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  1. This just hit the wires:
    click here
    The Greenland numbers for glacial melt and calving were off by a factor of two. Twice as much.

    Comment by colorado bob — 16 Feb 2006 @ 6:19 PM

  2. In reference to climate change impacts you write: “It is a matter for the political apparatus to decide how to deal with the uncertainties, and the extent to which one should pay attention to the worst case vs. the most likely case.”

    [Response: A fair enough point. I focused on the worst vs. the most likely case because most economic analysis and indeed most policy analysis tends to gravitate toward the mid-range of the predictions. I loosely called this the “most likely” case, though I don’t actually believe we have any sensible way to assign probabilities to the different forecasts. We know what is possible, but not really what is likely. Judge Posner, in his book on Catastrophe, make an argument for paying the most attention to extreme cases with very severe consequences, even if their probability is small or poorly quantified. His book advocates this for global warming in particular, as well as a number of other potential catastrophes. –raypierre]

    Shouldn’t that last phrase be “worst case vs. best case” or “least likely case vs. most likely case”? I have never understood why outcomes that are somewhere between the worst case and the best case seem automatically considered to be “more likely” than the extremes. Does anyone really have any basis for judging which climate change outcomes are ultimately more or less likely?

    Certainly, all the empirically observed effects of climate change that I’ve seen reported in the mainstream media (more often in the British and European media than the US media, of course) over the last year or so are consistent with worst-case, or at least worse-case, scenarios, ie. multiple tipping points and self-reinforcing feedback mechanisms driving irreversible runaway warming leading to global, ecologically catastrophic climate change in the not-too-distant future. Based on those reports, it increasingly seems to me that the worst case is the most likely case.

    Comment by Doug Percival — 16 Feb 2006 @ 8:04 PM

  3. Happy birthday to the Kyoto Protocol, too (February 16, 2005).

    Comment by Roger Smith — 16 Feb 2006 @ 8:12 PM

  4. Very nice thoughtful article. Science is infinitely fascinating – the celebrating the birth of a man almost 200 years ago, a towering genius, who’s work still causes such contention (I think he would be amused), and linking him to a discussion of the arguments around global warming, is the sort of thing James Burke used to do in “Connections” in Scientific American, though your article is much better and a great deal more informative. I am reading this in New Zealand, a country that has just reneged on its commitment to a carbon tax, on a day when new information about melting Greenland glaciers is that it is double the previously suspected rate, and where today a meeting between government officials and all of New Zealand’s forestry owners – in regard to global warming, carbon credits and future policy – broke up in acrimony, with no common ground. Have you every thought of a similar discussion in regard to the oft-quoted experiment of frogs being heated up in a large saucepan?

    Your rhetorical question about coal is interesting. I have often wondered myself, when I am pretending to be an amateur James Lovelock, whether the coal seams, and oil and gas deposits for that matter, are themselves not part of the Earth-Life interaction in our planetary geostasis. In other words, when global warming sceptics pooh-pooh global warming, and say that the Earth must have always had many different protective mechanisms in the past to preserve an equable climate, would it be reasonable for me to say, yes, but one of those mechanisms was coal and gas deposition. That we are in effect, in the space of a couple of hundred years, re-introducing into our atmsophere the combined effects of 200 million year’s worth of global carbon sequestration? In that sense it is not at all strange we should have an abundant natural resource of carbon. What the Earth (Gaia) didn’t really count on was having a species come along that would have precisely enough intelligence to make use of it, but sufficiently lack the intelligence to do so wisely. Now that is strange.

    [Response:What I pointed out once in an essay I wrote elsewhere is that humans are a little like burrowing worms writ large, so far as our access to fossil fuels goes. When metazoans (animals) evolved, they changed ocean chemistry by greatly increasing the portion of the sediments that interacts with the ocean — to the tune of several centimeters. No inanimate process or non-human animal can release the sequestered fossil fuel organic carbon at a rate anything like what we are able to do. So, insofar as we’re part of nature, we’re not so different from other biological effects. It’s just that we have a much bigger footprint, and that we can (en principe) forsee the consequences of what we are doing. –raypierre]

    Comment by John Monro — 16 Feb 2006 @ 9:43 PM

  5. Excellent post with a very nice summary of the Kitzmiller decision and a sensible discussion of the relevant philosophy of science. A corollary is that the ID folks can get traction only by attempting to change the evidentiary ground rules to assume the explanatory power of supernatural entities, as Michael Behe had to concede in his pitiable testimony. Having been defeated in the chess game, they are trying to upset the board. Similarly, the ‘climate skeptics’ have to resort to rhetorical tricks and sometimes outright dishonesty to make their case. Failure to make honest arguments is a de facto concession of defeat.

    Comment by Roger Albin — 16 Feb 2006 @ 10:15 PM

  6. A really excellent piece (great to see the appreciation of the Judge Jones opinion). The afterword and comment no 4 touch – maybe playfully – on Lovelockian type ideas of self regulation. Given the mauling Lovelock received in a recent post on this site, do the authors think that argument is closed?

    (In a 16 Jan 06 article Lovelock made his own homage to Darwin: “Had it been known then that life and the environment are closely coupled, Darwin would have seen that evolution involved not just the organisms, but the whole planetary surface”)

    Comment by Caspar Henderson — 16 Feb 2006 @ 11:47 PM

  7. You test of global warming theory by letting man continue his “industrial activities”, opens others to assume you mean only his industrial activities, and nothing else man does.

    So, skeptics will try the reverse thought experiment, and assume we removed all of man’s “industrial activities”, also ignoring the concomitant activities what do we get?

    The Woods Hole Research center puts the missing carbon sink at 46% of our emissions (this seems high to me). But, all things being equal, that sink puts us in glaciation in 250 years.

    And this is exactly the argument that skeptics are making.

    [Response: Why would that put us into glaciation? If emissions drop to zero, so does 46% of our emissions – William]

    Comment by Matt — 17 Feb 2006 @ 12:12 AM

  8. To Doug Percival-

    I see that raypierre has already replied, but I think there’s an important clarification to make: considering the worst case vs the most likely case is the act of choosing a defined level of acceptable risk.

    In all but the most forgiving circumstances, it makes practical sense to assume that something a bit worse than likely will be a very possible outcome, and thus it’s a good idea to make allowances, plan for a non-optimal and perhaps unexpected case. Of course that’s paralyzing if taken too far, but if not taken far enough the consequences may be equally devastating.

    “Worst case vs probable case” is also a better idea than “worst case vs best case” and “probable vs improbable” because it creates a multidimensional picture of the choice. “Worst vs best” imagines, as you point out, that these are located at opposing points on some probability gradient. “Probable vs improbable” makes the same mistake concerning desirable and undesirable outcomes. What we actually want is a reckoning between the cost of absolute failure and the quality of our best guess about how well we understand the system in question.

    That is exactly the function of a political apparatus, and it’s a function that is generally not being performed in the United States. There is no collection of people more in need of a firm scientific rigor and comprehension anywhere in the world. These people make choices for a living – they should be able to evaluate data and methodology.

    Comment by Jon Nelson — 17 Feb 2006 @ 12:38 AM

  9. In light of the obs on the acceleration of Greenland’s ice sheet a post on this subject would be most welcome. In particular the question of whether current ice-sheet models do an adequate job of representing the effect of meltwater on lubricating the flow of the glaciers seems to be important regarding the speed with which the Greenland ice sheet might melt/disappear.

    [Response:A glaciologist may disagree, but as far as I know, they do not. Single mountain glaciers are reasonably modelled, but that is somewhat easier than, but quite different to, the main ice sheets. This obviously adds significantly to the uncertainty in the ice sheet response. -gavin]

    Comment by Timothy — 17 Feb 2006 @ 8:11 AM

  10. Darwin’s detractors always got published not so with climate skeptics

    [Response: Actually, when skeptics make any semblance at all at playing by the rules of science, they have no trouble getting published. Many of the skeptics arguments are allowed through peer review even though the reviewers know they are flawed, because it is thought better to let them be discussed and shot down out in the open. I’ve done this myself from time to time, notably with Lindzen’s Iris paper, on which I was a (non-anonymous) reviewer. If there aren’t many skeptics’ papers in the literature, it’s because most of them don’t or can’t play by the rules of science. ]

    Comment by Brian Forbes — 17 Feb 2006 @ 8:13 AM

  11. Re the response to my comment by WIlliam:

    [Response: Why would that put us into glaciation? If emissions drop to zero, so does 46% of our emissions – William]

    I am not quite sure what you are saying, as a layman, which is kind of the point I was making.

    The layman assumes all things are equal, and if we remove our emissions, the carbon flux is still there, and the sink still takes natural carbon from the atmosphere.

    What we fail to tell the layman is that man’s impact on the carbon budget is more complex, and a lot of man induced carbon fluxes are tied to the oil economy outside of emissions. Oil makes clear cutting in China easier, but oil also allowed us to abandon much of our inefficient agriculture and let the land return to natural forest.

    Folks who understand the Kyoto protocols understand man made sinks and sources, the layman only hears the emissions part.

    [Response: Umm, OK, I didnt understand you. Still not perfectly sure I do. To be clear: there is a CO2 record from ice cores for the holocene – last 10kyr say – which is stable at about 280 ppmv. So the default is stability, in the absence of people (on timescales shorter than ice ages…). Since we’ve increased the atmos conc, its not too surprising that there is a net sink, removing some (about half, as you note) of that. But it would be odd if that increased sink didn’t come back into balance if CO2 levels declined. See-also David Archers post on the long-term future of CO2 levels – William]

    Comment by Matt — 17 Feb 2006 @ 11:52 AM

  12. You mention the opposition to global warming theory by (some) opponents of evolution. I’ve always wondered about this. I think it has to do with several factors. First, if one believes that the world is shortly coming to an end, as some religious fundamentalists do, then it doesn’t make much sense to worry about what we are doing to the global environment. I believe that James Watt, Reagan’s first Secretary of the Interior, stated this position explicitly. Second, it is important to remember that some of the evidence that climate scientists use is based on paleoclimate studies. If you believe the world is 6,000 years old, you are not going to pay attention to conclusions based on ice cores detailing a history of more than one hundred thousand years. Finally, I think some of the opposition results from a gut reaction against what such people feel are elitist atheisitic scientists who they feel oppose their whole way of life. For the same reason, many such people feel comfortable aligning themselves, contrary to their own economic interests, with free market conservatives. Of course, just as many evolutionary biologists are believing Christians, I am sure many climate scientists are politically conservative in other matters. (James Hansen, by report, liked John MCCain, who is quite conservative on most issues.) But the perception is that you are all Greenpeace activists.

    The latest move by some evangelicals to support measures to deal with global warming is a good sign. These people see man as entrusted with God’s creation and believe we are not doing a good job in that regard. But these people may not be fundamentalists, so I’m not sure what that means.

    Comment by Leonard Evens — 17 Feb 2006 @ 11:55 AM

  13. Re 10

    I’m sure Lindzen, McIntyre and McKitrick, Baliunas & Soon, Michaels, and others will be incensed to learn that their publications don’t count. Or are they not skeptics? M&M even point out with ill-concealed glee the rejection of their detractors’ papers. Perhaps you could bolster your argument with a few examples of worthy skeptical papers that have been suppressed. In any case, most of Darwin’s detractors published from the pulpit, not the peer reviewed literature, to the extent that there was one at the time. Skeptics seem to have no trouble getting published in today’s analog – conservative think tanks and media.

    Comment by Tom Fiddaman — 17 Feb 2006 @ 12:21 PM

  14. Wonderful post, but I think you’re relying way too heavily on Popper, and that Jones *isn’t*:

    [Response: It’s interesting that Judge Jones didn’t rely just on the positivist argument, but nonetheless he did put it first and returned to it at several junctures. I’d like to call this “neo-positivism,” since Popper’s original work had an overly optimistic view of the extent to which interpretation of observations could be separated from theory. Popper’s not perfect, but attempts to do better haven’t been as workable, in my view. Kuhn fails because not much of science is like the examples he quotes. For that matter, even the “revolutions” he quotes are more incremental and build more on past work than his simplistic picture admits. For example, Planck’s work on quantum theory still made use of the basic mechanisms of statistical thermo developed for the classical case. Worse, when you follow Kuhn to its conclusions you get nonsense like science as social construction, and we know what kind of absurdity that can lead to (anybody remember l’affair Sokal?). Quine tried to be more precise than Popper, but under Quine’s picture, it’s hard to see that even Physics is science. So, unless some professional philosopher of science sets me straight, I’m stuck with some kind of Popper-lite as the description of science that resonates most with the way those of us doing it see the subject. –raypierre]

    Comment by Chris Mooney — 17 Feb 2006 @ 12:31 PM

  15. Regarding #9: Thank you for the excellent detailed review of the judges notes. Darwin did have a chance to observe glaciers and has a surprising number named for him, a worthy acknowledgement indeed.

    With respect to ice sheets, as a glaciologist in fact our models generally work better because there are fewer small scale important boundary conditions changes on an ice sheet than on a mountain glacier, it is a simpler system in general.

    Bi-polar accleration:
    A bi-polar acceleration of key ice sheet outlet glaciers has been observed in the last decade. Pine Island and Thwaites Glacier West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) and Helheim, Kangerdlugssuaq and Jakobshavns Glacier in Greenland have all accelerated dramatically. Twenty years ago Terry Hughes proposed the Jakobshavns Effect (JE). The JE as explained by Hughes (1986) results from an imbalance of horizontal hydrostatic forces at the grounding line. With positive feedback mechanisms that sustain rapid ice discharge: ubiquitous surface crevassing, high summer rates of surface melting, extending creep flow, progressive basal uncoupling, lateral uncoupling, and rapid iceberg calving.

    Are the recent outlet glacier accelerations indicative of the Jakobshavns Effect at work via the reduction in back stress allowing the ice to be pulled out of the ice sheets, or is reduced basal coupling solely enhancing basal sliding? This can be answered but is off topic of this post.

    Comment by Mauri Pelto — 17 Feb 2006 @ 2:00 PM

  16. I found this on a seb site that I periodically visit.

    Plant enzyme efficiency may hold key to global warming

    Global warming just may have met its match. In research recently completed at Emory University School of Medicine, scientists have discovered a mutant enzyme that could enable plants to use and convert carbon dioxide more quickly, effectively taking more of that gas out of the atmosphere.

    The findings were published online on January 19 and will appear in the February issue of the journal Protein Engineering Design and Selection. Ichiro Matsumura, PhD, assistant professor of biochemistry at Emory University School of Medicine, is the senior author and principal investigator. The lead author is research specialist Monal R. Parikh.

    During photosynthesis, plants and some bacteria convert sunlight and carbon dioxide into usable chemical energy. Scientists have long known that this process relies on the enzyme rubulose 1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase, also called RuBisCO. While RuBisCO is the most abundant enzyme in the world, it is also one of the least efficient. As Dr. Matsu-mura says, “All life pretty much depends on the function on this enzyme. It actually has had billions of years to improve, but remains about a thousand times slower than most other enzymes. Plants have to make tons of it just to stay alive.”

    RuBisCO’s inefficiency limits plant growth and stops organisms from using and assimilating all the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, even as the amount of gas in the atmosphere con-tinues to grow. The resulting gas buildup is one cause of global warming. A 2004 report by the National Science Foundation estimates that atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations remained steady at between 200 and 280 parts per million for thousands of years, but that carbon dioxide levels have risen dramatically since the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s, leading to 380 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere today.

    For decades, scientists have struggled to engineer a variant of the enzyme that would more quickly convert carbon dioxide. Their attempts primarily focused on mutating specific amino acids within RuBisCO, and then seeing if the change affected carbon dioxide conver-sion. Because of RuBisCO’s structural complexity, the mutations did not have the desired outcome.

    For their own study, Dr. Matsumura and his colleagues decided to use a process called “directed evolution” which involved isolating and randomly mutating genes, and then inserting the mutated genes into bacteria (in this case Escherichia coli, or E. coli). They then screened the resulting mutant proteins for the fastest and most efficient enzymes. “We decided to do what nature does, but at a much faster pace.” Dr. Matsumura says. “Essentially we’re using evolution as a tool to engineer the protein.”

    Because E. coli does not normally participate in photosynthesis or carbon dioxide conversion, it does not usually carry the RuBisCO enzyme. In this study, Matsumura’s team added the genes encoding RuBisCO and a helper enzyme to E. coli, enabling it to change carbon dioxide into consumable energy. The scientists withheld other nutrients from this genetically modified organism so that it would need RuBisCO and carbon dioxide to survive under these stringent conditions.

    They then randomly mutated the RuBisCO gene, and added these mutant genes to the modified E. coli. The fastest growing strains carried mutated RuBisCO genes that produced a larger quantity of the enzyme, leading to faster assimilation of carbon dioxide gas. “These mutations caused a 500 percent increase in RuBisCO expression” Dr. Matsumura says. “We are excited because such large changes could potentially lead to faster plant growth. This results also suggests that the en-zyme is evolving in our laboratory in the same way that it did in nature.”

    Even as these results are published, Matsumura and his team are continuing their research on the RuBisCO enzyme. To start, they’ll experiment with increasing mutation rates on genes during di-rected evolution and look for undiscovered connections between the enzyme’s structure and function. Perhaps, with a little more evolution, RuBisCO might be able to shed its ignominious reputation as the slowest of plant enzymes.

    [Response: I don’t see this as much of a solution to global warming. After the plants take up all that CO2, what are you going to do with the plant biomass? Unless you keep it from rotting, it’s going right back into the atmosphere. –raypierre]

    Comment by Gary — 17 Feb 2006 @ 3:13 PM

  17. Thanks for the well written post, though I must confess that I am fairly disappointed that it was posted on this site. I have enjoyed being able to point skeptical friends here for a dispassionate look at global warming news and analysis. Despite how well written this is, it will largely serve to reinforce the views of those of us who already agree with the science in both of these areas. I know exactly how a few of my friends who adamantly reject darwinism would react.

    I fear however, that it will likewise reinforce the skepticism of those who might at least be willing to reconsider their opposition to GW science, but not willing to reconsider a tightly held religious view about the origins or development of life.

    It is of course all part of an important scientific dialogue, but I (and who am I to push my views here) view this site as specifically targeted to the very important issue of global warming.

    That said, thank you so much for your very important work here!

    [Response: I understand your concern, and indeed the last thing I’d want to do would be to turn people away from considering the scientific case supporting global warming just because they see it as wrapped up in the same epistemological world that supports the theory of evolution. That said, I don’t see how I could reconcile different standards of evaluation of scientific theories being applied to evolution vs. global warming. I suppose that Young Earth Creationists that believe in physics enough to fly in airplanes have found some way to make the accomodation, and may be able to apply the same accomodation to global warming physics, but I myself don’t understand how that is done. –raypierre]

    Comment by chris brandow — 17 Feb 2006 @ 4:57 PM

  18. Brilliant intellectual analysis that must have taken a lot of time and research. This is a very useful synthesis of thoughts I have been having, but have never yet been able to put on paper. Thank You.

    Comment by Richard Ordway — 17 Feb 2006 @ 5:09 PM

  19. The whole planet is a recycling bin. That’s the point that needs to be driven home with the out of sight out of mind crowd. Nothing really leaves, it just moves somewhere else.

    Comment by Mark A. York — 17 Feb 2006 @ 6:03 PM

  20. Re: #16 Any ideas how to make coal?

    Comment by Timothy — 17 Feb 2006 @ 6:57 PM

  21. Ref: #15
    Thank you. I visited your site and finally got my answers as to the mechanism for glacier retreat. The chart showing the number of retreating versus advancing glaciers in various locations around the globe is very convincing. There has to be a commonality such as well-mixed greenhouse gases.

    I love data and consider models as mere tools, not oracles. As a humorous aside, I respect Jim Hansen but felt that he hung out with models so long that he became one of them. Now I find he has become a data grinch too with the statement, “None of the current climate and ice models predict this. (the speed of the Greenland retreat) But I prefer the evidence from the earth’s history and my own eyes.” Right on, Jim!

    Comment by TopsyT — 17 Feb 2006 @ 7:10 PM

  22. Mark York has it, the recycling bin.

    The uraniam analogy is working for me.

    Climatologist say,”Nature has buried carbon deep and stabilized the climate. Now man is digging it back out”

    Comment by Matt — 17 Feb 2006 @ 8:33 PM

  23. RE: “I don’t see this as much of a solution to global warming.”

    Are you perhaps missing the point? What are the implications, if this particular science proves out, vis a vis carbon fixing mechanisms and our understanding of the carbon fixing behavior of the biosphere, en masse?

    Comment by Steve Sadlov — 17 Feb 2006 @ 9:13 PM

  24. > ideas on how to make coal

    Isn’t the standard way looking likely? Just run temperature and CO2 up a ways to a steamy-swamp world for, um, a while, and bingo, coal beds!

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 17 Feb 2006 @ 11:24 PM

  25. Bravo! A wonderful article!! But, as I posted previously, most scientists are atheists (as am I):

    Yes, this is not a web site about religion, but the way that most scientists see the world is fundamentally different than the way most laypeople (a category that I fall into) see it! This is why global warming (and evolution) is ubiquitously accepted within the scientific community but not by the general public.

    [Response: I don’t know whether it’s actually true or not that most scientists are atheists. It could be hard to know for sure, since people are rather private about their religious feelings, perhaps scientists more so than most. The answer you get would also depend a lot on how you phrase the question. That is somewhat beside the point, though. There is ample evidence that there is no intrinsic conflict between religion, per se, and the use of the scientific method as a way of understanding the natural world. Religion and science answer different kinds of questions, and use different methods. In many cases, this statement is official doctrine, as it is (loosely speaking) for the Catholic Church. The important thing is to keep those two aspects of human’s attempt to make sense of the Universe in their proper spheres. To not do so is not only bad science, but ultimately bad theology. To be sure, it’s not hard to find types of religious faith that are flatly incompatible with inferences drawn from science, but my point is that such a conflict is not intrinsic to religion itself. A person whose faith requires them to reject science altogether would be perfectly justified in doing so, but it would be wrong to muddle the issue by trying to justify such an action by scientific means. There are deep theological questions here, but I’ve probably already come too close to the line of what’s appropriate to discuss on RealClimate. –raypierre]

    Comment by Don Flood — 18 Feb 2006 @ 8:41 AM

  26. Re 16 (and the reply):
    An obvious use for a plant that efficiently sucks carbon out of the atmosphere is to produce biofuels. This would not change the current level of CO2, but might allow us to stop burning fossil fuels without changing our energy budget. Another use for such an advance would be the production of a best-selling science fiction novel about an engineered plant going native, evolving into a weed that crowds out all other plants, and threatens to plunge the earth into a deep ice age by removing all of the carbon from the atmosphere. If only there were a science fiction writer who could ignore and distort real science enough to make such a scenario plausible to a gullible public!

    [Response: An interesting set of possibilities. To amplify on my reply to #16, one mustn’t confuse biological productivity with carbon sequestration. If you increase the rate of CO2 uptake and then somehow keep the biomass from oxidizing (setting it on the long route to becoming coal or oil) then you will indeed offset fossil fuel emissions. It would be an admirable type of recycling. The tricky thing is to do the sequestration part. Now, Molnar’s comment raises an interesting alternate possibility — to use the increased CO2 uptake to make biofuels more efficiently. To the extent that these replace fossil fuels, that also works. With regard to the specific point in 16, though, the question here is whether CO2 utilization is the limiting factor in the conversion of sunlight to energy stored as chemical bonds in the plant’s mass. If not, then the proposal wouldn’t help much in increasing the efficiency of biofuel production. ]

    Comment by S Molnar — 18 Feb 2006 @ 9:10 AM

  27. I must say that this post is quite the best I’ve read on this subject. It should be posted in schools across the country. Also, I must say that the hyperlinks are excellent. Indeed this is true throughout “Real Climate”. Absolutely first class!

    I suppose you could call me a skeptic, a contrarian, a dissenter – or more pointed names. But when the IPCC First Italian Report was doctored to remove dissent, doubts were instilled.

    Various other incidents have led me to doubt the IPCC certainties. Not necessarily the science, but the overt political thrust of the organization.

    I was unable to determine any uncertainty in the IPCC website. The EPA at one time had a page of uncertainties, but then it disappeared. Apparently, under the influence of the present Administration it has moved back – not to genuine scientific uncertainties – but to politically inspired doubts.

    [Response:I don’t understand quite how you failed to find any uncertainy. The TAR SPM sayeth “Over the 20th century the increase has been 0.6 ± 0.2°C” – this is an expression of uncertainty. Or try fig 5. Or… well, I just don’t see how you can have missed it – William]

    Scientists are people too. The money and perks available to IPCC people are extensive. If oil company scientists are unenthusiastic about GW, then it can be argued that IPCC scientists might be enthusiastic from the same kind of incentives.

    [Response: The idea that there are vast wealth and perks to be made from climate science is wrong, and would raise a laugh (albeit a rather bitter one) from anyone “inside” – William]

    [Response: Money and perks! Hahahaha. How in the world did I miss out on those when I was a lead author for the Third Assessment report? Working on IPCC is a major drain on ones’ time, and probably detracts from getting out papers that would help to get grants (not that we make money off of grants either, since those of us at national labs and universities are not paid salary out of grants for the most part.) We do it because it’s work that has to be done. It’s grueling and demanding, and not that much fun, and I can assure everybody that there is no remuneration involved. The only thing that might seem like a “perk” to those outside the process would be the international travel (about four trips per report), but these trips are anything but fun. Most of us have more opportunities than we need for international travel, research conferences like the Ascona one on Neoproterozoic climate are much more fun than IPCC, and anyway given all the necessary travel, most of us would rather have more time to spend at home with our families. When I went to New Zealand with IPCC, I spent all my time locked up in the hotel writing reports and having discussions with our chapter authors, then had to head right back to cover my teaching (and to make matters worse got stuck overnight in Los Angeles because of a Chicago snowstorm, missing a fantastic performance of Carmen by the Lyric Opera, for which I had subscription tickets). IPCC is important work, but it’s not something one would wish on one’s best friends. I’m very happy you liked the Darwin article, though. –raypierre]

    I suspect that much of the problem may rest in Working Group Three – the “social science” part of the operation – and therefore not subject to the rigor of natural science.

    I bet the “uncertainty” memo recently published by the IPCC (it was very good) doesn’t apply to WG3 whose job may be to inform and perhaps frighten the great unwashed.

    So my view of GW is that it may well be true in all its aspects, but it is difficult to be sure of anything when a government funded political juggernaut is carrying the ball of absolute certainty. (How I mix my metaphors!)

    I should be clear that Real Climate is just about the best information source on GW I have found – even though you seem to bring up contrary opinions only to knock them down. However, I regard that as perfectly fair – and the hyperlinks are so good!

    Comment by Harry Pollard — 18 Feb 2006 @ 2:23 PM

  28. Thanks for this excellent paper. Its description of the big picture of Global Warming and how it fits in with the philosophy of science is clear and concise.

    The judge’s second argument, scientifically unreasonable burden of proof, is indeed the error behind most Global Warming skepticism. I have been there and it took years of more observations and the failure of better explanations to appear to “convert” me. I had no hidden agenda; I was looking for “truth”.

    There is nothing new about qualified scientists looking at the same data and arriving at different conclusions. There is also nothing new about the most outspoken ones going down in flames rather than admitting that they are wrong. What is the likelihood of Gavin becoming a “denier” and Lindzen becoming an “alarmist”…. zero and never.

    What is a problem is not so much the subtle name-calling like alarmist and denier, even Bohrs and Einstein did that, but rather the questioning of motivation. No one knows what is in the other person’s mind. To imply that what is there is negative leads to resentment. Resentment means confrontation and inaction. It is much better to assume that the other person comes from the same place as you. When publically visible climate scientists agree on something, then maybe progress on this issue will be made. I wonder if a peace conference attended by Hansen, Schneider, Michaels and Lindzen would work.

    Comment by Paul Dougherty — 18 Feb 2006 @ 2:54 PM

  29. Re #27

    I don’t understand where this conclusion could have possibly come from: “I was unable to determine any uncertainty in the IPCC website” Not only is practically every conclusion in there specific in mentioning uncertainty, the phrases used to describe levels of certainty are formally defined.

    Also, you might be interested in the position statement issued by the Australian Academy of Sciences, Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Sciences and the Arts, Brazilian Academy of Sciences, Royal Society of Canada, Caribbean Academy of Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, French Academy of Sciences, German Academy of Natural Scientists Leopoldina, Indian National Science Academy, Indonesian Academy of Sciences, Royal Irish Academy, Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei (Italy), Academy of Sciences Malaysia, Academy Council of the Royal Society of New Zealand, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, and Royal Society (UK).

    You can read at the URL below their position on the soundness of the science presented by the IPCC. If it were politically skewed, these organizations would not endorse it.

    Comment by Coby — 18 Feb 2006 @ 3:33 PM

  30. Speaking of sequestering — Has anyone tried (modeled) piping oxygen down and burning methane from ice at depth and pressure? The exhaust pressure would be, um, greater, but the cooling would be great, how’d that trade off as an environment for spinning a generator?

    If it’d work, generating electricity there, can that be done putting the exhaust into the water deep enough that the CO2 dissolves rather than bubbling up? Or are the methane clathrates unstable enough that warming up a little spot on top of one would risk the neighborhood?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 18 Feb 2006 @ 3:37 PM

  31. Re #27 The money and perks available to IPCC people are extensive. If oil company scientists are unenthusiastic about GW, then it can be argued that IPCC scientists might be enthusiastic from the same kind of incentives.

    It is my understanding that membership on IPCC panels is not highly remunerated. Nor do I see uncertainties played down in IPCC WG I reports. So not only is the attributed motive unsupported, even the existence of the infraction seems to me very much in doubt.

    Perhaps Mr Pollard would care to proffer at least one specific instance where IPCC WG I understated scientific uncertainty.

    WG I, however, and RealClimate, report on a rigorous physical science. RealClimate largely exists in response to unfair criticisms with unscientific motivations, directed at the science. This is the science summarized by IPCC WGI. The WG II and WG III reports, and the various policy responses including Kyoto, are outside the professional interests of the editors of this site, and are explicitly excluded as core topics in the description of the site’s purpose.

    Climate science is not the weak link in climate policy, and attempts to make it appear as such are at best misguided, but are to all appearances often cynical and even malign. Like IPCC WGI, RealClimate is about how the climate system works, what we know about it, and what we don’t. Unlike IPCC WGI, RealClimate is also about responding to baseless critiques of the physical science.

    Whether environmental impacts or economic decisions have been comparably well-studied or comparably even-handedly reported by IPCC should be treated as separate questions. I think that for the most part answers to such questions should be sought elsewhere.

    Comment by Michael Tobis — 18 Feb 2006 @ 4:08 PM

  32. There is a deeper connection between our religious myths and the climatologists effort at education.

    We have seen the flood, more than one catastophic flood, in our recent pleistocene times. We have seen it get very cold and we have seen it get as hot as the the Teutonic goddess of the dead and daughter of Loki, named Hel would tell us.

    But, we have never seen the polio virus until Dr. Salk showed it to us in 1952. So, our religious myths have little to tell us about it.

    But we have known about Noah’s struggle with the last deglaciation, we never forgot. It is built in to us, our culture, we accept catastrophes. Our religions prepare us for them by preserving their history. Our religions tell us, don’t worry, the human race will grow back, it is all part of God’s plan.

    The heroic king Manu, son of the Sun, the first Hindu man predicted the great deglaciation and was instructed what to do by the great climatologist of his time, the god Vishnu. Modern climatologist cannot compete with that expert.

    Been there, done that. You want our appreciation? Go tackle a tiny virus.

    [Response: Gunther Anders, the philosopher of catastrophe, makes very effective use of a parable based on Noah in explaining the difficulty in convincing people to react to warnings of natural catastrophe. I learned about Anders work from an excellent little book, “petite metaphysique des tsunamis,” by Jean-Pierre Dupuy, given to me by my colleague Remy Roca. I highly recommend it.]

    Comment by Matt — 18 Feb 2006 @ 11:17 PM

  33. Re 27

    I suspect that much of the problem may rest in Working Group Three – the “social science” part of the operation – and therefore not subject to the rigor of natural science.

    Since WGIII has little if any involvement with the science it’s hard to see how it could be the origin of the problems you describe. In any case economists are probably the best-paid discipline in academia (with a low share of funding from government) and so ought to be particularly well insulated from the kinds of motivations you imply.

    The IPCC process is merely a highly visible tip of the iceberg. Just as most sport takes place outside of the Olympics, the bulk of activity that winds up summarized in WGIII reports takes place in the wider world, e.g. in the academic literature, and funding for things like integrated assessment modeling is scarce.

    It’s also hard to fault WGIII-types for lack of rigor or ignoring uncertainty. If anything, economists et al. have been particularly eager to explore things from an option value perspective and to use sophisticated tools, to offset the fact that the socioeconomic problem space is messier. If anything they could be faulted for measuring only what is measurable, but correcting that generally implies more stringent mitigation effort.

    Comment by Tom Fiddaman — 18 Feb 2006 @ 11:34 PM

  34. Wow! What an excellent article. Regarding the verified aspects of the theory I have a list of supporting evidence that I like to display to the skeptics when they ask “â?¦ what is the evidence that AGW exists?”
    I reply as follows….realizing my list may need some refinement and that other trends may have been left out I’d appreciate any additions.

    Basically every climatological trend I can think of is consistent with global warming theory.
    – Global Surface temperature trends; 3 independent compilations that each show the same thing
    – Satellite trends
    – Sonde balloon trends
    – Alpine glacial trends
    – Precipitation trends
    – Hydrological trends (cycle intensity)
    – Arctic ice trends
    – Arctic river flow trends
    – Pan evaporation trends
    – Ocean temperature trends
    – Large lake temperature trends ( Tahoe, Tanganyika, Baikal)
    – Drought trends
    – heating day and cooling day trends
    – record heat trends
    – record cold trends
    – snow line trends
    – Lake freeze/ thaw trends
    – permafrost trends
    – Earth shine trends
    – Spectrophotometric trends
    – surface skin layer trends
    – spring budding trends
    – migratory trends
    – atmospheric moisture trends
    – cloud trends
    – increased snow accumulation over the Antarctic and Upper elevations of Greenland do to increased moisture and precipitation.
    – precipitation trends
    – sea level rise trends
    – atmospheric shrinkage trends
    – stratospheric temperature trends
    – sea surface barometric pressure trends

    Comment by George Balella — 19 Feb 2006 @ 8:53 AM

  35. Re #1, #9, #15, #21 about Greenland glacier ice retreat:

    The inland ice is thickening due to more precipitation and the edges are melting, due to higher temperatures. Satellite data are accurate for the inland ice, but less accurate for changes at the slopes and flow changes. The earlier Johannessen paper acknowledges this and says it is uncertain about the edges. Rignot and Kanagaratmna ignores the inland ice (as “in balance”, some discrepancy with Johannessen) and concentrate their findings to the edges.

    In the (full) comment of Dowdeswell in Science, one of his first statements is somewhat out of reality:

    First, the floating tongues or ice shelves of several outlet glaciers, each several hundred meters thick and extending up to tens of kilometers beyond the grounded glaciers, have broken up in the past few years.

    This is certainly not true for the largest Greenland glacier at Ilulisat (Jacobshavn), which breakup point is receding already since (and probably before) 1850. The retreat was faster in the 1929-1953 (24 years) period than in 1953-2003 (50 years).
    Thus the recent accelleration is within normal variability, the more that one need to take into account that less friction, due to the shift of the breakup point is increasing speed too.

    And yearly average Greenland temperatures (where there are only stations at the edges, as the inland is inhabitable) now are just reaching the 1930-1950 temperatures, but summer temperatures still are lower. See the temperature plot of all Greenland stations here.
    Thus the recent accelleration is not the result of GHG induced global or regional warming, as regional temperatures probably are NAO-correlated and are not higher than 50-70 years ago…

    This doesn’t mean that there is no global melting for most other glaciers, be it that in general the melting started before the main GHG releases after 1950. And interesting to see that 8 out of 20 glaciers chosen by Oerlemans show a rapid decrease, but a relax after 1980 or even a growth. See the graph on RealClimate.

    Comment by Ferdinand Engelbeen — 19 Feb 2006 @ 9:04 AM

  36. Raypierre,

    Thanks for this nice article, although the ID/evolution controversy seems to be confined to the US. In Europe the ID adherents are a rather extinct species…

    To add to your Afterword, I think that water is even better suited as ID molecule than CO2: the earth has it in all three forms in enormous quantities and rapid (external) changes are countered by the large heat buffer that are the oceans. Even at the largest extremes, some part of the surface still rests inhabitable by some species, thanks to water. If the temperature changes, a small change in cloud cover can (and does in the tropics and Arctic) counteract the more extreme peaks…

    [Response: Yes, water is a very fine molecule, but it has a tragic flaw that makes it unsuitable to use all by itself in putting together a habitable world. It makes a planet subject to catastrophe on both the cold end and the hot end. On the cold end, because water ice floats, it makes a planet subject to an ice-albedo (Snowball Earth) catastrophe. On the hot end, it makes a planet subject to a runaway greenhouse. Regarding the latter, my own estimates show that if a planet is tuned to be habitable early in its history when the Sun is faint, then it will hit a runaway greenhouse after about 4 billion years, if there is no other regulation mechanism operating. Our current understanding of the regulation mechanism on the hot end is the CO2 weathering thermostat, though recent ideas have started to lean on methane and organic haze clouds as well. On the cold end, CO2 also helps a planet avoid falling into a snowball; buildup of CO2 is supposed to help a planet get out, but my work shows there are some problems with that idea — which could be resolved if there were a good way to make high clouds in a system without much water in it and with feeble convection. Another case of water not doing the job one needs it to do. ]

    Comment by Ferdinand Engelbeen — 19 Feb 2006 @ 9:20 AM

  37. This is off topic somewhat. Texas republicans seem unimpressed by global warming. What parts of Texas could be flooded in next 50-100 years if Greenland proceeds to melt? Texans who own land in those areas might be interested.

    [Response: For Texas, other relevant things to look at would be summertime heat waves, drought, effect of these on air pollution and on agriculture, and potential double-whammies in coastal areas from increased hurricane intensity and sea level rise.]

    Comment by William Geoghegan — 19 Feb 2006 @ 11:56 AM

  38. Here’s a nice map of SE US coastal changes for various degrees of sea level rise. Texas doesn’t quite make it on there.

    Anyone have any similar maps handy?

    Comment by Coby — 19 Feb 2006 @ 1:37 PM

  39. You must remember this, Bogey and Bergmann. What one black robed lawyer on the bench giveth, another can just as easily take away. What is worse than a lawyer? A lawyer who becomes a judge.

    Ay yup, judge Jones done good this time, and he may know some science; but putting your hopes in the bag of legal rhetoric is folly.

    There is a profound gypsy curse (I repeat, curse) – “May your life be filled with lawyers.” Lawyers love it; they have a complete monopoly.
    It’s called due process in the legal trade.

    Comment by gerald spezio — 19 Feb 2006 @ 2:57 PM

  40. Re: George Balella (34). I think you would find relatively few AGW skeptics who would disagree with your list as evidence for GW (ie. global warming). What none of this list would demonstrate is: that climate change is unusual or unexpected; that GW is anthropogenic; that the current temperature trend is outside natural trends (that ocurred before high levels of CO2 emissions); that the current temperature is the highest in the past 1000 yrs (this is inferred only by the proxy studies – which have very high levels of uncertainty).

    Comment by PHEaston — 19 Feb 2006 @ 3:08 PM

  41. 60 Minutes on GW tonight, 2/19/06 (CBS)

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 19 Feb 2006 @ 3:38 PM

  42. re 34
    Alright the global temprature has gone but I doubt that you can prove CO2 is the cause.

    Comment by Brian Forbes — 19 Feb 2006 @ 6:44 PM

  43. “Actually, when skeptics make any semblance at all at playing by the rules of science,”
    How scientific is to ask everybody to believe that CO2 causes global warming when you know that it cannot be directly proved and there could be any number of other explanations for it?

    Comment by Brian Forbes — 19 Feb 2006 @ 6:55 PM

  44. How nice to see a discussion of intelligent design and a mention of Rubisco.
    For if there is ‘evidence’ of ID it is Rubisco -God’s deliberate mistake – indeed perhaps THE forbidden fruit whose mortal taste will bring ‘death unto the world…..’
    Not that upregulating its expression would do much of interest.
    Its defect is that cannot sort out oxygen from carbon dioxide, so while it adds Carbon to the plant it also burns it (back into CO2).
    -If Rubisco didnt have this defect there might be very little co2 in the atmosphere at all -and there might be no upper limit to its oxygen concentration (please extinguish your cigarettes).

    Of course, life processes on all inhabited planets are going to appear ID, a posteriori, but that surely the fun of exploring the idea at school in science lessons.
    We also need to create something to replace the Acts of the Apostles et al (post Dawkins) for those who do need something as succour.

    Consider the pineapple!

    Comment by CharlieT — 19 Feb 2006 @ 6:56 PM

  45. Hi Brian,

    What would you consider “proof” that CO2 is the primary cause of GW?

    Comment by Coby — 19 Feb 2006 @ 7:46 PM

  46. Hi Coby
    Certainly not a computer model which can prove anything provided the period of time is short enough .
    I would want a direct proof, not one based on two readings with two different instruments separated by anumber of years.

    [Response: You don’t seem to have understood the article, or the nature or the argument. There is very basic physics that predicts that increasing CO2 should lead to warming. Two things that could moderate this link are the behavior of water vapor and the behavior of clouds. It’s increasingly clear from water vapor observations and advances in the theory of how water vapor behaves that water vapor is very likely to amplify CO2 induced warming as the theory predicts. Clouds are still in a more uncertain column. The earth is warming in a way that the CO2 theory predicts. That doesn’t say that its’ the only possible theory that could account for the observed warming, but the observed warming is indeed consistent with the theory. If you think that some other theory could account for the warming, then it is up to YOU to show that this meets the observations equally well. Better people than you have tried, and failed. If you think you can do it, by all means go ahead. –raypierre]

    Comment by Brian Forbes — 19 Feb 2006 @ 8:04 PM

  47. Brian,

    There was a reason I put proof in scare quotes, and that is because there is in fact no such proof possible. We will never have anything more than very strong evidence and very high certainty, that is the nature of science, proof is for mathematics.

    What we do have is a theory of how climate works that is based on very solid physics and that is internally consistent. It is further consistent with a mountain of empirical evidence (data) and supported by very sophisticated computer models.

    When I asked what you wanted to see as “proof” I was wondering if there was some observation you would need to see confirmed before you would believe CO2 is causing warming. If the above (theory based on hard science, consistent with obsevations) is not enough for you then nothing ever will be. I would also note that if this is the case, you must instead believe in magic as all the technology around you was developed using the same scientific methods that underpin AGW theory.

    Comment by Coby — 19 Feb 2006 @ 11:48 PM

  48. “The earth is warming in a way that the CO2 theory predicts.”

    How so?

    When I look at global temperature and CO2 concentration charts I see only a poor correlation and the two graphs actually diverge for 35 years between 1940 and 1975. How is this consistent with CO2/GW theory?

    [Response: Your question is dishonest, since you’ve asked it and been answered before: – William]

    Comment by nanny_govt_sucks — 20 Feb 2006 @ 2:38 AM

  49. An excellent post, very good reading.

    Slightly off topic, I was particularly interested to see the latest Carl Wunsch paper in press at Quaternary Research. Entitled ‘Abrupt Climate Change: An alternative view’ its a provocative read (not really a surprise for a Wunsch paper!) and I think well worthy of comment here at RC.

    Keep up the good work.

    Comment by SteveF — 20 Feb 2006 @ 7:15 AM

  50. nanny_etc: As has been pointed out a number of times when you have raised this point, a refinement of GW/CO2 Theory incorporates the radiative effects of aerosols, emitted by volcanoes and fossil fuel burning, and other radiative forcings [land-use change, solar]. Consequently, the theory predicts that there would be warming in the early 20th Century due to a number of factors [land-use change, solar, relative lack of volcanic aerosols, some CO2], cooling in the mid-20th Century [Anthropogenic aerosols now being dominant], and warming in the late 20th Century [as CO2 becomes more dominant than aerosols due to its longer atmospheric lifetime and clean air legislation].

    Comment by Timothy — 20 Feb 2006 @ 8:15 AM

  51. Armagh observatory has kept a record of temperatures for the last 200 years and has published a paper relating the temperature readings to the sun spot cycle showing that that it gets cooler when the Sun’s cycle is longer and that it is warmer when the cycle is shorter.Admittedly this is only for one place on earth but it is more effected by the sun than CO2
    The sun shines on all the earth just as CO2 pervades the atmosphere what is true for Armagh appears to be true for all the truly rural sites in the GISS data however most of those were closed during the 1960s.

    Comment by Brian Forbes — 20 Feb 2006 @ 10:08 AM

  52. Re # 40

    The current warming IS unusual in the context of the instramental record. It also appears to me to be unusual in the context of the paleoclimate record. Kilmanjaro is about to loose its 7,000 year old ice cap, Glacier National Park is about to loose ALL of its glaciers…many which formed thousands of years ago, plants buried under glaciers in South America 5,000 years ago are now being exposed, a 3,000 year old Arctic ice dam has collapsed, oxygen isotopic records from the Himalaya show the current period warmer then any of the last 2,000 years…..this appears to me to be something new under the sun and its static output. Something never before seen by civilization….What would convince you?

    Comment by George Balella MD — 20 Feb 2006 @ 10:45 AM

  53. #50 That’s all well and good as long as you ignore the work of Solanki et. al that shows a good correlation between solar irradience and global temperature for the supposed “aersol cooling” 35 year period:

    see Fig 5.

    You’d also need a pretty good explanation of why increased regional aerosol production in China/SE Asia has led to exceptional warming there over the last 20 years or so. The aerosols should have a pretty powerful cooling effect if they are a regional phenomenon and are supposed to have been the dominant global cooling forcing for 35 years. Where do we see that powerful cooling effect today?

    Comment by nanny_govt_sucks — 20 Feb 2006 @ 1:23 PM

  54. Re #42 and “Alright the global temprature has gone but I doubt that you can prove CO2 is the cause.”

    If not, what is the cause? We know more CO2 in the air creates a hotter surface temperature if all else is held constant, and checks on “all else” don’t show any feedback strong enough to prevent it. What’s to prove?

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 20 Feb 2006 @ 1:28 PM

  55. The law of theromdynamics that says entropy always increases tells me that any closed carbon cycle will leak energized cartbon, and that in the limit we can do no better than the microbes. To be as benign as the microbes we would be further limited to using the first meter of soil carbon.

    The other alternative would be to collect some portion of the sun fix carbon for the long term, or find some other energy source to fix carbon. Once we open the carbon cycle, then we have a free variable.

    So, we have an operational test of ID. Let man do what he does currently, then, according to ID theory, man (or some new microbe) should, in the next few years have a breakthrough in long term carbon fixing.

    Comment by Matt — 20 Feb 2006 @ 1:39 PM

  56. I believe, and evidently the New Horizons team believes, that we can predict the position of Pluto in its chaotic orbit … well actually, its nonchaotic orbit.

    — Graham Cowan, former hydrogen fan
    Boron: internal combustion, nuclear cachet

    [Response: The New Horizons team only has to predict the position of Pluto over a relatively short time. Every chaotic system has a predictability decay time, and so can be predicted over sufficiently short time scales with the use of initial conditions having an achievable accuracy. For the evidence that Pluto’s orbit is chaotic, I’m relying on “Numerical evidence that the motion of Pluto is chaotic,” Gerald Jay Sussman and Jack Wisdom, in Science, 241, 22 July 1988; I don’t know if this is the last word on the subject. There’s no question, though, that asteroids are in chaotic orbits, and rather little question that the obliquity of Mars is chaotic. Either one serves equally well for the purposes of my example of the problems with taking too restricted a notion of “prediction” in testing a theory. ]

    Comment by G. R. L. Cowan — 20 Feb 2006 @ 1:56 PM

  57. Re #54,

    nanny_govt_sucks, thanks for the link but your response indicates you did not read vaery carefully the comment you are replying to. Solar forcing was listed among the various factors that control climate. Yes, there is good correlation for solar and early to mid 20th century temperatures. You bring up other factors as well, which is fine, but you seem to assume they are all ignored, or they somehow contradict AGW theory. They are not ignored, they are all factored in and all play their part in a system whose current changes are currently dominated overall by CO2. These other factors need to be understood and incorporated into the models also, as they are.

    But the fact remains that there is no consistent explanation for the observed 20th century trends that does not include a dominant role for CO2 concentraion changes. That other factors ameliorate, amplify or temporarily dominate does not in any way contradict the science behind greenhouse theory of climate.

    Comment by Coby — 20 Feb 2006 @ 2:43 PM

  58. Re 48, 54

    You seem to be engaged in a search for univariate causality, picking bits and pieces of data even when it would seem to contradict your conclusion (Solanki: “It is highly likely, however, that after 1980 the Sun has not contributed in any significant way to global warming.”) If you’re serious, put all your favorite forcings in a simple energy balance model and show how you can replicate historic temperatures without anthropogenic GHGs.

    Comment by Tom Fiddaman — 20 Feb 2006 @ 3:08 PM

  59. Re 48, 54

    You seem to be engaged in a search for univariate causality, picking bits and pieces of data even when it would seem to contradict your conclusion (Solanki: “It is highly likely, however, that after 1980 the Sun has not contributed in any significant way to global warming.”) If you’re serious, put all your favorite forcings in a simple energy balance model and show how you can replicate historic temperatures without anthropogenic GHGs.

    Comment by Tom Fiddaman — 20 Feb 2006 @ 3:10 PM

  60. 25 years of nonconformity of the temperature with observation does not invalidate 185 years of conformity with the Solar cycle.
    How sure are you that the temperatures derived by GISS are error free?

    [Response: Brian, take a step back and think about what it is you are asking for here. You are implying that a) if CO2 is a factor now, no other forcing can have been important in the past, and b) that temperature data be ‘error-free’ for the last 25 years before you attribute anything, but temperatures for the last 185 years are good enough to show solar forcing? No data source is error free and the existence (and detectability) of solar forcing does not preclude CO2 having a radiative impact. -gavin]

    Comment by Brian Forbes — 20 Feb 2006 @ 3:49 PM

  61. >56 by Matt

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 20 Feb 2006 @ 6:32 PM

  62. Re #58, 59, 60:

    If we accept the latest estimates of increase in solar radiation in the past two solar cycles (see Scafetta and West), then solar may have contributed 10-30% to the increase in surface temperature of the last decades. But even if the sun didn’t increase in radiation in the past decades, it takes several decades (and longer for deep sea temperatures) for the oceans to come into equilibrium with the increased insolation since 1900.

    And while current models all (need to) “predict” the past temperatures, there is a lot of room for equally validated variants, where solar sensitivity (with cloud feedbacks) is enhanced and/or sensitivity for aerosols (uncertain) and CO2 is reduced…

    Comment by Ferdinand Engelbeen — 20 Feb 2006 @ 7:22 PM

  63. nanny [54]: Apologies for writing my reply “on-the-fly” and not going into exhaustive detail. I wrote that aerosols were “dominant” for the cooling period. This certainly appears to be the case as changes in solar and volcanic forcing are not large enough to counteract the growing forcing from CO2 over this time period. It doesn’t mean that there were no changes in other forcings over this period, just that the aerosols were the most important.

    I also find it strange that you don’t notice the most obvious feature of the figure 5 that you link to: the massive divergence between recorded temperatures and solar irradiance in the later part of the 20th century.

    The situation is that “GW Theory” encompasses many different bits of information [including solar forcing], and it can account for the last century of climate change by considering how the evolution of these different forcings evolves in time and what their respective balance is.

    Alternative explanations tend to ignore this wealth of evidence and try to ‘prove’ the importance of one factor [e.g. solar] over CO2. To do this they normally have to posit an unproven mechanism whereby the forcing from their chosen factor is magnified by feedbacks of the climate system [to account for 20th century variation] and, simultaneously, the forcing from CO2 is supressed by feedbacks of the climate system. Needless to say such explanations are considerably less ‘fit’ than the current state of play in “GW Theory”.

    You can hide from the evidence for only so long, but when even the evidence you bring forward in your defence contradicts you…surely then you must admit defeat.

    A brief word on Asian aerosols. Apparently emissions of Chinese aerosols have already begun to peak, much earlier than had been predicted. They keep on having to revise the aerosol preditions downward. Thus growth of aerosol production in Asia is not keeping pace with growth of CO2 production. I don’t know enough about regional trends in temperature to comment definitively, but I think that the global trend in temperature has been so strong that it would swamp local effects.

    Comment by Timothy — 20 Feb 2006 @ 7:51 PM

  64. Re #36 (comment):

    Which one, water or CO2 is the best ID molecule can be discussed… CO2 is not very effective in keeping the greenhouse warm, as can be seen in the diurnal temperature difference of the dry Sahara (~40 K), vs. moderate (wetter) countries (~10 K on clear days, a few K on cloudy days)… And even to get out of the “snowball earth”, one needed CO2 levels a few hundred times current (according to some models)…

    But the best ID molecule aside, I do understand the “cold” side of the extremes, but I don’t see the “warm” side, the (water -vapour- induced) runaway process. In the more extreme cases, like the Cretaceous, all polar ice was melted and the temperature gradient between tropics and poles was less than today. Although the higher global temperatures certainly would have increased water vapour, the heat loss at the poles still would have been high (and normally higher than with lower polar sea surface temperatures)…

    Further CH4 helping at the high end? Please explain a little further. Organic haze indeed may be plausible…

    [Response: The problem on the warm side is the following. If you have a large ocean which can supply moisture to the atmosphere to keep it at some proportion of saturation, then at sufficiently high surface temperatures the atmosphere becomes so optically thick in the infrared that the outgoing longwave radiation becomes independent of surface temperature. If you increase the surface temperature, you just elevate the radiating level, keeping the OLR constant. This only happens at temperatures considerably above the Cretaceous range. It’s the basis of the “runaway greenhouse” model of how Venus got the way it is. If the absorbed solar radiation exceeds the limiting OLR described above, then the surface temperature will keep increasing until the entire ocean has evaporated into the atmosphere. As for the methane regulation idea, that is due to Kasting and Pavlov, and draws its inspiration from atmospheric chemistry that is known to happen on Titan. Basically, if you have a methane dominated atmosphere, then methane combines to form complex organic hazes, which blocks sunlight and hence cools the surface. The methane thermostat posits that on the early Earth, the biosphere was dominated by methanogens, who keep warming up the planet by pumping out methane. If the methane concentration gets so high that it substantially exceeds the CO2, then chemistry says you form hazes, which will cool things down again. There’s lots of this theory that remains to be worked out, but it certainly is an interesting new wrinkle, which is worth thinking about.]

    Comment by Ferdinand Engelbeen — 20 Feb 2006 @ 8:11 PM

  65. Buying time.

    If we could develop a process that takes biomass in and produces carbon based, long lasting construction blocks, plus CO2 plus entropy; then we might be able to buy ourselves an extra 50-100 years. Over time we might expect the process to get more efficient, we would farm ourselves out of trouble in the short term.

    Eventually, this high energy process will cause us to worry the entropy term, but if we are efficient we can do this until we find alternative fuel. We still push fossil fuel conservation.

    The process would become an extension of the processed woods industry.

    Comment by Matt — 20 Feb 2006 @ 10:02 PM

  66. As I understand it, we might have farmed ourselves out of trouble if we’d started working on that back when the global population was under one billion — because we didn’t need to consume more than Earth could produce in any given year, back then.

    We’ve overshot that point. The text here — nine paragraphs — sums it up, with reference to the graphs.

    I think total energy use by people each year now is quite a bit more than the total possible biological material growing on Earth per year, right now.

    We’re running on fossil not because it’s easier — but because there’s more of it. There isn’t enough wood, corn, switchgrass and everything else added up total, available to burn, for our use of energy — each year.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 20 Feb 2006 @ 10:27 PM

  67. #64: “I wrote that aerosols were “dominant” for the cooling period. This certainly appears to be the case”

    Based on what science?

    Anyone can clearly see in the charts below that the places on the planet that have warmed the most in the last 20 years or so are the places that produce the MOST aerosols.

    See fig (a) for Anthropogenic Sulfate Production Rate

    See fig (d) for Annual Temperature Trends 1976 to 2000

    Where is this so-called cooling effect from sulfate aerosols?

    “I also find it strange that you don’t notice the most obvious feature of the figure 5 that you link to: the massive divergence between recorded temperatures and solar irradiance in the later part of the 20th century.”

    I presented the graphic in response to the fallacious claim that aerosols had something to do with global cooling during the period 1940 to 1975. Do you accept Solanki’s study? If so, then will you agree that aerosols were NOT involved significantly in global cooling from 1940-1975?

    “The situation is that “GW Theory” encompasses many different bits of information …”

    Moving the goalposts, are we? The subject from #46, #48, #50 was “CO2 Theory”. Let’s not change the subject.

    “You can hide from the evidence for only so long, but when even the evidence you bring forward in your defence contradicts you…surely then you must admit defeat.”

    Again, a subject change. My point was about the global cooling period from 1940-1975. Solanki’s study says it was due to solar changes, you say aerosol effects. Who’s right?

    Comment by nanny_govt_sucks — 20 Feb 2006 @ 11:18 PM

  68. Re 68

    I presented the graphic in response to the fallacious claim that aerosols had something to do with global cooling during the period 1940 to 1975. Do you accept Solanki’s study? If so, then will you agree that aerosols were NOT involved significantly in global cooling from 1940-1975?

    The Solanki page you linked proves nothing of the sort; it’s not even a detection & attribution study. Eyeballing the two curves and concluding that aerosols can’t be involved is even more superstitious than eyeballing temperature and CO2 graphs and concluding that AGW must be real.

    Similarly, aerosols don’t necessarily cause cooling; they just cause less warming than would otherwise occur. Also, the spatial pattern of aerosol forcing differs from the spatial pattern of aerosol production you cited. Again, this is a case where eyeball correlations that work for simple systems fail with complex dynamic systems.

    Comment by Tom Fiddaman — 21 Feb 2006 @ 12:04 AM

  69. Hi nanny..

    Can you provide a quote from Solanki’s study where he says what you say he says? I don’t think so.

    You are making such shallow and naive arguments, I am wondering if you believe any of them? The simple fact of a reasonable correlation on a graph that is scaled for the best match hardly means that solar must be the one and only driver of temperature changes. Similarily, looking for cooling regions to correlate with less warming means you must have never heard of wind, which is not likely.

    Why is it so hard for you to accept that there are many factors at play and your search for the one and only cause (as long as it isn’t CO2) is misguided to say the least.

    Comment by Coby — 21 Feb 2006 @ 1:04 AM

  70. Re 60 & 61
    Temperatures from truly rural stations (with no warming effect from concrete & no cooling effect from fountains or trees) follow the activity of the sun very closely up to about 1980 virtually precluding any other cause.
    I have always theorised that aircraft vapour trails would have some effect on climate.
    especially since most flghts are in the N Hemisphere which is warming and hardly any over Antarctica which is cooling.
    Seems to me to be a better explanation of GW than CO2

    [Response:That’s a testable theory… and has already been tested: Minnis et al, 2003, Hansen et al, 2005 – and found not to be as important as CO2, other greenhouse gases, volcanoes, aerosols, ozone etc…. – gavin]

    Comment by Brian Forbes — 21 Feb 2006 @ 4:25 AM

  71. Explaining the recent evolution course case is all well and good, but I was wondering… Have any global warming-related cases gone through the US court system yet?

    I would not be surprised if the litigation-friendly US environmental movement decided to buy an Arizona or North Carolina ski resort, and then sue the combined oil and coal industries for the cost of a week’s extra snowmaking.

    [Response: The proposed listing of polar bears as endangered species may require that some aspects of global warming theory be brought into the courtroom. A big part of the threat cited in the listing proposal is due to the loss of habitat associated with loss of sea ice. If that’s attributable to anthropogenic global warming, it would seem that the US would have a legal obligation to reduce GHG emissions. But would we then have a legal obligation to somehow force China and India to also do so? How do you preserve habitat if the habitat is being destroyed by collective action of most of the world’s population? The implications are mind boggling.–raypierre]

    Comment by C. W. Magee — 21 Feb 2006 @ 6:27 AM

  72. “For the most part, the good judge takes a positivist approach to the definition of science, following Karl Popper. This approach emphasizes that a scientific theory should be falsifiable.”

    I think you are mixing the terms a bit here; Popper was a critic of positivism. While positivists demanded that propositions were verifiable, Popper suggested that they instead should be falsifiable. Also, Popper was less harsh on non-falsifiable propositions, admitting that his own philosophy (as well as the positivist’s) was non-verifiable and non-falsifiable — the positivists were infamous for deriding non-verifiable statements as “meaningless”.

    As least as I recall. (I also did a bit checking in wikipedia)

    But that doesn’t matter to your argument, of course.

    [Response: You’re quite right. Thanks for the correction. The distinction between verifiability and falsifiability is a significant one.–raypierre]

    Comment by Harald Korneliussen — 21 Feb 2006 @ 8:52 AM

  73. Regarding #27 again…

    I hope I didn’t appear to be laughing at Mr. Pollard, or to be disrespectful of his post. The very idea that anybody might agree to become an IPCC panelist for the sake of the material perks involved would give anybody who had been through the process an involuntary chuckle.

    It’s absolutely true that scientists are people, subject to the usual human shortcomings. To understand the scientific enterprise, though, it would be helpful to understand that the main temptations are not money and material wealth, but fame and a place in history. Scientists just want to be loved. This is especially true in climate science, where there isn’t much money to be made in the private sector or through government contracts (as compared to, say, biomedical, computer science and engineering, or defense contracting), but even where there are more material temptations, it’s fair to say that it’s the fame rather than the fortune that rules. Fortunately, the best way to achieve fame in science is to be RIGHT. Attempts to short-circuit the one true path to fame, as in the sad case of the recent Korean cloning debacle, are almost always rooted out quickly, and invariably lead to catastrophe for the scientists involved.

    Comment by raypierre — 21 Feb 2006 @ 10:51 AM

  74. In 67, nanny_govt_sucks wrote: Again, a subject change. My point was about the global cooling period from 1940-1975. Solanki’s study says it was due to solar changes, you say aerosol effects.
    Who’s right?

    In RC “Calculating the greenhouse effect”

    I wrote:

    The link at:

    shows very low level of scientific understanding on a small amount of solar forcing for 2000 compared to year 1750.

    The link at:

    on forcings over the past 150 years determined by GISS does not explain 1880-2005 globally averaged surface temperature plots by NOAA and NASA, nor 1888-2005 climate station plots for the U.S. at:

    The explanation for the warm 1930s, cool 1960s and rapid global warming we see happening now is best explained by the case I made in #117. ie. “The late-1920s-1930s surge in solar radiation was temporary only. After the 1930s, solar radiation fell back to it’s pre-1920s levels, and have remained nearly constant for 1940s to present. The global warming being observed now is entirely a result of human activity, mostly from GHG emissions (and subsequent global warming feedbacks)”. … 29 Jan 2006, comment 141

    There were no subsequent posts in that thread or this threat that successfully disputed the points that I made earlier regarding this discussion.

    Comment by Pat Neuman — 21 Feb 2006 @ 11:10 AM

  75. Re your comment on my 70
    If you use a computer model and and the temperatures issued by GISS of course the test will fail.
    Using the temperatures as defined (free from urban effects) which should reflect the true extent of GW the my model fits perfectly making the effect of CO2 about 10% of that which you calculate.

    [Response: You appear to be confusing correlation with causation. Models do not assign the CO2 effect by correlating it to anything. And if you are trying to do a calculation of climate sensitivity from the last century of data, then you are severely hampered by the uncertainty in aerosol, ozone and even solar effects (see here). If it was this easy, we would have done it already…. – gavin]

    Comment by Brian Forbes — 21 Feb 2006 @ 12:39 PM

  76. It is interesting to consider why opponents of carbon emissions restraint attack the whole chain of logic at its strongest point. We know that greenhouse gases warm planets. We know we are substantially changing greenhouse gas concentrations. We know that our planet is warming by about the amount anticipated by the theory. We have no alternative theory as to why greenhouse gases would fail to warm the planet and we have no alternative theory as to why the planet should be warming as much as it is, presuming the greenhouse gases somehow were ineffective.

    Whether it is warming too much is up to the impacts studies, and what to do about it is up to the economics and policy studies. These are far less rigorous and far more uncertain than the science. Why is it that the physics is attacked rather than the economics and politics? I think this is because people understand risk well enough to respond to it substantively, however messily.

    Most people don’t understand radiative transfer, and efforts to close the gap are typically not met with great enthusiasm either by the public or the scientists.

    Meanwhile the vast and largely successful efforts to confuse the general public about the risk of anthropogenic climate change have serious consequences outside the particular issue at hand. Essentially they subvert the decision making process not only in this particular area. They subvert the connection between information and democracy.

    A misinformed democracy is not paying the price of freedom, which is eternal vigilance. Knowing who the real experts are and who the snake oil salesman is not easy, especially as the accumulated technique of the snake oil folks is continually refined.

    This brings us back to the analogy that Ray is making. There are of course legitimate points of scientific contact between climatology and evolutionary biology, each having evidence the other needs about the deep past. That we have a more unsettling common cause against organized obfuscation is not our doing.

    The forces of ignorance may mean well, but they can only do well quite by accident. A democratic society that is not connected to science is very deeply at risk. If we manage to cope with climate change by adopting fundamentalist arguments and thereby continue to concede the advance of willful ignorance our future nevertheless looks very bleak.

    A society that puts preconceived beliefs ahead of evidence is a society that will make many serious mistakes and will not be competitive. Both history and current events say so.

    In an ideal circumstance, we scientists can direct our efforts entirely to amassing knowledge, but sometimes we have to have the courage to defend knowledge against dogma.

    Comment by Michael Tobis — 21 Feb 2006 @ 1:26 PM

  77. Scientists want to be right and are respected for it.

    Those making a living by attacking scientists, though … well, look at today’s WSJ:

    “… She has parlayed her backstabbing into a television career and speaking engagements. “Who knew that being soo bad could be soo good$$!!,” the show’s Web site quotes her as saying.

    “I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that this kind of behavior is naturally rewarded,” cautions Paul Argenti, professor of corporate communication at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business. “But it does lead to success in some realms.” And those realms can include the legal profession, sales teams, trading floors, entrepreneurial endeavors — in other words, the corners of the business world where unmitigated gall can be more marketable than galling….”

    “That’s because in the rough and tumble of business, bad behavior is sometimes admired, and good behavior isn’t necessarily rewarded…., Prof. Argenti says.”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 21 Feb 2006 @ 2:36 PM

  78. Re #64 comment,

    Thanks Raypierre for the interesting theories, although we still are far from Venusian or Titanian atmospheres. What I miss in the theories is what will happen to (water) clouds on earth… Nowadays they seem to work as negative feedback in the energy budget (at least in the tropics and the Arctic), but what is expected if the temperatures get higher?

    Comment by Ferdinand Engelbeen — 21 Feb 2006 @ 2:37 PM

  79. Wonderful post and many thanks to RayPierre. It is not often that non-specialists like me can understand clearly and without “pain in the brain” what the issue is. Perhaps you ought to link to the philosopher’s website too because I liked the Popper referral (I cant give you the link because I am not working from my own comp.)?

    Two points :

    1. Sometime ago I posted on this site on : models, the issue of data and how it was managed : I see the same problem with, for example Mr Forbes but also others. Maybe it ought to be repeated : climate models are physical models using well known and established physical principles which even “deniers” wouldn’t – if I may put it like that. OK, statistics come into it eventually for verification and testing but the idea is to try to physically verify how climate works. This is not Pavlov and his dogs which I think is one of the main problems which Mr Forbes has.

    2. All the people on RC are true communicators but maybe do not yet know how effective they are. The Economist weekly which for a number of years has been a denier, has repented, and even this week is alerting readers to the dangers of sea level rise. There are not many deniers left.

    Comment by Eachran — 21 Feb 2006 @ 2:58 PM

  80. In 78 Ferdinand wrote: … what will happen to (water) clouds on earth… Nowadays they seem to work as negative feedback in the energy budget (at least in the tropics and the Arctic),” …

    There is nothing to back up what Ferdinand wrote on that. Then he asked .. “but what is expected if the temperatures get higher?”

    How much higher, warmer than a hot tub?

    Ocean Warmer Than A Hot Tub
    by Staff Writers
    St Louis MO (SPX) Feb 20, 2006
    Scientists have found evidence that tropical Atlantic Ocean
    temperatures may have once reached 107°F (42°C)â??about 25°F (14°C)
    higher than ocean temperatures today and warmer than a hot tub. …

    Comment by Pat Neuman — 21 Feb 2006 @ 3:25 PM

  81. Re #74,

    Pat, I am sorry to see that you repeat you opinion regarding solar strength since 1940, which is repeatedly shown to be wrong.

    Every known proxy which can be linked to solar variability shows an increase until 1940, a reduction after 1945, and an increase after 1975.
    That is the case for measurements of the sun’s magnetic field (via changes in the earth’s magnetic fiend), and its related isotope 10Be (not measurable for 14C, as nuclear tests dwarfed sun-related 14C levels after 1945), sun spots counts and sun cycle length. They all show that post 1975 solar irradiation is higher than anywhere since the 1930-1940’s.

    If you have any proof (proxy) that the sun is not more active now than anywhere in the first halve of the past century (or millennium or millennia), I am very interested.

    Further, as repeatedly shown (and accepted by the IPCC), current models are as scientific uncertain about aerosol forcings as about climate forcing (and sensitivity) for solar, that means that several combinations of forcings and sensitivities (and feedbacks…), ranging from near 100% solar to near 100% GHGs/aerosols can fit the past century’s temperature trend, including the 1945-1975 cooling.
    The trillion(s) dollar question remains if it was more solar or more GHGs/aerosols, as that makes a huge difference for any model projection of what will happen with a CO2 doubling: benign, at the low side of the IPCC range or a catastrophe, at the high side of the range…

    [Response:This is not so. Sunspots peaked in 1957, neutron monitors show no trend in GCR, 10Be is flat in Antartica (though decreasing in Greenland) – they cannot both reflect global production. There may be some trend in the aa-index but it’s small. -gavin]

    Comment by Ferdinand Engelbeen — 21 Feb 2006 @ 3:31 PM

  82. RE #81, Recent solar activity

    Comment by Gary — 21 Feb 2006 @ 6:04 PM

  83. Gary’s links end a couple or so years ago. The averaged temperature for the globe in 2005 was near or above the record warm temperature set in 1998. 1998 heat was enhanced by a powerful El Nino. El Nino and slight changes in solar radiation cannot explain the global heat of 2005. GHG accumulations do.

    Comment by Pat Neuman — 21 Feb 2006 @ 6:27 PM

  84. Pleistocene Man, Holocene Man and Carbocene Man have a conversation:

    Pleistocene man: Holocene man, we tried to forbid you from spreading seed around the hunting camp. Each season the foodstuffs increase and the people refuse to honor the hunting migration. They linger and forage for days, scaring away the game. You did not obey the snake taboo against taking gifts from the vegetation.

    Holocene Man: But Pleistocene Man, we worship the sun now, we bit the apple and your restrictions are ancient and worn.

    Carbocene Man: But Holocene man, are you not giving us that same argument that Pleistocene man gave you? Your experiment with agriculture halted Younger-Dryas and put us right in the middle of this mess.

    Holocene Man: Because we worship the sun, we are most intelligent, and our experiment with the Holocene period was something to learn by, now listen to us, we are even more wiser.

    Pleistocene man: But that is exactly what we told you, Holocene, you did not listen then, now you expect Carbocene Man to listen now.

    Carboocenen Man: OK, Pleistocene Man, what would you tell us to do?

    Pleistocene man: Kill the soil microbes.

    Comment by Matt — 21 Feb 2006 @ 6:40 PM

  85. I enjoyed reading this post. It is a very nice exposition of how we do our science and of its results.

    I agree with the conclusions. However, I think the demarcation question (science vs pseudo-science) is more difficult than acknowledged.

    Popper has not only “been challenged by Thomas Kuhn and a few other philosophers of science,” but the simple form of his views often heard in the scientific community is almost completely discredited within the philosophy of science community. The reasons are numerous. One obvious reason is that science does not progress by falsification alone. The anomalous advance of Mercury’s perihelion, after accounting for the effects of the other planets, was known since 1859; it should have falsified Newton’s mechanics if science worked by falsification alone (more or less the view in Popper’s Logic of Scientific Discovery). But scientists hung on to Newton’s mechanics until Einstein came around. Later, responding to criticism, Popper amended his early version of falsificationism by adding that a theory is typically only rejected after unsuccessful attempts to amend auxiliary assumptions (if conflicting observations are more consistent with an available alternative theory that has greater empirical content than the first theory). With that modification, however, the answer to the demarcation question becomes more complicated: on the basis of this weak version of falsificationism, there is no simple test to decide which theories are scientific and which are not (falsifiability alone, even according to the later Popper, does not suffice). There are numerous critiques of Popper’s falsificationism, among them the writings by his student Imre Lakatos (e.g, The Methodology of Scientific Research Programs and “Science and Pseudoscience,” a brief summary of which is here). A summary of Lakatos’ criticism is here. A more sympathetic discussion of why falsificationism ultimately fails is here.

    As an aside, Popper was not a positivist in the sense in which the term is commonly understood and was understood by Popper himself — that is, an adherent of the logical positivism originating with Comte (who coined the term in his Cours de philosophie positive) and the Vienna Circle, which focused on the verifiability of theoretical propositions by empirical facts. Popper’s falsificationism was set against logical positivism and the problems of induction it faces. Popper wrote disparagingly about positivism (e.g., in Realism and the Aim of Science). In sociology, however, Adorno, Habermas, and others in the Frankfurt School called Popper a positivist, apparently because he shared with the logical positivists a belief in the unity of scientific method, which they rejected. A good discussion of the history and problems of positivism is in Ian Hacking’s book Representing and Intervening (which also includes an overview of more recent accounts of what a scientific theory is, many of them more satisfying and closer to how science actually works than Popper’s).

    Judge Jones’ decision on ID, rather than adopting a Popperian point of view, avoided a commitment to any school of what science is and focused on the common ground on what all agree is not science. However, the three criteria in the statement “ID is not science and cannot be adjudged a valid, accepted scientific theory as it has failed to [1.] publish in peer-reviewed journals, [2.] engage in research and testing, and [3.] gain acceptance in the scientific community” are not sufficient to demarcate science from pseudo-science. The first and third criterion are appeals to authority (science is what scientists say it is — a form of conventionalism which, at least in its naive form, we have rejected with the rejection of the scholastics). The second criterion echoes Hume (An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding):

    If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but
    sophistry and illusion.

    The problem is that, according to these criteria, the 17th century literature on witchcraft is scientific literature. It was peer-reviewed (not in today’s sense, but it had to pass some level of scrutiny to be published), generally accepted by the ‘scientific’ community of the day, and plentiful in examples of research and empirical testing. Lakatos pointed out that “Glanvill, the house philosopher of the early Royal Society, regarded witchcraft as the paradigm of experimental reasoning.” One has to be more specific to find sufficient conditions to distinguish science from pseudo-science. Conversely, the criteria set out by the NAS and referred to in Jones’ decision may not be necessary conditions for what science is, since they do not seem to include parts of cosmology and string theory as science (a conclusion that some people may be willing to accept).

    Comment by Hieronymous — 21 Feb 2006 @ 6:57 PM

  86. Thank you for the fine summary. I especially enjoyed trying out the simulation available via the Hansen et al. paper you reference above.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 21 Feb 2006 @ 7:16 PM

  87. Re #81,

    Gavin, indeed I stand corrected, as I wrote “since” the 1930-1940’s, which isn’t correct. But current levels are anyway higher than in the 1920-1930’s of the previous century (which is what Pat denies).

    Re #80,

    Pat, for the change in clouds in the tropics, see: Wielicki ea. and Chen ea.
    For the Arctic, see: Wang and Key

    But thanks for the new link. It proves that the runaway GHG effect is not (yet) for tomorrow, despite the very high ocean temperature found (leading to much increased water vapour). But if that proves that CO2 has more effect on temperature than implemented in current models, remains to be seen. The opposite, that high temperatures have less effect on CO2 levels is as good possible. As you may know, the Cretaceous shows an abundant amount of CO2 binding species (coccoliths), which have build the enormous layers of chalk (the “White Cliffs of Dover”…) of the time period in question.

    But methane is different item, as IMHO that is a much more interesting greenhouse gas…

    Comment by Ferdinand Engelbeen — 21 Feb 2006 @ 7:30 PM

  88. This may help:
    Peer Review: A Necessary But Not Sufficient Condition

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 21 Feb 2006 @ 7:34 PM

  89. RE: Pleistocene man: Kill the soil microbes.

    How about this variation on that theme – let us manufacture petroleum. Let us do so in such abundance that we can throttle the climate (in both directions). We cannot control it. Maybe we can smooth the rough edges though. In any case, why let the detritus go to waste when it could be fueling our future.

    Comment by Steve Sadlov — 21 Feb 2006 @ 7:57 PM

  90. Ferdinand,

    I you can get away with that (81,87), and many of your other posts, then I should be allowed to get this one through…

    Average temperatures at climate stations in the Upper Midwest broke 100
    year record warm averages in Jan. 2006. February has been running a
    degree or two F below normal, at this time.

    Professional meteorologists are misleading the public by talking about
    having two sides … i.e. because it was warm last month, it’s cold this month … it all evens out …

    It does NOT ALL EVEN OUT. Record warmth is not equal to a degree or two
    below normal!

    There are not two equal sides to climate and global warming. Rapid and
    uncontrollable global warming is happening. It’s being caused by CO2
    being dumped into the atmosphere, because of our addiction to energy.
    The CO2 is accumulating, changing the climate way to fast, and because
    of our actions, our home planet Earth, and everything we all love on it,
    is likely to pass. Have you got it yet? I do.

    Comment by Pat Neuman — 21 Feb 2006 @ 9:43 PM

  91. Looks like my bit about Homo stupidus was deleted for being a bit too raucous…

    Another thought. Aside from many other factors, there are psychological factors that make many people reject evolution and GW theories. First they don’t like to think they “came from the apes” or share common ancestors with them…or with other more “lowly” creatures. And many might view GW as threatening their self-esteem as well, by implying they are responsible for something very bad; or they might feel GW threatens their life-world with predictions that things will radically change, unless they substantially change their habits.

    As for paradigms, the evolutionary paradigm of the 19th c. was carried out a bit too far. Evolution was everywhere — society, culture, language, religion, morality, with “primitive” peoples of today seen a “primitive” (first, early, unevolved) in all ways. This fed into racism & nazism. But are the “primitives” any worse than “civilized” man, who is really harming the earth through GW?

    As of yet the GW paradigm has not caught on enough to be excessive. When that time comes, I predict people will be blaming everything on GW, even toothaches, & cursing our generation for its evil ways.

    [Response: Another issue with regard to anthropogenic global warming is that people easily find reasons for denying things whose consequences are unpleasant or inconvenient (like making do with less fossil fuel burning). I don’t think there are any completely painless ways to head off a dangerous degree of global warming, but I do try to point out to people ways in which the quality of life could be improved at the same time the burning of fossil fuels is reduced. –raypierre]

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 21 Feb 2006 @ 11:39 PM

  92. RE: #90. Tell us more about this supposed addiction to energy. What are your proxies to demonstrate this? What are your units of measure? What are the projections for per capita energy use? What are the projections for population? Inquiring minds want to know.

    Comment by Steve Sadlov — 22 Feb 2006 @ 12:07 AM

  93. Re 80, extreme atlantic water temperatures:

    The preprint is here:
    Given the age of the samples, I’m a bit concerned about the lack of attention given to the possibility of diagenesis, Mg/Ca exchange/ equilibration, or other possible post-depositional effects on the samples. I’m not saying that they are bodgey, and I don’t have the foram background to know what the most common foram problems are, but if you’re going to make extreme claims in a paper, you should cover yourself against such doubts by spending a few paragraphs and figures showing that there is no dolomite exsolution, recrystalization, clay-carbonate Mg or Al exchange, or other post depositional processes that can alter the mineral composition. All of the conclusions are based on data from 100 million year old carbonates, but the paper doesn’t even include a micrograph of the samples.

    The conclusions also fail to address other obvious potential problems with the conclusions, such as:
    -Would the postulated CO2 levels allow for carbonate deposition at the benthic paleotemperature of her deposition site?
    -Can 40 degree water even contain enough disolved O2 to keep her forams (and everything else in the fossil record) alive?

    In general, the paper seems to just accept the unusual dataset …. , and then launch off into model-land without really nailing down the analytical issues that underly the interpretations.

    [Response: We obviously aren’t reading the same paper. They used two different ways to assess the temperatures and are quite clear about the uncertainties associated with them (for which there is a huge literature). -gavin]

    Comment by C. W. Magee — 22 Feb 2006 @ 1:50 AM

  94. Re #81, #82, #87

    Some facts about solar influence:

    as Pat mentioned sunspots peaked in 1957, since the 1950ies there is no trend, since 1980 there is no trend, if ever it is negative.
    the same for other solar indices:

    From the papers cited in #82:
    “the Sun has never been as active as it has been during the past 60 years” and “Sunspots have been more common in the past seven decades than at any time in the last 8,000 years”
    It is clearly stated, that the sun has been extraordinarily active “during” the last 60 years, i.e. all the last 60 years, not the last 10, 20 or whatever years, no mention of any trend since 1940/50.

    Solar activity is higher than 1920/30, o.k., but that’s not what we are talking about. There might be a solar heating until 1940/50. However, we are talking about the warming since 1950. And since then there is no apparent trend in solar activity. There is a slight decrease until the 1970ies and maybe a slight increase of the same amount afterwards. However, the temperature increase after 1975 is about 5 times stronger than the decrease from 1945-1975.

    Ferdinand, any delayed climate reaction on the solar activity increase until 1940/50 (to get equilibrium and allow feedbacks), as you have suggested several times, would most likely be strongest just after the forcing has stopped and then decrease with time. It is very unlikely that there is no reaction for two decades and then an strong acceleration. Can you present any process who would explain such a pattern?

    The solar irradiance time series of Willson (paper in #82) is one of two existing time series, the other one is by Frohlich:
    Willson finds a slight increase of solar irradiance, Frohlich finds no trend. The only fact which could favor one of the two composites is, that there is no trend (or negative) since 1980 in solar activity (sunspots), which is closely linked to solar irradiance. Frohlichs composite fits better to this observations.

    Ferdinand, Scafetta and West, whom you like citing over and over, just consider the Willson composite in their calculation (for no given reason), and find a solar influence of 10 to 30% on the warming since 1980. If you also consider the Frohlich composite (there is no reason for not doing it) the solar influence is -10 to 30%.

    Comment by Urs Neu — 22 Feb 2006 @ 6:56 AM

  95. [Response: You appear to be confusing correlation with causation. Models do not assign the CO2 effect by correlating it to anything. And if you are trying to do a calculation of climate sensitivity from the last century of data, then you are severely hampered by the uncertainty in aerosol, ozone and even solar effects (see here). If it was this easy, we would have done it already…. – gavin]

    I worked for 20 years in thr chemical industry where finding a good correlation always led to a cause.
    The trouble with CO2 is that it does not have a good correlation with temperature.In order to improve this other varibles are introduced, one of which for example is sulphate cooling the only evidence for which is that the “global ttemperature” fell as SO2 rose.A good example of sulphate affected atmosphere is that of Venus.

    Comment by Brian Forbes — 22 Feb 2006 @ 7:22 AM

  96. I see Lynn is at it again.If I called climate alarmists mad athiests, which I hasten to add they are not, you would censor me.

    Comment by Thomas Bolger — 22 Feb 2006 @ 7:29 AM

  97. Re 92: See e.g. Fig 4 at

    Comment by Florifulgurator — 22 Feb 2006 @ 7:36 AM

  98. re: 89

    In order to oxidize ditritus, we need to get back some more of the carbon budget from nature. Our problem is that our carbon based economy (lumber, agriculture, manufacturing, housing, and the chemisty industry) use so much of the carbon cycle that the biosphere is running hot.

    I am looking for three solutions. Oil conservation, exothermic long term fixing of the biomass, and partial shut down of soil respiration. This gets us a few years.

    Shutting down soil respiration would be an emergency step we keep in our tool chest, you know, just in case we developed a little fever. We may have to crop dust the Northern tundra, seal it, just to save ourselves in the short term.

    Comment by Matt — 22 Feb 2006 @ 10:06 AM

  99. Re 95

    The observation that good correlation often leads to a cause is not proof that cause can’t exist without obvious correlation. If one’s standard of proof requires a clear pattern in a scatter plot of y against x, one will be forever mystified by noisy, nonlinear dynamic systems.

    I haven’t seen any claims that aerosols led to falling temperatures; rather that temperatures rose less than they would have otherwise. Unless you refer to volcanic aerosols, in which case the evidence seems pretty clear. Global temperature is not the only line of evidence on aerosol forcing; there are also optical and regional temperature measurements.

    The atmosphere of Venus is also affected by 92x the density of Earth’s, and is 96% CO2. The presence of aerosols doesn’t say much about aerosol forcing on earth, except to the extent that GCMs also work for Venus-like conditions.

    Comment by Tom Fiddaman — 22 Feb 2006 @ 12:06 PM

  100. RE: #93. I have always suspected that at least some of the “climate science” community either elect to ignore, or, honestly lack the knowledge regarding, some of the basic issues regarding the geochemistry of natural waters, which you have raised in the referenced post. In fact, I can recommend a text by that very name (“The Geochemistry of Natural Waters” – sorry, can’t remember the author, Google for that …) for any who want to refresh their knowledge or for those who never have had the opportunity to gain this area of knowledge previously.

    [Response:And on what do you base this opinion? That a cloud specialist is not aware of the literature in deep sea chemistry is probably not a surprise, but to think that people working on ocean sediments aren’t is ridiculous. – gavin]

    Comment by Steve Sadlov — 22 Feb 2006 @ 1:58 PM

  101. RE: #99. Has a thorough and extensive Failure Mode Effects Analysis ever been done with respect to the climate system? If not, that would make a very interesting study. To get the most bang for one’s research buck, I would advise including the FMEA in the context of a broad compendium of all multiproxy studies done to date, combined with a very deep quality control assessment regarding the proxies themselves as well as of the algorithms used in models and graph production programs. This is obviously an huge study I am proposing, and could conceivably involved hundreds of researchers from a broad swath of disciplines. Take it or leave it.

    Comment by Steve Sadlov — 22 Feb 2006 @ 2:04 PM

  102. Re: Gavin’s response to 93.

    The paper I read (and linked) described the correlation between Mg/Ca temperature and dO18 temperature as poor and negative.

    It then attempts to explain this discrepancy by changing the chemistry of the Cretaceous ocean, without first eliminating the possibility of a factor other than temperature being responsible for the negative correlation.

    Occam needs a shave.

    And the problem with being sloppy in a paper preceded by a press release is that your average joe-blow non-scientific warming denier will incorrectly assume that this invalidates the whole study. They will then repeat this claim all over the am radio band.

    The paper is not incorrect; it is merely incomplete. If the authors excluded diagenetic alteration before starting their modeling, their conclusions would be more robust, because they would then have the best explanation, instead of the only explanation presented.

    Now excuse me, but I need to retune my e-sting; the heat from the burning coliseum has warped my violin.

    Comment by C. W. Magee — 22 Feb 2006 @ 3:50 PM

  103. RE: “And on what do you base this opinion? ”

    Debates I’ve been in with “climate scientists” who did not understand the geochemistry of precipitation of carbon as part of carbonates. And debates with ones who well knew it, but chose to ignore it.

    Comment by Steve Sadlov — 22 Feb 2006 @ 3:51 PM

  104. RE Pat N (90) “Rapid and uncontrollable global warming is happening…
    The CO2 is accumulating, changing the climate way to fast”.
    I don’t know how you draw these conclusions. The IPCC ‘scientific consensus’ certainly doesn’t conclude this. The IPCC concludes that changes to date have been relatively moderate, but that models PREDICT more significant changes sometime in the future. If CO2 is causing a temperature increase, this is only since 1979, since when the rise and the rate have been remarkably similar to the 1910-45 period – when CO2 is NOT alleged to be the cause. Over dramatic and unsupportable claims do not serve to strengthen the pro-AGW case.

    Comment by PHEaston — 22 Feb 2006 @ 5:02 PM

  105. In 94. Urs Neu wrote: … “as Pat mentioned sunspots peaked in 1957, since the 1950ies there is no trend, since 1980 there is no trend, if ever it is negative.”


    I didn’t mention anywhere that sunspots peaked in 1957.

    My post on this subject (74.) reads:


    The link at:

    shows very low level of scientific understanding on a small amount of solar forcing for 2000 compared to year 1750.

    1888-2005 climate station plots for the U.S. at:

    The explanation for the warm 1930s, cool 1960s and rapid global warming we see happening now is best explained by the case I made in #117. ie. “The late-1920s-1930s surge in solar radiation was temporary only. After the 1930s, solar radiation fell back to it’s pre-1920s levels, and have remained nearly constant for 1940s to present. The global warming being observed now is entirely a result of human activity, mostly from GHG emissions (and subsequent global warming feedbacks)”. … 29 Jan 2006, comment 141

    There were no subsequent posts in that thread or this threat that successfully disputed the points that I made earlier regarding this discussion.


    Comment by Pat Neuman — 22 Feb 2006 @ 5:10 PM

  106. This seems like a good time for me to make an obvious correction to false information which is being presented at the “” website.

    The website reads: “To bolster our claim that “There Has Been No Net Global Warming for the Past 70 Years,” each week we highlight the temperature record of one of the 1221 U.S. Historical Climatology Network (USHCN) stations from 1930-2000. … This issue’s temperature record of the week is from New England, ND. During the period of most significant greenhouse gas buildup over the past century, i.e., 1930 and onward, New England’s mean annual temperature has cooled by 0.66 degrees Fahrenheit. Not much global warming here! ”

    I find the current info displayed at to be false.

    My annual and 5 year moving average annual temperature plots show that the change since 1930 in annual temperature at New England ND is a positive 2.2 Deg F, compared to the erroneous neg. (-0.66) value shown at, for it’s “temperature record of the week”.

    Anyone can see this for themselves (that the change since 1930 at New England, ND is a pos. 2.2 Deg F) by going to my website of 110 year temp. plots at climate stations in the Contiguous States(CS) of the US.
    Climate stations at New England ND and nearby Dickinson ND Exp. Stn. are included under “5. Ann CS”, at:

    I find this, and other falsehoods which have been displayed at website over the years as I saw them, to be very disturbing.

    Comment by Pat Neuman — 22 Feb 2006 @ 5:58 PM

  107. PHEaston wrote … [RE Pat N (90) “Rapid and uncontrollable global warming is happening…The CO2 is accumulating, changing the climate way to fast”. I don’t know how you draw these conclusions.]


    I came to my conclusions by reading up-to-date articles posted at “ClimateArchive” and by my experiences while working for NOAA National Weather Service(NWS) in preparing the annual Spring Snowmelt Flood Outlooks for the Upper Midwest, 1976-2005.

    Articles posted at ClimateArchive are at:

    Comment by Pat Neuman — 22 Feb 2006 @ 6:57 PM

  108. 104 – PHEaston

    I can agree that the IPCC never said “uncontrollable”, but nor is your chracterization that they say “relatively moderate” accurate.

    “the rate and duration of warming of the 20th century has been much greater than in any of the previous nine centuries. Similarly, it is likely that the 1990s have been the warmest decade and 1998 the warmest year of the millennium.”

    It is not unreasonable to infer “rapid” from that.

    Comment by Coby — 22 Feb 2006 @ 7:03 PM

  109. Solar Irradiance increasing?

    Links to two reports indicating increases in Direct Normal Irradiance…..

    – “Accounting for the seasonal variations in monthly mean daily totals of solar radiation, we can estimate the longer-term trends in irradiance for this 15-year analysis of SRRL data:
    Direct Normal (Beam) = 4.7% increase
    Global Horizontal (Total) = 2.1% increase”'the%20state%20climatologist

    – “To better understand the characteristics of the region’s solar resource, a preliminary study was undertaken of trends in direct normal irradiance from three sites around Oregon over a period of 25 years. An overall increase of about 13-16% over the 25 years was found.”

    [Response: You are confusing solar irradiance at the top of the atmopshere (which is affected only by the sun’s activity (and the earth’s orbit), with the solar radiation getting to the surface (which is highly dependent on aerosols and cloudiness etc.). See the posts on ‘Global Dimming’ – gavin]

    Comment by Gary — 22 Feb 2006 @ 7:11 PM

  110. Re 106

    That’s remarkable. I compared their plot with a plot from the source at CDIAC. They resemble one another, but don’t quite match. The peak 1930s temp at co2science is more than a degree higher, and there are some missing data points around 1982. Clearly there’s something wrong with someone’s data.

    Comment by Tom Fiddaman — 22 Feb 2006 @ 7:22 PM

  111. RE 109 Aren’t these are ground surface measurements?

    “The global dimming studies primarily analyzed global
    irradiance data while this analysis uses direct normal beam
    irradiance data. Direct normal, or beam, instruments have
    fewer systematic errors than global irradiance instruments
    and their calibrations are more stable. The trends found in
    the Oregon data suggest that here, at least, global dimming
    does not seem to be occurring; rather, the summers are
    getting sunnier. While there is also an increase in the global
    irradiance measured by the UO SRML, the uncertainties are
    much higher and considerable work still is needed to track
    the changes in global instrument calibration.”

    Comment by Gary — 22 Feb 2006 @ 7:35 PM

  112. Re99
    “The observation that good correlation often leads to a cause is not proof that cause can’t exist without obvious correlation. If one’s standard of proof requires a clear pattern in a scatter plot of y against x, one will be forever mystified by noisy, nonlinear dynamic systems.”
    But you get a good correlation between the sun cycle and temperature with hardly any scatter it isn’t at all noisy. Therefore I can conclude that the sun is responsible for the temperature up to about 1980 and that since then something has altered this relationship which could hardly be CO2 but could be contrails produced by the increasing use of jet travel

    [Response: I don’t know why you think that there is such a great correlation with sun cycles and temperature – reference? There really isn’t – and people have looked. – gavin]

    Comment by Brian Forbes — 22 Feb 2006 @ 7:58 PM

  113. In #106 Tom Fiddaman wrote … “Clearly there’s something wrong with someone’s data.”


    I verified my annual temperature value for 1930 at New England ND to be accurate (based on the temperature difference at nearby Dickinson ND).

    Thus at New England ND, I have 42.3 F in 1930, 44.5 F in 2005 and a change in annual and 5 year moving average of 2.3 Deg F from 1930 to 2005, as explained in my previous comment (106).

    110 year temperature plot for climate stations at:

    Comment by Pat Neuman — 22 Feb 2006 @ 8:59 PM

  114. re: 113, should read… In #110 Tom Fiddaman wrote … “Clearly there’s something wrong with someone’s data.”

    Comment by Pat Neuman — 22 Feb 2006 @ 9:02 PM

  115. Re 113/114

    Pat – I didn’t mean to imply that you’d goofed – your data matched the USHCN data by eyeball. I’d guess that co2science somehow goofed, or that they’ve developed their own UHI correction, or who knows what, but without looking into it I couldn’t rule out some kind of revision of the USHCN data after they obtained their copy. The fact that current online USHCN and your Dickinson and New England stations match, and co2science’s Dickinson and New England don’t, is suggestive.

    [Response: I think they are using the raw data rather than the data corrected for time of day issues and other known problems (USHCN corrections). This is apparently based on the theory that since the corrections end up with the data showing a trend, they must be biased. Not the most sensible approach to take… -gavin]

    Comment by Tom Fiddaman — 22 Feb 2006 @ 10:49 PM

  116. Thanks Tom, and Gavin. There’s one more thing I’d like to share on this. The monthly avg mean temp. data at New England ND shows a missing symbol for July 1930. Also, the Aug 1930 (73.9 F) for New England is too high compared to values for August at nearby climate stations. I think the 73.9 F may be for July 1930, and Aug 1930 is likely the missing month for that year. Perhaps that what tripped somebody up in the original study. Perhaps a keypunch error.

    Comment by Pat Neuman — 22 Feb 2006 @ 11:54 PM

  117. Re 105
    Pat, it was Gavin who mentioned it, not you. Sorry.

    Comment by Urs Neu — 23 Feb 2006 @ 3:45 AM

  118. Re your comment on 112
    I refer to my posts 51 and 70
    The temperature relationship comes from a truly rural site .The only way to get a true picture of GW is to use data from stations unaffected by urban sprawl.

    [Response: Why so coy? Which single site are we talking about? -gavin]

    Comment by Brian Forbes — 23 Feb 2006 @ 5:09 AM

  119. You couldn’t have read 51
    Other truly rural stations the positions of which I have checked using Google Earth also correlate well with the length of the Solar cycle similarly to Armagh Observatory.I personally don’t believe the GISS global temperatures (see 118)

    Comment by Brian Forbes — 23 Feb 2006 @ 10:31 AM

  120. I really appreciate this article and your excellent discussion of science (from scire, “to know”). Glad to hear there are some good and reasonable judges out there.

    At the same time I am very distressed that as a whole high GHG-emitters have not made much of an effort to reduce, (1) considering they can do so by 1/3, 1/2, or even 3/4+ cost-effectively without lowering living standards or productivity; and (2) in the face of growing evidence of AGW and possible great harms (not to mention other problems from such inefficient & wasteful consumption). The U.S., for example, has increased its emissions by 18% since 1990. I didn’t want to express my distress in an open manner, so I made a joke of it by saying GW lent support to the Theory of Devolution — at least re our species, Homo stupidus maximus.

    Evolution does not mean progress or things are getting better, or we are superior in any way to our ancestors or “lower” forms. From a theological perspective, one might say we are worse, since the “lower” forms cannot sin. We are not inherently more evil (or stupid) than our ancestors, but technological “development” (my Boasian anthro prof would not use the term “evolution”) has made it possible to do much more harm. What has culturally evolved is our ability to destroy life (weaponry, AGW, etc.). That’s nothing to be proud of.

    So we destroy ourselves or at least do tremendous damage. What does that prove? And we fairly well know about it in excruciating detail through science as we do it. Does that make us smart or wise (sapiens)? I’ve been thinking every year, every day since 1990, that people will finally wake up & start reducing their GHGs. Then surely from 1995 on, when the first studies reached 95% confidence. Now I almost think it’s not going to happen. If 95% is not enough confidence, will 99% be enough? We’ve made a bad & stupid decision, and it seems we’re sticking to it to the bitter end.

    All the big scientific breakthroughs or paradigm shifts have been very decentering for us arrogant humans: (1) the sun & stars do not revolve around us; (2) we came from a lowly source (of course, according to the Judeo-Christo-Islamic origin story we came from dirt); and (3) we have perhaps become worse, not better, if we refuse to mitigate AGW.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 23 Feb 2006 @ 10:35 AM

  121. I created a 2nd temperature plot (1920-2005) for New England, ND at my climate station website. In the 2nd plot for New England, I used Mott(0.7 F) for missing years before 2005, and Dickinson(+1.8 F) for 2005.

    Also, I replied to a comment at ClimateConcern yahoo group…

    Co2science should not show a graph based on old data (2000) . What
    they’ve done is irresponsible – misleading. Many people (general
    public) aren’t too sharp at looking for details, or people don’t take
    the time to remember everything. People remember the false conclusion by co2science of no or a neg trend, and their sad joke of “no global warming here!” How is that not disturbing to anyone?

    My climate station website is:

    Comment by Pat Neuman — 23 Feb 2006 @ 1:11 PM

  122. Re 119

    Biodiversity favors efficient oxidizers and photosynthesisers. Man has shown the ability to create more work from an efficient carbon source.

    So being a product of evolution, how can we trust our judgment in these issues? For example, Brazilians burned the forest for many years before the government, at the urging of ecologists demanded it stop. So, man subsituted the tractor for the match. We made Brazilian deforestation part of the oil economy.

    If we let evolution proceed, a predicted outcome would be to make the entire energy cycle run under fossil, nuclear and fusion energy and forcing a stop to most other oxidizers, mainly the soil microbes. The earth would consist of man and long term carbon construction blocks paving the earth.

    That is man would disconnect biodiversity from the glacial cycle and connect it to the geological cycle.

    I do not need to be told to use gasoline more efficiently, I aleady do, naturally. And you cannot tell me much more, because your motives are as suspect as mine.

    Comment by Matt — 23 Feb 2006 @ 1:29 PM

  123. RE: #119. Indeed, a useful thing would be a scientifically defensible operational definition of a “truly rural station.” Consider, for example, that individual contributors to so called “UHI” effects (which I’d more properly term “Arthropogenic Thermal Dissipation and Albedo Change” or some such) are not limited solely to urban areas. Even at the level of individual properties and developments in rural areas, such effects have been introduced since the pre-industrial era. What this implies is that for a station to be “truly rural” it may need to be in a wilderness area, more than a certain distance from the nearest permanent human development or settlement.

    Comment by Steve Sadlov — 23 Feb 2006 @ 2:12 PM

  124. Brian Forbes:
    “I personally don’t believe the GISS global temperatures”

    It is a complicated business, there undoubtably do exist mistakes, both in simple “typo” style errors and in some of the mothodology or ist application. Of course any given mistake has a 50/50 chance of making things look better just as they may make things look worse.

    But if you really do reject the temperature record, how do explain its excellent agreement with so many other independent indicators such as boreholes, proxies, satellites, radiosondes?

    Comment by Coby — 23 Feb 2006 @ 2:18 PM

  125. How can the layman be sure that spiking the atmosphere, and causing a sudden melt is not the safest method to restart the glacial cycle? I can see an energy balance theory that says we screwed up a long time ago, and we have to pay a one time fee of 300 gigatons of fossil fuel to restart things.

    Comment by Matt — 23 Feb 2006 @ 2:51 PM

  126. In 123 Steve wrote: “What this implies is that for a station to be “truly rural” it may need to be in a wilderness area, more than a certain distance from the nearest permanent human development or settlement.”


    NWS sets requirements for official NWS Cooperative climate stations. Most of the stations used for my temperature plots are in rural or forested areas. The numerical value and letters after a station name mean the number of miles and direction from the post office. Many Ccop. sites within the Upper Midwest are read by family farmers, keeping the official station at the same spot and in the family for many generations. Non-government local people have taken tremendous pride in doing this public service well, since the 1880s. We should respect that, and be thankful they took such care in their duties. Many of course, are no longer with us to speak of their efforts.

    Comment by Pat Neuman — 23 Feb 2006 @ 4:06 PM

  127. Re Lynn V (120)
    Humankind’s progress allows you the luxury to worry about global warming as the ‘biggest threat’. Because you live in a society with a high standard of living, good health care, with higher than ever life expectancy, clearn drinking water, abundant food, you do not need to worry day-to-day where your food is coming from, of dying from tuburculosis, smallpox, cholera, malaria, water-borne diseases, etc. Rather than worrying about the ‘terrible’ state of the world, you should be grateful to be living at a period in our history when our standard of living, quality of life, life expectancy, concern for envrionmental protection, etc, etc, are probably better than ever before. While there is evidence that global warming may be a threat, there are far greater concerns for many millions of people in the world. Worrying about a 0.5 degC temperature rise (since 1979 when CO2 impacts are supposed to have kicked in) and blaming it for every extreme climatic event, just demonstrates how comfortable many of us are.

    Comment by PHEaston — 23 Feb 2006 @ 5:04 PM

  128. Coby
    I don’t about boreholes not having researched them but the satellites & radiosondes show less warming than the GISS temperatures and coincide quite well with truly rural sites .
    A good example is given in 126 .Average American temperatures do not agree with GISS since they indicate that there were warmer years in the 1930s than in the 1990s
    You could of course say that this was a local effect but there are truly rural sites all over the earth which indicate the same temperature patterns as the USA.
    The GISS temperatures are contaminated with Urban Heat

    [Response: Repeating something often does not make it true. If you compare the US mean temperatures in the GISS record ( they too still show temperatures in the 1930s roughly equivalent to today (i.e. the analysis has been quite good at eliminating urban biases). And apropos Armagh, the observertory is very close to the centre of the city. Hardly a ‘rural’ site… – gavin ]

    Comment by Brian Forbes — 23 Feb 2006 @ 5:24 PM

  129. re 128

    A big difference in temperatures in the US for 1990s-current vs 1930s-40s is what’s happening in Alaska (much warmer now than 70 years ago).

    Comment by Pat Neuman — 23 Feb 2006 @ 5:41 PM

  130. Re #127 —

    To my very great surprise

    W.F. Ruddiman
    “Plows, Plagues and Petroleum: how humans took control of the climate”

    agrees with you, more or less, in the concluding chapter. By the way, I found his “Earth’s Climate: Past and Future” a quite
    easy and useful overview. Interestingly, despite its copyright date of 2000, its already out-of-date in some small aspects.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 23 Feb 2006 @ 6:08 PM

  131. 130>

    Since Ruddiman published his book, agriculture has been pushed back to about 10-12,000 BP, based on recent underwater archeology in India, Taiwan, Japan and Turkey.

    I would like to see Ruddiman update his work. For, I believe the earliest proto-agriculturalists were global coolers, not warmers.

    Comment by Matt — 23 Feb 2006 @ 6:44 PM

  132. #127, PHEaston

    Re other things to worry about besides a .5oC warming:

    Like the joke goes, the 10 story free fall is no problem, it’s the sudden stop at the bottom. .5oC suddenly warmer climate is just the beginning and by itself theoretically harmless, but the problem is the resulting loss of biodiversity, destruction of agriculture, displacement of 100’s of millions of people due to changing rainfall patterns and sea level rise and increases in opportunistic organisms that cause disease and inconvenience. Seems to match pretty closely the list of things one might now consider worrying about rather than GW.

    Oh, and your “rather than worry, be grateful” remark is not only a false dichotomy, but there is no conflict in both choices. I am very grateful to live in this time of human history, but I am also worried about the price it comes with. This smacks of the tried and true “why don’t you go live in the USSR if you have so many complaints about here”. Not convincing.

    Comment by Coby — 23 Feb 2006 @ 7:25 PM

  133. Re: #127 via #132

    Coby’s list of problems to be faced isn’t exactly Ruddiman’s, but Ruddiman does suggest some matters which ought to be addressed, such as lack of drinking water. I personally view most of the changes mentioned by Coby, and all of the one’s that I recall from Ruddiman to be a direct result of a large and growing population of people and less a deleterious effect of global temperature. But then, I’m still just learning about climate.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 23 Feb 2006 @ 8:20 PM

  134. Well, kind of like trying to attribute a particularily bad storm to AGW, when the famines come, it won’t be possible to clearly say “x people died due to Global Warming”. Over population, poverty, deforestation, overfishing, all these things contribute to and cause their own difficulties.

    I find this a reason to be even less hopeful about adaptation of ecosystems. We are throwing a climate change problem at the biosphere that a completely healthy one would struggle with, but we have clearly stacked the deck against success already with other forms of pollution and over population.

    Comment by Coby — 23 Feb 2006 @ 9:09 PM

  135. Re #27, well, my relatives in India sure don’t like GW & they are very aware it’s happening. None have died yet from it, but they’ve had plenty of problems from it alreay. And many people there have died from heat deaths, droughts, suicides from farm loses due to droughts, tremendous floods. You never hear about those folks in the news, because they just don’t count to us. Some of our property there was also heavily damaged by the flood of all time (likely increased by GW), acc to our relatives. And I live in a hurricane zone here in the Gulf of Mexico. We just barely missed Emily last year.

    So, at least for my sake, for someone you know through a blog, please do reduce your GHGs, & even better, encourage others to do so.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 23 Feb 2006 @ 9:47 PM

  136. RE: #126. The referenced post completely misses my point. UHI is a misnomer. Human induced thermal dissipation and albedo changes are not limited to urban areas or even rural towns. Even the indivual dwellings and outbuildings, not to mention roadways, high quality structures, pads, concrete berms, culverts, etc – all of them exert influence. To escape such influences one needs to be very, very remote in location.

    [Response: How about remote mountain areas? All over the globe with very few exceptions, mountain glaciers are retreating rapidly. This can be used to infer temperature changes, as in Oerlemans (Science, 2005). -stefan]

    Comment by Steve Sadlov — 23 Feb 2006 @ 10:29 PM

  137. Steve, is this the argument you’re making? This is as close as I can come to finding any basis for what you’re saying.

    If that’s not what you’re talking about, can you be any clearer about your argument?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 24 Feb 2006 @ 1:29 AM

  138. ” they too still show temperatures in the 1930s roughly equivalent to today (i.e. the analysis has been quite good at eliminating urban biases)”
    Exactly.Urban biases hve not been eliminated in the GISS global temperature
    ” And apropos Armagh, the observertory is very close to the centre of the city. Hardly a ‘rural’ site… – gavin ]”
    This is untrue ,read the reference in my post which says
    ” What makes the data so useful is that the site of the observatory has not changed all that much in 200 years,” said Dr Butler. “Other weather stations have been engulfed by towns and cities that make the long-term reliability of their data questionable.”

    [Response: ????? I feel a little like Alice in Wonderland here. I point out that the continental US analysis from GISS sucessfully matches the data you discuss from purely rural stations. A logical conclusion would be that the GISS methodology doesn’t do too badly at removing UHI biases. You strangely draw the opposite conclusion. I point out that the one station that you feel is representative of underlying climate is not a rural site. You then appear to claim that does not matter. There is a bit of contradiction here – either sites don’t necessarily need to be completely rural to provide good records (which is close to my contention) or only ‘purely’ rural stations can be used (which I thought was yours). If Armagh is ok with you and you still insist that the GISS analysis is contaminated, the only conclusion I can draw is that you are approving records purely based on whether you like their results. – gavin]

    Comment by Brian Forbes — 24 Feb 2006 @ 1:38 AM

  139. A map search for the ARmagh observatory shows this:

    I sincerely doubt that it counts as a properly countryside located site, given the area built up around it.

    Comment by guthrie — 24 Feb 2006 @ 9:27 AM

  140. If we are evolution’s agent of change, then the only guidance we have comes from evolutionary theory, and in particular, pleistocene evolutionary theory.

    So, maybe we can set some responsibilities and limits on our actions. Possibly, 1) We should engineer marginally fewer mass extinctions over the glacial cycle; 2) To the extent we can do rule one, we (and our cousin’s?) should be a favored species, and of course 3) we should be a little optimistic, experimental and opportunistic in what we do.

    I have no other guidance, but I draw some corollaries. Our terms of employment with evolution should last at least one glacial period of which a quarter of a glacial period has been completed. And two; if we are “let go” by evolution in 80,000 years, then we might return to hunter man culture.

    Beyond that, I am open to suggestions.

    Comment by Matt — 24 Feb 2006 @ 9:41 AM

  141. With apologies
    The Armagh site is in parkland in the middle of built up area However what Dr Butler infers is that the the UHI of the surroundings has been relatively constant for for the last 200 years This may not be true but it does correlate well with truly rural sites up to about 1970(when most of the rural sites were shut down).
    To clarify, GISS data shows Global temperatures considerably higher in the 1990s than in the 1930s, the USA data shows similar temperatures in the 1990s to those of the 1930s. Urban biases have perhaps been eliminated in the USA Annual temperatures. They certainly have not in GISS Global Temperatures.

    Comment by Brian Forbes — 24 Feb 2006 @ 10:40 AM

  142. Wasn’t there a Nature paper recently that finally put any lingering doubts about the UHI to bed? I think it was by Parker, et al, and was to do with comparing breezy and non-breezy days in rural and urban sites. It seems that Brian is relying just on his ‘assertion’ that the correction for UHI is not sufficient in the global analyses of temperature.

    Some questions for Brian:
    1. What about the observed trends in ocean temperatures?
    2. What evidence do you have for urban biases remaining in the data?

    [Response: And to that, I would add — What about the observed trend in microwave satellite data, HMM? It’s very strange that the MSU data was all the rage when it seemed to contradict the thermometric data, but now that the serial egregious errors of Spencer and Christie have been uncovered, you hear nary a peep about the satellite data anymore from certain quarters. Have these people no shame? (dumb question). I have a clipping from a front page article in the Wall Street Journal, from 1997, on my wall, which features the first cut at the MSU satellite retrieval by S&C, with the bold headline “Science has Spoken — Global Warming is a Myth.” –raypierre]

    Comment by Timothy — 24 Feb 2006 @ 11:37 AM

  143. RE #120, 127, 135, I forgot to mention that a farmer friend in India committed suicide due to extreme financial difficulties, due to extreme & persistent droughts in the area–droughts that fit the GW expectations. He was my husband’s classmate & our close neighbor. I understand Africa is also greatly suffering from droughts. It’s the poor who are and will suffer the most from GW. It’s not that GW is doing great harm to me personally (at least not yet)–I’m alive & well-fed & thankful for all that I have–but that I feel responsibility for reducing my harm to others, and a great gaping wound that my fellow humans on the whole are not taking up this responsibility, as well.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 24 Feb 2006 @ 1:06 PM

  144. RE: #136 – You’ve highlighted a proxy for temperature, winter precipitation volume or a combination of both. Interesting, but a proxy does not a surface record make.

    RE: #137 – Let me make this real simple for you:
    * A farm in North America or Europe (e.g. the places with the lion’s share of stations) in the year 1850: A rather dodgy and crude affair, made of small shacks, with only peat or wood for warmth (and at that, maybe a single hearth in the main house) and only whale oil or kerosene for light. No pavements or gravel, only mud or dust. Obviously, no electric grid. What is not under cultivation is likely in a wild state. Area under cultivation is only what one man and his draft animals can deal with. Snowed in in the winter in places that get snow.
    * A farm in NA or Europe the year 2006: A substantial cluster of buildings, including a home that is large by the standards of the developed world. Home heated by central heating, outbuildings heated if there is husbandry. Task lighting for 24/7/365 operation. Aggressive snow removal in winter in places that get snow. Pavement or at very least compacted gravel in all work areas not under cultivation. Well developed drainage along roads and tracks, with reinforced concrete in the most critical places. Vegetation close mowed or killed along fence lines and other infrastructure elements. Area under cultivation limited only by the farmer’s finances and by any applicable rule of law. Etc.

    Bottom line. The per capita thermal dissipation, albedo effects, night time reradiation effects, etc, are much greater now than they were in 1850. Each individual farm, ranch, ranger station, ski resort, cabin, etc is its own mini-UHI whereas, in 1850, not only were there clearly far fewer such things in our rural areas, but each of them had a far lower per capita net impact as stated.

    [Response: It’s a waste of time listening to you or responding to you until you put some numbers on how much effect this supposed change in albedo and thermal dissipation has on temperature. If you know any physics at all, you ought to be able to estimate how big the effect would be if there were no mixing of heat with the surroundings. Then, if you know a little more physics, you can try to figure out how much this effect is diluted by the inflow of air at around 5-10m/s from the surroundings. Go ahead, make my day. Submit a paper to GRL. –raypierre]

    Comment by Steve Sadlov — 24 Feb 2006 @ 2:10 PM

  145. Re #141,

    Brian, you are doing something very frustrating to those of us who try to, in good faith, address concerns of people questioning the case for AGW. You make a claim and present some evidence. The evidence is discussed at length and shown clearly to not support said claim. You then say that evidence doesn’t matter, the claim is still true.

    If the evidence you are using to arrive at a claim is shown to be flawed, you either need to present more supporting evidence or abandon the claim. It seems we are all in agreement at the moment that your particular station and the US temperature averages do not support your claim of UHI bias in the GISS anaysis. Now, on what basis do you still insist that this bias is there?

    In particular, I would like to see your explanation for receeding glaciers in the most remote land locations all around the world and the analysis of sea surface temperatures. Given the agreement with the global trend in station data, the very best you could claim is that the GISS analysis is in fact right, only for the wrong reasons.

    Though this might be an interesting technical question for some of the scientists involved, it rather weakens the relevance this doubt in the station data might have for policy decisions.

    Comment by Coby — 24 Feb 2006 @ 2:11 PM

  146. Steve,

    The article below shows earlier in the year runoff based on the timing of streamflow data. Air temperatures were not part of the study.

    100-110 year temperature plots at the link below include Leech Lake Federal Dam in north central Minnesota. There is nothing in the vicinity of the climate station at Leech Lake Dam but water and trees, which have not changed appreciably in over 100 years; yet, the increase in annual average temperatures is substantial at that “wilderness” location. Furthermore, the moose population in northern Minnesota has been in drastic decline, presumably at least partly due to warming temperatures and humidity.

    Comment by Pat Neuman — 24 Feb 2006 @ 3:20 PM

  147. RE: #146. You are responding to my post with a very local observation that is interesting anecdotal information, but you have not really addressed my post. Do you agree, or disagree, that there is now more Arthropogenic Thermal Dissipation and Albedo Change in typical (e.g settled) rural areas in North America and Europe now, than there was in 1850, yes, or no.

    Comment by Steve Sadlov — 24 Feb 2006 @ 4:21 PM

  148. Steve, is the argument you’re using the same one discussed here? It looks to me like you’re raising the same questions discussed previously:

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 24 Feb 2006 @ 5:10 PM

  149. Re: #147. “there is now more Arthropogenic Thermal Dissipation and Albedo Change”. Yes I agree, but most people call it AGW for short.

    Ian Forrester

    Comment by Ian Forrester — 24 Feb 2006 @ 8:46 PM

  150. I am not sure that temperature is the best “proxy” argument for defining man’s role in the biosphere. Carbon budgets work much better. If we know the percentage of oxidation and photosynthesis directly or indirectly under man’s control, compared to nature, then the argument is better settled.

    Comment by Matt — 24 Feb 2006 @ 11:33 PM

  151. re 142
    1)The crude sea surface publshed in a 1984 paper Folland, Parker and Kates Worldwide marine temperature fluctuations 1856-1981, Letter to Nature, Vol 310, 23 Aug 1984, page 670-673. A copy of which is available at
    shows a curve for SSTS before “modification and modernisatiom”.
    This curve does not show any any consistent warming between 1860 and 1980.
    It also correlates with temperatures from truly rural stations.
    It looks to me as if the “modification and modernisatiom” was done to make the SSTs correspond to the the idea of AGW (after all wasn’t “AGW” proved at the time)
    2) GISS modifies its Urban station temperatures by modifying the slope of the graph to that of neighbouring
    “Rural” station with a population of less that 10000.
    As explained in 126 any “built up” area will influence local temperature .Places with populations in 1000s must
    have a UHI component.
    Also some stations highly influencrd by UHI are supposed to be rural eg, Stornoway UK and some stations that actually
    rural (ie.miles away from the nearest built up area) are listed as urban eg Jonkoping Sweden.
    Data from stations such as these would not cancel each other out (as GISS believes) the temperature of Stornoway would increase the temperature of Jonkoping thus introducing UHI into the combined average temp.
    Gavin,The MSU sattelite showed 0.09 temp increase per decade before correction and 0.12 after, the GISS temp shows a rise 0.19 per decade.
    If models are based on faulty temperatures then they are going give to faulty forecasts.

    [Response: Oh dear. Why use SST records from 1984 when better ones are available? If you’re reduced to vast conspiracies to fudge the data, you’re lost. UHI: try the wiki page, esp the Peterson ref. MSU: there are multiple records. The multiply-wrong S+C is currently at 0.12; the RSS trend is 0.193 (wiki) – William]

    Comment by Brian Forbes — 25 Feb 2006 @ 4:56 AM

  152. In 147. Steve asked … Do you agree, or disagree, that there is now more Arthropogenic Thermal Dissipation and Albedo Change in typical (e.g settled) rural areas in North America and Europe now, than there was in 1850, yes, or no. ?

    I asked speakers at a climate change forum a similar question in 2002 at the University of Minnesota. Speakers at the public forum included Richard Lindzen and Dennis Hartmann. Dr. Hartmann, atmospheric sciences chief at the University of Washington, replied that land use albedo changes were minimal (pos or neg). Thus my yes or no answer to your question is no, i.e. no significant change.

    Comment by Pat Neuman — 25 Feb 2006 @ 11:35 AM

  153. Faster flowing glaciers
    When ice is pressurerised it tends to melt this because water at freezing point is denser than ice at freezing point.
    Because it is better lubricated thicker ice will flow faster than thin ice.
    In many of the “receeding” glaciers the upper reaches are gaining mass whilst lower down they are losing mass.
    As the ice slides down the moutainside it accelerates.
    it is quite possible for it to get thinner and so have less mass than when it was slower flowing.
    This explains why Greenlands glaciers are accelerating whilst the ice cap is getting thicker (ref 34)
    Although this does not explain glaciers that are actually shrinking but apart from Europe it appears that for every shrinking glacier there is an expanding one sometimes issuing from the same icefield.

    Comment by Brian Forbes — 25 Feb 2006 @ 12:26 PM

  154. So Brian, I take it you know there are as many growing glaciers as shrinking from your personal global travels? Perhpas you can provide your notes and data. If not, then please let us know what studies you are citing.


    Comment by Coby — 25 Feb 2006 @ 3:45 PM

  155. There is NO such thing as a Theory of Global Warming. In science a theory exist only after it passes the hypothesis testing. Therefore, you can not compare global warming to evolution.

    Scientific Laws, Hypotheses, and Theories

    I am pretty much amazed that such ignorance seems to be plentiful amoung so many people involved in the global warming debate.

    Comment by JH Waddell — 25 Feb 2006 @ 4:02 PM

  156. If you go back to the top and reread, the discussion here addresses exactly the issue you raise.

    Jerry Wilson’s page — the page you point to — talks about how hypotheses contribute to theorizing. Wilson’s a high school science teacher, and his page describes how a theory is built up slowly from hypotheses.

    The discussion below the original post is a good example of exactly what Wilson’s page says — this is how a theory gets developed.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 25 Feb 2006 @ 5:29 PM

  157. There is a greenhouse law, provable in the lab. There is a greenhouse hypothisis, in its limited form is not a theory.

    But, there is a scientificly accepted global greenhouse theory, verified by repeated observations of geological evidence, fossils, ice records, sediment records, glacial movement records, DNA fauna changes, extinction verifications, and the like.

    Does this greenhouse theory applied to the current 100 years? Sure, to some extant.

    Does this greenhouse theory apply to next summer. Sure, too some extant.

    I mean, what is the point of pinning down a particular group on such a fine tuned hypothesis that measuring the observations is lost in the error.

    We are at the top of a glacial cycle and even a simple aquarium owner knows greenhouse effect is important.

    Comment by Matt — 25 Feb 2006 @ 5:48 PM

  158. Jimmy,

    When I look at the Minnesota State Climatology Office, it’s like they say what you said (in 154), that:

    … “there is NO such thing as a Theory of Global Warming”.

    The MN Climatology people say they: … “make no claim of expertise in this highly complicated and politicized field of study.”

    The MN climatology people work closely with the National Weather Service (NWS) Forecast Office people and the NWS hydrologists at the NWS North Central River Forecast Center, having pubic hydrologic forecast responsibility for the Upper Midwest.

    Three NWS in Minnesota, the NWS Forecast Office, the NWS NCRFC and the NWS National Hydrologic Operational Remote Sensing Center (NOHRSC) are located in the same building, in a growing southwest Twin Cities area suburb called Chanhassen, MN.

    In reply to a re-post of an article at the Colorado Independent Media Center (15 Nov 2003) called: … Public disclosure – government agency says “no global warming problem”, re-posted to a global warming yahoo group today,

    Mr. Ross Thomas, retired teacher living in Texas, wrote:

    > Your conclusions were the exact opposite of what I got
    > when I talked to your NWS colleagues. In conversations
    > they would give me the current line from their powers
    > that be,… Then they would look over their shoulder
    > to see who was nearby and then say they didn’t believe
    > that GW was anything more than a statistical fluke.

    I replied that NWS staff have been telling the public about the same thing on GW since before Jan. 2001, … “they didn’t believe that GW was anything more than a statistical fluke”, and that as far as I know, NWS has continued to say things like that to the public (off the record) until the day I was fired from the NWS NCRFC in 2005.

    I spent my entire career as a hydrologist for NWS, 29 years, right out of college, preparing spring snowmelt flood outlooks for the Upper Midwest, hydrologic modeling and flood prediction. After the NWS office moved from Minneapolis to Chanhassen, MN for it’s implementation of Doppler radars and reorganization, and after my daughters graduated from high school, I moved from St. Paul to Chanhassen, MN so I could bike and walk to work. Had I known earlier that I would be fired for my position on climate change and global warming, we (my wife came too) would not have moved here (Chanhassen, MN).

    Comment by Pat Neuman — 25 Feb 2006 @ 8:50 PM

  159. Re #152 (BF): I can’t make much sense out of what you said about lubrication, but if I’m following some of your other reasoning correctly, apparently glaciers will have their greatest mass just before disappearing entirely. Sarcasm aside, it appears you’re missing some of the basics on glaciers, such as the fact that warmer air has a greater moisture capacity and thus produces more snow, all else being equal (and noting that this fact was mentioned much earlier in the comments). I would also suggest to you that it’s unhelpful to just make things up as you did with this statement: “Although this does not explain glaciers that are actually shrinking but apart from Europe it appears that for every shrinking glacier there is an expanding one sometimes issuing from the same icefield.” Evidence for that?

    Comment by Steve Bloom — 25 Feb 2006 @ 11:42 PM

  160. We need climate engineering, the video game. Seriously.

    We need to practice setting the ice line, adjusting the thermohaline circulation, and trying various bioengineering strategies on the boreal forests and tundra line.

    I suspect long term bioengineering of the Northern Hemisphere is going to get us a contract extension. There seems to be the possibility of “in place” fixation of carbon using bioengineered agents.

    In this game, we can establish energy budgets, and determine the long term safety of operating at a given temperature.

    As the agents in charge, we obtain a certain entropy advantage by selecting our operating temperature and planning for that temperature.

    If we bioegineer properly, we additional recover the entropy lost to current natural micobial work.

    By managing lost energy propery and planning for long term carbon fixation, then we earn the right to continued use of fossil fuel.

    Comment by Matt — 26 Feb 2006 @ 3:12 AM

  161. Coby
    I, unlike you, heve to rely on reports of which there are plenty on the internet but very few in the press. I did preface my statement with the word appears.
    Here is another statement for you to consider .
    All the reports from polar explorers between about 1890 and 1915 indicate that the extent of polar ice then was less than or equal to the extent that it is at present times. For example (this is not the only one):
    From Jan 27th to about Feb 4th 1911 Filchner sailed along the front of the Ronne ice shelf (which according to his map was the same place then as it is now)
    Can you explain the why after 90 years (or is it 30} of global warming 100s of miles of pack ice would have prevented him from doing the same this year.

    Comment by Brian Forbes — 26 Feb 2006 @ 3:55 AM

  162. Re 152. There aren’t as many advancing glaciers as receding ones. A small percentage of glaciers flowing out of icefields are advancing but they don’t have positive mass balances at the moment. The advancing ones are often calving glaciers whose behaviour is partially decoupled from climate by the influence of water depth, topographic pinning points etc. For instance, about two of the glaciers of the South Patagonian Icefield are advancing; both are calving glaciers. The rest of them (40 odd) are in recession. All the 25 or so glaciers of the North Patagonian Icefield are in recession. Much the same applies to other icefields.

    Comment by Stephan Harrison — 26 Feb 2006 @ 7:30 AM

  163. If you censor my replies you make me look foolish. Meybe I am for thinking I could get a fair whack on this biassed web site .
    I’ve learned something however: the real sore points of Global Warming Theory .Don’t ask me what they are my reply would be censored.

    Comment by Brian Forbes — 26 Feb 2006 @ 10:24 AM

  164. re 157.

    Mike, I think it might be better to use the revision below, which I worked on this morning.



    Climate change impacts on hydrology of Upper Midwest, Career ends, Disclosure of agency

    Career ends:

    The office where I worked in Minnesota from 1979-2005 is called the National Weather Service (NWS) – North Central River Forecast Center (NCRFC). NCRFC is located in a southwest Twin Cities area suburb called Chanhassen. NCRFC was created in 1979, and has flood prediction responsibility for the rivers in the Upper Midwest.

    In 1979, I was the only person to make the move from the parent NWS river forecast center office in Kansas City, Missouri to the new office in Minnesota. Thus I had responsibility for training a brand new staff of hydrologists and meteorologists in river forecasting modeling and prediction techniques during the early years of NCRFC operations during the 1980s.

    I spent my entire career as a hydrologist for NWS (29 years from right out of college in 1976 to 2005). My primary tasks included preparation of the annual spring snowmelt flood outlooks for the Upper Midwest, ice and water supply, hydrologic modeling and flood prediction.

    After the NCRFC moved locally from Minneapolis, MN to Chanhassen during the mid 1990s, for the nation-wide implementation of NWS Doppler radars and NWS reorganization, and after my daughters had graduated from high school in St. Paul, MN, I moved from St. Paul to Chanhassen, MN so that I could bike and walk to work. Had I known a few years earlier, that I would be fired for my position on climate change and global warming in 2005, we (my wife came too) would not have moved here (Chanhassen, MN).

    I’ve had experience with snowmelt runoff and flood prediction for many rivers within the Upper Midwest, including rivers in the following states:

    Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, North Dakota, South Dakota, Missouri, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas,
    and Missouri.

    Climate Change Impacts on Hydrology of the Upper Midwest:

    Due a position which I took in Jan. 2000, and which I feel strongly about, that

    Climate change is already having an impact on the hydrology
    of the Upper Midwest and therefore should at least be considered
    in hydrologic modeling efforts and flood prediction,

    my career ended by being handed a “Decision to Remove” memorandum on July 15, 2005 by the acting NWS Central Region headquarters office director from Kansas City, Missouri; in the presence of my supervisor at NCRFC in Chanhassen, MN.

    Disclosure of a Government Agency:

    Federal employees say global warming no more than a “statistical fluke”.

    Public disclosure on NOAA administrators and National Weather Service (NWS) directors, supervisors and employees, for seriously downplaying global warming.

    A retired teacher from Texas said recently that NWS people told him that global warming was nothing more than “a statistical fluke”

    In a globalwarming Yahoo Group, Mr. Ross Thomas, a retired teacher and businessman from Texas, wrote:

    “Your conclusions were the exact opposite of what I got when I talked to your NWS colleagues. In conversations they would give me the current line from their powers that be, … Then they would look over their shoulder to see who was nearby and then say they didn’t believe that GW was anything more than a statistical fluke.”

    By “powers that be”, I believe that Mr. Thomas meant the NWS field office supervisors (several hundred of them in offices within the U.S.), and NWS regional office directors (several dozen), NWS directors in headquarters (a couple) and NOAA administrators (several), all presently answering to political appointees in the Department of Commerce, the vice president and the president.

    I replied to Mr. Thomas that NWS staff have been telling the public about that same thing (that global warming is no more than a “statistical fluke”) since even before President G.W. Bush took office in Jan. 2001, and that as far as I know now, the public is still being told that about global warming by NWS managers and employees.

    Also see:

    Pat Neuman
    Chanhassen, MN


    — “Mike Neuman” wrote:
    Since Pat made this public disclosure (PD) on our ClimateArchives, we
    could all help spread the news by forwarded it to other media sources.

    I’m starting this out by forwarding a copy of the Pat’s PD to my two
    local newspapers: the Wisconsin State Journal and The Capital Times.


    Comment by Pat Neuman — 26 Feb 2006 @ 11:48 AM

  165. Nothing I have seen convinces me a Theory of Global Warming exist. Yes global warming exist. There is NO consensous, therefore you have a long way to go. Comparing global warming to evolution is slap in the face to biologist and decent scientist. Evolutionary Theory is one of a few milestone advances in knowledge. Compared only to such things as DNA sequencing.

    Come up with a consensous on global warming first. Try to get agreement on natural or man made.

    Comment by JH Waddell — 26 Feb 2006 @ 12:47 PM

  166. When I eyeball the co2 content integrated over the interglacial period, for the last four cycles, I do not see the biosphere, in the current cycle, using terribly more co2 than previous cycles.

    It appears to me that we have managed carbon quite well over the holocene period. An independent observer, looking at the ice core, might say we have had a run, and now we are engineering the next part of the cycle.

    The biosphere is an adaptive filter, removing the high frequency effects of ice and ocean from the low frequency change in orbit and inclination. Judge our performance against that model.

    Comment by Matt — 26 Feb 2006 @ 1:36 PM

  167. Re current 159 (Matt):

    You may want to ask yourself: what are the ethics and moral imperatives behind re-jiggerin’ multiple entire ecosystems so we can continue to profligately use fossil fuel?

    Once we do this exercise, we see it’s a non-starter on the ground. Sounds like an interesting game, tho.



    Comment by Dano — 26 Feb 2006 @ 4:04 PM

  168. This post touched on several subjects that are of general interest to me.
    1. Responding to #25, I’m not going to tell anybody else what religion to adopt, but agnosticism (coined by Darwin’s bulldog) seems to be the most scientific. I’ll refrain from any more comments on that or on Iraq’s WMD (except to say that I found it interesting to correlate media outlets’ views on AGW and Iraq’s WMD).
    2. With greater respect to the thalweg of the post, I find it interesting that even the scientific establishment focused so much on the religious implications of Darwin and Wallace’s theory than it did on the scientific problems (of which there were several; eg, no known mechanism of inheritance). A surprising (to me) proportion of Asa Gray’s review of The Origin of Species in The American Journal of Science and Arts was dedicated to rebutting the religious arguments of scientists. He went so far as to point out that Newtonian physics, which involved unseen forces, was never considered to be an argument for atheism. It wasn’t until later, when scientists opposed to the idea (like Louis Agassiz) tried to construct their own explanations for the fossil record and the results of selective breeding, that the superiority of natural selection as a theory became self-evident. I’m reading a book called Darwinism and the American Intellectual (1967) by RJ Wilson: “By 1885, one of the best known clergymen in America, Henry Ward Beecher, could declare blandly that “the period of controversy is passed and closed.”” Relating the above to AGW, I guess the parallels are that too many skeptics focus on non-science in their arguments (motivations of climatologists, governmental policy implications, and so on); that alternative explanations should continue to get examined (I like Ray’s response to #46 and Tom’s suggestion in #59); and finally that the scientific debate can be settled a disturbingly long time before the public/legal/policy debate even gets its pants on (or something like that).
    3. I thought a more direct comparison of the theories could be illuminating. Natural selection, as simply as I can put it, occurs because (i) organisms produce more offspring than the environment can support, (ii) organisms vary in their ability to obtain and make use of environmental goods, (iii) individuals with traits that confer a greater ability to get and use resources will generally leave more offspring, (iv) there is hertibility in the traits, and (v) therefore a population’s traits can change greatly over time. When I look at your your wording of the theory of global warming, I can imagine a similar structure. There are at least two differences, however: you include a quantitative prediction and you include a statement about what things play minor roles. Darwin never said how quickly evolution by natural selection should occur (and this led in part to the micro vs macro -evolution argument), and he never really denied the possibility of other influences.
    4. Lastly, in response to #163, I’m a population geneticist (only an MSc, mind you) who doesn’t feel insulted by the comparison of AGW theory to evolutionary theory. Granted, there are many aspects of evolutionary theory that have been thoroughly tested and are well nailed-down, but there is still a lot of work to do (thankfully). I don’t think there are any real qualitative differences between the two bodies of theory; I find their similarities more striking and interesting.

    Comment by Steve Latham — 26 Feb 2006 @ 4:14 PM

  169. Dear Matt,

    I have to admit that I don’t really ‘get’ most of your contributions. However I think you would find the stuff at Popular Science to be interesting (I linked to it last July but the link has since changed).

    Note for others: the link has little to do with Darwin or the nature of science.

    Comment by Steve Latham — 26 Feb 2006 @ 4:30 PM

  170. “You may want to ask yourself: what are the ethics and moral imperatives behind re-jiggerin’ multiple entire ecosystems so we can continue to profligately use fossil fuel?”

    Well, I’ll ask myself. Principle one, we are here, therefore, by definition, we are doing somethings right. Principle two, we should experiment, that is a defined mission of evolution.

    ‘Profligerately’ is a loaded term. We are required to run more, not less, energy through the biosphere, relative to our evolutionary cousins, for evolution expects us to take charge.

    Comment by Matt — 26 Feb 2006 @ 4:37 PM

  171. Brian,

    You are doing another very frustrating thing here, now you are a moving target. We were talking about glaciers and you present some anecdotal evidence about ice shelves in the south pole.

    FWIW, the South Pole has not show a very strong signal either warming or cooling, so I don’t think it says very much new to bring up 100 year old anecdotes.

    No one claims that a few melting glaciers is proof of Global Warming. Proof is a mathematical concept. In climate science one needs to look at the balance of evidence and this is just more evidence on one side of that balance. Widespread and rapid retreat of glaciers is merely yet another observation consistent with all the other kinds of “melting” evidence.

    Here is some of that evidence:

    Sea ice reaches new record declines:
    Glaciers in Greenland are receeding and calving at record rates:–rag111405.php

    This is a global phenomenon:

    Ancient permafrost is also thawing:

    Clearly we are dealing with much more that a few receding glaciers.

    Comment by Coby — 26 Feb 2006 @ 4:50 PM

  172. JH Waddell,

    What would convince you that there is a consensus? Every major institution dealing with the relevant scientific fields agrees with the conclusions of the IPCC TAR. As well almost 20 nations Science Academies have signed joint statements explicitly endorsing the same conclusions.

    Comment by Coby — 26 Feb 2006 @ 5:40 PM

  173. Re #94,

    Urs, sorry for the late reply (just finished the next phase of in-house renewal…).
    Indeed, there is little trend in solar indices since 1950, be it that temperatures are going up (and sometimes down) more or less in phase, until about 1985. Since then, there is more warming. Of course this is in part due to the build-up of greenhouse gases. But there is some residual increase from the higher solar energy input since the beginning of the previous century. Just have a look at what happens in climate models if you stop increasing CO2 levels. It takes some 30 years before ocean temperatures are in equilibrium again, after an increase in forcing stops, but much lomger for other feedbacks (ice/snow albedo, vegetation, deep sea exchange)… Indeed the highest rise should be seen in the first years after the end of the rise, but the solar cycles were quite variable just after the 1940’s.

    Moreover, one need to take into account large natural variations. Have a look at the variation of ocean heat content (which is a better measure of total heat flow than surface temperatures alone, see Levitus ea.). The reduction of heat content of the oceans 1980-1990 is quite large, while CO2 levels increase, sulphate aerosols are near constant and solar makes one cycleâ?¦

    Who is right or wrong on the TSI composition trend of the past two solar cycles is difficult to know. It seems a matter of filling the gap between subsequent satellites with the measurements of a third one. But the (small) shift in cloud cover (and to a certain level with GCR) at the solar minima of the two subsequent cycles point to a (small) shift in irradiation, as Willson calculated.

    Comment by Ferdinand Engelbeen — 26 Feb 2006 @ 6:31 PM

  174. Steve Latham,

    The original post compared the testability of ID and the greenhouse theory, and correctly concluded that ID was untestable, hence was not a validly constructed theory.

    This begged the question, therefore, if ID is out the window what is our moral imperative? Science; and the science we rely on to guide us is evolutionary science, not climatology. Climatology theories make climate predictions, evolutionary theory make existential predictions about us.

    So, the greenhouse theory says nothing about when, where, how much, or what kind of fossil fuel we use. The greenhouse theory is useful in helping us choose what to do.

    [Response: Yes, the predictions of science can be very important inputs to moral or ethical decisions. To decide the “ought,” you need to know about the “will be” contingent on your actions. Science may tell you how warm the Earth will get if you double CO2, how many people may die or be displaced, how many species will go extinct, but it will never tell you WHY (or even WHETHER) you should act to avoid such things. –raypierre]

    Comment by Matt — 26 Feb 2006 @ 6:41 PM

  175. Re #169


    You are right that most glaciers are receding/melting, but with a few remarks:
    – most receding/melting started a long time ago, some before 1850. Which points to natural causes (at least until 1950).
    – the record receding of (West) Greenland’s glaciers was in 1930-1950, not recent. Summer temperatures in Greenland now still are lower than in that period.

    [Response: You’re still committing the fallacy that, since glaciers started melting in 1850, the continued melting must be due to the same processes which were going on in 1850. That’s not even a testable hypothesis until you say why the glaciers were melting in 1850. This remark in no way “points to a natural cause.” As for your second comment, you’re being to selective. The marginal melt zone has penetrated further inland essentially all around the coast of Greenland now. –raypierre]

    Comment by Ferdinand Engelbeen — 26 Feb 2006 @ 7:02 PM

  176. #164, if there’s no proven theory of GW yet (& I do think there’s enough evidence to have us reduce our GHGs), then that’s because we’re still in the experimental stage. I hope you’re not implying that we should carry on full force with the experiment just to see what happens after 100 years, and whether it reaches your standard for a “theory.”

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 26 Feb 2006 @ 7:22 PM

  177. Hi Matt. It appears you disagree with Hume regarding is/ought. I don’t think most evolutionary biologists would agree with you about existential predictions and moral imperatives. I read a book as an undergrad that made some sense to me (the author says that our close relationship and similarity to Earth’s other inhabitants should give us more pause when we harm them):

    I should add that I think the manner in which you are interpreting evolutionary theory is close to that which motivated/motivates so many religious folks to reject it. Perhaps ethicists should construct the equations defining right and wrong on the basis of value systems, whereas science is a method of giving the variables some quantitation. IMO that goes for theories about evolution and AGW.

    Comment by Steve Latham — 26 Feb 2006 @ 10:06 PM

  178. I am fascinated and gratified by the range of comments on the article. I want you all to know how much I appreciate your taking time to write. Even if I don’t have time to comment on all of them, be assured I’m reading them all and profiting.

    Comment by raypierre — 27 Feb 2006 @ 12:01 AM

  179. Steve,

    I looked up the book you recommended by Rachels, and read a few reviews of his philosophy. I do believe that Rachels is deriving a moral philosophy from elements of evolution theory. His conclusions seem to agree with mine.

    So, how does his philosophy lead us to determine if the 2 deg mark is magic? Or whether fossil fuel should be used in what amounts? Or what amount of energy can we run through the biosphere over a specific amount of time?

    We are still stuck, according to climatologists we are required to set the temperature and energy levels.

    Comment by Matt — 27 Feb 2006 @ 2:55 AM

  180. I hypothisize a different fear gripping the climatologists.

    They look at the co2 history, over time, in this interglacial period, and find that co2 behavior, in total content over time, matches the other interglacial periods, and we are likely to reach the tipping point.

    The problem is, the land biosphere has been so engineered by man over the last 10,000 years, that it is out of state with regard to the normal inerglacial periods. Hence, we do not yet have a handle on what the down slope looks like, or even if there will be one.

    The fact that man uses an efficient fossil fuel source is immaterial. If man had not controlled oxidation, the soil microbes would have, and they too would have reached the “holding” capacity of the atmosphere. And if the microbes weren’t there, the dry carbon would have burned.

    Comment by Matt — 27 Feb 2006 @ 4:21 AM

  181. You AGW protagonists always call written evidence older than 100 years anectdotal whenever it contradicts you.If such evidence supports AGW it would be treated as it should be.
    Such evidence is not anecdotal it usually report written at the time of observation by a concientious
    scientist and and published later in book form .Any statements they made would be checked by succeeding explorers.
    There are many reports regarding the extent sea ice in the Antarctic at the time:they all confirm my view.To my mind there are enough reports from the Arctic also but the case is not as strong.
    Regarding mathematical proof: there is a nice paper
    which proves with the aid of a model that although the bulk of the Antarctic is cooling the area north of 65 south is warming.There is a big problem with this, Sea ice is expanding slowly instead of retreating as it should.

    [Response: I presume you are aware that I am the second author on that paper? What it suggests is that ozone depletion (and GHGs) could lead to a strengthening of the winds around the southern oceans and is consistent with a mild cooling over Antarctica. This is actually seen in many other models (Miller et al, in press) and thus gives a robust physical reason to explain the situation around Antarctica. In general it shows the difficulty in using any one locality (which is affected by global and regional patterns) to conclusively say something about the global mean – it doesn’t matter how conscientiously a local measurement is taken, it is still only one point. – gavin]

    Comment by Brian Forbes — 27 Feb 2006 @ 7:35 AM

  182. Gavin
    If anyone finds a hole in AGW theory one or more of amall group of scientists produce(s) paper(s) based on a computer model to patch it up.
    The parameters of a computer model can be tweaked to produce the desired result (I’ve done it myself when I was convinced the result would be true). This does not prove anything except that a model can be produced for any eventuality.
    I believe that there is enough evidence to demostrate that the sea ice in Antartica is as extensive nowadays as it was at the beginning of the 20th century.It is not just one point or one area. Look up the number of records there are for youself.

    [Response: Again, it is just not so. I cannot ‘tweak’ the model to produce whatever I want – once the model is set up to simulate the present climatology no parameters are tweaked when calculating the response to various forcings. With respect to sea ice in Antartica, there is no evidence of large declines except around the Antartcia Peninsula and I am unaware of anyone who has claimed the contrary. – gavin]

    Comment by Brian Forbes — 27 Feb 2006 @ 1:18 PM

  183. Brian Forbes, I am a GW antagonist (I think we should reduce GW). I’ve been censored here several times. I take it as a high honor to be censored here. For instance, my Theory of Devolution was censored, but I still claim there’s plenty of evidence for it. Just look around.

    But I do agree with you. The sun does warm the earth. Just try to take a sun bath on a cloudy day. And if I could turn down the sun a bit to help balance things out, I’d do so. But since I can’t, I have to content myself with reducing my GHGs (which saves me $$$ to boot).

    And I do think, as you do, we should stop flying all those airplanes (#70). This is probably an understudied area, and you might be on to something there. Such air flight reductions would have a double positive effect — less WV and less CO2.

    I agree with you about the antarctic. It does seem reasonable it would be getting more snow & ice there, since warming increases WV, which then comes down as precip.–which means more snow in very cold regions. But I just take the scientists’ words on what’s happening in the antarctic, since I’m not a climate scientist. However, the warming-WV-precip theory I sort of know about on my own from Kitchen Physics 101.

    In fact, a lot of the GH effect theory is sort of common sense; like try rolling up your car window on a sunny day & see what happens. Really the burden of proof is on the part of the AGW-denialists to prove AGW is not happening. Maybe there’s some law of physics that hasn’t been discovered yet that can explain why atmospheric GHGs would not lead to warming.

    And who is this Dr. Butler you keep bringing up? You have to ask, (1) is he/she a climate scientist; (2) is he/she being sincere and honest (and is he/she sane); and (3) is he/she getting any money or brownie points from fossil fuel industries or gov people who support such industries. It’s a jungle out there. Beware of wolves in sheep clothing.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 27 Feb 2006 @ 3:17 PM

  184. Re #168 and “I’m not going to tell anybody else what religion to adopt, but agnosticism (coined by Darwin’s bulldog) seems to be the most scientific.”

    So how do you explain Alfred Russel Wallace being a devout Anglican? Theodosius Dobzhansky a devout eastern Orthodox believer? Francisco Ayala and Annie Dillard being devout Roman Catholics? Think they were all “unscientific?”

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 27 Feb 2006 @ 3:56 PM

  185. Brian, you have missed the point about Antarctic ice. No one claims that there is significant warming in the antarctic (except the peninsula). The point is that this is one region only and the global average is .8oC higher now than in 1900. I’m sorry if I seemed dismissive of your early 1900’s reports on sea ice, but I did clearly concede that there is no reason to expect less ice given the lack of any trend.

    What did you think of all the rest of the melting going on around the globe I provided links for?

    Comment by Coby — 27 Feb 2006 @ 4:07 PM

  186. Gavin
    “there is no evidence of large declines except around the Antartcia Peninsula and I am unaware of anyone who has claimed the contrary”
    You can’t be reading newspapers and watching TV .
    We are told constantly that Antarctica is melting that the sea will rise and flood the coast, all quoting some scientist who has just run a model.
    Its good news to see an eminent climatologist debunk
    such scare tactics. I would like you to publicise your opinion it would go a long way to allay public fears.

    [Response: You may be confusing sea ice changes (which is floating and has no significant impact on sea level) with ice sheet changes which are the biggest ‘danger’ that can be forseen in climate change scenarios. Antarctica as a whole is probably accumulating ice at the moment (which is a good thing), but the net loss of ice on the peninsula demonstrates how fragile some of those ice streams are. Should the rest of Antarctica warm at anything like the rate seen on the Peninsula, that would be very serious indeed. Our modelling (which you quoted earlier) indicates that with a stabilisation of ozone depletion, it is unlikely that Antarctica will continue to cool in the future. -gavin]

    Neither Dr Butler nor myself receive any payment from the fossil fuel industries(who by the way are profiting from Kyoto)
    I also am economical in my use of energy & recycle most of my rubbish .However this does not make me a believer
    In my work as a chemist I have seen examples of scientists self deluding themselves with results that have been moulded to fit the current theory.
    I am now retired and as an amateur astronomer I have found that skies are nowhere near as clear now as they were in my youth .This appears to be due to ice crytsals in the stratosphere ejected from Jet aircraft.
    There is a good example of the moulding of results but it has been censored.

    [Response: By whom? Minnis et al, 2003; Hansen et al, 2005 seem to have been published with no problem… – gavin]

    Comment by Brian Forbes — 27 Feb 2006 @ 4:49 PM

  187. Gavin

    Comment by Brian Forbes — 27 Feb 2006 @ 5:19 PM

  188. Brian, that’s good that you are conscientious in energy use and in other environmental areas. That’s all I’d really like to see people do. What does it matter if they do or do not accept AGW science, or have problems with the evidence, theory, models, or whatever?

    You are doing the sensible thing by recycling and reducing energy & living a energy/resource efficient/conservative life–which can be done with 1/2, or even 3/4+ reduction without lowering living standards or productivity. And such reductions also help reduce so many other problems (including resource depletion), aside from mitigating GW. You might also try looking into alternative energy. I’m finding in Texas that 100% wind generated electricity provided by Green Mountain Energy is now a bit cheaper than conventional electricity. Maybe the same is true for your area, or maybe it costs a few dollars more, which could be covered by extra efficiency/conservation measures.

    So I admire you for what you’re doing. That’s better than agreeing AGW is happening, but doing nothing to reverse it. And if you’re right AGW is not happening, then you would not have lost anything by reducing & saving money; and if you’re wrong, then you would have been helping to mitigate it. That’s really sensible. I’ve been trying to promote that “personal policy” for a long time, and it seems I’m banging my head against a brick wall. But you are a shining example of it, and I’m sure people would listen to you, more than they do to me.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 27 Feb 2006 @ 6:47 PM

  189. Lynn
    In my area the environmentalists oppose windmills they don’t want their moorland spoiled and atomic energy believing that the least bit of radioactivity (buried deep) is dangerous .There is a word for it NIMBY not in my back yard.There is very little chance of reducing the rise in CO2 .We had better learn to live with it.Not that it will make a great deal of difference.So long as you dont blame the global coolng that’s coming on CO2 shutting down the thermmohaline circulation.I know there’s a model for that

    Comment by Brian Forbes — 27 Feb 2006 @ 7:59 PM

  190. Re #175 (comment)

    Raypierre, my reaction was more about the recent rates of Greenland ice retreat, mentioned in Coby’s #171 (was #169 when I posted). I agree that most glaciers worldwide are retreating…

    But about what caused the glacier retreat (in general) in the early period, is more probably by natural causes than by GHGs. The increase of 10 ppmv in the period 1850-1900 is not likely to have caused much temperature/glacier change. And the period 1900-1945 with 15 ppmv CO2 increase is neither impressive. That means that until 1945 (and in part thereafter, as once induced melting/calving/retreat speeds up glaciers as there is less friction), the (temperature related) glacier retreat was mainly natural.

    After 1945, GHGs became more important, but it is also the time that glacier retreat slowed down worldwide (or even reversed for several glaciers in the RealClimate graph), see Oerlemans. But in the recent decade(s), there is again more melting (and the graphs need updates for recent years).

    The Greenland case is quite different from the global case, as around Greenland edges summer temperatures were actually higher in the 1930-1950 period than today. And the only glacier I found (Ilulisat/Jacobshavn) with long term data, showed a much larger retreat of the break-up point in the 1930-1950 period than in the recent five decades. Btw if you do know of long-term data for other Greenland glaciers, I am very interested.
    Thus while Greenland glaciers are speeding up and thinning, a comparison with earlier data may indicate that this is comparable to other periods, when GHGs played less role.

    That doesn’t imply that GHGs are not important, or not involved in temperature increase/glacier retreat, but the Greenland case can not be used as proof for their influence…

    [Response: No single observation by itself is ever likely to prove that models are on the right track with regard to AGW, but when you put together a whole lot of indicators, all of which are consistent with a world warming by an unusual amount, and set them against relatively few indicators (interior Antarctic cooling) that aren’t an expected signature of AGW, it sure does seem to add up to a pattern, doesn’t it? Again, you have to ask what else besides GHG increase could explain such a remarkable concurrence of indicators. Even the indicators of local cooling, as in interior Antarctica, bolster the case, because, as Gavin described, they can be understood in terms of the physics that are in the same models used to predict future AGW. –raypierre]

    Comment by Ferdinand Engelbeen — 27 Feb 2006 @ 8:55 PM

  191. >global cooling …

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 27 Feb 2006 @ 8:56 PM

  192. Regarding #186: It is not the ice streams that are of first concern. it is the ice shelves that the ice streams feed. If you remove the ice shelves, than the ice streams feeding them accelerate, this has been observed in the case of feeder glaciers to the former Larsen B Ice Shelf. The feeder glaciers have all accelerated without a buttressing ice shelf. Of greater importance is the noted retreat of ice shelves buttressing Pine Island and Thwaites Glacier which are important glaciers draining the West Antarcti Ice Sheet. In both cases these major ice streams have accelerated. Thus, we see evidence of localized destabilization of the ice sheet-ice shelf system.

    Comment by Mauri S. Pelto — 27 Feb 2006 @ 9:03 PM

  193. Brian, it seems you’re in England, so, of course you cannot reduce as much GHGs cost-effectively as we Americans can. We are really high on the profligacy hog. Europeans, I think, emit about 1/2 of what American emit. So maybe you can only go down a bit more. We can go down a lot, but we prefer to burn money out in our front yards like so many autumn leaves.

    Re wind generators, I understand there are some small ones people can install themselves, that don’t mess up the view or cause much noise. But that’s a lot of work & expense. And I think solar will be coming down & put in all sorts of applications. I know we can reduce GHGs, but we are so slow to do it, even when it means saving money. You might read Lovins’s Natural Capitalism for inspiration ( ).

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 27 Feb 2006 @ 9:16 PM

  194. Re 186
    Mauri :The front of the Ronne ice shelf broke in 1985 and again in 1998 A sign of global warming? no just more ice moving off the Antarctic ice cap which is still thickening.
    At this moment the Ronne ice shelf is in much the same position as it was in 1912 when Filchner mapped it.
    The Larsen ice shelf is different It is probably made up mostly by the ice from the Ronne ice shelf which gets trapped against the Antarctic penninsula .
    The are signs of this happening at the moment.

    Comment by Brian Forbes — 28 Feb 2006 @ 1:59 AM

  195. Regarding 179 (Matt) and 184 (Barton): here’s my last post on philosophy since I am no expert. Matt, for Rachels’ argument to work, I think somebody has to demonstrate two principles – do unto others… and value your relatives. Science can’t do this by itself. Rachels goes into it a bit. Note that depending on other values, evolutionary theory may be interpreted to support other positions (e.g., social Darwinsim — yuck).

    Barton, some Jehovah’s witnesses came to my door to give me a book about how evolution was the devil’s idea. They asked me if Einstein (“I want to know God’s thoughts, the rest are details”) was a scientist. Arguing about Einstein’s definition of God with them would have been fruitless. Now I could write about how some accounts say that Wallace came to understand evolution during a fever and how he never embraced the implacations for humans, but that line of argument wouldn’t benefit anyone.

    I wrote that I wouldn’t tell anyone what religion to follow. I think that is fundamentally a matter of faith and choice. Some have said that the fundamentals of science lie elsewhere. To me, maintaining an open mind and being skeptical seem opposed to faith (perhaps if this point needs more discussion we can move our conversation elsewhere). I don’t have any problem with scientists choosing faith over agnosticism when it comes to religion, but (similar to what I was trying to say to Matt about values and stuff) that choice is not fundamentally scientific. That’s my opinion, anyway.

    Comment by Steve Latham — 28 Feb 2006 @ 3:24 AM

  196. Re 194 (BF): “The Larsen ice shelf is different It is probably made up mostly by the ice from the Ronne ice shelf which gets trapped against the Antarctic penninsula .” Evidence for that? You never did respond to my request for evidence for your assertion in #152: “Although this does not explain glaciers that are actually shrinking but apart from Europe it appears that for every shrinking glacier there is an expanding one sometimes issuing from the same icefield.” As I already noted, it’s not helpful to just make things up. Generally if you have an idea along such lines, you should start by checking Google Scholar. If there’s no result there, probably it’s because there’s nothing to the idea, but if you still insist on commenting at least do us the courtesy of posing your idea as a question.

    Comment by Steve Bloom — 28 Feb 2006 @ 6:00 AM

  197. More than half of all the glaciers in Norway expanded between 1995 and 2000. I’ve seen many alarmist reports on the collapse of the Ninnis glacier but the Mertz glacier flowing from the same ice field is expanding.
    On the Mertz- and Ninnis-Glaciers, Eastern Antarctica
    There are other examples and I did say”appears”.
    I have never made anything up but my only scource of infomation is the web. I often find it difficult to relocate web sites that I have viewed hence the word “appears”
    Here is a question
    In my work as a chemist I have seen examples of scientists self deluding themselves with results that have been moulded to fit the current theory.
    Are there any examples of this in the data that supports AGW?

    Comment by Brian Forbes — 28 Feb 2006 @ 7:36 AM

  198. Re 197, question,
    Dunno for AGW, but a nice example for solar forcing self-delusion is here:

    Comment by Florifulgurator — 28 Feb 2006 @ 1:08 PM

  199. Ref 197(BF)

    page 78 or your link:

    “A corresponding study by Reichert and others (2001) demonstrates that mass balances in Norway and Switzerland, are strongly correlated with decadal variations in the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). This mechanism, which is entirely caused by internal variations in the climate system, can explain the sharp contrast between recent mass gains for certain Scandinavian glaciers as compared with the marked ice losses observed in the European Alps.”

    and p.79

    – Concern increases that the ongoing trend of worldwide and fast if not accelerating glacier shrinkage at the century time scale is of non-cyclic nature … there is definitely no more question of the originally envisaged “variations periodiques des glaciers”.
    – Due to the human impacts on the climate system (enhanced greenhouse effect), dramatic scenarios of future developments “including complete deglaciation of entire mountain ranges” must be taken into consideration.
    – Such scenarios may lead far beyond the range of historical/holocene variability and most likely introduce processes (extent and rate of glacier vanishing, distance to equilibrium conditions) without precedence in the history of the earth.
    – “A broad and worldwide public today recognises glacier changes as a key indication of regional and global climate and environment change.”

    And your point in steering us toward that link in order to bolster your case was…?

    Comment by hugh — 28 Feb 2006 @ 1:25 PM

  200. OK, so how did human do 12 thousand years ago.

    If we hypothesis that the evolutionary accident was the ability to finally get more biological work from the soils, then we can grade the accident of man during the last quarter cycle of the period.

    Under many plausible scenarios of agricultural development, man’s impact 12,000 years ago could have been in the range of 10 gigatons to 200 gigatons over a three hundred year cycle. So, evolution found the power function.

    Did evolution get a breakthrough in finally cracking the glacial upswing and extracting more work? Evolution was stalled, other than worms, it is hard to do better than the microbes in oxidizing soil. The real evolutionary accident was that vertebrates scratched the soils. Then they ran in huge herds, tilling grasslands. They burrowed. Vertebrates flew around like tiny crop dusters, what a huge accident. These were just accidents, but a million bisson is in the range of a million tons of carbon a year over the American prairie.

    Science will likely rule that evolution did it right in finally cracking the soil problem, except for the younger-dryas glitch. Our grade, B+, relative to any other glacial cycle. The system analysis will show we have helped convert the rapid oxidation driven deglaciton to a smoother step function, at least. Had we gotten younger-dryas right, we would have run a gaussian minimum energy loss, smooth glide up to and through the holocene. Science will show that applying high impulse, counter-cyclical, carbon fluxes at appripriate moments was the best would could have done. Science will show that it was no accident, for the greatest chance of evolutionary success was exactly when oxidion was running high fever, as there is most entropy losses for evolution to work with.

    Was it an accident that evolution has gotten more than a hundred feet into the earth’s crust? Yes, a huge accident, that is what is exciting. We are in charge from now on, we have no other destiny than human management of the glacial cycle, at the very least. It is like a huge job promotion.

    Comment by Matt — 28 Feb 2006 @ 1:47 PM

  201. Re: 197

    Clipped from an artice in in the archive section of this site.

    “Of course, as we frequently remind readers on this site, changes in one particular region do not necessarily translate to worldwide trends. That is why the work of such groups of scientists as the World Glacier Monitoring Service, which compiles observations on changes in mass, volume, area and length of glaciers, is important. From the compilations of WGMS (and many other groups and individuals), we know that glacier retreat is in fact an essentially global phenomenon, with only a few isolated (and well understood) counter-examples, such as western Norway. The figure at right shows an example from……”

    Clipped from this post

    “Tests of the collective behavior of the Earth’s climate system are somewhat harder to come by, but there has been substantial progress here as well. I would highlight the following, which is far from an exhaustive list:

    * Reproduction of the temporal and spatial pattern of 20th and 21st century warming. To be sure, models with varying assumptions about clouds and aerosols can fit the observed warming equally well, indicating that the job is not complete. However, no quantitative model based on physical principles can match the 20th century warming without incorporation of a substantial warming component from greenhouse gas increases.
    * The rapid increase in atmospheric greenhouse gases should throw the Earth’s radiation budget out of balance, because the ocean has not yet had time to warm up to restore balance. The expected imbalance has been observed. (Hansen et al. 2005)
    * The planet’s energy imbalance has implications for the pattern of subsurface ocean warming. The predicted pattern has been observed. (Discussed here.)
    * Satellite observations indicate that mid-tropospheric water vapor is indeed increasing with temperature, as the theory requires and as models predict (Discussed here).. Note that the water vapor assumption I included as part of the statement of the Theory of Global Warming is not itself built into the general circulation models used to predict climate change. It is an emergent property that is deduced from more basic assumptions made in the models. In this regard, the statement regarding the presumed behavior of water vapor amounts to a statement that the models capture the same processes governing water vapor in the real atmosphere. There is now a wealth of evidence (in the “large scale control” literature) supporting this viewpoint.
    * Melt-back of Northern Hemisphere sea ice
    * Nearly worldwide melting of mountain glaciers, many of which survived previous naturally occurring warm periods
    * The theory predicts that the stratosphere should be cooling at the same time the surface is warming. This pattern is observed.
    * The degree of cooling of the Tropics and Southern Hemisphere during the Last Glacial Maximum, for which there would be no explanation if we were to assume that current models substantially overestimate sensitivity to CO2. An interesting bit of history concerning this point is that in the 1980’s the tropical behavior in glacial times was considered an indication that models were wrong: CLIMAP data indicated little surface cooling in the tropics, while mountain snowlined data did show cooling. This led to all sorts of theories spun about exotic thermostat mechanisms and strange lapse rate behavior. In the end, it turned out that the models were right and that the CLIMAP data was wrong. Thus, in this instance, the models (based on theory) made a true prediction, which was verified after the fact.”

    Seems to me AGW has little trouble stading up as our best theory of what is going on with the Climate. I would add to the above list that warming is the first order response that what would also expect to happen with increasing GHG on the basis of basic spectroscopy and radiative transfer. Consistency with basic physical principles as well as with an increasingly wide range of observations makes it quite unlikely we are all just fooling ourselves.

    Comment by David donovan — 28 Feb 2006 @ 3:59 PM

  202. Who is deluding themselves.?
    Temperatures of which you can’t be certain due to urban heat are averaged with SSTs which appear to have been modified to fit your theory.
    Using this temperature you claim that it it has reached an unprecedented level which does not accord with the history or experience and apparently not taking into account or minimising the effects of variations of the sun , blame it on a 80 ppm increase in the concentration of CO2 in the air.
    Admittedly the winters were somewhat warmer here in the 1990s than for the past 50 years but there no evidence apart from the above mentioned temperatures that they are warmer than in 1930s
    (My mother used to claim that the 1930s were warmer)
    All accounts of ice conditions in the polar regions between 1890 to 1915 show that the ice extent then is similar to to that of today .
    Models which cannot be tweaked! can be used to produce scientific articles to counter reasonable objections of the intererested whatever the objection
    Their “projections” produce visions of the future which the media can use to alarm the public.
    Is it science ?

    Comment by Brian Forbes — 28 Feb 2006 @ 4:56 PM

  203. Re 202

    (1) Climate instability: page 1 of F. Oldfield’s “Environmental Change: key issues and alternative approaches”, Cambridge University Press, 2005 points out that 11,600 years ago, in less than 50 years, the temperature rose at least 4degreesC in western Europe. From that book and other sources there was a very large meltwater pulse either then or just earlier, raising sea stand by many meters. (Does anybody have a good estimate of how many?) Of course this book along with others — I recommend W.F. Ruddiman’s “Earth Climate: Past and Future” as a starter — describes and demonstrates convincingly that the past at least 400,000 years has had many rapid and extreme climatic shifts. Why is today any different? Based on the simplest forms of probabilistic reasoning, one concludes that the climate will do something rather dramatically different next year and over the next decade. What needs explaining, imho, is the unusually stable climate of the last 10,000 years. What does not need explaining is a prediction of instability.

    (2) Most do not know point (1). So it seems sensible for the media to present the predictions of climate change, and what it means for all of us. If people view this with alarm, it is only because they haven’t heard it before. But having once heard it, perhaps like boy scouts, they’ll be prepared for the changes which may occur.

    (3) The RC moderators have pointed this out before: You have a repeated tendency to select only some of the evidence, at particular locations, to press your point(s). Further, you write you get everything from the web. Now some places in webland are reliable and very many are not. Above I recommended two books, both by now-retired professors of high repute in paleoclimatology. Reading these first may not change your opinion, but it will help you to sort the good from the trash in webland.

    (4) As others have already mentioned to you, the ice conditions at both poles are somewhat different than 100 years ago. In Antarctica, little has changed (as far as we know) sufficiently far south. However, the Palmer Penisula has recently lost ice sheets and other indications of warmth not observed 100 years ago. In the Arctic, the polar sea ice has continued to thin over the last 50 years or so, but there is no earlier data, as far as I know. Finally, as others have already mentioned to you, the iceberg count continues to decline.

    (5) Finally, and repeatedly, you should read the books first and then be constantly aware that data regarding one location does not extrapolate to the entire globe. The world is not a test tube.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 28 Feb 2006 @ 6:35 PM

  204. William said he didn’t understand “quite how you failed to find any uncertainy. The TAR SPM sayeth “Over the 20th century the increase has been 0.6 ± 0.2°C” – this is an expression of uncertainty. Or try fig 5. Or… well, I just don’t see how you can have missed it”.

    Didn’t miss it and other similar reports and forecasts. The problem arises perhaps with WG3 – the Group tasked with revealing IPCC science to the outside world.

    There, uncertainty of (say) 2 to 8 degrees centigrade arrives at the media “as much as 8 degrees centigrade”. (Of course on the other side they will say “as little as 2 degrees centigrade” – and the battle begins.)

    Confidence levels help and I think WG1 and 2 have accepted them. I doubt that this translates into confidence levels for WG3.

    As I said, I thought the “uncertainty” directive from the IPCC was very good – but I don’t think it applies to WG3, but I’m ready to be brought up to date on this.

    But their job is to scare the bejabers out of the public so that appropriate political measures will be demanded.

    William and Ray jumped on my money and perks comment.

    I didn’t mention “vast” amounts of money, William. However, trips to New Zealand and other watering holes are not inexpensive. I used to enjoy tripping around when I was younger, but changing planes in Chicago at 3am lost its appeal with the years.

    Ray made his point well – but I would suggest that most of the conference attendees were not in his position.

    I do recall Schneider’s remark about the envy of scientists tied to their benches while others were giving evidence before the Senate, or being interviewed on national TV. A little bit of hubris, no doubt, but surely being part of a great effort to save the world from itself is reward in plenty for many people – even if they miss Carmen (I feel for Ray).

    [Response: I definitely appreciate your sympathy, and yes, I’d say it was definitely worth the trouble to help with IPCC. Not necessarily any fun, but certainly worth the trouble. And happily, the Lyric is doing a new production of Carmen this year, with a cast as good or better than the last one. –raypierre]

    Comment by Harry Pollard — 28 Feb 2006 @ 6:44 PM

  205. The point I am trying to make is that if the temperatures arwe unreliable the so also must any projection derived from these temperatures.
    Urban Heat
    This undoubtably exists and influences the GISS temperatures.
    Consider two stations
    a)listed as rural but influenced by urban heat.
    b)listed as urban but actually rural
    GISS recognises that stations such as these exist stating the temperature errors would cancel out.(email)
    But the method they use is to correct the slope of the temp graph of the urban stations to that of rural stations
    Suppose (a)has a positive slope and (b)’s slope is flat
    If (b) is corrected to (a) then a flat curve will converted to one with a positive slope incoporating the urban heat from (a).
    There is no way in which urban heat can be cancelled out

    Sea surface temperatures.
    See my previous 197

    Comment by Brian Forbes — 1 Mar 2006 @ 12:37 AM

  206. If oil use continued it current path, we would likely spend a hundred years of so at the 2 deg realm before oil was extremely limited.

    But our efficiency at converting newly thawed soil into carbon sinks over 200 year time spans would likely increase. Oil use eventually declines.

    So, if we can increase the efficienty and quantity of carbon sinks using oil, then we should pay a short term high temperature cost, obtain a medium term gain in carbon sinks, and a long term cost in putting another 300 gigaton of carbon into the land biomass.

    Current technology allows us to target a 40-60% recovery of emissions by biomass sequestering. North American land mass available for the task increases, probably more than temperature rise.

    What other use is the oil than to use it now to increase biomass sequestering?

    Comment by Matt — 1 Mar 2006 @ 6:12 AM

  207. Re “I don’t have any problem with scientists choosing faith over agnosticism when it comes to religion, but (similar to what I was trying to say to Matt about values and stuff) that choice is not fundamentally scientific. That’s my opinion, anyway. ”

    I think your definition of “scientific” is idiosyncratic and, frankly, self-serving.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 1 Mar 2006 @ 9:26 AM

  208. If we accept our mandate, we can explore this concept of planning for what man is likely to do, and thus gain some entropy advantage.

    Well, man is going to be the climate engineer for the next 270 degrees of the glacial cycle. Right away we can make some conclusions. Millennium scale planing will be the norm, carbon fluxes the scarce resource.

    Russia, Canada, and Alaska will operate the boiler room.

    So, the first thing we want is for Canada, Russia and Alaska to get together, tell us what they can do with the ice line, tundra, and northern forests. They sit at the oxidation zone and can make the most rapid changes in biological carbon movement.

    England will need special consideraion since the climate engineers would likely keep the thermohaline cycle in a delicate instability.

    And you can go down the line. India and China have been at this game the longest, and they have the carbon tax, and the great tropical agricultural preserve. The U.S. and continential Europe are swing regions.

    Some regions will compete with major nuclear energy complexes. Some will use biomass energy as a negotiating tool.

    So, if we do this right, man may choose to use more oil now, where man can get the greatest long term change.

    Comment by Matt — 1 Mar 2006 @ 3:49 PM

  209. Re 205.

    Please review

    “Are Temperature Trends affected by Economic Activity?”

    which can be found in the archive section of this site.

    Comment by David donovan — 1 Mar 2006 @ 4:46 PM

  210. Re: 204

    The only IPCC travel I ever had was to a workshop in Beijing. The invitation to speak came with no expenses paid, so it came out of my group budget (i.e., it meant that something else couldn’t be done). There may have money involved, but none of it came to me. I got nothing for contributing to the TAR, either. It’s not a way to get even a small amount of money (except for the support staff involved in putting together the report). It depends on volunteer effort and the implicit support of agencies at which scientists work.

    Comment by Harold Brooks — 1 Mar 2006 @ 5:24 PM

  211. RE 205 (BF):

    Google Scholar will help you get up to speed on this subject. How it works: read the abstracts, then go to a good library to learn about the subject.



    Comment by Dano — 1 Mar 2006 @ 5:59 PM

  212. May I ask some questions about Global warming?

    Dr. Hansen from NASA says that the sea level will become 25 m higher soon. What means “soon”? How long will it take to reach the 25 m higher sea-level?

    Another question:

    He also says global warming has some effect on the Hurricane and typhoon.
    Can he predict how many hurricanes will land to USA this year? When is it possible to predict about the number and power of hurricane?

    [Response: Hansen’s latest presentation is available at . I don’t think you’ll find he said that 25m of sea level rise would happen ‘soon’. Similarly, he does not estimate the number of land-falling hurricanes. – gavin]

    Comment by A. Inoue — 1 Mar 2006 @ 9:46 PM

  213. Getting back to distinctions between science & religion…I teach anthropology & the Sociology of Religion (a sci study of relig). Here is a lecture very simply put:

    1. Science is a belief system, while religion is a belief & value system.

    2. Science is objective (the scientist (the “I”) is deleted from the equation), while religion encompasses the objective & subjective (the “I & the Thou”).

    3. Religion deals with the natural and supernatural, or at least the sacred, “the seen & the unseen”; while science only deals with the empirical natural world, what can be perceived thru our 5 (not 6) senses – including the use of aids to those senses.

    4. Science has rigorous methods for verifying results (unlike relig), and so on. Science is limited to the natural (the empirically known & knowable), but its methods make it very powerful for coming to know and understand this more limited “natural” aspect of the totality.

    There is no way one can come to religious faith through science; nor can science disprove God, since the supernatural is not its province. The greatest religious mystics would reject using the senses to come to religious faith & understanding. St. John of the Cross (who had about the best scientific education of his day in the 1500s from the U. of Salamanca, and had the highest regard for science), spoke of the “dark night of faith” somewhat in this vein. The only sense needed for faith, he suggested, is hearing, as in “hearing the Gospels.” He also said something to the effect that faith wasn’t worth anything if it relied on the senses, or even on mystical experiences, such as apparitions. That’s not faith, that’s “show me, then I’ll believe.” I’ve read sages & saints of other religions (e.g., Thiruvallavar, a Tamil mystic), and most come to this conclusion, that you have to go beyond (or ignore) sensual impressions to get to supernatural understanding or wisdom.

    Now, looking at science through religion (since relig is the more inclusive perspective), if we believe through faith (not sensory crutches) God created the universe & all in it, then that universe is sort of like another bible, if not sacred ground itself, and its theologians are the scientists who devote their lives to understanding it scientifically. It seems to me from a relig perspective they would be in sin, if they did not honestly study and analyze the world–with the well-accepted caveat that science changes according to better evidence & theories & methods of analysis. Cherry-picking evidence and other forms of scientific obfuscation (as seems to be done in ID and GW contrarian “science”) are more than bad science; they’re sins. If this is done, as in GW contrarian “science,” in the spirit of blocking efforts to save lives and avert disaster, that’s even a greater sin.

    Since ID implies some non-empirical agent, it is definitely not within the realm of science, & I think in the realm of religion it may even be an insult to God.

    When I teach evolution in anthropology, I do a chart with time on the X-axis & adaptability (ability to live & thrive in more & diverse environments) on the Y-axis. I draw the line for biological evolution of humans with a slight upward curve. Then I start the line for sociocultural evolution above the last segment of biological evolution, and draw an exponential-looking curve, saying, “culture takes up where biology leaves off; we don’t need wings to fly in the air, we can build airplanes.” Then when I get to the highest level of human adaptability at the top (present day), I mention that there’s nothing inherent in this that says adaptability will continue to increase; we could come in for a crash landing if we or something else destroys our life supports, and we could end up like this — I draw a broken line downward to the bottom.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 1 Mar 2006 @ 10:40 PM

  214. Lynn,

    We regret that we have but one extinction to give to our evolution.

    There is a worse crime than extinction. Evolution needs smooth glacial transitions. What if we are evolution’s last chance to get the glacial periods amplitude alligned with solar forcing? Or at least get control of rapid oxidation. If this is not done, the ragged swings in periods may always stymie evolution, mainly on the upswing. That oxidation phase has always been evolution’s archilles heel. Eventually a longer term geological cycle will overtake evolution, and the sun is getting middle aged you know.

    Comment by Matt — 2 Mar 2006 @ 12:20 AM

  215. How far can it go? The last time the world was three degrees warmer than today – which is what we expect later this century – sea levels were 25m higher. So that is what we can look forward to if we don’t act soon. None of the current climate and ice models predict this. But I prefer the evidence from the Earth’s history and my own eyes. I think sea-level rise is going to be the big issue soon, more even than warming itself.

    This is the part of article by Hansenn in Independent February this year.
    I think he suggests that the sea-level will rise to 25 m higher within this century.

    Comment by A. Inoue — 2 Mar 2006 @ 12:42 AM

  216. Just read this on ClimateArk ( ):

    Sarewitz, former staff member of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, [says] “the science is always contestable at some level…. Ultimately, you end up hiding behind a claim about the science to make a claim about the kind of world you’d like to see.”

    Let’s see, I’d like a wonderful world where everyone has enough to eat & is happy, into the indefinite future, soooo all I do is select the science that claims that’s how the world really is, and go marching off happily & blindly, chanting, “there are no cliffs ahead, there are no cliffs ahead.” And saying so makes it right! Wow, what a world. No reality principle, just my fantasy.

    Unfortunately, however, my particular theoretical framework is not cultural determinist (unlike some of my fellow anthropologists); nor is it biological/environmental determinist. My assumption is that all dimensions interpenetrate — environmental, biological, social, psychological, & cultural. (As a religious person, I can also throw in “spiritual,” which really changes the whole dynamic or perspective.)

    I do believe (assume) there is a real reality. So, in my view, “saying so, doesn’t make it real.” As tempting as Sarewitz’s cultural determinist view is (that you can have whatever fantasy you want), I’m afraid we’re going to keep bumping into some unpleasant reality. I suggest we’re better off humbly looking at reality, striving to get beyond our biases & culture-tinted glasses & paradigms & mindsets that make us squeamish. As Pat (I think) said above, the fall isn’t so bad until you hit the ground (or something like that). I don’t want GW harms or wish them. How could anyone want that, except some misguided sociopaths?

    I guess the contrarians are afraid that mitigating GW might threaten human freedoms, or “the sky’s the limit” wealth accumulation. Perhaps GW sort of threatens their entire world view, including their justification of social inequality (the pie is ever expanding & all are getting bigger & bigger pieces)–which is perhaps why liberals have a bit easier time accepting GW science–or their self-esteem that tells them “I’m a good person, who wouldn’t harm anyone; ergo, GW cannot be happening.”

    But we should be brave, and face the GW threat square on (hoping the scientists are wrong, but acting as if they are right, or perhaps even underestimating the problem). Maybe mitigation won’t have to be so bad (we’re smart, remember, Homo sapiens). Maybe if we don’t mitigate GW the worst nightmares that contrarians & the rest of us are trying to avoid will come true — loss of freedom & wealth & even our livelihood.

    I suggest there is a single truth about GW (regardless of whether people know what it is); it’s not just a matter of people’s personal & cultural preferences or points of view or politics or paradigms. Maybe we don’t know it completely, but I believe the science & scientists we have are doing a pretty good job figuring it out. And I trust their opinions more than those of gov people, big biz people, the man in the street, and GW contrarians. Call me crazy.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 2 Mar 2006 @ 4:08 AM

  217. Re #213 and “2. Science is objective (the scientist (the “I”) is deleted from the equation), while religion encompasses the objective & subjective (the “I & the Thou”).”

    Sorry, I reject that completely. It’s self-serving and wrong. Religion does not become “subjective” just because you don’t like it. Religions make statements about reality, not about vague feelings. You don’t have to agree with those statements, but they are no more “subjective” than yours are.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 2 Mar 2006 @ 11:51 AM

  218. Subjective is not the value judgment that you have taken it as, IMO. Sure, religion makes statments about reality, but they are subjective statements. The are fundamentally a matter of personal belief, non-verifiable, and therefore subjective.

    That need not be taken as a put down.

    Comment by Coby — 2 Mar 2006 @ 12:32 PM

  219. Barton, Lynn isn’t stating a religious argument (nor is this the place for one). As used by Lynn,”subjective” isn’t an insult to religion — it doesn’t mean “not real” (a misuse by flamers). Most scientists I know recognize the source and are comfortable with the point made best in the original, here:

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 2 Mar 2006 @ 12:34 PM

  220. Re #215

    Hansen is saying we are probably comitted to 25m of sea level rise by the end of this century, but he does not say it will rise that much that fast. There will be a lag time while ice sheets respond to the higher temperatures. What he is highlighting is the very uncertain nature of that lag. Very recently, conventional wisdom said it would take 1000yrs+ for Greenland to melt. I think Hansen is just trying to highlight the inadequacy of models that come up with this figure and the historical records that indicate sea level can rise much more quickly than such slow melting would allow.

    Comment by Coby — 2 Mar 2006 @ 12:37 PM

  221. A. Inoue (#215), I agree sea rise will be very important. I think the droughts & floods & storms will be, too. By reading Mark Lynas’s HIGH TIDE, I also became aware of another very serious problem — the melting of the world’s glaciers. Many around the world depend on the glacial cycle of snow in winter staying put, rebuilding the glacier, then melting during the hot dry summer, feeding irrigation canals.

    With GW & the melting of glaciers, you will get flooding during the growing seasons. And once glaciers are totally melted, there will be flooding in winter, and no water at all during the hot, dry growing seasons. According to reports, 40% of India’s pop & 40% of China’s pop (that’s 40% of more than 2 billion people), as well as others around the world, may be put at severe risk of no water & famine. Then there is the issue of disease spread (which Ross Gelbspan covers in BOILING POINT).

    It would be wonderful if our good friend, Brian Forbes, and others who think GW is just a hoax are right. But I’m pretty much convinced we may be in for really bad times; not us rich people so much as the poor & future generations.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 2 Mar 2006 @ 1:44 PM

  222. In support of delta functions.

    How on this glacial cycle did evolution end up applying a well measured co2 impulse function to the globe while instrumented?

    What a better time to do it!

    Next step. Can we engineer a fresh water impulse into the North Atlantic?

    Comment by Matt — 2 Mar 2006 @ 8:53 PM

  223. I wonder if any of this stuff has reached Venus?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 3 Mar 2006 @ 12:24 AM

  224. RE: #214. I suspect not only will we have to terraform other planets, but we’ll also have to terraform this one to keep it habitable until we can truly migrate off of it. Oh, how “sacreligious” this must read to the Gaia worshippers. Truth be known, whether or not us “sinners” do something or nothing, Earth will someday be a cold frozen place. Then, later, it will be vaporized when the Sun goes supernova.

    Comment by Steve Sadlov — 3 Mar 2006 @ 3:18 PM

  225. > when the Sun goes supernova

    Steve. Someone’s feeding you misinformation about basic science. Look that one up, eh?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 3 Mar 2006 @ 4:12 PM

  226. Re 224

    Yes, let’s terraform.

    We should pick the appriopriate temperature (post oil). I guess, listening to the climatologists, they are most concerned about not picking a temperature in the non-linear range of some ocean/ice interface. The climate engineers want a temperature that allows them the greatest biological control of carbon flux. So we have to set the ice line where we get the greatest pay-off in terms of land mass and microbe control, without freaking the climatalogists.

    Comment by Matt — 3 Mar 2006 @ 4:20 PM

  227. But considering the destruction of the economy and the starvation of billions that will result from reducing oil consumption, won’t diverting funds to terraforming likewise kill us all?? I love these selective magic technology wands that can perform all sorts of miracles except migrate us to alternative energy.

    Comment by Coby — 3 Mar 2006 @ 7:31 PM

  228. Re 224, Steve Sadlov:

    Then, later, it will be vaporized when the Sun goes supernova.

    As Hank noted, a yellow dwarf like our Sun is not going to go
    supernova; see , and
    search for ‘When will the Sun die’.

    Comment by llewelly — 3 Mar 2006 @ 8:53 PM

  229. That last bit about the Sun was just for dramatic effect. Indeed, the truth is, it all goes cold. So why the debate?

    [Response: So how much of the rest of your voluminous arguments on RealClimate are just for dramatic effect, rather than being based on science? Anyway, the end stages of the Sun are not the first issue Earth faces regarding habitability. As was first pointed out by Lovelock, and amplified in a follow-up by Kasting, the lifetime of the biosphere is governed mainly by the same processes that give us the Faint Young Sun problem. As the Sun continues to gradually brighten, we hit the runaway greenhouse threshold and turn into Venus. That point can be delayed if the CO2 weathering thermostat continues to operate and draw down CO2. Then, things get interesting, because during that hot, low CO2 stage, there isn’t enough CO2 in the atmosphere to support the old-style C3 photosynthesis. What would a biosphere based on only C4 photosynthesis look like? What would happen to prokaryotic algae in the ocean? (the C3 vs C4 issue connects to the Rubisco issue that came up a hundred comments back or so, too). Of course, if we’re talking about planetary engineering, we could always grow C3 plants in CO2-enhanced hothouses. Since we have a couple hundred million years to play with, we could probably also monkey with scrubbing CO2 out of the atmosphere directly, if the Urey reaction doesn’t do it for us. Maybe space mirrors, too? That kind of planetary engineering may seem farfetched, but the one part of this whole thread that is most worth holding on to is that whatever your political persuasion regarding the right thing to do about global warming, it is undeniable that we are already planetary engineers, because of our control of CO2 via fossil fuel burning. For the first time in the history of the planet, there is a sentient species that is in control of the climate, for better or worse. The question is how we will make use of this power, and what criteria we use for deciding what kind of planet we will leave to our descendants. For my part, the Hippocratic oath — “First, do no harm,” seems like a good place to start.–raypierre]

    Comment by Steve Sadlov — 3 Mar 2006 @ 9:50 PM

  230. In terms of the cost of terraforming.

    At first, we would engage in simple extensions of agriculture, then later move to more agressive protists for the job. Simply phasing of forest management and early seeding of the tundra as it melts could, over 75 year periods, account for altering up to 50-60 gigatons, judging from preliminary reports of forest and grassland sequestering.

    There would be no tilling, or harvesting; just moving carbon in or out as the atmosphere needed it. Eventually huge lakes of algae would be nice, but they only need be a foot deep, hardly much more work than rice fields.

    This is all post oil.

    Comment by Matt — 3 Mar 2006 @ 10:51 PM

  231. The latest issue of Science (24 Feb.) has a news story about the Evangelical Climate Initiative, which has evangelical Christians siding with climatatologists in spreading the word about global warming. I find it curious that evangelicals would accept the science that points to global warming, yet reject the overwhelming body of scientific data that supports evolution. Any thoughts on this?

    [Response: Just like “environmentalists” are not a monolithic block (and are still less identifiable with “climate scientists”) evangelicals are not all alike. I haven’t seen any studies that say whether the same evangelicals that subscribe to the Climate Initiative are as skeptical of evolution as some of their brethren. It would be interesting to know.–raypierre]

    Comment by Chuck Booth — 4 Mar 2006 @ 1:31 AM

  232. Re 231, Chuck Booth: appears to be their website. I
    could find nothing on it which states any position with respect to
    evolution. Somehow this makes me suspect these evangelicals hold a
    variety of beliefs with respect to evolution; some accept, some

    Going beyond that, it’s been my experience that any normal
    person is quite capable of simultaneously holding two (or more!)
    contradictary beliefs, although some show more talent in this area
    than others…

    [Response: The main problem comes from mixing scientific with theological arguments, I think. It would be one thing to support some kind of creationism as an article of internal faith or revelation. That wouldn’t necessarily get in the way of a proper understanding of the scientific arguments pertaining to climate change. One could just put that in a different category of knowledge. However, if one finds a need to support some kind of creationism or ID by “scientific” arguments, that requires such a deliberate distortion of the methods of science that it would be hard for the problems not to carry over to other areas where science is important, such as global warming. I’d like to think that, if there are evangelicals in the climate initiative who feel ambivalent about evolution, they are of the type who see their feelings about evolution as stemming from supernatural concerns, and don’t need bogus pseudo-scientific arguments to justify the requirements of their faith. Or, more simply, some of them may simply be “wrong” about their appraisal of the scientific evidence for the theory of evolution, but “right” about their appraisal of the scientific case regarding global warming. I’m willing to take half right. It’s a start. Finding common ground on the areas one can agree on is important, even if areas of disagreement remain. I’m happy to agree with Dick Lindzen that we ought to be doing more to help assure the Third World’s access to clean water (and I’d feel even happier if he devoted half the effort to that goal as he does to his energetic dissent on global warming). –raypierrre]

    Comment by llewelly — 4 Mar 2006 @ 5:21 AM

  233. We need a good post on the future of carbon economics.

    If the current price of oil began to reflect its future value as an energy reserve, then bio sequestering of carbon becomes much more of a national planning issue for all countries, similiar to what Brazil does with ethanol.

    The technology that would interest nations is a technology that can seasonally sequester layers and layers of carbon in shallow lakes, praries, and flood plains. If nations had this, they would began a national sequestering plan in the hopes of being able to draw from a future biosynfuel reserve decades down the line.

    Comment by Matt — 4 Mar 2006 @ 3:10 PM

  234. So, let me just make the 80,000 year weather prediction, since our climatologists are stuck on 50 year projections.

    Temperature will hover around holocene plus 2 deg for 50-100 years. The CO2 spike will be followed by a man induced co2 counter spike over 200 hundred years, then there will be a continual, linear decrease in co2 until it reaches 260 ppmv, at or about 50,000 years from now. At that point, man will have errored a little, and we will see a short period around minus 2 deg, but then we will see a slow rise in temp and co2.

    Over all, the weather from 10,000 years ago to 80,000 from now will match orbital energy variations with holocene temp average, plus or mninus two degrees.

    Comment by Matt — 4 Mar 2006 @ 4:25 PM

  235. Re: evolution warming

    In assuming all evangelical Christians reject evolution, perhaps I painted with a broad brush, but I don’t think I was too far off the mark. In a letter to the editor of Science (July 1, 2005,,p.51), John C. Sutherland, a self-proclaimed evangelical Christian biologist who does “accept Darwinian evolution,” reported on an informal survey he conducted:
    “I wrote to ‘the Professor of Biology,’ at the 104 schools of the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities listed in the CCCU’s Web site. Biologists from six schools refused to participate. Sixty-seven schools responded. Twenty-five percent of the respondents affirmed their belief in a young Earth and a 6-day creation period. Twenty-seven percent hold the theistic evolution position, which accepts the common descent of all living things and believes that God acts through natural laws. The remainder were either reluctant to take a specific stance or were what are called old Earth progressive creationists–Earth is billions of years old, but God acted creatively to bridge the gaps, i.e., between amphibians and reptiles and between reptiles and birds. Five of this group merely sent printed statements of their school’s position affirming its belief in a Creator God, but that there are multiple ways in which he might have done it.Although deeply divided in their views of evolution and creation, there is what I think is a small but significant trend among fundamentalist Christian biologists toward accepting Darwinian evolution. Hopefully, it will continue and spread to the fundamentalist public.”

    Clearly, some evangelical Christians do believe in evolution, but they would appear to be a distinct minority (and, of course, there are many mainstream, non-evangelical Christians who reject evolution and support creationism and/or ID). I would love to know where the supporters of the Evangelical Climate Initiative stand on evolution. Likewise, I would love to know where ID proponents such as Michael Behe and William Dembski stand on global warming; given that they claim to reject evolution on scientific grounds, I wouldn’t be surprised if they accept global warming on scientific grounds. I suspect non-scientists are more likely than scientists to base their decision on what to believe, or not believe, on the potential consequences of accepting scientific arguments rather than the scientific evidence itself: If, by accepting evolution, one believes he/she would be denying the existence of God and eliminating the justification for moral behavior, that person will likely reject evolution and ignore or dispute the overwhelming evidence that supports it. On the other hand, if denying the reality of global warming means that God’s green earth and all its inhabitants may face a very unpleasant future, and one doesn’t fear the economic cost of reducing greenhouse gas emissions (just another tithing?), a deeply religious person may be more likely to accept global warming as fact, regardless of any evidence to the contrary(For the record, I consider the evidence for global warming to be overwhelming). However, even Ph.D. scientists and other highly educated people are not immune from making decisions based on emotions (or spirituality) rather than on empirical evidence – I’m sure I’m not alone in knowing Ph.D. scientists and graduate students in the sciences who do not believe in evolution (another example: Marilyn vos Savant, who is listed in the Guiness Book of World Records as having the highest recorded IQ, once wrote in her Parade magazine column that she didn’t believe that alcoholism has a genetic basis in part because treating alcoholism as a disease would have undesirable social consequences; that statement was bad enough, but she also revealed a stunning ignorance about the science of ethanol production and metabolism in nature).
    I do agree with raypierre that having evangelical Christians side with mainstream science on the issue of global warming is a positive step, but I am inclined to believe their decision is not based on a careful analysis of the scientific evidence. Rather, they embrace the scientific evidence for global warming because it happens to fit their religious worldview.

    [Response: These are very interesting and worthwhile insight, Chuck. Although we stray from the basic scientific issues in discussing why people choose to accept or deny a theory, it matters a lot to me why people believe what they do. Those of us in the scientific community working on climate change feel that we have important information to share, which is of enormous consequence. It seems that a lot of this information is not being assimilated and acted upon by the political apparatus, and it probably won’t be until there’s a grass-roots demand for action (whatever one might deem the appropriate action to be). If the impediment to our information being accepted has to do with some lack of clarity in the way we’re explaining what we do, then we just need to try harder and do a better job of explaining. However, if the stumbling block lies elsewhere, if there’s something in peoples’ belief system that makes them resistant to considering the evidence in its proper light, then something different needs to be done to “open the window” and let the light in. That’s all I want to figure out how to do — how to open the window. –raypierre]

    Comment by Chuck Booth — 5 Mar 2006 @ 12:17 AM

  236. Longer planning cycles?

    Biofuels are inefficient when harvested yearly, like agriculture. But the process uses all the tools of agriculture.

    Under longer term planning cycles, farmers will go decades in a process of sequestering, then they build up concentrated bioengineered peat, and the energy input drops by 90% for biofuel production, as you harvest only once every few decades.

    Then, the farmer can use a sort of crop rotation, five years of algae, then an oxidizer to seal, going back to algae. The farmer builds up value in his land, and by projecting past the oil tipping point, the farmer can compete today with oil tomorrow, his reserve increases in value as oil prices reflect future value.

    Planners will realize right away that the abundance of carbon in the atmosphere will not last, and we are likely to see a race for this “secondary” carbon market.

    Comment by Matt — 5 Mar 2006 @ 2:00 PM

  237. Re #231 and Chuck Booth’s posts — Yo, I’m an evangelical Christian and I have never had a problem with evolutionary biology. Why is Booth so reluctant to accept evangelicals as allies even when they’re agreeing with him? “Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes?” I think he’s letting his religious prejudices get in the way of his reasoning.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 6 Mar 2006 @ 10:22 AM

  238. RE: # 230 + 233: I am partial to algae, based on a coming IPO using algae for flue gas scrubbing. I am also quite interested in anaerobic bacilli bioengineered to help facilitate peat detritus. Cold pressed veg oils are also intriguing. Good thoughts, thanks!

    Comment by Steve Sadlov — 6 Mar 2006 @ 5:28 PM

  239. The possibility of artifically engineered peat bogs as a means of carbon sequestration is an interesting one. It’s easy to get plants to take a lot of carbon out of the atmosphere. The problem is keeping it from going right back in due to microbial respiration. Nature does this with peat bogs, so it’s an interesting thought that maybe the process could be accelerated. It’s the ultimate in recycling: dig up fossil fuels, burn, sequester the carbon in a peat bog so somebody can use it a million years down the line if they need it. I suppose there’s the question, though, whether it’s better to use the biomass to sequester carbon in a peat bog, or to use the same biomass to displace fossil fuels.

    Comment by raypierre — 6 Mar 2006 @ 7:43 PM

  240. Re#237 “I think he’s letting his religious prejudices get in the way of his reasoning.”
    Sorry, Mr. Levenson, but I reject the notion that I have “religious prejudices,” and I don’t feel I’m letting the views of evangelicals about evolution or global warming get in the way of my reasoning about anything. If you read my post (#235) carefully, you will see that I wrote “…having evangelical Christians side with mainstream science on the issue of global warming is a positive step…” But,I am questioning their motives,yes. As an educator (biologist), I don’t care what my students believe, but I do want them to have a sound understanding of scientific concepts so they can make informed decisions about whether or not to believe in evolutionary theory, or global warming, or any other scientific concept; I am always disappointed when my students blindly accept a scientific explanation but are clueless about the scientific evidence underlying that explanation.
    So, I do find it ironic that there is a movement among some evangelical Christians to embrace the conclusions of the climatologists warning us about global warming(Science works!) while, at the same time, most evangelicals (Mr. Barton and a few others excluded) tend to reject the theory of evolution, which is arguably the most thoroughly supported major scientific theory we have (Science doesn’t work!). Likewise, I find it ironic to read op-ed essays in the Wall Street Journal criticizing evolution and embracing intelligent design while, in the same issue (and virtually every issue), articles on the front page and on the technology and business pages celebrate new developments in molecular biology and medicine that would be impossible, or at least meaningless, if evolution were fallacy. And of course there’s the supreme irony of creationist and ID proponents (most of whom likely benefit from the fruits of biomedical research grounded in evolutionary biology )vigorously denying evolution while the H5N1 avian flu virus is literally evolving before our eyes.
    As for evangelicals siding with the global warming advocates: Yes, they do help “the cause.” But, if I had the chance, I would ask them WHY they accept global warming. If they think the concept is based on sound science, that is great. But, if they really don’t care about the validity of the scientific evidence, rather, they merely adopt the conclusion because it conforms to their religous worldview, then I’m a bit worried – I’m not sure that acceptance of scientific theories (or any other established wisdom) in the absence of some understanding of those theories serves our society well.


    [Response: Actually, I’d be inclined to ask anybody else WHY they accept the evidence, not just evangelicals. I, too want people to make their moral and ethical judgements informed by sound science, and human nature being what it is there are lots of ways for ones’ belief system to prejudice the case. I’d be surprised if evangelicals as a group are much more prone to this than the general lot of humanity. I think probably ExonMobil’s opinions are more influenced by belief systems than by science, and for that matter, though nuclear energy isn’t a panacea, many anti-nuclear activists have gotten into a mindset that keeps them from even considering valid scientific issues that might change their opinion. It’s certainly a slippery slope if a group subscribes to the right “cause” for reasons that are ideologically set in stone and not subject to change in response to evidence. I don’t have any reason to believe that the evangelical climate initiative is in this category, though even if some individuals fit that description it’s still progress, since it at least opens the door to their considering the evidence. Consider it an opening to further education. Notwithstanding all that, I think that it is legit, even necessary, for ones’ value system to enter into the decision of how to deal with uncertainty. Science will always be uncertain to one degree or another. If one thinks that it would be a mortal sin to allow polar bears to go extinct in the wild, one might give extra weight to that possibility in deciding how much to sacrifice in order to head off the possibility, even if the prediction is rather uncertain. Similar considerations apply to one’s feelings about responsibility to the poor of the world, who are probably disproportionately affected by major climate change. –raypierre]

    Comment by Chuck Booth — 7 Mar 2006 @ 12:55 AM

  241. re 239:

    This is very interesting stuff, sequestering carbon. See this recent work:

    This group thinks that all of the cellulose can be used with the new enzymes and others are incorporating this idea into a single stage bio conversion reactor. Up to now, synfuels were limited to the seeds, and there was no process for plant fiber.

    I was not thinking millions of years to harvest, but something longer than the one year season for Brazilian sugar ethanol, hopefully something like a 10-30 year build up of biomass before it is harvested.

    Comment by Matt — 7 Mar 2006 @ 1:19 AM

  242. The evidence for AGW comes from a convergence of evidence. Lots of observations such as those mentioned in posts (#34 and # 201), underlying physics which makes it almost certain there will be at least some anthropogenic warming, models which explain most of the climate trends and the lack of detailed alternative explanations. However none of the individual pieces of evidence are conclusive even though some of them are difficult to explain otherwise. It is the totality of the evidence which is difficult to disbelieve.

    So if one wishes to not believe in AGW, if one looks at the evidence seeking reasons to doubt then one can always find reasons to do so. One just has to doubt or explain away each individual piece of evidence and not look at the whole picture. Also some people are uncomfortable with arguments where no individual piece of evidence is conclusive but where to disbelieve the lot strains credibility. Some people demand simple easy to understand proofs even when Nature does not cooperate. They will especially demand them when they do not like the policy consequences of a scientific theory. In short they will argue like lawyers.

    Yes, a preference for simple explanations can attract one to a conservative viewpoint even though it is not an essential characteristic of conservatism. In fact the more thoughtful conservatives will accept messy situations and explanations. They will accept unpleasant facts.

    The rest of you, don’t be smug. People can be attracted to any viewpoint for the wrong reasons. There will be blind spots in many supporters of all political positions.

    Many of the greenhouse skeptics place higher importance on the economic costs than many of their opponents. It is a waste of time to try to get them to place a lower value on what might have to be sacrificed to minimize global warming. In fact attempts to do so will merely antagonize them. Self-righteous asceticism will get up their nose and rightly so.

    Argue that many of the costs that they fear are less than they think. (There is plenty of low hanging fruit.) Argue that some costs unfortunately have to be borne. In some cases ridicule ostentation and waste (Someone who uses an off road vehicle only in the city is a poser.)

    Comment by Lloyd Flack — 7 Mar 2006 @ 8:51 AM

  243. Lest anyone else think my concerns about the Evangelical Climate Initiative (ECI) are based on religious prejudice, let me assure you that I worry only about its potential influence as a political lobby group – a concern I have with ALL lobby groups, political action committees, etc., (including groups that are supposed to represent my personal interests, such as the AAAS and AAUP). According to the Science story I cited earlier (24 Feb., vol. 311, pp. 1082-3) the Evangelical Climate Initiative seems to be an outgrowth of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), which advocates traditional conservative views on a number of contemporary social and political issues:

    The NAE officially opposes embryonic stem cell research

    While the NAE apparently has not taken an official stance on the evolution/ID controversy, it is concerned that “public education now is increasingly controlled by the secular humanist viewpoint” and that the courts have “undercut and removed from the educational system … the teaching of creationism.”

    I don’t know if the ECI, or its individual members, share the views of the NAE on all scientific issues. Regardless, the ECI and NAE are certainly free to express their views (and lobby congress, I guess) on any subject they wish. And climatologists concerned about global warming are free to welcome any supporters they can find. But, it seems to me that climatologists may find it in their best interests to learn more about the ECI and its positions on other scientific issues; allowing ECI to sidle up to mainstream climatology on the subject of global warming could potentially give ECI, or its individual members, a certain credibility on scientific matters that would aid them in advancing less mainstream views on other controversial scientific issues (such as trying to introduce ID into public school biology courses, which ends up costing taxpayers a lot of money). But, that is not my decision to make.

    [Response: John — Your point is taken, and you’ve made a case that the NAE has taken a number of severely anti-science positions. Please try to remember, though, that NAE doesn’t speak for all evangelicals any more than George Bush speaks for all Americans. If I understand the NYT news coverage of the Evangelical Climate Initiative correctly, this group tried to get the NAE to sign on, but failed. So, there does seem to be some disagreement in the fold about how to approach the matter. I am trying to keep an open mind, and treat everybody who is interested in learning about climate change equally, regardless of what label they may apply to themselves. This is a very positive development here, and I’m eager to make these new friends feel as welcome as possible. It will take some time for everybody to get to know each other, and no doubt there will be some adjustment along the way. –raypierre]

    Comment by Chuck Booth — 7 Mar 2006 @ 1:22 PM

  244. I have some numbers that ring out from reading about the new engineered photosynthesis.

    They have modified the algae physically to promise some 5% solar efficiency, soon, within years. Algae currently get .25%.

    Others are claiming a two stage cellulose to fuel bioreactor. These cellulose bacteria must be mean, don’t want to get them in your shoes.

    Solar insolation is 342 watts/m**2 ?

    Then my numbers tell me that my back half acre, with 40 days of wet algae pond, gets me 400 hours of driving my 20 kilowatt cars and tractors.

    I assume 50% entropy loss in my garage bioreactor.

    Comment by Matt — 7 Mar 2006 @ 11:12 PM

  245. I’m going to manufacture a “Chatty Matty” doll. Pull the string and it spouts a wild idea about how “we” are going to re-engineer the world’s energy infrastructure in our back half acre. Or better:

    “At first, we would engage in simple extensions of agriculture, then later move to more agressive protists for the job. Simply phasing of forest management and early seeding of the tundra as it melts could, over 75 year periods, account for altering up to 50-60 gigatons, judging from preliminary reports of forest and grassland sequestering.

    There would be no tilling, or harvesting; just moving carbon in or out as the atmosphere needed it. Eventually huge lakes of algae would be nice, but they only need be a foot deep, hardly much more work than rice fields.

    This is all post oil.” Of course!

    Matt, take it to the Bozo Bin.

    2005 global CO2 concentration increased 2.58ppmv above the 2004 level. Maybe, the rest of us don’t have time for your neat ideas.

    John McCormick

    Comment by John L. McCormick — 7 Mar 2006 @ 11:54 PM

  246. In response to some of Chuck’s musing, I dug around a little more on the web site of the Evangelical Climate Initiative ( Their detailed statement of mission includes a very cogent statement that there would be nothing to discuss if global warming weren’t real. They state clearly that the scientific evidence matters. They highlight a few of the basic scientific sources, and then make the statement:

    “In the face of the breadth and depth of this scientific and governmental concern, only a small percentage of which is noted here, we are convinced that evangelicals must engage this issue without any further lingering over the basic reality of the problem or humanity’s responsibility to address it.”

    In other words, they are starting from the premise that the scientific evidence matters. The rest of their statement deals with the moral imperative stemming from the scientific evidence. It’s a very cogent statement, and beautifully covers the “is” and the “ought” while keeping the nature of the arguments for each in their proper domain.

    I like this group more and more.

    Comment by raypierre — 8 Mar 2006 @ 12:01 AM

  247. RE raypierre’s findings (#246)

    Well, then, more power to them!!! I hope the group can make an impact.

    Comment by Chuck Booth — 8 Mar 2006 @ 1:03 AM

  248. One thing that characterizes holocene is the mass movement of carbon from ocean to land, 650 gigatons so far. At these temperatures, it is a battle that land biomass has been losing on the margins, as we can see by the steady linear rise on CO2 since the start of holocene. The only way to safely stop this process is via mass photosyntheses to get the climate down almost a degree from holocene averages.

    Comment by Matt — 8 Mar 2006 @ 2:18 PM

  249. Lake mead, the largest man made lake in the U.S., could be turned into a co2 pump and get the us past peak oil. If we can fix the carbon to the lake bottom for ten years, then we just empty the lake every ten years and harvest the carbon. This is today’s technology, a few hundred million a year in operating costs. The pump would only be limited by fertilizer for the algae. After peak oil, the process would generate half the U.S. current fuel needs.

    Comment by Matt — 8 Mar 2006 @ 4:03 PM

  250. Darwinian — apparently directionless — evolution of online discussion tools is being looked at — with some good ideas and an invitation to a WIKI — at the current O’Reilly gabfest:

    Blogging notes taken at the session:

    Web page for the session:

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 8 Mar 2006 @ 4:40 PM

  251. RE William’s comment to 151
    “Why use SST records from 1984 when better ones are available? If you’re reduced to vast conspiracies to fudge the data, you’re lost.”
    The temperatures in the 1984 letter were the actual temperatures that were measured by mariners between 1860 and 1980 .Subsequent published temperatures have been altered, perhaps for a for good reasons, but from my angle it looks as though the alterations were made so that the SSTs would not contradict the the land suface temperatures.
    It does not take a vast conspiracy to accomplish this, it takes just ONE expert who honestly believes that the alterations are justified.
    Everybody else will follow because he is THE expert.

    [Response: You have absolutely no idea how scientists compete with each other. Nothing ever gets decided just because one expert thinks so. In fact the incentives are completely the opposite. – gavin]

    Comment by Brian Forbes — 10 Mar 2006 @ 5:17 AM

  252. “You have absolutely no idea how scientists compete with each other. Nothing ever gets decided just because one expert thinks so. In fact the incentives are completely the opposite.”
    What about Wang and stem cell research which was accepted for two years?. It would have lasted longer but for a two photographs.
    All the incentives encourage scisntists to support AGW
    They get fame and advancement for futhering the cause.They don’t seem to be in the least competitive except in making alarmist projections.They also seem to be secretive about their data so that it becomes difficult to replcate their methods.
    Being sceptical I get no remuneration and find the only place I can get published is on web sites for which you deserve thanks.

    [Response: It’s precisely because scientists do not simply agree with one expert that frauds and mistakes get uncovered. However, there is no money to be made in falsely promoting AGW (unlike in bio-tech) – if we were really wanting to increase our funding we would all be saying that everything is uncertain and more research is needed. The fact that IPCC can even reach a consensus conclusion is evidence that the funding incentives are not what is driving this. As we have pointed out in the past, going against the AGW ‘line’ has been a nice little cottage industry for a number of people who would otherwise be completely obscure. Since they are often the same scientists who were arguing against the tobacco-cancer link, or the CFCs-ozone depletion link, or the sulfate emission-acid rain link, I think the empirical evidence shows that there are multiple incentives to be anti-AGW. The fact is that very few people in the field see this as ‘for it or against it’ issue, most have seen the balance of evidence and just come to the same conclusions. – gavin]

    Comment by Brian Forbes — 10 Mar 2006 @ 11:02 AM

  253. I have never argued against the tobacco-cancer link, or the sulfate emission-acid rain link. Can you explain how the SST temps changed from a graph which fell from 1860 to about 1900 rose until the 2nd world war fell until 1960 then rose to a level slighly less than the 1860 s in 1980,to a graph which shows a overall rise to 1980? When I suggest that the GISS temps are overstated I get told that the SSTs support AGW but they won’t until there is a satifactory answer of the above question.The modifications and modernisations look more like cooking the books to me.

    Comment by Brian Forbes — 10 Mar 2006 @ 3:11 PM

  254. Re #253, Brian Forbes

    “The discussion of … paleoclimatology’s use of proxies to reconstruct … sea-surface temperature … reflects the practical need to find new methods.”

    T.M. Cronin
    “Principles of paleoclimatology”
    Columbia University Press, 1999, p. 127.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 10 Mar 2006 @ 6:53 PM

  255. Well, we’ve had a good run of discussion with this topic, but I think it’s time to call it a day. Thanks to everybody for taking the time to read the article, and for contributing so many interesting comments. To quote Hank Williams, see y’all soon, “the good Lord willin an’ the cricks don’t rise.”

    Comment by raypierre — 10 Mar 2006 @ 9:28 PM

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