Abrupt climate change

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Posted July 19th, 2009 in Physics. Tags: , , , , , , .

One part of a recent survey caught my attention:

The strongest correlate of opinion on climate change is partisan affiliation. Two-thirds of Republicans (67%) say either that the Earth is getting warmer mostly because of natural changes in the atmosphere (43%) or that there is no solid evidence the Earth is getting warmer (24%). By contrast, most Democrats (64%) say the Earth is getting warmer mostly because of human activity. … The divide is even larger when party and ideology are both taken into consideration. Just 21% of conservative Republicans say the Earth is warming due to human activity, compared with nearly three-quarters (74%) of liberal Democrats. [Pew Research Center] (Skip to videos, data, index.)

In other words, most of the general public appears to believe that the existence of abrupt climate change A large-scale change in the climate system that takes place over a few decades or less, persists (or is anticipated to persist) for at least a few decades, and causes substantial disruptions in human and natural systems. (formerly known as anthropogenic ‘Human-caused’ global warming) is a question of politics rather than science. They’re not looking at evidence published in peer-reviewed science journals before adopting a position. Instead, they seem to decide that their political party’s position on climate change is “X,” so they believe “X.” Finally, this explains why some people who watch a documentary that exaggerates the science end up imitating that smug politician’s You have to realize that I view ‘politician’ as a VERY dirty word in order to get the full effect of this sentence. alarmism. I run into hordes of them on campus, and I always rebuff their attempts to guilt me out of driving by saying “Why worry about the Earth when we’ve got 7 planets R.I.P. Pluto, 1930-2006 to spare?!

Keep in mind that I’m only saying the existence of abrupt climate change is a purely scientific question. I realize that our response to climate change is a legitimate political question. But let’s set that question aside to contemplate the existence of abrupt climate change. Instead of lining up behind politicians, let’s take the road less traveled by examining some evidence given to us by modern science.

To begin with, it’s indisputable that the Earth’s climate has varied wildly in the past. Vostok ice core data confirm that for nearly half a million years, the climate has changed cyclically. In all that time, the maximum CO2 concentration never went above 300 ppm parts per million . It’s hit higher levels millions of years ago, but usually Heinrich and Dansgaard-Oeschger events (among other examples of natural abrupt climate change) show that the natural climate is only fairly stable in the long run. These events show that the climate can quickly move from one stable “attractor” to another. I should stress, however, that results like Meehl 2004 show that today’s changes aren’t natural. in gradual ways. Plus, the Earth was essentially a different planet back then, with a different biosphere basking under the light of a very slightly The Sun was only barely fainter tens of millions of years ago, but high CO2 concentrations hundreds of millions of years ago or more were partially compensated for by the lower solar luminosity. Also, the continents shift on these timescales which affects the climate too. dimmer Sun so comparisons across that much time are tricky at best.

Vostok ice core data

Natural variations are evident in the data, of course. The most prominent cycles over geological time are governed by (among other effects) Milankovitch cycles which are caused by periodic variations in the Earth’s orbit.

Bizarrely, the CO2 concentration is at 380 ppm parts per million today. That’s ~26% higher than it’s been in the last half million years. Notice that the current CO2 concentration is off the scale of the Vostok data graph. If this is due to natural variability alone, it’s quite a coincidence that it’s happening right after we started burning enough oil to fuel ~800 million cars, and burning coal by the gigaton to supply ~50% of our electricity.

Furthermore, it seems like the CO2 at Vostok typically increased centuries after the temperature started to increase. (Ice core data are difficult to analyze in this manner, though.) At least, that’s the way it used to work. Right now, the CO2 concentration is at an unprecedented level but the temperature is barely above normal. Again, this implies that we’re not experiencing natural climate variability because what’s happening today doesn’t match the behavior of the ancient climate.

According to physics that was firmly established decades before I was born, CO2 warms the planet by absorbing infrared radiation from the ground better than it absorbs visible radiation from the Sun. So this rapidly increasing CO2 should cause a rapid temperature increase:

Multiple independent temperature reconstructions over the past 1000 years

The above graphs are quite busy, so here’s an overview of each one:

  1. The top graph shows temperatures over the last 300 years, as recorded by instruments. Notice that several independent instruments are telling us that the temperature has increased dramatically in recent decades.
  2. The middle graph shows temperatures over the last 1000 years as reconstructed from various proxies such as ice cores, tree rings, boreholes, glacier retreat, etc. The different curves are based on different data and algorithms, and were derived by scientists from all over the world. Note that all of them show an abrupt temperature increase in the last few decades. See Table 6.1 for more details.
  3. The bottom graph shows a “most likely” temperature reconstruction over the last 1000 years. This estimate uses all the previous curves, weighted according to their statistical uncertainties. The shading represents the combined uncertainty; darker areas are more confidently known.

Perhaps this is a coincidence? All the evidence I’ve described so far just shows that CO2 and temperatures have both risen in an apparently artificial manner in the last few decades. But Meehl 2004 tested whether or not recent temperature observations could be explained by natural variations alone:

Meehl 2004 shows recent temperatures are caused by CO2

The black curve represents observations. The blue curve represents the result of a computer simulation that accounts for natural variations like volcanic eruptions and changes in the brightness of the Sun. The shaded blue area represents the uncertainty of that simulation. The red curve includes all the natural variations in the blue curve, but adds human emissions like CO2 and sulfate aerosols. Notice that after ~1970 the observed temperatures aren’t consistent with natural variations, but they are within the error bars of the prediction made by accounting for human emissions.

The Earth is so massive and ancient that we tend to instinctively believe ‘Don’t treat C02 as a pollutant’ in the Christian Science Monitor by Mark W. Hendrickson on June 23, 2009 wrongly says “And how do you propose to regulate Earth’s temperature when as much as three-quarters of the variability is due to variations in solar activity, with the remaining one-quarter due to changes in Earth’s orbit, axis, and albedo (reflectivity)? This truly is ‘mission impossible.’ Mankind can no more regulate Earth’s temperature than it can the tides. … 1. Human activity accounts for less than 4 percent of global CO2 emissions. 2. CO2 itself accounts for only 10 or 20 percent of the greenhouse effect. This discloses the capricious nature of the EPA’s decision to classify CO2 as a pollutant, for if CO2 is a pollutant because it is a greenhouse gas, then the most common greenhouse gas of all – water vapor, which accounts for more than three-quarters of the atmosphere’s greenhouse effect – should be regulated, too. The EPA isn’t going after water vapor, of course, because then everyone would realize how absurd climate-control regulation really is.” that humans aren’t powerful enough to affect the climate on this scale. For example, those awe-inspiring volcanic eruptions simply must dwarf anything we do, right? Surprisingly, humans emit ~100x more CO2 than volcanoes.

Even still, the Earth is a stable system, right? Won’t our changes to the atmosphere just provoke a natural response that cancels them out, preventing us from significantly altering the climate? Well… maybe. The natural climate certainly did appear fairly Heinrich and Dansgaard-Oeschger events (among other examples of natural abrupt climate change) show that the natural climate is only fairly stable in the long run. These events show that the climate can quickly move from one stable “attractor” to another. I should stress, however, that results like Meehl 2004 show that today’s changes aren’t natural. stable in our absence. However, a number of positive feedback effects present the disturbing possibility that the climate is only metastable:

  • Melting Arctic sea ice uncovers darker ocean water, so more heat is absorbed after the ice starts to melt, which speeds up the remaining melting…
  • Warmer oceans will evaporate more water vapor into the atmosphere, which is a more effective greenhouse gas than CO2.
  • Warmer deep ocean temperatures may destabilize methane hydrate deposits, releasing another more potent greenhouse gas.
  • Melting permafrost releases CO2 and methane.
  • Melting glaciers help to lubricate the slide of the glacier into the ocean, speeding up the loss of glaciers once the process starts.
  • Higher temperatures increase the risk of forest fires, which release CO2.
  • The dust caused by vegetation loss due to shifting precipitation patterns, fires and even other pollutants darkens snow, causing it to melt earlier.

There are also negative feedback effects, such as the fact that trees grow faster in higher CO2 and thus store carbon in their wood faster. [Update Thanks to Dr. Geoffrey A. Landis for his additions and corrections to this section and the faint young Sun caveat. by Dr. Landis: Also, the Stefan-Boltzmann equation says that hotter objects radiate more, and higher temperatures = more evaporation = more clouds = higher albedo.] But I worry that the abrupt spike in CO2 levels might cause positive feedback effects to dominate– at least temporarily. In other words, it seems likely that a little bit of warming will lead to more warming.

Bottom line: As far as I can tell there’s a mountain of scientific evidence showing that abrupt climate change A large-scale change in the climate system that takes place over a few decades or less, persists (or is anticipated to persist) for at least a few decades, and causes substantial disruptions in human and natural systems. is a matter of serious concern.

On a completely different note, as an ordinary American I think we should do something about this matter. We’re still the most To my foreign colleagues and friends: You wanna fight about it? :) technologically advanced nation in the world, with one of the largest, best educated workforces in history. Our economy is very capitalistic, which makes us highly adaptable compared to more socialist countries that are mired in bureaucracy. If any country can solve this problem, it’s us.

The legislation currently in the Senate needs to be passed. This bill has already been weakened in the House and it’s only the first step, but it’s the least we can do to convince the world that the United States is ready to lead once again.

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Update: Here are some related videos:

Further reading:

  • Global climate models have made many successful predictions.
  • In 2005, 11 national science academies urged world leaders to “acknowledge that the threat of climate change is clear and increasing.”
  • In 2009, 13 national science academies told world leaders that “the need for urgent action to address climate change is now indisputable.”
  • Climate change statements from world religions and Young Evangelicals.
  • NASA tracks vital signs of the planet at JPL’s Global Climate Change website. Don’t miss interactives like Eyes on the Earth.
  • Skeptical Science has a wide variety of informative articles with versions ranging from “basic” to “advanced”.
  • Real Climate is climate science from climate scientists. It’s an excellent resource for readers who understand Skeptical Science’s “advanced” articles and want more.
  • Tamino is a professional statistician whose blog Open Mind tirelessly debunks contrarian arguments. Some old articles can be found here.
  • Science of Doom evaluates and explains climate science in a lucid but very technical manner.
  • The equilibrium climate sensitivity to doubled CO2 can be determined in many different ways. For instance, here’s a figure from Royer et al. 2007 (PDF) which concludes that “a climate sensitivity greater than 1.5°C has probably been a robust feature of the Earth’s climate system over the past 420 million years”.
  • Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States (2009) summarizes the science and the impacts of climate change on the United States, now and in the future. This NAS report (2012) examines sea level rise off the U.S. west coast. Sea level rise varies regionally due to factors like the gravity of thinning ice sheets.
  • The American Institute of Physics describes the discovery of global warming, including the carbon dioxide greenhouse effect.
  • The IPCC’s 2007 report (PDFs) on the physical science basis of climate change reviews the scientific literature and provides a summary for policymakers (PDF). Previous reports: 1990, 1995, and 2001.
  • The Copenhagen Diagnosis summarizes some of the science published since the IPCC’s 2007 report. Here’s their list of figures.

Links to climate data and source code:

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I’ve been discussing abrupt climate change A large-scale change in the climate system that takes place over a few decades or less, persists (or is anticipated to persist) for at least a few decades, and causes substantial disruptions in human and natural systems. on the internet for several years, mostly at Slashdot under the pseudonym khayman80. The interesting bits of these conversations have been copied here, but please note that my statements have been edited Each comment is linked back to the original location in the Slashdot archives so you can compare the current version to the original. Those links look like: [Dumb Scientist] or [Jane Q. Public] and expanded since I first wrote them. Here’s an index with links to each conversation:

  1. People wonder why “climate change” replaced “global warming.”

  2. Rrvau asks if scientists predicted an ice age in the 1970s.

  3. People inquire about the scale and impact of human CO2 emissions.

  4. An Onerous Coward asks about nuclear and solar power.

  5. Stormcrow309 asks about potential flaws in the Vostok ice core analysis.

  6. M4cph1sto doubts that temperatures are increasing.

  7. Jane Q. Public asks if sunspot activity causes global warming, among many other topics:

    1. The importance of peer review.
    2. Cosmic rays are responsible for global warming.”
    3. “Water vapor is a stronger greenhouse gas than CO2.”
    4. The accuracy of the “hockeystick” graph.
    5. What does the IPCC say about hurricanes?
    6. “CO2 increases after temperature, so it doesn’t warm the planet.”
    7. “CO2 is already saturated, so adding more CO2 isn’t going to warm the planet any more.”
    8. “It’s not that simple.”
    9. We agree that the media over-hypes disaster scenarios.
    10. The Salem Hypothesis and the application of a modified version to this debate.
    11. “The troposphere isn’t warming enough, so greenhouse warming theories are fundamentally flawed.”
    12. Jane says her comments have been taken out of context and deliberately portrayed in a negative light. So please compare her statements to the originals at Slashdot, which can be accessed through links that look like [Jane Q. Public]
      Update: Jane’s index continues here.
  8. Kyle asks about the political and economic implications of climate change. Also, he asks if global temperatures are only appearing to increase due to urban expansion.

  9. Jim P.E. asks if the President is receiving sound advice.

  10. Bopeth asks about our population growth, and economic issues associated with climate change.

  11. Anonymous says that my “comments exhibit the most profound and disturbing kind of scientific elitism,” along with:

    1. “How do you wager on whether climate change is anthropogenic or not?”
    2. I criticize peer review.
    3. “What I want to see next is the contrary case from a well-versed expert who has reached conclusions that conflict with yours.”
    4. Why shouldn’t we look to politicians for scientific answers?
    5. “What, exactly, would you like to see from the general public in terms of reasoning about this subject?”
    6. Marbs asks “What opinion do you currently hold that contradicts the mainstream scientific community?”
    7. Why do high tides happen on opposite sides of the Earth at the same time?
    8. “… we can’t do ‘parallel earth’ experiments to test various parameters … and nobody has a track record of ‘getting it right’ long term because there hasn’t been a long term yet.”
    9. Marbs asks about the graph on Steven Fielding’s website and the “due diligence report.”
  12. Spector asks how climatologists attribute the recent warming to human activity.

  13. Reivan asks about thermodynamic equilibrium.

  14. Gkai says “… newest global data are not so supportive of the idea that man-produced CO2 is responsible for the bulk of global warming” then claims that no climate model takes clouds or changes in the Earth’s albedo into account, and says my article is not convincing because of model validations.

  15. Thethibbs doesn’t want to quarrel with my “religion” so he rebuts the evidence I’ve presented with a link to an article by Marc Morano.

  16. Elkto doesn’t believe CO2 is causing any problems because “Earth cooled a degree last year, satellite images show arctic ice cap growing the last three years, lack of sunspots is pointing to a scary minimum, the CO2 increase contributes to less than 1/2 of a percent increase in greenhouse gases (do not exclude the largest greenhouse gas, water vapor.)”

  17. Shivetya says “natural CO2 production is 20x man’s … but it damn well won’t stop the “consensus” train.”

  18. Techno-vampire says I’m leaving out significant information about the Little Ice Age, and the Medieval Warm Period, which he implies was a global event.

  19. Someone implies that I’m a semi-honest “scientist” because I’m referring to ice core records that “only” extend 650,000 years into the past. Also:

    1. “Tacking high resolution data from modern thermometers on to data taken from ice cores seems dubious.”
    2. “Be careful about weeding out data just because it doesn’t support your hypothesis. … You seem quite certain that there is only one way to explain things. You’ve already assumed your hypothesis is true. It’s not good science, and I think you should be more skeptical.”
  20. Avysk claims that I’m a lying idiot who perverts things deliberately because I pointed out that the current CO2 concentration of 380ppm is ~26% above the 650,000 year maximum of 300ppm.

  21. Fluffy99 says that scientists assume that the Earth’s temperature is supposed to be constant, leading them to ignore solar variations which Fluffy99 claims are responsible for global warming. He claims human emissions aren’t the dominant climate forcing, and it’s possible we’re having no effect at all. Later, he implies that scientists reach conclusions that are motivated by funding.

  22. Someone says “How come global-warmists never mention water vapor, which is by far the biggest greenhouse gas. I guess there isn’t any money in selling “steam credits”.”

  23. Flyingrobots says “The main problem I have with your position is the incessant manipulation of temperature data by those who really believe in global warming.”

    1. Flyingrobots uses the Galileo Gambit, cites Claude Allegre as a creditable person who argues against my point of view, and says “I’m not claiming giant conspiracies amongst scientists, however, I think the author [Stephen Goddard] raises some valid points that require further explanation.”
    2. Flyingrobots repeats: “Folks like Monsieur Allegre raise valid points that should be addressed and not swept under the carpet.”
  24. Jmerlin claims that “man-made climate problems (even if they are true – though largely unproven)” haven’t caused anything “bad” to happen, and won’t cause anything “bad” to happen until our children’s great great grandchildren are dead, and possibly not for hundreds of thousands of years. So if politicians want to use a “destructive” tax to “punish” him for using coal and oil, he thinks they should be worried about angering citizens like him, because “it’ll be the French Revolution all over again, and I’ll bring my guillotine with me.”

  25. Ivan256 claims that the Vostok ice core graph I included is horrendously misleading because, apparently, I was fooled into thinking the data suggest that increased atmospheric CO2 leads to higher temperatures.

  26. Disco inferno criticizes nuclear power.

  27. Tmosley claims to be a scientist who wonders how any temperature increase can be proven to be anthropogenic when we don’t have a control [Earth], seems to think heat capacities of water vapor and CO2 are the basis of the greenhouse effect, then implies that environmental legislation would murder people and “cut off the arms and legs of our civilization with an environmentally friendly electric chainsaw”.

  28. SmilingSalmon thinks that McIntyre and McKitrick have uncovered a weakness in the scientific process when they tried to publish a comment implying that the “hockey stick” algorithm of MBH98 was tuned to produce a hockey stick from any input, even “red noise”.

  29. Budenny claims that the climate could exhibit negative feedback, wonders if the climate is warming faster or differently than ever before, and accuses the climate science community of refusing to release their data.

  30. The AGU Fall Meeting is the largest geophysics conference in the world. Most attendees are mainstream scientists, but occasionally one runs into a climate change contrarian:

    1. At the 2008 AGU Fall Meeting, I found a poster by Maruyama et al. which claimed that most of the warming over the last 50 years is caused by natural oscillations, and that we should expect 0.5K of global cooling by 2020.
    2. I met Norman Rogers at the 2009 AGU Fall Meeting next to his poster called “Inconsistencies and Fallacies: IPCC 20th Century Simulations, Multi-Model Ensembles and Climate Sensitivity”.
    3. At the 2010 AGU Fall Meeting, I saw Norman Rogers again at his poster titled “Why do anthropogenic global warming skeptics have poorer scientific credentials than their opponents?”
    4. I met D.C. Smith at the 2010 AGU Fall Meeting in front of his poster titled “Line by Line Analysis of Carbon Dioxide Absorption for Predicting Global Warming” which claimed that doubling CO2 would only result in 0.26C warming (at most).
    5. Norman Rogers of the Heartland Institute (H.I.) and David Smith present contrarian posters at the 2012 AGU Fall Meeting.
    6. Norman Rogers (H.I.) et al. praise Lomborg, imply scientists want to kill off most of humanity.
  31. Radtea says “Global atmospheric heat content is meaningful. Global mean temperature is not.”

    1. Radtea says “I don’t agree with your characterization of heat as strictly a type of energy transfer. … I still don’t understand what anyone thinks they are doing with global average temperature, but whatever it is, it isn’t physics.”
    2. Radtea says “… you’re not a computational physicist, or you would have noticed the lack of energy conservation in some models (it is added by hand as a correction on each time step) or unphysical boundary conditions in others (ocean surface in particular).”
    3. Radtea asks “… what data would make you change your beliefs regarding global warming/climate change?”
    4. Radtea says “isn’t it curious that there’s no evidence of warming in the past 15 years but we keep on hearing about how Arctic ice is melting at record rates.”
    5. Radtea says “your claim that most of the models used in climate research are true to first principles is false. I am a computational physicist, and every GCM I have looked at has non-physical aspects that violate well-established physical principles, most worriesomely conservation of energy.”
  32. Beryllium Sphere correctly notes that “Qualitatively, what you’d expect from climate change is more precipitation (because there’s more evaporation) and therefore thickening at high elevations where the snow stays cold, while lower warmer regions flow faster or even melt”, then someone who tends towards quantum physics briefly challenges that idea.

  33. Hadlock helpfully corrects my terminology regarding glacier melt/flow/thinning.

    1. Jbengt and HiThere make genuinely helpful comments about glacier thinning.
    2. At the 2009 AGU fall meeting, I met a glaciologist next to her poster about glacier feedback effects.
    3. At the 2010 UNAVCO conference, Meredith Nettles showed that glacial earthquakes in Greenland have dramatically increased in frequency recently, Steve Nerem showed that Helheim glacier in Greenland is accelerating based on GPS, imaging and InSAR, and Tim Dixon showed correlations with independent estimates that subtract calving/meltwater flux from snowfall accumulation.
  34. In response to a study showing “surprising, extensive thinning in Antarctica, affecting the ice sheet far inland,” Jarek asks “Does it? The increased temperatures of west Antarctica are more than compensated by decreased temperatures elsewhere in Antarctica.”

    1. Jarek says “We are literally being served half truths. Or is less than half truths. Most of Antarctica gets colder, some of it gets warmer. By reporting on the parts that get warmer, media tries to sell disasters just because it sells better than the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”
    2. Troed claims that “Antarctica as a whole isn’t warming unless you deal in dubious statistical models.”
  35. Whatanut wonders if it will be cheaper to adapt to climate change rather than trying to avoid it by reducing CO2 emissions.

  36. Msevior says “One of the catastrophic outcomes of climate change are large sea level rises due to ice melt in the polar regions. Presumably there are models that predict how this could occur with global warming. So the question is, do these data agree with these models?”

  37. Smoker2 says “… there is actually more minimum ice cover than last year, and last year had more cover than the year before. Why do they [NASA] not mention this at all ? Maybe the point is to mislead?”

  38. After repeating several common contrarian talking points, Tontoman links to a speech by Michael Crichton where “he criticises the papers done by IPCC and debunks other global warning myths.”

    1. JLF65 suggests that I’m discounting Crichton merely because he’s a science fiction author whose opinion goes against mine.
    2. Tontoman says “If you think we should discount Crichton, then perhaps we should debunk the ‘global warming’ movement because one of its leaders, Al Gore, also is a politician whose highest degree is Bachelor of Arts in Government.”
  39. Research into the effects of cosmic ray intensity on tree growth rates sparks an interesting discussion.

  40. A friend brings up the “climategate” hacking story.

    1. I mention that working group 2 of the IPCC made some embarrassing mistakes, and I find some errors in the IPCC AR4 WG1 report.
  41. Jerry McGowan claims that “it’s right that CO2 is already saturated and more CO2 won’t warm the planet anymore.”

    1. Joshua claims “add CO2 and the humidity is reduced. Net change to greenhouse effect = 0 = saturation.”
  42. DTJohnson claims “There are no mountains of research that show why any climate change is happening or even IF climate change is happening.”

    1. DTJohnson lectures me about seasons, and is “struck by how little I seem to understand about the basic physics of gases… which is, after all, what we’re talking about.”
  43. Phantomfive claims that “there is no really good scientific evidence of a threat from CO2 …”

    1. Omb criticizes a paper I linked, saying things like “This paper is evidence of one thing only, that the mesh used in the (DOE) PCM is far too course”.
    2. I agree with phantomfive that sea level rise during the 21st century will be less than 20 meters, but point out that even a ~1.2 meter sea level rise by 2100 will bring substantial hardships, along with problems caused by changes in precipitation patterns.
    3. Phantomfive tells me not to go insane over “scenarios like this that have no scientific backing.”
    4. Phantomfive claims that “temperatures have not continued to rise as those models predicted would happen.”
    5. Phantomfive says that my argument is “about the weakest line of logic ever.”
    6. Regarding projected climate changes, phantomfive asks “In the worst case, will it be worse than the dustbowl?”
    7. Phantomfive claims that “the warming seen over the last few decades is entirely attributable to the reduction in aerosols in recent years. This is mentioned in WGI chapter 2 of the IPCC report.”
    8. Phantomfive notes that President Bush did eventually listen to climate scientists.
  44. I lament the fact that NASA’s mission is no longer to “understand and protect our home planet”.

  45. “Yes, sounds like someone didn’t read What Every Computer Scientist Should Know About Floating-Point Arithmetic.”

  46. “I’m finishing a program that inverts GRACE data to reveal fluctuations in gravity such as those caused by melting/thinning glaciers.”

    1. I’d previously compared GRACE to GOCE.
  47. Khallow says “there’s a pile of articles from Dr. McIntyre. Many of these criticize HadCRUT3 or its components. So yes, the data itself has been called into question repeatedly.”

    1. Khallow: “Fraud may well be occurring.”
    2. I show Khallow where to download climate data and source code.
  48. Thirdeye asks “do you know how much pollution is discharged into the atmosphere when a single volcanic eruption occurs? Wondering how it compares to the anthropogenic discharge?”

    1. Thirdeye asks “aren’t there some schools of thought that think that increased CO2 in the atmosphere may actually contribute to a cooler Earth by increasing the Earth’s albedo?”
    2. “Also, is there any nuclear activity going on in the core that could be warming the planet?”
  49. JordanL says “One of the things that REALLY bugs me about climate research is seeing LEGITIMATE scientists use the word “SKEPTIC” as a SMEAR.”

    1. Daniel Dvorkin points out that “when you have a bunch of people spouting pseudoscientific garbage who are handed the ‘skeptic’ label as a gift, it’s inevitable that those who point out the garbage will appear to be ‘smearing skeptics.’”
  50. I say “I’ve never heard of Lomborg before today, but your summary makes him sound like someone I could agree with. That’s mainly because I think most of the ‘green’ movement is irrational, and one manifestation is that they’ve blocked the advancement of nuclear power for decades.”

  51. I say “Cool, that’s an awesome website! I especially liked the graphic here. I think the ‘Phil current’ curve describes me well. I agree with Phil that the IPCC’s error bars seem a little narrow, but not by much.”

  52. Timmarhy says “I’ve never seen any overlap between creationists and AGW skeptics. I demand you show me some evidence of this.”

  53. BonquiquiShiquavius says to climate scientists: “publishing a single report that wildly contradict previous findings makes it practically impossible to defend you.”

  54. Amouth claims that extracting tidal power would slow/stop/reverse the Moon’s ascent from Earth.

    1. Prof. Pete Bender adds some insights regarding tidal dissipation.
  55. ShakaUVM and I have an extended discussion about many topics.

  56. I’ve been toying with the idea that loggers can fix the CO2 problem. Send them out to harvest pine trees at the end of their fast-growing (and thus fast-CO2-absorbing) phase.”

  57. Arc86 and I discuss various surveys of the scientific community regarding climate change.

  58. The Hatchet has “been debating global warming for a damn long time, and NOBODY has ever had a damn thing to say about the real global heat content (including oceans) …”

  59. Reythia ran across a new, more accurate term: ‘climate destabilization’.

  60. Stella says “Unless we stop procreating mindlessly and start to deindustrialise the society there’s no solution to this world. However clean the technology may be, it will always produce harmful waste.
    And not everyone should have the license to have children.”

    1. Stella asks “Isn’t the current dramatic overpopulation the scientists’ fault? We’ve eliminated natural selection…”
    2. Stella says “The general consensus among scientists was that asbestos, mad cows, DDT, fossil fuel consumption, food stuffed with hormones and antibiotics, etc. were beneficial, too. We should be guided by our common sense, rather than majorities or minorities.”
    3. Stella says “Lighting a branch isn’t technology, much less invention, it’s reproducing naturally occurring phenomenon. And most importantly, you don’t need energy sources to make it work.”
    4. Stella asks “When did I say I was against any technology? I always liked science, but without deifying it.”
  61. I try to explain the difference between relative and absolute humidity to Steven Goddard.

    1. Steve Goddard et al. deny that increasing CO2 raises sea level.
  62. The editor-in-chief of Remote Sensing resigns over the publication of Spencer and Braswell 2011.

    1. Dr. Spencer wrongly claims to be part of the 97% consensus.
    2. Dr. Spencer rants about “global warming Nazis”.
  63. Mike Haseler calls climate science a scam.

  64. Eric Worrall points to one of Steven Goddard’s WUWT articles and says “Grace is a failure – its not measuring what you think.”

    1. Eric insists that Goddard’s point about GRACE is valid.
    2. Eric focuses on how long it will take for Greenland’s ice sheet to entirely disappear and says “A reasonable description of the current rate of ice loss is ‘noise’.”
    3. Eric asks to let him know when the models predict something before it happens.
    4. Eric calls GRACE junk, cites JPL.
    5. Eric implies scientists want to force totalitarian dictatorship, lectures me about quantum physics, PCA, etc.
    6. Eric is trying to keep us from persuading the world to act as one, because he wrongly believes that attempts to reduce CO2 are economically damaging.
    7. Eric et al. praise Lomborg, imply scientists want to kill off most of humanity.
    8. Eric asks about climate sensitivity and the carnivorous unicorn outbreak.
    9. Eric blames me for all the CO2 “fertilizer” and blackmails humanity: “watch our deadlock destroy your world.”
    10. But, Officer, alcohol is a minor trace! Also, it’s such a powerful intoxicant that the first sip saturated my blood!
    11. Let’s take the blue sky from future generations. Babies are unemployed, don’t speak English, and will take our jobs!
  65. Tweed asks if increasing CO2 requires lowering concentrations of other gases.

  66. Treeman repeats Goddard’s misinformation about GRACE.

    1. Treeman claims warming stopped in 1998, wonders if a new Maunder Minimum would lower temperatures, etc.
  67. Mark Imisides claims that increasing CO2 can’t heat the oceans.

  68. At WUWT, Steve Goreham repeats misinformation while accusing the National Academy of Sciences of indoctrinating students with unproven assumptions and ideology.

  69. Bjorn Lomborg, George Will, Fox “news” hide the incline in wildfires and wrongly accuse Obama of fear-mongering.

    1. Ray R. cites Marlon et al. 2012 to downplay recent wildfires in Colorado.
    2. Bjorn Lomborg: “When climate ineffective way to help & poverty very effective, you say ‘let’s spend $xbn on each’? $2xbn on poverty is better
  70. I won’t declare victory until we have some kind of price on carbon.

  71. Heartland Institute “experts” react to science standards. Does the Dunning-Kruger effect explain the Fermi paradox?

  72. Nova et al. claim Antarctic mass gain of 2100 Gt/yr, which implies ocean mass loss ~4x faster than actual total gain.

    1. Nova and Motl agree that @PhysicsGirl is “… an astroturf of a sort who has clearly no idea about the climate …”.
  73. Forbes lets Peter Ferrara deny warming, Antarctic ice mass loss, Arctic sea ice loss, imply tampering…

    1. chrisy spreads misinformation about statistical significance.
    2. John Williams claims climate “scientists” make it up as they go along, repeats McIntyre’s claims of “egregious errors” in MBH98, etc.
    3. Economart (Gary Marshall) laments all the ad hominems from AGW nutjobs, spreads misinformation about Arctic sea ice, asks a “question” about lunar temperatures, etc.
    4. James Taylor denies sea level rise, burns paleoclimate strawmen, notes that he’s nuttier than the Flat Earth Society.
    5. thephysicsguy accuses physicists of thinking the Earth is flat, etc.
  74. I discuss funding conspiracy theories with jdixon1980.

  75. CNBC anchor Joe Kernen compares climate scientists to “high priests” and tweets misinformation.

  76. Meteorologist Kevin Lawrence calls climate change a “farse”, cites climatedepot, WUWT.

  77. Bill Jamison: “Some uninformed people seem to think that ALL (or at least the vast majority) of warming is due solely to increased atmospheric CO2. The educated know that is not what scientists claim.”

    1. Bill claims that almost everyone is in the 97% consensus.
  78. “The Denier” says feedbacks are “hypothetical” and says “if you think you’re pariahs now, you ain’t seen nothin” before asking how fast CO2 emissions need to be reduced.

  79. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher and Stan Sholar accuse climate scientists of fraud.

    1. Rep. Rohrabacher misrepresents the Russian Academy of Sciences.
  80. Josiecki makes claims about ocean acidification, sea level rise, etc.

  81. I visit WUWT and Climate Audit.

  82. I visit “And Then There’s Physics” and Hot Whopper.

  83. Niven and Harrington on grantsuckers.

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  1. Jane’s index continues here.

    1. “The stratosphere isn’t cooling, so greenhouse warming models are fundamentally flawed.”
    2. Someone says that “increasing stratospheric ozone could have significant climate effects, and was completely unknown until now.”
    3. Someone asks “If you’re complaining about a few satellite instruments, why aren’t you complaining about CRU’s temperature proxies based only on a low number of bristlecone pines?”
    4. Someone says “You’ve criticized every climate change skeptic argument I’ve seen presented.”
    5. Someone says “The IPCC screwed up 2350 with 2035 and used non-peer-reviewed sources, so their credibility is shot to hell.”
    6. Someone claims that climate predictions have been mostly wrong, and implies that temperature trends over 8-9 years can be used to evaluate climate predictions.
    7. I explain that scientists have long understood that increasing stratospheric ozone warms the stratosphere, and compare the heat capacities of the troposphere, oceans, and the stratosphere.
    8. Someone says that I’ve contradicted myself by saying that UV is strong enough to cause sunburn, but not strong enough to affect surface temperatures.
    9. Jane Q. Public: “ocean level has actually decreased over the last couple of years.”
    10. Jane Q. Public insists that she made no threat to sue me, and notes that I’m an insufferably arrogant pompous ass doing a “wonderful job of distorting other people’s statements” and inflating my own ego.
    11. Jane notes that “if you actually follow the links he provides, you can easily see how grossly he distorts and cherry-picks my own statements in an attempt to make himself look good.”
    12. Jane observes that the “internet does not constitute safe haven from libel. Other people have been sued in the real world for less, and lost.”
    13. Jane offers a screenshot called “asshole-pseudo-scientist.png”.
    14. Jane didn’t answer because I’d “demonstrated bad faith” in our discussions, but that doesn’t mean she did not have answers.
    15. Jane says “This high-schooler somehow thinks he/she can protect him/her self from libel and copyright … If I were this person, and possessed some intelligence, I would shut this site down. Sadly, it is looking more like he/she is going to end up in Litigation Land.”
    16. Jane: “you have sunk yourself to blatantly obvious ad hominem … You persist in your implication that I ‘threatened’ to sue you? That is laughable. I stated that I was NOT going to sue you. … you seem to be pretty weak at logic.”
    17. Jane: “I am NOT a ‘climate change contrarian’. I simply dispute the validity of certain CO2 warming models.”
    18. Jane: “your further ad hominem, in regard to that article happening to be on a particular website, just makes you look that much more foolish. It is an article about physics. … I don’t think you really CAN refute LaTour’s physics … I really do expect you to run into legal trouble with that blog of yours, if you keep doing it the way you have. I meant that sincerely. But that is a far cry from ever threatening to cause any of it myself… that is something I never stated or even implied.”
    19. Jane: “You are preparing even further ad hominem arguments. … it is pretty obvious that on that same scale you can’t bring yourself to do better than ‘DH1′.”
    20. Jane: “What you are saying, in effect, is that anybody who questions CO2 models is a ‘climate change contrarian‘ … just because YOU and a few fellows define ‘climate change contrarian’ to be anybody who disagrees with your viewpoint, that does not make it so.”
    21. Jane: “I never ‘threatened’ (your word) to sue you anyway. I did the opposite: I specifically stated that I was NOT going to sue you. … YOU link to information about ‘libel’, but you obviously don’t understand the first things about it yourself. You demonstrate as much by somehow equating fair use of recordings of public figures with online libel. … No ‘threat’ intended or implied. I’ll let somebody else nail you for it, as they surely will if you keep it up.”
    22. Jane: “You know very well that I did not ‘threaten’ (your word) to sue you, so why are you linking to libel laws in association with my name? What is the point of bringing it up again in that fashion, unless it is to give readers a false and misleading impression? Once again, I question your methods and your ethics.”
    23. Jane: “you have a lot to learn. … Just another example of your foolish argument style. You would have been booted with prejudice from my high-school debate team.”
    24. Jane: “my honest opinion at the time: your arguments were below the quality of a decent high-school debate, and that if you keep presenting things on your blog in the manner in which you have, then you are likely to get sued (the reference to ‘litigation land’).”
    25. Jane: “a great many scientists believe that land-use changes has had MORE effect on climate than CO2. So this survey is completely useless in determining how many agree about CO2-based warming.”
    26. Jane lectures about the Casimir effect and warp drive.
    27. I debunk Jane’s 2011 lecture on neutrino oscillation.
    28. I debunk Jane and Lonny Eachus when they say respected scientist Prof. Wibjorn Karlen shows that the IPCC reports are BAD SCIENCE, a travesty and a tragedy of data used improperly and irresponsibly, leading to very severe faults with the data that was cherry-picked for IPCC reports.
    29. Jane repeats Prof. Judith Curry’s claims of fraud against Richard Muller regarding the BEST project.
    30. Layzej shows UAH warming since 1980 of 0.16C/decade. Jane accuses him of cherry-picking; suggests starting at 1998 instead.
    31. Jane et al. praise Lomborg, imply scientists want to kill off most of humanity.
    32. Jane: “If they were honest, why are they calling it ‘Climate Change’ now, rather than Global Warming?”
    33. Jane falsely attributes WUWT and Lloyd nonsense to NOAA and IPCC, respectively, denies the last 17 years of warming.
    34. Jane helpfully points out a genuine error in a Slashdot summary regarding temperature and CO2 in the ocean.
    35. Lonny Eachus: “Mann’s work has been pretty thoroughly discredited.”
    36. Here’s #R code showing the (too short!) 1997-2012 trend in Cowtan & Way 2013 is inside HadCRUT4′s error bars.
    37. Jane isn’t smearing CRU.
    38. Jane: “… Even creationists have some facts that support their position…”
    39. Jane cites CFACT about the Spirit of Mawson.
    40. Lonny Eachus complains about rude, aggressive comments.
    41. Jane muses about ENSO and Antarctic sea ice.
    42. Jane: “the earth has been trending warmer for over 6,000 years!”
    43. Jane and Lonny Eachus on correlation.
    44. Jane on Antarctic ice mass, etc.
    45. Jane vs. Jane.
    46. Jane on long-term ice loss.
    47. Jane and Lonny Eachus on ocean acidification.
    48. Jane on sea level rise.
    49. Jane on the hottest May on record.
    50. Jane is Lonny Eachus.
    51. Nobody Jane knows disputes that humans caused the CO2 rise.
    52. Jane/Lonny goes Sky Dragon Slayer.
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People wonder why “climate change” replaced “global warming.”

[Dumb Scientist]

When did “Global Warming” become politically incorrect and “Climate Change” became politically correct? [dwiget001]

When they realized they might be wrong. [girlintraining]

I’ve noticed that shift in wording too. I think it was intended to address some misconceptions the general public has regarding “abrupt climate change A large-scale change in the climate system that takes place over a few decades or less, persists (or is anticipated to persist) for at least a few decades, and causes substantial disruptions in human and natural systems. ” (the officially accepted title).

Most people don’t seem to understand the difference between “local weather” and “global climate.” Local weather is a phenomenon that changes very quickly– sometimes in a matter of minutes. For example, “will it rain tomorrow in Denver?” Local weather is very hard to predict because that requires solving vector-valued numerical models of the motion … and many other properties like pressure, temperature, phase changes, wind speed, humidity, ground water, electric charge, pollution density, tidal forcing, turbulence caused by ground structures, albedo of ground structures, the exact position of the Sun in the sky at each moment, etc. of the atmosphere on a very high-resolution grid. The global climate Hereafter referred to simply as ‘climate.’ ignores these fast variations by averaging the weather over a long period of time (years, at least) and a large area (the entire globe in this case.) Ironically, the climate is actually easier to predict because it just requires Obviously this is a ridiculous oversimplification, but the point is that weather modeling (emphasizing conservation of momentum) brings modern supercomputers to their knees, whereas climate models (emphasizing conservation of energy) aren’t nearly as demanding. Weather models can be described as “initial value” problems which lose “skill” as time goes on, whereas climate models are “boundary value” problems that don’t suffer from the same forecasting limitations. summing energy input and subtracting energy output.

One way to distinguishApparently I’m the only one who found my original tire analogy intuitive, so I replaced it with the more popular NOAA analogy. Here’s the original: One analogy is that it’s easy to predict the pressure in a tire based on the amount of air you put in it, but nearly impossible to predict the exact path of all the air molecules bouncing around inside the tire. Predicting the climate is like predicting the tire’s pressure, while predicting tomorrow’s local weather is more like predicting the path of a single air molecule. between weather and climate is that the climate of your hometown will determine how many sweaters you have in your closet. The weather will determine if you should be wearing a sweater right now. Our inability to model weather says very little about our ability to model the climate, and local weather will always vary randomly. Scientists want to emphasize the word “climate” to stress that cold temperatures on [random day] in [Random Town] don’t disprove abrupt climate change.

Also, the term “global warming” is oversimplified. A more accurate description is that our addition of greenhouse gases has reduced the rate at which thermal energy leaves the planet. As a result, the average energy in the atmosphere and ocean is increasing, which allows this system to “explore more of its phase space.” More energy means more chances of extreme weather– even weather that involves colder temperatures! (Again, note that weather is local and temporary.)

The word “abrupt” was added to emphasize that what we’re experiencing is too fast to be a natural process. The ice core from Vostok shows that CO2 hasn’t risen above 300 ppm parts per million in the last half million years. It has varied in the past, but usually Heinrich and Dansgaard-Oeschger events (among other examples of natural abrupt climate change) show that the natural climate is only fairly stable in the long run. These events show that the climate can quickly move from one stable “attractor” to another. I should stress, however, that results like Meehl 2004 show that today’s changes aren’t natural. over a timespan measured in millennia. Atmospheric CO2 is at 380 ppm parts per million now, and this dramatic rise occurred in the span of several decades. As a result, temperatures are rising faster each decade. Changes this rapid haven’t occurred in the hundreds of thousands of years over which we have records. Keep in mind that scientists are primarily concerned about the unprecedented rate of the current changes in our climate.


Update: Jane Q. Public, Norman Rogers, Eric Worrall, Khallow, Joe Kernen, Anthony Watts and Fox News keep riding this hobby horse.

In reality, the term climate change had been used for decades even before the 1988 formation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change:

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Rrvau asks if scientists predicted an ice age in the 1970s.

[Dumb Scientist]

Paraphrased: “Didn’t scientists predict an ice age in the 1970s?” [rrvau]

In a word: no. That myth can be traced back to sensationalist articles in popular media like Newsweek. Genuinely peer-reviewed scientific articles were far more responsible, which is one reason why I highly recommend learning science from them rather than the general media.

Update: Here’s figure 1 from Peterson et al. 2008:

Number of warming/cooling/neutral papers published in the 1970s

Another update: Dr. Roy Spencer, Jane Q. Public, Lonny Eachus, Eric Worrall, Norman Rogers, Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Steven Goddard, Glenn Beck, Jeff Miller (R-FL), George Will et al. keep riding this hobby horse. Some even use fake magazine covers.

Ironically:

  • The term “global warming” was first used in a 1975 Science article by Wally Broecker called “Are we on the brink of a pronounced global warming?”.
  • Sawyer 1972 estimated climate sensitivity as 2.4°C, and Schneider 1975 gave a preliminary range of 1.5°C to 3.0°C.
  • Manabe and Wetherald, 1975: “The Effects of Doubling the CO2 Concentration on the climate of a General Circulation Model.”
  • In 1977, Freeman Dyson wrote that the “prevailing opinion is that the dangers [of the rise in CO2] greatly outweigh the benefits.”
  • In 1977, Robert M. White, the head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, wrote a report for National Academy of Sciences that said “We now understand that industrial wastes, such as the carbon dioxide released in the burning of fossil fuels, can have consequences for climate that pose a considerable risk to future society.” (White, 1978) White, Robert, 1978, Oceans and Climate Introduction, Oceanus, 21:2-3
  • The 1979 JASON report “The long-term impact of atmospheric carbon dioxide on climate” estimated climate sensitivity as 2.4°C to 2.8°C.
  • The National Academy of Science’s 1979 Charney report estimated climate sensitivity as 1.5°C to 4.5°C and said “If carbon dioxide continues to increase, [we] find no reason to doubt that climate changes will result, and no reason to believe that these changes will be negligible.”

… I still think that it is the ultimate arrogance that humans think they can alter the planets evolution. Think of continental drift and the accompanying earthquakes, volcanic activity etc. and you’ll understand how insignificant humans are. [rrvau]

Continental drift and earthquakes are completely irrelevant to the climate on the kind of timescale we care about. As for volcanic activity, eruptions only put about a hundredth of the CO2 into the atmosphere that humans do. Massive eruptions in the geologically distant past (such as the Siberian traps which are a suspected cause of the Permian extinction) have likely put more CO2 into the atmosphere, but none of the eruptions in the last 500,000 years pushed the CO2 level above 300 ppm parts per million .

Update: I’ve failedTHe IPCC is a political organisation therefore full of bullsh*t. Blaming CO2 is just a reason to tax the air we breathe. Regards, Royce R. Vines to communicate again and again and again and again and again.

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People inquire about the scale and impact of human CO2 emissions.

[Dumb Scientist]

Global warming is a consequence of climate change. Global cooling is a consequence of climate change. [smoker2]

I think the term global dimming more accurately describes a separate problem that is sometimes referred to as global cooling. Aerosols directly reflect sunlight and indirectly decrease the size of cloud droplets, thus increasing the albedo of the clouds. This reflects more sunlight back into space. Its effects have been seen in long term trends of sunlight brightness, and in long term evaporation rate measurements. Surprisingly, evaporation depends Roderick, et al. 2007 also shows that wind speed is a strong factor. on the rate at which photons hit the water’s surface more than typical changes in temperature or humidity, so it serves as an independent check of the phenomenon.

Update: Consider this table of radiative forcings. Forcings that warm the planet are colored red, while forcings that cool the planet are blue. Each forcing has an error bar associated with it, and a “Level of Scientific Understanding” (LOSU) on the right hand side.

Table of radiative forcings

Global dimming isn’t a threat anymore because regulations were effective at curbing emissions of these aerosols. Plus, aerosols don’t stay in the atmosphere for very long, so once we stopped spewing them into the atmosphere the problem went away. CO2, however, stays in the atmosphere for ~100 years, so our children and grandchildren will have to deal with it. Unfortunately, aerosols used to counter the effects of greenhouse gases like CO2. (No, we can’t just start emitting aerosols again and hope they cancel each other out. The biggest reason is that the CO2 will acidify the oceans regardless of whether its temperature effects are cancelled by aerosols.)

… I am not a denier, but I am not about to be told we must halt climate change. This is a phenomenon that is as old as the earth, and to think we can just stop it when we want to is ludicrous. If you want to limit our impact on that change, fair enough. But don’t tell me it has to stop, because you make yourselves look like idiots. The climate has changed in cycles … if you take those same records which are used to promote the current scare tactics, you would see that after it (CO2) goes up, it goes down – way way down. It is cyclic. So even if we completely stop producing CO2 now, the cycle will continue. … So go ahead and do your worst. The only way to stop climate change is to kill the planet.

I think we’re talking about different things. You’re talking about natural variability, and I’m talking about human-caused climate change. Scientists are aware that both phenomena exist, and we can see that our CO2 emissions have recently pushed the climate beyond the range of natural variations.

Update: Smoker2 suggests that NASA is trying to mislead people regarding Arctic sea ice.

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[Dumb Scientist]

The fact is, automobiles account for (at most) 2 percent of CO2 emissions. … We need to convert our major power generation systems to something more reasonable like wind, solar, tidal, geothermal, and (yes) NUCLEAR. [Someone]

Huh? All the data I’ve seen places the “transportation sector” near the top of the list. Here’s a quote: “The transportation sector is the second largest source of CO2 emissions in the U.S. Almost all of the energy consumed in the transportation sector is petroleum based, including gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. Automobiles and light-duty trucks account for almost two-thirds of emissions from the transportation sector and emissions have steadily grown since 1990.”

That said, I do agree that nuclear power is our best course of action.

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An Onerous Coward asks about nuclear and solar power.

[An Onerous Coward]
While I’d replace all coal with nuclear in a heartbeat given the chance, I don’t think nuclear power is viable. To me, it seems too expensive, too politically infeasible, too centralized, and too prone to terrorism. Concentrating solar looks very viable at the moment, and I think geothermal could become a major player before 2020 with the right incentives.

But I think energy efficiency is the untapped gold mine. I’ve seen quotes for nuclear running about $6000-$11000 per installed kW of capacity. By my rough calculations, for $3500 you could buy enough CFL bulbs up front* to eliminate the need for that kW of capacity for 30 years.** Even better, CFLs eliminate that demand precisely when the energy is needed. Any generation-based solution has to predict demand and compensate.

* If you assume that the cost of bulbs will go down over time, or that you could invest the money for the bulbs you don’t need immediately, or that another high-efficiency lighting technology will beat CFLs in the future, the strategy works even better.

** $3/bulb, bulbs last an average of 5 years, running for 3 hours a day on average, 17w CFL vs. 60w incandescent.

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[Dumb Scientist]
Nuclear power is expensive, but it’s the only option available right now that we know works on an industrial scale. Update: My dad just told me about an interesting proposal for small, self-contained, tamper-proof nuclear generators which wouldn’t be as centralized or expensive as our sadly obsolete nuclear plants.

Concentrated solar is certainly the most promising renewable, but it requires massive battery banks, or expensive water pumping schemes to provide a base load at night. That said, I like it a lot more than photovoltaics. Geothermal only works in certain places, and corrosion makes them very expensive to maintain. In either case, we’d need a superconducting power grid to avoid losses from moving energy from the deserts (solar) or hotspots (geothermal). All these goals are noble, but we need power now to replace coal and oil.

Incidentally, tide power and osmotic power are also good long term goals.

And you’re right- efficiency is absolutely necessary. But the newer technology has to be better in every way, otherwise people won’t switch. My mom doesn’t use CFLs because she can’t stand the quality of the light (yes, some are better than others, but still no cigar) and the fact that they don’t reach full brightness immediately. I have them nearly everywhere, but my reading light is still an incandescent because the CFLs that can be dimmed are expensive and don’t look as nice.

Update: In 2012 I replaced my remaining incandescents with Philips Ambient LED bulbs. They’re dimmable, quickly produce a nice spectrum, and as of January 2014 all six of my bulbs still work. I just put their newer household dimmable bulbs in my parents’ house. They’re cheaper and look much less bizarre when turned off than the earlier generation.

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[Dumb Scientist]

My understanding of CSP was that, to increase its baseload ability, you just made it bigger (especially the molten salt tank). I don’t remember the source, but I remember someone was quoted as saying that you can store energy as heat 20x cheaper than you could store it in a battery. As the reservoir gets bigger, it loses heat more slowly. Build it big enough, and you can keep it warm all night, even as you’re drawing power from it. [An Onerous Coward]

Yeah, you might be right about that. I think I remember seeing similar studies, and probably spoke too soon. I’ve yet to be convinced that this is a sure bet, but I’m delighted that Obama is putting more research money into these areas.

You also have the option of burning something to keep the fluid warm, for cloudy days or to provide more baseload.

The only thing we can afford to burn in the long run is hydrogen, which requires energy to produce.

Update: No, actually that’s wrong. You were right about concentrated solar allowing for a burner backup. Biofuels won’t cause any net CO2 increase because their combustion only releases the CO2 they’ve recently absorbed to grow. I’m not a big fan of generation 1 biofuels, because they tend to provide an incentive for farmers to grow crops that humans can’t eat. But generation 2 biofuels use the discarded husks of human-edible plants and might be industrially feasible some day. Genetically engineered bacteria also look like they could produce biofuels given enough time. Also, artificial leaves look promising; they might eventually split water into hydrogen and oxygen far more cleanly than any method available now.

I’m not sure there’d be a point to building that kind of backup into the concentrated solar plant, though. The ability to use the molten salt loop with an oil burner might not be worth the added design complexity, materials and labor. Wouldn’t that be exactly like Well, except for the fact that the soot from this burning would likely fall onto the mirrors. building an ordinary oil-powered backup generator, which we already have in abundance? One potential benefit is that we could decommission the old generators and recycle their parts, but that’s probably more trouble than it’s worth right now.

Transmission losses, while not negligible, seem manageable. I’ve seen figures of about 2-3% to move electricity 600mi using HVDC. I mean, it’s on Wikipedia, so it must be right.

Yes, HVDC looks promising, but some population centers are farther away than that from a good spot for solar or geothermal (not all northern countries are as fortunate as Iceland). In the long run this isn’t a serious problem because we’ll eventually build a superconducting grid, but until then it’s a nuisance.

The big problem I see with the “we need power now” argument is that we could probably install several gigawatts of CSP and wind before we could even get the nuclear reactor through the permitting process.

If it works, that’s great. The problem is that no country has ever successfully powered their civilization in that manner, so it’s a bit of a gamble. France gets 80% of their power from nuclear, so we know it works. I’m also inclined to say that the delay in getting new nuclear plants online is more of a problem with lenders being extremely cautious about nuclear energy because of public disapproval, so the permitting process is much more ridiculous than it should be. Nuclear power isn’t nearly as dangerous as it’s commonly made out to be, and we need enrichment for medical isotopes anyway so terrorism will always be a problem.

I think concentrated solar is great, and might be our best bet in the long run. I just don’t want these unproven technologies to be our only bet. It’d be nice to see our civilization put no more than, say, 30% of our power generation into one particular technology so that the loss of any one mode of power generation isn’t catastrophic.

Update: I’m going to write a separate article about nuclear power whenever school gets less crazy, but for now I’ll quote another couple of paragraphs from the same recent survey:

… About half (51%) of Americans favor building more nuclear power plants to generate electricity, while 42% oppose this. … More college graduates (59%) favor building nuclear power plants than do those with a high school education or less (46%). … Seven-in-ten scientists favor building more nuclear power plants to generate electricity, while 27% are opposed. Among scientists, majorities in every specialty favor building more nuclear power plants, but support is particularly widespread among physicists and astronomers (88% favor). …Pew Research Center

In other words, statistically speaking, the more someone knows about physics, the more they favor nuclear power. I’m just sayin…

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Stormcrow309 asks about potential flaws in the Vostok ice core analysis.

[Dumb Scientist]

… What are the problems with the Vostok data? … [Stormcrow309]

Diffusion of isotopes over time leads to large horizontal error bars (i.e. it’s uncertain when particular temperature/CO2 measurements occurred, especially relative to each other). Accumulation rate uncertainty makes these horizontal uncertainties larger at deeper depths (older ages). But vertical uncertainty is smaller (i.e. the absolute maximum of CO2 is less uncertain). Furthermore, the correlation of those values to the global paleoclimate is still a matter of debate, but ice cores from other locations and other independent proxies yield similar reconstructions.

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[Stormcrow309]
… Petit et al. (1999) takes no effort to describe the methodologies used in handling ice cores, which raises questions on the process used. The line “Ice cores give access to palaeoclimate series that includes local temperature and precipitation rate, moisture source conditions, wind strength and aerosol fluxes of marine, volcanic, terrestrial, cosmogenic and anthropogenic origin” is not attributed, which leads it reading as opinion or possible plagerism (Petit et al., 1999, p. 429). Since it is the bases of the work’s analysis, it would make sense to give that sentence more concrete foothold in established theory. There is no discussion on this approach’s appropriateness or flaws. There is a good discussion on the research team’s reason for limiting the data set but not the impact of that limitation. There is no review of further research questions. It reads as a set of scientists too worried about analysis and not with synthesis. The work is biased to its approach and thusly flawed in its presentation.

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[Dumb Scientist]

… Petit et al. (1999) takes no effort to describe the methodologies used in handling ice cores, which raises questions on the process used. [Stormcrow309]

That’s because they didn’t handle the ice core at all. They simply applied a newer computational algorithm to the data collected from the ice core by other scientists years before they published. In fact, the second to last sentence in the paper says “We thank C. Genthon and J. Jouzel for performing the CO2 spectral analysis…” Their papers are, of course, listed at the end with all the other references.

Just in case you don’t have free access to Nature articles, I’ve found a source (see section II) that provides a rough overview of the way the ice core was handled. It was sliced into 1.5m sections, put into a clean stainless steel tube in Grenoble, France and melted so that various types of spectroscopic and chemical analysis could be performed. Update: Eric Steig points out that handling methods were studied decades ago, so they’re careful to keep the temperature of the ice cores below -10°C.

But it needs to be stressed that a deep understanding of this process is only available from the original peer-reviewed articles. I only linked that website for the benefit of people who don’t have free access to journals through their universities.

The line “Ice cores give access to palaeoclimate series that includes local temperature and precipitation rate, moisture source conditions, wind strength and aerosol fluxes of marine, volcanic, terrestrial, cosmogenic and anthropogenic origin” is not attributed, which leads it reading as opinion or possible plagerism (Petit et al., 1999, p. 429). Since it is the bases of the work’s analysis, it would make sense to give that sentence more concrete foothold in established theory.

It might be a good idea to read at least the next few sentences before making accusations of plagiarism. When you do, notice that you quoted the “topic sentence” of that paragraph. Other sentences in the paragraph serve to expand on individual points in the topic sentence, and they’re all referenced. In fact, there are no less than 14 references you can read (they’re all listed at the end of the article) to catch up on the science contained in that sentence.

There is no discussion on this approach’s appropriateness or flaws.

Really? How about…

  1. Page 431, paragraph 2, sentence 4. “This approach underestimated deltaTs by a factor of ~2 in Greenland (ref 22) and, possibly, by up to 50% in Antarctica (ref 23).”
  2. Page 431, paragraph 3. The entire paragraph is devoted to understanding shortcomings in the deuterium-temperature connection.
  3. Page 431, paragraph 4, sentence 3. “… the Vostok record may differ from coastal (ref 28) sites in E. Antarctica and perhaps from West Antarctica as well.”
  4. Page 434, paragraph 6, sentence 4: “However, considering the large gas-age/ice-age uncertainty (1000 years, or even more if we consider the accumulation-rate uncertainty), we feel that it is premature to infer the sign of the phase relationship between CO2 and temperature at the start of the terminations.”

There is a good discussion on the research team’s reason for limiting the data set but not the impact of that limitation.

Limiting the data set in what sense? If you’re referring to the fact that they stopped drilling to avoid contaminating Lake Vostok, the impact of that limitation is that the time series stops roughly 500,000 years ago rather than extending slightly farther back in time. If you’re talking about some other data set limitation, you’ll need to be a little more specific so I know precisely what you mean.

There is no review of further research questions.

Really? how about…

  1. Page 433, paragraph 4, sentence 3: “We suggest that there also may be some link between the Vostok dust record and deep ocean circulation through the extension of sea ice in the South Atlantic Ocean, itself thought to be coeval with a reduced deep ocean circulation34.”
  2. Page 435, paragraph 1, sentence 1: “We speculate that the same is true for terminations II, III and IV.”
  3. Page 435, paragraph 1, sentence 6: “We speculate that variability in phasing from one termination to the next reflects differences in insolation curves (ref 41) or patterns of abyssal circulation during glacial maximum.”
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[Dumb Scientist]

Are you talking about: J R Petit, J Jouzel, D Raynaud, N I Barkov, et al. (1999). Climate and atmospheric history of the past 420,000 years from the Vostok ice core, Antarctica. Nature, 399(6735), 429-436. Retrieved April 7, 2009, from ProQuest Medical Library database. (Document ID: 42351682)? Because the phrase is not in there. The paper reads like the researchers were involved in the drilling. [Stormcrow309]

Yeah, that’s the paper I originally linked, but you’re right– the phrase isn’t there. I was at work (with access to the journals) when I wrote that, and had 4-5 of the older Vostok papers open at once. That particular phrase is probably in one of those papers, but I don’t have journal access at home (and my cache is empty) so I can’t verify that right now. The phrase you’re looking for in the paper I did link is below the references, in the Acknowledgements section: “We thank the drillers from the St. Petersburg Mining Institute; the Russian, French and US participants for field work and ice sampling…”

Sorry about the confusion; I was juggling too many papers to keep them all straight on my desktop. But you can also verify that J. Jouzel is referenced many times, with reference 6 being published in 1987 (several years after the section from 950-2083m was extracted in 1982-83), and 12,13 published in 1993 and 1996. C. Genthon is reference 14, published in 1987.

I must humbly disagree that the paper “read like the researchers were involved in the drilling.” They’ve certainly tried to describe the drilling process in a brief manner for the benefit of the reader, but acknowledged the hard work of their fellow scientists, thanked them for their contributions, and provided citations to their original work in extracting and sampling the ice core. It all seems perfectly civilized.

They limited the ice core due to volcanic activity without discussing the impact. None of my editors would allow me to get away with that.

That limitation has exactly the same impact as stopping the drilling above Lake Vostok. It merely truncates the time series, preventing the reconstruction of data earlier than 423,000 years ago. You’re probably thinking about studies which fail to sample the population in a uniform or unbiased manner, and thus alter the resulting statistics because they’re using a skewed sample. This is a serious problem in many sociological studies, but it’s not a relevant concern here. An ice core taken from a shallower hole (like the 3310m core in the paper) has precisely one impact: it provides data back to 423,000 years before the present instead of even further back in time.

Update: The Vostok ice core data have now been confirmed by the EPICA ice core data. Not only do they agree with the Vostok data, EPICA extends the time series back to 650,000 years before the present.

EPICA ice core data

In addition, the flaws I listed have been addressed, and the historical maximum was defended– this is the reference he mentions. Also, here’s a good list of Vostok references and the actual data.

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m4cph1sto doubts that temperatures are increasing.

[Dumb Scientist]

I’m a scientist too, and I judge theories based on merit, not popular opinion. [m4cph1sto]

(Ed. note: In a much later post, he elaborates on a similar claim by explaining that he’s an engineer. See the Salem Hypothesis, or my discussion of its application to this debate.)

As a rule, scientific theories are not accepted by the scientific community until they have done two things: (1) explained known observations in a more simple or fundamental way than alternative theories, and (2) made a prediction about something that is currently unknown and that other theories don’t predict, which is then confirmed by observation.

Global Warming theory has met neither of those requirements. The main statement of Global Warming is something like this: “small changes in the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere cause large changes in global temperature”. Despite this theory, there is absolutely no evidence that a change in CO2 has ever caused the temperature to change, over the entire billions-years history of the planet. So GW theory doesn’t explain past observations.

Abrupt climate change A large-scale change in the climate system that takes place over a few decades or less, persists (or is anticipated to persist) for at least a few decades, and causes substantial disruptions in human and natural systems. is the direct result of an unprecedented excavation of fossil fuels, and the combustion of said fuels which releases CO2 into the atmosphere that’s been trapped for millions of years. It’s not supposed to explain past observations. Update: Remember the ending of Snowball Earth, that little kerfuffle with the Siberian Traps, and the PETM.

It doesn’t explain current observations either: CO2 concentration has steadily increased over the past 100 years, while temperatures have gone up, then down, then up again, then down again (as they are currently). There is no dramatic warming trend as predicted by GW theory.

I’ve never met a scientist who made a claim like the one you’re attributing to me. Most scientists recognize that long term trends are only discernable in the data after accounting for annual variations, multi-year variations, etc. Once those fluctuations are removed by a 5 year averaging procedure, a disturbing upward trend is apparent.

Finally, GW has not made any unique predictions that have later been confirmed as true. It predicted more and bigger hurricanes; that hasn’t happened. It predicted significant temperature increases; that hasn’t happened. In fact, the theory seems totally based on computer models that have failed to make a single correct prediction about the climate ever since I first started following the issue, in 1998.

To summarize, GW theory does not meet the standards of scientific acceptance, not by a long shot.

First, the temperature is increasing. Second, the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report made a very limited claim regarding hurricanes: “It is more likely than not (>50%) that there has been some human contribution to the increases in hurricane intensity.”

Third, Meehl 2004 showed convincing proof that natural forcing can’t account for recent global temperature trends, but including anthropogenic forcing provides a good match for the data.

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[Dumb Scientist]

Look at the data again. There is most assuredly a dramatic warming trend, despite the slight decrease in global mean temperature over the past few years. Run a regression on the data, it’s quite clear. [Red Flayer]

You mean this data? … Or this one? [m4cph1sto]

Interestingly, I posted another reply to your parent comment that also included those links. Except, I linked to the main page. I was referring to the figures above the one you directly linked to. Figures A2 and A show the Global Annual Mean Surface Air Temperature Change, measured using two different data sets. Uncertainty is indicated by the green bars. Notice the trend in both figures.

Instead, look at the temperature trends I linked to above, based only on direct measurements made in the United States since 1880, or “mean global temperature” using modern measurement techniques (since 1996). These datasets are, IMO, the only ones we can believe with any confidence. Is there a dramatic warming trend? The answer is as likely no as yes, or a resounding “we don’t know”.

The graph you’re talking about from 1880 onwards is from this paper, where they specifically state that the warming in the U.S. is known to be smaller than the rest of the world. The reasons for this are not (to my knowledge) completely understood. But the rest of the world have had temperature sensors too, we’ve had satellites up for decades, and we can use proxies to confirm that global temperatures are increasing at an unprecedented rate. Update: More recent studies confirm that the U.S. temperature increase matches those in the rest of the world.

In my opinion, any evidence based on “global temperature” that includes data from more than just recent years should be viewed with scepticism, because our worldwide measurement and calculation techniques have changed dramatically, which likely skews the results in one direction or another. NASA presents data on mean global temperature extending from today back to 1880 as a single line graph with no error bars, which is ridiculous.

Figure A is based on this article, which describes adjusting for inhomogeneities in station records and station history adjustments. Sensibly integrating differing data sets is an irritating task, and it’s an ongoing process. But it doesn’t seem to be a problem climate scientists are ignoring– the techniques for dealing with non-uniform noise characteristics and biases in different data sets are well known.

Furthermore, we don’t just have to rely on mechanical recording devices. Tree rings, coral growth rates, borehole measurements and ice core proxies can be used to independently verify the temperature record. They agree to within the limits of experimental and algorithmic uncertainty.

My point is that arriving at a “mean global temperature” is a very difficult calculation to make.

I wholeheartedly agree. I think scientists should be careful to state the estimated uncertainty in all their statements, and abrupt climate change is no exception. It’s just that the error bars are now small enough to rule out the hypotheses “climate change isn’t happening” and “climate change is largely natural.”

Update: After further thought, I think m4cph1sto was referring to a recent argument circulating around “skeptic” sites claiming that the average temperature has been decreasing since 1998. I’ll let Rei handle this one:

FYI: 1998 was one of the strongest El Nino events in modern history. El Nino raises the atmosphere’s temperature by slowing the upwelling of deep, cold water in the eastern pacific. La Nina cools it by just the opposite. It doesn’t change the long-term picture, of course; the rate at which water cycles in the ocean has no bearing on how much total heat input there is into the system; ocean waters aren’t magically decoupled from the rest of our atmosphere. It’s just a source of white noise on top of the blatantly obvious signal. [Rei]

Another Update: This subject came up again here.

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Jane Q. Public asks if sunspot activity causes global warming, among many other topics.

[Jane Q. Public]
…one theory is that lack of sunspots causes Earth to warm up. (There is a very strong negative correlation between sunspot activity and temperature on Earth.)

Maybe now we’ll find out who’s right.

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[DarkHelmet]

No it doesn’t [youtube.com].

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[Jane Q. Public]
I was wrong about the correlation being negative, but I was not wrong about the correlation. But one thing pointed out in your video, that solar activity has not corresponded to temperature in just the last few years, is totally meaningless. Long-term trends are the only ones that matter. And as for long-term predictions, nothing comes close to beating the analysis of sunspots. The science is good. Very good.

I’ll see your YouTube video, and raise you one:
video [youtube.com]
video [youtube.com]

And a whole bunch of articles:
article [typepad.com]
article [wordpress.com]
article [bbc.co.uk]
article [examiner.com]
article [mlive.com]
article [wordpress.com]

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[Repossessed]
Do you have any citable sources? Those are blog postings and new sites (which is even worse than a blog).

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[Jane Q. Public]
Sources were referenced in both the videos and the articles. I would think that a few minutes with Google should lead you to them.

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[Repossessed]
Wikipedia is not a citable source, nor does it have the details necessary for me to do a peer review.

None of your links have any actual data to them, they do not have citations which include the data. They do not include the equations used to come to the conclusions either. Without those, there is no way to determine if the theory has merit.

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[Jane Q. Public]
I see. So a presentation by a University professor about his research project is not self-citing?

Are you completely inept at Google? You can’t find his name or the research he was demonstrating?

Look, bud. This is not a peer-reviewed journal itself. If you can’t find the data from the information given (I did), then just blow it off and say you don’t believe it. I don’t care one way or another. But I am not going to spend a half hour looking it up again just for you.

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[Repossessed]
I have no interest in believing thing or not believing them, I have an interest in knowing if they are true.

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[Jane Q. Public]
Look, guy. I literally just spent 10 seconds on Google and found plenty of information about David Archibald, including a new paper he published just this month.

Do you own damned homework, and stop demanding to be spoon-fed by others. I won’t respond to you again.

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[Repossessed]
And yet you are incapable of providing me with that information.

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[Jane Q. Public]
NO, just unwilling, you lazy ass. When I was young (NOT that damned long ago), finding information like this meant spending a day at the library finding out what books contained the information, then arranging for inter-library loans, and waiting a week to a month or even longer for the books to even get there.

I am not Al Gore, to pretend that I “invented the internet”. But I have spent a good part of my life helping to build the infrastructure that brings this information to your fingertips. And if you are too goddamned lazy to lift those fingertips to even bother to look something the fuck up, when you so easily can, then I am NOT going to help you!

Is there anything unclear about that???

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[Dumb Scientist]
You’re suggesting that other people should embark on a wild goose chase to try to find respectable references behind the pseudoscientific sites that you clearly believe are more rigorous than Nature and Science? Curiously, you haven’t even responded to the reasonable and insightful comments by Geoffrey Landis in this very page. I guess it really is true that “you can’t reason someone out of a position that she didn’t reason herself into in the first place.”

Incidentally, I know this won’t sway you, but I study the climate in my day job and all your posts prove is that you’ve never taken graduate-level classes in this area. Every serious climatologist that I’ve met at the conferences agrees with the mountain of evidence showing that sunspots aren’t strongly correlated with climate. Again, see Geoffrey’s posts.

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(Ed note: At this point, Jane responds to Geoffrey with a truly epic post that I later responded to.)

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[Jane Q. Public]
No, I was suggesting that ONE particular person was being a lazy ass, and trying to put demands on me as a result. As I have mentioned, one of his questions could have easily been answered had he bothered to spend literally 10 seconds on Google.

Further, I had in fact answered one of Geoffrey’s posts, and I have just answered another one, at length, with a reply that indirectly references about 150 or more peer-reviewed scientific papers. That will have to be good enough, because I am tired of catering to lazy asses who believe what they are told on the 11 o’clock news, and who can’t be bothered to do any real research or even lookups on their own.

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[Dumb Scientist]
Or maybe scientists aren’t the brainwashed idiots you clearly think we are? We’re aware that the Sun exists, and that it impacts the climate. But the overwhelming evidence is that sunspots have a negligible impact on the climate.

People are asking you for serious, peer-reviewed references not because scientists are idiots who “believe what they are told on the 11 o’clock news, and who can’t be bothered to do any real research or even lookups on their own” but because we’ve spent our lives studying these issues and what you’re saying contradicts all the evidence we’ve seen.

Further, I had in fact answered one of Geoffrey’s posts, and I have just answered another one, at length, with a reply that indirectly references about 150 or more peer-reviewed scientific papers. [Jane Q. Public]

Here’s proof that the Moon doesn’t cause the tides, that the Earth is less than 10,000 years old, and that the Earth doesn’t move. The website has more than 150 peer-reviewed references, I’m sure!

Not convinced? Why not? Do you see any difference between the post you wrote in response to Geoffrey Landis and the fixedearth.com website? Because I don’t. That’s why we’re asking you to provide us with a direct link to an actual peer-reviewed article supporting your claim that sunspots are responsible for global warming. It’s all too common for pseudoscientists to quote legitimate articles to support their outlandish claims, and then ignore the scientists’ complaints.

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[Dumb Scientist]

Apparently you think *I* am an idiot. Try reading the goddamned thread. … If you really don’t want to be perceived as a “brainwashed idiot”, maybe you could bother to figure out what the argument is about before you put in your irrelevant 2 cents. … As for the rest, you are one of those lazy asses I mentioned. … But you are too damned lazy to look any of them up? … And yes, that to me means “brainwashed idiot”. … get off your lazy ass and LOOK IT UP YOURSELF!!! … since you insist on being spoon-fed … There are many more, very easily found, but I am not going to do your homework for you. Now go away. You disgust me. [Jane Q. Public]

There’s really no need to be so uncivilized. I’m just saying that all your posts on this subject clearly imply that scientists are either so stupid that they overlook trivially obvious “problems” with their own research, or that they’re willing members in a global conspiracy. Based on your (mistaken) assumption that I haven’t read this thread, I don’t have to guess which of these alternatives you’ve chosen in my case. Pity. I bet conspirators get jetpacks!

And I most certainly do not think you’re an idiot. At worst, I think you’re making mistakes while talking about a highly advanced subject that lies far outside of your own professional experience. Everyone does that. It’d be a different story if I were saying that you were pathetically wrong about your own life’s work… the subject that you’ve studied since childhood with the passionate intensity of a monk. I’d never insult you like that; at most I’d simply ask polite questions to try to understand your subject of expertise better.

First, the Petition Project is a legitimate collection of scientists.

I asked for peer-reviewed references, not a list of people with PhDs. There’s a difference. A list of PhDs is an appeal to authority. A peer-reviewed article is evidence of a very specific claim, along with equations and links to data that I could use to verify the claim. It’s given weight by the confrontational nature of the review process in addition to the fact that everyone involved has a PhD in that specific field. Like other people who take your position, you appear to think that science is democratic– that scientific decisions are made by comparing the number of people on each side. It’s not. It’s about evidence.

So, since you insist on being spoon-fed, here is one: Solar Cycles and Predicted Climate Response, which appeared in Energy & Environment (an appropriately peer-reviwed journal) in 2006. You asked for one, you got it.

My apologies. I wasn’t nearly specific enough in my original request. Scientific journals are rather specialized, and we’re discussing a very specialized hard science topic. It wouldn’t be appropriate to reference an article from a social science journal (which is what Energy & Environment is). The reason is that the referees need to be experts in their field in order to properly vet the paper. Journals I’d suggest reading are Science, Nature, Journal of Geophysical Research, Geophysical Research Letters, Physical Review, Physical Review Letters, Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics, Journal of Climate, Environmental Research Letters, Climatic Change, etc.

I’m sorry for not making that caveat more explicit, but I figured it was an assumption that all scientists would make…

But I’ll make it up to you. Here’s an article by Friis-Christensen and K. Lassen, published in Science in 1991. This would have been a legitimate example of a peer-reviewed journal article supporting your claim.

Of course, it’s incorrect. You can find out how– if you’re interested– by following its citations in google scholar to the present. For nonscientists, read the summary here. The moral of this story is that data smoothing is difficult to do in an objective manner, which is something all computational scientists screw up on occasion. Please don’t mistake this comment as criticism of Friis-Christensen or K. Lassen– I’ve certainly made far bigger mistakes in my own research. The ability to admit a mistake and move on is the mark of a true scientist.

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[Dumb Scientist]

Like other people who take your position, you appear to think that science is democratic… [Dumb Scientist]

THAT is complete bullshit. That is the exactly the point that I made in a preceding post… and you claim to have read this thread??? Go back and read it again. You are in error. [Jane Q. Public]

When asked for a peer-reviewed article, you presented a list of scientists. It doesn’t really matter what you’ve written in any other post– this kind of category error gives the appearance that you think science is democratic because that’s the only scenario in which this wouldn’t be a category error.

… Note that peer review is a necessary but not sufficient condition for establishing a valid scientific claim. Not all peer-reviewed papers are accurate, as I’ve shown. But if you want respect from scientists, you have to first rise above this reliance on pseudo-scientific websites that display approximately the same level of rigor and oversight as this site.

And perhaps that particular article WAS wrong. But I have cited — and pointed you to — much more recent research that contradicts that. [Jane Q. Public]

More recent != This is C++ for “is not equal to.” more credible. If they were both articles in Science, yes, all other things being equal, the more recent article would have more weight (unless it was so new that other scientists hadn’t yet had time to respond to it.) In fact, that article you’re leaning on quotes Friis-Christensen and K. Lassen (1991) several times, without seeming to understand that the reason their conclusions aren’t valid has little to do with the data they used; the real problem is the way they smoothed the data. My other post quotes legitimate, peer-reviewed articles showing this warming is due mainly to anthropogenic CO2.

Journals I’d suggest reading are Science, Nature, Journal of Geophysical Research, Geophysical Research Letters, Physical Review[Dumb Scientist]

Aha. Exactly those journals that have been experiencing famous failures of the peer-review system in recent years? Of course. Sir, that was only one paper out of a great many. I repeat: why do you want me to do your homework for you? You refuse to look these things up for yourself… [Jane Q. Public]

… I can’t help but point out that you’ve casually dismissed every top-tier hard-science journal, in favor of a social science journal. With all due respect, Science, Nature and all the other journals I mentioned are where science actually happens. The claim that sunspot cycle length correlates well with Earth’s average temperature was made in the mainstream journals in 1991. But it was quickly shown to be a spurious connection based on data smoothing parameters. The fact that Energy & Environment didn’t catch this when the argument was made again 15 years later just shows that they’re not experts in the field. As I’ve said, there’s no shame in that. I’m not an expert in all subjects in the universe, so I don’t fault their lack of highly specialized knowledge in this particular subject any more than my lack of knowledge about synchronized swimming is a black mark on my career as a climate scientist. I’m sure their journal is excellent at analyzing the social science issues associated with energy use, and those issues are important too.

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[Jane Q. Public]
As I stated before, I only found that paper after you asked me to find one, and I was not particularly careful in choosing it; you had asked for a peer-reviewed paper, and I just grabbed the first one that was visible. And indeed, some of its claims do appear to be refuted, particularly in a paper by P. Damon, published in Eos in 2004. However, though you apparently knew this (as, I could guess, did Mr. Landis), neither of you bothered to cite any kind of actual data in an attempt to refute the one paper I provided, per your request.

After you mentioned the data smoothing issue, it took me about 2 minutes to find Damon’s paper. If I had been aware of it in advance, I would of course not have offered that paper. But if you really wanted to make a point — and practice what you preach — you should have cited your sources. Instead, you left me to look it up… which makes you are guilty of exactly the same faux pas of which you accuse me. In point of fact, Damon’s paper itself states, “The graphs [from Friis-Christensen and Lassen] are still widely referred to in the literature,and their misleading character has not yet been generally recognized.” Without citing sources, then, how did you expect me to know? …

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[Dumb Scientist]
Thanks for the link. You’re right, it is a good paper. I’m sorry that I missed it.

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(Ed note: This post was written in response to Jane’s huge post which she wrote in response to Geoffrey Landis.)

[Dumb Scientist]
Mon Dieu! Quantity != This is C++ for “is not equal to.” quality. You’d get a lot more respect if you’d simply link to one or two legitimate, peer-reviewed articles instead of dozens of pseudoscientific websites. I don’t have time to relieve you of all your misconceptions, but here are the most glaring errors:

If you had done your homework (or even watched the YouTube videos I posted above), … On the contrary, if you had watched those YouTube videos I linked to… [Jane Q. Public]

We’re scientists, not preteens looking for cat videos. Link to peer-reviewed articles or expect to be ignored.

Anthropogenic CO2 is the cause of a small, but measurable, increase in average global temperature. This temperature increase is a detectable deviation away from the statistical variations due to natural causes, and is now quite well understood. [Geoffrey Landis]

That is the most ridiculous thing I have heard to date. It is NOT known, precisely because it has been impossible to statistically separate it from other influencing factors. (Including sunspots!) While many scientists believe that it probably has some effect, nobody has yet managed to measure it with any real statistical significance. Where did you get this idea, anyway? Do you have any sources that purport to have this measurement? The fact is that such a beast does not exist! [Jane Q. Public]

Geoffrey’s statement is most certainly not ridiculous. I suggest looking at the IPCC 4th report. Download chapter 3, open the PDF to page 15 (which is labeled 249) and look at figure 3.6. These data show a global temperature increase of 0.65 °C plus or minus 0.2 °C over the period from 1901 to 2005. The report notes that this rate is higher than at any other point since the 11th century. Meehl 2004 shows that this warming can’t be explained by natural forcings alone, but including anthropogenic CO2 emissions matches the observations very well. And, yes, those “natural forcings” include variations in solar output, which can be measured by satellites so there’s no need to search for weak correlations in sunspot data.

Furthermore, as I’ve repeatedly argued, Vostok shows that the current CO2 level is higher than it’s been in half a million years. If you don’t think that CO2 can warm the planet, I suggest you remember your sophomore-level physics classes and examine the spectrum of the Sun. Then open a textbook and examine the absorption spectrum of CO2. Notice that the peak of the Sun’s radiation goes through? Now open your thermodynamics textbook and calculate the blackbody radiation of a planet at 286K. Notice that the CO2 absorbs more of this radiation.

That’s why scientists say that CO2 is warming the planet. It’s not exactly cutting-edge science.

Most of the science that is used to support the greenhouse warming model come from the IPCC Assessment reports, and much of that “science” has been shown to be flawed, not to mention that the reports themselves are heavily politicized, and their conclusions do not match the actual science that they reference. [Jane Q. Public]

That’s exactly backwards. The IPCC reports are simply compilations of pre-existing, peer-reviewed science. I’ve read their reports and talked with scientists whose work is referenced in the IPCC reports. No scientist I’ve met (in public or private) thinks your conspiracy theory is valid. In fact, I’ve personally confirmed the mass loss in Greenland’s glaciers with my own research. I’ve seen climate change happening with my own data and my own personal algorithms. Does that mean I’m part of the conspiracy too?

Below I link to a letter from Chris Landsea, who is the one who actually did the research on whether hurricanes and typhoons would increase in number or severity due to global warming. His conclusion was that they would not. BUT… the IPCC didn’t let that stop them.

Yes, science is sometimes contentious (which seems to contradict your opinion that scientists are either brainwashed into accepting global warming, or engaged in a massive conspiracy.) Also, the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report made a very limited claim regarding hurricanes: “It is more likely than not (>50%) that there has been some human contribution to the increases in hurricane intensity.”

The giant red “hockey stick” graph from Al Gore’s movie? (The researches who published that paper have publicly admitted that it was based on faulty procedures and have officially withdrawn it.)

I’m not sure what you’re referring to here, but I see no reason to doubt the overall accuracy of that graph.

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[Dumb Scientist]

Therefore, the statement in AR4 that “It is more likely than not (>50%) that there has been some human contribution to the increases in hurricane intensity.” is likely an exaggeration, not supported by the actual research. [Jane Q. Public]

According to the IPCC guidance note on uncertainty, that’s basically the weakest statement they could make without being utterly silent. (See table 4.) Months ago, I said that hurricane intensity couldn’t be linked to climate change, and I later corrected another poster who was under the impression that the available data contained a clear correlation between hurricanes and climate change.

If the IPCC report had used any other qualifier from table 4, you might have a more convincing point. Furthermore, another paper in Science says “Results show that the increasing trend in number of category 4 and 5 hurricanes for the period 1970-2004 is directly linked to the trend in SST [sea surface temperature].” Dr. Landsea is a legitimate scientist, but he’s not the only one studying hurricanes, and I fail to see how his claims automatically rule out those of other scientists– especially when they’re making such a weak claim given the observed trends.

And, yes, those “natural forcings” include variations in solar output, which can be measured by satellites at L1 so there’s no need to search for weak correlations in sunspot data. [Dumb Scientist]

Please be specific. “Solar output” can mean many things. [Jane Q. Public]

I was quoting Meehl 2004 in that sentence, which itself quotes Meehl 2003 to show that variations in solar luminosity affect the climate. Of course, Meehl 2004 shows that this effect isn’t responsible for the warming in the latter half of the century, which is shown to be due to anthropogenic CO2 emissions.

And by the way, I would like to point out a mistake you have made more than once: there is in fact a clear and valid correlation between sunspot cycles and Earth surface temperature, from the distant past up to at least the mid-20th century. [Jane Q. Public]

Further, while it was implied by Mr. Landis, neither of you bothered to acknowledge that there is in fact a strong correlation, at least up to the mid-20th century. Instead, you gave me the impression that you were disputing any correlation at all, which I knew to be incorrect. [Jane Q. Public]

First of all, Dr. Landis and I were careful to hedge our claims. Here are all the statements I’ve made (unless I’ve missed one?) regarding the correlation between sunspot cycle length and the climate:

  • Every serious climatologist that I’ve met at the conferences agrees with the mountain of evidence that show sunspots aren’t strongly correlated with climate. [emphasis added]
  • … the overwhelming evidence is that sunspots have a negligible impact on climate. [emphasis added]
  • The claim that sunspot cycle length correlates well with Earth’s average temperature was made in the mainstream journals in 1991. [emphasis added]
  • … so there’s no need to search for weak correlations in sunspot data. [emphasis added]

Which of these statements gave you the impression that I was “disputing any correlation at all”?

Based on your response to Abcd1234 (who carefully said that the correlation hasn’t been true for the last 50 years), I’d assumed you were talking about the last 50 years. In fact, that’s why I stopped lurking. Did I misunderstand your post?

Secondly, you’ve been emphatically denying that the correlation you’re proposing is between luminosity and climate. But that’s precisely what Meehl 2003,2004 and most other peer-reviewed papers show. A correlation between luminosity variations and Earth’s climate isn’t in dispute. What those papers emphatically don’t show is that variations in luminosity are responsible for recent warming, or that variations in sunspot cycle length have a significant effect on the climate.

Update: A good reference regarding solar variability is section 2.7.1 on pages 188-193 of chapter 2 in the 4th IPCC report.

Previously, you cited luminosity data when I had clearly stated that the correlation was with period length, not luminosity.

That’s because other correlations have been disproven by later research, as you now seem to agree. I was just trying to steer you back towards the only correlation that’s well-established in the peer-reviewed literature.

Another problem with your claim is that some kind of mechanism other than variations in luminosity would be needed to support your hypothesis. For example, in this post you claim “The sunspot activity tends to blow away the solar winds, allowing more radiation to get through to Earth’s surface.”

This is indeed a claim made in a real journal. But it’s far more controversial than you’re implying. The maximum impact of this mechanism has been estimated to be responsible for no more than 23% of the 11-year cyclical variation of cloud cover. Furthermore, there’s no long term trend in Svensmark’s data, which would be necessary to explain the long term warming trend that’s been observed. For more information, see chapter 7.10 of this textbook.

Furthermore, as I’ve repeatedly argued, Vostok shows that the current CO2 level is higher than it’s been in half a million years. [Dumb Scientist]

Once again: correlation alone does not imply causation. You have to show cause, not just correlation. Otherwise you have demonstrated nothing. [Jane Q. Public]

Strong correlation plus a demonstrated causal mechanism does imply causation, though. Many nonscientists seem to get stuck on the fact that the causal mechanism between CO2 and temperature works both ways. In the paleoclimate record, temperature swings induced by (among other things) Milankovitch cycles are amplified by CO2. An astonishing number of “skeptics” appear to think the ~800 year phase lag between CO2 and temperature proves Joe Barton to Al Gore: ‘An article from Science magazine explains a rise in CO2 concentrations actually lagged temperature by 200 to 1000 years. CO2 levels went up after the temperature rose. Temperature appears to drive CO2, not vice versa.’ that CO2 can’t drive temperatures. This sort of bizarre statement seldom (if ever) shows up in peer-reviewed journals, though, because it’s simply not true.

The real point of these ice core analyses is that the natural climate experiences a temperature rise centuries before CO2 rises. That’s not happening now, because the CO2 in the air isn’t part of a natural feedback cycle. Instead, we dug it out of the ground in unprecedented amounts and pumped it straight into the atmosphere. Thus we’re not looking at natural climate change, it’s anthropogenic abrupt climate change A large-scale change in the climate system that takes place over a few decades or less, persists (or is anticipated to persist) for at least a few decades, and causes substantial disruptions in human and natural systems. .

Also, the natural climate exhibits feedback effects wherein higher temperatures release CO2 from natural reservoirs such as the ocean and permafrost. This feedback CO2 is completely different from the anthropogenic CO2 that’s already pushed the concentration 26% above its natural peak, which means that the climate is likely to get even warmer due to natural feedback effects when that natural CO2 is released.

In short, the phase lag has persisted for at least 650,000 years, but it isn’t happening today because we’re not experiencing natural climate change any more.

Then open a textbook and examine the absorption spectrum of CO2. [Dumb Scientist]

I suggest that YOU look at the absorption spectrum of a cloud. See how they compare… it is not as simple as all that. [Jane Q. Public]

I first encountered the absorption spectrum of water in my first thermodynamics class, ~10 years ago when I was a sophomore physics undergrad. My professor, Dr. Glenn Agnolet, was an especially good lecturer, and pointed out that it’s not a coincidence that humans consider 400nm-700nm to be “visible light.” That’s because there’s a very narrow range of low absorption surrounding those values. It’s also not a coincidence that bees and small birds can see UV while we can’t, because our large watery eyes filter it out, but a smaller eye filters less UV so they evolved receptors for it.

Amusingly, this spectrum even has military significance in that the only frequency ranges useful for talking to submerged submarines have wavelengths longer than a kilometer. Not only does the transmitter have to be kilometers across and placed on a site with very low ground conductivity so it’s located in Wisconsin, the low frequency also results in very slow data transfer rates. That’s why subs receive messages in shorthand even to this day. Water’s absorption spectrum has fascinated me ever since.

But presumably you were implying that the existence of a stronger greenhouse gas like H2O (which in our atmosphere accounts for roughly 3x the warming of CO2) means that CO2 is irrelevant. However, the lifetime of CO2 in the atmosphere is much longer than water vapor, because oceans cover 71% of the Earth’s surface and therefore H2O reaches equilibrium in a matter of days. In other words, if we pumped gigatons of water vapor into the atmosphere, it would be back in the oceans within a few weeks. On the other hand, CO2 stays in the atmosphere for many decades, which is why it’s so dangerous. Water vapor concentration is also low in the stratosphere, so CO2 is more important there.

Update: This was a general response to claims about water vapor, which keep getting repeated.

I am not citing some “conspiracy theory”, though I will admit that it may seem that way. [Jane Q. Public]

Yes, it definitely does. Ironically, the very next statements in your post tend to reinforce my earlier conclusion.

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Most of the science that is used to support the greenhouse warming model come from the IPCC Assessment reports, and much of that “science” has been shown to be flawed, not to mention that the reports themselves are heavily politicized, and their conclusions do not match the actual science that they reference. [Jane Q. Public]

No scientist I’ve met (in public or private) thinks your conspiracy theory is valid. In fact, I’ve personally confirmed the mass loss in Greenland’s glaciers with my own research. I’ve seen climate change happening with my own data and my own personal algorithms. Does that mean I’m part of the conspiracy too? [Dumb Scientist]

But aside from that, your “own research”, even if it does indeed show mass loss in Greenland’s glaciers, does not make your point at all… unless it demonstrates that the mass loss was caused by raised CO2 levels. Remember: nobody here is disputing that the globe is warming! The debate is about the cause! [Jane Q. Public]

Note that I wasn’t attempting to use my research to support any particular cause of climate change. That statement was aimed squarely at your conspiracy theory. You might be able to convince nonscientists that there’s a massive conspiracy (intentional or not) among scientists, and any reference I produce to show that ~84% of scientists oppose your position would probably just solidify your belief in an evil conspiracy. My anecdote was only intended to show you that I’ve personally verified glacier melt through its effect on time-variable gravity above the glaciers in Greenland and Alaska. Because of this first-hand experience, I’m very skeptical that there’s any large-scale incompetence or data manipulation in the scientific community.

I’m also a little confused. You say “nobody here is disputing that the globe is warming!” but at the end of the very same post you present the Wegman Report in an attempt to discredit Figure 5(b) here which shows that the Earth is warming. Doesn’t that mean you are “disputing that the globe is warming”?

Obviously, this is not a peer-reviewed paper… but it IS a clear damning statement by one of the official reviewers, and I don’t see how you can ignore that. Nor is he the only one. Now, please don’t chide me about that last one… it is not a peer-reviewed paper either but it IS an official statement by the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, and cites over 400 renowned scientists around the world who disagree with the IPCC conclusions. … Now, remember… that was yet another official reviewer of the IPCC reports.

First of all, I’m allergic to politicians so I’m only going to comment on the genuinely peer-reviewed articles you’ve referenced. Secondly, your focus on reviewers seems to assume that I’m worshipping my fellow scientists as high priests. I’m not. I respect peer review precisely because it’s very confrontational, even downright nasty at times. I respect the process of peer review, not necessarily the people involved. Because 16% of scientists disagree with abrupt climate change A large-scale change in the climate system that takes place over a few decades or less, persists (or is anticipated to persist) for at least a few decades, and causes substantial disruptions in human and natural systems. (which seems to confirm my personal assessment based on what I saw at the Fall 2008 AGU conference), I’m not surprised that some people with PhDs (even people holding respectable positions) voice those views in public. If those reviewers ever publish their research in a respectable peer-reviewed journal, I’ll read their articles. This is because I have a limited lifespan– if I were immortal I’d have time to read every last skeptic argument in existence. But I’ve only got a precious few decades of life left, so I don’t waste my time on “science” that hasn’t satisfied the minimum acceptable standard for evidence: peer review.

I’m not sure what you’re referring to here, but I see no reason to doubt the overall accuracy of that graph. [Dumb Scientist]

I am referring here to the particular graph that appeared in Gore’s movie, nothing else. [Jane Q. Public]

I’ve never seen the movie. This is partially because of my fetish for learning science from physics classes at accredited universities, textbooks and peer-reviewed articles rather than YouTube videos and documentaries. But it’s mainly because the thought of that smug, pompous politician accepting a Nobel prize for exaggerating the science makes me want to gouge my eyes out with a rusty spoon just to get the image out of my head.

So I’m going to assume that by “hockey stick,” you were referring to Figure 5(b) here.

McIntyre and McKitrick, in about 5 reviewed papers in 2003 and 2005 … thoroughly debunked the statistical methods used to produce this graph. … Further, a review committee, consisting of Edward J. Wegman (Center for Computational Statistics, George Mason University), David W. Scott (Noah Harding Professor of Statistics, Rice University), and Yasmin H. Said (The Johns Hopkins University) recently reviewed and confirmed these findings.

The Wegman report wasn’t peer-reviewed, but it did contain genuinely useful criticisms of Mann’s methodology. However, followup journal articles such as Rutherford 2005 used completely different analysis methods and arrived at the same result. Also, Wahl and Ammann 2007 independently confirmed that conclusion. If you’d like, you can download their code here to confirm for yourself that the PCA centering issues raised by MM03 and MM05 don’t noticeably impact the results. I’m not disputing that better inter-disciplinary communication leads to better science. I’m just disputing the claim that these errors had any significant impact on the graph itself.

Furthermore, even if Mann et al. really did make some kind of fatal error in their calculations, that has practically no impact on the current scientific understanding of “recent” temperature reconstructions. Here’s a compilation of time series produced by a dozen independent studies, using different algorithms, different statistical methods and different data. They vary significantly, but the abrupt temperature increase appears in all of them.

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[Dumb Scientist]

My apologies, but this is the last comment I can write. I’m struggling under the weight of academic deadlines, and I don’t want to fail out of school because of my Slashdot addiction…

Meehl does not actually show that CO2 causes warming, he relies on the research of others to do so. In fact, while this may be a slight exaggeration, about all Meehl did here was to integrate the work of a number of other authors. [Jane Q. Public]

At least you’re aware of the exaggeration, if not the magnitude or (more importantly) the fact that this criticism could be applied to any research that expands on previous results… which includes nearly every paper in the history of science.

(Ed. note: Slashdot adds notes like [iop.org] to all links, which I’ve restored here to demonstrate how the original posts looked.)

This is indeed a claim [ameyamhatre.com] made in a real journal. But it’s far more controversial than you’re implying. The maximum impact of this mechanism has been estimated [iop.org] to be responsible for no more than 23% of the 11-year cyclical variation of cloud cover. [Dumb Scientist]

“This is indeed a claim made in a real journal. But it’s far more controversial than you’re implying. The maximum impact of this mechanism has been estimated to be responsible for no more than 23% of the 11-year cyclical variation of cloud cover.”

Estimated by whom? I have already shown you at least one peer-reviewed paper (although you objected to the journal’s lack of reputation for “hard science”) in which the estimation was far over what you state here. (Which, I admit, appears to be validly refuted for a specific period of time.) But if you are going to make an argument, as you seem to be doing here, then refute my source with one of your own, otherwise you are wasting my time. [Jane Q. Public]

That estimate was by T. Sloan and A.W. Wolfendale in the article I originally linked… that’s the link which was originally followed by “[iop.org]” before you quoted it. Also, the paper you previously found contains similar criticisms of Svensmark 1998 on its second page.

Update: Other relevant papers include Kristjansson 2002 and Laut 2003, followed by Svensmark’s response and Laut’s rebuttal. More recently, Erlykin et al. suggest that the apparent correlation is due to direct solar activity, while Pierce and Adams state: “In our simulations, changes in CCN [cloud condensation nuclei concentrations] from changes in cosmic rays during a solar cycle are two orders of magnitude too small to account for the observed changes in cloud properties; consequently, we conclude that the hypothesized effect is too small to play a significant role in current climate change.”

Another update: Snow-Kropla et al. 2011 makes similar points.

But there are a lot of complex interactions going on here, including the fact that reflection by CO2 tends to be logarithmic… requiring a doubling of CO2 concentration to equal an incremental increase in reflection. … Books could be written about it and probably will be. [Jane Q. Public]

Yes, of course. The fact that CO2 absorption depends logarithmically on concentration has been known since 1900 when Angstrom and Koch Ångström, Knut (1900). ‘Über die Bedeutung des Wasserdampfes und der Kohlensaüres bei der Absorption der Erdatmosphäre.’ Annalen der Physik 4(3): 720-32. published online 308(12): 720-32 (2006) [doi: 10.1002/andp.19003081208] first measured it in a tube filled with CO2. The absorption dropped by less than 1% when Koch lowered the pressure by 33%, which convinced an entire generation of climatologists that CO2 wasn’t dangerous because it was already “saturated.” In other words, they believed that adding more CO2 wouldn’t warm the planet because it was already absorbing almost all it could.

But this research is 109 years old. Books have already been written about it. As early as 1931, Hulburt Hulburt, E.O. (1931). ‘The Temperature of the Lower Atmosphere of the Earth.’ Physical Review 38: 1876-90. used the brand-new theory of quantum mechanics to study absorption in more detail. He concluded that doubling the CO2 concentration would warm the Earth by 4°C. This is still the conventional method of expressing “climate sensitivity” with respect to CO2. (Although it’s important to note that this convention ignores slow The climate sensitivity classically defined is the response of global mean temperature to a forcing once all the ‘fast feedbacks’ have occurred (atmospheric temperatures, clouds, water vapour, winds, snow, sea ice etc.), but before any of the ’slow’ feedbacks have kicked in (ice sheets, vegetation, carbon cycle etc.). feedback effects which may sum to produce a temporary(?) net positive feedback effect, given the unnaturally abrupt nature of the forcing.) His prediction is still within the error bars of modern estimates which assign a maximum likelihood value of 2.9°C, with a 95% confidence that it’s less than 4.9°C but greater than 1.7°C. Sadly, his breakthrough wasn’t recognized at the time.

In the 1950s, the Cold War prompted U.S. scientists to study the atmosphere for military purposes. They mounted spectrometers on planes and sent them high into the atmosphere, where the absorption spectrum changed Kaplan, Lewis D. (1952). ‘On the Pressure Dependence of Radiative Heat Transfer in the Atmosphere.’ J. Meteorology 9: 1-12. . At standard pressure, CO2 absorbs radiation in broad “peaks” in frequency space because of pressure broadening but the lower pressure at altitude narrows these peaks. Thus, CO2 acts as a less effective greenhouse gas at higher altitudes.

Subsequent studies confirmed and expanded on these results. The short version is that the atmosphere needs to be modeled as a series of layers, where the pressure in each layer causes CO2 to absorb differing amounts of radiation at different wavelengths. Each layer insulates all the layers below it, and the outer layer of the atmosphere isn’t saturated until it reaches a higher concentration than would be required to saturate at standard pressure. Furthermore, water vapor concentration falls off rapidly with altitude while CO2 concentration doesn’t, so water vapor doesn’t play a large role in the outer layer of the atmosphere.

If you’re wondering why these references aren’t linked, it’s because this debate is ancient and certainly not news to any climatologist who’s less than 50 years behind the cutting edge. Many of these articles’ abstracts aren’t even available online, so you’ll have to search your local university library to find them. You may find this overview (complete with references) helpful in your search, but nonscientists may prefer this less technical version.

Update: I’ve failed to communicate once again.

Of course, it’s possible that you weren’t “trying to make any earth-shattering observations there,” and were just waxing eloquent about the beauty of science. If that’s true then I apologize for wasting your time, and we agree that science is really frakking cool. This response would then be aimed solely at pseudoscientists like Joanne Nova who claim that “CO2 is already absorbing almost all it can!”

So, I was not trying to make any earth-shattering observations there, just: it’s not so simple.

Virtually no subject in modern physics is simple enough to be described completely in a single Slashdot post, a single textbook, a single semester, or even a single college degree. For example, high school students learn that gravity is described by F=m*g, where “g” is a constant 9.8 m/s2. This is oversimplified because “g” decreases with altitude. Undergrads learn that gravity is described by F=G*m1*m2/r2. This is oversimplified because it can’t account for the precession of Mercury’s orbit or the orbital decay of binary pulsars due to energy loss from gravitational waves. Graduate students learn that gravity is one of several physical manifestations of the curvature of spacetime due to the stress-energy tensor. This is also an oversimplification because it can’t be quantized and produces unphysical predictions at black hole singularities.

In this sense, abrupt climate change A large-scale change in the climate system that takes place over a few decades or less, persists (or is anticipated to persist) for at least a few decades, and causes substantial disruptions in human and natural systems. is no different from general relativity. It’s a hideously complicated subject that requires at least a graduate education in physics to struggle through the many layers of simplification in order to reach the frontiers of knowledge. When talking with the public, physicists need to make simplifications, or the explanations would take years. Be wary of assuming that these simplifications are anything but pedagogical tools.

We already know of the penchant that the media has for sensationalism. Have you not heard the news reports that “sea levels are expected to rise as much as 10 meters in our lifetime”?? I have. Yet even the IPCC says nothing of the sort. … Which made it prime fodder for Mr. Gore’s movie. Which caught the attention of the public. Which caused alarmism out of proportion to the actual problem.

I completely agree with every statement you’ve made here. My advisor is a world-renowned expert [*] in geophysics And a really nice guy! :) Hi! I’m working, I promise! who recently said “I don’t think climate change is going to kill anyone.” (Provided we take decisive action I agree, but worry that the effects will act as a catalyst to worsen existing political conflicts.) That’s why I’ve insisted on restricting this conversation to peer-reviewed papers. The mainstream media is biased towards sensationalism, and the internet is a tarpit of misinformation.

[*] I’m sorry that I can’t provide more details with which to judge this claim, but my career is just starting so I don’t want to commit professional suicide by making my views on, say, gay marriage or gun rights Pro-2nd amendment article coming soon, to be linked in permanent version of this article. available to potential employers. I’ll say this, though: I suspect that the last woman I dated (a fellow geophysicist) was with me at least partly because I promised to introduce her to him. This suspicion is based on her reaction when she found out who my advisor was, which wasn’t unusual Sadly, I only mean that the initial jaw-drop isn’t unusual… at all.

If you had been paying attention, you might have understood that the Wegman, et al. report was “peer review”

Articles published in scientific journals are peer-reviewed. Again, peer review isn’t about worshipping scientists, so it’s not just about the qualifications of the reviewer. It’s about a process. Scientific articles are subjected to a process called peer review, which means the author gets viciously attacked by people who (sometimes) think he’s an moronic asshole. This process is the bedrock of modern science because it results in articles that are better for it after surviving the inferno. But the nasty emails sent by the reviewers to the author haven’t been through peer review themselves. And that’s basically what the Wegman report is, except they “reviewed” it among themselves. It makes some good points, but draws a completely exaggerated conclusion which hopefully wouldn’t have made it through a proper peer review.

… even if Mann et al. really did make some kind of fatal error in their calculations, that has practically no impact on the current scientific understanding of “recent” temperature reconstructions. [Dumb Scientist]

Possibly. But it means you have to find other research to make your point. [Jane Q. Public]

Each time series in the graph I previously linked is referenced in chapter 6 here. Turn to page 469 and examine Table 6.1 (later, if you get bored, consider checking out column 2 of page 466 which reviews the claims of MM03 and MM05.) Every time series is referenced well enough to be found on google scholar– for example here’s one of them. As you’ve seen from the graph, they all support the abrupt temperature increase in Mann’s graph. (I freely admit that all these authors could be drooling morons, sheeple incapable of independent thought, or evil conspirators… any of these scenarios or a linear combination of them would completely discredit my position.)

You might be able to convince nonscientists that there’s a massive conspiracy (intentional or not) [emphasis added] among scientists, and ironically any reference I produce to show that ~84% of scientists oppose your position would probably just solidify your belief in an evil conspiracy. [Dumb Scientist]

… they essentially all complain about the same problem: the fact that those involved in the IPCC reporting and review process who disagreed with a preconceived conclusion were blatantly ignored. … IPCC reports are politicized and unreliable. … the IPCC has had a chronic problem with bias and failure of peer review. … Well, not exactly. It’s because until that point, I was not aware that other possible correlations were ever even taken seriously. … That is almost correct, if you are looking at it in a sort of sideways-logic kind of way. … If these statements, by the both of you, do not imply that there is no correlation, I will eat my hat. But of course some of the very literature you rely on contradicts that. … I could not possibly accept the results of this survey as anything but an exercise in data manipulation — intentional or otherwise. … I cannot accept those reported results as anything. As reported, they are meaningless. The word “valid” is not on the horizon. … Oh, come on. Are you being deliberately obtuse? Or did you just not bother to read the papers? … The fact is that the Mann, et al. graph was out of proportion, and tended to exaggerate the appearance of the recent warming. Which you would know, if you actually read the papers. But I suspect that you were just baiting me. … so far you have not managed to validly refute even one point I have made. … it was more like destroying his methodology, not just criticizing it. … What a COSMIC coincidence. The same three people who did the original paper! And they reached a similar conclusion??? How outrageously surprising! Seriously, how can you be surprised? And the fact that they used a different methodology does not impress me in the least. Wegner, et al. strongly implied that while those people might otherwise be competent researchers, they do not know their statistical asses from a hole in the ground … Further, a textbook is anything but a peer-reviewed paper. Would you like me to do a brief review of how many of my high-school and university textbooks contained errors that seem laughable now? Get real. By the time half of them get to publication, they have significant errors. … If you will not accept Energy and Environment as a source because it may not be “sufficiently hard-science” for your taste, then I am sure as hell not going to accept your textbook. [emphasis added] … This was not apparent to me at first, but as it turns out, Meehl’s climate model has relied upon the data generated in the 1998 Mann study. So, at least until some adjustments are made, I have no choice but to consider the Meehl model to have also been successfully refuted. … When a climate model relies upon past temperature variations that are shown to be inaccurate, to say that the whole model becomes questionable is an understatement. … That sounds like a “conspiracy theory” to you? [Jane Q. Public]

In a word: yes. I’ve encountered the same attitude here and in my discussions with creationists and people who dispute the Big Bang. In each case, they insist Article on Slashdot: ‘EPA Quashed Report Skeptical of Global Warming’ that peer review is broken. Sometimes they merely say this is because of widespread incompetence or “groupthink,” but it’s also common to see them accuse scientists of active conspiracy. They perform “research” by browsing pseudoscience websites rather than pursuing a graduate education in the field they’re obviously interested in. With all due respect to the parties involved, I think they’re making errors that could be avoided by opening graduate-level textbooks (which have little in common with high school or lower-level undergraduate texts) and solving the problems inside.

Curiously, they’re often The Salem hypothesis states ‘in arguments with creationists, if the fellow on the other side claimed to have personal scientific authority, it almost always turned out to be because he had an engineering degree.’ — I think this hypothesis applies to computer scientists too, and is true about pseudoscience in general, not just creationism. computer scientists or engi Here m4cph1sto claims to be a scientist- see link in 2nd half of word for example of the modified Salem hypothesis neers Here m4cph1sto explains that he’s an engineer in an example of the modified Salem hypothesis. . I suspect this is because natural sciences like physics, chemistry and biology appear similar to computer science and engineering. We all use math (in fact, electrical engineers use way more math than biologists) and the first year of college classes are quite similar. Our fields are highly complex and probably equally mysterious to the general public, so we become used to being “the person with the answers.”

However, engineers and computer scientists are, fundamentally, “builders.” Engineers figure out how to use materials like metals and plastic to build amazing technological marvels that enrich our lives. Computer scientists build shining edifices out of pure logic which have bound the human race together and (IMHO) will play a central role in giving our descendants “technology indistinguishable from magic.” In each case, notice that the emphasis lies on creating something that didn’t exist before. They develop preconceptions of the form their algorithm or building will take, then beat raw materials into a shape that conforms to their original vision.

Scientists, on the other hand, are more like detectives. They observe the natural world and try as hard as they possibly can to avoid letting their preconceptions contaminate the results of their experiments. Scientists are supposed to avoid creating something that didn’t exist before!

This isn’t to say engineers don’t have to think critically; for example, they have to recognize why the Tacoma Narrows bridge was badly designed and foresee similar mistakes. But they’re working within known natural laws, and it seems to me that the challenge of deducing those laws without prejudice is completely different. I’m starting to think that computer scientists and engineers are prone to assuming that their skills transfer to the natural sciences better than they actually do, which could explain why rational thought occasionally mutates into rationalizing ‘There Is No Evidence’ by David Evans .

Please don’t misunderstand me: I’m not insulting computer scientists or engineers; I’m definitely not saying a significant percentage of them are pseudoscientists. I spent several years as an aerospace engineering major, my dad is a mechanical engineer, and many of my family and friends are in these fields. My physics degrees certainly don’t mean I can design a skyscraper or write a new programming language. I’m just speculating as to why some of them tend to be over-represented in the ranks of pseudoscientists.

Update: Here are some examples of the modified Salem hypothesis:

  1. Jane Q. Publicweb developer/software engineer.
  2. Lonny Eachusweb developer/software engineer.
  3. Dr. Pierre R. Latour – retired chemical engineer.
  4. Eric WorrallIT consultant.
  5. Dr. David Evanselectrical engineer.
  6. Joseph A. Olsonretired engineer.
  7. Prof. Lucia Liljegrenmechanical engineer.
  8. Burt RutanAnthony Watts: Recently after some conversations with a former chemical engineer who provided me with some insight, I’ve come to the conclusion that many engineers have difficulty with many of the premises of AGW theory because in their “this has to work or people die” world of exacting standards, the AGW argument doesn’t hold up well by their standards of performance.aerospace engineer.
  9. Dr. Edward E. David Jr.electrical engineer.
  10. Pete Ridleyretired Chartered Electrical Engineer.
  11. Royce R. Vinesengineer.
  12. Tom Harrismechanical engineer.
  13. Prof. Pehr BjornbomProfessor Emeritus, Chemical Engineering.
  14. Jim Peacock – retired aerospace engineer.
  15. Steve Gorehamelectrical engineer.
  16. Dr. Charles Battig – retired physician and electrical engineer .
  17. Prof. Michael Economides – petroleum engineer.
  18. Prof. Robert Essenhighmechanical engineer.
  19. Dr. David Wojickcivil engineering, philosophy.
  20. Dr. Richard Saumarezbiomedical engineer.
  21. Andrew Schlafly – electrical engineer.
  22. Warren Meyer – mechanical and aerospace engineer.
  23. Ian L. McQueen – chemical engineer.
  24. Frank Lemkeelectrical engineer.
  25. Tom Nelson – electrical and electronics engineer.
  26. Steve Burnett – chemical engineering graduate.
  27. Monte Hiebmining safety engineer.
  28. Ronald D. Voisin – retired engineer.
  29. Dr. John Brignellindustrial instrumentation.
  30. Jon Brock – software developer.
  31. Berthold Klein – civil-environmental engineer.
  32. Charles S. Opalek, PEengineer.
  33. Mike Haselerengineer.
  34. Mark Wells – engineer.
  35. Mark – mechanical engineer.
  36. “m4cph1sto”engineer.
  37. “TinyCO2″IT engineer.
  38. “Lichanos” – engineer.
  39. “Bobl” – engineer.
  40. “adb” – engineer.
  41. “catweazle666″ – engineer.
  42. “danbert8″ – civil engineer.
  43. “elkto” – engineer.
  44. “TallDave” – programmer.
  45. “paulus” – aerospace system engineer.
  46. “Big Wave Dave” – professional engineer.
  47. “phamNewan” – engineer.
  48. Etc.
.

.

[Dumb Scientist]

… The proponents of “man-made global warming” have seized upon the CO2-based warming model as their poster child. Unfortunately for them in the long run, that model has some serious problems. For example, in order for the CO2-based warming model to work, the upper atmosphere must be warming in proportion to the surface. However, it simply is not. Weather balloon and satellite data just do not find the upper-atmosphere warming that would have to be there if the CO2 warming model were true. You can look that up for yourself. Use actual data, dude, not what you find on the 10:00 news. But enough of the basic background. … [Jane Q. Public, Oct 24, 2007]

… the CO2-based warming theory REQUIRES the upper atmosphere to be warming at a rate proportional to the low-altitude temperature… and it simply has not been. Actual satellite and weather balloon temperature data do not support the CO2 warming theory at all. … ALL greenhouse gas “global warming” theories require the upper atmosphere to warm proportionally to the surface temperature. That is directly involved in the whole mechanism that is supposed to be CAUSING the warming from such gases! Whether CO2 were the “sole” greenhouse gas involved is irrelevant! They all require that the upper atmosphere be warming to a degree that it just has not been. Actual satellite and weather balloon temperature data DIRECTLY CONTRADICT the greenhouse warming theories. And if something that MUST be happening in order for those theories to be true is not happening (and it isn’t), then those theories are fundamentally flawed. [Jane Q. Public, June 22, 2008]

… Once again: the greenhouse gas models, specifically, require that the upper atmosphere be warming to a degree that has SIMPLY NOT BEEN HAPPENING according to the actual temperature data. If you disbelieve that, then try googling NOAA along with a few choice key words and do your own homework for a change. [Jane Q. Public, June 25, 2008]

… And contrary to popular belief, the troposphere has not been warming to the degree it would have to, were the greenhouse models of warming correct. But they are not. They have some very serious flaws. …[Jane Q. Public, July 9, 2009]

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I presume you’ve been referring to an algebra error in assimilations of satellite temperature measurements of the troposphere.

  1. This error was corrected in 2005.
  2. The troposphere is actually the lowest portion of the Earth’s atmosphere. The upper atmosphere is divided into the stratosphere and the mesosphere.
  3. Greenhouse warming models predict cooling and contraction of the stratosphere.
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Kyle asks about the political and economic implications of climate change.

[Kyle]
Interesting. For the record, what’s your view on all this climate change stuff? Personally, regardless of how the data is broken down, I think it’s crazy to build US legislation to tax all of our energy production based on the notion we can control the earth’s climate.

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[Dumb Scientist]

… The scientific case is quite clear: humans have pumped gigatons of CO2 into the atmosphere because we burn coal for our electricity and oil for our cars, planes, and ships. This has raised the Earth’s average temperature and will continue to do so unless we stop it.

Of course, science doesn’t imply any particular political response. But fighting climate change is almost exactly the same thing as “energy independence” which we desperately need anyway, if only to stop throwing money at so many corrupt governments for their oil. The only difference is that we need to stop burning coal, which is something we have in abundance here in the U.S. All I can say is that this might be bad in the short term, but absolutely necessary in the long term. It’s not clear to me that these taxes would slow the economy down over the medium to long term. The U.S. is still the world’s leader in science and technology, so we’re most likely to be the ones to invent and sell the new cleaner energy tech which would actually make Americans richer in the end…

To replace coal, I liked McCain’s plan to build 45 new nuclear power stations. (Oh, how I wish Obama would listen to him on that particular subject!) Not the fusion plants many people are saying we should wait for (which don’t exist yet and may never exist), just better versions of the fission nuclear plants we already know work because they supply 80% of France’s electricity.

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[Dumb Scientist]

I have no problem with using technology to develop cleaner energy sources. I do find fault in the idea of punitive tax policy that punishes consumers for being good capitalists – buying the energy that is the most efficient to produce. [Kyle]

But that’s the way regulation has worked for decades. For example, companies can’t simply dump toxic chemicals into the water (even though that’s cheaper than responsible disposal) because they’d get fined by the EPA. That’s basically the only reason our rivers aren’t even more polluted than they already are. Without a clear disincentive to pollute, companies will choose the most “efficient” means of creating their product, regardless of how much pollution they create in the process.

The only difference here is that the effects of CO2 pollution are more subtle than, say, dumping acid into a river. But it’s even more dangerous in the long run because CO2 causes a global problem rather than a local one.

The thing that kills me about the proposed plan is the idea of creating carbon credits, essentially fake money to be bought and sold, and forcing US energy companies to pay new taxes on all the carbon they produce.

Actually, cap and trade strikes me as a very capitalist way of addressing the problem. This is just the latest example of regulation to compensate for what economists call a “negative externality.”

Negative externalities represent rare failures of capitalism; they’re situations in which economic transactions can hurt people who aren’t directly involved. Again, the best example is that of a chemical plant dumping waste into a river. The people downstream will be affected regardless of whether they buy that company’s products. That’s why regulation exists: to protect people from situations where it’s cheaper to ruin the environment than to act responsibly.

This new kind of regulation will have the effect of making dirty technology expensive which will then prompt companies to invest in cleaner technologies for the most capitalist reason imaginable: to make a profit. I hope that the environmentalists will eventually relent and let us build nuclear power plants, because they’re the cleanest form of energy we have that can power our civilization. But I seriously doubt they’re rational enough to see that their fears of radiation are due more to Hollywood than actual physics…

America has always had an advantage in the global economy by having the best infrastructure and cheap energy. I can’t believe that any other countries are going to levy similar requirements on their businesses.

That’s a very serious problem indeed. If other countries don’t clean up too, production will simply shift to countries with lax regulation. One goal of the climate legislation that’s about to hit the Senate is to set an example; to show the world that the United States is ready to lead once again. With a firm domestic commitment to fighting climate change, Obama will have a more credible case to present at the Copenhagen Conference this December.

On a side note, have you ever checked out surfacestations.org? They make a pretty compelling case that the US temperature record over the last several decades is showing artificially high readings.

He’s saying that the surface temperature record is contaminated by the “urban heat island” effect– that temperatures are only rising around cities because of economic growth. One example he shows is that exhaust vents have been placed closer and closer to the sensors over the years.

This is a superficially compelling argument, but it’s also one that scientists have considered and rejected. One test is that the urban heat island effect should be less pronounced on windy days than calm days. That’s because if this warming is just caused by local exhaust vents, wind should carry that heat away whereas calm weather won’t. This doesn’t happen: calm and windy days have the same warming trend. This conclusion is from an article published in Nature by Dr. Parker in 2004; here’s a BBC article quoting it. Other studies have confirmed this result using different methods and data in 2003, 2006, and 2008.

NOAA recently published an answer to that specific website. They took the 70 stations that surfacestations.org designated “best” or “good” and created a time series based on them. Then they used all 1218 stations to create another time series. Both of those time series are plotted on page 3. They’re practically identical.

Also, scientists don’t blindly trust these sensors. Land temperature measurements are independently confirmed by sea surface temperatures, satellite data and proxies such as ice cores, boreholes, coral growth, tree rings, stalactites, fossil beds, ocean sediments and glacial deposits.

Update: Another paper casts doubt on the claims of surfacestations.org.

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[Dumb Scientist]

I will say this: The EPA at its core is a political organization. EPA policies have quickly reversed under each new administration and I think this is an area where unfortunately the politics are very intertwined with the science. [Kyle]

Perhaps. But all I’m saying is this: we can agree that some types of pollution are bad, right? Sure, extremists like Earth First and Greenpeace give the whole notion a bad name, but I don’t think any of us want acid rain or smog. CO2 is just a more subtle problem which is more difficult to explain to the public, but ultimately poses a bigger threat to humanity.

That, and they even admit that these policies will cause an immediate and substantial rise in US energy prices, which trickle down to every segment of the economy. I think the plan is guaranteed to do very tangible economic harm to people all over the US in the near term, and that left alone…

Only in the sense that investing in a college fund “harms” one’s monthly budget. Also, it shouldn’t be more substantial than the “harm” that most other countries have experienced already. For quite a while, Europeans have been paying more than twice as much as we do for gasoline. As a result, their cars are smaller, their cities are much better for walking and biking, and their subway systems are better.

Frankly, we’re already far behind the Europeans in this regard. They’re not going to be hit nearly as hard as us when the shit really hits the fan because they’ve already been adapting to the post-oil era.

… companies will eventually develop cleaner technologies without having to be forced to by the government, because consumers want alternatives, and that to me is what it’s all about.

The keyword here is “eventually.” I doubt it would be soon enough, because every ton of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere worsens the problem, and we still get half of our electricity from coal which needs to be changed to nuclear yesterday.

Last modified October 11th, 2014
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749 Responses to “Abrupt climate change”

  1. Jim P.E. posted on 2009-07-20 at 08:13

    Do you know what the last (President Bush) and present Science Advisor to the President is telling the President about this situation? Are they getting the correct story from Science Advisors?

    • Dr. John Holdren is Obama’s science advisor. He’s got an impressive scientific record and I see no reason to believe that he’s giving bad advice. My only quibble is the lack of progress on the nuclear power issue, and I suspect that’s because Obama can’t confront the environmentalists in the Democratic party. It’s probably not because of bad scientific advice, but rather the usual politics.

      Dr. Steven Chu is the current Secretary of Energy, and again he seems really well-qualified. His recent suggestion that we paint roofs white To be precise, he suggested that any roof which needs to be replaced anyway be replaced with a white roof, and that roofs on new buildings be white. The costs of this strategy are negligible. The benefits include lower air conditioning bills for homeowners, lower CO2 emissions because of the reduced electricity demand, and reflecting sunlight back into space which helps cool the planet. Roofs in Siberia should remain black, but white roofs are optimal even away from the tropics because snow covers them during much bitterly cold weather anyway. Also, black roofs aren’t efficient heaters because heat rises, and there’s less sunlight in the winter. Plus, black roofs radiate heat away better than white roofs. in order to reflect more sunlight seemed simple, cheap and effective.

      Dr. John H. Marburger was Bush’s science advisor. He’s also a good scientist, but Bush waited until ~6 months into his presidency to appoint him, and subsequently demoted the position of ‘science advisor’ from its customary Cabinet level. I wonder how much of Dr. Marburger’s advice was taken seriously.

    • Here’s a recent interview with Dr. Steven Chu.

    • Steven Chu resigns; ShakaUVM says good riddance.

  2. Bopeth posted on 2009-07-20 at 08:23

    I am not a scientist but I have read a lot of engineering reports and, as an Army program manager, led several different teams of scientists and engineers pushing the envelope of technology in both aviation and missile defense.

    I found your article to be compelling when it comes to the data and scientific conclusion but I have a different opinion when it comes to your personal views on what to do.

    I think the world is behind the power curve on addressing CO2 emissions and will never catch up by imposing extraordinary limits on the US, alone. The new economic engines and sources of emissions are China and India. The US could stop emitting tomorrow and within a few years the world emission levels would, once again, start increasing. No amount of diplomacy, world opinion or scientific data is going to stop the developing nations from asserting their right to do what the US and other developed nations have already done. Further, the US (as well as every other nation) must be very careful in how it addresses putting limits on emissions. Having the technical ‘know how’ and the resources to ‘do something’ must be balanced against our economic needs. If we push too hard and the economy goes south, again, our leaders will be thrown out of office, or worse (civil war in China).

    Global warming/CO2 emissions, pollution, hunger, disease, poverty, species extinctions, over fishing, coal mining, etc. are impossible to address when our numbers keep increasing. Every new problem that we address (successfully) is overwhelmed by our increasing numbers. The world sits at approximately six billion today and is forecast to be at nine billion in a few short generations. I listen to our scientists, politicians, and various advocates scream at the top of their lungs about all of these pressing issues. It is my opinion that they are screaming about symptoms without addressing the underlying problem of too many people. All too few are willing to talk about population. Certainly, our politicians would never talk about population. It would be like touching the ‘third rail’. So, here we are. Sometimes I feel like we are part of a big lab experiment. We are all rats. Science has already demonstrated that the more rats you put in a cage the more they tend to fight and kill one another. Sound familiar?

    From what I have read about emissions, it looks to me like even the most successful efforts cannot stop what has already started. Instead, we need to concentrate on the consequences: sea rise, new agricultural trends, new diseases, population displacement, etc. And, last but not least, reverse our propensity to procreate. Fewer people could pollute and emit all they want and it would have no consequence on the Earth. At the rate we are going, even the slightest pollution by each of our increasing numbers will lead to an uninhabitable world. I guess that would fix the problem.

    I’m interested in your thoughts on population.

    • I think the world is behind the power curve on addressing CO2 emissions and will never catch up by imposing extraordinary limits on the US, alone.

      Yes, that’s why I support the legislation in the Senate. Obama will have a more credible case for worldwide emissions targets at the Copenhagen conference this December if he’s backed up by a strong domestic commitment.

      No amount of diplomacy, world opinion or scientific data is going to stop the developing nations from asserting their right to do what the US and other developed nations have already done.

      And that’s why environmentalists are wrong to try to guilt people into riding bikes everywhere and giving up air conditioning. Progress can only occur if we create new technology that’s cheaper, cleaner and better in every way, otherwise people won’t switch. If we can do that, we wouldn’t have to convince developing nations to use the new technology– they’d be lined up around the block to buy it voluntarily.

      Global warming/CO2 emissions, pollution, hunger, disease, poverty, species extinctions, over fishing, coal mining, etc. are impossible to address when our numbers keep increasing. … Every new problem that we address (successfully) is overwhelmed by our increasing numbers. The world sits at approximately six billion today and is forecast to be at nine billion in a few short generations. I listen to our scientists, politicians, and various advocates scream at the top of their lungs about all of these pressing issues. It is my opinion that they are screaming about symptoms without addressing the underlying problem of too many people. All too few are willing to talk about population. Certainly, our politicians would never talk about population.

      I completely agree. The water crisis is yet another symptom of the same fundamental problem: there are far too many humans on this planet. Lately, it seems like most developed nations have much lower birth rates, which is usually attributed to better availability of birth control and the fact that kids aren’t as useful in modern offices as they are on subsistence farms. So maybe the quickest way to fix this problem is to figure out how to help the developing nations develop faster. But it’s also true to say that the developed world consumes more resources per capita. So even though their birth rate is higher than ours, each birth in the U.S. is a larger drain on the world’s resources than each birth in Africa.

      Eventually, governments might be forced to mandate a limit on the number of children each person can have. A stable number of births per woman would probably be ~2.1, but that would have to be continually recalculated to compensate for changes in mortality rates, the percentage of people who don’t want children, and projections of Earth’s carrying capacity. (Given an equal gender ratio, I suppose that nominal figure means every person could be guaranteed the right to have one child, with a lottery for another?) Regardless, the sort of exponential growth that we’ve been experiencing for millennia is utterly unsustainable. But, as you say, everyone ignores the elephant in the room…

      From what I have read about emissions, it looks to me like even the most successful efforts cannot stop what has already started. Instead, we need to concentrate on the consequences: sea rise, new agricultural trends, new diseases, population displacement, etc.

      Those are all noble goals, and the most likely scenarios can probably be handled in that manner. But I don’t think worst-case scenarios could be easily or cheaply handled by adaptation. (And note that our future emissions will play a large role in determining which scenario actually comes true.)

      Even aside from reducing emissions, it seems prudent to wean ourselves off oil before we run out of easily-extracted oil deposits. It’s also bad to be so dependent on corrupt, totalitarian states for our energy. Nuclear fission is our best hope for achieving all these goals in one fell swoop.

      Frankly, I don’t understand the political/economic situation well enough to say with certainty that our most successful efforts would be futile. I’d like to think the situation isn’t that bad, but maybe I’m wrong. In that case, I think we need to buy enough time for the next generation to develop technology that is capable of fixing the problem.

    • The voice of reason. Unless we stop procreating mindlessly and start to deindustrialise the society there’s no solution to this world. However clean the technology may be, it will always produce harmful waste.
      And not everyone should have the license to have children.

      • Unless we stop procreating mindlessly …

        Yes, it’s unfortunate that our society glamorizes unsustainable, mindless procreation like “Octomom” and “19 and counting”.

        … start to deindustrialise the society there’s no solution to this world. …

        There will be no de-industrialization. Period. Look elsewhere for a solution.

        … However clean the technology may be, it will always produce harmful waste. …

        All technology produces waste, even domesticated horses and campfires. The search for cleaner technology is rightly aimed at developing more advanced technology which will have smaller environmental effects than current technology.

        … And not everyone should have the license to have children.

        I just emphasized that every person should have the right to have at least one child. It’s the second child per person that could lead to dangerous exponential growth.

  3. Anonymous posted on 2009-07-21 at 23:47

    I know nothing about climate change. I don’t intend to challenge any of your data as such. My thoughts are more philosophical than scientific, but philosophy of science is important, no?

    It’s actually rather timely that you should send me such an invitation. In recent weeks I’ve had a lingering concern over what I see as scientific overconfidence. It’s everywhere, and it’s in your article, too. This is a multifaceted problem, and I’m still not sure where to start in discussing or analysing it. Maybe this little chance to ramble will help me get my thoughts in order. I didn’t even have a label for it up until now: “scientific overconfidence” is a term I just coined because I had to give the problem a name. In extreme cases it becomes scientific arrogance, but I’ll get to that if and when it’s appropriate.

    Please indulge me while I ramble a bit, and please don’t take any of this as a personal attack. I fear that it may come across as highly offensive in parts.

    One aspect of scientific overconfidence is overconfidence in the ability or prowess of science as a whole. Science is practically venerated as the pinnacle of all human knowledge. When scientists are challenged on this point, they usually defend the position by attacking the alternatives: asking whether you’d like rockets built by priests, or medical treatment from a witchdoctor, or something like that. I’m not sure what this demonstrates, other than the fact that some people have a really high opinion of science, but fail to see the value in anything else.

    For me, the more I examine science, the less confidence I have in it. We’ve achieved some clever things, no doubt, and scientists are always willing to point out the computers, the rockets, and the other marvels of modern technology that science has given us. I don’t dispute that! Not for a second! It does seem, however, that the success of science as a basis for technology is then used to assert scientific supremacy over other things, like history, or the future, or the supernatural even! Somehow the demonstrable *usefulness* of science has been enlarged to make it the most authoritative source of guidance for every possible question.

    Also, isn’t the focus on technological successes extremely one-eyed? Science is best loved for its successes, but success is the exception. How many sweeteners and preservatives have been invented, only to be found harmful later? Hydrogenated vegetable oil — how clever! Then we discover what a “trans fat” is, and what it does to your internal workings. Today’s technological marvel is tomorrow’s carcinogen, toxic waste problem, or ecological disaster — possibly all three.

    The history of scientific theories fares no better: it is a litany of outmoded ideas, each of which were held in the utmost respect in their day, and some of which resulted in really awful practices. Vestigial organs, anyone? It’s ironic that Galileo is now hailed as a hero and the church vilified, but his Copernicanism was considered *unscientific* by the mainstream of the day. Spontaneous generation was a Fact of Science until quite recently. How many of today’s theories will be next year’s outmoded ideas? But this doesn’t seem to be a source of embarrassment for scientists, or even a cautionary tale. Instead, they crow about how superior their way of thinking is to that of religions, presenting the straw man that religions are fixed and immutable, whereas science is open to new evidence. Open to new evidence it may be, but that’s no reason to have extra confidence in the theories of here and now: quite the opposite, in fact.

    Then there’s the difference between science as it is portrayed and science as I have experienced it, by participation. The vast majority of academic papers I’ve read in my field are dreary, unimaginative, and of questionable value to anyone. Peer review is often just a respectable way of saying “group-think”. Publication is an intensely political thing — why is the myth of the “objective” scientist still so strong, even amongst those in the thick of it? Scientists have pet theories. Scientists are not, in my experience, more open minded or “rational” than anyone else: I’ve had more luck with philosophers than scientists in that regard, although the title “philosopher” doesn’t guarantee much either. None of this would bother me so much, except that science has such a misleadingly superior public image.

    One last thing before I finish ranting about scientific overconfidence — and this is more to do with the process of science, and therefore more relevant to you. I think the generally high opinion that scientists hold of their endeavour is causing them to be sloppy. After all, if you’re pretty sure that your methods are leading you to correct conclusions, you’re likely to see other evidence which confirms those conclusions. You’re not so likely to attempt active falsification of your conclusions, or to try to find other explanations which also fit the evidence. You are likely to overlook the conflicting data as “anomalous”. Can you see how this might be a problem?

    I can relate this back to climate change, or I can relate it back to creation and evolution. There’s a prevalent attitude in science that theories compete in a sort of “elimination match” with each other. Evolution has eliminated creation: it’s no longer even considered proper science to entertain the idea of creation. It looks like the anthropogenic theory is prevailing in the abrupt climate change debate, and if that’s so, the group-think of peer review will eventually lock out the dissenters as promoting a debunked theory. I think this is bad science. Very bad. There shouldn’t even be such a thing as a “scientific consensus” about anything, because no fact of nature was ever altered by a group consenting to its truth. Consensus is for policy-makers and standards committees, not scientists. Scientific consensus is merely a bullying process whereby the scientific school of thought with the most influence drives competing ideas out of the arena. This is why science progresses in “scientific revolutions” — and it’s not necessarily a good thing.

    The major implication of “scientific overconfidence” for your article is the ease with which you translate scientific data into policy prescriptions. You are confident that the data implies a certain fact: that anthropogenic CO2 in the atmosphere is precipitating abrupt climate change, roughly speaking. You then expect policy to move forward on this basis. Those who continue to question whether the alleged fact is a fact are, in your view, simply not approaching the question as a scientific one, because science has spoken, the results are in, and no correspondence will be entered into. I baulk at this attitude because I disbelieve in the whole idea of scientific consensus. The view that the consensus can not be questioned is particularly harsh in that it brands all dissenters as irrational, or politically motivated liars. Believe it or not, some people have genuine evidence-based grounds for questioning the “consensus” position — not just in the climate change issue, but in science generally.

    I know what you’re going to say! People can dissent on the basis of evidence — that’s perfectly good science. But in actual practice what happens is this: the evidence is considered, a “consensus” is reached on the basis of that evidence, and then further objections on the basis of the evidence are not entertained because it’s already been taken into consideration. The evidence-based objection is no longer considered “valid” at this point. To cite a fairly extreme example of this, by way of illustration, consider the plight of someone who thinks that the fossil record provides strong evidence against gradualistic evolution. That person can cite supporting facts about the fossil record until he’s blue in the face, but the scientific mainstream will just shrug and say, “we know all that — but we still think that gradualism is the best explanation of the facts.” It would be professional suicide (without the protection of tenure) to make “evidence against gradualistic evolution in the fossil record” one’s research speciality — not because it’s unscientific in any way, but because its countercultural and will result in ostracism.

    This confidence, that science has unequivocally reached a particular conclusion (which, while not actually guaranteed to be true, is allegedly the most reliable source of truth we have), begets scientific elitism, and I’m afraid to say that your comments exhibit the most profound and disturbing kind of scientific elitism. This is particularly so in your comments about population control. I’m frankly quite shocked to hear anyone speaking favourably of the idea that birth rates should be legislatively controlled. China does it, sure, but I don’t see them as being an example to follow. I realise that you’re motivated by the survival of the species as a whole, but I think you’re walking a road paved with good intentions that leads to an undesirable destination. Seriously — this is the kind of stuff which acts as a plot device in futuristic dystopian sci-fi stories.

    The model of governance that you’re using, perhaps implicitly, seems to go something like this: the scientific elite determines the facts and declares the scope of “reasonable policy”; the proles and their elected representatives may decide policy within those reasonable bounds as they see fit. In this case, the scientific elite has made certain determinations in relation to the environment, and failure to act in accordance with those findings is just plain stupidity.

    My ever-developing lack of confidence in science suggests a more restrained approach. For one thing, I think that disagreement among scientists should be recognised and given the utmost respect. Scientists are still entitled to consider theories other then their own to be bunk, but there should be no such thing as “consensus” except that it actually happens naturally. Competing schools of thought should be encouraged, not engage in a battle of elimination. Where elimination occurs, it should be for lack of willing supporters, not for fear of it being a career-limiting choice. As a consequence of this, there will rarely (if ever) be an actual “scientific consensus” on any matter, climate change included. This is not a problem: governments would still take advice from experts, and it is ultimately the job of government to formulate policy based on many considerations, the prevailing scientific theories (plural) being among them.

    In short, the scientists should not be in control. They should not be supervising the species. They should be advising, yes — and offering conflicting advice in most cases — but they should not be so arrogant as to presume that they know what’s best for the species as a whole. Heck, it’s not even clear that they ought to be given control even if they were infallible, godlike predictors of long-term consequences — and they are a long, long way from being that.

    • Shadow posted on 2009-07-22 at 00:50

      (Ed. note: Originally posted at 2009-08-08 on 11:03, but the time was changed for clarity’s sake.)

      I’m not really sure if you understand philosophy enough. Also, you generalise too much.

    • I’m going to rashly assume that your scientific field is computer science, so my parable will be aimed in that direction:

      Alan: “What are you doing?”
      Bob: “Working on a new public key cryptography algorithm.”
      Alan: “It’s much better to use letter substitutions: A -> C, B -> D, etc.
      Bob: “But that’s vulnerable to attack by letter frequency analysis. For instance, the letter ‘E’ is very common and ‘Q’ is almost always followed by ‘U.’”
      Alan: “You’re just trying to lock out the dissenters as promoting a debunked theory. I think this is bad science. Very bad. You scientists are so overconfident, but remember that you’re the ones who gave us hydrogenated vegetable oil!”
      Bob: “Wow, you’re right. That’s a good point. Here, you teach my graduate class for the rest of the semester, and I’ll pay you to design a secure algorithm for our nation’s banking transactions.”

      Bob’s just following your advice. He’d be wrong to exhibit scientific elitism by treating Alan as irrational, right?

      If you don’t agree with Bob’s actions… why not? It seems like you can’t say that Alan’s statements are silly, otherwise you’d be exhibiting the same kind of scientific elitism that you see in my writing. If Bob should debate Alan, how long should he do so?

      Science is practically venerated as the pinnacle of all human knowledge. When scientists are challenged on this point, they usually defend the position by attacking the alternatives: asking whether you’d like rockets built by priests, or medical treatment from a witchdoctor, or something like that.

      Not me. I just think it’s a sort of response to tone (DH2). As a result, I don’t know how to answer it constructively– or if that’s even possible at all.

      Copernicanism was considered *unscientific* by the mainstream of the day. … I can relate this back to climate change, or I can relate it back to creation and evolution. There’s a prevalent attitude in science that theories compete in a sort of “elimination match” with each other. Evolution has eliminated creation: it’s no longer even considered proper science to entertain the idea of creation.

      Scientific theories compete in the sense that every new observation either supports or falsifies them. For example, the Ptolemaic system that preceded Copernicanism was a genuine (albeit crude) scientific model because it made specific predictions about the movements of the planets. Careful observations were thus able to prove it wrong.

      But, as I’ve stressed, creationism can’t ever be refuted, because its inherently supernatural properties make it compatible with any potential discovery. On the other hand, I’ve listed two simple falsifications of evolution: chimpanzees in the Precambrian and many species with totally different DNA bases.

      Prior to the discovery of evolution, there simply wasn’t a decent scientific explanation for the origin of species. It’s not that creationism used to be scientific before Darwin; it’s that creationism wasn’t– and couldn’t– ever be scientific. Note that I’m not saying creationism is wrong! Quite the opposite! It’s just not a scientific theory because it isn’t falsifiable.

      Spontaneous generation was a Fact of Science until quite recently.

      Sure, if 1859 fits your definition of “quite recently.”

      How many of today’s theories will be next year’s outmoded ideas? But this doesn’t seem to be a source of embarrassment for scientists, or even a cautionary tale. Instead, they crow about how superior their way of thinking is to that of religions, presenting the straw man that religions are fixed and immutable, whereas science is open to new evidence. Open to new evidence it may be, but that’s no reason to have extra confidence in the theories of here and now: quite the opposite, in fact.

      I’ve discussed a similar issue before, and said “… even religions that explicitly disavow fideism tend to engender a culture of faith, which is anathema to science’s culture of doubt.”

      It’s not that religions are “fixed and immutable,” but rather that they’re based on faith moreso than doubt which means they’re slower to change than science.

      Publication is an intensely political thing — why is the myth of the “objective” scientist still so strong, even amongst those in the thick of it?

      Because I’ve met so many inspiring scientists who work very hard to live up to that ideal. Not all of them, of course. But enough.

      I think the generally high opinion that scientists hold of their endeavour is causing them to be sloppy. After all, if you’re pretty sure that your methods are leading you to correct conclusions, you’re likely to see other evidence which confirms those conclusions. You’re not so likely to attempt active falsification of your conclusions, or to try to find other explanations which also fit the evidence. You are likely to overlook the conflicting data as “anomalous”. Can you see how this might be a problem?

      Actually, yes, I have: “The problem here is that I’ve come to believe that the easiest person for me to fool is myself. That’s because I want to believe the fibs that I tell myself. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to correct my reasoning because I’d ignored a piece of evidence that I simply didn’t want to see. So I’m much more cautious than usual when I’m evaluating a situation in which I know that I have an intrinsic bias.”

      The major implication of “scientific overconfidence” for your article is the ease with which you translate scientific data into policy prescriptions. You are confident that the data implies a certain fact: that anthropogenic CO2 in the atmosphere is precipitating abrupt climate change, roughly speaking. You then expect policy to move forward on this basis.

      I said “On a completely different note, as an ordinary American” right before switching to discussing our response to abrupt climate change. What I meant to stress is that I didn’t give up my voice as an ordinary American citizen when I went to college. I’ve got the same right to voice my opinion about my country’s future as any other citizen.

      Those who continue to question whether the alleged fact is a fact are, in your view, simply not approaching the question as a scientific one, because science has spoken, the results are in, and no correspondence will be entered into.

      I spent less than 3 pages at the top of the article reviewing the science, followed by more than 30 pages corresponding about it, and you think I won’t enter into correspondence? I’m perfectly willing to listen to anyone who asks even a single, solitary question about the science. Heck, sometimes I don’t even enforce that rule too strictly.

      I baulk at this attitude because I disbelieve in the whole idea of scientific consensus. The view that the consensus can not be questioned is particularly harsh in that it brands all dissenters as irrational, or politically motivated liars.

      First of all, I’ve repeatedly stressed that science isn’t democratic, so I don’t give “consensus” any weight. For example, I once said “… I don’t see how the popularity of an idea has anything to do with its veracity.” I really don’t see why you think I’m saying the consensus can not be questioned.

      Secondly, your argument could be used equally well to defend astrologers and homeopathic healers.

      I know what you’re going to say! People can dissent on the basis of evidence — that’s perfectly good science. But in actual practice what happens is this: the evidence is considered, a “consensus” is reached on the basis of that evidence, and then further objections on the basis of the evidence are not entertained because it’s already been taken into consideration. The evidence-based objection is no longer considered “valid” at this point.

      Yes, some objections that were once consistent with the evidence at hand later conflicted with other observations.

      To cite a fairly extreme example of this, by way of illustration, consider the plight of someone who thinks that the fossil record provides strong evidence against gradualistic evolution. That person can cite supporting facts about the fossil record until he’s blue in the face, but the scientific mainstream will just shrug and say, “we know all that — but we still think that gradualism is the best explanation of the facts.” It would be professional suicide (without the protection of tenure) to make “evidence against gradualistic evolution in the fossil record” one’s research speciality — not because it’s unscientific in any way, but because its countercultural and will result in ostracism.

      I can only speak for myself, and I’ve already endorsed Dawkins’ continuously variable speedism, so I completely agree that the fossil record doesn’t support a strictly gradualistic position. But I wonder how many professional biologists still support strict gradualism?

      This is particularly so in your comments about population control. I’m frankly quite shocked to hear anyone speaking favourably of the idea that birth rates should be legislatively controlled. China does it, sure, but I don’t see them as being an example to follow. I realise that you’re motivated by the survival of the species as a whole, but I think you’re walking a road paved with good intentions that leads to an undesirable destination. Seriously — this is the kind of stuff which acts as a plot device in futuristic dystopian sci-fi stories.

      We have:

      1. A finite planet and resources, with major technological hurdles to cross before we can use off-planet resources in any serious quantities.
      2. An exponentially growing population.
      3. Political systems that reward leaders for saying what voters like to hear.

      If we were any other species, our population would just overshoot the carrying capacity and then perform damped oscillations around it. But our technology has artificially increased the carrying capacity of the planet, and as a result our crash is likely to be much worse. Also, our fearsomely powerful weapons will only work against us in that kind of nightmarish scenario. If humans are willing to commit genocide for territorial and ideological reasons already, imagine what they’d do if “starvation” were added to that list of motivations…

      I know what I’m saying is unpopular, and I definitely recognize the potential for abuse. Also, if the trend in developed nations spreads to the developing world, the problem will go away without the need for such drastic and unpleasant measures.

      But what really terrifies me is that anyone who even mentions this issue is treated as a wanna-be Dr. Evil. All I’m saying is that we should carefully examine our growth rate, compare it to future projections of the carrying capacities of our planet(s) and make an informed democratic decision.

      I certainly don’t want to create some kind of technocracy. That would be unstable in the long run because most of the stability of democracies comes from empowering citizens. If peoples’ voices count, they’re less likely to violently revolt. A technocracy would convince many people that their voices no longer matter, so I’m firmly opposed to it.

      The model of governance that you’re using, perhaps implicitly, seems to go something like this: the scientific elite determines the facts and declares the scope of “reasonable policy”; the proles and their elected representatives may decide policy within those reasonable bounds as they see fit. … In short, the scientists should not be in control. They should not be supervising the species. They should be advising, yes — and offering conflicting advice in most cases — but they should not be so arrogant as to presume that they know what’s best for the species as a whole. Heck, it’s not even clear that they ought to be given control even if they were infallible, godlike predictors of long-term consequences — and they are a long, long way from being that.

      What gave you the impression I think scientists should be supervising the species? I believe in democracy– it’s the least bad system I’ve seen. How is my position on abrupt climate change any different from those of scientists who said:

      • You might want to wash your hands, especially before you deliver a baby. This “germ theory” looks convincing.
      • You probably shouldn’t smoke. Studies show it causes cancer.

      I’d rather say that scientists are like “lookouts” for the human race. They poke around the world, looking for interesting phenomena. Sometimes they run across something that could be dangerous, and rush back to tell other people what they’ve seen. If they didn’t do that, what use would they be to anyone?

      • Still anonymous posted on 2009-07-22 at 07:04

        If you don’t agree with Bob’s actions… why not? It seems like you can’t say that Alan’s statements are silly, otherwise you’d be exhibiting the same kind of scientific elitism that you see in my writing. If Bob should debate Alan, how long should he do so?

        Here’s how that conversation should go, minus the intro.

        Alan: “It’s much better to use letter substitutions: A -> C, B -> D, etc.”
        Bob: “I know how to break that kind of code. I’m trying to design a code that I believe nobody can break.”
        Alan: “You’re just trying to lock out the dissenters as promoting a debunked theory. I think this is bad science. Very bad. You scientists are so overconfident…”
        Bob: “Look, if you think you can do better, go for it. I’m not going to stop you. Just quit telling me how to do my job, okay? I didn’t ask for your advice, and I don’t want it.”

        I’m not sure that this altered version of the conversation proves anything — but then I’m not entirely sure what the original was supposed to prove. Did you seriously think that it was a representative consequence of my position? If so, then my lengthy ramble has failed to convey its intended message quite spectacularly: an Epic Fail, in fact. I think I should quit while I’m behind rather than prolong the agony.

      • Representative? Perhaps not. I do think it’s a consequence of your position that you didn’t explicitly recognize. Your argument is just so sweeping that it applies to practically anyone who claims to know anything. You’re aiming it at scientists who accept evolution and abrupt climate change, but my point is that it also applies to people like yourself who– I’m assuming– occasionally claim knowledge in your own field too.

        Actually, I mostly agree with your version of the conversation. Except I try not to tell anyone to “quit telling me how to do my job” because in that case I get accused of scientific tyranny. So I try very hard to answer every comment– even comments like Alan’s– in the most calm manner I can possibly muster. But either way, I’m apparently perceived as an Evil Scientist Overlord… so maybe I should just do away with patient civility if that’s my inevitable fate.

        Incidentally, I also had exactly the same feeling of Epic Fail regarding my article when reading your comment. I kept trying to figure out why a patient, 30 page long correspondence with skeptics got labeled as “scientific elitism,” “shutting out dissenters” and interpreted as though I’d said something like “the consensus can not be questioned.”

        Wow. This must be how cynics are made. I can feel my optimism slipping away by the moment…

      • Still anonymous posted on 2009-07-22 at 21:38

        …it also applies to people like yourself who– I’m assuming– occasionally claim knowledge in your own field too.

        Having dabbled in Epistemology, both as a personal interest and at the undergraduate level, I’ve come to the conclusion that “knowledge” is overrated. In those instances where I consider myself relatively expert compared to someone else, I usually express that by willingness to place a bet — my prediction versus theirs. Not everything can be reduced to a testable wager, however. How do you wager on whether climate change is anthropogenic or not? You just wind up disputing the same evidence you started with — it gets you nowhere. The crypto example you gave is the opposite case: lots of crypto reduces to “I bet nobody can crack this cipher” (given time-frame X and unfettered access to the mechanism, but not the key).

        Except I try not to tell anyone to “quit telling me how to do my job” because in that case I get accused of scientific tyranny.

        It’s only scientific tyranny if you claim that your way of doing the job is the only one that produces knowledge. If you believe in The Scientific Method (singular), and think that you are following it, and that someone else is not, then there may be some confusion between “stop telling me how to do my job” and “stop telling me how science which produces knowledge is performed”. If you believe the process of science is not negotiable — that The Scientific Method is narrowly defined — then there’s no difference between these two statements. If you think that scientific problems are amenable to fairly diverse methods of investigation, then the former statement is just another way of saying “stop telling me which scientific approach I should be taking”. If there’s only one method, it’s a question of “science or not”; if there are many, then it’s a matter of preference, like which programming language one uses to write a computer program.

        I kept trying to figure out why a patient, 30 page long correspondence with skeptics got labeled as “scientific elitism,” “shutting out dissenters” and interpreted as though I’d said something like “the consensus can not be questioned.”

        Our problem at this stage is that we haven’t figured out what our disagreement is. Despite your protestations to the contrary, you do come across as elitist, but I haven’t put my finger on the problem sufficiently. I’m hoping that I’ve come a little closer with this idea of The Scientific Method. In the hope that we might further identify the exact nature of this difference, here are some other differences which strike me as important.

        Scientific theories compete in the sense that every new observation either supports or falsifies them.

        I consider this claim to be extremely problematic, or at least grossly oversimplified. I doubt it was meant to be taken completely literally, though. Still, I’m a very long way from this position. New observations can cohere well or badly with a model — or be quite irrelevant — but few theories are so brittle as to be “falsified” by any observation. Mathematical conjectures are brittle in this way: they are demolished by a single counter-example. Physical science, not so much — you can make excuses or tweak your theory. Observations are also interpreted in light of theory, so the meaning of the evidence is open to question even if the evidence itself is “fact”.

        Secondly, your argument could be used equally well to defend astrologers and homeopathic healers.

        I’m not sure that it can — I haven’t figured out the exact chain of reasoning you used there — but the more interesting aspect of this is that you raise it as a problem at all. It so happens that I don’t care if my argument can defend those people. This is probably another key to our differences, so perhaps you could explain why you think your objection has the status of “problem”.

        What gave you the impression I thought scientists should be supervising the species?

        Something along the lines of (a) the species must behave a certain way in light of scientific facts, and (b) scientists determine that which is a scientific fact. Again, I think that the difference arises from your (apparent) view that real science is an objective kind of process that leads to a correct view of reality when properly applied. It’s a “neutral” sort of thing, so a world governed by “scientific facts” is not a world governed by scientists, but rather a world in which governance is simply in touch with reality — and why would anyone object to that? I take an opposing view: science is intrinsically political. The “scientific facts” depend on theory, and thus on the mindshare of the theory. A world governed by “scientific facts” is, in my view, equivalent to a scientific ruling class. Perhaps the closest “-ocracy” is “noocracy” rather than “technocracy”. Plato might approve, but I’m not enthused.

      • How do you wager on whether climate change is anthropogenic or not?

        I don’t gamble, so I’d phrase the central issue in my article differently. Namely, “How do you determine if recent changes in the global climate are caused by natural variations or by human activities?” Update: If you really want to gamble, here’s a discussion you may find interesting.

        Many of the preceding 30 pages are devoted to this topic, but here are the highlights:

        1. CO2 levels are ~26% higher than they’ve been in the last 650,000 years, according to independent studies of the Vostok and EPICA ice cores.
        2. We know that our emissions (mainly from coal plants) are responsible for this increase in CO2 because (a) coal and gasoline are taxed, so we have a good idea how much is being used, (b) other potential sources like volcanoes emit ~100x less than we do, and (c) the amount of CO2 we’ve emitted is a good match for the extra CO2 in the atmosphere.
        3. CO2 is a greenhouse gas, according to physics briefly summarized here.
        4. Temperatures in the last ~30 years have increased faster than at any point in the last ~1000 years, a rate which is steadily increasing.
        5. Natural variations such as changes in the Sun’s brightness aren’t large enough to explain these temperatures; in fact the Sun is unusually dim right now.
        6. So far, this is just a correlation. Meehl 2004 is (just one) example of how the increase in CO2 is causally connected to the increase in temperatures. Natural variability explains the climate until ~1970, at which point the observations can only be explained by accounting for human emissions.

        I’d be happy to discuss any of these points if you think I’ve made any mistakes in my reasoning.

        You just wind up disputing the same evidence you started with — it gets you nowhere.

        I honestly don’t know what would lead you to say that, especially when you haven’t even peripherally discussed any of the science that appears in the 30 pages above your comment. It’s also worth noting that our knowledge of abrupt climate change is based on many different types of evidence, so it’s possible to compare models generated using independent data.

        I’m aware of the fact that data used to generate a model can’t be used to verify it, if that’s what you meant.

        If you believe the process of science is not negotiable — that The Scientific Method is narrowly defined …

        Maybe you’re referring to the fact that most (but not all) scientific journals charge for access, or that scientists tend not to release their source code or data by default. In that case, I completely agree.

        Or perhaps you’re questioning the importance of peer review. I do have problems with modern peer review; it’s usually single-blind when it should be double-blind, and less than a dozen people usually review each paper. Here’s an excellent site with more criticisms of peer review. Personally, I’d like to see peer review completely automated by a system similar to “recommender systems” currently being implemented on P2P networks. This way, all scientists could rate each paper they read. That would allow more alternative views into the community, and prevent a few people with chips on their shoulders from dominating any debate. But right now the alternative to peer review is “no peer review” which is much worse.

        Based on your references to creationism, it’s also possible that you’re disputing methodological naturalism as the basis of modern science. I’ve previously explained why science needs to be defined the way it is, and listed mistakes that creationist “science” would make. If an alternative scientific method exists which wouldn’t result in the kinds of mistakes I’ve listed, please describe it– along with specific reasons why those mistakes wouldn’t be made– and I’ll consider it.

        I think that the difference arises from your (apparent) view that real science is an objective kind of process that leads to a correct view of reality when properly applied.

        I’ve previously said: “Science only provides an asymptotic approach to the truth if the universe can be described by natural laws. As a result, I think Brett was right to say that science is effectively searching for “credible falsehoods.” That is, the answers obtained by restricting one’s attention to falsifiable, naturalistic explanations are only accurate if a completely objective reality exists.”

        So my position is a little more nuanced than you’re implying.

        I’m not sure that it can — I haven’t figured out the exact chain of reasoning you used there — but the more interesting aspect of this is that you raise it as a problem at all. It so happens that I don’t care if my argument can defend those people. This is probably another key to our differences, so perhaps you could explain why you think your objection has the status of “problem”.

        You seem to think that your argument can be aimed– like a rifle– at scientists who study abrupt climate change or evolution. However, I think that it applies to nearly all claims. What I’m trying to say is that your argument isn’t a rifle that can be aimed. Instead, it’s a nuclear bomb of solipsism. You’ve tried to explain that computer science is exempt while physics isn’t, but I don’t have the foggiest idea what you meant. It’s frustrating– and probably futile– to discuss science with someone who answers every scientific claim with variants of:

        • “Oh, you only say that because you’re a scientist, so it would be professional suicide for you to say anything else.”
        • “I’ve come to the conclusion that “knowledge” is overrated.”

        I’m now convinced that we’re speaking two completely different languages, both of which happen to contain English words. So there’s probably no point to this conversation, unless you want to discuss the science itself.

      • Still anonymous posted on 2009-07-23 at 09:39

        I’d be happy to discuss any of these points if you think I’ve made any mistakes in my reasoning.

        I haven’t checked your reasoning. It’s not your reasoning from the evidence you’ve provided that I doubt. What I want to see next is the contrary case from a well-versed expert who has reached conclusions that conflict with yours. You could then rebut each other somewhat, as you feel the need. In the end, however, I doubt that I’ll be able to judge between your case and his, because the whole thing is too esoteric for me. Frankly, if two specialists in a field can’t agree on something, what hope do the outsiders have? This is part of the problem.

        In your opening statements (to this blog entry), you said the following.

        …most of the general public appears to believe that the existence of abrupt climate change (formerly known as anthropogenic global warming) is a question of politics rather than science. They’re not looking at evidence published in peer-reviewed science journals before adopting a position. Instead, they seem to decide that their political party’s position on climate change is “X,” so they believe “X.”

        The average member of the public doesn’t see it as a political issue: they just expect their elected representatives to be on top of this kind of issue and so look to them for guidance. The average member of the public will gain absolutely nothing by reading a peer-reviewed science journal, since it may as well be written in hieroglyphics. The average scientist would be out of his depth reading a journal in a discipline other than his own.

        Let’s keep the issues simple for a moment, since my whole “philosophy of science” angle is just causing you frustration. What, exactly, would you like to see from the general public in terms of reasoning about this subject? Clearly you want them to think scientifically, or treat the problem as a scientific problem, not a political problem, but this request isn’t specific enough. You’ve bemoaned the fact that they don’t read the journals, but I hope you’ll agree, on reflection, that such a requirement is unreasonable. You’ve addressed the problem here by presenting a scientific argument, and it looks like quite a compelling one, but the average person is in no position to analyse it. Furthermore, they’ve heard that some other scientist or other has reached a different conclusion — and he had the right political leanings, so they’ll go with his story, thanks. That’s not a particularly good reason for thinking he’s a better scientist than you, of course, but what’s a poor layman to do?

        Please advise.

      • What I want to see next is the contrary case from a well-versed expert who has reached conclusions that conflict with yours. You could then rebut each other somewhat, as you feel the need.

        That’s the point of this web page. I’ve been searching for years– and more than 30 pages– hoping to find a well-versed expert whose conclusions differ substantially from mine. The conversations in this article– and the documents I’ve referenced in it– are all I’ve managed to find so far, but here are some more.

        Frankly, if two specialists in a field can’t agree on something, what hope do the outsiders have? This is part of the problem.

        Pick any random topic, and you’ll probably be able to find at least one specialist who disagrees with his peers to some degree. Uniformity of opinion is neither expected nor desired. Consensus is irrelevant; evidence is all that matters.

        The average member of the public doesn’t see it as a political issue: they just expect their elected representatives to be on top of this kind of issue and so look to them for guidance.

        That’s a serious mistake. Politicians are rewarded for saying what voters like to hear, and for having the appearance of knowledge. Clearly you believe that physicists are highly political too, and only reach “group-think” conclusions that further their careers. With all due respect, I’ve been in physics all my adult life along with many of my friends, and I strenuously disagree. Physicists argue fiercely among themselves. The bad ones do care about appearing smart, but they’re outnumbered by the physicists who care deeply about knowledge and are genuinely grateful to people who point out mistakes in their reasoning.

        For example, my first research advisor once scared me by thinking for a full minute before answering one of my questions. He paused… stared at the ceiling… and sat still for so long that I almost thought he’d gone into a coma. I slowly realized that he just wanted to make sure his answer was thoughtful and accurate rather than snappy but possibly wrong. My current advisor is the same way.

        I don’t know how many professional physicists you hang out with, but given your dismal opinion of my field, they’re obviously horrible at their jobs; it’s a good idea to avoid the universities where they teach or do research.

        On the other hand, politicians only need to appear smart and have snappy but superficial “sound bite” answers in order to get (re-)elected. Looking to them for scientific answers is a serious category error, similar to assuming that comedians are qualified to design computer languages.

        What, exactly, would you like to see from the general public in terms of reasoning about this subject? Clearly you want them to think scientifically, or treat the problem as a scientific problem, not a political problem, but this request isn’t specific enough.

        1. I’d like for people to stop saying “But Al Gore rides in airplanes, so global warming is bullshit!”
        2. I’d like for people to stop saying “Al Gore is right about everything, so global warming will doom the human race!”
        3. I’d like for my conversations with the general public regarding abrupt climate change to focus on the evidence rather than having to constantly endure a barrage of accusations that I’m a brainwashed idiot, or a member of a vast global conspiracy.
        4. More importantly, I’d like their response to wacky claims to be: “Is that published in a legitimately peer-reviewed science journal?” … rather than blind credulity or blind denial based on their political leanings.

        The average member of the public will gain absolutely nothing by reading a peer-reviewed science journal, since it may as well be written in hieroglyphics. The average scientist would be out of his depth reading a journal in a discipline other than his own.

        They do need to understand that peer-reviewed journal articles are where science actually happens. Take away peer review, and you’re left with this.

        The average scientist does find papers in a different field hard to grasp… at first. When I don’t understand a topic in a different field, I remain agnostic about that topic unless I think it’s important enough to spend the time and energy trying to understand it. For example, I have no opinion about the validity of superstring theory. The general public doesn’t seem to hold themselves to that same standard of intellectual rigor. And I mean that about both sides.

        You’ve bemoaned the fact that they don’t read the journals, but I hope you’ll agree, on reflection, that such a requirement is unreasonable. … they’ve heard that some other scientist or other has reached a different conclusion — and he had the right political leanings, so they’ll go with his story, thanks. That’s not a particularly good reason for thinking he’s a better scientist than you, of course, but what’s a poor layman to do? Please advise.

        1. Realize that peer review isn’t only about qualifications.
        2. It’s not strictly necessary to read the journals themselves in order to get a decent overview of a subject. But the public should keep in mind that their source needs to be as close as possible to the journals. Here’s a good site that translates the science journals into plain English. They usually link (and almost always cite) the peer-reviewed articles they’re translating on the page so you can verify their claims if you’re interested. An even better non-technical source is the IPCC summary for policymakers. The IPCC reports have been through peer review twice.
      • Still anonymous posted on 2009-07-23 at 19:01

        I still think you’re underestimating how esoteric all this stuff is. Joe Sixpack is not going to read scientific journals, or even summaries of scientific journals. Joe Sixpack’s exposure to science is going to occur through the popular media: preferably TV or a movie, but he might actually read a book on the subject if you’re lucky. If you require more than that, prepare to be frustrated, because your expectations are unreasonably high.

        I’m not Joe Sixpack — I have been known to sit down and read published scientific papers from top to tail, and I’ve got a trifling number of published papers myself — but even I am not going to invest the time necessary into examining climate-related papers in order to reach an “informed decision” (by the standards you have presented). I’m not going to do that because I know what I’m in for! Hours and hours of dreary writing accompanied by dry facts and figures, and very little way to determine how seriously I should take the results. Peer review only tells me so much in that regard, because specialists always have an inflated view of the importance of their own subject. I’ll get a good feel for where research is happening in the field — which research angles are popular — but I doubt that I’d come out the other side with your convictions on the subject because of my doubts in the impartiality and reliability of science as a whole (although we’ll steer clear of that discussion).

        So I think that you have unreasonable expectations of people. You also have a rosy view of (peer reviewed) science and a jaundiced view of politics, and not everyone shares that balance of opinions. They tend to have some respect for a certain subset of politicians — the ones they vote for. Looking to politicians for scientific answers is not a category error, believe it or not: it’s just practical. It’s not a category error because we don’t expect the politicians to actually perform the science. We just expect (some) politicians to have invested the necessary effort in understanding the issues, or at least to have been briefed by someone paid to do all that laborious research.

        Another way of describing the problems I’ve mentioned above is that (specialised, esoteric) science is out of reach to all bar the specialists. The average man needs someone to digest it all for them and translate it into comprehensible terms. That’s what Al Gore did. People go to the sources that they trust and understand the most. I don’t see how it could be otherwise. You want there to be fewer middle-men, but I think the only way you’re going to get that is with a fundamental change in human nature. Good luck with that.

        All of the above falls into the category of “unreasonable expectations” — a matter of opinion on my part. I have one more wrinkle for you which is more philosophical, and it relates to peer review again. The problem is that anyone can have peers and ask those peers for approval of their work. Creationists have peers and peer reviewed journals. Clearly you don’t want people giving this pseudoscience any weight, so you may want to tweak your criteria about peer review a little further. (This won’t address the “out of reach” issue, but it is a separate problem that you would have to address if the “out of reach” issue were solved.)

        Thanks for the link to the “tides” thing, by the way. I didn’t read it in detail, but it made me realise that I don’t understand how tides work. I thought I did! So much for knowledge! Maybe I’ll figure it out one day, but probably not. The tides will do as they do regardless of my understanding.

      • If you require more than that, prepare to be frustrated, because your expectations are unreasonably high.

        I think that people tend to live up to– or down to– expectations placed on them.

        I have one more wrinkle for you which is more philosophical, and it relates to peer review again. The problem is that anyone can have peers and ask those peers for approval of their work. Creationists have peers and peer reviewed journals. Clearly you don’t want people giving this pseudoscience any weight, so you may want to tweak your criteria about peer review a little further.

        Scientists publish science in peer-reviewed science journals. That results in better science. Lawyers publish law in peer-reviewed law journals. That results in better law. The mere act of peer review doesn’t turn lawyers into scientists, though.

        Similarly, creationists don’t become scientists just by publishing creationism in peer-reviewed creationist journals. As I’ve repeatedly explained, science needs to be defined the way it is because creationist “science” would make mistakes like these. If an alternative scientific method exists which wouldn’t result in the kinds of mistakes I’ve listed, please describe it– along with specific reasons why those mistakes wouldn’t be made– and I’ll consider it. But we should discuss that in the intelligent design article, because it’s off-topic here.

        Thanks for the link to the “tides” thing, by the way. I didn’t read it in detail, but it made me realise that I don’t understand how tides work. I thought I did! So much for knowledge! Maybe I’ll figure it out one day, but probably not. The tides will do as they do regardless of my understanding.

        That’s one of the most depressing and horrifying paragraphs I’ve ever read. I’ll shut up now, because I’m clearly doing more harm than good.

      • Marbs posted on 2009-07-24 at 04:07


        Scientists publish science in peer-reviewed science journals. That results in better science.

        …well it appears the International Symposium on Peer Reviewing says ‘kind of’…


        Empirical studies have shown that assessments made by independent reviewers of papers submitted to journals and abstracts submitted to conferences are no [sic] reproducible, i.e. agreement between reviewers is about what is expected by chance alone. Rothwell and Martyn (2000)…

        Wikipedia has a decent little summary about the criticisms of the peer review process.

        And if you open reference #12 and skip (past all the scary fringe pseudo science) to the end – you’ll get to what looks to me to be a long tasty list of literature talking about suppression and the issues concerning challenging the mainstream.

        Of course I actually don’t think peer review is at all worthless. Double checking peoples’ work is a very useful tool and used across multiple fields under different names like auditing and design reviews etc, for very good reasons.

        But I think it can and does play a part in the suppression of new ideas / new science more than you clearly expect.

        In pondering this discussion (Many thanks to Mr Anon for his sterling contribution – he’s said many things that I had been thinking – but worded with greater depth than I could have) I’ll brainstorm a couple of things here that may unwittingly be contributing to your perspective (BTW – I’m not attached to any of these – just submitting them for consideration)
        a) Your sample size of physicists you know well is small.
        b) If you get on well with / respect them you probably share similar ideals, including honesty in science etc. – so your sample also suffers from a selection bias.
        c) Even limiting your selection to within an organisation means your sample suffers from a organisational cultural bias.

        It’s also occurred to me that you probably haven’t had the need to challenge the consensus on something they’re already biased against. Some of the articles above are about / written by people who have had challenged the consensus and eventually won. But not without a huge battle and emotional cost along the way.

        It’s all very well to say that consensus opinion is worthless, but in actual fact it is very comforting to know that it is on your side. That’s just human nature… a form of ‘herd psychology’ perhaps… its like all those people have ‘double checked’ your thinking and have come to the same conclusion – who wouldn’t be comforted by that? Why bother investigating just a little further when everyone else knows it’s wrong?

        What’s more a consensus opinion in science can be self perpetuating, especially if the following example is true from MetaResearch

        When budgets became tight, NASA “adopted” certain theories as essentially established, and stopped funding research into alternatives. These financially favored theories include the Big Bang, “black holes”, “dark matter”, and “dark energy”.

        And I would expect that this particular set up of circumstances is why revolutions necessarily occur in science.

      • Wikipedia has a decent little summary about the criticisms of the peer review process. … But I think it can and does play a part in the suppression of new ideas / new science more than you clearly expect.

        I’m baffled to see comments like this, and Anonymous’s claim that I “have a rosy view of (peer reviewed) science” when less than 48 hours ago I said pretty much the same thing:

        Or perhaps you’re questioning the importance of peer review. I do have problems with modern peer review; it’s usually single-blind when it should be double-blind, and less than a dozen people usually review each paper. Here’s an excellent site with more criticisms of peer review. Personally, I’d like to see peer review completely automated by a system similar to “recommender systems” currently being implemented on P2P networks. This way, all scientists could rate each paper they read. That would allow more alternative views into the community, and prevent a few people with chips on their shoulders from dominating any debate. But right now the alternative to peer review is “no peer review” which is much worse.

        I’ve been saying for years that peer review has these problems. It’s just the least bad alternative we have at the moment. Otherwise people write rambling pages like this one, without seeming to understand that they’re fundamentally confused about vector addition which is usually taught in high school physics.

        Your sample size of physicists you know well is small.

        “Small” is relative. That’s why I wondered out loud regarding how many professional physicists Anonymous knows. Again, I’ll say that whoever gave the both of you these horrible impressions of physicists needs to have their PhDs revoked. And again, try not to take any classes from the universities where they teach or do research.

        It’s also occurred to me that you probably haven’t had the need to challenge the consensus on something they’re already biased against.

        Here’s just one example: “It took me a long time to believe in black holes (even after most physicists thought they were conclusively proven to exist) so we agree on this principle.”

        And I would expect that this particular set up of circumstances is why revolutions necessarily occur in science.

        It’s common to look back on the history of science and notice that most new science started as an anomaly that was regarded as nonsense by contemporary science. But this statement isn’t true in reverse. Most anomalies regarded as nonsense by scientists never amounted to anything. Modern examples of these anomalies are Moon landing hoax conspiracy theories and the 9/11 Truth movement.

        When reviewing scientific claims that bypass peer review, the signal-to-noise ratio is simply too low to be useful. I honestly see no way to distinguish many of the claims made here (or in this article) from the conspiracy theories I just listed. I don’t say that to insult you, but in the hope that you can understand why I don’t want to spend the rest of my mortal life combing through those kinds of claims.

      • Marbs posted on 2009-07-24 at 07:10

        I’m sorry – but you caved in in the black hole example ;) What opinion do you currently hold that contradicts the mainstream scientific community?

        It’s common to look back on the history of science…

        I puzzle on this disconnect that both Mr Anon & myself are experiencing with you. And this is a classic example. I’m not saying that the implication does run backwards at all. No one has. You’ve rebutted nothing by this paragraph.

        When reviewing scientific claims that bypass peer review, the signal-to-noise ratio is simply too low to be useful.

        Wow. Just Wow. Do you realise what you’ve just said? Perhaps this is the reason for our disconnect.

        Clearly scientific revolutions will be all black swan events for you.

        Personally, I’m interested in the truthnow. Not just the ‘scientific theory of the day’ which – as Anon pointed out – has a history of / is guaranteed of getting outmoded as more knowledge becomes available. If you feel you need to limit yourself to the scientific method & peer-reviewed journals to ultimately discover truth, then you’re really going to miss some biggies.

        The scientific method may be one measure of confidence – but it is demonstrably not infallible, and is limited in it’s application. Others in other articles and above do a far superior exposition of this.

        I honestly see no way to distinguish many of the claims made here (or in this article) from the conspiracy theories I just listed.

        Well – speaking broadly – I guess you’d better start looking for more ‘unexplained things’ and trying to fit them within your world view. That’s the only way I can see of having the best chance of building the most accurate and internally consistent world view.

        Perhaps start by reading some NDE’s (the actual NDE’s), and then compare them to the (occasionally self confessed) inadequate scientific explanations. Bear in mind which way the scientific consensus is on life after death though.

        As you mentioned your mortal life – I promise one day it’ll be directly relevant to you… just like tax legislation is ;)

      • Still anonymous posted on 2009-07-24 at 07:45

        Many thanks to Mr Anon for his sterling contribution – he’s said many things that I had been thinking – but worded with greater depth than I could have.

        Well gosh, thanks. I didn’t really intend to get into a public discussion. My first comment was emailed to DS — he asked permission to post it, and here we are.

        Similarly, creationists don’t become scientists just by publishing creationism in peer-reviewed creationist journals. As I’ve repeatedly explained, science needs to be defined the way it is…

        Fine. So you want peer review and methodological naturalism. I think the anti-anthropogenic climate change crowd can accommodate that. There’s almost certainly more than one of them, so they can review each other, and there’s nothing remotely supernatural about their claims. On the contrary: they’re super natural (two words). I believe if they can just get a “journal of anthropogenic climate change scepticism” going between them, they’ll meet your gold standard and the problem will go away.

        (I have to stop mentioning Creationism. Every time I do, you assume I’m trying to defend it. I’m not. I’m using it as an example — as a way of pointing out, “your prescription must be missing something, because it allows creationism to be classified as science.”)

        That’s one of the most depressing and horrifying paragraphs I’ve ever read. I’ll shut up now, because I’m clearly doing more harm than good.

        You find it depressing and horrifying because you take things too seriously. Well, it’s certainly the case that you take science too seriously. You’re thinking, “here’s an obvious example of religious nutter pseudoscience, AND HE’S TAKING IT SERIOUSLY!” The truth is nothing like that. I find that nearly any piece of reasoning, no matter how horrible, is likely to have at least one point that will challenge you if you don’t miss it because you’ve pre-judged the whole lot.

        In the case of the “tides” nonsense, the point that caught my attention was the mention of how high tides happen on opposite sides of the Earth at the same time. The explanation (which was allegedly quoted from a children’s science book) seemed like rubbish, sure enough, but on reflection the fact that high tides do happen on opposite sides of the Earth is counter-intuitive. I mean to say, if some kid said to me, “you know how the pull of the moon causes the high tide? Then why is it high tide when the moon is pulling the other way?” — I’d be stuck for an answer.

        No doubt you understand the physics of this well enough that you’d be able to answer the question. Whether the kid would understand your answer is a different matter, of course.

        I’m baffled to see comments like this, and Anonymous’s claim that I “have a rosy view of (peer reviewed) science”…

        Why be baffled? You go on to say, It’s just the least bad alternative we have at the moment. In any case, I was saying that your view of peer-reviewed science is rosy and your view of politics is jaundiced, so you should understand the comparison to be a relative one. I’m not suggesting that you think peer-reviewed science is perfect — merely that it’s the best thing we have at present, or similar.

        It’s common to look back on the history of science and notice that most new science started as an anomaly that was regarded as nonsense by contemporary science. But this statement isn’t true in reverse.

        I don’t think that anyone has claimed the reverse is true, or based an argument on it. The point is not, “anthropogenic sceptics might be right because their idea is regarded as nonsense”, but rather, “the anthropogenic theory could well be wrong because it’s regarded as a scientific fact.” Scientific “facts” aren’t all that reliable in the long run — that’s the point. Scientific revolutions are often quite unforgiving to their predecessors.

      • What opinion do you currently hold that contradicts the mainstream scientific community?

        • I think spherical harmonics are relied upon far too much in the empirical modeling community.
        • I don’t think the anthropic principle explains the “fine-tuned” universe.
        • I wonder if inflation could have been caused by gravitational collapse in another universe.
        • I’ve been a proponent of the many worlds interpretation long before it was fashionable.
        • I believe cold weather really can make you sick.

        Sorry, but I’m at work and can’t continue these examples. I hope I’ve made my point that I’m not simply a brainwashed sheep incapable of independent thought.

        Updated ~12 hours later after going home:

        • I believe that GRACE samples gravity at the equator slightly more often than twice every sidereal day. In other words, I think the sampling has a well-defined frequency. Many other scientists and aerospace engineers I’ve talked with regarding this issue believe that the sampling is essentially random. But my data don’t support that notion.
        • I wonder if “dark matter” is the result of gravitational interactions with galaxies in parallel universes. Suppose parallel universes exist in the same physical “space” we inhabit, and only interact with each other (and us) via gravity. The galaxies in different universes would then clump together, but their disks wouldn’t necessarily be aligned. So the total gravity would appear similar to a spherical halo of dark matter. This would explain the too-high velocities of stars at the edges of galaxies and the too-high velocities of galaxies in superclusters.

          2009-07-25 Update: I don’t think my hypothesis is consistent with the Bullet cluster data.

          2009-07-27 Update: Also, I wonder if galaxies in my imaginary parallel universes really would clump together. They’d certainly be gravitationally attracted to each other, but if each universe has roughly the same density of galaxies, they’d typically have a long way to fall towards each other. As a result, they’d be moving so fast that I doubt any damping mechanisms could have brought them to rest in ~13.7 billion years. But… what if they formed in the same place initially? That would make sense because supermassive black holes likely play a large role in proto-galaxy formation. Gravitational collapse in one universe would trigger collapses in other universes leading to galaxies with small relative velocities. But in that case, it seems like the disks would be aligned because disk formation probably doesn’t involve a large percentage of actual physical collisions (any actual astronomers want to help me here?). I think this would result in the wrong velocity profile for stars versus distance from the center of the galaxy? Oh, and all these stars in different universes would cause gravitational lensing events to occur with a much greater frequency than has been observed by the OGLE. Galaxies with non-aligned disks would look even weirder- that implies lensing with bizarre relative velocities.

          Sorry about that. My list is now one item shorter, and I see no alternative to dark matter. I caved in just like when I investigated the evidence behind black holes as a senior undergrad physics major in 2003.

        • The direction of “imprinted” magnetic fields in ancient glacier dropstones are supposed to be proof that glaciers covered the equators during Snowball Earth. I don’t see how they’re able to determine this, because by definition glacier dropstones have been picked up and moved, so we have no idea what their original orientation was.

          2009-08-27 Update: I met a grad student studying glacier erosion and asked him this question. He said that the direction of the imprinted magnetic field is obtained from the sedimentary rock that forms around the dropstone after it’s deposited. If those sediments have magnetic fields that are horizontal, they were formed near the equator. This makes sense, so I’m afraid I have to cave in once more.

        • I don’t understand how the UV catastrophe and the photoelectric effect are proof of the existence of photons– as I’ve often been told. I think these effects are only proof that light interacts with matter in a quantized fashion, which is a much weaker claim.

          2009-07-29 Update: One of my colleagues who works in experimental quantum optics said:

          You are basically correct in that a semi-classical picture of physics (quantized energy levels in atoms, but still a classical electromagnetic field) can successfully describe many phenomena that are often described as “quantum.”

          However, there are many quantum optics experiments (squeezing, entangled states of polarization that violate Bell inequalities) that can only be correctly described if a quantum mechanical theory of light is adopted.

          I’ve never looked at squeezed states of light closely, but I really should’ve noticed this fact while studying quantum teleportation. Looks like I should take my own advice about drawing premature conclusions from simplified explanations. Thanks!

        • This is more about sociology, but I believe that gun rights aren’t causally linked to increased violence. I stay very quiet about this at work because a majority of scientists in many fields– including physics– are in favor of gun control. (Article coming soon, so I can’t discuss yet.)
        • This is more about politics, but I’m much more libertarian than many of my colleagues.
        • This is more of an ethical dispute, but I strongly feel that A.I. shouldn’t be developed until we have laws in place to acknowledge their individual rights. (Article coming soon, so I can’t discuss yet.)

        I’m not saying that the implication does run backwards at all.

        … I guess I’ll take your word for it.

        I guess you’d better start looking for more ‘unexplained things’ and trying to fit them within your world view.

        You do realize that’s my job, right? I look for ‘unexplained things’ and try to fit them into my world view professionally. All I’m saying is that the examples you’re presenting are nothing of the sort.

      • In the case of the “tides” nonsense, the point that caught my attention was the mention of how high tides happen on opposite sides of the Earth at the same time. The explanation (which was allegedly quoted from a children’s science book) seemed like rubbish, sure enough, but on reflection the fact that high tides do happen on opposite sides of the Earth is counter-intuitive. I mean to say, if some kid said to me, “you know how the pull of the moon causes the high tide? Then why is it high tide when the moon is pulling the other way?” — I’d be stuck for an answer.

        Okay, that’s considerably less horrifying. I originally thought you were drawing a much broader conclusion based on your statement “So much for knowledge!”. But obviously I read far too much into that. Sorry.

        The reason the tides are high on the side of the Earth opposite the Moon is ultimately because the Moon doesn’t actually orbit the Earth. Both bodies orbit their common center of mass. This means the gravitational force on the Earth due to the Moon has to exactly balance the Earth’s centripetal acceleration at the center of the Earth due to Newton’s second law. However, the surface of the Earth closest to the Moon experiences a larger gravitational force due to the Moon because of the inverse square nature of gravity. So those tides are due to the fact that the Moon’s gravitational force on that surface of the Earth points “up,” and that it’s larger than the Moon’s gravitational force on the center of the Earth.

        The tides on the other side of the Earth are caused by the fact that the Moon’s gravitational force is weaker there than at the center of the Earth (because that side is farther away from the Moon.) That means the Moon’s gravity doesn’t pull objects “down” quite as hard as it does at the center of the Earth. The result is a tide that’s exactly as high as on the near side of the Earth.

        In other words, tides happen on the far side of the Earth for essentially the same reason that water will stay in a bucket even if you hold it in your outstretched hand and spin in a circle. It’s all about centripetal acceleration. I don’t want to give the impression that I think this is easy to understand; it’s really necessary to draw the free body diagrams and compare those vector sums to the centripetal acceleration via Newton’s second law.

        My problem with the link– and the reason I keep mentioning it– is that he got lost in introductory physics, and ended up writing an entire book accusing scientists of faking their results when he could have saved himself the trouble by staying in school. The only reason he made it past the first paragraph is that he didn’t have peer review to help him.

        The point is not, “anthropogenic sceptics might be right because their idea is regarded as nonsense”, but rather, “the anthropogenic theory could well be wrong because it’s regarded as a scientific fact.”

        1. Okay, that makes more sense. I’m sorry for misinterpreting Marbs’s position.
        2. To be consistent, you’d have to believe exactly the same thing about the germ theory, heliocentricity, etc. That’s not necessarily bad, but I haven’t yet seen you criticize those theories in the same way you do evolution or abrupt climate change. In other words, this is another one of those solipsist nuclear bombs.
        3. It doesn’t matter who regards what theory as a scientific fact. All that matters is the evidence behind the theory in question.

        Frankly, this was a mistake. I should leave some room for people who want to discuss the evidence. I think only about 1% of this conversation has.

      • Still anonymous posted on 2009-07-24 at 20:39

        My problem with the link– and the reason I keep mentioning it– is that he got lost in introductory physics, and ended up writing an entire book accusing scientists of faking their results when he could have saved himself the trouble by staying in school. The only reason he made it past the first paragraph is that he didn’t have peer review to help him.

        It looks more to me like he’s a conspiracy theorist. Once you’re convinced that there’s wilful deception involved, you don’t bother with peer review, do you? They’ll just tell you you’re wrong because that’s part of their plan. I used to be partial to conspiracy theories, but I’ve since come to embrace Hanlon’s Razor as a much better general explanation for human behaviour: “do not attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.” That’s not to say that there are no conspiracies, of course.

        To be consistent, you’d have to believe exactly the same thing about the germ theory, heliocentricity, etc. That’s not necessarily bad, but I haven’t yet seen you criticize those theories in the same way you do evolution or abrupt climate change. In other words, this is another one of those solipsist nuclear bombs.

        I think you mean “sceptical nuclear bombs” rather than “solipsist”, and I disagree anyhow. It’s a question of degrees of scepticism, based on faith/doubt in the reliability of various kinds of evidence, the relatedness of evidence to theory, the possibility of alternate explanation, the theory-ladenness of evidence and relative trust in those theories, and so on. Surely some of this stuff rings a bell? I can’t treat all theories with equal trust or equal scepticism because the claims of the theories are different, the quality of supporting evidence is different, and the quantity of supporting evidence is different.

        When you speak of scientific theories, it seems that you consider them to be alike and uniform, and that picking and choosing between them would be simple inconsistency. I disagree completely. Each theory must be considered on its own merits, not on a simple classification as “scientific or not”. Heliocentricity is a model that I only accept as a useful but informal approximation, because I subscribe to a relativist physics in which there is no such thing as an absolute central position. Germ theory was a bold and radical proposition in the days before germs could be observed with microscopes, but the nature of the game has changed with advancing instruments. Climate change is an area in which we don’t have sufficient experience to know which facts are most relevant, we can’t do “parallel earth” experiments to test various parameters, and nobody has a track record of “getting it right” long term because there hasn’t been a long term yet. If you want to place your bets on anthropogenic climate change, then you go for it; I’m not ready to do that yet, even given the evidence.

        It doesn’t matter who regards what theory as a scientific fact. All that matters is the evidence behind the theory in question.

        Scientific theories can be useful or factual.

        If a theory is useful, I don’t care whether it’s factual. For example, I don’t care whether electrons actually exist or not — they’re key to electronics, and that makes them useful. Electrons are the basis for a lot of technology. Who knows — maybe another fifty years down the track we’ll have a revolution in subatomic physics again and electrons will go the way of caloric fluid. That would surprise me, frankly, but it won’t make electronics any less useful if it happens (although I hope it will produce something even more useful — like antigravity or something).

        Anthropogenic climate change is not a “useful” theory in the sense of bearing any technology. It’s an attempt to explain cause/effect relationships — a factual theory — and we want it to be true if we are to base important decisions on it. The evidence is the means whereby we attempt to discern the truth, but the evidence is ultimately not the important thing: all that matters is the truth itself. Unfortunately, evidence is all we have, and just having evidence isn’t enough, because sometimes we misinterpret it. Evidence is necessary, but getting from “evidence” to “truth” is a path fraught with peril.

      • Please read the last sentence of my previous comment again: Frankly, this was a mistake. I should leave some room for people who want to discuss the evidence. I think only about 1% of this conversation has.

        Here are the only parts of your comment dealing with the scientific evidence:

        … It’s a question of degrees of scepticism, based on faith/doubt in the reliability of various kinds of evidence, the relatedness of evidence to theory, the possibility of alternate explanation, the theory-ladenness of evidence and relative trust in those theories, and so on. Surely some of this stuff rings a bell? I can’t treat all theories with equal trust or equal scepticism because the claims of the theories are different, the quality of supporting evidence is different, and the quantity of supporting evidence is different. … Each theory must be considered on its own merits …

        Exactly! That’s why it’s a good idea to examine the evidence, right? I recommend starting with the IPCC summary and asking a scientist about anything regarding the evidence that you don’t understand. I’ve even included every skeptic resource I’ve been able to find at the top of this post so you can see the opposing case.

        … Climate change is an area in which we don’t have sufficient experience to know which facts are most relevant

        I think you misspelled the word “I” as “we.” Common mistake.

        … we can’t do “parallel earth” experiments to test various parameters …

        • Plate tectonics have produced multiple “Earths” over geological time. Supercontinents completely change mantle convection and atmospheric patterns, for just one example.
        • The Earth has actually had 3 different atmospheres, each of which has left evidence for us to study.
        • The Sun is steadily getting brighter, so the past climate contains evidence of how the climate would behave with a lower solar luminosity.
        • There are other planets and moons in the solar system that we can observe. These aren’t Earth, of course, but we’re assuming they obey the same physics. In recent decades, space probes have examined the atmospheres of Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Titan, Uranus and Neptune. These data help us to understand the effects of varying parameters such as density, composition, gravity, size, irradiance, magnetic environment, etc. Observing these extreme regions of phase space helps to constrain our climate models, even though they deal with a much different phase space– the one in which Earth’s atmosphere currently resides and may go in the future.
        • The dynamical models used in climatology are completely different from empirical models that members of the general public might be familiar with. Dynamical models simply describe physics equations; they don’t include empirical data. As a result they can be compared to the many sources of proxy data such as ice cores, boreholes, coral growth, tree rings, stalactites, fossil beds, ocean sediments and glacial deposits. They can test various (necessarily uncertain) physical parameters by comparing simulations using different parameters, data sources, initial conditions, and linear combinations thereof.

        … and nobody has a track record of “getting it right” long term because there hasn’t been a long term yet.

        650,000 years isn’t enough? Remember that our knowledge of the climate doesn’t only come from physical measuring devices. And these ice core data agree with other proxies: we’re changing the climate.

        Or perhaps you meant the track record of the actual predictions? I imagine that your timescale is different than mine, because you consider Pasteur’s experiment 150 years ago to be “quite recent.” But, personally, I think a track record that goes back 78 years is pretty good for modern science. As early as 1931, Hulburt used the brand-new theory of quantum mechanics to study CO2 absorption. He concluded that doubling the CO2 concentration would warm the Earth by 4°C. This is still the conventional method of expressing “climate sensitivity” with respect to CO2. (Although it’s important to note that this convention ignores slow feedback effects which may sum to produce a temporary(?) net positive feedback effect, given the unnaturally abrupt nature of the forcing.) His prediction is still within the error bars of modern estimates which assign a maximum likelihood value of 2.9°C, with a 95% confidence that it’s less than 4.9°C but greater than 1.7°C. Sadly, his breakthrough wasn’t recognized at the time.

      • Still anonymous posted on 2009-07-24 at 22:47

        Plate tectonics have produced multiple “Earths” over geological time.

        When I suggested the need for parallel Earths, I was hoping to establish a control group and a sample size sufficient to lend statistical significance to the results. Extrapolating over history is a poor substitute for direct observation and controlled conditions, particularly given the theory-laden nature of geological history.

        But I’m just annoying you with all this guff. You want to discuss whether the evidence supports your theory (check for errors in reasoning, etc.), and I can’t help you with that because it’s a long way from my speciality. You’re not here to discuss what science is, or how society should relate to it, or where it fits into the overall scheme of human knowledge. Frankly, I think you should consider these broader issues in more depth, because I think that much of your initial problem is grounded in those questions, and not the question of whether the evidence supports your theory. That’s why I’ve been going on about it. But if it’s just a discussion of evidence you want, so be it.

        Here’s my contribution.

        “I don’t really understand the significance of any of that data, sorry.”

        Simple, irrefutable, and completely unhelpful. Not surprising, given that I don’t even understand how tides work.

      • Extrapolating over history is a poor substitute for direct observation and controlled conditions …

        It’s not a substitute, it’s a supplement to the others I’ve listed.

      • Marbs posted on 2009-07-25 at 03:26

        Steven Fielding – An independent senator here in Australia, has only very recently reversed his supportive stance on climate change.

        I haven’t digested this due diligence report myself yet – but that’s the best place I can point you towards for now.

      • Okay, this focuses on the science so I can work with it. The graph on Steven Fielding’s website is similar to the claim made by m4cph1sto and answered by Rei.

        I plan to expand on his explanation, but I’ve got a friend’s wedding Saturday and Sunday, so I won’t be able to for a while.

        That due diligence report contains some topics that I’ve discussed here, and some that I haven’t yet addressed. It’s also so long that if I tried to answer everything in it, I’d fail out of school. If you want to pick one argument that you consider most compelling– one that I haven’t already answered in this article– I’ll do my best to answer it. No rush, though… I won’t be back to the computer for a while.

      • Marbs posted on 2009-07-25 at 05:39

        If you don’t mind I’d rather suggest this. Select the argument you find most troubling for AGW and respond to that one.

        Use the Giant’s strength against himself type strategy;)

      • The graph on Steven Fielding’s website (also on page 10 of the due diligence report) shows temperatures from 1998-2008, and there’s no obvious warming trend visible to the naked eye. This is despite the steadily increasing CO2 in the atmosphere. Rei’s response to this argument was excellent, but I’d like to expand on it.

        First, note that climatologists aren’t saying that our emissions are completely responsible for everything that’s happening to the climate. It’s just that once we account for all known natural variations, an artificial signal remains which is best explained by accounting for greenhouse gas emissions. The temperatures in that graph are affected by many factors, including the fact that the Sun is unusually dim right now. Compared to the last solar minimum in 1996, visible light is 0.02% reduced, and extreme UV is 6% reduced. This cools the Earth very slightly, partially countering the effects of greenhouse gas emissions.

        Second, modern dynamical climate models can’t account for the physics of El Nino and La Nina events. Usually, circulation in the Pacific ocean sends cold water to the surface which serves to cool the atmosphere by warming the ocean. El Nino pauses that upwelling of cold water, thus warming the atmosphere by reducing the rate at which heat from the atmosphere is dumped into the ocean. La Nina does the opposite; it intensifies the upwelling of cold water, which draws more heat than usual from the atmosphere.

        The El Nino in 1997/’98 was unusually strong, which led to the large spike in atmospheric temperatures visible in that graph on Fielding’s website. The large dip in atmospheric temperatures in 2008 occurred because of a significant La Nina. These short-lived events have little effect on the long-term climate because they merely swap heat between the oceans and atmosphere. But they do make it difficult to use either ocean or atmosphere temperatures alone to study the climate.

        So we really need better data regarding ocean temperatures. Unfortunately, the Argo network is only a few years old, so we don’t yet have reliable long term data regarding ocean temperatures. Rei was right to say that these events are “just a source of white noise on top of the blatantly obvious signal.” Climate is different than weather, and the graph on Fielding’s website confuses the two.

        In reality, scientists are concerned that recent observations of sea levels indicate they’re rising faster than expected, and the annual minimum of Arctic sea ice is declining faster than expected. It’s too early to tell if this is because the climate models have underestimated the speed of the melting, or if this is simply short-term variability due to weather. Update: Luckily, the rapid sea ice decline appears to be due to weather.

        Now, about my request for you to pick an argument from the due diligence report. I suggested that you pick an argument because I desperately want to understand how the general public views arguments like these. Arguments I find compelling may not convince members of the general public, and vice-versa. For example, at the bottom of page 16:

        One of the proxy temperature series plotted is the infamous “hockey stick” reconstruction of Mann et al. (1999).This reconstruction, though strongly favoured in the 2001 IPCC 3rd Assessment Report (2001), is discredited (e.g., McIntyre & McKitrick, 2003, 2005, 2009) and was discarded for the 4th Asssessment Report (2007) without explanation.

        Jane Q. Public made a similar claim that can be accessed through 7(d) in the index: The accuracy of the “hockeystick” graph.

        So this argument obviously appeals to the general public. If true, it’d be evidence of mind-boggling incompetence and massive fraud on the part of the scientific community. But as I’ve shown, it’s simply not true. I’m also baffled by their claim that the Mann et al. 1999 reconstruction “was discarded for the IPCC 4th Assessment Report,” when in fact it’s the purple time series in Fig 6.10 (b).

        Furthermore, I’ve mentioned that chapter 6 of the IPCC 4th report reviews the claims of MM03 and MM05 on column 2 of page 466. So you can verify for yourself that the claim “without explanation” is also false.

        Overall, the due diligence report contains a broad spectrum of errors. Some are exaggerations, some are omissions of later studies that disprove the ones they’re referencing, while others are howling misconceptions. Typical for “science” which hasn’t been through peer review.

        If I had to single out one part of the report that’s reasonably accurate, it would be this point:

        … climate feedbacks are not well understood … climate feedbacks are a well-known blindspot.

        They’re right to say that feedback effects aren’t yet well understood. But they imply that this uncertainty manifests itself as an overestimate of the positive feedback effects, and an underestimate of the negative feedback effects. If true, that means the IPCC’s projections of temperatures over the 21st century are too high. But I don’t see any proof that this is the case. I think it’s just as likely that we’ve underestimated the positive feedback effects, and overestimated the negative ones. In other words, the IPCC temperature projections could be too low.

        And the scientific community is well aware of this issue. For example, my office mate just returned from a trip to Alaska. While there, he assisted in extracting core samples of permafrost to analyze the amount of carbon stored in them. This will help us to quantify the feedback effect of melting permafrost, which releases methane and CO2 as a result of bacterial growth. Update: He just showed me some pictures of the core samples. They’re black as coal…

        They also say that the 2°C target is arbitrary. That’s basically true; it’s a safe target which probably won’t change the climate to an extent that severely disrupts our civilization.

      • I think it’s just as likely that we’ve underestimated the positive feedback effects, and overestimated the negative ones. In other words, the IPCC temperature projections could be too low.

        Just to be clear, it’s necessary for the overall natural feedback to be negative otherwise the long-term climate wouldn’t have been stable enough for life to evolve. (Thanks again, Dr. Landis.)

        But not all feedback effects operate on the same time scale. It seems to me like the (geologically) rapid increase in atmospheric CO2 and other greenhouse gases will cause a different set of positive and negative feedback factors to interact than those which stabilized the natural climate before our arrival.

      • To be more precise, long term stability depends on the climate’s gain being less than 1, which means that the feedback effects don’t diverge (in the sense of limits).

      • ‘Technological progress is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal.’ Einstein

        Isn’t the current dramatic overpopulation the scientists’ fault? We’ve eliminated natural selection and have substituted a naturally controlled number of strong individuals for the countless herds of sickly animals. Mind that the third world countries are much more likely to survive without technology than the developed world, since we are critically dependent on it.
        I’m afraid in the long run scientific progress will be our undoing.

        In my humble opinion, so much debated climate change is just a symptom of a much bigger issue that is global pollution. The more we develop the more we contaminate, it’s a vicious circle.

      • Isn’t the current dramatic overpopulation the scientists’ fault? We’ve eliminated natural selection …

        In other words, the scientific method resulted in technology which improved our lives to such an extent that previous limits to our growth fell away. Yes, this means we’ve (nearly) eliminated natural selection. That’s the point. Natural selection is inhumane; civilization shouldn’t be based around it any more than we should base our society around the laws of gravity by pushing people off skyscrapers.

        Update: Continued here.

        In my humble opinion, so much debated climate change is just a symptom of a much bigger issue that is global pollution. The more we develop the more we contaminate, it’s a vicious circle.

        Bopeth and I agreed on a similar evaluation. Exponential growth will lead to a series of crises as waste that was safely diluted at previous human population densities becomes dangerously concentrated when our population increases. Equivalently, resources that were previously abundant will become scarce.

      • Reythia posted on 2010-11-01 at 12:26

        Stella, tell me: do you like to eat? One of the most amazing changes that we humans have made to our world in the last ~10,000 years involves the production of food. A purely natural, non-technological world would have almost all of us starving. And yes, that includes those in those ‘third world’ countries you mentioned. After all, what is a house, but technology? What about a fire? Does a horse-drawn plow exist because of ‘natural selection’? What about irrigation, can that ever be ‘natural’? You seem to be implying that technology is evil and implicitly destructive. And to a certain extent you’re right. All technologies change the world around us.

        Then again, doesn’t a beaver dam do the same thing? Is his home ‘natural’? Does his waterway diversion aid or destroy the ‘natural’ habitat?

        There are types of crow able to use tools. This isn’t something we taught them: they’ve been doing it for thousands of years, maybe millions. I recently read an article about a type of crow that’s been observed using three different tools in rapid succession, in order to get to his food. Like scientists, they teach their hatchlings and youths how to use these tools and encourage experimentation. Is this different from a man using a rake, plow, and bag of fertilizer, except in scale? Is it any different than building a machine to plow the fields for you and feed more people from them than you otherwise could?

        I agree that the scale of the problem is different — and worrisome. I also agree that we’re different from beavers and crows in that we have a greater capability for reason, and thus the moral and intellectual responsibility to correct for our actions and limit them where appropriate. But I have difficulty calling all technology and all science evil. I think we’ve got to remember that in one important way, we’re just like the beaver and the crow: we want to survive and to thrive, and we’re willing to change the world around us to make that happen. All creatures do that: plants and animals both (just watch how dianthus will crowd out other flowers in the garden, if you don’t believe me). There’s nothing ‘un-natural’ about technology, I hate to tell you. How could there be? We humans are just creatures, founded and molded by natural selection in the same way the dianthus, beavers, and crows were.

        The difference comes down to scale. A dianthus may out-compete a flower patch and a beaver destroy life downstream in his river, but neither impact the broader world. We can, and do. And we’re also aware that we’re doing it. With that comes a moral dilemma: how much to curb our all-too-natural competitive behaviors. How much should we save for later and for others, that we could be selfishly (naturally!) using ourselves? You seem to think that this dilemma is brought on by science, but ask any parent: how many would be willing to starve their child, in order to act more ‘natural’? Science and technology have been the tools we’ve used, but any halfway decent parent knows that in order to feed the child, you use whatever tools are at hand. Just ask a crow. They do.

        And if science and technology are just tools, we can choose as a society how to use them. We can do great global harm with them, or we can do great good. We have that choice, difficult and complicated though it may be. The problem, in my eyes, is that the ‘natural’ thing to do — the thing that beavers, crows, and dianthus all do — is NOT what we’re starting to think is the best choice for all life on the planet, or even just for all human life. We need to learn balance, which doesn’t come naturally to ANY creature. In nature, balance doesn’t happen by chance or because plants and animals are somehow aware of the need for it. It happens because some other creature comes along and eats the crap out of you before you can permanently unbalance the system.

        Huh. I was about to write, “We humans have overwhelmed that balance, for the first time.” Then I realized that that’s not correct. The balance has been overwhelmed by life before — by blue-green algae (cyanobacteria)! Those are the little guys who created the majority of the first atmospheric oxygen on Earth, around 3.5 billion years ago. They produced so much oxygen (as a waste product, rather like we release CO2) that they converted the entire atmosphere to an oxidative state, killing off the vast majority of life on Earth at the time (which was anaerobic) and triggering what was possibly the longest snowball-Earth ice age in the entire history of the planet! All that, from bacteria living naturally!

        Two conclusions:

        1. If bacteria can destroy so much of the planet’s ecosystem for millions of years, so could we. It’s NATURAL to do so, when the global ecological or chemical balance is upset.
        2. Unlike bacteria, we know what we’re doing. We can use science and technology to prevent such an occurance, but only by acting in a decidedly UNNATURAL way.
  4. Spector posted on 2009-07-25 at 14:23

    As I see it, the basic question is whether our recent climate change is physiogenic (natural) or anthropogenic (caused by man). With our sun going through its longest period of low sunspot activity since 1856 (just before the “Carrington event”), I think we should soon have evidence one way or the other. If this year and the next show a progressive pattern of increasing temperatures, then our climate is being changed by man-made pollution. If it turns cooler, then we must assume that it is being driven by external natural causes.

    • As I see it, the basic question is whether our recent climate change is physiogenic (natural) or anthropogenic (caused by man). With our sun going through its longest period of low sunspot activity since 1856 (just before the “Carrington event”), I think we should soon have evidence one way or the other.

      1. Contrary to popular belief, climatologists aren’t denying the fact that natural variations such as changes in the Sun’s brightness affect the climate. Climatologists aren’t saying that our emissions are completely responsible for everything that’s happening to the climate. It’s just that once we account for all known natural variations, an artificial signal remains which is best explained by accounting for greenhouse gas emissions.
      2. This new signal has persisted since ~1970, which means that it can’t be explained by this ~11 year solar cycle.
      3. Unusually low sunspot activity means that the Sun is unusually dim right now. Compared to the last solar minimum in 1996, visible light is 0.02% reduced, and extreme UV is 6% reduced. If anything, this would tend to very slightly cool the Earth and partially counter the effects of greenhouse gas emissions.
      4. I’ve discussed other potential ways that sunspot activity could affect the climate here: “Cosmic rays are responsible for global warming.”

      If this year and the next show a progressive pattern of increasing temperatures, then our climate is being changed by man-made pollution. If it turns cooler, then we must assume that it is being driven by external natural causes.

      Abrupt climate change is a long-term warming trend imposed on top of natural variations which tend to swing wildly in both directions. If you mean that the temperatures remain inexplicably high after subtracting all those natural variations, you’re almost right.

      But, it’s important to understand that the global climate is different than weather. I think you’re underestimating the extent to which these measurements need to be averaged over time in order to ignore short-term fluctuations. An additional year isn’t enough to invalidate a warming trend that’s been going strong for ~40 years.

      Furthermore, if CO2 isn’t responsible for the recent warming trend, we’re fundamentally confused about basic physics. At least one of these statements needs to be false. Which one?

  5. Reivan posted on 2009-07-26 at 04:19

    I have a question that has always bothered me about global warming. The way i understand global warming is since the earth is warm, it emits infrared radiation into space. CO2 however absorbs some of it and reflects it in a random direction sometimes back to earth. As CO2 concentration increases more and more infrared light is reflected back to earth, causing it to warm. Here’s the question. Isn’t nearly half of the light from the sun composed of infrared radiation? Shouldn’t the amount of infrared radiation reflected in to space balance out the infrared light reflected back to earth until some critical point when almost no infrared rad is able to pass through the atmosphere. At that point only shouldn’t the earth start warming since the infrared rad reflected away from earth is no longer able to compensate for the infrared rad reflected back to earth?

    • Isn’t nearly half of the light from the sun composed of infrared radiation?

      Yes, that’s true.

      Shouldn’t the amount of infrared radiation reflected in to space balance out the infrared light reflected back to earth until some critical point when almost no infrared rad is able to pass through the atmosphere. At that point only shouldn’t the earth start warming since the infrared rad reflected away from earth is no longer able to compensate for the infrared rad reflected back to earth?

      I’m sorry, but I don’t really understand your question. You seem to be asking if the Earth will reach thermodynamic equilibrium, but that definition concerns the whole spectrum rather than just IR. The Earth will eventually reach an equilibrium temperature where the net power radiated away from the planet will equal the net power incident on the planet. But that’s not true now– the Earth is radiating less power than it would need to remain at this temperature because of greenhouse gases.

      • Marbs posted on 2009-07-27 at 06:07

        I think Reivan is referencing the saturation point where increasing CO2 concentrations beyond it will have negligible affect as all the appropriate wavelengths have been already absorbed.

        As outlined in The Skeptics Handbook – Point #4.

      • Ah, okay. Then that’s covered in point 7 (g) of my index: “CO2 is already saturated, so adding more CO2 isn’t going to warm the planet any more.”

  6. Very useful article. One for the bookmarks. Sorry I got around to reading it so late, but I didn’t see your request for commentary. [An Onerous Coward]

  7. Jane Q. Public posted on 2009-07-29 at 16:29

    While I appreciate the fact that you showed some of my comments here, I am concerned that some of them appear to have been extracted out of context, and in other places my own replies to you, which could have clarified some points, have been omitted. In brief, it appears to me that some of my statements have deliberately been portrayed in a more negative light than a reader might personally conclude, if that reader had been privy to the entirety of the online conversation.

    I will reply in more detail when I have time to read all of this more thoroughly and put together a more formal and complete response. That may be some days at least, as I have been rather busy.

  8. We don’t know exactly, however it has been established beyond any reasonable doubt that human activity is a major contributor. [Capsaicin]

    Really? Then I guess that my doubts are not reasonable, and I should not worry that IPCC numerical models predictions are more and more challenged by experimental data, and by dissidents within the IPCC itself…

    It may have been beyond reasonable doubts until about 2005. I do not think it is anymore, the recent scientific advances and newest global data are not so supportive of the idea that man-produced CO2 is responsible for the bulk of global warming, and even less of the more catastrophic predictions for future climate change…

    • Please link to legitimately peer-reviewed scientific articles that back up these claims, because what you’re saying contradicts all the evidence I’ve ever seen.

      • It’s usually a bad idea to quarrel with somebody’s religion, but what the hell: One or two scientists disagree.

      • In science, it’s a good idea to focus on evidence rather than conspiracy theories. What evidence in my article are you disputing?

      • What evidence? Certainly no evidence of consensus. Does the phrase “cherry picking” mean anything to you?

        A peripheral observation: the earth’s climate is a complex adaptive system. I know of no computer model that takes this into account. That’s why they can’t predict the past, much less the future. Even if they did, the best they could produce is probabilities with wide multimodal distributions. They’d be useless for decision making. All the data we have on climate history falls nicely onto a power curve. There’s no way to predict whether anything we do will have any effect or, if it does, whether it would make things better or worse.

        The climate may warm–the best thing we can do is prepare for it. The absurdity that we can not only predict the climate but we can also control it has to be the most extreme case of hubris in human history.

      • What evidence?

        The scientific articles referenced all over this article, which is what the whole issue is about… and with all due respect you still haven’t said exactly which point I’ve made that you think is wrong.

        Certainly no evidence of consensus.

        As I said in a comment: First of all, I’ve repeatedly stressed that science isn’t democratic, so I don’t give “consensus” any weight. For example, I once said “… I don’t see how the popularity of an idea has anything to do with its veracity.”

        And later: “Uniformity of opinion is neither expected nor desired. Consensus is irrelevant; evidence is all that matters.”

        So if you have some credible evidence, please let me know.

        Does the phrase “cherry picking” mean anything to you?

        Where– exactly– did I do that?

        A peripheral observation: the earth’s climate is a complex adaptive system. I know of no computer model that takes this into account.

        A good place to start is chapter 8 of the IPCC report. I’ve also previously discussed this general issue.

        That’s why they can’t predict the past, much less the future.

        Hindcast experiments are one of the standard ways to validate dynamical climate models. They’ve been tested against instrumental records and proxy data like borehole measurements, tree rings and ice cores. The eruption of Mt. Pinatubo showed that climate models can predict climate response very accurately.

        Even if they did, the best they could produce is probabilities with wide multimodal distributions. They’d be useless for decision making.

        Yes, the error bars are large, but the separation between the future scenarios is larger still. The models are plenty good enough to see that we need a new industrial revolution, or risk further damaging the climate.

  9. Indeed, I think the consensus is shifting right now, and I guess that at one point it may become funny and some heads could start to roll…A few more years of flat or decreasing global temperatures, a few more theoretical and experimental blows to IPCC models, a few more scientists resigning from IPCC or publicly expressing doubts, and it’s done.

    It will not be so fast though, given the media and political huge investment in global warming: they will try to keep it silent, quietly put the last decade hysteria under the rug and will not easily do a mea culpa…I have noticed much less mention of global warming on TV since about 2 month though, while it was cruising at full sail propaganda before…Maybe some are feeling the wind turn already? ;-)

    • Really? That’s the impression you got from reading the legitimate peer-reviewed scientific journals? I got tired of repeating myself on Slashdot, so I wrote an article showing that abrupt climate change is well-supported by a mountain of credible evidence. If you’ve examined the IPCC models and found flaws that I haven’t debunked in that article, by all means leave a comment describing these flaws and I’ll look into them.

      • A few flaws:

        • no model takes clouds into account. Albedo variations seems not considered as important as greenhouse effect
        • I do not have seen any attempt of applying models to past conditions where CO2 concentration was higher than today
        • models predictions seems much better in the 1990-2000 region than in 2000-2010, but adjustable parameters were tuned to fit 1990-2000 data…not a good sign for a numerical model…
        • cyclic variation of solar power is taken into account, but other effects on cloud formations are not (not surprising, as cloud are not taken into account anyway). But recent studies suggest that the main effect of solar cycles is linked to magnetic effects, not incoming solar radiation.
        • much more emphasis (as in your article) to positive feedback effects than negative one. In fact, positive feedback is set at the stability limit: a little bit more and the system would be unstable and the climate we had before industrialization would simply not have been possible, you would have had a runaway warming or cooling. You need to have this quasi-unstable feedback factor to get sufficient impact of CO2 to fit the 1990-2000 data….but then how would you be able to fit paleoclimate data, where CO2 varied hugely and temperature not so much? Anyway, a natural process with quasi-unstable feedback is of course possible, but certainly not the norm, it seems suspect to me…

        I have read your article, and it is not convincing. Especially, the way you insist that the model should be applied to recent time only is not sound: a numerical model should be tested in as much conditions as possible, especially for other input that the ones that have been used to calibrate it!!! And man produced CO2 is just the same as natural CO2, any attempt to separate the two (one have a greater effect that the other???) is highly suspect.

        In fact, I think many reader objections in your article are valid, and you seem to agree as you do not really debunk the well formulated ones…

      • … no model takes clouds into account.

        Actually, all models take clouds into account. I’ve previously linked to a new paper describing recent improvements to models of clouds.

        Albedo variations seems not considered as important as greenhouse effect.

        You’re probably referring to a 2004 paper by E. Pallé et al. Their conclusion appears to be based largely on 2003 values of earthshine, which may have been caused by undersampling the data. A separate 2005 paper measured the albedo using satellite data and didn’t observe the same dramatic change.

        I do not have seen any attempt of applying models to past conditions where CO2 concentration was higher than today … I have read your article, and it is not convincing. Especially, the way you insist that the model should be applied to recent time only is not sound: a numerical model should be tested in as much conditions as possible, especially for other input that the ones that have been used to calibrate it!!!

        Because, as I state in a popup on the words “very slightly” in the third paragraph of the article, there are so many changes to the Earth over such long periods of geological time (you have to go back tens of millions of years to see higher CO2 concentrations) that the dynamical models wouldn’t be expected to apply. Plus, proxy data are unreliable at such timescales, so we’re stuck with “recent” data like the last 650,000 years from EPICA.

        models predictions seems much better in the 1990-2000 region than in 2000-2010, but adjustable parameters were tuned to fit 1990-2000 data…not a good sign for a numerical model…

        Huh? You’re not under the impression that climate models are empirical models, are you?

        … cyclic variation of solar power is taken into account, but other effects on cloud formations are not (not surprising, as cloud are not taken into account anyway). But recent studies suggest that the main effect of solar cycles is linked to magnetic effects, not incoming solar radiation.

        That’s because those other effects have been shown to be very small. See 7 (b) in the index: “Cosmic rays are responsible for global warming.” If you’ve found evidence contradicting these papers, please let us know.

        … much more emphasis (as in your article) to positive feedback effects than negative one. In fact, positive feedback is set at the stability limit: a little bit more and the system would be unstable and the climate we had before industrialisation would simply not have been possible, you would have had a runaway warming or cooling.

        I’ve explicitly addressed this point. The point is that feedback effects act on different time scales, and our forcing is geologically very rapid.

        And man produced CO2 is just the same as natural CO2, any attempt to separate the two (one have a greater effect that the other???) is highly suspect.

        I didn’t mean that man-made CO2 has a greater effect, just that feedback CO2 appears after the temperature rises, not before. Therefore the recent CO2 rise is anthropogenic, and we should expect the natural feedback CO2 (observed in Vostok) to add to it.

        In fact, I think many reader objections in your article are valid, and you seem to agree as you do not really debunk the well formulated ones…

        For instance? I’ve got my own research distracting me, so I don’t always have time to answer each and every question, but I’ve tried really hard to answer all the scientific questions that people have posed. I’d like to see which questions are “well formulated” that I haven’t “really debunked.”

      • Huh? You’re not under the impression that climate models are empirical models, are you?

        I am not, I am sufficiently well informed to know that those models are solving huge set of nonlinear PDE representing simplified thermal radiation equation, convection, gaz exchanges, …, so they are based on basic laws of physics.

        Problem is, i am more informed than that: I solve big sets linear PDE for a living, create the models and simplification under it, and had a go to nonlinear PDE during my Phd. Not a climatologist, i worked more in fluid dynamic and vibro-acoustic…

        Now, you are not trying to tell me that the tuning of adjustable numerical parameters, grid size, time steps, simplifications, linearisation techniques, and choosing of unknown physical parameters in the simplified mathematical models are not of the utmost importance, are you? That, except if you are extremely careful and work in a field for which mathematical modeling is not under discussion, your numerical models are, when you are honest, sophisticated empirical models that may give insight to fine details, but always produce pretty color plots in 3D? The validations I have seen for those models (single curve fitting over small period) are not convincing enough, too much local errors for such a model to be reliable imho. I am aware that it is the best we can currently do, but I have enough experience in numerical models to consider it is far from being enough to trust…

      • … Now, you are not trying to tell me that the tuning of adjustable numerical parameters, grid size, time steps, simplifications, linearisation techniques, and choosing of unknown physical parameters in the simplified mathematical models are not of the utmost importance, are you?

        No, it’s just that these parametrizations are only performed for the mean climate, and shouldn’t change over a timespan measured in decades. Continental drift and increasing solar output invalidate them over geological time, but not over the period from 1990 to 2010.

        … The validations I have seen for those models (single curve fitting over small period) are not convincing enough, too much local errors for such a model to be reliable imho. …

        I presume you’re referring to the model validations via the Pinatubo eruption. There are other validations, chief among them being comparisons to proxy data which extend over hundreds of thousands of years. Initial condition ensembles are taken to average out the weather, and models with completely different parametrizations are averaged in a multi-model ensemble to produce the IPCC results (see chapter 8).

  10. I do not believe CO2 is causing any problems at all … [elkto]

    What scientific evidence led you to that conclusion? I got tired of repeating myself on Slashdot, so I wrote an article showing that abrupt climate change is a matter of serious concern.

    • Me too…..

      Earth cooled a degree last year, Satellite images show arctic ice cap growing the last three years, lack of sunspots is pointing to a scary minimum. The CO2 increase contributes to less than a than 1/2 of a percent increase in green house gasses (do not exclude the largest green house gas, water vapor)

      It is very tiring repeating the same facts over, and over. I feel your pain.

      • Earth cooled a degree last year

        After warming for many years, but sitll the *trend* is upward, which, after all is what global warming is about. It is not about a slight deviation from a trend to cause people to ignore it. That is what people call jitter or noise.

        Satellite images show arctic ice cap growing the last three years

        Huh? 2007 was the lowest recorded amount of ice coverage. You are simply wrong. 2008 was slightly more than 2007, but still less overall. 2009 is the current year, and the data is thus not complete.

        The CO2 increase contributes to less than a than 1/2 of a percent increase in green house gasses (do not exclude the largest green house gas, water vapor)

        Source? Over what time frame? Maybe you mean that carbon dioxide is a trace gas, at less than 1/2 of a percent composition OF the atmosphere. It has increased concentration 35% since 100 years ago. The only true thing you’ve said is that water vapour is the the largest source of greenhouse gas.

      • Earth cooled a degree last year … [elkto]

        As I’ve explained, ENSO events are (mostly) irrelevant to the long term climate.

        Satellite images show arctic ice cap growing the last three years …

        In the same link as above, I referenced this 2007 paper titled “Arctic sea ice decline: Faster than forecast.” Also, the 2008 melt season was the longest in satellite record, and the ice is thinning dramatically.

        … lack of sunspots is pointing to a scary minimum.

        Again in the same link, I explain that this means the Sun is unusually dim, which (if anything) would tend to cool the Earth very slightly.

        The CO2 increase contributes to less than a than 1/2 of a percent increase in green house gasses …

        As I explained in the fifth paragraph of this article, CO2 has jumped ~26% above the highest value it’s reached in the last 650,000 years. And this staggering increase occurred in the span of several decades, which is ~35x faster than at any point in the last 400,000 years.

        … (do not exclude the largest green house gas, water vapor)

        As I’ve explained, water vapor reaches equilibrium in a matter of weeks, so we can’t change its concentration except by changing Earth’s average temperature. Water vapor concentration is also lower in the stratosphere, while CO2 is well-mixed even to the highest level of the atmosphere, and it stays in the atmosphere for many decades which is why it’s so dangerous.

      • No, sorry, everything stated is true. I dislike giving source sites as they radicals have away of destroying facts, but here you go.

      • You probably dislike giving source sites because none of the sources you’ve used are reputable, peer-reviewed scientific journal articles. See 7(a) in the index to see why this bothers scientists.

      • BohaHHHAhahahhahha….

        You did not even look!!!!!

        You, scientist! Hey I will admit I did not look at your stuff yet, but you just snubbed The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, NOAA, and an individual who compiled raw info.

        Buddy, honestly, who reviewed you? You seem very self important at this time.

        But Ok, hey I am not a scientist by profession, review the info let me know….

      • I looked at the first one. It actually shows the opposite of what you are saying. According to that graph the mean for polar sea ice is dropping, and recent years have been worse than less recent years.

        The third one is from NOAA statistics you say. But it is only one month (August, unless I am mistaken?), compared against a mean of the previous years. That shows August 2008 was cooler, on average in most areas (and in others, quite neutral), to the mean global temperature of the previous decade. If you look at this data for 2008, it shows the opposite of what you’re trying to show. And here’s one of the NOAA saying that 2008 was one of the warmest years on record.

        The second link you provided has been much better refuted than I could do on khayman80′s blog. (Look up his links about water vapour).

      • Don’t be precious. The issue isn’t the specific facts you’re referencing, but rather the bizarre conclusions you’re using them to support. As SilverEyes said, the first graph shows Arctic sea ice is decreasing. I’m not surprised; I use AMSR-E data in my hydrology research, and they’ve got high quality data. I’ve already shown that the second link about water vapor is wrong in a previous comment to you. The third link was addressed in that same previous comment.

      • No it does not, though I made the same mistake when I first read it. It may below the mean at the present time, it is show a recovery.

        I do not know at this point who’s website dumbscientist.com is, but it excludes, very typically, Maurder Solar minimum / Little Ice age data. I am still going through it.

        And are you refuting the fact that water vapor makes up %95 of the greenhouse effect on earth? If so, what percentage does it make up?

      • No, it is because the sites are routinely sabotaged. The fact is in this current political climate, all the dirty tricks claimed to be used by one party, are now being employed in force.

        In my world of engineers, many statements made on the dumbscientist.com would drive them nuts because it lack obvious common sense.

        I do not know other worlds, but explore often looking for answers.

        EV’s are not a answer here.

      • Yeah I read it wrong the first time as well. It actually shows growth for the last three years.

        More importantly, it shows a trend where more recent years have a lower minimum than earlier years. Remember not to confuse weather with climate like Steven Fielding. The long-term trend simply has irrelevant noise due to ENSO events, etc. imposed on top of it. As I said before, the real problem scientists face is here.

        I see the statistics on your web site removed the Maurader Solar Minimum / Little ice age; most CO2 proponents do.

        You might be referring to this paragraph: Abrupt climate change is a long-term warming trend imposed on top of natural variations which tend to swing wildly in both directions. If you mean that the temperatures remain inexplicably high after subtracting all those natural variations, you’re almost right.

        But that reference removed the ENSO events, and figure 2 shows a warming trend even before this subtraction.

        Also, contrary to popular belief, climatologists aren’t denying the fact that natural variations such as changes in the Sun’s brightness affect the climate. Climatologists aren’t saying that our emissions are completely responsible for everything that’s happening to the climate. It’s just that once we account for all known natural variations, an artificial signal remains which is best explained by accounting for greenhouse gas emissions.

        If we do not get some cycle 24 sunspots soon, we might be hoping for some global warming. I thought we where on the way but a cycle 23 spot showed up the the sun went quiet now for over a month; not good.

        No, solar variability is smaller than greenhouse effects.

      • Ok, so it is your site.

      • No it does not, though I made the same mistake when I first read it. It may below the mean at the present time, it is show a recovery.

        Answered in another comment to you here. Again, I’m saying your conclusions don’t flow from these cherry-picked examples, I’m not disputing the AMSR-E ice minima record.

        I do not know at this point who’s website dumbscientist.com is, but it excludes, very typically, Maurder Solar minimum / Little Ice age data. I am still going through it.

        It’s mine, and this point was also answered in another comment to you here.

        And are you refuting the fact that water vapor makes up %95 of the greenhouse effect on earth? If so, what percentage does it make up?

        I’ve been strenuously trying to say that it’s the conclusions you’re reaching that are wrong, not necessarily these details. As a matter of fact, H20 makes up 66% to 85% of the greenhouse effect in our current atmosphere. But that’s not the point. As I’ve repeatedly explained to you, water vapor reaches equilibrium with the oceans in a matter of weeks, so we can’t really change its concentration except by changing Earth’s average temperature. Water vapor is also not present in the top level of the atmosphere where the greenhouse effect is most important. CO2, on the other hand, is well-mixed even to the highest level of the atmosphere, and it stays in the atmosphere for many decades which is why it’s so dangerous.

        I’m sorry, but I don’t see any point to having a conversation where all my words hit a brick wall, requiring me to immediately repeat them. Have a nice day.

        Update: I’ve failed to communicate again.

  11. (Ed. note: these comments were copied from here)

    and natural CO2 production is 20x man’s … but it damn well won’t stop the “consensus” train. The only good thing about N2O is that its not something you can tax the population over, at least directly. Can’t wait to see who the N2O bogeymen are going to be. [Shivetya]

    I got tired of repeating myself on Slashdot, so I wrote an article showing that abrupt climate change is a matter of serious concern. There seem to be an endless number of internet ninjas promoting claims like this, despite the fact that CO2 hasn’t risen above 300ppm in the last 650,000 years. But then we come along and the concentration skyrockets to 380ppm in a matter of decades, which is 35x faster than any increase in the last 650,000 years.

    As others have said, natural CO2 production and absorption aren’t relevant to the current CO2 problem because they balance each other. Our emissions and volcanoes are the only sources of CO2 that aren’t balanced, and humans emit 100x more CO2 than volcanoes.

    • I took a look at your article, and found it interesting, and not obviously biased. Very good!

      I also noticed that you were very careful to specify that your temperature graph only went back 300 years. This is significant in a way you didn’t mention: it means that the first half of it records temperatures at the end of The Little Ice Age, and the portion between about 1830 and 1900 (roughly) shows the climate “recovering” from that. As the graph doesn’t go far enough back to show The Early Medieval Warm (Yeah, I know: you have to work with what you’ve got.) it gives the impression that the climate hadn’t changed for thousands of years, then suddenly began to warm at or near the beginning of The Industrial Revolution.

      • Thanks. As you say, the climate changes naturally. The graph immediately below the one you’re talking about shows temperature reconstructions over the last 1000 years that support what you’re saying. These natural climate changes establish a range of natural variability, and current measurements show that the climate is now changing much faster than can be attributed to natural causes.

        Update: I’ve failed to communicate again.

    • … despite the fact that CO2 hasn’t risen above 300ppm in the last 650,000 years. But then we come along and the concentration skyrockets to 380ppm in a matter of decades, which is 35x faster than any increase in the last 650,000 years.

      Wow, 650,000 years is a big number. How long has there been life on the Earth? How high had CO2 skyrocketed before 650,000 years ago?

      This is what I love about you semi-honest “scientists”. Why are you limiting your dates to 650,000 years ago? That’s not really a long time in the history of this planet.

      • How long has there been life on the Earth?

        Single-celled life may be ~3 billion years old, but multi-cellular life is ~600 million years old.

        How high had CO2 skyrocketed before 650,000 years ago?

        We’re still searching, but the current level is higher than at any point in at least the past 2 million years. Furthermore, as I’ve mentioned, the Sun was dimmer in the distant past, and the biosphere was totally different so the ecology had different requirements than ours. Also, the positions of the continents have a profound effect on the climate, and they move on those timescales. Comparisons across distant geological time are tricky at best.

        This is what I love about you semi-honest “scientists”. Why are you limiting your dates to 650,000 years ago? That’s not really a long time in the history of this planet.

        Because as I’ve mentioned, that’s the age corresponding to EPICA, the deepest Antarctic ice core extracted so far.

      • Consider some additional information.

        It looks to me like the earth has been going through warm spikes for a lot longer than we’ve been around. Our current spike started well before mankind was doing much of anything. One could even conjecture that we’re around because it got warmer…

        As far as “rates of change” go, I’m not certain you can say much at all about the long term history without better resolution in the data. For instance, the rate could vary quite wildly in the blink of 100 years, but that would be blurred in the long term record. These ice and sediment cores implement a nice low pass filter based on how they accumulated and are measured.

        Tacking high resolution data from modern thermometers on to data taken from ice cores seems dubious.

      • Consider some additional information.

        Interesting study, without a doubt. But it uses oxygen isotope records as a proxy for the global mass of ice sheets, and I was discussing CO2 records. Plus, it agrees with the Vostok ice core temperature reconstruction.

        It looks to me like the earth has been going through warm spikes for a lot longer than we’ve been around. Our current spike started well before mankind was doing much of anything. One could even conjecture that we’re around because it got warmer…

        1. We’re talking about spikes in CO2, not temperature. One way to see that the current climate change is artificial is that the spike in CO2 is happening before the temperature spike rather than centuries afterwards like in the natural record.
        2. I’ve already said that the climate varies on long timescales but that Meehl 2004 shows the current warming can’t be accounted for by natural forcings. Greenhouse gas emissions are the only way we can explain the temperatures over the last ~40 years. And as I’ve said, it’s quite easy to measure our emitted CO2 because governments tax oil and coal. Those estimates are easily high enough to account for the sudden increase in CO2. We’re definitely causing the CO2 spike, and it’s very likely causing the temperatures to increase at a rate that’s likely to be dangerous.
        3. Again, as I’ve repeatedly stressed, events such as Heinrich and Dansgaard-Oeschger events are the best examples of abrupt climate change in the paleoclimate record. These are well known in the climatology community, but they’re different from what’s happening today for reasons I just mentioned. These ancient events are worrying, though, because they show the climate has a propensity to shift quickly from one state to another, given even small forcings.

        As far as “rates of change” go, I’m not certain you can say much at all about the long term history without better resolution in the data. For instance, the rate could vary quite wildly in the blink of 100 years, but that would be blurred in the long term record. These ice and sediment cores implement a nice low pass filter based on how they accumulated and are measured. Tacking high resolution data from modern thermometers on to data taken from ice cores seems dubious.

        Yes, ice core data are smoothed by diffusion and compaction, but studies like Delmotte 2004 and Jouzel 2007 have examined the data at a resolution of ~100 years and largely support the conclusions in the original Vostok and EPICA papers.

        Of course, you could respond that decadal variations could exist, but to the best of my knowledge no known natural mechanism exists that could allow CO2 to fluctuate so wildly so quickly. Actually, the Siberian traps may qualify as a plausible natural source, but what sink could possibly have absorbed the CO2 quickly enough to drive the level down far enough below the average for the low-pass signal to record no evidence of this event?

      • We’re talking about spikes in CO2, not temperature.

        Sure, but they are apparently correlated. With such sparse records, I think it’s fair game to look at long term temperatures as well as CO2. Be careful about weeding out data just because it doesn’t support your hypothesis. Temperature is certainly on topic.

        One way to see that the current climate change is artificial is that the spike in CO2 is happening before the temperature spike rather than centuries afterwards like in the natural record.

        That’s one way to see it. It’s also possible that the separate records have a shift in their timescales. I’m sure there are other ways to see it too.

        You seem quite certain that there is only one way to explain things. You’ve already assumed your hypothesis is true. It’s not good science, and I think you should be more skeptical.

        Meehl 2004 shows the current warming can’t be accounted for by natural forcings.

        Again, that’s too strong of a statement. Use your imagination, and I think you could come up with other hypotheses that you can’t contradict either.

        Science isn’t about “facts”. It’s about hypothesis that haven’t been contradicted yet. When a hypothesis survives some scrutiny and starts to yield accurate predictions, then maybe we could start to get a little faith that we’ve got an accurate understanding, but even then, you don’t “know” the truth. A new experiment could tear it all back to zero. That’s why I hate it when someone says how there is no more doubt – if you aren’t doubting, it’s not science.

        Delmotte 2004 [agu.org] and Jouzel 2007 have examined the data at a resolution of ~100 years

        If your sampling is at a 100 year resolution, you can’t say much about what happens in less than 100 years.

        Of course, you could respond that decadal variations could exist, but to the best of my knowledge no known natural mechanism exists that could allow CO2 to fluctuate so wildly so quickly.

        It doesn’t have to be wild fluctuations. A smooth 100 year increase followed by a smooth 100 year decrease would be completely hidden.

        I appreciate your honesty, and the phrase, “to the best of my knowledge” is fair. However, I’m guessing there are a lot of things required to understand the climate that fall outside of anyone’s present knowledge.

        Anyway, you could be right about all of this. Maybe we are ruining the world as we know it. However, I’m going to remain skeptical until I see something more compelling than I’ve seen so far.

      • Be careful about weeding out data just because it doesn’t support your hypothesis. Temperature is certainly on topic.

        I’m not weeding out data; just saying that temperature and CO2 aren’t the same. The recent rapid CO2 rise has nothing to do with the gradual warming that preceded the industrial revolution, as you implied earlier. That’s all I meant.

        That’s one way to see it. It’s also possible that the separate records have a shift in their timescales. I’m sure there are other ways to see it too.

        Yes, as I’ve mentioned in the sixth paragraph of that article, the time lag is difficult to determine with any great accuracy.

        You seem quite certain that there is only one way to explain things. You’ve already assumed your hypothesis is true. It’s not good science, and I think you should be more skeptical. … Science isn’t about “facts”. It’s about hypothesis that haven’t been contradicted yet. When a hypothesis survives some scrutiny and starts to yield accurate predictions, then maybe we could start to get a little faith that we’ve got an accurate understanding, but even then, you don’t “know” the truth. A new experiment could tear it all back to zero. That’s why I hate it when someone says how there is no more doubt – if you aren’t doubting, it’s not science.

        I don’t think I’ve assumed anything. You’re basically accusing me of committing the cardinal sin in science. All I’m saying is that there’s a lot of evidence for abrupt climate change, in the same way that I’d say there’s a lot of evidence for evolution or the big bang.

        I’ll try to avoid taking offense, and just note that I’ve been training my entire life to be skeptical about everything I study. Why do people insult scientists in this manner? It’s like telling a plumber “Oh, come on… you don’t really know the difference between a bathtub and a sink.” Presumably, people wouldn’t insult him by suggesting that he’s fundamentally incompetent at his life’s work. Maybe that’s because plumbers carry big wrenches, while scientists carry calculators?

        It doesn’t have to be wild fluctuations. A smooth 100 year increase followed by a smooth 100 year decrease would be completely hidden.

        If it’s not a wild fluctuation, then the Vostok and EPICA ice core analyses are basically right: the current CO2 concentration of 380ppm is ~26% above the 650,000 year maximum of 300ppm. If they are wild fluctuations, the increase you describe would have a 100 year mean far above the average, and would show up in our CO2 reconstructions. As I said, in order to be invisible to the reconstructions, the wild increase would have to be very rapid and immediately followed by an equally rapid and wildly low anomaly to produce a long-term mean that remains below 300ppm.

        Again, that’s too strong of a statement. Use your imagination, and I think you could come up with other hypotheses that you can’t contradict either.

        You say that as though my life’s work isn’t developing and falsifying hypotheses. I’ve been trying to find an alternative explanation for Meehl’s results, and can’t think of one. Maybe you could read the paper and show me where their mistake was?

        However, I’m guessing there are a lot of things required to understand the climate that fall outside of anyone’s present knowledge.

        Certainly. But the last 20 years have seen a renaissance in climatology; as a result the error bars can now confidently rule out the possibility “climate change isn’t happening” and fairly confidently rule out the possibility “climate change isn’t human-caused.” Perfect knowledge isn’t necessary to make predictions, otherwise Voyager wouldn’t have made it to Saturn because quantum gravity wasn’t available to calculate its orbital burns. All that matters is whether the signal is larger than the error bars, and that’s true for abrupt climate change.

      • This topic came up again here and here.

        In the process, I found more high resolution ice core studies, and a quote from page 447 of chapter 6 of the IPCC AR4 WG1 report:

        “There is no indication in the ice core record that an increase comparable in magnitude and rate to the industrial era has occurred in the past 650,000 years. The data resolution is sufficient to exclude with very high confidence a peak similar to the anthropogenic rise for the past 50,000 years for CO2…”

        Also, more recent evidence shows that CO2 is higher than at any point in the last 15 million years.

        Update: Correction: ~3 million years.

      • A recent “news and views” [*] asserts that temperatures 3-5 million years ago were 3-4°C higher than today in the tropics, and up to 10°C higher at the poles with “little extra CO2.”

        [*] What are “news and views” articles? Are they peer-reviewed? Nature is one thing, but Nature Geosciences is barely two years old, and I haven’t yet read many articles in it.

    • The global temperature change tracks quite nicely with solar output levels, which happen to be cyclic. [fluffy99]

      Actually, solar variations are too small to account for recent warming.

      The politicians and scientists are making the tragic assuming that the earths temperature is supposed to be constant, and ignoring that it probably cycles up and down over a hundred year cycle.

      I can’t speak for politicians, but scientists aren’t making any such assumption.

      Are we affecting it? Possibly, but we are certainly not the dominant or controlling factor.

      Actually, as I’ve shown, we’re very likely causing the majority of the recent warming.

      • How come global-warmists never mention water vapor, which is by far the biggest greenhouse gas. I guess there isn’t any money in selling “steam credits”. [Someone]

        Other than the section devoted to that exact issue, you mean?

      • Citing two papers doesn’t show much. Particularly when you read the abstract for the first citation and it says “Additional climate forcing by changes in the Sun’s output of ultraviolet light, and of magnetized plasmas, cannot be ruled out. The suggested mechanisms are, however, too complex to evaluate meaningfully at present.” [fluffy99]

        Yes, that’s why I’ve got an entire section (7b) in the index devoted to the Sun’s magnetic field effects on the Earth’s climate. And, yes, UV light might be forcing the climate in ways that aren’t currently understood. But the Sun is unusually dim right now, especially in UV light. Also, solar output varies primarily on an ~11 year cycle, and the recent warming has been growing for ~40 years. As I’ve repeatedly explained, the lack of a long-term trend in solar output means that it’s probably not responsible for the recent warming.

        The second paper you cited says that both CO2 and the natural causes must be accounted for in order to make the current models fit the actual data. In other words CO2 is not the dominate controller.

        As I’ve been saying repeatedly, climatologists aren’t saying that human emissions are completely responsible for everything happening to the climate. All we’re saying is that most (>50%) of the warming since ~1970 was very likely (90% confidence) caused by anthropogenic greenhouse emissions, and that percentage grows larger each decade.

        I can dig up just as many citations that show that solar output is sufficient. For example. Those papers also question the validity of measuring a single portion of the spectrum at the earth surface and ignoring cosmis radiation and sunspot activity.

        I can’t load that page, but this may be my cable modem’s fault. At any rate, your description makes it sound like a retread of Svensmark 1998, which I’ve discussed already.

    • The main problem I have with your position is the incessant manipulation of temperature data by those who really believe in global warming. This article points this out. How can we believe these pretty charts when temperature data is so easily manipulated?

      • Yes, it’s common for people to claim there’s a giant conspiracy among scientists. I’ve faced this repeatedly in the article from people like Jane Q. Public. No, data aren’t being manipulated to serve some political agenda. Scientists aren’t evil monsters. We’re people just like you, and our primary interest is in understanding the universe, not pushing an agenda. For instance, my interest in this subject began when I was trying to solve an unrelated problem and the mass loss in Greenland’s glaciers jumped out at me.

        That website is confused on many levels, most of which I’ve already covered in the article. They confuse weather with climate regarding ENSO events, mistake Newsweek and other mainstream media for “science” and assume nefarious motives for what is simply an ongoing process of assimilating data from various sources properly.

      • I’m not claiming giant conspiracies amongst scientists, however, I think the author raises some valid points that require further explanation.

        There was once a time when it was consciences that the earth was flat. A didn’t take a scientist to prove them wrong. Okay, I understand that we are much more sophisticated in sorting out what is truth and what is not. But I also wish to point out that there was a time were all sorts of “models” that accurately predicted the movement of celestial bodies under premise that the earth was in the center of the galaxy. One notable multi-disciplined individual begged to differ. We know what happened to him when he did.

        Bottom line? I naturally wary scientific “consciences”. It doesn’t exist. So until the views of the educated and qualified folks who don’t write for the New Scientist are addressed w/o name calling (i.e. skeptics) I think it is utter foolishness to consider the science settled. Anyone who doesn’t take into account and rejects the views of qualified folks in order to establish scientific theory as consciences should be regarded with suspicion.

        By the way, the loss of glaciers are non-events. It has occurred before and will occur again. Until scientists models start predicting the future accurately, GW is going to be a hard sell.

        I will agree with you that I certainly have more reading to do. However, I must say that the New Scientist is not he end all be all and neither is it a final authority. It is troubling to me that you reject papers from other peer-reviewed journals (as seems apparent in one of the responses to posts to your article). It raises questions in my mind why include some and exclude others.

        Bottom line, there are too many creditable people who argue against your point of view. The most prominent and surprising is Claude Allegre, who was one of the first to warn about man-mande global warming. He has sense recanted and now considers global warming to be:

        “…over-hyped and an environmental concern of second rank.” (see Allegre’s second thoughts)

        I look forward to a continued lively debate on the subject.

      • I will agree with you that I certainly have more reading to do. However, I must say that the New Scientist is not he end all be all and neither is it a final authority.

        I’ve never included New Scientist in my list of reputable peer-reviewed journals. I’ve provided a couple of links to it, but only because I’ve verified that the story matches the evidence provided in genuinely peer-reviewed journals.

        It is troubling to me that you reject papers from other peer-reviewed journals (as seems apparent in one of the responses to posts to your article). It raises questions in my mind why include some and exclude others.

        I presume you’re referring to the incident where Jane Q. Public tried to reference an article from Energy and Environment (a social science journal) when that research had been presented in hard science journals 15 years previously and quickly dismissed as a fluke of data smoothing parameters. That’s the reason I dismissed the paper: it was wrong.

        Until scientists models start predicting the future accurately, GW is going to be a hard sell.

        When it comes to the general public, this subject is quite similar to evolution or the reality of the moon landings. It will always be a hard sell to most nonscientists despite the many model validations like the Mt. Pinatubo prediction. I’m not under the impression that anyone I’m talking to has the slightest intention of looking into the science deeply enough to understand it.

        Bottom line, there are too many creditable people who argue against your point of view.

        Again, I’ve repeatedly stressed that science isn’t democratic.

      • Again, I’ve repeatedly stressed that science democratic.

        I find it unnerving that you would dismiss creditable dissension to a closely held theory as something to do with democracy. Folks like Monsieur Allegre raise valid points that should be addressed and not swept under the carpet.

        We the folks are trying to examine both sides of this sometimes hard to understand argument, and when one dismisses the other with words such as “science isn’t democratic”, then (in my view) you’ve left their arguments unanswered and your credibility questioned.

        Like I said, I have more reading to do, I’m sure we’ll be speaking again.

        Best Regards…

      • When it comes to the general public, this subject is quite similar to evolution or the reality of the moon landings.

        The questioning of the moon landings comes from NO ONE with any credible scientific background, yet LOTS of credible (and credentialed) folks are questioning the work being done on global warming. Yet those good folks are being put in the same category as the loons who question the moon landings…incredible.

      • I find it unnerving that you would dismiss creditable dissension to a closely held theory as something to do with democracy. Folks like Monsieur Allegre raise valid points that should be addressed and not swept under the carpet.

        You’re implying that science is democratic– that it depends on the number of people who support a theory– by emphasizing that there are “too many creditable people who argue against your point of view.” But as I’ve argued over and over again, science is about evidence, preferably in peer-reviewed journal articles. I humored you by opening that non-peer-reviewed article, and didn’t see any compelling evidence. All he mentions is Kilimanjaro’s glacier, which I’ve already linked, and Antarctic ice mass, which is well known in the climatology community to be losing mass in the west and gaining it in the east.

        Update: Some of Monsieur Allegre’s claims are examined here.

        It’s wrong to consider science democratic, but if you really want to play that silly numbers game, consider that ~84% of scientists agree that abrupt climate change is happening, and that it’s being caused by humans. Again, science isn’t democratic! It’s about evidence!

        When it comes to the general public, this subject is quite similar to evolution or the reality of the moon landings.

        The questioning of the moon landings comes from NO ONE with any credible scientific background, yet LOTS of credible (and credentialed) folks are questioning the work being done on global warming. Yet those good folks are being put in the same category as the loons who question the moon landings…incredible.

        Notice that I said “when it comes to the general public.” All you have to do is skim this article to see how juvenile and repetitive most of these arguments are. Then consider that I’ve tried to edit their responses so they look less crazy. For instance, compare my version of Stormcrow309′s objections to the Slashdot original. I’ve encountered similar attitudes in my conversations with creationists.

        And again, your repeated emphasis on “LOTS” continues to imply that you think science is democratic. I’ve tried to convince you that science is actually about evidence. If you can find convincing evidence that these people have published in reputable peer-reviewed journals, then I’ll read it. But please make sure that I haven’t already addressed these issues here. So many people on this thread are rehashing issues which I’ve repeatedly debunked that I’m starting to wonder how Carl Sagan managed to talk to nonscientists without pulling all his hair out. Maybe that’s why he died so young?

      • An actual scientist! Do you work under grants? Tell me honestly, if you applied for a grant to study a theory that C02 concentrations are not driving the earth-air temp, do you think you’d actually get funded? Or would all the other research groups that want to expand upon the theory get funded first? If you got a grant to prove C02 levels were the driver and you failed to establish the connection, how likely are you to get funded again? My wife wrote grant applications for quite a while, and we’re both very familiar how the process works.

        The strong bias I see in scientific research isn’t at the working level – it’s primarily at the funding level which very politically driven. I’m going with the assumption that 99% of scientists are trying to be objective. Unfortunately the occasional example of scientific results being deliberately skewed to support the initial assumptions do make people question the whole lot of them.

      • Do you work under grants?

        In principle, yes. But my advisor handles all that. After graduating I plan to leave mainstream science because it’s too annoying to deal with funding. I’d rather just teach physics at a community college and study on my own. I don’t know how funding works, and frankly I don’t want to waste time on that when I could be learning more physics. I’ve only got a couple of decades of life left, and I’d much rather spend them studying relativity and quantum mechanics than navigating bureaucracies.

        Tell me honestly, if you applied for a grant to study a theory that C02 concentrations are not driving the earth-air temp, do you think you’d actually get funded?

        Update: Huh? That’s not how science works. Research is performed to constrain parameters of climate models using as diverse a collection of evidence possible. Scientists don’t propose research in order to support either “side.” The proposals don’t guess at the results, instead they sound like “We’d like $X to study the equilibrium climate sensitivity using proxy data/satellite data/etc. This is how our proposal is significantly different than previous experiments…”

        The strong bias I see in scientific research isn’t at the working level – its primarily at the funding level which very politically driven. I’m going with the assumption that 99% of scientists are trying to be objective. Unfortunately the occasional example of scientific results being deliberately skewed to support the initial assumptions do make people question the whole lot of them.

        I’ve read about rare examples of this kind of thing happening, and you’re right: it is a serious problem which calls the credibility of scientists into question. I just don’t see any reason to believe that any of the research behind abrupt climate change is significantly affected by this. The competition is intense, and any scientist who could prove that climate change isn’t a problem would almost certainly get a Nobel prize for overturning basic thermodynamics.

  12. … But we care SO MUCH about a prediction that at our current use something which will kill off life on this planet in hundreds of thousands of years? … before anything “bad” happens as a result of any man-made climate problems (even if they are true — though largely unproven), they, their children, and children’s great great grandchildren will be all dead and gone. … [jmerlin]

    I got tired of repeating myself on Slashdot, so I wrote an article showing that abrupt climate change is a matter of serious concern. Climate change is already having negative effects, and they’ll get worse over the next century. Hundreds of thousands of years is wishful thinking according to the best scientific evidence available today.

    … “Cap and Trade” is not a constructive tax — it is destructive. We have technologies other than coal and oil to produce energy …

    I’ve directly addressed cap and trade, which seems like a very constructive, capitalistic approach that will jumpstart a new industrial revolution. My hope is that the United States invests heavily in nuclear fission technology, preferably using waste reprocessing and newer designs like pebble bed reactors.

    … It’s just the next buzz-word in politics: “omgs, it might destroy human life on the earth in a few hundred years in a worst case scenario!!” … As far as self-preservation goes, these politicians ought to be worried more about disrespecting and angering the citizens that give them power, after all, if they continue down this path, it’ll be the French Revolution all over again, and I’ll bring my guillotine with me.

    As I’ve stressed, the existence of abrupt climate change is a scientific topic. It’s a good idea to ignore politicians and their ridiculous claims, and focus on the science.

    • I got tired of repeating myself on Slashdot without cashing in, so I made a blog full of ads and posted there. Now I can repeat myself multiple times in the same article, but at least I’ll be shamelessly self promoting at the same time.

      Fixed that for you.

      Oh, and that version of the Vostok ice core graph you included is horrendously misleading. If you don’t overlay the two graphs on top of each other you can easily be fooled into thinking the data suggests that increased atmospheric CO2 lead to higher temperatures. When you do overlay the charts, it becomes clear that the increase in temperature slightly preceded the increase in CO2 in each cycle, including this one.

      • … that version of the Vostok ice core graph you included is horrendously misleading. If you don’t overlay the two graphs on top of each other you can easily be fooled into thinking the data suggests that increased atmospheric CO2 lead to higher temperatures. When you do overlay the charts, it becomes clear that the increase in temperature slightly preceded the increase in CO2 in each cycle, including this one.

        I’ve specifically addressed that point in 7(f) of the index: “CO2 increases after temperature, so it doesn’t warm the planet.”

        But since the tone of your response implies that you probably won’t bother, I’ll repeat myself once again: this phase lag isn’t known with great accuracy or precision, and the highest plausible lag would be ~1000 years out of ~5000 year deglaciations. More fundamentally, the difference between the small Milankovitch forcings and the actual observed temperature swings shows that CO2 amplifies the natural forcing. CO2 is a strong greenhouse gas, make no mistake about that.

        And I’m sorry if you’re offended by ads. I tried really hard to force them to be non-animated, and only put them off to the side (I hate interstitial ads with a burning passion.) And to be honest I make ~8 cents a day from them– all I want is for them to make 30 cents a day so the website pays its own hosting fees. And, yes, even though I’ve archived most of my responses for people to read, I still find it necessary to repeat myself because people keep bringing up the same strange talking points regardless of the scientific evidence. Again, sorry if this is horribly offensive to you.

      • And I’m sorry if you’re offended by ads.

        I’m not offended by ads. I’m offended by hypocrisy.

        You say you did it so that you wouldn’t have to repeat yourself, but you’re still repeating yourself. Your goal seems to be driving traffic to your blog, and not reducing the need to repeat yourself as you state.

        And why? Who are you? You’re not an authority. You, like me, are some random idiot on the internet.

      • I certainly try not to repeat myself. But people keep repeating arguments that I specifically addressed in the sixth paragraph of this article, and discussed in more detail in sections 7(f) and 7(g). I suspect the repetition is more annoying for me than it is for you, because I had to research these issues at length, type nearly 50 pages in an attempt to translate some very complicated physics into terms the general public might understand, then provide links to the peer-reviewed articles that are the basis of this science. All you had to do was click on the link, see the first picture, and stop reading before the sixth paragraph where I discuss the claim you made.

        But I’m sad to see that you didn’t address any of the science I’ve discussed, instead implying that I’m trying to pass myself off as an authority. The very title of my website should be proof that I’m not, but I’ve also repeatedly tried to get people to focus on the actual scientific evidence rather than trying to identify “authorities” or “consensus.” Science isn’t about authority, it’s about developing models to predict new phenomena, and rigorously testing them in peer-reviewed journal articles.

        My actual goal is to try to find another scientist who disagrees with the science behind abrupt climate change. I’m desperately searching for someone who disagrees with me, but does so in a polite manner while focusing on the science and discussing the evidence. Are you that person?

  13. disco inferno posted on 2009-09-01 at 05:44

    Nuclear power is expensive, but it’s the only option available right now that we know works on an industrial scale. Update: My dad just told me about an interesting proposal for small, self-contained, tamper-proof nuclear generators which wouldn’t be as centralized or expensive as our sadly obsolete nuclear plants. [Dumb Scientist]

    Ignoring my Bias against Nuclear power (the swapping of one waste product for another doesn’t seem to solve the problem) I would like to point out that if one so desired you could make an industrial sized photovoltaic plant, and using HVDC could send it almost anywhere. (coming from an Australian point of view here) Power plants here are a reasonable distance from the Sydney basin (the coal seams end in both Newcastle and Wollongong) and coal plants that were built in the city have long been shut down.

    I agree with your observation that it would be political suicide for a politician to suggest building a nuke in city limits, even if it could provide the city with free hot water/steam (same could be said for any combustion plant.. or thermal solar i guess)

    Concentrated solar is certainly the most promising renewable, but it requires massive battery banks, or expensive water pumping schemes to provide a base load at night. [Dumb Scientist]

    *nit picky i know* a base load would be a group of consumers – not a power source.

    i believe that you are misinformed about what a base load is. a base load is the description to the amount of load that is almost static, and if you look at the electricity market in NSW (http://www.aemo.com.au/data/GRAPH_30NSW1.html) (or go http://www.aemo.com.au/data/price_demand.html then NSW) you can see that the minimum demand (at 0400hrs was 6500 MW (the scales are left off, the one on the left is in dollars per MWH) whilst the peak load for that day was 10500MW. The variation in load between day and night would be more pronounced if it were not for the large financial incentives that available due to a cheap supply of power from a system of generators that are unable to economically change their output.

    I believe that the “baseload” problem is largely one manufactured by power companies, and in turn comes from one of their problems, namely what to do with all the power produced by a power station once everyone is tucked up in bed. this was a problem historically because the regulators on turbines weren’t as good as they are now, nor were they as wide ranging. Many applications for electricity require a stable frequency, without good regulation, the frequency that a generator spins gets faster with less demand. A good way to provide a buffer between changing loads is to have a nice stable one, like an incandescent light that stays on for the duration of the period of predicted fluctuation.

    Off Peak hot water heating was once the main method of hot water heating in nsw, and was controlled by the power commission via zelwigger tones which would turn your hot water heater on or off. This gave the power company a nice stable load that it could turn on and off at its wishes, and keep the generator running within the regulators limits. A more modern version of this is the contracts signed with big power users (ability to turn them off in case of power shortage) and market prices which more accurately reflect the costs of running coal power stations as your main power source.

    Just as the marketing of cheaper electricity in offpeak times has shifted load to the night it could work the same in reverse (although there would be extra cost in providing transmission lines which could cope with the increased load, which in turn, would be tempered by distributed generation.)

    That said, I like it a lot more than photovoltaics. Geothermal only works in certain places, and corrosion makes them very expensive to maintain. In either case, we’d need a superconducting power grid to avoid losses from moving energy from the deserts (solar) or hotspots (geothermal). All these goals are noble, but we need power now to replace coal and oil. [Dumb Scientist]

    Australia’s energy market covers a distance of over 4000kms (2400miles) of which there are losses in powerlines, transformers, and in the case of HVDC switching gear. one could also argue that there are losses in mining shipping and burning coal too so i dont see your point there, it just means that you need a bigger powerplant or plants. all this is done already to compensate for transmittion losses for coal plants, its not rocket surgery to apply the same math to whichever power source you choose

    Incidentally, tide power and osmotic power are also good long term goals. And you’re right- efficiency is absolutely necessary. But the newer technology has to be better in every way, otherwise people won’t switch. My mom doesn’t use CFLs because she can’t stand the quality of the light (yes, some are better than others, but still no cigar) and the fact that they don’t reach full brightness immediately. I have them nearly everywhere, but my reading light is still an incandescent because the CFLs that can be dimmed are expensive and don’t look as nice … [Dumb Scientist]

    i agree with your efficiency comment, however not your one on better technology. Personally i am a fan of fluorescent lights, i like their white blue colour. Marketing and what someone has grown up with will sway a persons opinion. As someone who has an interest in lighting (Theatrical) its disgusting to see what some people do in their designs. (especially in workspaces, kitchens ect) not to mention the little halogen lights, which are pretty (in terms of the spectrum and intensity of the light they emit) but to see people use them as washlights, and then complain about how hot they are and how much power they chew.

    You also have the option of burning something to keep the fluid warm, for cloudy days or to provide more baseload. [An Onerous Coward]

    The only thing we can afford to burn in the long run is hydrogen, which requires energy to produce. [Dumb Scientist]

    Im a tad concerned that we seem to want to re-invent the wheel when it comes to hydrogen, insofar as when you have a energy transfer medium that is reasonably easy to store, easy to create, easy to turn into other products and already has a large pipe distribution system in most countries, why not use it? Sure methane has one carbon atom but the poison is in the dosage, and as long as you are creating/ capturing carbon i dont see that as a problem. combined generation methane burners (turbine + steam boiler) are up to 60% efficient, and can also be small enough to used as hot water process heaters (aircon, ect) and then for room heat/domestic hot water in larger buildings, reducing inefficiency of creating heat, converting it to electricity, transporting it, then converting it to heat again.

    Update: No, actually that’s wrong. You were right about concentrated solar allowing for a burner backup. Biofuels won’t cause any net CO2 increase because their combustion only releases the CO2 they’ve recently absorbed to grow. I’m not a big fan of generation 1 biofuels, because they tend to provide an incentive for farmers to grow crops that humans can’t eat. But generation 2 biofuels use the discarded husks of human-edible plants and might be industrially feasible some day. Genetically engineered bacteria also look like they could produce biofuels given enough time. Also, artificial leaves look promising; they might eventually split water into hydrogen and oxygen far more cleanly than any method available now. [Dumb Scientist]

    Biofuels is a nice idea… but looks like it is going to get hijacked by the corn and cane industries, pushing food prices up. Extracting methane from sewage and landfill on the other hand does place pressure on food supplies.

    Transmission losses, while not negligible, seem manageable. I’ve seen figures of about 2-3% to move electricity 600mi using HVDC. I mean, it’s on Wikipedia, so it must be right. [An Onerous Coward]

    Yes, HVDC looks promising, but some population centers are farther away than that from a good spot for solar or geothermic (not all northern countries are as fortunate as Iceland). In the long run this isn’t a serious problem because we’ll eventually build a superconducting grid, but until then it’s a nuisance. [Dumb Scientist]

    Speaking of nuisance, have a look at most large hydro schemes. Snowy mountains Hydro scheme is miles from anywhere (bar Canberra, but Canberra doesnt count… its just full of politicians( and therefor has a very small load compared to Sydney and Melbourne)).

    The Hoover Dam was directly connected to LA some 266 miles away. The Pacific DC Intertie is almost 850miles long and the “line capacity is 3,100 megawatts, which is enough to serve two to three million Los Angeles households and is 48.7% of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) electrical system’s peak capacity.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacific_DC_Intertie) Long distance is not a problem, just an engineering detail.

    (Edit : I totally forgot about AC Grids, Have a look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPS/UPS, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wide_area_synchronous_grid. Stretching 13 timezones (i know.. crap measurement, but its wiki) and europe from Spain to Siberia (once they tie UPS and UCTE together)

    The big problem I see with the “we need power now” argument is that we could probably install several gigawatts of CSP and wind before we could even get the nuclear reactor through the permitting process. [An Onerous Coward]

    If it works, that’s great. The problem is that no country has ever successfully powered their civilization in that manner, so it’s a bit of a gamble. France gets 80% of their power from nuclear, so we know it works. [Dumb Scientist]

    I thought that your proof that nuclear works because France has 80% of its capacity on it was a bit… simple.. Turbines have been around since 1884 and now produce 80% of the worlds power.

    I would suggest that it is a safer gamble than many people would like you to believe. Natural gas production facilities blow up from time to time (one in Western Australia a year or so back) , Oil producing nations get pissed off and squeeze everyone by the balls by cutting supply, wild fires cause tripping of main power feeders nearly tripping out the whole state (Victoria a few years ago) not to mention poor maintenance taking out Queens in 2006. We deal with these problems as best we can, but its not like it will send us back to the dark ages.

    I’m also inclined to say that the delay in getting new nuclear plants online is more of a problem with lenders being extremely cautious about nuclear energy because of public disapproval, so the permitting process is much more ridiculous than it should be. Nuclear power isn’t nearly as dangerous as it’s commonly made out to be, and we need enrichment for medical isotopes anyway so terrorism will always be a problem. I would agree, NIMBY is probbably the biggest hurdle to more nuke plants being build. As for terrorisim and medical isotopes… you can always ship isotopes in from outside the city limits. … I think concentrated solar is great, and might be our best bet in the long run. [Dumb Scientist]

    Most coal powerplants could easily claim that 25% of their power was green by usings evacuated solar collectors (or parabolic troughs to preheat their water, saving them large amounts of fuel with the “peace of mind” that they can crank up the burners at anytime. (see http://www.ausra.com/ as an example of this tech)

    I just don’t want these unproven technologies to be our only bet. It’d be nice to see our civilization put no more than, say, 30% of our power generation into one particular technology so that the loss of any one mode of power generation isn’t catastrophic. [Dumb Scientist]

    short of a fuel shortage im struggling to think of a reason you would lose mode of power generation. That said, there may be a cheaper/more effective way of doing things so for that reason i agree that we should spread our sponsorship of emerging technologies around.

  14. Sorry, how do you prove that any portion is anthropogenic when you don’t have a control? [tmosley]

    See Meehl 2004 for a primary source, but I’ve also recently discussed a very similar issue.

    As a scientist looking at the global warming debate …

    Just curious: what degree in which field of science? I’ve described my research here, for quid pro quo.

    … it always marvels me that no-one ever talks about the effect that water vapor has on global temperatures, given that water vapor has a heat capacity of 1.8 kJ/kgK, while CO2 has a heat capacity of only 0.8 kJ/kgK, and also given that the concentration of water vapor on average is composes 10X more of the atmosphere than CO2, meaning that the total impact of CO2 is about 20 fold less than water vapor, which is itself highly variable in concentration. Why doesn’t anyone ever complain about the deleterious effects of water vapor in the atmosphere? Why aren’t we moving to ban hydrogen vehicles that put out huge amounts of water vapor?

    I’ve talked about water vapor in depth, repeatedly. As I’ve explained, water vapor is a feedback, not a forcing. It’s not dangerous because it doesn’t remain in the atmosphere long and isn’t well-mixed to the top of the atmosphere. That’s why legitimate peer-reviewed journal articles don’t “complain about the deleterious effects of water vapor in the atmosphere.”

    What this discovery points out is that, well, maybe we don’t really have a handle on this global warming thing, and that we shouldn’t cut off the arms and legs of our civilization with an environmentally friendly electric chainsaw before we have a full grasp of what is going on here.

    First, this discovery isn’t related to abrupt climate change in any significant manner. Second, the goal of the legislation in the Senate is to jumpstart a new industrial revolution. No chainsaw involved.

    Therefore, if you want to decrease humanities carbon emissions without murdering people, or subjecting them to poverty, you need only remove all regulations limiting the implementation of nuclear power around the world.

    Murderous hyperbole aside, this isn’t far from the mark. I’d say we have to make small tamper-proof nuclear reactors like SSTAR available to developing nations, but keep the reprocessing and enrichment technologies tightly restricted. Actinide poisoning of the fuel (to make weaponization more difficult than simply starting a clandestine enrichment program) is also probably a good idea.

    Update: I’ve failed to communicate once again.

    • … I’d say we have to make small tamper-proof nuclear reactors like SSTAR available to developing nations …

      Good luck with that. Three quarters of the green movement just put you on their hit list.

  15. (Ed. note: these comments were copied from here.)

    … But it’s ludicrous to suggest that the scientific community as a whole is somehow unaware of these issues or engaged in a massive conspiracy to suppress them. [Dumb Scientist]

    McKitrick and McIntyre detail their experience of trying to deal with Nature to get a correction here. Interesting reading.

    And the referees throwing up their hands and saying “this is too complicated for us to evaluate in 2 weeks” shows a weakness in the process. [SmilingSalmon]

    It doesn’t show a weakness in the process, it shows that computer power isn’t infinite. Redoing all the calculations without the benefit of PCA requires use of a large cluster for a long time. This was done (in point 5) and shows that any PCA errors were negligible. Scientists aren’t evil monsters engaged in a massive conspiracy. Really. We’re ordinary people, just like you.

    • Thanks for the link (in Point 5, Part II). I also read in point 8 that “If you use the MM05 convention and include all the significant PCs, you get the same answer. If you don’t use any PCA at all, you get the same answer. If you use a completely different methodology (i.e. Rutherford et al, 2005), you get basically the same answer.”

      It is asserted that if you use random, trendless data, you also get the same answer. See the graph near mid-page. [SmilingSalmon]

      I can’t get that graph to load (but my net connection has been flaky lately so it could be my fault.) At any rate, it sounds like a claim that MM have made: that sending “red noise” into the MBH98 program results in a hockeystick. The main problem is that the extracted trend explains very little variance relative to the trend extracted from real data. Here’s a 4-part primer on PCA to help people understand the basics.

      Do you have any comment on the link I gave regarding the Nature correction?

      I read some of it, and their complaints sound very similar to what other scientists go through when trying to get their research published. Peer-review is often an unpleasant process because it’s based on confrontation, but this is true for everyone. In this particular case, I think Nature was right to reject their article based on the mountain of evidence against their claims.

      • The page you refer to does not seem to answer the complaint raised in the random, trendless data simulations. It talks mostly about the data used for a “training period.” That was something I had not heard either side discuss before. There is one or two sentences at the end of the page you cite which talks about the random data, but just acknowledges its existence and concludes with a dismissive “who has the patience?”

        I’m not a climate scientist or or any other kind of scientist, so I’ll admit maybe I just don’t “grok” it, but the page you referenced in answer to my Monte Carlo query seems almost off-topic. You’ve been kind in your responses, so maybe you can indulge a non-scientist just a bit more. [SmilingSalmon]

        I’m referring to this quote: “I’ve now done some stuff with random series rather than the MBH proxy series. This has the advantage of allowing you to create as many proxies as you like. I’ll hive that off to a separate page: here. What that appears to demonstrate is that M&M are right about one thing: it often does lead to a ‘hockey stick’ shape in random data. But the problem is that the variance-explained of the PC1 done this way is tiny: the first eigenvalue is about 0.03. Whereas when you run it on real data the first eigenvalue is about 0.55 (back to 1000) or 0.38 (back to 1400). Which means the two problems are very different.”

        In the other link, the eigenvalues are supposed to be accessible via a link, but I can’t get figure 1 to display. Again, don’t know if this is just me. Regardless, they’re saying much the same thing. The eigenvalues of the MM fit to red noise aren’t statistically significant.

        But the real point is that the same answer emerges from more straight-forward analyses that don’t rely on PCA (which avoids all these issues.) In fact, as I’ve mentioned in my article, multiple independent analyses have been performed, all of which agree that the hockeystick shape is accurate.

        Update: I probably should have quoted the relevant bit in the first link anyway:

        Lets turn, now, to MM’s claim that the “Hockey Stick” arises simply from the application of non-centered PCA to red noise. Given a large enough “fishing expedition” analysis, it is of course possible to find “Hockey-Stick like” PC series out of red noise. But this is a meaningless exercise. Given a large enough number of analyses, one can of course produce a series that is arbitrarily close to just about any chosen reference series via application of PCA to random red noise. The more meaningful statistical question, however is this one: Given the “null hypothesis” of red noise with the same statistical attributes (i.e., variance and lag-one autocorrelation coefficients) as the actual North American ITRDB series, and applying the MBH98 (non-centered) PCA convention, how likely is one to produce the “Hockey Stick” pattern from chance alone. Precisely that question was addressed by Mann and coworkers in their response to the rejected MM comment through the use of so-called “Monte Carlo” simulations that generate an ensemble of realizations of the random process in question (see here) to determine the “null” eigenvalue spectrum that would be expected from simple red noise with the statistical attributes of the North American ITRDB data. The Monte Carlo experiments were performed for both the MBH98 (non-centered) and MM (centered) PCA conventions. This analysis showed that the “Hockey Stick” pattern is highly significant in comparison with the expectations from random (red) noise for both the MBH98 and MM conventions. In the MBH98 convention, the “Hockey Stick” pattern corresponds to PC#1 , and the variance carried by that pattern (blue circle at x=1: y=0.38) is more than 5 times what would be expected from chance alone under the null hypothesis of red noise (blue curve at x=1: y = 0.07), significant well above the 99% confidence level (the first 2 PCs are statistically significant at the 95% level in this case). For comparison, in the MM convention, the “Hockey Stick” pattern corresponds to PC#4, and the variance carried by that pattern (red ‘+” at x=4: y=0.07) is about 2 times what would be expected from chance alone (red curve at x=4: y=0.035), and still clearly significant (the first 5 PCs are statistically significant at the 95% level in this case).

  16. However, its a question whether the climate reacts to warming by positive feedback, and if so how strongly, or by negative feedback. [Budenny]

    There’s a debate about how much positive feedback exists, but the case for negative feedback is very weak. For example, events such as Heinrich and Dansgaard-Oeschger events are the best examples of abrupt climate change in the paleoclimate record. These ancient events are worrying because they show the climate has a propensity to shift quickly from one state to another, given even small forcings. That requires positive feedback.

    Also, the estimated magnitude of the Milankovitch cycles and other forcings are insufficient to account for the temperature variations observed in ice cores from Vostok and EPICA. This requires positive feedback. In fact, the estimates of positive feedback are too small to bridge the gap.

    Just to be clear, when I say that the case for negative feedback is very weak, I don’t mean the long-term feedback that acts on slow, natural forcings. It’s clear that the climate must be relatively stable (i.e. negative feedback or at least a gain less than 1) with respect to slow, natural forcings otherwise the Earth wouldn’t have been hospitable for the evolution of life. But the rapid, unprecedented speed of CO2 increase is likely to involve a different mix of positive/negative feedback effects than the ones that stabilized the climate before our arrival.

    The decisive evidence for feedback would be if the climate were now genuinely warming faster than or differently from ever before.

    Chapter 3 of the 4th IPCC report says temperatures in the last ~30 years have increased faster than at any point in the last ~1000 years, a rate which is steadily increasing. Meehl 2004 shows that the warming since ~1970 is primarily caused by anthropogenic emissions, and they used models that are consistent with a climate sensitivity having a maximum likelihood value of 2.9°C, with a 95% confidence that it’s less than 4.9°C but greater than 1.7°C. That’s troubling, because CO2 is increasing approximately 35x faster than at any point in the last half million years.

    And this is where the question of the refusal of the climate science community to reveal their data becomes important.

    Proxy data are available, Wahl and Ammann have made their code available, the CMIP3 database makes model output public for researchers to perform comparisons, etc. I’ve previously complained about the (widespread) tendency of scientists to keep their data private to wring every last discovery out of it before making it public. It’s worrying, but not a problem unique to climatology. Nor are all climate scientists so hesitant to release their code and data. I publish all my code under the GPLv3, for instance.

  17. At the 2008 AGU Fall Meeting, I found this poster by Maruyama et al. which claimed that most of the warming over the last 50 years is caused by natural oscillations, and that we should expect 0.5K of global cooling by 2020. I encountered Dr. Maruyama next to his poster and after a few confusing minutes began to suspect that he thinks the greenhouse effect is somehow saturated. So, as at the bottom of this comment, I began to point out that Venus’s properties seem to indicate that the greenhouse effect isn’t inherently limited. The first three words had barely left my mouth, however, when he abruptly spun around and walked away, leaving me standing alone next to his poster.

    Oh, well.

    The next hour was very interesting. I stood next to his poster and watched other scientists as they saw it for the first time. Their reactions (e.g. “His poster is just a random collection of incorrect climate myths circulating the internet!” and “His cooling prediction has no error bars!”) were very similar to my own.

    • I met Norman Rogers at the 2009 AGU Fall Meeting next to his poster called “Inconsistencies and Fallacies: IPCC 20th Century Simulations, Multi-Model Ensembles and Climate Sensitivity”.

      I asked him about the solar forcing part of his poster, where Svensmark 1998 is referenced without mentioning any of the issues that I’ve discussed starting in section 7(b) of the index. He quickly acknowledged the original study’s inconsistent smoothing problem, and I mentioned the other estimates of the magnitude of the effect of cosmic rays on the Earth’s climate.

      Also, his paper says:

      Averaging together the output from different models created at separate laboratories is supposed to give a better result. If this is true we only need to finance many more modeling groups to greatly improve modeling accuracy. The “improvement” seen from averaging different models assumes that the models don’t share common systematic errors, even though they share common approaches and even computer code. … The concept of a multi-model ensemble is deeply flawed. However there is an important political advantage to multi-model ensembles. If the IPCC picked one best model from 23 modeling groups it would make one friend and 22 enemies. Picking the best model from the various models would threaten the loser’s funding and surely create a storm of protest. The obvious solution is politically impossible.

      When we discussed this point, I tried to think of a good metric to estimate the relative magnitudes of the systematic and uncorrelated errors in GCMs. Coincidentally, the day before I’d attended a lecture regarding a related topic. The speaker rehashed a well-known fact: the multi-model ensemble has better skill than any of the individual models comprising the ensemble. This seems to indicate that a significant fraction of the errors are uncorrelated, so I said “Some. Some of the errors are uncorrelated, and the multi-model ensemble helps to reduce those. Some are systematic, and the ensemble doesn’t reduce those errors… which is exactly why the IPCC doesn’t use ‘many more’ models.”

      Later, I confirmed that AR4 WG1 chapter 8 says: “Systematic biases have been found in most models’ simulation of the Southern Ocean. … The virtual salt flux method induces a systematic error in sea surface salinity prediction … In order to identify errors that are systematic across models, the mean of fields available in the MMD, referred to here as the ‘multi-model mean field’, will often be shown. … The extent to which these systematic model errors affect a model’s response to external perturbations is unknown … Because most AOGCMs have coarse resolution and large-scale systematic errors …”

      Chapter 10 repeats: “… evidence for systematic errors in the formulations of radiative transfer used in AOGCMs. … However, some processes may be missing from the set of available models, and alternative parametrizations of other processes may share common systematic biases. Such limitations imply that distributions of future climate responses from ensemble simulations are themselves subject to uncertainty (Smith, 2002), and would be wider were uncertainty due to structural model errors accounted for. … members of a multi-model ensemble share common systematic errors (Lambert and Boer, 2001) … Giving more weight to the observational record but enlarging the uncertainty to allow for systematic error …”

      It’s one thing if he believes that most errors are systematic. It’s quite another to claim that professional climatologists are naive enough to think that all the errors are uncorrelated. But I really don’t understand why he jumped from these misconceptions to the conclusion that multi-model ensembles are simply political ploys.

      His paper also says:

      Bizarrely, rather than use common forcings, each modeling group was directed to use forcings that it “deemed appropriate4!” So the various modeling groups are not using the same assumptions for the model inputs. Each group is modeling a different virtual planet. But, in spite of these weaknesses in experimental protocol these graphs have been widely reproduced. If you know the full story the graphs seem quite dubious. … The [equilibrium] climate sensitivity, or temperature increase for doubled CO2, is shown in the bar graph (right) for 19 of the IPCC models. The models differ on this index, from 2.1 to 4.4 degrees. IPCC models disagree substantially on climate sensitivity. … The modeling groups were given carte blanche to use forcings as they “deemed appropriate.” Exactly what they did is poorly documented, but they were able to make the models with widely differing climate sensitivity closely match the 20th century temperature anomaly history.

      Again, I asked him to explain this in person. He made the above points and stressed that “There’s only one Earth!”

      Yes, there’s only one Earth. But its forcing history isn’t known perfectly, and each group independently tunes a handful of parameterizations controlling still-not-well-understood components of the climate, particularly the highly uncertain indirect effects aerosols have on cloud albedo (i.e. how strong a negative feedback X gigatons of aerosols constitutes). This isn’t a weakness of experimental protocol, because experiments should be as independent as possible.

      All this means is that a climate model group which assumes a large concentration of aerosols in the mid-to-late 1900′s and/or tunes their aerosol forcing parameterization to yield a strong negative aerosol feedback will find that their GCM deduces a higher equilibrium climate sensitivity to doubled CO2 than a group which doesn’t. In other words, uncertainties about various indirect aerosol effects are a significant part of the uncertainty of the equilibrium climate sensitivity.

      Yes, tuning is undesirable. No, it doesn’t mean climate modeling efforts are bizarre or dubious.

      I wonder where he got the strange idea that this represents a fallacy or an inconsistency in the IPCC’s results. In fact, it’s neither. I guess I still don’t know the full story, because the IPCC’s ensemble graphs don’t seem dubious to me.

      Finally, he stressed that the IPCC ensemble can’t account for the instrumentally recorded warming around the 1940s, which can also be seen here. Of course, the executive summary of AR4 WG1 chapter 3 says that “Arctic temperatures have high decadal variability. A slightly longer warm period, almost as warm as the present, was also observed from the late 1920s to the early 1950s, but appears to have had a different spatial distribution than the recent warming.” Chapter 11 says “Arctic decadal variability has been suggested as partly responsible for the large warming in the 1920s to 1940s (Bengtsson et al., 2004;Johannessen et al., 2004) followed by cooling until the 1960s.”

      Tamino notes that “The biggest disagreement is just prior to and during world war II, when the method of measuring sea surface temperature changed, which may have caused a discrepancy in the observed temperature data.”

      Also, here’s a simpler explanation of this issue.

      Update: Hansen et al. 2010, Global surface temperature change, also discusses the World War II instrument artifact.

      Tamino also examined the volcanic lull in the early 20th century.

      Gavin Schmidt also addressed this issue.

    • Also at the 2009 AGU Fall Meeting, I heard a fellow GRACE researcher mention that there was no need to establish acceleration of Greenland ice mass loss in order to correlate it to abrupt climate change. I disagreed, saying that a constant rate of mass loss could have been going on for centuries (which would contradict earlier in-situ studies, but GRACE alone couldn’t tell the difference). Accelerating mass loss, on the other hand, is more clearly a modern phenomenon.

    • At the 2010 AGU Fall Meeting, I saw Norm Rogers again at his poster titled “Why do anthropogenic global warming skeptics have poorer scientific credentials than their opponents?”. After struggling for several minutes to think of a productive question, I finally asked “Are there any scientific disciplines where your argument wouldn’t apply? For instance, biologists are routinely accused of suppressing anti-evolution research in order to keep creationists out of academia. What’s the difference between their argument and yours?”

      Norm responded that this is a judgment call. Which I completely agree with.

      After I said that I work with GRACE data, he said something to the effect of “That’s the satellite system which showed that Greenland was melting half as fast as previously believed.” I then quickly summarized my review of Dr. Wu’s paper.

      After I mentioned that GRACE shows acceleration of the mass loss in Greenland, he said that the 9 year GRACE timeseries is too short. This is an understandable objection because (as I’ve repeatedly emphasized) trends shorter than ~20 years reveal short-term weather, not long-term climate. However, as I’ve obliquely mentioned, even if GRACE showed no acceleration from 2002-2010, previous in-situ studies found a smaller trend, so the combined datasets shows accelerating mass loss anyway.

      It’s also important to remember that a ~20 year timespan is necessary to obtain statistically significant temperature trends because of the intrinsic noise in the temperature record. A quick glance at the GRACE timeseries for Greenland should make it clear that its signal-to-noise ratio is higher than the temperature record; I’m working on making this more quantitative.

      We then revisited the “1940s warming isn’t understood” argument, and I stressed the same spatial distribution argument that I found in the IPCC AR4 WG1 last year, but unfortunately I didn’t have any graphs showing temperature anomaly versus latitude.

      We agreed that terms like “denier” are unproductive, and he mentioned the existence of extremist environmental religions. I agreed that these movements are unsavory, but also noted that I hadn’t seen them at any of my department’s colloquia.

      I was also pleasantly surprised to hear him say that the Svensmark cosmic ray argument has lots of problems.

    • I met David C. Smith at the 2010 AGU Fall Meeting in front of his poster titled “Line by Line Analysis of Carbon Dioxide Absorption for Predicting Global Warming”. He stressed that most CO2 lines are saturated and therefore increasing CO2 concentrations don’t matter for these lines. Infrared radiation from the ground at these frequencies is nearly completely absorbed in the first kilometer of the atmosphere. I said “Okay, then what? Does the energy absorbed by each CO2 molecule just stay there for the rest of time?”

      He responded that the energy was then transferred to other molecules by collisions because the radiative lifetime of these lines is longer than the average time between collisions at standard pressure. I said “So, you’re saying that the percentage of absorbed radiation that’s re-emitted is literally 0.000000…”

      After the sixth or seventh “zero” he said that perhaps 1 in 10^10 molecules re-emits the radiation it absorbed.

      Then I looked carefully at his poster where he claims that doublingHis poster also said that tripling CO2 would result in 1.32C warming. That’s right- he gives three significant figures. Of course, this is an absurd underestimate which contradicts all modern observations, paleoclimate evidence and AOGCM results, but curiously it also seems to imply that he’s suggesting the climate response to CO2 is faster than logarithmic. In a world where doubling CO2 only raises the equilibrium global temperature by 0.26K (his abstract tries to lower it to as little as 0.13K), tripling CO2 would only raise it by 0.41K (or by 0.206K if we humor his abstract and choice of sigfigs). Perhaps one value includes feedbacks and the other doesn’t? CO2 would only result in 0.26C warming (at most), and asked where he derived the change in the “effective radiating level” due to this increase in CO2 concentration. He didn’t seem familiar with the term, so I summarized the idea.

      He responded that he was 99.9% sure that this isn’t the way the greenhouse effect works. So I googled “effective radiating level”, printed out the first three pages of the first link, and handed them to him. He read it and said “Well, none of this matters because the radiation never gets up to that level anyway.”

      I said “Notice that the first sentence defines the ERL as ‘The lowest level in the atmosphere from which infra red radiation is able, on average, to escape upwards to outer space without being reabsorbed.’ … so they agree with you about this basic point. But that’s the beginning of the story, not the end.”

      P.L. Ward’s poster was nearby, and he participated in this discussion as well.

    • (Ed. note: this comment was copied from here.)

      I sent two emails to JPL scientists over the weekend that may be of interest:

      1 – At AGU, the Heartland Institute will “add clarity” to deep ocean heat storage
      2 – At AGU, David Smith will disprove ~80% of CO2′s radiative forcing

      —————————————————————-

      1 – At AGU, the Heartland Institute will “add clarity” to deep ocean heat storage

      Everyone,

      At this December’s AGU, Heartland Institute senior policy advisor Norman Rogers hopes to “add clarity” to the question of deep ocean heat storage from 700m to 2000m. Once again, his lengthy abstract (below) is available worldwide, and given credibility by association with AGU.

      Norm seems to be preparing the next contrarian talking point, that deep ocean warming is unrelated to the TOA energy imbalance. I’m not an oceanographer, but I’m under the impression (from Tony Song’s GRACE talk, Von Schuckmann et al. 2009, 2011, Levitus et al. 2012, etc.) that deep (>700m) ocean heat content does seem to be increasing. I’m also skeptical that his vague (and mistaken?) references to up/downwelling constitute a proximate cause of this warming that’s actually unrelated to the TOA energy imbalance.

      Based on our previous encounters, I seriously doubt Norm intends to add clarity. I’m going to debunk him again, but many of you are far more expert than me, especially on this topic. Does anyone have tips/references to help me prepare for this encounter?

      Thanks,
      Bryan

      P.S. In what seems like an attempt to weaponize irony, Norm also submitted a poster to the “Countering Denial and Manufactured Doubt of 21st Century Science II” Poster session.

      —————————–

      A23A. A23A. Atmospheric Sciences General Contributions: Atmospheric Dynamics, Radiation, and Cloud Properties Posters

      TITLE: Is Ocean Heat Storage Presently Knowable?
      AUTHORS (FIRST NAME, LAST NAME): Norman L Rogers1, 2
      INSTITUTIONS (ALL): 1. Independent Scholar, Miami, FL, United States.
      2. Heartland Institute, Chicago, IL, United States.
      ABSTRACT BODY: Ocean heat storage plays a key role in predictions of global warming. The oceans’ great thermal inertia moderates any radiative energy imbalance.

      A number of authors have suggested that most ocean heat storage takes place in the upper 700 meters. With the deployment of the Argo system in 2003 and the subsequent failure to detect the expected ocean warming investigators started to look deeper, down to 2000 meters.

      A mostly ignored problem with using ocean heat below the tropical/ temperate thermocline to measure current energy imbalances is that, as revealed by tracer studies, below thermocline water is old water that has not been in good thermal communication with the atmosphere for hundreds of years. The thermocline can be thought of as a collision between the mixed layer and very old and cold water that is rising from the abyss in an elevator-like fashion, at a rate that is uncertain but perhaps a few meters per year. The elevator is driven by dense water that, in the polar regions sinks into the abyss. A slow downward flow of heat from vertical mixing, driven by currents and tides, warms the bottom water, thus making room for new, denser, bottom water.

      It is helpful, as a thinking aid, to divide the Earth into the surface realm, consisting of the atmosphere and upper layer of the oceans and a second realm consisting of the deep ocean. The deep ocean may as well be in outer space since it is thermally isolated from the Earth’s climate except for a very slow and presumed constant seepage of heat. Between the two realms are transition regions, the polar sinking regions and the thermocline upwelling regions. Cold water sinking warms the surface because we have removed water colder than the Earth’s average temperature of 15 C from the surface realm. Upwelling cools the surface because we add water colder than the average temperature to the surface realm. The sinking and upwelling flows are equal but variable. If we draw a line at 2000 meters we can hope that the upwelling mainly consists of water riding the “elevator” driven by polar sinking, 2000 meters being mostly below vertical circulations such as coastal upwelling. A complication is that both deep upwelling and downwelling is thought to take place in Antarctica. We may be able to quantify the heat flow through 2000 meters as the combined effect of upward mass transfer of cold water less a smaller, and fairly constant, downward flow of heat due to mixing. If the deep ocean is in a steady state there are 3 components to the heat flow: sinking water near 0 degrees, rising water at 2000 meters near 2 degrees, and the (nearly constant) slow downward, mixing-driven heat flow. If this works (i.e.is not fatally oversimplified), then variation of heat flow into or out of the deep ocean is mainly due the 2 degree difference, between sinking water, and rising water at 2000 meters, times the heat capacity of the rising or sinking mass of water. If the sinking circulation is 30 Sv the heat flow proportional to the circulation amounts to about 1/2 watt over the Earth’s surface.

      If the ocean is warming in the region of 700-2000 meters the proximate cause may be a slackening of the overturning circulation accompanied by a downward drift of the thermocline, not warming of the atmosphere.

      I will try to work through this puzzle with the hope of adding clarity.

      KEYWORDS: [3015] MARINE GEOLOGY AND GEOPHYSICS / Heat flow, [0312] ATMOSPHERIC COMPOSITION AND STRUCTURE / Air/sea constituent fluxes, [1626] GLOBAL CHANGE / Global climate models, [4283] OCEANOGRAPHY: GENERAL / Water masses.

      —————————————————————-

      2 – At AGU, David Smith will disprove ~80% of CO2′s radiative forcing

      Everyone,

      At this December’s AGU, David Smith will present his second poster challenging the basic atmospheric physics of the greenhouse effect (below, juicy parts bolded). Once again, his claims are given credibility by the AGU. I debunked his first poster in 2010.

      In 2010, he calculated that doubling CO2 only leads to a bare no-feedbacks equilibrium temperature rise of 0.26C, which is ~4 times less than the mainstream value of ~1C. I found that he hadn’t accounted for the rise of the effective radiating level as CO2 doubles, which makes it radiate less power because higher=colder in the troposphere.

      In other words, his groundbreaking study of the greenhouse effect hadn’t accounted for the greenhouse effect.

      Now he’s comparing the IPCC’s 3.7 W/m^2 radiative forcing per doubled CO2 to his value of 1.1 W/m^2. Once again, his value is ~4 times lower than the mainstream’s. He blames this discrepancy on the IPCC not using line-by-line calculations, seemingly ignoring statements like this one:

      Collins et al. (2006) performed a comparison of five detailed line-by-line models and 20 GCM radiation schemes. The spread of line-by-line model results were consistent with the ±10% uncertainty estimate for the LLGHG RFs adopted in Ramaswamy et al. (2001) … [IPCC 2007 WG1, Ch. 2.3]

      But what really startled me were these two sentences from David Smith’s abstract:

      The dependence of the absorption and line width of each transition as a function of altitude is accounted for.

      Based on our previous conversation, I think this means that he’s accounting for pressure broadening at altitude.

      The temperature dependence of the absorption with altitude is not and an evaluation of this error is given.

      Seems like he’s still not accounting for the greenhouse effect. I’d bet that his evaluation of this error will be that it’s too small to worry about.

      I’m not an atmospheric physicist, and don’t know how to contact any. Can satellite observations place error bars on radiative forcing that are tight enough to distinguish 3.7 W/m^2 from Smith’s 1.1 W/m^2?

      —————————–

      A21D. A21D.* Atmospheric Feedbacks and Climate Change: Observations, Theory, and Modeling II Posters

      TITLE: Line by Line CO2 Absorption in the Atmosphere for Input Data to Calculate Global Warming,
      David C. Smith, DCS Lasers & Optics LLC, Old Saybrook CT 06475
      AUTHORS (FIRST NAME, LAST NAME): David C Smith1
      INSTITUTIONS (ALL): 1. DCS Lasers & Optics LLC, Old Saybrook, CT, United States.
      ABSTRACT BODY: Compter modeling of global climate change require an input (asssumption) of the forcing function for CO2 absorption. All codes use a long term forcing function of ~ 4 W/M2. (IPCC 2007 Summary for Policymakers. In:Climate Change 2007. The Physical Sciences Basis.Contributions of Working Group 1 to the Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC, Cambridge U. Press N.Y.)..This is based on a band model of the CO2 rotational/vibrational absorption where a band of absorption averages over all the rotational levels of the vibration transition. (Ramananathan,V.,et al, J. of Geophysical Research,Vol 84 C8,p4949,Aug.1979).. The model takes into account the line width,the spacing between lines and identifies 10 CO2 bands.. This approach neglects the possibility that the peak absorption transitions in a band can “use up” all of the earths IR radiation at that wavelength and does not contribute to global warming no matter how much the CO2 is increased. The lines in the wings of a band increase their absorption as the CO2 is increased. However, the lines that are lost are the strong absorbers and those that are added are the weaker absorption lines. When a band begins to use up the IR then the net result of increasing the atmospheric CO2 is a decrease in the absorption change. This presentation calculates the absorption of each line individualy using the Behr’s Law Approach. The dependence of the absorption and line width of each transition as a function of altitude is accounted for. The temperature dependence of the absorption with altitude is not and an evaluation of this error is given. For doubling CO2 from 320ppm to 640 ppm, the calculation gives a forcing function of 1.1 W/M2. The results show the importance of using individual lines to calculate the CO2 contribution to global warming, We can speculate on the imact and anticipate a computer code calculation of a factor of 4 less global warming than the published results.

      KEYWORDS: [1600] GLOBAL CHANGE, [0399] ATMOSPHERIC COMPOSITION AND STRUCTURE / General or miscellaneous.

    • I didn’t get to Norman Rogers’ posters.

      The good news is that David C. Smith’s poster at the AGU didn’t reduce the no-feedbacks radiative forcing of doubled CO2 from the IPCC’s ~4 W/m^2 to 1 W/m^2 as his abstract claimed. When I asked about this change, he said that he’d fixed a mistake in his calculation, which now actually suggests a forcing of ~5 w/m2, but he said that further improvements would reduce this value by ~25%. I replied that I was impressed, because admitting mistakes is what distinguishes scientists from crackpots.

      I handed him a printout of the Collins et al. 2006 abstract, noting that it was cited by the 2007 IPCC report and shows that physicists have compared GCM radiation schemes to line-by-line calculations.

      The bad news is that he still hasn’t acknowledged that raising the effective radiating level is how doubling CO2 leads to this radiative forcing. I repeated the same explanation I gave him in 2010 and later expanded. Once again, he responded that this isn’t how the greenhouse effect works, and said we could agree to disagree. I replied: “With all due respect, you’re not just disagreeing with me. You’re disagreeing with the overwhelming majority of scientific research performed over the last century.”

      The worse news is that his poster:

      1. Pastes an uncited “predicted temperature 0.75 deg C” on this GISS graph and on a UAH graph with a cubic overfit that even Dr. Spencer has abandoned.
      2. Makes dubious, uncited claims about troposphere temperatures and outgoing IR flux which supposedly disagree with the convective computer code predictions.
      3. Concludes that “Band average CO2 absorption now used in climate modeling is fundamentally wrong. … THE CASE IS NOT CLOSED FOR THE CAUSES OF GLOBAL WARMING AND EVEN THE MECHANISMS RESPONSIBLE FOR CLIMATE CHANGE.”
  18. (Ed. note: These comments were copied from here.)

    I wish someone would tell me how you compute the mean temperature of a composite substance like the atmosphere. Global atmospheric heat content is meaningful. Global mean temperature is not. Unless someone would care to explain how you actually compute it in a physically meaningful way? [radtea, 2009-09-23]

    This sounds similar to the arguments presented in a 2007 paper that’s widely considered to be some kind of joke. Update: More relevant discussion.

    Perhaps you mean that different substances have different heat capacities. That’s only a problem if you want to determine the equilibrium temperature, and even that’s just a weighted average. But even an unweighted average improves the signal-to-noise ratio of temperature measurements, which is why climatologists routinely speak of global mean temperatures.

    And to be really pedantic, “heat content” isn’t physically meaningful either. Heat is a type of energy transfer across a thermodynamic system boundary. Systems don’t store heat, they store internal energy, which is also measured in Joules but can be transferred as heat or work. (Yes, this distinction is irrelevant. That’s my point.)

    • I was actually thinking of that guy in Colorado (Peilke?) who has long argued that global atmospheric heat content is what we should be talking about. [radtea, 2009-09-24]

      I looked around for Pielke’s work mentioning heat content and found this. Is that a good reference? I agree that internal energy of the atmosphere is a more robust and useful variable than temperature, but I’d go one step further. That is, a much more useful variable would be the internal energy of the atmosphere and ocean combined. That would eliminate the spurious temperature swings associated with ENSO events that seem to mislead many people. This heat transfer between the atmosphere and oceans wouldn’t distort such a metric.

      Update: As far as I can tell, many climate scientists agree that in theory ocean heat content is a better diagnostic of climate change. However, the pragmatic issues of limited and unreliable data mentioned in that ENSO link makes surface temperatures more useful in actual practice (until Argo records a long enough time series.)

      You are correct that heat is only one form of internal energy, although physicists have a slightly different take on the nature of heat than chemists, so I don’t agree with your characterization of heat as strictly a type of energy transfer. …

      Actually, I’m a physicist too. Never was that good at chemistry. I still think heat is a form of energy transfer, not a state variable. But I’ll drop this argument because (like your point) it doesn’t seem particularly interesting or relevant.

      So yes, by all means be pedantic and talk about “atmospheric internal energy”. That is a physically meaningful quality, whereas neither you nor anyone else has suggested why taking any kind of average of dry-bulb temperatures is in any way physically interesting. And if it is not physically interesting, it is not climatologically interesting. … All I can say is that I still don’t understand what anyone thinks they are doing with global average temperature, but whatever it is, it isn’t physics.

      The internal energy of the atmosphere is a weighted mean of temperatures, where the weightings reflect differing heat capacities. A global average temperature cannot be used to determine the internal energy of the atmosphere because it isn’t properly weighted (as I believe you’re saying.) But as I’ve said, even an unweighted average improves the signal-to-noise ratio of temperature trends. More measurements improve the statistics in the same way multi-model ensembles improve climate predictions compared to single-model runs. The global temperature isn’t intended as a formal variable, it’s simply an easy-to-measure diagnostic of the global climate.

      • Climate models for the most part do not conserve energy and/or have unphysical boundary conditions, and all of them are parameterized in unphysical ways. Anyone who isn’t sceptical of them is missing something. [radtea, February 13 2010, @09:21PM]

        Here are links to the source code for many GCMs. Please name the model which doesn’t conserve energy. If you’re feeling generous, it would also be nice to know how to reproduce this (obviously serious!) problem.

        Last year, you said something similar:

        But you’re not a computational physicist, or you would have noticed the lack of energy conservation in some models (it is added by hand as a correction on each time step) or unphysical boundary conditions in others (ocean surface in particular). If you were a computational physicist you’d know how big a deal these approximations are in long-term integrations of even very simple systems, much less complex ones like GCMs. I was a lot more convinced by the AGW argument before I started looking at the models than I am now. [radtea, July 28 2009, @07:57AM]

        I’m baffled by these statements. Energy conservation is a fundamental law of the universe, but floating point calculations are necessarily imprecise. Correcting for roundoff errors that affect energy conservation in every time step seems like good programming practice.

        Also, there are other reasons to apply conservation laws “after the fact.” Several years ago I studied the gravitational effects of shifting precipitation patterns. The GRACE satellites measure the global gravity field every month, which changes because of heavy rainfall, droughts, etc. Comparing the GRACE monthly gravity field to the gravity field implied by hydrology models like GLDAS revealed interesting discrepencies like a consistent phase lead in the GLDAS model which we hypothesized was due to a flawed river model.

        But that was only possible because I “added mass conservation by hand as a correction in each time step.” You see, GLDAS only provides gridded water content on land. The total mass of water obtained by summing over the globe each month isn’t constant in time. Of course, this just shows that the water is being swapped between the land and the oceans. So I wrote a short script to add a spatially uniform layer of water to the ocean each month that forced the total amount of water on Earth to be constant. (Obviously this was only a first order estimate because I neglected water vapor and oceanic circulation patterns which violate the assumption of spatial uniformity.)

        Incidentally, my confidence in GCMs is drawn primarily from their demonstrated skill in completely different validation techniques. I’m not surprised or concerned that tuning parameterizations simplify microphysics, perhaps to the extent of oversimplifying them. As my comments in that linked conversation show, I do consider such imperfect approximations to be good reason not to consider GCMs sophisticated enough to produce regional climate predictions. But their track record with global averages seems impressive.

        I’m also eager to learn what you meant by “unphysical boundary conditions at the ocean surface.”

        Update: Rei’s reply is also interesting:

        I think he’s trying to claim that they don’t rely on first principles, which is complete nonsense. Actually, what’s most notable about the models is how *few* parameters there are. Very little is dealt with statistically — primarily cloud formation, as we still don’t have a good handle on it. Cloud formation easily has the biggest error bars of all feedbacks — although even the 95th percentile case is still well under the GHG forcing levels.

      • … what data would make you change your beliefs regarding global warming/climate change? [radtea, February 16 2010, @09:16PM]

        Good question. Since climate is an average over ~20 years, a sustained 20 year trend below the IPCC AR4 WG1 model ensemble’s 95% confidence level would be powerful evidence. Note that the model output depends on forcing inputs, so if the sun suddenly got dimmer that would push temperatures and the models down. As would a reduction in emissions or volcanic activity, etc.

        I’d also like to see some kind of plausible argument as to how it’s possible for CO2 levels to rise but not increase temperatures. For instance, to the best of my knowledge no one’s ever made a model that matches observed temperatures and forcings in the 20th century but doesn’t predict that increasing CO2 makes the climate hotter. That’s not terribly surprising, because the physics of the greenhouse effect have been established for decades.

        Update: In 2013, I linked this comment and noted that a more complete answer would be that all these paleoclimate studies would have to be independently wrong.

      • Solar radiation is remarkably invariant, as Warmers point out every time Denialists mention it. Now suddenly it’s an important variable? [radtea, 2010-02-17]

        A good reference regarding solar variability is section 2.7.1 on pages 188-193 of chapter 2 in the IPCC AR4 WG1 report. “Remarkably invariant” wouldn’t be my first choice of words. Solar output varies cyclically, mainly at an 11 year cycle. But the satellite fleet hasn’t detected a long term trend in solar output over the past ~40 years to match the surface temperature trend over that timespan.

        Also, isn’t it curious that there’s no evidence of warming in the past 15 years but we keep on hearing about how Arctic ice is melting at record rates. What do you suppose is driving that? If global temperatures have not increased, yet Arctic melting is not only going on but going on at a rate far faster than anyone predicted (which is what I always see reported) what is driving it? Clearly not anything to do with the Earth’s overall heat budget, which you have just admitted has been very nearly neutral in the past 15 years. … since there has been no significant increase in the Earth’s atmospheric heat content in the past 15 years … if we all agree the Earth’s heat budget has been almost perfectly neutral over that time.

        Again, it’s better to think about the heat content of the ocean+troposphere system. That eliminates the spurious ENSO heat redistributions which seem to confuse so many nonscientists. Plus, the internal energy of the Earth certainly includes the heat of fusion of melting glaciers and sea ice, so I don’t agree that the Earth’s heat budget has been neutral over the past 15 years.

        That’s because you need more than 15 years to get statistically significant figures.

        You do realize you’re just making that up?

        Wow! If climate models have the accuracy you’re claiming they do, why do climatologists bother to take initial condition ensembles? Is it because they enjoy increasing the run time on expensive supercomputers by an order of magnitude?

        GCMs with better skill than those available to modern science will eventually be able to make predictions that require less temporal averaging. But right now I’d say his figure is on the low side; climate is only meaningful when discussing averages over ~20 years.

        Update:

        … The question I have is why so many people are so antagonistic to the very notion of dark matter, routinely calling the people who suggest it … “arrogant” and the like. … You would have to be an idiot to call anyone who assumed it without further question “arrogant”, unless you have an equally robust hypothesis to put up against it. … The real question for the dark matter hypothesis is the one you’ve alluded to in your final paragraph: what kind of elementary particles–if any–is the dark matter at various scales made of? That is where one of the leading edges of particle physics is right now. It is a thankless and difficult task, and the people pursuing it deserve more than to be called arrogant by know-nothings. [radtea, 2010-03-29]

        As opposed to those arrogant bastards known as climate “scientists”, who are engaged in massive fraud based on their “models” which are much worse than economic models. Of course, economic models deal with human behavior, thus involving free will. Climate models deal with fundamental thermodynamics and radiative physics, which don’t directly involve free will, and are therefore easier to construct and validate. But forget that! Climate models are bullshit! Climatologists are incompetent!

        Chris Burke also answered this point.

      • Beyond all of this, we use a wide variety of physics models — both global models and models for specific components. A model can be something as simple as a calculation of radiative heat transfer under different gas mixtures, or as complicated as something that models the sources and sinks over the entire planet and covers all of the various feedback mechanisms. Models are nearly all based on first principles in large part or entirity. Depending on the type of model, they’re either validated with lab data or historic climate data. [Rei]

        I haven’t looked at the current report, although it looks at first glance like they have used some fairly strong, robust, estimators, which is good. It is extremely unfortunate that the reporting around it is the typical sensationalist nonsense that has done so much to discredit anyone with concerns about climate change. In a year or two when someone finds an error in the data and it turns out that the past ten years WEREN’T “the warmest on record” we’ll inevitably treated by another round of self-serving propoganda from the same smug bastards who spent years promoting 1998 as THE WARMEST YEAR ON RECORD as if that was proof the world was ending, and then said, “well, it really isn’t all that important” when the claim turned out to be false.

        No serious Bayesian would accpet that A can vastly increase the plausibility of B, but !A does not decrease the plausibility of B one little bit.

        However, your claim that most of the models used in climate research are true to first principles is false. I am a computational physicist, and every GCM I have looked at has non-physical aspects that violate well-established physical principles, most worriesomely conservation of energy. For a model that is nohting but a long-term integration of a physical system to violate conservation of energy is extremely problematic, and yet I have seen no discussion anywhere that looks at how this and other unphysical assumptions affect the model results.

        This is unusual: in the area of radition transport physics, for example, there are a variety of relatively standard computational models that are used, with minor variants. Despite the tiny size of the community compared to climate science, there are a significant number of papers exploring nothing but the effects of various unphysical aspects of the models.

        If you could point me to anything similar for any major GCM I would be most greatful. The publications I have seen are all over-views of the model, detailing the assumptions but not donig anything to explore their effects.

        For the record: I think dumping tonnes of shit into the atmosphere is a bad idea, and strongly support cap and trade on the basis of how well it worked for sulphur emmissions in the ’90′s; I think ocean temperatures are by far the most compelling evidence for global climate change; I think our understanding of the science is inadequate to use as a basis for public policy; I think people who pass from “the science is established” to “we must do XYZ to fix things” are letting their emotional concern for the possible consquences of the science and one particular interpretation of the results get in the way of their objectivity and contribute more noise than value to the debate.

      • In a year or two when someone finds an error in the data and it turns out that the past ten years WEREN’T “the warmest on record” we’ll inevitably treated by another round of self-serving propoganda from the same smug bastards who spent years promoting 1998 as THE WARMEST YEAR ON RECORD as if that was proof the world was ending, and then said, “well, it really isn’t all that important” when the claim turned out to be false.

        What are you talking about? 1998 (an incredibly intense El Nino year) was the hottest year on record until 2005, which passed it on two of the three major climate datasets. There was a minor GISS revision based on a discontinuity related to data from NOAA, but it was very small, and applied only to the US. It had essentially no change on the global record. However, 1998 ceased to be the hottest year on record *for the US* (but again, only by a very small amount, as it was very close to 1934 to begin with). But since when is the US the world? The US only makes up a couple percent of the planet’s surface area.

        However, your claim that most of the models used in climate research are true to first principles is false. I am a computational physicist, and every GCM I have looked at has non-physical aspects that violate well-established physical principles, most worriesomely conservation of energy. For a model that is nohting but a long-term integration of a physical system to violate conservation of energy is extremely problematic, and yet I have seen no discussion anywhere that looks at how this and other unphysical assumptions affect the model results.

        With only a couple exceptions, nothing is done from a purely empirical basis (certain aspects of clouds being the big empirical example; clouds are very difficult to model, and make up most of the margin of error in the models). Some things have to be handled using sub-grid level approximations, like some turbulence effects, but those are readily calculated independently, as well as being empirically verifiable. Violations of conservation of energy? Please, by all means, show me a single peer-reviewed paper that supports that assertion. That’s a major charge and these models have been out for a very long time. Certainly *someone* has passed peer-review if it’s true, ne?

      • I can’t find the specific document I was thinking of, which was a detailed technical report on a particular GCM by the people who wrote it, but if you dig into the details of any GCM description you will find statements like this: “In this process, salinity is added to the newly formed snow-ice to guarantee the salt conservation. It is more physically reasonable to reduce the salinity of sea ice, but such a treatment requires to deal with the sea ice salinity as a prognostic variable.”

        That one happens to deal with non-conservation of salinity, but the problem and the procedure in the same in all cases: the models do not strictly conserve some important quantity, and is therefore “fixed up” by performing some ad hoc adjustment. This is unphysical, and anyone who has ever done a long-term integration of any model describing any physical system that can be actually tested in the lab knows that such ad hoc corrections almost always produce significantly unphysical behaviour in the results.

        I’ll hasten to say that model authors are up-front about this stuff: the GCM’s I’ve looked at have been well-described. But they have also all been unphysical in one respect or another, from artificially fixed boundary conditions to non-conservation of energy (which was then “fixed up” by adjusting air temperatures) and that is a serious problem for the predictive power of their long-term integrations.

      • You seem to assume that climate models are central to our understanding of the climate’s response to rising CO2 levels. In reality, they’re just methods of reducing the error bars on (for instance) modern estimates of the equilibrium climate sensitivity. Compared to pre-computer estimates like Hulburt’s 1931 estimate of 4C per doubled CO2, computer models have actually reduced the maximum likelihood value to ~3C. They’re also backed up by multiple independent experimental constraints on the climate sensitivity, in contexts where I doubt the problems you’ve been talking about are relevant.

        I’m unaware of any model in computational physics (except perhaps lattice QCD?) which can claim to be completely “physical” in the sense that you seem to want. My own research which inverts gravity to solve for ocean tide heights assumes a constant density of water because GRACE measurements are due to changes in mass, not height directly. Not only do I ignore local seasonal fluctuations in temperature (which affects density), I also ignore local seasonal fluctuations in salinity due to calving glaciers (which also affects density).

        Of course, my software is an empirical inversion of data rather than a dynamical physical model like a GCM. But in one sense my reason for neglecting salinity fluctuations (and noting it clearly in the upcoming JGR paper) is probably similar; the “unphysicality” is examined and the error estimated. In my case the error introduced by any reasonable density fluctuation is well beneath the noise floor for my desired observable. In a GCM, salinity likely has a negligible effect on global mean temperature which doesn’t justify using it as a prognosticating variable. That would increase the degrees of freedom of the model and thus make it harder to evaluate using, say, an F-test. Any serious effects of any of these examples of empirical “tuning” should have shown up in comparisons of the models to instrumental and proxy records of forcings and temperature. More likely, they play a minor role in the size of the established error bars.

        In a completely different sense, long-term integrations of weather models certainly are thrown off by small errors. The “skill” of a weather prediction does indeed fall off exponentially with time because of oversimplified microphysics in addition to errors in measurements of the initial conditions. But the whole point of taking an initial condition ensemble is to average away this noise. By running dozens of simulations and changing the initial conditions each time, it becomes obvious that even though the weather noise is different, the extrema stay in the same “corridor” which we call the climate. The skill of a climate prediction doesn’t fall off exponentially with time because the climate is a boundary condition problem, not an initial condition problem. Instead, the skill of a climate prediction depends primarily on taking a long enough temporal average (in addition to specifying the forcings).

        For instance, a credible climate prediction would be “If natural forcings remain within established variances and human emissions of CO2 continue to rise at specified rate X, then the global temperature averaged from 2030-2050 will be higher than the equivalent average from 1990-2010.

        On the other hand, a bogus climate prediction would be “The global temperature in 2030 will be higher than in 2010.” That’s bogus primarily because models have precisely the flaws you’re talking about, in addition to our insufficient understanding of ENSO, PDO, NAO, etc. turbulent heat transfer phenomena, flaws in projections of human and natural forcings, flaws in our understanding of “slow” feedback mechanisms, flaws in models of cloud formation, not to mention our instruments’ finite time series, spatial coverage, spatial/temporal density and limited accuracy.

        Update: The IPCC explains that simple climate models complement intermediate-level EMICs and full-blown AOGCMs. Simple climate models can help to verify that certain parameters are independent of methodology; the resulting diversity of models likely contributes to the fact that the ensemble RMS error is lower than the RMS error of any particular model in the ensemble.

        Also, chapter 8 says: “Most AOGCMs no longer use flux adjustments, which were previously required to maintain a stable climate. … Development of the oceanic component of AOGCMs has continued. Resolution has increased and models have generally abandoned the ‘rigid lid’ treatment of the ocean surface. New physical parametrizations and numerics include true freshwater fluxes, improved river and estuary mixing schemes and the use of positive definite advection schemes. Adiabatic isopycnal mixing schemes are now widely used. Some of these improvements have led to a reduction in the uncertainty associated with the use of less sophisticated parametrizations (e.g., virtual salt flux). … An explicit representation of the sea surface height is being used in many models, and real freshwater flux is used to force those models instead of a ‘virtual’ salt flux. The virtual salt flux method induces a systematic error in sea surface salinity prediction and causes a serious problem at large river basin mouths (Hasumi, 2002a,b; Griffies, 2004).”

      • I’ve failed to communicate once again.

        Update: … and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again.

  19. Beryllium Sphere (tm) posted on 2009-09-27 at 00:18

    (Ed. note: these comments were copied from here.)

    Qualitatively, what you’d expect from climate change is more precipitation (because there’s more evaporation) and therefore thickening at high elevations where the snow stays cold, while lower warmer regions flow faster or even melt.

    • Exactly. I’ve described my research into Greenland’s ice sheets. My most recent estimates show that Greenland as a whole is losing ~100 Gtons of ice every year, but my advisor believes my estimate is too low by a factor of 2. As you say, northern Greenland is gaining mass, but southestern Greenland is losing much more mass.

    • Someone posted on 2009-09-27 at 01:09

      Qualitatively, what you’d expect from climate change is more precipitation (because there’s more evaporation)

      While I’m not a climatologist (I tend towards quantum physics), I’m not sure you can make that assertion. The formula for evaporation has myriad factors, including but not limited to heat. (The actual formula is W = [A + (B)(V)](Pw – Pa)/Hv). It was stated in a BBC Horizon documentary entitled Global Dimming that the more important factor was the amount of sunlight that hits the water, rather than temperature. In addition, the Horizon episode explains that there is both an observed decrease in evaporation and rainfall based on fine particulate matter in the atmosphere.

      • Higher average global temperatures imply higher upper ocean temperatures, which imply a higher water vapor pressure. Thus more water will evaporate into the atmosphere. Yes, Roderick 2007 showed that wind speed has a stronger effect on the evaporation rate than changes in temperature, but I doubt that affects the expected theoretical equilibrium vapor pressure from basic thermodynamics. When that more humid air is carried across a tall mountain range, its temperature decreases and the water precipitates.

      • Someone posted on 2009-09-27 at 02:01

        While searching for an elevation map of Greenland I came across a map showing rates of surface-elevation change. It’s tangental to my specific point, but I found it interesting nonetheless. I don’t have access to recent climate data indicating evaporation rates, rainfall, or quantity of particulate matter in the atmosphere, but in the Horizon episode they asserted that there was a decrease in rainfall because extra particulate matter in the atmosphere created more water droplets that — in aggregate — were too small to form rain. Even if warmer temperatures were to increase evaporation, there are other factors involved in the amount of rainfall that would result from increased evaporation. The evidence presented thus far is a decrease in rainfall, not an increase. But, as I said, I don’t have access to the raw data required to prove that definitively either way.

      • I saw the same Horizon documentary. Although sensationalist, it did explain Global Dimming pretty well. But at the same time, regulations of CFCs and similar chemicals have been fairly effective, and their lifetimes in the atmosphere are generally measured in months. So that particular problem has waned, I think. But I agree, whatever effect it would’ve had on rainfall would’ve opposed the greater precipitation expected from global warming.

      • Someone posted on 2009-09-27 at 04:04

        I admit that I haven’t watched the Horizon episode in over a year, even though I have it in my Documentaries directory. At the time, though, I did describe it to a friend as “alarming”, so I would probably agree with the sensationalist tag. I don’t recall, though, whether they were blaming the particulates on CFCs, or just generic pollution. I do recall that they showed the massive pollution cloud coming out of China.

        I read in another of your posts that you are an advocate of nuclear power. I wholeheartedly support that position and wish you luck in banging that drum. I vacillate on whether climate change is real (and if it is real, that the effects are a net negative to humanity), but I think regardless it is a net positive to have more and cheaper sources of energy.

  20. (Ed. note: these comments were copied from an article regarding thinning of polar ice.

    The maps confirm that the profound ice sheet thinning of recent years stems from fast-flowing glaciers that empty into the sea. [Article]

    Which… is sort of what healthy glaciers do. Thick, healthy glaciers flow quickly due to the pressure they exert on the deeper portions, giving the lower ice under pressure more plasticity. This could be construed as abnormally healthy glacial activity, but IANAAG (i am not an artic geologist).

    • You’re right. Glaciers melt all the time for reasons unconnected to emissions of fossil fuels. However, the current warming is atypical in many respects (which I’ve linked in another comment in this article.) Glacier melt isn’t- by itself- proof of the anthropogenic origin of abrupt climate change.

      • Double check your terminology there. The article specifically states glacier flow, not glacier melt in Antarctica. Glacier flow only occurs when you have lots of extra ice pushing more ice down the slope. Flow != Melt! It’s way, way too cold in Antarctica for glaciers to melt anywhere on the actual landmass. Thinning ice shelf in this case is specifically due to improved glacial flow, pushing more ice out to where it can melt – in the sea.

      • Okay, that sounds reasonable. Thanks for the correction. I’ve heard of research showing positive feedback effects from melting glaciers lubricating the slide of the glacier into the ocean, though. Does this only happen in glaciers in more temperate regions than Greenland?

        Update: Glacier thinning on the Greenland coast is due to those glaciers calving and melting. Antarctic glacier thinning is almost completely due to calving because it’s so much colder there than in Greenland. Because my research centers around Greenland, I previously used the terms melting and thinning somewhat sloppily. Sorry for any confusion that caused.

      • The article specifically states glacier flow, not glacier melt in Antarctica. Glacier flow only occurs when you have lots of extra ice pushing more ice down the slope.

        The article is about measurements of glacial thinning which have been explained as due to increasing flow of the glaciers. I don’t see how accumulations of ice pushing more ice down the slopes could cause the thinning. Faster flowing ice would have less time to thin from melting by sea water, and, contradictory to other observations, would imply more area of ice on the water. Also, the thinning was observed over land.

        Even without extra ice accumulating, glaciers can speed up due to changes in friction between the ice and the ground, such as would be caused by the presence of meltwater. It can get warm enough, especially Greenland, for melting to occur, at least at low elevations in the summer or at the base of the glacier under the insulating layer of snow and ice. And to the extent warming sea temperatures breaks up the sea ice, there is less holding back the glaciers, so they can accelerate.

      • Part of the increase in the rate of flow is due to the calving of ice-sheets off from around the edge of the glacier. This removes some resistance to the flow at the downhill end of the stream.

        I don’t know how generally significant this is, but it’s been measured recently when large ice-sheets have broken away from Antarctica.

      • At the 2009 AGU fall meeting, I met a glaciologist next to her poster about glacier feedback effects. She pointed out that many locations along the Greenland coast have daily average temperatures that are above freezing in the summer, and reminded me that pressure melting would occur at the bottom of the glacier. Her poster summarized a few additional feedback effects having to do with the lapse rate and shadows caused by topography (which are more relevant to inland glaciers than coastal glaciers.)

      • At the 2010 UNAVCO conference, Meredith Nettles gave a fascinating presentation on “Geodetic and Seismic Observations of Variations in Glacier Flow on Multiple Time Scales”.

        Her papers show that glacial earthquakes in Greenland have dramatically increased in frequency recently, are spatially correlated with large outlet glaciers, and temporally correlated with calving events, increases in the speed of glacier flow, and local tsunamis caused by the calving.

        Steve Nerem showed that Helheim glacier in Greenland is accelerating based on GPS, imaging and InSAR. He notes that the IPCC AR4 WG1 included a caveat excluding “rapid ice events” and that several more recent papers include 1m of sea level rise by 2100 within their error bars (1.4 +- ?).

        Tim Dixon referenced Wouters 2008 showing accelerating mass loss in Greenland, and showed correlation with independent estimates that subtract calving/meltwater flux from snowfall accumulation.

        Zwally, Larson et al. wrote a paper on the role of sub-glacier lubrication on ice-sheet flow acceleration, as did Bell.

        A Joughin 2000 Science paper shows melting and glacier speed aren’t well correlated, so lubrication is less important than ocean temperatures. Is this the paper in question?

        Also, Abbas Khan reminded me that geothermal heat would contribute to melting at the base of glaciers.

  21. (Ed. note: these comments were copied from the links attached to the posters’s names. They were written in response to an article describing research using ICESat which shows “surprising, extensive thinning in Antarctica, affecting the ice sheet far inland.”)

    Does it? The increased temperatures of west Antarctica are more than compensated by decreased temperatures elsewhere in Antarctica. It is especially interesting that there is so much growth inland of Greenland. [jarek]

    As far as I understand it, Antarctica as a whole is warming more quickly than climatologists expected. Antarctica should be warming more slowly mainly because currently most of the land mass is in the northern hemisphere. The fact that Antarctica is warming at all is a little troubling.

    • We are literally being served half truths. Or is less than half truths. Most of Antarctica gets colder, some of it gets warmer. By reporting on the parts that get warmer, media tries to sell disasters just because it sells better than the whole truth and nothing but the truth. West Antarctica has according to climatologists always behaved differently from the rest of Antarctica.

      Climatology news is starting too resemble a boxing match where only the strikes delivered by one of the boxers are being reported.

      • It is perfectly legitimate to report mostly on the parts of Antarctica that get warmer. That’s because the fast-warming part of Antarctica is the part which is holding back the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, a major potential contributor to sea level rise. By contrast, the parts that are getting cooler are mostly the interior of the continent, which can have no effect on sea level. As you say, climatologists understand that the two parts of Antarctica behave differently, so it’s not news that they do so. What is news is how that’s going to effect us, which mostly has to do with impacts on sea level.

      • I’ve failed to communicate once again.

    • Antarctica as a whole isn’t warming unless you deal in dubious statistical models. The west Antarctica peninsula has been warming though, and that’s where the hyperbole comes from.

      That has likely more to do with natural shifting of the polar current around Antarctica than anything else. Changes in current location affects weather at the peninsula without affecting the rest of the continent.

      • I see very little reason to suspect that the Steig et al. 2009 study was wrong to say: “… significant warming extends well beyond the Antarctic Peninsula to cover most of West Antarctica, an area of warming much larger than previously reported. West Antarctic warming exceeds 0.1 °C per decade over the past 50 years, and is strongest in winter and spring. Although this is partly offset by autumn cooling in East Antarctica, the continent-wide average near-surface temperature trend is positive.”

      • I’ve failed to communicate once again.

  22. (Ed. note: this comment was copied from here.)

    That doesn’t prove that adapting is more costly than avoiding. I’m not saying one or the other is better. I’m just saying that making the claim that one is more costly than the other isn’t a fact. [Whatanut]

    Okay, yes. Technically I agree. The political/economic ramifications of our response to climate change aren’t completely within the domain of physical science, so they’re not facts in the way that the anthropogenic origin of abrupt climate change is a fact. For example, our technology could suddenly jump forward very quickly, rendering adaptation very simple and cheap.

    But we’re talking about the future of the human race here. Let’s choose the safest option, and try to avoid the worst effects by moving from coal power to modern nuclear power. As technology advances, solar, wind, tidal and geothermal power can play an increasing role. We’ve stagnated and become complacent in a world powered by cheap oil; another industrial revolution is long overdue.

  23. … One of the catastrophic outcomes of climate change are large sea level rises due to ice melt in the polar regions. Presumably there are models that predict how this could occur with global warming. So the question is, do these data agree with these models? [msevior]

    The last article I read in Science compared model prediction of sea level rise, and found that observations showed the sea levels rising even faster than the models predicted. Perhaps this was just short-term weather, though: more recent measurements may indicate agreement with the models.

  24. The NASA Earth Observation site has measurements of the ice coverage at the north pole. While their text speaks of massive ice loss and continuing doom, the actual graph they provide of the data shows that while the minimum ice cover is less than the average of a decade ago, there is actually more minimum ice cover than last year, and last year had more cover than the year before. Why do they not mention this at all ? Maybe the point is to mislead? [smoker2]

    Yes, 2008 and 2009 had slightly larger ice extent minima than 2007. But the point is that climate models had previously predicted larger ice extent minima than were observed in 2007. So the last several years tend to confirm that the record low in 2007 was due to short-term weather variability rather than a flaw in the climate models.

    If they were to publish the proper figures for 1979 to 2000 instead of just a vague average, we could maybe see whether there is a regular fluctuation, instead of guessing that the decline has been constant.

    Ask, and you shall receive. No serious scientist is just “guessing” that the decline has been constant, and no climate model that I’m aware of makes that prediction. Short term variability is expected, but the data show a clear downward trend over the last 30 years.

  25. (Ed. note: these comments were copied from here. In that link, Tontoman confuses weather and climate, implies that Al Gore is a climate modeler, lectures about water vapor being the most abundant greenhouse gas and that natural activity is the largest cause of CO2 emissions. Tontoman also criticizes the IPCC for not performing original research and says many scientists are skeptical of global warming. After I tried to point out that natural sources are balanced, Tontoman told me to reread the article I cited. Tontoman also says it’s not worth trying to “fix” warming because it’s all cyclical and humans are too tiny to matter, then implies that humanity’s “extra” CO2 is just a few tons rather than a few gigatons every year and increasing, and points out that CO2 is a trace gas and says that “cap and trade” is a truly dangerous idea.)

    Here is a speech given by the late Michael Crichton, (who wrote Jurassic Park and other novels and screenplays, and who also graduated summa cum laude from Harvard College, received his MD from Harvard Medical School, and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, researching public policy with Jacob Bronowski. He taught courses in anthropology at Cambridge University.) Here he criticises the papers done by IPCC and debunks other global warning myths.

    Michael’s detailed explanation of why he criticizes global warming scenarios. Using published UN data, he reviews why claims for catastrophic warming arouse doubt; why reducing CO2 is vastly more difficult than we are being told; and why we are morally unjustified to spend vast sums on this speculative issue when around the world people are dying of starvation and disease.

    • Wow, I feel dumb for congratulating you about recognizing the need for reading peer-reviewed journal articles. You do realize that you’re listening to a science fiction author with a lot of irrelevant experience rather than reading the peer-reviewed journals, right? And, no, reading a novel with footnotes doesn’t count as reading a scientific journal.

      • (Ed. note: JLF65 also responded to one of my posts, suggesting that the AAAS “scientists” who were polled regarding global warming are actually just functionally illiterate janitors.)

        I see you and the AC below will ignore scientists/doctors who write SciFi when their opinion goes against your own. That’s no reason to disclaim them as mere “science fiction authors”, as if their degrees and teaching positions are somehow negated by their writing of fiction. Do you also decry Benford and Sagan? They too are/were also mere “science fiction authors” as you like to put it. Obviously that makes them quacks who should be discounted. :P

      • The point is that his experience isn’t as a climatologist. He’s a medical doctor who hasn’t published a single solitary peer-reviewed article on climate science. You’ve just seen two links (Ed. note: one was from me, the other was from a stranger below.) detailing the sloppy scholarship in his novel. I’m completely uninterested in the scientific opinions of medical doctors and politicians like Al Gore. Just like I’m uninterested in receiving medical advice from a climatologist. All I’m interested in is evidence, presented in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

    • Tontoman posted on 2009-09-27 at 12:30

      Yeah, I like to get all my climate science from medical doctors and science fiction authors, too. Crichton never was very good at getting climate science right.

      Well Crichton he is a Scientist and also a Medical Doctor and Science Fiction writer who happened to write a fiction book called “State of Fear”. However, he also a scientist who gave a factual speech to National Press Club that I linked in the other message as well. If you think we should discount Crichton, then perhaps we should debunk the “global warming” movement because one of its leaders, Al Gore, also is a politician whose highest degree is Bachelor of Arts in Government.

  26. (Ed. note: These comments were copied from a conversation about speculation that cosmic rays help trees to grow faster. Geoffrey Landis correctly points out that the evidence is extremely tenuous.)

    If the solar cycle is what determines the level of GCR that gets to Earth then it may very well have absolutely nothing to do with the tree growth its self but an indicator of solar conditions which influence tree growth rates. [wizardforce]

    That’s what I’m thinking too. GCR intensity is highest when sunspot activity is lowest, generally modulating on an 11 year cycle. But solar irradiance also varies at the same frequency; the Sun is actually (~0.1%) brighter when more sunspots are present, contrary to intuition.

    If tree growth between 1953-2006 really is highest when sunspot activity is lowest, that implies trees grow faster when the Sun is very slightly dimmer. Weird. Their diffusion explanation makes sense, but as they note this cloud condensation effect is supposed to be a very small effect. Perhaps it’s just large enough to be noticed in these proxy data, though. I agree, however, that a link to solar irradiance is more intuitively appealing, and it’s not immediately obvious how it could be ruled out.

    I’d bet they’ve already considered this issue and ruled it out, possibly by using satellite measurements of solar irradiance and solar wind over the last few decades. They’re supposed to be tightly correlated, but if the solar wind varies even slightly differently than solar irradiance it should be possible to see which is causing this variation in growth rates.

    • Though there is little variation at visible and near UV wavelengths, the solar flux has a huge (factor of three) variation with the solar cycle in the extreme UV.

      EUV and X-ray photons constitute a marked fraction of the total solar output. A much larger fraction than you would expect from the short-wavelength tail of the black-body spectrum of the solar surface. Indeed, these emissions are mostly from the corona, not the surface: EUV at 171A, and an X-ray image.

      Such high-frequency photons are absorbed in the very upper layers of the atmosphere. However, roughly 50% of the secondary energetic effects (heating, fluorescence, ionization-recombination emission, etc.) will reach ground level instead of going back out into space.

      If something here on earth is varying with the solar cycle, the first cause to consider is therefore the solar EUV and X-ray flux.

    • Indeed, and temperatures also show an 11 year cycle…

    • Most plants are more sensitive to the blue-violet side of the spectrum for photosynthesis, with a few exception having increased sensitivity to the red side.

      My theory is that since humans tend to have peak sensitivity in the green portion of the spectrum and our perception of brightness is near zero in the blue-violet-ultra-violet range it is possible that the brightness of the sun has limited or no effect on plant growth.

      Moreover, the solar wind is directly proportional to the strength of the Earth’s magnetic field and the Earth’s magnetic field blocks less blue-violet-uv then when the magnetic field is weaker so more blue-violet-uv frequencies make it to the plants and hence increase a plant’s photosynthetic rate thus contributing to higher growth.

      Maybe GCR is to photosynthesis what steroids are to muscles.

      • … the Earth’s magnetic field blocks less blue-violet-uv then when the magnetic field is weaker so more blue-violet-uv frequencies make it to the plants and hence increase a plant’s photosynthetic rate thus contributing to higher growth.

        Magnetic fields don’t affect light, only charged particles.

      • I do believe magnetic fields do indeed have an effect on light since there seems to be a relationship between luminosity and magnetic activity.

        Moreover, while the following effects may not affect luminosity they do show interaction between magnetism and light: the Faraday effect and the Magneto-optic Kerr effect.

        The polarization of light through a magnetic field may also play a role in the properties of the light reaching the plant.

        It’s only a theory, and quite possibly incorrect since my Ph.D. in astrophysics is a perfect example of the “null” effect. :P

      • I do believe magnetic fields do indeed have an effect on light since there seems to be a relationship between luminosity and magnetic activity

        That just shows that the solar cycle affects both the luminosity and magnetic activity of the Sun. It doesn’t show a causal connection between the two.

        Moreover, while the following effects may not affect luminosity they do show interaction between magnetism and light: the Faraday effect and the Magneto-optic Kerr effect.

        Yes, Faraday rotators are used in optics labs to rotate the polarization of polarized light. I didn’t mention either of these effects because they’re irrelevant in this context. Sunlight isn’t polarized, so rotating its polarization doesn’t do anything. Plus, the magnetic fields required for a measurable rotation are far stronger than the Earth’s field. Finally, notice that the effect is proportional to the square of the wavelength. This means the effect is much weaker for visible light (and especially weak for blue-violet light) than for radio waves.

    • that implies trees grow faster when the Sun is very slightly dimmer [Dumb Scientist]

      Didn’t we learn from Intro to Biology that plants grow on the side facing away from the sun? That direct sunlight inhibits growth?

      • Most plants exhibit positive phototropism; i.e. they grow towards light. I’d think that more sunlight = faster growth, as do the researchers in the article because they reason that higher GCR intensity = more clouds = more diffuse light = easier to penetrate forest canopy = more light available to plants = faster growth.

      • Most plants exhibit positive phototropism; i.e. they grow towards light.

        Right, because the cells facing away from the light are the ones growing at the faster rate, so the net is that the plant as a whole grows towards the light (the faster-growing cells become the outside of the curve).

      • Interesting, I hadn’t thought of it that way. Plants have evolved to orient towards the Sun in order to maximize growth rates (presumably- otherwise why would this strategy be selected for?). This implies that cells receiving less light than other cells in the same plant will grow faster in order to point the leaves towards the Sun, thus maximizing the plant’s overall growth rate. I originally thought you meant a plant would grow faster on the shaded side of a hill than on the sunnier side, but I now understand that you were making a different point. I’m still not sure this effect would occur if the overall light intensity changed– it seems like an effect that depends on relative differences in light intensity.

      • I’m still not sure this effect would occur if the overall light intensity changed– it seems like an effect that depends on relative differences in light intensity.

        Good question – as I recall the sunlight has an inhibitory effect (the plants still grow at night), but all of this is from my freshman in high school bio class. I had a super good teacher, but I’m certainly no botanist.

  27. B posted on 2009-11-21 at 05:32

    NY Times climate hackers

    Now mostly I wonder why people are so violently opposed.

    • Been watching that unfold. Seems like a mix of:

      1. The same closed-source, proprietary data culture that can be found in any field of science. Annoying, but not unique to any particular field.
      2. A bunch of comments that sound bad but really aren’t. For instance, many of my emails to my advisor concern “incestuous comparisons” and I discuss “fake time series.” If anyone cracked my gmail account, they’d probably have some interesting quotes to throw around. But I’m not part of a global conspiracy yet. If I am, the perks are somewhat underwhelming. At the very least, I was expecting a jet pack and a secret underground lair…
      3. Scientists who are irritated by being treated like (a) morons who miss blatantly obvious “flaws” in their life’s work or (b) evil conspirators. After wading through 50 pages of this kind of abuse, I have a lot of sympathy for scientists who need to blow off steam by calling these idiots… idiots.

      Not that I really care, of course. None of the key pieces of evidence that convinced me came from these researchers, so the controversy that’s erupting seems really silly.

      Update: We also talk about little/big endian, secular rates, unity, decimating time series, and I usually hide the trend (gasp!) before a Fourier spectral analysis. Also, here are some other views on the email hack.

    • (Ed. note: This comment was copied from here and here. Rei’s comment is here.)

      Working group 2 of the IPCC made some embarrassing mistakes. Upon seeing the letter in Science, I wondered why I’d never noticed these ludicrous statements before. Then I realized that the mistakes weren’t in the working group 1 report, which is all I’d ever bothered to read. Here’s what each working group does:

      The IPCC Working Group I (WG I) assesses the physical scientific aspects of the climate system and climate change.

      The main topics assessed by WG I include: changes in greenhouse gases and aerosols in the atmosphere; observed changes in air, land and ocean temperatures, rainfall, glaciers and ice sheets, oceans and sea level; historical and paleoclimatic perspective on climate change; biogeochemistry, carbon cycle, gases and aerosols; satellite data and other data; climate models; climate projections, causes and attribution of climate change.

      The IPCC Working Group II (WG II) assesses the vulnerability of socio-economic and natural systems to climate change, negative and positive consequences of climate change, and options for adapting to it.

      It also takes into consideration the inter-relationship between vulnerability, adaptation and sustainable development. The assessed information is considered by sectors (water resources; ecosystems; food & forests; coastal systems; industry; human health) and regions (Africa; Asia; Australia & New Zealand; Europe; Latin America; North America; Polar Regions; Small Islands).

      The wild claim that “glaciers in the Himalaya are receding faster than in any other part of the world”, the 2350/2035 typo, confusion of Himalayan glacier area with the worldwide total, and reliance on non-peer-reviewed source material all occurred in a single paragraph(!) in the WG2 report (section 10.6.2, paragraph 2).

      Statements in the WG1 report regarding glaciers, on the other hand, accurately reflect conclusions in the peer-reviewed literature.

      Due to my obsession with the physical sciences, I’d never even realized that other working group reports existed. Perhaps other scientists reacted in a similar fashion, which might be why such an absurd cluster of errors went undetected for so long…

  28. That’s true! The fundamental question is whether our recent climate change is nature/human caused. Regarding the saturation point, it’s right that CO2 is already saturated and more CO2 won’t warm the planet anymore. I am a college sophomore with a dual major in Physics and Mathematics @ University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand. One of my Professors was discussing this the other day. By the way, I came across these excellent physics flash cards. It’s also a great initiative by the FunnelBrain team. Amazing!!!

    • Regarding the saturation point, it’s right that CO2 is already saturated and more CO2 won’t warm the planet anymore.

      No, that’s wrong. I guess you didn’t read my explanation or follow the last 50 years of climate research. It’ll make more sense after you take a few years of quantum mechanics and thermodynamics courses.

      Incidentally, a compelling argument would include specific reasons why the science I’m referencing is flawed.

      • Joshua posted on 2010-01-06 at 01:43

        No worries, how about this one?

        Add CO2 and the humidity is reduced. Net change to greenhouse effect = 0 = saturation.

      • First, that simply isn’t happening. Water vapor has a positive feedback effect (as explained above ad nauseum) rather than negative as you suggest. As CO2 and temperature have increased, so has precipitable water vapor. For example, see studies like this one.

        Second, the PDF you linked is a set of 78 slides including statements like “I regard this deduction one of the most beautiful results in the history of theoretical physics.” on slide 53. Needless to say, it hasn’t been through peer-review. However, it’s related to this 2006 paper by Ferenc Miskolczi which was peer-reviewed, albeit in an obscure weather journal. Luckily, it’s a mere 40 pages long.

        Joshua isn’t the only one saying things like: “In essence Dr Miskolczi showed that the solution to a differential equation for the greenhouse effect developed in 1922 by Arthur Milne, and central to the current paradigm, wrongly assumed an infinitely thick atmosphere. In re-solving this equation a new term and also a new law of physics have been proposed setting an upper limit to the greenhouse effect. Dr Miskolczi’s theory indicates that any warming from elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide will eventually be offset by a change in atmospheric moisture content.

        Many other people have already torn apart his paper, though the most extensive discussion is unavailable(!).

        Short version: modern GCMs certainly don’t assume an infinite atmosphere. Also, Milne’s model used gray-body simplifications (no structure to absorption spectra.) Modern line-by-line radiative transfer code represents the spectra more accurately; gray-body models are outdated and only used for teaching purposes. In other words, Milne’s 1922 model isn’t “central to the current paradigm”.

        Miskolczi’s main point, that the greenhouse effect is “saturated” because the mean optical depth of the atmosphere is held constant, is based on a gray-body model. It’s also based on equation 7 in his paper (seemingly pulled out of thin air), a misunderstanding of Kirchhoff’s law, and a bizarre use of the virial theorem.

  29. The mountains of research done on this is pretty clear about why it’s happening. But I don’t expect facts to get in the way of beliefs anytime soon. Be that as it may, why is not the important. The important questions, and the ones the climate scientists spend a lot of time working out, are how it’s going to affect us and what we can do to prepare for it. [Xyrus]

    There are no mountains of research that show why any climate change is happening or even IF climate change is happening. Arctic ice cover has increased every year since 2007, for example, while the AGW models pushed by the NSIDC and IPCC don’t allow for any such increase. Carbon dioxide is routinely pushed by politicians as the cause of global warming and yet it is a simple calculation to show that there is already more than sufficient carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to absorb ALL of the IR radiation radiating from Earth that is in the wavelength where it can be absorbed by carbon dioxide… within the first few hundred meters of the atmosphere. It is even easier to show that gas-phase H2O in the atmosphere (commonly referred to as humidity) is present in much higher concentrations in the atmosphere than CO2 and is a far more potent ‘greenhouse’ gas than CO2…and yet the planet is obviously still able to radiate sufficient heat to space in the non-absorbable IR wavelengths to cool itself. Finally, supposing for argument’s sake that atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration really was: 1) a problem and 2) correctable, why would it be the ‘climate scientist’s’ job (read IPCC and NSIDC) to tell us how to prepare for it’s impact? They seem even less qualified for that job than they are for the investigation of global warming.

    • There are no mountains of research that show why any climate change is happening or even IF climate change is happening.

      I’ve collected dozens of independent, peer-reviewed articles here. I even described my own personal research which independently confirms Greenland and Alaskan glacier melt through their effects on time-variable gravity. Just last month at the GRACE Science Team Meeting, my advisor displayed the most recent GRACE results over Greenland, showing that the mass loss is accelerating and spreading from the southeast coast to the entire western coast.

      There most certainly is a mountain of evidence showing that abrupt climate change is happening, and that it’s due to anthropogenic CO2 emissions.

      Arctic ice cover has increased every year since 2007…

      As I keep repeating, 2007 was the steepest drop in ice cover on record. It scared a lot of us when the extent of the drop was shown at the 2007 AGU conference because the climate models weren’t predicting such a huge drop. The subsequent increases actually confirm that this decrease was due to weather, not climate, which tends to validate the models.

      …while the AGW models pushed by the NSIDC and IPCC don’t allow for any such increase.

      Completely wrong. Global circulation models allow for short-term variability due to weather. That’s the whole point of taking an ensemble with varying initial conditions and parameterizations. Please remember that weather is different than climate, which is an average over at least several years.

      Carbon dioxide is routinely pushed by politicians as the cause of global warming…

      When studying any science, it’s best to ignore politicians and focus only on peer-reviewed scientific articles. In this case, you should be paying attention to the fact that scientists are saying CO2 is causing abrupt climate change.

      …and yet it is a simple calculation to show that there is already more than sufficient carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to absorb ALL of the IR radiation radiating from Earth that is in the wavelength where it can be absorbed by carbon dioxide… within the first few hundred meters of the atmosphere.

      Again, I’ve discussed this in detail many times. You’re neglecting to consider pressure broadening, which forces any realistic climate model to treat each layer of the atmosphere differently. CO2 isn’t saturated in the highest layer of the atmosphere, which is what really matters.

      It is even easier to show that gas-phase H2O in the atmosphere (commonly referred to as humidity) is present in much higher concentrations in the atmosphere than CO2 and is a far more potent ‘greenhouse’ gas than CO2…and yet the planet is obviously still able to radiate sufficient heat to space in the non-absorbable IR wavelengths to cool itself.

      Yet again, I need to repeat that water vapor is a feedback in the climate, not a forcing. We can’t change the amount of water vapor in the troposphere because it establishes equilibrium with the oceans in a matter of weeks. However, because we’re increasing the temperature of the planet by increasing CO2 concentrations, water vapor will tend to provide positive feedback which will make the problem worse.

      Also, water vapor isn’t well-mixed to the top of the atmosphere, so CO2 plays a larger role in that important outer layer.

      Finally, supposing for argument’s sake that atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration really was: 1) a problem and 2) correctable, why would it be the ‘climate scientist’s’ job (read IPCC and NSIDC) to tell us how to prepare for it’s impact? They seem even less qualified for that job than they are for the investigation of global warming.

      Scientists shouldn’t dictate public policy. All we can say is that abrupt climate change is a serious danger, and that humanity needs to stop emitting CO2 if we intend to keep our current standard of living. Physics can show us what a “sustainable” concentration of CO2 would be (350ppm seems like a safe goal) but politicians will have to figure out a practical way to achieve that goal. The choice of a carbon tax or cap-and-trade or some other effective mechanism is, of course, ultimately not a scientific question. All we can say is that we clearly need to do something or risk seriously destabilizing the ecosystem that we all depend on.

      • As I keep repeating [slashdot.org], 2007 was the steepest drop [uiuc.edu] in ice cover on record. It scared a lot of us when the extent of the drop was shown at the 2007 AGU conference because the climate models weren’t predicting such a huge drop. The subsequent increases actually confirm that this decrease was due to weather, not climate, which tends to validate the models.

        No, 2007 was not the ‘steepest drop’ in arctic ice cover, it was the ‘smallest minimum extent’ recorded. The increase and decrease in arctic ice cover follows the seasonal cycle and the rate of the decrease and increase in the seasonal change is similar from year to year. It is the ‘minimum’ and ‘maximum’ extent of the ice cover during the year that are of interest as a monitor of climate warming or cooling. The increase in the ‘minimum’ extent in 2008 and 2009 indicate a cooling trend that cannot be attributed to carbon dioxide or greenhouse gases since the concentration of those has increased during that time period. If you want to claim that cooling somehow validates the models (which it obviously does not) you need to explain where a significant amount of planetary heat is being stored since the ‘greenhouse gas’ theory of planetary warming requires that the amount of heat being radiated from the earth must continuously decrease.

        You’re neglecting to consider pressure broadening, which forces any realistic climate model to treat each layer of the atmosphere differently. CO2 isn’t saturated in the highest layer of the atmosphere, which is what really matters.

        Pressure broadening? Atmospheric gas pressures are very low, varying from 1 atm at the earth’s surface to near vacuum at the upper atmospheric limits. These low pressures have no significant effect on the carbon dioxide adsorption spectra. The simple fact is that there is more than sufficient carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at this very minute to absorb ALL of the IR radiation radiating from Earth that is in the wavelength where it can be absorbed by carbon dioxide… within the first few hundred meters of the atmosphere. Your reference to carbon dioxide saturation in the ‘highest layer’ of the atmosphere (whatever that is) suggests that you lack any understanding whatsoever of ‘saturation’ or phase equilibria.

        Yet again, I need to repeat that water vapor is a feedback in the climate, not a forcing. We can’t change the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere because it establishes equilibrium with the oceans in a matter of weeks. However, because we’re increasing the temperature of the planet by increasing CO2 concentrations, water vapor will tend to provide positive feedback which will make the problem worse. Also, water vapor isn’t well-mixed to the top of the atmosphere, so CO2 plays a larger role in that important outer layer.

        Water vapor is an atmospheric gas that has a much stronger ‘greenhouse’ effect than carbon dioxide. Water concentration in the atmosphere varies VERY widely around the globe and over time, but is always many, many times greater than that of carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide, in contrast, is at a relatively constant concentration around the globe. Water vapor is certainly NOT a ‘feedback’ in the climate but is the single biggest driver to the climate we experience on earth due to it’s contribution to global energy transfer, it’s unique ability to condense and form atmospheric optical barriers, it’s unique ability to accumulate as a solid over thousands of years, and it’s enormous global reservoirs in liquid form. Mixing has nothing to do with water concentration in the upper atmosphere. That is determined solely by pressure and temperature (which also vary widely around the globe). When I read your comments, I’m struck by how little you seem to understand about the basic physics of gases…which is, after all, what we’re talking about.

      • No, 2007 was not the ‘steepest drop’ in arctic ice cover, it was the ‘smallest minimum extent’ recorded. The increase and decrease in arctic ice cover follows the seasonal cycle and the rate of the decrease and increase in the seasonal change is similar from year to year. It is the ‘minimum’ and ‘maximum’ extent of the ice cover during the year that are of interest as a monitor of climate warming or cooling.

        Thanks for the lecture about seasons; it would’ve been informative if I were still in elementary school. If you’d clicked on the “steepest drop” link, you’d notice that the plot’s title is “Sea ice area at summer minimum.” A casual visual inspection will confirm the peer-reviewed conclusion that the summer minimum experienced its steepest drop from 2006-2007.

        The increase in the ‘minimum’ extent in 2008 and 2009 indicate a cooling trend that cannot be attributed to carbon dioxide or greenhouse gases since the concentration of those has increased during that time period.

        Well, first of all it’s not that simple. Ice extent at the summer minimum is just one observable, others include duration of the melt season, and thickness of the ice.

        More importantly, please recognize that climate models don’t predict monotonic warming. This strawman you’re attacking simply doesn’t exist. Short-term variability is expected; long-term averages are what’s important.

        If you want to claim that cooling somehow validates the models (which it obviously does not)…

        The models predicted drops in sea ice extent, but nothing like the drop observed in 2007. If the drop in 2007 had continued for (at least) several years, that would’ve been a genuine climatic signal rather than short-term variability due to weather. But since the models never predicted such an extreme drop, that would’ve indicated that the models were flawed.

        … you need to explain where a significant amount of planetary heat is being stored since the ‘greenhouse gas’ theory of planetary warming requires that the amount of heat being radiated from the earth must continuously decrease.

        Contrary to popular belief, climatologists aren’t denying the fact that natural variations such as changes in the Sun’s brightness affect the climate. Climatologists aren’t saying that our emissions are completely responsible for everything that’s happening to the climate. It’s just that once we account for all known natural variations, an artificial signal remains which is best explained by accounting for greenhouse gas emissions.

        For example, modern dynamical climate models can’t account for the physics of El Nino and La Nina events. Usually, circulation in the Pacific ocean sends cold water to the surface which serves to cool the atmosphere by warming the ocean. El Nino pauses that upwelling of cold water, thus warming the atmosphere by reducing the rate at which heat from the atmosphere is dumped into the ocean. La Nina does the opposite; it intensifies the upwelling of cold water, which draws more heat than usual from the atmosphere. The large dip in atmospheric temperatures in 2008 occurred because of a significant La Nina. These short-lived events have little effect on the long-term climate because they merely swap heat between the oceans and atmosphere. But they do make it difficult to use either ocean or atmosphere temperatures alone to study the climate.

        I’ll repeat: Global circulation models allow for short-term variability due to weather. That’s the whole point of taking an ensemble (see chapter 8) with varying initial conditions and parameterizations. For example, here are individual realizations of a climate model. Notice that the short-term fluctuations are severe and unpredictable, but the long term trend is robust and predictable.

        Atmospheric gas pressures are very low, varying from 1 atm at the earth’s surface to near vacuum at the upper atmospheric limits. These low pressures have no significant effect on the carbon dioxide adsorption spectra.

        Scientists would’ve agreed with you 109 years ago due to Angstrom and Koch’s experiment. Over the next few decades, however, scientists learned that the definition of “significant” is more subtle than one might think at first. This is ancient history, though. You can either refer to my summary or browse the journals in your university’s library, perhaps starting with: Kaplan, Lewis D. (1952). ‘On the Pressure Dependence of Radiative Heat Transfer in the Atmosphere.’ J. Meteorology 9: 1-12.

        The simple fact is that there is more than sufficient carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at this very minute to absorb ALL of the IR radiation radiating from Earth that is in the wavelength where it can be absorbed by carbon dioxide… within the first few hundred meters of the atmosphere.

        At which point it’s re-emitted, and (roughly) half of the emitted radiation travels upward to the next layer, where the process repeats. All atmospheric physicists understand this effect, and for the past half-century all climate models have accounted for it. Those same climate models show that the CO2 sensitivity has a maximum likelihood value of 2.9°C, with a 95% confidence that it’s less than 4.9°C but greater than 1.7°C.

        Your reference to carbon dioxide saturation in the ‘highest layer’ of the atmosphere (whatever that is)…

        As I’ve been trying to explain, modern global circulation models need to treat the atmosphere as a series of layers, each with a constant pressure. The highest layer is generally in the stratosphere or mesosphere, but this will vary depending on the model in question.

        Water vapor is certainly NOT a ‘feedback’ in the climate … Mixing has nothing to do with water concentration in the upper atmosphere. That is determined solely by pressure and temperature (which also vary widely around the globe).

        The fact that the average water vapor concentration is determined primarily by pressure and temperature is precisely what makes it a feedback rather than a forcing. The global average of relative humidity is “nearly constant at most altitudes”. On the other hand, CO2 concentration doesn’t establish equilibrium so quickly, which is why scientists are worried about CO2 but not water vapor.

        Ironically, the stratosphere is the only layer of the atmosphere where anthropogenic water vapor can act as a forcing:

        Only the stratosphere is dry enough and with a long enough residence time (a few years) for the small anthropogenic inputs [of water] to be important. In this case (and in this case only) those additions can be considered a forcing. Oxidation of anthropogenic methane (which is a major source of stratospheric water) and, conceivably, direct deposition of water from increases in aircraft in the lower stratosphere, can increase stratospheric water and since that gives a radiative forcing effect, they do appear on the forcings bar chart (under “H2O from CH4“). [Gavin Schmidt]

        Your reference to carbon dioxide saturation in the ‘highest layer’ of the atmosphere (whatever that is) suggests that you lack any understanding whatsoever of ‘saturation’ or phase equilibria. … When I read your comments, I’m struck by how little you seem to understand about the basic physics of gases…which is, after all, what we’re talking about.

        Yes, you’ve made it quite clear that you think I’m a drooling idiot (along with 84% of the scientific community.) But maybe… just maybe… you’ve missed some crucial details in the graduate-level physics underlying modern climatology?

        Update: I’ve failed to communicate again and again and again and again and again.

  30. (Ed. note: these comments were copied from the links attached to the posters’ names.)

    I actually disagree with you on your assessment of the risk, there is no really good scientific evidence of a threat from CO2 (and I seriously doubt you can show me any good evidence of a link). …

    • Seeing as how the scientific consensus is that there is a link between CO2 and global warming, YOU are the one who needs to prove there isn’t one (and I seriously doubt you can show me any good evidence that there ISN’T a link, as ‘a definite link’ is what the facts show.)

      • No, the onus is on the scientists to provide evidence to support their claims, as it always is. You don’t ask scientists to prove that God doesn’t exist, do you? There can be no such proof.

        While we are at it, it is important to look at what scientists do claim, and you will not find anywhere a scientific consensus that CO2 is going to cause some kind of global calamity. What you will find is consensus that CO2 does affect the global temperature. What you will not find is a consensus on how much it affects the global temperature. Global warming has become a kind of a scare in the mind of the public that is detached from the scientific reality.

      • What you will not find is a consensus on how much it affects the global temperature.

        Wrong. Climate sensitivity is expressed as the temperature increase due to a doubling of CO2. Modern estimates assign a maximum likelihood value of 2.9°C, with a 95% confidence that it’s less than 4.9°C but greater than 1.7°C.

      • OK, what you have done is linked to a modern estimate (if by modern you mean 2006) made by two people. You tried to do this to show consensus. Even if the paper is 100% accurate, and 100% true, you still have not shown a consensus, you have shown that two people feel that way. To establish a consensus, you have to show that most of your sample feels that way. You have not done this. Sorry.

        Incidentally, 5.76 degrees F is a rather large range. Don’t you think they could cut it down at all?

      • OK, what you have done is linked to a modern estimate (if by modern you mean 2006) made by two people. You tried to do this to show consensus.

        The paper itself combines multiple estimates from different independent scientists. If you don’t want to read the article, the summary says: However, a new paper in GRL this week by Annan and Hargreaves combines a number of these independent estimates to come up with the strong statement that the most likely value is about 2.9ºC with a 95% probability that the value is less than 4.5ºC.

        You’ll get similar results from examining models used in the ensemble of Meehl 2004. Sorry that I don’t have time to make all this explicit. As you can tell, I’m swamped with pseudoscientists and I simply can’t give everyone a crash course in climate physics.

        Incidentally, 5.76 degrees F is a rather large range. Don’t you think they could cut it down at all?

        We’re trying to, as fast as we possibly can. But note that this is a 95% confidence interval, not a 1-sigma error bar.

      • This paper is evidence of one thing only, that the mesh used in the (DOE) PCM is far too course ( The resolution of the atmosphere is T42, or roughly 2.8 x 2.8 degree;, with 18 levels in the vertical. Resolution in the ocean is roughly .75 x .75 degree down to a .5 x.5; in the equatorial Tropics, with 32 levels.) [omb]

        The effect of increasing the resolution of the models has been extensively studied. It provides a modest increase in model “skill” but runs enormously slower. They’ve chosen instead to run at a coarse resolution but create an ensemble of many runs which actually works better than increasing the resolution.

        Update: Schmidt et al. 2006 makes a similar point on page 154.

        What is missing from all this pseudo-science is fact: The equations an mathematical set up of the model…

        Notice in the first sentence of the first paragraph of section 2 that they used the DOE PCM described in Washington et al. (2000).

        The computer code to implement the model. See some of the nonsense from CRU.

        Some of the GCMs have publicly available code, which is indexed here.

    • I’ll repeat that again, because some people have trouble with this concept: the IPCC report draws no connection between CO2 and world calamity. If you’ve heard of New York being flooded when the glaciers melt, it wasn’t based on any real scientific research. It was some weird propaganda that you picked up somewhere. [phantomfive]

      Okay, something we can agree on. The estimates at the 2009 AGU Fall Meeting predicted ~1.2 meters of sea level rise by 2100, though it varies around the globe due to factors like the gravitational attraction of the glaciers that are thinning. People who quote estimates of ~20 meters are simply calculating the volume of the Greenland/Antarctic ice sheets/glaciers as a whole, which is absurd because even our most pessimistic estimates don’t allow those glaciers to completely disappear in less than ~500 years.

      But even a 1.2 meter increase in sea level would bring substantial economic hardship. For example, a storm surge in New York up to a level that would now be considered “once in 100 years” would happen every ~5 years.

      While this doesn’t sound as melodramatic, it’s a real threat, and it’s not the only one. I worry that the most damaging impact of abrupt climate change will be unpredictable changes in precipitation patterns. If a substantial fraction of the world’s farmlands experience droughts because water is falling in areas that are currently deserts, serious disruptions of the global food supply could result.

      If people are willing to kill for territory and nationalism now, imagine how much more aggressive starving people will be. This is what worries me. Not the immediate effects of climate change, but their secondary effects on international relations.

      • While this doesn’t sound as melodramatic, it’s a real threat, and it’s not the only one. I worry that the most damaging impact of abrupt climate change will be unpredictable changes in precipitation patterns. If a substantial fraction of the world’s farmlands experience droughts because water is falling in areas that are currently deserts, serious disruptions of the global food supply could result.

        This is exactly the problem. People think about climate change, and then they get into scenarios like this that have no scientific backing. Just like with Y2K when they worried about power plants exploding and planes falling out of the sky. Everyone has a scenario to worry about.

        Of course global warming is something to keep our eye on, but lets not go insane over it.

      • No scientific backing? Altering the global average temperature will affect precipitation patterns. Our current croplands are chosen to match current precipitation patterns. Altering them would be extremely expensive, maybe even impossible given the short amount of warning we’ll probably get. (That’s because predicting exactly how precipitation will change is very difficult.)

    • I actually disagree with you on your assessment of the risk, there is no really good scientific evidence of a threat from CO2 (and I seriously doubt you can show me any good evidence of a link). [phantomfive]

      I’ve tried to condense the science into a (hopefully) accessible summary, complete with dozens of references to genuine peer-reviewed scientific articles showing the seriousness of the threat posed by CO2.

      • OK, I’m going to try to condense your link down to your main points to make it easy to respond to. If this is an inaccurate representation of your argument, please correct me, but this is what I understand you to be saying:

        1) CO2 level are drastically increasing because of human activity (now seem to be 25% to 50% greater than their historical levels)

        2) The earth’s temperature is warmer than it has been in the past

        3) Computer models can show no other way to account for the warming trend between 1965 and 2000 other than CO2.

        4) Feedbacks in the environmental system could make things significantly worse, although they might not.

        This is something logical we can work with. This is how you do science, not by deferring to consensus of people who might be smarter than you.

        No one disagrees with point 1. Point 2 is fairly well accepted, although the trend in the past is in no way indicative of the trend going forward, which is why you had to go to point three, to establish that it will continue into the future if we continue to release CO2.

        Point 3, while technically true, is extremely shaky. I don’t think many people realize that the entire link from CO2 to the warming is based on computer models not being able to think of any other explanation. That point alone is suspect when you consider that from the time the study you linked to was published until now, the temperatures have not continued to rise as those models predicted would happen. What this means is that there are other factors affecting global temperature, that are unknown, that are at least as big as CO2 (otherwise they would have continued to rise).

        Ignoring that, if you look into more detail about how CO2 and the computer models work, there seems to be a rough consensus that doubling CO2 will increase the earth’s temperature by .7 degrees. The computers predict a rise from 1.2 degrees to 5 degrees or so. In order to do this, they rely on feedbacks in the environmental system. Now, any scientist who claimed to understand all the potential positive and negative feedbacks in the system would be laughed out of the room, but there are known important feedbacks that they aren’t considering, such as clouds (to understand the difference clouds can make, consider the difference in temperature on a cloudy day and a clear day, or even the difference of temperature in the shade of a tree). The fact is, these computers are known to be inaccurate.

        Whether you believe the computers to be accurate or not depends on who you are: the people who wrote the summary of the IPCC report believed them to be accurate enough, whereas the full IPCC report doesn’t actually make that claim. Of course most news agencies read the summary, not the full report (I can’t say I blame them, it’s thousands of pages long).

        As for the fourth point, even on your web page you admit it is nothing more than a worry.

      • You summarized one of my points as “The earth’s temperature is warmer than it has been in the past” but in fact what worries scientists is the rate of the warming, which is probably higher than at any point in the last 1000 years. Scientists are concerned about the abrupt nature of these changes, not the absolute temperature.

        I don’t think many people realize that the entire link from CO2 to the warming is based on computer models not being able to think of any other explanation.

        It’s based on the fact that global circulation models account for temperatures after 1970, which can’t be explained by any other process like increasing solar illumination, magnetic effects, etc. Those GCMs have been validated in multiple ways, by correctly predicting climate response to volcanic eruptions, by comparison to independent paleoclimate data and modern temperature records (which are independent because GCMs are dynamical models, not empirical models.) As I’ve explained, GCMs are able to reproduce strange features of modern warming like the cooling stratosphere which can’t be explained without multiple coincidental forcings.

        That point alone is suspect when you consider that from the time the study you linked to was published until now, the temperatures have not continued to rise as those models predicted would happen. What this means is that there are other factors affecting global temperature, that are unknown, that are at least as big as CO2 (otherwise they would have continued to rise).

        Nonsense. I’ve already been over this. ENSO variation isn’t all that important to the long term climate.

        The computers predict a rise from 1.2 degrees to 5 degrees or so. In order to do this, they rely on feedbacks in the environmental system.

        Very close. Modern estimates assign a maximum likelihood value of 2.9°C, with a 95% confidence that it’s less than 4.9°C but greater than 1.7°C.

        Now, any scientist who claimed to understand all the potential positive and negative feedbacks in the system would be laughed out of the room…

        Of course. What’s troubling is that our estimates of the long-term positive feedback effects are known to be too small to account for the Milankovitch glaciation cycles.

        there are known important feedbacks that they aren’t considering, such as clouds (to understand the difference clouds can make, consider the difference in temperature on a cloudy day and a clear day, or even the difference of temperature in the shade of a tree).

        Yes, I’ve already had to explain that I’m aware of how important clouds are. But why do you say clouds aren’t being considered? In fact, all models take clouds into account. I’ve previously linked to a new paper describing recent improvements to models of clouds.

        As for the fourth point, even on your web page you admit it is nothing more than a worry.

        Yeah, it’s a worry about the future of human civilization.

      • You summarized one of my points as “The earth’s temperature is warmer than it has been in the past” but in fact what worries scientists is the rate of the warming, which is probably higher than at any point in the last 1000 years. Scientists are concerned about the abrupt nature of these changes, not the absolute temperature.

        OK. If you look at the top and middle graphs the actual rate of warming doesn’t seem any different than the rates of change in the past. I haven’t investigated the climate temperatures enough to really comment on them, but we are talking about a difference of a degree, which is a change small enough that I am usually willing to accept it as reasonable: it’s not likely to be wildly inaccurate so in my opinion not worth much time arguing about.

        Onward:

        It’s based on the fact that global circulation models account for temperatures after 1970, which can’t be explained by any other process like increasing solar illumination, magnetic effects, etc.

        Exactly. “We can’t explain it any other way.” This is about the weakest line of logic ever. Sometimes it works, but all it takes is one missed piece of evidence to topple your logical castle. One problem and you’re screwed. If I were staking my career on this point, I would definitely want more research done and stronger evidence.

        by correctly predicting climate response to volcanic eruptions,

        This isn’t impressive, though, because it isn’t hard. We have lots of test eruptions to go on from the past, and you could probably do the calculations by hand on paper to make some good estimates of the change in temperature if you knew the output from the volcano.

        You’ve probably already seen the argument I made to the other guy, but I feel I should make it here, too: look at this graph. There is a calculation difference of nearly a degree in those climate models, whereas the temperature itself has varied significantly less than that. Do these models really inspire you to trust them? They are not very convincing to me at all.

        I’m going to say, your writing style makes me feel like you spend a lot of your time on realclimate.org. I strongly suggest instead that you look at the ipcc report (the actual report, not just the summary which a lot of people don’t feel represents the report). realclimate.org has a kind of propaganda-ish feel, and the IPCC report covers tons and tons of ground. If you are an information junkie, that is where you should go. It’s the good stuff.

      • Exactly. “We can’t explain it any other way.” This is about the weakest line of logic ever.

        Huh? I just showed you how the greenhouse warming model explains the current observations, has been validated in multiple independent ways, and has no serious competition. That’s exactly the same thing I say about evolution, but I gave up trying to explain that to creationists. Perhaps I should give up here for similar reasons?

        I’m going to say, your writing style makes me feel like you spend a lot of your time on realclimate.org. I strongly suggest instead that you look at the ipcc report [www.ipcc.ch] (the actual report, not just the summary which a lot of people don’t feel represents the report). realclimate.org has a kind of propaganda-ish feel, and the IPCC report covers tons and tons of ground. If you are an information junkie, that is where you should go. It’s the good stuff.

        Holy crap! You’re telling me to look at the source which– in that very article– I’ve referenced over and over and over and over? Are you serious? Most of the graphs in the article that you were just talking about are from the AR4 report. I’ve only deviated from it with respect to sea level increase, because their information is out of date and too conservative based on data collected since 2007.

        Had it ever occurred to you that maybe I spend most of my time studying the climate as a professional physicist, and that I’m not just regurgitating bullshit I read on the internet?

        You’ve probably already seen the argument I made to the other guy, but I feel I should make it here, too: look at this graph. There is a calculation difference of nearly a degree in those climate models, whereas the temperature itself has varied significantly less than that. Do these models really inspire you to trust them? They are not very convincing to me at all.

        How ironic. Maybe you should stop looking at a single realclimate.org graph and consider the AR4 scenarios from the IPCC report. (Yeah, the same ones I linked in my article months ago.) Notice that the uncertainty for each scenario is wide, but the error bars for different emissions scenarios don’t overlap. The scenarios are referenced in the second column of page 755 of chapter 10 of the AR4 report.

        These uncertainties are estimated using procedures described on pages 805-809, in section 10.5.4: “Sampling Uncertainty and Estimating Probabilities”. Those pages describe the role of multi-model ensembles and perturbed physics (i.e. perturbed parameters) ensembles in evaluating the uncertainty of climate projections.

        And, yes, I’m impressed by the careful job they’ve done. The methods they’re using to validate the models are ingenious. The error bars don’t have to be infinitesimal; just smaller than the difference between emissions scenarios. And they are.

        There is a calculation difference of nearly a degree in those climate models, whereas the temperature itself has varied significantly less than that. Do these models really inspire you to trust them? They are not very convincing to me at all.

        My point in emphasizing the future projections was to stress that this uncertainty doesn’t grow over time (aside from uncertainties as to which emissions scenario we adopt.) But even the “large” uncertainties in current GCMs are small enough to show that anthropogenic greenhouse gases are responsible for the warming since 1970. Even though the two curves have wide error bars, they don’t overlap. The entire point of that graph you’re fixated on is that the observed temperatures stay within the IPCC’s error bars. You couldn’t even see the prediction for the temperatures without human greenhouse gas emissions on that plot (as in the Meehl 2004 plot), because they’d be far below it.

      • I think at this point in the discussion it would be useful to discuss what exactly these computer models are. I think you already know all this, but sometimes going over such things can help clear things up.

        A computer climate simulation is just a big calculator. A lot of the things they simulate can be calculated by hand, even without a computer. For example, we can calculate how adding CO2 to the atmosphere affects temperature directly with a pencil and paper. We can estimate how a volcanic eruption will affect the temperature fairly easily by itself. We know how the reflectiveness of snow changes temperature compared to the unreflectiveness of dirt. We know all these things because of experimental evidence, although we understand some better than others. The computer comes in handy for the large calculations that are required when they are all put together, because they are all interconnected and all affect each other.

        Of course, we get these different pieces of the simulation based on observations from the natural environment, and so the simulation can only be as good as the observations. Thus when a person says their climate model is 90% accurate, what they are really saying is that they have a 90% understanding of the natural environment (at least, so far as it affects the temperature). I am wary of anyone who claims to understand the environment that well.

        The good thing is we are getting better observations. We now have satellites that measure radiation coming off the earth in various wavelengths, so we can get a direct measurement of the greenhouse effect as it is happening on earth, for example. We have more thermometers all over the earth. So in the next decade we should gain a much clearer picture of what is going on.

        In essence, it is certainly possible that greenhouse gasses could warm the earth as much as 5 degrees, but the observational evidence supporting this scenario is not very strong; it is still a lot of guesswork.

        Which leads to my other disagreement with you, which is the scale of the disaster you predict when you say things like this

        it’s a worry about the future of human civilization.

        I mean, come on, is it really? In the worst case, will it be worse than the dustbowl? That sucked, but it in no way threatened the future of human civilization. Is it going to cause California to redistribute its water, so Los Angeles has to start extracting water from the ocean (like Israel does now) so there is more for farmers? Is it going to cause subsistence farmers on the edge of the Sahara into battle because they have no more farmland?

        The fact is, farmers have been facing droughts as long as there have been farmers, and they will continue to do so into the future, whether global warming comes or not.

        In fact, the human race is guaranteed to have some horrible disasters in its future, as there have been in the past. We’ve had war, drought, disease, famine, and meteor impacts. In the absolute worst case, global warming will be just one more thing we have to adapt to. If human civilization is not good at adapting, it will cease to exist no matter what happens to the earth’s temperature.

        A lot of these disaster scenarios are things that could happen. The scientists are rarely saying this will happen, they are saying it is something that could happen. As an example, going back to the drought scenario, it could be that we will have more droughts because of global warming. But the truth is, nobody knows. And I for one, am not going to drastically change my behavior over a scenario that has such a small level of confidence.

      • I thought they quantified uncertainty in a very nuanced, open manner.

        The scale of the damage is, as you say, still up for debate. It may well be comparable to a global dustbowl, which by itself would be worse than the 1930s version that was specific to north America. But it could also be worse if we’ve underestimated the positive feedback effects at the timescale from now until 2100 in the same way we’re underestimating the longer-period positive feedback effects of the Milankovitch glaciation cycles.

        And you’re right, the human race is good at adapting. I think the evidence available is sufficient that we need to start adapting by spurring a new industrial revolution (probably nuclear-based) to help wean ourselves from a (limited) fuel that props up oppressive foreign regimes.

        it’s a worry about the future of human civilization.

        I mean, come on, is it really?

        Just to clarify, I’m saying we have a choice between making the shift to a carbon neutral civilization now or waiting until the last possible moment. The more we continue to stagnate, the less prosperous our future will be. Extinction of the human race is unlikely, but our civilization may be unrecognizable after some of the worst case scenarios.

    • It is a little know fact that, given the uncertainties of what is happening in our climate system, the warming seen over the last few decades is entirely attributable to the reduction in aerosols in recent years. This is mentioned in WGI chapter 2 of the IPCC report. Of course, that fact didn’t make it into the “Summary for Policy Makers.” In fairness I should mention that the chances of the temperature change being entirely attributable to the change in aerosols is actually quite low, but it’s still something worth considering. [phantomfive]

      Yeah, it’s odd that an ~18 page summary for nonscientists doesn’t include all the nuances in a ~1000 page report filled with scientific jargon.

      The summary’s forcing chart clearly shows a huge, lopsided error bar on the cloud albedo effect, and lists the Level Of Scientific Understanding as “low”. This is a copy of figure 2.20 on page 203 of chapter 2. In both charts, notice that the CO2 forcing is very large and known far more precisely.

      The particular statement you found, that “the warming seen over the last few decades is entirely attributable to the reduction in aerosols in recent years” isn’t something I’ve seen in chapter 2. The bottom panel of figure 2.22 on page 206 seems like the closest match to your statement, but it’s a projection based on emissions over 20 years in the future. Could you specify the page number where you found your statement?

      I’ll note that your claim isn’t necessarily contradicted by figure 2.20 because that’s the radiative forcing integrated from 1750-2005, whereas you’re referring to something like 1985-2005… right?

    • (Ed. note: These comments were copied from a discussion about the National Academy of Sciences urging a carbon tax.)

      Extra, Extra, read all about it! Quasi-governmental organizations tells government to do what head of government wants to do anyway! [russotto]

      I didn’t notice scientists telling President Bush that it was perfectly okay to burn fossil fuels. In fact, it seems like scientists have been saying pretty much the same thing for decades, but the last head of government never listened.

      • Actually, he did eventually listen. I noticed he started talking about it after he started talking about dependence on foreign oil. I think he saw it as a convenient way to help us get off oil. He also created a plan to stop CO2 emissions from increasing by 2025, which included building more nuclear power plants, but Democrats opposed the plan vocally. Too bad.

      • Okay, good points. I vaguely remember Bush’s plan, and I strongly disagree with the Democrats on the nuclear issue. But, oddly, I think Bush’s plan requires more “fine-tuned” government intervention. Without some way to account for the negative externalities of coal (i.e. carbon tax, cap-and-trade, whatever- for brevity’s sake I’ll just call it a carbon tax), nuclear stations would never get built by the “free” market because coal is much cheaper. Thus construction of nuclear plants would have to be subsidized mostly or entirely by the government. On the other hand, a carbon tax would push the “free” market to develop a new generation of nuclear plants purely to chase profits, the most capitalist reason imaginable.

        Yes, in some abstract sense imposing a tax on carbon moves us further from laissez faire capitalism. But that seems awfully similar to fining companies who pour chemical waste into rivers. It’s like a tax on pollution, and it provides incentive for companies to find ways to handle waste responsibly. Bush’s global warming plan would be more analogous to the government creating an bureaucratic agency to find ways to fix the waste issue, without bothering to stop (or even fine) the people who are dumping chemicals into rivers. That’s probably not the best idea because government bureaucracies are generally worse at innovation than the free market.

        Also, it seems like Bush was proposing an underfunded plan (like practically everything else he and Congress did during that period: Medicare increases, No Child Left Behind, Constellation, Iraq, etc.). So he seems to be saying that the government should build nuclear power plants (because without a carbon tax the free market simply won’t) but he doesn’t want to hurt the economy so he’s not going to raise any kind of taxes to build the nuclear power plants. That’s a recipe for doing exactly nothing. At the very least he’d have to raise taxes for his government program to build nuclear power plants.

        Update: I’ve failed to communicate again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again.

  31. (Ed. note: this comment was copied from here.)

    In 2002, an open process involving scientists and employees modified NASA’s mission statement to include the phrase “To understand and protect our home planet; to explore the universe and search for life; to inspire the next generation of explorers … as only NASA can.”

    But then in 2006 the phrase “to understand and protect our home planet” was dropped over the objections of many scientists. Considering that climate scientists have long used NASA satellite data to monitor abrupt climate change (including me), I think it’s time to re-emphasize this vital role that NASA can perform.

  32. (Ed. note: these comments were copied from here.)

    Thanks for pointing this out. I have made this comment myself when others who fancy themselves scientists say a particular paper has or has not been “peer reviewed” because it did not appear in certain publications, or did appear in publications they don’t approve. If you ask me, if a paper is published, and 15 other scientists or teams tried the same thing and got results (pro or con), then it has been “peer reviewed”. [Jane Q. Public]

    I think there are at least two “rounds” of peer review. The first round: “is this research published in a reputable and appropriate journal, considering the topic?” If the answer is no, scientists generally won’t waste their time on it, because there are already too many legitimately peer-reviewed papers for us to read.

    Then the second round of peer review begins: other scientists independently reproduce (or disprove) their results.

    I have located an even more recent paper, written by a scientist working for NOAA (a reputable scientific body), using NASA’s own data, that shows that the lower stratosphere is not in fact cooling as the greenhouse models call for. Rather, it is warming. Which in turn means the greenhouse warming models are fundamentally flawed … [Jane Q. Public]

    Interesting paper. Of course, it doesn’t say (or even imply) that “greenhouse warming models are fundamentally flawed.” The stratosphere cools as CO2 increases because that causes the Earth’s “effective radiating level” to move higher into the troposphere. As a result, Earth emits less long wave radiation because temperature decreases with altitude in the troposphere. Because that radiation normally warms the stratosphere, the stratosphere cools. Update: Also, increasing CO2 in the stratosphere helps it radiate heat.

    But other factors can warm the stratosphere, like decreasing water vapor or increasing aerosols. Also, increasing ozone warms the stratosphere, which is why the paper you cited actually suggests that “the reversing trend may relate to a possible recovery of stratospheric ozone concentration.”

    In reality, global circulation models (GCMs) are validated in a more robust fashion than examining a single variable in a single paper. After running an initial condition ensemble to average away the weather, and a multi-model ensemble to average away non-systematic errors, GCM outputs are compared to paleoclimate reconstructions and instrumental records (though the mean climate can’t be independently verified because of model “tuning”). The GCM response to forcing events such as volcanic eruptions can be compared to reality. Both the equilibrium climate sensitivity and the transient climate response to increased CO2 implied by the GCM ensembles can be compared to independent estimates, including comparisons with the last glacial maximum. Chapter 8 here is a good source for background information concerning climate models and their evaluation.

    I could go on about this for hours, pointing out reams of data and studies that do not support the idea of man-caused global warming… but I have already made my point: the plain FACT is, nowhere near “all” our evidence points to man-caused global warming. There is a great deal of counter-evidence, and much of the evidence on the “pro” side is now under suspicion because of some questionable practices used.

    Maybe you understand the physics behind these arguments better than I do, but the overwhelming majority of the evidence I’ve seen says that abrupt climate change is happening because of anthropogenic greenhouse gases like CO2. Considering that this conclusion has been subjected to extensive independent verification, I see no reason to be concerned about any questionable practices that have been floating around the tabloids. The few stories that weren’t complete nonsense simply showed that scientists are human– that countering the never-ending deluge of misinformation from nonscientists is stressful enough that they need to vent to each other privately via email.

    I can sympathize. If every one of these climate skeptics put as much energy into getting a graduate physics education as they do into reading crackpot blogs and hurling insults at me online, maybe I’d have more time to work on my actual research…

    • It was not my intent to argue the whole point of whether anthropogenic CO2 warming is occurring. My point was that contrary to what someone else stated above (and what a great many others have claimed), not “all” the evidence points that way. Nor do “all” the papers support the idea, and nor do “all” scientists accept the theory. [Jane Q. Public]

      Indeed, the claim that “all” scientists agree that CO2 is causing warming is an exaggeration. “An overwhelming majority” is more accurate, according to all the surveys I’ve seen and my own anecdotal observations at AGU conferences. But, of course, evidence is far more persuasive and interesting than counting heads. Some evidence (like the paper you found) suggests that GCMs might need to be improved in some areas or have their uncertainty estimates revised at certain altitudes. But I’ve never seen credible evidence that our understanding of climate physics is fundamentally flawed, which is what so many people in the general public seem to think.

      I do not have citations of all the relevant papers at hand, but for background about my statement: recently a major argument over greenhouse warming was occurring because tropospheric warming that would have to be taking place in order for the most commonly accepted greenhouse warming models to be even halfway predictive was not being observed. Later observation and analysis (to my own surprise) did indeed indicate such warming, but according to my best understanding it could only be reconciled with the greenhouse models if it were accompanied by a certain amount of cooling in the lower stratosphere. Which did seem to be happening.

      This debate did happen, but you’re implying it was pivotal “for the most commonly accepted greenhouse warming models to be even halfway predictive”. That’s not true; as I just outlined, scientists have settled on more robust model evaluation techniques.

      Of course they do not directly state that their findings contradict the warming models… that is a conclusion that does not have a proper place within the paper. Nevertheless, given the surrounding circumstances, I am free to make such an inference and I assert that it is reasonable given the circumstances. But I do not intend to try to prove it here.

      You’re certainly free to make that inference. But I don’t think it’s reasonable because you haven’t addressed the fact that stratospheric warming can be due to many different causes, as Liu and Weng note in their paper’s discussion:

      “From long-term ozone measurements at Arosa Switzerland Zanis et al. (2006) found a negative trend in stratospheric ozone before 1996 and a positive trend in lower stratospheric ozone between 1996 and 2004. Miller et al. (2006) have utilized a statistical model (Reinsel et al. 2002) to study the ozone trend by using the ozone data from 12 ozonesonde stations in the midlatitude of the Northern Hemisphere. They also found a negative trend before 1996 and a positive trend since 1996 in the lower stratospheric ozone. Their two-dimensional regional model results agree with the measurements and show a clear recovery of stratospheric ozone concentration in the future. This study may provide evidence to the recovery of stratospheric ozone. It should be pointed out that other greenhouse gases such as CO2 and CH4 are increasing and also affecting stratospheric temperatures (Ramaswamy et. al 2001).”

      Also, other GCM validation techniques seem considerably more reliable than comparing temperature trends in the stratosphere, where the effects of CO2 are smaller relative to other known forcings, the instrumental uncertainties are larger than surface measurements, dataset lengths are shorter, and the small densities imply similarly small changes in heat content. Why should I believe that your measure is more robust (i.e. has more statistical “power” and fewer type 1 and type 2 errors) than those I just listed?

      • Not only is your link to an article about the “debate” NOT about the recent debate, which was still occurring mere months ago… [Jane Q. Public]

        You didn’t cite any papers, so I had to guess what you were talking about. If you could show me some papers regarding that other debate mere months ago, maybe this conversation would be more productive.

        … the article actually supports the assertion I was making, and is nowhere near a “solution” to the problem to which I was referring. I quote from your article … the article specifically mentions that “The newest satellite dataset correction doesn’t reconcile differences between climate trends in the lower layer of the atmosphere…” which was one of the obvious problems with the models to which I referred. … it states that the tropospheric warming observed would need to be 2.6 times greater than what was observed in order to support what the climate models predicted. … You just linked to an article that clearly and unequivocally stated it was fundamentally flawed as recently as 2005… off in a major way by a factor of 260%. That’s not a “tweak”, that’s a fundamental flaw. [Jane Q. Public]

        I only linked that press release in an attempt to see if this debate is what you were talking about. Since it’s apparently not, I should really just wait for you to link the journal papers central to that other debate.

        But just in case you’re interested, this particular debate began with a 2004 paper by Douglass, Pearson and Singer. As usual, the first step in evaluating any scientific debate is to follow the citations. Notice that a more recent paper (PDF) says: “Our results contradict a recent claim that all simulated temperature trends in the tropical troposphere and in tropical lapse rates are inconsistent with observations. This claim was based on use of older radiosonde and satellite datasets, and on two methodological errors: the neglect of observational trend uncertainties introduced by interannual climate variability, and application of an inappropriate statistical consistency test. “

        There are useful lessons to be drawn from this debate. For instance, they suggest (along with other lines of evidence) that GCMs can’t yet fully account for ENSO and other oscillations, need improved moist convection and cloud parameterizations, etc. I caution people not to make regional climate predictions for precisely this reason: the GCMs aren’t yet sophisticated enough. Global averages, however, are considerably more reliable and robust for the same reason that opinion polls with larger sample sizes have smaller error bars.

        I understand your statement that “they settled on more robust model evaluation techniques”, but if so then they did so remarkably quickly, since this debate was still going on mere months ago, until troposphere warming data was updated to show observations that it was in fact warming as it should have been according to the models.

        If you really did understand my statement, you wouldn’t have written that paragraph. I just listed some of the methods that scientists actually use to validate the models. These validation techniques aren’t that new, and they have almost nothing to do with this debate.

        If you can show me that the recent changes in the climate models to account for observed changes in tropospheric temperature … they suddenly jumped to “more robust” models in just this last year …

        Huh? Climate models are being improved all the time, of course, but I don’t think this debate involved any changes to GCMs. It didn’t even involve changes to model validation techniques, which I have called “more robust” than your proposed single-variable-in-a-single-paper test. The troposphere warming debate was always about the temperature data and their uncertainties, which are independent of the GCMs because they’re dynamical models, not empirical (again, except for “tuning”).

        (Incidentally, this last point is very important. The difference between empirical and dynamical models is enormous, and doesn’t seem to be fully appreciated by most members of the general public.)

        Certainly stratospheric warming can be caused by various factors. In exactly the same vein, global warming could be caused by various factors.

        Yes, global warming could be caused by various factors. But, as I’ve repeatedly emphasized, scientists have produced upper bounds on the contributions of all known factors affecting global surface temperature trends. The effects of anthropogenic greenhouse gases can be distinguished from these other factors.

        In contrast, stratospheric temperature trends aren’t as well understood. Again, I’ve just listed some of the reasons: larger uncertainties in stratospheric forcing, fewer teams examining fewer instruments with higher uncertainties and shorter timespans, measuring extremely tenuous gases with correspondingly low heat capacities (i.e. small amounts of energy translate into large temperature changes).

        But it’s not the cause of the temperature difference that is relevant here. What is relevant is whether it is occurring. You can talk about causes until the cows come home, and that’s not going to make much difference. A certain temperature differential is necessary to confirm current climate models. If that temperature differential is not there — for whatever reason — then the models are flawed. … according to the recent debates about tropospheric and stratospheric warming and cooling, respectively, the models depended on these things occurring. If, as that paper indicates, the required stratospheric cooling is not taking place, then the models need some re-thinking… AGAIN. I don’t have to address the causes, all I have to address is whether it is happening as required for the models to be correct, or not. This is simple logic. If a model’s predictive capacity relies on phenomenon A happening, and phenomenon A is not happening, then the model is in error.

        Where– exactly– did you arrive at this notion that the best way to test GCMs is to look for temperature vs. altitude curves? If it was a peer-reviewed paper, please cite it. If it was from a graduate physics textbook, please let me know which one.

        I ask because– again– the techniques actually being used to validate climate models are radically different from what you’re suggesting.

        But it’s not the cause of the temperature difference that is relevant here.

        Really? Because your argument seems to be “this paper says that stratospheric temperatures are rising, not falling as predicted by GCMs, so the cause of this stratospheric temperature rise can only be something that implies GCMs are fundamentally flawed.”

        I’m saying, okay, suppose this paper is right to say that the stratosphere has been warming since 1996 (though most research I’ve seen shows the stratosphere cooling.) Even if that’s true, your conclusion only follows if there isn’t a mechanism that compensates for the stratospheric cooling effect due to CO2.

        And just to be clear, you’re the only one drawing such an absurd conclusion from this paper. Liu and Weng explicitly say that the observed warming suggests stratospheric ozone has increased since 1996, and they cite several independent studies that arrived at the same conclusion.

        It’s true that all other things being equal, greenhouse warming cools the stratosphere. But scientists are well aware that multiple factors (table 1 on page 5) influence the climate, and one of those is that increasing ozone in the stratosphere warms it. Of course, increasing ozone doesn’t invalidate GCMs.

        However, suppose that stratospheric temperatures rose with no increase in stratospheric ozone or aerosols, no increased solar output, no volcanic eruptions, and no decrease in well-mixed greenhouse gases. Then you might have a more convincing case that GCMs were “fundamentally flawed.” That’s all I’m saying: you need to first rule out other possible causes of stratospheric warming before jumping to this extreme conclusion. (And, yet again, consider why scientists use totally different validation techniques than the single-variable-in-a-single-paper test you seem to be advocating.)

      • This conversation is either finished, or its SNR is about to get even worse. Incidentally, this might be the more recent debate to which she refers.

      • Nope, not finished yet. Also, Solomon 2010 recently showed that stratospheric water vapor decreased by about 10% since 2000, which warms the stratosphere.

      • (Ed. note: this comment was copied from here.)

        … Of course, I just listed more fundamental reasons why I think that looking for signals of abrupt climate change in the stratosphere rather than on the surface is a wild goose chase. Then I listed them again but I may as well have been talking to myself. Ironically, figure 1 in that paper (overlapping sensitivity kernels) and figure 4 (huge aerosol forcings and small heat capacity = low SNR) vividly illustrate several of those reasons.

      • … this is yet another phenomenon with potentially significant effects on the climate that was completely unknown until very recently … [Someone] (paraphrased)

        Compare the surface forcing due to stratospheric ozone at any reasonable concentration to that of CO2 at today’s concentration, and then re-examine your use of the word “significant”.

        Then open the IPCC AR4 WG1, Chapter 2, page 149…

        “…Global [stratospheric] ozone amounts decreased between the late 1970s and early 1990s, with the lowest values occurring during 1992 to 1993 (roughly 6% below the 1964 to 1980 average), and slightly increasing values thereafter. Global ozone for the period 2000 to 2003 was approximately 4% below the 1964 to 1980 average values. Whether or not recently observed changes in ozone trends (Newchurch et al., 2003; Weatherhead and Andersen, 2006) are already indicative of recovery of the global ozone layer is not yet clear and requires more detailed attribution of the drivers of the changes (Steinbrecht et al., 2004a (see also comment and reply: Cunnold et al., 2004 and Steinbrecht et al., 2004b); Hadjinicolaou et al., 2005; Krizan and Lastovicka, 2005; Weatherhead and Andersen, 2006). …”

        … and re-examine your use of the phrase “completely unknown“.

        … reference to the old troposphere warming debate, followed later by a description of the “overlapping sensitivity kernel” issue as being unimportant in this context … (paraphrased)

        The old debate you’re describing was exacerbated by precisely this overlap issue. Sensors designed to measure the upper troposphere also pick up signals from the lower stratosphere.

        And just to save you from pointing out that “this context” isn’t what was quoted directly above that: I know. The reason I ignored all the sentences that preceded the statement about overlapping sensitivities is that I’m not saying Liu and Weng did shoddy work or that there are problems with their instruments in particular, so there’s no need to recite their validation techniques.

        What I’m saying is that all of these remote measurements are subject to larger uncertainties than surface data. The reasons I gave are similar to those on page 6 of this report. I’m merely trying to emphasize that the troposphere debate was due to uncertainties in remote measurements, which still remain larger than surface measurement uncertainties.

        … no, figure 4 doesn’t vividly illustrate low SNR, because they state 95% confidence levels, etc … (paraphrased)

        I’m not referring to the error bars on the linear trend. I’m referring to the fact that predicting the climate is a boundary value problem; it’s really all about measuring the energy imbalance of the Earth. Notice that skeptics like Dr. Pielke advocate using ocean heat content as a diagnostic of climate change rather than surface air temperatures. I agree with him about this point, because the ocean has a vast heat capacity compared to air at the surface. So it’s a better place to look for an energy imbalance (in theory).

        In contrast, the heat capacity of the stratosphere is even lower than that of air at the surface. In other words, it’s a really bad place to look for signals of a global energy imbalance.

        … and those volcanic temperature jumps look just about how you’d expect them to … (paraphrased)

        Good thing we know what to expect because of GCMs… right?

        … If you’re complaining about a few satellite instruments, why aren’t you complaining about CRU’s temperature proxies based only on a low number of bristlecone pines? … (paraphrased)

        Because there’s a difference between remote measurements made by a few dozen sensors over the last ~40 years, and thousands of surface temperature stations backed up with boreholes, ice cores and numerous other proxies extending much further back in time. I’ll complain when I see a genuinely peer-reviewed paper make a sweeping claim based only on weak proxy data.

        … You’ve criticized every climate change skeptic argument I’ve seen presented … (paraphrased)

        Not all of them, no. Also:

        • I’m annoyed with the prevalence of the term “tipping point” in the mainstream media, when we don’t have any idea where it lies, or whether runaway warming is remotely likely in the foreseeable future.
        • The third and fourth links in my article describe exaggerations in Al Gore’s movie.
        • The mainstream media plays up the “Gulf stream shutdown” scenario, which is extremely unlikely in the near future according to all the peer-reviewed science I’ve seen.
        • I agree that the media is filled with over-hyped research.

        … I just don’t agree that the overwhelming majority of scientists are spectacularly incompetent or engaged in a vast conspiracy.

        Update: Oh, I forgot an anecdote in that list of mine. I was nursing a beer at a talk on the reliability of GCM predictions at the 2009 AGU Fall Meeting… I don’t remember the title or speaker, but I think it was the middle of the week and I vividly remember the sweet, sweet taste of free lager, so it must have been right after “beer o’clock” which at the AGU is mid-afternoonish. Anyway, the guy was mocking a website claiming to provide regional climate predictions for annual averages (not ~20 year averages!) of temperature, humidity, precipitation… out to 2030… for specific zip codes. By the end, the crowd was howling with laughter. The notion that current science is anywhere near this accurate is on par with the idea that the CIA is advanced enough to remotely control our brainwaves unless we’re all foiled up.

        Another update: Found the talk; it was given by Lenny Smith and was even worse/funnier than I recalled:

        “Is it conceivable that models run on 2007 computer hardware could provide robust and credible probabilistic information for decision support and user guidance at the ZIP code level for sub-daily meteorological events in 2060? In 2090? Retrospectively, how informative would output from today’s models have proven in 2003? or the 1930’s? Consultancies in the United Kingdom, including the Met Office, are offering services to ‘future-proof’ their customers from climate change. How is a US or European based user or policy maker to determine the extent to which exciting new Bayesian methods are relevant here? or when a commercial supplier is vastly overselling the insights of today’s climate science? …”

        Another anecdote: At the 2009 GRACE Science Team meeting, I was chatting with a self-described “politically conservative” Arctic oceanographer who chastised the mainstream media for trying to blame everything on AGW. We agreed on this, but also agreed that statements in the peer-reviewed literature have been far more intellectually rigorous. He went on to describe what happened when a contrarian invited him to debate on a blog. I asked if this was McIntyre’s climateaudit, he wasn’t sure but said it sounded familiar. Anyway, as the insults started piling up he got uncomfortable with the fact that he was posting under his real name and address but getting abused by people known only by names like “Mad Dog”.

        … The IPCC screwed up 2350 with 2035 and used non-peer-reviewed sources, so their credibility is shot to hell … (paraphrased)

        As I’ve already discussed, you’re talking about errors in the WG2 report, which isn’t the scientific report. If you want to discuss science, try the WG1 report. I’ll even help you by finding an error in the WG1 report: at the bottom of the first column of page 624 in chapter 8, the phrase “too to the west” appears, which is grammatically incorrect!

        Update: Found another error!

        … Because of the change in ozone and temperature trends, models will yet again have to be adjusted to fit reality, and this is pretty major … (paraphrased)

        Again, you seem to be assuming that GCMs are empirical models. They’re actually dynamical, which means that aside from a few tuning parameterizations, they simply describe basic physics. Forcings such as levels of greenhouse gases, ozone concentrations, solar variability and volcanic eruptions are inputs to these models. The models don’t have to be changed at all, but ozone forcing inputs need to be adjusted. Again, you seem to be the only one who thinks the surface forcing will be significant. I’d really like to see a paper or some basic calculations, even if just to establish the order of magnitude compared to other forcings.

      • … Climate predictions have mostly been wrong … temperature trends over 8-9 years can be used to evaluate climate predictions … [Someone] (paraphrased)

        As I’ve explained, climate is the global average over ~20 years. That’s a limitation of modern science; computers aren’t fast enough, raw data isn’t extensive enough, and not enough oscillations (ENSO, AO, AAO, NAO, PNA, AMO, PDO, MJO, etc.) can be simulated precisely enough to meaningfully talk about “climate” on a shorter timescale. Trends of 8-9 years are probably under the noise floor, and (as I explain in that link) it’s important to remember that just because CO2 is the most significant forcing, that doesn’t mean other forcings are completely insignificant.

        Because of this limitation, climatologists primarily use hindcasts through proxy records to validate the models, among other techniques. Making a prediction and then waiting 20 years to see if it comes true isn’t practical, so few peer-reviewed papers tend to ask “Hey, what did that model 20 years ago predict?” But these analyses are also informally performed and they seem both honest and generally positive to me. You can verify this yourself by downloading the GCM source codes and global temperature data in the sources listed here. Remember to smooth over at least 20 years, and compare the projected emissions used to the actual values. (Most projections give several “scenarios” where CO2 emissions change differently to account for uncertainty in future human behavior.)

      • … Why weren’t the temperature trends predicted even though the ozone recovery should be connected to it? And why was it only just discovered last year? … [Someone] (paraphrased)

        If you’re implying that scientists detected the possible increase in stratospheric ozone without realizing it would have a warming effect on the stratosphere, that’s not true. The problem is that ozone and CO2 and volcanoes aren’t the only forcings strongly affecting stratospheric temperatures, so the connection isn’t that clear.

        Again, the stratosphere has an extremely low heat capacity compared to the lower atmosphere (let alone the ocean). Because of this, small amounts of energy can send its temperature through the roof. Plus, it’s more exposed to the solar wind than the lower atmosphere. So it’s buffeted by many different forcings. Yet again, I’m saying that stratospheric trends aren’t as well understood as surface trends, and their temperature trends aren’t useful indicators of an energy imbalance (unlike surface temperature trends).

      • … If that is so, then why does the ozone recovery match the calibrated temperature measurements? … [Someone] (paraphrased)

        If what is so, specifically? It almost sounds like you’re asking me to justify the statement “If you’re implying that scientists detected the possible increase in stratospheric ozone without realizing it would have a warming effect on the stratosphere, that’s not true.”

        But that would be silly. Atmospheric physicists have long known that ozone warms the stratosphere by absorbing UV from the sun. As a side effect, we’re protected from severe sunburns. That’s why governments banned CFCs to protect the ozone layer. And that’s probably why we’re seeing ozone recovery today.

        So maybe you meant: “the stratosphere has an extremely low heat capacity compared to the lower atmosphere (let alone the ocean).”

        The “short-term” heat capacity of the ocean can be approximated by neglecting deep water because heat rises and deep ocean mixing is too slow to matter on a human timescale. The heat capacity of the upper 1 m of the ocean (p 126) is ~1.5×1021 J/K and Lukas 1991 estimates the depth of the upper mixing layer at ~30m in the western Pacific. It may be more shallow elsewhere, but an area-weighted average is likely to be close to that of the Pacific.

        So the ocean’s relevant heat capacity is ~4.5×1022 J/K. The atmosphere’s total mass is ~5.2×1018 kg, and ~85% is below the tropopause. Since the specific heat of air is ~1.0×103 J/(kg*K), the troposphere’s heat capacity is ~4.4×1021 J/K. So the ocean+troposphere system has a (short-term) total heat capacity of ~4.9×1022 J/K.

        Now compare that to the stratosphere’s heat capacity, which is ~7.8×1020 J/K because it contains most of the other ~15% of the atmosphere’s mass. These are crude approximations, of course, but look at the differences in the exponents. Then consider that global warming is a boundary value problem concerning a decades-long energy imbalance. That’s why Dr. Pielke advocates using ocean heat content rather than air temperatures, and the same reasoning implies that the stratosphere is a bad place to look for signs of an energy imbalance.

        … If that is so, then why does the ozone recovery match the calibrated temperature measurements? … It doesn’t seem very hard to get pretty consistent data out, even given the other forcings … (paraphrased)

        What sentence in the paper gives you this impression? Every relevant sentence I can find is loaded with qualifiers like “may relate”, “may provide evidence”, “may suggest”, etc. That’s not an accident; scientific language is used like a scalpel.

        I agree with the authors; their research is good reason to suggest that stratospheric temperatures are increasing because of ozone recovery. It’s interesting research. I just don’t see any other point to be drawn from it.

        … You’re exaggerating the role of other forcings in the stratosphere … (paraphrased)

        Scientists have known about sudden stratospheric warmings since at least 1971: Matsuno,T., 1971 : A dynamical model of stratospheric warmings. J. Atmos. Sci., 28, 1479–1494.

        They’ve been studied for ~40 years, but still aren’t well understood because of the complexity of the stratosphere, multitude of forcings, and difficulty/sparseness of measurements.

        … Again, if you’re complaining about a few satellite instruments, why aren’t you complaining about CRU’s temperature proxies based only on a low number of bristlecone pines? … (paraphrased)

        Again, what are you talking about? I just haven’t seen any papers that fit this (obviously fraudulent/ridiculous) description. I’d like to at least see these extremely questionable papers that you’ve repeatedly accused me of accepting.

        … Those “independent” verifications of Mann’s temperature reconstructions aren’t independent because the scientists worked with Mann and colleagues, and used the same proxies … (paraphrased)

        If you’re genuinely interested in the physics and independent verification, I highly recommend borehole data. By measuring the temperature of the ground at various depths, past surface temperatures can be reconstructed using heat conduction equations.

        This doesn’t use CRU data at all, but it yields a similar temperature reconstruction. That’s not too surprising, because there’s no evidence that the CRU data was falsified as you imply. If you don’t believe me, download the data from different centers and apply the same test as in that “no evidence” link. Or come up with a better analysis to uncover evidence of this nefarious conspiracy. Seriously. I’d be interested to see the results of your code. Post them, and I promise I’ll read them.

        Update: Oerlemans 2005 shows that glacier records also give a similar answer using a completely different proxy and methodology.

      • … You’ve contradicted yourself by saying that UV is strong enough to cause sunburn, but not strong enough to affect surface temperatures … [Someone] (paraphrased)

        Stratospheric ozone absorbs UV, which is good for animals and plants because sunburns and skin cancer are dependent on the energy of each photon, which is inversely proportional to the photon’s wavelength. Because UV wavelengths are shorter than those of visible light, each UV photon has enough energy individually to break the chemical bonds in our DNA.

        Thermodynamic effects, though, are dependent on the total energy of all the photons summed together. So when I say that ozone’s surface radiative forcing (i.e. global warming effects) are small, that’s because sunlight has less UV than visible light. Ozone’s absorption of UV can warm the stratosphere, but only because of its low heat capacity.

        Again, ozone’s radiative forcing at the surface is much smaller than CO2‘s. In fact, notice that the error bars on stratospheric ozone actually lie on both the positive and negative sides of the forcings chart, which means modern science can’t distinguish its effect from “zero”.

        … You already have enough information to find the papers I’m talking about, and if you’re too stupid to figure that out, then you’re not capable of logical thought in any other area. I find Liu/Weng’s statistical methods superior to HadCRUT3′s methods. You’re clearly just picking on THIS satellite data; why aren’t you criticizing weaker data? You keep ignoring me when I ask this question … (paraphrased)

        If by “ignore” you mean that I’ve asked you to show me the faulty papers in question, yeah. Please note that I’m not telepathic, so I don’t know what paper you’re talking about. Yes, this means I’m too stupid to do research. I understand that you think I’m an idiot or a conspirator, so there’s not much point in repeating that statement.

        But please, could you help me out and at least cite one paper based on these few bristlecone pines that you think is particularly questionable? I honestly just don’t know what you’re talking about. And if you’re going to accuse me of accepting these papers… shouldn’t I get to read them first?

        That’s how I usually do it. I read the paper. Then I draw a conclusion about it.

      • This conversation seems to be finished, but I think this might be the debate she was talking about.

        I tend to agree with CapitalistImperialistPig: dendrochronology seems kind of spooky. Research involving living matter just strikes me as softer and somehow ickier than “pure” physics like boreholes, ice cores, instrumental records, etc. For instance, the divergence after 1960 makes me uncomfortable, but mainly because I don’t know much about it. I also don’t know how many cores are “enough” for reliable temperature reconstruction (even aside from all the other considerations), and the thought of taking enough time to try to understand that question makes me shiver. I’m comfortable relegating tree ring data to the status of “supporting evidence” which happens to correlate well (before 1960) with other proxies.

      • I’ve failed to communicate once again.

        Update: Jane Q. Public returns.

  33. (Ed. note: this comment was copied from here regarding an examination of scientific code that concludes: “What he also discovered, even more worryingly, is that the accuracy of results declined from six significant figures to one significant figure during the running of programs.”.)

    Engineering Course Grade = F. One significant figure? [BoRegardless]

    Yes, sounds like someone didn’t read What Every Computer Scientist Should Know About Floating-Point Arithmetic.

    • There are interesting things that can be done with a merely single significant digit, namely, order of magnitude calculations. It’s a useful to be able to determine the useful weighting of contributions to greenhouse gasses, for example. A classic case from climatology is figuring out the relative contribution to carbon dioxide emissions of human activity and volcanism (the former is much greater).

      • Yes, but you want that uncertainty to come from limitations in the experimental data, not inadequate guard digits. What the article was describing was a situation where the accuracy of the results dropped from 6 significant figures to just 1. In some rare situations, this could be intentional (to obtain an order-of-magnitude estimate using shortcuts that sacrifice accuracy for speed), but it’s more likely to be your garden-variety roundoff error that the programmer didn’t even know was corrupting his results.

      • Losing 5 digits of accuracy (especially if you don’t realize you are losing that much accuracy) is really ugly. I see your point there. I was just saying sometimes it is useful.

        Update: My conversation with Khallow continues below.

      • What the article was describing was a situation where the accuracy of the results dropped from 6 significant figures to just 1.

        But what they don’t tell you is that the purpose of the program was to convert a floating point number between 0 (inclusive) and 10 (exclusive) into a truncated integer value.

  34. (Ed. note: this comment was copied from here regarding an article about the need for open source code in climate science.)

    I’m finishing a program that inverts GRACE data to reveal fluctuations in gravity such as those caused by melting/thinning glaciers. This program will eventually be released as open source software under the GPLv3. It’s largely built on open source libraries like the GNU Scientific Library, but snippets of proprietary code from JPL found their way into the program years ago, and I’m currently trying to untangle them. The program can’t be made open source until I succeed because of an NDA that I had to sign in order to work at JPL.

    It’s impossible to say how long it will take to banish the proprietary code. While working on this project, my research is at a standstill. There’s very little academic incentive to waste time on this idealistic goal when I could be increasing my publication count.

    Annoyingly, the data themselves don’t belong to me. Again, I had to sign an NDA to receive them. So I can’t release the data. This situation is common to scientists in many different fields.

    Incidentally, Harry’s README file is typical of my experiences with scientific software. Fragile, unportable, uncommented spaghetti code is common because scientists aren’t professional programmers. Of course, this doesn’t invalidate the results of that code because it’s tested primarily through independent verification, not unit tests. Scientists describe their algorithms in peer-reviewed papers, which are then re-implemented (often from scratch) by other scientists. Open source code practices would certainly improve science, but he’s wrong to imply that a single bug could have a significant impact on our understanding of the greenhouse effect.

    • Fragile, unportable, uncommented spaghetti code is common because scientists aren’t professional programmers.

      There’s a large amount of scientific code that’s written to be run once, for a one-off analysis for which there will never be an exact duplicate. Why would the author go to the trouble of finding an optimal solution when a brute-force method is faster in meat-time?

    • Scientists describe their algorithms in peer-reviewed papers, which are then re-implemented (often from scratch) by other scientists.

      I recently went through this exercise for a graduate class in biometrics. In researching a particular fingerprint-evaluation algorithm, I found 6 papers that had an algorithmic description, and they all disagreed. Eventually, I could see that 5 out of the 6 were due to various kinds of typos. They simply would not work as written.

    • In the part of NASA I’m familiar with, data is publicly released along with software tools. I searched for GRACE and found that they make data available.

      • Yes, but I’m not using the vanilla level 1-b or level 2 data products. I’m using accelerations that have already had background models like FES2004 and various dealiasing products subtracted. These data were only given to me when I promised not to share them or publish papers on certain topics using them.

    • (Ed. note: this comment was posted on 2009-03-17.)

      I am a physicist working with GRACE data, and I feel the need to nitpick. GRACE uses a microwave ranging system, not a laser ranging system. The increased accuracy of a laser ranging system wouldn’t be useful because there are so many other sources of noise, but it is being considered for GRACE 2.

      Also, the baseline between the GRACE satellites is more than a couple dozen miles. On average, GRACE A and B are 220 km apart.

      GOCE is an amazing satellite, and its low altitude combined with its ion engine (to precisely compensate for drag) will increase the resolution of our static (i.e. not time dependent) gravity field maps. But it can’t replace GRACE’s measurements of the changing gravity field. GRACE has provided independent measurements of the Greenland ice sheet melt and helped to correct water storage models, which underestimated the 2005 Amazon drought.

      My research involves pushing GRACE’s temporal resolution even further down. Rather than detecting annual signals or slowly varying linear mass changes (like ice sheet melt), I’m trying to measure the gravity changes from ocean tides. My preliminary results show that GRACE can detect gravity fluctuations from twice-daily tides, which means that it can be used to improve our ocean tide models. This helps oceanographers, but indirectly helps all gravimetry because tides are a source of noise even for static measurements of the earth’s gravity field. Modelling the tides better can help to reduce this noise.

      GRACE isn’t dead yet.

      • (Ed. note: this comment was copied from here.)

        GOCE is an amazing satellite [...] But it can’t replace GRACE’s measurements of the changing gravity field. [Dumb Scientist]

        Why not? Isn’t time-dependent gravity measurement simply achieved by comparing “static” measurements of the same spot over time? [Someone]

        First, it’s in a sun-synchronous orbit. That means that it only passes over a certain spot on the earth’s surface at a particular time of day, which never changes from day to day. As a result, it can’t tell if gravity is different at that spot at a different time of day. Secondly, the GOCE mission is expected to fall out of the sky in 20 months (and that’s if the ion engine works well). It just won’t be up there long enough to measure a long enough time series for any serious analysis.

      • (Ed. note: this comment was copied from here.)

        What are the other new features of GRACE2 over GRACE?

        The “drag-free” concept that GOCE is using has been popular at the GRACE Science Team Meetings. This would allow GRACE’s altitude to be lowered from its current ~500km (starting) altitude to something more like 200km. Lowering the altitude improves the spatial resolution because from very far away the Earth’s gravity field looks exactly like a point mass’s. The closer to the surface the satellite gets, the more clearly smaller features appear.

        A laser ranging system is also being considered, but we’re having a great deal of trouble getting our noise floor (due to mis-modeled forces on the satellite and errors in modeling known sources of gravity fluctuations such as tides and atmospheric circulation) low enough so that we’re actually limited by the lower precision of the microwave system. Until then, it’s hard to argue for a more expensive system that doesn’t seem necessary.

        I’ve seen interesting proposals for a more complicated orbit geometry. David Wiese proposed a “cartwheel” orbit where 2,3 or 4 GRACE satellites would revolve around each other as they orbit the planet. Sometimes the satellites would be at the same altitude, at other times they’d be right on top of each other. The laser ranging systems would be continually synced, so measurements of gravity variations could be made along radial directions instead of along the theta (or phi, depending on which spherical coordinate system you prefer) direction. These added degrees of freedom could help eliminate a strange, unexplained error source that we whimsically call “longitudinal striping” (Sean Swenson developed a smoothing algorithm that reduces it, but we still don’t really know why it happens).

        Aside from that, we’re just trying to make sure there is a GRACE 2. Many of our long term measurements are limited by the short (~6 year) timespan of the data. GRACE is slowly falling out of the sky (I think it’s projected to burn up in 2012 or so) and it’s dangerously low on propellant. We need another mission like GRACE to extend the time series, and it’s best to launch the second mission before the first one fails to cross-validate the time series from both satellite systems.

  35. (Ed. note: these comments were copied from here. Khallow and I have previously discussed floating-point accuracy.)

    Well, there’s a pile of articles from Dr. McIntyre. Many of these criticize HadCRUT3 or its components. So yes, the data itself has been called into question repeatedly. [Khallow]

    Look at his peer-reviewed papers and follow their citations in google scholar. If there’s a peer-reviewed paper that shows significant flaws in the HadCRUT3 dataset which hasn’t been convincingly rebutted, I’d like to know.

    • How about this tidbit where the UK Met denies the FOIA request to access CRUTEM3 data and claims that “records were not kept” of where the data came from. Where is the convincing rebuttal for the years of runaround from the CRU, UK Met, and associated parties? [Khallow]

      Please note that I asked for a peer-reviewed paper, which would contain some kind of physics-based argument. Conspiracy theories bore me; science is really much more interesting!

      • While peer-reviewed papers aren’t always correct, their signal to noise ratio is far higher than blogs, so I recommend learning science from them rather than the rantings of economists and mining engineers. If you seriously think the overwhelming majority of the scientific community is spectacularly incompetent or involved in an evil conspiracy, then there’s very little I can do. After all, that means I’m a drooling idiot or a conspirator too, right? I see no point in a conversation like that. Have a nice day.

  36. (Ed. note: these comments were copied from here.)

    … It’s still criticism (and he has been other than “probably false and/or misleading” at times in the past, remember the “hockey stick” complaint?). [Khallow]

    The NAS report found no significant problems with Mann’s 1998 reconstruction, and it’s been confirmed repeatedly by independent teams.

    • I see that they found no significant problems with the McIntyre and McKitrick papers either. [Khallow]

      They weren’t convened to critique the MM03/05 papers, so describing MM’s misunderstandings of selection rules in principal component analysis would be outside the scope of the report. I’ve listed some peer-reviewed papers here (7d in the index) which cover those topics in more detail.

      • … they did discuss the MM papers. [Khallow]

        Of course; chapters 9 and 11 both mention McIntyre 3 times. Each time, their claim is briefly but not extensively discussed because the conclusions on page 117 include: “The instrumentally measured warming of about 0.6°C during the 20th century is also reflected in borehole temperature measurements, the retreat of glaciers, and other observational evidence, and can be simulated with climate models.”

        As far as I can tell, the largest caveats to emerge from the NAS report are concerns about the uncertainty estimates (especially prior to 1600 CE) and this sentence on page 115: “Even less confidence can be placed in the original conclusions by Mann et al. (1999) that ‘the 1990s are likely the warmest decade, and 1998 the warmest year, in at least a millennium’ because the uncertainties inherent in temperature reconstructions for individual years and decades are larger than those for longer time periods, and because not all of the available proxies record temperature information on such short timescales.”

        Second, the two papers you mention (Rutherford 2005 and Wahl and Ammann 2007) are based on CRU data, the Rutherford paper even has Jones and Mann as coauthors.

        My point is that those papers can’t be affected by the claimed MM PCA “mistake” because they use different methodologies.

        There was ample opportunity to cook (deliberately or via unintentional observer bias) the CRU estimates to restore the hockey stick by 2005.

        I’ve already linked the results of independent temperature reconstructions. And last year I said: Each time series in the graph I previously linked is referenced in chapter 6 here. Turn to page 469 and examine Table 6.1 (later, if you get bored, consider checking out column 2 of page 466 which reviews the claims of MM03 and MM05.) Every time series is referenced well enough to be found on google scholar– for example here’s one of them. As you’ve seen from the graph, they all support the abrupt temperature increase in Mann’s graph. (I freely admit that all these authors could be drooling morons, sheeple incapable of independent thought, or evil conspirators… any of these scenarios or a linear combination of them would completely discredit my position.)

        Notice how all these reconstructions show an abrupt temperature spike in the last few decades. Most interesting is “PS2004″ which reconstructs past temperatures using borehole data. By measuring the temperature of the ground at various depths, past surface temperatures can be reconstructed using heat conduction equations.

        This isn’t based on CRU data at all, but it’s also consistent. That’s not too surprising, because there’s no evidence that the CRU data has been “cooked” as you imply.

      • … Further, the overall conclusions of this body of work are dependent on a few key players, for example, the CRU people and their aggregate estimates of temperature over hundreds of thousands of years. I have yet to find an independent estimate backing the Mann-Jones estimate. … [Khallow]

        Just two weeks later, it becomes clear that I’ve failed to communicate once again. The futility of these conversations is depressing and frustrating. It’s just not worth trying to clear up this apparent confusion of ~200 year instrumental aggregates with ~650,000 year ice core proxies like EPICA.

        Update: I’ve failed to communicate again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again.

        Another update: Khallow keeps digging.

  37. Karl Hallowell posted on 2010-02-10 at 06:55

    I think a key problem here that I simply am not capable of addressing is the claim of independence. You claim there are independent research confirming the original 1998 paper. The problem here is that the research may not be independent. Obviously, there is one good sense already in which they can’t be independent, namely, if they are an accurate description of reality, then they all should show similar things. The problem comes, if there is an expectation that they should show similar things when they shouldn’t.

    The MM research showed that there should be a artifact of the type observed coming from the original Jones and Mann paper just from the statistical methodology used in that paper. What concerns me here is that the other research duplicates what may well be an flawed artifact of the original paper rather than a genuine phenomena. We may well be seeing an example of group observer bias (driven by the expectation that their results should look like older research). That would introduce dependence.

    I’m also concerned by the CRU’s role in the political side of the AGW debate. I see you’ve replied to my post on that (on Slashdot) so it might be included on your site. Here’s my basic problem. There’s a lot at stake politically and economically (huge amounts of money and power). The CRU is funded by back-to-back pro-AGW governments in the UK (Blair and Brown). It also plays a role in supporting carbon emission regulation by the EU and the conclusions if the IPCC. It has the more aggressive predictions of future AGW out there (as far as I know, CRU researchers predicted a 6C rise in temperature by the end of the century last fall, conveniently before the international conference in Copenhagen, Denmark).

    Much of its data and code used in this research has been for years shielded from outside observation (and as we see in the CRU “hacked” emails, there was discussion on how to thwart FOIA requests rather than deliver this information). Finally, the CRU appears to be one of the few sources for temperature estimates for paleoclimate temperature data (Hansen’s group being another source, doesn’t instill me with confidence. Why put a politician who has a 20+ year career of AGW hype in charge of such an important task?).

    So we have an organization that delivers some of the more extreme predictions, deliberately hides its research and internal workings, and has both motive and opportunity to distort its research. You should consider the possibility that there is serious bias either accidental or intentional. Fraud may well be occurring. I’m especially suspicious due to the fake urgency surrounding carbon emission reduction. There’s no apparent reason, for example, for the Kyoto treaty, the carbon markets in Europe, or last year’s attempts by the Democrats in the States to pass cap and trade regulation on carbon dioxide emissions.

    As I said in my post on Slashdot, I don’t see the situation as hopeless or even that much of a problem. Even if there is some vast hidden conspiracy to distort the temperature data, merely waiting a couple of decades solves those issues. If temperature is rising as claimed, it’ll be much more apparent by then. Then we can implement sound carbon emission control policies using the more solid evidence of the future and have better technological alternatives to fossil fuels at our disposal. We’ll also be a bit wealthier and more able to fund any necessary transitions.

    • … I think a key problem here that I simply am not capable of addressing is the claim of independence. …

      This is understandable and perfectly natural for anyone who doesn’t spend the majority of his waking life studying this branch of physics. But the next two paragraphs extrapolate “I am not capable” to “no one is capable,” which is where we disagree. Again, I recommend reading those papers– at the very least the PS2004 one. With so many diverse datasets and methodologies pointing to the same conclusion, it’s highly unlikely to be caused by observer bias.

      … CRU researchers predicted a 6C rise in temperature by the end of the century last fall …

      As have others. They are indeed higher than the IPCC’s most likely projections. According to this survey, only ~20% of scientists think the IPCC has understated the problem. While most of us favor the IPCC’s projections, I’ve described positive feedback effects throughout this article that might be large enough to make a 6°C rise possible under the “wait and see” approach to dealing with CO2.

      Either way, as explained above ad nauseum, I think the best course of action is to spur a new industrial revolution by enacting John McCain’s plan to build 45 nuclear power plants before 2030.

      What’s left is a longer version of the same conspiracy theory that bored me on Slashdot. If you have a physics-based question that hasn’t already been answered in the index above, I’ll try to answer it.

  38. Karl Hallowell posted on 2010-02-10 at 09:54

    I didn’t say the task was impossible. I simply think the research is more intertwined than you claim and that there are groups on several sides with the power to warp the current research significantly. Plus the CRU code really needs fixing. And the guy who is fixing it is one of the most pitiable creatures on this planet.

    I can’t help but notice that the MIT study you cite doesn’t have a place to download the code for their model. At this point, I’m seriously considering demoting any computer based prediction in climatology to the status of “opinion” unless they provide source code.

    If there really is a warming trend, we will in time see sufficiently obvious signs.

    • I can’t help but notice that the MIT study you cite doesn’t have a place to download the code for their model. At this point, I’m seriously considering demoting any computer based prediction in climatology to the status of “opinion” unless they provide source code.

      The paper calls their model the “MIT Integrated Global System Model” which isn’t showing up in my quick search. However, it might have been renamed to the “MIT Global Circulation Model” which can be downloaded here. (I’m not sure if they’re really the same, but their references looked similar based on my quick glance… Update: No, it seems like MIT IGSM is more than a GCM, it’s also got some kind of economic model attached. If it’s not open source, it certainly should be.)

      Anyway, they compare it to models from the IPCC AR4, which can be downloaded here and here with model output available here. The models can be compared to proxies and various instrumental temperature records. The code for some of the reconstructions can be downloaded here.

      Update: These links have been copied to the climate data section.

      If there really is a warming trend, we will in time see sufficiently obvious signs.

      That’s already happened, but I won’t continue to rehash the physics because I’ve given up hope that you might ask a new question about it. Your other comment is similar:

      … Even if there is a spectacularly incompetent scientific community or a vast evil conspiracy, they won’t be able to get reality to fit over the span of coming decades. If there really is substantial global warming occurring (and I grant part of that may be masked by other kinds of pollution like particulate matter and sulfur dioxide), the effects will become too obvious to explain away with all but the more bug eyed-crazy conspiracy theories.

      But, as the research summarized in the previous ~80 pages shows, the effects are already too obvious to explain away… and have been for many years. Apparently we can agree that there will always be conspiracy theorists, regardless of how overwhelming the evidence is.

      The key to distinguishing a scientist from a bug eyed-crazy conspiracy theorist is that one discusses physical laws, evidence and uncertainty estimates while the other repeatedly asserts that a small cabal has brainwashed the overwhelming majority of scientists.

      • Karl Hallowell posted on 2010-02-11 at 08:09

        Let me put it simply. I don’t trust the current research. I don’t trust your or my characterizations of the current research. I don’t have the time to figure this out though my belief is that there is insufficient uncertainty in the predictions of future climate change.

        I figure though that this will all settled down in a couple of decades. We’ll almost double the duration of satellite-based evidence (plus have a greater span of data collected) and global warming will be more pronounced by then. Further, the economics side will be better known. We’ll have a better idea of the future direction of fossil fuels since peak oil will probably happen by then with peak natural gas coming. Alternative technologies like solar cells (which appear to be declining in price per watt by about 50% per eight years) may obsolete some or most fossil fuel needs. Perhaps the problem will solve itself by then.

        I thank you for this marvelous website though. You have been sincere, helpful, and knowledgeable. I will consider your words even though I’m obviously not very receptive at the moment.

  39. Thirdeye posted on 2010-02-19 at 21:35

    Just out of curiosity, do you know how much pollution is discharged into the atmosphere when a single volcanic eruption occurs? Wondering how it compares to the anthropogenic discharge?

    • The quick answer is that our CO2 emissions are now ~100x greater than the average amount dumped into the atmosphere every decade by volcanoes. (Allowing for size/number of eruptions per decade, etc.)

      Also, we can distinguish CO2 from combustion of fossil fuels from volcanic CO2 based on the isotopes. It turns out that plants slightly prefer one isotope of carbon (12C) over another isotope (13C). So fossil fuels are abnormally high in 12C.

      The ratio of 12C/13C in atmospheric CO2 is rising in roughly the way you’d expect if our emissions were causing the current skyrocketing peak rather than, say, an undiscovered undersea volcano.

      Update: Notice that the top panel of that graph also shows that atmospheric oxygen is decreasing, which is what we expect if the CO2 increase is due to combustion of carbon rather than volcanism.

      In fact, we know how much CO2 we’ve emitted because governments tax coal and oil, and that amount is roughly double the increase in the atmosphere. This indicates that ~50% of our CO2 is building up in “carbon sinks” like the oceans and parts of the biosphere.

      • Thirdeye posted on 2010-02-19 at 21:39

        Ok that makes sense. Why the comment about the plants though? Is that how we sample the CO2?

      • Because plants are the foundation of the ecosystem. Therefore all biological carbon has more 12C than usual, which includes the CO2 produced by burning fossil fuels and land clearing. But volcanic CO2 doesn’t pass through this filter, so the 12C/13C ratio of eruptions is different.

        Actually, modern CO2 sampling is based on a network of mechanical sensors; the most famous is Mauna Loa.

        This increase from 320-380ppm over 50 years might seem benign, but we can also analyze the gas trapped in ice cores in Antarctica. Sampling the gas to detect the CO2 concentration in the past yields these results.

        What might seem like a slow increase in human terms is practically a discontinuity in geological time: ~35x faster than anything observed in the last half million years. More recent results suggest that you’d have to go back 15 million years to find CO2 levels as high as today’s:

        “The highest estimates of pCO2 occur during the Mid-Miocene Climatic Optimum (MMCO; ~16 to 14 Ma), the only interval in our record with levels higher than the 2009 value of 387 ppmv. Climate proxies indicate the MMCO was associated with reduced ice volume and globally higher sea level (25 to 40 meters) (3), as well as warmer surface and deep-water temperatures (2, 20). These results are consistent with foraminiferal d11B data that indicate surface waters were more acidic ~20 Ma (12).”

        Update: Correction: ~3 million years.

      • Thirdeye posted on 2010-02-19 at 21:44

        Also, aren’t there some schools of thought that think that increased CO2 in the atmosphere may actually contribute to a cooler Earth by increasing the Earth’s albedo? Can’t remember where I heard that, I think some atmosphere guy was on Charlie Rose one night.

      • I… don’t know. Never heard of that before, to be honest.

        There are particles that have that effect, though. Aerosols decrease the size of cloud water droplets, increasing the albedo of clouds. For several decades, this was a problem called “global dimming” which worked basically the way you suggest. Here’s a discussion about that effect, with a table of radiative forcings.

        Notice that CO2‘s forcing in that table is positive and large, so it warms the planet. The greenhouse effect is much more complicated than I first thought, but the underlying physics were firmly established by the 1960s. A great deal of uncertainty remains regarding details, though. For instance, global circulation models (GCMs) predict that doubling the CO2 concentration results in a long-term equilibrium temperature rise of 2.9°C (maximum likelihood value) with 95% confidence levels of 1.7°C to 4.9°C.

        This number is known as the equilibrium climate sensitivity, and it’s largely a result of positive feedback from water vapor. As shown by the size of the error bars, getting it exactly right is very difficult, but it almost certainly can’t be negative. Unless I’m mistaken, that would violate the laws of physics. That’s why (to the best of my knowledge) nobody’s ever created a GCM that matches historical records of temperature/pollution/solar variability/eruptions/etc. without predicting that increasing CO2 warms the long-term global climate (averaged over ~20 years to ignore weather noise).

        Remember that the average temperature of the Earth is ~30°C higher than it would be without the greenhouse effect (holding solar radiation and Earth’s albedo constant).

        Then consider that Mercury’s daytime surface temperature is 350°C.

        That seems hot, right? Astonishingly, Venus has a nighttime surface temperature of ~470°C.

        … despite the fact that Venus is 87% farther away from the Sun than Mercury, implying sunlight 3.5x weaker.

        and despite the fact that Mercury’s albedo is 0.1 and Venus’s albedo is 0.65.

        and despite the fact that a “night” on Venus lasts ~58 Earth days, during which the temperature barely changes from that at “high noon”.

        Now, I’m not saying that the Earth will turn into Venus. That would be absurd. We have no reason to think that the “runaway greenhouse” on Venus is even possible on Earth. But the greenhouse effect is very real, very powerful, and our sister planet shows that it scales enormously. I wouldn’t gamble my money (or my civilization) on the notion that it’s inherently self-limiting.

      • Thirdeye posted on 2010-02-19 at 21:50

        Also, is there any nuclear activity going on in the core that could be warming the planet?

      • Yeah, nuclear decay is something like 0.1% of the Earth’s heat budget. The rest comes from the Sun.

        Heat from decay of radioactive elements in the core should be slowly decreasing according to their half-lives, though. It shouldn’t be capable of producing a warming trend in the climate. The closest thing to an exception I can think of is the Oklo natural nuclear reactor that formed ~1.8 billion years ago and ran for a few hundred thousand years. But it was many orders of magnitude too small to cause the present warming.

      • Found another error in the online version of the IPCC AR4 WG1 report:

        From: Bryan Killett
        To: IPCC Secretariat address from website

        Date: Feb 20, 2010 at 2:35 PM
        Subject: Duplicated figure?

        To Whom It May Concern,

        First, thank you for your very helpful report. I’m writing because I recently tried to direct someone to the AR4 WG1 chapter 2, figure 2.3 (CO2 isotope ratios plot). But the relevant link is this.

        However, that’s actually a copy of figure 2.4. Something similar happened with 2.5 and 2.6.

        Sincerely,
        Bryan Killett

      • From: Laura Biagioni
        To: Bryan Killett

        Date: Feb 22, 2010 at 8:24 AM
        Subject: Re: Fwd: Duplicated figure?

        Dear Mr Bryan Killett,

        Thank you very much for your message.
        The good version of the figures 2.3 and 2.5 of the AR4 WG I are on line now.
        Thank you for the interest on the work of the IPCC.
        With best regards,
        Laura Biagioni

  40. JordanL posted on 2010-02-22 at 23:38

    (Ed. note: these comments were copied from here.)

    One of the things that REALLY bugs me about climate research is seeing LEGITIMATE scientists use the word “SKEPTIC” as a SMEAR.

    Scientists are SUPPOSED to be skeptic, and I understand that this is not what the phrase is meant to convey, but the mere idea of labeling a scientists “skeptic” to smear him shows how political scientists in general have become. Remember when they were all about the pursuit of truth and knowledge?

    I guess it sounds better than “denier”, (which sounds like some McCarthy-era witch-hunt-ism), but why can’t scientists keep their professionalism in situations which become politicized?

    • Daniel Dvorkin posted on 2010-02-22 at 23:59

      It’s a smear only in a very specific context: Lomborg and his ilk are, unfortunately, often identified as “skeptics” in the press. They’re no such thing, of course — “denier” or “denialist” is much more accurate* — but when you have a bunch of people spouting pseudoscientific garbage who are handed the “skeptic” label as a gift, it’s inevitable that those who point out the garbage will appear to be “smearing skeptics.” The only answer appears to be to point out as often as possible that they aren’t skeptics by any reasonable definition of the word. There is simply no amount of evidence that will ever or could ever convince them. Their ideology trumps any data in their minds.

      And not only is this the way they think, they assume that everyone else thinks that way too; thus the constant accusations of quasi-religion (“warmism”) leveled against people who actually study the data and try to figure out what’s happening to the environment. Arguing with denialists is closely akin to arguing with religious fundamentalists. Anything that is not of (their interpretation of) God must perforce be of the Devil. They just can’t acknowledge that there are other worldviews that don’t fit into their box.

      *Since “denier” is often prefaced with a word beginning with “H,” those who get called “deniers” often take refuge behind Godwin. “Denialist” works nicely, and in fact may be the most accurate term since it describes an ideology rather than just an action.

      • I tend to use the word skeptic (as a gift, for precisely the reasons you mention) because I’m tired of dealing with the anger that I often find in the general public. It’s an undeserved compliment I give them to avoid headaches, but I think you’re both right to say that this tactic smears the word “skeptic” which (if genuine, of course) is a very good word. I think the word “contrarian” might be better at averting a Godwin defense, and it captures the general attitude I’ve seen pretty well.

  41. (Ed. note: This comment was copied from here regarding an article about Friel’s “debunking” of a book by Lomborg.)

    I’ve never heard of Lomborg before today, but your summary makes him sound like someone I could agree with. That’s mainly because I think most of the “green” movement is irrational, and one manifestation is that they’ve blocked the advancement of nuclear power for decades. Their myopic naivete kept us dependent on coal, and even today continues to sour public sentiment regarding the best practical solution.

    I completely agree with these comments when they say that the article demonstrates that Friel doesn’t do a very good job. I also mostly agree with this sentiment regarding the shrill nature of these debates, and I agree with gkai’s assessment of this distinction between science and policy.

  42. (Ed. note: this comment was copied from here.)

    This is a really great introduction to the details of everything.

    Cool, that’s an awesome website! I especially liked the graphic here. I think the “Phil current” curve describes me well. I agree with Phil that the IPCC’s error bars seem a little narrow, but not by much.

  43. Is it right, however, to lump together those who are skeptical of evolution with those who are skeptical of AGW, particularly CO2-driven AGW? [Someone]

    Creationists confuse religious faith with falsifiable science. Among the general public, climate-change contrariansAnd most Greenpeace/PETA/etc activists. confuse political affiliation with falsifiable science. In both cases, scientists are much less likely to agree with either claim, and that likelihood decreases with increasing relevance of the scientist’s field. That’s probably why both groups tend to accuse the scientific community of conspiracy and/or widespread incompetence.

    … I’ve never seen any overlap between creationists and AGW skeptics. I demand you show me some evidence of this. … (paraphrased) [timmarhy]

    In my experience there’s a significant overlap between the two groups. Most of their arguments seem to be at similar intellectual and educational levels:

    1. Dr. Roy Spencer… The time came when I began to realise, to my initial surprise, that there was a group of scientists who believed that the universe and all life within it had been created by some greater intelligent Being, not by mere chance. They were seemingly able to do so using scientific arguments, not just religious dogma. I began to study their case and after some months of analysis I finally became convinced that the theory of creation actually had a much better scientific basis than the theory of evolution, for the creation model was actually better able to explain the physical and biological complexity in the world. … An increasing number of scientists consider it to be impossible that such a structure could have evolved through random processes, as evolutionists assume. The last 50 years or so have seen real evidence come to light that random mutation and natural selection are incapable of building complexity. Observation of malaria, E. coli and HIV, all of which exist in vast numbers and have short life cycles, have shown that while ‘Darwinian’ processes can cause minor changes, always involving a loss of complexity, they cannot build complexity – nor can they begin to explain where the proteins and genes came from in the first place. Again, the Bible has said all along that life was originally created and has ever since reproduced ‘after its kind’. … is a creationist who lectured the U.S. SenateOn 2013-07-18, the Senate held a hearing on climate change. There’s an interesting exchange at 03:23:10:
      ————————————————
      SENATOR WHITEHOUSE: Let me turn to Dr. Spencer, let me first ask a kinda unrelated question Doctor; do you believe that the theory of creation actually has a much better scientific basis than the theory of evolution?
      DR. ROY SPENCER: Ha Ha! And why are we going in this direction?
      SENATOR WHITEHOUSE: Because it’s something you’ve said and I just want to see if you still believe it.
      DR. ROY SPENCER: Uhh, I believe that evolutionary theory is mostly religion, it is naturalistic, but my faith is not strong enough to believe that everything happened by accident. I mean there’s a lot of work out there that’s shown that you can not statistically combine all of the elements that are contained in the DNA molecule by chance over however many billions of years you want to invoke or how many, how much known universe there is with all of the matter in it. So what I’m saying is some areas of science deal a lot more with faith than with known science and so I’m open to alternative explanations.
      SENATOR WHITEHOUSE: And do you still believe that the theory of creation actually has a much better scientific basis than the theory of evolution, to be specific?
      DR. ROY SPENCER: I think, I think I could be put into a debate with someone on the other side and I think I could give more science supporting that life is created than they could support, with evidence, that life evolved through natural random processes, so yes.
      ————————————————
      DUMB SCIENTIST: Dr. Spencer’s reference to “however many billions of years you want to invoke” suggests that he might also be “open to alternative explanations” about the age of the earth and the universe. Creationism isn’t even wrong. Evolution is science: it can be falsified by Precambrian apes, or if all species had different DNA bases, etc.
      about evolution, and is a famousTwenty years ago, as a PhD scientist, I intensely studied the evolution versus intelligent design controversy for about two years. And finally, despite my previous acceptance of evolutionary theory as “fact,” I came to the realization that intelligent design, as a theory of origins, is no more religious, and no less scientific, than evolutionism. … the fossil record, our only source of the history of life on Earth, is almost (if not totally) devoid of transitional forms of life that would connect the supposed evolution of amphibians to reptiles, reptiles to birds, etc. … One finally comes to the conclusion that, despite vigorous protests, belief in evolution and intelligent design are matters of faith. Even some evolutionists have admitted as much in their writings. … the intelligent design paradigm is just as useful to biology, and I believe, more satisfying from an intellectual point of view. … It is already legal to teach intelligent design in public schools. What is not currently legal is to mandate its teaching. The Supreme Court has ruled that this would violate the First Amendment’s establishment of religion clause. But I have some questions relating to this: Does not classical evolutionism, based almost entirely upon faith, violate the same clause? … climate change contrarianWe believe Earth and its ecosystems—created by God’s intelligent design and infinite power and sustained by His faithful providence —are robust, resilient, self-regulating, and self-correcting, admirably suited for human flourishing, and displaying His glory. Earth’s climate system is no exception. Recent global warming is one of many natural cycles of warming and cooling in geologic history. … We believe mandatory reductions in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, achievable mainly by greatly reduced use of fossil fuels, will greatly increase the price of energy and harm economies. … We deny that Earth and its ecosystems are the fragile and unstable products of chance, and particularly that Earth’s climate system is vulnerable to dangerous alteration because of minuscule changes in atmospheric chemistry. Recent warming was neither abnormally large nor abnormally rapid. There is no convincing scientific evidence that human contribution to greenhouse gases is causing dangerous global warming. … We deny that carbon dioxide—essential to all plant growth—is a pollutant. Reducing greenhouse gases cannot achieve significant reductions in future global temperatures, and the costs of the policies would far exceed the benefits. … We call on Christian leaders to understand the truth about climate change and embrace Biblical thinking, sound science, and careful economic analysis in creation stewardship. .
    2. The Heritage Foundation promotes intelligent designThe Heritage Foundation presents Intelligent Design and the Mysteries of Life: ‘In the ongoing exploration of what DNA reveals about the origin of life, some anti-establishment scientists are abandoning naturalistic explanations for the origin of genetic information and looking to theories of design for answers. In almost every scientific discipline there is newly found evidence that supports the theory of intelligent design. A growing number of scientists around the world no longer believe that natural selection or chemistry, alone, can explain the origins of life. Instead, they think that the microscopic world of the cell provides evidence of purpose and design in nature – a theory based upon compelling biochemical evidence. Join us as Dr. Stephen C. Meyer, a key design theorist and philosopher of science, explains this powerful and controversial concept on the mysteries of life.’ and climate change contrarianismFrequently Asked Questions About Global Warming by Ben Lieberman says ‘… The earth was cooling as recently as the period from the 1940s to the 1970s, giving rise to fears of a coming ice age … Given that the current upward trend in temperatures is not unprecedented, it stands to reason that minor warming will not lead to unprecedented catastrophes, and scientific evidence confirms this. According to recent research, the planet and its inhabitants are much more resilient to temperature variability than had been previously assumed, and the warming over the last few decades has not been particularly harmful to humans or the environment. Virtually all of the alarming rhetoric surrounding global warming is speculative and lies outside the scientific consensus. In fact, several respected economists believe that any likely future warming would have benefits (such as increased crop yields) that outweigh the modest adverse impacts in the U.S. … The Kyoto Protocol, the multilateral treaty that places a cap on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, will actually accomplish very little. If fully implemented, its energy rationing provisions could cost hundreds of billions of dollars annually but would, according to its proponents, avert only 0.07 degrees Celsius of warming by 2050.’ .
    3. The Institute for Creation Research asserts that sunspotsA New Theory of Climate Change by Larry Vardiman, PhD says: ‘Man-made carbon dioxide is generally thought to produce global warming. However, in a recent article entitled ‘Does Carbon Dioxide Drive Global Warming?’ I presented several major reasons why carbon dioxide is probably not the primary cause.1 But if carbon dioxide is not the cause, then what is? Evidence is accumulating that cosmic rays associated with fluctuations in the sun’s electromagnetic field may be what drives global warming. … Svensmark’s theory of cosmoclimatology is now complete. He has discovered a complete chain of events that explains the variations in global temperature that have puzzled climatologists for so many years, and that has now led to an explanation for the recent global warming episode. … Solar-modulated cosmic ray processes successfully explain the recent global warming episode. It would be prudent for the political leadership in the U. S. and the world to look more closely at Svensmark’s theory of cosmoclimatology for an explanation of global warming before restructuring our entire economic system to eliminate carbon dioxide. If, in fact, Svensmark is correct, reducing the concentration of carbon dioxide will have little impact, anyway.’ are causing global warming rather than carbon dioxide. The author, Dr. Larry Vardiman, is a creationist who says the global warmingIn a page called Global Warming, Larry Vardiman speaks on the Global Warming trend, which is being erroneously attributed to human activities. Recorded November 2007, Surrey BC. Download MP3 file (60MB). This page is part of the Northwest Creation Network, which teaches that: Creation science is philosophically-based on the belief that the universe and life on earth were created by God as described in the Bible. Creationists use the scientific method also, but simply operate from the presupposition that God designed and assembled our world. * The young earth creationist interprets the Genesis account of the creation literally, and uses the Biblical genealogy to calculate the age of the earth as being very near 6000 years old. * Old earth creationists accept the secular scientific community’s assessment of the age of the earth and universe, and assume the creation periods were undefined lengths of time or there were large gaps of history in Genesis. trend is being erroneously attributed to human activities.
    4. The Center for Scientific Creation “investigates” global warmingIs Global Warming Occurring? If So, What Causes It? … The global flood produced the special conditions that caused the Ice Age: temporarily cold continents and warm oceans. [See pages 107–140.] Crashing hydroplates at the end of the flood crushed and thickened continents and buckled up the earth’s major mountains, making the continents higher than they are today and, consequently, colder. Also, after the flood, oceans were warmer than today, primarily because so much magma spilled onto the floor of the Pacific Ocean. Warm oceans produced extensive evaporation and precipitation, which on the cold continents resulted in extreme snowfall rates that built up glaciers. Heavy cloud cover and volcanic dust further cooled the continents. … For a few centuries after the flood, the warm oceans cooled and the thickened continents sank into the mantle. Both changes steadily reduced the heavy snowfall toward today’s rates, so ice depths eventually peaked. As snow and ice decreased on earth, less of the sun’s radiation was reflected off ice sheets and back into space.3 As a result, more of the sun’s heat warmed the earth. Then, even more ice melted, so the earth increasingly warmed. This cycle will continue and accelerate—unless cost-effective ways are found to reduce the warming. Does mankind’s burning of fossil fuels and production of greenhouse gases contribute to global warming? Of course, but no one really knows to what extent.4 Those who claim that man is the sole cause of global warming have not addressed the key question: Why did the earth once have so much ice? Apart from the worldwide flood, explanations for the Ice Age run into scientific problems. Scientists who have studied the Ice Age in great detail know these problems, although few others do. Since the peak of the Ice Age, melting ice has raised sea level about 300 feet;8 man did not cause that rise. (Man began increasing CO2 emissions thousands of years later, in about 1800, at the start of the industrial revolution.) Without some unexpected development, sea level will rise 200 feet more in the next few thousand years. This steady rise will be apparent to all in a few decades. If increasing greenhouse gases turn out to be a major factor, the rise will be even faster. Yes, atmospheric CO2 (carbon dioxide) is increasing, but most of the increase is due to the warming of oceans, which then release some of the CO2 they contain. (Oceans contain 50 times more CO2 than the atmosphere.) In other words, CO2 increases did not produce much global warming; warming produced most CO2 increases. Those who express opinions on the cause of global warming usually look at its effects today and, using a few relatively recent clues, try to determine its cause. The hydroplate explanation takes a much broader, relatively long-range look, not just from effect back to cause, but also from cause directly to effect. We can have much greater confidence in our conclusion when, after considering all the data, including the Ice Age and its causes, the issue is seen identically in both directions. The flood also explains many other features on the earth. from a young-earth creationist perspective, and finds carbon dioxide is less relevant than Noah’s global flood, or something like that.
    5. Melinda ChristianGlobal Warming in Perspective by Melinda Christian, August 25, 2008, shows a figure that seems to be from Svensmark 1998 (but it’s not referenced) and then says: ‘These relatively recent fluctuations can be correlated to natural changes, such as volanic eruptions and cycles in the sun’s radiation. (When the earth receives more energy from the sun, the earth gets warmer.) It is logical to assume that similar factors continue to have some influence on today’s global warming. What about human causes of global warming? Alarmists would have us believe that increased CO2 emissions have triggered global warming. But it is important to understand greenhouse gases. Basically, these are gases in the earth’s atmosphere that regulate temperature by holding in heat from the sun, and as such these gases are necessary for life. The primary greenhouse gas, which is responsible for the vast majority of the greenhouse effect, is water vapor. Carbon dioxide, the second most common greenhouse gas, provides only a tiny fraction of the greenhouse effect. It is certainly true that the burning of fossils fuels is pumping more and more CO2 into the atmosphere, but it does not necessarily follow that these gases are the sole cause of the warming. In fact, higher concentrations of CO2 may be, in part, a result of warmer temperatures. The oceans have much more CO2 than the atmosphere, and when the oceans warm up, the CO2 escapes into the atmosphere. (We see a similar effect when we see gas bubbling out of a glass of warm Coke.) ‘ and Michael J. OardHow Much Global Warming Is Natural? by Michael J. Oard, April 16, 2008, says ‘One of the main reasons why alarmists have minimized the effects of the sun on climate is because the mechanism of how slight changes in TSI can warm or cool the climate by a degree or two is poorly known.17 One promising recent hypothesis is that when the number of sunspots is low, the sun’s magnetic field is weaker, causing more cosmic rays to impinge on the Earth.18 More cosmic rays may cause more cloudiness, which reflects more sunlight back to space cooling the earth’s surface. Because of controversial hypotheses linking the sun to climate, researchers have had to resort to statistical comparisons. Scafetta and West have led this research over the past several years, showing statistically that the changes in TSI on the sun are significantly correlated to global warming since 1900 and even before.17 Because global warming increased significantly from 1910 to about 1950, proportional to the TSI, while carbon dioxide increased only a little, Scafetta and West attribute 76% of the warming to natural causes on the sun!18 Then there was a cooling period in the 1950s to 1970s, again proportional to TSI, but totally missed by increasing carbon dioxide. Some readers may remember the books and magazine articles that came out in the 1970s predicting the next ice age was due soon.’ from Answers in Genesis explain that global warming is caused by natural changes. Answers in Genesis also sells a DVDThe Creation Research Society sells a $15 DVD made in 2008 by Coral Ridge Ministries and Answers in Genesis, 48 minutes: What is the truth about global warming? This bold new documentary is an exciting and important tool for Christian adults and students who face the rampant misinformation propagated by ecological alarmists. Through on-location interviews with leading Christian scientists, climatologists, and others, the danger and politics of global warming are revealed. This balanced approach to a very ‘hot’ subject will equip you with the information necessary to honor the Creator without worshipping the creation. on the subject.
    6. Stephen Meyer, Mary Gilder, and David KlinghofferOf Al Gore, Global Warming and God by David Klinghoffer, July 21, 2006 says: ‘If you’ve seen Al Gore’s global-warming scare movie, ‘An Inconvenient Truth,’ you may have come away as I did, wondering about the highly partisan nature of the climate-change debate. Why is it partisan at all? If carbon-dioxide emissions are perilously raising global temperatures, surely that’s a problem which can be left to scientists and other non-ideological experts. That’s a big ‘if.’ As a new report by the House Energy and Commerce Committee makes clear, statisticians doubt the work of those climate researchers who seek to show that the climate for the past 1,000 years was stable until recent times when it suddenly rose sharply. On the contrary, the climate has always varied, up and down over centuries and millennia. … Perhaps there is an implicit recognition on the part of today’s enviro-skeptics that the present fight isn’t merely about the environment. That’s what the novelist Michael Crichton argued in a 2003 speech to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco: ‘Today, one of the most powerful religions in the Western world is environmentalism. Environmentalism seems to be the religion of choice of urban atheists. Why do I say that? Well, just look at the beliefs. If you look carefully, you see that environmentalism is in fact a perfect 21st-century remapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths.’ It’s clear that climate-change activists have a moral message. But it’s a completely different one from any you’ll find in the Bible. Basically, it has to do with shedding the encumbering complexities associated with modern industry and technology. … Global-warming partisans are not self-aware like the tree-worshipping druids of old. Which might lead us to ask if perhaps, like the first party of builders, the second party are being used and manipulated without their being conscious of it. As for the party who would make war on God, consider the implications of spiritualizing the environment, of equating God with nature, a favorite green theme. Writing in the journal First Things in 1997, Father Richard John Neuhaus put it well: ‘When all is God, there is no need for God.’ Which explains the affinity of secularism for environmental causes. What we argue about when we argue about global warming probably in fact has little to do with the weather. It is not surprising that traditionally religious people would turn away from an environmental issue like global warming, especially when the science behind the theory remains ambiguous at best, and distrust a political party committed to panicking unreservedly about it. As I’ve written here before, between America’s two major political philosophies the major dividing issue isn’t really political at all. It is religious. It’s about God.’ of the Discovery Institute repeat climate change contrarian myths, and MeyerClimategate Recalls Attacks on Darwin Doubters
      By: Stephen C. Meyer
      Human Events
      December 22, 2009
      Believers in human-caused global climate change have been placed under an uncomfortable spotlight recently. That is thanks to the Climategate scandal, centering on e-mails hacked from the influential Climate Research Unit (CRU) at England’s University of East Anglia. The e-mails show scientists from various academic institutions hard at work suppressing dissent from other scientists who have doubts on global warming, massaging research data to fit preconceived ideas, and seeking to manipulate the gold standard “peer review” process to keep skeptical views from being heard.
      Does this sound familiar at all? To me, as a prominent skeptic of modern Darwinian theory, it sure does. For years, Darwin-doubting scientists have complained of precisely such abuses, committed by Darwin zealots in academia.
      There have been parallels cases where e-mail traffic was released showing Darwinian scientists displaying the same contempt for fair play and academic openness as we see now in the climate emails. One instance involved a distinguished astrophysicist at Iowa State University, Guillermo Gonzalez, who broke ranks with colleagues in his department over the issue of intelligent design in cosmology. Released under the Iowa Open Records Act, e-mails from his fellow scientists at ISU showed how his department conspired against him, denying Dr. Gonzales tenure as retribution for his views.
      To me, the most poignant correspondence emerging from CRU e-mails involves discussion about punishing a particular editor at a peer-reviewed journal who was defying the orthodox establishment by publishing skeptical research.
      In 2004, a peer-reviewed biology journal at the Smithsonian Institution published a technical essay of mine presenting a case for intelligent design. Colleagues of the journal’s editor, an evolutionary biologist, responded by taking away his office, his keys and his access to specimens, placing him under a hostile supervisor and spreading disinformation about him. Ultimately, he was demoted, prompting an investigation of the Smithsonian by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.
      The public has been intimidated into thinking that “non-experts” have no right to question “consensus” views in science. But the scandal in at the University of East Anglia suggests that this consensus on climate may not be based on solid evidence.
      But what about the Darwin debate? We are told that the consensus of scientists in favor of Darwinian evolution means the theory is no longer subject to debate. In fact, there are strong scientific reasons to doubt Darwin’s theory and what it allegedly proved.
      For example, contrary to Darwinian orthodoxy, the fossil record actually challenges the idea that all organisms have evolved from a single common ancestor. Why? Fossil studies reveal “a biological big bang” near the beginning of the Cambrian period (520 million years ago) when many major, separate groups of organisms or “phyla” (including most animal body plans) emerged suddenly without clear precursors.
      While all scientists accept that natural selection can produce small-scale “micro-evolutionary” variations, many biologists now doubt that natural selection and random mutations can generate the large-scale changes necessary to produce fundamentally new structures and forms of life.
      Thus more than 800 scientists, including professors from such institutions as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Yale and Rice universities and members of various national (U.S., Russian, Czech, Polish) academies of science have signed a statement questioning the creative power of the selection/mutation mechanism.
      Increasingly, the Darwinian idea that living things only appear to be designed has come under scrutiny. Indeed, living systems display telltale signs of actual or intelligent design such as the presence of complex circuits, miniature motors and digital information in living cells.
      The information and information-processing systems that run the show in cells point with a particular clarity to prior design. The DNA molecule stores instructions in the form of a four-character digital code, similar to a computer code. As we know from our repeated experience — the basis of all scientific reasoning — systems possessing such features always arise from minds, not material processes.
      Thus, despite the orthodox view that Darwin showed “design could arise without a designer” there is now compelling scientific evidence to the contrary.
      The question of biological origins has long raised profound philosophical questions. Have life’s endlessly diverse forms been the result of purely material processes or did a purposeful intelligence play a role? It’s not surprising that such an ideologically charged issue would illicit strong passions, leading even scientists to suppress dissenting views with which they disagree.
      All the more reason — in this debate as in the one about global warming — to let the evidence, rather than the consensus of experts, determine the outcome.
      Dr. Meyer is director for the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. He is author of Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design, honored in the Times Literary Supplement as one of the best books of 2009. He received his Ph.D. in the Philosophy of Science from Cambridge University.
      says that “Climategate” shows abuses, suppression and manipulation similar to those committed by “Darwin zealots.”
    7. David Coppedge is an “intelligent design” advocate who also callsWhenever you hear “all scientists agree” or “we now know,” it’s no guarantee a finding won’t be disputed years later. In the following examples, CEH focuses not so much on the content of the disputed subjects as the implications for philosophy of science.
      The big warmup: One very strong consensus among establishment scientists right now is that humans are causing global warming. Science Daily reported a survey of 4,000 abstracts of scientific papers that indicated an “overwhelming consensus among scientists,” as high as 97%, “that recent warming is human-caused” (cf. fallacy of statistics). Yet contrary data still arise from time to time. For instance, New Scientist reported that re-analysis of global temperatures over the last decade shows that “Earth will warm more slowly over this century than we thought it would” – diminishing some of the frantic appeals for immediate action of past years. Apparently the rate of heating hit a plateau even with more greenhouse gases being pumped into the atmosphere. It doesn’t change the consensus; the new data are just “buying us a little more time to cut our greenhouse gas emissions and prevent dangerous climate change,” the article continued. Likewise, PhysOrg spun the new data to mean that we still face a “Dire outlook despite global warming ‘pause’,” according to the study published in Nature Geoscience. Skeptics of global warming like to point out that a few decades ago, the consensus warned that Earth was approaching a period of global cooling that would have drastic effects on human life.
      What will the consensus believe about climate change in a few years or decades? Nobody knows. It’s instructive, though, to look at other examples of shifting consensus in science…
      climate changeAny fair-minded reader sees immediately that this bill says nothing about evolution, creation, Genesis, or “climate change” (formerly global warming)… Here, O’Hanlon has combined fear-mongering with glittering generalities to protect the association of “evolution” and “climate change” with the word “science.” This is also misleading because he didn’t define his terms. As it stands, “evolution” could mean anything from an albino monkey to molecules-to-man universal common descent by a blind Darwinian process. “Climate change” could mean anything from the changing seasons to cap-and-trade.
      Dumb Scientist: No. Climate is defined over decades, and the seasons change over a single year.
      a “leftist ideology”Celebrating gay marriage is not the only leftist position frequently advocated by secular science news sites. They follow party-line liberal views with few exceptions, and now openly advocate leftist ideas. … Advocating climate change policy: One might also well ask what astronomy and space travel have to do with climate change. Another Space.com headline by another reporter reads, “NASA Chief Lauds Obama’s Climate Change Plan.” Again, the significant percentage of conservative Americans who disagree with that plan didn’t get any mention. Without a pretense of objectivity, National Geographic published naked ideological advocacy: “Five reasons for Obama to sell climate change as a health issue.”.
    8. Dr. Walter T. Brown is a creationist who also claimsDid Noah’s Flood Affect Our Climate?
      Dr. Walter Brown, retired U.S. Air Force colonel, mechanical engineer and former Chief of Science and Technology Studies at the Air War College, is another scientist featured in Miraculous Messages. According to Dr. Brown, it is inevitable that man contributes to some global warming, “but the amount is probably not large and no one really knows the extent.” “Those who argue that man is the sole cause of global warming,” he adds, “have overlooked a key question: Why does the Earth have so much ice—[8 million cubic miles]—in the first place?” “The Hydroplate Theory” developed by Dr. Brown “provides a far better explanation of the earth’s anomalies and present condition than the other more prevalent, well propagated, but highly implausible theories.” For example, what about the ice caps? “For a few centuries after Noah’s Flood, much of the moisture that evaporated from the warm oceans fell as snow and accumulated as glaciers on the high cold continents,” he explains.
      that the human contribution to global warming “is probably not large and no one really knows the extent.”
    9. Dr. John BaumgardnerJohn accepted Christ while in graduate school at Princeton. after which he joined the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ. Observing the deliberate use of evolution to assault and destroy the faith of Christian college students, Dr Baumgardner began to develop and present classroom lectures and evening forums to expose evolution’s false claims. Upon realizing that Noah’s Flood involved a planetary-scale tectonic catastrophe, he left Campus Crusade to begin a Ph.D. program in geophysics at UCLA in order to obtain the expertise and credentials to address the problem of the mechanism of the Genesis flood at a professional scientific level. is a young-earthBaumgardner, however, believes that not only the Earth, which most geologists estimate is 4.6 billion years old, but also the universe itself, which astrophysicists peg at around 13 billion years, is actually only a few thousand years old. … Baumgardner believes that around 6,000 years ago, when “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the Earth” (Genesis 6:5), he caused an enormous blob of hot mantle material to come rushing up at incredible velocity through the underwater midocean ridges. The material ballooned, displacing a tidal wave of sea water over the continents. This, Baumgardner says, was the flood on which Noah sailed… creationistDid Noah’s Flood Affect Our Climate?
      In Miraculous Messages Dr. John Baumgardner, retired geophysicist and researcher, does not dispute the earth’s experience of increasingly warmer temperatures—but he contends the primary cause is not related to man’s burning of coal and oil. Baumgardner spent 12 years working on a global ocean model at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and was directly involved in climate research. Dr. Baumgardner notes that the earth has experienced warming and cooling cycles several times since Noah’s Flood estimated to have occurred approximately 5,000 years ago. One such period was from AD 900 to 1300. “During that time the Vikings colonized Greenland, and abundant farming, grasslands, herds, and even vineyards were present in Greenland.” The “Little Ice Age” followed this warm period. In AD 1600, during this period, the Thames River in London froze. With unmistakable evidence of significant variations in global temperature over the past 2,000 years, the current warming is “not out of range,” Baumgardner explains. “Current warming actually started in the 1800s and accelerated during the 20th century, so now we’re about a degree warmer than we were 100 years ago,” he adds. Miraculous Messages looks at additional factors that affect climate cycles. According to Dr. Baumgardner, recent research indicates a connection between the amount of solar (magnetic) activity on the sun and the average temperature of the earth’s surface. “Currently solar activity is high. There are fewer cosmic rays reaching into the atmosphere and, as a result, less clouds and higher temperatures.”
      who also denies“Models, Genes & Global Warming” by Dr. John Baumgardner that the recent warming is primarily due to our useWhy do Evolutionists Resort to Insults?
      “There is not a scientist on the planet who can make a coherent argument supporting macro evolution.” – Dr John Baumgardner, Phd.
      of fossil fuels.
    10. WorldNetDaily published “500 doctoral scientists skeptical of Darwin“Darwinists continue to claim that no serious scientists doubt the theory and yet here are 500 scientists who are willing to make public their skepticism about the theory,” said John G. West, associate director of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture.“, “500 scientists refute global warming“We have had a greenhouse theory with no evidence to support it – except a moderate warning turned into a scare by computer models whose results have never been verified with real-world events,” added Singer. “On the other hand, we have compelling evidence of a real-world climate cycle averaging 1470 years (plus or minus 500) running through the last million years of history. The climate cycle has above all been moderate, and the trees, bears, birds, and humans have quietly adapted.” … Singer said experiments also have shown more or fewer cosmic rays hitting the Earth create more or fewer low, cooling clouds that deflect solar heat back into space – which amplifies small variations in the intensity of the sun. dangers”, and “Sizzling study concludes: Global warming ‘hot air’A major new scientific study concludes the impact of carbon dioxide emissions on worldwide temperatures is largely irrelevant, prompting one veteran meteorologist to quip, “You can go outside and spit and have the same effect as doubling carbon dioxide.” … “Only 2.75 percent of atmospheric CO2 is anthropogenic in origin. The amount we emit is said to be up from 1 percent a decade ago. Despite the increase in emissions, the rate of change of atmospheric carbon dioxide at Mauna Loa remains the same as the long term average (plus 0.45 percent per year),” he said. “We are responsible for just 0.001 percent of this atmosphere. If the atmosphere was a 100-story building, our anthropogenic CO2 contribution today would be equivalent to the linoleum on the first floor.”
      Former Harvard physicist Lubos Motl added that those promoting the fear of man-made climate changes are “playing the children’s game to scare each other.”
    11. Uncommon descent (“serving the intelligent design community”) claims that “fewer than half of climate scientists endorse anthropogenic global warming.”
    12. The Access Research NetworkAccess Research Network (providing accessible information on science, technology and society from an intelligent design perspective) says … Dr. S. Fred Singer and Dr. Craig Idso and 35 contributors and reviewers present an authoritative and detailed rebuttal of the findings of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The scholarship in this book demonstrates overwhelming scientific support for the position that the warming of the twentieth century was moderate and not unprecedented, that its impact on human health and wildlife was positive, and that carbon dioxide probably is not the driving factor behind climate change. provides “accessible information on science … from an intelligent design perspective” by concluding that “carbon dioxide probably is not the driving factor behind climate change.”
    13. Chris Allen is a creationistOne of the listed prominent scientists is Chris Allen, who holds no college degree, believes in creationism and belongs to a Southern Baptist church. Allen is a weatherman at the FOX-affiliated TV station in Bowling Green, Ky. … On pages 227-228 of the report, Inhofe identified Allen as a meteorologist and quoted from his ‘scientific writing’–a blog–about global warming. ‘[J]ust because major environmental groups, big media and some politicians are buying this hook, line and sinker doesn’t mean as a TV weatherperson I am supposed to act as a puppy on a leash and follow along,’ wrote Allen. ‘All of this (global warming alarmism) is designed to get your money and then guilt you in to how you live your life.’ Inhofe doesn’t quote other segments from Allen’s blog, however. ‘My biggest argument against putting the primary blame on humans for climate change is that it completely takes God out of the picture,’ he wrote on Feb. 7, 2007. ‘It must have slipped these people’s minds that God created the heavens and the earth and has control over what’s going on. (Dear Lord Jesus … did I just open a new pandora’s box?) Yeah, I said it. Do you honestly believe God would allow humans to destroy the earth He created? Of course, if you don’t believe in God and creationism then I can see why you would easily buy into the whole global warming fanfare. I think in many ways that’s what this movement is ultimately out to do–rid the mere mention of God in any context,’ wrote Allen. ‘What these environmentalists are actually saying is ‘we know more than God– we’re bigger than God–God is just a fantasy–science is real … He isn’t … listen to US!’ I have a huge problem with that,’ said Allen, a member of Hillvue Heights Church, whose pastor is a graduate of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and an adjunct faculty member of Campbellsville University, a Kentucky Baptist university. and #10 on Senator Inhofe’s ‘List of prominent scientists who don’t think global warming is anthropogenic’.
    14. Dr. Edward BlickBecause he’s actually an engineer, this is an instance of both the original Salem Hypothesis AND my modified version. is a creationistWhy Creationists Should Abandon Arguments Based on the Second Law of Thermodynamics, By Robert Holloway, Ph.D., A Rebuttal To ‘Evolution And The Second Law Of Thermodynamics’ by Edward Blick and #37 on Senator Inhofe’s ‘List of prominent scientists who don’t think globalThe Religion of Global Warming II by Edward Blick 6/17/2007 … I have had personal contact with Ed Blick since encountering him in 1974 at the National Conference of Engineering Educators, where he gave a paper in the ‘Thermodynamics’ section showing why the Second Law of Thermodynamics precludes all forms of perpetual motion or biological evolution. I know him to be a careful scientist, with strong credentials and reputation in thermodynamics, that branch of theoretical mechanical engineering, which is the basis for weather and climate. His long discourse on the religion, politics, and economics of the ‘global-warming’ movement reflects his Christian worldview and revulsion at the use of scientific quackery for political purposes. The amount of CO2 that man puts into the atmosphere each year is about 3 billion tons per year. But this is insignificant compared to the 39,000 billion tons in our oceans, 2,200 billion tons in our vegetation and soils, and 750 billion tons in our atmosphere. Much of the CO2 generated by man is consumed by vegetation. Carbon dioxide is transported into the atmosphere by bubbling out of the ocean during warm periods (like a bottle of pop when it is opened and taken from a refrigerator). But atmospheric CO2 increase lags the temperature increase. It does not produce a temperature increase on the earth; it is caused by a temperature increase in the oceans. Various researchers have shown that in the past the amount of CO2 in our atmosphere was as high as 400-600 ppm. This is much higher that today (360 ppm). How does God control our warming and cooling? Scientists have discovered it is the Sun! Amazing, even grade school children know this. The Sun’s warming or cooling the earth varies with sunspot and Solar flairs. … In 1997, brilliant research by Danish meteorologists, Svensmark and Fris-Christiansen discovered the science of cloud formation. Cosmic particles enter our atmosphere, collide with nitrogen molecules and kick off ions and provide the nuclei for water vapor to condense around and form clouds, which cools the earth. In periods of strong sunspot activity the Sun’s stronger magnetic field weakens the cosmetic rays and fewer clouds are formed, which allows the Sun’s thermal radiation to warm up the earth. … Himalayas, the Andes and others. His scientific analysis of the U.N.’s CO2 data indicates deliberate manipulation and falsification of their charts to indicate a constant 280 parts per million (ppm) of atmospheric CO2 prior to the industrial age. German researcher Dr. Ernst-George Beck in his paper reached a similar conclusion, ’180 Years of Atmospheric CO2 Gas Analysis by Chemical Methods. (Energy and Environment, Vol. 18, No. 2, 2007). Both Dr. Jaworowski and Dr. Beck have shown the method used by U.N. to measure the CO2 in ice cores was completely erroneous. Instead of the U.N’s fairy tale that ancient CO2 values were a constant 280-ppm, from creation to 1750 A.D., some of the values shown by Beck and Jaworowski have been as high as 400 -600 ppm. CO2 is not poison and it is not our enemy. CO2 and oxygen are the twin gases of life. Humans and animals breathe in oxygen exhale CO2. Plants breathe in CO2, make carbohydrates, and breathe out oxygen. We feed the plants and they feed us. God knew what he was doing! Researchers have run plant experiments doubling CO2 from 280 ppm to 600 ppm. The increase in wheat, oranges and pine trees ranged from 41% to 265%. If Al Gore’s misguided efforts to decrease our available CO2 are successful, expect to see a drop in our food production and starvation! We need all of the CO2 we can get. warming is anthropogenicUN Infects Science with Cancer of Global Warming, by Edward F Blick PhD*, Oct. 3, 2008, Summary: United Nations politicians, while admitting their lack of evidence, gave birth and nurtured the fraud of Anthropogenic Global Warming (APG). Their Malthusian purpose is to frighten people into accepting the UN as the ‘centerpiece of democratic global governance’ and let the UN, ration our fossil fuel. World temperature records show no evidence of AGW (Fig. 1A). Solar activity in the 20 century was extremely high. Atmospheric CO2 levels rose as the sea surface warmed. Henry’s Solubility Law, coupled with mass balances of carbon and its isotopes, prove the total increase in atmospheric CO2 from pre-industrial times is less than 4%. Burning all our remaining fossil fuels, cannot double the CO2, but only increase it by 20%. Beck (2007 cataloged 90,000 chemical measurements of CO2 in the 1800s, some as high as 470 ppm. (Greater than the current Mauna Loa value of 385 ppm). These data exposed as false, the UN IPCC’s 280 ppm ice core values, supposedly measured during the 1800s. IPCC’s ice core measurements of CO2 were incorrect due to their inability to correct for problems with gas solubility and the extreme pressures in glaciers. Not man, but nature rules the climate. Introduction: The recent American Physical Society (APS) debate on anthropogenic global warming was welcomed by many like myself, who believe it be a hoax and the political agenda for the Democratic Party and their environmental extremist supporters. I’ve never seen any convincing evidence for it. The paper by Hafemeister and Schwartz was a side show, in that it just repeated some of the basic IPCC dogma. The considerable evidence presented by Viscount Christopher Monckton of Brenchley in his APS article ‘Climate Sensitivity Reconsidered’ was convincing. The rebuttal by Dr. Smith was not. ‘.
    15. Dr. Hugh Ross and Dr. Jeff Zweerink are creationists and are #318 and #413 on Senator Inhofe’s ‘List of prominent scientists who don’t think global warming is anthropogenic’.
    16. Christopher BookerAcademics who dare to question the scientific establishment’s consensus on Darwinism or global warming increasingly find themselves ostracised and demonised … They are simply ‘believers’ taking a leap of faith, … So organisationally complex, for instance, are the structures of DNA and cell reproduction that they could not conceivably have evolved just through minute, random variations. Some other unknown factor must have been responsible for the appearance of these ‘irreducibly complex’ micro-mechanisms, to which they gave the name ‘intelligent design’. … We have seen a remarkably similar response from the scientific establishment to anyone dissenting from that other dominating theory of our time, that rising CO2 levels caused by human activity are leading to runaway global warming. … ‘sceptics’ are demonised as Flat Earthers, equivalent to Holocaust deniers … those Climategate emails … we think of parallels from the past, ranging from the Church’s suppression of Galileo to Stalin ruling that the dotty doctrine of Lysenko should become unchallengeable Marxist-Leninist orthodoxy is a creationist and a climate change contrarian.
    17. 7 Republican presidential candidates deny evolution and AGW, including Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann.
    18. Sarah Palin favors teaching “intelligent design” with evolution and reportedly said that “dinosaurs and humans walked the Earth at the same time.” The old Sarah Palin didn’t attribute climate change to human activities, and repeated the “Climategate” accusations. The new Sarah Palin believes we certainly can be contributing, but denies changing her position.

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    • (Continued)

      1. La. Gov. Bobby Jindal signed a law allowing public school teachers to teach “intelligent design”Jindal signed a law that permits teachers at public schools to supplement standard evolutionary curricula with analysis and critiques that may include intelligent design.[130] The law forbids “the promotion of any religious doctrine and will not discriminate against religion or non-religion.” Louisiana ACLU Director Marjorie Esman says that if the act is utilized as written, it is on firm constitutional footing, but there is strong potential for abuse,[131] stating that the Act is “susceptible to a constitutional challenge.”[132] Despite calls for a veto from groups such as National Review, and some of Jindal’s genetics professors at Brown University,[133] Jindal signed the Louisiana Academic Freedom Act which passed with a vote of 94–3 in the State House and 35-0 in the State Senate in 2008. As a result of this, the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology rejected New Orleans as a site for their 2010 meeting and the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology will not conduct future meetings in Louisiana.[134][135] in “science” classes, and he’s also a climateOn one whiplash-inducing page, Jindal acknowledges that “global warming may in fact be a significant problem for mankind,” and endorses efforts to “harness science and technology to raise efficiency, increase conservation, and reduce our emissions.” Then, as if remembering Republican orthodoxy on the issue, he adds: “Overall these doomsday scenarios are not fact, they’re conjecture presented with a bizarre religious fervor. Skeptics of the scenarios are shrilly denounced as modern-day heretics. I for one am not going to be intimidated by this.” And he keeps going. “Global warming alarmism,” he continues, “is often used to further extremist political agendas that are opposed to capitalism, in favor of population control, and even represent a sort of anti-technology Luddism. What all these agendas have in common is an effort to increase government control over the individual.” changeAnd while the scientists agreed to avoid casting their letter as a response to a flurry of letters from Jindal and other Louisiana officials attacking a recent federal decision to recognize greenhouse gases as a threat to humans, Boesch and others made clear that they personally object to those letters. … Jindal, in his letter to the EPA, said the agency was attempting to avoid proper review of new regulations by Congress and public input into the rules, and warned the new rules could force Louisiana carbon-emitting industries to move, devastating the state’s economy. contrarianGov. Jindal wants the President to do the following: open up new drilling parcels offshore, promise not to shut down the hydrofracking industry, go against Secretary of Energy Steven Chu’s recommendations to lower energy costs and reverse his decision on the Keystone XL pipeline..
      2. Dr. E. Calvin Beisner is a creationist and “intelligent design” advocate and a climate change contrarian.
      3. Rep. Joe Barton calls creationist Dr. Beisner as a witness, claims that humans can’t be causing global warming because of the Great Flood, claims that wind turbinesIn stark contrast, the Republicans’ witnesses challenged the very idea of climate change, and thus the whole basis for the hearing. First up was E. Calvin Beisner of the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, who warned that “fear of catastrophic, man-made global warming is a mistake,” and argued that because the “biblical worldview sees the world and ecosystems as the work of a wise God,” humankind couldn’t possibly be affecting the climate. Going further, he warned that restricting the amount of carbon put into the atmosphere would harm the poor, and that Americans are “morally obligated to provide access for the poor to affordable, abundant fossil fuels.”
        The minority’s second witness was Lord Christopher Monckton, aka the 3rd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, a British hereditary peer who’s become a minor star in the climate-skeptic world. “The right response to the non-problem of global warming is to have the courage to do nothing,” he told the panel. He readily agreed with Rep. Shimkus: “We are a carbon-starved planet.”
        might warm the planet, claims that the EPA could regulate breathing“So if you put 20,000 marathoners into a confined area, you could consider that a single source of pollution, and you could regulate it,” Barton says. “The key would be whether the EPA said that 20,000 people running the same route was one source or not.”, and claims to have baffledTranscript:
        BARTON: Dr. Chu, I don’t want to leave you out. You’re our scientist. I have one simple question for you in the last six seconds. How did all the oil and gas get to Alaska and under the Arctic Ocean?
        CHU: (Laughs.) This is a complicated story but oil and gas is the result of hundreds of millions of years of geology and in that time also the plates have moved around. And so, it’s a combination of where the sources of the oil and gas …
        BARTON: Isn’t it obvious that at one time it was a lot warmer in Alaska and on the North Pole? It wasn’t a big pipeline that we’ve created in Texas and shipped it up there and put it under ground so we can now pump it up and ship it back?
        CHU: No, there are continental plates that have been drifting around throughout the geological ages.
        BARTON: So it just drifted up there.
        CHU: Uh…. That’s certainly what happened. It’s a result of things like that.
        WAXMAN: The gentleman’s time has expired.
        Update
        Rep. Barton responds to Secretary Chu on Twitter:
        Participating n climate change hearing. I asked energy secretary where oil in alaska came from. answer puzzles-from continental plate shift
        Update
        ,The GOP liveblog calls Secretary Chu’s answer “perplexing.”
        Update
        ,Evidently confused about who was confused, Barton is now claiming on YouTube that his “simple question” left the “Secretary of Energy puzzled.”
        Update
        ,Another Barton tweet:
        I seemed to have baffled the Energy Sec with basic question – Where does oil come from? Check out the video: http://bit.ly/O4m0p #tcot
        a Nobel laureate with his inane questions.
      4. Kentucky state Senator Mike Wilson is chairman of the Kentucky State Senate Education Committee, a creationist, and a climate contrarian.
      5. Martin Cothran calls Kentucky’s science standards a “global warming manifesto”, etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc. He also defended “intelligent design” and ironically denies defending ID, because it’s “mechanistic”.
      6. Dr. Don Mcleroy is a young-earth