Climate Goundhog Day

I posted something like this over at my other blog but I suppose I should post it here as well.  Folks ask me why I have not been blogging much here on climate, and the reason is that is has just gotten too repetitive.  It is like the movie Groundhog Day, with the same flawed studies being refuted in the same ways.  Or, if you want another burrowing mammal analogy, being a climate skeptic has become a giant game of Wack-a-Mole, with each day bringing a new flawed argument from alarmist that must be refuted.  But we never accumulate any score — skeptics have pretty much killed Gore’s ice core analysis, the hockey stick, the myth that CO2 is reducing snows on Kilamanjaro, Gore’s 20- feet of sea rise — the list goes on an on.  But we get no credit — we are still the ones who are supposedly anti-science.

This is a hobby, and not even my main hobby, so I have decided to focus on what I enjoy best about the climate debate, and that is making live presentations.  To this end, you will continue to see posts here with updated presentations and videos, and possibly a new analysis or two as I find better ways to present the material (by the way, if you have a large group, I am happy to come speak — I do not charge a speaker fee and can often pay for the travel myself).

However, while we are on the subject of climate Groundhog Day (where every day repeats itself over and over), let me tell you in advance what stories skeptic sites like WUWT and Bishop Hill and Climate Depot will be running in the coming months on the IPCC.  I can predict these with absolute certainty because they are the same stories run on the last IPCC report, and I don’t expect those folks at the IPCC to change their stripes.  So here are your future skeptic site headlines:

  1. Science sections of recent IPCC report were forced to change to fit the executive summary written by political appointees
  2. The recent IPCC report contains a substantial number of references to non-peer reviewed gray literature
  3. In the IPCC report, a couple of studies that fend off key skeptic attacks either have not yet even been published or were included despite being released after the cut off date set for studies to be included in the report
  4. In several sections of the recent IPCC report, the lead author ignored most other studies and evidence on the matter at hand and based their chapter mostly on their own research
  5. In its conclusions, the IPCC expresses absolute confidence in a statement about anthropogenic warming so vague that most skeptics might agree with the proposition.  Media then reported this as 97% confidence in 5 degrees of warming per century and 20 feet of sea rise
  6. The hockey stick has been reworked and is still totally flawed
  7. Non-Co2 causes of weather and weather related effects (e.g the sun or anthropocentric contributions like soot) are downplayed or ignored in the most recent IPCC report
  8. The words “urban heat island” appear nowhere in the IPCC report.  There is no consideration of the quality of the surface temperature record, its measurement, or the manual adjustments made to it.
  9. Most of the key studies in the IPCC report have not archived their data and refuse to release their data or software code to any skeptic for replication

Oh, I suppose it will not be all Groundhog Day.  I will predict a new one.  The old headlines were “IPCC ignores ocean cycles as partial cause for 1978-1998 warming”.  This report will be different.  Now stories will read for the new report, “IPCC blames warming hiatus on cooling from ocean cycles, but says ocean cycles have nothing to do with earlier warming”.

Amherst, MA Presentation, March 7

I will be rolling out version 3.0 of my presentation on climate that has already been around the Internet and back a couple of times.  Called “Don’t Panic:  The Science of the Climate Skeptic Position”, it will be given at 7PM in the Pruyne Lecture Hall at Amherst College on March 7, 2013.  Come by if you are in the area.

Topics include:

  • What does it mean when people say “97% of scientists agree with global warming?”   This statement turns out to be substantially less powerful when one understands the propositions actually tested.
  • The greenhouse gas effect of CO2 is a fact (did I surprise you?) but it is a second, unproven theory of strong positive feedbacks in the climate that causes the hypothesized catastrophe.
  • The world has indeed warmed over the last century, but not enough to be consistent with catastrophic forecasts, and not all due to CO2
  • While good science is being done, the science behind knock-on effects of global warming (e.g. global warming causedSandy) is often non-existent or embarrassingly bad.  Too often, the media is extrapolating from single data points
  • The “precautionary principle” ignores real negative effects of carbon rationing, particularly in lesser developed countries.

Speaker Pledge

The tone of the global warming debate is often terrible (on both sides).  The speaker will assume those who disagree are persons of goodwill.   The speaker will not resort to ad hominem attacks or discussion of funding sources and motivations.

Climate De-Bait and Switch

Dealing with facile arguments that are supposedly perfect refutations of the climate skeptics’ position is a full-time job akin to cleaning the Augean Stables.  A few weeks ago Kevin Drum argued that global warming added 3 inches to Sandy’s 14-foot storm surge, which he said was an argument that totally refuted skeptics and justified massive government restrictions on energy consumption (or whatever).

This week Slate (and Desmog blog) think they have the ultimate killer chart, on they call a “slam dunk” on skeptics.  Click through to my column this week at Forbes to see if they really do.

Lame, Desperate Climate Alarm Logic

Via Kevin Drum:

Chris Mooney reports today that there’s also a very simple reason: global warming has raised sea levels by about eight inches over the past century, and this means that when Sandy swept ashore it had eight extra inches of water to throw at us.….So that’s that. No shilly shallying. No caveats. “There is 100 percent certainty that sea level rise made this worse,” says sea level expert Ben Strauss. “Period.”

Hmm, OK.  First, to be clear, sea level rise over the last 100 years has been 17-20cm, which is 6.7-7.7 inches, which the author alarmingly rounded up to 8 inches.  But the real problem is the incredible bait and switch here.  They are talking about the dangers of anthropogenic global warming, but include the sea level rise from all warming effects, most of which occured long before we were burning fossil fuels at anywhere near current rates.  For example, almost half this rise was before 1950, where few argue that warming and sea level rise was due to man.  In fact, sea level rise is really a story of a constant 2-3mm a year rise since about 1850 as the world warms from the little ice age.  There has been no modern acceleration.

Graph—Global mean sea level: 1870–2007(source)

It is pretty heroic to blame all of a trend on an input that really only appeared significantly about 2/3 into the period on this chart.  By this chart, the warming since 1950, the period the IPCC blames warming mostly on man’s CO2, the sea level rise is only 10cm, or about 4 inches.  And to even claim four inches form CO2 since 1950 one would have to make the astonishing claim that whatever natural effect was driving sea levels higher since the mid-19th century suddenly halted at the exact same moment man began burning fossil fuels in earnest.    I’m not sure that the Sandy storm surge could even be measured to a precision of four inches or less.

Assuming three of the four inches are due to anthropogenic CO2, then the storm surge was 1.8%  higher due to global warming (taking 14 feet as the storm surge maximum, a number on which there is little agreement, confirming my hypothesis above that we are arguing in the noise).  Mooney’s argument is that damage goes up exponentially with surge height.  Granting this is true, this means that Sandy was perhaps 3.5% worse due to man-made higher sea levels.

So there you have your stark choice — you can shut down the global economy and throw billions of people in India and China back into horrendous poverty, or your 100-year storms will be 3,5% worse.  You make the call.

I would argue that one could find a far bigger contribution to Sandy’s nastiness in New York’s almost pathological refusal to accept in advance of Sandy that their city might be targeted by an Atlantic storm.  Huge percentages of the affected areas of the city are actually fill areas, and there is absolutely no evidence of sea walls or any sort of storm preparation.  I would have thought it impossible to find a seacoast city worse prepared for a storm than was New Orleans, but New York seems to have surpassed it.

As I wrote before, it is crazy to use Sandy as “proof” of a severe storm trend when in fact we are in the midst of a relative hurricane drought.  There is no evidence that the seas in Sandy’s storm track have seen any warming over the last century.

Extrapolating From A Single Data Point: Climate and Sandy

I have a new article up at Forbes on how crazy it is to extrapolate conclusions about the speed and direction of climate change from a single data point.

Positing a trend from a single database without any supporting historical information has become a common media practice in discussing climate.  As I wrote several months ago, the media did the same thing with the hot summer, arguing frequently that this recent hot dry summer proved a trend for extreme temperatures, drought, and forest fires.  In fact, none of these are the case — this summer was not unprecedented on any of these dimensions and no upward trend is detectable in long-term drought or fire data.   Despite a pretty clear history of warming over the last century, it is even hard to establish any trend in high temperature extremes  (in large part because much of the warming has been in warmer night-time lows rather than in daytime highs).  See here for the data.

As I said in that earlier article, when the media posits a trend, demand a trendline, not just a single data point.

To this end, I try to bring so actual trend data to the trend discussion.

A Great Example of How The Climate Debate is Broken

A climate alarmist posts a “Bet” on a site called Truthmarket that she obviously believes is a dagger to the heart of climate skeptics.  Heck, she is putting up $5,000 of her own money on it.  The amazing part is that the proposition she is betting on is entirely beside the point.  She is betting on the truth of a statement that many skeptics would agree with.

This is how the climate debate has gone wrong.  Alarmists are trying to shift the debate from the key points they can’t prove to facile points they can.  And the media lets them get away with it.

Read about it in my post this week at

I Was Right About Monnett

When the news first came out that Charles Monnett, observer of the famous drowned polar bear, was under investigation by the Obama Administration, I cautioned that:

  1. If you read between the lines in the news articles, we really have no idea what is going on.  The guy could have falsified his travel expense reports
  2. The likelihood that an Obama Administration agency would be trying to root out academic fraud at all, or that if they did so they would start here, seems absurd to me.
  3. There is no room for fraud because the study was, on its face, facile and useless.  The authors basically extrapolated from a single data point.  As I tell folks all the time, if you have only one data point, you can draw virtually any trend line you want through it.  They had no evidence of what caused the bear deaths or if they were in any way typical or part of a trend — it was all pure speculation and crazy extrapolation.  How could there be fraud when there was not any data here in the first place?  The fraud was in the media, Al Gore, and ultimately the EPA treating this with any sort of gravitas.

As I expected, while the investigation looked into the polar bear study, the decision seems to have nothing to do with polar bears or academic fraud.  The most-transparent-administration-ever seems to be upset that Monnett shared some emails that made the agency look bad.  These are documents that, to my eye, appear to be public records that you or I should have been able to FOIA anyway had we known they existed.  But despite all the Bush-bashing (of which I was an enthusiastic participant), Obama has been far more aggressive in punishing and prosecuting leakers.  In fact, Monnett may be able to get himself a payday under whistle-blower statutes.

Lewandowsky et al. Proves Skeptics are Reasonable and Pro-Science

I am not sure it is worth beating this dead horse any further, but I will make one final observation about Lewandowsky.  As a reminder, the study purported to link skeptics with belief in odd conspiracy theories, particularly the theory that the Apollo 11 landings were faked (a conclusion highlighted in the title of the press release).

Apparently the study got this conclusion based on a trivial 10 responses out of hundreds from folks who self-identified as skeptics, but due to the horrible methodology many not actually have been such.

But here is the interesting part.  Even if the data was good, it would mean that less than .2% of the “skeptics” adopted the moon landing conspiracy theory.  Compare this to the general population:

 A 1999 Gallup poll found that a scant 6 percent of Americans doubted the Apollo 11 moon landing happened, and there is anecdotal evidence that the ranks of such conspiracy theorists, fueled by innuendo-filled documentaries and the Internet, are growing.

Twenty-five percent of respondents to a survey in the British magazine Engineering & Technology said they do not believe humans landed on the moon. A handful of Web sites and blogs circulate suspicions about NASA’s “hoax.”

And a Google search this week for “Apollo moon landing hoax” yielded more than 1.5 billion results.  (more here)

By Lewandowsky’s own data, skeptics are 30-100 times less gullible than the average American or Brit.

By the way, I have spent a lot of time debunking silly 9/11 theories.  Here is one example of a science-based response to the Rosie O’Donnell (a famous climate alarmist, by the way) and her claim that burning jet fuel can’t melt steel so therefore the WTC had to have been destroyed by demolition charges set by Dick Cheney, or something like that.

Worst Study Ever?

I have to agree with JoNova, the Lewandowsky study ostensibly linking climate skeptics to moon-landing-deniers is perhaps the worst study I have seen in a really long time.   This is another sign of postmodernism run wild in the sciences, with having the “right” answer being more important than actually being able to prove it.

The whole story is simply delicious, given the atrocious methodology paired is paired with a self-important mission by the authors of supposedly defending science against its detractors.  I can’t do the whole mess justice without just repeating her whole post, so go visit the article.

For the record, I have never seriously doubted that the moon landings really happened or that cigarettes cause cancer.  Also, I will add my name to the list of skeptical bloggers who were not contacted about the study — though I am a small fry, I am pretty easy to find given my URL.

By the way, the article mentions 9/11 truthers only in passing.  This is probably not an accident.  I would bet just about any amount of money that there is a good correlation between 9/11 conspiracy theorists and climate alarmists.

I Was Reading Matt Ridley’s Lecture at the Royal Society for the Arts….

… and it was fun to see my charts in it!  The lecture is reprinted here (pdf) or here (html) over at Anthondy Watts’ site.  The charts I did are around pages 6-7 of the pdf, the ones showing the projected curve of global warming for various climate sensitivities, and backing into what that should imply for current warming.  In short, even if you don’t think warming in the surface temperature record is exaggerated, there still has not been anywhere near the amount of warming one would expect for the types of higher sensitivities in the IPCC and other climate models.  Warming to date, even if not exaggerated and all attributed to man-made and not natural causes, is consistent with far less catastrophic, and more incremental, future warming numbers.

These charts come right out of the IPCC formula for the relationship between CO2 concentrations and warming, a formula first proposed by Michael Mann.  I explained these charts in depth around the 10 minute mark of this video, and returned to them to make the point about past warming around the 62 minute mark.   This is a shorter video, just three minutes, that covers the same ground.  Watching it again, I am struck by how relevant it is as a critique five years later, and by how depressing it is that this critique still has not penetrated mainstream discussion of climate.  In fact, I am going to embed it below:

The older slides Ridley uses, which are cleaner (I went back and forth on the best way to portray this stuff) can be found here.

By the way, Ridley wrote an awesome piece for Wired more generally about catastrophism which is very much worth a read.

On Muller

Kevin Drum approvingly posted this chart from Muller:

I applaud the effort to match theory to actual, you know, observations rather than model results.  I don’t have a ton of time to write currently, but gave some quick comments:

1.  This may seem an odd critique, but the fit is too good.  There is no way that in a complex, chaotic system only two variables explain so much of a key output.    You don’t have to doubt the catastrophic anthropogenic global warming theory to know that there are key variables that have important, measurable effects on world temperatures at these kind of timescales — ocean cycles come to mind immediately — which he has left out.   Industrial-produced cooling aerosols, without which most climate models can’t be made to fit history, are another example.  Muller’s analysis is like claiming that stock prices are driven by just two variables without having considered interest rates or earning in the analysis.

2.  Just to give one example critique of the quality of “science” being held up as an example, any real scientist should laugh at the error ranges in this chart.   The chart shows zero error for modern surface temperature readings.  Zero.  Not even 0.1F.    This is hilariously flawed.  Anyone who went through a good freshman physics or chemistry lab (ie many non-journalists) will have had basic concepts of errors drilled into them.  An individual temperature instrument probably has an error when perfectly calibrated of say 0.2F at best.  In the field, with indifferent maintenance and calibration, that probably raises to 0.5F.  Given bad instrument sitings, that might raise over 1F.  Now, add all those up, with all the uncertainties involved in trying to get a geographic average when, for example, large swaths of the earth are not covered by an official thermometer, and what is the error on the total?  Not zero, I can guarantee you.  Recognize that this press blitz comes because he can’t get this mess through peer review so he is going direct with it.

3. CO2 certainly has an effect on temperatures, but so do a lot of other things. The science that CO2 warms the Earth is solid. The science that CO2 catastrophically warms the Earth, with a high positive feedback climate system driven to climate sensitivities to CO2 of 3C per doubling or higher is not solid. Assuming half of past warming is due to man’s CO2 is not enough to support catastrophic forecasts. If half of past warming, or about .4C is due to man, that means climate sensitivity is around 1C, exactly the no-feedback number that climate skeptics have thought it was near for years. So additional past man-made warming has to be manufactured somehow to support the higher sensitivity, positive feedback cases.

Judith Curry has a number of comments, including links to what she considers best in class for this sort of historic reconstruction.

Update: Several folks have argued that the individual instrument error bars are irrelevant, I suppose because their errors will average. I am not convinced they average down to zero, as this chart seems to imply. But many of the errors are going to be systematic. For example, every single instrument in the surface average have manual adjustments made in multiple steps, from TOBS to corrections for UHI to statistical homogenization. In some cases these can be calculated with fair precision (e.g. TOBS) but in others they are basically a guess. And no one really knows if statistical homogenization approaches even make sense. In many cases, these adjustments can be up to several times larger in magnitude than the basic signal one is trying to measure (ie temperature anomaly and changes to it over time). Errors in these adjustments can be large and could well be systematic, meaning they don’t average out with multiple samples. And even errors in the raw measurements might have a systematic bias (if, for example, drift from calibration over time tended to be in one direction). Anthony Watt recently released a draft of a study I have not read yet, but seems to imply that the very sign of the non-TOBS adjustments is consistently wrong. As a professor of mine once said, if you are unsure of the sign, you don’t really know anything.

Assuming Your Conclusions

I haven’t had a chance to respond to Bill McKibben’s Rolling Stone article on global warming.  After hearing all the accolades for it, I assumed he had some new argument to offer.  I was amazed to find that there was absolutely nothing there.  Essentially, he assumes his conclusion.  He takes it as a proven given that temperature sensitivity to CO2 will be high, over ten degrees F for the likely CO2 increases we will see in the next century, which puts his “proven” climate sensitivity number higher than the range even in the last IPCC report.

Duh, if climate sensitivity is 11F per doubling of CO2 or whatever, we certainly have a big problem.  Spending a few thousand words saying that is totally worthless.  The only thing that matters is new evidence helping to pin down climate sensitivity, and more specifically feedbacks to initial greenhouse warming.

Ah, but its the risk you say?  Well, first, McKibben never talks of risk, this is all absolutely going to happen.  And second, if one were to discuss risks, one would also have to put value on cheap fossil fuels.   Rich nations like ours might be able to afford a changeover to other sources, but such a mandate as he desires would essentially throw back billions of people into subsistence poverty.  He talks about monetary values of the reserves being written off, as if the only cost will be to Exxon (and who cares about Exxon), but that fuel has real value to billions of people — so much so that every time prices tick up a tad, Exxon gets hauled in front of Congress to prove its not somehow holding back production.

By the way, if you want to know the cost of fossil fuel reduction, consider this.  Over the last four years, three dramatic things have happened:

  • The government has poured billions into alternate fuels, from Solyndra to ethanol
  • There has been a revolution in natural gas, shifting a lot of higher carbon coal to lower carbon natural gas
  • We have had the worst economy since the great depression

And still, we are missing the Kyoto Co2 targets.  And McKibben would argue that these are not aggressive enough.  So if Obama-type green energy spending in the hundreds of billions and a near depression only reduced our CO2 output by 5 or 10%, what will it cost to reduced it by McKibben’s 80%?

If you want to understand how McKibben can sound so sure and throw around scientific-sounding facts while missing the key scientific point, I recommend this article I wrote a while back at Forbes.  I am in the process of working on a longer video based on this article.

In the mean time, I watched a lot of this video, which was recommended to me, and it is pretty good at going deeper into the pseudo-science bait-and-switch folks like McKibben are doing:

Site Lockouts

I have been trying to lock down the site better because of some bad behavior over the last several weeks by some odd attempts to penetrate off-limits parts of the site.  If you feel like you were locked out in error, send me an email to the link on the header of the site with your approximate location (e.g. city) and the approximate time of hitting the site and I will unblock you.  Also, any info on the pages or files you were trying to access in vain when you were locked out would help me too.

In other news, I am still waiting for Disqus to get all our old comments loaded and back online.

Disqus Comments

First, I have not changed my comment policy – no moderation except for spam.   But I have decided to force some kind of log-in on comments.  I am going to try Disqus, and am specifically doing so during a quiet period in my blogging to have time to test it.  Note that for a day or so, comments may disappear.  I have them all archived, but it takes a while, apparently, to sync past comments with Disqus.  We shall see how things go.

Well, There is a First Time for Everything

In preparation for blogging more actively again here, I have been doing some security cleanup.  As part of that, I finally decided to delete my first comments ever.  I pride myself on leaving anything in the comments, on the theory that idiots just hurt their own cause by being idiots.  However, I deleted all the comments from the visitor who was using my name.   He/she is by no means the most obnoxious commenter out there, but the tone adopted does not at all match my tone in discussions.  If you see someone trying to spoof me again that I am missing, drop me an email at the link above.  I think I fixed email as well, which has not been working as well as it should.

Computer Generated Global Warming. Edit – Past Special – Add

Way back, I had a number of posts on surface temperature adjustments that seemed to artificially add warming to the historical record, here for example.  Looking at the adjustments, it seemed odd that they implied improving station location quality and reduced warming bias in the measurements, despite Anthony Watts work calling both assumptions into question.

More recently, Steve Goddard has been on a roll, looking at GISS adjustments in the US.   He’s found that the essentially flat raw temperature data:

Has been adjusted upwards substantially to show a warming trend that is not in the raw data.  The interesting part is that most of this adjustment has been added in the last few years.  As recently as 1999, the GISS’s own numbers looked close to those above.   Goddard backs into the adjustments the GISS has made in the last few years:

So, supposedly, some phenomenon has that shape.  After all, surely the addition of this little hockey stick shaped data curve to the raw data is not arbitrary simply to get the answer they want, the additions have to represent the results of some heretofore unaccounted-for bias in the raw data.  So what is it?  What bias or changing bias has this shape?

Summer of the Shark, Climate Edition

My new column is up, comparing coverage of this summer’s heat wave to “Summer of the Shark”

Before I discuss the 2012 global warming version of this process, let’s take a step back to 2001 and the “Summer of the Shark.”  The media hysteria began in early July, when a young boy was bitten by a shark on a beach in Florida.  Subsequent attacks received breathless media coverage, up to and including near-nightly footage from TV helicopters of swimming sharks.  Until the 9/11 attacks, sharks were the third biggest story of the year as measured by the time dedicated to it on the three major broadcast networks’ news shows.

Through this coverage, Americans were left with a strong impression that something unusual was happening — that an unprecedented number of shark attacks were occurring in that year, and the media dedicated endless coverage to speculation by various “experts” as to the cause of this sharp increase in attacks.

Except there was one problem — there was no sharp increase in attacks.  In the year 2001, five people died in 76 shark attacks.  However, just a year earlier, 12 people had died in 85 attacks.  The data showed that 2001 actually was  a down year for shark attacks.

This summer we have been absolutely bombarded with stories about the summer heat wave in the United States.  The constant drumbeat of this coverage is being jumped on by many as evidence of catastrophic man-made global warming….

What the Summer of the Shark needed, and what this summer’s US heatwave needs, is a little context.  Specifically, if we are going to talk about supposed “trends”, then we should look at the data series in question over time.  So let’s do so.

I go on to present a number of data series on temperatures, temperature maximums, droughts, and fires.   Enjoy.

Letter to Tom Clynes at Popular Science

I am simply amazed at the tone and lack of balance in your story called “the Battle” in the recent issue of Popular Science.  More than anything, its incredible to me that a magazine with “science” in the title could dismiss the actual scientific arguments made by skeptics in something like two dozen words, while spending thousands of words on yet another exposition on how much money the Koch Brothers sends to the Heartland institute.

Granted there are skeptics that are full of bluster or who put up tasteless billboards.  I wonder why your coverage of these types of issues in “the battle” is so asymmetric?  Did you see the 10:10 video of teachers exploding kids who questioned global warming into a bloody mess?  How about James Hansen’s arrests?  Or the threats to skeptics by RFK jr and Grist Magazine that were far more extreme than Inhofe’s list you spend about a thousand words discussing?  If there is some reason these are different, why?  And by the way, why is Heartland’s funding to interesting but funding to Tides or WWF not worth mentioning?  And finally, why do you discuss only the scientists on the alarmist side and +none of the crazy advocacy people, but on the skeptic side you discuss none of the scientists and only the crazy advocacy guys.  I understand you have a point of view, fine, but can’t you even take a shot at treating both sides symmetrically?

By the way, I thought your inclusion of the Gleason/Monnett story bordered on journalistic malfeasance.  These guys have their job threatened not by skeptics but by an audit, I believe on financial issues, by the Obama Administration (surely not a friend of the Limbaugh-Inhofe-Milloy cabal).  You were careful not to say that skeptics were involved, but by its very inclusion in an article on skeptics’ bad actions you left the reader, purposefully I fear, with that incorrect conclusion.  This story has nothing to do with “the Battle”, so why is it even here except to dish dirt on skeptics for something they did not even do?  Sure, skeptics criticized their work and had a certain schadenfreude when they got in trouble, but again the trouble comes from Obama Administration financial investigators.

Anyway, over the last two paragraphs I spent more time talking about these behavioral issues than I intended.  My core complaint is still your dismissal of the scientific part of skeptics arguments without even mentioning what they are.  In fact, you dismiss key issues as tangential.

It is the latter that causes me to ask, and seriously this is not rhetorical or smart-*ss, do you actually know the mainstream skeptical scientific arguments?   I have many friends who are people of goodwill who actually don’t, who assume the bluster of a Limbaugh or an Inhofe is all we have to offer.  If your only exposure to skeptic ideas is by reading about them at Realclimate or from Joe Romm, you can be excused, I suppose, for thinking we only have “information mssiles” and no actual science.

Here is the key point, which you dismiss as tangential:  While the world has indeed warmed over the last century, and some of that warming has almost certainly been due to man-made CO2, climate scientists are grossly exaggerating future warming in large part because they are exaggerating positive feedback effects in the climate system.  Most of the warming in climate models is not from CO2 directly but from feedback effects, and the evidence for strong positive climate feedback on temperature is very weak (to the point of non-existence) as compared to the evidence of greenhouse gas warming (yes, individual effects like ice cover melting are undeniably positive feedback effects, the question is as to the net impact of all such effects).  When we look at past warming, and take into account other natural warming effects, the warming from man-made CO2 appears to be more consistent with negative than positive feedback.

The importance, even centrality, of the feedback is not some skeptic invention but comes right from the IPCC.  According to the last IPCC report, greenhouse gasses acting alone warm the Earth about 1.2C per double of CO2 (per Michael Mann, yes that Mann).  It is hypothesized positive feedback effects that increase this to the 3.5-5.5C range for total warming/sensitivity.  This means that 67% to 80% of IPCC forecasted warming is not from greenhouse gas theory but this second theory that the Earth’s climate is dominated by positive feedback.  This means that the points you consider “tangential” actually account for the vast majority of the warming.  In fact, according to the IPCC, it is feedback, not greenhouse gas theory, that causes the catastrophe.

The is why harping on the “98% of scientists” meme is so irritating to many skeptics.  The 98% of scientists in this survey said two things:  that the world has warmed over the last century and that CO2 from man was a significant cause of this warming.  But most science-based skeptics agree with this!  We don’t deny warming or greenhouse gas theory, we deny the catastrophe, which we face only if the assumption of the climate being dominated by strong net positive feedback is correct.

The other major issue skeptics have is that the climate community has become incredibly insular and resistant to criticism and replication of their work.  Peer review tends to be by a small group of friends and close associates, and attempts by third parties to replicate their work are impossible, since climate scientists seldom release their key data to outsiders, even when, which is often the case, their work is publicly funded. In particular, climates scientists often get very “creative” with statistical methods, and often create results which don’t stand up to review by qualified statisticians outside the field.

Take this as context for the issue of “harassment” via Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and lawsuits.  Over and over in your piece we must take Michael Mann and other climate scientists at their word that these lawsuits are purely to harass them.  But, in fact, the origins of these lawsuits were to try to obtain data from Mann and others that was needed by third parties to replicate their published works, data that was collected in most cases with taxpayer-funded grants for research that was published in journals that nominally required authors to provide all data needed for replication.

Sure, some recent FOIA suits by political groups, particularly one in Virginia of Mann’s emails when we was a professor there, border on harassment; but I have yet to meet any scientist who, hearing the story of Mann’s resistance to providing replication data, has any sympathy for such a clear breach of the scientific process.

Anyway, I wrote a longer version of this at here:

Also, on the off-chance you really don’t know the science-based skeptic position and think that skeptics begin and end with the big-mouths you quote, try these two articles which are discussions of the science, absolutely free of ad hominem attacks, something Popular Science should try:

A Response to Popular Ad Hominem, err Science, Magazine on Global Warming Skeptics

My new column is up at, and addresses the most recent Popular Science hit piece on climate skeptics:

I thought I knew what “science” was about:  the crafting of hypotheses that could be tested and refined through observation via studies that were challenged and replicated by the broader community until the hypothesis is generally accepted or rejected by the broader community.

But apparently “popular science” works differently, if the July 2012 article by Tom Clynes in the periodical of that name is any guide [I will link the article when it is online].  In an article called “the Battle,” Clynes serves up an amazing skewering of skeptics that the most extreme environmental group might have blushed at publishing.  After reading this article, it seems that “popular science” consists mainly of initiating a sufficient number of ad hominem attacks against those with whom one disagrees such that one is no longer required to even answer their scientific criticisms.

The article is a sort of hall-of-fame of every ad hominem attack made on skeptics – tobacco lawyers, Holocaust Deniers, the Flat Earth Society, oil company funding, and the Koch Brothers all make an appearance.

Just one example of the really shoddy journalism in this article:

Clynes mentions the story of Jeffrey Gleason and Charles Monnett, who published an observation of drowned polar bears.   The pair came under review by the Office of Inspector General for “integrity issues.”  The author uses this anecdote as an extreme example of harassment of climate scientists.  He is careful not to mention skeptics in the context of their story, but one is clearly meant to take this as an example of extreme harassment of scientists by skeptics.  Certainly skeptics have criticized their work, but Gleason and Monnett, as Clynes must surely know, came under review by the Obama Administration (certainly not a hotbed for sympathy towards skeptics) mainly for ethical lapses around reporting and use of funds.    This is extreme journalistic malfeasance — Gleason’s and Monnett’s job problems have nothing to do with skeptics but their story is included in a way meant to support the author’s thesis on skeptic harassment

Read it all