Thursday, February 11, 2010

Distinguishing Climate "Deniers" From "Skeptics"

A fair number of people have written in response to my previous posting - The Real Struggle Behind Climate Change - A War on Expertise - griping that I do not get a crucial distinction between climate-change "Skeptics" and "Deniers."

ClimateSkepticsSeveral claimed to be rational, educated fellows who regret the shrill anti-intellectualism of Fox News. Yet, they still defend the core notion underlying the anti-HGCC (human generated Climate change) movement -- the premise that virtually 100% of the thousands of  scientists in a given field can be suborned, corrupted, or intimidated simultaneously  into supporting a nonsensical, baseless theory.

A baseless theory that thousands of "skeptics" happen to be able to see through, all at the same time.

"We skeptics just want to get our questions answered," one person wrote. "Until then, of course, society should do nothing rash."

That sounds so reasonable, who could refuse?

Well, in fact, after two decades of seeing "let's not do anything rash" used as a talking point excuse for doing nothing at all? No, it doesn't sound reasonable.

But let's focus on the core matter at hand.

What factors would distinguish a rational, pro-science "skeptic"  - who has honest questions about the HGCC consensus - from members of a Denier Movement who think a winter snowstorm means there's ni net-warming of the planet?

Is such a distinction anything more than polemical trickery?

Well, in fact, it happens that I know some people who do qualify as climate change "skeptics."  Several are fellow science fiction authors or engineers, and you can quickly tell that they are vigorous, contrary minds, motivated more by curiosity than partisan rigor. One who I could name is the famed physicist Freeman Dyson.

(In fact, if truth be told, there are some aspects of HGCC that I feel I want clarified -- that seem to be poorly-justified, so far. I am an ornery, contrarian question-asker, of the first water!)

After extensive discussions with such folk, I found a set of distinct characteristics that separate  thoughtful Skeptics from your run of the mill, knee-jerk Denier dogma puppet.

Here's the first one:


Skeptics first admit that they are  non-experts, in the topic at hand. And that experts know more than they do.

Sound obvious? Especially regarding complex realms like atmospheric studies, or radiative transfer, or microcell computer modeling.  But this simple admission parts company from...

... Deniers, who wallow in the modern notion that a vociferous opinion is equivalent to spending twenty years studying atmospheric data and models from eight planets.
(Note: this is important.  Since the Neolithic, human civilizations have relied on specialists, a trend that accelerated across the 20th Century.  Want an irony? As coiner of the term "age of amateurs" I've been helping to push a new trend toward more distributed expertise and citizen-empowerment!  Yet, I also avow - as "Skeptics" do - that a nation has to start by respecting knowledge and those who have it.)


magv14n01_coverNext, the Skeptic is keenly aware that, after 4,000 years of jokes about hapless weathermen who could not prophecy accurately beyond a few hours, we recently entered a whole new era. People now plan (tentatively) as far as 14 days ahead, based on a science that's grown spectacularly adept, faster than any other.  Now, with countless lives and billions of dollars riding on the skill and honesty of several thousand brilliant experts, the Skeptic admits that these weather and climate guys are pretty damn smart.

The Skeptic admits that this rapid progress happened through a process of eager competitiveness, with scientists regularly challenging each other, poking at errors and forcing science forward. A rambunctious, ambitious process that makes Wall Street look tame.

Deniers also share this utter reliance on improved weather forecasting. They base vacations and investments on forecasts made by... the same guys they call uniformly lazy, incompetent, corrupt hacks. Miraculously, they see no contradiction.


Skeptics go on to admit that it is both rare and significant when nearly 100% of the scientists in any field share a consensus-model, before splitting to fight over sub-models.  Hence, if an outsider thinks that there appears to be "something wrong" with the core model, the humble and justified response of that curious outsider is to ask "what mistake am I making?"  -- before assuming 100% of the experts are wrong.

In contrast, Deniers glom onto an anecdotal "gotcha!" from a dogma-show or politically biased blog site.  Whereupon they conclude that ALL of the atmospheric scientists must be in on some wretched conspiracy. Simultaneously. Uniformly. At the same time.


Now dig this. The Skeptic is no pushover!  She knows that just because 100% of those who actually know about a scientific subject are in consensus, that doesn't mean the consensus-paradigm is always and automatically right!  There have been isolated cases, in scientific history, when all of the practitioners in a field were wrong at once.

Still, the skeptic admits that such events are rare.  Moreover, a steep burden of proof falls on those who claim that 100% of the experts are wrong.  That burden of proof is a moral, as well as intellectual geas, as we'll see below.

The Denier, on the other hand, knows no history, knows nothing about science, and especially has no understanding of how the Young Guns in any scientific field... the post-docs and recently-tenured junior professors... are always on the lookout for chinks and holes in the current paradigm, where they can go to topple Nobel prize winners and make a rep for themselves, in very much the manner of Billy the Kid! (Try looking into the history of weather modeling, and see just how tough these guys really are.)

stormsofmygrandchildrenThis is a crucial point. For the core Denier narrative is that every single young atmospheric scientist is a corrupt or gelded coward. Not a few, or some, or even most... but every last one of them! Only that can explain why none of them have "come out."  (And note, Exxon and Fox have even offered lavish financial reward, for any that do.)

Oh, I admit that it's easy to see why the Denier can believe this.  He imagines that all of the Young Guns are either cowed, intimidated, or suborned by greed for measly five figure grants... because that is the way things work in the Denier's own business and life! 

He has no idea that most scientists are propelled by adventure, curiosity and sheer macho-competitive balls, far more than they are by titles or money. If all the post-docs in atmospheric studies have timidly laid down, then it is the first time it has happened in any field of science. Ever.

Oh, but the Denier thinks they are all  just greedy, conniving little putzes. Sure, this is a natural human mistake, to assume that others are like yourself.  But it is a mistake.

* Sorry... but this is a point to reiterate: I am not saying that all young scientists are noble and brave. I've known plenty who weren't.  But I have served in almost a dozen scientific fields, and I know that the best of the Young Guns would be screaming now, if all those "holes in the theory" were real.
They have the knowledge, the tools and the ambition. Their failure to "bark in the night" means something! Their acceptance of the HGCC model means something. It means a lot more than any number of glib spin-incantations from Sean Hannity. *

The Skeptic realizes all of this.  She takes it into account.  She adds it to the burden of proof borne by the other side. But let's move on.

The Denier claims that the corruption of 100% of the experts -- (upon whom he relies for his weather report) -- is propelled by "millions pouring into green technologies"... without ever showing how a space probe researcher studying Venus at JPL profits from a contract going to a windmill manufacturer in Copenhagen.  But I'm repeating myself, so hold that thought for later.

In contrast, our Skeptic, still fizzing with questions, hasn't finished "admitting things" first.


For example, the Skeptic openly admits that he knows who the chief beneficiaries are, of the current status quo.

Those who pushed a wasted decade, delaying energy efficiency research and urging us to guzzle carbon fuels like mad. The guys who benefit from keeping us on the oil-teat are... foreign petro-princes, Russian oil oligarchs, and Exxon.

The Skeptic admits that these fellow have Trillions (with a T) staked on preserving that status quo -- on preventing America from moving toward energy efficiency and independence.  He admits that a conspiracy among fifty petro oligarchs seems a lot more plausible than some convoluted cabal to "push green technologies" -- a supposed conspiracy involving tens of thousands of diverse people, most of them nerdy blabbermouths, squabbling over far smaller sums of money.


merchants-of-doubt1Consider some eerie parallels of methodology with the Great Big War over Tobacco.  Some of the very same consulting groups who formulated Big Tobacco's  "deny, delay, and obfuscate" strategy  - that gave that industry ~40 years to adjust to growing societal awareness of its problems - are working on the Energy Denial Front today, with precisely the same agenda. As one analyst recently put it:

"I think that the main driver for this movement is that when you compare the US economy "before" and "after" acceptance of human-induced warming contributions, one of the most significant differences will be the value of owning particular stocks.  It's impossible to dump onto the market a trillion dollars or more worth of stocks in industrial sectors that generate much of the CO2, without those stock prices dropping through the floor.  But with enough smokescreens raised to delay public acceptance, there is far more time to gradually unload stock, and perhaps even reposition the companies in the most vulnerable industries. 

"This strategy became especially crucial for them, when their earlier gambit - investing Social Security trust funds in the stock market - fell through.  This would have allowed brokers to unload half a trillion dollars in failing assets on millions of naive new stockholders.  We now know retirees would have lost hundreds of billions."

 This parallel with Big Tobacco is not only eerie, but puzzling.  In the end, Tobacco faced fierce ire and severe liability judgments that they escaped only through fast-footed political maneuvers.  This raises a fundamental issue.

If the Denier Movement obstruction leads to billions in losses and millions of refugees, will the top Deniers then be liable, under common and tort law, for damages?

This appears to not have been discussed anywhere that I know of.  But it makes the Skeptic/Denier distinction crucial. 

Those who merely ask scientific questions WHILE helping push for energy independence will be safe enough.  On the other hand, those who directly and deliberately obstructed reasonable precautions and progress toward efficiency may face a very angry and litigious world, if the expert forecasts prove right.  Preventing action upon expert advice is legally culpable.
In effect, they are betting everything they own. 


GoreFutureFurther, the Skeptic admits something pretty darned creepy and suspicious -- that the main "news" outlets pushing the Denier Movement are largely owned by those same petro-moguls.  (Just one Saudi prince holds 7% of Fox, while other princes own smaller shares, plus a lot of Rupert Murdoch's debt, stock and commercial paper. Russian oligarchs and international oil companies own more.)  Because of this, the Skeptic has moved away from getting any of his news or sense of "reality" from propagandists who are paid to keep America divided, weak, passively addicted to dependence, respectful of aristocracy, and mired in "culture war."

The Denier, in contrast, suckles from the Fox-Limbaugh machine.  He shrugs off any notion that oil sheiks, Russian oligarchs or Exxon moguls could possibly have any agenda, or ever, ever connive together.  They are pure as driven snow... compared to weather scientists. Right.

Elaborating a bit: the Skeptic has noticed that the Denier Movement is directly correlated with a particular "side" in America's calamitous, self-destructive Culture War.  The same side that includes "Creation Science."  The same side that oversaw the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression, based on mythological asset bubbles and magical "financial instruments."  The same side that promised us "energy independence" then sabotaged every single effort, including all of the energy-related research that might have helped us get off the oil-teat. (And that research gap is a bigger smoking gun to pay attention-to than carbon credits.)

While the Denier sees this association of parallel anti-intellectual movements as a good thing, that enhances the credibility of the Denier Movement, the Skeptic has the mental courage to be embarrassed by it. Even while remaining a conservative, she is pulling herself away from all that.


Having admitted all of those things, the Skeptic now feels sufficiently distanced from madmen and reflex-puppets to express legitimate curiosity about a scientific matter much in the news.

Moreover, he knows that this is his perfect right!  We do not live in a society where elites are gods.  Not the rich or even scientists. The Skeptic refuses to get caught up in the reflex anti-intellectualism being pushed by the faux-right.  But he also knows that amateurs can be smart, and that curiosity was God's greatest gift to man.

Moreover,  our Skeptic feels like a smart guy! He's generally pretty well-educated and good in his own field.  Above all, he is a free citizen of the greatest and most scientifically advanced republic ever! And so, by gum, having admitted all that stuff (see above), he now wants his curiosity satisfied!  He wants the atmospheric experts to answer hard questions about some things that SEEM contradictory between the data and the model.

Fair enough.


Ah, but there is one more thing our poor Skeptic has to admit, if she truly is honest and ready to start peppering the experts. She needs to acknowledge that atmospheric scientists are human.

Furthermore, having tried for twenty years to use logic, reason and data to deal with a screeching, offensive and nasty Denial Movement, these human beings are exhausted people.  Their hackles are up. They have very, very important work on their plates. Their time is valuable and, frankly, they see little point in wasting any further, trying to reason with folks who:

-- deny that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas --

-- then deny human generated burning of carbon fuels has increased greenhouse gas content in the atmosphere --

-- then claim the increase won't affect temperatures --

-- then claim there is no warming --

-- while the US Navy is furiously making plans for an ice-free arctic --

-- then claim humans have no role in the warming --

-- then admit we've caused it, but claim it's
already too late, and anyway they'll have a longer growing season in Alberta --

-- then shout that "we can't afford" efforts to wean ourselves of greenhouse emissions...

..even though the things that would address HGCC happen to be stuff we should be doing, anyway, to gain energy independence, increase productivity, reduce the leverage of hostile petro powers, and a dozen other important things.

Mr. or Ms. Skeptic, can you see how wearing it has been, dealing with a storm of such BS?   Can you admit that the professionals and experts may not, at first, be able to distinguish sincere skeptics, like you, from the maniacs who have been chivvying and screaming at them (on puppet-orders from Fox and Riyadh and Moscow) for years? 

HGCC "Skeptics" like you are saddened to see that many of the scientists are prickly, irritable and sullen about answering an endless stream of rehashed questions, only a few of which aren't blatant nonsense.  But you Skeptics - the smart and honest ones - understand what's happened.

And so, you'll cooperate about helping the experts feel safe to come out and share what they know.  And maybe then they will answer some of the Skeptics' inconvenient questions.


This is when the honest Skeptic recites what I suggested earlier.

"Okay, I'll admit we need more efficiency and sustainability, desperately, in order to regain energy independence, improve productivity, erase the huge leverage of hostile foreign petro-powers, reduce pollution, secure our defense, prevent ocean acidification, and ease a vampiric drain on our economy. If I don't like one proposed way to achieve this, then I will negotiate in good faith other methods that can help us to achieve all these things, decisively, without further delay and with urgent speed.

"Further, I accept that "waste-not" and "a-penny-saved" and "cleanliness-is-next-to-godliness" and genuine market competition used to be good conservative attitudes.  But the "side" that has been pushing the Denial Movement - propelled by petro-princes, Russsian oligarchs and Exxon, hasn't any credibility on the issue of weaning America off wasteful habits. In fact, it's not conservatism at all.

"And so, for those reasons alone, let's join together to make a big and genuine push for efficiency.

"Oh, and by the way, I don't believe in Human-caused Global Climate Change!  But in case I am wrong, these measures would help deal with that too.

"So there, are you happy, you blue-smartypants-eco-science types? Are you satisfied that I am a sincere citizen-skeptic, and not one of the drivel-parroting Deniers?

"Good, then now, as fellow citizens, and more in a spirit of curiosity than polemics, can we please corner some atmospheric scientists and persuade them to enter into an extended teach-in, to answer some inconvenient questions?

"(Oh, and thanks for the vastly improved weather reports; they show you're smart enough to be able to explain these things to a humble-but-curious fellow citizen, like me.)"
As I said earlier, when I meet a conservative HGCC skeptic who says all that (and I have), I am all kisses and flowers. And so will be all the atmospheres guys I know. That kind of statement is logical, patriotic and worthy of respect. It deserves eye-to-eye answers.

But alas, such genuine "skeptics" are rare.


Alas, I really have wasted my time, here.  Because, while the species of sincere, conservative-but-rational HGCC skeptics does exist - (I know several, and kind-of qualify as one, myself) - they turn out to be rare. 

For the most part, those calling themselves "skeptics" are nothing of the kind.  More often than not, they are fully-imbibed, koolaid-drinking Deniers, who wallow in isolated anecdotes and faux-partyline talking points, egotistically assuming that their fact-poor, pre-spun, group-think opinion entitles them to howl ""corrupt fools!" at 100% of the brilliant men and women who have actually studied and are confronting an important topic...

...the very same people who the "skeptics" now count on to help them plan activities as far as two whole weeks into a future that used to be murky beyond two hours' time.

There are words for such such people. But none of those words are "skeptic."

David Brin
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Stefan Jones said...

A few more ways you know you're dealing with a crank, rather than a skeptic:

They bring up the economic cost of the countermeasures before dealing with the correctness of the science.

The bash folks concerned about global warming for their (supposed) stance on nuclear power before dealing with the correctness of the science.

The talk about Freedom, Liberty, and Choice before dealing with the correctness of the science.

They start spewing terms like communist, Red Greens, religious eco-fanatic and eco-nazi before dealing with the correctness of the science.

They equate the flash-in-the-pan theoretical concern about a new ice age back in the 70s with much more thoroughly grounded and troublesome issue of global warming . . . usually accompanied with revisionist memories of the incident. (Actual quote: "I remember when the hippies were freaking out about global cooling in the 1980s!")

If you post this article on Salon, you can bet that many if not all of these will appear in the comment thread.

Corey said...

I'm not clear on a point here. Are skeptics people who simply don't know enough about a science like climatology to understand why the science might be sound and are still evaluating the science to see where they stand, or are they people well-versed enough to understand most of the evidence, but not accept the case on the grounds of legitimate issues with the science?

If it really is the latter, then at what point does a scientific theory become sufficiently solid that it's no longer reasonable to be skeptical? If, knowing about the available evidence on something like AGW, one can show no actual issue with the science, but simply says "I don't personally think the case is strong enough just because", is that reasonable? If they can't show a problem with said theory, and there are no competing theories, is that reasonable?

I ask this because I was under the impression that generally when one is scientifically "skeptical", they are such because they have a case to make against a given theory, or at least a given feature of a theory. For instance, if one looks at the MBH98 graph ("the hockey stick"), and brings up some valid point about why treering data might be innacurate in such and such a circumstance, and says that on those grounds they are not convinced of the soundness of the model, THAT seems like genuine scientific skepticism.

When these people on climate can't actually present a valid counter-argument, or a competing theory that has equal merit to the AGW theory in fitting the evidence, at what point does a skeptic and denier simply become the same thing, or is simple opinion itself even without evidence sufficient grounds to be reasonably skeptical?

Tony Fisk said...

There are words for such such people. But none of those words are "skeptic."

- ... 'kleptic'?

There are now a number of economic analyses out there demonstrating that switching to a carbon-challenged economy will not bust our balls (here's one, and I have seen others). Has anyone seen any that claim it will? (Well, plenty of *claims*, but... backup?)

Following on from all the other arguments listed and deflected, if that were an endgame, I would be suggesting 'mate in three'.

I have recently had personal experience with the improvements in weather forecasting (short-term at least). The last couple of days have had it warm with thunderstorms (notoriously fickle beasts to model) developing to the north and east of Melbourne. I risked the bike into work and, lo and behold, just missed them. I didn't try my luck yesterday, when the forecast was for more widespread storms (which was just as well: I would have drowned!)

By way of example, darwinian evolution is just as uniformly accepted by the scientific community, and, yes, it *does* have its detractors (New Scientist has been pointing to the transverse genetic transportation by viruses, and yes, a couple of young turks are taking a tilt at the windmill, although I find their argument to be rambling and not particularly impressive!)

Any takers for AGW?

hantetis: a syndromic illness arising from excessive exposure to kleptic arguments.

TCB said...

I'll need to sleep on this post, but for now I can say: Bravo, Dr. Brin! This post clarifies like a diamond.

Climate Deniers, like creationists and their ilk, never seek to clarify, but to muddy. They seek to create heat and confusion so that the vast public simply turn away, muttering "Who needs all the fuss... the truth must be somewhere in the middle anyway..." And when the public believe even half of a Big Lie, the Big Liars have won.

Abilard said...

To undertake to be a skeptic is to force oneself to question what is accepted, especially if you personally accept it. It means training oneself to spot contradictions, to change perspectives, and to be willing to argue the "other" side just to see if it has merit. Just as atheism is simultaneously the absence of belief and a questioning of it, skepticism is the absence of a position and a challenge to it.

Every climate scientist should be able to be a global warming skeptic in the above sense, even as they accept global warming. They should be able to evaluate new evidence, new claims, and new models with that rigor. From what I've read, many do.

David Brin said...

I should have mentioned Freeman Dyson as the archetype of the true skeptic. He doubts... but he does not stand in the way of full tilt efforts to gain energy efficiency.

Anonymous said...

I think that what these people are trying to do is to destroy the autonomy of science by subjecting it to the norms of proof and the assumptions of ideological and/or pecuniary motivation common to the business and political spheres. Another effort to subvert the Enlightenment, Dr. Brin - I'm a bit surprised that you didn't frame it that way, although if you did and I missed it I apologize - huge amount on my plate right now. But neutering environmental sciences (to begin with) fits right in with the agenda that you've ascribed to these anti-Enlightenment forces. And an intellectual project which relies upon self-examination and self-criticism, accepts authority only provisionally and is explicitly non-ideological, has yielded huge paybacks for relatively small investments and can't be relied upon to tell you what those in power want to hear is inherently subversive. Of course it has to be haltered.

- Lars

Trebuchet said...

I really enjoyed your post. It is coogent and coherent, and a much needed piece of reasoning in today's climate. However, I must just drop a forlorn hint: I am astigmatic, and white on blue is very hard to read. My eyes were watering but I read the whole thing anyway. Thanks very much!

Stefan said...

You wrote,

"the premise that virtually 100% of the thousands of scientists in a given field can be suborned, corrupted, or intimidated simultaneously into supporting a nonsensical, baseless theory."

well, to me this raises the question of whether you can tell the difference between a scientist and naive scientism.

One of the reasons we value science is because it is self correcting. Mistakes can and do happen. See the history of science. It is all research, experimental, these subjects are being studied because we don't know.

A big criticism if the state of AGW hypothesis is that the ink was hardly dry on the paper before people were claiming "consensus". We'd like to believe them because they are scientists and science is self-correcting, but where was the time for this self correction in this hypothesis?

There are some very clever scientists at CERN trying to investigate the relationship between the sun, cosmic rays, cloud formation, and the Earth's ability to regulate its temperature. That experiment was years in the making, and will take many years to see results. It is an alternative hypothesis, or at least, an important one, Look at the early IPCC reports--clouds are listed as a big area of uncertainty. Part of the argument for why CO2 is the most likely cause of warming is that, they hypothesise, there is nothing else that could have caused it. Well, as new research comes in, like the CERN CLOUD experiment, that hypothesis may change. It may have to change in the face of new evidence. And yet... and yet... the head of the IPCC refers to sceptics as "flat earthers".

I value science. I want to see science protected. I don't take kindly to the politicisation of science by those with agendas, and when the IPCC's public relations department is out there making wild inflammatory claims, that people like you end up believing, when you really ought to know better, then I think you need to be asking yourself whether you understand the difference between science and naive scientism.

Tony Fisk said...

Oddly enough, in 2006, Tim Flannery was casually referring to water vapour as a strong greenhouse gas whose concentration was augmented by the warming of the underlying (persistent) CO2 levels. (ref: The Weathermakers)

It is also, being that cryptic substance water, a complex contributor because it can cause net cooling in the troposphere (clouds reflect sunlight), yet net warming in the stratosphere (noctilucent blankets)

So, I'm not sure what the latest results add.

dedis: the notion that risk can be avoided by standing still and seeing what happens next.

Tony Fisk said...

Oh, Trebuchet. For a more readable format, you could try clicking on the comments page and show the original post.

Anonymous said...

David, I enjoyed the read and will forward it on to friends. You are, as always a voice of reason.

neil craig said...

Professor singer, the doyen of skeptics was involved in getting climate science going. Hubert lamb, the founder of the CRU, was certainly a climate scientist. Neither believe the warming theory. The people calling themselves climate scientists now are government funded computer modellers, none of whose models have predicted the current cooling.

The common factor in virtually all alarmists is not a particular knowledge of science but being government funded. This was also the common factor in those who condemned Galileo.

Ian Gould said...

Quick question: how many self-described skeptics thought there was sufficient evidence of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq to justify invading that country?

Carl M. said...

Question: do the folks at Climate Audit constitute deniers or skeptics?

How about this bit from Lord Monckton?

Ian said...

"A big criticism if the state of AGW hypothesis is that the ink was hardly dry on the paper before people were claiming "consensus". We'd like to believe them because they are scientists and science is self-correcting, but where was the time for this self correction in this hypothesis?"

Let's see Svante Arrhenius published his first calculation of the greenhouse effect associated with atmospheric carbon dioxide (and the his calculation of the impact on surface temperatures of a doubling in CO2 levels) in 1896 - based on the earlier work of Fourier.

He revised his initial calculations several times through 1906.

The World Meterology Organisation adopted a resolution in 1979 stating:

"it appears plausible that an increased amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can contribute to a gradual warming of the lower atmosphere, especially at higher latitudes....It is possible that some effects on a regional and global scale may be detectable before the end of this century and become significant before the middle of the next century."

So that's a minimum of 63 years between the hypothesis being formulated and the first consensus statement of support.

More here:

Carl M. said...

As for conspiracy and conflicts of interest, how about this bit on the IPCC chair?

These are a sampling of the articles pushed my way when I try to pitch a carbon tax and other reasonable approaches. There are plenty on the right who are doing their homework too.


As for young Turks, I think we'll see more now that supercomputing is getting way cheaper. CUDA technology is quite impressive and cheap.

Ian said...

I share a lot of David's concerns about the so-called Hydrogen economy.

These relate to low energy density; transport problems,; the difficulty of storage, the need for special pipes and tanks etc.

Still this story about an efficient catalyst that produces Hydrogen from water and sunlight is interesting.

Hydrogen, for all its faults, is currently easier to store at an industrial level than electricity and 60% efficiency is way better than current photovoltaic technology.

Of course, what we really want is a photocatalysts that converts water and carbon dioxide into methane or methanol.

Ian said...

- Carl M

Basically it's a pile of innuendo and bullshit.

It says that Pachauri has links to energy companies - but surely this would bias him AGAINST the AGW hypothesis?

Ian said...

Carl M.

In his first para Monctkon calls Scientific American "a pulp science-fiction picture comic". (what other type of comic is there other than a "picture comics", anyway?0

In his second paragraph he complains that "This name-calling marks the depth of unscientific desperation to which the proponents of the “global warming” nonsense have now sunk."

Pot meet kettle

Tell me what do YOU think?

Unknown said...

Ian: Generate your hydrogen right at the 'gas' station. That avoids the transportation issue, anyways.

Ian said...

Hey look I can quote mine too.

And I even use the same source as Carl M: Chris Monckton

"Monckton said that the Copenhagen treaty meant America was in “immediate peril” of losing its freedom to a “sinister dictatorship” being formed under the contrived pretext of global warming.'

How comment Carl.

How about this:

"For a start, in this adventure, in which he routinely wore a bowler hat, Monckton won the Falklands conflict from his armchair after suggesting, he claims, to the Prime Minister that the best way to undermine the Argies was to have the SAS introduce a mild bacillus into the water supply in Port Stanley. 'I can tell you from experience there is nothing more demoralising than having the trots in a trench!' He believes, laughing a little wildly, she took him up on this idea and the rest is history."

There's a reason some people call him The Mad Monck.

Ian said...

Jackjumper, Yes but you still need special polymer-lined storage tanks because Hydrogen will diffuse out through concrete or metal and you still need to use up a significant part of the energy content to compress the Hydrogen.

Oh and you'd only be able to locate refueling stations where there were a couple of hundred acres free.

Abilard said...


"Quick question: how many self-described skeptics thought there was sufficient evidence of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq to justify invading that country?"

Of the 5 avowed skeptics in my social circle (counting me)? None.

Ian said...

Chris Monckton suffers from Graves Disease.

A partial list of the symptoms of Graves disease:

# Mental impairment, memory lapses, diminished attention span
# Decreased concentration
# Nervousness, agitation
# Irritability
# Restlessness
# Erratic behavior
# Emotional lability

Stefan said...

Ian said:
"Let's see Svante Arrhenius published his first calculation of the greenhouse effect associated with atmospheric carbon dioxide (and the his calculation of the impact on surface temperatures of a doubling in CO2 levels) in 1896 - based on the earlier work of Fourier. [...] So that's a minimum of 63 years between the hypothesis being formulated and the first consensus statement of support."

Funny how we need all those computer models today if 63 years ago it was already calculated. But never mind that... what about what else Arrhenius said?

"He [Arrhenius] eventually made the suggestion that an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide due to the burning of fossil fuels could be beneficial, making the Earth’s climates “more equable,” stimulating plant growth, and providing more food for a larger population."

Ian said...

"Funny how we need all those computer models today if 63 years ago it was already calculated."

You might want to check your math.

1906 is more than 63 years ago in case you hadn't noticed.

BTW, if Arhennius thought that the effects of global warming might be beneficial, what bearing does that have on whether or not it's real?

Is his claim that increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide results in increased temperatures more less less credible depending on his views on the possible consequences?

If Pachauri or Hansen said tomorrow that AGW was going to have a net beneficial impact would that alter your view of their arguments that it's happening?

Acacia H. said...

There's a simpler explanation of the Deniers, Dr. Brin. Laziness. These are the same people who said "there's no point in us trying to clean up the environment; it's too big of a job for one person. What can I alone do? Nothing. So why should I try?"

The Deniers are trying to deny their social responsibility and the role they play in polluting the world. They feel that they should not sacrifice because their efforts will be minimal. Despite the fact that if every single person, all of those Deniers, did one thing to reduce their pollution, it would have a huge result.

Never attribute malice to what can be more easily ascribed to basic human laziness. ^^

Robert A. Howard, Tangents Reviews

DoctorB said...

Sadly, climate denial has become a political issue. Many people who deny the existence of AGW are also "team Republicans" who believe everything their side says and disbelieves everything the other side says. This is one of the reasons that I despair of the US getting anything done on climate change. Now that it is seen as a "Democratic" issue, Republicans will oppose it just for that.

The thing I find really frustrating about this is that there are reasonable conservative approaches to deal with the problem that we are not hearing because only one side of the political spectrum even believes its happening. I want to hear suggestions and solutions from all sides, but alas that is not going to happen anytime soon. By the time it does, we may be talking about how to evacuate New Orleans and Miami and what to do about a billion climate refugees in Asia.

Abilard said...


"Despite the fact that if every single person, all of those Deniers, did one thing to reduce their pollution, it would have a huge result."

As a skeptic household we have done the following thus far:

1. Switched to florescent bulbs.
2. Insulated the hot water tank.
3. Replaced appliances with energy star varieties.
4. Removed walls and upgraded the insulation beneath in 2/3rds of our domicile.
5. Planted several dozen trees.
6. Gotten a more fuel efficient commuter vehicle.

Ah, now if only all the true believers were so practical! How much energy would we save? Perhaps they are lazy.

Tom Crowl said...

If we look at the arguments for or against vigorous action on climate change, there really is an overwhelming weight on the side of taking action.

And that's the case even if the climate change argument were a weak one (and it isn't) since the remedies have so many ancillary benefits. In truth, most (though not all) offered solutions should appeal to both deniers and skeptics for reasons having nothing to do with climate.

Yet meaningful action seems impossible.

So we come to this:

If the weight on one side of the teeter-totter is overwhelming,

And yet the teeter-totter won't budge leaving good solutions in the air and stagnation firmly rooted...

Then we must consider that the teeter-totter is broken and/or a new fulcrum is needed.

I'm not trying to be mysterious here. It just seems a good analogy.

In which case, the solution isn't piling on more good arguments...

It's to find out what's wrong with the teeter-totter and get to fixing it.

In truth, you've done more than almost anyone to encourage rationality in our approaches to problems.

And you've made great efforts to address this governance issue as well... (ideas re communication tech, disputation arenas, etc).

I just want to encourage your readers to consider these teeter-totter issues as well.

Acacia H. said...

@Abilard: And you think I have not? You think that the majority of the people who believe climate change is real and a threat haven't done such things? We're not all Al Gore here. And how much of Gore's inefficiencies in his home are still there?

I know a Denier who laments the huge oil bill he has to pay and how cold they have to keep the house. I pointed out that they could put in energy-efficient windows... and he states they can't because it's an old house and needs to be kept as-is. Despite the tax benefit, despite the fuel savings. He refuses to consider it.

I know another Denier who wants solar and wind power... but feels the government should pay for it. It would take him years to save up the money to put in a wind mill and solar paneling. So he's not going to bother. After all, if it's so important, let the government subsidize it for him and let him benefit from taxpayer dollars.

Laziness. Greed. Inertia. Fear. These are the core emotions behind the Deniers. They don't want to change. They want things to be comfortable. They want things to remain as they always have been... except of course that electric power wasn't widespread 100 years ago and we didn't have most of the tools we do now. They want change that is cheap and benefits them. And if they have to struggle or work harder "just because some scientists claim the weather is changing" then they'll say no.

BTW, Dr. Brin, one of the biggest comments I hear from Deniers is "we can't trust the climate scientists, they can't even get the weather right from day to day." Ten day forecasts are nice... but often change. And this change is why Deniers refuse to believe. If the weathermen can't get it right for the next day's weather more than 50% of the time... then how right can they be about global warming and its effects?

Rob H.

Abilard said...


I think the traits you list are not limited to Deniers, Skeptics, or Believers. :-)

I can only speak from my own observations on this and from the fact that energy use in this country does not seem to go up or down according to how many people respond favorably to AGW on surveys. It just goes up. And most of the Believers I know just talk (which is true regardless of the kind of belief now that I think about it - AGW, religious, political...).

What we have, unfortunately, is an issue where being right or wrong matters, that has been turned into a social marker. Vocalizing a "side" is used as an in-group indicator. Those in the group (whichever group) regard themselves as superior and those outside the group as, well, lazy, greedy, fearful, corrupt, etc etc.

Now, I realize AGW folks have been taking heat from nut jobs for 20 years, as Brin says, but I personally will only cut you so much slack for it. Here is a new mantra we can all repeat: Groupthink BAAAAD. Very BAAAAD.

Carl M. said...

@Ian. Monckton was being illustrative in the first four paragraphs. Paragraph 5 reads:

"In this introduction, we have made some rude remarks about Scientific American. Did those remarks grate as you read them? If so, you will know what it feels like when, day after day, those scientists whose diligent research has shown the “global warming” scare to be nonsense have to put up with invective and vilification of the sort that Scientific American doles out in its poisonous article.
From here on, therefore, we shall confine ourselves solely to scientific argument, with no name-calling. Scientific American would do well to learn from this approach."

Then get gets reasonable.

Acacia H. said...

@Abilard: Hmm. Now take what you said and take a loooooong look at both the Republican Party and the Denier cause. The Republican Party has become the Party of Groupthink and of squelching individuality (when is the last time that any of them showed the ability to vote outside the party line, which is to say "No" even for votes that THEY THEMSELVES later vote yes on? (I'm looking at the filibuster here and on 40 votes against ending the filibuster and then 96 votes for the unchanged end product and 0 votes against.)

Deniers spout the "party line" of being anti-climate science, no matter how legitimate and how proven the science is. And there are aspects of it that are PROVEN and yet the Deniers claim are in fact lies. Well, I can counter that. God is a lie. Prove God. Faith is just a biochemical process which allows for group formation. Disprove my theory on faith. Republicans are mentally ill and should be locked up for our protection. Prove that statement wrong. And once you do? I'll just state you are lying, or spouting the party line, or some such nonsense. This is what the Deniers do. And when it's turned around? How does it feel.

Rob H.

Abilard said...


Well, I tend to feel the same way about Republicans and Christians, so I find it amusing. It is, however, also a groupthink response and therefore dangerous. I know several Republicans and Christians (the two do seem to go together) for whom the mental lights are on, so when I am tempted to think that way about those groups I mentally picture those individuals as counter-examples.

CJ-in-Weld said...

"...even though the things that would address HGCC happen to be stuff we should be doing, anyway, to gain energy independence, increase productivity, reduce the leverage of hostile petro powers, and a dozen other important things."

This is what brought me around from (ignorant) Skeptic to (ignorant) Acceptor, after Doc Brin pointed it out many posts ago. But I still have problems.

(I say "ignorant" advisedly - I have some science training in college, but later wound up in law school. The practice of law is one area where the theory of magic still kind of works! You say the right words with enough force and willpower and you get the result you want... I think it can distort perspective.)

So I'm in the camp of people who really just have to choose which authorities to trust, while keeping an open mind. My toddler and baby won't give me enough time to me self-educate, although I guess that's really my choice and not their fault.

So here is my lingering concern, which is more political than scientific:

Many rank-and-file Acceptors are just as ignorant as I - but human-caused global climate change fits into their prejudices. There is a faction that seems to think that humans, if they are allowed to sully the face of Gaea at all, should be limited to primitive tribes. They are hostile to nuclear power. (Although the current administration's actions in this direction give me hope.)

So my political fear is that I throw in with the side of light, and lose the bargain I made. My gas goes up to $8/gallon, and I have rolling blackouts because the wrong faction gets control of the movement, and no power plants go up.

Well, I'm not going back to the opposition - I don't like that crowd anymore. But I hope the granola faction doesn't get the upper hand.

neil craig said...

"...This is what the Deniers do. And when it's turned around? How does it feel.

Rob H."

It feels like living in a world where many alarmists, not necessarily all of them as you classify all "deniers" as thinking the same, are out of their tiny minds Rob.

Now since you correctly point out that one can't disprove a non-sepcific claim, can you point to ANY actual evidence of catastrophic warming. If not is your theory wholly unfalsifiable & hence not part of the realm of science or can you state any conditions which you would acept can faslify it.

I extend this invitation to anybody on the alarmist side.

Ilithi Dragon said...

neil, you just stepped in it... I'm seeing at least a 3-5 page essay from Corey in response to your challenge (though he may just C&P one of the many other 3-5+-page essays he's written in the many HGCC debates I've watched him participate in).

Acacia H. said...

No. But then again, I cannot disprove the theory that all of this is a dream and that we all will vanish when the sleeper wakes up. I cannot prove reality. I cannot disprove it either.

Within the framework that exists between the state of nihilism and of reality, there are several elements provable within the framework of our current reality. First: a small increase of carbon dioxide will result in an increased trapping of infrared radiation and thus result in warmer temperatures. Second: the level of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased in the last hundred years. Third: mankind has been pumping out plenty of carbon dioxide in the last hundred years, in excess of what the planet naturally emits as part of the cycle of life and of geophysics.

Within these frameworks, the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can be attributed to human action. There is likewise a gradual increase in temperatures over the past 100 years that can be attributed to higher carbon dioxide levels. Logically, it can be assumed then that mankind is responsible for the increase in temperatures.

Mind you, a couple decades ago there was this problem with sulfur dioxide (ie, acid rain). Now, the sulfur dioxide could have been caused by volcanic eruptions or other sources. Oddly, by working to significantly reduce sulfur dioxide and other emissions from coal power plants, acid rain has significantly lessened. This suggests then that the higher sulfur dioxide levels could be attributed to man.

We're still emitting carbon dioxide even if we've significantly lessened the other pollutants. It seems likely then that if the sulfur dioxide pollution was caused by man, that the increased carbon dioxide levels are also caused by man. Given the threat that global warming plays on the sociopolitical front (for one, the melting of the North Pole, which would allow a Russian fleet of ships to dominate the Arctic ocean and endanger American interests).

As to the ultimate effect of global warming? I cannot say. However, by pumping sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere, we had a significant increase in acid rain which was damaging to the environment and to vehicles, statues, and so forth. What might the result of pumping excessive carbon dioxide into the atmosphere be? And isn't it better to avoid the drawbacks by getting off of CO2 now, rather than struggle to fix things once they've gone south?

Rob H.

Rob Perkins said...

The number of Christians who are also Republicans, considered in the set of all Christians, are vastly overwhelmed by the number of Christians who are not Republicans.

Acacia H. said...

I never specified which religion, mind you. ^^ And I do believe in a divine entity. I was just pointing out that ultimately, nothing can be proven. Not even the very things that matter most to many people.

Rob H.

DoctorB said...


Evidence of Global Warming:
1) Increased temperature overall
2) acidification of the oceans
3) changes in bird, insect and plant ranges away from the equator
4) reduction in arctic ice levels
5) reduction of most of the glaciers worldwide
There are probably several others I am forgetting.

Ah, but you asked for evidence of *catastrophic* global warming, didn't you? That's a very clever formulation since by the time such evidence manifests it will be far too late to do anything about it.

There are a range of possibilities for what the ultimate effect our uncontrolled experiment on the atmosphere will have. Having read extensively on both sides of this discussion, I have concluded that the problems will be somewhere between serious and catastrophic.

I am not going to go and look up specific citations for each of my points since there are so many. If you seriously want to educate yourself, then start with some places like:

I assume you are already familiar with many denialist sites, so I wont bother citing those.

Corey said...

Alright, there seems to be an absolutely gross amount of misunderstanding surrounding climate science here, so perhaps it's time to clear up some of that before commenting on the so called "believer" and "skeptic/denier" movements (though, those distinctions seem a little off-base), and yes, Ilithi I am inclined to give an explanation for the AGW case since people don't seem to understand it very well (a big plate of copy pasta sounds good right now, and it's quick to prepare :D ).

First though, addressing a few statements from individuals confused on a number of points in climate would be prudent.

"Funny how we need all those computer models today if 63 years ago it was already calculated. But never mind that... what about what else Arrhenius said?"

This is a misunderstanding of the situation. Arrhenius came up with basic absorption rates of GHGs for long-wave radiation, and that can help to tell whether a greenhouse effect exists (which wasn't established at the time), and help to give an idea of what affect introducing greenhouse substances will have on the atmosphere.

What GCMs (general circulation models) do is to help us better quantify that effect, and to make the case for attribution of GHG increases to temperature increases stronger. The models don't make the AGW case; they just make it stronger and help us to determine the implications better. The atmosphere is a multi-layered object, and the layers interact in funny ways, and feedbacks have to be figured in, and all of this is beyond what could be done with single-layer models that could mathematically written in Arrhenius' time. It takes a computer to generate a multi-layer model to better give a rough idea of what the atmosphere is doing when.

"He [Arrhenius] eventually made the suggestion that an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide due to the burning of fossil fuels could be beneficial, making the Earth’s climates “more equable,” stimulating plant growth, and providing more food for a larger population."

This is also a grave misunderstanding. Technically, his notion that higher temperatures would have benefits was a stroke of good thinking. Higher temperatures in and of themselves are not bad, and in fact, the planet has thrived with temperatures much warmer than what we have today (on the order of 10C warmer if I recall).

Contrary to common misconception, the global warming problem isn't one of final temperature, but one of RATE of temperature change. Our civilization is designed on many levels for a relatively cool climate, from our distribution of crop-growing land (which might see shifts from a warming planet) to our propensity for building in low-lying coastal areas. A sufficient change in temperature over a short period presents a significant issue because that leaves less time for adaptation by our society. The bigger problem, however, is loss of critical biodiversity. Life, even animal life, is very resilient, and can adapt to all sorts of climate, but rapid changes in temperature will simply lead to faster shifts that can be adapted to, as we're already seeing with species like the American pica, arctic foxes, and lynx species adapted to colder climates.

When Arrhenius made his statement, ecology was barely even a science, so he would not have been aware of the implications of his statement.

Neil Craig:
"The people calling themselves climate scientists now are government funded computer modellers, none of whose models have predicted the current cooling."

First off, we're in a short period of reduced warming, not a cooling trend. Secondly, the feature of climate believed to be causing this is stratospheric water vapor loss, which scientists did not understand until recently. However, to claim that because scientists don't know everything about every feature of climate, that they therefore know nothing (your essential thesis), is a false dichotomy.

Corey said...

Neil Craig:
"It feels like living in a world where many alarmists, not necessarily all of them as you classify all "deniers" as thinking the same, are out of their tiny minds Rob.

Now since you correctly point out that one can't disprove a non-sepcific claim, can you point to ANY actual evidence of catastrophic warming. If not is your theory wholly unfalsifiable & hence not part of the realm of science or can you state any conditions which you would acept can faslify it.

I extend this invitation to anybody on the alarmist side."

It seems I missed this one, but it's quite the strawman given that the scientific community has never claimed that catastrophic warming has occurred, only that notable warming has occurred, that humans are almost certainly the cause, and that if that warming continues, very serious consequences could, and likely would follow.

Ian Gould said...

"@Ian. Monckton was being illustrative in the first four paragraphs. "

What was he being illustrative of when he called AGW advocates "Nazis" and Hitler Youth"?

Or when he claimed that environmentalists had killed more peopel than hitler?

Or when he has repeatedly described himself as a scientist when in fact he has a degree in classics and worked as a journalist prior to being appointed to a minor job in Thatcher's policy office?

Or when he repeatedly describes himself as a member of the House of Lords when, like most of the hereditary peers, he lost his seat in the 2006 reforms of the House.

Tell me, do you think based on his own testimony he and Rhatcher should be prosecuted for war crimes for their use of germ warfare during the Falklands War?

Monckton has a medical condition which leads to irrational behaviour and emotional instability and a lengthy history of lying or exaggerating.

Lets take a counterexample, if Pachauri, Gore or Hansen were revealed to be a paranoid skitzophrenic who had been on antipsychotics for decades, would that make you more or less inclined to take them seriously?

David Brin said...

Made an edited revision of the piece. It now contains a riff paralleling this with the distraction war waged by Big Tobacco...

Stefan said...

Corey, before you label things "misunderstandings", please note:

I said, a criticism of AGW is that consensus was declared too soon and there wasn't enough time for normal self-correction to occur--self-correction being one of the reasons why science normally works.

In reply to this, Ian said it has been 63 years since the hypothesis was formulated.

You add that I misunderstand things, as the GCMs are needed to figure the feedbacks and multi-layers, in a way that was not possible 63 years ago.

So which is it... is this hypothesis of man made global warming raising the world temperature between 2 and 4 degrees a hypothesis that is 63 years old... or 20 years old... or 10... or what? We are told the science is always improving... and yet, CERN's CLOUD experiment might possibly CHANGE our understanding.

As for the rate of change being unprecedented, that's not a common misconception. I've heard that argument years ago and it was a bandied-about point amongst people discussing the subject. Some scientists have data indicating the climate has in the past changed far faster. They just jet labelled contrarians and ignored, it seems.

Anyway, I am still waiting for a simple, direct, logical, reasonably complete picture of how the Earth's climate works. There are far too many unknowns which is why the debate amongst experts and laymen can continue seemingly forever. I read this stuff 5 years ago and I'm still reading the same points being made, about how this or that is a grave misconception. Frankly I could sit down and type out a long boring point and counter-point for both sides, and what it would come down to in the end, is whether people have a feeling that their meaning of life rests in healing the planet.

One day the science will understand the climate in a way that an aerospace engineer understands things well enough to do practical things with airfoils. At the moment though it is all computer models, which are so vague that any result could fit them, and a lot of insistence on "consensus".

I look forward to the day when the science actually begins to understand this stuff. In the meantime, take the precautionary principle, and next time you think you see something up ahead on the road that looks like it might be an obstacle, just go ahead and swerve wildly into oncoming traffic in the other lane.

Stefan Jones said...

Ah, Big Tobacco.

I remember, in college, a libertarian friend go into a gleeful rant about how unfairly the tobacco companies were being treated. "They're only being attacked because they have a successful product!"

And, of course, with biology being as complex as it is, how can we really be sure that tobacco use causes cancer, heart disease, and emphysema?

Mind you, this guy didn't smoke. He didn't come from tobacco country. As far as I know his family didn't make their fortune on tobacco.

There just seemed to be a compulsion to defend this giant, ruthless, big-pocketed industry.

Ian Gould said...

"I said, a criticism of AGW is that consensus was declared too soon and there wasn't enough time for normal self-correction to occur--self-correction being one of the reasons why science normally works.

In reply to this, Ian said it has been 63 years since the hypothesis was formulated."

No Ian said it was 63 years from the formulation of the theory in 1906 to the first indication of general support by climate scientists in 1979.

Which is hardly an example of a rush to judgment.

Tell me, do you wonder why astrophysicists are still carrying out computer modeling exercises over a hundred years after Einstein published the theory of relativity?

Or why evolutionary biologists are still studying inheritance a century after The Origin of Species?

Or why economists still run computer models decades after Keyness wrote his General Theory? (Or for the AustriAns out there, decades after Hayek wrote Monetary Theory and the Trade cycle?)

DoctorB said...

@Stefan (and others)
The argument that "the Earth has been this warm before" is particularly annoying. While the statement is true, it is also meaningless.

The Earth has also had a molten surface before (at least twice). The Earth has had a primarily CO2 atmosphere before. The oceans have been 30 meters higher fairly recently (in geologic time). I don't think we would want to try and maintain our current technological society in any of those scenarios.

Ian Gould said...

"So which is it... is this hypothesis of man made global warming raising the world temperature between 2 and 4 degrees a hypothesis that is 63 years old... or 20 years old... or 10... or what? We are told the science is always improving... and yet, CERN's CLOUD experiment might possibly CHANGE our understanding."

Firstly you vastly overrate the CLOUD experiment and the probability that it will have a dramatic impact on climate science.

The basic flaw in theri hypothesis is that they believe cosmic radiation modulates weather by impacting the availability of seeding nuclei for rain drop formation.

But there is little to no evidence to support the idea that availability of seeding nuclei is a limiting variable for cloud formation.

Secondly, did Einstein's revision of Newton's law of gravity invalidate the preceding 300 years of physics?

Are you going to step off a 10th storey ledge tomorrow on the basis that gravity is not proven fact because the theories to explain it are revised and improved over time?

To take the cigarette example, it's possible that the statistical link between tobacco use and cancer will be disproven. It might just be the longest succession of snakes-eyes rolled in history. It might turn out that there's a genetic anomaly that makes people more likely to become addicted to nicotine and that also predisposes them to develop lung cancer.

Based on that possibility, are you going to start a three pack a day habit?

Ian Gould said...

"One day the science will understand the climate in a way that an aerospace engineer understands things well enough to do practical things with airfoils. At the moment though it is all computer models, which are so vague that any result could fit them, and a lot of insistence on "consensus"."

Along with climate science and econometrics, aerospace engineering is one of the most computing-intensive sciences out there.

Every plane you fly on was designed based on computer models - and they still get it wrong on occasion as shown by the problems Boeing is having with the Dreamliner and Airbus had with the A380.

Corey said...

Stefan, I already answered your question.

The physical experimentation allowed for a scientific basis for a greenhouse effect, while the models quantified that effect. We knew the Earth would warm, and had a sound scientific for that notion long before climate models came along. All climate models did were to corroborate the AGW case, and, just as importantly, to tell us HOW MUCH the Earth might warm by for a given set of atmospheric conditions.

Secondly, the CERN data will help us better understand certain science, but you should know that cosmic rays do not at present give any prospect for an alternative theory, no matter what Svensmark says. Our exposure to cosmic rays is dependent on our sun, and so, the strength of solar output will correlate to cosmic ray exposure, and so, if cosmic rays had been causing this warming, there would be a correlation between the solar forcing and the observed temperatures. Here's the solar data from the PMOD observatory, as available since satellite records were first being kept in 1978

Can you correlate that to temperature? If you somehow manage to get that far (which obviously is impossible because it just doesn't match), then you have to explain why the GHG forcings magically disappear the moment this "other" influence appears to affect climate.

For the rest, you really did misunderstand, because Arrhenius himself did not understand the implications of climate change for global ecology when he made the statement you quoted, and that should come as no surprise either given the state of that area of science.

Furthermore, you seem to misunderstand a basic fact about science, which is that science does not give yay or nay votes on whether or not something is correct. The world's scientific community did not just stand up one day and say "Okay, everyone, we're going to announce that THIS is the truth!". This is because science NEVER deals with immutable truths. All science does, is to examine phenomenon, and evaluate the likelihood that a given theory correctly explains that phenomenon. A century and a half ago, the greenhouse theory was new, and supported by a number of scientists as a *possible* explanation for certain features of climate. Then Svante Arrhenius did experiments quantifying the effect and finally it was accepted as a theory with credibility, and the AGW theory then became a *possible* explanation. After more years of debate, and work by Guy Callendar, we arrived at the mid-late 20th century. By the 1960s, the theory was accepted by scientists with a *limited certainty*, and papers began appearing predicting a reasonable probability of future warming. More research and debate followed and the level certainty that was accepted increased. Climate models came about in force in the 80s and the certainty increased again. Finally, the last two decades and access to sophisticated computers were used to declare a high degree of probability in the AGW theory (though still not absolute certainty, because there's no such thing in science). In 2005, eleven national science academies, including the US NAS, and the UK Royal Society signed a joint letter saying that the AGW theory was very likely to be true, and that action was warranted on climate change.

Enter 2010, and here we are. You imply an overnight process where none existed. The acceptance of the AGW theory with ANY level of likelihood took decades, and then decades further for the level of likelihood to increase to where scientists feel it is now.

Again, if you really want to know the full reasons of why they believe what they do, it can be explained, but it's very long. There is a scientific consensus; one does not toss out names like NASA, or the NAS, or the Royal Society lightly, but if you can't take their word for it, then by all means, I will be happy to explain some of the evidence to you.

Ilithi Dragon said...

stefan said...
Anyway, I am still waiting for a simple, direct, logical, reasonably complete picture of how the Earth's climate works.

Don't hold your breath for it. There is nothing 'simple' and 'direct' about how climate works, so even if our understanding were complete, getting a complete explanation of how climate works would probably take several days.

That said, while we don't have a complete picture yet of how the climate works (in part because of just how many variables there are out there), we DO know enough to model some reasonably accurate predictions, with fairly precise detail in the short-term (hours to a couple weeks for your weather report), and accurate/consistent trends in the long term.

We have also confirmed these models by running past conditions and variables through those models, and getting modeled results that match what actually happened within an acceptable margin of error.

Corey can give you more specifics on that than I can, though.

Corey said...

Okay, the PMOD link didn't go through for some odd reasons.

Anyways, here it is.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a Denier (nor much of a Skeptic in this regard), but I'd like to take just a small bit of exception to the abilities of weather forecasters. From my observation, they aren't very good much past 3 days or so (though sometimes that's just a question of timing, not occurrence).

But that is irrelevant here. When Deniers say that, "Well, we cannot forecast past 3 days; how can we possibly forecast climate?" my response is "Yeah, and we cannot forecast the motion of a single molecule in a gas, but we can still forecast the pressure and temperature." Climate science is more similar to the latter than the former (though the degree of correspondence is different).

David Brin said...

Corey said "Furthermore, you seem to misunderstand a basic fact about science, which is that science does not give yay or nay votes on whether or not something is correct."

Sorry Corey, but this is precisely the silly stuff we were fed by Michael Crichton. His response to attempts to allow science to offer probablistic advice to influence policy was to grab, out of the blue, a strawman:

"How DARE you preach that science VOTES on what's true!"

To which the scientists and friends stared blankly and said "whaaaaaa?"

"What on Earth does that have to do with the fact that public policy needs to be informed by the best models and projections that are available?

"Or that the consensus models held by 90%+ of scientists in a field tend, most often, to have the best chance of projecting correctly?"

Our situation is plain... Big Tobacco... er, Big Energy... wants to delay policies and actions that would benefit public health, but harm their bottom line. Once again, the scientists are the ones who MUST be undermined.


Side note: There is a distinction between weather and climate.  Both deal in the same oceans, vapors, gases and sunlight, using almost identical basic equations and expertise. Both are extremely complex, anddeal with that complexity by making differentsimplifying assumptions and boundary conditions.  Clearly, climate modeling is more primitive, right now.  Perhaps it is even rife with errors!  But the overall tools, methods, community and eagerly-skilled people overlap greatly.

TCB said...

ahcuah said...

"I'm not a Denier (nor much of a Skeptic in this regard), but I'd like to take just a small bit of exception to the abilities of weather forecasters. From my observation, they aren't very good much past 3 days or so (though sometimes that's just a question of timing, not occurrence)."

I second that, actually: I read in some book or article about chaos theory that forecasts weren't much good more than about three days out, no matter how many satellites and computers were on the job, because the weather became chaotic.

BUT this really only applies to a local forecast: at a particular spot at a particular time. Let's say a major storm system is crossing the country and there's a chance of rain four days from now when it gets to your location. The storm system is definitely arriving in about four days, but perhaps it will arrive a bit sooner or later. Perhaps it will hit your area dead on or perhaps you'll be at the edge. And none of this has to do with long-term global averages!

As a visual metaphor, imagine you have a really really big cup of coffee: for this example, assume it's a wading pool filled with 90 gallons of hot black coffee at 185 Fahrenheit, stirred clockwise with an oar, and you've just laid down the oar and dumped ten gallons of 40 deg. F cream in the center. You point a camera at a particular spot on the surface of the coffee about a foot from the edge, coaxial with a highly sensitive temperature probe. Now assume the camera will take a photo of a small area of the surface of the coffee in three minutes while the temperature probe records the temperature of the coffee at that spot at the same moment.

Since the mixing of the cream is chaotic, the exact shade of the coffee at the local spot in the coffee may be slightly lighter or darker than the average for the whole surface. The temperature at that spot will be ever so slightly higher if less cream is admixed at that spot, ever so slightly lower if more cream is at that spot.

It will not be possible to predict the exact shade and temp at that tiny spot since the mixing is chaotic.
The average temperature of the entire "cup", however, could (in principle, at least) be easily calculated and predicted from the relative mass and temperature of the cream and coffee, and how much heat the whole "cup" would have lost to the environment by radiation or conduction after three minutes.

The Deniers would be arguing that a locally chaotic eddy in the coffee meant that the average-temperature calculation was not to be trusted. Which is why the Deniers get that F in Physics 101.

Tony Fisk said...

Alarmist? Well, that's a nice emotive term. One that replaces the 'ie' sneer of 'warmie' with a more nailable, religious 'ism'.

I prefer to consider my stance in terms of risk management.

We, in the twentieth century of western civilisation, enjoy the highest standard of living in the history of humanity. Does anyone really think I want to go and throw it all away and go hide in the dark just because some messianic ex-presidential candidate says that's the only way to save humanity?

Yet, risk management requires one to look ahead and, if the current trends observed in the current climate situation suggest I be alarmed (and the imposing list of looming tipping points suggests that I should be alarmed), then that is what I'll be.

We are told that changing our sooty ways would kill the global economy. The evidence for this is slight (and, dare I say, alarmist?) but, if it *did* come down to 'the environment or the economy', then I would have to choose the environment because, despite the way economic modellers like to work, you can have an environment without an economy, but not vice versa.

As I mentioned earlier, even standing still has risks!

Fortunately, it would seem we are *not* faced with this 'hobson's choice'. Get that message out, and it would remove a lot of FUD material.

Climate science deals with a chaotic system. Don't expect modelling to reach the elegance of Newtonian mechanics. (and nobody's even mentioned the Malkovich cycles yet!)

Cosmic rays: you can treat what follows as a clay pigeon, but aren't they supposed to induce cloud formation by using Earth's atmosphere as a giant cloud chamber? The sun's recent unusually quiet phase not only reduces solar flux by a smidgen (comparable to Earth's eccentricity?) but also deflates the heliosphere, which usually deflects a lot of cosmic rays.

So, quiet sun = more cosmic rays = more clouds. It *could* explain the recent 'not so warming' trend (as does ignoring 1998)

Ah. But at what altitude do these clouds form?

It would appear that Monckton was mockingly claiming to be a laureate. Well, if he's not a nobel, how can he claim to be a lord? Seriously, the man's medical condition is to be sympathised with but, if he's a 'big gun climate denier', then I think it's more like 'mate in two'.

(The real worry is that the deniers will tip the chess board over rather than resigning)

Tony Fisk said...

Ooops! That should read 'Milankovich cycles'

forey: an Igor apologising

Ian Gould said...

I would urge everyone to either read the Stern Report or at least to read the discussion of the Report in the Blogosphere and in particular John Steiglitz's comments.

Stern looked at the possible range of global warming impacts and also at the mitigation costs.

He then ran several thousand econometric modeling exercises, varying the start conditions slightly and introducing random fluctuations in various economic and environmental parameters (within specified ranges)to see what would happen.

What Stern found is that even though the worst possible outcomes were unlikely, their potential cost was catastrophic, so much so that these outliers drove the whole cost-benefit analysis when you combined the different models.

Look at it this way: assume there's an earth-approaching asteroid. There's a chance it will hit the Earth within the next 30 years and kill a good chunk of the human race.

Deflecting the asteroid will be expensive - several billion dollars.

When deciding whether to spend those billions of dollars, how big a risk of impact do you need?

Considering that the cost of an impact will be in the trillions, then even a 1% chance means its a logical expenditure.

Or, you know, you could point to the metric/imperial conversion problem that led to the loss of a Martian probe a few years back and the unexplained force that appears to be causing some satellites to deviate from the orbits or the fact that most astronomers are funded by the government...

We actually went through this recently with swine flu (and before that bird flu), both are potential pandemic killers. Just because neither has mutated into a human pathogen as deadly as the 1918 fly YET doesn't mean the money spent on monitoring and vaccine investment was unwise.

But then, all those virologists are getting research grants out of this so they obviously have a vested interest in faking it.

Anyone going ot pass on a flu vaccination as a result of that possibility?

Corey said...

"Sorry Corey, but this is precisely the silly stuff we were fed by Michael Crichton. His response to attempts to allow science to offer probablistic advice to influence policy was to grab, out of the blue, a strawman:

"How DARE you preach that science VOTES on what's true!"

To which the scientists and friends stared blankly and said "whaaaaaa?"

Dr Brin, while you're absolutely correct, it had nothing to do with what I was saying. I wasn't commenting on scientific consensus, but was merely pointing out that scientists do not have some discrete point in time in which they stand up and declare a previously unproven theory to be unequivocally correct beyond any form of doubt, whatsoever, as was the implication of another poster. It had nothing to do with whether or not scientists "vote" on issues, and I'm fully aware of Critchon's spin on that issue; What it had to do with was the notion that scientists apply a dichotomy of absolute truth or fiction to a theory, rather than viewing it as a matter of degree of certainty, because, again, that's what another poster was claiming.

I have no problem with scientific consensus. In fact, if you read the entire post, you'd see that I was in fact CITING scientific consensus just a little further down by pointing out the 2005 joint science academy letter on anthropogenic climate change (

Ian Gould said...

"...the 2005 joint science academy letter on anthropogenic climate change "

buncha eggheads.

If they're so smart how come they don;t have their national radio show like Rush?

Anonymous said...

...nobody's even mentioned the Malkovich cycles yet!

Which refers, I suppose, to a variation in the tendency to be John Malkovitch.

- Lars

Corey said...

"buncha eggheads.

If they're so smart how come they don;t have their national radio show like Rush?"

I know, sheesh! Clearly Rush just makes SO much more sense than these guys do anyways, with all their big terms and

Tony Fisk said...

Or how many degrees of separation someone has from John Malkovitch as a function of time?

(FWIW: Milutin Milankovich determined the underlying causes of the quaternary ice ages: a combination of geography and slow changes in the rotation and orbital motion of the Earth. Being a Serbian cooped up in the Hungarian Academy of Sciences during WWI, the West didn't get to hear about him until the late sixties!)

asesseg: a sign of unnatural influences at work in the world. A sign that heralds the end of days (a sign like this one, perhaps?)

Stefan Jones said...

Mark Frauenfelder's round-up of today's notable speeches at TED:

Bill Gates is apparently one of those poor, deluded socialist dupes who is concerned about greenhouse warning.

Oh, thank goodness Rush and the clear-eyed folks at Fox News are keeping the flag of Truthiness aloft.

disess: Wot obamacare will give us all, according to a sign at a Tea Party rally.

David Brin said...

Corey I depologize...


and now on to next posting

bob goodwin said...

There have been numerous other cases of near unanimity amongst scientists that have unraveled. Two that come to mind are the food pyramid (eat lots of bread and potatoes!) in the 50's, and Keynesianism in the 70s and 80s.

If I go back in time there seems to be a pattern of alarmism that spooked all the powers into strange action. Y2K comes to mind recently, but large generational armegeddon based responses have happened since antiquity.

And all you can say about this is that they are smarter than we are?

Stefan said...

Corey, you can't correlate CO2 rise to temperature rise either, except by introducing a lot of post-rationalised "explanations" about something or other "masking" the warming, that it's "in the pipeline" and so on,

You are a denier if you reject out of hand the other theory by higher standards than you apply to your own pet theory.

As for models, let them make a 20 year prediction, and then 20 years later let us view that prediction to see how it turned out.

Before we've even begun to understand things, people already want to claim that there's some chance of a cataclysm. Well taken in isolation, sure, but the world is far more complex than these simple risk assessments. What do you really think the world will look like in 100 years?

Humans are notoriously bad at understanding unlikely events. We either imagine them to be far more real than they are, or we end up ignoring the obvious. Extreme climate tipping points are just theory. It looks real scary, but that's imagination.

All I'm seeing from the AGW crowd is a lot of stubbornness and defensiveness. Get this, most of the world's population isn't listening anyway, because the man in the street in the third and second world, can make a better common sense guess about risk than middle class academics in cozy western offices. It is ironic, you know, all this fashionable interest in "helping the world" when the people of the world--I mean just go out there to Kenya and to China and to India and ask the man in the street. Just go and ask them what they want.

Anyway, the stuff you're debating here was being debated word for word years ago. Things have moved on. As time goes on, the more we're starting to see that the predictions are not coming true, not even close.

Tony Fisk said...

Stefan, you appear to have a doppelganger.

Anonymous said...

I'm confused.

If one starts with the "premise" that a "consensus" equals "fact"...even as those "facts" become less factual daily, does this make those who still believe in the validity of the "consensus" a denier or a skeptic???

Pondering imponderables...LOL.

Dave of Maryland said...

There is but one word for all of this, and that word is,


Anonymous said...

Boy. "Science" has truly become the new "religion". The hubris is astounding.

Corey said...

Oh my Stefan, haven't we gotten ourselves into quite the mess.

First off, CO2 correlates extremely strongly to temperature. Yes, it's true that one has to account for other forcings in climate, from aerosols (1940-1970), to volcanic eruptions if one wants to get picky on the yearly scale (1991).

That said, your entire argument is a *false dichotomy*, and one that you've really repeated in several forms of "either it works 100% simply with one factor, or it doesn't work at all". There's no requirement, scientifically, or logically, whatsoever, for such a feature of any theory.

Saying "Either CO2 is driving 100% of climate, and is the only factor, or it's driving 0% of climate and isn't a factor of note" is a *false dichotomy*.

It's really you who's just rejecting a theory out of hand. Ian and I gave you scientific reasoning on why the comsic ray theory doesn't work. Even without going into Ian's more complex holes being poked in the theory (which are actually better, but not so simple to explain :D), you cannot correlate a unrising solar forcing, a solar forcing that shows NO NET GAIN since measurements were first being taken 32 years ago to rising temperature. The only way you could do this is if A: you correlated it strongly to past recent warming, and B: you could explain the modern lack of correlation. Then, you'd have to explain why the GHG forcings aren't working, because there's an actual long-established influence there based on more than century of universally accepted work (no skeptic denies that there's a greenhouse effect, as it makes our planet habitable, which means they're effectively claiming that it just shuts off once humans are the ones putting the GHGs into the air).

On the other hand, it's quite easy to explain temperatures AND account for the mid-century stall in warming if one is not bound by your false dichotomy (

It's not just CO2 driving climate, or even driving warming, as the early-century warming could be seen as a slight combination of subtle changes in solar forcing (if the proxy data is right) and CO2 increases. Aerosols skyrocket after 1940 for a bit, then after 1970, a combination of CO2 and reducing aerosol forcings causes what we've seen more recently.

Taken together, all the forcings inputed produce almost the exact trend in GCMs that we observe in measured data. As it turns out, it's been correlating strongly for the past half-million years ( Of course, that graph is hugely enhanced by Eric Steig's explanation of the relationships here (

So, again, there is a scientific basis for the GHG theory, and in a sense, all this new data does is further prove what we already knew in 1896. On the other hand, there is no scientific basis of note for the cosmic ray theory.

So when you say "You are a denier if you reject out of hand the other theory by higher standards than you apply to your own pet theory", you're completely wrong. In fact, that's quite backwards.

Corey said...

Onto models, shall we? First off, your 20 years requirement is arbitrary, and has no basis in science. The fact that models can produce the correct temperature for PAST periods is sufficient evidence of correct application of forcings, though they've also predicted a lot. Hansen's 1988 model almost meets your standard, because it doesn't fall off until after 2005 ( Scenario B is what was presented to Congress. Honestly, the worst thing one can pin Hansen with in this model is that while he correctly figured a major volcanic eruption would occur in the 1990s, Mt Pinatubo erupted in 1991, earlier than the model called for, which is why his dip doesn't match the observed dip (it's too late in the decade). I certainly hope James Hansen's lack of ability to predict future volcanic eruptions to the month and year is not grounds for criticism of a model ;-)

The model is only meant to offer overall decadal trends anyways, and to that end, the beginning of the new century sees the exact magnitude of warming compared to the late 1980s that was predicted. As discussed in the last post on this blog, the *slight* falloff is also easily explainable by stratospheric water vapor loss, which, like anything, will be corrected for as future modeling is done with greater understanding.

Incidentally, while Hansen's model was off on the date of the Pinatubo eruption (I know, that lack of psychic ability is really eating away at their competence), that doesn't change the fact that the effects of volcanic eruptions were predicted by models; the atmosphere acted more or less exactly the way the models called for.

In fact, models have even called for a warming of the troposphere that the satellite data didn't detect, something that was assumed to be a flaw in the models. As it turns out, the satellite data was actually wrong, and when corrected, they showed the correlated warming, showing this ( An explanation is actually in the summary of the correction made.

Further reading on climate models can be done at various places, but I always liked this article, myself. (

Moving on then?

“Humans are notoriously bad at understanding unlikely events. We either imagine them to be far more real than they are, or we end up ignoring the obvious. Extreme climate tipping points are just theory. It looks real scary, but that's imagination.”

Stefan, if you can even say this, then you clearly didn't even read my last post. There is no “climate tipping point”; it doesn't exist. As I already said, rapid climate change is dangerous because of the RATE of temperature change, not because of some final temperature. Reports are already indicating that the speed at which temperature is rising is impacting wildlife around the world, leading to the aforementioned biodiversity issues (which I discussed at greater lengths on Brin's last post). Lynx adapted to very cold temperatures are having their ability to hunt their primary prey (snowshoe hairs) impaired, studies are showing shifts in migration patterns and ranges for wildlife, part of the effect of which is the the changes in the distribution of life in North American forests, which are being ravaged in some locations by insects as their natural predators shift northwards. American Picas are presently in decline in the US West because of climate-related pressures. These animals, or at least, life very similar to them (I'm not sure how long each of those species have been around), have adapted to climate changes much larger than a paltry degree celsius, but never over a single century, which is barely the blink of an eye on the time scales needed for large-scale adaptation. It has nothing to do with a “tipping point”; it's a progressive process.

Corey said...

“All I'm seeing from the AGW crowd is a lot of stubbornness and defensiveness. Get this, most of the world's population isn't listening anyway, because the man in the street in the third and second world, can make a better common sense guess about risk than middle class academics in cozy western offices. It is ironic, you know, all this fashionable interest in "helping the world" when the people of the world--I mean just go out there to Kenya and to China and to India and ask the man in the street. Just go and ask them what they want. “

This flat wrong on multiple levels (most of the global population has no problem with the AGW theory, which is why leaders are politically empowered to act, even the US is a 50/50 split and disagrees with science on contentious issues more than other industrialized nations). What's more, that “guy on the street” in China that you're so proud of? In countless cases across the nation, he's running a traditional Chinese medicine shop, and illegally harvesting tiger and rhino parts in the process, something that has been booming since the influx of wealth to china from industrialization. Do you think he has any idea about things like global ecology and conservation biology, or might have some idea of why tigers and rhinos are important, or even the fact that his activities are driving them to extinction in the first place? Please, don't lecture me on what “middle class academics” do and don't know, because frankly, I find that attitude to be insulting to those of us in pursuit of academic careers, and blatantly anti-intellectual. Sarah Palin style anti-intellectualism and disdain for education, facts, and science are not a way to argue against climatology.

Anyway, the stuff you're debating here was being debated word for word years ago. Things have moved on. As time goes on, the more we're starting to see that the predictions are not coming true, not even close. “

Funny, then, that I just listed a number of predictions that have come true. Climatic reactions to forcings have been predicted in models in several instances before being observed acting the way those models call for, and the examples I gave are just some of them. In fact, there's really no significant feature of climate that scientists have worked with five or ten years ago that has been disproven to exist (or any feature at all for that matter). You're falling on the “because we don't know everything, we know nothing” false dichotomy to try to attack scientists for ONLY having an understanding of science that allows them to predict *most* of what climate will do in a given situation, pointing out small discrepancies and saying “they didn't forecast this, therefore they must know nothing about climate [because I'm going to ignore the countless things that have been accurately modeled and forecast]”. That's hardly a scientific attitude.

al fin said...

The connection between the BBC and a prominent carbon trading hedge fund with 4 trillion euros worth of investment in carbon credits, is the subject of excited rumours on the right side of the pond. Follow the money.

Given that many commenters' views on anthropogenic global warming catastrophe come from what they see in the popular media.

There is little mention of ClimateGate motivations to suppress dissenting views, and the IPCCs penchant to quote from environmental organisations' non peer-review propaganda.

Perhaps a "time-out" truly is called for, so that all the misinformation can be cleared from the system. Perhaps as Kuhn suggests, an entire generation of true believers in catastrophic anthropogenic climate change must die out, before a better science wins through?

Corey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Corey said...

You know Al Fin, there's actually something to what you're saying, but then, don't blame the whole scientific community for it.

The IPCC has issues, and there are always going to be problems with a work compiled from thousands of different individuals, but at the same time, while an issue of note has cropped up here or there, the substance of the report (the actual data that scientists will use to advise policy-makers) is generally a robust set of information. Keep in mind too, that a lot of questionable work is included on the denialist side in the scientific opinions of the Assessment Reports just to add "balance".

What you're describing is really more of a media and PAC problem. Generally speaking, political action committees will jump on anything with genuine alarmism if they think it'll kick up attention to the issue. It's not that these organizations are bad; it's just that they have a conflict of interest, and often it's limited anyways. Take the NWF, for example, which really isn't a dedicated PAC (a lot of money goes directly tangible conservation efforts), but serves a lot of the same functions. Now, the NWF has a lot of scientists that they have access to, and an interest in honestly reporting the affects of environmental degradation on a given species, because unwarranted alarmism on a problem that might not exist would divert their own money from species that needs protection to species that don't. It would undermine their interests. On the other hand, the NWF has a conflict of interest in honestly looking at whether or not something like climate change actually exists, because it's a potentially catastrophic threat to wildlife if is IS real. It doesn't mean they're wrong in what they say there, but it does mean that they can't be taken at their word, because there's a conflict of interest.

The media is a much bigger problem still, because fear and doom sells. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, the majority of scientific papers being published predicted either stable temperatures for the immediate future, or a warming trend, as scientists tried to figure out how aerosol forcings would balance with GHG forcings. Only a very tiny minority of papers predicted ANY amount of 'global cooling', and those were usually because of an exaggerated estimate of the aerosol forcing (remember, GCMs didn't exist to test these things). The result? the Media latched onto this small minority of papers, and played it up as meaning that all scientists were predicting an imminent ice age, even though that was far from what anyone was actually saying.

The media and PACs will never go away, so if you're hoping to end to alarmism, then unfortunately I wouldn't hold my breath if I were you. These organization do hold sway with the public, but that's part of why emphasis needs to be placed on listening to actual scientific organizations, ESPECIALLY where policy-makers are concerned. Already, great scientific outlets are out there, and an organization like the National Geographic Society is really usually pretty good (even if not scholarly). In addition, actions are being taken, such as the starting of a national climate service (kind of like the NWS for climate?) to help this goal of getting the right information out. Hopefully these will at least reduce the problem.

Anonymous said...

Abilard's experience fits my own. I have seen no evidence of a correlation between belief in AGW, or being a climate scientist, and personal carbon output. Unless people's beliefs start to affect their actions, the beliefs are an irrelevant variable. I have also failed to see a correlation on a collective level. If such a correlation does exist, or arises in the future, this only matters if economic feedback effects don't shift carbon output from one group to another.

Josh said...

Look, dude, if you actually want to learn a bit more about this and see why people are "skeptics" see here:

or here:

or here:

Or just about any place that gives you facts instead of the line "it's settled."

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Josh

You need to read the articles you quote

Instant hit
The oceans store CO2
The only problem is the acidification of the surface layers means this process is slowing
Instant hit 2
The CO2 will only give a small temperature rise
High CO2 levels in the past have given much higher temperatures and the sun was cooler then!

Read the articles look for the bollocks!

anon/portly said...

Some of these points seem extremely strained. For example:

Further, the Skeptic admits something pretty darned creepy and suspicious -- that the main "news" outlets pushing the Denier Movement are largely owned by those same petro-moguls. (Just one Saudi prince holds 7% of Fox, while other princes own smaller shares, plus a lot of Rupert Murdoch's debt, stock and commercial paper. Russian oligarchs and international oil companies own more.)

If Fox's stock was owned 100% by nice little old retired librarians, why should I think they'd be any better? They're getting great ratings. To the extent that I hear and read about what they say, I think Fox (et al) are bad on many many things. Is there a conspiracy of some sort behind all of the things they say or just certain things? Has it been proven that the efforts of Fox News have impacted the overall level of belief in AGW? How should I discover the truth of this? Where is the evidence? I am skeptical.

Elaborating a bit: the Skeptic has noticed that the Denier Movement is directly correlated with a particular "side" in America's calamitous, self-destructive Culture War. The same side that includes "Creation Science." The same side that oversaw the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression, based on mythological asset bubbles and magical "financial instruments."

The suggestion that there is an overlap of real significance and insight between the set of people pushing Creationism and the set of people who are to blame for our economic mess strikes me as an authentically O'Reillyesque point. Who exactly did "oversee" the financial collapse - Greenspan? Bernanke? Geithner? Real estate salesmen? Investment bankers? Various Bush administration officals? Congress? Which of these are we supposed to identify as The Bad Guys before our opinions on AGW become legit?

Cetamua said...

"If the Denier Movement obstruction leads to billions in losses and millions of refugees, will the top Deniers then be liable, under common and tort law, for damages?

This appears to not have been discussed anywhere that I know of"

James Hansen once published an Op-Ed where he accused those who fund the Denialist movement of "crimes against Humanity".

Of course, reactions from the deniers were incredibly vitriolic and ferocious.

Well, deniers of all stripes, sorry to break it to you, but if only 25% of all predictions of climate scientists become reality, your descendants will have every right to curse your memory and spit on your graves.

Of course, I'm not expecting any of you to care one bit about that.

Anonymous said...

A tangentially related question: how do I find out who, exactly, owns Fox News? I've been going through News Corporation's annual reports and they stopped publishing their list of top twenty shareholders in 2004.

rewinn said...

bob goodwin said...
"If I go back in time there seems to be a pattern of alarmism that spooked all the powers into strange action. Y2K comes to mind recently..."

Do you recall why Y2K caused no disaster?

Wait for it ...

wait for it ...

...because every organization with computer systems worked on the problem!

It has a hard deadline that could not be moved, and conceptually it was a pretty straightforward problem (with innumerable small tasks to be accomplished, but most using one of maybe 5 or 6 techniques.)

FAR from being an example to suggest that alarmism should be discounted, Y2K is to the contrary an example of how to avert a disaster.

If we applied the same technique to AGW, there would indeed be no cause for alarm. Regrettably, denialists use the difficulty of calculating the deadline and other aspects of the complexity of the issue to block solution of the problem.

(Meanwhile, the Winter Olympics is trucking in snow even as we are at a solar minimum. To be sure, much of that problem is related to the same El Nino that is dumping snow on our East Coast, but is it not remarkable that the denialists are pointing at the snow and ignoring the lack of snow?)

Alphonse said...

Denier/skeptic is a simple distinction. If I'm skeptical that my house will burn down, I maintain fire insurance. If I deny that it ever could burn down, I don't waste the money.

Anyone who says "do nothing about AGW" is not buying insurance against its predicted effects. No such person can claim to be a skeptic.

Anonymous said...

"Preventing action upon expert advice is legally culpable.

In effect, they are betting everything they own."

Sorry, but this just comes across as some kind of over-the-top thuggish threat, as in "shut up if you know what's good for you". The climate change deniers may be foolishly mistaken, but their freedom of speech shall not be abridged, full stop.

Let's take a trip through recent history. In the 1960s, experts in the government and military affirmed that Communism was a truly dangerous threat to human life and the global economy. They recommended drastic abatement measures involving tremendous expense and sacrifices, and attempted to carry them out in Vietnam and Cambodia. As we all know, strident opponents -- mostly amateurs with no sociopolitical or military expertise whatsoever -- successfully obstructed these policies.

Are they legally liable for the killing fields genocide that ensued? Many of them were legitimate skeptics by your definition, but a considerable number of the "hey hey ho ho" crowd were not exactly emphasizing thoughtful rational arguments, to say nothing of the occasional violent street mayhem and vandalism and a handful of cases of outright terrorism. Yet they are untroubled by the ambulance chasers or, for the most part, their own consciences.

Nick said...

@bob goodwin
"There have been numerous other cases of near unanimity amongst scientists that have unraveled. Two that come to mind are the food pyramid (eat lots of bread and potatoes!) in the 50's, and Keynesianism in the 70s and 80s."

Numerous equalling two examples, evidently, both of which do not in any way fit either unanimity nor unraveling.

The food pyramid isn't scientific, it was administrative, nor was it unanimous. Scientists didn't come up with it, the USDA did, under the advisement of "health professionals", which includes more than just scientific nutrition researchers. In addition, it still hasn't "come unraveled". It has been changed and refined, but it is still used in the US. There are issues with it and it isn't really accurate, but it isn't totally wrong either.

Keynesian economics wasn't anywhere near a unanimity. It always had significant opposition. You also speak as if it was wrong and has since been removed, however there are still many proponents for it today and it has a resurgence in 2008-2009.

You have already been educated above about your incorrect views on Y2K, and coming from the computer industry working in a data center and dealing with production servers for a major US telecommunications company, I can verify that it didn't become any issue because of a lot of preemptive work.

neil craig said...

Doctor 8 the reason it is important to refer to catastrophic warming is because if it is only warming within historic parameters to an extent which wasn't catastropghic & indeed was beneficial (eg the Climate Optimum 9,000-5,000BC which was up to 4 C warmer) there is no point in getting into a tiz about it. You clearly know, from mentioning warming "overall" that the globe is currently cooling, despite CO2 still rising, which, if evidence were to be a factor in thjis theory, would be strong evidence it is wrong.

Corey you say we are in a short period of cooling within a longer period of warming. Hoewever the evidence for this short period is the last 10 years & that for the warming is the previous 20. This is barely stronger evidence for warming than for cooling & certainly no evidence at all for a catastrophic rise. Your claim that it will only be a short period of cooling, with warming presumably starting next week, is evidence free. If warming doesn't start next week will you say the theory has been falsified or will you merely move the goalposts. If the latter you are inded saying the theory is unfalsifiable, at least so far as believers are concerned.

Your other answer also implies you consider this theory unfalsifiable & hence unscientific.

There is simply no evidence whatsoever for catastrophic warming & both Occam's razor & the Principle of Mediocrity require any scientist not to accept it until there is.

Common sense requires that we not depress human wealth by hundrds of trillions without some evidence.

rewinn said...

neil - the globe is not cooling.

And converting to non-carbon-emitting energy technologies stimulates the economy; it does not destroy wealth.

Please note that I have supported my claims with just as many sources as you, but my first claim has the advantage of not being supported by evidence previously cited ad nauseum; the latter is merely faith in the free market and the cleverness of humanity.

Josh said...

@Duncan Cairncross

Thanks, Duncan! I didn't realize I'd have the opportunity to encounter an idiot everywhere I go. It's nice to know that some things are consistent!

Anyway, I did read those articles (and more) and I did discover that CO2 accounts for only 4.2 - 8.4% of all longwave radiation absorbed by green house gases. [Instant hit one] And that man made CO2 account for only 4% of all CO2. [Instant hit 2] And that over all last century there was a .7C change. [Instant hit 3] That means if CO2 were responsible for the entire change, disregarding sun, clouds, etc., it could have been responsible for (roughly within a few hundredths of a degree probably): 4% * 6.3% * .7 = .01C change over a CENTURY.

Oh, looks like I out instant hitted you.

Naum said...

@bob goodwin,

on Y2K, it was cause worthy sounding the alarm (not to hit the army surplus store and dash to the hills) for the all the software riddled with code that would break…

…fortunately, IT (actually, during this period, these departments were better known as suffixed with "Systems") finally responded to pleas of their programmer staffs (as well as the blitz of CIO press bombardment and glitzy consultants) and put forth a SERIOUS effort 3-4 years ahead of the target date. And a big chunk of the potential problem was mitigated by migration of critical systems off mainframe hardware to newer mini/micro/distributed platforms.

And I get tired of writing this, but as someone that worked on 24x7 round the clock developer support squad for a major Fortune 500 corporation during those weeks 1999-2000, I can attest that there were still a great deal of issues and problems that needed resolving, though legal teams were employed in full force to buffer and cover over such incidents.

But it was a major project with considerable outlays in manpower, hardware with repercussions for the new decade.

Yes, some IT folks were prone to exaggeration (Ed Yourdon), but Y2K inflicted a heavy toll during the mid-late 90s — at one project I worked on, for a utility company, it meant a boondoggle with IBM to replace a metering/billing system that ran on hierarchical databases keyed by reverse complement YYDD (i.e., 9999 - YYDD, so that "child" segments could boe accessed in reverse chronological index). I suspect many such undertakings were in effect during the timeframe.

People have no idea how old and crusty the code that is at the core of critical business functions — airline reservations, insurance adjudications, charge/credit transactions, utility billing/metering/monitoring, etc.… …much of it, even in Y2K efforts just got some monkey patching…

On Keynesianism, economists (or the non dismal science folk too) could argue that politics/economics for U.S. went downhill in late 70s/early 80s when that model was largely abandoned for Friedman style monetarism. Devotees could point to how U.S. since 1980 and Reagan's championing of neoliberalism, how the U.S. went from largest creditor nation to leading debtor, from largest exporter to leading importer, decline in income for average worker, etc.…

Corey said...

Neil, you should check the temperature records again.

The *sharp* upward trend in temperature goes until about 2005. What you're saying here is a misunderstanding of the record, and not at all an uncommon one (the whole "1998 was the hottest year" argument). 1998 was an outlier; it had the strongest ENSO forcing out of any year in the 20th century. When coming up with a trend, you don't don't take a single peak in the data (especially a huge outlier), compare it to where we are now, and say "see? there's been cooling". That's now how it works.

The GISS data is a little more interesting here just because of the prominence of 2005, but small disagreements beside, the CRU data shows the situation with a graphic that's easier to see clearly, so take a look at the HADCRU data (

Despite the outlier at 1998, the trend still continues upwards after that year. It's not a matter of what single year is the hottest, but a matter of trends. The "cooling" (which is really more like a pause given the overall trend with the latest data) is over such a short period, that it's still well within the range of normal internal year-to-year variations. Saying that it makes a ten year cooling trend would be like me starting to measure the 90s' temperature from the Mt Pinatubo eruption and claiming we had warmed .5C in a decade from 1991 to 2001. I don't, because that would be silly :P

Furthermore, because the latest data is showing 2009 as a very warm year (second warmest this decade as I recall?), it shows that there's not even a real cooling trend even for five years so much as just an extreme cold snap in 2007 and 2008. The aforementioned GISS data shows that situation really well because of the type of graph used (

By contrast, we have seen a large net gain in temperature starting from 1910. From there, there was an upward jump to about 1940, then a pause mostly from a large-scale rise in aerosol forcings to about 1965 or 1970, and then a another sharp jump for 35-40 years until 2005.

What's more, temperatures do not give the complete picture, because you need attribution. The downward influence looks to be due to stratospheric water loss, and so, is still completely consistent with the established enhanced greenhouse effect theory for warming.

What you're doing here is to obscure the issue. Whether or not it's your intention, it comes off as a grasp at straws to point to anything and say "SEE! That doesn't fit with your theory so it doesn't work". When something so damning really does come along, I'll be the first to say so. What's more, this obfuscation really isn't too different from Stephan's whole false dichotomy about either knowing everything or knowing nothing.

"Your other answer also implies you consider this theory unfalsifiable & hence unscientific."

That's a strawman argument. I never said any such thing. In fact, I spent two posts saying the exact opposite, and pointing out an error by another post when I said that science does NOT apply a dichotomy of absolute truth or fiction to a theory, rather viewing it as an explanation with a degree of certainty for being the most likely explanation. That said, one actually needs something substantial against the theory before suggestions of throwing it out come about. Thus far, nothing of the sort has come about.

Common sense requires that we not depress human wealth by hundrds of trillions without some evidence."

Not only is this an enormous exaggeration that smells of the sort of fear tactics the right wing throws out against any form of change or progress, but as I pointed out in response to Brin's latest post, the common sense argument is a fallacy.

Corey said...

"Thanks, Duncan! I didn't realize I'd have the opportunity to encounter an idiot everywhere I go. It's nice to know that some things are consistent!

Anyway, I did read those articles (and more) and I did discover that CO2 accounts for only 4.2 - 8.4% of all longwave radiation absorbed by green house gases. [Instant hit one] And that man made CO2 account for only 4% of all CO2. [Instant hit 2] And that over all last century there was a .7C change. [Instant hit 3] That means if CO2 were responsible for the entire change, disregarding sun, clouds, etc., it could have been responsible for (roughly within a few hundredths of a degree probably): 4% * 6.3% * .7 = .01C change over a CENTURY.

Oh, looks like I out instant hitted you."

Josh, while I applaud the attempts to research the issue, the points presented by the site are absolute BS.

CO2 does account for only a portion of the greenhouse effect (in fact it's much smaller than water vapor). The actual figures -I have no idea where that site gets that information from- are between 9 and 26 percent depending on overlap with other greenhouse substances.

That said, the site does a bait and switch with the greenhouse effect, because it treats the effect as if it's ONLY the 1C we've warmed during the 20th century. The actual magnitude of the greenhouse effect, as in the difference between having none and all and where we are today, is not a single degree, but rather THIRTY degrees celsuis (give or take). If a gas that constitutes 9-26% of LW absorption that causes a 30 degree warming of our planet (which makes it habitable, and is wonderful) is risen by over 30%, then having temperature raise by a single degree celsuis are part of the response to that is hardly difficult to believe. Keep in mind, of course, that the relationship is logarithmic and not linear (again, thankfully).

Corey said...

Furthermore, humans are not responsible for 4% of the rise in greenhouse gases. Again, a bait a switch is done between overall greenhouse gases and NET greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. Human contributions are actually small compared to natural emissions (quite small, in fact), but the carbon cycle is delicately balanced, which is why CO2 levels in the atmosphere vary by only a small amount even over hundreds of thousands of years. That tight tolerance has been offset by human contributions, some of which are being taken up by nature's ability to absorb excess, but that doesn't change the fact that while natural emissions are balanced, human emissions are extra in the system that are creating a net gain.

This can be demonstrated too, by two different methods. First, human carbon emissions are chemically unique. That's because petroleum comes almost exclusively from ancient plant matter (we're not burning dinosaurs, sorry D:), and plants favor the uptake of carbon 12 to carbon 13, which makes it what's dominantly in our fuels, which means that human CO2 emissions are very saturated with carbon 12 compared to the atmosphere as a whole. Carbon 13/12 ratios in the atmosphere are falling, which shows that right now, it's human carbon emissions that are staying the atmosphere. Everything in nature is really absorbing a net amount of carbon right now, while humans are the only source of net increase, which goes to the next point. All of this is given some explanation here (

Furthermore, if one accounts for anthropogenic emissions, one finds that of the amount emitted by us, a portion has been absorbed by both the oceans and atmosphere (because we've seen rises in both), but those increases don't account for the volume we've emitted, which means that terrestrial systems are also absorbing human carbon emissions. This tells us that right now everything is taking in a net amount of carbon, that's every natural system. Only humans are producing a net output. This is explaned by Professor Corrine Le Quere here ( A crude graph of her explanation is here (

A third line of evidence is also in just looking at historical concentrations. Look at the concentrations here in the paleoclimate data ( At today's concentration of ~390ppm, we have not only seen an increase in CO2 that's 30% higher than the paleoclimate highs, but a CO2 increase that's makes present variability in CO2 TWICE that seen in the paleoclimate variability (180-280ppm, or 100ppm varition, and now we're at 390ppm, which means we've doubled the size of the variation). Keep in mind, that this began to change at the EXACT moment the industrial revoluion began.

Stefan said...

Corey, you've missed the point about the third world and seem to have taken it as a personal "anti-intellectual" insult. So be it.

The point is this: we don't get to tell the rest of the world what to do. If you expect to tell the rest of the world what to do, you are making an arrogant mistake believing you know what's best for them. Go live in the third world for 20 years amongst the locals, and start to feel their worldview. Their daily lives, their daily problems, their aspirations. Then from that understanding, you can begin to look at the planet not as some abstract "ecosystem" of predators, prey, resources and consumption, but as a global living evolving humanity with multiple waves of advancement and progress, fragmentation and decay. You know, they have intellects too. I don't know why you'd imagine that because I point out that there are other views than just western academics, you'd imagine that I was speaking against intellectuals everywhere. What about chinese peasants who think about their lives? What about kenyan farmers who think about their lives? What makes you so "intellectual" and they not? And what makes your intellectualism a better guide for their lives than they themselves? You're in danger of coming across as elitist.

Quick aside: you know the biggest mistake about the Iraq war? It wasn't falsified evidence, it was that the west failed to understand that the middle east is mostly feudal. They failed to understand the people as they are and what they really wanted. The west came in and say, "what's best for you guys is 'democracy'". That is a huge intellectual failure. It is also elitist. Us telling them what's best for the world.

As for multiple examples of how the predictions are coming true, feel free to pick one prediction to focus on and present it here and explain why you believe it. Meanwhile notice that climate science is in some deep trouble with "mistakes" being discovered.

You replied to Neil saying that 1998 was an outlier and you say that despite it the trend is still upwards. CRU's own Phil Jones has just admitted that there hasn't been any statistically significant warming for 15 years.

I always ask AGW proponents, how long is climate? 10 years? 15 years? In other words, how long before the theory could be falsified?

Check out the latest stuff and get up to date. Even the MWP is starting to make a comeback.

Corey said...


The mid 90's were .1C cooler than today, and .1C per decade is the same trend that's been going on since the 1970s. It's not less significant than any other decade, and is STILL TEN TIMES the trend seen in the paleoclimate data.

Ten times the trend seen for the past half-million years, a trend that has resulted in observed climatic pressures for wildlife around the world isn't 'statistically signficant'?

By the way, I'm not familiar with that news agency, and maybe it's just a product of bad quoting (maybe the poor guy has really lost it?), but there's an enormous amount wrong with what's being said there. The FOI requests weren't "complied" with, because they were. British FOI laws don't require any one organization to hand-prepare data that's available elsewhere, and because NOAA makes that data freely available, CRU was under no obligation. The small amount of data that isn't freely available is privately owned by private meteorological groups. Don't blame the CRU scientists just because the private sector won't cooperate.

The whole medieval warming thing is ridiculous too. Proxy data with the resolution desired for that data presents a challenge to scientists, and it's always possible that the MWP (which has NEVER been in doubt) was warmer than we presently think, but that goes back to the false dichotomy you presented earlier about CO2 either causing all of climate change or none of it. Whether or not something else warmed up the Earth at a different time period has no bearing on the AGW case (and, indeed, the solar forcing had some impressive moments back then if the proxy data is to be believed).

As for rural or third world citizens, first off, the Kyoto Accord was voluntary, so nobody is forcing anyone to do anything. If the price of carbon goes up that will change things, but then, since when is it China's right to pollute in ways that affect other nations?

Furthermore, while I did apparently misunderstand your point, it's neither here nor there. As I'm absolutely sure that you're aware, 3rd world citizens are living organisms too, which means they're every bit as affected by biodiversity any anyone else, regardless of whether or not it's a specific area of knowledge they understand. All humans warrant consideration, but isn't that precisely the reason to act on climate change? It's not like "middle class academics" are the only ones potentially affected by this issue.

As for a "falsified theory", you'd be hard pressed to show that 97% of US climatologists, a doubtless equal number of overall climate scientists worldwide, and pretty much every scientific institution out there is involved in some massive coverup, especially when they have to share in the costs of fixing this issue too.

If you want to show a falsified theory, and you really have ground to show a grand conspiracy, you don't have to wait for anything. You can do that right now. If, on the other hand, you want to show a theory as reasonably DISPROVEN, you have to either show a body of evidence that is inconsistent with the theory and another theory that fits the sum of facts better, or you have to show a body of evidence that flat out contradicts the theory (the former would be easier). For example, you might show that a solar forcing argument fits the temperature data better than the AGW theory, wihle also explaining why the normal greenhouse theory doesn't apply, or you could show that temperatures have actually dropped a degree over the past century, and that there is NO correlation of forcings to explain it.

As for the whole of why I believe the AGW theory, that's far longer than anything I've posted so far, but if you really want me to get into the case for global warming from top to bottom, I can later. For now, I have work.

Anonymous said...

David Brin:

As an agnostic on the whole global warming thing, I would be interested to hear your perception whether and how significant Phil Jones' recent comments are.

I am referring to specifically to his comments in regards to 1- his own data not being organized and available; 2- this alleged medieval warming event; and 3- that there has been no significant global warming for the past 15 years,

All of that said, I appreciated your post separating skeptics from fanatics. In the spirit of balanced analysis, how would you define fanatics from non-fanatics on the global warming side?

And, more significantly, how would you parse proposals advanced by pro-global warming proponents and their opponents?

I would think we need criteria there more than anywhere.

It seems to me that folks I would possibly categorize as global warming fanatics used exaggerations (glaciers melting by 2035) to justify some fairly economically disruptive proposals.

How is a non-scientifically oriented policy maker to evaluate these proposals?

Tony Fisk said...

Corey: dig it, you're just one of them smarty-pants science types, talking down to them know-nothing Kenyan peasants! (What would Worzel Gummidge do? ;-)


Agnostics on this topic appear to be few and far between these days, but I will try and answer in a reasonable frame of mind.

I sympathise with 'non-scientifically-oriented policy makers' (be they presidents or aged P's) The data and how the conclusions derived from them are complex and hence, to a degree, 'closed' to the public. The ramifications are, in a word, terrifying. Small wonder there's a tendency to put in the too-hard basket.
(Aided and abetted by folk who rely on the status quo to maintain their wealth...)

Anyway, my basis of my personal (pro-AGW) stand isn't too hard to follow, and is this:
1. CO2 absorbs solar radiation to a remarkable degree (this fact has been known for over a century)
2. It is by no means the strongest GHG, but it is the most persistent.
3. Its warming effect tends to allow a greater concentration of stronger GHGs (like water vapour), which is how a small concentration can have a big effect
4. The Keeling curve (atmospheric measurements from Mauna Kea) shows an inexorable increase of 1-2ppm per year since the 1950's. This trend is matched by CO2 levels in trapped air bubbles taken from polar ice core samples, and commenced in the 1850's.

The conclusion that be drawn from that is that the background atmospheric concentration of a known GHG has been increasing since the start of the industrial revolution, and is now 10% higher than what it was even twenty years ago.

One can therefore infer that the Earth is currently absorbing more heat energy than it is emitting.

Where that heat is being stored is where it gets complicated, but I hope you can follow the reasoning so far.

To your specific questions (if you don't mind me instead of DB):

1. Concerning Phil Jones: he is acknowledging his faults and disorganisation. Embarrassing, but hardly damning.

2. Medieval warming event is an example of 'it's complicated!' (I think Corey covered this earlier)

3. the 'no significant warming' riff is a good example of a half truth. The world today is no warmer than it was in 1998. The world today is significantly warmer than it was in 1999*. Both these statements are true, and arise from the short term fluctuations in temperatures. You need to observe the temperature variations over a much longer period to get an idea of the trend (which remains up, even over the last fifteen years!)

Final point, it's a reasonable assumption that the economic disruptions that would result from tackling climate change will be enormous, and this is another reason to do nothing.... but the economic analyses suggest otherwise.

* based on data provided by the 'State of the World, 2009': Worldwatch Institute. Like me, you might find this in your local library)

Corey said...

Well, in fairness to skeptics, it's not a crime to be one so long as one is willing to consider evidence on the subject. I was a strong skeptic too at one point until I was compelled to actually look at the evidence and the nature of the debate.

In a way, it's almost beating a dead horse to go into hard data anymore, because there's already enough just in the past 102 comments here to assemble an entire case for AGW. There's the paleoclimate correlation of CO2 and temperature, the link between CO2 rise and human activity, the clear temperature trends and the modern correlation of forcings to that temperature, the predictive ability of GCMs, the basis in physics for the greenhouse effect, so on and so fourth. In addition, there's no good alternative theory presented, and, indeed, that shouldn't be seen as a failure by skeptics to present one because it's not easy to do. Imagine if one was asked to present an alternative *scientific* theory to evolution, or an alternative theory to general relativity.

We have the specifics, but perhaps what's lacking is a simply shell to wrap it all up with so that perspective can be given to make the case cohesive, and enable people to see why it is that the presented evidence is enough to make a strong case for us. Yes, this will be very long, but I think a simple summary of everything will really come to the crux of the matter by showing a big picture.

So, a lot of things affect climate. Climate is affected by the sun, it's affected by the oceanic heat conveyors that help spread heat around, it's affected by changes in Earth's orbit (see Milankovich cycles), and it's affected by the greenhouse effect.

Climate also changes a lot. Earth's atmosphere is a big system, and has found equilibrium at different places throughout history (due to a mixture of the above factors and perhaps others). Throughout history, a lot of different things have affected climate and different situations have caused warm and cold trends, sometimes subtle, and sometimes harsh. Often times, harsh climatic changes end with mass extinctions, which target the top of ecological systems with the largest organisms, and move down (leaving no large organisms and almost no small organisms in the case of the Permian extinction).

Back in the 19th century, physicists first figured out the greenhouse effect. This effect occurs when our transparent atmosphere allows through visible light energy, which then impacts the surface and is re-emitted as long-wave radiation, which the atmosphere does not allow to pass through as easily. Now, this isn't something limited to atmosphere. It's something we've all seen when a car is left out in the sun light, and managed to somehow warm up vastly more than the surrounding environment. Windows allow in visible light, but then block the escape of that energy when it tries to leave as long-wave radiation. I would assume that's why cracking the windows is so effective at alleviating that problem (little effect through convection, but a large effect through giving an avenue of escape for long-wave radiation).

Svante Arrhenius even managed to physically MEASURE the effect!

Now, we know, and don't generally debate the fact that there is a greenhouse effect that makes our planet habitably warm, and is also why Venus (with an almost completely CO2 atmosphere) is 400C-500C hotter at the surface than Mercury (which barely has an atmosphere), even though it's further from the sun. Because humans are causing an enormous increase that can be proven to be far out of the ordinary (as per the NOAA paleo-data), and linked to humans in multiple ways beyond just INCREDIBLY convenient timing (as per the NOAA data, News Scientist, and Corinne Le Quere), scientists have made a simple deductively reasoned theory: that if some CO2 traps sunlight, and more CO2 will block more sunlight. Both the NOAA paleoclimate data and the relative temperature of Venus support this conclusion.

Corey said...

Now, CO2 is very important to this effect. It's not as prevalent as water vapor, or as strong pound for pound as wither water vapor of CH4/methane (at least I don't think), but CO2 is important because it's much easier to vary than other greenhouse substances due to its incredibly long residence time in the atmosphere (years), and the prevalence of carbon in living systems, which trade the stuff around all the time in the well-balanced carbon cycle.

Unsurprisingly then, the temperature is now going up, and it's going up in a way that's correlating to the EXACT relationships (accounting for very small error bars) to forcings that the AGW theory calls for. Even new mysteries, when solved, end up just supporting this theory, like the late-decade cooling we have now, which fits into the forcings perfectly if one accounts for stratospheric water vapor loss, which, as it turns out, IS PRESENT.

Then you have climate models. Now, climate models don't actually have global warming written into them. The forcings are just put into climate models with the climate sensitivity that scientists postulate is present, and VIOLA, the climate model re-produces the past temperatures for those forcings. A 1988 model by James Hansen even predicted almost 20 years of climate before the previously unknown feature of aforementioned stratospheric water vapor loss introduced a new forcing that the model didn't call for, something that will be introduced to improve new models (or even make old ones better).

Okay, so the model wasn't 100% right, only 80% right, because while it did produce the correct temperature when the forcings it was programmed for were prevalent (corroborating the AGW theory in yet ANOTHER way by showing that the atmosphere is behaving the way it calls for), it didn't predict everything. Not only did it not predict everything, but the the planet is not ALWAYS warming. Well, doesn't the AGW theory say that because CO2 is always increasing that the planet should always be warming? Well let's go back to the first sentence of this summary: “... a lot of things affect climate”. I can't predict the exact future of climate on Earth. In fact, while the 2009 data suggests that our respite from warming won't last (because the renewed warming suggests CO2 might be overpowered the water vapor loss), I don't know that for sure. In fact, we could be looking at the paused warming trend or even a slight cooling trend for 20 years for all I know. Even if that doesn't happen though, the warming resumes by the end of 2010 or 2011 in full force, I can guarantee that climate will slow down for periods again. I can guarantee that it will spike, pause, cool, vary wildly during certain years due to volcanoes or obscene ENSO forcings, and do many, many, many things that will not correlate perfectly to CO2 alone. What people need to understand however, is that the AGW theory does not claim that temperature follows CO2 alone, nor even that temperature will ALWAYS be increasing. All that the AGW theory says is that our present understanding of climate is correct, and that humans are contributing to one of the strongest positive forcings notably, and all that has to happen for this to remain consistent is for explanations of new and unforeseen climate trends to fit into that framework, much like stratospheric water vapor loss does. It's not an all or nothing thing with warming; it's not some dichotomy (there's my favorite word again) that says that either CO2 causes all of climate change and the planet will always warm, or that CO2 causes none of climate change, and the planet will never warm. Neither of those statements is true or consistent with observations.

Corey said...

So here's a question from all that. If the planet can still cool, even unexpectedly, and without contradicting the AGW theory (AKA: our entire understanding of climate), then how do we know we won't just get a bunch more cooling periods? How do we know that some new negative forcing won't come about and cool everything down, and climate will just correct this whole problem itself? The truth is that we don't. We don't have any reason to believe this, but we don't know everything, so we don't know that this won't happen, even though such occurrences as completely new feature in climate arising are rare, and the odds that one will have that exact effect astronomical. So with that in mind, I have a simple question for everyone: Who's up for a game of Russian Roulette?

Furthermore, there's no theory that really supplants this theory as the most likely (most likely by far, too), again, because you'd literally have to re-write most of climate science to come up with one, and explain an awfully huge number of enormous coincidences. Cosmic rays and the sun have been discussed. I'm pretty sure the PDO theory has been as well. We can also reasonably dismiss the idea that the whole warming just exists in the imagination of a few computers too, first because there's no basis for the claim, and secondly because as also discussed previously, proxy indicators like wildlife are acting like the world is warming, corroborating the temperature records.

This is all what's ended up being supported by pretty much the entire scientific community world-wide. 97% of US climatologists, and a presumably equal amount elsewhere, pretty much every national science academy (including 11 who signed a joint letter in 2005 in unanimous declaration), the UK Met Office, NASA, NOAA, the US Meteorological Society (just to name a few of hundreds of such organizations), and even private distributors of science content like Discovery and the National Geographic Society have all concluded that this is correct. The doubters, on the other hand, are almost ubiquitously in the sphere or influence of polluting energy or other “status quo” interests (again, because only an obscenely small minority of scientists disagrees here). Now, we don't know everything, but we sure as hell know a lot, so it's clear that it's more than just two opinions; someone is lying. Someone is trying to cover up the truth here between these two big entities. So examine the evidence and let it speak for itself, but also ask yourself, who's likely being truthful? (

Now, I know that a lot of the replies here are just from blind denialists (mostly the one-time hit-and-run posters), but a lot of them are from good people who are simply skeptical and are carrying on a real, if at-times contentious dialogue here. Given the above statements, I simply have to ask in what way this is even remotely a weak theory, or what theory actually works better (yes, consensus kept in mind as well). Sorry for another post of doom, I have an odd habit here to only write those, but I think this is a fair summary.

Bob MacNeal said...

Thank you for your cogent and instructive analysis in making this distinction.

I was what Derek Sivers would call a "First Follower" in believing we needed to address HGCC. This was a gut reaction based on an ignorance of any HGCC science back in the 1980s. In some ways my gut reaction is just as dangerously ignorant as the Denier’s delusional afflictions.

Since then, data has come in. Time has passed. My understanding has increased as my notions are confirmed or dispelled.

This morning I Tweeted "The more intimate I am with data, the more difficult it is to deny the implications".

Abilard said...


The question is, rather, is the theory strong enough to justify trillions of dollars and the reordering of life for 6 billion or so people on its own merits. The greater the claim, the higher the standard of evidence. Further, it is simply a fact that the standards of climate science will not arbitrate this acceptance or rejection. In venturing out of its ivory tower and into the political arena, climate science has made itself subject to judgments the rules for which it does not control.

First, let's look at the field itself. While some controlled experiments are possible and limited observations of other climate systems are possible (other planets), we cannot (yet) perform controlled experiments with planetary climate systems. We are experimenting with Earth, but that is not a controlled experiment. Consequently I personally will give less weight to the claims of climate science than to the claims of engineering, chemistry, botany, or many other disciplines.

Second, because there is no control "Earth" for our experiment and no ability to replicate our experiment on other worlds (as yet), we need to be especially careful about the way we collect and vet our data on this one. Consider this:

BBC - Climategate expert Jones says data not well organised

The Hadley center is not inconsequential to climate science. Yet, it took such a casual attitude toward data collection that much of its core raw data are now gone forever. The fact that this is only coming out now also suggests that for that past two decades climate scientists weren't doing a lot of internal vetting on this now non-existent data.

These two marks against the credibility of the science are each significant. Which brings us to the third: predictive power. This is not just about papers, tenure, or the advancement of knowledge. This also about survival, liberty, and prosperity. Having accurate models is IMPORTANT. Yes, modelling is hard. Just ask economists, whose multi-million dollar computer simulations of the economy failed to predict our recent meltdown. And, I am sure that scientists can feel very excited and proud that, after the fact, they identified a negative feedback loop and were able to tighten up Hansen's model. But, if climate science is going to be given such credence that we ignore the first two marks against it and reorder civilization based on it alone then its modelling has to be solid.

As it happens, there are plenty of good reasons for relegating our petro-elite to the dustbin of history, and most of those reasons have nothing to do with climate science. I'm all for this. But, if you are wondering why, based on climate science alone, someone could hesitate to act, I hope the above provides some insight.

Corey said...

Alibard, I don't disagree with a lot of what you're saying, but at the same time, I feel you're confusing the issue by taking two very distinct questions, and trying to wrap them up into one to make the first dependent on the second.

How certain climate science is is a matter of science. What level of action is required based on the COMBINATION of certainty of the science and the implications of it are a matter of policy. They are not one in the same.

Whether or not a theory is inconvenient has no bearing on whether or not we should accept it to a given degree of certainty. If climate change was going to MAKE us trillions in a worst-case scenario, would we be more willing to accept the science? We shouldn't be. What if the science was a hundred times as certain, but the implications a hundred times milder? What if the science was a hundreds times less certain, but the implications a hundred times as severe?

Judging the soundness of a scientific theory based on whether or not its inconvenient is how Young-Earth Creationism is still around, because it's a judgment of the case for evolution based one's desire to revise how one looks at the Bible. That's not how science works.

So first and foremost, you have to ask yourself whether or not the theory is plausible (which you've already said it is), and then to what degree or certainty you think the data allows you to assign the theory. AFTER that step is over and done with, THEN you ask yourself whether the combination of certainty and implications warrants action. Your question is valid politically, but it's not a scientific question, because step two of that process should not color step one.

So, do the implications of serious climate change warrant action over taking the risk of doing nothing? Given the level of certainty, and the level of consequence, clearly some level of action is warranted, so your question then becomes better expressed, not as a question of act or don't act, but at that point it rather becomes a question of degree of action.

If climate change was the only reason to abandon an oil economy, and doing so really did cost us trillions of dollars that we'd never make back (not to be confused with investing trillions in alternative energy and efficiency technologies), and there was no way to get around this cost, would it warrant that change? To be honest, I'm not sure how to answer that, because it's not something I've really given much thought to (given how purely academic that question is). I think I'd still answer "yes", because given how much our species consumes in biological resources due to our numbers, and given how contingent the planet's ability to deliver those resources is on the robustness of ecosystems, and given the potential impact climate change can have there, I think the consequences of not acting do warrant action, especially given that recouping this hypothetical cost is vastly easier than trying to recoup biodiversity.

That said, as you point out, climate change is just one of the myriad of reasons to take actions that would reduce AGW, so it is purely academic.

As for whether or not the evidence stands on its own, I think you've got a couple things wrong there (though I, myself could always be wrong).

First, despite this claim being wildly tossed around in the denialist camp, I don't think the HADCRU data is gone. NOAA has the raw data freely available, because they use that data too for their own work. In fact, I can show you that raw data at any time, and I can show you a large explanation of how they bias adjust the data, and then I can show you the bias-adjusted data (all just from NOAA's public data servers).

What's more, that data is agreed with by many other independent datasets. NASA GISS, JMA, the satellite records, all agree here. Even if the CRU data was completely untrustworthy (and indeed, they do have some issues to work out), it's still corroborated by other independent organizations.

Corey said...

Secondly, we DO have a control Earth. We see how the Earth acts without human influence for a pretty big period in time through proxy data, especially ice core data. We may not be able to take a planet, and give the exact conditions of today in every detail and then take away the CO2, but given all the other science, is that even really necessary? A planet is a planet, and climate is climate, and climate was reacting the way modern science calls for since long before the Industrial Revolution.

I agree that having things like a toy planet to play with and having a case where out of the countless scientists and institutions involved in making the AGW case, NO ONE, ANYWHERE, EVER makes a mistake would be things that would make the case more or less 100% certain, but it's not a reasonable requirement in the real world.

What's more, a case doesn't have to be 100% before it's very substantial. The AGW case is not some theory that rests on a single line of evidence. Every single component of the theory is backed up on multiple levels by multiple factual observations, all of which are extremely strong in their implication.

Just look at one big piece of the theory, which is attribution of temperature:

The fact that the CO2 and temperature correlate perfectly in paleoclimate, the relative temperature of Venus, the fact that the Arrhenius Equation still matches observation after A HUNDRED AND FIFTEEN YEARS, the fact that climate models not pre-programmed to show global warming re-produce our temperature when simple given the forcings, and even the timing of the beginning of the warming are all independently VERY strong lines of evidence. The odds of one of them giving us the wrong picture are fairly remote given how substantial each is, but the odds of ALL of them being some giant fluke? You're a smart person; I don't have to lecture you there.

Of course, just for fun, why don't we get an idea here. Let's assume that each of these observations being consistent with the AGW theory have an obscenely high 50% assumed chance of being just a fluke. Now, I mentioned five points there, so the odds of all of them being wrong is the probability of each being wrong taken to the fifth power, which comes to .03125- three and one eighth percent that all of the AGW case that I mention in the area of attribution is just a fluke based on an obscenely high probability of each being wrong.

So, even given an "I bent over backwards" assumption on probability there, that makes the AGW theory ONLY 96% and change likely to be correct on attribution of warming to rising CO2 if any one of those points constitutes a substantial piece of evidence. Taken together, each one is only 50% with my assumption (and indeed, some could be higher than that, but many would be much, much lower), but this is really what's important here, the point that the AGW theory is multi-faceted in its evidence, and so, is not a house of cards waiting for one contrary point to bring it all down.

So, given our assumption, let me say that I still have no set opinion on your question, so you tell me: Is a 96%+ probability of attribution good enough? Keep in mind, that every new line of evidence (including any piece that I didn't mention) just increases that.

We've had 115 years to figure this out and find where evidence sits, and there are many robust lines of evidence that underlie every single point, and every single available piece of evidence underlies the point. THAT is what I consider substantial enough to warrant action, especially with all things considered on the other benefits. Yes, the case for AGW is very strong. Yes, there are benefits on many levels to dumping fossil fuels. Does the case alone warrant that action given a worst case economic scenario? I think so, but in the end, who cares? :P

Corey said...

Thank you for the points, by the way.

Tony Fisk said...

The question is, rather, is the theory strong enough to justify trillions of dollars and the reordering of life for 6 billion or so people on its own merits?

Related question: does it cost trillions of dollars?

Corey said...

It shouldn't cost trillions in the long run, given that money spent will end up as an investment towards alternative energy and efficiency technologies (which will help us economically), not to mention the fact that any avenue just for investment itself is desperately needed for our economy right now.

Money will have to be spent, but given how much is spent just to keep the oil economy going (which presently includes the entire cost of the "war on terror", not to mention our trade deficit), it's not like it's money that's just going away forever. It will be made back.

If something like Polywell reactors ends up being successful, then new technologies will end up being so revolutionary thanks to pressures from concern over climate change (among other things), that in the end, we'll really end up in a much better economic situation than we were in before.

Anonymous said...


As a skeptic, I naturally question all points, make reasonable counter arguments, and apply my world experiences with what I see and hear. I also ask questions that are not so obvious.

Now as a moderate, I have just as much like/dislike for the 2 party system as I do the common criminal.

I have been part of "Earth Day" since the 80s, encouraging people to make small and big adjustments to their everyday life. I use public transportation to and from work as often as possible. I believe that gays have the right to marry. At the same time, I believe in the right to own a gun. I drive all terrain vehicles. I believe abortion is wrong, the choice was made during sex. In other words, according to liberals and conservatives, I am an oxy-moron, an enigma, and irony all in one.

The funny thing is, there are a lot more people mostly moderate then there are on either side of "the fence" combined. These are the people that tend not to vote for the president, or other higher offices, because they simply do not like either choice. They do vote on local policy and local elections more because they understand the important of a localized balance. I also find most moderates are quiet observers, they are not extremists, and they wait until they know for sure before doing anything drastic.

Now, I know it to be true that human activity 100% affects our climate both in small and big ways. I know that the "science" has improved rapidly, especially with computers advancing as fast as they have. The understanding we have of the subject is mindbogglingly crazy. Way beyond what the average person is willing to comprehend.

With that being said, I am skeptic of anything that is spear-headed by a politician, Mr Al Gore, set to be the worlds first "green billionaire". I am skeptic of an organization, the UN/IPCC that is as corrupt as any politician, Republican or Democrat.

The IPCC has been shown to fudge numbers, on several occasions. They used "averages" on their math. When some peers from within the IPCC wanted to see the RAW data, they were denied access to the data and were told to "accept it as valid". This is a big problem in the IPCCs findings. Who is to say that the numbers weren't just guessed.

Now I know that there is a lot more evidence then just the IPCCs report, and this is why I understand that we are having an impact.

The other issue I have is based on the answers to the problem, not necessarily on the problem itself.

First off, one of the answers is to use companies, like Al Gores green companies to guide us through cap and trade and carbon credits. WTF cap and trade? Thats no answer at all, thats Al Gore and his cronies pocketing money based on "doom and gloom" (yes its a Republican saying, but its true for both sides using it).

Recently also, if you follow the money involved, you will find organizations pandering to large investment groups and heavy investors. The BBC was found to be biased with their reports to satisfy investors worth over 3 Trillion Pounds, nearly 6 trillion US dollars. This money could potentially be put into the hands of politicians to decide what to do with it. This would equate to the biggest scam in the history of politics.

Now lets talk about the benefit to third world countries. Don't get me started on "oil for foods" campaign that we found out to be riddled with pocket money and bribery. The latest plan to "redistribute wealth" to the third world countries to offset CO2 has made their leaders greedy for financial offset, asking for more money then what was originally granted saying that billions wasn't good enough.


Anonymous said...

I am also a skeptic for energy reasons. Many of the current alternatives can also actually cause harm to our planet and the inhabitants. Lets first look at hybrid or battery operated vehicles. Thousands of tons of jet carbon release is done each month to ship the batteries in 4 places to to be manufactured. The battery ore is mined in one country, needs to be shipped to Asia to be processed because the country mining the ore. In Asia the batteries are then manufactured, because most of Europe and North America have EPA type restrictions on the processes needed to manufacture the battery core. Then the battery is flown to another country where they assemble the battery, then the batteries are flown to the factories to be installed. Not only is the jet exhaust an issue, but the processes used to do each step also put tons of particulate matter into the air. There is a report called the "dust to dust" report (please google, not in a place to find the link). In this report you will see that all of the waste USED by a car over the lifetime in a car like a Jeep Wrangler (I own one of these, so its a good reference) actually is better for the environment than a prius, based on the total life of the vehicle, the costs and waste associated with its life, including shipping costs and fuel/carbon waste, and gas used.

More energy worries is in the fact that all these "green corps" are pushing alternative fuel. Lets evaluate some of these alternatives. Nuclear, well, we know what kind of risk this has, even though our understanding of nuclear management is much better than it was 30 years ago. It still produces a risk which I would consider to be more alarming then AWG. Next I bring you bio-fuel. Bio-fuels are the main contributing factor of the recent spike in GLOBAL fuel prices. As national geographic has been reporting for years, third world countries like Haiti are having a hard time adjusting their ability to obtain food that was once subsidized from developed countries is now being subsidized so "green person" can feel better about the changes they made. Hydrogen isn't a good alternative either. The amount of electricity needed to separate the Oxygen and Hydrogen from the water molecules can supersede the benefit in some cases, especially since many of the power plants on the east coast are ran with coal. Since a car is actually less polluting then a coal power plant, the benefit is nearly a wash.

The biggest problem with the science in all of this is the lure of profiteering, just like the war was for oil and security companies like Haliburton. This is the exact same thing that makes the middle leery of getting flu vaccines. The swine flu is just as much real as AWG, but inflated by WHO and pharmaceutical companies. "The reports are out, 56,000 people got the swine flu in the US and 200+ citizens dies due to the swine flu." What these reports don't tell you is that Thousands of people, just in California, die each year from the common flu. Essentially that means that your chances of survival is greater WITH the swine flu, lol. Ironic, isn't it? Also ironic is that recent findings show that the long term affects of getting vaccines can actually make it harder for your body to produce its own immunity against new strains of flu. Never got a flu shot, never needed one, thank you very much.

Anonymous said...

So Mr Brin and fellow "alarmists" remove yourself from your political view, tell the politicians that you don't want them fucking up your cause, and educate people on a reality level and not with doom and gloom and let them make their own choices to better themselves and the environment. Encourage people to invest directly to companies willing to work towards better technology. Don't let Al Gore tell you where to put your investment. Change needs to happen slowly so that any ramifications, both predictable and unpredictable, are easier to handle. You just can't flip a switch off on this one. The science may have a decent idea of how climate will be affected in the long term, but the profiteering politicians on both sides will never be able to predict EVERY SCENARIO that will be the effect of this cause. I beg you to to stop pointing fingers, cheer-leading for a political cause, calling other names that don't agree with you, and taking a step back and looking at the complete picture. Yes, AWG has good merits, but there are many reputable scientists from all sorts of universities and major research firms on both sides of the isle of politics that refute some of the findings and also want the politics removed from this whole ordeal. If you truly believe in this cause, then fight for the cause, not for someone else's cause that fits a political agenda.


PS: The text box to type comments is tiny. It makes it very difficult to review and evaluate what I have typed already, so sorry if this comment has spelling or grammatical errors.

Corey said...

Well, "anonymous" :D, I think you're pretty much an exact mirror for myself politically, as I agree without on every policy point you used as an example (which if a first for me).

You also do bring up a lot of good points, though, that's part of why a lot of what's needed in dealing with something like AGW is just more research on technology, and more improvement of what we have. For instance, nuclear reactors are miserable from what I've read. In fact, while I was never able to confirm it elsewhere, I once read that harvesting uranium for nuclear reactors is as CO2 intensive as burning coal anyways (though for all I know, it was just anti-nuclear propaganda). That said, laws could passed in time requiring battery manufacturers to be cleaner about that production for automobile use, or the process could be made more streamlined altogether and just done in one place to far greater extent. Nuclear fission could be replaced by polywell fusion if that technology pans out. Laws could be passed to require more efficiency for vehicles as well. With work, solutions are certainly present. Even encouraging changes just in individual habits could make a notable difference.

So yes, the politicization of this issue does need to end, on both sides, and a realistic appraisal needs to be made of potential solutions to the problem, but at least some basic questions about the soundness of the overall science have been hammered out in the meantime.

Of course, as is also pointed out, dumping an oil-based economy will do all sorts of good for all sorts of reasons beyond just climate change.

Corey said...

You're also right about the accursed text window and how easy it makes it to make mistakes, not to mention the fact that only a third of the window is used to display these posts, making them much harder to read than they need to be. :(

Abilard said...


I have been keeping a crude mental tally of evidence that seems solid versus that which doesn't (GRACE good, Siberian trees bad, etc) and that guesstimate/sense is that most of the data collection is solid (say 60%). So, your calculation of probability at 50% hits home.

The money question is only relative in the negative, however. Where criminal damages are concerned there is a question of justice and a high standard of proof. Likewise, if we are to use government to curtail freedoms, tax people, etc. we have to have just cause. It is not a matter of bending truth to suit desires.

Paleoclimate is not quite the same as a control Earth because our knowledge of it is very partial and haphazard. PETM, though, should give us confidence that the biosphere will likely survive us and the extremes of the more recent past suggest that our species stands a decent chance of surviving as well. Civilization? That's at risk...

I've always rebelled against arguments like Pascal's Wager though. I tend to think reality is more complex than the choices they present. Therefore, if climate science as I have seen it were the only counter to fossil fuel energy then I am not sure which side I would come down on. I would probably scold the scientists for some of the issues I have mentioned in previous posts and throw billions into doing the research more completely and as quickly as possible. But, as we've both said, that is academic.

If this issue were not dead politically then it would cease to be academic, however, as excluding climate science from discussions of how to phase out fossil fuels (a given, since they are finite) might lead the U.S. to burn more coal (because of the security arguments against oil). If your 96% is taken into account we might end up with more nuclear. Instead I think we'll have to defy Pascal and take another path: adaptation after the fact.

Tony Fisk said...

Politics: the sound of two folks talking. It happens. Deal.

Better to take the 'religion' out of the debate (ie what Socrates defined as 'ethos', or the entrenched mindset).

You might want to check out Bill Gates' address on climate change at TED (...Sorry, transcript not yet available, but pros and cons are argued by Alex Steffen and Joe Romm)

Tony Fisk said...

Oh, if you want to publish long spiels (and who doesn't on occasion?) try typing it in a more user-friendly environment and then drop it in the comment box (which, I'm afraid, is blog-issue standard)

Small comment boxes. character limits... Hmmm...! Topic to ponder: are we becoming more twittery?

rewinn said...

@ Corey
While uranium from the ground has the energy costs you suggest, existing nuclear waste has that cost already sunk; thus breeder reactors "should be" be much less of a concern in that regard ("should be" in quotes, because if history is any guide, something always happens...)

Humanity cannot adapt after the fact to runaway greenhouse effect. See: Venus.

For factual support for the above, see Hansen, "Storms of My Grandchildren"

Corey said...

"I have been keeping a crude mental tally of evidence that seems solid versus that which doesn't (GRACE good, Siberian trees bad, etc) and that guesstimate/sense is that most of the data collection is solid (say 60%). So, your calculation of probability at 50% hits home."

Well some things, in and of themselves really do give bad odds unless put in the overall context of the rest of the evidence. Now somethings are going to have a very high probability, like the NOAA paleoclimate and model correlations are probably 90-95% likely to be indicative of correct attribution.

The important thing to remember though, is that even at a 50% average per line of evidence, every line of evidence makes the case much more likely, because what you're talking about from a statistical math point of view is the odds that an increasing number of concurrent coincidences occur, which creates this the robustness in this multi-layered case. That's why I have no problem suggesting a high 90s probability for this to be correct.

As for the political argument, it's not so dead as you're implying. The US is the most hostile nation in the industrialized world to climate change, and even here political will is more than enough to do things like force President Bush to admit the problem of climate change, and for some measure of action to be taken, while in the rest of the world, action is even much easier than it is here.

Furthermore, the only real political obstacle once oil is out of the way is to deal with corporate lobbying when it comes to proposing coal as an alternative, but in truth, it's not even really going to be advantageous for the world to switch over to coal, or even for corporations to pursue such a goal, because the supplies of it being long-term are contingent on the limited power we draw from that source. Once you try to fuel every use of energy with it, a 200 year national supply becomes a pretty small quantity even just for us, never mind the fact that the entire world is going to be clamoring for it, because coal does not exist everywhere equally anymore than oil does, and the US is an unusually fossil fuel rich nation, once being the biggest supplier or oil even. The infrastructure is simply not there to run the planet on coal, and once you realize that a new infrastructure has to be build irregardless of your source of power, suddenly these temporary, low-tech power sources that looked great a century ago become a very poor option for development.

The simple truth of the matter is that at this moment, we don't have an energy source that can replace oil; it doesn't exist. Natural gas, coal, nuclear fission, these are things we see as potentially plentiful because we've never been met with the reality of running our cars, and homes, and businesses, and aircraft, and ships on these power sources. We might find interim power sources, but in the end, I think the final means of power production belongs to a technology sitting, not in a powerplant somewhere around the world, but in a lab somewhere with hopeful scientists who want to prove their technology to world. As I've said before, my bet is on Polywell fusion reactors, but then, who can say.

Corey said...

As for what to do about climate change in the long run, I'm afraid you just aren't seeing the severity of the situation. People often associate global warming with visions of melting ice caps, and flooded cities, and massive hurricanes, but this isn't ultimately a problem of meteorology, or city planning, or bracing for harsher wildfires and droughts; What we have here is a biology problem, and one that is poorly understood by the world.

Life will survive human-induced mass extinction, but then, life also technically survived the Permian Extinction. What may not survive is the ability of the planet to sustain *complex* life. We humans are already taxing the ability of the planet to sustain us, a fact we ignore because we subsidize food with ancient but finite energy. By 2050, we'll have the equivalent of two more Chinas added to our population. Now, the world is very rich in biodiversity, and has very abundant biological resources because we live in robust ecosystems, and really, while we might be looking at some dietary adjustments, the world probably can sustain a good deal more people than we have now if we're smart. If we massacre the world's supply of biodiversity however, we will not only be killing a treasure trove of natural beauty, as-yet undiscovered medicines and biologically produced compounds useful to science and industry, but we will be killing the ability of the planet to sustain us. This is not something we can "adapt to", though I don't blame you for the suggestion, because it comes from a fundamental and relatively new flaw in human thinking that associates humanity and civilization with fundamental separation from nature, when in fact we are inextricably tied to and dependent on nature. As complex and numerous animals that are high on the food chain, we can no more adapt to a total collapse of global biodiversity than we could adapt to life without the sun, and even if we somehow could, I'm not sure we'd even want to survive that. When I envision the future of our species, Soylent Green is simply not what I have in mind. Despite this, a total collapse of the biosphere down to a much more primitive and sparse state is what we're looking at with present extinction rates, despite the fact that in many ways, it is so easy to change our ways as a civilization to stop this degradation of the planet's life support system, because our existence as an advanced civilization is not contingent upon that sort of destruction.

I'm sorry, but "accept and adapt" is neither a feasible, nor an acceptable strategy on climate change.

Corey said...

"@ Corey
While uranium from the ground has the energy costs you suggest, existing nuclear waste has that cost already sunk; thus breeder reactors "should be" be much less of a concern in that regard ("should be" in quotes, because if history is any guide, something always happens...)"

Really? I actually didn't know that, but then I'm afraid that nuclear fission is one form of energy that I know a very limited amount about.

I'm not of the type who's really opposed to nuclear completely (it IS orders of magnitude more efficient than chemical energy), and in fact, would be a strong proponent so long as it could be shown to be a lot less carbon intensive than fossil fuels.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Corey
There is one other issue that worries me as it is a huge negative pay-off despite being a low probability.

The "habitable" zone around the sun is steadily moving outwards as the sun ages and warms
(30% increase in radiance since first life on earth)
(according to astrophysical theory)

At some stage the earths thermal control system will be unable to cope with the increase and we will end up in a Venus scenario

The "habitable zone" will have moved past us!

Just because a high level of CO2 millions of years ago did not trigger this runaway we don't know it a similar level now could

I think this is a low probability event but it is totally non survivable

None of the current models can look beyond any of the potential "tipping points" and predict where a new stable point could be

Abilard said...


Actually I am hoping we one day terraform Venus:

Pamela Sargent - Venus of Dreams

And aren't the most extreme modeled increases lower than 6 degrees, which would put them below the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum. PETM, while a traumatic change, was far from the end of the biosphere, or even of complex animal life. We survived the eruption of the Toba supervolcano. We can survive PETM II.

Getting knocked back to the stone age is not something I hope I or my children have to experience, but it is not the end of the biosphere, nor the end of our species. While Hansen may think the Venus scenario is a possibility, most scientists seem unable to hem and haw themselves beyond predictions of 2 degrees, and, as PETM showed, the climate has, in the past, already rebalanced itself and come back from 6 to 8.

But, if you really want to try to convince/scare everyone with the worst Cassandra scenarios, realize that the evidence bar just receded a lot farther into the distance.

neil craig said...

Rewinn the globe is cooling.

I would ned some evidence for your asertio9n that taxing productive industry so that the money can be put into "renewables" that can only survive by subsidy & which produces power at several times the cost we can get it at is going grow the ec onomy. It Presumably you also believe in perpetaul motion & catastrophic warming.

Corey your contention that the globe has been watming since 1998, evwen though it ios cooler, because 1998 doesn't count, looks like what is noprmally called cherry picking. If the alarmists are not simply making it up as you go along you will be able to provide several links to people who, in 1998, said 1998 didn't count.

Thought not.

I note that while denying that the alarmists treat catastrophic warming as unfalsifiable, at least in their minds, you are unable to anme anything which could falsify it. If it cannot be said what would falsify it in near term it simply isn't science. I invite you to try again.

However you are quite right to correct the claim that manmade CO2 is only 4% of all CO2. According to a Parl;iamentary answer it is 3". That is 1 part per million of the atmosphere.

Tony Fisk said...

Taking the *one* data point in the past 10-15 years that can be used to state that 'the globe is cooling' is, indeed, cherry picking, but in somewhat the opposite direction to what Mr Craig claims.

seven said...

"the premise that virtually 100% of the thousands of scientists"
Now backto reality: Polling climatescientists
“Climate change is mostly the result of anthropogenic causes.” ( The Perspectives of Climate Scientists on Global Climate Change, Bray and von Storch 2003)
So up to 42% is a somewhat sceptic.

Tony Fisk said...

What would the percentage be in 2009? Where are their dissenting views? (And please don't tell me that the opinions of 42% can be gagged!)

seven said...

"The following papers support skepticism of "man-made" global warming or the environmental or economic effects of. Addendums, Comments, Corrections, Erratum, Replies, Responses and Submitted papers are not included in the peer-reviewed paper count. There are many more listings than just the 500 papers. "
Cn also be found inprojects @ cern
CERN CLOUD collaboration
• 19 institutes from Europe, Russia and USA
• 14 atmospheric institutes + 5 space/CR/particle physics • CLOUD-ITN network of 10 Marie Curie fellows: 8 PhD students + 2 postdocs
but supression does even there also exist see

rewinn said...

"...The following papers support skepticism of "man-made" global warming or the environmental or economic effects..."

Boehmer-Christiansen's article is simply an editotrial commentaries - not a scientific "paper" at all.

I recall going through that blogger's list a while back and finding that those that *are* scientific papers are not, in fact, supportive of scepticism as to AGW, merely evidence that AGW occurs in slightly different ways than current theories envision.

But why bother?

Unknown said...

This is all very true in any field, but this particular case was special in one sense: when one is told that there's a "consensus" but "we won't show you our data or methods", even a knee jerk "denier" knows that something is seriously wrong. Lacking access to the data and methods leaves people clutching at straws to refute something that's even more nebulous. Anybody with even a moderate understanding of human behavior could see that some type of cover up was going on.

I don't know the science inside out, but I do know people, and we've been lied to. The problem is now that we have to go back over _everything_ and try again. The "consensus" scientists are the only ones to blame here.

Maybe global warming is real, maybe it isn't; but the behavior of the IPCC and a few others means that we've spent a load of money and haven't learned anything.

I'd like my money back.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the 'glaciergate' scandal with the IPCC over ONE single erroneous data point in a massive volume of data, that was noted as erroneous within that volume of data not once, but TWICE?!?

I'm getting images of 'deniers' franticaly waving about a 500-page book, crying "LOOK! LOOK! THEY FORGOT TO CROSS A T!!! THE WHOLE THING IS A LIE!!!" This, while the scientists are face-palming because the T in question had been circled in red ink and marked for correction.

The CRU scandal is much the same way. A few scientists used unprofessional language and failed to clearly explain the meaning of each sentence in terms that the laymen could understand, in a few private emails exchanged between colleagues, and the 'denier' crowd wave it before the world with cries of, "LOOK! LOOK! THEY CALLED US NAMES AND USED JARGON! IT'S A CONSPIRACY!!!"

Neil Craig. The world is getting warmer. Yes, 1998 was a hotter year than this year, but 1998 was an outlier year.

Take an hourly graph of the stock market, for example. On Feb 11, the Dow Jones started at 10024 points. By 9:36, it had dropped to 10003. It spiked back up to 10024 four minutes later, then dropped to 9980 at 9:46. Over the next couple hours it began to climb. It peaked at 10051 at 10:12, fluctuated a bit, dropped down, and then climbed back up again, sharply, to peak at 10135 at 11:54. It bounced between 10117 and 10157 the rest of the afternoon, finally closing at 10144. There were numerous peaks and valleys, there was no straight line, but the overall trend was up. The period from August '09 to January '10 is the same - it spikes up and drops down several times, but the overall trend is up.

THAT is the global temperatures. global temperature from year to year fluctuates, as weather conditions and patterns fluctuate from year to year, and one year will be extra warm while another extra cold. 1998 was extra-hot, because of the conditions in that year. It was a sharp spike up on the graph, and while that line dropped back down in 1999, it has continued to go back up since that year, just at a slower rate.

Coupled with the temperature records of the past few decades, the overall trend has been a very steady upward direction. 1998 was hotter than this past year, but it was way hotter than the year before and after it, and this year was hotter than any of the previous years, save 1998.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Also, Abilard.

It is not the RANGE of the temperature change that is the problem - as Corey has said, the world has been a lot warmer than it presently is in past years, and life has thrived.

The problem is the RATE of change. Global temperatures are increasing at an unprecedented, and exceedingly dangerous rate, faster than any temperature change in the history of life on this planet.

In the 100 years from 1900 to 2000, the average global temperature increased by 0.74 C (+/- 0.18C).

During the PET Maximum, temperatures rose by 6 degrees, not 2, yes, but it was 6 degrees over 20,000 years! That is an average change rate of 0.03 every 100 years.

In other words, we're looking at a rate of change some 20-30 times faster than the fastest temperature increase in the history of life on Earth.

Life can easily adapt to increased temperatures, and our civilization, as well, if it has enough time. At this rate of change, we won't HAVE that time. Ecosystems are being devastated because the average global temperature is rising faster than it can adapt to. If we do nothing, we're not only looking at drastic changes in local climate and weather patterns (and likely more severe weather patterns due to the increased energy in the atmosphere), we are also looking at the collapse of local and global biospheres because they cannot adapt fast enough.

Corey said...

Mike, what you're saying isn't even remotely close to the situation. First off, the "consensus scientists" is a group that encompasses 97% of climatologists in the US, so it's pretty much everyone.

Secondly, the methods are freely available; you've been listening to too many far right-wing denialists. Just to give an example, here's two raw data sources ( and ( If you look around the servers, there's even information on how bias adjustment is done to get adjusted data.

The data that isn't freely available isn't being kept from us by the scientists, but is being kept from us instead by the PRIVATE meteorological organizations that groups like CRU licensed it from. It's only a small amount of the overall picture, and yet it'd be nice to have it, but don't blame the scientists; blame your precious sector for not wanting to let go of their data for the public good.

It has nothing to do with being lied to be scientists, and, indeed, as I already said, you'd be very hard pressed to show that the entire global scientific community is involved in a mass conspiracy.

seven said...

"the premise that virtually 100% of the thousands of scientists"
Now backto reality: Polling climatescientists
“Climate change is mostly the result of anthropogenic causes.” ( The Perspectives of Climate Scientists on Global Climate Change, Bray and von Storch 2003)
So up to 42% is a somewhat sceptic.

and that graph is based on what, exactly? I once saw a site that claimed to have 30,000 signatures from scientists disagreeing with scientists, and upon examining the site, I found that all one had to do to get on as a signatory was to give their name and the area of study, and the level degree they claimed to have (which means someone without a high school diploma could sign as a PhD astrophysicist).

Furthermore, it wouldn't explain why every scientific institution backs this theory, from every national science academy, to every climate research organization on Earth... of note anyways. The NIPCC doesn't count given that the summit was funded by a corporate front group, and paid honorariums to scientists to stand up and say AGW wasn't real (as in literally saying "stand up and say this and we'll give you a thousand bucks and a 2-day stay at one of the nicest hotels in NYC").

As for the rest, there's been statements ranging from reasonable points, to continued obscuring for a couple of less than scientific hard-core denialists, but it's pretty much all been addressed at some point already, so no need to repeat.

Ilithi was also right. Thank you Alibard, but as I already explained, it's rate of change that's dangerous, not final temperature (at least not within what we have to deal with; obviously a 100C rise over any period would suck pretty badly).

Corey said...

Oh, I will say too that Neil Craig is owed some props for some of the most hysterical intentional distortion of information I've ever seen.

I like being accused of cherry picking just because I draw my conclusions about temperature from overall trends rather than picking a single extreme outlier in the data and basing my conclusions on it (an accusation that actually makes the accuser the cherry picker, because '98 is a textbook example of a statistical outlier.).

In fact, I have to admit at being embarrassed for Neil, because it's not exactly rocket science to know that while you can cherry-pick a data point, you can't cherry pick an overall trend for a given time period. The trend for that time period is what it is, which makes the claim not just wrong, but embarrassingly inane.

Here's a suggestion Neil, rather than trying to make obvious distortions of already-addressed points, why don't you take a high school stats class and then maybe you can come back and tell me why trends are more important than single data points.

For those of you actually interested in talking about science here (skeptic or otherwise), the answer, while obvious, might be a bit illumating to point out, so, I'll provide graphed plots of the data using a TI-83 emulator and the aforementioned high school level statistical math to show the trends.

The data used is available at

So, shall we?

First, let's take Neil's obvious cherry pick, and start from 1998 and plot temperature to 2009 to see what the average does.

So here's image one, of me plotting the data. The X-axis here will begin at 98 and end at 109 (

To plot it and and average it, you put get the graphing calc to graph plot 1, then go to Stat, Calc, and Linreg(ax+b), and after putting that equation into the graphing window (which the calculator can do automatically if you know how), you then end up with this (

Even using Neil's blatant cherry pick and starting at '98, one still gets an upward trend averaging .01C per year (or the very familiar .1C per decade).

Now let's add the tiniest shred of perspective here, and back off the starting point to 1995. Doing that, we still place the 1998 outlier at the beginning of the graph, so we'll still bias the line of best fit towards being top-heavy at the beginning.

Going back to 1995, you get this (

Now, instantly, the problem with Neil's odd obsession with 1998, and it's status as an outlier (and therefore, a cherry picked year) becomes obvious: 1998 is NOWHERE NEAR the other years immediately around it, which means that it's not representative of the late 90s as a whole in any way. That revelation makes the again-positive trend no surprise, and clearly shows that since that late 90s we have warmed up just as much as during any other time in recent memory.


Corey said...

Now let me give an explanation for Neil's equally hysterical "humans are only responsible for 3% of CO2" fallacy here.

Imagine a small fountain, which has a bottom reservoir (perhaps with a few coins sitting at the bottom), which it sucks water from and then sprays it out a small distance upward, before that water falls back down into the reservoir.

Now, if the fountain is spraying water into the reservoir, what doesn't the water level rise? well, very basic logic tells us that it's because the fountain is sucking water out of that reservoir as fast as it's spraying it in, because in the end, it's really all just one supply of water in a closed system.

What Neil is claiming is that if I start taking a bucket, and periodically dumping water into the reservoir, that even given enough time, I can't possibly raise the water level by any real amount, because I'm not dumping water in as fast as the fountain is spraying it in. Yes, there are many lulz there...

The carbon cycle exchanges CO2 between the atmosphere, oceans, and terrestrial systems in a closed system, and what humans are doing is putting new carbon into that closed system, so just because it's not nearly as big as the exchanges doesn't mean it's not adding to the system, and, indeed, as the analogy shows, it's absurd to claim that it wouldn't be a notable influence given a little time.

Of course, as I pointed out before, there are three different lines of evidence that humans are responsible for all of the GAIN in the closed carbon cycle system (not just in the atmosphere, but also in the oceans and terrestrial systems).

Stefan said...


I'd point out again the "no warming for 15 years" indicated by the man from CRU. If you suspect he is being misquoted then please suggest where we can find a better quote.

Regarding "mass conspiracy" -- this argument sounded convincing ten years ago. Nowadays the public and media are starting to see scientists as basically more like doctors -- yes you'd go to them for advice, but you'd not take anything on faith.

Every theory is basically a paradigm, a collection of methods and ideas, and a culture of specialists forming interpretations. Sometimes the paradigm is correct, sometimes it is wrong. Sometimes you've nailed reality, sometimes you've just nailed your foot to the floor. The image of impeccable and expert opinion is nice but rosy and romantic. Sure many scientific institutions "endorse" AGW, but scientists by nature accord each other professional respect. That doesn't mean they've checked each other's work -- it doesn't mean they've duplicated the work, nor audited it. They simply bow to their learned colleagues, and give them the benefit of the doubt. That's all part of the paradigm socially.

By emphasising the paradigm, the "consensus", you're actually arguing from a very weak foundation. Paradigms can be wrong. Evidence is what matters.

The case for AGW is very weak scientifically. We don't know what caused the MWP, or whether it was warmer, but.... we know what likely caused the recent warming? That's ludicrous logic.

As for "nobody denied the MWP", please have a look at the hockey stick in the report for policy makers from the IPCC and go ahead and point to the MWP on that graph, if you can find it. Sorry, what do you mean it's not there?

What do you think of the "no warming for 15 years" issue?

What do you think of the CERN CLOUD experiment?

What do you think is the evidence that water vapour feedback is necessarily causing warming?

What do you make of the 800 year lag in the ice core records?

Have you ever flown in an aircraft and wondered about the degree of rigour and experimentation and testing that went into the design and building of the machine you're trusting your life to?

The Institute of Forecasters say that in their empirical research, experts are more likely to make wrong predictions than the man in the street. They suggest this is due to overconfidence bias.

mlberns said...

This post is a work of art! One of the best breakdowns of the Assault on Reason: Climate Change Edition ever. Your time was not waisted Sir. And please keep fighting the good fight.

Tony Fisk said...


I think Corey and myself have pointed out the fallaciousness of the 'no warming for 15 years' argument.

It amounts to a lie based on a half truth.

Go read the above. I have other things to do.

Abilard said...


"The problem is the RATE of change."

Toba was fast. We survived it. And I was replying to Rewinn's invocation of a runaway greenhouse effect ala Venus, which Hansen alluded to in the book Rewinn mentioned.

Pause for manic panicked screaming...

Oh good, the sky did not fall yet. So, anyway, that was why the temperature increase was relevant.

rewinn said...

Abilard - may I assume that you have not actually read the book?

* Your equation of (pointing out that runaway green house effect is not only possible but, if we don't stop putting greenhouse gasses into our atmosphere, is very likely) to (manic screaming) is precisely the sort of anti-intellectual argument that inspired this thread. It is not a vitriolic denunciation to point out that even if there were manic screaming involved, that is not relevant to the truth of the forecast.

* To say that we will survive X because we survived Y is non sequitur, although the means by which we survive a particular problem can be worth studying; Y2K for example was a non-disaster because we took timely, effective and expensive action.

* The proper response when your doctor tells you "Your smoking of cigarettes is likely to cause cancer" is not "Cancer didn't kill George Burns so it won't kill me."

* I am reminded of the storied man who fell off the Empire State Building was heard to say, as he passed the 35th Floor: "Nothing bad has happened yet!".

* As to the claim that our earth is cooling, I am reminded of the time I went on a roller coaster. Our vehicle had no engine - we merely ran down a track pulled by gravity yet ... at several points in time we were actually going UPHILL! Clearly Newton's theory of gravity has been disproven but the experience was too terrifying for further experimentation.

Tony Fisk said...


My understanding is that our current rate of increase puts us into Jurassic Park by the end of the century, with no signs of braking to admire the scenery!

The clathrate belch of 55mya (which was probably magma leaking into a large clathrate deposit off Norway, blowing a 100km crater in the seabed in the process) did some severe and lasting damage to the sea ecosystems.

Toba is thought to have caused a cold snap in the middle of an ice age. The ash and SO2 would not have persisted long. (Pinatubo probably did the same)

(btw, I like the avatar; you probably feel you need the helmet sometimes!)

Now, I did think of one skeptical approach to the AGW thing. I've been making frequent reference to the Keeling curve as one of the more robust indicators of lowering sky levels.

While showing a pretty steady increase in CO2 levels since 1950, it only shows the story for the northern hemisphere (I believe that convection patterns of hadley cells discourage much low-altitude atmospheric mixing between hemispheres... but for how long?)

So-o, is there any similar data to be had for the southern hemisphere (eg observation from the Andes?) I would predict that, if all that CO2 being produced by the dark satanic mills of the far north (aka 'Angband' to Tolkien fans) is causing the increase, then southern readings would show lower levels (but still increasing, as the southern countries get increasingly industrialised).

Anonymous said...

It might help if just once the socialists could dream up a crisis that could best be solved with less taxation and more freedom. If there had been less crying "wolf" over the decades, this latest Doom would be more believable.

I am old enough to remember when cyclamates and phosphates were the panic de jour.

I look forward with great anticipation the unadulterated proof that humanity's trivial contribution to the trivial greenhouse gas CO2, is the cause of global warming. And once humanity manages to control the climate, no doubt we will have no trouble controlling the tides and sunrise.

MDC said...

Three words: Svenmark, Lomborg and Pielke (Jr. or Sr.). Are they skeptics, deniers, or, perhaps, have a different opinion than the canned one the IPCC came up with?

I find binary choices to rarely be useful divisions except in matters such as male/female or alive/dead.

Too smug and arrogant by half, Mr. Brin. As I said to a friend about this topic: I'll remain agnostic on AGW until Professor Harold Hill isn't the guy telling me there's trouble coming to River City, thanks (this was proceeded by quite a lot of critique of the piece that has, I'm sure, already been worked over here). Love the books, though.

Corey said...

Stefan, you ask some fair questions here, so maybe I can attempt to answer them.

You ask about the "CRU dude" (for lack of a better term) quote, and in truth, I have no idea why he said what he said, but I can clearly contradict it with hard data from multiple independent organizations. I can clearly show that warming during the period in question is not only present, but equal in magnitude to any other period since 1910, and at least ten times the rate seen in the average rises for the paleoclimate data.

If I were to take the quote very, very literally, and indeed, no context was given, it could be taken to simply mean that the warming since 1995 ALONE is not statistically significant, and indeed, a couple tenths of a degree are not important globally in the grand scheme of things. It only becomes significant in the context of overall warming (in that that rate has continued for long enough that it HAS become statistically significant). That's the only thing I can figure.

Now, about that whole media thing:

"Regarding "mass conspiracy" -- this argument sounded convincing ten years ago. Nowadays the public and media are starting to see scientists as basically more like doctors -- yes you'd go to them for advice, but you'd not take anything on faith."

That's funny, because this is the same public and media that latched onto runaway global cooling hysteria when the scientists were predicting warming!

If you recall, I myself noted that when you're dealing with a case so large dealing with so many people, you will have mistakes made in the science.

"The case for AGW is very weak scientifically. We don't know what caused the MWP, or whether it was warmer, but.... we know what likely caused the recent warming? That's ludicrous logic."

Really? A multi-layered body of evidence drawing from multiple independence lines of data to underlay every single point is a weak scientific case? I guess by that standard, the cause for evolution is pretty damn weak too, because it's no stronger (and has a lot of weaker points to it than AGW).

I know this might come as a surprise to you, but we weren't keeping track of forcings with satellites and computerized ground stations in 1000 AD. Whether or not we could explain the MWP with attribution of forcings has no bearing on correlation today, because the fact that we don't know exactly what was going on then actually undermines YOUR case, because it shows that there's no evidence that the warming wasn't caused by a collection of factors that fits perfectly into the established theory of climate.

It's only scientifically weak when you start arbitrarily establishing standards without any kind of reasoning behind them. Nowhere have I shown evidence that's contingent upon knowing the exact state of every forcing that created the MWP, and so, in no way have you demonstrated that the AGW case is contingent upon such a detailed level of understanding.

Tell me, what makes the idea ludicrous when the AGW theory isn't contingent upon meeting your standard?

Furthermore, you're assuming that we completely lack a theory based on proxy data on what collection of influences might have produced this temperature. We actually do have ideas on what caused this to occur, because we have proxy data on solar forcings and other influences that suggest possible causes. Just because we lack the level of certainty that we have today, however, means little.

Now do you see why this argument of yours is not only weak, but irrelevant? Please, try to actually address the case, not say "because you don't know 'this', you therefore don't know anything".

I'm not going to say it again:

" claim that because scientists don't know everything about every feature of climate, that they therefore know nothing, is a false dichotomy."

Corey said...

As for "nobody denied the MWP", please have a look at the hockey stick in the report for policy makers from the IPCC and go ahead and point to the MWP on that graph, if you can find it. Sorry, what do you mean it's not there?

Actually, it's YOU who needs to take a look again, because temperature reconstructions show a lot of variation in past temperature. The only one that doesn't show it adequately is MBH98, and it was noted when the model was written that insufficient past variability was present as a limitation of the model.

Now for the easy ones.

What do you think of the "no warming for 15 years" issue?"

This has already been addressed, please don't ask me the same question twice.

"What do you think of the CERN CLOUD experiment?"

This has also already been addressed. At present, there is no evidence of any link between cosmic rays and recent warming, though CERN gets props for doing important work. It doesn't mean the theory is impossible; any explanation technically has some probability of being right. In this case, this theory just has no body of evidence underlying it.

"What do you think is the evidence that water vapour feedback is necessarily causing warming?"

Water is not a forcing (hence why we call it a feedback), and I am aware of no such evidence.

"What do you make of the 800 year lag in the ice core records?"

Alright, I just have to ask, why did you wait so long to ask this? The fact that you're JUST bringing this up now means that you went off to some denialist site just so you could find talking points to post. As for the answer, it should be obvious. As I've already said, CO2 acts as a feedback more than anything most of the time and is kept in a narrow range, which means that some other forcing would have to initiate historical warming and increase the CO2 levels before the CO2 levels could start leading temperatures, hence, it would lag for a period before then leading temperature (which is exactly what we see).

Of course, Eric Steig can explain it better (

Didn't I already link that?

Corey said...

"Toba was fast. We survived it. And I was replying to Rewinn's invocation of a runaway greenhouse effect ala Venus, which Hansen alluded to in the book Rewinn mentioned."

While it's true that Earth would probably never reach a state like Venus, the point about Toba is a bit of a false analogy combined with you downplaying the significance of the event.

Climatic recovery after Toba was very quick in the grand scheme of things and ecosystems weren't already being beaten down by overhunting, overharvesting, habitat toxification and fragmentation, and all around destruction, or introduction of mass numbers of incredibly destructive invasive species, not to mention the strain of supporting six and a half billion large animals near at the top of the food chain, which means that while the event was probably enough to affect life seriously on Earth, the biosphere would have recovered (and yet, humanity was almost driven by extinction because of it).

If Toba occurred today, by contrast, the implications for an already severely-weakened biosphere would be far worse, and while humanity would likely survive as a species, I can't imagine what the death toll would be. You'd measure the event, not in how many humans died, but in how many survived. There would likely be that few of us left (just like the actual eruption?).

Of course, you're still not quite getting the problem right. You see, biodiversity loss isn't part of the problem of climate change; climate change is part of the problem of biodiversity loss. That issue should still be our first and foremost concern.

In fact, if we were somehow able to get around the ecological impact, the actual direct consequences of rapid climate change would actually probably be quite manageable.

Shoot, we can protect large low-laying areas the same way the Chinese protected themselves from invaders: just build a giant wall :D

Okay... maybe not... I could see that going badly.

Stefan said...


I presented one simple fact, that Professor Phil Jones, the director of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, said that there's been no statistically significant warming for 15 years. Regardless of the newspaper articles, we know the context; in the leaked emails, it is stated that the fact that they can't explain the lack of warming is a "travesty".

Look, I'm not anti-environment. For many years I've been pro-environment, pro-cutting edge cultural advancement, pro-Buddhist, pro-Zen, and consider consumerism an ego project along with many other ego projects. I live a low key lifestyle. I like that I don't have kids as there are many people in the world already and I really don't want to contribute to that problem.

But because I take an interest in transcending ordinary conflicts, I have been struck by the blatant two-sided conflict between the so called "AGW proponents" and the so called "sceptics". Often it falls into a left wing vs right wing polarity. Often it falls into a sensitive-green versus hard-entrepreneur polarity. Often it falls into other kinds of polarities. I like Zen. I like thinking about problems in a way that dissolves the polarity and starts to weave the world back together again. Last thing we need is more divisions. So that's where I'm coming from. So please, if you think I'm coming from "denialist" websites, then please reconsider. I don't fall into that simply polarity.

Yes I am aware of the 800 year lag "explanation". When I was a student, we used to call that sort of thing "post-rationalisation". It sounds like it could be true, it sounds reasonable in the sense of being a "reason", but it also sounds made up. The advantage is that nobody can check it. Put it to you this way, when they first looked at ice cores, the 800 year lag was not evident because it wasn't fine enough resolution. But nobody said, hey guys, there should be a lag in our data!! No, they only "explained" the lag once it was noticed. Nobody EXPECTED it. Which shows clearly, the reason came after the fact.

That is just a simple thinking exercise. Everyone should just stop and think. See?

Stefan said...

... continued:

As for multiple lines of evidence all adding up, again we need a little thinking exercise. You must have seen that famous gestalt picture which looks like a pretty young woman, but which also looks like an old hag? People when they first see it, they see either one or the other, and they are convinced that what they see is the actual, true picture. Then it is pointed out that an entirely different image also fits the exact same pattern. Most people find this very surprising. I think the data on climate is much like a gestalt picture. Yes you can see a specific pattern, and it looks very convincing because you have all these different "blots", all these different pieces of evidence, all adding up to one picture. But gestalt shows that the picture is constructed in the mind, so the same evidence can have an entirely different interpretation. Only testing and reality can be the true arbiter of which is the correct construct.

So you began your reply by saying you have no idea why the CRU man said what he said, but you just know he is wrong. See? You are simply sticking with your chosen construct. A real scientific attitude would stop and want to check -- what is going on here? Why did he say that? It doesn't fit with what I know therefore it needs investigating!!

Most scientists don't have the time to check all this stuff. You didn't even bother to check the 15-year-no-warming claim. But you sound very confident in your assertion.

See, I don't really care whether AGW is true or false. It might be true! It might be false! All I care is whether we are being given a real, truthful, accurate picture. My deep suspicion is that the scientists and politicians have overstated the case, made it sound much more confident than it really is. And when ordinary people notice this, the IPCC gets defensive and calls them "flat earthers".

Look at how you dismiss CERN CLOUD -- you wrote "this theory just has no body of evidence underlying it." Interesting? Why would they be spending all that money on an experiment that has no evidence behind it? That would be like spending millions on an experiment to see if you can make road bridges out of cheese. People don't just go out and spend millions and employ smart scientists and engineers just on a whim. And yet you simply dismiss it as "no evidence". Amazing. Can't you see you are caught in a paradigm? In a construct?

It is very easy to be dismissive. Not so easy to be inclusive.

neil craig said...

Corey in saying that there isn't cooling because 1998 doesn't count you have once again failed yo produce any evidence of any alarmist saying, in 1998 that it shoul;dn't count. Obviously if what we are seeing is impartial science rather than cherry picking data there would have to be evidence of such consistent treatment of data. Otherwise you alarmists are indeed literally making it up as you go along.

Illithi you have said that your concern about catastrophic warming is not that temperature now is anywhere close to the historical maximum but solely because it is allegedly increasing so fast. Since it is actually declining & even Prof Jones (no denier despite HIS connection to big oil) says there has been no warming presumably you now acknowledge your scare story is nonsence.

You also asked "Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the 'glaciergate' scandal with the IPCC over ONE single erroneous data point in a massive volume of data".

Well you're wrong. Firstly because to say the IPCC climing the entire Himalayn glacier system was going to melt by 2035 when there was not only absolutely no evidence for it but it was simply impossible for anything like that to happen is no more accurately described as 1 wrong data point than saying the Pope was right against Galileo except for 1 tiny data point about the Sun orbiting the Earth. Secondly the same report has been found riddled with other lies about the Amazon basin about to turn to desert & mountains losing snow, none of which was based on any science, let alone the peer reviewed stuff but simply WWF advertising hand outs.

The extent to which alarmists will go to pretend there is a catastrophe when all the evidence says otherwise cannot be reasonable. It is either a form of clinical hysterical insanity or the alarmists are using it to get money. In the case of state funded people they are certainly getting money for it.

Abilard said...

Tony said:

"I like the avatar; you probably feel you need the helmet sometimes!"

Thanks, and I do. The icon is the truncated version (blogger does not like animated GIFs). The full version starts with a blob of oil that forms a body attached to the helmet. It then states "Crusade for God! Crusade for Oil! And for Shrubbery!!!"

I was angry at one Shrub in particular at the time.

Rewinn said:

"To say that we will survive X because we survived Y is non sequitur..."

Ah, but in the absence of controlled experimentation "analogy" is what climate science has left to it. I think that Hansen and you should be more concerned with making the AGW case with the public than stretching the bounds of credibility ever farther with even gloomier predictions. For the vast majority of our species and for our civilization there is no difference between doom by peak oil, doom by agricultural collapse, doom by supervolcano, doom by EMP, or doom by runaway greenhouse effect. The survival of civilization is what we have to fight for, and muddying the waters with dreadful damnings of the cost of industrial civilization may make some babyboomers feel good, but it does nothing to advance the cause you claim to hold dear. It simply raises the amount of evidence needed to support these more extreme claims.

Corey said:

"... climate change is part of the problem of biodiversity loss. That issue should still be our first and foremost concern."

Family, civilization, and biodiversity to the extent that it impacts the other two. Anything else is aesthetics.

Corey said...

"Corey in saying that there isn't cooling because 1998 doesn't count you have once again failed yo produce any evidence of any alarmist saying, in 1998 that it shoul;dn't count. Obviously if what we are seeing is impartial science rather than cherry picking data there would have to be evidence of such consistent treatment of data. Otherwise you alarmists are indeed literally making it up as you go along.

Neil, maybe you should just quit before you fall any further behind.

You can try to spin this any way you like with irrelevant red herrings, but the simple fact is that I showed statistical warming since 1998 disproving your claim, and I showed that 1998 wasn't characteristic of the late 90s. You have been materially shown to be wrong on both counts by hard data.

So, again, as basic statistics is clearly far over your head, why don't you go take a high school stats class, and then maybe you'll understand why trends are important, as it's obvious that explanations, simple as they are, are out of your league.

The rest of your comments follow a similar pattern, and at this point, I think it's pretty clear that your failure is complete. As you've already met with the most epic fail possible, I see no reason to re-address your continually regurgitated points any further.

Corey said...

Now, Stefan, I apologize if I was wrong in my implication here, but your sudden presentation of points struck me as oddly timed (again, the sort of timing that accompanies googling "why global warming is fake" and clicking the first link). Again, I apologize for jumping to conclusions, but perhaps you can see how suspicious that looks.

Anyways, there's no need to go line-by-line, but I'll hit a few big things you brought up, because they represent reasonable questions here.

For CERN, you seem to be under the impression that they're spending years and millions of dollars just to debunk the AGW theory. That isn't the underlying point of what they're doing. Studying cosmic rays is something you do for general scientific understanding, something that's done for it's own sake. It's not something you do just so you can get up and debate Al Gore.

If you have a body of evidence that actually shows that this matches the temperature, then I'd love to see it, but as I already showed that the biggest influence on cosmic rays hasn't been increasing in the last 30 years, it makes it hard to correlate to the data, so, again, while not impossible, the cosmic ray theory has no body of evidence making it very likely.

Secondly, if you had actually read the article I linked, you'd see that the lag WAS predicted. Furthermore, while a lot of things like this do end up being a sort of "post-rationalization", even if this case isn't, we actually have a word for this particular brand of post-rationalization: *science*

All science is is taking observations of phenomenon, attempting to form hypotheses about why we see what we do, running them through some specialized forms of scrutiny, and eventually coming up with the best theory that we can, which then gains acceptance if enough sources of data corroborate it strongly enough, and if another theory doesn't come along that fits *all* of the data as well or better. In this case, the basic theory that the level of CO2 in the atmosphere can have a notable influence in temperature based on a logarithmic relationship, and that humans can contribute to this effect notably, is one that hasn't seen much in the way of fundamental revision in 115 years. We've gained greater understanding since then, and we've learned how newly discovered influences work, but it hasn't altered the thesis.

What's most important to realize though, is that "post-rationalization" is not only allowed in science, it's what DRIVES science, because it's what drives the revision of our understanding as new data comes along. If we were so arrogant as to assume a complete understanding of every phenomenon that we discovered the moment we discovered it, science wouldn't be where it is today. So the practice of tweaking theories to match new evidence is what makes science so robust, and is not a weakness of science as you imply.

Of course, this is more a lecture on science than anything relevant to CO2, because, again, the lag was predicted anyways. Sometimes that happens in science too, just due to deductive reasoning.

Third, you haven't actually addressed the case. Okay, the CO2 argument was a good point to bring up. It's important to make sure that a line of evidence is really backing your case rather than contradicting it.

Remember what I said about why concurrent lines of evidence can quickly make a theory so likely though. In the case of CO2/temperature attribution, only ONE line of evidence that indicates this has be showing the theorized relationship that we think it's showing, because then your theory is correct, because that line of evidence is doing what it's doing for the reason you thought. So when talking about the likelihood that the theory isn't true, you're talking about the statistical odds of concurrent coincidences (because you're claiming that each of those lines of evidence only shows what it shows because of a coincidental correlation).

Corey said...

Let's do that math again, making generous assumptions on the skeptic side. I gave five lines of evidence for my limited presentation, so even assuming a huge 50% probability that each is fluke, you take that 50% and raise it to the fifth power to get the probability of 5 out of 5 coincidences, and you get .03125- three and one eighth percent that all of them are sheer coincidence (and so, almost 97% probability that at least one is showing the correlation for the reason we think it is).

So, again, this is why a theory where multiple independent observations quickly becomes very robust. What's more, that was still making generous assumptions towards error.

As for "comments" by various "experts", keep in mind that the CRU emails ended up showing none of the things skeptics claimed outside of a lack of civility with a few scientists (irrelevant to their work). Even your cited example shows nothing but exasperation over not being able to explain a feature of climate, and, incidentally, we CAN now explain it because the culprit was finally unveiled in the data in the form of a negative feedback we hadn't seen before. That discovery improves our understanding of climate (though still has no bearing on the AGW thesis).

For the 15-year comment, it was given with no context, so it could have meant anything. I gave an explanation, but I won't dwell on whether or not I was right, because "he said she said" isn't what science is about, and so it's a red herring for you to continually try to make some kind of argument out of this. In fact, it's a red herring on two counts. First, it's a red herring because the AGW theory doesn't say that climate will always warm, and the amount of warming that IS seen, regardless of how one sees it, is consistent with what we know, and secondly, the hard data SHOWS that it's as significant as any other point. I'm not going to play guessing games with out-of-context quotes, because they don't matter to the evidence.

Finally, your implication that I'm not willing to consider contrary evidence is 100% false. Understand one thing if nothing else: I would be delighted if I suddenly found out that all of this was nothing but some temporary cycle in the climate that wasn't going to get much worse over the next century, and was just going to level off. Do you have any idea how much easier that would make my life? AGW is going to color and complicate my field for the rest of my life, and not in any way that I particularly care for. Better still, it'd be that much easier to sell the case for overall environmentalism (which has broad support) if we didn't have to charge headlong into multi-trillion dollar energy interests to do it.

I have no interests in seeing the AGW theory be true. If all I ever had to worry about in protecting ecosystems were people cutting down the rainforest and pumas being hit by cars in Florida, the degree to which that would raise my optimism about work as a biologist is almost beyond words, because the projections of biodiversity loss to climate change, a lot of which no amount of action will fix at this point, are rather sobering. So if you actually give me some reason to no accept this theory, I will find you, no matter where you live, and when I do... I'll give you a cookie :p How's that sound?

As it stands, however, there are a lot of independent lines of evidence underlying every point in this theory, and I don't see a theory coming along that is able to rectify the amount of agreement between multiple sources of data and the AGW theory.

Corey said...

"Family, civilization, and biodiversity to the extent that it impacts the other two. Anything else is aesthetics."

Don't downplay the value of aesthetics. There are many people who live very happily with access to nature, and would see it as an enormous (and, incidentally, unrecoverable) loss for future generations to not be able to enjoy the same simple pleasures.

Beyond that, what you say is true, because nature does us little good if we're not around to enjoy it (though life could be said to have intrinsic value with or without humans around), but never forget how inextricably tied we are to nature, even if society works very hard to do just that (something that will likely someday result in a rude awakening).

Abilard said...

The Chicago Tribune has just summarized much of our discussions on the various threads of Brin's blog:


Stefan said...

Abilard, I have to agree with you about the importance of family and civilisation.

The world today is not all on the same page.
- In the West the babyboomers worry about nature, as they tire of consumerism.
- In China, they worry about maintaining social order through authoritarian power, so that the country might industrialise and progress as one nation efficiently.
- In the Middle East, particularly Afghanistan, they worry about maintaining tribal clan structures that have built loyalties for survival going back thousands of years.
- In North Africa, some tribesmen still hunt as man did at the dawn of time.

The world is very very complicated socially. This is why environmentalism in its western form is so ill suited to application to the rest of the world. Western environmentalists just don't get, on the whole, the way that other cultures live and what they need for life and progress. Certainly the environment is a problem for them, as it is for everyone, but how they deal with the environment is an entirely different matter.

When you see a small rural hospital in Kenya that installed a solar panel on the advice of western NGOs, and now they can either run the lights, or the refrigerator (to keep the medicines cool), but not both at the same time -- that's a simple stark example that humanity's many cultures and families need to be allowed to figure out for themselves what works and what doesn't work, given their environment and their life needs.

Joey Blau said...

nice piece of explanation.

From what I know, based on the physics of light absorbsion/emission, and the carbon cycle, and the state of CO2 in the ocean, and changing weather, and some paleoclimatology,

HGCC is real and its effects will increase and accelerate.

Thanks for the good read!

Corey said...

Stefan, I am a western environmentalist, and incidentally, I've actually been to China. I spent three weeks aiding the adoption process of a child there by my parents (my mother wasn't willing to travel, my father wanted someone else there so he didn't have to handle the whole mess himself).

I'm not ignorant of the rest of the world, and neither are the vast majority of the rest of the "middle class academics" that you're so quick to condemn as incapable of grasping the lack of homogeneity within the world.

We know the issues that face people around the globe. Believe it or not, one can't become a scientist in the first place without a college education (I know, *gasp*), and that includes required studies of many different cultures and ways of life, even for someone who's never left their own city or state or nation.

Perhaps you'd like to hear about some of the problems faced?

In China, the explosive demand for energy and industrialization has the left the nation clamoring for ways to deal with the consequences. In many parts of the nation, the air is all but unbreathable, and it's not uncommon in certain regions to see people walking down the street with facemasks on to help filter out the toxicity of the air from the cheap coal the powerplants produce. Meanwhile, rivers long-depended on for livelihood are also lethally toxic, often to the tune of dozens of times the concentrations of poisonous substances than even the government will often admit.

Across Africa, tribal huntsmen have to deal with the altered ecology introduced by European settlement, which has fundamentally altered life for these people in negative ways. Lions have been long regarded as non-dangerous to people, something that has been attested to by bushmen for decades, and has been confirmed by recent experiments in their behavior that show no pre-disposition to attacking humans. Despite this fact, European settlement created strain by driving away the natural prey of these cats, replacing it with easy-to-kill livestock, and creating inevitable conflicts with humans that have made the cats antagonistic, and in cases, even man-eaters across large portions of Africa where there was previously no problem.

In Cameroon, the Baka people are currently witnessing the end of their way of life, because the forests they inhabit are being cut down at an alarming rate by the nation's lumber industry, which the government is sympathetic to, leaving no one for the Baka to appeal to. At the present rate that the rainforest is disappearing there, it won't be long at all before there's no forest for the Baka *or* the lumber industry.

Furthermore, even if this apocryphal tale of the "Kenyan hospital" was true, they could just install another solar panel, or, if they got fed up and didn't have the means, could just take the ten minutes to hook up their old AC power line that your story implies that they had (which they took the effort to disconnect in the first place because?).

Corey said...

This whole "we can't trust environmentalists and 'western middle class academics' because they're ignorantly going to run around destroying life as people know it" just feels like a giant strawman, because complete abandonment of ways of life are not what are being suggested, with only rare exceptions like making certain traditional medicines illegal because extinction is being caused by over-harvesting animal parts for them (and as they wouldn't be able to continue those practices anyways once the animals were gone... the problem is what exactly?).

This feels like an emotional appeal designed to claim that we can't trust scientists because they're going to just run around quashing the little guy who can't meet their so called agendas (basically, in the same vein as the "Global Socialist Agenda" argument). Not only is this nowhere near the truth of what the scientists and environmentalists want to do, because we only want to encourage the nations actually causing problems (namely, industrialized nations and China) to help be part of the solution, but it's essentially an insult to the intelligence of such people.

Incidentally, the Chinese are taking the green movement more seriously than the US is right now, and has surpassed us in the production of green energy technology, something they plan to expand greatly, not just because they want to address their pollution problems, but because they see potential in this as a market.

Contrary to your implications, Stefan, China doesn't have the right to pollute in a way that hurts the rest of the globe just for a slightly easier time in industrializing, and even if they did, their interests are perfectly compatible with ours.

Finally, it's worth noting that despite the implication here, this isn't reason to judge the AGW case any differently. As I've said before, a theory isn't judged based on its convenience to any particular group; they're considered when dealing with the consequences, not when determining the science.

Corey said...

" Abilard said...

The Chicago Tribune has just summarized much of our discussions on the various threads of Brin's blog: GlobalDoubting"

The article is interesting (and I would even agree with the proposed reforms of the IPCC, which is getting too big to maintain a high standard for science), and yet, I can't deny that a huge part of what's gone on here is that small chinks have been made in a big case, and it's been capitalized on by -often well paid- denialists desperate to latch onto anything to confuse a public who don't understand the science. Combined with the anti-intellectual movement that these same interests are such a big part of, what's really happening is that a mistakes made by a few are being used to to turn the public against all scientists for on great crime: imperfection.

This isn't really the fault of the vast majority of scientists involved in this science, even if a small few have made mistakes, or even skated by good science in ways that bring their merit into question.

I can only hope that in the wake of the ideological victory scored by the anti-intellectual movement here (and their corporate allies), that other reasons to abandon fossil fuels remain in peoples' minds. In a way, the AGW problem was solved thirty years ago when we decided not to curtail our guzzling of oil, which is now so finite, that our supplies will run out long before scientists suggest we cut CO2 emissions anyways, but forgetting that problem for a moment, I, for one, don't really want to see the global (or even US) economy collapse because we couldn't break our addiction to oil when we should have.

Corey said...

Incidentally, Thomas Friedman just posted his own take on recent developments in climate, which I feel is a very good summary of the situation (

TwinBeam said...

IanG, from previous post comments: "a carbon tax has exactly the same problems" [as carbon credit trading]

Wrong. As I pointed out, we already have mechanisms in place to track and tax imports and domestic fossil fuel production. As a source of revenue, the govt would be highly motivated to go after it. Monitoring the honesty of carbon credits will be a huge expense.

In response to SO2 trading I pointed out that carbon taxes will encourage other countries to set up the same (to free them of the tariff on goods made in countries that do not tax fossil fuel energy). CC trading will not provide such an incentive.

If that's not enough of a response to SO2 trading, there's this:

"Compare the success of the often-touted sulfur dioxide trading system the U.S., instituted in 1990, with the speed and quantity of reductions under rule-based systems during the same period. U.S. SO2 emissions dropped by 31% between 1990 and 2001 [1]. Over the same period of time, under old fashioned rule-based regulation, Germany reduced its emissions by 87% [2], Italy by 62% [2], and Western Europe as a whole by 57% [2]."

You should also read what it says about lead trading, errors, fraud, etc.

Finally, a carbon trading scheme only addresses CO2 reduction - a carbon tax could appeal to "Red State voters" - those who don't believe in AGW, and are suspicious that CC trading is just a new trading scam off of which "fat cats" will rich. It drives energy independence, and to some degree (until all other nations institute their own C-tax) it "protects jobs". It could be made even more populist by declaring that half the revenues will go to debt reduction, half to reducing income taxes.

André said...

Thanks for such an intelligent post! I'm one of these 'commies' who believes in human caused climate change, and unfortunately have trouble distinguishing between good honest scepticism and full-blown denialism. Thanks for the education.

Corey said...

Twinbeam, I do agree with you in that I like the idea of a carbon tax a lot more than a trading scheme.

Not only is your point at least quite probably correct that a rule-based system would turn out to give superior reductions, but I think if such a tax was set up to progressively increase over time (perhaps starting at a relatively small value), that that very predictable rise in the cost of carbon would drive investment in alternative energy and efficiency technology a lot better for industries across the board, because a clearer long-term picture of the price of carbon would exist.

All in all, it seems like a simpler, more effective system. What I do have to wonder though is how you're going to convince Red voters that a new form of tax is going to be acceptable, especially over a market based approach (even a bad one). I think Ian does at least have a point there.

TwinBeam said...

Corey: [How to convince them...]

"Energy independence will take money away from the Arabs, so it fights terrorism. Like the Greatest Generation, we will have to make sacrifices in the short term to win that war, but the eventual result will be a much stronger, more dynamic US economy.

I know you don't much like the idea of higher taxes, so what we're going to do is apply half the money to the national debt to strengthen the country, and half to raising the income tax personal exemption to help middle class folks like yourself."

And the really cool thing, Mr. Redstater, is that we can get the Librals behind this because most of the things we have to do will reduce the carbon dioxide they're so scared of".

neil craig said...

So Corey you still can't find any alarmist in 1998 who said the warming then didn't count when it could be used as evidence of fast warming, yet still insist it mustn't count now that it is evidence of being a high point followed by cooling. That is, by definition, cherry picking.

I note that about half the wordage here comes from you on the never mind the quality feel the width principle. Perhaps you could let us know if (A) you have copiious free time or (B) your employer is employing you to spend hours promoting the warming scam on his $ & if so why?

Tony Fisk said...

Your scaly green tendencies are showing, Neil. (Especially the snark about the time taken to enlighten you. You're right, though: it's clearly wasted.)

Cherry-picking is the selection of one or two items of data to prove a point (especially when the data suggests the opposite)

Which is *precisely* what this emphasis on 1998 is. Draw a line between 1998 and 2009 and you will get no change in temperature (or a very slight cooling)

QED? Bollocks!

Now, be honest and include every year from 1995 to 2009, and you will find the line of best fit shows a slight but distinct warming trend. You will also see 1998 is distinctly warmer than the other years, which makes it a very convenient data point for a dumb counter-argument.

Ilithi Dragon said...

neil craig said...

So Corey you still can't find any alarmist in 1998 who said the warming then didn't count when it could be used as evidence of fast warming, yet still insist it mustn't count now that it is evidence of being a high point followed by cooling. That is, by definition, cherry picking.

Ah, no, that's called revising your theory/prediction based on newly-available data. In 1998, the sharp spike up in average global temperature was very alarming because they did not have the temperature data from 1999, etc. to show that 1998 was an extreme outlier.

Until that data was available, there was significant cause for alarm, because while the scientists knew that 1998 could have been an outlier, they had no way of confirming that at the time. When it looks like you have a fire in your house, it's better to shout "FIRE! FIRE!" and be wrong, than say, "Well, let's wait and see if this actually is an inferno," and have your house go up in flames (which is a slap-you-in-the-face obvious conservative principle, btw - taking precautionary measures to avoid a potential danger, instead of lounging around in the face of a possible catastrophe).

neil craig said...

I note that about half the wordage here comes from you on the never mind the quality feel the width principle. Perhaps you could let us know if (A) you have copiious free time or (B) your employer is employing you to spend hours promoting the warming scam on his $ & if so why?

First, Corey has been explaining to you the science behind this, and why, according to how science works and how climate, etc. works, certain arguments against HGCC are irrelevant, because they make no difference either way.

As for the rest...

Corey is a full-time college student, majoring in conservation biology. He also works part-time in retail. Corey has more free time than I do (a full-time physics major working full-time in sales/administration), but most of his ability to post extensive arguments and large amounts of data here come from two things. First, this is very, very, very relevant to his field of study, and global climate change (human or not) will have huge impacts on his entire career, from start to finish, so familiarity with the issue is par for the course he has chosen as a career. Second, Corey has a lot of pre-formulated data and arguments to provide, because he's already participated in dozens of these discussions that I have personally seen and/or participated in, let alone the discussions on the matter he has had when I'm not around or before we met.

Lastly, that's a blatant ad hominem attack. You can't attack his arguments, so you try to undermine HIM and discredit HIM by attacking him for 'slacking off at work', etc. (and also an apparent attack of resentment for someone either having more free time than you, or dedicating a larger percentage of their free time to the argument than you, which has absolutely no impact on anything to do with the discussion at hand.)

Rob Perkins said...

I've become impatient. I don't need Corey's expertise.

If you're about 40 years old (which I am), you can observe the last 20 years or so of weather. All you have to do is remember what the Weather Channel has been saying.

Then, you can reach back to about the 7th grade, where you were taught the basics of the hydration cycle, that is to say, why it rains.

If you then incorporate some high school chemistry you can think about things like latent heat and enthalpy, you have enough first principles to understand this: IF the atmosphere's average temperature is rising year-over-year, THEN there is more energy in the hydration cycle!

That means more violent weather.

It means more water, on average, in the whole atmosphere, instead of in a form you can drink. That in turn means drier land.

You're not even using your college education, and already you have the tools to verify a climate scientist's prediction.

So let's think about this very, very clearly. In the last 20 years has there been more violent weather? Yes.

Are the deserts in the world, generally speaking, slightly larger and more arid? Yes.

Are the semi-arid climates in the world undergoing longer and more fundamental drought seasons? Think of, say, Utah's high deserts in the last 20 years, where there hasn't been nearly the snowfall in the winter in the last 20 years, as compared to 70 years ago? Yes.

Are the temperate climates (pick Oregon's Willamette Valley, if you want) undergoing enough gradual warming that the winegrowers there are actually replanting their vineyards with species of grapes more suited to California than Southern Germany? Well, whaddayaknow... they are! (And you know what else? A huge chunk of them are actually Republicans...)

Does the consensus model match the last 20 years of observations about climate and weather? Oh, yes it does. In spades and shovels, it matches the model.

What alternative models have been offered which match the weather and climate trends observed over the last 20-50 years? None?

Propose one. Counter the consensus model. You ought to be able to do it with a seventh grader's Earth Science curriculum, combined with a bit of basic first-month material from a high school chemistry class.

You won't need Corey's expertise. I didn't. My expertise is in high-performance computing and simulations, along with 3D graphics.

(That's enough expertise, by the way, to know that climate scientists aren't just blowing smoke at you with a lot of simulation folderol.)

How much time did *I* take off work to write this up? About an hour, which I'll make up to my boss later on in the day. And I have no other motivation than trying to counteract really bad reasoning, which annoys and offends me.


rewinn said...

The phrase "carbon tax", or anything with the word "tax" in it, has political difficulties. We are not far from people denouncing taxidermy, taxonomy and taxicabs ...

.. there is also the real problem of who bears the cost. A rational analysis would be that the cost of runaway greenhouse effect far exceeds the cost of avoiding it, but the "tragedy of the commons" difficulty is real: no-one wants to be the guy who makes the only sacrifice.

A fee-and-rebate system addresses both issues. Impose a tax (or "fee") on emitting greenhouse gasses (typically carbon but also including whatever the science-types think make sense) to go NOT to general revenue but into rebates on a per-capita basis, and let the Free Market do its thing. People who choose to emit fewer greenhouse gasses profit and therefore support the fee-and-rebate.

Not incidentally this helps with a basic problem of cap-and-trade of anti-incentivizes greenhouse gas reductions over the legislatively determined goal. Let us say you are an emitter of X quantity of greenhouse gas, and think of a way to cut it to zero. You then sell your greenhouse gas credits to someone else and the net reduction is zero. The only reduction is up to the legislators who set the "cap"; it does not take a cynic to suspect that the cap is likely to be set on grounds other than the best available science.

Corey said...

Hmm, I like that thinking, Twinbeam. Now the only remaining problem is that you need to get a Republic to propose it, because the GOP will stonewall any idea proposed by Democrats, regardless of whether it appeals to conservative ideology, liberal ideology, or both (granted, that's not the whole GOP and I do actually like those in the party who have been doing actual work on legislation, but that does fairly describe a big portion of the GOP Congress right now).

Tony Fisk said...

"Your scaly green tendencies are showing, Neil. (Especially the snark about the time taken to enlighten you. You're right, though: it's clearly wasted.)

Cherry-picking is the selection of one or two items of data to prove a point (especially when the data suggests the opposite)

Which is *precisely* what this emphasis on 1998 is. Draw a line between 1998 and 2009 and you will get no change in temperature (or a very slight cooling)

QED? Bollocks!

Now, be honest and include every year from 1995 to 2009, and you will find the line of best fit shows a slight but distinct warming trend. You will also see 1998 is distinctly warmer than the other years, which makes it a very convenient data point for a dumb counter-argument."

Well not only is it cherry picking, but as I showed, a line of best fit even from 1998 to 2009 STILL shows notable warming (the best fit trend from 1998 to 2009 is .0113 per year or .113 per decade), largely because 1999 and 2000 are so much cooler than 1998, just like 95-97 are. All the years around 1998 are notably cooler.

As you note, going from 1995 instead gives a really complete picture (again, as I showed with images).

It is a cheery pick trying to base one's entire conclusion on a single year (and contrary to Neil's accusations I'm not telling anyone to ignore 1998, but rather just to take it in *context* with the overall data, which shows it unrepresentative of that general point in time, because it's a very temporary spike). Not only is it a cherry pick, but it's also a red herring and a strawman, because the AGW theory never calls for uninterrupted warming (the strawman), because it only asserts that we affect one of many forcings which alters the equilibrium of the climate (while the rest can do what they want), and it draws attention away from the central issue of the evidence (the red herring), which is the expected correlation to forcings compared to the observations.

It's literally three argumentative fallacies wrapped into a single claim, and I've politely tried to explain it multiple times (once here, other times in previous discussions), only to be met with accusations of distortion of data, and having the same already-addressed argument literally just repeated the exact same way, ignoring the refutation.

That said, it's not something I care to explain anymore, because Neil's motivations are obviously purely political, and not scientific.

Corey said...

rewinn said... "[interesting things on carbon taxes]" :)

You know, I think it's good to compare different methods here for implementing ways to increase the price of carbon, because there's a real opportunity here to help our struggling economy in the process.

A few months ago, economist Paul Krugman came to my school and gave a talk about the economic collapse, why it happened, what we're probably in for, so on and so forth, which largely included a forecast of economy out of collapse, but in extrended doldrums as we struggle to get it revived.

What's really interesting, though, was that one of the suggestions on a possible solution was actually a progressively rising carbon tax. This nation desperately needs an industry that can be invested in that isn't struggling, something that alternative energy and efficiency technology would be great for with a predictably rising cost on carbon. What's more, the Chinese are probably right that green energy is going to be the next great world market, which means that investment would not only help lift up our economy, but it would help us address our poor position in the world market (and crippling trade deficit) by having a marketable commodity. This is NOT something we want to lose to the Chinese on, plain and simple, because the nation that controls the green energy market controls a large part of the upcoming century, and we really want that to be us, not China (for purely selfish reasons, of course :D).

We really could kill quite a number of birds with one stone if we're smart about addressing climate change, because it can segway us into so many other things we really need to get moving on.

Abilard said...

Corey said:

"Now the only remaining problem is that you need to get a Republic to propose it, because the GOP will stonewall any idea proposed by Democrats..."

By finding that CO2 is a pollutant I believe the EPA is positioning itself to levy fees without any additional Congressional action required. Whether they will be bold enough to do so remains to be seen. The problem with trying to levy fees in this way is that people will start to cry "taxation without representation" and steal your Earl Grey, and that's before corruption (i.e. issuing CO2 permits to campaign donors) has a chance to set in.

The other options, seeking consensus using arguments not based solely on AGW or publicly making the AGW case, are 1) democratic in principle and 2) in keeping with our Constitution. But then, those who place oblivion in the scales on one side might see any action as justified, constitutional or not. I believe that is what is commonly understood as extremism.

As for Corey, I appreciate his expertise. He has made several points I find cogent. I say this as someone who, as you may know, occasionally disagrees with him. Agree with him or not, he has obviously thought about his positions and not just accepted what was politically popular with his peer group.

Corey said...

Well Alibard, I'm not entirely sure exactly what the applicable laws are where the EPA is concerned, but I'm not sure they should unilaterally be imposing what is essentially taxation (fines are one thing, but there's a line).

What can be seen as Constituional can get complicated due to the the broad implied powers under the Necessary and Proper Clause ("elastic clause"), and has been historically very closely tied (as it should be) to what the Supreme Court is willing to grant as power. Obviously, Congress has the right to regulate pollutants, because I'm sure some case at some point on the Constitutionality of that has come up, and Congress still does it. Their right to levy taxes is an enumerated power, so there's obviously no problem there.

The place where the question gets difficult is where you start asking if Congress has the right to grant a de-facto ability to levy taxes to another organization within government (which is not directly elected by the people). I think you'd have a pretty tough case selling that in even a pro-Federalist Supreme Court, so I think that any such taxation should come directly from Congress.

As for making the AGW case publicly, I liked Thomas Friedman's idea, personally. What he said is that there should be a small summit with the absolute best and brightest in the climate field (the most qualified few from NASA, from CRU, from NOAA, etc) and that this small and easily manageable group should write up a 50-page summary of everything we know about climate science, all the evidence, and the faults in a number of contrarian arguments with hefty citations, using 6th grade language and an impeccable standard of scientific review (which is easy with a small group of scientists and a relatively small report).

I would add that after that's done, it should be submitted for review to national science academies, which would further reinforce the quality of the research and data.

Abilard said...

"The place where the question gets difficult is where you start asking if Congress has the right to grant a de-facto ability to levy taxes to another organization..."


I still favor my idea, of improving data collection and making that data public. Obama's Climate Service, if it comes about as described, will do this.

Rob Perkins said...

It would carry even more weight if a university populated with lots of conservatives were to host the small group for that 50 page report.

A place like BYU, for example, where the climate scientists there have all protested the no-nothing stances the Utah legislature has taken this session.

I can't think of any reasons why the trustees there wouldn't welcome an opportunity to see the University publish good, solid science.

Are there any other conservative-leaning universities in the U.S. who have a strong hard sciences program?

Abilard said...

Looks like the Army Corps of Engineers thinks Peak Oil is going to trump Climate Change anyway:

Energy Trends and Their Implications for
U.S. Army Installations [PDF - 1.25MB]

Page 53 - "Despite environmental issues such as carbon dioxide emissions, coal consumption
will grow in the utility sector and, possibly, the large industrial sector. The nation
has large supplies of coal in the West and it will most likely be utilized."

Choose your doom.

Corey said...

Well the Army Corps of Engineers has historically been among the most anti-environmental organizations in the nation, proposing projects for development that would absolutely wreak havoc on on all sorts of ecosystems (the Yazu Pumps prject (sp?) comes to mind).

In their defense though, we're still without a decent energy source once oil runs out. The US has a huge supply of coal, enough to perhaps last us a little bit, though it's really not enough to provide the world's energy supply for any longer than oil. Even at PRESENT consumption rates of coal and the given rate of increase, there's about 6 decades left in the Earth (maybe 4 decades of present usable amounts before peak coal kicks in and starts drastically reducing that?). If we supplied all the world's electricity with it, it'd last 37 years with no growth (again, less due to peak coal). If you account for trying to take over oil's job and factor in both human population growth and energy usage growth per average person around the globe, coal could sustain the whole world for what, maybe ten years optimistically?

I don't think there's too much interest in trying to replace petroleum with it's solid and less-abundant cousin; we just don't have enough. Carbon capture might be able to make the tech cleaner, which means I might even support coal power with some technological improvements, but there just isn't enough of it.

Nuclear power really seems to be our only real good option at the immediate moment, with as much reliance on existing sustainable sources as possible (but I admit wind and geothermal aren't likely going to power the planet, not NEARLY). Solar might be able to do it with development, because presently some of the limitations are being overcome with technology, but until that matures a lot, we can't consider that an option on the table. Nuclear power can be carbon-intensive, but suggestions to reduce that have already been proposed here, and if we used electrical equipment powered by the nuclear reactors to mine and transport the fuel, you'd have a relatively sustainable and relatively carbon-free energy source there. As I've said several times here already too, strides are being made in nuclear fusion that one day soon might solve all of this (because development is moving away from the unworkable Tokamak design in many places).

Whatever we do for electricity, here's my suggestion right now: get EVERYTHING working electrically. Yes, the batteries in electric cars suck for the environment, and the grid can be inefficient, etc etc, but if we could take that step, we'd be consolidating the problem, that way we'd only need to find one solution rather than a dozen.

Abilard said...

The authors of that doc give nuclear 20 years before we start running out of fissionable material with 2005 tech (if we switch to it as our primary source). They are more optimistic for coal than you are, but it is still rather gloomy. Of course, I don't think they were taking into account tech like this:

Wall Street Journal - Small Reactors Generate Big Hopes

It looks like coal plants can be retrofitted with them, reducing our infrastructure build-out burden.

I agree with their sentiment that under conditions of energy circumscription Americans will start to consume anything and everything they can though, regardless of climate concerns.

Corey said...

Well once the coal goes away, it doesn't matter what we burn CO2 wise. Natural gas burning emits it, but in amount so much smaller that the effects would be much more manageable, both for us and for wildlife (at least such is my hope and present understanding).

Natural gas isn't going to last us forever either though. These energy sources just haven't been drawn upon like oil has. They're present, but once oil is gone, we're only looking at temporary bandaid solutions. I mean, we can't just rebuild our whole energy infrastructure over and over for 15 year supplies of this and that. That's part of why I doubt coal would take over, because it would take us just as long to rebuild our energy infrastructure as we'd even get out of the stuff in energy (not a very cost-effective solution).

At this point what we need to do is look at what will give us a lasting solution for the money we spend. Fission might be a start, but we need to really find a set of solutions that are actually going to solve the problem (without forgetting that we still need oil for the moment to feed the planet, so shouldn't be jumping to burn it all up).

Hopefully the solutions are in nuclear fusion, which finally look to be within our grasp (and is orders of magnitude more efficient than fission), or something else that's at least around. If we had to, we could probably use lower-power alternative sources if we built enough, because between wind, tidal power, and solar power, there is a lot to go around, but it seems like such a switch would be a monumental undertaking (and there might not even be enough energy to work with in the end to meet demands with present technology).

So here we sit in an interesting conundrum. What I do know is that even forgetting climate change, there's little salvation in just burning our way out of the problem.

Abilard said...

That's pretty much what that Army report states.

Corey said...

Well it seems we're all on the same page then.

Let's just hope that all these scientists and engineers are actually good for something and somewhere some of these newer technologies actually work out of offer a solution...

I'm optimistic though, and not because we have an easy problem here, but precisely *because* we have our backs to the wall here. Humanity always tends to do it's best work in such situations (and we're damn good at it too) :D

Abilard said...

"I'm optimistic though, and not because we have an easy problem here, but precisely *because* we have our backs to the wall here. Humanity always tends to do it's best work in such situations (and we're damn good at it too) :D"

Agreed, though I think that transition period (perhaps the next 20 years?) could get pretty rough before we figure out how to manage our affairs.

Corey said...

Well then, that just makes it an interesting time to be human :)

neil craig said...

So Corey is, if getting any presumably government grant, is indeed funded by government to push this scare & expects to make a continuing living through "environmental" parasitism. This is how the eco-movement exists & I suspect the same applies to severalhere.

As to the fact, on which we now seem to agree, that no alarmists said in 1998 "hold on this warming may just be weather not climate, we need more than a decade & a half to be able to claim to see a trend" whereas virtually all of them have referred to this & last winters as just being weather.

Ergo they are cherry picking & as Llithi pointed out until the theory has been verified by years of accurate predictions it is liable to be junked/modified out of existence by new measurements. Obviously a hypothesis which, even thoeretically, is not accepted as conclusive, by definition, cannot be accepted by any scientist, let alone a "consensus" as proven & the lack of warming for the last decade must be taken as evidence falsfying the catastrophic warming hypothesis.

Abilard said...


Well, this is not the first time some AGW proponents have done this sort of thing. Katrina made the cover of Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth, but subsequent low-storm years were "natural variation." I think we have established at this point that AGW proponents are, indeed, human, and some are willing employ dramatic, though scientifically dubious, claims to win a debate.

I'm sure a portion are motivated by monetary gain rather than the idealistic pursuit of truth, though I suspect more are motivated by status than by either, or by a blend of status with truth-seeking. After all, most do not get day jobs and retire to their own personal Towers of the Château to pursue their studies. Instead they engage in political competitions within departments that can get, well, murderous.

Nevertheless, I think you should refrain from ad hominem attacks against Corey. I would prefer it if the skeptical and denier camps left such things to the AGW folks. Let them lose points by needlessly impugning others as deceptive or spies for the man.

Ilithi Dragon said...


First it's ILITHI, not LLITHI (curse you, sans serif fonts!!!).

Second, I don't even know what to say to your first paragraph there, other than to link you here.

I won't even start on my contempt for the "OMG ALL GOVERNMENT = THE GREATEST EVIL EVAR!11!one!eleven!1!" mindset.

Third, on your 1998 point, you are completely missing the fact that data measuring did not begin in 1998, or 1995, or even 1990. Scientists and climatologists have been studying the possibility and ramifications of human-generated climate change for over a century. Modern scientists have been predicting and warning about global warming since at least the 1970s, and the first indications and predictions of human-generated global warming were noted and published around the turn of the 20th Century. This is not something that climatologists pulled from their asses last night. This is science that has been developing for over a century, and modern scientists have been analyzing increasingly accurate and reliable data produced by increasingly modern and reliable equipment for the last 40-50 years, if not longer. By 1998, they already HAD decades of analysis to support the trend, and 1998 was an alarming up-spike in that trend. Yes, they knew it could have been an outlier year, but as I said before, it is far better to cry "FIRE!" and be wrong than to do nothing and let your house burn down around you.

The only cherry-picking that has been done here has been by YOU, Neil. Crying fire at alarming new data that indicates a terrifying increase in an already-alarming trend is not cherry-picking. Alarmist and pre-mature, maybe, but my fire analogy is very apt here.

What is cherry-picking is insisting that that one data-point, which was later shown to be an outlier, trumps all the other data that has come before and after it, and because current temperatures do not exceed that one outlier year, the world is cooling.

HGCC HAS been verified by over a century of modeling and predictions that have largely been shown to be accurate within scientifically acceptable margins of error (and that were refined and corrected when they weren't). HGCC was a hypothesis a hundred years ago. Today it is a thoroughly-tested scientific theory, comparable to the Theory of Evolution, the Theory of Gravity, etc. It is not 100% understood, but neither is Evolution or Gravity. You also need to learn the meaning of scientific consensus and how it works.

Understanding the scientific method may also help.

Tony Fisk said...

I would prefer it if the skeptical and denier camps left such things to the AGW folks. Let them lose points by needlessly impugning others as deceptive or spies for the man.

As we see above, they who shoot the messenger invariably shoot themselves, since they demonstrate they have no pro-active argument to make.

That may be why I see relatively little use of these tactics by those who have concluded AGW is a sufficiently high risk as to require action.

Ilithi Dragon said...

The vast majority of the time I see such tactics used by the AGW side, it's after being Zerg-rushed with those and similar tactics by the anti-AGW side, and they're usually targeted to point out the opposition's lack of understanding of how science works, and other such things.

Corey said...

Well keep in mind that an ad hominem attack isn't just commenting on an individual directly, but commenting on them in lieu of addressing the issue. Sometimes faults within the individual are relevant to an issue, because it can point out conflicts of interest or facts that may legitimately undermine credibility. For instance, if Rush Limbaugh makes some argument against AGW, it's reasonable not just to address the argument, but to point out that Rush isn't a scientist.

That said, I find the notion that governments grants in the tens of thousands of dollars is supposedly enough to corrupt virtually every scientist on Earth, but the HUNDREDS of thousands of dollars received by the denialist minority from corporations and far-right advocacy groups (mostly in the libertarian camp) somehow isn't enough to sway their supposed commitment to science.

Incidentally, being a student, and one who studies biology and not climatology formally, I receive neither as I am not worth the attention of either interest.

Oh, and Ilithi, as has already been pointed out, it's a waste of time to try to force Neil to admit simple statistical math, and as he obviously isn't winning any converts through his tactics, I'd just leave it alone until someone come along who actually has a legitimate statement or query to make.

Ilithi Dragon said...

But, but, but... The trolls are so cute when they're hungry!

neil craig said...

Fair point Abilard & I freely acknowledge that Corey's financial relationship is tiny compared to the overall billions handed out for purely alarmist "research". However in the overall scheme of things it is important that such money is available from governmen, but only for the "right" result, Profesor Jones, for example has got $20 million whereas Stephen McIntyre got no government money - can anybody say that that decision was based on the scientific competence of each?

This goes to the heart of the isue of whether the warming scam is primarily the incompetence of the scientific community or a deliberate programme by government to manufacture a scare. In the words of H.L. Mencken "The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary." It is worth noting that in Germany when the Nazis came to power "Jewish" science simply disappeared from the programme. It was not necessary to pass any edicts - simply not providing grants & having a quiet word did it - a very few "scientists" of no great ability endorsed Nazism, the vast majority kept silent & a very few simply found themsleves unable to work. One does not have to call alarmists Nazis, or even to say that all German scientists were Nazis (& I do neither) to recognise the paralel.

1st grow up - I get people calling me Neal & I don't have to adopt a silly name to get it. 2nd thank you for demonstrating the requirement of alarmists to rely on ad hominum attacks since the facts don't help you. I note in your following post you say you have noticed such attacks mainly from sceptics - with such observation skills I can see why you are an alarmist. 2 1/2thly - OK we are agreed I you are less libertarian minded than me -so? 3rd inn the 1970s the scare was a new ice age - your attempt to retcon catastrophic warming back is ratherv silly. What the record actually shows is (A) that the climate has been much warmer than now in the past & (B) that there has ben a continous run of meia scares on temperature since the polular press came into existence - however the pendulum has swung repeatedly from a warming to a cooling fraud & back.

I take it you are also on record as saying publicly that Saint Al's (Nobel & Oscar) should be ignored because he isn't a scientist - inded because he is an ignorant buffoon (I don't think anybody will dispute that) with no place in any scientific movement of merit.

I note your concern that Exxon gave a couple of hundred thousand $s for sceptical reasearch & await hearing of your concern that the US & Europeans have given a couple of billion. It seems to be, at the nicest, cherry picking, to say that 99.99% of the money being on 1 side causes no problems but 0.01% on the other proves financial corruption. Or perhaps you really do spend 99.99% of your time on other sites objecting to that bias?
I note

Stefan said...


Yes those are problems in the developing world.

But what you miss is that those people in the developing world have different priorities.

And western environmentalists don't get to tell them that their priorities are wrong. I mean you can try. Good luck with that.

Yes you see the smog clouds. Yes you see the changes in ecology. But what you don't see -- I just don't see western environmentalists doing this -- what you don't see is the inner life of the people of the world. You don't see that their inner judgements are DIFFERENT to the judgements that you make about what is and isn't important.

So yes, you as a western environmentalist -- and I say this based on our discussion here -- you don't understand the world. You understand parts, but you're missing the varied human psychology of the world. The varied cultures. Their judgements about what really matters, to them, at this time, in that place, in their lives.

Corey said...

First Stephan, no offense, but I would put my understanding of global society against yours any time. I may not be a PhD sociologist or anthropologist, but then remember, I'm not a climatologist either ;)

From the numerous formal classes on social sciences I've invested time in at college (mostly for personal interest, combined with informal study), to the various opportunities to travel to Europe and China (and touch on more or less every corner of North America), to the extended conversations I used to have with the Darfurian refugees that were most of my co-workers (along with one fascinating Iraqi Kurd), I think I've had a broad enough exposure to the needs of the world to get by, thank you very much.

You're again just using misrepresentation of environmentalists. In a sense, you might be right that speaking strictly as an environmentalist, I don't speak in consideration of the rest of the world. What you completely fail to realize is that I never speak strictly as an environmentalist, except when addressing issues where humans have no involvement. In fact, generally speaking, NO sincere environmentalist speaks strictly as an environmentalist.

When I say something about the environment, I say it mindful of and for the sake of all life, human, animal, plant or otherwise, and I say it mindful of the fact that humans are diverse, and that diversity is a great asset that needs just as much protection as biodiversity. Why do you think I mentioned a group so small as the Baka? I don't care about them because they're a mainstream culture; I care about them because they're different and an important part of human diversity.

If you knew even the first thing about me, you'd know that I value preservation of the environment, not to destroy diverse cultures and way of life, because SPECIFICALLY BECAUSE I wish to preserve them.

Really, I appreciate you telling me everything I do and don't know about the world, but I think I can figure that out on my own.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. My view on AGW theory is a matter strictly of science. It is when considering how to DEAL with the problem that being mindful of varying human concerns comes in, because ultimately, that's the whole point.

Corey said...

As for you Neil, please show me the billions of dollars given to "alarmist research". Note that general funding to climate research doesn't count, no matter who it goes to, because you'd have to give evidence that the funding was given specifically with the intention of distortion of information (in the same way that GCC/NIPCC funding follows that pattern, which I believe I already discussed).

Now, as I know you can't, I'll just leave you to your conspiracy theories, which, as per usual, you bring up as a way to skate by the fact that you neither understand nor are capable of debating science (hey look, HERE is your cooling trend!), whilst being willing to go to any length to shove your dogmatic view down peoples' throats. Before you accuse of the same, it's only you who's espoused an absolute point of view, while I and most others here have only discussed theories that might be true or false in degrees of probability. I've wholly said that AGW theory isn't 100% certain, and that another theory might be correct (it's just not likely at present), while YOU have given a point of view that all scientists must be involved in a global "alarmist" conspiracy, that AGW must be false with 100% certainty, and that anyone who suggests otherwise is lying.

Of course, why should I go so far to describe you when Brin already has:

"For the most part, those calling themselves "skeptics" are nothing of the kind. More often than not, they are fully-imbibed, koolaid-drinking Deniers, who wallow in isolated anecdotes and faux-partyline talking points, egotistically assuming that their fact-poor, pre-spun, group-think opinion entitles them to howl ""corrupt fools!" at 100% of the brilliant men and women who have actually studied and are confronting an important topic..."

Previously, I said that your 1998 fallacy wasn't worth the exertion of effort to disprove any further. I now extend that to everything you say, because it becomes increasingly clear with every passing day that once your short supply of pre-formed party line arguments run out in the face of people who actually understand science, that your only way to address a scientific discussion becomes ad hominem reasoning and vast conspiracy theories.

Elvis and Hitler are not still alive, the moon landing wasn't faked, JFK wasn't killed by the CIA, and the world's community of climatologists are not out to to commit a mass hoax. I realize that to say that is to tell you that your very tasty koolaid is, in fact, a bitter and vile substance, but then, mass paranoia must be an acquired taste, which makes it a waste of time, hence why you don't merit further response until you present real arguments.

Corey said...

Oh, and, Stefan, looking back at the harsh tone of my last post towards you, I don't mean to say that I don't value your opinion. You're an intelligent and engaging person.

That said, I REALLY do not appreciate you trying to evaluate my opinions and motives from my own point of view, because just as I don't really know you, you don't really know me, so please, let's keep this to a discussion of evidence, issues, and possible solutions to those issues.

We have an here that is caused by all of humanity, and all of humanity is affected by it. That said, the world must also decide, within its diverse societies, how to address this problems. It's not just global warming, or biodiversity loss, or human population, but the overall issue of sustainability is the overarching problem for society (even if I, myself, will focus on the biodiversity aspect).

We are an unsustainable civilization, plain and simple and while no one has the right to tell others HOW to be sustainable, the simple laws of existence tell us that ways must be found to become sustainable, for everyone. I don't have all the answers, nowhere near. That doesn't mean that I'm not mindful of that fact when I suggest a single issue and propose solutions though. We can always propose solutions, and just as we can't impose our value sets on how to deal with an issue on a given culture, if we see an unsustainable practice, we can still propose alternatives. We can still strive towards convincing people to tread lightly and be gentle in the wielding of our powerful influence over the planet, we can support the development of new technologies, we can take realistic stock of the resources around us, and we can raise awareness of the value of nature and the dangers of some of the present course of society, because people of many different cultures and ways of life are often willing to at least listen.

Just because no one can fully understand every aspect of every way of human life, and the intricate ties between various sectors cultures, and between those cultures and the physical world around them, does not mean that we can't explore the issues.

neil craig said...

Well Corey quoting David Brin engaged in ad hominum attacks on the vast majority of sceptical scientists, almost all of whom he has never met, simply isn't a rational argument.

While, not going ad hom, I must accept your claim that I "have given a point of view that all scientists must be involved in a global "alarmist" conspiracy" as representing the absolute pinnacle of honesty to which you & any supporter who does not choose to dissociate themselves from you on this are capable.

On the other hand it is a total & complete lie. The truth is quite the opposite - that there is no "scientific consensus" on the matter; that most scientists have said nothing on the subject; that the largest single statement of scientist's opinion is the Oregon Petition which is more than sceptical; that this alleged "consensus consists of a very small number of peoplin white coats promoted by a massive government & media propaganda campaign. It is simply a lie to say I have said otherwise, indeed I have regularly asked alarmists if any of them can name 2 independent scientists, not funded by government who support catastrophic warming - nobody has been able to do so.

I herewith ask you to publicly retract your claim that I have said almost all scientists are among the alarmists.

By saying you will not accept the evidence of government money only going to alarmists as evidence of government money being directed to alarmists you make it obvious you know you have no case whatsoever & are simply saying that as long as you pretend to be blind to evidence it doesn't count. We have seen far to much of this among alarmists but presumably they think that if facts can't save them, ignorance may.

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