Nierenberg, chapter 3 and 4

So, Obama will be Prez. Congratulations to him. The last upsurge of enthusiasm like this I recall was Blur in 1997. I remember that well; we drove down to Cornwall overnight and listened to the reports and went to sleep in a gorgeous pink dawn. And look how Blur turned out. We’ll have to wait and see if Obama can do more than give inspiring speeches (and occaisionally jarring ones: “disabled and… not disabled” he managed to say in his acceptance speech. Can he not say “able”? Has no-one told him about avoiding double negatives?) But is hard to see how he can’t be better than Bush.


I’m getting close to the limits of my interest in the N report; its becoming more and more clear that Oreskes has simply misrepresented it, for whatever reasons of her own. Whatever N may have gone on to do with the Marshall Institute later on (see the wabid wabbit attacks), the 1983 report is just run-of-the-mill for the times.

NN has got a response to the original article, which is good.

Chapter 3 is about atmospheric CO2 and says the obvious. They didn’t know what pre-industrial CO2 was, and seemed to have assumed 265 ppm in places (although aware that this was a lower bound), which made some estimates of airbourne fraction wrong and lead to extra uncertainty. There is a bit from Revelle about possible methane-from-clathrates which is, if anything, rather sensationalist and to my mind overestimates likely releases.

Chapter 4 is probably the most sensible in the book. Its by Smagorinsky, and it really says “nothing interesting has changed since the Charney report so I’m reprinting its conclusions” (so much for the N report being so substantially different). And then does so. He spoils it a bit by then having an epilogue which says a few new things, but not much.

I think the only thing to do now is go back, read Oreskes carefully, and try and see what real substance there is in there.

One thought on “Nierenberg, chapter 3 and 4”

  1. I agree with the response you reference above as “NN”. I first met Bill Nierenberg through Gordon MacDonald who was one of the early advocates of studying climate change and the role of CO2. I worked with both of them on putting together a proposal to the DOE for an office to study the problem. I later became involved in JASON (after the “JASON report”which was, as NN states, published). What I understood to be the source of Bill’s skepticism was the ability of climate models at the time to model the future temperature impact and distribution of rising CO2. That skepticism was well founded at the time. Too much was not known about the role of clouds, the oceans, forests etc. And the physics in the models was not very sophisticated.


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