Open Mind

Antarctic Ice

April 10, 2009 · 47 Comments

A reader recently posted a link to a site which effectively claims that the IPCC AR4 report was deliberately misleading about trends in sea ice in the southern hemisphere. It’s the post itself which is misleading, in fact it’s nothing more nor less than an attempt at “character assassination” of the IPCC.

It begins with a quote from AR4:

Antarctic sea ice continues to show interannual variability and localized changes but no statistically significant average trends, consistent with the lack of warming reflected in atmospheric temperatures averaged across the region.

In spite of the claims of the author of the post, as of the end of 2006 this was an accurate summary of the state of affairs regarding southern hemisphere sea ice trends. Several references are given which claim statistically significant trends in Antarctic sea ice, but this amounts to cherry-picking because the literature is rife with claims of both the presence and the absence of significant trends. Certaintly the scientific literature, when viewed as a whole, is ambiguous on the issue — in perfect accord with the IPCC summary. But, viewing the scientific literature as a whole is obviously not the author’s intent.

There is, however, very strong evidence that on a time frame longer than covered by the best-known satellite records, southern hemisphere sea ice has declined dramatically. This is shown both by non-satellite data (see this) and by earlier satellite data; Vinnikov et al. 2006 (GRL, 33, L05704, doi:10.1029/2005GL025282) took advantage of the fact that there is satellite data prior to 1978, summarizing the situation thus:

Satellite observed annual mean sea ice extents in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres are shown in Figure 1. Cavalieri et al. [1997] reported hemispheric asymmetry in global sea ice changes during 1978–1996 including opposing trend lines. With the extended record, the two hemispheres continue to behave differently, but it is no longer the case that the sign of the trend in the two cases differs. Sea ice in the NH continues, with the extended record, to have a negative trend, with a mean rate of ~0.32 x 106 km2/10 yr, and there is an acceleration, of approximately 0.16 x 106 km2/(10yr)2 in the rate of ice retreat. Sea ice in the SH no longer has a positive trend, once the data from the early and mid-1970s are included. The best approximation for the SH required a 3rd degree polynomial, and even then the coefficients are not statistically significant. A linear least squares fit line for the SH ice for 1973–2004 has a negative sign as in NH but it is much smaller in magnitude and is not statisticaly significant.

Even restricting to post-1978 satellite data, the trend in southern hemisphere sea ice at the end of 2006/start of 2007 was not statistically significant, either for extent or area. The trend has flirted with significance prior to that time, and has passed significance since then, but the data (and literature) available for IPCC AR4 indicated no significant trend. Restricing to post-1978 satellite data, the trend fluctuates above and below significance depending on the ending time used:



Of course, there’s also the rather obvious fact that while the trend in the southern hemisphere has been ambiguous and only recently passed significance, the trend in the northern hemisphere has been one of decline, much faster, and unambigous. Any real perspective on sea ice shows that the dominant fact of its behavior is the rapid decline (50,000 +/- 11,000 km^2/yr) in the north and the much slower increase (12,500 +/- 10,000 km^2/yr) in the south. But, just as clearly, a real perspective on sea ice is not the author’s intent.

The most misleading statement, which is either abysmally sloppy reporting or deliberate mendacity, is the closing sentence:

Also, the latest data from NCDC confirms the increase, with a higher trend for southern hemisphere sea ice extent of 2.5% per decade.

Follow the link given; you’ll discover that the NCDC page referred to mentions a 2.5% per decade increase in SH sea ice extent only for the month of April. Furthermore, it was inadvisable for NCDC to make that claim without qualification or caveat, since the increase based on April data alone isn’t even close to being statistically significant (18,000 +/- 24,000 km^2/yr).

Taken all in all, the page referred to illustrates the kind of deceptiveness which is not the exception, but the rule for the denialist side of the AGW “debate.” It is especially galling that the goal of such deceptiveness is to insult the integrity of the worldwide climate science community. But it’s no surprise.

Categories: Global Warming

47 responses so far ↓

  • DrC // April 10, 2009 at 9:15 pm

    Welcome back Tamino. This seems like a non issue. I hope we’ll be seeing more from you soon.

  • Deep Climate // April 10, 2009 at 9:47 pm

    This link is one of a series entitled IPCC Criticism of the Week .

    The note at the bottom of the list of weekly entries reads:

    Acknowledgements: These examples come from many different sources. Many originated from a thread at climate audit, so thanks are due to those who contributed to that - especially Max. Several also come from Roger Pielke’s Climate Science blog.

    So it’s likely the claim was first made by a commentator at one of those two blogs - what a surprise!

    BTW, welcome back!

  • bluegrue // April 10, 2009 at 11:27 pm

    This link is one of a series entitled IPCC Criticism of the Week .
    How convenient, that you can not leave comments but can only send e-mail that they may or may not act on. And you, too, can send them “further examples of IPCC bias and distortion”, as they request. *shakes head*

    Good to see you posting again, Tamino.

  • Kipp Alpert // April 11, 2009 at 3:04 am

    It’s quite good to see the man, who never saw a graph he couldn’t make.

  • John Cook // April 11, 2009 at 4:01 am

    It’s worth pointing out that Antarctic sea ice has been increasing *despite* the Southern Ocean warming at a rate higher than the global ocean average. When skeptics mention Antarctic sea ice increasing, the implicit assumption is it must be cooling around Antarctica (and hence there’s no global warming). The reason Antarctic sea ice is slowly increasing is complicated and examined here:

  • RecoveringMusicMajor // April 11, 2009 at 6:10 am

    I’ve been following this blog for a few months now, and I wanted to thank you for the good work you do. I like knowing what the facts actually are.

    I generally avoid conversations with denier coworkers/relatives, but every now and then I can’t help myself — even though I know there is nothing that can change most of their minds. One coworker (who has since moved to another office, thankfully) proudly announced that he would accept the “theory of global warming” when AND ONLY WHEN it was proved to the same extent as the value of pi. He then said that the IPCC report is not worth the paper it’s written on because it’s funded by the UN and that the UN, along with pretty much all environmentalists are just conspiring to destroy capitalism. (Apparently, that last statement requires a MUCH lower standard of proof…)

    I do have to stretch a bit to grasp some of the math involved here, but I remember just enough statistics to be able to see the fallacies so whole-heartedly embraced by the deniers. It seems that the only thing many of them remember from Statistics 101 is the first-day lecture quote about “lies, damn lies and statistics.” I guess they slept through the rest of the class — where they explain how one might spot numbers being abused…

  • Macdoc // April 11, 2009 at 10:11 am

    One thing I seem not see covered is how is accelerated glacial outflow distinguished from the kind of sea ice extent that happens in the Arctic.

    Would seem to me that greater outflow which we know is happening might disguise changes in the actual sea ice cover that is not glacial origin.

  • Barton Paul Levenson // April 11, 2009 at 11:16 am


    Glad to see ya back.

  • Ray Ladbury // April 11, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    Music Major,
    First, Welcome.

    Second, the thing I don’t understand about these, (shall we call them) market-motivated denialists is that they assert that capitalism if by far the best system for meeting the needs of humanity. And yet, they are terrified that having to confront the exigencies of climate change will bring the end of capitalism and the onset of socialism? Do they really concede that socialism could deal with a problem whereas capitalism would fail? That seems like pretty weak faith to me.

    It’s sort of like the health insurance companies asserting that they are best suited to provide health care, but saying that a government health insurance program would drive them out of business.

    So I have to ask, if capitalism is so weak, is it really superior?

  • David B. Benson // April 11, 2009 at 7:20 pm

    Macdoc // April 11, 2009 at 10:11 am — Read the link John Cook provided all the way to the end of the comments; glacial ice not a significant factor.

  • Dave A // April 11, 2009 at 8:05 pm


    You shouldn’t categorise people according to your prejudices. People who are sceptical about climate change are not necessarily “market-motivated individuals”.

    I guess this is true even in the US (:-), but it may be helpful if you sometimes remember that there is a big wide world outside the US !

  • Kipp Alpert // April 12, 2009 at 12:10 am

    Dr. James Hansen responded via email saying “The most precise data on the mass of the ice sheets, from the gravity satellite, show that, overall, Antarctica is losing mass, as is Greenland, even though East Antarctica is gaining a small amount of mass.”
    “All of the models, and the observations, have the central parts of Greenland and Antarctica growing faster because of global warming. This is a consequence of warmer air holding more moisture, thus increasing snowfall. But the net effect of warming on both continental ice sheets is mass loss, the increased melting being a larger effect than the increased snowfall.
    He also said “The fact that West Antarctica is shedding mass at a substantial rate, even though there is only small warming of surrounding sea surface temperatures, is a telling fact in my opinion, and a likely consequence of the warming ocean at depth, which affects the ice shelves that buttress West Antarctica, as discussed in our paper “Dangerous human-made interference with climate: a GISS modelE study.”" [1]

  • Kipp Alpert // April 12, 2009 at 12:21 am

    MacDoc:Above Dr. Hansen also made an interesting and rather obvious observation, that the height of the antarctic is much greater than the Arctic, therefore it is colder. Also he said, the hole in the Ozone is letting the GHG’s escape providing a window to escape the Atmosphere since Ozone is also a greenhouse gas.

  • John Finn // April 12, 2009 at 12:25 am

    The reason Antarctic sea ice is slowly increasing is complicated and examined here..
    Whereas the decrease in Arctic ice is in no way complicated and is, of course, due entirely to AGW. Though, a recent NASA study (led by Drew Shindell) finds that increased aerosols have been a major contributor to arctic warming … which is a bit odd because aerosols are cited as the main cause of arctic cooling in the 1940-1970 period.

  • Kipp Alpert // April 12, 2009 at 12:36 am

    DaveA: What America needs is a good dose of Socialism. At least in France, people work less hours, but they all have a job. Socialized medicine, and a Socialized education would be good for America. While Europe is leaving us behind, they take care of their own.I grew up I Darien Ct., the second richest town per capita in the United States. These business guy’s don’t even like each other, and are really not so American as they claim. After their wives turn forty, they get a new one(trophy wives).They live in proposterious houses with six garages called McMansions. You can love America and be a socialist too. France has incredible mass transit, monorails that are always within a minute on time. They don’t have moral issues to deny peoples right if they are Gay or Black. If you are interested sometime I will tell you why your circular argument with Ray, is nothing more than Argumentum pitium. Your are trying to intertwine two arguments at the same time. That’s very obvious. KIPP

  • Ray Ladbury // April 12, 2009 at 1:09 am

    Well, Dave A., since you will not share your motivations, we can project anything we want, can’t we. I don’t make any such assumptions about you. To me, you are a cipher.

  • Didactylos // April 12, 2009 at 1:12 am

    Dave A, I don’t see Ray making this sweeping statement anywhere. You seem to be tilting at a straw man. Sceptics, deniers, and market-motivated denialists are all distinct (if overlapping) groups.

    I’m curious: are you David Autumns? The coincidence of name and beliefs is odd, but on the other hand, the name is common and the denialist talking-points well circulated.

  • Kipp Alpert // April 12, 2009 at 1:31 am

    I am extremely concerned about the recent news on AGW.
    I can fight deniers at Accuwhatever, learn more Science at Open mind, Real Climate, or Climate progress and other sites, or I can take political action. I will always keep studying. I have been conflicted lately about what to do and where to spend my energies most effectively. I am 58, so I don’t have forever, to fight for the cause that I am dedicated to . What does anyone think we could do as a group or individually, to further the acceptance of AGW, or effect real hands on Political change. Happy Easter, Kipp

  • GaryB, FCD - aka b_sharp // April 12, 2009 at 2:42 am

    Just wanted to add to the general sigh of relief that Tamino is posting again.

    Isn’t it nice that the deniers can completely debunk AGW through logical fallacy and cherry picking? What power.

  • jyyh // April 12, 2009 at 10:26 am

    Ray wrote: “Do they really concede that socialism could deal with a problem whereas capitalism would fail? That seems like pretty weak faith to me. ” As it seems to me. I believe one of the reasons former Soviet was less productive than the west was because the health of the steel workers etc. deteriorated more than in the west due lack of regulation on the important domestic industries… , on contrast, some of the areas there that have no significant industrial resources are currently closer to the original nature than in the western Europe. Not to talk anything of other aspects of the whole system.

  • counters // April 12, 2009 at 3:06 pm


    The problem is that a lot of the knee-jerk ’skeptics,’ ‘denialists,’ or whatever they should be called [i]aren’t[/i] actually market-motivated; They’re really ‘anti-government’ motivated. If they were truly market-motivated, then they would readily stand by emissions trading as the top policy to reduce greenhouse gases - compared to the alternatives, of course.

    I personally see a very strong correlation between right-wing anti-government ideology and AGW skepticism. As a matter of fact, I think that AGW skepticism is, for the most part, a highly politically-motivated ideology in and of itself.

    Take a look at the emissions trading discussion I’ve been having with Jeff Id, and see if you can come to any other conclusions:

  • Lazar // April 12, 2009 at 3:33 pm


    they are terrified that having to confront the exigencies of climate change will bring the end of capitalism and the onset of socialism

    There is a ubiquitous inability of market- and small-government-fundamentalists to distinguish between law and socialism. Law is absolutely necessary for the survival of society, of culture, for the functioning of markets, for freedom. As jyyh points out, socialism is massively destructive of human life. It appears increasingly that market- and small-government-fundamentalists also place their ideology ahead of the welfare of individuals. Placing limits on fossil fuel emissions is not socialist, nor capitalist, just something which is necessary for survival. Socialism and capitalism only enter into the equation where it appears that capitalist societies are ahead of the curve in legislating those limits.

  • Ray Ladbury // April 12, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    John Finn, An aerosol is not an aerosol is not an aerosol. There are many different types. Some (e.g. sulfate aerosols) cause cooling. Others (e.g. black carbon) cause warming.
    I see you didn’t use your time off from posting here to learn any of the science.

  • Ray Ladbury // April 12, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    Counters, In the US, the anti-government/libertarian movement has a pretty strong alliance with the pro-bidness community. (Note, I say “pro-bidness” because these guys are more about low taxes even at the expense of infrastructure than they are about promoting healthy economies.) It is interesting to see the strains the bailout has placed on this alliance, and it is rather difficult for me to understand how anyone can advocate 7 trillion dollars to bail out banks and not one red cent to create the infrastructure of the future, but that is because I am sane.
    Actually, I generally believe in free markets. They can be an efficient way to allocate resources…when they work. What I’m waiting for is some of these “magic of the marketplace” guys to show me they are up to dealing with the threats posed by climate change. So far, they’ve failed utterly.
    Likewise, if a libertarian can come up with a plan that works, I’m all for it. Again: open failure so far.
    If the only way a philosophy can justify itself is by denying reality, well, what does it say about the effectiveness of the philsosphy?

  • Lazar // April 12, 2009 at 4:10 pm


    I can fight deniers at Accuwhatever, learn more Science at Open mind, Real Climate, or Climate progress and other sites, or I can take political action. I will always keep studying. I have been conflicted lately about what to do and where to spend my energies most effectively.

    Wandering into a denialist site and acting supremely arrogant is fun. But then I’m cruel sometimes. Responding to trolls though doesn’t achieve anything. Your idea to keep studying is great. To make the most effective contribution, I think this is something only you can work out, whether there is something which you can do, or learn how to do, which isn’t already being done. Providing a function. Filling a niche. Not just being a number, although that is important too.

  • dhogaza // April 12, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    Whereas the decrease in Arctic ice is in no way complicated and is, of course, due entirely to AGW. Though, a recent NASA study (led by Drew Shindell) finds that increased aerosols have been a major contributor to arctic warming …

    Shorter John Finn - another source of anthropogenic warming disproves anthropogenic warming.

  • dhogaza // April 12, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    Corollary to John Finn’s observation:

    We don’t know everything, therefore every time we learn something new, it proves we know nothing.

  • Lazar // April 12, 2009 at 5:41 pm


    Sulfates, which come primarily from the burning of coal and oil, scatter incoming solar radiation and have a net cooling effect on climate. Over the past three decades, the United States and European countries have passed a series of laws that have reduced sulfate emissions by 50 percent. While improving air quality and aiding public health, the result has been less atmospheric cooling from sulfates.

    At the same time, black carbon emissions have steadily risen, largely because of increasing emissions from Asia. Black carbon — small, soot-like particles produced by industrial processes and the combustion of diesel and biofuels — absorb incoming solar radiation and have a strong warming influence on the atmosphere.

    In the modeling experiment, Shindell and colleagues compiled detailed, quantitative information about the relative roles of various components of the climate system, such as solar variations, volcanic events, and changes in greenhouse gas levels. They then ran through various scenarios of how temperatures would change as the levels of ozone and aerosols — including sulfates and black carbon — varied in different regions of the world. Finally, they teased out the amount of warming that could be attributed to different climate variables. Aerosols loomed large.

    The regions of Earth that showed the strongest responses to aerosols in the model are the same regions that have witnessed the greatest real-world temperature increases since 1976. The Arctic region has seen its surface air temperatures increase by 1.5 C (2.7 F) since the mid-1970s. In the Antarctic, where aerosols play less of a role, the surface air temperature has increased about 0.35 C (0.6 F).

    That makes sense, Shindell explained, because of the Arctic’s proximity to North America and Europe. The two highly industrialized regions have produced most of the world’s aerosol emissions over the last century, and some of those aerosols drift northward and collect in the Arctic. Precipitation, which normally flushes aerosols out of the atmosphere, is minimal there, so the particles remain in the air longer and have a stronger impact than in other parts of the world.

    Drew Shindell & Greg Faluvegi
    Nature Geoscience 2, 294 - 300
    March 2009

    Our reconstructions broadly agree with historical emissions estimates, and can explain the differences between observed changes in Arctic temperatures and expectations from non-aerosol forcings plus unforced variability. We conclude that decreasing concentrations of sulphate aerosols and increasing concentrations of black carbon have substantially contributed to rapid Arctic warming during the past three decades.

  • Brian Klappstein // April 12, 2009 at 6:26 pm

    “…When skeptics mention Antarctic sea ice increasing, the implicit assumption is it must be cooling around Antarctica…”

    (John Cook)

    I looked at the link provided to John’s post at Skeptical Science and hence to the Zhang 2007 paper, which claims warming air temperatures ringing Antarctica since 1979 (Figure 1). However, the manned surface stations ringing Antarctica, or at least those not on the peninsula show much less warming than the Zhang Figure 1.

    In fact most show a slight cooling since 1979. You can check this via the HadCRU3 grid cells in the area between 40 degrees west and 180 degrees, and 60 and 70 degrees south which shows cooling since 1979.

    I doubt too many familiar with the data would argue against that East Antarctica has been cooling slightly since 1979.

    Regards, BRK

  • cugel // April 12, 2009 at 7:52 pm

    Regarding ideology : Both libertarianism and Marxism ignore environmental or resource constraints. There’s no place for them in what are simplistic social theories. As a result Marx and Engels dismissed Malthus as an apologist for imperialism, and Mao’s policy on the population problem was “people produce food, therefore more people produce more food, therefore no problem”. The bizarre result is that libertarians and Marxists are allies in AGW denial. Their ideologies cannot encompass AGW, therefore it must not exist.

  • paulm // April 12, 2009 at 8:55 pm

    This guy is much more eloquent than most….and he is from auz, where they know about what it is like on the curve of climate change…

    Poor prognosis for our planet

    Climate change is often described as linear decline followed by some kind of distant “tipping point”. But consider these statistics: in 1979 Arctic sea ice cover remained above 7 million square kilometres all summer; from 1989 it was consistently above 6 million; in 2002 above 5 million; since 2007 above 4 million. I read recently we may have reached a tipping point and the ice will be gone in 20 years. But there is no tipping point - a curve is always tipping, and each new finding redraws the curve. If this year’s figure comes in under 4 million square kilometres the patient could be dead inside five years, and ships will be crossing the North Pole in September 2014.

    The rest of us are less evolved; my suspicion is that most of us still don’t get it. Because here’s the paradox: wherever you look in the natural world the message of exponential change is reinforced, yet humans have a weird predisposition to see change as linear. I’m guessing this is a throwback to the caveman days when, if someone threw a rock or a spear at you, it was sensible to assume that the missile would keep coming at a constant speed. Strangely, we unconsciously apply the same neanderthal logic to our understanding of ageing, birth and climate change.

  • Dave A // April 12, 2009 at 10:39 pm


    “Placing limits on fossil fuel emissions is not socialist, nor capitalist, just something which is necessary for survival. “

    Well you’re almost right, because in some parts of the world it would be to the benefit of the survival of millions of people that they are allowed to dramatically increase the use of such fuels.

    Or are you suggesting that they should forego essential improvements in their lives on your behalf?

  • Dave A // April 12, 2009 at 11:03 pm


    A few years back, when I was actively involved with CND, I had a discussion over a meal with a prominent anti nuclear activist about the fact that there were many millions of extremely poor people in the world who did not have access to electricity and many, many millions more who did not have access to regular supplies of electricity.

    I tentatively suggested that there might therefore be a case for greater use of nuclear power ( even though I , myself, have many reservations about this). To my utter astonishment his response was that perhaps these people should ‘ learn to live’ in a different way to us in the West.

    Essentially he was mainly concerned about his ’cause’ and not at all concerned about the plight of real people around the world. Is that where you come in to?

  • Dave A // April 12, 2009 at 11:12 pm


    should be “too” in last line.

    Can’t we have some kind of edit facility on this blog?

  • Ray Ladbury // April 13, 2009 at 1:00 am

    Dave A., It would seem that it is YOU suggesting that the poor do without–in this case without a clean, modern energy infrastructure. Fossil fuels are finite. If the developing world becomes reliant on them, they will have to import energy resources and deal with the pollution–and eventually will have to replace their energy infrastructure. Doesn’t it make sense to help them develop a modern infrastructure as we do so ourselves? My question to you: why do you want to force them to make the same mistakes we did.

  • Hank Roberts // April 13, 2009 at 1:21 am

    Send the antinuclear guy to Barry Brooks’s website.

  • Barton Paul Levenson // April 13, 2009 at 10:37 am

    Kipp, I agree about the positive aspects of the French welfare state, but believe me, France has its own social and economic problems, some of them severe. Unemployment is very high, because government prohibitions against firing people have the perverse effect of making companies afraid to hire people they might get stuck with. And there’s a restive and very large muslim minority which is discriminated against by other Frenchmen and is angry and resentful and violent as a result. Souviens, Candide, ce N’EST pas la monde plus bien du tout possible.

  • Barton Paul Levenson // April 13, 2009 at 11:00 am


    A missile thrown at you won’t keep coming at a constant speed. It will accelerate after it passes its peak altitude.

  • JM // April 13, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    RecoveringMusicMajor: ” he would accept the “theory of global warming” when AND ONLY WHEN it was proved to the same extent as the value of pi. ”

    Does your colleague drive a car?

    Because I guess he may have to stop if he won’t accept the utility and validity of fuel consumption figures unless they are to the same accuracy as the decimal places of pi.

    I doubt if real world mileage numbers come within 10% of the lab (track) measured values and even the lab values are probably no more than 1% accurate at best (ie. a couple of significant figures)

    Given that modern physics only claims around 30 decimal places I guess, the couple of million or so places of PI are going to be a bit of a challenge.

    We’re probably looking at the heat-death of the universe before your guy deigns to cross the road.

    This is the “substance” of the denialist “debate” - focus on the hole of uncertainty and not the donut of what we know. You’ll starve doing that.

    [Response: If I recall correctly, the value of pi has been computed to over a billion decimal places. Even that limitation applies just to the decimal representation; we actually know the value of pi exactly (as a series expansion).]

  • Philippe Chantreau // April 13, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    Kipp, Barton makes some good points. There are things that I miss, others that I don’t. However, I’d like to point, about the 2nd and 3rd generation muslim immigrants, that their choice of the “gangsta” ways (local sauce, same idea) does nothing to stave off racism. In addition that minority is responsible for most of the anti semitic incidents.

    [Response: My experience is the opposite. The "gangsta" lifestyle is associated with *mainstream* (i.e., all-American) youth culture, having nothing to do with Islam (of any generation). I've only seen anti-semitism from extremists (as often from extremist Christians as Moslems), just as I've only seen anti-Islamic incidents from extremists.

    "I am a Moslem. And I am a Hindu. And I am a Christian. And I am a Jew." -- Gandhi

    "We are children of God, every one of us." -- Gandhi

    This is certainly far afield from climate science.]

  • Ray Ladbury // April 13, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    “This is certainly far afield from climate science.”

    Though not from prerequisites for human survival.

  • JM // April 13, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    “we actually know the value of pi exactly ”

    Agreed. But RMM is dealing with an ignoramus and arguing with a fool often means the audience can’t tell who the fool is and assume it’s you if you stick the the rules of intelligent debate (because your lines aren’t as snappy).

    The difference between measurement and mathematics is a bit too philosophical for the audience.

    A smart-a*** remark sometimes works to bring the fool down a peg, and I think it’s appropriate in this case as we are primarily dealing with a social and economic debate now, not a scientific one.

    The fool is perfectly capable of making economic choices in his personal life in the face of imperfect information (and probably proud of his ability to do so), but denies us the same judgement collectively.

  • Ray Ladbury // April 13, 2009 at 6:17 pm

    “Never aruge with an idiot. They’ll drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.”

  • Hank Roberts // April 13, 2009 at 6:58 pm

    ANDRILL in the news again:


    … Andrill’s results reveal a breathtaking picture. They show how the West Antarctic ice sheet has collapsed and regrown at least 60 times in the past few million years. Andrill predicts that it could once again tip toward collapse by the year 2100.

    “There seems to be a lot more variability in the ice sheet than anyone pictured,” says Robert DeConto, a glaciologist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “That’s what’s so exciting about this. But it’s also kind of scary.”

  • Dave A // April 13, 2009 at 8:29 pm


    As you know we have been over this many times before. Yes fossil fuels are finite, although not as immediately finite as you seem to think. But your “clean, modern energy infrastructure” is way beyond the capacity of most of the developing world for ages to come. (Indeed, many advanced states would struggle to implement it)

    So you need to get real Ray and then adapt accordingly. That’s just how it is and you know it.

  • Philippe Chantreau // April 14, 2009 at 12:34 am

    Tamino you’re right in the sense that the youths who have been at the center of urban violence in France are not usually Muslims, or only in the loosest sense of the term. In that sense, they are unlike their parents, who came typically to work construction/blue collar jobs in the 60’s/70’s and were more observant.

    In fact, they are very much mainstream, as obsessed with brand name clothes as others here are with NBC stars sneakers. They also have their own version of hip hop culture, mixing rap and rai. However, they do claim kinship with the Palestinians and commonly declare themselves ennemies of Israel, although very few ever live up to the talk.

    They accumulate a lot of frustration due to unemployment and prejudice, which are real, to an extent. I have been in Sartrouville and Argenteuil and other places, it’s as bleak as can be. However, it it undeniable that their tendency to drop out of school, threaten techers with violence and rob metro passengers does not help popularity.

    Enough OT, I’ll understand if you drop this post.

    [Response: It's no surprise we have different experiences; I'm in the U.S. I think we've gone as far on this topic as is appropriate.]

  • Ray Ladbury // April 14, 2009 at 12:58 am

    Dave A.,
    I’ve asked this before: Have you ever even been in a developing country? I have–about 20 of them, some for as long as 2 years. In many ways, developing countries are ideal candidates for decentralized energy systems. If you factor in not having to build a grid, solar and wind are already winners.
    So, Dave, unless you have some direct experience I do not, methinks you are talking our of an alternative orifice.

Leave a Comment