Quote Collection

My growing list of fantastic quotes about climate change. Please submit your favourites in the comments (put the HTML tags <blockquote> and </blockquote> around the quotation if you’d like it to line up nicely).

A hat tip to Michael Tobis for the great idea!

Lots more available at ClimateBites.

I was…labelled as an advocate because…I measured something.

Jeremy Jackson

So anyone who says that we shouldn’t act on climate change because of uncertainty is really inviting you to ride towards a brick wall at 80 km/h because it might not hurt.

Are you feeling lucky?

Stephan Lewandowsky

Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan

But this baby, this strange little creature, closer to the ecosystem than a fully grown human being, part pixie, part frog, part small furry animal, now sixteen days old and curled up on my lap like a bean waiting to sprout, changes everything. I am no longer writing about what might happen to “people” in this country in thirty years’ time. I am writing about her. As she trembles on the threshold of life, the evidence of her mortality is undeniable. It seems far more real than mine.

…Global warming is no longer a generalized phenomenon, its victims no longer abstractions. Among them might be my child. Or yours. Or you. Or even  me. Of all the complex matters encapsulated in this subject, this, until now, has been the hardest to grasp.

George Monbiot

Science advances by trial and error. When mistakes are made, the peer-review publication process usually roots them out. Cuccinelli’s version of the scientific process would be “make an error and go to trial.” Einstein did not arrive at E=mc2 in his first attempt. If he were working in the state of Virginia under Cuccinelli today, he could be jailed for his initial mistakes and perhaps never achieve that landmark equation.

Professor Scott Mandia

We probably could have saved ourselves, but we were too damned lazy to try very hard, and too damned cheap.

Kurt Vonnegut

It doesn’t matter what you believe – only what you can prove. This is science, not philosophy.

-my physics professor, in response to a student who claimed he didn’t believe an aspect of relativity

[B]elieving that the rustle in the grass is a dangerous predator when it is only the wind does not cost much, but believing that a dangerous predator is the wind may cost an animal its life.

Michael Shermer, h/t Hank Roberts

More interesting is what is not contained in the [Climategate] emails. There is no evidence of any worldwide conspiracy, no mention of George Soros nefariously funding climate research, no grand plan to ‘get rid of the MWP’, no admission that global warming is a hoax, no evidence of the falsifying of data, and no ‘marching orders’ from our socialist/communist/vegetarian overlords.

RealClimate, h/t clearscience

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.

-Philip K. Dick, h/t Dale

Yes, climate science is uncertain. However, it’s certain enough to warrant action. You don’t need to have the seventh decimal place filled in to see that the number isn’t looking good.

Brian D.

If humans weren’t here and we didn’t care about anything that lives here, if this were a video game, I’d push the button and see what happens, because it’d be really exciting; but it’s not a video game.

Richard Alley, h/t Anna Haynes

[F]or someone who has yet to enter the paleoclimatology field, I can imagine that the harassment by inactivists will be a significant factor.

I expect that budding researchers will ask themselves, ‘Am I really so passionate, so interested, so burning with curiosity about paleoclimatology, that I’m willing to put up with metric truckloads of nonsense from inactivists, in addition to doing the extremely tedious work of begging for data, tidying up data, analyzing data, writing papers, and editing papers?’

And I think it’s a reasonable question.


Science is so powerful that it drags us kicking and screaming towards the truth despite our best efforts to avoid it.

Peter Watts

No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.


If you want to know the scientific consensus on global warming, read the reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. But if you want to know what the consensus will be ten years from now, read Jim Hansen’s work.

Chuck Kutscher

Why would scientists dedicated to uncovering the truth about the natural world deliberately misrepresent the work of their own colleagues? Why would they spread accusations with no basis? Why would they refuse to correct their arguments once they had been shown to be incorrect? And why did the press continue to quote them, year after year, even as their claims were shown, one after another, to be false?

-Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway, Merchants of Doubt

The very lack of evidence is thus treated as evidence; the absence of smoke proves that the fire is very carefully hidden…A belief in invisible cats cannot be logically disproved…[although it does] tell us a good deal about those who hold it.

-C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

A wait-and-see policy may mean waiting until it is too late.

-Vermer Suomi, 1979, in the Charney Report (page viii)

Yet again, unscientific claims were being circulated broadly, but the scientists’ refutation of them was published where only fellow scientists would see it.

-Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway, Merchants of Doubt

At a recent conference, a colleague told one of us that in IPCC discussions, some scientists have been reluctant to make strong claims about the scientific evidence, lest contrarians “attack us”. Another said that she’d rather err on the side of conservatism in her estimates, because then she feels more “secure.”

-Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway, Merchants of Doubt

All scientific work is incomplete – whether it be observational or experimental. All scientific work is liable to be upset or modified by advancing knowledge. That does not confer upon us a freedom to ignore the knowledge we already have, to postpone action that it appears to demand at a given time. Who knows, asks Robert Browning, but the world may end tonight? True, but on available evidence most of us make ready to commute on the 8:30 next day.

-Austin Bradford Hill, “The Environment and Disease: Association or Causation?” Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine 58 5 (May 1965)

What is clear to me is that climate scientists are now being held to standards which are not typical of any scientific discipline, or for that matter, held to standards which skeptics do not want to put upon themselves.

On the first point, it is now apparently perceived as “bad” when scientists come to a conclusion that is robust enough to be well accepted by the majority. I have never seen claims of the sort that “gravity people” are engaging in indoctrination, or the indoctrination of cell theory, the indoctrination of soil science, or the dogma of electrons. Strangely, this only applies to conclusions about climate change, or maybe evolution (and especially in America).

In most fields, consensus is thought of as a consequence of a convergence of evidence over time in a particular subject-matter, and one goes to authorities (doctors for medical diagnosis, lawyers for legal advice, etc) for insight. Most people seek the explanation with the most support, which is then echoed by the experts in the field. Some, on the other hand, will leave 100 doctors that give them a certain diagnosis, and then approve of the one that tells them to meditate, take secret forest herbs, and pray five times a day to cure their illness. People go to calculus textbooks to learn calculus, and yet no one goes to an sociologist to learn by the segments of the heart and brain. However, in climate science, apparently ‘authority’ is a logical fallacy, and textbooks and classrooms can be replaced by random opinions on a blog.

What’s even more startling, is that the personal communiation of scientists through e-mails can actually change the laws of physics!

…It is also clear to me that climate scientists must now become babysitters to every half-baked idea out there, otherwise they are being dogmatic. They must write detailed responses to people who think the greenhouse effect isn’t real.

It is also clear to me that the so-called ‘skeptics’ are allowed to make up whatever they want at will without consequence, and create a large but ill-thought out laundry list, and that we must play this game or else we’re being ‘dogmatic.’ If a climate scientist make one mistake, or a date gets screwed up in the middle of a 1000 page document about glaciers, it will receive international attention. However, if ‘skeptics’ toss out 8 conspiracy theories, 10 logical fallacies, and 17 arguments with ZERO thought put into them, then it is a good thing that we get to hear all sides. Then, when one item on the bucket list is knocked down, they can just jump tot he next item. In the meantime, they are just as valid as everyone else’s idea, since the criteria for acceptance is 101% certainty in everything.

Chris Colose, h/t Tamino

Global warming could be one of humankind’s longest lasting legacies. The climatic impacts of releasing fossil fuel CO2 to the atmosphere will last longer than Stonehenge. Longer than time capsules, longer than nuclear waste, far longer than the age of human civilization so far. Each ton of coal that we burn leaves CO2 gas in the atmosphere. The CO2 coming from a quarter of that ton will still be affecting the climate one thousand years from now, at the start of the next millennium. And that is only the beginning.

-David Archer, The Long Thaw

Think of it like a murder mystery. The butler (CO2) was caught with a smoking gun in his hand in the room with the dead guy. There is a lot of public interest in this case, so your boss is driving you nuts writing reports and such like; everything has to be pinned down on this one. Yes, the bullets came from the gun. Yes, the gun was purchased by the butler. Everything checks out.

But now your partner Bob argues that it was really the chauffer that did it. Actually, you find out that the chauffer was at his sister’s wedding on the other side of town for the whole time and lots of people saw him. But Bob says, maybe there is some way he did it but you’re just not smart enough to figure it out. OK, you retort, but if Bob is going to convict the chauffer, he has to think of a way to unconvict the butler. He would have to come up with an innocent explanation for the butler’s smoking gun, and the bullets and all that.

-David Archer, The Long Thaw

This troubles me because how am I supposed to know what position to take on Nuclear Power if I don’t know which position is very not the IPCC? If only Al Gore would announce to the IPCC what the official Green policy is on nuclear power.

-the anonymous satirist at Denial Depot

Even when nuclear power plants go horribly wrong, they do less damage to the planet and its people than coal-burning stations operating normally.

George Monbiot

Remember that the animals and plants have no M.P. they can write to; they can’t perform sit-down strikes or, indeed, strikes of any sort; they have nobody to speak for them except us, the human beings who share the world with them but do not own it.

-Gerald Durrell in Catch Me a Colobus

One could have the mistaken impression that the entirety of climate science is based upon a single correlation study.

Karl Braganza

This is not to say that a scientific consensus is never overturned. There are well-known examples such as the Helicobacter pylori discovery in medicine, and continental drift in geology. But in both cases the arguments were won and lost in the peer-reviewed literature, not by contrarians sitting on the side-lines writing opinion pieces about how they were being oppressed.

Stephan Lewandowsky and Michael Ashley

[James Hansen] goes on about the end of the world as if he’s talking about laundry or something.

-Michael Tobis, in conversation at AGU

You can get good science out of stupid questions. If someone says the world is flat, maybe in proving them wrong you can calculate the curvature of the Earth more precisely.

-Gavin Schmidt, in conversation at AGU

Science is not a democracy. It is a dictatorship. It is evidence that does the dictating.

John Reisman

If the Harper government has valid strategic reasons to undermine vital sectors of Canadian science, then it should say so — its people are ready to listen. If not, it should realize, and fast, that there is a difference between environmentalism and environmental science — and that the latter is an essential component of a national science programme, regardless of politics.



50 thoughts on “Quote Collection

  1. “What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?”

    – Nobel Laureate Sherwood Rowland (referring then to ozone depletion)

  2. Re: the Scott Mandia quote.

    Gallileo got placed under house arrest for getting it right and Copernicus hid his work away until his death. Copernicus never saw his work being widely accepted, because he was afraid of the public and religious backlash.

    I think Scotts statement:
    “make an error and go to trial” still applies even though Copernicus and Gallileo were correct. Making an error really means, going against the accepted belief, in the case of Cuccinelli it is the belief in a specific American ideology. Copernicus and Gallileo were both up against a similar ideology, one that had been around for over 1000 years (that the earth was the centre of the universe and that the bible said so).

  3. “We can evade reality, but we cannot evade the consequences of evading reality.”

    “The man who lets a leader prescribe his course is a wreck being towed to the scrap heap.”

    “Anyone who fights for the Future lives in it today.”

    — Ayn Rand

  4. “Oil depletion and climate change will create an entirely new context in which political struggles will be played out. Within that context, it is not just freedom, democracy, and equality that are at stake, but the survival of billions of humans and of whole ecosystems.”

    — Richard Heinberg, Powerdown

  5. Re: The final quote from your physics professor: This complements it nicely.

    In response to Roger:

    There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.

    –Scott Aaronson

    Of course, there are merits on that “side” of the left-right divide:

    Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.

    –Edmund Burke, the “father” of modern conservatism
    (And also arguably one of the best smackdowns against anyone saying we shouldn’t do anything on climate because it’s too late to avoid it all.)

    Continuing, though, on the economics theme:

    Opponents of a policy change generally believe that market economies are wonderful things, able to adapt to just about anything — anything, that is, except a government policy that puts a price on greenhouse gas emissions. Limits on the world supply of oil, land, water — no problem. Limits on the amount of CO2 we can emit — total disaster. Funny, that.

    Paul Krugman
    (Others (even those who wouldn’t normally listen to Krugman) have made the same point, but I think he did so best.)

    Markets fail to account for environmental issues because the people of the future are unfairly constrained from bidding on our resources.

    –Michael Tobis, twitter (@mtobis)

    Climate change gives people a reason to implement left-wing policies. Leftists have always wanted to fight against corporations, capitalism and consumerism. Leftists have always wanted to take stuff away from the rich. Now they have an objective, scientific reason to do so, not merely an ideological one. Of course pro-market people like me are angry. I’m pretty sure that this is how politically correct liberals feel like when people talk about IQ studies.But we just have to ignore our feelings and accept the cold, hard facts. Climate change is happening, it is anthropogenic and it will have serious consequences if we do nothing about it. Yes, left-wing, anti-market, anti-rich policies would be bad and immoral IF there was no climate change. But the fact is that climate change IS happening, so the usual moral and economic pro-market arguments don’t apply anymore. I believe that many other environmental problems can be solved by free markets, but not this one.

    Self-identified as “Libertarian”
    (Also one of the rare examples I have of someone (especially someone subscribing to traditional libertarianism) accepting that reality supersedes ideology. I wish I had found it in a more credible source than a pseudonymous blog comment.)

    I’ll close with one of my favorites on science, journalism, and accuracy:

    When people thought the earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the earth was spherical, they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together.

    –Isaac Asimov

    (For those interested in sustainability, Asimov also has a particularly good metaphor on page 6 of this transcript. The entire thing is really interesting, but Asimov’s metaphor is the standout in this context.)

    …Now I hope that all blockquoted correctly…

    • Regarding One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world.

      Let’s go back to the question of whether it’s better to stay in your warm bed as the Titanic goes down or to jump hundreds of feet into the icy waters below. The first option represents fantasy, the second reality. Sorry, I’ve never read fantasy, so I can’t say much about orcs. However, I do know a little about Cluster Bombs and Global Warming.

      How were the Vietnamese able to survive against insurmountable odds, while the world is now on the verge of extinction? Could it be the difference between reality and fantasy? For the Vietnamese, doing nothing meant certain death; that was reality. For the global warming world today, doing nothing means a warm, comfortable bed, that is fantasy.

      “My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.” — Ayn Rand What is Objectivism?

      One can shoot the messenger, but not the message. “there is only one fundamental alternative in the universe: existence or non-existence—and it pertains to a single class of entities: to living organisms. The existence of inanimate matter is unconditional, the existence of life is not: it depends on a specific course of action… It is only a living organism that faces a constant alternative: the issue of life or death…” — Ayn Rand

      “Man has the power to act as his own destroyer—and that is the way he has acted through most of his history.” — Ayn Rand

      “If [man] chooses to live, a rational ethics will tell him what principles of action are required to implement his choice. If he does not choose to live, nature will take its course. Reality confronts a man with a great many ‘must’s’, but all of them are conditional: the formula of realistic necessity is: ‘you must, if -‘ and the if stands for man’s choice: ‘if you want to achieve a certain goal’.” — Ayn Rand

      Tolkien and Rand have different backgrounds. One grew up in a communistic environment, the other capitalist. One lived with persecution, the other did not. Tolkien likely took capitalism for granted, Rand became obsessed with it. For some strange reason, probably known only to God, Tea Partiers love Ayn Rand. The greatest fantasists of all time are in love with the greatest objectivist of all time!?

      Go figure.

      • Roger:

        I’ll put it this way. If Rand actually spent time working arduously through geometrical proofs (à la Euclid) instead of doing stuff like praising laissez-faire capitalism, testifying before HUAC, etc., then you may have a point. But she didn’t.

        She wasn’t just a mostly rational person with a few character flaws. Rather, her talk about “reason” and “rationality” and “reality” was merely a cover for her laissez-faire capitalist ideology, no more. That I think explains why Tea Partiers are fans of Ayn Rand, and why I’m not.

        Hmm, while we’re talking about Euclid, here’s the good old quote attributed to him (though not exactly about climate change):

        There is no Royal Road to geometry.

      • “Frank”ly I could care less about what Rand stood for; I’m not aligned with any political party or cause. I’m only looking at the messages, and some are spot on. I might interpret them as, We must stop hoping for change and start changing for hope. The survival of our offspring hangs in the balance. We must be the first to act; we can’t wait for our neighbors or Congress or Obama or God.

        “Modern man no longer regards Nature as being in any sense divine and feels perfectly free to behave towards her as an overwhelming conqueror and tyrant.” — Aldous Huxley

        “We are experiencing the greatest wave of extinctions since the disappearance of the dinosaurs. Extinction rates are rising by a factor of up to 1,000 above natural rates. Every hour, three species disappear. Every day, up to 150 species are lost. Every year, between 18,000 and 55,000 species become extinct. The cause: human activities.” — Ahmed Djoghlaf, head of the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity

  6. About to become famous quotes, one not?

    One Man’s Diamond is Another Man’s Drought” — Bill Layton

    “The Alberta tar sands is about to become Canada’s No. 1 emitter of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. If production for exports increase as planned, tar sands CO2 emissions are expected to quadruple over the next 10-15 years.” — Tar Sands Watch

    “We are playing Russian roulette with features of the planet’s atmosphere that will profoundly impact generations to come. How long are we willing to gamble?”— David Suzuki

    “The terrible part of this looming catastrophe is that people have been working on solutions for years and have developed concrete steps to massively reduce our energy use, while stimulating whole new industries and technologies that are more efficient and affordable.” — David Suzuki

    “We are upsetting the atmosphere upon which all life depends. In the late ’80s when I began to take climate change seriously, we referred to global warming as a “slowmotion catastrophe” one we expected to kick in perhaps generations later. Instead, the signs of change have accelerated alarmingly.” — David Suzuki

    “If you asked me to name the three scariest threats facing the human race, I would give the same answer that most people would: nuclear war, global warming and Windows.”—Dave Barry

    And from our most Skeptical Environmentalist: “On average, global warming is not going to harm the developing world.” — Bjorn Lomborg

  7. “… foundationalism, one of a number of views that holds that knowledge has foundations, that there are privileged starting points for knowledge, that justification runs uni-directionally from foundations to superstructure, that nothing is justified unless it is connected in the right way to the foundations and that nothing ‘superstructural’ can count against or provide a reason for revising or modifying anything taken to be foundational.
    I consider that deeply confused ….”
    — Robert Bass, http://www.oocities.com/athens/Olympus/2178/itoe.html

    “… Our knowledge, ideally, is a network of claims that mutually support, reinforce and qualify one another; none is completely beyond revision in the light of changes elsewhere. Perhaps, in the limiting case, any single claim excised from the system could be reproduced — on the basis of the implications of its nearer and further neighbors.
    There is room for certainty here but it …. becomes less like a privileged starting-point and more like a center of gravity — maintained and stably preserved because of the complex relations in which it stands to the things around it. No longer is it the province of super-human powers or god-like detachment. Certainties are not the foundations from which we begin but the ideal end-points of investigation.”
    — Robert Bass, http://www.oocities.com/athens/Olympus/2178/coherence.html

  8. “The climate system is an angry beast, and we are poking it with sticks”. — Wallace Broecker

    “In any complex scientific picture of the world there will be gaps, misperceptions and mistakes. Whether your impression is dominated by the whole or the holes will depend on your attitude to the project at hand. You might say that some see a jigsaw where others see a house of cards. Jigsaw types have in mind an overall picture and are open to bits being taken out, moved around or abandoned should they not fit. Those who see houses of cards think that if any piece is removed, the whole lot falls down. When it comes to climate, academic scientists are jigsaw types, dissenters from their view house-of-cards-ists.”
    “The Science of Climate Change: The Clouds of Unknowing”, The Economist, March 18, 2010

  9. aside to Kate — don’t lose the ellipses when copying a quote; when you do it’s no longer a quotation (and a searcher not knowing that something was omitted will have a much harder job finding the original).

    “I was … labeled as an advocate because I … measured something.”

    That excerpt has been propagated without citation from longer quotes–with cites–that I posted in another good compilation well worth reading:


    Thanks, Hank. I made that change. -Kate

  10. “All good scientists are skeptical: I changed my mind from cooling to warming in 1974 when the preponderance of evidence shifted—and is now well established. I changed my views on nuclear winter to ‘nuclear autumn’ in 1984, incurring the wrath of the peace movement—again because the preponderance of evidence shifted with study. That is a skeptic, what all scientists should be. But real skeptics still accept a preponderance of carefully examined evidence even when some elements of a complex systems problem remain unresolved, and they do not pretend that when there are loose ends some well-established preponderances don’t exist—that is beyond skepticism to denial—or often political convenience. So a skeptic questions everything but accepts what the preponderance of evidence is, and a denier falsely claims that until all aspects are resolved we know nothing and should do nothing—often motivated by the latter. If you deny a clear preponderance of evidence, you have crossed the line from legitimate skeptic to ideological denier.” — Stehpen H. Schneider in Tributes to Steve Schneider.

  11. “It is not rude, stubborn, arrogant or unreasonable to refuse to compromise on a question of fact…. truth is the dominant ethic of the scientific world view.” – M. Tobis

    “Democracy doesn’t work if people don’t know what is going on.” – S. Schneider

    “We want to stop the gravy train because the bridge is out ahead.”

    “all of science journalism should be activist: evangelizing for truth”

    “The greatest failure of modern media is a chronic inability to differentiate experts from cranks”

    “there is an important distinction between being uninformed and being misinformed.”

    “If the people who believed the moon landing was staged on a movie lot had access to unlimited money from large carbon polluters or some other special interest who wanted to confuse people into thinking that the moon landing didn’t take place, I’m sure we’d have a robust debate about it right now.”

    “We won’t get there by merely encouraging people to act as conscientious consumers. We need people to act as citizens, not just as consumers.”

    “even with an 80% participation rate the strategy of ‘living poor’ isn’t working”

    “If by “unbiased” you mean “unswayed by the evidence”, then what you’re looking for is not science. ”

    “It’s one thing to predict a falling vase will shatter, another to predict where the pieces will end up.”

    Science is nothing more than a method developed over the years for separating ideas that work from ideas that don’t. – Feynman

    “if you jump out of an airplane you need a crude parachute more than an
    accurate altimeter.”

    “If we do not do the due diligence of letting people understand the relative credibility of claimants of truth, then all we do is have a confused public who hears claim and counter-claim.'”

    “Where the media are bored by a topic, the public is implicitly informed that the topic is unimportant. There is no proper word for doom when that word only appears on page thirteen.”

    “People who intentionally do harm for pay are gangsters.”

    “It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare.” – Mark Twain

    “When the hypothesis at hand makes time valuable – when the proposition at hand, conditional on its being true, means there are certain things we should be doing NOW – then you’ve got to do your best to figure things out with the evidence that we have. ”

    “I see no reason why it’s any less epistemically sinful to ignore probabilities than to ignore certainties”

    “when making important decisions about the future of humanity, I consider reason a better guide than faith, and brains more useful than testes.”

    “The ‘normal’ way for citizens to contribute to science is by providing observations; not so much in the interpretation. In none of the other cases I know of are the citizen scientists strongly critical and suspicious of the mainstream science.”

    ““Rookie Syndrome.” – Raw trainee shepherds would arrive in camp, look at sheep for a couple days, and then start to argue with the experienced hands. In any complex field, such domain expertise is essential to form a qualified opinion. And in most such fields, Rookie Syndrome — armchair quarterbacking — is common.”

    “Your contributions add nothing to any conversation. They simply regurgitate trivial and easily dismissed talking points you pick up from the flotsam of the blogosphere. Your freedom to contribute in your own house, on your own blog and indeed anywhere else that will have you is unabridged. That we choose to try and keep conversations on topic, civil and free of the seemingly inevitable tedium of your style of ‘argument’ is our choice. You do not have to read. Think of the blog like a dinner party – interesting discussion and disagreement is welcome, but boorish abuse of the hosts is not.” – Real Climate

    “Historically, most technologies tend to be developed in response to perceived need. It follows then that if we begin to address a need, said technologies will invariably be forthcoming”

    “faith in free markets untrammeled by regulation is akin to faith in the open range unlimited by fences”

    “We’re sawing away at the tree limb we’re sitting on, and some people are telling us not to worry because of all the times in the past when branches we weren’t sitting on broke without the aid of our saw.”

    “The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.” – Professor Al Bartlett

    “One needs a higher level of understanding to dispute the findings of specialists in a field, than one needs merely to acknowledge their findings.”

    “one major purpose of science is to overcome intuitive but incorrect understandings of nature. If nature were always intuitive, science would be among the basket-weaving disciplines.”

    “”…those interested in treating the issue as an objective problem in
    risk assessment and management are labeled ‘alarmists’, a particularly
    infantile smear considering what is at stake.”

    “Those who dance under such marionette strings may not be directly culpable. But neither do we have to give credibility to puppets.”

    “…city council’s alleged attempt to minimize secondhand smoke is simply a ruse to bully adult smokers into quitting. ”
    “anybody who hits a major industry when it’s down, when it’s reeling and coughing, is a bully”

    “The will to persevere is often the difference between success and failure.”

  12. Gavin Schmidt on Climategate

    “More interesting is what is not contained in the emails. There is no evidence of any worldwide conspiracy, no mention of George Soros nefariously funding climate research, no grand plan to ‘get rid of the MWP’, no admission that global warming is a hoax, no evidence of the falsifying of data, and no ‘marching orders’ from our socialist/communist/vegetarian overlords. The truly paranoid will put this down to the hackers also being in on the plot though.”

  13. http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v421/n6918/full/nature01286.html

    “Here, we … apply diverse analyses to more than 1,700 species, and show that recent biological trends match climate change predictions. Global meta-analyses documented significant range shifts averaging 6.1 km per decade towards the poles (or metres per decade upward), and significant mean advancement of spring events by 2.3 days per decade. … This suite of analyses generates ‘very high confidence’ (as laid down by the IPCC) that climate change is already affecting living systems.”

  14. “… believing that the rustle in the grass is a dangerous predator when it is only the wind does not cost much, but believing that a dangerous predator is the wind may cost an animal its life.

    The problem is that we are very poor at estimating such probabilities, so the cost of believing that the rustle in the grass is a dangerous predator when it is just the wind is relatively low compared with the opposite. Thus, there would have been a beneficial selection for believing that most patterns are real.”

  15. Mother Nature: How bad is it?

    Doctor: It’s not good, I’m afraid.

    Mother Nature: How much time do I have?

    Doctor: We don’t know… fifty, hundred, maybe two hundred years.

    Mother Nature: Wow… that is bad… what else can be done?

    Doctor: Nothing is working… people just don’t care anymore. I’m so sorry.

    Mother Nature: Is there any hope that people will change?

    Doctor: A couple years ago we thought so, but now it’s not promising.

    People of this great earth, I beg of you, please understand that Mother Nature is very ill. If she perishes, what becomes of Father Earth? How long can Father Earth survive without Mother Nature?

    If you would allow, perhaps I might rephrase a bit of President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration speech of nearly fifty years ago: My fellow Earthlings, ask not what Mother Nature and Father Earth can do for you; ask what you can do for Mother Nature and Father Earth..

    Let each and every one of us look around at our cars and houses and food and luxuries and wealth and ask what effect all this is having on Mother Nature and Father Earth. Ask what realistic changes we can make regarding our own cars, houses, food, luxuries, and wealth that will contribute to a healthier Mother Nature and Father Earth. Remember, we will have only one opportunity for our offspring. Will we take it?

    We must act now! Search out and actively contribute to organized groups and activities or form and lead new ones. Strength is in numbers. One person cannot save the world., but 6.5 billion can! There can be hope if we all commit to making sacrifices for real change.We must stop hoping for change and start changing for hope.

    Oh what a catastrophe, what a maiming of love when it was made personal, merely personal feeling, taken away from the rising and the setting of the sun, and cut off from the magic connection of the solstice and equinox! This is what is the matter with us, we are bleeding at the roots, because we are cut off from the Earth, and sun, and stars – and love, poor blossom, we plucked from its stem on the tree of life, and expected it to keep on blooming in our civilised vase on the table. — D.H. Lawrence

    I consider that this shift [to an emphasis on our “capacity to identify with the larger collective of all beings”] is essential to our survival at this point in history precisely because it can serve in lieu of morality and because moralising is ineffective. Sermons seldom hinder us from pursuing our self-interest, so we need to be a little more enlightened about what our self-interest is. It would not occur to me, for example, to exhort you to refrain from cutting off your leg. That wouldn’t occur to me or to you, because your leg is part of you. Well, so are the trees in the Amazon Basin; they are our external lungs. We are just beginning to wake up to that. We are gradually discovering that we are our world. — Joanna Macy

    What is wrong with our culture is that it offers us an inaccurate conception of the self. It depicts the personal self as existing in competition with and in opposition to nature. [We fail to realise that] if we destroy our environment, we are destroying what is in fact our larger self. — Freya Matthew

    A human being is part of the whole called by us universe … We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. The true value of a human being is determined by the measure and the sense in which they have obtained liberation from the self. We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if humanity is to survive. — Albert Einstein

    Most of us sense that the Earth is more than a sphere of rock with a thin layer of air, ocean and life covering the surface. We feel that we belong here as if this planet were indeed our home. Long ago the Greeks, thinking this way, gave to the Earth the name Gaia or, for short, Ge. In those days, science and theology were one and science, although less precise, had soul. As time passed this warm relationship faded and was replaced by the frigidity of the schoolmen. The life sciences, no longer concerned with life, fell to classifying dead things and even to vivisection. Ge was stolen from theology to become no more the root from which the disciplines of geography and geology were named. Now at last there are signs of a change. Science becomes holistic again and rediscovers soul, and theology, moved by ecumenical forces, begins to realise that Gaia is not to be subdivided for academic convenience and that Ge is much more than just a prefix.What is Gaia? by James Lovelock

    In my opinion, no more destructive belief exists than the idea that we have escaped the constraints imposed by nature on all other species. We assume that by enabling us to exploit and alter our surroundings, our intellect has freed us from dependence on specific habitats. We believe we are no longer part of nature, because we have acquired the ability to control and manage the forces impinging on us. This illusion of escape from nature has been reinforced by our extraordinary transformation in this century from country dwellers to city dwellers. In an urban setting, we live in a human-created environment, surrounded by other people plus a few domesticated plants and animals, as well as the pests that have overcome our defences. Living among such a dearth of species, we no longer recognise our dependence on the rest of life for our well-being and our very survival. It is simpler to assume that the economy delivers our food, clean air, water and energy and takes away our sewage and waste. We forget that the Earth itself provides all these services, and so makes economists and the economy possible. We are biological beings, as dependent on the biosphere as any other life form and we forget our animal nature at our peril. — David Suzuki From Naked Ape to Superspecies: Humanity and the Global Eco-Crisis

    The crisis that threatens our planet, whether seen from its military, ecological, or social aspect, derives from a dysfunctional and pathological sense of self. It derives from a mistake about our place in the order of things. It is a delusion that the self is separate and fragile that we must delineate and defend its boundaries, that it is so small and so needy that we must endlessly acquire and endlessly consume, and that it is so aloof that as individuals, corporations, nation-states, or species, we can be immune to what we do to other beings. ..This view of human nature is not new. Many have felt the imperative to extend self-interest to embrace the whole. — Joanna Macy Courage for Global Justice and Ecological Renewal

    …people in the vast majority of traditional and indigenous groups believe that the Earth is alive, that it is an organism, like Gaia. And they believe that human beings are as much a part of the natural world as insects or whales or clouds. Most of them believe that humans have a responsibility to take care of the other creatures around them, that calamity will result if we are greedy, wasteful and destructive. They cement this understanding of the physical world not with scientific data, but with emotion and experience. — David Suzuki From Naked Ape to Superspecies: Humanity and the Global Eco-Crisis

  16. “His brains had at last come into contact with reality, and the result had been fatal”–attributed to Thomas Huxley describing Samuel Wilberforce’s death.

  17. “science… is a collaborative enterprise. … Success depends on standing on the shoulders of giants. This means, of course, you have to have some sense of who the giants are.”
    – M. Tobis

  18. I Like 1 I got from MT’s Blog:

    From initforthegold – Tuesday, November 9, 2010 :
    “Se vogliamo che tutto rimanga come è, bisogna che tutto cambi!”
    “If we want things to stay as they are, everything must change!”


    The world our children inherit will be shaped by the decisions we make today.
    Think about it.

    The American Dream has become civilization’s nightmare!

    I don’t know why they call it common sense, when it’s such an uncommon rare virtue!
    [The last two are my own]

  19. What we think, or what we know, or what we believe is, in the end, of little consequence. The only consequence is what we do. — John Ruskin

    When we build let us think we build forever. Let it not be for present delight nor for present use alone. Let it be such work that our descendants will thank us for, and let us think, as we lay stone upon stone, that a time is to come when these stones will be held sacred because our hands have touched them, and that men will say, as they look upon the labor and wrought substance of them, “See! This our fathers did for us.” — John Ruskin

    Whereas it has long been known and declared that the poor have no right to the property of the rich, I wish it also to be known and declared that the rich have no right to the property of the poor. — John Ruskin

  20. …My own personal theory is that this is the very dawn of the world. We’re hardly more than an eyeblink away from the fall of Troy, and scarcely an interglaciation removed from the Altamira cave painters. We live in extremely interesting ancient times.

    I like this idea. It encourages us to be earnest and ingenious and brave, as befits ancestral peoples; but keeps us from deciding that because we don’t know all the answers, they must be unknowable and thus unprofitable to pursue.
    – TNH’s On Time

    If humans weren’t here and we didn’t care about anything that lives here, if this were a video game, I’d push the button and see what happens, because it’d be really exciting; but it’s not a video game.”
    – Richard Alley (video)

    I love that Alley quote, I was actually going to go back through Peter’s videos to find his exact words so I could put it up here – so thanks for doing that!

    I think I have been studying comp sci for too long because I automatically typed “//” (the comment syntax in Java) before my response to this comment instead of the HTML italicize tag. -Kate

  21. WILLIAM K. BLACK: There’s a saying that we took great comfort in. It’s actually by the Dutch, who were fighting this impossible war for independence against what was then the most powerful nation in the world, Spain. And their motto was, “It is not necessary to hope in order to persevere.”

  22. Here are a few more quotations:

    “Skeptics often find a strange solace in the knowledge that climate varies naturally, as if that somehow disproves the fact that we are rapidly changing it ourselves, or as if it somehow implies that climate change is inevitably benign. When you have explored the Ice Age for as long as Broecker has, and especially the wild swings that happened within the Ice Age, you don’t think natural climate variability is benign.”

    – Robert Kunzig, Fixing Climate, page xvi (The book is by Broecker and Kunzig.)

    “Climate stresses are piling up, and they will make it harder to address the root causes of global warming. In the midst of drought, conflict, migratory tensions, international crises, and humanitarian disasters, what time will we have for the complicated challenge of cutting carbon? The greenhouse gases we release today shape the world of the future. We don’t have the luxury of waiting for devastating disasters to scare us into action.”

    – Stephan Faris, Forecast, page 222

    Another one from Vonnegut:

    “Is there nothing about the United States of my youth, aside from youth itself, that I miss sorely now? There is one thing I miss so much that I can hardly stand it, which is freedom from the certain knowledge that human beings will very soon have made this moist, blue-green planet uninhabitable by human beings.”

    – Kurt Vonnegut, quoted in Al Gore’s Our Choice, page 12

    “Common man has at long last got himself so far out of gear with nature and his environment that he is beginning to see the shape of extinction, whether he recognizes it as such or not.”

    – Philip Wylie, Generation of Vipers, page 116 (Wylie wrote that book in 1942.)

  23. I finally got my copy of Merchants of Doubt back. From its epilogue (and hoping nested blockquotes work….):

    In the early 1960s, one of the world’s leading epidemiologists, initially skeptical of the idea that tobacco was deadly, came around to accepting that the weight of the evidence showed that it was. In response to those who still doubted it and insisted that more data were needed, he replied:

    All scientific work is incomplete — whether it be observational or experimental. All scientific work is liable to be upset or modified by advancing knowledge. That does not confer upon us a freedom to ignore the knowledge we already have, to postpone action that it appears to demand at a given time. Who knows, asks Robert Browning, but the world may end tonight? True, but on available evidence most of us make ready to commute on the 8:30 next day.

    (Emphasis mine.)

    The quotation is cited as:
    Austin Bradford Hill, “The Environment and Disease: Association or Causation?” Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine 58, no. 5 (May 1965): 295-300.
    (It’s available online (.doc).

    Hill also includes the following:

    On fair evidence we might take action on what appears to be an occupational hazard, e.g. we might change from a probably carcinogenic oil to a non-carcinogenic oil in a limited environment and without too much injustice if we are wrong. But we should need very strong evidence before we made people burn a fuel in their homes that they do not like or stop smoking the cigarettes and eating the fats and sugar that they do like. In asking for very strong evidence I would, however, repeat emphatically that this does not imply crossing every ‘t’, and swords with every critic, before we act.

    Emphasis mine, but it’s amazing how much it transfers.
    (The whole article is surprisingly readable (for a medical article), as a non-expert. But those quotes are rather choice.)

  24. Kate:

    I’m surprised you included my remark on budding paleoclimatologists as a quotable quote. (: Though I guess it’ll be utterly forgotten pretty quickly…

    Meanwhile, here’s another cool quote:

    The laws of physics are not susceptible to rhetoric.

    Gareth Renowden

    I really liked that quote from you. It made me think. -Kate

  25. Apologies if this has already appeared:

    “Nature’s best thermometer, perhaps its most sensitive and unambiguous indicator of climate change, is ice. When ice gets sufficiently warm, it melts. Ice asks no questions, presents no arguments, reads no newspapers, listens to no debates. It is not burdened by ideology and carries no political baggage as it crosses the threshold from solid to liquid. It just melts.”

    Henry Pollack, in “A World Without Ice”

  26. via John Cook:

    as the NOAA’s Deke Arndt puts it, “Climate trains the boxer but weather throws the punches”. We’re training our climate to throw harder and harder punches at these defenceless countries. …[and] the countries hit hardest are those least equipped to adapt.

  27. “Climate Change is the defining issue of our age. Previous generations had to deal with the rise of Nazism or communism. This is the issue on which my generation of politicians will be judged. This is our Dunkirk.”
    – British Conservative Member of Parliament Richard Benyon

  28. L. Carey, on the press’s coverage of climate change:

    “a fable: The Fire Department must not be criticized because when the orphanage caught fire, although most of the firefighters preferred to stay at the station and play cards and some organized to spray gasoline on the flames, a few firefighters actually showed up and threw some water on the fire. Since a few firefighters responded appropriately they should be praised, the laggards and arsonists should be ignored, and there’s no problem with Fire Department.”

  29. Our primary threat comes from influential people whose physical, mental, social, or financial well-being depends on how effectively they can delude others. Frequently these lies are better perpetuated by individuals that can delude themselves. Our social order is patched together by sufficiently charismatic interpretations of reality.


    It’s about the counter-attack on Wikileaks by a cyber-vigilante known as “The Jester”, but it applies just as well to global warming.


  30. “Most of the people who claim to be Galileo are mistaken.” – Climatologist Richard Somerville

    “The problem with Internet quotations is that many are not genuine.” – Abraham Lincoln

  31. I have heard the suggestion that the press challenging bunk just serves the perverse process of lodging the bunk in susceptible minds. This may be true in the case of isolated bunk. But we are looking at a bunk tsunami…

    – Tobis (link)

  32. The language of science is notoriously poor, not only at generating urgency and action but even at generating understanding. It’s just not a language most people speak or understand. It’s a specialized way of talking. There is, or should be, nothing wrong at all in communicating with the public in the kind of language people do understand, the language of metaphor, analogy, and parable, the language of imagery and association, the language of values and meaning. Doing so is not “inaccurate” and it’s not a political liability. It’s just common sense.
    – David Roberts (link)

  33. There once was a little child,
    Who thought his backyard was the whole world.
    If it was raining in his backyard,
    Then surely, it must be raining at the South Pole.
    If it was snowing in his backyard,
    Then it was obviously snowing in a place called Brazil.
    Then that little child ‘grew up’.
    Yet he still lived in his backyard.
    Only difference was that his backyard had gotten bigger.
    It had expanded to become the whole United States.
    So, when it was snowed in the United States,
    It was obvious that there was no Global Warming.

    Giordano Hernandez

  34. Oops, correction for above quote: On the second to last line it should read “So, when it was snowing in the in the United Staes”

    Sorry about that.

  35. There’s one from Babylon 5 that you could use.

    “The Avalanche has started. Its too late for the pebbles to vote.” -> Kosh

    Current views about the costs of dealing with Climate Change form the Denial community are essentially do nothing, or it will be cheaper to deal with in the future. This showed up in response;
    “Humanity didn’t put a man on the moon by assuming that future humans would invent antigravity machines.” –> verytallguy

  36. We are faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity. The ‘tide in the affairs of men’ does not remain at the flood; it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is deaf to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: ‘Too late.’
    –Martin Luther King Jr.

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