Here are last week’s comments. They are excellent! My thanks to everyone who sent these.
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(1) From H___
The point of view here is that the US is taking a bad turn in a historical / political (and economic) sense. What historical cases stand out as exemplars for “almost-happened” wrong turns? I suppose a growing class division and loss of effective democracy are identifying characteristics. Could you give a short list of peaceful “cultural revolutions” (OK, poor choice of phrase)?
Reply from the Editor:
That’s a fascinating point, and one I’ve long thought provides a useful and optimistic perspective on our problems.
Most peoples’ history, even successful ones, consist of alternating good an ad periods (also, marriages are also like this). The US is one of the most successful nations in our world. We have two hundred years of economic success, social progress, all under the same political regime.
Yet we have had some dark periods. The civil war, of course. The post-civil war era was one of a failed reconstruction (the South’s successful counter-revolution), oppression of labor, and frequent recessions and depressions (no food stamps and unemployment insurance). Ditto in the 20th century, albeit not on the same scale.
Ditto for England.
(2) From Michael Pugh
I have never commented on your website (although I have thought to do so many times) because I feared that that would be putting myself on some governmental list for daring to talk openly about the things that you post about. I realise now that no matter what I do, I’m on those lists anyway, as is everybody with a phone, internet ready computer or voting registration entry in at least the UK and US, if the media reports that we have heard and read (mostly not through mainstream media it must be said) are to be believed.
I felt it time though to write to you, privately, as your frustration is earnest and palpable and I felt that I should at least say this.
There are people out there that wish to make the world a fairer, more democratic and less warlike place, and they are doing what they can, but often, especially with for instance, the systems of government that we have in the UK and US, fundamental change is often structurally impossible without actual revolution, and, as Peter Ustinov once said, “people are basically good”, and would do a great deal to actively avoid revolution, even if it meant sitting on their hands. There are many other much less noble dynamics at play too, it has to be said, but inaction is not always about blind acquiescence.
I, for my part, am a disabled (brain injury) and just about dirt-poor person who writes books. Some of them are fluff pieces and some of them are what I consider to be about important issues, and that’s what I personally do to try to change the negative stuff out there in the world, much of which people like yourself post about. I don’t think that people respond to being told the iceberg is coming – nowadays they just get their phones out and video it. So I try to entertain them as best as I can and work as much meaning into my stuff as possible, while being honest with them that that’s what I’m up to.
I don’t ask you anything (that would be cheap) and I don’t wish for you to do anything with my message, other than take heart that there are people out there doing what they can, but often, people cannot do much of a lot on their own. I am hammering away on my own, (being disabled does nothing for your social life) but I will keep on because I believe that fairness is right and accepting anything less is ignoble.
(3) From Doug
In response to Today you can take the first step to reforming America, 6 February 2014
FM: “Be angry at lies, even from allies.” I would go one step further. Be more angry at lies from your allies. They are the reason your message is not considered.
This can be explained this way. We all know that word of mouth is very effective advertising. But if the people recommending something are known to exaggerate and mislead, or even out and out lie and cheat. The recommendation from them is more a negative than a positive. We must do all we can to silence, or minimize the dishonest, exaggerated arguments that are offered in support of our policies. Those things do us more harm than the counter arguments.
(4) From Tim
In response to Today you can take the first step to reforming America, 6 February 2014.
FM: “I am impressed by the variety of excuses people give to remain passive. Are real sheep this creative?”
Speaking as someone who has been mugged by a sheep for my cheese sandwich, I can confidently say there are sheep who are sufficiently creative to progress from outwitting blades of grass to criminal plundering of innocent hillwalkers. It was NOT a friendly encounter.
I do agree that personal hardship is the only thing that will get today’s masses moving. The moral upbringing that fueled the action against slavery is totally absent today.
Reply from the Editor:
No need to look back to the abolitionist movement for examples of Americans working for social reform even when not in their personal interest, nor in response to “personal hardship”. The 1960’s civil rights movement succeeded because it had broad support among White Americans. Ditto for the recent gay rights movement.
(5) From Tony
In response to Today you can take the first step to reforming America, 6 February 2014, a follow-up to his comment posted in last week’s Mailbag (#7).
Thank you for your response! I tip my hat. My thoughts were stream of consciousness. I did not intend to suggest fault in your effort, I respect greatly what you are doing. I was describing my own incredible frustration at my, our, inability to ignite change. I will be more deliberate, if there is a next time.
Unfortunately, man’s base nature has not changed. I had a bit of a, howling at the moon, moment. I know better, I know the answers to my own questions. I, like many, hunger for an ability to contribute to an effective course correction.
It would be helpful to better understand, and overlay, the examples of the quietly growing furies of past mass movements. Project them against the Political and economic backdrop of our time. Can you suggest a few resources Unfortunately, they all appear to be ignited by small groups of warped personalities, to mostly horrific ends. Mr. Rove’s comment comes to mind. Neither are comforting indicators.
It certainly is the case that no voices of alarm enable abuse. In that knowledge, every howling voice would seem to create its own modest light.
Its strange, pushing consciousness into a black hole. I normally know the people I have such conversations with. Good luck to you and your team!!
Reply from the Editor:
“It would be helpful to better understand, and overlay, the examples of the quietly growing furies of past mass movements. … Unfortunately, they all appear to be ignited by small groups of warped personalities, to mostly horrific ends.”
I would like to see evidence for your belief about the nature of past mass movements. I am familiar with English and US history, and it is certainly not correct for those nations — whose history we most strongly build upon.
(6) From manacker
The “Fabius Maximus” essay on apocalyptic thinking is IMO the most interesting article cited in your post. It cites excerpts from an alarmist book by Tom Engelhardt, “Ending the World the Human Way”, shooting holes in the logic and concluding that the apocalyptic “focus on climate change has diverted resources from other vital programs”. No doubt.
(7) From W____
In response to Will we see the end of snow? More importantly, when will we learn to see the world clearly?, 10 February 2014
You critiqued the article and the data that supports change in snow fall. It seemed to me that rather than view the projections as of concern – your goal was an effort to discredit/downplay them.
I note that the Feb 6, 2014 issue of Nature has an review article that provides the best scientific data for changes in snow fall past and projections. I thought the Nature article was more credible than either the times article or your post.
You may wish to review this data and the science. I do not see any climate expertise in your staff. mostly ex marines. So where do you get your science from?
Reply by the Editor:
This is the usual kind of responses to posts about climate science. By the numbers.
(a) “You critiqued the article and the data that supports change in snow fall. It seemed to me that rather than view the projections as of concern – your goal was an effort to discredit/downplay them.”
False. I showed the data, and that the NYT article did not accurately describe it.
(b) “an review article that provides the best scientific data for changes in snow fall past and projections. I thought the Nature article was more credible than either the times article or your post.”
That’s an odd comment. You refer to about “Winter Olympics: Downhill forecast“, Lauren Morello, Nature, 6 February 2014 — “Winter sports face an uncertain future as the planet warms.” Both it and my post mostly cite the same sources. To hit the high points:
- The first graph in both cite is the same graph from the Rutgers Global Snow Lab.
- Both cite the research by Daniel Scott at the U of Waterloo. Nature cites his April 2013 paper; I cite his more comprehensive new paper.
- The Nature article mentions the IPCC forecast for the 2nd half of the 21st century. I quote the IPCC report on the projection for 2016-2035, as the NYT article refers to this nearer period.
(c) “Where do you get your science from?”
Another odd comment. Almost everything in the post is a quote from either peer-reviewed research or a major climate institution. All with links.
(d) “I do not see any climate expertise in your staff.”
This post was reporting. Take an article an article in the NYT, compare it with expert opinion. Journalists seldom have expertise in the topic discussed. For example, the author of the NYT article, Porter Fox, is a freelance writer of fiction and non-fiction (imo he blurred the two in this article).
(8) From M____
This article is not from a peer reviewed science magazine, but I thought worth some attention. Is this potential impact already denied by IPCC report? You use the word ‘pause’ all the time, so I presume you see the potential of global warming to resume and also the potential that the major contributing factor to be human. Pause vs. the general warming trend seems to me how you set the time line.
Is the following article another left’s attempt to explain away the current slight cooling with the general undertone of global warming? “Study links stronger Pacific trade winds to pause in global warming“, Nick Lavars, Gizmag, 10 February 2014
Reply from the Editor:
(a) The Gizmag article is a well-written, about one of the many theories proposed to describe the causes of the pause and it’s likely duration: “Recent intensification of wind-driven circulation in the Pacific and the ongoing warming hiatus“, Matthew H. England et al, Nature Climate Change, in press.
Unlike many journalists, the author clearly states that is a theory — unlike many who describe the results of individual papers as Truth. This paper appears on the posts about the causes and duration of the pause. As you see, both are subjects of active research — with as yet no consensus.
- One of the most important questions we face: when will the pause in global warming end?, 25 August 2013
- Scientists explore causes of the pause in warming, perhaps the most important research of the decade, 17 January 2014
(b) “is this potential impact already denied by IPCC report?”
This new paper is consistent with the recent IPCC report.
(c) “I presume you see the potential of global warming to resume and also the potential that the major contributing factor to be human.”
The post about the duration of the pause lists a range of estimates as to when the pause will end, so I obviously see “the potential of warming to resume”.
I have frequently quoted this from IPCC AR5 Working Group I.: “It is extremely likely (95 – 100% certain) that human activities caused more than half of the observed increase in global mean surface temperature from 1951 to 2010.”
(d) “Pause vs. the general warming trend seems to me how you set the time line.”
I am not a climate scientist. I just report what they say.
(9) Follow-up question from M____
Thank you for your very lucid response as usual. Rereading the article, I realize I meant a mouthful with ‘this impact’. It should be ‘these impacts’.
- Warming trends over the past century are most likely the result of human activities.
- In the long run the pause will be short lived and to little effect.
- When the trade wind abates, heat can be returned to atmosphere rapidly, raising the temperature again.
Maybe I am mistaken, but somehow I thought ICPP is inconclusive as to the human footprints in the global warming. If the warming is caused by humans, there should not be a pause, yet there is. But this report attributes the hiatus to the strong trade wind, and if it abates, the heat will come back with vengeance (maybe), supporting the idea that the global warming is caused by human activities. But when the heat returns it may reach the thresh hold of no return as early as within a decade.
My new questions are:
- What caused a fairly long lasting change in the trade wind to cause a worldwide pause in temperature rise? Is it also human activity origin or nature’s whim?
- If a stronger trade wind alone can cause this hiatus, there may arise other unknown factors that are not built into the models. Then, how reliable are the climate models?
Reply from the Editor:
(a) “Warming trends over the past century are most likely the result of human activities.”
The overwhelming consensus of climate scientists disagrees with you. The IPCC says more than half since 1950.
(b) “In the long run the pause will be short lived and to little effect.”
What is the long-run? Estimates of the duration of the pause run from over soon to multiple decades. Longer durations would have large effects, both political and climatological.
(c) “When the trade wind abates, heat can be returned to atmosphere rapidly, raising the temperature again.”
That’s a theory, based on a few papers.
(d) “If the warming is caused by humans, there should not be a pause,”
(e) “But this report attributes the hiatus to the strong trade wind, and if it abates, the heat will come back with vengeance (maybe), supporting the idea that the global warming is caused by human activities.”
The existence of a pause does not conflict with the theory that over half of post-1950 warming is anthropogenic. Models show pauses, although this was not noticed in the literature until the actual pause.
(f) “But when the heat returns it may reach the thresh hold of no return as early as within a decade. ”
There is as yet little basis in the science literature for existence of a “threshold of no return.”
(g) “What caused a fairly long lasting change in the trade wind to cause a worldwide pause in temperature rise? Is it also human activity origin or nature’s whim?”
The major ocean-air dynamics are of recent discovery and not well understood, which is one of the large uncertainties in climate models. Wikipedia has good entries on these. ENSO, PDO, etc.
(h) “If a stronger trade wind alone can cause this hiatus, there may arise other unknown factors that are not built into the models. Then, how reliable are the climate models?”
That’s an important question. There is a chapter in AR5 on this. It’s one of the less clear ones, largely because it’s on the edge of known climate science. Models can only be validated by time, which for climate means many decades. The models run in the late 1990s are not tracking well with the trend of the last decade.