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Well, here we go again, Doug. I was sorely tempted to sigh and ignore this response, because we have had exchanges before. However, for those that may have missed them, I am going to reiterate some of the points I have made before.

  1.  "It is the current near-consensus of the international scientific community that climate change is occurring and is very likely due to human activity". “The above is also a scientific statement, even if the fields of science relate not to climate change but polling and statistics.  I disagreed then and disagree now that there is a near consensus of the international scientific community about climate change.  The Task Force and Synod simply assumed it did.”
    Response: this statement is arrogant and condescending. You can disagree all you want. You can also disagree that the earth is round, that humans walked on the moon, that smoking is very likely to cause lung cancer, etc., but that does not make it so. The statement in italics is factual, not political. The statement I posted provides references to the IPCC reports and the US Report on Impacts. If you want more references on consensus, including statements by the national and international community, I refer you to and the references therein. We, the Task Force did not “assume” this. We looked at the relevant published information and this is what it says. Let me state it very simply for you. Less than 1-2% of the climate science community hold any view other than the one in italics. If you have any credible references to challenge this, please feel free to cite them. But your personal disagreement with the statement, in the absence of any references, is irrelevant.
  2. “And to say, "... and is very likely due to human activity" is a statement that on its face lacks scientific seriousness.”
    Response: Really? What is the basis for your denigrating comment? This statement is a DIRECT quote from the latest IPCC report. The scientists who wrote that report would be shocked to hear that they lack seriousness. Had you bothered to even read the IPCC summary (let alone the report), you would find that “very likely” is DEFINED to be a probability higher than 95%. So “very likely” doesn’t mean 100% (and no one said that it did – way to raise a straw man!). The statement means exactly what it says, at the 95% level of probability.
  3. “Both the Task Force and Synod intentionally accepted and adopted answers provided by some highly qualified climate scientists and rejected the answers provided by other highly qualified climate scientists.”
    Response: Another blatant attempt to promote a false dichotomy. We took NO statements from individual scientists, pro or con, but instead relied on peer-reviewed scientific reports. As I have stated earlier, the vast preponderance of these reports are consistent in their conclusions. In fact, I know of none that take the position being espoused by you.

I see no point in engaging over a set of questions purposely chosen to be argumentative. (I am sure we could have an interesting argument about the moral imperative of high-speed rail.) It appears that Synod may charge the Council of Delegates with determining what the Church means by “ecclesiastical” and to what extent that includes issues of justice, which I think is a good idea. It is my opinion that if the church ceases to speak on critical issues of social justice, then the church has lost its salt and light. Is climate change a critical issue? Well, we are on a path to a much warmer world, with corresponding changes in fresh water availability, food availability, and weather extremes. People will die, ecosystems will be decimated, and entire population groups will be displaced. These are the conclusions of the climate impacts community. You are of course entitled to your opinion, but I think this is a critical issue of social justice.


To be clear, this is what happens when issues get delayed to the last session of Synod. There is no time for discussion because there is a hard deadline to finish. If you listened to the words of the president at the beginning of that last session, you heard him tell the delegates that he didn't want any discussion. (Well, it wasn't stated quite that bluntly, but it was clear.)



I wasn't reading anything into your comment, either, just making an observation. And maybe some small irritation about the timing and discussion. 

Thanks for the well wishes and the same to you. 



I find no small irony in your citation of Jim Hansen. In 1988, Jim testified before the US Congress that the hot summer weather of that year could be attributed to increasing carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere. In subsequent years (including during the period in which the CRCNA Taskforce on Stewardship and Climate Change was writing and submitting its report) you spent considerable time arguing that the science associated with global warming was wrong, that climate scientists were biased, etc. And now I see you commenting favorably on Jim's writings, which suggest you have had a change of heart. 

So, please confirm that for me. Are you now convinced that we have a global warming problem? That would be a good first step to having a discussion about what to do about the problem. (If you are not convinced that there is a problem, then of course you would argue against a carbon tax, but on a completely different platform.)

Let me assume that your answer to my question is "yes". The next question is what do we do about it? At this point, we really have three possible answers: mitigation (reducing carbon emissions), adaptation (allowing our planet to warm and then try to figure out how to deal with the consequences), or climate engineering (trying to find ways to cool the planet down). So what do you propose that we do about the problem? I personally find choosing adaptation only to be repugnant for many reasons, not the least of which is that we, the adults in the room, are simply kicking the can down the road to children and grandchildren and hoping that they can deal with it. Climate engineering is a temporary solution if that. So let's think hard about mitigation. 

A carbon tax is one small step towards mitigation. Granted it is a small step and an inadequate step, but a step. We have spent over a hundred years developing a civilization highly dependent on fossil fuel energy. We are not going to dismantle the fossil fuel infrastructure in a year or even a decade, but there is an urgent need for us to begin doing so now. We should have started this process 30 years ago and, in fact, we made some small steps that were subsequently destroyed. I agree with JIm (and maybe you?) that nuclear power is part of the answer, but so are renewables, conservation, carbon dioxide removal, etc. I think that it is quite clear that there is no single answer because no single technology will solve all our energy needs. The Carbon Mitigation Initiative at Princeton University discusses the solution space in terms of "wedges" - a broad spectrum of technologies that each accounts for a wedge of carbon emissions ( I think their arguments are quite compelling. 

Lastly, but certainly not least, I disagree with your statements about the role of the church on issues of social justice, including global warming. There is no stronger message in the Bible than our requirement as God's people to seek justice and to love mercy. Laying waste to our environment is neither just nor merciful. So let's agree that we have a problem and we need to do something about it now and that doing something about it may even have a cost. And then let's talk about how to start taking small steps in lots of different directions to reduce carbon emissions and stabilize climate. And let's see clearly that the church has the moral obligation to lead, not to be continually dragging up the rear, kicking and screaming. 



My earlier point (and current point) is that you cherry-pick from Jim Hansen's writing. Jim advocates for nuclear energy because (1) he sees a climate emergency that needs to be addressed now (this decade) and (2) nuclear is the only readily available option to do that. If you don't accept the need to reduce carbon emissions immediately, then you don't need to advocate for nuclear power, but can take a slower path to reduce carbon emissions. And suggesting that John Christy is an intellectual alternative to Jim Hansen is laughable. The entire climate science community, with a mere handful of exceptions, has clearly and unambiguously spoken out on this issue and, by and large, agrees with Hansen's conclusions. Yes, there is a range of expected warming, but even the lower end of that warming, assuming continuing rates of greenhouse gas production, will be disastrous by the last decade of this century. The larger end of the range will be disastrous by the middle of this century. Yes, there is some uncertainty surrounding climate sensitivity (the rate of temperature increase per increase in greenhouse gas climate forcing, the latter being related to increasing concentrations), which will determine the actual increase in global temperatures. I will spare you my inclination to write a treatise on the subject, which is fascinating to me, but will simply say that this uncertainty is well on its way to resolution based on research over the past half dozen years and long-term climate sensitivity is on the large end of the range, not the small end. If you want to know more, please ask.

In any case, I think that a prudent person and a wise steward of the resources we have given should take a more aggressive stance towards averting a looming disaster and work hard to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Arguing that the problem isn't bad enough yet or that it is too hard for us to solve strikes me as being very close to saying that I am willing to take the easy way out and pass the problem down to my children and grandchildren. Every CO2 molecule that we put into the atmosphere has a lifetime measured in centuries, so these molecules will still be in the atmosphere warming the planet in a hundred years. And, while the end of the century may seem a long way away, I expect that my children will be alive at mid-century and my grand-children (particularly the 1 year old and 2 year old) will be alive in last decade of this century. This, in part drives, my sense of urgency (and Jim Hansen's as well). I suggest you take a look at this article (sorry for the long link address):

I can imagine that you find the WaPo not to your liking and I don't particularly like arguing by anecdote but this article collects a number of observations about our changing climate that are very sobering. 

To conclude, you and I may have different opinions about whether a carbon tax is the best way of addressing the problem that we have, but that is not the real issue here. From my reading, your opinion is that we should do nothing about the problem. If that is not the case, then please tell me otherwise and offer some constructive suggestions about what to do. If I am correct about your opinion, then why don't you just say that we should do nothing and stop arguing a strawman position that our church shouldn't advocate for specific proposals because we don't have the expertise. 



And there we have the real problem. Climate change is difficult, far more difficult than rocket science (and I say that as a former NASA scientist). But the real problem is not the difficulty. The real problem is in the parentheses ("assuming a solution is required" and "international" politics). A carbon tax does not assume a binary solution. It is a starting step because we recognize that there is a problem and we need to reduce emissions. The market will not save our environment. I think this is a generally true statement but the market will certainly not take appropriate steps unless we begin to assess the market for its externalities. We did this for acid rain and it worked really well. We did if for air quality and it worked really well (if you think that car companies added catalytic converters out of the goodness of their hearts, guess again). A carbon tax provides incentive and funding for other solutions. 

The only advocates of a binary solution are those who advocate no actions, no solutions.

Lots of threads to pick up after a few days away. I will try to respond to a couple of these and let some others go. 

1. Predictions of climate warming. Hansen's predictions and those of the IPCC have held up very well. Please see the link below to an article in the Guardian published six months ago that shows a 30-year comparison. If you want to continue to claim that the projections were wrong, please supply some documentation. If this sounds a bit testy, I apologize (a little), but propagating distortions of the facts is not helpful. 

2. My comment about John Christy is not, in my opinion, an ad hominem (and you did not ignore it - you dumped it out in your first sentence to make it clear that you are accusing me of it). I am a climate scientist. I and my colleagues have spent years trying to understand the complexity of the climate system and have come to solid conclusions about the subject. Jim Hansen has been one of the intellectual leaders of this effort and has a long and prestigious resume to his credit. John Christy is a bit player on the climate scene whose main research work on temperature reconstruction from microwave satellites has been discredited and re-worked (references available on request). His scientific resume is weak. I am a baseball fan. Suppose I told you that the I prefer the Mariner's pitching staff to that of the Astros. You could say that I have taken a laughable position, and you would be completely correct. The resumes of the two pitching staffs make it clear that this is a laughable comparison.  In the same way, I as a climate scientist am telling you that suggesting Christy is a better climate scientist than Hansen is laughable. And, by the way, for what's it worth, I know both Jim Hansen and John Christy and have for 30 years.

3. On an related point, you have no problem with labeling Hansen as a "climate alarmist". Isn't that an ad hominem statement? I certainly don't think that you are using that term as a positive descriptor. But, perhaps, Jim and I should take that label as a compliment because somebody needs, like Paul Revere to raise the alarm "To every Middlesex village and farm". 

Now, on what I consider to the important issue, let me back up a little and try to understand your broader position. Please put aside the carbon tax question for a moment. Do you think that the Church in general or the CRCNA in particular can speak legitimately in any way on the climate change issue? As I recall (and my recall might be incorrect), when we brought out Taskforce Report to the CRCNA, you made this same argument that the church lacked expertise and therefore shouldn't adopt the report. In that report, we did not take a position on particular solutions, but we did take a position on the reality of the problem and the implications for justice in our world. You found this unacceptable, just as you find speaking out in favor of a carbon tax unacceptable for lack of expertise. What would you consider expertise in this case? Does the church have expertise on other issues of social justice, such as civil rights, immigration, human trafficking or abortion?  Does the church have expertise to advocate particular political approaches to these questions? How do you define when the church has expertise and when not? 

I realize these are broad and complex issues, not likely to be answered here. I think, however,  based on past history, that the church is far more likely to not speak than to speak on issues of social justice. Sins of omission are just as bad as sins of commission. 





Doug and Eric,

And why would you be interested in my opinion? You have stated your opinions quite clearly and there doesn't really seem to be much room for further discussion. Do you want to explore some of the ideas in the green new deal document or are you just interested in mockery? And are you willing to mock equally positions of the current administration on energy such as the "war on coal"? Let me know ....



I imagine that you think that your comments are quite witty, but I find them far less so. You argue in your original piece and throughout this string of comments that expertise is important and people should not "practice" outside of their expertise. You, however, are quite happy to dismiss the large consensus of climate scientists on climate change and global warming. Presumably, we do have the expertise to speak on this issue, but that doesn't seem to matter to you, because the conclusion of the experts leads to actions that you don't want to take. It doesn't really help to make parenthetical remarks denigrating the consensus in the field. And, as I mentioned before, there is you continued use of the word "alarmist", which you are using to imply that those of us who are trying to get our society to recognize the problem and act on solutions are intellectually dishonest. I often hear criticism of the climate science community that we do treat those outside our field with sufficient respect. i would like you to consider treating the climate science community with respect. 



I do not have Katharine's book at hand because I am on travel, so I cannot look up the section in question. I would think that Katharine, in discussing the fate of Arctic sea ice, said that there was a range of possible outcomes in the climate models, including the extreme projection of an ice-free Arctic Sea occurring in late summer as early as the next decade. I would think that she also said that climate models have difficulty with predicting sea ice because of the complex processes involved, the coarse resolution of models in the sea ice area, and high interannual variability. 

My earlier comment, which I could have made my clearly, was primarily directed towards Doug's comment that projections of global warming made around 1990 (about the time of the first IPCC report) have not held up well. That is in fact not the case as the article I linked in my comment shows. For reasons that I am happy to discuss, climate projections of large-scale, integrated quantities such as global surface temperature, global water vapor amounts in the atmosphere, etc., can be made with substantial confidence. We understand global energetics well and the laws of thermodynamics allow us to make these projections. Smaller scale (although still large) features of the climate system such as ice extent and monsoon variations are much more difficult to project because of the complexities of the system. 

With all this said, however, it is very clear from the data that the amount of land and sea ice on our planet is in substantial retreat. Arctic sea ice extent is steadily decreasing. The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are melting at accelerated rates, and almost all mountain glaciers are retreating at accelerating rates. The only ice system that is more or less holding its own is the Antarctic sea ice, although it took a big hit in the last couple of years as well. These changes are driven by global warming and, in aggregate, agree well with averaged model projections. As with daily weather forecasts, it is easy to find some place where the forecast did not do well, while the overall forecast of temperature and precipitation is very good. I suggest that you focus on the big picture of climate change and climate change projections to understand what our future looks like. 


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