Forgive Us Our Transgressions

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

A new paper in Science magazine entitled “Planetary boundaries: Guiding human development on a changing planet” (paywalled here) claims that we are all potential “transgressors” … a curious term more appropriate to a religion than to science. But given the total lack of science in the paper, perhaps it’s appropriate. The abstract says:

The planetary boundaries framework defines a safe operating space for humanity based on the intrinsic biophysical processes that regulate the stability of the Earth System. Here, we revise and update the planetary boundaries framework, with a focus on the underpinning biophysical science, based on targeted input from expert research communities and on more general scientific advances over the past 5 years. Several of the boundaries now have a two-tier approach, reflecting the importance of cross-scale interactions and the regional-level heterogeneity of the processes that underpin the boundaries. Two core boundaries—climate change and biosphere integrity—have been identified, each of which has the potential on its own to drive the Earth System into a new state should they be substantially and persistently transgressed.

The text of their work starts out by saying:

The planetary boundaries (PB) approach (1, 2) aims to define a safe operating space for human societies to develop and thrive, based on our evolving understanding of the functioning and resilience of the Earth System. Since its introduction, the framework has been subject to scientific scrutiny [e.g., (3–7)] and has attracted considerable interest and discussions within the policy, governance, and business sectors as an approach to inform efforts towards global sustainability (8–10).

Ah, yes, the ultimate goal, “global sustainability”. And here is their graph showing how and where they think we have transgressed …

planetary boundaries

Let me start by saying that as I’ve discussed elsewhere, in the long run nothing is sustainable. Even this earth of ours will eventually be gone. So taking “global sustainability” as a goal merely reveals that the authors are not scientists, they are activists. This lack of scientific rigor is further indicated by the fact that despite having “global sustainability” as a stated goal, they do not make the slightest effort to define what “global sustainability” might mean in the real world. For example, they say:

The human enterprise has grown so dramatically since the mid-20th century (15) that the relatively stable, 11,700-year long Holocene epoch, the only state of the planet that we know for certain can support contemporary human societies, is now being destabilized (figs. S1 and S2) (16–18).

And their “scientific” citation for this claim? To support it, they list a non-peer reviewed book by one of the no less than eighteen authors of the study … and the IPCC. Oh, indeed, that proves their claim beyond doubt … they say it’s true, and it must be true because one of them had said it before.

In any case, they propose that there are “planetary boundaries” which, “if transgressed … could lead, with an uncomfortably high probability, to a very different state of the Earth System, one that is likely to be much less hospitable to the development of human societies.” Whoa, be very scared …

Now, is there any fundamental flaw in this concept of “planetary boundaries”? Not for me. Humans can do and have done damage to the planet. Our strength to do good or bad these days is very large. For example, humans definitely have the power to turn the whole planet into a cratered, smoking ruin through nuclear war, which would definitely be a Very Bad Idea™. And human-caused pollution is an ever-present problem. So the idea of “boundaries” for our cumulative actions is not inherently wrong … but as always, the devil is in the details. And in their case, they have most curious ideas about just where the boundaries might be located.

For starters, care to guess what their “Do Not Exceed” planetary boundary might be for atmospheric CO2? Well … it’s the 350 parts per million level made infamous by “Weepy Bill” McKibben. Now, we blew past this boundary about a quarter of a century ago, leading to … leading … to … well, nothing. To date, there have been approximately zero ill effects from the increase in CO2. There have been hundreds of claims that going past that “planetary boundary” would lead to destructive increases in everything from diseases to male pattern baldness. However, the threatened sea level rises and the “climate refugees” and the increases in male pattern baldness haven’t materialized. As a result, so far the only documented change has been a remarkable “greening” of the planet, as the plants have responded to the increased CO2 by greater growth.

The other proposed “planetary boundary” related to climate change is what they call the “Energy imbalance at top-of-atmosphere [TOA], W m-2”, as compared to the pre-industrial situation. The first problem with this “boundary” is that our current measuring systems are nowhere near accurate enough to measure such a trivial imbalance. The second problem is that we have no clue whether the “pre-industrial” TOA radiation was in balance or out of balance, and if so by how much.

Despite that, they are happy to give us the claimed current “TOA imbalance”, which they say is 2.3 W/m2 greater than it was in the land of Pre-Industry, which my hazy mental geography places somewhere near Pre-Columbia. And their citation for that assertion? The IPCC Summary for Policymakers (SPM) …

Now, when someone is serious about a citation, they cite the actual study. When they are less serious, they cite one of the IPCC Assessment Reports, usually with no volume or page numbers.

And when they are merely trying to spread fear and impress the rubes, they cite the Summary for Policymakers, which (as the title suggests) is the “Climate for Non-Scientists” part of the IPCC reports. But I digress. There is a more fundamental problem with their assertion—the IPCC AR5 SPM does NOT say that the TOA radiative imbalance is 2.3 W/m2. In fact, the word “imbalance” only appears once in the AR5 SPM, and in a very general sense.

So it appears that what they are talking about is not a “TOA imbalance” of any kind. Instead, they are talking about the change in the downwelling radiative forcing since 1750. Their calling it a “TOA imbalance” of 2.3 W/m2 as compared to pre-industrial values merely exposes their colossal ignorance about the subject.

In any case, the increase in TOA radiation is a rather unusual number to base a “boundary” on, given that it is not measurable. Strange but true, we cannot directly measure TOA radiative forcing. In part it is not measurable because it is downwelling (directed downwards) and thus not globally measurable by satellites. And in part it is not measurable because the “top-of-atmosphere” used is not really the top of the atmosphere. Instead, it is the top of the troposphere, which varies in height both spatially and temporally. So there’s no way to do the global measurement.

As a result, all we can do is estimate the change of forcing, and the error margins on that estimate are quite wide. The paper gives the value as 2.3 W/m2 increase since Pre-Industry, with a “confidence interval” (presumably 95%, perhaps not, and estimated rather than calculated) of 1.3 to 3.3 W/m2.

And in all of this, what is their “planetary boundary” for the increase in radiative forcing?

One watt per square metre … and we’re long past that one as well.

And what is the basis for their “boundary” choices of 350 ppmv of CO2 and an increase in forcing of 1 W/m2? Why pick those numbers? Here’s what they say:

Observed changes in climate at current levels of the control variables confirm the original choice of the boundary values and the narrowing of the zone of uncertainty for CO2. For example, there has already been an increase in the intensity, frequency and duration of heatwaves globally (35); the number of heavy rainfall events in many regions of the world is increasing (17); changes in atmospheric circulation patterns have increased drought in some regions of the world (17); and the rate of combined mass loss from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets is increasing (36).

Of course, the citation for this is the vague handwaving at an IPCC report without any listing of page numbers. Regarding their first claim about heatwaves, their IPCC citation says:

In many (but not all) regions over the globe with sufficient data, there is medium confidence that the length or number of warm spells or heat waves has increased. [3.3.1, Table 3-2]

That’s it? That’s their evidence? A claim of “medium confidence” that there has been an increase in the length of “warm spells or heat waves” in “many (but not all)” regions … you’ll excuse me if I yawn. That is about as hedged, qualified, and useless a claim as I can imagine.

To try to tighten up what it was that they meant, I figured that I’d look to see what they were calling “warm spells or heat waves”. The document sends me to the Glossary, where it says I’ll find the definitions. The Glossary says:

Warm spell

A period of abnormally warm weather. Heat waves and warm spells have various and in some cases overlapping definitions. See also Heat wave.

And …

Heat wave (also referred to as extreme heat event)

A period of abnormally hot weather. Heat waves and warm spells have various and in some cases overlapping definitions. See also Warm spell.

Dear heavens, this is what passes for IPCC science these days? They give us a hedged claim of medium confidence of an increase in something in some places and not in others, but they make no attempt to define what that “something” is in any but the vaguest terms. What is the minimum length of “a period” of warm weather? A day? Ten days? A month? And what is “abnormally”? More than one standard deviation? Two standard deviations? And deviations from what? The year’s average? The ten-year average? Thirty years?

And for that matter, what’s the difference between “abnormally warm weather” and “abnormally hot weather”? Where do they start and end? Regarding all of these important definitions, the deponent saith not …

And of course, this grade-school level IPCC regurgitated pabulum masquerading as science is then cited and re-cited by other authors as though it were something other than bovine excrement.

Friends, their study goes on to spew another metric buttload of fear-inducing misrepresentations about the so-called “Sixth Wave of Extinctions” and the like … but I fear I can go no further with this analysis of their specious claims. My stomach won’t take it, not to mention that it greatly angrifies my blood to contemplate this claptrap. I know it is peer-reviewed. I know it appeared in Science magazine. That just makes it all worse.

What keeps me from going further is that although I consider myself a reasonably adept wordsmith, I fear I can find no terms sufficient to express my immense contempt for that kind of imitation science from the IPCC, or my correspondingly profound contempt for the authors of the current study who are mindlessly pimping out that same pseudoscience as though it were real … not to mention my contempt for the peer-reviewers and editors of Science magazine for publishing it.

It is this kind of Chicken Little alarmism that has destroyed the reputation of climate science, and it is this kind of unadulterated garbage appearing in Science magazine that is doing great damage to both the reputation of the magazine and the reputation of science itself.



AS ALWAYS: If you disagree with someone, please have the courtesy to QUOTE THE EXACT WORDS YOU DISAGREE WITH so everyone can understand the exact nature of your objections.


144 thoughts on “Forgive Us Our Transgressions

  1. Given the writing in the abstract I thought you might be writing a satirical article about the replacement of science by advocacy. To my horror I realized you were referencing a real paper. Your dissection of the silly pronouncements of this paper point out the degeneration of what is considered climate science to farcical levels. They cover up their lack of competence with bombast and pseudo intellectualism. So much for Science magazine.

      • You can’t have that, they know that if it was written in plain English everyone would see that it said a lot but meant nothing, as my mother used to say of our children making horrendous noises when they were in nappies (diapers to you across the pond) “It’s all sound and fury signifying nothing”.
        I’m sure you could chop and change the order of each of the phrases used in that first block quote and still make it sound just as impressive but still as meaningless!
        I’ve had managers who could make yes or no answers last 10 mins!
        James Bull

      • Hey Greg, you must be one of those ornery types who demands clarity.
        Next we know you’ll even be asking for good grammar.
        (And what the heck is “E/MSY” that’s red risk?)

      • Keith Sketchley January 17, 2015 at 9:44 am

        (And what the heck is “E/MSY” that’s red risk?)

        That’s Extinctions per Million Species Years, which anyone who has been following my work knows is another grave modern misunderstanding. It’s just the bogus claim that we’re in a “Sixth Wave of Extinction”. See my post entitled Where Are The Corpses, or the succeeding journal paper, Historical Continental Bird and Mammal Extinction Rates. Short version? Other than one-time extinctions on islands and Australia from introduced alien species, extinction rates are no different from historical rates.

    • “””””……The planetary boundaries framework defines a safe operating space for humanity based on the intrinsic biophysical processes that regulate the stability of the Earth System. …..”””””
      I nominate this WOW for the Bullwer Lytton Prize.

  2. And I just read in the NYTimes 10 minutes ago that “Ocean Life Faces Mass Extinction, Study Says.” I’m all for being responsible, and, of course, we must manage resources, which I thought we actually were at least trying to do. I’m so tired of this sky is falling screaming approach to the environment. They keep it up I’m going to start littering.

  3. Planetary boundaries? What planetary boundaries? Nothing stopped them from coming here from whatever planet they came from.

    • I heard a bunch of T&V talking heads last night (reported on the A&M radio) arguing (heatedly) as to whether “The moon” , is a planet or a star.
      Failing to resolve that; they then started on: “what about the sun; we don’t have any idea what that is !”
      Yes we have some real brainiacs sitting around in easy chairs and yakking like they are acting like intelligent people.
      Trouble is, our kids can’t tell the difference either, because that’s what they were taught in school too.

  4. For starters, care to guess what their “Do Not Exceed” planetary boundary might be for atmospheric CO2? Well … it’s the 350 parts per million level made infamous by “Weepy Bill” McKibben. Now, we blew past this boundary about a quarter of a century ago, leading to … leading … to … well, nothing.
    I think it is a safe assumption that the authors of this “study” did not consult the plant kingdom and get their opinion on the “correct” level of C02.

    • “….. leading to … leading … to … well, nothing.”
      Actually, it did lead to something. Unnecessarily skyrocketing electric rates, the next panic-induced grant, and a shut-down of fossil fuel production.
      None of which can be justified… but all that witches-brew ‘science’ did lead to something. Nothing good.
      “I think it is a safe assumption that the authors of this “study” did not consult the plant kingdom and get their opinion on the “correct” level of C02.”
      You would think that with all ‘their’ contentions that talking to plants makes them grow better they would realize CO2 was a good thing. Of course, maybe they think talking to plants makes them grow by making the plants feel better about themselves.

  5. And their “solution” for this assumed future problem within the stated ” planetary boundaries framework”?
    Death and harm to billions of real people living real lives in the real world.

  6. “AS ALWAYS: If you disagree with someone, please have the courtesy to QUOTE THE EXACT WORDS YOU DISAGREE WITH so everyone can understand the exact nature of your objections.”
    Sorry Willis, I just couldn’t find anything you wrote that I disagree with. I guess I’ll just have to try harder next time.

      • increases in male pattern baldness haven’t materialized.
        hang on Willis. My hair started falling out about the time the planet hit 350 ppm CO2, and best as I can determine yours started falling out about the same time. So, according to the very best and most rigorous test of climate science, we can definitely claim that CO2 causes male pattern baldness.
        I also started putting on weight about the same time, as did a whole lot of people, so it goes without saying that CO2 makes people fat.
        And damned if I didn’t stop growing the same time CO2 was increasing. So without a doubt it isn’t smoking that stunts your growth, it is the CO2 in cigarettes.
        And, since everyone that comes into contact with CO2 eventually loses their eyesight, hearing, strength and eventually dies, it certainly must be a highly toxic poison. We know this to be true because the EPA done told us.

      • ” My hair started falling out…started putting on weight…CO2 makes people fat”
        Exactly! Second data point right here…anyone else?

      • Sorry Fred, it is widely know that male baldness is a direct result of marriage to the wrong woman.
        It goes hand in hand with the answer to the question of why most married men die sooner than their wives. (because they want to).

      • “it is widely know that male baldness is a direct result of marriage to the wrong woman.”
        My data clearly show otherwise. Has that statement peer spouse reviewed?

      • “Has that statement spouse reviewed?”
        I might be nuts but I am not crazy nor do I have a death wish. 🙂

  7. Most people on this planet live in cities supported entirely by the few of us out here in the hinterlands supplying the food, energy, and other natural resources cities require. And we are the exactly ones who suffer from the slings and arrows of the very people who produce garbage reports like this.

  8. Excellent post Willis, thank you. This paper would be funny if it were not so frightening ….see UN Agenda 21.

  9. Such a pretty little graph … if that is what passes for science these days, then its level could, at best, be called sophomoric.
    With this type science, who needs to go through the boring work of gathering data?

    • That graph is a whac-a-mole graph. As soon as one of their boundaries is found to be irrelevant, they still have a boundary called “Novel Entities” under which who knows what they’ll conjure up next to frighten all the sheeple!

  10. It is an interesting schematic within which to write about and summarize stuff, but your short review highlights how much isn’t known very well.
    Your article has been a fun read. Keep up the good work.

  11. Reminds me a little of that classic paper “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity”.

  12. There were “eighteen authors” for this study? I wonder how much each of them got paid for producing this propaganda. With peer-reviewed papers like this, climate science is becoming to science what astrology is to astronomy. I half expect in the near future to be able to dial a 1-800 number to reach Michael Mann and for $2.99 a minute have him tell me where the best places to retire will be based on my preferred climate and my expected life span.

  13. Willis, I have recently realised that I am going bald.. it could be genetics I suppose, but I am willing to bet that its that dratted C02 again…and I want to tax every one to make sure I am not totally follically challenged
    (OK I may be spelling challenged and I am not sure if I can blame C02 for that.. ).

    • Graph it!!
      I have no doubt that your hair loss (1/follicle density; the inverse of hair follicles per cm^2 at yearly intervals) plotted on an Y axis, with the annual averaged Keeling curve values on the X axis would clearly have a strong R^2, and thus low p value.
      Thus, without a doubt, you could “prove” increasing pCO2 causes male baldness.
      Time for you to sue Big Oil for a few $Billion for your psychological pain and suffering.
      You could patent a “CO2 scrubber treatment” for nightly application, then sell it on a 2 am TV Infomercial, and make another fortune.
      /Sarc off
      [Oh. Was that sarcasm? .mod]

    • I started loosing my hair when I was 17/18 back in the 1970’s just after the very hot summer of 76 so there could be a link! But always looked on it as a non problem as it is easier to look after if it isn’t there. One of the guys I worked with offered me something to keep my hair in. I turned it down which stopped his joke as he had a brown paper bag for me.
      I just say that I have a high forehead…. that it goes up and over and is on it’s way down the back of my head isn’t an issue.
      My wife was asked before we got married if my hair loss was a problem for her, she replied that from where she was she couldn’t see it. She is 5ft1/2inch tall and I’m 6ft2inch.
      James Bull

  14. “Two core boundaries—climate change and biosphere integrity—have been identified, each of which has the potential on its own to drive the Earth System into a new state should they be substantially and persistently transgressed.”
    A new (computer generated) state until the money runs out, then we will get back to reality.

  15. the Authors:
    Will Steffen1,2,*, Katherine Richardson3, Johan Rockström1, Sarah E. Cornell1, Ingo Fetzer1, Elena M. Bennett4, R. Biggs1,5, Stephen R. Carpenter6, Wim de Vries7,8, Cynthia A. de Wit9, Carl Folke1,10, Dieter Gerten11, Jens Heinke11,12,13, Georgina M. Mace14, Linn M. Persson15, Veerabhadran Ramanathan16,17, B. Reyers1,18, Sverker Sörlin19
    – Author Affiliations
    1Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, SE-10691 Stockholm, Sweden.
    2Fenner School of Environment and Society, The Australian National University, Canberra ACT 2601, Australia.
    3Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate, University of Copenhagen, Natural History Museum of Denmark, Universitetsparken 15, Building 3, DK-2100 Copenhagen, Denmark.
    4Department of Natural Resource Sciences and McGill School of Environment, McGill University, 21, 111 Lakeshore Rd., Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, QC H9X 3V9, Canada.
    5Centre for Studies in Complexity, University of Stellenbosch, Private Bag X1, Stellenbosch 7602, South Africa.
    6Center for Limnology, University of Wisconsin, 680 North Park Street, Madison WI 53706 USA.
    7Alterra Wageningen University and Research Centre, PO Box 47, 6700AA Wageningen, The Netherlands.
    8Environmental Systems Analysis Group, Wageningen University, PO Box 47, 6700 AA Wageningen, The Netherlands.
    9Department of Environmental Science and Analytical Chemistry, Stockholm University, SE-10691 Stockholm, Sweden.
    10Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, SE-10405 Stockholm, Sweden.
    11Research Domain Earth System Analysis, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), Telegraphenberg A62, 14473 Potsdam, Germany.
    12International Livestock Research Institute, P.O. Box 30709, Nairobi 00100 Kenya.
    13CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization), St Lucia QLD 4067, Australia.
    14Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research (CBER), Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment, University College London, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT, UK.
    15Stockholm Environment Institute, Linnégatan 87D, SE-10451 Stockholm, Sweden.
    16Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California at San Diego, 8622 Kennel Way, La Jolla CA 92037 USA.
    17UNESCO Professor, TERI University, 10 Institutional Area, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi, Delhi 110070, India.
    18Natural Resources and the Environment, CSIR, PB Box 320, Stellenbosch 7599, South Africa.
    19Division of History of Science, Technology and Environment, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, SE-10044 Stockholm, Sweden.

    • Thanks, now I can personalize my contempt for these people pretending to be scientists doing science.

    • Will Steffen trashed his reputation here in OZ long ago … he became nothing more than grant farmer and a shill for the ex-socialist government pushing Agenda 21 policies.

  16. Willis,
    Thanks for reading that for us. I hope you waited until well after eating. Getting real close to that kind of stuff can make one lose one’s lunch.
    Time to refill my red Solo Cup.

  17. The Ocean Acidification (OA) section of their PB “research” article is at best, laughable, at worst outright fabrication using half-truths and cherry-picked quotes from references.
    Here it is:

    They write:
    “This boundary is intimately linked with one of the control variables, CO2, for the climate change PB. The concentration of free H+ ions in the surface ocean has increased by about 30% over the last 200 years due to the increase in atmospheric CO2 (45). ”
    That Ref 45 is:
    Ref 45: Royal Society, Ocean Acidification Due to Increasing Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide. Policy Document 12/05 (The Royal Society, London, 2005).
    Besides the fact that that is a 10 year old article in which there is today far better research on OA, going to that that ref 45, it states (on page 9, para 2.6):
    “Based upon current measurements of ocean pH, analysis of
    CO2 concentration in ice cores, our understanding of the
    rate of CO2 absorption and retention in the surface oceans,
    and knowledge of the CaCO3 buffer (Section 2.2.2), it is
    possible to calculate that the pH of the surface oceans was
    0.1 units higher in pre-industrial times (Caldeira & Wickett
    2003; Key et al 2004). This 0.1 pH change over about the
    past 200 years corresponds to about a 30% increase in the
    concentration of hydrogen ions. ”
    Excsue me if I don’t get alarmed at a 0.1 pH change, as that is the standard error in a glass probe pH meter, that was used for decades.
    But worse, (big BUT)… in the paragraph immediately preceding that one (para 2.5), the 2005 Royal Society OA authors write:
    “Other proxy estimates have been made for pH at the peak
    of the more recent Ice Age, about 20000 years ago, when
    atmospheric CO2 concentrations were 190 ppm
    compared with today’s value of about 380 ppm. One
    estimate, also based on boron isotopes (Sanyal et al
    1995), suggests that the pH of the oceans was 0.3 units
    higher than today (that is, more alkaline). This implies that
    doubling of CO2 decreases pH by 0.3 units. However,
    another estimate, based on the preservation of marine
    calcifying organisms (Anderson & Archer 2002), suggests
    that there was no such whole-ocean pH change.
    We caution, therefore, that there is substantial
    uncertainty in both proxy and model reconstructions,
    that these uncertainties increase as one goes back from
    centuries to millennia and to millions of years in time.”
    (my emphasis in bold).

    The reference they use to make their boundary alarmist claim has caveats, and hedges, and claims substantial uncertainty of even the basic change in pH from 190 ppm to 380 ppm. So that is far from what these current Science mag PB authors suggest is happening. And now 10 years on from 2005, we know that at 400 ppm, ocean pH is not where it was “alarmed” to be at this point in 2005
    More evidence of Climate Science Fail, in the name of Noble Cause Corruption by “scientists” in need of grant-research funding.

  18. We understand nearly nothing about any of the parameters they discuss. Their assumptions are unsupportable. They somehow believe the hollowscene is the garden of eden and the only conceivable state that can support life on earth, if only we forsake the evil hydrocarbons…
    This is why we strive to separate church and state, and why we must strive all the more to separate church and state science.

    • “Their assumptions are unsupportable. ”
      It wasn’t produced for the thinking person, it was meant to be taken at face value.
      “…to separate church and state science”
      More fitting; “separate state church and state science”, no?

  19. Let me start by saying that as I’ve discussed elsewhere, in the long run nothing is sustainable.
    Again I must disagree. BS is completely sustainable. Endless supply. Even if we could ever figure out a windmill or solar panel that runs on pure BS, the climate science community alone could overnight solve the worlds entire energy problems. Any if we could invent a space ship that runs on political BS, well we’d be able to send politicians to the ends of the universe in the blink of an eye.
    BS, the only truly sustainable energy source.

    • “BS, the only truly sustainable energy source.”
      But one could argue that BS is an energy carrier, not an energy source?

  20. The birth of “Medium Confidence” – climategate email
    From Stephen H Schneider
    > Hello all. I appreciate the improvement in the table from WG 1,
    > particularly the inclusion of symmetrical confidence levels–but please
    > get rid of the ridiculous “inconclusive” for the .34 to .66 subjective
    > probability range. It will convey a completely differnt meaning to lay
    > persons–read decisionmakers–since that probability range represents
    > medium levels of confidence, not rare events. A phrase like “quite
    > possible”
    is closer to popular lexicon, but inconclusive applies as well
    > to very likely or very unlikely events and is undoubtedly going to be
    > misinterpreted on the outside.
    Reply from Thomas Stocker
    > Steve, I agree with your assesement of inconclusive — quite possible is
    > much better and we use ‘possible’ in the US National Assessment. Surveys
    > has shown that the term ‘possible’ is interpreted in this range by the
    > public.
    > Tom
    Stephen Schneider then replies
    Great Tom, I think we are converging to much clearer meanings across
    various cultures here. Please get the inconclusive out! By the way,
    “possible” still has some logical issues as it is true for very large or
    very small probabilities in principle, but if you define it clearly it is
    probably OK–but “quite possible” conveys medium confidence better–but
    then why not use medium confidence, as the 3 rounds of review over the
    guidance paper concluded after going through exactly the kinds of
    disucssions were having now. Thanks, Steve

    • If you have medium confidence a dice will come up 1 or 2 (.33) then I would like to engage you in a little game:
      Every throw a 1 or 2 comes up I will give you £1.10 (I’m being generous here because the medium confidence threshold is .34)
      Every throw 3,4,5 or 6comes up you give me £1
      You have to play at least 20 rounds. After that I’m happy to play until your money runs out.

  21. Boundary condition analysis is constrained by the limitation imposed by sample selective endpoint limitations in which the limitation is defined as a being a non-linear response to quantification of direct input parameters, and these are especially sensitive in cases where the limiting conditions from the endpoint perspective can be demonstrated as defining in whole or in part the boundary condition itself. This in turn suggests an integration between input parameters and boundary conditions that is over correlated and my represent an inadvertent feedback response that is out of phase but representative of the amplitude of the signal originally being investigated. Care must be taken to exclude by expert best practices this effect in a manner where statically significant findings of significance to the underlying hypothesis are assigned high value probability function on order to differentiate between confounding signal which are simply spurious in nature as having be driven by quasi-cyclical background processes which can overwhelm the primary signal parameters for which the boundary conditions and endpoint limitations were first envisioned. See IPCC. This further leads to the conclusion that selective endpoint limitations many be mitigated in effect by discarding those values which theory predicts should not exist and this has the obvious benefit of bringing selective data constraints to the analysis which prove the robust nature of the original aforementioned policy description.
    Am I a climate scientist now?

      • Also, “…to the underlying hypothesis are assigned high value probability function on order to differentiate between confounding signal which are simply spurious in nature as having be driven by quasi-cyclical background processes…”
        Should obviously be,
        “…to the underlying hypothesis are assigned high value probability function in order to differentiate between confounding signals which are simply spurious in nature as having been driven by quasi-cyclical background processes… ”
        But the method of excluding anything predictable factors except those that give the desired outcome is correct climatology.
        However, an improvement would be to exclude everything that has happened except those that give the desired outcome. It has a venerable tradition in the affiliated field of astrology and is being incorporated into this area by GISS et al.

  22. “the relatively stable, 11,700-year long Holocene epoch, the only state of the planet that we know for certain can support contemporary human societies”
    Contemporary human societies haven’t been around for 11,700 years – whether or not our current, and dynamic, human societies could have started 11,700 years ago, and supported themselves throughout the Holocene is a magical hypothetical.

  23. “Transgressing the boundaries”?. Hmm… reminds me of something: “Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity” Lots of scientifical jargon too. No, sorry it’s just me

    • “The Anthropocene: From Global Change to Planetary Stewardship”
      Will Steffen, Åsa Persson, Lisa Deutsch, Jan Zalasiewicz, Mark Williams, Katherine Richardson, Carole Crumley, Paul Crutzen, Carl Folke, Line Gordon, Mario Molina, Veerabhadran Ramanathan, Johan Rockström, Marten Scheffer, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Uno Svedin

  24. The alarmist’s assumption is that the TOA imbalance, whatever its magnitude, is overwhelmingly due to human activities. Which is obviously wrong when considering all other phenomena that go on, independent from any anthropic influence, such as, since before the beginning of industrial era, the exit from little ice age manifested by glacier and ice cap melting, and sea level rising,
    To define “safe boundaries” is a reasonable approach when analysing singular industrial processes. It is a standard safety procedure.
    But to believe that such boundaries exist for our whole living environment is absurd, and totalitarian in its nature.
    It supposes that all what is needed to be known is under our control. The known unknowns, the unknown unknowns, and the falsely known knowns, are probably in large excess of what we are able to think (as dark matter is to observed matter).
    It presupposes that there is an ideal state, an end to history, to be restored (lost paradise) or to established (shining future).
    “Knowers” are needed to set the parameters defining this ideal state; the others must just obey.
    These “knowers” belong to the happy few that have been “called” and “properly educated” to save the planet.
    It is destructive of all individual freedom, asking for an alignment to a pseudo common good.
    History is full of this, starting with Plato, passing through the Inquisition, Hegel, Marx, Red brigades, and still going on.
    Constituencies like IPCC, UNFCC, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, or World Wildlife Fund, want to believe (hubris) that they “know” and pretend to dictate all courses of action.
    They just forget that I have the freedom to not tolerate this totalitarianism, and to take action against it.

  25. Typically they chose they chose their baseline for radiative forcing as1750 which happens to be pretty much the low point of the Maunder minimum when low solar output brought us the dubious benefits of the little ice age with its accompanying famines and large scale loss of life.

  26. On a more optistic note, there is a call by another team of scientists for more scepticism regarding ocean ‘calamities’ – discussed in an editorial in Nature even though the original paper was very critical of high-profile journals such as Nature and Science.
    E.g. (quoting Hilborn 2006) “the two journals with the highest profile, Science and Nature, clearly publish articles on fisheries not for their scientific merit, but for their publicity value… and their potential newsworthiness.”
    The Nature editorial is here (not paywalled)
    and the original paper is here (also free to view)
    Apologies if this has already been discussed and I missed it.

  27. We have an hilarious TV program in the UK called “Judge Rinder”, based loosely on the “Judge Judy” format. One of my favourite quotes from Rinder was his exclamation during a particularly trivial case of “I love the smell of stupid in the afternoon!”
    Applies to this study, I think.

  28. This is first rate bullshit.
    What are Novel Entities?
    – Aliens from outer space
    – Drones flying with attached mirrors
    Why is Atmospheric aerosol loading unquanified?
    – AR5 is full of data showing aerosols cool the planet.

    • I’m not sure it is even first rate bovine excrement! A good BS artist makes the subject look so good that the experts doubt themselves a bit at first glance. This never passes the smell test.

  29. Trying the find the positives here (because that’s hard).
    Their order of calamities seems to be correct. Not the severity, perhaps but the order is worth considering.
    The biggest impact is:
    Biogeochemical flows – in other words fertilisers getting into the streams rivers and seas. That is probably man’s biggest impact on the Environment. I can see that as reasonable.
    Then Biosphere Integrity and Freshwater use. Sounds reasonable again.
    Freshwater use – We are draining rivers and aquifers in populated areas. Technology will help, of course, if it becomes a significant problem. We could swipe a glacier from Antarctica for instance.
    Biosphere Integrity – Migrant animals (Cane Toads in Australia, for example) have had an impact. We are suffering a Dodo dearth because of this.
    Land-system change: Mid way and we get to the conversion of land for agriculture, the cutting up of countryside with roads, canals and railways and the building of dams and cities. Yes, that’s about mid-way.
    Climate change comes next and OK that may be too high (as it can’t be proven to be caused by man).
    But by this point we’re down with the ozone layer, ocean acidification and unknown bogeymen. This report brackets climate change with the “squint and use your imagination and there it is – Wow” factors.
    The order is about right.

  30. The funny thing is that many of the authors are old enough to have seen how “The Limits to Growth” was trashed (and trash). How could they repeat such stupidity?

  31. Planetary boundary?
    If we get to 32000 MPH, then we escape that. The whole universe is ours, we MUST escape the planetary boundary.
    Also, their list of concerns are arbitrary, being fashioned by intellectual fad. How about the intellectual pollution they have created?

  32. This appeared in “Science” magazine. It now competes with the New Scientist as “Ideology” magazine. I will not buy it.

  33. Typo? ‘ To date, here have been approximately zero ill effects from the increase in CO2.’

  34. Well, in the Guardian report I basically agree with:
    ““We are clearing land, we are degrading land, we introduce feral animals and take the top predators out, we change the marine ecosystem by overfishing – it’s a death by a thousand cuts,” he said. “That direct impact upon the land is the most important factor right now, even more than climate change.”
    I doubt that such statements can be backed up scientifically because, frankly, the scientific method is not geared to measuring and setting up workable theories for such large-scale systems as global weather, or global anything else.
    However, common sense dictates that systemically clearing land and replacing it with microbially deadened soil in order to raise millions of acres of poor quality (denatured and denutritioned) crops and force-fed animals feeding upon them, simply cannot be a good thing.
    What distresses me in all these debates, though, is that very little time is spent analysing the cultural predisposition most of participate in on a daily basis in our so-called ‘lives’, wherein we collectively favour usurious economic systems, exploitative commercial systems, agribusiness models which depopulate our countrysides whilst voiding them of nearly all beauty, create massive unemployment given hardly anyone works the land any more in developed countries and so on. The root issues here have nothing to do with science (much – though not all – of which is more of a perceived than an actual discipline, i.e. it’s a modern form of voodoo really), rather with the underlying sanity, decency and intelligence of our culture(s).
    Unfortunately we are living in dark times that way, albeit one of the darkest things about it is the degree to which people still believe – for belief is all it is – that since are the most ‘advanced’ cultures because of our steady forward-evolution progress from swamp-dwelling amoeba, therefore our current practices must be the best, and we look to the same people destroying so much beauty and functionality in the world to come up with ‘innovations’ which will take us to the next leve. Instead, we should be throwing the bums out – bad banking cartel systems, bad agribusiness/monoculture models, bad trade practices based on international wage arbitrage and so on. Small scale organic farms have long been known to greatly outproduce monoculture, but this is simply suppressed, not because of lack of scientific knowledge, but good old institutional corruption.
    The Climate Change debate is one I have followed with interest for a year or two now and am v. grateful for this site. But I must say I regard the entire issue as a distraction in many ways, albeit one that definitely has to be addressed given how much play it gets in mainstream culture and legislatures. Rather than trying to control the climate, as King Canute foolishly attempted with the incoming ocean centuries ago, we should put our collective intelligence and good will into making a better world for our children and their children. We could easily do so were it not for so many wicked people, and their foolish minions, beavering away to hijack the collective agenda and turn this lovely planet into a nightmare orchard of their making with the fruits of our collective labours ripe for them to pick as the harvest of their eploitative imperatives.
    This story is older than the Halocene, for sure.

    • “Small scale organic farms have long been known to greatly outproduce monoculture, but this is simply suppressed, not because of lack of scientific knowledge, but good old institutional corruption.”
      You need to site sources – I don’t believe this part of your statement is true. The term ‘monoculture’ means what? A big field of corn, rotated annually with soybeans or oats is different from a small field of corn rotated with tomatoes or cabbage? As both a gardener and a farmer for almost forty years I have a lot of scientific knowledge on this subject. (maybe not the most rigorous scientific knowledge – but quite practical and extensive). I lack knowledge about the institutional corruption you allege. I need more than a mere assertion. Modern farming is very productive. Gardening is very enjoyable, but not comparably productive. Not even close.

      • Fair enough. I’ll try to find some good sources but since don’t have them handy might take a little while.
        As to monoculture, I believe it generally means planting a large field or fields with a single crop. But you are right to ask for clarification.
        Let’s rather say something along the lines of ‘excessive use of non-organic (i.e. chemical) inputs’ (which essentially kill the living, microbial populations in the soil, along with any chance for truly healthy plants with proper root systems, functioning immune systems – which depend upon fungal populations in the soil – etc.).
        What I will be looking for is reports of how small-scale farms outproduce large-scale farms and secondarily the organic vs chemical input aspect, albeit the two different systems often result naturally in the former being less chemically dependent and the latter being more.

      • It has been a few years since I was reading about this sort of thing, but here is the first link:
        From which is linked:
        This is just one initiative (SRI – System of Rice intensification – which works on nearly all crops)
        “The world record yield for paddy rice production is not held by an agricultural research station or by a large-scale farmer from the United States, but by Sumant Kumar who has a farm of just two hectares in Darveshpura village in the state of Bihar in Northern India. His record yield of 22.4 tons per hectare, from a one-acre plot, was achieved with what is known as the System of Rice Intensification (SRI). To put his achievement in perspective, the average paddy yield worldwide is about 4 tons per hectare. Even with the use of fertilizer, average yields are usually not more than 8 tons.
        Sumant Kumar’s success was not a fluke. Four of his neighbors, using SRI methods, and all for the first time, matched or exceeded the previous world record from China, 19 tons per hectare. Moreover, they used only modest amounts of inorganic fertilizer and did not need chemical crop protection.”
        I believe that a large number, if not majority, of farmers in South Korea have recently been switching out of inorganic input methods to ‘Beneficial Microorganisms’ or bokashi-style treatments. All fertilizers can be easily cultivated by the farmers themselves and strong, vibrant soils easily developed and maintained. I will try to find a link for that.
        I also saw a movie a couple of years back about a 30 year experiment in America doing side-by-side comparison with 30 (?) acre organic farm and conventional (modern) farm and the former won out convincingly without using any of the more advanced methods. I cannot recall the film’s name.
        The most important aspect, I think, is small scale. Individuals working in small groups can not only outproduce the large-scale mechanised methods they do so by
        a) enlivening the soil, and therefore all plants and animals, including us, who depend upon it – which also makes it a more beautiful, elegant cultural environment btw and
        b) providing honest, decent, authentic employment in rural areas which are currently being wiped out all over the developed world. People huddle in cities waiting for jobs in call centres or big box stores. Ghastly.

      • I can’t find anything I was reading years ago. So here is more recent stuff, and this one is worth reading:
        Excerpt: “Even some establishment institutions will occasionally admit that the food shortage concept – now and in any reasonably conceivable future – is bankrupt. According to experts consulted by the World Bank Institute there is already sufficient food production for 14 billion people – more food than will ever be needed. The Golden Fact of agribusiness is a lie…..
        So divisive has the Golden Fact been that some non-profits have entered into perverse partnerships with agribusiness and others support inadequate or positively fraudulent sustainability labels. Another consequence has been mass confusion over the observation that almost all the threats to the food supply (salinisation, water depletion, soil erosion, climate change and chemical pollution) come from the supposed solution–the industrialisation of food production. These contradictions are not real. When the smoke is blown away and the mirrors are taken down the choices within the food system become crystal clear. They fall broadly into two camps.
        On the one side lie family farms and ecological methods. These support farmer and consumer health, resilience, financial and democratic independence, community, cultural and biological diversity, and long term sustainability. Opposing them is control of the food system by corporate agribusiness. Agribusiness domination leads invariantly to dependence, uniformity, poisoning and ecological degradation, inequality, land grabbing, and, not so far off, to climate chaos.
        One is a vision, the other is a nightmare: in every single case where industrial agriculture is implemented it leaves landscapes progressively emptier of life. Eventually, the soil turns either into mud that washes into the rivers or into dust that blows away on the wind. Industrial agriculture has no long term future; it is ecological suicide. But for obvious reasons those who profit from it cannot allow all this to become broadly understood. That is why the food scarcity lie is so fundamental to them. They absolutely depend on it, since it alone can camouflage the simplicity of the underlying issues.”
        So the main points are that not only is the scarcity logic trumpeted by conventional farming advocates false and therefore the alarmist contention that only industrial methods will prevent mass starvation also false, but also that small-scale farming returns sanity and liveability to rural areas which in turn become the literal ground, or base, of any regional or national culture. The damage done to both ecological and human cultural environment by so-called ‘conventional’ (should be called ‘unnatural and insane’) modern farming methods is consistently swept under the rug of public discourse. If anyone is concerned about the climate, the first thing to change is the agricultural system. It is hardly ever discussed by all the alarmists who, surprise surprise, are also the types who favour such inept, ugly and damaging anti-nature approaches in the first place.

      • The link referenced in my last reply:
        and for a taste of just how vicious agribusiness can be:
        about this original article:
        Too much input on this topic is inappropriate in this thread, but in terms of climate and global issues, again, I believe that reforming the agricultural system, or rather the virtual hegemony that the globalist-corporate model is increasingly imposing on rural people all over the world, is the single most important issue to address.
        Generally, we do not need to peer into microscopes and telescopes to understand the world around us, though they can be fascinating and helpful. Every human being instinctively recognises the difference between beautifully laid out and well managed societies, be they rural villages and farms, or city neighbourhoods or palaces, and poorly laid out and managed ones – thousand acre monoculture zones, slums, ugly mechanical infrastructure, cheap buildings and clothes etc. Good societies create uplifting, intelligent, creative, disciplined and fun cultures and environments, and degraded societies create degraded cultures and environments. It is very, very simple. We don’t need experts and banking cartels to dictate how we think about such things even though they have hoodwinked most of us into believing otherwise. In any case, regeneration of small-scale farming is probably the single most important reform that is needed globally. It would address no end of other urgent problems – financial, political, educational, ecological – without there being any need to discuss them at all. It is interesting that the best way of creating global harmony, so to speak, is by drilling back down to simple, local detail, starting with small-scale farming in rural areas.

      • The last set of links – also not the best but what came up today – more specifically about the potential of small-scale, specifically organic farming:
        from which:
        “The Call for Organic Farming: Reganold, however, disagrees with Gates. His team recommends “organic farming, alternative livestock production (e.g., grass-fed), mixed crop and livestock systems, and perennial grains.”
        Reganold’s voice is joined by a chorus of like-minded scientists, like Olivier De Schutter, the UN’s special rapporteur on food, who reviewed recent scientific literature and concluded that Big Ag wasn’t the silver bullet it claimed to be. (You can read his report here.) “Small-scale farmers,” De Schutter proclaims, “can double food production within 10 years in critical regions by using ecological methods.”
        Read more:
        Sorry I couldn’t find better stuff. I do think it’s a very important issue because it involves re-orienting societies to accomodate sane practices on their land (aka ‘rural areas’) and in so doing rebalancing employment and lifestyles, and thus also national culture. 150 years ago something like 95% of us lived in rural areas, now it is 5%. It’s nuts. And nearly all the problems we have in developed societies would naturally dissolve if we went back to higher populations in rural areas and sane farming practices therein – which would also include more natural, locally sourced building, more local production in general of everything, not just food, but also clothing etc. Anyway…

      • This last site is poorly organised (run by farmers). There is a widespread hands-on movement mainly located in Hawaii (English-speaking, hence this site), Phillippines, Korea and Japan using approaches which focus on microbial populations in the soil and how independent small-scale farmers can individually monitor them, boost them etc. The work in Japan is sophisticated backed-up with fancy laboratory analysis etc., but most of it is in the field done by ordinary people. Basically it involves different methods of fermenting concentrated microbial populations which in turn are let loose in the soil. This aligns with cutting edge discoveries into the nature of plant-life in general, but also as it applies in agriculture, specifically how plant immune systems work (hint, they use fungal networks in the soil without which they have no immune system, hence the need for pesticides when growing in microbially deadened soils) and other things. So this is both cutting edge and low tech. This page has a scattered collection of various applications and examples:
        Related is work on ‘biochar’. In Amazon jungle areas recent analysis has uncovered fields which seem to have been originally fertilized with microbially enriched charcoal; interestingly, this remains potent for centuries, if not millenia. Also, it appears to some (not all) scientists in the field, that the Amazon is not a wilderness forest/jungle, rather the result of systematic cultivation over many centuries. 80% of the tree species yield edible fruits or medicines. Similary North American forests were systemically burned and cultivated in various ways by the native population which outnumbered those in Europe in both rural and urban areas (i.e. their cities were much larger than ours at the time), albeit most of this was in the temperate central areas, not the north. In any case, biochar is very easy to make, costs almost nothing, and lasts for years. Similarly, a well put-together permaculture farm (google Sepp Holzer) will sustain growth for decades without the need for any further inputs, assuming you have some animals foraging around (chickens, pigs etc.) in the mix.

      • For a good insight into this whole debate, I recommend reading “The Last Centurion” by John Ringo. A fictional thriller, but he did his research.
        One important point he makes is that modern agriculture gives 3x the yields of “organic” methods. We literally cannot go back without starving.

        • Paul: well as a couple of links I provided indicate about SRI – including two from Cornell – what you state – that chemical ag is 3* better than organic – is highly debatable. Furthermore, yield per acre is by no means the most important thing to measure and indeed is more red herring than anything else. In any case, I don’t think this is the thread to debate such a thing and probably I shouldn’t have brought it up as an embellishment of a larger point in my first comment. That said, I am increasingly of the opinion that in terms of the environment, how we farm, even more than how we mine earth resources, is the single most important thing to get right, and that modern ag. methods, even though they might be effective for a few decades, are long-term inefficient and damaging, moreover they decimate rural populations and culture in both quality and quantity, further demonstrating not only how bad they are in practice, but how stupid we have become as a culture. And if Science is used as one of the main justifications for this deleterious approach – as it is in so many ways – then something is wrong with Science. It’s a much bigger issue than the Climate BS imho.

      • “caperash”, you’ve discredited yourself with the sneer at waiting for jobs.
        I recommend the documentary “Globalization is Good” for examples of how companies like Nike create jobs but in other places people struggle against oppressive governments.
        Note that SRI is very labour intensive, that suits poor areas that have no alternatives and where land is scarce (often unavailable to mere peasants).
        It is well known that intensive farming works, IF labour is available. Of course producing for oneself is common, including in “subsistence farming”, which I grew up with.

        • Keith: yes, SRI is labour intensive, as is nearly all small-scale low-tech farming, however you gloss over the simple FACT that it greatly out-performs conventional yields, which was the statement of fact I was asked to back up. In most cases where it is adopted – like with wheat for example – yields from the test group just trained in SRI are significantly higher. The other methods are labour intensive too. Conventional farming is machine intensive and basically makes a fortune for banking cartels whilst reducing rural employment and intelligence levels and sending people into cities where they compete for factory and other jobs (where I live in Eastern Canada it’s call centres they were putting up all over until 2-3 years ago) and drive down wages by being so many. If the whole world adopts Western methods, then all the rural communities and villages, which even now produce most of the world”s foods, will soon become a thing of the past, along with bedrock national/regional cultures. It will destroy several thousand years of cultural development all over the world since the last Ice Age. Personally, I get upset even thinking about it for this concerns me much more than silly issues about whether it’s 300 PPM or 500 PPM that we should worry about. So abstract. So much belief in higher powers (Experts, Governments, Corporations, Doctors, Scientists etc.) and so little common sense.
          But maybe you are right. Maybe we all need to buy more Nike sneakers and let the countryside turn into hundreds of thousands of acres of chemically denatured, toxic-spewing, monocultured, combine-harvested glorious wasteland. It will work for a century or so, maybe longer. But the countryside itself, along with bedrock human cultures, will have been destroyed.
          All in the name of Science and Progress!

    • Humm, a couple things, the “self baiting raptor killers” are polluting the landscape and wasting precious resources are the “new farm income”, and you have the King Canute story completely backwards. Please re-read it.

      • He is talking about windmills AKA bird choppers and being cute with the terminology.
        Canute at the shore was a wise king telling his ministers that all power is limited. He could not command the tide to stay out. He didn’t think he could – he simply was demonstrating that even kingly power was limited.

      • Ah! Yes, those windmills are horrible. Another technology-based boondoggle to feed into the power grid model which is over-centralisation/monopoly-geared par excellence.
        I re-read Canute and thank you and engineer for pointing it out. I had it entirely wrong. that’s what comes of getting your history from old Genesis LP’s growing up in England in the 60’s and 70’s!

      • Nothing wrong with old Genesis LPs – loads of personal history associated with those, just not as a resource for history.

        • yes indeed. For decades I had that story entirely wrong! Indeed, the actual is interesting in that King C was making an important point which was part of the development of the multi-lingual ‘Christian Europe’ which developed so interestingly – if not without gore and grief – for so many centuries. In any case, as he pointed out, it is pure hubris to pretend that Man controls Nature or, by extension today, that we can come up with a new tax scheme which will change planetary temperature levels. I mean: it is so absurd altogether that I still find it extraordinary how many people buy into such stuff.
          But that gets us back to the debate in this thread about Bovine Excrement in Public Affairs and the Press. Fact is, unfortunately, that Science is far too often used as a Tool of Policy by those who think that they, unlike the wiser Canute – a Royal King no less – can wave their Magic Financial Wand and thereby control the World, including the Sun and the Milky Way, the Earth’s core, ocean currents, magnetic winds, and only God knows what else goes into what we call ‘the weather’ or ‘climate’. What’s worse, so many people believe that Science can actually deliver certain knowledge of such things through its so-called Method, that the Theory of Everything is just around the corner, that the algorithm to predict all weather from now until the end of Time is just a computer simulation away and so forth. Underpinning this is the modern belief – for that is all it is – in materialism, the belief that Reality is composed only of physical elements, aka particles and celestial bodies, around which is no more than dead space, through which over Time, we navigate. That the world is some sort of huge Machine and all we have to do is understand its various physical parts properly and then we will possess omniscience and omnipotence.
          It was to demonstrate ‘scientifically’ a proof exactly against that sort of superstition-based fallacy that Canute, many centuries ago, had his thrown placed in the ocean.
          Just as he couldn’t forbid the tide from coming in, so also he couldn’t prevent his cultural descendants from believing that somehow they would find a way to do so thanks to the Modern Power of Science!

      • Thxs clipe! Can’t make it over there next week but looks like fun. I was doing A-levels in 1972 and although I bought the LP that year, I never got to see them in concert. At the time it was a very unusual combination of electronic sounds, classical echo-chambering and public school boy post-Wordsworthian lyrical fantasmagoria! If the AGW crowd voiced their concerns more creatively, it might be sufferable, but as it is, it ain’t!

  35. Willis,
    Since we making every effort return CO2 levels better suited for Photosynthesis, Humanity to appears to be in full compliance with Gods directive to “replenish the earth (Genesis 1:28), no transgressions are noted.
    My Lovely Wife, also a skeptic, works as an environmental education outreach specialist at the local University and though I’ve encouraged her to offer the language of Genesis 1:28 as a basis for her department’s multiple failed attempts to define Sustainability, she won’t, as she assumes probably correctly, that it would be rejected with extreme prejudice.

  36. The wording is interesting, it talks in vagaries and comes up with verbiage like “the Earth System”, like it is a well defined term. It is startlingly similar to the type of language you would see in “Course in Miracles”, which is an in depth intellectual inspection of the inner or spiritual journey which by nature is not objective.
    This is no critique of “Course in Miracles”, it is a spiritual guide and never presents papers to publications like Science magazine. What is interesting is that the similarity of language makes this paper more of a foundation for a new religion rather than a new science and yet there it is, in a publication called Science.

  37. the only state of the planet that we know for certain can support contemporary human societies

    Now correct me if I am wrong, but contemporary human societies exist from above the Artic Circle to right on the equator from arid steppes to rainforests. And they are claiming that there is stable Holocene climate that is the only climate under which human societies can exist? Which one of the thousands of climates where society currently exists are they talking about and how is society existing under such a wide variety of climates?
    What kind of drugs are these ‘scientists’ on?

  38. But given the total lack of science in the paper…
    Ah, but it’s “Post-Normal Science”, Willis! So it doesn’t have to have any relation with real science at all.
    Here’s Mike Hulme on the subject:
    “Philosophers and practitioners of science have identified this particular mode of scientific activity as one that occurs…where values are embedded in the way science is done and spoken.
    It has been labelled “post-normal” science. Climate change seems to fall in this category. Disputes in post-normal science focus…on the process of science – who gets funded, who evaluates quality, who has the ear of policy…The IPCC is a classic example of a post-normal scientific activity.
    Within a capitalist world order, climate change is actually a convenient phenomenon to come along.
    The largest academic conference that has yet been devoted to the subject of climate change finished yesterday [March 12, 2009] in Copenhagen…I attended the Conference, chaired a session…[The] statement drafted by the conference’s Scientific Writing Team…contained…a set of messages drafted largely before the conference started by the organizing committee…interpreting it for a political audience…And the conference chair herself, Professor Katherine Richardson, has described the messages as politically-motivated. All well and good.
    The danger of a “normal” reading of science is that it assumes science can first find truth, then speak truth to power, and that truth-based policy will then follow…exchanges often reduce to ones about scientific truth rather than about values, perspectives and political preferences.
    …‘self-evidently’ dangerous climate change will not emerge from a normal scientific process of truth-seeking…scientists – and politicians – must trade truth for influence. What matters about climate change is not whether we can predict the future with some desired level of certainty and accuracy.
    Climate change is telling the story of an idea and how that idea is changing the way in which our societies think, feel, interpret and act. And therefore climate change is extending itself well beyond simply the description of change in physical properties in our world…
    The function of climate change I suggest, is not as a lower-case environmental phenomenon to be solved…It really is not about stopping climate chaos. Instead, we need to see how we can use the idea of climate change – the matrix of ecological functions, power relationships, cultural discourses and materials flows that climate change reveals – to rethink how we take forward our political, social, economic and personal projects over the decades to come.
    There is something about this idea that makes it very powerful for lots of different interest groups to latch on to, whether for political reasons, for commercial interests, social interests in the case of NGOs, and a whole lot of new social movements looking for counter culture trends.
    Climate change has moved from being a predominantly physical phenomenon to being a social one…It is circulating anxiously in the worlds of domestic politics and international diplomacy, and with mobilising force in business, law, academia, development, welfare, religion, ethics, art and celebrity.
    Climate change also teaches us to rethink what we really want for ourselves…mythical ways of thinking about climate change reflect back to us truths about the human condition…
    The idea of climate change should be seen as an intellectual resource around which our collective and personal identifies and projects can form and take shape. We need to ask not what we can do for climate change, but to ask what climate change can do for us…Because the idea of climate change is so plastic, it can be deployed across many of our human projects and can serve many of our psychological, ethical, and spiritual needs.
    …climate change has become an idea that now travels well beyond its origins in the natural sciences…climate change takes on new meanings and serves new purposes…climate change has become “the mother of all issues”, the key narrative within which all environmental politics – from global to local – is now framed…Rather than asking “how do we solve climate change?” we need to turn the question around and ask: “how does the idea of climate change alter the way we arrive at and achieve our personal aspirations…?”
    We need to reveal the creative psychological, spiritual and ethical work that climate change can do and is doing for us…we open up a way of resituating culture and the human spirit…As a resource of the imagination, the idea of climate change can be deployed around our geographical, social and virtual worlds in creative ways…it can inspire new artistic creations in visual, written and dramatised media. The idea of climate change can provoke new ethical and theological thinking about our relationship with the future….We will continue to create and tell new stories about climate change and mobilise these stories in support of our projects. Whereas a modernist reading of climate may once have regarded it as merely a physical condition for human action, we must now come to terms with climate change operating simultaneously as an overlying, but more fluid, imaginative condition of human existence.”
    The original source of the above quotes:

  39. “humans definitely have the power to turn the whole planet into a cratered, smoking ruin through nuclear war”
    Point made, but an exaggeration. Consider the number of warheads in existence and the radius of each. Catastropic? Yes. The whole planet a cratered, smoking ruin? Not so much.

    • Well, there are about 13,600 nuclear warheads on this lovely planet. Suppose we assign one nuclear warhead per million people in a city. So for the biggest city, Shanghai, that would be 33 warheads, and so on down the line. And if a city is less than a million people, it gets one warhead. How big would the smallest city be that got nuked?
      Well … that would include all cities down to towns of about 15,000 inhabitants.
      And after every urban area greater than 15,000 inhabitants in your neighborhood had been rendered uninhabitable by blast and radioactivity, I’d call the result a “cratered, smoking ruin” … although of course YMMV.

      • Human habitation would suffer, but She would shake it off like a fly.
        You sure about those numbers ?, all nukes are gonna fly at the same time and hit different cities ?
        Scary scenario to be sure, but THAT won’t happen.

      • Oh, I should have added that I live 1 mile from O’Hare airport, so I’ve been living with the reality that the last thing I’ll see is a flash of light, since childhood.

      • u.k.(us) January 16, 2015 at 4:28 pm

        You sure about those numbers ?, all nukes are gonna fly at the same time and hit different cities ?
        Scary scenario to be sure, but THAT won’t happen

        I never said it would … I said we have enough nukes to do it.

      • Pull out that desk globe and plot the nukes coverage, She laughs at the pin pricks while dealing with asteroids.

      • u.k.(us) January 17, 2015 at 9:12 pm Edit

        Pull out that desk globe and plot the nukes coverage, She laughs at the pin pricks while dealing with asteroids.

        Say what? Did you actually plot the coverage?
        If they were evenly distributed, that’s one nuke at the center of every 65 mile square (100 km square). That means that if you were really lucky you might be 45 miles (75 km) from the nearest nuclear explosion … and that’s the max. On average you’d more like 20 miles (32 km) from the explosion … think that might wake you up?
        But since humans live in clumps and nobody would nuke the desert … well, if there is a hamlet of 15,000 people near you, that’s how far away the nearest bomb would land.
        Now, as you point out, in the long run the earth would shake off such pin pricks … but the humans who lived would look around and call it a cratered, smoking ruin, with no cities above 15,000 people left standing.

        • Trivial math question:
          “They” claim today there are 16,300 nukes worldwide today, though I believe only bomb that is really dangerous is that single not-too-far-future one in the hands of madmen: that one will be the only one we need worry about. The Russians, UK, French, and Communist Chinese are at least reasonable. Rational.
          Earth’s area = 510 million sq km. 30% is land. If both ‘big sides” shoot everything off ….
          So I get one bomb per 9300 sq km’s. Or 96 km’s between bombs. Each bomb blows up (completely!) “only” a 3-6 km diameter circle. People can live and work in the blast area nearby within days of the blast – but they would be living as in 1810.
          Is that the difference I see between your 36 km away from a blast and my 48 km?

      • And just whom is gonna carpet bomb us out of existence ?
        Is everybody gonna gang up ?
        Like it’s a thing.
        (not that I want to give anyone any ideas).

      • u.k.(us) January 17, 2015 at 10:07 pm

        And just whom is gonna carpet bomb us out of existence?
        Is everybody gonna gang up ?

        Are you just acting at being dense? Nobody said anyone was going to bomb anyone. I said we have the power to do immense harm to the earth, using nuclear bombs as an example, and I answered your inane objection above. Do try to keep up, you’re embarrassing yourself.

      • Well heck, I’ll just take your (strongly voiced) word on it now.
        Glad that is settled.
        Yep, I’m a glutton for punishment.
        But, I feel strongly about this, in case you couldn’t tell.
        Inanity /

  40. Dont Hold back Willis! Say it as it is!
    That was spot on – weasel words and inexactitude, has to be THE most frustrating part of any climate discussion even from the sceptical side at times

    • Sorry that reads a bit like an accusation Willis, hope you know what I mean (if not delet the last seven words of my post!)

  41. It is this kind of Chicken Little alarmism that has destroyed the reputation of climate science, and it is this kind of unadulterated garbage appearing in Science magazine that is doing great damage to both the reputation of the magazine and the reputation of science itself.

    As a lecturer for the IUPUI School of Science, in math and physics, I am disgusted that this kind of drivel is published in a (previously) esteemed journal, and that there isn’t a tremendous outcry from the ranks of scientists everywhere.
    The firewall that once separated science from politics has been breached. This is a trend that began in the social sciences and is spreading rapidly through the “earth sciences”.
    The scientific method will eventually expose this idiocy and I hope those that participated will be exposed as the political whores that they are.

  42. Willis
    The first planetary measurement of radiation balance was done with the Nimbus II High Resolution Infrared Radiometer and the Medium Resolution Infrared Radiometer in the 1966 timeframe. That is the first global measurement from space in the IR (3.5-4.1 micron band). HOWEVER, the data was only accurate to +/- 0.5 degrees AND the calibrations have been lost as when we produced the modern version of this dataset, we found that the calibrations had been stripped to save storage space in the 1960’s computers involved.
    So, it is simply not possible to have a global radiation balance, probably until the Nimbus 7 era of the late 1970’s.
    Now, that being said, the USAF did extensive measurements of the transmissivity of the atmosphere from the 1940’s-1960’s through their upper atmospheric research program. To date, I have never seen this data published in more than summary form.

  43. “The planetary boundaries framework defines a safe operating space for humanity based on the intrinsic biophysical processes that regulate the stability of the Earth System…”
    Sounds like a paper generated by SciGen;
    “Their computer program generates research papers using “context-free grammar” and includes graphs, figures and citations. The program takes real words and places them correctly in sentences, but the words used don’t make sense together.”

  44. Will Steffen keeps the “transgression” meme alive, indicating the use of the word was purposeful; to align with the Pope’s much ballyhooed, upcoming CAGW encyclical, perhaps!:
    15 Jan: HuffPo: Reuters: Alister Doyle: Human Impacts On The Planet Pushing Earth Into ‘Danger Zone’
    “Transgressing a boundary increases the risk that human activities could inadvertently drive the Earth System into a much less hospitable state,” said lead author Will Steffen, of the Stockholm Resilience Center and the Australian National University, Canberra…

  45. Activists who want sustainability by their coercive methods they should read A World Lit Only by Fire, which mostly chronicles European societies before the Enlightenment really took hold – brutish, murderous, starving, filthy. Or history of the USSR’s care of the environment – such as pouring gasoline down dry wells because refineries needed to produce lots of diesel and fuel oil and gasoline was an unwanted output of the typical process. Or read of the societies that over-harvested – such as in NZ, the tribal group in AK a century ago, and the Cedars of Lebanon (when everyone is responsible no one takes responsibility).

  46. Very Bad Idea™
    ™? Like in Trade Mark?
    I Did a trademark search and guess what! Very Bad Idea is still available to trade mark. VERY BAD HORSE, BAD IDEAS and NO BAD IDEAS CLOTHING COMPANY are live and there are 4 BAD IDEA trademarks which are dead.
    Better jump on it before someone else has a Very Bad Idea.

  47. Re sustainability:
    Lifeforms have short lifespans.
    Rocks persist for billions of years.
    This shows that natural selection prefers rocks, and that lifeforms are inferior to rocks, and must therefore evolve into rocks. Interestingly rocks already existed when life began, so life is a giant step backward, but will get there again eventually.

  48. “..they do not make the slightest effort to define what “global sustainability” might mean..”
    Willis, this is deliberatel and is the diabolical and clever aspect of this kind of new world order stuff. People get talking about this without a definition. Every company has signed on to the idea and governments have departments named after it without defining it. Its accepted that everyone knows what it means. You did note, I’m sure, that the “planetary boundaries” is a synonym for “Limits to growth”. They are not going to let go of this very clever framework. Oh, we have laughed at it and criticized it in detail but its more alive than it was in the first go at it in the 1950s (I know people tend to think the go around in the 1970s is the first one). These are really all aimed at the USA.
    They ditched the word “limits” because this has an obvious negative image to their target, capitalistic societies, but they have roped the dopes with the motherhood fuzzy term “sustainability”. They are negligent with the science and the citations because it doesn’t matter – their target is not the few percent of thinking individuals in the world – they will get them later. The soci@ist enterprise has been an abject failure in all its tries but man it sure is sustainable.

Comments are closed.