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What Will It Take to Solve Climate Change?

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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australia-weather-map-with-new-high-temp-colorAustralia had to add a new color to its weather maps this week. Meteorologists used royal purple to denote an off-the-charts high temperature of 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit), part of an unprecedented heat wave and ongoing wildfires occurring down under this month. On the other side of the globe, 2012 proved the hottest year on record in the contiguous U.S., surpassing the previous record-holder by a full degree F (0.6 deg C). In short, global warming is continuing to turn up the heat—so what are we going to do about it?

The goal is simple: reduce greenhouse gas emissions to restrain future warming or even begin to draw down carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere. But the challenge of achieving that goal is large—greenhouse gas emissions are intimately related to fossil fuel combustion, which is the motor of the global economy.

One idea to begin to solve this problem, mooted in 2004 by Princeton University mechanical engineer Robert Socolow and ecologist Stephen Pacala, was to identify what the scientists dubbed “wedges“—one billion metric ton reductions in carbon emissions that could be maintained for the next 50 years. So, for example, stopping any further increase in greenhouse gas emissions could be done by employing several of these wedges, such as doubling vehicle fuel efficiency or replacing coal-fired power plants with nuclear ones.

Employ enough of these wedges—seven in the estimation of Socolow and Pacalaand the problem of climate change begins to dissipate. And the researchers offered 15 potential wedges—ranging from carbon capture and storage to ending deforestation—to achieve the goal. As the co-authors put it in the paper presenting the idea published in Science: “Humanity already possesses the fundamental scientific, technical, and industrial know-how to solve the carbon and climate problem.”

Great! The only problem is: if we do indeed possess the know-how, we have yet to employ it. Eight years later, global greenhouse gas emissions continue to grow faster than ever. We have lost time, and that time will cost us, both in terms of the cost of combating climate change and the ultimate impacts.

According to a new analysis published online in Environmental Research Letters on January 9, the world now likely needs 12 wedges just to get back to the business-as-usual scenario outlined by Socolow and Pacala in 2004. Add another nine billion ton wedges if you want to stabilize emissions at last year’s levels, and add another 10 if you’d like to keep greenhouse gas concentrations from rising above 500 parts-per-million. Already, concentrations are at 394 ppm, up from 280 ppm before the dawn of widespread fossil fuel burning. That’s if you also want the global economy to continue to grow at the same time.

Such global growth may be vital as societies strive to bring modern energy to the 2 billion or so people still reliant on wood, dung and kerosene for their cooking and lighting needs. Even more challenging, the key to reducing emissions is reducing the burning of fossil fuels, or at least the impacts of that burning—and all the technologies needed to do that are stalled (CCS), slow-moving (nuclear) or immature (renewables). The world will need to deploy “tens of terawatts of carbon-free energy in the next few decades,” as the researchers write in Environmental Research Letters.

What such a “transformation” would mean specifically remains entirely undiscussed in the analysis, as Socolow notes in a written critique of the paper shared this week with journalists. Regardless, that kind of energy revolution certainly seems challenging, which is why some have begun to wonder whether it’s time to at least explore technologies that might reduce the worst of global warming, collectively known as geoengineering, such as fertilizing the ocean with iron or artificial volcanoes. Of course, such solutions present their own challenges like: who controls the planetary thermostat? “The stricter the [climate] goal, the greater the risk of recklessness,” such as ill-considered geoengineering schemes, warns Socolow.

Or, as earth system scientist Steven Davis of the University of California, Irvine, and lead author of the wedges reanalysis argues: “The only real solution to climate change is to stop dumping CO2 into the atmosphere altogether.” If we want to begin to restrain global warming, we better get started—and soon.


David Biello About the Author: David Biello is the associate editor for environment and energy at Scientific American. Follow on Twitter @dbiello.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. Sciencefirstandforemost 2:04 pm 01/10/2013

    Australia does not have ‘unprecedented’ record heat. They added the colour as ‘tool’. The current fires are by no means unique. Before suppression by human habitation much of the shrub of Australia burned on a cyclical basis (as did the grasslands and forests of western North America).

    Back to topic: ““Humanity already possesses the fundamental scientific, technical, and industrial know-how to solve the carbon and climate problem.”

    Really? Geesh. How about some healthy skepticism of man’s hubris. There are so many variables involved in climate that man barely scratches the surface of understanding the complexity.

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  2. 2. sethdayal 2:19 pm 01/10/2013

    Problem solved.

    With a World War II effort, in ten years 10000 mass produced nukes could easily with a fraction of our industrial capacity, with the costs covered at a 40% ROR by replacing fossil expensive fuels, head off the fast approaching the global warming precipice and peak oil crisis.

    Westinghouse is predicting 2 cents a kwh costs and 3 year build times for factory produced nukes. China is now building reactors for $1.5B/Gw and that is dropping fast towards the $1B/Gw predicted.

    Google “china-leverages-learning-curve-cost”

    2500 new mass produced nukes scattered around the US at $2500B financed by the $700B paid every year into the coffers of Big Oil/Coal for their deadly products and $100B in pollution related health costs, would carry all US energy needs.

    At a minimum fifty times the cost wind and solar alternatives are simply impossible industrially, politically, and financially.

    The process begins with Obama setting us out on the needed course with a new 80% clean energy electricity mandate by 2035. A massive nuclear build is a certainty as no other clean energy alternative is competitive.

    Eliminate the current absurd 6 years process to get a site permit to add an approved nuke identical to many other operating units to an existing nuke plant or replace a filthy coal plant with an already approved nuke, cutting US nuke costs to Asian levels.

    Like FDR with 1930′s TVA and Bonneville hydro projects, Obama needs to start a giant public power nuke corporation with a single national license – no lawyers allowed – charged with replacing all the nations coal plants efficiently on budget and on time just like Asian countries are doing.

    There is a lot of unemployed autoworkers and mothballed auto factories just waiting for orders.

    As we convert to nukes, NG electricity and heating applications would immediately convert to nuclear electricity, nuclear produced synfuels and electric vehicles.

    Green people need to understand that the biggest roadblock ending the imminent threat of a peak oil GHG holocaust is the Green movement’s ill conceived, opposition to nuclear power At the very least their stupid stubborn opposition kills a several million folks annually.

    Feeding the green nitwit are the scum at Big Oil/Coal paying off our politicians and media keeping the public in the dark.

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  3. 3. Sciencefirstandforemost 2:22 pm 01/10/2013

    Just a note: the concept of national boundaries is an odd one for cherry picking results….China, for example (larger than the USA) was colder in 2012 than average.

    As of November 2012 (according to NOAA) 2012 was the 8th warmest year even with all the fudging of stats to exacerbate the issue.

    If the USA is cooler in 2013 than 2012 does it indicate global cooling?….no.

    SciAm could use some actual science.

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  4. 4. sault 2:45 pm 01/10/2013

    @”Science” first & blah blah blah…

    Do you care to provide ANY evidence of “fudging of stats to exacerbate the issue”? Note that conspiracy-mongering BLOGS and fossil fuel mouthpieces are NOT reliable sources.

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  5. 5. curmudgeon 2:46 pm 01/10/2013

    ““The only real solution to climate change is to stop dumping CO2 into the atmosphere altogether.”

    There it is, folks. The proposal of a ban on breathing that I’ve been predicting for years has finally been let out of the closet! Who will free us of these turbulent climatologists and their hot air?

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  6. 6. jtdwyer 2:54 pm 01/10/2013

    What will it take to solve climate change? I’m afraid it won’t take too long to eliminate further environmental effects imparted by human activities… As for the Earth, climate change is not a problem to be solved – change is a ubiquitous property of the environment.

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  7. 7. Crasher 4:53 pm 01/10/2013

    If you are having a problem accepting the reality of climate change consult the experts, NOAA, CSIRO etc. There is a massive concensus in the scientific community about the reality of climate change and what the causes are. The only debate is around the modelling and the likley future outcomes.
    There are vested interests trying to muddy the waters but sensible people are seeing through them.
    If you are having trouble with reality perhaps you shouldn’t read science.

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  8. 8. sault 4:53 pm 01/10/2013


    The price for the Vogtle “state of the art” AP1000 reactors keeps going up, up, up! They’re north of $8B apiece by now and could go even higher. This is AFTER the NRC streamlined permitting, green-lighting their combined construction and operation license. Plus, the utility building them is allowed to bill their customers billion$$$ years before the plants crank out one electron (to lower thier massive borrowing costs). And the government picks up the industry’s liability insurance tab through the Price Anderson Act while providing subsidies for electricity production and loan guarantees. Oh, and the core technologies used in Light Water Reactors were developed for the nuclear weapons program too.

    So after all this pork and handouts, we can’t build these reactors in a cost effective manner at all. Save me the conspiracy theories about how the NRC is anti-nuclear; they constantly move the safety goalposts INWARD to keep aging and increasingly unsafe reactors running. China can build these reactors cheap because they build EVERYTHING cheap by cutting corners, stealing IP, ignoring safety and environmental issues and basically having the government dictate by fiat what will and will not happen. 20M people displaced by 3 Gorges Dam? They don’t care! Local residents don’t want a nuclear reactor next to their town? Too bad! Trying to say that the rest of the world whould operate like this is reckless and short-sighted.

    The industry failed in the 70s and 80s for a reason. This technology just can’t compete in open electricity markets. You DO know what Einstien said about the definition of insanity, right?

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  9. 9. Sisko 4:58 pm 01/10/2013

    David Biello is a man promoting an agenda. He does not seem to want to let science or economics get in the way of the propaganda he continually spreads.

    David states his goal as a simple one: The goal is simple: reduce greenhouse gas emissions to restrain future warming or even begin to draw down carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere.”
    In my opinion that is a most inappropriate goal to establish based upon available information.

    In the real world, or from a scientific viewpoint; when observing the actual climate system, what is the reason that justifies all of David’s fears? David has a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but that it not a goal that anyone should care about! We should only care about that IF we know that additional atmospheric CO2 will result in net harms to us. That we certainly do not know.

    What do we know? We know that additional CO2 will warm the planet slightly if all other factors remain constant. Unfortunately, in the real world all other factors do not remain constant. In the real world we can observe what has been occurring and that seems to result in warming of about .17C per decade.

    Do we know that this will create long term harms greater than the benefits it creates or more importantly will it create harms sufficiently great to significantly modify human behaviors? The answer is obviously no. We have ZERO data to reliably tell us that a slightly warmer world will be harmful is this area of the world and beneficial in this area.
    In a time when the United States is spending 40% more than it is generating in revenue we can not afford to spend funds wastefully. Please make politicians and propaganda spreading people state what specifically will be accomplished by the actions they propose? If the US takes some actions and it results in atmospheric concentrations of CO2 being at 450 ppm instead of 455 ppm in 50 years would it have been a good use of our limited funds? The answer is NO as it would have no impact on the climate.

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  10. 10. sault 5:45 pm 01/10/2013

    @ curmudgeon:

    Knowledge FAIL! If you don’t know the difference between biological carbon and FOSSIL carbon, then you need to do a lot of homework before you can even try to contribute to this discussion.

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  11. 11. Lenedwin 5:45 pm 01/10/2013

    It will take a radical change in the global financial system. Unless we can come up with a monetary system that is not tied to ‘growth’ then we shall continue to consume fossil fuel at an ever increasing rate in order to feed this growth. Wall Street, Bankers and the Money lenders hold the planets destiny in their hands not scientists, engineers and environmentalists.

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  12. 12. RSchmidt 5:51 pm 01/10/2013

    Marginalizing the shrill voices of the pathological deniers would help. Without the support of the masses national efforts will fail. The objective of the denier is to maintain the status quo at all costs. They don’t need to prove their assertions only cause confusion. The american people with their blind servitude to their political parties means that it only takes one sarcastic comment by a half-wit like Glenn Beck for the right wing lemmings to join the chorus. The people that make statements claiming scientific support for naturally caused climate change when there is none, and where no attempt has been made to prove their assertions need to be held accountable. When someone claims there is no scientific support for AGW or no consensus within the scientific community, they should be charged with fraud. The deniers that troll this site show themselves to be the lowest of the low as they lie and distort the facts in order to advance their agenda. We need our leaders in Washington to take a stand against the misinformation campaign paid for by the fossil fuel lobby and right wing think tanks. The solutions are there. We just need to get the idiots out of the way.

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  13. 13. sault 5:58 pm 01/10/2013

    @ Sisko:

    We have PLENTY of evidence that the warming we’re causing will have more downside for humanity and the rest of the biosphere than upside. I know I’ve shown you these before, but just so you don’t go misleading others out there into thinking there is a lot of uncertainty on the overall ipact of human-caused climate change, here’s a small collection of peer-reviewed scientific papers showing what is and could happen:

    The main thing you don’t understand, if you’re even trying to understand this issue, is that the RATE of climate change our emissions are causing is the greatest threat. Temperatures are increasing many times faster now than during most of the current geologic era. The only other time the climate changes this fast is right before a mass extinction. Well, with the species extinction rate so high currently, many biologists think we are at the beginning of the 6th Great Mass Extinction in Earth’s history and are entering the era of a man-made climate: The Anthropocene.

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  14. 14. RSchmidt 6:21 pm 01/10/2013

    @sault, Sisko is quite simply a fraud and an established liar. He has been give the facts and links to the science by many people but insists on repeating the same B.S. every time he rears his ugly head. The best thing to do with people like him is to set them adrift on the ice flows. He is the intellectual equivalent of a crack dealer and has just as much to offer the world.

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  15. 15. The practical man 6:27 pm 01/10/2013

    Hello David,
    I find your article to be biased and misguided, and stating that the only possible solution to global warming is to stop dumping CO2 into the atmosphere altogether is completely and utterly wrong. Last time I looked CO2 was an essential building block of plants and the life that is dependent on this chemical. Please go to the Royal Society website and read the comprehensive article on Geoengineering. This will explain several other ways to lower the temperature in a more cost effective way. Alas I suspect that your motivations for searching out other possible solutions to this problem will be short lived.
    Just because you are able to measure one variable in a complex and dynamic system such as Earth’s, and compare this to past concentrations, is not a ‘fait accompli’ to the problem. Then relying on this one variable in predicting the future global temperatures is at best dubious and one should be very careful in doing so.
    At present there is no climate computer model or theory to explain the climate of the past, and until we have a better understanding of the main causes and effects we should all be asking more questions, and that includes you.

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  16. 16. RSchmidt 6:35 pm 01/10/2013

    @The practical man, perhaps you should take the time to try to understand the science before talking about something you clearly know nothing about. It is obvious that you haven’t read a single thing, all you have done is browsed denier blogs and put together your idiotic post. Show some humility, get yourself educated before forming an opinion.

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  17. 17. sault 6:37 pm 01/10/2013


    Yes, I have tried for YEARS now to present evidence to the deniers that keep coming on this site for the sole purpose of regurgitating the talking points provided to them by the fossil fuel companies. They wilfully ignore the conclusions of peer-reviewed science and the endorsement of every major scientific and technological organization of the FACT that human CO2 emissions are dangerously changing the climate.

    I know I’m not going to change their minds. However, there are many people who look into this issue and thousands of them possibly look over these message boards over time. I will not allow these deniers to spread their misinformation freely if I can help it. When superstition and subjectivity hold sway, bad things tend to happen. If I can prevent even just one person from being taken in by this con job, I’ll have accomplished something.

    Keeping the debate focused on the issues and the science behind them is the best way to move forward, I’ve found out.

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  18. 18. RSchmidt 6:46 pm 01/10/2013

    @sault, “Keeping the debate focused on the issues and the science behind them is the best way to move forward, I’ve found out.” I would agree if the deniers had any interest in the issues or the science. Explaining the science to a denier is like explaining morality to a psychopath. They have no capacity to understand and no interest. The evidence is overwhelming. Its easy to find. It is packaged for children and adults to understand. If someone is a denier they are either extremely ignorant or are advancing an agenda. The ignorant people are ignorant for a reason; they don’t care. They have some sort of paranoid delusion that this is about government against the businessman so science is the villain and the Koch Bros and Glenn Beck are their prophets. I am a systems person so I always look for the root of a problem. The root of the denier problem is the low moral character of right wing fanatics. It has nothing to do with science.

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  19. 19. yarberry 6:58 pm 01/10/2013

    Back to the original question, “What will it take to solve climate change?” A way to make the solution profitable !!

    We managed to do a fair job with the Ozone issue and CFC’s, mostly because the solution was something that could generate $$. The replacement of CFC’s with other ‘non-polluting’ propellants and refrigerants open a whole new industry of product development.

    We will not strive toward making any solution that will require ‘giving up’ our way of life.

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  20. 20. Molecule 8:03 pm 01/10/2013

    So we have : Global pollution = 1 person average Pollution * Number of people on this planet, so we have : Gp= P1 * N

    As long as one of these factor is taboo we are not using the full potential of the possible human actions. On the other hand you could be 100% wind an solar powered if N gets too big we are doomed! For example if we were 5.1 * 10^14 people on earth we would have exactly one person per square meter oceans included and the freaky thing, it’s only about 10’000 more people than now! Of course this is way too many, because we already are in serious trouble right now because climate change has started!

    So what do we wait to stop believing fairy tales like economical growth = good staff, with the actual economy system it’s just the reverse! We need a system that measures quality of life on the long run, integrating the climate and biological diversity in the equation, and for that we need tougher business regulations.

    What is possible :
    - More and more people will probably become quality health oriented, so for example long plane polluting travels with free x-rays in airports and cosmic radiations at 10’000 meters, what’s the point, if it’s possible to avoid it?
    - Use military budgets for what it’s design for : improve security! If global security through careful examination imply that some sort of global familial planning should be implemented as a free access to who wish it (it’s more freedom for everybody), well we should do it! This would of course be hand in hand with other sort of help.
    - Health information should be long term and more empowering for the people themselves and as far as I can see, it’s not very reasonable to have huge companies that get healthier when people get sicker. This last point is very important, because to take clear decisions, we need healthy people who got some time and power to think about these topics! So we should probably have a large part (definitely not all) of state own industries large enough to benefit mainly from the taxes of healthy hard working people, therefore interest of both parties are positively correlated!

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  21. 21. Carlyle 8:10 pm 01/10/2013

    I would love to know of some examples of: Marginalizing the shrill voices of the pathological deniers would help.
    Perhaps you could remind us all of which regimes have carried out just such policies in the past. How many tens of millions of lives did they cost? That would of course suit DancerTiffy who advocates total human extinction.
    The old extremist views. If you can not persuade the masses with your arguments, persuade them with bullets.

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  22. 22. RSchmidt 8:30 pm 01/10/2013

    @Carlyle, “How many tens of millions of lives did they cost?” what a surprise a right wing fanatic using the Reductio ad Hitlerum argument. I guess you don’t limit being irrational to climate science. Deniers need to be marginalized in the same way we marginalize hate groups, holocaust deniers, and moon landing deniers. You don’t need to kill them. There is no way you could kill all the idiots in the world anyway and even if you did, more would be born tomorrow. What we need to do is stop caring what a bunch of self-serving psychopaths think about a subject they have taken no time to understand. If you are a denier you are welcome to take the money the Koch Bros give you to troll sciam and invest it in conducting your own research to prove your hypothesis. It is telling that you don’t. It is as though you already know the answer, and that you will only prove how wrong you are. It seems laughable to me that you and the other clowns that troll here think your conclusions are so obvious yet have failed to provide any scientific support for you arguments. This is a science site, do you think we are going to take your word for it? So, yes I think we should marginalize the opinions of those who know nothing about science but insist that they know more about the issue than the thousands of people who actually study and research it. If that sounds like death camps to you perhaps you need to have your paranoia treated.

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  23. 23. Molecule 8:30 pm 01/10/2013

    To yarberry : “We will not strive toward making any solution that will require ‘giving up’ our way of life.”

    Let say it : a large part of the occidental way of life is unhealthy (do you really want to keep a very unhealthy way of life for many people ?) and unhealthy for many factors :
    - Not enough physical activities linked with too many facilities to avoid moving using many sort of polluting machines.
    - Foods that are lacking many important elements, so you need to take more to have enough of these elements.

    Anyways, is WE (globally) decide to change important things to improve the well being of society it would be profitable, at least on the long term and especially compared to how profitable it is to live on a planet with huge climate, food, migrations and wars troubles!

    Along these lines many states could back-gear on the whole cars economy and invest in public transportations and small local basic business (it gives people works for the right things), same when building a greener economy etc. etc. with a few more of theses OBVIOUS things (also see my previous post), if most people agreed for change we could probably solve these problems in 10 years and have a long term stabilized world by the half of this century. Basically a radical change in personal and political point of views!

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  24. 24. Carlyle 8:37 pm 01/10/2013

    So we deliberately set out to engineer a change I the natural climate cycle. Beware: The law of unintended consequences, often cited but rarely defined, is that actions of people—and especially of government—always have effects that are unanticipated or unintended.
    Like the environmentalists & greens years go clamouring for bio fuel. We all know where that that lead us. Of course the previous advocates are trying to distance themselves from it now.
    Another appropriate aphorism: The road to hell is paved with good intentions. See:
    The Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association said yesterday the inability of many farmers to obtain fire permits allowing winter and spring burn-offs on their properties must be considered a contributory factor in the ferocity of the fires..
    “It’s those Greens in government,” Mr Arnold said. “They care more about birds and wildlife than they do about people and farms.
    “But what’s the point of that now when the hills and trees they told me I couldn’t burn off, because there were protected eagles and swift parrots there, are now all burned and the fire it created was so hot we had dead swans dropping out of the sky?”

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  25. 25. Carlyle 8:43 pm 01/10/2013

    Oh, so you have a humane method of marginalising people who disagree with you? Tell us about it. Would it violate any aspects of The Constitution by any chance? I am sure you are much wiser than any of those old fogies.

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  26. 26. Molecule 8:48 pm 01/10/2013

    @RSchmidt Good one! And by the way, yes it’s incredible how climate change deniers jump so quickly on the fascist argumentation to picture any move to change things, same when talking about ways to avoid a population explosion, they often picture some form of massive sterilization, when globally optimized planet familial planning would solve most of the problem! Careful here : I need to be explicit : a globally optimized planet familial planning is trying to use the still incredible power of many wealthy states to give more reproductive freedom (toward the less of course) to whoever want it, and fully respectful of local authorities. Nobody forced, just as much free access as possible and as well in developed countries where undesired babies are legions (for proof the many abortions and all the other who don’t want or can’t, but would have preferred to avoid one more child)!!!! Of course it’s sometimes taboo, because when a child is there we need to accept it completely and to love it as much as possible, but stating explicitly that these strategies target only those who aren’t even conceived, should also unite most anti-abortion minded people.

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  27. 27. Molecule 8:56 pm 01/10/2013

    “as well in developed countries where undesired babies are legions” … classical argument : “but us we don’t fit in this model because the natality is only such and such!” So what? Better to abort? To have families dramas? … And more advantages less people even in occident through a good and free family planing imply :
    1) more freedom.
    2) more space
    3) better possibilities to integrate migrants and better ways to convince them to follow our trends.

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  28. 28. outsidethebox 9:04 pm 01/10/2013

    What will it take to solve climate change? A knowledge and understanding of human nature not just the science of CO2. But it’s like to even suggest such a thing is extremely politically incorrect. Which is why of course there has been no solution.

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  29. 29. RSchmidt 9:06 pm 01/10/2013

    “Oh, so you have a humane method of marginalising people who disagree with you?” this has nothing to do with me. AGW is not my theory. I have enough humility to know that I do not have any information that contradicts the AGW theory and so I am compelled to accept it. I have the freedom to do my own research if I choose to disagree but until then it would be idiotic for me to go against the recommendation of the scientific community just as it would be idiotic for me to go against the advise my doctor without getting a second opinion. Policy needs to be made on the basis of the science, not on the opinion of the scientifically illiterate and politically motivated public. Marginalizing the opinion of fanatics is about the political courage to do what is best for the people despite themselves. We don’t ask the mentally ill how best to treat mentally ill people. We try to understand their needs and give them that. We shouldn’t be asking people with an agenda what is valid science. Our leaders need to look at the science and create policy. And we need to hold our leaders accountable if they go against the science and the people suffer. When the politicians listen to you lunatics they lend you credibility. They need to make it clear that you have the right to determine what type of country you live in, but you don’t have the right to change or dismiss the facts to fit your ideology.

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  30. 30. Molecule 9:08 pm 01/10/2013

    @Carlyle : as stated above : A globally optimized planet familial planning is trying to use the still incredible power of many wealthy states to give more reproductive freedom (toward the less of course) to whoever want it.

    And because many many birth are not planned it would be a free CO2 bonus for the whole planet. Most people I know had children by accident, at least 50%, even more and in an occidental country! In third world, do you think people who can barely provide food to their 4 children wants a 5th and a 6th ? So if we help them they won’t have them and could take better care of the one already there! But of course it needs to go much further so as to propose (within the agenda of each countries, culture etc) a serious lateral help and education that awaken to the global problems as a way to evolve toward a globally united and solidary humanity. So better heath does not just translate to even more people on the next generation!

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  31. 31. RSchmidt 9:12 pm 01/10/2013

    @Molecule, the best way to reduce population growth is to ensure women have access to education, equal rights, birth control and economic support. The demographics with growing populations in the west are the poor, the uneducated and the religious. Again, the solution to many of the worlds problems is a win-win for everyone. The people who are blocking it are political and religious fanatics who are impervious to rational discussion and scientific evidence. Likewise, as I have said, the climate change debate is not about science, it is about ideology.

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  32. 32. RSchmidt 10:33 pm 01/10/2013

    @BoxCar, they do that in China. The result is that baby girls are murdered. If a woman delivers more than one child, the child is murdered upon birth. As I said, if you ensure that women are educated, have equal rights, access to birth control and economic assistance you will not have to impose population control, it will happen naturally.

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  33. 33. Carlyle 10:50 pm 01/10/2013

    The population naturally declines once a society industrialises & adapts democracy. Population growth in such countries only occurs through migration from those countries who do not have democracy, equality of the sexes etc. Force & prohibition is not required provided people have unfettered freedom of choice.

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  34. 34. Peter Innes 10:55 pm 01/10/2013

    In response to Sciencefirstandforemost: Australia did have unprecedented record heat according to our local weather experts:
    “National temperature records have been broken and broken again this week as temperatures soared across the country.

    On Monday, the national average (minimum and maximum) temperature calculated by the National Climate Centre was 32.22 degrees, exceeding the previous record of 31.86 set in December 1972. However, while the previous record lasted 40 years, Monday’s only stood for one day.

    Tuesday became even hotter, averaging 32.32 degrees and becoming Australia’s hottest day on record.”

    I despair of industry and government worldwide taking any real action and wonder if concerned consumers should unite and only buy low carbon footprint goods and services. It’s just a matter of identifying whats low carbon or not – and that’s still a big challenge!

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  35. 35. Carlyle 11:07 pm 01/10/2013

    You say: Policy needs to be made on the basis of the science, not on the opinion of the scientifically illiterate and politically motivated public. Marginalizing the opinion of fanatics is about the political courage to do what is best for the people despite themselves.
    What if the majority simply do not believe your point of view? The AGW point of view will be comprehensively defeated at the next Australian federal Election later this year. the greatest point of dissatisfaction with the present Government is that the present Prime minister of Australia, Julie Gillard, repeatedly promised prior to the last Federal Election that – There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead. Shortly after the election she introduced a $20 per ton carbon tax. Without the pre election promise she would not have won. With it she will lose. This same type of corrupt behaviour is endemic to the AGW movement as the email scandal & the pathetic excuses for them demonstrate.

    Link to this
  36. 36. Carlyle 11:48 pm 01/10/2013

    38. Peter Innes
    10:55 pm 01/10/2013
    Suggest you check out the following & read the post. The methods BOM use is very questionable, unless you prefer your alarmism to be swallowed hook line & sinker of course:

    Link to this
  37. 37. MARCHER 1:32 am 01/11/2013


    The link you posted shows you being made a fool of yet again. MassEffect demonstrated your only “proof” of your claim was a non-peer reviewed wordpress site, which he disproved using this thing called evidence.

    First everyone who disagrees with you is a Nazi looking to put the denialists into death camps, then actions on climate change are somehow unconstitutional, then literally every scientific institution of national and international standing is involved in a dastardly conspiracy.

    Get a grip, or take something for the paranoia, no one is out to get you.

    Now go back to your denialist prayer meetings.

    Link to this
  38. 38. cbarcus 1:46 am 01/11/2013

    The solution to both the climate and economic problem is to focus on providing cheap clean energy. Current consumption is ~16 TW globally, and if we wish to take the planet out of poverty by even a modest amount, we must produce considerably more energy. Projections for the year 2050 range from 35-50 TW.

    The reality of the impact of human industry on the Carbon Cycle necessitates decoupling our economic system from CO2 emissions. Furthermore, to minimize risk we should capture all of our past industrial CO2 emissions for sequestration (more than a century of energy production!). We also wish to make our new energy system as robust, flexible, safe, and efficient as possible.

    Nuclear bonds hold well over a million times as much energy as the fossil fuels we have based most of our economy on. One next generation approach to fission utilizes an abundant (essentially unlimited) fertile metal (thorium) as fuel (it is transmuted to fissile U-233) while suspending it in a stable, high temperature fluid. The liquid based system allows many economies in processing, from fuel burn-up to xenon capture, reactor size, safety (low pressure), and cooling. Waste is minimal: merely millions of tonnes for the entire globe for hundreds of years.

    China has already taken a lead in this area, and rendering our own economy uncompetitive in the global marketplace is imprudent at best. Furthermore, the quickest way to replace older polluting technology is by making it completely obsolete.

    Our energy/economic problem is the greatest one that Civilization has yet faced, but we are fortunate to have extremely good options available to us. If we revitalize the energy industry by promoting the development of this new generation of efficient machines, we have the potential to start a process of change that has not been seen since electrification.

    Link to this
  39. 39. Carlyle 2:36 am 01/11/2013

    Do not expect support for real science to replace voodoo science amongst the renewable energy proponents on this site. Thankfully over the two or three years I have been posting here, the number of people advocating nuclear power has increased substantially.

    Link to this
  40. 40. Carlyle 3:03 am 01/11/2013

    42. MARCHER
    1:32 am 01/11/2013
    It is your camp that is paranoid & with good reason. You are losing. The link I gave in turn linked directly to the government weather body known in Australia as BOM with all the relevant graphs, charts & weather stations.
    It was not me that introduced totalitarian rhetoric. Talk about marginalising people & expect to get called out. How would you do that without totalitarian powers or breaching your constitution if the majority disagree with your agenda or beliefs, or you intention to deny a minority their right to free speech? There will be an election in Australia this year that will largely be fought on this issue & all the polls for the past two years have shown that the present government will be thrown out as a result of the carbon tax. When that happens, would you suddenly rediscover free speech or would you be happy for your team to be marginalized

    Link to this
  41. 41. Sisko 9:31 am 01/11/2013

    When people such as Schmidt use the term “denier” to describe those that do not agree with their system of beliefs, they demonstrate that they are idiots unable to actually discuss the merits of their beliefs. Try to not be so prejudicial and to actually consider data openly.

    Sault- The rate of sea level rise has been fairly accurately measured via satellite measurements since 1992 and there has been no evidence of an increase in the rate of sea level rise over that period. How do you explain the inconsistency in the fact that during that period that you believe that there has been such an increase in ice melt, but no change in the rate of sea level rise?

    Prior to the satellite era of measurements the historical record shows that sea level has been rising for about 5 thousand years at a pretty rate. Schmidt likes to reference a paper that suggests that prior to 1992 that the rate of sea level rise was less than it is today, but the paper is not generally accepted as the estimates for the pre-1992 have high margins of error in their estimates. Doesn’t it seem a bit incredible that the rate of rise was somehow magically lower when we had poor data than it was from 1992 to present?

    Bottom line- nobody reasonable believes that the current rate of sea level rise to be an impending disaster and there is ZERO evidence of that rate of rise increasing to an alarming rate. Sault- would you care to examine each of the conclusions of the silly post by skeptical science that assumes that they know how conditions will change at a local level with ZERO reliable data to support their conclusions.

    Link to this
  42. 42. David Biello in reply to David Biello 9:48 am 01/11/2013

    You read the whole thing, right? Including the discussion of geoengineering?

    Link to this
  43. 43. jayjacobus 10:04 am 01/11/2013

    A common mistake that people make when planning is to set objectives that they can not attain themselves. Instead they set objectives for other people who may not even be aware of the objectives or who have their own objectives.

    This type of planning will never work. Instead, the planners should make objectives that they can attain through actions that they can make.

    Rather then plan for reduced CO2 that companies and governments can accomplish, environmental planners should set goals that they can accomplish.

    If one goal is to convince companies to reduce CO2 emissions, the plan should stated in terms that the environmentalists can take. Moreover, the environmentalists should have a numerical objective which shows how successful they have been.

    Writing articles is not a goal. Writing articles is an activity and it is an activity that can be attained without getting results or getting results that do not actually reduce CO2 emissions.

    Convincing 100 companies to change their energy sources to environmentally beneficial sources is a numerical goal which can be attained by the environmentalists and can be measured.

    In addition to the numerical goal, the planners should specify projects and initiatives that they can take to accomplish this goal. As the projects are implemented, the results will tell if the projects are effective or not. This feedback will provide the planners with information on how their initiatives are working. If they are not working, the planners should modify their initiatives to get better results.

    If writing articles is effective, the results (of reduced CO2 emissions) should be measured and evaluated. But writing articles is one initiative out of many and may not actually accomplish much.

    The planner should never measure activity. The planner should measure results. Writing 100 articles measures activity that may or may not reduce temperatures. Writing 100 articles that convinces 50 companies to change their emissions, measures results. And those 50 companies cause a drop in CO2 in the atmosphere which changes the temperature.

    A poor planner measures activity without measuring results. He continually makes his activity goal without knowing if he improved results.

    Effective planning need not be difficult to learn if the environmentalists know that results (reduced CO2 emissions and temperature) are the keys to success.

    Link to this
  44. 44. jayjacobus 10:17 am 01/11/2013

    People can see how ineffective writing is by considering my previous post.

    If my post is successful, I will have convinced environmentalists to learn about planning techniques. That should cause environmentalists to make better plans. Then, if they implement the plans well, they will have a positive impact on energy usage which may have an environmental impact.

    My thoughts about planning have and unknown and very indirect impact on temperature.

    One can see how ineffective writing can be. If I could do something else, I should do something else.

    Link to this
  45. 45. Sisko 10:25 am 01/11/2013

    David Biello asks- “You read the whole thing, right? Including the discussion of geoengineering?”

    Answer- yes

    David- Do you EVER consider publishing the science that in contrary to your beliefs?

    Link to this
  46. 46. MARCHER 10:36 am 01/11/2013


    The only paranoia coming here is from you. Your belief that those of us who refuse to reject scientific consensus constitute a minority simply proves your ability to believe whatever you want to believe. How nice for you.

    I have no idea why you think I am Australian, and I don’t really care. Similarly, if you think the results of an Australian election prove a change in international consensus you have a truly exaggerated idea of the importance of your nation.

    Finally, if Australians do not want a carbon tax, this hardly constitutes proof that Australia has become a denialist nation.

    But keep on hoping, after all, if you think more advocates of nuclear power on comments here indicates a change in national or international consensus, you truly will believe anything.

    Link to this
  47. 47. Sisko 10:45 am 01/11/2013


    What is there a scientific consensus on in regards to climate change?

    1. Is it on the basic physics? I agree

    2. Is it on the rate of any warming? nope no such consensus has happened unless you have such a wide margin of error as to make the estimate meaningless.

    3. Is it on what will happen other than temperature rise? nope

    What exactly is the a scientific consensus on??

    Link to this
  48. 48. MARCHER 10:53 am 01/11/2013


    The consensus is on “the evidence for human-induced climate change” and its negative effects for human life on the planet. (

    Link to this
  49. 49. Sciencefirstandforemost 11:04 am 01/11/2013

    …”and its negative effects for human life on the planet”

    The reality is that humans have never been in less danger on this planet. Per capita rates of death due to climate (floods, fire, drought, famine, disease,etc. are at RECORD LOWS….DECREASING EVERY YEAR.

    Link to this
  50. 50. Sisko 11:08 am 01/11/2013


    I do not see anywhere where there was a consensus on its net negative effects on human life on the planet. TYou are claiming a consensus where there is none beyoud the basic physics

    Link to this
  51. 51. MARCHER 11:11 am 01/11/2013


    No, you are claiming not to see a consensus. Spelling errors aside, it is clear (pun intended) from this comment and others that you have already made up your mind and it the evidence on this article and those like it will not change your mind.

    Link to this
  52. 52. Sciencefirstandforemost 11:23 am 01/11/2013

    The global warming lobbyists are falling into the pattern that often hurts real environmentalism.

    They make an issue ‘human centric’ with the belief that if one links consequences of inaction to the human race then this will ‘wake up’ the public, policy makers, etc. This leads to a pattern of cherry picking evidence and exaggerating ‘the dangers’.

    The reality is that mankind is quite adaptable, akin to rats and cockroaches. We can live and thrive in all types of niches from concrete jungle to remote mountain tops. The ‘climate’ is easily dealt with…the extremes are blips,annoyances on humans. We don’t perish and are not going to perish. We can be content in our homes whether it is 35c below or above outside. We can import technology, food, etc, from Peru to Canada and Germany to New Zealand. Changes in climate is incidental to our existence.

    Thus, ‘crying wolf’ with apocalyptic mantras is already wearing thin. Important environmental issues get tainted with the association.

    Link to this
  53. 53. Sisko 11:24 am 01/11/2013


    No, you are wrong. You claimed a consensus where there is not one on the negative impacts on human life. Stop being untruthful!

    I do agree that I am a poor typist and should always use spell check however.

    Link to this
  54. 54. David Biello in reply to David Biello 11:42 am 01/11/2013

    Absolutely. Here’s one example that springs to mind:

    But there is very little contrary *science* to publish, emphasis on the word science.

    Link to this
  55. 55. MARCHER 12:22 pm 01/11/2013


    This back and forth is pretty pointless, especially since I am the only one to actually link to anything backing up my claims.

    If you are typing from a computer, than you truly are a terrible typist. I thought you typed from a mobile device of some kind.

    Link to this
  56. 56. Sisko 1:00 pm 01/11/2013


    Reread the paper you linked and you will see that there is no consensus on the overall net negative impacts on humanity.

    Again, I do not doubt the basic physics. I am highly skeptical that we understand what the actual warming will be in the real system and I am very skeptical that we understand the net benefits vs. net harms and the overall impact of changing to a much lower rate of CO2 emissions.

    David Beillo

    If you are honest, you’d have to acknowledge that what you have published on the topic has been highly biased.

    Link to this
  57. 57. sethdayal 2:59 pm 01/11/2013


    So SCIAM’s price winning dumbest commenter/troll of all time is back annoying readers.

    Each time he comes he produces the same nonsense that exhaustingly has to be trashed as the stupidity it is.

    The cost of VC Summer was as is $9.8B or $4.3B/GW. No matter how many times I try to penetrate your stupidity you don’t get that the similar Vogtle project includes $4B for transmission.

    More pants of fire lies:
    1) there are no loan guarantees unlike for wind and solar which are financed without any upfront money by the taxpayer.
    2) there is no need for liability on an accident less likely than an asteroid strike which the insurance industry is legal forbidden to indemnify. In any case if it where possible to sue the wind/solar for the tens thousands of folks sickened and murdered by the air pollution from their gas backup not a plant would be built.
    3) the development cost contributions save the taxpayer billions over the life of the plant.
    4)the Chinese are much better than we are at civils having built the worlds largest high speed rail network and massive best in the word construction. Nuke plants are almost all civils. The most corrupt incompetent construction industry in the world is found in the American south.

    I could go on and have in past. You are simply to stupid to get it.

    Link to this
  58. 58. Carlyle 5:33 pm 01/11/2013

    46. MARCHER
    10:36 am 01/11/2013
    You did not answer the question. Without using totalitarian powers or infringing the right of free speech, how do you propose marginalising those who disagree with the apocalyptic views you espouse?
    You think your views are in the majority? Often not even on this AGW friendly forum.
    As for spelling I mostly use an old compuer with a dodgy keyboard that compounds my poor spelling with typos. Sill if that ets up your nose, all is not lost :)

    Link to this
  59. 59. MARCHER 5:44 pm 01/11/2013

    ” Without using totalitarian powers or infringing the right of free speech, how do you propose marginalising those who disagree with the apocalyptic views you espouse?”

    I don’t recall every espousing an apocalypse, however, this question has already been answered above. Try actually reading.

    “You think your views are in the majority? Often not even on this AGW friendly forum.”

    If you think this forum is a representative sample of society as a whole (American or Australian), you are even more delusional than I previously thought. Every study I have read about US citizens says otherwise, and a figurative straw poll on an anonymous forum for which some deniers like yourself have already admitted to using multiple accounts is even more scientifically bankrupt than the rest of the denialist trash you espouse.

    Now as for spelling,the only person I mention spelling to is Sisko, are you admitting to using multiple identities?

    Whatever, I have a real life to lead, you should try it sometime. Might even be able to afford a decent keyboard someday. :)

    Link to this
  60. 60. Carlyle 10:38 pm 01/11/2013

    No. I am admitting that I am an atrocious speller also. I often come unstuck when I add a sentence or two after I have already run spell check & pasted back to the forum. As for affording a new computer, I am just being thrifty. Eco friendly even. I run a business from home & have numerous computers at my disposal but I see no reason to throw out this old lap top.
    You did not answer the question.

    Link to this
  61. 61. cccampbell38 2:00 pm 01/12/2013

    Both the article and the comments make one thing absolutely clear, we are not going to do anything meaningful in the foreseeable future. And if a time does come when no sane person can possibly deny that man made climate change is real it will be far too late to stop it.

    Enjoy the ride. It may not last long. I, for one, am grateful that my wife and I do not have grandchildren.

    Link to this
  62. 62. G. Karst 2:21 pm 01/12/2013

    “What Will It Take to Solve Climate Change?”

    What a stupid question. Just what part of climate change are you suggesting, can be solved? The warming phase or the cooling phase?? Where and what fine learning establishment taught these alarmists, that the climate should, or ever has been, static. It is always either warming or cooling climatically. Just because we happened to have warmed fractionally, recently, is no reason to begin running around screaming “the climate is changing”. It is the very meaning of climate and no word like “change” needs to be added after it.

    To suggest that CO2 is a climate control knob that we can dial up or down, to control climate is patently absurd. No evidence to-date suggest that CO2 actually causes any effect on the actual climate, at all (logarithmic diminishing returns). In fact flat-lined GMT observations, are evidence that CO2 “effect” is non detectable and a “non-problem”. Co2′s GHE was almost entirely manifested during the first 100-200 ppm.

    So what problem are you attempting to solve?? Y’all know what, not to do, with something which “ain’t broke” GK

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  63. 63. Carlyle 3:06 pm 01/12/2013

    61. cccampbell38 2:00 pm 01/12/2013
    Enjoy the ride. It may not last long. I, for one, am grateful that my wife and I do not have grandchildren.

    I am sure we all are. We would not want to breed more panic merchants who jump at shadows, could lead to another Jonestown :)
    You need to lighten up & enjoy life. Why not become adoptive Grandparents. There is a crying need & it would add meaning & optimism to your life.

    Link to this
  64. 64. Einar 3:14 am 01/13/2013

    I live in Australia and the heatwave is called the weather here, and should be endured in the context that global temperatures have not risen for seventeen years. Further, climate changes all the time, and has done so for billions of years without any input from humans and for us to think that we can impact a system of such size and complexity is hubris indeed. Besides, global warming would be good,if only we could get some. Humans have always thrived in warmth, and we should be grateful for the interglacial perid which is allowing us to thrive right now. The cold will come back soon enough, as it has done time and again – think in geological time, not human time.
    On the other hand, why not focus on some real and immediate problems: spend money on malaria prevention in Africa, educate under-privileged indigenous children, help societies to ameliorate religious and social bigotry and violence, provide clean water, help the fish everywhere. The list goes on, and it is much better than wasting resources on a ‘problem’ which if it existed would indeed be a fine thing to have.

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  65. 65. mkantor 5:58 pm 01/13/2013

    One thing that definitely will not solve climate change is tribalism and political censorship on the blogs of Scientific American.

    Over on Around the Clock, SA Blog Editor Bora Zivkovic is engaging in that very kind of conduct right now by refusing to permit any link to climate change critic Watts Up With That (, claiming that the blog is anti-science because it disagrees with his views on global warming. He has now publicly stated that he will delete any comments linking to “purveyors of rightwing opposition to climate science”, which is blatant partisanship as well as rejecting scientific debate in favor of censoring views with which he disagrees.

    Regardless of whether one agrees with the views of Watts Up With That or simply disagrees with censorship, that conduct is wrong and should be publicly rejected by SA. In response to questions raised by, among many, Andy Revkin of the New York Times, Mr. Zivkovic has tried to justify his censorship as follows:

    “My comment moderation rules are capricious. Deal with it.

    There is no Free Speech clause giving you the right to post on my blog. If unhappy, start your own blog.

    If you use the word “censorship” give me a few minutes I’ll need to laugh about it.

    I want the discussion to be constructive, and to stay on topic. This post is about NYTimes environmental reporting, nothing else.

    Any comment that mentions Al Gore will be deleted.
    Any comment linking to Watts and other purveyors of rightwing opposition to climate science will be deleted.


    My blog, my rules. Tough luck.”

    I doubt Mr. Zivkovic’s blog is so free from SA supervision of censorship as he claims. It uses the SA name, is hosted on the SA website as part of the SA Blog Network, and is run by an SA employee during his work time, an employee who also happens to be the SA Blog Editor. There are surely terms and conditions to which Mr. Zivkovic agreed in connection with the blog and as Blogs Editor that permit SA to reject tribalism and political censorship on its own website. Editors of SA, please take a stand against Mr. Zivkovic’s conduct.

    Link to this
  66. 66. G. Karst 10:13 am 01/14/2013

    mkantor: You should not be surprised. This has been going on for some time, by all of the MSM (Main Stream Media). It is right out of the socialist’s propaganda manual.

    Childish and disgraceful behavior is the hallmark of those that believe they are on a quest to save the planet. It is called “noble cause” corruption. It is how people fill their voids when they cannot find purpose in the ordinary life that they live.

    The many CAGW believers share a common defect. It is a serious deficiency in following the scientific method paradigm and instead follow eco-political propaganda that is often an unbelievably stupid and dangerous policy.

    The fact that Sci-Am supports and encourages such non-scientific policy is why it is no longer regarded as a scientific journal. A small price to pay, in their minds, when compared to, the utter destruction of the planet.

    May gaia save us from the downward slide to hell, from those who grease the path, with noble good intentions. GK

    Link to this
  67. 67. me45678 8:40 pm 01/15/2013

    A huge example of extreme cherry picking here. Totally ignoring ( as usual ) the many places with record cold. Wake up, we are coming out of the inter-glacial period that most of recorded history has been in. We are due for an ice age within about 500 years and there will be quite a few mini and micro ice ages before then. Also, most of the last 10,000 years have been warmer than today, by far. So much for the political agenda of catastrophic global warming!!

    Link to this
  68. 68. Dr. Strangelove 9:02 pm 01/17/2013

    What will it take to solve climate change? Move away from coastal areas or build dikes. Move agriculture to cooler regions. Wear summer clothes. Adapt and thrive.

    Link to this

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