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Earth Education Science Politics

Scientific Literacy vs. Concern Over Climate Change 545

Posted by Soulskill
from the apparently-knowing-is-not-actually-half-the-battle dept.
New submitter gmfeier writes "An interesting study reported in Nature Climate Change indicates that concern over climate change did not correlate with scientific literacy nearly as much as with cultural polarization. Quoting: 'For ordinary citizens, the reward for acquiring greater scientific knowledge and more reliable technical-reasoning capacities is a greater facility to discover and use—or explain away—evidence relating to their groups’ positions. Even if cultural cognition serves the personal interests of individuals, this form of reasoning can have a highly negative impact on collective decision making. What guides individual risk perception, on this account, is not the truth of those beliefs but rather their congruence with individuals’ cultural commitments. As a result, if beliefs about a societal risk such as climate change come to bear meanings congenial to some cultural outlooks but hostile to others, individuals motivated to adopt culturally congruent risk perceptions will fail to converge, or at least fail to converge as rapidly as they should, on scientific information essential to their common interests in health and prosperity. Although it is effectively costless for any individual to form a perception of climate-change risk that is wrong but culturally congenial, it is very harmful to collective welfare for individuals in aggregate to form beliefs this way.'"
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Scientific Literacy vs. Concern Over Climate Change

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @02:19PM (#40146623)

    I don't know who said it (Richard Feynman, maybe?) , but:

    If you can't say it in small words, you don't know what the hell you're talking about.

  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @02:23PM (#40146685)

    So let's put it in plain english:

    Political leanings had a bigger influence than their level of education.

    There. Simple, to the point, guaranteed to have rooms full of people shaking their finger at the computer screen. Because that's what you get when you simplify. :D

  • by metrix007 (200091) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @02:27PM (#40146737)

    The problem is not scientific literacy, bur that you need to be an expert in several fields.

    Claims are made from both sides with explanations and theories beyond what most laymen can understand, beyond what even those with a basic scientific literacy can understand.

    I consider myself scientifically literate to a basic level and generally have no problem reading studies or extracts to get a basic idea on an issue. The whole climate change thing is impossible though. People make specific claims about carbons, how they bond in the atmosphere, half-lives, tree rings, ice, sea levels...

    There is too much stuff being quoted and claimed from both sides, often seemingly backed up.

    What we need is a nice, easy summary page, summarizing all the relevant studies so far, and what they imply or mean when it comes to climate page. AN overall summary taking every study into account, giving a good indication, meaning to oppose it is to go against peer reviewed studies or to speculate without a firm basis.

  • fail? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vlm (69642) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @02:35PM (#40146901)

    What guides individual risk perception, on this account, is not the truth of those beliefs but rather their congruence with individuals’ cultural commitments.

    Here's the fail. What is this "truth" they're measuring against?

    Something like F=ma seems to correlate with education, not so much with culture. I would hazard a guess that indicates F=ma is a scientific topic.

    Something like Jesus is the son of god and belief in him results in your salvation seems to correlate much higher with culture than with education. For example even the dumbest redneck from Texas and some scientist from Texas might agree, but a highly educated scientist from TX might disagree with a highly educated scientist from Japan from a non-christian Japanese family. I would hazard a guess that indicates Jesus's parentage is a non-scientific topic.

    Along comes "concern over climate change" and there is a wishy washy hand wringy that based on observation its getting a non-scientific response from the general public. You can almost see the literary dancing to avoid suggesting that maybe, just maybe, the PC orthodoxy about the dangers of climate change is, in fact, non-scientific?

    Now please don't jump all over me assuming I think humans have no effect or climate change could never matter. I am well aware its occurring. However,
    1) I don't think its very important relative to other more pressing concerns. Seriously, it just isn't that important.
    2) I think there is nothing to do anyway. We've burned at least a majority of the EROEI positive carbon fuels and nothing really bad has happened. Twice not much is still not much. The closely related semi-permanent economic decline we've been experiencing for a few decades, and will continue to experience, will "naturally" take care of the rest. The TLDR is SUVs don't matter not because we passed enviro laws, but because they'll never be affordable to the masses again. By the time the next credit bubble comes around, maybe 70 years or so, we'll be waaaaay past peak oil, etc, it just won't matter anymore.
    3) There are bigger natural climate changes that we need an advanced industrialized civilization to fight
    4) I hate being FUDed so reflexively that I'll fight against the side using FUD, in this case the orthodox climate panic-ers.

  • by Ranger (1783) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @02:40PM (#40146975) Homepage
    Smarter people are better at justifying their own ignorance. Unless they have critical thinking skills they are better able to cherry pick and fit whatever information they find to support their views rather than derive their views from the big picture. I've met some very smart people who believe weird shit. I myself know that flying commercially is safe, but the monkey in brain is going we're all going to die! and mull over a million different ways a plane could crash.

    Anyway, skimming the paper lends neither support for nor contradicts the evidence that humans have caused and are causing the climate to change. It only addresses the likely belief systems of people in their peer groups and how that information can be used to communicate effectively with those groups:

    For the ordinary individual, the most consequential effect of his beliefs about climate change is likely to be on his relations with his peers. A hierarchical individualist who expresses anxiety about climate change might well be shunned by his co-workers at an oil refinery in Oklahoma City. A similar fate will probably befall the egalitarian communitarian English professor who reveals to colleagues in Boston that she thinks the scientific consensus on climate change is a hoax.

  • by pr0t0 (216378) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @02:42PM (#40147003)

    I've always felt the argument to curb greenhouse gases has been ill-stated. While there are some who still deny global warming is happening, the primary debate between the left and right seems to distill down to whether it is man-made (left) or cyclical (right).

    It seems to me the better argument from the left would be: is polluting the air good for you or not? The answer is obviously, no, it's not good for you. So regardless of whether it causes global warming, we should always be striving for less pollutants and cleaner air in much the same way we strive for safer cars. I suppose the global warming aspect helps push the immediacy of the need for change vs. the cost of that change, but so much time, effort, and money has been wasted on both sides arguing the merits of man-made global warming, I wonder if this was the most effective road to go down.

    No one is ever going to say how much it would suck if the air near factories or major metropolitan areas smelled as clean and fresh as the air in rural Vermont.

  • by Mindcontrolled (1388007) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @02:42PM (#40147013)
    That summary page is called the IPCC report. Or at least, that is the plan behind it. Good summaries for the generally scientific literate person are also to be found on realclimate.org.
  • by Entrope (68843) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @02:59PM (#40147241) Homepage

    The first paragraph of the letter (after the abstract) almost perfectly identifies the problem, although the authors, being social "scientists", predictably fail to understand the implication: "As members of the public do not know what scientists know, or think the way scientists think, they predictably fail to take climate change as seriously as scientists believe they should."

    The same is true of climate change, diet, exercise, privacy, foreign policy, gas mileage, law, and so forth: The general public does not take any of these issues as seriously as specialists in those fields think they should. This is not because the specialists are right, though; it is because the specialists devote their careers to those areas, and as a result have a distorted view of how much concern the average citizen should dedicate to the specialist's area of expertise. If I was as concerned about everything as experts thought I should be, I would spend all day worrying and no time getting anything done. Considering that dynamic (which often results in "rational ignorance" by average citizens), it is not at surprising that individuals look to peer groups or ideological leaders for cues on complicated issues.

    (I suspect the authors also have an ideological bone to pick, based on the breakdowns they chose -- why focus on "hierarchical individualists" versus "egalitarian communitarians", and mention the hierarchy/egalitarianism and individualist/communitarian axis results in passing? How many other proxies did they look at before settling on those, and why did they reject other possible proxies? These social scientists might be unduly concerned with their narrative and as a result not take methodology as seriously as statisticians think they should [wink, wink -- I know that social scientists tend to take post-hoc analytic methodology more seriously than many domains because they are short on testably predictive hypotheses].)

  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @03:00PM (#40147255)

    The scientific theory of human caused global warming is that the prime or exclusive cause of the observed warming over the past 100 years, outside of known cycles, is CO2 emissions from humans. Ok, no problem. That is a theory that can be looked at and evaluated, though you are correct it is quite complex to evaluate it.

    The problem then comes when it is demanded that you not only accept that, but you accept that the only thing to do about it is to massively reduce CO2 emissions and to do that we need things like cap and trade and so on. If you disagree with any of that you are a "denalist" and "anti-science". They try to act as though the politics and policy of a solution are part and parcel to the theory.

    Not even close. You can believe that the theory is correct and disagree with the proposed solution for any number of reasons. However question any part and people want to claim you are anti-science. It really does get like a religious argument: "You accept everything we say or your are the enemy."

  • by Artraze (600366) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @03:03PM (#40147299)

    That's not what this says at all. Really this has very little to do with influence and everything to do with perspective and values. Basically the results were:

    Both populations are concerned when ignorant (leftists somewhat more so), but when more knowledge is obtained the leftists become slightly more concerned, while the rightists become significantly less so.

    So unless you're arguing that somehow acquiring more knowledge also acquires and different social influence with an effect larger than that of the knowledge, and one that varies with the individual's left/right perspective, your hypothesis is not only baseless, but actually _debunked_ by this data. Between the left/right groups we see _opposite_ effects for the addition of knowledge: concern increases with knowledge for the leftists and decreases for the rightists. Now, certainly you can make the argument that (as this study seems to be a simple correlation poll, rather than educating the ignorant and measuring change) social influence changes with knowledge. Still, it's a strong stretch to claim that that effect can account this disparity.

    What the results actually show is that right wing people and left wing people have different values. When they're ignorant of the facts, all they can go on is the mass media messages of "Oh noes, GW will ${bad things}", and having no real data simply default to "${bad things} = bad so GW is bad" logic. When educated as to the actually process, the risks and costs involved, they can actually evaluate the concerns of global warming against their own values. Given the general psychology of lefts/rights, I find this data entirely unsurprising (with the slight exception of the ignorant rights being "quite concerned" when I'd have expected "somewhat" or "rather").

    One other thing that one could take away from this (and perhaps should, and it's the real value here), is that the hype/emergency surrounding global warming isn't _science_ but rather _opinion_. Yes, the data is the data, and there is warming. But the costs? The sacrifices that should be made to prevent it? Opinion. And that people should stop pushing the 'OMG GW' / 'OMG denier' and instead have rational conversations about the real risks and the real costs and what action is actually reasonable.

  • by itsybitsy (149808) * on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @03:05PM (#40147331)

    "is polluting the air good for you or not? The answer is obviously, no,"

    Open a biology text book once in a while, you'll find that CO2 is not a pollutant, it is an essential nutrient for plant life.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @03:07PM (#40147355)

    Unfortunatly IPCC reports are based on the work of Phil Jones from the UK. He has admitted manipulating the data to reach the conclusions he wanted to and after doing that for 20 years was still unable to prove staticatically significant global warming existed. Other scientists wanted to review his work, but instead of complying with FOI requests he delted the original unmanipulated data instead of risking someone else got it.

    So when your "simple summary" is based entirely on the research of a known liar and it is completely impossible to double check his work, you may as well use it for toilet paper for all its worth.

    AGW may be real, it may not. The IPCC report will never do anything to convince me one way or other. The IPCC has to be taken on faith because there is no scientific process to it or peer reviewed backing for it.

  • by Grishnakh (216268) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @03:11PM (#40147443)

    CO2 absolutely IS "pollution", in a sense: our atmosphere is supposed to be a balance of various gases: O2, CO2, N2, and some other trace gases. The ratios of those gases is important for life and for maintaining our ecosystem. More CO2 means hotter temperatures due to the greenhouse effect, just like too little O2 means we have trouble breathing. So while CO2 isn't a "toxin" as long as the air you're breathing has the right amount of O2, too much of it causes problems. The question is: how much is too much?

    The thing that's really annoying, however, about some of the environmentalists, is their cries for power plants to emit less CO2. I got a petition just like this a couple days ago. Do these people not understand basic chemistry? While too much CO2 is obviously a bad thing, they're talking like you just need to add some "scrubbers" to a power plant and they'll take out the CO2!! Did these people never take a chemistry class in college, or know anything at all about combustion? You can't reduce CO2 output without basically shutting the plant down, and no one is going to accept shutting down all the power plants, or reducing their output and having to put up with rolling blackouts. More nuclear power, however, would allow us to use less fossil-fuel-generated power, but these same people are all against nuclear power too (there's a Slashdot stories a couple stories down from this one today about this).

  • by 0111 1110 (518466) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @03:12PM (#40147477)

    Most pro-AGW arguments that I have seen are usually appeals to authority or overly simplistic arguments that because CO2 can cause a greenhouse effect then any amount of CO2 increase = armageddon. No matter how infinitesimal the amount. The truth is there is no real scientific argument. The evidence is not sufficiently strong to support the varying conclusions of AGW enthusiasts. So what little evidence that does exist is often not even trotted out. It is so much more convenient to combine argument from authority with ad hominem attacks. "Everyone knows" that AGW is 100% proven. Only an ignorant, anti-science, bible thumper could possibly not see how incontrovertible it is." Even when such enthusiasts claim to offer evidence it is usually just the assertions of another, more authoritative, true believer, whether climate scientist or not, reiterating the same beliefs without evidence. For that tiny minority of AGW enthusiasts who want to convince the rational skeptics who are only skeptics because they haven't examined the raw data you don't need any fancy rhetoric. Just present the data. All of the data that you believe supports your argument. You don't need to even write a single word.

    In the end, the argument nearly always boils down to, "Trust us. We know more than you. We are professional climate scientists!" Usually it is not even necessary to mention the existence of computer models. All they have to do is say that they are "climate scientists" and the deniers are not. And then mention evolution and moon-landing skeptics and flat-earthers for good measure. So much better than an argument to just show that in the past skeptics have sometimes been wrong. If only theists found it so easy to dismiss atheists. Not everyone is deterred by the browbeating. Atheists are used to it. It has only been quite recently that we haven't had to worry about being burned at the stake or forced to drink hemlock for not seeing the truth.

    It would be interesting to see if AGW enthusiasts are actually more likely to believe in a god or other supernatural, unprovable things. It would also be interesting to see what percentage of "deniers" are in fact some flavor of scientist or engineer themselves. I suspect you would find that the same free thinkers that are atheists because they evaluate facts and truth for themselves and are not influenced by the beliefs of society are more likely to ask for evidence instead of just accepting opinion polls as science. I would have no problem whatsoever accepting the truth of AGW if I were presented with irrefutable scientific evidence. I find the idea that human beings currently have the power to essentially terraform our own planet with relatively great speed (i.e. in less than 10,000 years) to be a rather extraordinary claim, and I believe that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. And the evidence for AGW, hell even the evidence just for GW, is far from extraordinary. In fact if climate science were any sort of real science it would be considered quite pathetic. If climate scientists (and I use that term loosely) were any sort of real scientists they would be skeptics themselves instead of true believers just looking to rationalize what they had always believed anyway.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @03:17PM (#40147559)

    The reason being, CO2 is NOT POLLUTION.

    Our metabolism produces CO2 as a waste product which we expel from our bodies. Same thing with urine. And while you can drink a little bit of urine and be fine (just look at Bear Grylls), and you can breath a little CO2 and be fine, it's clearly crazy to say that emitting CO2 into the atmosphere is not pollution. What if I peed in a drinking water cistern that feeds your neighborhood? It's only a little, it won't hurt you, therefore it's not pollution. According to you.

  • by Artraze (600366) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @03:23PM (#40147667)

    On that final point I will add the following quote from the paper (via the article):

    One aim of science communication, we submit, should be to dispel this tragedy ... A communication strategy that focuses only on transmission of sound scientific information, our results suggest, is unlikely to do that. As worthwhile as it would be, simply improving the clarity of scientific information will not dispel public conflict ...

    This is just amazing to me. They are literally saying that educating people about global warming will increase their skepticism, and therefore actually transmitting sound scientific information would be bad. So simply conveying accurate information and allowing people to reach their own conclusions would be bad because those aren't the conclusions you want them to draw. So you reevaluate the merits of your own conclusions, right?

    Nope!

    It does not follow, however, that nothing can be done ... Effective strategies include use of culturally diverse communicators, whose affinity with different communities enhances their credibility, and information-framing techniques that invest policy solutions with resonances congenial to diverse groups. Perfecting such techniques through a new science of science communication is a public good of singular importance.

    That's right, kids. Just communicating facts won't work, instead we need to use "information-framing techniques" delivered by "communicators" specifically chosen to "enhance their credibility" in order to convey these 'facts'. This will be a new science. And we shall call it...
    Propaganda.

  • by hsthompson69 (1674722) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @03:24PM (#40147691)

    The more scientifically informed you are, the less likely you are to believe that human CO2 emissions are going to cause unprecedented, catastrophic global warming.

    The less scientifically informed you are, the more likely you are to believe that the past 60+ years of climate change has been mostly driven by human CO2 emissions, and that continued CO2 emissions will cause catastrophic global warming.

    The talk about preconceived cultural bias goes for *both* sides - assuming that what we have is a large group of uninformed people who happened on the *right* answer, without actually being as well informed as those who assert the opposite answer, is a stretch, to say the least.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @03:24PM (#40147703)

    Sorry, could not read beyond that obvious bias.

    Who gets to define how things should be in your reality?

  • by slo (673297) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @03:28PM (#40147765)
    Or put those claiming it isn't a pollutant in a 10% CO2 atmosphere for 1/2 hour.
  • by 0111 1110 (518466) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @03:30PM (#40147793)

    In that case are you also willing to admit that oxygen and nitrogen are also pollutants? I don't think most 'deniers' are claiming that the greenhouse effect doesn't exist or that enough CO2 will not create it. If you could show that we had increased CO2 to say 5% of the atmosphere I would find AGW to be a lot more plausible. The part about going from TRACE_AMOUNT to 2x TRACE_AMOUNT is just not all that persuasive of an argument that we are about to become Venus. The less than 1 degree increase over more than a century is kind of lacking in persuasive power as well.

    BTW, you are 100% correct about nuclear power. If all AGW enthusiasts want is for the whole planet to convert to a French level of nuclear power I'd be in favor of it. Short of a new power source being invented, it's going to have to happen anyway. Fossil fuels will not last forever. Certainly not at current prices. I think we'll be lucky if we get another quarter century out of oil and another 50-75 years out of coal. I'm not sure about natural gas or propane except that that cannot last forever either. With nuclear fission we'll have centuries more of high-tech life before we finally have to come up with something brand new or revert to a near pre-industrial society relying only on hydro, wind, and solar.

  • by TubeSteak (669689) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @03:53PM (#40148111) Journal

    I wouldn't read too much into this study.
    http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/vaop/ncurrent/extref/nclimate1547-s1.pdf [nature.com]

    EARTHOT
    The center of the Earth is very hot [true/false]. 86%
    HUMANRADIO
    All radioactivity is man-made [true/false]. 84%
    LASERS
    Lasers work by focusing sound waves [true/false]. 68%
    ELECATOM
    Electrons are smaller than atoms [true/false]. 62%
    COPERNICUS1
    Does the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth? 72%
    COPERNICUS2
    How long does it take for the Earth to go around the Sun? [one day, one month, one year] 45%
    DADGENDER
    It is the father's gene that decides whether the baby is a boy or a girl [true/false]. 69%
    ANTIBIOTICS
    Antibiotics kill viruses as well as bacteria [true/false]. 68%

    None of these should be difficult if you've gotten through the first year of highschool

  • Re:well ... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Maltheus (248271) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @03:55PM (#40148159)

    People do not vote for things, they vote for people.

    In my experience, they mostly vote against people.

  • by rickb928 (945187) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @04:06PM (#40148315) Homepage Journal

    I understood the writeup very well. It goes directly to the heart of the debate, for me at least.

    The global climate change issue has morphed from a brief global cooling 'scare', to global warming debate, and now global climate 'change'. During these changing arguments, I've become convinced of these beliefs:

    1- Many parties have ulterior or hiden motives. These vary from wanting to advance their cultural or political policies to wanting to prevail in a factual or scientific debate, and others. I also have an ulterior motive in this debate, and of course I see mine as honest and true, and of course just as I assume everyone else does.

    2- All parties seem prepared to use whatever eivdence supports their motives, and discredit the rest. Just as the writeup would suggest.

    3- This is not new, and is (I propose) evident beyond contradiction to anyone who engages in minimal critical analysis of the issue. If it wasn't evident to you earlier, you are not paying attention, or not trying very hard at all.

    4- Many parties purposefully either fabricate or embellish the evidence they present to make their case. Some do so despite knowing of contrary evidence, and some simply refuse to consider any other evidence at all.

    5- Many who make their eivdence fit the argument have good intentions, and seem genuinely to not understand why others, seeing this, tend to mistrust their argument entirely.

    Early on, when 'cooling' became 'warming', I started asking why this was so important. And one of the first things I learned was that many who joined the debate and believed that warming was occurring, and that it was man-caused, and could 'only' be solved by reducing our impact on the planet, was that they already wanted us to 'reduce our impact' on the planet, and this was the latest and hopefully (for them) conclusive argument . Scientists rarely like to admit mistakes (neither do I) so many climatologists are engaged in futher analysis of their data to make it fit when reality doesn't quite match with their predictions. Looking at the work done to adjust, normalize, and clean up this data to make it fit leaves me, in particular distrustful of their process.

    Now we read some articles on ice melt, , and I'm left wondering how this could have occurred 14,000 years ago before industrialization, and if it could be happening now for those reasons, and nothing we can do would stop it. And the article I linked to doesn't explain much at all. And then [reuters.com] this article [slashdot.org] blames fresh water consumption. We fix this by what, reducing population? Or just becoming more efficient users? Population growth wipes out all but the most aggressive and costly conservation, and then only if we ignore the developing world.

    So this dovetails nicely into the anti-capitalist/industrial/consumer movement's goals, and the anti-population growth movement similarly will love this. Basically, they love anything bad for me. I'm just part of the 98% in America trying to get along, doing infinitely better than 90% of the rest of the world. I have a roof to sleep under, and something to keep me off the ground when I do - that makes me better off then most of the world. Add in my access to safe drinking water, and I probably do better than 95% or more of the world. My big complaint is how thick my steaks are.

    So I do come to the debate with a very strong 'prove it!' attitude, and when the climate change proponents/worriers are so often aligned with the movements to take from me as much as they can, I rationally (if not logically) react with caution. Actually, skepticism, tainted with outright rejection. these groups can make no scientific argument - they are not motiviated by science.

    And the scientists are largely so invested in protecting their reputations that I consider their arguments self-serving at best.

    If warming is real, and we can stop it, I'm also conce

  • Reducing CO2 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SirGarlon (845873) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @04:07PM (#40148323)

    Did these people never take a chemistry class in college, or know anything at all about combustion? You can't reduce CO2 output without basically shutting the plant down ...

    You are discussing the costs of reducing CO2 emissions, and you're right, the costs are potentially very high.

    The only way it makes sense to make a major societal commitment like cutting CO2 emissions is through a cost-benefit analysis. In the interest of disclosure I am one of the tree-huggers who thinks CO2 emissions are a clear and urgent problem. I think you and I can none the less agree that a cost-benefit analysis is the rational way to make a decision on whether to shut down power plants (and switch to windmills or nuclear plants) or not.

    Unfortunately we're at a stage in the debate where people who should know better are still claiming that the cost of the other side's recommended approach is infinite. That's disingenuous and no way to make policy decisions.

    So yes, shutting down fossil-fueled power plants would be costly. It may none the less be worth doing. Likewise, doing nothing will anger tree-huggers like myself and undoubtedly will have certain costs (disruption of agriculture, rising sea level, mass extinction of wildlife) but it may be the economically rational choice.

    I'd like to see more talk about costs and benefits and less talk to the effect, "I dislike the implications of what you're recommending therefore your analysis is wrong."

  • by Red Flayer (890720) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @04:23PM (#40148507) Journal

    The US pollutes a lot, but we've offshored so much of our production that the vast amounts of pollutants are not coming from us anymore

    Wait, what? That's simply not true. We are the #2 producer of CO2 in the world. We produce more than twice as much CO2 as the #2 country.

    And what's more, it's US demand for goods produced in China that drives a lot of their CO2 production (China is the #1 CO2 producer). If you wiped the US off the face of the Earth, that demand would evaporate, just like a good portion of China's emissions.

  • by lessthan (977374) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @04:37PM (#40148665)

    Yes, because 'all or nothing' is a totally valid world view and a good response to a 'everything in moderation' post. You are a true idiot.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @05:03PM (#40148981)

    150 acres per minute = 78,624,000 in a year

    The Amazon Rainforest covers over a billion acres

    1 billion/78,624,000.00 = approximately 12 years.

    Considering they have been logging at this rate for several decades, I'd say your hyperbole factor is running quite high.

  • by 0111 1110 (518466) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @05:17PM (#40149155)

    You haven't provided a reference [epa.gov]. So let's see if I can verify. Not that I am assuming the EPA website is correct, but I can attempt to check that later.

    Carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations in the atmosphere increased from approximately 280 parts per million (ppm) in pre-industrial times to 382 ppm in 2006 according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Earth Systems Research Laboratory, a 36 percent increase.

    1 PPM = 1/1000,000
    1 Percent = 1/100
    So the difference is 10^5.
    280ppm/10^5 = .028% (just as you say)
    382ppm/10^5 = .0382% (only slightly less than you say)

    So the increase is 0.01% of atmosphereic C02 in (EPA doesn't specify exactly) 130 years or something like that. I'm sorry but that just doesn't seem like very much. Of course what is "a lot" of CO2 is simply undefined. As a percentage of the atmosphere neither 0.0382% nor 0.039% seem like a whole lot to me. Of course I could be wrong. Maybe it's such a huge amount and the greenhouse effect is sufficiently sensitive that the oceans should already be boiling. The question is whether or not anyone can answer that question solely relying on the scientific method and not on computer models. A twin earth would be a 100% congruent model and could be used to test exactly how much CO2 the atmosphere could take before some kind of runaway greenhouse effect took place.

  • Re:Reducing CO2 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Natural Join (1711970) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @05:28PM (#40149323)

    The only way it makes sense to make a major societal commitment like cutting CO2 emissions is through a cost-benefit analysis. In the interest of disclosure I am one of the tree-huggers who thinks CO2 emissions are a clear and urgent problem. I think you and I can none the less agree that a cost-benefit analysis is the rational way to make a decision on whether to shut down power plants (and switch to windmills or nuclear plants) or not.

    The first sentence above is the best comment I've read. It is essentially the only fully rational viewpoint I've seen, because all the other viewpoints have been variations on assuming their conclusion. ("...our atmosphere is supposed to be ...") In the interest of disclosure I am one of the conservative skeptics who believes that AGW hysteria derives from the the same psychological dynamics as past hysterias about avian flu or swine flu or the world ending in the year 1000. This is not the same as saying that CO2 levels or temperature levels aren't rising.

    Any effort to get us out of the political dilemma of this issue that doesn't involve cost/benefit analysis is just more politics.

  • by tbannist (230135) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @05:32PM (#40149373)

    I once had an argument with a friend, he insisted to me that using a broken ruler was foolish. The ruler was broken and bent, how could anyone possible get an accurate measure from it? He insisted that would be able to guesstimate the size and be much more accurate. After arguing a bit over whether that made any sense, we decided to test his hypothesis. So he guessed and I measured, then we got a tape measure and measured it accurately. I was off by 2cm and he was off by almost 30 cm. The lesson to learn is that even inaccurate instruments can be helpful in getting an answer that's close enough, particularly if you're aware of the inaccuracies.

    The model are approximations of physical phenomena and when the assumptions are adjusted to match actual events, most of the models tend to do a rather good of model warming. In case you're wondering the assumptions have to be adjusted because they are based on certain scenarios of behavior. It's not reasonable to judge the accuracy of a forecast for a scenario which it doesn't apply. Unfortunately this is a common trick used by climate change critics.

  • by X0563511 (793323) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @05:37PM (#40149449) Homepage Journal

    Lets be fair - computing a Bayesian is not exactly easy or intuitive.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @06:04PM (#40149779)
    There is nothing to compute here. Given those 100 women, there are 9+9=18 who test positive (true positives + false positives). Of those that tested positive only 9 really have the tumor (true positives). Therefore the likelihood is 9/18=1/2 (true positives / all positives). If you think about it, it's really very simple.
  • by pclminion (145572) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @06:38PM (#40150107)
    I think you are making the article's point for it. You seem so determined to believe that anthropogenic CO2 is not a problem that you have descended to the point of trying to redefine the meaning of the word "pollution" in order to maintain cognitive harmony. A waste product of an industrial process (power generation), which is emitted into the environment, is pollution. Plain and simple. It doesn't matter if it's harmful only at massive levels, or whether we are releasing harmful quantities of it. A few atoms of arsenic aren't harmful either, but I doubt you'd try to argue that releasing small quantities of arsenic is not pollution.
  • Modeling isn't a instrument, its closer to guessing.

    It is literately "here is the temperature data for the last 100 years, what curve will fit these points?"
    Yeah you can put lots of data in to it (thousands of years temp data, CO2 data, sulphur data) but its still a curve made to fit the points, not any actual measurement.

    I can measure the temperature right now, I can't measure the temperature with any degree of certainty or accuracy in a hour.

  • by microbox (704317) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @07:28PM (#40150555)

    Open a biology text book once in a while, you'll find that CO2 is not a pollutant, it is an essential nutrient for plant life.

    I cannot believe how pathetic this argument is. Can you have too much of a good thing? Let's see:

    • Too much heat and things die. Too little and they die.
    • Too much oxygen and things spontaneously combust. Too little and aerobic respiration cannot occur
    • Too much salt and cells explode. Too little and they implode.
    • Too much or too little CO2 and according to you nothing happens, because CO2 is not a pollutant

    This is kindergarten stuff.

  • by locofungus (179280) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @02:27AM (#40152705)

    Modeling isn't a instrument, its closer to guessing.

    You're right. It's so just guessing.

    I've got a climate model - that the temperatures are higher in the summer than in the winter.

    It's complete bunkum. Boy do I wonder why people think the summer should be warm and the winter cold. Obviously you get a far better fit to the results if you just toss a coin to decide whether the winter or summer was warmer in any one year.

    It [modelling] is literately[sic] "here is the temperature data for the last 100 years, what curve will fit these points?"

    There is empirical modelling and physical modelling. Empirical modelling is the curve fitting you allude to and, in certain circumstances can point to underlying physical processes that aren't yet understood - e.g. the Balmer formula in 1885.

    Physical modelling is building a model from underlying physical properties and then seeing how closely it fits the actual data. Climate modelling is almost exclusively physical modelling.

    In fact AGW in particular was predicted around 150 years ago based on the measuring of the physical properties of IR absorption of CO2 long before there was any signal available to be measured. Most climate models predicting warming *cannot* be empirical models because the models existed before the data.

    I can measure the temperature right now, I can't measure the temperature with any degree of certainty or accuracy in a hour.

    But I can be very confident that noon will be warmer than midnight. Given enough historical data I can even work out how likely it is that on any given day midnight will be warmer than midday. If I start seeing far too many instances where it isn't the case then I can have a high confidence that something has changed since my historical data was compiled.

    Tim.

  • by Thugthrasher (935401) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @07:51AM (#40154091)

    On that final point I will add the following quote from the paper (via the article):

    One aim of science communication, we submit, should be to dispel this tragedy ... A communication strategy that focuses only on transmission of sound scientific information, our results suggest, is unlikely to do that. As worthwhile as it would be, simply improving the clarity of scientific information will not dispel public conflict ...

    This is just amazing to me. They are literally saying that educating people about global warming will increase their skepticism, and therefore actually transmitting sound scientific information would be bad. So simply conveying accurate information and allowing people to reach their own conclusions would be bad because those aren't the conclusions you want them to draw. So you reevaluate the merits of your own conclusions, right?

    Nope!

    Completely wrong. They aren't saying that educating people will increase their skepticism. They are saying that ONLY communicating sound scientific evidence will NOT fix the public conflict. Because people's opinion on this matter is influenced a lot more by their "beliefs" than by how much they know about the science. So, just communicating the science will not change things.

    They NEVER said to convey inaccurate information OR not to communicate the correct scientific information. They just said that communicating sound scientific information would not be enough to convince many people. It's a simple fact of human nature that has been known for a while (many people will hang onto their beliefs in spite of scientific evidence to the contrary), they are just applying it to this particular subject here.

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