Grantham’s Nature Op-ed: Be Brave

Jeremy Grantham is not a scientist. From his Wikipedia intro:

Jeremy Grantham is a British investor and Co-founder and Chief Investment Strategist of Grantham Mayo Van Otterloo (GMO), a Boston-based asset management firm. GMO is one of the largest managers of such funds in the world, having more than US $97 billion in assets under management as of December 2011. Grantham is regarded as a highly knowledgeable investor in various stock, bond, and commodity markets, and is particularly noted for his prediction of various bubbles.

So: He’s a sharp business dude who has repeatedly demonstrated an ability to correctly identify when society is failing to properly process information about an impending crisis. Which makes his recent op-ed in Nature magazine worth reading: Be persuasive. Be brave. Be arrested (if necessary).

I have yet to meet a climate scientist who does not believe that global warming is a worse problem than they thought a few years ago. The seriousness of this change is not appreciated by politicians and the public. The scientific world carefully measures the speed with which we approach the cliff and will, no doubt, carefully measure our rate of fall. But it is not doing enough to stop it. I am a specialist in investment bubbles, not climate science. But the effects of climate change can only exacerbate the ecological trouble I see reflected in the financial markets — soaring commodity prices and impending shortages.


President Barack Obama missed the chance of a lifetime to get a climate bill passed, and his great environmental and energy scientists John Holdren and Steven Chu went missing in action. Scientists are understandably protective of the dignity of science and are horrified by publicity and overstatement. These fears, unfortunately, are not shared by their opponents, which makes for a rather painful one-sided battle. Overstatement may generally be dangerous in science (it certainly is for careers) but for climate change, uniquely, understatement is even riskier and therefore, arguably, unethical.

It is crucial that scientists take more career risks and sound a more realistic, more desperate, note on the global-warming problem. Younger scientists are obsessed by thoughts of tenure, so it is probably up to older, senior and retired scientists to do the heavy lifting. Be arrested if necessary. This is not only the crisis of your lives — it is also the crisis of our species’ existence. I implore you to be brave.

The rest of it is worth reading, too.

9 Responses to “Grantham’s Nature Op-ed: Be Brave”

  1. shcb Says:

    I’m a little curious why he thinks scientists will lose tenure if they agree with this huge consensus? To be sure very bad things have happened to teachers and scientists at every level that have dared to even question any aspect of AGW, even if they agree with it in principle. You only need to look as far as my go to guy on hurricanes, Bill Gray. And Bill is old, so sending the old guys out to do the heavy lifting seem to be problematic. At least it is if you disagree with AGW, maybe it won’t be the case if you agree.

    The only scientists I have seen that have gotten in trouble are those that have somehow not been honest or have lacked integrity in some way, is this what Grantham wants? Does he want these scientists to somehow be less than honest for The Cause? He doesn’t seem to really come out and say it, but it seems that is the general direction he is heading.

    I was also a little puzzled by his statement that we are only growing farming by 1.5%, the same as the growth rate of the population, and this somehow equated that we have no surplus. If we had a surplus before and we are only growing production at the rate of need then wouldn’t we have the original surplus? Granted the percent of surplus would be reduced as the fraction changes by increasing the demand and production equally, while the totals of both grow without the surplus growing, but this certainly doesn’t mean there is no surplus. Plus anyone that knows anything about farming knows one of the large subsidies is land bank or other forms of paying farmers to not grow crops. I asked one of my old classmates what she did for a living at our last reunion and a farmer standing with us said “she tells us what to grow and when to grow it” she works for the government. So it isn’t that we don’t have the capacity to grow a surplus, it is just that the industry is regulated to not grow a surplus. Some of those policies are sensible, some not, and some that are sensible are being subverted, but that is another subject.

    I don’t know, I’m not too impressed with you choice of experts lately.

  2. knarlyknight Says:

    shcb, Jeremy Grantham explained your puzzlement about the “surplus” agricultural production:

    …shocking lack of awareness on the part of governments and the public (shcb) of the increasing damage to agriculture by climate change; for example, runs of extreme weather that have slashed grain harvests in the past few years…

    For 2012 the USDA states: “About 80 percent of agricultural land is experiencing drought, which makes the 2012 drought more extensive than any drought since the 1950s.” Details/analysis here:

    Let’s hope next year’s crops fare better.

  3. shcb Says:

    except I was talking about this paragraph:

    This price surge is a response to global population growth and the explosion of capital spending in China. Especially dangerous to social stability and human well-being are food prices and food costs. Growth in the productivity of grains has fallen to 1.2% a year, which is exactly equal to the global population growth rate. There is now no safety margin.

    But! Droughts are actually quite new to agriculture, they are only mentioned a handful of times in the Bible. Probably global warming. I also didn’t think we were suposed to look at only a couple years as a trend in this discussion. or does that only apply to one side of the argument? (I know, you are probably the most on my side of anyone here, don’t take it personal)

  4. knarlyknight Says:

    I knew that that was the paragraph you were having a problem with. I was going to take issue with your safety margin = surplus as for example you can be in deficit and still have margin of safety if alternatives exist (fishing, hunting, gahering) but that’s largely semantics.

    Yes, I’m playing a dangerous game sitting on this fence. Intuitively I believe in global warming, the facts sure seem to be there and all the best scientists seem to be nearly 100% on side, but I thought the same thing about ice age cometh as a young science geek kid, running out of finite resources and several other end of world scenarios. Fool me once shame on you, well can’t get fooled again (once said a fool.) In other worlds maybe all these things just took longer to come to fruition and they are starting now just as global warming picks up steam (pardon the pun). Look out boys we’re in for the hottest ice age ever.

  5. shcb Says:

    That’s fine, I just wish them, and by them I mean all the global warming “experts”, not JBC et al, to be honest and at least make a tiny bit of sense. As I’ve said a million times I fear if it is real it isn’t as bad as the alamists are making it out to be and thus we are making bad choices that will cause more problems down the road that would have been necessary if we had only used the proper amount of force for lack of a better word to fix the problem. But when scientists use insurance data instead of wind speed or barometric pressure to claim hurricanes are getting worse, or won’t let skeptics use a decade of almost no increase in temps but then use two years of dry weather in the United States, while Europe is having one of its wettest years is just not being honest.

    This is a religion to people like JBC, he is trusting people simply because of their status like he would never trust anyone on any other subject. Now that doesn’t mean he and his experts are wrong any more than a priest may be absolutely correct that there is God up in heaven with Ray Charles on one side of him and Hank Williams on the other, three good ole boy drunks. But for some reason these AGW people don’t seem to use the same standards for their decision making when it comes to saving Mother Earth. Like you said, if you want to get their attention at any time in the last half century or more just say we are destroying the earth!

    As far as your first paragraph goes, I can give him a partial pass I suppose, he may have been summarizing his thoughts some, I understand that, but it seemed to me there were other thought processes in there that justified my comment. Like a lot of the AGW faithful, I’m sure he is perfectly logical in most aspects of his life, but there seemed to be a bit of panic and illogical thought on this subject, perfectly in line with religious folks.

  6. knarlyknight Says:

    shcb, I get your point regarding short term weather trends. (I’ve yet to review the hurricane data you provided but my intentions are good there.)

    The rest of your statement “…then use two years of dry weather in the United States, while Europe is having one of its wettest years is just not being honest” deserves some attention. Dry weather in most of the USA and excessive precipitation in most of Europe are both, simultaneously, entirely consistent with predictions of localized effects of global warming, i.e. global warming does not imply that the whole world will get the same weather/change in climate. snark: It’s not like we can ship tankers of rain from Europe to irrigate Nebraska. end snark

    Prediction for climate change in the Pacific NW is for hotter drier summers (more summer droughts, which is frankly, a blessing for most of us) and more wind storms and rain in the other seasons (measures to store more water for summer irrigation needed for the medium-long term) with increase in annual average temperatures. Apparently that is consistent with the trend from 1920’s to the present. Despite being about 10 km from the ocean my house is only about a meter above sea level but short of moving and house insurance I’m not sure what else I can do to defend against possible storm surges.

  7. shcb Says:

    But those predictions from the AGW crowd were just predicting normal cycles! Just as the hurricanes move into New England states in something resembling a 50 year cycle, always have. But now some of the AGW crowd are saying this is proof of global warming. I was talking to a VP at HOK, the people that have built most every sport stadium in the last 2 or 3 decades a month ago before our monthly meeting last month, smart woman, very smart, in her 50’s, she said she had grown up in New York (lives in San Francisco now) and had never seen a hurricane that big that far north, must be global warming. I’m not quite the golden haired boy I was year ago so I just agreed with her but that goes to show how even quite intelligent people will believe just about anything if you tag it with AGW.

    Think back, when did the AGW people start predicting that we would see cooler/wetter than normal in some area and warmer/dryer in others… about 10 years ago, about the time it was evident the temps worldwide had started to level off (have to find a way to distract until hopefully temps start to go back up). Fact is there are just too many variable we don’t know enough about to be making these predictions. All of us in the skeptics club got a good chuckle when we heard that prediction with a straight face. So getting warmer is GW, getting cooler is GW, getting dryer in an area that was wetter and wetter in an area that was dryer, in two or three year increments is GW, the global temps leveling off for over a decade is GW. But when it all happens at once it is CAGW!!! Or maybe just normal cycles. Pretty easy to predict warming cycles when you can include cooling cycles.

    I wouldn’t worry too much about your house, the sea moorings in Europe are in the same places they were the last time the earth was this warm, several hundred years ago. That tells us the ocean probably isn’t going to rise much this time either, if it does, Holland has lived below sea level its entire existence.

  8. knarlyknight Says:

    Thanks. I’ll cancel my order for 10,000 sand bags from Home Depot.

    You are right in the complexity, predicting GW is not like predicting the temperature in your oven. But even in your oven their are warm spots and (relatively) cooler spots, just it is not spinning at what, 10,000 mi per hour with mountains and oceans and etc. So you oven, even a convection oven, doesn’t really have monsoons, jet streams and gulf streams and pacific oscillating currents and the like. Lose polar ice and heat the arctic and the gulf stream will slow, stop or go somewhere else and that drastically changes European climate. Likewise South Asia will miss some monsoons, rains in Africa break their cycle, Australia burns, etc. We’re seeing all that and more.

  9. shcb Says:

    Haha, that’s okay, I’ll be buying enough from Home Depot today to make up for the loss of your sand bags. I just read on foxnews, so I can’t post a link, that this year has the least number of tornadoes since they started counting in 1950. This odd lack of violent storm is caused by another severe weather event, the drought. Tornadoes need thunderstorms, and they need an imbalance of air, we just had hot, balanced air this year. This bubble of hot air pushed the jet stream to Canada.

    So someone on my side could say ah ha! Fewer tornadoes, there is no global warming, someone on the other side has said ah ha! Drought! Proof of global warming! Of course they are both just data points, nothing more.

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