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Climatic Heresy on Boing Boing

Interesting happenings over at Boing Boing this week. Invited guest-blogger Charles Platt posted a series of posts (1, 2, 3 and 4) which dared to question the scientific soundness of anthropogenic global warming (AGW):

At the risk of stimulating outrage, I’m going to ask some questions about climate. No one disputes that planetary warming occurred during the second half of the twentieth century; the question is whether it was primarily anthropogenic (i.e. caused by human beings). The Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) claims that the debate on this issue is over. I’m not so sure anymore.

Here on TDG, we often talk about how defenders of orthodox science sometimes get quasi-religious in their fervency, and hundreds of comments that Platt’s posts inspired are worth checking out to see some examples of this (of course, there are others worth looking at simply because they’re very informative). One of the scarier trends that I found seems to be a conflation of someone who queries AGW with Holocaust denialism (with the lesser charge seeming to be a conflation with Creationists).

Things got even more interesting at Boing Boing though when co-editor Cory Doctorow suddenly posted a slew of pro-AGW posts within half an hour of Platt’s last post (1, 2, 3 and 4). This rapid response led Platt to comment beneath one of Doctorow’s posts, “I think it is a little odd that a principal of BB feels he has to rebut some posts that deviate from the party line. I’ve never seen that before.”

Platt has since left the guest-blogging slot at Boing Boing early. Although he qualified his leaving by saying “of course I was not asked to leave!”, his final words seemed to imply something had happened:

I was dismayed by the anger response from two of the people involved, which made me wonder what else I might say that would trigger a similar reaction. Since I couldn’t predict it, and I didn’t want to provoke it, and I didn’t want to start censoring myself, it was easiest to stop.

By the way, I’m not arguing one way or the other on AGW – I’ve read both sides of the debate and there seem to be good points all round (as well as, on the flipside, nefarious influences and myth-making). My main point in posting is to look at the reactions to heresy against scientific orthodoxy.

Previously on TDG:

  1. Trendy Science
    [quote]Human activity may indeed be affecting the climate, but after reading the calm, methodical statements by the “deniers,” I’m no longer willing to believe that anyone has a complete model of the complex, chaotic systems that determine global temperature, and I regret that the simplistic fear-metaphors used by people such as Al Gore have tended to demonize those who simply feel that the evidence, at this point, is still inconclusive. [/quote]

    What troubles me with “Global Warming” is that it has been dumbed down so much by the media and market forces that the scientific process has been so corrupted this is the result…

    “The Earth is getting warmer dammit, and we are causing it, PERIOD! How dare you think otherwise, you heretic, now shut up and get with the program already.”

    [quote]“Is there an established Theory of Climate? Answer: no. Do we understand fully how climate works? No. Is carbon dioxide demonstrated to be a dangerous atmospheric pollutant? No. Can deterministic computer models predict future climate? Another no. Is there a consensus amongst qualified scientists that dangerous, human-caused climate change is upon us? Absolutely not. Did late 20th century temperature rise at a dangerous rate, or to a dangerous level? No, in either case. Is global temperature currently rising? Surprisingly, no.”

    According to an estimate by Bloomberg News, Gore was worth about $2 million when he left office; but Fast Company reported that after pursuing his new career as an environmental activist for a few years, his net worth had grown to more than $100 million. He is a partner in Kleiner Perkins, which is putting $1.2 billion into “green” technologies that are unlikely to be profitable unless they receive government subsidies. He has put $35 million of his own money into Capricorn Investment Group LLC, a hedge fund that invests in eco-friendly products. During a speech at a TED conference, Gore stated that he also owns stock in numerous startups developing solar power, geothermal power, and fuel cells.

    As for that picture of bears “stranded” on a piece of ice, here’s the back story according to Denis Simard, the Environment Canada representative who distributed it:

    “. . . have to keep in mind that the bears aren’t in danger at all. It was, if you will, their playground for 15 minutes. . . . This is a perfect picture for climate change, in a way, because you have the impression they are in the middle of the ocean and they are going to die. . . . But they were not that far from the coast, and it was possible for them to swim.” [/quote]

    This is the real issue. People develop opinions on issues from headlines, photos with captions et al and do not feel the need to dig any deeper or ask questions because what has been presented seems plausible, so therefore it becomes fact.

    Global Warming and its causes must be free from political and marketing influences so scientific processes can continue freely.


  2. I’m agnostic about the
    I’m agnostic about the causes of climate change, but that’s mainly because I can’t do the math. It does appear that there are more specious arguments coming from the right than the left, though. I’m not going to be around to see the catastrophic results of climate change, unless reincarnation is true and you have to keep coming back to this particular planet in this specific occurrence of the universe in a sequential fashion.. I’m confident that the human race will survive GW, but less sure about whether we will adapt to the range of other hazards on offer.

    1. math and politics
      Don’t feel bad about not being able to do the math. Nobody can, and I mean nobody. That is why they have to use these computer simulations – if you look at the math, and you are the most brilliant climatologist and mathematician (in one person), you will have no idea what the outcome will be.

      You mention that the arguments from the right seem less convincing to you than those from the left.

      I think this shows a huge general problem about this issue. It is being treated largely as a political problem, rather than a scientific or technical problem. Most people (and most politicians) don’t look at the technical issues at all. They believe what their preferred political tendency tells them about it. It should have nothing to do with left or right.

      It is not how fast you go
      it is when you get there.

      1. Well…
        I have found that, when dealing with the issue of warmalism, the first course of action must always be to follow the money. Who profits from these suggested actions?

        To that extent, the situation becomes much more clear if one accepts that Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth”, is simply a 2.5 hour infomercial for his Carbon Credit Investment Scheme.

        In fact, it’s articles like this one:;_ylt=AlU8rYgcCAlakbQafB7uLuETO7gF

        That put the “ooops” factor back into play. Seems that Rain forests flourished at much higher temperatures than those at which warmalists contend that they should die off.

        As a disclaimer, I do not believe that anything humans do, or could do, short of a massive nuclear exchange brining on a sustained nuclear winter, has any significant effect upon our climate. Even then, the results would be short-termed, a matter of a few years, before the planet would stabilize and move on.

        The entire climate, imho, is driven by the sun, and we’re not likely to have much to say about that. 🙂


      2. Weather…
        [quote=earthling]if you look at the math, and you are the most brilliant climatologist and mathematician (in one person), you will have no idea what the outcome will be.[/quote]

        To prove this one only needs to look at tomorrow’s weather forecast. When I look at Yahoo weather forecasts I swear they must just look out the window and make a guess.

        So if getting the weather forecast for the next day is questionable how can the predictions of global warming be reliable?


        1. not same thing
          Actually they don’t do the weather and climate forecasts the same way.For weather, they simulate little 3-D cells, measuring and predicting where the air goes, how it heats and cools, how it rains/snows and so on. I think this is almost like a discrete event simulation between the cells, although they do it differently, in lock step for each of the little cells. After simulating a few days (like 10 or so), this gets quite chaotic, in the formal sense.

          For climate stuff, they use some sort of fluid dynamics model. Air is a fluid, except it is compressible. This is more like simultaneous equations, except there is no closed form solution. And they don’t know how the clouds really work, nor do they know how the deep ocean currents really interact with the atmosphere.

          Having said all that, I now will make predictions about your local weather, knowing only that you are in the northern hemisphere someplace.

          Tomorrow you will have roughly the same temperature as today, within +/- 5C. No reason to use different clothes. I give myself about 65% that this will be accurate.

          3 months from now it will be at least 10C warmer than it is today. I am more confident in that, say 80%. The further north you are, the more confident I am.

          Take a wild guess which factors I have used in these predictions 🙂

          It is not how fast you go
          it is when you get there.

  3. How
    can people assume that humanity could impact this planet *more* than volcanic activity? A volcanic eruption is generally a few orders of magnitude LARGER than our biggest nuke detonation. And volcanos are in constant, daily activity; especially on the seafloor.

    While i do not argue that mankind has severe negative effects on his enviroment, i DO NOT believe that we are responsible for earth-changes. These changes have occured with general regularity for billions of years. Are they supposed to stop NOW, because we all kinda like movies, cars and the internet?

    And i’m shocked at BoingBoing, and especially Cory Doctorow, who has always implied that he is an open-minded and inquisitive man.

    1. Anyway,
      I’d like to go on the record as stating that I’m all for renewable energy, conservation of resources, and lessening the human footprint on the planet.

      Having said that, I’d also like to say that I believe Algore to be full of it.


      1. similarly
        I like efficiency for its own sake, I don’t need to be forced into it by the threat of some looming catastrophe.

        Also I like clean water and clean air.

        It is not how fast you go
        it is when you get there.

        1. True…
          Doesn’t it seem that every time we have to do something because of some “looming catastrophe” nothing really happens?

          What ever happened to the Ozone Hole? Shouldn’t we all be UV fried to a crisp by now? All we heard was that we were past the point of no return and it will take hundreds of years for the Ozone layer to recover, yadda, yadda, yadda…

          [quote]China has moved to ban the production of ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), according to a statement from the country’s environmental protection agency. The action is in accordance with the 1987 Montreal Protocol to phase out the use of ozone layer-depleting products . China, which signed the agreement in 1991, says it will end all CFC production by 2010. [/quote]

          Huh? WTF, China is still producing CFCs??

          See what I mean?


  4. I was on BB when the posts
    I was on BB when the posts started appearing by platt. I thought it was great of him to use such a venue to introduce people to a non AGW views ( which I agree with by the way). Humans behave largely like cattle, then there’s the shepherd. All these scientific fundamentalists are just following the herd mentality and what they believe to be independent opinion is really just deep conditioning.

    C’mon if you study the science agw is such bullshit, you know it’s about money. Peope really think mankind can upset 250,000 year cycles? It’s just hubris. Fuck Doctorow for being so rude to Platt. The guy ain’t open minded, as he Wouldnt have showed such venom in response. You woulda thought platt stood up in church and said Jesus was a homo. Metaphorically he did though, he stood up in the church of scientific fundamentalism and asked an honest question and pretty soon an inquisition was being organized. Fundamentalists are all the same!

    Greg, your a non-agw’er I can feel it. I can understand not wanting to take sides though, specially when your friendly audience would run for the tar and feathers if your opnion collided with their brainwashing.
    God damn herd mentality. Moooooo!!! Mooooooo!!!

  5. Let’s see if Platt weighs the same as a duck
    First off, we’re not talking Nature here, or even Science Blog, though they tend to be no less pontifical, but we are talking BB, of which perhaps the only place you’d find a less informed but more hair-trigger SUBMIT-button clicker is on Slashdot.

    “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.”
    (Bertrand Russell)

    and I think it was Oscar Wilde who advised us that if we want to tell people the truth and not get killed, we had better make ’em laugh.

    So really, what’s the ‘news’ here? That geeks believe they already know everything about everything? That Cory Doctorow can clairvoyantly digest and evaluate more postings and retaliatorily post more docs per second without seriously reading them than anyone else on the net? (and has the spare time to do so)

    Not that it matters. Kukulkan will be here soon to wipe the smirks from their avatar faces. Or Quetzalcoatl. Or Nibiru.

    Perhaps it is impossible to arrange for a panel of “don’t give a shit which way it turns out” to look at all the information, harrow it down to essentials and then tell us about the pros and cons and reasonable deductions that can be drawn.

    I’d bet the response would be…it could be this, or it could be that. Not enough information, only conjecture.

    do not distrub this ruble. Sapho

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