Archive for the 'Opinion' Category

Opinions and Anecdotal Evidence

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

Opinions and Anecdotal Evidence:

Here at the beginning of the Obama administration there is a shift in mindset unlike any I have ever seen. During my years in the U.S. government, the science agencies didn’t get significant attention until a year or more into the new administration. This year we see science getting attention from the beginning, and, for example, there was a nominee for NOAA administrator announced prior to the inauguration. (Jane Lubchenco from Wikipedia, Professor Jane Lubchenco, More on Obama science appointees). Along with this new emphasis on science there are people and groups trying to position themselves. This includes those who fight against the government taking action to mitigate and adapt to climate change. (more…)

How Optimism and Pessimism Shape Our Views on Climate Policy—Part II: Evidence

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

In my first post on this topic, I explored how optimism and pessimism can influence policy preferences for dealing with climate change. I mentioned two key issues relating to policy choices: 1) society’s sensitivity to earth system disturbance, and 2) our potential to mitigate. Each can be viewed with optimism or pessimism, which leads to four possible perspectives: the true optimists, true pessimists, earth system optimists (who are mitigation pessimists), and mitigation optimists (who are earth system pessimists).

Today I’ll focus on the evidence that can support or diminish the standing of each of the four perspectives. (more…)

How Optimism and Pessimism Shape Our Views on Climate Policy—Part I

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008

Whether you’re an optimist or a pessimist probably influences your views on how society should deal with climate change. Today I hope to open a running discussion that explores how our outlook affects our climate policy preferences.

I see two key areas where our views on climate policy may be influenced by whether we’re optimists or pessimists. (more…)

An Essay Following Many Blogs

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

This blog is an essay / analysis that follows from comments on both this blog and my blog on .


The predictions of climate change provide us knowledge of the future. These predictions are not like those from a crystal ball; they are not magic. Neither are the predictions speculation nor are they opinion. The predictions are based on scientific investigation of the physics of the Earth’s atmosphere, ocean, land, and ice. The predictions include the role of chemistry and biology. There are uncertainties in the predictions, but the core of the predictions, that the Earth will warm, that sea level will rise, and that the weather will change is of little doubt.

The predictions are grounded, ultimately, in observations. The quest to explain the behavior of the observations and their relation to each other leads to the development of scientific hypotheses that are formed into theory. These hypotheses and theories are testable; they change with time; they are not speculation nor are they opinion. The theory can be expressed as mathematical expressions, and the mathematical expressions are solved to provide predictions. The collection of mathematical expressions which represent the theory are called models. (more…)

Problem Solving: Breaking it down

Saturday, June 7th, 2008

On my (more dynamic) blog I have been writing a series about how we make the attribution of climate change to humans. Recently, the comments on that blog have moved to the discussion of the Copenhagen Consensus and how the climate change problem stacks up against other great problems we face. Here is the TimesOnline on the Copenhagen Consensus. Here is the primary link to the Copenhagen Consensus. There is an interesting list of priorities developed by the Copenhagen Business School. The Consensus Project is headed by Bjorn Lomborg, who has become a controversial figure in the community. The project aims to look at the great problems of the world taken together and in the face of both monetary resources and capabilities. Then it is determined which are the most urgent to address. In general, full-on attack of the climate change problem does not come out on the top of the list. (It seems that some of the readers of my blog use this to dismiss the importance or correctness of climate change science.) (more…)

Where do Modeling Requirements Come From?

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

Requirements vs Requirements of scientists

I sit in my share of meetings on models and modeling. I listen to plans about model development and impassioned statements of the importance of “the science.” There are struggles on how to make the interface to other communities, the proverbial policymaker. In a room full of scientists they always come around to the need to follow “the science.”

What does it mean to follow “the science?” Science is a process of investigation – a method. It is one of several ways that we generate and accumulate knowledge. (more…)

Waiting Until We Are Sure:

Wednesday, January 9th, 2008

Waiting Until We Are Sure:

I also write a blog at Since November the number of comments on that blog has exploded. Thousands and thousands of words are being written. Some things in the comments are crude, there is some good argument, and complaints about what might be called the climate change machine. Most of the people who write comments at are people with more than a casual interest in the weather and the environment. They put up maps and figures. It will be interesting to look back on these comments some years from now.

I tried to extract and summarize some of the concepts that were appearing in the comments to the blog. (Here they are.) This blog will address one of the ideas that keeps coming up – uncertainty. There were a number of comments about uncertainty and the fact that our knowledge about climate change is based on model predictions. Several times and in several ways people have said “shouldn’t we wait until we are sure?” (more…)

Climate Management 101 — 4. Organizing or Not (Open Source?)

Sunday, October 28th, 2007

Climate Management 101 — 4. Organizing or Not (Open Source?)

In this series I have maintained that there is a need for a sustained management of the climate. The global scale of the problem of controlling greenhouse gas emissions, the exceedingly long time scale before there are realizable benefits from our actions, the fact that the climate change problem is strongly correlated with energy consumption and societal success – these and an array of similarly enormous factors both demand and defy management.

Climate change is to a good approximation a problem of energy consumption. Energy resources are stressed, and there is growing energy-related stress on the economy and national security. The energy problem is urgent and immediate and will demand attention. It is possible to address the urgency of the energy demand and to make the climate problem worse – i.e. coal. It is possible to develop the illusion of addressing the energy problem while at the same time addressing the climate problem – i.e. corn ethanol. The climate change and energy use problems are correlated, but their solutions are not. Therefore, if we are going to address the climate change problem, then we need to define our goals and to manage towards those goals. (more…)

Climate Management 101 — 3. Changes and Times

Saturday, September 1st, 2007

Climate Management 101 — 3. Changes and Times

In the first blog of this series, I introduced the idea that here are both short-term and long-term considerations in the management of climate, and that policies and practices that are part of the short term may or may not be sustained in the long term. The management of climate? Given our population and our use of energy, we are managing the climate. The question is whether or not we do it with cognizance.

If we are to control emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, then we must examine our sources of energy and its consumption. To reduce the emissions, substantially, requires massive changes throughout society. During elections people always say they want change, but they really want someone else or something else to change. (more…)


Tuesday, August 7th, 2007

By Garrett Gruener and Daniel M. Kammen

It is now painfully obvious that the oil-addicted United States must take action to stop global warming — and equally obvious, after President Bush’s anemic State of the Union Address, that sensible energy action will have to come from Congress, the American people and the business community. Piecemeal approaches won’t work. What we need are market-based incentives that make it attractive to stop emitting the carbon that causes global warming – and quickly.

The longer we wait, the more global warming will cost us the long run. So it makes sense to adopt a tax on carbon emissions now. The trick is to design a “global cooling fee” that a majority of Americans will want to pay. We propose a tax that will hit energy hogs hardest. But under our scheme, whether you use a little or a lot, you will be able to invest your tax dollars directly in technologies that will clean up the environment now and lower your energy bills. (more…)