot fictionalist group that says CO2 can’t possibly be a pollutant because it exists in nature, and also that government regulations cause shark attacks.

    The lede of the story, plainly, is that Heartland–supposedly “thought-leaders” among the denier crowd–are monocausalist kooks who never learned anything after about 1971, except how to construct ever more astonishingly dishonest crackpipe fantasies about science.

    The lede of the story is NOT “hey, maybe they’re right, because if you front-load human carrying capacity discussions to the year INFINITY, we’ll have to get rid of capitalism or die, so why not start talking about it now? Yes, let’s accept their frame of how we should oppose capitalism after all!”

    Infinite growth is impossible, but that discussion is not as important as poking and mocking the freaks! OWNGOAL, guys. Owngoal.

  27. Brian D

    @M Burke #25:

    That only works in an idealized market system with no externalities. Carbon emissions (and most forms of “pollution”, defined here as waste products being dumped into a commons) are a pretty textbook case of an externality, as the cost of those emissions isn’t included in the price of energy used by either light bulb.

    Clearly, market failures exist – if “limits to growth” is too new and radical, consider the tragedy of the commons, which has been known about for years – and externalities (both positive and negative) are a matter of reality. There are consequences for ignoring these issues, global warming being the most obvious but not the only one. How do you propose we deal with them, given how letting the free market do it hasn’t seemed to solve things?

    Trying to give the market the signals it needs, but is unable to generate on its own, is not a “leftist conspiracy”, even an unintentional one. It’s a deviation from the ideologically pure laissez-faire free market. To suggest that these things are equivalent is to fall victim to the same Overton shift that has our host calling “recognizing limits to growth” a liberal fringe position.

  28. Chris Mooney

    @26 I agree about the Owngoal, and frankly, am so tired of it

  29. Nullius in Verba

    “if “limits to growth” is too new and radical, consider the tragedy of the commons, which has been known about for years”

    Tragedy of the commons isn’t due to a failure of free markets, but a lack of free markets. It was caused by giving a costly resource away for free – charitably justified on the basis that it enabled those without land to keep animals and so survive; you could even think of it as an early form of welfare. It was solved by taking the land into ownership and selling the grazing rights for a market price.

  30. DirkH

    Too amusing. Mooney says no, we’re not communists, and various warmists tell him he should put his growth where the sun don’t shine. Mooney, don’t you even know the dogmas of your own religion. Go get him boys. He’s befouling Gaia. ;-)

    Love warmists fightin’ each other.

  31. Chris Mooney

    @31 yes. i guess my side loses this round, thanks to this thread. depressing

  32. Brian D

    @Nullius in Verba #29:

    I suppose I could have been clearer, since the “classical” tragedy of the commons does take that form too – a king or similar giving land away under those precepts – but that’s not the only form it can take. In the case of the atmosphere, or the ocean, or similar things that are slightly more general than a shared pasture, no one owns it. The thought about having an existing owner “give” away something like this is arbitrary and appears to miss the point.

    If your solution is that we should claim it and make everyone pay for it, then I simply must ask: Who is claiming the atmosphere? Who should polluters (the analogues of those seeking grazing rights) pay? And how does your answer compare to what “the left” has proposed?

  33. 1985

    25. M Burke Says:
    July 6th, 2011 at 2:21 pm
    Most people are by default greedy bastards, so play to the greed and quit the altruistic non-sense. You’re not going to change the world into a bunch of happy-go-luck greens with the sermons.

    As strange as it may seem, some very basic evolutionary considerations will easily show anyone who has the sufficient background to understand them that the selfish and greedy thing to do in our situation is to cooperate and sacrifice, not to drive the species to extinction by keeping the foot on the pedal. Unfortunately, the people with the necessary background are very few and most of them haven’t really thought about it….

  34. 1985

    32. Chris Mooney Says:
    July 6th, 2011 at 4:19 pm
    @31 yes. i guess my side loses this round, thanks to this thread. depressing

    Once again, small victories of the kind you’re happy with make no difference in the grand scheme of things simply because the mismatch between what we have to be talking about and what we are talking about (or even what the limits of what can be discussed without the conversation being considered uncivil) is so huge.

    You say that such posts provide more ammunition for the denialists. So what? If those things are not understood by pretty much everyone, there is no hope for any meaningful change to happen on time. But how is this going to happen if we never have real discussion of the real issues because if we do, it may confirm someone’s paranoia? In that sense, and I again, I am sorry and very sad to say it, the difference between you and the denialists is smaller than the difference between you and the people who actually get it. If you do not understand that growth has to stop and be reversed immediately (and why), despite all your writings on the subject, you are actually in the same kind of denial that the people you write about are.

  35. 1985

    29. Nullius in Verba Says:
    July 6th, 2011 at 3:31 pm
    “if “limits to growth” is too new and radical, consider the tragedy of the commons, which has been known about for years”
    Tragedy of the commons isn’t due to a failure of free markets, but a lack of free markets. It was caused by giving a costly resource away for free – charitably justified on the basis that it enabled those without land to keep animals and so survive; you could even think of it as an early form of welfare. It was solved by taking the land into ownership and selling the grazing rights for a market price.

    The point of the paper is not to discuss what happened with the actual commons, it is to provide a metaphor for the global ecosystem, which is destined to be destroyed due that effect, whether the particular issue with commons in England was solved or not.

  36. 1985

    26. TTT Says:
    July 6th, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    The lede of the story is NOT “hey, maybe they’re right, because if you front-load human carrying capacity discussions to the year INFINITY, we’ll have to get rid of capitalism or die, so why not start talking about it now? Yes, let’s accept their frame of how we should oppose capitalism after all!”

    It is not about the “year INFINITY”, it is about this century. The moment to take the subject very seriously was 50 years ago.

  37. Nullius in Verba

    #32,

    There’s an easy answer to that – just tell us that you and the Deep Greens are not on the same side. Tell us, with details, why they’re wrong. Oppose them, the same way you do Republicans.

    It’s a simple fact that some campaigners for action on AGW are Deep Greens, but that doesn’t have to mean they stand for it – unless you let them.

    I found TTT’s comment very interesting: “Infinite growth is impossible, but that discussion is not as important as…”. That gives the impression that the Malthusian position is regarded as true, but you’re not supposed to mention it for political/rhetorical reasons. I tried to dig into this in the previous thread (one that frankly was even worse for your side), and suggested that a good approach for you would be, while acknowledging the existence of Deep Greens, to explain exactly why you rejected their argument – if indeed you did. That would make a pretty good counter to the Heartland line, distance yourself from a damaging vulnerability, and perhaps even reduce the alarm felt by right-wingers. Inability to do so may give (maybe unjustly) the impression that TTT and Heartland are right about what your position really is.

    Personally, I’m inclined to think (hope?) that they’re not, but I find the ‘mainstream’ Green position here a mystery. You need a consistent alternative position. Michael Tobis’s comment was helpful – you might want to think about exploring that a bit more, perhaps on another occasion.

    #33,

    I agree. Taking ownership of the atmosphere is not practical. However, the central point still stands – the problem is not to mitigate the shortcomings of free markets by regulation, but to find a way to introduce free markets in an area where they’re currently absent to solve a problem. There is usually more than one way of doing so, and you shouldn’t take the inapplicability of one method to mean there is no other way.

    Just as a simple example of the sort of thinking that might be involved – consider the possibility of a “climate change bond”. This is a financial instrument that pays out at a stated favourable interest rate if a certain amount of climate change does or does not occur; e.g. if the sea rises by more than 1 m. Anyone who thinks it’s not going to happen will be willing to sell, and anyone who doesn’t will be willing to buy. The market will then set a price based on its assessment of the probability, and money can be raised to pay for mitigation measures or insurance.

    It also acts as a motive for action – if we’ve sold you a bunch of bonds that mean we’re going to have to pay out hundreds of billions if the seas rise, and we decide later we might have been wrong, it will be worth some portion of that to us to find ways to prevent it.

    That’s not a complete answer, but it illustrates the way you need to think. Free markets are incredibly powerful, if you can find a way to apply them.

  38. PDA

    i guess my side loses this round, thanks to this thread.

    How do you figure? You have one guy saying DETH TO TEH CAPTLIZMZ and various people saying well, no, that’s actually simplistic and counterproductive. This is your idea of an own goal?

    If we lose unless every last random internet commenter is 100% in agreement on messaging, then I guess we will ALWAYS lose.

  39. 1985

    23. Michael Tobis Says:
    July 6th, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    Growth is baked into capitalism and into economic theory and into politics so deeply that removing it from the system will be very difficult. But I don’t see it as impossible by any means. In fact, it is inevitable; the main point is that the sooner we understand it the better we can manage it. We can still have most of what we enjoy now, and lots of new and wonderful things. But the way forward is forward. Progress remains the key to a progressive future.
    The system is in great need of refinement, but we’re in no position to be talking about its destruction.

    As many others, you apparently still take capitalism and economic theory for granted; sacred cows never to be touched or questioned. Same thing with the idea of the historical determinism behind the never-ending progress. Which comes from the deeply ingrained idea of human exceptionalism, which itself is directly rooted into religion. Another discussion Chris Mooney very much doesn’t like is the need to pretty much eradicate religion from our society and relegate it to its deserved places of utter insignificance; but that involves also getting rid of all the cultural baggage it has imposed on our society over the centuries, especially things like the idea that humans exist separate and above the rest of the environment and that they are special.

    Yes, we can still enjoy the things we have now. But not 7 billions of us, much less 10. And we can achieve great technological progress in the future. But there is no reason to be 100% certain it will happen or that it is even possible to do so. There are such things as laws of physics and thermodynamics after all, and they place certain restrictions on what can happen and what can not happen.

    The key thing is to understand that we are entirely dependent on the health of the planet’s ecosystems for our continued survival, that the state of a technological civilization that we exist in currently is itself entirely dependent on a large number of non-renewable resources that we neither have substitutes for, not can be certain we will ever find such; and that there is nothing special about us that will make sure nothing bad happens or we don’t go extinct.

    Those are the kind of things a truly sentient species would be expected to be thinking about in our situation. But we are so burdened with all sorts of cultural and ideological baggage and an inability to overcome it, that we are almost completely unable to do so.

  40. 1985

    38. Nullius in Verba Says:
    July 6th, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    Just as a simple example of the sort of thinking that might be involved – consider the possibility of a “climate change bond”. This is a financial instrument that pays out at a stated favourable interest rate is a certain amount of climate change does or does not occur; e.g. if the sea rises by more than 1 m. Anyone who thinks it’s not going to happen will be willing to sell, and anyone who does will be willing to buy. The market will then set a price based on its assessment of the probability, and money can be raised to pay for mitigation measures or insurance.
    It also acts as a motive for action – if we’ve sold you a bunch of bonds that mean we’re going to have to pay out hundreds of billions if the seas rise, and we decide later we might have been wrong, it will be worth some portion of that to us to find ways to prevent it.
    That’s not a complete answer, but it illustrates the way you need to think. Free markets are incredibly powerful, if you can find a way to apply them.

    I don’t want to be rude but the above ranks among the most stupid things I have ever seen written. Do you realize that at the point when sea level has risen by 1m, you will have committed to another few meters of sea level rise?

    It actually illustrates very well why markets don’t work and it is that markets are stupid. Markets do not see the long term, it is about the here and now; that actions here and now can have irreversible extremely negative consequences centuries from now is completely beyond their capacity to grasp. It is a matter of blind faith in the face of reality to deny it, but there is no shortage of that among the free market true believers (it is no surprise there is such a good correlation between the blind belief in the omnipotence of free markets and the equally blind belief in the Christian god)

  41. William T

    @32 – I think you can take heart that the 1985-types are actually quite the minority in the discussion, although very persistent in pushing their version without listening to any of the counter-arguments. Classic troll behavior. And quite likely who “they” are.

  42. Nullius in Verba

    “Do you realize that at the point when sea level has risen by 1m, you will have committed to another few meters of sea level rise?”

    Obviously. Why would you think I hadn’t?

    There’s likewise no point in doing anything about it after paying out. That’s too late. It’s what happens to the price before you get there where it gets interesting. Markets quite routinely handle very long-term issues like this – the bond’s dependence on the future directly connects the long term climate to the current price – they have no difficulty with the idea at all.

  43. Brian D

    @Nullius in Verba #38:

    ” the problem is not to mitigate the shortcomings of free markets by regulation, but to find a way to introduce free markets in an area where they’re currently absent to solve a problem. There is usually more than one way of doing so, and you shouldn’t take the inapplicability of one method to mean there is no other way.”
    And, by extension, the ideological opposition to one type of solution does not meant that there is no problem, nor does it mean that solution isn’t possible. For instance, if regulation can supply the market signals required for an otherwise free market to respond to a problem, it is a solution to that problem, and should not be rejected strictly on grounds of it being regulatory. It should be considered on its merits as a solution. (On a related note, if the data showed a regulated mostly-free market performs better than a completely free market in responding to threats before they would otherwise manifest a market signal (i.e. they have a lag time), why is the completely free market “better”? That decision would appear to be ideological rather than evidence-based. Note: This is a hypothetical question; I’m honestly curious what a free-marketer would suggest in light of such data.)

    Getting back to the main topic, determining something’s usefulness as a solution relies upon understanding the problem and the consequences of the solution (both of implementing and of not implementing it). Fundamentally this comes down to science more so than economics – if science indicates that we have an existential problem on our hands, and we have a choice between doing something we can’t afford to and surviving, or saving our money and perishing, I know which action I’d try. If, however, you reverse your weights, and put more emphasis on economics than science, then all you tend to see is “can afford / can’t afford”, and you become willing to gamble upon the science being wrong.

    The same consequences hold true if you place higher value on property rights than on data. Extreme hypothetical example: If 97% of the relevant experts all said that unrestricted guns would lead, and is leading, to the destruction of civilization, would you base your actions on the data, or the second amendment? Would your ideals trump the evidence, or vice versa?

    I noticed a while ago that the Heartland crowd seem to do both of the above. It’s a common trend in conservative think tanks (the most egregious example I know of is the Heritage Foundation’s “overcriminalized.com”, which claims that careless driving causing death is a lesser offense than software piracy). We also saw it just yesterday with Dr. Roy Spencer, who was a speaker at the very conference Chris was responding to.

    In fact, this is very much the same thing that our host seems to have missed in the main post: should we base our policy decisions off of evidence, or off of ideals? It’s ironic, since over the last little while, Chris has been doing some utterly spectacular reporting on that very question. Here, he succumbs to the Overton window shifting quite far to the right, such that anything that questions limitless growth is viewed as fringe ideology, just like climate denialism itself, so he writes it off as ideological… and just look at what that drove out of the woodwork.

  44. Johnny

    Resources are infinite. Nature’s solved the growth problem.

    Yes, resources are infinite. They’ll change, as some are depleted, others will be utilized. Humans have shown a propensity for finding ever denser sources of energy, from wood to charcoal to coal to oil to uranium. At the end of the day, we only change the state of matter, we don’t use it up. But all of this is irrelevant anyway, because nature’s solved the growth problem.

    Nature has solved the growth problem. Disease will kill us first. First comes the great war over resources and territory. Second comes the food and resource rationing. Third comes the diseases to thin the heard. The surviors lead the next great boom. Rinse, Populate, Repeat.

    Science and history teaches us that this is the way it always happens, wherever you are, whenever you are.

  45. Nullius in Verba

    “For instance, if regulation can supply the market signals required for an otherwise free market to respond to a problem, it is a solution to that problem, and should not be rejected strictly on grounds of it being regulatory.”

    The problem is in generating the right market signals. Free markets trade benefit for benefit, regulation trades a benefit but offers no benefit in return. This unbalances things. The usual result is that instead of solving the problem it creates a market in manipulating the regulatory system – lobbying for regulations to one’s advantage, creating corruption and smuggling to bypass the regulation. It’s usually a lot less efficient, with all sorts of horrible side-effects.

    “In fact, this is very much the same thing that our host seems to have missed in the main post: should we base our policy decisions off of evidence, or off of ideals?”

    I base my arguments for climate scepticism on the evidence – so as far as I’m concerned I agree entirely with your point.

    “…such that anything that questions limitless growth is viewed as fringe ideology…”

    The opponents of Malthusianism do not propose “limitless growth” in the sense you mean it here. It is limitless in a different sense. The problem is primarily one of misunderstanding exactly what it is they are proposing – the concepts are a bit counter-intuitive to someone brought up on the conventional narrative.

    For example, the economist Henry George said of Malthus’ theory: “Both the jayhawk and the man eat chickens; but the more jayhawks, the fewer chickens, while the more men, the more chickens.”

    Question: is the number of chickens infinite?

    In the sense of “without end”, you could argue the answer was “yes”. In the sense of having to use Hilbert’s Hotel to house them, the answer is obviously “no”.

    In more general terms, the anti-Malthusians claim that resources are continually made; that the ultimate and in many ways the only real resource is human ingenuity in finding ways of exploiting whatever is available to solve problems. We exploit one set of resources now, because they are currently available. We will switch to something else or find a different way of using them or extracting them as part of normal business long before their lack becomes a problem. Resources are infinite like the chickens are infinite. It’s easy to misunderstand.

  46. PDA

    “Resources are infinite” and “Nature’s solved the growth problem” are statements of belief, along with “markets don’t work. Arguing about beliefs is like shadow-boxing… if you are just amusing yourself or sharpening your skills it’s all well and good, but it’s not like there’s going to be any resolution. There are many devils in details: what resources? which markets?

    In a finite physical domain, in the long term limit, the growth rate of any physically extensive quantity approaches exactly zero,” on the other hand, seems more like a testable proposition.

    Which conversationis more interesting, and which is more productive? In the end, a lot depends on one’s reason for engaging the debate.

  47. TTT

    In more general terms, the anti-Malthusians claim that resources are continually made; that the ultimate and in many ways the only real resource is human ingenuity in finding ways of exploiting whatever is available to solve problems. We exploit one set of resources now, because they are currently available. We will switch to something else or find a different way of using them or extracting them as part of normal business long before their lack becomes a problem

    Fittingly for a thread about aspects and allegations of Marxism, the above is nothing but a utopian wish for the perfectability of man in a collectivist setting. Except unlike Marxism, I don’t think it could even work in theory.

  48. Nullius in Verba

    #49,

    The point is that that’s how things already work. That’s how we got to where we are now. It is a description of the last 500+ years of human history.

    Nobody has said anything about achieving perfection, and it operates through the free market, not collectivism. Is it that you read Marxism into anything that sounds good and optimistic?

    Marxism cannot work because it is based on errors in the understanding of how economics operates – primarily the zero-sum fallacy. This alternative has already shown that it can work. The argument – if there is one – is whether we have reached the peak of our technological problem-solving run. Have we exhausted our supplies of human ingenuity? I see no reason to think so.

  49. Rod Taylor

    Chris,

    Several years ago, Kevin Drum and many other liberals signed onto cap-and-trade BECAUSE and this was by their own admission, they thought a carbon tax would never be passed, but they ALSO thought the people, the Republicans, and Rush Limbaugh were too stupid to realize cap-and-trade was just another name for a tax. AND, Drum, et. al., thought they, the liberal elite were justified to pull this anti-democratic subterfuge off on the American citizen.

    And others pointed out the redistribution schemes of these taxes and the auctions, etc., and still, Drum, DeLong, and many others backed it till the end.

    And that Chris, is when I decided the science had very little to do with anything, whether you want it to or not, the actual science was irrelevant. What was more important was the politics. And it was a very anti-democratic strain of politics that us liberals were pushing.

  50. Chris Mooney

    @42 that was my point initially, but anyone looking at this thread is going to laugh and say that it proves the opposite of what i argued. and perception is reality in this case

    @52 I never said *no* money would be redistributed as a result of these policies, whether cap and trade, carbon tax, etc. Obviously, some will be. However, that does not make them socialist or communist policies–any more than the cap and trade system set up to deal with acid rain (by George H.W. Bush) was a socialist/communist initiative.

  51. 1985

    42. William T Says:
    July 6th, 2011 at 5:44 pm
    @32 – I think you can take heart that the 1985-types are actually quite the minority in the discussion, although very persistent in pushing their version without listening to any of the counter-arguments. Classic troll behavior. And quite likely who “they” are.

    We are very much aware of the counter arguments. The counter arguments are based on utter lack of understanding of the laws of physics and directly contradict them as a result. That’s why they are dismissed. Of course, because the fraction of people who understand the laws of physics is so small (because, you know, such things as education aren’t really needed at all if all you’re going to do all your life is to push buttons on a computer behind a desk in some office), they find very fertile ground, but that something exists because a sufficiently large concentration of ignorance is available to sustain it is not an argument in its favor.

  52. Chris Mooney

    I just thought everyone would like to see–or should see, whether they like it or not–how this thread looks to the other side, just in case it isn’t obvious

    http://www.climatedepot.com/a/11769/Update-Depressed-Warmist-Chris-Mooney-concedes-defeat-to-Skeptic-Chris-Horner-after-greens-affirm-Horners-claims

  53. Hollando

    1985 – you keep going on about ‘the laws of physics’ and limits to growth.

    The only real limit to growth is energy. Everything else can be manufactured.
    Given the shale gas revolution, sufficiently safe fission reactors, entirely safe thorium reactors and possibly fusion reactors are all happening or are close to realisation, where is the limit to growth?

  54. Chris Mooney

    And here’s Chris Horner:

    “they do a terrific job of ‘propagandizing’ for us”

    http://spectator.org/blog/2011/07/06/how-i-learned-to-stop-consider

    great work, folks.

  55. John Q. Galt

    Chris, you’ll be an Anarcho-capitalist by age forty.

    You and Mark Lynas should get together for a slice of pie and tea and just talk.

  56. 1985

    55. Hollando Says:
    July 7th, 2011 at 12:02 pm
    1985 – you keep going on about ‘the laws of physics’ and limits to growth.
    The only real limit to growth is energy. Everything else can be manufactured.
    Given the shale gas revolution, sufficiently safe fission reactors, entirely safe thorium reactors and possibly fusion reactors are all happening or are close to realisation, where is the limit to growth?

    1. To begin with, those are not happening (and the inclusion of shale gas there is simply laughable). What world are you living in?

    2. You need a lot more energy to extract all the minerals we need from ores with very low concentrations, to drive agriculture and to fix up all the environmental messes we have created than those could ever provide on a time scale that would make a difference. And you need more and more energy as the economy grows.

    3. Even if assumed that fusion could work, we are out of time – peak oil is here and now and it takes many decades to replace energy infrastructure on meaningful scales. Collapse would be irreversible long before that. Thorium could work, but you need to build many thousands of reactors all over the world to replace what’s lost from depletion of fossil fuels. And what you will get is electricity, not liquid fuels. You can’t drive planes and trucks and agricultural equipment on electricity

    4. Giving humans more energy will only accelerate global ecosystem collapse

  57. Johnny

    Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 14 November 2010

    “Climate policy has almost nothing to do anymore with environmental protection, says the German economist and IPCC official Ottmar Edenhofer. The next world climate summit in Cancun is actually an economy summit during which the distribution of the world’s resources will be negotiated. – Ottmar Edenhofer”

    For those who may not know, Ottmar Edenhofer is the co-chair of the IPCC Working Group III.

  58. DHM

    I think a bigger problem than how this thread ‘looks’ is that you failed to explain the quotes Horner used:
    ” Climate change policy is about how “we redistribute de facto the world’s wealth….” — IPCC official, Ottmar Edenhofer, lead author if WG3, “Green Jobs”

    “It is an economic restructuring bill for the global economy. We should not pretend that it isn’t.” – David Foster, Blue-Green Alliance spokesman

    “The slogan of ‘green jobs’ is the banner under which all of the pro-democracy forces can gather for the next big assaults.” Van Jones

    If these quotes and others like them by people who are definitely not fringe elements of ‘your’ side are taken out of context, it would be helpful to demonstrate that by sharing the context and explaining why those words are not saying what they appear to be saying.

    Did the founder of Earth First really say, ““We must make this an insecure and inhospitable place for capitalists and their projects…We must reclaim the roads and plowed land, hold dam construction, tear down existing dams, free shackled rivers and return to wildness millions of tens of millions of acres of presently settle land.””

    If he didn’t, I’d be happy to know that. If he did, but he meant something altogether different from what he saidh, I’d like to know that.

    There are, unfortunately for your position, many other examples similar to those above.

  59. PDA

    great work, folks.

    What do you mean, “folks?” You’ve got 1985 and William Furr versus everybody.

    Again, if it’s an own goal unless we have lockstep uniformity on internet comments, I guess we should all just give up now. I mean, seriously: the other side bets pissed when someone uses a random anonymous comment on a web page as evidence that – for example – the Tea Party is racist. Why are you hanging a “KICK ME” sign on your back for Morano and Horner?

  60. Gator

    “We are close to a time when all of humankind
    will envision a global agenda that encompasses
    a kind of Global Marshall Plan to address the
    causes of poverty and suffering and
    environmental destruction all over the earth.”
    - Al Gore,
    Earth in the Balance

    “If we don’t overthrow capitalism, we don’t have a chance of
    saving the world ecologically. I think it is possible to have
    an ecologically sound society under socialism.
    I don’t think it is possible under capitalism”
    - Judi Bari,
    principal organiser of Earth First!

    “We must make this an insecure and inhospitable place
    for capitalists and their projects. We must reclaim the roads and
    plowed land, halt dam construction, tear down existing dams,
    free shackled rivers and return to wilderness
    millions of acres of presently settled land.”
    - David Foreman,
    co-founder of Earth First!

  61. 1985

    61. DHM Says:
    July 7th, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    ………

    This post leads me directly back to the issue of questioning assumptions. Because most people have been brought up to firmly believe in the infallibility of the current socioeconomic system and have a typical best-of-all-possible-worlds view of it, they simply can not question that assumption. So when someone points out the gigantic problems with the current system, the reaction is a typical knee-jerk dismissal, with zero pause for thought about whether he may actually be correct or not.

    If free-market capitalism is driving us towards collective suicide, then a lot of what those people say (and a number of those quotes are taken out of context in classic creationist fashion so it is unlikely that they actually meant what the people quoting are trying to imply they meant) is not a sign of the existence of some evil conspiracy to enslave the world, but rather an accurate reflection of reality. The facts are that free-market capitalism is indeed driving us towards collective suicide. That means that free-market capitalism is not a good thing and it is not a bad thing to point this out, quite the opposite.

  62. Johnny

    @1985 #64

    You said:
    “The facts are that free-market capitalism is indeed driving us towards collective suicide. ”

    You’re close but not quite right. We’re being driven to murder not suicide.

    There is no suicide scenario, there is only a murder scenario. When resources become scarce, humans aren’t going to slowly die out. They’re going to murder their fellow humans, until their are enough resources to go around.

    War is the overpopulation solution.

  63. EEB

    The following comes directly from Section 4.3.3. of the IPCC Special Report on Emission Scenarios (SRES), entitled B1 Storyline and Scenario Family:

    …Economic development in B1 is balanced, and efforts to achieve equitable income distribution are effective. As in A1, the B1 storyline describes a fast-changing and convergent world, but the priorities differ. Whereas the A1 world invests its gains from increased productivity and know-how primarily in further economic growth, the B1 world invests a large part of its gains in improved efficiency of resource use (“dematerialization”), equity, social institutions, and environmental protection.

    A strong welfare net prevents social exclusion on the basis of poverty. However, counter-currents may develop and in some places people may not conform to the main social and environmental intentions of the mainstream in this scenario family. Massive income redistribution and presumably high taxation levels may adversely affect the economic efficiency and functioning of world markets. Particular effort is devoted to increases in resource efficiency to achieve the goals stated above.

    …Global income per capita in 2050 averages US$13,000, one-third lower than in A1. A higher proportion of this income is spent on services rather than on material goods, and on quality rather than quantity, because the emphasis on material goods is less and also resource prices are increased by environmental taxation.

    …Cities are compact and designed for public and non-motorized transport, with suburban developments tightly controlled. Strong incentives for low-input, low-impact agriculture, along with maintenance of large areas of wilderness, contribute to high food prices with much lower levels of meat consumption than those in A1.

    B1 is the emission scenario that will yield the lowest global mean temperature increases, according to the GCMs used by the IPCC. Chris and Mikey can whine about it all they like, but redistribution of wealth has ALWAYS been an integral part of the green vision. Just ask the IPCC.

  64. Mike Mangan

    @1985, We are no where near a free-market system anymore. The reason why Western nations are about to collapse is because of government taxation, government spending, government regulation, and crony capitalism. You Marxists have had your day. Your way leads to poverty and tyranny, every time.

    BTW, I’ve caught two completely unnecessary remarks by you denigrating religion. That would certainly make you the typical CAGW zealot in a comment thread. I like to point this out to Christians when ever I can. “They hate you because you believe in God. They think you’re stupid because you believe in God.” Brilliant tactic in a country where 92% of people believe in God. But then again, people like you aren’t concerned with actually getting anything accomplished. It’s enough in your life that you feel you’re the smartest and most righteous in a comment thread.

  65. http://www.globalproblematique.net/definitions/Catton%2098.htm

    “Overshooting Carrying Capacity
    Drawing down resources from the future
    … (1) Food is not the only component of “sustenance” for modern human living; industrialized human societies rely on continuing flows of many other resources, and a cessation of supply of any essential commodity can be devastating. (2) By drawing down “savings accounts” (i.e., using resources faster than their rates of renewal), populations can (and do) temporarily exceed carrying capacity. When the stockpile runs out, the once-thriving population finds itself in dire straits. …”

  66. Eric the Leaf

    Excellent article, Mr. Roberts. Among several possibilities, I would select William Catton, Marvin Harris, and Albert Bartlett for required reading in human ecology. How quickly the subject ramifies.

  67. Hollando

    @1985

    Shale Gas is here, provides a cleaner and reduced CO2 source of energy to last at least 100 years. In this time-scale, all the others are realistic expectations. No limit to growth in this scenario.

    Assuming the catastrophic predictions are correct, and I don’t have any strong opinion by the way, the only option is short term adaptation, followed by mitigation, and then restoration.

    Pragmatism is the only way forward.

  68. 1985

    67. Mike Mangan Says:
    July 7th, 2011 at 4:29 pm
    @1985, We are no where near a free-market system anymore. The reason why Western nations are about to collapse is because of government taxation, government spending, government regulation, and crony capitalism. You Marxists have had your day. Your way leads to poverty and tyranny, every time.
    BTW, I’ve caught two completely unnecessary remarks by you denigrating religion. That would certainly make you the typical CAGW zealot in a comment thread. I like to point this out to Christians when ever I can. “They hate you because you believe in God. They think you’re stupid because you believe in God.” Brilliant tactic in a country where 92% of people believe in God. But then again, people like you aren’t concerned with actually getting anything accomplished. It’s enough in your life that you feel you’re the smartest and most righteous in a comment thread.

    Religion is not at all off-topic here, it plays a very big role in the origins of the sustainability crisis. On a fundamental level, the discussion is actually about the place of humans in the cosmological order. We have the scientific knowledge to understand that there is nothing special about humans, that the same laws of physics and ecological principles that apply to all other species apply to us, and that we do in fact have to be concerned about our long-term survival on this planet. Religion imposes a worldview that is the complete opposite of that understanding. And that’s why we are in this situation right now.

    There is actually no way to separate the eradication of religion from the establishment of a truly long-term sustainable society. Few people are able to understand it but this doesn’t make it any less true.

    I don’t hate Christians. But yes, they’re stupid, and their stupidity is wrecking up the planet. That’s something to be mad about, don’t you think?

  69. DHM

    You see, I am perfectly willing to accept that 1985 and his friend here are ‘fringe’ elements, not representative.
    But Christopher Horner neither quoted them nor referred to them, did he? It seems rather mendacious to use their lack of standing in the green community as an indictment against Horner under the circumstances.

    He quoted neither of these two. He did, however, quote from a number of people who are rather more well known as spokespeople for the environmentalist/greeny side, widely considered representative. I understand why Mooney et al would rather focus on the two people embarrassing him here and ignore the quotes Horner actually referenced. But by doing so, he is the one making Horner’s argument for him, not the commenters.

    If Mooney cannot argue with conviction that the IPCC, Van Jones, Al Gore, the founder of Earth First et al are either equally nonrepresentational or taken out of context in a way that completely alters their intended meaning, well, then he needs to admit he’s mistaken, doesn’t he? Because based on those and similar quotes from the movers and shakers (not anonymous commenters), it sure looks like Van Jones, writers for the IPCC, the founders of Earth First, and numerous others of their standing are absolutely driven by their socialist or communist politics.

  70. DHM

    64: a number of those quotes are taken out of context in classic creationist fashion so it is unlikely that they actually meant what the people quoting are trying to imply they meant)

    It’s interesting that you ignored this:
    “If these quotes and others like them by people who are definitely not fringe elements of ‘your’ side are taken out of context, it would be helpful to demonstrate that by sharing the context and explaining why those words are not saying what they appear to be saying.

    …, I’d be happy to know that. If he did, but he meant something altogether different from what he saidh, I’d like to know that.”

    If they are taken out of context, you need to offer more evidence of that than your say-so. Show me the context, I’m open to discovering that the quotes are not as they seem. But when Mooney prefers to focus on your comments rather than those quoted from Al Gore or the IPCC, well, that gives a certain impression which it seems he’d like to blame on you.

    And this is nonsense:
    ” is not a sign of the existence of some evil conspiracy to enslave the world, but rather an accurate reflection of reality.”

    Because so far as I know, nobody has claimed ‘evil conspiracy’ (well, except ‘your’ side, so sure everybody who disagrees with you gets paid by the evil conspiratorial forces of Big Oil).
    A number of communists and socialists can seize the ‘green’ movement for ends of their own without there needing to be a conspiracy.

  71. 1985

    68. Hank Roberts Says:
    July 7th, 2011 at 5:18 pm
    http://www.globalproblematique.net/definitions/Catton%2098.htm

    It’s an excellent article indeed.

    The ironic thing is that it is almost certain that a good number of people seeing the influence that Malthus had on Darwin stated so clearly will take it as a evidence against evolution…

  72. Rod Taylor

    Chris, that’s not the “other side”, that is coming from fellow citizens of the world who disagree with you on some, but probably not many issues.

    Your wording indicates a likely flawed Weltanschauung.

    Instead of condemning these humans as the other side, as denialists, why not sit down for a beer with them, and listen to what they have to say?

    When they point out time after time the statements of cagw proponents who state their motives, why not consider what is right about their statements, instead of only looking to find what is wrong?

    Here’s a YouTube video: George Carlin on the American Dream

  73. Graeme

    It’s been nearly 200 years since Malthus wrote An Essay on the Principle of Population, published from 1798 to 1826. And in that time we have seen the food supply keep pace with population which refutes his basic premise that populations increase exponetially while the ability to produce food would grow aritmetically.

    Also it is clear that the developed world populations are in decline with below replacement rate population growth. The developing world will also mount the “S” curve and enter the same pattern as their populations develop economically and age.

    The human population will naturally peak this century and then decline and stabilise at a level most likely less than 10 billion as society moves from a high birth rate/high death rate model to a low birth rate/low death rate model with an older average age.

    The proponents of the hard limits to growth (which I used to believe) need to realise that the argument is more nuanced than they have been playing it.

  74. PDA

    I appreciate Rod’s sentiments.

    I look forward to his reflections about what is right about the statements of “cagw proponents,” since only looking to find what is wrong would indicate a likely flawed Weltanschauung.

  75. Hierge

    #54. Mr. Mooney, your exasperation with Climate Depot and how it portrays you is evident. This is, in fact, how I found out who you are and the importance of this discussion where you are otherwise engaged.

    I have been told point blank in a social setting by senior officials from the Clinton White House back in the 90′s who were subordinates of the VP that the political goals of the environmental movement override all else.

    I am a former industrial lobbiest with a strong belief in practical environmentalism and sustainable development from a pro-capitalist “good business practice” standpoint.

    I asked this very senior official and VPOTUS acolyte why it was necessary to keep repeating the tired and obviously dated rhetoric about how the term manufacturer is synonymous with “polluter” etc. My point being that I was on “their side” and this rhetoric was making it difficult for me to gain support from people they needed.

    The Clinton Administration WANTED manufacturing companies to join their sustainable development efforts and for good reasons. It simply made sense.

    My company sponsored a major display on the mall for Earth Day espousing the benefits of the ISO 14001 Environmental Management System. One of the protesters to my company’s display walked up and we had a very interesting discussion.

    Briefly, I was told that our company was “awesome” and “was doing the exact right thing” implementing an EMS system, but that was all off the record. If this leader of a major environmental group was ever heard saying any of these things in public it would be a disaster for fundraising.

    That’s what it’s all about. I bailed out of all of this soon after. The Clinton Administration ended with a fizzle and so ended one of the best things that ever happened for real environmentalists. Sustainable Development had a good name back then. The allure of pure central world government power fixed all that.

    I and my close friends who were doing the right thing back then didn’t really matter one iota in the bigger picture. The acolyte of VPOTUS was right. We were just a joke to her and the entire power mad environmental alarmist industry.

    Only now have I begun to understand how naive I was at the time. This is a very sad story and cautious tale for anyone who endeavors to involve themselves earnestly with these people. Mr. Mooney, please take note of my experience and begin the process of distancing yourself. I can look myself in the mirror every morning these days.

    This is a true story.

  76. Graeme

    @1985.

    Humans have a basic psychological need for a religious framework of meaning. If religion is discarded, something else must fill the void.

    The problem arises when you elevate disciplines like physics into Religion and Politics, as you appear to do. This mangles physics, and leaves you still empty of meaning at the end of the day.

    Historically – everyone who has claimed to have a scientific basis for human organisation has done nothing but create a vile dystopia of human suffering that has either collapsed under it’s own weight or been destroyed by it’s neighbours.

    What you need to understand and accept is that humans are inherently irrational and are therefore best suited to systems that do not attempt rational control.

    The solution to the “limits of growth” is human liberty and human dignity. With these elements in play people will solve the problems that they need to solve and will solve the problems that need to be solved collectively through voluntary association – and entirely without central planning.

    The logical outcome of your position is death camps, mass sterilisation and a thugocracy to enforce it.

    And all because you are “Certain” that you are right. Might I suggest acquainting yourself with the meaning of the words Hubris, and Humility.

  77. Graeme

    68. Hank Roberts Says:
    July 7th, 2011 at 5:18 pm
    http://www.globalproblematique.net/definitions/Catton%2098.htm

    “Overshooting Carrying Capacity
    Drawing down resources from the future
    … (1) Food is not the only component of “sustenance” for modern human living; industrialized human societies rely on continuing flows of many other resources, and a cessation of supply of any essential commodity can be devastating. (2) By drawing down “savings accounts” (i.e., using resources faster than their rates of renewal), populations can (and do) temporarily exceed carrying capacity. When the stockpile runs out, the once-thriving population finds itself in dire straits. …”

    I used to believe as you did – until I found out that the definition of what is an essential commodity is subject to change caused by technical innovation. For example in 1900, the essential commodity in New York was “Hay” to feed the 200,000 horses used in that city, of course hay ceased to be an issue once the automobile took over… For another example, at the same time (1900) – who could have predicted that France would be sourcing 80% of it’s electrical power from an undiscovered fuel source (Nuclear, Uranium).

    The master resource is human ingenuity – what is required is human liberty to use it.

  78. Susan Anderson

    I found myself hoping that the current Murdoch meltdown might be one of those surprising signs that indicate a change of perception. While I don’t believe for a moment the closing of a popular news sources is anything but cosmetic, there is a slight whiff of honesty penetrating the muck somewhere.

    CFact (“required reading”) is thoroughly discredited Lord Christopher Monckton’s delusional sourcebook. I’d check the BBC which has a more honest summary of the case, as that link distorts and misquotes the judge for starters. Lord Monckton is famous for his dubious relationship with his sources, claiming authority without permission and changing content as he wishes without regard to the truth.

    I am saddened to see Chris Mooney who knows full well the scientific reality being drawn into a contest between reality and politics. The reality is, well, real, and politics are just as real in that they control our ability to deal with reality, but create a tug of war that will break us all. Those he is angry at are on his side, as far as I can see, just using strong words. Anyone following this debate over time would have some difficulty restraining themselves from stating plain facts in straightforward terms. This may not be politic, but more straight talk is needed. I don’t see that not stating the physical truth about our planet is any more helpful than stating it. The fake skeptics win either way.

    What people are missing is that science is describing reality, and reality is confirming that science has done so correctly. Worldwide news over time is making the situation all too obvious.

    I see a lot of repeat lecturers as affected with what I have come to think of as a case of Martin Luther:

    “Here I stand, I can do no other.”

    I admire them, and think reality still remains the most important part of the discussion. Obama has shown us that trying to find a way to talk simply leads to repeated moving of goalposts. Weregild is weregild.

    However, we are all using the internet, which uses an increasing amount of energy and provides an increasing amount of distraction. As long as we regard this as a right rather than a privilege, we are complicit in the problem. Surely “The Social Network” might make people wary of Facebook, but acting on principle seems to have a case of tunnel vision. We all use credit cards, cell phones, banks, etc. We are not eager to return to an era without hot and cold running water. If we mention that these things are at risk if we assume exploitation is an endless privilege, we are accused of communism, and even the Mooneys and Revkins of this world take umbrage because we are fouling our nest. Sadly, we are all going to have to face reality at some point, but the longer we postpone it the more we will lose.

  79. 1985

    73. Graeme Says:
    July 7th, 2011 at 9:30 pm
    The human population will naturally peak this century and then decline and stabilise at a level most likely less than 10 billion as society moves from a high birth rate/high death rate model to a low birth rate/low death rate model with an older average age.

    If 7 billion is unsustainable at current levels of consumption, how exactly do you think 9 billion would be sustainable at much higher levels of consumption?

    The assumption behind the projections is that the Third world will get rich and birth rates will fall as a result (which is based on a fallacious assumption that rich people have fewer kids simply because they’re rich; in fact they don’t, in most cases they have few kids because they can’t afford to have more). The Third world is never going to get rich because the resources necessary for that simply don’t exist. The First world will get much poorer, if anything. So there go all the projections. Add to that all the cultural factors that will prevent fertility from falling no matter how rich people from certain cultures get.

    But all of that doesn’t really matter, because as I already said, we are already in overshoot, so to argue whether we will peak at 9, 10 or whatever number is pure insanity – we should be arguing how to get under a billion in an organized way before forces beyond our control bring us below that number.

  80. 1985

    76. Graeme Says:
    July 8th, 2011 at 12:46 am

    I used to believe as you did – until I found out that the definition of what is an essential commodity is subject to change caused by technical innovation. For example in 1900, the essential commodity in New York was “Hay” to feed the 200,000 horses used in that city, of course hay ceased to be an issue once the automobile took over… For another example, at the same time (1900) – who could have predicted that France would be sourcing 80% of it’s electrical power from an undiscovered fuel source (Nuclear, Uranium).

    Because of course substitutes exist for everything…

    The master resource is human ingenuity – what is required is human liberty to use it.

    Human ingenuity can not beat the laws of physics. If something is impossible, then it isn’t going to happen, simple as that

  81. 1985

    75. Graeme Says:
    July 8th, 2011 at 12:41 am
    @1985.
    Humans have a basic psychological need for a religious framework of meaning. If religion is discarded, something else must fill the void.
    The problem arises when you elevate disciplines like physics into Religion and Politics, as you appear to do. This mangles physics, and leaves you still empty of meaning at the end of the day.
    Historically – everyone who has claimed to have a scientific basis for human organisation has done nothing but create a vile dystopia of human suffering that has either collapsed under it’s own weight or been destroyed by it’s neighbours.
    What you need to understand and accept is that humans are inherently irrational and are therefore best suited to systems that do not attempt rational control.
    The solution to the “limits of growth” is human liberty and human dignity. With these elements in play people will solve the problems that they need to solve and will solve the problems that need to be solved collectively through voluntary association – and entirely without central planning.
    The logical outcome of your position is death camps, mass sterilisation and a thugocracy to enforce it.

    You haven’t understood a single word of what I’ve posted so far in this thread

  82. It looks as if Mr. Mooney and Dr. Tobis are horrified (shocked!) to view in the morning light, those with whom they bedded down at last evening’s close.

    The faux horror is of the fainting-Southern-belle variety. (Ever notice how the belle manages to keep her feet and avoid cracking her head? It’s mostly by staging her “collapse” when a strong shoulder is nearby.)

    Get used to it, Chris and Michael. Lots of upper brass, including the inventor of the IPCC, a certain Maurice Strong, have been pretty open about their intent, for many years now. Communists and Socialists around the world, following the actual collapse (as opposed to the Southern-belle variety of collapse) of the Soviet Unior, re-formed as Green parties. The same folks who want to de-industrialize today, wanted to do the same way back when. The Global Warming message is just another tool, another means to a commonly-lauded end.

  83. TTT

    Am I *REALLY* seeing multiple references to “the founder of Earth First!” in this thread, as though it would have any bearing on what anybody here, or anybody in the modern environmental movement, could possibly believe or talk about?

    Because first of all, that’s stupidly dated, and reminds me of the aged wingnuts who continue to see Saul Alinsky and Bella Abzug as the real driving powers behind the 21st century Democratic party. I don’t think EF even exists anymore as an organized movement. Even back in the ’80s it was an outrageous fringe with no institutional friends or power–compare that to the political and pundit caste of conservatism actually giving credence to CEI and their wackaloon fables about how carbon dioxide cannot be a pollutant because it’s natural (you know, like uranium and arsenic and feces).

    Second of all, if you want to cite groups of EF’s caliber, I can pull out the right-wing anti-environmentalist Sahara Club, or People for the West, or Putting People First–organizations I’m sure none of you Johnny-Come-Latelies have ever heard of–who in their day explicitly called for, condoned, and even strategized how to commit vandalism, harassment, and assault and battery against environmentalists. It would never have struck me as necessary to try to smear the Competitive Enterprise Institute through some tenuous link to a 1980s-vintage thug ring that compared best practice on how to slash peoples’ tires, poison their dogs, or lurk outside their houses with pepper spray, because (a) that would be ridiculously dated, and (b) CEI’s barefaced denial of basic atmospheric chemistry and nutrient cycles marks them as stupid enough to fit my purposes already. But if you guys really want to go there, then, okay sure, CEI is now morally culpable for the crimes endorsed and committed by the Sahara Club. Now, run off to Google to figure out the history behind a SECRET OVERLORD group from the same era and with the same degree of influence that Earth First ever had.

    There’s a well-known saying: “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean everybody ISN’T out to get you.” Its obvious corollary perfectly applies to the eco-denialist hivemind who are now invading this thread and trying to bury it under their me-toos: “Just because you found one person who seems ‘out to get you’ doesn’t mean you AREN’T a paranoid crank.”

    Their side has committed an OWNGOAL even more extreme than what 1985 did for the environmentalists here, because yet again as happens every single time they use their dislike of personalities and policy suggestions as a creationist-style eraser against basic and incontrovertible facts of atmospheric chemistry. They always knew CO2 wasn’t a greenhouse gas because Al Gore was fat; now they know CO2 also isn’t a greenhouse gas because OrcSlayer316 on some discussion board doesn’t like capitalism. I wonder why they bothered supporting Ronald Reagan, when clearly he was not needed as in fact the launch capabilities of Soviet nuclear missiles had long since been deactivated due to the thoughtcrimes of a Vassar campus hippie in 1973.

    So thanks to their OWNGOAL, the “score” is still 0-0.

    Which unfortunately means they still win, though I’m sure none of them actually grasp why.

    CEI, Climate Depot, Morano, Soon, Watts et al, are on the side of unenlightened self-interest, apathy, and short-term decision-making. And those forces are pretty plainly going to win on this issue, just because the status-quo will be easier and more comfortable for enough people than anti-AGW remedy methods would be. So their histrionics about hockeysticks and HARRY-READ-ME, in each of which case they are actually documentarily wrong on the science of it, are quite unnecessary.

    They are a troupe of mimes and juggling clowns marching down a hill to distract local villagers from an unstoppable avalanche. They don’t need to bother, and they don’t know–and probably will never know–how frivolous and redundant all of their efforts really were.

  84. Johnny

    @1985

    You said:
    Human ingenuity can not beat the laws of physics. If something is impossible, then it isn’t going to happen, simple as that

    Humans can’t fly. Too heavy, no wings. Yet humans can fly, in airplanes.

    Physically impossible solved by human ingenuity. It’s been happening since the dawn of our species.

  85. Susan Anderson

    TTT: while a lot of what you say makes more sense than most, I find only one reference each to the two founders of Earth First! which means when you get riled you too can overstate. As far as I can see the poster was using that as “proof” that environmentalists aren’t really interested in the environment, but in communism and world domination. If we are to try to get rid of “own goal” thinking, we must remember that the only people we can really change are ourselves and attempt to be more inclusive.

    Johnny: Airplanes are possible, as you say. But physics describes a natural reality that includes are making long-term changes to our atmosphere, and those very planes are part of the problem. That’s the incontrovertible part. It’s easy to focus on the detail and find fault with it, but the overall picture remains the same. The more we think we can travel to Mars, the less hospitable we are making our own planet. For heavens sake, why not fix/replace/improve the relatively inexpensive and practical observational earth satellites and stop spending trillions on difficult space travel! If you’ve followed the careers of astronauts, you might know that a few months in space affects, for example, bone density. Not a practical course, more energy-burning technology. Another example: mo’ biggah bettah fireworks. Once we start to count the consequences instead of boosting our pleasures and egos, we might make some progress.

  86. 1985

    86. Johnny Says:
    July 8th, 2011 at 11:19 am
    @1985
    You said:
    Human ingenuity can not beat the laws of physics. If something is impossible, then it isn’t going to happen, simple as that
    Humans can’t fly. Too heavy, no wings. Yet humans can fly, in airplanes.
    Physically impossible solved by human ingenuity. It’s been happening since the dawn of our species.

    Glaring logical error. Humans still can’t fly, airplanes do. The laws of physics still dictate that humans can’t fly and humans still haven’t found a way around that. No surprise.

    No surprise that nobody has invented a perpetual motion machine yet either, despite the need for one.

  87. EEB

    @88

    “But physics describes a natural reality that includes are making long-term changes to our atmosphere, and those very planes are part of the problem. That’s the incontrovertible part.”

    Admittedly, that’s a very good point. So we can fly; big deal. What do we have to show for it, other than more pollution? I mean, hell, it’s not like anyone has ever accomplished anything with an airpl…hey, wait a minute…

  88. EEB

    @89

    “The laws of physics still dictate that humans can’t fly and humans still haven’t found a way around that.”

    Except for…well…you know…planes.

  89. Mike Mangan

    @1985…I see you don’t disagree with my main point. Oh, it may be the greatest threat mankind has ever faced and all that but you wouldn’t actually DO anything about it now, would you? A motivated, angry adult might get off his duff and participate in the political process. After all, we operate in a democratic republic and the path to power is through the ballot box and the soap box. An adult would attend meetings of like-minded individuals, find the proper candidates to support who would most closely match our views and vote accordingly. An adult would give up his spare time and knock on doors and hand out literature and man a phone bank and put up signs and bumper stickers and, most importantly, cough up cash to make sure the right people are sent to Washington.

    That’s what I did and people like you were my motivation. Now I have a congressman that will never, ever vote for “climate change” legislation. And he isn’t even a member of the Tea Party Caucus, 60 more congressmen who will never, ever vote for any “climate change” legislation. And mark my words that will soon be an entire political party who will never, ever vote for “climate change” legislation.

    People like you are no threat, really, despite the repulsiveness of your “ideals.” You’re happy to just be poseurs, arrogant but impotent in the end.

  90. Marcus

    Hi 1985,

    you seem to have a somewhat strange understanding of the reach of the Laws of Physics. Physics deals with models of reality. These models only rarely are called laws, most have the status of mere theories. Granted, some of these models or theories are so simple and have been empirically successfully verified so often, that they indeed deserve to be called laws (e.g. the law of gravitation), but this does not mean that all physical models have reached that level of maturity.

    All physical models dealing with lots of nonlinearly interacting entities are but very rough approximations of reality. As any engineer knows, models of such chaotic systems have extremely limited predictive power.

    To anybody who actually solves practical problems using physical models, your certainty regarding the outcome of the application of such models to predict the future of humanity (and the whole planet!) verges on the comical. The intensity of your belief in the predictive power of physical models is on a religious level. My bet at this point would be that you do not have a background in ‘Hard’ Science.

    Relax, man! Human ingenuity will find cool and as yet utterly unpredictable ways to handle the known and unknown challenges ahead of us.

    With best regards,

    Marcus

  91. 1985

    92. Mike Mangan Says:
    July 8th, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    ….

    What you just posted would be in the famous-last-words / Darwin-award-worthy category. But it isn’t because there is one big difference – such colossal stupidity is not simply suicidal, it is a death sentence to everyone else too.

    There is one thing you are right about though – the morons will vote, the people who get it will not. But that’s not because the people who get it are happy to be “arrogant but impotent”, it is because they realize very well that they are so vastly outnumbered that democracy is no way to change anything. That’s the fatal flaw of democracy – if the majority consists of semi-literate, completely ignorant about the world individuals under the spell of bronze age delusions that push them towards collectively suicidal behavior, it is a nice collectively suicidal idiocracy you’re going to get. Democracy is a very nice thing but you need a minimal level of human development for it work, a level that does not exist anywhere in the world at present.

    The other thing that the people who get it understand and most other people do not is that this kind of behavior is a direct result of the biological nature of human beings. As with any other living organism, humans aim at maximizing the number of copies of their genome in the next generation. In the same time, it happens that social status is the key to reproductive success in human populations, and social status for humans is typically measured in material possessions (because those improve the chances of survival and reproduction of your progeny). So humans naturally will multiply as much as they can and consume as much resources as they can lay their hands on. And it is very hard to overcome that behavioral pattern because you need to both consciously understand that if the human species goes extinct as a result of our drastic overshoot all of us lose the evolutionary race and to be able to suppress you subconscious impulses that push you in the other direction. But to understand the former point, you need to have basic understanding of evolutionary biology, be ecologically and scientifically literate, etc. When most people in the world can barely read, most of them believe in some variation of the bearded-man-in-the-sky theme and reject the fact of evolution, let alone understand the theory of it, then there is absolutely no hope of any meaningful change ever happening through a democratic process.

    For the record, you can be as happy as you want about blocking “climate change legislation”. On its own it makes no difference, it is so far from what actually needs to be done that it is hard to even begin describing the disparity. But I’m not going to do it here because it is totally pointless

  92. 1985

    93. Marcus Says:
    July 8th, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    To anybody who actually solves practical problems using physical models, your certainty regarding the outcome of the application of such models to predict the future of humanity (and the whole planet!) verges on the comical. The intensity of your belief in the predictive power of physical models is on a religious level. My bet at this point would be that you do not have a background in ‘Hard’ Science.

    1. I do have a background in the hard sciences

    2. I am not talking about any “mere predictive models”, I am talking about the second law of thermodynamics

  93. DirkH

    Hey Boys lighten up! You have WON!

    The UN is now officially advocating energy rationing. Growth is thereby officially dead, criminal, and an imposed minimum standard of living is the new Green! Hoozzaah! Light a candle! (if you still have energy rations left)

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/jamesdelingpole/100095817/un-reveals-its-master-plan-for-destruction-of-global-economy/

  94. Susan Anderson

    Nobody’s winning here. Those voting to deny the way the planet works are bent on taking the rest of us down with them on principle. No amount of planetary evidence will dent this declaration of faith. I still beg, however, that you pay attention to the world’s evidence. Get off your computer and check world weather over time and space. What you find out might shock you, but it will be salutary.

    No amount of big industry-funded propaganda, Koch Brothers money, or government corruption will change the chaos that is daily trying to break down internet-entertained ignorance of the consequences of an expanding consumption model.

    FWIW, while I don’t see anything wrong with what 1985 says, I’m for Michael Tobis, who is actually working to create a path to ordinary people’s survival as things heat up (no apology, they are, though some of you live in the cool patch of middle north America, you are the exception, and your problems are also symptomatic of a disrupted climate system). The serial deniers and fake skeptics and their dupes above are not doing anything but making noise and preventing progress. And it appears that the hardworking owner of this blog has had enough. I sure do hope he will return to finding an effective way to communicate instead of joining the circular firing squad and allowing the profit party to dictate reality.

  95. Susan Anderson

    By profit party, I mean the guys who are hoarding their wealth and paying themselves extraordinary salaries. It is shocking that poor people are blaming those who are trying to provide some restraint in this shameful winner-take-all game for their troubles, rather than those who are trying to help.

  96. Susan Anderson

    Christians need only return to the teachings of the 4 gospels and read the Sermon on the Mount. If there ever was a communist, it was Jesus. He certainly would be regarded as a terrorist.

    Most of the world’s religion have at their core a deeply compassionate vision, and a recommendation that people listen instead of pushing their self-image onto others. Pride remains the primary sin. While I am ambivalent, the primary sin of the institutional church is to give personal opinions the imprimator of god’s voice, which they lack more certainly that more caring voices.

  97. EEB

    @94

    “…it is so far from what actually needs to be done that it is hard to even begin describing the disparity. But I’m not going to do it here because it is totally pointless[.]“

    I disagree. I, for one, would find your assessment of what needs to be done absolutely fascinating. Yeah, it will probably crack me up…but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fascinating, as well.

  98. Now Eli, Eli is not in anyone’s camp here. The real question is what do you mean by growth. Do you mean only total GDP? Does it make a difference if economic prosperity is well distributed or the top couple of percent cream off most of it

    Clearly at a certain level of well being fertility rates go down below replacement. Further, while there is a loose correlation between well being and energy use, there is a saturation point at which efficiency can take over from brute SUVism given any reasonable policy.

    The Rabett has put up a post showing this. Median GDP appears to determine total fertility, total fertility determines population with a time lag of ~50 years.

  99. Marcus

    Hi 1985,

    95. 1985 says: 2. I am not talking about any “mere predictive models”, I am talking about the second law of thermodynamics.

    This actually is an excellent example of what I mean. Taking a naive view of the applicability and range of a law like the second law of thermodynamics, you’ll be irrevocably forced to conclude that life is actually impossible. Any living creature seems to have lower entropy than it’s surroundings. This is clearly impossible. End of discussion! Yet here we are, alive creatures discussing this very principle!

    You seem to forget that in complex systems with emergent properties the underlying laws/models are no longer the dominant factors. Although the micro level causes the emergent property at the macro level, it is actually the macro level that controls the physical ensemble. One of the simplest examples of such a system is a boiling pot of water on a stove: Each water molecule is just chaotically and unpredictably bumping around. Once convection sets in, the molecules start to move in (more or less) predictable elliptic paths within the pot. Nothing has changed on the micro level, the molecules are still just bumping around. Still, we have causality inversion. The macro level dominates the micro level.

    It is this principle that makes me think your view that the second law of thermodynamics enables you to make a definitive prediction of the evolution of society and the planet is completely disregarding everything we know about the properties of complex physical/chemical/biological/societal systems.

    With best regards,

    Marcus

  100. 1985

    102. Marcus Says:
    July 9th, 2011 at 5:01 am
    Hi 1985,
    95. 1985 says: 2. I am not talking about any “mere predictive models”, I am talking about the second law of thermodynamics.
    This actually is an excellent example of what I mean. Taking a naive view of the applicability and range of a law like the second law of thermodynamics, you’ll be irrevocably forced to conclude that life is actually impossible. Any living creature seems to have lower entropy than it’s surroundings. This is clearly impossible. End of discussion! Yet here we are, alive creatures discussing this very principle!

    Do you seriously mean the above or it is intended as some sort of a parody?

  101. 1985

    99. Susan Anderson Says:
    July 8th, 2011 at 8:08 pm
    Christians need only return to the teachings of the 4 gospels and read the Sermon on the Mount. If there ever was a communist, it was Jesus. He certainly would be regarded as a terrorist.
    Most of the world’s religion have at their core a deeply compassionate vision, and a recommendation that people listen instead of pushing their self-image onto others. Pride remains the primary sin. While I am ambivalent, the primary sin of the institutional church is to give personal opinions the imprimator of god’s voice, which they lack more certainly that more caring voices.

    That’s totally irrelevant, even if we assume it is true and forget that what is preached is rarely practiced.

    As I said above, the really big issue with religion is that it gives humans a privileged place in the cosmological order, separate from and above nature. Which in turn shapes a mentality that refuses to understand that humans are part of the ecosystem and depend on the health of that ecosystem for their own survival. BTW, pointing this out has nothing to do with Gaia-worshiping, religion-hating or anything of the sort, it is purely selfish considerations that should be driving us towards exercising some constraint on our activities.

  102. 1985

    101. Eli Rabett Says:
    July 8th, 2011 at 8:46 pm
    Now Eli, Eli is not in anyone’s camp here. The real question is what do you mean by growth. Do you mean only total GDP? Does it make a difference if economic prosperity is well distributed or the top couple of percent cream off most of it
    Clearly at a certain level of well being fertility rates go down below replacement. Further, while there is a loose correlation between well being and energy use, there is a saturation point at which efficiency can take over from brute SUVism given any reasonable policy.
    The Rabett has put up a post showing this. Median GDP appears to determine total fertility, total fertility determines population with a time lag of ~50 years.

    1. It is a delusion to think that GDP determines fertility. It makes absolutely no biological sense. People as all organisms are self-replicators, whose goal is to leave as much progeny as possible. Because we are a K-species, we don’t just give birth to as many kids as we can produce but we take into account our ability to ensure their survival and reproductive success. What GDP growth does is that it limits the number of children that parents can afford to have because all the other changes in society that accompany GDP growth leave them with insufficient resources to ensure the necessary social status and later reproductive success of their children if they have too many of them. People in richer countries have fewer kids because they can’t afford to have more, not because they’re rich. And that only applies if there aren’t stronger cultural factors (religion in particular) that will suppress such considerations.

    2. We are in drastic overshoot currently when we stand at 7 billion. In order for the rest of the world to reach the level of wealth and material consumption of Western Europe (not even the US, multiply everything by 2 if you take the US as a reference) and for the world’s population to level off at less than 10 billion as a result, we would need to increase our environmental footprint by several fold. How exactly is this going to happen and what are the consequences?

    That’s why I said above that projections for future population growth are nonsense – you can assume that poor people will get rich and stop having 5 kids per couple as a result as much as you want, reality is that poor people aren’t going to get rich because the resources for this to happen simply don’t exist which invalidates the projections.

    Yes, we should absolutely be aiming at providing good education and a relatively high level of material comfort (of course, without the kind of absolutely unnecessary excesses that are characterizing the behavior of many today) for everyone. But that means much less than 7 billion people, it doesn’t mean going from drastic overshoot to even more drastic overshoot and hoping that Santa Claus will fill up the oil and gas fields and ore deposits and restore the degraded soils and ecosystems.

  103. Susan Anderson

    1985, if it’s irrelevant, why bother? In fact I was trying to say the same thing you were, that religion as it is currently practiced allows people to award themselves privileges that are disastrous to the commonweal.

    Me, I’m a mystical agnostic, but certainly don’t believe in any god made in the image of man, which is the problem with the three monotheisms that dominate the world. I don’t think ignoring or hating them is going to solve anything, but I do recommend that they learn to listen, as their god is not going to talk to anyone whose head is filled with self-reifying gobbledygook.

    Unfortunately, human beings are preprogrammed to react by building up their bunkers. So the attack method is not very successful. Thus we have the Horners of the world claiming victory.

  104. 1985

    106. Susan Anderson Says:
    July 9th, 2011 at 11:18 am
    1985, if it’s irrelevant, why bother? In fact I was trying to say the same thing you were, that religion as it is currently practiced allows people to award themselves privileges that are disastrous to the commonweal.
    Me, I’m a mystical agnostic, but certainly don’t believe in any god made in the image of man, which is the problem with the three monotheisms that dominate the world. I don’t think ignoring or hating them is going to solve anything, but I do recommend that they learn to listen, as their god is not going to talk to anyone whose head is filled with self-reifying gobbledygook.
    Unfortunately, human beings are preprogrammed to react by building up their bunkers. So the attack method is not very successful. Thus we have the Horners of the world claiming victory.

    1. As I already said it several times, the gap between what can be talked about within the existing political constraints and what has to be talked about and done is so huge that any gains that can be made within those political constraints are so negligibly small relative to what’s needed that they may just as well not exist at all. If there is 0.1% chance of someone listening to the direct message, I am taking it, it is the only option.

    2. At this point, there is no time for incremental progress. We’re in such a position that unless truly drastic measures are taken pretty much immediately, we have no chance to avoid catastrophe. Yet everything that’s not considered “extreme” and impolite to discuss, if it was to ever work, would do so on a time scale of many decades to centuries. Population is a prime example of this phenomenon. You point out to people that the world has exceeded the carrying capacity of the planet and needs to reduce population and/or per capita consumption accordingly. What you get as a reply is “Growth in GDP will result in reduced fertility in Third world countries and population will eventually stop growing “. Never mind that it will take 50, 100 or even more years for this to happen, Never mind that while it is happening, we will be digging much deeper into overshoot (because we already are in overshoot) and will remain there until we collapse. I hope you see the size of the gap. You’re never going to bridge that gap incrementally, the better approach is to say it as it is. In fact, if people were saying it as it is as a general practice of intellectual discourse, we would be in a much better position now, but unfortunately intellectual honesty and integrity are not exactly defining characteristics of humans

  105. Eric H

    25. M Burke Says:
    July 6th, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    “I’d love a 50mpg car, but I’m not going to endanger my family, or my livelyhood owning one… you make one though that looks as good and drives as good as my 20 mpg car AND doesn’t require me to take it in the rear, metaphorically speaking, and we’re golden”

    2002 VW Golf TDi. 52 mpg, 6 airbags standard, AL brakes standard, extremely good safety ratings. Next!

  106. 1985 you are not getting it if you think that prosperity has nothing to do with fertility, reality says that when people achieve a level of prosperity they have (on average) fewer kids. That’s just one of those annoying facts. One can speculate that the reason is that kids are expensive and labor intensive and the ladies are able to get a life. Fertility has fallen in every country where GDP has gone up. Care to explain that bucko? (see RR for links)

  107. 1985

    108. Eli Rabett Says:
    July 10th, 2011 at 12:51 am
    1985 you are not getting it if you think that prosperity has nothing to do with fertility, reality says that when people achieve a level of prosperity they have (on average) fewer kids. That’s just one of those annoying facts. One can speculate that the reason is that kids are expensive and labor intensive and the ladies are able to get a life. Fertility has fallen in every country where GDP has gone up. Care to explain that bucko? (see RR for links)

    Care to read what I posted above? Because you’re not addressing it at all.

    I am not disputing that birth rates fall with GDP, I simply stated that it is not because wealth on its own causes sub-replacement fertility as is commonly and fallaciously assumed.

    But the even bigger issue which you simply ignored is that if we are 50% in overshoot now at 7 billion, we will be something like 500% in overshoot if everyone in the world adopts a Western lifestyle when the population is 10 billion.

    You completely ignore that.

  108. 1985, people like Michael Tobis and Eli Rabett are not your enemies. These are two of the few climate bloggers who ‘get’ it, or are very close to ‘getting’ it.

    I fully agree with most of the things you say (Michael Tobis graciously accepted to post an article I wrote a few months back, in which I basically say the same as you do). But I hope you’ll allow me to give two tips:

    1) Make it more explicit that what you mean by ‘growth’ is the neoclassical economic concept that revolves around infinite growth and has been dominating economic theory for many decades now, so much so that it has ingrained itself in our culture in such a way that it has become as natural and unquestionable to us as breathing. This concept lies at the root of most if not all global problems.
    2) We both know that there is more behind this root cause, but I’d leave as much of it out of your discourse as you can. If you start to bash religion (without emphasizing that what you mean is organized religion for instance) or call for a 90% reduction in global population, you’ll give people room to flip back in their natural psychological defenses and ridicule/marginalize you, regardless of whether what you say, is right or not.

  109. But despite this, I think 1985 and some others here have been very much on the ball. There is absolutely no chance that you will solve any of the symptoms of what I like to call the Crisis Cocktail (not just AGW, but also the huge problems with water/fertile soil, financial bubbles, the diabesitas epidemic, resource wars, overfishing, anoxic dead zones, etc, etc…) if you do not tackle the fallacious economic concept of infinite growth.

    This has nothing to do with left or right, which is just a trap, part of a divide-and-conquer strategy. You are nuts if you are afraid of how Horner and Morano will spin what you or your commenters write. Even if you do everything perfect, they will find something to exploit. That’s because they are criminal liars.

    But their behaviour tells us something. This is what they are afraid of. This is what has to be pounded, by everyone who wants to solve a particular, isolated problem. Every environmental organisation, every social organisation, every politician that is here for the people, not the god of GDP (an arbitrary calculation full of holes).

    Make the root cause the subject of debate, not the symptoms. As we bump into more limits, more and more people will start to realize the systemic failings of the current socio-economic system. It is of paramount importance that they know what lies at the heart of these failings: a backward, ideological economic concept that defies the laws of physics. Or else everyone will only see a fragment of the problem and point fingers at each other. All will be truly lost then.

    Step out of the box, be transparant, don’t calculate too much.

  110. 1985

    111. Neven Says:
    July 11th, 2011 at 8:33 am

    2) We both know that there is more behind this root cause, but I’d leave as much of it out of your discourse as you can. If you start to bash religion (without emphasizing that what you mean is organized religion for instance) or call for a 90% reduction in global population, you’ll give people room to flip back in their natural psychological defenses and ridicule/marginalize you, regardless of whether what you say, is right or not.

    But it is not just organized religion that is the problem, it is all religion.

    And the reduction to a few hundred million or even less is absolutely serious, and in fact inevitable. The question is do we do it by limiting the birth rate voluntarily and in an organized way or by letting the birth rate skyrocket in a chaotic and unpleasant way.

    I am perfectly aware of the psychological mechanisms that kick in in a lot of people’s minds when you mention these things. That’s precisely the reason why you have to talk about them all the time – mentioning it here and there or not mentioning it at all won’t do much difference. Talking about it all the time isn’t very likely do achieve much either, but I think the chances are better.

    One of the most misinterpreted quotes that’s floating around is someone saying that people need to be scared for change to happen, which is taken by the denialists as “We’re going to lie and overstate the severity of the crisis” when what it means is that the situation is truly scary and people have to be fully aware of that if they are to do anything (which is not guaranteed to happen even then, but you have to at least try).

    As you mention, the crisis cocktail is very rarely if ever mentioned as a whole, which is a big problem. And the whole discussion is very rarely framed in terms of global civilizational collapse and human extinction, which it should be, and which is also a big problem. I do what I can to change that.

  111. With most sensible people you can get very far in convincing them that the root cause of most global problems, the greatest hindrance to lasting solutions, is the fallacious economic concept of infinite growth. In my eyes it’s almost a fact that we completely have to overhaul our economic system, the way GDP is measured, internalize damage to society and the environment, get the focus from growth on development and real wealth etc, etc.

    But by going on philosophical rants on religion and population control you start entering the realm of personal opinion. Because no one knows exactly what the carrying capacity of the planet is. There is a difference between organized religion and personal religion. Collapse? Extinction? Sure, could be. But you can’t be certain either way. The only thing that is for certain is that under business-as-usual, ie by not changing the core of our economy, culture and society (aka the concept of infinite growth), there will be ever more misery. So harp on that, as a first step. People can grasp that. It’s as close to fact as you can get in the debate on real solutions.

    I said: don’t calculate too much. But don’t not calculate at all. Taking on the sacred cow of infinite growth is enough in-your-face as it is.

  112. Chris Mooney, have a look – if you have the time – at this Ted Talk by Tim Jackson, the author of the book Prosperity Without Growth.

    Saying that we need to have a look at the effects the dominant economic concept of infinite growth is having on our society and planet, and that we need a radically different economic concept, isn’t extreme in the least. It is the most sensible option out there.

    If you rather listen to very smart Americans, you can also check out CASSE, the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy. These guys know what they are talking about.

    You want to beat professional liars like Horner and Morano? Take the fight to their turf. Talk economics.

  113. 1985

    114. Neven Says:
    July 11th, 2011 at 2:40 pm

    The reason I talk about religion and population control is that I don’t think one can separate those from any meaningful solution to the sustainability problem. Just as it is a mistake to solely focus on climate change while forgetting resource depletion, soil and ecosystem degradation and everything else, it is also a mistake to separate those issues from the establishment of a steady state economy.

    The reason you absolutely need population control and that it is certain enough that the reduction has to be quite drastic is that you actually can not afford to cut down per capita consumption by too much relative to what an average European consumes. You can cut down a lot, but it should never be to the level of Sub-Saharan Africa. This is because in order to maintain the population stable and in relative harmony with the environment, you need absolutely to be sufficiently educated to understand the need for exercising constraint on the size of human activity. It takes a minimal consumption level to achieve that. And “everyone” here indeed means everyone, all over the world.

    The reason why no form of religion is compatible with a sustainable society is that, as I mentioned above, such a society has to understand its proper place in the cosmological order. All religions spread some serious falsehoods when it comes to that subject. Some are much worse than others (unfortunately the ones that the majority of people on the planet believe in are the worst offenders) but the fact remains that none of them gets it right. So you simply can not get from where we are now to where we should be while religion exercises such influence on them minds of the general population. A lot of the denial in the US actually originates precisely from the influence of Christianity on people’s thinking. Many would call this is “extreme” but it is a very nice illustration of the phenomenon:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGEOFipx70U

    Of course, given the magnitude of the change needed, there is pretty much no hope it can possibly happen. All I can do is say it as it is and I do it.

  114. The reason I talk about religion and population control is that I don’t think one can separate those from any meaningful solution to the sustainability problem.

    This is where we disagree then. I think replacing the economic concept of infinite growth with something more rational and sane, is much more of a meaningful AND realistic solution (still very hard though, as neoclassical economic thinking is a bit of a religion in this respect).

  115. Susan Anderson

    No amount of argument is going to separate the majority of people from their religion. Finding meaning is ingrained in the human psyche. The best we can do, I think, is to try to separate religion from disciplines that explore reality and leave individual faith alone.

    I don’t believe there is any culture in the history of the world that has not made stories about how things work and used them to find meaning.

    I’d agree that this practice could be a lot more open and should not be used to justify destruction.

    If you perceive the potentially dangerous path we are taking, you would do well to stop threatening one of the things that help a large majority of the population get through the day.

    As you said, arguing about this is irrelevant. In fact, although I am firm about science being a discipline about facts and truth, I see a good many scientists treating their disciplines as articles of faith rather than of meaning in a more limited sense. I think this is a problem.

    Chris Mooney, I know it must be hard, knowing as much as you do and having been a leader for years, to see the gallimaufry that is the current discussion, but please don’t start shooting at your own side. This is me, stepping in when angels fear to tread; apologies in advance.

  116. 1985

    You aren’t arguing that I am not right, you are arguing that there is nothing that can be done in practice. Which I agree with. But it doesn’t change the fact that unless religion is completely eradicated, the necessary change is unlikely to happen.

  117. Susan Anderson

    I am grateful for Neven’s clear statements. It is primarily the model of infinite growth on a finite planet that must be addressed. Disrespecting what people think and what helps them get through the day provides infinite distraction and fuel for those who refuse to recognize problems.

    Please don’t take on all comers; there are real problems and shooting your allies who appear to be concerned but more flexible, have more experience of life and history, and are more compassionate does not help.

  118. Thanks, Susan. I hope Chris Mooney has read it too and gives it some thought. It is of crucial importance that people in his position start grasping the basis of our predicament. It’s the only way they can beat the professional liars.

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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by Salon.com and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.

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