RSS feed for comments on this post.

  1. Very disturbing.

    As AGW ramifications and scenarios become more severe and difficult to apprehend, it is human nature that we see stronger and more irrational denial.

    Ideology trumps logic. But this polite tolerance of acts of stifling sabotage must stop.

    Comment by Richard Pauli — 19 Aug 2008 @ 2:51 AM

  2. This seems like a rather unfortunate distortion of the views of the geological community — or at least, of the academic geological commnunity — by the organizers of the panel. While the Geological Society of America has a slight old (2006) and weaker climate change ststaement than AGU at the moment [], it’s in the process of revision.

    The petroleum geologists, however, may be off in their own private world. In 2006, AAPG gave a journalism award to Michael Crichton, as I believe was discussed on RealClimate at the time; and their tepid climate change statement bears the strong signature of their sponsors [].

    Comment by Bob Kopp — 19 Aug 2008 @ 2:58 AM

  3. As a geologist, let me make the contentious statement that it is no coincidence that many geologists still rely on the fossil fuel industries for employment and funding. However, I do not think that is the whole story. The geologists I have met who are ‘sceptical’ are not particularly well-informed about current climate science, and tend to overweight the relevance of their own knowledge and experience. In that respect, they are a bit like civil engineers, among whom there also seems to be a preponderence of ‘sceptical’ views (in the UK anyway).

    However, in this particular case, I think the gathering of climate change ‘sceptics’ (what is the collective noun for climate change sceptics – a denial? an argument?) may be due to ratehr clumsy conference organisers who have sought to liven up an otherwise dull conference by trying to provoke a big row. Not very productive and rather clumsy, but hey, that’s geologists for you.

    Comment by Bob Ward — 19 Aug 2008 @ 3:03 AM

  4. I think it’s fairly simple: a large proportion of geologists, particularly those working in Norway (hence those most likely to attend the conference), work in the oil industry. It is highly uncomfortable to acknowledge to yourself that your career has, in effect although of course not in intention, been devoted to bringing about potentially disastrous anthropogenic climate change. The best way to avoid this discomfort is not to admit the facts, sometimes by outright denialism, more often probably by downplaying their importance and certainty, avoiding thinking about the subject most of the time, and/or preferring to discuss it only in “safe” company – such as other oil-industry geologists.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 19 Aug 2008 @ 3:58 AM

  5. Having “debated” with a number of sceptical geologists on forums, the following is a characterisation of a sceptical geologist’s view:

    The climate has always changed in the past due to natural variability, and life on earth has survived very well. In fact, life proliferates more during warm spells.

    Since the climate has always been variable, recent warming is not unusual and therefore probably natural. Life will benefit, as it has in the past, from the warming.

    Climate scientists have their heads stuck in models and observations of the last few decades and don’t look at the bigger picture.

    Comment by Steve Milesworthy — 19 Aug 2008 @ 4:34 AM

  6. Put it this way – if I wanted a complex problem involving rocks explaining, would I ask on RC or at a geological congress?

    My geological speciality is mineralogy and mineral deposits by the way. Very few palaeontologists have a clue what I’m on about when I get going!

    Cheers – John

    Comment by John Mason — 19 Aug 2008 @ 5:00 AM

  7. “When you keep starting at square one, you’ll never make much progress.” I suspect that is the intention.

    Comment by Adrian Midgley — 19 Aug 2008 @ 5:06 AM

  8. Very worrying but are geologists climate scientists ? Are climate scientists geologists or does climate science take knowledge from geology only. Why are geologists discussing climate science anyway ?

    Comment by pete best — 19 Aug 2008 @ 5:12 AM

  9. In areas of research that are tangentially related to climate science, the relative number of contrarian viewpoints seems to be larger than amongst climate scientists themselves. I think this has a lot to do with professional deformation: “We are all best impressed by evidence of the type with which we are most familiar” (Charles Richter, as quoted by Oreskes in It is no surprise that many of them will initially be skeptical towards claims that humans are responsible for the current changes, when they are acutely aware of the massive changes that have always taken place without humans around. (Never mind the logical fallacy that arises when using this as evidence against anthropogenic influence.)

    Likewise, an astronomer or solar physicist is more likely to emphasize the role that the sun plays in climate change. And a meteorologist may focus on the (importance of the) effect of boundary layer dynamics. Acknowledging that one’s own area of expertise may not be terribly important for a high-profile theme such as climate change is psychologically not easy; emphasizing (or even exaggerating in the worst cases) its potential importance is psychologically favored.

    Oreskes (in the same presentation as linked above) argues that instead of only thinking in one dimension (i.e. one’s own field) you have to look at the consilience of evidence, and the big picture, when forming an opinion about a multi-disciplinary issue such as climate change.

    Comment by Bart Verheggen — 19 Aug 2008 @ 6:23 AM

  10. Out of all my personal friends, the one that I’ve had the most trouble convincing about global warming is one whose background is in geology. As far as he was concerned, Milankovitch cycles cause climate change and nothing else and he refused to see it any other way. I guess when you occupy a world where the last few hundred years of history are nothing more than an afterthought, it gets easy to see things like that.

    Comment by James Allan — 19 Aug 2008 @ 7:39 AM

  11. In response to #8

    Geologists have an appreciation of time and change over time and we don’t need to rely on computer models that change every year to accomodate previously unrecognised influences on climate. [edit]

    The world changes constantly and you can’t ignore that big ball of fire in the sky or the odd volcanic eruption or meteor strike!)

    [Response: Greenhouse gases are ‘previously unrecognised’? Only if you lived in the 18th Century….. – gavin]

    Comment by Greg Smith — 19 Aug 2008 @ 7:57 AM

  12. Adrian Midgley:
    > “When you keep starting at square one, you’ll never make much
    > progress.” I suspect that is the intention.

    Sure, it is. But … have You ever considered how hard it is to progress from an erroneous square one. You will always find many scientists ready to repeat stubbornly:
    “Carbon dioxide is NOT a pollutant”
    You must wait for generational change in science community to silence them.

    Comment by Christopher — 19 Aug 2008 @ 7:58 AM

  13. The link to the “webcast of the panel discussion” doesn’t work.
    PS Thanks for your excellent blog
    John Ransley

    Comment by John Ransley — 19 Aug 2008 @ 8:20 AM

  14. Re #9, Indeed who are the high oracles of earth science who put it all together into a single coherent whole? The IPCC I would imagine do this job correlerating all fo the earth science knowledge to work out what the climte is doing and going to do in regard to it being out of its energy balance/equilibrium?

    Only a certain amount of Geology is relevant to the atmosphere. I mean have many ocean scientists deny warming as well or meterologists for that matter ?

    Comment by pete best — 19 Aug 2008 @ 8:26 AM

  15. Well I’m quite new in the game but my experiences is the same as expressed above, they know that the temperature have changed in the past so why not now… and far from all geologists are paleo types.

    However not all of them are very stubborn and agree that it is the published record over time that counts. (depending on if they are researchers or not)

    Comment by Magnus Westerstrand — 19 Aug 2008 @ 8:45 AM

  16. rasmus, or anyone, I find the difference in the observed leaning of the IGC compared to the other geophysical organizations/conferences (Two were mentioned; are there others?) quite curious. Do you have any explanation or thought why this is so? I’m not asking for the generic throw-away retort that they’re owned by the bad oil companies, but what might be characteristic of the IGC that would make them different? Might they have purposely done that to, maybe, explore the skeptic position? Might it be just an example of the rule of societies and conferences that the bigger and more popular they get the more they pursue show over substance? What? Any thoughts? It seems odd.

    Comment by Rod B — 19 Aug 2008 @ 8:45 AM

  17. I’m a computer scientist with a major in operations research (stats/logistics) and 20yrs experience talking to other experts on all sorts of esoteric fields. Some of the details in RC articles make my head hurt but that’s far outweighted by other more succint logic such as the wonderful irony you point to in the cosmic ray/cloud thing.

    As for the meeting, I assume many who attended have scientific skills if not the right expertise, perhaps you could reply to the ‘debate’ in a geological publication. Sure they showed some ignorance but OTOH raising (and sustaining) the ‘debate’ amoungst scientists who are likely to be sub-consiously biased will ulimately fuel ‘cross polination’ of knowledge and a better picture for all.

    On the plus side a $1 billion solar generator has been announced here in Australia, the company hopes to build another 30 similar generators in the next 15yrs.

    Comment by Alan — 19 Aug 2008 @ 9:02 AM

  18. Having interviewed quite a few geologists over the years, my sense is that many (certainly not all) are much more attuned to the enormous natural fluctuations in both climate and atmospheric composition over the ages that they see the building anthropogenic component as minimal by comparison.

    Mind you, the Geological Society of America statement on humans and climate, while more cautious than those from the AGU and AMS, does accept the basics:

    The Geological Society of America (GSA) supports the scientific conclusions that Earth’s climate is changing; the climate changes are due in part to human activities; and the probable consequences of the climate changes will be significant and blind to geopolitical boundaries.

    Still, as was clear in a huge comment thread on Dot Earth on climate views of scientists, such statements are not always the result of broad consensus.

    Comment by Andy Revkin — 19 Aug 2008 @ 9:11 AM

  19. I am Chair of the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Rutgers, a co-author of a paper in this IGC session (Barrett, Crowley, and Miller), attended this session and attended an even more skeptical session at the 2007 Geological Society of America (GSA) meeting. The thesis of Barrett et al. is that Cenozoic climate changes suggest that even modest temperature changes can have large amplification. At GSA, I was lead author of a paper (Miller et al., in press, Global and Planetary Change) that establishes that pre-anthropogenic sea level was rising 0.75±0.25 mm/yr and thus humans are responsible for the bulk of the current 3.3 mm/yr change (Rahmstorf et al., 2007). We suggested that an 80 cm global rise was likely by 2100 (Rahmstorf et al., 2007), not the 40 cm predicted by IPCC. (I would update that today to likely over a meter by 2100). I tried to ask a question at the IGC session noting that Nick Morner was quite incorrect (and to note that it is not man causing the change but humans; women are equally to blame). It was hard to break through the fractious divide between skeptics and believers.

    The GSA symposium was even more fractious, with Bill Gray leading the skeptics with his glorification of Senator Inhofe (Bill, where was the science?). This leads us back to the question posed here: are geologists skeptical?

    Yes, geologists have more than their share of skeptics and many opinions offered by the audience here and at GSA were uninformed. Yet, the geological community represented by the speakers in the IGC session (Jansen, Barrett, and Haug to name three) were quite informed, balanced, and supported the IPCC. Part of the problem is one of education of our community to data sets that they are not familiar with. I think that sessions such as these, though they may be a lightning rod for skeptics, are actually quite good. We must stand up to shoddy science.

    The best example of this are two of the skeptic talks in the IGC session. Willie Soon’s talk on solar variability and climate was easily seen by the audience as lacking scientific content on the subject of climate (though replete in science about galactic evolution). Svensmark’s talk was more polished and to the uninitiated, seemed like solid science. Thanks to RC, I was able to pull up numerous rebuttals to this on the wireless during his talk. One climate scientist stood up after Svensmark’s talk and called it trash. This was not helpful, but we are all human. I highly respected Terry Sloan from Lancaster for his comments on Svensmark, who in turn replied by calling Sloan’s work meaningless.

    My impression is that the convenor, Jorn Thiede, simply wanted to let skeptics have their day in court.

    My other impression is that geologists have more skeptics than atmospheric scientists, but probably not more than many other fields. Paleoceanographers are much more closely aligned with the IPCC results (see the section of the IPCC edited by Jansen on Paleoclimate.)

    Comment by Ken Miller — 19 Aug 2008 @ 9:32 AM

  20. Re 16. One of the bigger (biggest?) geochemical conferences, Goldschmidt when I attended did not have a single talk on “other warming theories” but lots on CCS, pH in oceans… corrals and other Climate related stuff… so judging from that yes, this seems different I had some colleges that haven’t got back yet I will ask them what they think later.

    Comment by Magnus Westerstrand — 19 Aug 2008 @ 9:37 AM

  21. I think Andy Revkin’s onto something there. But by the same coin, geologists might also lose sight of the fact that during most of the time-periods they study, the earth was not only uninhabited by humans, but also _uninhabitable_.

    But all in all, I don’t think the opinion of geologists is very relevant. I’m a chemist, and I don’t think _my_ viewpoint is particularly relevant. However, I only know a single global-warming sceptic in my line of work. (and his speciality is NMR spectroscopy.. very unrelated)

    OTOH, I can tell y’all that my boss (the department head) came in to work after having seen “An Inconvenient Truth” and practically ordered everyone in the office to go see it. He was quite shocked, he said, and had gone over to the Earth Sciences department to fact-check it. Which he summarized as: “In all, it pretty much all checks out”.

    I think natural scientists in general support the theory of climate change. Not necessarily because they know more, but rather because they’re better at knowing what they _don’t know_ – and correspondingly readier to acknowledge the expertise of others.

    As a chemist, all I’m prepared to say is that the bit about CO2 absorbing IR radiation (heat), is absolutely true. :)

    Comment by Alex de Marothy — 19 Aug 2008 @ 9:56 AM

  22. It can be pretty amazing. I recall having quite an argument with a magazine editor couple of decades ago — who had a very good general science educatinon.

    He was printing a book review of a seafloor atlas, and decided to include its illustration of the mid-Atlantic ridge and the pattern of parallel magnetic lines in the seafloor.

    He captioned it as illustrating the “ever-expanding Earth.”

    And I could not convince him he’d gotten captured by a religious notion. He was sure he’d learned it that way in his geology class. Heck, maybe he did ….

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 19 Aug 2008 @ 9:58 AM

  23. It’s not only the geologists: if you look at the house journal of the (British) Institute of Physics (Physics World) then it has a bit of a skeptical slant. This *may* be due to the influence of a small number of skeptics, and an editorial team who are not so on the ball or who deliberately court controversy. The same seems to happen in the American Institute of Physics

    Comment by SomeBeans — 19 Aug 2008 @ 10:03 AM

  24. Naomi Oreskes probably has the best insight into the attitudes of geologists. (Before she started studying the history of climate science, she worked on the history of plate tectonics and continental drift, and she has interesting things to say about the reasons why US geologists rejected continental drift in the early 1900’s. In other words, Oreskes knows her cranky geologists who turn out to be wrong.)

    I’m a solid-earth geologist (structural geology, metamorphic petrology), and I agree with Steve Milesworthy (#5). I would go a bit further, though. The fundamental assumption of geology is uniformitarianism: the present is the key to the past. We’ve recently been trying to convince the world that we’re relevant to humans because the past can also say something about the future: earthquake hazards, volcanic hazards, flood hazards – geology can give a longer-term perspective than history, and tell us that a 5000-year-old volcano is potentially dangerous.

    Geologists can get misled by uniformitarianism, though. The past helps us understand the future, but only if the same physical and chemical processes are operating. It’s hard for geologists to accept that humans are more than temporary, surface-scratching creatures – that we can affect the underlying physical and chemical processes that drive the geology that we study. And it’s hard to trust ideas that come out of physical and chemical models when they aren’t confirmed by something that we see in rocks. (Geologists will often dredge up the example of Lord Kelvin’s attempt to determine the age of the Earth from heat flow calculations – Kelvin was very wrong, because his model was incomplete.) And geologists have known for a long time that climate changes, so if it was natural in the past, there’s no reason to blame humans…

    …except that there are good reasons to blame humans, and climate scientists have built a convincing case based on many different lines of evidence. (Geologists should respect that; it’s essentially the same way that solid earth geoscientists build big ideas.) You can’t test whether humans cause climate change by looking at a time when humans weren’t around… it’s like proving that magma doesn’t cause metamorphism by looking at metamorphic rocks that were heated by other processes. Geologists should get that, because we think that way, too.

    And most geologists who have been in grad school since the late 80’s do accept and respect climate research. If we’re in the same departments, or have climate researchers coming to department seminars, then we hear and understand the arguments. But people who work in government agencies that separate geology from climate, or who work in oil & gas or mining, or who work in academic departments that are strictly solid earth – well, those people aren’t directly exposed to the current thinking of climate researchers. And they are perfectly capable of thinking about climate like geologists did in the 70’s. (Milankovitch, Milankovitch, Milankovitch.)

    So geologists should accept climate change, but there are lots reasons why some don’t. The reasons are bad, but they exist.

    Comment by Kim Hannula — 19 Aug 2008 @ 10:10 AM

  25. I would imagine the number of geologist contrarians drops off quite sharply the more related their field is to climatic change. Those who work on sedimentary or speleothem proxies or silicate weathering probably don’t count too many among them, for example.

    Comment by thingsbreak — 19 Aug 2008 @ 10:21 AM

  26. Perhaps geologists should return to discussing their recent adoption of the term “Anthropocene” which is, after all, a geological term. Is that widely accepted by geologists?

    “…define it as the era in which humans first began to alter the earth’s climate and ecosystems.”

    ( I just worry about the denyoclypse and skeptinctions. )

    Comment by Richard Pauli — 19 Aug 2008 @ 10:28 AM

  27. Perhaps it would be beneficial to refine the geological perspective to the paleo-botanical perspective and examine the history of the plant community. When vascular plants first evolved. about 425 million years ago (Cooksonia), CO2 levels were about 3000 ppm. Gymnosperms evolved between 385 and 365 million years ago under CO2 concentration of near 4000 ppm and angiosperms evolved with CO2 levels of 2200 ppm about 165 million years ago. These earlier plant forms used C3 photosynthetic pathway better adapted to higher CO2 concentrations. However, as CO2 levels approached present day levels of 274 to 400 ppm, many of the C3 plants exhibited stress due to CO2 starvation. As a result of this environmental stress, two new photosynthetic pathways evolved; the C4 pathway and CAM. C4 plants first evolved up to 50 million years, they did not reach significant numbers until about 8 million years ago Crassulacean acid metabolism or CAM, which is typically of the cactii, evolved even more recently, apparently to counter the effect of CO2 starvation. As CO2 levels rise above recent lows, most plants grow more efficiently and harbor water resources more effectively. Hot houses typically increase CO2 levels to 1000 to 1500 to promote growth rates.

    As the animal kingdom, including human beings, is entirely dependent upon a healthy plant kingdom, it might serve climate researchers well to step back and examine this issue from the geologic perspective, rather than continue the rather myoptic view that the models are right and anything counter to the models predictions must be erroneous.

    Another question that comes to mind is if earth did not experience a runaway greenhouse effect when CO2 levels were 4000 ppm or higher in earlier geologic history, what has changed to create such alarm at levels ten times lower? Just some random thoughts from one whose background is in forestry and plant physiology.

    [Response: No one is predicting a runaway greenhouse effect in that sense (this is one of those trivial talking points alluded to the post). However, perhaps you’d care to speculate on sea levels during the last geological period where CO2 was significantly higher than today? (try the Pliocene, or certainly the Eocene, or perhaps the Cretaceous?). As for trusting the plants over the models, what does this have to do with changes in tropical rainfall, the expansion of the Hadley Cell, ocean acidification or Arctic sea ice declines? Please be serious. – gavin]

    Comment by Don Healy — 19 Aug 2008 @ 11:31 AM

  28. Re:
    Sure, it is. But … have You ever considered how hard it is to progress from an erroneous square one. You will always find many scientists ready to repeat stubbornly:
    “Carbon dioxide is NOT a pollutant”
    You must wait for generational change in science community to silence them.

    This is a good example of how the different interpretation of words can lead us astray. Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant in the same sense as PCB’s or dioxin: no sane person advocates removing all CO2 from the atmosphere. Yet too much seems quite harmful, so we can image the argument:

    person 1: CO2 is NOT a pollutant (meaning it is essential for life)
    person 2: CO2 IS a pollutant (meaning too much may kill us)

    Well, they are both right, but until they pick their words more carefully, we may be stuck in square one.

    Comment by Bob Arning — 19 Aug 2008 @ 11:42 AM

  29. I might be flamed shortly for saying it, but my impression is that geologists are more “engineers” than “scientists”. And while I’ve never gone through the earth sciences college curriculum, I suspect it is less about teaching the scientific method and more about teaching engineering and materials science. The difference in geologists who refuse to consider the data and modeling around AGW/CC and those who are willing to may be the difference between those who are strictly engineers sampling materials verses those who have done some data analysis and modeling of their own.

    Just because someone is an “ologist” does mean they understand science or the fundamentals of research. Engineers in particular (and I know a few) seem woefully unaware of the difference between measuring and categorizing verses synthesis. The science behind our understanding of AGW/CC represents perhaps the most difficult and interesting act of synthesis the human mind has ever attempted, and we’re maybe 10% into the task at our present level of understanding after 50 years, with maybe just 20 years of runway left to land civilization safely.

    I fear we will need the help of all the “ologists”, including the geologists, before the end.


    Comment by cat black — 19 Aug 2008 @ 12:13 PM

  30. Rasmus,

    Robert Carter = Bob Carter in the post above?

    [Response: Yes. – gavin]

    Comment by Magnus Westerstrand — 19 Aug 2008 @ 12:23 PM

  31. Geology is a long established field of science with a long history of proven techniques, debate and proven processes. Climate reconstruction has a long history as a field within geology (with ice age cycles etc. first being proven by geologists.)

    Climate science, by comparison, is a relatively new field in which scientific techniques and scientific processes still need to be fully developed and proven as reliable.

    In that sense, the views of geologists and geology in general should not be so summarily dismissed.

    [Response: No one is dismissing the views of geologists or geology. Indeed, paleo-climate has many lessons for today’s climate issues. But that doesn’t mean any respect should be given to statements that are patently false (i.e. there is no sea level rise, CO2 isn’t a greenhouse gas) just because it comes from a geologist. – gavin]

    Comment by John Lang — 19 Aug 2008 @ 12:43 PM

  32. “this polite tolerance of acts of stifling sabotage must stop.”

    a pleasant thought that can’t be executed. the debate, even though it seems pointless to the initiated and the knowledgeable (neither of which I am) is necessary to persuade the interested novices that what climate scientists say is rigorous and reliable. if/when climate scientists turn to procedures characteristic of politicians to end these debates (pointless and unproductive though they probably are) before the novices (and geologists) are persuaded….well, they’re going to end up saying to everyone who isn’t a climate scientist “hey, just take our word for it.”

    the trouble is, some of us have been lied to enough to know the risk involved with taking anybody’s word for it, especially when it comes time to decide how to spend the Christmas bonus or weigh out whether or not the cost of new windows and siding is really going to be worth it.

    so, big props to the RC (and other) scientists who take time away from advancing their fields to make their case to the novices the hard way. and i think we can all agree that this whole climate change issue is far too serious to try to resolve by taking shortcuts.

    Comment by A.C. — 19 Aug 2008 @ 12:59 PM

  33. indeed there were thousands of geologists on the congress : how many of the participants can be regarded as “sceptics”. How much would that be in % ?

    I’m a bit surprised by the high level of witchhunting this topic in my opinion has & how some people seem to be willing to create whole theories of why geologists are “incompetent” to discuss the subject; a conclusion depending on the grounds there might be a couple of them rejecting AGW.

    I’m sorry guys, but the level of this post is FAR below the level i do expect to find on RC.

    Comment by jules — 19 Aug 2008 @ 1:02 PM

  34. Here’s one geologist who doesn’t agree with the deniers:
    This link says in part:
    “Gosnold and colleagues have detected changes in ground surface temperatures over the last 500 years by measuring the change in temperature vs. depth (T-z) in boreholes drilled in the ground, sometimes up to 700 meters deep.”

    I would think that any geologist worth his salt would be aware of bore hole studies that add to the other proxy methods of studying past climate change.

    Another study,this one by Pollack et al lead to similar results:
    The above study states in part:
    “The geophysical methods used to generate bore hole temperature. reconstructions do not permit annual or decade resolution, but only the century-scale trend in temperatures over the last several centuries. Nonetheless, this record, totally independent of data and methods used in other studies, shows the same thing: the Earth is warming dramatically.”

    Not all geologists have their heads in the sand. Some are looking into bore holes with interesting results.

    Comment by Lawrence Brown — 19 Aug 2008 @ 1:15 PM

  35. John Lang, Horse puckey! The average geologist knows no more about climate science than he does about string theory. Do you propose that Brian Greene and Ed Witten consult them before publishing their next paper. If geologists have something relevant to say about climate scienc, great. They should say it–in peer-reviewed publications. If their insights do not rise to that level, why the hell should we pay them any more attention than we do to any other ignorant food tube?

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 19 Aug 2008 @ 1:42 PM

  36. Re #32 AC, I will stand by my words.

    We all welcome novices, students and even skeptics. Denialists, ideologues, obstructionists and disruptors have no place here. And you know it.

    The simple example is the classroom where no unruly student is allowed to prevent the class from getting an education. This is a class about climate change, why do you insist on injecting economics philosophy into a science discussion?

    Much more significant, how much should we tolerate voices that prevent us from knowing and describing dangers to our future?

    Comment by Richard Pauli — 19 Aug 2008 @ 1:48 PM

  37. Towards an anthropological perspective on scientific institutions…

    Nature doesn’t care at all about the academic distinctions within university research departments, or the struggle for funding among the various branches, or the other more human behaviors, i.e. the struggle for one’s place in the ivory tower.

    However, such things matter a lot if one wants to run a government-funded science program. The question then becomes: what controls governmental decisions to fund or not fund science? How do governments make such funding decisions?

    The best way to do it is to set up independent bodies of scientists, chosen from universities, who will be given lump sums of money to distribute based on a transparent peer-review process to the most deserving research programs. That’s how the U.S. science program was structured initially – a public endeavor.

    At the same time, large businesses set up private research labs (Bell Labs) – but these labs have always been focused more on engineering commercial applications from basic scientific discoveries – and thus we have the silicon-based transistor, the silicon photovoltaic cell, the integrated circuit, the light-emitting diode – quite a list.

    However, when independent scientific bodies start coming up with results that are very troubling to large industry, large industry often starts pressuring politicians to cut off funding for the science. This is a well-known fact, and since we are talking about geology, the institution in question is the USGS.

    In the 1990s, the USGS began funding a large amount of science related to environmental contamination and similar issues, which led to a huge backlash in the Republican Congress, which threatened to dissolve the USGS entirely. In any event, the budget was slashed and with it the focus on environmental pollution, and the USGS is now back to being a quietly obedient. Look at their news releases, for example:

    Not much on climate or global warming – basically, the theme is “we don’t want to have our funding slashed again”. The basic theme is continue to use fossil fuels, just sequester the carbon (wave the wand), and “adapt to impacts”.

    90 Billion Barrels of Oil and 1,670 Trillion Cubic Feet of Natural Gas Assessed in the Arctic open in new window podcast icon, 7/23/2008
    The area north of the Arctic Circle has an estimated 90 billion barrels of undiscovered, technically recoverable oil, 1,670 trillion cubic feet of technically recoverable natural gas, and 44 billion barrels of technically recoverable natural gas liquids in 25 geologically defined areas thought to have potential for petroleum.

    “Carbon farm” project will study ways to capture atmospheric CO2 open in new window, 7/23/2008
    Imagine a new kind of farming in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta – “carbon-capture” farming, which traps atmospheric carbon dioxide and rebuilds lost soils.

    “New Findings on Contaminant Threats in African Dust to the Future of Coral Reefs to Coral Chemical Defenses”- 7/7/2008
    That’s the title of this press release – even though most of the reports listed in it focus on the link between high sea surface temperatures and coral bleaching.

    In any release on global warming, the phrase “anticipate and address the impacts of climate change” is always used – never anything like “slow the rate of global warming by ending the use of fossil fuels.”

    I would say the most disingenuous press release was this one, however:

    “Two 500-Year Floods Within 15 Years: What are the Odds?”

    No discussion of the fact that global warming is making the atmosphere moister, or that models have been steadily predicting greater rates of precipitation for a long time now. Not even any basic discussion of how the very concept of a “500 year flood” relies entirely on the assumption that the climate is stable!

    In that model, the notion is that weather events are just generated at a constant average rate, and every once in a while, several line up on top of each other to create “The Perfect Storm” – which is true in a stable climate. However, if the climate is changing, then those weather events are not constant and average over time – you see noise superimposed on an increasing trend, so you can forget about notions like “500 year floods”. A far more reasonable explanation is that the flooding is becoming more intense due to global warming.

    That’s what happens when the politicians and private industry gain control of the scientific bodies. It is a little like the whole Church-State issue in previous eras.

    Comment by Ike Solem — 19 Aug 2008 @ 2:02 PM

  38. As a geologist, one of my biggest criticisms of the science is that a large proportion of geologists are overly focused on the descriptive and qualitative. When you lack quantitative skills and do not understand the modeling process, it is natural to mistrust results derived from computer models.

    That said, my guess would be that most of the skeptics in the geology community are either older or employed in the extractive industries. Those are the same groups that resisted the plate tectonics revolution in the 20th century, so perhaps this is simply history repeating itself…

    Comment by a geologist — 19 Aug 2008 @ 2:08 PM

  39. Re 31. “But that doesn’t mean any respect should be given to statements that are patently false (i.e. there is no sea level rise, CO2 isn’t a greenhouse gas) just because it comes from a geologist. – gavin]”

    Please, Gavin, could you name the geologist who made the second statement, about CO2 not being a greenhouse gas? Such was not mentioned in Rasmus’ post, so one may get the impression that, you are dealing with straw men.

    [Response: Conceded, it was just an example. But substitute in the almost equivalent “CO2 can’t be a climate forcing because it lags temperature in the Vostok ice core”, and there are plenty of cases. – gavin]

    Comment by Matti Virtanen — 19 Aug 2008 @ 2:31 PM

  40. I would that denialism is not the exclusive province of geologists. I work with a lot of electrical engineers, and the level of denial there is pretty amazing. We have seen that there are denialists willing to open backdoors to ignorant diatribes at the APS, and we are regularly confronted with denialists who are computer scientists, chemists and on and on. The one thing these folks have in common is that they have some expertise in a remotely “related” field to climate science. However, rather than taking the time to actually learn the science, they have assumed that their experience gives them sufficient insight to pronounce with authority on something they haven’t looked into very deeply.

    Climate science is not simple. It is a multi-disciplinary endeavor, and fitting all the pieces together is a subtle endeavor. That is why I appreciate this site so much. If more “scientists” and “engineers” would have sufficient humility to take advantage of this resource, we would have a lot fewer ignorant “experts” out there

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 19 Aug 2008 @ 2:45 PM

  41. Don Easterbrook is another geologist in this camp.

    Comment by Mark A. York — 19 Aug 2008 @ 3:06 PM

  42. Per ‘ignorant food tube?’ I’d advise keeping your day job and leaving the PR to the professionals. Why pay attention to the masses? Because their cooperation is required to solve the problem.

    Comment by Food Tube — 19 Aug 2008 @ 3:16 PM

  43. Ray, as a multi-disciplinary field, climate science should pay attention to the responses from “related” fields, because sometimes, the people out in left field actually do know something that you, sitting at home plate, may not have noticed. If you don’t take into account the point they are trying to make, and it is actually more valid than your argument in the long run, you are the one with egg on your face, not them. Tycho Brahe was executed for the heliocentric model, Galileo was imprisoned and forced to recant, but Copernicus was lauded. When the preponderance of evidence eventually supports you, you become the hero. Prior to that, the steamroller flattens you. Don’t claim skeptics do not know anything, because if they are proved correct, then you become the new “flat earth crowd”. Be tolerate of both sides of the debate, because based upon several comments to this post, it is beginning to grow.

    [Response: If I were you, I’d consult a little more with historians. Brahe died of a bladder infection (or maybe mercury poisoning), and didn’t accept heliocentricism in any case. Copernicus was lauded decades before Galileo’s trial. – gavin]

    Comment by Keith — 19 Aug 2008 @ 3:56 PM

  44. rasmus,

    I’m very scared. I have watched the hour + long video that you linked to, and I think the most intelligent comment (and one of the only ones) was from the gentleman in the audience who used the “insurance principle,” and this includes both the panel and the audience.

    There was a vast degree of ignorance in the statements/questions posed by the audience, and IMO very poor answers or statements by the panel. This highlights a large problem for me– the climate science community has not communicated this issue in an accurate and convincing manner to people in other fields, or to the general public.

    Comment by Chris Colose — 19 Aug 2008 @ 4:12 PM

  45. Easterbrook is glaciologist, to boot. Beyond the geo’s who work in mining or oil and gas, you get a lot of quaternary geologists who are also on the skeptical side. Take Tim Patterson, for instance. He’s a paleoclimatologist who ascribes all the variation he sees to solar forcing. Not a whiff of a background in statistics, fourier series, power spectrum, atmospheric physics, etc. He makes squiggly lines and visually compares them to time series of sunspots, or solar output, or whatever. He writes op-ed’s in the Globe and Mail (Canada’s principal national newspaper) saying things like “as a paleoclimatologist, let me tell you that anthropogenic climate change is wrong because CO2 was way high in the Cretaceous”. Talk about disingenuous. But people lap it up because he has apparent credentials, and they don’t have the tools to assess the argument.

    Comment by chris sg — 19 Aug 2008 @ 4:12 PM

  46. Better speak up as a geologist/geophysicist. Close to 300 of us here and if there are any denialists, then they are pretty quiet. (and incidentally Bob C was my teacher for 4 years. Given what I gained from him, it is very disappointing to see his current stance).I also work in oil/coal (though govt moratorium on thermal power stations has seen coal work die), but it would surely be dishonest to deny AGW on basis that it may affect your job! I think we have to keep exploring for oil or we going to make transition to other energy more difficult but we certainly dont want any expansion in production – we want substantial reduction.

    While life might have expanded during warm periods, my colleagues are studying the hypothesis that extinction rate is strongly affected by rate of climate change. The evidence for this should not give anyone comfort.

    I salute IGC for at least putting the debate on table. If there are a lot of geologists that misunderstand trivialities, then hoping the debate would inspire some deeper reading.

    Comment by Phil Scadden — 19 Aug 2008 @ 4:23 PM

  47. Geologists spend more time outside than your average scientist. It has been getting cooler each year now for several years, and that is obvious to anyone that spends a large portion of their time outside.

    [Response: Hmmm…. – gavin]

    Comment by Russell — 19 Aug 2008 @ 4:30 PM

  48. Re # 27 (Don Healy): Hundreds of millions of years ago the solar output was a few percent lower than it is now. With the carbon dioxide concentrations of that time and today’s solar output, mass extinction would quickly follow.

    You’re talking about “the geologic perspective,” but you should be thinking in terms of evolution. If plants have evolved adaptations to lower concentrations of CO2, they won’t suddenly become the plants of 300 to 500 million years ago if CO2 concentrations grow to the levels of that time period. Most of them would in fact not survive. The plants of the distant past are extinct.

    Just as the biological world of hundreds of millions of years ago is a different world than we have today, the future world under much higher levels of CO2 would also be a different world. Such radically new ecosystems might be wonderful for some future sentient beings, but I doubt that they would seem wonderful to us.

    Comment by Robert Reiland — 19 Aug 2008 @ 5:02 PM

  49. No, geologists are no different from anyone else. They will not admit that their oil industry is destroying the world. They have worked hard to obtain their degrees and doctorates, so find it impossible to accept what they are doing can be in anyway wrong.

    Not only geologist take this view. Here is an excerpt from someone posting on the newsgroup, justifying his success and dismissal of the threat from global warming:

    Shame your envious of others with a bigger car and pxxxs than you. Some work damn hard for that money ,and through their endeavors employ more people and enrich them ,its called capitalism. [slightly edited to avoid spam trap]
    I fly all over the world and believe me its a big place as you well know.
    I find it hard to believe that the pollution man puts out can really effect the planet ,ie weight of CO2 in atmosphere against weight of CO2 put out as pollution is 1,000,000,000,000 : 1 Kgs , ,figure I read in Scientific America mag last year. So how can we on these figures cause the hockey stick effect on those CO2 charts unless either the readings are wrong ,or inconsistently taken ,or the way the CO2 is measured has changed or there is a natural climate change going on with a miniscule help from us.

    So just like the geologists, this capitalist grabs at straws to justify himself.

    But are climate modellers any better? They too refuse to accept that their industry is leading mankind to disaster. Global warming is advancing far faster than the models predict, yet they stick by them.

    When told “that clouds are not well described by GCMs” Rasmus replies that it “… is true and discussed in the latest IPCC report)…” So that is all right then. We need not worrry about the clouds in the models being wrong because it says so in the IPCC report! And what about the other errors in the models like the double ITCZ, and the tropical lapse rate problem? What about the Arctic sea ice that instead of taking 100 years seems more likely to disappear in ten?

    Rasmus continued his denial by writing “that the 90% confidence in the human influence on recent trends is derived only from models”. He cited Gavin’s post “The CO2 problem in 6 easy steps” In it is argued that global warming is bound to happen because climate sensitivity is “Climate sensitivity is around 3ºC for a doubling of CO2”

    No one knows what climate sensitivity is. 3ºC is the best estimate using models. That hardly disproves that it is derived only from models.

    But here we do come to a difference between climate modelers and geologists. The modelers have all been trained in mathematics or physics. They believe that when it is proved that Pythagoras’ Theorem is true it stays proved, and when climate sensitivity is found it will be true for all eternity, but geologists are not so easily fooled.

    They know for every rule they make there are exceptions. The basic law of superposition is good example. It states that “Sedimentary layers are deposited in a time sequence, with the oldest on the bottom and the youngest on the top.” So the deeper the fossil is in a succession of rocks the older it is. But if, as occurs, the rocks are overturned later then this no longer applies.

    Similarly, it is easy to find a sensitivity by producing a relationship between carbon dioxide and temperature using the data from the ice cores in Antarctica, but that relationship does not hold for ice cores from Greenland. If it does not apply for two regions of the earth over the same time period, why should it apply over the whole earth for different time periods?

    So the geologists, capitalists, and climatologists are each no different. Each live in their own idioverse where they are right, and everyone else is wrong. Sound familiar?

    Cheers, Alastair.

    Comment by Alastair McDonald — 19 Aug 2008 @ 5:41 PM

  50. Interesting-a climatologist consensus is validation of AGW, while a geologist consensus must means what? Corruption, ignorance, cronyism, cranky old men following the herd? Its time to throw out the consensus argument once and for all, and turn to more legitimate means of scientific verification.

    [Response: A geologists’ consensus on a kind of rock, or mountain range formation or sea floor spreading is certainly worth listening too. But an endocrinologist’s opinion on the same thing – not so much. To each field their own consensus. – gavin]

    Comment by Michael — 19 Aug 2008 @ 5:53 PM

  51. Dear Phil Scadden,

    It’s always nice to hear from old students, and especially to find out that they are gainfully employed and doing well.

    You mention that “it is very disappointing to see his (i.e. my) current stance” regarding the possible danger of the human effect on global climate – which I would agree is certainly a topic that needs careful consideration.

    However, my current “stance” is the same as the stance that has stood me in good stead throughout my professional career. It is that matters of science need to be determined by empirical evidence, not by computer modelling – heuristically valuable though that can sometimes be.

    And as things stand at the moment, after IPCC 4AR, I am unaware of any empirical evidence that dangerous warming, or any measurable warming for that matter, can be attributed to a human causation.

    This is not so much a stance as a statement of fact. What is it about it that disappoints you?


    Bob Carter

    [Response: Thanks for stopping by. Perhaps you’d care to enlighten us on how attribution might proceed without the recourse to models of some sort? To pick a neutral topic, how about the attribution of the cooling in 1992 and 1993 to the aerosols emitted from the Pinatubo eruption? Without any quantitative idea of what would have happened with and without the eruption (which would entail two planets in the absence of modelling), it seems to be that your ‘stance’ has only one predetermined conclusion (that no attribution of anything is possible). I doubt very much whether that would stand any scientist in good stead. – gavin]

    Comment by Bob Carter — 19 Aug 2008 @ 6:01 PM

  52. #44: [the climate science community has not communicated this issue in an accurate and convincing manner to people in other fields, or to the general public]

    Accurate? Convincing?!? FTW [head explodes]

    News flash: There plenty of high profile people and institutions, and the well covered IPCC report, already getting the word out *accurately* that we are in deep deep crapola. What is happening is that these voices are pit against charismatic hucksters like Crichton and Inhofe, and then the media doesn’t help by promoting a sense of “debate” because that sells papers. The debate, if there was one, ended 20 years ago.

    Scientists are largely limited to their own process for getting information and data into the hands of policy makers and the public. That process is called the scientific method, and it’s vehicle is peer-reviewed publication. It is accurate, within human limits, and convincing.

    Hucksters have no such limitations, not even ethics nor morality by the looks of it. Whores and shills, anything-for-a-buck is their method and they will do and say just about anything, to anyone, to get what they want. “Dressed as a nun and selling dope to kids” is the visual I get.

    So long as we are largely profit-driven in our thinking and risk averse when it comes to changes, we as a community a republic and a civilization are sleep walking into a meat grinder. If that’s what people want, then that is what they are going to get, in spades and with a twist of lemon, and it won’t be because climate scientists were inaccurate or unconvincing!

    — act fast decide fast —

    Comment by cat black — 19 Aug 2008 @ 6:11 PM

  53. #47 Gee, where do you live? Not here despite the La Nina. Especially when you compare to winter field work of 20 years ago.

    Comment by Phil Scadden — 19 Aug 2008 @ 6:11 PM

  54. #43 Keith

    Don’t claim skeptics do not know anything, because if they are proved correct, then you become the new “flat earth crowd”. Be tolerate of both sides of the debate, because based upon several comments to this post, it is beginning to grow.

    Any argument that denies anthropogenic global warming without a scientific case, or even well reasoned holistic argument is irrelevant for the most part.

    In other words if what comes form left field has not relevant context than it is irrelevant.

    The case for AGW is tremendously strong. It is quantifiable. The cloud questions aside, the paleo record indicates that further warming in the past was not reversed by some magic cloud albedo. So even the few remaining scientists claiming clouds will be our saviour don’t seem to have a decent paleo record to stand on.

    There is no reason to tolerate a side of the debate that has no foundation in science or even reason for that matter. myopia is not a virtue and myopic science can not compete with holistic science as regards the aggregate of known data and substantial models as this time.

    I continue to wait for wonderful science that will prove we have nothing to be concerned about but it is not only not materializing, it is being summarily beaten into the ground of unfounded reason. Until such time, the egg will continue to cook and whose face it shall be on is now reasonably known from a scientific point of view.

    As to the likely hood that the skeptics shall win the argument? Well, I’m still waiting to win the lotto too, but form some magnanimous person that wins for me and then decides the money is best used by me rather than them, those are the odds as I see it at this point. Please do prove me wrong.

    Comment by John P. Reisman (The Centrist Party) — 19 Aug 2008 @ 6:21 PM

  55. #47 Russel

    Wow, thanks for solving the climate puzzle for the world, We are all thankful for your insight and wisdom. Everyone can go home now, no need to research any further. It is clear that the earth is cooling now.

    Gavin is better at commenting than I am of course.

    Russel, I’m sorry, but please do a little research before solving all the worlds problems. Climate is long term not short term. 30 years or better with a trend analysis. Looks like you got some reading ahead of you.

    Look into forcing levels too. That’s pretty important to understanding what is going on in the atmosphere. Also, it’s very important that you realize that the temperature where you are does not represent the temperature around the world. Climate is large scale and weather is local. That will help you get some perspective.

    Comment by John P. Reisman (The Centrist Party) — 19 Aug 2008 @ 6:29 PM

  56. I’ve noticed there is a great enthusiasm for subterranean caverns for climate mitigation purposes ranging from CO2 burial to compressed air storage. This goes all the way back to Immanuel Kant who thought that is where the tides went. Also when geologists point to earlier climate cycles they seem to blank out the issue of 6.7 bn humans with knife edge dependency on food and water.

    BTW winter this year Down Under seems to be around 2C cooler than last year, albeit after an exceptionally mild autumn.

    Comment by Johnno — 19 Aug 2008 @ 6:38 PM

  57. Alastair McDonald (49) — I believe you are mistaken in writing that climate sensitivity is derived only from models.

    Bob Carter (51) — [edit] The evidence that humans have added considerale excess global warming (so-called greenhouse) gases to the atmosphere in the last 250 years or so is abundantly clear. You can read about it in “The Discovery of Global Warming” by Spencer Weart:

    Review of above:

    I also encourage you to read W.F. Ruddiman’s popular “Plows, Plagues and Petroleum” for his views on early anthrpogenic influences on the climate; he has a guest thread here on RealClimate.

    [Captcha reminds us “plant internment”, a good way to remove excess CO2 from the active carbon cycle.]

    Comment by David B. Benson — 19 Aug 2008 @ 7:03 PM

  58. I often reference skeptics of human induced climate warming to this site to learn the facts but that generally is a hopeless cause. While people here are generally open to new ideas and tend to trust the ‘experts’ to sweat the details after careful peer review, this will never be the case for AGW skeptics.
    That is the failing of all scientist (outside the field) that are determined to prove AGW as false. A simple fact is that most people in America are extremely superstitious (most people believe in the literal interpellation of biblical ‘facts’.) In an identical manner most of these people tend to hold onto preconceived ideas regardless of scientific facts because it threatens their other superstitions. In time, some people begin to separate their religious superstitions from scientific fact and will slowly accept AGW but this will be a very slow process. Expecting experts in other fields not to follow their superstitions is like expecting all children to be above average.

    Comment by DBrown — 19 Aug 2008 @ 7:03 PM

  59. Re 27 –
    There’s an issue of combined rapidity, manitude, and unfamiliarity. A rapid temperature change of 0.1 deg generally is no big deal. A gradual change of several degrees over millions of years is something to which ecosystems can adapt. If climate has been changing within some range, then changes that remain within the same range may be less likely to cause many extinctions or economic disruptions than changes that go into relatively unfamiliar territory.

    The sun has been getting brighter gradually over hundreds of millions of years. The radiative forcing of CO2 is roughly logarithmically proportional to atmospheric concentration. There is significant uncertainty in CO2 levels going that far back in time.

    There were plants during the last ice age, not in the same places, but they did grow.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 19 Aug 2008 @ 7:15 PM

  60. Bob Carter,

    I also thank you for coming here, and I hope you will continue correspondence with myself and others. I am also a student, so I’m sure it would be enlightening.

    Through watching a wide variety of your lectures, you seem to have a common set of arguments, one of which is the quality of empirical evidence over computer models. Unfortunately, in any complex system (not just climate, as a geologist you can appreciate representations of the Earth’s crust, in looking at rock behavior underground, identifying fault planes, etc) computers are necessary to solve a number of complex equations. It is not the conclusion of Climate Models: An Assessment of Strengths and Limitations (the report from the Federal Science Program) to dismiss the models, which have proven to be remarkably useful in the attribution effort, despite the deficiencies that remains to date (e.g., regional precipitation patterns). However, there are a wide variety of observations such as the overall warming trend of the 20th century, the cooling above the tropopause, the lack of significant changes in other forcing mechanisms, and the geologic record, which affirm that a) the planet is warming b) rising greenhouse gases will cause warming (with over 100 years of physics to support this).

    You continue to use the word “catastrophic” in your argument (as in, there will be no “catastrophic AGW”). Would you mind sharing with me a scientific definition (particularly in the IPCC or the scientific literature) as to what exactly this means? The usage seems to be [edit] subjective, and rather ill-defined.

    Comment by Chris Colose — 19 Aug 2008 @ 7:21 PM

  61. Bob, I am disappointed at statements (eg on cooling, ice core CO2), well-refuted in literature and which I find it hard to believe that you are unaware of. I agree that the role of science is always to question, always to strive for new models – but I dont see a better model than AGW, so till one comes along, risk analysis says we act on this one.

    In 1978 or 1979, you made the point that solar insolation variations in a Milankovich cycle alone are insufficient to explain the observed changes in Pleistocene climate. Everything I have seen published since then says you were right – you need other feedbacks. Well GHGs are an excellent part of that feedback system. Do you have better?

    Comment by Phil Scadden — 19 Aug 2008 @ 7:40 PM

  62. I was a gardener for thirty years before returning to school recently to get a doctorate. I spent 8+ hours a day outside over that period of time. What I saw over those thirty years was that, especially in the last 15 or so, the growing season for many herbaceous plants extended by two weeks annually over that period of time; moreover, we went from a USDA climate zone of 7B to 8A. I suspect my observations have about as much validity as yours, Russell (which is to say: not a hell of a lot in the larger scheme of things). :-)

    Comment by Charles — 19 Aug 2008 @ 7:53 PM

  63. One question for Dr. Carter:

    If the coal and oil burned in the past century had been burned by a basalt eruption through an area of coal and petroleum — hypothetically, the same amount of fossil carbon burned in the same time, the same charts — would you have a way to address the question whether that event contributed to a change in the atmosphere and climate?

    That is, if we take out the ‘anthropogenic’ question entirely but assume the exact same increase in CO2, would you think it possible to attribute the measured temperature change to the CO2 change?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 19 Aug 2008 @ 8:14 PM

  64. Bob Carter, Empirical evidence, huh? Well, how about the fact that the stratosphere is cooling as the troposphere warms? How about the fact we are seeing the microclimates in mountain ranges changing dramatically? How about the fact that we can actually see the energy that is being absorbed in the CO2 absorption line? How about the known physics of CO2 as a greenhouse gas? Just curious, Bob, what evidence would convince you. You must have something in mind that is missing. [edit]

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 19 Aug 2008 @ 8:18 PM

  65. The only professor I had that didn’t believe in anthropogenic global warming was a geologist. As part of our class assignments we were to read this piece of work:

    One day he also had a quote from Steve Milloy on his overhead.

    Comment by Ken — 19 Aug 2008 @ 8:26 PM

  66. Keith, Want to contribute to climate science. Great. All are welcome. All you have to do is play by the same rules as everybody else–that is publish something that advances the science in a peer-reviewed journal and present your case therein with sufficient cogency that you convince your colleagues and rivals. Simple, huh? What’s that? You don’t know enough climate science to publish such a paper? Then why in the hell should any of the experts who do give a damn what you say about climate science? Why the hell should they care what I say–it isn’t my metier? Like it or not, that’s the way science works: You study the field for 10 years grad and undergrad. You get a postdoc for another 5 years and study it some more. You get your professional position (prof, researcher…) and study it some more. And finally, after maybe 20 years, you understand it enough that you can make your own small contribution. Yes, outsiders do very occasionally make important contributions to a scientific field–but they do so after devoting years of study to their new chosen field. To think that you can do so after a few weeks perusal is sheer arrogance.

    You do have a place in this debate, but it has nothing to do with the science. Rather, it has to do with what we do to confront this threat. All you do by denying good science is leave your chair at the negotiating table vacant.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 19 Aug 2008 @ 8:32 PM

  67. A geology professor of mine, Eldridge Moores, certainly is concerned about anthropogenic global warming. He is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Geology at the University of California, Davis, and a former president of the Geological Society of America. He and his wife Judith have been extremely active locally through lectures, field trips, and legislative action.

    Some some old geology profs get it. And they have become activists in their “retirement” years.

    Comment by Jim Eaton — 19 Aug 2008 @ 9:18 PM

  68. re #52 (cb): act fast, decide fast, shoot your toes off…

    Comment by Rod B — 19 Aug 2008 @ 10:09 PM

  69. Yes, the geology profs get it. They know what’s coming down the road.

    Comment by Danny Bloom — 19 Aug 2008 @ 10:52 PM

  70. Bob Carter, have a look at some of the data analysis displayed at this site…

    I find this very compelling and graphic evidence that demonstrates effectively what is happening.

    Comment by paulm — 19 Aug 2008 @ 11:07 PM

  71. “A geologists’ consensus on a kind of rock, or mountain range formation or sea floor spreading is certainly worth listening too. But an endocrinologist’s opinion on the same thing – not so much. To each field their own consensus. – gavin”

    Are you suggesting Gavin that a trained scientist is unable to make sense of science and comment on it? I can read papers outside my discipline (biology) and understand them. Erudition is not a degree on a wall but a commitment to learning a subject area.

    [Response: Of course not. Good scientists are always capable of learning more and expanding from their original discipline. My career is completely typical in that respect (mathematics-> fluid mechanics-> oceanography->climate-> paleo-climate etc.). But getting respect in a new field is a little more complicated (and more intensive) than simply declaring that you have squared the circle, created a perpetual motion machine, or that you know that CO2 increases can’t have an effect on climate. Understanding the body of work within a field is a sine qua non of making advances, and you are wise if pay attention to what it consists of before challenging aspects of it. – gavin]

    Comment by richard — 20 Aug 2008 @ 12:56 AM

  72. From a geologic point of view, carbon dioxide is irrelevant to climate. This is because the CO2 will simply accelerate silicate weathering, drawing it out of the atmosphere and eventually precipitating it as carbonate.

    While there may be transient effects, the timescale of those effects is too fine to resolve geologically, so they aren’t worth worrying about.

    As for the effects of climate on the biota, that too is irrelevant. species go extinct all the time, and when they do, something else radiates into their niche.

    So from the planetary perspective, this whole CO2 thing is just another blip like the PETM. In a few million years, it will be nothing but a curiosity. Narrow-minded activist interested in the survival of particular subgroups such as ice-dwelling pinnipeds or bipedal primates might complain, but to what end? We’re all headed for the fossil record eventually, so changing the extinction time of a particular group by a few tens of kiloyears isn’t going to be detectable in the long run.

    Comment by Lab Lemming — 20 Aug 2008 @ 1:27 AM

  73. RE #5 & 9 “The climate has always changed in the past due to natural variability, and life on earth has survived very well.” & “It is no surprise that many of them will initially be skeptical towards claims that humans are responsible for the current changes, when they are acutely aware of the massive changes that have always taken place without humans around.”

    I call it the “geological perspective.” I’ve also noted several geologists as late as 2002 (the last time I spoke with or heard about one) totally reject anthropogenic global warming. One was a retired geology prof, one a prof at a community college where the head geology prof was an adamant denialist (knowing other community colleges I suspect they got funding from a source opposed to acknowledging AGW), and the other a Univ prof– I actually heard the latter’s argument thru a student who relayed almost verbatim the argument above.

    It’s sort of like when geneticists traced our mitochondrial DNA (of every living human today….except perhaps some neanderthals :) ) back to a single woman, an “Eve,” who lived in Africa some 200,000 years ago. Some physical anthropologists, who study the fossil remains, sort of got their noses bent out of shape, and some were skeptical.

    Another thing, geologists are not biologists or social scientists; they’ll be more focused on rocks, rather than life or human life, which will be the part most harmed by GW. I imagine rocks will fair better. I even imagine biologists are quite a bit more frantic about GW than even climate scientists.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 20 Aug 2008 @ 6:18 AM

  74. Re Greg Smith’s post — I wonder if Mr. Smith is, indeed, a geologist, as he claims. Geologists use a LOT of computer models. To criticize computer models would be shooting themselves in the foot.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 20 Aug 2008 @ 6:36 AM

  75. What Geologist dream about…

    I especially like the “Dino killer”

    P.S. I’m with Bob :)

    Comment by David W — 20 Aug 2008 @ 6:41 AM


    Looking at this chart of the history of ice sheet formation and James Hansens recent paper on the subject in order to determine overall climate sensitivity I can see (work out by eye if you like) that for every 50 ppmv global SST rises by 1C. How much does that rise atmospheric temperatures by. Can Dr Carter explain that ?

    [Response: That is the combined sensitivity of climate to CO2 and CO2 to climate – you cannot use it naively to deduce the climate sensitivity without taking into account all the other things that are changing as well. – gavin]

    Comment by pete best — 20 Aug 2008 @ 7:01 AM

  77. Re 19. Ken Miller,

    please see

    Carson, Mark, and D. E. Harrison, 2008. Is the Upper Ocean Warming? Comparisons of 50-Year Trends from Different Analyses. Journal of Climate Vol. 21, No 10, pp. 2259-2268, May 2008

    “…these results suggest that upper ocean heat content integrals and integral trends may be substantially more uncertain than has yet been acknowledged. Further exploration of uncertainties is needed.”

    [Response: They were explored in Domingues et al (2008), or didn’t that come to as convenient a conclusion? – gavin]

    Comment by Timo Hämeranta — 20 Aug 2008 @ 7:11 AM

  78. Richard, there is a lightyear of difference between being able to read and comprehend research in a discipline outside your own and being able to make a meaningful contribution to that field. I can read and understand papers on climate science–after devoting a couple of years to understanding the science. I cannot compare my level of knowledge to someone who publishes regularly in the field. I find it very hard to believe that anyone could spend >20 years learning their own field and not appreciate the value of expertise and experience. Why is that so hard for some folks to understand?

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 20 Aug 2008 @ 7:29 AM

  79. Re #76,Thanks Gavin for the reply but I am a little unsure about the answer you have given. Can I ask as to why does the chart show our emission levels in relation to historical ones if the chart is not seemingly accurate in relation to our abilty to have a ice free planet at the poles if we continue BAU for the rest of the century?

    If we achieve 400 ppmv then the Arctic is in danger (Greenland to I suppose) and at 500 so is the Antarctic. I mean what was responsible for taking out the CO2 from the atmosphere, colder oceans? Larger forests, weathering of rocks (Andes example). James Hansen makes this chart even more alarming with his 016 forams evidence making the case for doubling overall climate sensitivity to 6C for a pre industrial doubling of CO2.

    Maybe this explains why the Arctic sea ice is seemingly disappearing quicker than any of the IPCC models suggest ?

    Thanks Gavin.

    [Response: We discussed this in more detail a few months ago – gavin]

    Comment by pete best — 20 Aug 2008 @ 7:41 AM

  80. I love the post by Lab Lemming.

    I am a structural engineer, and the comment above that civil engineers are skeptics touches close to home. Of course, I have met a few who are, but the level of interest in the engineering community is very high and there are plenty like me who are active in promoting action to reduce emissions.

    There will always be the nay-sayers, but the problem we have is that time is running out here. It takes many years to re-build the sort of infrastructure we need to change our dependance on fossil fuels.

    It is great to hear about the proposals to build large solar and wind power stations, but it is all happening too slowly. You are the ones who have the information at your fingertips. What we need is a stronger representation of that information.

    I would like to see a site where the projections are clearly presented and updated regularly. It would need to include the projected reductions in emissions that we can currently rely on (not very much at present).

    I envisage it to be a bit like the ‘clock to midnight’ but with direct values for GHG concentrations and associated temperature rises, projected into the next 50 years. The Wolfram site is a good start but only goes as far as GHG concentrations

    Its also not very user friendly for the layman (such as myself).

    Comment by Ricki — 20 Aug 2008 @ 7:53 AM

  81. Have you climate people ever thought that maybe the reason behind the sceptism might be due the lack of basic explanation how the increase of CO2 and other greenhouse gases really causes the temperatures to rise? This has been discussed here sometimes as well, and the best material provided so far has been some link to a manuscript, not yet ready for publishing.

    The finnish athmosphere experts just published a book about climate change, and the whole greenhouse effect was “explained” with a sentence or two, like “CO2 works as a greenhouse ceiling preventing radiation out of athmosphere”. Can’t really the best scientists of the world provide any good, step by step introduction which someone with high school or university level education would understand, and which would testify how the so called greenhouse effect really works.

    [Response: The desire to move beyond cliched metaphors is well understood, and there is plenty of introductory material. Try a couple of posts here (on simple models and on why CO2 is a problem), but for something meatier you are better off with a text book. Either David Archer’s book or Ray Pierrehumbert’s draft text should satisfy most people. And if you still want more, Houghton’s Physics of Atmospheres is the definitive work – that takes some time to work through though. – gavin]

    Comment by andy — 20 Aug 2008 @ 8:01 AM

  82. Re #79, OK so it is uncertain but is there any legs in regard to Arctic sea ice disappering faster than models predict in relation to overall climate sensitivity or is it just too soon to tell?



    [Response: IMO, it’s a little too soon to tell. – gavin]

    Comment by pete best — 20 Aug 2008 @ 8:06 AM

  83. I must object strongly to the article’s implication that it may be the geologists who are the ‘denialist’s’ & least informed re GW. Being a retired paleobiologist & I’ve been around long enough to have seen quite clearly that geologists & paleontologists have been at the forefront of climate science, along w/the (then few) climatologists, since the 70s.
    Granted, much early debate was about coordination of Milankovitch cycles & the geologic record & just how long it might be before another glacial advance. But popular science literature unfortunately lead to public misconceptions of an impending ‘ice age’.
    At the same time a coalition of paleontologists & paleoecologists, palynologists, sedimentologists, biogeochemists, marine geologists & glaciologists together w/dendrochronologists, geoarchaeologists, & climatologists called CLIMAP set about to map fine-scale global climate changes in climate over the Pleistocene.
    If it weren’t for our long-term & ever-more refined & expansive knowledge of Earth history there would be little against which to compare today’s temperature & sea level & ocean acidity to test any GW hypothesis, much less the basis for an established theory. Nor would we know that future temperatures may exceed all but the Eocene Maximun. Geology is essential to the science of GW. I was fond of telling my intro students that, “they’d ‘made the wrong choice’ of required science, thinking they’d encounter no physics chemistry or biology. They’d signed themselves into all of them!”
    In my own experience, it was Kelvin Rodolfo (U of I, Chicago)who’s visionary approach to geology explicated as integrated homeostatic systems over a spectrum of time frames introduced the subject of GW in intro geology as early as 75. What a shame it was the conservative publishing industry ignorned his attempt to revise perspectives long before Lovelock’s teleologically posed Gaia.
    Still some where taught in ‘old school’ fashion. As late as 1993, (I’d been teaching a class in GW since 90 & following it for a decade), a former colleague who’s specialty was meteorology, insisted there was no difference between climate & weather: Until that is, he taught historical geology for the first time in a decade. He was stunned at the field’s dramatic revisions & graciously conceded my point.
    Within geology there certainly are distinct, often adversarial divisions between those who’s self-interests are petoleum & mining vs that of academics. Yet the lure of money has fooled ever fewer academics who’d begun their educations during or shortly after plate tectonic theory emerged. They’ve increasingly seen through industry’s propagada campaigns since the late 80s, at which time many institutions began to switch emphasis toward the environment & an Earth systems approach.
    For some reason geologists still get unfairly kicked about. I think this can be traced back to poor high school science teaching & the fact that geologists are barred from the Nobel Prize (i.e., public perception). Their minds aren’t as old & hardened as the objects they study; some were visionaries studying the future through the past & many others carry on.

    Comment by David R. Hickey — 20 Aug 2008 @ 10:00 AM

  84. Chris (#60),

    You assert that “You continue to use the word “catastrophic” in your argument (as in, there will be no “catastrophic AGW”). Would you mind sharing with me a scientific definition (particularly in the IPCC or the scientific literature) as to what exactly this means? The usage seems to be [edit] subjective, and rather ill-defined”.

    I don’t think that I have ever used the word “”catastrophic” in the way that you assert.

    Rather, and as in my previous post, I use the phrase “dangerous climate change”. Why? Because if human-induced change cannot be demonstrated to be, first, measurable, and, second, dangerous or potentially so, then we can all get on with our lives and stop worrying.

    How do you define dangerous? Well, that’s probably the IPCC’s job not mine, and – though I stand to be corrected if there is a section buried somewhere in 4AR that I have missed – they seem to have failed to do so. Whatever: it is nonetheless widely assumed by politicians and many others, and not discouraged by the IPCC, that an increase in temperature greater than 2 deg. C should be avoided, i.e. would be dangerous.

    I am unaware of any empirical (that word again) justification for the assumption that 2 deg. C of warming is ipso facto dangerous.

    Rather, this number appears to have been plucked out of the air at a BMO-hosted meeting at Exeter in 2005, termed “Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change”. At this meeting, the argument was put that in order to get politicians to pay attention there HAD to be an actual “number of degrees warming is dangerous” that would allow climate alarmism to be marketed in a way that the public would understand. (This was, I think, the same meeting that determined the change in media usage from “global warming” to “climate change”, which was similarly promulgated for cynical marketing-the-message reasons).


    Local geological records contain countless examples of greater increases (or decreases) in temperature than 2 deg. C. The nearby animals and plants (ecosystems, if you like) did what they always do, i.e. shifted their geographic distributions and/or adapted to the different conditions. Though usually depicted as the destroyer of biodiversity, climate change is in fact nature’s most powerful engine for increasing it.

    Bob Carter

    [Response: No answers to my question above? – gavin]

    Comment by Bob Carter — 20 Aug 2008 @ 10:13 AM

  85. re #79
    That manuscript (at what stage of publication is this?) states:

    “The approximate equilibrium characterizing most of Earth’s history is unlike the current situation, in which GHGs are rising at a rate much faster than the coupled climate system can respond”

    This is an interesting conjecture. (For it IS a conjecture – unsupported by citation, I notice.) Is it that the coupled climate system is not capable of responding to fast-rising GHGs on a fast time scale, or are you simply failing to detect the fast response because you are focused on the wrong indicator, atmospheric temperature, as opposed to some other, possibly more relevant indicators, such as ocean convection or cloud formation?

    Note the tie-in to Pete Best’s #82 question about arctic sea ice melt. Presumably SSTs (affected by deep convection) have something to do with melt rate. If it is “a little too soon” to determine what is causing faster-than-predicted melt, maybe one possibility is poorly understood & modeled ocean circulation dynamics?

    [Yes, I realize it is “unscientific” to speculate on causes for model-data mismatch. I may as well be advocating flying spaghetti mosterism as a cause, right?]

    Comment by Richard Sycamore — 20 Aug 2008 @ 10:33 AM

  86. Re 77. Gavin,

    interesting is only how natural variations, oscillations and cycles again and again superimpose human influences. Still waiting…

    Comment by Timo Hämeranta — 20 Aug 2008 @ 11:26 AM

  87. RE: #51

    Bob Carter has been vocal [edit] for a number of years. If one is interested in his point of view, go back 2006, when he testified before Inhofe’s Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works on 6 December.

    His presentation would appear to be serious science, which makes it difficult for the average reader to assess whether he is correct of not. In his testimony, it turns out that he relied on data from Spencer and Christy’s analysis of MSU satellite data, referencing the basic Channel 2 data, not the TLT product. The TLT product was intended to correct for the stratospheric cooling which contaminated the channel 2 data. Thus, his presentation understates the warming seen in the MSU data, a fact which has been known since Spencer & Christy first presented the TLT back in 1992. He also references Loehle’s 2004 analysis, which used deeply flawed assumptions in an attempt to project future climate.

    E. S.

    Comment by Eric Swanson — 20 Aug 2008 @ 11:31 AM

  88. David #75

    Dino Killer? Que est que se?

    Far far far far far far better:

    run run run run away!

    PS I think one of the problems is that geologists are being *asked* about climate changes. When your car is having problems, do you go to your heating system engineer for questions?

    Comment by Mark — 20 Aug 2008 @ 11:53 AM

  89. Re: #48 Robert Reiland

    Robert, it appears your assumption is that plants have evolved to the point that they would no longer thrive under the CO2 concentrations that existed closer to the time they evolved. I would like to know your sources for this position; perhaps it is just a supposition on your part. Hundreds of studies indicate that most plants will thrive under much higher CO2 concentrations than exist today. I refer you to:


    Comment by Don Healy — 20 Aug 2008 @ 11:53 AM

  90. #36, Richard Pauli–
    “We all welcome novices, students and even skeptics. Denialists, ideologues, obstructionists and disruptors have no place here. And you know it.”

    If not here, where do all the liars actually belong?

    (Oh, and as for injecting economic philosophy, I meant to do no such thing.)

    “Much more significant, how much should we tolerate voices that prevent us from knowing and describing dangers to our future?”

    As far as I can tell, scientists know and have described more than enough of the dangers to our future to convince people like me that we need to consider how best to spend our money in light of climate change. And the most persuasive thing (to me at least) is that whenever an obstructer, disruptor, denier or idealogue comes in here raising some nonsense issues, these guys deal with it politely, firmly, honestly, and as transparently as possible.

    How would adopting a view of deniers such that they should be dealt with in an unnecessarily heavy-handed or murky way increase the credibility of scientists when it comes to time to persuade people like me that they (and not the obfuscators) are telling the truth?

    I think it adds much credibility to RC as a source for climate news and does much to undermine the denialist position every time an outrightly false comment is both permitted to be posted and is subsequently refuted, be it by the RC contributors themselves or by the (growing?) community of like-minded and reasonable commenters.

    Comment by A.C. — 20 Aug 2008 @ 12:30 PM

  91. Richard Sycamore, you are grasping at straws. First, how are greenhouse gasses supposed to change ocena convection or cloud formation, etc. if not via changes in temperature? And your attribution of ice melting to changes in ocean circulation might be more believable if the ice melt were not occurring globally. Again, you are looking to explain the unknown in terms of the unknown–that’s not how science works, especially when you have a known mechanism that has no trouble explaining the observed effects.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 20 Aug 2008 @ 12:42 PM

  92. Bob Carter:
    Though usually depicted as the destroyer of biodiversity, climate change is in fact nature’s most powerful engine for increasing it.

    I guess that’s why with the rapid and dramatic climate changes at the Permian-Triassic and Cretaceous-Tertiary boundaries there were corresponding increases in biodiversity. Not.

    Comment by Crust — 20 Aug 2008 @ 12:44 PM

  93. RE #27 & C3 plants doing better with CO2 rich air, and C4 doing better with CO2 meager air.

    I saw a program about this years ago (based on an experiment in a greenhouse), and what you say is true — we can expect both C3 and C4 plants to do better in CO2 enriched air; however, C3 plants do a lot better, and outdo C4 plants (which only do a bit better) as the CO2 increases.

    However the scientists pointed out that this is quite disturbing, since our food crops tend to be C4 plants, and the weeds that stifle and overtake C4 plants tend to be C3 plants!

    Also they found (as a surprise to them) that insects did more plant damage. It seems that even though the C4 plants did do a bit better in CO2 enriched air, they were less nutritious and insects had to eat a lot more of them to get the same amount of nourishment.

    So we should expect more crop loss due to weeds and insects in a CO2 enriching atmosphere.

    But this says nothing about the global warming effects of increasing heat, soil desiccation, droughts, storms, wildfires, and floods on those food crops — which should have an even greater negative impact than the CO2 enriched atmosphere.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 20 Aug 2008 @ 12:46 PM

  94. Bob Carter:
    [T]he change in media usage from “global warming” to “climate change” … was … promulgated for cynical marketing-the-message reasons

    I don’t suppose one of those “cynical” reasons was that “climate change” is the more accurate description? E.g. for John Q. Public it might confusing to talk about stratospheric cooling as a part of “global warming“; the term “climate change” removes the needless cognitive dissonance.

    Comment by Crust — 20 Aug 2008 @ 12:54 PM

  95. Don, #89.

    These are plants with plenty of other stuff available. They didn’t have to put up with ANYTHING other than increased CO2. No stresses, no invading species, no new predators, fungi, diseases or parasites. No change in humidity, no change in temperatures.

    Even if it were doing some good, how does it replace the land that used to support people on the borders of the sahara? Are you going to let them move from the new dessert into your area because your plants are growing better when theirs are dying? Taking your jobs, homes and land?

    Comment by Mark — 20 Aug 2008 @ 1:05 PM

  96. Dear Gavin,

    One of the reasons that RealClimate is discounted by some as a source of serious scientific comment is because of your continual allowance of unproductive ad hominem abuse.

    The first part of the comment at #87 from Eric Swanson is a typical example.

    It adds nothing to the debate, and in a properly invigilated site would have been edited out.

    Report Card: the RealClimate pupil has promise but must learn to do better in distinguishing between emotions and science.

    Bob Carter

    [Response: Hmmm…. putting aside for the moment the issue of who needs lessons in manners or in scientific thinking, I’ve edited out the offending word. I would be much happier for you to comment on the serious questions I posed above rather than getting caught up in pointless rhetorical digressions. Just so that we are clear, I am not interested in your approval, just your answers. Then we can make a Report Card on something substantive. – gavin]

    Comment by Bob Carter — 20 Aug 2008 @ 1:05 PM

  97. Why is a geologist telling us the ecologists are all wrong about ecological consequences of warming?

    Isn’t there an irony meter on this thing somewhere?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 20 Aug 2008 @ 1:14 PM

  98. In today’s news:

    McAfee, S. A., and J. L. Russell (2008), Northern Annular Mode impact on spring climate in the western United States, Geophys. Res. Lett., doi:10.1029/2008GL034828, in press.
    (accepted 22 July 2008)

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 20 Aug 2008 @ 1:43 PM

  99. One of the reasons that RealClimate is discounted by some as a source of serious scientific comment is because of your continual allowance of unproductive ad hominem abuse.
    It adds nothing to the debate, and in a properly invigilated site would have been edited out.

    Let’s all thank Bob Carter for having just sunk Marohasy’s blog, Climate Audit, and Watts Up With That …

    Comment by dhogaza — 20 Aug 2008 @ 1:50 PM

  100. Re 8

    Ice is the most common oxide mineral in the solar system, at times in the relatively recent geological past forming the bulk of the Earth’s crust, even as it does that of Europa and Enceladus today.

    Given that the average temperature of the Earth is closer to the melting point of SiO2 than H20,it seems parochial climate science should obsess on a temperature regime so narrowly centered on 300K.

    Comment by Russell Seitz — 20 Aug 2008 @ 1:55 PM

  101. Milankovitch cycles are “computer” models. (Okay, you can do the math by hand if you have enough time). If they didn’t compare successfully with empirical data, nobody would believe them. (And they weren’t established as a climate forcer until enough data piled up to support them.

    It is always the combination of data and theory that makes science so powerful. Many geologists, as well as weather forecasters and experimentalists, are not comfortable with mathematics and tend to react with suspicion to theories that are heavily mathematical.(As opposed to a simple precept like uniformitarianism).

    I keep thinking of the plate tectonic sessions at the American Geophysical Union in the early 1970’s, where the old geologists used to whisper to each other, “But do you believe in continental drift?” I still know a geologist who does not.

    The inability of some geologists, or other scientists, to absorb the evidence for rapid climate change combined with the basic chemistry and equations behind the predictions of the models would not be significant IF there were not a massive, well-funded public relations campaign to discredit climate change.

    Comment by veritas36 — 20 Aug 2008 @ 2:34 PM

  102. Bob Carter (# 84)

    Thank you for the reply. Regardless of your feelings on RC or other members, I hope we can continue this exchange. I’d also like something productive so I will spend as little time as possible quibbling over definitions which we should agree are inherently subjective to some extent. If someone said that an asteroid hitting the Earth that wiped out 95% of life was not catastrophic (or “dangerous”) because it happened before, then I might not take them too seriously, but I don’t think I’d be able to argue with them, with just science as a tool. Some may disagree, but I would consider the question outside the domain of science, and into the realm of philosophy. I would not mind your thoughts, however, on Hansen et al (2006) which takes up this question in more detail. However, many consider rapid loss of coral reefs, northern hemispheric ice, ecological displacement, sea level rise, etc to be “dangerous” (even if it happened before) and I am working with the premise that if climate sensitivity is 2 to 4.5 K per 2x CO2, we have something that is worth “doing something about.” Some differences however between now and the past though:

    – As far as I’m aware, there is no example in the paleoclimate record of a global 3 K change in timescales of decades to centuries (and the abrupt changes during the last glaciation are not a supporting example due to the extent of the temperature anomaly). High-frequency information is limited to impossible as you go back much farther (e.g. past the ice core record), but I doubt such a change has occurred so rapidly over the whole Cambrian (if I am wrong, please correct me). Much larger changes have occurred of course, but generally on glacial-interglacial to millions-of-year timescales.

    – There has never been 6.5 billion people on the planet (~9 billion by 2050), with so much invested in the status quo. Civilization began in a stable Holocene, and has not experienced variability outside ~1 degree C since then. Even still, relatively minor bumps in the road proved to matter quite a bit (e.g. to the Mayans or Vikings). Without humans, large and quick climate changes will cause problems, but now that species have limited areas to migrate (e.g. across parking lots rather than open land), and now that there is much more infrastructure and population in coastal and low-lying areas, this only makes things worth. A 2 C temperature anomaly taking place over 100 years would have many more consequences now than if the same thing happened ten million years ago.

    I cannot think of how IPCC WG2 would disagree with me in any of these regards. I have very limited study in biology or ecology, but I would think it near impossible to find professionals in the field who disagreed that large and quick changes can cause problems. In fact, you are right in that climate changes have caused life to thrive, since for evolutionary mechanisms to make any significant “steps forward” you probably need some variability rather than a completely homeostatic system. This is a view I’d support now looking back to previous large changes, but it is not a view I’d support if I was involved in those large changes while they were occurring. Imagine the environmental assessment report those anerobic creatures would have written when the atmosphere was becoming oxygenated!

    Still, I would like a couple of questions answered which summarizes mine and other concerns

    1) how do you propose we go about the attribution effort? If models are to be excluded and we use only empirical observations, then what constitutes sufficient empirical evidence that
    a) The climate is changing
    b) Humans are a significant cause of that warming

    2) What climate sensitivity, or what magnitude of radiative forcing, is sufficient to say the situation is “dangerous?”

    Comment by Chris Colose — 20 Aug 2008 @ 3:07 PM

  103. Bob Carter (84): “I am unaware of any empirical (that word again) justification for the assumption that 2 deg. C of warming is ipso facto dangerous.”

    125000 years ago it was 1 to 2 degrees warmer on average than now, and sea level was about 6 meters higher. I know that such a sealevel rise doesn’t happen overnight, but it does show that a temperature change of 2 degrees is at least potentially dangerous in the long run.

    Furthermore, I think the 2 degrees has a basis in that some elements of the climate system are expected to be close to their tipping point at such a degree of warming (a statement which of course has large uncertainties, granted, but they go in both directions, and it’s a matter of risk assessment in the face of (to a certain degree) unavoidable uncertainty).

    Perhaps the difference in opinion here is more about what risks we’re willing to take, than it is about climate science.

    Jules (33): For me (and I assume most people here) the interest is not in blaming any particular profession, but rather in understanding why people are “skeptical” towards anthropogenic causation of climate change. That is important to ponder for the communication and understanding of climate science amongst the public (and amongst “skeptics”) to improve. From your blog, I think you would agree with that.

    Comment by Bart Verheggen — 20 Aug 2008 @ 3:10 PM

  104. Climatology and geology separate sciences; earth system a whole. However, geologists little concerned about “short term” climatic change timescale and mock idea that “minor temperature changes” in the gaseoous us envelope can impact on the tectonic system. Moreover, many geologists linked to fossil fuel industry.

    However, hypotheses:

    Increased global warming (of interest to climatologists)causing melting of ice over Greenland. Result, slow secular isostatic adjustment of Greenland crust (of interest to geologists). Greater probability of seismic activity due to stresses and strains on rocks from crustal adjustment.

    Global warming causes greater evaporation from oceans and increased and more intense precipitation over continental land masses (climatalogical fact?). Erosion from continents increases, greater deposition in ocean basins. Positive isostatic adjustment over continent; negative isostatic adjustment in ocesn basins. (Geological fact?) Greater seismic activity and greater volcanic activity levels result? But timescale of global warming – couple of centuries; timescale of consequences of global warming on earth crust – millennia or longer.

    Lesson: geologists need to pay more heed to climatologists’concerns.

    Comment by Jolly Jest — 20 Aug 2008 @ 3:14 PM

  105. Re: Lynn, #93:

    For a doubling of CO2 from 360 ppm, experiments have confirmed the following (from the link referenced in #89 above):

    “Cereal grains with C3 metabolism, including rice, wheat, barley, oats, and rye, show yield increases ranging from 25 to 64 percent, resulting from a rise in carbon fixation and reduction in photo-respiration. Flag leaves, the ones closest to grain panicles or heads, show a 60 percent increase in photosynthetic rates.

    Food crops with C4 metabolism, including corn, sorghum, millet, and sugarcane, show yield increases ranging from 10 to 55 percent, resulting primarily from superior efficiency in water use.

    Tuber and root crops, including potatoes and sweet potatoes, show dramatic increase in tuberization (potatoes) and growth of roots (sweet potatoes). Yield increases range from 18 to 75 percent.

    Legumes, including peas, beans, and soybeans, show yield increases of 28 to 46 percent. For soybeans, frequently planted not only for their food value but because they naturally fertilize the soil, there is a spectacular increase in biological nitrogen fixation, as will be shown below.”

    Thus, I question the negatives that you at attached to “an experiment”. The results I cite are from hundreds of experiments. Please cite your source.

    Thanks, Don

    [Response: Maybe this one: Long et al, 2006… – gavin]

    Comment by Don Healy — 20 Aug 2008 @ 3:26 PM

  106. It’s instructive that Bob Carter ignores Gavin’s question. Carter claims that he is “unaware of any empirical evidence that dangerous warming, or any measurable warming for that matter, can be attributed to a human causation.” The IPCC is full of empirical evidence, the balance of which supports the conclusion that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, and that humans are responsible for unprecedented levels of CO2 in the system. CO2 of natural origin has warmed the planet in the past. CO2 of human origin can certainly have the same consequence.

    The models are only one thread in the overwhelming evidence for this understanding. What is missing is evidence of some natural mechanism for the warming that is clearly happening. How would Carter attribute the warming if not by relying on models? What kind of evidence is he waiting for? Looking over his opinion pieces, it seems that the only evidence he recognizes is that which confirms his conclusion that there’s nothing to worry about, regardless of the quality of the evidence or the credibility of his sources.

    Comment by Michael Seward — 20 Aug 2008 @ 3:37 PM

  107. I’m a geologist….and a skeptic too.

    I think the reason geologists might be more skeptical of human-caused catastrophic climate change is we learn early in our training that the history of the earth is one of ongoing catastrophe, from meteor impacts, to periods of intense volcanism, to “iceball” earth episodes, all going back 500 million years or so. We just find it hard to get worried about the temperature allegedly rising 2 degrees in the next 100 years.

    Plus we know that the most devastating episodes for life on earth recently have been cold periods not warm.

    Regards, BRK

    [Response: That’s what I don’t understand. It’s as if you’ve seen your neighbour’s houses destroyed by termites, sinkholes, floods and runaway trains, and so you know how fragile they are, and yet you are content to watch while someone stokes a unguarded fire under your porch. Doesn’t it bother you even a little? – gavin]

    Comment by Brian Klappstein — 20 Aug 2008 @ 4:24 PM

  108. #84 Bob Carter

    “Local geological records contain countless examples of greater increases (or decreases) in temperature than 2 deg. C. The nearby animals and plants (ecosystems, if you like) did what they always do, i.e. shifted their geographic distributions and/or adapted to the different conditions”

    There are three things that plants and animals always did, adapted, shifted their geographical distributions or became extinct. Claiming that animals and plants only “shifted their geographic distributions and/or adapted” is incorrect. Considering that Bob Carter is a scientist, its unlikely this is a merely an uninformed statement.

    Comment by Joseph O\'Sullivan — 20 Aug 2008 @ 5:01 PM

  109. #84 Bob Carter

    Both “catastrophic AGW” and “dangerous climate change” are relative terms. Common sense would lead one to believe that the connotation is related to the human system and its subsystems as well as those changes that fall outside of the natural cycle.

    There is also the geologic time scale to consider. You may certainly argue that the AGW event is neither catastrophic nor dangerous if you so choose and the best way to accomplish this goal is to ignore any impact on human and biological systems. Then you would be more correct in your assertions, at least connotatively speaking.


    It’s most likely, from what I read in your posts, that you just are not aware of, or ignorant of, the importance of such relationships, but if you now continue to ignore the relevance based on what you have heard, that means you are purposefully ignorant of the importance. Not good for one that claims to be a scientist.

    Further, you discuss a meeting regarding “Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change”. A marketing meeting has nothing to do with the science, you should know that already because you are one. You seem to think it relevant somehow though?

    You further go on to discuss greater temperature changes in the past and certainly ecosystems adapted to those changes just as will occur again. The missing aspect of relevance is that the connotative value of ‘dangerous’ directly relates to speed of change, current context and infrastructure as it pertains to human systems and biological systems that human systems rely upon.

    In this context, dangerous and catastrophic are easier to understand. Latitudinal and altitudinal shifts as well as geologic timescale issues of AGW v. natural cycle shifts in combination with human infrastructure and the monetary economic impact thereto. I don’t think it’s that difficult to understand really.

    I would like to hear your answers to Gavin’s questions in post #51.


    There are a lot of people in here that would love to be enlightened with any sound science you can present.

    Comment by John P. Reisman (The Centrist Party) — 20 Aug 2008 @ 5:01 PM

  110. #84 Bob Carter

    “Local geological records contain countless examples of greater increases (or decreases) in temperature than 2 deg. C. The nearby animals and plants (ecosystems, if you like) did what they always do, i.e. shifted their geographic distributions and/or adapted to the different conditions”

    In addition to J. O’Sullivan’s response… There are international legal agreements to preserve biodiversity, because it was generally agreed that biodiversity is important for a vast number of reasons.

    If there is rapid climate change, there’s no time for species to either adapt or to move geographic range. Some things are just stuck where they are, like coral reefs, species high on mountains, isolated forests, rivers that dry up, etc, with nowhere to got to. For example, Scottish fauna and flora, Capercaillie, Ptarmigan, etc, cannot move further northward. Where are penguins supposed to move to ?

    Of course, on geological time scales, or a God’s-eye view, these things may not matter. But for humans and their children and grand-children, they are relevant.

    Comment by CL — 20 Aug 2008 @ 5:34 PM

  111. ‘dangerous’ climate change: How about the concentration of CO2 which leads to pulmonary acidoisis? Whatever that level is, it means that everybody will be cronically somewhat ill. This following, rather obscurly published and under-referenced paper states, in effect, that 426 ppm is too much:

    [Response: This is very dubious indeed and should not play any part in these discussions – many city centers have levels higher than this already. – gavin]

    Comment by David B. Benson — 20 Aug 2008 @ 6:14 PM

  112. #85 Richard Sycamore

    If I am reading your question correctly you are questioning the climate response time to GHG change. Oceanic thermal inertia is keeping the change rate in check. If we were at equilibrium with the current forcing it would be warmer. I suppose we can all be thankful that oceans heat and cool slowly in relation to forcing, thus allowing time for species adaption in the natural cycle. Of course we are breaking the natural speed limit with this AGW event.

    Other response considerations:

    The GHG change rate has been purported to be dramatically above (thousands of times faster than) natural variability in the paleo record (large asteroid impacts aside i.e. end mesozoic/cretaceous):

    Global climate change progressed faster in the 20th century than at any other time during the past 22,000 years, warn Swiss scientists.

    Climate change threatens a million species with extinction

    Comment by John P. Reisman (The Centrist Party) — 20 Aug 2008 @ 6:32 PM

  113. It’s a pity that so many of the geologists who have posted here are questioning global warming. I know plenty who have accepted it long ago. These must be geologists who work in fields unrelated to those I listed. Most are likely in the petroleum or mining industries. It’s a shame that then the climatologists appear to be bashing the entire science of geology (& many seem here to claim the (climate)science all for themselves when anyone following this topic from the 70s knows better–it’s an area of study integrating many disciplines–glaciologists, & some ‘oceanographers’ e.g., ARE geologists, and many other disciplines as well.) “…geologists can’t understand the basic chemistry and equations”??! Nonsense. All this shows is that you know nothing of academic geologists and the entire range & reach of the science: geochemistry, biogeochemistry, geophysics, marine geology, sedimentology, glaciology, geoarchaeologists, paleontology and paleoecology are among the many geological disiplines where you will find those who have contributed immensely to the current research & without who’s work (& by the way we CAN and DO understand short times scales)there would be no historical basis On which to establish GW but the very short time temperature readings have been taken. Thus, there would be no historical precedents. GEOLOGISTS studying the Pliestocene glaciation and maine geologists & paleontologists are the ones who have contributed the necessary data to show that rapid global climate change has & can happen both rapidly & over long periods of time. We can and DO study short periods of time.

    Re long time periods–without History you are NO WHERE. If you Don’t understand the history of the planet then you can’t understand much of anything about the present.

    Again, many of those geologists still denying GW have only B.S. & M.S. degrees & have ignored research since gaining employment–their vested interest are threatened-or their old world view. Those that speak out againsts it are paid shills in the industry. They have no credibility. But these people do NOT make up the Majority of Academic geologists who DO accept it and the many who have joined this research.

    I was offered a geophysics position by Exon starting at $35K/yr in 81. I’d gone to the interview on a lark. I’ve Never had any intention of working in an industry whose goal was to put a strangle-hold on the world economy-which I realized would happen when still in high school. I gladly went on to obtain my degrees so that I could teach students about the history of the Earth & what it tells us–Anthropogenic GW IS REAL, yet never made more than 25K/yr. And I had a family of Five. The course I offered on Global warming in 90 was the first of its kind among any of the colleges & universities in Michigan’s lower penninsula. And I taught that it had Already Begun, just as James Hansen had said & been ridiculed for in the 80s.

    For the sake of science and public perception, please STop your bashing of geologists! If you really believe some of your outrageous statements, then you need to get another degree or two.

    Comment by David R. Hickey — 20 Aug 2008 @ 6:33 PM

  114. David, 20 août 2008 at 6:14 PM
    I looked up the footnotes to that the paper at that link.

    There is one interesting statement there about one study I could not find, on CO2 levels in classrooms and learning problems. If you can find that I’d be curious.

    But I’m, er, skep …skep … can’t be fooled again.

    This sentence and cite is the key to the impression you have. I think it’s bogus:

    “Office buildings exist which are described
    as ‘sick’, in which workers display symptoms of carbon
    dioxide poisoning8.”

    Look up the cite for that footnote #8 — it says sick buildings have air full of a panoply of nasty stuff most of which can’t be measured. It doesn’t support the statement for which it’s cited, in my amateur opinion.
    Consider this instead, a source that is actually referring to actual carbon dioxide levels:

    “… This document discusses the toxicity and exposure limits for exposure to carbon dioxide gas (CO2). We give references and explanation regarding Toxicity of Carbon Dioxide …”

    “… a Drager colorimetric gas detection tube used to test the CO2 levels in air. In an indoor air test (in our laboratory) the detector found that the CO2 level was about 600ppm which is typical of indoor air and is an acceptable and safe level.”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 20 Aug 2008 @ 6:47 PM

  115. #84 Bob Carter
    #94 Crust

    (This was, I think, the same meeting that determined the change in media usage from “global warming” to “climate change”, which was similarly promulgated for cynical marketing-the-message reasons).

    I am unsure how to address the idea of ‘climate change” v. ‘global warming’ scientifically. However, I use the term ‘global warming’, because ‘climate change’ is something that both, goes up and down in trends based on forcing, and occurs in natural full cycle.

    ‘Global warming’ on the other hand is only half a natural cycle. Putting aside any marketing reasons, I believe the more accurate term to be either ‘global warming’ of ‘anthropogenic global warming’ or ‘human caused global warming’.


    1. We are warming, not cooling, in the trend.

    2. We are warming outside of the natural variability due to anthropogenic imposed forcing caused by increased GHG’s imposed via industrial processes.

    In my understanding ‘climate change’ is not a sufficient reference to something that is in an uptrend warming specifically and anthropogenic in cause.

    I am more concerned that ‘climate change’ increases cognitive dissonance rather than decreases, since it has the ambiguity of warming and cooling potentials within it, while we are clearly in a warming event.

    Comment by John P. Reisman (The Centrist Party) — 20 Aug 2008 @ 6:53 PM

  116. I think the reason geologists might be more skeptical of human-caused catastrophic climate change is we learn early in our training that the history of the earth is one of ongoing catastrophe, from meteor impacts, to periods of intense volcanism, to “iceball” earth episodes, all going back 500 million years or so. We just find it hard to get worried about the temperature allegedly rising 2 degrees in the next 100 years.

    That’s senseless. Just senseless. The next 100 years is when your children and grandchildren will be living. You suggest we should be unconcerned about our actions making their lives more difficult because once upon a time we had snowball earth?

    Comment by dhogaza — 20 Aug 2008 @ 7:03 PM

  117. Here’s a double-whammy paper.

    Yes, migratory birds are showing up earlier (first arrival date is earlier) over the past 30 years).

    But there are a lot fewer of them — they’re more scattered out in time. The mean arrival date is later because the cohort size total is smaller.

    Any way you look at it, it’s not good news.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 20 Aug 2008 @ 7:47 PM

  118. Geologists publishing relevant papers:

    Martin Kennedy, David Mrofka & Chris von der Borch. Snowball Earth termination by destabilization of equatorial permafrost methane clathrate. Nature, 453, 642-645 (29 May 2008) DOI: 10.1038/nature06961;jsessionid=BB6B9E467D46F310D8191AA2C60AABF4


    Comment by Hank Roberts — 20 Aug 2008 @ 8:15 PM

  119. RE: #96 Bob Carter makes reference to my earlier comment # 87 in which I pointed to two instances in which Dr. Carter misused the scientific information. Since he chose to address my use of the word denialist instead of responding to the substance of my comment, I must assume that he now agrees that I was correct to raise those issues. According to both the Spencer & Christy and the RSS analysis of the MSU data, there is a warming trend seen in the so-called lower tropospheric temperature data. There are also other groups who have found a warming trend by analyzing the MSU data. Isn’t that exactly the sort of evidence which Dr. Carter has claimed was lacking in proof of Global Warming?

    But, Dr. Carter chooses to quibble over whether the changes being observed are “dangerous” or catastrophic”, when we know that relatively small changes resulting from volcanic eruptions can indeed produce short term catastrophic consequences. The effects of Tambora, Huaynaputina and Kuwae are clear evidence of the sensitivity of human civilization to small cooling events on the order of a few degrees C. While we do not yet know with certainty how dangerous a few degrees of warming will be, such certainty won’t be fully known until AFTER the temperature has risen, at which point, we will be stuck with the results of our unintentional climate experimentation.

    I think the data suggests that the Thermhaline Circulation may be much more vulnerable than some have suggested, as there is evidence of considerable fluctuations in the flow on decadal time scales. I have seen evidence which suggests that the THC may have weakened (or even shutdown) in the Greenland Sea THIS YEAR, but I have no direct oceanographic measurements to support that view. (Perhaps one of the professional oceanographers out there in RC land could comment on this year’s measurements.) Would a shutdown of the THC be the sort of consequence which Dr. Carter would consider to be dangerous or even catastrophic? If not, what sort of change WOULD Dr. Carter have on his list of “dangerous” changes?

    E. S.

    Comment by Eric Swanson — 20 Aug 2008 @ 8:55 PM

  120. Hank Roberts (114) — Thank you for finding such an informative link.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 20 Aug 2008 @ 9:17 PM

  121. #113 David R. Hickey

    I did not read all the posts, but I don’t think anyone is bashing all bashing geologists, just the ones that are spreading ideas out of context. I would personally find it hard to believe that the majority of geologists are not aware of the situation as it has developed, especially since so much good reporting on global warming comes from the AGU and like organizations.

    On the other hand, it is appropriate to address and put in perspective the fallacies and shortcomings of those few geologists that have not examined the width and breadth of the relevant science and the contexts of the data and models and understood it.

    There is much as stake and communicating and illustrating the science appropriately is difficult when certain individuals take it upon themselves to narrow their vision to a point that science becomes impossible and then claim that their myopic vision is relevant to a point that people should ignore the relevant science… and then spread such fallacy through the media as if it is some sort of gospel.

    It’s a strange time. I guess in reality we are all just passing though this life, but to trivialize our existence and say it does not matter… because … geologic time scales show that life is resilient… not a very nice thing to say, all things considered.

    I continue to hope the cataracts will fall from those eyes, that they may see the forcing, and the ramifications in time before too much damage is done… but a certain amount of damage is now in the cards and some will pay while others benefit… with any luck, maybe we as a human race will become aware in time to keep it sane?

    Thank you for your post.

    Comment by John P. Reisman (The Centrist Party) — 20 Aug 2008 @ 10:08 PM

  122. David B. Benson Says:
    20 August 2008 at 6:14 PM
    ‘dangerous’ climate change: How about the concentration of CO2 which leads to pulmonary acidoisis? Whatever that level is, it means that everybody will be cronically somewhat ill. This following, rather obscurly published and under-referenced paper states, in effect, that 426 ppm is too much:

    [edit–watch the tone!] what is “pulmonary acidoisis”?

    Comment by Steve — 21 Aug 2008 @ 10:06 AM

  123. Re 107 – “Plus we know that the most devastating episodes for life on earth recently have been cold periods not warm.”

    Well, if that’s true, the present may provide some variety for you.

    I would guess (I’m not an evolutionary biologist) that evolution has some time scale of memory – that is, the species around today have the genetic variations that have survived not just the last generation. So it makes some sense that in addition to size and rapidity of change, unfamiliarity is a factor. That is, if it was just recently 5 deg C colder (how recently it has to be to matter, I’m not sure), a cool down of 5 deg C might not cause as big an extinction as a warm up of the same (over the same time period) – although if it’s fast enough the distinction may not matter, because aside from genetic variation among and within species, trees and soil can only migrate so fast, even assuming there is a route available… (PS notice that other human-caused changes may have made ecosystems and biodiversity even more vulnerable to other changes). Anyway, many humans are not nomads, and the way some of us have become accustomed to living, we have deep expensive elaborate roots in the ground (that will need to be repaired eventually anyway, but still…) and a whole lot of nice baggage that we’d prefer to take with us when moving. The modern way of life currently enjoyed by x % of us has never seen global average surface temperatures outside a narrow range. Whatever combination of changing our emissions and changing the climate, we’ll have to change, the question is, what combination of the two is preferable? (With oil at ~100 $/barrel, solar power doesn’t seem all that expensive anymore, even without carbon taxes.)

    Wasn’t it warming up during the end Permian mass extinctions?

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 21 Aug 2008 @ 1:40 PM

  124. re #84 Dr. Robert Carter
    >(This was, I think, the same meeting that determined the change in media usage from “global warming” to “climate change”, which was similarly promulgated for cynical marketing-the-message reasons).

    Frank Luntz is a Republican pollster known as the architect of House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s 1994 “Contract with America.” Luntz advised Republicans in a secret memo during Bush’s first term on their political vulnerability because of their stand on the environment:

    “Voters believe that there is no consensus about global warming
    within the scientific community. Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly;”

    “Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate;”

    “It’s time for us to start talking
    about ‘climate change’ instead of global warming and ‘conservation’ instead of preservation.
    1. ‘Climate change’ is less frightening than ‘global warming;’ As one focus group participant noted, climate change ‘sounds like you’re going from Pittsburgh to Fort Lauderdale.’ While global warming has catastrophic connotations attached to it, climate change suggests a more controllable and less emotional challenge;”

    “A compelling story, even if factually inaccurate, can be more emotionally compelling than a dry recitation of the truth.”

    He is also reputed to have said that the key to survey polling is “to ask a question in the way that you get the right answer”

    Yes, the spin from global warming to climate change was “promulgated for cynical marketing-the-message reasons.”
    Just not by people concerned about avoiding dangerous climate change.

    (ReCaptcha: “sad approach”)

    Comment by Brian Dodge — 21 Aug 2008 @ 1:57 PM

  125. Steve (122) — Should have written ‘respiratory acidosis”:

    but sometimes ‘pulmonary acidosis’ is used:

    Comment by David B. Benson — 21 Aug 2008 @ 2:41 PM

  126. re Hank Roberts link posts. I thank you as well for coming to geologist’s defense.

    re John P. Reisman post #121
    Thank you John. You are likely correct about the majority of geologists being refered to in these posts. However, I suppose it comes down to this. The blog post Title reads “Are Geologists Different” and those posting about the viewpoints of geologists w/out identifying them as educated or uneducated in fields relating to GW and those geologists posting objections to the GW as the inescapable concensus conclusion of the great majority of climate scientists (geologists Included) give the impression when reading through the posts that this is a free-for all climate scientists only bash against all geologists and paleobiologists. Yes, the post accompanying the question does give many geologists credit, but cites a few at one conference as representing the whole. Thus, Perhaps it was the very Title/Question posed by the blog that is misleading and should have been clarified initially. Something like “Are SOME Geologists Different?”

    Comment by David R. Hickey — 21 Aug 2008 @ 2:54 PM

  127. Re: 105, Gavin and Lynn:

    I have read the study you provided in #105 above, (Response: Maybe this one: Long et al, 2006… – gavin] but conclude that it probably supports my position on the benefits of CO2 fertilization more than yours. The experiments cited wheat and rice FACE experiments included nitrogen treatments, but only at lower levels. From the paper “At the lowest [N] (15 to 70 kg of N haj1), the average yield increase with elevated [CO2] was only 9% (28), just over one-third of that of the chamber response (Table 1). Although this N input treatment was considered low by the standards of intensive agriculture in the European Union and United States, these levels exceed the world average and may therefore be closer to the stimulation factor for crop yields across the globe.” And “For example, the major C3 herbage grass, Lolium perenne, also showed a yield increase of only 9% at two locations; and at the lowest [N] (100 to 140 kg of N haj1), the yield increase was an insignificant 1% (table S2)(28).” The justification used above for only considering low nitrogen level appears unwarranted considering that a vast majority of the agriculture products that feed the world are produced with fertilizers of one sort or another.

    Additionally, the paper makes no mention made as to the nitrogen levels used in the experiments for greenhouses, laboratory chambers or field chambers that the FACE results were compared to. Limiting nitrogen levels will certainly reduce the effect of CO2 fertilization.

    There have however, been numerous other FACE experiments that mirror the results of the chamber experiments and also mention the effects of various nitrogen and water regimes. CO2 Science documents much of the work of Dr. Bruce Kimball who has been involved in FACE experiments since their beginning in 1989. A summary of his findings between 1989 and 2002 in many dozens of experiments is as follows:

    “So what did Kimball et al. learn from their massive review of the FACE literature? To what degree were different plant physiological processes and properties altered by a 300 ppm increase in the air’s CO2 concentration?

    With respect to net photosynthesis, the rates of this process in upper-canopy leaves of the several C3 grasses studied were enhanced by an average of 46% under ample water and nitrogen, and by 44% when nitrogen was limiting to growth. In the case of the C4 crop sorghum, however, the net photosynthetic enhancement at ample water and nitrogen was only 14%; but when water was limiting to growth, the CO2-induced stimulation rose to 34%. And when net photosynthesis was measured throughout the entire canopy of a C3 wheat crop, the mean enhancement was 28%.
    With respect to aboveground biomass, three C3 grasses (wheat, ryegrass and rice) experienced an average increase of 18% at ample water and nitrogen, 4% at low nitrogen, and 21% at low water. C4 sorghum, however, experienced a mere 4% increase at ample water and nitrogen, but a 24% increase at low water. Most surprising of all, perhaps, was potato (a C3 forb), which experienced a 32% decrease at ample water and nitrogen. Clover (a C3 legume), on the other hand, experienced a 36% increase at ample water and nitrogen, as well as a 38% increase at low nitrogen. Last of all, woody cotton and grape plants experienced an average 48% increase at ample water and nitrogen, and an average 39% increase at low water.
    With respect to belowground biomass, wheat, ryegrass and rice experienced an average increase of 70% at ample water and nitrogen, 58% at low nitrogen, and 34% at low water. Clover experienced a 38% increase at ample water and nitrogen, plus a 32% increase at low nitrogen. Outdoing them all, however, was cotton, with a 96% increase at ample water and nitrogen.
    With respect to agricultural yield – which represents the bottom line in terms of food and fiber production – ryegrass and wheat experienced an average increase of 18% at ample water and nitrogen, while wheat also experienced an increase of 10% at low nitrogen and 34% at low water. Sorghum yield was unchanged at ample water and nitrogen; but at low water it rose by 38%. And potato, in spite of its 32% decrease in aboveground growth, experienced a yield increase of 42% at ample water and nitrogen.” (From:

    So, it would appear that the study you cited was not conducted with the intent of mirroring the conditions that were assumed for the previous “enclosed chamber” experiments and basically only tested for low nitrogen environments; an unrealistic approach considering our current agricultural techniques.

    Thanks, Don

    Comment by Don Healy — 21 Aug 2008 @ 3:03 PM

  128. Dear Rasmus,
    I like to answer your question. No, geologists are not different.
    They are as knowledgeable and as well educated as any other group of scientists. This should be respected. Many of them have given wealth to us or to their countries by finding ore or oil. I think that is also a fact that one should respect and not forget.
    I watched yesterday the webcast of the IGC panel discussion about global warming.
    For my opinion the conclusion of the panel discussion was: It is most likely that there is warming. Moreover, it is most likely that there is a significant anthropogenic factor. There was also a strong argument to take action and make political decisions to mitigate or prevent climate change based on the available model predictions.
    Moreover it was for my opinion a regular panel discussion that could have happened at any scientific or engineering conference about any topic. A spread of different opinions based on different levels of knowledge about the specific topic. I even noticed that ”ad hominem” arguments did not play a significant role. I think, we do not have to worry about this world as long as people voice and defend their opinion, even though we disagree with their opinion or even if they are wrong.

    [Response: Thanks for your comments. In ‘different’ I referred to having a different view to the other disciplines working in geophysics. I still think there is a problem when fundamental concepts are mixed together, such as natural fluctuations (e.g. the mentioned ‘trend’ since 1998 and ‘cooling’ in the last couple of years) and trend issues in the penal debate. One usually expects state-of-the-art matters to be discussed in such panel debates (at least in conferences of this size), unless there is a fundamental paradigm shift. I agree that geologists are as knowledgeable and as well-educated (in their field) as any other group of scientists, and that it should be respected: Obviously, they know their field, but I wonder if they are entirely up-to-date regarding the current climate situation. That is an interesting and legitimate question. -rasmus]

    Comment by Guenter Hess — 21 Aug 2008 @ 3:49 PM

  129. In the long run, I’m not afraid of a warming planet. It sounds unfrightening to me, really.

    An ice age sounds much more difficult to survive through.

    Those are the deadline facts.

    Now…if you get off on arguing who’s more intelligent or right…then by all means, do so.

    Happiness found in other useful pursuits, is infinitely more important to me than being right about evil humans and all that they do on a planet for an infinitely insignificant speck of time.

    Comment by KW — 21 Aug 2008 @ 4:16 PM

  130. RE Steve 122,

    Acidosis (very briefly): The body maintains the ph of the blood within a narrow range optimum for many metabolic functions. It primarily does this through the respiratory and renal systems. The primary cause of acidic (and alkalotic) states are differentiated medically between metabolic acidosis (diabetic ketosis is a prime example) and respiratory acidosis (those caused by respiratory abnormalities such as not breathing deeply enough to clear the CO2 from the lungs). (Written from memory from a physiology class of 30 years ago and experience as a (non-ICU) RN (retired)).

    I am not really qualified to judge the validity of the Robertson paper; however that won’t stop me from commenting that I would not be surprised if other physiological compensatory mechanisms could compensate for chronically high atmospheric CO2 levels (to a minor degree). It would be nice to hear an ICU attending MD weigh in on this.

    Comment by Arch Stanton — 21 Aug 2008 @ 5:13 PM

  131. Don Healy writes ” … it would appear …” and cites to co2science’s blog.

    Don, I’m sure you’re right that they make it appear so.
    That’s their business. They’re a PR site doing “advocacy science” spinning everything the way their funders need. You can’t rely on their interpretations.

    Look them up at the Nature blog:

    Look them up at climateaudit:
    Well, the actual posting has disappeared, but here’s a reference to it from the same thread. Dr. Judith Curry had just visited co2science for the first time and debunked it. This is a response quoting from that now-missing posting

    >> Re the CO2 site. I seem to have inadvertently
    >> stirred up a hornets nest on this one, apologies
    >> for previous flip posts but my “spin meter”
    >> on this particular topic is acutely
    >> sensitivity.
    >> The post on the CO2 site is “high class” spin,
    >> where factual info is presented without obvious
    >> errors and the motives of scientists aren’t
    >> attacked (this is in contrast to low class
    >> spin).
    >> …
    >> When i said i could refute the CO2 site, i was
    >> specifically referring to their faulty reasoning,
    >> not the data or anything else.

    Check it out.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 21 Aug 2008 @ 5:29 PM

  132. Correction — when I started the above, full text search hadn’t turned up the original, for some reason, but I’d gone through the thread, find the original, and the quote above is from the source posting:

    The exchange began earlier in the thread:

    Also check Sourcewatch, of course.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 21 Aug 2008 @ 5:57 PM

  133. Arch Stanton (130) — From my brief explorations on acidosis, well done!

    I’m certainly not qualified to comment on the paper, but again from what little I have learned about respitory acidosis there does seem to be some sort of ‘buffering’ which lessens the symptoms.

    I, too, would very much like someone knowledgable to comment, but in the nonce what is a ‘ICU attending MD”? As opposed to an MD, that is?

    Comment by David B. Benson — 21 Aug 2008 @ 7:38 PM

  134. Re: #131, Hank Roberts:

    Hank please disregard CO2 Science which was only in vehicle and tell what your beef might be with Dr. Bruce A. Kimball. Please check out his website at As an employee of the USDA with an extensive history in this area of expertise, perhaps his comments and research carry some considerable weight. Shooting the messenger before you evaluate the message appears a bit short-sighted.

    Thanks, Don

    Comment by Don Healy — 21 Aug 2008 @ 9:59 PM

  135. KW writes:

    In the long run, I’m not afraid of a warming planet. It sounds unfrightening to me, really.

    One of the official slogans of George Orwell’s Oceania was “ignorance is bliss.”

    Global warming will mean more droughts in continental interiors. In the 1960s 20% of the planet’s agricultural areas were experiencing droughts at any one time. In the past few years, it has been more like 30%. Droughts cut agricultural production. Less food for more people is bad.

    Global warming will cause more violent weather along coastlines. Cat 4 and 5 hurricanes cause massive property damage, as with the recent Katrina. They kill people, too. Destruction of infrastructure and of human life is bad.

    Global warming will melt and sublime glaciers around the world. 100 million people in Asia depend solely on glaciers for their fresh water. People not having fresh water is bad.

    Global warming will raise sea level. Two degrees change in the mean global annual surface temperature is enough to raise sea level by six meters. That is enough to make San Francisco, Houston, Miami, New Orleans, New York, coastal cities around the world and most of Bangladesh and Florida uninhabitable. Massive loss of expensive infrastructure and having to deal with hundreds of millions of refugees is bad.

    A warmer Earth may not be bad in any cosmic sense. But our agriculture and economy are adapted to the unusually stable climate we’ve enjoyed for the past 10,000 years. Changing that climate hurts our agriculture and economy. That’s bad.

    Sounds frightening to me.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 22 Aug 2008 @ 6:48 AM

  136. RE: #84, Bob Carter

    Here is one example of Bob Carter’s misinformation:

    On 12 July 2007 he participated in a debate on Australian ABC TV following a showing of The Great Global Warming Swindle. He said that the hypothesis of the danger of human-caused global warming was disproved by the fact that “in the ice cores, the change in temperature precedes the change in carbon dioxide”.

    This is one of the classic denialist arguments, and it is embarrassing that a scientist would attempt to pass it off as carrying any weight.

    Would Prof Carter like to comment on exactly what logic leads him to think that the ice cores disprove the danger of AGW?

    You can listen to Prof Carter making the above argument by going to click on “The Debate” tab, then “The Debate – part 3”, and go in about 2m 45s. Rewind to 1m 30s to see the beginning of his comments.

    Comment by Michael Ashley — 22 Aug 2008 @ 7:24 AM

  137. There’s a certain kind of mindset that can readily recognize the social poses of authority better than the subtle signs of expertise. You have to wonder if environment can play a role in that, and then consider for a moment oil and the toxic environment that has given us at least one recent and notable mess abroad. What does Exxon-Mobile call its headquarters? The God Pond.

    Are geologists different? Well yes, of course. It’s a different kind of endeavor. I can’t connect the dots to denial, but I can for the sake of argument hypothesize. For starters the subject is so broad that they must be educated differently although just as rigorously as other scientists–even if the process takes a little longer. Attention must be paid, for instance, just to the extensive and arcane vocabulary required. Visualization skills need to be developed in conjunction with the analytic skills of other sciences. In practice the profession can be very demanding physically as well as intellectually. This is all because geology isn’t one science so much as an aggregate of sciences applied to the study of the earth, a good chunk of which takes place out in the field in difficult environments.

    Key to geo-culture is that early on, geologists get a strong dose of historical geology which turns out to be as much about the history of geology itself as it is about the earth. While the culture soon merges with other sciences, there is still that sweet, nostalgic whiff of curio cabinets and musty libraries that tends to linger. You can’t help but think that every now and then some poor, old geocritter falls out of bed in the morning after so many gallons of beer and chili, after years of freezing his cajones off and baking his brains and trying to make sense of p-chem/hysterisis loops/chaotic orogeny etc. — he falls out used and exhausted, rubs his eyeballs still throbbing from the dolomite chips his rock hammer shot off an outcrop and the headache he got banging his head on some overhang and says, “Screw it. Today I’m jumping down a Victorian rabbit hole.” Pfft! That’s it! He’s a goner.

    Comment by Biff Baffin — 22 Aug 2008 @ 8:52 AM

  138. Last night I received an email from a geologist friend who attended the International Geological Congress (IGC). He wrote that the program chairman of the IGC was David Gee who is “violently vociferous” against the IPCC and its conclusions. So he was not surprised that climate change sceptics were dominant.

    He also mentioned that the Geological Society of America has a group, the Concerned Issues Coalition, which is composed of geologists who are very concerned about the climate change issue. They are quite upset about the IGC bias on global warming.

    Comment by Jim Eaton — 22 Aug 2008 @ 10:06 AM

  139. Don Healy, reread what Dr. Curry wrote, please.

    CO2S uses the names of many good scientists and attributes things to their papers that fit their sponsors’ agenda. That’s how the PR business works. Being named there is no reflection on anyone.

    You could email the researcher and ask if he feels that he’s being represented accurately at CO2S or any other opinion site — but I’d recommend first that you read the researcher’s work in the original, read the footnotes, and then read the subsequent papers citing the research to see what later scientific work has found it interesting or reliable.

    If you want to do the homework of checking out what you’re reading. I recommend the latter approach. Having read the original and citing papers also will let you ask the researcher an intelligent question when you do make direct contact.

    Scientists are shocked and awed when ordinary readers like us actually bother to try to read their papers, understand some of the work, and ask intelligent questions. Recommended:

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 22 Aug 2008 @ 10:34 AM

  140. Oh, and, for Don Healy — this is definitely off topic, so I hope you’ll take it to another thread if you want to pursue your interest in CO2 and agriculture. It’s a great area of research, there’s lots to learn.

    But — you should actually read that USDA website you link to.

    They’re _hoping_ to find strains of C3 crops that will do well, by growing thousands of varieties in simulations of future climate conditions (high heat and high CO2), hoping they will find strains to use in crops. Not found yet!!!

    Read the latest paper on his Publications list:

    “… the productivity of C3 crops … the average yield stimulation observed to date is well below the potential theoretical gains. This suggests there is significant room for improving productivity. There are tens of thousands of lines of wheat, rice, soybean and other crops available, but only a fraction of these have been tested for CO2 responsiveness in a production environment. Yield is a complex phenotypic trait determined by the interactions of a genotype with the environment…..”

    ———-end excerpt—————-

    This is adaptation by artificial selection. It’s what ag spe-cial-ists do.

    Don’t mistake hope for success. The greatest barrier to accomplishing something is to believe it’s already been done.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 22 Aug 2008 @ 11:06 AM

  141. Re: #139, Hank:

    Please disregard any reference to CO2 Science; I’m sorry I even mentioned it. It was only used as a vehicle to located scientist that had worked on FACE experiments. It turns out that one of the dominent figures in FACE experiments was Dr. Bruce Kimball, who by the way also works for the same organization, the USDA, that Elizabeth Ainsworth works for, whose work was cited by Gavin in an earlier post. In fact, you can access both Kimball’s and Ainsworths pulications on the same USDA website. Now, that being said, here is an abstract from one of Dr. Kimball’s recent papers, from:

    “Technical Abstract: The likely effects of future high levels of atmosperic CO2 on several agricultural crops were investiaged. Using literature reports from free-air CO2 enrichment (FACE) experiments, the relative responses of the crops were extracted, tabulated, and analyzed with regard to many plant and soil processes. Elevated CO2 increase photosyntheses and biomass production and yield substantially in C2 species, but little in C4; and it decreased stomatal conductance and transpiration in both C3 and C4 species and greatly improved water-use efficiency in all the crops. Growth stimulations were as large or larger under water-stress compared to well-watered conditions. Growth stimulations of non-legumes were reduced at low soil nitrogen. Root growth was generally stimulated more than that of shoots. Woody perennials had the largest growth responses to elevated CO2. Detection of statistically significant changes in soil organic carbon in any one study was impossible, yet by combining results from several sites and years, it appears that elevated comaprisons between the FACE-based data and those from reviews of prior chanber-based data were consistent, which gives confidence that conclusions drawn from both types of data are accurate. However, the more realistic FACE environment and the larger plot size enabled more extensive robust multidisciplinary data sets to be obtained under conditions representative of open felds in the future high-CO2 world. ” (I believe that the C@ in the text above is a typo and should be C3)

    The comment “it appears that elevated comparisons between the FACE-based data and those from reviews of prior chamber-based data were consistent, which gives confidence that conclusions drawn from both types of data are accurate.” is particularily telling in that it means that the very large body of research done earlier using “chamber-based” methods is valid.

    Are you unable to acknowledge that in light of the perponderance of evidence showing that while not uniform, CO2 enhancement is on average of benefit in numerous ways to the plant community? We are not discussing other factors that may influence life on earth in a warming world. Only the simple question: Are there some benefits to CO2 enhance to many members of the plant community? A simple yes or no will suffice.

    Thanks, Don

    Comment by Don Healy — 22 Aug 2008 @ 11:28 AM

  142. (141) Don wrote: “…Only the simple question: Are there some benefits to CO2 enhance to many members of the plant community? A simple yes or no will suffice.”

    No one denied that there were some therefore this question is superfluous (smoke). A yes/no does not do the topic justice. The relevant question should be: “Will all the benefits outweigh all the detriments?”

    (recaptcha: “nowhere false)

    Comment by Arch Stanton — 22 Aug 2008 @ 12:47 PM

  143. What Don Healy reports Kimball as saying is consistent with what Bob Watson (chief scientist at DEFRA, and certainly no denialist) said at a talk I attended a couple of months ago. As a result, the point at which crop yields decline will indeed be somewhat further off than if the effect on efficiency of water use is not taken into account. I can’t now remember the details, which were different for tropical and temperate regions – I’ll consult my notes on the talk next week.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 22 Aug 2008 @ 12:55 PM

  144. #136 Michael Ashley

    Thank you for pointing that out Professor Ashley. I’ve also put together a collection of the Swindled videos from YouTube here:

    On this page, Dr. Carter is in Video IV

    He may have made the same mistake I have made so many times in his assessment. That is to think i know what I’m talking about based on the information I have, rather than the information that is available. It is a common mistake and an easy trap to fall into as I have demonstrated over and over in my life, getting better though ;)

    I ‘try’ to operate on the premise that I know the tiniest fraction of what is knowable. From that basis, I try to examine the views, knowledge, understanding and facts and attempt to get a reasonable picture in my head.

    The scientific method of understanding is a superior method of understanding, but unfortunately not well understood or assimilated by the general public.

    Dr. Carter might want to consider the following:

    It is well known scientifically that in the natural cycle Co2 lags behind and then adds to the climate forcing as the Milankovitch forcing increases the climate effect of TSI which alters the bio diversity in the ecosystem which alters the atmospheric Co2 which adds to the forcing etc. Then when we head back into ice age, the system reverts to it’s normal ice age state, ice grows Co2 levels drop etc.

    The fact that atmospheric Co2 is now largely above natural levels as measured and we know that Co2 and other GHG’s including high GWP’s have an effect on heat trapping capacity in the climate system.

    Comment by John P. Reisman (The Centrist Party) — 22 Aug 2008 @ 1:08 PM

  145. A reply to Don Healy may be in the spam bucket; shorter:
    This is off topic here, it’s a good area worth discussion and very important. Don quotes from a 2003 paper; I quoted from the current latest paper:
    Next generation of elevated [CO2] experiments with crops: A critical investment for feeding the future world – (Peer Reviewed Journal) – (27-May-08)

    That points out the need for the work to be done for the few varieties of species we use for food, to find variations that can handle increased heat and CO2 and incorporate them. This is “mass selection” and has been done since long before agriculture became a science. It’s very important; it’s very routine; and it’s always a challenge.

    Like all the other behaviors we’ve selected for — time of maturation, emphasis on food value at the expense of other strengths — adding selection pressure for higher temperatures and CO2 will no doubt find varieties that do better. Other factors will be tradeoffs. Getting the valued traits into widespread production is a race against time.

    Remember, we _need_ variety. Anyone else here old enough to remember the corn blight, when the USA’s seed companies sent the same strain to all the farmers? It set up a _very_ attractive field for the blight to spread.

    Same for varieties adapted to higher CO2 and higher temperatures (and more drought, and more extreme but short-term precipitation, and so forth). When those are found — and it hasn’t happened yet — they can’t simply be turned into huge volumes of seed. That sets up a monoculture and will lead to more blight years.

    Don, it’s not simple. It’s nowhere as simple as ‘yes or no’ and it’s well worth reading deeply on the subject.

    Pointer welcome to anywhere this is being discussed in a science forum — clearly it’s going off topic here in this thread.

    ReCaptcha: Gases clerks

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 22 Aug 2008 @ 1:36 PM

  146. Dr. Bob Carter

    In addendum to my previous post. I think this wonderful article from Rasmus is very clear on the subject of modern Co2 concentrations added to the atmosphere vs. natural Co2:

    There is no doubt that the CO2 is from fossil sources, as isotope ratios show that the carbon has been less exposed to galactic cosmic rays (GCRs).

    When protons from GCRs collide with the nitrogen-14 (seven protons plus seven neutrons in the nucleus) in the air, carbon-14 is created (in addition to other isotopes such as beryllium-10) through a nuclear reaction:

    14N + p → 14C + n

    This means that carbon with a low isotope carbon-14 ratio must come from deep in the ground, out of reach of cosmic rays.

    Furthermore, the ratio of O2 to N2 has diminished. This is expected from the increased combustion of fossil fuels, in which O2 combines with C to form CO2. The oceans have also become more acidic, leading to an increase in CO2 levels in both the atmosphere and the oceans.

    Comment by John P. Reisman (The Centrist Party) — 22 Aug 2008 @ 1:51 PM

  147. Re 144,146 – just a few technicalities here:

    TSI isn’t much changed by Milankovitch cycles, if I understood what is meant by TSI correctly: the solar power per unit area facing the sun, in space, at the distance of Earth. The big effect of Milankovitch cycles is to redistribute the incident solar energy seasonally and latitudinally (bigger tilt (obliquity) effect => more solar power incident at high latitudes, less at low latitudes, more extreme seasonal variation, same effect in both hemispheres). Precession effect=> seasonal variations more or less extreme, opposite effect in each hemisphere. Eccentricity effect -> modulates effect of precession).

    The mechanism causing the CO2 feedback that amplifies glacial-interglacial variations must have something to do with the way the ocean holds and distributes CO2, which is actually rather complicated. (The increased solubility of CO2 (as with gases in general) in water at lower temperatures can’t explain it by itself – but there are other possible factors.)

    The n and p are reversed in the nuclear reaction – it should be

    N-14 + n -> C-14 + p
    for the nuclei – for the whole atom, an electron is also lost.

    Re 141:
    “The comment “it appears that elevated comparisons between the FACE-based data and those from reviews of prior chamber-based data were consistent, which gives confidence that conclusions drawn from both types of data are accurate.” is particularily telling ”

    From only what you provided, I’m not clear whether that refers to the whole of the studies or just the organic carbon content of the soil.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 22 Aug 2008 @ 6:33 PM

  148. #147 Patrick

    My mistake, I worded that without decent context. My apologies for the oversimplification as well.

    As I understand it now, TSI does not change, at least the amount coming at us doesn’t change much beyond the natural Schwabe cycle variance and the very slow illuminance increase. I’m more curious about how much reaches us at any particular time in the cycles.

    I like the way you described it as redistribution, in how the Milankovitch cycles alter or affect the amount of forcing energy W/m2 that is absorbed or retained within the climate system. I was alluding more to how much of the TSI would be measured on the earth surface due to geometric effects.

    I am also assuming that the eccentricity cycle does actually alter the TSI to some degree outside our atmosphere as well, but that is only an assumption and it may be insignificant. I’d like to know if anyone knows if we lose a little TSI, or how much, when the eccentricity is elongated when averaged over a year.

    I also believe you are correct on the tilt, and not sure how significant the wobble variance is in total affect pertaining to forcings large enough to get us in and out of ice ages but I’m sure it plays it’s part at various times in the cycles.

    I’m not qualified to comment on the formula. has anyone graphed the Milankovitch cycles with forcing amounts imposed/indicated?

    Found some more links for FACE I saw some video footage somewhere, but don’t remember if it was online or a documentary?

    Comment by John P. Reisman (The Centrist Party) — 22 Aug 2008 @ 8:09 PM

  149. Don Healy, I am sure that the experimenters looking at the effect of CO2, being good experimenters, did not vary things like the amount of water available. Thus, their conclusions need to be understood with the caveat–ceteris paribus–all things being equal. Of course, Nature is under no such constraints, and we know for a fact that ceteris sure ain’t gonna be paribus. BTW, one plant that does extremely well in a high-CO2 environment is poison ivy. Don’t confuse fetid with fertile.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 22 Aug 2008 @ 8:30 PM

  150. Rasmus,

    I do not think geologists are “different” in the sense you propose. Some cling to outdated academic training, and indeed many are preoccupied in their endeavors and do not keep up with the literature.

    Geologists hold the rear view mirror. We see and understand the past in detail, often with surprising resolution in distant eras. The layered deep sea core data sets tie elegantly to the layered ice core data sets, that in turn merge neatly into the instrumental data sets; thus our discipline of stratigraphy amalgamates with modern measurements. Many of my colleagues see climate change as the Issue of our time, and the paradigm shift associated with the recognition of rapid climate change to be on a par with the recognition of plate tectonics or the appreciation of the great age of the Earth.

    Our realization that the tempo of the Pleistocene (seen so clearly in deep sea cores and ice cores) harmonizes with orbital variabilities has given us causal mechanisms for the ice ages. The growing realization that the pattern of the Pleistocene has been broken and that we are blithely conducting global experiments on the only planet we will ever inhabit has led to the concept that we live in the new geologic time termed Anthropocene.

    Our discipline harbors a wonderful spectrum of practitioners, some of whom assist the cottage industry of denialists, but I venture that most, like you, are watching with apprehension as each cubic kilometer of ice melts, as each fossil emerges from beneath the ice, and wonder what manner of Earth our children will inherit.

    Comment by Bob Raynolds — 23 Aug 2008 @ 12:30 AM

  151. YouTube offers some wonderful video squabbling over the subject of creationism.

    Some great videos debunking Top 25 Creationist Fallacies
    A very serious use of YouTube.

    Professional Denialism v. Climate Destabilization studies needs this kind of fun stuff.

    Comment by Richard Pauli — 23 Aug 2008 @ 2:05 AM

  152. Re 148 –

    If the semimajor axis stays constant (not sure if that’s true or if that’s part of the cycle), then – I have a calculation for the annual average TSI change. I’ll get it out tomorrow. I can say from memory that it’s very small, though.

    The most familiar explanation to me for Milankovitch – glaciation forcing is that when the various Milanovitch cycles line up in some way, high latitude regions may have reduced seasonal variation, so that winters may be more wet, with increased snowfall perhaps, and – perhaps more importantly? – the summer doesn’t get warm enough to melt all of the snow from the preceding winter. When that happens the snow can accumulate over years, and then the ice-albedo feedback causes a global cooling, and then the CO2 feedback kicks in, etc. And then when the summers get hot enough, the reverse may occur. Precession has the opposite effect on each hemisphere, but it is the Northern Hemisphere that currently has the most land at the right latitudes available for continental ice sheets (aside from Antarctica which remains glaciated during the interglacials), so the glaciation/deglaciation process may be most sensitive to forcing in the Northern Hemisphere high latitudes. But there are complexities…

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 23 Aug 2008 @ 10:45 PM

  153. Among those complexities:

    Considering the threshold of Milankovitch forcing which, when crossed in one direction, could trigger an ice age, will not generally be the same threshold to cross in reverse to trigger deglaciation. This is in part because of the albedo and greenhouse gas feedbacks that would tend to maintain the Earth in one or the other state. There are also other factors – the surface of a thick ice sheet, even after isostatic adjustment of the crust to the weight of the ice, is at a higher elevation than the surface on which it first formed – thus it will tend to be colder, even without the albedo feedback. The height of the ice surface is influenced by how rapidly the ice sheet spreads out under it’s own weight and by how rapidly additional ice is added over time. The rate of spreading may be faster if there are loose sediments underneath – in a series of ice ages, the first few ice sheets may spread out more rapidly because they have not yet scoured away the lubricating top layer of sediment and soil (this might have something to do with the change in ice age duration around 900,000 years ago (or is it 700,000 years ago?)).

    If the land surfaces at the ‘right’ latitudes are too large, they may not recieve enough moisture in the winter to have remaining snow cover at the start of the next winter. Also, larger continents tend to have more extreme seasons.

    And then there’s the ocean currents…

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 23 Aug 2008 @ 11:01 PM

  154. Over at The Oil Drum is another view of this conference from Charlie Hall (a good guy on energy issues and other things). See comments #9 & #10 in particular, i.e., a an outsiders’ view of the fights.

    BTW: the sort of work Charlie does is really important on the economics of climate change: if he (and Bob Ayres & co) are right, the happy several-percent CAGR in world GDP baked into the economics models … is not going to be so easy.

    Comment by John Mashey — 24 Aug 2008 @ 2:29 PM

  155. I have a tangential sandbox-1 question (or clarification) re Milankovitch cycles. If the long (major) axis of the ellipse increases does not the minor axis have to shorten to maintain/conserve momentum?

    Comment by Rod B — 24 Aug 2008 @ 2:49 PM

  156. RE #155 Rod B,
    Wikipedia – Milankovitch Cycles says “the semi-major axis is an adiabatic invariant” i.e. it does not change. So as the Earth’s orbit becomes more circulat the minor orbit must increase. This means that the total solar energy reaching the earth over a year decreases. That, added to the effect of the other orbital orbital cycles can lead to a glacial period in the current ice age.


    Cheers, Alastair.

    Comment by Alastair McDonald — 24 Aug 2008 @ 5:00 PM

  157. RE #155


    I reckon we should be honest about this.

    In #9 Charlie Hall wrote:

    About two thirds of the presenters and question-askers were hostile to, even dismissive of, the IPCC (International panel on climate change) and the idea that the Earth’s climate was responding to human influences. This was rather shocking to me who knows of several other such scientists but had no idea there were so many. They talked about Milankovich Cycles of course, but also sunspot cycles and other possible climate forcings. These were linked to some pretty bizarre (to me) ways of influencing the climate: e.g. making cloud condensation nuclei through ionizing radiation from sun spots or slowing or speeding the Earth’s rate of spin in response to cosmic rays. These were apparently very serious scientists but presented far more correlation than clear and convincing mechanism, at least I thought. An atmospheric physicist sitting next to me said that there was no correlation between cosmic rays and clouds as he had made all the measurements. The IPCC folks were adamant that [their model,] built on first principles, could reproduce past changes in climate and was making proper predictions. The plenary had at the end a “debate” but it was really two ships passing in the might—each side presented its arguments –usually using different types of logic, often arrogantly, and said the other side could not possible be right.

    So there was not much difference between the two sides :-(

    And in #10:

    I could not at first figure out why there was so much hostility between the two climate groups. At first I thought it empiricists vs modelers, although each group was somewhat mixed. Then I concluded that it is the geologists, used to studying constant climate change over very long time periods of Earth’s history, who think that basically the climate of the earth is always changing due to various forcings, and What’s the big deal now? The IPCCers respond that the Earth has never seen CO2 levels such as we are headed for and that the CO2 changes produce a strong enough signal to change the climate. And on and on.

    Even if “Earth has never seen CO2 levels such as we are headed for” is an exaggeration, it is still sound pretty catastrophic to me.

    However, I think that the killer point was made in #11:

    The mineral and energy plenaries were mostly about how, although there were some serious supply issues, that new technologies were finding marvelous new reserves of copper, oil (except there were no new fields named) and so on. Each presenter tended to argue that all we needed was more money for geological exploration, more or fewer free markets, even higher prices and so on. The only real antidote to this, … was Charlie’s arguments that most of this new technology was extraordinarily energy intensive (arctic minerals for one example) so that it did not matter how much e.g. oil was left in the ground because we were relatively rapidly approaching the point where it took a barrel of oil to find and develop a barrel of oil. Similar arguments are applicable to finding the next ton of copper and so on. While no one countered these arguments and all agreed that the dollar cost of producing energy and other minerals was escalating rapidly it was clear that most were so brainwashed to think in terms of monetary costs few thought much about energy costs and few thought of them as having profound limiting consequences.

    Let’s face it. We are all stuffed. The geologists won’t admit it but neither will the climate scientists. Let’s face it The geologist are not different. We are all denialists :-(

    Cheers, Alastair.

    Comment by Alastair McDonald — 24 Aug 2008 @ 5:59 PM

  158. Don Healy: “Another question that comes to mind is if earth did not experience a runaway greenhouse effect when CO2 levels were 4000 ppm or higher in earlier geologic history, what has changed to create such alarm at levels ten times lower?”

    Earth is not in the same position relative to the arms of the galaxy, the continents have been moved around, and there are about six billion extra people in attendance expecting to get fed and watered.

    Other than that? It’s exactly the same.

    Comment by Andrew — 24 Aug 2008 @ 10:22 PM

  159. For constant semimajor axis, total energy is conserved; Angular momentum of the orbit is proportional to the square root of (1-e^2), where e is the eccentricity.

    If I did the integral and algebra correctly:

    TSIave = TSIa * (1-e^2)^(-1/2), where TSIave is the annual average TSI and TSIa is the TSI at the distance from the sun of the semimajor axis.

    Notice that for small e,
    (1-e^2)^(1/2) ~= 1 – (e^2)/2
    (1-e^2)^(-1/2) ~= 1 + (e^2)/2

    So that, relative to an eccentricity of zero, the percent decrease in orbital angular momentum L and percent increase in TSIave are approximately,
    for each e:
    e, %
    0, 0
    0.01, 0.005
    0.02, 0.02
    0.03, 0.045
    0.04, 0.08
    0.05, 0.125
    0.06, 0.18
    0.1, 0.5

    The Earth’s eccentricity varies between about 0 and somewhere between 0.05 and 0.06 – rounding up to 0.06, that’s a 0.18 % change in annual average TSI at the distance of Earth. Applying the same percent change to the absorbed solar power per unit area of Earth, that’s a global annual average of about 0.43 W/m2. Notice that the annual average TSI increases with increasing eccentricity.

    If not for the geographical variations of albedo, the obliquity and precession variations would have zero direct effect on global annual average (the geographical variation could have the effect that when a greater fraction of sunlight is concentrated on snow and ice, there would be some global average decrease in absorbed insolation. Yet over time such a distribution (depending on seasonality) might cause the ice to melt back, so it’s conceivable that the Milankovitch forcing that would end an ice age might initially cause global cooling – maybe?

    The fractional seasonal range in TSI and absorbed insolation should be close to 4*e for relatively small e values, so a 0.06 eccentricity would lead to a global average seasonal range of about 24% of the value at the semimajor axis. Factoring in albedo, that’s a seasonal range of forcing of about 58 W/m2, globally averaged. Precession can also have a large seasonal effect, and that is modulated by eccentricity. When the precession and direct eccentricity effect are opposite in one hemisphere, they will work together in the opposite hemisphere.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 24 Aug 2008 @ 11:09 PM

  160. “Precession can also have a large seasonal effect, and that is modulated by eccentricity. When the precession and direct eccentricity effect are opposite in one hemisphere,”…

    Actually, when the eccentricity is zero, the Precession effect is zero as well – the seasonal Precession forcing includes the direct eccentricity effect on seasons.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 25 Aug 2008 @ 12:08 AM

  161. Thank you realclimate, for this great blog topic. As a scientifically-trained climate amateur I had noticed the physics or earth-science backgrounds of many of the “science-qualified sceptics” quoted in the press, and had wondered why (apart from the obvious industry link). This helps cast some light on the phenomenon. The average person has little hope of grasping the significance of these mental nuances at present. Comparative research into the cognitive processes of scientists in different fields could be an interesting study.

    Comment by Malcolm — 25 Aug 2008 @ 12:26 AM

  162. As a retired geologist with a critical attitude towards IPCC and the climate scare, I would like to add my “pennies worth”. Unfortunately my financial status is not firm enough to have travelled to the IGC and the webcast does not show up on Mozzilla Firefox, so I have to rely on what has been written above.

    It is pointless to compare present climate to that of 10s or 100s of millions of years ago. Firstly data is very scarce and the temporal resolution of this scarce data is even worse.

    The postglacial (Holocene) time is a much better key of the past to understand the present.

    The sea level was 120-130 meters lower than today before the end of the last glaciation. The end of the glaciation and the following few thousand years saw large fluctuations in sea level as well as temperatures.

    It is also most probable that the Holocene Climatic Optimum was clearly warmer than today. During the millennia that followed climate has been very variable and has had severe influences on past civilisations. Brian Fagan has written three excellent books on the role of climate: Floods, Famines and Emperors – el Niño and the fate of Civilizations; The Little Ice Age – how Climate made History 1300-1850; and The Long Summer – How Climate Changed Civilization.

    I should add that I do believe that man has in the past, does now and will also in the future influence climate due to poor environmental management, land use changes and naturally population increase. This influence is, however, still on a local or regional level – NOT GLOBAL.

    I also oppose the idea that CO2 is such a monstrous culprit as portrayed by IPCC followers. Here I fully agree with Bob carter when he states that CO2 follows temperature changes, so it can not cause them, at least not in any significant way.

    There was also a comment comparing geological modelling with climate models. I would like to point out that geological modelling can be useful, because geology is a rather simplistic science while climate is a horrendous and complicated mixture of various inputs and outputs and processes of which science has been able to define only a part, the rest being dependent on intelligent guess work and parametrization.

    Comment by Boris Winterhalter — 25 Aug 2008 @ 6:47 AM

  163. Boris Winterhalter: Spoken like a man who hasn’t looked into the science of climate very much. Start here:

    The oracle of ReCAPTCHA: unaware moved

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 25 Aug 2008 @ 7:31 AM

  164. Boris, #162

    If we have a local effect on weather and climate then because we are all over the globe, surely this turns it into a global change.

    Any how do you arise at the idea that CO2 can only ever be a result of warming rather than a cause? E.g. what about temperature *causes* CO2 to rise? And why does that mean CO2 rises *cannot* cause a temperature change?

    How do you think parameterisations get made? Are they all made up or are many the result of microclimate simulation giving the “per big block” equivalent result and avoiding the need to model the microclimate just to get the macroclimate? Do the scientists say “we have to get a warming of 2-4 degrees by 2050 so what numbers should we put in to get that result?”?

    Comment by mark — 25 Aug 2008 @ 7:36 AM

  165. Here I fully agree with Bob carter when he states that CO2 follows temperature changes, so it can not cause them.

    Statements like this must make climate scientists, atmospheric physicists, and the like just want to bang their head into a pulp on the nearest brick wall …

    [Response: Not quite… but it does give a clue as to whether you are dealing with genuine scepticism or simple denial. One engages or not depending on the conclusion. – gavin]

    Comment by dhogaza — 25 Aug 2008 @ 8:35 AM

  166. Ray! I disagree, I consider myself at least somewhat versed in climate science and am familiar with IPCC ever since the first report. After retiring in 2002 climate science has been my major pastime and I do believe I am able to understand the issue. I agree, that climate science has developed considerably and as the vice-director of the Finnish Meteorological Institute is is to a some extent thanks to informed sceptical input.

    Mark, I am sorry I should have been more specific. I agree, that combining all the local influences will probably show an impact on a wider scale. However, not all the local impacts like urban heat island effects, forest clearing, waterway changes, etc can be assumed to influence the climate in an unfavourable manner, but on a global scale my view is that the effect is hardly noticeable.
    Sure CO2 is a greenhouse gas and comes second after H2O. If you look at the IR absorption wavelengths you will notice that CO2 covers a few rather narrow bands while water vapour covers a considerably larger band width and is thus a much more important GHG, especially near the surface and the troposhere. Where an increase in CO2 comes becomes a very important climate agent is in enhancing the heat escape to space, because as you obviously know only GHG’s are capable of radiating out energy (heat) into space. I should add that the upper atmosphere is rather dry so water vapour plays only a minimal role.

    Regarding modelling, I must confess that I have never been fond of models trying to mimic nature, and climate as such is far too complex to be reliably modelled at our present level of knowledge and the reliability of data, e.g. global albedo and actual solar energy heating up the surface, relationship between up-welling and down-welling energy fluxes, etc.

    I would also like to see how the models would explain fluctuations in past climate as e.g. mentioned in Brian Fagan’s books.

    [Response: That is all much more sensible and open to reasonable discussion (though see these posts for answers to your IR questions). So why did you start off by using the extremely lame ‘CO2 lags, doesn’t lead’ argument? You are well aware that is logically incoherent and completely compatible with a major role of CO2 in the current warming. You’ll probably find that your serious questions are likely to be more seriously addressed if you leave the tired contrarian talking points at home. – gavin]

    Comment by Boris Winterhalter — 25 Aug 2008 @ 10:35 AM

  167. Patrick (159-160), Thanks for the helpful response. (Alastair, too.) I have one remaining question (which is making me feel stupid for missing maybe the obvious fundamentals…), but how is it that the angular momentum of the Earth relative to the Sun changes at all in the first place? Not including the miniscule continuing decrease caused (I think?) by the gravitational tidal force (torque), but the change in angular momentum that cycles up and down. How do it do dat?

    Comment by Rod B — 25 Aug 2008 @ 10:57 AM

  168. Boris, It is clear from #166, that your understanding of the physics of the greenhouse effect is rather confused. Yes, it is only the greenhouse gasses that radiate high in the atmosphere, but that is because the IR radiated from Earth outside the GHG bands escapes unimpeded. I suggest:

    CO2 is unique in that: 1)it stays well mixed in the atmosphere well into the lower stratosphere; 2)it perissts for hundreds to thousands of years. 3)Its concentration is increasing rapidly due to human activity.

    You say that climate science is a major pastime–so why not learn how the mechanism works rather than constructing straw men?

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 25 Aug 2008 @ 11:09 AM

  169. #166 re: Gavin response
    Gavin since you, or the other powers the be closed the topic of the CO2 lag here on this site awhile back ; after only a few responses I find your “lame” comment over the top! BTW my husband read the explanation given by RC there and found it “lame” too, to use your own word. And he showed it to his fellow co-workers at the time for a chuckle. Why don’t you open it up?

    [Response: Old comment threads attract nothing but spam, and so they are just closed. The topic has been discussed numerous times since then (most recently here), and I doubt there is very much new to say. We’re happy to provide amusement for your husband and colleagues, but I’m rather surprised that the concept of ‘chickens and eggs’ seems to be a novelty for them. – gavin]

    Comment by Geologistswife — 25 Aug 2008 @ 11:14 AM

  170. Yes Gavin, and that link refers in this paragraph:

    “Of course, those who’ve been paying attention will recognize that Gore is not wrong at all. This subject has been very well addressed in numerous places. Indeed, guest contributor Jeff Severinghaus addressed this in one of our very first RealClimate posts, way back in 2004.”

    to this page:

    4 whole comments allowed!

    [Response: We didn’t have as many commenters then. Now the same post would garner a lot more. But what do you want to actual say? Discussing comment thread policy from almost 4 years ago is not particularly interesting. – gavin]

    Comment by Geologistswife — 25 Aug 2008 @ 12:15 PM

  171. Re 167 –

    I can explain the causes of prececession and have an idea of what might cause obliquity variations, but I’ve never been clear on the eccentricity cycle – except that it must involve the relatively weak (compared to planet – sun) gravitational interactions among the planets.

    I also made something simple into something rather complicated when I last mentioned precession and eccentricity. The effect of precession IS the seasonal timing of the effect of eccentricity.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 25 Aug 2008 @ 1:31 PM

  172. Boris, #166, But what you have is models: there IS no “gravity” but what change do we get in energy levels when within the influence of a large mass has an effect we *model* as gravity.

    That “gravity” as we know it doesn’t exist is shown by the incontrovertible FACT that we have two different ways of explaining “gravity” and we can’t get them to meet. Since they do in real life, we know the models are wrong.

    But we can STILL use models of even the known erroneous Newtonian gravity to hit a target only a few thousandths of a degree across in a distance of half a billion miles.

    All by “mimicking nature”.

    Computer models are more simulation: given a model of the atmosphere that includes the “models”:

    a) fluid motion of a gas(and hence the plethora of gas equations and fluid motions equations)
    b) quantum models of how gasses react to radiation spectra
    c) the model that if we run discrete steps of our simulation forward through time that this will approximate reality which knows no such quantisation

    we simulate what happens in the earths atmosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere.


    If you want, have a look at some of the older “Flight Gear” flight sims on the PC: they used a simulation to model how a light aircraft will act. Microsoft Flight Simulator however uses a model that says things like “at x AoA thrust and drag will cause this loss of power in motion along the line of flight” and other such empirical rules.

    You seem to think climate models are entirely of the MS Flight Sim type. Well the truth is it is mostly (now) of the first type. It gets more simulation as we get more computing power available and some of the parameterisations are removed as we can find enough power to usefully *simulate* how an ideal gas (the model) will act.

    I would suggest you learn what goes into modern climate models before you make assumptions on what they do.

    Comment by Mark — 25 Aug 2008 @ 3:20 PM

  173. “All models are wrong. Some are useful” — statistcian George Box.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 25 Aug 2008 @ 4:42 PM

  174. see the Wikipedia article on Milankovitch cycles for clear definitions of precession (due to the earth’s ‘waistband bulge’) and eccentricity, and tilt changes.
    The Milankovitch cycles provide beautiful correlations with astronomical changes and climate changes but do not provide detailed breakdowns of cause and effect in between. The solar insolation changes seem to be amplified by features of the earth.
    Which is why paleoclimate findings cannot be applied to the present. We – humans – have changed several features by adding 1/3 more CO2 to the air, deforesting large areas, etc. Feedback mechanisms are now occuring: global warming got started with more CO2 etc, causing open water in the Arctic in summer, which absorbs more sunlight instead of ice reflecting it back into space, causing further warming. Or, melting of the Russian peat bogs is releasing methane gas, a potent greenhouse gas.

    Bob Carter, it seems possible that astronomical forcing started the paleo-warming, which caused the ocean to release carbon dioxide, further increasing warming. Whatever happened in before people, carbon dioxide has increased hugely in the last 50 years and this will absorb more heat, and this has been known for 150 years.

    Comment by veritas36 — 25 Aug 2008 @ 5:02 PM

  175. Re 166 – you might find my explanation at:

    (If you want to get straight to the greenhouse effect physics, go to the comment immediately after “Jul 16, 2008 12:34:05 AM” – PS I found it helpful to refer to Ray Pierrehumbert’s online draft copy book … the overall conversation continued for a brief while at )

    -helpful – I like to try to explain the greenhouse effect using visulization (pretend you can see at any wavelength you want, and then think about what you would see.)

    Also keep in mind some shorter IR wavelengths, from ~ 4 microns to red light, are dominated by solar energy and have little to do with the greenhouse effect. I think there’s been some confusion (Fred Singer, Richard Lindzen perhaps?) stemming from looking at the effects of H2O and CO2 in the solar IR wavelengths. I’m not saying H2O isn’t an important greenhouse gas – instantaneously it is, but it (and clouds) varies rapidly in response to weather, so CO2 is and has been for much of Earth’s history (exceptions being when CH4 was dominant, perhaps particularly in the later portion of the Archean) the dominant climate-regulating greenhouse agent.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 25 Aug 2008 @ 8:04 PM

  176. Patrick, “….the eccentricity cycle…must involve the relatively weak (compared to planet – sun) gravitational interactions among the planets…” makes intuitive sense to me.

    Comment by Rod B — 25 Aug 2008 @ 9:44 PM

  177. Ray (#168), I am confused, but not so much due to physics, but due to the fact that people with the same level(?) of understanding of physical processes can have so diverging views on climate change, like antipodes, e.g. RealClimate and Climate Audit.

    [Response: The person (Steve McIntyre) behind Climate Audit is – to the best of my knowledge – not a physicist, but an economist. I personally doubt he understands the physics of the atmosphere/oceans. -rasmus]

    The lifetime/residence time of a CO2 molecule in the atmosphere is according to 14-C studies following nuclear bomb tests was calculated to 5-7 years (Minze Stuiver, pers,comm). I agree that radiocarbon differs slightly from 12-C in its biological cycle, but anyhow does show the rapid exchange. IPCC does agree that carbon has a short lifetime, but it really has an undeterminable lifetime which can extend to millennia??? There was a passage in one of the drafts for 4AR that the long lifetime is due to rapid exchange with the oceans and the biosphere, but the same holds true for H2O.

    [Response: You are confusing residence time in the atmosphere with the perturbation time in the atm/biosphere/upper ocean. David Archer explains this well. – gavin]

    Patrick (#175), thanks for the link to Science and Society. I will try to digest the lengthy texts.

    Regarding the longer wavelengths in the IR, I am sure that neither Fred nor Richard have confused the short IR from the sun with the black body radiation of the surface.

    I disagree with your view that CO2 is the dominant climate regulator. No matter how you look at climate, water in its different forms is absolutely the major regulator. Roy Spencer’s views at are thought provoking and very logical.

    The fact that H2O molecule has a short lifetime, the fact is that there is always moisture (magnitude naturally dependant on locality, etc.) in the air. Weatherwise H2O varies, I agree, but we are discussing climate and not momentary weather. In climate the GHG effect of H20 is integrated over the entire globe and over a long time period and this puts the water molecules in the front as the major GHG.

    Comment by Boris Winterhalter — 26 Aug 2008 @ 5:21 AM

  178. Boris posts:

    I also oppose the idea that CO2 is such a monstrous culprit as portrayed by IPCC followers. Here I fully agree with Bob carter when he states that CO2 follows temperature changes, so it can not cause them, at least not in any significant way.

    In a natural deglaciation, carbon dioxide does indeed follow temperature at first. But your “so it can not cause them” is a pure non sequitur. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. The sunlight variations due to Milankovic cycles are not severe enough to induce the temperature changes which actually happened; you need the carbon dioxide as an amplifier.

    In addition, carbon dioxide is NOT following temperature NOW. This isn’t carbon dioxide given off by the ocean in response to a rise in ambi-ent temperature; the ocean is still a net carbon SINK, emitting 90 gigatons of carbon a year but taking in 92. The new carbon dioxide around us is primarily from burning fossil fuels, as is clear from the radioisotope profile. The radioisotope signature of fossil-fuel CO2 was first detected in ambi-ent air by Hans Suess in 1955.

    Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. Denying that is denying well-established science, and it’s hard to believe that a professional geologist, emeritus or not, would be unaware of the Faint Young Sun paradox, Walker et al. 1981’s explication of the carbonate-silicate cycle, and Berner and Lasaga’s work on the carbon cycle.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 26 Aug 2008 @ 6:24 AM

  179. Veritas — the precession referred to in Milankovic cycles is the precession of the longitude of perihelion of Earth’s orbit, not the precession of the Earth’s axial obliquity. I made the same mistake at first. The problem is that most sources, especially on the web, just use the word “precession” to mean both processes.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 26 Aug 2008 @ 6:29 AM

  180. Boris Winterhalter, My criterion for who understands climate has to do with how many publications they have on the subject in peer-reviewed scientific journals and with how often their research gets cited. What’s yours?
    Your view of the greenhouse effect is confused because you are not taking into account adiabiatic cooling of the atmosphere. Your view of the lifetime of CO2 is skewed because you are not taking into account that CO2 that goes into the biosphere and upper oceans does not leave the climate system. Rather myopic for a geologist. Boris, you have a choice. You can keep arguing against straw man constructions of your own imagination or you can learn the actual science. This site is an excellent place to start on the latter. If you choose the former, you will find more kindred spirits among the crew over at CA.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 26 Aug 2008 @ 7:52 AM

  181. Boris, water cannot be the major regulator: it too easily moves phase.

    When it comes to transporting energy, water is a far better mechanism than wind or anything else because of this mobility.

    But transporting the energy is not the regulator any more than the gulf stream is.

    For instance, how can it regulate the temperature when it can only exist very temporarily before it, for example, falls out of the sky? It cannot cause more cloud than uplift allows and a low level cloud increases insulation where high level cloud increases cooling. Clouds can do either and there’s no mechanism that requires it only manifest in the “right” way to make your argument.

    Comment by Mark — 26 Aug 2008 @ 7:59 AM

  182. Boris also check out

    Also available via the side bar under the Highlights section.


    Comment by David Donovan — 26 Aug 2008 @ 8:44 AM

  183. #177 Boris Winterhalter

    Here are a some keys to understanding the difference between natural cycle and anthropogenic global warming.

    Please pardon my rounding of the numbers but I am merely doing this for illustration reasons.

    Atmospheric composition, forcing levels, and GHG’s and of course the sun. Lastly to get it in perspective oceanic thermal inertia.


    Our atmosphere is mostly nitrogen and oxygen and pre industrial about 1% other trace gases. Of that only 280ppm was Co2 combined with methane 715ppb and nitrous oxide 270 ppb. Then you add the variability of H2o

    So other than H2o less that 300 ppm of our atmosphere was keeping us from being a big frozen ball. So quantitatively it seems like a small amount but the actual composition change of the total of GHG’s is huge. Remember, the majority of the atmosphere does not warm us at all. It’s only that little bit of GHG’s that trap the heat and we have altered that amount strongly.

    Since we have added additional GHG’s getting us closer to 400ppm increases the heat trapping capability.

    Note on your Co2 longevity question: From what I’ve read in the most recent studies, Co2 can hang out for quite a long time but a lot of it maybe around 75% will come out of the atmosphere within 500 years. The rest lingers. But that means that unlike the other gases which apparently don’t hang out as long, that our biggest problem re global warming is Co2. Because it warms and hangs out for a long time.

    So we add GHG’s and go from say 300ppm to 400ppm and that warms the ocean. That means more evaporation thus increasing the H2o level on average. While relative humidity remains around 80%, the quantity of H2o is increased so we get further warming. This feeds back to warmer oceans along with other factors and thus evaporates more H2o etc.


    All these gases have a forcing component that is positive. Aerosols and particulates have a negative forcing component. We have added both but our positives are outweighing our negatives.

    Since we receive on the planet surface around 240 W/m2 and radiate about the same into space we we stay in a dynamic equilibrium within natural variability and the imposition changes of the Milankovitch cycles.

    pre-industrial forcing was around 0 to -.1 W/m2. Now we have increased the positive forcing about around 3.7 W/m2. but we also increased negative forcings around -1.7 W/m2 resulting in a climate forcing of around 1.9 w/m2. Since a normal interglacial is usually around, at it’s peak, 0 to .3 W/m2. We are largely outside of the scope of natural forcing at this time.


    The ocean heats and cools slowly. If you turn on the heat in your house and in your swimming pool, the house heats up faster.

    It will take time for the ocean to absorb the forcing imposed on the system and since Co2 is going to hang around for awhile expect warming for centuries if nothing is done.

    IN SUMMARY, consider the rate of change with is unprecedented our atmospheric GHG change rate is probably between 7000 and 14,000% faster than natural change rates. Consider latidudinal and altidutinal climate shifts and the species extinction rate. Consider the interruptions to the food change and the acidification of the oceans (the foundation of the food chain, which we are converting to dead zones by virtue of nitrous oxides and red tides with massive algal blooms… don’t forget the jellyfish blooms though, we are killing all the fish by multiple means.)

    This global warming event is doing some dramatic things to the earths eco/bio systems. Lastly, don’t forget, we are part of that bio system as a human race and we will be affected. This is just the beginning.

    Comment by John P. Reisman (The Centrist Party) — 26 Aug 2008 @ 10:54 AM

  184. Ray (#180), you are sticking to an old mantra, that only peer-reviewed scientific papers are valid proof of proper understanding of an issue. Scientific thinking and publishing are too different things. Some people who’s ideas I cherish have never published a line, but are still considered by many as top thinkers. Most publishing today is connected to funding. Unless you publish, you can’t apply for funding – it’s simple as that. During my active years as a marine geologist I have published sufficiently both in peer reviewed journals and classified reports. The work I have done, e.g. in the Baltic Sea was not deemed of global interest, but it was surely noted within the local scientific community.

    You accuse me of not taking into account adiabatic cooling. Where did you get that idea? You write that my view of the lifetime of CO2 is skewed. You argue that CO2 that goes into the biosphere and the upper oceans does not leave the climate system. Does this not also apply to water molecules??? [edit – keep it constructive]

    Comment by Boris Winterhalter — 26 Aug 2008 @ 11:30 AM

  185. Mark, David, John etc. I give up. I knew of the IPCC believer views of Gavin and Rasmus, but I thought that there might be some griound for discussion with others, but I find it useless, because we all stick to our predetermined views and the comments I have received have a tendency to take words out of context.

    I am signing off!

    Comment by Boris Winterhalter — 26 Aug 2008 @ 11:41 AM

  186. #185 Boris Winterhalter

    I don’t understand? I am not using predetermined views at all, in fact these are developing views. And as more science is examined, newer views will emerge.

    It sounds as if you are the one who is predetermined?

    I’m not even sure what you are trying to say. Are you saying this global warming event is either not human caused of less caused than certain science agencies are stating?

    If so, please do enlighten us. I’m betting lot’s of folks here are looking for a good reason to move on to other interesting subjects rather than global warming.

    Personally I’d rather be working on healthcare and education, but this subject seems to be trumping even those from what I can see.

    So if you do have sufficient evidence to prove it’s not human caused, please present the case so we can examine it. That would be very much appreciated.

    Comment by John P. Reisman (The Centrist Party) — 26 Aug 2008 @ 12:02 PM

  187. Boris, Adiabatic cooling is the reason why greenhouse gasses are a net positive for energy and not neutral. And I’m sorry, if it isn’t published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal and cited in subsequent work, it doesn’t advance the science–you ought to know the rules as well as I do. I know of not one single scientist who advanced the state of science without publishing. As to the difference between water and CO2–water hasn’t increased by 40% during the industrial age.
    You have choices, Boris. You can try to publish something that refutes the consensus science–good luck. You can try to actually learn the science behind the climate so that your criticisms are at least relevant to the real consensus science. Or you can continue to ignore the science and attack your straw men. We can only help you with one of those things here.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 26 Aug 2008 @ 12:13 PM

  188. Dr. Winterhalter has an extensive website detailing his current understanding and beliefs about the science and politics; he’s concerned about ‘environmentalists’ in particular it seems. Check there for his sources and philosophy about what constitutes evidence.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 26 Aug 2008 @ 12:22 PM

  189. Re Boris – in case you’re still listenning:

    Water vapor vs CO2:

    Consider what happens if I throw a bunch of water vapor and a bunch of CO2 (additional to whatever was there) into the air at some time and then sit back and watch.

    Both will have a warming effect initially. But it takes time for a radiative forcing to produce a temperature change because of heat capacity. So the temperature doesn’t change immediately

    —(it will adjust relatively quickly in the upper atmosphere* (*stratosphere and above) because it isn’t so intensively convectively coupled to the ocean as the troposphere is (as a quick back-of-the-envelope estimate, the upper atmosphere maybe somewhere around 2,000 kg per m2 at ~ 1004 J/(kg K) => heat capacity of ~ 2 MJ/(m2 K), versus the upper ocean ~ 70,000 kg/m2 * ~ 4000 J/(kg K) = 280 MJ/(m2 K), + about 8 MJ/(m2 K) of troposphere…, so the upper atmosphere should approach an ‘equilibrium’ temperature about 150 times faster than the troposphere and upper ocean – but that equilibrium itself depends on tropospheric and land and ocean temperatures, so that doesn’t mean the upper atmosphere doesn’t continue to readjust along with the whole climate system… So if the climate system took ~ 10 or 20 or 30 years to approach an equilibrium (outside of slow acting CO2,CH4,ice sheet,vegetation feedbacks), the upper atmosphere would approach ‘equilibrium’ in ~ 3 or 7 or 10 weeks). —

    The water vapor I added will get mixed around by the air motions, condense, and precipitate out of the air. In a timescale of ~ 10 days (perhaps still faster than upper atmospheric response times), it has come out of the air. Is there more left in the air than before this experiment started? No, because that’s regulated by temperature and circulation patterns – (circulation patterns vary independently over short time periods but they are regulated by climate conditions over long time periods so on average they shouldn’t have an effect on average on whether or there remains much of the water vapor added over 10 days ago…) – the water vapor comes out before it had a chance to cause much climate change (if it did cause some change in the upper atmosphere, the upper atmosphere would again change back to adjust to the conditions in the troposphere and surface). Maybe if the water vapor went into an otherwise dry region and precipitated there, that would increase the wet area of Earth and so prolong an increased water vapor content, but that kind of thing can only last so long…

    So in order to force climate by water vapor, it has to be continually added. Maybe the increased evaporation by continually irrigating otherwise dry regions may have some small effect…? Certainly the area of the oceans (and maybe positioning of them) has some effect on water vapor content, but either way, SOMETHING has to prop the water vapor forcing up – the water vapor is an intermediate by which some other forcing works in that case…

    In contrast, CO2 takes a few years to come out of the atmosphere. BUT – where does it go? The oceans and vegetation, and through vegetation, soil. Has the total C content of oceans, vegetation, and soil increased? If not, then during the same time period that the CO2 molecules I added came out of the air, the same number of CO2 molecules were added back into the air – not the same molecules, but the same number of molecules.

    In reality, in response to adding CO2 to the atmosphere, before the climate itself responds, the oceans and vegetation do take up more CO2 than they release, but not so much as to bring the CO2 level down to where it was before, at least not in anywhere near the same timeframe that the original added CO2 molecules were taken up (my impression is that there is an initial rapid response that take up ~ 40% ? of added CO2, but the rest remains far longer – I don’t know all the details myself as to why this is the case, but I know that ocean uptake is complicated by chemistry (it’s not just a simple matter of dissolving a gas in a liquid – because there’s also CO3-2 and HCO3-1 ions and Ca+2, etc…), and the time it takes for the upper ocean to exchange mass with the deep ocean, and while there is a CO2-fertilization effect, trees don’t just grow twice as tall in response to a CO2 doubling, do they? (well, it’s more complicated than that…) … and there’s respiration and decomposition…etc….

    Because the C is coming from fossil fuels, the total amount of C in the combined atmosphere+vegetation+soil+upper ocean+deep ocean must be increasing. Except over longer time periods, during which some organic carbon may be geologically sequestered, and some inorganic carbon is also geologically sequestered… These are generally slow processes – in the meantime climate changes affect the carbon cycle…

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 26 Aug 2008 @ 1:15 PM

  190. One for the geologists:

    Nature Geoscience 1, 511 – 514 (2008)
    Published online: 20 July 2008 | doi:10.1038/ngeo262
    Subject Categories: Atmospheric science | Climate science | Hydrology, hydrogeology and limnology
    Increase in hourly precipitation extremes beyond expectations from temperature changes
    Geert Lenderink & Erik van Meijgaard

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 26 Aug 2008 @ 5:46 PM

  191. Patrick-027 wrote:

    > … In contrast, CO2 takes a few years to come out of the atmosphere ….
    Longer, actually.

    Try the Search box at the top of the page, or the “Start Here” links also at the top of the page, or use the Science Links sources on the right side of the page.

    David Archer’s link for example, under Contributors.
    His Publications link has the numbers you were trying to remember:

    Millennial Atmospheric Lifetime of Anthropogenic CO2

    ” ….. Many slowly-responding components of the climate system, such as ice sheets, deep ocean temperature, permafrost, and methane hydrates, will be sensitive to the long tail of the CO2 climate impact. Most of the CO2 drawdown will take place on time scales of centuries, as CO2 invades the ocean, but it is too simplistic to call the invasion timescale the atmospheric lifetime of the CO2, as is commonly done in popular and scientific discussion. We argue that a better shorthand for the lifetime of anthropogenic CO2 would be “hundreds of years plus a significant fraction that changes climate forever”. …”

    See his link, right side of page, under Contributors, for more and better information.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 26 Aug 2008 @ 10:14 PM

  192. Yes

    Comment by Robert Gibson — 26 Aug 2008 @ 10:43 PM

  193. Re 191 – thanks, but I wasn’t actually saying that the CO2 perturbation ends in a fews – I was starting with the bit that Boris knew (the residence time of a CO2 molecule) and building off of that to explain the difference between residence time and perturbation longevity.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 27 Aug 2008 @ 12:14 AM

  194. I’ve read through all of the comments, and no-one replied to this one – as everyone was too busy disagreeing with Boris (I was hoping for either hard facts or a refutation :)) Apologies if I missed it:

    #119I think the data suggests that the Thermhaline Circulation may be much more vulnerable than some have suggested, as there is evidence of considerable fluctuations in the flow on decadal time scales. I have seen evidence which suggests that the THC may have weakened (or even shutdown) in the Greenland Sea THIS YEAR, but I have no direct oceanographic measurements to support that view

    What evidence do you have for that statement, Eric Swanson? It’s a little dramatic, isn’t it? I thought the ‘Day After Tomorrow’ scenario had been discounted by climatologists as being not very probable?

    Comment by Tracy — 28 Aug 2008 @ 7:34 AM

  195. Re 194 – I don’t know enough about the current condition or vulnerability of the Thermohaline circulation to comment on 119, but about “The Day After Tomorrow” scenario – it wouldn’t happen that fast, it wouldn’t happen in that way, and it wouldn’t be that big. None of which necessarily precludes the suggestion of 119.

    It wouldn’t happen that fast – there is the thermal inertia of the oceans. Regionally a fast change (but how fast?) can occur as surely as a Chinook wind (although that’s over land, and it’s a weather event, not something that lasts 100+ years), by rearranging hot and cold, etc, … fast climate changes in as far as average temperature changes may also occur regionally but not so easily globally or hemispherically (depending on what one considers ‘fast’ of course). Circulation patterns are another matter – NAO, ENSO, QBO… – of course those examples are recurring fluctuations that can be part of a longer timescale stable climate…

    Also, intense precipitation can only occur on small space and/or time scales – otherwise it is limited by the global evaporation rate. Granted, an inch of water is 10 inches of snow, give or take, but still…

    It wouldn’t happen that way – well, the one point I’ll make is that when cold stratospheric air ‘plunges to the surface’, it heats up. It heats up so much that it is hard for it to plunge to the surface, very hard (it’s the adiabatic temperature change that occurs with changing pressure, and it’s why the temperature can decrease with height (as is typical in the troposphere) up to some rate without being unstable). The only way around this is to have the surface pressure in the centers of those three storms very very very very very very very low (you may need an oxygen tank?), to a point that would make Hurricane Wilma look like a weak wave in the easterlies. I can’t see how AGW or most other climate changes would cause such a storm … maybe if two large asteroids coming in nearly horizontally from opposite directions could stir up something?

    It wouldn’t be that big – I think the biggest cooling impact would be in the North Atlantic and surrounding areas, and Europe in particular since it tends to be downwind.

    Also, we are starting from a warmer point than the Younger Dryas, which was a cold snap (at least in Europe, not sure about the global extent off hand) imbedded in the overall deglaciation process, thought to have been caused by fresh water from melting ice pouring into the Atlantic. I think there was still significant ice mass in Canada at that point. (PS this is speculation at least on my part, but when you start with large ice sheets, you can get meltwater lakes, which, depending on geography, might get large, and if they’re ice-dammed, and the dam breaks, you can get very rapid changes. Such catastrophic flooding occured in the Northwest U.S. several times at least.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 28 Aug 2008 @ 12:49 PM

  196. Why this negative attitude about geologists? How can you demand that we should respect your expertice when you don’t respect our? Geology provides the solid base for many of your fancy models. We are out in the field, doing the hard and dirty (and very intresting) work which provides you with knowledge about past climates. Without its history, climate science is blind. I suggest that you read the Paleoclimate chapter in AR4, most of it is pure geology and it is fundamental for the understanding of climate. Those of you who haven’t should also read David R. Hickey’s comments in this tread [83] and [113].

    Comment by Geologist — 28 Aug 2008 @ 12:50 PM

  197. Re 196 – I respect geologists’ expertise.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 28 Aug 2008 @ 1:40 PM

  198. Geologist, #196, one issue: Geologist have been putting themselves up as experts in the field when it comes to climate. Where they are not, surely some umbrage is deserved if not warranted for this?

    Past climates didn’t have dinos digging up a trillion barrels of oil. This changes things somewhat.


    Comment by Mark — 28 Aug 2008 @ 2:30 PM

  199. Tracy, “Boris (I was hoping for either hard facts or a refutation :))”

    Well Boris would have had to have said something sensible first.

    If someone asked you “Does the price of teal feathers go up when corn meal supplies are falling?” would not your first query be “what?”. Maybe followed by “Why are you asking me?” then maybe “And what’s that got to do with anything?”?

    Boris started with “CO2 is caused by temperature increases.” What hard facts are needed that aren’t in the intro for this site? It’s arrant nonsense! And it really isn’t worth any more “hard facts” to refute than “you’re wrong” or “why is that?” (to which you will notice Boris just said “I give up, I wasn’t expecting zealotry against me, you nuts” rather than explain why he’s right or how his “theory” [in the WAG sense of the word] works).

    So maybe I could ask you: what query or point were you expecting hard facts for? Don’t “hand-wave” complaints, if you’ve got a complaint, let it be known!

    Comment by Mark — 28 Aug 2008 @ 2:36 PM

  200. Well we are the experts about palaeoclimate (including most of Holocene). Yes, there are sceptical geologists and yes, there are geologists who claim that they are experts in areas that are actually outside their expertise but if you can’t acknowledge geologists for finding the proxies which you use for testing your models, or for telling you what range of climate change is natural or finding geological analogies to the present warming, how can you blame those geologists who don’t acknowledge your models?

    Comment by Geologist — 28 Aug 2008 @ 3:45 PM

  201. Patrick 027 (195) — Younger Dryas was global, check the Antarctic ice cores. The onset is temporally associated with a comet striking in eastern Canada and I take this as the cause; massive amounts of ice entering the North Atlantic.

    [Response: You might be a little out of date. There is no Younger Dryas event in the Antarctic ice cores. Instead there is what is now called the Antarctic Cold Reversal – but it happened a 1000 years earlier. And as for the comet trigger…. – let’s just say that the jury is still out. – gavin]

    Comment by David B. Benson — 28 Aug 2008 @ 5:05 PM

  202. Geologist, I have said above that I don’t think geologists are exceptionally prone to denial. We’ve heard the same about electrical engineers, petroleum engineers, computer scientists and so on. However, we’ve recently been reminded of the denialists among the physics community and elsewhere.
    What I imagine is true for geologists is that since many of them are in petroleum, mining, etc., they often hear the word “No” from those of a more environmental bent. Certainly they don’t like the word no, particularly when they themselves are confident that they could extract the resources without undue environmental harm. For some, this may turn them against anything that strikes them as “green”. It may make them more conservative, and for some reason political conservatism seems to be a good predictor (the best) of denialism.
    Likewise for EE’s, many of them are in defense, another business that benefits more from conservative regimes than liberal ones. So, again, rejecting climate science becomes part of cheering for the team.

    What nearly all of them have in common, however, is ignorance of the basic science and a willingness to charge in despite that ignorance. That above all seems to be the best predictor of denialism,

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 28 Aug 2008 @ 6:27 PM

  203. Yes, I was more than a little out-of-date; for example “Deglaciation of the eastern flank of the North Patagonian Icefield and associated continental-scale lake diversions”

    While there is not a general acceptance of the ‘Clovis comet’ hypothesis, the recent “Exploding Asteroid Theory Strengthened By New Evidence Located In Ohio, Indiana”

    helps strengthen the case mentioned by highly conservative archaeologist C. Vance Haynes: “Recent evidence for extraterrestrial impact, although not yet compelling, needs further testing because a remarkable major perturbation occurred at 10,900 B.P. that needs to be explained.”, cited in

    Comment by David B. Benson — 28 Aug 2008 @ 7:14 PM

  204. So can we agree that there are some geologists who are prone to denial, especially in deep time fields which are less relevant to AGW but that there are also some geologists who do a very important job providing the historical background of climate change? I don’t deny that there are geologists who are sceptical but I still think that the negative attitude towards geologists that some of you have shown is unfair, why don’t you just complain about the sceptical ones and acknowledge the rest of us for our part in understanding earth’s climate? Quaternary geology is also geology.

    Comment by Geologist — 29 Aug 2008 @ 12:41 AM

  205. Geologist, #200 what makes you think that the work done in finding out the past climate is ignored? It’s a honking great part of the IPCC reports!

    But I measured the temperature of molten wax as it cooled and at the time I thought the most likely explanation for the level temperature while the wax was still transparent was due to my measurement error.

    I was very young.

    So just because you can report doesn’t *necessarily* mean that you can explain what’s going on.

    The skew is mostly because reporters now consider getting two people who disagree is how you get a balanced report. That and the denialist group *looking* for someone who can call themselves “respected scientist” who doesn’t think carbon is the reason. And then trot them out as “proof” AGW is just a commie pinko lefty tree-hugger eco-nazi plot to get everyone to live in caves and eat bark and beetles.

    Which gets annoying.

    Comment by Mark — 29 Aug 2008 @ 2:51 AM

  206. Mark #205, I know that we aren’t ignored by the IPCC, it is only the attitude in this discussion that annoys me.

    Comment by Geologist — 29 Aug 2008 @ 7:03 AM

  207. Maybe it’s the first time that a important branch of science (Geology) says I’m not sure about what you say. I think many geologists would like to play with the \parameters\ that modellers include to make the model fit with data. I don’t say the modells are bad, but they always include a lot of uncertainty. And those terms of absorbing CO2 or precipitate carbonates or absorbing CO2 by plants and burying them in deltas might change the results a lot. I think many of those things that geologists want to include in the models should be included, but in the way geologists ask for, not in other ways.

    Comment by popoff geologist — 29 Aug 2008 @ 9:13 AM

  208. Chuckle. Try reading sites like Deltoid or CA if you want a perspective on the prevalence of attitude in public discourse these days. This? it’s mild in today’s terms. There’s a lot of it around and the Internet has made that far more obvious than it used to be. Here you’re only seeing a mild and filtered taste of what people try to push. It’s a new world, and less nice than we imagined when we got our ideas about other people via print media where anonymity and snark-from-hiding weren’t the norm.

    About all one can say to the ‘tude-throwers is “well bless your heart.” And ignore them and duck. Remember to read the troll faq before getting caught up in such stuff, it’s pointless.

    Instead ….

    Here’s an interesting one in the area where biology and geology and climatology all are involved:

    (As a casual reader I only see the abstract, and just happened on this, don’t know how much else is out there. Gavin remarked earlier after a China visit that the people working on drilled cores usually focus on their own material and detail and more cross-comparisons are needed; this seems to be one such).

    “… Here we present high-resolution diatom assemblage data from two small Altiplano lakes, Lago Lagunillas and Lago Umayo, indicating changes in effective moisture in the southern tropical Andes at decadal, centennial and millennial timescales throughout the mid to late Holocene. A strong millennial-scale component, similar in pacing to periods of increased icerafted debris flux in the North Atlantic, is observed in both lake records, which suggests that regional precipitation and North Atlantic climate variability are coupled at these scales. …”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 29 Aug 2008 @ 9:23 AM

  209. Ray, I’m curious and a little befuddled. What is it about EEs that would lean them toward skepticism of AGW??

    Comment by Rod B — 29 Aug 2008 @ 9:29 AM

  210. popoff geologist says: “I think many geologists would like to play with the \parameters\ that modellers include to make the model fit with data.”

    OK, well, there’s your first misconception. The parameters are not “fit” to the data, but are determined/constrained independently by such things as response to volcanoes, paleoclimate, etc. There is a difference between dynamical modeling and statistical, best-fit modeling. And in your assumption that the biosphere will save us, you seem to be ignoring the fact that if anything, the pace of CO2 increase is getting faster and that many factors suggest a decrease in sequestration in oceans and the biosphere in a warming world. I strongly recommend perusing the very high quality of popular science writing on this site–it is the absolute best resource for learning about climate on the Web.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 29 Aug 2008 @ 9:35 AM

  211. Mark says, “….as “proof” AGW is just a commie pinko lefty tree-hugger eco-nazi plot to get everyone to live in caves and eat bark and beetles.” You mean it’s not??!!?? Well, whaddaya know. Live and learn. Sanks.

    Comment by Rod B — 29 Aug 2008 @ 9:37 AM

  212. Hank, I second the idea that RC is by far less strident and vitriolic than most of the other topical blogs. But you imply (at least I logically infer) that all of those other nastier blogs are sceptics, which is not true. There are tons of shrill AGW proponent sites to go along with the sceptic sites.

    Comment by Rod B — 29 Aug 2008 @ 9:50 AM

  213. Rod B., There are two reasons I can think of why EEs might be susceptible to denialist clap-trap. First, many of them work in defense, and so, may inhabit a more conservative millieu than people outside the industry. It is unfortunate for both conservatives and science that it has become a litmus test of bona fides to oppose the science.
    Second, engineers in general are not trained in the scientific method. There is little emphasis in the curriculum as to how to interpret data–only whether the data support or contra-indicate a design approach. I work with a lot of engineers. For most, their knowledge of modeling doesn’t go much beyond a least-squares fit to data. At the same time, the methods engineers do use are powerful where they work, and may give an illusion of understanding outside of where they are applicable.
    Now lest you or others accuse me of stereotyping (which of course, I am), I readily acknowledge that physicists, chemists, biologists and even accountants are susceptible to the same temptations and errors.
    It is not so much the training of any one discipline, but the human tendency to be blind to our limitations. However, when you couple that tendency with training (not education) that tells you you can solve any problem, the problem is exacerbated.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 29 Aug 2008 @ 11:10 AM

  214. Geologist, a few points and for brevity, I’ll just wang them out.

    1) Point me to where climatologists go to geology news sites and conferences and tell you all you’re wrong.
    2) You are given appreciation within your sphere and approbation when you move out but try to take your authority with you.
    3) Look at Bob’s dismissal of any science not his own as a reason for climate change

    Given that, this is *extremely* mild punishment.

    Comment by Mark — 29 Aug 2008 @ 11:37 AM

  215. > (at least I logically infer)
    You should get out more (grin). I do try to lambaste nonsense in an evenhanded way, as I find it. You must realize I don’t go out looking for nonsense. Life’s too short. I just ask for sources when I can’t find them for claims I wonder about.

    One of the threads I often refer to is Judith Curry’s series of exchanges over at CA where she points out the problems with advocacy sites providing spin instead of reliable information, from any side. Check after a day or two, one such comment I submitted (with cites) is now pending here:

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 29 Aug 2008 @ 3:17 PM

    Volume 14, Issue 3 (March 2004)
    GSA Today
    CO2 as a primary driver of Phanerozoic climate
    Dana L. Royer, Robert A. Berner, Isabel P. Montañez, Neil J. Tabor, and David J. Beerling

    Recent studies have purported to show a closer correspondence between reconstructed Phanerozoic records of cosmic ray flux and temperature than between CO2 and temperature. The role of the greenhouse gas CO2 in controlling global temperatures has therefore been questioned. Here we review the geologic records of CO2 and glaciations and find that CO2 was low (1000 ppm) during other, warmer periods. The CO2 record is likely robust because independent proxy records are highly correlated with CO2 predictions from geochemical models. The Phanerozoic sea surface temperature record as inferred from shallow marine carbonate δ18O values has been used to quantitatively test the importance of potential climate forcings, but it fails several first-order tests relative to more well-established paleoclimatic indicators: both the early Paleozoic and Mesozoic are calculated to have been too cold for too long. We explore the possible influence of seawater pH on the δ18O record and find that a pH-corrected record matches the glacial record much better. Periodic fluctuations in the cosmic ray flux may be of some climatic significance, but are likely of second-order importance on a multimillion-year timescale.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 30 Aug 2008 @ 10:19 AM

  217. Another example (and I’ll stop with this one, y’all know how to find more from the footnotes and citing papers). Clearly the Geological Society of America online publications have much evidence of serious interest in and work on climate issues. Maybe there are different societies of geologists with different clusters of members?
    Volume 34, Issue 6 (June 2006)

    Siberian glaciation as a constraint on Permian–Carboniferous CO2 levels

    William T. Hyde, Ethan L. Grossman, Thomas J. Crowley, David Pollard, and Christopher R. Scotese

    Reconstructions of Phanerozoic CO2 levels have generally relied on geochemical modeling or proxy data. Because the uncertainty inherent in such reconstructions is large enough to be climatically significant, inverse climate modeling may help to constrain paleo-CO2 estimates. In particular, we test the plausibility of this technique by focusing on the climate from 360 to 260 Ma, a time in which the Siberian landmass was in middle to high latitudes, yet had little or no permanent land ice. Our climate model simulations predict a lower limit for CO2—the value beneath which Siberia acquires “excess” ice. Simulations provide little new information for the period in which Siberia was at a relatively low paleoaltitude (360–340 Ma), but model results imply that paleo-CO2 levels had to be greater than 2–4× modern values to be consistent with an apparently ice-free Siberia in the late Permian. These results for the later period in general agree with soil CO2 proxies and the timing of Gondwanan deglaciation, thus providing support for a significant CO2 increase before the end-Permian boundary event. Our technique may be applicable to other time intervals of unipolar glaciation.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 30 Aug 2008 @ 10:28 AM

  218. Re 216,217 – great posts, Hank!

    I want to return to this issue:

    175 (me) – “Also keep in mind some shorter IR wavelengths, from ~ 4 microns to red light, are dominated by solar energy and have little to do with the greenhouse effect. I think there’s been some confusion (Fred Singer, Richard Lindzen perhaps?) stemming from looking at the effects of H2O and CO2 in the solar IR wavelengths.”

    177 (Boris) – “Regarding the longer wavelengths in the IR, I am sure that neither Fred nor Richard have confused the short IR from the sun with the black body radiation of the surface.”

    The reason for my comment:

    About two years ago, in an unfortunately overheated ‘discussion’ with someone who seemed to lack reading comprehension skills or memory, I was making a point about facts vs opinions, for example, that the ‘H2O vapor or H2O and clouds is 90 or 95 % of the greenhouse effect’ is factually incorrect (or at least very confusing – maybe if one specifies that one is discussing downward atmospheric radiation reaching the surface, in conditions with sufficient low-level humidity, … but that’s not greenhouse forcing, … but anyway…). Wherein came a website of Fred Singer’s:

    (Figuratively speaking, about every other word in this was wrong, by the way):

    “Water vapor, the most significant greenhouse gas, comes from natural sources and is responsible for roughly 95% of the greenhouse effect (4). Among climatologists, this is common knowledge, but among special interests, certain governmental groups, and news reporters this fact is under-emphasized or just ignored altogether.”

    Source 4 – like the B vitamins, there are several sources given, 4a through 4i

    I think there were only 4a through 4e at the time I first looked into this, however, though I’m not sure.



    “S.M. Freidenreich and V. Ramaswamy, “Solar Radiation Absorption by Carbon Dioxide, Overlap with Water, and a Parameterization for General Circulation Models,” Journal of Geophysical Research 98 (1993):7255-7264”

    Notice that’s about SOLAR radiation – not that atmospheric absorption of solar radiation doesn’t have effects, of course.



    “Global Deception: The Exaggeration of the Global Warming Threat
    by Dr. Patrick J. Michaels, June 1998”

    -“Over 95 percent of the earth’s natural greenhouse effect is from water vapor, and about 3 percent of it is from carbon dioxide. ” – but I never was able to find a source for that claim within 4b.


    4c. (Here’s where it gets really interesting):

    “Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Appendix D, Greenhouse Gas Spectral Overlaps and Their Significance”
    “Energy Information Administration; Official Energy Statistics from the U.S. Government”

    (PS the above is the title listed by Singer – the whole title at the site is:
    “Alternatives to Traditional Transportation Fuels 1994
    Volume 2
    Greenhouse Gas Emissions
    Appendix D
    Greenhouse Gas Spectral Overlaps and Their Significance”)

    Table D1 listed N2O as absorbing between 16.5 and 46 microns, while not listing H2O as an absorber within that range. A typo, perhaps?

    Table D2 lists, as a percentage of total ‘trapped’ or absorbed longwave (terrestrial) radiation, the changes in trapping/absorption… —
    (I’m not going to get technical about what actually happens to the radiation here, I’ve spent enough time on that, see reference given in my comment 175 for more) (PS I’m not sure offhand whether these numbers are relative to the LW forcing, or the absorption of radiation from the surface by the atmosphere (which is greater than the tropopause or top-of-atmosphere LW forcing because of emission by the atmosphere) – I could check to see whether the numbers agree or not with other sources
    (such as “Earth’s Annual Global Mean Energy Budget” J.T. Kiehl, Kevin E. Trenberth, )
    to figure it out, but I’m not going to bother with that right now.)

    …that would result from removal of various greenhouse agents from the atmosphere. The numbers are similar to those given at:

    So far so good.

    From the paragraph immediately before Table D2 (This is what it says now, I don’t remember it being different in any important way when I first saw it two years ago):

    “Partly because the infrared absorption bands of the various components of the atmosphere overlap, the contributions from individual absorbers do not add linearly. Clouds trap only 14 percent of the radiation with all other major species present, but would trap 50 percent if all other absorbers were removed [105] (Table D2 and Figure D1). Carbon dioxide adds 12 percent to radiation trapping, which is less than the contribution from either water vapor or clouds. By itself, however, carbon dioxide is capable of trapping three times as much radiation as it actually does in the Earth’s atmosphere.”

    This is relevant to the contents of table D2.

    IMMEDIATELY following that, in the SAME paragraph: “Freidenreich and colleagues [106] have reported the overlap of carbon dioxide and water absorption bands in the infrared region. Given the present composition of the atmosphere, the contribution to the total heating rate in the troposphere is around 5 percent from carbon dioxide and around 95 percent from water vapor. In the stratosphere, the contribution is about 80 percent from carbon dioxide and about 20 percent from water vapor. It is important to remember, however, that it is currently believed that the impact of water vapor produced from surface sources such as fuel combustion on the atmospheric water vapor concentrations is minimal.”

    So I went to 106 (clicked on it, actually, to get to “Notes”), and found this reference:

    “106. S.M. Freidenreich and V. Ramaswamy, “Solar Radiation Absorption by Carbon Dioxide, Overlap with Water, and a Parameterization for General Circulation Models,” Journal of Geophysical Research 98 (1993):7255-7264.”

    Look familiar? It’s Singer’s source 4a. From the title, it’s about Solar radiation (I haven’t actually obtained the article itself but from the numbers given in the quoted paragraph above, I have to assume those numbers are for solar radiation absorption in the air. Of course, absorption of solar radiation within the troposphere, while it would have an affect on circulation and energy fluxes, tends not to have the same affect on tropopause radiative forcing, because some portion of that radiation would be absorbed at the surface were the atmospheric absorption taken away (I think the tropopause and top-of-atmosphere radiative forcing are affected by tropospheric and total atmospheric absorption, respectively, by how they reduce the effective albedo at either level, for example by being above snow, clouds, etc., not that other surfaces have zero albedo…). And of course, it is a small fraction of total absorbed solar radiation that is absorbed above the tropopause, and it is some fraction of that which is in the IR band, which I suspect is what the numbers in the above paragraph were for, or else why isn’t ozone mentioned? etc. Hence from the above numbers, I would think CO2 does not have a major influence on SW (solar) radiation budgets (From another source, stratospheric SW absorption dominated by ozone, I think, and tropospheric SW absorption dominated by water vapor, also maybe clouds, I think.).

    It has been said (I forget by whom) that it is better not to attribute to malice what could be attributed to ignorance (Hence, I said solar IR could be a source of confusion), though one may suspect that Singer and company are trying to be ignorant here (by not reading the whole paragraph and wondering why it seems to contradict itself – PS this paragraph of this government document was very poorly written. A conspiracy theorist might wonder if that was intentional. But perhaps I shouldn’t go down that road.)

    Anyway, the other sources:



    “d. Personal Communication– Dr. Richard S. Lindzen
    Alfred P. Slone Professor of Meteorology, MIT”

    No link given. Wonder what was said.



    “The Geologic Record and Climate Change”
    “by Dr. Tim Patterson, January 2005
    Professor of Geology– Carleton University
    Ottawa, Canada”

    By the way, a great example of a geologist who shouldn’t quit his day job. (“I am a Quaternary geologist by profession.” – I mean specifically he should stick to the Quaternary – or was the first ~2/3 of the Mesozoic really so frigid?! (see his graph) – (and of course, the apparent discrepancy around 450 Ma may be on route to being resolved with research suggesting a drawdown of CO2 in the late (?) Ordivician via chemical weathering of the Appalachians))

    As far as water vapor goes:

    -“The number one greenhouse gas is actually water vapor. It’s something like 98 percent, by volume, of all greenhouse gases.”
    (Key words: “by volume”)

    His conclusion:
    “In conclusion, the geologic record clearly shows us that there really is little correlation between CO2 levels and temperature.”
    I had written almost 6 pages about how his arguments were wrong, which I concluded with: “Patterson has only a vague correlation with the reality of climate.”

    THESE OTHER SOURCES I DON’T RECALL FROM TWO YEARS AGO (but maybe I just skipped over them back then?:

    4f. (I assume this is actually suposed to be satire, and so wonder why it is listed as a source at all)

    “EPA Seeks To Have Water Vapor Classified As A Pollutant”
    “by the ecoEnquirer, 2006″



    ” Air and Water Issues
    by Freedom, 2005
    Citation: Bjorn Lomborg, p. 259. Also: Patrick Michaels and Robert Balling, Jr. The Satanic Gases, Clearing the Air About Global Warming (Washington, DC: CATO Institute, 2000), p. 25 ”

    The first link didn’t work; the second takes me to , which seems to be one of those places where ideology trumps data and reason (at least with climate science).

    Apparently somebody somewhere cited the writing of Bjorn Lomborg, and Patrick Michaels and Robert Balling Jr. Of the three, my impression has been that Bjorn Lomborg’s arguments are more sophisticated and tend to concern the economics of mitigation vs the economics of adaptation, but …


    “Does CO2 Really Drive Global Warming?”
    “by Dr. Robert Essenhigh, May 2001”

    This does have the statement: “This overall position can be summarized by saying that water accounts, on average, for >95% of the radiative absorption. And, because of the variation in the absorption due to water variation, anything future increases in CO2 might do, water will already have done.” Now, I really looked for this kind of thing when I studied the sources 2 years ago, so I’m pretty sure this was not listed a source at that time (or else the link was not working? – but no… hmm…). Anyway, the author’s logic is thoroughly confused.

    Even if this is where Singer got his number for water vapor, it doesn’t explain why he ignored the correct information from another sources he cites.



    “Solar Cycles, Not CO2, Determine Climate”
    “by Zbigniew Jaworowski, M.D., Ph.D., D.Sc., 21st Century Science and Technology, Winter 2003-2004, pp. 52-65”

    Wow! I found the erroneous statement about H2O vapor highlighted in that website. Also found what looks like the same graph of temperature changes over the Phanerozoic used by Tim Patterson (And the source given for it is “N.J. Shaviv, and J. Veizer, 2003. “Celestial Driver of Phanerozoic Climate?” GSA Today (July), pp. 4-10″ And the names sound familiar – I think one of the IPCC reports addressed this issue (was it the AR4 or the third one?)) But where did the water vapor info come from? Too many sources listed at the end to go through – I don’t have the time.


    Sorry for the long post – I had no idea it would get that long when I started it.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 31 Aug 2008 @ 11:07 PM

  219. Anybody who doubts is no honest?

    Comment by popoff geologist — 1 Sep 2008 @ 5:38 AM

  220. patrick quotes Fred Singer:

    “Water vapor, the most significant greenhouse gas, comes from natural sources and is responsible for roughly 95% of the greenhouse effect (4). Among climatologists, this is common knowledge…”

    Singer is lying with that last sentence. I have never seen a climatology textbook that said water vapor accounts for 95% of the greenhouse effect. I have never seen a peer-reviewed paper that said that.

    He’s not just wrong here — he’s saying something about his colleagues which he knows not to be true.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 1 Sep 2008 @ 7:15 AM

  221. Popoff geologist asks: “Anybody who doubts is no honest?” and vectors to the puff opinion piece that mysteriously made its way to the pages of Physics today.

    All dishonest? Not at all. Some are ignorant, writing well outside their field of expertise. Scafetta and west have been dealt with here:


    The PT piece merely recycles the same mistakes. Rare counter examples like Einstein notwithstanding, there is a reason why scientists study a subject for 20 years or more before making any meaningful contribution to it.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 1 Sep 2008 @ 7:59 AM

  222. Geologists worried about the tone of this discussion, should maybe ask themselves why they’re so reflexively defensive. It’s pretty mild.

    Those worried about the lack of respect shown to skeptics might want to step back and ponder the situation from another angle. A review of public “debate” will show that legitimate skepticism of AGW has died down over the past decade or so. The serious, productive scientists have either moved on or are focusing on smaller points. If you examine the remaining critiques, you’ll soon see that what’s left over is a closed cycle of debunked talking points and dishonest debating techniques. You have to ask yourself why people would indulge in this behavior and whether they deserve any more respect than say vandals who deface public property.

    #202 Ray Ladbury
    You’re probably right of course, but I think there’s a little more to it. The very culture of geology contains an exploitive element — from energy and all manor of mining to collectors and artisans — economic exploration has been a factor embedded into the school curriculum. And it’s pretty hard core, although it may be changing a bit for upcoming generations.

    I can remember that my geology classmates (undergraduate, early 80’s) were mostly interested in the science. There was however, a distinct knot of characters who were convinced that they were going to strike it rich. This despite admonitions to the contrary by profs. And they were very aggressive about it, probably egged on by the political climate of the time which was beginning to sneer at anything even remotely smacking of environmentalism (among other things).

    I also remember my advisor marveling that I wasn’t aware of the deep pockets available to geology students. He then laughed and dropped a stipend on me for field camp from an energy sector group. I have to say it gave me pause and caused me more than a little soul searching. Very seductive.

    Comment by Biff Baffin — 1 Sep 2008 @ 10:27 AM

  223. Popoff geologist: you point to an “Opinion” — is not “honest” disagreement allowed in your view?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 1 Sep 2008 @ 10:41 AM

  224. > beginning to sneer at anything even remotely smacking of environmentalism (among other things).

    Yep. I heard people in both academia and business saying they were sad to see people coming out of grad school and law school who had made themselves nothing but tools to be used. Sneer/peer pressure — ‘the nail that sticks up gets hammered down’ — is potentially really destructive in school environments when careers are being chosen.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 1 Sep 2008 @ 11:00 AM

  225. Patrick 027 (#218): this is a great piece of detective work!

    The abstract of Freidenreich and Ramaswamy (1993) is on line, and you are 110% right:

    Line-by-line (LBL) solar radiative transfer solutions are obtained for CO2-only, H2O-only, and CO2 + H2O atmospheres, and the contributions by the major CO2 and H2O absorption bands to the heating rates in the stratosphere and troposphere are analyzed. …

    This is absolutely crystal clear. It is, as you concluded, about the absorption of incoming solar radiation. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the greenhouse effect. I have to admit that Siegfried F is creative in his mendacity…

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 1 Sep 2008 @ 11:01 AM

  226. Couple more recent sources (you can download the PDF or click for Google’s html version where available)

    From the first one:

    ——-excerpt follows——-
    … the electromagnetic radiation from the Sun is the main driver of the climate,
    the circulation, and the wave flux of the Earth’s atmosphere.
    In the first part of our study, we investigate how the annual variation of the to-
    tal solar irradiance (TSI at the position of the Earth) influences the global mean
    temperature of the lower troposphere. The annual variation of TSI is caused by
    the changing Sun-Earth distance during the year, and its amplitude amounts 45.7
    W/m2. The annual variation of TSI is much larger than the other variations of TSI,
    e.g., the 11-year solar cycle corresponds to an amplitude of around 1 W/m2.

    We estimate the impact of the annual variation of TSI on the time series of global mean
    temperature (from NCEP/NCAR reanalysis). Additionally we derive the influence
    of the inter-hemispherical asymmetry of the Earth on the time series of the global
    mean temperature. Since the Northern Hemisphere (NH) has more land surfaces
    and mountains than the Southern Hemisphere (SH), the characteristics of wind cir-
    culation, water vapor convection, atmospheric waves, concentration of greenhouse
    gases, oceanic currents, surface albedo, etc. are different and lead to a different ther-
    mal equilibrium for the NH than for the SH. Particularly the warmest sea surface
    temperatures are observed in the NH which can be explained by complex ocean-
    atmosphere interactions depending on surface wind, cloud cover, coastal geometry
    of the continents, the depth of the oceanic thermocline, and other factors (Philander
    et al. , 1996).

    The time series of the global and hemispheric mean temperature, humidity, and
    geopotential height of the lower troposphere reveal a linear, positive trend which
    is mainly caused by the strong increase of anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse …

    Preprint submitted to Elsevier Science
    4 June 2007

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 1 Sep 2008 @ 2:45 PM

  227. But, back to the original topic…

    In general, whether the group is geologists, EEs, physicists, or whatever, I’d observe:

    1) It’s difficult to make useful assertions about the group as a whole, especially about their opinions, and especially without doing a high-quality survey whose size and methodology yield statistical significance.

    Otherwise, one is talking about anecdotal evidence, even if the evidence consists of public sessions at conferences.

    2) But even if you did a good survey, you’d better report it correctly for it to have any meaning. For example, suppose you did a randomized survey of people in group X, under circumstances that required answers (i.e., not one one of these silly Internet polls), i.e., imagine you were the Census Bureau.

    Imagine the poll asked: on a scale from 0 to 10, rate the likelihood of AGW being a correct theory, i.e., 0 = it’s a hoax, 5 = I’m really not sure, 10 = I’m virtually certain. I.e., one needs some linear scale.

    3) Now, you could report that group X averaged 7, and some other group Y averaged 8 … but what does that tell you?

    A: not much, which is why I’ve often given a talk called “Summarizing Performance is No Mean Feat”, i.e., *distribution* is at least as important as any mean.

    In this case, one might find that the results of group X, with mean 7:

    a) Follow a normal distribution, with sd = 1, say OR

    b) Follow a left-skewed distribution, i.e., most people are above 7, but there’s a long spread down to 0. OR

    c) There’s a strong bimodal distribution, with a big peak around 8 and a small peak around 0.

    d) There’s a trimodal distribution, with a strong peak around 9-10 [people who’ve studied], another peak around 5 [people who just don’t know], and a small peak at 0 [people who know AGW is a hoax]

    One gets far more insight from seeing the distribution, especially when one finds multi-modals, which lead one to want to search for the distinguishing characteristics of the subgroups.

    I conjecture (based on the original article, and on watching the APS/FPS proceedings, but only a conjecture, that d) might well occur. In the APS case:

    The leaders of APS and other key people certainly fit 9-10.
    The FPS editors were 5.
    Certain FPS members, like Gerald Marsh and Larry Gould, fit 0.

    4) So, I don’t think the existence of some 0’s in a group means the whole group subscribes to that position, but that brings me back to the geologists. Some pepple have commented about different subgroups. I certainly know geosciences people who understand AGW quite well.

    So, in the absence of a scientific survey, are there reasoned opinions about the distribution for geologists?

    Comment by John Mashey — 2 Sep 2008 @ 11:39 AM

  228. “So, in the absence of a scientific survey, are there reasoned opinions about the distribution for geologists?”


    Why would there be? We don’t run a survey. And it would still be anecdotal if you wish to perceive it as so.

    However, if some geologists are understanding of climatology today and keep quiet while people like Bob say “CO2 lags temperature rises” then they are not part of the solution, are they.

    Stand up and be counted, if you will.

    Comment by Mark — 2 Sep 2008 @ 12:34 PM

  229. re: #228 mark

    Look, this is a good science blog, so people often address:
    1) What do we think we know?
    2) Wny do we think we know that?
    3) How sure are we? What’s the balance of evidence?

    (or put another way, as in that link: ideas, hypotheses, strong theories, or in Stephen Schneider’s terms: speculation, competing explanations, well-established science.)

    ? Who’s “we”?

    When you say “no”, that’s ambiguous. Can you clarify:
    a) You don’t have a reasoned opinion.
    b) You don’t know of any reasoned opinions.
    c) You know there are no reasoned opinions. [and how do you know?]
    d) You know there cannot be reasoned opinions.

    Reasoned opinions could easily come from people with long involvement in a scientific discipline, and who know many people there. Those certainly aren’t scientific surveys, but I’d give them more weight than to random, unidentifiable posters on a blog. (i.e., IUOUI = Ignore Unsupported Opinions of Unidentifiable Individuals).

    Again, having watched the APS/FPS thing, at least some people seem to have a handle on the distribution of their members’ thoughts, and are thinking about how to support good discussions without getting anti-science.

    You may be under the illusion that I’m a geologist (I’m not, see Part 2 of How to Learn About Science.)

    I just have a long-running interest, as described in that link, to see how people learn science, and the various reasons why otherwise-educated people reject strong scientific consensus in domains outside their own.

    If I just did anecdotes, I’d observe that Naomi Oreskes was originally a geologist by academic background, as was Ron Oxburgh [brought in as Shell Chairman to clean up], and both of them have well-known views on AGW :-)

    Comment by John Mashey — 2 Sep 2008 @ 3:54 PM

  230. I mean to to the question in

    “So, in the absence of a scientific survey, are there reasoned opinions about the distribution for geologists?”

    In the absence of a scientific survey, there are no reasoned opinions about the distribution for geologists.

    We have reasoned opinions about the general public appearance with respect to climate and man’s effect thereon.

    But the distribution of opinion? No.

    It was a “no” right after a quoted question so I figured people would be able to join the dots. Question quoted: no. “no” must be the answer for the question.

    I realise now this may have been a bit of a shot in the dark with some.


    Comment by Mark — 2 Sep 2008 @ 5:01 PM

  231. One point made many times in the discussion is that proselytism seems to hit a snag when reaching a geologist. Perhaps, those with a perspective on geosciences and in particular Earth history may be less prompt to take claims of “unprecedented” events at face value. After all, they have seen the effect of climate on rocks and demonstrated important sea level variations. The dreadful and despicable oil industry seismic technological advances have exposed the resulting corteges of sediments and their architecture through sequence stratigraphy…

    Geologists too have experienced the wonderful impact of models in their daily lives, including the opposite approaches that consist in elaborating a model and fitting it to the rest of the data or reconstructing the geometrical relationships from the data, all the data and then inferring the principles that created the observed filed. Not unlike the climate field, we also enjoy controversies, including egos vested interests in one model versus another. In exploration though, the sanction comes quickly and at a cost: and the result is either a dry hole or a discovery. And one can lose his job you know… unlike in climate science it seems, even when Supplemental Information do not live up to their expectations.

    So not only geologists are wary of models but they are also curious people and cartesian ones to boot. Thus it is highly logical some of them will inform themselves about meteorology and climatology, about the quality of the data and the processing of that data before even uttering an opinion on the debate.

    The fact that documented rebuttals have exposed inconsistencies in proxy records and their statistical treatment, the fact that meteorological observations based on the evolution of pressure fields do not support the temperature averages obsession, the fact that 5,000 BP old corals in a tectonically stable south pacific atoll are located at a minimum 1.5m above present sea level, make in the minds of many, the claims of “unprecedented” events quite weak.

    But perhaps what troubles me the most is the inelegance displayed through utter arrogance of this side of the climate science community. The tone of this forum being yet another example of it. It feels like Bernard-Henry Levy condescending on Solzhenitsyn! And I would highjack the quote by the academician Marcel Pagnol to finish: ” Messieurs, La geologie vous em…..!”

    Comment by Antonio San — 3 Sep 2008 @ 12:40 AM

  232. Very well expressed by Antonio San. Maybe some geologists have known how difficult is to fit the data with the model, even with more single models with just the continuity equation, for example in hidrogeology, where after doing a lot of trials finally always reality and nature acts as it wants, and you must re-begin, try with other parameters, with other suppositions, change the geometry, etc. etc.

    Models are marvellous to make comprobations, to know if your geometrical, physically based model, has a mathematical possibility of fitting, which are the extremes of vadility, etc. but they are only tools.

    Comment by popoff — 3 Sep 2008 @ 10:45 AM

  233. Antonio San, You claim that it is natural that some geologists will take the trouble to make themselves familiar with climate science, and indeed that is true. So why is it that the talking points of the denialists such as Blob Carter are based on utter ignorance of the science? Does he really think that the old meme of “CO2 lags temperature” is anything other than a softly lobbed pitch that is destined to be knocked out of the ball park if it even makes it to the plate? Your own comments about models betray an ignorance of how climate modeling is done. Your attitude of throwing up your hands and saying climate is simply too complicated is antiscientific as well as demonstrably incorrect, given the massive gains in understanding we’ve had over 150 years of studying climate.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 3 Sep 2008 @ 11:23 AM

  234. Re 231,232 –

    Claims of ‘unprecedented’ – no serious climatologist or geologist or… would say that we haven’t had sea level much higher at some point in the past, higher temperatures, much higher CO2, etc, etc, – though the rate of sustained change now is rather higher than ‘typical’ (the recent relatively large CO2 rise is significantly more rapid than in the last deglaciation) , but I’m not sure it’s unprecedented – asteroid impacts, etc, – but in any given aspect it is unprecedented (unfamiliar) relative to a given time scale.

    Models – I’m not sure which models you’re refering to. If you’re talking about fitting a model to data, in the sense of fitting a model of the structure of the Earth to seismic data, that makes sense. That’s rather different than a climate or atmospheric model – a better comparison would be models that simulate patterns of mantle and outer core convection over time (as opposed to a model of the particular configuration of currents as it is now based on seismic and other data).

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 3 Sep 2008 @ 11:37 AM

  235. Re 234

    Patrick 027,

    As a geologist I have experienced the rarity of meeting geophysicists who were even interested in what the detailed geology was -that means what nature has done-, beyond the basic “is it a reef play or a sand play”. Believe me when one was lucky enough to meet such rare individual one was treasuring the work relationship as there was no language barrier: we were indeed studying the same object with complementary tools.

    Of course the modeling differs depending on the application… Still, beyond the tools, it is the brains and the reasoning that makes science intelligent or tart, not the amount of computer time.

    When Herve Le Treut in his inaugural lecture at the Academie des Sciences in Paris suggests that enormous progress in climatology have been made in the past decade and then refers to the tuning up of his computer models, -I thought he would mention observations i.e. real data- it leaves me with a sense of disconnection, not unsimilar one felt when some electronicians were endlessly refining the audio cassette tape with complex equalization gadgets while forgetting that 4.75cm/s tape speed dynamics will never replace a direct streamlined recording at 76 cm/s! But I digress…

    Finally, I’d argue that ethics play a role in all this, as scientists like anyone else are faillible; but that’s about row models now…

    Comment by Antonio San — 3 Sep 2008 @ 4:55 PM

  236. Re 235 – “Still, beyond the tools, it is the brains and the reasoning that makes science intelligent or tart, not the amount of computer time.”

    Somewhat true – 1. GIGO with the computer models, but we need computer models to do the really intensive number crunching. 2. But simpler models, some computer, some mental – or mathematical in a way a human mind can fully comprehend – help us understand what is actually going on even in the more complex models that are better approximations of reality. (Some contrarians, which includes SOME geologists, don’t understand these simpler models – they don’t understand the theory itself, the underlying physics of it all).

    “then refers to the tuning up of his computer models,” –

    I have no experience myself with computer modeling, so anyone else feel free to jump in here, but a few impressions I’ve had:

    If the models were just tuned to produce better approximations of reality, that may make them more likely to be useful at projecting unknown realities (ie unknown aspects of the past and future) – but there is the possibility that relationships that have been found empirically through such correlation, even if robust within some range of conditions, may fall apart outside that range of conditions.

    But I think that’s an oversimplifaction of what it means to tune such a model – actually some might say that it is incorrect to describe what is done as tuning.

    Models work with the basic physics of the climate system. Limited computing power requires a grid scale (in space and time), and sub-grid scale processes cannot be resolved. These processes and their effects need to be parameterized. But that’s not just a wild guessing game. Different parameterizations can be tried out to see how sensitive or robust the model results are to them.

    Well that’s all I have time for right now.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 3 Sep 2008 @ 8:17 PM

  237. Antonio San, Methinks you are talking out of an alternative orifice. So far you’ve given no indication that you understand the science of Earth’s climate, even the basics of modeling or even how to communicate your point concisely. There are many uncertainties in climate models–the role of CO2 is not among them.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 3 Sep 2008 @ 8:22 PM

  238. Thanks Patrick 027.

    re 237, is there any moderation here? thanks.

    Comment by Antonio San — 3 Sep 2008 @ 10:04 PM

  239. Re 225 – thanks for the link!

    On a somewhat related note to my earlier comment 218: (As a preface to the following – as I mentioned above an exampe of a Quaternary geologist who shouldn’t quit his day job, here is one example of a – ‘Geophysical Fluid Dynamicist’?? (well, that’s what he wrote a book about) – who was a bit clumsy in describing the greenhouse effect and global warming. BUT I would not level the same ‘should not quit his day job’ remark at him – because global warming is outside the main focus of the book, and it is only a brief description (and I suspect many have stumbled when trying to briefly describe), and I percieve no willful ignorance, etc. – at the same time, though, one of his sources, if it is who I think it is (Lindzen) would be an example of a – ‘tropical meteorologist’?? (what is Lindzen’s specialty? I know he has done good work in a scientific field) – who should not quit his day job. Anyway, it is interesting because this is a overall good quality college textbook. Copyrighted 1994 – maybe corrections have been made since then?)

    “Introduction to Geophysical Fluid Dynamics” by Benoit Cushman-Roisin. Copyright 1994.

    A fine book for fluid mechanical aspects of the atmosphere and ocean, which is essentially the whole book.

    Under Part V: Special Topics – Chapter 18: Climate Dynamics –

    okay for initial introduction to the greenhouse effect (though it could be made better, I think), but then, …

    p.278 “[CO2] absorbs longwave radiation around 13 um”…

    What about 15 um?

    (PS the book uses the correct symbol ‘mu’, I’m using ‘u’ just to make typing easier.)

    p.279 “Raising the amount of water in the atmosphere should not cause an increase in greenhouse effect, because sufficient water levels already exist to block totally the radiation in the bands obstructed by water.”

    – oversimplication of spectral dependence of radiative properties, and ignores closing of the 8-12 um window at very high specific humidity.

    p.280 “Let us keep in mind, however, that there will always remain wavelength bands that are affected by neither water vapor nor carbon dioxide.”

    – approximately true up to a point.

    p.280 discussion of “worst case scenario” where atmospheric transmission of LW radiation from the surface goes to zero: “Thus, a worst-case scenario is a 7[deg] C rise in globally averaged temperature. This ought to be an overestimate, because (1) carbon dioxide, regardless of it’s concentration, still leaves open some radiation windows, and (2) it is not certain that enough fossil-fuel reserves exist to provide, once all are burned, enough CO2 to block all radiation in the CO2-absorbing band.”

    – oversimplication of spectral dependence, and – I only looked briefly at the math the author used (formulas developed pp. 268 – 271), but it appears that, while the author does not use the isothermal-atmosphere oversimplication, noting the atmosphere radiates to the surface more than to space (top of page 270), The author used the assumption that the ratio of atmospheric radiation to space to the atmospheric radiation to the surface would not change – a fundamental flaw (the reality of which is ironically implied by the answer to question 18-1 on page 281). The author also keeps the convective heat flux from the surface to the atmosphere constant, which he addresses in the next paragraph:

    “However (such ‘howevers’ [italics removed, single quotes added] are frequent in discussion of a possible global warming!), if the temperature increases, other elements of the heat budget will be affected, and it is not at all clear (from simple arguments) whether the tendency is toward greater or lesser warming. One component of the heat budget that is most likely to be modified is the hydrological cycle.” … “Therefore, the amount of latent heat transferred from the earth’s surface to atmosphere would increase, short-circuiting the greenhouse effect to a large degree.” … Following that, the author has two sample calculations for the surface temperature increase – resulting from zero atmospheric transmission of surface LW radiation to space, with increases of the convective heat flux from the surface – of 10% and 20% – of 5 deg C and 3 deg C, respectively.

    pp. 280 – 281:

    “But speculation, however reasonable, must be put to the test.” … “Starting in the 1960s, Syukuro Manabe (see the biography at the end of this cahpter) and several others developed such numerical models, of various degrees of complexity, to quantify the climate response to increasing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide (among other models: Manabe et al., 1965; Hansen et al., 1988; Manabe et al., 1991).” … [on the model results for surface temperature response of doubling CO2 from “present” concentrations] …”Answers agree that the globally averaged temperature”…”would increase but disagree on the size of this increase, with values ranging between 1.5 [deg] C and 5 [deg] C (National Research Council, 1983; Lindzen, 1990). Differences between model results are attributed to our yet imprecise knowledge of which physical processes among the many possible candidates must be included in the calculations, as well as to our present inability, because of computer limitations, to simulate with the necessary accuracy short-term processes (e.g., cloud formations and oceanic eddies).”

    I’m not sure about the first part of the last sentence, but otherwise the above sounds about right.

    “Also, as Manabe et al. (1991) argue, climate inertia due primarily to a delayed oceanic response requires nonequilibrium studies,”…

    That’s fine.

    “Although the various models agree on a global temperature increase, they are in sharp disagreement over regional variations, except in polar regions where they systematically project temperature increases greater than the global average, especially in wintertime (Lindzen, 1990). Ironically, actual records of temperature over the Atlantic Arctic since 1900 do not support this conclusion (Rogers, 1989, quoted in Lindzen, 1990),”

    That last part about the Atlantic Arctic puzzles me. Maybe when this was written, Arctic warming was not quite so obvious (?). I’m not sure if this is exactly the region referred to, but there is an area of the North Atlantic (SE of Greenland, I think) that is expected (from model output at least) to have less warming – unlike much of the rest of the northern high latitudes. Maybe this was not a model output back in 1994 (?).

    “In summary, much work remains before numerical models provide consistent and reliable answers to the queestion of a possible global warming,” …

    More true for the specifics than for more general aspects…

    … “but in the meantime, their results should serve as warnings for what could happen. A good and succinct overview of the debate over global warming can be found in Lindzen (1990).”

    What is this Lindzen (1990)? – on page 307 (References):

    “Lindzen, R. S., 1990: Some coolness concerning global warming. [italics left out of following] Bull. Am. Met. Soc. [end italics], 71, 288-299.” [“71” was in bold]

    Well, it wasn’t a speech to CATO, so maybe there were some reasonable (for the year 1990) statements in that. I haven’t looked for it yet. But we all know Lindzen has stated some whoppers in other venues. I am assuming it’s the same Richard Lindzen – if I’m wrong, sorry.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 3 Sep 2008 @ 10:53 PM

  240. Antonio San,

    “Unprecedented” is usually used with a phrase like “in the past thousands years” or “in the past 650,000 years.” It doesn’t mean unprecedented in all geological time. Nor does that fact that some index may have been exceeded in some earlier era affect the point that the current rapid rise in temperature is likely to play merry hell with our agriculture and our economy. When the Earth was molten, it was much hotter than today. Nonetheless, “the Earth is now hotter than it has been for 1,300 years” is a point of great interest.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 4 Sep 2008 @ 5:48 AM

  241. Apparently, too many readers of Real Climate fail to understand that geologists and climate scientists are close cousins. We both study the lithosphere, biosphere, atmosphere, and cryosphere. Only the order and emphasis placed on these various components defines the dividing line between our disciplines. So if geologists are strange, climate scientists are as well. When climate scientists brandish around geological terms, discussing the geological setting of the Paleocene and Cretaceous, we are obliged to enter the discussion.

    The subplot for what is really going on here is a strategy by some to shut down discussion on the study of man-made climate change in order to affect a political agenda. Any dissenting scientist (even climate scientists) who questions the hypothesis that climate change on all scales from local and regional to global is driven mainly by man’s addition of CO2 into the atmosphere is labeled a “kook” by many regulars here at Real Climate. The premise used by the activists and politicians is that humans have the power to stabilize the climate to some kind of “optimal”. Fortunately, a significant minority of climate scientists and geologists alike privately understand that this idea is bunk, yet it seems to be heresy in some circles of thought to point this out.

    Most climate scientists and geologists agree that the climate system has large natural variability across many spatial and temporal scales. Additionally, it is agreed that man’s recent contribution to modern climate change is real and significant, but complex, and involves the interaction of land use practices, aerosols, and greenhouse gas emissions. The place where many of us part ways is in the twofold hypothesis that 1) the complex interaction of humans with the earth system’s inherent natural variability can be predicted accurately decades to thousands of years into the future, and 2) the climate system can be effectively engineered by the political regulation of CO2 emissions to produce some kind of anthropogenic climate optimal. Many geologists and other scientists are crying in the wilderness that this engineering hypothesis is doomed to be ineffective, and if implemented, may unintentionally result in the spreading of more human misery than it will cure.

    Comment by Bryan S — 4 Sep 2008 @ 1:42 PM

  242. Bryan S., That is an absolute load of fetid dingo’s kidneys. Nobody is trying to shut anybody up. The denialists have simply run out of anything relevant (i.e. publishable in peer reviewed journals) to say. And on those few occasions where something was published, it leads nowhere. The role of CO2 is well established. The sensitivity is nailed down six ways to Sunday. Do you want to overturn the consensus of climate scientists that humans are behind the current warming epoch? Great. All you have to do is explain the data–and I mean ALL the data–with a CO2 sensitivity significantly below say 0.5 degrees per doubling. Good luck.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 4 Sep 2008 @ 2:44 PM

  243. > 1) the complex interaction …can be predicted
    > accurately decades to thousands of years into the
    > future, and 2) the climate system can be effectively
    > engineered … to produce some kind of anthropogenic
    > climate optimal

    You the guy who ordered these truckloads of straw?
    Got enough for stuffing plenty more o’ them strawmen.

    Seriously bogus claiming your two statements are “hypotheses” — you can’t cite them to anyone who made such claims, I’m sure.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 4 Sep 2008 @ 3:03 PM

  244. “fetid dingo’s kidneys”
    that’s quite creative and descriptive! :)

    Comment by Figen Mekik — 4 Sep 2008 @ 3:12 PM

  245. Bryan S (241) wrote “the climate system can be effectively engineered by the political regulation of CO2 emissions to produce some kind of anthropogenic climate optimal.” Well, I certainly hope so! All that is required is to offset, by permanent sequestration, ungoing additions of excess CO2 and also put back the approximately 500 GtC of excess carbon.

    However, no ‘political regulation’ is necessary; all that is required is about 1–2% of the world’s annual wealth. I suppose extracting that as, say, VAT, is a political matter.

    Hank Roberts (243) — Maybe Bryan was referring to me? :-)

    Comment by David B. Benson — 4 Sep 2008 @ 3:50 PM

  246. David, you haven’t published a hypothesis that includes all those specified criteria, have you? It’s the loading of all those specifics into the claim that makes it a straw man.

    Wishful thinking doesn’t count. You need a mechanism, not a what-if.

    Broecker, for contrast, has a hypothesis, and it looks as though he has a possible mechanism — a real one, not a strawman; he is not presuming regulation of emissions; and not claiming optimal results. He’s actually stating something that can be discussed because it has some reality, unlike the above strawmen.

    Usual caveats about scientists who get older, change locations, and adopt new enthusiasms — the hypothesis needs to be stated as a business plan, I think.

    Perhaps it will.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 4 Sep 2008 @ 4:53 PM

  247. Figen Mekik,
    “fetid dingo’s kidneys”
    Descriptive, yes. Creative no, at least not when I say it. It is originally due to the late, great Douglas Adams–a man who really knew where his towel was.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 4 Sep 2008 @ 5:12 PM

  248. Hank Roberts (246) — Its not a hypothesis in that there are no elements of the plan which require further experimentation to demonstrate possiblity; there only remains the matter of cost and perhaps more seriously, determining how long the biochar would remain out of the active carbon cycle. For some data on this last point, see

    but some assurances would be provided by using some of Wallace Broecker’s captured CO2 to flood the sequestered biochar to the limit of chemical affinity.

    Since 1% of WGP is about $670 billion and my plan needs about that amount, clearly great enthusiasm for it would have to occur before it could begin on anything like the scale needed. My cost estimate is around $140 per tonne of carbon sequestered in developed countries and much less in developing countries. If Wallace Broecker’s machine can do it for less, fine with me.

    Neither is a ‘strawman’; both have about the same uncertainties, namely the security and permanence of sequestration. My plan at least has the advantage of just storing carbon, not potentially dangerous quantities of CO2.

    [Hmm. Captcha opines “examples and”.]

    Comment by David B. Benson — 4 Sep 2008 @ 5:20 PM

  249. Ack! Geophysics!

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 4 Sep 2008 @ 5:43 PM

  250. Ray, I had no idea. And I am supposed to be a Douglas Adams fan. That is very, very funny. It makes me sad sometimes that my students don’t automatically know that the answer to life, universe and everything is 42. And that the question is what is 6 times 7.

    [Response: Actually the question in the original series was what is 6 times 9… – gavin]

    Comment by Figen Mekik — 4 Sep 2008 @ 7:30 PM

  251. Re 241 –

    “Any dissenting scientist (even climate scientists) who questions the hypothesis that climate change on all scales from local and regional to global is driven mainly by man’s addition of CO2 into the atmosphere is labeled a “kook” by many regulars here at Real Climate. The premise used by the activists and politicians is that humans have the power to stabilize the climate to some kind of “optimal”. ”

    There can be a component of climate change on various levels that is a part of natural variability and that will continue – but that is generally a fluctuation within some longer-term state. The case for recent changes in climate forcing, including solar forcing, but with the great majority being anthropogenic forcing, even that being the remainder of warming forcing after the net cooling of aerosol forcing, the largest part of that warming forcing being from CO2 but with CH4 also important, and with tropospheric O3, N2O (or something with N and O in it) and CFCs – the case for these being responsible for a great portion of recent changes, in particular most of the global average surface temperature increase trend (not the specific instances of interannual variability so much), and thus the other changes that are expected to come with that kind of a change – the case is very strong. Of everything the most concern is with CO2 because – 1. aerosols don’t accumulate long-term at all and can’t be expected to keep up, even in proportion, with greenhouse gas forcing; 2. CH4 accumulates for a couple decades or so but if CH4 emissions level off, the CH4 forcing will level off within a couple decades or so [EXCEPT FOR POSITIVE BIOGEOCHEMICAL FEEDBACKS IN THE CLIMATE SYSTEM] 3. CO2 is the biggest portion of anthropogenic greenhouse gas forcing, accumulates for the long term (at least relative to human affairs) and it’s control presents the biggest challenge.

    There is no unqualified optimum climate. But there is an optimum (or two or three…) climate for any particular combination of desires. If you love maple syrup, and that is the only thing you care about, your optimum climate might be that which produces the largest area of forest with some density of good quality sugar maple trees and also the conditions that allow for the most production of syrup throughout the years. It is more complicated than you might think, because some climates may allow more pests to harm the trees, and affect the cost of transportation of syrup, and how much you have to pay for pesticides or some green alternative to take care of the trees (I’m not aware of any pest issue with maple trees in particular but I figure it’s always a possibility).

    But more generally – the extant biodiversity on the planet is that which has survived the most recent conditions and to some degree is similar to those conditions going back in time for a while – so conditions that are unfamiliar for the past 20 years might be just fine, but conditions that are unfamiliar for the past 2000 years may cause some trouble, and conditions that are unfamiliar for the past 200,000 years more trouble, and conditions that are unfamiliar for the past 2,000,000 years … etc. Oh, but what do I mean by trouble? Surely life can and has evolved. But evolution isn’t just changes within a species over time – it is speciations, and it is extinctions. Evolution of any one species is shaped by the ecosystem it is a part of, including other species – so the ecosystem evolves. When conditions change fast, evolution must be fast, but the speed of successful adaptation is limited by various factors, so extinction rates increase, and the ecosystem may be considered ‘harmed’ – likely from the point of view of something that relies on it.

    Our economy, our societies, etc, are a part of the global ecosystem, and vice versa. How long has the industrial revolution been around? What conditions is our modern civilization adapted to? What conditions are the subsistence farmers and their crops in third world countries adapted to? What conditions are the roads and highways, buildings, dams, canals, etc. adapted to? And how rapidly can we change? How many of us must go extinct (‘before our time’) or let our desires and hopes go extinct, in the process? How fast can a farm’s soil migrate to follow the rain?

    Of course the climate will change a little, and that can have consequences – it has had consequences, serious ones, in the course of human civilization – but hopefully our modern civilization would be able to weather the smaller fluctuations, perhaps even with some comfort – but the bigger and faster the change, the bigger the challenge.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 4 Sep 2008 @ 8:32 PM

  252. Shhhh! Patrick027, you’re spoiling Bryan’s straw man.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 4 Sep 2008 @ 9:10 PM

  253. Thanks, Patrick — a very nice summary.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 5 Sep 2008 @ 5:31 AM

  254. What is optimal climate?
    Optimal for whom, for what purpose?

    Comment by Figen Mekik — 5 Sep 2008 @ 9:11 AM

  255. Patrick, Thank you for your thoughtful response. It is flawed on several levels however.
    Let me explain.

    Firstly, modern societal problems related to climate change are not driven by a “global mean”. Societal impacts involve climate change at specific geographic localities over various temporal scales (ie average yearly or seasonal precipitation in western Kansas measured over 30 years, 50, 100 ect.). The fact is, we cannot skillfully predict how precipitation might change in Kansas over these time scales with or without the human GHG component. For example, changes in agricultural and land use practices might have a much larger impact on the regional precipitation than the increase of a well-mixed greenhouse gas. Also, since the climate of western Kansas is never stationary over any temporal scale, understanding how the natural variability and diverse human forcing leads to a change in regional weather and circulation patterns that control the climate of this region is a tough problem. In general, we can certainly predict that the climate will change, but are we really confident exactly how? Will summers become hotter and dryer or cooler and wetter, or hotter and wetter….? Will the winters become wetter and milder, drier and milder, wetter and colder, drier and colder…..? Can we grow wheat or corn, or will we need to switch to cattle? You get the point.

    Now let’s consider another big societal concern, global sea levels. At first glance, this certainly appears to be a problem involving global mean temperature. The intuitive formula is: Warm global mean temperature=less ice=higher sea levels. It seems very straightforward… unless you’re a geologist. As one carefully studies the record of the last 65 million years, some non-intuitive behavior of the ice caps related to global temperature can be noted (as best we can tell from the geochemistry and stratigraphy of the sediments). Examples can be given of an apparently warm ocean corresponding to relatively low sea levels. Conversely, ocean temperatures being close to the modern values can correspond to sea levels higher or lower than present. The point is granted that extreme global mean climates (ie Eocene thermal maximum) are indeed indicative of very large ice sheets or none, but this may turn out to be more of a special case in the geological record than a general rule. So a good working hypothesis which results from the record says that the non-steric portion of global mean sea level variation is also a function of long-term changes in regional climate across the polar regions (not considering the rise and fall of the sea bed due to tectonics and isostosy). Smaller ice sheets in the northern hemisphere can be balanced by larger ones in the southern hemisphere. The dynamical physics governing ice sheet motion seems to be a hot topic currently, but it is not yet worked out in the literature.

    So now comes my class assignment for the week: Briefly sketch out the worldwide climate policy you want to initiate, and then predict (with error bars shown) what effects your policy will have on the climate of Kansas, and upon changes in global sea level.

    Comment by Bryan S — 5 Sep 2008 @ 10:52 AM

  256. Perhaps someone has already mentioned this, but I was thinking about Steve Gould’s emphasis on chance vs Carles Darwin’s emphasis on selection. There are others who have sort of ‘taken sides’ on this axis (could say Sewall Wright vs Ronald Fisher or Niles Eldridge vs David Queller), but my undereducated view sees Gould as the champion of random chance. Gould was a paleontologist whereas Darwin studied mostly extant organisms. The immediacy and potency of selection may be more obvious to people who study ecology on living organisms rather than paleontology, or maybe people who study the longer term tend to think that short term selection pressures balance out in most cases (resulting in a stasis until something more important and directional happens).

    Regardless, I wonder if it’s worth drawing a parallel between paleontologists and geologists (well, they share quite a bit of training I imagine, so it’s not much of a stretch), and making a comparison to climatologists and ecologists (who are only similar in that they are focussed on current processes [over-generalization, I know, but that’s the point of the topic]). Maybe someone else could help me flesh out this notion?

    Comment by Steve L — 5 Sep 2008 @ 11:26 AM

  257. Re 255 – Yes, exactly, regional effects are of great importance, and it is part of the problem that some or much of that is hard to predict. If it were easier to predict, adaptation to a changing climate would perhaps be a little easier because we could plan farther in advance. There is generally greater certainty in the totality (not just global average temp) of future climate, at least on the time scale of interest to human civilization, if our anthropogenic climate forcing is less rather than more, because, while there is internal variability and small solar fluctuations and episodic volcanic events, these will continue anyway – we have them with or without anthropogenic effects, which introduce yet more uncertainty. Not that the addition is simple – any climate change, forced or not, can potentially affect the way the climate will respond to another forcing. The natural variability, itself an aspect of a longer-term climate, can change with a changing climate. But that doesn’t necessarily reduce the internal variability component of uncertainty – if there is uncertainty in the climate response to anthropogenic effects, it can surely extend into the effects on internal variability, and even if the magnitude of such fluctuations is reduced (which may not be true – some could increase), their overall ‘shape’ may be changed, etc…

    Of course, there could be, in some aspects, a point of ‘saturation’ on the regional level – which can be seen if one considers particular features of the global climate that have locations in space and perhaps time, and considers the aspect of climate change that can be described by their shifting positions in space, and perhaps, time. For example, if one is north of a storm track, and the storm track shifts north, there comes a point where one is south of the storm track, and then the storm track might even move far away, and continued shifting cannot bring the storm track, or any other storm track, any closer or farther than one has already been. (This could also apply to east-west shifting.) And that would pertain to regional precipitation at least. The seasonal timing of storm track positions and activity levels might behave somewhat similarly, although the ecological effects … well, a growing season cannot be longer than a year or shorter than 0 seconds, but some plants are photoperiod sensitive, and different species respond differently to changes and the synchronization can get thrown out of whack, and summer dry spells are important to consider, etc… But yes, in at least some aspects, one can reach a point of ‘saturation’ with climate variability on the regional level. BUT how much of the earth, for how many aspects of climate, actually is at or anywhere near such a point of saturation for internal variability and natural forcing fluctuations alone? (How much do the major relative maxima (the active storm track regions of the extratropics, the ITCZ and regions of tropical cyclones and thunderstorms, summer monsoons, etc.) in precipitation shift relative to their spacing from each other across the major minima (the deserts)? Remember that while these features may shift, shrink or grow and then grow or shrink, becomine more or less intense, with perhaps changes in the frequency and amplitude of activity, etc., some may continue in one direction with regards to position, strength, and other characteristics, and all the while there can be other changes that continue even on a regional level, in a preponderance of regions, in one direction, such as temperature, which has an effect on the water cycle, and changes the characteristics of whatever storm track or climatological region of thunderstorm activity or whatever is nearby to provide some precipitation (for example, warming tends to lead to greater proportion of precipitation concentrated into small times and spaces, I think).

    And then, let me repeat, the bigger changes, the faster the change, the greater the unfamiliarity, and for humans, the greater the uncertainty, then the more expensive (not just in money) the necessary adaptation. For their sustained magnitude, Anthropogenic forcing has changed very fast relative to most any forcing or internal variability that could or would have the same sustained magnitude or greater, except perhaps asteroids and comets (themselves not sustained but the aftereffects would be). (For internal variability of the same magnitude – well, I’m not sure if you could find it, but certainly not on such a time scale – maybe tens of thousands of years, maybe during the paleoproterozoic and neoproterozoic Snowball earths, though in these cases you have to ‘internalize’ into the climate system things typically thought to be outside it on shorter time scales, I think… (for example, geochemical CO2 feedbacks).

    As for sea level rise – I’m glad you made a distinction between tectonically-driven (steric?) changes and ocean volume-driven (eustastic?) changes. There is another point to make, though. Just as a change in sea floor spreading rates or continental rifting or mountain building will not suddenly raise or lower sea level relative to continental surfaces over just 100,000 years let alone 1000 or 100 years, similarly continental drift cannot move continents into or out of polar positions very quickly. Over millions of years, the change in ice volume and thus ocean volume will not generally be matched in the same way to global average temperature because of continental drift at least. But over shorter time frames, with the continental positions being approximately fixed, there will be some relationship – potentially nonlinear of course, but it will be there (there is a general tendency for near surface polar amplification of global average surface temperature changes. Now, precipitation is also important, of course, so if starting from a very cold point, one might at first increase ice mass upon warming, depending on the circulation patterns, etc, but eventually you reach the melting point, and even before reaching it in the center, melting or loss by another process at the edges can thin the ice mass by inducing greater flow). Over a short enough time frame, of course, and you can find an ice sheet that is out of long-term equilibrium but it’s dissappearence is delayed by it’s ice-albedo effect – or you can even find the case where an ice sheet that is there will stay but a new ice sheet could not form under the same conditions.

    Anyway, the major periods of glaciations in the Phanerozoic eon do correspond to low CO2 levels.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 5 Sep 2008 @ 12:39 PM

  258. Bryan S posts:

    So now comes my class assignment for the week: Briefly sketch out the worldwide climate policy you want to initiate, and then predict (with error bars shown) what effects your policy will have on the climate of Kansas, and upon changes in global sea level.

    I’ll ignore the fact that you have no authority to hand out assignments to anyone, and just answer the question.

    I would like to see a worldwide CO2-emission trading permits scheme. The one set in place by the Bush (Sr.) administration c. 1990 worked very effectively to reduce acid-rain damage in the United States.

    Any nation that failed to comply would be subject to trade sanctions.

    I would also like to see restructuring of the subsidies in the US and in other countries so that money was not being artificially pumped into fossil fuels and nuclear power while renewables are starved.

    I would also like to see massive federal purchases of PV cells, since a similar program in the 1960s reduced the cost of silicon chips. A large, steady increase in demand gives producers incentive to build factories to mass-produce the item in question, and mass production of the article brings down its price.

    I’m voting for Obama because I like his energy plan — a massive public works program on renewable energy and infrastructure, with five million new jobs created.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 6 Sep 2008 @ 5:49 AM

  259. Bryan S., Do you seriously want to contend that increased global temperature is not correlated to higher sea levels? Of course there are some oddities in the geologic record, but to contend that we will not raise sea levels by raising global mean temperature is not a defensible position. Would you care to posit a mechanism for how we’ll be miraculously saved.
    Likewise, your contention that we cannot predict the effects of climate change–at all–is not defensible. Current climate models predict among other things that you will see increased, and more prolonged drought in the Western US, and that what rain there is will be more likely to come in large impulsive events. Both of these trends are evident.
    As to climate policy, in my opinion, that is yet to be worked out. However, my top priority would be low-hanging fruit from conservation–greatly increased CAFE standards, increased use of more efficient appliances (perhaps through tax incentives). Compact fluorescent lights can actually result in measurably lower power consumption, and if we can move to solid-state lighting the savings will be greater. Energy costs to consumers need to reflect the full cost. How this happens is less important (e.g. cap and trade or carbon tax)than that it happen. We need a massive R&D effort to develop new sources of energy, emphasizing renewables, but I don’t think we can rule out nuclear power or CCS. Likewise, I don’t think we’ll have the luxury of rejecting “geoengineering” solutions–so we need a lot of effort going into understanding these and their unintended effects. The emphasis has to be on holding CO2 emissions as low as possible while still keeping the economy healthy and developing technological solutions and move toward sustainability.
    Barton is right–we have to enforce trade sanctions against any nation that does not sign on to reducing carbon emissions. Likewise, we have to assist developing nations to meet their increasing energy needs with non-fossil fuel alternatives. Development is part of the sustainability equation. In my opinion, this is THE task of the next generation of human civilization. If they fail at it, they may well be the last.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 6 Sep 2008 @ 10:21 AM

  260. Any nation that failed to comply would be subject to trade sanctions.

    Ah, finally, positive thinking!

    Joking aside, I don’t disagree with the underlying notion. Nothing more is needed than only allowing the import of goods that have their permits in order — countries like China and India are highly dependent upon export to the West.

    …but somehow the cynic in me can fully believe mental imagery of a global US strategic bomber fleet targetng… coal fired power plants in other countries. And nary an American citizen seeing the sick historical irony. No problem is so bad that it doesn’t have a highly violent solution ;-)

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 6 Sep 2008 @ 11:53 AM

  261. Just one word more, Martin, to correct that imagery.

    There’s no problem so bad that it doesn’t have a solution that is highly attractive, violent, and _wrong_.

    “People know intuitively where leverage points are. Time after time I’ve done an analysis of a company, and I’ve figured out a leverage point. Then I’ve gone to the company and discovered that everyone is pushing it in the wrong direction!” — Jay Forrester

    recaptcha: be management

    Okay, time to start using the ReCaptcha software in the climate models, it’s clearly trying to be helpful ….

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 6 Sep 2008 @ 2:52 PM

  262. Bryan S (255) — I already did it after your earlier post, except for sea levels and Kansas.

    sea levels: stop rising.

    Kansas: about as it is now.

    But “We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.”

    Comment by David B. Benson — 6 Sep 2008 @ 4:18 PM

  263. Ray, Sea level changes and global temperature change are commonly out of phase in the geologic record. While Patrick’s statement above is partly accurate, sequence stratigraphers hypothesize that many rapid changes in eustatic sea level are largely driven by changes in mass balance of the ice sheets owing to a combination of temperature, moisture, and precipitation patterns across the regional polar ice sheets. Combined with the dynamical physical processes, it is not surprising that the geologic record shows a strongly non-linear and non-intuitive response. Comparison of sea level curves with the d18O proxy shows a complex pattern of ice sheet growth and contraction, ocean temperature change, and sea level variation. We might even see this effect as a process study using models. Some individual realizations show increasing mass balance and lower sea levels corresponding to a business as usual GHG scenario, and a substantial warming (2-3C). While these are the outliers, it should be noted that no individual realizations show decreasing temperatures for a doubling of C02. It might be pointed out that Hansen dismisses the possibility of increased mass balance based on his apparent “intuition” as to how he thinks the dynamical response will play out, but he has little firm evidence to support his feelings. The point is that most of the general public is not educated on the great uncertainly in the response of sea level under a 2-3 C warming.

    As to your second point, I would remind you that climate models have not been shown to be skillful in predicting multi-decadal regional climate changes. Perfect model experiments bear out the fact that this type of prediction remains a tough challenge. If I am wrong on this, please show me the literature.

    Now allow me to take off my scientist hat, and become citizen Bryan. The policies that you and Barton advocate really deal with energy issues and not climate change. If mitigation of climate change is what you are really after, then your suggested energy policies will fail miserably. I think it was Tip O’Neal who said that all politics are local. Similarly, you should keep in mind that all climate is experienced locally and regionally as well. Unless you can regulate these other human forcings like land use and aerosols, soot deposition, ect., control of GHGs will have little effect in stabilizing climate at the regional and local level. Roger Pielke Sr. makes this case very well, and it is an intelligent view in my opinion.

    I really don’t think that much of the current popular discussion of climate change policy is really about climate change and sustainability at all. I suspect it is more about a romanticized view of a pristine, non-humanized planet earth than it is about anything else. Most of us humans feel a sense of awe when we have the rare opportunity to travel into an environment untouched by humans. We have an overwhelming sense to preserve it. This preservation is balanced with the needs of a civilization which has brought amazing comforts to humanity. An example of this conflict is deciding whether to drill for oil in the Arctic(although most of the public has never seen the Arctic coastal plain, and have the wrong impression about its landscape). It is obvious to me that we must drill in the Arctic if energy demand will be met. This is not a cop out on alternative energy development, it is simply reality. Alternatives to oil must be developed because oil production capacity will soon decline (maybe hyperbolically). But the fact is that the alternatives are thermodynamically challenged. Wind and solar are great, but they are expensive BTU’s to capture. I am glad you are open to nuclear energy because it is going to make a big comeback whether you like it or not. It is simply a matter of economics. Subsidies can prop up an expensive technology for a while, but if it doesn’t stand on its own economic feet, it will be bypassed by something cheaper. That is not a conspiracy by big oil, it is simply basic economics taught in any high school civics class.

    I agree with you that procuring an economically viable energy supply will be a great crises in the next several generations, but let’s not pretend that climate policy and energy policy are the same. By misleading the public with a nonsensically simplistic view of climate change, we risk implementing very costly policies which will neither mitigate climate change, nor aid in supplying our future energy needs. Such a path could also spell disaster. Good discussion however.

    Comment by Bryan S — 6 Sep 2008 @ 5:56 PM

  264. Bryan S., Indeed, the policies Barton and I have mooted have to do with energy, since energy is the portion of the economy that is throwing the carbon cycle of the planet out of balance at present. It also happens to be a section of the modern global economy that absolutely must change even if it did not pose a climate threat.
    Climate change imposes two additional constraints:
    1)It precludes meeting energy demand with other fossil fuels–especially coal.
    2)It means the problem absolutely cannote be tackled locally. It does not matter whether the CO2 comes from China or the US. It has the same warming potential.

    Now, while we’re at it, Bryan, maybe you can educate me about why some folks take glee in trying to discredit the skill of the models. The models are in no way necessary to establish the efficacy of CO2 in producing warming. Empirical data and basic physics are sufficient for that. This means you have a threat that you know is in the process of being realized. Now if you can’t rely on the models, then you have no way to bound the risk, and that is worse than even a high-risk threat. If you cannot bound risk, it argues all the more strongly for proceeding as carefully as possible and ensuring that the threat is postponed. Anyone who wants to avoid an all-out panic once climate effects start to manifest in earnest had better be praying that the models are skillful. They are the only thing we have that lets us bound our investment in mitigating climate change.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 6 Sep 2008 @ 7:51 PM

  265. Re 263:

    “While Patrick’s statement above is partly accurate, sequence stratigraphers hypothesize that many rapid changes in eustatic sea level are largely driven by changes in mass balance of the ice sheets owing to a combination of temperature, moisture, and precipitation patterns across the regional polar ice sheets. Combined with the dynamical physical processes, it is not surprising that the geologic record shows a strongly non-linear and non-intuitive response. Comparison of sea level curves with the d18O proxy shows a complex pattern of ice sheet growth and contraction, ocean temperature change, and sea level variation.”

    I haven’t studied geologic history in quite so much detail but nothing in the above sounds particularly surprising. However, at the point we are at in geologic history, it does seem that warming will cause net melting. Sea levels have been rising. Some of that is due to thermal expansion, some is due to melting. Unless the thermal expansion has actually been underestimated (which would have other implications – that the ocean has been taking in more heat than we thought, likely suggesting greater equilibrium climate sensitivity, I think – or that the warmer or saltier parts of the ocean have recieved greater warmth at the expense of the cooler and/or fresher parts, which would be interesting… and I would think there’s a depth dependence as well for the coefficient of thermal expansion, but anyway, it is the top of the ocean and downwelling regions that must react first, of course, in so far as temperature changes go) so much that ice mass is actually growing, but I suspect that’s not likely. Observations of the ice itself indicate net ice mass loss on Greenland, I’m less sure about Antarctica, but I already know that the East Antarctic ice sheet may gain mass first because it is so cold… but again, that state of affairs can only go so far – eventually, if we add enough CO2, etc, to the air, it will get warm enough, for long enough, and eventually, the East Antarctic ice will shrink as well. Of course we all know about the losses of smaller mountain glaciers all over, with some notable exceptions (Mt. Shasta, I think, because of a precipitation increase), but there is a net loss. The uncertainty is great over how fast melting will occur, how much it will accelerate – that’s no great comfort, really. (But see the most recent RealClimate blog).

    You are absolutely correct that energy is not the entire problem (or solution). As I said before, there are reasons why so much focus is on CO2 – the radiative forcing of aerosols (on balance a cooling, but some have warming effects) can be switched off within a short time of halting aerosol emissions (or aerosol-producing emissions). Tropospheric ozone lasts a bit longer, I think; CH4 is in a middle ground between aerosols and CO2 in terms of ‘staying power’. There are other contributors.

    A comprehensive – lets take the ‘carbon tax’ approach for example, which is very similar to a cap-and-trade with 100% auction (Obama’s favored choice, I believe) – the auction part is important, because if too much is just ‘given away’, it can end up benifiting entrenched special interest groups, but anyway… A comprehensive ‘carbon tax’ may be colloquially refered to as a carbon tax, but it would really be a fossil carbon (in the form of CO2)-equivalent emissions tax. Thus, lets say the tax (which could take the form of a fossil C fuel sales tax in so far as energy goes) is $100 / ton fossil C equivalent. If a molecule of methane (CH4) stays in the air for T2 years whereas a CO2 atmospheric increase (distinct from the residence time of the molecules in that case, which is considereably shorter) lasts T1 years, and an additional molecule of methane contributes R2 times the climate forcing of an additional CO2 molecule, than the emissions tax for methane emissions, per unit carbon in the methane, would be $100*R2*T2/T1 / ton C. Actually, there’s an additional distinction to be made from whether the methane is from fossil C, in which case it’s oxydation adds CO2, or if it is not fossil C, in which case it’s oxydation does not add CO2.

    It will be a bit more complicated than that but the simple example illustrates the concept. Complexities come in because – each addtional CO2 increase may have greater longevity than the last one, but at the same time, has a little less climate forcing because the climate forcing for CO2 is roughly logarithmically proportional to atmospheric CO2 amount. The cost due to each unit temperature increase probably is not constant either – the first 1/2 degree (which we’ve already passed by and then some) may not be so bad, etc. I have skimmed a paper by James F. Kasting which as best as I can recall suggested that the various factors combined in such a way as to justify a constant CO2 emission tax invariant in time.

    Also, the CO2 that does go into the oceans can cause other problems and also influences the rate at which more CO2 can go into the oceans, so it isn’t necessarily to be left out of the equation (although than it is more than just climate policy).

    Because reducing CH4 and especially the warming aerosol emissions should be easier than reducing CO2 emissions and have more immediate effects (buying us time to work out the CO2 problem), and in the case of aerosols, could have other benifits. It has been suggested that we should focus more effort there. One way to do that would be to use a shorter time horizon to compute CO2 equivalents – the example I gave was done without a time horizon. In the extreme, an infinitesimal time horizon would simply give you CO2 equivalents in terms of the instantaneous climate forcing ratios. However, if it is truly easier to reduce these problems, the market mechansisms (if and when they are functioning well) would act to solve them faster even with far-out time horizons.

    Aerosol effects have regional effects as well as a global average impact. Black carbon (‘a warmer’) emitted in the vicinity of ice and snow should be particularly targetted because of it’s contribution to polar thawing, which has an albedo feedback (and nearby, a potentially dangerous permafrost-thaw CH4 feedback). I have recently heard that aerosols from China may be contributing to regional warming in the U.S. Overall, the net contribution from aerosols is most likely cooling, which actually reduces the net anthropogenic global average forcing, but the regional effects do exist… BUT regional effects also exist from global warming itself. My impression is that sometimes these effects are opposing – perhaps in effects on the southern Asian monsoon, for example.

    But the aerosol forcing is not going to keep growing even in proportion with CO2 forcing even in business as usual. Because of CO2’s longevity, it is only sensible that we try to solve that early on, say, in the 1980s. Then again…

    Well, here’s the question – just how much stronger on a regional basis is one forcing’s effect compared to another. If global climate sensitivity is nearly constant over some temperature range then, at least for ‘small’ forcings where changes in overlapping portions are small?… well, we could add their global average surface temperature effects nearly linearly, but the regional effects would not be so simple, I would think. … The big concern is what will happen with continued CO2 forcing and increases in that; I suspect we’re dealing with the worst of the aerosol forcing already… SO now I’m starting to ramble, …

    Somebody else should perhaps help me out with the aerosol vs global warming regional effect matter – I suspect global warming is already having a bigger regional impact in many areas (most areas are warming up, at least, and that has an impact even locally on precipitation).

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 6 Sep 2008 @ 7:54 PM

  266. Re 263 PART II:

    “It is obvious to me that we must drill in the Arctic if energy demand will be met.”
    “I am glad you are open to nuclear energy because it is going to make a big comeback whether you like it or not.”

    “But the fact is that the alternatives are thermodynamically challenged. Wind and solar are great, but they are expensive BTU’s to capture.”

    Not as expensive as oil – well, that’s not subtracting the profit margin on crude, but then again, I’m not subtracting a profit margin from solar cells either.

    Now, if we are to replace oil with wind and solar, we have to use electric cars (or partial replacement – plug-in electric hybrids). So that adds to the cost. How long does it take to build solar component factories, design and get a car to market, or find more oil and get it pumping? If about the same timescale than that’s not a factor in the comparison, I guess.

    (PS this illustrates a possible problem when there is lack of large-scale planning. If the solar+wind people are waiting on the electric car people and the electric car people are waiting on the solar+wind people (well, there’s no reason to do that, actually, because they can live off of coal for a while).)

    Remember to take into account that an electric car doesn’t necessarily use the same amount of energy as a gas-powered car. I think it should be quite a bit less, actually (electric and hybrid cars also can have regenerative braking).

    (solar and wind power are measured by electrical production. For thermal energy to electricity conversion, the efficiency is typically something like 30 to 40 % efficient, I think. So 30 or 40 MW of solar power would replace a coal plant burning coal at a rate of 100 MW. I think Hydroelectric conversion is ~ 80 % efficient. However, often our total energy usage by source is given in terms of fuel equivalent, in which case I think about 40 W of electric power would be identified as 100 W fuel equivalent).

    I did a calculation a while back and figured out that for the savings from not buying any oil, we might actually be able to pay for enough solar power to replace both coal and oil, or maybe even more than that. That may have been with oil at $140/barrel, though, but you get the idea.

    But I haven’t factored in an appropriate ‘carbon tax’ yet.

    The thing to remember is that if an energy source is more expensive, that doesn’t necessarily mean it takes up as much or more energy as is produced. Solar and wind are truly effective energy resources in so far as that is concerned.

    Another interesting visual, though it may be only partly related to the economics, but compare the energy density of a kilogram of coal, a kilogram of uranium, and a kilogram of solar cell (over it’s lifetime).

    I think it may actually be a waste of money to drill for more oil.

    And I wonder if it may be easier and faster to build factories to churn out solar cells (or other solar technology) than to plan and build new nuclear power plants.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 6 Sep 2008 @ 8:17 PM

  267. Re 263 PART III:

    “I really don’t think that much of the current popular discussion of climate change policy is really about climate change and sustainability at all. I suspect it is more about a romanticized view of a pristine, non-humanized planet earth than it is about anything else.”

    I’m in favor of keeping some parts of the Earth as pristine as is reasonably possible, but I’m under no delusion that we can do that for a great majority of the Earth and still be good to ourselves. But: Taking care of the planet is a part of being good to ourselves – managing our control over parts, conservation in other areas, and to some degree, for aesthetic benifit, even preservation of at least some of it. The climate affects us.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 6 Sep 2008 @ 8:23 PM

  268. Re 263 Part IV:

    Well, here it is:

    Solar (PV tech, presently commercially available)~ $4/(peak Watt) ~= $16 to $20 / W under typical conditions (could be a bit less if you have it angled right and your in the desert especially, particularly if on a tracking device).

    U.S. total energy use fuel equilvalent ~ 100 EJ / year , divide by ~ 32 Ms/year (that’s megaseconds per year) , ~ 0.3 * 10^20 / 10^7 W , = ~ 3 TW fuel equivalent

    =~ 1.2 TW electricity equivalent

    =~ 16 – 20 trillion dollars solar PV equivalent.

    =~ 22 – 28 years of imported oil.

    (if we would be importing ~ 700 billion dollars/year oil. Obviously the total cost for our crude oil is greater than that.)

    So if the lifetime of a solar cell is greater than 22 to 28 years, it pays for itself, without a carbon tax, but not including the increased cost of electric cars, the transitional costs, etc, but you get the idea.

    And when a solar cell’s lifetime is up, it can be recycled. If a solar cell’s efficiency decays exponentially (I’m not sure exactly how solar cell performance typically decays over time, but it’s not a quick process, that’s for sure), and you need it to be at, say 90% of it’s installed performance level to work for your purposes, than if it takes 30 years to reach that, you can buy a new one, but sell the old one to somebody who needs only 90% the power per unit area, etc., and this can go on for awhile… and if it breaks apart in a hail storm (actually they may hold up to your typical hail, I’d think), you can still typically use the pieces… and at the end the valuable materials can be recycled – that would be especially benificial for thin film solar cells made of CdTe or CuInSe2 or … etc…

    Yes, there’s ‘balance of system’ components too, …

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 6 Sep 2008 @ 8:46 PM

  269. When discussing the merits of drilling for oil, you must also consider WHERE the oil is. How much of the US defense budget is spent keeping sea lanes open for oils from Middle Eastern or South American or African dictators? Removing that necessity would be good for the US and bad for its enemies. Regardless of ones political leanings or respect for the man, when John McCain says we’ll drill our way to energy independence he is either delusional or mendacious.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 6 Sep 2008 @ 9:05 PM

  270. > Tip O’Neill

    … San Francisco Congressman Phil Burton pops to mind: “When you’re dealing with exploiters, the first thing you gotta do is terrorize the bastards.” …
    (On the statue of him in San Francisco, on the piece of paper sticking out of his pocket, all but the last few words of that quote is readable).

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 6 Sep 2008 @ 10:01 PM

  271. Re 269 – YES! (although to be fair, John McCain appears to want an ‘all of the above’ approach, including wind, solar, and drilling (although I found it a bit ironic that he criticized the Obama plan for excluding drilling for more oil, as if it wouldn’t work, and then emphasized after his own plan ‘We can Do this!’ (I paraphrase)). But anything about climatological issues seems to have been downplayed during the Republican convention).

    (Actually, – I would be less likely to mention this if oil weren’t better than coal from a CO2 perspective – but if we need a quick boost to help the economy while those solar cell factories are in the pipeline, why can’t we just put more wells we we already have them, to get the oil out faster (I know there’s an issue with pumping it out too fast reduces the total recoverable amount, but I would think distributed wells would get around that for a given reservoir). We know we’re not going to be using it for all that much longer anyway.)

    Re 263 PART V:

    Notice in PART IV, all energy was replaced with solar energy electrical equivalent for just the cost of the petroleum. Now, of course, much of our energy usage as it is, even outside of transportation, is used directly as burning fuel. In some uses it may not make sense to replace this with electricity, but in some cases it certainly could be done. Consider residential natural gas usage. Aside from gas ovens, which some may want to keep for various reasons (although it need not be fossil gas), there’s water heaters and furnaces. This can be replaced at least somewhat with on-site solar heating. Also, heat pumps can be used to supplement that. If a fuel cell produces waste heat, that heat can be used. (In the summer, the cooling of the house could be coupled to the heating of the water, for that matter.) Of course, winter is a great time for biofuel (not the corn ethanol, let’s move beyond that). Solar daylighting – among the least expensive of energy technologies – although in the summer, keep the solar IR out with special windows – perhaps windows that take solar IR and UV and use luminescent concentrating tech. to convert them to electricity. LED and photonic crystal lighting. Windows facing away from the sun in warm climates could just let the diffuse light in, which likely has a higher proportion of visible energy. Heat exchangers, geothermal storage, better insulation… AND THAT’s JUST YOUR HOME!


    Biofuels from grass clippings, yard debris, .. Remember when the farmers had to leave those tomatoes on the vine (for no good reason, it turns out) this past year? Imagine if, for good reason or not, it happens again, but instead of leaving them, they sell them to a biofuel plant! (although they could have just cooked them too, couldn’t they?)

    Convert the offshore oil platforms to offshore wind + wave power stations!

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 6 Sep 2008 @ 10:30 PM

  272. Ray (269), minor point. I understand the qualitative argument about the military cost of keeping oil lanes open. But it is a highly unsubstantiated thought and would never pass muster in cost accounting circles. You can’t credit military costs savings to the cost of replacing fossil fuels.

    John McCain is neither delusional or mendacious; he’s campaigning… (not to mention the best Republican AGW proponent you got. ;-)

    Comment by Rod B — 6 Sep 2008 @ 10:46 PM

  273. Re 268 (me)

    Just to be clear:

    “So if the lifetime of a solar cell is greater than 22 to 28 years, it pays for itself, ”

    In terms of money, relative to oil. Currently, using oil, as expensive as it is, pays for itself (I think). But solar pays for itself faster, so replacing oil with solar pays for itself, apparently enough so that the profit can go to replacing coal with solar, etc.

    Even if the replacement of oil with solar couldn’t pay for itself, that wouldn’t mean that solar couldn’t keep an economy going (albeit with a bit more difficulty)… and it wouldn’t mean that solar cells use more energy than they produce.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 6 Sep 2008 @ 11:03 PM

  274. Just to add some oil facts to the discussion: The MMS in a 1995 study estimated the technically recoverable oil (P50) in the US waters of the Chukchi Sea alone at 40 billion barrels. For size comparison, Prudhoe Bay/Kaparuk River Fields (largest field in North America) have a combined EUR of around 15 billion barrels. The 40 billion figure does not include additional potential in the Beaufort Sea and onshore areas of ANWR and NPRA. There is a known hydrocarbon system with good source rocks, seals, and reservoir rocks, with traps imaged on seismic data. There is a high likelihood that there will be a bunch of oil discovered in this region. There will also be tremendous natural gas found in the Brooks Range foothills and adjacent to some of these oil prone areas. The US Navy drilled a number of wells in NPRA during the early 1950’s and discovered natural gas that has never been developed. It is a strategic resource for the US which will be commercially viable when the much publicized Alaska natural gas pipeline is completed. It seems very few policy makers, public or folks in the media understand the endowment in the US Arctic is this large. Now when folks tell you that there is only a few months supply of petroleum up there, you can tell them differently.

    Comment by Bryan S — 7 Sep 2008 @ 12:06 AM

  275. Bryan S writes:

    If mitigation of climate change is what you are really after, then your suggested energy policies will fail miserably.

    Why is that?

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 7 Sep 2008 @ 4:48 AM

  276. Bryan S writes:

    I really don’t think that much of the current popular discussion of climate change policy is really about climate change and sustainability at all. I suspect it is more about a romanticized view of a pristine, non-humanized planet earth than it is about anything else.

    Ad hominem is a logical fallacy. What the motives of the participants are is irrelevant to whether they’re right or not.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 7 Sep 2008 @ 4:49 AM

  277. Following on from a comment by Pete Best (post #106) on the current “How much will sea level rise?” thread…

    Re BBC’s Earth: The Climate Wars
    Sun 7 Sep, 9:00 pm – 10:00 pm

    Should be viewable on BBCi after the broadcast: via search

    Prof Iain Stewart is no denialist, and the BBC in general seem to have got over the “false objectivity of balance. Where he expresses doubts on issues they are measured and reasonable in terms of the primary peer reviewed science. This should be the BBC’s assertion of the science in the face of the pseudo-science of Durkin and the crank internet mob.

    To quote Dr Stewart (a Geologist) from the BBC’s press release:

    Until a few years ago, I was a bit of a climate sceptic. Geologists are only too aware that the climate is always changing and that our planet has experienced very different conditions in the past – warmer, wetter, drier, and colder; far more carbon dioxide in the air; higher sea levels and the rest.

    We geologists are used to these changes happening over non-human timescales – hundreds of thousands to millions of years – so it took me a while to latch on to the notion that it was the rate of change that was important. I was really gob-smacked when I saw the ice cores from Greenland and was able to put my finger on the point in the core when the planet switched out of an ice age and into a warm period over the course of a single season. At most, this fundamental change may occur over one to three years, but it’s certainly not five or 10 and it’s definitely not the centuries to hundreds that I learned about when I did my geology degree 20 years ago.

    What is truly scary about climate change is not any of the specific scenarios of rising seas or melting ice, but the sense that our planet’s climate exists on a knife-edge balance and we really don’t understand what pushes us over the edge, which makes our great chemistry experiment with the world’s oceans and atmosphere all the more short-sighted.

    Comment by CobblyWorlds — 7 Sep 2008 @ 10:15 AM

  278. Re #277, no they have not got over the objectivity of balance, well not on Radio 5 anyway.

    Comment by pete best — 7 Sep 2008 @ 2:23 PM

  279. Barton, but not irrelevant to their credibility…

    captcha = “car freedom” : put a chink in the plan to reduce oil consumption???

    Comment by Rod B — 7 Sep 2008 @ 2:26 PM

  280. BBC iPlayer “Earth: The Climate Wars.”

    This link works from here in the UK, hopefully will allow people elsewhere to watch. I recommend it.

    #277 Pete Best,
    I don’t listen to R5. But if you’re referring to BBC Radio Five’s audience phone-ins then as they will reflect the views of the callers there will be a lot denialism. There would be an outcry if they tried to censor such views, and as AGW denialism has become the latest fashion for pub-bores to show how clever they are, it’s popular. Otherwise I’m seeing less of the BBC giving voice to people like Mr Monckton.

    #274 Bryan S,
    Global annual oil consumption is of the order of 80 billion barrels a year. So new finds of the order of 40 billion will be a blip on the down-slope of post-peak oil supply.

    Comment by CobblyWorlds — 8 Sep 2008 @ 2:50 AM

  281. Re #280, No I am referring to their articles such as when they brought on a solar scientist who demonstrated via acedamic peer review and research that The Sun is not responsible for recent decadal warming and to counter argue they had Piers Corbyn, a well known AGW contrarian who just spouted off.

    As for Oil consumption you are incorrect in your figures. We consume 85 Mbpb or 30 Billion barrels per annum, not 80.

    I have just watched the program on Iplayer and I will reserve judgement until all three have been aired. He is right about James Hansen sticking his neck out in 1988 though but I knew nothing about the Jason report or the follow up reports commisioned by the Reagan administration. They appear to have been somwhat correct in their assertions although the nature of slow climate change appears to have been the mantra of the day.

    I look forward to the additional two parts but anyone who has looked at the skeptics arguments and their methods knows what is coming. As for science being the ultimate winner in the AGW debate, lets hope that these intervening 18 years have not cost us too dearly but of course it probably already has to some degree.

    Comment by pete best — 8 Sep 2008 @ 6:54 AM

  282. Using the numbers from RE #268 and some knowledge of the glass industry it would require over 800 glass lines running full time to satisfy the glass requirements in one year for enough typical (CdTe) solar cells to supply just the electricity requirements for the US. (I am asuming the numbers refer to electricity generation and not total power requirements including transportation.) There are not nearly that many glass lines in the world. Spead that over 10 years, and build more glass lines than there are presently in the US and maybe there is a chance. This does not address the metal, electronics, land, plastics, power line, and other requirements that would be necessary too. Solar should be a goal, but it is going to be a slow transition. Other sources such as geothermal, nuclear, wind, tide, clean coal should be developed. Each has its own drawbacks and time scales and some could be phased out as the least objectionable gain in capacity.

    Comment by Peter T — 8 Sep 2008 @ 8:28 AM

  283. Bryan S. waxes poetic in constructing yet another straw man:
    “I really don’t think that much of the current popular discussion of climate change policy is really about climate change and sustainability at all. I suspect it is more about a romanticized view of a pristine, non-humanized planet earth than it is about anything else.”

    Yeah, Bryan, we’ve read about the noble savages, too. If you feel the need to cast all the climate scientists, physicists–hell, even John McCain–as naive romantics, fine, but that has more to do with your own psychological needs than it does with reality. Climate change is objective, physical reality. There is no credible explanation for it other than anthropogenic greenhouse gasses. There is more than ample reason to anticipate that many of the consequences of this change will be severe for an infrastructure supporting a civilization of 9 billion–especially since that infrastructure developed during a period of exceptional climateic stability. Speculating about what Earth would be like without people does not interest me. I am interested, rather, in ensuring that Earth will continue to support that civilization.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 8 Sep 2008 @ 9:50 AM

  284. Re: #281.

    OK, so how long will 40 billionn barrels last at 30bb/yr?

    A significantly longer time?


    Comment by Mark — 8 Sep 2008 @ 10:23 AM

  285. Re 282 –

    1. I didn’t mean to imply it should be solar and nothing else. Mainly I was just countering the idea that solar is too expensive to provide a really big chunk of our energy.

    2. I was calculating the amount of solar cells to replace our electricity in the situation where all our fuel-equivalent energy were converted to electricity. Thus, the U.S. uses ~ 100 EJ (Exajoules, billions of billions of joules) a year in primary energy, fuel equivalent – this would be replaceable by ~40 EJ per year of an electrical energy source. That’s an upper estimate, not taking into account efficiency improvements that would come about by using electricity instead of direct heat of fuel (or internal combustion engines) in some settings. It also doesn’t include the potential for reduced energy need with better building designs, other efficiency improvements (which would also reduce fuel use anyway). Of course, some uses of fuel can’t be replaced with electricity.

    I’m curious where you got your glass information – not doubting you, just would like to know more.

    For more see:
    (another version, with less rounding, of my calculations can be found near the end of the comments)

    And also:
    – there was a related article/blog discussing how costs compare to oil, but I can’t find it now; however I just found this:
    which gives a lower cost figure than I had used.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 8 Sep 2008 @ 12:40 PM

  286. Ray: If you don’t like my opinion on this, then ignore it. It was merely my unsubstantiated, unscientific opinion (as I tried to make clear), and was not intended to counter any specific argument or suggestion made by either you or Barton. Sorry that you took offense.

    In conducting geological research in some remote and beautiful places, I have at times had to come to terms with my own personal emotions. I can remember one such instance after making a mountain helicopter landing on an outcrop along the Alaska Peninsula. While peering over the virtually unspoiled landscape in all directions, I partook of a seemingly endless horizon of tundra speckled only by caribou and the contrast of three pure-white, glacier-covered steaming volcanoes with the azure blue Bering Sea as a backdrop. As the cool moist maritime air blew across my sun-scorched face caused by too many weeks in the bush, I wept. For why, I did not know. Many other remote places and scences have not tripped such an outpouring, but the emotion of that particular moment and place continues to haunt me.

    I am glad you are not equally conflicted.

    Comment by Bryan S — 8 Sep 2008 @ 12:42 PM

  287. Bryan S., No offense taken. I just think that there is a tendency for both sides here to construct straw-man arguments. Speculating about other people’s motives is not particularly productive. I am more than happy to tell you why I find the consensus science cogent.

    The oracle or ReCAPTCHA: praising consent

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 8 Sep 2008 @ 2:28 PM

  288. CobblyWorlds, your 80BBL annual consumption of oil is more than 3x all I’ve seen.

    Comment by Rod B — 8 Sep 2008 @ 10:15 PM

  289. Re #284, Mark, what exactly are you asking here ?

    40 billion barrels consumed at 30 billion per year will last 1.33 years but I am unsure if that is the question you are really asking me.

    Comment by pete best — 9 Sep 2008 @ 5:09 AM

  290. “Are geologists different?”

    Yes, at least from my perspective in Australia.

    Here it seems the most vocal skeptics of AGW – of those who have a science background – are geologists. Robert Carter and Ian Plimer are two names that come to mind.

    We may have a biased sample. (As a statistician it’s somthing I’m always aware of.) Alternatively there may be bias in the measuring instrument – media noise!

    It is possible that the dominance of the export economy by miners, including coal miners, may be a significant factor in producing what seems to be a disproportionate number of skeptical geologists.

    Comment by Bruce Tabor — 9 Sep 2008 @ 6:59 AM

  291. Pete, #289. No, that was the question I asked.

    Now 1.33 years at current rates is worth naff all in commerce. By the time you’ve worked out how to sell it and got the kinks in refinement/transport and other logistics worked out, you have no more oil.

    So although you pointed out that it wasn’t 80bbl, your changed figure doesn’t change the situation to any practical extent.

    So why did you make the correction? 6 months vs 16 months doesn’t change anything economically.

    Comment by Mark — 9 Sep 2008 @ 8:26 AM

  292. Re #289, I am unsure as your orginal post. I was pointing out to someone regarding the BBC and their take/stance on AGW as they are forbidden to have an opinion and must present both sides of the argument (for some reason).

    Your focus on oil (considering we have 1.2 trillion barrels of alleged knowne reserves according to the BP statistical review) seems to have no relevance. I was just pointing out that we only consume 300 billion barrels per decade and not 800 as was stated there.

    There is a big difference between 30 and 80 for the longevity of oil reserves at any rate.

    Comment by pete best — 9 Sep 2008 @ 9:40 AM

  293. Re: 277, [edit – no ad hom]

    No really this is backpedalling and a poor one to boot. Geologists are perfectly aware of rapid changes occuring during the past 17,000 years, the HCO, the MWP and the LIA. Those who are so myopic that they can’t link what happens geologically during 100, 1,000, 10,000, 100,000 and 1 million years are obviously poor representants of the profession because it is precisely this ability to zoom in and out that makes our viewpoint singular and precious.

    Comment by Antonio San — 11 Sep 2008 @ 11:31 PM

  294. Re 293 – You don’t think paleoclimatologists don’t also have such a viewpoint? You don’t think climatologists in general appreciate or have an awareness of such knowledge?

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 12 Sep 2008 @ 11:41 AM

  295. Re: 294 Of course they do! But Dr Stewart quote is not the finest geologist’s statement ever…

    Comment by Antonio San — 13 Sep 2008 @ 10:19 AM

  296. Pete Best, #292, it’s a little over double. Now double fifty years is meaningful in a technological timescale. Double ten years is barely adequate to invent something. Double six months? Irrlelevant.
    What can we invent in six months?

    Comment by Mark — 14 Sep 2008 @ 4:23 AM

  297. Re #296, If you are talking about changing a global technology then indeed 50 years might indeed be relevant but oil will spell trouble economically long before then due to its supply / demand issue and its price. As it is traded globally and at a global price then come the global economy being back on track at around 3% growth per annum and global oil extraction rates falling by around 4% per annum the price at some point is going to zoom up to as high as 200 to 300 dollars per barrel and cause a major economic problem. We do not have 50 years with oil. I doubt we have 10 before it begine to severely impact the economy.

    Comment by pete best — 14 Sep 2008 @ 9:29 AM

  298. Geologists can offer educated, well informed and useful input to the problems of Global Warming. The issue is the ones funded by the oil companies and those that do not do their homework on what climatologists are generally saying.

    Comment by Jacob Mack — 14 Sep 2008 @ 9:54 PM

  299. What is more, data from geological contributions to both weather and climate variability/sensitivity are necessary and do tend to lend evidence to the seriousness of global warming as a whole and drastic regional climate change.

    Comment by Jacob Mack — 14 Sep 2008 @ 9:57 PM

  300. pete, #297.


    But how much change can a 4% increase manage over double a unit of time compared to a single unit of time? 4%.

    So, as I told you a few times, complaining that the figures of oil use was wrong by a factor of two is irrelevant when the oil wasn’t going to last long in either case.

    If one doctor tells me I have one month to live and another says two months, and the latter one was correct, that still means disaster. Now if one said I had twenty years to live and the other says forty years, the longer one means practically the normal life span. And that is significant.

    All I’m really looking for is you to say sorry about dissing someone who got 80bbl oil when it was actually 30bbl when the scenario meant that EITHER figure means the US reserves is a blip in the oil supply curve and THAT was what they were trying to show. Not that it was 80bbl used worldwide but that when the reserves are 40bbl and the annual use is about that, then one year is irrelevant, so crowing about how this was a saviour for economic growth is wrong.


    Comment by Mark — 15 Sep 2008 @ 3:57 AM

  301. re #300, OK but I did not diss anyone, I was just pointing out that there is a huge disparity between 80 and 30 for oil usage and its longevity. In fact if were using 80 and not 30 per annum then we could have hit the economic crunch a long time ago regardless of our analogy.

    The fact that the USA uses 20 mbpd and only produces 4.9 of its own is significant, yes but I was talking about global usage and not the USA solely although its about time the USA woke up and smelled the coffee and started driving 40 to 60 Mpg vehicles in order to prolong oils longevity because nothing will replace it within 50 years anyway even if we had something to replace it with (which we do not at the present or near future time).

    Comment by pete best — 16 Sep 2008 @ 8:52 AM

  302. pete, 301:

    I have this month doubled my spending. This is a huge discrepancy.

    However, the UK GDP has not changed significantly (despite this extra money of alarming proportions).

    Likewise if the cheap oil reserves last 30 years, this “huge discrepancy” changes the figures of oil dependency from 30 years to 31.

    Is a 3% change “significant”?


    So the misspeak is irrelevant to the *answer*. The only reason to continue it is to prove someone wrong.

    Comment by Mark — 16 Sep 2008 @ 12:52 PM

  303. Just to make clear re the 80bbl; I had confused daily and annual figures.

    ~80million barrels per day * 365 = ~29billion barrels per year.

    But I still stand by my point and agree with Mark. The possible finds in areas like the Arctic represent no more than a blip on the supply side. Price may have dropped recently due to a recession and demand destruction, but demand destruction takes out the non-necessary usage first (in general). The people who have recently convinced me we’re at Peak and that the impacts of Post Peak will be much worse than I had thought were not making the simple error I made above in post 280.

    To correct what I stated:

    Global annual oil consumption is of the order of 30 billion barrels a year. So new finds of the order of 40 billion will be a blip on the down-slope of post-peak oil supply.

    And if I can add; the issue is not when oil runs out – we won’t get to the point where there is absolutely no potentially recoverable oil left – the economics of supply and demand and the implications of EROEI will intervene well before there’s “no oil left”.

    Sorry for leaving this with you, due to work pressures I’ve not had the time and energy to get back here in any meaningful way.

    Comment by CobblyWorlds — 17 Sep 2008 @ 3:24 AM

  304. RE: Jacob Mack, #298:

    #1(“geologists can offer”), agreed. I’m one, we can.
    #2 (“those funded by the oil companies”), let’s see the data that substantiates your charge. My sense is that the body of opinion that you and I might identify as unschooled is focused both more widely and in a somewhat different direction than the one in which you point.

    – Indeed there are petroleum-geological organizations that continue to propound AGW ignorance – think AAPG.

    – But there are non-oil geological groups that are institutionally just as recalcitrant – think AIPG and AEG. Early posts in this thread do a good job of suggesting probable reasons. While I’d agree that correlations may well include employment by extractive industries, I think the key piece is the conceptual difficulty in seeing the limits to our fundamental principal of uniformitarianism. Post #24 is quite good on this, as are the implications of Andy Revkin’s (#18).

    – Most important, certain oil and oil-service companies supply some of the strongest and most consistent support to the research efforts in CO2 geological sequestration. My own employer, one of those, is not alone in making significant investments in building a business unit from capabilities in this area. We would not be doing this – nor would most of the largest international oil companies – if we thought that AGW was an idea soon to wither as the “bright light of uniformitarianism” bores into the dark corners of climate models [irony].

    Comment by Ken HT — 17 Sep 2008 @ 1:43 PM

  305. re 263 Bryan S
    “Subsidies can prop up an expensive technology for a while, but if it doesn’t stand on its own economic feet, it will be bypassed by something cheaper. That is not a conspiracy by big oil, it is simply basic economics taught in any high school civics class.”

    Unfortunately, one of the subsidies that have made fossil fuels cheap is that the costs of global warming caused by its use aren’t factored into its price. Someone, firstly but not solely the global poor, will have to eventually pay this deferred cost, and the distribution of current cost is unlikely to be proportional to prior fossil fuel use. The perception of unfairness will make conflict worse.

    Comment by Brian Dodge — 17 Sep 2008 @ 9:04 PM

  306. Re #302, Mark,

    Sorry but you have lost me but I am open to a longer and more explanation of your overall position.



    Comment by pete best — 18 Sep 2008 @ 5:08 AM

  307. Wow – what a debate… and all provoked by some sceptical and perhaps misinformed (?) geologists at the IGC Meeting in Norway.

    Just to redress the balance a little – I was at the meeting and did not participate in the climate debate because I was too busy with the Carbon Capture and Storage sessions where another group of geologists (at the IGC) are working hard to find out how to make geological storage of CO2 work as a GHG mitigation action. So some geologists are not so sceptical to the climate debate – even ones that work in the oil industry.

    Having said that I think it is healthy that geologists contribute their long-term (Million year) perspective on climate change to the debate – and healthy too that the real evidence for anthropogenic effects on climate gets re-stated honestly and clearly by the climate scientists.

    Comment by Phil Ringrose — 18 Sep 2008 @ 7:42 AM

  308. pete if you haven’t gotten it yet by all the analogies, you’ll never get it.

    Phil, the thing that is surprising to me is that those using geologists to “prove” GW is no A is that they KEEP missing that the geological record shows that this time it really ISN’T natural. Not in the recorded history of the planet. And it’s the gelologists who are showing this!!

    Comment by Mark — 18 Sep 2008 @ 12:33 PM

  309. Re #308, I just do not understand you analogies :( Sorry.

    Comment by pete best — 18 Sep 2008 @ 4:33 PM

  310. pete, I already said you obviously didn’t understand. Why did you want to go and say you don’t understand? If you wanted to say “I did but didn’t think them relevant” you could have done so.

    Maybe you just wanted to get the last word in. If so, I can give you the opportunity of getting the last word in by denying that allegation.

    Comment by Mark — 18 Sep 2008 @ 5:12 PM

  311. Brian (305), your point is well taken, but calling the lack of “full” cost accounting in the oil industry (or any other for that matter) a “subsidy” is nonsensical.

    Comment by Rod B — 18 Sep 2008 @ 7:24 PM

  312. Brian (305), your point is well taken, but calling the lack of “full” cost accounting in the oil industry (or any other for that matter) a “subsidy” is nonsensical.

    Comment by Buy Mobile — 5 Oct 2008 @ 7:48 AM

  313. Rod, looks like you posted twice under different IDs.
    Or there’s a spooky echo in here.

    Not counting costs — selectively, for a particular industry –is definitely a subsidy. Ask your smiling banker how happy he is about the change in accounting rules last week that keeps him appearing solvent.

    Ken wrote
    > strongest and most consistent support to the research efforts in
    > fCO2 geological sequestration. My own employer, one of those …

    Ken (and Phil who was at that meeting) — can you comment on where the research efforts on sequestration are archived and/or published? Is some kept proprietary, or are the company geologists publishing their work on sequestration?

    Publishing fails to report negative results and failure reports in most areas of science — that’s a known, big, longterm problem. It would seem awfully important, since the CO2 has to stay out of circulation for a while. How long? millenia? What assumptions are being made and tested?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 5 Oct 2008 @ 11:01 AM

  314. Water vapor is 90% of the greenhouse effect. Wrong.
    A good estimate is that water (including clouds) is up to 90% of the greenhouse effect. Not wrong.

    As Gavin once remarked:

    The overlaps complicate things, but it’s clear that water vapour is the single most important absorber (between 36% and 66% of the greenhouse effect), and together with clouds makes up between 66% and 85%. CO2 alone makes up between 9 and 26%, while the O3 and the other minor GHG absorbers consist of up to 7 and 8% of the effect, respectively. The remainders and uncertainties are associated with the overlaps which could be attributed in various ways that I’m not going to bother with here. Making some allowance (+/-5%) for the crudeness of my calculation, the maximum supportable number for the importance of water vapour alone is about 60-70% and for water plus clouds 80-90% of the present day greenhouse effect. (Of course, using the same approach, the maximum supportable number for CO2 is 20-30%, and since that adds up to more than 100%, there is a slight problem with such estimates!).

    That is quite aside from the other issues. Questions of the percentage of the 35% increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide attributable to a population rise of 6,500% and their activities, the attribution of that all to the 5% rise in the anomaly trend compared to a mean global temperature of 14 C, the impacts of such, what to do about it all, and what the future holds.

    There are two things certain though. Water is the bulk of the greenhouse effect. Carbon dioxide absorbs outgoing LWIR and has risen in concentration in the atmosphere.

    Comment by William Jones — 6 Nov 2008 @ 3:48 PM

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Close this window.

0.476 Powered by WordPress