It’s good the WSJ requires a subscription, so not many will be reading the article, only rich people who are already in permanent denial of GW.
Can you get a copy of the article for us poor people, so we can have a good laugh too?
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 3 Feb 2006 @ 7:45 PM
A Global Warming Worksheet By HOLMAN W. JENKINS, JR.
February 1, 2006; Page A15
As used by the media, “global warming” refers to the theory not only that the earth is warming, but doing so because of human industrial activity.
How can a reasonably diligent citizen assess this claim? Measuring average global temperature is not an easy matter. It’s a big planet, with lots of ways and places to take its temperature. Scientists, naturally, have to rely on record keepers in decades past, using different instruments, to produce what has become the conventionally accepted estimate of a one-degree rise over the past century.
But even if a change is measured, how do we know it’s manmade? Giant, mile-thick sheaths of ice have come and gone from North America in recent millennia. In our unstable and evolving planet, temperature is often either rising or falling. Who knows whether a trend is the product of human activity or natural?
The answer is nobody. All we have is hypothesis. Let’s be honest: A diligent and engaged citizen judges these matters based on the perceived credibility of public figures who affiliate themselves with one view or another. Less engaged citizens, whose views are reflected in polls showing a growing public concern about global warming, are simply registering the prevalence of media mentions of global warming.
In both cases, it may be rational to assume there wouldn’t be so much noise about global warming unless responsible individuals had validated the scientific claims. This is a rational assumption, but not necessarily a reliable one. Politicians adopt views that are popular in order to be popular. Scientists subscribe to theories that later are proved to be wrong. There are “belief” processes at work even in the community of climate researchers.
So how else might an intelligent layperson judge the matter?
Well, he could begin by evaluating the claim that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased from 0.028% to 0.036% without necessarily taking the measurements himself. This finding is so straightforward, it’s reasonable to assume it would have been widely debunked if unreliable.
Next, the claim that this should lead to higher temperatures because of the heat-absorbing qualities of the CO2 molecule. A reasonable person might be tempted to take this finding on faith too, for a different reason: because even ardent believers in global warming accept that this fact alone wouldn’t justify belief in manmade global warming.
That’s because all things are not equal: The climate is a vast, complex and poorly understood system. Scientists must resort to elaborate computer models to address a multiplicity of variables and feedbacks before they can plausibly suggest (choice of verb is deliberate here) that the net effect of increased carbon dioxide is the observed increase in temperature.
By now, a diligent layperson is equipped to doubt any confident assertion that manmade warming is taking place. Models are not the climate, and may not accurately reflect the workings of the climate, especially when claiming to detect changes that are small and hard to differentiate from natural changes.
Note this doesn’t make our conscientious citizen a global warming “denier.” It makes him a person who recognizes that the case isn’t proved and probably can’t be proved with current knowledge.
He’s also entitled to turn his attention now to the nonscientific factors affecting public professions of certainty about manmade global warming.
Nobody doubts, for instance, that when Bill Clinton asserts global warming is the greatest threat to mankind, he’s consulting not the science but a purported “consensus” of scientists. A layman asks himself: What can “consensus” mean if it asserts a judgment nobody is equipped to confidently make?
Likewise, a study that made news worldwide last month purported to show the death of frogs from warming. It did not show the death of frogs from manmade warming — the study contributed zero evidence one way or another on a human role in climate change. You would have thought otherwise from the media reports. Ditto Al Gore, who offers a traveling slide show (now a movie) in which he catalogs possible dire consequences of global warming in non sequitur fashion to persuade audiences that climate change is caused by human activity and would yield to human action.
Myanna Lahsen, an anthropologist who spent several years observing and interviewing staff at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, shows in a new paper that even climate modelers themselves, who appreciate better than anyone the limits of their work, nonetheless slip into unwarranted certainty in public. She quotes one: “It is easy to get caught up in it; you start to believe that what happens in your model must be what happens in the real world. And often that is not true.”
All this explains why, inevitably and unfortunately, today’s debate over global warming revolves almost exclusively around the status and motives of spokesmen for opposing viewpoints, rather than the science and its limits. Yet this is a story of progress.
Tony Blair, whose government has been a steady sounder of climate warnings, now says he recognizes the improbability of nations sacrificing their economic growth based on uncertain climate science.
He and many others also recognize that the problems associated with climate change (whether manmade or natural) are the same old problems of poverty, disease, and natural hazards like floods, storms and droughts. Money spent directly on these problems is a much surer bet than money spent trying to control a climate change process that we don’t understand.
A final thought that probably won’t please the environmentalists: Whatever the truth of climate change turns out to be, today’s vast investment in climate research will likely lead someday to technologies that really will allow us to alter local and global weather.
Good gravy. So “today’s vast investment in climate research will likely lead someday to technologies that really will allow us to alter local and global weather”? I didn’t know that you all had the power, and I didn’t know that that was in the scope of your work. This editorial could be used in journalism school (Mr. Jenkins did go to one) as a textbook example of cherry picking, misinterpretation, and if we look hard enough we might even be able to find a straw man.
And Lynn, I am afraid that the WSJ editorial pages are read faithfully by those who hold the power these days. How does one counter these writers? Can some key (nonscientist) opinion leaders be converted? Challenges indeed, and I am glad that RC is doing is part.
Likewise, in the U.S. we can point to a lack of a clear chain of command and “central focal point” in dealing with the public on global warming.
What agency in the U.S. has “central focal point” authority in dealing with the public on global warming? NOAA? EPA? NASA? None.
If the U.S. had an agency with some authority as the “central focal point” on global warming we most likely would not see an article like the one above.
According to Dr. Jim Hansen, the first line in NASA’s mission statement is to “understand and protect our home planet”. I think NASA needs to be the “central focal point” in the U.S. on global warming. The functions of NOAA and EPA in dealing with people on global warming should be supportive, mainly in education and enforcement of NASA decisions.
One opinion-influencing factor that will change (as far as we know) is the increasing global temperature. I’m wondering what temperature rises it will take to have particular pschological influence. The whole degrees are the obvious ones but even then their influence is limited by the view “why worry about one degree, it varies by much more than that so how could it cause a problem?” In any case, it won’t get to 1 degree C warming until about 2015 so this factor won’t change much for a long time.
Re #7. That is true, but all one needs is one unseasonably cold month in one place and suddenly it’s “Yeah, now where’s your global warming.”
Back to the subject, does the WSJ offer rebuttals? Wouldn’t a guest column by Dr. Hansen or one of the writers of this blog be nice. But I realize that the WSJ opinion page is not exactly balanced, unlike the opinion pages of the so-called liberal papers.
If you read RealClimate, Mr. Jenkins, the bottom-line question that you and others of your ilk need to address is this: Is there any shred of evidence that a doubling of natural atmospheric CO2 levels will not cause dangerous (albeit unpredictable) climate change? – or that uncertainties in climate science are biased toward exaggerating the effects of climate change? And unless and until such evidence exists, is there any rational basis for assuming that the effects of CO2 doubling will be benign – or that it will be easier to “adapt” than to avoid such doubling? (I’m sure the editors of RealClimate would be happy to post your response.)
How many times have I heard a skeptic say something like “. . . climate is a vast, complex, and poorly understood system . . .” and then just slightly later conclude that, somehow, he understands it well enough to know global warming isn’t happening?
But there is another assumption, often not stated, that slowing down emission growth means sacrificing economic growth. That is simply not necessary, as the Rocky Mountain Institute and others have shown repeatedly: energy efficiency and renewable sources can make us healthier, wealthier, and safer, if we enact policies to put them to use.
Wow! Wall Street journal claims science is bunk! That “Who knows whether a trend is the product of human activity or natural?” They do not even attempt to summarize or evaluate. They just declare, “The answer is nobody.”
They then show their ignorance of scientific structure, “All we have is hypothesis.” Sorry, WSJ, we have facts and logic. That takes it to “a theory”, which is all we have on any subject. All science is a model of reality, a contraction, less than perfect. not exact.
But the WSJ hits the real problem on the head, “Let’s be honest: A diligent and engaged citizen judges these matters based on the perceived credibility of public figures who affiliate themselves with one view or another. Less engaged citizens, whose views are reflected in polls showing a growing public concern about global warming, are simply registering the prevalence of media mentions of global warming.”
Here they are undeniably correct, either way you look at it. But let us not praise them for the truth since they use it to supress the truth. Whether mankind is totally responsible or capable of changing the outcome, we should try to understand and correct it now, before it is too late – and too late is soon.
ID (“Intelligent Design”) is true, though! As I recall, the WSJ has published several articles on that! And, some WSJers even say that the “resurrection” of Jesus is a historical fact!! Okay, I am getting “off topic” here again…not that I think that such a person ever lived. (That was a “disclaimer,” by the way.)
Jenkins says one thing that strikes me as very apt. “A diligent and engaged citizen judges these matters based on the perceived credibility of public figures who affiliate themselves with one view or another.” Certainly the arcane details of the forcings, feedbacks, and carbon isotopes can quickly lose an ordinary citizen, but the credibility of the various actors in the debate over global warming is easily apparent. Fred Singer, Pat Michaels, and Steve Milloy, on the one hand, and Hansen, Thompson and Keeling on the other; NASA, NOAA, and the IPPC, versus SEPP, Envirotruth, and CO2 science; Tech Central Station and the Wall Street Journal, in contrast to Realclimate, Science and Nature. By this analysis alone, a diligent layperson can see that arguments against climate science are largely a think-tank media campaign by ideologically driven spokesman, while the theory of global warming is the work of the credible scientists with a proven history of integrity. In a debate between think tank media campaigns, political appointees, and qualified scientists, diligent citizens would do well to listen to the scientists.
#2 Of course “. . . climate is a vast, complex, and poorly understood system . . .” . ThatÂ´s why the Precautionary Principle is so important. People many times forgets the chemistry of Earth has been tremendously altered by man in these about 50-100 last years. Not only CO2 has a strong influence. With a minimum knowledge about everyday life we can realize that millions of synthetic compunds (including many gaseous ones)are inducing alterations in the behaviour of the planet systems. And only ignorance can lead people to think that 1 degree C or 0,0XX of some compounds are negligible quantities.
Natural causes are there warming the planet of course. We are only helping to worsen the trend.
Michael Seward wrote … Fred Singer, Pat Michaels, and Steve Milloy, on the one hand, and Hansen, Thompson and Keeling on the other; NASA, NOAA, and the IPPC, versus SEPP, Envirotruth, and CO2 science;” …
To me personally, it would make a lot more sense to break some of the agencies into pieces, then put the pieces into categories like SCIENCE vs WHATEVER.
I’d group NCDC, CMDL (both in NOAA) with GISS and IPPC into the SCIENCE category, and put NOAA’s NWS (including NHC, CPC, CDC) in with SEPP, Envirotruth, the Association of State Climatologists and CO2 science into the WHATEVER category. NOAA headquarters would be grouped with NWS into WHATEVER.
It’s curious that he thinks climate science is incapable of describing and attributing large-scale changes in climate to cause, but then has faith that climate science will allow us to alter climate at will. That seems kind of cart-before-the-horse-ish to me.
Re #16: Citizens such as Mr. Jenkins in the WSJ decide that, despite the warnings from science, they just don’t know for certain what is going to happen with climate and AGW. But then they conclude that this carefully groomed ignorance justifies continuing an uncontrolled, unscientific, irreversible experiment on the one, and only one, life support system on our entire home planet.
To subject oneself to such an experiment, such as smoking a cigarrette, is irresponsible, but allowable. To subject a few random neighbors to another, such as driving under the influence, is irresponsible, and thankfully illegal. To subject your six billion neighbors to such an experiment, Mr. Jenkins’ conclusion, is stupefyingly immoral.
Mark, I just drove to Birmingham (UK) and back. It was no experiment, I needed to do it just as I need to keep the house a bit above freezing. Those nearest to me will tell you I do not waste a penny these days. I also used to smoke, not as an experiment but a stupid habit and (long ago) when the data was published that showed it would likely kill me, I quit.
Show me the data! Not just the conclusions and expert speak. No one doubts that smoking kills not because the experts say so but because all the data upon which they base their findings is publicly available and big as they are the tobacco lobby has not managed to disprove the findings. If you really want to save the planet press for full public disclosure. If the data is incontravertable the sceptics will wither – but it cuts both ways.
[Response: I very much doubt that the tobacco data is indeed publiclly available online. Or that if it were, you'd have any chance of interpreting it. OTOH the temperature data is: http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/ for some - William]
I became exasperated by a newspaper’s business section (not the WSJ) having numerous articles ridiculing the concept of global warming so I wrote to them saying something like:
“For 20 years a growing number of climatologists have been saying ‘based on our understanding of how climate works, we expect temperatures to increase’. And so far their predictions seem to have been justified. Meanwhile, other climatologists have been saying ‘you’re wrong!’ but have been unable to come up with a clear refutation and have refused to make predictions of their own.
Suppose there were two groups of economists and one group said ‘based on our understanding of the economy, these are our predictions for the stock market’ and for 20 years they had been generally correct. A second group, however, had been saying ‘you’re wrong’ but refused to say why or to make predictions of their own.
Which group of economists would you be more inclined to listen to?”
The letter did not get published but there was a drop in the number of articles denying the possibility of global warming.
Forget for a moment the bias in the article. The author makes a good point, people do not understand the science and as such they tend to agree according to their like or dislike for the proponents of the different views. In things like smoking and the ozone layer the cause and effect relation, although debated for some time, was obvious, and the public accepted the science. Global warming is differente, it’s very hard to convince people that 0.5C is a concern when temperatures around the year vary by more than 30C. And for those that try to use a warm winter in the USA as an indication of climate change, there was snow last week in Lisbon, something that had not happened for 52 years. People tend to have a understanding of nature linked to unusual events, not the most frequent.
Despite its obvious motivations, the WSJ article does indeed show how most people perceive the subject. And by the way, don’t expect that governments will allocate resources unless the problem becomes really serious. This quote in aetiology blog on science blogs about the possibility of the avian flu pandemic sort of defines the state of affairs:
“Until then, we have lots of groups clamoring loudly about their problems (and the climate change community must be the loudest and most annoying, I admit), of which Avian Flu is only January’s flavor of the month.”
Climate change is just one of many problems that the public views as being important or not. Politicians will only really get involved when (1) things get so bad that there is no way to ignore the problem, or (2) when the scientific community agrees on the truly important details. Luckily we will reach point (2) before point (1).
Caio de Gaia makes a strong point, people pay attention to the unusual, which is why events such as large hurricanes have a powerful impact. Right now Katrina is the event driving public discourse. Both sides of the policy debate (RPJr, Don Kennedy) are trying to set their own frame around the issue, as is the case for the science side (Emmanuel vs. Gray). A wonderful tag team match.
They WSJ a bit behind the times in LaLaLand. The new meme in wingnuttia is that a global warming would be a good thing. Everybody likes a nice warm day at the beach. If we can have those in January in New Jersey, so much the better. In fact, since my house is in Eastern PA, maybe I’ll wind up with beach-front property some day! Awesome!
Re #13 — I could have done without “Off topic, but the WSJ and capitalism are radical religions that are destroying the world.” Enough contrarians are already saying that global-warming scientists want to promote socialism. We don’t need crackpots telling them they’re right.
I find it interesting that here in West Virginia we are having the mildest winter since I’ve been here (25 years). In contrast, my German exchange student learned from her parents that Germany is experiencing the worst winter in recent history. Rather than global warming, which isn’t well understood, how about climate destabilization? That’s not well understood, either, but is more easily observed. We might do well to consider the suggestions of Rocky Mountain Institute. They seem to know whereof they speak.
The WSJ piece is so funny…and revealing. The new denialst argument, now that nearly all skeptical scientists have become GW believers, is we don’t need scientists; any intelligent layperson can figure out whether or not GW is happening. According to Jenkins GW is not happening, because atmospheric CO2 has only increased from .028% to .036%.
Well, any intelligent layperson can figure that out: that’s a 29% increase (.036 – .028 = .008 & .008/.028 = .29 or 29%). Now, all reasonably educated laypersons should know (I know it & I didn’t even take geology) that the natural atmospheric GHGs warm the earth by 30 degrees & keep us alive. So a 29% percent increase in the most significant (forcing-wise) of them, is really big…& scary.
I guess many other factors reduce that whopping 29% impact, or we’d be stewing in steam-cooker earth. But I, unlike, Jenkins, defer to scientists to spend 10 years beyond high school getting a good education in the sciences, then study the problem diligently for many years, then come up with conclusions. I defer to their judgment, not Jenkins’s. Sorry, pal. Perhaps you could teach me a little about journalism. Oh yeah, my father was a journalist. I remember him teaching me: “what, where, when, who, and why.” It’s time journalists got back to the basics, rather than making up some cock-eyed lay-science.
Jenkins also makes the argument we should be spending money on floods and such. Well, we’d have more money to spend on that if we’d just reduce our GHGs by becoming energy/resource efficient/conservative — which can be done by factor 4 or even 10 without lowering our productivity or living standard – see http://www.natcap.org
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 5 Feb 2006 @ 11:47 AM
Re #28 Skeptics may have sepsis when infected with poisonous ideas. Or maybe they are comparable to septic tanks.. they accumulate the garbage or waste the denialists say.. Well, English is not my language.
Many comments here, as always, are very good.
RE#29 Climate destabilization could be in this case a kind of sub-category for GW, as it could be to Global Freezing. These events happen to contrarrest variations in climate which follow a trend. For me it is thermodynamics.
And in both cases one could see extreme events.
Real climate experts, please tell me if I am wrong. I could be wrong. Thanks.Regards
#29, That is not what I see. So far Continental air masses have not merged, as they usually do each winter. Instead of a Siberian in origin air mass mergin with a North American one, we have smaller cold air zones from Alaske to Scandinavia, Winter air from the continents were kept apart by Arctic Ocean flows. What we learn from this is warming of one area of the world, likely above the Arctic Ocean with thinner ice and more open water, changes the climate everywhere South, Much like ENSO affects a good deal of the world. But at the base of it all, is a warming originating in total darkness, North of the biggest Continent still bathed with more sunlight. which has become isolated, leaving the heat and vapour from the North Pacific, not in any “cycle” or phase that I read about, to inundate North American West Coast with rain and the rest of North America with warmer air.
Lynn (#30) made a point about Jenkins’ insinuation that because CO2 is a small proportion of the atmosphere it can’t have a strong influence on climate. I think the ozone hole warnings were generally well received by laypersons. Atmospheric ozone declined something like 5%. I have no idea what that is in ppm (my googling turned up a range of 0.001 ppm to 0.125 ppm in the atmosphere). Were people able to overlook small concentrations then in accepting the scientists’ warnings?
I wonder if that could be a topic for a post — the political side could be left out, but maybe the two issues could be compared quantitatively. Let’s see, % change in the atmosphere, absolute concentrations, other gases that have similar effects, natural versus antrhopogenic emission/destruction, time to recovery, quality of sampling, strength/weakness of historical record, contradictory data, model quality and comparisons to actual data, biases of scientists (I don’t remember anybody claiming that scientists were conjuring the ozone hole to ensure funding, but maybe people claimed that?), portrayal of the scientific issues/uncertainties in the media… there may be many more apolitical comparisons that would be interesting. If, from a scientific standpoint, the two things are comparable, we might be able to deduce the source of current ‘resistance’ with respect to scientific findings on AGW.
Re # 20, who reasonably requested: “Show me the data!”
The data is all here at realclimate.org. It’s under the various “Categories” on the right hand side near the top of very page on this site. And for a good summary of AGW data and models, I can’t beat the talk by Jim Hansen in December 2005 (www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/keeling_talk_and_slides.pdf) that got him in trouble with the NASA censors. This might or might not be enough to convince you and many others.
But it certainly won’t convince everyone, no matter how much data piles up in the coming years. In the U.S. about half the population still disbelieves Darwin after 150 years, and speaking of tobacco, several tobacco company CEOs testified, under oath, in 2005, that they did not believe that smoking causes cancer!
We have our work cut out for us. Anybody here know any marketing?
AGW skeptic Fred Singer of SEPP is (or was) also an ozone skeptic. He links a 1992 letter or article by Candace Crandall, which states, Is the theoretical understanding of this phenomenon good enough to make predictions? Obviously not. And was this press announcement really necessary? NASA official Michael Kurylo opined that it was important to warn the American public. Some might think of a less charitable explanation-such as NASA budgets and the necessity of cozying up to Sen. Al Gore.
The Twin Cities population was subjected to another on slot of global warming skepticism over the weekend by meteorologists, especially FOX, NBC, and ABC. They’re using a spell of cooler weather (near the 30 year daily average temperatures for the date) in claiming these cooler reading balance out the January 2006 warmest of record temperatures, for records which began in the 1890s. From what I read and hear, the local state of Minnesota climatologist and NWS offices are saying nothing, which is the same as giving support to the false perceptions people are getting from meteorologist holding on to their climate change skeptics views and dishing them out from time to time to gain popularity by making people feel that everything is okay. It’s not okay.
Somewhat like Jenkins, I feel we do not know enough yet to be certain there is, or there is not global warming, and for sure do not know enough to say the changes are caused by human activity. I wonder how many of those who are so totally convinced that humans are causing the changes – and that humans can reverse whatever it is that is happening – have taken the time to investigate the actual temperature records as they have been recorded by weather station personnel over the years. I have investigated these actual temperature records from hundreds of US locations and dozens of locations from other nations. There is no doubt about the gradual temperature rise during the decades from about 1970 through th 1990′s. No one can deny that. Neither can anyone deny the facts that the in many/most locations, the temperature peaked in about 1940, went down for the next couple of decades, then began to climb through the 1980′s and most of the 1990′s.
When you analyze the actual annual average temperatures of locations having more than 100 years of such data, you will learn that the claimed increase of about 1 degree per century can be observed in many of these locations. But when you look at the plot of the data, you will discover, just as I did, that the rate of increase has NOT changed enough to be observable from day 1 of these long term records. In other words, the claimed increased rate due to all the increased burning of fossil fuels during the past few decades cannot be proven. It just didn’t happen!
Unfortunately, not a great number of locations have reliable long-time temperature records. So far, the longest period of average annual temperatures I have found are from one location in the UK. From that location, 346 years of continuous data are available. The 346 year temperature trend line for this location happens to show about 1 1/2 degrees (F.) increase in the 346 years. There is no observable difference in rate of increase in recent years as compared to that of 300 years ago. In fact, there is a period from about 1690 to 1740 in which that location recorded a temperature increase about 1 1/2 times as great as was recorded in the most recent 40 year period. Does anyone want to claim that the huge consumption of fossil fuels in about 1700 cause the significant increase in temperature then?
Or take another example. I happened to have data from 212 US weather reporting locations. Unfortunately, most of them have too few years of data to provide anything close to reliable long term trend information. For the 47 locations having 80 or more years of data, the average temperature trend line is very slightly downward/cooler. Is this evidence of global warming? I somehow doubt it.
Or take another example. From the 212 US locations, 101 had unbroken annual average temperature records for the 15 years 1990 through 2004. Each year from these 101 locations represents 73730 individual temperature recordings. A regression on this data shows a decline in average annual temperature over the 15 years. Can anyone prove global warming from this data?
Or Iceland. Of the 8 locations I was able to download data from, 6 of the 8 show temperature trend lines sloping downward/cooler. Does that prove global warming.
Please understand, that every piece of data I’m mentioning above represents temperatures which actually occured, and from records which were actually kept from an official weather reporting location. There isn’t any theory, or any subjective analysis involved. It is data representing weather which actually happened.
No I’m not claiming there is no global warming. But the huge amount of actual data I’ve analyzed sure doesn’t show any different rate of climate change in recent decades that was actually recorded 80 or 100 or more years ago. It is difficult to conclude that any significant amount of whatever is happening can be attributed to more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Who am I? Just a near 80 year old man who has a clear memory of attending a meeting in about the 1960′s, and hearing a speaker tell us the earth was heading into another ICE AGE because we were putting too much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. My how ideas change in a few decades.
A very important work you have done, Mr. Byerly. Thank you for the information. Maybe we will never know every piece of evidence of what exactly happened.
Among the many recognized factors that could eventually cool at least parts of the planet, and this way mask GW tendences (in case there is GW, I think this is the case), is volcanic activity and cloud influence.
Climate Science is indeed extremely complex.
And thanks to all the contributors and commentators
I wonder, is any search tool available that would take the list of datasets Wayne Byerly provides, and pull up the names of research that used them, to see what the staticians have done with those records? It’s a cite form I hadn’t ever thought to look for.
Of course the world is heading into a new ice age, in about 10K years. (I once heard someone refer to this as the year 10K problem….). OTOH maybe not. There is an interesting review of How Humans Took Control of Climate
by William F. Ruddiman in a recent Science http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/summary/311/5760/472
Mr. Bylerly, I also remember that when I was a child people were talking about the next ice age. But I have also seen that enormous scientific progress has been made. Scientists understand climate much much better now. I had a discussion around 1991 with a climatologist (Duplessy?) who said that he thought we seemed to be headed towards global warming, and suspected that human activity might be partly responsible for it, but that their computer models were very unreliable because they did not know how to take into account some critical factors such as the influence of cloud cover, and that they didn’t really know how to model types of clouds. My impression at the time was that they were worried but very uncertain.
Now the models are much better, they incorporate many more parameters, their accuracy has been tested by trying them out starting from some date in the past and checking whether the evolution which they predict matches what has been observed since that date, and climatologists can now speak with confidence.
A lot of funding has gone into that area, a lot of successful research work has been done, and the ability to predict the general evolution of climate with near certainty is our reward.
They forecast 17 tropical storms, 9 of those reaching hurricane strength, and 5 of those reaching major hurricane strength. If this is correct, 2006 will be one one of the most active seasons on record. Since 1950 only 3 seasons have had more than 17 tropical storms, only 5 seasons have had more than 9 hurricanes, and only 7 have had more than 5 major hurricanes.(1) Further, 2006 would then be the 4th consecutive year with 15 or more tropical storms; prior to 2003-2005, there was no record of two consecutive seasons with more than 15 tropical storms. An average season by Dr Gray’s definition is 9.6 tropical storms, 5.9 of those reaching hurricane strength, and 2.3 reaching major hurricane strength. For a slightly different background on hurricane climatology, see the NHC’s page on the subject: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/pastprofile.shtml
Dr. Gray’s team (which has apparently just become Klotzbach’s team) has correctly forecast whether or not the following hurricane season would be above average 6 times out of 7. (Based on their most recent 7 December forecasts.) However, the same 7 forecasts have averaged about 4 tropical storms less than actual season activity. I don’t know what his success for his earlier forecasts has been, but they were made with substantially different methods.
Klotzbach and Gray’s forecast was made with the expectation that La Nina conditions would *not* be present during the 2006 hurricane season. La Nina is correlated with hyperactive hurricane seasons, and with more costly hurricane seasons(2) (after lifestyle changes have been accounted for). However, several hyperactive and costly seasons, such as 2004 and 2005, have occurred without La Nina conditions.
NOAA did not forecast the current La Nina conditions until about the middle of January (over 1 month after the above forecast).(3) NOAA announced La Nina officially on February 2nd.(4) La Nina conditions are expected to continue for about 3-6 months. It is rare to have Atlantic hurricane activity before June, and the most activity occurs August to October, La Nina conditions may no longer be present during the 2006 hurricane season.
Dr. Gray denies that humans have significantly contributed to the warming of the earth, and that global warming might have any effect on tropical cyclones. He has also predicted ‘we will start to see a weak cooling trend’.(5) However, despite my references of Gray’s work on tropical cyclones, when it comes to climate change, I find the IPCC TAR much more convincing than Dr. Gray’s stance.
Yes, the esteemed Dr. William (there is no global warming) Gray. His forecasts are so darn useful. Who needs those five day forecasts, based upon solid science, mathematical models and supercomputer simulations, giving you plenty of time to batten down the hatches and/or evacuate, when we can have a one year prediction based upon pseudo science, telling us … exactly … nothing! Kudos all around Dr. Gray!
Thanks very much for such an informative response, llewelly! I was aware Dr Gray did not believe GW was causing worse hurricane seasons, I did not know he had thrown in his lot with the likes of Steve Milloy.
Can you provide a link to the data used and your analysis of it? Since you are making a rather extraordinary claim that the standard analyses of temperature data are either flawed or fraudulent, one might expect a little bit of substantiation, something more than personal and ambiguous anecdote.
I could use a bit more explanation on #33, although it seems to be happening as you said. The meteorologists here are backing off on calling for a severe blast of cold air dropping down from the Arctic into the Midwest by mid-Feb, which they claimed was in the works more than a week ago. Now they say it won’t be all that bad after all.
That’s how it usually goes around here. They don’t see the weather getting as warm as it gets and they think they see it getting a lot colder than it gets. It makes me wonder how their verification program works. I’d think a good verification program would highlight the biases in the forecasts. Maybe some of the mets here can help on that?
#49, Pat These times fit within the Twilight zone of weather/climate… Met guys don’t explain causations on most instances, just what is happening. Climate guys explain causations but either for way back in history, of far ahead in time. I have been reading a lot of TV met guys calling for winter next week (over the last 6 weeks). The Genesis for thiis anticipation is last October’s forecast for a bitterly cold winter, incidentally this forecast gave a spike for crude oil prices, anyways, a “bitterly cold winter ” should strike everybody frozen soon! But if you really look at the GCM long range Global charts, they have been very accurate (within 7 days), and all they showed was planetary wave after wave moving from the Pacific to the Atlantic doing the same wave action since mid-December. I guess that TV met guy of yours was thinking that winter has to strike hard soon, like ordinary folk say “we are going to pay for it” . But that may not happen, the key here is Behring Strait to Wardle Island cold air Flow, totally shut down… If it revives, ya , there may be a blast, but it is not for the next 7 days and the sun is getting higher every minute.
All met and climate guys and ladies should try to be oblivious to borders, politics, we should merely reflect on our observations and calculations. Hurricanes and Continental air masses are apolitical. We excel when we excercise our opinions about our speciality. I find articles like this Wall street Journal one, a mere distraction, a comment by press box journalists looking at the parking lot instead of the football game.
Wayne Byerly says he looked at 101 stations of weather data out of 212 for the U.S. He doesn’t discuss the use of any of the various corrections that have been shown to be necessary to the U.S. HCN data. These corrections are the result of problems such as station relocations and changes in time of day of observation. There is a heat island effect, which may produce a cooling as a station is relocated from a site in a town to a more rural area away from buildings. Also, he doesn’t mention the technique he used to average his data. Usually, some sort of gridding process is employed, as some stations will be close to others and reflect the same local conditions, while others may be spread widely apart. Selecting stations which have a long, continuous record may not give the best result, as missing data can be corrected for.
The Idsos at http://www.co2science.org have routinely produced a “Station of the Week” graph, which they select from the raw US HCN data. Their choices usually show little or no warming, which they claim, proves there is no warming trend. They also produced an analysis of this data, which they published in the GRL, as I recall. Their cherry picking is obvious and does not prove that there is no AGW. When they allowed free access to their data set, I often showed some of the obvious problems with their approach, posting on sci.environment. I gave up when they started requiring a paying menbership, since I didn’t wish to support their efforts. Without greater knowledge of Mr. Byerly’s stations, I could not assess what he has done, although I hope he has not repeated the Idsos’ errors.
Mr. Byerly (# 38), I like you am not a scientist, so I follow this method for making decisions. What are the consequences of
(1) business as usual (increasing GHGs), when GW is not happening;
(2) mitigating GW, when it is not happening;
(3) business as usual, when GW is happening; and
(4) mitigating GW, when it is happening.
Concerned mainly about (3), I decided to reduce my GHGs & was willing to sacrifice, but found that I actually was saving money, without lowering my living standard, and am now on 100% wind power, saving about $1/month from that. So, (2) is not problem at all. Taking actions to reducing GHGs, such as moving closer to work/school/stores (I was doing that anyway since the 70s energy crunch), just makes all around sense, including reducing many other problems — acid rain, local pollution (kills fetuses, etc), military expenses & deaths to secure oil, and the list goes on. And (1) is just unwise.
Here’s my GW odyssey. I saw the film, “Is It Hot Enough for You?” in 1990. I thought, “this sounds really bad,” especially the idea that my GHGs may be contributing (no matter how little) to floods in Europe & droughts in Africa. (Later I’ve learned how melting glaciers puts 40% of India & China at risk of starvation.) My heart had gone out to the victims even decades before in Biafra, etc., and I was horrified by the idea that I may have been contributing to their deaths all during that time, and to future deaths.
Knowing the media people may have gotten it wrong, I wrote to a scientist interviewed in the film. He sent me the SCIENCE article about those precipitation changes over several decades. It had all the usual caveats, ending with something like, this fits what is expected, if GW is ever proved.
I wasn’t waiting around for 95% certainty. I wanted to stop killing (if I was) from that point. Anyway the basics of GW made very good sense — about the natural GH effect & adding more GHGs. That doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand. We all know about leaving our car window up on a hot summer day.
And, as mentioned, I have no regrets, only a joyful heart that I did choose to reduce my GHGs.
For those who might be religious, the cardinal & capital virtues of prudence, justice, temperance, liberality/generosity (v. avarice), brotherly love, and, yes, diligence require that we mitigate GW. The U.S. Bishops have said so. It’s not a choice, like choosing one charity over another. We must.
Unfortunately WSJ people & those in power are NOT religious by any standard in my estimation, & pretending to be so & fooling the American people is very bad, & saddens me.
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 6 Feb 2006 @ 11:31 AM
Every few months the argumentation pops up that claims Urban Heat Islands (UHIs) account for all of the observed global warming on the planet. Even the melting permafrost under the tundra can be explained by that durn Fairbanks UHI. I learned some time ago that it is best to save a particularly good comment (with links) to save time in replying to these recurring arguments (UHIs, CO2 increase a net positive for plants, GCMs can’t hindcast – you know the ones).
Re #38 “Who am I? Just a near 80 year old man who has a clear memory of attending a meeting in about the 1960′s, and hearing a speaker tell us the earth was heading into another ICE AGE because we were putting too much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. My how ideas change in a few decades.”
First of all, I doubt that anyone who knew anything about the subject in the 1960s was blaming anthropogenic CO2 for triggering another ice age. The idea that increased CO2 would lead to warming has been understood since at least the time of Arrhenius around 1900 (see http://www.aip.org/history/climate/ for a good history of the subject).
Secondly, it is true that because there are many different anthropogenic and natural effects competing in the climate system besides CO2 emissions, there was a time back in the 60s and 70s when some people thought that either or both of the natural effects (e.g., natural glacial-interglacial cycles) or the anthropogenic cooling effects (e.g., from pollutants…sulfate aerosols and such) would dominate and that cooling would occur. However, there was never any sort of consensus that this would be the case. In fact, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) did a study in which they concluded that it was too early to draw conclusions about whether the climate might warm or cool in response to the various forcings and that more research was needed. In contrast, some 30+ years and thousands of research papers later, the NAS now believes that global warming is a real problem and the time has come to take action. (See http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=94 for more details.)
This is how science progresses. I am only about half of your age but I can remember a time in which 64K was considered to be an unnecessarily huge amount of memory in a computer; that is, obviously, not true today. And, it does not mean that I should ignore the advice of computer professionals if they tell me that I should make sure to get at least 128Meg in a computer that I order today. Science, technology, and knowledge change over time.
Re. #41. So far as I have been able to determine, those who claim global warming is so certain, have pretty much ignored actual temperature data from periods prior to about the 1970′s. Somebody correct me somebody if I am wrong on this. Seems to me nearly all the graphs we see showing global warming, begin the time period in about the 1970′s.
For sure there has been warming since the 1970′s. About 1/2 of this warming was required just to get back to a normal temperature, since the 1970′s was the coldest period of the 20th century.
[Response:No, it wasn't. See the graphs linked just above - William]
My procedure is very simple. Run a regression on the data. Year is “X” and annual average temperature is “Y”. When the data begins in the 1970′s it is immediatly biased for the abnormal warming in these last 35 or 40 years. But by beginning the data even as late as the 1940′s a completely different picture is presented. The 1940′s were another warm time, in many locations as warm or warmer than the 1990′s. It isn’t possible to present a valid picture of temperature trends with less than about 80 years of data. I’m sorry, but that is fact, and when the warmer periods of 80, 100, or more years are left out of the equation, the results are incorrect.
I have data from “Danishds Meteorological Institute” presenting temperature data from locations in Greenland, The Faroe Islands and from Denmark showing temperatures in about 1940 as warm as any in recent decaded, then it cooled off until about the 1970′s. Shows much of what many of the US weather reporting locations also report.
Remember the news stories in the summer of 2003 reporting that Europe was having the warmest summer in many, many years. Then a few months later it was reported that the 2003 summer in Europe was the warmest since 1500. Perhaps true, perhaps not, but the point is that it seemed nobody questioned what made the climate in about 1500 so warm??? Does anyone believe it was all the autos, airplanes, trucks, factories, air conditioning, etc., which caused excess carbon dioxide to warm the atmosphere in 1500. Strange this question never came up. Or the climate in about 950 to 1000 warm enough that parts of SW Greenland were settled by those from Nordic countries. I suppose that warming period was also caused by humans burning too much fossil fuels. A bit of common sense needs to be applied to some of these theories.
Re. #48 My US data all came from Official Weather Reporting Locations
I’ve not made any adjustments in the temperatures which were downloaded from these sources. Same with the data from locations outside the US.
For the 47 locations with 80 or more years of data, and having a slight decline in average temperature over that span of time. The only criteria is used in selection of these 47 locations was that they have a minimum of 80 years of data. Included are some big cities, as from Central Park in New York City. (+2.57 degrees F. per century).
For the 101 locations I mention having an average decline in annual average temperatures during 1990 – 2004. The only criteria used was an unbroken string of temperatures for those years. It just happened to be that these 101 locations represent 44 of the states. It could hardly be more representative. I might also add that for the years of 1998 through 2004 that same 101 locations have a temperature trend line of
-23.21 degrees F., per century. Probably not a valid rate, but it sure isn’t getting hotter and hotter!
I’ve only graphed several dozen of the hundreds of locations I’ve obtained data from. But I have graphed quite a number from not only the US but from those other nations mentioned. We continue to hear how the temperature is going up so dramatically in the last few decades and that it is only going to continue to get worse and worse. The inflamatory articles in the September issue of National Geographic is a good source for this sort of exaggerations.
At any rate, from the several dozen locations I have graphed, I have yet to find even one location in which the rate of temperature increase in recent decades is anything like the graphs show in NG and other sources. It just hasn’t happened, or at least not more so than in decades of 80, 100 or more years ago. There were warming periods then too. I call them short term warming periods, and there are essentially an equal number of short term cooling periods, and based upon the data I have analyzed, we are likely in the midst of one of those short term cooling periods right now.
Re #55 and “Re. #41. So far as I have been able to determine, those who claim global warming is so certain, have pretty much ignored actual temperature data from periods prior to about the 1970′s. Somebody correct me somebody if I am wrong on this.”
You’re wrong on this. We have temperature station data back to the 1880s and proxies back for hundreds of thousands of years, more in some cases.
I think Joel Shore brings up a good point in #54: how easy it is to carelessly disregard work because of past bad forecasts. Of course, we know this is just a tactic, but Joel has a good counterpoint, visualized here, From a 1954 Popular Mechanics.
Your use of capitals certainly gives it the appearance of legitimacy, as does your anecdote speak with authority. Unfortunately this is little reassurance when there are so many scientific institutions and papers that, as well as having some legitimate authority, give full citations for all data sets used and clearly and precisely describe their methods.
Now, the deficiencies I mentioned above certainly do not mean you are no expert yourself even if they don’t show you are. But you stated that “So far as I have been able to determine, those who claim global warming is so certain, have pretty much ignored actual temperature data from periods prior to about the 1970′s”. This is problematic. It is not possible that anyone with anything more than the most superficial interest in this issue can not know that the reliable surface temperature record goes back almost a century and a half. http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar/wg1/fig2-1.htm http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/2005/
Are these perceived trends all artifacts of Urban Heat Island? (That’s rhetorical, the answer is no.)
I advise you to do more reading and less writing until you have a handle on the very basics of this large, complex and important issue, I would recommend starting here: http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar/wg1/
re #58; the image is a joke that became a hoax. The FORTRAN language was not in existence in 1954, and the modern mixed case spelling of “Fortran” came much later. The monitor on the wall would not have been present in a 1954 computer room, and if it were you would not see the top of the obviously rectangular box from that angle. The presence of a steering wheel is beyond credibility.
“The picture is actually an entry submitted to a Fark.com image modification competition, taken from an original photo of a submarine maneuvering room console found on U.S. Navy web site, converted to grayscale, and modified to replace a modern display panel and TV screen with pictures of a decades-old teletype/printer and television (as well as to add the gray-suited man to the left-hand side of the photo)”
(1) Here is a plot of the average global temperatures since 1860: http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar/wg1/figts-2.htm As you can see, temperatures are clearly higher in the late 1990s than they generally were during the last peak in the 1940s. [Note that this plot only goes through 2000, but we now know that 2005 was basically the same warmth as 1998 which (as you can see) was a huge outlier at the time due to an incredibly strong El Nino...2005, by contrast, had only the tail end of a weak El Nino early in the year and was essentially "neutral" after that. I believe the temperatures for that 2002-2004 all lie between those of 1998 and the next warmest year previous to that.]
(2) Plenty of work has gone into attempting to understand the oscillations of the earth’s climate system on a variety of time scales. Just because you aren’t knowledgeable about such work does not mean that it does not exist. And, the fact that other things besides anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions can cause warming does not negate the fact that anthropogenic GHGs can too. In fact, studying past responses of the climate system to various forcings helps us to understand the sensitivity of the climate system to the known forcing that is being applied to it by the elevated levels of GHGs.
(3) You might find it worthwhile to understand the evidence for the idea of anthropogenic global warming. It is much more than just the fact that the temperatures have been rising significantly over the last 30 years or so. The IPCC website, that I provided one link into above, is one good place to start.
But I could’ve done better — here is the prediction I bet Coby was thinking of. This fits the comment Joel Shore made better:
“When computers were first created, T.J. Watson founder of IBM, predicted, ‘We may need six computers world-wide, for government, etc.’ In 1977, Ken Olson, the founder of Digital Equipment Corporation, said, ‘There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in their home.’ And as recently as 1981, Bill Gates himself was quoted as saying, ’640 K ought to be enough for anybody.’
The linked doc is relevant — it’s about how to teach geotechnical engineers, a field certainly interested in where climate is going.
Another comment, serendipitously, therefrom:
“There are two approaches to a natural problem. They are the approach of the pure scientist and that of the engineer. The pure scientist is interested only in the truth. For him there is only one answer – the right one – no matter how long time it takes to get it. For the engineer, on the other hand, there are many possible answers, all of which are compromises between truth and time, for the engineer must have an answer now; his answer must be sufficient for a given purpose, even if not true. For this reason an engineer must make assumptions – assumptions which in some cases he knows to be not strictly correct – but which will enable him to arrive at an answer which is sufficiently true for the immediate purpose.” — Goulder (1948)
Wayne, You wrote “… have pretty much ignored actual temperature data from periods prior to about the 1970′s.”
Wayne, Can you find a scientific study (that stands up) written in a longstanding peer-reviewed scientific journal to back yourself up?
The answer is absolutely not. It cannot hold weight scientifically because it is wrong. Your information (not you necessarily) is scientific trash, “junk science” and may I dare say at this point…urban legend.
If the information had viable holes in it…it would still be hotly debated (with actual evidence)in peer-reviewed journals around the world. It is not and has not been for quite a few years now…in spite of what the Wall Street Journal, the fossil fuel industry and their paid minions say.
Dissenters such as Richard Lindzen have argued this case and their evidence has not held up scientifically in the journals. Either they had omission (like ignoring 3/4ths of the relevant evidence), cherry picking (such as only picking out areas that back up their claim and ignoring the rest, physically changing the known evidence, or very occasionally time simply proving their hypotheses wrong.
Clearly Wayne, you do not understand the scientific method.
… and that’s not necessarily fatal, lots of us have trouble understanding the scientific method, at least in practice. The statisticians have a field day any time they survey published peer-reviewed journals, pointing out flaws in analysis — and they do it to each other as well.
The method comes down to — nobody’s an expert outside a very narrow area of knowledge, and learning who to trust is especially hard in areas where there is a lot of opinion and spin and a great many “second-hand” sources of what — they will tell you — is authoritative info.
The public pursuit of footnotes and fact-checking isn’t science either, but it’s one bit we can all contribute to.
Of my favorite public health webloggers put it well recently (Blogger is down for maintenance, I can’t quote).
He said, paraphrasing, that many of the things we do with language — posture, win points, snark, woo, charm, and so on — are language tools we agree to leave behind when we try to do science, to the extent we agree we are sharing a common search for what’s true and intend to help one another find that out, regardless of what we wish were true.
We use only a subset of our language skills, doing science — and (my addition) we know that most of us, in hindsight, will have at best worried out a sliver of the truth for someone else to put together with another sliver.
Science isn’t easy, or common. It seems to have been invented just once, in the ten thousand or more years humans have been humans. Most cultures never had a glimmering of how to do science, what the method is, and what we have to set aside of ourselves to find facts and face them.
Checking what people tell you — “replicating the previous study” if you can do it, but at least looking up their references and reading the footnotes and testing whether you think they described where they started and what they assumed correctly — is our bit, I think.
Or as I told someone recently, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach; those of us who can’t do either, proofread and check references.” It’s honorable study.
Re: #35, “Re # 20, who reasonably requested: ‘Show me the data!’ The data is all here at realclimate.org”
Then no doubt I will soon have what I want.
Michael Meacher was one of the strongest advocates of AGW theory when he was UK Minister for the Environment. When challenged about UHI in the CRU surface record he wrote, “The data are very carefully quality controlled and urban heat island effects have been removed.” But he did not show any data.
So just to be sure, isn’t it reasonable to have a look at the raw station data and what CRU use to compile the surface record? Tell me where it is. There are almost as many looking for it as the Holy Grail.
[Response: If you want the CRU data, their website is in the obvious place. If you're interested in UHI, then an excellent paper is "Thomas C. Peterson (2003). Assessment of Urban Versus Rural In Situ Surface Temperatures in the Contiguous United States: No Difference Found. Journal of Climate 16: 2941–2959." There is even a ppt version availabel via wayback: http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/rural.urban.ppt - William]
Oh my goodness. I had really thought this was settled, although I’ve seen mention that there are officials in Russia and China proclaiming that they need to continue to manufacture CFCs and the ‘ozone hole’ story is just a US government plot.
I hadn’t realized Singer and others are still saying basically the same thing.
You know, this could be serious. For values of serious equal to fatal.
Would you all please (sigh) start a thread for ozone/CFC science? I’d been thinking such a thread would be a museum. But it’s still politically alive. If the manufacturing of the stuff is in fact still going on — and I know the quantities measured in the stratosphere are higher than they were expected to be as of now and the problem’s not going away — that’s bad news.
So just to be sure, isn’t it reasonable to have a look at the raw station data and what CRU use to compile the surface record? Tell me where it is. There are almost as many looking for it as the Holy Grail.
That’s great! We can start a whole new industry: random people using Excel to audit entire disciplines, despite their being unfamiliar with them. What the heck – nature is just ol’ numbers, right?
I eagerly await plumbers, after they get home, looking at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation and telling the injuneers how to route the water more effectively. Homeowners can audit that same plumber by looking over his shoulder: “Hey buddy: if you keep your flux on the top of your toolbox, you can move faster. Time is money, you know.” We can audit everything in this way, if we are diligent. We have Google – that’s all we need. Who needs knowledge or wisdom to interpret stuff, anyway?
It took me all of 20 seconds to google “Climatic Research Unit”, find their homepage (first link, surprise) and click the “Data” link near the top of that page. I then click “Temperature”. That gets you here: http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/cru/data/temperature/
Coby, I hope David was pulling your leg — one Holy Grail (at most); one person looking for the data file?
If not — David, had you tried and failed to find that data?
Or were you using second hand info? Did someone tell you that data was hard to find, someone you trusted? (Where did you get the bad info?)
Could be you were either misinformed, or misled. (The difference is intent; check if you will by taking the correct info to wherever you found the bad info — see if they will update what you read with the actual link.)
Checking the sources of info — and misinfo — is tiresome, eh? Needed.
Regarding your summary of the WSJ article, I don’t quite agree with the end of points 2 and 5. I find no justification for your depictions that “the rational response is to ignore the issue” and “the science must be wrong.” The essence of Jenkins’ article is the uncertainty of the science, not that the science is wrong. Asking for diligent persons to judge scientific claims and pay attention to public statements can hardly be called ignoring the issue.
Furthermore, those who complain that “According to Jenkins GW is not happening, because atmospheric CO2 has only increased from .028% to .036%” miss the point. Jenkins merely points out the claims of CO2 increase, accepts these claims, and moves on to the next point. He doesn’t use this to disprove anything.
Myanna Lahsen, commenting at Inkstain, is pleased that her study has engendered some serious discussion of the “uncertainty trough”, but cautions that “my study can be used as a cheap shot against modelers” and points to a comment posted on Prometheus as supplying needed perspective.
I don’t know how she feels about Holman Jenkins’ take on her work.
While I’m reacting, let me react to the very silliest part of Jenkins’ piece — its ending:
A final thought that probably won’t please the environmentalists: Whatever the truth of climate change turns out to be, today’s vast investment in climate research will likely lead someday to technologies that really will allow us to alter local and global weather.
Here we are treated to a
1) Unsupported (and unsupportable) speculation about future advances,
2) with a question-begging clause referring to “vast investment in climate research”,
3) accusing unspecified “environmentalists”
4) of a bad faith desire that climate-related problems not be solved!
Did we already know that Holman Jenkins is a sophist and a ninny?
Yes, but even forewarned, it grates on the eyes to read this tendentious hooey.
Wow, folks have been active. Re #76 by jre: I also found that very weird (my second response was #18). My first response was angry, but then I wondered if he meant that environmentalists would be upset because people were purposefully adjusting climate to suit their desires. This might be seen as a more science fictiony analog of using dams to regulate rivers. As a wilderness advocate (and representing only a proportion of environmentalists) I tend to find altering hydrology to suit our own wants (e.g., growing rice in a desert) somewhat yucky, so I decided to mute my complaints about his environmentalist comment. I’m not sure that he intended to be more insulting than that.
Re #69, Hank’s response to Tom’s helpful links (#36): I didn’t see anything recent in those links. I think the most recent was from 1998 (Singer’s brief response to a short article in 1997). The WSJ article was from 1992. Maybe a thread on this topic would be largely historical? But even so I think it could be illuminating.
On a related note, if it is so obvious now how wrong Singer and his ilk were regarding the ozone problem, shouldn’t that terribly damage their credibility regarding AGW? If it is not so obvious perhaps that’s even more reason to review the topic and have an update.
I find no justification for your depictions that “the rational response is to ignore the issue” and “the science must be wrong.”
“[Tony Blair] and many others also recognize that the problems associated with climate change (whether manmade or natural) are the same old problems of poverty, disease, and natural hazards like floods, storms and droughts. Money spent directly on these problems is a much surer bet than money spent trying to control a climate change process that we don’t understand.”
This is advocating an approach only requiring action in response to short-term crises brought about by the larger, chronic problem. A purely reactive approach to symptoms as opposed to root causes is certainly tantamount to “ignoring the problem”.
Now reread the section in the editorial with our “diligent layman” beating down that feckless strawman depiction of “global warming science”. Portraying it as merely a politically motivated ensemble of secretly uncertain practitioners is an implication that “the science is wrong”.
Look for these words:
# Scientific papers that should be consulted for complete details and referenced if any of the datasets are used
# Dataset terminology, file formats and downloads available
Click “downloads” — that’s the link — |there|-
The second table on that page looks more or less like this, to help you find it:
Dataset ASCII Last updated Description
TaveNH2v tavenh2v.dat28kb 2006-01-18 Northern Hemisphere
average temp. 1856 to 2005
TaveSH2v tavesh2v.dat28kb 2006-01-18 Southern Hemisphere
average temp. 1856 to 2005
TaveGL2v tavegl2v.dat28kb 2006-01-18 Global
average temp. 1856 to 2005
Now, in truth, I suspect you’re sitting at some skeptics’ website snickering about how much fun it is to play dumb, pretend you don’t see what’s available, and get big yucks out of wasting time.
But _I_may_be_wrong_. At least nobody should be misled by
It’s there, last date is January 18 2006, and you can work with the data.
Good place to start for a school report, for example.
Oh, and if anyone knows how to put in a string of spaces or tabs in this software, please, tell me. It seems to hate white space, I tried to space out that table layout for the raw temperature data files.
David was looking for raw temperature, which is current at the links.
Steve was talking about ozone-skeptic pages, which indeed are archives of historical interest — there’s plenty of current info on ozone, and it’s at actual science pages. Sidebar has those. As far as I know as a casual reader, there are no scientists practicing who disbelieve in ozone/CFC chemistry as a field, and many studying the area.
There some irony in that certain people think we should focus only on adaptation whilst pumping the atmosphere as full of GHGs as we want – yet the people developing a coherent strategy for adaptation even to moderate GW are by and large environmentalists and those most strongly warning that GHG emissions must be curbed. At least that is the picture I am getting in the UK.
In the south-east of England, for example, the worst drought in a century is devastating wildlife and, worst of all, threatening empty aquifers with salination (See here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/water/story/0,,1700110,00.html0 ).
This part of the country is low-lying, subsiding anyway, and now threatneed by rising sea-levels. So what is the official response to the crisis? To push for building hundreds of thousands more homes, including in flood plains, allowing for one third of all treated water to be lost through leaks, politely ask people to switch the taps off whilst brushing teeth. Calls for a more efficient water supply system, water saving devices, and perhaps even a review of housing policy come by and large from a few scientists, and NGOs most of whom happen to be members of the Stop Climate Chaos coalition. I somehow doubt that the story is much different in the US!
I would love to see examples of those people who profess to support ‘adaptation, not mitigation’ as the cheapest option getting down to the business of helping regions and communities adapt to even the present and certain near-future degree of climate change!
here is the general workflow:
1 daily observations -> 2 averaged monthly observations -> 3 homogeneity adjustment -> 4 gridding -> 5 global averaging
1 and 2 are considered raw data and fall under WMO resolution 40 which says that licenced data is not to be freely shared.
The proper terms to use are indicated on the CRU website. A general term would be “processed data” as distiction from “raw data”.
RE #55 & “Then a few months later it was reported that the 2003 summer in Europe was the warmest since 1500. Perhaps true, perhaps not, but the point is that it seemed nobody questioned what made the climate in about 1500 so warm??? Does anyone believe it was all the autos, airplanes, trucks, factories, air conditioning, etc., which caused excess carbon dioxide to warm the atmosphere in 1500.”
There are many things, Mr. Byerly, not only human GHG emissions, that cause warming. I guess it’s a male or Western trait that makes it hard to understand complex issues. Seems there’s this need to attribute everything to one factor & remain stuck in a linear causality mode. What we actually need is a more ecological perspective, which allows many variables & pos/neg feedback loops. I realize this goes against our Western mindset.
This is what I’ve learned from the scientists: GHGs (human & natural) & solar radiation (whether impacted by orbital wobble or sun spots, etc.) impact climate. We cannot change the natural forcings, but we can change the human forcings — and a large chunk of those cost-effectively, without even a hang-nail’s worth of sacrifice. It just makes eminent sense to do so & avoid possible cataclysm.
I understand the end-Permian extinction 251 mya, when up to 95% of life on earth died, was caused by global warming. Apparently high levels of vulcanism (etc?) caused the initial warming. When it got about 6 degrees higher than today, methane clathrates melted, burping out massive methane, sending the earth into a (finite) runaway warming for thousands of years. That can happen again, only this time we humans are pulling the trigger, and doing it faster than nature ever did (Quick-Draw McGraw). Apparently the projected high-end for 2100 is 5.8 degrees, and I’m not sure what it might be beyond 2100.
And there are plenty of less dramatic cataclysms in progress right now, such as glaciers melting. Once they’re melted it means winter floods & bone-dry summers in many places, with no water to drink, much less irrigate crops. 40% of India’s and China’s populations are at risk of starvation when their glaciers melt. And WHO has estimated about 160,000 are currently dying from GW each year, with that number to accelerate greatly if we do nothing to reduce our GHG emissions.
I know you are near 80 years old, and wouldn’t be around to see that massive starvation or runaway warming, but do you really suggest we should risk these, when mitigating GW saves us money & strengthens the economy? I can understand why people heavily tied into oil & coal & who don’t care a fig for future generations would keep harping against climate science findings, data, and projections. But why are other people doing that?
I’m a social scientist, and I’m curious why people act the way they do. If the doctor were to tell someone he won’t remove the lump because it’s only 94% certain to be cancerous, the patient would likely go to another doctor & have it removed.
Well, AGW reached 95% certainty in 1995, according to some studies. As mentioned earlier, I started reducing my GHGs well before that. Why would people play Russian Roulette, especially using a 20-shooter with 19 bullets loaded in, or even 10 bullets, or even one bullet (I can’t imagine even the toughest contrarian suggesting there isn’t at least one bullet loaded), and especially when they have to pay (in lost savings from efficiency/conservation) if they win & not shoot themselves in the head?
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 8 Feb 2006 @ 1:10 PM
Sorry, my last comment should have been on the “Groundhog Day” thread.
And I don’t think any of the GW models predict declining temperatures in Antarctica. All press references seem to be to the Western Antartica peninsula, which makes up about 10% of the total Antarctic continent.
I’ll take time to point out that like George Deutsch, now resigned from NASA, Wall Street Journal editor James Taranto, and columnist John Fund also did not graduate from college. Two campuses of Cal State in cluding mine at Northridge. It’s a trend for these jokers.
Thank you for a different recycling than in #79 Justin.
What is more important is what you “forgot” to mention (if indeed you understand the issue):
Below 1500 meters, the elevation-change rate is ~2.0 ± 0.9 cm/year, in qualitative agreement with reported thinning in the ice-sheet margins. Averaged over the study area, the increase is 5.4 ± 0.2 cm/year, or ~60 cm over 11 years, or ~54 cm when corrected for isostatic uplift. Winter elevation changes are shown to be linked to the North Atlantic Oscillation.
I wonder if this might be something to pooh-pooh or, even better for your purposes, ignore.
Justin writes: Now supposedly the increase in glacier mass is predicted by current global warming models. So which is it? Either you say they are increasing in mass per the models, or they are metling and that therefore the models are wrong.
I’m not competent to speak on models but this apparent contradiction is easy to explain in general terms.
Climate warming leads to warmer seas around (say) Greenland. Warmer seas mean more evaporation and the moisture laden air leads to more precipitation. Some of this extra precipitation will occur over the Greenland ice sheet where the temperatures (despite global warming) are still well below freezing point. This accumulating extra snow will lead to an increase in ice sheet mass.
At the same time as this mass increase there can also be increased melting at the fringes of the ice sheet where air and water temperatures have increased with global warming. At the present stage of climate change mass accumulating at the centre of the ice sheet may exceed mass of ice melted.
The problem is, as Hansen recently spelt out in his Keeling lecture, as warming continues there will probably occur a tipping point where melting at the fringes of an ice sheet pushes further and further to the centre combining with increased lubrication from melt water finding its way to the base of the ice sheet. These conditions will lead to rapid disintegration of the ice sheet and sea levels rises measured in metres or tens of metres.
Re: #77 and # 89
William, are you now prepared to do me the courtesy of accepting that the raw station data corresponding to the gridded data set from which CRU hemispheric and global averages are calculated is not openly available?
With regard to your tobacco point, Sir Richard Doll’s data from his 1954 paper was never on the Internet protected by a password and as easy to disseminate as the station data, but do you have any evidence that either he or the BMJ refused to allow critics to access it?
Would you also agree that a number of researchers with “peer reviewed” credentials have been refused access to the raw station data corresponding to the gridded data?
Finally do you agree the issue of access to scientific data on climate change will be one of area of discussion at the recently empanelled committee of the National Research Council of the National Academies to study “Surface Temperature Reconstructions for the Past 1,000-2,000 Years”?
Incidentally when can we expect a thread on this development?
If you want access to the raw daily meteorological data that are used to produce the CRU homogenized gidded data sets you should take out your VISA card and buy it. Be advised you will need a large credit limit as these data are not inexpensive. This is not a conspiracy to keep large raw daily data sets from the public, but an attempt to recover some of costs associated with colecting these data. There are of course many routes whereby raw daily data may be acquired free for some regions of the world. However, these methods are labour intensive, and while well suited to undergraduate exercises that involve exploring the characteristics of daily and monthly data, these techniques would not lend themselves to a comprehensive audit of the homogenization and gridded procedures employed by CRU, NOAA, GISS and others. Alternatively, one could accept that CRU and similar organizations possess a level of expertise with these data, and the homogenized series and gridded products that are generated have merit. I have found this latter to be the case.
Yes and no. In the narrowest sense, you have highlighted one portion of the data, which is correct. The interpretation, however, lacks an overall sense of the big picture – that is: the implication of your comment is…is…well, what exactly? It can be interpreted (by someone without knowledge of such issues) as meaning there is no Arctic melting. Without explaining the information you provided, it is either meaningless or misleading.
So if I pay I can have it?
Why then, in the words of the well quoted email, did someone say, “Even if WMO agrees, I will still not pass on the data. We have 25 or so years invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it?”
Re: Comment #100 from Dano. You obviously have worthwhile info to pass on but you are seldom clear. That is true in the two comments here as well as at other blogs. May I repsectively request that you spend less time being rude to people and more time in clarifying your thoughts?
Sorry, Justin (#93), for not being explicit. I was referring to glaciers in the Himalayas. They ARE melting & fast (in geological terms), and when & if completely melted with have dire consequences for a very large chunk of humanity.
I’m not as sure about people living in Greenland & Antarctica, how they might suffer or benefit from GW. But, as pointed out by others, more heat, means more evaporation, means more precip, incl snow in colder places, which could increase some glaciers for now.
Also, I understand that the Arctic data were unclear re warming/cooling trends. I may be wrong on that. But the important point is that GW is an AVERAGE of all temps around the world, and some will be below that average & some above, and it is even possible, esp. in this early phase of GW, that some places might be getting colder for now. Again, I may be wrong, but I think the most recent findings are that no place on earth is getting colder now. But even if a few places are, that doesn’t change the fact that the average is going up.
Sometimes it’s hard to see the forest for the trees.
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 9 Feb 2006 @ 3:06 PM
RE 103 I meant to say the Antarctic data were unclear.
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 9 Feb 2006 @ 5:06 PM
The WSJ article indicates that there are two ways of arriving at an opinion; think for yourself or rely on others. It is reasonable to assume that thinking for oneself would produce the highest degree of certainty. My conclusion in reading opinions on the subject of climate change and, as this thread confirms, is that the opposite is true.
No one can expect all interested people to have the time to truly think for themselves on a complex issue such as this. But a little humility in the form of a healthy skepticism and an open mind regarding other opinions is warranted for these folks.
For those who think they have thought for themselves and who have strongly held opinions, I have a few questions.
1) Have you read the IPCC reports on Climate Change and I am referring to the scientific section not the Summary for Policy Makers? If so, do you see enough certainty there to reach simplistic conclusions and support simplistic cures?
2) Have you read the just published 150 page book of the National Research Council entitled, “Radiative Forcing of Climate Change… Expanding The Concept And Addressing Uncertainties”? This should be mandatory reading for those who want to be truly informed. It distills the science of Climate Change into one readable 150 page work and is eye opening to say the least.
If you have read these two publications, I have no doubt that you will agree that climate is changing and that both man and nature are involved. Do you not also agree that man affects the climate in more ways than one?
Assuming that you truly appreciate the complexity of this issue, are you still able to arrive at the simplistic conclusion that anthropogenic carbon dioxide is the root cause of Global Warming and that cutting back on such emissions will solve all of our problems?
What happens if we go all out to comabt CO2 and future knowledge says that we were wrong and that other human involvement like land use, methane, aerosols (yes they can lead to warming), etc. was an even bigger factor than previously thought? How much credibility would you then have in changing policy?
Be careful folks… this is too big of a problem to allow emotions and half-baked opinions lead the way.
The data are not available for character assassination.
Any other questions?
Re: current 102 [TopT]:
The Dano character is intended, for my purposes, to shine light on (and trace the source of) obfuscatory and mendacious tactics and rhetoric, usu. by mirroring others’ rhetoric. Some recipients get it, some don’t; the ones that don’t usu. aren’t paid shills, which is useful information. The other purpose is to test argumentation.
Neither purpose is well-suited to what you are asking for, and for that I apologize. Enlightenment principles don’t do what I need with the denialist crowd. I’m sure all this causes consternation, and [maybe somewhere else and not here] if you have some ideas I’m willing to listen to them.
Paul Dougherty says the WSJ article suggests that a you can arrive at an opinion on global warming by thinking for yourself or relying on others. I disagree: this author considers the diligent layman can only do minimal thinking for himself and that he should use his little knowledge to be skeptical about the opinions of the better informed.
My own slant on forming an opinion is that I accept scientific facts more than 100 years old. (Surely scientists then weren’t worried about losing funding, etc when they were investigating abstract and esoteric aspects of the atmosphere.)
I believe Victorian scientists carried out the following thought experiment. Pretend the atmosphere is perfectly transparent. What will be the temperature of the earth on the basis of only solar input, heat radiated from the surface, etc? The result of this calculation was that the average temperature of the earth should be about minus 17-18 degrees C!!
As the average temp of the earth is about 30 degrees warmer than that, they concluded that warming factors were at work in the atmosphere! They knew that such gases as CO2 absorbed infrared radiation so they concluded that GHG played a big role in the temp difference.
This (schoolboy) information is what I believe a diligent layman should bring to the debate on global warming.
If he is then told that CO2 has increased from 280 to 360 ppm as Holman W Jenkins, Jr suggests, he will be well armed to consider the implications. Hey, this represents a 77% increase!. Even if he guesses CO2 contributes only a third to atmospheric warming wouldnâ??t he be very worried at the implication of this increase? Simple-mindedly: shouldnâ??t the temperature of the globe have risen by 7.7 degrees due to this increase!
So my take on the present global warming debate is that a truly diligent person would be very worried indeed by the implications of changes in GHG. Such a person should worry about all those computer models all right.
I am a layman when it comes to climate models but my skepticism prompts that they understate the seriousness of the situation not the reverse! I am comforted that there has not yet been a rise of 7.7 degrees but I rely upon scientists to reassure me not the GW deniers.
So Paul Dougherty you may think that reading two publications justifies inaction. I am trying to think these issues out myself. I may have many uncertainties and confusion but at the bottom of my heart a little diligent layman is very worried and wondering why everyone else isnâ??t worried too.
Thank you for the links, the last one being especially helpful, and the other constructive comments. Admittedly, I am a layman (though I have training in regression analysis), and still part of the “sceptic” crowd – popular media covereage of GW is often shallow, and to feel comfortable making a decision for myself, I need to wade through the data and discuss with others before I can make a firm decision one way or the other. If others see that the “answer” is obvious, I apologize for my devil’s advocate tendencies.
I hadn’t read before that current climate models predict near-sea melting of glaciers while interior mass increases. Has this been known for awhile – when was the first model (or models) created that took this into account?
[Response: The idea is a commonplace. You don't need a model for that (only to quantify it): warmer air implies more moistture implies more precipitation, and as long as that falls as snow this implies more mass incresase. Conversely, warmer air implies more snowmelt. Given their current configurations, in Antarctica (which is cold nearly all over) the melting doesn't come in; so increased ppn dominates. For greenland, the interior is cold but the edges warm (in summer); hence there is a balance. See-also http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar/wg1/410.htm for some more - William]
Another point brought up is the one about temperature averages. The problem I have with averages is that averages are easily skewed (the extreme case being the scenario where temperatures everywhere are unchanged or slightly down except for one area with a substantial temperature increase, leading to an average temperature increase). Do GW models take this into account, and if so, how? Along these same lines, can someone recommend a good source from which to get detailed descriptions of how climate models are created? Nothing as detailed as source code for algorithms, but qualitative info on the handling of measurement outliers, the choice of temperature data sources, etc?
You also, Justin, may want to try Google scholar for a start; that’ll narrow down your search and then if you are lucky and have time to go to a decent library, you can go right to the articles you want. Scholar filters out the noise you get on regular Google.
Ian, Thank you for taking the time to read my comment. Your point about the quantification of the CO2/greenhouse effect is not complete. There are many qualified scientists on this thread who can explain this far better than I can. For the moment it is my understanding that, if there were no feedback mechanisms, then the increased quantities of CO2 would not lead to an alarming temperature increase but would be at the lowest end of IPCC projections. These feedback mechanisms in the form of water vapor and cloud formation are where uncertainties prevail.
Your statenent, “So Paul Dougherty you may think that reading two publications justifies inaction.” came totally from your own bias as I said nothing of the sort in my post. After 15 years of involvment with this issue, I can assure you that the quantity of publications I have read is well over a thousand rather than just two. Further I do not believe that inaction is justified and I am at a loss to explain how you read that into my words. My concern is taking proper action and doing so in a manner that respects different but legitimate viewpoints.
It is my opinion that a large factor standing in the way of proper action on climate change is the zealotry of many Global Warming proponents. A few years ago Jim Hansen made a reasonable and doable proposal for mitigating Global Warming that would have (in my opinion) produced demonstratable results relatively quickly. It had the proven action on ozone as a good model to track. His suggestion was deemed polically incorrect by those who prefered establishing an authoritarian international bureacracy. So here we are, doing nothing, feeling good by venting our spleens and waiting for Rome to burn. Such a posture is as big a part of the problem as the so-called “deniers”.
Re #110: My impression was that a lot of people on the “denier” side of the issue had misinterpretted Jim Hansen’s position. I personally haven’t heard Hansen make the complaint that you are making. Do you have any evidence that he would even agree with your assessment here?
By the way, is any attempt to regulate greenhouse gases by international treaty, no matter how flexible and market-based, considered by you to be “establishing an authoritarian international bureacracy”? That itself might be part of the problem.
“It is my opinion that a large factor standing in the way of proper action on climate change is the zealotry of many Global Warming proponents. A few years ago Jim Hansen made a reasonable and doable proposal for mitigating Global Warming that would have (in my opinion) produced demonstratable results relatively quickly. It had the proven action on ozone as a good model to track. His suggestion was deemed polically incorrect by those who prefered establishing an authoritarian international bureacracy. So here we are, doing nothing, feeling good by venting our spleens and waiting for Rome to burn. Such a posture is as big a part of the problem as the so-called “deniers”
Just a clarification of the politics to hopefully move us beyond the blame game. Paul- the international climate negotiations were started by nations including the US (not by environmental groups, though they certainly played a supporting role) and the emission reduction system known as the Kyoto Protocol was the result of international negotiations. If you don’t like it, blame your national officials (including the US administrations) for creating it, including the market-based emissions trading element.
Jim Hansen’s near term “no-regrets” approach to global warming (including black carbon reductions) largely fell on deaf ears because the Bush administration in the US had no intention of doing anything to regulate global warming. If you don’t want to implement any solution, it doesn’t matter how helpful the suggestions are. Some US states (particularly in New England) are going ahead and looking at Hansen’s suggestions, and this is largely driven by the work of environmental groups, so I think your blame is misplaced.
I think the question of skewed averages is pretty minor – in part because the temperature records you normally see are aggregated from more frequent measurements and thus should be reasonably well behaved, but more importantly because temperatures are only a small part of the total information used for model verification. See PCMDI’s Coupled Model Appraisal for example (caution – 20MB pdf). Temperature data isn’t directly used to drive model behavior at all. It would be interesting to see robust methods applied to temperature records (as in the latest RC post on the proxy record) but I wouldn’t expect it to make much difference.
The other obvious place to look is the IPCC TAR, e.g. ch. 8.
Re #105 (PD): You wrote “What happens if we go all out to comabt CO2 and future knowledge says that we were wrong and that other human involvement like land use, methane, aerosols (yes they can lead to warming), etc. was an even bigger factor than previously thought? How much credibility would you then have in changing policy?”
Take a look at how these forcings happen in the real world. Doing so leads rather quickly to the realization that they are to a great degree interdependent, and so the conundrum you pose becomes weak on a large scale. Taking land use as an example, a large portion of CO2 generation is from transportation, but the largest factor in determining the extent of transportation is land use; i.e., if one changes, the other changes. Major land use changes happening now in the Amazon and Indonesia result in major emissions of CO2 and aerosols (including considerable black carbon). A major source of future methane emissions will be from melting permafrost, but this is a product of warming substantially driven by CO2. You get the idea. So, while an all-out effort to reduce CO2 emissions only would probably not be ideal compared to one balancing all forcings, it could not be ineffective. (And I should note for the record that of course a focus just on CO2 is not on the table; Kyoto, and safe to say all successor treaties, focus on GHGs generally, very specifically including methane.)
Regarding #29 — you don’t even have to look at locations in different continents to see large differences in local, seasonal climate this year. Example: Denver, Colorado is having one of their warmest and driest winters on record this season, while just 75 miles west in Summit County, Colorado (where my vacation condo is located) they are having one of their snowiest (but not necessarily coldest) winters on record, with local ski resorts reporting double the accumulated snowpack compared to 30 year averages.
Paul, I am sorry if I have overstated your position. I think (?!) I am like you in that the more I read sometimes the more I get confused. That is why I made my little homily on 100 year old science. I have tried in my own mind to clear away the clutter of the present sophisticated elaboration of GW issues and get to some bedrock of simple science on which to base an opinion. To form an opinion maybe I need to start from a simplified view of a problem. Then I just pray that I havent oversimplified it!
Maybe some of the scientists who moderate and/or contribute to this site could explain what simple scientific facts help them to clarify their opinions on GW? What cuts through for them? I suspect they would not say that they were confused, or alternatively, convinced about the seriousness of the problem because they have read the IPCC report (but maybe Im wrong)?! More information please!
Re the WSJ & NASA PR people (#115, #117 & “Hansen” post), it occurred to me that we’re looking at this the wrong way.
We’re criticizing them for obfuscating and obstructing science. Their much more serious flaw is that they are totally violating public trust (& the media do hold this trust, as well) in not spreading information about a very serious problem to the public, a problem that will likely affect all Americans & all peoples of the world (at the very least by harming the economy). NASA PR people & the WSJ should be learning what the scientists are saying, translating that into lay-speak & informing us about GW & about solutions we can follow.
They should not be between 99% (or 101%) & 95% (scientific standard) certainty requirements on a “scientific issue.” They should be way far on the precautionary side of a “very serious problem,” explaining to the public how skeptical and cautious scientists are (which they have to be to protect their reputations), but that we as people living in the world can act on far less certain information to mitigate this very serious problem.
When in doubt, mitigate GW in every cost-effective way we can. That’ll take about 10 years & get us down to 25% of our GHG emissions (at least for Americans, who are living high on the inefficiency, profligacy hog). After that, then we can reassess & see if the tech people have gotten on the mitigate GW band-wagon & whether we can half again our emissions cost-effectively, or whether we might have to start sacrificing so that our future generations can have live in a healthy, human life-sustaining world.
That is their real fault & sin (since Deutch is a Christian, that should also be a concern of his — ending up in a much hotter place than a globally warmed world), that they have not done their job of encouraging people to mitigate GW. And it is a double fault/sin that they have gone beyond a “do nothing” silence, and have actually thwarted & sabotaged their duty of fulfilling this public trust by obfuscating and obstructing the science of GW.
The fact that our U.S. GHG emissions have increased 16-18% since 1990 (while I have decreased mine by perhaps 75% in the same period) is proof the NASA PR folks, the WSJ, and all the media, & the entire U.S. government have totally failed us in their public trust, and have made a mockery of it.
The fact that the gracious scientists here at RealClimate are attempting to fulfill the mission of those folks (of informing the public in a language they can understand), highlights the extent to which those folks are sabotaging their job & their sacred duty.
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 12 Feb 2006 @ 11:48 AM
I like the phrase ‘climate destablization’. There is a sense in which this is statistically verifiable, without any climate models whatsoever. Consider the 417,000+ years of data in the Vostok ice core record. The single most notable feature, to me, is the relatively stable record of the last 12,000 years. Nothing similar occurs previously.
So without doing any fancy statistics, I’ll opine that the most probable forecast is for less stable climate than is currently enjoyed, this stability included such minor excursions as the so-called little ice age.
Comment by David B. Benson — 19 Feb 2006 @ 10:39 PM
Here are two changes in the climate that I am 100% certain to have been caused by human activity:
1. The emergence, across the globe (not just in the cities) of an array of heat sources. As humans have expanded in population they have come to live in more places where they previously did not. And toward the latter portions of the great expansion, the emergence of technologies for heating, and both the distribution and storage of electrical energy, resulted in a situation that whereever humans have ended up, there have emerged multiple devices dissipating thermal energy in situ. This is unprecedented. A crude modelling of this effect, which one could then superimpose onto a preexisting thermodynamic regime, would consist of introducing an array of heat sources onto the surface of an infinite solid half space with a thermal conductivity X1 in a gaseous medium having a thermal conductivity X2. You do the math / PDEs.
2. The expansion of human population mentioned in “1″ above has also resulted in modifications of the albedo of the earth’s surface, and in the introduction of human built structures with a vast and diverse range of thermal conductivities, albedos, thermal inertias and other relevant characteristics.
I am 100% confident that both of these situations I have mentioned above have modified the Earth’s climate.
Steve, is that a flame or are you trying to contribute something meaningful? Please elaborate. I’m sure Jevons affected the climate by throwing his wallet in the woodstove, but I’m just as sure that the impact won’t be noticeable.
RE: #123. Have you ever taken an upper division course in energetics? Ever read Verhoogen (an NAS publication) or any of the many text books which lay out especially what I wrote in my #1 bullet point? Of course it’s not a flame. Let me draw upon an anology. A motherboard of a computer. Imagine that the CPU is a megalopolis whereas the smallest chip resistors are farms and small human settlements. That is the world of 2006. The world of 1850 would be something like the earliest printed circuit boards, with only a few components on them.
[Response: Imagine if you would stop spinning fantasies and put some numbers down on paper, to see if anything you are saying actually makes sense. --raypierre]
Mr. Sadlov, I apologize for questioning your motives. I’m afraid that I’m a simple population geneticist and am quite ignorant of non-biological energetics. Nevertheless, I have read that the earth receives a great amount of energy from the sun and that altering the atmosphere to retain even a very slightly greater proportion of that energy can make all the heat energy released by human activity seem like a fart in the wind. I mean the heat part of the fart — the methane probably has a larger effect! With your expertise in upper level energetics I’m sure you can do the calculations better than me.
RE: 126. You are absolutely correct. Air conducts quite poorly. However, it convects brilliantly. Add to that wind, which imposes further movement of air. So, as we further develop this aspect of the model, we start to make some sense of these inputs. The Arthropegenic Thermal Dissipation (and to an extent, Albedo Modification) results in “hot spots.” In still air, convection will occur over them. In moving air, the effect will vary. In all cases, each hot spot will result in an effect that, when applied to entire cities, is termed “UHI.” In terms of a model, I will, for the sake of argument, represent a nominal “hot spot” and its effect as F(x,y,z,t,a, etc) where the variables represent the “usual suspects.” It should be possible to begin to estimate the net effect of these “hot spots” over various areas in question – region, continent, world. To get an idea of what this may look like, refer to IR images taken at night of continental areas. The cities are large hot spots and there are also many other smaller ones. There is an areal distribution of them. Sum / integrate them in order to understand their effects. Since it is not really possible to list them all, the next best thing would be to try and estimate a “per capita hot spot” and map it to the world’s population distribution to the extent that it is known. Then integrate away and let a major clue regardng the truth be revealed.
This has already been done. Do you think you’re on to something that no one else is? When do you publish your work updating others’?
And I’m confused by your description of convection. Are you stating that wind advects convected air to a hot spot? What are you trying to say? Maybe that convects heated air upward? Is this finding of yours new?
There is no hint of correlation whatsoever between urban population and warming. Perhaps I am being naive and you can point something out to me (this is not rhetorical, I am always ready to learn), but it really seems to me that this complete absence of any correlation puts to bed conclusively the idea that the global trend in average temperatures is an artifact of Urban Heat Islands.
RE: #128 and #129. Yes of course, GISS, the surface record, etc. Taking this even further, let us throw out all “corrections” done thus far to the surface record to account for “UHI.” Let us also cease regarding most “rural” stations as any sort of demonstrated “no UHI baseline.” Instead, let us assume that every surface recording station may be subject to Arthropogenic Surface Effects of various types, represented by a function A(x,y,z,t, etc). What I would suggest is that the approach needs to be to try and understand the error owing to such effects at each and every station. I mentioned earlier that it might be possible to map this function to the one I suggested earlier, using population density and a per capita Arthropogenic Surface Effect interval arithmatic approach. But it is not quite that simple. The effect would also tend to vary based on the innate climate of the area in question and on the level economic development of the inhabitants. There has been some derision here of this or attempts to make is seem like an already trodden path. However I seriously doubt that the complete approach I have in mind has been tried with diligence. In fact, I know it has not been tried.
This has already been studied. You haven’t stumbled upon anything. You have failed to realize the UHI stops at dirt, irrigated fields, as soon as the concrete ends in most places. Your next visit to the library to familiarize yourself with the literature will confirm this for you.
I’m not sure how your reply addresses any of the concerns by any of the recent commenters here. And you have your work cut out for you, writing the authors of so many papers and book chapters, telling them of their use of the misnomer – I don’t envy you that task, whoo-ee buddy!
But you seem to imply that you have found a magical method by which the surface thermometers are polluted by ‘convection’, if I folla your comments. Your words are muddled somewhat and your responses are sorta vague, but you appear to claim something about cities and warming. There is a rich literature on this topic. A good library will have these articles for you to read. Best of luck in your search.
RE: #133. Interesting that you assume I am unfamiliar with the literature. Oh, well, with that, I’ll leave you to ponder the difference between the current paradigm regarding surface measurement error factors, and, a better one. Your loss is my gain.
Re #130: The difficulty with this “complete” approach (complete in a academic methematical/statistical sense, I suppose) is that it boils down to a demand that climate science successfully model chaos before any of its results are accepted (by you, anyway). With the UHI, climate scientists have looked at it, made adjustments for the obvious effect, then looked again to make sure nothing non-trivial was missed. It wasn’t. Absolutely there is still disagreement on this point from a few outliers (most prominently Roger Pielke Sr.), but note that the argument is over whether there is still a non-trivial effect that has not been taken into account. There’s a fairly cheap experiment that can be done to determine if there is something non-trivial going on, but RP Sr. would be among the first to agree that if the experiment shows it’s trivial (which almost everyone else is convinced is so likely to be the case that the experiment isn’t worth doing) it can be ignored. (This is perhaps obvious, but the sort of trivial effects I refer to can certainly be non-zero.) Summing up, don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees.
I should note since I mention RP Sr. that despite disagreements with the climate science mainstream on a number of issues, he somehow manages to still be part of the IPCC consensus. You might think about why that’s the case.
RE: #136. Characterizing various non-urban heat islands (for example, very small hamlets or homesteads in the NWT or certain places in the Great Basin) would be a good start. A small grid, capable of discerning thermal features on the order of some of the turbulence structures and capable of discerning the true “edges” of human induced local effects, could be a start. Combine this with some of the excellent finite element models out there and in use in the engineering fields and we start to sort through the chaos. We can debate whether or not some bias has been overlooked until the cows come home, but there is nothing like a more detailed and finely partitioned model, combined with real measurements of gradients and net effects, to once and for all put an end to all the debates. The fact that the misnamed term UHI still enters into the debate at all suggests that this would be worthwhile. Is it likely that human engineered engergy dissipation, thermal inertia and albedo changes at the surface result in a bias of such extent that it floods real changes across time and space? My own guess is probably not. But is it possible that there has been a bias large enough to want to take it out using a more sophisitcated methodology than those used thus far? I say yes there probably is. So let’s redo the math, make better models for human engineered dissipation, thermal inertia and albedo changes, and take some measurements in places that can validate the improved math and models. Any takers? If I were young again, I’d certainly consider this for a dissertation.
What first caught my attention to this exchange was the summary of the WSJ commentary. I see several parallels with the evolution debates, not just with the credibility of the science, but with the perceptions of laymen and the use/misuse of information. It is interesting to see the Darwin birthday postings (others noted the similarity, too).
Two simple facts – CO2 has increased (measured, not “hypothesized”), and it IS a powerful greenhouse gas. These are well accepted facts. To deny the first, one would have to debunk a great body of data; to deny the second, one would have to deny the laws of physics. The next step is to determine whether temperatures are in fact rising. Mr. Byerly (#38) has spent time examining various temperature records looking for some interval that may show what is happening, and cannot seem to find anything to prove warming. Perhaps he’s cherry picking (he would not be the first), perhaps he is simply ignoring some other factors as some have pointed out (#39 & #44), and apparently he is not considering other evidence. See Nature articles from 2 January 2003 (Root, et al. 2003). Here are summaries of several reports of various organisms move further north, higher in altitude, becoming active earlier in the year, and/or staying active later. Also, see Cayan, et al. (2001) and Easterling (2002) in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society for even more phenological data. The Puget Sound region has seen marked reductions in snow pack since 1950 (temperature changes), potentially affecting municipal and irrigation water supplies, hydroelectric power, and fish (Mote, et al. 2005). I tell denialists that there are so many other species on earth that DO know the warming is occurring, which puts them in an awkward position at the very least. And did I mention glacial melting? As with evolution, it is not just one parameter, but the convergence of evidence from several sources.
There is another WSJ piece from 1997 (“Science Has Spoken: Global Warming Is a Myth” by Arthur B. Robinson and Zachary W. Robinson, December 4, 1997) which may already have been discussed, which tells us:
“What mankind is doing is moving hydrocarbons from below ground and turning them into living things. We are living in an increasingly lush environment of plants and animals as a result of the carbon dioxide increase. Our children will enjoy an Earth with twice as much plant and animal life as that with which we now are blessed. This is a wonderful and unexpected gift from the industrial revolution.
Hydrocarbons are needed to feed and lift from poverty vast numbers of people across the globe. This can eventually allow all human beings to live long, prosperous, healthy, productive lives. No other single technological factor is more important to the increase in the quality, length and quantity of human life than the continued, expanded and unrationed use of the Earth’s hydrocarbons, of which we have proven reserves to last more than 1,000 years. Global warming is a myth. The reality is that global poverty and death would be the result of Kyoto’s rationing of hydrocarbons.” I first thought it was parody until I saw that the authors are with the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine (check that one out).
Jenkins does talk about belief processes and how people perceive issues based on the spokesmen. True to an extent. He does not mention that it works both ways â?? I am very cautious with what the WSJ, Cato, Discovery Institute, etc. present. These are very biased institutions with political and ideological axes to grind. Are they believed by some simply because of that? I am sure it happens.
Cayan, Daniel R., Susan A. Kammerdiener, Michael D. Dettinger, Joseph M. Caprio, and David H. Peterson, 2001, “Changes in the Onset of Spring in the Western United States,” Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, March 2001, pp. 399-415. (see also comments by D. Lilly and response, BAMS, October 2001, pp. 2265-2266)
Easterling, David R., 2002, “Recent Changes In Frost Days And The Frost-Free Season In The United States,” Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, September 2002, pp. 1327-1332.
Root, Terry L, Jeff T. Price, Kimberly R. Hall, Stephen H. Schneider, Cynthia Rosenzweig, & J. Alan Pounds, 2003, â??Fingerprints of global warming on wild animals and plants,â?? Nature, v.421, 2 JANUARY 2003, pp. 57-60.