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  1. A respectable linear relationship (rising over time) could be fitted to the data.

    Comment by Charles Raguse — 9 May 2007 @ 1:08 PM

  2. he he he that`s great post
    good job

    Comment by Jose Larios — 9 May 2007 @ 1:08 PM

  3. I had always suspected that the Democrats and Republicans had undergone a role reversal on October 22, 1986. It is nice to see proof. I am sure that if you had a statistics package designed specifically for the social sciences you could tie that role reversal to a specific sun spot event (or lack there of.)

    Comment by Aaron Lewis — 9 May 2007 @ 1:33 PM

  4. Well done, Gavin. I halfway expect Dennis Wingo to not only agree with you for once but also to actually be happy with the results you’re getting.

    Comment by Jason Coleman — 9 May 2007 @ 1:33 PM

  5. Gavin,

    I think you should know that contrarians are being especially easy on the climatologists at this point. With evolutionary biology, we have to deal with the young earth creationists, the old earth creationists, the special creationists (who accept the fossil record, but claim that each kind was created in the era in which it appears indendently of all the rest), then all the possible variations.

    For example, omphalosian creationists argue that the world is young but accept the existence of all the evidence that the world is old, arguing that the world was created only 10,000 yrs ago, including all of the evidence which gives it the appearance of being very ancient. Of course one could argue that it was really created only five minutes ago, including even our memories which give it the appearance of being older. But then one isn’t talking empirical science – one has left that behind quite some time ago in favor of a freshman philosophy course bullsession.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 9 May 2007 @ 1:36 PM

  6. Carl Wunsch has published an email exchange with Durkin, the producer of that phoney documentary.

    Durkin does not respond well to critique. “You’re a big daft cock,” he wrote to journalists and scientists.

    Durkin also asks why the issues raised in his wonderful opus have not come up in the “hours and hours of shit programming on global warming shoved down our throats by the BBC?”

    “Go and fuck yourself,” he ends.

    Seems like a nice guy. I’m sure that’s why Wunsch is publishing the emails, since Durkin did him such a nice favor by selectively editing an interview.

    Comment by Thom — 9 May 2007 @ 1:36 PM

  7. A nice job of explaining “correlation does not equal causation”. However, your point would be stronger if you had concluded with a comparison to the CO2-temperature correlation issue: why we have strong reasons to believe a causal link in that case, but not in the case of sunspots and temperature. The two cases are not the same, but it would behoove you to point out why they are not the same, lest the fence-sitters in your audience accuse you of hypocrisy, or conclude that there is equally no reason to believe that CO2 has influenced temperature.

    Comment by NU — 9 May 2007 @ 1:52 PM

  8. I notice you “conveniently” left out the data before 1962. Close scrutiny of the entire time series will show that over the long term, Republican senate membership is much more strongly tied to the length of the solar cycle, all the way back to the election of President Lincoln in 1860. Your mistaken correlation is simply due to the “urban liberal bias” in the historical record.

    And well before that, I can show strong correlation between solar intensity and conservative-vs-liberal dominance in politics. Contrary to IPCC claims, I can prove that the “medieval conservative period” was in fact even more conservative than modern times. Using Beryllium isotope abundances in meteor fragments as a proxy for solar activity, and the consumption of cheap beer as a proxy for conservative control of politics, I have shown a near-perfect correlation all the way back to Julius Caesar’s triumph over the bleeding-heart liberal Gauls.

    Just because I don’t have any actual data, doesn’t mean you can discount my theory.

    I came, I saw, I correlated.

    Comment by tamino — 9 May 2007 @ 2:06 PM

  9. This is odd to read. It looks like statistics and correlation is all new to you guys. If you pick 2 time series randomly from many time series, there is ~ 5 % likelihood that the two time series will significantly correlate at the 5 % level. It is therefore the science also must show that it is likely that the correlation is scientifically meaningful and logical. But this problem is the same for all research – whether you are a sceptic or a believer is not relevant.

    Comment by Knut Witberg — 9 May 2007 @ 2:15 PM

  10. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,758405,00.html
    [the comma in the URL breaks the link with this forum's software; cut and paste works]
    Monday, Nov. 22, 1937
    “… it means more when one scientist with impeccable credentials declares that sunspots may have a physiological and emotional influence on mankind than when a thousand astrologers and other cultists affirm flatly that they do. …”
    “… Harlan True Stetson … His colleagues have voted him an asterisk in American Men of Science for distinguished research.”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 9 May 2007 @ 2:21 PM

  11. Gavin:

    Great post, but don’t you think that this also makes the general point that in the absence of a ‘mirror Earth’ to act as a control group it is extremely challenging to conduct reliable attribution studies in climate science?

    It seems to me that one common feature of economics, political science and climate science that distinguishes these disciplines from, say, physical chemistry, is the difficulty in ever executing a sufficient number of replicable falsification tests for such a highly over-determined outcome when we have only one experimental instance (the Earth). As an example, suppose I decided to test the predictiveness of the Sunspot – Republican Senate model by evaluating its performance in 2008, and it “predicts” the actual result perfectly? Even if we dreamed up some a priori potential causal relationship, I don’t think you or I would conclude that we had a useful tool, because there are so many factors that drive any election result.

    In the same way, suppose a GCM perfectly predicts a climate result for the next several decades — how reliable a falsification test is that one result? In the case of GCMs, this problem is exacerbated by the fact that a single falsification test requires 30+ years, so it’s not clear we even time to do one before we have to make decisions about changes to our behavior.

    It seems to me that the physics of infrared absorption and redirection (i.e., the known causal link) + common sense are what make the compelling case that human activities are most likely driving some amount of warming.

    Best,
    Jim Manzi

    [Response: Climate science by correlation is not in the least bit satisfying, and yet it gets cited frequently - particularly by contrarians. I agree with you that physical modelling is the much better way to go (obviously since I work in a GCM group). However, I disagree that this cannot be tested. The models that are built can be tested in dozens of ways to verify key feedbacks and mechanisms - response to volcanic eruptions, solar forcing, orbital forcing, ENSO variability, NAO or SAM responses, the last glacial maximum etc. And frankly, the projections from simulations done 20 years ago stand up very well to what actually happened. A single 'validation' is of course not sufficient, but the hundreds of validations that have been done start to add up. - gavin]

    Comment by Jim Manzi — 9 May 2007 @ 2:26 PM

  12. Brilliant! Here’s more proof that CO2 emissions are not the cause of the observed temperature increase, and that in fact, we have nothing to worry about.

    Fact #1: World population growth rates correlate very well with the global temperature trend. There is a spike around 1940 (the war years, when people were more active) followed by a post-war lull (when people were less active) – which just supports the mechanistic explanation that’s it’s human body warmth that’s causing this trend.

    Fact #2: As the above population link shows, global population growth rates are slowing, and in fact there is a top-heavy population structure in most European countries. As Third World countries develop, they too will follow this trend. See US census predicts slowing growth rate… yes, that’s a slowing rate, not a decreasing population, but if you extrapolate that trend forward one must conclude that global population will begin to decline late in this century.

    Conclusion: we should expand fossil fuel use as fast as possible in order to bring the Third World up to the development level of the US and Europe, which will lead to a decrease in human population – and that means less body heat, and therefore, global cooling.

    Cheers!

    Comment by Ike Solem — 9 May 2007 @ 2:36 PM

  13. Timothy Chase wrote: “For example, omphalosian creationists argue that the world is young but accept the existence of all the evidence that the world is old, arguing that the world was created only 10,000 yrs ago, including all of the evidence which gives it the appearance of being very ancient. Of course one could argue that it was really created only five minutes ago, including even our memories which give it the appearance of being older.”

    Actually the entire universe, including our memories and everything else that makes the universe appear “old”, came into existence one nanosecond ago. And this happens continually. Each and every nanosecond, a new universe comes into existence which is then replaced by a new one the next nanosecond.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 9 May 2007 @ 2:38 PM

  14. You can explain GW in the same way. It correlates quite nicely with the number of TVs in the world.

    However, your analysis is just stupid and you miss the point.

    There is a clear correlation with solar activity over the long term record.

    That is not explained by solar radiation.

    Then the AGW activist claim that the solar activity can’t be the cause.

    A clear error in logic. There is another mechanism that does explain the correlations. The science is missing a mechanism and the AGW advocates have got quite rightly hot under the collar about one of the proposals.

    The reason is that it blows out of the water the anthropogenic effect of GW.

    Comment by Nick — 9 May 2007 @ 2:56 PM

  15. @Nick (Post#14)

    Was your post intended to be nonsensical?

    Comment by Thomas — 9 May 2007 @ 3:14 PM

  16. Gavin,
    You said this:
    “And frankly, the projections from simulations done 20 years ago stand up very well to what actually happened.”

    Could you provide pre-1987 citations for for the simulations you believe stand up well to what happened in the past 5 years? And could you provide pre-volcanic explosion citations that agreed well with what happened after said volcano exploded. And so on?

    Presumably, if these predictive simulations were published before the events occurred, and later validated against what happened, it should be possible to post the early publication dates.

    Thanks!

    [Response: Hansen et al, 1988 (simulations done in 1986/87), Hansen et al, 1992. - gavin]

    Comment by Margo — 9 May 2007 @ 3:23 PM

  17. How do you know that senators of a certain type aren’t affecting sunspot activity? It seems to me that you’re assuming sunspots to affect electability when maybe the effect works in the other direction.

    Comment by Steve Latham — 9 May 2007 @ 4:01 PM

  18. Having spent 30 years in the U.S. television industry as a meteorologist (something I at times am slow to admit for obvious reasons), I have encountered many people who “do not get it”. Happily most I have encountered will defer to someone with a base of knowledge to ensure the accuracy of the final product. The “it” some do not get is that attention to minute details is what often separates “good science” from “bad science”. In that vein “adventure science” often crosses the line.

    There are many examples of “production value” trumping “scientific accuracy”. Sadly the very definition of “creativity” is convoluted in the process. What is ultimately described as creative by writers and producers of a science program is just the opposite, not creative and just maybe the easy (read – lazy) way out.
    The truly creative TV writer/producer finds a way to grab the audience and keep its attention using the facts at hand but many ignore the facts or invent situations because they cannot adequately deal with what they perceive as mundane. Of course we cannot ignore blatant advocacy and willful distortions, a possibility in the case described above. Then again maybe that situation is just ignorance.

    Before I go on I must emphasize that a TV program cannot read like a peer reviewed journal article. No one will benefit if the bored audience yawns then changes the channel. Even PBS ( for those not familiar it is the non-commercial Public Broadcasting System funded by tax payer dollars in the U.S.) seems to be catching on. “Brains boiled and heads exploded,” is how they promoted an episode of “Secrets of the Dead” about the encounter of the residents of Herculaneum with a pyroclastic flow from Mt. Vesuvius. I watched and the program delivered an accurate and very interesting portrayal of the sciences involved. Though it accurately describes what happened, I still am uneasy with the “brains boiling and heads exploding” imagery used for promotional purposes.
    Who can forget the giant block of permafrost swinging beneath a soviet helicopter with the ancient tusks of a mammoth protruding against the Siberian sky in a Discovery Channel documentary. The problem is the tusks were recovered three years earlier and this one scene mislead the audience about the tedious work of excavating in a harsh environment. The tusks were attached by a TV crew for dramatic effect.

    Or the “educational documentary” in a local TV market on the plate subduction volcanoes surrounding the Pacific Ocean called “The Ring of Fire”. The problem is that the show was video taped in Hawaii and to the amazement and disgust of geologists in that market no distinction was made between “hot spot” volcanoes like Hawaii and the volcanoes that result from the subduction of continental plates like those found in the Andes, the Aleutian Islands, Japan and Indonesia. I suppose Hawaii was an easier destination to deal with. The uninformed audience was mislead.

    My experience has shown that there is a dual problem in many lower budget TV productions: 1) Too many in the TV industry lack a broad base of knowledge and when it comes to science they are stumbling around in a wilderness bare foot and blind folded. 2) Without the economic resources to hire “experts” to guide the course of the program’s science writers and producers often opt for conventional wisdom, which of course is not always correct.

    Comment by Steve Horstmeyer — 9 May 2007 @ 4:03 PM

  19. I like this theory. At least it seems more plausible than the idea that the majority of voters actually chose some of these guys. But forget about manipulating the data, what’s really important now is figuring out a way to adjust the number of sunspots so the Democrats win in 2008.

    Comment by Jacob Tanenbaum — 9 May 2007 @ 4:26 PM

  20. Personally I prefer the inverse pirate theory of global warming, showing that the lower the number of pirates the higher the global temperature

    Comment by Eli Rabett — 9 May 2007 @ 4:34 PM

  21. I loved your correlations and I loved the explanation in 2004 that even though the first 800 years of warming in a 5000 year trend were not caused by CO2, that didn’t mean that the other 4200 years couldn’t be.

    By that logic, I can say that just because some very wealth individual didn’t give me money in my first 6 decades they won’t from now on.

    Sorry, that a logical non-sequitur. Saying that because there wasn’t the proposed correlation in the past doesn’t preclude a future relationship, is a thinly veiled attempt to imply that there is/will be the proposed correlation (and reverse causation) in the future.

    Doesn’t work that way. Dung does not cause full stomachs in cows either.

    Comment by Bruce Hall — 9 May 2007 @ 4:40 PM

  22. 1987,1988… hey, this isn’t a phase shift, it’s just that global sulphur emissions started to decline since then.
    >http://www.rpi.edu/%7Esternd/Sulfur.html

    We all know this changes a lot because our level of scientific understandig with respect to sulphur emissions is rather low.

    Comment by Wolfgang Flamme — 9 May 2007 @ 4:58 PM

  23. Gavin, there’s no such word as excoriable. I think you mean execrable – which fits perfectly. On the other hand, you could excoriate the programme, perhaps making it “excoriable”… but I think we’d better leave constructing new words to the psychosolar connectionists.

    Yours,

    A Pedant.

    [Response: Hmmm... excoriate (def. #2) means to censor strongly; to denounce. Excoriable means capable of excoriation, and so implicity means 'capable of being denounced'. I'd be happy with execrable as well of course.... - gavin]

    Comment by Gareth — 9 May 2007 @ 5:27 PM

  24. RE # 20, Eli,

    I find your source for the higher priates and global warming is hardly credible. It carries less scientific rigor than that of a theory I found on another blog which attributes increasing SST with the repeatedly observed setting of the sun into the Pacific Ocean.

    Comment by John L. McCormick — 9 May 2007 @ 5:51 PM

  25. Thomas,

    Not in the least bit nonsensical.

    The arbiter in cases such as GW has to be statistical.

    Climate change is not weather, it is long term observation and statistical analysis. You will no doubt agree that anyone who claims that a hot month in a particular local is proof of GW is barmy. The reason is that it is statistical proof that matters.

    In the case of GW, even the IPCC admits that there might (only might) be proof on the 50 year average. This is a very weak standard.

    Statistical methods in this case, because the evidence being claimed is statistical, is the way to go.

    Now the original article is clearly a spoof as you know. However, within it is the nub of the argument. The writer believes in AGW. They have attempted to show that correlation is not causation. In this case because there isn’t a physical explaination behind the causation.

    However they have missed the point. If there is correlation, it doesn’t mean that one particular causation explains all the correlation.

    i.e. To say that solar radiation explains only a small percentage of the correlation, doesn’t mean that solar effects are not present. It could be random chance (unlikely in this case) or more likely, that a particular physical explaination has been missed.

    Think about the statistical tests of this part.

    Nick

    Comment by Nick — 9 May 2007 @ 5:56 PM

  26. Re:21 “By that logic, I can say that just because some very wealth individual didn’t give me money in my first 6 decades they won’t from now on.”

    That’s not logic, it’s rhetorical analogy. And a pretty stupid one at that.

    Comment by Jim Eager — 9 May 2007 @ 6:56 PM

  27. I had a look at Hansen et al, 1988, how much of the temperature change over the last 20 years has been due to the present getting warmer and how much to the past getting colder?

    Comment by DocMartyn — 9 May 2007 @ 7:05 PM

  28. I had been told by a colleague that “RealClimate” was a good source for disinterested information on clmiate change. Not the right day to check in, I guess, but “Fun with Correlations” is a disqualifying front page article in that regard. I’ll keep searching, but have fun with your site, anyway!

    Comment by Walter Manny — 9 May 2007 @ 7:55 PM

  29. This post really is a poor effort at humor. Not that long ago you lost a debate because you were unable to present arguments sufficient to convince an audience of the merits of a position which, I suggest, you consider unassailable. Now we see this rather silly post. Try to stick to science rather than bad attempts at statistical satire. Otherwise you run the risk that readers will agree with poster #9′s comment that “This is odd to read. It looks like statistics and correlation is (sic) all new to you guys”.

    Comment by interested observer — 9 May 2007 @ 7:57 PM

  30. Re: #20
    Eli, the problem with the inverse pirate theory is that there is never any evidence presented that the number of pirates globally has actually decreased, in fact the opposite seems to be the case. Putting aside software piracy, actual maritime piracy may have decreased in the Caribbean and the Americas generally, but it flourishes elsewhere in the world, most notably in the Malaca Strait. To quote from Wikipedia:
    Piracy in the Strait has risen in recent years. There were about 25 attacks on vessels in 1994, 220 in 2000, and just over 150 in 2003 (one-third of the global total).

    Indeed according to one estimate “The total damage caused by piracy-due to losses of ships and cargo and to rising insurance costs-now amounts to $16 billion per year.” <http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20041101faessay83606/gal-luft-anne-korin/terrorism-goes-to-sea.html&gt;

    So much for the inverse pirate theory. I hasten to add that this in no way undermines FSM theory in general.

    Comment by James Killen — 9 May 2007 @ 8:24 PM

  31. #25 Nick, I still can’t tell if you’re joking or not. Are you trying to make fun of statistical analysis of correlations, i.e. r-factors?

    Assuming for a second that you’re being serious, an increased greenhouse effect due to increased greenhouse gases should cause cooling of the stratosphere…but warming due to increased solar output should cause warming of the stratosphere… or am I missing something? I feel like I’m falling for a joke, though.

    Comment by Ike Solem — 9 May 2007 @ 8:56 PM

  32. Doc Martyn puts the steel toed boot in his mouth. Since, as far as we know the past is not currently changing and we have no good observations of the future, one can only compare predictions made in the past with what happened until today. The fit is quite good, excellent in fact, but Doc appears to have some unspoken problem with that.

    As to Gavin’s experience on the West Side, this little jibe is exactly what he needed. Something to illustrate, in an amusing way the falacies he was bombarded with.

    Comment by Eli Rabett — 9 May 2007 @ 10:02 PM

  33. Is the purposed of this forum to discuss climate change? The 20th century warming was 0.6C in a 100 years. The 8200 yr cooling event was a 2C to 3C cooling in 100 years. Why did the Pacific Ocean cool 3C during the 8200 kyr event?

    The paleoclimatic record has a series of warm events followed by cold events. I will take bets that a cold event will follow the 20th century warm event.

    The 8200-year Climate Event

    http://www.geo.arizona.edu/palynology/geos462/8200yrevent.html

    I am curious how an abrupt stoppage or perturbation of the North Atlantic thermohaline circulation (THC) �Could have caused an:

    “Abrupt tropical cooling 8,200 years ago”, (3C cooling in 100 years) in Alor Indonesia, which is in the Pacific Ocean not the Atlantic Ocean, 3C cooling in 100 years.

    From M.K. Gagan et al.’s paper:

    “We drilled a sequence of exceptionally large, well-preserved Porites corals within an uplifted palaeo-reef in Alor, Indonesia, with Th-230 ages spanning the period 8400 to 7600 calendar years before present (Figure 2). The corals lie within the Western Pacific Warm Pool, which at present has the highest mean annual temperature in the world’s ocean. Measurements of coral Sr/Ca and oxygen 18 isotopes at 5-year sampling increments for five of the fossil corals (310 annual growth increments) have yielded a semi-continuous record spanning the 8.2 ka event. The measurements (Figure 2) show that sea-surface temperatures were essentially the same as today from 8400 to 8100 years ago, followed by an abrupt 3C cooling over a period of 100 years, reaching a minimum 8000 years ago. The cooling calculated from coral oxygen 18 isotopes is similar to that derived from Sr/Ca. The exact timing of the termination of the cooling event is not yet known, but a coral dated as 7600 years shows sea-surface temperatures similar to those of today.”

    Comment by William Astley — 9 May 2007 @ 10:15 PM

  34. I’m sure RC already know this, but now even the solar variability theorists have complained about TGGWS, for embellishing the solar variability data and unduly ruling out any AGW contribution: http://news.independent.co.uk/media/article2521677.ece

    Comment by Jim Roland — 9 May 2007 @ 10:18 PM

  35. There does appear to be some strange correlation of solar activity and 20th century warming. Is this only a coincidence? Note the period of high solar activity is over. Will there be coincidental cooling also? Anyone one to make a bet?

    2005 paper by Georgieva, Bianchi, & Kirov �Once again about global warming and solar activity�

    http://sait.oat.ts.astro.it/MSAIt760405/PDF/2005MmSAI..76..969G.pdf

    CMEs, however, are not the only source of high speed solar wind. Early in the 20th century it was noticed that many geomagnetic storms occur without any visible solar disturbance. Such storms tend to recur every 27 days – the period of solar rotation, therefore they originate from long-living regions on the Sun which come back into geoeffective position rotation after rotation. Only when X-rays telescopes were flown above the atmosphere, it was found out that are large regions of open magnetic field geometry, and sources of high speed solar wind. They are now known as Coronal Holes (CHs) because, due to their lower density and temperature compared to the surrounding corona, they look darker in X-rays.

    In Figure 6 the long-term variations in global temperature are compared to the long-term variations in geomagnetic activity as expressed by the ak-index (Nevanlinna and Kataja 2003). The correlation between the two quantities is 0.85 with p<0.01 for the whole period studied. It could therefore be concluded that both the decreasing correlation between sunspot number and geomagnetic activity, and the deviation of the global temperature long-term trend from solar activity as expressed by sunspot index are due to the increased number of high-speed streams of solar wind on the declining phase and in the minimum of sunspot cycle in the last decades.

    Comment by William Astley — 9 May 2007 @ 10:31 PM

  36. Nick (#25), you are being disingenuous.

    No one in their right mind claims that the solar forcing plays no role. In fact the IPCC views the variation in solar behavior as having played a substantial role, perhaps even the majority role in forcing climate changes during the earlier half of the twentieth century. As such, you are being misleading when you state, “However they have missed the point. If there is correlation, it doesn’t mean that one particular causation explains all the correlation.”

    However, clearly carbon dioxide has played a substantial role over the past 500,000 years – and we have a considerable amount of evidence for that. As such, you are being misleading when you state, “In the case of GW, even the IPCC admits that there might (only might) be proof on the 50 year average. This is a very weak standard.”

    *

    What we have is evidence from a vast number of independent lines of investigation all pointing to the same conclusion: that anthropogenic forcing is resulting in a dangerous rate of climate change. We can measure the level of carbon dioxide being emitted. We can identify its manmade origin by tracking the isotopes. We can identify the highly robust correlation between carbon dioxide and global temperatures which have existed for at least the past 500,000 years.

    Moreover, we know how the physical principles by which global temperatures and levels of carbon dioxide are related. Increased temperatures in the past (e.g., due to changes in the earth’s orbit) have resulted in the earth’s climate entering a state of non-equilibrium, where more carbon dioxide is emitted than naturally sequestered, leading to a positive feedback loop. For example, with higher temperatures, the ocean’s capacity to sequester the carbon dioxide that it is already saturated with is lowered, resulting in the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

    However, as carbon dioxide absorbs wide bands of infrared light (i.e., the earth’s blackbody radiation), it absorbs then re-emits thermal energy, some of which is reabsorbed then re-emitted by the surface. As a consequence, there exists positive feedback between the thermal energy emitted by the ground and the thermal energy emitted by the atmosphere – but where some of the thermal energy is lost to space in each successive round – necessarily avoiding a vicious “run-away” effect.

    For the earth-atmosphere system to reach a new equilibrium, the amount of energy going into the system has to equal the amount of energy leaving the system, but with more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere slowing the dissipation of such energy from the earth, this can only be achieved at a higher temperature where the thermal energy radiated by the system as a whole into space is once again raised so that it equals the thermal energy being received from the sun.

    If one increases the temperature of of the earth by increasing the the amount of energy it receives from the sun, this raises the level of carbon dioxide. But likewise, if one raises the level of carbon dioxide, this increases the temperature. Positive feedback – like the “thermal flux” feedback between the earth and its atmosphere that keeps the average temperature of the earth above freezing. It effectively comes to an end when a new equilibrium is reached. Simple, demonstrable physical principles.

    *

    You know that hot bodies emit radiation: you have seen embers and hot metals glow with heat. You know that infrared radiation exists: you have seen infrared night vision – and you know that bees are able to navigate by the sun on an overcast day. You know that materials can be opaque to a given part of the spectrum: you have seen colored filters. You know that when matter absorbs radiation, it heats up: no doubt you have seen and felt this in the case of asphalt on a hot summer day. You know that we can measure different parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, from gamma rays to longwave radio frequencies. You know that the sky is blue because it is opaque to and scatters blue light.

    Each and every step is something which you can no doubt understand. Undoubtedly you realize that empirical science has a genuinely scientific grasp of the principles involved – which goes well beyond what either you or I could know without a great deal of study. Yet you fall back upon upon freshman philosophy in opposition to what is known by means of modern empirical science. You latch on to Hume’s critique of causality as if to claim that no matter how many times we see a hammer fall to the ground when released, we have no more reason to think that it will fall if released again than if we were as innocent of experience with hammers as a newborn babe. You avoid what should now be as clear as day, like a modern-day Descartes staring at his hand with limitless doubt.

    Why?

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 9 May 2007 @ 10:32 PM

  37. Re # 9, 29 [It looks like statistics and correlation is all new to you guys.]

    Let’s see what qualifications these RC contributors have:

    Schmidt: BA (Hons) in Mathematics from Oxford University, a PhD in Applied Mathematics from University College London

    Mann: undergraduate degrees in Physics and Applied Math from the University of California at Berkeley, an M.S. degree in Physics from Yale University, and a Ph.D. in Geology & Geophysics from Yale

    Steig: BA from Hampshire College at Amherst, MA, and M.S. and PhDs in Geological Sciences at the University of Washington

    Connelley: B.A. in maths from St Edmund Hall, Oxford; doctorate in Numerical Analysis at Oxford

    Bradley: Director of the Climate System Research Center at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and a University Distinguished Professor in the Department of Geosciences. B.Sc. 1969 University of Southampton, England; Ph.D. 1974, M.A., 1971 University of Colorado, Boulder; D.Sc 2003 University of Southampton

    and so on. Nope, no evidence I can see that anyone here knows beans about statistics.

    Re# 18 A bit off-topic, but years ago I knew a grad student who, while at Texas A & M Univ., had spent several months on a cruise in the Gulf of Mexico aboard Jacques Cousteau’s Calypso. He said they routinely staged shots, such as a “migration” of spiny lobsters which had just been pushed out a PVC pipe, and footage supposedly filmed in Antarctica, but in fact shot in the Gulf of Mexico in September, in 90 degree (F) heat – the crew wore shorts under their down-filled parkas. And J.C. himself (Cousteau, that is) was helicoptered out to the ship so he could appear in a few segments. And I just read about some well-publicized, and quite stunning, video footage of a human fetus in the womb – turns out the fetus was a wax model. Fortunately, as the Discovery Channel’s Planet Earth series shows, it is possible to depict nature as it really is, if you’re willing to spend a lot of money and a heck of a lot of time, and put the photographers at great risk, to get the shots.

    Comment by Chuck Booth — 9 May 2007 @ 11:56 PM

  38. Re. 11 Gavin said, “…physical modelling is the much better way to go (obviously since I work in a GCM group). However, I disagree that this cannot be tested. The models that are built can be tested in dozens of ways to verify key feedbacks and mechanisms – response to volcanic eruptions, solar forcing, orbital forcing, ENSO variability, NAO or SAM responses, the last glacial maximum etc. And frankly, the projections from simulations done 20 years ago stand up very well to what actually happened.”

    This raises the complex issue of the link between types of experiment and quality of evidence.

    True, “correlation does not equal causation”, but we rely on this equality for randomised controled trials (i.e. experiments). Controlled experiments are generally regarded as providing the best level of evidence linking cause and effect. One variable is manipulated in the test group while held constant in the control group. Ideally all other variables are held constant or experimentally units are randomly allocated to the two groups so that statistical tests of outcome are valid. The difference in outcome between the test and control groups is observed. This experimental process also underlies the discovery of the physical laws programmed into GCMs.

    As for physical models, George Box said, “All models are wrong, some models are useful.”
    http://www.garyfeng.com/wordpress/2005/05/11/all-models-are-wrong-some-models-are-useful/

    A classic recent example in supernova SN2006gy, the largest supernova ever observed, which fell outside the standard models of supernovae explosions (and provided physical evidence for an alternative model, the “pair instability model”):
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SN_2006gy

    A recent failure of modelling bearing on GCMs may be that ice sheets are melting much faster than predicted – due to poorly understood mechanisms. (Ice sheets don’t just melt from the top.)
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2006/06/ice-sheets-and-sea-level-rise-model-failure-is-the-key-issue/

    Like astronomical models, climate models are not susceptible to normal experimental verification – test vs control. However, as Gavin opoints out, they make predictions and can be checked against those predictions. Together with environmental evidence, GCMs provide the best evidence of climate change in response to GHGs. It is possible that poorly understood mechanisms could invalidate aspects of the link between GHGs and temperature in GCMs, but the error could go either way. So only a fool would bet on GCMs being wrong. And it would be immoral for such a fool to make decisions over energy policy etc. on behalf of the rest of us.

    Comment by Bruce Tabor — 10 May 2007 @ 12:08 AM

  39. On the topic of confusing data – can anyone tell me why the two global temperature graphs at
    GISS and the Hadley Centre (shown below) look so different for the last six years? The Hadley Centre graph appears to show a leveling off but the GISS graph does not. Is there some subtle difference in what they are measuring? If so, can anyone refer me to a resource that explains the differences?


    [Response: There is a difference in how the interpolate between data stations, particularly in the Arctic - HadCRU does not estimate Arctic ocean temperatures from nearby coastal data, while the GISS analysis does - given the warmth of the Arctic in recent years, that gives make the GISS anomalies slightly warmer. The ongoing sea ice retreat is probably corroborating evidence that this is a reasonable procedure. Look at the spatial maps of anomalies to see this more clearly. -gavin]

    Comment by Svet — 10 May 2007 @ 12:35 AM

  40. I am a believer. Actually, I have been convinced by the aliens who took me from my island into their spacecraft : the Republicans are definitely a species which evoved from planet Neptune, where World Climate has found their best correlation proof.

    Comment by Francois Marchand — 10 May 2007 @ 3:33 AM

  41. Thanks Gavin for pointing out that just because C02 has risen
    and temperatures have risen, it does not follow that one causes the other.

    As an alternative to the pirate theory, there is also the skirt hem height
    theory, levels of which were very low in the early 20th century but have risen
    alarmingly in recent years, correlating well with increased temperatures!
    Several possible mechanisms suggest themselves, such as increased metabolic
    rates of observers.
    This would also explain why warming has not occurred in Antarctica.

    As for Friis-Christensen and Svensmark, suggesting that the Sun might have
    something to do with the Earth’s climate, well, how ridiculous.
    Next they will be suggesting that the Pope is catholic.

    [Response: You misunderstand my point. I have no problem with the sun affecting the Earth's climate - I have been an author on multiple papers demonstrating this (most recently Shindell et al, 2006) - and nowhere have I ever claimed that CO2 is important based solely on a correlation. FC&S 91 was bad not for what it purported to conclude, but for how it did it. That was evident at the time, and subsequent data showed that the relationship they found had no predictive quality. - gavin]

    Comment by PaulM — 10 May 2007 @ 4:38 AM

  42. Hmmm. I can do you a theory which ties mineral oil production to isotope signals — I don’t think the conventional CO2 theory does this very well as isotope signals appear in 1850 and AFAICT the real effect of greenhouse warming doesn’t show up until later. My theory even covers the SST temperature spike during WWII when the oil spill in the NH was enormous, mostly because of the Kreigesmarine submarine offensive. This inadvertent experiment shows a perfect rise in accordance with my oil sheen hypothesis.

    You now go and look at the Hadcru graphs and come back with the reasonable point that the SSTs begin to rise two years earlier than the submarine offensive. Aha, I riposte, you need to use the unadjusted graph: the graphs normally available are adjusted for a change in how the temperatures were taken, by bucket or in the engine intake. If you eliminate the adjustment then my theory is triumphantly vindicated. Intrigued by this, I wondered about the correction: apparently, without an SST correction, the GCMs don’t produce a realistic land temperature during the 30s and 40s. This is a great shame. In order to make the world fit my theory then I have to change back data which was altered to fit a rather more expensive theory. Perhaps my horse is at rather long odds in this race, not being the result of science crossed with supercomputer technology, but isn’t it a pity that the data was altered in the first place? Back to the drawing board.

    While on the subject of isotopes, is there a graph anywhere which covers a couple of hundred years of delta C13 values? I’ve looked round the web and can’t find anything. It needs to be a graph because I am a nurseryman of little brain and I need to look at pictures. I reckon I might be able to correlate leachate composition of volcanic ejecta and delta C13 values. Now that would be a really good bit of crackpot science!

    The whole article shows, of course, how important it is to use raw data and not to quibble when things go wrong. That’s why the oil sheen theory was born, an object lesson in the error of post hoc ergo propter hoc. Using raw data I think it’s still on all four legs. Just.

    JF

    Comment by Julian Flood — 10 May 2007 @ 4:49 AM

  43. Timothy,

    I’m quite aware of what the proposed causes are for anthropogenic C02 affecting climate.

    However, the mistake you have made is this.

    You have made your plausible explanation the null hypothesis and not applied a test that shows that your plausible explanation is what actually has taken place.

    The null hypothesis is that there is no AGW.

    Part of the proof of AGW is to show that current climate diverges from the null hypothesis by a statistically significant amount. That has not been done at all.

    If it had been done, then the IPCC would be able to point out just how much of climate is affected by particular forcings. It can’t yet do that.

    [Response: You are incorrect. This cannot be given exactly due to the uncertainties in the forcing history (particular for aerosols), small variations in efficacy, and the remaining uncertainty in climate sensitivity. However, you can easily compare the impacts of different forcings - see here or here. -gavin]

    Let me explain more about the null hypothesis and a statistical test.

    The null hypothesis is no AGW. So we take climate prior to 1900 (industrialisation) and take the historical record for climate. Here we are talking about temperature proxies, orbital mechanics, solar proxies, vocanic eruptions, C02 records.

    Given this data it is possible to build an analysis that shows if a particular input affects the output, the extent to which it effects the output. At the end should be a random residual. If it is not random, then there is a missing input into the system.

    The systems will clearly be guided by the sorts of models of which you are aware. For example, its pretty clear how volcanos affect climate. We have lots of data to make an accurate model.

    Once you have a good model for the long term climate, you know look at the data post 1900.

    You can ask the question, do we need to introduce any extra variables such as anthropogenic C02 to get a fit?

    You can also ask, just how much of a difference does this extra C02 make and is it statistically significant.

    The IPCC can’t yet do this.

    Does it matter?

    Of course it matters. If anthropogenic C02 only makes up a small fraction of the change in climate, then a lot of money is going to be spent with very little resulting effect.

    Nick

    Comment by nick — 10 May 2007 @ 5:08 AM

  44. Huh. Your theory doesn’t explain Bernie Sanders. Because of that, I reserve the right to dismiss everything you say about anything, ever.

    Comment by David — 10 May 2007 @ 5:27 AM

  45. I think that a distinction has to be made between prospective versus retrospective scientific studies. For instance, what is the probability that one could open a large phone book and find, at random, a page that contained five listings that ended in the same number? Answer: Quite low. However, start at the beginning of the phone book and search every page until the end, what then, is the probability of finding five listings that end in the same number? Answer: Virtually one.

    When was global warming identified as a major issue? Late 1970s? Certainly, by the mid-1980s, because the National Academy of Sciences was sponsoring educational programs on the subject! Are we to believe that it is mere coincidence, that is, “natural variability,” that the warmest years on record have occurred since then? Improbable, to say the least!

    Comment by Donald E. Flood — 10 May 2007 @ 5:50 AM

  46. #35, Svet,

    Vose et al; “An intercomparison of trends in surface air temperature analyses at the global, hemispheric, and grid-box scale.” GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 32, L18718, doi:10.1029/2005GL023502, 2005

    They find that when you use the same method of processing you get the same results for GHCN/GISS/CRU.

    The reduction of trend is because the Southern Hemisphere is warming less rapidly than the Southern Hemisphere, and CRU (on whom the Met Office graph is based) average the 2 hemispheres – that causes the difference. GISS use grid-box averaging. The apparent reduction of trend appears to be an artefact of processing.

    #28, Walter Manny,

    Your friend was right, this is an excellent site. If you’ve actually read the papers Gavin mentions the point of his seemingly frivolous article becomes all too apparent. There is a very serious point behind it about some dubious “science”.

    Gavin,
    Thanks for another excellent post.

    Comment by CobblyWorlds — 10 May 2007 @ 6:26 AM

  47. I always found that RealClimate was just a political propaganda blog from a small group of climate politicians, so I am happy to note that there are actually real scientific discussions on your site.

    Comment by Jens Olaf Pepke Pedersen — 10 May 2007 @ 6:28 AM

  48. #35 – Svet

    The GISS and Hadley Centre datasets that you point to terminate at different years – Hadley runs to 2006, whilst GISS runs to 2003.

    Comment by SomeBeans — 10 May 2007 @ 7:37 AM

  49. The truth of the republican reign has now been revealed. It is our duty to improve the world, even if all republicans must be tagged and sent to Australia.

    Comment by Francis — 10 May 2007 @ 7:37 AM

  50. More fun with correlations; some have even appeared in the peer-reviewed literature.

    Comment by Dan Hughes — 10 May 2007 @ 8:12 AM

  51. Great post! And what a debate – I especially love the pirate vs. temperature correlation, a graph of which I have on my office wall. Maybe you should change the name of the blog to Real Humor.

    [Response: Maybe, but I'm not going to give up the day job... - gavin]

    Comment by Matti Virtanen — 10 May 2007 @ 9:13 AM

  52. Re: 38, 16, 45

    Re: 38, Bruce:

    Thanks for the excellent post. I agree that we are discussing a spectrum of theory validation ranging from replicable tests of a roughly isolatable phenomenon like dropping a ball in a near-vacuum to test F = MA at one end and something like econometric models predicting global GDP growth at the other.

    I find your astronomy analogy interesting and useful (but I used to do astrophysics, so I’m probably biased!). The big distinction, I think, between astronomy and climate modeling is that there are many, many “natural experiments” in the observable universe. Therefore, while we can’t conduct controlled trials (as you say, the scientific gold standard for asserting causality), there is an opportunity to make numerous observations of different events and compare them to post hoc controls.

    I agree that “doesn’t meet the highest asserted level of possible scientific proof” does not equal “valueless”, and that it would be foolish to ignore the information provided by climate science just because it is imperfect, though I do think that trying to understand this uncertainty, and ideally bound it, is an incredibly important activity to support policy development.

    Re: 16, Margo / Gavin:

    I think it’s only fair to include Hansen’s own review of the predictive performance of these models in the NAS paper that he authored in 2006:

    http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/full/103/39/14288?maxtoshow=&HITS=10&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=&fulltext=hansen+2006&searchid=1&FIRSTINDEX=0&resourcetype=HWCIT

    Hansen’s take, expressed in this article, was that “a 17-year period is too brief for precise assessment of model predictions”.

    Gavin, we’ve had this discussion before, and I know that you (reasonably) draw a distinction between an assessment and a “precise assessment”. I won’t (re-)bore everyone with a repeat of the model evaluation discussion. Margo, you strike me as a very sophisticated analyst of model performance, and I’m sure you’re competent to read the base papers and come to your own conclusions.

    Re, 45, Don:

    That strikes me a great, commonsense point. An issue, though, arises if the series under consideration is autocorrelated. Such a series will usually have sub-series trends (e.g., temperatures increasing) that will run for some amount of time and then reverse to create a sub-series running in the opposite direction, rather than simply being random walks. This kind of a series – think of certain parts of the stock market – is notorious for fooling people into thinking they have built predictive models that are “right” for a while until they are suddenly, unexplainably wrong.

    Best,
    Jim

    Comment by Jim Manzi — 10 May 2007 @ 9:42 AM

  53. Gavin great comment.
    Similar to the global warming/pirate graph circulating as well.

    enjoyed listening to you on “TWIS” as well.

    Keep up the good work!

    Comment by Bryan Oakley — 10 May 2007 @ 10:00 AM

  54. Hansen et al 1998 predictions seem to be off now by a factor of 2.

    His scenario A prediction was for a 1.0C increase (from 1958 to 2007) and his scenario B prediction was for a 0.8B increase.

    Actual emissions have increased pretty close to the scenario A level although the trace gas assumption for scenario B is closer to what happened with that group.

    Temperatures have only increased by 0.4C (lower than scenario C in which GHG concentrations stabilize by 2000.)

    So it is good that a prediction was published but the models should adjusted now that we know they are off by a factor of 2. I’m assuming that has happened.

    [Response: This is incorrect. The projections were from 1984 onwards and scenario B, which was within 10% of the actual forcings over that period were 0.23 +/- 0.06 deg C/decade compared to observations of 0.23+/-0.04 or 0.20 +/- 0.03 deg C/decade (different datasets). Error bars are just for the linear fit -i.e. the weather noise. Under no circumstance can you describe that as a factor of 2 error. This is however something that is not well appreciated and so I will do a post specifically on this at some point soon (including all the numbers so you can test it for yourself). -gavin]

    Comment by Chris Shaw — 10 May 2007 @ 11:20 AM

  55. Re #11

    Observational vs. Historical Sciences

    You might hear practitioners of “historical sciences” refer to their science as “historical,” or practitioners of “observational sciences” refer to their science as “observational,” where one is able to “control the variables” in the observational sciences. At this point, one should point out that even the term “observational science” is itself fairly misleading, at least to a novice. “Observation” is normally thought of as being passive, but in this context it is being used to refer to active methods rather than passive methods of study, suggesting what is in fact the opposite of what it is intended to imply.

    The distinction has some utility in terms of the division of cognitive labor between “historical” and “observational” sciences, although it should properly be understood as not as a difference in kind but degree, with different sciences or scientific theories lying along the same continuem. However, creationists (for example) almost inevitably try to treate the distinction as a dichotomy, then claim that any science which is observational is real science consisting of knowledge, whereas any historical science is simply a matter of belief no different from matters of faith.

    *

    What must be remembered is simply that was we are dealing with is a continuum where the the most essential distinction which is being made is between active and passive methods of discovery, or more accurately, the degree to which one is actually able to manipulate the objects objects of study. Beyond that, some sciences are more historical than others, but that too is a matter of degree. Additionally, the subject matter of “observational” and “historical” sciences will overlap, with principles from “observational sciences” being appealed to by the “historical sciences,” or the so-called “observational science” of sub-atomic particle physics speaking of deep-time phase transitions which broke the symmetry between the four fundamental forces, further blurring the distinction. Then there is the even more basic point that when refering to earlier experiments in which one “controlled the variables,” in logic it is still possible that there are some variables that one didn’t account for and thereby hold constant.

    *

    For an example of where it gets properly applied, you might look at:

    Edwin C. Allison Center for Historical Science http://www.geology.sdsu.edu/facilities/allisonctr/

    … a center which is devoted to the “historical sciences” of “paleontology, paleoclimatology, geochemistry, sedimentology and organismal biology.”

    Outside of the lingo of specialized disciplines, there are usually only two sets of occasions in which I hear of the distinction itself: one is when the distinction is being applied only in order to demonstrate that it is not a dichotomy or even particularly helpful, and the other is when creationists use it to try to argue that evolutionary biology isn’t hard science, or that for example, the soft historical science of evolution might argue for life having a natural origin, but hard observational science demonstrates otherwise.

    It has a basis in the philosophy of science, but this is of little more than historical value, much like reading Descartes in a standard philosophy course. For one thing, there is no hardfast dichotomy between observational and historical science: all science is a continuum. Difference branches of science use both “observational” (by which the speaker actually means “controlled experimental”) procedures and historical methods: for example, while evolutionary biology might be thought of as essentially historical, we can observe how viruses and bacteria mutate into new species and even affect their environment so as to bring about this change, and may occasionally observe speciation at the multicellular level, particularly in plants, such as the creation of species through an active process of hybridization or polyploidy.

    Likewise, astronomy would seem to be “observational” insofar as we “observe” stars and galaxies, but it generally cannot be performed in a lab, we are usually unable to set up experiments where we control the variables and thus manipulate the object of study, and what we are actually observing is what took place thirteen billion years ago or eight minutes ago in the case of the sun. So in this sense, it would it seem to be historical. But is it? At one point the moon was something we could simply observe from a distance — but now it is a place we can visit, we send probes places like Titan or Europa. Moreover, when one says that “observational sciences” make predictions in the sense that they are with regard to future events, these are oftentimes passive in the sense that one does not control the variables as one might in a lab. Furthermore, even historical sciences using “historical” methods make predictions of a sort: postdictions where they predict things which will be found.

    *

    Empirical science itself is a unity because reality is a unity. There exists degrees of justification, but greater and lesser degrees of justification exist throughout all of empirical science, particularly if there is any area of active study, and no one branch is truly privileged over another. There necessarily exists a cognitive division of labor due to the limitations of individual human awareness, but the criteria employed for establishing the permeable boundaries between disciplines are ultimately pragmatic in nature.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 10 May 2007 @ 11:46 AM

  56. Re #42: [I can do you a theory which ties mineral oil production to isotope signals -- I don't think the conventional CO2 theory does this very well as isotope signals appear in 1850 and AFAICT the real effect of greenhouse warming doesn't show up until later.]

    Before the early 20th century, virtually all the isotope signal would have been coming from coal, not oil. The amount of greenhouse warming depends on the total amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, not on the amount being emitted at any given time. So you emit a little bit each year (and keep increasing the size of that bit), and over 150 years, it adds up to enough to produce measurable effects.

    Comment by James — 10 May 2007 @ 11:46 AM

  57. #52: Jim,

    “Time will tell,” I suppose. IMHO, this is a case where Pascal’s Wager would be appropriate! Agreed?

    Don

    Comment by Donald E. Flood — 10 May 2007 @ 12:18 PM

  58. Does not matter which party is in power, it is the people who do not get elected every four years that run the Governemnt like the tri laderal commisioners and the Generals in the Armerd Forces and ofcourse the Pentagon

    Comment by Margret — 10 May 2007 @ 12:26 PM

  59. While y’all are having fun with the weird correlations, I’d also ask that you go down the hall (or over the web) to the other NASA-related groups that are doing solar cycle work and see if you can get a thread going on watching what effects can be observed on and near Earth — because prediction is interesting, and because predictions of a small effect followed by observations that can test whether the effect is indeed present and of the expected order of magnitude are fascinating.

    Who else could we trust, eh?

    If you look at these two NASA links, the latter for the next cycle, the former for the one after that — they’re expected to be quite different. If you all can get some info from the people watching whatever measures might correlate in interesting ways and make it an ongoing thread (or point us to one elsewhere) it’d be good to watch the science as it’s actually being done.

    http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2006/10may_longrange.htm
    http://solarscience.msfc.nasa.gov/predict.shtml (Updated 2007/05/03)

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 10 May 2007 @ 2:12 PM

  60. Gavin,

    Re #16

    You offer Hansen, et al. 1988 as evidence of the predictive ability of climate models. In that paper, the predicted temperature rise from 1987 to 2007 is about 0.55 ºC. This is for scenario A (continued increase in GHG emissions), which is what the world has followed since then. In fact, the actual temperature rise has been about 0.1 ºC.

    I do not see how this paper supports your point.

    [Response: See inline response above. Scenario B is the relevant one since that was both the 'most plausible' (and described as so at the time), and had net forcings that are with 10% of the actual forcings. The projection was from 1984 and temperature trends are around 0.2 deg/decade in both obs and modelling. -gavin]

    Comment by Trent — 10 May 2007 @ 2:40 PM

  61. RE #55

    “The amount of greenhouse warming depends on the total amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, not on the amount being emitted at any given time.”

    Careful about the semantics of this argument. If all emitted carbon dioxide (and other greenhouse gasses) could easily be absorbed and then sequestered by Earth’s oceans and other systems would there be any measurable global warming due to GHGs?

    Is it not true that the component of global warming due to GHGs occurs because the rate of emission of GHGs exceeds the rate at which the GHGs can be sequestered?

    The global average temperature at a point in time is a function of the concentration of GHGs while GH warming (the change of the global average temperature) is a function of the accumulation of GHGs.

    Any one have any thoughts on this?

    Comment by Steve Horstmeyer — 10 May 2007 @ 3:00 PM

  62. Steve, I think you’re confusing the greenhouse effect — which keeps the planet warmer than it would be without the greenhouse gases —- with “global warming” (increase in the planet’s temperature until a new equilibrium is reached, that follows the change in the level of greenhouse gases above the baseline).

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 10 May 2007 @ 3:58 PM

  63. Re: #61 (Steve Horstmeyer)

    The global average temperature at a point in time is a function of the concentration of GHGs while GH warming (the change of the global average temperature) is a function of the accumulation of GHGs.

    This would be true if the planet responded to GHG forcing instantaneously. But because of the thermal inertia of the oceans, it takes decades for the full response to a given GHG level to be reached. According to Hansen’s research, we have another 0.6 deg.C warming already in the pipeline, even if GHG gas levels instantly stabilize today.

    Comment by tamino — 10 May 2007 @ 4:03 PM

  64. ‘Excoriable’? Surely you mean ‘execrable’.
    :)

    Comment by Ulric von Bek — 10 May 2007 @ 4:04 PM

  65. #61

    The rate of greenhouse warming at any given moment will be a function of the amount of greenhouse gas that is in the atmosphere and the current temperature (neglecting the spatial distributions, convection, etc.), not the rate at which greenhouse gases are emitted by sources or sequestered by sinks. However, if you wish to calculate these interdependent variables over time, ideally you would be employing partial differential equations, tracking the system to its new equilibrium state – but this is highly unrealistic. Absent the differential equations or exact solutions to them, you would employ numerical models (distributions and all), calculating each state in a sequence of states from the previous state – which is I believe how it is actually done.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 10 May 2007 @ 4:22 PM

  66. The article Marsh and Svensmark 2000 requires a subscription, so I’m not sure what the object of your attack is.

    In the PDF Fig 3. there’s a correlation of low cloud cover with two sunspot cycles. Is that what you were referring to? If so what’s the problem with it?

    [Response: The fit to the second cycle is solely because of an added trend to the cloud cover data which has no justification in anything. See this comment - gavin]

    Comment by fieldnorth — 10 May 2007 @ 4:55 PM

  67. RE #62

    I think we are all saying the same thing. That is we all understand the concept but how we say it either clarifies or confuses.

    My point is that for any given time period the concentration of GHGs determines how much infrared radiation is retained by the atmosphere. During the next time period if the concentration of GHGs increases, all other factors being equal, the temperature can be expected to be higher. Both time periods have a greenhouse effect but the second time period has an enhanced greenhouse effect, because of the accumulation of GHGs.

    So the change of greenhouse effect is “global warming” in this example. If we detected no increase of average temperature there would still be a greenhouse effect but no global warming.

    So global warming ocurs over time because during that time GHGs accumulate.

    RE #63
    I have to think about your comment. Nothing happens instantly and because the response time of the climate system has a measurable lag doesn’t seem to change my thinking.

    I made the point because I was listening to a “progressive” radio talk show (The Ed Schultz Show) as I was reading the comments here and a caller made several points including citing Milankovitch (“…that name I cannot pronounce…”, he said),Hertzberg (the explosives expert) and the lag of the build up of cabron dioxide after warming begins. He had many snippets of information but was confused by it all and certainly did not have a coherent picture of the various processes. From his tone though I thought he was earger to understand. I therefore posted my comments to make the point that clear language is essential if the public is to be educated on global warming.

    Comments?

    Comment by Steve Horstmeyer — 10 May 2007 @ 5:53 PM

  68. Very Interesting! As a registered democrat(in the U.S.) I would like to see a minimum of sunspot activity in the coming decades for the sake of our planet. This analysis corroborates the old saw ” there are liars, damned liars and statistics”. It seems as though there are lots of the two former categories on the skeptic side of the aisle.

    Comment by Lawrence Brown — 10 May 2007 @ 5:59 PM

  69. “But because of the thermal inertia of the oceans, it takes decades for the full response to a given GHG level to be reached.”

    Well there seems to be an easy test, take a pair thermally isolated tank of salt water, some 30 meters deep and irradiate the surafce, open to the atmosphere with additional IR source masked by a CO2 shroud. Measure the temperature of each tank at half meter depths and monitor any temperature difference. You might also wish to monitor the depth of the tank.
    This model is a very good test for the impact of elevated levels of CO2 on the ocean temperature.
    If the surface of one of the tanks is blasted with an additional 8w/m2 of IR radation, what will be the steady state temperature difference in the two tanks after a year?
    My estimate is as close to zero as the noise allows, although the debth will have changed.
    What is your prediction?

    Comment by DocMartyn — 10 May 2007 @ 6:16 PM

  70. In reponse to #50 and #60 Gavin, you note that from Hansen et al 1998 – “net forcings are within 10% of the actual forcings”

    What exactly does that mean?

    I note that the emissions have grown somewhere between Hansen’s Scenario A and Scenario B.

    Scenario A’s forecast had temperatures increasing 0.85C from 1984 to 2006 and Scenario B had temperatures increasing 0.6C from 1984 to 2006.

    By my reckoning, the Hadley Centre’s global temperature estimate is an increase of 0.25C from 1984 to 2006.

    So the forcing estimate was within 10% but the temperature prediction was off by more than 100%??

    [Response: This isn't going to be clear until I show the figures and analysis, so give me a few days to put it together properly. The numbers are as I stated above. - gavin]

    Comment by John Wegner — 10 May 2007 @ 7:10 PM

  71. There is another point about statistics that seldom gets mentioned and is widely misunderstood, and that is that attribution of variance is not the same thing as an attribution of a trend.

    If one does an analysis of continuously measured temperatures, for example, the strongest terms would be the daily and seasonal cycles. Whether it is day or night, summer or winter, are the strongest determinants of temperature. If one did such an analysis even over a hundred years of steadily rising temperatures, that would still be the case. So then there would be some that dismiss the temperature rise as being irrelevant to the temperature outside; after all, time of day and season of year are the main contributors to variance. So why even consider that there is a warming trend?

    Actually, I’ve seen this sort of reasoning used pretty regularly on hurricane data. Cycles dominate the variance statistics, so trends must not matter.

    Comment by James Killus — 10 May 2007 @ 7:30 PM

  72. Re 52 Jim,

    Thanks for the kind comments and the reference to the Hansen paper, which is fascinating, particularly with it’s warning of increased likelihood of El Ninos, a major concern in our part of the world (Australia).

    I agee with your comments. I have a chemical engineering – biomedical engineering and biostatistics background, the last of which often has me asking about the quality of evidence.

    To take a medical example, we don’t have experimental evidence (the gold standard) that smoking causes lung cancer in humans (imagine trying to enrol people in an randomised trial). Yet the observational evidence (from “natural” experiments) is so overwhelming that only a tobacco industry executive could fail to see it.

    The science of climate change is perhaps one rung lower on the quality of evidence scale, but the moral issues are overwhelming. In essence we have an N=1 observational study. But unlike the smoker, the outcome of this natural experiment has significant likelihood of harming those with little or no control over the “manipulated variable”.

    Cheers,

    Bruce

    Comment by Bruce Tabor — 10 May 2007 @ 9:09 PM

  73. Just saying,
    The correlation of sunspots to global temp actually fits much better than this, especially over time.

    [Response: For very similar reasons.... -gavin]

    Comment by Jimmy — 10 May 2007 @ 9:16 PM

  74. Re #69 Doc Martyn,
    “Well there seems to be an easy test, take a pair thermally isolated tank of salt water, some 30 meters deep and irradiate the surafce, open to the atmosphere with additional IR source masked by a CO2 shroud. Measure the temperature of each tank at half meter depths and monitor any temperature difference. You might also wish to monitor the depth of the tank.
    This model is a very good test for the impact of elevated levels of CO2 on the ocean temperature.
    If the surface of one of the tanks is blasted with an additional 8w/m2 of IR radation, what will be the steady state temperature difference in the two tanks after a year?
    My estimate is as close to zero as the noise allows, although the debth will have changed.
    What is your prediction? ”

    I’ll do a crude calculation to give you my prediction:
    Assume the area of the 30m tank is 1 m2. First the energy added:
    8w/m2 in one year is 8 J/sec *3600sec/hr+24hr/day*365 days/year = 252 MJ
    Now the water’s response. The sepcific heat of water is about 4.2 J/g.C, which is 4.2 MJ/tonne.C. 30 metres of water with cross section 1 m2 is 30 tonnes.
    Assuming the water is well mixed and the heat distributes evenly it will take 30*4.2=126 MJ to raise the water by 1 degC
    So with 252 MJ we have a temperature rise of 252/126=2.0 deg C.
    Sounds like a good high school experiment. You could measure it with a lab thermometer. Certainly well above the noise assuming you can properly isolate the test and control tanks.

    Bruce

    Comment by Bruce Tabor — 10 May 2007 @ 9:50 PM

  75. In 70, John Wegner states:

    “Scenario A’s forecast had temperatures increasing 0.85C from 1984 to 2006 and Scenario B had temperatures increasing 0.6C from 1984 to 2006.”

    To understand the kind of sophistry John is practicing you have to look at the graph of the predictions vs. the obervational record.

    1984 in the model was a very low point, due to variability in the model and a bit from El Chichon. By measuring from a low point, John exaggerates the predicted increase in temperature.

    “I note that the emissions have grown somewhere between Hansen’s Scenario A and Scenario B.”

    I challenge John to document that. He could start from the figures and the discussion here and here and here which discusses methane in detail Then he might want to go on with with a discussion of how A and B (and C until 2000 when it goes flat) nail the CO2 forcing. He might also want to discuss how the difference between forcing in A and B (and C until 2000) is principally in the trace gases with A having more forcing than B after 1990. In FACT B somewhat overestimates ACTUAL emissions/forcing in the principal trace gases, CH4 and CFCs.

    Comment by Eli Rabett — 10 May 2007 @ 10:31 PM

  76. It feels ominous, somehow, that the number of Republican senators actually has an impact on the sun…

    When it comes to GW, however, you may only look at the number of cell phones in the world and the change in global temperatures over the last 20 years to realize what’s going on. Cell phones emit microwaves. Microwaves heat water. You connect the dots.

    Comment by Anders Lundqvist — 11 May 2007 @ 3:40 AM

  77. [[The reduction of trend is because the Southern Hemisphere is warming less rapidly than the Southern Hemisphere]]

    <snark>Parallel worlds must be involved.</snark>

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 11 May 2007 @ 4:53 AM

  78. Gavin, are you 100% certain that CO2-emissions from humans are the reason for Global Warming?

    I have trouble understanding your views since you report and write about all things so completely unbiased and devoid of a particular agenda.
    I need to see the black & white of this, since all political decisions regarding GW are very particular and decisive, and affects so many people, and more.. Right?

    Comment by Marian — 11 May 2007 @ 5:12 AM

  79. By the way, a conspiracy to keep the “Milankovitch effects” out of North American textbooks may have been unearthed, as noted in a presentation before the US House Subcommittee on Climate Change on March 20, 2007. Tim Ball, a retired geographer, has discovered the importance of this factor and noted that it is not included in most textbooks. This may explain why you have probably never heard of the Milankovitch effect, unless you have taken an introductory course, or read a book, that included discussion of ice ages, climatology, paleoclimate, geography, geology, or related issues, or unless you are aware of how to use libraries or the internet.

    Ball also noted that the cosmic effect is largely due to “the gravitational pull of the planet Jupiter”, which apparently is one of the major forces that pulls earth’s orbit into “an extreme elipse”, although luckily it is currently almost circular, whew.

    Tim Ball’s testimony -US House Subcommittee on Climate Change,
    http://www.fcpp.org/main/media_file_detail.php?StreamID=575
    Search http://fcpp.org/main/index.php

    From the talk (which begins with ice ages, etc.):

    quote

    “… The explanation for that melting is primarily given by these factors, which is called the Milankovitch effect, and interestingly enough, this is not included in most of our textbooks across North America today, I’ve checked them out. What it shows in the lower right, is the orbit of the earth around the sun, as an almost circular but slightly eliptical orbit. That’s the situation right now. But the orbit is changing every single year, pulled by the gravitational pull of the planet Jupiter, and what you see on the lower left is the orbit of the earth as it was 22,000 years ago, an extreme ellipse. So the orbit is changing every single year. And in the center of the diagram you see that the tilt is shown at 23 and a half degrees. It isn’t; it’s just close enough for government work, but it also constantly changes from 21.4 to 24.8, …” etc., etc.

    end quote

    Powerpoint Slides: http://www.ff.org/centers/csspp/docs/20070321_ball.ppt

    Could this choice of the Universities and publishers to keep mention of Milanokovitch cycles from us, combined with sloppy government measurement of the earth’s tilt, be the real reason that climate models appear so compelling?

    Elsewhere, Ball explains the rest of the effect with this observation:

    “TB: Basically, when sunspots are active, the earth is warmer and, when they are less active, it is colder. “
    http://www.fcpp.org/main/publication_detail.php?PubID=1669

    It is too late to tell them about the secret Milankovitch effect, but the clear correlation of climate warming with sunspots should not be kept from students. So, I’ve posted the NOAA data in a spreadsheet for them:
    http://people.uleth.ca/~dan.johnson/sunspots.htm

    (PS. Ball doesn’t mention whether the effect of Jupiter altered by the impact of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, but if I ever again have the unpleasant experience of being the speaker following him at a public meeting, I will put this bug in his ear at coffee time.)

    Comment by Dan Johnson — 11 May 2007 @ 5:41 AM

  80. Gavin: I agree with you 100%! Spurious correlations are the enemy of good science. Let’s hear more.

    Comment by PHE — 11 May 2007 @ 5:57 AM

  81. Re: Eli #75
    Eli – that is good stuff you referenced in post 75. I am a bit new to the site and have not seen such data and analysis before. Interesting to see how this plays out, and I await Gavin’s post on the Hansen predictions. One question, any reason the observed temps stop at 1998? Temps have dropped a bit since and seem to diverge from the Hansen predictions.

    Comment by B Buckner — 11 May 2007 @ 8:13 AM

  82. Entertaining article, Gavin. I actually like use of humour. Cheers!

    Comment by Nick — 11 May 2007 @ 9:07 AM

  83. Here’s what the British Meteorological Office(www.metoffice.gov.uk) has to say about solar activity and climate change:

    “There are many factors which may contribute to climate change. For example, over the last million years most of the long-term changes in climate were probably due to small but well understood changes in the Earth’s orbit around the Sun. Over much of the last 1,000 years most of the variability can probably be explained by cooling due to major volcanic eruptions and changes in solar heating.

    However, the situation in the 20th century is more complicated. There is some evidence that increases in solar heating may have led to some warming early in the 20th century, but direct satellite measurements show no appreciable change in solar heating over the last three decades. Three major volcanic eruptions in 1963, 1982 and 1991 have led to short periods of cooling. Throughout the century CO2 increased steadily and has been shown to be responsible for most of the warming in the second half of the century.

    The final piece of the jigsaw is that as well as producing CO2, burning fossil fuels also produces small particles called aerosols which cool the climate by reflecting sunlight back into space. These have increased steadily in concentration over the 20th century, which has probably offset some of the warming we have seen. Only when all of these factors are included do we get a satisfactory explanation of the magnitude and patterns of climate change over the last century.

    The bottom line is that changes in solar activity do affect global temperatures. However, what research also shows is that increased greenhouse gas concentrations have a much greater effect than changes in the Sun’s energy over the last 50 years.”

    Comment by Lawrence Brown — 11 May 2007 @ 9:22 AM

  84. Tim Ball’s argument is simply amazing. (see post 79). Has he read ANY intro textbook? All the standard intro texts discuss Milankovitch orbital cycles in their discussion of ice ages. Given the long time scales of the rather modest orbital forcing, I’m not sure how they could explain substantial warming on decadal time scales. Then again, he “nicely” conflates Milankovitch forcing with sunspots.

    Comment by CC — 11 May 2007 @ 10:06 AM

  85. Re #78: [Gavin, are you 100% certain that CO2-emissions from humans are the reason for Global Warming?]

    I’m not Gavin, but a simple answer from a non-expert is that, like a lot of people, you’re getting things backwards. CO2 has an insulating effect – we know this because people have measured it. Humans have been putting more CO2 in the atmosphere – we know this too, because we’ve measured it. Putting those two facts together, we deduce that the Earth should get warmer as a result of the CO2. We look at temperature records, and lo and behold, we see that the Earth is in fact getting warmer.

    Where exactly is the problem in this? It seems really simple to me, about at the level of figuring out that you’re feeling too warm because you’re wearing an extra sweater :-)

    Comment by James — 11 May 2007 @ 10:18 AM

  86. #82

    Aha, but you are just being fooled by a coincidence. If fact while in a lab CO2 will absorb energy and act as an insulator, when it is in the atmosphere pixies cast magical spells on the CO2 so that the radiation passes straight through it. Of course we would have realised this long ago if it wasn’t for the fact that, completely coincidentally, as human CO2 output has risen unicorn wave emission from the sun has increased at the same time. Now unicorn waves have the strange property that they curve away from detectors (they are shy), so the satellites and other systems that monitor the sun continuously don’t see them, and this is actually what has caused the warming.

    Of course on its own this would still be detectable, as the upper atmosphere would be warming up as well as the lower parts, showing us that the GHG model of climate was flawed. However by complete fluke there has been a massive increase in cold dragon activity in the upper atmosphere in recent decades. These dragons of course keep themselves completely invisible to humans, so we can’t tell that the are massively cooling the upper atmosphere, more than offsetting the warming of the unicorn waves, and hence making us unaware of the actions of the pixies at messing up our understanding of how physics works in the real world.

    Comment by stuart — 11 May 2007 @ 11:09 AM

  87. Nice work. See also, “Political Innumeracy: Encounters with Coincidence, Improbability, and Chance,” by Carol Mock and Herbert Weisberg, Am. J. Pol. Sci. 36(4) 1023-46 (1992), which discusses the effect of astrological birth sign on political party affiliation. Perhaps there’s a Ph.D. dissertation in unscrambling the connections between astrological sign, control of senate, and climate. Then we could shortcut the expensive and laborious scientific research that goes into understanding climate and just consult a handy horoscope instead. As all the Republican hopefuls for 2008 are scrambling to appropriate Reagan’s mantle, this would be a timely research topic.

    Comment by Jonathan Gilligan — 11 May 2007 @ 11:09 AM

  88. Re # 78

    100% certainty? Black and white?

    I’m afraid very little new scientific knowledge comes with absolute certainty – rather it comes with degrees of confidence, colored in shades of gray.

    Comment by Chuck Booth — 11 May 2007 @ 11:37 AM

  89. #79 Dan, Mr Ball has not been observing the sun for its spots lately, especially during the warmest winter in history just past, someone must also tell him that there wasn’t many spots. You may do him a favor, and perhaps he will revisit his “basic” sun spot correlation theory….

    Comment by wayne davidson — 11 May 2007 @ 12:16 PM

  90. RE #81. Temps have not dropped since 1998. 1998 was exceptionally warm, the following few years were not quite as warm but still very consistent with the general trend if you exclude 1998. That same trend can still be seen up to 2005, which was almost as warm as the exceptional 1998, or equally warm depending what data set you look at. What is important to consider is that 2005 was warmer than 1997 or 1999. From what I read, 2006 is consistent with the trend as well, although I don’t know if all the data have been compiled (haven’t seen it yet). RC has analyzed this and Gristmill also has a good discussion on it.

    Comment by Philippe Chantreau — 11 May 2007 @ 12:30 PM

  91. In answer to M. B. Buckner #81. No the updated GISS global temperature series, shows that although 1998 was exceptionally hot due to a strong El Nino, the smoothed five year average continues to rise. The image next to the temperature series shows that the global rise masks much stronger local ones, esp at far northern latitudes. The images come from Global temperature change, James Hansen, Makiko Sato, Reto Ruedy*, Ken Lo*, David W. Lea, and Martin Medina-Elizade Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences September 25, 2006, 10.1073/pnas.0606291103

    Comment by Eli Rabett — 11 May 2007 @ 12:33 PM

  92. This was just Slashdotted:
    http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,481684,00.html
    Don’t we still expect superstorms?

    Comment by Rionn Fears Malechem — 11 May 2007 @ 12:46 PM

  93. I just checked the current and former Earth Science text books (by different publishers) used in the high school where I work, and both of them describe Milankovitch cycles as a cause of ice ages, although not mentioned by name.

    It’s just another example of Ball talking out of his posterior.

    Comment by cce — 11 May 2007 @ 1:06 PM

  94. Thanks to B. Buckner, I went back and found the PNAS article which also had an updated comparison of observations, vs. Scen. A-C.

    Comment by Eli Rabett — 11 May 2007 @ 1:19 PM

  95. Marian (#78) wrote:

    Gavin, are you 100% certain that CO2-emissions from humans are the reason for Global Warming?

    Chuck Booth (#88) wrote:

    100% certainty? Black and white?

    I’m afraid very little new scientific knowledge comes with absolute certainty – rather it comes with degrees of confidence, colored in shades of gray.

    Quite right – and I have little doubt that Gavin would claim otherwise.

    However, when you have a large number of independent lines of investigation justifying a given conclusion, the justification that the conclusion receives is far greater than that which it receives from any one given line of investigation alone.

    Empirical science never reaches absolute certainty, but it can approximate it. Afterall, I suspect that you are reasonably confident that the ocean won’t suddenly reverse current trends and freeze within the next five minutes. Likewise, we are reasonably confident that neither carbon dioxide nor water vapor will suddenly become transparent to infrared radiation, or for that matter, that Planck’s law describing the spectrum of radiation emitted by a warm body will suddenly be suspended.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 11 May 2007 @ 1:29 PM

  96. > Josef H. Reichholf

    Hmmm. His expertise is in mites that live in the feathers of birds, according to Google Scholar.

    He also has opinions. Has anyone read his book?

    Josef H. Reichholf
    Evolution. What is true? Facts and answers
    ISBN 978-3-451-05779-3
    The biblical story of the creation – big bang or intelligent design? Which laws does evolution follow? Which power is active in the cosmos and in nature? Is everything just chance or is there a plan behind it all? ….

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 11 May 2007 @ 3:01 PM

  97. Re #86: Very nice, Stuart. IMHO it’s perfect for use in public debates.

    Comment by Steve Bloom — 11 May 2007 @ 3:11 PM

  98. My son reviewed Milankovitch cycles in his 8th grade AP Science course last month. He was so fascinated he talked about them for a week. My daughter got a simpler version in 5th grade. Ball clearly has no idea what’s going on with textbooks.

    Gavin, thank you for the excellent post. And I’d like to thank Ike Solem, Hank Roberts, Tamino, Eli, and Barton Paul Levenson. I always learn from your posts.

    Comment by Arvella Oliver — 11 May 2007 @ 3:13 PM

  99. Rionn Fears Malechem (#92) wrote:

    Don’t we still expect superstorms?

    The expert they are undoubtedly getting this from is Hans von Storch who they interviewed only a couple of months ago:

    SPIEGEL: And what about the monster storms that will supposedly be rushing in our direction in a greenhouse climate?

    Storch: A false alarm, so far, even though it’s become warmer by almost one degree since the beginning of industrialization. According to the computer models, we do expect high winds in northern Germany to increase by one percent per decade. But this is such a weak phenomenon that we won’t even notice it at first.

    SPIEGEL INTERVIEW WITH CLIMATOLOGIST HANS VON STORCH
    March 16, 2007
    http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,472200,00.html

    It is only within the past few years that climate models have achieved the resolution needed to “see” the formation of hurricanes. The models currently predict a moderate increase in the strength of the the more severe hurricanes. In contrast, what we have seen is a fairly strong response to increased oceanic surface temperatures. Part of what appears to be happening is that the water which is now warmer extends further down than it did previously, further fueling the hurricanes – and as of yet we aren’t taking this into account in our models.

    In any case, Hans von Storch views climate change as largely inevitable, with whatever Germany does as having little effect, particularly given that the major players (the United States, China and India) are doing very little to stop it. He views mitigation as Germany’s best strategy. (See the interview cited above.) Given this, perhaps he has chosen to downplay the effects of climate change to some degree. Of course, what he says in Germany is heard in the United States…

    In any case, if you are particularly interested in this topic, you might want to check out the following posts:

    Hurricane Spin
    Michael Mann and Gavin Schmidt
    24 Apr 2007
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/04/shear-turbulence/

    21 Cat 4-5 Storms for 2006?
    Posted on: January 4, 2007 6:55 AM, by Chris C. Mooney
    http://scienceblogs.com/intersection/2007/01/21_cats_45.php

    Unlike the previous few yeares, last year was slow for the Atlantic due to dust blowing off of north Africa reducing the temperature in that region, but it was busier than ever in the Pacific.

    You might also try the search box at the top: hurricanes are a recurring subject here.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 11 May 2007 @ 3:24 PM

  100. Think people, seriously, …what would happen if Gavin…or anyone else submitted this “article” to the peer-reviewed Journal SCIENCE…Now how about if submitted to a “journal” that was funded by a special interest group? Could it be used politically?

    Comment by Richard Ordway — 11 May 2007 @ 3:35 PM

  101. #74 Re #69 Doc Martyn,
    “I’ll do a crude calculation to give you my prediction:
    Assume the area of the 30m tank is 1 m2. First the energy added:
    8w/m2 in one year is 8 J/sec *3600sec/hr+24hr/day*365 days/year = 252 MJ
    Now the water’s response. The sepcific heat of water is about 4.2 J/g.C, which is 4.2 MJ/tonne.C. 30 metres of water with cross section 1 m2 is 30 tonnes.
    Assuming the water is well mixed and the heat distributes evenly it will take 30*4.2=126 MJ to raise the water by 1 degC
    So with 252 MJ we have a temperature rise of 252/126=2.0 deg C.
    Sounds like a good high school experiment. You could measure it with a lab thermometer. Certainly well above the noise assuming you can properly isolate the test and control tanks.

    Bruce”

    I see, so you expect that
    “Assuming the water is well mixed and the heat distributes evenly”

    although it doesn’t in any standing body of water on the planet.
    Moreover, I can’t help but notice that you have not considered the difference in evaporation rate of the two systems. Nor if there is salt present in water, the effect that thermal expansion of water will have on the salts activity. If there is thermal expansion, what effect will it have on the pressure/depth and temperature/depth profiles.

    As I stated, this is a very simple system, however, I very much doubt if any climate scientists would be interested in doing any actual, physical, expirements.

    Comment by DocMartyn — 11 May 2007 @ 4:00 PM

  102. RE # 78 & “Gavin, are you 100% certain that CO2-emissions from humans are the reason for Global Warming? I have trouble understanding your views since you report and write about all things so completely unbiased and devoid of a particular agenda. I need to see the black & white of this, since all political decisions regarding GW are very particular and decisive, and affects so many people, and more.. Right?”

    Hi Marian,

    Actually the question non-scientists should be asking is, are you 100% sure GHGs do NOT cause GW….and when that is found to be true, we could go back to emitting them willy nilly. However, we may not want to, since inefficiency & profligacy are expensive and economically harmful.

    Even the typical scientific standard requiring 95% confidence for scientists to make claims, e.g., that GHGs are causing GW, is way too high a standard for laypersons, who (you’d think) would want to avoid harm. Scientists try to avoid the false positive (avoid making claims when they are untrue), in order to protect their reputations, but we people should be trying to avoid the false negative — avoid failing to mitigate GW when indeed it is happening. You wouldn’t want a doctor to tell you he/she is only 94% confident the lump is cancerous, so he/she won’t operate.

    Think about it a while. Do we want to risk life on earth, bec we want 100% certainty? We did get 95% certainty on GW back in 1995. By the time we get 99% certainty — maybe in a few decades — it will be too late to reverse. By the time we get 100% certainty, say in a thousand years, no one will be around to document that the scientists back in 1995 were correct afterall.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 11 May 2007 @ 5:21 PM

  103. Intellectual Contortionist: One skilled in the art of bending one’s own mind to an astonishing extent, but in a useless manner.

    Comment by Daniel C. Goodwin — 11 May 2007 @ 5:29 PM

  104. DocMartyn (#69) wrote:

    Well there seems to be an easy test, take a pair thermally isolated tank of salt water, some 30 meters deep and irradiate the surafce, open to the atmosphere with additional IR source masked by a CO2 shroud. Measure the temperature of each tank at half meter depths and monitor any temperature difference. You might also wish to monitor the depth of the tank.

    This model is a very good test for the impact of elevated levels of CO2 on the ocean temperature.

    If the surface of one of the tanks is blasted with an additional 8w/m2 of IR radation, what will be the steady state temperature difference in the two tanks after a year?

    My estimate is as close to zero as the noise allows, although the debth will have changed.

    Since the experiment that you propose would be so easy to perform and would clearly be of great significance to us all, I wish you the best with it. However, in addition to isolating your tank from the rest of the climate, you will need a column of air approximately sixty miles high directly above it that is also suitably isolated from the rest of the climate – likewise to avoid the contamination of your results. Without that column, you won’t be measuring the feedback between the radiation absorbed by the water, the infrared radiation absorbed then re-emitted by the carbon dioxide, the water vapor coming off of the water, the infrared radiation which is absorbed and re-emitted by that vapor – and the rising temperatures of both the water and atmosphere which result from this absorbtion and re-emission of radiation and evaporation. But you should also include atmospheric circulation, otherwise whatever additional greenhouse effects you might observe could be exaggerated.

    I suppose you will need a very large tank.

    However, once you have this set-up, assuming you demonstrate how foolish the vast majority of climatologists and the long list of scientific organizations are to have subscribed to the view that carbon emissions are driving climate change, perhaps you will be charitable enough to expend some effort in determining which principles of physics become suspended in climate systems.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 11 May 2007 @ 5:56 PM

  105. Thanks for the update Eli.

    Comment by B Buckner — 11 May 2007 @ 6:41 PM

  106. So astrology is right after all, or is it a form of telekinesis?

    Comment by Danniel Soares — 11 May 2007 @ 6:56 PM

  107. Re # 95 Timothy Chase,
    Your point is certainly well taken, but note that I said (# 88): “…very little NEW scientific knowledge comes with absolute certainty.”

    Comment by Chuck Booth — 11 May 2007 @ 7:30 PM

  108. “Since the experiment that you propose would be so easy to perform and would clearly be of great significance to us all, I wish you the best with it.”
    I thank you.
    “However, in addition to isolating your tank from the rest of the climate, you will need a column of air approximately sixty miles high directly above it that is also suitably isolated from the rest of the climate – likewise to avoid the contamination of your results. Without that column, you won’t be measuring the feedback between the radiation absorbed by the water, the infrared radiation absorbed then re-emitted by the carbon dioxide, the water vapor coming off of the water, the infrared radiation which is absorbed and re-emitted by that vapor – and the rising temperatures of both the water and atmosphere which result from this absorbtion and re-emission of radiation and evaporation.”

    Typically, when one designs an experiment on only varies one parameter, this case we would only examine the effect of heat emission spectra of gaseous CO2 on water temperature on a standing body of water. We would allow free gaseous exchange and of course allow the daily and seasonal variations in atmospheric temperature, vapor content and CO2 to remain the same.

    “But you should also include atmospheric circulation, otherwise whatever additional greenhouse effects you might observe could be exaggerated. I suppose you will need a very large tank.”

    I was thinking of a pair of concrete tubes, one being a control, each made from one large and smaller diameter tube, with lightweight insulation in between. They could be poped down a pair of disused mineshafts.

    “However, once you have this set-up, assuming you demonstrate how foolish the vast majority of climatologists and the long list of scientific organizations are to have subscribed to the view that carbon emissions are driving climate change, perhaps you will be charitable enough to expend some effort in determining which principles of physics become suspended in climate systems.”

    Not at all, there are very many interesting questions that can be investigated to increase our understanding of energy transduction in aqueous systems and the mechanism of heat transfer between water and air.
    For instance, I take it that you are familiar with the concept that CO2, alone, and when in the presence of water, radiates heat, in the form of IR, from the atmosphere to the ground/water surface of our planet. It is postulated that increasing CO2 levels causes a positive feedback mechanism, so that as the planet heats up, the planet heats up even more, and so on.
    Now there are some very large bodies of standing water on our planet that contain both water and CO2.
    There seems to be no reason why the mechanism postulated for CO2 induced heating of the atmosphere/ground interface to be so much different from the ocean/seabed interface.
    Water at 2000 m has a temperature of 301K, and so will emit across a nice board range of the IR spectrum with a peak intensity at 10 microns. Much of this IR with be reabsorbed by H2O/CO2 and then reemitted, upward and downwards. IR will then bounce around the oceans until hit hits the seabed, heating it up, or the very surface and manages to evade all the H2O/CO2 in the atmosphere and make it into space. Now as the surface water is hotter than the depths, more IR must makes it way down to the depth, than makes it up to the surface, as; 1) the surface water is hotter ands so emits more power than the depths and 2) the black body spectrum of the surface water is further away from the H2O/CO2 absorption peaks. If we accept the proposed mechanism (GHG) for ground heating by atmospheric H2O/CO2, we should also accept it for the heating of the seabed by oceanic H2O/CO2.

    So I should like to know:-
    1) How does the ocean transfer heat to the atmosphere?
    2) How is the large temperature differential, with water depth, maintained?
    3) By what mechanism is heat transferred from the ocean depths to the surface and vise versa?
    4) How much will IR heat the oceans?
    5) Does CO2 reradiated IR energy differ in its ability to change water temperature, compared with other energy source?
    6) Why isn’t there no CO2/water driven run-away heating of the oceans whereby IR trapped by H2O/CO2 is transferred to the seabed?

    Comment by DocMartyn — 11 May 2007 @ 7:34 PM

  109. Re #78: “Gavin, are you 100% certain that CO2-emissions from humans are the reason for Global Warming?”

    Why do so many people expect 100% certainty that human activity is a cause of gw/cc when virtually no other assessment that humans make is based on 100% certainty

    Comment by Jim Eager — 11 May 2007 @ 8:08 PM

  110. When it comes to assessing climate change and global warming, the person to ask is a climate scientist. No scientist is going to claim they are absolutely certain about the future, for many reasons – for example, a massive asteroid strike or the biggest volcanic eruption in a million years are not impossible events. However, paleoclimate studies, climate models, and direct observations all support the concept of anthropogenic global warming caused by CO2, CH4, N2O, and other IR-absorbing gas emissions, which are primarily due to the use of fossil fuels.

    When it comes to assessing risk and responding to risk, the people you want to ask are the insurance industry experts. They are quite worried about the long-term survival of their industry: see here, and here, and here.

    A few quotes:

    The U.S. government, insurer of last resort, faces a potential payout of at least $919 billion under a worst-case scenario of flood and crop losses due to global warming, congressional investigators say.

    “Climate change will significantly affect the health of humans and ecosystems and these impacts will have economic consequences,” concludes a new study cosponsored by Swiss Re, a global re-insurance company.

    This doesn’t mean that the insurance industry knows how to replace fossil fuels with clean energy sources; for that you want to talk to experts in renewable energy technology.

    Climate scientists will tell you that anthropogenic global warming is real. Insurance executives will tell you that it presents significant economic risks. Governments will tell you that these risks are so severe that they could lead to global warfare (i.e. the UN Security Council report), and renewable energy experts will tell you that the technology exists to meet global energy needs, but only if steps are taken to reduce global energy demand – i.e. conservation and energy efficient technology are necessary components of any strategy.

    However, fossil fuel interests will tell you that reducing energy demand and switching to renewables will wipe out their industry. All of which begs the question: why can’t the fossil fuel industry switch immediately to renewables? The only objection to that seems to be that it would drastically reduce their short-term profit margins. Hmmm… is that a valid objection, considering the magnitude of the risk?

    Comment by Ike Solem — 11 May 2007 @ 9:06 PM

  111. Chuck Booth (#107) wrote:

    Re # 95 Timothy Chase,
    Your point is certainly well taken, but note that I said (# 88): “…very little NEW scientific knowledge comes with absolute certainty.”

    I had agreed, but then took it a step further: “Empirical science never reaches absolute certainty, but it can approximate it.” (#95)

    However, large bodies of evidence, multiple independent lines of investigation leading to the same conclusions, and connections with what we already know can all add up into something almost as solid as the floor you last walked across without a second thought.

    Of course many of the conclusions of climatology don’t have that degree of justification – but then again it would be dishonest to argue as if climatologists were claiming that sort of certainty, wouldn’t it?

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 11 May 2007 @ 9:31 PM

  112. DocMartyn (#108) wrote:

    So I should like to know:-
    1) How does the ocean transfer heat to the atmosphere?

    The two mechanisms which would predominate are evaporation carrying away the heat by means of evaporation (this is afterall what drives hurricanes) and radiation.

    2) How is the large temperature differential, with water depth, maintained?

    Temperature differential? Undoubtedly this would depend. However, last I read, we know that the temperature is measurably increasing as far down as 1500 meters. This is one reason why hurricanes are becoming more powerful.

    3) By what mechanism is heat transferred from the ocean depths to the surface and vise versa?

    Principally by means of convection, but ocean depths tend to be cooler.

    4) How much will IR heat the oceans?

    Rather than asking me or engaging in armchair climatology, you might try asking climatologist. We have several here.

    5) Does CO2 reradiated IR energy differ in its ability to change water temperature, compared with other energy source?

    Why should it?

    6) Why isn�t there no CO2/water driven run-away heating of the oceans whereby IR trapped by H2O/CO2 is transferred to the seabed?

    At this point I would strongly recommend going to a climatologist: it is beginning to look like you are out of your depth, oceanic or otherwise.

    Gavin devoted an entire essay to explaining why positive feedback does not as a rule result in an endless runaway effect:

    5 Jul 2006
    Runaway tipping points of no return
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2006/07/runaway-tipping-points-of-no-return/

    The greenhouse effect itself depends upon positive feedback, but it does not generally result in run-away process.

    The following post of mine explains why – in the context of Gavin’s “simple model” (with an increased greenhouse effect due to carbon dioxide, the temperatures of the surface and the atmosphere rise until the thermal energy leaving the system in the form of infrared radiation equals the amount of thermal energy entering the system through the absorbtion of light from the sun by the surface), and it includes a link to a spreadsheet I created which will give you the chance to play with the numbers (if you export it to Excel)…

    A Spreadsheet for the Simple Model
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=411#comment-32400

    There is a little more in the post that immediately follows it.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 11 May 2007 @ 10:26 PM

  113. Re #108:

    Now as the surface water is hotter than the depths, more IR must makes it way down to the depth, than makes it up to the surface, as; 1) the surface water is hotter ands so emits more power than the depths and 2) the black body spectrum of the surface water is further away from the H2O/CO2 absorption peaks. If we accept the proposed mechanism (GHG) for ground heating by atmospheric H2O/CO2, we should also accept it for the heating of the seabed by oceanic H2O/CO2.

    Water absorbs red wavelengths like nobody’s business. Assuming that IR goes much of anywhere in water is incorrect.

    I forget how deep I was when I shot this photo, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t more than 60′. You’ll notice that it’s devoid of reds.

    Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

    Comment by FurryCatHerder — 11 May 2007 @ 10:58 PM

  114. Jim Eager (#109) wrote:

    Re #78: “Gavin, are you 100% certain that CO2-emissions from humans are the reason for Global Warming?”

    Why do so many people expect 100% certainty that human activity is a cause of gw/cc when virtually no other assessment that humans make is based on 100% certainty?

    Perhaps because they are looking only at the costs of trying to do something about climate change, not the costs of climate change itself. As long as they can entertain some doubt somehow, they don’t have to regard the costs of climate change as real – and all they see are the costs of trying to do something about it.

    If this makes as much sense to you as the sound of one hand clapping, I would suggest that the sense of paradox you are experiencing says at least as much about you as it says about them.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 11 May 2007 @ 11:14 PM

  115. Now, just imagine how fascinating it would be if there were some plausible physical explanation for, say, the correlation between solar activity and global average temperature.

    Comment by Charlie (Colorado) — 11 May 2007 @ 11:23 PM

  116. FurryCatHerder (#113) wrote:

    Water absorbs red wavelengths like nobody’s business. Assuming that IR goes much of anywhere in water is incorrect.

    I forget how deep I was when I shot this photo, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t more than 60′. You’ll notice that it’s devoid of reds.

    That’s right – although at the moment that I responded, I wasn’t entirely sure.

    The dots connect…

    I have seen the photos.

    Likewise, I remember that deepwater fish have their perception of color shifted towards the blue end, and the deeper down you go the more shifted it becomes. An evolutionary adaptation, much like how ice fish have amino acids added to a protein through hypermutation in a triple repeat – so that it acts as an antifreeze. In the more extreme cases (species which are further along the path), lower temperatures raise the amount of oxygen that the blood can carry, but red blood cells thicken the blood, so as an evolutionary adaptation, they lose their red blood cells. They are transparent, not a hint of red, hence the name.

    The bit about ice fish might not seem that important, but the same principle applies to the ocean: as the temperature rises, the capacity for carrying oxygen and carbon dioxide is diminished. The ocean is at first a sink for carbon dioxide, but then it becomes an emitter. Raise the temperatures in the artic and the amount of oxygen it picks up before being cycled through the ocean is lowered. Fish eventually suffer from anoxia. But we may lose the ice fish first – according to the use-it-or-lose-it rule. The genes which coded for hemoglobin might be able to recover, depending upon how much they have mutated since they were last used, but there won’t be anywhere near the time that would be necessary.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 11 May 2007 @ 11:40 PM

  117. Off Topic.

    We are surrounded by BUFFOONS!!!

    A couple of stories you gotta read together. Warning, It’ll make your blood boil.

    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/ABPub/zoom/html/2003694662.html

    http://www.kfdm.com/news/bees_20379___article.html/bee_apartment.html

    Comment by Ron R. — 11 May 2007 @ 11:43 PM

  118. Re 110: Ike Solem, thanks for your incisive summary, pretty much covering all the bases in very few words: “Paleoclimate studies, climate models, and direct observations all support the concept of anthropogenic global warming caused by CO2, CH4, N2O, and other IR-absorbing gas emissions, which are primarily due to the use of fossil fuels.”

    Regarding insurance concerns: the beginning of our fire season in the United States is looking worse than ominous, as the Missouri river rises, in the wake of a terrifying spate of tornados. How much punishment is necessary before people are willing to inconvenience themselves for the sake of moderating global warming? How much more brutally simple does it need to get?

    Sorry, one of my interests is the impossibility of getting through to anyone substantively. It’s a psychological or sociological question which got tangled up in this, because we are the source of the problem. If a perfectly obvious observation (such as Solem’s) fell in the woods, and no-one was there to hear it, did it make a sound?

    Comment by Daniel C. Goodwin — 12 May 2007 @ 12:08 AM

  119. Re #113:

    Okay, the preview showed the photo, but it was lost …

    Here’s the pic — Red absorption in water

    Comment by FurryCatHerder — 12 May 2007 @ 12:13 AM

  120. In fairness (and I’ve only glanced at a couple of comments so far), we should take a stab at debunking the meaning of this correlation without circular recourse to the badness of assuming correlation is causation.

    So let’s have at it. A comparison of how robust it is to solar theories would be instructive.

    Comment by Marion Delgado — 12 May 2007 @ 12:18 AM

  121. I note immediately it’s a bit exaggerated compared to the original, and indeed, you need to attack the politician sunspot thing both to highlight the similarity to solar cycle climate change arguments AND distinguish it from the carbon dioxide temperature correlation.

    I must say though, the urban liberal island idea by tamino is SHEER GENIUS. It makes the post for me.

    Comment by Marion Delgado — 12 May 2007 @ 12:28 AM

  122. Re: #101, 104, 108, 112 DocMartyn and Timothy Chase,

    Doc,
    You’ve prposed a physical model, which for reasons Timothy points out is not a good approximation to the ocean. I’ve done a theoretical calculation, which in its own way is not a good approximation. My main point was that this amount of power (8w/m2), although it appears small, will have measurable effect (2 degC) on 30 tonnes of water over a year.

    I think one of the main shortcomings of the 30 metre well of water is it will not adequately reproducing the mixing effect in the upper layers seen in the oceans. In fact if we didn’t have this mixing I suspect the impact of raised CO2 on climate would be greater as the heating of surface of the ocean would be restricted to shallower depths, and it is change in ocean surfacce temperatuires that drive climate change.
    Cheers,

    Bruce

    Comment by Bruce Tabor — 12 May 2007 @ 2:22 AM

  123. Re 112 Timothy,
    Thanks for the spreadsheet Timothy. I’ve read Gavin’s simple model and down loaded the spreadsheet. I am a little time-poor at the moment so I hope to get to it later.

    Comment by Bruce Tabor — 12 May 2007 @ 5:42 AM

  124. DocMartyn, I don’t even know where to begin. Maybe let’s start with how a scientist would approach your questions. First, he’d research them. He’d actually go out and crack some books and some journals and see what people have done before. If YOU were to do this, you would find that most of your questions have been answered.
    1) When you heat water, it’s temperature increases, but it also evaporates. The water vapor has a higher energy than liquid water (its latent heat) that it takes with it as it rises into the air. When the water vapor condenses into water droplets (clouds) it yields that heat (a lot of it) back to the atmosphere.
    2)Water absorbs light pretty efficiently. By the time you are 60-100 meters down, it’s pitch black. So you’ve got all that sunlight heating the upper 100 meters and none below. Water expands when it is heated, so the upper 100 meters for the most part is less dense and floats on top of the cold, dense water underneath.
    3)Heat is transfered from the surface to the depths by ocean currents. One consequence of all that warm water evaporating is that the water on top tends to be saltier, and this increases density. After the water flows north a bit and cools, it is heavy enough to sink down to the even colder depths. This is what drives the Gulf Stream, for instance.
    4)The oceans are heated by all the radiation they absorb, not just the IR. Basically the oceans will be heated to the point where they are in thermal equilibrium with the atmosphere and the radiation field above them. Increase the temperature or the radiation and the oceans will heat more. This is one of the things you can find out in text books and journals.
    5)I can’t quite figure out what you’re asking here. If you want to know how much of the IR radiation at the wavelength of CO2 absorption will be absorbed if said photons are incident on the ocean, the answer is all of it. Radiation is radiation. It is a fundamental principle of quantum theory that all photons of the same energy are indistinguishable. What CO2 does is increase the energy that stays in the atmosphere. That warms the whole planet–oceans and all.
    6)Why would there be such a runaway heating? Most of the oceans is insulated from what goes on at the surface by the warm layer above it that absorbs all the light.

    If you want controlled experiments, stay in the lab. The rather sizeable sum your experiment would cost would be better spent on experiments, modeling and satellite missions that would tell us something we don’t already know.

    Comment by ray ladbury — 12 May 2007 @ 5:53 AM

  125. Re: 78. Marian wondered whether Gavin is 100% certain that CO2 is behind climate change. Several have pointed out that science cannot be 100% certain about anything. Here’s another clue: Nothing is ever 100% certain. That is one of the brilliant realizations of the scientific method. If you want to know anything, give up on certainty. Science is descended from the tradition of thought in Western philosophy called rationalism, which held the (at its time) heretical notion that humans could figure things out by thinking about them. DesCartes was the most famous rationalist, and to get an idea of how seriously he took uncertainty, his dictum, “I think; therefore I am,” was an attempt to prove that he even existed. (BTW modern philosophers challenge even this proof’s certainty.) Nothing is certain. I cannot be certain that I am awake and typing and not dreaming. I cannot be certain that the Sun will rise tomorrow or even that it rose today (could be dreaming again, after all).
    You even had Bishop Berkley asserting that the world was just a dream in God’s mind and had no real existence. Saying this was all the rage in London, and sophists of the time loved taunting the rationalists saying, “You can’t refute it.” This led to the incident where Ben Johnson famously kicked a big rock and limped off, saying, “I refute it thusly.”
    The brilliance of Galileo, Francis Bacon, Newton and the other founders of the scientific method was that they gave up on certainty, and lo and behold the modern world was born. Science delivers knowledge that is as close to certainty as we can get. It is knowledge well beyond even the seeming certainty of daily life. It is just that because scientists know NOTHING is certain, they have developed a different way of using the language. Where a layman would say, “I know…” a scientist would say “I believe…” or more accurately, “We believe…” because consensus is essential to the scientific method.
    I will again recommend the excellent essay by Helen Quinn from the January Physics Today:
    http://www.physicstoday.org/vol-60/iss-1/8_1.html

    So, let’s put paid to these pernicious myths that because climate change is not 100% certain, it isn’t science, or that because science doesn’t deliver 100% certainty, it is somehow an inferior. When the world’s climate change experts nearly unanimously say that they are 90% certain that humans are causing climate change, you can take that to the bank. And when someone comes to you offering 100% certainty, keep your hand on your wallet.

    Comment by ray ladbury — 12 May 2007 @ 6:20 AM

  126. You are very welcome, Arvella. If I can help with anything, please don’t hesitate to e-mail me (bpl1960@aol.com). That being said, I’m not a climatologist, just a loud-mouthed would-be writer with an ancient physics degree.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 12 May 2007 @ 7:16 AM

  127. [[I very much doubt if any climate scientists would be interested in doing any actual, physical, expirements. ]]

    The history of general circulation models starts, among other things, with fluid on a rotating disk in a famous series of physical experiments. See Weart’s book (accessible from the right panel).

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 12 May 2007 @ 7:19 AM

  128. Re # 111 Timothy Chase: I agree

    Re # 124 Ray Ladbury: I agree with most of your comments, but feel compelled to clarify this one: “By the time you are 60-100 meters down, it’s pitch black.”

    That is certainly true in some productive lakes and coastal waters, but in the open ocean (and in the clearest freshwater lakes), light penetrates much deeper. The lowest depth at which photosynthesis exceeds respiration (= the compensation depth) is 100-200 meters in the open ocean, and well over 100 meters in some clear lakes (at least that was true a few decades ago; Tahoe, once one of the clearest, is becoming eutrophic). And measurable levels of light (though not sufficient for photosynthesis)occur another 100 or so meters down. Some data on this are reported in: The Oceans Their Physics, Chemistry, and General Biology, by Sverdrup, Johnson, and Fleming (http://content.cdlib.org/xtf/view?docId=kt167nb66r&brand=eschol); see Table 92 (http://preview.tinyurl.com/yoqa8n))

    Comment by Chuck Booth — 12 May 2007 @ 10:31 AM

  129. ray ladbury (#125) wrote:

    Science delivers knowledge that is as close to certainty as we can get. It is knowledge well beyond even the seeming certainty of daily life. It is just that because scientists know NOTHING is certain, they have developed a different way of using the language. Where a layman would say, “I know…” a scientist would say “I believe…” or more accurately, “We believe…” because consensus is essential to the scientific method.

    (Emphasis added.)

    In my view, this is not entirely accurate, but a fairly good approximation. In my view, empirical science has the right to claim not simply “I belief” but “I know.” Moreover, it should: otherwise science cannot claim “justification” or “objectivity.”

    In epistemology and the philosophy of science, we generally distinguish between “corrigible knowledge” and “incorrigible knowledge.” Corrigible knowledge is knowledge which has met a standard of justification, but which is not known with absolute certainty. Incorrigible knowledge is regarded as knowledge since its denial would be self-referentially incoherent, that is, would involve a contradiction between the denial itself and the context which must be presupposed for the act of denial to be meaningful.

    It is relatively easy to demonstrate to satisfaction of most that “corrigible knowledge” must be regarded as a form of knowledge. Most would grant, for example, that any empirical claim regarding the external world must be mediated, that is, must involve a means of perception. Likewise, they would grant that as individuals, any knowledge of the past presupposes beliefs involving a process of memory, and as such, their knowledge of the past itself is mediated.

    However, most would accept the fact that any knowledge of the external world which is mediated means that it is at least in principle capable of error. Examples of where knowledge claims may be subject to error involve perceptual illusions and instances in which we thought we remembered something accurately but were mistaken. In principle, any argument which involves one remembering something from a moment ago or which ultimately involves this form of memory depends upon this (such as when we first learn how to distinguish between awareness, memory or emotion) is therefore dependent upon knowledge which is at least in principle corrigible. (This, incidently, is the Achilles’ heal to one of Descartes’ central arguments.)

    As such, while one may be able to claim incorrigible knowledge where the denial of such knowledge would involve self-referential incoherence, one’s claims to such knowledge would themselves be dependent upon regarding corrigible knowledge (knowledge whose justification is a matter of degree) as a form of knowledge.

    Now why is this important?

    If one claims that science is not capable of knowledge but merely belief, one’s listener might get the impression that there are no standards of justification and that all claims to knowledge are nothing more than subjective, arbitrary beliefs. As such, they could claim that science is simply a form of faith and then that there is no standard by which to choose between this faith and some other faith which maintains claims which are entirely at odds with it.

    However, one’s acceptance of the conclusions of science is not merely an arbitrary act of an entirely subjective will. Scientists have the right to claim knowledge even though the justification of any claim of empirical science is justified, but never justified to the extent that it achieves absolute certainty.

    *

    In any case, later on I will probably provide a short link to a critique of Karl Popper’s principle of falsifiability. As for you wallet, I would prefer that you keep your hand on it.

    Take care…

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 12 May 2007 @ 11:33 AM

  130. Hi Guys!

    This is a revamp of a video about GW I did a few months ago, which I think you posted on your site. I used the term anthropomorphic instead of anthropogenic. Silly and rather embarrassing. That’s corrected now, and I’ve tightened up the voice over so it’s a but shorter, coming in at about 5 mins.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4NcRPQeRp_M

    It also touches on the scientific method, and the damage that creationism has done to science in general, so although not the typical fare of your site, it may be of interest.

    If the video helps your audience, by all means use it.

    Regards,


    Brian Coughlan
    Skpe:briancoughlanworldcitizen

    Comment by Brian Coughlan — 12 May 2007 @ 11:55 AM

  131. Re: #130 (Timothy Chase)

    Very interesting. I’m out of my depth when it comes to epistomology, but as a statistician it seems to me that we can apply a probabilistic approach to events which are testified to by multiple witnesses, multiple times, and eventually reach a point where the probability that all the testimony is an artifact of failed memory or tricky perception becomes so low, that it can be regarded as practically zero. Conservation of energy-momentum springs to mind. In that case, can we claim knowledge?

    Then of course there’s the questions of mathematics — the only science in which one can claim absolute proof. Do we have knowledge of pi?

    I’m confident that Homer Simpson would reply, “Mmmmmmmmm… pi”

    Comment by tamino — 12 May 2007 @ 12:05 PM

  132. Re #125: [...a scientist would say "I believe..."]

    I agree with the argument, but not the word choice. Believe is a word I try to avoid when discussing science. The problem is that there are two inherently contradictory usages of the word “belief”. The first describes the process by which the followers of e.g. religions and political systems hold the tenets of their particular belief system. There doesn’t seem to be any empiricism involved at all: if your leader or holy book says that Artesians are responsible for all the ills of society, the believers don’t ask for evidence, they just go massace Artesians. This sort of belief is absolutely certain, even when non-believers prove that it’s wrong.

    Scientific “belief”, on the other hand, is (or in a perfect world should be) entirely empirical. That makes me “believe” that for instance things thrown into the air will fall down, and that with the right formulas I can even predict when and where. But if you claim to have an anti-gravity machine, I won’t reject it out of hand because it conflicts with my empirical scientific knowledge. I’ll ask for a demonstration, and if it works, modify my previous view of falling things to include “except when Ray’s using his anti-gravity machine”.

    The problem with climate change is that we have a lot of people who have an implicit belief of the first sort (which might be paraphrased as “the world was created for the benefit of humans, therefore this can’t possibly happen”), and that trumps any and all empirical evidence to the contrary.

    Comment by James — 12 May 2007 @ 12:50 PM

  133. #129, Timothy Chase, May 12, 1133 am: “Scientists have the right to claim knowledge even though the justification of any claim of empirical science is justified, but never justified to the extent that it achieves absolute certainty.”

    Timothy, you used the phrase “absolute certainty” at least twice. For you, what does that phrase mean?

    Comment by Burgess Laughlin — 12 May 2007 @ 1:09 PM

  134. “belief”, “knowledge”, “probability” — A subjectivist Bayesian ascribes probabilites to beliefs, the higher the more certain. If by knowledge one means holding a true belief, that is, a belief which is in fact correct, then the subjectivist Bayesian strictly speaking never does this, only ascribing a probability very, very close to one, but not yet equal to one.

    Life is too short for such games when the matter seems clear: the sun will rise once again in the morning, etc.

    There are also the objectivist Bayesians and the likelihoodists. For a starter, see the section on inductive logic in the Stanford Encylopdia of Philosophy. Some might care for warmups using the Wikipedia pages including those for Bayes factor, naive Bayes classifier and other links found on those pages.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 12 May 2007 @ 2:47 PM

  135. I will do this in two parts. The first will be of more general interest, but the second may be so specialized that RealClimate might prefer not to post it – which is of course entirely their decision…

    Part I:

    Tamino (#131) wrote:

    Very interesting. I’m out of my depth when it comes to epistomology, but as a statistician it seems to me that we can apply a probabilistic approach to events which are testified to by multiple witnesses, multiple times, and eventually reach a point where the probability that all the testimony is an artifact of failed memory or tricky perception becomes so low, that it can be regarded as practically zero. Conservation of energy-momentum springs to mind. In that case, can we claim knowledge?

    Not a problem – I am out of my depth when it comes to anything beyond basic statistics.

    I would agree that multiple witnesses and multiple observations can increase the probability of scientific claims being true. This is in fact simply a narrower application of the principle that when a given conclusion receives justification from multiple, independent lines of investigation, its degree of justification can be far greater than that which it would receive from any given line of investigation considered in isolation from the rest. This is essential to both individual cognition and a community-based scientific enterprise. Moreover, with regard to many of the conclusions which science arrives at, it is capable of claiming justification which is arbitrarily close to that of certainty – particularly within the context of a community.

    Moreover, I would most certainly claim that empirical science is capable of not simply “belief” but “knowledge,” corrigible knowledge. In principle, it is possible that some evidence may be discovered at some later point which requires us to entirely abandon nearly any given scientific claim no matter how well justified it might be. However, if one denies “corrigible knowledge” the status of knowledge, then as a matter of principle, one undercuts any and all claims to knowledge – including what few propositions may in fact acheive incorrigibility – such that the very act of denying them must presuppose their truth and thus cannot be rationally maintained due to an incoherence implicit in the act itself.

    In any case, my essential point is this: science can properly claim not simply belief, but objectivity, justification and knowledge. Radical skepticism is not a rational alternative to empirical science. Neither is dogmatic fundamentalism. Moreover, there is a core to a minimalistic rational defense of empirical science. I don’t think that it is necessary to go into the details here – and I am not entirely sure that I would be able to finish the job to my personal satisfaction if I tried. But it is important to understand its general thrust if for no other reason than being able to respond to those who would assert that truth (including scientific truth) is a function of one’s class, race or religious belief.

    For example, both young earth creationists and proponents of intelligent design will sometimes claim that mainstream science is founded on some form of atheistic materialism, and that what they wish to regard as science necessarily presupposes a religious foundation. Likewise, the have been a large variety of movements which argue that all beliefs are ultimately a function of the ideologies of those who hold them. By holding that science isn’t capable of knowledge but only believe, one leaves science more vulnerable to such ideologically-motivated attacks.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 12 May 2007 @ 3:34 PM

  136. Tamino, There are interpretations of scientific knowledge in terms of Bayesian “degree of belief”. There are others that look only at relative probability as defined by likelihood. An interesting issue with the Bayesians is that if one’s Prior is zero at any outcome, it is impossible to get a nonzero probability even if it is realized. If the denialists assign zero probability of anthropogenic causation–they’ll never believe in it no matter what the evidence says.
    As to mathematics, the incompleteness theorem shows that even in arithmetic, 100% certainty is impossible. That is, even mathematics is at some level empirical. According to Gandhi and certain mystics, religion is empirical as well. The problem with religions: They are founded by geniuses and practiced even by idiots.

    Comment by ray ladbury — 12 May 2007 @ 3:55 PM

  137. Part II:

    Alright. Part I was of more general interest.

    This part is much more specialized. However, it may be of interest to those that deal with issues in epistemology, the philosophy of science, or have an interest in the philosophy of science. Normally I would prefer not to go off in this direction – as it would seem to divert our attention from the proper focus of Real Climate. However, I myself will make an exception as a couple of individuals expressed some interest.

    But I think David Benson has the right idea, and after this we should probably move on…

    Tamino (#131) wrote:

    Then of course there’s the questions of mathematics — the only science in which one can claim absolute proof. Do we have knowledge of pi?

    The truths of logic and mathematics are often capable of being known with certainty. However, with regard to their truth, the central question becomes, “How are they related to reality?”

    For example, there are those who study what are called “alternate logics.” Given the existence of alternate logics, it is sometimes argued that logic is simply a matter of convention. However, when examining any alternate logic, one of the first questions should always be, “Is it internally consistent?” If it is not internally consistent, then it is incoherent and cannot be considered a rational alternative to more traditional forms of logic. But one cannot determine whether or not an alternate logic is internally consistent by appealing to the alternate logic itself, and thus one must have recourse to traditional logic if the alternate logic is to be a rational object of study.

    Likewise, mathematics can be built upon the foundation of logic. However, how does it relate to the world? Kant, for example argued that some propositions are true simply by definition (analytic a priori truths), others are empirical but dependent upon experience (synthetic a posteriori truths), independently of experience but are empirical in nature (synthetic a priori). But one of the more important arguments against this view is that there is no general criteria by which to decide whether a given truth is analytic or synthetic a posteriori. Alternatively, early in the twentieth century, logical positivists argued that all statements are either analytic a priori or synthetic a posteriori – doing away with propositions in favor of statements, and abandoning the synthetic a priori as meaningless. In their view, anything which could be known with certainty would simply be true by convention.

    However, logical positivism was abandoned – largely because any version of logical positivism was as a matter of principle self-referentially incoherent. Likewise, it has been argued that Kant is self-referentially incoherent. However, in an essay on “The Critique of Pure Reason,” I argued that the “critique” is self-referentially incoherent if and only if it is regarded as a product of what he refered to as “pure theoretical reason.” But I also argued that if it is not a product of “pure theoretical reason,” then in terms of his system, it must be regarded as a product of “pure practical reason,” in which case it is circular. In either case it is untenable. Moreover, I extended this criticism to the analytic/sythetic dichotomy itself.

    If you think about it, any concept which we might employ is meaningful if and only if it is somehow related to reality. As such, in my view, while definitions are certainly useful, there ultimately isn’t much point in trying to divide all propositions or truths into those which are simply “true by definition” and those which are regarded as true as a function of evidence. Likewise, conventions aren’t entirely conventional: there is often good reason for chosing one convention over another, and the reason is oftentimes empirical in nature. As a consequence, it would appear that what are sometimes called analytic truths are analytic, but are analytic only within a network of beliefs where the network itself must be at least in part empirical in nature, and where such analytic truths can be regarded as meaningful only as the result of their being a part of that network.

    Burgess Laughlin (#133) wrote:

    Timothy, you used the phrase “absolute certainty” at least twice. For you, what does that phrase mean?

    *

    Normally I wouldn’t even speak of absolute certainty except in order to introduce the distinction between and the necessity of corrigible and incorrigible knowledge. However, by “absolute certainty,” essentially I mean what is refered to as “Cartesian certainty.”

    *

    David B. Benson (#134) wrote:

    Life is too short for such games when the matter seems clear: the sun will rise once again in the morning, etc.

    I agree.

    Moreover, I am found of the Bayesian approach.

    Let’s get back to the science!

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 12 May 2007 @ 4:07 PM

  138. James, if you read the essay by Helen Quinn, that is pretty much the argument she is making. I was not advocating the use of “I believe” over “I know”–merely giving historical perspective.
    Tim, I strongly recommend the essay.

    Comment by ray ladbury — 12 May 2007 @ 4:24 PM

  139. “scientists believe…” “scientists know…” are both likely to engender confusion, IMO. Using “scientists are 90% confident that…” or “scientists are 99.9% confident that…” is clear and correct when an appropriate statistical test has, in fact, been performed.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 12 May 2007 @ 5:37 PM

  140. ray ladbury (#136) wrote:

    As to mathematics, the incompleteness theorem shows that even in arithmetic, 100% certainty is impossible. That is, even mathematics is at some level empirical. According to Gandhi and certain mystics, religion is empirical as well. The problem with religions: They are founded by geniuses and practiced even by idiots.

    According to the incompleteness theorem, for a mathematical system of sufficient complexity, either the system is incomplete, which means that while it is possible to prove some statements to be true, there will always be some statements which are meaningful (in the sense that they can be expressed in the language of that system) but which cannot be proven, or the system will be inconsistent. And yes, arithmetic is sufficiently complex that it must be incomplete or inconsistent. I am betting on the former myself.

    With regard to religion, you won’t get any disagreement from me there. In any case, it looks like we have similar viewpoints in a number of areas.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 12 May 2007 @ 5:44 PM

  141. David B. Benson (#137) wrote:

    Using “scientists are 90% confident that…” or “scientists are 99.9% confident that…” is clear and correct when an appropriate statistical test has, in fact, been performed.

    I believe this is the right way to go – with the stuff that is cutting-edge – which is generally what scientists are interested in talking about. But what if someone denies that we know that mammals descended from reptiles, or reptiles from fish? The evidence is overwhelming. What if they wish to deny that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas? Or that at the quantum level, particles behave like waves? These aren’t simply things that I am confident about – and it would be rather bizarre to try and subject them to a statistical test insofar as they are so well established or derivable from something which is. Likewise, there wouldn’t be much sense in performing a Beyesian analysis on them.

    In my view, given the context, it is perfectly acceptable to say we know these things, and that for all intents and purposes, we are certain about them – even though they aren’t instances of incorrigible knowledge.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 12 May 2007 @ 6:00 PM

  142. Re # 137 Using “scientists are 90% confident that…” or “scientists are 99.9% confident that…” is clear and correct when an appropriate statistical test has, in fact, been performed.

    I’m sure Tamino and others more versed in statistics than I am will correct me if I am wrong, but your statement strikes me as an inaccurate (albeit common) interpretation of statistical probability (that is, P values and confidence limits). P values and confidence limits represent the statistical probability that a specific observed event, or distribution of data values around a mean, was due to random chance, as opposed to some non-random “forcing” if you will (to borrow a term from climatology). This really has nothing to do with the confidence a given scientist has that his or her conclusion is correct (which is how I interpreted your response; I have seen similar statements on other RC threads and in the popular press). In analyzing data, scientists usually have no basis for expressing their confidence that a result is correct outside of their knowledge of how to interpret a statistical test of randomness vs. non-randomness (except their “gut” feeling that something is right, or wrong, with their data based on prior experience).

    Comment by Chuck Booth — 12 May 2007 @ 6:39 PM

  143. Re #141: Timothy Chase — I agree, largely, especially with your last paragraph. Indeed, some notion of confidence (or probability that a certain hypothesis best explains the evidence) is used in rational decision theory to inform decision makers. What is usually called the background is the part we are so certain about that we simply accept the laws. Said another way, the probability is taken as one and only the most pedantic Bayesian would object.

    Re #142: Chuck Booth — I believe I used the term rather precisely, following the literature on hypothesis testing. See my previous post which offers links into the literature on selecting one hypothesis over another, often called inductive logic. In particular, the competing hypothesis can be, and often are, completely deterministic. But alas, the data collection often contains some error, often taken as random. This, of course, means that one can at best determine only the likelihood that one hypothesis is better than the other. Then there are standard methods to express what is often called the confidence.

    It is not that non-practitioners of statistical reasoning won’t be slightly misled by expressions about confidence, they will. But they will be only slightly misled as opposed to the use of the term believe, which is fraught with possibilities of the deepest misunderstandings…

    Comment by David B. Benson — 12 May 2007 @ 8:20 PM

  144. Dear ray ladbury, let me thank you for your reply and your insights into climate science.

    “Maybe let’s start with how a scientist would approach your questions. First, he’d research them. He’d actually go out and crack some books and some journals and see what people have done before. If YOU were to do this, you would find that most of your questions have been answered.”
    I thank you for your advice.

    “1) When you heat water, it’s temperature increases, but it also evaporates. The water vapor has a higher energy than liquid water (its latent heat) that it takes with it as it rises into the air. When the water vapor condenses into water droplets (clouds) it yields that heat (a lot of it) back to the atmosphere.”

    Indeed, this is PARTLY true, however what is the relationship between the source of the energy input and its effects; i.e. if we put exactly the same amount of energy into the system, but using photons of different wavelengths, do we get the same outcome? No.

    What I would like to know is the relationship between the frequency of light poured into a body of water and the change in the evaporation rate and change in the temperature gradient of a body of water. Now different frequencies of light will give different results, even if the energy input into the system is the same.
    For instance, pure water absorbs light at 450 nm very poorly but absorbs much more strongly at 900nm, by about three orders of magnitude and at 10 micron by seven orders of magnitude. (http://www.lsbu.ac.uk/water/images/watopt.gif)
    The preitrance of the two wavelength is directly proportional to the extinction coefficient.
    If an energy packet, say 8w/m2, is delivered to the ocean at 450 nm it will penetrate the ocean about 18 meters before half is absorbed. The absorbed light causes an increase in kinetic energy of the water molecule and the excretion of IR, so that blue light therefore causes deep heating. If exactly the same amount of energy were delivered at 900 nm half will be blocked in the first 2 cm. This is the reason that water looks blue, red light is absorbed.
    IR radiation from atmospheric CO2 re radiance will be half absorbed by the first 2 microns of the surface. This absorbance will be enough to kick some of the molecules on the right of the Boltzmann curve, further to the right, giving them escape velocity. So red light and IR will increase the evaporation of the water, but have little effect on the temperature, because of lack of prenitrance.
    This means that light in the blue end of the visible band will tend to heat the water in bulk, whereas the red and IR will only “heat” the surface.

    “3)Heat is transfered from the surface to the depths by ocean currents. One consequence of all that warm water evaporating is that the water on top tends to be saltier, and this increases density. After the water flows north a bit and cools, it is heavy enough to sink down to the even colder depths. This is what drives the Gulf Stream, for instance.”
    Why is heat not conducted? Why does water have such a heterogeneous temperature profile that correlated with depth? What happens when heat is injected at depth?
    This last one is very interesting as near high temperature undersea vents the temperature gradient can be 100 degrees cm-1. Is it possible to heat the deep water or is heat exchange to the surface too fast?

    4)The oceans are heated by all the radiation they absorb, not just the IR. Basically the oceans will be heated to the point where they are in thermal equilibrium with the atmosphere and the radiation field above them. Increase the temperature or the radiation and the oceans will heat more. This is one of the things you can find out in text books and journals.
    See my response 3 and 4. How is heat transferred up and down the oceans?

    5)I can’t quite figure out what you’re asking here. If you want to know how much of the IR radiation at the wavelength of CO2 absorption will be absorbed if said photons are incident on the ocean, the answer is all of it. Radiation is radiation. Radiation is not radiation, see reply to 1).
    “It is a fundamental principle of quantum theory that all photons of the same energy are indistinguishable.”
    It is also true that both you and a pack of howling baboons are examples of solutions to Schrodinger’s wave equation, but that neither here or there.
    “What CO2 does is increase the energy that stays in the atmosphere. That warms the whole planet–oceans and all.”
    The question is if CO and water help ensure that heat the reach the surface of the atmosphere ground interface is recycled by bouncing back outgoing IR radiation, why does not the same system exist under the seas?
    There is more water and CO2 in the oceans than in the atmosphere, so why is not IR radiation from the sea bed not continually recycled so that the oceans boil away? No IR radiation form the blackbody radiation of the seabed will ever be able to escape, so where does this energy go?

    6)Why would there be such a runaway heating? Most of the oceans is insulated from what goes on at the surface by the warm layer above it that absorbs all the light.
    You see, even you can recognize that only the surface should warm up, increasing evaporation, not heating.

    “If you want controlled experiments, stay in the lab.”

    I work in the lab almost six days a week and all my experiments have the appropriate controls.

    “The rather sizeable sum your experiment would cost would be better spent on experiments, modeling and satellite missions that would tell us something we don’t already know.”

    I had always though that Billions were being thrown at climate science, so I wondered why the guys and gals never bother to conduct any actual experiments.

    [Response: I'm not really sure I want to jump in here, but the preferential absorbtion of different wavelengths in the ocean is pretty well understood , and while it does make a difference, it has no particular impact on the uptake of heat by the ocean in climate change experiments. Secondly, lots of 'actual experiments' are conducted in climate science - both in the lab and in the field. They can be challenging, but that's never put off determined people. - gavin]

    Comment by DocMartyn — 12 May 2007 @ 8:46 PM

  145. A funny read… a sense of humor certainly helps in something that is as hotly debated as global warming.

    I once listened to a very stimulating talk about Charles Darwin and the theory of evolution. It was given by an entomologist who naturally looks for genetic relationships among insects. He made a comment that I think applies to this debate about global warming: “Let’s stop pretending we know more than we really know.”

    Let’s face it… global climate models, though they may be “physical models,” certainly don’t resolve all of the physics when they operate at resolutions on the order of 100s to 1000s of kilometers. When you can’t resolve physics, you are forced to make assumptions and create ways to represent the physical processes that you think are important. So, let’s be honest about the global climate models, we still have a long way to go, and one questions whether or not we ought to be making decisions that will cost our society billions and trillions of dollars based on these “physical” models. Our technological growth has occurred because we have had access to inexpensive power, which in the U.S. means coal power. And to think of all the CO2 that is dumped into our atmosphere running the supercomputing clusters that produce our global warming predictions!!!

    By the same token, we shouldn’t rule out theories of anthropogenic global warming based solely on solar activity observations. Without skeptics, or a reason to question, the motive for discovery is lost. To the global warming scientists out there, be grateful for the skeptics. Their questions make your efforts valid, and drive the quest to learn more about how our climate works. My sense is that we still have a lot to learn.

    Thanks to those on this blog who try to explain this science to the world. I’m an engineer, not an atmospheric scientist, so it helps to have people in this community point out the recent papers in the literature that are interesting and relevant, where one can go to learn more about the science.

    Comment by Michael — 12 May 2007 @ 8:50 PM

  146. Ray Ladbury (#138) wrote:

    James, if you read the essay by Helen Quinn, that is pretty much the argument she is making. I was not advocating the use of “I believe” over “I know”–merely giving historical perspective.

    Tim, I strongly recommend the essay.

    Belief and knowledgeâ??a plea about language
    Helen Quinn
    http://www.physicstoday.org/vol-60/iss-1/8_1.html

    Since I am at work at the moment, I only had the chance to look over it quickly, but I believe I am in agreement with it.

    The definition of knowledge I operate by is the old standard often attributed to Plato: justified true belief.

    Of course, justification isn’t usually a matter of either something being justified or not. Typically it is a matter of degree rather than kind, so at this point the question becomes, “How much justification before something counts as knowledge?”

    There is no easy answer to this question, but obviously we would want the probability (assuming we are thinking in those terms) to be more than 50 percent – preferably a good deal higher. But if someone were to deny that something is known unless it were justified to such an extent that no evidence could ever count against it, then in logic they can claim no knowledge. But in my view, radical skepticism is self-referentially incoherent (essentially self-refuting), therefore we must admit of knowledge even where, at least in principle, some evidence might count against it. Essentially a rather vanilla view. The twist is basically in regarding the framework for such an approach as incorrigible. Twisted like a Mobius strip.

    Anyway it looks like we agree on the important points.

    Not that it would matter all that much if we didn’t. No doubt there would still be plenty that we agreed on – like the necessity of doing something about climate change. Somehow I think that issue is a little more urgent than where one stands on the synthetic a priori or self-referential argumentation – at least for the foreseeable future.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 12 May 2007 @ 9:19 PM

  147. Re 144. Michael, isn’t it interesting that whenever someone comes out and says that the climate models suck and we really don’t understand climate, they are almost invariably NOT climate scientists? First, the attribution of climate change to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions does not in any way depend on the detailed climate models. There simply is no other mechanism that could explain it. Second, the climate models work. They nailed the effect of Mt. Pinatubo. And they have been invaluable in understanding what is actually going on. I think that it should tell us something that whenever there has been an experimental result that conflicted with model predictions (e.g. cooling of the oceans or discrepancies between tropospheric and satellite measurements), it was the experimental result that was in error. Moreover, when the models have been wrong, it has been because they were too conservative.
    Finally, WE ARE CHANGING THE CLIMATE, AND WE WILL HAVE TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. So you’d better hope the models work, because otherwise we will be flying blind. Without the models we have no idea how much we need to cut ghg emissions, how close we might be to tipping points or whether particular mitigations will have any effect.
    So maybe before you suggest that we not claim more than we know, you ought to learn what we in fact do know.

    Comment by ray ladbury — 12 May 2007 @ 10:14 PM

  148. DocMartyn, What matters is energy absorbed. And if the same amount of energy is absorbed at 900 nm or at 450 nm, it has the same effect ultimately. It is true that the initial effect of energy absorbed by a vibrational or rotational band will be vibration or rotation. However, that will ultimately get turned into heat.(Look up equipartition.) Yes of course water gets heated by volcanic vents (it doesn’t usually boil, though, as the pressure is too high). However this amount of heating is negligible in the energy balance of the oceans.
    As to why you don’t get a runaway greenhouse effect in the oceans–you’e already answered your own question: the skin depth is too shallow. The light never penetrates to the deep oceans. And conduction is not a particularly effective mode of heat transfer, as it only acts at the boundary layer.
    I really can’t imagine you working in a lab. Not only do you not have an inkling about science, you don’t even realize what you don’t know.

    Comment by ray ladbury — 12 May 2007 @ 10:28 PM

  149. Gavin, thanks for continuing to note when you see that misstatements are being made on a sustained basis.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 12 May 2007 @ 10:38 PM

  150. Re #145:

    Our technological growth has occurred because we have had access to inexpensive power, which in the U.S. means coal power. And to think of all the CO2 that is dumped into our atmosphere running the supercomputing clusters that produce our global warming predictions!!!

    Fortunately we have access to a lot of very cheap energy through conservation and increased efficiency, and we also have reached a point where renewable energy is cost-competitive with fossil based power.

    There was an article in this morning’s paper about the switch from incandescents to fluorescent lights. Supposedly we could cut 80 coal plants’ worth of power by switching. The Great Plains have enough wind to power the entire country. Waste stream biomass is being deployed more and more often and also produces energy cost-competitive to fossil fuels.

    The need for cheap coal power no longer exists, and if people persist in using fossil fuels, it will cease to be cheap.

    The “but we need cheap power” mantra is more about fossil power producers needing to stay in business. It has precious little to do with “needing” power.

    Comment by FurryCatHerder — 12 May 2007 @ 10:39 PM

  151. Re # 145 Michael “…an entomologist who naturally looks for genetic relationships among insects…Let’s stop pretending we know more than we really know.”
    At the risk of moving off-topic, what was his point? Know about what? Evolution?

    Comment by Chuck Booth — 12 May 2007 @ 10:46 PM

  152. Michael (#144):

    I will assume that you are both honest and of good will, but granting this, I believe you are mistaken.

    For many people, all that they see are the costs associated with trying to do something about climate change, and given this, they will go out of their way to deny that it is occuring or that we are causing it. As long as they can cast some doubt some how, no matter how unreasonable it may be, they will do so. However, while there are costs associated with trying to do something about climate change, there are far greater costs associated with climate change itself.

    Moreover, we understand the basics, and the models are demonstrating an increasing degree of accuracy. They are powerful – and they are telling us that we are in for a world of hurt if we don’t do something about this. Not a runaway greenhouse effect, and probably not the extinction of our species, but nevertheless, there is a great deal at stake.

    It is not a mathematical exercise. It is not a game.

    The arctic icecap will be gone soon, the oceans are heating up, the plants are losing their ability to metabolize carbon dioxide, the coral reefs are dying, and the droughts are spreading. Various forms of positive feedback are just kicking in, but our governments are looking for reasons to postpone action, to wait until others act, to do nothing.

    We can’t afford this anymore.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 12 May 2007 @ 10:57 PM

  153. Doc Martyn

    “I had always though that Billions were being thrown at climate science, so I wondered why the guys and gals never bother to conduct any actual experiments.”

    Opening a first year meteorology textbook “An Introduction to Dynamic Meteorology” J. Holton 4th Ed. 2004 Elsevier Press to page 354, we find the heading:

    “Laboratory Simulation of the General Circulation”

    Which includes a discussion of a myriad of laboratory experiments that have been conducted on the general circulation of atmospheric motion and heat transfer. It includes photos, graphs, a bit of maths and a fair bit of analysis. Bear in mind this is not a climatology research text. It is a book aimed at meteorology undergraduates and applied mathematicians (such as myself) with an interst in meteorology and climate. It’s the tip of the iceberg. Many, many other experiments are performed in the fields of climatology and meteorology.

    Also, climatology and meteorology are interdisiplinary subjects. As such, experiments conducted in other fields (such as heat, mass and vapour transport and radiative transfer) feed into climatology. There is alot of cross over.

    Have a look at MIT’s geophysical fluid laboratory:

    http://eapsweb.mit.edu/research/facilities.html#GFD

    as an example of a facility that undertakes laboratory studies in climate related displines.

    To suggest that climatologist do not perform laboratory experiments is rather dismisive and bizarre. I think that before making such claims, you should do a little more research.

    Comment by ChrisC — 12 May 2007 @ 11:27 PM

  154. Re #141: [But what if someone denies that we know that mammals descended from reptiles, or reptiles from fish? The evidence is overwhelming.]

    That’s a good illustration of the two different thought processes involved in belief. The religious type of believer knows that his/her deity of choice created all the animals, therefor any “evidence” for evolution must likewise have been created, either by the deity as a test of faith, or by Satan as a snare for the unwary. There’s no logical way to disprove this, either. Postulate the existence of a sufficiently powerful being, and of course that being could have faked all the evidence.

    The scientific thought process, by contrast, really isn’t interested in absolute truth, but in the fact that looking at life through the lens of evolution allows one to make useful predictions. Maybe it was all faked by some deity, but at least it appears to have been a consistent fake, and that’s good enough to be going on with :-)

    Comment by James — 12 May 2007 @ 11:34 PM

  155. Re #145: [...and one questions whether or not we ought to be making decisions that will cost our society billions and trillions of dollars based on these "physical" models.]

    What would you suggest as an alternative, wishful thinking? Those decisions are going to be made – even a decision to do nothing is still a decision, and if wrong would certainly cost those billions and trillions of dollars, at the very least. Shouldn’t a rational person base such decisions on the best advice available?

    [Our technological growth has occurred because we have had access to inexpensive power, which in the U.S. means coal power.]

    It could equally well be argued that technological growth has been stifled by cheap energy, since it provides no incentive to replace crude & wasteful technology with more advanced alternatives.

    [And to think of all the CO2 that is dumped into our atmosphere running the supercomputing clusters that produce our global warming predictions!!!]

    Quite a trivial amount, really. A mere fraction of what is produced by – just to pick an example off the top of my head – playing computer games, and that’s only a small part of what’s generated just by unused outdoor lighting, or the people who’ll go “camping” in their RVs this summer.

    Comment by James — 12 May 2007 @ 11:56 PM

  156. we also have reached a point where renewable energy is cost-competitive with fossil based power

    If you are talking about hydro power then yes… it is cost competitive, however we can’t presently dam up any more rivers for other environmental reasons. When you start talking about wind and solar energy, they are not cost competitive with coal power. Solar is currently about three times as expensive as coal power. Wind is not consistent enough to provide base load power, nor is there enough potential energy available from wind to replace even the 50% of our power generation that comes from coal. The only inroads I see renewables making in replacing fossil fuels in the near-term is in the transportation sector, where due to the high price of oil, it has become cost effective. However, even there you run the risk of having the Saudis boost output to drop the price of oil and kill the competition. For base load power generation, we are far from having cost effective renewable power.

    The arctic icecap will be gone soon, the oceans are heating up, the plants are losing their ability to metabolize carbon dioxide, the coral reefs are dying, and the droughts are spreading. Various forms of positive feedback are just kicking in, but our governments are looking for reasons to postpone action, to wait until others act, to do nothing.

    This is an example of what I think is meant by “pretending to know more than we really know.” My point in bringing that up from evolution science was because I see similarities in both the GW and evolution debate. For some reason, a number of climate scientists want the debate to end. Why? Won’t that render your jobs obsolete? If it is a stone-cold, hard, proven fact that anthropogenic forcing is driving climate change, then let’s quit paying for climate science, and boost subsidies for renewable energy, so it can be affordable for the middle and lower classes in society.

    I would like us to wait 5 or 10 years to see if the model predictions hold up. That will hopefully be a long enough time for the popular press to get bored with the issue, so that scientists can work in peace and find real answers. In the meantime, we should certainly be responsible, conserve energy, and work on new technology. However, I don’t agree with spending 3% (seemed like a low estimate to me) of the GDP on CO2 reductions with such a commitment based largely on computer models.

    Comment by Michael — 13 May 2007 @ 12:47 AM

  157. “On the basis of these intriguing results, we propose exposing Republican senators to varying levels of cosmic rays in a basement…”

    When can we start?

    Comment by Regina — 13 May 2007 @ 5:28 AM

  158. Anyone care to explain why this claim by Reid Bryson is wrong:

    “Well let me give you one fact first. In the first 30 feet of the atmosphere, on the average, outward radiation from the Earth, which is what CO2 is supposed to affect, [80 percent]of the reflected energy is absorbed by water vapor. In the first 30 feet, 80 percent…

    ….And how much is absorbed by carbon dioxide? Eight hundredths of one percent. One one-thousandth as important as water vapor. You can go outside and spit and have the same effect as doubling carbon dioxide.”
    http://www.wecnmagazine.com/2007issues/may/may07.html

    I can see the conclusion that spitting has the same effect as doubling co2 is false. It’s ignoring the negative water vapor feedback and it’s totally at odds with the direct radiative forcing from doubling co2 given in textbooks.

    But I wonder how valid his facts about the first 30 feet of atmosphere are. I tried to come up with my own reasoning why this was wrong, and I guess it’s probably because the greenhouse effect is dependant on the entire atmosphere, not just the first 30 feet. But I would be grateful for anyone who can explain this in more detail.

    Comment by bobn — 13 May 2007 @ 5:55 AM

  159. Brian — I thought the video was basically very good. I have a few quibbles, though.

    1. “Use less energy” translates in many peoples’ minds to “suffer and go without stuff.” The main point is to get our energy from different sources. Using less obviously helps, but that shouldn’t necessarily be the political centerpiece of the response to global warming.

    2. Green Parties are endorsed at the end. This won’t sit well with Labor or Tory voters, who are most of the voters. And those parties are also concerned about global warming. Many people have reasons for disliking the Green Party. In the US, it helped George Bush win over Al Gore. In Germany, it supported a boycott of Jewish-owned businesses. People affected by these things will not support the local Green Party under any circumstances.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 13 May 2007 @ 6:14 AM

  160. [[ The first describes the process by which the followers of e.g. religions and political systems hold the tenets of their particular belief system. There doesn't seem to be any empiricism involved at all: if your leader or holy book says that Artesians are responsible for all the ills of society, the believers don't ask for evidence, they just go massace Artesians. This sort of belief is absolutely certain, even when non-believers prove that it's wrong.]]

    A belief is a belief is a belief. Beliefs can either be right or wrong, accurate or inaccurate. Categorizing all religious and political beliefs as per se wrong and all scientific beliefs as per se right is itself a wrong belief.

    [Response: I have deleted a number of comments on this subject on this thread because the science/religion issue is not an appropriate subject for this blog. There are plenty of other venues in which this is encouraged, but here it is just a distraction. To all commenters, please stick to the science. - gavin]

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 13 May 2007 @ 6:16 AM

  161. [[For example, both young earth creationists and proponents of intelligent design will sometimes claim that mainstream science is founded on some form of atheistic materialism]]

    A lot of militant atheists claim this as well, including ones who understand evolution, but mistakenly think it implies atheism. Examples would be Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Victor Stenger.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 13 May 2007 @ 6:18 AM

  162. [[By the same token, we shouldn't rule out theories of anthropogenic global warming based solely on solar activity observations.]]

    No. We should rule them out because the evidence doesn’t support them.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 13 May 2007 @ 6:22 AM

  163. Barton, my comment was not meant to be anti-religious, and I am sorry if I expressed it so sloppily that it could be interpreted as such. Certainly, atheism has its share of strident idiots as well. The problem you as a believer confront is that scientists are bombarded continually by attacks from people who proclaim themselves to be religious. I sympathasize and state my personal belief that there is no conflict between science and religion, only between science and stupidity.

    Comment by ray ladbury — 13 May 2007 @ 8:30 AM

  164. Scientists “believe”.

    Religionists “believe in”.

    One implies salvation.

    Comment by Dan Wentworth — 13 May 2007 @ 8:45 AM

  165. Re #158: bobn, the problem with the statement you quote is that you are meant to assume that greenhouse gases are like a blanket that trap energy. But energy cannot be trapped, and radiation that is absorbed low in the atmosphere is re-radiated, and will be absorbed again higher up in the atmosphere.

    The greenhouse effect works by lowering the temperature at which the Earth radiates energy back to space. The only greenhouse gas molecule that matters is the one which radiates into space, which mainly occurs in the upper atmosphere, where it is cooler. While there is much more water vapor than carbon dioxide at the surface, water vapor decreases with altitude, so carbon dioxide levels are relatively higher in the upper part of the atmosphere that is actaully responsible for the greenhouse effect.

    You can try reading this web page on the greenhouse effect for more details. Let me know if it is helpful.

    Comment by Blair Dowden — 13 May 2007 @ 9:31 AM

  166. Re #156 [enough time for the popular press to get bored with the issue, so that scientists can work in peace and find real answers]

    I can’t imagine that newspaper stories are impeding the research of any scientists studying climate, or any other field of science, for that matter. If you believe what you wrote, you are totally ignorant about scientific research.
    And as for holding off on any action to mitigate global warming and waiting for more research to see if the models hold up: To paraphrase (poorly, I’ll admit) Derek Bok’s warning about the cost of education (http://www.quoteworld.org/quotes/1616), “If you think responding to global warming now is expensive, try ignoring it.”

    Comment by Chuck Booth — 13 May 2007 @ 9:35 AM

  167. >In the first 30 feet of the atmosphere,

    Look at the first entry under Science in the right hand column, for the AIP History; look for the discussion of how the very early science didn’t realize that at high elevation/low air pressure CO2 behaves differently than at ground level.

    Any attempt by me to paraphrase would be recreational typing; if you don’t find Dr. Weart’s history pages clear enough, he specifically points out therein that it’s one of the hardest areas and asks for people to let him know what needs clarification.

    If you could persuade Dr. Bryson …. nah.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 13 May 2007 @ 9:50 AM

  168. Michael,

    I beg to differ on the subject of solar being competitive. For individuals going completely off the grid, the cost recovery is on the order of 15 to 20 years, depending on load and configuration. That it is less than infinity means it is cost competitive.

    When larger groups of people share a single solar power system, payback becomes even shorter because of something called “load diversity”. “Load diversity” means that different people use their blowdryer, toaster oven, electric dryer, and other high-load appliances, at different instances. The inrush current to start my A/C happens at a different time as the inrush current to start yours, and the neighbors, and so on. Power requirements regress to the mean. In a nutshell, if the peak power requirements for 10 people are put together, it isn’t 10 times any one individual, it’s significantly lower — closer to the average requirements. If 100 people, even closer to average, and if 1,000 people closer still to the average. What makes power generation and distribution expensive is peak power.

    To give you a really quick (and less than 100% accurate …) set of examples, my house averages roughly 800 watts (more or less …) over a 24 hour day without A/C running. That’s lights, computers, TV, washer, dryer, etc. If all I had to worry about was that 800 watts, or 20kWH, I could be off the grid for about $20K, and the system would pay for itself in under 20 years. But because, as an individual, I don’t benefit from load diversity, going off the grid would be closer to $35K, and since that would include using A/C at this point, the payback would be a couple years longer. If I don’t go “off the grid”, but instead net my consumption out to zero, the price drops from $35K to about $29K, and the payback period becomes 15 years. Oh — and those prices? Getting cheaper every year for solar, but more expensive every year for fossil fuel power.

    For utility scale solar power, they derive all the benefits of load diversity, so peak power isn’t the number of customers time the peak instanteous requirements for each customer(for me, my peak instantaneous power requirement is about 19.2kW), it’s the number of customers times the peak average demand, which for me is about 2.5kW. Additionally, the pricing I gave is consumer system prices. A utility scale system would be far below what I’d pay, and technologies such as Stirling Engine solar, are significantly less expensive than PV.

    Comment by FurryCatHerder — 13 May 2007 @ 11:18 AM

  169. Re #165: [...you are meant to assume that greenhouse gases are like a blanket that trap energy. But energy cannot be trapped...]

    Huh? You mean I’ve wasted all that money I spent on insulating my house? And indeed, all the money that I’ve spent on blankets, sweaters, thermos bottles and other energy-trapping devices the over the years? All these are nothing but a gigantic hoax?

    Comment by James — 13 May 2007 @ 12:05 PM

  170. The climate scientists over at NERC, here, are dealing with many of the same statements of belief, and indeed from some of the same names (of course anyone can pretend to be someone on the Internet, only the hosts can see your IP number).

    But even with that undertainty, much of the disputation at NERC is going over the same ground (and gases) as here.
    http://www.nerc.ac.uk/about/consult/debate/

    Some time might be saved by noticing which are FAQs and which are FABs (frequently asserted beliefs).

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 13 May 2007 @ 12:49 PM

  171. bobn (#158) wrote:

    But I wonder how valid his facts about the first 30 feet of atmosphere are. I tried to come up with my own reasoning why this was wrong, and I guess it’s probably because the greenhouse effect is dependant on the entire atmosphere, not just the first 30 feet. But I would be grateful for anyone who can explain this in more detail.

    Well, it helps me at least to be able to summarize what I have found, so at the risk of recreational typing….

    There is a fairly complex interplay between carbon dioxide and water vapor. Their absorbtion obviously differs in terms of the spectra, and as such this strongly influences their effects upon one another. The primary absorbtion by carbon dioxide occurs in the upper atmosphere where it is especially dry, and as such the effects of water vapour is fairly negligible. Reradiation, with “half” of the radiation returning to ground level results in the forcing by carbon dioxide. By itself this would raise the temperature of the earth by approximately one degree. However, this results in additional water vapor, which is of course a stronger greenhouse gas.

    Calculations based simply upon radiation would imply a runaway greenhouse effect – similar to that which has occured on Venus. In effect, the geometric series would have an r greater than one, and summing on successive powers of r would increase geometrically. The problem with such calculations is that they neglect the effects of convection which appear to be more than enough to avoid such a runaway catastrophe on earth. Nevertheless, once performs the calculations with all of these effects taken into account, one arrives at results which are roughly comparable with the numerical simulations, and as such, both provide independent verification for one another.

    What is interesting is that much of the more modern science was originally developed for military purposes as the military was particularly concerned with the absorbtion of infrared radiation by the atmosphere. Moreover, some of the more sophisticated mathematical methods were developed as part of astrophysics in studying the behavior of radiation and convection within stars. In a sense, our fairly developed understanding of the behavior of stars provides additional independent verification for our understanding of climate change.

    In epistemology, we might refer to this as coherentialist aspects of empirical science in which the justification which a given element receives is far greater as the result of its participation in a network of elements which are likewise receive some albeit limited justification.

    Empirical science is a unity because reality is a unity.

    *

    Anyway, the information I have just summarized is fairly dispersed, but what I have just given is available at:

    The American Institute of Physics
    Climate Change: The Discovery of Global Warming
    http://www.aip.org/history/climate/index.html

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 13 May 2007 @ 12:54 PM

  172. Chuck #166

    An obvious question…but if you were in charge of things your reason for investing big in mitigating the warming would be:

    1) Save lives?
    2) Ensure continued population growth?
    3) Ensure continued economic growth?
    4) Ensure our coast lines remain habitable?
    5) ?

    Are you certain that the investment in global warming is the most cost effective ways of achieving all those items? That’s where I really get tripped up in all this.

    If the cost to fix the warming was $1, there isn’t a person in the world that would be against fixing it. If the cost to fix it is $13T dollars/year (25% of world economic output), then I suspect that even some of most “convinced” scientists would say “Hummm. Let’s wait for another 10 years of research to come in on this subject.

    The biggest issue we face to date is that we have a bunch of people telling us this is going to cost, the longer we wait the more it will cost, and nobody knows the best way or right way to fix this. That’s kind of how a roofing salesmen operates, except he has a solution available.

    What do you think we should be spending on this?

    Comment by Matt — 13 May 2007 @ 2:00 PM

  173. #168 Michael

    If current home consumption is 12500 KWH per year (avg) in the US, and if electric cars are achieving around 0.1 KWH/mile, with 1.5 cars per home, and 12Kmi/car per year, we’re looking at a 13800 KWH/year.

    With yearly insolation at 5 KWH/sq m/day, and daily needs of 13800/365=38 KWH, that’s 7.6m2 of solar cells needed. But wait, because cells are 20% efficienct, and there’s no way to capture all the suns energy given placement and trackign limitations (assume we loose half) for a total efficiency of 0.10.

    A home with 1.4 electric cars needs 76m2 of solar cells, or an array roughly 25 feet per side that is aimed at the sun much of the day.

    Not very workable.

    Comment by Matt — 13 May 2007 @ 2:17 PM

  174. >> energy cannot be trapped,
    >>> blankets, sweaters, thermos bottles and other energy-trapping devices

    Blair, would you stipulate that radiative heat transfer is difficult, that “trapped” may not be a useful word to argue over, and that the description of the process is hard to put in fewer words than Spencer Weart’s chapter explaining it?

    James, would you stipulate that you know “convection, conduction, and radiation” — and that making comments that confuse them don’t help clarify an already difficult technical subject that takes a chapter of Weart’s book to describe in simple terms for the nonscientific reader?

    Can you get to the point of agreeing on the observed facts in the AIP history? Or is there some particular item in the physics you have reason to challenge?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 13 May 2007 @ 2:57 PM

  175. thanks for the resources everyone! Blair Dowden that information you linked to is excellent. It will take me a while to read through all of the links everyone has provided. Thanks again!

    Comment by bobn — 13 May 2007 @ 3:34 PM

  176. Hank Roberts (#170) wrote:

    Some time might be saved by noticing which are FAQs and which are FABs (frequently asserted beliefs).

    I have certainly thought the same thing.

    Talk Origins has done that with creationism and its attack on evolutionary biology. They also have a wonderful resouce on all of the quotes from scientists that get “edited” or otherwise taken out of context by creationists in their attacks upon science. It isn’t quite as bad in climate science and I suspect it won’t get that way for various reasons, but things like that might be helpful – especially if put together by the non-experts (there are more of them and they might have the time to do some of it), but checked by experts if and when they have the time. However, I personally would like to see a little more context than what Talk Origins has when it comes to contrarian claims and correct responses.

    Another thing which might be valuable would be scanning in the older articles as part of an online library. Much of what is being denied is actually rather old science. The newer articles don’t deal with the issues so much because the points which are being denied are more a matter of science history than current research. AIP helps, but it is still in the manner of an overview. The old tech articles would give one a place to go after that. As a matter of my own personal standards, particularly in terms of understanding the science, I might find this more interesting.

    It is being done in other areas nowadays.

    For example, the work of Sol Spiegelman (1966, etc) and Manfred Eigen (1974, etc) on the test-tube evolution of the Q-beta phage can now be found online. In case this is unfamiliar stuff, the Q-beta is a bacterial virus which slimmed down from 10,000 nucleotides (about the size of HIV) to approximately 70 on the low end and still replicate once it was no longer required to infect the host but simply reproduce in nutrients. I know the 120 nucleotide version replicated like gangbusters: being so short, there was far less that needed to be replicated. However, I don’t know whether the 70 nt was as fast. In any case, his put it in range of the self-assembly of RNA, and as such is of interest to those concerned with the origin of life.

    But with regard to the claim/response and links to material which is more in-depth, the nonspecialists might look into a wiki, for example.

    Now the following is not a FAQ, “just” an article, but it is something you may find of interest…

    Lindzenâ??s Newsweek Op-ed: Misleadingly Rosy
    by Dr. Michael C. MacCracken
    Chief Scientist for Climate Change Programs
    Climate Institute, Washington DC*
    Posted on Saturday, May 12, 2007
    http://www.climatesciencewatch.org/index.php/csw/details/maccracken_on_lindzen/

    Also, for daily climate news, you might check:

    ClimateWire Climate Change News and Information Service
    http://www.climatewire.org

    Incidently, here is one positive story from a few days ago:

    Scientists look high in the sky for power
    Jet stream could fill global energy needs, researchers say
    Keay Davidson, Chronicle Science Writer
    Monday, May 7, 2007
    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/05/07/MNGNEPMD801.DTL&feed=rss.news

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 13 May 2007 @ 5:50 PM

  177. With regard to the “good news” story:

    Scientists look high in the sky for power
    Jet stream could fill global energy needs, researchers say
    Keay Davidson, Chronicle Science Writer
    Monday, May 7, 2007
    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/05/07/MNGNEPMD801.DTL&feed=rss.news

    … one of the people involved was talking about the possibility (assuming research, etc) of jet stream turbines being online in fifteen years and being able to fill US needs for power. That may just be pie in the sky, but at least it is a heck of a lot closer than beginning construction on the prototype commercial nuclear fusion reactor late mid-century. Even once we finish the prototype reactor, we would still have to build the fleet to meet the energy needs.

    Anyway, I figure it helps to keep in mind that bit of British advice: “Chin-up.” The problems are big, but probably not insurmountable.

    Currently.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 13 May 2007 @ 6:32 PM

  178. I have to cry on somebody’s shoulder; I just read the most outrageously stupid item over at “World Climate Report”. I’m sure that you fellows have already dispatched this blog to the lower realms of wingnutdom, but I just have to get this off my shoulders.

    They are proudly trumpeting an item on correlations between Neptune’s observed b-magnitude and earth’s temperature. Their suggestion is that Neptune is undergoing global warming just like the earth’s, because it’s all because of the sun, not CO2.

    I don’t know where to begin. Neptune is a gas giant; its atmosphere is thousands of kilometers thick and we can see only the topmost layers. We have no way of knowing what’s going on inside, much less whether it’s warming up.

    They note that the Neptune data lags the earth’s data by ten years. Why the lag? Well, it takes ten years for Neptune to warm up!

    They also don’t understand the first thing about blackbody radiation. They’re showing b-magnitudes, which represent blue light. If Neptune were emitting more blue light because it’s getting warmer, then it would be at a temperature of, oh, maybe 10,000 degrees Kelvin. Any measurable increase in brightness due to planetary warming would be in the far infrared.

    I could go on with other absurdities in this article, but it’s just too much to bear. To think that ANYBODY takes this nut seriously is just too much to contemplate.

    Comment by Froblyx — 13 May 2007 @ 7:04 PM

  179. I’ve been plagued by a solar-theory guy & have told him repeatedly to check out RC, but here’s his latest from an e-letter he gets, including SUNSPOTS. Any comments (esp from hosts) would be appreciated so I could email them back to him. (Sorry for the long post):

    Earth Changes Newsletter
    By Mitch Battros – Earth Changes Media http://earthchangesmedia.com
    May 13th 2007

    *N.A.S.A. Scientists Fight for Funding of Space Weather Forecasting*
    by Mitch Battros – Earth Changes Media

    *The forthcoming “Super-Duper Doppler Weatherman” is fighting its way* through the US Congress for funding. It is a bitter-sweet current reality. The good news is the science community strongly supports the continued research and implementation of using the science of the Sun-Earth connection to forecast weather here on Earth. The challenging part of this, as with all scientific research is to obtain and maintain the funding needed through Congress.

    The ‘Super-Duper Doppler Weatherman’ if fully described in my book. ‘Solar Rain’ – The Earth Changes Have Begun*/ by Mitch Battros. I outline and describe the latest research which shows a much greater intimacy between solar activity and its ‘direct and immediate’ connection to weather here on Earth. This topic was the theme of the 2003 American Meteorological Society Conference of which N.A.S.A. Director; Sean O’Keefe was the keynote speaker. The theme was to discuss the future training of meteorologist to use space weather as part of their daily forecast.

    *The Equation:*
    Sunspots => Solar Flares => Magnetic Field Shift => Shifting Ocean and Jet Stream Currents => Extreme Weather and Human Disruption (mitch battros)

    *Today’s Fight to Implement the Super-Duper Doppler Weatherman*

    Below is the formal statement of Daniel N. Baker, Director, Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, Professor, Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences Department, University of Colorado at Boulder, which was conducted before the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics House Committee on Science and Technology.

    *Dr. Daniel Baker is Director of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics* at the University of Colorado-Boulder and is Professor of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences there. His primary research interest is the study of plasma physical and energetic particle phenomena in planetary magnetospheres and in the Earth’s vicinity. He conducts research in space instrument design, space physics data analysis, and magnetospheric modeling.

    *It is a major and lasting achievement of our nation* that it finds the means and the will to look beyond the pressure of present day concerns, to focus on questions about humanity’s place in the universe, our relationship to our Sun and the nearby planets, how the Earth and its environment have functioned in the past, and how they may change in the future. I believe – as do you, I suspect – that the United States has benefited greatly from investment in space research.

    *The National Research Council’s* (NRC’s) 2003 Solar and Space Physics SSP) Decadal Survey, “The Sun to the Earth – and Beyond: A Decadal Strategy for Solar and Space Physics,” laid out a clear, prudent, and effective program of basic and applied research.

    The envisioned program would address key science objectives such as: understanding magnetic reconnection – the physical process underlying much of space physics; discovering the mechanisms that drive the Sun’s activity and produce energetic particle storms in the heliosphere; determining the physical interactions of the Earth’s ionosphere with the
    atmosphere and magnetosphere; as well as addressing a host of other questions that are essential to understanding our local space environment.

    *The Decadal Plan would also *have allowed an end-to-end view of the connected Sun-Earth system through N.A.S.A.’s Living With a Star (L.W.S.) program, thereby enhancing greatly the ability to provide realistic
    specification and forecasts of space weather. Through both its basic research component and its applied component, the Heliophysics Program would therefore contribute substantially and directly to national needs and to the Vision for Space Exploration…..

    Mitch Battros produces *a bi-weekly radio show titled “Earth Changes Radio Hour”. He began in television in April 1995 and continued until August 2002 at which time he switched to radio and can be heard world wide. He is the author of “Solar Rain” (The Earth Changes Have Begun) addressing the Sun-Earth Connection and its effect on weather and humans. He is a licensed mental health therapist specializing in PTSD (trauma resolution). He is a member of the Red Cross Disaster Team
    mental health unit. Mitch works with the King Co. Emergency Management Office as a field trainer, and is a certified N.A.D.A. acupuncturist.

    Thanks for any pithy comments on any part of this….And who is Daniel Baker – any credibility? Mitch Battros?

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 13 May 2007 @ 8:11 PM

  180. Re #173

    Matt,

    The examples I gave are very workable and very real-world scenarios. They
    don’t include cars because I have no expectation that we’ll be driving solar
    powered cars any time soon. Rather, I’d expect liquid fuels would come from
    something like thermal depolymizeration or continued use of fossil fuels.
    Just stopping the use of fossil fuels for power would go a HUGE way to
    ending much of this nonsense.

    All prices and power amounts are based on 175w or 200w Kyocera modules and
    5kW string inverters. The biggest limitation I have to going off the grid,
    besides startup capital ;), is roof space, and not because I need some huge
    amount. Rather, I live in a small house with a roof that has multiple hips.

    “Insolation” already includes “not pointed directly at the sun”. It’s the
    answer to the question “If I put a panel up, what number do I multiply that
    panel’s power by to get the watt-hours produced?” The units are hours.
    Thus, a 200w Kyocera module in an area such as mine with an historical value
    of 5.3 hours insolation produces 1.06kWH / day, on average. 38kWH / day
    requirements from your figures using those panels is 38kWH/day / 1.06kWH per
    day per panel = 36 panels. 36 panels * 16ft^2 per panel (Kyocera specs) =
    576 ft^2.

    Cost would be circa $42K (36 * $900 per panel, plus 4 5kW string inverters @
    $2,500 per, plus odds and ends, probably less due to quantity — and those
    are retail prices, wholesale is less) and given your values provide all of
    the required electricity for an entire house, as well as transportation.
    Assuming a $0.13 / kWH present (and future) electricity cost, and 20MPG @
    $2.80 / gallon for 12,000 miles * 1.5 cars, current costs are $1,625 for
    electricity and $2,520 for gasoline, or a total of $4,145 annual fossil
    energy costs. $42K / $4,125 = 10.2 years to recover. An approximate
    amortization using current rates for 30 years is about $280 / month.
    Current costs of $4,145 are 4145 / 12 = $345 per month, or some $65 MORE
    using fossil fuels. Tax deductibility would return some $11,760, assuming a
    20% marginal rate, further reducing monthly costs to $250 / month. This
    excludes federal tax advantages and assumes utility net metering. Let me
    know if you find any math mistakes.

    That’s a real worked example using your figures — feel free to check the
    Kyocera spec sheets, prices and the historical insolation values for Central
    Texas. I disagree on your daily electricity for eletric cars, by the way,
    but that’s beside the point. I used your figures and it’s a net winner in
    current dollar costs, with mortgage interest included.

    It’s not just feasible, it’s profitable. Indeed, the more “all in” you go,
    the better it gets.

    Comment by FurryCatHerder — 13 May 2007 @ 8:15 PM

  181. Re #169 (James) and #174 (Hank): I am guilty of a sloppy statement. Of course energy can be trapped, so you can rest assured that your sweater and attic insulation will still work. But as Hank correctly points out, greenhouse gas absorption of longwave radiation is different.

    Spencer Weart gives what I think are two contradictory explanations of the greenhouse effect. One is that energy is transferred from a CO2 molecule to the air, and the other is a radiation balance model. I used to think in terms of the first one, but it was raypierre in these pages who taught me about the radiation balance model.

    I have put my best understanding of this subject on this page than I mentioned before. It is an alternative to the historical approach taken by Weart. I am sure it would benefit from an expert review for errors. Anyone interested?

    Comment by Blair Dowden — 13 May 2007 @ 8:45 PM

  182. Re # 172 Matt

    Those are legitimate questions, ones that need to be asked about every policy issue of national importance. In fact, governments never have all the answers to such questions, but that doesn’t stop them from embarking on long range plans to build highways, fight poverty, fight illegal drug use, reform education, provide universal health care, reduce air and water pollution, and, dare I say it, wage a war on terrorism (how many billions of dollars have the U.S. and Britain spent on Iraq, with no end in sight?).

    Comment by Chuck Booth — 13 May 2007 @ 9:36 PM

  183. I am a Communications student at the University of Washington writing a thesis paper on how newspaper media cover global warming & climate change, and also, public attitudes on global warming. RealClimate is included in my study and I wanted to ask what your readership count is, approximately? Thank you.

    Comment by grace w. — 13 May 2007 @ 9:50 PM

  184. Re: #178 (Froblyx)

    In my opinion, the research they’re referring to is flawed in many ways. For one thing, the “suggestive correlations” aren’t correlations at all; the authors themselves admit that the correlations aren’t statistically significant. For another thing, they correlate Neptune’s brightness increase with total solar irradiance (TSI) data from Foukal (2002), but that estimate shows an increase in TSI from about 1982 to 1990 of around 2.3 W/m^2. This is contradicted by both the estimate of Lean (2000), which shows no real increase in TSI during that period, and — more importantly — by the satellite measurements, which likewise show no increase in TSI during that period (and which agree excellently with the estimates of Lean). I did a blog post on the topic.

    Comment by tamino — 13 May 2007 @ 9:59 PM

  185. Matt (#172) wrote:

    An obvious question…but if you were in charge of things your reason for investing big in mitigating the warming would be:

    1) Save lives?
    2) Ensure continued population growth?
    3) Ensure continued economic growth?
    4) Ensure our coast lines remain habitable?
    5) ?

    Are you certain that the investment in global warming is the most cost effective ways of achieving all those items? That’s where I really get tripped up in all this.

    Human lives, agriculture, economies, national security…

    For me, the first is enough, though.

    *

    “In the last year alone, 25 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa have faced food crisis.

    “Global warming means that that many dry areas are going to get drier and wet areas are going to get wetter. They are going to be caught between the devil of drought and the deep blue seas of floods.”

    Climate change ‘hitting Africa’
    Saturday, 28 October 2006
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/6092564.stm

    *

    “We’re essentially moving the desert further north,” says Mingfang Ting of Columbia University, co-author of a study released Thursday by the journal Science. By 2020, rain estimates show “very unusual” agreement among climate projections, with the Southwestern states facing permanent drought. That would worsen already arid conditions in Las Vegas, Phoenix and other locales dependent on the Colorado River, Ting says.

    Climate change threatens new dust bowl in Southwest
    April 5, 2007
    http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/discoveries/2007-04-05-dust-bowl-study_N.htm

    *

    Written by former World Bank economist Sir Nicholas Stern at Blair’s request, the 700-page report was released on Monday.

    “Our actions over the coming decades could create risks of major disruption to economic and social activity later in this century and in the next, on a scale similar to those associated with the great wars and the economic depression of the first half of the 20th century,” says the report.

    Blair calls for ‘bold’ action after stark climate change warning
    Monday, October 30, 2006
    http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2006/10/30/climate-cost.html

    *

    Threats to national survival stemming from catastrophic change must be anticipated, evaluated, and neutralized to the greatest degree possible….Effective interagency action may require new legislation and better definition of Department of Homeland Security authority….Should global cooperative measures fail, the first impact will likely come from large numbers of displaced people who, by the very nature of their displacement, will become subject to malnutrition and disease; agricultural dislocation could aggravate or spark displacement and border security issues could arise as well.

    Colloquium Brief
    GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE: NATIONAL SECURITY IMPLICATIONS
    March 29-31, 2007
    U.S. Army War College and Triangle Institute for Security Studies
    http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pdffiles/PUB779.pdf

    Global climate change presents a serious national security threat that could affect Americans at home, impact U.S. military operations and heighten global tensions, according to a study released today by a blue-ribbon panel of retired admirals and generals.

    Climate Change Poses Serious Threat To U.S. National Security
    Date: April 17, 2007
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/04/070417092232.htm

    Matt (#172) wrote:

    If the cost to fix it is $13T dollars/year (25% of world economic output), then I suspect that even some of most “convinced” scientists would say “Hummm. Let’s wait for another 10 years of research to come in on this subject.

    Where are you getting 25%, Matt?

    I (#152) wrote:

    For many people, all that they see are the costs associated with trying to do something about climate change, and given this, they will go out of their way to deny that it is occuring or that we are causing it. As long as they can cast some doubt some how, no matter how unreasonable it may be, they will do so. However, while there are costs associated with trying to do something about climate change, there are far greater costs associated with climate change itself.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 13 May 2007 @ 10:31 PM

  186. > Spencer Weart gives what I think are two contradictory explanations …

    May I suggest you use the contact link at the bottom of the page
    http://www.aip.org/history/climate/index.html#L000
    and tell him how you understood what you read?
    He invites feedback, and clearly wants to know where people don’t find the text to read as consistent or easy to follow.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 13 May 2007 @ 10:35 PM

  187. re: 180 FurryCatHerder

    I calc’d an array 25′ per side, you calc’d 23.9′ per side. We’re not too far off :) I just think that space requirement is unworkable, that’s all. Feeding the US (3.6T KWH/year) means 3.4 trillion of these panels. Sure, we coudl get 20% of the folks on these things in a massive effort, but at 5%/year energy growth, it takes just 4 years and we’re back where we started.

    I’d also agree figures on electric car I listed aren’t right. I was being very kind. A 2500 pound electric car will need about 220 wh/mile. Tesla Motor’s car is pretty close to that today.

    But a side thought is that it’s amazing to realize that a family could be completely free of gasoline by bumping electricty usage just 20%. Nuclear + LiIon batteries looks to be the most practical near-term recipe.

    Thanks for the pointer on the kyocera panels. I’ll definitely study.

    Comment by Matt — 13 May 2007 @ 11:21 PM

  188. #172 Chuck

    People that study this type of stuff already have a way to measure the benefits with respect to human life: it’s called “cost per life year”. Simply, it’s the cost incurred to extend a single person’s life by a year. Looking at it in these terms, a Harvard study looked at 587 activities, ranging from seat belts in school buses, smoke detectors in your house, heart transplants, etc. Things like mandatory seat belt laws cost about $69 per life year, since all cars already have them. Things like regulating benzene emissions at a tire plant cost $20B per life year. In between we have things like statin drug at around $50,000 per life year. Air bags are $120,000 per life year, etc.

    Where does global warming really fall into this? If (I’m making up numbers) the cost per year for global warming mitigation in the US is $1T/year, and it saves 100K lives per year (each life having 20 years left), then that’s $500K/life year. Front disk brakes, instead of drum brakes, were about $240,000 per life year in the Harvard study.

    Seat belts for school buses were about $2.8M per life year.

    If the cost to mitigate global warming is $20B/year and it saves 5M lives, then that’s $200 per life year which is around what we spend today for flu shots for old people.

    Personally, global warming is a LOT lower on the list of reasons why we want to do this. Energy independence, along with building a pool of talented engineers that understand how to build hyper-green products is the reason to do this.

    Comment by Matt — 13 May 2007 @ 11:47 PM

  189. Re #179: Lynn, as you quoted them Baker’s remarks don’t support the Battros assertion about a substantial solar magnetic effect on weather. Battros himself sounds like a standard-issue solarphile. It’s hard to tell without perusing his site which specific angle he’s taking, but as you know all of that stuff has been refuted here before; i.e. I don’t see why forwarding those posts wouldn’t do the job.

    A little later… Against my better judgement I looked at the site and to all appearances one would have to spend $24.95 to find out which category of crazy Battros falls into.

    Even later… A little more can be gleaned fron his book’s endorsement page, in particular down at the bottom:

    “For those who are drawn to more spiritual, quantum physics, or metaphysical understandings, you wonâ??t be disappointed. You will find information direct from the Hopi and Mayan elders telling us what has been passed down through generations. Now is the time for purification, preparation, and contemplation. Our ancestors remind us all is not lost. There is still hopeâ?¦and we can make a difference. The famous Hopi Prophecy Rock photo is included in the book, as are photos of unique sacred Mayan sites never before produced publicly. Whether youâ??re a scientist, archeologist, or metaphysician, there is plenty in this book for you.”

    I would say you can’t make this stuff up, but clearly you can (although I must say the positive attitude is appealing). Lynn, the internet is filled with this sort of thing. Best to avoid spending too much time on someone who accepts it at face value, IMHO.

    Comment by Steve Bloom — 14 May 2007 @ 12:03 AM

  190. Two questions for an expert on the Greenhouse Effect:

    1) Is there any truth to the quote in #158: “[80 percent]of the reflected energy is absorbed by water vapor.” Let us assume he means only infrared radiation. I think it is still wrong, because the 8 to 15 micron gap in the water vapor absorption spectrum is wider than 20%. And I know this argument is irrelevant to the question of the relative contribution of carbon dioxide.

    2) I think the following explanation from Spencer Weart is misleading, similar to the glass greenhouse or the blanket analogies. He does follow it with a radiation balance model.

    Visible sunlight penetrates easily through the air and warms the Earth’s surface. When the surface emits invisible heat radiation, some of it is absorbed by CO2 in the middle levels of the atmosphere. Thus some energy transfers into the air itself, rather than escaping directly into space. Not only is the air thus warmed, but also some of the energy trapped there is radiated back to the surface, warming it further.

    Comment by Blair Dowden — 14 May 2007 @ 5:39 AM

  191. [[If the cost to fix it is $13T dollars/year (25% of world economic output), then I suspect that even some of most "convinced" scientists would say "Hummm. Let's wait for another 10 years of research to come in on this subject.]]

    This assumes there is no cost to doing nothing, which is very unlikely to be true. And we don’t need more research to know that global warming is happening, that we’re doing it, and that it’s a serious problem. Those issues are resolved.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 14 May 2007 @ 6:21 AM

  192. Blair — as far as a quick first look goes, your page looks okay to me. Some of the details are a bit off; e.g. the albedo and lapse rate figures for the different planets. NASA gives 0.75, 0.306 and 0.25 respectively for Venus, Earth and Mars, and the literature I’ve seen has mean tropospheric lapse rates of 7.7, 6.5 and 2.5 K/km for the three planets, respectively. (The Mars Standard Atmosphere of Barth et al. (1985) has an even shallower lapse rate for Mars, 0.8-1.2 K/km.) I’ll try and look at the page more a little later.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 14 May 2007 @ 6:31 AM

  193. Blair — I just went over your web page in more detail, and came up with 11 criticisms worth mentioning. Please don’t be put off by this. You’ve done a very good, conscientious job putting that page together, and the use of graphics is very good. But there are some little things that need to be cleaned up. E-mail me your e-mail address and I’ll send you the critique. Mine is already compromised, so I don’t mind listing it: bpl1960@aol.com.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 14 May 2007 @ 7:01 AM

  194. Wow, a simple question to Gavin ended up in a number of people debating the esoterics and the meaning of “certainty”.

    Great help!

    I already know what scientists think, thank you’s.

    I should reframe(:) Is there any doubt in your mind, Gavin, that human CO2-emission are the reason for global warming?

    Having spoken to many people in the know, the ones who still debate man is guilty, they are slowly drifting into statements like these: “We might as well sound the alarms, it “might” be right that CO2 from humans is to blame”
    Even politicians do that these last days, in case you haven’t noticed.

    Chill/ Marian

    Comment by Marian — 14 May 2007 @ 7:21 AM

  195. #183 Grace

    The visitor count for the site is situated at the bottom right of the comments column of the home page. As I write it stands at 3,348,605 visits since December 10/2004.
    Now, what I think would be a really interesting question to ask is how many of these visits are multi-repeats, repeats, single research visits (one visit, several pages viewed) or just fly-bys?

    Speaking personnally, I remember fondly when a post was written to celebrate the 500,000 visitor…and I had already been an ‘addict’ for months by then.

    I’m just intrigued at how much the old-regulars (no offence meant Hank :)) keep that ticker moving upward and how much it is done by new readers.

    Good luck with your research!!

    Comment by Hugh — 14 May 2007 @ 7:25 AM

  196. Re: #191. My rather more rambling post hasn’t hit the wire yet, so this is a slight repeat.

    If we are talking about immediate corrective actions saving money/environment, what is the impact of one ton of anthropogenic CO2 on the global temperature? At the end of the day, that’s the important AGW question and the one answer I don’t hear from those demanding immediate remedy (I allow that perhaps I’ve just missed it). Obviously stated in terms of kilo- or giga-tons/year or somesuch, but there must be SOME idea of the relationship between CO2 and temperature.

    All this debate would end if somebody could make a case, using scientific principles (you know, repeatability, falsifiable, measurable, etc.), that every time an SUV drives for 100 miles, it raises the global temperature by .000001C (or somesuch). If that information ISN’T available, I question what the sturm and drang is about.

    Comment by MDC — 14 May 2007 @ 8:29 AM

  197. Re #187 –

    First, a minor nit. A meter is 39.37 inches, so a square meter is about 10.76 ft^2, making 76m^2 closer to 29×29 feet ;)

    PV is just one approach. Stirling cycle solar power is another, and the costs are lower and power densities higher.

    There’s no requirement, and I’m sure the guys here will correct me if I misspeak, that 100% of fossil fuel consumption be stopped tomorrow, or even in the next decade, or even over the next 100 years. It would make a lot of financial sense to do so (and I think you’ve got to agree the numbers are workable), but we’re not going to boil the oceans anytime soon if we cut fossil consumption by some huge amount and people drive their old gasoline powered cars until they wear out and buy new pluggable hybrids.

    And this gets to the “cost” issues — if we cut fossil consumption, and replace aging fossil fuel plants with renewable enery plants, there is no “cost”. There is a cost savings, because renewables are cost competitive today, and declining in costs, while non-renewables are rising in costs.

    I don’t disbelieve the IPCC scenarios because I doubt the physics. I disbelieve them because our current fossil-fuel based lifestyle is the road to bankrupcy. If we replace our fossil-fuel addiction with a renewable energy system, we’re looking at an era of cheap, clean, plentiful energy that will stimulate the global economy. Snobby people who hate fluorescent lights because they look ugly can get their incandescents back. People who want to drive fast cars can recharge their Tesla every day. Starving children in Africa can have more clean and cheap electricity than they know what to do with.

    “Cost” is just the next phase of denial.

    Comment by FurryCatHerder — 14 May 2007 @ 8:47 AM

  198. RE #187 “People that study this type of stuff already have a way to measure the benefits with respect to human life: it’s called “cost per life year”. Simply, it’s the cost incurred to extend a single person’s life by a year.”

    These kind of calculations make sense when you’re talking about relatively small-scale policy changes having limited long-term implications, and limited interactions with things you don’t control – like the specific examples you give. It’s not clear they make sense for issues on the scale of climate change. If not acting means our civilisation will collapse in something between 50 and 200 years whereas acting allows this to be avoided, as many believe is likely to be true – how many life-years is that? If the effectiveness of action by any single actor depends crucially on what other actors do (as in this case it manifestly does, even if the actor considered is the USA), how is this taken into account?

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 14 May 2007 @ 9:11 AM

  199. I seem to be confused by the language of the “debate” and hope somebody could clear things up for me. ARE the theories of AGW and the energy imbalance the same. Or, for instance, does AGW cause the energy imbalance. The reason I ask is that in response to a question about troposphere warming and stratosphere cooling being a zero sum, I was told
    “[Response:Perhaps to some extent but we live in the troposphere. David]”

    http://www.realclimate.org/wp-comments-popup.php?p=444&c=1
    comment 66

    I don’t know if my question is clear so I’ll try it another way. If there were no energy imbalance could/would there still be AGW in the troposphere? Thank you

    Comment by Ellis — 14 May 2007 @ 9:20 AM

  200. #198 Nick.

    Nick, I think you really made the point: If not acting means the collapse of civilization, then we should see an astounding benefit in terms of life years.

    But we see reports that state that an extra 20,000 people might die in Europe due to global warming. Not to be crass, but “that’s it?”

    That’s what gets me back to the original question: Why do folks want to mitigate this? Save lives? Preserve our status quo? Keep the coast lines habitable?

    I’m really struggling with this. Because again, a few degrees warming is really just the same as moving south a few hundred miles. And unfortunately, all the gloom and doom analysis I’ve seen to date assume we sit here like static bumps on a log while oceans rise and we drown.

    Comment by Matt — 14 May 2007 @ 10:56 AM

  201. Ellis,

    We might prefer to call it anthropogenic climate change although it will consist largely of “warming” and the average temperature will certainly increase, but in some cases the winters will be more severe, at least for a while.

    However, basically what is happening is that light enters the atmosphere, some of it is absorbed at ground level, then it is re-emitted as thermal radiation – infrared radiation. Some of it is absorbed yet again by water vapor (because water vapor is largely opaque to thermal radiation), then re-emitted both towards the ground and towards space.

    We are increasing the carbon dioxide levels, and in the upper atmosphere predominate – since the upper atmosphere is particularly dry. Like water vapor, carbon dioxide is largely opaque to thermal radiation, and therefore it absorbs this radiation. Then infrared radiation is once again re-emitted in both directions, with some of it being re-absorbed by the ground and the lower atmosphere. This causes both the lower atmosphere and the ground to heat up further leading to more evaporation and water vapor – and thus an increased greenhouse effect.

    Convection helps bring some of this energy to the upper atmosphere where it is better able to escape into space. But in any case, the earth-atmosphere system is currently absorbing more thermal energy than it is emitting. The only way to reachieve the balance between incoming thermal radiation and outgoing thermal radiation is for the earth-atmosphere system to increase in temperature to the point at which the thermal energy it radiates equals the thermal energy entering the system.

    In any case, the energy imbalance which in some eras was naturally caused is the main problem. The principle that the energy must ultimately reach a state of balance for temperatures to be stable is the central principle. The rise in carbon dioxide levels today is largely anthropogenic – although some of it is positive feedback as the result of other processes and more of it will be feedback in the future. Climate change is the result of the processes as a whole.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 14 May 2007 @ 11:22 AM

  202. # 183

    Just in case anyone apart from Grace is interested RC seems to have averaged 157.76 hits an hour over the 885 days it’s been online.

    Comment by Hugh — 14 May 2007 @ 11:58 AM

  203. Barton,

    192, If I am not mistaken, Planetary Adiabatic lapse rates are proportionnal to -g/Cp

    the gravity of the planet divided by the heat capacity of the atmosphere.

    Comment by wayne davidson — 14 May 2007 @ 12:15 PM

  204. Hugh (#183) wrote:

    Just in case anyone apart from Grace is interested RC seems to have averaged 157.76 hits an hour over the 885 days it’s been online.

    Difficult to say, but given the number of regular posters and my experience with email lists (where the number of subscribers greatly outnumbers the regular posters), I would guess that the number which visit on a daily basis is in excess of a thousand – which seems about right – given these figures.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 14 May 2007 @ 12:48 PM

  205. PS

    That is ballpark – trying to take out return visits by the same people on the same day, and trying to take out the people who just visit but go elsewhere when they don’t immediately see what they are looking for. However, to get the actual figures on this would require some of the more advanced counters – something which really isn’t necessary.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 14 May 2007 @ 12:55 PM

  206. I’m really struggling with this. Because again, a few degrees warming is really just the same as moving south a few hundred miles. And unfortunately, all the gloom and doom analysis I’ve seen to date assume we sit here like static bumps on a log while oceans rise and we drown.

    You sure are struggling, and with some very simple results too. We aren’t just looking at a few degrees of warming, we are looking at 5 C by the end of the century, and time doesn’t just magically stop at 2100, it just keeps on rolling. We aren’t just looking at just a meter of ocean rise, we are looking at six meters very quickly (West Antarctica) and then another 70 meters over time, a very short time on geological scales. Here is a graphic I found that pretty much lays it out for you :

    http://www.lifeform.org/files/IPCC_Projections.jpg

    Comment by Thomas Lee Elifritz — 14 May 2007 @ 12:56 PM

  207. Re #200 Matt: “I’m really struggling with this. Because again, a few degrees warming is really just the same as moving south a few hundred miles. And unfortunately, all the gloom and doom analysis I’ve seen to date assume we sit here like static bumps on a log while oceans rise and we drown.”

    You think people won’t drown? Higher sea level means storm surges will reach further inland.
    And what about the cities that will be vulnerable? We’re not about to pick up and move the infrastructure with us.

    We aren’t the only species that can move to deal with climate change: the pine forestry in British Columbia is currently collapsing due to the Mountain Pine Beetle. Winter temps are just no longer low enough to keep the beetles in check. They have already crossed into Alberta, and may keep moving east through the Jack Pines of the boreal forest.

    And don’t assume a longer growing season is a good thing, since you can’t grow anything without water. Australia has plenty of growing season, but it’s agricultural industry is collapsing. PM John Howard (a staunch denier) has warned that if the 6-year drought does not break this winter he will have no choice but to ban irrigation next summer. (Australia used to be a net exporter of wheat.)

    The dollar costs of climate change are already being borne.

    Comment by Jim Eager — 14 May 2007 @ 12:58 PM

  208. #200 Matt

    Hi Matt

    Any chance of providing a reference for your 20,000 deaths figure?

    I only ask because I happen to recall that there were 15,000 excess deaths recorded just in France during the 19 days of the 2003 heatwave. With the projections indicating that these events are likely to become more regular in Europe I can’t quite see how your number holds up (and that’s not even nudging the equity and morality issues of the effects on more vulnerable nations).

    My ref is: http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/klu/420/2006/00000080/00000001/00000089?crawler=true

    Comment by Hugh — 14 May 2007 @ 1:11 PM

  209. #Timothy

    Don’t worry Tim, I’m not THAT interested ;)

    Comment by Hugh — 14 May 2007 @ 1:13 PM

  210. re: #200 Matt & #207

    Matt: perhaps you’d care to say where you are located?

    I observe that people’s views on AGW effects naturally vary somewhat according to their location, and it helps to use examples that someone can relate to directly.

    For example, it is unsurprising that California cares about the effects of AGW:

    a) We depend heavily on snowpack for water, and CA is already heavily hydro-engineered. Most of CA’s precipitation falls during 5 months of the year.

    b) Big chunks of a major agricultural area (Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta) are already below sea level,
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sacramento_River_Delta
    The San Francisco Bay Area will be radically transformed by any major sea-level rise; among other things, SF and Oakland Airports are ~9 feet above sea level, in
    c) Los Angeles was built in a desert.
    d) We have forest fires.
    e) Ski tourism is a revenue source and some of us like to ski.
    http://www.usatoday.com/travel/destinations/ski/2007-03-18-skiing-green_N.htm
    f) In SF Bay Area, many of us happily survive withotu air conditioning.
    g) We have a lot of agriculture, in which specific high-valuecrops are grown in narrow geographic areas where climate and soils match. For instance, Castroville is the artichoke capital of the world, and Napa&Sonoma are famous for wine grapes.

    As far as I can tell, there is no benefit to CA from higher temperatures, only costs.

    Now, if one is located in North Dakota, or Manitoba, there is less immediate concern, and in fact, AGW may actually help one in the short term, ALTHOUGH if it is North Dakota, which in 2001 got almost 2X $ back from Washington than what it sent, of that extra $2.8B, more than half came from CA, NY, NJ, CT, MA, TX … all of whom have low coastlines, and would probably want to spend that money on their own problems.
    http://www.ppinys.org/nybalpayments.htm

    Anyway, sometimes it helps to bring the general discussion down to local specifics, but including costs to related political entities, even if one fouccess entirely on economics, and ignores humanitarian issues entirely.

    Comment by John Mashey — 14 May 2007 @ 1:53 PM

  211. Re #200: [Because again, a few degrees warming is really just the same as moving south a few hundred miles.]

    That’s fine, if you’re mobile. Sell your house and move north where it’s cooler, or away from the coast, right? Except that a lot of other people have the same idea, so your property values have dropped to the point where you have negative equity. No problem, you just declare bank_rupcy and let the lender foreclose. What happens to the economy when several million people do that, and all the mort_gage companies go under?

    Now take a look at a globe. Notice that as you go north, there’s less and less land at a given latitude. We’ve got a badly overcrowded planet now: what happens when you try to squeeze everyone into an ever-shrinking area? And try to grow crops to feed them on smaller & smaller plots of land? You really think people won’t start to fight over food & living space?

    All this supposes, of course, that you’re able to move. Suppose you’re a tree: when the climate changes to where you can’t live where you are, you can’t just pluck yourself up by the roots and move, so you die.

    Now you might argue that that’s no big deal for you, because you’re a human, but you might ask yourself whether humans can live without trees and/or a lot of the other lifeforms that make up the biosphere. And if you can’t answer that question with absolute certainty, you might start asking yourself whether you really, really want to find out the hard way :-)

    [That's what gets me back to the original question: Why do folks want to mitigate this? Save lives? Preserve our status quo? Keep the coast lines habitable?]

    How about keeping Earth a nice place to live? Possibly even improving it, but at the very least not messing about with the life suppport systems.

    Comment by James — 14 May 2007 @ 2:25 PM

  212. Matt (#200) wrote:

    I’m really struggling with this. Because again, a few degrees warming is really just the same as moving south a few hundred miles. And unfortunately, all the gloom and doom analysis I’ve seen to date assume we sit here like static bumps on a log while oceans rise and we drown.

    The figure you probably are refering to is the temperature change averaged out over the whole globe.

    But you also want to take into account the fact that the southern hemisphere will be less affected that the north. However, Australia is already experiencing severe droughts. More importantly, the higher latitudes will be more strongly affected than the tropics.

    Moreover, we aren’t simply talking about a change in the temperatures, but a change in the precipitation, with more of the rain falling over the ocean due to increased evaporation causing it to fall closer to where the evaporation takes place. In many places, particularly large parts of the US, you will see greatly decreased precipitation. The south west will likely become a dustbowl again, and the south east will have greatly diminished agricultural output. Some countries which are already straining will have agricultural output cut in half.

    Likewise, higher temperatures during the winter means that the mosquitoes responsible for malaria and hemmorrhagic dengue will be moving to the higher latitudes. Hemmorrhagic dengue is in the process of becoming endogenous to Tawain and has entered Mexico.

    Then there is the decreased fish harvests due to the disruption of the oceanic ecosystem by increased acidity interfering with the use of calcium. Coral reefs are already dying. We are also speaking of higher temperatures in the artic reducing the uptake of oxygen before the water is circulated to the rest of the ocean. The oceans may very well become hypoxic. But algae blooms are already creating anoxic dead zones off the US Pacific coast which are like nothing we would have seen a few years ago – and that is largely due to changes in oceanic circulation. Oregon has had it for a few years, and now it is entering Washington State waters.

    There is also the increased rate of evaporation, stress on plants which is already decreasing their ability to metabolize carbon dioxide, changes in the path of the jet stream, probability of a permanent and more severe El Nino. A change in a couple of degrees can make all the difference between a severe hurricane season and one that is relatively tranquil.

    There are also all the economic problems which this entails. Particularly since so much of the world’s population lives close to sea level, and likewise, since the buildings we currently have are built for the current climate.

    Besides, a lot of countries don’t like refugees.

    I suspect it might get that way in the coming decades simply between different states with the US.

    Finally, the IPCC has yet to take into account all of the positive feedbacks involved in the cryosphere (e.g., the arctic, permafrost, and glaciers) and the carbon cycle. Things will probably get a little worse than they predict – but they have to go with the results of the models even if they can’t incorporate all of the positive feedbacks as of yet.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 14 May 2007 @ 2:31 PM

  213. Re hugh (208)
    I’m glad to see you are not suggesting that the excess deaths in the 2003 heatwave in France were caused by global warming – which I often see suggested elsewhere (including I believe by Al Gore in his film). France has always had periodic heatwaves and always will. A key reason for so many deaths was the social neglect of elderly people by their families and neighbours.

    [Response: Actually, that is misleading. Note that we're not talking about an isolated meteorological event in this case, but instead an anomalous seasonal mean temperature over a substantial spatial region (all of Europe). Formal detection and attribution studies such as Stott et al (Nature, 2004) have indicated that anthropogenic forcing has probably at least doubled the random occurence rate of such anomalies. In other words, while we can't prove that this particular anomaly was due to climate change, we can be fairly certain that the increased incidence of such events is, i.e. we can be fairly certain that we have loaded the dice towards precisely such events. A similar argument holds for the increased incidence of the most powerful Atlantic Hurricanes. - mike]

    Similarly, Hurricane Katrina was not caused by global warming (as Gore at least implied in his film). The reason for the death toll was a combination of: hurricanes happen; it was only a matter of time before a large city was hit; the levies were not adequately mantained; the response of the authorities was slow and inadequate.

    By the way – I haven’t heard how many FEWER deaths there were this winter in Europe due to the exceptionally mild conditions. It must have been at least a few thousand. I must have missed that.

    Comment by PHE — 14 May 2007 @ 3:23 PM

  214. Since we’re talking about correlations:

    RC had that topic a while back discussing Prof. Ruddiman’s early anthropocene hypothesis, but I actually interpret it as 3 separate ones, of which the first two get more discussion:
    - Early CO2 effects
    - Early CH4 effects
    - Later gyrations from plagues, given correlations of CO2/temperature dips with pandemics
    [In some sense, calling this "early" anthropocene seems odd :-)]

    There have been plenty of back-and-forths (including Gavin’s) in the literature in on the first two, but I haven’t seen a lot on the third, which, in some sense, I’ve found even more interesting than the others, in that it offers some possible explanation for fast gyrations of the last two millenia.

    I’ve seen:

    Forest re-growth on medieval farmland after the Black Death pandemic – Implications for atmospheric CO2 levels (2006)
    http://www.stomatalfrequency.com/vanhoofetal2006b.pdf

    Abandonment of farmland and vegetation succession following the Eurasian plague pandemic of AD 1347�52 (Abstract)
    http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1365-2699.2006.01674.x

    Evidence for the Postconquest Demographic Collapse of the Americas in Historical CO2 Levels (Abstract)
    http://ams.allenpress.com/perlserv/?request=get-abstract&doi=10.1175%2FEI157.1

    Can anyone point at more research confiming/disconfirming the third part of the hypothesis?
    ====
    [I particularly relate to this because I have some Native American ancestors (obvious, the minority who were smallpox-resistant), Swiss ancestors who fled the (perhaps resulting from die-off) LIA for the US in the 1840s, cleared forest for farmland, including a pasture that shows up on 1840s drawings, and that I grew up with. The farm was sold about 25 years ago for development, the trees came back and totally covered the 140-year-old pasture in a decade or two.]

    Comment by John Mashey — 14 May 2007 @ 3:40 PM

  215. Matt (#200) wrote:

    I’m really struggling with this. Because again, a few degrees warming is really just the same as moving south a few hundred miles. And unfortunately, all the gloom and doom analysis I’ve seen to date assume we sit here like static bumps on a log while oceans rise and we drown.

    I know others have had a go at this – Matt knows how to draw a crowd – but there are a couple of points I’d like to make. Two degrees (C) of global average warming doesn’t sound like a lot, but it is huge from an ecosystem perspective. The rate of change is also important – it’s currently around 20 times faster than recent rapid change – the warming out of the last ice age, for instance. The impacts on the biosphere are likely to be dramatic – and whether we like it or not, we are a part of that biosphere. The WG2 Summary for Policymakers [PDF] is a good place to start. Another is the chapter by Rachel Warren in Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change (Chapter 11) – free download of complete text here.

    In reading RC, it is easy to assume that the numbers bandied around are just numbers, often small ones, but they have to be put into their context – the impact they will have. Perhaps RC could do some guest postings to illustrate why this stuff is so important.

    Comment by Gareth — 14 May 2007 @ 4:26 PM

  216. To James’ excellent and succinct comments on the practical effects of climate change, I’d like to add that I don’t think a catastrophic flood is necessary to make a city uninhabitable. It seems all that’s required is enough sea level rise to flood the sewers at high tide. That would likely cause a precipitous drop in real estate values, with not a hurricane in sight…

    Comment by Arvella Oliver — 14 May 2007 @ 4:37 PM

  217. #213 PHE

    Yes, I worded my post very explicitly and I agree with you absolutely that many lives will potentially be saved in the future if lessons learned from such events are used to inform better heatwave (and flood) forecast, warning and response systems.
    As Mike points out, however, your handwave that “France has always had periodic heatwaves and always will” does not salve my conscience when I look at figure 1 in the Stott et al paper that he links to.

    Comment by Hugh — 14 May 2007 @ 4:42 PM

  218. Re #200 Matt, others have made similar points, but I feel I must pitch in as well! First, as Hugh asked, where is your 20,000 figure from? Second, just a list of some possible fairly direct effects, any one of which could lead to millions of deaths:
    1) Disappearance of tropical high-altitude glaciers, upon which much agriculture in parts of South America and South Asia depends.
    2) Disruption of the Indian monsoon, upon which much more Indian agriculture depends.
    3) Rise in sea levels – quite small rises could make many cities untenable – they don’t have to be covered in water, it just has to rise enough to stop their sewage systems working and thus cause regugee crises and/or epidemics.
    4) Rise in sea levels (again, could be quite small) leading to destruction of much of the world’s most productive agricultural land (in river deltas) through rise in salt levels in groundwater.
    5) Increased unpredictability of climatic conditions year on year, so farmers don’t know what to plant. When you subject a complex system, like Earth’s climate, to a consistent push in one direction, it tends first to “resist” – short-term stabilising mechanisms operate – then to become highly unstable and hard to predict as these mechanisms fail.
    6) What’s more, even if change were likely to be smooth and predictable, farmers take time to learn how to grow crops they are not accustomed to under local conditions – it’s never just a matter of “Oh, it’s got a bit hotter, I’ll plant Y instead of X.” There are new pests and diseases to deal with, planting, fertilising and cropping schedules to work out, ways to treat the harvested crop, etc. It would not take much of a reduction in the recent rate of increase in crop yields to leave millions of poorer city dwellers unable to buy food.

    Third, possible indirect effects on the highly complex, and interlinked, ecological and social systems we live in. These could well be the really large-scale killers: malaria or other existing human infections spreading outside their current range because of improved conditions for a vector such as a moosquito; new human, animal or crop diseases emerging; large-scale refugee movements triggering economic chaos; the collapse of nuclear-armed states with the consequence of nuclear weapons being acquired by non-state groups… The possibilities that worry me most of all are of a nuclear-armed state threatened with collapse trying to save itself by whipping up hostility to a traditional enemy, going too far and triggering a full-scale nuclear war; or a state feeling threatened by the prospect of large-scale refugee movements launching covert biological attacks to remove the threat: those are where the possibility of civilisational collapse is most likely to arise.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 14 May 2007 @ 4:52 PM

  219. Re: PHE (#213):

    Mike responded on the majority of your post, but I still wanted to address this bit.

    PHE wrote:

    By the way – I haven’t heard how many FEWER deaths there were this winter in Europe due to the exceptionally mild conditions. It must have been at least a few thousand. I must have missed that.

    It is probably true there will be fewer deaths during the winter. It is also true that people are used to the more severe winters they are having now as opposed to in the future. Moreover, the buildings are designed for current weather. What the buildings are not designed for, at least in many places, are the heatwaves which will be more frequent and more severe.

    The research found that eastern U.S. summer daily high temperatures that currently average in the low-to-mid-80s (degrees Fahrenheit) will most likely soar into the low-to-mid-90s during typical summers by the 2080s. In extreme seasons â?? when precipitation falls infrequently â?? July and August daily high temperatures could average between 100 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit in cities such as Chicago, Washington, and Atlanta.

    NASA STUDY SUGGESTS EXTREME SUMMER WARMING IN THE FUTURE
    May 9, 2007
    http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Newsroom/NasaNews/2007/2007050924907.html

    For the technical article, please see:

    Spak, S., T. Holloway, B. Lynn, and R. Goldberg,
    2007: A comparison of statistical and dynamical downscaling for surface temperature in North America.
    J. Geophys. Res., 112, D08101, doi:10.1029/2005JD006712.
    http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/abstracts/2007/Spak_etal.html

    *

    You might also want to note that where they are currently relying upon hydroelectic to power their air conditioning, it is quite possible that they will have to find something else.

    The harmful effects of global warming on daily life are already showing up, and within a couple of decades hundreds of millions of people will not have enough water, top scientists are likely to say next month at a meeting in Belgium.

    At the same time, tens of millions of others will be flooded out of their homes each year as the earth reels from rising temperatures and sea levels, according to portions of a draft of an international scientific report by the authoritative Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

    Top Scientists Warn of Water Shortages and Disease Linked to Global Warming
    March 12, 2007, Monday
    New York Times Late Edition – Final, Section A, Page 11, Column 2

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 14 May 2007 @ 7:21 PM

  220. Re: #200

    Coral reefs, particularly tropical corals, account for nearly half the bio-diversity on Earth. Millons of people across the globe rely on reefs for their livelyhood. Fishing, tourism, protection from storm surges etc…

    The IPCC and The UK Royal Society reports that increasing ocean temps and acidity can be devestating to the reef environment, making large swaths of ocean that was previously inhabitable by coral will no longer be. Coral, as a slow growing lifeform, is unlikely to be able to keep pace and adapt to the rapid warming of oceans.

    While 2C may not seem like alot, the consequences can be devestating.

    Comment by Chris C — 14 May 2007 @ 8:17 PM

  221. Re #213: [By the way - I haven't heard how many FEWER deaths there were this winter in Europe due to the exceptionally mild conditions. It must have been at least a few thousand.]

    I think you first have to show that there was a significant death rate from cold in Europe. Outside of the occasional lost skier or urban drunk, that is.

    Then you might look at reports of crop damage from the warm temperatures. Lots of fruit trees, for instance, need a cold period to set fruit. Cold also reduces the numbers of insect pests. Then there’s issues of timings: pollenators hatching or migrating at the wrong times for their crops. Then we could get into the lack of precipitation & winter snowpack, and the effects those are having on crops. And fires. And the loss of revenue to the ski industry. And on and on.

    Comment by James — 14 May 2007 @ 8:29 PM

  222. James (#221) wrote:

    Cold also reduces the numbers of insect pests.

    Milder winters are what is making it possible for mosquitoes to survive throughout the year in Tawain – which is why hemmorrhagic dengue is in the process of becoming endogenous to the island. The same can be expected of other mosquito-borne illnesses. But this no doubt will be a fairly limited problem for much of the world after a while: mosquitoes require standing water for their eggs.

    Drought will take care of that.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 14 May 2007 @ 10:01 PM

  223. re: 200 (Matt)

    Matt, maybe what you wanna see are the actual economic costs of doing nothing compared to the economic costs of mitigation. That’s it? Then I strongly recommand you to read “Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change”:
    http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/independent_reviews/stern_review_economics_climate_change/sternreview_index.cfm

    You’ll find all you need here (its 700 pages long, but you can find a lot of summaries on the net :)). The Stern report is based on the estimated effects of the GW reported in the IPCC report, and answers to a simple question: what is the impact of GW on the world economy. Not talking about deaths or refugees, or environmental catastrophies, but only economical costs.

    The conclusion of the study (really hope you’ll read it, it quite astonishing and well made) is approximatively this:
    “Its main conclusions are that one percent of global gross domestic product (GDP) per annum is required to be invested in order to avoid the worst effects of climate change, and that failure to do so could risk global GDP being up to twenty percent lower than it otherwise might be. Sternâ??s report[2] suggests that climate change threatens to be the greatest and widest-ranging market failure ever seen, and it provides prescriptions including environmental taxes to minimize the economic and social disruptions. He states, “our actions over the coming few decades could create risks of major disruption to economic and social activity, later in this century and in the next, on a scale similar to those associated with the great wars and the economic depression of the first half of the 20th century.”"
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stern_Review

    This study was made by the economist nicholas Stern ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicholas_Stern ), for the british government, an published in 2006. It received a lot of support from numerous Nobel Prize economists, and also a lot of critics. But it is considered as the most complete and accurate report on the economical impacts of GW to this day. Have a good reading :)!

    Comment by nicolas L. — 15 May 2007 @ 2:39 AM

  224. Several responses merged below…
    For those that asked, I typed “global warming deaths” into google and the first link (nrdc.org) indicated “more than 20,000 deaths in Europe” due to heat waves in 2003. It’s appropriate to focus on a single economic region I think (rather than lumping in Africa), because Society already knows how to save a 2-3 million lives a year by providing clean drinking water to people, and we’ve opted NOT to spend the $50B needed to do so. So, saying that we now want to spend much much more than that to help folks in Africa cope with the heat is a bit strange. And there just aren’t many reports I’ve seen that have shown the west will be hard hit by warming. The more money you have, the better you can cope.

    John in #210… I’m in Seattle. But I was in Chicago for the 1995 heat wave that killed 500. Note that everyone started dropping when the power failed. Had the power stayed on, the death toll would have been much lower because most all have AC. But of course, the 1995 heat wave was nothing compared to the 1930′s heat wave that was hotter for longer, yet fewer died. Go figure.

    Timothy was asking where I got the $13T figure needed to fix global warming. I made it up, just like I made up the $1 figure. My point was this: everyone on this board has a point where the cost to fix global warming is low enough that they’ll opt to fix it without any questioning (sort of like replacing the air filter in your car), and everyone on this board has a price that is so high that they will opt to wait for a few more years of data to start fixing it (kind of like the doctor telling you he’s 95% certain that you will die early from a heart attack within 20 years if you keep smoking and eating nachos). The celebrities out stumping to help solve global warming are the perfect example of this: They are willing to pay, but they aren’t willing to change their lifestyle one bit. They are convinced it’s real, but they won’t do anything concrete about it (except Ed Begley). Everyone expects the other person to make the sacrifices. And that’s really what addressing global warming ultimately will be about: making sacrifices.

    The economics have ALWAYS been the sticking point on whether or not we try to tackle global warming. If global warming is a 2% ding to GDP, then you’d be a fool to bet on addressing something that will happen in 20 years with 95% certainty by investing 1% a year now to mitigate it. We are surrounded by bad events that will happen with 95% certainty within 20 years all the time and we opt to do nothing about it. Why should this be any different? This is the reason investors are NOT running after alt energy in spite of the many folks that try to make a case for its cost-effectiveness. You are forgetting about the opportunity cost and risk. Trust me, when the economics make sense you’ll need to get out of the way because the money guys will come running. Prior to that, you are missing something fundamental in your analysis.

    #211 – the Earth will be a nice place to live whether or not humans are here. Insurance costs are already sky high because we have too many people trying to live places that are already subject to severe weather every 10-20 years. MSNBC noted Katrina costs of $300B expected in 2005 (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9281409/), and since the lower 48% earners of the population isn’t paying federal income tax in the US, that means that a household of 4 in the upper 52% of the populace paid about $8,000 in federal income taxes just for Katrina. Hmmm. Yes, let’s ask people to move. Seriously.

    BTW, as I research everything from IPCC to Lomborg to Stern on the economics behind AGW, the figures are all over the map. Remember, when there is broad disagreement and lots of money involved, the money folks get really excited because that is where they have the greatest opportunity to make money (think arbitrage, think Enron). Make no mistake that carbon credits and offsets are simply a trial ballon. Their goal is to get as much money committed to the cause as possible and shroud the process in complexity. And of course they’ll manage it all for a small fee :)

    Comment by Matt — 15 May 2007 @ 3:14 AM

  225. Re James (221). Its arguments like your’s that damage the pro-AGW side of the debate. All you have done is list a set of speculations about what bad things could result from warming.
    I suggest you try this. Imagine the world is cooling by 1 degree per century (due to say manmade aerosol-induced global cooling). Then list all the bad things that could happen. You could easily achieve as long a list.
    More vulnerable people, especially the elderly, are more likely to die during the colder or hotter times of the year. The estimation of 15,000 or so extra deaths in France in 2003, was not based on numbers of people dying of extreme heat (or similar). It was a statiscal assessment based on the fact that there were 15,000 more deaths that summer than in an average summer. Winter is a time when there is a statistical rise in deaths – due to the cold. There would have been fewer deaths this year in Europe – but I haven’t seen the numbers reported – I suspect because there is less insentive to assess it. Its good news rather than bad news. By the way, I don’t argue that ‘warming is a good thing anyway’. My point is its little to do with global warming.

    Comment by PHE — 15 May 2007 @ 6:02 AM

  226. [[there must be SOME idea of the relationship between CO2 and temperature.]]

    The radiative forcing from CO2 can be found as:

    dF = 5.35 ln (C / C0)

    where dF is in watts per square meter, concentration of carbon dioxide C usually in parts per million by volume, and reference concentration C0 is usually taken as 280 ppmv. C this year is about 384 ppmv.

    (Myhre, G., E.J. Highwood, K. Shine and F. Stordal, 1998. “New estimates of radiative forcing due to well mixed greenhouse gases.” Geophys. Res. Lett. 25, 2715-2718)

    If the climate sensitivity to forcing is about 0.75 K W^-1 m^-2, then a doubling of CO2 increases temperature by about 2.8 degrees K (or C, they’re the same size). This assumes nothing else changes, of course, though it does factor in climate feedbacks.

    To convert to mass figures, note that the mass of Earth’s atmosphere is about 5.136 x 1018 kilograms, the molecular weight of CO2 is about 44.00995 AMU, and the mean molecular weight of air is about 28.964 AMU. I get about 3 x 1015 kg for CO2 this year.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 15 May 2007 @ 7:12 AM

  227. [[That's what gets me back to the original question: Why do folks want to mitigate this? Save lives? Preserve our status quo? Keep the coast lines habitable?

    I'm really struggling with this. Because again, a few degrees warming is really just the same as moving south a few hundred miles. And unfortunately, all the gloom and doom analysis I've seen to date assume we sit here like static bumps on a log while oceans rise and we drown. ]]

    We want to mitigate global warming because

    1) Under global warming, continental interiors will be dryer and experience more droughts. Together with more violent weather along coastlines, this will play merry hell with our agriculture.

    2) Sea-level rise is a real problem. Even if we evacuate in time, we’re talking about hundreds of millions of people who have to relocate and property loss in the trillions. Yes, we can build new cities, but the loss of old ones still represents massive property destruction.

    3) Global warming could contribute to a massive decline in species diversity. Since we are already in the middle of the greatest mass extinction of the Holocene, it would be a good idea not to make things even worse. We simply don’t know at what point we might cause irreversible harm to the ecosystem. If that happens, the planet will survive, and life will survive, but we might not.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 15 May 2007 @ 7:26 AM

  228. [[192, If I am not mistaken, Planetary Adiabatic lapse rates are proportionnal to -g/Cp
    the gravity of the planet divided by the heat capacity of the atmosphere.
    ]]

    Right, that’s the equation for the dry adiabatic lapse rate. You get a different figure (requiring a more complicated equation) for the lapse rate in the presence of a condensable substance. Saturated lapse rates for Earth range from about 4.8 K/km near the ground to 9.8 K/km near the tropopause, with a mean around 6.5 K/km.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 15 May 2007 @ 7:29 AM

  229. Re #224 “For those that asked, I typed “global warming deaths” into google and the first link (nrdc.org) indicated “more than 20,000 deaths in Europe” due to heat waves in 2003. It’s appropriate to focus on a single economic region I think (rather than lumping in Africa), because Society already knows how to save a 2-3 million lives a year by providing clean drinking water to people, and we’ve opted NOT to spend the $50B needed to do so.”

    For a problem that is global in scope, worse for poorer regions, and expected to get much worse over time if we do not take action to prevent it, I am puzzled that you should think it appropriate to put forward an estimate for excess deaths in a relatively small, very rich region in one recent year (and in an event that cannot even be definitely ascribed to AGW) as representing the scale of the potential loss of life. Of course we should spend the money needed to provide clean drinking water for all, but (to mirror your shot at globe-trotting celebrity campaigners), I haven’t seen much evidence of those who say we shouldn’t spend on preventing AGW campaigning for increased foreign aid or more favourable trade terms for poor countries – maybe you can point me to some? And as you’ve pointed out yourself, it’s people in poor countries who will suffer most (at least initially, I’d add) from AGW.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 15 May 2007 @ 8:04 AM

  230. Re: #224 (Matt)

    kind of like the doctor telling you he’s 95% certain that you will die early from a heart attack within 20 years if you keep smoking and eating nachos…

    Here’s my problem with your approach: the team of doctors isn’t telling you that “smoking will eventually kill you.” They’re telling you that you already have lung cancer.

    But you still seem willing to quibble over whether it’s worthwhile to quit smoking.

    Comment by tamino — 15 May 2007 @ 8:46 AM

  231. re: 224

    Matt, I’m sorry but I can’t see any example of “bad events that will happen with 95% certainty within 20 years” and to which we do nothing about…
    Secondly, the impact of GW on gdp (on mid and long term) is estimated 5 to 20%, not 2%. That’s a huge difference. So spending 1% of annual gdp on mitigating GW should not be called a waste of money, but an investment. Plus you seem to consider world economy has an immediate response to cost effective technologies, but economy primarily depends on men, which means sociological impacts and necessary culture changes that sometimes can take decades. I would also say alternative energies are cost effective compared to coil and oil, from the moment you internalize the pollution costs (that can be made, for example by creating a carbon tax… what a brilliant idea, isn’t it? :) )
    Finally, the biggest effects of GW will concern developing countries, meaning countries that have the smaller capacity to adapt. For a continent like Africa who depends mostly on a subsistence agriculture, the effects of repeated heat waves, droughts and violent meteorological events would be disastrous, destabilizing further more areas that already experience wars, chronic famine, political and social instability.
    It is not a question of spending your money rather on mitigating GW than on developing poor countries. We can do the both, and in fact the issue is the same. Development is a long term process, and you have to plan things at least 20, if not 50, years ahead in order to be efficient. If you do this then you can do nothing but take account of the very likely impacts of GW.

    Comment by nicolas L. — 15 May 2007 @ 8:55 AM

  232. Re #196:

    MDC, you wrote “All this debate would end if somebody could make a case, using scientific principles (you know, repeatability, falsifiable, measurable, etc.), that every time an SUV drives for 100 miles, it raises the global temperature by .000001C (or somesuch). If that information ISN’T available, I question what the sturm and drang is about.”

    I disagree that the debate would end if those numbers were available and I feel that it would be a silly and pointless exercise to derive such metrics. It would be analogous to trying to quantify the societal costs of smoking as so many cents/cigarette, or of the health care costs of obesity in terms of dollars/french fry. What’s the point? If you calculate that smoking only costs 0.00001 cents/cigarette does that make dying of lung cancer at age 43 (as a friend of mine recently did) a bargain? What makes your proposed AGW metrics even more pointless is that the people dumping the GHGs into the atmosphere are not the ones who will bear the brunt of the damages.

    So I have a counter-proposal . . . let’s require every SUV purchaser to commit to hosting a refugee family if their village is inundated by rising sea levels or their crops are ruined by drought. Ten million or so new SUV owners each year, ten million or so refugee families each year, sounds like a good balance to me. If the AGW skeptics are right, that will be a commitment the SUV owners will never have to fulfill so what’s not to like about it. :-)

    There is an old saying: No raindrop feel responsible for the flood. We’re seeing this denialism from individuals, and even nations, who are defensively rationalizing their polluting lifestyles. The simple reality is that all of us bear some responsibility for the situation we are in, and all of us need to get busy and do what we can, at all levels, to mitigate the problem.

    Comment by Phillip Shaw — 15 May 2007 @ 9:04 AM

  233. PHE (#225)

    I suggest you try this. Imagine the world is cooling by 1 degree per century (due to say manmade aerosol-induced global cooling). Then list all the bad things that could happen. You could easily achieve as long a list.

    False.

    He would have to know what the effects are upon the climate, how the temperature would be distributed, how it would affect precipitation patterns. He could come up with a list of sorts, but it would bear little relationship to reality without doing the actual modeling.

    Three degrees higher in the global average temperature is translating into ten degrees higher temperatures in the dry summers in places like Chicago and Washington DC. And current climate change is already resulting in changes in the oceanic currents off the Pacific which makes large deadzones more likely off the coasts of Oregon and now parts of Washington State. We are seeing them. According to current calculations, we should be expecting droughts in Australis now. We are seeing them.

    Before identify the consequences of climate change due to an increase or decrease in temperature, you have to know how it will be distributed in time and space and how it will affect precipitation. And in order to know the distribution, you have to know what feedbacks will be involved.

    And, yes, you can’t blame any one given weather event upon climate change. Climatology isn’t the same as meteorology. But you can identify trends which make such events more likely and result in the likelihood that they will be severe – and this applies to heatwaves like what Europe experienced in 2003. See Mike’s inline response to your post #213.

    Additionally, I would remind you that the average three degrees increase in the global temperature (where it appears that increases will tend to be higher in the northern hemisphere over land, and lower in the southern hemisphere) is the result of a calculation which does not take into account some of the positive feedback which we are already beginning to see in terms of the carbon cycle and processes in the cryosphere. As such, it is a conservative estimate of the effects that we will see, particularly (I would suspect) in the later half of this century.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 15 May 2007 @ 9:20 AM

  234. Matt, the questions you are asking are important, and certainly they need to be considered. However, the thing that keeps climate scientists up at night is that right now we really don’t know what all the consequences of climate change would be. Scientists tend to be conservative. They like to only draw conclusions when they are sure they aren’t wrong. Thus, what you hear about from scientists are the virtual certainties–like sea-level rise, intensifying of droughts in already dry areas, more intense storms and so on.
    You state that warming by a few degrees is equivalent to “moving a few hundred miles south”, but this is not entirely true. Some ecosystems are being lost entirely, and we might well lose the ability to grow some crops such as some potato varieties and winter wheat. Temperate climates yield more calories per acre than do tropical ecosystems. Weeds and invasive plants and pests could further reduce agricultural yields. One of the reasons why slash-and-burn agriculture is so prevalent in the tropics is that it is one of the few ways farmers have to rid themselves of insects and weeds before planting.
    Tropical diseases are another possible consequence–malaria, dengue, ebola, Chagas disease, etc. could all become endemic in what are now temperate areas. These, or some subset thereof are just the likely effects.
    More uncertain is just how uncertain predicting climate will become. The past 10000 years have been a period of exceptional climatic stability. They also happen to be the only period in which human civilization has existed on Earth. Climate has not always been so accommodating. Some periods have looked chaotic, and the practice of agricutlture would probably not have been possible during such periods. Our civilization depends on a certain degree of predictability. If we keep perturbing the climate, this cannot be guaranteed.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 15 May 2007 @ 9:41 AM

  235. RE: #226, Levenson: Thank you for the formulae, but that still leaves me with the question: what is the impact of any given action on the environment. Obviously this is a bit of a straw man, as there are many more variables also changing in a dynamic and incompletely comprehended/imagined/modelled way, so failure to boil it all down to a simple Xinput=Youtput hardly proves anything one way or the other. Fine. I haven’t crunched the numbers on the formula you’ve given, but the question is still, really, what is the expected impact of any given action. That applies both to production of CO2 and absorbtion. If we cannot apply SOME metric and comparison, then ‘carbon credits’ is a meaningless idea (which, I admit, I already believe), and since the point of Kyoto and the IPCC is governmental cost-benefit decisionmaking, I’m still a little confused as to how this will be balanced. Sure, saying “if it doubles, then X,” but since we don’t know (or at least -I- don’t know) what the cost of my activites are (individually or as a country or any sub-part thereof), rational decisions beg more information. Qualitative answers might be fine for talking points, but quantitative would be much better for policy decisions. I’m all in favor of budgeting more money for research… just not for policies designed to ‘fix’ a problem that we can’t define.

    Re: #231, Shaw: I don’t necessarily disagree with you that detailed metrics are not the point for INDIVIDUAL actions, but if policy decisions are being made, then metrics ARE critical. There would be no rationalization for seatbelt laws unless a dollar-cost/accident analysis wasn’t done. I don’t understand why you WOULDN’T want to have information available to make informed decisions. As a similarly tongue-in-cheek response to your SUV plan, in an effort to follow your advice about ‘doing something’ I’ve mentally linked myself to a substinence farmer in Africa in order to bring down ‘our’ average carbon output. Actually, I think I’ve linked myself to a total of five farmers, thus reducing my CO2 footprint to a mere 21% of it’s former glory. My point about metrics is that ‘just doing something’ is just that… just doing ‘something.’ If you can’t tell me what the effect of my activities are, even in terms of probability ranges, then why should I feel compelled to do it?

    It’s like with recycling paper: I’ll start caring about recycling when I stop getting my mailbox stuffed with advertisements every day… likewise with ‘doing something’ about AGW when somebody convinces me that my driving a Prius instead of a 4Runner will balance out China and India’s CO2 output (including, of course, the more round trips I’ll need to shuttle my stuff from one side of town to the other, never mind cross-country). That’s not denial, it’s rational cost-benefit analysis. Note that all of this is stipulating AGW as presented here, despite my grave reservations on the quality of the case for AGW (starting first and foremost with it coming from a UN organization… but that’s another thread).

    Comment by MDC — 15 May 2007 @ 10:04 AM

  236. Overeating might be a problem, but until any particular calorie can be found to be responsible for any particular heart attack, there’s no rational reason to try to reduce overall calories, eh?

    You understand the Fermi Paradox?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 15 May 2007 @ 11:12 AM

  237. MDC (#235) wrote:

    My point about metrics is that ‘just doing something’ is just that… just doing ‘something.’ If you can’t tell me what the effect of my activities are, even in terms of probability ranges, then why should I feel compelled to do it?

    I would certainly agree with you on this point. For example, some people advocate biofuels, and in many cases the carbon footprint is actually larger than that of oil – and therefore the voices which continue to advocate it (now that we are aware of its costs) are various political interests, including agriculture. These questions of what should be done are important. Moreover, as the analysis of the effects of biofuels suggest, they are being done.

    The most important thing, though, is to understand the effects of climate change – and for the public to be aware of these effects. Those who continue to deny the obvious in this regard are not helping. Then we need to understand why this climate change is happening. Those who deny what has become obvious (at least from a scientific standpoint – with the usual caveats and conservative estimates that scientists are prone to make) are not helping here, either.

    Once we understand both the effects (given their severity) and the causes (that they are primarily due to our emission of CO2 into the atmosphere), there is more political will to look into potential solutions (typically of the patchwork variety) and perform a cost/benefit analysis. It is a simple, logical progression at this level.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 15 May 2007 @ 11:13 AM

  238. Re#235 MDC: “It’s like with recycling paper: I’ll start caring about recycling when I stop getting my mailbox stuffed with advertisements every day… likewise with ‘doing something’ about AGW when somebody convinces me that my driving a Prius instead of a 4Runner will balance out China and India’s CO2 output”

    It’s quite clear that you will grasp at anything that allows you to not “do something” for as long as possible.

    Comment by Jim Eager — 15 May 2007 @ 11:16 AM

  239. Re #235. “If you can’t tell me what the effect of my activities are, even in terms of probability ranges, then why should I feel compelled to do it?

    It’s like with recycling paper: I’ll start caring about recycling when I stop getting my mailbox stuffed with advertisements every day… likewise with ‘doing something’ about AGW when somebody convinces me that my driving a Prius instead of a 4Runner will balance out China and India’s CO2 output…”

    This looks to me like a lot of complicated justification for selfishness. The same reasoning can be applied to littering, wasting water during a drought etc. If you don’t feel you should, as a matter of respect for or solidarity with fellow human beings, avoid causing pollution or wasting resources where you can (even if your individual contribution is inevitably a small one), I don’t think anyone can argue you into it. The rest of us will just have to hope there are not too many more like you.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 15 May 2007 @ 11:24 AM

  240. This has been an interesting and thought provoking thread. I have a thought I’d like to toss out for comment. First, let me emphasize that I am a committed environmentalist and not an AGW skeptic in any sense

    That said, I confess I have never been comfortable with the concept of carbon offsets. I just don’t see how they can realistically reduce our aggregate carbon emissions. A polluter offsetting its carbon by paying another entity to not pollute is like a fat person losing weight by paying a trim person to skip dessert.

    My doctor has told me I should get more exercise. Somehow I don’t think that my paying a jogger to add a few miles to his weekly regimen is going to do it, even if that increases the ‘average’ exercise level.

    And what’s to keep offset credits from being sold to multiple polluters? If I buy an organic coffee plantation in Costa Rica what’s to stop me from selling my carbon offsets to a european firm, an american firm, and an asian firm, too? Heck, certification is a joke so all I need to do is SAY I own a plantation. There’s no penalty for selling phony offsets.

    Can some of you bright people help me understand this approach? I’ve read the wikipedia article on it and didn’t read anything that convinced me that carbon offsets are anything but a shell game.

    Comment by Phillip Shaw — 15 May 2007 @ 12:58 PM

  241. Phillip, Actually, I can think of a couple of ways carbon offsets could be effective. First, it is naive to look at the status quo and think it can persist. We have the US, Europe and a few other countries that are very productive, but very energy-intensive and ghg-intensive. These countries have legacy infrastructures that emit a lot of ghg. On the other hand we have developing countries like China, India, Brazil and some African countries that are increasing their energy consumption rapidly. These developing countries lack infrastructure–a liability, but also an opportunity. Since we know energy consumption in these countries will grow, carbon offsets could be used to channel the growth into nonpolluting technologies–which are better for the developing country and for us, but which may have a higher initial capital investment cost. We can make this a win-win situation–with developing countries getting clean technology sooner, developers of clean technology getting new markets and all of us reducing ghg concentrations from what they would have been.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 15 May 2007 @ 1:14 PM

  242. Re #224: [So, saying that we now want to spend much much more than that to help folks in Africa cope with the heat is a bit strange.]

    Matt, you’re starting with a wrong assumption, so naturally the conclusion seems strange. My objective isn’t to help folks in Africa, it’s to help me. That it helps people in Africa and the rest of the world is just a nice fringe benefit :-)

    [And there just aren't many reports I've seen that have shown the west will be hard hit by warming.]

    You must not have looked very hard. There are all sorts of studies, ranging from the decimation of California agriculture to increased flooding to lack of snow putting ski resorts out of business. The local paper has been running a series on it http://www.rgj.com

    [The more money you have, the better you can cope.]

    But the more money you have, the more you have to lose :-) There are also things which no reasonable amount of money can buy: how much would it cost to roof over the Sierra Nevada and air condition it so I’d have decent weather for the outdoor activities I enjoy?

    [...kind of like the doctor telling you he's 95% certain that you will die early from a heart attack within 20 years if you keep smoking and eating nachos.]

    You’ve touched on an important point, but missed one as well. Turn the question around, and think about why I, like many people, choose not to smoke or eat (large amounts of) nachos. It’s not because I’m into self-denial, or that I’m trying to minimize potential risks 20 years down the road: it’s because not doing so improves the quality of my life right now. That I may also see long-term gains is, as with helping folks in Africa, just a nice fringe benefit.

    [And that's really what addressing global warming ultimately will be about: making sacrifices.]

    Why? I choose to drive a Honda Insight instead of an SUV: what am I sacrificing by doing so? The privilege of paying several tens of thousands more to purchase the vehicle, then yet more every time I fill the tank? I use CFLs instead of incandescents: what do I sacrifice? The privilege of giving more money to the power company? I bike a lot of places instead of driving, hike instead of riding ATVs, cross-country ski instead of snowmobiling… What do I sacrifice? The privilege of carrying around an extra 50 or 100 pounds of flab?

    I could go on and on – you punched one of my buttons there – but the point is that media and advertising have given the general public some very distorted ideas about the world. They’re constantly bombarded with messages that product X will make them happier, healthier, and more sexually attractive, but they never deliver on their claims. I ignore them, and find that most of those “sacrifices” aren’t sacrifices at all, but lifestyle improvements.

    Comment by James — 15 May 2007 @ 1:31 PM

  243. RE: #225 & others

    Limiting the choice to “getting warmer” or “getting colder” is a classic false dichotomy. Nobody wants to go back to the LIA. Most people prefer to keep the temperature in some range comfortable to them, and avoid fast gyrations, which is why people have heaters, and/or air conditioners in their homes. One of the reasons people live here [SanFrancisco Peninsula] is that it’s naturally air-conditioned, so it neither freezes (any more) nor gets really hot (so far).

    As a civilization, either we’ve been lucky for the last 8,000 years or so, or (Ruddiman), our CO2/CH4/land-use changes have effectively canceled cooling that should have happened in “our house”.

    We’ve liked the Long Summer (as in Brian Fagan’s book, worth reading about past effects of climate on civilizations). We should be in a Long Fall (with temperatures going down, which we wouldn’t like), heading back towards a Long Winter (which we really wouldn’t like, especially in Stockholm or Toronto).

    But the *immediate* problem is that we’ve turned up the heat in “our house”, and instead of the temperature slowly cooling in Fall, it’s going up real fast, and whether it’s already hit the highest Summer temperature yet or not doesn’t matter much, because, if not, it will soon, and far worse, the rate of change is unusually fast. We also have a lot more residents since the last time it was this warm. Getting colder is not an immediate option, because the global air conditioner is broken.

    In the really long term, we’re going to have to figure out how to ameliorate temperature swings in either direction, figure out better ways to adapt [there is bound to be a lot more GM food, soon, as important crops will need to get tweaked faster than usual plant-breeding], don’t fall into a major collapse that requires fossil fuels to rebuild, and stay high-tech enough to deal with the next big plague or dinosaur killer.

    Comment by John Mashey — 15 May 2007 @ 1:48 PM

  244. #237-239: My intent is not to justify not doing anything, or selfishness, as it were, but rather to point out that given the current state of information, government-level action is premature. Individuals acting ‘green’ based on their own economic analysis is fine, being a good steward is great, but redistributing funds, either directly or through regulations, by a government should not be undertaken until SOME sort of balance sheet is available. Sure, no raindrop blames itself for the flood… but 99.99999999999% of raindrops are not part of any flood, and to treat all as such leads to a 99.99999999999% rate of waste.

    I enjoyed refreshing my memory on the Fermi Paradox (thank you Wikipedia!), but I’m not sure how that applies to this… It (AGW) strikes me as more of an objective risk-management issue (the use of the word ‘objective’ is critical to seperate it from insurance actuary considerations which, if you follow the money (it seems to me), have a vested interest in predicting bad things) than the Fermi situation. I CAN see, however, that there are competing explanations for the perceived warming (including the amount of warming, etc.), some of which have more merit than others (e.g. I don’t subscribe to the idea that we cannot affect our environment, but that’s a long way from accepting that CO2 emmissions are the silver bullet, the control of which will unquestionably stop catastrophic warming).

    I plan on ‘not doing anything’ for exactly as long as it makes economic sense to do so. Being somewhat rational, I’m willing to accept some short-term loss for long-term gain, and to deal in matters besides dollars and cents (i.e. human suffering is a factor worth attention, rank ordered, frankly, by their emotional proximity to me), and I would hope that others would do the same. I make a concerted effort to not litter (actually, it’s ingrained in me enough as to require no conscious thought), but that’s a long ways away from supporting government regulations requiring me to have CFL in my house… I’d put “solidarity with my fellow man” down as a matter of morality, and legislating morality is a mug’s game (IMHO).

    To loop this back around to the thread topic: correlation/causation issues and snarkiness do not convince me that my driving my SUV negatively impacts the global climate (local pollution levels, maybe). I do not equate CO2 with littering in any meaningful sense of the word and I question the comparison between between the two. If I’m to be held to some sort of moral standard (as implied in #239), then I can only assume that Mr. Gotts has stopped ALL production of CO2 in his life (I’ll accept exhaled breath) or can demonstrate in concrete terms that he is 100% balanced not in carbon credits but in actual CO2 absorbing activities balancing out all his production. Anything less than that implies, to me, either a moral decision to kill third-worlders OR an idea of proportionality that keeps his production below a fatal level. That’s all I’m looking for: how much is okay and how much is too much? If it’s too much, why is it too much?

    Comment by MDC — 15 May 2007 @ 2:05 PM

  245. Ray,

    Thank you for your reply. I guess I should have been clearer in my original question. I understand the theory of carbon offsets, and feel it is a very idealistic approach to AGW mitigation. But the way carbon offsets are implemented is an open invitation for abuse and fraud. If a major polluter, such as TXU here in Texas, says that they’ve offset 100% of their emissions . . . how do I check? They could be lying, and/or the folks they bought the offsets from could lying. Maybe I’m just too old and cynical.

    I guess I’m more in favor of carbon taxes which would give an immediate and measurable incentive for companies to implement mitigation technologies. I would add the caveat that the carbon tax revenue would need to be allocated to AGW mitigation activities.

    Comment by Phillip Shaw — 15 May 2007 @ 2:06 PM

  246. Well, the only way is to have independent audits. My guess is that you are right–this will attract some shady operators who just dump some seedlings on the ground, if that much, and say they’ve offset carbon emissions. However, there are organizations that can independently audit and certify that remediations are going on.
    Again, with carbon taxes, how do you know that the money went to mitigation and not to a porkbarrel project with some rationale…”well this bridge saves 2 miles on people’s commutes, so it’s saving energy…” No matter who you trust (e.g. gov’t, business or some nonprofit), your trust should be verified.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 15 May 2007 @ 2:22 PM

  247. Phillip Shaw (#240) wrote:

    That said, I confess I have never been comfortable with the concept of carbon offsets. I just don’t see how they can realistically reduce our aggregate carbon emissions. A polluter offsetting its carbon by paying another entity to not pollute is like a fat person losing weight by paying a trim person to skip dessert.

    Although Ray Ladbury recognizes, there are opportunities, there are also large problems with how carbon offsets are handled, at least at present. It is often unregulated and undocumented, and I find it disturbing that I have seen contrarians peddling carbon offset services where presumably they do the math (in terms of what carbon offsets need to be made) and handle insuring that your company’s carbon offsets are being offset by someone else.

    There is also the problem that, for example, with biofuels, we are often exporting our carbon emissions to third world countries where rainforests are cleared for crops with which to produce the biofuel. Likewise, whatever crops are being used for biofuel are crops which are no longer being used for food, and with the coming droughts, harvests will be sharply declining in many countries, leaving people with even less to eat.

    Carbon offsets may work, but it will have to be well-documented, probably by independent parties. And we need to keep in mind the fact that if there is a legal way of getting around carbon offsets, such as exporting carbon emissions to where it is less likely to be enforced, someone will probably find a profit in it.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 15 May 2007 @ 2:23 PM

  248. CO2 Science has a side-business…

    Well, this might not be carbon offsets, but it is GHG accounting and reporting…

    Thus, in an effort to assist those who desire to begin GHG accounting and reporting, we will attempt to provide you with some basic information to get started. For those needing more specific information or desiring professional assistance in compiling a report, please contact us. Since 2001, our organization has provided companies with professional assistance in filing GHG reports with the U.S. Voluntary Reporting of Greenhouse Gases Program, established by Section 1605(b) of the Energy Policy Act of 1992. We hope that you too will turn to our Center with your GHG reporting needs. Together, we can prepare an accurate, complete, consistent, relevant and transparent accounting of your emission and sequestration activities.

    http://www.co2science.org/scripts/CO2ScienceB2C/about/ghgreport/ghgreporting.jsp
    http://web.archive.org/web/20060424122412/http://www.co2science.org/scripts/CO2ScienceB2C/about/ghgreport/ghgreporting.jsp

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 15 May 2007 @ 2:41 PM

  249. Wow.

    I’m not cynical enough yet.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 15 May 2007 @ 3:11 PM

  250. Re: #244 (MDC)

    I find it disingenuous that you begin your comment by saying,

    My intent is not to justify not doing anything…

    then you devote the entire comment to justifying not doing anything. You even state,

    I plan on ‘not doing anything’ for exactly as long as it makes economic sense to do so…

    You’re using “economic sense” to justify not doing anything.

    I don’t happen to agree with your economic arguments (read the Stern report), and I think your argument is rooted not only in selfishness, but in short-sightedness.

    Comment by tamino — 15 May 2007 @ 3:16 PM

  251. Re 233 (Timothy Chase). You seem to say “false”with such relish. In fact, I can meet the challenge quite easily:
    ‘You might look at reports of crop damage from the cold temperatures and late frosts. Fruit trees failing to ripen before the winter. Cold reduces the numbers of insects, leaving less food for the birds. Then there’s issues of timings: pollenators hatching or migrating at the wrong times for their crops. Then we could get into the excess of precipitation & winter snowpack, and the effects those are having on crops. Growing glaciers threatening downstream villages (a genuine fear in the 1700s). And the loss of revenue to the summer tourist industry. And on and on.’
    That was easy. The irony is that you will assume I lack concern for the environment. On the contrary, I wholeheartedly support its protection. I believe in energy efficiency, reducing airborne pollution, and protecting our countryside, rivers, etc. I left my car at home today and cycled to work. My concern is the use of pseudo-science by the media and campaigners. There is good science and scientists on both sides of the climate change debate. The regular nonsensical exagerations and claims we constantly hear from pro-AGW supporters (who I can only assume are not scientists) does a great diservice to their side of the argument. Cry wolf if you wish, but you will regret it once the general public lose interest, perhaps just when feel their support is needed most.

    Comment by PHE — 15 May 2007 @ 3:35 PM

  252. >Fermi paradox

    So far we have no evidence that any intelligent lifeform has survived the short period of time when the easily available fossil fuel gets used up, along with the easily accessible metal.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 15 May 2007 @ 3:47 PM

  253. Re #245 Take a look at http://www.carbontradewatch.org/. I can’t vouch for everything on the site, but it’s a mine of information supporting your doubts. Certainly, scepticism about carbon offsets – and more broadly, carbon trading – is widespread among climate change campaigners. Even where offsets are genuine, it’s worth bearing in mind that it would always be better (at least from the point of view of combating AGW) to give the money to the offset scheme yourself, and not take the flight, or whatever the activity being offset is!

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 15 May 2007 @ 3:59 PM

  254. re #225 “I suggest you try this. Imagine the world is cooling by 1 degree per century (due to say manmade aerosol-induced global cooling). Then list all the bad things that could happen. You could easily achieve as long a list.”

    Up to a point – although the likely warming over the next century, if we do nothing to prevent it, is considerably more than 1 degree – if we could keep it to 1 degree, we’d almost certainly avoid really serious damage to human populations, and considerably moderate destruction of biodiversity. The point is that both human activities (notably agriculture and settlement patterns), and non-human species distributions, are adapted to current/recent climate conditions, and rapid change in any direction is going to cause serious problems. This is particularly the case as climate change will interact with other serious environmental problems such as overpopulation, soil erosion, regional fresh water shortages and pollution, deforestation, and problems with invasive species.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 15 May 2007 @ 4:17 PM

  255. Re 244 MDC: “My intent is not to justify not doing anything, or selfishness…”

    Sorry, but after reading your latest I’d say that’s precisely what you are doing, and that Tim, Nick and I had you pegged correctly.

    “I CAN see, however, that there are competing explanations for the perceived warming…”

    Such as? You’re clearly stuck between the second stage of denial (I’m not convinced that we have anything to do with it) and the third (in any case it’s too expensive and inconvenient to do anything about it).

    “That’s all I’m looking for: how much is okay and how much is too much?”

    How much rise in temperature will it take for you to get that this is a very real and very serious problem that needs to be addressed, the earlier the better?

    How much of a rise in sea level will it take? How much ice loss? How much crop failure?

    You need to ask yourself these questions.

    Comment by Jim Eager — 15 May 2007 @ 4:30 PM

  256. I have a couple of comments on your post, PHE. If you’re so concerned about the use of pseudo-science in the media and elsewhere, you should be up in arms against the innumerable misrepresentations, erroneous assertions, misleading statements and dishonest picking of data that this site spends so much time addressing. All these have done so much disservice to their side of the argument in my view that I consider their side of the argument completely moot.

    It is an opinion that I have formed over 2 years of attentive and abundant reading about the subject (both sides).

    Although I concede that some “green” organizations are annoying with the language they use, they are still closer to reality than the denialists trumpeting that CO2 is good because it is “plant food.”
    Yes, they actually do say that, and worse.

    “There is good science and scientists on both sides of the climate change debate.” Please define exactly what these sides are. If they are the same that I see, there are a few credentialed scientists (very few) defending positions on which there is very little research on one side and an almost unanymous scientific community with an enormous body of research on the other side. It does not help that the few aforementioned scientists spend most of their time advocating instead of doing research, or that they receive funding from entities with immense financial stakes in the BAU scenarios.

    If you know of different sides, in which scientists and data are more evenly distributed, I would like to know about it too.

    Comment by Philippe Chantreau — 15 May 2007 @ 4:52 PM

  257. Re: #251 PHE

    Consider a simple X scale of professed belief:
    0: AGW is a hoax (denialist)
    0+ .. 1- : probability of AGW, opinion based on evidence (rational skeptics), and usually as people learn more they move higher.
    1: AGW is the end of the world, and fund my environmental organization (Alarmist)

    0 normally gets that way for economic, ideological, or political reasons, i.e., if one works for fossil fuel organizations, automatically disbelieves anything the UN or Al Gore says,then one will stay at 0 regardless of any accumulating evidence.

    1 sometimes gets that way for ideological reasons (be nice to the Earth), and sometimes generates alarmism for funding. My “favorite” was a book that decried the future disappearance of penguins in the Arctic, which was irritating enough to drop my view to .2 for a little while years ago.

    If one uses a 3D visualization (X = above, Y = relevant scientific knowledge, Z = certainty level), the relevant clusters of people become obvious, as do the evolving paths of opinions over time. For instance, someone who stays at 0 or 1 in the face of changing evidence is different from somebody who can change their minds. Knowledgable people at .9+, having had numerous run-ins with those at 0, sometimes get short-tempered with somebody at .2, if they ask enough questions that sound like those of 0.

    The problem (PHE? is this your issue?), is that if someone is exposed to much of 1 (before building a strong knowledge of evidence), distaste can quickly drive them down to the .1-.2 range. I’d guess most real climate scientists have moved to .9+, over the last few decades. Those at 0 do their best, sometimes successfully, to conflate those at 1 with world-class scientists at .9+:

    i.e., try Google: james hansen alarmist … gets 50K hits

    [gavin schmidt alarmist only gets 960 ... need to work harder :-)]

    [Response: I'm still young(ish). There's time.... -gavin]

    Comment by John Mashey — 15 May 2007 @ 4:53 PM

  258. Re #244: [I plan on 'not doing anything' for exactly as long as it makes economic sense to do so.]

    Suppose we look at that from a different angle, and ask if you would do things which do make economic sense, even though they might have a positive effect on climate? From your next paragraph (about driving your SUV) the answer would seem to be no, since unless you’re one of the rare people who e.g. live at the end of a rough dirt road, you’d very likely save money by driving a smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicle.

    So I have to wonder about your reasoning. On the one hand you’re attacking people for wanting to spend money mitigating CO2, yet you’re seemingly willing to do the same thing in reverse, and waste money on things that contribute excess CO2. Why?

    There are a great many things that could be done at zero cost (or even at a profit/benefit) to partially mitigate CO2. Even if one is sceptical about the accuracy of CO2-related climate change forecasts, what exactly is the objection to doing these, simply as a precaution?

    Comment by James — 15 May 2007 @ 6:22 PM

  259. MDC (244)– Your comments remind me of my neighbor, who defended her purchase of a Chevy Tahoe thusly: “We’re tall people. We need big cars.” Now, I love this woman dearly; she is my best friend, and she was a stand-in mom to my children while I was going through chemo. But my first thought was, WTF?!

    You defend your 4Runner by saying that you have a lot of “stuff” to haul around. I’m always flabbergasted by this “stuff” rationalization. I mean, if my family of four can fit ourselves and the “stuff” we need for a week-long trip into our Prius, and then drive more than 500 miles on ONE TANK of gas, I honestly wonder just what kind of “stuff” other people feel compelled to tote around with them.

    I think many of us just can’t tell the difference between what we *want* and what we *need*. We say we *need* this and we *need* that. Makes me think of a great movie where one guy looks at the other guy and says: “You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.”

    For example: I’d really love to have a Jaguar. A blue convertible Jaguar. With leather seats and satellite radio. But I don’t *need* it; I *need* to save money for my kids’ college fund. Driving a Jaguar won’t make me thinner or sexier…Hm. I think you’ve pushed a few of my buttons too.

    We’re not being asked to make enormous sacrifices. We’re not being asked to patrol Baghdad. We’re not being asked to wade into the surf at Normandy. We’re not even being asked to give up meat on Fridays (though we’d probably be healthier if we did). All that’s required is that we be a bit less self-centered, a bit less self-indulgent. If we can’t manage that, then humanity doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell.

    Okay. Deep breath. I’m finished now. It’s been a bad day.

    Comment by Arvella Oliver — 15 May 2007 @ 7:46 PM

  260. I am not an economist, but I did have to take an economics class once. I do enjoy saving money by driving a small fuel efficient car, using public transportation or riding my bike when feasible, owning a small, well insulated home, and using CFLs. I also occasionally feel good that I’m doing something good for the environment. But absent coherent government policies that will unmask the true cost of energy, I often worry that my frugality is just helping to keep energy prices down and encouraging others to use more. By the way, I recycle my junk mail. I don’t have a good explanation of why.

    Comment by The Wonderer — 15 May 2007 @ 9:09 PM

  261. Timothy writes: “Carbon offsets may work, but it will have to be well-documented, probably by independent parties. ”

    The fact that I can completely offset a year of Hummer driving from TerraPass.com for $80 should tell you all you need to know about carbon offsets. Keep in mind that’s an extra $80 after I’ve spent $2500 on fuel for the year.

    Either offsetting carbon is so cheap because it’s so easy to do and all this is much ado about nothing, TerraPass is lying or Hummers aren’t evil. Hmmm.

    Comment by Matt — 15 May 2007 @ 10:10 PM

  262. James writes: [You've touched on an important point, but missed one as well. Turn the question around, and think about why I, like many people, choose not to smoke or eat (large amounts of) nachos. It's not because I'm into self-denial, or that I'm trying to minimize potential risks 20 years down the road: it's because not doing so improves the quality of my life right now. That I may also see long-term gains is, as with helping folks in Africa, just a nice fringe benefit.]

    And I can tell you that I’d buy health insurance before I’d buy cable TV and cellphones and a second car. But most of the country disagrees with me on that. My point was that a huge portion of the population can’t even plan for the basics. Don’t count on them sacrificing anything for the future. My second point was that when you consider the certainty of global warming (very, very high), the impact to GDP (less certainty) and the cost to mitigate (less certainty), then those that are skilled in the art of betting one way or the other on these types of things have looked at the evidence and have decided to wait it out for now. That might change, but that’s the fact right now.

    [Why? I choose to drive a Honda Insight instead of an SUV: what am I sacrificing by doing so? The privilege of paying several tens of thousands more to purchase the vehicle, then yet more every time I fill the tank? I use CFLs instead of incandescents: what do I sacrifice? ]

    You are right James, you haven’t sacrificed a thing. You are MUCH closer to the SUV driver than the farmer in India. Now, if you tell me you don’t have a car and spend an extra 2 hours a day riding public transportion and you bike your kids to soccer games, you are completely off the grid and you grow your own food, then you’ve got my ear. And in that case I think you’ll agree that you have sacrificed a lot at that point. CFL will save 5-7% of your electricity per year, yet most families are adding electronics to the home at 5+% per year. What your counterpart pedals in China makes your Insight look outright glutonous. Do you know when your counterpart in India goes to bed? When the car battery that he charged all day via a small solar cell finally is exhausted.

    This rational of a percent here and a percent there is just utterly bogus when the world energy consumtpion is growing by 5% per year. To solve global warming, those in the west need to get their carbon footprint to 10% what it is today, because your counterpart in China is enjoying things he’s never had before, and is about to explode his footprint by 10X. And there are 10X more of him.

    Note when I say that you need to get your footprint to 10% what it is today, realize that 75% of your footprint isn’t even under your control. Household consumption in the US is around 11000 KWH, yet annual per-capita consumption for a family of four is 48,000 KWH. Your house could go to zero KWH and you still have Home Depot running the parking lot lights all night on your behalf. You still have The Mirage hotel in Las Vegas running massive water features all day on your behalf. And on and on.

    Folks REALLY don’t understand how painful it is to get CO2 waaaay down when you have a large portion of the world (rightfully) tasting for the first time how wonderful cheap power can be.

    The one way to avoid the hurt is nuclear power combined with electric cars. That gets us 90% of the way there and the engineering is well understood. I’d pay a massive gas tax to see that go into a superfund XPrize type of arrangement.

    Comment by Matt — 15 May 2007 @ 10:43 PM

  263. [We're not being asked to make enormous sacrifices. We're not being asked to patrol Baghdad. We're not being asked to wade into the surf at Normandy. We're not even being asked to give up meat on Fridays (though we'd probably be healthier if we did). All that's required is that we be a bit less self-centered, a bit less self-indulgent. If we can't manage that, then humanity doesn't stand a snowball's chance in hell.]

    Sorry, but you are so very wrong.

    We all know that Kyoto required us to hit 1990 levels of CO2 output, and we also know Kyoto wasn’t a solution, but it was a bandaid that bought us just 6 years of relief in terms of warming. So since 1990 levels weren’t sufficient, let’s instead try to solve the problem and hit 1975 levels. In 1975, CO2 output was about 4.8B tons. In 1990 it was about 6B tons, and in 2000 it was 6.5B tons.

    Now, let’s assume that everyone in the world gets to produce CO2 equally. Afterall, it’s not fair to deny a developing nation things we enjoy.

    So that is 4.8B tons per year, shared among 6.5B people. That is 0.74 tons (1500 pounds) per person per year. If we can do that, then we hit 1975 levels and will likely solve the problem for good.

    The problem is, however, is that those in the west are producing between 13 and 33 tons per capita per year.

    So if we really want to address this, we all need to figure out how to get our carbon footprint to 1/10 or 1/20 what it is today.

    If you limit your Prius driving to 4000 miles per year (1408 pounds of CO2), then you get a few hundred hours of a single CFL bulb. No heat. No AC. No computer. No TV. Nothing else. At that point, you will be using “your fair share”

    This is a very, very serious problem that require drastic action. CFL and hybrids don’t even begin to cut it. And it’s a shame that many people believe that is all that is needed.

    Comment by Matt — 15 May 2007 @ 11:39 PM

  264. One item I’d appreciate a pointer or two for study is how do folks detect subtle temperature trends (shifts in mean) when the sigma of our temperature is so high?

    For example (http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/tfx/pdfs/NORMALS.pdf) shows that Great Falls max temp over the last 30 years for Aug has a mean of about 83 degrees, and a std dev around 9 degrees.

    If I use Excel to generate 5 trials of 1000 Aug 1 temperatures (say year 1000 to year 2000), then across those five trials I see the mean vary by about 0.9′F even though the mean going into the RNG with normal disti was 83′F.

    What this says is that even if our mean was declining we could easily still see several years of warming. With a sigma this large, you really need about 10,000 temp samples to see the mean across 5 trials converge to within a few %.

    Thanks in advance for any article pointers.

    Comment by Matt — 15 May 2007 @ 11:59 PM

  265. Hey, there’s bogosity any place you look.

    Check the clever ‘Ethanol Myths” page here:
    http://e85.whipnet.net/ethanol.faq/topten.myths.html

    Down near the bottom, they’ve tucked in this ‘myth’ which I suspect they made up:
    Ethanol Production is 100% efficient.

    And this explanation:
    “Producing Ethanol requires a vast amount of energy and multiple resources. The process reportedly contains 65 percent less usable energy than is consumed in the process of making it.”

    And that’s from the website _encouraging_ the stuff.

    Their further explanation is that, eventually, they’ll be making the stuff out of cellulose and that might actually be energy-efficient, and in the meantime, well, hey, it’s, er, yellow. And you can get a tax credit for vehicles burning it.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 16 May 2007 @ 12:31 AM

  266. Re: Alarmist, Hansen

    I have tended to think that even though there are positive feedback mechanisms which we are just beginning to learn about or which are just now getting started, we should go with the conservative models of climate change and let the more dire predictions wait until the models improve and the evidence accumulates. However, the more I read, the more I begin to wonder. Still, the IPCC needed to go with the more conservative projections simply in order to get different science organizations and more importantly, different governments to sign on. But honestly, the material I am seeing makes me nervous on a number of fronts.

    PS

    When you do a search for “james hansen alarmist,” you get a great deal of webpages. However, you should probably check the actual content of those pages to see what they are saying. The “most relevant” (judging from the fact that they rise to the top) are those which are responding to attacks on Hansen’s credibility, not attacking his credibility. The first which actually attacks him is six down – and it isn’t actually attacking him but a record of a speech by Senator Inhofe.

    I guess this says a little more than the mere number of webpages that come up, but then again, it probably says a great deal more to you if you are a real fan of Senator Inhofe…

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 16 May 2007 @ 1:40 AM

  267. “If I’m to be held to some sort of moral standard (as implied in #239), then I can only assume that Mr. Gotts has stopped ALL production of CO2 in his life (I’ll accept exhaled breath) or can demonstrate in concrete terms that he is 100% balanced not in carbon credits but in actual CO2 absorbing activities balancing out all his production.”

    I don’t claim anything of the kind; I don’t always do what I know I should. It’s ridiculous to claim there’s no reason to do anything until someone can tell you exactly how much is too much. For almost everyone in rich countries, it’s abundantly clear that we need to cause less GHG emissions than we’re doing now. It’s also clear that to deal with this problem we need both government legislation and individual action.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 16 May 2007 @ 3:40 AM

  268. Re 265 Hank, In the articles I’ve read on ethanol production, I’ve never seen an apples-to-apples comparison which includes details on the amount of energy required to produce a gallon of gasoline at the pump. I presume it’s not insignificant, although due to sheer volume, I don’t doubt assertions that it’s currently cheaper. Any thoughts?

    Comment by The Wonderer — 16 May 2007 @ 6:42 AM

  269. #264: (Matt)

    For example (http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/tfx/pdfs/NORMALS.pdf) shows that Great Falls max temp over the last 30 years for Aug has a mean of about 83 degrees, and a std dev around 9 degrees.

    If I use Excel to generate 5 trials of 1000 Aug 1 temperatures (say year 1000 to year 2000), then across those five trials I see the mean vary by about 0.9′F even though the mean going into the RNG with normal disti was 83′F.

    The standard deviation they’re talking about is for the temperature in a single location on a single day. Monthly averages will have considerably less deviation; accessing data for Great Falls from GHCN, I compute the August monthly average has a standard deviation of right around 3 deg.F (1.67 deg.C). The annual average temperature anomaly has even less standard deviation — for Great Falls it’s 1.8 deg.F (1.0 deg.C).

    And that’s just Great Falls! The standard deviation in the annual average temperature for the planet is about 0.3 deg.F (0.15 deg.C). That’s 30 times smaller than the 9 deg.F you used in your RNG.

    Comment by tamino — 16 May 2007 @ 7:26 AM

  270. Thanks for all the comments. I’ll try to keep this a little more on track and address the issues I think are important (because I really DON’T think MY compliance/acceptance/denial is what’s important here).

    For all: My 4Runner/Prius issue… my exact needs (and your unawareness of them) are EXACTLY the point. Broad policies not driven by specific, quantitative measures are going to be poor fits for half of the bell curve of personal transportation needs, and will be resisted by that half. Perhaps it makes more sense for me to spend the money to transport a subset of my household back and forth across the country twice a year by rail instead of in the back of my 25MPG highway SUV, or perhaps it makes sense for me to sacrifice bringing some things, or perhaps it makes sense to use rail, or perhaps just buy the things I need on each end. Where is the information for me to make that informed decision? Witnessing the effeciencies of the government in housing, welfare, and tax collection, I am hesitant to believe that satisfying decisions will be made by a policy letter. Doubling of CO2 means something, the IPCC says, but that does not help in day-to-day decisions.

    As for my selfishness: Instead of merely calling me selfish or in denial, accept that I am a reasonably well-educated, mid-40s American that is not invested in the oil industry that has done a little poking around and am unconvinced of the imminent danger here. I’ve got questions, like Matt in #264, about the number of significant digits in play here. I am emotionally put off by the arrogance (any hypocrisy) of Al Gore’s presentation, so seek harder numbers than pictures of swimming polar bears. I’ve been to NASAs website after googling for satellite-derived temperature trends and oddly don’t find a smoking gun (granting that the most recent posts are 1997 and 2000… why IS that?). I’m the target audience, and answers of “just do something” leave me unconvinced. Sure there’s game theory in play here, Pascal’s Wager and all that, too. We’ve all seen the reports that indicate that money and focus is better spent on non-weather-related disaster preparation, so what raises GW to the top of the priority stack?

    Again: there is nothing wrong with living cleaner. I’d just rather not do it because of trumped up alarmism. Heck, according to the Peak Oil folks, this will be a self-correcting problem anyway.

    Comment by MDC — 16 May 2007 @ 8:24 AM

  271. >nuclear power combined with electric cars
    Fifty years ago, 1957 — William Ford alongside a 3/8 scale Nucleon model: http://www.damninteresting.net/content/ford_nucleon_model.jpg

    By contrast, an older idea still makes sense today:

    “… the new Doble steamer … Model E zipped from zero to seventy-five miles per hour in a jaw-dropping ten seconds…. free of noticeable vibration, and the steam piston engine was turning at a leisurely 900 RPM. The model E …. achieved about fifteen miles per gallon of kerosene with negligible emissions….. Many of the Model E Dobles which have survived are still in good working condition, some having been driven over half a million miles with only normal maintenance. Astonishingly, an unmodified Doble Model E runs clean enough to pass the strict emissions laws in California today.”
    http://www.damninteresting.com/?p=669

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 16 May 2007 @ 8:48 AM

  272. P.S. And I recognize that I’ve drifted (vigorously) off the “causation/correlation” angle of the article. There are probably better threads for this discussion… but since the lead article was about sketchy assumptions reduced to the absurd, this may be just the place.

    Comment by MDC — 16 May 2007 @ 8:55 AM

  273. Re #263 “This is a very, very serious problem that require drastic action. CFL and hybrids don’t even begin to cut it. And it’s a shame that many people believe that is all that is needed.”

    Matt, you’re right about that. Where I think you’re wrong is in thinking that means individual action to reduce wasteful energy consumption is pointless. Governments (particularly elected ones) are more likely to take serious action on an issue if they see evidence that significant sections of the public are concerned about it. Even if the actions taken have trivial direct benefits, even if they are actually not directly beneficial at all – like many offsets – they are evidence of concern, both to governments and corporations (once they become statistically measureable), and to others in your own social circle, who may be prompted to do something along similar lines themselves. To use an example remote from AGW, during the last couple of years different parts of the UK have been introducing bans on smoking in enclosed public places – this process will be completed in a month or so when England joins the rest of the UK. This would have been unthinkable 20 years ago, and in introducing bans, UK governments have had to take on important vested interests. But in that time, it has become socially less and less acceptable to light a cigarette without asking permission, first in someone else’s house, then in shared spaces like offices and restaurants – and those asked have become more and more willing to refuse permission. Similar processes have made it much less socially acceptable to drive after drinking alcohol (here, legislation followed the initial shift in public opinion, but has also reinforced it). Thus any evidence that you are concerned about greenhouse gas emissions may influence those you interact with (although of course, it’s possible to put people’s backs up by proselytising) – and this is perhaps most likely to be effective if it clearly involves some sacrifice, but one within most people’s ability to make – so there is a good chance they will think “I could do that”. Of course you can still say, truly enough, that the chances of anything you do making a crucial difference even by such indirect routes is minute. Fortunately, most people value the good opinion of others, and many like to feel that they are acting in accordance with their principles, or in such a way that if everyone else acted similarly, the results would be good. (If this were not so, at least so far as the opinion of others is concerned, I suspect human societies would be unworkable.) I suspect, on reflection, that this is true of you – otherwise, why would you bother visiting this site to argue about it? (OK, maybe you enjoy arguing, but why this particular argument?)

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 16 May 2007 @ 10:06 AM

  274. re: 270. “We’ve all seen the reports that indicate that money and focus is better spent on non-weather-related disaster preparation, so what raises GW to the top of the priority stack?”

    It might have something to do with the 90% liklihood/certainty as discuss in the IPCC reports (based on science, not political commentaries). It is all readily available for learning and understanding. The issue is the unequivocal, peer-reviewed science, not what any politician says about it. What Gore presented happens to be quite accurate science, with a few caveats as discussed on this site in detail. We need more politicians who are able to understand the science as he does. And present it to people as well as he did/does in a way that is easy for laymen to comprehend.

    The uncertainties in global warming are far, far fewer than many scientific “certainties” that are accepted by the mainstream. Probably the only reasons there are those who question it are: 1. they have not read the science (which is quite clear and basic physics) and 2. they are reading the “disinformation” published in grey literature from “polluted”, non-scientific, non-peer reviewed sources (or from those who are not the least involved in climate science research: op-ed writers, economists, science-fiction writers, some geologists, engineers, etc.). It is not difficult to separate the two and discard the trash from the later. It is astonishing and quite sad that certain laymen with little background in the science beleive they know more about the subject than literally thousands of climate science researchers across the world. Every major atmospheric science society across the globe agrees about the issue of global warming. To give equal weight to disingenuous comments (which have been thoroughly discredited by scientists) from non-experts is simply inexcusable, head-in-the-sand logic. And a sad reflection on the state of critical thinking and science education as well, I suppose.

    Comment by Dan — 16 May 2007 @ 10:24 AM

  275. Matt (263) You’re right; this is very serious, and I didn’t mean to imply that a few lightbulbs and a car can solve the problem. I should’ve said that we should *as a beginning* be a little less self-indulgent. We have to ease people into this (and I know, we don’t have much time for that). My point, badly expressed, was that we have to find a place to start.

    MDC (270) Thanks for the explanation of ‘stuff’. I appreciate it. There will always be people who need a bigger automobile for work, or health reasons, or because they’ve got six kids, but I think they’re a minority. And I agree that it would be hard to figure out the most efficient way to move your stuff around. BTW, thanks for not driving a Hummer. Cheers!

    Comment by Arvella Oliver — 16 May 2007 @ 12:54 PM

  276. Matt does have a point as to the seriousness of the problem. In fact, it may even be more serious than he says.

    The real problem is that it is simply impossible for all 6 B people on this planet to share equally even the middle class western lifestyle. We would need several Earths for that. Energy is one of the most visible components of the problem, but there are many others. There is no plan whatsoever to address this. In my opinion, it is the biggest market failure ever and the threat that it represents has no equivalent in human history.

    I’m not sure that energy will be the most difficult issue in the overall problem. Has anyone seriously looked at what can be achieved by combining, on a global scale, solar, wind, geothermal, biomass hydro, tidal, wave and nuclear with optimized transmission and distribution? Nuclear offers options whose efficiency and waste generation are far better than what is widely used today. We need to stop talking about all these possibilities and make them become realities. With a barrel sutained above $70 and coal not being much of a long term option because of climate, it has to be possible. Whatever cost is there is simply the cost of a decent life for all in this world. We will not have it if we don’t want to shoulder the cost.

    Comment by Philippe Chantreau — 16 May 2007 @ 2:44 PM

  277. re: 266, alarmist, Hansen

    “However, you should probably check the actual content of those pages to see what they are saying. The “most relevant” (judging from the fact that they rise to the top) are those which are responding to attacks on Hansen’s credibility, not attacking his credibility. The first which actually attacks him is six down – and it isn’t actually attacking him but a record of a speech by Senator Inhofe.”

    I checked, of course, but I guess I should have better articulated the point better. It may be that I know more than I ought to about PR/marketing campaigns :-), which are *not* anything like scientific arguments, even when they try to masquerade as such.

    If one is doing a PR/lobbying campaign intended to create confusion, in the general public, one wants to throw mud and hope that it sticks a little, as widely as possible. You may have heard the phrase “No publicity is bad publicity.” [Not really true, but sometimes it works.]

    Hence, if one can force someone into saying “James Hansen is not an alarmist”, at least some of the readers will wonder: why are they being defensive? Or maybe, in a blog, people will argue with that, possibly leaving confusion in the minds of the unwary. Or, since people have lots of other issues to think about, maybe a vague impression lingers.

    If you look at the first hit from Google [A Few Things Ill Considered], the first part is a (good) discussion by Coby, followed by 17 comments, which include 4 different posts (by Anonymous) that include:

    “alarmist rhetoric spouted by Dr. Hansen”
    “Alarmist is exactly what I meant”
    “What I object to is alarmist rhetoric”
    “public information is skewed in favor of alarmist news”
    [Others argue the other side of course]

    [This kind of thing makes me long for the good old days of USENET, when most people posted under real names... Long ago, it became clear that on on-line bulletin boards, it is *always* easier to create confusion and obfuscation than clarity, even without anonymous posters.]

    The second one is from DeSMogBlog: that page just says:
    NZ Climate Neanderthals Blast Network for Airing Hansen’s “Alarmist” Views
    The skeptical New Zealand Climate Science Coalition is pressuring TV New Zealand to “balance” the “alarmist” climate forecasts by NASA chief climate scientist James Hansen — whom they call “a supporter of global warming.”

    That’s certainly reporting an attack, and Ross Gelbspan’s view of the Neanderthals is clear …
    but “No publicity is bad publicity.”

    The Inhofe speech certainly attacks Hansen, and of course it’s Inhofe, right there with Joe Barton (I guess Oklahoma legislators don’t recall the Dust Bowl) …
    but it is on an official US Senate website.

    Viewed as a marketing/political campaign, I’d say the denier/denialist/contrarian side (whatever it should be called, which is a problems) has done a good job of selling a political-style anti-brand term “alarmist”, using the term consistently and getting it to rub off on serious scientists. That side would be happy about every hit…. even if most of the pages were doing their best to refute it. That side would be happy that “Google: Richard Lindzen skeptic” gets more hits than denier, denialist, or contrarian…
    since “skeptic” has better connotations. Sigh … and sorry for dragging RC off into politics/marketing.

    Comment by John Mashey — 16 May 2007 @ 4:15 PM

  278. > This kind of thing makes me long for the good old days of USENET

    Oh, yes. And don’t forget the killfile. Being able to simply not see those who were trolling was an enormous help when keeping a conversation going that led somewhere interesting and stayed fun and informative.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 16 May 2007 @ 5:36 PM

  279. [[I'm all in favor of budgeting more money for research... just not for policies designed to 'fix' a problem that we can't define.]]

    By that logic, FDR shouldn’t have done anything about Hitler. After all, Hitler could have done anything. Unless he knew ahead of time how many lives would be lost per dollar of military expenditures, he wasn’t justified in spending anything on military appropriations.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 16 May 2007 @ 7:34 PM

  280. [[To loop this back around to the thread topic: correlation/causation issues and snarkiness do not convince me that my driving my SUV negatively impacts the global climate (local pollution levels, maybe). I do not equate CO2 with littering in any meaningful sense of the word and I question the comparison between between the two.]]

    All you’re saying here is that you don’t know much about atmosphere physics. That can be fixed by doing a little studying.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 16 May 2007 @ 7:38 PM

  281. [[There is good science and scientists on both sides of the climate change debate. ]]

    There isn’t any “debate,” except in the minds of people like you who have bought into the denial propaganda. As for the scientists, 99% of the climatologists believe global warming is real, we’re doing it, and it’s a serious threat. That’s good enough for me.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 16 May 2007 @ 7:41 PM

  282. [[I've been to NASAs website after googling for satellite-derived temperature trends and oddly don't find a smoking gun (granting that the most recent posts are 1997 and 2000... why IS that?).]]

    A smoking gun? You don’t think global warming is even happening? Do you believe in evolution? Relativity? Gravity?

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 16 May 2007 @ 7:48 PM

  283. Re 281 (BPL). No debate. All the experts agree. I’m a monkey and I love cheese.

    Comment by PHE — 17 May 2007 @ 2:18 AM

  284. Sigh… #280-282 (Levenson): [self-delete]diatribe

    1) Is climate science as predictable, testable, falsifiable and repeatable as the theory of gravity? Relativity? If this is the case, then you are right, I’d be a fool to even question AGW. I just wonder if I’d have gotten the answer correct in high school had I said “acceleration due to gravity, in a vacuum, on Earth is 32 ft/sec/sec… +/- 8ft/s/s… so the ball dropped from a height will fall between 12 and 20 feet in the first second” or “the speed of light in a vacuum is 299,792,458m/s… +/- 100,000m/s. So… E=mc(ish)^2.” I don’t THINK Gavin is saying that…

    2) In your appeal to the authority of climatologists, can you point me to the source data for the 99% figure? I’m not sure if it’s significant or not, but I’d be darned curious to know how that number is derived, and what it’s margin of error is.

    Bottom line: There wouldn’t be a need for this site if, in fact, there was no room for further discussion, or if everybody should just study their physics and climatology a little more. Again, I’m not a dumb guy (or so I keep telling myself) and I have no vested interest in self-destructive behavior. Why am I unconvinced by “just do something” and “there are no further questions to ask?” Perhaps a better question would be why are you satisfied. I trust that it’s more than just the 99% figure. The base article on this thread was to lampoon those who can see causation in any set of corollation, providing it’s sufficiently massaged and looked at through squeenky eyes. Fair enough.

    Comment by MDC — 17 May 2007 @ 11:04 AM

  285. > climate science
    > gravity
    > relativity

    All required serious computer work to get beyond the simple basic idea.
    See the AIP History, first link under ‘Science’ in right column.

    Read a bit; right now you’re asking questions answered fifty years ago.
    That’s part of why people aren’t rushing to retype the answers for you.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 17 May 2007 @ 12:22 PM

  286. Re 284: in my opinion, the need for this site was made dire by the insane proportions of the denialist propaganda, more than the debate. Like for evolution, there are many points in climatology that are a matter of debate. Like for evolution, the basic idea is not a matter of debate.

    Comment by Philippe Chantreau — 17 May 2007 @ 12:29 PM

  287. Re: #284 MDC (Levenson)

    1) Can climate science be compared to relativity etc? Depends how you look at it. Have predictions been shown to be accurate with 20 decimals accuracy or so? No. But are predictions good enough to be convincing? Yes. Can we predict and falsify? Yes again, for example check out the current thread on Hansen’s predictions. Is the theory of AGW based solidly in physics? Another yes.

    I think that the theory of AGW may well compared to many fields of engineering: building bridges, making airplanes fly, construct cars. In all this fields calculations typically are within 10-20% of reality. Not perfect, but certainly good enough not be afraid to travel by air. And much, much better than gut feelings.

    To restate the obvious, there is no discussion about the basics, like:
    - AGW is happening
    - It’s caused by CO2 emitted by us
    - Temperature is going up by 2 deg or so this century.
    As far as the need for immediate action is concerned, the debate is over. We know the enough for that, period.

    2) It’s not really an appeal to authority, it’s trust in the scientific process. For (something similar to) the 99% figure, check out Oreskes: http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/306/5702/1686

    “99% of scientists agree with AGW” is shorthand for “there is now such an incredible amount of peer reviewed interlocking evidence that no person in his right mind, having looked at the evidence in depth, could possibly disagree with AGW theory any longer.”

    Which of course does not mean that we shouldn’t continue improving models and working on outstanding issues.

    Comment by Dick Veldkamp — 17 May 2007 @ 1:45 PM

  288. Re 262: [You are right James, you haven't sacrificed a thing.]

    Which was my point: the issue under discussion was the need for the US (and, lest I be accused of being provincial, the rest of the “first world”) to make sacrifices in order to reduce CO2 emissions from their current levels. I cited those examples (and could add many others if I were into recreational typing) as evidence that considerable reductions could in fact be made, and not just without sacrifice, but to the net benefit of the people who made them.

    The fact that I haven’t yet reduced my CO2 footprint to that of an Indian peasant is a straw man. The reduction process, as others have pointed out, has to be incremental. Most people aren’t interested in sacrifice: if I demonstrate that I can reduce my CO2 without sacrifice, I may persuade others to do so as well. That creates an attitude shift, and a market for more energy-efficient goods. Manufacturers may discover efficiency as a selling point (convincing those who are swayed by advertising), thus shifting attitudes further. And maybe someday Home Depot and the like will decide that turning off their parking lot lights after they close at night is a good idea.

    Comment by James — 17 May 2007 @ 2:03 PM

  289. #287 (and some others): Thank you for the comments and links. The Science Magazine article was certainly a much better explanation of the ’99%’ than others (and FAR superior than merely an appeal to the IPCC). Speaking as a helicopter pilot, I certainly hope that the engineering and aerodynamics tolerence that went into my helicopter is better than 10-20% ;^)… but I get your drift.

    I guess the last paragraph of that article captures my thoughts well:

    Many details about climate interactions are not well understood, and there are ample grounds for continued research to provide a better basis for understanding climate dynamics. The question of what to do about climate change is also still open. But there is a scientific consensus on the reality of anthropogenic climate change. Climate scientists have repeatedly tried to make this clear. It is time for the rest of us to listen.

    The real question is the “what do we do about it” and I find efforts like the Kyoto protocol to be unacceptable for a number of reasons that have nothing to do with the underlying science.

    In your list of ‘givens’ (GHG, AGW, 2 deg rise this century), I’m only uncomfortable with the lack of an explicit “based on the mechanisms we are aware of and modelling right now” for the temperature rise. To quote a former Secretary of Defense, which while it sounds funny, strikes me as particularly applicable to a system of systems like climate science.

    because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.

    Unless I miss my guess, climate scientists (well, 99% anyway) don’t disagree with this statement, no matter how awkwardly worded.

    Comment by MDC — 17 May 2007 @ 2:48 PM

  290. Re: 289 MDC

    I think that your proposed addition “based on the mechanisms we are aware of and modelling right now” reinforces my statement “there will be 2 deg or so temperature rise this century”, rather than weakening it. To me this means: “Models that incorporate all our best knowledge of physics, warn us that there’s going to be trouble. We’d better take it seriously.” (Also remember that things might turn out WORSE than predicted by the models.)

    For a nice view of the spread in predictions (for the UK), see http://www.bbc.co.uk/sn/climateexperiment/theresult/abouttheresults.shtml

    PS As a helicopter pilot, don’t worry (not about aerodynamic models anyway). While the uncertainty in aerodynamic model calculations is considerable, engineers counter that by testing and using appropriate safety factors.

    Comment by Dick Veldkamp — 17 May 2007 @ 4:18 PM

  291. Dick Veldkamp writes [ think that the theory of AGW may well compared to many fields of engineering: building bridges, making airplanes fly, construct cars. In all this fields calculations typically are within 10-20% of reality. Not perfect, but certainly good enough not be afraid to travel by air. And much, much better than gut feelings.

    To restate the obvious, there is no discussion about the basics, like:
    - AGW is happening
    - It's caused by CO2 emitted by us
    - Temperature is going up by 2 deg or so this century.
    As far as the need for immediate action is concerned, the debate is over. We know the enough for that, period.]

    Look inside the IPCC reports and you’ll see there is still a ton of debate, and you don’t have to peel back the onion very far to find it. Earth is warming. Check. Manmade CO2 is the culprit. Check. As we double CO2, the earth with rise by…….wait…not a lot of agreement….X to 1.5X, X to 2.8X, etc, depending on the scenario. Modeling for different scenarios is a smart thing, but in each scenario there is a massive range that results from a range of models. Presumably each model is taking the same input. But the guy building model M obviously believes that something works differently than the guy building model N. Otherwise, given the same input they would show the same output. Does the guy that built model M believe his model is wrong? Or does he believe model N is un-enlightened? They can’t both be right given the same input. If there is a 2X difference between two analysis given the same input, then there is a fair bit of disagreement/debate in the underlying mechanisms.

    An electrical engineer can purchase tools from any number of vendors, and the results will agree withing a few 10′ths of a percent. And if I care to accurately input parameters related to my real physical circuit, the model and reality with agree within a few 10th’s of a percent. If I don’t, it’ll still agree within a percent or two. This is because the models are well understood. I don’t think we can state that about climate models.

    Now, the usual response is “Yeah, but you don’t get how complicated this stuff is! This is ground breaking stuff!” Well, very true, but we need to be careful about placing too much trust in things that aren’t well understood.

    A typical climate model contains a million lines of code (http://physicsweb.org/articles/world/20/2/3/1). Using normal industry figures, you’d expect there to be 10,000 bugs in this software. A company like Sun or Microsoft or IBM would have a test team of 200-300 engineers testing this software, a team of 200-300 engineers writing, evolving and maintaining this software.

    And keep in mind, at Microsoft, Sun or IBM you usually have sofware ENGINEERS working on large software projects. I’d venture a guess that most folks working on climate models are scientists first, and software enthusiasts second or third or fourth. You can bet code quality suffers given the emphasis.

    What happened to the guy who wrote the model that said the temperature wouldn’t change if CO2 doubled? How many people inspected his million lines of code and found the mistakes? Or did folks just decide his answer was an outlier and toss it out?

    One thing we all really need to admit here is that we’ve seen some really sloppy science with some pretty big errors slip through peer review. If a group of scientist can’t even manage to reproduce each others basic maths during peer review, what on earth gives you confidence that the models are getting the scrutiny they deserve? And if a computer model is really as complicated as the link above indicates, how are we certain that complexity is being managed with the proper resources?

    So! Be very suspicious of the models. Lack of agreement among the models means lack of understanding and a reliance on intuition. Combine that with a software process that that is a small fraction of what Microsoft would apply to even your photo sorting software, and consider that there isn’t a ton of data available to validate these complex pieces of software, and you really are looking at something quite primitive.

    Comment by Matt — 18 May 2007 @ 12:48 AM

  292. [[1) Is climate science as predictable, testable, falsifiable and repeatable as the theory of gravity?]]

    On some things, yes, it is. And, by the way, the theory of gravity runs into serious snags in a lot of situations, not just in the incompatibility between relativistic and quantum theories of it, but in a lot of celestial mechanics problems.

    Is the human cause of the present global warming as well established as the theory of relativity? No, probably not. Is it well enough established that it can be taken for granted by educated people? Yes, it is.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 18 May 2007 @ 7:09 AM

  293. Matt, Your argument is specious, because for the most part, given the same scenario, the models agree, and if anything, the models are conservative, since they do not reflect positive feedbacks that we now know are in the cycle. Whether a model says the globe will warm by 2.6 degrees or 2.8 degrees is for the most part in the noise. Either eventuality means drastic changes in climate.
    You do not dispute that climate change is occurring. You do not dispute that humans are the cause. It seems that your only question is how much warming there will be. You seem to draw comfort from a sense that we might be unable to predict the amount of warming we will see. If you don’t mind my saying, that is a wierd attitude. The inability to predict risk RAISES risk rather than lowering it. If the climate models cannot predict climate, then why is a rise of 3.5 or even 5 degrees less likely than a 2 degree rise? I work in a field where we mitigate risks. If we have a risk that cannot be defined, then that risk is immediately red-flagged and we expend resources trying to define it while simultaneously trying to mitigate it. That is an expensive process. Likewise, if we cannot limit the risk due to climate change, then how do we limit the level of effort we direct at mitigating it? Climate models are your friend, Matt. They help you anticipate the extent of the threat and its probable effects. Without them you are flying blind.
    You seem to view uncertainty as an excuse for doing nothing–despite the fact that we are certain that the climate is changing and that WE are doing it. That is not a viable or responsible viewpoint. We have a threat. We know its cause. We know its impact will be in the trillions of dollars on the global economy–minimum! A level of effort commensurate with that risk is the minimum required. Now all we need is an upper limit. Any ideas how we can define that without models?

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 18 May 2007 @ 8:03 AM

  294. Re: [Is climate science as predictable, testable, falsifiable and repeatable as the theory of gravity?]

    We might reflect a bit on the theory of gravity, and the usefulness of computer models. We have a very simple, elegant theory of gravity: just one simple equation, so we ought to be able to plug in the relevant numbers and figure out the answers exactly, once and for all. And that works just fine, as long as you only have two bodies in your system. Go to three or more, and (except for a few special cases) you can’t solve the equation.

    In fact, if you want to do anything useful with gravity, like planning a course for your interplanetary space probe, you have to use one of those inaccurate, presumably bug-ridden computer models instead. Yet somehow this seems to work in practice: NASA & ESA can send a probe off to Saturn, bouncing it off two or three other planets en route, then send it caroming through a system of dozen or more (I’ve lost track) moons, and still plan in advance what their cameras are going to be taking pictures of.

    The difference between numerical models and software such as Microsoft’s (leaving out my personal feelings about Windoze) is that the models connect fairly directly to nature, while MS has to deal with arbitrary things such as user preferences and hardware designs. It’s thus much easier to test models, as long as you can find simple cases with known physics. A gravity simulator can be tested against the cases that can be solved exactly: doesn’t handle the simple Earth-Moon system, for instance, you know it’s wrong, while MS’s photo-sorting software presumably depends on users deciding whether it does what they want it to.

    Comment by James — 18 May 2007 @ 12:23 PM

  295. Where can I find raw solar, carbon emission, and temperature data so that I can construct my own correlations?

    Comment by Ben Alexander — 18 May 2007 @ 3:54 PM

  296. Ben:
    http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/mpp/freedata.html

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 18 May 2007 @ 4:04 PM

  297. Ben:
    http://www.itas.fzk.de/eng/infum/gch_dat.htm

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 18 May 2007 @ 4:07 PM

  298. Re 292 (BPL) “Educated people” don’t take things for granted. They take the effort to understand the science themselves.

    Comment by PHE — 18 May 2007 @ 4:32 PM

  299. Ray writes: (note I’ve changed the order in which he made his points) [Your argument is specious, because for the most part, given the same scenario, the models agree, and if anything, the models are conservative, since they do not reflect positive feedbacks that we now know are in the cycle. Whether a model says the globe will warm by 2.6 degrees or 2.8 degrees is for the most part in the noise. Either eventuality means drastic changes in climate.]

    Where do you get your figure of 2.6 to 2.8 C? The ranges I’ve seen are much broader.

    Regarding the models being conservative, I’m not sure how you can say this. The models of the 90s missed significant components of cooling, such as particles and clouds. How do we know there aren’t other cooling mechanisms that will come into play (or warming mechanisms that will fail to have as large an impact)? Some of these early (poor) assumptions had a pretty dramatic impact on sensitivity (3X).

    And yet, even though we continue to learn of all these omissions from previous models that are significant, we still have been facing the same predictions of what the increases will be. For the last 25 years, the estimates have ranged from about 2 C to about 4.5 C. How can this be? Personally, seeing a sensitivity range remaining relatively static for all those years in spite of increased understanding and discovered critical omissions points more to a confirmation bias than a rigorous derivation.

    [You seem to view uncertainty as an excuse for doing nothing--despite the fact that we are certain that the climate is changing and that WE are doing it.]
    Ray, please re-read my previous posts on whether or not we should act. If I were President of the US Iâ��d argue we should be building from our present 100 nuclear plants delivering 20% of our power to 400 plants delivering 80+% of our power, with the remaining ~10% coming from subsidized alternate energy (we’ll likely always have 5% of transportation that needs petroleum). I’d also argue that the US should be invest 10′s of billions a year to develop a next-generation lower-cost battery for electric cars that surpasses Li-Ion significantly in cost and safety, and marginally in gravimetric and volumetric efficiency. Iâ��d put a 15 year time horizon on all this, and fund cell development with a $0.10/gal tax on the 400M gallons of gas the US consumes per day. Thatâ��s $14.6B/year in pure R&D directed at batteries (the #1 problem in all this), and I’d adjust it upwards in a moment’s notice if I thought it’d help. In 10 years, hopefully we could state the US had zero reliance on foreign energy, which is my real motivation. The CO2 reduction is a massive bonus.

    [You seem to draw comfort from a sense that we might be unable to predict the amount of warming we will see. If you don't mind my saying, that is a wierd attitude. The inability to predict risk RAISES risk rather than lowering it.]
    Comfort? No. Technically, the risk is the same whether or not I can predict it – My ability to manage the risk gets more difficult if I don’t understand the risk.

    Skepticism? Yes. And the fact that these models are built with a staffing structure that is a fraction of what Sun or Microsoft would devote to a comparable problem should cause everyone to think twice. Remember, statistically there are 10,000 bugs in a 1M lines of code climate models. That assumes you have a few hundred testers working to validate the code.

    If there is one issue you want to dig in with me on a response, I think this avenue would be the most fruitful:

    Assume all models do a reasonable job with historical data and 5 years into the future. Now, if model maker A believes it’s important to assign a feedback weighting of 0.5 to a certain mechanism, and model maker B believes it’s important to assign a feedback weighting of 0.51 to the same mechanism, and model maker A’s model spits out a 2 degree sensitivity, and model maker B spits out a 4.5 degree sensitivity, then you must admit that the difference was due to differences in intuition.

    But what if someone believed the feedback mechanism should be 0.49 and his model delivered a cooling sensitivity? Is his intuition flawed? Whose intuition is correct?

    [If the climate models cannot predict climate, then why is a rise of 3.5 or even 5 degrees less likely than a 2 degree rise?]

    Bingo! At that point you are relying on someone’s intuition. Which is my point.

    [We have a threat. We know its cause. We know its impact will be in the trillions of dollars on the global economy--minimum! A level of effort commensurate with that risk is the minimum required. Now all we need is an upper limit. Any ideas how we can define that without models?]

    This indeed gets back to my first post on this thread. Why do folks want to mitigate this? A summary of answers included: we’ll starve if we don’t, save lives in Africa, save our own lives, save our coastal cities. All good reasons. My next question was “at what cost?” The range of figures from economists are even more varied than the scientists.

    Comment by Matt — 19 May 2007 @ 1:18 PM

  300. Re # 291: “we need to be careful about placing too much trust in things that aren’t well understood.”

    That is oversimplification, and another variation on the we-don’t-know-enough-to-act tired argument. Open a physician drug reference book and you’ll be suprised to see how many of these drugs’ actions are presented with the sentence “mechanism of action not fully understood” or sometimes the more blunt “mechanism of action unknown.” You’ll be glad to use one of them if you need and you won’t care about the mechanism of action.

    The current state of the working knowledge of climate is better than for many of the physiological processes on which we tinker with merry abandon through medicine.

    Comment by Philippe Chantreau — 19 May 2007 @ 8:00 PM

  301. Re: 293

    Ray, I think you’re being pretty dismissive of Matt’s view when you call it “specious”.

    Specifically, you say that:

    “Matt, Your argument is specious, because for the most part, given the same scenario, the models agree”

    But obviously there could be systematic error across models. To take an example (for illustrative purposes only) various predictions for astronomical phenomena made by different modelers using a Ptolemaic system could all show close agreement, but all be wrong because they shared the same faulty assumption that the Sun moves around the Earth.

    You go on “…and if anything, the models are conservative, since they do not reflect positive feedbacks that we now know are in the cycle…”

    Which obviously begs the question of why they are not in the models and what other effects are not in the models? This doesn’t inspire confidence in the models.

    You go on “…Whether a model says the globe will warm by 2.6 degrees or 2.8 degrees is for the most part in the noise.”

    But according to the 4AR the range of temperature sensitivity to a doubling of atmospheric concentration of CO2 is not 2.7C +/- .1C (i.e., 4% CI), but actually 3C +/- 1.5C (i.e., 50% CI). Further, this is not really a confidence interval, but a subjective estimate of uncertainty based on the (informed) qualitative view of scientists.

    The best way to address the question of model accuracy is the actual record of prediction accuracy. There is a lack of prediction validation studies in this area. There is an interesting thread on this site that is currently actively reviewing the performance of Hansen’s 1988 forecast.

    Ray, obviously none of this addresses the later points in your post that are about rational decision-making in the face of uncertainty.

    Comment by Jim Manzi — 19 May 2007 @ 11:50 PM

  302. Jim Manzi (#301):

    But obviously there could be systematic error across models. To take an example (for illustrative purposes only) various predictions for astronomical phenomena made by different modelers using a Ptolemaic system could all show close agreement, but all be wrong because they shared the same faulty assumption that the Sun moves around the Earth.

    Just because we don’t know everything doesn’t mean that we know nothing. To speak of systematic error across all models reminds me of the view that all of our advanced science which leads us to the conclusion that the earth is more than ten thousand years old could itself be systematically biased. In fact, the difference between this and the Omphalos theory which argues that all evidence for the world being more than ten thousand years old is deceptive, that even this evidence was created more recently – either six thousand years ago, or perhaps five minutes ago – if one wishes to include memory among the systematically deceptive evidence. The difference between your arguments and the arguments of an Omphalos creationist would appear to be a matter of degree, not kind. Moreover, other so-called theories we much weaker, invalidated by the evidence, rescued again and again by various ad hoc hypotheses, or lacked credible mechanisms by which to explain the phenomena they were intended to explain.

    Do you have any evidence for this view, or is it some form of denial of an empirical approach towards acquiring scientific knowledge as such? Do you have a credible, well-defined, mathematically expressed testable theory grounded in physics and chemistry? Other so-called theories employing different mechanisms were much weaker, invalidated, the rescued again and again by various ad hoc hypotheses, or lacked credible mechanisms by which to explain the phenomena they were intended to explain. This is part of the reason why they were abandoned – that and the power of these anthropogenic theories to explain the phenomena which are capable of being tested and are being tested repeatedly.

    You go on “…and if anything, the models are conservative, since they do not reflect positive feedbacks that we now know are in the cycle…”

    Well, another reason why these models are conservative lies in the fact that they had to be something that 600 experts in the area had to agree on or at least achieve a consensus that was acceptable to all. Besides, as a matter of habit, scientists tend to be conservative in their estimates. Such was the case at Trinity where many of the instruments which had been set-up to measure the detonation of the first atomic bomb were destroyed in the blast.

    Which obviously begs the question of why they are not in the models and what other effects are not in the models? This doesn’t inspire confidence in the models.

    Because it is only now that we are beginning to observe the feedbacks – and as such we should soon be able to incorporate this effect into our models. Without this sort of expierence, it is much more difficult to mathematically model. Because while we were expecting at least some of the positive feedback at some point, we didn’t know when it would begin. Much of it has begun.

    In your article in the National Review:

    Prediction Time
    Global-warming “truths” are not as certain as some claim them to be.
    March 20, 2007, 0:00 a.m.
    By Jim Manzi
    http://article.nationalreview.com/print/?q=ZmViY2Y3YzY1YmVkYTg4NjczODhkYWU1Mjg1YzhjMTI=

    … you claim that the growth of plants as the result of intcreased levels of carbon dioxide is a form of negative feedback. And up to a point, it is. However, we have begun to experience a form of positive feedback in this area. Droughts reduces the ability of plants to make use of such carbon dioxide and this has only begun.

    Now we can start including it as before it was only an hypothesis, and now it is something that we are experiencing. Besides, as I have said, on had to reach a consensus – not simply between scientists – but tempered in its conclusions by all of the governments involved – who found the more alarming aspects of what was being projected politically inconvenient.

    You go on “…Whether a model says the globe will warm by 2.6 degrees or 2.8 degrees is for the most part in the noise.”

    Undoubtedly it is – within the context of a given model with additional simulations.

    But according to the 4AR the range of temperature sensitivity to a doubling of atmospheric concentration of CO2 is not 2.7C +/- .1C (i.e., 4% CI), but actually 3C +/- 1.5C (i.e., 50% CI). Further, this is not really a confidence interval, but a subjective estimate of uncertainty based on the (informed) qualitative view of scientists.

    This seemed appropriate – given the fact that they were appropriately averaging the results from mulitiple theories – in which each theory may have projected a narrower range of uncertainty. The range of larger range of uncertainty reflected the fact that these multiple theory made different predictions.

    As Gavin points out, Hansen’s calculations were far more accurate than what would be achieved in any area over the same period. Yes of course there were errors, but these errors tended to cancel each other out.

    The best way to address the question of model accuracy is the actual record of prediction accuracy. There is a lack of prediction validation studies in this area. There is an interesting thread on this site that is currently actively reviewing the performance of Hansen’s 1988 forecast.

    Actually there are a great many validation studies being done, and where such validation studies perform poorly, the causes are investigated and expand our knowledge of the process as a whole. Such is the pattern of corrigible knowledge within any domain. This is how empirical science operates, not according to the armchair analysis of Karl Popper, which was in a sense logically flawed in a way that was understood over forty years before formulated it (see Duhem’s Thesis), but in the real world.

    Moroever, it is grounded in science which has been tested (e.g., chemistry and physics) and consists of the best that we have to offer (e.g., calculations by some of the world’s most powerful supercomputers at over a trillion calculations per second), then compared not against a single datum, or a single series of such data, but against a wide range of data. The kind of multidecadal – place the computer code and the results into a vault for decades – makes no sense given the increasing power of computers for perfoming such calculations and the rapid acquision of data from different regions of the globe.

    Moreover, the results of such calculations are far safer than what you would achieve by means of your vault approach – since they are a matter of public record and are made widely available through publication in peer reviewed journals. And like it or not, this is the best we have to offer at this time – to prevent a catastrophe the full magnitude we can only estimate, but which we know will extend over a millenia into the future. They are the best we have to offer.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 20 May 2007 @ 3:45 AM

  303. PS

    This is in addition to the my response (#302) to Jim Manzi’s #301.

    I am not a climatologist. However, I have seen enough of their more technical papers to know how rigorous they are. I have seen enough of what they are studying to recognize the positive feedback and what it implies.

    I am also well-aware of the fact that we have pushed ourselves out of the metastable state which we have been in, and that the direction we are headed is one that is already affecting a great many people – and which has the potential of killing in the neighborhood of a billion people through water shortages, starvation as the result of droughts on land and the acidification of the oceans greatly reducing fish harvests. Moreover, I realize that oxygen uptake in the oceans take place primarily in the cold waters of the arctic, and that as the temperatures of the ocean increases in this region, it threatens hypoxia for for the rest.

    We may be able to reduce the consequences of these processes, but only if we begin to take seriously conclusions which have become a matter of consensus for the vast majority of scientists in the relevant fields and have been endorsed by every major scientific body which have taken a position on the matter (there is a long list) but one: American Association of Petroleum Geologists, and even this organization has finally come to acknowledge that our carbon emissions are playing a significant role in the climate change which is sweeping our globe – and which is the single greatest threat facing our civilization, quite possibly the greatest threat in the whole of human history.

    I strongly suggest that you are out of step with modern science and the progress it has made in understanding our world. To follow the approach that you have suggested would be counterproductive as matter of science and disasterous for nearly every individual who would live to see the multidecadal results which you personally would regard as acceptable justication for taking seriously our scientific understanding of the looming crisis which has already begun to unfold.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 20 May 2007 @ 4:32 AM

  304. re: # 291

    Typical global climate model codes have aroound 100,000 lines of code; not a million lines. Check any of the online code browsers that have been provided by the organizations wrting the codes.

    I would like the RC staff to verify, or not, that 100,000 lines is the correct order of magnitude.

    [Response: It's correct for GISS ModelE, but as we move towards Earth System Models, HadGEM1 for instance is getting up to ~ million lines. If any one has direct knowledge of other models, please comment. - gavin]

    Comment by Dan Hughes — 20 May 2007 @ 5:53 AM

  305. Matt and Jim,
    Let me get this straight. You’re saying we should dismiss the models because there just MIGHT be a systematic error? First, Matt’s assertion that models from the ’90s didn’t take into account aerosol cooling is a bit misleading. The importance of aerosols has been known since the ’60s. The challenge was HOW to put this into the models. And, the fact that Hansen’s models did as well as they did without this addition gives an indication that for long-term trends it is not a huge contributor.
    Second, systematic errors do not generally result in predictions that match reality. In fact, that is how you genereally are alerted to the presence of a systematic error–you make a prediction, do some verification and find a discrepancy outside of your predicted errors. So what you are asking me to believe is that there is some systematic error, or some unknown forcer that has been negligible up to now but that will magically kick in and save us. Forgive me, but I think even Lindzen would have trouble saying that with a straight face. Now there are still systematic errors in the codes. However, they almost all err on the side of conservative prediction! In other words, there is more reason to believe that things will be worse than the models predict.
    Third, we never know risk a priori (it’s tough to predict even a posteriori). We have to base our actions on estimations of risk, and if you cannot estimate the risk, then the only upper bound you can come up with is the total loss of the system (in this case, human civilization). The output of the models is not pertinent to the question of whether we are affecting climate. We KNOW we are affecting climate. The models place a limit on how much and what the possible consequences will be. They allow us to bound the risk, and hence let us get away with limiting our efforts rather than assuming that civilization depends on our reducing CO2 to 1750 levels.
    Again, if your goal is to avoid draconian measures that strangle the economy, trying to find comfort in inaccuracies in the models is a perverse and misguided attitude.

    Comment by ray ladbury — 20 May 2007 @ 7:22 AM

  306. My apologies for the extremely poor editing of #302 and #303, including but certainly not limited to the run-ons. I should have gone to bed three hours earlier, but I was peeved. I believe that neither helped.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 20 May 2007 @ 10:48 AM

  307. As always, very interesting reading for the layperson. I continue to read more and continue to learn. For nonscientists who read the IPCC reports, there are so many doubts expressed regarding the accuracy of the models by the authors themselves that it is hard to believe that the scientists can narrow the range of warming to a few degrees with such a high level of confidence. Several areas of uncertainty jump off the pages of the latest IPCC report: 1. Inability to model clouds 2. Climate sensitivity to CO2 appears to be guess work (highly theoretical) at best and 3. the carbon cycle is not well understood given lack of data and understanding in the area of ocean circulation and land based sinks and feedback mechanisms.

    On the one hand laypeople see tremendous limitations and expressions of doubt concerning a variety of physical processes and the models ability toaccurately reproduce them and on the other such certainty emanating from the scientfic commnity that they have a solid grasp of what’s happening and what will happen a hundred years from now…

    Comment by Tim — 20 May 2007 @ 10:52 AM

  308. Ray and Timothy, how do you believe global climate models would differ from world financial models? If indeed a world financial model existed with any accuracy, we’d not have any debate at all about the the impact, of, say, taxes?

    Am I fundamentally missing something when I see the task of modeling the world climate comparable to modeling the world economonies and stock markets? Both are very complex systems with an array of inter-related positive and negative feedback systems that are wildly debated of not always understood. One could argue that modeling the world economies to any accuracy is a certain ticket to making zillions. And modeling it “roughly” predicts nothing but momentum trends and perhaps allows you to break even, but most likely you’ll be wrong and lose.

    I’m anxious to hear your response in how they differ as it might help us understand each others perspective.

    [Response: Climate models are constrained by observations and based on physics, not assumptions about how perfectly rational humans should behave. - gavin]

    Comment by Matt — 20 May 2007 @ 12:24 PM

  309. #306 Timothy [My apologies for the extremely poor editing of #302 and #303, including but certainly not limited to the run-ons. I should have gone to bed three hours earlier, but I was peeved. I believe that neither helped.]

    Nonsense! It was extremely helpful. I’ve seldom come to a point in my life where two people with the exact same understanding of an issue make different decisions. Decisions usually differ because one person has different information and experiences than the other person. So the brain dump you delivered before bed was helpful in understanding your perspective.

    Comment by Matt — 20 May 2007 @ 12:28 PM

  310. #305 Ray I’ve stated time and time again I believe we are warming, man is doing much of it and we need drastic measures, and I’ve outlined what those measures are.

    Put that aside.

    I really wish someone would engage on the discussion point I raised earlier:

    If there is one issue you want to dig in with me on a response, I think this avenue would be the most fruitful:

    Assume all models do a reasonable job with historical data and 5 years into the future. Now, if model maker A believes it’s important to assign a feedback weighting of 0.5 to a certain mechanism, and model maker B believes it’s important to assign a feedback weighting of 0.51 to the same mechanism, and model maker A’s model spits out a 2 degree sensitivity, and model maker B spits out a 4.5 degree sensitivity, then you must admit that the difference was due to differences in intuition.

    But what if someone believed the feedback mechanism should be 0.49 and his model delivered a cooling sensitivity? Is his intuition flawed? Whose intuition is correct?

    Alternately, I’d be happy to flesh out my thoughts on a very pointed question you might have. But please, let’s try and start understanding some very pointed question each side has, and build upwards from there.

    [Response: But that isn't even close to what really happens. No-one sits down and assigns feedback factors based on their intuition, instead people use their intuition to decide what physics is important and they code that. That affects the feedbacks, but not in ways you can a priori guess. Different people have different intuitions (within a fairly constrained range based on observations) and code things a little differently. Different sensitivities result, but the system is not so sensitive that a 1% change in a single parameter makes a factor two difference in sensitivity. In fact, the sensitivity (as far as we can tell) is a rather smooth function of the parameters in most cases. - gavin]

    Comment by Matt — 20 May 2007 @ 12:55 PM

  311. Several areas of uncertainty jump off the pages of the latest IPCC report: 1. Inability to model clouds 2. Climate sensitivity to CO2 appears to be guess work (highly theoretical) at best and 3. the carbon cycle is not well understood given lack of data and understanding in the area of ocean circulation and land based sinks and feedback mechanisms.

    HADGEM1 did a relatively poor job of modeling clouds. They tended to be too thick but too narrow. HADGEM3 is doing a far better job at modeling clouds realistically. Moreover, now that this is being done, it is my understanding that we are getting a far more accurate estimate of the effects of CO2 doubling. Ocean circulation and ice modeling have improved considerably, and the modeled behavior of the artic ice cap is now far more realistic, fitting observations quite closely.

    With regard to the carbon cycle, it has been modeled conservatively, not incorporating all of the positive feedback which has has come to light. I personally am not sure how much this has improved in HADGEM3. However, incorporating such feedback (which is already being observed on a variety of fronts) will show that the effects of climate change (with regard to temperatures, drought and the like) are not being overestimated, but underestimated.

    With regard to the uncertainties expressed in the most recent set of IPCC reports, it is also helps to keep in mind that their had to be broadly acceptable to the six hundred scientists who were directly involved. Likewise, it had to be acceptable to the governments which undersigned it, but would likely have held back if the more detailed and alarming aspects of the report had been left in – as they would have been politically inconvenient back home. Beyond this, the perception of any “tremendous limitations” should be realistically tempered by the fact that computer power has improved considerably within the past couple of decades, that the most advanced supercomputers in the world are having the task of modeling the climate divided among them, and that they are making use of far more data than has been available for any other set of calculations performed in all of human history.

    Moreover, these calculations are not concerned with predicting the behavior of the weather on a particular day several decades from now, but with mathematical description of the trend itself and its level of variability – which is a far simpler task. In addition, the robustness of the results can be tested by comparing the calculations between different models, different runs and even different generations of climate modeling software and hardware – and most importantly, the actual fit with the vast body of data which is being collected.

    In any case, thank you for underscoring the fact that we have so far underestimated the positive feedback due to the carbon cycle: doing so, you have helped to illuminate the gravity of the situation and the urgency that is required in dealing with anthropogenic climate change.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 20 May 2007 @ 12:59 PM

  312. #304 Gavin answered [Response: It's correct for GISS ModelE, but as we move towards Earth System Models, HadGEM1 for instance is getting up to ~ million lines. If any one has direct knowledge of other models, please comment. - gavin]

    Gavin, are you aware of any study or figures published that show key software metrics such as team sizes, test plans, defect density, bug find rates, regression testing metrics, test suites, etc on climate models? Additionally, in very long simulations with massively large and massively small numbers, there is typically a need to validate underflow/overflow so that you don’t end up with an Arian5 rocket bug. It’d be interesting to hear how the team that validates the numerical integrity of the model confirms this. I’d image even very small truncation and rounding errors, when compounded over a 100 year run, add up to quite a lot.

    [Response: The idea that errors accumulate in long runs seems to be prevalent but is simply incorrect. Climate statistics for a control run of a model are stable throughout the run. Weird numerical artifacts can be caught within a month of simulation in most cases (since everything happens at least once by then). There are some issues associated with massively parallel processing that sometimes take a while to track down, but this is generally the least of our worries. More important are the coded-for situations that lead to occasionally unphysical outcomes - those are tricky to track down, and are usually fixed by thinking about very out of the ordinary situations (which inevitably occur). -gavin]

    Comment by Matt — 20 May 2007 @ 1:31 PM

  313. Re: #307 (Tim)

    A few things should be borne in mind. One is that a scientist’s job is to highlight the doubts. So of course published research and IPCC reports will focus heavily on uncertainties, far more so than would be expected in a public discussion or even imagined in a political debate.

    Another is that there are many things that are uncertain, but also many that are certain. It’s true we don’t have a solid understanding of all the ins and outs of the carbon cycle, but it’s also true that we have a very certain and very precise understanding of the increase in CO2 in the atmosphere.

    Comment by tamino — 20 May 2007 @ 1:54 PM

  314. [[Re 292 (BPL) "Educated people" don't take things for granted. They take the effort to understand the science themselves. ]]

    You can know the science and still take things for granted. I don’t worry about gravity turning off tomorrow and all of us suffocating, and I take it for granted that that won’t happen because I understand the science.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 20 May 2007 @ 3:09 PM

  315. [[2. Climate sensitivity to CO2 appears to be guess work (highly theoretical) at best]]

    I think they recently came up with a similar figure (about 3 K) from paleoclimate data, didn’t they? Gavin, Mike? Does anyone remember the reference? If the models and the paleoclimate data agree, that would seem to be strong evidence that the climate sensitivity figures are a lot more than “guess work [sic].”

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 20 May 2007 @ 3:19 PM

  316. http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=%22climate+sensitivity%22&as_ylo=2007&btnG=Search

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 20 May 2007 @ 6:13 PM

  317. Re #315 (BPL)

    You probably mean Royer et al. at Nature

    Comment by P. Lewis — 20 May 2007 @ 6:15 PM

  318. Barton Paul Levenson (#315):

    I think they recently came up with a similar figure (about 3 K) from paleoclimate data, didn’t they? Gavin, Mike? Does anyone remember the reference? If the models and the paleoclimate data agree, that would seem to be strong evidence that the climate sensitivity figures are a lot more than “guess work [sic].”

    Well, if you are refering to the March 2007 “Climate sensitivity constrained by CO2 concentrations over the past 420 million years,” it looks more like 2.8 K to me. A bit into exaggerating things, aren’t you? Always gloom and doom with you, I say…

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 20 May 2007 @ 7:45 PM

  319. Re #270:

    Heck, according to the Peak Oil folks, this will be a self-correcting problem anyway.

    Uh, it’s “self-correcting” if the objective is “bankrupcy”.

    Paradoxically, the solution to “peak oil” and “anthropogenic greenhouse warming” are the same — ditching our addiction to fossil fuels. You don’t get a free ride of “do nothing” just because in 10 or 20 or 30 or … years we run out of fossil fuels. If you keep on doing nothing, pretty soon (and I mean VERY PRETTY SOON), you’ll find the portion of your budget going to fuels is eating your shorts.

    I’ve always been fairly energy conscious, mostly because I worked for oil companies earlier in my life, and I live in a state that makes a lot of the stuff. I use a programmable thermostat, I have radiant barrier film in my roof, lots of insulation, etc. But I recently, for reasons unrelated to global warming, decided to be even more energy efficient. I’ve linked to this post before, but here it is again –

    Energy Wastage

    The fallout from making that one change — dumping incandescent bulbs — has been huge. Since that post was written I’ve found that not only do I not need to run the A/C so much (because the house doesn’t warm up like it does with hundreds of watts of incandescent bulbs burning at night), but because the air gets stale without the A/C running, I have to open the windows, and if I open the windows I can regulate the house temperature without running the A/C until much later in the day. Oh — and because I use outside air to regulate the temperature, the morning temperature has been 4 or 5 degrees Fahrenheit COOLER that I used to keep it in the morning.

    Net sacrifice to me? Well, I save over $45 a month in electric costs, my house smells fresher than with the A/C, it’s quieter because the A/C isn’t running so much, it’s cooler in the house in the morning (thus far — summer overnight lows can get pretty nasty here) etc. How’s that a sacrifice?

    It’s like someone mentioned upthread — Green Mountain is cheaper than TXU Energy. Remind me again why I want to pay more for electricity from the coal burning guys than from the wind power guys? WHY, exactly, would I do such a stupid thing?

    Comment by FurryCatHerder — 20 May 2007 @ 7:52 PM

  320. Matt, re 310 and following, science is not philosophy. You don’t figure out the values of parameters by looking into the depths of your soul. You use data to constrain the parameters, and for uncertainty that remains, you conduct simulations over the full range of uncertainties and see what difference it makes. And by the way, scientists do model the economy–a lot of hedge fund managers pay physicists a lot more money to model economics than they get paid to model climate.
    You seem to have some fundamental misunderstandings about the process of modeling a physical system. Yes, it is true that any model is a simplification. However, even if you leave out an effect, you have to estimate how large an effect it may have. At present, the greatest uncertainties have to do with how we will react. In that sense, the process is similar to econophysics.

    Comment by ray ladbury — 20 May 2007 @ 8:34 PM

  321. Re 311, 313 & 315

    Timothy C. & Tamino,
    Thanks so much for your posts. As somewhat of a skeptic, I sometimes give the impression that I give no weight to the existing bdy of evidence. This is not the case. I’m simply commenting on the apparent disparity between the acknowledged uncertainties amongst climate scientists and the hysteria gripping the public at large.

    Mr. Levenson, your obnoxious use of [sic] aside, the fact that climate sensitiviy estimates (to a doubling of CO2) are largely derived from historical measurements of varying degrees of accuracy and of uncertain utility as the earth’s climate is continually changing.

    Is it your assertion that climate sensitivity figures are an accurate reflection of reality and therefore not theoretical in nature? Why then the range of estimates. Surely, if we have moved beyond the theoretical, scientists would be able to quantify how much mean global temperature will rise given x amount of CO2 emissions?

    Comment by Tim — 21 May 2007 @ 6:22 AM

  322. Thanks to all who pointed me to the right sources.

    [[Well, if you are refering to the March 2007 "Climate sensitivity constrained by CO2 concentrations over the past 420 million years," it looks more like 2.8 K to me. A bit into exaggerating things, aren't you? Always gloom and doom with you, I say... ]]

    I am filled with shame.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 21 May 2007 @ 7:49 AM

  323. Tim, have you looked at the IPCC pages at all? The question you ask — whether what we know currently is

    > an accurate reflection of reality and
    > therefore not theoretical in nature?

    suggests you haven’t studied science and don’t understand how it works.
    If you’re making a debating point, look at the IPCC pages for the uncertainty statements.

    Have you, for example, ever looked at an avalanche? Lots of houses are built on avalanches — most of which, most of the time, move very slowly and it’s often not well understood how any particular one will move.

    The rate of change is so slow compared to the speed of real estate that only those with longterm interests, like soil scientists and building departments, pay attention.

    That’s one hillside. Now, scale the uncertainty up to the size of the world …. we can tell theoretically and from past climate what happens with increasing accuracy over time.

    Wait for perfect understanding? Not smart.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 21 May 2007 @ 1:38 PM

  324. Re 321: “the hysteria gripping the public.”
    Say what?
    Are people massively trying to cut their driving? Is there a rush to relocate within walking distance of the workplace? Is the US market for gas-guzzling trucks/SUVs collapsing due to lack of demand? Do we see large scale recurring demonstrations in the streets to put pressure on governments for meaningful action? Are consumers boycotting Wal-Mart until it puts pressure on China to go away from coal? Is the housing industry affected by high footprint houses becoming impossible to sell, even underprice? Is JP Morgan threatened by a massive switch from investors to socially conscious funds? Are we running the grotesquely lying coal/oil lobbyists on a rail with tar (now that would be ironic) and feathers? Where in the heck is the hysteria?

    I see it more prevalent among fanatical market advocates, predicting utter economic doom and gloom if anything is done, than in the public.

    Comment by Philippe Chantreau — 21 May 2007 @ 7:19 PM

  325. Re: 323

    Thanks for your comments, Hank. Yes, I’ve spent quite a few hours reading the most recent IPCC release. Obviously, I’m not a scientist, but I do have the capacity to analyze a report and develop an opinion. Thus far, I’m not convinced that we know what the impact of a doubling of CO2 will be on global mean temperature and the clmate as a whole. Clouds cannot yet be modeled well, the carbon cycle and other physical processes are not well understood and climate sensitivity is entirely theoretical and relies on historic data that is finite and not always accurate.

    That said, I think it is entirely possible that the scientists’ predictions will prove reasonably accurate and your point about waiting for perfect information is not an option. I just think we’re not even close to being able to formulate intelligent policy given the uncertainties in the science.

    Comment by Tim — 22 May 2007 @ 5:42 AM

  326. re: 324

    Philippe, you make a good point. Although a good percentage of the public is gripped with fear, these individals take no steps to alter their behavior in ways that could alleviate the perceived problem. I’ve witnessed this strange phenomenon on almost a daily basis. Often, those most convinced of the coming destruction and most vocal in their pronouncements do next to nothing in their personal lives to lessen their impact on the environment.

    Comment by Tim — 22 May 2007 @ 5:48 AM

  327. For some more global warming humor, try:

    http://fergusbrown.wordpress.com/2007/05/17/communication-breakdown/

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 22 May 2007 @ 6:36 AM

  328. Re #200/208/213/219/221 about heat/cold related deaths

    Sorry for the late drop by, but there were two investigations done, one in Europe and the other in the US about the extra mortality due to higher or lower than normal temperatures.

    The first, in Europe compared the death rate to temperature in North Finland, London and Athens. What they discovered is that there is a small temperature range of +/- 1.5 where there is least mortality. The band of least mortality shifts between North Finland from 14.3-17.3°C to 22.7-25.7°C in Athens [my comment: this may be due to genetic predisposition and/or adaptation of people to local climate on the long run, or both]. See Keatinge ea.

    Important in this case is that the number of cold related deaths is about 10 times higher than from heat related deaths. Thus only for this point, global warming is beneficial.

    Something similar was found by Curriero ea. for the US, but he also found that status was involved (better heating in colder cities and air conditioning in warmer cities).

    Comment by Ferdinand Engelbeen — 22 May 2007 @ 8:09 AM

  329. Re #69
    About the IR/light experiment, I suppose that one can make it simpler: Have two sets of isolated flasks (only a few liters will do the job), with thermistors at different heights + non-touching surface measurement, painted black at the inside, two lamps (500 or 1000 W), one in the IR-range, the other in the normal white range. Eventually, one can reduce the IR range with filters. In all cases the amount of heat at the water surface must be adjusted to be equal for both lamps. Dual experiments should be done with no/yes stirring and no/yes “wind” blowing over the surface. That is quick and easy and should give some answers to what the temperature of the water gets with IR/light in different circumstances.

    Comment by Ferdinand Engelbeen — 22 May 2007 @ 9:16 AM

  330. Tim (#326) wrote:

    Philippe, you make a good point. Although a good percentage of the publicI’ve witnessed this strange phenomenon on almost a daily basis. is gripped with fear, these individals take no steps to alter their behavior in ways that could alleviate the perceived problem.

    Gripped with fear?

    I haven’t seen this. Nearly anyone I speak to tends to be interested to some extent, and they seem to realize we are facing an important problem – but its long-term. They don’t expect to be suddenly snuffed out within the next year or two. And I don’t haven’t noticed anyone bringing up the “runaway scenario” unless it is a contrarian. Me? With my family history, I will probably die of a heart attack. Had one already. Two stints.

    But if I live long enough, I don’t want things to be bad and know that it is going to get considerably worse. One of the things which has me genuinely worried is that at some point, things might get bad enough that people are faced with some impossible choices and make decisions which cost them some of their humanity. Mostly avoidable – if we acknowledge the direction things are headed do what we can to change it.

    Often, those most convinced of the coming destruction and most vocal in their pronouncements do next to nothing in their personal lives to lessen their impact on the environment.

    As for minimizing my carbon footprint, I take the bus, I don’t use incadescent, I shut off the lights when we aren’t using them, we keep the heat down in winter, although it isn’t thermostat, we recycle. We still generate a little too much trash with prepackaged, but we will be working on that.

    So I guess I haven’t noticed the panick or hypocrisy. But maybe we move in different circles.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 22 May 2007 @ 9:34 AM

  331. Re #144 (comment)

    Gavin, like DocMartyn I am intrigued by the difference in behaviour of IR vs. sunlight in water. At first sight, this shouldn’t make much difference as ultimately both should warm the (deeper) surface, where the upper mm or so at last will mix into the upper layer by wind and diurnal temperature changes.
    But if the increased IR results in increased evaporation, there wouldn’t be much (ocean surface) warming, as the extra heat is converted in latent heat of extra water vapor. This is also a greenhouse gas, but is transported upwards (and the poles), where radiation to space is quite different than at the surface.

    Further, ons should expect a rather evenly distributed warming of the oceans due to GHGs, or even more polewards, if IR increases evaporation. But the largest increase in heat content of the oceans is at the subtropics, which may be the result of reduced cloud cover (thus increased insolation) as seen over the recent period of more than a decade.

    Another point: in cloudy weather, night temperatures are (much) higher than without clouds (diurnal differences are much smaller), which points to reflection of IR by clouds back to the ground. I say reflection, but it may be absorption/re-emission. That may give a lot of difference as cloud drops may reflect near 100% of IR, while absorption/re-emission is at maximum 50% down to the surface, as emissions go randomly to all directions (including space). Thus my question is, if it is reflection, doesn’t the sea surface simply reflect IR (maybe only for certain wavelengths)? Any link to experiments/observations is appreciated.

    [Response: We discussed this previously: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2006/09/why-greenhouse-gases-heat-the-ocean/ - gavin]

    Comment by Ferdinand Engelbeen — 22 May 2007 @ 9:44 AM

  332. re: 326. “Often, those most convinced of the coming destruction and most vocal in their pronouncements do next to nothing in their personal lives to lessen their impact on the environment.”

    There is really little if any evidence to support that mean-spirited statement. In fact, the relative few who use such extreme words such as “coming destruction” are indeed those who take the most personal responsibility to lessen their impact. Attend a environmental group meeting such as the Sierra Club and talk to individuals rather than perhaps just reading what others with vested interests may tell you about the topic. Those individuals were and are the first ones to make specific choices to reduce their carbon imprint via using public transportation, hybrids, telecommuting, bicycling, reducing their energy consumption, living close to their offices, or by choosing to be vegetarian. I see no valid reason to attack those that are actually doing their part by accusing them of being hypocritical when clearly they are not.

    Comment by Dan — 22 May 2007 @ 9:57 AM

  333. Re #326 (Tim)

    PS

    To be perfectly honest, I suspect that a great many will probably die. Starvation and watershortages. Probably wars over resources or bad ideologies when people actually do begin to get really desperate. Mostly avoidable. This can be greatly reduced if we don’t sacrifice the future for the sake of the present. The time horizon in which I view things is primarily this century. What happens after that? Don’t really know, but it will probably get better. Sooner if we act soon. Otherwise it may take considerably longer.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if we lose something in the neighborhood of a billion or more in this century we don’t act soon. It may be more, but I don’t think our extinction is in the cards. Not over global warming. And it won’t be all at once. A miillion here, ten million there, that sort of thing. However, if we don’t act soon, things will be a whole lot worse than would otherwise be necessary. In the face of that, I think I would lose some of my humanity if I didn’t try to do something about it today.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 22 May 2007 @ 10:15 AM

  334. #326 [Philippe, you make a good point. Although a good percentage of the public is gripped with fear, these individals take no steps to alter their behavior in ways that could alleviate the perceived problem. ]

    And what major global warming mouthpiece has done anything to alter their lifestyle in a dramatic way? You might think it doesn’t matter, but the public picks up on that.

    If Al Gore moved to a 1500 square foot home and only did teleconferences, folks would remember that.

    If members of congress quite driving everwhere in big black SUVs with darkened windows and instead you saw for fat middle aged men all squish out of a Prius, folks would remember that.

    If Laurie David gave up a one of her homes on one of the coasts and quite flying between them in a private jet, folks would remember that.

    If Leonardo DiCaprio quite flying to movie premiers in a private jet because his scheduled “necessitated it” folks would remember that.

    And if folks saw John Travolta step off a commercial flight instead of his 707 filled with 6 people, folks would rememember that too.

    I’m not sure people here really grasp how damaging all that is. It’s damaging because each of those images is an enabler, or something that makes is easy for the population to say “Well, if Leo DiCaprio can take a private jet to sell a movie, I can certainly use an SUV to take my kids to soccer.”

    Also, factor in how many dire messages per day the public gets, and how many wrong messages they have had in the past. A friend used to have a poster from the early 90′s in his office about some big cause, on there was a quote on there from Ted Danson that we only had 10 years to act before the oceans were dead. Have you read any announcement from the World Wide Fund for Nature that doesn’t proclaim the end of the world? And those come out monthly and have come out monthy forever. WLAN causes cancer. Species are disappearing. The rainforest is almost gone. Landfills are full. We have more pesticides in our food than ever. And on and on. Seldom do these dire predictions come true. Why is this any different? And if in fact it was different, would the producer of the biggest film on global warming really take a private jet for holiday?

    Comment by Matt — 22 May 2007 @ 11:17 AM

  335. Re 333: Matt, if you look to the wealthy for leadership, you will wait a long time, regardless of their politics. They simply have too much to lose–or perceive they do. These days Henry David Thoreau never would have made it to Walden Pond, because Oprah would have caught him on the way there and he would have had to fake “Walden Pond”. (As George Burns said, “The key is sincerity. If you can fake that…”
    That does not decrease the exigency of the issue. And personally, if Al Gore can get the US to at least admit the problem exists and take some steps to remedy it (beyond mentioning switch grass in the state of the Union), I’m willing to let him have his damned swimming pool.

    The problem is that you cannot spin physical law. You can attack the figureheads and politicos and movie stars all you want for hypocrisy. You can consider environmentalists hypocritical for not embracing nuclear power. You can try to deny it or say it’s not that bad. Physics doesn’t care. If we keep putting CO2 into the atmosphere, we will add energy to the climate, and the climate will become less and less predictable. Sea levels will rise. This is deterministic.
    So Al Gore and George Bush are irrelevant. The only difference between the two is that Al Gore has the laws of physics behind his nominal position, so he’ll eventually be proven right regardless of what you think of him as a person.
    Now what we do about climate change, that is economics and psychology–and the laws of both fields say that we are likely to have a better outcome if we address the issue NOW rather than LATER.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 22 May 2007 @ 12:00 PM

  336. Re 334: “If members of congress quite driving everywhere in big black SUVs with darkened windows and instead you saw for fat middle aged men all squish out of a Prius, folks would remember that.”

    It is a pretty sad state of affairs when automobiles have to be obese because people are…

    However, I agree to an extent with what you say. Vocal advocates should preach by example. Don’t condemn them before you know everything they do. I agree that carbon credits are nothing better than a temporary fix, but they’re better than nothing for now.

    As for Travolta and his 707, that is the most nonsensical thing I have ever seen. The guy’s ego is out of control. As a pilot, I understand the thrill of being on the controls of a big ship, but this all conversation revolves on the idea that it’s not because you can afford something that you should necessarily do it. And it gets pretty boring to fly big planes too (a pilot’s life: innumerable hours of boredom punctuated by a few seconds of shear terror).

    Nevertheless, as was pointed earlier, don’t discount the much more numerous yet less visible who are not “gripped by fear” and do what they can. Best example in the news today: Ray Anderson (NYT online).

    And as I said, if you disagree with a skewed view of reality, you should be equally annoyed by the business community people who stubbornly refuse to acknowledge that immense improvements can be made with no costs or a net gain. They are just as irrational as the “greens” can be. Just the fact that an idea used to be dressed in hippy clothes does not make it a bad idea. The situation is such that everybody has to be rational.

    Comment by Philippe Chantreau — 22 May 2007 @ 12:49 PM

  337. Tim wrote: “… waiting for perfect information is not an option. I just think we’re not even close to being able to formulate intelligent policy given the uncertainties in the science.”

    We now have the time to formulate policy that’s not wrongheaded.

    This is difficult. Forrester and Meadows made that point over and over — we’re good at identifying leverage points and at pushing them in the wrong direction.

    http://www.sustainer.org/pubs/Leverage_Points.pdf

    Let’s see, should we conserve energy while investing in sustainable sources? Or occupy sources of petroleum worldwide? Think longer term or short-term? Pick the low-hanging fruit or buy from the pricey retail store? Do all the no-regrets, easy-payoff things sooner, or wait? Let the people who want delay while they shift their investments out of the old industries set the pace?

    “Your money, or your life!” — the robber.
    “Wait a minute, I’m thinking!”– Jack Benny.

    That’s my point about an avalanche — we may not know how each component is behaving or what it will do in the future. But we can approximate.

    Physics is hard. Chemistry is less difficult.

    Forgetting atmospheric physics and radiation balance, the chemistry of the oceans is changing, predictably.
    No researcher published on this til recently.

    Mixing of excess CO2 into the oceans decreases due to wind. Wind increases due to ozone loss. Less mixing of CO2 decreases the rate at which the ocean acidifies and warms the atmosphere faster. Warming increases the rate at which CO2 comes out of the ocean. That increases warming. That sells more air conditioners. Those still use refrigerants that deplete the ozone layer.

    Well? Yeah, we’re going to renegotiate the Montreal Protocol to speed phaseout of ozone-damaging refrigerants. Could’ve done _that_ decades ago.

    Here: http://illconsidered.blogspot.com/2007/05/another-week-of-gw-news-may-20-2007.html#AWOGN20070520_Top
    Here:
    http://blogs.nature.com/news/blog/2007/05/polar_ocean_is_sucking_up_less.html

    Look at the history of the ozone hole and it’s the same political process, and many of the same PR firms and industry science writers, as are arguing for delay now.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 22 May 2007 @ 1:22 PM

  338. #334 Matt:

    1) Some people disbelieve AGW for {economic, politcal, ideological} reasons, and would never change their minds under any circumstances.

    2)Other people may have been pushed into AGW-disbelief by poorly-informed extreme-environmentalist doom-saying, some of which made strong claims about problems that were at that point “not-proven”. Then if people don’t take a good look at the real science, this position hardens, via the usual psychological “anchoring” effect.

    3) But, if one studies this domain over the last decade or two, it is clear that we’ve gotten much better data and understanding, and one can see careful, top-notch researchers slowly adjust their views from “not-proven, but might be a problem” to “very likely real, and very likely to become a serious problem”. Of course, changing their minds when new data comes in is what scientists are supposed to do, and over the last 20 years, we’ve gotten a huge amount of new data, we understand a lot of puzzles, and the computers/simulations have improved dramatically.

    While AGW has benefits for some, for others, it has *nothing* but downsides, for instance, here in California, where we can already see the early effects, and where AGW is going to cost us a *lot* of money. That’s not “wild-eyed greenies” saying that, it’s state financial planners.

    4) No matter how irritated somebody is with any of {Gore, Schwarzenegger, DiCaprio, etc, etc, for whatever reasons} … does that invalidate the sober conclusions of serious senior scientists like James Hansen, Stephen Schneider, William Ruddiman, etc, etc? Do their results become invalid because somebody you don’t like agrees with them (and maybe exaggerates?) or because press reports over-simplify what they say?

    One may critique Gore’s movie for a few things, but it sure expressed mainline science pretty well, and he’s been ahead of the game in the past, i.e., in helping create the Internet, according to Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn (the most famous Internet guys):

    http://www.politechbot.com/p-01394.html

    has an email I originally read ~7 years ago, trying to repair the confusion/fog generated by press and spinmeisters. Of course, being soberly factual, it got nowhere near the press play as the derision … there are some parallels with treatment of AGW in some press (such as WSJ Editorial).

    5) People in 1) love to conflate environmental doom-sayers (some of whom are certainly looking for funds for their NGOs) with real scientists, and tar the latter with the brush of the former, just because the latter’s positions, based on accumulating evidence, have moved closer to the former’s. Perhaps climate scientists are suddenly becoming wealthy … but I doubt it, and I’m a lot more likely to believe what they say about science than K-street lobby firms.

    “The laws of physics are laws, and politicians don’t get to change them.”

    Comment by John Mashey — 22 May 2007 @ 1:26 PM

  339. “You can attack the figureheads and politicos and movie stars all you want for hypocrisy.”

    Precisely. Denialists and skeptics can not legitimately “attack” the science with any credibility so they attempt to mis-direct the discussion and make personal attacks on people who are not the ones conducting the science and publishing their results.

    Comment by Dan — 22 May 2007 @ 2:34 PM

  340. Re: 336
    The constant attempts to claim there is no room for legitimate debate is tragic. You have every right to study the evidence and arguments and draw your own opinion. There are certainly credible challenges to the supposed concensus. If you cannot appreciate this, you fail to understand science. The criticisms you make against skeptics applies equally to many convinced AGW supporters – many of whom could be described as ‘denialists’ with regard to putting science before faith.

    Comment by PHE — 22 May 2007 @ 3:17 PM

  341. So, PHE, what are those “credible challenges to the supposed consensus,” and in what reputable, peer-reviewed scientific journal are they published? I’ve been waiting…for a really long time. And yet every time I ask, all I get are the assertions that, “Oh, they’re out there.” Well, they’re not in the pages of Nature, or Science, or Journal of Geophysical Research or Geophysical Rearch Letters or the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences or any of the other journals I peruse from time to time. They aren’t to be found in the position statements adopted by any reputable scientific organization. I’ve looked high and low, and lo and behold, credible opposition to the science is nowhere to be found. So, PHE, where are they?

    {crickets chirping}

    Look, if you want to discuss what to do about climate change, that’s fine. That’s still a field for legitimate debate where conservative voices can play a constructive role in reigning in some of the more utopian elements. But the science is rock solid.

    Comment by ray ladbury — 22 May 2007 @ 4:48 PM

  342. re: 340. Please cite the peer-reviewed “credible challenges” to which you are referring. Emphasis on the word “credible”, and those done by experts (climate scientists). Indeed, the scientific peer-review process is all about “credible challenges”. Peer-review is a cornerstone for good science. The scientific studies of global warming have been subject to extensive (arguably unprecedented) peer-review throughout many scientific journals.

    Comment by Dan — 22 May 2007 @ 4:58 PM

  343. [[The band of least mortality shifts between North Finland from 14.3-17.3°C to 22.7-25.7°C in Athens [my comment: this may be due to genetic predisposition and/or adaptation of people to local climate on the long run, or both]. See Keatinge ea.]]

    Or it could be due to the effect of buildings having been built appropriately for the local climates and people having adopted appropriate habits for those climates. Don’t jump at genetic explanations, especially when the population of Europe changes addresses so often.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 23 May 2007 @ 5:49 AM

  344. Forget where I saw this comment, but a major difference between man made climate change and a whole lot of other problems where folk are running around afraid, is that in the case of climate change it is the climate experts who are scared.

    Comment by Eli Rabett — 24 May 2007 @ 10:08 PM

  345. RE # 325,,Ray,

    Wow, for an admitted nonscientist, you certainly have come upon some profound understandings that challenge the views of those you claim no affiliation:

    You said:

    [Obviously, I'm not a scientist, but I do have the capacity to analyze a report and develop an opinion. Thus far, I'm not convinced that we know what the impact of a doubling of CO2 will be on global mean temperature and the clmate as a whole. Clouds cannot yet be modeled well, the carbon cycle and other physical processes are not well understood and climate sensitivity is entirely theoretical and relies on historic data that is finite and not always accurate.]

    Where, when, how did you acquire all that understanding of what you proclaim scientists do not understand? And, what constitutes understanding, in your use of the term? Pray tell.

    Comment by John L. McCormick — 25 May 2007 @ 8:04 AM

  346. R# 325 To the moderator:

    I posted a comment to Tim a few moments ago. I want to retract it.

    My comment was not appropriate since I have reflected on Tim’s post at #325.

    If, however, my post is not deleted. my apology to you, Tim.

    Comment by John L. McCormick — 25 May 2007 @ 8:17 AM

  347. Though the complete negation of community to look at my research, I have the moral responsibility to insist on that discussion. So I give the answers without being asked (excuse me for that). My question is this: We often see a discussion of the strength of solar cycles effect on climate. Shouldn’t we focus more on geomagnetic field oscillations? Trying to answer that I will ask you to look at some graphs of my research on the tidal synod graph. The 265.4 year cycle has 42-something years subcycles that describe the geomagnetic field oscillation(together with the 11-year sunspot cycle, look at climax). Then couldn’t that cause Foucault currents to Earth in accordance with my research?
    Thanks for your patience.

    Dimitris

    Comment by Dimitris Poulos — 26 May 2007 @ 3:39 AM

  348. #345 John L. McCormick, Actually it was Tim who said he was not a scientist back in #325. For the record, I am a card-carrying, unabashed science nerd–a physicist doing research in radiation effects on semiconductors to be exact. I am not a climate scientist, although I did follow the beat for a physics magazine over a decade ago.

    Comment by ray ladbury — 26 May 2007 @ 7:37 AM

  349. #11:
    “It seems to me that the physics of infrared absorption and redirection (i.e., the known causal link) + common sense are what make the compelling case that human activities are most likely driving some amount of warming.”

    SURELY this is the only basis; and so the one worth concentrating on? Then the well-worn phrase “there are statistics, and statistics and damn lies” can’t be applied.

    Surely even dumb though immensely self-interested selfish bastard politicans can be persuaded to follow the argument, one of chemical physics, rephrased if necessary into Jerry Springerese, that unidirectional energy from the Sun gets re-radiated multi-directionally by greehouse gases, so at least roughly speaking, 50% gets trapped and contributes to global warming.

    (Yes, I know, that a figure approaching that 50% figure strictly would only apply were there a (thermodynamically macroscopic) infinitesimal though unbroken layer of CO2/other greenhouse gases encapsulating the atmosphere, with a correction required for Î� from the 2Ï� of the solid angle subtended by the earth from a point in the layer – but I’m talking about expressing simple scientific ideas to politicos and “their” sheople.)

    I’m sure a wizard in calculus can work this out exactly – I know very little of the GISS models – I expect they contain such relatively mathematically trivial integrations.

    #13
    “Each and every nanosecond, a new universe comes into existence which is then replaced by a new one the next nanosecond”

    Every reasonably well-read extra-terrestrial knows, of course, that this occurs not every nanosecond, but in the unit of time you Earthlings know as the Planck Time.

    P.S: Are the “resident” gurus who contribute here, just naturally rude, or just really really busy? I asked what I thought were some reasonable questions ages ago in another RealClimate forum, and after just one other not very helpful and really not too sensible reply that seemed to completely ignore enthalpies of formation, etc. that forum was shut down for further posts – and thereby any answers to the questions posed there that I could easily find. Any chance anyone here can address the questions there?

    I’m busy too, so can’t be bothered re-formatting the post, so here’s the link to it.

    Comment by Dennis Revell — 26 May 2007 @ 11:23 AM

  350. Dimitris, the time scale at the bottom of your three part image
    http://f7.yahoofs.com/users/44575f70z7b6989a6/7156re2/__sr_/6de4scd.jpg?phAxGWGB4I5o69XO
    appears only to apply to the bottom third of it. Can you put a legible time scale on the other two panels?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 26 May 2007 @ 12:00 PM

  351. Hmmm, … OK … explicit link in #349 above that this forum mysteriously screws up – looks like a deficiency in the even more mysterious “securebar.secure-tunnel” wotsit thing:

    Screwed up link:

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/02/save-the-world-earn-25-million/#comment-28597

    In context appearance of link:

    ” …

    P.S: Are the “resident” gurus who contribute here, just naturally rude, or just really really busy? I asked what I thought were some reasonable questions ages ago in another RealClimate forum, and after just one other not very helpful and really not too sensible reply that seemed to completely ignore enthalpies of formation, etc. that forum was shut down for further posts – and thereby any answers to the questions posed there that I could easily find. Any chance anyone here can address the questions there?

    I’m busy too, so can’t be bothered re-formatting the post, so here’s the [explicit] link to it:

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/02/save-the-world-earn-25-million/#comment-28597

    Comment by Dennis Revell — 26 May 2007 @ 12:36 PM

  352. Mr. Revell asked in the other thread a lot of questions. You can find most answers to FAQs with the search box, top of the page.
    > who has entered, R. Branson’s Virgin Earth Challenge
    Try his website or Google
    > Anybody know where I can get a [reference mentioned] – I mean without having to pay?
    Ask your local public library Reference Desk; if not available, they will be able to borrow a copy via interlibrary loan.
    >How do you get an article/paper published here?
    None are. See Contributors’ links on right side for their publications.

    Most of us posting here are just interested readers.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 26 May 2007 @ 1:57 PM

  353. So, my comments do not ‘pass the test’. In any case I suggest you read Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome. That’ll cheer you up. The future’s not so bad.

    Comment by PHE — 26 May 2007 @ 6:31 PM

  354. PHE (#353) wrote:

    So, my comments do not ‘pass the test’. In any case I suggest you read Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome. That’ll cheer you up. The future’s not so bad.

    The future?

    I am still hoping that it hasn’t been written yet – or at least not the last few chapters of it. But if I need some cheering up or just wish to enjoy myself for a short time, Babylon 5 generally does the trick for me. At this point I think I will spend some time with G’Kar, Londo and Vir. Or maybe I will watch the first movie.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 26 May 2007 @ 6:59 PM

  355. Hank, the time scale for the first two is on their axis (doesn’t read well-agreed), and is between 1000 to ~2000 AD. This link is working

    http://pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/dimispoulos/detail?.dir=7156re2&.dnm=6de4scd.jpg

    Comment by Dimitris Poulos — 27 May 2007 @ 9:45 AM

  356. Re. #38:

    As for physical models, George Box said, “All models are wrong, some models are useful.” A classic recent example in supernova SN2006gy, the largest supernova ever observed, which fell outside the standard models of supernovae explosions (and provided physical evidence for an alternative model, the “pair instability model”).

    You give the impression here that there are several competing “standard models” that all propose to explain the single phenomenon of supernovae, but that isn’t how supernova science works. There are many different types of supernovae, and some have very different physical causes than others. SN2006gy is evidence not for an “alternative model,” but for a new type of supernova that has been proposed before, but never observed (until, perhaps, now).

    Just wanted to set the record straight!

    Comment by Aaron F. — 1 Jun 2007 @ 11:56 PM

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