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Changing Climate, Changing Infections

I will state my bias up front.  I am convinced by the preponderance of data in favor of man made global warming.  At the most simplistic level, I can’t see how converting humongous tons of fossil fuel into C02 and dumping it into the the atmosphere cannot have effects on the climate.  To my mind its like determining vaccine efficacy or evolution.  Plausible mechanism(s), good basic science, multiple studies using different lines of evidence that all come to the same conclusion.  There are lots of fine points and nuances to be worked out, but the basic truth is reasonable and well defined. Infectious diseases lend some validation to the concept that world is warming, since with global warming will come a variety of infectious diseases.
It is one big IF THEN statement.  IF global warming, THEN infections.  Of course the if the IF is not true, then the THEN doesn’t follow.
There is the weather, which the Action Channel News never seems to get right, and I will spare you the Mark Twain quote even though I think he is our best writer ever,  and there is the climate, the summation of weather over time.
Interestingly, infections have probably altered climate for short periods of times.  Through history humans burned trees releasing C02, chopped down forests for agriculture and raised animals, releasing methane.  As humans populations increased, both C02 from burning and methane from animals increased as well.  Every now and then large numbers of people have died off.  It happen when Columbus et. al. brought infections to the New World and when plague came to the Old.  People died.  Maybe 90% in the Americas (estimates vary widely) and 2/3′s of Europe died.  As a result, burning and agriculture decreased, decreasing emissions and forests grew back, sequestering C02.  And temperature rise slowed or decreased (http://stephenschneider.stanford.edu/Publications/PDF_Papers/Ruddiman2003.pdf).
“Abrupt reversals of the slow CO2 rise caused by deforestation correlate with bubonic plague and other pandemics near 200-600, 1300-1400 and 1500-1700 A.D. Historical records show that high mortality rates caused by plague led to massive abandonment of farms. Forest re-growth on the untended farms pulled CO2 out of the atmosphere and caused CO2 levels to fall. In time, the plagues abated, the farms were reoccupied, and the newly re-grown forests were cut, returning the CO2 to the atmosphere…Moreover, if plague caused most of the 10-ppm CO2 drops… it must also have been a major factor in the climatic cooling that led from the relative warmth of 1000 years ago to the cooler temperatures of the Little Ice Age.”
Like all good scientists, he notes the problems with his conclusions
“A more complete assessment of the role of plague- driven CO2 changes in climate change during the last millennium would require a narrowing of uncertainties in both the spatial and temporal occurrence of plague and in the amount of farm abandonment (and reforestation), as well as a resolution of the inconsistencies among the CO2 trends from different Antarctic ice cores.”
This kind of study will never be reported in the Atlantic; too much nuance.
It is not the correction for global warming I would suggest, an Earth Abides die off of humans.  But it is an fascinating association between infectious human deaths and global warming.
As the weather changes, for a week, a season, or a over longer period of time, the incidence and distributions of  infections change.  Infections could increase or decrease due to something as simple as temperature or humidity.
Or it could be more complex.  Increase rainfall could lead to more food, which could lead to a boom in the rodent population leading to more interactions of humans and mice and the next thing you know you have bubonic plague in India or Hanta virus outbreak in the four corners of the US.
The daily weather makes a difference in infection risk.  My favorite example is Legionella pneumonia, which increases shortly after thundershowers and humid weather.  It explains why we do not have a lot of Legionella in the NW despite all the rain; it is rarely hot and humid.
In Philadelphia  Legionella
“Cases occurred with striking summertime seasonality. Occurrence of cases was associated with monthly average temperature (incidence rate ratio [IRR] per degree Celsius, 1.07 [95% confidence interval [CI], 1.05-1.09]) and relative humidity (IRR per 1% increase in relative humidity, 1.09 [95% CI, 1.06-1.12]) by Poisson regression analysis. However, case-crossover analysis identified an acute association with precipitation (odds ratio [OR], 2.48 [95% CI, 1.30-3.12]) and increased humidity (OR per 1% increase in relative humidity, 1.08 [95% CI, 1.05-1.11]) 6-10 days before occurrence of cases.”
I ask the housestaff to look for Legionella after thundershowers and I usually get a case or two, although it may just be due to increased diagnostic testing.
Can you catch a cold when the weather is cold? Maybe.  It has been a topic of interest for years (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2279651/)
“The average outdoor temperature decreased during the preceding three days of the onset of any RTIs, URTI, LRTI or common cold. The temperature for the preceding 14 days also showed a linear decrease for any RTI, URTI or common cold.  (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18977127).”
More interesting are the infections associated with El Nino oscillations, where the ocean temperatures vary on a 3 to seven to year cycle, leading to alternating wet and dry weather.  As a result
“In North America, El Niño creates warmer-than-average winters in the upper Midwest states and the Northwest, thus reduced snowfall than average during winter. Meanwhile, central and southern California, northwest Mexico and the southwestern U.S. become significantly wetter while the northern Gulf of Mexico states and Southeast states (including Tidewater and northeast Mexico) are wetter and cooler than average during the El Niño phase of the oscillation. Summer is wetter in the intermountain regions of the U.S. The Pacific Northwest states, on the other hand, tend to experience dry, mild but foggy winters and warm, sunny and early springs.”
Changes due to the El Nino lead to changes in the incidence of a huge variety of infections: an example, I think, from WHO.
Climate change will affect the distribution of disease vectors such as insects and snails.  Vectors may thrive with increased temperatures or they may die off, but more likely the vectors, like mosquitos, will move.  It has been estimated that half of everyone who has every died has died from a mosquito borne illness (I admit I heard this numoerous times at ID lectures but do not have reference, at least there is a solution . http://mashable.com/2010/02/12/mosquito-death-ray-video/).  As it gets warmer, mosquitos can either go up in elevation or North.  It seems that they are doing both.
- Dengue has appeared at higher altitudes than previously reported in Costa Rica (at 1,250m),and in Colombia and India (at 2,200m).The previous range was temperature limited to approximately 1,000 metres above sea level.
- In Mexico, the dengue vector (Aedes aegypti) has been detected at 1,600 metres; transmission of dengue was unknown above 1,200m before 1986. There have been cases of dengue near or above the altitude or latitude limit of transmission and would be vulnerable to the small increases in temperature that have occurred across these regions.
- Other examples of climate-related changes in the prevalence or distribution of pathogens and their vectors include the resurgence of Mediterranean spotted fever in Spain and Italy, the recent epizootic of African horse sickness in Iberia,the resurgence of plague in parts of southern Africa,increased incidence and geographic spread of algal blooms, outbreaks of opportunistic infections among seals,and the spread and establishment of pathogens and vectors in Switzerland.  http://archive.greenpeace.org/climate/impacts/erwin/3erwin.html
- Dengue has, by serology, infected 40% of the populations of Brownsville Texas, as the disease slowly moves north.
“In the fall of 2004, during a period of endemic dengue transmission, a cross-sectional survey was conducted in these two cities,4 and dengue incidence and prevalence were measured. In Brownsville, the incidence was 2%, which, if extrapolated to the 2005 population of the city (using the 95% confidence interval), projected between 837 and 5,862 recent infections. Similarly, the prevalence was 40%, with a range from 56,948 to 75,372; these values are relatively similar to those obtained from Brownsville in 2005. http://www.ajtmh.org/cgi/content/full/78/3/361″
More than mosquito born illnesses are changing in prevalence.  Hanta is increasing in Belgium.  There has been increased temperature which has lead to increased broadleaf trees, with increased seeds, with increased voles, which carry Hanta, which infected humans to cause renal failure (http://www.ij-healthgeographics.com/content/8/1/1).
Oceans are getting warmer and supporting infections.  Vibrio was not found in Alaskan oysters as the water was too cold.  The water temperature was always less than 15 C.  No longer.  The mean temperature has increased each year since 1997  and now supports the growth of V. parahaemolyticus with resultant outbreaks (http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/abstract/353/14/1463).  Many other infectious diseases are increasing as well http://www.thebulletin.org/web-edition/columnists/laura-h-kahn/the-threat-of-emerging-ocean-diseases.
However, not all is doom and gloom.  Some infections may fade with global warming. For example, RSV may be disappearing as England warms.
“The seasons associated with laboratory isolation of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) (for 1981–2004) and RSV‐related emergency department admissions (for 1990–2004) ended 3.1 and 2.5 weeks earlier, respectively, per 1°C increase in annual central England temperature ( and .043, respectively). Climate change may be shortening the RSV season. http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/abs/10.1086/500208.”
Diseases that may increase in the US or become endemic again include malaria, dengue, and Leishmaniasis.  A 4 degree rise in temperature could allow dengue to exist as far north as Winnipeg and malaria to be in all of Europe. Seems to be a good trade off to me: more dengue and malaria, less RSV.
Good times for an infectious disease doctor.
These studies are representative of the literature, not a comprehensive review of the topic.  Personally, I find this adjunctive data compelling  support of global warming, at least over recent times (deliberately worded to not commit to the meaning of recent.)  This does not include all the other potential interactions between human behaviors and changes in the weather to result in an increase in infectious diseases.  Even simple local changes can lead to the unexpected increase in the risk of diseases.
“Adjustable rate mortgages and the downturn in the California housing market caused a 300% increase in notices of delinquency in Bakersfield, Kern County. This led to large numbers of neglected swimming pools, which were associated with a 276% increase in the number of human West Nile virus cases during the summer of 2007.”   http://www.cdc.gov/eid/content/14/11/1747.htm
All the neglected pools became mosquito breeding grounds, and the disease spread was exacerbated in part by a drought that altered bird populations from resistant finches to susceptible sparrows that were not immune to west nile, allowing the disease to spread.  The result, I suppose, of failed flock immunity.
Imagine how war, human migration, starvation will interact with climate change to increase or alter the spread of malaria, Tb and some infection that no one can predict.  If H1N1 proved anything, it is whatever new infection will sweep  across the county, it will not be the infection we predict. Who would have thought in 1989 that the next decade would see West Nile virus, never seen the the US, arrive to the continent in a migrating goose and become endemic.
Maybe its just the weather, the season, or the climate.  I think these are a few interesting infectious disease associations that lend credence to climate change.

“Conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative.” – Oscar Wilde

I will state my bias up front.  I am convinced by the preponderance of data in favor of man made global warming.  At the most simplistic level, I can’t see how converting humongous tons of fossil fuel into CO2 and dumping it into the the atmosphere cannot have effects on the climate.  To my mind its like determining vaccine efficacy or evolution.  Plausible mechanism(s), good basic science, multiple studies using different lines of evidence that all come to the same conclusion.  There are lots of fine points and nuances to be worked out, but the basic truth is reasonable and well defined. Infectious diseases lend some validation to the concept that the world is warming, since with global warming comes a variety of infectious diseases.

It is one big IF:THEN statement.  IF global warming, THEN infections.  Of course  if the IF is not true, then the THEN doesn’t follow.

There is the weather, which the Action Channel News never seems to get right, and I will spare you the Mark Twain quote even though I think he is our best writer ever,  and there is the climate, the summation of weather over time.

Interestingly, infections have probably altered climate for short periods of times.  Through history humans burned trees releasing CO2, chopped down forests for agriculture and raised animals, releasing methane.  As humans populations increased, both CO2 from burning and methane from animals increased as well.  Every now and then large numbers of people have died off.  It happen when Columbus et. al. brought infections to the New World and when plague came to the Old.  People died.  Maybe 90% in the Americas (estimates vary widely) and 2/3′s of Europe died.  As a result, burning fuel and agriculture decreased, decreasing emissions and forests grew back, sequestering CO2.  And temperature rise slowed or decreased.

“Abrupt reversals of the slow CO2 rise caused by deforestation correlate with bubonic plague and other pandemics near 200-600, 1300-1400 and 1500-1700 A.D. Historical records show that high mortality rates caused by plague led to massive abandonment of farms. Forest re-growth on the untended farms pulled CO2 out of the atmosphere and caused CO2 levels to fall. In time, the plagues abated, the farms were reoccupied, and the newly re-grown forests were cut, returning the CO2 to the atmosphere…Moreover, if plague caused most of the 10-ppm CO2 drops… it must also have been a major factor in the climatic cooling that led from the relative warmth of 1000 years ago to the cooler temperatures of the Little Ice Age.”

Like all good scientists, he notes the problems with his conclusions

“A more complete assessment of the role of plague- driven CO2 changes in climate change during the last millennium would require a narrowing of uncertainties in both the spatial and temporal occurrence of plague and in the amount of farm abandonment (and reforestation), as well as a resolution of the inconsistencies among the CO2 trends from different Antarctic ice cores.”

An Earth Abides die off of humans is not the correction for global warming I would suggest,  but it is a fascinating association between infectious human deaths and climate change.

As the weather changes, for a week, a season, or over a  longer period of time, the incidence and distributions of  infections change.  Infections could increase or decrease due to something as simple as temperature or humidity.

Or it could be more complex.  Increased rainfall could lead to more food, which could lead to a boom in the rodent population, leading to more interactions of humans and mice, and the next thing you know you have bubonic plague in India or a Hanta virus outbreak in the four corners of the US.

The daily weather makes a difference in infection risk.  My favorite example is Legionella pneumonia, which increases shortly after thundershowers and humid weather.  It may explains why we do not have a lot of Legionella in the NW despite all the rain; it is rarely hot and humid.

In Philadelphia,  Legionella

“Cases occurred with striking summertime seasonality. Occurrence of cases was associated with monthly average temperature (incidence rate ratio [IRR] per degree Celsius, 1.07 [95% confidence interval [CI], 1.05-1.09]) and relative humidity (IRR per 1% increase in relative humidity, 1.09 [95% CI, 1.06-1.12]) by Poisson regression analysis. However, case-crossover analysis identified an acute association with precipitation (odds ratio [OR], 2.48 [95% CI, 1.30-3.12]) and increased humidity (OR per 1% increase in relative humidity, 1.08 [95% CI, 1.05-1.11]) 6-10 days before occurrence of cases.”

There was a recent study that showed increases in Legionella in roadside puddles after a rain.  I ask the housestaff to look for Legionella after thundershowers and I usually get a case or two, although it may just be due to increased diagnostic testing.  The last case of Legionella had spent the day mucking about in his backyard puddles after a thundershower.

Can you catch a cold when the weather is cold? Maybe.  It has been a topic of interest since the dawn of the medical literature.

“The average outdoor temperature decreased during the preceding three days of the onset of any RTIs, URTI, LRTI or common cold. The temperature for the preceding 14 days also showed a linear decrease for any RTI, URTI or common cold.”

More interesting are the infections associated with El Nino oscillations, where the ocean temperatures vary on a 3 to seven to year cycle, leading to alternating wet and dry weather.  As a result

“In North America, El Niño creates warmer-than-average winters in the upper Midwest states and the Northwest, thus reduced snowfall than average during winter. Meanwhile, central and southern California, northwest Mexico and the southwestern U.S. become significantly wetter while the northern Gulf of Mexico states and Southeast states (including Tidewater and northeast Mexico) are wetter and cooler than average during the El Niño phase of the oscillation. Summer is wetter in the intermountain regions of the U.S. The Pacific Northwest states, on the other hand, tend to experience dry, mild but foggy winters and warm, sunny and early springs.”

Changes due to the El Nino lead to changes in the incidence of a huge variety of infections: an example, I think, from WHO. This picture is in my files without reference.

el nino

Climate change will affect the distribution of disease vectors such as insects and snails.  Vectors may thrive with increased temperatures or they may die off, but more likely the vectors, like mosquitos, will move.  It has been estimated that half of everyone who has ever died has died from a mosquito borne illness (I admit I heard this numerous times at ID lectures but do not have reference, at least there is a solution).  As it gets warmer, mosquitos can either go up in elevation or North.  It seems that they are doing both.

Dengue has appeared at higher altitudes than previously reported in Costa Rica (at 1,250m),and in Colombia and India (at 2,200m).The previous range was temperature limited to approximately 1,000 metres above sea level.

In Mexico, the dengue vector (Aedes aegypti) has been detected at 1,600 metres; transmission of dengue was unknown above 1,200m before 1986. There have been cases of dengue near or above the altitude or latitude limit of transmission and would be vulnerable to the small increases in temperature that have occurred across these regions.

Dengue has, by serology, infected 40% of the populations of Brownsville Texas, as the disease slowly moves north.

In the fall of 2004, during a period of endemic dengue transmission, a cross-sectional survey was conducted in these two cities,4 and dengue incidence and prevalence were measured. In Brownsville, the incidence was 2%, which, if extrapolated to the 2005 population of the city (using the 95% confidence interval), projected between 837 and 5,862 recent infections. Similarly, the prevalence was 40%, with a range from 56,948 to 75,372; these values are relatively similar to those obtained from Brownsville in 2005. “

Other examples of climate-related changes in the prevalence or distribution of pathogens and their vectors include the resurgence of Mediterranean spotted fever in Spain and Italy, the recent epizootic of African horse sickness in Iberia,the resurgence of plague in parts of southern Africa,increased incidence and geographic spread of algal blooms, outbreaks of opportunistic infections among seals,and the spread and establishment of pathogens and vectors in Switzerland. More than mosquito born illnesses are changing in prevalence.

Hanta is increasing in Belgium.  There has been an increase in the average temperature which has lead to increased broadleaf trees, with increased seeds, with increased voles, which carry Hanta, which infected humans to cause renal failure .

Oceans are getting warmer and supporting infections.  Vibrio was not found in Alaskan oysters as the water was too cold.  The water temperature was always less than 15 C.  No longer.  The mean temperature has increased each year since 1997  and now supports the growth of V. parahaemolyticus with resultant outbreaks.  Other oceanic infectious diseases are increasing as well.

However, not all is doom and gloom.  Some infections may fade with global warming. For example, RSV may be disappearing as England warmsm.

“The seasons associated with laboratory isolation of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) (for 1981–2004) and RSV‐related emergency department admissions (for 1990–2004) ended 3.1 and 2.5 weeks earlier, respectively, per 1°C increase in annual central England temperature ( and .043, respectively). Climate change may be shortening the RSV season.”

Diseases that may increase in the US or become endemic again include malaria, dengue, and Leishmaniasis.  A 4 degree rise in temperature could allow dengue to exist as far north as Winnipeg and malaria to be in all of Europe. Seems to be a good trade off to me: more dengue and malaria, less RSV.

Good times for an infectious disease doctor.

These studies are representative of the literature (such a better phrase than cherry picking), not a comprehensive review of the topic.  Personally, I find this adjunctive data compelling  support of global warming, at least over recent times (deliberately worded to not commit to the meaning of recent.)  This does not include all the other potential interactions between human behaviors and changes in the weather that result in an increase in infectious diseases.  Even simple local changes can lead to the unexpected increase in the risk of diseases.

“Adjustable rate mortgages and the downturn in the California housing market caused a 300% increase in notices of delinquency in Bakersfield, Kern County. This led to large numbers of neglected swimming pools, which were associated with a 276% increase in the number of human West Nile virus cases during the summer of 2007.”

All the neglected pools became mosquito breeding grounds, and the disease spread was exacerbated in part by a drought that altered bird populations from resistant finches to susceptible sparrows that were not immune to West Nile, allowing the disease to spread.  The result, I suppose, of failed flock immunity.

Imagine how war, human migration, starvation will interact with climate change to increase or alter the spread of malaria, Tb and some infection that no one can predict.  If H1N1  and SARS proved anything, it is whatever new infection will sweep  across the world , it will not be the infection we predict. Who would have thought in 1989 that the next decade would see West Nile virus, never seen the the US, arrive to the continent in a migrating goose and become endemic. When I started medical school in 1979, there was no AIDS.

Maybe its just the weather, the season, and not climate change that is causing the change in the epidemiology of infections.  I do not think so.  I think these infectious disease associations lend credence to climate change. Another line of converging evidence in support of global warming.

Since it is getting warmer, maybe I will finish with a little Twain after all.

“When a person is accustomed to 138 in the shade, his ideas about cold weather are not valuable….In India, “cold weather” is merely a conventional phrase and has come into use through the necessity of having some way to distinguish between weather which will melt a brass door-knob and weather which will only make it mushy.”  - Following the Equator

Posted in: Public Health, Science and Medicine

Leave a Comment (114) ↓

114 thoughts on “Changing Climate, Changing Infections

  1. caoimh says:

    “Columbus et. al.”

    Haha, you’re such a nerd Mark!

    Great post though.

  2. Regarding the pretty map with disease outbreaks, what does it look like in non-El Niño years?

    Changing the topic to the other apocalyptic scenario: What I want to know is, as petroleum products become more and more expensive, what is going to become of sterile practices like disposable gloves?

  3. Grinch says:

    “I am convinced by the preponderance of data in favor of man made global warming”

    What data? Please stick to medical issues. I remember as a resident, an crusty attending told me “When you don’t know, either say you don’t know know or shut the eff up. I can spot bullshit before it passes your synapses” (or something to that effect). Dr. C, I love all the articles you do w/regard to medicine and science, but please, don’t embarrass yourself w/that kind of statement. In fact, if if your CO2 level theory was even remotely accurate than man should be the last to cause it since we haven’t been around as much as other animals. That is all. You may continue.

  4. wales says:

    Very interesting post. The Stanford link appears to be broken. I hope you can remedy that as I am very interested in this topic.

    I agree about Twain.

  5. citizenracer says:

    This is my first time visiting your blog. To my dismay the first post I read starts off touting the soundness of “good basic science” and other factors supporting anthropogenic global warming (AGW). Recent revelations about the top scientists who support the belief of AGW, should cause all who have put their faith in them to revisit the topic. For starters, the AGW scientists claim “proprietary” when asked for original data to be released into the public domain. This is a familiar tactic of many trying to tip the balance of “science” in their favor. The first duty of a scientist should be to verify any claim that can’t be easily proven or replicated in a controlled setting. We even have had recent revelations from a top scientist that he completely fabricated his study data to prove his points (http://bit.ly/nL4B8), and I am sure, make a lot of money and gain influence along the way.

    To be sure, there are myriad reasons to live responsible lives in what we consume of the earth’s resources. But the thorny topic of AGW and attendant controversy, prevents this dialogue from occurring. Lot’s of data exists, which proves this point convincingly. Here is a design slideshow doing just that (http://bit.ly/dmHTgs). The notion of AGW being a slam dunk is problematic from a scientific standpoint. Unless the scientific community purges itself from the political or social pressure to believe in AGW, its conclusions should always be suspect. There needs to be far more transparency in the field of AGW research. Let’s not forget this fact as well. Carbon dioxide, which is supposedly having such a huge effect on our planet, only comprises about 0.04% of all the molecules in our atmosphere.

    After such an endorsement of science that is clearly evolving I sort of lost interest in the rest of the post. And I am suspect of other “facts” presented. If the blog is supposed to be rooted in the scientific then let it be so!

  6. mikerattlesnake says:

    @Grinch:

    Can we assume that you are also not a climate scientist and therefore also not qualified to comment?

    You should read Dr. Novella’s recent post on Neurologica to better understand the standards reasonable people set for speaking outside of their area of expertise and accepting/promoting scientific consensus.

  7. mikerattlesnake says:

    I should also add “rejecting” to that since it looks like I’m promoting unflinching acceptance and further promotion of all scientific concensus.

  8. Synaptix says:

    “In fact, if if your CO2 level theory was even remotely accurate than man should be the last to cause it since we haven’t been around as much as other animals. That is all. You may continue.”

    Wow. Talk about total argument fail. How many other animals burn fossil fuels… you sure thought that one through.

  9. James Fox says:

    What, no climate impact on fertility rates and pregnancy complications to throw in the pot before stirring? ;-)

  10. Mark Crislip says:

    Just be glad I mentioned neither circumcision nor cold fusion. oops.

  11. DREads says:

    First, let me preface by saying I am too convinced man is a significant contributor to global warming. However, one of the unfortunate aspects of global warming is the oversimplification and misinformation spread by celebrities and other lay people. One of the biggest proponents of man-made global warming is Al Gore, who talks about out the process of scientific inquiry as if it were a political process. Meteorology is extremely complicated and so we shouldn’t be surprised to see a lack of unanimity among geoscientists on all aspects of global warming. However, Gore stating that the “science is settled” misrepresents the scientific process. Certainly, there is a lot to learn about the mechanisms underlying global warming but this is a different question than whether it is real. Science is done a disservice when a mob of lay people demonize scientists who are skeptical about some aspects of global warming or whose research has led to negative evidence for some mechanism or factor.

    Other celebrities speaking out on global warming being settled don’t understand that there are other important questions besides whether global warming is real. How does global warming work? In other words, what are its mechanisms? How big is the temperature effect? What are the other man-made and natural factors of temperature rise besides CO2 emissions (e.g. tectonic plate movement, solar changes, orbital changes, deforestation, etc.)? How strongly do each of them contribute to temperature rise? How about other measures of climate change both primary (e.g. humidity, atmospheric pressure, wind, dewpoint) and secondary (e.g. sea level variability, agricultural health, vegetation changes, human and animal disease changes)? If one represented all the factors and their relationships with a Bayesian network, it’d be quite big. Since weather is geographic and has so many factors, the spatial statistics get incredibly complicated. Evaluating whether a causal effect is present (whether manmade factors cause climate change) is a different and much simpler question than coming up with a body of science that provides a complete theory of climate change.

    I don’t think the scientific community will ever come to a complete consensus on all aspects. It’s just too complicated. However, I agree we can move on to more important questions than whether the effect is there. Quite clearly man is a cause of global warming.

    Your question is a difficult one: how will global warming effect human and animal disease. I look forward to learning more.

  12. windriven says:

    Bad science is bullcrap whether it is bad medical science or bad climate science. No serious climate skeptic doubts climate change nor an anthropogenic component thereto. What serious climate skeptics doubt is the ‘sky is falling’ scenarios touted by the Al Gores of the world; studies based on unpublished data; Michael Mann’s discredited hockey stick; or any assertion that predicts to tenths of a degree C the global temperature in 50 years. Climate is an astonishingly complex system with dozens of drivers, many of them poorly understood.

    Should emissions of CO2 and methane (to name two) be reduced? Of course. Does the fate of humanity hinge on restoring CO2 levels to 1850 levels by the end of the week? Unlikely.

    So what? Crislip’s blog was informative and entertaining. And while he may (or may not) be less skeptical about climate science than about medical science, the thrust of his post stands.

  13. Lawrence C. says:

    Great post, especially closing with some Twain. Can’t go wrong there. Here’s another Twain quote, an example of the kind of “logic” one sees all the time in those arguments against the basic idea that man can’t alter the earth in significant ways:

    “In the space of one hundred and seventy-six years the Lower Mississippi has shortened itself two hundred and forty-two miles. That is an average of a trifle over one mile and a third per year. Therefore, any calm person, who is not blind or idiotic, can see that in the Old Oolitic Silurian Period, just a million years ago next November, the Lower Mississippi River was upwards of one million three hundred thousand miles long, and stuck out over the Gulf of Mexico like a fishing-rod. And by the same token any person can see that seven hundred and forty-two years from now the Lower Mississippi will be only a mile and three-quarters long, and Cairo [Illinois] and New Orleans will have joined their streets together, and be plodding comfortably along under a single mayor and a mutual board of aldermen. There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.” - from Life on the Mississippi.

  14. Citizen Deux says:

    Whoa – Dr. C! Thanks for the information and opinion. How would you address these cofounding factors;

    1 – Dramatically increased urbanization
    2 – Centralization of food and water supplies and distribution
    3 – Markedly higher human populations in developing areas
    4 – Reduction in major predators in overforested areas (Europe, etc)
    5 – Boom in populations of symbiotic mammals (rats, birds, etc.) in urban areas

    Sorry – I can sign on for the prospect of climate change, even warming and even AGW, but this is a reach too far.

  15. David Gorski says:

    No serious climate skeptic doubts climate change nor an anthropogenic component thereto.

    Define “serious” climate skeptic, because one or both of these is exactly what climate “skeptics” whom I’ve seen and read deny. AGW denialists either deny that the earth’s climate is warming at an alarming pace or they accept that the earth is warming but deny that human activity is causing this climate change. Usually, they make their arguments using straw men and distortions of what the science really says.

    So where and who are these “serious climate skeptics” of whom you speak?

    P.S. In case you didn’t know, the whole “Michael Mann hockey stick” argument is a favorite denialist trope:

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/broken-hockey-stick.htm

  16. Mark Crislip says:

    There are always confounding factors for systems this mind boggelingly complex.

    A formative show in my life was Connections, by James Burke. Starting at one point and following one thread leads one place, following another thread leads somewhere else.

    My essay was just one thread of the blanket, just a walk to the chemist in a huge universe.

  17. Geekoid says:

    @Grinch What data? seriously? You just pop in from 1975?

    @windriven – as always, looking for some sort of crack to stir up problems. It use to be funny to read your post and watch you use discredited examples. Now it’s just painful.

    @MarK C – Great post and another fine example of another field of data showing that mans effect on global climate change is real.

    Sadly, it seems you have already found people logging in specifically to spout the same ol’ debunked crud again.

  18. windriven says:

    @Dr. Gorski
    Serious climate skeptics are people like Anthony Watts and Roger Pielke. These people are not cranks or denialists. They are serious scientists who are working for better quality science in climatology.

    More damage has been done to the laudable goal of reducing anthropogenic drivers by those who in their zeal played fast and loose with science than by all the cranks, young earthers, and tinfoil hat types combined.

    It is a mistake to conflate skeptical scientists with denialists. The latter are often motivated by bizarre religious beliefs, conspiracy theories or who knows what tiny voices echoing through their corpus callosums. The former simply want good, transparent, replicable science. One would think that would be embraced in a forum like SBM.

  19. windriven says:

    @Dr. Gorski

    The IOP has weighed in on this subject in a memorandum to the British Parliament:

    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmsctech/memo/climatedata/uc3902.htm

    I would think that the Institute of Physics would have sufficient gravitas to not be considered an array of cranks and denialists.

    BTW, the hockey stick is in disrepute not because of ice core data but because of concerns that some of the current data is pulled from urban heat islands that tend to bias the data upwards.

  20. David Gorski says:

    @windriven

    1. You really do need to march through this:

    http://www.grist.org/article/series/skeptics/

    And this:

    http://skepticalscience.com/argument.php

    The address nearly every common AGW denialist canard, including the hockey stick canard.

    2. As for the IOP, you do know that the East Anglia CRU is not the be-all and end-all of climate change data, don’t you?

    3. Anthony Watts? Your argument is pretty seriously undermined by citing him as a “serious scientist.” He is not and never has been. Watts is pure AGW denialist:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_0-gX7aUKk

    http://scienceblogs.com/islandofdoubt/2008/02/the_snow_job_of_kilimanjaro.php

    http://www.desmogblog.com/urban-heat-island-myth-dead

    4. Anthony Watts is easy. It’s child’s play to show that he’s pure denialist crank. However, Roger Pielke, Sr. (I assume you mean Sr.) is more problematic. He is a scientist, and some of his colleagues even valued his skepticism to keep them on their toes. However, over the last couple of years, he appears to have degenerated considerably:

    http://scienceblogs.com/islandofdoubt/2009/07/roger_pielke_sr_wades_into_the.php

    http://www.grist.org/article/roger-pielke-sr.-misrepresents-the-science-of-global-warming

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/07/more-bubkes/langswitch_lang/sp/

    http://climateprogress.org/2009/07/02/like-father-like-son-roger-pielke-sr-also-doesnt-understand-the-science-of-global-warming-or-just-chooses-to-willfully-misrepresents-it/

  21. Mark P says:

    since with global warming comes a variety of infectious diseases

    You appear to have made the same mistake twice.

    Humans are warming the globe. It’s just that our efforts are puny compared to natural effects. It is not enough to assert that CO2 has a warming effect. It needs to be shown that CO2 is a significant cause.

    Likewise the spread of disease may well increase with warmer temperatures. But compared to the effects of urbanisation, greater travel and political instability, the effects are trivial.

    We could easily halt the spread of disease by forbidding non-essential travel. Done. But that cure is worse than the disease (so to speak).

    The spread of disease with a half degree of global warming would be ameliorated by small efforts in poverty reduction. That’s what we should be doing, since we know that works.

    ————————————-

    So where and who are these “serious climate skeptics” of whom you speak?

    P.S. In case you didn’t know, the whole “Michael Mann hockey stick” argument is a favorite denialist trope:

    And absolutely THE most favourite trope of the warmistas is pretending that no person could be both rational and not convinced of the CO2 thesis.

    No amount of showing them such people will sway them, since by definition anyone not believing the official line is not rational.

    It would be nice if, instead of pretending your opponents cannot be serious, if you would do them the favour of looking at their evidence. The mere act of defending the hockey stick — no longer seriously advanced by the actual scientists involved — suggests that you are not concerned with any actual scepticism.

  22. Mark Crislip says:

    “Likewise the spread of disease may well increase with warmer temperatures. But compared to the effects of urbanisation, greater travel and political instability, the effects are trivial.

    We could easily halt the spread of disease by forbidding non-essential travel. Done. But that cure is worse than the disease (so to speak).”

    Only partly ture

    West nile got here in a goose (probably) not a human.

    Avain flu will probably reach here in a duck.

    If the vector moves north as things warm, it will bring diseases with it.

    If the water from the Andes goes away, people are not going to order bottled water, they are going to move, if they can, to where then can drink. Human migration from climate change will probably lead to far more spread of infection than insects.

  23. David Gorski says:

    And absolutely THE most favourite trope of the warmistas is pretending that no person could be both rational and not convinced of the CO2 thesis.

    No, just those who use straw men, bad science, and bad arguments to argue against AGW, like Anthony Watts, for example.

    It would be nice if, instead of pretending your opponents cannot be serious, if you would do them the favour of looking at their evidence. The mere act of defending the hockey stick — no longer seriously advanced by the actual scientists involved — suggests that you are not concerned with any actual scepticism.

    I have looked at their evidence and arguments. In fact, I used to be much more sympathetic to the “skeptic” position until I actually–oh, you know–started studying the issue. Basically, I looked at the evidence and arguments and realized that my objections were based on either bad science, questionable arguments, or straw men. In fact, the very form of the arguments on the AGW “skeptic” side reminded me, more than anything else, of the sorts of arguments that CAM supporters routinely make. So I changed my mind, which is, of course, the essence of skepticism, to be willing to change one’s mind when the evidence suggests that one should.

    As for the hockey stick:

    http://skepticalscience.com/broken-hockey-stick.htm
    http://www.grist.org/article/the-hockey-stick-is-broken/

  24. Damned Skeptic says:

    Is Dr. Ruddiman’s hypothesis part of the scientific consensus on AGW, or is it an outlier?

  25. addisontree says:

    Good post. One somewhat pedantic point (only because this blog is fairly rigorous about its logical statements).

    “… IF global warming, THEN infections. Of course the if the IF is not true, then the THEN doesn’t follow.”

    This could be read as if “A” then “B”, therefore if not “A” then not “B”. If I might suggest a slight rephrasing …

    “… IF global warming, THEN infections. Of course the if the IF is not true, then the THEN doesn’t [necessarily] follow.”

    Love the blog. Keep up the excellent work.

  26. BillyJoe says:

    Regarding Global warming.

    There is absolutely no doubt that the following are true:

    1) Global warming
    2) Anthropogenic Global Warming.
    Anyone who does not agree are both of the above are either ignorant or denialists. Global warming is just basic science. And there is incontrovertable proof from many different sources and areas of study that natural forcings are not sufficient to explain the level of warming over the last half of the 20th century. The only question remains is the level of AGW.

    Citizenracer said: “Carbon dioxide, which is supposedly having such a huge effect on our planet, only comprises about 0.04% of all the molecules in our atmosphere.”

    This is an example of pure ignorance.
    It does not require the collection of any data than can be dismissed as inaccurate or otherwise shrugged off. It just requires an understanding of how the physics works. Massive fail Citizenracer. You score is zero.

    windriven said:
    “What serious climate skeptics doubt is…Michael Mann’s discredited hockey stick”
    “the hockey stick is in disrepute not because of ice core data but because of concerns that some of the current data is pulled from urban heat islands that tend to bias the data upwards.”

    What utter nonsense!
    The hockey stick is alive and well.
    Either you are a climate denialist, or you’ve read too much of their literature, or both.

    Grinch: “When you don’t know, either say you don’t know know or shut the eff up. I can spot bullshit before it passes your synapses”

    I suggest you shut the eff up then. ;)

    Mark said: “Humans are warming the globe. It’s just that our efforts are puny compared to natural effects.”

    I use to send out Maxwell with his silver hammer but I have now given him a hockey stick and its coming down upon your head.

    Lawrence: “Here’s another Twain quote, an example of the kind of “logic” one sees all the time in those arguments against the basic idea that man can’t alter the earth in significant ways”

    That’s not logic, that’s analogy.
    Analogy can never prove anything except the ignorance of those who use it that way. Try an argument for a change.
    Mark Twain died a hundred years ago. Do you think he could have conceived of AGW? Or a nuclear holocaust for that matter seeing as his topic was that man can’t alter the earth in significant ways?
    You do not have that excuse.

  27. Mark Crislip says:

    Mostly I was enamored of the if if then then construction of

    “Of course if the IF is not true, then the THEN doesn’t follow”

  28. Fifi says:

    Dr Crislip – Thanks for an excellent and provocative article about an aspect of climate change that doesn’t seem to often get publicly discussed even though there’s a lot of apocalyptic press about infectious disease these days. (What can we do? Apocalypse/fear sells and always has….it’s the shtick…er,stick that’s mightier than the heavenly carrot.) By provocative I mean that it provokes one to think about the real world complexities of climate change. It’s certainly made me consider human activity and the environment in a historical context, which I’d never really done in quite this way before. I particularly appreciate you giving us such a wonderful example of what I’d call “evidence-based speculation” that considers cause and effect, as well as acknowledging complexity, interconnectivity and how seemingly innocuous human activity can have a much larger consequence than most of us would consider (stagnant water in swimming pools, for example). I also appreciate how you touched upon how travel and human migration contributes to the spread of diseases, and how diseases pass from humans to other animals and vice versa.

  29. squirrelelite says:

    BillyJoe,
    Good comment! But, you might have noted that it was Mark P, not Mark Crislip that you were responding to at one point. It does get confusing at times.

    One tidbit on the “if…then” thread.

    It’s been way too many years since I studied logic, either deductive or inductive, and I can’t even remember what course it was part of now.

    However, as I recall, in deductive logic for a statement “if A then B” (the whole basis of deductive logic), when the premise A is False, the overall statement “if A then B” is True. However, you do not know and cannot tell if the conclusion B is True or False.

    In other words, you cannot deduce anything from a false premise.

  30. Lawrence C. says:

    BillyJoe suggests: “Try an argument for a change.”

    Try finding your sense of humor! I know you have one someplace. :-)

    Taking everything seriously can be a great fault that blinds a person to other things.

  31. windriven says:

    @Dr. Gorski-
    Thank you for your thoughtful response. But aren’t you throwing something of a straw man at me? I hope I made clear in my original post that I am not a denier. If there is any ambiguity here let me stipulate that climate change is undeniable, global warming is undeniable, anthropogenic contribution to global warming is undeniable. And as a sidebar, while I do not speak for Dr. Pielke or Mr. Watts and while I have not read either of them encyclopedically , nothing that I have personally read suggests that either of them would not embrace those stipulations.

    Let’s cut right to the point: there are serious and significant consequences to humanity’s response to global warming. If, for instance, Mann’s hockey stick and the extrapolations drawn from it accurately reflect the immediate future for earth’s climate then humanity is criminally negligent if it does not drop everything and expend every available resource to eliminate anthropogenic sources of atmospheric CO2 and to strip atmospheric CO2 down to , say, the level of 1850. Doing anything less is unthinkable.

    But that action comes at a significant cost and the resources of the planet are limited and very unequally distributed. So if the magnitude and/or temporal scale of the problem has been substantially overstated and as a consequence limited resources are diverted in what amounts to a disproportionate response, then there are hugely negative consequences to the lives of billions of people a dispoportionate number of whom are already abjectly poor.

    So the science matters immensely and it had better damned well be right. Any coherent voice on either ‘side’ of the issue should be encouraged. Unfortunately, it is clear that a cabal of leading climatologists (whose names appear on virtually every paper that I found in the links you provided) attempted to cloister data making replication impossible, eliminate dissenting voices from peer-reviewed journals, and to mask some of the mathematical devices used to prepare their data. And that, Dr. Gorski, makes me skeptical.

    Richard Nixon assured me that he was not a crook and that there was nothing to that Watergate nonsense. I’m hearing the same things now from Jones, Mann, Pachauri, et al. – that despite the embarrassments in the CRU dump and the serial faux pas at IPCC the underlying science is solid as a rock.

    I like my science transparent, replicable and logically and mathematically sound. That doesn’t seem too much to ask given an issue of this magnitude.

  32. BillyJoe says:

    Lawrence,

    “Try finding your sense of humor! I know you have one someplace. :-)”

    Well, at least you used a smily this time. :)

  33. David Gorski says:

    ut aren’t you throwing something of a straw man at me? I hope I made clear in my original post that I am not a denier.

    Then you really should be more careful about citing someone like Anthony Watts, who is clearly in the denialist camp, and Roger Pielke, who appears to be drifting that way, although he’s not yet there and there’s time for him to reverse his slide. When a person cites sources like that in defense of his arguments, it’s not unreasonable to think that that person might actually agree with them.

  34. BillyJoe says:

    windriven,

    ‘Unfortunately, it is clear that a cabal of leading climatologists (whose names appear on virtually every paper that I found in the links you provided) attempted to cloister data making replication impossible, eliminate dissenting voices from peer-reviewed journals, and to mask some of the mathematical devices used to prepare their data. And that, Dr. Gorski, makes me skeptical.”

    The general public falsely believes that science is all black and white. Either something is true or it’s false. Climate denialists sieze on this misconception and use every hint of dissent (which is actually par for the course in science) and every bit of simplification in the presentation of the facts (which is essential in order to promote understanding of the facts) to discredit what the science actually says.

    In actual fact, the dissenting voices and the details on which the simplifications are based are on the public record . The dissenting papers have all been written are on the public record. The so called “hidden data”, or “masking” as you call it, is also on the public record – believe it or not, it’s been on the public record for over ten years now!

    The problem is that the scientist know that their painstakingly researched conclusions will be used and abused by climate denialists and they mistakenly tried to minimise the damage by limiting what they say in their consensus statements. They do all the work and then have to sit back and listen to all the garbage spouted by all those climate denialists sitting comfortably at home at their computer terminals dissecting every word for cheap political gain.

  35. Mark P says:

    David, I would believe you more if you didn’t use the word “denialist”. Why do you feel the need to use it?

    I’m not denying anything. I accept the world is warming. I accept CO2 has a component to play in that (though not a major one). What I don’t like is moral panic. And CO2 warming is primarily a moral panic IMO. It’s not even new, just a revised variant of an old theme.

    The Club of Rome told us we were all going to die. Lots of supposedly sound thinkers fell for that one, despite it being transparently bollox.

    The Left us all through the 70′s and 80′s that capitalism was on its last legs and bringing inevitable ruin. Loads of apparently rational people played along with that one.

    The whole “peak oil” thing was ridiculous, and almost immediately proven wrong. But huge numbers of scientists signed up for it.

    The Left appears to need to show that the advance of civilisation is bringing us closer to ruin. At the moment it is climate. We are causing the earth to die with our relentless desire to enjoy life. The hair-shirt brigade can’t stand it.

    (The right is prone to moral panics too of course. But they tend to be about moral things. Homosexuality and “liberal” decadence being the current trope.)

    If you follow moral panics you will see that Global Warming has all the typical signs. No compromise will be brooked. Non-believers are not just wrong, they are evil. There are no technological or alternative solutions — it’s hair shirts only.

    The big give-away about AGW being a panic is that the proposed solutions are all about increased political and economic centralisation.

    It took me a while to spot this because, as it happens, I’m left-wing (quite a long way, by US standards). I believe in socialised medicine, for example, and I am pro-UN.

    The whole AGW-panic thing allows measures that would be politically unacceptable otherwise, to be advanced as necessary. It is the only way the Left can advance its agenda during a time when it is on the retreat. It is a political gift too good to give up. Whether it is true or not, like Marx’s labour theory of value, is entirely irrelevant. Enough evidence can be found to support it, and “consensus” will take care of the rest.

    I believe it parallels the whole CAM “evil modern world” way of looking, but for the allegedly rationalist part of the population. I’m surprised, given your interest in how the CAM community view the world, that you don’t also see the factors at play in making it need to be true.

  36. BillyJoe says:

    Mark P,

    “I’m not denying anything.”

    I don’t know if you are a denialist.
    A denialist is someone who, after making a claim, is presented with evidence that it is false, and then, instead of responding in a meaningful way to this evidence, ignores it and continues to make the original claim.
    Do you do that? I don’t know. But you have two options:
    1) You have not been presented with the evidence against your claim and hence have made that claim in ignorance.
    2) You are a denialist.
    Take your pick.

    “I accept CO2 has a component to play in that (though not a major one).”

    Yes, that claim.

    “The Club of Rome told us … it’s hair shirts only. ”

    And you think that is an argument?
    Just because some previous warnings that you mention failed to eventuate therefore the warnings of the scientist regarding global warning are false?
    (If not, what exactly are you saying?)
    Also, you must agree, surely, that a warning can lead to action which can prevent the predicted calamity.

    “The big give-away about AGW being a panic … and “consensus” will take care of the rest”

    Spare us the political rhetoric.
    This is about the science behind global warming, it’s anthropogenic forcings, the conseqences of global warming, and the possible scientific solutions.

    “I believe it parallels the whole CAM “evil modern world” way of looking”

    Not even close.
    Please forget these parallels and analogies. They prove nothing. Parallels and analogies can have no bearing on the specific case of global warming.
    Please just look at the evidence regarding global warning.

  37. BillyJoe says:

    …oops, “global warning”?, I swear that was a typo!

  38. Ed P says:

    CO2 is just one player in the great global warming debate – why concentrate on it alone and ignore more significant drivers (such as water vapour)?
    Also, the most reliable (and properly peer-reviewed) data I’ve seen so far indicates that CO2 levels have historically increased AFTER global temperature increases, leaving open the possibility it’s effect not cause. 200 years of industrial releases of CO2 have obviously swamped such subtle links and may well show interactions, when we have a few centuries of data to look back over. But for now, it’s at best an irrelevance, at worst a distraction and diversion of effort and understanding from what’s really happening.

  39. trrll says:

    The meme that global warming researchers have been withholding critical data has been actively promoted in the popular media, but when I looked into it, I was found that this is yet another popular-media “manufactroversy,” similar to those which we have seen regarding vaccination and evolution, created by a small but highly-organized group of critics to distract from the extraordinarily strong scientific consensus in support of the reality and the dangers of anthropogenic global warming (which has been reviewed and endorsed by virtually every major independent and governmental scientific society in the world). Indeed, the degree of openness and public availability of raw data in climate science goes well beyond that which is common in my own field, or any other field of science that I’m aware of. There is more than enough publicly available information, both raw climate data and computer models, for anybody who wishes to independently test the conclusions of climate scientists.

    The major strategy of the critics seems to be to demand raw data from collaborators who don’t actually own the data, then scream “obstructionism” to the media when the collaborator tries to point out that raw data really should be requested from the actual owners. The unfortunate victim is then deluged with Freedom of Information demands for data, documentation of agreements with providers of proprietary data (while a great deal of climate data is public, some is proprietary information offered by national meteorological services for a fee), all related correspondence, etc., etc. If the lab actually sends raw data, they then receive follow-up demands for processed data and intermediate calculations. Sooner or later, somebody gets pissed off enough to dig in their heels and say, “NO,” at which point there are renewed cries of “obstructionism!”

    A good index to publicly available climate data and code archives may be found here:
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/data-sources/

    Information about the Clear Climate project, which has been quietly and independently reimplementing historical climate reconstruction software, with cooperation and support from climate researchers, can be found here:
    http://clearclimatecode.org/

  40. Fifi says:

    trrll – Thanks for the good breakdown of the strategy that’s being used by climate deniers to create the false appearance there’s a conspiracy going on. Like purveyors of woo of all kinds, this is about propaganda and managing appearances and not dealing with the actual data or facts. Of course, the fact that Al Gore is himself a propagandist and is using climate change for personal and political self promotion doesn’t help actual climate scientists much. Nor does the fact that there’s a segment of the public that wants simplistic answers and to justify not making changes in their mundane lives. (The huge success of The Secret in the US – thanks Oprah – and Apocalyptic Christian ideologies indicates that there’s quite a large segment of the population that buys into wishful thinking woo or actually wants horrible things to happen to others, with the belief that their god will protect them because they’re good people, of course.)

  41. Fifi says:

    EdP – “200 years of industrial releases of CO2 have obviously swamped such subtle links and may well show interactions, when we have a few centuries of data to look back over. But for now, it’s at best an irrelevance, at worst a distraction and diversion of effort and understanding from what’s really happening.”

    While it’s certainly worthwhile to look at the effect of water vapor, there are many more reasons to limit industrial emissions other than just CO2. Climate change isn’t the only product of industrial emissions, there are many other forms of industrial waste and use of shared resources that also have an environmental impact (so, in some ways I’d agree that merely focusing on CO2 emissions can be a bit of a distraction from the larger picture). Industrial waste, emissions and use of shared resources also have an impact on water systems and can contaminate soil, not to mention how diverting water systems for agriculture (particularly factory farming on land that was previously a desert or too dry to farm things that need a lot of water) and industrial and residential use (including energy) can change the environment and ultimately even effect weather patterns. Of course, if we look at this big picture, we’re once again brought back to being in a position where we have to consider our whole way of living on the planet as opposed to believing we can pretty much keep on doing exactly what we’ve done before under the false belief that the natural resources we use are infinite rather than being finite. Hence the popularity of arguing over cap and trade since it’s a way to avoid the larger and more problematic discussions and keep on with business pretty much as usual.

  42. trrll says:

    While it is common to attack Al Gore, among politicians he has over the years consistently been one of the most sophisticated and forward-looking in terms of educating himself and the public on matters of science and technology. For a nonspecialist, I think that he has done a good job of promoting public awareness of a serious problem. Of course, everybody in politics promotes themselves and their causes, it is part of the job description, but I find that attempts to divine the inner motivation (nearly almost always presumed to be self-serving) of somebody one doesn’t know rarely shed any light on the real issues. Of course, I notice technical errors and oversimplifications in just about every popularized treatment of a scientific question; still, by that standard, Gore’s presentations are pretty good. Here are some comments by a climate scientist:

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/10/convenient-untruths/

  43. David Gorski says:

    David, I would believe you more if you didn’t use the word “denialist”. Why do you feel the need to use it?

    Because it accurately describes what these people are. Denialism is not about conclusions. It’s about methodology; it’s about distorting the science to reach an ideological conclusion; it’s about denying scientific consensus on the basis of a distortion of science, little evidence, and/or dubious conspiracy theories. It’s about hijacking science (or other academic disciplines such as history) in the service of non-evidence-based ideology:

    A good introduction to the difference between denialists and skeptics can be found here:

    http://scienceblogs.com/denialism/about.php

    Steve also wrote a pretty good primer on the subject too, although not as directly about skepticism versus denialism:

    http://www.theness.com/neurologicablog/?p=1657

  44. Fifi says:

    trrll – The problem with your estimation of Al Gore is that he’s never walked his talk, which points to his latching onto this issue as a means to self promote and image build rather than actually be part of the change himself or even truly believing his own rhetoric. (A prime example is how, despite being ridiculously wealthy, he didn’t bother greening his own mansion until called on it…and the fact that he lives in a mansion.) He’s also only focusing on technological solutions instead of actual lifestyle and industrial changes (ie. how to make oodles of money out of climate change). This is what makes people see him as a shill and not a legitimate activist. In this way, because he himself is cynical and promoting industry rather than change, he does more damage in many ways because he makes the denialists’ claims ring true. I’d rather scientists talk about science than politicians, politicians generally have some other agenda that focuses around power and ego (and don’t completely understand the science or ethical arguments) and aren’t reality-based thinkers in the first place!

  45. skepchick says:

    I thought this was a science-based MEDICINE blog.

  46. David Gorski says:

    Note that this “skepchick” is not the real Skepchick (a.k.a. Rebecca Watson).

  47. skepchick says:

    @David Gorski

    I really am “real,” thank you very much. I was not aware that there was another “skepchick” out there in cyberspace when I chose the name specifically to comment on SBM. (I thought I was being clever.) To avoid confusion, however, I will use another login name in the future.

  48. Fifi says:

    skepchick – Dr Crislip’s post IS about medicine. Geography and climate are part of the picture when it comes to disease, that’s why people get vaccinated before traveling to certain countries. That said, not surprisingly the comments have become about the politics surrounding climate change.

  49. windriven says:

    Billy Joe-

    “The general public falsely believes that science is all black and white. Either something is true or it’s false.”

    I am a physicist, not the general public.

    “The problem is that the scientist know that their painstakingly researched conclusions will be used and abused by climate denialists and they mistakenly tried to minimize the damage by limiting what they say in their consensus statements. They do all the work and then have to sit back and listen to all the garbage spouted by all those climate denialists sitting comfortably at home at their computer terminals dissecting every word for cheap political gain.”

    I have no frigging idea what the paragraph above is supposed to mean. But I return to my fundamental point: this is very high stakes science on which global public policy decisions will be made that will affect the lives of billions of people. Screwing around with the science does deep disservice to each and every human being alive today and potentially to the lives of many future generations. There is nothing remotely noble about shading the science to try to bump things along in the ‘right’ direction as you seem to be suggesting.

    The consequences can be clearly seen in the aftermath of the CRU dump. Any chance for meaningful international agreements on mitigating CO2 emissions is deader than Lucy for the foreseeable future. Ponder for a few moments what that means if the more extreme claims of imminent climatological disaster are correct.

  50. Chris says:

    skepchick, there is even a website: http://skepchick.org/blog/

    There is also another blogger who goes by that, and it has been used for quite a while.

    If you read what Dr. Crislip wrote you will see how climate and disease have been interconnected. From the decimation of humans by plague and other diseases (like about 90% the natives of the American continents dying from disease). And how mosquitoes spread when there are different conditions.

  51. Mark Crislip says:

    Interesting.

    http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2334/10/38

    drought increasing wnl, I would have thought is was wet weather.

    Abundance of mosquito larvae is inversely related to the presence and abundance of predatory fish [11]. Droughts presumably reduce predators and competitors of mosquitoes, allowing mosquito abundance to increase [11]. In a survey following a drought, Chase et al. [11] found a significant decline in the biomass of mosquito’s predators and competitors in dried natural wetlands compared to that in permanent wetlands. Drought-induced declines in the predator and competitor biomass of mosquitoes and subsequent increase in mosquito abundance were confirmed in a controlled mesocosm experiment [11]. In addition, Culex mosquitoes are a “foul water
    10
    species,” thriving in dry conditions by breeding in standing water in old tires or pooled in tire tracks [10, 20]. Future studies should address the effects of dry weather conditions on the abundance of the predators and competitors of mosquitoes to better understand climate effects on human WNV risks.
    Increased bird abundance at refuges with congregations of Culex mosquitoes during droughts was suggested to amplify the transmission risk of St. Louis Encephalitis virus (SLEV)

  52. showmethedata says:

    formerly “skepchick” on this site

    @Fifi
    I agree. I understand that Dr. Crislip’s post IS about medicine. I’m sad to see the responses degenerate into a brawl about the merits of the science supporting (or not) AGW. I’d rather hear more about the fascinating connection between the variability of the incidence and prevalence of infectious diseases to climate and weather changes.

    @Chris
    Thank you. I did already know about Rebecca Watson’s website. I appreciate her skepticism. I didn’t mean to pilfer her blog name. I did read Dr. Crislip’s whole post. I get it. It is disappointing but predictable that this blog became a forum for the discussion of AGW instead of Dr. Crislip’s riveting topic.

    @Dr. Crislip
    More, more. Please write a book!

  53. trrll says:

    I think that the biological consequences of global warming are probably more difficult to predict than the effects on weather and sea level. Tropical diseases moving north is a reasonable expectation, and it is easy to imagine circumstances in which a disease vector species ends up geographically “out of synch” with its predators, or where infectious agents move into populations with lower resistance. And then there will be the influx of refugees displaced by rising oceans, perhaps bringing diseases with them. Ironically, considering the amount of political resistance in the US to taking action to limit global warming, the US probably has more to lose from warming than many regions, because large areas of the US have temperate climates with high agricultural productivity. When you have a winning hand to start with, it’s not to your benefit to discard and draw again.

  54. Chris says:

    showmethedata:

    It is disappointing but predictable that this blog became a forum for the discussion of AGW instead of Dr. Crislip’s riveting topic.

    I agree, which is why I usually ignore those posts.

    On the same subject, I started to listen to This Week in Virology, and one of the early episodes dealt with the mortgage crisis and West Nile virus: http://www.twiv.tv/2008/10/02/twiv-3-dengue/

    PS: I don’t think Ms. Watson has used that as a blog name, though I have seen various forms on the James Randi Education Foundation forums.

  55. DREads says:

    If you haven’t seen this already, it’s pretty amusing but much more worrisome than attempts in years past for some states to “simplify” pi by truncating it to a few significant digits. Even in the most backwards of places, most people learn that pi represents the ratio of the circumference of a perfect circle to its diameter. Any reasonable person would agree it’s absurd to imagine what’s going through the mind of lawmakers who think a mathematically provable proposition can be changed by law.

    The Rachel Maddow Show mentioned this resolution, passed by the North Dakota Legislature, http://legis.state.sd.us/sessions/2010/Bill.aspx?File=HCR1009P.htm asking public schools to teach that the verdict is still out on global warming and that the current body of evidence is largely speculative.

    “NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, by the House of Representatives of the Eighty-fifth Legislature of the State of South Dakota, the Senate concurring therein, that the South Dakota Legislature urges that instruction in the public schools relating to global warming include the following:
    (1) That global warming is a scientific theory rather than a proven fact;
    (2) That there are a variety of climatological, meteorological, astrological, thermological, cosmological, and ecological dynamics that can effect world weather phenomena and that the significance and interrelativity of these factors is largely speculative; and
    (3) That the debate on global warming has subsumed political and philosophical viewpoints which have complicated and prejudiced the scientific investigation of global warming phenomena”

    Certainly, I can’t argue with (1) but I think it was written accidentally. I’m guessing the authors of this bill probably don’t understand that science doesn’t aim to “prove” anything but to perform experiments, modifying hypotheses as appropriate until scientists eventually arrive at a good theory, i.e. one that’s consistent with empirical evidence. Teaching the basics of science would be great but I don’t think that’s what they’re trying to do here, unfortunately. In fact, many political hacks want to do the opposite by forcing that intelligent design be taught as a competing theory along side evolution.

    Notice the word “astrological” in part (2). Do the South Dakota lawmakers who voted for this bill think we should teach tarot cards is a competing factor (over CO2 emissions, let’s say) influencing temperature change? Even if this bill was written in a way that’s not binding, this is yet another example of politicians overstepping their bounds by trying to define what’s accepted scientific knowledge rather than leaving it to the experts.

  56. BillyJoe says:

    Ed,

    “CO2 is just one player in the great global warming debate – why concentrate on it alone and ignore more significant drivers (such as water vapour)?”

    Water vapour is not a “driver” of global warming. Water vapour simply reacts to temperture changes. If the temperature rises, the amount of water vapour in the atmosphere rises. If the temperature falls, the amount of water vapour in the atmosphere falls.

    It is true, of course, that water vapour is a greenhouse gas. This means that, when the amount of water vapour in the atmosphere rises (as a result of temperature rises caused by the real drivers of climate change) it causes the temperature to ricese even higher. But that does not mean that it is a “driver” of climate change.

    Also there’s nothing we can do directly to change the amount of water vapour in the atmosphere. If it were possible to remove all the water vapour from the atmosphere, we would be back where we started within a few short weeks as water evapourated form our oceans and lakes. Similarly, if we pumped more water vapour into the atmosphere it would all precipitate out as rain within a week or so.

    On the other hand, if we pump CO2 into the atmosphere as we have been doing now for a century or so through our industrial processes, it’s going to hang around in the atmosphere for decades to centuries. And that extra CO2 causes global temperatures to rise which, in turn cause water vapour in the atmosphere to increase which further increases the temperature.

    “Also, the most reliable…data I’ve seen so far indicates that CO2 levels have historically increased AFTER global temperature increases, leaving open the possibility it’s effect not cause”

    Not quite. There is another possiblity – the correct one!

    When temperature rises during a Milankovitch cycle (which lasts tens of thousands of years and is due to the movements of the Earth as it revolves around the Sun), it causes the frozen tundra to melt and the defrosted vegetation to rot releasing CO2. Between the temperture rise and the rise in CO2. there is a very long delay of about 800 years. So, yes, historically there CO2 levels increase AFTER a temperature rise and, in fact, there is a VERY LONG delay However, as the CO2 level rises there is a further increase in temperture due to the greenhouse effect. In this case the rise in CO2 levels occur BEFORE the temperture rise and there is virtually no delay between the two.

    Which brings us to athropogenic CO2.
    A rise in the CO2 level due to industrial emmissions causes an almost immediate rise in global temperature due to the greenhouse effect. There is, as a result, a very close correlation between the rising levels of CO2 and rises in global temperture as we have seen since the mid 20th century.

    “200 years of industrial releases of CO2 have obviously swamped such subtle links and may well show interactions, when we have a few centuries of data to look back over. But for now, it’s at best an irrelevance, at worst a distraction and diversion of effort and understanding from what’s really happening.”

    I’m not sure what you are referring to here.

    regards,
    BillyJoe

  57. BillyJoe says:

    Windriven,

    “I am a physicist, not the general public. ”

    Excuse me then!

    “I have no frigging idea what the paragraph above is supposed to mean.”

    Then friggin read itr again!

    “But I return to my fundamental point: this is very high stakes science on which global public policy decisions will be made that will affect the lives of billions of people. Screwing around with the science does deep disservice to each and every human being alive today and potentially to the lives of many future generations. There is nothing remotely noble about shading the science to try to bump things along in the ‘right’ direction as you seem to be suggesting.”

    I thought you didn’t know what I was friggin saying!
    Did you miss the word “mistaken” in my paragraph in your haste to criticise it? So much so that you didn’t realise that you agree with me?
    I merely offered a reason for what they did – to try to minimise the damage by climate denialists as they seize upon anything they can to discredit the science

    (Okay, I’ve read it again. Perhaps my wording was not as clear as it could have been)

  58. BillyJoe says:

    Chris,

    “From the decimation of humans by plague and other diseases (like about 90% the natives of the American continents dying from disease)”

    Just a small point: decimation means reduces by 10% ;)

  59. BillyJoe on decimation: “means reduces by 10%.”

    … and in a particularly unpleasant way. From Wikipedia:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decimation_(Roman_army)

    “Decimation (Latin: decimatio; decem = “ten”) was a form of military discipline used by officers in the Roman Army to punish mutinous or cowardly soldiers. The word decimation is derived from Latin meaning “removal of a tenth.”

    A unit selected for punishment by decimation was divided into groups of ten; each group drew lots (Sortition), and the soldier on whom the lot fell was executed by his nine comrades, often by stoning or clubbing. The remaining soldiers were given rations of barley instead of wheat and forced to sleep outside of the Roman encampment.

    Because the punishment fell by lot, all soldiers in the group were eligible for execution, regardless of the individual degree of fault, or rank and distinction.”

  60. Fifi says:

    DREads – “Astrological”! Thanks for posting this, I laughed out loud. People really shouldn’t use big words if they don’t know what they mean. Priceless! :-)

  61. Dr. Tim says:

    It’s interesting but not at all surprising that those who are either ignorant of the mechanism behind change or are denying the truth, as best we know it, have targeted this weblog.

    The Dr. in my login is real, not medical ;-) . I have a PhD in chemistry with emphasis on physical methods and spectroscopy. I have studied how molecules interact with electromagnetic radiation. I can say with some authority that the proposition that the increased level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is the driving force for global warming is on very solid ground. There is nothing in the science that surprises me. It just makes sense.

    CO2 is a powerful absorber of infrared radiation. Given that the CO2 in the atmosphere is about all that keeps the earth at a livable temperature, about 286K, it isn’t much of a stretch to understand that a 30% increase in CO2 concentration would necessarily increase this figure significantly.

    Those who work in the field of climate change are, frankly, scared stiff by what is happening. Changes are happening faster than expected, often much faster. The pessimistic ones believe that we are probably beyond the point at which cutting emissions to zero today would avert a rise of 2-5K in this century. The optimistic ones think we still have a chance.

    It’s time to get beyond partisanship and ideology. We need to work together now just in case the pessimistic climate scientists are wrong.

  62. Chris says:

    Oops, BillyJoe I knew that. How about the inverse of decimation? That is where only 10% of the population is left alive?

  63. Charon says:

    @Fifi

    “Al Gore is himself a propagandist and is using climate change for personal and political self promotion.”

    Oh, I know! He really played that up when he ran for president in 2008! Oh, wait…

    “Al Gore… he’s never walked his talk”

    When he invests large amounts of his money in green technology, he’s castigated as trying to profit from global warming. If he didn’t, he’d be castigated for not putting his money where his mouth is. Hmm… not only is he going to be castigated either way, but apparently he’ll be castigated for both things no matter what he does :)

    Would I prefer that the public just listen straight to climate scientists, instead of needing Gore as an intermediary? Sure! Does the public actually do this? No!

  64. Charon says:

    As an astrophysicist, I’m amazed by the vituperation of climate change deniers. I’m used to scientific debate where only ~50 people in the world care about what I’m saying :)

    But I guess it’s unsurprising given the moral implications of this. If the climate is changing in a way to make it more hostile to human life, and we can do something to minimize this change, and we don’t – then we’re bad people. We don’t want to be bad people, so either 1) we have to deny that the climate is changing, 2) if it is, we have to deny that we can do anything about it, or 3) we have to act to help diminish climate change. I’d like us to choose 3.

    My fantasy is that people with ridiculous ideologies (e.g., no regulation of greenhouse gasses, because that violates my freedom of freedomness), could live on their own world, with only other people like themselves. Then they could mess it up and kill themselves off however they liked, and the rest of us wouldn’t have to try to save them from themselves all the time.

  65. BillyJoe says:

    “I’m amazed by the vituperation of climate change deniers. ”

    It’s pretty annoying when some denier full of confidence in his untenable position repeats yet again something thats been refuted countless times without any meaningful comeback from him and then makes comments that clearly demonstrate he hasn’t even got the basic physics right.

    What’s more annoying is that the general public is often taken in by these bombastic ignora….oops, sorry, I must hold myself back.

  66. Fifi says:

    charon – “When he invests large amounts of his money in green technology, he’s castigated as trying to profit from global warming. If he didn’t, he’d be castigated for not putting his money where his mouth is.”

    We’ll have to agree to disagree on Gore I suspect. I just think it’s a shame that he’s made climate change about politics (and shifted it to being his career after he didn’t get elected). Gore was busy lecturing about global warming while he didn’t bother greening is own home at all, that’s not walking your talk and certainly gives the impression that you want other people to make changes you’re unwilling to make yourself. (Or, worse, don’t really believe what you’re preaching.)

    He also promotes industry as the solution, as if we can consume our way out of this mess. I do think technology can be part of the solution but there also needs to be a very critical look taken at lifestyle/consumption issues and industry as well. Look, I don’t think Al Gore is the Big Evil and I’d rather that more politicians followed his lead than the NeoCo disaster capitalism and Born Again “bring on the Apocalypse” profiteering approach, I just think he’s pretty obviously a politician playing politics and promoting industry and consumerism, I’m not sure this ultimately actually serves science well since it helps create the impression that climate change is about politics and not reality/science!

  67. Fifi says:

    Charon – “But I guess it’s unsurprising given the moral implications of this. If the climate is changing in a way to make it more hostile to human life, and we can do something to minimize this change, and we don’t – then we’re bad people. We don’t want to be bad people, so either 1) we have to deny that the climate is changing, 2) if it is, we have to deny that we can do anything about it, or 3) we have to act to help diminish climate change. I’d like us to choose 3.”

    I agree. I’m always amazed when people who have children don’t even do basic things to live in a sustainable way. Of course, consumerism is all about instant gratification and industry/business is all about ever increasing profits created by ever increasing consumption. This is particularly a problem in North America/Australia that makes it incredibly hard to implement real solutions (such as a decentralized power grid, sustainable housing and so on!). Europeans are doing slightly better, if only because they’re already psychologically capable of dealing with the idea that there’s limited resources since they’ve been dealing with that on a physical/land/material level for centuries now (which is one of the reasons why they went looking for new worlds to colonize in the first place, they were running out of space and trees to burn for fuel and to build things). North Americans and Australians still have a sort of frontier, expansionist mentally and a belief in infinite resources – partly because we have more resources and space.

  68. Fifi on sustainability:
    I’m always amazed when people who have children don’t even do basic things to live in a sustainable way.

    Actually that’s entirely consistent. Creating new human beings is an unsustainable enterprise. Why would anyone who has biological children be expected to be motivated by sustainability?

    Some people do start to think differently about the world after having children, because the future was meaningless to them until they were parents. But I think most people understand the concept of “limited resources” just fine and choose to reproduce anyway.

    Like the nice lady who said “I make beautiful babies. If the world is going to collapse because of too many babies, they might as well be beautiful and they might as well be mine.” I can’t see anything to argue with in that logic. And if that’s the logic people are using to make decisions about their lives, why would they be making decisions you think are “sustainable”? (Which would be what, exactly? What choices can you make today that will lead you to a fossil-fuel independent life and that — if the same choices were made by everyone — not lead to massive deforestation?)

  69. Fifi says:

    Good points Alison. Though I disagree that most people really understand the concept of limited resources in North America (in Australia a little bit more because of water rationing, and in a few places in America like California, which has also had water and energy rationing…but even then there are all other kinds of expansionist/infinity thinking). Consumerist culture sells the idea of infinite resources and limitless expansion/possibilities – hedge funds, credit card debt, no-money down mortgages, incredibly talentless people trying to be superstars, and so on are all examples of this kind of thinking. The idea that corporations should always be making more profit is another. I’d say that even the idea of infinite youth (and ridiculously heroic medical procedures that privilege quantity of life over quality) has some basis in this idea that one can buy one’s way out of the finite nature of life. Religion also appeals to this desire for infinite possibilities and life.

    Of course, the irony is that infinite choice doesn’t actually create happiness – mainly because it’s mostly an illusion for the vast majority of people. Even the uber rich will eventually run into a limitation to fulfilling an unrealistic desire (they just have the resources to fill all kinds of desires that are unrealistic for the rest of us!). The other factor is that, because we’re social animals, what really creates happiness is much more simple and can’t be bought or consumed, it’s the experience of being loved and accepted, to have some play and joy alongside meaningful activity, and tasty food and a warm, safe place to sleep and snuggle up with loved ones. Our needs are simple, it’s how our needs and desires become complicated when distorted when used to sell us things we don’t actually need that is a big part of the problem. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy civilization and having stuff, I just don’t mistake it for love or my personal identity (most of the time!).

  70. Fifi says:

    I chose not to have children but I am glad that at least some of my more intelligent and ethical friends are having them….got to keep some intelligence circulating in the gene pool! ;-) We certainly do live in interesting times (though I suspect thinking people throughout the ages have felt the same way).

  71. lkregula says:

    My husband and I chose to have one child. It’s still less than replacement level, and we get to experience parenthood (a privilege that I think way too many people take advantage of or discount). Even though we brought another human onto this planet, it’s ultimately about both the size and number of ecological footprints (feetprint?) and we do everything we can to limit the size of ours. Moderation- it’s a heck of a lot tougher than all-or-nothing.

  72. Abulafia says:

    My favorite criticism of climate science is about data. The scientists are hoarding their data making replication impossible. I’ve used the CRU modeled data. I know I can get the original data. I take issue with the underlying assumption that if the data were available some concerned citizen scientist would have the ability to use it. Any scientists capable of using the data and understanding those data already have access to it.

  73. JMB says:

    Many of the arguments of impact of global warming on health are based on scenarios of increased frequency of droughts, floods, severe weather events, and complex climate events like El Nino. The prediction of climate changes is based on computer models. The computer models have had success in predicting mean global temperatures. However, the success of predicting precipitation and El Nino variations is not equal to the success of predicting global mean temperature.

    From

    http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/wg1/ar4-wg1-chapter8.pdf
    Note: ENSO is El Nino Southern Oscillation
    AOGCM is Atmosphere-Ocean General Circulation Model

    “Despite this progress, serious systematic errors in both the simulated mean climate and the natural variability persist. For example, the so-called ‘double ITCZ’ problem noted by Mechoso et al. (1995; see Section 8.3.1) remains a major source of error in simulating the annual cycle in the tropics in most AOGCMs,
    which ultimately affects the fidelity of the simulated ENSO.

    Most, but not all, AOGCMs produce ENSO variability that occurs on time scales considerably faster than observed (AchutaRao
    and Sperber, 2002), although there has been some notable progress in this regard over the last decade (AchutaRao and Sperber, 2006) in that more models are consistent with the observed time scale for ENSO (see Figure 8.13).

    Finally, it remains unclear how changes in the mean climate will ultimately affect ENSO predictability (Collins et al., 2002).”

    I would interpret that to mean that there is not yet scientific consensus that ENSO will increase in frequency with GW.

    The following comes from

    http://www.ipcc-data.org/guidelinesTGICA_guidance_sdciaa_v2_final.pdf
    Note: GCM is General Circulation Model
    DDC is IPCC Data Distribution Center

    “If results from more than one GCM are to be applied in an impact assessment (and given the known uncertainties of GCMs, this is strongly recommended), another criterion for selection is to examine the representativeness of the results. Alternative GCMs can display large differences in estimates of
    regional climate change, especially for variables like precipitation, which frequently show wetter conditions in a region in some models and drying in others.

    Where several GCMs are to be selected, it might be prudent, therefore, to choose models that show a range of changes in a key variable in the study region (for example, models showing little change in precipitation, models showing an increase and models showing a decrease). The selections may not necessarily be the best validated models (see above), although some combination of models satisfying both criteria could be agreed upon. For example, a study in southern Africa adopted three GCMs: a core scenario based on the GCM that, out of a sample of 11 examined, correlated best with the observed climate, and two other scenarios from GCMs that captured the extreme range of regional precipitation changes obtained in the 11 experiments (Hulme et al., 1996 – see Figure 11). The simple GCM intercomparison tools provided by the DDC provide an opportunity to assess the representativeness of outputs from different climate models.

    Figure 11. Changes in average annual temperature and precipitation for the 2050s relative to 1961-1990 from
    eleven GCM experiments for a 10° latitude/longitude region of southern Africa centred on Zimbabwe. The three
    experiments indicated in red were selected as scenarios. Source: Hulme (1996).
    3.2.3.2.

    Perhaps the most important source of interannual variability in the tropics and beyond is the ENSO phenomenon. However, it is not clear whether ENSO events will change character as a response to global warming, though recent simulations with the ECHAM4 GCM indicated an increase in the frequency of ENSO events (Timmermann et al., 1999) and there is a suggestion from other model results that precipitation variability associated with ENSO events may be enhanced, especially over tropical continents (Trenberth and Hoar, 1997). ”

    Sorry, I’m commenting in simple text, not HTML, so you will have to download the pdf to see the figure. I will note that of the eleven models, 6 predict increased precipitation and 5 predict decreased precipitation.

    So much of what is presented to us about the global impacts is based on computer model outputs that have not achieved sufficient agreement between models or precision to observed data to reach scientific consensus. This problem with reporting variable results of different computer models (which usually process the same data sets) is a science methodology problem that I noted in the USPSTF reports on recommendations for screening mammography.

    Finally, I will make the stupid error of wading into the murky waters of the AGW debate, even though I am not a climatologist or geophysicist to make theses two points.

    1. The equilibrium global mean temperature is a function of radiative forcing and climate sensitivity. You must argue about both groups of factors to settle the debate.

    2. Is there any debate remaining about AGW? There is at least one remaining argument against AGW as noted by a reasonable consensus of climatologists.

    From

    http://www.climatescience.gov/Library/sap/sap3-1/final-report/sap3-1-final-exec-sum.pdf

    “Unless the models grossly underestimate the climate system’s
    natural internally generated variability or are all missing a large unknown forcing agent, the conclusion is that most recent warming is anthropogenic (IPCC 2007b).

    It follows that if global warming during this period is
    not anthropogenic, then the climate system’s internal
    variation is the most likely alternative explanation.”

    I have not been able to locate the reference IPCC 2007b, but I suspect this was included in the IPCC 2007 reports. You can argue that this is reductio ab adsurdium. However, I have heard second hand information that at least one respected climate scientist has argued that we are witnessing more multidecadal climate variations (variations in climate that last for several decades) because we have neared completion of emergence from a period of glaciation. In other words, we’ve finished the last ice age that peaked 20000 years ago. We are in an interglacial period. We may be experiencing more frequent smaller climate changes (like the medieval warm period and little ice age) because we are further into the interglacial period.

    Now, don’t expect me to defend any position on AGW because I am not in the correct branch of science. I’m wasting your time as it is. I have just quoted some discussions by the IPCC to give more dimensions to the concept of AGW, and point out the weakness of consensus about scenarios about specific impacts of AGW. I will finish with what I believe can be stated as the scientific consensus.

    From

    http://www.ipcc-data.org/guidelines/TGICA_guidance_sdciaa_v2_final.pdf

    “What can be concluded from GCMs about future climate?
    As general background information, it is useful to repeat here some of the main conclusions about
    future climate drawn from the results of GCM experiments conducted to date (Kattenberg et al., 1996;
    Cubasch et al., 2001):
    · Greater surface warming of the land than the oceans in winter.
    · A minimum warming around Antarctica and in the northern Atlantic associated with deep-water
    formation.
    · Maximum warming at high northern latitudes in late autumn and winter associated with reduced
    sea ice and snow cover.
    · Little warming over the Arctic in summer.
    · Little seasonal variations of warming at low latitudes or over the southern oceans.
    · A reduction in diurnal temperature range over land in most seasons and most regions.
    · An increase in anomalously high temperature events and a decrease in anomalously low temperatures.
    · An enhanced global mean hydrological cycle.
    · Increased precipitation at high latitudes in winter.
    · Probable increases in intense precipitation events in many regions.”

    I think that much of what may be attributed to AGW lies beyond this consensus.

  74. BillyJoe says:

    Fifi,

    “I chose not to have children”

    Let me know if you change your mind. :)
    Jokes aside, I trust this was not because of the worlds limited resources.

    Regarding Australia:
    Not long ago there was a bipartisan view on climate change in Australian politics. Then the opposition leader was unceremoniously dumped and replaced by someone who goes swimming and cycling a lot showing off his fit suntanned body, but whose opinions on climate change are based on Ian Plimer and Lord Monckton. He openly gloated over the failure of Copenhagen.

    ——————-

    BTW, you will notice the complete absence of any meaningful response from the climate denialists on this thread.
    For example, I had the patience to write a long response to two simple errors made by one poster, but there has been absolute silence. No acknowledgement at all and, I can only assume, continued denial.

    Oh well…

  75. JMB says:

    Pardon my grammar error.

    I think that much of what may be attributed to AGW lays beyond this consensus.

  76. JMB says:

    Besides the El Nino in 1997-98, there was a second major climatic event that would have affected Indonesia, the southern tip of India, and east Africa. As a result of drying (attributed to El Nino), major forest fires and fires in major peat bogs developed in Indonesia. These produced enough smoke to have affected this entire area. It produced a major amount of ozone (another green house gas). It produced an amount of CO2 that was estimated to be equal to between 13 and 40% of the amount of CO2 produced by burning fossil fuels by the entire planet for one year. If you look up peat in wikipedia, you will see an amazing composite satellite picture documenting the extent of the cloud produced by this uncontrolled burn.

    The point is that the ENSO event of 1997-98 was unique in several ways. The argument about the extent of health effects that may occur with other ENSOs should be tempered by the magnitude of this particular event (which was a stronger than average ENSO), and the coincident major uncontrolled fires. The slide on the health effects of the 1997-98 ENSO may not be representative of what is seen in more average ENSOs. That statement does not dispute that interannual climate events like the ENSO with alternating years of increased precipitation followed by dry years are factors in increasing malaria.

  77. JJ from Cowtown says:

    @ Mark C – Great post, I appreciate these hodgepodge collections occasionally, they let you cover a lot ground without needing to dwell on the details that you need to come to a strong conclusion about something.

    @ the AGW debate – The one thing that really strikes me about the debate in general is an abundance of the same general post: “How could they overlook X?”

    The best examples from this particular instance are water vapor and the ‘lag’ between CO2 and temperature in the proxy records. It’s as though these items are fresh, groundbreaking or otherwise shatter the science as it stands today.

    I guess it makes some sense, if you believe the science is some kind of giant fraud then a component of that would be to purposely ignore the obvious. Then I have to wonder why just climatology deserves this default assumption of deceit.

    Or I could just be sympathetic to the AGW view up based on my own worldview. Hopefully that worldview is based on the evidence, I’m sure some would disagree.

  78. BillyJoe says:

    JJ,

    “The best examples from this particular instance are water vapor and the ‘lag’ between CO2 and temperature in the proxy records. It’s as though these items are fresh, groundbreaking or otherwise shatter the science as it stands today.”

    It was once fresh, but it has long since turned stale. There can be an excuse for those who have not come across these counter arguments before, but for the anti-climateers, especially those who seem to be making a living out of it (eg Lord Monckton, Ian Plimer) it is simply denialism.

  79. JMB says:

    If we are to address the health consequences of AGW, we must be careful to separate what is consensus among climate scientists, and what is not. There are many statements made to the press by many different groups purporting to represent the predictions of AGW. Many of those predictions do not have the weight of scientific consensus. Furthermore, the political rebuttal that the “science is settled” fails to acknowledge the ongoing efforts at improvement in climate models.

    Although the IPCC statement of 2007 (AR4) has been criticized for specific failings, the release does address the consensus views and the limitations of climate models. It is possible to accept the consensus view, and still argue about some of the predictions of catastrophic effects. Mike Hulme, a climate scientist who is director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in the UK stated that in a viewpoint article for BBC News (just google Mike Hulme BBC News).


    Climate change is a reality, and science confirms that human activities are heavily implicated in this change.

    But over the last few years a new environmental phenomenon has been constructed in this country – the phenomenon of “catastrophic” climate change.

    It seems that mere “climate change” was not going to be bad enough, and so now it must be “catastrophic” to be worthy of attention.

    It seems that it is we, the professional climate scientists, who are now the (catastrophe) sceptics. How the wheel turns.

    To state that climate change will be “catastrophic” hides a cascade of value-laden assumptions which do not emerge from empirical or theoretical science.

    The bottom line on what I am trying to argue? Make a distinction between denialists and catastrophic sceptics. Don’t accept the press or the web for what is the scientific consensus about AGW. There are plenty of people happy to report to the press that hurricane Katrina or the drought in sub saharan Africa is due to AGW. That does not mean that it is the scientific consensus. Read the IPCC AR4 chapters for what the consensus is. There may be parts of the AR4 report that stray from best science. Most of what I have read notes appropriately the scientific limitations and uncertainty (I have not read it all). Ironically, the scientific skepticism is more intact in the IPCC reports than the US government’s new website replacing climatescience.gov (globalchange.gov).

    On another thread of thought, even though factors in climate change have been extensively studied, several factors still present problems for models. Water vapor is not much of a problem in models. However, when water vapor changes to an aerosol (cloud), it is an immense problem. According to the IPCC, improvement in the modeling of clouds and other aerosols is an active area of research in climate modeling. Cloud formation can be modeled using mathematical methods of chaos. However, when such methods are introduced into a model, then predictions from those models become much more variable. Although I can no longer find the reference, I believe clouds were the reason cited why the older climate models failed to predict the lack of significant increase in global mean temperature in the last decade, even though CO2 has steadily risen.

  80. JMB says:

    Since Lord Monckton was brought up, perhaps Dr Crislip could write another interesting article, next time addressing the issues of DDT and control of malaria.

  81. BillyJoe says:

    JMB,

    It sound to me that you are well informed on this topic :)
    Unfortunately, it is possible only you and me are still reading these comments as topics here rapidly drop off the radar.
    That’s a pity.

    regards,
    BillyJoe

  82. JMB says:

    Thanks BillyJoe, and I think you’re right.

    Signing off…

  83. Fifi says:

    JMB – “The bottom line on what I am trying to argue? Make a distinction between denialists and catastrophic sceptics. Don’t accept the press or the web for what is the scientific consensus about AGW. There are plenty of people happy to report to the press that hurricane Katrina or the drought in sub saharan Africa is due to AGW. That does not mean that it is the scientific consensus. Read the IPCC AR4 chapters for what the consensus is. There may be parts of the AR4 report that stray from best science. Most of what I have read notes appropriately the scientific limitations and uncertainty (I have not read it all). Ironically, the scientific skepticism is more intact in the IPCC reports than the US government’s new website replacing climatescience.gov (globalchange.gov).”

    Whatever way one slices and dices it, polluting the air and waterways (and massive deforestation and diverting of water) create problems regarding sustaining the planet as a habitat for humans (and many other creatures). Exactly how all this is going to play out, is obviously speculative but it’s pretty clear that man’s activity is contributing to disrupting ecosystems. However, very few people – particularly those in power that own and profit from the industries that are doing the lion’s share of the polluting and gorging on resources – want to look at the real problem. By only focusing on one aspect of pollution – and the most abstract one that they can say will only have truly dire results in the future – attention is moved away from all kinds of much more immediate issues with pollution and resource use and people feel less as if it’s going to effect them directly and imminently. And, because it’s so abstract and complex, it’s much easier to introduce doubt and opposing narratives (especially if people don’t want to make change themselves).

    As for the US government, one only has to look to the interests the government serves – corporate interests – to start seeing why the messaging is what it is (and why I trust scientists more than governments in this matter). The corporate interest is in maintaining control of energy sources and distribution, and making minimal change that impacts profit. This is why we’re seeing apocalyptic propaganda that serves disaster capitalism – who stands to profit? Everyone from energy corporations to private militias for hire – this may end up being almost as profitable as war. Of course, this doesn’t mean that actual very serious climate change isn’t happening or that our planet isn’t being changed dramatically in ways that will make it less conducive to human habitation.

    In nations where climate change is dealt with rationally and has been taken seriously for a while – take Germany for instance – the government has invested in creating sustainable communities, with decentralized power grids, in helping build and retrofit houses and businesses so they’re energy efficient, and so on. If the American government was serious about actual solutions – and not just pandering to corporations – they’d be investing in projects of this kind and not just propping up the corporations that contributed to creating these problems in the first place. The same is true of Australia and Canada. None of this means we have to go back to living in caves, it just means we need to invest heavily in changing what and how we consume and live….but most importantly, how we do business and think. As long as we’re addicted to greed and quantity over quality – be it in our personal lives or boardrooms – we’ll keep on doing the same anti-social things with the narcissistic belief that we’ll be the exception to the suffering we’re creating.

  84. micheleinmichigan says:

    “perhaps Dr Crislip could write another interesting article, next time addressing the issues of DDT and control of malaria.”

    I would also be interested in that topic.

    This article was very interesting. It’s so informative to follow the interconnectedness of all the different elements.

    I can’t say I did much more than skim the science in the resulting comments. For myself, I don’t feel I actually need proof that climate change is inevitable to change my behavior, buying and political decisions.

    I am pretty much a “plan for the worse, hope for the best” kinda person. So all I need is evidence that serious consequences are a true risk. As long as I am reasonably skeptical to fringe claims or obvious spin of doom, I seem to manage okay with that attitude.

    It certainly helped me out in the housing bubble/economic downturn. I guess that is the moderation that some commenter above mentioned.

    I do wonder how the population control/eugenics comments drifted in, but oh well, it seems to always come up when I read climate change editorializing.

    For myself, I’m far more interested in the potential reducing energy consumption and for public transit, fuel cell cars, commuter cars and renewable energy than judging how many or what type of children someone else has.

    Did folks realize that the U.S. and many other country have been at or below replacement fertility for quite some time now? http://www.census.gov/ipc/www/idb/country.php

  85. BillyJoe says:

    micheleinmichigan,

    “I do wonder how the population control/eugenics comments drifted in, but oh well, it seems to always come up when I read climate change editorializing.”

    The population of the world increasing at an increasin rate and will keep increasing at an increasing rate into the forseeable future. If this continues long enough, there will come a time when the Earth will not be able to support the number of people contained within it, even those in developed countries.
    Population control is actually the elephant in the room of climate debate.

  86. How does population control get into discussions of climate change?

    Ok, read this:
    http://earlywarn.blogspot.com/2010/03/us-in-high-emissions-scenario.html

    and then cheer yourself up with this:
    http://scienceblogs.com/casaubonsbook/2010/03/this_cant_be_good.php

    … and tell me that 80 years from now the US is going to be just as agriculturally productive as it is today. (I’m still looking for similar maps for the rest of the planet, but from everything I hear hot and dry places are generally going to get hotter and drier. I haven’t heard of prospects of vast tracts of fertile land opening up for agriculture on the same scale as current agricultural land becoming desertified.)

    If there is less agricultural land, there is less food. If there is less food, what is everyone going to eat? A great many people today are already eating very low on the food chain, and there’s nowhere lower for them go.

    Technological improvements to agriculture have been our usual answer, but technology is supported by fuel, which is going to become increasingly expensive as the costs to obtain it increase – including not just extraction costs but also war, as countries compete to control the remaining reserves. Fuel is required to produce the fertilizer that current high-productivity agriculture depends on; it’s also required to transport and process the food.

    Agricultural land will continue to exist; it will just become scarcer. Fuel will continue to exist; it will just become more expensive. But how do we really think tomorrow’s larger population will manage with fewer resources?

    It might manage just fine. Everyone on the planet might experience a simultaneous epiphany and become peaceful, generous, antimaterialist vegans. Or we might develop cold fusion. But I’m not that confident in those outcomes that I want to create new human beings to contribute to and experience future resource scarcity.

    That’s how discussions of population control come into discussions of climate change.

  87. micheleinmichigan says:

    “Population control is actually the elephant in the room of climate debate.”

    BillyJoe, when I used the slash in population control/eugenics I meant to talk about the two together, not population control on it’s own. Yes, population growth is an integral part of global warming. I guess the thing that bothers me is that eugenics seems to be the elephant in the room for every population control discussion. It seems like humans can not help but think, “Well, if we are going to reduce population, is there any way that we can insure that the people left look the same or sound the same or think the same as me?

    I know it was a brief interlude in a whole lot of comments (that you didn’t take part in.) But I’ve heard it so many times, in so many variations (although a first here at SBM), I’m just tired of letting it pass.

    For me, population control is a serious topic. Looking at China, we can see that some population control measures can have serious unforeseen consequences. I’m not saying one shouldn’t discuss population, but I am saying it is a serious discussion with serious scientific, ethical, human rights implications. Let’s treat it like that.

    I am not a social scientist, but from an everyday average joe perpective, the first places I would look for solutions to slow population growth would be:
    availability of contraceptives, equal education, employment and business opportunities for women and men, availability of health care for children, government support networks for the sick and elderly and science based public education regarding the effects of population growth.

    I believe a lack of many of those things are what lead people to have more than one or two children.

    I’m not wild about being the heavy in the conversation (geesh, think about how many trivial comments I’m going to have to make to balance this.), but I guess personal experience has lead me to take conversations of population growth or control rather seriously.

    But, I’ll try to get off my high horse now. If I stay up here too long I get (to be) a pain in the rear.

  88. micheleinmichigan says:

    Alison – It’s obvious to me, my use of the slash did not clearly state what I was trying to say. please see my above comment for further clarification. I am afraid the misunderstanding might of wasted your time, since it caused you to find population growth and consequences links for something I already knew. My apology’s for that. Hopefully they will be of use to others who read these comments.

    If people are mystified as to what I’m referring –

    “I am glad that at least some of my more intelligent and ethical friends are having them….got to keep some intelligence circulating in the gene pool! ;-) We certainly do live in interesting times (though I suspect thinking people throughout the ages have felt the same way).”

    Honestly, it was so glaring to me I figured everyone would know what I was talking about. I guess it’s all about the context of your life. Maybe as a Caucasian parent of two Asian children, I hear a lot of this stuff that others don’t. So what’s not on the average person’s radar is a loud and annoying beep for me.

    I will be more meticulous in my use of pull quotes in the future.

  89. I really don’t think I was talking about eugenics.

    I was thinking about people who look like me, talk like me, went to the same school as me, who say it’s responsible of them to have three (or seven) biological kids because they use washable diapers.

    A woman in Sudan or Bolivia or Afghanistan or Rwanda or China who has three (or seven) kids is having them under conditions I only distantly understand. I do know that in conditions of hopeless poverty, having many children is the best you can do to prepare for the future. None of them would be able to help you on their own, but if each of them does a little bit then you may not starve to death when you get old and sick at age 45. In conditions of hopeful prosperity, heavily investing in one to three children who go on to do better than you, while at the same time building up property and money to prepare for your own retirement, is much more attractive. Even dispensing with the children altogether makes sense as a plan if the future looks stable from where you are.

    In conditions somewhere in between, people make decisions somewhere in between. In addition, people who would prefer not to have children end up having them anyway; people who would prefer to have children find themselves in circumstances where they can’t manage it.

    This isn’t about judging people for having kids. People have kids. It’s what people do.

    It’s about judging people for pretending that their kids are not going to need water or create a demand for fuel. Their kids are different, because they recycle and they buy reusable shopping bags. Their kids are going to grow up to improve the world, not use resources that are taken away from other people’s kids by military force.

    I was responding to Fifi on sustainability:
    “I’m always amazed when people who have children don’t even do basic things to live in a sustainable way.”

    My response contained the following statements:

    “Creating new human beings is an unsustainable enterprise. Why would anyone who has biological children be expected to be motivated by sustainability?”

    “[Decisions you think are “sustainable”] would be what, exactly? What choices can you make today that will lead you to a fossil-fuel independent life and that — if the same choices were made by everyone — not lead to massive deforestation?”

    I don’t expect a family in circumstances different from mine to be thinking about sustainability in the same way I do. But I am curious about what Fifi thinks sustainability is, and why, if she is so concerned about sustainability, she is so happy that her educated, ethical friends are reproducing.

    I don’t think I was bringing eugenics into this discussion at all.

  90. Fifi says:

    Michele – “If people are mystified as to what I’m referring –”

    Fifi – “I am glad that at least some of my more intelligent and ethical friends are having them….got to keep some intelligence circulating in the gene pool! ;-) We certainly do live in interesting times (though I suspect thinking people throughout the ages have felt the same way).”

    Michele – “Honestly, it was so glaring to me I figured everyone would know what I was talking about. I guess it’s all about the context of your life. Maybe as a Caucasian parent of two Asian children, I hear a lot of this stuff that others don’t. So what’s not on the average person’s radar is a loud and annoying beep for me.”

    Were you try to imply I endorse eugenics? Or that race has something to do with my comment? Or are you assuming that when I say “intelligent and ethical” and my friends that I’m referring only to white people? Can you please explain what you mean and why you contextualized something I said in this way?

  91. micheleinmichigan on eugenics:
    “If people are mystified as to what I’m referring –

    “I am glad that at least some of my more
    intelligent and ethical friends are having
    them….got to keep some intelligence
    circulating in the gene pool!””

    Got it, Michele! Yup, that was pretty awful. I lose a lot of respect for people when they use that argument, which is why I didn’t care to bring it up in this thread: it would become too personal.

  92. Fifi on intelligence in the gene pool:

    “Were you try to imply I endorse eugenics?”

    Fifi, I can’t speak for Michele, but you spoke quite clearly for yourself. Your statement appears to demonstrate that you believe that genetics are the primary contributor to intelligence and ethics, and you think that reproducing these genes is a good way to encourage an ethical and intelligent citizenry.

    If you don’t believe these things, please explain your statement.

  93. micheleinmichigan says:

    Alison “I don’t think I was bringing eugenics into this discussion at all.”

    Actually, I didn’t either. And apparently in the stupid attempt to avoid a big comment battle with FiFi, I painted everyone with the same paintbrush.

    My diplomacy skills, they suck.

    “This isn’t about judging people for having kids. People have kids. It’s what people do.

    It’s about judging people for pretending that their kids are not going to need water or create a demand for fuel. ”

    I think this is an excellent delineation. I might add, sometimes people in the pretending group are working on the assumption that technology will offset consumption demands. Of course, technology can only do so much, so quickly (somewhat in the way that housing prices can only increase exponentially for so long.)

  94. Fifi,

    I don’t care if you think there’s a genetic component to intelligence. I’d be surprised if there weren’t.

    What’s upsetting is self-identifying as a superior human being with special reproductive rights. (Or identifying the people in one’s own social circle as having these qualities.)

    On an ethical level, this never ends well.

    On a practical level, who’s to say that eighty years from now the kind of people who do well in higher education are going to contribute the most to the well-being of their communities? I suspect that my tenant, with little schooling, few verbal skills and extremely limited ethical concerns, but who is a hard-working opportunist, will do better by his family and social circle in hard times than I will, who will simply flap my hands helplessly and say “I told you so.”

  95. Fifi says:

    Alison – “I don’t expect a family in circumstances different from mine to be thinking about sustainability in the same way I do. But I am curious about what Fifi thinks sustainability is, and why, if she is so concerned about sustainability, she is so happy that her educated, ethical friends are reproducing.

    I don’t think I was bringing eugenics into this discussion at all.”

    Why am I happy that my intelligent and ethical friends are replacing themselves even though I’ve chosen not to? (I didn’t say educated, that’s your association not mine – being educated doesn’t necessarily make you intelligent or ethical.) I’m not looking to eradicate the human species, that’s not what sustainability means to me. Sustainability means the planet being able to keep on supporting and sustaining human life (the planet will continue with our without us, as will some form of life).

    What does sustainability mean to you? Does it mean eradicating humans? Sustaining the human population means that reproduction is necessary, having one or two children seems quite reasonable to me and, because I value intelligence and ethical behavior, I think it’s a good thing that intelligent people who are ethical have children that will become intelligent ethical adults. Not just my friends, not just “educated” people (education isn’t a sign of intelligence, particularly in nations where access to education is determined by affluence) and certainly not just white people. Mixing up of genes is a good thing, it creates a more robust population. On a totally selfish level, I enjoy children and seeing how my friends’ kids are shaped by both nature and nurture (and how culture/values are transmitted). While I chose not to have children for a variety of reasons, including the world being already full of unwanted and uncared for children and over-population, that’s a personal choice and not a belief system I’m looking to impose upon others about who should and shouldn’t be allowed to live or reproduce (or adopt, for that matter).

    That said, as a society we already have laws about who can raise children and we recognize that not everyone is capable of doing so in a responsible and ethical manner. This is what child protection is all about. Being an abusive or damaging parent or a constructive and loving parent has nothing to do with race, education or even intelligence – it does have a lot to do with ethics. So, yes, I’m happy to see ethical people teaching their children (genetic or adopted) to be ethical because I’m into sustaining the human species and our cultures/societies in a way that recognizes that we’re all part of the ecosystem and a larger social system. I generally see intelligence as a good thing – though it doesn’t mean someone is ethical – so I also support creating intelligent humans (be it through nature or nurture). I’m a fan of neurodiversity so that means all forms of intelligence, not just a certain brand of intellect or intelligence.

    Alison and Michele – I feel a bit as if you’re both projecting your own values or disapproval of values I don’t actually hold onto me because you’ve both got a personal investment. While I chose not to have kids, I don’t consider myself more ethical than others because of it (nor do I consider my friends who adopted kids more ethical than my friends who had their own kids or those who also chose not to have kids). My friends and I that chose not to reproduce generally did so because we could – we had access to birth control and the ability to have some kind of meaningful life and career outside of motherhood.

  96. micheleinmichigan says:

    FiFi – Were you try to imply I endorse eugenics?

    Nope – I am saying that is a eugenics statement. I have no way of knowing if you know that it is tied to eugenics. You may not be familiar with the “smarter, more moral” variation of eugenics. It’s probably a pretty common mistake. I kinda doubt that you will say it again now that you do know. But that is up to you.

    Eugenics definitions -
    “the selection of desired heritable characteristics in order to improve future generations, typically in reference to humans.”

    http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/195069/eugenics

    “Support for the fundamental principles of eugenics relied on demonstrating that certain disadvantageous traits, such as disease and lack of intelligence, were inherited and that selecting against these traits would benefit society.”

    http://www.britannica.com/blogs/2009/02/beyond-darwin-eugenics-social-darwinism-and-the-social-theory-of-the-natural-selection-of-humans/

    And, like I said before. I actually don’t want to get into a comment battle over it. I’ve given you the information that I thought I needed to. You will do with it as you will. That’s the end for me.

  97. Fifi says:

    Firstly, Michele you brought race into this, I didn’t. My friends aren’t all white, nor are their children (naturally enough). Secondly, Alison you brought education as a marker of intelligence into this, I didn’t. Not all of my friends are “educated” in the sense of having gone to university (it doesn’t actually take a lot of intelligence to graduate from university). Thirdly, I’m happy to see ethical and intelligent people other than my personal friends having one or two kids. Does it make me sad to see people who abuse their kids, who don’t nurture them and actively show disregard for other beings as well as the planet as a whole, having lots of kids? Yes, yes it does. Does it horrify me that some people have children specifically so they can sexually abuse them? Yes, yes it does. Do I think that this kind of thing isn’t done by affluent, educated, white people? No, I’m quite aware that education, affluence/class and skin colour or ethnicity/culture aren’t the determining factors in being intelligent or ethical. I’m a bit surprised that you both seem to assume they do and have jumped at the opportunity to paint me as a Nazi eugenicist of some kind simply because I am happy that my friends have their own kids. It’s odd because you both seem to be the ones implying that it’s some kind of horrible thing that people have their own kids and pass along values that support sustainable practices. (I may not think it’s great that some of my less ethical and intelligent friends are having kids that they’re teaching to be greedy little monsters but I’m hardly campaigning for them not to be allowed to.)

  98. Fifi says:

    Michele – Um, if you don’t understand what I’ve said please don’t just project what you’ve assumed onto me and start, essentially, calling me a Nazi. (I understand that you somehow think your having adopted children of different genetic heritage than yourself is relevant here since you bring it up, how do you see it being relevant to what I said? And do you take issue with Alison’s beliefs that having kids is unsustainable since you have kids? Or do you see yourself as being somehow ethically superior to people who have and raise genetic children?).

    Simply being happy that certain genetic traits and cultural values are going to continue doesn’t mean that I believe others aren’t worthwhile. I also support the selective and intentional preservation of a great diversity of genetic traits and cultures, and neurodiversity, and don’t presume that “intelligent” or “ethical” simply means people who look like me or share my cultural values. More than anything else, I support people who have children actually caring about those children (be they biological or adopted) and the kind of world they’ll inherit. To me, ethical means prosocial and environmentally responsible – it has nothing to do with religious values or morals, just with caring about people and the planet.

    As for the carrying capacity of the planet. We long ago surpassed what was once considered the limit and, as it stands, if food and resources were fairly distributed we wouldn’t have world hunger. The amount of food that goes into landfills in wealthy nations is staggering and downright horrific considering that children go hungry both at home and abroad. So, I don’t think it’s as much about population control as it is about how we share the planet. And, as has been discussed, when people have access to birth control, food and shelter, and opportunities then the birth rate tends to go down to more sustainable levels (or drop below them).

  99. Fifi says:

    michele – To give an example, I think it’s tragic that we’re losing so many languages and cultures so rapidly. Why? Because languages encapsulate a culture and way of seeing the world (and thinking). I think having access to a diversity of ways of envisioning the world, and types of intelligence, is of great potential value since creativity is very often the result of diversity and different perspectives and cultures coming up against each other or informing each other. Just because a culture doesn’t look or see like ours does, doesn’t mean it’s of less value (particularly to the people from that culture but also to those of us outside of it). Even within our own culture there are subcultures that see things differently and speak their own patois that reflects this.

    Anyway, you can refuse to actually discuss this but it’s a bit shitty to try to demonize me as a Nazi and then refuse to listen or discuss the subject.

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