My Best Skeptic’s Argument

Crossposted from Coyote Blog

I began with an 85-page book.  I shortened that to a 50-minute film, and then a 9-minute film.  With that experience, I think I can now pull out and summarize in just a few paragraphs why we should not fear catastrophic global warming.  Here goes:

Climate catastrophists often argue that global warming theory is "settled science."  And they are right in one respect:  We have a pretty good understanding of how CO2 can act as a greenhouse gas and cause the earth to warm.  What is well agreed upon, but is not well communicated in the media, is that a doubling of CO2, without other effects that we will discuss in a moment, will heat the earth about 1 degree Celsius (plus or minus a few tenths).  This is not some skeptic’s hallucination — this is straight out of the IPCC third and fourth assessments.  CO2, acting alone, warms the Earth only slowly, and at this rate we would see less than a degree of warming over the next century, more of a nuisance than a catastrophe.

But some scientists do come up with catastrophic warming forecasts.  They do so by assuming that our Earth’s climate is dominated by positive feedbacks that multiply the initial warming from CO2 by a factor of three, four, five or more.  This is a key point — the catastrophe does not come from the science of greenhouse gases, but from separate hypotheses that the earth’s climate is dominated by positive feedback.  This is why saying that greenhouse gas theory is "settled" is irrelevant to the argument about catastrophic forecasts.  Because these positive feedbacks are NOT settled science.  In fact, the IPCC admits it does not even know the sign of the most important effect (water vapor), much less its magnitude.  They assume that the net effect is positive, but they are on very shaky ground doing so, particularly since having long-term stable systems like climate dominated by positive feedback is a highly improbable.

And, in fact, with the 100 or so years of measurements we have for temperature and CO2, empirical evidence does not support these high positive feedbacks.  Even if we assign all the 20th century warming to CO2, which is unlikely, our current warming rates imply close to zero feedback.  If there are other causes for measured 20th century warming other than CO2, thereby reducing the warming we blame on CO2, then the last century’s experience implies negative rather than positive feedback in the system.  As a result, it should not be surprising that high feedback-driven forecasts from the 1990 IPCC reports have proven to be way too high vs. actual experience (something the IPCC has since admitted).

However, climate scientists are unwilling to back down from the thin branch they have crawled out on.  Rather than reduce their feedback assumptions to non-catastrophic levels, they currently hypothesize a second man-made cooling effect that is masking all this feedback-driven warming.  They claim now that man-made sulfate aerosols and black carbon are cooling the earth, and when some day these pollutants are reduced, we will see huge catch-up warming.  If anything, this cooling effect is even less understood than feedback.  What we do know is that, unlike CO2, the effects of these aerosols are short-lived and therefore localized, making it unlikely they are providing sufficient masking to make catastrophic forecasts viable.  I go into several reality checks in my videos, but here is a quick one:  Nearly all the man-made cooling aerosols are in the northern hemisphere, meaning that most all the cooling effect should be there — but the northern hemisphere has actually exhibited most of the world’s warming over the past 30 years, while the south has hardly warmed at all.

In sum, to believe catastrophic warming forecasts, one has to believe both of the following:

  1. The climate is dominated by strong positive feedback, despite our experience with other stable systems that says this is unlikely and despite our measurements over the last 100 years that have seen no such feedback levels.
  2. Substantial warming, of 1C or more, is being masked by aerosols, despite the fact that aerosols really only have strong presence over 5-10% of the globe and despite the fact that the cooler part of the world has been the one without the aerosols.

Here’s what this means:  Man will cause, at most, about a degree of warming over the next century.  Most of this warming will be concentrated in raising minimum temperatures at night rather than maximum daytime temperatures  (this is why, despite some measured average warming, the US has not seen an increase of late in maximum temperature records set).  There are many reasons to believe that man’s actual effect will be less than 1 degree, and that whatever effect we do have will be lost in the natural cyclical variations the climate experiences, but we are only just now starting to understand.

To keep this relatively short, I have left out all the numbers and such.  To see the graphs and numbers and sources, check out my new climate video, or my longer original video, or download my book for free.

Update:  Commenters are correct that positive feedback dominated systems can be stable as long as the feedback percentage is less than 100%.  By trying to get too compact in my arguments, I combined a couple of things.  First, there are many catastrophists that argue that climate IS in fact dominated by feedback over 100% — anyone who talks of "tipping points" is effectively saying this.  The argument about instability making stable processes impossible certainly applies to these folks’ logic.  Further, even positive feedback <100% makes a system highly subject to dramatic variations.  But Mann et. al. are already on the record saying that without man, global temperatures are unbelievably stable and move in extremely narrow ranges.   It is hard to imagine this to be true in a climate system dominated by positive feedback, particularly when it is beset all the time with dramatic perturbations, from volcanoes to the Maunder Minimum.

To some extent, climate catastrophists are in a bind.  If historic temperatures show a lot of variance, then a strong argument can be made that a large portion of 20th century warming is natural occilation.  If historic temperatures move only in narrow ranges, they have a very difficult time justifying that the climate is dominated by positive feedbacks of 60-80%,

The point to remember, though, is that irregardless of likelihood, the historical temperature record simply does not support assumptions of feedback much larger than zero.  Yes, time delays and lags make a small difference, but all one has to do is compare current temperatures to CO2 levels 12-15 years ago to account for this lag and one still gets absolutely no empirical support for large positive feedbacks.

Remember this when someone says that greenhouse gas theory is "Settled."  It may or may not be, but the catastrophe does not come directly from greenhouse gasses.  Alone, they cause at most nuisance warming.  The catastrophe comes from substantial positive feedback (it takes 60-80% levels to get climate sensitivities of 3-5C) which is far from settled science.

  • Jay Jorgensen

    My high school physics is not quite up to the job of confirming or deflating this paper (found on Tom Nelson), which purports to undermine the whole greenhouse effect. Perhaps yours does? Or you know someone who does?
    http://icecap.us/images/uploads/Falsification_of_CO2.pdf

  • Raven

    Skeptics seem to stay away from the Falsification_of_CO2 paper because the math is beyond most people. The other issue is plausibility: it is one thing to claim that the scientific establishment is exaggerating the effect of CO2. It is another thing to claim that they got the basic science completely wrong. I don’t think it worth pursuing any investigations based on the latter assertion.

  • mbabbitt

    This is a great condensation of the AGW arguments. Positive Feedback thinking is the key; aerosol masking is secondary. Ultimately, it is a belief in a brittle global system which can be sent into an hysterical tailspin with just a little change in a minor greenhouse gas (C02).

    I used to be a Gaia religionist and in retrospect it seems to be the very antithesis of believing in a powerful and loving god. Instead it posits a stereotypic female psychology (from the Victorian Freudian days) where the littlest irritation will send Her Highness Gaia into an emotionally destructive positive feedback tizzy. Sound familiar? It is an anthropomorphic projection onto the non-human world system in the most idolatrous manner. She’s mad and she’s coming for us unless we live in a socialist harmony, technologically focused around the 17th century. This quasi-religious meme has created a social and scientific climate that feeds and supports these kinds of delusions. Just look at the way skeptics are referred to by the AGW supporting environmental fundamentalists. their behavior is as non-professional and non-scientific in tone as one would imagine a religious fanatic’s would be. Who would think that in the 21st century you would have such a scenario? I bet we all have thought at some time that we have grown this vulnerability to mass hysterias. But we are human — and we remain always vulnerable to sheeplike “global” thinking.

  • RW

    I think you probably misunderstand the term ‘feedback’. It’s not really an adequate word but is unfortunately now part of the terminology. ‘Amplification’ would be a more appropriate term. When you place a microphone too near an amplifier, you get a runaway feedback loop – noise is amplified, picked up, amplified more, picked up, etc. No equilibrium is reached. With the climate, you put in more CO2, less infrared radiation escapes, the atmosphere heats up, its water vapour content increases, less infrared radiation escapes, the atmosphere heats up, etc. But in this case, there is a limit, which is a logarithmic response of IR absorptivity to water vapour concentration. Thus, a new equilibrium is reached.

    The sign of the water vapour feedback I just described is well known, and it is positive. This feedback/amplification operates on a short timescale. On a slightly longer timescale, warming causes the area of earth covered by ice and snow to decrease, which leads to less sunlight reflected, which leads to a warmer earth and then a warmer atmosphere, which leads to less ice and snow, and so on.

    There is ample evidence that the climate system contains these amplifiers. For example, you cannot understand the rapid warming seen at the end of an ice age unless you include the effect of CO2 as a feedback in your calculations. A warming caused by a small orbital change leads to the release of CO2 from the oceans. That CO2 causes more warming, which causes more CO2 to be released, and so on, until you have warmed the earth by approximately 10C and the new equilibrium is an interglacial period.

    The roles of aerosols is better understood than you claim. The eruption of Pinatubo in 1991 released large quantities of them into the atmosphere, causing a global drop in temperature against the warming trend. This drop was accurately predicted beforehand by climate models.

    To believe that anthropogenic CO2 will only warm the earth by 1C, even if its current emission rates persist, you have to believe that a warmer atmosphere will not hold more water vapour, that a less reflective earth will not warm up, that oceans and permafrost will not release more CO2 in response to warming, and that overall some mechanism yet to be discovered completely eliminates well-known positive feedbacks and introduces negative ones.

  • Raven

    The sign of the water feedback is not known. Putting water into the air also increase precipitation which has a cooling effect. The current set of models cannot accurately model the effect of precipitation. Roy Spenser’s recent paper describes this effect in detail.

    Your arguement wrt CO2 in the last ice age contradicts itself. If CO2 was the primary driver then how did the planet cool again? If the orbital changes were too small to cause the warming then they would also be too small overcome the CO2 effect. There are only two possible explainations for the subsequent cooling: 1) negative feedbacks limited the effect of CO2 induced warming or 2) orbital/solar forcings were the primary driver and CO2 was a secondary effect.

    The climate models predicted what was known for years – volcanos cause temporary cooling. This is hardly a validation of the models. Anyone with a graph of previous temperature shifts could have made the same prediction.

    The bigger problem with aerosols is measuring their effect. We have no data for human aerosols in the past so modellers simply assume that their models are correct and add enough aerosols to match the actual temperature record. Obviously there are limits on the amount of plausible aerosol fudging but that does not mean you can claim that aerosols are well understood.

    To believe that CO2 will warm the earth through positive water vapour feedbacks you have to believe that higher water vapor content won’t lead to more cloud cover and precipitation.

    However, these debates are immaterial compared to the physical evidence. The actual temperature to date has consistently shown that the models over estimate the amount of warming. In the face of this counter evidence alarmists wave their hands and point to aerosols or ocean lags. The most plausible explaination is the models over estimate the effect of CO2.

    In anycase, time will tell. Temps during the next solar maximum around 2013-2015 will have to be at least 0.2 degC higher than the 2003-2005 temps to validate the IPCC predictions. Anything lower validates the skeptic’s view: that the effect of CO2 is being exagerrated.

  • Andrew

    RW: “you have to believe that a warmer atmosphere will not hold more water vapour”

    It would appear not to:
    http://blogs.woodtv.com/?p=2999

    Also, YOU have to believe that more water vapor doesn’t mean more clouds (i.e. Negative Cloud Feedback) that changes plant growth won’t alter the earth’s albedo in unpredictable ways, and sequester more CO2 (for instance, and increase in CO2 levels causes plants to spread into areas they previously didn’t use. This would be a new “sink” which would slow down increases in CO2(incidentally, atmospheric methane has recently spontaneously stopped increasing, showing that forces are at work in methane “sinks” that we don’t understand. Perhaps that’s a negative feedback?) As for oceans releasing more CO2, such a thing would take 800 years, as the lag in the ice core data shows, and melting permafrost is certainly not going to make some huge contribution.

    The ultimate negative feedback is in fact the supposed catastrophe that would befall us. That would destroy industries, and then if the warming really is mostly man’s fault, we won’t be around to cause it any more, now will we? Funny, environmentalism is misanthropic, yet this possibility (ie warming=good becuase it kills all the horrible people) rarely crossing their minds (except the Baltimore Chronicle, where they look forward to the drowning of red-staters in sea level rise), becuase of course the real fear is for their own lives. This is not “feel good” selfless environmentalism any more.

    Additionally, the implication of the Aerosols masking warming hypothesis is that the Clean Air Act was a disaster becuase it caused global warming! And we should pollute MORE to solve the “problem”!

  • Andrew
  • RW

    So often, climate change deniers will rely on the most dubious of sources to bolster their claims. Blogs? Not good science, sorry. Quote me a result from a peer-reviewed journal that shows water vapour decreasing and I will discuss that. By the way, in that blog, did you notice how, even though ten years is ridiculously too short a timescale to look at, you can still see that in the very hot El Niño year of 1998, water vapour content was noticeably higher? Do you think that might give a hint of something?

    Did you know that Roy Spencer is a creationist?

    A couple of questions about clouds: if all else is equal, and one night it’s cloudy and the next it’s clear, which night will be colder? In winter time at temperate and polar latitudes, is a cloudy day normally warmer or colder than a clear day? What makes you think that clouds are a negative feedback?

    Raven, you really nearly understood what I was saying about CO2 there. You even got your point 2 almost correct, but didn’t understand the implications of what you’d said. Orbital changes triggered a small rise in temperature. CO2 increased, because of the change in temperature, and caused a further change in temperature. You seem to understand that. So, feedbacks/amplifications exist, clearly. Now, CO2 is driving temperature increased, and other feedbacks (like water vapour and glacial retreat) will amplify those increases. You see?

    Andrew – such spectacularly unclear thinking one rarely sees. So by destroying the global economy through inaction on emissions, we will eventually stop those emissions. Yes, that is true. Wonderful. And no, the implication of our knowledge of the effect of aerosols is not the clean air acts caused global warming. CO2 is causing global warming. It’s basic science.

  • Andrew

    RW,
    1. that is the implication, that if we had continued to produce sulphates, we would have mitigated Global Warming.

    2. Attacking Roy Spencer for being a “Creationist” does you absolutely no good, it just means you have a personal reason not to like him. Non argument.

    3. “destroying the global economy through inaction on emissions” The opposite is in fact the case, but okay, fine. Believe that your going to die.

    4. “Blogs? Not good science, sorry. Quote me a result from a peer-reviewed journal that shows water vapour decreasing and I will discuss that.” Three things. First, this paper here might be of interest (which you could have found if you’d followed through Craig’s links, dumbass):

    http://climatesci.colorado.edu/publications/pdf/R-337.pdf

    Second: Show me an article that shows it increasing (not just saying so) your hypothesis is the one contradicted by the data:
    http://blogs.woodtv.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/12/screenshot_03.jpg
    (which doesn’t show, as you say, a “spike” near 1998. That was a regional data set).

    Third: Clouds can be negative feedbacks and positive ones, as the increase albedo in addition to decreasing emissivity. “Basic Science”

    And of course: You are obviously suffering from a personality disorder, given that you refer to imaginary enemies with imaginary beliefs. That you think that I’m a “denier” that it is warmer now than the past shows that you are an ignorant, arrogant, indoctrinated dolt. Yes, it is warming, but “Don’t Panic” becuase that the disaster being extrapolated from that is a non-sequitor.

    Last, care to address that your beloved models with their supposedly correct sensitivities overestimate the effect of volcanoes?

  • Andrew

    “Attacking Roy Spencer for being a “Creationist” does you absolutely no good, it just means you have a personal reason not to like him. Non argument.”

    More to the point, belief in untestable hypotheses doesn’t make one unscientific. Many famous astronomers were also astrologers. Newton studied Alchemy (and incidentally, believed in God, though not the trinity, despite this actually contradicting Classical physics).

  • RW

    Ooooh! So touchy and aggressive! dumbass…obviously suffering from a personality disorder…ignorant, arrogant, indoctrinated dolt – and then you say that I’m attacking Roy Spencer because I have a personal reason to dislike him. belief in untestable hypotheses doesn’t make one unscientific – oh, but it does – ever heard of the scientific method? Untestable hypotheses are not part of it.

    The implication is not that we should not have decreased aerosol output, but that we should also have decreased CO2 output. I’m amazed I had to actually spell that out.

    Aha, so in your first post we had more clouds (i.e. Negative Cloud Feedback), but now that you’ve considered a couple of real world examples you seem to have realised that Clouds can be negative feedbacks and positive ones. That’s good. Well done.

    You seem to believe that economies can only grow if they emit carbon dioxide. Why do you believe this? Do you oppose the use of non-carbon emitting energy generation?

    Second: Show me an article that shows it increasing (not just saying so) your hypothesis is the one contradicted by the data: – that sentence doesn’t make sense at all.

    Finally: fuckwit. See, I can call you rude things as well. Doesn’t that make for an intelligent debate?

  • Andrew

    RW: So, I suppose, that you don’t care that you are now dismissing many great scientists for believing in things they couldn’t prove? I didn’t say that makes the belief scientific, but I said that it doesn’t disqualify them from science all together. Look, calling Roy a Creationist is little more than ad hominem, sure sign that you have no firm intellectual ground to stand on. “you seem to have realized that Clouds can be negative feedbacks and positive ones. That’s good. Well done.” And in your post, you seemed to be insisting that they could only be positive. So now that you see that clouds can be negative feedbacks, I suppose you’ve grown to. The issue is, what kind of feedback do they add up to int the end? If you think you know the answer to that your wrong.

    “You seem to believe that economies can only grow if they emit carbon dioxide. Why do you believe this? Do you oppose the use of non-carbon emitting energy generation?” No, but I should clarify. When these things are *voluntary* not mandated, and when the come about becuase they are more viable than the alternatives, they do well. Why do you think that alternative energy hasn’t been used from the beginning? Because it wasn’t profitable, and to a large degree it still isn’t. In your world, I suppose, you believe that if something is good but not profitable, the government should force people not to profit by using it, right?

    No, it does not follow that we have to decrease CO2 emissions becuase of Global Warming. As I said, we could mitigate it just as well by stepping up Sulphate/Aerosol production. Or do you dispute that Sulphates cause cooling now? Let me guess, the reason you don’t want to do that instead is becuase you don’t want to lose antipollution regulation, just make more.

    Yes, your hypothesis is contradicted by the data! Look at the link! How do you explain how ~globally~ water vapor content isn’t higher now than it was ten years ago, or even twenty?

    Lastly, I am rude, get over it. And you’re rude too, so I’ll get over that.

  • Raven

    RW says:
    “Orbital changes triggered a small rise in temperature. CO2 increased, because of the change in temperature, and caused a further change in temperature. You seem to understand that. So, feedbacks/amplifications exist, clearly. Now, CO2 is driving temperature increased, and other feedbacks (like water vapour and glacial retreat) will amplify those increases. You see?”

    Your explaination falls apart because it does not explain how the planet could possibly cool again. If orbital forcings were weak compared to CO2 forcings + feedbacks then orbital forcings could not have caused the planet to cool again. But we know the planet cooled so we know that either CO2 forcings are much weaker than you claim or that strong negative feedbacks exist as well.

    Either way your claims are obviously wrong.

  • RW

    Raven: again, you come so close to understanding. Cooling does not require negative feedbacks in the way you seem to think. A negative feedback is one in which something reduces the magnitude of a variation. The magnitude of cooling which leads to an ice age is far too large to be caused by orbital changes alone, so you require something to increase the magnitude of the cooling, just as you did with the warming. A cooling atmosphere and ocean leads to take-up of CO2 into the ocean, and increasing ice coverage, which both lead to more cooling, etc. Again, we have a positive feedback effect.

    Andrew: it’s one thing to be rude and quite another to just be gratuitously abusive as a means of trying to bolster your very weak arguments. It is decidedly unintelligent, will not lead to any kind of sensible debate, and will hardly encourage any objective reader to give your views credence.

    You don’t understand what ad hominem attacks are. If I said ‘don’t trust Roy Spencer – his armpits smell and he is fat and bald’, that would be an ad hominem attack. However, if I say ‘don’t trust Roy Spencer on scientific questions because he openly admits that he does not believe in natural selection’, that is not. Do you understand the difference?

    If I seemed to be saying the clouds could only be a positive feedback, then you must have misinterpreted what I was saying.

    Why carry on emitting aerosols instead of cutting CO2 as a solution to the problems we face? Well, let’s think of a simple one to start off with: ever heard of acid rain?

    If something is highly profitable now, but will only be profitable for a short time and will then cause heavy losses if continued, do you think it is something that should be encouraged? If there is something that will require investment to start with but will lead to great benefits later, is that inevitably less desirable than the first thing? If something is highly profitable for a few people but leads to poverty and hardship for a much larger group of people, is that a good thing? Do you trust corporations and governments to always choose what is best without any guidance?

  • Andrew

    “You don’t understand what ad hominem attacks are. If I said ‘don’t trust Roy Spencer – his armpits smell and he is fat and bald’, that would be an ad hominem attack. However, if I say ‘don’t trust Roy Spencer on scientific questions because he openly admits that he does not believe in natural selection’, that is not. Do you understand the difference?”

    I don’t understand the difference? There isn’t one! I might understand if you said that when it comes to biology he doesn’t know what he is talking about, but not anything else. I find it absurd that you are defending this argument!

    As for Acid Rain, so you seem to be saying “Look, icky pollution bad, okay?” Fine, you don’t like that solution. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t one.

    You have yet to actually refute my “weak arguments” so I don’t understand why you carry on whining about how rude I happen to be. You are rude too, but your arguments are actually weak, becuase, as I said, and you failed to address,

    1. Measurements do not indicate an increase in humidity, so where is the positive water vapor feedback?

    2. Models overestimate the effect of volcanoes. Explain why this would be, please.

    Lastly, Raven is saying that if CO2 were a large effect due to lots of positive feedback, it should be able to completely overcome the cooling caused by changes in orbit. After all, Warming -> More CO2 -> More Warming -> More CO2 is obviously a feedback loop that should carry on forever, making it difficult, if not impossible, to bring temperatures back to where they were originally. But that is exactly what happens every time! Temperatures don’t run away, they don’t stay high, they don’t constantly rise. Other effects are more important and high positive feedbacks obviously don’t dominate.

    “Do you…governments to always choose what is best…?” Of course not, which is why I’m opposed to governments making that choice too. I have left out the ridiculous parts of what you just said that I can’t agree with. “Guidance” makes no sense. Who is to decide who “guides” people in how to live their lives? This is a deeply disturbing totalitarian/fascistic statement on your part. As for “will then cause heavy losses if continued” it is your burden to demonstrate that this will be the case. Further, you seem to misunderstand how markets work. If something causes heavy losses after profits, no one will do it after they try once, becuase they see what happens.

    “If there is something that will require investment to start with but will lead to great benefits later, is that inevitably less desirable than the first thing?” What are you talking about? Certainly can’t be Global Warming regulation! Benefits must out weigh costs, so the “small investment”, that is, trillions of dollars, must outweigh the benefits, in this case tiny theoretical reductions in global temperatures. Do a cost benefit analysis of Kyoto, for instance. It isn’t trivial to calculate. The reductions are small, for a very large price.

  • RW

    Wow, you really didn’t understand the difference between attacking a person’s appearance and attacking their scientific credibility? Then you’re much more stupid than I gave you credit for.

    You don’t think that acid rain is a bad thing? You think that more aerosols for less warming and more acid rain is a good solution to a problem? Again, much more stupid than I gave you credit for.

    You quoted some measurements of water vapour content over the last ten or twenty years. They clearly showed an increase in water vapour content due to the very hot El Niño year of 1998. As for volcanoes, try reading some journals. Do basic research for yourself, rather than expecting to be spoonfed and taking your cues from climate change deniers. Here are a couple of suggested links:

    http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2002Sci…296..727S
    http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2002JGRD..107.4073Y

    You don’t understand feedback. I tried to explain before that in climate, it is not like the everyday use of the word in reference to things like amplifiers and microphones, but you obviously didn’t listen. No, the CO2 feedback loop is not obviously a feedback loop that should carry on forever. Why should it be? And no, the statement if CO2 were a large effect due to lots of positive feedback, it should be able to completely overcome the cooling caused by changes in orbit is not true and barely makes any sense at all. You’re pretty dense so I’ll say again what I said before: A cooling atmosphere and ocean leads to take-up of CO2 into the ocean, and increasing ice coverage, which both lead to more cooling, etc. Again, we have a positive feedback effect. CO2 amplifies the changes caused by orbital changes, at the beginning and end of ice ages. That is positive feedback and it’s very well established in the climate record. Do you understand that?

    You don’t trust governments but you apparently do trust corporations. I think that gives a hint that your politics might well be behind your climate change denial.

  • Andrew

    “A cooling atmosphere and ocean leads to take-up of CO2 into the ocean, and increasing ice coverage, which both lead to more cooling, etc. Again, we have a positive feedback effect” Runs in the wrong direction. What causes the cooling in the first place, if atmospheric CO2 is still rising?

    Read some Journals? Again, you didn’t follow through with my links, so you have no clue what your talking about, and haven’t managed to rebut anything I said!

    No, the data I linked to don’t show a “spike” in water vapor in 1998 that is higher than anything else, the show a decline since 1980!

    Your are being hypocritical calling be stupid, given that you complained about me being rude. Drop this “denier” crap too.

    The fact that you have something against “corporations” suggest some politics behind your position.

    On feedback, by the way, you ask why it should be that in a positive feedback loop the process shouldn’t be able to reverse. It can only reverse if the feedbacks are not large, and the other effects out weigh it. I didn’t bring up microphones, but how is it that they are different? Are you a microphone expert, and can explain?

    “Wow, you really didn’t understand the difference between attacking a person’s appearance and attacking their scientific credibility?”

    No, I just fail to see how attacking a person for having unorthodox beliefs about one thing carries over to another discipline. Explain why I shouldn’t listen to ANYTHING someone says just becuase they are a “Creationist”.

    If you seriously think that you are not attacking the person and not the argument, you are more stupid than I gave you credit for.

  • Andrew

    Oh, also, I said “fine” to the idea that you find Aerosols to be an unacceptable solution becuase of Acid Rain. But again, it doesn’t change the fact that it would “work”. Why can you object to certain “harmful” “solutions” but I can’t?

  • Raven

    RW says
    “A cooling atmosphere and ocean leads to take-up of CO2 into the ocean, and increasing ice coverage, which both lead to more cooling, etc. Again, we have a positive feedback effect.”

    The positive from CO2 feedback does not become a factor for 1000+ years. In the meantime you need a fairly strong forcing to lower the temperature after it has been raised by CO2.

    A more plausible explaination would consider the effect of water vapour. For example, the models claim that CO2 induced warming causes more water vapour which leads to more warming. If the models are correct then warming/cooling due to orbital forcings should also cause the water vapour to increase/decrease. This would lead to the positive feedback cycle that you seem to think is so important. Eventually, the oceans would respond by absorbing/releasing CO2 and that would add some additional feedback. However, CO2 would not be the main driver.

    In other words, if you want to claim that amplification from water vapour as part of the CO2 effect then you must also count that as part of the orbital forcing. Excluding water vapour feedback from the orbital forcing and attributing all of it to CO2 not justified given the fact that CO2 lags temperature by 1000+ years. Someone looking at the evidence without a political cause to promote would likely attribute most of the water vapour feedback to the orbital forcing and not the CO2 because the orbital forcing came first.

  • RW

    Andrew: you trust creationists, distrust governments, fail to see a visible spike in a dataset you’re pushing, don’t accept the existence of feedbacks in the climate system, and can’t even understand how they work in principle. You are rather typical of many climate change deniers, sadly.

    Raven: I think you misunderstand the term ‘forcing’. It refers to changes in irradiance, not absolute numbers. For a system in equilibrium there are no forcings. In any system in equilibrium it only requires a small change in forcing to move the system out of equilibrium.

  • Stevo

    Argumentum ad hominem is any argument that addresses the arguer, rather than the argument. The distinction Andrew sought to introduce was between the ad hominem abusive, and ad hominems generally. (Although some people might regard an accusation of Creationism as abuse.)

    An attack on someone’s credibility is only ever effective against an argument from authority, which is itself a fallacy. (Such as the one about requiring peer review.) It is perfectly possible for a person to put forward both correct and incorrect arguments; the incorrectness of one says nothing about the correctness of the others. And it is perfectly possible for a person to be a reliable expert on one topic and completely wrong on another, so a person being religious does not disqualify them from being reliably correct in every other field.

    Global Warming science is a veritable cornucopia of fallacies. Correlation implies causation, argument from peer reviewed authority, ad hominem argument from oil-industry funding, regression fallacy, fallacy of the single cause, appeal to ridicule, petitio principii, the ecological fallacy (in using the global mean temperature anomaly as input to nonlinear effects), false dilemma, and so on.

    Regarding ice ages and CO2 feedback. According to current dogma, water vapour triples the effects of CO2. So since warming at the end of an ice age will (by dogma) increase water vapour immediately, and CO2 apparently only after hundreds of years (since otherwise it would be absorbed by the oceans faster today), then one has to conclude that between 70% and 100% of that feedback had nothing to do with CO2, and that you can’t disentangle how much each contributes from looking at the ice age curves. When you add in other feedbacks like ice-sheet albedo, evaporative and convective heat transfer, changed ocean currents, and so on, the CO2 contribution is going to be down in the 5-10% noise. How is it possible to say that the magnitude of the sudden temperature rise cannot be explained without it?

    And if you messed that one up, what are we to think of all your other facts/arguments? ;)

  • Raven

    RW says:
    “I think you misunderstand the term ‘forcing’. It refers to changes in irradiance, not absolute numbers.”

    Does not really make a different to my point. If we assume (an assumption which is not necessarily reasonable) that no other significant feedbacks and forcings exist then we can say that the actual temperature is a result orbital forcing + CO2 forcing + water vapour feedback. Water vapour feedback is the result of rising temperatures and does not have any special association with CO2.

    A more reasonable interpretation of the process would describe how orbital forcings produced water vapour related feedbacks which amplified the warming. CO2 based amplification came later and accelerated the process, however, its effect would be small compared to the water vapour based feedbacks triggered by the initial orbital forcing.

    In other words, your claim that orbital forcings only have a small effect is a self serving claim that ignores the fact that the water vapour feedback would have occurred in an atomosphere without any CO2. This means it is not reasonable to take all of the water vapour feedback and claim it as part of the ‘CO2 induced warming’. Most of the water vapour feedback should be attributed to the orbital forcing since it came first.

  • RW

    Stevo: if Roy Spencer was merely religious that would be one thing. But if he believes in creationism over natural selection then that is a demonstration that he does not follow the scientific method and is therefore not a good person to consult about science. Would you buy a used car from someone who thought the Ford Edsel was a top-notch motor? Or a computer from a salesman who was offering you a ZX spectrum?

    If you’re going to use the word ‘dogma’ in connection with current knowledge on climate change then I strongly suspect that you will not be persuaded by anything I say, so I won’t even try. Suffice to say, you are wrong, and the answer is in the timescales involved. You’ve simply plucked these figures of ’70-100%’ and ‘5-10%’ out of the air, and they are not accurate.

    Raven: it does make a difference. Your statement you need a fairly strong forcing to lower the temperature after it has been raised by CO2 is not true, and is clearly the result of your misunderstand of the definition of forcing.

    You say that Most of the water vapour feedback should be attributed to the orbital forcing since it came first. – are you talking about the warming at the end of ice ages or the warming now? The forcing due to orbital changes over the last 150 years is negligible.

  • Raven

    RW says
    “Your statement you need a fairly strong forcing to lower the temperature after it has been raised by CO2 is not true, and is clearly the result of your misunderstand of the definition of forcing.”

    I made two claims – that either CO2 is a weak driver or that a strong driver would be required to to overcome its effect. The models claim that water vapour amplifies temperature changes. If the models are correct then water vapour would amplify the orbital forcings. This would make CO2 a weak driver since the water vapour feedback is primarily a result of the orbital forcing.

    The distinction I am making about attributing water vapour feedback is relevant today because modellers use the ice age data to estimate the sensitivity of the climate to CO2. This means the modellers over estimate the sensitivity of CO2 if they assume that all of the water vapour feedback is due to CO2 instead of allocating a large portion to the orbital changes. As a result, we should expect to see the actual temperatures increase much less than what the models predict. The temperature data collected to date suggests that the CO2 effect has been over estimated.

  • RW

    You’re wrong. The choice you pose is invalid and you still don’t understand that forcings are changes in radiative balance. If CO2 concentrations were constant, then only a small negative forcing would be required to cool the atmosphere, no matter what the CO2 concentrations were. Regarding orbital forcings, you still haven’t said whether you’re talking about ice ages or now, and you still seem to think that orbital changes are driving today’s warming. They are not.

  • Stevo

    RW,

    It shows that he does not follow the scientific method in religious matters, or as a matter of principle in all matters. Whether he follows it in doing climatology is undetermined.

    Your salesman examples don’t work, because the expertise being claimed is for the same topic. You should ask whether you would buy a second hand car off someone who thought the ZX Spectrum was a great computer, or a PC off a salesman who drove a vintage car. And any either case, it’s still ad hominem because it doesn’t address the argument. If the salesman says this PC is bad because it has a small disk drive and you reply that in fact it’s got a big one, that’s one thing. But if you say it’s not a bad computer because the critic drives a rubbish car…

    The figure 70% is approximate and from the x3 climate sensitivity that the modellers claim, and Coyote’s film is about. That it is in doubt is the subject of this post, so I could hardly quote it without question, could I?

  • RW

    No, what it shows is that when faced with a scientific question like ‘how do species arise’, he has not followed the scientific method to arrive at what he believes in. His scientific credibility is the problem here. He has shown that the scientific method, falsifiable hypotheses and evidence-based conclusions, are not important to him.

    You claim that according to current dogma, water vapour triples the effects of CO2. This seems to be where your fictional ’70-100%’ came from. This claim is not true.

  • Raven

    RW says:
    “Regarding orbital forcings, you still haven’t said whether you’re talking about ice ages or now, and you still seem to think that orbital changes are driving today’s warming.”

    I have said no such thing. I have been responding to original comment:

    “For example, you cannot understand the rapid warming seen at the end of an ice age unless you include the effect of CO2 as a feedback in your calculations. A warming caused by a small orbital change leads to the release of CO2 from the oceans. That CO2 causes more warming, which causes more CO2 to be released, and so on, until you have warmed the earth by approximately 10C and the new equilibrium is an interglacial period.”

    Your comment is completely wrong because a small orbital change would trigger other feedbacks such as water vapour. These feedbacks are the cause most of the 10C warming and CO2 is just a bit player that joins the party 1000 years later. Any CO2 sensitivity estimate calculated by assuming that CO2 was the major driver would be an over estimate.

    My argument regarding the need for a strong forcing to overcome CO2 was an IF … THEN … argument (IF CO2 is the primary driver THEN a strong forcing would be required). It was an attempt to demonstrate that your claims are logically inconsistent. In reality, the physics of CO2 show it is a weak driver on its own and is only discussed because of amplification caused by other feedback such as water vapour. This is where your argument falls completely apart because these other feedbacks amplify any forcing including a change in irradiance caused by an orbital variation.

    There is no logical or scientific basis for attributing all of the water vapour feedbacks to CO2 – logically these feedbacks should be attributed to the orbital forcing change since it was the trigger for the temperature changes.

  • Stevo

    RW,

    I’ll say it again. That he has not followed the scientific method on one question does not in any way imply he has not followed it on any other, or that any of those arguments is thereby more or less likely to be false.

    And “scientific credibility” is not the issue. Anyone who relies on argument from authority of any form is not following the scientific process. Anyone who demands or relies upon peer review is not following the scientific process. Or who judges the truth of theories on the basis of their proponents’ qualifications, religion, hobbies, employers, gender, politics, age, number of publications, citation count, or the eloquence and aesthetic professionalism of presentation. Authority is the precise, diametrical opposite of the scientific process, and what it was originally created to fight. Anyone who uses such an argument, as far as I’m concerned, has just shot their “scientific credibility” to pieces. But I still wouldn’t reject their other arguments (should they make any) as necessarily false or unworthy of consideration on that basis.

    Nullius in verba, as real scientists used to say.

  • RW

    CO2 is a bit player is it? Do you have some calculations that show that?

    How do my arguments fall apart? If you believe that feedbacks in the system can amplify small changes in irradiance into an ice age or the end of it, then why don’t you believe that feedbacks will also amplify the much larger changes in irradiance currently being caused by CO2?

    Again you misunderstand the situation. At the ends of ice ages, no-one attributes the water vapour feedback to CO2. Who did you think did that? CO2 in those situation is itself a feedback. But CO2 today is not a feedback, it’s a forcing.

  • RW

    Stevo: yes, and if a con man ripped you off once, that would be no reason at all not to invest some money with him in the future. It’s your choice. It’s not one I would make, and it’s not one that I would recommend anyone make.

  • Chris Schoneveld

    The religious belief of a person is of no consequence when judging that person’s expertise on other subjects.

    Would we dismiss all the great Jewish scientists because they believe in a vain God that gave Moses a tablet with the 10 commandments? Any religion is devoid of any credibility whether it is Christian creationism, Catholic belief in the Virgin Mary or whether the illiterate Mohammed could have received all his “wisdom” from Allah to write the Koran.

    Are all Muslim scientists or all Hindu scientists suspect because they have a belief that is ridiculous from an rationalist’s point of view? Why single out the creationists, they are just as much indoctrinated during childhood as all other people who believe in a God. It does not necessarily affect their knowledge or good judgment as scientists.

    I, on the other hand, regard any argument by people who use the word “denialist”, when referring to people who are skeptical of human’s influence on climate, with great suspicion because it is a clear indication of a biased and intolerant stance. Keep that in mind RW. And by the way, why do you call yourself RW? What’s wrong with giving your full name? But to be fair this applies to others as well. Why the anonymity in blogs?

    Regards Chris Schoneveld

  • RW

    Religious belief is of no consequence except where it conflicts with science. Believing in creationism conflicts with science. Therefore I do not think Roy Spencer is a good scientist. Therefore I do not trust what he says about global warming.

    People who are sceptical of humanity’s influence on the climate either haven’t read or haven’t fully appreciated the evidence available. In a similar way, people who are sceptical of nature’s ability to naturally select and to speciate, also either haven’t read or haven’t fully appreciated the evidence available.

  • Stevo

    RW,

    CO2 may or may not be a bit player today, but I was only talking about the ice ages here. The basic idea is that water vapour is a big lever that amplifies small changes in temperature into big ones, and that as a result most of the change is a consequence of water vapour feedback. CO2 on its own would increase temperatures about 1.1C, but because of water vapour, that 1.1C becomes 3C or more, so they say. So 70% of the effect is “due” to water vapour, even though water vapour is “due” to CO2.

    But in the ice ages, the CO2 shifts long after the initial change in temperatures. At first, all the feedback is due to water vapour. Later, as CO2 rises, some feedback will be due to water vapour and some due to CO2, and each will cause further rises in the other. If CO2 rose instantaneously then the situation would be as today, with whatever temperature rise the CO2 contributed being tripled by more water vapour, on top of the orbital change plus water vapour already there. Since there’s a lag, for most of the time the CO2 will contribute less.

    The AGW argument is mainly about the existence of the big lever. The bigger the lever, the stronger the AGW argument is and the more dangerous CO2 is today. But at the same time, the bigger the lever, the less CO2 contributed to the ice ages in comparison.

    Put it another way – over the ice ages the CO2 concentration varied from 180 to 280 ppm, a 55% increase. Our present day 380ppm is a further 35% increase, which is nearly as big. So if a large chunk of the 10 degree temperature jump involved in ice ages is down to CO2 plus feedback, why hasn’t the temperature this past century jumped 6 degrees instead of 0.6?

    Because obviously a 55% increase in CO2 only contributes about a degree to temperatures (as observed today), and therefore only about a degree out of that 10 degrees during the ice age was directly due to the change in CO2. All the rest was solar forcing, and water vapour and ice albedo feedback responding to that forcing.

    None of this contradicts the official story, so far as I can tell.

  • chris Schoneveld

    RW,
    Any religious belief conflicts with science!!!! Why do you single out creationism? You don’t seem to get it, do you?
    Chris

  • RW

    Raven: the temperature hasn’t jumped that much because a) the relation between increased temperature and increased CO2 is logarithmic; b) the rise in CO2 has not yet had its full effect due to thermal inertia; and c) not all of that rise was due to CO2 as you say. You say that At first, all the feedback is due to water vapour but that’s not so. Water vapour is not the only feedback by any means.

    Chris: plenty of religious beliefs do not conflict with science. Why does my description of belief in creationism as incompatible with being a good scientist irk you so much?

  • Stevo

    RW,

    I assume you’re talking to me, not Raven.
    First, I’d already taken account of the relationship being logarithmic by speaking of percentage changes rather than absolute differences. Second, thermal inertia does not delay things for so very long. The day is hottest at 2pm, a few hours after the maximum input. The year is hottest at the end of July (in the NH) about a month after the summer maximum. 30 degree changes occurring within a year are common, let alone one or two degrees. Volcanic eruptions act to cool the climate over about 18 months, not decades. And you could detect a large heat flow into the sea through a dramatic change in thermal expansion causing rising sea levels, which has not so far shown up. I don’t know if you’d consider that as proof, (I’m not sure I do), but I think you need to give a bit more justification (with equations) for the claim that a lot of extra heat is going into the sea before I’m prepared to accept it. About 5 years delay was the number I’d last heard being argued for, which doesn’t change my argument significantly.

    Regarding not all the rise being due to CO2 or all of the feedback being water vapour – quite right! Having mentioned a few of the others earlier with a “and so on”, I’m afraid I simplified for brevity and comprehensibility. My apologies! :)

  • RW

    Sorry, yes, I thought you were Raven for a moment there.

    Thermal inertia does have a very significant effect. Whether you live by the sea or a thousand miles inland, the hottest part of the day will still come a couple of hours after the sun reaches its maximum altitude, but all else being equal it will be considerably hotter inland. The thermal inertia of the oceans is the reason for the distinction between maritime and continental climates.

    We have the diurnal change in irradiation from ~1360 to 0 W/m2, the annual variation of +- ~7%, and a long term secular trend due to CO2. You said yourself that the temperature lags the first effect by a matter of hours and the second by a matter of weeks. What do you expect the lag to be behind the third effect? It’s known that at the end of ice ages, the lag between the initial warming and the outgassing of CO2 is about 800 years. Thermal inertia operates on those timescales as well.

    I think there is plenty of evidence for energy input into the oceans. Sea surface temperature anomalies show that the oceans are much warmer than they were thirty years ago: http://www.realclimate.org/tar_fig_2_6.gif. Rising sea levels are observed and can partly be attributed to thermal expansion. Sea levels are rising at an increasing rate (Church and White, 2006, GRL). Hurricane intensities are found to be increasing, in a way that seems strongly linked to the increases in sea surface temperature (Emmanuel, 2005, Nature).

  • BB

    Getting back to the second thing one must believe (re: aerosols) Both the GISS and HadCRUT data sets show much less cooling in the southern hemisphere during the 1945 – 1975 period.

  • Jacob

    That’s some pretty good skepticism. However, I do find some faults with it:

    A) “Nearly all the man-made cooling aerosols are in the northern hemisphere, meaning that most all the cooling effect should be there — but the northern hemisphere has actually exhibited most of the world’s warming over the past 30 years, while the south has hardly warmed at all.”

    The reason the south has hardly warmed is because it’s mostly ocean. It has a high heat capacity since it’s deep, so it warms very slowly. Indeed, if the climate skeptic is right about the effect of aerosols being concentrated in the North, then that’s quite worrisome.

    Starting with these postulates:

    1) Aerosols have a limited effect because they do not concentrate over time due to their short residency in the atmosphere;

    2) The North responds more rapidly to forcings than the South because it has a much lower thermal inertia;

    3) The North is warming faster than the South (and indeed, both trends appear to be accelerating);

    4) The North is subjected to greater aerosol cooling than the South.

    Some things should be immediately obvious. First of all it means that the effect of aerosols will become less and less significant over time as their concentration in the atmosphere stays relatively stable while greenhouse gasses compound themselves. Secondly, it means that the effect of aerosols even at their strongest (in the North) is not enough to counter the warming effect. And while it may not seem like the South is warming much, it is still absorbing a lot of heat – that heat is just slow to manifest itself as a temperature increase because it is distributed over such a large volume of ocean.

    So I see no reason not to be concerned about this.

    B) Since the climate skeptic agrees that the science of the “greenhouse effect” has firm grounding, I suggest that this means that strong positive feedbacks, in some form or another, are unavoidable and that the paleoclimate record shows strong support of this.

    Take the example of permafrost. An almost unbelievable amount of methane (a potent climate driver) is trapped in the frozen Siberian bog. This is, to me, a rather ridiculously obvious positive feedback which alone has the potential to act as a “tipping point”. That is, the permafrost melts, and releases methane, and warms up the Earth further until all the permafrost has melted.

    Unlike water vapour, methane does not have numerous complicated interactions with other elements of the climate (at least as far as I am aware), so the plausibility of a feedback like this is pretty easy to discern (although putting a date on when it will happen is not easy). But once you have one feedback, other feedbacks become stronger as well; I’m sure you’ve heard of the ice-albedo feedback, where melting ice increases the amount of incoming solar radiation that is absorbed. The higher the temperature gets, the easier it is to tell that positive feedbacks will kick in.

    There’s examples of this that go the opposite way too; it’s called the “snowball Earth” effect. Some stimulus – reduced solar radiation, perhaps, or continental drift – induces an initial temperature reduction, which compounds itself continuously as ice builds up on the continents.

    These processes can’t continue ad infinitum, because it only takes another short but very strong push in the opposite direction to force the Earth back toward its other stable equilibrium.

  • Daryl

    Ok this back and forth while entertaining only shows that RW is a textbook atmospheric physicist and relatively clueless when it comes to empirical validation of scientific hypothesis.

    I have had this debate with many others, the points are always the same.

    CO2 = Temperature = Water Vapour = Temperature = Water Vapour
    CO2 = Temperature = Methane = Temperature = Methane

    The atmosphere is a huge positive and negatively coupled system.

    It is hard to illustrate here but the effects are better illustrated as a three dimensional branching system with nearly every forcing creating a feedback and each feedback creates even more multiple feedbacks of both signs, additionaly the planet comes with some really effective regulators. Like precipitation, diurnal oscillations, seasonal variations, ocean transports, atmospheric expansion, solar variance, orbital excentricity then of course there is that huge black void the planet hurtles through and we radiate IR radiation into every second.

    The very notion that a system encased in a thin layer of atmosphere directly bordering on the cold emptyness of space can somehow produce a feedback that will result in a heat related catastrophe is beyond comprehension. The more plausible theory and one that is proven is that the planet will decend into an ice age, we do not have Heat Ages, we have interglacials. We are reaching the end of our current one, there is no reason to think that the current warming, man-made or otherwise can prevent it.

    In regards to Paleo-climatology, according to NOAA’s website “the best estimate is that 50% of the current 20th century warming is from greenhouse gases” based on our understanding of the past climate. Next there can be no parallels with things like the PETM 55 million years ago the atmosphere was different, the ocean currents were different, the continental positions were different so there is no common basis for current conditions.

    So if 50% of 0.6C is natural, we have 0.3C from the 38% increase in CO2 levels where does all your catastrophic predictions from CO2 go. Do the math yourself.

  • Metyu

    This is mainly directed to RW, but thanks to all for an interesting (if at times foul-mouthed!) discussion.

    RW, you said “You seem to believe that economies can only grow if they emit carbon dioxide. Why do you believe this? Do you oppose the use of non-carbon emitting energy generation?”, and coupled with much of what you have said about governments, I must assume that you are for legislated restriction of CO2. A few thoughts:

    1) No economy has grown without the use of fossil fuels. I say this particularly from the point of view of the 4-5 billion people who don’t live in developed countries, and therefore don’t have the luxury to worry about how much CO2 their cow is belching into the atmosphere.

    2) The West has economic control over developing countries and limits their access to all technology, not just the green ones. This is a contentious and complicated point but raises the question, do you just care about your own economy? Or do you care about the aforementioned 4-5 billion people?

    3) Green technologies are not cure-alls. There is little evidence available of the embodied energy of wind turbines, solar etc.

    With all your concern over feedbacks, you must realise that widespread deployment of green technologies and associated infrastructure will only increase CO2 emissions over the very time period we are so concerned about. Over the very long term these technologies may be a good thing, but we don’t have a “long term” if you are right about the effects of feedbacks.

    4) The introduction of national caps on CO2 emissions will force less-developed countries to remain reliant on the West. We will sell them green technologies, on the condition that they continue to kowtow to our desires. I could go on, but that’s probably enough to start.

    Interested in your thoughts on these issues.

    M.

  • Chris Schoneveld

    I am a bit late with my response; I don’t have the time to check for responses or read blogs on a daily basis.

    RW writes: “plenty of religious beliefs do not conflict with science. Why does my description of belief in creationism as incompatible with being a good scientist irk you so much?”

    Ok, let’s stick for the moment to Christianity, Judaism and Islam. All these three monotheistic religions make unscientific claims as to the origin (creation) of the universe. Yet thousands of reputable scientists are followers of these 3 religions. The only difference with evangelicals (who believe unquestionably in creationism) is that the less fundamental congregations are less dogmatic as to the age of the universe, however, none will denounce many of the other unscientific claims (e.g.”Virgin” Marie or that the universe is ultimately created by a God, etc.) that these religions make. So I don’t think it is right to question Roy Spencer’s credibility as a scientist because of his religious conviction, as that would disqualify 50% of the scientific community in the US and 5 % in Europe. Attack him through scientific reasoning not with ad homs!
    The ultimate irony would be if Hansen, Gavin Schmidt and Michael Mann, happen to be churchgoers and pray (a highly unscientific exercise). I wouldn’t hold that against them unless they would pray for global warming to continue since a cooling trend would be most embarrassing for them

  • Chris Schoneveld

    RW writes:”There is ample evidence that the climate system contains these amplifiers. For example, you cannot understand the rapid warming seen at the end of an ice age unless you include the effect of CO2 as a feedback in your calculations. A warming caused by a small orbital change leads to the release of CO2 from the oceans. That CO2 causes more warming, which causes more CO2 to be released, and so on, until you have warmed the earth by approximately 10C and the new equilibrium is an interglacial period”

    Like igniting a fuse which leads to an explosion? According to the Vostok ice cores there is indeed a delay of some 800 years. But what process causes the temperature to go down again 800 years before CO2 has reached its peak, if (as you allege) the small orbital changes are not capable of affecting temperatures appreciably? That’s akin to extinguishing the fuse during the explosion in an attempt to stop the explosion before all the gunpowder has ignited.

  • RW

    Metyu: to answer your points one by one:

    1. I’ll give you three examples of highly successful economies that generate a minority or none of their power from fossil fuels: Iceland, France and Norway. In the UN Human Development index, these three countries rank first, tenth and second respectively.

    2. The billions living in poverty will be some of the worst hit by rapid climate change. My own economy is strong and I am well off.

    3. I do not think it is the case that switching to non-CO2 emitting technologies will require CO2 emission to rise. I have seen no evidence to suggest that.

    4. Do you think developing countries cannot develop their own green technologies? One of the largest manufacturers of solar cells is Suntech, a Chinese company. One of the largest manufacturers of wind turbines is Suzlon, an Indian company.

    Chris Schoneveld: You can believe everything Roy Spencer says if you want to. As far as I’m concerned, anyone who describes ‘intelligent design’ as viable a theory as evolution is by definition not a scientist. No, climate feedbacks are not like lighting a fuse. What temperature drop are you referring to that occurs before CO2 has peaked?

  • Chris Schoneveld

    If the CO2 graph lags by 800 years it would imply that when the temperature has peaked the CO2 concentration hasn’t yet. So if temperature starts dropping after the T peak was reached, the CO2 is still rising for 800 years. That is the logical consequence of any lag. Or do you think the lag only applies where the temperature is rising but not where it is dropping?

  • Metyu

    RW, thank you for responding. My response to you:

    1) Norway’s economy is totally reliant on the export of fossil fuels. France is totally reliant on nuclear. I for one happen to being dating someone who had to have her thyroid removed as a result of Chernobyl fallout. That aside, nuclear requires government subsidy, which is my main reason for being against it. I don’t know much about Iceland.

    More importantly, as I said in my original point, I was talking partiularly from developing country perspective. None of the economies you mention developed without the use of fossil fuels.

    2) Nonsense. I hear this repeated time and again by AGW proponents who obviously haven’t spent any time studying the developing world. Give me some some examples, and some evidence of your belief that their problems will be any worse in the future than they are now.

    3) Can you provide me evidence of the embodied energy of wind turbines and solar and the rest.

    In addition, what you are calling for is the replacement of an enormous energy infrastructure with green technology. This will require the manufacture and distribution of said technology. Do you believe that can be done without increasing emissions?

    4) Yes, I do. For the same reason that many developing countries have to export timber, then buy it back at twice or thrice the cost after it has been processed. Have a read about Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property. See also http://www.globalissues.org/TradeRelated/SAP.asp.

    China is an anomaly for the developing world, simply because of its enormous population and strict control. And the West has been terrified of upsetting the country since it bounced back after the British burnt down its parliament in the 1860s. The development model China is following is similar to that follwed by the 8 East Asian Miracle states, before the introduction of TRIPS, TRIMS and GATS around 1994. This cannot be followed by most of the developing world – particularly those you claim will be worst hit by AGW.

    M.

  • Metyu

    To back up my point (2) above:

    I have not seen any farmer or poor person in a developing country stab themselves in the heart as a result of the weather, no matter how demanding it got for them as a result of lava/ice/wind/water.

    I have, however, seen on too many occasions people doing just that as a reaction to Western trade policies, such as those that deliberately restrict their ability to farm and care for themselves.

    The kind of policies that limit their ability to use their own resources for their own purposes.

  • Chris Schoneveld

    Ok RW. If you want to know what I think of religion and AGW followers read this essay which I wrote some time ago for a local magazine. Hold your breath, it’s long and it is controversial for two large groups in society: religious people and AGW followers. So I don’t expect much appreciation.

    THE SANCTIFICATION OF THE CLIMATE CHANGE MESSAGE

    There is a remarkable similarity between the belief in the supernatural (i.e. religion) and the belief in catastrophic man-made global warming. Indeed, both beliefs appeal to man’s moral conscience and cause in him a sense of fear, but the most striking parallel lies in the inherent uncritical acceptance of the content of these beliefs by their followers.

    Let me demonstrate this with an observation that anybody with a normal, logical mind can appreciate, or at least cannot deny. Most – if not all – cultures are characterized by their adherence to a dominant religion: Japan and China by Buddhism, India by Hinduism, the Middle East and Indonesia by Islam, Western societies by Christianity and Judaism, isolated tribal communities by other forms of animist beliefs. What this shows is the sheer inability of individuals to recognize, or accept, that the unquestioned belief in their own religion is the product of their upbringing, and thus the result of a form of childhood indoctrination. Only rare individuals are able to shake off the religion of their parents. On the strength of statistics one has to accept this observation as fact, which necessarily reduces the chance of any of these religions being credible virtually to zero. Here I paraphrase Richard Dawkins, who aptly remarked that everybody is an atheist with regard to every other religion than their own, and that the outright atheist just believes in one religion less.

    Having said this, I have to appease a large part of the populace who would argue that the universe and life must have been created one way or another and could not have come into existence by chance alone. Indeed, one cannot dismiss the possibility of a creator, but it does not negate the above line of reasoning that one’s own religion is unlikely to be the only true representation of that creator. As a matter of fact, it requires an extraordinary leap of faith, as well as a dose of arrogance or self-righteousness, to maintain that one’s own religion is the correct one. And, as I will explain below, it requires a similar attitude to believe that all the causes of earlier non-catastrophic severe climate changes have suddenly disappeared, to be supplanted by a man-made catastrophic one, purely on the basis of the voice of a politically motivated organisation like the IPCC, the Vatican of the global warming congregation.

    First of all, we have to realize the undeniable fact that climate is a naturally varying phenomenon. Even the most ardent climate change alarmist will admit that in the earth’s history global average temperatures have been much higher or much lower than today. Furthermore, if we believe the vast majority of research papers published in the last decade, there is hardly any benefit to be had from climate change or global warming. The – again undeniable – implication is that the present climate is the most beneficial one to us humans, but equally to flora and fauna in general. This is highly unlikely and unbelievably coincidental – coincidental in the sense that, in the 4.5 billion years of the earth’s existence, our modern society happens to have developed when conditions for life on earth were at an optimum. Also coincidental is that only since 1979 do we have the ability to monitor our climate accurately, with the help of satellites, and that at about the same time the global temperatures happen to have risen at a – claimed – unprecedented rate. In reality the average temperature of the upper troposphere – the part of the atmosphere most affected by greenhouse gas warming – has only risen 0.4 °C in the Northern Hemisphere and less than 0.2 °C in the Southern Hemisphere.

    One only has to Google the term “climate change” or “global warming”, in combination with any aspect of life or nature that we find likable, such as butterflies, dolphins, sea turtles, coral reefs, wine or ancient monuments, and the dire effects of global warming will become apparent, because all these things we like are reported to be in danger. If we do the same exercise with all those things we dislike or fear, such as cockroaches, feral cats, poisonous spiders, jellyfish, scorpions, storms or malaria, then we will see that they all happen to benefit or spread, thanks to global warming. The implication is that, if the opposite happened, i.e. global cooling, everything we like would thrive, and everything we dislike would suffer. Hence, fewer cockroaches, fewer jelly fish, fewer storms, but more butterflies, more dolphins, healthier coral reefs etc. Not a single person in his right mind will believe in that scenario, nor have I as yet come across anybody (whatever his state of mind) expressing a longing for this, however consistent with his present fears.

    Not asking a number of obvious questions – for which you don’t have to be a scientist to think of – such as “ how come that today’s global warming is all bad, yet the earth has gone through so many climate changes without spelling the end of species, or more specific, the polar bears?” is incomprehensible. Similarly incomprehensible is the inability of most humans to question their own religious belief. Already in 1841, it was Charles Mackay who in his famous book “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds” alluded to the fact that “whole communities suddenly fix their minds upon one object, and go mad in its pursuit; that millions of people become simultaneously impressed with one delusion, and run after it”. Indeed, most people gullibly believe in the, invariably negative, even catastrophic, effects of climate change in the same way that religion is able to maintain its influence in an age of erudition. Catastrophic global warming and religion are both subject to uncritical acceptance by the masses – a sad but clear demonstration of our susceptibility to the unbridled repetition of a single moral message, be it a plainly religious one or one with a scientific veneer.

    Such susceptibility may, in its turn, well originate from man’s innate sense of responsibility and his adherence to a common moral code – a code of which environmentalism is a direct consequence. And, since there is only so much moral baggage one can handle, this may also explain why Christian fundamentalists – especially the conservative evangelical Christians in America’s bible-belt – are less likely to believe in man-made global warming than secular socialists, who have a tendency to embrace environmentalism as a moral equivalent of religion and are unlikely to join the ranks of climate change skeptics. It is hardly surprising that few environmentalists are charmed by the likes of Bjorn Lomborg, the self-proclaimed “skeptical environmentalist” – for them a contradiction in terms.

    It appears that the Norwegian Nobel Committee has fallen prey to the same uncritical attitude by awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to the IPCC and Al Gore. The award is certainly impetuous and possibly motivated by political expediency, reminiscent of the one that landed Arafat with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994. But worst of all is the British Government’s decision to promote the idea of catastrophic climate change by means of a nation-wide distribution of Al Gore’s flawed movie to British schools – an unacceptable form of childhood indoctrination that is only surpassed in its impact on children by the above religious indoctrination. Here they missed a great opportunity to encourage a healthy debate on climate change within schools by also freely distributing The Great Global Warming Swindle documentary – a movie with fewer scientific “inaccuracies” – with the instruction that both movies have to be shown.

    To conclude, I would like to point out that, even if today’s global warming is wholly or partially anthropogenic, this would not invalidate the above argument. After all, it is the over-representation of the unfavorable effects and not the cause of climate change that gives rise to catastrophism. Yet, the alternative scenario, of global cooling, is something only few would welcome, whilst the wish for a stable climate is – in view of our knowledge of geological and historical climate data – as unrealistic as wishing for the seasons to disappear.

    Chris Schoneveld

  • RW

    1. ‘totally reliant’ is not true. Fossil fuel accounts for about 20% of Norway’s GDP. You may oppose nuclear power for ideological reasons but France, Norway and Iceland still prove the point that economic growth does not require fossil fuels.

    2. It seems pretty obvious to me that flooding has killed millions in Bangladesh and that if flooding gets more frequent due to climate change, Bangladeshis will be worse off. Drought has killed millions in Africa. If droughts get more common due to climate change, Africans will be worse off. This is not rocket science.

    3. You think that manufacture of low emissions technology accounts for a significant proportion of global CO2 emission? I don’t. Got any evidence?

    4. You do think that developing countries cannot develop technology, despite two massive examples disproving that? OK…

    Chris Schoneveld: here’s a short response to a long piece: I disagree with your assumptions, your analysis and your conclusions.