Monthly Archives: September 2007

Don’t Confuse Children with Facts

In other posts, I have discussed the 800-year lag between temperature and CO2 in the ice core histories.  For those not aware of the issue, ice core data, like that shown by Al Gore in An Inconvinient Truth, initially showed a very strong and compelling correlation between CO2 and temperature.  Not only did CO2 look like a driver of climate, it looked like the driver.  But Gore is very careful how he presents this chart in his movie (one of his Really Big Charts).  The reason is that by the time of the movie, better instrumentation and lab procedure had shown that temperature increases in the ice core data actually preceeded CO2 increases by 800 or more years.  CO2 was being increased by heating of the oceans and outgassing of CO2 from them, not the other way around.

The Science and Public Policy Institute has found a pretty glaring fabrication in Laurie David’s global warming propoganda book for kids.  The book shows kids this graph:

Graph1

Pretty compelling.  Every 75,000 years or so there is a CO2 spike, followed by a temperature spike.  But the SPPI folks found something interesting by going back to the original source:  Laurie David has reversed the legend.  They have called the red line CO2, when in fact it is temperature, and vice versa, reversing the causality back the way she apparently wants it.

Graph2

SPPI goes back to David’s source just to make sure, and yes, the original study behind the chart confirms that temeprature rises before CO2.

On page 103 of their book, David and Gordon cite the work of Siegenthaler et al. (2005), for their written and graphical contention that temperature lags CO2. However, Siegenthaler et al. clearly state the opposite:

“The lags of CO2 with respect to the Antarctic temperature over glacial terminations V to VII are 800, 1600, and 2800 years, respectively, which are consistent with earlier observations during the last four glacial cycles.”

(Siegenthaler et al., 2005, Science, vol. 310, 1313-1317)

Oops.  Are lies OK if they are "for the children?"

It Has To Be Man’s Fault. We’re Just Not Sure How

No, I am not going to get into ozone depletion theory.  While the science of anthropogenic ozone depletion has some uncertainties, the costs of abatement are radically lower, by order of magnitude, than for CO2-caused warming.  This changes the cost-benefit ration of action radically, resulting in it making more sense to take action on CFC’s "on the come" or "just in case" than is the case for CO2.

However, I just could not resist the last paragraph below from Nature, via Hit and Run (emphasis added):

The rapid photolysis of Cl2O2 is a key reaction in the chemical model of ozone destruction developed 20 years ago2 (see graphic). If the rate is substantially lower than previously thought, then it would not be possible to create enough aggressive chlorine radicals to explain the observed ozone losses at high latitudes, says Rex. The extent of the discrepancy became apparent only when he incorporated the new photolysis rate into a chemical model of ozone depletion. The result was a shock: at least 60% of ozone destruction at the poles seems to be due to an unknown mechanism, Rex told a meeting of stratosphere researchers in Bremen, Germany, last week….

Nothing currently suggests that the role of CFCs must be called into question, Rex stresses. "Overwhelming evidence still suggests that anthropogenic emissions of CFCs and halons are the reason for the ozone loss. But we would be on much firmer ground if we could write down the correct chemical reactions."

Exxon Was Only Offering $10,000

Recently, Newsweek staked out the position that a) Much of global warming skepticism is tainted because Exxon was paying $10,000 honarariums for skeptical articles and b) James Hansen is a man we can all trust and is above reproach and untainted by bias.

Oops:

How many people, for instance, know that James Hansen, a man billed as a lonely "NASA whistleblower" standing up to the mighty U.S. government, was really funded by Soros’ Open Society Institute , which gave him "legal and media advice"?

That’s right, Hansen was packaged for the media by Soros’ flagship "philanthropy," by as much as $720,000, most likely under the OSI’s "politicization of science" program.

That may have meant that Hansen had media flacks help him get on the evening news to push his agenda and lawyers pressuring officials to let him spout his supposedly "censored" spiel for weeks in the name of advancing the global warming agenda.

Hansen even succeeded, with public pressure from his nightly news performances, in forcing NASA to change its media policies to his advantage. Had Hansen’s OSI-funding been known, the public might have viewed the whole production differently. The outcome could have been different.

Look, I don’t really care if Hansen took private money freely given to espouse his global warming opinions.  However, I am tired of skeptics taking media pot-shots for being "tainted" and "biased" for being funded at levels that are orders of magnitude lower than are climate catastrophists.  As I pointed out in the post linked above, James Hansen, Al Gore & Co. are to skeptics in terms of funding as is Hillary Clinton is to Mike Gravel in campaign contributions.  Never before can I remember the side getting outspent 1000:1 being the one targeted for being tainted by money.  Maybe we can stop and put real scientific scrutiny on James Hansen’s work.

Duh

From Megan McArdle:

Matt may be right that I haven’t harangued people about climate change recently, so here goes: dude, if you’re still a climate change skeptic, it’s time for a rethink. When the science correspondent for Reason magazine comes over to the reality of anthropogenic global warming, it’s safe to say that the skeptics have lost the debate. Not only the vast majority of the scientific community, but even most of the hard-core skeptics at conservative magazines, have abandonned the hope that we are not warming up the climate.

There’s still debate about the effects of the warming, and what we should do about it. But there’s not much question that it’s happening.

Duh.  The vision of the skeptic community denying that the world is warming at all is a straw man created by the climate catastrophists to avoid arguing about the much more important point in her second paragraph.  What I can’t understand is McArdle’s, and many intelligent people I meet, seeming unintrest in the degree of man-made impact.

The chief debate really boils down to those of us who think that climate sensitivity to CO2 is closer to 1C (ie the degrees the world will warm with a doubling of CO2 concentrations from pre-industrial levels) and those who think that the sensitivity is 3-5C or more.  The lower sensitivity implies a warming over the next century of about a half degree C, or about what we saw in the last century.  The higher numbers represesent an order of magnitude more warming in the next century.  The lower numbers imply a sea level rise measured in inches.  The higher numbers imply a rise of 1-2 feet  (No one really know where Al Gore gets his 20 foot prediction in his movie).  The lower numbers we might not even notice.  The higher numbers will certainly cause problems.

The other debate is whether the cost of CO2 abatement should even be considered.  I have talked to many people who say the costs are irrelevent – Gaia must come first.  But steps to make any kind of dent in CO2 production with current technologies will have a staggering impact on the world economy.  For example, there are a billion Asians poised to finally to enter the middle class who we will likely consign back to poverty with an aggresive CO2 reduction program.  With such staggering abatement costs, it matters how bad the effects of man-made global warming will be. 

There are many reasons a 1.0 climate sensivity is far more defensible than the higher sensitivities used by catastrophists.  My argument a lower climate sensitivity and therefore a less aggresive posture on CO2 is here.  Cross-posted at Coyote Blog.

Update: Sure, we skeptics debate the degree of past warming, but it really can’t be denied the earth is warmer than 100 years ago.  The problem catastrophists have with defending their higher climate sensitivities is that these sensitivities imply that we should have seen much more warming over the past 100 years, as much as 1.5C or more instead of about 0.6C.  These scientists have a tendency to try to restate historical numbers to back their future forecast accuracy.  We skeptics fight them on this, but it does not mean we are trying to deny warming at all, just make sure the science is good as to the magnitude.

One other thought – everyone should keep two words in mind vis a vis CO2 and its effect on temperature:  Diminishing Return.  Each new molecule of CO2 has less impact on temperature than the last one.  Only by positing a lot of weird, unlikely, and unstable positive feedbacks in the climate can scientists reach these higher sensitivity numbers (more here).  A good economist would laugh if they understood the assumptions that were being made in the catastrophic forecasts that are being used to influence government action.

Is James Hansen the Largest Source of Global Warming?

On this blog and at Coyote Blog, we have focused a lot of attention on the adjustment processes used by NOAA and James Hansen of NASA’s GISS to "correct" historical temperatures.  Steve McIntyre has unearthed what looks like a simply absurd example of the lenghts Hansen and the GISS will go to tease a warming signal out of data that does not contain it. 

Wellin56b

The white line is the measured temperatures in Wellington, New Zealand before Hansen’s team got hold of the data.  The red is the data that is used in the world-wide global warming numbers after Hansen had finished adjusting it.  The original flat to downward trend is entirely consistent with sattelite temeprature measurement that shows the southern hemisphere not to be warming very much or at all.

What do these adjustments imply?  Well, Hansen has clearly reduced temperatures down in the forties while keeping them about the same in 1980.  Why?  Well, the only possible reason would be if there was some kind of warming bias in 1940 in Wellington that did not exist in 1980.  It implies that things like urban effects, heat retention by asphalt, and heat sources like cars and air conditioners were all more prevelent in 1940 New Zealand than in 1980.  However, unless Wellington has gone through some back to nature movement I have not heard about, this is absurd.  Nearly without exception, if measurement points experience changing biases in our modern world, it is upwards over time with urbanization, not downwards as implied in this chart.

Postscript:  A perceptive reader might ask whether Hansen perhaps has specific information about this measurement point.  Maybe its siting has improved over time?  However, Hansen has to date absolutely rejected the effort made by folks like surfacestations.org to document specific biases in measurement sites via individual site surveys.  Hansen is in fact proud that he makes his adjustments knowing nothing about the sites in question, but only using statistical methods (of very dubious quality) to correct using other local measurement sites. 

No Warming in Antarctica

Last week we saw how Antarctic ice is advancing, but somehow this never makes the news despite huge coverage of Arctic ice retreats.

One good reason for this may well be that there has been no measured warming in Antarctica over the last 50 years.

Antarc33b

Steve McIntyre summarizes

As I’ve discussed elsewhere (and readers have observed), IPCC AR4 has some glossy figures showing the wonders of GCMs for 6 continents, which sounds impressive until you wonder – well, wait a minute, isn’t Antarctica a continent too? And, given the theory of “polar amplification”, it should really be the first place that one looks for confirmation that the GCMs are doing a good job. Unfortunately IPCC AR4 didn’t include Antarctica in their graphics. I’m sure that it was only because they only had 2000 or so pages available to them and there wasn’t enough space for this information.

We’re All Saved! State Treasurers Are on the Case

Thank God, we are now going to all be safe from global warming.  From a speech to the National Association of State Treasurers:

Continued leadership from state treasurers on global warming will be essential to ensure that we address the scale and urgency of climate risk—and capture the vast economic possibilities that lie ahead as the world transitions to a clean energy future.

Translation:  Expect global warming to be used an the new excuse to raise taxes. 

Actually, the speaker is referring to an action by the NY Attorney General demanding certain companies put disclosures in their investment materials about the future economic harms from global warming.

Temperature Measurement Integrity

If you aren’t worried about the integrity of historical temperature data under the care of folks like James Hansen, then you will be after reading this at Climate Audit.

Since August 1, 2007, NASA has had 3 substantially different online versions of their 1221 USHCN stations (1221 in total.) The third and most recent version was slipped in without any announcement or notice in the last few days – subsequent to their code being placed online on Sept 7, 2007. (I can vouch for this as I completed a scrape of the dset=1 dataset in the early afternoon of Sept 7.)

We’ve been following the progress of the Detroit Lakes MN station and it’s instructive to follow the ups and downs of its history through these spasms. One is used to unpredictability in futures markets (I worked in the copper business in the 1970s and learned their vagaries first hand). But it’s quite unexpected to see similar volatility in the temperature “pasts”.

For example, the Oct 1931 value (GISS dset0 and dset1 – both are equal) for Detroit Lakes began August 2007 at 8.2 deg C; there was a short bull market in August with an increase to 9.1 deg C for a few weeks, but its value was hit by the September bear market and is now only 8.5 deg C. The Nov 1931 temperature went up by 0.8 deg (from -0.9 deg C to -0.1 deg C) in the August bull market, but went back down the full amount of 0.8 deg in the September bear market. December 1931 went up a full 1.0 deg C in the August bull market (from -7.6 deg C to -6.6 deg C) and has held onto its gains much better in the September bear market, falling back only 0.1 deg C -6.7 deg C.

Note the volatility of historic temperature numbers.  Always with a steady bias – recent temepratures are adjusted up, older temperatures are adjusted down, giving a net result of more warming.  By the way, think about what these adjustments mean — adjusting recent temperatures down means that our growing urban society and hot cities are somehow introducing a recent cooling bias in measurement.  And adjusting older temepratures down means that in the more rural society of 50 years ago we had more warming biases than we have today.  Huh?

Court Throws Out California Global Warming Suit

Via Q&O:

A federal judge on Monday tossed out a lawsuit filed by California that sought to hold the world’s six largest automakers accountable for their contribution to global warming. District Judge Martin Jenkins in San Francisco handed California Attorney General Jerry Brown’s environmental crusade a stinging rebuke when he ruled that it was impossible to determine to what extent automakers are responsible for global-warming damages in California. The judge also ruled that keeping the lawsuit alive would threaten the country’s foreign policy position.

I would also add that it is impossible to determine how much CO2 has affected warming, or what weather effects might be the result of such warming or just from normal variation.  Further, while areas like the Arctic are clearly warming, it is not at all clear that the US has experienced much warming in the last century.

Less than Meets the Eye in Peer-Reviewed Studies

This comes out of the medical field but sounds about right for climate (WSJ$, emphasis added)

Dr. Ioannidis is an epidemiologist who studies research methods at the University of Ioannina School of Medicine in Greece and Tufts University in Medford, Mass. In a series of influential analytical reports, he has documented how, in thousands of peer-reviewed research papers published every year, there may be so much less than meets the eye.

These flawed findings, for the most part, stem not from fraud or formal misconduct, but from more mundane misbehavior: miscalculation, poor study design or self-serving data analysis. "There is an increasing concern that in modern research, false findings may be the majority or even the vast majority of published research claims," Dr. Ioannidis said. "A new claim about a research finding is more likely to be false than true."

The hotter the field of research the more likely its published findings should be viewed skeptically, he determined….

Statistically speaking, science suffers from an excess of significance. Overeager researchers often tinker too much with the statistical variables of their analysis to coax any meaningful insight from their data sets. "People are messing around with the data to find anything that seems significant, to show they have found something that is new and unusual," Dr. Ioannidis said.

Reciting the Litturgy

In a number of past posts over at Coyote Blog, I have noticed the phenomenon of published studies whose data does nothing to bolster the theory of anthropogenic global warming adding in a line or two in the article saying that "of course the author’s support anthorpogenic global warming theory" in the same way movies routinely assure audiences that "no animals were hurt in the filiming of this movie."

Here is one example:  If you have seen An Inconvinient Truth, then you may remember a Really Big Chart shown by Gore with 650,000 years of temperature history.  In case you missed it, here is the data, derived from ice cores:

The red line is CO2 concentrations, while the black line is a proxy for temperatures.  When it first came out, it was compelling evidence that CO2 was not only a major driver of temperature, it may be the main driver.  However, followup work showed that when you zoom in on the scale, the temperature in each spike starts rising 800 years before the CO2 rises, implying instead that temperature is driving CO2 (via outgassing from oceans) rather than the other way around.  Many call this problem the 800-year lag.  Anyway, the scientists who discovered this 800-year lag felt compelled to add this line to their publication.  They said the team

… is still in full agreement with the idea that CO2 plays, through its greenhouse effect, a key role in amplifying the initial orbital forcing …

You can just see the fear.  Please, don’t take our climate funding away.  We didn’t mean to find this evidence.  We’re sorry.  We’re still believers.  Another example here.

Anyway, this week Steven Milloy has an even more stark example:

Veizer reluctantly told me the "text" of the Nature study, that is, the above-quoted conclusion, represented a "compromise" between the study’s disagreeing authors where Veizer’s side apparently did all the compromising for reasons that had little to do with the science.

While Veizer didn’t want to elaborate on the politics of the Nature study, he told me "not to take the tone of the paper as the definitive last word."…

There’s another point worth spotlighting in all this. It seems that the politics of global warming including the multibillion-dollar-funding of global warming research resulted in the publication in a prestigious science journal of a "compromise" conclusion that is not supported by the study’s own data.

"Science should never be adjusted to fit policy," was the reprimand the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency received from its own Science Advisory Board in 1992. But that’s exactly what seems to be happening to climate science. It’s a situation reminiscent of George Orwell’s "1984," in which Ministry of Truth worker Winston Smith wonders if the State could get away with declaring that "two and two made five."

Who’s wondering now? A recent series of reports from the Science and Public Policy Institute spotlights problems with the peer review process of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and efforts to create the illusion of scientific consensus on global warming.

Grading US Temperature Measurement Sites

Anthony Watts has initiated a nationwide effort to photo-document the climate stations in the US Historical Climate Network (USHCN).  His database of documented sites continues to build at SurfaceStations.org.  Some of my experiences contributing to his effort are here and here.

Using criteria and a scoring system devised years ago based on the design specs of the USHCN and use in practice in France, he has scored the documented stations as follows, with 1 being a high-conforming site and 5 being a site with many local biaes and issues.  (Full criterea here)

Crnrating

Note that category 3-5 stations can be expected to exhibit errors from 1-5 degrees C, which is huge both because these stations make up 85% of the stations surveyed to date and because this error is so much greater than the "signal."  The signal we are trying to use the USHCN to detect is global warming, which over the last century is currently thought to be about 0.6C.  This means that the potential error may be 2-8 times larger than the signal.  And don’t expect these errors to cancel out.  Because of the nature of these measurement problems and biases, almost all of these errors tend to be in the same direction – biasing temperatures higher – creating a systematic error that does not cancel out.  Also note that though this may look bad, this situation is probably far better than the temperature measurement in the rest of the world, so things will only get worse when Anthony inevitably turns his attention overseas.

Yes, scientists try to correct for these errors, but so far they have done so statistically without actually inspecting the individual installations.  And Steve McIntyre is doing a lot of work right now demonstrating just how haphazard these measurement correction currently are, though there is some recent hope that things may improve.

Antarctic Sea Ice at Record High

It is almost impossible to avoid stories about Arctic sea at the lowest recorded level.  The National Geographic, who should know better, had the temerity to headline "Arctic Ice at All-Time Low".  All-time?  Really?  In the 6 billion year history of the earth, this is the least ice ever in the Arctic?  Well, no, it’s the least since we have started measuring it.  So when was that?  Only since about 1979 when we had sattelites that could make this measurement.  OK, so its the least ice in about 25-30 years.

To a one, scientists and media making this observation about Arctic sea ice use it as a leading indicator of catastrophic global warming.  The National Geographic even suggests it is evidence that we are at a tipping point, or a cusp of rapid acceleration of warming.

There is little doubt the Arctic has been warming the last 30 years or so, but some doubt whether it is warmer even than the 1940′s.  Be that as it may, last I checked there were two poles with sea ice.  It’s funny no one ever mentions the South Pole.  Do you think that they just forgot?  Or could it be that the facts don’t conviniently fit the storyline?  Luboš Motl picks up the story:

Some analysts have speculated that the new record could be evidence of global warming. But is it? Even though it may sound very complicated, it turns out that the Earth is round. At the global scale, there is not one polar region but, in fact, two. There is also sea ice on the Southern Hemisphere. It turns out that the Antarctic sea ice area reached 16.2 million squared kilometers in 2007 – a new absolute record high since the measurements started in 1979

The data is here:

Currentareasouths

If you watched An Inconvinient Truth, you will be saying, "this can’t be right."  In that movie, Al Gore and company showed compelling films of melting and warming in Antarctica.  Well, it turns out that most of Antarctica is seeing more snowfall and ice formation and the same or colder temperatures, but one small area, about 2% of the landmass on the Antarctic penninsula, is seeing warming.  Guess which area the movie chose to focus on? 

Even if the Antarctic were warming, most climate scientists expect snow and ice pack to increase there, not decrease.  Yes, warmer weather melts ice, but Antarctica is so freaking cold a few degrees are no more likely to melt ice than steel is to melt in the Arizona sunshine.  But warmer weather does vaporize more water, which is expected to fall as snowpack in Antarctica.  That is why despite Al Gore’s claims that oceans will rise 20 feet or more, serious scientists don’t expect much more than a foot, even with warming numbers far higher than I think are credible.  That’s because ice melting in Greenland and other glaciers is offset by increasing snow pack in Antarctica  (melting sea ice has no effect on ocean levels, since the ice floats, for the same reason that ice melting in your glass of water will not cause the glass to overflow).

By the way, since we are talking about retreating ice, here is a picture showing the retreat of the Glaciers at beautiful Glacier Bay, Alaska.Image054

So most of the retreat of the glaciers occured between 1794 and 1907, which is fairly hard to correlate with man’s use of fossil fuels or global CO2 levels.

USA Only 2% of Earth’s Surface, But…

Several weeks ago, NASA was forced to restate downwards recent US temperature numbers due to an error found by Steve McIntyre (and friends).  The restatement reinforced the finding that the US really has not had much warming over the last 100 years.  James Hansen, emporer of the NASA data for whom the rest of us are just "court jesters" dismissed both the restatement and the lack of warming trend in the US as irrelevent because the US only makes up about 2% of the world’s surface. 

This is a fairly facile statement, and Hansen has to know it.  Three quarters of the earth’s surface is water for which we have no real long term temperature record of any quality.  Large masses like Antarctica, South America, and Africa have very few places where temperature has been measured for any long period of time.  In fact, via Anthony Watts, here is the world map of temperature measurement points that have data for all of the 20th century (of whatever quality):

Ghcn1900_4

So the US is irrelevent, is it?  There is some danger in trying to eyeball such things, but I would say that the US is about one-half to one-third of the world’s landmass that has continuous temperature coverage.  I won’t get into this today, but for all the quality issues that have been identified in US measurements (particularly upwards urban biases) these problems are much greater in the rest of the world.

Further to Hansen’s point that the US does not matter, here is a quote from Hansen last week (emphasis added)

Another favorite target of those who would raise doubt about the reality of global warming is the lack of quality data from South America and Africa, a legitimate concern. You will note in our maps of temperature change some blotches in South America and Africa, which are probably due to bad data. Our procedure does not throw out data because it looks unrealistic, as that would be subjective. But what is the global significance of these regions of exceptionally poor data? As shown by Figure 1, omission of South America and Africa has only a tiny effect on the global temperature change. Indeed, the difference that omitting these areas makes is to increase the global temperature change by (an entirely insignificant) 0.01C.

Look at the map!  He is now saying that the US, South America, and Africa are irrelevent to world temperatures.  And with little ocean coverage and almost no coverage in Antarctica before 1960, what are we left with?  What does matter?  How is he weighting his temperature aggregations if none of these matter?  Fortunately, the code is finally in the open, so we may find out.

Why I Don’t Fear Catastrophic Warming (in Two Graphs)

Scientists have a concept called climate sensitivity which refers to the amount of global warming in degrees Celsius we might expect from a doubling of CO2 concentrations from a pre-industrial 280ppm to 560ppm  (we are currently at about 380ppm today and will reach 560ppm between 2065 and 2100, depending on how aggressive a forecast you want to adopt).

A simple way to estimate sensitivity is from experience over the past century.  At the same time CO2 has gone up by 100ppm, global temperatures have gone up by at most 0.6 Celsius (from the 4th IPCC report).  I actually believe this number is over-stated due to uncorrected urban effects and other surface temperature measurement issues, but let’s assume 0.6ºC.  Only a part of that 0.6ºC is due to man – some is likely do to natural cyclical effects, but again to avoid argument, let’s assume man’s CO2 has heated the earth 0.6 Celsius.  From these data points, we can project forward:

Sensitivity1

As you can see, the projection is actually a diminishing curve.  For reasons I will not go into again (you can read much more in this post) this relationship HAS to be a diminishing curve.  It’s a fact accepted by everyone.  True climate consensus.  We can argue about the slope and exact shape, but I have chosen midpoint values from a reasonable range.  The answer is not that sensitive to different assumptions anyway.  Even a linear extrapolation, which is clearly wrong scientifically, would only yield a sensitivity projection a few tenths of a degree higher.

What we arrive at is a sensitivity of about 1.2 degrees Celsius for a CO2 doubling (where the blue line crosses 560ppm).  In other words, we can expect another 0.6ºC increase over the next century, about the same amount we experienced (and most of us failed to notice) over the last century.

But, you are saying, global warming catastrophists get so much higher numbers.  Yes they do, with warming as high as 9-10C in the next century.  In fact, most global warming catastrophists believe the climate sensitivity is at least 3ºC per doubling, and many use estimates as high as 5ºC or 6ºC.  Do these numbers make sense?  Well, let’s draw the same curve for a sensitivity of 3ºC, the low end of the catastrophists’ estimates, this time in red:

Sensitivity2

To get a sensitivity of 3.0ºC, one has to assume that global warming due solely to man’s CO2 (nothing else) would have to be 1.5ºC to date (where the red line intersects the current concentration of 380ppm).  But no one, not the IPCC or anyone else, believes measured past warming has been anywhere near this high.  So to believe the catastrophic man-made global warming case, you have to accept a sensitivity three or more times higher than historical empirical data would support.  Rather than fighting against climate consensus, which is how we are so often portrayed, skeptics in fact have history and empirical data on our side.  For me, this second chart is the smoking gun of climate skepticism.  We have a lot of other issues — measurement biases, problems with historical reconstructions, role of the sun, etc — but this chart highlights the central problem — that catastrophic warming forecasts make no sense based on the last 100+ years of actual data.

Global warming catastrophists in fact have to argue against historical data, and say it is flawed in two ways:  First, they argue there are positive feedbacks in climate that will take hold in the future and accelerate warming; and second, they argue there are other anthropogenic effects, specifically sulphate aerosols, that are masking man-made warming.  Rather than just repeat myself (and in the interest in proving I can actually be succinct) I will point you to this post, the second half of which deals in depth with these two issues. 

As always, you can find my Layman’s Guide to Skepticism about Man-made Global Warming here.  It is available for free in HTML or pdf download, or you can order the printed book that I sell at cost.

A Good First Step: Hansen & GISS Release the Code

One of the bedrock principles of scientific inquiry is that when publishing results, one should also publish enough information about the experimental process so that others can attempt to replicate the results.  Bedrock principle everywhere, that is, except in climate science of course.  Climate researchers routinely refuse to release key aspects of their research that would allow others to replicate their findings — Mann’s refusal to release information about his famous "hockey stick" analysis even in the face of FOIA’s is just the most famous example.

A few weeks ago, after Steven McIntyre and a group of more-or-less amateurs discovered apparent issues in the NASA GISS temperature data, James Hansen and the GISS were forced to admit a programming error and restate some recent US temperatures (downwards).  As I wrote at Coyote Blog, the key outcome of this incident was not the magnitude of the restatement, but the presure it might put on Hansen to release the software code NASA uses to aggregate and adjust historical temperature measurements:

For years, Hansen’s group at GISS, as well as other leading climate scientists such as Mann and Briffa (creators of historical temperature reconstructions) have flaunted the rules of science by holding the details of their methodologies and algorithm’s secret, making full scrutiny impossible.  The best possible outcome of this incident will be if new pressure is brought to bear on these scientists to stop saying "trust me" and open their work to their peers for review.  This is particularly important for activities such as Hansen’s temperature data base at GISS.  While measurement of temperature would seem straight forward, in actual fact the signal to noise ration is really low.  Upward "adjustments" and fudge factors added by Hansen to the actual readings dwarf measured temperature increases, such that, for example, most reported warming in the US is actually from these adjustments, not measured increases.

I concluded:

NOAA and GISS both need to release their detailed algorithms and computer software code for adjusting and aggregating USHCN and global temperature data.  Period.  There can be no argument.  Folks at RealClimate.org who believe that all is well should be begging for this to happen to shut up the skeptics.  The only possible reason for not releasing this scientific information that was created by government employees with taxpayer money is if there is something to hide.

The good news is that Hansen has released what he claims to be the complete source code.  Hansen, with extraordinarily bad grace, has always claimed that he has told everyone all they need to know, and that it is other people’s fault if they can’t figure out what he is doing from his clear instructions.  But just read this post at Steve McIntyre’s site, and see the detective work that folks were having to go through trying to replicate NASA’s temperature adjustments without the code.

The great attention that Hansen has garnered for himself among the politically correct glitterati, far beyond what a government scientist might otherwise expect, seems to have blown his mind.  Of late, has has begun to act the little Caeser, calling his critic’s "court jesters," with the obvioius implication that he is the king.  Even in releasing the code he can’t resist a petulent swipe at his critics (emphasis added):

Reto Ruedy has organized into a single document, as well as practical on a short time scale, the programs that produce our global temperature analysis from publicly available data streams of temperature measurements. These are a combination of subroutines written over the past few decades by Sergej Lebedeff, Jay Glascoe, and Reto. Because the programs include a variety of
languages and computer unique functions, Reto would have preferred to have a week or two to combine these into a simpler more transparent structure, but because of a recent flood of demands for the programs, they are being made available as is. People interested in science may want to wait a week or two for a simplified version.

LOL.  The world is divided into two groups:  His critics, and those who are interested in science.

This should be a very interesting week.

Table of Contents: A Layman’s Guide to Man-Made Global Warming

The purpose of this paper is to provide a layman’s critique of the Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) theory, and in particular to challenge the fairly widespread notion that the science and projected consequences of AGW currently justify massive spending and government intervention into the world’s economies.  This paper will show that despite good evidence that global temperatures are rising and that CO2 can act as a greenhouse gas and help to warm the Earth, we are a long way from attributing all or much of current warming to man-made CO2.  We are even further away from being able to accurately project man’s impact on future climate, and it is a very debatable question whether interventions today to reduce CO2 emissions will substantially improve the world 50 or 100 years from now.

Update: If you would like to start with the 60-second version of this long paper, try here first.

Update #2: New!  This paper is a couple of years old.  I have gotten better (if I may say so myself) in formulating the arguments.  My most recent stab at a skeptic’s summary is embodied in this free video.  If you don’t have time for the video, the powerpoint presentation with all the slides from the lecture are included in both .ppt and .pdf formats.

Note you may click on any of the chapter links below to see the full chapter in HTML, or see below for links to free pdf versions available for download.

Table of Contents for A Layman’s Guide to Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW)
Chapter 1: Summary of Global Warming Skeptics Position
Chapter 2:  Is It OK to be a Global Warming Skeptic?

  • Charges of Bias
  • The Climate Trojan Horse
  • The Need to Exaggerate

Chapter 3: The Basics of Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) Theory
Chapter 4:  The Historical Evidence for Man-Made Global Warming

  • The long view (650,000 years)
  • The medium view (1000 years)
  • The short view (100 years)
  • Sulfates, Aerosols and Dimming
  • The troposphere and Urban heat islands
  • Using Computer Models to Explain the Past

Chapter 5:  The Climate Computer Models and Predicting Future Temperatures

  • The Dangers in Modeling Complex Systems
  • Do Model Outputs Constitute Scientific Proof?
  • Econometrics and CO2 Forecasts
  • Climate Sensitivity and the Role of Positive Feedbacks
  • Climate Models have to be Aggressively Tweaked to Match History

Chapter 6:  Alternate Explanations and Models for Global Warming

  • Solar Irradiance
  • Cosmic Rays
  • Man’s Land Use

Chapter 7:  The Effects of Global Warming

  • Why only bad stuff?
  • Ice melting / Oceans Rising
  • Hurricanes & Tornadoes
  • Temperature Extremes
  • Extinction and Disease
  • Collapse of the Gulf Stream and Freezing of Europe
  • Non-warming Effects of CO2

Chapter 8:  Kyoto and Climate Change Policy Alternatives

  • Kyoto
  • Cost of the Solutions vs. the Benefits:  Why Warmer but Richer may be Better than Colder and Pooer

Chapter 9: Rebuttals by Man-Made Global Warming Theory Supporters

UPDATE: A video version of this guide called What is Normal?  A Critique of Catastrophic Man-Made Global Warming Theory is now available for free download.

A Youtube Playlist for the film is here.  This is a cool feature I have not used before, but will effectively let you run the parts end to end, making the 50-minute video more or less seamless.

The individual parts are:

Climate Video Part 1:  Introduction; how greenhouse gases work; historical climate reconstructions
Climate Video Part 2:  Historical reconstructions; problems with proxies
Climate Video part 3:  How much warming is due to man; measurement biases; natural cycles in climate
Climate Video Part 4:  Role of the sun; aerosols and cooling; climate sensitivity; checking forecasts against history
Climate Video Part 5:  Positive and negative feedback;  hurricanes.
Climate Video Part 6:  Melting ice and rising oceans; costs of CO2 abatement; conclusions.

You may also stream the entire climate film from Google Video here. (the video will stutter between the 12 and 17 second marks, and then should run fine)

You may download a 258MB full resolution Windows Media version of the film by right-clicking here.

You may download a 144MB full resolution Quicktime version of the film by right-clicking here.

A 9-minute version of the climate video can be found here.

For those interested in getting a copy of my A Skeptical Layman’s Guide to Anthropogenic Global Warming, I greatly encourage you to download it for free.  However, I do know that some folks have written about a print version.  I have a print version of my global warming book available now at LuLu.com. It is $16.98 — that is my cost — and I warn you that LuLu’s shipping options are not very cheap.  I will try to find a less expensive print option, but no one beats LuLu for getting a book set up quickly and easily for print-to-order.

Agw_cover_front_small

The open comment thread for this paper can be found here.

Chapter 1: Summary of the Skeptical Layman’s Guide to Man-Made Global Warming

The table of contents for the rest of this paper, A Layman’s Guide to Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) is hereFree pdf of this Climate Skepticism paper is here and print version is sold at cost here.

We know the temperature of the Earth has increased over the last half of the 19th century and most of the 20th century as the world has exited a particularly cold period called the Little Ice Age.  One of the odd coincidences that colors our judgment about climate trends is that man began systematically measuring temperatures in the early to mid-nineteenth century just as the world was beginning to exit what was perhaps the coldest period of the last millennia.  Throughout their study of climate trends, scientists have to try to parse warming that is a natural result of exiting this cyclical cold period from warming that is perhaps due to man’s influence.

We know further, from laboratory work, that CO2, and more importantly water vapor, in the atmosphere serves to keep the Earth warmer than it would be in their absence.  What we don’t know, in fact what we have no empirical proof for, is if rising CO2 levels over the last century (caused in part by man’s combustion of fossil fuels) has caused some or all of the 20th century warming.  The fact that we have no empirical evidence for this man-made effect on climate doesn’t mean it is not true, but it is something we should not forget in all this debate.  What we have instead are historical correlations in the data, far from perfect, that seem to show some relationship over history between CO2 and temperature.  Some find this data to be compelling evidence of cause and effect, and others do not. 

Before we start, since this paper is by definition somewhat in opposition to the core of Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) theory, it would be useful to state in simple terms just what that theory is.   The strong AGW hypothesis is roughly as follows:

1. The world has been warming for a century, and this warming is beyond any cyclical variation we have seen over the last 1000 or more years, and beyond the range of what we might expect from natural climate variations.

2. Almost all of the warming in the second half of the 20th century, perhaps a half a degree Celsius, is due to man-made greenhouse gasses, particularly CO2

3. In the next 100 years, CO2 produced by man will cause a lot more warming, from as low as three degrees C to as high as 8 or 10 degrees C.

4. Positive feedbacks in the climate, like increased humidity, will act to triple the warming from CO2, leading to these higher forecasts and perhaps even a tipping point into climactic disaster

5. The bad effects of warming greatly outweigh the positive effects, and we are already seeing the front end of these bad effects today (polar bears dying, glaciers melting, etc)

6. These bad effects, or even a small risk of them, easily justify massive intervention today in reducing economic activity and greenhouse gas production

In the rest of this paper, we will focus on potential weaknesses in this hypothesis. Specifically, I will argue that:

There is no doubt that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, and it is pretty clear that CO2 produced by man has an incremental impact on warming the Earth’s surface. 

However, recent warming is the result of many natural and man-made factors, and it is extraordinarily difficult to assign all the blame for current warming to man. 

In turn, there are very good reasons to suspect that climate modelers may be greatly exaggerating future warming due to man.  Poor economic forecasting, faulty assumptions about past and current conditions, and a belief that climate is driven by runaway positive feedback effects all contribute to this exaggeration. 

As a result, warming due to man’s impacts over the next 100 years may well be closer to one degree C than the forecasted six to eight.  In either case, since AGW supporters tend to grossly underestimate the cost of CO2 abatement, particularly in lost wealth creation in poorer nations, there are good arguments that a warmer but richer world, where aggressive CO2 abatement is not pursued, may be the better end state than a poor but cooler world.

In Chapter 2, we will address whether it is even appropriate to be a skeptic.  Of late, several AGW supporters have declared the science “settled,” and skeptics the equivalent of tobacco lawyers or holocaust deniers.  We will also look at the issue of bias, not just for skeptics but for AGW supporters as well.

In Chapter 3, we will cover a bit of background on Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) theory.  We  will learn some things about the CO2 greenhouse effect you have probably never heard in the media, such as the fact that warming from CO2 is actually a diminishing return phenomenon whose effect is asymptotic or essentially capped, making it hard to understand the prevalence of wild, open-ended temperature runaway scenarios.

In Chapter 4, we will review the historic empirical evidence for AGW theory.  We will find that the science of historic climate reconstruction is still in its infancy, and a lot of uncertainty exists in the data.  We will see that over the last several years, while correlations between CO2 and temperature exist in the data, much of the historical circumstantial evidence for AGW theory has gotten weaker, and we will cover “global dimming” and see if this effect makes the case for AGW stronger.

In Chapter 5 we will cover the absolutely fascinating topic of climate models.  Most of what you have seen in the media is the output of complex climate models.  We will find that there is a lot less here than meets the eye.

In Chapter 6 we will study several alternate explanations for recent warming that don’t involve man-made greenhouse gasses.  Most prominent in these theories is the changing output of the sun.

In Chapter 7 we take on the scare stories – the lions and tigers and bears of climate reporting.  In the movie An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore caught the world’s attention with prophecies of seas rising twenty feet, hurricanes and tornados running rampant, and species dying. We will find that most of these claims are thought to be wild exaggerations even by scientists who support AGW theory.

In Chapter 8 we finally get to the Kyoto Treaty, explain its origins and shortcomings, and briefly discuss some policy alternatives. We’ll seriously consider whether a cooler but poorer world is really superior to a warmer but richer world.

Finally, in Chapter 9, we will consider AGW supporter’s rebuttals of some of these arguments.  For this version, we will use the New Scientist’s recent 26 Global Warming Myths as a platform for this discussion.

My Goals For This Paper

The purpose of this paper is to provide a layman’s critique of the Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) theory, and in particular to challenge the fairly widespread notion that the science and projected consequences of AGW currently justify massive spending and government intervention into the world’s economies.  This paper will show that despite good evidence that global temperatures are rising and that CO2 can act as a greenhouse gas and help to warm the Earth, we are a long way from attributing all or much of current warming to man-made CO2.  We are even further away from being able to accurately project man’s impact on future climate, and it is a very debatable question whether interventions today to reduce CO2 emissions will substantially improve the world 50 or 100 years from now.

I am not a trained expert on the climate.  I studied physics at Princeton University before switching my major to mechanical engineering, where I specialized in control theory and feedback loops, a topic that will be important when we get into the details of climate change modeling.  For over ten years, my business specialty was market prediction and sales forecasting using modeling approaches similar to (if far less complex than) those used in climate.

My goal for this paper is not to materially advance climate science.  However, I have found that the global warming skeptic’s case is seldom reported well or in any depth, and I wanted to have a try at producing a fair reporting of the skeptic’s position.   I have been unhappy with several of the recent documentaries outlining the skeptic’s case, either because they skipped over a number of critical issues, or because they over-sold alternate warming hypotheses that are not yet well understood. To the inevitable charge that as a non-practitioner, I am not qualified to write this paper –I believe that I am able to present the current state of the science, with a particular emphasis on the skeptic’s case, at least as well as a good reporter might, and far better than most reporters actually portray the state of the science.  Through this paper I will try to cite sources as often as possible and provide links for those who are reading this online, this report is best read as journalism, not as a scientific, meticulously footnoted paper.

Years ago, another man not trained in climate started a PowerPoint presentation of what he knew about Global Warming.  Over time, he used it both as a vehicle for communication as well as a living document that would evolve over time to reflect his improving knowledge.  A lot of people saw Al Gore’s PowerPoint presentation, and it became the backbone for the movie An Inconvenient Truth.  I hope to use this paper the same way, as an evolving document to reflect my evolving knowledge.  To this end, each version will get a software-like version number and date.

Before proceeding, I want to make one note on nomenclature.  The terms global warming and climate change are often used interchangeably, and generally are used in a way that imply man-made causes.  For example, when many people speak of global warming, they are actually talking about anthropogenic global warming, meaning warming of the Earth from man-made causes, generally the release of greenhouse gasses including CO2.  Of course the climate can, and does, change without man’s help and the Earth can warm without man-made gasses.  I will try to be precise in my terminology.  I will use global warming to mean literally an increase in Earth’s surface temperatures, no matter what the cause.  I will use anthropogenic global warming, or AGW, to mean the theory that man is causing some or all of the current warming.

Finally, any abuse of copyrighted material or mistakes in attribution are entirely unintentional.  Such problems, as well as any comments, should be sent to the author at the email address on the cover.

The table of contents for the rest of this paper, A Layman’s Guide to Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) is hereFree pdf of this Climate Skepticism paper is here and print version is sold at cost here.

The open comment thread for this paper can be found here.