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  1. This is a really good idea. It is very true that climate change may “fall through the cracks” because it doesn’t fit into a specific course of study. Catholic schools have an easier time because the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences is having conferences and issuing statements about the dangers of climate change. Some famous climate scientists such as P. Crutzen and V. Ramanathan are members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. They are also in the AP Environmental Science book.

    Climate scientists might consider the example of Crutzen and Ramanathan. They should take the opportunity to speak to students in Catholic Schools. If politicians see that such a large group of voters supports learning about climate change, they might think twice about persecuting the scientists.

    The people who run our schools and the science teachers see through the phony-baloney propaganda. Please come to our schools and inspire our students who will be tomorrow’s voters and scientists.

    Comment by Snapple — 4 Feb 2012 @ 7:37 AM

  2. I strongly agree that teachers need serious support just to be able to teach proper science in America. I might add that statewide “Citizens for Science” groups can make a worthy contribution.

    Comment by Pete Dunkelberg — 4 Feb 2012 @ 8:50 AM

  3. “So what’s a teacher to do?”

    …Part of it depends on what the curriculum and standards are. If you notice, the curriculum frameworks for each state do not devote a heavy amount of time to Climate Change science topics (and indeed not as much on science at all– increasingly on Math/ELA content).

    You certainly could attempt to integrate cross-subject matters into each content area, but here’s the problem:

    You run the risk of short-changing students by making your own pet-projects or pedagogical goals more important than the curriculum/standards themselves. This is true for teachers of creationism/evolution, climate change, the Kennedy assassination, the Titanic, earthquakes, or whatever else. “Real” teachers in the field know that their time is nil, expectations are high, and the standards are vast.

    It’s not that I’m recommending doing nothing as far as communicating climate change validity in the classroom is concerned, but there has to be a more realistic amount of horse-trading or “is this a hill to die on” kind of discussion when it comes to this. Sure, you can spend 4 weeks on Climate Change, wrestle with parents and the school board (and win), but see a bunch of ‘smart kids’ to transfer to private school, see your remaining students fail the standardized testing in science because all they ‘really’ know has to do with climate change (or evolution), and then you’re out of a job anyway for poor performance with no one to blame but yourself.

    Most middle-school science curriculum is one of general science, complete with its own wide-ranging standards. It’s rare that a school offer “biology”, “earth science”, “chemistry”, etc. etc. at that level. Unless it’s a private school, or a posh school from a rich community where every kid is going to pass standardized testing anyway, I think this kind of conversation needs to be tempered with a few more variables that a flustered teacher wrestles with every day.

    Comment by Salamano — 4 Feb 2012 @ 9:23 AM

  4. I’m going to make an odd suggestion. I don’t think there needs to be much emphasis on the teaching of climate change in schools. I think it should be mentioned and explained, and the opinions of the “skeptics” should be mentioned too. The nature of the “skeptics” arguments should be gently ridiculed. The possibility of future problems should be raised.

    The cause of the seasons is taught in schools, but experience shows that despite the instruction, most students don’t understand it properly. It is even less likely that detailed explanations of greenhouse warming would be effective.

    Comment by John Brookes — 4 Feb 2012 @ 9:28 AM

  5. I don’t think that the alleged “controversial” aspects of climate change should play any role in its presentation in the classroom, but I’m also not one that gets worked up over challenging a student (or parents) beliefs. I’m the type of person that likes to discuss/debate the “no-no topics of dinner table conversations” (like religion, science, etc) just as casually as teenagers brag about their new iphones. The idea that education should bend to the glorification of people’s pre-conceived opinions is absurd to me, and puts a dagger in the very heart of education.

    Perhaps I’m a bit of an educational ‘purist’ in that regard, but the students go to class to learn, and if I was a teacher being called to the principal’s office due to an angry parent, I’d gladly invite that parent to my classroom for an instruction on the topic as well.

    With that said, the level of initiation in the topic should still scale with the students’ grade level, just as 6th graders don’t learn calculus. Because of this, I think there is very little room for teaching the subject below the upper high school level.

    On the one hand, climate change is perhaps the single largest environmental of our time, and in fact of the grandest scientific challenges of the modern era. It is also one of the most multidisciplinary and practical applications of science that students will run into, perhaps in their entire lives, so some introduction into it is critical. On the other hand, virtually nothing about it is really good “lecture material” at the lower high school (and below) level, aside from perhaps showing a few powerpoint slides (like the Mauna Loa curve, the global temperature time series, etc).

    Earth sciences are usually taught before 11th grade or so (at least in my experience), so the only way I could forsee a good intro to the topic is perhaps in a high school physics class, which a lot of students don’t take anyway. As mentioned before, even a lot of instructors aren’t very well-versed in even the basics of climate science, and probably wouldn’t get a good opportunity to be prior to that segment of the class. Very often high school teachers are only a chapter ahead of their class in the book, so if some “debate” or more nuanced questions come up that challenge the teacher, those might go unresolved.

    Comment by Chris Colose — 4 Feb 2012 @ 11:31 AM

  6. I have been a member of the NCSE for a long time and I can highly recommend that others here join. The newsletter, REPORTS, will keep you up to date on ongoing activities of the NCSE. Eugenie Scott and the NCSE have been very important in the fight against pseudoscience and disinformation in the teaching of evolutionary theory, and this expansion to climate change is a logical step. Thanks Eugenie!


    Comment by Steve Fish — 4 Feb 2012 @ 11:47 AM

  7. In school science lessons? Teach the basics of thermodynamics, electromagnetism and optics, fluid dynamics, astronomy, the chemistry and biology of the carbon cycle and statistics – at the appropriate level for the pupils.

    I don’t see a compelling reason for middle school science teachers to go into details of the earth’s current warming, although they should be free to do that if they want to.

    What to do about global warming is another problem. Not one for science class, I would say. Pupils need to be taught about how to engaging in democractic debates, and the role of experts (which is complicated in itself) should be part of that discussion. Why would anyone think that science class is the place to do that? Science teachers should refuse to be diverted into giving civics lessons.

    That’s not a perfect solution as I know there will still be some objections to science classes from skeptics. But I think it would help.

    Comment by JK — 4 Feb 2012 @ 11:50 AM

  8. A fairly recent resource teachers may find useful in providing an evidentiary basis for climate science education is CAMEL (Climate Adaptation Mitigation E-Learning), which offers a large selection of articles, videos, and other modalities on a range of climate change topics. Like the National Center for Science Education, this program stands to benefit from future participation by more individuals knowledgeable in these topics.

    I also wonder whether the National Science Teachers Association is aware of either organization. If not, it should be alerted to their existence.

    Comment by Fred Moolten — 4 Feb 2012 @ 12:04 PM

  9. Thank you, Genie. The climate change initiative undertaken by NCSE has been sorely needed.

    I find that the best way to educate high school and college students about how we know humans are causing global warming is by referring them to John Cook’s The Scientific Guide to Global Warming Skepticism. Easy to read and highly visual.

    Scott Mandia

    Support Climate Science Legal Defense Fund to protect the scientific endeavor.

    Comment by Scott Mandia — 4 Feb 2012 @ 12:20 PM

  10. “So what’s a teacher to do?”

    First, take a day and teach them a lesson in Zohnerism. Introduce them to the ban DHMO controversy, show each side of the debate being careful not to give away the punch line. Take a class vote for or against banning DHMO.

    Next, teach the basics of climate science (not climate change science). They need to know: what a GHG is and how the GHE works; the carbon cycle; how climate has changed over the entire geologic history of the planet; how the climate has changed recently (relatively speaking); the main variables of climate like temperature, rainfall, etc.; the role of the sun, atmosphere and oceans on climate.

    Then, IMO, they’d have the knowledge to absorb “climate change science” without being overly frightened or depressed by hyperbole and exaggerations they may be exposed to in the future. Simply lay the case for AGW out there as an fyi, no testing on it or repercussions for not getting it and under no circumstances should a course of action “necessary” be taught without a whole series on cost/benefit analysis and risk management. Even skeptics (such as myself) would have a hard time objecting to such a presentation scenario. I don’t want my son indoctrinated into being a CAGW skeptic any more than I want him indoctrinated into being a “believer”. Science isn’t about belief, it’s about evidence (observational & experimental) and reasonable conclusions; as long as a teacher sticks to an objective curriculum based on science I would be supportive. However, if my son came home saying my teacher says we’re all going to die by 2100 then, YES, we’re going to have a problem.

    Comment by John West — 4 Feb 2012 @ 12:20 PM

  11. The other more worrisome scenario not presented is when your daughter’s Middle School Science Teacher doesn’t believe climate change is real!

    Comment by Jim — 4 Feb 2012 @ 12:35 PM

  12. Thank you for doing this!
    I testified at the state legislature in Louisiana against one of the no-nothing bills you mentioned, and even though it was painfully obvious that the legislators had no real intention of being affected by any argument we might make, it was a necessary “waste” of time.

    If we want to continue as a democracy, the people must be informed, sometimes in spite of their inclinations, and the electorate must be challenged to do something about our climate crisis.

    Teach climate science in the schools! The older kids deserve to know the truth about the thing that will dominate their lives, don’t they? And talk passionately about the basic facts in public: climate changes (expressed as the wacky and destructive weather that has become so common) are caused by the global warming produced by having too much greenhouse gas pollution in the atmosphere. People are beginning to see the “new normal.”

    Let’s make sure that we encourage that, not lag so far behind we end up lending credibility to the deniers.
    All while tackling the real issues raised by Salamano in #3… It will be difficult, but hell, so is math or portrait painting!

    Comment by John Atkeison — 4 Feb 2012 @ 1:28 PM

  13. I can offer an introduction to the curriculum.

    “Sorry kids that this is such a harsh message:

    There can be two ways to think of Global Warming: – it is like a slow car crash or a global pandemic plague. The situation will be getting steadily worse — only we don’t yet know how bad a destabilizing climate will be. Lots of destructive events happening in different places. And like a crashing car, some will happen quickly and violently, and like a pandemic – some more slowly. But it will affect everyone on the planet, and everyone in the future. We just don’t know how bad, or how fast it will unfold.

    Essentially these changes will be happening forever with increasing intensity and frequency. Now your job in facing the future will be adaptation and mitigation.

    Our next step is to ruthlessly examine our situation”

    Comment by richard pauli — 4 Feb 2012 @ 1:39 PM

  14. This article and discussion are the best thing I’ve seen on the subject in a long time. The fact that an enormous political debate is occurring sans SCIENCE should be enough for most intelligent life forms to go stark raving mad.
    BTW 10, most of us will be gone by 2100. And 11, I’m certain this is happening where I live.

    Comment by William Freimuth — 4 Feb 2012 @ 2:33 PM

  15. The issue here is nothing short of whether we allow idiots in power to mandate the teaching of lies to children. There is plenty of room in the curriculum for the fundamentals of climate science, as well as for the scientific method in general.

    Essentially, though, there are two challenges:
    1)How do we teach science to children when the truth of that science provides incontrovertible evidence that their parents who reject it are idiots?

    2)How do we teach what we know without sending students into despair?

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 4 Feb 2012 @ 3:33 PM

  16. Sadly, the problem is bigger than this. What happens when the science teachers themselves disbelieve the science (or, rather, believe the nonsense about the science)?

    The end result is teachers who teach denialism, either reinforcing the beliefs of the ignorant, or even leading people who should and would know better to instead question their own positions.

    There is just such a teacher who comments frequently at Skeptical Science, and according to him, all of the science teachers at his school are “skeptics” like him.

    So the problem is three fold, how enable teachers to teach the material properly, encouraging them to do so, but also how to get through to the science teachers who dang well should know better and yet believe and teach denial.

    Comment by Sphaerica (Bob) — 4 Feb 2012 @ 4:13 PM

  17. Remember that high school science teachers generally do not have expertise in climate science – they rely on what’s in the textbooks, what gets filtered through the media, and web-based resources. School boards (and teachers’s professional networks) vary tremendously in how good they are at providing the support teachers need to get accurate and useful information. Which means that it’s very easy to dissuade many teachers from tackling climate change at all, or to hedge their bets by “teaching the controversy”. Faced with a topic where they don’t have the confidence that expertise brings, they’re unlikely to do a good job at this.

    Until the media start doing a better job with their fact checking, it’s going to be an uphill battle to improve things in the schools.

    Comment by Steve Easterbrook — 4 Feb 2012 @ 4:31 PM

  18. Does anyone know of a Canadian equivalent to the National Centre for Science Education?

    Comment by Peter Adamski — 4 Feb 2012 @ 4:44 PM

  19. JW: [I]f my son came home saying my teacher says we’re all going to die by 2100 then, YES, we’re going to have a problem.
    BPL: You can relax. We’re not all going to die. Just about 99% of us. And probably around 2056, by my latest estimate, not 2100.

    [Response: Sorry but this is just as ridiculous now as it was the first time you said it. You have no way of knowing such a thing, and if you think you do, you’re deluded. And no more on it please–Jim]

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 4 Feb 2012 @ 5:09 PM

  20. @13 Richard Pauli

    This is the situation of climate chaos that has been the norm throughout most of human history.

    We have been blessed with a small window of relative climate stability, the Holocene, which seems huge to us, because it is the only kind of global climate that human civilization has ever known.
    However, this stability has in fact been the exception rather than the rule for the past ~2.5 million years.

    What we should be teaching kids is the truth about nature. We should teach them about the fact that the ecosystems around them consist of a chaotic jumble of species, each of which (except in cases of monospecific specialization) has a different geological range corresponding to different ranges of adaptations and tolerances, that have come to assemble together only very recently, and whose function is far more a result of chaotic war, competition and depredation than any sort of planned order.

    Instead, the model of ecology we teach kids is an unrealistic fantasy of order, planning and cooperation, the balance of which we humans can destroy forever simply by breathing on it (leave no trace).

    We should teach them that any concept of “pristine” ecosystem anywhere outside of Africa is absolutely absurd considering the fact that most native megafauna went extinct 10,000 years ago (in North America’s case as elsewhere, almost certainly due in part to overhunting by “ecologically conscious” paleo-Native Americans)

    Whether or not human emissions are about to cause a massive switch in climate is more or less irrelevant in the big picture. It will almost certainly happen anyway, no matter what we do, and it has happened already, millions and millions of times.

    The only way to avoid it is to achieve a level of science that can engineer and control the climate of Earth (which is essentially what we are trying to do by cutting down carbon emissions)

    And if you argue that all modern species are adapted to Pleistocene glacial cycles, then logically, to stop the cycles will also be to upset the supposed plans of Nature. Presumably you would be just as worried about a naturally occuring plunge into ice age as an anthropogenic rapid warming.

    But the horrible fact is, without human emissions we are almost certainly still living in the Pleistocene. Our naming of our own interglacial the “Holocene” is pure vanity. Why would this interglacial be any different from the dozens before it, i.e. our emissions contributions aside, “naturally” we should expect within a few thousand years that glaciers will rapidly advance from the north and throw everything into chaos as has occurred after every interglacial for the past 2.5 million years.

    And yet somehow we’re all still here, minus a few woolly mammoths, gian sloths, dodos and passenger pigeons…

    That is what we should teach kids, along with evolution. For most of the time our species has existed, we have had to adapt to rapid climate change. In the West in 2012, relatively wealthy, secure, industrially supported academics and suburbanites and urbanites have grown accustomed to comfort and security and extremely detached from the chaotic processes of nature. We focus on the pandas and the polar bears and the few extremely vulnerable species, we fetishize random, recently occurring assemblages of species as holistic, cooperative ecosystems that must remain untouched and unchanged by humans, and we ignore the vast, robust biological storm of chaos that characterizes the majority of species on Earth. But the fact is, if most species on Earth today were not extremely robust in the face of massive disturbance and climate change, they would be long gone.

    I think we should be worried and prepared to adapt, because we live in a chaotic, unpredictable world, and we always have. but we shouldn’t flatter ourselves into thinking that we are the worst thing that has ever happened, and that nature as a whole is our victim. Essentially it is the same foolish vanity as thinking we are the best thing that has ever happened and nature is evil, as was the cultural trend centuries ago.

    Comment by Nick — 4 Feb 2012 @ 5:11 PM

  21. Just teaching the students what science is will be resisted a lot. Teaching students to think is also taboo. Thinkers are too likely to quit religion, a payroll problem for preachers.

    Teach the students to do experiments. Leave it at that, or at most demonstrate Tyndall’s experiment. If you can get them to like solving math problems, that would be great.

    Look at what students do for science fairs in small town country high schools. If they make a Jacob’s Ladder, you know that they learned their “science” from old Frankenstein movies. For a lot of people, that is the limit of their education. Does that high school in a small town even have a physics teacher? Does the physics teacher have a degree in physics or in teaching?

    NCSE web page: They want donations and dues. There is no sign-up to volunteer or to get a free email newsletter.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 4 Feb 2012 @ 5:14 PM

  22. Should teachers be allowed to teach students to think critically?

    Comment by David L. Hagen — 4 Feb 2012 @ 5:17 PM

  23. Bob (comment 16) has hit it on the nose.

    I too know teachers that assert absolutely that climate change is a hoax as is evolution.

    One in particular is someone i have known since school days. He says he follows the curriculum and does not let his own beliefs influence his teaching but that’s balderdash – if he is skeptical of the science then the kids will pick up on it for sure.

    Maybe it’s as it always has been – kids just have to survive it all somehow and parents have to do the best they can to help them

    and eventually, in a thousand years or so, these issues will have become ancient history and some other issues will have taken their place


    Comment by The Peak Oil Poet — 4 Feb 2012 @ 5:32 PM

  24. I suggest that what should be taught is the consensus theory of the climate. How the earth/sun system interacts without an atmosphere and how our atmosphere and its constituents modify that. The students subsequent understanding of global warming and climate change would be built on that.

    If anyone objects to the theory of the climate, they can be invited to bring in their favorite story from mythology as an alternative.

    Comment by Robert Huie — 4 Feb 2012 @ 5:33 PM

  25. Keep up the good work. One comment: Having gone to the NSCE website and fished around, there is no obvious path / link to contact Mark McCaffrey, as the post requests. If you’re going to put out the call, I suggest you’ll have a better response if you make it easy for folks…

    Comment by robert — 4 Feb 2012 @ 5:37 PM

  26. Skepticism is the health of the scientific mind.
    I’m sure it’s been said before a thousand times on this site, but without skepticism, we would still think the earth was flat, that diseases were invisible demons, and that humans were not descended from early primates.

    I’m not saying the evidence we have available does not point to anthropogenic climate change.

    But I think it’s disturbing that so many people have come to automatically equate the term “skepticism” with scientific laxity.

    A truly skeptical mind is the scientific ideal. It is a mind that asks questions and probes deeper into reality.

    It is a good thing, not something to deride and disparage.

    When people stop questioning “the facts”, that’s when science ends and religion begins.

    Comment by Nick — 4 Feb 2012 @ 6:03 PM

  27. Education is important. In the fall of 1775, a wandering hurricane clobbered a floundering Continental army in the wilds of Maine en route to capture Quebec City. Many died from exposure, smallpox and starvation. The survivors attacked but were turned back and captured. Nonetheless, they believed in the cause. America. I/3 third of the population of the colonies were for separation from English rule. 1/3 were against it and 1/3 too afraid to commit. The first third won against long odds. Truth always wins, eventually.

    Patriot on the Kennebec

    Alas my climate change thrillers still seek a home in print. What does that say about the topic? The fight has just begun.

    Comment by Mark A. York — 4 Feb 2012 @ 6:27 PM

  28. I teach High School Chemistry in a conservative part of Florida. When I try to teach climate science the students think it is political and do not believe what is presented. I also get a lot of parent complaints. I currently assign three written assignments on sea ice (NSIDC), the yearly weather (NCDC) and the US Climate Change web site. The students read the web sites and answer some questions. Most of the students say they have never seen the data before. I do not even review the data in class due to problems with skeptics shouting down the discussion. I get a few complaints from skeptics so I developed an alternative assignment on energy sources. No-one has ever done the alternative assignment.

    Last year I assigned the Skeptical Science handbook and got a lot of flak from the students as they thought it was political. We had a very popular physics teacher who claimed his textbook proved that the greenhouse effect could not exist. Many students believed him. Students also will believe a popular history teacher over a science teacher if they like the message.

    Comment by michael sweet — 4 Feb 2012 @ 6:53 PM

  29. People respond far better to visual demonstrations of a scientific principle, something they can see, rather than to mere words and clever arguments. Tyndall carried out such a crude (but striking) experiment in 1859 to show the heat-trapping properties of CO2 and CH4.

    Prof. Iain Stewart demonstrated a modern version – more accurate and very convincing – in his BBC documentary “The Climate Wars”, by passing the IR rays from a candle through a one-metre tube of CO2 to an IR-sensitive camera.

    I suggest you view the doco. Then, consider staging a pilot trial with such equipment at a few schools; even outright deniers have difficulty explaining it all away. After that, they might be more inclined to listen to rational argument.

    Comment by Les Southwell — 4 Feb 2012 @ 7:05 PM

  30. Nick @20
    Previous climate changes occurred over a time scale of hundreds or thousands of years. The current one is occurring in tens. That single fact invalidates most of your arguments.

    Comment by MalcolmT — 4 Feb 2012 @ 10:12 PM

  31. In response to the OP: Great initiative and best wishes with it. But as a long-time teacher in I would encourage you to develop something for primary teachers, because older children tend to be willing to build on foundations established in early years but find altering those foundations very difficult and reversing them is almost impossible (‘Give us a child until he is five and he is ours for life,’ remember).
    You don’t need details, just basic facts, a sketch of causes and (most importantly) a belief that doing something is possible and important.
    We have seen similar approaches work very well here in Australia in regard to conservation and recycling.

    Comment by MalcolmT — 4 Feb 2012 @ 10:20 PM

  32. Be honest about the desire here: to have students be activists for a global warming agenda.

    [Response: Not at all. I would say it is rather to allow students to distinguish between science and agendas of all sorts. – gavin]

    Comment by Kamimenive — 5 Feb 2012 @ 12:00 AM

  33. > NCSE web page … no sign-up to volunteer or to get a free email newsletter.

    Oh, good grief. No, they don’t require you to sign up.

    Look at the website.

    Find the gray bar with words in capital letters.
    Those are buttons.
    Put your mouse over the words.

    If you want personal attention, read those two pages you get by clicking the buttons. You’ll find the opportunities you want.

    For news, click NEWS
    For volunteer opportunities, click TAKING ACTION

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 5 Feb 2012 @ 12:11 AM

  34. One thing kids need — awareness of shifting baselines.
    Google the phrase, the information is available.

    Reading that sort of information can go with assignments to talk to grandparents or elderly neighbors and find out what the world was like for them.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 5 Feb 2012 @ 12:14 AM

  35. Nick@20 said:

    “And yet somehow we’re all still here, minus a few woolly mammoths, gian [sic] sloths, dodos and passenger pigeons…”

    Around 1800, there were between 3 and 5 BILLION passenger pigeons in North America. It is estimated that 40% of all birds (by weight) in North America were passenger pigeons. In a little more than 100 years, all of them were wiped out by humans.

    Think about that. If you could count, on average, one count per second, and if you never ate or slept, you could count to 3 billion in a little more than 90 years.

    Using the word “few” in this case is just absolutely, completely, crazy FALSE.

    And that doesn’t include any mammoths, sloths, or dodos.

    Directly after that quote, you say:

    “That is what we should teach kids”.

    Since 1800, humans have released over 270 BILLION TONS of CO2 into the atmosphere. I really think that you have no understanding of scale. That’s 8,100+ years of counting, and just one ton is a LOT of gas. The current rate of species extinction (due almost completely to human activity, including the release of all this CO2) is estimated to be one of the most rapid in the history of the planet.

    A whole lot of your false assumptions are based on a lack of comprehension of scale, plus an ample ignorance of real data. Unfortunately, the teachers in your education appear to have failed you miserably in many areas of science.

    That is the real problem here.

    I am a teacher. I may be a little old fashioned, but I think we should teach kids things that are important, and facts and concepts that are actually true. That way, as adults, they may be less likely to go around creating their own false “reality,” as you have.

    Comment by Craig Nazor — 5 Feb 2012 @ 12:16 AM

  36. MalcolmT says:
    “Nick @20 Previous climate changes occurred over a time scale of hundreds or thousands of years. The current one is occurring in tens. That single fact invalidates most of your arguments.”

    Are you from the future? Perhaps you’re a Kwisatz Haderach? From where (when) I sit your single fact hasn’t happened yet, the relatively small shift to date is well within what has happened in the past. I realize that “we” put a lot of “faith” in computer model projections here, but surely they’re not considered facts just yet.

    Comment by John West — 5 Feb 2012 @ 12:42 AM

  37. The biggest problem may be that actual climate scientists’ response to the deniers’ collection of whoppers is to reference an article, or calmly cite some data. The students who walked out of their science classes when the teachers brought up climate change were acting out their parents’ wishes. The kids’ parents, in turn, may be getting their information from people like Rush Limbaugh or Anthony Watts. These people don’t care about no data.

    The factual rebuttals from legitimate scientists tend to be forgotten. What sticks is the notion that an honest debate is occurring. This moves the bar way down, so that those who have studied the science end up as one group of opinionmakers (or debaters) opposed to those brave souls who practice “contarian” science.

    There are many bad effects here, before school boards and in the general court of public opinion. For example, if a scientist such as Thompson or Semiletov finds evidence that points to more potentially catastrophic effects, he is labeled an “alarmist”, and ignored or thrown under the bus, by some of his peers, too. The public in general senses that the truth can be found by splitting the difference, an absurd position when it comes to measuring and evaluating the effects of radiative forcing in the atmosphere.

    Scientists themselves have become more intimidated than they admit. Based on both recent papers and their public defense, scientists’ public appearances are becoming even more muted, especially since audiences on blogs and in public fora are often stacked with hysterical deniers. Public opinion polls indicate that concern about global warming has been going down, even as the evidence (giant forest fires, drought, floods, record setting hot days etc) becomes so ironclad that it’s almost a joke.

    Koch and Tillerson have been winning. David (I don’t know about Charles) is perfectly aware of the science of global warming. The people he hires to deny it are merely shills in the service of his goal to preserve and increase the enormous family fortune as long as possible. It’s mission accomplished, though- scientists, consciously or not, moderate their views. Feedback loops are either ignored (IPCC) or underestimated (Realclimate). The almost unbelievably absurd “debate” continues.

    Scientists, with certain notable exceptions, retreat. The oil and coal company owners want to win over the pickup truck and vinyl/chipboad mansion crowd, knowing that this will produce deadlock in Congress. Liberal Democrats justify their own positions, and pat themselves on the back for living in a Blue state. Trying to achieve victory does not really occur to them. Deadlock prevails. The wealthy fossil fuel company managers and investors push us around again.

    Worst of all, we go for it.

    We don’t have time to wait a couple of decades for this critical knowledge to eventually gestate and persuade the public. Instead, scientists must be proactive in informing Defense, Interior, and the White House that we cannot continue to screw around. These meetings should be scheduled on an emergency basis. After all, Cheney achieved this in 2001 just to keep the fossil fuel companies in business. This time it means closing coal plants, stopping fracking, placing tariffs on tar sands oil, and permitting new fossil fuel plants only after all externalities are accounted for. Including global warming. Soon.

    Comment by Mike Roddy — 5 Feb 2012 @ 1:11 AM

  38. give a D- to the kid and an F to his father and state, see, there is evolution.

    Comment by jyyh — 5 Feb 2012 @ 1:33 AM

  39. I suggest that it is much more important to teach children about science than climatology.

    I am not a climate scientist but I believe that global warming is a catastrophic threat to humanity and that we are responsible. Why? Because I understand what science is and how it works.

    Science is the only valid means we have of understanding the physical world. If 97 percent of the scientists in any field were to agree about anything (as they do about AGW) I would accept it. It would be the only rational view.

    Educate young people about science throughout their school years and we might not have this tragic delay in responding to the crisis (or have half of the people in the most scientifically and technologically advanced nation on earth believing that the earth was created less than ten thousand years ago for that matter).

    Comment by EmuBob — 5 Feb 2012 @ 1:43 AM

  40. 19 Jim: It is your blog, but how do you know Bart is wrong? I would like to see your analysis of Bart’s data. Why has nobody else except Aiguo Dai who appears to agree with Bart, predicted what will happen to agriculture?

    [Response:Give me a break. No more on this topic here.–Jim]

    31 MalcolmT: I agree. Science should be taught for an hour a day starting in first grade or daycare, not 10 minutes per week. The teachers aren’t up to it. At least MY teachers weren’t. The calculus teacher couldn’t do the homework. The biology teacher didn’t believe in evolution. [The New York State regents exam saved me in biology. She couldn’t do anything about that.]

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 5 Feb 2012 @ 2:11 AM

  41. That really is a tough position, but the position on climate change must be a firm one. The more we forego any decisive action, the more damage we allow to happen. Hopefully people such as yourselves are able to properly educate the future to the damage we’re doing.

    Juan Miguel Ruiz (Going Green)

    Comment by Juan Miguel Ruiz — 5 Feb 2012 @ 3:56 AM

  42. When I was in 4th grade one day this lady just kind of showed up and invited students to go to this little shack on the far end of school property. There she gave us weekly bible lessons. She’d also pass around a bag of penny candies which even then seemed like bribery to me. We were warned not to let on about the class.

    I just learned that a local elementary school is also doing this in a public classroom, though after school. They call it the Good News Club. They hand out bibles and candy pulling in the kids who’s parents pick them up late.

    Despite vigorous effort not much has changed. Fact is people who are determined can always find ways to push their pet myths on children. It’s a shame that the western world, well, especially the US, has been carefully brainwashed into thinking of anyone who teaches something that may run counter to “common sense” rightwing fundamentalism as elitist and amoral. Possibly even secret devil worshippers. In a lot of ways we are still in the dark ages.

    I think one of the biggest shocks I received when I first started surfing the net was to learn that there are people who actively work to suppress truth if it goes against their religious or business interests. People who are not interested in facts and not open to reason. People who see others as pawns to be manipulated in their long lasting culture war, that being to WASPize the world. They really don’t care about those they knowingly mislead with specious arguments, it’s all about their selfish aims. RIghtwing “think tanks”, for example, exist to mislead, to build a groundswell of opposition to anything they perceive as anti-conservative. Remember the Digg Patriots? A secret band of right-wingers colluding and conspiring to kill any news story they saw as left leaning.

    You see it on Wikipedia. Though there are good articles, keeping them honest is often a behind-the-scenes war. I myself tried mightily on a handful of articles to edit them with reliably sourced and incontrovertible evidence only to have my edits continually removed by coteries of conservatives, well versed in Wiki acronyms, that essentially “sit” on selected articles to make sure that nothing gets in they don’t want in. I finally gave up.

    I’ve always felt that going into long, involved arguments in the classroom about controversial subjects is risky. First, the teacher needs to be not only well versed on the subject but also able to inspire. Second, he/she has to have enough time to devote to it and that can rob other subjects. Third, the kids need to be open to non-intuitive persuasion. Kids though, and really most people I think, respond better to simple, straightforward, intuitive evidence. For climate change I recommend something incontrovertible like Glacial Repeat Photography.

    For evolution I like the polar bear:

    Obvious stuff which doesn’t leave a lot of room for debate.

    Having said all that, what I believe what’s sorely lacking in the classroom is not to have just one aspect of our present environmental “situation”, if you will, expounded upon. What’s really lacking are umbrella environmental ethics classes. People continue to be raised believing that we are somehow separate and above nature, a tragic mistake. It’s at root of all of our many environmental problems. From overpopulation to habitat destruction to mass species extinction to climate change. We have to stop being so damn timid about the teaching of respect for this planet and all of its species, the only world we’ve ever had and perhaps are ever likely to have.

    About a year ago I was asked if I’d like to take part in a school hike on acres of wild land behind it. There would be informational stops for the kids and people placed at those stops talking about this or that subject such as Native American crafts, or spotting animal tracks. I readily said yes. She asked for ideas I might have for discussion at my stop. I mentioned the possibility of a gentle discussion of the environmental ethics, for example, that littering is disrespectful. I suggested a chart showing the various planets in our solar system; when you look at them all together the earth really stands out as quite special. While all the others are, far as we know, sterile, the earth is a blue jewel of life that should be protected. She was horrified and didn’t want to get into anything “controversial”. She thought it might compromise her funding. So I ended up talking about Native American games. Anyway, sorry for the length.

    Comment by Ron R. — 5 Feb 2012 @ 5:29 AM

  43. In a nutshell, you don’t have to preach. A picture is worth a thousand words. Rather than try to go deep into detail, provide some clear, incontrovertible evidence and leave it at that. They will remember that far longer.

    Comment by Ron R. — 5 Feb 2012 @ 5:35 AM

  44. Most of what I teach in High School chemistry is really the history of science and is little changed from 40 years ago. The curriculum guide does not allow time for understanding scientific argument, there are too many facts to introduce. If we have a class discussion many students consider a reference to WUWT the same as a reference to the IPCC. In other classes “debates” are done by both sides presenting “evidence” and students pick who seems most believable. Any evidence can be used, there are no standards. Students have asked me to debate them in class- with no standards as to how material is screened. Students have never seen scientific journals. I do not introduce scientific journals, even in AP Chemistry. Scientific debate as seen here on Real Climate, with data certified by experts to support arguments, in completely unknown. With no standards for evidence it is no wonder students are easy fodder for the deniers.

    Comment by michael sweet — 5 Feb 2012 @ 8:17 AM

  45. For those teachers eager to convey accurate information about climate change, two important needs are first, good sources of information, and second, strong support for their teaching in the face of resistance.

    There are many good web sources for the former (see my earlier comment, #8, to which I would add the National Science Teachers Association). For backup support, it seems to me that one area that needs shoring up is textbook material on climate change, because a teacher who can point to a text source is better equipped to handle studen/parent resistance than one who can merely repeat verbal arguments. I have seen some brief mention in biology texts to climate change, including the role of greenhouse gases, but I don’t know whether there are more extensive descriptions in texts relevant to middle school and even more particularly, high school. This strikes me as an area that would benefit from attention from respected scientific experts.

    I would be interested in the experiences of others regarding text material, including the political pressures that affect inclusion or exclusion of climate change.

    Comment by Fred Moolten — 5 Feb 2012 @ 10:56 AM

  46. Educational Opportunities for science based curriculum at all levels can be as simple or complex as teaching the controversy of the science: What are the sociological foundations of accepting climate change science. How will the scientific climate change models impact life on earth if they prove to be true or false: Argument for climate change will affect earth in the next 200 -500 years. Argument against climate change: how will the earth have evolved in 200 -500 years: What is the foundation of your arguments for or against the climate change science – and have the students access research articles and mobile apps to state their positions for or against climate change. The climate change course can be taught as a sociological scientific survey to complete a scientific opinion paper: with adequate presentation of a research paper or book report, at the lower levels of education, to complete the course / module.

    Comment by Team Wintercogs — 5 Feb 2012 @ 10:59 AM

  47. > A picture is worth a thousand words…
    > provide some clear, incontrovertible evidence

    Test any science question by doing an image search in your favorite search engine, then another image search in Scholar. Note how heavily loaded the PR and denial and anti-science websites are with images.

    Yes, images are convincing.
    No, they’re not evidence.

    Look at the comparison between the sizes of trophy fish 60 years ago, and trophy fish caught recently — link’s among those I posted above.

    It’s an astonishing, shocking comparison.
    It’s not evidence.

    The research papers on the subject are evidence.
    Look at any of the phenology papers, and Grumbine on detecting trends.

    That’s why ‘shifting baselines’ is so powerful a problem.

    Remember the Fermi Paradox.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 5 Feb 2012 @ 11:00 AM

  48. For teachers eager to convey accurate information on climate change, two needs are first, a good source of information, and second, strong support for their teaching in the face of resistance from some parents and teachers.

    Many good web sources exist regarding the first need (see my comment #8 above to which I would add the National Science Teachers Association). For the second, strong backup, it seems to me that an important element would be the existence of adequate textbook material to which a teacher can point if faced with opposition. I’ve seen some brief mention of climate change principles in high school texts, but I would be interested in whether others have discovered texts with more adequate coverage appropriate at the middle or high school level.

    Attention to the development of better textbook support for climate change teaching may be a useful effort, and will presumably require the support of reputable experts to ensure the material is included in texts in the face of coordinated opposition.

    Comment by Fred Moolten — 5 Feb 2012 @ 11:06 AM

  49. >> contact our new Programs and Policy Director, Mark McCaffrey

    > robert says: 4 Feb 2012
    > Having gone to the NSCE website and fished around,
    > there is no obvious path / link to contact Mark McCaffrey …

    To generate email to Mark McCaffrey,
    click “email” to the right of his name.
    It looks like this:

    Mark McCaffrey, Programs and Policy Director [email]

    To find that,
    go to the NCSE website,
    click either
    “More Contact Information” (upper right)
    “About” (upper left);
    then click go to the NCSE website,
    click either
    “More Contact Information” (upper right)
    “About” (upper left);
    then click go to the NCSE website,
    click either
    “More Contact Information” (upper right)
    “About” (upper left);
    then click “Staff”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 5 Feb 2012 @ 11:13 AM

  50. >> contact our new Programs and Policy Director, Mark McCaffrey

    > robert says: 4 Feb 2012
    > Having gone to the NSCE website and fished around,
    > there is no obvious path / link to contact Mark McCaffrey …

    To generate email to Mark McCaffrey,
    click “email” to the right of his name.
    It looks like this:

    Mark McCaffrey, Programs and Policy Director email

    To find that,
    go to the NCSE website,
    click “More Contact Information” (upper right)
    click “About” (upper left);
    then click “Staff”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 5 Feb 2012 @ 11:19 AM

  51. Sorry, I need to qualify my previous comments. I said that I think that evidence for things like evolution or climate change should be powerful but brief. That’s for general science classes which I suspect most students take. For higher classes, though, where an understanding of the controversial subject is expected and necessary to understanding that particular science as a whole (such as evolution/biology) more detailed discussion of the science is, of course, necessary.

    One other important point. Teachers should never mock a student’s religious beliefs. Nothing will turn a person off faster, possibly for life. In general science classes simply lay out the facts calmly and let the students draw their own conclusions. Discussion of “the controversy” is better reserved for civics classes where one can elaborate on the forces behind it.

    It’s a pity that we live in a world where one has to apologize for teaching science in a science classroom.

    Comment by Ron R. — 5 Feb 2012 @ 11:36 AM

  52. I think we could have a better debate if both sides would be more specific about the separate parts the global warming and the degree of certainty in the parts. By which I mean

    1. Has the temperature warmed over the last 150 years. Yes, very certain
    2. Have CO2 levels warmed over the last 80 years. Yes, very certain.
    3. Is warming due to CO2 amplified by positive feedbacks (water vapor) Not so certain.
    4. Is projected warming the biggest threat we face? Much less certain and a bigger questions than the science.
    5. Do we have to act now? Again this gets beyond the science..

    My $0.02

    Comment by Buck Smith — 5 Feb 2012 @ 11:39 AM

  53. David Hagen @ 22 — Yes, critical thinking should be encouraged and modeled. Yet this is not as simple as letting the kids look at all the alternatives and then showing them how each of the alternatives fails a critical physical or logical test. In the case of climate change, unlike the case of evolution, there are too many alternatives. The “alternatives” are embodied in attacks that aren’t based on any comprehensive physics- and observations-based theory. Ten kids may come up with ten different “alternatives” based on listening to recognized authorities (parents, pastors, FOX, other teachers, etc.) who looked briefly at WUWT or listened to Rush’s latest drivel. The question, then, is how to address every attack, or indeed whether to address every attack. Most climate scientists understand that actual alternative theories (It’s natural, it’s a violation of the 2nd law, or it’s the sun) that attempt to be comprehensive can’t be taught because they fail at the fundamental level. If your building blocks are made out of smoke, it’s tough to build anything on them. Try teaching kids that microscopes don’t actually work the way scientists tell us they do; microscopes are, in fact, part of the lie that B ig P harma is bankrolling to scare us into buying drugs to combat alleged “bacteria” causing sickness that is, in fact, caused by B ig G overnment putting chemicals in the water supply. It’s an alternative theory that is equal to the level of most of the garbage spewed around unchecked in the global warming comment streams where many non-scientists’ minds are influenced. Without some limitation at the level of fundamentals, teachers would never get past the crackpot stuff and actually arrive at the second- and third-tier issues (cloud feedback, aerosols, modeling) where there are a few alternative views and where the debate doesn’t resemble the comment streams of WSJ or The Weather Channel (“God would never allow it!” “a cold atmosphere will not radiate toward a warmer surface!” “Climate scientists are all in cahoots to steal our tax dollars!”).

    The bottom line, I guess, is “What alternative theories?”

    Comment by DSL — 5 Feb 2012 @ 12:08 PM

  54. “What is a teacher to do?”

    Have the student(s) write a report why he believes Climate Change/Global Warming is a hoax.

    Maybe start with a report on the origins of the terms Global Warming and Climate Change.

    Comment by Pedrito — 5 Feb 2012 @ 12:40 PM

  55. I teach Physics and Geology/Astronomy at an independent high school in NY state. I have been able to incorporate climate change topics into the curriculum with varying degrees of success, but because of the broad nature of the course, I can only afford to devote a couple weeks to the subject. Despite my best efforts, I find that students still confuse the greenhouse effect and global warming, and few understand radiative forcing. Topics like albedo and sea level rise are a little easier to grasp. I do a lab in AP Physics C: Electricity & Magnetism on the Stefan-Boltzmann equation, where students use a Variac to vary the voltage of an incandescent light bulb in 5V increments; they use a multimeter to measure the current, which enables them to measure resistance and power. From a plot of normalized resistance versus temperature for tungsten, they can determine the temperature of the filament at each voltage increment. When they plot log(power) versus log(temperature), they get an exponent very near 4. We then go on to talk about how one can calculate the equilibrium surface temperature of each planet, assuming it had no atmosphere.

    What seems to be more effective is to make sure that students know how the scientific process works. They should know that scientists don’t pursue research to become rich or to ride some sort of gravy train. They should realize that fundamental research is important and not a waste of money, even if it isn’t immediately obvious what sort of benefit it has to the community at large. Finally, I think posting articles, posters and news items to bulletin boards around the science wing has more of an impact than teaching it in class; it serves as a permanent reminder that climate change is important, long after we have switched to a different subject.

    Luckily, I haven’t had any issues with parents, even though I am aware that some students aren’t convinced that climate change is a problem. Science teachers should be able to use peer-reviewed science articles in the classroom. It boggles the mind that there are some school districts who would reject that approach.

    Comment by Jeff L — 5 Feb 2012 @ 2:04 PM

  56. Hank Roberts — @ 11:00 AM

    Understood, but you need to understand that what is good enough evidence for you, publication in Science, may not be to many others, people who have been cynically and methodically conditioned to doubt. Remember, ‘doubt is their product’. Thus the feeling of a lot of people is that anything can be faked in writing. Additionally they’ve been burned before by putting blind trust in some authority only to have his/her ideas overturned, thus confirming their skepticism. They are absolutists, and think that true science is, or should be, a static thing – once something is “true” it can never change, and are unfamiliar with the fact that it’s actually an ongoing process. So expecting them to accept some “theory” just because it’s found between the pages of magazine is not going to work, hasn’t been working. Like they say, pictures don’t lie.

    Clear, concise evidence is best imo. BTW, images are not only pictures.

    Comment by Ron R. — 5 Feb 2012 @ 2:13 PM

  57. I think we get caught up in a larger issue. Methods of thinking are not orthogonal to current,
    and concievable political and cultural change. Major parts of our society are engaged in a
    cultural/political war. The tendency to view teaching of such essentials as critical thinking,
    the scientific method, epistemology in general, as an ideological battleground is overwhelming.
    Those that raise a stink about teaching climate science, or evolution, aren’t interested in fact,
    or critical thinking, they are overwhelming interested in winning a culture/political war. It is
    obvious to me at least, that if we had a population who paid attention to the search for truth,
    and to methodoligies to avoid being misled because of our human cognitive weaknesses, that our
    politics would be quite different. And I think those on the other side realize this as well. Efforts
    to improve or correct the current generally por quality of thinking and decision making will run
    headlong into this war.

    Comment by Thomas — 5 Feb 2012 @ 2:29 PM

  58. Buck Smith: “3. Is warming due to CO2 amplified by positive feedbacks (water vapor) Not so certain”

    Really? You expect that somehow, magically, CO2 loses it’s greenhouse nature at 287 ppmv? You choose to ignore/deny a dozen different lines of evidence that establish CO2’s sensitivity at 2-4.5 degrees per doubling? You don’t want to pay attention to the fact that the stratosphere is cooling even as the troposphere is warming–a sure sign of greenhouse gasses? You choose to ignore all the other latitudinal, diurnal, seasonal, altitudinal… signatures of greenhouse warming?

    Is deigning to consider 10% of the evidence really your idea of a compromise position?

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 5 Feb 2012 @ 2:40 PM

  59. Kamimenive wrote @ 32: “Be honest about the desire here: to have students be activists for a global warming agenda.”

    Thus nicely demonstrating the type of inculcated ignorance science teachers are up against.

    Comment by Jim Eager — 5 Feb 2012 @ 2:48 PM

  60. I recall once in the mid-1950s, a new student in our grade school brought his previous year’s history book to class. He wanted to know why part of it was so different from textbook our school was using. Same publisher. Same year.

    His old history book — used by a Northern state school system — gave one short chapter to the “Civil War” — and the version used in our — Southern — state school had three times as much about the “War Between the States” with pictures and biographies, weighted toward the Confederacy.

    That provoked some fascinating discussion.

    The teachers made a good lesson of it — that students were being given a very simplified version of a complicated history, and that often different students in different school systems were taught rather different history.

    Today, you can find material to teach the same lesson about biology and physics. Kids need to know this stuff. They’ll use the information.

    “Analysts need to take neoliberal theorists like Hayek at their word when they state that the Market is the superior information processor par excellence. The theoretical impetus behind the rise of the natural science think tanks is the belief that science progresses when everyone can buy the type of science they like, dispensing with whatever the academic disciplines say is mainstream or discredited science….”
    Mirowski, Philip, “The Rise of the Dedicated Natural Science Think Tank” (New York: Social Science Research Council, July 2008).

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 5 Feb 2012 @ 2:48 PM

  61. I had been dabbling with the GHCN (and CRU) raw temperature data off and on lately. Found that it is surprisingly easy to get global-average temperature results that are very similar to what the “pros” publish.

    In my latest little experiment, I selected a very small number of rural temperature stations (fewer than 50, and for most years, much fewer than 50). Looked for rural temperature stations with long temperature histories, scattered roughly evenly around the globe. Simply averaged the anomalies together (no gridding/area-weighting computations — station distribution sparse and uniform enough to make area-weighting irrelevant). Got results surprisingly close to the NASA land temperature index — details here:

    The posted results were from my “first try” — no trial-and-error “cherry picking” involved.

    So I got to thinking — would it be feasible to put together a set of “user friendly” temperature data processing tools (where the students don’t have to deal with the nitty-gritty details of data handling — accommodating data gaps and such) that would allow students to “explore” the global temperature record and generate/plot their own global-average temperature estimates based on their own station selection?

    With tools like Google-Earth/Google-Maps, it is easy to “zoom in” and explore a station’s environment (rural, urban, whatever). Google provides all the documentation needed (and others have already done this) to overlay station locations onto global satellite imagery.

    I’m thinking of some open-source software that allows students to use GoogleEarth/Maps to go all over the world and “click on” selected temperature stations. As the student does so, the global-average results (produced by a straightforward gridding/averaging procedure) would updated “on the fly” as students add stations.

    My experience with the GHCN raw data indicates that students would see a global-warming signal pop out of the raw (with the emphasis on RAW) data *very quickly* as they selected stations (with the instructor cautioning them not to “cherry pick” but to ensure good global coverage).

    If I had the wide-ranging programming talent, I’d consider tackling a task like this — but my programming talents are too much along the lines of “seat of the pants”, just getting by to get the job done” to be able to put together a “killer app” that non-programmer students could actually use.

    Something like this, of course, would be completely open-source — parents who object could be invited to scrutinize the source for themselves to try to find out where the alleged “data-manipulation” takes place. ;)

    Comment by caerbannog — 5 Feb 2012 @ 2:51 PM

  62. @MalcolmT Post 30
    there is gradual change, and then there is rapid change.

    The Younger Dryas massive cooling event took place on the scale of decades.

    Rapid climate change may in fact have been a common occurrence in earth’s history. have a look at the paper “Sudden climate transitions during the Quaternary” by J Adams et al.

    This is part of the reason why people are concerned that our carbon inputs may “flip a switch” so to speak. it has happened many times before.

    The upside of that is that life on earth is probably more accustomed to rapid climate change than a lot of people think…

    Comment by Nick — 5 Feb 2012 @ 3:12 PM

  63. Most teachers are left from center, they should leave their ideoligy at home.

    I dont see how a teacher would teach about global warming without leaving politics out of it. I dont want my children to be taught that the only way to save the planet is to subscribe to far left wing liberal values.

    My children do not know the difference between consensus and proof. I doubt they will be told about cap and trade or that is is okay to polute as much as you want if you can have hollywood buy carbon credits. The UN will be portrayed as a scientific institution and they will not see any climategate emails.

    [Response: As a demonstration about all that is wrong with the current discussion, this comment can not be bettered. It excludes from the world view that there is anything which might in fact be simple fact – such as for instance, the radiative impact of CO2, or the planet’s energy balance. Instead, global warming is thrown together with the various paranoid fantasies related to Hollywood and the UN and ‘far left liberals’ promoting cap and trade (a Republican idea originally). Can anything be done here? Can right wing scientists and teachers reach these people on the basis of their shared values? (Oh, and Tietjan, they do exist). – gavin]

    Comment by Tietjan Berelul — 5 Feb 2012 @ 3:22 PM

  64. But teacher wasn’t the UHA temperature of the entire planet almost a tenth of a degree colder than it was thirty years ago for the whole month of January! That sure does sound cold. I heard there is hundreds dying of cold in Europe in the past week!

    Comment by Adrian Smits — 5 Feb 2012 @ 4:38 PM

  65. [edit: I believe I said no more on it didn’t I? Jim]

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 5 Feb 2012 @ 4:47 PM

  66. caerbannog 61: Excellent work.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 5 Feb 2012 @ 5:02 PM

  67. Any science teacher who wants to teach student the “facts” of climate change should look for another job. And that applies whatever your views on the topic are. Teach students how to measure temperature, how to graph results, how to deal with experimental results that don’t match the textbook numbers (oh, chemistry class, how I miss you). Kids aren’t going to believe you anyway, unless you have a cool voice. Please stay out of their heads. If you really want to impress them, show them how to turn ten volts into a thousand volts, make water run uphill, and on special occasions, how to make alcohol out of potatoes. I remember learning about evolution in the religion class. It seemed appropriate at the time. We couldn’t measure it or blow it up so it had no place in the science lab.

    Comment by Selgovae — 5 Feb 2012 @ 5:33 PM

  68. I happened upon this discussion and just want to tell people what’s it’s like when science education at the middle school level goes right: My kid goes to public school and they have a year of Earth Sciences at the 6th grade level. They teach all about global warming and other exigencies of the earth system, and they have projects to seek out current events, which there are many, and explain them within the scientific paradigm. This way, global warming material is covered in a very matter-of-fact way. Personally, I would have to have a shot of wiskey to teach my kids these things, but the kids absorb it naturally as it is the only thing they know and the teachers are trained to deliver this material. My hat goes off to them for this. Fortunately, the parents are generally scientifically literate or don’t want to embarrass themselves, so there is not much controversy over it. That’s is how it should be.

    Comment by Jonathan — 5 Feb 2012 @ 6:35 PM

  69. Ray Ladbury – The 2.5 to 4C sensitivity number is obtained by adding positive feedbacks to the much smaller sensitivity due purely to CO2. I am not doubting the CO2 warming at all. The positive feedbacks come from more water vapor in the air. But water could also cause negative feedbacks – more clouds and / or more precipitation. Water is very different from CO2 – its phase transitions are inherently non-linear. An increase in global precipitation is a negative feedback that would effectively short circuit the whole global warming effect from CO2.

    Comment by Buck Smith — 5 Feb 2012 @ 6:46 PM

  70. Buck Smith,
    The derivations of climate sensitivity are actually empirical constraints, having little to do with models. Things like climate responce of glacial and interglacial periods, response to volcanism, etc. You would know this if you bothered to consult the evidence before forming an opinion.

    In the unlikely event you are actually interested in consulting evidence and upgrading from pseudoskeptic to real skeptic, this page has plenty to keep you busy. Hint: don’t cherrypick. Look at the evidence in its entirety and the consensus of results:

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 5 Feb 2012 @ 8:20 PM

  71. Nothing is better, not lasts so long in memory, than an well done laboratory exercise. I still remember my high school biology and chemistry experiments despite never in the intervening 55 or so years having any occasion whatsoever to apply what was direstly learned there.

    Atmospheric physical chemistry isn’t so easy, but there was an earlier comment which might work into a suggestion for a laboratory exercise appropriate for middle school students.

    As for “not believ ing in it”, that issue arose here in the biology class required of all students and the matter of biological evolution. The instructors routinely explain that it is not necessary to “belive in it”, but is is necessary to understand the fundamentals.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 5 Feb 2012 @ 10:09 PM

  72. Buck@69,

    Net cloud feedbacks are most likely positive, not negative, which is why the IPCC stated the figure they did for the climate sensitivity with feedbacks (and clouds are not the only feedback). Here is one of any number of good studies that supports this:‘feedback’-affects-global-climate-and-warming/

    Do you really think that the IPCC wouldn’t evaluate this information? Why wouldn’t they?

    Clouds can reflect light, but water vapor also acts as a greenhouse gas to the heat that has already been trapped at the surface. Although different types of clouds have different net effects, depending on altitude, thickness, time of day, etc., scientists have actually looked into this, and the general consensus is that the net feedback is positive.

    Why would you assume that the scientists who are trying to understand climate wouldn’t consider all of this?

    Actually, claiming that cloud feedbacks are too poorly understood to be able to be taken into account when estimating the climate sensitivity is one of the older and more time-worn of the denier arguments. It’s just not true, from the information I have seen.

    Why would we want to be teaching kids things that weren’t true?

    Comment by Craig Nazor — 5 Feb 2012 @ 11:19 PM

  73. Bucko:

    An increase in global precipitation is a negative feedback that would effectively short circuit the whole global warming effect from CO2.

    Gotta love statements like this, totally unquantifed.

    So, Bucko, a 0.0000000000000000000000!% increase in global precip would effectivley short circuit the warming effect of increased CO2?

    Or did you mean a 0.000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000001% increase?

    Enquiring minds want to know.

    Comment by dhogaza — 6 Feb 2012 @ 12:15 AM

  74. One approach that I have found helpful in discussing the issue with skeptical friends is to use some universally accepted facts and demonstrate a logical route to an obvious conclusion, such as:
    1. Earth receives energy from the sun in the form of radiation,
    2. Earth radiates energy outward to space, also in the form of radiation,
    3. Radiation is the only way energy comes into the Earth from space and the only way energy can leave Earth and travel through space,
    4. If Earth radiates less energy than it receives, Earth must warm,
    5. CO2 is a greenhouse gas, which slows the outward bound radiation,
    6. The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has been increasing in the last @ 150 years as the result of man’s use of fossil fuels,
    7. The increased amount of CO2 is slowing the outward bound radiation of energy from Earth.
    8. As less energy radiates out to space, Earth must warm.

    I do not believe that any of the enumerated facts are controverted by any skeptics, at least not by any who have even a basic idea of the physics involved.

    Details can be explained in response to questions and as part of a discussion, for example, depending on the level of the students, explain why the increased CO2 does not increasingly block the inbound radiation.

    The students can at least be exposed to the basic building blocks of climate science.

    Comment by Ron Wecht — 6 Feb 2012 @ 1:45 AM

  75. Gavin,

    Thanks for your reply to my post. I am a white married pickup driving employed male. I hold 2 degrees, I have been on the UN(HCR) payroll for most of the nineties, and I am do not believe in crazy conspiracy stories. I visit this website on a daily basis. Needless to say I consider myself a conservative.

    If you want to reach me with your message about climate change, people like you need to talk to people like me.
    Alarmists tell me I am anti-science, or a pickup idiot, or ridicule me, or tell me I must believe cigarettes are healthy and then want to educate my kids.

    Put yourself in my conservative shoes, the same liberal teachers that wont allow my children to hug their friends or sing a christmas carol, are now going to teach them the facts about global warming. I hope you see why that would worry me.

    [Response: These are the teachers who are teaching your children to read, do maths, get inspired, and strive for things they care about and want to achieve. Not sure I see the problem. – gavin]

    [edit – this topic is OT here, sorry]

    I will admit that I am not educated enough to argue the science behind global warming. Why cant the global warming community not admit or see that most of what they have been doing just will never pass the smell test of the average Joe. Whether it is the climate gate emails, or Al Gore in a private jet or not wanting to admit mistakes.

    [Response: Realising one does not know everything is the first step to actually learning something. So here are two little facts – global warming as a function of increasing CO2 was predicted 50 years before Al Gore was born, and whether someone flies in a private jet has no actual connection to whether fossil fuel emissions cause climate change. Science does exist separately from what we might do about the situation – and while I have no interest in getting you to change your fundamental political values, I do have an interest in finding ways for you to get past the (incorrect) lumping of science into a political package of things you dislike. If you don’t want to get your science from me, fine, but then find people who you can trust to tell you about it. Katherine Hayhoe is an evangelical Christian married to pastor – read what she has to say. Barry Bickmore is Republican mormon from Utah, Kerry Emanual is Republican, as are Sherwood Boehlert, John McCain, Chuck Hagel etc. Read Jim Manzi in the National Review. None of these people are the people you seem to be concerned about, and yet all of them have a reasonable grasp of the science. Please try and break out of the bubble – you will thank yourself later. – gavin]

    Comment by Tietjan Berelul — 6 Feb 2012 @ 1:50 AM

  76. To Dr. James Bouldin,

    I’m not clear on what I did to offend you to the point where you now seem to regard me as a personal enemy. You 1) called me delusional, 2) deleted my attempt to explain my position, and 3) reprimanded me in the angry tones associated with a parent addressing a small, disobedient child.

    If you don’t want me to discuss my research here, fine–it’s your blog. But there’s a polite way to say it. Frankly, I find your conduct in this matter verges on the unprofessional–not to mention inexplicable.

    No doubt you’ll remove this post as well, and perhaps ban me from RealClimate. I’ll make it easy on you and just not come back. Have a nice day.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 6 Feb 2012 @ 2:20 AM

  77. “Why would we want to be teaching kids things that weren’t true?”

    I think it’s only those who do want to mislead their children who want to do that. Deceit is their prime mode of operation and they want their children to be good at being bad.

    Comment by jyyh — 6 Feb 2012 @ 5:12 AM

  78. In my experience teaching evolutionary theory and hominid evolution to college freshmen, I have encountered several students who say the don’t believe in evolution so don’t think they should have to learn about it. I have had some success in telling them that I cannot make them *believe* in evolution, but it is my job to see that they understand the theory and the evidence involved in it.

    Granted, university teaching is somewhat different than secondary school, but emphasizing science as a means of interpretting evidence, rather than establishing belief, is helpful in overcoming these educational hurdles. It also provides an opportunity to teach about what science does and does not do.

    Comment by Todd Crane — 6 Feb 2012 @ 6:37 AM

  79. Buck,
    Increasing cloud cover will lead to negative feedback. What the IPCC (and others) claim, is that the warming will reduce cloud cover, thereby generating a positive feedback. This is highly contentious, and the largest area of uncertainty in the climate sensitivity estimates. Ray is correct in that the figure quoted is from empirical estimates. Recent temperature data and paleoclimate estimates result in a much lower range.

    [Response: You will find that people will probably get less frustrated with your comments if you don’t over-generalize and actually cite the papers you are obliquely referring to. i.e. cloud cover per se is not determinative of the sign of the feedback – it depends very much on whether it is low cloud or high cloud, IPCC makes no such claim, and ‘recent estimates’ is referring to the Schmittner et al (2011) paper, whose merits and flaws were discussed here at length. – gavin]

    Comment by Dan H. — 6 Feb 2012 @ 9:45 AM

  80. Ron,
    I would like to add a little to your fact sheet. Number 3 is not necessarily true. There is more interaction through space, but its quantification is largely unknown. Number 5 also slows incoming radiation, the molecules are insensitive to the direction of the radiation, only its wavelength and intensity.
    Students whould definitely be exposed to the building blocks of climate science. Then (as expressed previously), they can further study the impacts of various changes and responses to the climate.

    Comment by Dan H. — 6 Feb 2012 @ 9:52 AM

  81. Dan H.,
    So if clouds provide negative feedback, then why do temperatures drop more on clear nights than cloudy ones?

    Also, since climate sensitivity requires at least 30 years for any hope of estimating sensitivity, I would be interested in your source on this. And your “paleoclimate” estimate is pure fetid dingo kidneys. See Knutti and Hegerl figure 3 for a good graphical summary:

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 6 Feb 2012 @ 11:07 AM

  82. Dan@78:

    “Increasing cloud cover will lead to negative feedback.”

    Do you have any actual science to show to support that statement?

    So why is Venus so hot?

    Just where, exactly, does the IPCC say:

    “That the warming will reduce cloud cover, thereby generating a positive feedback.”


    Where do you get your information to support this statement:

    “Recent temperature data and paleoclimate estimates result in a much lower range.”


    Dan, are you making things up again?

    The bigger question is, should we be teaching things that some people (like Dan “H.”) happen to BELIEVE are true to children in a science class, or should we be teaching them facts based on actual science? Who is to decide what the “facts” are? Unfortunately, our current system lets all kinds of unqualified people attempt to make decisions as to what the facts are, as I have witnessed up close and personal here in Texas over the past few years.

    Comment by Craig Nazor — 6 Feb 2012 @ 11:44 AM

  83. What does ‘belief’ have to do with it? They are in school to learn something: Might as well learn science if it’s a science class. They will certainly have to past the tests! This should be the bottom line. Of course, believing the science could be helpful. In fact, I think it is a distraction to the learning process. Didn’t Feymann say “Nobody understands quantum theory.” Understanding and belief can follow.

    Comment by Jonathan — 6 Feb 2012 @ 1:40 PM

  84. Dan H., Oh FFS! No, Dan, energy loss due to “interactions with space” is NOT significant. For all practical purposes–the only energy loss that matters is outgoing IR radiation. Period.

    And your objection to # 5 might be significant if there were appreciable incoming IR radiation. As there is not, I do not see the relevance of this objection.

    Dan, where do you come up with this [edit – please stay polite]?

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 6 Feb 2012 @ 1:49 PM

  85. Ray,
    You may need to check your sources on incoming radiation.

    Comment by Dan H. — 6 Feb 2012 @ 2:38 PM

  86. I will try to get back on topic from an Antipodean perspective. Ian Plimer, an economic geologist with a strong climate change denial media profile in Australia and author of “Heaven & Earth” has recently released another climate change denial book in Australia directly aimed at teaching of climate change in schools, and the parents of school children. It is called “How to get expelled from school: A guide to climate change for pupils, parents and punters”. It was launched in Australia by the former Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard. Yes, this is an issue in Oz and it is great to see the resources available from NCSE.

    There are reviews of this book available at

    It appears to be at the same “scientific” (????) standard of his previous book, and therefore not worth buying.
    However, there are now many teachers in Australia who will need to resources available through NCSE, Skeptical Science, and other sites. Thanks.

    Comment by David Karoly — 6 Feb 2012 @ 3:54 PM

  87. Hi Fred,
    there is a textbook on global climate change that was published in 2008 by Germanwatch in the Westermann Verlag. Unfortunately, it is in German. Is there no English language textbook for schools? If not, would it be of interest to translate a text book from German into English?

    Comment by Maiken Winter — 6 Feb 2012 @ 4:07 PM

  88. > interactions through space

    Wouldn’t it be nice if the HAARP system could somehow pump heat off the planet, priming the pump by tickling the ionosphere?

    That notion seems to show up along with revelations about secret US-USSR plots to warm the planet, chemtrails, and suchlike.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 6 Feb 2012 @ 4:15 PM

  89. Ray,
    You better check on your source for incoming infrared radiation, unless you think values in the 40-60% range are negligible.
    With regards to clouds, I thought we settled that on this site last year, where the issue was whether cloud cover would increase or decrease. An increase in cloud cover, unless it very specific to certain cloud types, has a general cooling effect.

    Comment by Dan H. — 6 Feb 2012 @ 5:23 PM

  90. Ray Ladbury says:

    “energy loss due to “interactions with space” is NOT significant. For all practical purposes–the only energy loss that matters is outgoing IR radiation. Period.”

    Agreed, however, sequestration of CO2 and H2O are important processes in regard to atmospheric composition on Earth. It’s not only Earth’s magnetic solar wind deflector that minimizes loss thus avoiding being like Mars but also the sequestration of CO2 and H2O that helps keep Earth from being like Venus. “Sequestration of heat” (lol) could be important to “global average temperature” over a long time frame and therefore also long term equilibrium sensitivity, not just heat loss (radiantly) to space. Instead of heat (transfer of energy), Id rather use the term Internal Energy (IE) in regard to the concept commonly called “heat content”. Assuming a radiant imbalance, that energy could be sequestered into increasing the internal energy of the deep ocean and then that internal energy could be decreased by work done by the deep ocean (i.e.: expansion, currents, etc.) thus nullifying the radiant imbalance as would be expressed in “global average temperature” over long time periods (equilibrium sensitivity).

    Change in Internal Energy of a system equals Heat added to the system minus Work done by the system. (1st Law of Thermodynamics)

    Comment by John West — 6 Feb 2012 @ 5:25 PM

  91. > John West

    Where did you get your First Law definition? I’d like to have a look at your source and see if it’s giving you accurate information. Cite please?

    You left off part of the definition; here’s a bit more from one definition:

    “… internal energy is equal to the total heat added and work done. If the system is isolated, its internal energy cannot change….”
    — Wikipedia

    No matter how much work the ocean or atmosphere do, they don’t lose energy, they don’t cool off by doing that work.

    Take a planet surrounded by vacuum. Is it isolated? If not, how not?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 6 Feb 2012 @ 6:14 PM

  92. Dan H,

    Re your #79.

    I believe that your assertion that the GHG’s also slow inbound radiation is incorrect, at least as it would apply to solar radiation. The GHG’s each react to radiation in specific frequency ranges, all in the IR band. Solar radiation, which emanates from an extremely hot source is high frequency radiation. Our atmosphere is generally transparent to incoming solar radiation, except for reflection by clouds, aerosols and such.

    Comment by Ron Wecht — 6 Feb 2012 @ 6:29 PM

  93. @Ray: pedagogically, it’s probably useful to discuss that greenhouse gases don’t know which way radiation is going — so the way they work is that the energy comes in, is absorbed by the atmosphere, ocean, and ground, then re-emitted at different wavelength. And that change in wavelength is how you can build a greenhouse gas.

    The experiment with an IR camera mentioned above would be pretty neat. They’ve gotten much cheaper of late. A field spectrometer is also fun to play with on a sunny day. It took until college before I got to use any real toys; my high school barely had Bunsen burners. What climatology-relevant physical experiments can be run on a shoestring budget? A website is nice but I suspect a lot of kids would tune it out more easily than if they get to touch the science.

    Comment by numerobis — 6 Feb 2012 @ 7:05 PM


    “Time Required: In under half an hour you can measure the temperature of the sky and clouds and learn how clouds tend to stabilize the temperature on the ground below. You can learn much more by spending a few hours reviewing this project, visiting the links it lists and performing some experiments of your own….”

    Infrared thermometers cost under $15 nowadays.

    Also very handy for figuring out where your building insulation isn’t up to par.

    To use it, you need to teach about emissivity and why it’s important in measuring things with a remote infrared thermometer.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 6 Feb 2012 @ 7:46 PM

  95. More on emissivity, including a “Kids don’t do this at home” experiment (use an infrared thermometer on a skillet that has a shiny back and a dark nonstick inside surface; compare the results with various amounts of heating.

    Do you know what the emissivity of human skin is?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 6 Feb 2012 @ 7:55 PM

  96. For you delectation and entertainment (sic), DotEarth has borrowed this post:

    Personally, I’d love to see a few real scientists weigh in before the little clique that has dominated that blog forever gets in full voice.

    Comment by Susan Anderson — 6 Feb 2012 @ 9:34 PM

  97. What Mike Roddy said


    Comment by Susan Anderson — 6 Feb 2012 @ 9:36 PM

  98. Re Dan’s comment about greenhouse gas absorption of incoming solar longwave radiation, see:

    Note that everything to the right of “visible” is longwave, and the almost total lack of overlap between the incoming solar spectrum and earth’s outgoing spectrum. Now note the bands at which H2O and CO2 absorb.

    Increasing atmospheric CO2 should have negligible impact on absorption of incoming longwave as its only bands in the incoming spectrum are far out in the toe. However, an increase in atmospheric H2O due to warming would appear to have considerably more impact given that it has several unsaturated bands in the deeper portion of the incoming spectrum.

    Clouds aside, this doesn’t exactly support the argument that increasing water vapour will have a negative, or cooling effect.

    Comment by Jim Eager — 6 Feb 2012 @ 11:21 PM

  99. Ron Wecht- “I believe that your assertion that the GHG’s also slow inbound radiation is incorrect, at least as it would apply to solar radiation. The GHG’s each react to radiation in specific frequency ranges, all in the IR band. ”

    Actually, this isn’t quite true, but it doesn’t help Dan H’s argument in the slightest. It is certainly true that GHG’s are dominant in the longwave portion of the spectrum, but some (especially water vapor, and ozone in the UV) also interact to a large degree with incoming energy. The increase in water vapor in a warming world could actually cause some degree of global dimming (even overcompensating for expected aerosol decreases as air gets cleaner in the future, e.g., Haywood et al., 2011; JGR).

    But actually it doesn’t matter all that much whether the absorption is occurring directly at the ground layer or absorbed throughout the lower troposphere and then communicated to the surface through energy fluxes/convection; thus, you need to look at more than just the energy balance at the surface and see how these fluxes might cancel or add when viewing the whole climate system (at the top of the atmosphere). Even some scientists haven’t gotten this right, leading some to conclude erroneously for example that several watts/m2 decrease in surface solar flux per decade during the global dimming era was just as competitive with the CO2 forcing.

    As for this cloud feedback stuff, there has been no robust explanations for why cloud feedbacks should be strongly negative, but there have been good explanations proposed for why the longwave component tends to be robustly positive (see e.g., Dennis Hartmann’s FAT hypothesis), in theory and is ubiquitous across the CMIP3 models, though difficult to constrain observationally. The shortwave component is more uncertain, but clouds do not simply respond to “more water vapor in the air” but to saturation and the underlying dynamics (e.g., much of the subtropics is expected to dry in a future climate or a poleward shift in the storm track would bring clouds to lower solar zenith angles), or e.g., a change from ice to liquid particles.

    Comment by Chris Colose — 7 Feb 2012 @ 12:31 AM

  100. Dan,

    The many aspects of cloud feedbacks are complicated. Maybe you know this, and are taking advantage of the confusion in the attempt to win an argument. Or maybe not. It’s hard to tell.

    There is the effect of clouds as physical entities. They “block” (scatter) light and other radiation. Because clouds tend to be highly reflective, overall, clouds reflect heat, so it can be said that clouds have a cooling effect.

    But that doesn’t explain Venus. If it did, Venus’ heavy cloud cover would make Venus cool. Venus is hot due to the physical properties of the molecules of the compounds that comprise Venus’ clouds. On earth, clouds are mostly water vapor, which is a strong greenhouse gas. A greenhouse effect is present when water vapor is present.

    This is an oversimplification, but this is what I mean when I say that the NET effect of clouds (including all types of clouds, and the molecular properties of the water vapor itself) is most likely a positive feedback. The 2010 Dressler paper that I linked to supports a net positive feedback for clouds. The AR4 does not claim that cloud feedback is negative. From what I have read, it seems that GCMs support a net positive feedback from clouds, also.

    Comment by Craig Nazor — 7 Feb 2012 @ 1:54 AM

  101. #83, et al.–

    Actually, there is appreciable IR coming in from the sun. The peak intensities are at visible frequencies, but the frequency distribution has a long IR “tail.” (IIRC, it actually contains more energy in toto.)

    As Chris Colose noted, though, that doesn’t mean Dan is correct.

    Here’s a handy plot–since it gives both TOA and surface values, you can see the ‘bites’ taken by H2O and CO2.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 7 Feb 2012 @ 8:28 AM

  102. >Hank Roberts

    “Thermodynamics: an engineering approach”
    Yunus A. Çengel, Michael A. Boles

    Here’s a couple First Law of Thermodynamics online references:

    “Take a planet surrounded by vacuum. Is it isolated? If not, how not?”

    No, radiation In and Out as well as some mass, but that’s beside the point. The atmosphere and the ocean surface are not isolated, they are in contact with each other, the deep ocean, and the Earth.

    “No matter how much work the ocean or atmosphere do, they don’t lose energy, they don’t cool off by doing that work.”

    So, you’re saying if I pick up a pencil off my desk and hold it up (increasing it’s potential energy), then drop it (transforming potential energy into kinetic energy), letting it hit the floor (transforming kinetic energy into heat and vibration) that the total energy of the pencil remains the same? No, of course not, you’re saying the pencil/floor system energy remains the same even though the energy of the pencil has been effectively dissipated into the floor to the extent where it could no longer do any useful work. Just as the floor hardly notices the additional energy from the pencil the deep ocean, ocean basin, and earth hardly notice some additional energy being diffused into their large mass. In other words, the “missing heat” doesn’t HAVE to come back to haunt us if it has been “sequestered”, diffused/dissipated to the point where it can no longer do useful work; similar to being radiated out to space it’s “effectively” gone. Like the 0.075 W/m2 heat flow from the core it doesn’t matter anymore (unless you’re in a hot spot).

    Look, I’m not saying the planet radiation in and out won’t eventually balance, I’m just saying this doesn’t occur instantaneously, an imbalance could take centuries (perhaps several millennia) to correct while “heat” is being sequestured in the large “heat sinks” of the planet.

    Comment by John West — 7 Feb 2012 @ 9:00 AM

  103. Again, Dan, why does the temperature drop more quickly on clear than on cloudy nights? As to solar radiation–it peaks in the visible, and while there is substantial IR–most of it is near IR, not mid IR where ghgs are most significant. In any case, once the IR is absorbed–be it by a ghg or the planet’s surface–it’s in the climate system.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 7 Feb 2012 @ 9:26 AM

  104. Craig,
    Yes, it is an over-simplification. However, from NISDC,
    “Clouds reflect some incoming radiation back to space, thereby reducing the amount of radiation that reaches the Earth’s surface. However, clouds also re-radiate infrared energy back toward the Earth’s surface, thereby moderating the temperature of the lower atmosphere. Globally, clouds have a cooling effect on the Earth-atmosphere system, because of their high albedos. In polar regions however, clouds seem to have a net warming effect as the reduction in solar radiation is outweighed by the effect of clouds in increasing longwave radiation to the surface.”

    … and from NASA,
    “The overall effect of all clouds together is that the Earth’s surface is cooler than it would be if the atmosphere had no clouds.”

    A more in-depth explanation can be found here. It is little dated, but still qutie relevant:

    You also may want to check NASA’a data on cloud cover compared to surface temperature over the past few decades:

    The other issue is whether clouds will increase or decrease in a warming world. Some measurements during the 90s showed a good correlation between temperature and cloud cover, although the cause and effect relation could not be proven.

    You assertion that the heavy cloud cover would make Venus cool, is essentially correct. Estimates place the amount of solar radiation reaching the Venusian surface at about one-sixth that of Earth. Instead, the intense Venusian heat is theorized to come from the dense atmosphere absorbing radiation directly. The denser atmosphere and high CO2 concentration means that there is ~100,000x as much CO2 in the atmosphere in Venus compared to Earth.

    Comment by Dan H. — 7 Feb 2012 @ 9:30 AM

  105. Ray,
    The answer is, of course, lack of clouds. The answer to the question, why do temperatures rise more quickly on sunny days? is the same. Ask yourself this question, is there more incoming or re-radiated radiation?

    Check Kevin’s link above about atmosphere radiation absorption. Do you really think that radiation absorbed in the atmosphere will result in a similar temperature rise as radiation absorbed at the surface?

    Comment by Dan H. — 7 Feb 2012 @ 10:43 AM

  106. The topic’s being taken over by repetitions of belief without citation and the often-repeated wishful thinking that somehow what’s happening isn’t.

    Yes, teachers can use good examples of refuting stuff like Dan H’s — which is always ambiguous enough to prolong attention to him without advancing anyone’s understanding.

    Example: “is there more incoming or re-radiated radiation?”

    Answer: Yes, depending on what you’re talking about, whatever that is.

    Search for “dessler + CERES” — at present, the first page of search hits are all from active PR/skeptics using this kind of fluffy chat to confuse people about the published measurements.

    Use Scholar and you’ll find actual papers. There is one currently in discussion (already being claimed as proof by the bunkum sites) that argues that Dessler’s wrong, at Earth Syst. Dynam. Discuss., 3, 73–90, 2012

    Students can be reminded about the difference between public discussion and publication, and reminded to read what it says on the page there:

    “This discussion paper is/has been under review for the journal Earth System Dynamics (ESD). Please refer to the corresponding final paper in ESD if available.”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 7 Feb 2012 @ 11:53 AM

  107. #104–

    Don’t know about Ray’s POV, but I’m with Chris Colose on this (he has studied this in depth)–yes, “radiation absorbed in the atmosphere will result in a similar temperature rise as radiation absorbed at the surface,” pretty much. That’s because global temperatures are driven most strongly by where the effective radiating layer is, not by what’s happening at the surface.

    Or, as per Chris C’s quote from the previous page of comments:

    . . . it doesn’t matter all that much whether the absorption is occurring directly at the ground layer or absorbed throughout the lower troposphere and then communicated to the surface through energy fluxes/convection; thus, you need to look at more than just the energy balance at the surface and see how these fluxes might cancel or add when viewing the whole climate system (at the top of the atmosphere).

    This point was (to my knowledge) first enunciated clearly by Nils Ekholm in 1901:

    . . . radiation from the earth into space does not go directly from the ground, but on the average from a layer of the atmosphere having a considerable height above sea-level. . . The greater is the absorbing power of the air for heat rays emitted from the ground, the higher will that layer be. But the higher the layer, the lower is its temperature relatively to the ground; and as the radiation from the layer into space is the less the lower its temperature is, it follows that the ground will be hotter the higher the radiating layer is.

    For more on Ekholm, see:

    Ekholm’s story is a very interesting one, with a lot to say about science, personal ambition, and rational analysis versus emotionally-motivated doublethink–but if you want to ‘cut to the chase,’ discussion of his 1901 paper commences about halfway down the article, just following a picture of hikers in Svalbard.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 7 Feb 2012 @ 11:59 AM

  108. Dan H.: “Do you really think that radiation absorbed in the atmosphere will result in a similar temperature rise as radiation absorbed at the surface?”

    If there is a difference, which way do you think increasing CO2 would push things, given that it is especially important above the cloudtops?

    And whether changes in clouds have a net cooling or warming effect (since it’s the change we are considering) depends when and what kind of clouds we get more and less of.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 7 Feb 2012 @ 12:53 PM

  109. “… Low altitude clouds composed of water droplets (i.e., not ice) typically reflect solar radiation and cool the atmosphere, while high altitude, icy, cirrus clouds typically trap outgoing infrared radiation and creating additional warming. Dessler found about an 80 percent likelihood that from 2000 to 2010 the global cloud cover created a positive feedback — which means that on the whole clouds created an additional warming effect on the planet.

    “Dessler studied data from NASA’s Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES) satellite mission and NASA’s Modern Era Retrospective-analysis for Research and Application (MERRA) data set, as well as from the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasting’s interim re-analysis.

    “In technical terms, Dessler found that for every 1 degree (C) of warming, clouds amplify that by trapping an additional 0.5 Watts per square meter – the standard for measuring incoming and outgoing energy in Earth’s atmosphere. Dessler noted that the decade did not see an obvious enough temperature trend to say what fraction of any warming clouds were responsible for….”

    Good summary, with appropriate comments about the limits of what can be said based on this work so far.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 7 Feb 2012 @ 1:06 PM

  110. On occasion I teach a nonmajor’s college biology class that includes 2 lectures on environmental issues and 3 lectures on ecology. I insist that the students understand that the CO2 of the atmosphere is increasing due almost entirely to burning fossil fuels and this increase is continuing. At least they will be vacinnated against the idea that volcanoes or the ocean are significant sources of CO2.

    Two illustrations of climate change seemed most effective with today’s not science students. 1. Showing the change in spring planting zones since the 1980s and telling them that the climate of northern Illinois, Indiana and Ohio is projected to be similar to that of northern Mississippi by 2050. This is much better than saying that xx degrees of warming is expected. You can find maps that show Illinois moving south. 2. I also explained the release of CO2 and methane from thawing Alaskan “permafrost.” They really seemed to be impressed that flairs of methane can be lit when one cracks a hole in an arctic pond. Both of these examples have the “visuals” that today’s students need. You can also quantify human carbon burning in terms of the length of a coal train, something like 20 X the circumference of the earth per year.

    Comment by BillD — 7 Feb 2012 @ 1:19 PM

  111. Ray,
    Yes, we all seem to agree on that point. An increase in high could cover would result in warming, low clouds – cooling. Assessing which clouds types would change the most in a warming world is the big question. Without a specific distinction between cloud types, most references (not all) maintain that an increase in cloudiness results in net cooling, and decrease in warming. The second question that remains to be answered is whether a warmer world will result in an increase or decrease in cloud cover.

    Any change that would result in more radiation absorbsed at TOA and less at the surface, would result in cooling. That is straight-forward physics.

    Comment by Dan H. — 7 Feb 2012 @ 1:49 PM

  112. BillD “You can find maps that show Illinois moving south.”

    And now you’ve got the newly released hardiness zones map showing just which areas have changed how much. Showing it side by side with the old one is a nice visual for students who don’t pick things up so readily without such prompts.

    Comment by adelady — 8 Feb 2012 @ 7:57 AM

  113. Market Fundamentalism must be as exposed as Xian fundamentalism is starting to be. You can’t do that from the NCSE but it will help support the positions. The less secure market fundamentalists are, the less energy they have for their Lysenkoism.

    Comment by Marion Delgado — 8 Feb 2012 @ 9:34 AM

  114. To quote Kevin,

    “I’m with Chris Colose on this (he has studied this in depth)–yes, “radiation absorbed in the atmosphere will result in a similar temperature rise as radiation absorbed at the surface,” pretty much. That’s because global temperatures are driven most strongly by where the effective radiating layer is, not by what’s happening at the surface.”

    Dan H, as usual without citing a source, repeats his claim to the contrary, saying it’s “straightforward physics.”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 8 Feb 2012 @ 1:27 PM

  115. Children should be taught to read, first and foremost.
    If they can read they can learn anything that interests them.
    Basic Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, Social Studies and Physics is plenty for High School and under.

    A basic education is all we need to guarantee children. What they learn beyond that is up to them.

    A niche science like climatology does not belong in primary education.

    Comment by David Wright — 8 Feb 2012 @ 1:47 PM

  116. Except, Dan, we aren’t talking about more radiation being absorbed at TOA, but at some level within the atmosphere–and once absorbed, it’s in the system

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 8 Feb 2012 @ 1:53 PM

  117. On the matter of solar energy being absorbed- For a more technical discussion, Isaac Held talks in about the coupling between the troposphere and surface in this blog post. Ray Pierrehumbert also devotes some time to this in his book

    Note from a surface energy budget perspective that you also need to think about the latent and sensible heating fluxes, as well as the IR flux from the atmosphere to the surface, which can change in ways that oppose the solar forcing. You can think about it that way, and in some cases if the surface+troposphere decoupling is strong enough, then you must consider this in detail (e.g., if the Sahara desert magically got moist, then evaporative cooling could decrease the surface air temperature even at the expense of increased CO2). In the strongly coupled limit however, where the atmosphere is mixed vertically, radiative forcing at the TOA has a greater influence on surface air temperature than forcing at the surface. That is owing to the fact that the whole atmosphere system must balance perturbations by changing its OLR, and most longwave radiation to space originates in the upper troposphere.

    There are some cases where enough solar radiation absorbed in the upper layers can generate an anti-greenhouse effect (such as a nuclear winter, this also happens on Saturn’s moon, Titan) and even create a deep isothermal layer. This is also easy enough to work out in very simple layer models, such as those in David Archer’s book.

    Comment by Chris Colose — 8 Feb 2012 @ 2:04 PM

  118. Maybe DanH should sit in on one of BillD’s classes.

    Comment by Walter Pearce — 8 Feb 2012 @ 2:16 PM

  119. Walter,
    For what reason? I already agree with Bill’s assessment that the growing season has expanded northward. There are others here who dispute that, that would be better served by Bill’s classes.

    Comment by Dan H. — 8 Feb 2012 @ 3:05 PM

  120. I think that the most important thing to teach is how to evaluate evidence. This would include, as at least one commenter already wrote, the basics of climate science. It would also include the major components of why the scientific community believes that AGW is occurring, the major objections of the skeptics and which objections are valid or not.

    Comment by Scott Smith — 8 Feb 2012 @ 5:14 PM

  121. I am curious why the author equates failure to accept evolutionary theory with failure to accept anthropological global warming theory. If one questions AGW theory as articulated by IPCC, must one then be considered to be as ignorant of science as those creationists who deny evolution? Can you really argue the hard scientific evidence supports AGW’s assumption of high climate sensitivity to CO2 change?

    [Response:It’s true that the evidence for evolution is much stronger–it’s irrefutable–and doubters of the two should therefore not be equated. The point is that the evidence for the best estimates of climate sensitivity is too strong to be denied or ignored.–Jim]

    Comment by Tpinlb — 9 Feb 2012 @ 12:51 AM

  122. If only you folks could see yourselves from an outsiders, a layman’s, perspective. To see the arrogance and denigration of anyone who would disagree with your fervently held beliefs.

    How you ridicule and attack anyone who disbelieves, no matter how honest. The fight to withhold data, to extreme reluctance to share and encourage challenge, replication and review. And then you wonder why people don’t respect your work. Condescension and disrespect breeds the same in return. And in the end the scientific process suffers.

    Nick makes several excellent, straightforward, well spoken and IMO non-inflammatory comments and is attacked. Tietjen, expresses similar concerns and is ridiculed.

    The vast majority here believe children SHOULD be taught climate change – but only YOUR narrow version of it. You want children taught YOUR beliefs and all other opinions be damned.

    We should be doing what we did back when kids led a much harder life and learning was at times a matter of life and death. We should be teaching them to THINK. That means teaching them both sides of contentious issues – and then pointing them in the right direction to learn for themselves.

    [Response:A lot of opinions have been expressed. I think most sane people would agree that the main educational goal should be to teach kids how to evaluate evidence for themselves, and aren’t looking to indoctrinate anybody on anything, although there is always a segment that does want to do that. Teaching the fundamentals of physics, chemistry and biology has served us very well to date and I see no reason to change that.–Jim]

    Warmists and some Skeptics are alike in many ways – too deeply invested to consider the other side – to do real science. Personally, as I read both sides – the skeptics win by a large margin in my opinion on openness, and at least attempting reasoned discussion and debate.

    It is like the “earth is flat” debate all over – the majority – the long held consensus opinion – was proven incorrect. The only question is which side will be the “flat earthers.”

    I suggest you read Professor Charles Hitchcocks 1890 paper about Mr. James Geikie, of the Geological Survey of Scotland, and his 1874 book entitled “WRIGHTS ICE AGE IN NORTH AMERICA AND ITS BEARINGS ON THE ANTIQUITY OF MAN.”

    Here is a link to a version I marked up to make easier for me to follow:

    For over a quarter century most writers accepted views of older geologists that the coldness of the climate was from icebergs originating in remote North floating southerly over the submerged continent.

    Mr. Geikie’s book explained that glaciers were the cause.

    Mr. Geikie’s book seems to have been the impetous for Rev. G. F. Wright, a pastor by vocation but scientific layman, to commence a 15 year study of glacial geology – both topography and glacial deposits – from New England, thru the north central US, the Dakota’s and on to Washington and Alaska – which became the core of the understanding and change to glacial theory.

    Rev. Wright studied Muir Glacier in great detail – so as to recognize the glacial ‘signature’ in other lands.

    Not only is this paper a very interesting discussion of the last ice age, but equally importantly in my opinion – it is a guidebook to what scientific research used to be – and should again be today.

    Rev. Wright was fighting against an entrenched, long held (appx 1800-1860) almost universal belief, both in America – and the world, about submergence of the continent and the actions of floating icebergs being responsible for surface topography and geology. It took 20 years from the first good understandings about glaciers, and 40 years from initial discussion of a glacial theory, to fully over-ride the prior deeply held ‘consensus’ belief in icebergs.

    Some 20 years after saying the existence of ancient glaciers in Great Britain was “not established to the satisfaction of the majority of British geologists” the same prominent figure noted “I was wrong in opposing your grand and original idea … I am now convinced glaciers did descend from the mountains to the plains as they now do in Greenland.”

    Fir many years prior to appx 1840 scientists the world over staunchly believed the iceberg theory – once the the revolutionary and oft ridiculed glacier theory was presented it took just 20 years to win the world over to that correct understanding.

    No matter how many times either side repeats it the science is clearly not settled. Most agree there has been some warming over the last several hundred years. Most agree there has been some anthropogenic input. But there the consensus stops.

    Dr. Judith curry acknowledges this in a current commentary – noting there is no consensus and claiming there is is damaging to good science being done.

    We should be teaching our children NOT to accept consensus positions – to research both sides of important issues and draw their own educated opinions. We should teach them it is important to look at all side – even the skeptics positions – for, as the “flat earth” and “glaciers not icebergs” issues show – the long held alleged “consensus” positions are sometimes wrong.

    Several other comments of this 1890 paper are important in my opinion in the present global warming – sorry ‘global climate change’ – discussion:

    “Professional men are pleased with opening of discussions that require exercise, but not fatigue, for their elucidation …”

    “The establishment of limits on one side leads to discovery of boundaries on all sides …”

    As the paper progresses it displays exactly the type collegial discussion – with the work of all sides welcomed, respected and debated – even though they disagree.

    This includes and extended to all involved – no negative stigma is placed on Rev. Wright for example – despite his being in large part a lay person, his work was welcomed and held in high regard.

    Compare that to the actions of the CAGW proponents and their treatment of outsiders and those they deem non-believers today.

    I would note the authors ending comments regarding the layman Rev. Wright, and suggest they would be well for modern scientific folks to consider:

    “[where others] so situated that long summer vacations are at their command [spend them] upon travel, hunting or fishing, productive of recreation for themselves, but not of special profit to the world … the example of Dr. Wright is to be commended. By devoting vacations and odd hours to the study of glaciation for the last 15 years, he has produced results of which any geologist would be proud.”

    “… it is well that there should be a [staunch few] … who would criticize any unfriendly and unwarranted conclusions.”

    “The example of these gentleman is worthy of imitation … the working out of these details of the ice age would be an enterprise adequate to enlist the energies of a dozen energetic amateurs for the next decade.”

    In my opinion, and as shown that of the scientific community of the 1800’s depicted in this paper, whether for children’s minds in the classroom, or in search of clear answers on climate – the “battle” should be to find and present the true and accurate facts – not the facts as any one “side” or agenda believes them to be.

    How do you think a panel of the scientists in this 1800’s paper – great men, professional and layman alike – who made huge breakthrough’s in scientific knowledge, would judge the current scientific process when it comes to climate change?

    Comment by A. Scott — 9 Feb 2012 @ 5:04 AM

  123. How do you think a panel of the scientists in this 1800′s paper – great men, professional and layman alike – who made huge breakthrough’s in scientific knowledge, would judge the current scientific process when it comes to climate change?

    I don’t think, A. Scott, I figure I know. And it’s not what you think.

    It’s hard to beat the arrogance of someone denigrating the knowledge of a community of hard-working, honest science professionals busy doing the right things, and not what you caricature them to do. A bit like the Rev. Wright, I am a dilettante too in climatology, and having come to know some of these folks your distortion — obviously cribbed from denialist screeds — is shameful.

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 9 Feb 2012 @ 7:53 AM

  124. Tpinlb #121

    If one questions AGW theory as articulated by IPCC, must one then be considered to be as ignorant of science as those creationists who deny evolution?

    Actually, yes. I don’t quite agree with Jim. Indeed the evidence for evolution is hugely more broad and voluminous — but both sets of evidence are absolutely convincing. There comes a point of saturation, where more evidence is just piling it on and rubbing it in…

    So, no, while the bodies of evidence being denied are very different in scope and size, the depths of ignorance involved in denying them are IMHO comparable. As is everything else about their ignorance — or “ignorance”. E.g., neither impacts our daily lives yet in ways that make denial look prima facie silly — never mind a few freak weather events or multiresistant S. aureus outbreaks.

    BTW there is not really anything like “AGW theory”. There is the physics of planetary (and stellar) atmospheres, of which this is one practical application.

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 9 Feb 2012 @ 8:44 AM

  125. A Scott (122):

    I don’t believe anyone would disagree with your statement:

    “In my opinion, and as shown that of the scientific community of the 1800′s depicted in this paper, whether for children’s minds in the classroom, or in search of clear answers on climate – the “battle” should be to find and present the true and accurate facts – not the facts as any one “side” or agenda believes them to be.”

    But that does not justify presenting the “Flying Spaghetti Monster” science that constitutes much of what one gets from the faux-skeptics that make so much noise and drive climate scientists and educated laymen to distraction.

    Comment by MartinJB — 9 Feb 2012 @ 8:59 AM

  126. Excellent post A. Scott.

    Both you and Jim’s comment seem to hit a similar note; that of teaching our children how to research and evaluate evidence, instead of indoctrination into a particular viewpoint. We should seek the real truth, not the facts as presented by any one side.
    Thank you for your post.

    Comment by Dan H. — 9 Feb 2012 @ 9:05 AM

  127. “instead of indoctrination into a particular viewpoint”

    Big fat strawman. . .

    To teach what the current mainstream ideas on a topic are is not ‘indoctrination.’ However, the mainstream ideas on a topic being taught are normally privileged in educating on that topic, though other ‘points of view’ may in some cases merit mention.

    It would be absurd to pretend (as Dan H seems to do) that all POVs are equally valid, regardless of their internal consistency or evidentiary support.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 9 Feb 2012 @ 9:45 AM

  128. A. Scott,
    Allow me to return the favor and suggest you read a paper from the 19th century–that by Svante Arrhenius, in which he first posited the link between anthropogenic CO2 and a warming climate. That is how old this science is. That is how established this science is.

    You claim there is no consensus. I wonder, sir, if 97% of the experts in a field does not constitute a consensus in your eyes, what would? If dozens of national academies of sciences are on record supporting this consensus without one single dissent is not a consensus, what is? If not one single professional organization of sciences dissents from the consensus of climate experts, how is that not a consensus?

    As to your contention of evidence being withheld…well, all I can say is that it takes a whole helluva lot of chutzpah to claim this on a page that has a tab at the top that says “data sources”. Did you not notice that, or were you simply hoping no one else would notice your lie?

    You say “both sides” of the issue should be taught. Dammit, dude, we’d live to teach the “skeptic side,” if they’d only fricking publish something! Or do you think so-called “skeptics” deserve a free pass from peer review?

    A. Scott, this is science. It should be about evidence. Either present some evidence that favors your position or be ignored as science advances around you. That is how the game is played. That’s the game we need to teach the nation’s children.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 9 Feb 2012 @ 9:48 AM

  129. Todd@ 78 “I have had some success in telling them that I cannot make them *believe* in evolution, but it is my job to see that they understand the theory and the evidence involved in it. ”

    My husband has had similar success in dealing with parents arriving at school all fired up ready to wrestle over Year 10 biology. He just explains that it’s his job to teach the science curriculum which happens to include evolution and that students won’t pass exams if they’ve not learnt it. (And a careful, quiet word that even if it is someone’s job to teach “the other side” it certainly isn’t his. His job is the science, neither more nor less.)

    Comment by adelady — 9 Feb 2012 @ 10:22 AM

  130. A. Scott advocates teaching our children both sides of a contentious issue like climate change.

    That means teaching them “it’s the sun” and that “all the other planets are warming, too,” when we know for a fact that neither is true.

    It means teaching them “it’s been cooling for the past 10 years” and that “Arctic sea Ice has recovered,” when the data clearly shows the exact opposite.

    It means teaching them that “the lag of CO2 behind temperature in the ice cores proves that CO2 does not cause warming,” when we know for a fact that is a completely illogical assertion.

    It means teaching them that the observed warming is just a result of the “urban heat island” and that “the greenhouse effect violates the second law of thermodynamics” when we know both are just plain silly.

    It mean teaching them that climate science is a left-wing “hoax” and a “conspiracy,” and that climate science has “withheld data and has been reluctant to share and encourage challenge, replication and review,” which we know is not true.

    In other words, teaching the controversy means teaching our children lies.

    That is what this layman sees as arrogance in the defense of fervently held beliefs.

    Comment by Jim Eager — 9 Feb 2012 @ 10:24 AM

  131. A. Scott wrote: “You want children taught YOUR beliefs and all other opinions be damned.”

    Given this open admission that you are unable to distinguish between empirically observed FACTS on the one hand, and “beliefs” and “opinions” on the other, it seems clear that substantive discussion with you about how to effectively teach science would be futile.

    Notice, though, that some of the regular commenters here — in the face of your rather hostile and belligerent invective — will, nonetheless, attempt to reason with you.

    They have the patience of saints.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 9 Feb 2012 @ 10:55 AM

  132. @Buck Smith — 5 Feb 2012 @ 11:39 AM
    “3. Is warming due to CO2 amplified by positive feedbacks (water vapor) Not so certain.” Wrong.

    “The sensitivity of Earth’s climate to an external radiative forcing depends critically on the response of water vapor. We use the global cooling and drying of the atmosphere that was observed after the eruption of Mount Pinatubo to test model predictions of the climate feedback from water vapor. Here, we first highlight the success of the model in reproducing the observed drying after the volcanic eruption. Then, by comparing model simulations with and without water vapor feedback, we demonstrate the importance of the atmospheric drying in amplifying the temperature change and show that, without the strong positive feedback from water vapor, the model is unable to reproduce the observed cooling. These results provide quantitative evidence of the reliability of water vapor feedback in current climate models, which is crucial to their use for global warming projections.”

    Who told you the lie that positive water vapor feedback is uncertain? Are they the same people who tell you that warming is no threat, we don’t have to act now, and our economic models show any action to limit CO2 emissions will destroy the economy? Do you trust their economic models more than climate models?

    Recaptcha – blistered become

    Comment by Brian Dodge — 9 Feb 2012 @ 1:14 PM

  133. Kevin,
    I was not referring to “mainstream” issues as indoctrination, but rather those that exist on one extreme or the other (yes, both exist). Both extremes appear to deny or rationalize away that which is inconvenient to their cause. A clear examples is the BEST data, where one group highlighted that portion of the reports which showed rising temperatures during the 20th century, while the other focused on the lack of warming in the 21st century. Additionally, one group trumpeted the urban heat island paper, while the other the AMO paper. In psychology, this is called selective abstraction.

    Comment by Dan H. — 9 Feb 2012 @ 2:28 PM

  134. Gavin, thanks for your reply.

    I think that where the climate change science community drops the ball is the point where they start talking to people who are not already convinced of global warming. I am not convinced of it, however, i have been wrong before, on top of that, i do not mind hearing from people who think i am wrong. Just because i dont share the climate fear like most people on here, doesnt mean i dont want to learn from anyone. If that were the case id be on

    Supporters of AGW see people like me as their enemy, while it appears they are their own worst enemy. Climate scientists have made the mistake of also wanting to be politicians by trying to make or influence policies. Now when it comes to teaching in schools they want it to soumd like there is no connection between climate science and politics. It is not like teaching children how to read and write. [edit – this is OT on this site]

    What global warming movement need is a non liberal individual, who is a leader more in touch with reality outside the green movement. Right now climate scientists look like very smart people who went to the university and then worked at one. I am not sure if they are aware that most of the worlds population would rather see us worry about how to get enough food to stay alive, not get killed by a dictator or how to eradicate malaria.

    Climate scientists remind me of Harold Camping, a christian broadcaster with so much bible knowledge that you cant argue with him. He said the world would end may 21. When the world did not end, he said it was prove he was right.

    As a parent, or even a teacher, how can you tell where science ends and promoting the liberal agenda begins ?

    [Response: As I said, talk to people who understand science but who are in no way related to the so-called ‘liberal agenda’. I gave you some names last time. Talk to people in your communities – and there are universities everywhere. If you cannot engage with someone from New York or California because you don’t trust their motives, there is not much I can do about that (other than to point out that I think that is unjustified – but of course, that has no credibility with you because I live in New York). But I still find it hard to fathom that you think there is nothing about the climate system that is a) worth teaching children about, and b) just science. I have no problem with distinguishing between a description of what is, and a decision about what one might do about it. – gavin]

    Comment by Tietjanberelul — 9 Feb 2012 @ 7:16 PM

  135. Tietjanberelul,

    OK. First, how was Svante Arrhenius promoting a liberal agenda? The science you are saying you don’t believe in was old news when Einstien wrote his special relativity paper! Second, how does the politics of a scientist affect whether the evidence he or she discovers is true? This is a combination of two logical fallacies–adhominem fallacy and argument from consequences. Third, if you don’t like the policy implication of climate, then come up with some of your own damned policies! Do you really think that the free market is so feeble that it cannot deal with this crisis without succumbing to despotism?

    Fourth, if you really think the science is wrong–despite the endorsement of 97% of climate experts and every National Academy of Sciences and professional scientific society of note on the planet–then go out and find some frickin’ evidence. PUBLISH!!! That is how science gets done.

    Finally, do you really think every climate scientist who believes we are warming the planet is a commie? Dude, you need to get out more.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 9 Feb 2012 @ 8:30 PM

  136. #133–

    “I was not referring to “mainstream” issues as indoctrination, but rather those that exist on one extreme or the other. . .”

    And the “extremes”–and “highlighting” “rising temperatures during the 20th century” was given as an example of an “extreme”–are *assumed* to be equivalent.

    Thanks for making my point for me, Dan!

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 9 Feb 2012 @ 10:43 PM

  137. Tietjanberelul, when did scientists surrender their right as citizens to express their concerns, informed by the potential consequences of the science that they study, and as citizens to try to influence public policy based on that informed concern?

    The answer is never. They have every bit as much right to do so as you do.

    Where, pray tell, do think climate scientists would work, at your friendly neighbourhood climate research shop down the street?

    And what makes you think climate scientists are not worried about how to get enough food to stay alive, especially in light of the potential of climate change to disrupt our ability to do so? Or worry about despotic dictators and eradicating malaria?

    You create a alarmist fiction to be fearful of and then have the gall to compare climate scientists with Harold Camping. Sorry, it is clearly you who are completely out of touch with reality.

    Comment by Jim Eager — 9 Feb 2012 @ 11:41 PM

  138. And when my daughters elementary school science teacher tells her that turning on the lights kills polar bears (this actually happened), what should I do?
    A, Praise him for boldly defending the earth.
    B, Explain that he was speaking metaphorically
    C, Tell my daughter that in this case her teacher is wrong
    D, Point out to the teacher that in the past 40 years polar bear numbers have increased and risk being labeled a denier and anti-science, even though my degree is in chemistry and environmental science

    [Response: well, if it was my daughter, I’d encourage her to read up on the background herself – there’s tons of age appropriate material available – and then discuss the multiple threats that polar bears face. If you did D, I would be appalled because bringing in irrelevant issues without context when a child asks a question is the height of irresponsibility. – gavin

    Comment by Dennis — 10 Feb 2012 @ 12:45 AM

  139. One problem with teaching I don’t see being addressed here.

    Teaching is not about filling kids heads with facts, but instead giving them skill sets for finding out what the facts are.

    If science has descended to the level of teaching rote memorization of facts then then teaching profession is failing to do its job.

    Dr Will Happer, Cyrus Fogg Brackett Professor of Physics at Princeton University has said something to the effect that science is not so complicated that it cannot be explained to a layman in understandable and logical terms.

    The same problem exists for the teaching of evolution. Instead of teaching the methodology by which the theory of evolution was established, extrapolations of that in the form of questionable facts about matters that have no connection to how life changes over time, like how life was created in the first place are literally shoved down the throats of our kids without a shred of science to back it up. And here we have a not-for-profit essentially working to have our educational system fail by finding avenues to ensure the tough questions never get asked in a science classroom.

    But if instead you teach skills and methods, using facts solely as a basis for demonstrating the skill; each student will arrive at their own conclusions. And if in the final examination they show a command of the skills the teacher should believe he has suceeded to the maximum extent he should.

    Comment by Bill Hunter — 10 Feb 2012 @ 7:43 AM

  140. Glad to be of help Kevin,
    Are we in agreement on mainstream and extremes now?

    Comment by Dan H. — 10 Feb 2012 @ 7:52 AM

  141. Re Dennis @138: “Point out to the teacher that in the past 40 years polar bear numbers have increased…?”

    Without also pointing out that your assertion is based on only part of the body of data on part of the polar bear population?

    I’d call that cherry-picking. And I’d call it just as egregious as the teacher’s comment related in your anecdotal example, assuming that it actually happened in the first place.

    Comment by Jim Eager — 10 Feb 2012 @ 8:34 AM

  142. #140–“Are we in agreement on mainstream and extremes now?”

    Not if you think that highlighting rising temperatures in the 20th century counts as ‘extreme.’

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 10 Feb 2012 @ 9:13 AM

  143. Bill Hunter,
    Ah, I can see that you have not been in a high school classroom any time recently. Most science curricula are laden with factoids rather than method for the simple reason that factoids are easier to assess for the standardized tests–on which all school success is determined.

    Then there is the fact that most middle and high school science teachers have never actually done any science, and so may not have a particularly strong grasp of the scientific method. Let’s face it, the standard cartoon of the scientific method is a farce. The reality is much richer and more powerful than can be reflected with a simple observe-theorize-test paradigm.

    And most of the administrators and politicians who determine curricula have an even weaker grasp of scientific method than the science teachers–if they are not completely hostile to science in the first place.

    So, Dennis, I suspect that if you want your daughter to understand science, you, yourself will have to help her. Of course, that would mean that you, too, would have to learn to consult the full body of evidence rather than cherrypicking those studies that support your own worldview. So, basically, I suspect she’s screwed.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 10 Feb 2012 @ 9:13 AM

  144. #138–How about this?

    E) explain that, while it is true that some polar bear populations (such as the western Hudson Bay population) are showing signs of biological stress due to declining sea ice, and that this is likely due to climate change resulting from human greenhouse gas emissions, that doesn’t mean that when you turn on the lights another bear dies.

    Or, if that’s too much, how about “I know what he’s getting at, honey, but it’s really a little more complicated than that.” Which would make a nice segue into helping her (if she’s interested) in looking at what is actually the case wrt polar bear populations and climate change–thus addressing some of what Bill Hunter was talking about in #139.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 10 Feb 2012 @ 9:24 AM

  145. >this is called selective abstraction

    From a foremost practitioner.

    Comment by Walter Pearce — 10 Feb 2012 @ 9:49 AM

  146. Tietjanberelul wrote: “… how can you tell where science ends and promoting the liberal agenda …”

    If you believe that the scientific reality of global warming is a “liberal agenda” then you have been duped. Period. End of story.

    Look, you didn’t think of that yourself, did you? No. Someone TOLD YOU that climate science is, or has, a “liberal agenda”.

    Whoever told you that, LIED TO YOU. DELIBERATELY.

    I suggest that you go back to them and ask them why they are lying to you.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 10 Feb 2012 @ 10:58 AM

  147. SA quotes

    Tietjanberelul wrote: “… how can you tell where science ends and promoting the liberal agenda …”

    Yeah, I wonder if it was just me or was he on the verge of saying reality had a liberal bias.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 10 Feb 2012 @ 11:27 AM

  148. Yes: “Ah, I can see that you have not been in a high school classroom any time recently.”

    I’d say about 50 years! Had a great physics teacher that would start each class with a demonstration and then elicit responses from the class about details of what was going on in the observation. Great teacher! Placed a half dozen students in my class in the 98% percentile on the state high school physics exam.

    But this does not extend just to physics. History should be taught not on a basis of rote memorization of events in history but instead in a way that stimulates thinking about the hard and clear lessons of history, like how trying to boil everybody down to the lowest common denominator has always resulted in a failed state by stripping away all incentives to excel as surely as does as Eisenhower warned creating an elite class of citizen or citizens with a common source of funding/revenue basically accomplishes the same thing. In a sense all education needs to be approached from a scientific viewpoint whether it includes a lot of math or not.

    Vocational training seems to have a lot lesser of a problem with all this. So I guess what we are actually doing this day and age is creating a elite class of real dummies while the smart kids go and get a real job! ;)

    Comment by Bill Hunter — 10 Feb 2012 @ 11:30 AM

  149. MartinJB (currently @125) got me hunting for a Laocoon UCS cartoon, took a while to find it:

    This one a mite less familiar includes the words tsunami of evidence, flood of new data, avalanche of proof, torrent of discontent:

    The associated websites were also worth a look, though choirish for most of us.

    Some of you may enjoy wasting some time (excellent as they are) with a few dozen others:

    I note that deniers are now objecting to be called anything that describes them, as creating prejudice, including fake and phony skeptics. Too bad for them they can’t take the truth. If the shoe fits, wear it.

    Comment by Susan Anderson — 10 Feb 2012 @ 12:40 PM

  150. So, Bill, what do you conclude from the following statements?
    Should they be taught in the science curriculum, and if not, why not? Which, if any, do you consider political?

    – That the greenhouse effect, admittedly a misnomer, is a real and natural physical phenomenon.
    – That CO2 is a greenhouse gas and that it is responsible for ~20% of earth’s greenhouse effect.
    – That CO2 is continuously exchanged among the atmosphere, biosphere, ocean, and lithosphere, with emission and absorption by each reservoir roughly in balance on a time scale of decades or centuries, barring some forcing.
    – That each year burning fossil carbon fuels injects ~10Gt of fossil carbon into the atmosphere, i.e. carbon that has been locked out of the atmosphere and therefore out of the active carbon cycle among these reservoirs for millions of years.
    – That the natural active carbon reservoirs so far have absorbed all natural emissions, plus just over half of the anthropogenic carbon release, which is why ocean pH is declining and why atmospheric CO2 is increasing year over year.
    – That increasing atmospheric CO2 will boost the natural greenhouse effect and thus warm the atmosphere and surface until once again outgoing radiation ~equals incoming radiation.
    – That the atmosphere and surface have in fact warmed.
    – That as the atmosphere warms it will then hold more H2O, which, since it, too, is a greenhouse gas, will add yet more warming, thus amplifying the initial warming from CO2.
    – That atmospheric H2O content has in fact increased.
    – That the increase in H2O may also effect cloud coverage and density, but in which way and by what net amount is not yet known for sure, although the fact that earth has been much warmer in the past argues strongly that the net result from clouds will not be very large either way.
    – That the warming of the atmosphere and surface will alter weather patterns, including both the temporal and spacial distribution of rain and snowfall, which can not but effect agriculture.

    I could go on, but that should be enough to start with.

    Comment by Jim Eager — 10 Feb 2012 @ 1:09 PM

  151. Nice collection Susan,
    I particularly liked the peer-review gauntlet.

    Comment by Dan H. — 10 Feb 2012 @ 1:22 PM

  152. This is short, sweet, accurate and entertaining:
    “The Ultimate Roller Coaster Ride: A brief history of fossil fuels”

    Comment by Susan Anderson — 10 Feb 2012 @ 1:44 PM

  153. Dennis @#138 asks “when my daughters elementary school science teacher tells her that turning on the lights kills polar bears (this actually happened), what should I do?”

    The first thing I do when considering that question is to apply some appropriate skepticism. Did the teacher say the words “turning on the lights kills polar bears”, full stop, no context? Did the teacher specify how many polar bears are killed per kWh? I’m skeptical. Is there videotape of the incident? Failing that, were you present for the alleged discussion, and have dated notes taken at that moment, with a careful transcription of the exact words in context?

    Failing that, and here we may well be getting closer to the truth, did the teacher say something about our daily activities, including use of electricity and other energy, and make a reasonable connection between that, changes in the Arctic climate, and polar bear habitat, which your daughter (how old?) said something about and you are now passing on as hearsay, condensing and distorting, without any context, no names, no dates, no details, not even your own full name?

    Gimme a break.

    Comment by Ric Merritt — 10 Feb 2012 @ 3:03 PM

  154. I don’t know if this has already been covered, but I think one response that teachers might want to consider is acknowledging the controversy surrounding climate science, and using it as an opportunity to review the fundamentals of the scientific method, i.e., what are the scientifically valid ways in which theories can be confirmed or disproven, and what are not scientifically valid ways. For example, Newton’s theory of motion was not superceded until people had conducted and published repeatable experiments, which could be duplicated by others, that produced results that Newton’s theory couldn’t expain. It did not happen as a result of anyone claiming that Newton’s theory was a “hoax” or that its adherents had political or financial motivations for supporting it. Examples could also be given of what it would take to disprove AGW theory in a scientifically valid way, thus educating students on the concept of falsifiability.

    Comment by Richard Palm — 10 Feb 2012 @ 3:35 PM

  155. I think it is important to distinguish the teaching of evolution from climate science, particularly the science of global warming. Evolution via natural selection is observable, it is testable in a petrie dish, it is reproducible, it can be used to make predictions that are then verified and it is supported by decades of EXPERIMENTAL science and hundreds of years of observations. It is not based on theoretical constructs or projections. The only assumptions that are needed are the principals of the scientific method themselves.

    The same can not be said of climate change and global warming. It is a theoretical science that is untestable on a level with comparable constraints to the system that scientists are attempting to describe. It is a science of observation but not experimentation. There is no ‘control earth’ that looks like our earth but for the fact that they have stable CO2 emissions that can be used to test our grand hypothesis man made global warming hypothesis against. All we know about are the properties of CO2 and that those properties should cause the trapping of energy within our system. However, the manner in which the other variables that effect energy balance will be effected is highly uncertain and completely untestable. So the science becomes one of ‘make a theory’ and create a prediction based on that theory. However, given the level of uncertainty and the number of other variables weighing on the system it may take decades to reflect on what the direction let alone the individual contributions of these ‘sensitivities’ and ‘forcings’ will be.

    To compare this process, that is underpinned by solid theory and observations but has no proven causal relations, with evolution is a stretch.

    There is a reason it is unteachable – it is because we don’t yet understand it.

    [Response: I would suggest that you take a refresher course in climate physics – and possibly evolution as well. The links are much closer than you think – each works with single system (the biosphere, or the climate) which has tremendous variation over the last few billion years, dealing with processes that are slow on average, but that in certain ‘lab’ conditions can occur faster (fruit flies, El Nino teleconnections/response to volcanoes), and which make testable predictions, not just for the future, but in hindcasts of not-yet-discovered paleo-information. Indeed, climate has the edge on evolution for explaining past changes because things like orbital forcing are more predictable than the evolution of specific species or genera which are contingent on random mutations as well as environmental pressures. – gavin]

    Comment by Jeffrey — 11 Feb 2012 @ 1:10 AM

  156. #155–More specifically, basically the entire science of meteorology is relevant to the problem of climate.

    (I hate to bring this up, because people love to hate weather forecasts–but those of us old enough to remember to days before numerical prediction became the norm right down to media outlet level, know how much better forecasting is today. My take on it is that forecasts are rarely qualitatively wrong anymore. Error is usually quantitative–not as much rain falls, or the front comes through a bit earlier than called for.)

    Which means that atmospheric circulation is now pretty darn well understood–including the bits of it that relate to the physics of greenhouse gases. Every 24-hour weather prediction involves calculating radiative cooling and heating. In fact, it’s interesting that Walter Elsasser was hired in the 40s to create a tool for doing just this. At the time, observational techniques didn’t exist to verify his work, but they seemed to work well enough in practice. Nearly 2 decades later they were experimentally validated.

    That story, and others on this point, can be read here:

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 11 Feb 2012 @ 8:37 AM

  157. Jeffrey@155
    What absolute, irredeemable horsecrap! Dude, you would negate all of geology, astronomy, ecology, much of biology, and for that matter, much of subatomic physics, since we cannot actually observe subatomic particles and they’re all identical and so cannot be followed in any case.

    Have you ever even cracked a science textbook? Do you really think science can only be done in a test tube?

    The test of any scientific theory is the verification of its predictions. By those standards, climate science is doing quite well.

    YOU, sir, may not yet understand climate science, but I suspect that is because you haven’t bothered to undertake the task.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 11 Feb 2012 @ 9:22 AM

  158. Gavin, maybe you should head the advice that you so often give to argumentative posters and ease up on the condescension. While I could certainly use a course in climate science you seem to need a refresher on the scientific method and the notion of control. The only way to concretely determine causal relationships is through controlled experimentation. It is the reason why we don’t know for certain that recent warming periods were caused by rising CO2 levels and not some alternative phenomenon. It is what enables the solar activity theory to exist and is what prevents models from having impressive ‘skill’. The fact is, you can take yeast in a two petrie dishes and add one variable into one dish and observe that colony mutate verses the control. You can then quantify this mutation at a genetic level. You can then confidently say that your interventions caused the effect.

    You can even do this in a high school classroom as you teach the theory. If you try to teach the notion that a doubling of CO2 will cause a 3 degree increase in global temperatures you will be doing so based on a entirely different type of science – one that is not testable via the EXPERIMENTAL METHOD.

    That is the controversial part of teaching high school students about certain elements of climate science. High school teachers already do a decent job of teaching the greenhouse gas effect.

    [Response: You are not comparing like with like, and you are wrong in any case. I can put air in a spectrometer at any pressure/temperature/composition and measure the radiative transfer and the absorption at any frequency – experimental, reproducible, science. I can use satellite remote sensing to see how changes in composition in the real world are affecting radiative transfer through the real atmosphere. I can do basic maths and work how emissions are changing, and I can measure concentrations of CO2 anywhere in the free atmosphere and see basically the same trends. I can collate temperatures, ice extent, ocean heat content, solar insolation, volcanic aerosols etc. etc. There is in fact no end to the laboratory or real world observations related to the climate that are exactly equivalent to fruit fly or nematode or yeast analogs. The science that comes out of that has implications for climate change on all sorts of time scales, just as your yeast experiment has implications for the evolution of the dinosaurs and mammals – issues that are similarly not resolvable in a simple lab experiment. But they are nonetheless amenable to science. – gavin]

    Comment by Jeffrey — 11 Feb 2012 @ 10:40 AM

  159. Tietjanberelul @ 134

    “As a parent, or even a teacher, how can you tell where science ends and promoting the liberal agenda begins ?”

    The answer depends on whether that’s a rhetorical question or a serious one.

    If serious, it’s a very good one, though the answer seems obvious. Follow Gavin’s leads. Stay involved. Set aside fear and honestly investigate the subject. Start on any point you find suspect. For the most part actual scientists will lead you deeper into the science. On the other hand, bull slingers will swamp you with rhetorical tricks and debate tactics. You’ve made a good start by coming to Real Climate. Another good place is Skeptical Science which lays it all out like notes on a piano keyboard. Don’t be distracted by what characters like Dan H. say. As near as I can tell he’s just a shmoo the moderators let run around the site for entertainment value.

    If your question is just a rhetorical, thought-stopping device, and the implication is that there is no way to prevent the menace of liberalism from creeping into the classroom without right-wing imposition of draconian bans on the topic, then the question is just mean and idiotic.

    Yet, in the unlikely event that you honestly can’t tell the difference between science and rhetoric, then please forgive me for pointing out that perhaps you have more pressing and immediate problems to address than how climate change should be covered.

    Comment by Radge Havers — 11 Feb 2012 @ 11:39 AM

  160. OK, Jeffrey, put up or shut up time: What is your scientific background? Degrees? Publications? Invitations to speak at international scientific conferences?

    I ask this because your cartoon idea of science–that it cannot be done outside of a laboratory inhabited by white-coated boffins–is simply risible. Do you reject the Big Bang because we cannot create the Universe in a beaker? Do you similarly reject “macro-evolution” because we haven’t seen a crocodile turn into a duck? Do you realize that the very same arguments you employ are used nearly verbatim by those at the Discovery Institute to reject evolution?

    Look, Dude, science works. We can even tell you with pretty good accuracy what the weather will be in 4-5 days time. We can tell you when a volcano is likely to erupt. We can tell you how a neutron star forms. Your ideas of science are simply ridiculous. No response other than ridicule is appropriate.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 11 Feb 2012 @ 1:29 PM

  161. [edit – please can everyone stick to substantive comments rather than opinions about other commenters? thanks]

    Comment by Susan Anderson — 11 Feb 2012 @ 1:43 PM

  162. Gotta love Jeffrey for complaining Gavin uses a condescending tone, after he himself proclaims climate science “unteachable”.

    Jeffrey sounds very much like a tone troll, but I would not be surprised if he seriously is not aware how condescending it is to claim climate science is “unteachable”, whereas evolution is fully teachable (and you may want to tell your fellow Americans that, for about half evolution stops when humans come into the equation).

    Comment by Marco — 11 Feb 2012 @ 2:45 PM

  163. Jeffrey,

    Your version of “science” is quite shallow, and rules out virtually all the Earth and planetary sciences, astronomy, and even parts of evolution as “science.” I’m not quite sure you have even thought out the implications of your philosophy clearly.

    I suggest you think carefully about gavin’s comments, regardless of whether you like his tone or not. Try to supplement that with thinking more clearly about how knowledge of star evolution, black holes, ecological changes, long-term evolutionary patterns, plate tectonics, etc is obtained. Or, for example, how criminal scientists use fingerprint patterns to diagnose who did a particular crime.

    We can go on forever with countless examples that do not fit nicely into a nice beaker experiment featuring a guy in a white coat adding and subtracting chemicals. Sometimes Ray Ladbury is a bit harsh in his tone, but in this case he is right, your ideas are just ridiculous. I certainly hope you aren’t teaching kids about the scientific method.

    Comment by Chris Colose — 11 Feb 2012 @ 3:52 PM

  164. It should come as no surprise when those suffering from Dunning-Kruger effect will mistake it as “condescension” when what they don’t even know they don’t know is pointed out to them.

    Comment by Jim Eager — 11 Feb 2012 @ 4:30 PM

  165. While Jeffrey has managed to provide us with a few chuckles, I think he also provides a teachable moment. Jeffrey epitomizes the sort of fetishization of narrow concepts and methodologies that we sometimes see in the denialospher–even among real scientists who ought to know better. Much to my chagrin as a physicist, some of my fellows are among the most egregious offenders.

    What we need to realize is that scientific methodology–regardless of the science–is basically an exercise in controlling error. Jeffrey stresses control of variables as if that were an end in itself. It is not. Control of variables is a means for isolating cause for an effect. One can accomplish the same thing by establishing both correlation with a putative cause and the mechanism by which it operates. Correlation doesn’t establish causation–on that we agree. However, correlation plus a credible and verified mechanism can establish cause, which can subsequently be verified by successful predictions.

    Likewise, repeatability, independent replication, double-blind trials, random sampling and on and on…they are all strategies for controlling various types of error. People have been extremely creative in adapting the scientific method to areas never imagined by early practitioners. The important thing is to understand the goal and understand the sorts of errors we must negotiate for any subfield or investigation.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 11 Feb 2012 @ 8:52 PM


    “… you can use them as litmus tests to determine whether the person you are listening to is honest and knowledgeable…. somebody contradicting these facts may be dishonest or ignorant or both, but it’s usually not possible to tell which…. correctly assessing the reliability of your knowledge source is critical.”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 11 Feb 2012 @ 10:30 PM

  167. I’m sure these experiences are real and problematic. But so much of what needs to be taught is in fact uncontrovertble. I teach the science of climate change as part of a Sustainable Energy Law course at a law school in coal conutry. While I understand the pressures for K-12 education are not directly analogous, we do have a healthy skeptical student body and donor base. So I need to and do teach it in a “balanced” way. How that should translate for K-12 science classes:
    — Teach the five temp keepers’ actual data, and the leading temp reconstructions for our paleoclimatic history
    — Teach the Mauna Lao and other stations’ CO2 data, and the leading paleoclimatic assessments of past CO2 levels
    — Teach blackbody sensitivity and its bases (which even the Spencers and Lindzens agree with)
    — Teach other known and possible forcings, like the Milankovich Cycles, ocean and atmospheric cycles, solar irradiance levels and natural GHG and volcanic releasesl, and aeresol levels
    — Teach the concept of feedbacks, and discuss those we know that are positive (water vapor, albedo, permafrost, warmer oceans, soil activity, etc.), and those for which there is legitimate uncertainty (clouds)
    — Teach that projections as to how fast the changes could come and how severe the effects will be are just that, and make clear that these projections are based “only” on extrpolation of imperfect paleoclimatic observations and there is much legit scientific discussion on this point
    — Teach those things that some fear will be negative consequences, and those that some say will be beneficial consequences, of AGW

    I guess, in other words, just teach the facts. Don’t succomb to the politicization of the science, don’t shy from legitimate uncertainties, and don’t overstate the “consensus” that the consequences will be dire. Give them the names of skeptical scientists and the web addresses of skeptical sites (along with, obviously, the names of Hansen et al as well as this site and climateprogress). There are facts that can be taught that NO ONE should have a problem with, and resources to which inquiring minds ahould be directed.

    Comment by Buzz Belleville — 12 Feb 2012 @ 1:24 PM

  168. Buzz,
    I have no problem with your stated curriculum. I would just add that we need to teach them to be critical thinkers also. That should generate some good scientists.

    Comment by Dan H. — 12 Feb 2012 @ 4:34 PM

  169. My point is about understanding the nature of how scientific evidence is gathered and to highlight the difference between presenting causal relations and presenting plausible or even probable explanations for observed phenomenon. I am not questioning whether or not the later is or isn’t science, I am not even questioning the importance of this science. I am questioning the notion that there is no room for debate or alternative theories in a high school classroom when in comes to quantifying anthropogenic contributions to global warming. Moreover, I am questioning the comparison between teaching quantified contributions of anthropogenic global warming (what I understand to be the source of the debate) to the fight to properly teach evolution and the theory of natural selection.

    If I am a high school teacher and a student wants to debate whether consciousness is a property that evolved through random mutations to a neural network that did not enable subjective experience then I should be able to have a forum to do so. However, if, as a high school student, I stake the claim that evolution via natural selection is only a theory and that there is no causal evidence for it then I need to be better educated.

    In the same vein, if as a high school student I want stake the claim the solar variance may explain a significant part of late 20th century warming I should be given a forum. Alternatively, if as a high school student I deny that CO2 has radiative forcing properties I need to be better educated.

    When the theory of natural selection is used to explain speciation of californian lizards it is easy to quantify what is meant by the statement. First one can examine how their DNA has changed. Furthermore, in knowing their DNA repair mechanisms and having evidence from control driven studies on similar mechanisms it is easy to infer how environmental pressures would select for lizards that fit different niches.

    In my opinion some of the inferences made in climate science lack as solid a foundation of evidence, and lack the same tools for verification and comparison. Once again I am not claiming that this makes the science less worth while, I think that at this point in time it is simply younger and the system it is trying to explain is larger and less reducible.

    So, if a high school student wants to challenge the notion that the warming period in the last half of the century was driven mostly via man made CO2 emissions I think there is still room to do so. Sure, they will have to challenge a weight of evidence that is agreed upon by the vast majority of scientists but they are not wrong from the start. The reason they are not wrong is due to the nature of the evidence.

    Science was founded on the principals of skepticism and those should be encouraged through learning science. So teach high school students about the green house gas effect, show them the latest tools we have to quantify the net radiation entering our planet and show them the evidence for CO2 driven warming. Just don’t forget to tell them that there are other variables that effect radiative forcing and that while we have theories and some evidence to support them, we don’t yet understand all the ways in which they interact and we have very weak ‘skill’ in making future predictions to this point.

    Let’s enable the budding young future scientists to be skeptical of the claim that for a doubling of CO2 the earths temperature will rise 3-5 degrees. Because as much as we would like to have that sown up – we don’t.

    For the record, I have a very rudimentary understanding of climate science that is gleaned mostly from this site and its links. Nor am I an experienced scientist. I do, however, have a degree in philosophy in which I focused on the notion of ‘the nature of knowledge’ and ‘causation’, I have a masters in neurosciences – my first paper coming out this Wednesday in The Journal of Neuroscience, and I am a few short months away from becoming an MD.

    So, in my opinion, I have earned the write to comment on how my children are taught science in schools.

    Also, as someone who believes in the significant contribution on CO2 to recent and future warming but is still skeptical about the amplitude of modelled climate sensitivity I think there is a lot for me to learn from this forum. After all, it gets pretty boring when its just post after post of kool aid drinkers.

    When I go around and ask graduate students in sciences unrelated to climate science if they believe in anthropogenic global warming I get a 100% yes response. When I ask them on what bases, 90% of the time the only reason they can come up with is ‘that most scientists agree’. I don’t think we are failing to teach the ‘conclusion’ I think we fail to teach the rational.

    Comment by Jeffrey — 12 Feb 2012 @ 5:14 PM

  170. Gavin – “I can use satellite remote sensing to see how changes in composition in the real world are affecting radiative transfer through the real atmosphere.”

    What you can do is correlate changes in composition in the real world to changes in radiative transfer yet you still inappropriately use the word “affecting” as if these are causal discoveries.

    The lab experiment that you mention is a valid way to determine the radiative forcing effects of CO2 but it does not control for all the variables at play in the atmosphere…cloud cover, water vapour ect… and thus it can not be used to explain changes to our atmosphere it can only be used to support hypothesis about the reasons for climate change. I agree that this is a valid line of reasoning which can be very convincing but it is not the same as claiming for instance that HIV is difficult to cure because of evolution via natural selection. This claim is supported by evidence derived from experiments on the system it is attempting to describe.

    It is true that the vast majority of claims about natural selection in action are made without direct experimentation. They are made via inferences just as in climate science. However, our understanding of genetics enables us to make meaningful comparisons between species that simply can’t be made be made between your climate box and the atmosphere.

    It would be like taking the CERN experiments as evidence that solar variance causes climate forcing. As you point out tirelessly – this is beyond the scope of the experiment.

    [Response: I’m not sure what point you are making. I raised these examples to demonstrate that climate science has experimental and observational aspects completely analogous to your “yeast in petrie dish” example that you claimed gave evolution by natural selection some unique status. Yeast does not explain the Cambrian explosion, the role of epi-genetics in mammalian evolution, or any specific case of ecosystem evolution as a function of external pressures. Likewise, high-resolution spectrography does not – on it’s own – determine climate sensitivity or the rate of sea level rise over the next 50 years. How these are inferred and constrained are more complicated, as we have tried to demonstrate here many time. Are you now claiming that no inferred conclusions can ever be presented in a science class? That would be a radical notion. – gavin]

    Comment by Jeffrey — 12 Feb 2012 @ 5:44 PM

  171. Jeffrey,

    I love the way you dragged solar influence in. Is your medical specialty homeopathy?

    Comment by Jeffrey Davis — 12 Feb 2012 @ 9:20 PM

  172. What I would teach basic skills for calculating climate change. Limited of course to established science. I would not be filling the minds of budding scientists with your list of prognostications.

    Now if you provided me an engineering schematic of how all this worked and a long list of studies that supports the causes, and observation databases. I would have something to teach from. But it seems most of climate science these days is too worried somebody is going to find something wrong with such details.

    I might even teach the modeling theory. Something close to my own experience. My best advice on modeling is don’t believe too much what models tell you until they have been shown to be very skillful.

    We have astrologists that use a technique of hindcasting to do forecasting with. But that is just curve fitting. You need successful forecasting to claim skill.

    Comment by Bill Hunter — 13 Feb 2012 @ 12:21 AM

  173. “The lab experiment that you mention is a valid way to determine the radiative forcing effects of CO2 but it does not control for all the variables at play in the atmosphere…cloud cover, water vapour ect… and thus it can not be used to explain changes to our atmosphere”

    The only way the CO2 absorption we see in the lab, or calculate using Hitran and line byline models can NOT explain the differences caused by increasing CO2 from 280 ppmv to 390 ppmv in the atmosphere is if “cloud cover, water vapor ect” EXACTLY cancel those effects. CO2 isn’t going to magically behave differently in the atmosphere from what we see in the lab, and water vapor, clouds, etc aren’t going to simultaneously mimic the radiative effects of increased CO2, so that what we measure by satellite looks like what we expect from increased CO2, but is actually the result of “natural variability” or some other non anthropogenic cause.

    “In my opinion some of the inferences made in climate science lack as solid a foundation of evidence…..For the record, I have a very rudimentary understanding of climate science….”
    I suspect that it’s not actually your opinion, but rather the opinions of some other sources that you trust – Heartland, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Idso, Pielke, the 30,000 signers of the Oregon Petition, the 600 dissenters claimed by Inhofe, or some unnamed “scientist” quoted by Rush Limbaugh – especially since you didn’t specify which inferences you find lacking.

    If you were to be more specific about those inferences, I think that any number of the regular contributors here could disabuse you of your mis-, dis-, or lack of information; but deep down you probably already know that, and want to cling to cherished beliefs and the necessary rudimentary understanding little longer.

    “…if as a high school student I want stake the claim the solar variance may explain a significant part of late 20th century warming I should be given a forum.”
    No, you need to be better educated.

    Comment by Brian Dodge — 13 Feb 2012 @ 1:25 AM

  174. I’d recommend this for teaching high school kids a bit about probability, as reading along with Robert Grumbine on detecting trends.

    An Epistemologist Looks at the Hot Hand in Sports

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 13 Feb 2012 @ 6:22 PM

  175. Gavin – “I’m not sure what point you are making. I raised these examples to demonstrate that climate science has experimental and observational aspects completely analogous to your “yeast in petrie dish” example that you claimed gave evolution by natural selection some unique status.”

    I will try to be more clear on why these examples are not comparable to the debate. The concern from creationists was about whether or not the concept of natural selection and evolution would be taught as a theory or a fact. Clearly we have evidence from species that replicate quickly that natural selection does in fact occur and thus it is incorrect to claim that it is just a theory – it is not.

    The debate about how climate change should be taught does not concern whether CO2 causes radiative forcing, it rather concerns what we teach are children about the quantified contribution of anthropogenic CO2 to any past or future warming. Should we tell our kids that a doubling of CO2 will cause a 3-5 degree rise in earths temperature? Should we tell them that unless we curb CO2 emissions that Florida will be under water in 30 years? Should we say that the cause of late 20th century warming was solely CO2? I say we should be a little more careful with this type of knowledge, because the experiment to demonstrate the radiative forcing effects of CO2 does not specifically comment on how all the factors that come into play contributed individually to 20th century warming.

    [Response: Where are you getting this stuff from? It neither resembles anything the mainstream science or I have ever said, nor any syllabus I have ever seen. It appears you are protesting a completely imaginary creation. This might indeed be the problem here. – gavin]

    In response to Brain:

    Despite the fact that he loves making unfounded and untrue assumptions about me, Brian has a reasonable point in his second paragraph of post 173. I agree that ignoring the fact that CO2 has a net warming effect when its concentration increases in the atmosphere would be just has irresponsible as making specific statements of attribution for any specific period of warming. I agree – other climate ‘forcers’ don’t act in an equal and opposite direction to the influence of CO2 – but can we really say that we have a very good idea yet about how they do respond. Theories of climate sensitivity are very difficult to prove and considering how young they are and how difficult it is to reduce them to controlled lab experiments I think it wont be until we garner skillful models that we can stake the claim that we know what is going on.

    In relation to Gavins other points…

    I never said that attributing the Cambrian explosion to natural selection doesn’t involve significant inferences. That is why it is just the best theory we have and we don’t have the ability to claim for certain that this was the mechanism at play. I agree that anthropogenic CO2 emissions are the best theory we have for global warming – it certainly is a better supported theory than solar variance for instance. However, the supportive evidence for not experimental evolutionary claims are better supported than future predictions for climate change.

    The fact that all species share a common set of developmental and genetic processes makes observations about one species reducible to others.

    I think that for this reason basic statements about human evolution have a weight of evidence that I find more convincing than the evidence for climate sensitivity. Granted I don’t understand the later as well. If someone actually wants to do what this site is meant for – educating folks like me – please provide me with a laymans explanation of equally supportive evidence for the fact that the IPCC predicts that the climate will cause 3-7 times the effect of CO2 alone on global warming. I don’t think it exists.

    [Response: We have discussed constraints on climate sensitivity many times – and low estimates (less than 1.5 deg C for 2xCO2) are extremely difficult to reconcile with paleo-climate history – specifically the LGM, ice-age cycles or the Eocene, the PETM etc. The factors that influence sensitivity – predominantly water vapor and ice albedo feedbacks – are well observed phenomena on all sorts of scales, so while cloud feedbacks are more uncertain, there is no substantive body of evidence that they so large and negative that they outweigh the amplifying feedbacks. – gavin]

    In reference to mammalian epi-genetics I don’t think that the theory of natural selection is sufficient. Lamarckian theories of environmental influences on epi-genetic patterns is coming back in vogue.
    This is a perfect example of extending knowledge beyond its proper realm can be limiting or shot sighted.

    [Response: This is off-topic, but epi-genetics is not a Lamarckian theory. – gavin]

    Comment by Jeffrey — 13 Feb 2012 @ 10:15 PM

  176. I think that for this reason basic statements about human evolution have a weight of evidence that I find more convincing than the evidence for climate sensitivity. Granted I don’t understand the later as well.

    So let’s make it clear: you claim to understand evolutionary theory, therefore you are able to accept it.

    You admit you don’t understand the physics underlying scientific evidence for climate sensitivity in the range of say 2.5-4C per doubling of CO2.

    Since you don’t understand it, you reject it.

    You’ve convinced me! Obviously I’ll accept your argument from ignorance over science, since after all you’ve admitted ignorance!


    [edit – no personal attacks on other commenters please]

    Comment by dhogaza — 13 Feb 2012 @ 11:49 PM

  177. Nor is epi-genetics a theory at all. However, some epi-genetic phenomenon are better explained by Lammark’s original theory of environmental influence within instead of between generations. It would be fair to wonder whether these new discoveries were hindered or helped by the single mindedness of the view that natural selection is the only selective process for change within a genetic pool.

    [Response:It’s hard to figure out where you’re going with your arguments. You’re mixing up concepts in the inheritance of acquired characteristics (Lamarck), phenotypic plasticity, genetic diversity and epigenetics. Epigenetic discoveries are not new in any sense–they’ve long been known, and they are not synonymous with, nor exemplary of, Lamarck’s central ideas. And characterizing the current view of evolutionary theory as a “single minded view that natural selection is the only selective process for change within a genetic pool” is just wrong, as Kimura’s neutral theory and concepts of random drift and fixation, in conjunction with molecular evidence obtained over the last 40 years, have completely blown the doors off of any such dogmatism that might have existed. However, the biggest point in all of this is pretty much what Gavin and Chris have said–that there are many similarities between evolution and climate science in the sense that experimentally obtained evidence has tremendous power of explanation for higher level, non-experimental phenomena. That’s the main point here. Evolution may have a stronger evidence base from controlled experimentation–and I believe it does–but there are still vast scales of time across which no experimentation is possible and for which the microevolutionary processes that we understand from that experimentation, provide only the very broadest outlines regarding why evolution took the particular course that it did. It also does not mean that climate science does not have its own set of experimentally determined evidence that functions similarly. Indeed, pretty much all complex sciences are characterized by this synthesis of evidence across big jumps in hierarchical organization or system complexity.–Jim]

    Comment by Jeffrey — 14 Feb 2012 @ 12:51 AM

  178. Gavin – I will take another look at those climate sensitivity posts – thanks for the responses – I do have an earnest interest in furthering my understanding. I have looked at that stuff before and understand that there are reasons for the amplifications included in models. I just think that the evidence is hypothesis generating and not conclusive in its nature. Would you not agree that the merit of a feedback hypothesis should be derived from future predictive power not solely from explaining past phenomenon? Moreover, would you agree that even future predictions are limited by the uncertainty inherent in multi-factorial system making attribution a difficult task?

    [Response: of course. But whoever said otherwise? We have discussed model challenges and attribution issues. – gavin]

    These are different challenges than the theory of evolution faces.

    Comment by Jeffrey — 14 Feb 2012 @ 1:02 AM

  179. Jeffrey: “In my opinion some of the inferences made in climate science lack as solid a foundation of evidence, and lack the same tools for verification and comparison.”

    Absolute, utter [edit]

    Jeffrey: “I do, however, have a degree in philosophy in which I focused on the notion of ‘the nature of knowledge’ and ‘causation’”

    Anybody surprised?

    Jeffrey: “I have a masters in neurosciences – my first paper coming out this Wednesday in The Journal of Neuroscience, and I am a few short months away from becoming an MD.”

    [edit – please stay polite – disagree by all means, but just tone it down]

    you don’t understand the first thing about scientific evidence–to wit, the strongest evidence for a scientific theory is a strong record of confirmed predictions. Climate models meet that criterion.

    The models also have tremendous explanatory power. And here is where you fail to grasp the second basic tenet of scientific evidence: you have to consider ALL the evidence. If you do so, the current consensus theory of Earth’s climate presents a coherent picture of what is going on. There are uncertainties. There are puzzles. However the basic picture makes sense. There is NO alternative framework that even comes close to this. NONE! In that sense, the theory is precisely like the theory of evolution. And here is where you fail to comprehend yet a third basic tenet of scientific evidence–the measures for strength of evidence are comparative. The compare the power of one theory compared to that of another. When there is no alternative theory, we cannot fully comprehend how good the current theory is, because we do not see how badly it demolishes the opposition. The result is pseudoscientists sniping at it from the Discovery Institute or the Heartland Institute.

    Jeffrey, if you are going to be a doctor, there is one aspect of science you had better learn quick: The experts know best. The experts are those who publish regularly on the subject and who are cited by their peers. If you ever reach a level of consensus where 97% of experts agree on a treatment, and where not one professional society of related practitioners dissents, and where every national scientific/medical honorific society agrees explicitly, then you had better [edit] consider their advice VERY seriously. The experiences of people who DO science trump your [edit] philosophy degree.

    [Response: Ray, please tone it down. ]

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 14 Feb 2012 @ 7:39 AM

  180. For those bemused about Lamarck, and who don’t mind going a bit OT, background is here:

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 14 Feb 2012 @ 7:42 AM

  181. When someone resorts to nothing more than straw man examples such as “a doubling of CO2 will cause a 3-5 degree rise in earths temperature” or “Florida will be under water in 30 years” or “the cause of late 20th century warming was solely CO2” it is a tacit admission that they have no cogent coherent argument.

    Comment by Jim Eager — 14 Feb 2012 @ 11:26 AM

  182. Jeffrey-

    You have to keep in mind here that there are a number of distinct issues with regards to the relative confidence we have in the mechanisms of climate change. Furthermore, to the extent we are interested in its application to teaching high school, only a small number of those topics are suitable for students with virtually no physics or calculus background. Trying to get such students with no background to “think critically” about the water vapor feedback or what the true value of climate sensitivity is makes little sense. The fact is that there is not really an easy, adequate, and all-encompassing theory to explain why the upper atmosphere moistens in a warming world. There is no simple theoretical basis to distinguish whether sensitivity should be 4 degrees or 1 degree, and certainly it is not intuitive to “think through” what the closer answer should be.

    In the same way, a number of indirect methods such as fossil evidence or DNA matching must be used to assess likely evolutionary transitions in the deep past. Simply observing mutations in the lab is evidence of evolution, but is not a unifying theory of paleontology or evolutionary transition.

    Simple stuff like the greenhouse effect is well established (although teaching it the right way depends on your audience), and in the same way a number of issues are simple textbook material. However, the whole reason people still bother to do research (like any field) is that a lot of these questions all involve substantial work at the interface of modeling and observations. Constraining the true sensitivity is also aided by looking at climates during various time intervals in the past, and using a number of distinct methodologies.

    I am an no advocating for indoctrinating students into a single worldview, but it is simply not compelling to think climate change topics should be treated any differently than gravity, black holes, evolution, cell theory, the evolution of stars, plate tectonics, etc. All of these topics have well-established facts, and it would do an injustice to the student to pretend that every WUWT article or ‘pet theory’ had merit that we should let the kids decide for themselves. We don’t let them make up their mind on whether the moon is made of blue cheese. But we can also communicate uncertainties that are worth researching, not just in climate, but in any discipline.

    Comment by Chris Colose — 14 Feb 2012 @ 2:05 PM

  183. Heartland has the answer

    Comment by Pete Dunkelberg — 14 Feb 2012 @ 6:48 PM

  184. Getting back to the National Center for Science Education (NCSE). You remember, the original post. Science teaching is done where the “rubber meets the road,” i.e., in the classroom. I am sure that the NCSE would help any teacher find appropriate scientific information for teaching evolutionary theory or climate science but, in my opinion, where the NCSE really shines is mobilizing resources when a school board, or a county, or a state decides to mandate teaching the science of both sides when there is only one scientific side.

    You can yack on all you want about how you might teach climate science in a particular grade, but what do you do if you are required to teach conservative religion or Ayn Rand libertarianism in a science course? Steve

    Comment by Steve Fish — 14 Feb 2012 @ 10:04 PM

  185. Jeffery makes some excellent points here.

    One might equate the numerous projections of impending cataclysm some ( Ray for example) derive from the data to be the equivalent of Jeffery predicting that lizards will soon evolve into dragons which will devour us all!

    More realistically, I cannot imagine Jeffery predicting how many species will inhabit the earth in 1000 years, when we don’t even know how many exist today.

    [Response:Improper analogy, given that species number is driven by a vastly larger and fundamentally different set of drivers. In addition, even if we did know how many existed today, that wouldn’t matter much.–Jim]

    Of course, in a comment above, Gavin denies predicting any such adverse affects, apparently labeling Jeffery’s examples of them strawmen.

    Meanwhile, this site passively allows a renowned (yet anonymous) and regular contributing physicist make such outlandish predictions as though they were proven science, without any objection or correction. Those wild claims then become part of the narrative. That’s how the game seems to work, and it’s no wonder that more and more folks are skeptical.

    A man’s gotta know his limitations, and it seems many here do not.

    Comment by David Wright — 14 Feb 2012 @ 10:21 PM

  186. Ray your level of civility has denigrated past the point where you deserve a response. However, your comment about medical knowledge not only speaks to your ignorance but helps me make my original point.

    In medicine we have a nice rating scale for our evidence that accompanies all of our guidelines. Note that expert opinion is at the BOTTOM of the list. Note also that without CONTROLLED experimentation we recognize that the evidence lacks rigour and take that into account when making recommendations.

    Level I: Evidence obtained from at least one properly designed randomized controlled trial.
    Level II-1: Evidence obtained from well-designed controlled trials without randomization.
    Level II-2: Evidence obtained from well-designed cohort or case-control analytic studies, preferably from more than one center or research group.
    Level II-3: Evidence obtained from multiple time series with or without the intervention. Dramatic results in uncontrolled trials might also be regarded as this type of evidence.
    Level III: Opinions of respected authorities, based on clinical experience, descriptive studies, or reports of expert committees.

    [Response:That’s medicine, not environmental science. Different beasts entirely.–Jim]

    Comment by Jeffrey — 14 Feb 2012 @ 11:08 PM

  187. Am I blocked?

    Comment by Jeffrey — 14 Feb 2012 @ 11:09 PM

  188. Jeffrey appears to think the correlational studies the medical profession bases its phar-macol-ogical treatments on demonstrate causation, as if the human body was less complex than the planetary climate system. It is to laugh, to put it politely.

    Comment by flxible — 15 Feb 2012 @ 1:07 AM

  189. > without any objection or correction

    Er, no.
    Watch the right sidebar for inline responses, which may take a while.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 15 Feb 2012 @ 1:36 AM

  190. Every time I see a comment like #184, I wonder whether the writer ever gets outside. Crazy weather, melting ice, earlier Spring, acidifying oceans, species migrating poleward…and all this resulting from a fraction of the temperature increase we’re going to see.

    [Response:A very important point Walter. Lots of people talking about things they neither know, nor particularly care, about.–Jim]

    Comment by Walter Pearce — 15 Feb 2012 @ 6:50 AM

  191. David,
    I bowed out of this discussion a while ago, but continued to read the responses. IMO, yours was the best, as it seemed to capture the essence of this thread (and to some degree, the scientific field as a whole). Hopefully, people will take it to heart.

    Comment by Dan H. — 15 Feb 2012 @ 7:06 AM

  192. Jeffrey, I’ll cop to incivility, and I am sorry. However, do you have any idea how tired I am of having Dunning-Krugerites claim their bachelors in philosophy trumps real-world experience doing science. And thank you for making my point for me. Your fetishization of evidence standards in your chosen profession illustrates that your understanding of science lacks breadth as well as depth. What matters are the errors that one is trying to control, not the particular procedures by which this is done. Indeed, medical science is rife with examples of randomized, double blind, controlled trials that failed to yield good results.

    You are not alone in fetishizing particular standards. A certain string theorist whose name must not be spoken claims that because particle physics enshrines a 5 standard deviation of significance as the gold standard for a publishable result, that no result should be trusted if its significance is less than this amount. Pure, unadulterated crap!

    Evidence standards and procedures do not automatically convey form one subfield of science to another. Indeed, they may be neither necessary nor sufficient to guarantee good results. Over-reliance on procedure without understanding the underlying errors is a virtual guarantee that those errors will eventually bite you. If I were going to a doctor, I would want to make sure he understood that.

    The other thing that you had better learn quickly is that expertise matters. If you have 97% of the experts in a field agreeing on a proposition, you can pretty well take it to the bank. If, in addition, you have every professional society of related scientific fields endorsing that consensus, you are a fool as an outsider to challenge it. And if nearly every national and regional academy of science considers the result sufficiently trustworthy and important to weigh in, your foolishness is correspondingly magnified.

    Now in the case of the consensus model of Earth’s climate and its implication that anthropogenic climate change poses a threat, all of these things are true. What is more, anthropogenic warming was predicted 116 years ago. We are talking about something that was established science when Einstein posited the theory of special relativity. How smart do you think it is for someone with no understanding of Earth science to come in and challenge that result?

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 15 Feb 2012 @ 9:01 AM

  193. David Wright,
    I do not think we will have to wait on evolutionary timescales to see the effects of climate change. Already, 27% more of Earth’s land surface is in drought than in the 1970s–as predicted by the models. Of course, if you had the least familiarity with the science, you’d already know that.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 15 Feb 2012 @ 9:06 AM

  194. Well, well, and along comes a development that is very much on topic:
    Internal Heartland Documents Expose Climate Denial Funding Network

    From the Heartland Institute’s Strategy Memo comes this about teaching the science of climate change:

    “We are pursuing a proposal from Dr. David Wojick to produce a global warming curriculum for K-12 schools. Dr. Wojick is a consultant with the Office of Scientific and Technical Information at the U.S. Department of Energy in the area of information and communication science.”

    “His effort will focus on providing curriculum that shows that the topic of climate change is controversial and uncertain – two key points that are effective at dissuading teachers from teaching science.”

    From the horse’s mouth, as it were.

    and from the Recaptcha oracle: unclean rallmdb

    Comment by Jim Eager — 15 Feb 2012 @ 10:45 AM

  195. Speaking of the Iron Curtain:

    Leaked documents reveal Heartland Institute’s assault on climate science: ‘Dissuading teachers from teaching science’

    Desdemona wonders if the commercial mass media will give this story the same attention that the manufactured “Climategate” affair received.


    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 15 Feb 2012 @ 11:53 AM

  196. Dan H. says:

    I was not referring to “mainstream” issues as indoctrination, but rather those that exist on one extreme or the other (yes, both exist). Both extremes appear to deny or rationalize away that which is inconvenient to their cause. A clear examples is the BEST data, where one group highlighted that portion of the reports which showed rising temperatures during the 20th century, while the other focused on the lack of warming in the 21st century. Additionally, one group trumpeted the urban heat island paper, while the other the AMO paper. In psychology, this is called selective abstraction. …

    By your standards, which presentation of the last thirteen years in this graph is mainstream?

    Comment by JCH — 15 Feb 2012 @ 2:11 PM

  197. One thing I tell my students (in college classes) is that scientists don’t have PR firms, don’t do focus groups to find which buzz words will resonate with the emotions of the public. We deal with the data. If the data is telling us something, we follow the data. Sometimes we don’t like what the data tells us. We run through different hypotheses to see if we can explain the data another way. We make testable predictions and unfortunately for the planet, many have come true.

    I also run through how the industry “manufactures doubt.” Pointing to local variations in the weather and ignoring the rest of the planet, predicting dire economic consequences, ignore the cost benefits, use non-peer review science, use discredited scientific studies and myth as science fact, imply there is a global conspiracy, cheaper to live with the effects. These same tactics have been used for smoking and CFCs. And ask them to think about what they’ve heard, and if they recognize some of the methods used.

    Comment by Chris — 17 Feb 2012 @ 10:43 AM

  198. The analogy with evolutionary theory is apt. Evolution on a small scale can be demonstrated in the lab, with bacteria and varied nutrients on agar plates, or fruit flies and varied diets in screened cages. All you need for divergence to become so great that speciation occurs is time. If rain causes gullies, why not, given enough time, the Grand Canyon? Given enough time, you’d need some Divine Authority to prevent speciation and canyons. Believers of any faith are better off if science teachers present one view dogmatically. It’s easy, then, to dismiss the teacher as a dogmatic jerk. It’s the presentation of a range of purported explanations that’s most destructive of faiith. If you really want to teach science, present alternative theories without the ridicule.

    Lab experiments do not similarly demonstrate anthropogenic global warming. The Earth system has too many feedbacks (ocean heat sinks, geochemical interactions with the atmosphere, cloud cover, snow over, biological uptake, etc.) that do not occur in a class jar.

    Teachers, your students are not your children. The bond between children and parents is crucial to the life prospects of each child. Tread carefully when you propose to fray that bond.

    Comment by Malcolm Kirkpatrick — 17 Feb 2012 @ 12:35 PM

  199. Malcolm Kirkpatrick wrote: “Evolution on a small scale can be demonstrated in the lab, with bacteria and varied nutrients on agar plates, or fruit flies and varied diets in screened cage … Lab experiments do not similarly demonstrate anthropogenic global warming. The Earth system has too many feedbacks …”

    With all due respect, your small scale demonstration of biological evolution does in fact sound comparable to a similarly small scale demonstration of the “greenhouse effect” of CO2, using glass vessels containing air with varying concentrations of CO2.

    Yes, it’s true that while such a simplified demonstration of the basic “greenhouse effect” of CO2 demonstrates the underlying mechanism, it does leave out all the feedbacks and complexities that come into play in real-world anthropogenic global warming.

    But, the simplified demonstration of evolution that you describe — with a single species subjected to a single environmental variable — likewise demonstrates the underlying mechanisms of mutation and natural selection, but also leaves out all the complexities that come into play in real-world biological evolution.

    Malcolm Kirkpatrick wrote: “The bond between children and parents is crucial to the life prospects of each child. Tread carefully when you propose to fray that bond.”

    I’m not sure what this means.

    If you are a science teacher, teaching biological evolution as you describe, and a student says “My mommy and daddy say that evolution is a secular humanist fraud and the Earth is 6000 years old and God created dinosaurs and humans on the same day”, do you just say “Oh, OK. Fine” so as not to “fray the bond” between that student and his parents? Do you really think that doing so helps that student’s “life prospects”?

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 17 Feb 2012 @ 3:28 PM

  200. “If you really want to teach science, present alternative theories without the ridicule.”

    If they are workable “alternates”, then yes. But if they are politically-mandated nonsense, lacking in any scientific basis?

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 17 Feb 2012 @ 4:13 PM

  201. Malcolm Kirkpatrick says: ” The bond between children and parents is crucial to the life prospects of each child. Tread carefully when you propose to fray that bond.”

    Uh, do you really mean to imply that filial piety can only survive if the children believe in the same lies and foolishness as their parents?

    And you cannot seriously mean to say that science can’t be true unless you can demonstrate it in a test tube, can you?

    And finally, I don’t think anyone has any problems with alternative scientific theories being taught to the consensus theory of Earth’s climate (of which anthropogenic warming is an inevitable prediction). Do you know of any? BecauseI really have a hard time understanding how “anything but CO2” passes muster as a scientific theory.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 17 Feb 2012 @ 4:37 PM

  202. “If you really want to teach science, present alternative theories without the ridicule.”

    Ah, but Malcolm, that’s just it, when it comes to earth’s energy budget, carbon cycle, climate and the greenhouse effect there are no coherent and internally consistent alternative theories that can explain the body of experimental and observational evidence without contradiction.

    At most all you can do is mention a list of individual and largely mutually contradictory objections with little or no evidence that supports them.

    Comment by Jim Eager — 17 Feb 2012 @ 5:16 PM

  203. To the question “So What’s A Teacher to Do?” the asnswer is very simple: do what teachers always do when a students says “Sir, my dad says that….”

    Be prepared, be prepared, be prepared, AND be respectful.
    If I teach evolution and I know there are people in my class who have religious problems with it ou talk with them and explain them that it’s ok for them not to believe it, but that they should know the topic and understand it, in the same way that in History classes you learn about Buddhism without having to believe it. A variation of this has always worked.

    Never mock the parents and never make the kids feel stupid. They will forget 99% of the things of teach them, but they’ll never forget that you were a good person

    Comment by Rodrigo — 17 Feb 2012 @ 7:10 PM

  204. Science communication: How do we do it better?

    “Science Is Not Enough”
    I recommend the video of the Webcast from the current AAAS conference, which is available from: Probably some of you were there in the audience.
    I’m not making any comments about the various speakers. I leave you to make your own evaluations.

    My question: Who are the current climate communicators who can grab and convince an audience?

    Comment by AIC — 20 Feb 2012 @ 1:53 PM

  205. If you don’t want your children lied to, put them in private schools.

    Comment by Douglas C — 22 Feb 2012 @ 7:22 PM

  206. Because as we all know, private schools are all alike and all teach only the one truth.

    Er, which truth?

    Never mind. I’ve got the feeling there’s a pattern with userids of the form firstname-initial. Somehow when I get into a conversation with that kind of userid, I start to doubt my Turing Test ability after a while, generally.

    Someone else may be able to help out here.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 22 Feb 2012 @ 10:12 PM

  207. Hank:

    Er, which truth?

    The earth is only 6,000 years old truth????

    Comment by dhogaza — 23 Feb 2012 @ 12:16 AM

  208. “Teachers, your students are not your children. The bond between children and parents is crucial to the life prospects of each child. Tread carefully when you propose to fray that bond.”

    Any half competent teacher knows full well that they should avoid saying “Well, that’s stupid!” whether it’s a child’s own view or one they’re likely reciting as a family mantra.

    The only way to deal with correct curriculum versus child or family’s protestations is to be straightforward. In exactly the same way as we daily fend off the wails or mumbles of ‘But algebra’s useless.’

    This is the curriculum.
    This is what you’ll be tested on.
    This is what you need to know to progress in this subject.
    If you want to work on something else, do it on your own time.

    There are polite ways to convey this message. If that doesn’t have the desired result, more direct ways must be used.

    As for teaching any controversy. Teenagers must be the worst people in the world for dealing with issues in a balanced way. They’re the most judgmental (and dictatorial) people you’re ever likely to deal with. If you want your science or maths lessons to be proxy personal development sessions, all well and good. But most teachers need to get through the curriculum, revise it, test it, do some of it over again. And there goes all the time available.

    Comment by adelady — 23 Feb 2012 @ 1:34 AM

  209. #206–“Somehow when I get into a conversation with that kind of userid, I start to doubt my Turing Test ability after a while, generally.”

    Say it ain’t so, Hank!

    Seriously–though that’s an ironic word to apply!–LOL.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 23 Feb 2012 @ 10:14 AM

  210. Conservatives especially can make any subject “controversial” by saying it is a liberal idea. Then mainstream media hesitate to cover the subject at all, fearing to wade into a “controversial” area and get branded as supporting the liberal position (just by bringing it up). It is a tricky situation and conservatives, especially the big propaganda media of Fox and Limbaugh, know well how to play this game.

    In a different context, big tobacco make the link between tobacco and cancer “controversial”. And they constantly said there was doubt about the link. That was all it took for media to shy away from covering it, or suggesting there was a link. With the big consolidated media of today this is not hard to do. Especially for players with clout and money.

    Comment by William P — 28 Feb 2012 @ 4:26 AM

  211. “Teach the controversy” = “Cover the controversy” = “Puff the controversy?”

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 28 Feb 2012 @ 11:48 AM

  212. I’m not as bothered by some of the “teach the alternative” legislation that gets considered (frequently) or passed (occasionally) for the schools. I think it presents a valuable opportunity to discuss the specific arguments on both sides, and also the overarching question as to how school curricula get determined and how “truth” is arrived at. A sharp student will be able to spot the weaker argument, simply on its merits. I think all of this can be a valuable contributor to students becoming truly educated, rather than simply indoctrinated.

    As to the specifics, if those of us who believe that climate change is real are right, exposure to news – even biased news – will, over time, show the more rational students (all of them, if the school is doing a good job) which of the alternatives is more likely to be correct. In the unlikely event that we’re wrong, the students will have been well served by being presented with the alternative.

    Comment by Floyd Earl Smith — 4 Mar 2012 @ 1:32 AM

  213. PS Respect, however, to the argument given at the end of #208.

    Comment by Floyd Earl Smith — 4 Mar 2012 @ 1:35 AM

  214. Relevant, though in the higher ed realm:

    (Also previously commented upon at RC.)

    What is interesting (apart from the number of folks who are willing–nay, eager–to characterize dishonest teaching as noble skepticism) is that the CASS report, referred to in the story linked, demonstrates the connections between the instructors and Heartland (and a couple of other denialist cabals, including the now-defunct ‘Friends of Science.’)

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 4 Mar 2012 @ 6:21 AM

  215. Floyd Earl Smith,
    Well, except, climate denialism is not science. It is entirely predicated on logical fallacies:
    1)Ad hominem fallacy (e.g. assuming that all scientists are “lefties” or basing arguments on the “Al Gore is fat” motif)
    2)Argument from consequences fallacy (positing that addressing climate change means the end of capitalism, etc.)
    3)the only way to overturn their “hypothesis” of “anything but CO2” is to prove a negative

    Their arguments should be treated in logic class or in abnormal psych, not in earth or physical science.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 4 Mar 2012 @ 10:33 AM

  216. You know those fake “science” books called NIPCC that look just like the UN IPCC books? They are using those over at George Mason University, and not in a course on propaganda. I have shown these books to some teachers at my school, and they can see how deceptive this is, but we are not young college kids. I am going to show this to my administrators and tell the guidance department about it. This is sick. They are inculcating propaganda disguised as “science.”

    Here is a post from Deep Climate. Read starting here:

    Comment by Snapple — 4 Mar 2012 @ 12:18 PM

  217. Floyd Earl Smith:

    In the unlikely event that we’re wrong, the students will have been well served by being presented with the alternative.

    Which alternative? In addition to Ray’s points, consider that there’s no coherent alternative argument being made by denialists. It’s cosmic rays. It’s natural variation. It’s the urban heat island effect – we’re not warming at all! It’s station drop-out – we’re not warming at all! It’s fraudulent data manipulation – we’re not warming at all! Of course we’re warming, and it’s partially due to CO2, but it’s not as big a factor as climate scientists believe. We are warming, and CO2’s a cause, but CO2’s plant food and warmth accelerates growth and it’s a good thing! It’s been constantly warming since the LIA.

    I could go on for a page or so.

    Which of these conflicting alternatives to you propose to be taught alongside the coherent picture of climate science that derives from well-understood physics?

    Comment by dhogaza — 4 Mar 2012 @ 12:30 PM

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