Thanks, Vortex. You make some very reasonable points, and the discussion is interesting enough that I will respond in turn.

I think that the key issue is whether, and to what degree, people should be free to question the consensus of experts and the appropriate actions that follow from that consensus.

I agree that, because even naysayers generally accept that the appropriate acts should be undertaken anyway, global warming is not such an edifying case to use. I think that there is another reason to distinguish it as an exceptional case: that its effects are global rather than individual. If the appropriate acts are not undertaken, the entire world suffers the consequences. On the other hand, such cases of denying an expert consensus as, for example, with respect to HIV/AIDs, and with respect to the "need" for "psychiatric patients" to be sectioned and/or forced to take drugs "for their own good" - an example which I think worries you as much as it does me - concern certain affected individuals only, and not the entire globe. I think that there is in those cases far less of an argument to restrict an individual's freedom to detract from consensus, especially and crucially in the case of the individuals affected.
Thanks for your reply, Laird.

I fully agree with you on psychiatric patients. In fact, anti-psychiatry / post-psychiatry / critical psychiatry is one of my main areas of interest.

With psychiatry, violence being employed by its institutionalised practitioners is the critical and defining issue. When, in my previous post, I have called censorship a form of violence, I have hesitated, doubting whether "violence" is too strong a word for describing it. Yet, I think, it is an appropriate to call it so, as long as one understands that the violence has many degrees and forms. And, while all of them is certainly not good, it would be a big mistake, both intellectually and morally, to simply lump them together undiscriminatively and portray them as equally evil. Badness of violence may differ from relatively moderate to the artociously severe. Trying to prevent people's access to the "fringe" positions in physical (e.g., not mental) medicine is wrong, and it should be called so, yet the common practice of coercive psychiatry is much, much worse. It is based on a literal, direct, brutal, physical violence towards people. And the aim of this violence is worse than physical - it is a cruel breaking of a person's mentality and personhood, accompanied by the procedures that damage person's brain, oftentimes irreversibly.

And, in the case of the mainstream psychiatry, there are very strong reasons to validly criticise and reasonably doubt its intellectual underpinnings as well. The justification of the violence employed by psychiatrists is shaky and shady, being more an ideological mixture of political control, economic convenience and social segregation than a science in a strict sense. This I can state quite positively.
I think this idea can be applied to some issues; and should always be applied in discussion and debate; but some decisions cannot be left to individual freedom of choice.
There are many examples - a mundane example would be having driving insurance.

When the majority of people in Europe and the US became aware of the necessity to do away with chattel slavery; or later to allow women to vote, etc, there were many individuals who believed their rights and freedoms were being abused; and in the case of slavery a bloody war was fought in the US over it (in part).
When child labor was outlawed many protested their right to employ children. Today there are radical US libertarians who believe the child labor laws in the US are unconstitutional. They believe that children are the property of their guardians who should be free to rent or sell them; and should have no legal obligation to feed or care for them.
These kinds of matters cannot be left to individual choice. You cannot permit parents to rent or sell or starve their children.

In the case of what I call the biospheric crisis (the climate and CO2 thing is just part of that) it cannot be left to individual choice except in the sense of a democratic choice or vote.
No individual can decide they want nothing done about the biospheric crisis and impose that on the rest of the planet on the basis of individual freedom.
Likewise no individual ought to be allowed to impose the acceptance of the crisis and any particular actions to deal with it on the rest of the population.
Ideally it has to be a community decision by majority consensus and that is what I hope will gradually emerge.

The biospheric crisis will only be properly addressed when a sufficient percentage of the population is aware of the necessity to act.
There will still be individuals insisting it is all a conspiracy or some such; but they cannot and wont be free to stop the rest of the population acting.

My hope is when the time comes the solutions will not be imposed by a power elite (oligarchs) in ways that benefit their interests at the cost of ordinary people.
I hope there will be as much democratic consensus as possible.
I hope there will not have to be wars fought on account of it; although many pundits predict there will be.
My response to Jim though was motivated primarily by his comparison of people calling for consequences for deniers of global warming with members of a brutal and aggressive regime that murdered millions of Jews - a highly offensive comparison, especially because he extended it not just to people calling for such consequences, but to environmentalists in general, and the offensiveness of which I think it is "curious" that David as an interventionist moderator ignored. I think David Eire was diplomatically understating it when he called Jim's post "a low point for this thread".

It is not so much that I endorse that call for consequences unconditionally - I simply questioned whether it might be "justifiable to take the position", i.e., whether people who took that position could have reasonable arguments rather than being "Nazis". At the very least, one reasonable argument is - as in the case of corporate shills for Big Tobacco - that if an unqualified person knows or believes that the consensus on global warming is correct, but, for profit, and on behalf of Big Oil and Big Coal, advocates vigorously via a loud public platform that the consensus is false or is a political conspiracy, and that no action should be taken and that indeed we should expand petroleum-based transport and coal-fired power, then that person should suffer consequences. On the other end of the scale is a person who is a qualified climate scientist and who has examined the science, evidence and arguments carefully, and who cautions in the scientific literature that the consensus view might be somewhat exaggerated, and why s/he thinks so - quite clearly, I think, such a person should not at all be censored. Where the line between the two is drawn is a matter that could be discussed, preferably with those involved in the discussion refraining from referring to one another as totalitarians...
On global warming, I will reply later - have no time right now. I want just to make a quick remark that I fully agree with David Eire that on global impact environmental issues, decisions are indeed has to made collectively; when I wrote about individual decisions, I meant medical (and mental) ones. More about that later...
One of the arguments used to argue that global warming is caused by humans is that the rate of change is happening faster than can be explained by natural causes.

An episode of Nova about the cause of the extinction of large North American mammals 12,900 years ago tells of a two year period where the temperature fell 18 degrees Fahrenheit.

the ice cores proved that the Earth's
climate can change extremely rapidly
sophisticated molecular analysis of the
ice can reveal the temperature at the
time it formed the ice from this time
animals went extinct shows a very
unusual change temperatures plummeted it
happened so fast when you think about it
it's it's unbelievable it's a complete
change in the state of the climate
system it would be the equivalent of
going from maybe to three months of
winter in in northern New England let's
say to 11 or 12 months of winter
throughout the year
in possibly less than two years the
annual temperatures in North America
dropped up to 18 degrees Fahrenheit
which may not sound like a lot but the
last time it got that cold in what is
present-day Chicago it was buried under
a mile of ice
throughout much of the world climates
changed some places got colder others
dried out causing more fires
was this sudden climate change
The Nova documentary explains that this episode might have been caused by a comet impact. However:
Gary Haynes says that's true [that animals went extinct because of climate change] but there
were other similar periods of climate

Measuring oxygen isotopes in ice cores provides information on the temperature of the climate at the time the ice was formed.

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It is unquestionably true that mean temperatures on Earth have fluctuated over geological time; sometimes catastrophically for some environments and life forms.
Likewise the biology of life has also changed over geological time; and also catastrophically for some environments and life forms.

In all cases where there were catastrophic environmental changes on Earth there were causes for those changes.
But those causes have not been uniform; they have been many and complex.

The Earth's first mass extinction event may have been the emergence of oxygen producing and using life forms;
which was an environmental catastrophe for the dominant anaerobic life forms at that time.
In the case of the oxygenation crisis and mass extinction it was the life processes and life activity of newly emerging species which caused the event.
Their life processes and activity altered the chemical composition of the atmosphere.

In other words the activity of life forms on Earth can have planetwide environmental impacts and this can be shown to have happened in the deep past.
In fact the Earth's atmosphere today is in its composition the product of life on Earth.

So what is my point?
Showing that there have been changes in the past prior to human dominance does not show or prove that human activity today is not impacting the planet.
On the contrary it can be shown that the life processes and activity of life forms do have environmental impacts.
And therefore it is not unreasonable to suggest that human life processes and activity can have environmental impacts.
And as a planetary species whose life processes and activities are now operating at an exponential industrial level it is inevitable we are impacting the environment.

Just as we have to take into account how we live in our personal lives and homes; and how we deal with the products of our life processes and activity (eg waste)
likewise as a species we must take into account how we live on our planetary home; and how we deal with the products of our life processes and activity.

In my opinion the environmental crisis, or biospheric crisis, is the defining issue of the 21st century
The transition to a sustainable and fully integrated planetary civilisation is our primary task in this century
In my opinion the environmental crisis, or biospheric crisis, is the defining issue of the 21st century
The transition to a sustainable and fully integrated planetary civilisation is our primary task in this century
Well the rise in temperature since 1880 (the accepted zero point for these measurements is 0.8 C.

Think of all the things already blamed on that tiny rise of temperature - does that really make sense? Here is a Nobel phsicist who has stuck his neck out to tell the truth:


What is the real defining environmental issue for the 21st century? I guess my list would be:

1) The danger of nuclear war.

2) Runaway population increase.

3) Possible pollution from plastics and other unnatural things (CO2 is a natural - indeed vital - plant food.

Hi David
Personally I am not at all concerned with the temperature debate because it is such a mess and is only one aspect of the real issue.
The real issue is biospheric poisoning, and CO2 if it is an issue at all would only be part of that broader issue.
The points that you list 1 - 3 would all be part of my concerns about the broader biospheric crisis our globalising industrial civilisation is generating.
Small point David, but worthy of consideration...
Just as CO2 is a vital plant food, likewise oxygen is a vital animal food. But oxygen can become toxic if there is too much of it.
The problems arising from an excess of oxygen in the atmosphere are many; not just biotoxicity to animals, but also ecotoxicity, for example wildfires.

The issue with CO2 is not the chemical itself but rather the relative quantity in the atmosphere.

Life on Earth as we know it today is reliant on a specific homeostatic balance in the chemical composition of the atmosphere; within a range of tolerance. That balance is maintained in part by the living processes of the biosphere. Biospheric poisoning in my thinking means that balance being altered significantly to a sufficient degree that life as we know it might no longer be sustainable.

Life itself would probably survive and adapt to the new conditions; new life forms would emerge; but we might not survive.

I made this point to a German engineer once and he replied that people have lived on the moon for a time and there are no trees on the moon.
I asked him, so will we all go around in space suits?
Hi David
Personally I am not at all concerned with the temperature debate because it is such a mess and is only one aspect of the real issue.
The real issue is biospheric poisoning, and CO2 if it is an issue at all would only be part of that broader issue.
The points that you list 1 - 3 would all be part of my concerns about the broader biospheric crisis our globalising industrial civilisation is generating.
If the real issue is biospheric poisoning with CO2, then why is the 'problem' framed in terms of global warming - even if it is called 'climate change', the only mechanism for that change that is discussed is the supposed greenhouse effect!

I am not averse to arguments about pollution in general, but in the case of CO2, I just think the argument is spectacularly weak. I take your point that just because something is vital, doesn't mean you can't get too much of it - the best example is water - if you drink enough water over a short period of time, your blood gets too diluted, and water osmoses into the brain, and the pressure can kill.

However, CO2 levels have varied over geological time, and I have even seen arguments that the current rise in CO2 is not man-made - that our addition isn't enough to cause the observed rise in CO2.

The only other feature of atmospheric CO2 that gets talked about is ocean acidification. This doesn't seem to be a problem because the ocean is well buffered. People shreik about coral bleaching due to this effect or global warming, and yet there are examples of corals growing in volcanic zones with neat CO2 bubling through them!

I think this absurd 'danger' has been used for politics, and to distract people from real issues. I mean nuclear weapons just have to count as a the largest danger to humans and the biosphere. Also loss of habitat is very real and doesn't need a dubious scientific argument to justify it. There may also be real pollution issues - most certainly in Third World countries that now make so much of our goods (parly because we have made our electricity expensive to avoid climate change!) .

I am somewhat wary of this topic (which is not really central to Skeptiko), because I fear some people join and flood the forum with this one topic - as they have in the past. However, I had an interesting discussion with someone else on here by PM, and I will add you to that conversation if you like.

I'm wary of the topic too. I'm not at all an expert on it; and I dont want to argue for either side in the mainstream debate.
So I dont know what I could contribute to the discussion you mention.
But if you like to add me I will have a look and see have I anything worth adding.

I'm not interested in the mainstream debate about CO2, global warming and climate change.
My opinion of that debate is not positive of either side.
I think it is a deeply corrupted and agenda ridden debate; and at its worst, irrational hysteria on both sides.

Carbon taxes and the trading and derivatives speculation involved is in my opinion an invention of the big banks in Wall Street and the City.
It has zero to do with the real issues underlying any legitimate concerns about the environment.
It's about private profit and control; what Obama used to refer to as a 'market solution'.

Carbon taxes are the first step towards the breathing tax.
We already know the corporate elites want to privatize the world's water supplies; so why not privatize the atmosphere.
Then the free market will end climate change and guarantee the highest breathing services to customers!

Like with CO2 and oxygen, acidity levels in the ocean have homeostatic tolerance levels for current life forms.
Our globalised industrial civilisation may be able to impact the oceans sufficiently to push them beyond their tolerance levels in multiple factors; not just acidity.
That's what I mean by biospheric poisoning; disrupting biospheric homeostasis.
The oceans are large; not infinite.

I think our globalised industrial civilisation is reaching a scale of productivity that we must take cognizance of the consequences for our home - the Earth and Her living systems.
Just like we take cognizance of the consequences of how we live for our personal homes and our local communities.
We can no longer treat the biosphere as an infinite sump.
Hello, yep I'm back.

There seems to be some big developments in climate science that is going on behind the scenes.

Climate forcing. 2 years ago data sets were released to the public that now include solar particles and cosmic rays (due to be included in ipcc 2022 report), this undermines every single climate model up until that time. Since that time not a single peer reviewed paper using these data sets has been able to show any human influence on the climate.
Here's is a short summary.

The full documentary.

A surprising about face from The UN secretary general, perhaps because the inclusion of particle forcing.

A key paper in the latest IPCC sub report had to be retracted.

If we are going to debate this in the forum again, fine, but please ensure that pre-vetting of newcomers is enabled. Last time we got a group of people on the forum that were really about disrupting debate and concealing the truth. Their actions included:

Pasting pages and pages of bumf into threads, with no attempt on their part to discuss the relevance of their material.

One guy reported about 100 innocuous posts in one evening just for the sake of disrupting the moderation process. It took several hours for me to clean up afterwards.