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May 08, 2006

Myths of the History of Ozone Policy


Posted to Author: Pielke Jr., R. | Climate Change | Environment

I have heard the case of ozone depletion invoked time and time again by advocates for mitigation action on climate change. Such invocations are not only like the old adage of generals fighting the last war, but worse, because they are like old generals looking to fight the old war as they wish it had been, rather than how it really was.

Here is a True/False quiz on the history of ozone policy. Keep track of your answers and the key will be provided after the jump:

1) Science provided a clear message.
2) Policy makers relied on consensus science to take action.
3) Public opinion was intense and unified.
4) Ozone skeptics remained mute and high-minded.
5) Science reached a threshold of certainty that compelled action

If you answered False to each of these then give yourself 100%. The ozone story is documented in this paper:

Betsill, M. M., and R. A. Pielke, Jr., 1998: Blurring the Boundaries: Domestic and International Ozone Politics and Lessons for Climate Change. International Environmental Affairs, 10(3), 147-172. (PDF)

Here are some brief comments on the questions above:

1) Science provided a clear message.

The science of ozone depletion was quite uncertain all the way through (and beyond) the Montreal Protocol in 1987, but especially so during the late-1970s/early-1980s adoption of the Toxic Substances Control Act, Clean Air Act Amendments, and Vienna Convention. Similarly, the settlement of the NRDC lawsuit that paved the way for the U.S. participation in the Montreal protocol took place before the discovery of the ozone hole.

2) Policy makers relied on consensus science to take action.

Policy makers used science as an indication of a possible problem and then very much followed a "no regrets" strategy. They first regulated "non-essential" uses of CFCs, for which substitutes were more readily available, and then took on essential uses later. In this way policy makers did what was relatively easier first, and left the more politically difficult challenges for later. In this way they reduced the scope of the problem. Climate change has seen the opposite strategy with the most difficult challenge and largest framing (regulating global energy use) at the center of the debate. Consensus science really did not play a role in ozone policy until after the Montreal Protocol when the issue was mature and fine-tuning was possible in the policy responses.

3) Public opinion was intense and unified.

According to the official UN history of the ozone issue there were exceedingly few news stories on ozone depletion in the U.S., China, U.K., or Soviet Union from 1977-1985, when much of the policy framework for the issue was developed (Figure 8.1, p. 293). The NYT had about 20 stories in 1982, and in no other year were there that many stories combined in 10 different leading newspapers during that period. This was also a period of intense (and legitimate) scientific debate. In fact, many people believed after the aerosol spray can ban in the late 1970s that the problem had been solved. It is hard to imagine ozone having anywhere near the salience and uniformity of opinion that we now see among the public on climate change.

4) Ozone skeptics remained mute and high-minded.

According to that same UN history (p. 295) one British scientist commented in 1975 that [Ozone-depletion theory is] "a science fiction tale . . . a load of rubbish . . . utter nonsense." There were plenty of skeptics on this issue, buoyed by fundamental uncertainties in the science in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The focus on "no regrets" strategies kept the attention off of science and onto policy options, which led to a breakthrough in the invention of substitutes for CFCs.

5) Science reached a threshold of certainty that compelled action.

Action on ozone proceeded incrementally with many decisions taken, first in the U.S. and then internationally. There was no "threshold for action" that we see so often called for in the context of climate change. Action took place based on what the political dynamics would allow. Science played a very important role in placing ozone depletion on the decision making agenda and then again in fine tuning the international protocol once it had been widely accepted. In between it was effective politics and a healthy policy process that compelled action, not science.

On the ozone issue we seem to have learned the wrong lessons – those that never existed in the first place. Progress on climate change mitigation might be more effective if many of today’s advocates actually fought the last war, rather than the one that they seem to have think that they won.

Posted on May 8, 2006 01:38 PM

Comments

"which led to a breakthrough in the invention of substitutes for CFCs."

which themselves are potent greenhouse gasses (at least the HCFCs). Nice turnabout.

Posted by: kevin v at May 8, 2006 02:47 PM


Hi Roger,

You identify a "myth" that, "4) Ozone skeptics remained mute and high-minded."

Then, your evidence is: "According to that same UN history (p. 295) one British scientist commented in 1975 that [Ozone-depletion theory is] 'a science fiction tale . . . a load of rubbish . . . utter nonsense.'"

Gimme a break! Or more appropriately, give the skeptic--and skeptics in general--a break! Here is a timeline for events:

http://www.albany.edu/faculty/rgk/atm101/o3histor.htm

1971 Johnston calculates that NOx from SST's could deplete ozone layer

1973 Rick Stolarski and Ralph Cicerone suggest catalytic capability of Cl

1973 James Lovelock detects CFC's in atmosphere

1974 Sherwood Rowland and Mario Molina warn of ozone depletion due to CFC's

March 1977 First international meeting (Washington DC) to address issue of ozone depletion held by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP)

You're being incredibly unfair to "ozone skeptics" to use the words of a *single scientist*...especially given the fact that his opinion was apparently offered the only one year after Rowland and Molina gave their warning about CFCs!

Have you investigated what other physicians said when Robin Warren and Barry Marshall said in 1982 that helicobacter pylori caused ulcers...not stress and spicy foods?

My understanding is that for several years Warren and Marshall's hypothesis was essentially labeled, "a science fiction tale . . . a load of rubbish . . . utter nonsense."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helicobacter_pylori

It's not a good idea imply that people who offer strong initial opinions to bombshell findings are not high-minded! In fact, quite the opposite MAY be true: look at all the scientists who labeled cold fusion as rubbish and nonsense. They may have been simply trying to avoid wasted time and money.*

*NOTE: It's even possible that critics of cold fusion were wrong. But after 17 years, it seems very unlikely.

Best wishes,
Mark

P.S. Needless to say, I find your implication to be particularly disturbing since I have repeatedly (and CORRECTLY!) labeled the IPCC TAR's "projections" for methane atmospheric concentrations, CO2 emissions and atmospheric concentrations, and resultant temperature increases as "a science fiction tale . . . a load of rubbish . . . utter nonsense."

P.P.S. I find it hard to imagine you wouldn't say the same thing, if you bothered to research the IPCC "projections" carefully. (Which I think you should. Especially since you yourself has labeled the 1.4 to 5.8 degrees Celsius "projection" as the "central conclusion"--or some such...sorry, I'm too lazy to find the exact words--of the IPCC TAR.)

Posted by: Mark Bahner at May 8, 2006 03:37 PM


Roger-

I would disagree with several of your points.

1) Science DID provide a clear message. Starting in the mid-1970s, scientific evidence provided evidence that CFCs were a RISK to the ozone layer. By 1987, it was clear that CFCs were responsible for the ozone hole and that there was a high probability that CFCs were going to deplete mid-latitude ozone. It seems inherently obvious that w/o science demonstrating the existence of the risk, CFCs would never have been banned. [note: I'm not saying that there were not uncertainties, but as we've discussed before, that should not be an excuse to do nothing]

2) I'm not sure why you think this is false. In your first sentence, you say "Policy makers used science as an indication of a possible problem and then very much followed a "no regrets" strategy." Absolutely --- this shows that science underlaid the political solution to the problem. In fact, your statement seems to contradict your #1 point.

4) This is an interesting point. Ted Parson wrote on this issue: "The "skeptics'" anti-science backlash on ozone was a joke - but they learned from it, and that's why the corresponding backlash on climate has been much more effective.

The anti-science backlash against ozone depletion was laughably feeble, and never got any policy traction. A few Congressional ideologues tried to use it to make trouble in 1993-1995, but they got nowhere. Since then, no one but a few truly crazy people (most of them affiliated with Lyndon LaRouche) have questioned the broad scientific understanding of ozone depletion, not even under the Bush Administration. But it was the failure of this day-late-dollar-short attempt to undercut scientific consensus on ozone that alerted the likely opponents of action on climate change that they would have to mount a larger challenge to the emergence of a strong, authoritative scientific consensus on climate change if they wanted to stop greenhouse-gas mitigation. Using some of the same "scientific" spokespeople (and recruiting a bunch more by the promise of wealth and fame), they have had much more success in obscuring the solidity of scientific knowledge on climate than they did on ozone."

5) Why do you keep flogging this dead horse? We all agree that science does not compel action. The linear model is dead, OK? Can we move on, please?

Regards.

Posted by: Andrew Dessler at May 8, 2006 03:47 PM


Mark-

Thanks for your comments. A few replies:

1. My post has nothing to do with methane or IPCC.

2. If you don't like the quote I cherry-picked, I could easily find another dozen. It was simply illustative. If you read what I wrote in the post, I noted that such skepticism was indeed completely legitimate on ozone depletion into the 1980s. The NAS even produced a "skeptical" report in about 1982.

The point is that there were plenty of skeptics, unlike some would have the revisionist history.

Thanks.

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr. at May 8, 2006 03:49 PM


Andrew-

Thanks much. A few replies:

1. We seem to be in violent agreement. I wrote "Science played a very important role in placing ozone depletion on the decision making agenda and then again in fine tuning the international protocol once it had been widely accepted. In between it was effective politics and a healthy policy process that compelled action, not science."

2. If you mean by "underlaid the problem" -- well I'd assert that we reached that point on climate change in either 1896, 1957, 1977, or 1985, take your pick. We are well beyond the "underlaid" stage on climate change.

4. I'll disagree with Parson on this one. The skeptics are more effective on climate change only because their opponents decided to fight back with science. On ozone the opponents to the skeptics fought back with: reframing, politics, technology, and process. Lots of reserach took place and was of course often invoked in debate, but the main action was TSCA, CAAA, Carter's ANPR, NRDC lawsuit under CAAA/ANPR, Vienna Convention. On climate change the battleground is mostly science. Consider the release of the first CCSP asserssment report last week -- what was is about? A scientific response to skeptics!

5. Amen. Though I'm pretty sure that not everyone is as convinced as you are on this issue and the role of the linear model.

Thanks!

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr. at May 8, 2006 05:34 PM


Andrew,

You wrote..."This is an interesting point. Ted Parson wrote on this issue: "The "skeptics'" anti-science backlash on ozone was a joke - but they learned from it, and that's why the corresponding backlash on climate has been much more effective."

You imply here that those who did not believe that CFC's were a significant threat to the ozone layer are the same people who currently question the 'AGW crisis', and that both are anti-science, or in other words, committed to hiding the true nature of the world (for some some unknown reason).

The first implication is simply not true. The second is not only false, but a brazen insult.

In the global warming debate there is a huge amount of uncertainty. Implying that anyone who disagrees with your interpretation of the data is 'anti-science' is a very anti-scientific thing to do.

While I am quite sure that your interpretation of the data is mostly incorrect and that I am generally right, I would never accuse you of being anti-science, unless you started abandonning all references to the real world. Since the AGW crisis skeptics only point to real world data to make their case, they are anything but anti-science!

If you can not make your points without turning to false generalizations and insults, perhaps your arguments are not particularly robust.

Posted by: Jim Clarke at May 8, 2006 06:17 PM


Hi Roger,

Maybe I didn't make my problem with your comment clear.

You wrote, "4) Ozone skeptics remained mute and high-minded."

And the "evidence" you gave for this assertion was this:

"According to that same UN history (p. 295) one British scientist commented in 1975 that [Ozone-depletion theory is] 'a science fiction tale . . . a load of rubbish . . . utter nonsense.'"

I agree that is convincing evidence that the skeptics were not mute. But I do not agree that the quote shows that skeptics were not "high-minded."

How do you think that quote shows that the skeptics were not "high-minded?"

Posted by: Mark Bahner at May 8, 2006 07:25 PM


Jim Clarke-

You wrote: You imply here that those who did not believe that CFC's were a significant threat to the ozone layer are the same people who currently question the 'AGW crisis'

That's right. Have you ever heard of Fred Singer, Sallie Baliunus, or Richard Lindzen? They are some of the most prominent AGW skeptics and were years ago prominent ozone skeptics. In fact, as Eli R. has pointed out, Singer and Lindzen are also opposed to the idea that smoking causes health impacts.

You continued: [You imply here that those who did not believe that CFC's] are anti-science, or in other words, committed to hiding the true nature of the world (for some some unknown reason).

I'm not saying they're anti-science, rather that they intentionally distort science to achieve their policy goals. How you ask? Here's a good explanation:
“Everybody knows that greens love getting into a good debate. It's not surprising - there's a powerful scientific, moral and commonsense case to be made for taking action. Unfortunately, those with a vested interest in doing nothing are too shrewd. In the United States especially, they have successfully entangled environmental change campaigners in detailed debates about the validity of the science. It's a simple strategy: the likes of Exxon throw money at some financially compliant scientists, who produce a report with the appearance of credibility and objectivity. The greens, of course, leap to an enthusiastic defense of their case - and the trap is sprung: the public tunes out (too boring), the media downgrade the story (too complex) and the politicians have the greatest excuse for doing nothing (let's wait until the science is clear).” Jon Miller, http://www.opendemocracy.net/globalization-climate_change_debate/sellingclimatechange_2533.jsp

My sincerest apologies if this offends you, but unfortunately reality does not take your feelings into account.

Regards.

Posted by: Andrew Dessler at May 8, 2006 07:28 PM


Roger-

OK, we're in overall agreement. On #2, I would just add that the point where one has enough evidence to act is a normative judgment that can vary from person to person. I would say that it was not until the TAR came out that there was enough evidence for most thoughtful people to conclude that we need to take action to reduce CO2 emissions.

Regards.

Posted by: Andrew Dessler at May 8, 2006 07:33 PM


Well, first of all, Mark Bahner put his finger on an important point that Roger's article completely misses. Hal Johnson's suggestion that NOx cycles would cause SSTs to destroy ozone primed the policy pump for the discoveries about ozone. There were broad ranging congressional hearings. Given the political and economic issues implicit in the decision to build SSTs or not, major scientific studies were funded. Those developed considerable expertise in stratospheric modeling. Thus once the catalytic effects of Cl and Br on ozone were established in the laboratory by Molina and Rowland there was a strong consensus among those who understood the chemistry. Moreover, the policy side had already had its stratospheric chemistry review and was able to ramp up quite quickly.

Dupont, to its credit, soon understood the implications. They started moving towards phasing out CFC production many years before the final decision, but at that time the company was run by chemists who understood both the atmospheric chemistry, but more importantly the manufacturing challenges that had to be met to produce replacements. In short, I find Roger's statement of facts quite naive.

Roger's argument about there being no push back from the gang of four (Seitz, Singer, Michaels, Baliunas, and followers) is an insult to anyone who can use google. Yes, they did delay the process, and yes, they did learn how to do a better job from the experience. I am surprised that this got through peer review.

Posted by: Eli Rabett at May 8, 2006 07:39 PM


Mark- The quote probably doesn't show this, but by "high minded" I simply mean not willing to hide normative claims behind science, which of course was the case in ozone depletion. Thanks.

Posted by: Roger Pielke Jr. at May 8, 2006 07:44 PM


All-

Spurred by Jim Clarke's comment and my curiosity, I did a quick internet search and found this discussion of ozone depletion at http://www.sovereignty.net/floy/phasing.htm :

"You see, Sallie Baliunas is Staff Astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and Deputy Director of the Mount Wilson Institute.

Is Dr. Baliunas a lone ‘contrarian’?

Hardly. Any list of ozone depletion theory ‘contrarians’ is today likely to number hundreds of scientists world-wide with substantial credentials and credibility.

Among them find: Dr. S. Fred Singer, Senior Fellow with the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution, Dr. Hugh Ellsaesser of the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, Dr. Thomas Gold of Cornell University, Dr. Patrick Michaels of the University of Virginia, Dr. Marcel Nicolet, world famous atmospheric scientist, Dr. Haroun Tazieff, whose Tazieff Resolution calls for a retraction of the Montreal Protocol, Dr. William Happer of Princeton, and Dr. Frederick Seitz, past head of the National Academy of Science."

Do those names look familiar?

Posted by: Andrew Dessler at May 8, 2006 07:45 PM


Andrew-

Wow! You write, "it was not until the TAR came out that there was enough evidence for most thoughtful people to conclude that we need to take action to reduce CO2 emissions."

TAR = 2001

What about those involved with:

Toronto, 1988?
Rio, 1992?
Kyoto, 1997?

Not thoughtful?

Posted by: Roger Pielke Jr. at May 8, 2006 07:47 PM


Eli- As I requested in the case of the role of smoking science and denial on public opinion, here as well any pointers to relevant peer reviewed studies would be most appreciated. Thanks.

Posted by: Roger Pielke Jr. at May 8, 2006 07:51 PM


Roger-

OK, "thoughtful" was probably not the right word. That's what happens when you're playing internet p*ker while blogging. What I meant to say was that, when the TAR came out, arguing delay/non-action ceased to be a credible policy position (it's methane scenarios were just too dire to be ignored). Before that, I think it was possible for very risk tolerant people to argue that waiting was a legitimate position [although that's a judgment on my part].

Regards.

ps: I just found out that p*ker is a bad, bad word here

Posted by: Andrew Dessler at May 8, 2006 08:19 PM


Oops.

I wrote, "And the 'evidence' you gave for this assertion was this:..."

That should have been, "And the 'evidence' you gave for this assertion being false was this:..."

Posted by: Mark Bahner at May 8, 2006 08:22 PM


"I just found out that p*ker is a bad, bad word here"

If only you knew Shep (Prometheus founder), you'd have a understanding of the deep irony of this ;-)

Posted by: Roger Pielke Jr. at May 8, 2006 08:27 PM


Roger: For some odd reason I am reminded of a story told about a seminar at Columbia (by repute a place of USENET sensitivity).

- The speaker, a man who suffered no one gladly, said in passing that something was obvious,
- His interlocutor, again a leader in the field, asked for an explanation.
- The speaker replied that it should be clear to any i d i o t. (Roger's spam blocker)
- The questioner, at last satisfied said that he would take the speaker's word on it.

Now, lest the readers think that my statements about smoking were woven out of whole cloth, the text of my reply is at http://tinyurl.com/hmmlo.

However, for the moment I have put away my research assistant hat. I would simply suggest that Roger go to google.com or scholar.google.com and type in variations on ozone denial delay. You can throw in the name Singer for giggles.

Posted by: Eli Rabett [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 8, 2006 08:32 PM


Eli-

You and I also appear to violently agree. My point is indeed that ozone skeptics existed, as you have asserted. However, it is conventional wisdom among many who I talk to (particularly scientists) that they must not have existed because policy action occurred on ozone.

My point is that the limited effectiveness of the ozone skeptics had a lot to do with how their opponents reacted to them.

You have asserted that they "delayed the process". I find this implausible given that action on ozone depletion began almost immediately after Rowland/Molina published their 1974 paper. TSCA was 1976, CAAA 1977, Carter's ANPR 1977, settlement of NRDC lawsuit 1982, Vienna Convention 1984, Montreal Protocol 1987, all in the face of significant international foot-dragging, at least at the start.

If skeptics had any role in delaying policy, I don't see it, but would be open to evidence, particularly scholarly studies.

Thanks.

Posted by: Roger Pielke Jr. at May 8, 2006 08:41 PM


"What I meant to say was that, when the TAR came out, arguing delay/non-action ceased to be a credible policy position (it's methane scenarios were just too dire to be ignored)."

???

"...it's methane scenarios were just to dire to be ignored"???

Posted by: Mark Bahner at May 8, 2006 09:27 PM


To say that they have had no success is wrong. One merely has to point to the dance about methyl bromide emissions. To say that they did not try, and came close to succeeding is also wrong. See http://www.johnquiggin.com/archives/001496.html

Posted by: Rabett at May 8, 2006 09:36 PM


Andrew:
"1. My post has nothing to do with methane or IPCC."

:-D

Posted by: Hans Erren at May 9, 2006 12:40 AM


Andrew's post on the correlation of ozone sceptics with AGW denialists is a wonderful reminder. But I'd be quite surprised if the british scientist who gave the 1975 "a science fiction tale . . . a load of rubbish . . . utter nonsense." quote was not in fact Jim Lovelock -- anything but an AGW denialist... Does the UN history say, Roger?
FWIW, Lovelock-or-whoever was right in part. It was a science fiction tale. Just a true one.

Posted by: Oliver Morton at May 9, 2006 03:18 AM


Oliver- Thanks. It was not Lovelock, and not a name I readily recognized. I'll look it up when I get in to my office.

Posted by: Roger Pielke Jr. at May 9, 2006 06:51 AM


"DuPont, which made 1/4 of the world's CFCs, spent millions of dollars running full-page newspaper advertisements defending CFCs in 1975, claiming there was no proof that CFCs were harming the ozone layer. The chairman of DuPont commented that the ozone depletion theory was "a science fiction tale...a load of rubbish...utter nonsense." (Chemical Week, 16 July 1975)."

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/mt/mt-comments.cgi?entry_id=8689

Posted by: Mark Bahner at May 9, 2006 06:56 AM


If I may, pointing to methyl bromide actions as evidence that skeptics have been able to delay policy actions on ozone is absurd. MeBr is about agricultural politics*, not about science, and everybody I knew in the Senate, EPA, State and DoJ who were working on the MeBr exceptions in international negotiations would tell you that straight out.

*[Specifically on CA and FL strawberries, peanuts and other ground crops and the feeling of the ag business in those two very powerful states that acceptable and affordable substitutes are not yet available.]

Posted by: kevin v at May 9, 2006 10:34 AM


All-

I wonder what role the internet plays in making today's skeptics more effective than the skeptics of the 80s and 90s. The ability to put information out there with no filter whatsoever for accuracy must be playing some role in spreading misinformation ...

It's very interesting to read the comments on climateaudit and on realclimate. It's like they're on two different planets.

Regards.

PS: can we PLEASE get this post back on what's really important: the IPCC's methane projections ... :)

Posted by: Andrew Dessler at May 9, 2006 11:47 AM


Andrew-

Lets return to an unresolved issue which you raise unsupported in your last post. What evidence do you have that today's climate skeptics are in fact "effective" in any way?

We've already dealt with the public opinion, policy maker opinion issue in our earlier exchanges.

Thanks!

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr. at May 9, 2006 12:06 PM


Andrew -

Your generalization about AGW skeptics being more effective than ozone skeptics should, once you step back and think about it, raise some alarm bells. There are many reasons to be skeptical about AGW. There are questions about the accuracy of historic CO2 levels taken from ice, there are questions about the spatial integrity of temperatures especially with respect to UHI, there are questions about the relative contribution of CO2 to AGW (as opposed to albedo changes), there are questions about whether or not additional CO2 is good or bad. Not all skeptics are skeptical about the same things. To lump them together is a pretty extreme position, if you ask me.

You appear to be shouting from the middle of the bandwagon - which, I might remind you, is being driven by the UN "Oil for Food" guys who are poo-pooing the possibility that CO2 might increase plant (aka food - especially in the third world) growth. That is a most curious position for an organization "dedicated" to helping the world.

Not that I think the whole AGW question is all bunk - that would put me in exactly the same position as you but on the other side. There is some validity in it. But, there's no proof that it's not good for the biosphere.

Posted by: Steve Hemphill at May 9, 2006 01:32 PM


Roger-

First, your attempts to avoid discussing the IPCC methane projections are telling and transparent. When are you going to learn? You can run, but you cannot hide.

But I'll play your little game and answer your sham question.

Here's my argument why skeptics have been effective in the AGW debate.
1) gridlock in the AGW debate has occurred because opponents of mitigation have framed the debate in terms of uncertainty over science ("we just don't know enough, so let's wait", see Hemphill post just above or Luntz memo)
2) this has the effect of hijacking the debate. there's lots of anecdotal evidence to support this ... in fact, you can often see it in threads on this blog
3) scientific skeptics play an integral role in producing "sound bites" that advocates can quote in order to buttress their assertions about uncertainty. See how Lindzen's recent op-ed in the WSJ was immediately recycled through the usual suspects in order to cast doubt on AGW.

QED: skeptics are contributing to deadlock

I don't know if this constitutes "evidence," but it seems obvious to me that each of the three points above is true.

Regards.

Posted by: Andrew Dessler at May 9, 2006 01:53 PM


I recently attended a talk by Susan Solomon on the similarities and differences in the ozone hole and gloval warming problems. In answering a question, she pointed out a significant difference in response to them. Ozone depletion had no winners-increased cancer risk and increased cataract risk are considered bad by essentially everyone. Once HFCs existed, there was little pain for anyone involved (Dupont, for instance, view CFC/HFC as minor in the bottom line compared to things like Teflon.) Global warming, on the other hand, is likely to produce significant winners and losers. Some places may become much nicer and others may not be so nice. Different companies will see different impacts.

Posted by: Harold Brooks at May 9, 2006 02:07 PM


Andrew said, talking about his paradigm of skeptics:
"gridlock in the AGW debate has occurred because opponents of mitigation have framed the debate in terms of uncertainty over science ("we just don't know enough, so let's wait")

So, Andrew, in terms of *reality* now, what else is there? One thing we know is that plants (aka food) eat CO2. That alone means we should figure out the actual costs vs. benefits before squandering our economy on "mitigation." We may be mitigating an improvement in the biosphere.

Posted by: Steve Hemphill at May 9, 2006 02:17 PM


Steve-

Yawn.

My views on your "uncertainty" argument and why I think it's bunk has been discussed here:
http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/prometheus/archives/climate_change/000717andrew_dessler_on_un.html

Regards.

Posted by: Andrew Dessler at May 9, 2006 02:29 PM


Harold- A very good point. As well something like 6 companies produced about 90% of CFCs (if my memory serves), so dealing with production was about 9 orders of magnitude easier than dealing with the 6.2 billion human producers of CO2.

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr. at May 9, 2006 02:35 PM


Roger, you say:
"Lets return to an unresolved issue which you raise unsupported in your last post. What evidence do you have that today's climate skeptics are in fact "effective" in any way?"

This is a really interesting point and I believe at the crux of many of the different intertwining discussions we've had over time.

We've been trying to reconcile two seemingly contradictory phenomena. On the one hand, let's assume that the "skeptic movement" is really more savvy, better organized, better funded, and thus louder now than in ozone times. I think you could make a good argument that the voices and arguments of the skeptics, and the media storyline of skeptics vs. the mainstream, penetrate more deeply into the discussion today around the AGW issue than earlier around the ozone issue (I'm just guessing and not going on data here, though.)

On the other hand, as we've heard a number of times and seen in polls, the public doesn't seem to be too conflicted over the basic conclusions of the mainstream climate science community, in spite of these (stepped up?) skeptics' efforts. (The penetration of the tactic of muddying the waters may be more subtle, in that it doesn't sway public opinion but it somehow contributes to the lack of translation of public opinion into political pressure, as we've also discussed here, but let's leave that aside for the moment).

So, perhaps we're forced to draw the conclusion that the (assumed) stronger skeptic attack is really just a symptom of the way AGW science/policy has been framed, rather than a cause of the lack of action on the issue.

The question that really interests me is, given that AGW is such a larger and more difficult problem than ozone depletion, can we still draw useful lessons from the ozone issue about crafting effective policy solutions for AGW? Is any analogy between the two issues worth much? Is there any hope of "ozonifying" the AGW issue?

Posted by: Chris Weaver at May 9, 2006 02:42 PM


Andrew -

I understand. Your position is academic. Mine is realistic. We're in two different universes. As long as you ignore reality, there's no sense in us even talking about it.

Posted by: Steve Hemphill at May 9, 2006 02:47 PM


Hi Chris-

This is a nice summary.

My sense is that if an issue as "simple" as ozone required an incremental, no regrets aproach, than it should be obvious that a far more complicated issue necessarily requires such muddling through (as policy scholars call it).

I'd even go so far as to suggest that the nuddling through on ozone was pretty straightforwad and coherent, while a similar strategy necessarily must simultaneously go down numerous paths at once (e.g., disaster vulnerability, domestic energy security, etc.). This framing doesn't lend itself to falshy ad campagns or documentaries, but it can be effective.

Thanks!

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr. at May 9, 2006 02:51 PM


Harold Brooks writes, "Ozone depletion had no winners-increased cancer risk and increased cataract risk are considered bad by essentially everyone."

Yes, Roger has written several things that imply that ozone and anthropogenic global warming (AGW) somehow have comparable dangers, e.g., "The skeptics are more effective on climate change only because their opponents decided to fight back with science."

But this ignores a great many very obvious differences between CFCs and AGW:

1) CFCs destroying the ozone layer have no upside, whereas CO2 fertilizing plants and making the world warmer has significant upside potential...especially if the warming is moderate and occurs mainly at the poles.

2) The processes that are principal CO2 emitters, electrical power generation and transportation, are huge sectors of the world economy.

3) CFCs were produced virtually exclusively by rich nations (e.g. no significant production in India, China, or other developing countries). In contrast, CO2 is produced by all countries.

4) CFCs destroying the ozone layer was Nobel-prize-winning science, whereas the projections in the IPCC TAR are pseudoscientific rubbish.

In short, the whole attempt to claim that the differences in evolution of CFCs versus AGW is somehow due to the notion that "skeptics'"..."opponents decided to fight back with science" is simply not supported by (any) evidence. (Especially the "fight back with science" part!) The four differences listed above are almost certainly more important.

One possibility that Roger never seems to consider is that there hasn't been much action on AGW because such action simply isn't warranted.

Posted by: Mark Bahner at May 9, 2006 03:18 PM


Mark- Yikes! Looks like you haven't read the paper that I cited in this post. As far as action being warranted on climate change, if you do get into a reading mood, try this paper:

http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/admin/publication_files/resource-69-2000.18.pdf

Thanks!

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr. at May 9, 2006 03:39 PM


Hmm Kevin, are you claiming that the gang of four has not provided ground cover for the ag guys on methyl bromide? Exercise your googling skilss fellow.

Posted by: Rabett at May 9, 2006 06:18 PM


Roger and Chris-

I think I've said this before, but that's never prevented me from repeating myself before. To understand a lack of progress on AGW, I think we need to look at simpler explanations. While a majority of US citizens believe AGW is an issue, there is a strong divide based on party affiliation --- among Republicans, the support is weak. Thus, the present Republican leadership is getting zero pressure to put AGW on the agenda.

There is, of course, a feedback process here. More Republicans would believe AGW if Bush decided to make it an issue. But this issue is clearly not high on his list of core values. I would bet that if a Republican like McCain or Hagel is elected in '08, or any Democrat, you'll see serious action on this issue relatively quickly.

I predict Roger will argue that, if we had good policy options, then Bush's views would change accordingly and policy would be implemented. I don't know. It's a chicken-and-egg thing --- which comes first, the political will or the policy options?

Regards

PS: I tried to work IPCC methane projections into this, but failed. So let me just say they are credible and robust.

Posted by: Andrew Dessler at May 9, 2006 07:26 PM


It would be interesting to broaden this discussion to cover more subjects to test the various theories put forward here as to when skeptics are effective and when they are not.

How about intelligent design? Those skeptical of the science behind intelligent design have been extremely effective in blocking action on that subject. Any good theory of the effectiveness of skepticism should be able to explain that observation as well.

Posted by: Terry at May 9, 2006 08:33 PM


Roger,

I am all for making the world population more resistant to weather, but I don't think that is going to happen by restricting CO2 emissions. In fact, it would likely result in an opposite effect, making more people exposed to the varities of weather.

I am not opposed to actions that solve existing problems, but they should be sold on those problems, not on a doom and gloom scenario that is just a little difficult to swallow.

Andrew,

It seems you can not do anything but insult those who disagree with you by claiming that they are either 'anti-science' or 'misrepresenting the science'. This strikes a cord with me because I was a supporter of the AGW crisis until I felt the science was being misrepresented by AGW supporters! The more I read, the more skeptical I became.

To this day, the issue is being oversold in my opinion. There is precious little evidence (outside of computer models) that the world climate is heading towards the projections of the IPCC. Warming? Yes, for now, but still below what CO2 is projected to do all by itself. Factor in some natural warming cycles and the disaster numbers look very unrealistic.

It is not a question of uncertainty. It is a question of evidence. My mother-n-law is quite convinced that I am going to go to hell if I do not strictly follow her interpretation of the Bible. While she is certain of this, I do not see the evidence to support it! I am very uncertain! Since the risk is to my eternal soul (what could be more important than that?), do you think I should forget my uncertainty, ignore the evidence and do as her religion dictates?

That seems to be the gist of your argument.

You seem to think that the evidence is sufficient and the risk too great! So does my mother-in-law. The reality is that both of you have interpretations of the data that just don't stand up to real world analysis. It has nothing to do with any agenda I might have, or any financial rewards (I wish) that might come my way for taking a skeptical stance. For me and for all of those skeptics I have met, the issue has always been about the science!

Your insistance that our skeptisism is the result of some kind of defect in our nature is just annoying, and frankly, an indication of a weak argument on your part.

Perhaps the skeptics have more traction this time around because they are right! Time will tell.

Posted by: Jim Clarke at May 9, 2006 09:06 PM


As I heard it expressed 95% of the people believe that the rest of us should use public transport.

Posted by: Rabett at May 9, 2006 09:52 PM


Jim Clarke-

A few points:
1) Fred Singer, Sallie Baliunus, et al. do misrepresent the science. Period. They make transparently false arguments as a tactic to stall policy debates. I'm confident there's wide agreement on this point by readers of this blog. In fact, one of the questions this post originally asked is whether these science-misrepresenting skeptics are responsible for the present gridlock.

2) I am risk averse when it comes to catastrophe. I agree that there are uncertainties in climate science, but it is my judgment that the *risk* to our planet is sufficient to compel action now, despite the uncertainty. This is a normative value, and one that you obviously disagree with. There's no right or wrong answer to these types of value-based decisions.

3) I cannot help you with your mother-in-law.

Regards.

Posted by: Andrew Dessler at May 9, 2006 09:52 PM


Jim,

You are correct in your ascertations, and particularly in the comparison of religion with Andrew's position on climate science.

Andrew, like many Doom and Gloomers, has a mental block to the potential effects of CO2 on lifeforms in the biosphere. He is deep, deep in his belief system, and has a book to defend with that shortcoming as well. A lot of baggage there.

Considering CO2 is what plants *eat*, that removes his POV from the real world. He is totally unaware that *he* (and others on the bandwagon here), by ignoring reality and simplifying the science, is misrepresenting it.

Posted by: Steve Hemphill at May 10, 2006 08:38 AM


Andrew writes:

"I'm confident there's wide agreement on this point [that the usual suspects obfuscate and dissemble] by readers of this blog. In fact, one of the questions this post originally asked is whether these science-misrepresenting skeptics are responsible for the present gridlock. "

Yes.

The usual suspects mendacicize, obfuscate and dissemble. And the rubes that believe them repeat their arguments - using FUD phrases and marginalization words such as found above - thus having the effect of Astroturf and spam.

Best,

D

Posted by: Dano at May 10, 2006 10:33 AM


Hi Steve,

You write, "Andrew, like many Doom and Gloomers, has a mental block to the potential effects of CO2 on lifeforms in the biosphere. He is deep, deep in his belief system, and has a book to defend with that shortcoming as well. A lot of baggage there.

Considering CO2 is what plants *eat*, that removes his POV from the real world."

A bit of a caution, from the world of toxicology. One of the truisms of toxicology is, "The dose is the poison." For example, in general, 1, 2, or 3 aspirin is good...but a bottle of aspirin is bad.

So you're almost certainly right that some level of CO2 above pre-industrial concentrations (i.e., about 280 ppm) is probably fine. But that doesn't necessarily mean that levels above say, 500 ppm, are necessarily a good thing.

Posted by: Mark Bahner at May 10, 2006 03:35 PM


Mark -

Understood. A few thousand ppm of CO2 is fatal to humans.

However, commercial greenhouses keep their CO2 levels up around 800 to 1000 ppm. Other than studies showing a decreasing return on increasing CO2 - which is obvious, as the location of each plant (and therefore its limiting factor) is unique - I've not seen anything on any detriment to flora below 1000 ppm.

We're not even sure we can get to 570 ppm :-)

Posted by: Steve Hemphill at May 10, 2006 03:41 PM


"Understood. A few thousand ppm of CO2 is fatal to humans."

Well, now I'm going to pick nits. (Sorry, I'm a geek.)

http://www.inspect-ny.com/hazmat/asgasinf.htm

"The highest TLV (and PEL) assigned to any material is assigned to carbon dioxide, namely 5000 ppm (NIOSH has recommended a Standard of 1.0% or 10 000 ppm for a 10-hr workshift with a ceiling of 3.0% or 30 000 ppm for any 10-min period). Furthermore, these concentrations are far more an expression of good practice than a line between 'safe' and 'dangerous.'"

"However, commercial greenhouses keep their CO2 levels up around 800 to 1000 ppm. Other than studies showing a decreasing return on increasing CO2 - which is obvious, as the location of each plant (and therefore its limiting factor) is unique - I've not seen anything on any detriment to flora below 1000 ppm."

Yes, but flora aren't the only life on this planet. A couple hundred years above 500 ppm would probably hurt coral (through gradual acidification of the ocean).

Even the concentrations--and resultant temperature increases, and decreasing polar ice--expected this century may present significant problems for polar bears. (Interesting fact: they are apparently a fairly young species...less than 20,000 years evolved from brown bears.)

http://www.geol.umd.edu/~candela/pbevol.html

There is some discussion in the book that Bjorn Lomborg edited, "Global Crises, Global Solutions" about what temperature increase will represent the temperature at which benefits of warming exceed the problems caused by warming. The (wild) estimate was 1.2 degrees Celsius temperature increase (from present).

This is of course a complete judgement call...attempting to assess the relative merits from gains by plants versus losses by polar bears (and skiers).

"We're not even sure we can get to 570 ppm :-)"

Yes, that's essentially *exactly* what my guesstimate is of "50% probability" plateau concentration that will occur circa 2100 (see Table 2 of the link below):

http://markbahner.typepad.com/random_thoughts/2006/04/complete_set_of.html

Posted by: Mark Bahner at May 10, 2006 06:16 PM


[/ignore]

sigh...so much misinformation, so little time:

"I've not seen anything on any detriment to flora below 1000 ppm."

The recycled tout from IndyFunded sites is that CO2 is grrreat! That's the argument. Too bad the tout can't stand:

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2005-06/ci-ott063005.php
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2006-04/uom-hyb041206.php
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2002-12/ci-cge120302.php
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2001-05/UoM-Sflf-2205101.php
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2003-06/ci-sge061303.php

Best,

D

[ignore]

Posted by: Dano at May 10, 2006 06:40 PM


Sorry Dano, your Eurekalert spamming doesn't cut it. If you think they're balanced, well ... too bad. Repeat after me. Learn something.

It's not fertilizer. It's food.

Heat lamps? Funny.

pH in the ocean? (Try some mass balance)

Hills by Stanford? Convenient, but anecdotal none the less.

http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=extent

The biggest thing is - try some common sense!

Of course I'm one of the vast majority here who has enough integrity to his real name.

And, again, please stay off the Eurekalert spam site.

(I'd do the "ignore" thing except it's a little juvenile. But, hey, if it fits *you*, fine.)

Posted by: Steve Hemphill at May 10, 2006 07:30 PM


While I agree with you that Fred Singer, Sallie Baliunus, et al. do misrepresent the science, I think you will have a hard time getting Roger to even comment on their behavior while he fisks Jim Hansen and the IPCC.

Do you ever wonder what that says about Roger's real politics and how to evaluate what he says?

Posted by: Rabett at May 11, 2006 07:39 PM


All right, try this again:

I can tell, SH, by your tap-dancing reply that you don't understand the issue. Your reply does absolutely zero to address the findings - unless you count hand-waving as addressing findings.

I'm sorry that you don't like scientific findings that disagree with your worldview.

My only advice is to adjust your worldview.

Best,

D

Posted by: Dano at May 12, 2006 09:46 AM


Once again Dano, here are some equally valid studies:

http://www.co2science.org/scripts/CO2ScienceB2C/Index.jsp

And, yes, if there will be more benefits than costs it would be equitable to reflect that. The trouble is, we have no clue what the balance is, despite the brainwashing of the fear mongers - some of whom are subconsciously affected by the need for the image of tragedy to get their next paycheck.

The dice are loaded. They're loaded for more food. Despite the comfy surroundings and total ignorance of how the rest of the world lives, more food would be a good thing.

Don't you think we should find out instead of preaching doom and gloom out of ignorance?

Posted by: Steve Hemphill at May 12, 2006 08:52 PM


"The dice are loaded. They're loaded for more food "

Sorry. That's incorrect, as has been explained to you before. And all appreciate the fact that one can only provide a link and not discuss anything found there.

As we found out at Fleck's place, there's a fundamental misunderstanding of how things work on the ground, outside of indy-funded web sites.

http://www.inkstain.net/fleck/?p=1338#comments

Best,

D

Best,

D

Posted by: Dano at May 15, 2006 11:29 AM




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