Sunday, February 25, 2007

Happy Birthday, Dear Blog.

I started this blog one year ago today.

Happy birthday, blog.

Update: Make that one year ago, yesterday. I was out of town for the weekend and knew that it was either today and tomorrow, and for some reason mistakenly thought it was today. Happy belated birthday, blog. Boy am I in trouble...

Friday, February 23, 2007

Gov. Sanford Supports Action on Climate Change

This is unexpected. I've blogged about some outrageously dumb things that SC governor Mark Sanford has said over the past year, but this just goes to show that you can't judge a book by its cover. Or by its first 200 pages.

Sanford has written an opinion piece in today's Washington Post titled, A Conservative Conservationist? The subtitle is, "Why the Right Needs to Get Invested in the Search for Climate Change Solutions". Whoa.

For the past 20 years, I have seen the ever-so-gradual effects of rising sea levels at our farm on the South Carolina coast. I've had to watch once-thriving pine trees die in that fragile zone between uplands and salt marshes. I know the climate change debate isn't over, but I believe human activity is having a measurable effect on the environment.

The real "inconvenient truth" about climate change is that some people are losing their rights and freedoms because of the actions of others -- in either the quality of the air they breathe, the geography they hold dear, the insurance costs they bear or the future environment of the children they love.

Sanford is kind of a self-styled libertarian, and libertarians have been the biggest culprits when it comes to distorting climate science for ideological ends. They're so rigidly opposed to any possibility of government regulation that they've chosen instead to deny that the problem even exists, and in some of the more absurd cases, intimate the existence of a dark conspiracy in which scientists and governments are trying to use the "global warming scare" to advance one-world socialism. (Yet oddly enough, the one socialist country of any consequence left in the world, China, is taking a skeptical point of view on climate change.)

But I've always maintained that a true libertarian point of view -- one which consistently holds that people should be free from the negative actions of others, rather than being reflexively pro-business -- would agree with Sanford's last sentence above. When someone imposes costs on you against your will -- and that's basically what pollution in all its forms does -- then they're violating your rights. The standard libertarian response to this is that polluters should be sued for damages (anything other than government regulation) in order for victims to recoup their losses, which would supposedly be enough to dissuade polluters. But aside from being unworkable, this model violates freedom of choice. If someone can expose me to pollutants against my will, it doesn't set things right if they merely pay for the damage they cause. They've effectively forced me to sell my person or my property against my will.

Aside from that, Sanford makes some other good points. He also makes some silly ones. He seems to be of the opinion that banning incandescent light bulbs, which was recently proposed by a California lawmaker, is apparently a solution of the "far left". He must not know that the entire country of Australia, run by a right-wing PM with a history of global warming skepticism, has recently proposed to do the same thing. And Sanford is still caught up with that libertarian delusion that regulation is always a bad thing. So he names it something else:

Third, conservatives must respond to climate change with innovation, not regulation. This means encouraging private research and implementation of more eco-friendly construction, more energy-efficient workplaces and more sustainable ways of going about life -- all of which cuts costs and protects God's creation.

There's not much difference between "encouraging" something and regulating it. The way you encourage things, at least if you're doing something meaningful and not just spouting platitudes, is to tax bad behavior and subsidize good behavior. It's not direct regulation, but it's still the government meddling in the economy. The difference between me and Sanford, presumably, is that he has an ideological objection to such meddling. I, on the other hand, don't think we have any choice.

Still, at least Sanford accepts the reality of climate change and, more importantly, the need to address the problem. And I don't think anyone could reasonably accuse him of wanting to institute a one-world socialist government either.

Friday Animal Blogging

The return of the Prairie Vermin.

The snow has been melting off in large amounts for the last couple of weeks, and prairie varmints have been coming out of their holes looking for food. Below are some pictures I took of the little buggers running around and making a nuisance of themselves. Unfortunately, with all the vermin about, one was bound to get squashed by a car. I'll spare you that picture.

Don't forget to visit the Friday Ark.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Commander Sulu on Tim Hardaway

First former NBA player John Amaechi comes out of the closet and admits he's gay. Most NBA players and coaches are supportive of Amaechi. But not Tim Hardaway.

So now George Takei, who played Commander Sulu on Star Trek, gives us his thoughts on Hardaway. It boldly goes where few men would want to go.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Man Charged with Funding Various Terrorist Groups, Including the Republican Party.

This is just too funny:

A New York man accused of trying to help terrorists in Afghanistan has donated some $15,000 to the House Republicans' campaign committee over three years.

Abdul Tawala Ibn Ali Alishtari pleaded not guilty Friday in U.S. District Court in Manhattan to charges that include terrorism financing, material support of terrorism and money laundering.

From April 2002 until August 2004, the man also known as "Michael Mixon" gave donations ranging from $500 to $5,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee, according to Federal Election Commission reports and two campaign donor tracking Web sites, and

Just imagine what the Right would be saying if the guy had been a Democratic donor.

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Church of Greed.

I'm not even sure what to say about this. Perhaps it just speaks for itself.

Pastor cites 'misunderstanding' of ministry

Pastor Mac Hammond's congregation at Living Word Christian Center in Brooklyn Park reacted strongly Sunday to his appearance in the wake of a watchdog's group complaint to the Internal Revenue Service that he violated federal tax law and a front-page Star Tribune article examining his financial dealings:

Worshipers gave him a prolonged, cheer-laced standing ovation. [...]

He called questions about his financial dealings "a misunderstanding" of his prosperity-gospel ministry, which holds that following God's word leads to spiritual and economic bounty. [...]

In a sermon peppered with "hallelujahs" from Hammond and "amens" from the congregation, Hammond said some of the accusations in the IRS complaint and news story "are inaccurate ... and many paint a picture of the ministry that is grossly inappropriate."

However, he was not specific about inaccuracies except to say that he has two houses in Florida, not two condos. He said he has no control over the board that sets his compensation and that his pay is scrutinized by attorneys.

He got one of many laughs when he said the Star Tribune story had "left out" his two motorcycles. He also quipped that his Porsche has been "an expensive ministry tool" because a State Patrol officer who gave him one of four speeding tickets he has gotten in it went through church membership classes. He said he buys expensive clothes because "if I look decent, I preach better, so I'm really doing it for you, amen." [...]

The congregation was presented with the annual report, which said the church had $34 million in gross revenues last year and gave $3 million to charitable causes and evangelism. [...]

Hammond said the media and many Christians don't understand the prosperity gospel. "God says if you base your life on his covenant, these blessings are gonna overtake you; you can't do anything about it, friend. [What was once] flocks and herds is in today's parlance stocks and bonds.

I... don't even know where to begin here. Let's see.

1. The baby Jesus is crying.

2. I think this guy's critics don't misunderstand his ministry, they probably understand the prosperity gospel just fine. It's just that they find it disgusting, exploitative, hypocritical, and possibly in violation of the tax code if the minister is enriching himself with tax free dollars while pretending to do charitable work.

3. The church brings in 34 million in revenues and spends 3 million on "charity and evangelism". That means that 31 million, over 90% of all revenue, is going to enrich the minister and... who knows what the hell it's going towards?

4. The adult Jesus is planning to kick this guy's ass.

5. With an almost 10,000 member congregation, each member is forking over an average of more than $3400 per year, only to see the minister use that money to buy condos, motorcycles, and lease private jets. Yet when he openly brags about his greed, they cheer.

6. Amway has nothing on these guys. This has got to be the most blatant pyramid scheme since Ponzi. If you fork over lots of money to me, God will make you rich. See how it worked for me? Never mind that I got my money by suckering you into believing this nonsense, the lord works in mysterious ways amen.

7. The crucified Jesus is rolling over in his grave.

L'Affaire Sternberg, Part Eighty Million and Four.

Ed Brayton has a good fisking of an article by Jack Cashill in the WorldNutDaily concerning the Sternberg affair. Cashill repeats just about every throughly discredited and dishonest bit of crap that the ID people invented about the affair. My previous entires in the series are here, here, and here.

Jack Cashill, by the way, was interviewed in Flock of Dodos. He was one of the "nice guy" IDists who filmmaker Randy Olson contrasted with the aggressive, obnoxious, and apparently drunk poker playing evolutionist friends of his. But as Ed's fisking demonstrates, Cashill isn't a nice guy at all, he's a lying scumbag. Anyone can put on a smile in front of a camera before turning around and writing an extremely dishonest hit piece -- that doesn't make one a decent person.

Then again maybe Cashill is just dumb and doesn't realize that nearly everything he says in the article is either false or misleading. But we're long past the point of this being a legitimate excuse. If you're going to make serious accusations against people and publish them in a widely read publication (however poor its reputation may be), you'd better make damn sure you've got your facts straight. A casual disregard for the truth is of course a defining characteristic of the ID movement, but you'd think they'd be a little more careful when it comes to libel.


Hijacker foiled:

Ahmedou Mohamed Lemine, a 20-year veteran of Air Mauritania, realised during his conversations with the 31-year-old hijacker, who was seeking asylum in France, that his assailant did not speak French and that, on the moment of landing, he would be only person not wearing a seatbelt.

So in the minutes before touching down at Gandó Airport, on Gran Canaria, Captain Lemine briefed his mainly-French speaking passengers and crew over the public address system that he would slam on the brakes as soon as he landed and then quickly accelerate, hoping to knock the man, who had two automatic pistols, off his feet.

The plan worked and, according to Spanish officials today, the hijacker, named as Mohamed Abderraman, tumbled over and dropped one of his guns before six men, including a Mauritanian mayor, stormed the pilot's cabin and threw a pot of boiling water on his groin and chest.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Flock of Dodos -- Yet Another Review.

I attended a screening of Flock of Dodos last night at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. The film was shown in the IMAX theater -- of course it was not filmed in the IMAX format, but anyone who's been in an IMAX theater knows how many people will fit into one. And the place was packed. The filmmaker Randy Olson (and his mother, Muffy Moose, who was featured prominently in the film) were on hand to introduce the movie and to answer questions afterwards, which was a special treat.

Before I go into gripes about the film, I want to say that on the whole it was excellent and definitely worth seeing. It was above all entertaining. It made for a decent if somewhat incomplete exposé of the ID movement. And a number of nonsense arguments that the IDists promulgate were knocked down, in many cases through the documentary technique of just letting the silliness speak for itself. The recurring theme of Mt. Rushmore was the sterling example of this.

Nevertheless, in spite of the film's strengths, my job as semi-obsessed-ID-watcher was to notice those parts of the movie where I think Olson missed the mark. Below I'm going to go into a lot of detail about this, and it could take awhile, so you might want to buckle in. This isn't because I think Olson got a lot of things wrong -- there are really only a few issues here -- it's that I think these are key points that are important to movie's theme and the broader issue of defending science. They are therefore worth expounding upon at length.

Problem number one: During an interview with Michael Behe, Olson as the narrator interjects to explain what ID is, and the problems that ID has with evolution. His response: It actually doesn't object to evolution that much at all. In fact, according to Olson, ID for the most part accepts common descent, the ancient age of the Earth, etc. This is a classic mistake. Yes, Michael Behe does accept common descent, meaning he thinks that humans and chimpanzees evolved from a common ape ancestor. However, his position is very much in the minority among prominent ID advocates, to say nothing of their less prominent, more creationist-leaning base. Much of the material put out by the Discovery Institute and their associates attacks common descent. As for the age of the Earth, I think it's probably safe to say that a majority of leading ID advocates accept an old Earth, but there are a significant number who are young-Earthers. Prominent examples would include Paul Nelson, John Mark Reynolds, and possibly Phillip Johnson, the godfather of the ID movement (but he's too cagey to say). The official position of the ID movement on the age of the Earth is... there is no position. The Discovery Institute will not categorically state whether the Earth is really old or young according to ID theory. They say it doesn't matter.

Now this is important for two reasons: First of all, it tells us that the ID movement isn't really interested in doing science. You can't exactly come up with a testable model of natural history if you can't even agree on how old things are. ID therefore consists of little more than an attempt at poking holes in evolution, and has yet to come up with anything resembling an actual theory of its own. Secondly, there's really no telling what kind of nonsense is going to worm its way into public school science classes if the ID people were to have their way with the curriculum. Since there is nothing in ID theory that says the Earth isn't young, and since the IDists don't spend time arguing that young-Earth views should be barred from classrooms (that would contradict half their arguments for allowing ID in), then there's nothing to stop the most extreme young-Earth views from being taught. Most IDists would probably not intend for this to happen, but it's no accident that the movement refuses to take a stand on the age of the Earth. It's not that individual ID advocates just really don't have any idea how old the Earth is, it's that the ID movement was formulated in large part as a compromise between old-Earthers and young-Earthers. (The compromise does not sit well with many young-Earthers, but that's another story.) The ID movement needs the young-Earth contingent for its sheer numbers and well-established base. When the door is finally thrown wide-open and the ID movement can have its way with science curricula, the young-Earthers will demand their due. Or, as Phillip Johnson has said, that is the point at which they'll begin to debate the age of the Earth. Won't that be fun.

Another thing that bothered me about the movie was the way in which the ID movement's religious and ideological roots were glossed over. Yes, Olson does get around to mentioning the Wedge Document and the whole thing about destroying "materialism" somewhere about 2/3rds of the way through the movie. But we're led to believe all the way up to that point that these ID people are perhaps just a bit misguided, or... maybe they're even onto something. What I found quite telling is that the audience was audibly shocked when shown the whole "splitting the log of naturalism" icon and other creationist illustrations which blame evolution for all of society's ills. The audience was even more shocked when Olson said during the Q&A session that a creationist doctor (or scientist, or whatever) once told him that our propensity for heart disease was a sign of good design because it gives God an easy method of punishing us for our sins. (It's not as fun as the lightning bolt, but it gets the job done.) Anyone who is the least bit surprised by these things -- which included most of the audience, apparently -- doesn't know much about the creationists and the ID people. This is clearly an area where Olson could have done more to educate, but his treatment of the ID movement's rather extreme ideological underpinnings was tepid at best. To me these underpinnings are very important, not because they serve as a stick with which to beat the IDists, but because you simply cannot understand the movement without taking into account its creationist roots and reactionary politics. You cannot understand, for example, why the ID movement refuses to take a stand on the age of the Earth if you don't know that the movement seeks to be a "big tent" for all forms of creationism. Nor can you understand why the far right-wing of the Republican Party is so enamored with ID, and why cramming it into public schools is by far the movement's top priority, if you don't know that ID's whole raison d’être is to provide an intellectual justification for socially conservative political beliefs.

And now, finally, let me say a few things about the subject of communication and how we scientists apparently suck at it, a running theme of the movie which while true in many ways has justifiably irked some people. Yes, scientists could do a better job of communicating. Ain't that the truth. However, a scientist's main job is to be a scientist, not a public spokesperson. It's no wonder that people who dedicate their lives to the deep study of certain issues have a hard time explaining things in layman's terms to people who are not inclined to know anything about those issues at all. The movie even makes the excellent point that while scientists feel constrained by the truth, the art of public relations (or, less charitably, propaganda), which is essentially what the Discovery Institute is engaged in, is not so constrained. Yet Olson seems to want to blame scientists for their failure to successfully compete with the intellectual equivalent of fast-talking used car salesmen. I'm all happy to put at least some of the blame on scientists, but the thing that bothers me is that Olson gave no real solution for how we're supposed to be better at communicating. Everyone who tried to ask for such a solution was instead treated to anecdotes on what not to do. Olson was full of stories of evolutionists who gave rotten presentations because they got too angry while their creationist counterparts remained poised and calm. In one example, the evolutionist he referred to made himself look bad by simply responding "no, no, no, no, no, no...." to some of the nonsense delivered by his creationist opponent.

What I don't think Olson quite gets, and there was at least one questioner who I think tried to hammer this into him, is that it is not possible to debate creationists on a level playing field when they use the fast-talking used car salesman technique, which is of course all the time. I kept thinking about what the prominent Holocaust historian Deborah E. Lipstadt said when asked why she doesn't debate Holocaust deniers: I don't debate liars. It is near impossible to have a reasoned debate with someone, much less win that debate, if the person in question is not intellectually honest. If they keep spouting falsehoods that have repeatedly been shown to be false, sometimes "no, no, no, no, no, no...." is the only thing left to say. Perhaps a better approach is not to agree to appear with them until they clean up their act. There is no easy answer to this conundrum, but I'm afraid that Olson hasn't even correctly diagnosed the problem.

In the end, the only message I got was that we're apparently supposed to lighten up, to be all bright, cheery, and good natured with the people who are on an ideological crusade to smear us in every way possible. People who, for example, compare us to Nazis, Stalinists, and the dark lord Sauron. Okay, so we're supposed to be happy with people who are utter jerks to us. Got it. Olson also made disparaging remarks about "angry bloggers", which made me cringe because I feared he may have been talking about us, in which case my thought was that he must not read our blog. But that can't be right because he later made a positive reference to PZ Myers, one of the most active members of our blog. This is very strange, because PZ is the very archetype of the angry blogger, the one who comes out with guns a blazin' and holds nothing back. Yet in spite of his sandpaper persona, PZ is very effective and probably has more readers than the rest of us put together. This tells me that righteous anger, when properly channeled, works quite well. What, then, is Olson actually suggesting?

The happy dude stance became all the more ironic when during the Q&A session Olson recounted the Discovery Institute's recent smear job on him. We've all seen the whole Hoax of Dodos nonsense. This was something that also seemed to shock the audience, which again tells me that the movie failed to inform them about how the ID movement really operates. Olson himself seemed somewhat surprised, as if he thought they were going to give him a pat on the back when up until this point all they've given him is the finger. In recounting the tale, however, Olson sounded rather... bitter. Almost as if he didn't really appreciate being blatantly lied about. Hey, welcome to the club! It happens to all of us eventually. But what about being all happy with people who are acting like jerks to you? Why the angry blogger routine? Maybe Randy Olson should lighten up a bit.

Guess the Crank

As I pointed out recently, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) was caught offering rather large honoraria (or less charitably, bribes) to scientists or economists who would come forward and dispute the recently released IPCC summary for policy makers, which represents the scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming.

The AEI, somewhat predictably, reacted to the negative press by flexing their persecution complex, claiming to be the victims of a mass conspiracy by the "orthodoxy" to repress academic freedom. Below I put a quote from a screed written by two AEI spokesmen which appeared in the Weekly Standard. Along with that quote, I decided to add two more. One is from a document titled, "The Holocaust Controversy: The Case for Open Debate" put out by the leading Holocaust denialist group. The other is from a piece titled, "Thought Police Try To Stifle Academic Freedom at Iowa State University" put out by the Discovery Institute, a leading anti-evolutionist group. I've removed references to the theories and people in question and just left the pure, unbridled paranoia. See if you can guess which quote comes from which crackpot:

1. No subject enrages campus Thought Police more than _________. We debate every other great ____ issue as a matter of course, but influential pressure groups with private agendas have made the _____ an exception. Elitist dogma manipulated by special interest groups corrupts everything in academia. Students should be encouraged to investigate _____ the same way they are encouraged to investigate every other ________.

2. The rollout of _____ and the _____ attacking us coincide with the climax of what can be aptly described as a _____ inquisition intended to stifle debate about ________. Anyone who does not sign up 100 percent behind _____ is deemed a "_____ denier." ... Show-trial hearing to follow? Stay tuned.

3. “The ______ inquisition is spreading,” said _______, president of ____, the nation’s leading ________. “_______ have recently hunted down and tried to disgrace _________ for daring to defy the ______ orthodoxy. Now we see that the witch hunt has turned to ____ and is focused on ________.”

And no fair Googling. You have to guess the source based on the quotes alone. Good luck!

Darwin Day in South Carolina

There are a number of Darwin Day events going on in the Palmetto State, both today and throughout the week. You can go to the South Carolinians for Science Education website for a complete run-down of the events and links to the individual flyers. Events will be held at Furman, the College of Charleston, and Clemson. Kenneth Miller will also be speaking in Clemson next Monday.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The War On Fossils Continues

As I reported previously, evangelicals, led by Bishop Boniface Adoyo, Chairman of the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya, are trying to suppress a fossil display in Kenya’s National Museum. (And they’re apparently getting aid from unnamed Western groups.) The planned exhibit contains numerous hominid fossils found in that country, including the famous Turkana Boy, a nearly complete Homo erectus skeleton.

CNN has recently published an article about the museum exhibit and the evangelicals’ attempts to whisk it away to some back room where it can't offend them. Most of the information in the article is old hat, but it’s good to see the American media finally picking up on this. There is however one part that’s new to me:

[Richard] Leakey fears the ideological spat may provoke an attack on the priceless collection, one largely found during the 1920s by his paleontologist parents, Louis and Mary Leakey, who passed their fossil-hunting traditions on to him.

The museum, which attracts around 100,000 visitors a year, is taking no chances.

Turkana Boy will be displayed in a private room, with limited access and behind a glass screen with 24-hour closed-circuit TV. Security guards will be at the entrance.

“There are issues about the security,” said Dr. Emma Mbua, the head of paleontology at the museum. “These fossils are irreplaceable and we wouldn’t want anything to happen to them.”

Insurance coverage could run into millions of dollars, she added.

Way to go creationists. You’ve successfully driven security and insurance costs through the roof because your nutty followers can’t be trusted not to destroy priceless artifacts.

(Cross-posted to the Panda's Thumb.)

Friday, February 02, 2007

Bauer Responsible for Plane Crash

I'd almost forgotten about SC Lt. Governor Andre Bauer and the difficulties he has with moving vehicles. First he gets caught speeding multiple times and worms his way out of it by playing the VIP card. Then he crashes his airplane upon take-off and tries to get out of it by playing the God card.

Now the NTSB has ruled that Bauer was at fault for the plane crash. He apparently didn't have enough speed to take-off properly. Why didn't he have enough speed?

Walters, who reviewed the NTSB report at the request of The State, said he believes the plane might have been slowed on the grass and dirt runway because its parking brake was either partially or fully engaged.

He forgot to disengage the parking brake.

Note to self: Do not get into car with Andre Bauer. Do not get into plane with Andre Bauer. And when possible, do not be in the same state as Andre Bauer.

Excellent Opportunity To Become A Paid Shill

It looks like someone doesn't like the new IPCC report, and they're offering cash payments to scientists who will join them:

Scientists and economists have been offered $10,000 each by a lobby group funded by one of the world's largest oil companies to undermine a major climate change report due to be published today.

Letters sent by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), an ExxonMobil-funded thinktank with close links to the Bush administration, offered the payments for articles that emphasise the shortcomings of a report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Travel expenses and additional payments were also offered.

Boy is that shameless. Not to long ago they would have at least tried to make it look innocent. Now they're openly offering bribes.

The AEI has received more than $1.6m from ExxonMobil and more than 20 of its staff have worked as consultants to the Bush administration. Lee Raymond, a former head of ExxonMobil, is the vice-chairman of AEI's board of trustees.

The letters, sent to scientists in Britain, the US and elsewhere, attack the UN's panel as "resistant to reasonable criticism and dissent and prone to summary conclusions that are poorly supported by the analytical work" and ask for essays that "thoughtfully explore the limitations of climate model outputs".

Keep in mind that the letters were sent out before the Summary for Policymakers was released, and that the analytical work from Working Group 1 that the summary is based upon still hasn't been made public. Exxon-Mobil money can apparently buy you an awful lot -- including psychic powers, it would seem.

The letters were sent by Kenneth Green, a visiting scholar at AEI, who confirmed that the organisation had approached scientists, economists and policy analysts to write articles for an independent review that would highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the IPCC report.

"Strengths and weaknesses". Let's see, where have I heard that one before? I could swear that's a familiar phrase.

And we've got more to look forward to as well:

On Monday, another Exxon-funded organisation based in Canada will launch a review in London which casts doubt on the IPCC report. Among its authors are Tad Murty, a former scientist who believes human activity makes no contribution to global warming. Confirmed VIPs attending include Nigel Lawson and David Bellamy, who believes there is no link between burning fossil fuels and global warming.

Let's hope that on their plane ride this weekend, they don't do something drastic like read the report with an open mind. That might jeopardize the conclusion they reached before the report came out.

IPCC Fourth Assessment Report is Out

The summary for policy makers is here. It's long so I haven't read the whole thing. If you want a summary of the summary, there's a good article on it here in Nature News:

The report, a consensus document put together by 600 scientists and agreed by representatives of 113 countries, predicts continued warming of 0.2 °C per decade for the coming few decades.

Over the twenty-first century it predicts a range of 1.1-2.9 °C warming in a scenario with low emissions of greenhouse gases, and 2.4-6.4 °C in a high-emissions scenario. The warming is expected to be greatest over land and in the north, and the chance of heat-waves increasing in frequency is greater than 90%.

Well, that tells us a couple of things. First of all, early "leaks" which said that the upper bound for temperature had been lowered were wrong. As was pointed out by climate scientists at the time, the reporters had confused climate sensitivity (i.e. the increase in temperatures expected from a 2x CO2 scenario) with actual projected temperatures. In the case of climate sensitivity, the upper bound stayed the same but the lower bound went up. In the case of projected temperatures, the upper bound increased.

Secondly, there is a huge difference, particularly in the upper bound, between the low emissions scenario and the high emissions scenario. That means that lowering emissions may have a very large impact, contrary to what the "climate skeptics" have been saying (the argument that nothing we do will matter is kind of their last ditch "plan C" attempt at justifying inaction, after their all their previous claims have bitten the dust).

More from RealClimate and Deltoid.