Missing the Main Arguments

Are skeptic’s really bad at making their case.  Or are warming alarmists purposely avoiding the skeptic’s best arguments?  That’s the question I am left  with after reading this Scientific American article supposedly shooting down the skeptic’s best 7 arguments.   Let’s walk very briefly through all seven.  If you don’t want to go through these individually, I will preview the ending or you can skip to it:  None of these seven include any of the most powerful or central arguments of skeptics.  At the end of this article I offer seven competing skeptics claims that never seem to get addressed.

Claim 1: Anthropogenic CO2 can’t be changing climate, because CO2 is only a trace gas in the atmosphere and the amount produced by humans is dwarfed by the amount from volcanoes and other natural sources. Water vapor is by far the most important greenhouse gas, so changes in CO2 are irrelevant.

I have never really relied on this argument, so I am not going to bother with this one.

Claim 2: The alleged “hockey stick” graph of temperatures over the past 1,600 years has been disproved. It doesn’t even acknowledge the existence of a “medieval warm period” around 1000 A.D. that was hotter than today is. Therefore, global warming is a myth.

Without digging into the detail of proxies and statistical methods, it is nearly impossible to discuss the hockey stick in 3 paragraphs.  But in the end it doesn’t matter because the author and I agree that it doesn’t matter.  The author writes:

But hypothetically, even if the hockey stick was busted… what of it? The case for anthropogenic global warming originally came from studies of climate mechanics, not from reconstructions of past temperatures seeking a cause. Warnings about current warming trends came out years before Mann’s hockey stick graph. Even if the world were incontrovertibly warmer 1,000 years ago, it would not change the fact that the recent rapid rise in CO2 explains the current episode of warming more credibly than any natural factor does—and that no natural factor seems poised to offset further warming in the years ahead.

Leaving off the very end, where he goes sailing into the aether by saying incontrovertibly that the rise in CO2 explains our current episode of warming, he says that the hockey stick isn’t really evidence at all, no matter what it says.  I agree.  But skeptics weren’t the ones who brought it up as relevant evidence, the alarmists did.  If they are walking away from it, fine.  [By the way, this is an absolutely core technique of climate science – defend a flawed analysis like a mother bear, claim it is the smoking gun that proves everything, and then when forced to finally accept that it is flawed say that it doesn’t matter.]

Claim 3: Global warming stopped a decade ago; the earth has been cooling since then.

His answer here is really an amazing bit of cognitive dissonance.   He writes:

Anyone with even a glancing familiarity with statistics should be able to spot the weaknesses of that argument. Given the extended duration of the warming trend, the expected (and observed) variations in the rate of increase and the range of uncertainties in the temperature measurements and forecasts, a decade’s worth of mild interruption is too small a deviation to prove a break in the pattern, climatologists say….

If a lull in global warming continues for another decade, would that vindicate the contrarians’ case? Not necessarily, because climate is complex.

So even a 20 year lack of warming does not disprove that CO2 is causing 0.2C – 0.25C per decade of warming or more, because natural variations could mask this or offset it somehow (offsetting therefore as much as 0.5C by natural variation in the cooling direction over two decades).

Some might ask, can’t the warming be hiding or taking some time off?  First, if the theory is right, it can’t be taking time off.  It has to warm, year in and year out.  It can hide in the deep oceans, but new technologies like the ARGO floats since 2002 have shown no increase in ocean heat content in the 6-7 years.  This is why scientists are stuck positing there is some natural phenomenon offsetting the heating with cooling.

But here is the problem, not that any warming scientists are honest enough to raise it.  Their entire argument that recent warming has been driven by CO2 (as the author confidently asserted above) is that scientists are unable to explain the warming since 1950 any other way (ie it can’t be explained by natural factors).  Leave aside that this assertion is based solely on runs of their flawed models – we will get to that later.  Look at the temperature curve for the past decades:

temperature-chart

From this we see two things.  First, warming since 1950 really means warming since about 1975-1980, since there was a flat period before that.  And, this warming over the two decades of the 80’s and 90’s was between 0.4 and 0.5C.

So, do you see the problem?  The entire foundation of global warming alarmism is based on the fact that their computer models can’t imagine anything natural that would warm things by as much as 0.4-0.5C over two decades.  But now, to save the theory, they are positing that there are natural cooling effects that will offset 0.4-0.5C over two decades.   Either natural effects can move temperatures a half degree over two decades or they can’t  (by the way, if you want a hint, look at 1910-1940, where temperatures moved 0.6C over three decades long before man put much CO2 in the air.)

Claim 4: The sun or cosmic rays are much more likely to be the real causes of global warming. After all, Mars is warming up, too.

A couple of issues here.  First, here is a great example of assuming your conclusion.

The IPCC notes that between 1750 and 2005, the radiative forcing from the sun increased by 0.12 watts/square-meter—less than a tenth of the net forcings from human activities [pdf] (1.6 W/m2).

Skeptic’s think that the net forcing numbers from human activities are over-stated, mainly due to over-assumptions of positive feedback effects.  Rather than address this issue, he just assumes the forcing number is right and then says this “proves” skeptics are wrong.

He goes on to say that Svensmark’s cosmic ray theory of cloud formation is not well proven.  I would agree with him that it is a formative theory and needs a lot more evidence and authentication before I am ready to say it represents how the world works.  Which is one reason you will see me sometimes reporting on updates on his theory but you won’t find it in my core arguments on the topic.

But the interesting thing to me is that all the arguments the author makes against Svensmark could equally well apply to anthropogenic greenhouse gas warming theories.  Both have been demonstrated in the laboratory, but it is unclear how either works in the complex climate system.  Both have a few correlations going for it historically, but no smoking gun of causation.  It is interesting the asymmetry of skepticism applied to Svensmark’s evidence vs. that of CO2 warming.

Claim 5: Climatologists conspire to hide the truth about global warming by locking away their data. Their so-called “consensus” on global warming is scientifically irrelevant because science isn’t settled by popularity.

*Shrug* Ad hominem argument, don’t really care. I have tried to be careful in all the CRU email flap to be clear that the substantial failures of scientific process don’t prove or disprove anything – they just mean that the science is not as settled as has been portrayed and that we need more transparency to let the evidence get battle-tested. I personally think a lot of it will collapse, but we actually have to still disprove it — just because it came from unethical folks does not make it wrong, any more than guys who took money from Exxon 20 years ago are automatically wrong either.

Claim 6: Climatologists have a vested interest in raising the alarm because it brings them money and prestige.

I actually think the author is naive or disingenuous to try to argue against this.  Twenty years ago, climate science was a backwater with no money and no prestige.  Now governments of the world spend billions, and Presidents know their names.  Just the fact that average people know the names James Hansen and Phil Jones and Michael Mann disproves the authors point.

However, I am more than happy to totally leave this point behind and just forget about it, if I am allowed just one playground rejoinder – you guys started it.  I am wondering why this argument was OK for years when it was skeptics and a few thousands of Exxon’s money but is now totally irrelevant when the alarmists are getting most of the funding, and the money runs up into the billions.  But, as I said, if we want to declare a truce on ad hominem funding arguments, fine by me.

Claim 7: Technological fixes, such as inventing energy sources that don’t produce CO2 or geoengineering the climate, would be more affordable, prudent ways to address climate change than reducing our carbon footprint.

I am not a big fan of geoengineering climate, any more than I am of micromanaging economics.  The same problems apply — where systems are complex and chaotic, the potential for unintended consequences are high.

Here is what he left out

So now its my turn.  I will propose my own seven skeptic’s claims that are much more at the heart of our argument but which you never, ever see addressed in these type articles.  By the way, if you think I am somehow moving the bar, see my climate speech, published before the Scientic American article, which highlights the claims below.  Or see Richard Lindzen’s excellent summary article in the WSJ.

Claim A: Nearly every scientist, skeptic and alarmist alike, agree that the first order warming from CO2 is small.  Catastrophic forecasts that demand immediate government action are based on a second theory that the climate temperature system is dominated by positive feedback.  There is little understanding of these feedbacks, at least in their net effect, and no basis for assuming feedbacks in a long-term stable system are strongly net positive.   As a note, the claim is that the net feedbacks are not positive, so demonstration of single one-off positive feedbacks, like ice albedo, are not sufficient to disprove this claim.  In particular, the role of the water cycle and cloud formation are very much in dispute.

Claim B: At no point have climate scientists ever reconciled the claims of the dendroclimatologists like Michael Mann that world temperatures were incredibly stable for thousands of years before man burned fossil fuels with the claim that the climate system is driven by very high net positive feedbacks.   There is nothing in the feedback assumptions that applies uniquely to CO2 forcing, so these feedbacks, if they exist today, should have existed in the past and almost certainly have made temperatures highly variable, if not unstable.

Claim C: On its face, the climate model assumptions (including high positive feedbacks) of substantial warming from small changes in CO2 are inconsistent with relatively modest past warming.  Scientists use what is essentially an arbitrary plug variable to handle this, assuming anthropogenic aerosols have historically masked what would be higher past warming levels.  The arbitrariness of the plug is obvious given that most models include a cooling effect of aerosols in direct proportion to their warming effect from CO2, two phenomenon that should not be linked in nature, but are linked if modelers are trying to force their climate models to balance.  Further, since aerosols are short lived and only cover about 10% of the globe’s surface in any volume, nearly heroic levels of cooling effects must be assumed, since it takes 10C of cooling from the 10% area of effect to get 1C cooling in the global averages.

Claim D: The key issue is the effect of CO2 vs. other effects in the complex climate system.  We know CO2 causes some warming in a lab, but how much on the real earth?  The main evidence climate scientists have is that their climate models are unable to replicate the warming from 1975-1998 without the use of man-made CO2 — in other words, they claim their models are unable to replicate the warming with natural factors alone.  But these models are not anywhere near good enough to be relied on for this conclusion, particularly since they admittedly leave out any number of natural factors, such as ocean cycles and longer term cycles like the one that drove the little ice age, and admit to not understanding many others, such as cloud formation.

Claim E: There are multiple alternate explanations for the 1975-1998 warming other than manmade CO2.  All likely contributed (along with CO2) but it there is no evidence to give most of the blame to Co2.  Other factors include ocean cycles (this corresponded to a PDO warm phase), the sun (this corresponded to the most intense period of the sun in the last 100 years), mankind’s land use changes (driving both urban heating effects as well as rural changes with alterations in land use), and a continuing recovery from the Little Ice Age, perhaps the coldest period in the last 5000 years.

Claim F: Climate scientists claim that the .4-.5C warming from 1975-1998 cannot have been caused natural variations.  This has never been reconciled with the fact that the 0.6C warming from 1910 to 1940 was almost certainly due mostly to natural forces.  Also, the claim that natural forcings could not have caused a 0.2C per decade warming in the 80’s and 90’s cannot be reconciled with the the current claimed natural “masking” of anthropogenic warming  that must be on the order of 0.2C per decade.

Claim G: Climate scientists are embarrassing themselves in the use of the word “climate change.”  First, the only mechanism ever expressed for CO2 to change climate is via warming.  If there is no warming, then CO2 can’t be causing climate change by any mechanism anyone has ever suggested.   So saying that “climate change is accelerating” (just Google it) when warming has stopped is disingenuous, and a false marketing effort to try to keep the alarm ringing.  Second, the attempts by scientists who should know better to identify weather events at the tails of the normal distribution and claim that these are evidence of a shift in the mean of the distribution is ridiculous.  There are no long term US trends in droughts or wet weather, nor in global cyclonic activity, nor in US tornadoes.  But every drought, hurricane, flood, or tornado is cited as evidence of accelerating climate change (see my ppt slide deck for the data).  This is absurd.

  • This is really, really good, as is almost all of your stuff that I have read. Did you send your competing seven claims to S.A.?

  • Pat Moffitt

    I would add an additional skeptical argument. There is no proof that the non-satellite temperature record is sufficiently sensitive/accurate to derive global temperature within +/-0.5C. The hacked/leaked Cru documents would appear to support this position. All of the warming assumptions and models are based on a temperature increase that may be nothing more than noise. One can make very few defnitive statements- pro or con- when the only data you have is below the level of accuracy. (The CRU stated accuracy of 0.04C should even make Jones and Mann blush). Before we yell show me the data shouldn’t we be yelling show me the accuracy of the world’s temperature measuring system? Forget about the historical data for a moment- raw or massaged- focus on the accuracy- if approaching or above 0.5C everything and I mean everything else is moot.
    If we are to start a climate debate should we not start with step one- what is our ability historically and at present to measure a global temperature value?
    If I am confused about this I would appreciate any input as to why this is not a critical issue.

  • AnonyMoose

    Please review the proper use of apostrophes. The “Climate Skeptic” site really show know how to use apostrophes around “skeptic”.

    In several places you’re using “skeptic’s” where you clearly intend “skeptics'” or “skeptics”. You’re tending to use the apostrophe correctly except with words which end with “s”.

    Sally sell’s seashell’s by the sea shore? No.

    “Are skeptic’s really bad at making their case. Or are warming alarmists purposely avoiding the skeptic’s best arguments?”
    The stated meaning is: “Are the really bad of one skeptic at making their case. Or are warming alarmists purposely avoiding the best arguments of one skeptic?”

  • stan

    “I have tried to be careful in all the CRU email flap to be clear that the substantial failures of scientific process don’t prove or disprove anything – they just mean that the science is not as settled as has been portrayed and that we need more transparency to let the evidence get battle-tested. I personally think a lot of it will collapse, but we actually have to still disprove it”

    No. Skeptics don’t have to disprove anything.

    I think that the biggest issue in this whole climate debacle is the gobsmacking incompetence of the alarmist scientists. It is remarkable that no one bothered to oversee the siting of thermometers. But it is negligent in the extreme than not a single scientist ever thought to check. What kind of scientist makes far-reaching claims about his studies without ever bothering to check his instruments? Even kids in grade school have a better understanding of the scientific method.

    Mann and company’s use of statistics has been painfully inept. The refusal of the climate science community to clean up his garbage, even after M&M and Wegman exposed the mess, is a scandal which stains the entire community. And they not only failed to police their own, they embraced the crap and smeared it all over us. They need to be called to account for the damage they have done to science.

    Now that software pros are beginning to get a look at GISS (and now CRU), it is clear that the code is crap. That amateurs were allowed to create and maintain this excrement (and in secret) is a travesty. Given the enormous stakes for society, how can the climate science community defend itself from the charge of reckless indifference –both to the people and to the science? It’s worse than mere negligence. But for a very small handful which spoke up, they all look like a bunch of bozos.

    Gross incompetence abounds. Not just in the work of the worst of the scaremongers, but with those who have a stake in maintaining the standards of scientific inquiry and failed miserably.

  • commieBob

    The Medieval Warm Period may matter.

    If the positive feedback mechanism is linear, there is no evidence to support its existence according to Lindzen. The only way to have positive feedback is if we haven’t seen it yet. The temperature has to reach some magic tipping point before positive feedback kicks in.

    For AGW, it is really important that our current temperature is unprecedented. If it was warmer in the MWP or RWP, we don’t have to worry about reaching the magic tipping point.

    I think there was good reason for Mann, Jones et al. to want to kill off the MWP. Therefore, I do think that it is important to debunk the hockey stick.

    ——————————————————————

    My favorite candidate for a non-linear feedback is as follows: Surface radiation of temperatures below approx. 30 deg. C. is mostly absorbed by water vapor. Surface temperatures above that can mostly radiate to space. This feedback is strongly negative.

    Interestingly,one of the absorbtion bands of CO2 overlaps the edge of the much broader absorbtion band of water vapor at around 30 deg. C.

    Can I think of an example of non-linear positive feedback? Sure, how about an astable multivibrator for example. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multivibrator

  • David

    You concede claim 2 too easily. I there is a MWP that had higher temperatures than now, than there is no way we are at a “tipping point”. That tipping point would have to be higher than the high point of the MWP, reducing the urgency level.

  • Bill Radcliffe

    Tom Fuller:

    Spot on. It’s a seriously good commentary. I do believe that we are in danger (climategate) of getting carried away though I do think that climategate should be a real stimulus to all of us to look at just what these guys are doing behind the curtain. There are some aspects of those emails that should lead to termination of positions – and we haven’t even got to the re-working of the data files (though we shall). If Harry is correct, I have little doubt that even the “value added” data will come up with some unfortunate results when re-run by others.

  • NormD

    If I were going to build a climate model, the first basic test that I would use to validate it would be to run it over millions of years while changing various inputs (sun, volcanoes, ?) and insure the model remained stable. Why? Because thats what the Earth has actually done.

    The next test would be inputing some historical data and evaluating how reasonable the predicted outputs were. Can I create a LIA?, MWP?, Ice Ages? What do I have to do to create these? Do my inputs match what I know of the real world?
    If I have to boost CO2 by 1000% to get a MWP then something is wrong with my model and I go back to step 1.

    Finally, if I have all these things worked out, I could start asking questions like what happens if I dump a bunch of man made CO2 into the system.

    It sounds like good fun.

    I don’t think this is what the Warmists have done. My guess is that their models never pass test 1 and they predict that we all died billions of years ago.

  • D. Ch.

    I looked up the Scientific-American article’s counter-argument to the “Mars is warming too” objection to global warming, and ended up laughing for several minutes. It occurs at the end of the reply to claim 4, is very short, and uses the same basic arguments against the importance of the measurements of Martian warming that global warming skeptics use against the importance of the measurements of terrestrial warming — namely that the temperature observations only cover a portion of Mars, their causes are poorly understood, and are too flimsy a basis for concluding that all of Mars has been warming. There is even a close analog to the Svensmark hypothesis — namely, that Martian dust storms (i.e. changes in the “cloud cover” of the Martian atmosphere), rather than increased solar radiation, may have caused the observed Martian warming. Imitation is, as always, the sincerest form of flattery, so I think it’s safe to say that, in the mind of the guy writing in Scientific American, overall data quality and Svensmark’s cosmic ray hypothesis are the most telling points made against the global warming alarmists.

    P. S. Haven’t other bodies in the solar also shown signs of warming over the last several decades? If true, this is also highly relevant to the global warming debate…

  • NormD

    Scientific American has been twisting science for decades now. I used to be a loyal subscriber but got too annoyed and canceled my subscription. I listen to their podcasts which can be interesting but are also full of political rants (Obama has restored science to its proper place, liberals are smarter than conservatives)

  • mbabbitt

    Thanks. This is a great summary of what really matters in the debate. Claim A is where I find the AGWers the most infuriating with their constant references to tipping points, to runaway positive feedbacks, just waiting for the right amount of C02 to initialize Armageddon. (Like you have stated and challenged numerous times, it is incumbent on them to show just 2or 3 long term positive feedback loops in nature.) Since they can’t claim any event in history where this occurred, they have to resort to the ” this is unprecedented” line of rhetoric.

  • hunter

    You have done a great job of demonstrating why SciAm has lost so much credbility in the past 20 years or so.

  • hunter

    I urge you to post this at the SciAm blog site, btw.

  • PaulD

    I was left with the exact same impression from the article. For the most part, it addresses strawmen arguments. To the extent it addresses important sceptic arguments, its analysis is shallow and very one-sided.
    I agree that the the hockey stick is not essential to the AGW alarmist’s scientific case. However, I agree with some of the other comments that you underestimate its importance as a piece of propaganda. It was a key part of Al Gore’s movie. It was featured prominently in the IPCC before it was debunked.
    The hockey stick is certainly relevant evidence in favor of AGW alarmism and I think it would be promoted as such if had not been debunked. While is does not by itself prove AGW, it certainly more likely that AGW is true if temperatures had been stable for over one thousand years and then began to increase just when CO2 was added.
    I find that the SA article is typical of so much of the debate. I would love to hear the AGW’s position on the many points you made in your presentation. I would love to hear their position regarding the points made by Lindzen, Spencer and Pielke. I have great difficulty finding a reasonable critique that is fair and meets the substance of the arguments set forth by informed skeptics.
    As an aside, several months ago, RealClimate had a post complaining that they were tired of debunking the same old arguments by skeptics and wonder if there were any topics they had missed. I submitted citations to an article by Lindzen, one by Spencer and one by Pielke. For my effort, my comment was deleted.

  • Klem

    What I love about these scare stories is that when they make the statement that climate change is moving faster than they previously thought, it means their previous climate studies were wrong. How can that be, I thought the science was settled?

  • Gregory Fegel

    It is a standard tactic of propagandists and unprincipled debaters such as the Global Warming alarmists to address only the weakest and most faulty of the opposing arguments, while ignoring the more powerful arguments of the opposition. Their goal is to make it appear that the weakest arguments of their opposition are the best that the opposition has to offer, and make themselves look like illustrious paragons of knowledge and logic.

    Propagandists and unprincipled debaters are much more interested in gaining the approval of the uninformed and lazy-minded masses, who are more likely to respect a handsome man in an expensive suit than to recognize superior knowledge or logic when they see it.

    Propagandists and unprincipled debaters also prefer to avoid actual debate, except with the weakest of their oponents, who offer them less real challenge and a greater opportunity to create the impression of superiority. That is why Al Gore refuses to debate Lord Monckton or any other well-educated sceptic. Al knows better than to enter a debate with someone who will expose the falsehoods he promotes.

    Since the elitists and their servants control the government, the military, the banks, industry, the media, academia, and most of the churches, none of the aforementioned institutions will abandon the Global Warming bandwagon until the majority of the population rejects Global Warming and defies the authority of those institutions by refusing to cooperate in their fraudulent and dictatorial schemes.

  • Henry Buttal

    Very well articulated! I find it somewhat shameful that SA and some of the other science magazines have taken such a simplistic (or even biased)approach. “New Science” now basically rewrites evidence in their articles (Scientist Y says X is not an outcome of GW. Gavin, how does AGW effect this…).

    The bellweather for me his Gore. He is already backing off CO2, and now talks about methane. If there is any positive movement in science to call for a complete and open reconstruction of CRU, I will have real hope. But so far, I am not holding my breath.

  • Avisame

    Excellent. The points here are very well made. I agree however with others here that you underestimate the importance of claim 2. As propaganda, the hockey stick is the single most important datum I know of that ordinary people unfamiliar with the details of the global warming debate point to in order to justify their belief in the reality of global warming. On the merits, inasmuch as the hockey stick purports to show little natural variability prior to the 20th century, it seems highly relevant to a number of arguments you make that rely on natural variability.

  • Bob Hawkins

    This seems to be SciAm’s standard approach. When Bjorn Lomborg’s “The Skeptical Environmentalist” was published, SciAm ran four articles in one issue to rebut him, under the rubric “Science Defends Itself against the Skeptical Environmentalist.” All four articles attacked him for not accepting the science of global warming.

    Thing is, he did and does completely accept the “science of global warming.” His point in the book was that, if you applied that “science” to the Kyoto treaty, you found that the Kyoto treaty would have negligible effect (the warming that otherwise would have occurred by 2100 would be delayed until 2106). Which is undeniably true, so SciAm attacked a different position which he explicitly did not hold.

    (Which BTW shows that global warming is not important to these people; the Kyoto treaty and the like are important. If it were the other way around, Lomborg would be an ally, not an enemy.)

  • JWDougherty

    I would add some other “claims” that AGW theorists really fail to address. The simplest is that AGW and particularly the scary concept of climate tipping points is contrary to empirical fact. During the past half-billion years the earth has, throughout most of that span, had far, far higher concentrations of atmospheric CO2 than at present. The present atmosphere is at an all-time geological low point for CO2 content, even with the minor contribution we are adding to the atmosphere.

    Were climate catastrophes possible through the mere abundance of CO2 the planet would presumably resemble Venus or some other insalubrious neighbprhood. It does not.

    Another point also based upon geological facts is that if one charts so-called “ice house” and “green house” climate-phase periods over the same half-billion year time span, there is no correlation between CO2 concentrations. Shaviv and Veizer provide a clear chart of these relations in the July 2003 GSA Today.

    One more argument is that although climatologists claim that the current 30-year warming trend cannot be explained except with the help of anthropic GHG inputs, neither can they explain earlier Holocene warm periods, and none those periods, the last of which was the MWP, can be addressed with the aid of anthropic GHGs. There weren’t any.

    The fact is, no anthropic signal can be separated from modern climate data until the complete complement of natural forcings and their interactions are understood. Until past warm periods are accounted for that cannot be attributed to anthropic GHGs there is simply no way to be confident that we can identify an anthropic signal in the modern climate.

  • Diogenes

    Hi,

    enjoying the website, still trying to learn.

    1. I understand the Vostok ice core shows that climate change tends to follow, not precede, warming. Is this finidng confirmed by other ice cores or tree rings etc. How do AGW advocates respond to the Vostok or other evidence int his respect?

    2. Do temperature estimates based on ice cores have the same problem of reliabiltiy as tree rings – e.g in the latter no linear relation between temp and growth, small number of samples, etc?

    3. This site suggests that there might be natural causes of warming apart from human caused increases in C02 – solar activity, PDO, etc. But “recovery from little ice age” does not seem to be a causal mechanism. Can you clarifty?

    4. Some sceptic sites argue that effect of increased C02 is logarithmic or approaches an asymptote. What is the science here?

    5. What is the evidence that it has been hotter on earth before or more Co2 on earth before?

    6. What fraction of atmospheric carbon dioxide is human caused? I understand it is marginal? If so, how do GW advocates explain how it can make a large, even crucial difference?

    7. Are there natural mechanisms whereby more co2 released into the air is naturally returned to earth and locked back into soil, plants, oceans,etc?

    8. How do AGW advocates reconcile confidence in models with inabiltiy to explain things like PDO, causes and recovery from cyclical ice ages, etc?

    looking for scientific answers here. I became sceptical some years ago, but have an open mind.

  • hunter

    The hockey stick allegedly sums up the impact of ACO2 on the climate.
    It is *the* central sales tool of AGW promotion.
    Until it is broadly seen correctly for what it is – a bogus sales prop, AGW can still come back, zombie-like, from the dead.
    That is why Mann’s pals rallied around and white-washed it. They know that if the hockey stick is seen correctly and accurately, they lose.

  • Diogenes, there is very little known about the uncertainties involved in measuring temperature from proxies like tree rings and ice cores. This is due to the fact that in order to understand such uncertainties these measurements must be repeated over and over again in a highly controlled manner. Since we’re not going to grow glaciers or wait hundreds of years to check the growth of some kinds of trees, although I wouldn’t be against it in principle, it is just about impossible to know what the error in measuring temperature from tree rings a thousand years old or CO2 from ice cores. That means when one uses such measurements as proxy data to do calculations in a model, it can be hard to know how much error one has introduced into the answer. Here is an example.

    If I measure the amount of light falling on a detector after passing through a sample I get a number n1 plus or minus an error e1. If I repeat the measurement with no sample I get another number n2 plus or minus an error e2. Now, if I want to normalize my measurement with the sample for some reason I would do the following.

    N=n1/n2

    but I need to know the uncertainty in N, therefore I do

    E= sqrt((e1)^2+(e2)^2)

    if the e1 and e2 are uncorrelated, as they are in many climate measurements.

    Now, I know e1 and e2 fairly well in this setup because 1) I’m doing the experiment right now 2) I know things like the fluctuations in signal introduced by my detection system and 3) this is a very basic physics measurement for which there is a great deal of physics known to aid my understanding.

    Now juxtapose this with the situation one finds with ice cores and tree rings. Since no one measured other parameters that might affect the growth of tree or gas concentrations, it is very hard to know what e1 or e2 or e3….would be. I mean, what is the diffusional rate constant of CO2 in ice as the glaciers pass through innumerable temperature and stress cycles? I don’t think there is much research on such things. Therefore, one can get a number, n1, for the CO2 concentration in an ice core, but it is extremely difficult to know e1. If you don’t know e1, then you can’t get E, as we did in our cursory example above.

    Now there is uncertainty in the statistics of climatology, but that almost all comes from regression analysis. The idea of propagation of errors in these models is just about completely ignored. So when some models based on tree rings or ice cores show a level of uncertainty in future temperatures, be very wary of it. I don’t think it is that meaningful.

    As for the log dependence of the response of CO2, that’s totally bunk. Such an argument relies on the physical idea that as CO2 is emitted into the atmosphere, it will absorb less and less IR light re-radiated by the earth. This effectively equates to the saturation of IR absorption. If one calculated the absorption saturation intensity of CO2, one would find it in the 10^12 W/(cm)^2 regime not to mention that one would have effectively made in CO2 laser in the atmosphere emitting in the very long wavelength range of the EM spectrum. I don’t think that the sun would ever put out that much energy in our lifetimes and if it did, we would have bigger issues than CO2 saturation.

  • commieBob

    Hi Diogenes,

    wrt point 4: The effect of increased CO2.

    The temperature of radiation is related to its wavelength. The shorter the wavelength, the higher the temperature. Blue (shorter wavelength) is hotter than red (longer wavelength) and red is hotter than infra-red (longer yet). We can see visible radiation which exists within a certain band of wavelengths. All wavelengths exist even if we can’t see them. As wavelengths get longer, we go down through infra-red, far infra-red, microwave, vhf, short wave, all the way down to almost DC.

    The wavelengths that matter for awg are infra-red. They are caused by radiation of heat from the surface of the earth. This is (roughly) black body radiation and its wavelengths can be calculated. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_body For surface temperatures around 30 deg. C. the most prevalent wavelength is around 10 microns. Imagine the peak of a bell curve.

    Different gasses absorb energy at different wavelengths. See fig. 3 at the following url. http://brneurosci.org/co2.html

    You notice that water vapor (clouds are a completely different matter) is by far the most prevalent absorber. The CO2 absorption band that we most care about (because it is near 10 microns) exists at the edge of one of water vapor’s absorption bands.

    CO2 could, if there is enough of it, absorb all the energy in a certain band of wavelengths. That means the earth would get a bit warmer. As the earth warms, the wavelengths it emits become shorter wavelength. That means CO2 won’t absorb them. That causes the earth to cool. That means we have a negative feedback. The global surface temperature will have a sticky point just above the temperature that CO2 absorbs.

  • diagones

    Thanks, Aaron, very helpful.

    Makes me wonder all the more about how reliable the climate model projections are, given their dependence on past data that is itself uncertain – and the uncertainty of which is hard to guage.

    On the second point, about the log dependence of CO2 IR absorption, just want to make sure I understand. You’re saying that there is no realistic scenarios in which this happens:

    incremental additionals of CO2 have little or no effect on climate because the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has already reached a maximum, or close to the maximum, of all the IR emitted from earth sources that CO2 absorbs.

    (
    This point that some climate sceptics argue about diminishing effect of Co2 is one I have trouble understanding, just want to see if I understand the ino you’re providing.

    Again, many thanks, and sorry if I’m being obtuse about the science on the latter point.

  • Stonyground

    I enjoyed the attempt to debunk claim #3. We predicted that between 1998 and 2009 the Earth would heat up when what actually happened was that over this period it cooled down. “Contrarians” are claiming that this proves that we are wrong, but I say that the Earth could cool for another decade and would still maintain that by saying that it would carry on warming I was right all along. Says it all really.

    As an aside, I noticed that there is someone posting here called Tom Fuller. Tom are you aware that you have a famous historical namesake? Thomas Fuller was an English Clergyman 1608-1661 who is most famous for the phrase “Charity begins at home but should not end there.” He is frequently misquoted by people who leave off the last five words of his statement and as a result completely reverse his meaning.

  • Diogenes,

    yes, I am saying that there will almost never be enough IR radiation to ‘saturate’ the greenhouse effect of CO2. The physics can get a little cumbersome, but I will try to explain what happens.

    A CO2 molecule in the atmosphere absorbs some IR light. It can do this because there are internal nuclear energy levels that have differences of energy that match the energy in this IR package of energy. After absorption, the IR energy is used to drive nuclear motion of the carbon and oxygens for some time, ie vibrations and stretches of the chemical bonds. After some time, the molecule relaxes to less and less energetic nuclear motions, coupled vibrations mostly, until it gets to an energy levels that allows emission of radiation. This re-radiated light is in the microwave region (lower energy than IR) and can either get re-absorbed for molecular rotation, by a different molecule, or travels back into space. But, most importantly, a single CO2 molecule absorbs IR and re-emits microwave or longer wavelength radiation in time period on the order of a billionth of a second. So a single CO2 molecule can absorb and re-emit a billion packages of IR light energy at the right frequency in one second.

    So, even if we put more and more CO2 in the atmosphere, the absorption process takes so little time that, given the amount of light incident on the earth from the sun, it is highly, and I mean highly, unlikely we’ll see saturation of CO2 absorption.

    I too have seen some arguments of this type and some of them are even based on some ‘data’. I saw one ‘paper’ where someone had gradually added CO2 to a sample cell in an IR spectrometer until it seemed that the sample could not absorb any more IR radiation. Unfortunately, this had nothing to do with saturation. This has to do with the optical density of this person’s sample. The optical density of a sample measures the amount of photons absorb relative to the amount of photons incident on the sample. Fortunately for us, at any conceivable rate of CO2 production there is no way we could possibly get to a level of CO2 optical density where the majority of capable IR photons (right frequency for absorption) are being absorb by CO2, but I have to admit. I don’t have any numbers to back this assertion up right now. I tried to find a good estimate for the absorption cross-section of CO2 in the IR, but there doesn’t seem to be an easy search for it. Maybe I’ll find one later and can fill you in more completely then.

  • Aaron Rury

    p.s. sorry for the extended underlined non-link. I have to brush up on my html.

  • Great artucle.

    Bob Hawkins. I agree with your analysis of Lomborg and SciAm. I would add that I think the reason the scientists hate Lomborg is that Lomborg in essence says, “Good science. Now go away so that policy people can tackle the issues.” In other words, he tells the scinetists that they are very marginal players in the discussion.

    They must hate that…

  • PaulD

    Your posts raises the question whether skeptics have done a poor job articulating their arguments. Here is something I have recently observed I follow the AGW debate carefully. I also read alot of political and economics blogs. It is my impression that since climategate broke, the quality of skeptic comments at the political and economic blogs has increased significantly. The word seems to be spreading faster that the alarmist forecasts are based on computer models that assume strong positive feedbacks with little supporting empirical evidence. I am reading many well written comments that acknowledge the earth is warming, that CO2 is a greenhouse gas that will tend to cause warming, but which challenge the alarmist forecasts based on unproven computer models.
    I am curious whether anyone else has the same impression: there seems to a significant increase in the number of thoughtful skeptics commenting on blogs.
    I am also curious whether anyone can point me to a balanced and thoughtful analysis of climate feedbacks from the AGW alarmist camp? I am serious on this question as I have read many, many articles such as the one in SA that address strawmen arguements, but virtually none that address the serious skeptic arguments.

  • Diogenes

    Thanks again, Aaron, much appreciated.

    Can anyone assist me with any of my other 8 queries, above?

    On the two points Aaron addressed, I always had trouble with the argument that proxies worked up to a few decades ago and then stopped working. At the very least, the fact that proxies don’t work today, the small sample sizes of various proxies, etc, would seem to require considerable caution about the validity of models that are retrofitted to match the data and that claim a high level of confience in their projections.

    I never understood the argument that the effect of increased CO2 (apart from any feedback with other factors) would diminish and then eventually disappear. I don’t see that argument made on this site, and from Aaron’s comments, it is not a valid one.

  • commieBob

    Hi Diogenes,

    I tried to post this yesterday. This is a condensed version.

    Check figure 3 in the following url: http://brneurosci.org/co2.html

    1 – What you see is that gasses absorb radiation only at certain wavelengths. As far as CO2 is concerned, the band of wavelengths we most care about is around 15 microns.

    2 – Earth acts as a (roughly) black body radiator. “A consequence of Wien’s displacement law is that the wavelength at which the intensity of the radiation produced by a black body is at a maximum, λmax, it is a function only of the temperature:” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_body For temperatures around 30 deg. C., imagine a bell curve whose peak is around 10 microns. As the temperature goes up, the wavelength decreases, as the temperature goes down, the wavelength increases.

    There is only so much energy at wavelengths that CO2 can absorb. When all that energy is absorbed, that’s it. Adding more CO2 won’t have much effect. (The more complicated explanation is that the energy absorbed in the atmosphere will be re-radiated both up and down.)

    Note also from the graph that water vapor (not clouds which operate by a different mechanism) is by far the most important greenhouse gas. The approx. 15 micron absorption band of CO2 overlaps one of water’s bands and that further reduces the effect of the CO2. The CO2 only increases the absorption present due to water vapor.

    The Earth’s extra heat due to CO2 increases its temperature and decreases the wavelength of its radiation. The shorter wavelength radiation is not absorbed by CO2 and effectively removes the extra heat from the system. As such, this is a strong negative feedback.

  • KevinM

    For an analysis of how data was used to create thr hockey stick, see here:

    http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2009/11/09/gistemp-a-human-view/

    I just stumbled on it yesterday, it is awesome.

  • Hunter

    You’re spewing retardedness again. Let me point out your idiocy, step by step. I predict that you will completely ignore this, proving once again that you are spectacularly unintelligent – you have never yet shown even the slightest comprehension of any actual science.

    Claim A: Nearly every scientist, skeptic and alarmist alike, agree that the first order warming from CO2 is small. Catastrophic forecasts that demand immediate government action are based on a second theory that the climate temperature system is dominated by positive feedback. There is little understanding of these feedbacks, at least in their net effect, and no basis for assuming feedbacks in a long-term stable system are strongly net positive. As a note, the claim is that the net feedbacks are not positive, so demonstration of single one-off positive feedbacks, like ice albedo, are not sufficient to disprove this claim. In particular, the role of the water cycle and cloud formation are very much in dispute.

    The climate system is not ‘long-term stable’. You repeat this over and over again like a small child. Earth’s climate has varied between forests at the poles and ice at the equator. Positive feedbacks are well understood, obvious and intuitive – except for you, it seems.

    Claim B: At no point have climate scientists ever reconciled the claims of the dendroclimatologists like Michael Mann that world temperatures were incredibly stable for thousands of years before man burned fossil fuels with the claim that the climate system is driven by very high net positive feedbacks. There is nothing in the feedback assumptions that applies uniquely to CO2 forcing, so these feedbacks, if they exist today, should have existed in the past and almost certainly have made temperatures highly variable, if not unstable.

    Observations show that the climate system is indeed highly variable and unstable. It flips from one state to another in the blink of a geological eye. Nothing is “driven” by feedbacks; you obviously have no idea what a feedback is. The climate is driven by forcings; feedbacks amplify forcings. No forcing = no climate change.

    Claim C: On its face, the climate model assumptions (including high positive feedbacks) of substantial warming from small changes in CO2 are inconsistent with relatively modest past warming. Scientists use what is essentially an arbitrary plug variable to handle this, assuming anthropogenic aerosols have historically masked what would be higher past warming levels. The arbitrariness of the plug is obvious given that most models include a cooling effect of aerosols in direct proportion to their warming effect from CO2, two phenomenon that should not be linked in nature, but are linked if modelers are trying to force their climate models to balance. Further, since aerosols are short lived and only cover about 10% of the globe’s surface in any volume, nearly heroic levels of cooling effects must be assumed, since it takes 10C of cooling from the 10% area of effect to get 1C cooling in the global averages.

    No model links aerosol cooling with CO2 warming in the way claim. Aerosols do not cover just 10% of the earth’s surface. They are not as short lived as you claim. Did you ever hear of something called Pinatubo?

    Claim D: The key issue is the effect of CO2 vs. other effects in the complex climate system. We know CO2 causes some warming in a lab, but how much on the real earth? The main evidence climate scientists have is that their climate models are unable to replicate the warming from 1975-1998 without the use of man-made CO2 — in other words, they claim their models are unable to replicate the warming with natural factors alone. But these models are not anywhere near good enough to be relied on for this conclusion, particularly since they admittedly leave out any number of natural factors, such as ocean cycles and longer term cycles like the one that drove the little ice age, and admit to not understanding many others, such as cloud formation.

    Even by your own standards of mental backwardness, this is special. You are denying that there is a greenhouse effect.

    Claim E: There are multiple alternate explanations for the 1975-1998 warming other than manmade CO2. All likely contributed (along with CO2) but it there is no evidence to give most of the blame to Co2. Other factors include ocean cycles (this corresponded to a PDO warm phase), the sun (this corresponded to the most intense period of the sun in the last 100 years), mankind’s land use changes (driving both urban heating effects as well as rural changes with alterations in land use), and a continuing recovery from the Little Ice Age, perhaps the coldest period in the last 5000 years.

    You are much too stupid to let real facts intrude into your pathetic world-view. The largest warming is seen at high northern latitudes; this is completely inconsistent with solar heating, or urban heat islands. Oceanic oscillations by definition cannot cause secular trends. Your talk of “continuing recovery” from the little ice age betrays desperate ignorance of physics; warming is not caused by itself. The concept of “recovery” does not exist in the climate system

    Claim F: Climate scientists claim that the .4-.5C warming from 1975-1998 cannot have been caused natural variations. This has never been reconciled with the fact that the 0.6C warming from 1910 to 1940 was almost certainly due mostly to natural forces. Also, the claim that natural forcings could not have caused a 0.2C per decade warming in the 80’s and 90’s cannot be reconciled with the the current claimed natural “masking” of anthropogenic warming that must be on the order of 0.2C per decade.

    The global warming observed from 1910-1940 is rather easily accounted for by three factors; 1) a lack of large volcanic eruptions; 2) increasing solar activity; 3) rising CO2 concentrations. Warming since the 1970s cannot be accounted for by factor 1: there have been several large volcanic eruptions. It cannot be accounted for by factor 2: solar activity has been declining all the time that temperatures have been rising.

    The last decade has been about 0.15°C warmer than the decade preceding it. That decade was about 0.15°C warmer than the decade that preceded it. Why must there be any natural “masking”?

    Claim G: Climate scientists are embarrassing themselves in the use of the word “climate change.” First, the only mechanism ever expressed for CO2 to change climate is via warming. If there is no warming, then CO2 can’t be causing climate change by any mechanism anyone has ever suggested. So saying that “climate change is accelerating” (just Google it) when warming has stopped is disingenuous, and a false marketing effort to try to keep the alarm ringing. Second, the attempts by scientists who should know better to identify weather events at the tails of the normal distribution and claim that these are evidence of a shift in the mean of the distribution is ridiculous. There are no long term US trends in droughts or wet weather, nor in global cyclonic activity, nor in US tornadoes. But every drought, hurricane, flood, or tornado is cited as evidence of accelerating climate change (see my ppt slide deck for the data). This is absurd.

    This is just garbled misdirected angry waffle. You clearly don’t have the intellect to grasp even basic concepts of climate; I suppose your anger comes from your inadequacy. Your views arise from pathetic ignorance and are trivially disproved.

  • bryan

    Good insults “Hunter”, I’m convinced!

  • Hunter2

    Hunter, you seem to be saying the whole article is bunk, but your insulting tone makes it hard to distinguish what you say.

    1. He has his terminology wrong. It is “forcing” not “feedbacks” that are causing warming. Well, so what? If his terminology is used in a way climate scientists don’t use it, does that invalidate his point?

    2. The climate science terminology itself is changing and confusing to no real point. Is it “Anthropomorphic Global Warming” or “Climate Change”? Those have very different meanings, as “Climate Change” is thought of as a natural process by the public, one humans don’t have much ability to change.

    3. You cite three decade periods “the decade before this one” and the two before it. What about the current decade? Also, with measurements supposedly improving, we have many data points from cities around the world for data. You can download this data from the internet. Yet we rely on some sparse thermometers and inaccurate satellites? It is clear the earth has cooled since 1998 substantially if you look at the weather data.

    4. How quick is the “blink of a geological eye”? Will we see forests on the poles in our lifetimes? What’s the quickest that temperatures have changed that dramatically? Volcanos have errupted (millions of years ago) with enough CO2 to make our current levels seem low.

    5. What about the logarithmic effect of CO2 increases by Beer’s Law? Even if we had 5 times the CO2 in the air, would that increase the temperature by all that much? How much exactly? Does it match the temperatures from when the earth did have that much CO2?
    http://brneurosci.org/co2.html

    6. Realistically, solar radiation has gone down in the last decade, hasn’t it… And that has decreased the earth’s temperature recently, right? So we know what causes some global warming and cooling. The CO2 contribution is not well understood, except that it is logarithmic and not the end of the world as we know it. I’d wager a guess that an earth 2-3 degrees warmer with more CO2 would actually be a slightly better place, as plants would grow more easily, and there would be more livable land.

    7. Your point of warming at the poles is actually a good point. I’d have to concede that one. But again, that makes the world a better place, as it makes more land livable, and the effect won’t get out of hand just as it didn’t during the mideval warming period.

    8. And anyway, the Kyoto accords and similar measures won’t help the climate in any real way, or stop CO2 emissions. Economic studies have shown existing programs to be ineffective and full of fraud. If we wanted to really stop CO2, we’d move to nuclear power or carbon neutral solutions like algea-fuels, which have their own problems. So live and let live, man. The earth will warm a limited amount and we can all just relax. If you don’t like it, make some space colonies if you believe that earth will become unlivable. Economically, a reasonable space colony would cost a fraction of the cost of the Kyoto accords… (and if it was a mining colony it may well pay for itself).

  • 3legdog

    “Are skeptic’s really bad at making their case? Or are warming alarmists purposely avoiding the skeptic’s best arguments?”

    Dude. Welcome to a gun rights advocate’s hell.

    Facts and fact-based arguments never work against those who are ruled by emotion and who let emotion drive their decision-making process. (Cue photo of lone polar bear floating on a slab of melting ice.)

    But one would expect better from those who work within the Scientific Method, no?

  • diogenes

    Is the following true or not true:

    -Carbon dioxide absorbs only in thee areas of the spectrum, amounting to about 8% of radiationin earth;

    -the amount absorbed (some of which is radiated , some of which heats the carbon dioxide molecules which then heats the air and ground it comes incontact with) does not increase in direct proportion to the amount of Co2 in the air;

    -rather, there is complete absorbtionof the whole 8% at some point;

    -as Co2 rises, that total absorption does not increase steadily or exponentially, but rather logarithmically. if you double the amount of C02, you only get a small amount of additional aborption?

    Is this summary correct? Is there a dispute between AGW advocates and sceptics on this point?

  • Hunter3

    1. He has his terminology wrong. It is “forcing” not “feedbacks” that are causing warming. Well, so what? If his terminology is used in a way climate scientists don’t use it, does that invalidate his point?

    Yes, it does.

    .

    2. The climate science terminology itself is changing and confusing to no real point. Is it “Anthropomorphic Global Warming” or “Climate Change”? Those have very different meanings, as “Climate Change” is thought of as a natural process by the public, one humans don’t have much ability to change.

    Anthropomorphic means “relating to the idea that an animal, a god, or an object has feelings or characteristics like those of a human being”. Is that the word you meant to use?

    3. You cite three decade periods “the decade before this one” and the two before it. What about the current decade? Also, with measurements supposedly improving, we have many data points from cities around the world for data. You can download this data from the internet. Yet we rely on some sparse thermometers and inaccurate satellites? It is clear the earth has cooled since 1998 substantially if you look at the weather data.

    “The last decade” means “the most recent decade”. It is clear that the decade since 1998 has been warmer than the decade preceding 1998. In common parlance, the word “cooled” is rarely used to describe such a situation.

    4. How quick is the “blink of a geological eye”? Will we see forests on the poles in our lifetimes? What’s the quickest that temperatures have changed that dramatically? Volcanos have errupted (millions of years ago) with enough CO2 to make our current levels seem low.

    Try looking up some definitions of “geological time”. No, we will not see forests on the poles in our lifetime. Ice ages end with temperature rises of about 10°C in a few hundred years.

    5. What about the logarithmic effect of CO2 increases by Beer’s Law? Even if we had 5 times the CO2 in the air, would that increase the temperature by all that much? How much exactly? Does it match the temperatures from when the earth did have that much CO2?
    http://brneurosci.org/co2.html

    What about it? Yes. No, because the luminosity of the Sun was lower back then. Do you know why the oceans didn’t freeze when the Sun was 25% dimmer?

    6. Realistically, solar radiation has gone down in the last decade, hasn’t it… And that has decreased the earth’s temperature recently, right? So we know what causes some global warming and cooling. The CO2 contribution is not well understood, except that it is logarithmic and not the end of the world as we know it. I’d wager a guess that an earth 2-3 degrees warmer with more CO2 would actually be a slightly better place, as plants would grow more easily, and there would be more livable land.

    Solar radiation has declined in accordance with the normal 11 year cycle. Have temperatures decreased accordingly? The ten warmest years in the directly measured surface temperature record are 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008. What do you notice about those years? The CO2 contribution to this phenomenon is rather well understood. Your guess is irrelevant and banal; plants do not grow more easily in droughts, coasts do not thrive when sea levels rise, and communities which rely on meltwater from glaciers tend to do badly when those glaciers disappear.

    7. Your point of warming at the poles is actually a good point. I’d have to concede that one. But again, that makes the world a better place, as it makes more land livable, and the effect won’t get out of hand just as it didn’t during the mideval warming period.

    Are equatorial regions becoming more “livable”? Do more people live in equatorial regions, or at high latitudes? What do you mean by “out of hand”?

    8. And anyway, the Kyoto accords and similar measures won’t help the climate in any real way, or stop CO2 emissions. Economic studies have shown existing programs to be ineffective and full of fraud. If we wanted to really stop CO2, we’d move to nuclear power or carbon neutral solutions like algea-fuels, which have their own problems. So live and let live, man. The earth will warm a limited amount and we can all just relax. If you don’t like it, make some space colonies if you believe that earth will become unlivable. Economically, a reasonable space colony would cost a fraction of the cost of the Kyoto accords… (and if it was a mining colony it may well pay for itself).

    As you grow up, I presume that you’ll learn how to spell first, and then later how to think. At the moment you clearly can’t do either.

  • Otter

    Good God. A whole family of jackASS hunters.

  • hunter (the original)

    Hunter(the troll),
    You were totally wrong about solar output.
    Really nothing else you offer is worth the effort.
    Your guys are caught out lying, and you are a proven idiot.
    Good luck with the meds and therapy,

  • Shez

    Hi everyone.

    I’m an interested member of Joe Public, mild-moderately educated, with no training in physics, statistics or climate science. Up til now, I have been a proponent of what you call “alarmist” science. Recently, the political presence of climate skeptics have become more vocal, and I decided I should look up your side of the story.

    I must compliment the OP for their thoughtful analysis and relative lack of ad hominem arguments. These make his contribution much easier both to swallow and to respect. When I weigh up the counterarguments, it always comes down to a final bottom line: What are the facts? Really?

    Does CO2 cause warming in the effect mentioned, or doesn’t it?
    Is the climate historically unstable or not?
    What has solar activity done over the last 50 years, or indeed 100000 years?
    How accurate are climate models in predicting the past?
    Has the earth really cooled over the last 10 years?

    What does that even mean?

    Here’s a question to you guys – I see articles on the news about how the greenland Ice shelf is thawing far faster than predicted. I see that some previously moderately cautious climate scientist are becoming more and more worried, an more radicalised. I see articles about the break up of the Ross Ice shelf. I see pictures of Glaciers vanishing over the last 30 years, and I have visited one myself. I see the pictures of the snow on top of mounth Kilamanjaro vanish, and I see interviews on TV of andean peoples increasingly worried that their farming practices are becoming untenable to due drought etc.

    Now, these can’t be all bunkum. I’ve been to a glacier, that gives credence to all the other reports. It may be that these are caused by natural fluctuations – why does this seem unlikely to me? I suppose because the glacial valley that was dug clearly to millions of years to carve out, yet now that glacier’s gone in a few decades, and we’re the main change in the world’s environment.

    I see your graph showing that a 0.6 degree warming happened in 1900 – 1950. You say it cannot be caused by CO2 levels – but the industrial revolution started not long before this, and perhaps more importantly, massive deforestation and disruption of eco systems throughout every continent started around a similar period (I thought – I could be wrong? again the facts vary according to whom you speak). Why couldn’t the 0.6 degree warming have been caused by man as well?

    The most convincing work for me with regard to conservation and climate change I ever read was not about climate change at all. It was a book called “Collapse” and it was about civilisations of the past that had caused their own demise, usually as victims of their own success. There was a native american civilisation which wrecked their environment and caused local climatic shifts through deforestation that caused droughts, hunger and the end of their world, before the Europeans arrived. There were the Easter Islanders, who forsook the warring ways of their ancestors and prospered, until their little island was completely overrun by humans who chopped down the very last tree, and again ruined their eco system utterly, and the population went from 300 000 to 3000. There were others, and the analysis was balanced, contrasting failed civilisations with other societies who did survive under similar conditions.

    This historical work convinced me that humans were not only capable, but almost psychologically programmed to over-exploit resources until their natural systems which maintain them broke and rendered them helpless, given any geographically closed system which did not allow the natural ecosystem to take up the slack. From then on, the question for me was not if humans would start to render the earth uninhabitable (given a business as usual approach), but rather, how, or in what manner, would we do it? Climate change seemed like the best mechanism to explain it.

    But once again, it relies on facts which differ according to who you speak to.

    I’m not trying to debunk you guys – you have far more technical knowledge than I do, but I would like an explanation for the facts on the ground from your perspective. I’m sorry if I sound barely literate, alarmist, or like a rabid greenie with an agenda – that’s not my intention. I only want to understand.

  • Shez,

    are pertains to your questions, I think the short answer to all of them is ‘I don’t know’.

    As a person with training in physics and statistics it seems to me very hard to find an answer that isn’t ‘I don’t know’ to any of those questions. As far as historic records are concerned, I don’t think there is any physical way to quantify the amount of uncertainty associated with ANY proxy measurements because there is no control measurement one can make. All in all, such a situation would not be acceptable in any other physical science.

    What has gotten lost in all of the media reports and glacial visits is that we are talking about a field of research that is really in its infancy. Much of what gets thrown around as truth in many chat rooms and blogs, even on reputable sites, is far from such a notion. If anything of any substance comes out of this ‘Climategate’ situation it should be that things are never as clear-cut as they seem. Newspaper articles and CNN reports on climate research will never tell you the whole story, meaning the inherent uncertainty in all of the conclusions made by researchers or, more importantly, the gross assumptions about the simplicity of the earth’s climate, realistic or not, that must be made in the name of getting an answer at all. I wish that researchers would just level with the public about most of this uncertainty and it’s this lack of transparency and honesty that really bothers me the most.

    I think the take home message, from this site at least, is that one is never wrong for being skeptical. From the few things I have read here and sites like ClimateAudit.com no one is ‘denying’ climate change or global warming. What we would like is a more thorough exploration of what can and cannot be said by the climate research community with the certainty necessary to demand political and social change to lives of the people of the planet. If we’re basing changes that will leave billions of people in poverty into the next century on simply grafting data sets together to find an answer that seems plausible I think we’re in trouble. I tend to believe that there should be a straight-forward physical explanation for why unstoppable global warming would happen without curbing the emission of CO2. I have yet to find one and when asked, most ‘experts’ simply shut down or demand I solve their problems for them. Like the justice, I tend to think the burden of proof on the accuser not the defendant.

    On a personal note, I find that, as far as science goes, climate research is serving as a proxy for science in general in the public’s eyes right now. If there are highly politicized researchers who are not abiding by the rules set for science and the public finds out, as has happened over the course of the last few weeks, it sheds a bad light on all of us. As a researcher who is funded by the US federal government, I find the whole situation very worrisome. The attitude of people like George Will who are willing to conflate predictions of cooling in the 1970’s with a complete lack of progress in current climate research capture what I fear the most. That science will spend its social and political capital backing a theory that researchers had to cut corners to produce what they deemed the ‘right’ answer.

  • eschatologist

    SOME say the world will end in fire,. Some say in ice. From what I’ve tasted of desire. I hold with those who favor fire.
    -Frost

    The important question here is whether humanity will destroy itself through global warming, or cause devastating effects that can only be halted by stopping the co2 output. The short answer is no.

    Co2 has been higher in the past, and so has the absolute temperature, and life is still around. That was not what caused any other mass extinctions. It did not cause “runaway” global warming in a hockey stick fashion. CO2 levels rising do not alone cause exponential or even linear rises in temperature.

    Humanity can “use up” resources, and we must guard against that by setting aside land and resources we do not waste.

    But can we get to “runaway global warming” due to other human activity? That is unclear, but the only argument that it must do so is that it is unknown. It’s like looking at a wrapped gift and claiming it must contain a sweater.

    Will all the bad effects such as drought and melting ice caps necessarily happen? Maybe, but probably not all.

    Over-farming has been around since farming has been. So how can we be sure we aren’t hurting the Earth?

    One of the biggest problem is that we are pooping near our tent, there is no other system besides the Earth for humans to depend on and exploit for resources and also to process our society’s waste. If we had an external system that could feed into and take things from the Earth system, we could gain better stability in the system. In other words, if we mined materials from space and exported some wastes and population to space, the Earth could be better balanced by bringing in external resources and removing extra wastes. We could be moving power generation and populations outside of the Earth.

    To make those options available, we need to balance economy and environment as best as possible. We’d need a more powerful economy to start moving things off of the earth. We more powerful economy to have the resources to fix other things that are wrong on Earth, using geo-engineering or just being well-off enough to be able to set aside resources.

    Right now we only have one test subject, just one patient, just one population. Asking all humans to cut carbon emissions is asking many humans to be uncomfortable and others to die. We cannot kill OURSELVES, as that would not save the planet or anything else… After all without intelligent life, the rest of earth life will be eventually eliminated by natural forces such as the death of the sun.

    I guess the question is: How do you want things to end up? Do you want humanity to survive or would you rather force the destruction of the economy and thus humanity’s ability to actually do anything about climate change or anything else?