Are you trying to say, MT, that Joe may be in danger of becoming the Matt Taibbi of climate blogging? Lord knows it’s certainly a temptation.
One of the reasons why I let this nugget from Lomborg go by was my desire to shift the conversation in a more productive or at least interesting direction. I had a post written that I just couldn’t bring myself to put up (I’ll put part of it up here now, because I think it can serve as a springboard for further discussion of MT’s points). It’s certainly satisfying to rip into people like Lomborg, and there is undeniably a market for such posts- my own on Lomborg (and similarly, Will) inevitably draw more traffic than the ones brushing against the larger issues of economic-biosphere realism. Anyway, here’s the meat of it:
Greenfyre has this part of it right on. He [Lomborg] does not take his own arguments seriously.
He simply takes a sprinkling of “facts” and extrapolates or distorts them well beyond any possible legitimacy to back a predetermined position that inevitably seeks to minimize the threat posed by climate change. He has done this using the 1998/10 years of cooling denialist canard, he’s done it multiple times in misrepresenting sea level rise. He does it on the “expected” temp reduction under mitigation (by pretending Kyoto was actually meant to be a realistic mitigation treaty rather than the initial framework for one). And he does so in [his Guardian op-ed], the headline of which borders on self-parody.
Moreover, he is invariably incredibly lazy in doing so- here relying on the same handful of papers years after they were written (the “latest”, although published in 2006, was written back in 2004). The studies (yes, even the “global” one) he cites use references that end up being specific to Europe- their conclusions don’t even appear hold up when looking at other nations with significant population levels at high latitudes and similar climates like the US, let alone areas with large percentages of at risk population in hotter climates and milder winters. He does not seem to consider whether or not extremes regardless of direction are more important than the issue of heat or cold itself, i.e. that the number of heat deaths may “depressed” due to high-risk summer potential mortalities passing away during winter. In fact, a cursory look reveals there is preliminary research that indicates this could very well be the case, which would mean Lomborg is in effect “double counting” a significant number of winter mortalities. And of course his grossly oversimplified accounting fails to consider other mortality issues related to temperature outside of Europe like water availability, famine, etc.
In essence, what really, really irks me is that Lomborg is happy to repeat the same shtick over and over again, to the point of ignoring other/newer evidence that could arguably be used more convincingly, provided it was presented with the proper caveats (e.g. recent findings with regard to the link between low absolute humidity and wintertime infections of influenza and how that could change under warming).
[Incidentally, the day before (March 11) he had an article promoting genetically-modified foods, published by the right wing, market fundamentalist think tank Manhattan Institute’s in-house quarterly: City Journal: “Another Green Revolution”.
At first blush, this might seem like a strange departure from his media blitz coinciding with the Climate Change Congress (three anti-mitigation op-eds in a week!). On the contrary, now that his usefulness in the climate change arguments has all but run its course, he’s simply reverting back to his prior ‘Skeptical Environmentalist’ position as an all around pro-corporation/anti-regulation shill.]
I was going to finish up the post on Lomborg with the not entirely unserious boast that I could crank out a more convincing argument blind-drunk with 10 minutes to do research. It’s an un- or rarely-spoken truism among those who (perhaps foolishly) get down in the mud with the denialists, delayers, and dilettantes [*cough*Dyson*cough*] that dealing with them is actually incredibly reassuring as far as whether the big picture has been more or less pinned down. Quite simply there are no denialists etc. who even come close to presenting as damaging a “case against” anthropogenic warming to the public as those who actually have a working understanding of it could, and with a great deal less effort. Certainly this is not unique to the climate freakshow- someone like Abbie or PZ could present a much more superficially “damning” critique of the popular conception of evolution than the “best and the brightest” creationists could. In part this is due to hearing the same nonsense regurgitated often enough to know what is “sticky” and what isn’t, but it’s mostly the difference between knowledge and trivia.
Working one’s way up to where the genuine (as opposed to the false or unimportant) disagreements and uncertainty exist is to me the whole point of exploring a field/subject/issue. Getting into the messy bits is the only way to move understanding forward. Only coming at the messy bits from the outside, however, doesn’t give you much to work with. The most interesting back-and-forths don’t happen on the denialist blogs for this very reason. Similarly, MT’s point about Climate Progress having a narrow point of view touches on this. You’re likely not going to hear about SLR being significantly less than a meter/century [yes, that’s just for WAIS, I know] there unless it’s to rebut such a claim. Similarly, you’re not going to get a criticism of unrealistic probabilistic estimates of 5-7C warming, or that Hansen is off the reservation [As an aside- I occasionally wish I could force the Solomons of the world to actually read Stoat’s archives, see how un-alarmist (and dare I say at times contrarian?) he can be, and watch their heads explode]. And there is no reason to believe that just because disagreements/discussions exist on these issues that SLR won’t be +1m/century, temp won’t be 5-7C by 2100, or that Hansen isn’t once again more right than wrong- the point being is that neither CP or the denialosphere are the places to go for thoughtful discussion of these issues.
And perhaps it’s for the best policy/publicity-wise that Climate Progress (as MT so humblingly points out) has the kind of numbers it does while the rest of us are relatively ignored (*sniff*). But doesn’t that mean that we can talk about the messy bits without having to worry about rebutting the latest Lomborg or Dyson op-ed? That we can talk about finding an off-ramp from our current, lunatic path without worrying about Club of Rome accusations and conspiracy smears?
[Or at least all of us but MT anyway? ; )]