Another (hopefully) useful resource for people writing about climate and other complex environmental issues is the 2005 Field Guide for Science Writers of NASW.org. My chapter in that book, on covering climate and the like, is available online here: http://www.onthemedia.org/episodes/2006/12/08/chapter.html
I would suggest that instead of including an AGW-sceptic in debates, journalists look for someone who disputes the economic value of mitigation measures or raises the China-India issue. These issues (particularly the latter) are now much more of public interest and concern values and politics rather than contesting simple science.
The paragraph (third from article bottom) in which you say “…people without scientific training often find it hard to judge who’d right and who’s wrong. …” should be emblazoned in gold, and be placed in full view of every science-based writer, who purports to communicate with others than his/her actual peers. The two sides of the ‘red herring coin” are writing about a topic the writer simply is not qualified to write about, and reading an essay that, in its pontifical erudition, defies understanding by anyone other than the writer.
It isn’t just the Norwegian public who believe that scientists don’t agree on the causes of climate change – a survey of the UK public last summer indicated that 56% strongly or tend to agree that “Many leading experts still question if human activity is contributing to climate change”: http://www.ipsos-mori.com/polls/2007/climatechange.shtml
It is clear that the media has played a role in this by giving greater prominence to voices of dissent, even when they offer no evidence to justify their views. But the problem is often at editorial level, rather than at the level of individual science reporters, who generally appear to be aware of the landscape of views on this issues. As an example, the editorial staff at the BBC (and the BBC trust) are in a bit of a muddle at the moment on this issue because they seem to think that impartiality means giving coverage to any point of view, if honestly held, regardless of its accuracy (see, for example: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/theeditors/2007/02/how_green_should_we_be.html). The media are generally much better at illustrating ranges of opinions, rather than at assessing to what extent different viewpoints are supported by the evidence.
As you say, the mountain regions have received a lot of snow, especially the high ice plateaus like Jolsterdals glacier, perhaps as much as 8-10 meters already this winter, and still more comes in every day with the “mild” westerly winds.
[Response: For snow conditions in Norway, see SeNorge.no (there is an English button on the page). -rasmus]
Comment by George Robinson — 7 Feb 2008 @ 11:27 AM
That book sounds like exactly what I need to better inform myself of the story of global warming. I’m going to order it today. Could you recommend any other books for skeptics? (I’m the sort that would really like to be convinced that the scientists are really doing everything right.) I guess the issue I’m most skeptical about is the quantitative utility of simulations–that is, being a physicist and knowing simulators and their results, I’m well-aware that complicated simulations never give reliable numbers. And we don’t do anything half as complicated as earth’s long-term climate, of course. I guess there’s less likely to be a book that will help me check that opinion; but hey, maybe there is?
Thanks for the nice, measured, informative [silly editorializing removed]
MUST SEE VIDEO FOR JOURNALISTS
Global Warming Contrarians Exposed
An extremely informative, in-depth account of four of the major global warming “confusionists” is available free-online.
Naomi Oreskes of the University of California, San Diego Science Studies Program is currently giving a lecture about the people at the center of the denialist camp. It is exceptionally well researched back to the first scientists to raise a red flag about the rising CO2, and who have been proven to be correct with alarming accuracy in their projections of climate change.
She very powerfully dismantles the idea that “nobody could have predicted what we now know to be true”. The answer to that is: “Not only could they have, but they did”.
But people weren’t very concerned in the 50’s and 60’s, seeing the problem as one far off in the future.
After making an indisputable account of the scientific community’s knowledge before the eighties, she examines the people who have seemed to ignore what was known, and more importantly, why they continue to this day to argue that ‘the debate is not over’. This is the purpose of the lecture and video as the title is “The American Denial of Global Warming”.
“We think that the scientists are still arguing about it, because this is what we have been repeatedly told” (by the press) states Oreskes. Journalists feel a need to give balance to their work and rightfully so. But in the case of a handful of deniers against a couple thousand scientists, the need to hear from the very few is ridiculous and, as she explains, harmful.
The famed republican strategist who gave us such wonderful phrases as “The Clear Skies Initiative”, “No Child Left Behind”, “Healthy Forests Initiative” (which have all been proven to be spin) Frank Luntz wrote “…you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue”. Mr. Luntz has since given up that idea, but other republicans, sadly, have not, Oreskes says.
She uncovers revealing documents and some humorous facts about the deniers and their tactics. “The plan was never to debate fellow scientists in the halls of science, but rather in the mass media”, says Oreskes, with the main goal to confuse the public instead of proving a scientific fact.
It was the same tactic for confusing the public about the link between cancer and cigarettes, and ……… not surprisingly …….. it is some of the same people doing it now on the CO2 issue.
I highly recommend this video. It very clearly explains a situation that is causing much harm to the American public’s understanding of a very dangerous situation.
Interesting post, Rasmus. I have to say that I think that one of the reasons this debate has turned so nasty is that since the so-called sketics have no science on their side, they are left with little but ad hominem attacks and outright lies. And climate scientists, being human, tend to respond in a hostile manner. At the same time, we need to realize that some people stand to make a lot of money by prolonging this debate and by increasing the distrust on both sides. As long as the corporate mother ship sows the seeds of distrust in the minds of the denialists and tells them what they want to hear, the fact that the facts are on our side won’t matter.
Another HUGE problem in getting the science out to the public is this thing that news organizations have about publishing a story from another news organization (senseless copyrights).
For instance, in the past two years there have been over a dozen reports of research findings in newspapers around the world where the scientists gave some grim data on one part of the climate. But unless you have a ‘google alert’ for ‘climate change’ and ‘global warming’ you wouldn’t have seen it.
It seems to me that this type of ‘selfishness’ should be suspended in this situation.
Here’s a list of just such articles with their stricking statements [you will notice that exactly one is from an American agency]:
Mar. ’07 – Tundra Disappearing At Rapid Rate. “It’s like it waited until conditions were just right and then it decided to get up and run, not just walk.”…..This sets up a “positive feedback,” the same process that is associated with the rapidly decaying Arctic ice cap. http://www.mbeconetwork.org/newsitem.php?news=2
Bob Ward, I agree that the problem is more at the editorial level than with reporters who actually cover science, and I think the reason is as mundane as it is insidious. Editors are interested in selling papers, and conflict is more interesting than consensus. We see the same thing in politics all the time–if a candidate is rising in the polls, suddenly you start to see critical pieces written. If a candidate is falling (e.g. with John McCain this Summer) out come the “don’t count him out yet” pieces. At some point, editors will have to learn how to cover issues for which there is only one legitimate side. The science of climate change is such an issue. What to do about it…well, there we have plenty of room for controversy.
The paperback of Dr. Weart’s book is inexpensive, easy to read and flip back and forth. For someone with little science or technical background, the book might be a challenge. I encourage people to read a bit, put it down and stop to think what they just learned. The issues are complex and unfamiliar, readers need time and effort to assimilate the information. The link (and associated search engine) Andy gives in #1 is great to use later, searching back for particular ideas. ( & It has additionall material)
RE “It seems that communication skills are more important for convincing the general public than scientific skills”
Not me. I’d take the word of bonafide not-so-articulate scientists over well-spoken others, with the caveat that the scientists if at all they are wrong or off-target would most likely be underestimating (not overestimating) the problem, due to scientific conservatism (avoiding false positives).
It’s ridiculous that some people trust Rush Limbaugh’s science over scientists’ science.
I respect the lengthy education, intelligence, and hard work that goes into science. That counts a lot more than armchair opinions. It carries weight.
I hope Andrew Revkin has tried to convince his own newspaper, the NY Times, to stop playing up contrarian arguments. I haven’t seen much along those lines from William Broad lately, but John Tierney is still at it. A while back John Tierney admitted that he was wrong about the reality of global warming, but apparently old habits die hard. To paraphrase the contrarian argument about “global cooling”, why should we pay attention to his critiques today, when he was—admittedly—wrong in the past? The thing that annoys me the most is that he is given prominence in of all places the weekly Science section. He writes well and is sometimes thought provoking, but he is by no means a scientist and not particularly skilled at separating the wheat from the chaff.
How can there be global warming, it’s freezing out! ;)
I have to contribute while I don’t post often, I do read often. Almost every entry here at RC. I trust the variety of Atmospheric Scientists very well on this issue as time and time again they have allready proved themselves correct. The ones who differed in opinion simply got it wrong. There are even those on this very website that have made, short term predictions and been right about them based on blog discussions. For instance, one that keeps rattling my brain is a short-term prediction of the climate this winter by a participant here who related the artic sea ice loss and a extremely cold winter, which by all accounts has been seen compared to other years. This is most evident in the Eastern Hemisphere where deserts are getting snow fall.
A picture of a palm tree bending under the weight of snow. Well if that isn’t iery.
But hey, You have to get a laugh out of expressions such as mine above and the ever so dumbfounding “Oh, I’m loving these warm temperatures” when it’s 70 degrees in January in upstate New York. Love that. Keep up the great work everyone!
Thanks so much for this link. Much of the material in the video is already widely known, at least among those who frequent RealClmate, but Naomi adds quite a bit of new (at least to me) information on the key personalities, strategies and their cross links and pulls it all together in a cohesive and coherent presentation.
I especially liked the fact that it was GOP strategist Frank Lunz who advised framing the discussion by changing “global warming” to “climate change” because it sounded less threatening and urgent. I’ll have to remember that the next time a “skeptic” asks why the term was changed.
Actually, many so-called skeptics, even here, freely admit that the “debate” about climate change is really an anti-regulation political debate, and as Naomi concludes at the end, that’s exactly what it is.
Lynn (15), but you’re an exception one in a hundred thousand. For convincing the public, communication skills don’t even get a sniffle and win every time when up against scientists, or any other pure fact/logic-based entity. Look at the Presidential candidate debates. The analysis and “winner-declaring” is 97% on presentation and 3% on substance — and the latter usually only if it’s presented with a real cutsey sound bite.
What is amazing is that even at a conference at which coverage of climate change is discussed, the journalists can’t bring themselves to stop “balancing” the panels.
The panel in which I participated consisted of a social/political scientist who had investigated how media deals with the issue of climate change and the public perception thereof, a science journalist, an AGW-skeptic, and myself.
Thus, a panel consisting of: one person who isn’t a scientist, one person who is just wrong, and a scientist. The best case scenario is that what they learn is 66% right. What a great place to learn how to cover science!
rasmus, I promise not to consult the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons for my climate information, but you might consider consulting it or related journals about your chill theory of the common cold.
“I especially liked the fact that it was GOP strategist Frank Lunz who advised framing the discussion by changing “global warming” to “climate change” because it sounded less threatening and urgent. I’ll have to remember that the next time a “skeptic” asks why the term was changed.”
“Actually, many so-called skeptics, even here, freely admit that the “debate” about climate change is really an anti-regulation political debate, and as Naomi concludes at the end, that’s exactly what it is.
Comment by Jim Eager
“Climate change” is exactly how the average citizen of planet earth will experience and become aware of the reality of “Global warming”. Their average weather will change, the exact kind of change will depend on their local geography. Exact predictions will be exceedingly difficult and will always have a time scale associated with them. Changes will always have down sides for something or somebody.
The big money interests have the ability to side step the political debate and lend money to green energy projects and refuse to lend money to industries that insist on having large carbon footprints. It’s beginning to happen now and we can be optimistic that the people who make decisions for big money are starting to show some concern for their grandchildren’s planet.
May I suggest a solution to the problem of journalists and the public not being able to asses the relative weight and merit of professional opinion behind the various aspects of climate science …
We need a website that does the following :
* Lets the site administrators create a list of all scientific and pseudo-scientific journals, and allows them to give each a credibility ranking.
* Lets the administrators enter a list of all the major global warming assertions/theories/predictions.
* Lets climatologists log in and create an account.
* Lets them enter a bio on themselves and enter a list of all the peer reviewed climate science publications that they have published (or at least enter the number that they have published).
* Allows each member to enter credibility/likelihood/threat rankings against each assertion/theory/prediction.
* The site would then present reports that use this data to summarize the support within the climate science community for the various assertions/theories/predictions.
* It could be taken further by letting each member enter credibility rankings against the other members and/or for each publication.
With such a system, you would be able to see (to give a pretend example) that of the 900 members that ranked the plausibility of cosmic rays as an explanation of observed global warming – the average peer assigned credibility ranking of the 800 who considered it very implausible was 7.5/10, whereas the credibility ranking of the 10 who thought it very plausible was 2/10. You would also be able to see that of the 50 scientists with 10 or more highly ranked publications, none thought it was plausible, whereas of the 50 members with the lowest ranked publications 20 thought it was plausible.
Such a system would provide a very accessible and transparent means of assessing the true extent of support within the climatological science community for the assertions, theories and predictions that are on offer.
Now, I agree that it’s all very well for me to think up such a brilliant concept, but who is going to do it?! I’m busily teaching myself how to create PHP/mySQL websites, and if someone else doesn’t get to it first, I think I’ll be able to have it up and running within six months, depending on my other commitments. However, do the climatologists here think it’s a worthwhile idea, and do they think the climate science community would participate? If someone else wants to do it then, please, go ahead. It would have more credibility coming from with in the climate science community anyway.
Andy Revkin has discussed media responses and responsibilities at length in several places, and see the ongoing discussions in his excellent new blog at http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/ (hey, one good plug deserves another!)
There is by now a great deal of polling, and the bottom line is that 70% or more of the public now accept that global warming is a serious problem, which is about as many as you’ll ever get to agree about anything — BUT few Americans and not very many more Europeans rank it high among the things they think they need to pay attention to. Asked to name the world’s problems, they seldom bring it up, and even among environmental problems they will list water pollution, chemicals, etc. first. It has what pollsters call low saliency.
The only good in-depth study I’ve seen, a focus group study by American Environics (pdf),
recommends not bothering to argue about the reality or danger of global warming, but include it as an additional argument for reducing dependence on oil, promoting innovation in energy supplies, etc.
Doing science by debate-What a concept! How would that work? Would each side, say the Centrigades vs the Fahrenheits, take a thermometer into the lab and when one side says “Close the window,it’s only 20 degrees in here!” The other would say “Are you kidding it’s 68 degrees leave it open!”?
I think we should stick to doing science the old fashioned way.Collect data,analyze it, build models, digital or analog,graph and formulate the results and make recommendations based on the conclusions.
Speaking of journalists in Norway, there’s a very good reporter working for Reuters there, named Alister Doyle, and his recent reports from Antarctica’s TROLL STATION were very good. He is also has a blog up at blogs.reuters.com/environment
Good post. But I think it’s important to note that editors are not interested in selling papers. They are editors, they edit the news, they choose the stories for page one, they write the headlines, they do many things in the newsroom but selling papers is not their charge. That’s for the circulation department, and of course, the PR people and the top CEO brass. Don’t load on the editors: they are former reporters who now edit the news, rather than write the news, and they also assign reporters to cover certain stories. So no, editors are not interested in selling papers. Please reconsider that comment. I think the public in general does not understand how a newspaper really works. Ask your journo pals.
— Danny B.
“I agree that the problem is more at the editorial level than with reporters who actually cover science, and I think the reason is as mundane as it is insidious. Editors are interested in selling papers, and conflict is more interesting than consensus.”
Re catman306 @ 23: “Climate change” is exactly how the average citizen of planet earth will experience and become aware of the reality of “Global warming”.
Oh, for sure, catman, and “climate change” is definitely the more accurate term, but time and again I see “skeptics” bring it up and insinuate that the change was some kind of deliberate ruse to explain away perceived inconsistencies in AGW (severe winter storms and temperatures, lulls in hurricane activity and the warming trend, and such).
The best part is that they are right, it was a deliberate ruse, but it was THEIR deliberate ruse.
I stumbled across a nice little book published by Oxford University Press, “Global Warming: A Very Short Introduction,” by Mark Maslin (ISBN 13: 978-0-19-284097-4; ISBN 10: 0-190284097-5). It is one of a series of “Very Short Introduction” books. It relies heavily on data and figures from the IPCC reports, but presents some interesting perspectives, such as a chapter titled, “Your viewpoint determines the future,” in which he draws on the work of Professor John Adams of Universitiy College, London, describing different mindsets for viewing the stability of natural systems (the “four myths of nature” and the “four myths of human nature”). I think it cost me about $10.00 U.S. It is a nice compact, readable, review of the evidence for AGW and its implications for society.
I really enjoy reading your blog, it always has great insight. But I am very frustrated with the fact that so few people are talking about presidential candidates and their thoughts on global warming. Now that it is down to just a few candidates I would think that this would be a bigger issue.
Live Earth just picked up this topic and put out an article ( http://www.liveearth.org/news.php ) live earth is also asking why the presidential candidates are not being solicited for their stance on the issue of the climate change. I just saw a poll on http://www.EarthLab.com that says people care a lot about what their next leader thinks of global warming. Does anyone know of another poll or other results about this subject?
Here is the page where I saw the EarthLab poll: http://www.earthlab.com/life.aspx. This is a pretty legit website; they are endorsed by Al Gore and the alliance for climate protection and they have a carbon footprint calculator. Does anyone have a strong opinion about this like I do? No matter what your political affiliation is or who you vote for this is an important issue for our environment, our economy and for homeland security.
Thanks Rasmus, for the practical advices for journalists.
When you come to journalists there are few aspects to consider.
“… journalists to do some extensive search on the publication record of the individuals, and consider their affiliations – are they from a reputable place?”.
Not all journalists have the tools nor time to do this research. They may be under pressure from editors to have report ready within the next few hours.And it’s now or never. And how to judge the reputation of a place? Can you give us some advice on this (ok, if it comes from MIT, that’s quite a reputable place, but there are hundreds other +/- reputable institutions)?
“…people without scientific training often find it hard to judge who’s right and who’s wrong.”
So true! And people without a background in sociology (as many scientists) have hard times to make judgments in controversial research into parenting. As soon as we move out from our experitise field we all become “people without training”. And you may be also relying on the media when they report in controversial epidemics threatening global security. Many journalists have to report about scientific themes building up a knowledge on the spot, in few hours or at best in few days.
That’s why scientists may greatly contribute to improve quality of reporting by speaking out, telling their personal view (but making clear what’s personal view and what’s scientific consensus), being aware of the short time span journalist have, trying to assess the background of the journalist and …reframing their views as it is suggested in this short but enlightening analysis by Mooney and Nisbet (http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/summary/316/5821/56) .
[Response: I think I’d recommend that journalists over time get acquainted with the subject and the community. A bit like a political journalist who actually know who’s the president and who’s not or a foreign corresponent who knows which countries are in Europe and which are in Africa. I think it’s important that journalists are not blank on the matters on which they report. There are many reputable places, yes. That’s why I recommend journalists attending conferences and talk to people in the community so that they are more prepared when they get their assignments. It’s all about investing time and effort for the future. -rasmus]
Read the paragraph “The Tyranny of Balance” in Revkin’s book chapter (http://www.onthemedia.org/episodes/2006/12/08/chapter.html) . I experience this tyranny on my skin. When reporting to english speaking media, I have to provide this balance between those saying one thing and the others. When reporting to italian media, I am not asked to be as balanced. This aspect of balance in reporting should be carefully addressed by journalists and editors – it fuels controversy even where consensus is there…
Re 25. The site could also allow individual climate scientists to post their individual guestimate of what they think the SLR by 2100 could be. There could be voting options, for example, in the range 0 to 20 metres in 0.1 metres intervals. The output of the voting could be in real time and the world would have a clearer message about the potential upper bound of SLR this century: a simple graph with x-axis ranging from 0 to 20 metres and the y-axis giving counts. The voting could be reset every, say, 3 months, as more evidence comes to light as to the nonlinear processes building up in the ice sheets, and experts revaluate the degree of lack of knowledge about the cryosphere and its interactions with everything else.
Having a voting system like this with clear display for the world would circumvent the problem of having to wait another 6 years for the IPCC to do another SLR report in which they avoid putting an upper bound on the SLR.
The voting system, which does not need to display the identity of the professional climate scientists against each vote would get around the rot of reticence that is prevalent amongst climate scientists.
The distribution of estimates of SLR from the climate scientists (hardly different to what is commonly done for technology futures, for example, where one doesn’t know the future) could then be linked directly to a measure, for example, of the number of nuclear reactors and other critical industrial plant at current coastline that could be submerged in the next few decades if we don’t mitigate.
Just because conventional studies do not give precise figures for something in the future, it does not mean that an accumulation of insights and expert knowledges should not be gathered into a simple and straightforward representation of a community’s estimates.
At present, the world does not know what the community of climate scientists think the 2100 SLR upper bound might be. It is pathetic given the global communication capability currently available and climate scientists should address the SLR communication gap as quickly as possible.
When will the first distribution of climate scientists’ estimates of 2100 SLR upper bound be available?
#30. Danny B – you’re joking right? Editors not interested in selling papers!? They choose the way articles appear in the paper, write the headline and the editorial – the whole editorial direction (= opinion) is their responsibility and you don’t think any of this influences who buys the paper or how many they sell???. The stance, the philosophy behind a paper heavily determines who buys a paper and how many it sells.
#5 The BBC may think they are winningly impartial, but many, many people in the UK consider the opposite – that they are biased towards ‘liberal’ points of view. Just check out a site called http://www.biased-bbc.blogspot.com/ for an example.
Which brings me to my third point – #11 – most of the stories you mention I have seen or heard of in the media (BBC most often).
Speaking of book recomendations and editors. If you can get them to read Sagan’s ‘Demon haunted world’ they would stand a better chance of distingushing the difference between an informed skeptic and a mischevious incalcitrant.
I have a BSc and I simply accept that people turn off to science and speed read over the details, accounting has the same effect on me. However almost everyone is interested in improving their in-built BS detector and Sagan’s book does an excellent job.
Another accessible skeptic is ‘The Great Randi’, I can’t recall the name of his book on magic and skepticism but it rescued me from Uri Geller’s BS as a young man. Whoda thunk that a paperback written by a magician could teach one more about what science is/isn’t than 11yrs of schooling.
The increased concentration of CO2 in the air, is strongly affecting the cognition of people–a problem not yet recognised by the scientific community; the symptoms of CO2 poisoning are: the denial of certain phenomena of nature, persistent illusory beliefs, escapist behaviour, and a strong tendency to lobby more vehemently for one’s cause. Many of these symptoms have been diagnosed by many reknowned doctors; but, unfortunately, this medical wisdom has not yet reached the rest of the world, who are still happily wallowing in their cognitive mists.
O! ’tis a great tragedy, but we must try to bear our lonely endeavour to enlighten the remainer of the world.
People like me – no scientific training, centre-right leaning, well-educated (“voters” or “consumers” as we are sometimes known) are inclined to be sceptical about climate change because we are generally sceptical about prescriptive actions by governments or any interest or ideological group and yes, that’s including scientists who hold or who maintain they hold a particular belief and benefit from that in some kind (fame, notoriety, money, kudos, influence). We also know that movements, be it scientific (eg. eugenics, string theory, cigarettes providing a health benefit) or economic (eg. south sea bubble, dot-coms) can be subject to self-reinforcing, self-perpetuating confirmation, while outsiders, or here “sceptics” or “denialists”, are ostracised. Neither do we understand, when reading the impressive-sounding list of signatories on letters disagreeing with the phenomenon or even premise of AGW (eg. Bali dissenters, the Canadians not so long ago), why one scientist’s theory should be preferred over another, or rather, when one scientist’s theory should be dismissed out of hand by another, when both are professors in atmospheric sciences or somesuch.
Nor do we quite get the model thing. We understand models, and we also know that they are useful predictive tools but we are convinced that they do not supply “evidence” (a term creeping in on RC to describe model output) of future states or anything like it and we note that inherent and freely admitted possible significant errors are ignored conveniently or wilfully when that output is being discussed and nor are we convinced, or even that much surprised that models tend towards agreeing with each other.
We are sceptical also of weight-loss pills, hair-growth tonics, betting systems and carbon trading schemes. We understand that there is an element of social and political ideology behind many pronouncements of those who urge eg. immediate 80% reductions in our carbon emissions and probably none of us send goats to Africa. And we look out of our windows and believe neither that because it’s hotter than usual in June or colder than usual in February that this means anything other than we have a chaotic weather system.
So as Spencer Weart says, to appeal to the homus economicus in us makes the most perfect amount of sense. We really do believe that adaptation, if required, from a wealthier planet, will be be our best bet.
If we incidentally save the planet, well that’s fine by us also.
bennyben (42), interesting thought, but a pretty large stretch. Your reference wasn’t clear: Are you implying the symptoms show up in just the skeptics, just AGW protagonists, or both (and everybody else??)?
I recently applied for a reporting job in Alaska for a paper and was turned down for my politics. I asked, via email what personal politics had to do with reporting? I didn’t get an answer. I searched for past articles on climate and found none. Even though I was told I’d be called about the job it didn’t happen. Instead after boiling down all the candidates to me, (I found out through an internal cc mistake that came to me!) they readvertised the job. I have a journalism and environmental biology degree from Cal State and a long history of working for government agencies. I used Andy revkin as an example of the reporting I would like to do on the subject.
Speaking of Hell freezing over, you folks will need to look at and make responses to the following editorial about the proposal that from roughly now on, the sun’s output will reduce and lead to a climatic cooling effect. (The claim is ironic in light of prior claims that GW resulted from recent increases in the sun’s radiation.)
The Sun Also Sets
By INVESTOR’S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Thursday, February 07, 2008 4:20 PM PT
Climate Change: Not every scientist is part of Al Gore’s mythical “consensus.” Scientists worried about a new ice age seek funding to better observe something bigger than your SUV — the sun.
Back in 1991, before Al Gore first shouted that the Earth was in the balance, the Danish Meteorological Institute released a study using data that went back centuries that showed that global temperatures closely tracked solar cycles.
To many, those data were convincing. Now, Canadian scientists are seeking additional funding for more and better “eyes” with which to observe our sun, which has a bigger impact on Earth’s climate than all the tailpipes and smokestacks on our planet combined.
And they’re worried about global cooling, not warming.
Kenneth Tapping, a solar researcher and project director for Canada’s National Research Council, is among those looking at the sun for evidence of an increase in sunspot activity.
Solar activity fluctuates in an 11-year cycle. But so far in this cycle, the sun has been disturbingly quiet. The lack of increased activity could signal the beginning of what is known as a Maunder Minimum, an event which occurs every couple of centuries and can last as long as a century.
Such an event occurred in the 17th century. The observation of sunspots showed extraordinarily low levels of magnetism on the sun, with little or no 11-year cycle.
This solar hibernation corresponded with a period of bitter cold that began around 1650 and lasted, with intermittent spikes of warming, until 1715. Frigid winters and cold summers during that period led to massive crop failures, famine and death in Northern Europe.
Tapping reports no change in the sun’s magnetic field so far this cycle and warns that if the sun remains quiet for another year or two, it may indicate a repeat of that period of drastic cooling of the Earth, bringing massive snowfall and severe weather to the Northern Hemisphere.
Alan K., Now hold on just a wee bit. Do you think you become famous and powerful in science by going along with the crowd? Do you think for one minute that if someone could disprove anthropogenic causation that he would not be lionized in the scientific community? Do you really think that all scientists are leftist ideologues? Sir, you have a profound misunderstanding of what science is and how it works!
In science, evidence and explanatory power reign supreme. Yes it is political, but if you don’t have the evidence behind you, you will not succeed for long. All the evidence points to anthropogenic causation It is only partly a scientist’s insight that makes him or her influential. There is also the willingness of individual scientists to put aside their own preferences and agendas when the evidence runs against them that makes one scientist or group of scientists more trusted or influential. How many papers in refereed climate journals have the so-called Bali dissenters published? I believe the number is somewhere between zero and bupkis. Moreover, I think you will find most denialists are not atmospheric scientists, but in some tangentially related field–oceanography, geography, geology, etc. Now compare that to the hundreds of climate scientists who are generating more evidence that supports anthropogenic causation every day and the thousands of physicists, chemists, meteorologists, science academies, etc. that have looked at the science and found it to be credible. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_warming_consensus
But the thing I find most astounding about your post is that you seem to be making your acceptance of the science contingent upon whether it supports your political or economic philosophy. I would contend, rather that by rejecting sound science, you abdicate your position at the negotiating table where solutions are adopted, thereby ensuring that your views will be ignored.
As Thomas Huxley said: “My business is to teach my aspirations to conform themselves to fact, not to try and make facts harmonise with my aspirations.”
[[Neither do we understand, when reading the impressive-sounding list of signatories on letters disagreeing with the phenomenon or even premise of AGW (eg. Bali dissenters, the Canadians not so long ago), why one scientist’s theory should be preferred over another, or rather, when one scientist’s theory should be dismissed out of hand by another, when both are professors in atmospheric sciences or somesuch.]]
That’s true, you don’t understand. If you were to look carefully, you would see that the vast majority of people who sign those statements are NOT climate scientists. And you might want to think about the fact that science is not done by press release, nor by petition, but by research and publication in peer-reviewed journals. The letters you’re referring to are meant to influence public opinion; they are an act of politics, not an act of science.
[[Nor do we quite get the model thing. We understand models, and we also know that they are useful predictive tools but we are convinced that they do not supply “evidence” (a term creeping in on RC to describe model output) of future states or anything like it]]
True, you don’t get the model thing. The models are not predictions of the future, they are predictions of what the future will be like given a certain profile for future emissions. We don’t know how much carbon dioxide will increase; we do know that if it doubles you can expect about a 3 K rise in mean global annual surface temperature.
[[ and we note that inherent and freely admitted possible significant errors are ignored conveniently or wilfully when that output is being discussed]]
I don’t believe that’s correct. Name a case where a “significant error” was “willfully ignored.”
Alan K wrote: “People like me […] are inclined to be sceptical about climate change because we are generally sceptical about prescriptive actions by governments”
With all due respect, that makes no sense whatsoever. You have an aversion to or dislike of “prescriptive actions by governments”. Fine. That has absolutely nothing to do with whether climate change is real.
The facts are: anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide are causing global warming, and that anthropogenic global warming is causing climate change; the present excessive levels of CO2 and consequent climate change are already dangerous, and if the process continues unabated, the results will be disastrous and catastrophic for human civilization.
If you don’t like government interventions you are certainly free to propose “free market” solutions or other solutions that you prefer. But denying the reality of the problem because you dislike some of the solutions that some people have suggested is insane.
Re #46 [Neil B, citing “The Sun Also Sets”
By INVESTOR’S BUSINESS DAILY] If it turns out to be true that solar activity is about to decline fairly sharply (and whether or not there is actually any good reason to believe this at present), then let’s be clear, that will be very good news: it could give us more time to halt the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which we know is warming the earth rapidly. However, it won’t help with the other big problem carbon dioxide build-up is causing: acidification of the oceans.
Don’t you love the irony of the denialists touting someone who thinks that the sun will start to show signs of a grand minimum, Real Soon Now, while saying that a couple dozen teams building computer models based on thousands of peer reviewed papers is too shaky to be believed?
Re Mark York @ 32: “Yeah I just had this stuffed in my face as the ultimate appeal to authority. It’s like being caught in an echo chamber of falsehoods.”
Yep, another go at “it’s the sun, stupid,” complete with all the usual false assertions about increased solar activity [sic], CO2 not causing warming as the ice age ended [sic] and therefore does not cause warming now [sic], 80% of the rise in CO2 occurred since 1940 [sic] yet there was 20 years of cooling from 1945 [sic], mysterious–and variable, mind you, long-period solar cycles, and on, and on, and on. All stuff that has been debunked many times over.
Re, IBD, WSJ, Telegraph and other rags not worthy to wrap a fish:
Don’t they kind of remind you of Cubs fans? I mean every year is THE YEAR, unless they are already eliminated, when next year is THE YEAR. Of course, even if we were to see a downturn in solar irradiance, it would not invalidate the physics of the greenhouse effect. And since a downturn in solar activity lasts for perhaps 80 years at most, while CO2 persists for centuries…
The math is pretty simple…why are economists so reluctant to do it?
It is generally agreed that it is impossible for Hell to freeze over. Yet you have shown that the impossible can happen.
Everyone believes that it is impossible for mankind to destroy the World, and they believe that progress will save us. Your vision of Hell covered in snow leads me to doubt that such general opinions are always correct.
“The science journalist in the panel advocated the practice of reporting on issues that are based on publications from peer reviewed scientific literature. I whole-heartedly concur. I would also advice journalists to do some extensive search on the publication record of the individuals, and consider their affiliations – are they from a reputable place?”
But that is no guarantee of the truth. We were all wrong believing that Hell does not freeze over, and as I have shown there are conflicting views on whether Hell is exothermic from equally authoratative sources.
Lord Kelvin proved that the Earth was only ten million years old, showing that even the most prestigious authorities can be wrong. When some of the big problems in climate science are still unanswered, such as the tropical lapse rate, polar amplification, and abrupt climate change then insisting that the journalists should only listen to those who have failed to come up with the answers seems rather illogical.
[Response: Good point about Lord Kelvin. He was a great man in many respects. But scholars of his age did not possess the same information, beit empirical data and physical understanding, as we have today. Science evolves, and I presume it moves in the direction from less informed to more informed. Thus we are getting closer to the truth as we make more discoveries and increase our understanding. We do not know if we know the truth, but the scientific consencus is – the way I see it – the most convincing view. And a reputable scientific establishments have earned its esteem through scientific mertis – often in taking part in shaping the established scientific knowledge. It’s important that the advancement of our understanding follows scientific principles (reproducable results , objective testing of hypotheses, transparancy, peer rviewed publication, etc). -rasmus]
Thank you for your posting, and for confirming that there is indeed a Hell on Earth. (Though according to Wiki, hell in Norwegian means cliff or overhang). You say “The problem is that people without scientific training often find it hard to judge who’s right and who’s wrong.” I am not a public speaker or any climate expert, but I think if were, I would put this back to the audience. You and I know that climate change is proven, so really, you’re job is not to prove the science to the audience, but lead them to prove it for themselves. That’s not science or politics really, but education. Couldn’t you say something like this:
“To you in the audience, whoever you are and whatever you do, and however good or bad your understanding of science, I think there must be a lot of times when you hear someone like me telling you one thing, and someone else on the other side telling you just the opposite, who do you believe? Who do you trust? We logically cannot both be right. Do you judge the worth of what we tell you by our appearance, our demeanour, the clothes we wear, or where we come from, or the glibness of our language? And if you do, is this truly the best way of deciding? You must find it all so confusing, you hear august bodies like the IPCC saying how bad global warming is going to be, yet lots of other quite well known and intelligent individuals, such as Bjorn Lomborg, and my opponent to my left at this meeting, contradicting all that. I don’t know how I can reach you, because I am sure that I am right. I am a cautious professional scientist and I don’t make claims that I cannot back up with the very best and most thoroughly researched peer reviewed science.. So what should I do, talk louder? Learn Norwegian?
But you know, to me, the science is over, long since over, I know we are committed to a very different planet whether we like it or not, but if we take urgent action now, to ameliorate the problem, we can avoid the very worse consequences, which could indeed be dire. I can do no more, it is now over to you. It is you that will make the decisions, who will elect your government or who will take on board the need for change. You live on the same planet as me, I am very worried about what we are doing to it, and you should be too. We live in a world that now has access to all the information you need to make up your own mind about what is going on. There has never, in the whole history of humanity, been so much information so readily accessible to so many people. It is called the internet, and almost all of you will have access to the internet from your home, or if not, in your local library. I am completely and utterly confident that if you take the time to examine my claims as against the claims of those that deny climate change, that you will see that the science of climate change is robust, not difficult to understand and very worrying indeed, and you will see the claims of the sceptics for what they are, misinformed, out-dated, answered and just plain wrong.
At the end of this meeting the organisers will be handing out a list or reliable internet sites, some in Norwegian, where you can read and learn. If you can find the time to come to this meeting, on a cold and dark night (and thank you so much for your attendance), surely you can find the time to sit in front of your computer, and look to learn something. I would say this is not only your opportunity, but also your duty. Global warming has the capacity to change our planet to such a different world that hundreds of millions of people’s lives will literally be put at risk, shorelines be inundated and many of the world’s most wonderful cities, including Oslo, no longer be fit for human habitation. If you cannot make up your mind as to who is right and who is wrong at this meeting, it is your duty to do this in your own time in your own home and in your own community. This is your duty to yourselves, to your family, to your community and most important of all, to your future. And I am convinced that the truth will hit home, because, in your heart of hearts, you know the truth of this already. You live in Norway, a country that will change more than many with global warming. For the older people here, you know, the climate has changed, and not only that, seems to be changing faster, and the younger people will have already heard you tell them this. Am I not right?
Thank you for your time and attention, good luck in your researches, and please feel free to e-mail me at realclimate if you wish for more information. Thank you again for your attendance, it has been a real privilege to come to your beautiful country and spend some worthwhile time with you.”
In reply to Neil B. The link in your comment is not correct (a few errors.). The following is an explanation as to how it is hypothesized that solar changes affect planetary temperature.
The majority of the solar affects to planetary temperature in the 20th century are attributed to solar magnetic cycle changes, not changes to the Total Solar Irradiation (TSI). The changes to the solar magnetic field cycle effects the planet’s temperature by modulating the amount of planetary cloud cover. More clouds higher albedo, cooler planet and visa versa, less clouds will result in a warmer planet. There is not agreement in the scientific community as to specifically how much of the 20th century warming is attributable to solar magnetic cycle changes and how much is due to GHG.
The solar cycle 24 magnetic field cycle appears to have failed to start which would indicate there will be an abrupt drop in the solar magnetic field cycle and an extended period with few sunspots. (A period when there are few or no sunspots is called a Maunder minimum. Named after the Discover of specific 75 year period when there were no sunspots.) A Maunder minimum is believed to be caused by processes that interrupt the mechanism in the sun that creates the solar cycle magnetic fields.
The proof that there was solar cycle magnetic cycle interruption at the end of solar cycle 23 is the following paper. As noted in the paper, there were no solar X flares at the end of cycle 22. At the end of 23 cycle, there where 34 X-class flares (3 more X-ray flares in 2007.). Normally x flares are created by the large magnetic fields that are created at the highest point in the solar cycle. The solar magnetic field ropes are created at the interface of the solar radiative zone and convection zone. The magnetic ropes created at the solar tachocline float up through the convection zone to the solar surface where they form sunspots. The interruption in the tachocline is believed to be due to barycentre motion of the sun by the large planets. This motion causes an oscillation in the sun which interrupts the formation of the magnetic field ropes. When the tacholine is interrupted there are a few regions that have a magnetic seed in them before the interruption. These regions continue to build a magnetic rope, except the rope no longer releases and builds to the strength required to create x ray solar flares which explains why there were 37 x ray flares at the end of solar cycle 23.
“The expectation for the years 2004-2006, if based on the previous-cycle years of approximately 1993-1995, would have been zero further events – not a single X-class flare occurred during these three late years of the previous cycle, although one old-cycle event did occur in 1996 (Kosovichev & Zharkova 1998; Hudson et al. 1998). To our surprise as many as 34 X-class flares occurred over 2004-2006″
There was a paper published in 1998 that predicted a Maunder minimum based on the paleo record. A paper in 1987 predicted an imminent solar magnetic cycle interruption based on solar barycentre motion. There is evidence of a series of these solar minimums throughout the paleo record.
Unfortunately, the reality of Global Warming is very much like the prospect of Nuclear Annihilation that those of us older than 20 lived with throughout the Cold War. It’s really scary. End of the world kind of stuff. So the average joe while readily acknowledging its real (because everyone says it is) simply pretends its not happening – at least not today. It’s easier that way. Joe has plenty of terrible things to worry about already, wars, disease, globalization, bills, diabetes due to lack of exercise or proper diet. So until the leaders (religious, political, et al) step up and convince enough of the general public to demand that their elected officials do something, the scientists will be viewed as simply doomsayers because currently the mitigation strategies outlined so far seem (regardless of reality) to rely on economic hardship or magic.
In the regular world rather than the world of science, no one wants to hear about problems – they only want to hear about solutions. But they won’t listen to the radical solution(s) required until they’ve believe the problem is near and severe – hence the struggle for these many years.
The scientists need to continue to work on the religious and political leaders to help them understand the need for motivating the public into demanding action. More importantly, the engineers and scientists need to outline what can be done and how, to give the political leaders something to sell. Meanwhile, the rest of us conversant in science need to continue gently working on our neighbors, friends and co-workers on how serious this really is and that things need to be done – at the very least we need to ramp up the science and technology research. And so maybe magic will save us.
Or not. Personally, I think we’ve already effed it up and the suffering is going to be one huge slow motion train wreck. Human civilization will survive but our descendants will regard us with deserved contempt. But at least we’ll get to know the answer to that all important question – just how many people can we jam on the planet before the ecosystem collapses.
Re #46: The lack of any direct quotes of Tapping in the IBD editorial seemed suspicious, as did the fact that it was an editorial (i.e. with no journalistic standards) rather than an article. I emailed Tapping earlier today asking him to clarify and haven’t had a reply yet, but subsequently came across this article (from the previous day) that was obviously the raw material for the editorial. This recent paper on which Tapping was lead author makes it clear that he is entirely in the solar science mainstream and does not hold the view that there might be major effects from a repeat of the Maunder Minimum (to the extent the MM doesn’t just turn out to be more observational artifact than real).
So now of course this sleazy piece of disinfomation is winging its way around the denialosphere. Rush Limbaugh picked it up (h/t Roy Spencer?), which means it’ll be everywhere over the weekend. :(
Right now I’ll bet poor Tapping is on his way back from the SORCE conference and has no idea about any of this. Won’t he be surprised.
“As Thomas Huxley said: “My business is to teach my aspirations to conform themselves to fact, not to try and make facts harmonise with my aspirations”
I’m sad for you. A mans reach should exceed his grasp.
But now I understand you.
The question, Mosher, is which do you misunderstand most? The quote, or climate science?
Or perhaps you’re trying to tell us that you’re sad for Ray because, unlike you, he doesn’t try to make facts harmonise with his aspirations? Having observed your vile behavior at a variety of blogs, I know that your aspirations include demolishing of climate science in the arena of public opinion, regardless of the facts, after all.
Contrarian journalism usually relies on scientists having impressive credentials, never read an article disparaging a scientist not having a huge luggage full of peer reviewed papers, credentials outweigh reviews by a magnitude of importance. Pitting one scientist against another is by far common practice which is a waste of time. Fortunately climate science is not so abstract, the reader can be involved by personal memories vs active weather. There is not enough of this engagement bringing out reasoning as a means to convince. Relativity was made famous by Gravitational lensing observed during a solar eclipse, not well before when Einstein wrote his theory. Its the effects which become wildly understood and not esoteric papers. Hansen et Al. prediction of a world wide warming did not get the same attention as the 1919 solar eclipse observations, and it is probably because
science reporting has seriously lapsed in personality wars, rather than appreciating great achievements.
I challenge individuals to think as often as I can when talking climate, I have yet met an elderly person denying that their climate has not changed, but everything gets nebulous when trying to explain why it is getting warmer. Demonstrating no other source of heat but by GHG’s is not so tricky. The only other likely source is the sun having heat radiation outside the scope of individual perceptions, somehow there must be more information about the sun preferably given away on a regular basis, along with forecasts for instance. Confusion strives on ignorance and emotional arguments.
I believe that global climate change is the biggest problem facing us today. As yet we have no idea of exactly how serious it can get or where the tipping point may be.
The lateness of the start of the solar activity cycle is not yet enough to be something to worry about. However, even if we were to go into another minimum, and the Sun dims for a few decades, as it did during the Maunder Minimum, it could reduce the problem for a while, but things will come back worse when the cycle starts again.
We are looking at the downside of the freedom of the web. Its freedom extends to bad information being circulated.
Secular Animist (51) and BPL (49) take issue with Alan K and quite reasonably so. However, I think Alan K has given a pretty clear indication of how “people like me” think and therefore defined the gulf that has to be bridged. In that sense, his is a positive contribution.
RC is certainly helping to build the bridge but getting a good foundation on the other side depends on understanding the Alan K’s. The climate scientists and the media all play a role in this.
If Alan spends a bit more time reading this site he might come round to thinking like the people here and get a bit of an appreciation of science in the process. But, there will still be many millions like him.
Steven, your ad hom attack on Ray in #57 seems to be in response to his #55. Your attack makes no sense to me. What is it you do not understand about Ray’s statement? Can you not see that, whatever else may be going on that might temporarily drop global temperatures, the forcing due to CO2 buildup will continue to increase as long as we continue to add CO2 to the atmosphere. Then, when the temporary negative forcing disappears (e.g., aerosol cleanup), or goes back positive (cyclical forcing), we will be in worse trouble than ever. You seem to imply that if anything happens to cause temperatures to drop, then that’s it – global warming is over, and any other understanding is somehow delusional. Ray’s pooint is that the laws of physics will continue to apply.
(68) I think that was a very good point, that was how I interperted the comment.
Along similar lines: trying to rate scientists/journals to separate wheat from chaff is probably not going to work. The people we are trying to convince are used to lots of different ratings scales, such as degree of support for conservative politics equals goodness, that they will believe the journals are simply fronts for liberalism. That brings up a second motivator besides libertarian anti-regulationism, the political cum cultural war in the US. Partisans can instantly detect whether a finding or argument tends to support a right or a left interpretation. The immediate reaction is to support any argument which leads in the proper direction, and disparage any argument that leads in the wrong direction. This sort of thinking is far more common among the populance than logically weighing data/theories etc. Naturally they project the same style of thinking onto scientists. And it is well known that AGW is a left issue.
“In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn’t like about Bush’s former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House’s displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn’t fully comprehend — but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.
The aide said that guys like me were ”in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who ”believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ”That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. ”We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.””
And their magical thinking is not confined to politics–it evidently extends to physics as well.
Some of the media are pro climate change here in the UK. The Guardian and Independent newspapers have a left wing bent and are pro climate change. The Telegraph and Times newspapers are more right wing and hence allow for contrarian opinion in their columns although they do also reproduce IPCC and other pro climate work.
I think that politically the left are convinced but the right especially the far right are not. This is what makes it so interesting to the USA as the right are very well organised and have managed to fight a steady fight over the years and as yet we have not managed to get anything resolved there.
[Response: I don’t think anyone is ‘pro’ climate change…. – gavin]
The solar magnetic cycle affects cloud cover by two mechanisms 1) Changes to the solar heliosphere which in turn changes the number of Galactic Cosmic Rays (GCR) that strike the earth’s atmosphere and 2) Electroscavenging where solar wind bursts remove cloud forming ions. The following is a summary. See this paper by Brian Tinsley and Fangqun Yu “Atmospheric Ionization and Clouds as Links Between Solar Activity and Climate” for details.
The net effect of planetary clouds (all levels) is a reflection into space of 27.7 W/m2 (i.e. Clouds cool the planet by 27.7 W/m2.) [Hartmann, 1993] A mechanism that increases or decreases the total amount of planetary cloud cover will change the planet’s temperature.
Cloud Modulation by GCR
Microscope cloud nuclei are created by the electrons that are produced when the GCR strike the upper atmosphere. (GCR create muons. The muons reach lower levels in the atmosphere and create free electrons.) Svensmark has confirmed the processes in a lab test. Two additional tests are planned. One in a deep under ground mine, to test the process in the absence of natural muons and the second with CERN, where CERN will be used to create a known modulated artificial GCR source.
GCR Modulation by Solar Heliosphere
Pieces of magnetic flux from the sun are carried out into the solar heliosphere. The solar heliosphere stretches out about 20 light hours (near the orbit of Uranus.) The pieces of magnetic flux deflect GCR so that deflected GCR does not strike the earth. As the solar cycle progresses there is an observed change in the amount of Galactic Cosmic Ray (GCR) particles that strike the earth. Tracking the change in the number of GCR is a change total planetary cloud cover. This is shown by satellite data in Palle’s paper and also in Tinsley and Yu’s paper (figure 2.1.).
High speed solar winds that are created by coronal holes (for example) remove cloud forming ions by the process of electroscavenging. The high speed solar wind creates a space charge in the earth’s ionosphere. The charge differential in the ionosphere creates a potential difference between the ionosphere and the lower atmosphere which removes cloud forming ions, from the lower atmosphere. (See figure 3.1 and figure 5.3 in Tinsley and Yu’s paper.) The ionosphere space charge is latitude specific (see figure 5.3.) Palle’s satellite analysis shows a significant reduction in clouds at the latitudes, as predicted by Tinsley and Yu.
The planetary cloud cover closely tracks GCR through two solar cycles. Around 1999 there is a gradual reduction in the earth’s total cloud cover and a reduction in the earth’s albedo based on the earthshine albedo data and satellite data. This reduction in cloud cover occurs when there is an increase in solar wind bursts due to coronal holes moving to the solar equator at the end of the solar cycle.
William Astley–there is no evidence that cosmic ray fluxes are changing, and your second mechanims is too feeble to have much effect.
Pete Best and Gavin:
“[Response: I don’t think anyone is ‘pro’ climate change…. – gavin]”
Actually, I’ve been thinking about it, and the Russians might be. After all, much of their economy now revolves around fossil fuel exports, they have always coveted a warmwater, year-round port, and they have vast areas of unproductive tundra that they may think (rightly or wrongly) that it can be rendered more productive by higher temperatures (despite the short growing season).
This brings up a question: What does the international community do if every nation is on board with the necessity of reductions–except those few who think they stand to benefit from a warmer world?
Ray Ladbury quotes Ron Suskind quoting a senior adviser to President Bush thusly: “… when we act, we create our own reality … we’ll act again, creating other new realities … we’re history’s actors …”.
Ray Ladbury calls this “magical thinking”.
I would disagree. We are all “history’s actors”. Every act creates “new realities”. That much is true.
The question is, how shall we choose to act, in order to create what sort of new reality? That question has two distinct parts.
The first part is the question of what sort of “new reality” do we wish to create? What are the values that we wish to realize when we act to change the present reality to a new reality?
The second part is the question of what specific actions will effectively bring about the desired new reality — and that’s where being “reality-based”, where making a “judicious study of discernable reality”, where relying on science, becomes important. If we act according to good, accurate information and a correct understanding of what the effects of our actions will be, then we have a better chance of creating the reality we desire than if we act according to ignorance, incorrect information, and faulty beliefs about the effects of our actions.
With regard to anthropogenic global warming and consequent climate change, we in the “reality-based community” must become “history’s actors”. We must have a clear understanding of the values we wish to realize, of the nature of the “new reality” that we wish to create. And we must act — we must act urgently and above all effectively, and effective action can only be based on solid scientific knowledge, ie. the “judicious study of discernable reality”, in order to understand the present reality we are dealing with and how our actions will change it.
The problem with the point of view expressed by the “senior advisor” that Suskind quotes lies partly in the sort of realities that the Bush administration has sought to create, and also (even if one agrees with creating those realities) with reliance on incorrect information and poor understanding of the likely effects of their actions.
The problem with AGW denialists lies partly in the sort of realities they may wish to create (eg. a reality in which accelerating consumption of fossil fuels continues to enrich giant corporations with tens of billions of dollars a year in profit until fossil fuels are depleted, or a reality in which everything is left to the “free market” and government “intervention” to promote efficiency and renewable energy and limit emissions is anathema), but the even greater problem is a refusal to base actions on accurate information about reality and about the probable effects of our actions on that reality.
The problem is that they don’t like the actions that a “judicious study of discernable reality” suggests are urgently needed to address AGW, so they make up their own reality in which such actions are not needed.
A bull in a china shop creates new realities too: wreckage and debris where once there was beauty.
Gavin Schmidt: “I don’t think anyone is ‘pro’ climate change…”
Ray Ladbury: “Actually, I’ve been thinking about it, and the Russians might be…”
There’s an interesting discussion from something called ClimateIntel here: http://climateintel.com/2007/11/30/the-russian-federation-and-the-un-climate-conference-a-case-of-no-news-being-news/
It discusses a communique from the Russian Federation (linked to 3rd para 2nd line) and rather neatly matches my understanding. I see the Russian Federation Stance as ambivalent, aware of risks, but eager primarily to seek opportunity. Their most pressing concern is the societally extensive aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union. It seems to me that they’re busy trying to manage a (potential?) disaster, so possible future problems will take a back seat (unlike in the stability of the EU core member states).
We all know that Russia weren’t just being nationalistic for the sake of it when they placed that flag on th North Pole. Thinner Arctic winter ice, with an ice free summer will be key for ocean drilling rig operations, as I understand it. Vladimir Putin’s regime and his internal rivals are all Cold-War animals: The pressures of climate change and peak oil/gas conjoined may create international tensions such as the cold war did. I think we may find Putin a model of the future rather than (as he is often judged) a relic of the past. Placed as they are between China and the EU, the Russian Federation are ideally placed to monopolise Eurasia’s gas/oil supply later this century, if they can just find enough reserves.
Russia is very interesting… however that’s geo-political not climatological. ;)
This brings up a question: What does the international community do if every nation is on board with the necessity of reductions–except those few who think they stand to benefit from a warmer world?
Seriously, Eli Rabbett had a very sane proposal for that: tax carbon not only at the plant, but at the border. Most countries are somewhat dependent on export, and import duties graded by carbon footprint would stop the regime from ‘leaking’ too much.
[Response: Actually this is being talked about even at the WTO, based, ironically, on the sea turtle case the US brought against Thailand. There the US successfully argued that environmental concerns justified increased tariffs. This could well be a precedent for carbon emission-based trade rules as well. – gavin]
Ray, you convince the Russians that no matter how much their own climate may benefit, the economic impacts on the rest of the world will leave them significant worse off. In our post-colonialism world, nations don’t become richer at the expense of other nations, they become richer by trading with other rich nations.
A new Danish documentary should be of interest to many in this discussion: Klimamysteriat, The Cloud Mystery, centered around Henrik Svensmark but also prominently featuring Eigil Friis-Christensen (also of the Danish National Space Center), Nir Shaviv (Hebrew U. of Jerusalem), Jan Veizer (U of Ottawa), Richard Turco (UCLA) , Eugene Parker (U of Chicago), Paal Brekke (Norwegian Space Center), and others that I may have missed.
Cosmic ray deniers will enjoy a cameo appearance by Sir John Mason of the UK Meteorological Office, despite the applause given Svensmark by the lecture audience when Mason’s views are characterized as being “one extreme”.
Filmmaker Lars Oxfeldt Mortensen has been shooting film of Svensmark for years, including footage of the SKY experiment being constructed.
[Response: This appears to be a straight retelling of the “Chilling Stars” book. In my review of the book, I pointed to the ridiculous overstatements of importance that were being made for this work, and I see it continues here. Apparently, “The film records ten years of effort by the small team in Copenhagen that, in the end, solved the mystery of how the Galaxy and the Sun interfere in our everyday weather.” Well, nice to know there are no mysteries any more. Svensmark and colleagues would do well to note that most of the criticism they have received is because of these continuing exaggerations, not because of any “challenge [to] the belief of most climate theorists” about CO2. How can their results say anything about the trends in recent decades when there is no trend in cosmic rays? – gavin]
While I agree that we are all history’s actors, we are constrained in the actions we can take and the outcomes we can achieve. The denialists and other magical thinkers tend to deny physics, while many on the left tend to brush economic reality lightly aside when proposing solutions for climate change. And while history does not repeat itself, the same themes manifest throughout. Then we have human psychology. If we seek effective action, we need to study the problem, be cognizant of the realities and constraints. We need to understand why things are the way they are before we can change them, and those changes that make the least change while still achieving the desired result will be most likely to succeed. Utopia technically means “nowhere”. There’s a reason for that.
SecularAnimist> The problem is that they don’t like the actions that a “judicious study of discernable reality” suggests are urgently needed to address AGW, so they make up their own reality in which such actions are not needed.
While it is clear who you mean by ‘they’ above, your statement can be applied to both sides of the mitigation vs. adaptation debate that I think stevenmosher was addressing.
Most commenters here seem to see a reality where it is easier to change human nature to give up an energy intensive lifestyle (or aspirations to it if they don’t have it yet). This view may be encouraged by believing it is also the better moral approach.
The opposite view of reality is that it is easier to use human ingenuity to modify nature (non-fossil energy technology, moving cities inland, geo-engineering, if necessary) than to modify human nature. This view may be encouraged by believing it is also the better moral approach.
Certainly, any lay piece with Henrik Svensmark at the center will appear much as Chilling Stars would; please note I’ve not read it, preferring the journal articles of the principals involved.
Gavin exaggerated even the filmmaker’s words, who makes no claim there are no climate mysteries left, only that the mystery of how “how the Galaxy and the Sun interfere in our everyday weather” has been solved. Even RealClimate has agreed there is an effect, the argument is over how much.
Nir Shaviv has estimated that the current climate is 2/3 natural effects, 1/3 AGW, plus or minus 1/3. There are plenty of mysteries left to work on.
The global temperature (record cold southern hemisphere and now northern hemisphere winters, a general stalling of measured warming since 1998) does not at all seem to be following the “hockey stick” projections of the past, and the GCR record does seem to be well correlated with historic temperatures, even in this past century.
Finally, it would seem to this almost layman (who abandoned Physics, after earning a BS, for electrical engineering) that the high energy neutron flux would tend not to correlate well over the short term to GCR modulated by the sun’s magnetic field (I believe this is the dominant effect claimed by Svensmark) since, iirc, uncharged particles tend to not be affected by magnetic fields. C14 AND Be10, as proxies for GCR, do show a good correlation with temperature over the past century, and over the last 700 million years.
[Response: I did not exaggerate, the quote is directly from the english-language website, and I certainly have not agreed with such a statement. I think the chances that GCR making a difference to ‘everyday weather’ is so remote a possibility as to be almost nonsensical. If you want to discuss 10Be, perhaps you’d care to explain the two 10Be records one from the south pole, and one from Dye3 in Greenland don’t actually correlate for the 20th Century? Or whether the 14C production record over the last century that has had the contamination from fossil fuel use and atomic bomb tests removed? As to whether neutron counts correlate to GCR, they do, but take it up with Svensmark – he’s the one forever showing correlations to the CLIMAX record. – gavin]
“..there is no evidence that cosmic ray fluxes are changing, and your second mechanism is too feeble to have much effect. ”
The following is a link to Palle’s earthshine paper that provides data to support a reduction in planetary albedo (due to less planetary cloud cover) 1994 to 2001, which Palle states is equivalent to a forcing of 7.5W/M^2, based on observations. Palle notes (in his satellite paper) that the reduction in planetary cloud cover is at latitudes and over the ocean as predicted by Tinsley. (The atmosphere over the ocean is ion poor whereas there are ions over the continents as the continent crust is slightly radioactive. The solar wind bursts creates a potential difference between ionosphere and planet at specific latitudes.)
“Our simulations suggest a surface average forcing at the top of the atmosphere, coming only from changes in the albedo from 1994/1995 to 1999/2001, of 2.7 +/-1.4 W/m2 (Palle et al., 2003), while observations give 7.5 +/-2.4 W/m2. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 1995) argues for a comparably sized 2.4 W/m2 increase in forcing, which is attributed to greenhouse gas forcing since 1850.”
The increase in the electroscavenging is due to the increase in solar magnetic storms, in the 20th century. The solar magnetic storms cause pulsations in the earth’s magnetic field. The following is a link to a 150 year record in the pulsation of the earth’s magnetic field. Note the number of solar magnetic storms has doubled in the 20th century as compared to the 19th century (see figure 12 in the attached link.) Also note the reduction in the number of magnetic storms in 1956 to 1972 which correlates with a period of planetary cooling.
Steve Reynolds (#85), I would argue that we have to do basically everything you have described as both sides of the debate, if we are to avoid the most serious consequences of global warming. First, we have to reduce energy consumption, at least during a transition of several decades, we will have to find a alternative energy source to fossil fuels, we will have to move cities, and a certain amount of geo-engineering will no doubt be needed. Those are not opposite views of reality, but components of a comprehensive approach.
William, why bring it up again? Hasn’t it been rather thoroughly gone over here already? Or do you have something new? Note the thread here does not include the responses made in the peer-reviewed literature, it’s only about the choice of data and problems with that.
William, we’ve been over this. The earthshine stuff is tentative at best. And the bigger problem is that positing some other mechanism does not change the known physics of greenhouse forcing. If there is such a mechanism, it is most likely to affect other factors, such as aerosols, which are much less pinned down than CO2.
Greg Goodnight, perhaps you can suggest how to amplify the effects of a tiny change in the normal GCR flux of 5 particles per cm^2 per second into a significant change in cloud cover. Because, it’s sure got me baffled. But then even if you could come up with a mechanism, there’s the small matter that GCR fluxes aren’t changing. I would know, since I look at this regularly in my day job.
Steve Reynolds #85, we don’t need to change human nature; we need to change human behaviour. This has been done in the past in response to changes in the environment, or to war conditions (WW2 rationing in Britain and elsewhere, for example) and even in response to advertising. We need a campaign to convince people to do things differently. This is certainly possible.
Thomas (72), you raise some interesting observations. But one area that I disagree with: I’m in the minority, but I do not think AGW is an inherently left wing or right wing issue. I think it has been driven to the left by the small but shrill advocates who keep getting off point and (seemingly) espousing tangential things that would naturally (and correctly IMO) cause the right much grief. ‘It would be good if we junked all tractors and walked behind the one-bottom plow and Old Bessie’ being just the latest of a myriad of examples. I think this is unfortunate for both sides of the argument — even the “right”/skeptic side (me) because it just muddies the waters of some of our’s attempt to learn and understand more of the science.
I found the paper I was looking for in my own book. Duh! That’s what writing one of these things can do to an author. Curt Davis of the U. of Missouri on Eastern Antarctic snowfall accumulation.
Well, I can say one trend I’ve seen around the webiverse and that’s we do badly with electrical engineers. Apparently atmospheric chemistry does not compute in that building. H2O CO2 molecular structure and behavior. Hello? A short?
“… why bring it up again? Hasn’t it been rather thoroughly gone over here already?”
When we last corresponded in June of 2007, I noted the sun appeared to be moving to a Maunder minimum. (I provided links to two separate solar papers that predicted that a move to a Maunder minimum has imminent, one based on an analysis of paleo cosmogenic isotope data and the second based on solar barycentre motion.)
Daily solar observations continue to support that statement. See my comment 61, for an observation that appears to support an interruption to the solar magnetic cycle.
The e-folding time of the solar magnetic field is 4 years. What is the e-folding time of the ocean top 50m?
I have provided links to papers that show evidence of cyclic abrupt climate change. I provided a link to Kaplan’s 2006 paper that provides evidence for synchronized cooling in both hemispheres. Synchronized cooling in both hemispheres requires a mechanism that can affect the entire planet. Svensmark’s estimate for the portion of the 20th century warming that is attributable to solar is slightly less than 0.6C.
Here in NZ we have a prime example of a denialist electrical engineer in Brian Leyland – he is even appearing at the Heartland conference!?? Brian chairs the Economics committee of the NZ Climate Science Coalition (being neither an economist or climate scientist is no impediment to progress in this group).
One of his favourite lines is how AGW is all predicated on models and who can trust models.
Maybe electrical engineers are used to more precision than the rest of us but as a civil engineer I am quite comfortable with models where the inputs aren’t necessarily clearly defined but somehow you can satisfy yourself that the results are correct enough. All landslide remediation works are reliant on such models and many buildings (the rest rely on cultural experience).
And then, we could talk about economics models. No-one expects them to be correct but plenty of money is laid down on the basis of their predictions.
Perhaps some electrical engineers can speak up and enlighten us about their world.
RE Pete Best’s comment at #74, he is right to point out that the right-wing newspapers in the UK, notably the Telegraph and Mail titles, have given much more prominence to the denial lobby. I use the word denial rather than scepticism because so-called sceptics often refuse to accept any evidence that suggests that human activities are driving climate change, yet embrace uncritically any information that appears inconsistent with the ‘consensus’ view, such as suggestions that changes in the Sun’s activity explain all or that climate researchers are engaged in a global anti-American conspiracy, etc.
Anyway, I digress. In the UK media, I think all of the science correspondents on the national newspapers have done a pretty good job of reporting advances in research on climate change. But the editorial lines, reflected in leading articles and opinion pieces, quite often reflect the political leanings of the newspaper. Hence the Independent titles have occasionally exaggerated the immediacy and magnitude of climate change impacts (for instance, by linking floods in Boscastle a few years ago to climate change) while the Mail and Telegraph titles have published commentaries by the likes of Melanie Phillips and Christopher Booker that deny that human’s are having an impact, or that climate change is something to worry about (see Booker’s latest hilarious contribution to public debate in today’s paper at the end of the following article: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2008/02/10/nbooker110.xml).
In this way, climate change has been divided along traditional political lines, with some on the left advocating extreme measures to tackle climate change, and some on the right arguing that no measures are needed (because there is no problem). I don’t think it helps public understanding of the issues, but I guess it is inevitable when science and politics overlap.
And I also want to recommend Spencer Weart’s excellent book – public debate about this issue would be greatly advanced if more people were aware of the history of research in this area. It should be a compulsory part of school science curricula.
[[The global temperature (record cold southern hemisphere and now northern hemisphere winters, a general stalling of measured warming since 1998) does not at all seem to be following the “hockey stick” projections of the past, and the GCR record does seem to be well correlated with historic temperatures, even in this past century.]]
The idea that “global warming stopped in 1998!” is just plain dead wrong. The trend is still up:
Mark A. York and Andrew H.,
Well, I’m not an electrical engineer, but i play one (sometimes) in my day job. And yes, I do run into a lot of denialists. As near as I can tell, their motivation tends to be politically driven. I’ve certainly seen no evidence of deep understanding of the science among the EEs. Many EEs work in the defense/space field (as do I), and distrust of anything “environmental” runs deep there. Even those who favor cleaning up the environment characterize themselves as “conservationists,” rather than “environmentalists.”
I would also characterize most EEs as technological optimists, who are convinced we can design ourselves out of any problem–teraforming Mars and Venus if necessary. Hell, most of them don’t even really believe that the speed of light is an insurmountable cosmological speed limit.
What always floors me, though, is how certain they are in their skepticism, despite their complete noncomprehension of the physics.
I would also note that EEs are not alone. A lot of physicists in highly specialized disciplines have no greater appreciation of the physics of climate change, but are equally adamant that it either isn’t happening or that we’re not responsible.
Ultimately, it seems to come back to politics. The right seems utterly convinced that it is an excuse for social engineering, so they oppose well established science, rather than proposing capitalist/market-based solutions. As a result, the majority of the solutions proposed tend to come from the left, and the right says, “See, I told you. It’s a lefty plot.”
#40 The BBC may think they are winningly impartial, but many, many people in the UK consider the opposite – that they are biased towards ‘liberal’ points of view. Just check out a site called http://www.biased-bbc.blogspot.com/ for an example.
Jacqueline. I search-engined-oogled “most trusted news” and it looks like many many people in the whole wide wide world consider the BBC to be the most trusted news source. As your own list shows the BBC quotes scientists verbatim (in quotation marks). But Hank’s post #98 shows what other news sources can do.
If you could give me a list of your own impartial sources I’d be grateful.
Re #99 where Andrew challenges: “Perhaps some electrical engineers can speak up and enlighten us about their world”.
I have a degree in electrical engineering, and although I accept that anthropogenic global warming is happening, and believe an abrupt climate change is imminent, I am extremely critical of the scientists. We engineers are concerned about building things that work, whereas the scientists seem to be mainly concerned about why they work. When it comes to models of the climate, the scientists are more interested in comparing the results they produce, than in checking whether the results match reality. See The IPCC model simulation archive
BTW the results do not match reality. “These results could arise due to errors common to all models; to significant non-climatic influences remaining within some or all of the observational data sets, leading to biased long-term trend estimates; or a combination of these factors.” Santer, B.D., Penner, J.E. & Thorne, P.W., (2006) Chapter 5 in Temperature Trends in the Lower Atmosphere – Understanding and Reconciling Differences.
We all know that the Arctic sea ice is rapidly disappearing as a result of global warming. But the scientists main interest seems to be how this is happening. While Rome burns, they fiddle with their theories of the NAO, polar gyres, ocean currents, winds, and melt ponds. No wonder the general public think the scientists are confused, when they see them arguing over such urbane matters.
Rasmus tells the journalists to read peer reviewed papers, but only those which from authors who are part of the establishment. Most of those papers are written for fellow experts and are incomprehensible to scientists working in other fields far less journalists. Of course this is well known and many papers are accompanied by press releases. But what do they say? Each report of a climate catastrophe seems to be printed with an escape clause saying that there is no proof that this event was caused by AGW!
However, the main cause of sceptism of climate models amongst electrical engineers is their familiarity with the GIGO (garbage in garbage out) principle. This is something the mathematicians who have drifted into Earth Science seem to be unaware of. They have been educated that mathematics always gives the right answer, and by implication science too is always right. Science is always right because as in engineering it is tested against reality. But scientists are not always right, in fact they are almost always wrong. It is only the occasional maverick who gets it correct. “Galileo is the defining case, though picking just from the field of earth science, Svante Arrhenius, Milutin Milankovitch, Louis Agassiz, Guy Callendar and Alfred Wegener all endured their time in the wilderness before their ideas were finally vindicated.” [Gavin, 2007 http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/print/30103 ]
If we could see some honest admissions of when the models get it wrong (Arctic sea ice?) instead of the self congratulation when they occasionally they get it, then we engineers might have a little more faith in the scientists, even if we still distrust their models.
Other civil engineers are also quite comfortable with models where the inputs aren’t necessarily clearly defined but satisfied that the results are correct enough. For example, the up-coming conference in Minnesota, link below:
Steve Reynolds wrote: “Most commenters here seem to see a reality where it is easier to change human nature to give up an energy intensive lifestyle (or aspirations to it if they don’t have it yet) … The opposite view of reality is that it is easier to use human ingenuity to modify nature (non-fossil energy technology, moving cities inland, geo-engineering, if necessary) than to modify human nature.”
With all due respect I don’t think that’s a good analysis at all.
While it is certainly “human nature” to desire a materially comfortable “lifestyle”, there is nothing inherent in human nature that requires a materially comfortable, or even materially luxurious, lifestyle to be “energy intensive.”
Indeed, the best, cheapest, and fastest way to reduce global warming pollution from the energy sector is increased efficiency — maintaining a materially comfortable lifestyle through less energy-intensive means — and that is a matter of the application of “human ingenuity” to the improvement of our technology, reducing waste, etc.
You write that some believe it is easier to “use human ingenuity to modify nature” and then give as examples “non-fossil energy technology, moving cities inland [and] geo-engineering”.
But of those, only geo-engineering is “modifying nature”. Implementing non-fossil fuel energy technologies is certainly a desirable application of human ingenuity that is crucial to mitigating AGW (and to providing needed energy to many millions of people in the developing world), but it does not involve “modifying nature”. It involves modifying our technology and adopting new technologies that reduce our “modifications” of nature. Nor is moving cities inland to escape rising sea levels “modifying nature” — it is a modification of the human infrastructure that may become a desperate, costly and disruptive necessity if we fail to mitigate AGW.
The problem we face is that we are rapidly and destructively “modifying nature” in ways that undermine the prospects for the sustainable materially comfortable lifestyle that our “human nature” leads us to desire, and we are “modifying nature” not through the application of “human ingenuity” but through human ignorance, shortsightedness and greed.
Steve Reynolds wrote: “This view may be encouraged by believing it is also the better moral approach.”
It’s hard to see how self-destructive behavior arising from ignorance and greed could be a “moral approach” to anything.
Holly Stick (93), you are theoretically correct, but the behavior change is so far remotely unlikely to make the idea completely hypothetical. People will not change their behavior (let alone nature, as you say) in a large scale way until the “disaster” or whatever is literally staring them in the face and breathing hot air down their shirt. Even your example of WWII was like that. Throughout 1940 and 1941 when Hitler was rampaging through Europe and bombing hell out of England, and Japan was creaming and torturing China and the far East, the vast majority of Americans were clamoring to just ignore the whole thing — Even talking of impeaching FDR for sending war equipment to England. The chain of learning goes: 1. Understand, 2. Believe, 3. Modification of action. The average state of AGW is in the middle of understanding. Getting through belief (by the masses) into modification is going to be a great slog. Line up and compare your situation with FDR in 1941. Unfortunately, for the AGW protagonists, it looks exceedingly bleak. It seems to me (a skeptic, but trying to be helpful, here) until some wizard finds a magic bullet, you have to just keep slogging and flailing away.
Andrew (99), as an electrical engineer by education but little professional practice, maybe I can shed some light. Electronic engineering models are and must be extremely precise. When you’re modeling a processor that switches nanoamps every half nanosecond — well that’s cutting it pretty fine. Of course we are very proud, not to mention pedantic and arrogant, of this situation compared to other models, which are nowhere near as accurate. The fact that there is absolutely no need for those models (civil engineering, climatology, etc., etc.) to be anywhere near the precision of say, SPICE, (GCMs within a few hundred kilometers and a couple of decades, e.g.) to produce totally usable outputs certainly is not going to stop us from huffing and puffing and thumbing our noses!
RE #84 [Ray Ladbury] “The denialists and other magical thinkers tend to deny physics, while many on the left tend to brush economic reality lightly aside when proposing solutions for climate change.”
There’s a big difference here: economic reality depends in part on what people know, believe and value; physics does not. Proposing to change the way economic systems work makes sense – indeed, we know they have changed (and have been changed) radically in the past. Proposing to change the laws of physics does not.
RE: 71 Ray Ladbury and 75 William Astley’s response
I don’t pretend to know anything about how the solar magnetic field might influence our climate, but an episode of Naked Science airing this weekend on the National Geographic channel discussed this, suggesting there is a link, vaguely invoking the effects of changes in the solar magnetic field associated with sun spots on cosmic rays. The experts who raised this point were Dr. Judith Lean of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory and member of the National Academy of Sciences (http://www.nrl.navy.mil/content.php?P=AWARDS2003) and, I think, Dr. Michael Lockwood of the Royal Astronomical Laboratory. I have no way of judging the veracity of their comments, but they come across as believable, if not very specific.
From RealClimate: “It is possible that GCRs do have an effect on climate through the modulation of clouds, but I don’t think it is very strong.”-rasmus, 3/2007.
This mirrors IPCC 2007, which dismisses the GCR effect as being small. Of course, to discover it to be significant would be a disaster for many in the mainstream of atmospheric science; ’tis best to take a vote and hand wave it away.
Gavin wrote “I think the chances that GCR making a difference to ‘everyday weather’ is so remote a possibility as to be almost nonsensical”. This paper showing high GCR days (using the CLIMAX data, iirc) being 19% more likely to be overcast in Britain than other days (over five decades) is a refutation of that statement. Overcast days in Britain seems to meet the definition of “everyday weather”: http://journals.royalsociety.org/content/77543w3q4mq86417/
I believe that paper is also an adequate response to Ray Ladbury’s request in #92.
Comment by Greg Goodknight — 10 Feb 2008 @ 6:08 PM
That’s true Ray. The last thing this EE said was RC is a pack of lefties. That’s political alright but not on this end! It’s the models they think they understand but Barton said it best. They see it as tweaking to get a desired output. This isn’t being done though, but that is what the Libertarian EE’s see: what they want to.
SecularAnimist in 107, you seem to be working very hard to find a narrow interpretation of my words to avoid recognizing my point: There are other rational approaches to the issue besides yours . They may be better or worse than yours due to varying correctness of assumptions or estimates of future events, without being irrational or necessarily immoral.
SecularAnimist> It’s hard to see how self-destructive behavior arising from ignorance and greed could be a “moral approach” to anything.
The following sentence in quotes is not intended as an attack against anyone; it is to show that there is another side that could be right, depending on what the real (some undiscovered) facts are, however unlikely you consider that possibility.
“It’s hard to see how self-righteous behavior arising from ignorance, that keeps billions of people in poverty, could be a “moral approach” to anything.”
A short google search shows that she is indeed a member of the NAS. But a recent article I found shows her casting doubt on the assertion that the sun has played a significant role in the global temperature increase in recent decades. In any event, I don’t think she was discussing her own original work in that article but was evaluating other work.
Real scientists do engage in debate about these issues. If I understand correctly, the IPCC doesn’t ignore the possibility of solar influences on climate, but in balance they came to the conclusion that any effect in recent years has been small compared to that of greenhouse gases. Science never settles things completely. It is always possible that the consensus will prove to be mistaken about the effect of greenhouse gases and that climate change in recent years has been dominated by subtle gamma ray effects that no one purports to understand. I don’t personally believe that will happen, but if it does, we will find out about through the peer reviewed scientific literature, not from broadcasts on the National Geographic Cable Channel. I haven’t watched that channel much, but the few times I have, I found the presentations varied considerably in quality. You have to keep in mind that cable channel operators are under constant pressure to come up with more material. It is entertainment that they provide, not scientific instruction.
Re #108 (Alan K): Many of those listed qualifications are an exercise in puffery. Very few of the listed people actually have the qualifications to back up the stated assertions. Richard Coutney, e.g., doesn’t even have a PhD, yet both lists identify him as having one. You might ask yourself how that happened.
Going back to media coverage of science previously referred to by Andy Revkin and Spencer Weart, there’s an appropriate and insightful quote by Bill Blakemore, a long time reporter for ABC News in a book,just out, by Mark Bowen titled “Censoring Science-Inside the Political Attack on Dr. James Hansen and the Truth of Global Warming”. In an e-mail to Jim Hansen, Blakemore states “….what makes the difference between a propagandist on one side and a professional journalist or scientist on the other is not that the journalist or scientist ‘set their biases aside’ but that they are open about them and constantly putting them to the test,ready to change them.” He cites as one of his guides in his attitude to Karl Popper, who taught us that science unlike dogma is always subject to disproof.
Also early on in the book he quotes a senior headquarters(NASA) veteran as stating a “cardinal rule quite succintly:”Don’t f—(the blanks are mine) with the science.” This ought to be emblazoned on the lawn of the Capitol.
You’ll meet some old friends in this book including Gavin, Andy Revkin,and Stefan Ramsdorf, as well as some of those still worshipping at the altar of dogma and ignorance.
Comment by Lawrence Brown — 10 Feb 2008 @ 10:18 PM
Alan K, check that list of eminent climate scientists.
This one for example, know the problem?
“Dr. Richard S. Courtney, climate and atmospheric science consultant, IPCC expert reviewer, U.K.”
You have to check everything on this kind of claim.
One interesting thing about the theory on the approaching Maunder like minimum is that it will be simple and non-controversial to prove. If the sunspot count doesn’t rise as expected then they could be on to something, if it follows the normal curve for cycle 24 then, well it didn’t work as a theory.
Rod B. (#109), you put the finger on the right spot. It is an uphill battle, and ‘human nature’ has a lot to do with that. But note that banging your head against reality (what scientists and the occasional informed lay person are doing) is fundamentally different (on the honesty/dishonesty scale) from denying reality.
BTW Rod B., the moment of truth is approaching… one can be — and you seem to be — an honest sceptic; but being an honest and informed sceptic doesn’t really work :-)
Re #109 [Rod B.] “The chain of learning goes: 1. Understand, 2. Believe, 3. Modification of action. The average state of AGW is in the middle of understanding. Getting through belief (by the masses) into modification is going to be a great slog. Line up and compare your situation with FDR in 1941.”
What are your sources for where most people are on your “chain of learning (which, incidentally, is at best a gross simplification)? A recent global poll with a sample of over 22,000, commissioned by the BBC is reported as showing:
“An average of eight in ten (79%) say that “human activity, including industry and transportation, is a significant cause of climate change.”
Nine out of ten say that action is necessary to address global warming. A substantial majority (65%) choose the strongest position, saying that “it is necessary to take major steps starting very soon.””
Of course, verbal assent to such a statement is different from actually being prepared to miss out on that plasma TV or foreign holiday – but your certainty that behaviour cannot be changed substantially is unwarranted: consider recent changes in smoking behaviour in North America and western Europe.
Your point about WW2 is interesting:
“Throughout 1940 and 1941 when Hitler was rampaging through Europe and bombing hell out of England, and Japan was creaming and torturing China and the far East, the vast majority of Americans were clamoring to just ignore the whole thing”
You are right that denial is a powerful mechanism – indeed, I believe you yourself present a clear example of its power – but it only shows its full power when integrated into a strong ideological or mythical framework. In the case of the USA in WW2, this was the belief that Americans had left behind the evils of Europe, and would be safe if the USA avoided foreign entanglements. In the case of AGW, it is most often a quasi-religious reverence for “The Market”, although Alexander Cockburn provides an interesting exception. Fortunately, I believe this reverence is crumbling. In the USA, Katrina was a significant turning point, but I think the current cr*dit crunch caused by the sub-prime mortg*ge crisis will have far greater impact.
Ref 125 We have been round this mulberry bush several times. There is correlation with the Wolf number for sunspots at the maximum of the cycle and temperature on earth. No physical connection has been established. Just because cycle 24 is slow to start is only an indication that the maximum Wolf number may be low, and hence that global temperatures might fall. We will have to wait 5 or 6 years to find out.
Pete Best, Hmm, an article on climate science where not a single climate scientist is quoted. I think that speaks volumes for its lack of credibility. Bottom line: The current solar cycle started about a year late. It may well be a wimpy solar cycle, but most solar scientists predict it will be well within historical limits. And even if we were to have a Maunder Minumum, it would last for at most decades, whereas the contributions of CO2 last centuries to millennia.
[[This mirrors IPCC 2007, which dismisses the GCR effect as being small. Of course, to discover it to be significant would be a disaster for many in the mainstream of atmospheric science; ’tis best to take a vote and hand wave it away.]]
Like total solar irradiance, galactic cosmic rays show no significant trend up or down over the last fifty years. So how can they be driving the sharp upturn in global warming of the last thirty?
#124 about “human nature” … Fundamentally a human individual matures until a certain age (say 25 years typically). That is a sculpting process about values and attitudes, habits, religious beliefs, methods of solving problems, often forming the most durable friendships and attachments to gurus. Later in life these features do not change.
Knowledge may accrue later on, but if it challenges any of these (learned) basic personality features, it is rejected. By now most people have it in their hearts that a petrol pump really delivers happiness and freedom. Therefore they defend most vigorously their right to pay these extraordinary sums on every gas station.
Changing a personality later in life has been compared to serious trauma, such as breaking a major bone.
I hope some of you saw SIX DEGREES COULD CHANGE THE WORLD last night on NatGeo. Perhaps there will be some analysis of it.
I personally don’t think it went far enough in bringing up possible dangers, such as carbon emissions from melting permafrost and hydrates, or possible hydrogen sulfide gas poisoning in a 6 degree scenario, as they think might have happened in the end-Permian.
Re 123, if sc24 is stretched and weak, it will throw some models of the sun predicting a strong sc24 in doubt. It has been hypothesized that sc25 will be very weak (see http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2006/10may_longrange.htm). But aside from proving or disproving models of the sun, two weak cycles will result in important consequences back here on earth. If both cycles are weak and there is no cooling, it will convince many skeptics that the AGW component is overwhelming the natural fluctuations.
Comment by Eric (skeptic) — 11 Feb 2008 @ 11:27 AM
It will be interesting to see the results of the CERN “CLOUD” experiment when completed. There appears to be quite a good correlation between observed sun-spot activity and global atmospheric temperature (and other variables), and the initial laboratory findings of Svensmark et al. – the connection between cosmic rays and cloud formation, are intriguing.
RE #135 [Lynn Vincentnathan] “possible hydrogen sulfide gas poisoning in a 6 degree scenario, as they think might have happened in the end-Permian.” According to an article in this week’s New Scientist (primarily on palaeontological biomarkers), possibly in the Triassic and Devonian mass extinctions as well, the causal chain being: large-scale volcanic CO2 outgassing, global warming including considerable reduction in the equatorial/polar temperature gradient, slowing of ocean circulation, anoxic conditions in much of the ocean, flourishing of sulfate-reducing anaerobic bacteria, production of large quantities of H2S. Not a mention of current problems, but nonetheless one of the most alarming articles I’ve read. (Admittedly, New Scientist is not a refereed journal, and does tend toward sensationalism.)
Re #135, the book 6 Degrees by Mark Lynas has been reviewed here, it found favour with the realclimate mob in fact I do believe. However I would not suggest that knowing what happens at 6 degrees is knowing what happens at 1 degree, its gets more speculative beyond 3C even though its based on sound science. Even science runs into prediction difficulties at 4+ C.
re: #131, 141
Which gcr are you referring to, and what sharp upturn of the last 30 years? The sharp upturn stopped a decade ago despite accelerating CO2 emmissions, and we’ll need CERN CLOUD experimental results to get a better understanding about what sorts of bombardment generates what sorts of cloud condensation nuclei.
As far as I can tell, none of the physicists working the GCR connection think there is a simple linear relationship between gcr of unspecific energies (especially using neutron flux as a proxy) and temperature. A good correlation between GCR and low level clouds has been shown.
re: permian extinction
Yes, the massive die-off at the Permian-Triassic boundary included a runup of atmospheric CO2. I’ve seen it claimed as a likely candidate for a natural runaway positive feedback CO2 warming. However, the P-T boundary is also coincident with the clear 600 million year minima of cosmic ray flux. See figure 8 (after Shaviv and Veizer) in Svensmark 2/2007: http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1468-4004.2007.48118.x
A high point of the Klimamysteriet documentary [#83] was Shaviv and Veizer telling their stories of how their research started and how their collaboration began, *after* they had both done their research, one from an astrophysical view, the other, geochemical. They dovetailed nicely. Of all of Svensmark’s citations it was Shaviv and Veizer 2003 that most convinced me of the viability of the GCR-climate connection, hearing both of them speak on how their research intersected was absolutely fascinating.
Comment by Greg Goodknight — 11 Feb 2008 @ 1:50 PM
Hat tip to Steve Bloom, who had debunked that story several days before you asked about it, in this very topic, response 63. Looks like Steve was the first person to actually check with the scientist named and flag that story as bogus.
There should be an award for priority in flagging blatant lies online.
I’d suggest something like little bronzed unlaced boot, for truth trying frantically to get its boots on while a lie races around the world.
Nick (128), I have no formal sources, only a response to what was presented as a major hurdle for AGW protagonists. If your referenced survey is accurate, that means the preponderance of the masses are well into the belief stage and there should not be that much of a problem getting the plan executed — though as you say (and I agree) often there is a wide gulf between what people tell pollsters and what they will agree to.
I agree with you other point, though I would add that beyond rational analysis people prefer homo stasis and just hate to change. Cigarettes are not a good example because joining the quitters was considered and improvement in their lives; mitigating AGW is likely the opposite — the rose-colored economic analyses by some not withstanding.
Thermodynamics does not enter climate science at all? Let’s see … hmmm, this is a toughie. Oh I know, Conservation of Energy. Thermodynamic phenomena and processes driven by energy addition to the Earth Climate Systems. Evaporation, condensation, solidification, sublimation, Equations of State, thermophysical properties of materials, stability of Thermodynamic processes, adiabatic lapse rate, moist lapse rate, etc. etc. etc. I guess consideration of all these, and all other aspects of Thermodynamics that impact Climate Science, are omitted from Climate Science.
And an editorial opinion (thoughts stated without factual support) expressed in #116. And how are we to know if Eli Rabbett has qualified peer-reviewed Engineering publications, in all the right Engineering Journals of course, to state any facts concerning Engineering? Citations please Eli. Both to your Qualifications to judge Engineering and publications in which Engineers have tossed basic physics, chemistry and biology overboard.
On the other hand maybe Eli “Who’s He” Rabett was referring to the finite time aspect. Well finite time just so happens to represent the actual time scale for all actually useful and physically realized thermodynamic processes.
I just read the first full length fiction novel about the greehouse effect on humanity titled Download: An Alternative Story of Noah and his Ark by Howard J. Peters (ISBN-10: 1419631616)
Bible stories are always more than what they seem. Even today they resonate in our collective consciousness because their ancient messages are still so timely. Debut author Howard Peters’ bold, brash, and fiercely funny trilogy takes its premise from the story of Noah’s Ark. Written in three books, “Castle in the Sky,” “Your Body is Where you Live,” and “The Third Rising,” this is an ingeniously written novel that’s part Thomas Pynchon, part Ray Bradbury and altogether original. Somewhere in space and time, the world is in chaos. There’s no green grass and the air is polluted. There’s nothing left but memories of better times and fears about nuclear disaster. Hybrids populate this world, along with humans and gorilla people, and greed and cruelty is rampant.
Suddenly, a strange video hologram arrives, full of knowledge about another civilization, and Noah begins to wonder who sent it and why? Was there a similar solar system that might sustain life? Noah begins to plan for a brave new world, transporting people on the spaceship ARK toward a very familiar sounding planet. But will the future be better than the present? Peters’ eloquent message is clear: What we do in our world now is a legacy for our children tomorrow. What kind of world do we want to leave them? Do we want to redevelop our wasteful ways and continue to be inhumane or do we want to make permanent change for the betterment of our world and ourselves?
Peters’ writing zips and flows on the page, creating a panoramic cast of original characters and extraordinary situations. There are the lovers Svi and Lika, the gorilla people pondering their place in the cosmos, and of course, there is Noah, endlessly musing about God and fate and the future. Fiendishly clever and whiz-bang enjoyable, this is a page-turning trilogy that is both provocative and profound. VISIT http://www.howardjpeters.com
Download: An Alternative Story of Noah and his Ark by Howard J. Peters
Re #140: Alan K., I would suggest to you that just asking the signers whether they’re qualified isn’t sufficient since the presence of Courtney on those lists indicates a complete failure of quality control. Of course Courtney would happily tell you that he’s very qualified. Instead, you could ask the signers for a list of their publications *relevant* to the subject matter of the letter and then check those in Google Scholar.
Another easy check is whether someone is an elderly crackpot, even if they did reasonable relevant work whole still active. Google “Nils-Axel Morner”+”dowsing” for a good example of that. Bill Gray is a much toned-down variation on that theme; see the “Gray and Cloudy Day” post in the archives here.
Yes, aside from Courtney there are a fair number of others on the list who are just as unqualified (along with a very small number of people with some qualifications). I pointed him out because he’s the only one (to my knowledge) to have lied about his degree (although Tim Ball tells about an 80% lie regarding his degree).
You seem to be implying that lists of that sort shouldn’t be pre-judged, but bear in mind that most of the names are quite familiar from similar past efforts. Those of us who know that history just roll our eyes every time a new one comes along and are understandably hesitant to put a lot of effort into redundant debunking.
BTW, someone may have already mentioned it above, but IIRC DeSmogBlog did a complete investigation of one of these lists when it came out. It should be easy enough to find on their site (link on the right bar).
So now you’ve made me spend more time on this than it was worth. I can only hope you’re feel suitably guilty. :)
Yep, I once ragged on them for getting some science wrong, and got back a prompt reply that they are an entertainment niche magazine, not a science magazine. I consider them a good reminder to always find their sources (which they often don’t cite, at least in their teasers online).
Nevertheless, that’s one mistake I thought worth nitpicking in all the issues I’ve read, which is not bad. I’m sure I missed a few.
Wish I could have gone to Hell with you. Sounds like a good gathering and some progress.
I think you are on the right track with a guide for journalists.
1. Peer reviewed
2. Publication record and affiliations (funding sources)
3. Communication skills I would call that quality of communication. Communication of science needs to be translated in order to achieve higher levels of understanding.
I would add one more to the list.
4. Relevance and context.
That should include background of the individual and context and relevance to the larger scope of the data and understanding. To many times they are weighing less relevant arguments equally with relevant arguments.
If arguments are more or less relevant of in context it greatly affects the perception of the press, and therefore what they write.
A prudent journalist would want to know the relevance and context of arguments in order to give them proper weight in relation to the arguments perspective.
Until the media is able to rank relevance of a given argument the disinformation campaigns will keep winning battles in the media (my opinion).
It’s about time Hell froze over, maybe the skeptics will pay more attention now :)
They are going to have a real hard time understanding why global warming causes more snowfall. Best way to explain that is warmer oceans means more evaporation and what goes up must come down. If it’s cold when it comes down, it’s going to be more snow.
RE #149 [Rod B.] “beyond rational analysis people prefer homo stasis and just hate to change. Cigarettes are not a good example because joining the quitters was considered and improvement in their lives; mitigating AGW is likely the opposite — the rose-colored economic analyses by some not withstanding.”
We appear to be nearer agreement at some points than I thought. I’d certainly agree with your first point above about change, but as it happens, most people are already experiencing rapid change which is far beyond their own control – it’s called modernity, or capitalism. I admit cigarettes do not provide a perfect example, although the fall in tobacco-smoking rates does show that apparently well-entrenched behaviour patterns can change quite fast. A better, though probably more parochial example is the spread among dog-owners in Britain of the habit of clearing up the deposits their animal companions leave behind. This was unknown in my childhood; now, while not universal, it is certainly the rule rather than the exception in my current (middle-class) neighbourhood and many others. This is a classic social dilemma (at least for the dog-owners): cleaning up after your dog is not pleasant, but it’s better than stepping in something someone else’s dog has left behind. I’m not sure what the social dynamics were that brought about the change – although the fact that non-dog-owners also have an interest in persuading dog-owners to clean up was probably important. AGW poses a complex, asymmetric and multi-layered social dilemma; but we do know more about how such dilemmas can be surmounted than ever before. I agree with you that reducing GHG emissions rapidly (which I believe to be necessary), is likely to reduce economic growth below its possible maximum in the short-to-medium term: if you add a constraint to a problem, you may rule out what would otherwise be the best solution. However, there are many reasons, environmental, social and psychological, why maximising economic growth is not a reasonable or compassionate goal. Above all, there is now very good reason to believe that failure to reduce emissions quickly risks disaster – something which I think can only be denied in the teeth of evidence and logic.
[[ If both cycles are weak and there is no cooling, it will convince many skeptics that the AGW component is overwhelming the natural fluctuations.]]
No it won’t. They’ll find some other reason why AGW isn’t true, or doesn’t matter.]]
If one or both cycles are weak and there is cooling, will AGW proponents factor GCR into the climate models? A dual edged sword; there will be as much scientific need as ever but politicians might be less willing to fund research at current levels into a natural process they can’t control.
Comment by Greg Goodknight — 11 Feb 2008 @ 5:14 PM
Greg Goodknight, Where on earth do you get your information. There is no evidence of increase in GCR. Satellites mearure them–and have done so since the late 70s. Before that, we have neutron records going back to the 50s. No consistent signal.
bi (145), et al: The “signatories” didn’t “write off” the IPCC — as they are being written off. They just disagreed (in part) with them; (and some were part of them;) never accused them of having unmarried parents or mothers that eat grass, e.g. [Man, I’m hesitant to jump in here and fan the flames; just can’t hep it…]
OK, driving a car to a gas station and putting gas in the tank is human behaviour; it is not human nature, it is not a result of a specific gas-guzzling gene, and it is not permanently imprinted on our brains by the age of 25. It is behaviour which is suited to an environment in which people travel by driving cars which use gas. If the environment changes to one in which cars are not feasible, then people will instead learn to walk, cycle, ride camels, etc. Human beings survive by adapting to specific circumstances, which is how we developed the canoe, the tepee, the wheel, the viking longboat, the yurt, the tractor, etc. We adapt to change or we die.
I think we need a blog which can explode all the myths about why humans cannot learn to live without oil.
#109 Rod B., you veered away from my example of WW2 rationing in Britain to the Americans ignoring WW2 as long as possible. Most Americans could ignore wars across the oceans; Britons were in the middle of the war and adapted their behaviour accordingly.
It is a valid point that people may not admit the need for change as long as global warming is not affecting them, but eventually people are going to notice that it is affecting them even in the US, where drought conditions, fires, and the shutdown of nuclear plants due to lack of water are pretty likely to be results of global warming.
In 163 Guthrie writes “Solar cycle 24 started back in January, which is often taken to mean it won’t be such a weak cycle after all” Not quite true. The first sunspot with the right polarity and the right latitude appeared in January. Since then there has been another sunspot from cycle 23. It is forecast that if cycle 24 can dominate by this June, it will have started. But if it cannot dominate by then, the start may be delayed until 2009.
To to inform to anyone that may be interested, saw a doco on tv today about australian scientists doing research on antartica..specifially some islands off antartica whoseglaciers have retreated by more than 1/3 in the past 50 years. The research was to prove ACC. They said two things cause glacial retreat..1 warmer temps…2 less snowfall. So they absailed down this huge crevasse and took samples of the ice at regular depths..and they found that each season more than 5m of freash snow falls which was more than they predicted. Only other cause of the rapid retreat..is higher mean temps! Sorry I could’t be more detailed about the exact area coz I was washing my 2y/o son and missed the first 10mins.
Comment by Lawrence Coleman — 12 Feb 2008 @ 3:24 AM
There was a one paragraph item in the World News section of the Daily Telegraph (UK) last saturday saying that a station in Norway measured the current CO2 level in the atmosphere at 394 ppm.
I am unable to link you to the actual piece and I’ve searched many reliable sources without success. Can anyone confirm this ?
Comment by Bob Clipperton (UK) — 12 Feb 2008 @ 4:49 AM
Rod B., Alan K. and others,
re: credibility of scientists vs. skeptics
One of the points that is stressed repeatedly in discussions of skeptics is the fact that skeptics are generally not actively publishing members of the climate science community. This is a very important point. Unless climate science is your day job, it is unlikely that you will have intimate familiarity either with the most recent research or with the more subtle points of the basic science. And an active publicatation record is important because it gives an idea of how fertile your ideas are. One of the biggest problems skeptics have is that they simply have no integrated framework that really explains the rapid changes we are seeing in terms of well understood science. At worst, they simply deny it is happening because they can’t explain it. At best, they posit some mechanism based on murky physics and even murkier statistical analyses. Neither approach yields much fruit when it comes to understanding climate. This is one reason why denialists sound like a broken record–repeating the same talking points over and over again. They simply have nothing new to add our understanding, and that reflects in their paucity of publications.
As to the allegations that the climate community is an internecine cabal susceptible to groupthink–that’s absurd. First, climate science is by its nature interdisciplinary. Researchers come into it with quite different experiences and expertise. Second, it has been reviewed six ways to Sunday–by the National Academy of Sciences, by professional science organizations (e.g. AAAS, AGU, APS,…). There is not a single professional science group that has reviewed the science and found it wanting. In contrast, the denialists form a motley mix of ideologues (both right and left), misfits and attention mongers, fighting an incoherent, rear-guard action and having no consistent points to make. They would be completely irrelevant were it not for their funding from energy companies and the fact that they are telling people what they want to hear.
You can read about the difference between other stations numbers and Mauna Loa at the latter site; the higher elevation mid-Pacific measurement may be of a somewhat better mixed atmosphere. Lower elevations see more variation from sources and sinks that average out over a few years’ time and mixing, as I recall.
It is highly likely that a station in Norway has recorded 394 ppm of CO2 because that is one of the places on the Earth where the highest levels are likely to be found. Mauna Loa on top of a Hawaiian mountain in the middle of the Pacific Ocean was chosen for the first CO2 monitoring site, after result from Norway were found to be too erratic.
RE #172 [Ray Ladbury] “In contrast, the denialists form a motley mix of ideologues (both right and left)”
– but overwhelmingly right! Ray, I know you want to convince the right that they have nothing to fear from accepting the science, but they (or at least their market-worshipping wing) most certainly do.
Why is Norway one of the places where the highest levels of CO2 are likely to be found?
Comment by Natural GW Steve — 12 Feb 2008 @ 12:00 PM
I do think that markets can play a role in the solution. They are not THE solution, but part of it. The flaw in most market approaches has been their failure to include environmental costs in the price of goods. That is why I can buy bananas from Costa Rica for a third the price I’d pay for locally grown apples, for instance and other absurdities. In my opinion, I think it makes sense to come up with solutions that are palatable for the greatest majority of people–and that includes the right.
I would also point out that markets have a much better track record than does social engineering. I don’t view this as an opportunity to remake humanity. This is a problem to be solved, and in the end, human beings will still be as lousy as they’ve always been.
However, Phil. Felton’s link also specifically states that the readings are from November and December, 2007, when it would be expected that annual CO2 concentration in the northern hemisphere would be at its highest, so 390-394 ppm is obviously well above the annual mean level.
First of all, you guys would still be writing letters and sending them over the snail mail, if it wasn’t for EEs.
Where would this climate modeling, and analysis be, without the use of digital systems?
Skepticism is a healthy part of how we do our job. All parts of a system are viewed for possible failure. We don’t like ranges of uncertainty “sprinkled though out the system”.
I like to hear both sides of the debate, because I am an “equal opportunity” skeptic.
I know enough about science and atmospheric characteristics, to realize, there is a long way to go, before I am convinced that either side, has all the details fully understood. And in the world of EEs, the “devil is in the detail”.
If you want to convice me, do it with data. Show me a statistical correlation that proves your point. So far, the case is not compelling, of imminent or irreversible catastrophe.
If you use “proof by consensus”, name calling, or “we can’t wait to act”, I assume that means your argument is too weak to stand on it own merits. If you don’t convince me, and those like me, where does that leave you, with the guy that can’t understand Algebra, and drives a truck for a living?
Natural GW Steve (181) — I was guessing. The air flows from North America are generally to the east. But since the monitoring site is at Ny-Ålesund, on Spitsbergen, Svalbard I’ll not further hazard guesses as to air flows that far north.
Russell (183) — Have you read the page at the Start Here link at the top of the main page? Have you read The Discovery of Global Warming, linked on the side-bar, first in the Science Links section? Once you have done that, if you have any doubts at all that ocean acidification due to burning of fossil carbon is not a most serious matter, irrespective of surficial climate change, then come back and several people, more knowledgable than I, can point you to the threads here on Real Climate which address your remaining uncertainties.
However, there are not ‘two sides’, anymore than there are regarding the shape of the earth.
Comment by David B. Benson — 12 Feb 2008 @ 3:33 PM
To all of you who answered my question – Thanks.
Comment by Bob Clipperton (UK) — 12 Feb 2008 @ 3:36 PM
Any particular areas you’re not convinced about? C02 as a greenhouse gas? Magnitude of direct warming we should expect from a given amount of C02? Type and magnitude of feedbacks? What are the specific areas of the science you find unconvincing?
Also, your inclusion of the term “imminent or irreversible catastrophe” gives you a lot of wiggle room there…IPCC reports talk about consequences in as specific a way as possible with current information. Any specific IPCC projections you have a problem with? Failing that, can you operationalize what you consider to be “catastrophic?” How about “imminent?”
And finally, if “proof by consensus,” “name calling,” and “we can’t wait to act” convince you that a weak argument lurks thereby, how do you feel about denialist s’ arguments given their “lack of a plausible mechanism,” “misrepresentation of established science,” “namecalling,” “lists of names from people with irrelevant credentials and/or no relevant publications,” “endless repetition of refuted claims,” “etc.?”
Re 187 (CobblyWorlds), 170 (Bob), 181 (Natural GW Steve),
A more complete set of GHG measuring stations is available at: http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/iadv
(for Interactive Atmospheric Data Visualization), which is a regularly updated data treasure from more than 100 stations including terrestrial, marine, aircraft measurements, tall towers,… Ny Alesund is one of them located at Spitsbergen; their latest CO2 data, Nov. 2007, lie around max 390 ppm (the 394 value might be a bit of an outlier; in Dec 2006 two measurements were recorded at 392.5 ppm and marked as “influenced by local sources and sinks”), with seasonal variations of 15-20 ppm. Their running mean value at end 2007 is nearer to 385 ppm, compared with South Pole (382) and Mauna Loa (384), as expected from the mixing time in the atmosphere, around 1 year AFAIK.
The key word is “correlation”, between greenhouse emissions and rising temps. I look at the record, I see a steady increase in CO2, and a periodic temperature record that doesn’t imply causation. If the increase in CO2 is causing the current warming, what caused it in the 30s? And how does that translate into cooling in the 60s and 70s? It looks more to me, like a periodic system of warming and cooling, that is related to La Nina and El Nino, with the occasional volcano, thrown in. Which makes me think it is more about heat re-distribution, than it is about “tipping points”.
I have read the physics, and it is good, but there is still a large area, that is soft, and not what I would call a “slam dunk”. That is the chaotic system of gases, condensate, and precipitation, heated and cooled from both above and below, and absorbing and radiating energy, in narrow frequency bands.
This is a complex problem. At some point we will have a global model with resolution down to the level of individual air masses sized to 1/10 second of arc, passing over a particular surface area of the earth, and interacting with that area, and interacting with the adjoining air masses. With vertical resolution points at 100 foot intervals, from the surface to the stratosphere.
That is where it needs to be, to know. No faith will be required, it will be at the level of high certainty.
So either the history has to show AGW (correlation), or the physics, has to be compelling (no soft spots). Neither one, meets my level of “proof beyond a reasonable doubt”, yet. And without that threshold being meet, it is reckless to declare a knowledge of the future, which demands foregoing present energy usage for future benefits.
And finally, what if you are right about all the AGW stuff, but the effects are mild, and don’t really cause catastrophe. It may cause a decrease in the temperature gradient, that causes less severe storms. Are we supposed to sacrifice now, to avoid that fate?
Russell (189) — It appears you failed to comprehend. You do
understand that with global warming (so-called greenhouse) gases such as CO2, the earth would be too cold (about minus 20 C, on average)? You do understand that more CO2 makes it even warmer (eventually)? You do understand the bad effects of additional CO2 in the oceans? All of these are certain beyond reasonable doubt.
The effects on the oceans are not mild; these are catastrophic to certain marine organisms. The effects of potential sea stand rises will be serious, even catastrophic.
And who said sacrifice is required? When there is a problem a good engineer works to find another solution. Usually these are more efficient, etc. As far as alternate energy goes, there is bioenergy
as well as solar and wind. All three aspects can use a good EE, who might indeed find satisfying, gainful employment doing this exciting work.
Comment by David B. Benson — 12 Feb 2008 @ 7:13 PM
Russell, perhaps, as you say, you have read the physics. Certainly you have not understood it. You seem to have forgotten where you are. There are plenty of people who have made the effort to understand the physics on this site, and they see right through your vague assertion that “it’s soft”. They realize how absurd it is to posit that a model with 0.1 arcsecond resolution is necessary for a global climate model. Thanks, but I don’t really think 3 meter resolution at Earth’s surface is needed.
So, you need to decide. Are you content being an ignorant contrarian, or do you actually want to understand the science? If you want to understand the science, you can ask questions about things you haven’t understood and get mostly educated answers here. If you are complacent about your state of knowledge…there’s always Climateaudit.
Oh, btw, some of us did point out that physics, too, has its share of ignorant, if brilliant, contrarians.
The conference’s goal was a practical one: to discuss how the atmosphere carried around gases that crops needed to grow, such as nitrogen and CO2. The participants agreed that there ought to be a network of stations to provide regular data on such gases. They thought priority should go to CO2, not least because it might alter the climate.(2) Heeding the call, educational institutions allocated some money and set up a network of 15 measuring stations throughout Scandinavia. Their measurements of CO2 fluctuated widely from place to place, and even from day to day, as different air masses passed through. That might be of interest to meteorologists and agriculture scientists, but it was useless for global warming studies. “It seems almost hopeless,” one expert confessed, “to arrive at reliable estimates of the atmospheric carbon-dioxide reservoir and its secular changes by such measurements…”(3)
So it is not unreasonable to think that readings taken in Svalbald are not reliable.
Russell complains that EEs have an unwarranted bad reputation, then goes on to add to it.
The key word is “correlation”, between greenhouse emissions and rising temps. I look at the record, I see a steady increase in CO2, and a periodic temperature record that doesn’t imply causation.
What you see is a temperature record that confirms what everyone with the barest minimum understanding of climate knows to be true – that CO2 forcing isn’t the only thing that drives climate.
On another blog we have a so-called physicist making claims that are equivalent to stating that if a large volcanic eruption leads to temporary cooling or a slowdown in warm, climate science would be proven wrong.
You’re making essentially the same error in your argument.
So much for the EE’s vaunted ability to understand science better than scientists.
Holly (165,6), I agree, install a Fascist regime, then close all gas stations overnight (under military assurance..) and people will either change or die. This is not a myth. But I thought the focus of the discussion was getting masses to willingly change their attitudes.
#166 is partly valid in that people seeing AGW problems nose to nose and breathing (hot) air down their shirt will willingly change. The problem is that a few big forest fires, an extra bad hurricane or two and a couple of dry spells might do it for the strongest protagonists, but not for any logical folk. Unfortunately, assuming the AGW premise for discussion’s sake, turning their minds could be like Rumsfeld’s dilemma of proving the need for the war on terror: “By the time you find the smoking gun, you’re dead.” It’s conceivable that by the time AGW is nose to nose with the aginers, it’s too late. Can’t win for losing, unless you slog and rail away.
Over-generalizing about what EEs believe from a few anecdotal examples … is not overly convincing, and tends to lower believability in my eyes, it’s like noticing that it’s unsuually cold somewhere and saying therefore AGW is not happening. I might place some modest credibility in social-science studies that studied this issue carefully. [Does anyone know of any such?]
If it were the case that proper studies showed that being an EE had a statistically significant correlation with being denialist, and even better, a stronger correlation than did other groups matched on education, income, etc … then the argument might be interesting.
If such an effect were demonstrated, or if people were attacking the simulation results, then maybe there would be a connection. I discussed this in the latter part of Previous RC Discussion.
The first part was directed to someone whose problem domain requires essentially perfect simulations to get useful answers, and hence doubted those of climate science. In EE, logic designers need perfect answers, but really good approximations are useful for circuit designers and power folks.
Of course, there’s no excuse for doubting the basic physics…
Ray (172), Sorry, but to be a valid critic or skeptic of some science one does NOT have to have equal scientific credentials, only a reasonable scientific understanding. Under your suggestion would a PhD with 4 years experience and 3 published papers not be allowed to criticize a guy/gal with two PhDs, 2-1/2 years experience and 4 papers? It is true that 1) the critic can not actively disprove the science without the requisite credentials, and 2) the critic/skeptic’s credibility is certainly less than the expert pro’s. But because my credentials are less than say, well most everybody here!, does not mean per se I am obligated to bend over and accept it, so long as I have some science/math knowledge and am logical. In net, I am not required to clearly disprove the assertions in order to question them credibly. On the other hand I agree (and said in posts long ago) that it’s not productive for a skeptic to incessantly raise the same question over and over (and getting the same scientific answer) without at least increasing his scientific justification.
The climate community, nay any community is susceptible to group think. In science circles it is called the herd of independent minds. But, and this is the interesting part, it is not an “internecine cabal”, is seldom either nefarious, conspiratorial, or even conscious. But it happens, like the sister “law of expected results”. Now it is certainly not a given, certainly is not always the case by a long shot, and by itself does not disprove whatever the group is thinking. But the susceptibility and an underlying tendency is always there. (Though every group denies it vigorously!)
It was not that long ago that the scientific community knew that light traveled through the aether. It took years for the Michaelson-Morley failure to detect the aether motion in 1887 and other failed experiments before the groupthink began to turn against the aether concept, leading towards Michaelson’s Nobel in 1907. Despite this adherents to some sort of aether still exist.
Nothing nefarious about it.
re:#162 Ray Ladbury
Not to add more to the arguments, both journal articles I gave links to show clear connections between some cosmic rays and low cloud cover. I have to assume that The Royal Society and Astronomy & Geophysics would have bounced the papers had fraudulent data been used. Yearly albedo variance is on the order of the sum total of CO2 forcing posited by the IPCC over the last century; a back of the envelope wild ass guess leaves me to think that just a 1% change in albedo due to GCR (modulated by the very energetic 20th century sun) per year might be enough to equal the CO2 effect claimed by IPCC partisans. This is well below what one could see by eyeballing satellite data.
Finally, I am reminded of a Creationist, a Dr. Gish, who, in the ’70’s was trying to put a scientific spin on his religious beliefs. Rather than take on the meat of Evolution and modern biology, he focused on details. Evolution can’t be true, or you’d see a three toed horse in the fossil record as a transitional form. The beauty of this is there is always work to be done, always some detail uninvestigated. I’d like someone here to take on the meat of the GCR evidence, including the findings of Shaviv and Veizer (2003), the result of two separate investigations, one terrestrial, the other astrophysical, that came to similar results.
Occam’s razor cuts to the simplest argument; if global temperature, over a period of nearly 600 million years, correlates well to our position in our galaxy (as related to the spiral arms), and correlates well over that time to gcr (proxied by carbon-14), gcr can be reasonably seen as the driver of dramatic swings between hothouse and snowball earths. Now convince a skeptic that gcr can’t be the cause of a significant fraction of the half degree Kelvin rise in temperature over the past century, since the last time the Sun decided to take a vacation from its spots, during a period where the Sun got very energetic, at least as far as sunspots, flares and magnetic effects are concerned.
That said, I am concerned about the effects of CO2 in the atmosphere, and there could be disastrous effects going forward; however, computer models that continue to diverge from observable reality are not the way to prove a case for immediate drastic action.
Comment by Greg Goodknight — 13 Feb 2008 @ 1:11 AM
This is my first post, though I’ve been regularly reading realclimate.org since challenged by someone a year ago who said “evolution is a hoax, just like global warming is a hoax”. My MS(EE) preceded an industry debate about whether it was physically possible to build a silicon transistor with length under 0.5um. I’ve contributed some papers to refereed proceedings and journals, and have been a referee as well. It’s not climate science, but I have appreciation of the process.
Si fabrication processes have since smashed that barrier. Now I help design mainly digital chips with processes down to 45nm. Chip design is indeed very detailed work. We extensively use models and have to correlate them either to silicon or to trusted models. We use statistical models for timing, testability, power and yield. We have to manage considerable uncertainty “sprinkled though out the system”. Very few EEs need or want to dig into the details of all the statistical aspects of analysis. We trust the work of others.
My perception is that EEs generally are analytical, meticulous, aggressive yet reasonable. They seldom discuss climate issues or areas outside their expertise. It’s rare for EEs to find time to understand more than a few of the many dozens of specialties within EE, much less seriously dig into climate modeling. So please be careful about applying labels.
OK, I’ve been known to razz civil engineers for building archaic traffic control systems. If only they would apply some of the techniques used to analyze packet networks plus utilize wireless networks among vehicles and traffic control devices. Vehicles could be coordinated to improve traffic flow and substantially reduce both fuel use and the need to widen roads. However, like hybrid vehicles, this is an unlikely direction while our society views vehicles as toys to satisfy our thrill seeking and aggression.
To maximize profits, chip designers (EEs) aim for working silicon on the first pass. Models are intentionally pessimistic to improve the odds. Yet seldom do we achieve first pass success, so we revise and try again. Yields may be very low, so we try yet again.
Climate scientists do not have the luxury of trying again. There is only one experiment to run, everyone is involved whether they like it or not, and it will be decades before the all the data is in. Critics do not accept pessimism or uncertainty in models.
The RealClimate.org contributors and many of the regular participants have provided a wonderful service for people who are serious about learning about and questioning GW. They have described the various scenarios and uncertainties of climate models. Still, the general trends — and risks — are clear. Scientists and engineers are skeptical by nature, but are persuaded by the scientific method. They first learn about the prior art. Then ask logical, specific questions. Trust, but verify. Establish the science first so that effective policies can be rationally considered.
General challenges and opposing assertions without a clear basis are evidence of an opposing belief. The criticisms from some of the “engineers” here are embarrassing. They are among the GW skeptics who deny the scientific method. If they, EEs or not, were the venture capitalists of EE proposals and demanded proofs and perfect models as they do of climatologists, we’d still be using vacuum tubes.
Sorry, but to be a valid critic or skeptic of some science one does NOT have to have equal scientific credentials, only a reasonable scientific understanding.
It’s not the critic that needs to be validated, it’s the criticism. That is done in the established way, by submitting your results for peer review. If they are valid, they will get noticed. (Remember Spencer et al.’s August 2007 article? Wasn’t suppressed, now was it?)
Looking at credentials and publishing record is just an easy spam filter in what is, thanks to skeptics and fossil-fuel money, a very noisy field. Yet, why do you think so many skeptics lie about their credentials? And if you cannot even trust such easily checked statements, why would you trust their ‘science’?
We’re not talking proving the Fermat Theorem here… we’re talking policy making under uncertainty — the usual case — for real, living people. You do that based on the best knowledge you have, warts and all; anything else is irresponsible.
I can only imagine you in the military, in a position of command, and it’s not pretty: “No, we’re not sending any troops there before we have compelling evidence of imminent attack” :-(
I suggest you take a look at a globe and note the position of Svalbard in relation to Scandinavia, and then look at the position of Mauna Loa, and the South Pole. Now consider, of those three sites which is likely to have measurements of CO2 that fluctuate widely as different air masses from Scandanavia pass through.
BTW Scandanavia is not just the region around Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm. It also includes Finland and Lappland.
RE #179 [Ray Ladbury] “Nick,
I do think that markets can play a role in the solution. They are not THE solution, but part of it.”
I agree. But the “libertarian” right don’t: they KNOW markets are the solution to all problems, so any information that suggests otherwise MUST be false.
“The flaw in most market approaches has been their failure to include environmental costs in the price of goods…
I would also point out that markets have a much better track record than does social engineering.”
This touches on a key point: almost all modern markets are to a considerable extent products of social engineering – that is, they have not simply grown “from below”, but depend on complex physical and institutional structures to operate (consider banking regulation, exchange rates, intellectual property…) These structures can be and are maintained, undermined, and changed by deliberate actions of individual or collective human agents (often with unintended side-effects, of course). Particular changes will benefit and disbenefit particular interest groups. Much of the right, either out of ideological conviction (the libertarians) or self-interest (big business) claims that markets are “natural”, and minimal regulation will give the best results. This is quite clearly false even without bringing in environmental considerations, but they do make its falsity particularly clear. So does the “market” solution of tradeable emissions permits: such markets are completely artificial, exist only because laws have been passed to establish them, and rely on the fact that governments have, in the last resort, the armed power to enforce their will. Supply is controlled by fiat. However, once the right concedes that markets can be set up and modified by political choice in this case, it becomes much harder to avoid it in others.
“I don’t view this as an opportunity to remake humanity.”
Humanity has been remaking itself constantly for at least 50,000 years.
“This is a problem to be solved, and in the end, human beings will still be as lousy as they’ve always been.”
How lousy have they always been? When I look at history I see plenty of lousiness, but also human solidarity, courage, compassion and curiosity, and a lot of just getting on with life as you find it.
And how do you know the mean level of lousiness is a constant?
[[Show me a statistical correlation that proves your point.]]
The theory of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) does not depend on statistical correlations. It depends on radiation physics. I advise you to purchase a copy of John T. Houghton’s “The Physics of Atmospheres” (3rd ed. 2002) or Grant W. Petty’s “A First Course in Atmospheric Radiation” (2006), and to read through and work all the problems.
Martin, there is a subtle but distinct difference between a critic and a skeptic. I should not have easily lumped them together. I think my assertion does apply to skeptics, but, as you say, a bona fide critic probably should have greater credentials. It’s one thing to say, “You’re wrong.” Quite another to say “I dont think I agree with you.”
I haven’t done a full body count but I do not believe “so many” skeptics lie about their credentials. Maybe a couple exaggerate; and others have honest credentials that AGW protagonists just don’t like or accept. But that isn’t lying.
Re Abbe Mac @ 203: “then look at the position of Mauna Loa, and the South Pole. Now consider, of those three sites which is likely to have measurements of CO2 that fluctuate widely as different air masses from Scandanavia pass through.”
“BTW Scandanavia is not just the region around Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm. It also includes Finland and Lappland.”
Occam’s razor cuts to the simplest argument; if global temperature, over a period of nearly 600 million years, correlates well to our position in our galaxy (as related to the spiral arms), and correlates well over that time to gcr (proxied by carbon-14), gcr can be reasonably seen as the driver of dramatic swings between hothouse and snowball earths.
Occam’s razor would tend to point to the conclusion that if IR absorption by CO2 has been proven in the lab, and has nailed down to a high degree of accuracy, then CO2 in the atmosphere will act the same way. I know of nothing in physics that would argue that CO2 out of the lab (or outside a CO2 laser) works differently than CO2 in the atmosphere.
Meanwhile, you’re suggesting we throw overboard known physics in favor of a GCR hypothesis for which there’s no known evidence. This is a hell of a lot closer to Gish’s “godditit” explanation of biology than it is to scientific reasoning.
Greg Goodknight, First, regarding your point about groupthink–it is a phenomenon that tends to occur when communities are isolated. Yet climate studies are inherently interdisciplinary. And the science has been reviewed thoroughly by outside groups ranging from the National Academy of Sciences to the American Chemical Society. Not one single professional society dissents from the consensus position–and that includes the American Association of Petroleum Geologists! Not one. So much for groupthink.
Your point about Michelson-Morley and the aether completely misses the mark. Until Michelson-Morley there was no reason to doubt the existence of the aether. The evidence preceded the theoretical development–as it usually does. Since all the evidence favors anthropogenic greenhouse warming, why should we assume the science will change.
Finally, the biggest problem with your argument is that merely finding that another mechanism is important does not invalidate the known physics of greenhouse gasses. This is not a Chinese menu, where you take one from column A, one from column B, etc. until you make up the warming. The forcings are constrained independently of the warming, and CO2 is one of the most tightly constrained. If cosmic rays were somehow shown to have an effect, it would most likely affect less well constrained forcers like aerosols or other aspects of clouds. Indeed, given that clouds both cool and warm, it might well be a wash–or can you figure our how to get your mechanism to affect only the daylight side of Earth?
Nick (204) says, “…markets can be set up and modified by political choice in this case…” Pure nonsense. If someone, for whatever reason, will pay me $150-$200 to plant a tree, what makes you think a government fiat is required to get the ball rolling? Markets have almost always done a better job of equitably distributing resources than governments have, and minimal (a somewhat slippery term) regulation is, in fact, optimal. But you are sniffing around a truth: NO regulation is worse. Plus it does take government hands to account for things in a “free” market that markets do not inherently account for — because they can’t, not because they are mean and nasty. The environmental cost of production is one good example. There is no way that an enterprise on its own could figure out what that cost is to them and fold that cost into its business case and the cost of producing and distributing widgets. If none-the-less it should be done, only government in its wisdom (hopefully) can decide what that cost should be and distribute it equitably across all relevant enterprises by law.
Nick #204, The thing that we have to realize is that neither right nor left will dictate solutions to climate change. There will have to be compromise. Compromise is most likely to prevail–and most likely to be practical when the extremists on both sides cancel eachother out and the pragmatists can push progress forward. Right now, I fear that there are more social engineers at the bargaining table than libertarian marketeers. Since I distrust both, I look to the one to cancel out the other.
“Humanity has been remaking itself constantly for at least 50,000 years.”
Well, yes…and they’re still as greedy, still as cowardly, still as stupid and still as myopic as they have been since prehistory, if our legends and myths give us any indication. Now the wonderful thing about humans is that they can transcend all these traits–as individuals. However, we must deal with the vast majority–including people whose moral compass always points toward themselves. I am reminded of the story of Adlai Stevenson, perpetual loser of the presidency in the 50s, who was told by a woman, “You have the vote of every intelligent, right-thinking person in America.” “That’s very nice,” Stevenson replied. “Unfortunately, I need a majority.”
Rod B., certainly you do not think that the opinion of a first-year graduate student should be given equal weight to someone who has been publishing actively in a field for 30 years, do you? How about someone who is an expert in the field in question vs. someone who is an expert in a somewhat related field? How about someone with a strong reputation for objectivity vs. someone who is bright but known to have an agenda? These are all questions that go into the establishment of consensus.
As to groupthink, as I pointed out above, climate studies are an inherently multi-disciplinary field AND they have been reviewed by every major science organization in the Americas, Europe and Asia. Not one single organization of professional scientists disputes the consensus theory. By contrast, the dissenters are isolated cells overwhelmingly from outside the climate community and with no publication record in climate science.
The publication record is especially important. Rod, you know from your own efforts that many of the points in the physics are somewhat subtle. All the more reason experts should not be dismissed lightly. And as to publication record, if you have good theories and ideas, that will naturally lead to publications. If you don’t publish, that is often a good indication that your way of thinking is moribund and will not lead to advancing the science.
I was using the term “second of arc” to mean a nautical mile. The grid would be tenths of a nautical mile, which would allow resolution great enough to model individual cloud formation and dissipation.
I have worked for both the military and defense contractors, although I am not currently working in that area. I have taken the “normal” 3 semesters of physics, so I don’t claim to have the in depth knowledge, of the scientist on this board in that area. But I have worked in the radio spectrum and IR emission area, and I understand the basics of how energy is transferred. I also have studied weather, and meteorology.
So I should be the perfect candidate for grasping this stuff, on a general level.
I am not disputing the work, on the physics of the environment, that has been done, so far. I agree with you guys that there is a potential problem. But I have not seen a compelling argument, that shows the AGW fingerprint, on the current environment, distinct from natural variation.
What I am also disputing is the predictive power of the work that has been done so far, when applied to the choatic environment. There is a lot to account for, and if you guys think you got it all covered, then I hope you are right.
I am here looking for the “smoking gun”, that I was unaware of, that would help me get over the threshold of certainty. I have been following this subject for a couple of decades, and I haven’t seen it, yet. It may be that my requirements are too stringent. I am risk adverse, due to “Murphy’s Law”, taking a bite out of my ass, several times in the past.
So for now, I am still taking a “wait and see” approach. I think you guys are on the right track. I am just not comfortable predicting the future of a choatic system with models, that are “not quite there, yet”. I know all the “nuts and bolts” of what they do, and how they do it. That is my area of expertise, and when the resolution level, and the physics are correct, they are very accurate. Until then, all I can say is, watch your step, when you get into the political system, advocating change. It is a messy business, and it has more in common with “love and war”, than it has in common with science.
I am exasperated by the inhumane way that the ignorant political right in the USA are downplaying the need for watching the changes that are being foisted on the worlds environment by the human race who are eating at our planet like maggots eat a rotting apple.
I am a right wing minded thinker myself and am fully aware of the future of our globe being infected by religious doctrines of extremism which could prove more fatal in a much more rapid momentum than any ‘greenhouse effect’ but for the sake of mankind let us not get tied up in political doctrine when humankind is putting its survival at stake.
It should be honestly said that we are at war with the extreme of Islam who use the name of the very being that would most abhor the destruction of his own creation. Likewise we are at war with our planet but it will surely be our generation of grandchildren who will never thank us for what we have done.
Religion is a gift from the almighty, we should cherish it, never fight over it and never abuse it.
Why cannot mankind forget its differences and remember its sames?
Re #207 [Rod B.] “I do not believe “so many” skeptics lie about their credentials. Maybe a couple exaggerate; and others have honest credentials that AGW protagonists just don’t like or accept.”
Could you provide some examples of the latter?
Re #211 [Rod B] “Nick (204) says, “…markets can be set up and modified by political choice in this case…” Pure nonsense. If someone, for whatever reason, will pay me $150-$200 to plant a tree, what makes you think a government fiat is required to get the ball rolling?”
Rod, I did not say all markets have to be set up by political choice: I said they can be. However, all important modern markets, with the partial exception of black markets, function within an entirely artificial, and politically contested, legal framework: labour law, intellectual property, accounting standards, etc.: my main point is that markets are things we create and modify, not natural growths. That someone will pay you “dollars” is enough to show this: those bits of paper, or binary codes in a machine, are only worth anything because of the government power maintaining the financial system.
“Markets have almost always done a better job of equitably distributing resources than governments have, and minimal (a somewhat slippery term) regulation is, in fact, optimal”
Total tosh, at least if your meaning of “equitably” is anything like mine. Markets have an inherent tendency to channel resources to the already wealthy, but political action can increase or decrease this. Over the past few decades we have seen a large-scale deregulation within most countries, leading to very considerable wealth concentration. You may find this “equitable”; I don’t.
“There is no way that an enterprise on its own could figure out what that cost is to them and fold that cost into its business case and the cost of producing and distributing widgets.”
This is unclear: what is the reference of “what that cost is to them”? The cost of what to whom?
Russell, weather is chaotic. Climate is deterministic. Do you understand the difference?
[Response: Actually chaos is deterministic. What you mean to say is that climate is to a large extent a boundary value problem with relatively stable statistics, while any particular weather prediction is an initial value problem and suffers from sensitive dependence on initial conditions. – gavin]
Russell, it is precisely because weather is chaotic that we must look at climate–long-term avaraging over weather. The dynamics of chaotic systems are predictable if you look at averages. They depend mainly on the conserved quantities–energy, momentum, angular momentum, etc. So we know with mathematical certainty, that if we add energy to the system average temperature will rise. We also know that the system will exhibit less predictable behavior–more extremes. So, what part of that do you not understand? Do you dispute that CO2 is a greenhouse gas that will decrease the probability of IR photons escaping? Do you think that its greenhouse properties magically stop at the pre-industrial value of at 280 ppmv?
Quite frankly, the only way to convince yourself of the correctness of the theory is to do the work and learn it yourself. Realclimate is a phenomenal resource for doing so. It has helped me considerably in my understanding. Many of us have gone before you and can help. The smoking gun is there–you just need to understand enoughof the physics to see it.
And as to the “politics,” that’s not really what this site is about. In terms of solutions, posters here span the spectrum from do-nothing advocates through gradualists to those advocating radical change. Some favor nuclear power, some renewables, some both. All I would caution in this regard is that by rejecting cogent science, all you do is leave your seat at the negotiating table empty as we decide what to do about it.
Steve Reynolds wrote: “It’s hard to see how self-righteous behavior arising from ignorance, that keeps billions of people in poverty, could be a “moral approach” to anything.”
As you know, the talking point that action to mitigate anthropogenic global warming by reducing carbon emissions will “keep billions of people in poverty” is bogus, baseless and has repeatedly been refuted on this very site.
In fact, the exact opposite is true: every organization in the world that works to address poverty in the developing world has stated that unmitigated global warming will thwart all of their efforts and condemn billions to abject poverty and worse, and that mitigating global warming is an absolute necessity if we are to have any hope of addressing poverty in the developing world.
And your talking point is just plain ludicrous when offered in response to calls for the richest and most powerful countries in the world, such as the USA to take the lead in mitigating global warming by reducing their own emissions.
Your comment gives rise to this image in my mind: a wealthy American, urged to drive a Prius instead of an SUV, screaming that the very request is “self righteous” and that replacing his SUV with a Prius will “keep billions of people in poverty”.
But I have not seen a compelling argument, that shows the AGW fingerprint, on the current environment, distinct from natural variation.
What unknown input to the system could be driving that natural variation, then? Surely you’re not a “god’s doing it to test our faith” kinda guy, right? Surely you think that there’s something driving warming that we can measure, right? So, what is it, and what data confirms your guess?
After all, you say this:
I am not disputing the work, on the physics of the environment, that has been done, so far.
While the reality is that any alternative hypothesis, if true, must lead to the overturning of that physics.
What I am also disputing is the predictive power of the work that has been done so far, when applied to the choatic environment.
Climate’s not chaotic in the sense that weather is. If you increase the amount of IR trapped by the atmosphere, long term, it WILL heat up. That energy’s gotta do something. What’s your alternative prediction?
re Ray (213): “….Rod B., certainly you do not think that the opinion of a first-year graduate student should be given equal weight to someone who has been publishing actively in a field for 30 years, do you?”
No, and it is not what I said. I said they have a credible right to be skeptical, but I would not expect their skepticism would have “equal weight” within the science.
“…climate studies are an inherently multi-disciplinary field AND they have been reviewed by every major science organization in the Americas, Europe and Asia. Not one single organization of professional scientists disputes the consensus theory….”
Well, that sounds correct and the consensus may be right. BUT it none-the-less still has all of the required characteristics of group-think. You say the whole group agrees, bar none!
I do not believe “so many” skeptics lie about their credentials.
Rod, learn to dig… google is an art form :-)
I will readily admit to preferring the word ‘lie’ where others would use ‘spin’, ‘exaggerate’, ‘misrepresent’ etc. Calling a spade a spade and all that.
About earning the right to state a (critical, skeptical) opinion, it depends on the forum. Here on RC it is quite okay to be an interested amateur. As I see it this is a learning resource, and surely debate can be an effective educational instrument on a forum where the rules of debate are those of science. But out in the big bad world it is different, and there needs to be a recognised way to shut up the spam.
Uh, no. Groupthink occurs when a community is isolated group reinforces its own beliefs. In this case, there is no isolation. First, there are oceanographers, atmospheric scientists, paleoclimate experts… They all interact with their own communities as well as the climate community. Second, the incentives are wrong. You don’t get famous or rewarded in science by going with the herd, but by proposing something nes. Finally, the science has been reviewed by panels of experts from completely outside the field–physicists have said the physics is sound; chemists have endorsed the chemists, and so on. Sometimes when all the experts agree, it’s because the science is right!
#196 by Rod B.: Holly (165,6), I agree, install a Fascist regime, then close all gas stations overnight (under military assurance..) and people will either change or die. This is not a myth. But I thought the focus of the discussion was getting masses to willingly change their attitudes…
How very dishonest of you to so characterize what I wrote. I was talking about the ability of humans to change their behaviour in changed circumstances, not advocating a fascist regime. I was addressing the flawed arguments which seemed to suggest that gas-guzzling is an inherent part of human nature.
If the democratically elected government of city decides to ban cars from driving downtown in order to prevent pollution killing some of the people, would you consider it a fascist regime?
[Response: Discussion of fascism is rarely constructive in a scientific forum. I’m letting you reply, but please let this drop. – gavin]
Ray Ladbury #223 is wrong; researchers who start down paths contrary to the groupthink here have received not very subtle hints to shut up; witness Svensmark being demonized by the head of the IPCC when his first tentative results were published in the mid ’90’s. The pressure to conform is palpable. You have a culprit besides CO2? “No soup for you!”
Yes, the consensus in the group is that it’s CO2 *only*. With my license to BS in Physics, I can’t help but notice no one has taken on the elephant in the room, Shaviv & Veizer ’03, or the coincidence of the Permian-Triassic event 251 million years ago with the 600 million year gcr flux minima (as indicated by C-14) or even Harrison & Stephenson ’06 that I cited in opposition to a statement by Gavin in #113
Note I do not dispute that CO2 is a greenhouse gas. What I do dispute is the cavalier latching onto any reason why the contribution of cloud cover (which at this point *has* been shown to be affected by cosmic rays, modulated by solar activity) be excluded from climate simulations. Shaviv estimates 1/3 CO2, 2/3 GCR (+/- 1/3) for the past century, with a rising CO2 contribution over the next century. It seems reasonable to me.
You betcha, the exact mechanisms for GCR climate influences have not been quantified and proven, but I would be willing to bet they will be before long before there are three toed horses revealed to the creationists (another groupthink) which would only force them to demand science to produce another missing transitional form. We’d be farther along had funding for the SKY and CLOUD experiments not been stymied.
There’s been a nice little cooling that seems to have been missed by *all* of the IPCC models, solar cycle 23 sunspots still occur on occasion, and the solar disk remains unblemished today.
[Response: There are hundreds of researchers working on aerosol formation, ionization, solar effects on climate etc. Ask yourself why Svensmark is singled out. Clue. It is not because of what he is working on. – gavin]
Comment by Greg Goodknight — 13 Feb 2008 @ 4:38 PM
Thank you gavin, for that accurate description of the difference between between weather and climate, and the challenges to model either one. You are on your toes today, which is good thing, because that makes it harder for someone to step on them.
This is the big question, and like most risk averse EEs, I like to hedge my bet, instead of sticking my neck out. I am not going to promote a certain scenerio, since many have been voiced before, and I have nothing new to add. If gavin started twisting my arm, and forced a confession out of me, it would involve CO2s diminishing ability to thicken the walls of the IR greenhouse. But I can argue this or several other scenerios, or a combination of scenerios, as possible, and not find the facts so compelling, that the rebuttal is destroyed. The obvious question is not what is possible, but what is likely, and how likely is it, and how much do I want to risk, promoting a likely scenerio, as the correct one.
Russell (227) — If you are a risk averse EE then you will assume that the IPCC scenarios are understated: we already have some evidence of this is Greenland (and elsewhere) land ice melt, but especially last summer’s big Arctic sea ice disappearance.
Being risk adverse, you will then work to help mitigate further carbon dioxide increases and maybe even help figure out ways to efficiently sequester the excess carbon dioxide.
Comment by David B. Benson — 13 Feb 2008 @ 6:36 PM
Nick (216): “…Could you provide some examples of the latter?”
Shirley you jest. There’s near hundreds of names, some referenced in this thread, all of whom get the reaction 1) they’re lying, or 2) they are now crazy wrong, meaning they are not liked or accepted.
re markets: I absolutely agree that non-governments create markets, but governments can and do to some extent. I also agree that governments are necessary to bound the activities of free private enterprise, like with some of the examples you give. This is why “minimal” works, but “no” does not. But to say that this bounding is artificial and solely the whim of a bunch of fruit cakes is nothing but an irrational rant — though surely one can find examples here and there (Hillary’s glomming onto Exxon’s profit, e.g).
“Equitably” means a reasonable distribution that’s not equal but is in the ball park of providing the most average good for everyone involved. It is not perfect, by a far piece. Nor is it defined by any one person’s concepts or any one government (in detail) for that matter. But you are correct that totally free private enterprise tends to concentrate the wealth way beyond a reasonable definition of equitably, Adam Smith not withstanding. That’s why you must have government set up bounds and rules. And “minimally” works best on the whole. “No” doesn’t work at all because, as you say, wealth then will get concentrated with a very sharp skew, and that concentration then becomes the de facto government — an oligarchy, because the government of record isn’t doing anything anyway, and pretty soon 0.1% of the people now legally have 99.9% of the wealth. Bad.
How much should an individual gas station add to the price of gasoline to cover the global environmental/AGW damage its gasoline is creating? And where should it send the money? There is no gas station on earth that can come anywhere near to determining that. Then, if they could, and did, they’d be out of business within the month.
Martin (222) says, “…About earning the right to state a (critical, skeptical) opinion, it depends on the forum.”
That’s probably true and appropriate. Though I’d like a little finer discrimination than 1) here on RC, and 2) every place else. Plus as I corrected myself, criticism and skeptism probably have different ground rules.
Ray, well we just disagree with the definition of groupthink (223), though your’s works also. What I’m talking of is ~ “the herd of independent minds” where in fact disparate individuals working independently (??) on the same thing eerily all come up with the same results — sometimes.
Holly (224), No, I was only saying that take all the gasoline away overnight and you are correct, the people will change or die. But that this wasn’t the focus of the question. Fascism was simply a (probably unfortunate) side example of how to accomplish it. I did not think that was your suggestion.
Greg Goodknight says “researchers who start down paths contrary to the groupthink here have received not very subtle hints to shut up; witness Svensmark being demonized by the head of the IPCC when his first tentative results were published in the mid ’90’s. The pressure to conform is palpable. You have a culprit besides CO2? “No soup for you!””
It’s always so sad when the paranoia kicks in. Greg, do you even know any scientists. Do you realize that the “group” you are talking about is essentially the entire scientific community except for a few hundred kooks and contrarians. You are accusing the National Academies, the Royal Society, AAAS, AGU, APS, ACS–hell, even the American Association of Petroleum Geologists!
Not only do you not have a mechanism–you don’t even have an increasing GCR flux. Oh, but wait, it’s because all those scientists are against you, isn’t it?
Russell–isn’t it funny that you are only considering the risks as going one way. You aren’t considering the fact that climate change could render much of our agriculture infertile, that it could increase the incidence of extreme weather events, that it could cause ongoing droughts and flooding. I could go on, but you really only care about justifying your complacency. Ignorance is a good tool for that.
“Shirley you jest”, in response to my earlier request for specific examples of skeptics who “have honest credentials that AGW protagonists just don’t like or accept.”
No, I did not jest, and I repeat my request for specific examples, with evidence of AGW protagonists disliking or rejecting honest credentials. If you do not give any, I think the inevitable conclusion is that there are none.
“I also agree that governments are necessary to bound the activities of free private enterprise, like with some of the examples you give. This is why “minimal” works, but “no” does not. But to say that this bounding is artificial and solely the whim of a bunch of fruit cakes is nothing but an irrational rant”
Well, it might have been if I had said that, but I didn’t. What I did say was:
“all important modern markets, with the partial exception of black markets, function within an entirely artificial, and politically contested, legal framework:”
I’m at a loss to know where you got “solely the whim of a bunch of fruit cakes” from. I don’t use “artificial” as an insult, just as a description: something people have made, at least in part through their intentional actions. And that the legal framework of markets is politically contested is simply observation.
We clearly disagree on how far markets should be subject to socio-political control, but it is only against what I would term dogmatic “free-market” or “right-libertarian” belief systems, that I consider the need to mitigate AGW a knock-down argument; your agreement that markets require some control in the interests of equity places your position outside that group.
“The thing that we have to realize is that neither right nor left will dictate solutions to climate change. There will have to be compromise.”
I agree. However, it is abundantly clear that AGW poses a fundamental political threat to the right, because even the most market-oriented approaches draw attention to the artificiality of markets, and the possibilities of reshaping and controlling them for the common good. This has unfortunately led to an outbreak of denialism which we can ill afford (explaining why such denialists are so overwhelmingly from the right), but I don’t think you will get round that by denying that this issue plays to their disadvantage when they can see for themselves that it does.
““Humanity has been remaking itself constantly for at least 50,000 years.”
Well, yes…and they’re still as greedy, still as cowardly, still as stupid and still as myopic as they have been since prehistory, if our legends and myths give us any indication.”
You are very fond of evidence-free pronouncements of this sort, usually backed (as in this case) by a witty quotation from some luminary. You would never accept this sort of thing as serious argument in the physical sciences – why are your standards so much lower when it comes to the social sciences and humanities? If you consider levels of characteristics such as greed and cowardice to be historically and cross-culturally comparable, then their historical trajectories are clearly questions (very difficult ones) for empirical and theoretical investigation. If you don’t, your pronouncements are just empty rhetorical flourishes.
Well, Rod, if your definition of “groupthink” encompasses a situation where essentially ALL the experts who publish regularly in a field agree that the evidence supports a theory AND independent audits of the science by scientists in related fields agree that the science is correct AND independent assessments of the science by every professional society of scientists agrees the science is cogent AND even the professional societies that originally dissented have been forced to backtrack,…well, it’s hard to see what sort of evidenc would be required to convince you. You will never have 100% buy-in on any theory, but anthropogenic causation is about as close as you can get. The dissenters simply are not credible, and as I’ve said repeatedly, the main indicator of that is their lack of publications. That right there indicates that their ideas are infertile. Just as with Intelligent Design, their ideas generate nothing new.
Nick, I find it interesting that you think markets are artificial. Yet, everywhere I’ve gone in the world–and I have travelled a lot–I find that markets spring up spontaneously. Wherever people gather, they trade. It may be barter, or it may be derivatives, but markets seem to be a part of our nature. Regulation of markets also seems to rise spontaneously: If a vendor is found to be a cheat, he is often run out of the market. I’ve seen this happen in venues from informal swaps to refugee camps.
What evidence would you have me provide of human stupidity, greed, etc? I would think it was self-evident, but all right. In Saudi Arabia, they are still trying and executing witches. In America, we have an oubliette called Guantanamo and our Enron. More people in America believe in angels than in the theory of evolution. My point, Nick, is not that people are nasty creatures–hell, we’re just like our ape cousins (except for the bonobos). My point is that in trying to deal with climate change and human behavior, we will not succeed by appealing to what is best in the human spirit, because quite frankly, most people don’t posess what is best in the human spirit.
There is a very good reason why humans are the way they are. The environment favors it. We are no smarter than we are because intelligence beyond the norm carries little evolutionary advantage. We are no more altruistic than we are because there is no evolutionary advantage to it. Society and governments can change human behavior by coercion, but it is merely a thin veneer–a tuxedo on the ape. We may like to think we are above all that, but the only reason we are less red of tooth and claw is because we’ve developed more effective weapons. If we are to succeed in this, we must appeal to human nature as it it, not as we’d like it to be.
And as to empirical and theoretical investigation, all I know to do is turn to history. I see no improvement in the species in all of recorded history–roughly 5000 years or so. Going back further, we are in the realm of myth–yet the motivations of humans in Greek Mythology, in the Bible, in the Ramayana and Mahabharata do not seem foreign to us. That takes us back probably 8000 years. Yes, civilization can change behavior, but as we found during Katrina, that’s just a veneer. Do you know of anything that indicates otherwise?
Re #239 “Nick, I find it interesting that you think markets are artificial. Yet, everywhere I’ve gone in the world–and I have travelled a lot–I find that markets spring up spontaneously. Wherever people gather, they trade.”
Ray, trade is a human universal; markets in anything like the modern sense are not. I call markets “artificial” in the same sense I do physical technology: human constructions which we can redesign or even supercede.
“What evidence would you have me provide of human stupidity, greed, etc?” What you were claiming was that these characteristics were unvarying, without making any attempt to provide evidence. You still haven’t.
“There is a very good reason why humans are the way they are. The environment favors it. We are no smarter than we are because intelligence beyond the norm carries little evolutionary advantage. We are no more altruistic than we are because there is no evolutionary advantage to it. Society and governments can change human behavior by coercion, but it is merely a thin veneer–a tuxedo on the ape.”
This is all just ’70s sociobiology, which wrongly assumes that natural selection can produce perfect adaptation, and that “intelligence” and “altruism” are fixed quantities inherent in individuals.
“Yes, civilization can change behavior, but as we found during Katrina, that’s just a veneer. Do you know of anything that indicates otherwise?”
Actually, most of the stories about how badly people behaved during Katrina were just that – stories. I think you need rather stronger evidence than that. The metaphor of a “veneer” is a very poor one: a non-acculturated human being is a non-functional one, it is part of our nature to be acculturated. The enormous differences even between modern societies – in levels of violence (for small-scale societies, compare the Yanomamo with the inhabitants of Ladakh), inequality, and nepotism, for example – showed clearly enough that different kinds of acculturation can make an enormous difference.
Nick, I fear we may be drifting too far adrift for a discussion on realclimate. I would be happy to continue this offline.
You are right. I have not provided any hard, scientific evidence for my contention, but then I know of none that rises to that level on either side of the argument. Moreover, I said nothing about individuals. Any individual can rise above his or her limitations. However, picking a particular individual and betting he will do so, is a fraught proposition. Yes, socialization can make a difference. I never said it did not. What I think you need to keep in mind is that while society can assist exceptional individuals in overcoming their limitations, we are not talking about exceptional individuals. We are talking about the vast majority–the great unwashed–down probably at least to the 5% level on the bell curve if we’re really going to make a difference. A recipe for reducing CO2 emissions that starts with “First, we remake society…” is not going to work.
As to the veneer of civilization in humans, I think it serves pretty well. Like it or not, Nick, humans are apes. We have a rather larger brain, but MOST people only use it to rationalize their emotional decisions. I do not understand why some people insist that human psychology should differ dramatically from those animals that most closely share our ancestry.
Ray Ladbury (241) & Nick Gotts (242) — Maybe you can find another forum for this discussion? Seems fairly remote from climatology…
Comment by David B. Benson — 14 Feb 2008 @ 1:48 PM
Ray L.: Re #241 “I do not understand why some people insist that human psychology should differ dramatically from those animals that most closely share our ancestry.”
Nick G.: Language.
Well, that development certainly increased our facility for subterfuge and rationalization. I do not see that it substantially benefitted our morals or civility.
Nick, both chimps and gorillas have some linguistic capability. They use tools. They even pass on knowledge. It does not stop them from being apes. One other difference: apes are usually not wantonly cruel. In my opinion, it only makes sense to acknowledge our tendencies toward agression, complacency, greed, etc. How else are we to control them? And I also contend that the vast majority are not only incapable controlling these impulses except under duress. Most don’t even see the point of wanting to.
If you try to change human behavior on a mass scale, you will run into the same problem as religions. Namely: How do you take a system of thought developed by a genius and adapt it so it can regulate the behavior of idiots?
Comment by David B. Benson — 14 Feb 2008 @ 3:12 PM
Nick (236), Geeeze. O.K. With my eyes closed I’ll just throw in Singer and Lindzen to start the ball.
Artificial is defined as contrived, stilted and unreal — like something developed on a whim by fruitcakes. But if you didn’t mean it as that, I apologize if I missed it. Though I’m not sure how you would define it — so I don’t know if I agree or disagree.
We may understand and kinda agree on the last point. I think government’s hand ought to be much less than you imply; but no government involvement, I guess like libertarian freedom, is a disaster waiting to happen.
Ray (238), you say, “…Well, Rod, if your definition of “group think” encompasses a situation where essentially ALL the experts who publish regularly in a field agree that the evidence supports a theory AND independent audits of the science by scientists in related fields agree that the science is correct AND independent assessments of the science by every professional society of scientists agrees the science is cogent AND even the professional societies that originally dissented have been forced to backtrack,……”
So you’re saying it walks like, talks like, sounds like a duck, but it ain’t, really?? You just described the classic observations of group think. We probably just have a semantic difference that in the long run may not be critical. But you’re still ignoring the aspect of group think that is not an internecine cabal, nor nefarious, conspiratorial, or even conscious. On the other hand I would have to agree that, even given these characteristics, it is possible to have a virtual 100% consensus without “group think” actually playing a part. But one has to get around the strong pervasive indications that it does (including the self-assured ostracizing of all aginers — the subject of another little setto in this thread). Maybe AGW climatology is not; but it sure reeks. Who knows?
Well, that development certainly increased our facility for subterfuge and rationalization. I do not see that it substantially benefitted our morals or civility.”
Well, I raised it in response to your query as to why human psychology should be markedly different from that of other apes. Humans can tell each other stories, plan for contingencies that are many years distant, modify their own motivations (e.g. giving up smoking), debate and vote, etc. etc. etc. It makes an enormous difference, or rather, a whole series of enormous differences. Among other things, it makes morals possible. The evolutionary roots of morality were certainly present in our common ancestors with other apes, and probably much further back (recent experiments indicate that some monkeys – I can’t recall the species offhand – have something resembling a sense of fairness). However, they cannot formulate moral rules, or recognise moral dilemmas, or vow to do better in future.
“Nick, both chimps and gorillas have some linguistic capability. They use tools. They even pass on knowledge.”
I am well aware of those things – indeed I suspect, though I could be wrong, that I know more about them than you do, as they are much closer to my areas of professional expertise than to yours, and I have read about them fairly extensively. To say they “have some linguistic capacity”, however, may be misleading. They can be taught to “use sign language”, but they have very limited capacity to deal with syntax, and seldom use signing for anything other than obtaining an immediate non-linguistic reward – people, on the other hand, find conversation intrinsically rewarding. Many of the claims made for ape language skills are controversial – there is always the danger of over-interpretation, the “clever Hans” phenomenon.
“It does not stop them from being apes. One other difference: apes are usually not wantonly cruel.”
It’s obviously some time since you read Jane Goodall’s accounts of goings-on among the chimpanzees at Gombe.
“In my opinion, it only makes sense to acknowledge our tendencies toward agression, complacency, greed, etc. How else are we to control them?”
Of course we must acknowledge these tendencies. But also, our tendencies to solidarity, compassion, rationality, etc. The key then is to devise modifications to our current institutional systems that discourage the bad, and encourage the good tendencies.
“And I also contend that the vast majority are not only incapable controlling these impulses except under duress. Most don’t even see the point of wanting to.”
You contend it, but you do not demonstrate it. There is relevant and recent empirical evidence to the contrary that you ignore, from the fields of social psychology, anthropology, experimental economics, neuroeconomics and others. I’ve cited some of it on this site before. Try Google Scholar on the names Bowles, Gintis, Fehr, Gaechter, Boehm for a start. (The same bodies of work, as I’ve noted before, are among those that refute the assumptions of neoclassical economics.)
“If you try to change human behavior on a mass scale, you will run into the same problem as religions. Namely: How do you take a system of thought developed by a genius and adapt it so it can regulate the behavior of idiots?”
Why do you assume mass behaviour change has to be attempted by imposing a quasi-religion designed by an individual?
Human behaviour has been changing fast, on a mass scale, for several centuries. Governments, corporations and pressure groups routinely attempt to direct that change. I want these attempts at direction done, so far as possible, democratically, and scientifically – that is, in determining goals, all should as far as possible have an equal voice; but in assessing the feasibility of goals, and how to reach them, relevant experts in both the natural and the social sciences should be consulted. Of course, I realise that the people may democratically decide to make their decisions unscientifically – but I don’t think the current system of global partially-elective oligarchy has served us any too well in that respect, despite recent signs of improvement.
It occurs to me that modern science, which you rightly respect greatly, is in itself a clear refutation of your view that human behaviour is fundamentally unchanging, reflecting our biological nature. Science is an artificial system, an institutional technology, which both constrains and enables crucial aspects of scientists’ behaviour: it is far more rational in its decision-making processes than individual scientists, because it is designed to be so, in two ways: to reward rationality (among other things) in individual scientists’ professional work, and to detect and counter their remaining irrationalities. It is clearly compatible with our psychobiology, but it works to encourage some of our good tendencies, and discourage some of the bad (lying, self-deception, carelessness etc.) It is, indeed, one of the largest social engineering projects ever – and crucially, it has important participatory and democratic elements. Why is it so implausible that an economic system that is considerably better than capitalism at encouraging the better tendencies of human beings could be possible, and could be reached by incremental steps from where we are now? I don’t, as you suggested earlier, say that to tackle AGW, we must first change human nature, or even revolutionise social arrangements. I do believe that social change and in particular institutional innovation are an essential part of the solution, along with technological ingenuity. Although the human sciences can rarely boast the degree of certainty available in the physical scientists, there are bodies of work showing how far human behaviour is ontogenetically and contextually flexible, how altruism can maintain itself in populations, and to some degree, how we can design institutions to encourage cooperative solutions to social dilemmas. So far as I can tell (do tell me if I’m wrong, and you have actually read some of the sources I’ve referred to on this site), you prefer to retain your dogmatic pessimism about people rather than consulting these bodies of work. I wonder why.
So say the cladists, but there are good reasons for thinking they’re wrong. There are a number of non-trivial differences between humans and apes, a couple of the most obvious ones being that humans are three times as encephalized as apes, make fire, and have complex vocal languages.
Rod, did it ever occur to you that the reason why all the experts–indeed, nearly everybody who understands the science at all–agree is that the evidence supports anthropogenic causation? Do you know of any evidence that poses serious challenges to the theory? If not, then how does this situation answer to the definition of groupthink? And then there is the fact that anthropogenic causation happens to be the only mechanism backed up by a well established body of physics. I’m kind of partial to conservation of energy, Rod.
As to rejection of the “skeptics,” exactly how have they been ostracized. Christy and Spencer, who still play by the rules of science, publish, etc. still get research funds, still get papers accepted, still attend conferences. You will notice that when they have been criticized here it has been for what they have done (e.g. trying to do science by press in editorials for conservative rags) or on the basis of the science. Lindzen stopped being a scientist when he stopped caring whether what he said was true or not. This was brought home to me when he stooped to the level of trying to claim that warming was occurring on Mars, Neptune and Jupiter, so the cause couldn’t be anthropogenic. He is too smart not to know the falsity of this argument. Monckton is a joke. As to the other usual suspects, their arguments demonstrate that they simply haven’t taken the time to understand the physics in any detail. Quality control is not censorship.
So if believing in the scientific method is your idea of groupthink, then fine, mea culpa. But it’s not a definition that even Mike Huckabee would probably agree with.
Nick Gotts says: “So far as I can tell (do tell me if I’m wrong, and you have actually read some of the sources I’ve referred to on this site), you prefer to retain your dogmatic pessimism about people rather than consulting these bodies of work. I wonder why.”
Well, I would have thought that a quick perusal of the newspapers would be sufficient to reinforce a negative image of humanity as a whole. And when I find my misanthropy starting to give way to a sunny optimism, I find that a quick drive on Washington, DC’s beltway is sufficient to restore it. Nick, I have read some of the references you cited, and I wanted to read more. These days, though, I have little time to read anything that isn’t related to radiation or statistics. The thing is that for every study that draws optimistic conclusions about human nature, others reach the opposite conclusion.
Also, I think you misunderstand my position. I do not dispute that human behavior can be modified for the better. I do not dispute that scientific thinking can foster rational tendencies. I do not deny that some social systems will be better than others for fostering good behavior. What I dispute is
1)that the majority of people even want to behave decently or think rationally
2)that we can impose institutional changes from above in a timely fashion without creating a backlash
3)that institutional changes can filter up from below soon enough to make a difference (or that there are enough people who want such changes to have any effect)
4)that we can anticipate and mitigate unintended consequences of social engineering on a global scale
5)that we will be able to effectively counter the propaganda and disinformation from entrenched interests telling people what they want to hear anyway
and so on.
It just seems to me that we have a much better chance of success if we accept human nature as it is now, and use it, including its faults, to try to effect change. For good or ill, religion has been the most effective agent of social change not because it appeals to “the better angels of our nature”, but because it relies on people’s inherent gullibility and fear. Governments, academics and philosophers have a piss poor track record. Their efforts have always failed, at least since Rousseau, and they have often had disastrous consequences (Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot). Even when the architects of change were decent men (Gandhi, Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere…) the results usually came to naught in terms of lasting change. Even science–as successful as it has been at materially bettering our lives–has hardly penetrated the way most people think. It has left our society a bit like our brains–a thin veneer of rational cerebral cortex, hiding the brain of an ape.
So, Nick, I am optimistic about some people, as individuals, while being a pessimist about the species as a whole, and if you look around, it’s hard to see how the news of the day says I’m wrong.
Re #251 [Ray Ladbury] Well, Ray, you may be right, although the balance of scientific evidence is in my judgement against you, and it certainly does not seem to be what you base your views on. If you are right, we’re completely stuffed, and might as well spend our remaining years partying.
Those who are looking for absolute certainty before accepting AGW and awaiting for that certainty before taking action are whistling in the dark. Can you be absolutely certain of the position and momentum of a sub-atomic particle at a given time? The answer is no (see work by Heisenburg or Schrodinger). If you don’t have absolute results where an electron is concerned,don’t expect it in something as turbulent as the climate.
Would you wait for complete assurance that you’re house will catch fire before taking insurance on it? Suppose you weren’t that the fire damage would be catastrophic, would you still balk?
In the real world you can’t be 100% certain of anything but your own mortality.
Comment by Lawrence Brown — 15 Feb 2008 @ 11:31 AM
Nick (248), though I fall into Ray’s camp with yourall’s debate, I did find your post here an interesting and informative read. One minor piece that bothered me was the capitalism hair you have up your rear. You say there are economic systems that are considerably better than capitalism at encouraging the better tendencies of human beings. Economic systems distribute limited resources. Other institutions try to affect behavior.
Ray (250), again you say, in essence, “The whole group agrees, therefore it can not be group think.” I say again group think can come up with correct conclusions at times, and groups can come to conclusions without “group think” being involved. It just looks highly suspicious. We’ve probably beat this puppy to death.
I’m not saying all protagonists respond in lock step; they are not pigeon-holed. But, in support of my point, it would be easy as pie to find posts in RC and elsewhere that excoriate Spensor and probably Christy, though not by everyone. And, your response ala Lindzen e.g. is exactly as I said — (in essence) ‘he doesn’t count ’cause he’s crazy… or wrong… or a liar’. So there might be hundreds if not thousands (that might be a stretch, I admit) of properly credentialed skeptics, for example as posted here earlier or even in Wikipedia, or even from The Project — if you can get past the relative few (hundreds even) that are not credentialed which justifies, in your and other minds, throwing all 19,000 or so in the trash. Or throw out those who are not strictly climate scientists — though it’s perfectly O.K. for you to cite professional societies consisting of mostly non-climatologists if they support your position.
I see climate as a continuous physical process. The process has been changed by introducing new materials in it (vast amounts of CO2). Can some other process changes be made? An analogy from past experience:
A “law of nature” dictated that more cars and more kms/car must develop in Finland after the World War II. This also resulted in more and more casualties due to road accidents. When the death toll crossed 1000 persons per year in the 1970’s, a public alarm was triggered.
The process of road transportation was radically changed. A general speed limit and seat belt use were mandated, road improvement programs strengthened, driving school programs and car inspections improved. To top it off, voluntary contributions from the general public (collection led by a popular TV personality) paid for the purchase of 75 extra patrol cars for the police departments.
The car numbers have multiplied since, so has the annual kms/car, but the number of road fatalities is now stable at about 380 per year. Surely the process change has saved more than 10.000 lives and many more major disabilities over the years.
Needless to say, there is still no shortage of “deniers” writing to the letters columns.
It is not easy to say where effective alarm thresholds on climate change will be. Tragic surely.
Well, Nick, here’s where I am more optimistic than you: I believe that humans can be the absolute scumbags they’ve always been and we still could–just maybe–survive this crisis with something resembling civilization intact. I even think we could (indeed would have to) come out of this with something that better resembles sustainability. That would of course include development of third world economies with clean technologies and some diminution of abject poverty, since people who are poor will burn anything to cook their food and stay warm (look at India). Those things would be absolutely essential if we were to deal with ghg emissions in a timely manner. The end of capitalism would not necessarily be a trait of a sustainable world, nor would it necessarily be desirable.
I’ve said I think this is possible. That doesn’t mean I think it’s likely. And even if I thought it was impossible, sitting back and partying would not be an option. I tend to be somewhat Stoic in my philosophy–the right course of action doesn’t depend on the probability of success.
The discussion of “human nature” is interesting, but I think it is moot. I don’t think any deep changes to “human nature” are needed in order to deal effectively with anthropogenic global warming.
We need to replace the wasteful, inefficient use of fossil fuels with optimally efficient use of clean renewable energy. That has little to do with “human nature”. For example, what is it about my supposed “human nature” that has to change because my household electricity is produced by rooftop photovoltaics augmented by utility wind power, instead of from coal-fired power plants? Or because I use LED lighting instead of incandescent lighting? Or because my attic is heavily insulated? A typical homeowner could probably reduce their household energy consumption and associated CO2 footprint substantially, with hardly noticeable changes in lifestyle, let alone in “human nature”.
And I think that is largely true across all sectors of the economy, at all scales: again, what has to change about my “human nature” because the car or bus that I’m riding in is a pluggable-hybrid electric/biodiesel vehicle instead of gasoline powered? Or because goods I purchase were transported by a highly-efficient rail system rather than by truck? Or because a new house I buy is designed from the ground up to supply all of its own energy with an appropriately sited and oriented passive solar design, and rooftop solar heating and electricity? Or because a new refrigerator uses one tenth the electricity of the old one? Or because I live in a community designed to enable me to walk or bike most places I want to go?
Nor is “capitalism” or “the profit motive” the problem. There are vast economic opportunities in the transition to a post-fossil-fuel energy economy based on optimally efficient use of clean, renewable energy. That’s why, for example, the founders of Google and other high-tech venture capitalists are investing millions into advanced photovoltaic technologies for the mass production of ultra-cheap, high-efficiency thin-film photovoltaics that promise to revolutionize the production, distribution and use of electricity much as personal computers revolutionized “data processing” and cell phones revolutionized telecommunications. That’s why investment is pouring in to wind turbines. And with wind and solar generated electricity being by far the fastest growing sources of new energy in the world, this New Industrial Revolution is already under way, and there will be those who make Microsoft-sized fortunes from it.
The problem is not “human nature” nor are the obstacles technical or economic. The obstacle is, very simply, the entrenched power and wealth of the fossil fuel corporations, who are determined to wring every last trillion dollars in profit from their products, until the last drop of oil and the last crumb of coal has been burned. They have a specific financial interest in delaying the phaseout of fossil fuels as long as possible. That’s why they fund right-wing “think tank” propaganda mills to spew fake, phony, pseudoscience “controversy” to keep the public ignorant and confused about the reality of global warming and the urgent need to phase out fossil fuels. That’s why they buy off politicians, or collaborate with the oil industry executives currently in charge of the Federal government, to keep lavishing massive subsidies and tax cuts on the fossil fuel corporations and while starving alternative energy of support, blocking fuel efficiency mandates, etc.
It’s not “human nature” that’s in the way. It’s just one particular, very powerful and wealthy interest group.
Comment by SecularAnimist — 17 Feb 2008 @ 12:12 PM
Secular Animist, while I agree that entrenched interests are a problem, there is also the problem of infrastructure. In the third world, there’s not enough of it–and certainly not enough of the right kind (green, zero-carbon) of infrastructure. The solution here is aid in return for pledges to limit emissions.
More difficult is the situation in the economically privileged world, where infrastructure exists but is polluting. The problem here is two-fold. Replacing infrastructure is of course expensive. More difficult, the legacy infrastructure creates entrenched interests. Dealing with this problem is key not just to climate issues, but also to keeping the US economy competitive.
re $254 (Sorry, I’m in a pub, using a weird keyboard) [RodB]
“You say there are economic systems that are considerably better than capitalism at encouraging the better tendencies of human beings. Economic systems distribute limited resources. Other institutions try to affect behavior.”
Actually, I wasn’t so ambitious; I think there are, and believe that if there are not we are, as I put it to Ray, completely stuffed, but none have been demonstrated over extended periods of time. Capitalism is unusual in the degree to which it separates economic interactions from the context of multi-dimensional social relationships, so the distinction you draw is not a feature of human life as such, but of capitalism itself. Don’t get me wrong: although I am not and have never been a Marxist, I share Marx’s respect for capitalism’s innovatory dynamism, but unless humanity outgrows it, its relentless expansionism will destroy us. This site isn’t the place for a detailed exposition of political positions, but I’d certainly be willing to continue this intereting three-way argument with you and Ray offline.
Nick, I think the subject is partially relevant to the thread as it began in the arena of getting people and societies on board of mitigation of GW. I think we’re in agreement: I’m a solid proponent of capitalism but only if it is properly constrained and bounded with rules set by the people. Adam Smith’s invisible hand works, but not near in toto. If you want mitigation, capitalism, with the appropriate nudges, legal guidlines, assistance, and, yes, maybe a little artificiality is likely the most effective.
Rod and Nick,
I am a skeptic of -isms, regardless of whether their prefix is capital-, Marx-, or whatever. It just seems to me that since markets are an already-existing mechanism that we know can be made to work across a range of condition, it makes sense to use them. Likewise, we know that both government and the private sector are complementary in their efficiencies, so doesn’t it make sense to use government to fund R&D and the private sector as a means of production? And since all of these entities have shown they are susceptible to corruption–because humans are susceptible to corruption–there is no substitute for openness and vigilance.
The medicine we will have to swallow is bitter. Dealing with this threat could consume the efforts of the next generation of humans. We will have to find some way of sweetening the deal if people are to go along with it.
Ray Ladbury wrote: “The medicine we will have to swallow is bitter …”
The “medicine” that we need to swallow — replacing fossil fuels with clean, renewable energy — is not “bitter”. Replacing fossil fuels with clean, renewable energy can provide ample energy for a comfortable, modern, healthy, environmentally sound, socially and economically just, and sustainable lifestyle for all. It can stimulate tremendous economic growth. What is “bitter” is not the “medicine” — what is and will be bitter is the effects of global warming that we now have no choice but to endure, as a result of our decades-long failure to take our “medicine”.
Ray Ladbury wrote: “We will have to find some way of sweetening the deal if people are to go along with it.”
The people who don’t want to “go along” with the deal are those who profit from the continued use of fossil fuels. It’s hard to see how we can “sweeten the deal” for them when “the deal” involves phasing out the use of their products as rapidly as possible. And they know this. That’s why they engage in multimillion dollar propaganda campaigns to tell the public that the “medicine” will be “bitter” for everyone, questioning the reality of the problem, etc.
The bottom line is, that mitigating global warming will entail a massive transfer of wealth from some sectors of the economy to others, and those sectors who are currently accumulating unimaginably vast wealth from the status quo and want to continue doing so for as long as possible, are doing whatever their wealth and power (and resulting political influence) can do to delay that transfer.
The results? Look at the US Energy Bill of 2005. Huge subsidies for coal, oil and nuclear power; while the relatively miniscule support (mostly tax credits) for clean renewable energy sources like wind and solar is being cut, or has not been renewed, thereby endangering continued investment in the growth of these industries.
Solutions abound — solutions that are ready and available to be implemented today, that can start bring not only environmental but economic benefits today. The problem is not that we need new technology or that implementing the necessary technology will cost too much or be too difficult. The problem is that powerful political and institutional interests are deliberately blocking the implementation of the necessary policies.
Lindzen stopped being a scientist when he stopped caring
whether what he said was true or not. This was brought home to me when
he stooped to the level of trying to claim that warming was occurring on
Mars, Neptune and Jupiter, so the cause couldn’t be anthropogenic. He is
too smart not to know the falsity of this argument.
I overheard this too, in the NPR debate in which also Gavin participated (I think in that particular instance he also mentioned Triton, but who cares.)
In my book, such calculating behaviour in front of an audience expected to swallow it turns a scientist into an ex-scientist, MIT chair or not. Credentials are about credibility, which responds poorly to telling lies in public. And yet — if Lindzen were to resume doing real science again, his results would receive the same treatment in peer review as those of any other author, as, e.g., Spencer and Christy can attest to. He chooses not to.
Martin (265), …which is my point exactly, as I and one or two other black sheep here have asserted often, always receiving the same response. There are no valid credible sceptics because the protagonists simply form their own definition of valid credible sceptics. If you don’t like them, don’t like their science, think them stupid, dislike their speaking habits, don’t accept their audiences, or methods of disclosure, etc., they are out. And there is no possible counter argument, by definition (yours). Though one might easily suspect that a long-time distinguished professor at a distinguished university, and another with similar credentials plus a former head of the US Weather Satellite Service should at least on the surface get an initial benefit of the doubt. Nay! Not a chance!
[Response: The two you chose were terrible examples – we are way past ‘initial benefit of the doubt’ with them. A much better case could be made for Steve Schwartz who published a standard peer-reviewed paper that was clearly not in line with consensus estimates of the climate sensitivity, and who subsequently had that criticised and is now dealing with the criticism – but without any of rancour or non-scientific argumentation you get from Lindzen or Singer (who, by the way, was never head of the satellite service). – gavin]
Rod, (#267), if you think that catching someone lying, repeatedly, is a matter of arbitrary personal definition of what constitutes a ‘lie’ (study the subject, for crying out loud! Do you believe that Mars is warming and the Sun has been getting brighter lately? Do your homework!), then you are a hopeless moral relativist.
Gavin, about the Schwarz estimate, I would disagree that it was ‘not in line’ with consensus estimates of sensitivity; actually as such simplistic models go, at least he got the right order of magnitude :-) (Yes, I realise there were other problems with the paper).
Comment by Martin Vermeer — 21 Feb 2008 @ 12:10 AM
if you think that catching someone lying, repeatedly
What I meant was of course “… and calculatedly, on a matter of established fact, …”
My suggestion to “do your homework” is meant seriously. This is a clear-cut case of factual lying not requiring any partial differential equations. Figure this one out for yourself, I know you can. Saves your time and ours.
Rod B., Actually, the rules in science are pretty clear and immutable: If you lie–especially to a lay audience–you cease to be a scientist. Not hard to understand.
Here’s another: The evidence rules, and the theory that best explains the preponderance of the evidence is the one that wins. If you reject the evidence, or if you reject the theory despite its superiority at expliaining the evidence, you cease to do science. Rod, it’s not that the so-called skeptics submit papers and get them rejected. For the most part, they aren’t even submitting papers to peer-reviewed journals. Such lack of productivity argues that their ideas (they don’t rise to the level of theory) are infertile. No one has yet succeed in constructing a theory that explains what we are seeing without having a reasonable sensitivity of CO2 forcing–at least not one that invokes processes known to be operating in the real world.
So you can certainly criticize some skeptics for their mendacity, but that isn’t the important point. Rather, the true criticism is that their ideas are infertile. Lindzen publishes nothing. The others, if they publish at all, publish the same damned theory over and over again. It is very much like the lack of debate between Intelligent Design and Evolution. ID doesn’t work because it is not a scientific theory, and so can make no predictions. Science works. Pseudoscience doesn’t.
The cost is going to be in terms of how our efforts are going to be directed. Transitioning off of fossil fuels is going to require a large commitment of resources. So will development. Both are needed if we are to attain a sustainable economy. If people are working on this, they will not be working on other issues–scientific advances, medical advances, space exploration, etc. The next generation will be occupied with achieving stutainability, not with advancing knowledge, prolonging life, curing disease… This is an essential goal, a noble goal, but to say there will be no opportunity costs is fantasy. We are a long way from finding substitutes for fossil fuel–especially in the transportation sector. It is perhaps true that we can mitigate some of the opportunity costs–especially if we can unleash the creativity and productivity of the masses of people that now live in poverty. That, too, will take effort, however.
So you can certainly criticize some skeptics for their mendacity, but
that isn’t the important point.
As a scientist I certainly agree, but I think you are preaching to the choir, a useless occupation. We scientists are already convinced.
The people we — this site — need to convince, are the “Rods” of this world, the people with enough of a science background to make them dangerous :-) and an interest in learning more. Yes I know, they are a minority among the population; but there’s a lot more of them than there are practicing scientists. It is these people that RC may hope to reach.
For every “Rod” that posts, there is a dozen or a hundred quiet lurkers too bashful to post, but following the debate. We have to think of them. They are getting listened to, in working places, at coffee tables, etc.
Digging, e.g., into the science of oceanography is a clear sign of interest in figuring out how things really are; after all, just making things up is so much easier. So the motivation exists; but there are competing motivations having to do with the denialist junk these folks have often faithfully assimilated over time, the detoxification of which will inevitably be somewhat painful.
This is where the character issue comes in. It is something that also non-scientists understand; it is a shortcut to understanding, yes, totally ad hominem, but also totally convincing if you can get people to do the footwork. Because it’s completely true.
What I am most hoping for is to trigger the anger at being lied to. But it requires the lie itself to be ‘graspable’ for someone with only a modest science background. Things like “But Mars is also warming”, “They cannot even predict the weather two weeks from now”, and “in the past, CO2 lagged temperature” are more or less on this level.
Comment by Martin Vermeer — 21 Feb 2008 @ 11:39 AM
et al: While I’m contemplating a reply, would someone point me to a specific example of Lindzen’s lying? Situation, format, context, subject, etc., or a link to it? (One example is all I’m looking for, but if you know specifically of more, I’d appreciate it.) It seems this might have been done here long ago, but, if so, I forgot.
As an aside for Gavin: I readily found more than a half-dozen bios of Singer (across the spectrum) that listed him as the Founding Director of Weather Satellite Service, 1962-1964 (as I recall).
[Response: Well he gets a brief mention here. This doesn’t really matter of course since it has no bearing on whether his science is correct or not. But looking through the archives was a great reminder of why he has little credibility (there is no global warming (up until 2004 even), satellites show cooling, CFCs don’t cause ozone depletion etc…). – gavin]
Actually it’s Secular Animist. Secular Animism is like Secular Humanism, except it includes all sentient beings, not just humans.
More to the point, Ray Ladbury wrote: “Transitioning off of fossil fuels is going to require a large commitment of resources.”
Surely that’s true. However, I wonder whether the necessary commitment of resources is really as daunting as some believe.
For example, an article in the January 2008 Scientific American entitled “A Solar Grand Plan” finds that “A massive switch from coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear power plants to solar power plants could supply 69 percent of the US’s electricity and 35 percent of its total energy by 2050 … If wind, biomass and geothermal sources were also developed, renewable energy could provide 100 percent of the nation’s electricity and 90 percent of its energy by 2100 … In 2050 US carbon dioxide emissions would be 62 percent below 2005 levels, putting a major brake on global warming.”
What is the cost of this plan? According to the study, “The federal government would have to invest more than $400 billion over the next 40 years to complete the 2050 plan.” That’s $10 billion per year for 40 years. That’s not a huge amount compared to, for example, the US military budget of nearly a half trillion dollars per year, or the nearly $40 billion per year profits of Exxon-Mobil alone, or the subsidies and tax breaks that the federal government has extended to fossil fuels and nuclear power. It is certainly not a prohibitive amount.
And, the authors point out, the cost is only part of the story — there would also be economic benefits: “Solar plants consume little or no fuel, saving billions of dollars year after year. The infrastructure would displace 300 large coal-fired power plants and 300 more large natural gas plants and all the fuels they consume. The plan would effectively eliminate all imported oil, fundamentally cutting US trade deficits and easing political tension in the Middle East and elsewhere.”
Another estimate of costs for transitioning from fossil fuels comes from a January 2008 United Nations report, which said that “global investments of $15 trillion to $20 trillion over the next 20 to 25 years may be required to place the world on a markedly different and sustainable energy trajectory.” Again, that figure is less than the world’s current military spending of over one trillion dollars per year, and as the UN report notes, the world’s energy industry already spends “about $300 billion a year in new plants, transmission networks and other new investment.” So the UN is suggesting that a tripling of investment in new energy technologies and infrastructure may be what’s needed.
Ray Ladbury wrote: “The next generation will be occupied with achieving sustainability …”
I fervently hope so. Each generation has gotta do what it’s gotta do. My parents’ generation had to deal with the Great Depression and World War II. It is unfair that the “next” generation will have to deal with the biosphere-threatening problems that their parents and grandparents created for them, but there it is. Perhaps the “next” generation will succeed in achieving sustainability and thereby inherit the title of “the greatest generation” in human history. Again, I fervently hope so.
Rod B., From Lindzen’s closing comments in the East Side debate:
RICHARD S. LINDZEN “Yes. I think it’s a little bit difficult to know how to respond,to be told that, uh, one shouldn’t attack scientists while you’re attacking scientists, to go and say you have to control methane without explaining that methane hasstopped growing. You don’t explain why there’s global warming on Mars, Jupiter, Triton and Pluto.”
Lindzen is not an idiot. He must know that such an argument invoking other celestial bodies with their own climate mechanisms is entirely bogus. To bring this up in a debate on EARTH’s climate is at the very least disingenuous, and more likely rises to the level of mendacity.
Then there is his argument that CO2 accounts for 2% of the greenhouse effect–again totally bogus. No calculation anywhere has ever suggested a figure this low. Yet he asserts it repeatedly in public forums full of laymen.
These are not the actions of a man interested in the truth.
He must know that such an argument invoking
other celestial bodies with their own climate mechanisms is entirely
More strongly, he must know that (1) Mars isn’t actually, factually warming according to a more recent non-flawed investigation, and (2) according to satellite measurements, the Sun’s intensity has been flat over the decades when AGW rose out of the noise. As have solar (sunspot, magnetic field) activity and relatedly, cosmic rays reaching the Earth.
his argument that CO2 accounts for 2% of the greenhouse effect
Hmmm… let the anomalous, anthropogenic greenhouse effect (mostly by CO2) be 0.6 deg C, and the total greenhouse effect 33 deg C: that’s 0.6/33 = 0.018x = 2%, right? :-)
True and misleading… from an ex-scientist, actually more damning than the honest lies.
Comment by Martin Vermeer — 22 Feb 2008 @ 12:55 AM
Re: Rod B.’s defense of Lindzen, Singer, and company.
I have no reason to think S.Fred Singer has lied in print, but his recent book, Unstoppable Global Warming (Every 1500 years), co-authored with Dennis T. Avery (some interesting information about Avery’s credibility on AGW and other environmental issues can be found here: http://www.exxonsecrets.org/html/personfactsheet.php?id=921; http://www.gmwatch.org/profile1.asp?PrId=15) offers some highly questionable, if not downright incorrect, conclusions about the responses of corals and green plants to rising temperatures. These subjects have been reviewed extensively in the peer-reviewed scientific literature and Singer’s arguments based on the selective use of a couple of studies (e.g., authors’ statments taken out of context) are very much at odds with the mainstream scientific view as reported by the experts in coral reef ecology and plant physiological ecology.
re #273 Rod B
Have you watched Naomi Oreskes’ “The American Denial of Global Warming”? It’s an hour long, half covers the long history of non-political climate science through the 1980s. The second half covers the 1990- politicization started by the George C. Marshall Institute for ideological reasons (“under no circumstances may government regulate anything, anywhere, anytime, including cigarettes, CFCs, emissions of any sort, mercury” Have you read his http://www.sepp.org … did you you know that mercury is a natural element and therefore no one should worry about it? You mention this guy favorably? Is that somebody you support? Have you read his books? About the only constant is “do not regulate.”
In any case, regardless of one’s political persuasion, Naomi has surfaced some of the peculiar history of efforts that injected tobacco-strategy obfuscation & later politicization into what had long been science.
Re #262 [Rod and Nick,
I am a skeptic of -isms, regardless of whether their prefix is capital-, Marx-, or whatever.]
Does your scepticism extend to atavism, metabolism, and botulism? :-)
Seriously, there’s nothing in the remainder of your post that I would actually disagree with. My currently favoured approach to reducing emissions (“Contraction and Convergence”) combines market and rationing mechanisms.
I’m curious to know: If all climate scientists, oceanographers, etc, suddenly decided that they had been wrong: The atmosphere and oceans are really not warming, and the rising CO2 concentration of the atmosphere will cause neither future warming nor ocean acidification. Would you be skeptical of their conclusions, and argue that global warming is real, and humans are responsible?
RodB – 232 “Ray, well we just disagree with the definition of groupthink (223), though your’s works also. What I’m talking of is “the herd of independent minds” where in fact disparate individuals working independently (??) on the same thing eerily all come up with the same results — sometimes.”
Rod, that is plain weird. Your definition of group think is what I would call the antithesis of group think, since what you have described is independent verification of results. And that is in fact what has happened with AGW, across a range of fields of study.
Group think is what happens when people seize on the idea or conclusion of another without working through and verifying that it is in fact correct. Perhaps the greatest risk is uncritically adopting a common set of unverified assumptions.
Jim Cripwell wrote: “My position has always been that the physics of CO2 absorption is such that AGW is impossible.”
With all due respect, it is because you adopt “positions” that demonstrate ignorance of the basic physical science of global warming that you are not taken seriously as a “skeptic”. Nor should you be taken seriously, because you are not really a “skeptic” at all.
Like many other misnamed “skeptics”, you are ideologically opposed to some of the proposals that some people put forward to deal with anthropogenic global warming — eg. government intervention of any kind — and, rather than put forward alternative proposals for dealing with it, you choose to deny that the problem exists, which leads you to adopt such bizarre, contrafactual and absurd “positions” as the one you mention.
Just a quickie while I sort through all of the responses (I’ve been out of pocket for a bit): a quick glance tells me that a major portion of Singer’s, Lindzen’s, et al lying is scientific statements by them that disagree with the solid majority’s statements. The latter are entirely convinced of their correctness (and might even be right) and have a lot of other scientists that state the same. Therefore it must be 100% solid; therefore anyone who says otherwise is lying. Sorry, but all of this does not make other scientists liars nor does it make them non-scientists. A lot (but not all to be sure) here is just as I said: these guys piss almost everyone off so they must be mendacious devils.
[Response: Sorry, this just isn’t the case. The set of scientists that piss other scientists off is extremely large (being a fractious bunch in general). The set of scientists one doesn’t agree with is similarly large. They may even intersect to some extent. But in all of those disagreements and irritation, scientists qua scientists mostly stick to the rules – i.e. don’t use arguments that you know are false, don’t introduce red herrings that you know are irrelevant and don’t misrepresent other peoples positions. Once those rules get broken, you are become a scientist qua lawyer, and that is what puts you over the edge. Both Michaels and Lindzen crossed that line a long time ago. – gavin]
Ref 284. Of course I am wrong; I posted this on Real Climate. If I had posted the same comment on Climate Skeptics, I would have been right. There is no Supreme Court of Science to rule who is right and wrong on this ongoing scientific debate. The final arbiter is the experimental evidence; as I have noted many times; hard measured independently replicated experimental data. It is on that “solid ground of Nature” that I stake my claim.
Jim Cripwell (288) — Barton Paul Levenson in comment #285 suggested two books. The world awaits your showing just how these two standard references managed to get it wrong.
After all, it only takes one experiment. :-)
Comment by David B. Benson — 25 Feb 2008 @ 7:21 PM
Jim Cripwell, you claim to be a scientist, but it is hard to believe, given that you seem to reject the scientific method. Otherwise, you would publish the basis for your claims in the peer-reviewed literature, or point to someone else who has done so.
The final arbiter is the experimental
evidence; as I have noted many times; hard measured independently
replicated experimental data. It is on that “Solid ground of Nature”
that I stake my claim.
Jim, don’t you notice how silly you sound? Stop embarrassing yourself.
(Yes I know… should say something factual instead. But there’s a point at which that becomes silly.)
#287: Rod, loudly repeating something doesn’t make it true. Sleep on it a little more :-)
Comment by Martin Vermeer — 26 Feb 2008 @ 12:04 AM
Re #288 Jim Cripwell “Of course I am wrong; I posted this on Real Climate. If I had posted the same comment on Climate Skeptics, I would have been right.”
Despite what he says later in the post, I think Jim here expresses the real belief of many denialists: that opinions on the truth and falsehood of statements about the world are simply signifiers of group identity, like particular hairstyles or articles of clothing.
“The final arbiter is the experimental evidence; as I have noted many times; hard measured independently replicated experimental data.”
So, Jim, what is the “hard measured independently replicated experimental data” that shows AGW is (your word) “impossible”?
[[The final arbiter is the experimental evidence; as I have noted many times; hard measured independently replicated experimental data. It is on that “solid ground of Nature” that I stake my claim.]]
WHAT data? What data are you talking about? Care to cite a source?
All the experimental and observational data I know of says that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, that it’s increasing due to human technology, and that the world is warming as a result. Do you know of some published data that contradicts that?
Ref 295. The only data I am aware of, are the various data sets of temperature versus time. I am more than willing to discuss what can be deduced from such data. Indeed, Walt Bennet and I hoped that Gavin would start such a discussion. I conclude that such data shows the world temperature has passed through a shallow maximum in recent years, and temperatures are now on the decline. I have posted many times the URLs for this data, but if you want them, I can find them again. As to any other data, there is not one scintilla, not one single solitary jot of experimental data that shows a connection between the recent rise in CO2 concentrations, and the recent rise in world temperatures. By “recent” I mean post 1960. If you know of such data, please provide a reference, and the specific chapter/verse/paragraph, etc, together with a few words from the reference which refer specifically to such data.
Rod #287, Let us look at some of the examples of mendacity given. One with which I am fairly familiar concerns the suggestion that warming on other bodies in the solar system might have something to do with that on Earth. This cannot be a matter of opinion. It is simply false. The energetics of Earth and of bodies in the outer solar system are completely different. Mars, for instance sees less than a quarter of the solar radiation that Earth does, and for Jupiter and its moons almost all the energy comes from within Jupiter or from tidal forces. Maybe Rush Limbaugh is dumb enough to make this mistake–Lindzen is not. What is more, the denialists make this argument not among other scientists, who would be able to immediately assess it as false, but among laymen (e.g. in a debate or an editorial). So, not only are the denialists making arguments they know are false, they are doing so in a forum where they are likely to trip up the gullible and complacent. That is reprehensible. It is the opposite of science.
Jim Cripwell wrote: “My position has always been that the physics of CO2 absorption is such that AGW is impossible.”
Jim Cripwell followed up: “The only data I am aware of, are the various data sets of temperature versus time.”
Please explain in detail how temperature records falsify the basic, rock-solid, well-understood, experimentally verified physics of CO2 absorption. Because as far as I can see, you have just offered a complete non sequitur.
Comment by SecularAnimist — 27 Feb 2008 @ 10:06 AM
Re #296 [Jim Cripwell]
Jim, I’ll repeat my question, in case you missed it:
“what is the “hard measured independently replicated experimental data” that shows AGW is (your word) “impossible”?” Even if you were right (you’re not, of course) about the Earth cooling in recent years, that would not show AGW to be impossible: some other factor (the sun, cosmic rays, the fairies at the bottom of your garden) could be outweighing the AGW effect. So, what shows that AGW is “impossible”? We’ll need at least two citations, of course, since the “hard measured experimental data” you will be citing needs to have been “independently replicated”.
Ref 299 Nick writes “Jim, I’ll repeat my question, in case you missed it:
“what is the “hard measured independently replicated experimental data” that shows AGW is (your word) “impossible”?” ” Let us start at the beginning. Please show me where I used the word “impossible” in this exchange. I cannot find it. In 288 I wrote “Ref 284. Of course I am wrong; I posted this on Real Climate. If I had posted the same comment on Climate Skeptics, I would have been right. There is no Supreme Court of Science to rule who is right and wrong on this ongoing scientific debate. The final arbiter is the experimental evidence; as I have noted many times; hard measured independently replicated experimental data. It is on that “solid ground of Nature” that I stake my claim.” In 296 I wrote “Ref 295. The only data I am aware of, are the various data sets of temperature versus time. I am more than willing to discuss what can be deduced from such data. Indeed, Walt Bennet and I hoped that Gavin would start such a discussion. I conclude that such data shows the world temperature has passed through a shallow maximum in recent years, and temperatures are now on the decline. I have posted many times the URLs for this data, but if you want them, I can find them again. As to any other data, there is not one scintilla, not one single solitary jot of experimental data that shows a connection between the recent rise in CO2 concentrations, and the recent rise in world temperatures. By “recent” I mean post 1960. If you know of such data, please provide a reference, and the specific chapter/verse/paragraph, etc, together with a few words from the reference which refer specifically to such data.”
Jim Cripwell wrote: “Please show me where I used the word ‘impossible’ in this exchange. I cannot find it.”
In the comment currently numbered 281, posted 24 February 2008 at 1:07 PM, you wrote:
“My position has always been that the physics of CO2 absorption is such that AGW is impossible.”
You’ve been repeatedly asked to provide the “hard measured independently replicated experimental data” that you claim supports your “position” that “the physics of CO2 absorption is such that AGW is impossible”. You not only fail to offer any such “data”, but you respond by “forgetting” that you made the claim to begin with.
You continue to demonstrate that there is no reason to take you seriously.
Re Jim Bullis @ 301: “The reason for my question is that the presentation at Wikipedia seems to show that in the spectral band where co2 acts as a filter, it is already 100% blocking the upgoing thermal radiation.”
First, don’t forget, some of the IR energy that is absorbed is released through collision, warming other gas molecules, the rest is subsequently emitted as new IR photons, and a portion of that emitted IR proceeds upward to be absorbed again, and so on, and so on until it escapes to space. In that sense, absorption can never be 100 percent. Second, pressure broadens the spectral absorption band, so increasing CO2 concentration does increase the amount of IR absorption in the wings.
It shows you the outgoing radiation, both as a spectrum and as a sum total (That’s not quite the same as the forcing though). Try doubling and re-doubling CO2, how much it changes outgoing radiation; then try to compensate (get back to the original, non-doubling, output) by specifying a ground temperature offset (Hold water vapour at “Rel. Hum.”). Note that there isn’t any “saturation”: every subsequent re-doubling adds roughly the same amount.
It’s only a model, but in this matter it behaves realistically. Jim Eager explained the why.
[[As to any other data, there is not one scintilla, not one single solitary jot of experimental data that shows a connection between the recent rise in CO2 concentrations, and the recent rise in world temperatures. By “recent” I mean post 1960.]]
Well, the AFGL tape is from the ’60s, and the most recent version of HITRAN is from 2003, I believe.
What kind of experimental data do you want? Please be specific.
[[The reason for my question is that the presentation at Wikipedia seems to show that in the spectral band where co2 acts as a filter, it is already 100% blocking the upgoing thermal radiation. ]]
That’s almost true. Very little radiation from the ground gets into space, and nearly all such radiation in CO2’s main absorption bands is absorbed fairly low down (1-8 km).
That doesn’t diminish CO2’s potency as a greenhouse gas or mean that adding CO2 won’t mean more warming. If you want a detailed explanation as to why, let me know and I’ll email you an article I wrote on the subject. You can just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you don’t want to reveal your email address in this blog.
Barton Paul Levenson wrote to Jim Cripwell: “What kind of experimental data do you want? Please be specific.”
It has become apparent that Mr. Cripwell wants experimental data on how much time he can get people to waste on responding to his comments.
Comment by SecularAnimist — 28 Feb 2008 @ 10:33 AM
One of my problems with AGW, as an EE, is imagining the IR photon headed from the Earth’s surface back into space having much interaction with any (highly rarified) CO2 molecule. 380 PPM. Put simply, that’s lots of IR photons and few CO2 molecules. And the CO2 molecule a photon does encounter? It’s virginal, i.e. unaffected by prior photons? If it’s not virginal, the new interaction adds to or cancels the previous interaction? Once a CO2 molecule is bent, or twisted, or vibrating, being struck by a new photon causes it to bend more, twist more or vibrate more without bound? I don’t doubt the temperature change, but I think its tiny and insignificant compared to other mechanisms.
I think the idea that CO2 “forces” and water vapor “feeds back” is great marketing but bad science.
I understand it makes little difference what I think, but I have partially explained why you do not have my vote or my financial contribution.
[Response: Since we are gainfully employed scientists, we ask for neither. However, I would direct your attention to a spectra at the top of the atmosphere which shows, very clearly, the absorption of photons by CO2 (and water vapour and ozone…etc.). What you can imagine is usually trumped by what you can measure. – gavin]
And the CO2 molecule a photon
does encounter? It’s virginal, i.e. unaffected by prior photons? If
it’s not virginal, the new interaction adds to or cancels the previous
interaction? Once a CO2 molecule is bent, or twisted, or vibrating,
being struck by a new photon causes it to bend more, twist more or
vibrate more without bound?
Hmmm, don’t look at CO2 molecules in isolation. A CO2 molecule that has an elevated energy level (e.g. having absorbed a photon), will radiate this energy out again (in any direction) very quickly. Also molecules exchange energy by collisions, the time between which is also very short, at least in the lower atmosphere. There is local thermodynamic equilibrium between all the molecular species in the air (i.e., it’s not just the CO2 that’s heating up). All the molecules contain all the time heat energy (so no, they are rarely if ever virginal = in the ground state?) and (at least the greenhouse ones) may emit some of it as photons even without receiving a photon first. It’s a statistical process.
I think the idea that CO2 “forces” and water vapor “feeds back” is great
marketing but bad science.
Just the other way around… it’s scientifically spot-on (and known since Arrhenius). And you not being aware of this suggests that this understanding could do with some better marketing ;-)
By the logic of #309, I refuse to believe that 1200 ppm of carbon monoxide is Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health, as NIOSH claims. What significant effect can this tiny amount have in the presence of roughly 210,000 ppm of oxygen?
Yes, great, I understand the spectra of absorption. But, a photon has to encounter a CO2 molecule to affect it. If there are lots of CO2 molecules, then encounters will be common. If there are a small number of CO2 molecules, then the molecules are spread far apart and encounters are rare. Plus, anytime I know that something is nearly two orders of magnitude more common, then I expect interaction to be much more prevalent. It is significant that there is nearly 100X water vapor in the atmosphere compared to CO2. It is also significant that the water vapor absorption spectra is more comprehensive.
I can understand small things controlling big things, but the mechanism should be evident. The argument that CO2 causes a lot of warming and that warming increases water vapor significantly seems circular and nonscientific to me.
[Response: The mechanism is evident! Just look at the spectra. That shows that however unlikely you might think it is that photons interact with CO2, they do it anyway. How can you insist on the converse? – gavin]
Re Ken Coffman @ 309: “And the CO2 molecule a photon does encounter? It’s virginal, i.e. unaffected by prior photons? If it’s not virginal, the new interaction adds to or cancels the previous interaction? Once a CO2 molecule is bent, or twisted, or vibrating, being struck by a new photon causes it to bend more, twist more or vibrate more without bound?”
Ken, you have overlooked the rather simple answer to this question: it does not matter, energy that is absorbed does not stay absorbed, it is subsequently released. Any CO2 (or H2O or CH4 or O3 or CFC) molecule that absorbs an IR photon and gains energy later gives up that energy, either by collision with another gas molecule, or by spontaneously emitting a new IR photon. It is then again “virginal,” as you put it, and free to absorb another IR photon. It’s the gift that keeps on giving, at least for as long as that molecule remains in the atmosphere.
The answer to this and other questions abut the basic mechanisms of how greenhouse gases work can be found in Spencer Weart’s The Discovery of Global Warming, which is available free on-line at http://www.aip.org/history/climate/index.html
It’s also the first link under “Science Links ” in the right hand column on the RealClimate home page.
You may want to avail yourself of this resource, because what you think does matter, but it is incumbent upon you to inform your thoughts with the facts.
Ray (297), I’m just picking and choosing here — I know not proper, but I’ve been gone and can’t hardly catch up. Besides I’ve almost beat my assertions to death. None-the-less you say, “…warming on other bodies in the solar system might have something to do with that on Earth. This cannot be a matter of opinion. It is simply false. The energetics of Earth and of bodies in the outer solar system are completely different.” Aren’t you overstating the case considerably? Or are you really asserting that Mars operates under different laws of physics than Earth does??
Ken Coffman, I appears that much of your confusion could be resolved by simply “doing the math”. Atmospheric pressure is 760 mm Hg. A 15 micron photon can interact with any molecule within a wavelength of it–let’s say any molecule within 10 microns to make the math simple. That means the column of air that can interact with a 15 micron photon weighs about 3.25 mg. To find out how much CO2 is in that column, we need to convert from ppmv to ppmm by multiplying by ~44/28–which gives ~2 micrograms of CO2, or about 2.7E16 CO2 molecules with which the photon might interact. Now, true, there are more H2O molecules, but the photon with this wavelength is much more likely to interact with a CO2 molecule. What is more, H2O peters out at cloudtop level, while CO2 remains well mixed into the stratosphere.
Don’t just assume you understand the physics. Learn the physics.
Rod, The physics is the same–but the source of the energy is very different. On Mars, it all depends on how much light is blocked by dust storms. On Jupiter and it’s inner moons it all depends on gravitational or tidal forces (the sun is very feeble out there). On Saturn, even more so. Sunlight is mostly an afterthought in the outer solar system.
Ken Coffman, of course, has been my opponent for several very long, perhaps exponential at least in feeling, months. This is the concept I simply could not convey. He denies the chemical properties of CO2! His tactics with me elsewhere on the net resemble a Hamilton/Burr type showdown. Of course, I play Burr, my family’s former houseguest, with accurately placed bullets. Facts are stubborn things!” John Adams.
Ken Coffman wrote: “But, a photon has to encounter a CO2 molecule to affect it. If there are lots of CO2 molecules, then encounters will be common. If there are a small number of CO2 molecules, then the molecules are spread far apart and encounters are rare.”
Writing as a humble non-scientist, Ken Coffman’s assertion makes no sense to me even at the level of basic logic.
Here’s a thought experiment: imagine a bucket with a screen on the bottom. The bucket is filled with marbles of various colors, all thoroughly and randomly mixed. Among them are a very small number of black marbles, scattered throughout the bucket. Now we direct a large water hose into the bucket, so that a stream of water continually flows through the entire bucket full of marbles. Ken Coffman is arguing that since the black marbles are “small in number” and are “spread far apart” that they won’t get wet.
“Encounters” between photons and CO2 molecules may be more “rare” than “encounters” between photons and other, more common molecules, but so what? That doesn’t mean anything. The photons pervade the atmosphere, and CO2 molecules are still “encountering” photons all the time.
“What always amazes me about the global-warming-isn’t-happening camp is their complete lack of interest in researching the issue or reading any of the actual studies and making reasoned responses to the research. They, like you, seem desperate to grasp the slightest straw and hold it up as absolute evidence that it isn’t happening and that humans have no influence on it. Your article is a great example of this.
Typical arguments are:
“it was really cold yesterday (or last week, or this winter) in Podunk, Alaska thus all the research is hogwash”. This kind of argument hardly represents an intelligent or convincing rebuttal to the millions of man-hours of collected data indicating otherwise.
Someone with no qualifications or expertise is quoted as saying its hogwash thus it is. A good example is your use of Dr. Oleg Sorokhtin’s article in the Russian News and Information Agency (known to be a bastion of impartiality and a source for hard scientific research). Google comes up with 6309 hits on him. Every one of the hits refer to this same article and none to anything else he has every said, written, or published anywhere. Obviously he must be pretty renowned in his field. It only takes a cursory review of the scientific literature to discover that his theories of the degree of influence that solar expansion and contraction have of terrestrial temperature isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. (see the IPPC Fourth Assessment Report Chapter 2).
Second, the misuse of an actual scientist name or research without having read or understood the research. You state, wrongly, in your article that somehow the research of Robert Toggweiler and Joellen Russell support the it isn’t happening camp when nothing could be further from the truth. All you have to do is read their research. They agree that global warming is a fact and their research concerns the mechanisms by which global warming affects the oceans, polar caps and associated winds.
Is it just that it is easier to not look at facts or try to rebut the facts in a scientific manner? Is it laziness? Does global warming violate some religious beliefs? Why can’t the anti global warming camp pick up a piece of sound research and say that Dr. so and so when he collected such and such data failed to incorporate factor x,y, z and thus the correlation results were off by a factor of a? Or would that require too much thought?”
His response to me:
“What I find amazing about the global-warming-IS-happening camp is that they think they are the only people who do any research and everyone else is just making stuff up.
“What I find amazing about the global-warming-IS-happening camp is that they think they are the only people who do any research and everyone else is just making stuff up.”
That could be because so many of those who assert that global warming is not happening, or that something other than increasing greenhouse gasses are causing the warming DO make things up, time and time again.
Someone should advise Mr. Gunter that good scientific research does not consist of queries to Google. Neither does good scientific journalism. But then, what do you expect from the National Post?
Thank you Ray, I will think about what you’ve said very carefully. I appreciate your calm and patient tone. Regarding the black marbles, I don’t think that’s a helpful analogy. I agree that a black marble will get wet. I understand and believe that CO2 analyzers work. I know CO in low concentrations is harmful.
I can imagine making an array of 2500 marbles. Then I will add a tube with an opening the same size as one marble to the array. I will drain away all the water that interacts with that tube to the outside. Then I will imagine the significance of the water collected by the tube to the water that passes by and does not interact with the tube. And I will be unimpressed that the tube has much hydrodynamic affect. For fun, we can ponder stacking additional arrays on top of each other and jetting some of the water collected by the tubes into random directions. Are there other enhancements I should make to my experiment to make it more useful for modelling atmospheric dynamics?
Ken, Well, the problem is that you aren’t working with “marbles,” but rather harmonic oscillators–and the frequency they resonate at corresponds to light with 15 micron wavelength. It does not matter that you may have other oscillators around that respond to different frequencies–they are transparent to 15 micron IR. However, what chance do you think the light has of tiptoing past ~1E16 oscillators without interacting? Moreover, each oscillator can also emit light that can in turn interact with the oscillators above it, and so on. Once you ponder this, you’ll probably come back with the argument that the effect is saturated. We’ll deal with that once it happens.
Ken, do you know the term “mean free path” and how to look it up? That’s the average distance something (an infrared photon, in this case) travels freely in some environment before interacting with something else.
Ken, you really cannot formulate an analog model of a system unless you first understand the physics of the system you are modeling. That lack is why you keep confusing the behavior of your visualized mechanical analog with the actual behavior of radiation exchange in gases.
Ray, I’m trying to understand the basic (1st level) math of CO2 absorbing photons. I didn’t understand the statement in #321, “…15 micron photon can interact with any molecule within a wavelength of it–let’s say any molecule within 10 microns….” At any rate I calculated the surface IR radiation between 13 and 17microns wavelength is about 83watts/meter2. At a 15u energy level I then calculate roughly 6×1021 photons/m2/second. It is hard to see (though I don’t know) how 2.7×1016 CO2 molecules in the air column can turn the absorbed photons over (transferring their absorbed energy by collision) and keep up with the stream. It implies each and every molecule has to absorb a photon and transfer its energy about 200,000 times each second, to get them all. Can/does it? Or am I misreading the number of molecules you calculate in #321?
Re Ken @ 331: “I can imagine making an array of 2500 marbles. Then I will add a tube with an opening the same size as one marble to the array. I will drain away all the water that interacts with that tube to the outside.”
Ken, I don’t know who got you started on water and marbles (oh, I see it was SecularAnimist), but it is a very poor analogy because the water only flows one way. In the atmosphere each time an excited greenhouse gas molecule relaxes by spontaneously emitting an IR photon it can go in any direction, up, down or sideways. Since the density of gas molecules is higher below the point of emission, the mean free path is shorter in that direction, thus insuring it does not get far before being absorbed. Meanwhile, the mean free path is longer in the upward direction, allowing the photon to travel further before absorption. Thus a net upward flow is favoured, but adding more greenhouse gas raises density further, keeping more energy in play for longer, thus warming the atmosphere until the amount of energy ultimately making it to space once again equals the amount of solar energy reaching the surface.
Another point, don’t forget that CO2 is not the only greenhouse gas that has increased in the atmosphere, so have methane and nitrous oxides, and CFCs did not even exist before we created them. While far fewer in absolute numbers of molecules, they are far more potent IR absorbers, plus they absorb different wavelength bands then CO2 or water vapour.
Rod, well, your first problem is that the column of air I am talking about is a circle 10 microns in radius (the distance inside which we can expect an interaction an IR photon and a CO2 molecule)–so the 2.7E16 CO2 molecules increases to 8.6E25. What I was trying to estimate was the number of CO2 molecules an IR photon would encounter on a straight-line path out to space. Avogodro’s number is indeed a wondrous thing.
As I recall there are several energy levels available in a CO2 molecule (that’s from the homebuilt CO2 laser website); that’s why those have helium added to the nitrogen/CO2 gas mix. That’s because the CO2 molecules at intermediate energies can lose it by emitting lower-energy infrared photons, or lose energy by bumping into nitrogen molecules. Those pages say the added helium carries off remaining energy from the CO2 molecules that are at an intermediate energy level, dropping them quickly to their lowest energy level so the electric current can boost them to the high-energy level again. Get enough at the high energy level all at the same time in the tube and lasing happens. Anyone with the slightest actual physics can correct me, but I won’t understand the math anyhow. Point being it’s more complicated than we who deal only in words can describe.
Ray, thanks. This makes more sense, at least intuitively. It says in a column one meter square (or its rough steradian equivalent) there are (ballpark) 10,000 CO2 molecules to catch each photon/second in a wavelength band from 13 to 17 microns. It also says that the column has ~100 moles of CO2. Without thinking about it I would have guessed much more. Shows the benefit of thinking of stuff first, I suppose!
The subject is as complicated as you want to make it. However, the basics are pretty simple. In equilibrium, you have a certain amoung of energy in the IR, and a certain amount in kinetic energy, vibrational energy, etc. In the case of the atmosphere, though, you don’t have equilibrium, since you have IR radiation from down below where it is much warmer rising into the cool regions above. That means you have proportionally more energy in the IR. By equipartition, that energy will have to find a way to flow into the other degrees of freedom–first via exciting the vibrational modes of CO2, then via collisional relaxation into the kinetic energy of the all gasses in the neighborhood. Deep Throat told Woodward and Bernstein to follow the money. In physics, you just follow the energy.
[[At a 15u energy level I then calculate roughly 6×1021 photons/m2/second. It is hard to see (though I don’t know) how 2.7×1016 CO2 molecules in the air column can turn the absorbed photons over (transferring their absorbed energy by collision) and keep up with the stream. It implies each and every molecule has to absorb a photon and transfer its energy about 200,000 times each second, to get them all. Can/does it? Or am I misreading the number of molecules you calculate in #321?]]
I imagine it does. How long does it take light to travel about 1 kilometer?
It also says that the column has ~100 moles of CO2. Without thinking about it I would have guessed much more. Shows the benefit of thinking of stuff first, I suppose!
Yep — that’s 4400 g = 4.4 kg, as CO2’s molecular mass is 44. Corresponds to a layer of 4.4 mm thick at the density of water (a good way of visualization). The full atmosphere is equivalent to 10 m of water, of which this is some 440 ppm by mass (the ppm by volume is smaller, 29/44 times or 290 ppmv, usually quoted).
The human-added part of this is smaller still, a bit over 1 mm water equivalent.
“As I recall there are several energy levels available in a CO2 molecule (that’s from the homebuilt CO2 laser website); that’s why those have helium added to the nitrogen/CO2 gas mix. That’s because the CO2 molecules at intermediate energies can lose it by emitting lower-energy infrared photons, or lose energy by bumping into nitrogen molecules. Those pages say the added helium carries off remaining energy from the CO2 molecules that are at an intermediate energy level, dropping them quickly to their lowest energy level so the electric current can boost them to the high-energy level again. Get enough at the high energy level all at the same time in the tube and lasing happens. Anyone with the slightest actual physics can correct me, but I won’t understand the math anyhow. Point being it’s more complicated than we who deal only in words can describe.”
To get a laser to work you need an inversion, that is the upper energy level must be more populated than the lower one (the opposite of normal). In the CO2 laser this is done by collisionally activating the upper level with excited N2 and at the same time collisionally deactivating the lower one with He.
“At a 15u energy level I then calculate roughly 6×1021 photons/m2/second. It is hard to see (though I don’t know) how 2.7×1016 CO2 molecules in the air column can turn the absorbed photons over (transferring their absorbed energy by collision) and keep up with the stream. It implies each and every molecule has to absorb a photon and transfer its energy about 200,000 times each second, to get them all. Can/does it? Or am I misreading the number of molecules you calculate in #321″
CO2 certainly can, at atmospheric pressure there are about 5 collisions/nanosecond, average collisional deactivation time ~microsec as I recall.
Jim Eager wrote: “Ken, I don’t know who got you started on water and marbles (oh, I see it was SecularAnimist), but it is a very poor analogy because the water only flows one way.”
I didn’t intend the “marbles and water” to be an analogy for the physics of the interaction of CO2 molecules with photons. My point was that if the atmosphere is continually bathed in photons, if the photons are pervasive, then the relatively small numbers of CO2 molecules doesn’t logically imply that encounters between CO2 molecules and photons will be “rare” as Ken was saying.
CO2 lasers will lase without Helium, just not so well. The electric discharge pumps vibrational levels of nitrogen which cannot radiate, but efficiently transfer energy to CO2 vibrational levels (the asymmetric stretch). This places a population inversion into the asymmetric stretch vibrational levels, since the bending and symmetric stretch modes are non-resonant with N2 vibrations. The lase occurs between the asymmetric stretch levels and the lower symmetric stretch/bending levels. You can find an energy level picture here
Helium depopulates the lower levels by collision (esp the symmetric stretch level which cannot radiate.
I agree the array of 2501 marbles is not a very good analogy if we assume they’re placed close together. The analogy would be better if there was a certain amount of empty space between them. Our atmosphere is not very dense from a photon’s perspective.
So, Eli, my wishful thought is that there’s some tool http://www.haarp.alaska.edu/haarp/ion4.html
that could pump energy into CFC or CO2 molecules at the top of the atmosphere — in a wavelength tuned to raise those at intermediate or low levels up to the highest level, from which they might kick out a high energy infrared photon — which would have good odds of leaving the planet.
Heat pump, so to speak. Lots of bicycles or windmills or solar panels to drive the transmitters, of course.
Yes Hank a foot/nsec is a good approximation, in my laser lab when we needed to synchronise the arrival of two laser pulses we used to make sure that the path lengths were equal to within an inch or so. Similarly if we wanted to delay one pulse wrt another by a few nsec we just made one travel further by 1ft/nsec.
Thanks for the leads to information, articles sent.
On a related subject, there is a danger that your efforts to get public response to the global warming problem will be defeated by the move to electric cars and plug-in hybrid variations. You can see how this could develop by looking at the GM plan at http://fastlane.gmblogs.com/PDF/presentation-sm.pdf
Here you can see they carefully avoid the CO2 issue in favor of the smog issue which was the known problem 20 years ago. But their solution depending on the EV (page 12)whereby “more energy is shifted to transportation” looks to be headed toward a major increase in the use of coal as a fuel.
Reasonable people can disagree, but it looks like the very low cost of coal will lead to this outcome. Unfortunately, the public perception that electric cars will be a major improvement relative to global warming seems to be very widespread, even among those who should know better. A key part of the misunderstanding is the confusion between a hybrid like the PRIUS, that effectively uses electric methods to improve efficiency, with plug in variations or all electric vehicles that simply bring in a lot of energy by electric means.
I think the X PRIZE could be a good force for setting this right. However, they seem to be intent on a simple idea of MPGe, where they define electricity as energy at the point where it comes from the wall plug. I make the argument that this electricity only conveys energy that was produced by a heat engine (as it is for the majority of US electric power production) I am looking for people who remember the Second Law of Thermodynamics who would take a look at the debate at http://autoblog.xprize.org/
My interest is that I am trying to sell a solution where actual vehicle efficiency would lead to a 90% reduction in energy use. Since such a change has to come from aerodynamics, it obviously is going to involve an appearance that is unusual. It is hard enough to sell this without a lot of misinformation about the wonders of electric vehicles getting in the way. (click my name to see more)
Maybe some of you would look at that X PRIZE site and comment on the energy related facts of life. I think we have a common interest on this.
Check again, Jim. The spot prices for coal have been skyrocketing lately. You might also care to read something about Peak Coal.
Comment by David B. Benson — 13 Mar 2008 @ 12:23 PM
David B. Benson (357) said “spot prices for coal have been skyrocketing …” and “…read something about Peak Coal.”
There are several things that confuse the coal price. First, most of the highest priced coal is metallurgical coal, meaning it is used for steel production, though it can be used for power plant fuel. Second, most power plants buy coal on long term contracts, so spot price peaking is less meaningful. Third, many of the contracts are kept secret for competitive reasons. Fourth, the China demand is overwhelming at the moment and will possibly moderate only as China gets more coal mines going. China has quite a lot of coal, but just needs to get the railroads and mines running full tilt. There is a current jam up in the Australian ocean shipping terminals so supplies to China and Japan are limited. This puts more pressure on US prices. But even at the unbelievable peak price, coal is still by far the cheaper fuel for power production.
As to Peak Coal, if this goes like oil, then in about 15 years, some say, there will be a peaking of coal production. If you look at reserves and production processes, this seems a little off the mark. There is a huge supply of thermal coal (for power plants) in the Powder River Basin, with known reserves expected to last something like 100 years at the present rate of production. Several trains, 80 or so cars of coal in each, depart the Powder River area every day. The big challenge is traffic management by the railroads UP an BNSF, and keeping the tracks from breaking under the loads. If required the present double tracks will be doubled again. The giant trucks that load the trains can be manufactured without any real limit.
So if we are talking about peak coal, the catastrophe that this web site addresses will be well upon us.
General Motors, having apparently determined that CO2 is not the issue and that the only emissions of importance are smog causing emissions, seems to be planning on tapping into this massive energy source to drive their electric vehicle systems of the future. Look at page 12 of http://fastlane.gmblogs.com/PDF/presentation-sm.pdf to see how they are thinking. Looking at this, it seems to me that GM will claim environmental concern, but proceed to build the very large and very profitable large vehicles, like they do now, but they will have electric motors and batteries helping to “shift more energy to transportation.”
This is not altogether surprising for GM, that must feed its massive production system. It is bad news about how global warming predictions have actually been received by the kind of company that could actually make a difference.
But on top of this, the confusion that is caused by the enthusiasm for electric vehicles, no matter how inefficient they actually are, is damaging to the efforts to get public interest in appropriate answers, this being important for eventually reaching policy making levels of government, and eventually industry. This confusion is much due to promotion of electric and plug-in hybrids without due honesty in discussing their CO2 impacts.
And, as mentioned in (356), the aerodynamic answers that have real potential are largely overlooked.
Jim Bullis (358)— Close, but coal prices are quite open and transparent. For example, the Australian-China agreement is openly renegotiated each year. It just went up about $20 per tonne for the next year. The contracted prices, while lower than the spot prices, rise when the spot prices do.
Powder River coal trains are now 110 cars long, with 4–5 engines.
Using the Powder River Basin alone to estimate world coal reserves is clearly a mistake. Rutledge (I think that is the name) at CalTech has stated, I believe, that Peak Coal will be upon the world in about 2025 CE.
Comment by David B. Benson — 16 Mar 2008 @ 12:48 PM
Apropos GM, they have announced that they they will ship the Chevy “Volt” for the 2010 model year. How many, and at what price, remains to be seen. But the short-haul-electric / long-haul-hybrid model they are using for the “Volt” looks to be a better technology than the Prius and Camry, which is itself better than the acceleration-only model used for the Honda Civic and Accord. Small displacement motors can be designed around a specific power output for maximum efficiency. When combined with the ability to plug in and recharge, GM’s system could be the best thing going. But again — how many and at what price.
Jim, the electric vehicles don’t have to run off of coal-fired power plants. Solar or wind or geothermal or biomass power plants would provide electricity just as well. Electrons don’t know where they came from.
David B. Benson (359)and Barton Paul Levenson (361) — I think the price of coal is an interesting subject, but my only real point is that it is cheap. As such, it must be the reference against which other fuel choices are made, and against which the capital expenditures for solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, have to be compared.
As far as Peak Coal is concerned, all this means is that half of the world reserves have been used at the peak time. There is still a lot of known reserves, and probably a lot more yet to be found. I don’t think you are suggesting that global warming will be solved because we are going to run out of oil and coal before we ruin things. Peak Oil is very much an economic factor, and should be part of planning what to expect in the price of oil. That seems to be far away for coal, but 2025 could well be the right date. An interesting thing to note is that the consuming public is willing to pay as much as they are for gasoline in order to continue to run large cars. The US Auto industry has clearly noticed this, evidence of this being the offerings planned for the NY Auto Show.
While electrons don’t know much, the power companies know very well how much they have to pay to get them to move along.
FurryCatherder (360) I put in the link to the GM plan in (358) to show that the “Volt” may be the beginning of a big shift by the automaker to plug in cars of various types. And if you look at it you might agree that the shift will be to coal fired sources. Then you will also see that not one word about CO2 is used in that plan. Neither is there one word about efficiency.
There is merit in electric vehicle devices if used to make them more efficient as a whole system that includes the power plants. But now, the rate of CO2 production of that system has to be the main concern.
It looks like it will be hard to convince people that cars using electric power from coal, much as it would help reduce smog in Los Angeles, will not be a good thing. Cost competitive solar, and all that goes with it seems to be far off.
[Response: But what is the price of coal? Coal is cheap only because the cost of the damages caused by coal mining, conventional air pollution, and global warming are not factored into the price. Put those costs into the price of coal and other energy sources would start to look pretty competitive. –raypierre]
Raypierre inline @ 362: “But what is the price of coal? Coal is cheap only because the cost of the damages caused by coal mining, conventional air pollution, and global warming are not factored into the price.”
Not only that, Raypierre, but also because it’s biggest competitor, oil, has also been relatively cheap. As the price of oil rises, and as plug-in electric vehicles proliferate and thus increase demand for coal-generated electricity, the price of coal will follow.
Re #359 [David Benson] “Rutledge (I think that is the name) at CalTech has stated, I believe, that Peak Coal will be upon the world in about 2025 CE.”
So he has, but I think based on a rather uncritical use of “Hubbert curves”, which Lynch (2002) “Forecasting oil supply: theory and practice” Michael C. Lynch, The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance 42:373–389 argues is not justified even for oil. I’m not saying coal production won’t peak then – I just don’t think we know.
Re #362 Response from Raypierre “But what is the price of coal? Coal is cheap only because the cost of the damages caused by coal mining, conventional air pollution, and global warming are not factored into the price. Put those costs into the price of coal and other energy sources would start to look pretty competitive.”
The use of “competitive” here indicates a confusion between what coal *does* cost – which is what matters for competitivity, with what it *ought* to cost, which is something that we, or governments, have to decide. Certainly, if we want to limit the damage coal causes, we have to stop it being mined and burned in the ways and to the extent it is, and one way of doing that could be to slap a tax on it, but there is no way to calculate objectively how much this tax should be – how much the “externalities” cost when they are as diverse, and as widely distributed across space and time, as those of CO2 production or that of the other major pollutants from coal-burning. How much is a 10% reduction in the chance of losing the Amazon worth, or 1,000,000 additional deaths from respiratory disease over 50 years? The very idea that everything can be reduced to a common monetary standard of value is one of the delusions that have got us into our current predicament.
Actually, the price of coal has climbed so far so fast that it is now economic to co-fire some biomass in certain locations. I know of two. Moreso, the latest, highest spot price for metalugical coal, coking grade anthracite, reached $130 per tonne. At those prices it may well be economic to produce biocoal of the same grade. Good for both the planet and the investors’ pocketbooks.
Comment by David B. Benson — 19 Mar 2008 @ 1:23 PM
Re: raypierre in line of 362, Benson 357,359, Herder 360, Levenson 361, Eager 363, Gotts 364
It seems safe to say we all would like to see less coal burned.
But it is also safe to say that the actual trend over the last few years has been an increase in the percentage of electric power produced by burning coal, and the absolute amount also, of course. And it is not hard to believe the EIA projections as far as they venture to do so, of continuing increase in coal for power.
There is minor disagreement as to how cheap coal really is and is going to be. How to make it more expensive is not established, but some form of incentive seems to be something that this group would not oppose.
Enter the electric car. Will this be a good thing or a bad thing? We likely all thought it would be good. Now look at the GM plan at http://fastlane.gmblogs.com/PDF/presentation-sm.pdf Now the alarm bells!!! should be going off in the heads of all real physicists, especially those that have been thinking about global warming.
Look especially at page 12 of that link. Note the conclusion that we need to !!!shift energy!!! to transportation, and the the range extended electric vehicle is expected to do that. Further note there is no mention of efficiency improvements.
Then read further in the plan at the above link. Note that the whole plan completely ignores CO2, but instead they claim credit for emissions that would help air quality (smog) in Southern California. That is of course the historic goal, and that supported by the California Energy Commission with their definition of a “Zero emission vehicle” that ignores all power plant emissions.
Here is where we need physicists that remember the Second Law of Thermodynamics as applied the heat engines. I have to admit that most electrical engineers have never done much thinking about this issue, if they ever noticed how it affects efficiency in the production of electric power. But physicists should be pre-disposed to understand that for every kilowatt-hour of electricity produced, there about two kilowatt-hours of heat thrown away. I had kind of assumed it would be better, but then made a serious effort to make an honest calculation that showed it was not (see http://www.miastrada.com/analyses) Of course it varies somewhat. Natural gas plants get about 40% and coal plants get about 30%. This is in 2005. We can expect some improvement, slowly, since the better equipment costs a lot and the old stuff lasts a very long time.
For reference, the well tuned engines in the PRIUS get over 30% thermal efficiency running on gasoline, or so it has been reported. We can expect some improvement here as well.
If you put extra batteries in the PRIUS, then you come out with a small efficiency gain if the electricity is from natural gas or a small efficiency loss if the electricity is from coal. And the CO2 is significantly worse if it is from coal.
And the PRIUS designers went to a lot of trouble to make a car that is efficient in a variety of respects. It looks like GM is not much concerned about that. And why should they be, since they see a huge source of coal energy to tap into.
Then there is a crowd that would like us to believe that cars should be compared on the basis of energy that flows into the car, be it gasoline or electricity. Then comes an advertising claim of, for example, 136 mpg equivalent from Tesla. Here there is a pretence that electricity is a fuel. But physicists also know that electricity is quite a different kind of energy than fuel that must be burned and converted into mechanical energy. It would be better to think of it as a way of transferring kinetic energy of a spinning shaft in a power plant to kinetic energy of a spinning shaft in a car. Of course, this is better than the practice of ignoring the electric energy source altogether, as is often the case for plug-in hybrid variations, and simply advertising a number based on total miles traveled divided by just the gallons of actual gasoline used.
So, though the electric car has considerable merit, I argue that we should not allow it to be a subterfuge under which manufacturers can pretend to be “green” or can mislead the public into thinking meaningful action is being taken. I contend these kinds of misleading practices will foul the water as far as what we need the public to be receptive to.
So the need to make coal more expensive is even more pressing. The only alternative is to seek vehicles that are vastly more efficient than the standard automobile. If GM were to take that approach, they could actually participate in the solution to global warming as well as re-invigorate their manufacturing operations.
(I have looked at the number of 80m wind towers, with huge blades attached, and although these could be part of the mix, the number needed to make a significant impact, even on status quo loading is huge. Add a new load from the transportation sector, and it seems incomprehensible. While wind could be a real part of the mix, whatever CO2 gains it might give will be overwhelmed by the increased emission of CO2 from the proposed GM shift.)
Gusbob and other lay skeptics,
Let’s consider Earth as warmed by sunlight. In the absence of an atmosphere, the Earth’s surface will come into equilibrium with the radiation field of energy flux density j according to the Stefan-Boltzmann Equation–T~j^0.25.
OK, we know there’s no such thing as a perfect black-body absorber. What do we really mean by a black-body spectrum? It’s just the equilibrium distribution of a gas of photons at our temperature T. But wait–photons don’t interact with eachother, so how do they come into equilibrium? They can only do so by interacting with matter around them. That’s all background.
Our Earth is radiating a roughly blackbody spectrum at a temperature T. Because Earth’s temperature is in the 200-300 K range, almost all the blackbody radiation is in the infrared. In the absence of an atmosphere, all that radiated energy would escape to space. In fact a good part of it still does–except where it can interact with molecules that have absorption bands in the IR–greenhouse gasses. What these molecules do is absorb the energy Earth radiates in the IR over their own absorption bands–in effect taking a bite out of the blackbody spectrum. So the CO2 molecules absorb IR radiation and then the excited state relaxes either radiatively or collisionally, sharing the energy with surrounding molecules. Think about this: The upwelling IR photons from the warm Earth throw the radiation field out of balance with the cooler atmosphere above, so energy has to flow out of the radiation field into the gas of the atmosphere. The greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere still radiate as a black body IN THE REGION WHERE THEY HAVE ABSORPTION BANDS, so some of the photons might make it a bit further up before being absorbed by more CO2. But here, too, the atmosphere is colder, and so radiates less energy (as the 4th power of the temperature, remember). And so on and so on. In effect, adding more CO2 shifts upward (and colder) the altitude at which a photon radiated by a CO2 molecule can actually escape Earth. So less energy actually escapes Earth.
And Earth heats up as a result. Eventually the temperature increases sufficiently that Energy Out = Energy In again, and we have a restored equilibrium at a higher temperature.
The greenhouse effect depends not just on the properties of greenhouse gasses, but also on the adibatic cooling in the troposphere.