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  1. Geeze, knock off the quibble about the direct attribution of an effect to the cause, in this case polar sea ice loss and Global Warming. WillYa?

    In addition to being profoundly important engagement on ethical issues, the public debate is one of the most important knife fights of our generation.

    Clear speaking to the essence of the issue is the keen edge in this arena. As you said quite well, an AGU context is one thing, but specific and honest truth is the knife’s sharp edge in this fight. Speak plainly, and don’t hold back on the support for those who carry the banner for our side.

    Thanks for the terrific work y’all do!
    John Atkeison
    New Orleans

    Comment by John Atkeison — 5 Oct 2008 @ 8:25 PM

  2. Thank you for discussing this issue. I had the same reaction as you upon hearing Sarah Palin’s comments during the debate. It is imperative that control of carbon dioxide emissions be a part of both national energy policy and international diplomacy. I think also that the issue of John McCain’s health is of vital concern, if one is serious about confronting AGW. Sarah Palin said that if she became President, she would pursue her policies and interests. Whatever these are, they clearly do not include any significant action on reducing carbon emissions.

    This is one issue that is vital to consider in the current election, and politics cannot be separated from science here. I think that sound science, in the area of energy and environment should give serious pause to choosing McCain / Palin in the upcoming election, what ever one’s views of other issues.

    Of course, I think that AGW and carbon emissions are a potential creeping crisis that has been ignored by the Federal government for too long. When I look at the potential for growth in China and India that will exacerbate their emissions, we need more than ever a US Presidency that will focus on the issue wholeheartedly.

    Comment by Oxnardprof — 5 Oct 2008 @ 8:31 PM

  3. After hearing the comments by Palin in the Katie Couric interview and the VP debate, I think it’s pretty clear that climate change is not a huge issue in her mind.

    As a person in the political arena though, you always want to tell people what they want to hear, and everyone wants to hear things like “stop pollution” and to non-science ears, the middle-ground of “well, it’s probably all not man-made, but let’s so something anyway” sounds good…and you get listeners on all sides.

    Comment by Chris Colose — 5 Oct 2008 @ 8:37 PM

  4. I realize politicians need to wing it sometimes, but is English a second language for Palin? Maybe she needs courses on speaking grammatically; or maybe she is just terribly confused. It sounds like she is blaming climate for human activities. :) And maybe she just wants Alaska to get warmer! I know some Michiganders feel that way…
    Anyway, I think candidates would get more votes if all of them said more scientifically literate things when speaking of climate change, even Biden. Otherwise it is just I think vs. he/she thinks. Opinions are debatable, facts are not.

    Comment by Figen Mekik — 5 Oct 2008 @ 8:53 PM

  5. [edit – religion is OT]

    Comment by C A Wren — 5 Oct 2008 @ 8:59 PM

  6. As a young earth creationist, Palin’s view of the issue clearly can not put much stock in the actual science. Plus, one must wonder what exactly she is thinking of in talking about cycle in the earth’s climate as the only established ones are the glacial/interglacial cycles, which are on a time scale much too lengthy for a 6000 year old earth!

    Regardless, the “it’s all cycles” meme is easily refuted

    Comment by coby — 5 Oct 2008 @ 9:03 PM

    Published: October 17, 2004

    … I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House’s displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn’t fully comprehend — but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

    The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 5 Oct 2008 @ 9:06 PM

  8. Excellent assessment as always guys. Gee, ya think by golly? She’s married to a roustabout, and has views, Biblical in nature, that resources are there to use doggone it! Polar bears? Who cares. They shoot them from the rigs if they get in the way; Purely in self-defense of course. Biden gets it. Palin is unfortunately, a typical Alaskan. I’ve been there enough to know.

    Comment by Mark A. York — 5 Oct 2008 @ 9:37 PM

  9. As an aside, what’s the cause for you (all) to speculate that McCain would turn energy policy over to Palin?

    Comment by Rod B — 5 Oct 2008 @ 9:49 PM

  10. From the same link above, by Ron Suskind, another excerpt, equally cautionary:

    … And for those who don’t get it? That was explained to me in late 2002 by Mark McKinnon, a longtime senior media adviser to Bush, who now runs his own consulting firm and helps the president. He started by challenging me. ”You think he’s an idiot, don’t you?” I said, no, I didn’t. “No, you do, all of you do, up and down the West Coast, the East Coast, a few blocks in southern Manhattan called Wall Street. Let me clue you in. We don’t care. You see, you’re outnumbered 2 to 1 by folks in the big, wide middle of America, busy working people who don’t read The New York Times or Washington Post or The L.A. Times. And you know what they like? They like the way he walks and the way he points, the way he exudes confidence. They have faith in him. And when you attack him for his malaprops, his jumbled syntax, it’s good for us. Because you know what those folks don’t like? They don’t like you!” In this instance, the final “you,” of course, meant the entire reality-based community.


    ReCaptcha, I kid you not, says: Autumn Larning

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 5 Oct 2008 @ 10:21 PM

  11. When Governor Palin said that Alaska is affected most by global warming isn’t she affirming polar amplification? And doesn’t that imply anthropogenic global warming?

    [Response: That’s a subtle point, but not really. Polar amplification is dependent on feedbacks (mostly the ice-albedo feedback) and so would be expected to occur regardless of what the force driving warming is. – gavin]

    Comment by Rich Blinne — 5 Oct 2008 @ 10:25 PM

  12. I thought what was truly fascinating about Palin’s statement in the debate (which was followed by her agreement that carbon emissions must be capped, not that she knows what that means) is that she’s no longer a complete denier (“there’s something to be said for man’s activities”). While I doubt her private opinions have changed at all, and she attempted to qualify her statement about cause, it seems to me that it is not tenable for her to maintain her denialist position publicly. To me this shows great progress when compared to how this would have played out in 2004 (when, first of all, the moderator would not have even asked a question about climate change).

    I say congratulations to realclimate and all others who have been waging this fight…we have made progress, although there is so far to go…

    Comment by Andy Gunther — 5 Oct 2008 @ 10:33 PM

  13. In her defense she did create a subcabinet agency on climate change
    in the state govt of alaska. google it. Larry Hartig runs it. He never
    answers his emails, though. He might be a plant.

    Comment by Danny Bloom — 5 Oct 2008 @ 10:46 PM

  14. My understanding is that the ‘official’ IPCC
    position as of 2007 is that there is a 10 percent chance that human made CO2 is NOT the primary cause of global warming.
    Is there recent work that changes the 10 percent
    up or down? Would the lead authors modify their
    position today?

    Comment by Richard Hill — 5 Oct 2008 @ 11:25 PM

  15. Calling Natural Gas “clean, green” was another thing that really irked me. I’m glad someone else picked up on the “activities of humans … caused by climate” gaffe. LOL’d up here

    Comment by Sam Vilain — 6 Oct 2008 @ 12:17 AM

  16. “As an aside, what’s the cause for you (all) to speculate that McCain would turn energy policy over to Palin? – Rod B

    Room temperature.

    Comment by JCH — 6 Oct 2008 @ 12:24 AM

  17. Sarah Palin works with energy companies which means she has a lot of contact with geologists. Gee, where do you think she gets the idea that AGW might not be man made. Honestly, are you guys really that dense? Take a moment and read your own site!

    Comment by Richard Giroux — 6 Oct 2008 @ 12:33 AM

  18. What I saw on Sarah Palin was too much makeup, too much winking and too much flirting with the audience. Very unstatesmanlike and unbecoming of a VP. She only recited memorized scripts. If she didn’t have the appropriate memorized script, she didn’t answer the question. Ronny Reagan at least read the script well.

    “Clean” Coal contains: URANIUM, ARSENIC, LEAD, MERCURY, Antimony, Cobalt, Nickel, Copper, Selenium, Barium, Fluorine, Silver, Beryllium, Iron, Sulfur, Boron, Titanium, Cadmium, Magnesium, Thorium, Calcium, Manganese, Vanadium, Chlorine, Aluminum, Chromium, Molybdenum and Zinc. There is so much of these elements in coal that cinders and coal smoke are actually valuable ores. We should be able to get all the uranium and thorium we need to fuel nuclear power plants for centuries by using cinders and smoke as ore. Remember that, to get a given amount of energy, you need on the order of 100 MILLION TIMES as much coal as uranium. That means the coal mine has to be 100 million times larger than the uranium mine, not counting the recycling of nuclear fuel. We can keep our mountains and forests and our health by switching from coal to nuclear power.

    Chinese industrial grade coal is sometimes stolen by peasants for cooking. The result is that the whole family dies of arsenic poisoning because Chinese industrial grade coal contains large amounts of arsenic.

    I have zero financial interest in nuclear power, and I never have had a financial interest in nuclear power. My sole motivation in writing this is to avoid extinction by H2S gas due to global warming.

    Carbon Capture and Storage [sequestration] has a fatal flaw: “the capacity to SAFELY trap and store the CO2.” There is no safe way to confine trillions of tons of CO2 at high pressure for ever. For Ever is a lot longer than the 100000 years that people want nuclear “waste” to be stored. The CO2 WILL leak out and suffocate millions of people. CO2 is denser than air and displaces air at ground level. CO2 has caused suffocation in Africa. See:

    “Cameroon’s ‘killer lake’ degassed”
    “More than 1,700 people died after deadly gases spewed from Lake Nyos 15 years ago. ”
    “In August 1986, the lake released a cloud of carbon dioxide which hugged the ground and flowed down surrounding valleys to suffocate thousands of local villagers and animals.

    The rare phenomenon also occurred at Lake Monoun in the same volcanic zone two years earlier killing 34 people. ”

    The CO2 storage facilities proposed by Big Coal, besides being prone to leak, will be a target for terrorists. A terrorist has only to cause a leak to kill more people than a nuclear bomb would. Leaks are very easy to cause in high pressure containers. CO2 storage is a silent disaster waiting to happen.

    IF a SAFE way to store CO2 forever is ever proven, it should be used to store CO2 from industrial processes for which we cannot find substitutes. We have a substitute for coal fired power plants, called nuclear power plants. Nuclear power is the safest source of electricity, bar none. Nuclear power is also the cheapest, bar none and the cleanest, bar none. Spent nuclear fuel should be recycled, not wasted. We have spent the last 60 years working on reactor safety. Coal contains uranium. Carbon capture and storage should be reserved for making concrete. The first step in making concrete is to heat limestone [calcium carbonate CaCO3] to drive off the CO2 leaving CaO Calcium Oxide. Carbon Capture and Storage should be reserved for the CO2 produced in this first step in concrete making and other industrial processes for which there are no substitutes. Remember, we have to lower our CO2 output by 90% by 2050 in spite of a growing population and growing prosperity in India and China.

    I have no financial or other interest in nuclear power and no connection with the nuclear power industry.

    Reference: “Power to Save the World; The Truth About Nuclear Energy” by Gwyneth Cravens, 2007 Finally a truthful book about nuclear power. Gwyneth Cravens is a former anti-nuclear activist.

    Reference: “Environmentalists for Nuclear Energy”, by B. Comby
    English edition, 2001, 345 pp. (soft cover), 38 Euros
    TNR Editions, 266 avenue Daumesnil, 75012 Paris, France;
    ISBN 2-914190-02-6
    order from:
    Read a review of this book by the American Health Physics Society at:
    Association of Environmentalists For Nuclear Energy [EFN]

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 6 Oct 2008 @ 12:42 AM

  19. I like the way she bills herself as an “energy expert” which as far as I can tell means she can say “drill baby drill” without getting tongue-tied.

    Look again at what she said in the debate: “I’m not one to attribute every man — activity of man to the changes in the climate”. I think she meant attributing changes of climate to “man”.

    We had a nice discussion of the debate in Australia where one commentator summed it up: “She’s as thick as a brick.” Not sure if it’s on the video on the ABC web site, but it may be some comfort to American viewwers that Australians are so impressed with your political process …

    Comment by Philip Machanick — 6 Oct 2008 @ 1:50 AM

  20. I can read posts like this anywhere.

    The unique selling point of your blog is that you do the science better than anyone else.

    For me, half the length popularising a recent climate science paper would be worth a hundred times as much.

    Your work on that is much appreciated!

    Comment by JK — 6 Oct 2008 @ 3:38 AM

  21. “He might be a plant.”

    He likes CO2 then.

    Captcha: LEAVY no

    Comment by Adam — 6 Oct 2008 @ 4:26 AM

  22. Perhaps the conversation may fall silent. “Bubbling chimneys if methane” in the Laptev Sea report Natalia Shakhova and Igor Semiletov, visiting researchers at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. It seems that the permafrost pressure-containing the clathrates has succumbed to the warming arctic waters. Abrupt climate change in thirty years, at the outside, seems to me a likely outcome. I hope I will be corrected.

    I hope to be corrected so that I do not increasingly hear the screams of my grandchilddren in the shortening temporal distance.

    Juola (Joe) A. Haga

    Comment by Juola (Joe) A. Haga — 6 Oct 2008 @ 4:46 AM

  23. What really struck me was the following statement made by Palin:

    And I don’t want to argue about the causes. What I want to argue about is, how are we going to get there to positively affect the impacts?

    ‘Ich habe es nicht gewußt’ in the making?

    Comment by Anne van der Bom — 6 Oct 2008 @ 5:04 AM

  24. Reference: “In 2007,
    the Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, created the Alaska Climate Change Sub-Cabinet
    to implement a climate change strategy for the state. An Immediate
    Action Workgroup – an advisory group to the Sub-Cabinet – was tasked
    with identifying the short-term emergency steps that state government
    needs to take to prevent loss of life and property due to climate
    change in the rural Eskimo communities that must relocate. ”

    new paper by Robin Tonen at

    Comment by Danny Bloom — 6 Oct 2008 @ 5:24 AM

  25. Palin seems to be somewhere between delayer and denialist when it comes to climate change. The strategy reminds me of how the Bush administration would publicly ride the fence by openly saying they would act and then saying they would not. Most of the media attention focused on parsing what the Bush administration’s position on climate change was. What was missed was that nothing was done to address climate change.

    Comment by Joseph O'Sullivan — 6 Oct 2008 @ 5:48 AM

  26. What politicians say about global warming and what they actually do about it are two entirely different things. When the green party came to power in Germany in 1998, global warming was one of the major arguments they had and for many, including myself, it was one of the major reasons to vote for them. Looking back at what they’ve actually done about it (willingly or unwillingly), I doubt they made any difference at all. If I was a US citizen, I’d look at what the candidates are planning in terms of concrete political decisions and make my vote from there – no matter what they claim to believe in or not.

    Comment by dagobert — 6 Oct 2008 @ 6:40 AM

  27. dagobert, you have a good point, but isn’t voting not only not about what the candidates say they believe in, but also not about what they say they are going to do, but about whether you would be comfortable with having them in office — in the American case with that little red button within hand reach?

    In this view, it doesn’t matter much if they tell the occasional lie and are dishonest about many things — all politicians do that, because it works. If they have leadership skills, those are warts we must live with. And that’s where Palin’s evolution and climate beliefs come in: if she really, honestly believes that the Earth is 6000 years old and has been heating up without any human assistance over the last half century, then (1) she is incredibly naive, and (2) she lacks the essential skill of using expert knowledge in forming policy.

    Those shortfalls in leadership skill (remember the Cuba crisis?) are fatal and would rule out any position of significant policy-making responsibility. If on the other hand, she accepts both evolution and AGW — or just accepts that she is in no position to know better than the scientists —, but knows what her support group wants to hear from her and speaks accordingly, then, not to worry :-)

    I am worrying. Suddenly John McCain’s age became a huge issue.

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 6 Oct 2008 @ 7:11 AM

  28. After much thought I’ve made some conclusions about human behavior. Overall, the individual will-to-live predominates over the collective will to live. This should be no surprise, since selfish behavior benefits the individual organism the most. Collectively, human beings do not have the will to overcome their selfish impulses, which means that bargains with the devil will always be made first and foremost over sacrifice for the common good (on the whole, i.e.).
    In regard to the pressing issues of climate change, ecosystem collapse, and overpopulation, the mere admittance of the fact of AGW is no comfort at all, and at such a rate of cultural change essentially nothing will ever be done about it that has any noticeable impact on the matter. Fluorescent light bulb changing is bailing the ocean with a teaspoon, as everyone here knows.
    There is no solution that does not involve a massive reduction in the human population, first of all. One can make a rough calculation of what the human population might have become without the free energy of all fossil fuels, then reduce that by some factor of ten to account for the negative ecological/AGW impact, and arrive at a credible figure on which to base an (unscientific) argument. So, suppose that the earth could temporarily support a maximum human population of 640 million with a wood-based agricultural economy, then reduce that to either 64 million or 6.5 million, depending on how pessimistic (realistic) you feel, given the current and near-future state of the planet. Then, this amount of people needs to survive without the extended technologies made possible only by a large population base (necessary for detailed specialization), with a factor for soil destruction by civilization in a thousand years adding to downward pressures, and you end up with a very low environmental base to sustain a population of human beings with large brains and opposable thumbs which can wreak havoc upon the surrounding life-systems(elephants, while very destructive, remain restricted to their niche, while humans use their two gifts to jump their niche repeatedly) and have already done so to a degree commensurate only with a massive glaciation or an asteroid collision.
    Any solutions posed here or elsewhere which do not admit of the need for massive population reduction–which is in reality the only solution which can be forced upon us humans to resolve this matter–is shortsighted, naive, and intellectually dishonest.

    Comment by markr — 6 Oct 2008 @ 8:07 AM

  29. I’m a 50-ish Aussie who has been highly entertained by the presidential race (but knew little about Biden), by coincidence I also just finished watching the debate on youtube.

    Discounting people shooting at each other, no other political debate I have ever seen has so clearly pitted reason against emotion. And ironically, Joe Biden became slightly emotional when he concluded by practically begging the American people to listen to reason.

    The reason I watched the full debate was because the media were not really conclusive on who ‘won’. I can only assume the mainstream media came to this ‘consensus’ because they are still interested in promoting a race that sells advertisng to eyeballs like yours and mine. Same thing happened with climate ‘journalisim’ in the mainstream media but over a longer time scale.

    I agree with Joe Biden’s assesment that this is the most important election since the 1930’s and I agree with Sagan who (paraphrasing) said “Science is our only candle in the dark” – Contrary to Palin’s worldview as expressed in the “I don’t want to argue about the causes” quip, understanding the causes (and effects) of these “big issuse” is the first step to preventing their re-occurence or at least minimising their impact.

    We had a similar far-right anti-immigration politician (female, around the same age as Palin, Fish&Chip shop owner). She gained a seat in federal parliment a while back – she also gained a loud group of followers for a short while but ultimately was ridiculed out of politics. She is now mainly famous for the phrase “please explain” – her answer when a fellow MP accused her of xenophobia.

    As many others have pointed out, the political landscape has changed regarding the environment and realclimate has served the role of mythbuster very well. However due to an increase in intense financial storms in the economic climate, whoever takes over in the US is going to open ‘Fort Knox’ and find the world’s largest visa bill.

    Comment by Alan — 6 Oct 2008 @ 9:13 AM

  30. As an aside, what’s the cause for you (all) to speculate that McCain would turn energy policy over to Palin?

    McCain and Palin have both made statements that support said “speculation”. Perhaps it’s just a campaign ploy, but I see no reason to not take them at their word.

    You are *listening* to them, aren’t you?

    Comment by dhogaza — 6 Oct 2008 @ 10:00 AM

  31. Don’t let’s forget that Hon. Sen. McCain, the fact that he proposes a “cap and trade” program, has repeatedly denied that this would impose a “cap” on greenhouse gas emissions.

    Comment by jhm — 6 Oct 2008 @ 10:04 AM

  32. I watched every minute of the debate. I paid special attention to the question and answers regarding “global warming.”

    I found Gov. Palin’s answer to be more accurate that Sen. Biden’s.

    Comment by Walt Bennett — 6 Oct 2008 @ 10:11 AM

  33. When scientists come out with statements such as “Well, maybe he left out the kind of caveats and qualifications you’d attach to the attribution of the recent loss of (North) polar sea ice …” surely a hockey mom like Sarah Palin is right to be sceptical about man as a cause. When every scientific statement in wrapped around by wooly caveats, no wonder Joe Public would rather hope for the best, rather than take the action that every one knows will hurt!

    If you scientists are not sure, then why should she be. It is the height of conceit for scientists to believe that they have the right to express their doubts, yet expect politicians to argue that there are none. The politicians are risking their careers, while all you scientists have to lose is face.

    What is needed is a change in the scientific culture. Less of the prevaricating and more of the truth – the polar bears are doomed, and mankind won’t be far behind unless we take action now!

    But will the scientific culture change? No! Will mankind survive?

    Cheers, Alastair.

    Comment by Alastair McDonald — 6 Oct 2008 @ 10:33 AM

  34. Re #9 : “As an aside, what’s the cause for you (all) to speculate that McCain would turn energy policy over to Palin?” Comment by Rod B — 5 octobre 2008 @ 9:49 PM

    An excerpt of the VP debate:
    Palin: “…John McCain and I have had good conversations about where I would lead with his agenda. That is energy independence in America and reform of government over all…In those arenas, John McCain has already tapped me and said, that’s where I want you, I want you to lead.”

    Comment by Todd — 6 Oct 2008 @ 10:48 AM

  35. @markr

    suppose that the earth could temporarily support a maximum human population of 640 million with a wood-based agricultural economy

    Where did you base this estimate on?

    Comment by Anne van der Bom — 6 Oct 2008 @ 10:58 AM

  36. Palin’s statements are, of course, irreconcilable, but they aren’t meant to appeal to reason. They’re meant to appear reasonable. Just as the claim that the warming trend is “mostly natural” because “climate has fluctuated in the past” appears superficially to be a moderate, and thus reasonable, position.

    Only after some study does it become clear that this position in inconsistent with both facts and theory; as the Bush administration learned once they studied the issue, which one wishes they had done before withdrawing from Kyoto.

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 6 Oct 2008 @ 11:20 AM

  37. Sarah Palin said to Newsmax that she is “not one though who would attribute” climate change “to being man-made”. Sarah Palin said during the debate “I’m not one to attribute every man — activity of man to the changes in the climate” by which she presumably meant that she was not one to attribute changes in the climate to the activities of “man”.

    However, Governor Palin did, as she mentioned, sign into law the Alaska Climate Change Sub-Cabinet, which states on its website the following: “The rise in the Earth’s average surface temperature is known as global warming. Scientists attribute the accelerating rate of global warming to manmade greenhouse gas emissions” (emphasis added).

    Had I the opportunity, I would like to ask Governor Palin:

    “You cite your creation of the Alaska Climate Change Sub-Cabinet as evidence that as a public official you are ‘going to get there to positively affect the impacts’ of climate change. However, your own repeated public statements about the cause of climate change are flatly contradicted by the sub-cabinet that you yourself created, which on its own public website clearly agrees with the overwhelming majority of the world’s scientists that accelerating global warming is caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases.

    We have now seen eight years during which the Bush-Cheney administration denied, suppressed, censored and lied about the efforts of the government’s own scientists and scientific agencies to inform the American people about the human causation of climate change, in order to protect the profits of their cronies and financial backers in the fossil fuel industries. Is it your plan, if elected, to continue that policy of deliberate deceit?”

    If you haven’t already seen it, I recommend watching Tina Fey’s brilliant parody of Sara Palin’s debate performance from this weekend’s Saturday Night Live, in which Palin (Fey) says that global warming may just be “a natural part … of the End Times.”

    The scary thing is, that Sarah Palin may actually believe that.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 6 Oct 2008 @ 11:26 AM

  38. I actually found the \climate\ portion of the debate–the only point where it touched on science–amusing. Palin was clearly trying–and failing–to parrot some talking points she had been coached on. She has to walk even more of a tightrope on this issue than McCain, since she must avoid trashing both McCain’s acceptance of anthropogenic causation while at the same time appearing not to be inconsistent with the denialists. Anybody who looks to the candidates’ statements for clues about their personal views is in for a futile search. Anybody who thinks the candidates (of either party) will be free to act on those views is naive. Remember, in 2000, even Dubya acknowledged the need to do something about CO2.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 6 Oct 2008 @ 11:28 AM

  39. #33, Alastair,

    If the weather forecast says there is a 10% changce of rain for tomorrow, would you be the dad to say to his children: “We won’t be going to the beach tomorrow, because the weather man predicted rain”?

    Who is being dishonest here, the weather man or the dad?

    Comment by Anne van der Bom — 6 Oct 2008 @ 11:30 AM

  40. The trouble with Obama is he also favours mandatory action to worsen CO2 emissions, hunger and a host of other things, namely the ethanol mandate, which the Republicans are now committed to abolishing.

    Also I don’t see any sign of either candidate using the same definition of clean coal as RC does.

    Comment by Jim Roland — 6 Oct 2008 @ 12:44 PM

  41. If Sarah Palin is a Hockey Mom, does she support the “Hockey Stick”?

    Comment by Richard C — 6 Oct 2008 @ 2:01 PM

  42. Re Hank Roberts #7 and #10

    The full reference in #7 is important reading for those of us who try to be members of the “reality based community.”

    George Bush correctly states that the reality based community will never defeat the faith based community. Realists need to understand this.

    [edit – religion is OT]

    Sure McCain and Palin will talk about action against global warming, but when such action infringes on the right of Americans to drive muscle cars and mommy wagons, we should anticipate some divine guidance that makes that ok.

    I do not really think that McCain thinks in the same way as Palin, but he holds his views to be of very little importance since he is willing to leave us with her as our leader. Yes, that is what the VP actually does when it becomes necessary.

    Comment by Jim Bullis — 6 Oct 2008 @ 2:07 PM

  43. Anne,

    If it is raining and Mom says “Stop that racket and go outside. It might stop soon.” who is being dishonest?

    Cheers, Alastair.

    Comment by Alastair McDonald — 6 Oct 2008 @ 2:29 PM

  44. Sarah Palin’s statements questioning the cause of climate change and describing natural gas as “clean’ have to be interpreted in the context of how these questions affect policies she has decided to pursue.

    She clearly wants to encourage as much drilling for oil in Alaska as she can get away with. This is popular in Alaska because, whether or not in makes much difference to our dependence on foreign oil, it definitely benefits Alaskans in the short run. To this end, she has opposed declaring polar bears an endangered species, and used a report written by notorious denialists. It is in her interest to dismiss scientific elites and take the side of the `ordinary people’ in her state who want more and larger bonuses from the oil industry. Alaskans have more in common with Saudis in this regard than they do with the rest of us.

    Similarly, she has made much in Alaska of her attempts to resurrect that gas pipeline which seemed to have run into difficulties under the previous administration. Burning natural gas, of course, emits less CO_2 than does oil or coal, but it is still a source of greenhouse gases. But it is to her benefit to ignore that detail.

    It is clear that Palin and her religious right supporters have ambitions beyond this campaign. They hope and expect her to be president some day, perhaps sooner than John McCain would prefer. She is very ambitious, and it is my guess, quite ready to adopt positions that will get her elected. I doubt if she has any really firm beliefs about much of anything, and generally believes what it is convenient for her to do so. But I could be wrong. She could be a strong social conservative who buys the entire hard right agenda, and dissembles to hide the fact. I would rather not find out.

    Comment by Leonard Evens — 6 Oct 2008 @ 3:35 PM

  45. Too funny not to share: There is no evidence of human-induced financial crisis

    Comment by David B. Benson — 6 Oct 2008 @ 3:57 PM

  46. Great Question Richard C. in #41. To what reference do you refer in #42 Jim? Given that faith cannot be dissuaded where does that leave us in this era in which faith is crucial to being elected? It is amazing on a topic that Palin has been exposed to her answer is so garbled. Makes one think it is not her true philosophy.

    Comment by Mauri Pelto — 6 Oct 2008 @ 4:04 PM

  47. As said by many others, there’s no logical coherence to Palin’s statements, but they work for the intended audience.

    Still, I’d be wary of mission creep at RC. There are other forums for policy and politics. Though if Palin becomes a second Inhofe,it would be appropriate to discuss the testimony of whichever Viscounts she drags up.

    great joke with the hockey stick/mom above.

    Comment by tharanga — 6 Oct 2008 @ 4:48 PM

  48. Hank,

    Palin is a “typical Alaskan” – is that stereotyping or close to ‘racism’?

    Need to be careful on these things and remember that you, along with all of us, can sometimes make statements that others may interpretate in a different way to what was originally intended (OR NOT).

    Comment by Dave Andrews — 6 Oct 2008 @ 5:09 PM

  49. Mauri, Jim’s referring to what I posted (currently #7 with another excerpt in what’s currently #9)
    Published: October 17, 2004

    It’s a piece of history worth reading in full.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 6 Oct 2008 @ 5:32 PM

  50. I am begging the scientific community to speak up before it is too late. I follow realclimate along with other sites and journals. I have never heard these voices speak to the mainstream media with the exception of some sound bites or “specials” that many do not see or hear.

    What will it take before consensus science takes there message to the people – clearly and repeatedly? Please, someone say something to the voters!!!

    Comment by Cassidy — 6 Oct 2008 @ 5:42 PM

  51. RE: #35 “What do you base 640 million on?

    First of all, the unprecedented spike in human population well matches the use of fossil fuels in all their various guises, including the production of artificial nitrogen fertilizer. So, if one simply subtracts the enormous volume of humanity which has come to survive on the planet because of all of the free energy, including the upsurge in the artificial and therefore “unnatural” food production (see David R Montgomery, SOIL, Kenneth Deffeyes Beyond Oil, et al), one ends up with a rather lower peak population and a much more modest population J-curve. Second, I made a rough guess of the percentage drop in civilization populations when they crashed due to environmental overreach, based on generalized information. I don’t recall the percentage, but of course it was high. Since there are about 6.5 billion humans on the planet now, reducing the population by a factor of 10 makes a good starting point. This is all before considering the tremendously negative impact of ecosystem degradation compounded by the accelerant of AGW. The effect must be great, as it already obviously is. So reducing the surviving human population by another factor of ten is not unrealistic, and probably still too optimistic. The ultimate question is whether the human species will traverse its self-created extinction boundary. I rather doubt it, but if so only a few will do so, especially compared to today’s population. We cannot return to hunting and gathering; there will be nothing to hunt except other human beings. Gathering will be a difficult prospect rather than a cornucopia. The degree of severity of human population collapse depends on climatic feedback loops, in part.

    Comment by markr — 6 Oct 2008 @ 5:44 PM

  52. In her defence, Sarah Palin is not alone amongst politicians who seek or achieve high office whilst holding a laughable view of the science of climate change. Let me name and shame a couple of prominent candidates here (other than Messrs Bush and Cheney), and highlight their recent pronouncements:

    Sammy Wilson, Northern Ireland’s Environment Minister (really!):

    Vaclav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic:

    Unfortunately, a grasp of the science of climate change is not, in itself, a sign of fitness for high office:

    Comment by Bob Ward — 6 Oct 2008 @ 5:53 PM

  53. Palin said:
    “But there are real changes going on in our climate. And I don’t want to argue about the causes. What I want to argue about is, how are we going to get there to positively affect the impacts?”

    Isn’t this a little like a Dr. telling a patient that she’s sick,and he’s going to operate to lessen the impacts on her, without really knowing what’s causing the illness?

    Comment by Lawrence Brown — 6 Oct 2008 @ 5:55 PM

  54. #33 Alastair

    It is not the place of a VP debate to discuss the complexities of the arctic climate. If you wanted to you could get into ideas about how anthropogenic factors are affecting “natural” factors like the AO. There is a lot to be said about albedo feedbacks and ocean and wind patterns, etc, but I doubt anyone wants to hear about that from Biden.

    Not all of the arctic variability is anthropogenic, but the “global warming” over the last half a century is mostly caused by us…I’m not too sure which he’s referring to when he says “it” is due to us. I don’t know if it was greatly worded, but it was clear.

    I don’t have a problem with Palin’s statement that “I’m not one to attribute every change to human activity” but I have a problem with her ability to dodge the topic, be unclear, and use statements which are meant to “make everyone happy.” What does “pollution” mean? How do we stop something that we aren’t causing? What exactly needs to be done to tackle the problem (does she think there is a problem)?

    Comment by Chris Colose — 6 Oct 2008 @ 6:49 PM

  55. There is really little point examining what the presidential candidates have to say, particularly in televised debates. It’s all just a show, and any connection to whatever the candidates actually believe is purely incidental.
    That the republicans choose to put on this particular show is pretty depressing though.

    Comment by David — 6 Oct 2008 @ 7:37 PM

  56. Dave, I dunno what Mark meant by “typical Alaskan” — a Google search suggests other people think they exist.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 6 Oct 2008 @ 7:47 PM

  57. Re: #35

    suppose that the earth could temporarily support a maximum human population of 640 million with a wood-based agricultural economy

    Where did you base this estimate on?

    I believe that was the approximate population of the earth at the end of the “wood-based agricultural economy” and the beginning of the industrial age (1700’s). Using fossil fuels allowed greater population to develop or maybe increasing population forced us to innovate and start using fossil fuels. Going back to that pre-industrial world would drastically reduce the population we could support.

    Comment by Dave Werth — 6 Oct 2008 @ 9:21 PM

  58. #9: Rod B:

    As an aside, what’s the cause for you (all) to speculate that McCain would turn energy policy over to Palin?

    McCain has referred to Palin as an energy expert several times. It’s not speculation – it’s taking McCain at his word.

    Comment by llewelly — 6 Oct 2008 @ 11:00 PM

  59. Any solutions posed here or elsewhere which do not admit of the need for massive population reduction–which is in reality the only solution which can be forced upon us humans to resolve this matter–is shortsighted, naive, and intellectually dishonest.

    I disagree. I believe that humans, with their opposable thumbs, large brains, upright stance and nearly 90% grasp of the relevant mathematical and physical fundamentals, could very well just evacuate the planet in the future.

    It depends on what you want that future to be, and what you are willing to do to make that future a reality.

    We’re too deep in the hole now, there is only one way forward, and that’s up. I hope to meet you all up there.

    Captcha : opposition yielded

    Comment by Thomas Lee Elifritz — 6 Oct 2008 @ 11:21 PM

  60. This is such a political post!!!

    The same thing recently happened here in Australia. The conservative government refused to countenance AGW and lost the election. The new government has yet to seriously change our emissions output, but is working on introducing a carbon cap and trade system by 2010. They are having lots of trouble with the vested interests and debate is hot about what reduction targets to set for 2020.

    The key is that you have to USE the run-up to the election to convince BOTH sides that climate change is being caused by our GHGs. This is the time to put on the pressure and get soem commitments. The best way is to write letters, make appointments to see your representatives, go public and state your views, etc.

    It is too important an issue to leave the simple actions undone. If all concerned voters wrote one letter, things would change.

    Comment by Ricki (Australia) — 6 Oct 2008 @ 11:35 PM

  61. Rather than a garbled attempt to reiterate what she said in the Newsmax interview, I think Palin was clearly trying to put here the position that she was not one “to attribute EVERY change in the climate to the activity of man” and that it was because she was equivocating (in relation to that previous statement) that she garbled. Moreover she then went on proudly to spell out the various emission reduction strategies she was supporting, a position which makes no sense for an out-and-out denialist.

    On this topic Palin is in the invidious position of representing both a constituency which is denialist and a presidential candidate who is not. As an Alaskan it might also be uncomfortable to have the deal with the fact that the exploitation of the potential energy wealth off their coast might come at a very high cost to Alaska itself.

    Though I was surprised by how frank and unequivocal his answer was I think this was one of Biden’s weaker moments. Instead of addressing the ambiguity of her response, he did what she more usually resorted to in the debate – give a pre-written speechlet instead of engaging with what the opponent said. Given her lack of clarity here, I hardly think he was entitled to call an understanding of the anthropogenic nature of current climate change “the biggest fundamental difference.”

    Comment by James Killen — 7 Oct 2008 @ 2:05 AM

  62. On population culling: Dr. Lovelock estimates 90 +- 10% of the population will die, so markr’s 640 million survivors has a scientific sponsor. War is efficient when a population is under climate stress. Leningrad’s WW2 circle of life was rats eat humans eat rats. Soylent Rodent. What happens when the world is awash in cheap guns and food is scarce? Oops, kind of like today, only more so!

    Reagan would have made a fine figurehead king, but by re-election time he was toast. Instead of retiring him, Republicans realized that a brain-dead president would suit their needs perfectly, so Ronnie was re-elected and became the first Alzheimer’s president. Bush 2 continued on with the new tradition. This allowed specific groups to grab many billions of borrowed bucks from the federal coffers. Why pay a soldier $23k a year when a mercenary is available for a mere $250k? Add in profit and it’s probably $500k.

    Palin will continue the fine Republican tradition of using weak-minded souls as figureheads to enable the rape of the treasury. The agenda assigned to her is clear: increase the government tremendously while further concentrating it into the single legitimate governmental task: profitable warfare. She’s to decrease taxes on unearned income (capital gains), preferably to zero (only those who actually work should pay taxes), increase fossil fuel production, and continue Bush 2’s concentration of power into the Executive branch. The Constitution has been scanned and the phrase “president of the senate” found. Presidents set agendas, do they not? Decide on what is debated and for how long perhaps?

    Cap and trade can be set at any number and it wouldn’t do to have it less than the reasonable increases scheduled for the next 8 years, right? Those spewing vouchers will be valuable. More free money for Big Oil and Coal. What happens when the arctic ice implodes? With all that borrowed capital invested in shiny new pipelines and wells and other toys, reducing GHGs certainly won’t be on the agenda. Fortunately, it’s much easier to borrow some artillery from the military and pay Haliburton many billions to start brimstoning the atmosphere. So what if the oceans die? Real men eat beef (and moose).

    Oh, and she did wonderfully well in the debate. So chipper and friendly and gosh darn cute. Who cares about substance? McCain doesn’t have to die. A little stroke or heart attack. Lots of ways to become unfit for office, and Barbie Doll President will be unleashed.

    Comment by RichardC — 7 Oct 2008 @ 2:17 AM

  63. Dave #57: why is that the maximum population of the earth under those conditions?

    We have learned things about agriculture since then. Not to mention how to save lives at childbirth and keep people healthy over their lives. And removed some of the biggest killers of humans that aren’t bigger than us.

    Comment by Mark — 7 Oct 2008 @ 2:52 AM

  64. Consider the various chemical gases emitted daily from the volcanoes and their gaseous inversion layers causing greenhouse conditions. Information from the USGS shows daily emmission measurments of 1500 to 30000 tons of CO2 and same size emmissions of hydrogen sufide into the atmosphere from each of the orange and the 5 yellow alert volcanoes within American territories and states.

    Even the green condition volcanic areas emit dangerous gases on an intermittent basis. Yellowstone had gas emmissions that killed 5 bison in 2004.

    Mt. St. Helens daily emitted 1500 tons of CO2 for years until 1983 with measurment levels dropped to 1000 ton daily emmissions. There are monitors in place today meausring the gas emmissions.

    There are other type gas emmissions from these that are not easily calculated but have a large contribution to the greenhouse condition. This tonnage of smog or vog into the atmosphere is uncontrollable.

    The eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991 was said to have emitted millions of tons of gases and at least 10 times the power of 1980 Mt. St. Helens. The Ozone hole over the Antarctica was the largest reported in 1992 and 1993.

    The emmissions under American jurisdictions is no comparisons to other jurisdictions and the U.S. is a small contributing fraction compared to other countries. This country does not have the smoke stack industries that puts out high levels of pollutants routinely into the global atmosphere. These are now in China and other third world countries that do not have the atmospheric care or concerns of U.S.

    Industrialized American corporations utilize scrubbers, holding tanks, transformers, precipretators and catalytics to burn or bind pollutants before they are released into the atmosphere in the production of 1970s. But transferred and exported these industrialize operations (jobs) to third world countries that did not have or will to follow these protective practices.

    Basic in stewardship of resources is understanding carrying capacity of an organism or enviornment. There are some that state this earth cleanses itself. Which is generally true but will take hundreds of years for these pollutants to disapate.

    Man does contribute to this effect but the U.S. is not the main reason and one should consider the U.S. leads in restricting the airborne release of pollutants. The point to consider is that we may be able to slow the global warning by bringing back industries from countries that refuse to practice pollution control of air and water. If we bring back those industries we may provide better security within our borders, and better food sources, and better air. Because we are one of the largest consumer of goods, maybe if these industries return back we may slow down this atmospheric green house effect because our industries will practice safe enviornmental controls and this could shut down the smoke stacks and uncontrolled pollution in other countries.

    Comment by Oleo — 7 Oct 2008 @ 3:59 AM

  65. Edward Greish says, once again:

    Nuclear power is the safest source of electricity, bar none.

    Tell it to the Ukrainians.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 7 Oct 2008 @ 4:23 AM

  66. RE #57

    Oddly, though, I came up with the figure of 640 million before I knew what the pre-fossil fuel global population was, by the civilization collapse estimate–coincidental? M

    Comment by markr — 7 Oct 2008 @ 4:28 AM

  67. markr writes:

    Since there are about 6.5 billion humans on the planet now, reducing the population by a factor of 10 makes a good starting point.

    How do you propose to do that? Gas chambers? Plagues? Nuclear weapons?

    And again, do you volunteer to be one of those reduced?

    CAPTCHA words: “worthless subject”

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 7 Oct 2008 @ 4:31 AM

  68. [edit]

    Pielke Jr has a nice summary of ‘science as politics at real climate,’ here:

    Comment by Paul Biggs — 7 Oct 2008 @ 4:36 AM

  69. Alastair,

    You seem seem to think that Sarah Palin is an ordinary hockey mom, but she is an intelligent and educated woman playing the role of one. Call it politics, call it ‘connecting to the voters’, call it campaigning. She understands very well that science is saying that there is a 90% certainty that climate change is anthropogenic. And then she turns around and tells her electorate there is a lot of uncertainty and we should therefore choose adaptation over mitigation. That is what I would call dishonest. But all is fair in love and war. And politics. Especially when there’s an election coming up.

    Comment by Anne van der Bom — 7 Oct 2008 @ 5:35 AM

  70. #28, #51, markr, #57 Dave Werth,

    markr, you come to your 650 million by dividing 6.5 billion by 10. How you got to this number, you explain as follows: “I made a rough guess of the percentage drop in civilization populations when they crashed due to environmental overreach, based on generalized information. I don’t recall the percentage…” If find that rather disappointing after ending your first post with the sentence: “Any solutions posed here or elsewhere which do not admit of the need for massive population reduction–which is in reality the only solution which can be forced upon us humans to resolve this matter–is shortsighted, naive, and intellectually dishonest.” I had expected a more robust base for your estimates.

    The other way of estimating the population that this planet can support without fossils-based fertilizers by looking at the population around 1700, is not accurate either. The first question you must ask is how much of the earth’s argricultural potential was being used at that time? The second thing you both overlook is that agriculture has not stood still in the past 300 years. Much of that knowledge and progress can be applied to biological farming. When I simply look at the prices of biological vegetables in my local supermarket, their price does not differ that much from ordinary vegetables. That is an indication we probably don’t need 10x as much land to grow the same crop. And then of course there is the meat issue. A lot of the agricultural land is dedicated to the production of meat. By simply eating less meat, we can feed a lot more people.

    The population reduction will take place, but not for the reason you think. It will be voluntary. In many western countries the fertility rate is dropping below 2.1, the replacement rate for industrialized countries.

    Comment by Anne van der Bom — 7 Oct 2008 @ 5:39 AM

  71. RE #70 et al, Simple tilling agriculture is destructive to soil through wind and water erosion. The best soils (loess) have been blown away a long time ago, or washed onto floodplains where agriculture then moves from the loess hilltops. With increased populations due to the abundance of food (and notice here, that people do not choose to voluntarily limit their population but rather see excess food production as further incentive to reproduce, modern contraception notwithstanding), hillsides are then tilled which rapidly erode far beyond the natural rate. Modern examples are North Korea’s foolish slopeside cultivation of corn, Honduras in Hurricane Mitch?, and Northern China’s Yellow River. 50% of fertile topsoil has been blown off the top of Iowa in a century of European agriculture, and the remaining non-mineral soil biology is distorted by perverse amounts of artificial nitrogen application. A map of soil depletion and exhaustion is worldwide, on all continents. Again, see SOIL by Montgomery.
    My estimate of peak human population without the influence of fossil fuels is, again, based roughly on an agriculture/wood based economy. There are only so many forests and so much tillable soil, far less than the sum landmass on the planet. By looking at the matter from several angles one roughly comes near the same population peak. I cannot be any more accurate than that since this is not my field of expertise. This 640 million is not, by the way, a sustainable population, either, but rather the point at which a non-fossil fuel human population would reach a similar ecological crisis point. Add to that the current problems of ecosystem annihilation and the accelerant of AGW, and you must force that peak population downwards–and I argue severely so.
    It’s true that the human fertility rate is dropping, but the timeline for it to fall to a truly sustainable level extends beyond the crisis point for AGW and ecosystem destruction. Further, there is no end–NONE AT ALL–to dire ecosystem destruction; it continues unabated and is accelerating. Technology only allows us to do more damage faster. This fact cannot be ignored in favor of rosy scenarios, which again, are bailing the ocean with a teaspoon.
    RE: #67 gas chambers, plagues, nuclear weapons? I am not suggesting any of these so-called solutions. They are ghastly and barbaric, and it is insulting to suppose that I am advocating any such thing. Rather, circumstance will force population reduction upon the human race, as always, when we bump up hard against the limits of our ultimate niche, the sum of all other life on this planet. Further, I wouldn’t rule out that some zealots somewhere wouldn’t advocate or pursue such tactics, but mass starvation will be tragic enough without these horsemen. M

    Comment by markr — 7 Oct 2008 @ 8:26 AM

  72. It is worth saying over and over again that clean coal is a dirty lie.

    Both Rosa Clemente and Matt Gonzalez who are running for VP oppose further use of coal. Clemente urges support of Al Gore’s call for civil disobedience while Gonzalez calls clean coal a myth.

    Comment by Chris Dudley — 7 Oct 2008 @ 8:26 AM

  73. Cassidy says (#50): “I am begging the scientific community to speak up before it is too late…. Please, someone say something to the voters!!!”

    [edit] What do you think scientists have been doing for the past 20 years if not warning of these threats?!? Exactly, how would you suggest we get our message across–comandeer the Faux News studios? I don’t know how to break this to you, Cassidy, but we live in a nation where more people vote in American Idol competitions than in Presidential elections…where it took 40 years to convince people that smoking was actually dangerous…where more people believe in Angels than in evolution (and no I don’t think they’re exclusive). So, I’m open to suggestions, Cassidy, how exactly do we communicate the gravity of a threat that won’t manifest in earnest for a century to a bunch of ignorant food tubes who can’t think beyond tonight’s television schedule.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 7 Oct 2008 @ 8:29 AM

  74. Re: #69

    Somebody please explain to me how we “know that 90% of climate change is anthropogenic”?

    What can such a statement even mean?

    And can we rule out the positive phase of PDO as contributing anything at all to the warming of the last 30 years? Or the relative paucity of volcanic eruptions? Or two very strong el ninos?

    Are we really that certain that .54*C of the .6*C warming since 1978 is anthropogenic?

    And for decision-making purposes, isn’t it enough to acknowledge that man’s activities have played a role, and will continue to play an even larger role?

    Biden’s “We know the cause; we know it’s man” was crude and simplistic, and as such anti-intellectual and irresponsible. If that’s his true view, then he may have drunk too much Kool Aid.

    We are in the business these days of stating with certainty that about which we should be merely “confident.” We are, as I have stated previously, in the process of stapling hypotheses to a theory and declaring the lot of it “proved”.

    Again: Of the two responses, I found Palin’s the more accurate.

    Comment by Walt Bennett — 7 Oct 2008 @ 9:32 AM

  75. markr wrote: “Since there are about 6.5 billion humans on the planet now, reducing the population by a factor of 10 makes a good starting point.”

    Barton Paul Levenson wrote: “How do you propose to do that? Gas chambers? Plagues? Nuclear weapons? And again, do you volunteer to be one of those reduced?”

    None of those are needed. It is pretty much guaranteed that all 6.5 billion humans alive today will be dead within a century. Therefore, all that is required to reduce the human population to near zero by the end of this century is for humans to stop reproducing. I “volunteered” for that effort about 15 years ago when I chose to have a vasectomy. I encourage all other males to make the same choice.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 7 Oct 2008 @ 10:02 AM

  76. One might think that the issue of AGW, pronounced by many influential members of the global scientific and higher knowledge communities as the greatest threat the world has ever faced, would at least warrant a somewhat thoughtful response from either candidate. Palin’s answer was mostly illogical nonsense, and Biden was simply playing homage to the popular consensus. Neither candidate seemed genuinely informed and certainly didn’t seem personally concerned

    Comment by Rando — 7 Oct 2008 @ 10:03 AM

  77. From Pielke (68):

    Well the IPCC says that at least 50% of the global temperature increase since 1950 can be attributed to human causes. Presumably that leaves as much as 50% of the increase due to non-human causes. So it probably is fair to say that there is a mix of human and non-human sources for change.

    Fair to say? This sounds like a total misrepresentation of the IPCC position to me.

    [Response: Yes. It is a misrepresentation. As far as we can tell the natural forces for climate change are actually towards cooling (solar and volcanic) over this period. The role of internal variability is more uncertain and feeds into the inability to define a) exactly how much of the warming is a climate change (as opposed to weather noise) or b) the exact correspondence between the models used for attribution and the data. See figure 9.5 for instance in the AR4 report – human-related effects explain more than 100% of the warming in recent decades in the mean. – gavin]

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 7 Oct 2008 @ 10:52 AM

  78. Meat eaters would probably eat the people who threatened them with such a thing.

    Comment by JCH — 7 Oct 2008 @ 11:20 AM

  79. Rod B.: “As an aside, what’s the cause for you (all) to speculate that McCain would turn energy policy over to Palin?”

    Hi Rod.

    I believe the answer is rather obvious. Regardless of whether anyone believes Palin assumes the role Cheny did in terms of directing energy policy from the early days of the Bush administration, as was widely reported at the time and since, the discussion is relevant simply because she will be one heartbeat away from the Presidency, to coin the overused cliche.

    In short, she could be directing energy policy.

    But even beyond that, McCain’s choice of Ms. Palin underscores the fact that HE seems to have no problem with her take on energy issues, and as such, it is valid to take a good look at what she has done, and what positions she has taken.

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 7 Oct 2008 @ 11:42 AM

  80. Walt #76:

    “We are in the business these days of stating with certainty that about which we should be merely “confident.” We are, as I have stated previously, in the process of stapling hypotheses to a theory and declaring the lot of it “proved”.”

    You seem certain of that. Maybe you should rewrite it as “confident.


    (PS the sun will come up tomorrow. Stated as FACT. When we know several ways it is not true).

    Comment by Mark — 7 Oct 2008 @ 12:52 PM

  81. re: 17 – “Sarah Palin works with energy companies which means she has a lot of contact with geologists. Gee, where do you think she gets the idea that AGW might not be man made.”

    You are engaging in a fallacy here re exclusion of unfavorable items: While she “worked with” energy companies, her primary contacts appear to revolve around her time as the “public” member of the three member Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (AOGCC). While this appointment may have put her in contact with people with backgrounds in geology, and even people actively practising in the field, the suggestion is her contacts were more likely with the upper levels of the corporate structures of the gas and oil companies.

    It is also worth pointing out that this was not something she wanted – she was after a vacant senate seat and rebuffed, ending up with this position as more of a consolation prize, at least from her perspective. And while she did work to get up to speed re energy issues, it by no means follows that her exposure to the industry made her knowledgeable of the science behind AGW. Again, given her statements regarding science (re Creationism and Evolution should be taught along side one another, for example) and her track record on the environment, there is nothing to suggest she will “see” what she doesn’t want to see.

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 7 Oct 2008 @ 12:54 PM

  82. Rando:

    How does:
    “Palin’s answer was mostly illogical nonsense, and Biden was simply playing homage to the popular consensus.”

    come to this conclusion:

    “Neither candidate seemed genuinely informed and certainly didn’t seem personally concerned”


    There’s no need to inform yourself to spout nonsense. But if you are to spout the consensus, you must at least have informed yourself of what the consensus was.

    I suspect what is happening here is you’d like to agree with Palin. However, she put up such a terrible performance (maybe she should have whipped the tweeds off) that you can’t. So rather than have to face the Other Candidate, you rubbish them both.

    Meaning that you can with clear conscience and asserting “logical decision”, vote as you wanted to in the first place.

    Comment by Mark — 7 Oct 2008 @ 12:57 PM

  83. Re Oleo @64: “Information from the USGS shows daily emmission measurments of 1500 to 30000 tons of CO2…”

    The USGS will also tell you that world-wide each year volcanoes emit less than 1% as much CO2 as the burning of fossil fuels does.

    Comment by Jim Eager — 7 Oct 2008 @ 1:50 PM

  84. #77. Misrepresentation is a term that could be applied to the IPCC, given the failure to adequately recognise a number of issues in the literature, including unresolved issues with the surface temperature record, and the paleoclimate record. The LOSU of solar factors is rated as low/very low. The attempt to link hurricanes and global warming looks even sillier now than when Chris Landsea resigned, given recent publications.

    That said, the science is becoming almost irrelevant, given that:

    Carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and cement manufacturing are rising faster than the worst-case scenario drawn up by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). According to the latest worldwide carbon budget, released by the Global Carbon Project, CO2 levels rose by 3.5% a year between 2000 and 2007, compared with 2.7% as calculated by the IPCC. During the 1990s, emissions rose at 0.9% a year. “For a decade we’ve been using the [IPCC] middle-ground scenario, while we’re actually in a different realm of emissions,” says Pep Canadell, the project’s executive director. China is now the biggest emitter of CO2 and responsible for 21% of the world’s emissions — up from 14% in 2002. This knocks the United States into second place, contributing 19% of global emissions. India is fourth, but looks set to take third place from Russia this year. Currently, more than half of the global emissions come from less developed countries.

    Despite the quite dramatic increase in CO2 emissions, we have ‘global non-warming’ since about 2002.

    So really the IPCC/Real Climate policy is one of increasing emissions from developing countries in excess of any reductions achieved by developed countries. The mock ‘battle’ to reduce CO2 emissions is already lost – so the UN agenda is exposed as wealth redistribution rather than climate:

    Reframing the climate change challenge in light of post-2000 emission trends’ by Kevin Anderson and Alice Bows.

    The Abstract states:

    The 2007 Bali conference heard repeated calls for reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions of 50 per cent by 2050 to avoid exceeding the 28C threshold. While such endpoint targets dominate the policy agenda, they do not, in isolation, have a scientific basis and are likely to lead to dangerously misguided policies. To be scientifically credible, policy must be informed by an understanding of cumulative emissions and associated emission pathways. This analysis considers the implications of the 28C threshold and a range of post-peak emission reduction rates for global emission pathways and cumulative emission budgets. The paper examines whether empirical estimates of greenhouse gas emissions between 2000 and 2008, a period typically modelled within scenario studies, combined with short-term extrapolations of current emissions trends, significantly constrains the 2000–2100 emission pathways. The paper concludes that it is increasingly unlikely any global agreement will deliver the radical reversal in emission trends required for stabilization at 450 ppmv carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). Similarly, the current framing of climate change cannot be reconciled with the rates of mitigation necessary to stabilize at 550 ppmv CO2e and even an optimistic interpretation suggests stabilization much below 650 ppmv CO2e is improbable.

    If the only choice is for a US presidential team that thinks that the science attempting to link humans and ‘big warming’ is settled, or it can predictably control or influence the climate/weather by attempting to manipulate atmospheric CO2, then I wouldn’t bother voting.

    [Response: You are so wrong on so many levels it bewilders me. Emissions of CO2 greater than predicted make mitigation less of a priority? The solution to political problems is not to vote? Science is irrelevant? And you appear to think that IPCC and RealClimate are in some kind of conspiracy to redistribute wealth? Nice one – I’m sure my check is in the mail. Get real. – gavin]

    Comment by Paul Biggs — 7 Oct 2008 @ 2:20 PM

  85. Re: #80

    Care to address the actual point? Or is your only intent to be “clever”? (And you’re not going to get paid much for that skill, I’d advise…)

    Comment by Walt Bennett — 7 Oct 2008 @ 3:20 PM

  86. 85: The actual point is that unless both sides KNOW what you mean when you use mealey words (like possible) else one side will come to one of two conclusions

    a) you’re weaselling out of it
    b) you’re making it up

    When someone asks you how tall you are, you don’t explain that you are taller early in the morning when you’ve just got out of bed and shorter at the end of the day when you get into bed. Because someone will think you a smartarse.

    But instead you say “Five foot ten”. It’s even wrong. You’re really a smidgin over 5′ 10″. But getting accurate is also not wanted.

    As to the sun: here’s how it can be false that it comes up tomorrow:

    I’ll die. No tomorrow as far as my universe is concerned.
    It *could* die during the night.
    An asteroid big enough to smack the earth about could hit.
    Tomorrow never comes. Well before sunrise, Tomorrow is now the day after.
    You’re on the summer pole.
    When ***IS*** sunrise?

    But in the interests of not spending all day saying how the sun will maybe rise, we use “The sun will rise in the morning”. Stating AS FACT something that for many people will be wrong for any number of reasons. And needn’t be true at all for all of us in some VERY unlikely scenarios.


    Comment by Mark — 7 Oct 2008 @ 4:07 PM

  87. @ Gavin (77):

    Thanks for the backup. I thought it was a very peculiar way to justify Palin’s claim.

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 7 Oct 2008 @ 4:44 PM

  88. Gavin (#77)-

    The IPCC suggests as much as a 10% chance that all of the observed increase could be due solely to natural factors:

    “Attribution studies show that it is very likely that these natural forcing factors alone cannot account for the observed warming.”

    p. 60 of the TS (quantification of uncertainty terms found on p. 23):

    On that same page the IPCC also says that there is a >90% [“very likely”]chance that >50% [“most”]of the observed increase is due to greenhouse gases:

    “It is very likely that anthropogenic greenhouse
    gas increases caused most of the observed increase
    in global average temperatures since the mid-20th

    So the IPCC says that there is

    *as much as a 10% chance of natural forcing alone causing 100% of the temperature increase

    *more than 90% chance of GHGs causing >50% of the temperature increase

    Although the IPCC unfortunately did not chose to express its uncertainty for the role of internal variability (what you call “noise”) it leave an explicit role for it:

    “There is also increased confidence that natural internal
    variability cannot account for the observed changes”

    Presumably then internal variability accounts for whatever is unexplained by GHGs + other human + natural forcing.

    But lets be clear, the IPCC leaves open the possibility of a 100% non-human cause in the forcing to explain the temperature increase, at the

    [Response: (don’t use < signs without the html &lt; ). However, I’m going to respond to what I think you meant to say, presumably that there is a tiny chance that there might be a non-human related cause for the warming. Sure, nothing is ever known about the real world to 100%. So what? That is a long way from claiming that the IPCC are suggesting that 50% of the warming is natural. PS. I see that once again you have abandoned professional courtesy in your blog postings about us. I kindly request that you return to a more adult level of conversation if you really want to engage. Or is a simple request a ‘bullying tendency’ too? If you prefer to simply insult people from the sidelines, please continue to do whatever you like – elsewhere. – gavin]

    Comment by Roger Pielke Jr. — 7 Oct 2008 @ 4:55 PM

  89. Gavin-

    Those greater than/less than signs were actually meant to be greater than and less than signs, not HTML. Here is the rest of my post that was not posted:

    But lets be clear, the IPCC leaves open the possibility of a 100% non-human cause in the forcing to explain the temperature increase, at the less than 10% level. It also leaves open the possibility that internal variability plays a role in some part of the observed global temperature increase.

    We also know post-AR4 that engine intakes on ships also play a role, but I digress;-)

    Anyway, this is not skepticism, it is simply reporting what the IPCC actually says. Uncertainty is OK, we can live with it. There is no need to pretend that it does not exist.

    It is not a “misrepresentation” to say that there is plenty of room for asserting that there is some combination of natural and human roles in observed climate changes. You can call 10% “tiny” — Statisticians would use other words. I am surprised that the IPCC allows such a high percentage — a lot of people would be surprised to learn that the IPCC thinks that there is perhaps a 1 in 10 chance that the warming trend is 100% natural.

    The IPCC fairly obviously appears to leave open the possibility than the GHG role in trends since midcentury is 50% or more, leaving a large balance to be explained by natural forcings or variability. You may read the IPCC differently, though I am not sure how.

    PS. If you indeed would like me not to comment here, simply say the word and I won’t.

    Comment by Roger Pielke. Jr. — 7 Oct 2008 @ 6:03 PM

  90. Re: #85

    (as long as the gatekeepers continue to humor us)



    The AGW community, among whom I will include scientists who either blog or contribute to them, students with some training who have made a dedicated hobby of following specific aspects of AGW, and common laypeople who believe this is a major issue which they should not ignore: this group, in general, has shifted in tone in the last two years.

    The tone at one time was: “The science is persuasive, and if true, indicates that we are running out of time to make the necessary changes to the radiative balance of the planet.”

    The tone today is more like: “Why are we still talking? The denialists are all insane, add nothing, repeat the same endless repudiated crap, and delay action! Their clear motive is to make it impossible to do anything, because they prefer the status quo. Oh and by the way, AR4 nailed the coffin shut. AGW is now proved, and the most urgent and disruptive actions must be undertaken with as little delay as possible.”

    I sit here and I ask, how did we get here in two short years? I thank Roger Pielke Jr. for pulling out of AR4 their own words of uncertainty.

    One aspect of this to which I pay particular attention is the definition of the word “theory.” I’ve mentioned recently that I’ve gotten some good think points from the skeptosphere, and here is one: somebody asked me recently, when did all of this become a scientific theory? Who decided that the hypotheses were strong enough and well enough developed to be considered “theory”?

    After all, aren’t we always defending AGW Theory from the charge that “it’s just a theory” with the reply “Ahem. In science, ‘theory’ means ‘high confidence that this is the way it is. There is no higher standard in science. After all, gravity is still a ‘theory.”

    We’ve all made that point. Well, then let’s turn it on its head. What part of AGW rises to the level of ‘theory’? I can think of one: CO2 is a greenhouse gas; as such, its increased presence in the atmosphere will cause a radiative imbalance, causing the planet system as a whole to warm.”

    Does anybody want to tell me where that warming will be stored? How much? How soon? Which feedbacks will quicken or slow the change?

    In other words, all of these things we discuss on a regular basis. We know there’s been a great deal of study on these questions. Some have been modeled, some have been observed over thirty years or so, some have been analyzed geologically. We’re out there. We’re researching. We’re collecting good, solid data.

    Now, what does that leave us with? Here’s where we haven’t been near careful enough, and why skeptics will always be useful and necessary.

    Raise your hand if you have attached any conclusion based on that research to AGW theory itself. If your hand is not in the air, you are either highly disciplined or a liar. And judging by the general tone of this group, 90% of you should have your hands in the air.

    I talk about insularity. It’s real. There is a lot of cross-support going on. I think it’s unhealthy. I think it increases the chance that we miss something important.

    If I was president, I’d want somebody like Sarah Palin asking certain questions, just to make sure somebody asked them. If my staff was filled only with people who looked at an issue – any issue – the same way, I would be fairly sure we’d end up missing something.

    Some of you will no doubt waste little time responding: HOW MUXH MORE EVIDENCE DO YOU NEED? COME ON MAN!”

    I get it. You go ahead and feel that way. I’m going to feel this way for at least a while longer.

    Comment by Walt Bennett — 7 Oct 2008 @ 6:47 PM

  91. Re: #84

    I’d like to quote from this excellent post:

    The paper concludes that it is increasingly unlikely any global agreement will deliver the radical reversal in emission trends required for stabilization at 450 ppmv carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). Similarly, the current framing of climate change cannot be reconciled with the rates of mitigation necessary to stabilize at 550 ppmv CO2e and even an optimistic interpretation suggests stabilization much below 650 ppmv CO2e is improbable.

    If the only choice is for a US presidential team that thinks that the science attempting to link humans and ‘big warming’ is settled, or it can predictably control or influence the climate/weather by attempting to manipulate atmospheric CO2, then I wouldn’t bother voting.

    I was disappointed in Gavin’s response, which I suppose is an indication that I still harbor the dream that scientists are striving to remain impartial.

    Everything about this post is relevant to any rational person’s consideration of where we are as a planet and what we need to do. Any consideration of the economic effects of the AGW solutions business without consideration of the political conditions and effects, would be bizarre to say the least.

    And any consideration of either effect without consideration of the science of the whole thing, would be simply insane.

    Are we insane?

    If not, please read that post. Gavin, that includes you. If I’m not wrong, you gave it the most perfunctory glance the first time.

    [Response: But what is your point? We have never advocated a target for stabilisation, and we rarely (if ever) discuss policy options. We aren’t policymakers nor policy wonks, but climate scientists. If you want to know what difference 650 ppmv will make compared to 450 ppmv (or even 350 ppmv) we can give you a reasonable estimate. But I can’t tell you how best to achieve it or if such a target is feasible. – gavin]

    Comment by Walt Bennett — 7 Oct 2008 @ 7:00 PM

  92. Roger (#88), your interpretation borders on the perverse. The conclusions given are merely what the evidence allows–not the best estimate. To quote directly:

    “It is extremely unlikely (

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 7 Oct 2008 @ 7:10 PM

  93. 68 Paul says, “Pielke Jr has a nice summary of ’science as politics at real climate,’ ” Paul, “nice” is an erroneous label for that attack piece:

    Junior started with a low blow about blog policy. Truly a shameful juvenile attack.

    Pielke, re-read the question. ” What is true and what is false about what we have heard, read, discussed, and debated about the causes of climate change?” The sun is blank of sunspots and has been dropping in output for 51 years. The 65N summer insolation is very slowly dropping as well. Biden’s, “It is definitely manmade.” refers to the systemic problem, and “Definitely” expresses certainty in a human fashion, not a mathematical one. Will the sun rise tomorrow? “Definitely.” Pielke’s substitution of “definitely” with “100%” is a serious error, especially since he then links “Biden’s 100%” to Alaska! Biden talked global, not Alaska.

    Pielke then wanders off on a wild goose/weather chase, noting that the IPCC allowed for natural variations in weather to be a portion of the warming. Translation of the IPCC: Here’s the amount of warming, and we think it is all human-caused, but there are error-bars in any scientific answer. The signal is overlaid with weather and decadal oscillations, so our estimate could be double or could be half the actual human-caused climate change. We know of no other source for climate change acting today.

    Only the causes of climate change were to be discussed, so please stay on topic! Pielke, tell us of another climate change issue besides mankind that is acting in a warming fashion, or refute that there is any significant climate change going on. Try to not make the sophomoric error of mixing periodic oscillations and weather with climate.

    All in all, your post was mean, erroneous, unclear, and deviated badly from the subject matter. You’d flunk a freshman exam with that post.

    Paul asked, “can we rule out the positive phase of PDO as contributing anything at all to the warming of the last 30 years? Or the relative paucity of volcanic eruptions? Or two very strong el ninos?” Your question is phrased badly. Everyone agrees that weather exists. Your question implies that some folks don’t believe in weather.

    Paul asked, “Are we really that certain that .54*C of the .6*C warming since 1978 is anthropogenic?” You’re mixing probabilities with fractions. 90% refers to a chance of something being true, and that 90% figure was erroneously reverse-engineered as well. “very likely” means 90-94.9%.

    Comment by RichardC — 7 Oct 2008 @ 8:09 PM

  94. Paul Biggs says: “If the only choice is for a US presidential team that thinks that the science attempting to link humans and ‘big warming’ is settled, or it can predictably control or influence the climate/weather by attempting to manipulate atmospheric CO2, then I wouldn’t bother voting.”

    Well, given that both Presidential candidates are on record as accepting the science and saying something needs to be done, can we count on you to stay home Nov. 4 and thereby increase the average intelligence of the electorate?

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 7 Oct 2008 @ 8:14 PM

  95. Try this again–more simply: Roger, Let’s say you were playing a betting game in which you drew balls from an urn and bet on whether they’d be white or black. You observe that the first 22 balls drawn are all white. All we can say with 90% confidence is that no more than 10% of the balls are black. Would you then bet on black even if I gave you 10:1 odds? Feel Lucky?

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 7 Oct 2008 @ 8:38 PM

  96. Richard C. (#90)-

    You might rethink this statement:

    “Try to not make the sophomoric error of mixing periodic oscillations and weather with climate.”

    Even political scientists know that ENSO, PDO, NAO, AMM, AMO and other modes of variability are **climate** phenomena.

    While you are at it you might review the IPCC definition of “climate change” which includes human and natural causes of change:

    “Climate change refers to a change in the state of the climate that can be identified (e.g., by using statistical tests) by changes in the mean and/or the variability of its properties, and that persists for an extended period, typically decades or longer. Climate change may be due to natural internal processes or external forcings, or to persistent anthropogenic changes in the composition of the atmosphere or in land use.”

    There is plenty of variability on time scales of decades or longer, and some of that variability manifests itself as periodic oscillations. But really, your time is probably much better spent arguing with a political scientist about policy rather than basics of climate science.

    Comment by Roger Pielke. Jr. — 7 Oct 2008 @ 8:56 PM

  97. Re the comments to my #57:

    My guess is the planet could comfortably support 1-2 billion people on a sustainable moderate standard of living with the knowledge & technology we have, maybe 3B if we’re careful about it. If (when?) the ecosystems that support us collapse the population will be reduced whether we like it or not. I may be by a reduced birthrate, starvation, disease, war or something else. Probably a combination of the above. I expect there will be some large wars over resources this century.

    Comment by Dave Werth — 7 Oct 2008 @ 8:58 PM

  98. Ray (#93)-

    If there are 10% black balls in your urn, then the odds of drawing 22 in a row that are white are about 10% (9.85% to be exact, using a binomial distribution).

    So if you gave me 10:1 odds, that would be just about a fair bet.

    Comment by Roger Pielke. Jr. — 7 Oct 2008 @ 9:19 PM

  99. > 22 in a row that are white

    In Ray’s example, note that it’s the _first_22_ that have been drawn —
    all of which are white, and nobody knows what’s in the urn.

    Still confident making a 10:1 bet that the 23rd, when drawn, will prove to be a black one?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 8 Oct 2008 @ 12:17 AM

  100. Re: #91 inline


    Thanks for asking, because I really want to answer that question, and since you are the one who asked it, perhaps some will pay attention to the answer who otherwise might not.

    What is the point?

    The point is that we are being lied to. You don’t lie. Let’s say in a perfect world everything you say is completely accurate.

    Then your PR office issues a statement describing the implications of your work. Those are their words, not yours.

    Then the press gets the release and writes a story based on it. “More Evidence Of AGW” is the likely headline, with the story selecting the quotes which best illustrate the point.

    AGW has become a juggernaut. It has morphed from a theory into an industry. The lay public is worse off than ever, trying to discern what’s true from what’s possible from what’s wrong, as well as trying to unravel various motives.

    I’ve said this before. When there are two vociferous and dedicated sides to an issue, it’s almost for certain that neither side is completely right or completely wrong.

    And if ever there was an issue where “right” and “wrong” are subjective, this is it.

    The reason I quoted the passage that I did was because it is so illustrative of the doubt which has crept into this process, and why that doubt is necessary.

    550? 650? Dr. Hansen says that anything over 350 is armageddon. Rates are rising higher than the BAU scenario of AR4.

    In other words, it looks as though mitigation is dead before it starts. You ask “so that means we should do nothing?”

    No, it means we should be honest about the situation so we can allocate our resources the best way possible. We probably only get one chance to get this right.

    If there is literally no way to avoid even the most generous tipping point, then adaptation must become a higher priority than it is today.

    The point is that we must be honest and transparent and restrained. Why? Because when people believe they aren’t getting the straight story, they wonder why.

    And then they don’t know what to believe. And if they don’t know what to believe, then they don’t know what to do.

    Anyway, that’s the view from here. You most likely see it differently, but I thank you for sharing your forum with me, and for asking the question.

    I am still a “warmer”. :-)

    Comment by Walt Bennett — 8 Oct 2008 @ 12:58 AM

  101. Re: #93

    RichardC wrote: “Your question is phrased badly. Everyone agrees that weather exists. Your question implies that some folks don’t believe in weather.”


    I chose three things that are more than “weather”. Each of these events is evident in multi-year scales on any temperature graph. PDO can last decades, El nino for several years, the same for volcanoes.

    I will point you toward Roger Pielke Jr.’s posts regarding uncertainty in AR4.

    Comment by Walt Bennett — 8 Oct 2008 @ 1:03 AM

  102. P sez: “Climate change refers to typically decades or longer. ”

    Three decades is the standard for consideration to be a potential climate change variable. That scale excludes ENSO, PDO, NAO, AMO, etc; regelating them to weather patterns. They are short-term phenomena that leave residuals. They affect the climate, but are NOT climate change. Feedbacks which arise from these short-term processes can evolve into climate change and climate change can potentially alter these processes, but you certainly haven’t given any evidence, nor even addressed the possibility.

    P says: There is plenty of variability on time scales of decades or longer, and some of that variability manifests itself as periodic oscillations. But really, your time is probably much better spent arguing with a political scientist about policy rather than basics of climate science.

    No, my time is better spent talking to folks who know what they are talking about. Let’s see if you know anything: Does El Nino systemically warm or cool the planet?

    98 Roger is wrong again. (Adding a standard caveat – there are near infinite balls in the urn, so the drawing of balls doesn’t change the percentage of white VS black remaining).
    Odds on percentage black in the urn are about:
    0% 20%
    1% 17%
    note that 50% of the time there are 0-2% black!
    3% 10%
    4% 9%
    5% 7%
    6% 5%
    7% 4%
    8% 3%
    9% 2%
    10% 2%
    It’s a sucker bet and you fell for it. Ray, you needed to make it way simpler for Roger.

    Comment by RichardC — 8 Oct 2008 @ 2:01 AM

  103. So if you gave me 10:1 odds, that would be just about a fair bet.

    Yes it would, wouldn’t it? But that’s not what Ray was asking (where’s James Annan when you need him?). The question was would you take it?

    You seem to see mental imagery of someone putting white balls into the urn, and then admixing black balls to 10%. I (and presumably Ray) have a mental image where that last step is missing ;-)

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 8 Oct 2008 @ 2:12 AM

  104. Oleo writes:

    Consider the various chemical gases emitted daily from the volcanoes

    Volcanoes put about 200 million tons of carbon dioxide into the air every year, according to the US Geological Survey. Human industry puts about 30 billion tons in. So human emissions dwarf volcanic by a factor of 150. You can’t blame the volcanoes for global warming.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 8 Oct 2008 @ 4:04 AM

  105. walt bennett writes:

    Of the two responses, I found Palin’s the more accurate.

    That’s like saying of a debate on solar system history between Immanuel Velikovsky and Carl Sagan, “I found Velikovsky’s the more accurate.”

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 8 Oct 2008 @ 4:08 AM

  106. Paul Biggs writes:

    Despite the quite dramatic increase in CO2 emissions, we have ‘global non-warming’ since about 2002.

    No we don’t. Get rid of the spaces and go to these sites:

    http://www.g e o c i t i e

    http://www.g e o c i t i e

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 8 Oct 2008 @ 4:13 AM

  107. Walt Bennett, #74:

    My 90% was not meant as an exact quantification of the uncertainty, more an expression that the climate science community is very certain about it.


    If I was president, I’d want somebody like Sarah Palin asking certain questions, just to make sure somebody asked them.

    If I was president, I’d want somebody like Sarah Palin asking certain questions, just to make sure somebody asked them, and accept the answers, however painful they may be. That’s why I’ll never be president.

    Comment by Anne van der Bom — 8 Oct 2008 @ 5:25 AM

  108. Dave 97. Standard of living is about to be redefined. Our children will be pleased to have food. Period.

    Comment by Nigel Williams — 8 Oct 2008 @ 5:44 AM

  109. Be careful with that bet, Roger. The 90% confidence level has nothing to do with statistics. Ray (like the IPCC) does not believe that there are any black balls in that urn; he is certain that at least 50% of the warming observed since 1978 is anthropomorphic.

    From the UAH chart, the temperature increase about which Ray is so confident actually occurred over the two years between December 1999 and December 2001. If that temperature step had fallen back immediately, like so many others, there would be no global warming consensus today.

    But look at current temperatures; they are fluctuating about the 1978 levels, which were the trough after the previous peak in the forties, after the climb out of the Little Ice Age.

    If these temperatures do not climb again over the next decade, the AGW “consensus” will disintegrate.

    Comment by Fred Staples — 8 Oct 2008 @ 7:11 AM

  110. Roger Pielke accepts my offer: “If there are 10% black balls in your urn, then the odds of drawing 22 in a row that are white are about 10% (9.85% to be exact, using a binomial distribution).

    So if you gave me 10:1 odds, that would be just about a fair bet.”

    So, Roger, want to play p/o/k/e/r some time? I’ll bring the cards. ;-) The devil is in the details of any question of probability. If you accept the offer of 10:1 odds, then what you have done is limit my losses while still leaving yours unbounded. Based on the evidence we cannot say whether there are ANY black balls in the urn in question. Likewise, we have zero evidence implicating natural factors in the current warming epoch. What is more, the physics favors anthropogenic causation–and that should count for something, should it not?

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 8 Oct 2008 @ 7:34 AM

  111. You know, a lot of the discussion about whether Biden’s expressed certainty is consistent with the IPCC ‘90%’ statement misses the mark.

    The IPCC statement is only a statement of the confidence in the attribution of the warming observed to date. In dealing with the broader question of what to do to deal with the problem, one is mostly thinking about future warming. We have many more reasons to be confident in the CO2-climate connection than just the 20th century attribution study — things like laboratory experiments, basic physics, paleoclimate. So, if you consider “global warming” to refer not just to the warming so far (which is not going to magically stop), virtual certainty about the causal connection is quite justified. The fact that the signal-to-noise ratio only allows 90% certainty of attribution of observations to date doesn’t change that.

    It’s the physics, people.

    Comment by raypierre — 8 Oct 2008 @ 7:43 AM

  112. Ray (#11)-

    Sure I’d play p/o/k/e/r with you, but wouldn’t leave the rules ambiguous or subject to change in the middle of the hand;-)

    As far as your statement that:

    “Likewise, we have zero evidence implicating natural factors in the current warming epoch.”

    I am not sure who your “we” is, but it does not include the IPCC, which allows an up to 10% possibility that all of the warming since midcentury is due to natural forcings, and some undefined but nonzero portion could be due to internal processes. If you disagree with these statements, then your argument is with the IPCC, not me.

    While I respect that individuals have their own perspectives, we depart from consensus perspectives at some risk. Given that policy is not sensitive to such uncertainties, but people are sensitive to overstatement and exaggeration, why go there?

    [Response: Roger, you have seriously misunderstood the IPCC position. Ray is correct – there is no evidence that natural forces are causing recent warming. Instead, there is tons of circumstantial evidence that it is due to human-related effects. That the case is not 100% explains the IPCC statement, but that is not the same thing at all as saying there is any evidence for an alternate explanation. The analogy would be a criminal trial in which the defence challenges every piece of the positive evidence indicating their client is guilty, but offers no evidence at all that anyone else committed the crime. The jury might well have some doubts remaining as to the defendent’s guilt, but there is still no evidence for anyone else’s. – gavin]

    Comment by Roger Pielke. Jr. — 8 Oct 2008 @ 9:27 AM

  113. Re: Mark at 82. Of course I’m not a USA citizen, so no need to decide on who to vote for. I just find it interesting that the VP candidates didn’t expand a bit more on their positions considering that they must have known the topic would have been discussed at some point in the debate, and that they must have been fully aware of their opponent’s differing opinion on the root cause of recent climate change. I keep hearing that climate change is a serious and imminent threat to the entire planet, and so was looking forward to bit more substance from both candidates.

    Comment by Rando — 8 Oct 2008 @ 9:42 AM

  114. Roger, since you’re defending Palin, how do you defend this statement:

    But there are real changes going on in our climate. And I don’t want to argue about the causes. What I want to argue about is, how are we going to get there to positively affect the impacts?”

    Surely, you’ll agree that mitigating the impacts due to the anthropogenic part of the warming (whatever fraction above 50% that is) means reducing fossil carbon emissions.

    How else can we “positively affect the impacts”?

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 8 Oct 2008 @ 10:08 AM

  115. 101 Walt, you’re confusing weather patterns with climate change. If an oscillation reverts to its previous state or an event wanes, and no enduring mark is left, then it ain’t climate change. The (arbitrary) 30 year boundary was set to allow for oscillations and volcanic eruptions to settle and so not significantly affect climate change concepts. You and Pielke are being disingenious in attempting to lump weather patterns with climate change. Mixing noise with the signal is all you’re doing.

    110 Ray, I salute you. Pielke now is burdened with his own attack since it links to this thread. All his readers will now know that he can’t comprehend the concept behind a simple black and white ball probability question! Pick your philosophy – Karma works or God is just or Wicca’s what you sow you’ll reap thrice, it works, eh?

    111 raypierre – excellent point.

    Comment by RichardC — 8 Oct 2008 @ 10:46 AM

  116. Jim (#114)-

    Nice try, but no I am not defending Palin. Here is what I wrote on our blog:

    “I claim no ability to discern the meaning behind Sarah Palin’s convoluted and undiagrammable sentences — on global warming or anything else . . . Further, in my view she is unqualified for the position she is running for (an understatement). . . ”

    I’ve published many articles on both mitigation and adaptation that clearly state my policy views. They are readily available on our website.

    Comment by Roger Pielke. Jr. — 8 Oct 2008 @ 10:54 AM

  117. Gavin is surely correct when he says that the ton of anecdotal evidence about global warming supports the AGW theory. They are all white balls out of the urn, Ray.

    But that theory depends on the “higher is colder” argument – the perturbation of the lapse rate. If increasing CO2 moves the effective radiation altitude upwards, all the lapse rate temperatures must increase with altitude.

    Look at the UAH data (Global Warming at a Glance) and see if you think that has happened.

    From 1978 to date, we have the following trend lines:

    Lower Troposphere : 1.3 degrees C per century
    Mid Troposphere : 0.5 degrees C per century

    If those numbers are not wildly inaccurate, the theory must be changed. They represent, in Popper terminology, the first black ball out of the urn.

    [Response: This is nonsense – both from a philosophical point of view and from a practical point of view. First off, MT includes a hefty weighting from a cooling stratosphere and so is pretty much irrelevant for your argument. Secondly, you know that the LT numbers have a large systematic uncertainty – given that RSS has values significantly larger. Not showing that – or including the uncertainty in the radiosonde analyses is just cherry-picking. Not very Popperish! But even more basic is your confusion of the reason why the greenhouse effect exists in the first place (there is a lapse rate) with the impact of increasing GHGs (which is a warming at the surface regardless of the how the moist adiabatic responds to surface warming). It really is quite simple – the change in the lapse rate is NOT a signature of GHG induced warming! It is a signature of any warming. – gavin]

    Comment by Fred Staples — 8 Oct 2008 @ 12:43 PM

  118. Re: #115


    So now we have a new term: “weather patterns”. It isn’t climate, it isn’t weather, it’s weather patterns! Fine.

    Did you not grasp my general point that there are other possible influences in the temperature of the last 30 years?

    Take PDO, for example, which has apparently gone negative and is now contributing to a cooling effect. Does this not at least suggest that it was imparting a warming effect prior to that?

    Two strong el ninos, after which temps returned to roughly the level they were before the events. Two important volcanic events in the entire period.

    In other words, wouldn’t the last thirty years have been warmer than the previous thirty years *anyway*?

    By the way, I concur with Ray that there is much more warming to come.

    See, we get easily confused. I have not said that there is doubt that the planet will warm, perhaps more than the estimates. I have said that we are too quick to state with certainty that which we should be merely confident of. “It’s all man” is one such statement.

    Comment by Walt Bennett — 8 Oct 2008 @ 12:49 PM

  119. Thanks for the reply, Roger. Perhaps you can summarize your policy views here, for convenience. I found your 2007 testimony to be interesting:

    To reiterate, nothing in this testimony should be interpreted as being opposed to or contrary to the mitigation of greenhouse gases. To the contrary, under all scenarios discussed here the benefits of mitigation exceed its costs. Mitigation is good policy, and many decision makers are now coming to understand that it is good politics, as well.

    However, policy discussion about what sort of future we collectively wish to see unfold are myopic if focused only on greenhouse gas emissions.

    I don’t see anything to disagree with here, and it is a welcome word of warning: mitigating carbon emissions surely isn’t enough; issues of habitat destruction, ocean dead zones and overexploitation, freshwater depletion, and soil degradation certainly must be part of humanity’s development planning for the 21st century.

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 8 Oct 2008 @ 12:53 PM

  120. Gavin (#112)-

    Please point me to the place in the IPCC where they state that “there is no evidence that natural forces are causing recent warming” — and please not a graph or some general section, but where the IPCC says as much.

    I read their followings statement quite differently than you do:

    “Attribution studies show that it is very likely that these natural forcing factors alone cannot account for the observed warming.”

    In IPCC parlance “very likely” = 90%. If they had a higher degree of confidence they might have expressed it using a stronger term, like “virtually certain”. Presumably the fact that confidence was expressed at a level lower than the highest level suggests that the IPCC had some reason to believe that natural factors play some role in the temperature trend. In fact their statements say exactly this. We’ll have to agree to disagree on this one, but I think the IPCC is pretty clear.

    [Response: Indeed they are. You however are confused. The subjective strength with which IPCC makes this claim is an expert assessment of confidence – it therefore includes consideration of the fallibility of models, the presumed presence of ‘unknown unknowns’ and the balance of other evidence. ‘Very likely’ seems to me to be the appropriate choice given the methodological and procedural issues involved in the assessment (which is fully described in Chapter 9 – and in particular figure 9.9). The best estimates for the role of natural forcings is for a cooling over this time period. This is not evidence that natural forcings contribute, but given the potential for systematic biases it can’t be completely ruled out. Let me turn this around, if you think that there is any positive evidence that natural forcings or internal variability can have caused recent trends, please point me to the statements in the IPCC that say so. Not being absolutely certain about the most likely cause is not the same as evidence for the least likely! – gavin]

    Richard C- I don’t expect the RC guys to correct either your math or your atmospheric sciences, but they and other informed readers, will know what is correct here ;-)

    Comment by Roger Pielke. Jr. — 8 Oct 2008 @ 12:54 PM

  121. 112 Pielke said, “Sure I’d play p/o/k/e/r with you, but wouldn’t leave the rules ambiguous or subject to change in the middle of the hand”

    Fortunately, we have the rules right here:

    “a betting game in which you drew balls from an urn and bet on whether they’d be white or black. You observe that the first 22 balls drawn are all white. All we can say with 90% confidence is that no more than 10% of the balls are black. Would you then bet on black even if I gave you 10:1 odds?”

    So “All we can say with 90% confidence is that no more than 10% of the balls are black” is either ambiguous OR is equivalent to 10% of the balls MUST be black? Sorry, kid, you’d flunk out of a basic probability course with that answer. The rules were clear, concise, and never changed, yet you essentially called Ray a cheat because you screwed up. Perhaps you’d be better served by growing up and telling the truth, that you misread the scenario and made an honest mistake. Personal Responsibility isn’t your strong suit. You owe Ray an apology and the two possible labels I’d paint you with based on your treatment of Ray’s Game are either intellectually or morally insulting.

    Capcha’s opinion? “to rottenness”

    Comment by RichardC — 8 Oct 2008 @ 1:02 PM

  122. 118 Walt, there is a third realm besides whatever the weatherman says will happen tomorrow and climate change. Decadal oscillations, weather patterns, volcanoes et al, whatever. Who cares about the label?

    Walt asks, “Did you not grasp my general point that there are other possible influences in the temperature of the last 30 years?”

    Walt, nobody here has proposed the extreme case you constantly draw out of thin air. 100% +- 50% is a reasonable estimate of the portion of the temperature increase of the last 30 years being climate change. Remember, most or all known current natural forcing known (ENSO, the sun, Milankovitch, etc) are either null or negative at the moment.

    Walt asks, “In other words, wouldn’t the last thirty years have been warmer than the previous thirty years *anyway*?”

    Don’t know. Build a second Earth and run a test. Note that the error bars include that possibility. It would be a very good bet that the amount of warming, if any, would be lower than this Earth has experienced. You’re making noise about noise.

    Walt sez, “I have said that we are too quick to state with certainty that which we should be merely confident of. “It’s all man” is one such statement.”

    Nobody but you has said that. Everyone else agrees that some of the temperature increase might not be man, but 100% of the problem is most likely man. You see, if 50% of the increase is just noise, it goes away, and can be ignored. The 50% to 150% or so that’s caused by mankind is essentially permanent. We’re talking about the problem, not the noise.

    Captcha agrees: “think however”

    Comment by RichardC — 8 Oct 2008 @ 1:38 PM

  123. Walt, stop being deliberately obtuse.

    Example of climate: the north of america is colder than the south of america.


    Example of weather pattern: hurricanes turn up in summer in the south of america but mostly only on the east coast. And never in the north of america.

    See now?

    Comment by Mark — 8 Oct 2008 @ 1:50 PM

  124. Rando 113

    That’s a different aim than the result you got from your original posting. You could have said that neither gave you what you wanted from their appearance. This stops the “both were uninformed” which was obviously incorrect and yet still gets the absolute position you have correct.

    As a note: that’s why I put down my suspicion. Unlike what has happened before where someone just left it an amorphous “I have uncertainties about your capabilities” or whatever, a concrete statement allowed you to state what you REALLY meant.

    Which allowed me to point out how you could have achieved your real aim without seeming to say something you’re not.

    Arguing is actually quite difficult. As the Monty Python sketch showed…

    PS I often get things wrong. When I spot them I correct myself.

    Comment by Mark — 8 Oct 2008 @ 1:56 PM

  125. Re: #122, #123

    I know weather from climate from oscillations.

    The topic, for me, has been: certainty versus uncertainty.

    I’m not certain that most of you are capable of true analysis anymore. Everything seems to be bent by the prism of your clear bias.

    Either you and the rest of the gang grasps my simple point that you have moved from confidence to certainty, or you don’t.

    It’s enough for me to know that there are some prominent names out there who are asking the right questions. Those questions get short shrift in here, but then, this is not the whole world, is it?

    Comment by Walt Bennett — 8 Oct 2008 @ 2:02 PM

  126. RE #64, & “The emmissions under American jurisdictions is no comparisons to other jurisdictions and the U.S. is a small contributing fraction compared to other countries.”

    Some may say that per capita Americans do emit the most GHGs. But I say, whatever our emissions, we all have to keep doing our part to reduce. And this can be done sensibly, by first doing the measures that save us money, then by doing the things that don’t cost us, and finally by sacrificing — first the non-essentials, then perhaps the essentials (such as going on a diet — which will actually improve the health). And think of all the other harms that come from our emissions of GHGs, the pollution, military costs/harms, etc, which would be reduced in the process of reducing our GHGs.

    We could take the win-win-win-win tact of reducing our GHGs, or we could stay in the lose-lose-lose-lose-lose-lose tact of not doing so. Where is rational, economic man when you need him. Where are the truly spiritual, faith-based, moral people when you need them — not to be found in the Religious Right, I guess. So we live in this morally, rationally, emotionally, spiritually bankrupt Dark Ages society.

    And re nature emitting CO2, well, we don’t have much control over that (and I realize it’s going to get really bad when the permafrost and ocean clathrates go into hyper-melt and release gigatons of GHGs), so we have to focus on what we can do and reduce all the more (to compensate for nature’s emissions). Which should be helping our economy and health all the more.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 8 Oct 2008 @ 2:08 PM

  127. > 98, 99
    Geez, Roger, I warned you — the post immediately after you figured 1:10 odds — that you’d fooled yourself.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 8 Oct 2008 @ 2:33 PM

  128. 120 Pielke claims, “Richard C- I don’t expect the RC guys to correct either your math or your atmospheric sciences, but they and other informed readers, will know what is correct here”


    I have noticed that your posts gather quite a bit of very appropriate green ink. Ray’s Game is the perfect microcosm of your science – you misread something, jump to an erroneous conclusion (10% of the balls must be black), dig in your heels defending the stance long after it has been proven wrong, insult everyone else for cheating and other immoral actions (RC guys unfairly not correcting me), and dig at teensy irrelevant wordings to try to find “technically correct” pegs to hang your incorrect hat on.

    And you’re wrong again. You said, “In IPCC parlance “very likely” = 90%.” Nope, it means 90-94.99%. 5.01 to 10% sure sounds more certain than a flat 10%, eh? As usual, you take the extreme that happens to fit your agenda and express it as the entire range.

    Comment by RichardC — 8 Oct 2008 @ 2:35 PM

  129. Gavin,

    Real Climate is an ideological application of your (singular and plural) opinions concerning the science of climate change—not, what I thought, was the original intension of the site. I find your dispassionate discussions of scientific findings very useful and often rely on them myself and refer others to them as well. However, your passion quickly takes over and allows no explanations other than your own. Certainly many alternative explanations are unreasonable and can be dismissed as out of hand, but other explanations are surely possible and/or plausible. Your continued disallowance of such proposals, and your refusal to grant an inch, is truly remarkable coming from a hard working scientist such as yourself. I, personally, have been involved in little climate change research in which the full explanation is cut and dry. Yet you act as if you all have been appointed king and final arbiter or all things related to climate change.

    This is all fine and good. It is your blog after all. [edit – don’t play games]

    Such an example can be found in the case at hand. Roger can read English as well as you can. Your explanation (and insistence that Roger is wrong) relies on a host of reasons that are not clearly elucidated by the IPCC. Thus, whether or not the IPCC meant them is completely unknown to the casual reader.

    What the IPCC wrote is plain and has a meaning in English that is close to what Roger has described. You however, proclaim that the words mean something different. If they do, then the IPCC should have written them to reflect their true meaning.

    From page 665 Executive Summary Chapter 9:

    It is extremely unlikely (less than 5%) that the global pattern of warming during the past half century can be explained without external forcing, and very unlikely [less than 10%] that it is due to known natural external causes alone. The warming occurred in both the ocean and the atmosphere and took place at a time when natural external forcing factors would likely [greater than 66%] have produced cooling.

    Greenhouse gas forcing has very likely [greater than 90%] caused most of the observed warming over the past 50 years. This conclusion takes into account observational and forcing uncertainty, and the possibility that the response to solar forcing could be underestimated by climate models. It is also robust to the use of different climate models, different methods for estimating the responses to external forcing and variations in the analysis technique.

    If in the judgment of the IPCC’s experts the chance that natural variations could explain the entirety of the temperature change during the past 50 years is as slim as you claim, then they had the terms “extremely unlikely” (less than 5%) or “virtually certain” (greater than 99%) to use at their disposal. But they didn’t.

    I am not saying that you are wrong. Simply that the IPCC did not write the things you are saying.

    If they wrote one thing, but were relying on you to explain to everyone what they “really” meant then they should add a link from the page to and recognize your authority as such. Lacking that, Roger’s interpretation is perfectly reasonable. Your insistence otherwise starts to sound ideological.

    -Chip Knappenberger
    funded, to some degree, by the fossil fuels industry since 1992.

    [Response: Well, I’m sorry, but you are confused as well. I have absolutely no argument with what the IPCC concluded. You have though misinterpreted what I said – though perhaps it was too subtle a point. I stated that their is an absence of positive evidence that natural forcings could explain the recent trends, and that is correct – no model simulation does it, no attribution study that takes into account some model biases does it, no simpler attribution does it either. Since none of these techniques are foolproof, and we are always working with the possibility that there maybe unknown unknowns in the system, the IPCC rightly concluded that there is still a margin of uncertainty. Whether it is 10% or 5% could be debated (and I’m sure it was), but that margin is not based on any positive evidence that anthro forcings are not the cause, but merely on the appreciation that our methods and data are necessarily incomplete. This is not hidden or only viewable by the initiated – it is abundantly clear from chapter 9. None of the quoted attribution studies, nor any of the figures, show that natural alone can do it. Your and Roger’s seeming insistence that some positive evidence exists that provides a match of recent trends to natural forces or internal variability is bizarre. I know of no such evidence and as far as I can tell none is cited in AR4. As to concluding that I am now dismissing all uncertainty, that too is way off. My confidence in these results is very close to what IPCC concluded and I have no reason to question that. – gavin]

    Comment by Chip Knappenberger — 8 Oct 2008 @ 2:59 PM

  130. gavin’s response to 117 on the lapse rate can be taken a step further. If the atmosphere is taken off a moist adiabat and the upper atmosphere warms less than modelled, we should (in theory) expect a more pronounced warming at the surface. Enhancing the surface-upper air temperature gradient is also one way models can get more hurricanes, so the comments by Fred Staples (117), even if they are true, should not reflect the notion of “oh, no more worries about global warming.”

    The warming so far is consistent with the transient response, but given the large range of uncertainties due to climate sensitivity and aerosol forcings (and for the equilibrium response, ocean heat uptake) there is no reason we can’t see more warming in the future than we expect (my take is that would probably be due to cloud feedbacks rather than lapse rate feedbacks though). On the other hand, there are a lot of ways to essentially rule out a negligible response in the future.

    Comment by Chris Colose — 8 Oct 2008 @ 3:11 PM

  131. Another thing that most of this discussion is missing is that the main point of our post was the complete fallacy of Palin’s claim that one need not know the cause of climate change in order to fix the problem. I’ll reiterate what we wrote: even if you are only talking about adaptation and not mitigation, it matters a great deal that the dominant cause of the climate change so far, and of the expected climate change in the future, is the increase of CO2.

    That is a completely separate issue from the general business of the CO2/climate connection. Causes matter, pure and simple.

    Comment by raypierre — 8 Oct 2008 @ 3:47 PM

  132. The Global Warming at a Glance site plots the RSS data on top of the UAH data. They are more or less identical, which is not surprising because they are derived from the same satellite data.
    UAH quote their trend lines, while RSS do not.

    As you have often pointed out, Gavin, without the lapse rate/altitude effect, increased CO2 could not induce surface warming.

    Increased solar flux would raise all the temperatures, leaving the effective radiation altitude unchanged. The mid-troposphere temperature increase is a necessary but not sufficient proof of the CO2 effect.

    The measured mid-troposphere data needs a trend correction of 0.08 degrees centigrade per decade to match the lower troposphere trend and preserve the AGW theory. Surely further work is required on that difference before we take it for granted, and ask the politicians to cut the CO2 emissions. Is it really enough to attribute the correction to “a hefty weighting from a cooling stratosphere”?

    Do Messrs Christy/Spenser and Mears agree that their data is so wrong?

    All the satellite data shows the same sharp rise between December, 1999 and December 2001, followed by a corresponding fall 5 years later. We are back to 1978 temperatures now, at all altitudes. If these temperatures persist, and the CO2 concentration continues to increase, how many years must pass before we invoke Popper.

    [Response: Fred, you have completely misunderstood which lapse rate/altitude effect is being talked about in connection with global warming. The basic physics of the greenhouse effect relies on the existing decline of temperature with heignt, in the sense that there’d be little or no greenhouse effect in an isothermal atmosphere coupled tightly to the surface temperature. That’s just textbook stuff. The small changes of lapse rate on top of the pre-existing lapse rate just modulate the strength of the greenhouse effect. The vertical temperature gradient of the atmosphere is not about to go away anytime soon. Now, the reduction of the lapse rate with warming, predicted by the moist adiabat, actually acts to somewhat reduce the greenhouse warming in GCM’s. If the lapse rate were to stay constant in the tropics as climate warms, that would actually increase climate sensitivity. –raypierre]

    Comment by Fred Staples — 8 Oct 2008 @ 4:08 PM

  133. Nice to see you back raypierre. I’m visiting UC soon (hopefully by october’s end), hope I run into you.

    Palin knows full well that causes matter– politicians just don’t “do things” for the sake of doing them, unless they are advised of a good benefit in doing so. I don’t feel like Palin views climate change as a big problem. But it wouldn’t be nice if she went on there and said that, so she tells people what people want to hear– take the middle ground and make everyone happy. It’s absurd, but that’s politics.

    Comment by Chris Colose — 8 Oct 2008 @ 4:32 PM

  134. This whole issue of quibbling over “certainty” and “uncertainty” and percentage numbers seems rather beside the point. From a practical and political standpoint, the IPCC judgment of “90%” or “95%” or “99.9%” seems trivial. The key questions appear to be a) is there any “natural forcing” whether it be internal or external which are sufficiently strong enough (or have been over the last 50 years) to overwhelm the greenhouse signal, and b) if it is possible to add greenhouse gases to the atmosphere and not expect global warming.

    Starting with point “b,” for instance Walt Bennett (#74) asks how we can rule out the PDO as a source of warming over the last few decades. To me, this is an ill-phrased question. Another question could be how the PDO cancels out radiative transfer in the atmosphere. As far as I can tell, the PDO has negligible effects on global temperature on decadal timescales; moving heat back and forth is different than externally forcing a top-of-atmosphere radiative imbalance. Adding CO2 to an atmosphere whose temperature drops with height means that sunlight will come in at a greater rate than heat loss to space. But even if the PDO or the sun or martian beams are heating the atmosphere, it’s virtually certain that CO2 physics still works– why wouldn’t it? Perhaps there is a slight possibility that laboratory work on the CO2 absoprtion properties is wrong. Perhaps there is some “threshold” in the climate system which is insensitive to GHG’s but sensitive to some initial condition.

    On to point “a,” we have good observations to estimate the magnitude of the “noise” of natural variability. Earth does not fluctuate like Mars by going up and down about the mean by several degrees celsius over years. In the case that it did, any 0.8 C “signal” by greenhouse gases could be much less significant, both in detection and for practical “do something about it” reasons. But in the real world internally generated fluctuations are superimposed on a rising trend, they aren’t simply creating a trend out of nothing and masking CO2. From the “confidence level” stance thought, there must be a greater than zero percent chance that the noise of natural variation can domninate the greenhouse signal and perhaps some chaotic mechanism has generated greater internal variability (i.e., a larger amplitude about the mean), even if everything we know about GHG physics is correct– it’s just very unlikely, and its timing is a clever trick of nature.

    Comment by Chris Colose — 8 Oct 2008 @ 5:09 PM

  135. Gavin,

    As always, thanks for taking the time to respond.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am not (nor have I ever) trying to argue that natural forcings explain all of the observed global temperature change during the past 50 years. Heck, I don’t even argue that they explain a majority. They do explain why the rate of global temperature rise has slowed during the past 6-7 years. And perhaps some of the “observed” rise may not actually be a real rise. But, nevertheless, I agree that the majority of the real rise (whatever that amount is) during the past 50 (although I prefer 30) years is caused by human enhancement of the earth’s greenhouse effect.

    I am pretty sure Roger agrees with that as well.

    However, this is not the point of contention. The point of contention is how what the IPCC wrote should be interpreted by the reader. If either I or Roger are confused, then clearly, the IPCC’s meaning is not very straightforward. If there is no evidence whatsoever that natural (or internal) variability alone (or together) could have explained all of the warming, then why on earth didn’t the IPCC plainly say so? There would be no argument had the IPCC simply written: “It is extremely unlikely that the global pattern of warming during the past half century can be explained without external forcing and it is virtually certain that it can not be explained by natural external forcing alone.” This would leave no room for (mis)interpretation.


    As it currently is written, such a level of certainty is left unclear. Or, in fact, it can be interpreted as Roger has.


    [Response: Next time you are invited to be a lead author, why not suggest it? – gavin]

    Comment by Chip Knappenberger — 8 Oct 2008 @ 5:46 PM

  136. In #131 raypierre says:
    “Another thing that most of this discussion is missing is that the main point of our post was the complete fallacy of Palin’s claim that one need not know the cause of climate change in order to fix the problem.”

    Amen! Can a mechanic fix a car if he doesn’t know what’s wrong with it? If you want to attempt to cure something, anything, you need to know the cause! Would Palin allow a surgeon to operate on her without knowing what’s causing her symptoms!Shouln’t this be obvious to any normal third grade student? (please pardon the rhetoricals).

    Perhaps Palin, at some level, realizes this, and if she does, she’s not telling us the truth. Her dishonesty in this matters. She’s being touted as an energy authority by her supporters. Just because her home state of Alaska sits on relatively large amounts of crude oil doesn’t make her an energy expert anymore than looking across the Bering Strait and being able to see Russia makes her an authority on that country.

    Comment by Lawrence Brown — 8 Oct 2008 @ 6:00 PM

  137. raypierre: “Causes matter, pure and simple.”

    If doing something about the cause (a big if I agree) is worse than adapting, then at least politically, the cause may not matter.

    [Response: You aren’t listening. Even if you have abandoned any hope of doing something about the cause, or even if you have decided that adaptation is preferable to doing something about the cause, knowing the cause is essential to planning your adaptation. There are a very few cases where this might not be so, but climate change is not one of them. –raypierre]

    Comment by Steve Reynolds — 8 Oct 2008 @ 6:10 PM

  138. RichardC, you do your argument no favor by making stuff up. You say to Pielke, “You said, “In IPCC parlance “very likely” = 90%.” Nope, it means 90-94.99%.” You should stop shouting and do a bit of reading (p3 of FAR Summary, hidden in plain sight). Greater than 90% is defined by IPCC as “very likely”; greater than 95%, “extremely likely”. etc. As Hank would say, look it up.

    Comment by Rod B — 8 Oct 2008 @ 6:16 PM

  139. Roger, My goal with that little thought experiment was to illustrate a common fallacy about probability–to have 90% confidence in a proposition does not mean having 10% confidence in the contrary position. If we draw 22 parts from a lot and find all are defective, we would not be justified in saying that the system will be reliable if we have 10:1 redundancy.
    When we look at science, it is often easiest to judge the strength of evidence between two propositions. I do not know of any piece of evidence regarding our changing climate that “natural variability” explains better than “anthropogenic causation”. Do you?
    Now add to this the fact that the physics says we absolutely must warm as a result of increasing CO2, and the fact that the vast majority of the data favor a sensitivity ~ 3 degrees per doubling, and the conclusion that we are having a significant effect on climate becomes hard to escape.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 8 Oct 2008 @ 8:11 PM

  140. Walt Bennett, The proper place for debate about science is between the pages of scientific journals and in the hallways at conferences–and indeed the debate over aspects of the climate still goes on there. The roles of clouds and aerosols, paleoclimatic reconstructions and the like are all on the frontier. The role of CO2 is rather difficult to debate because it is extremely difficult to construct a coherent, comprehensive model with a low sensitivity. However, even wrt climate change, there is still debate–will climate change exacerbate hurricanes? How will it affect agricultural fertility? How much will sea levels rise? And so on. These are all areas of hot debate–both here and in science/engineering/policy circles. However, it’s very hard to find anything particularly controversial behind the science that says humans are largely responsible for the current warming epoch. It’s not the scientists that have reached relative certainty, but rather the science.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 8 Oct 2008 @ 8:19 PM

  141. #123, Mark:

    Example of weather pattern: hurricanes turn up in summer in the south of america but mostly only on the east coast. And never in the north of america.

    Although hurricanes are much less common outside of the tropics, a few hurricanes have struck the New England states, and eastern Canada .
    Furthermore – a few winter hurricanes have occurred.

    Comment by llewelly — 8 Oct 2008 @ 10:13 PM

  142. # 8 Mark A York:
    I doubt your familiarity with the North Slope, or Alaska in general when you post, “They shoot them from the rigs if they get in the way”. Or, that there is a “typical Alaskan”.

    # 38 Ray Landsbury,
    Succinct and insightful.

    #44 Leonard Evens,
    I’d say more the opportunist than the dedicated ideologue. She campaigned for Lt Governor (4 years ago) and Governor, in part on a fundamentalist Christian platform, but passed on two opportunities to push that agenda as Governor. She had several more parochially Alaskan issues to deal with. As a national candidate, I find it interesting that she hasn’t appeared to advance any of this. It seems the general media attention has done this for her

    #61 James Killen,
    She is a denier as far as I’ve been able to tell. I’d say the sub cabinet group is more a sop. Her focus has been to enable the petroleum industry’s Alaskan production.

    # 69 Anne van der Bom,
    Actually I’ve seen little evidence that she has much depth or breath of education, or is much of a reflective person. Astute and clever, she would be the top earner at a sales agency. Her inability to name a news source is absolutely accurate, as far as I can tell, and I’m likely to be in a better position to judge than anyone here.

    # 81 J.S. McIntyre,
    I think you are quite correct. Add to that her time as Governor has been almost exclusively devoted to the economic and political interface of the petroleum industry and the state of Alaska.

    Comment by WhiteBeard — 8 Oct 2008 @ 10:15 PM

  143. I just read Roger Pielke Jr.’s post. [self-edit].

    Basically, the fact is that Palin is a creature of the oil industry. Her two main actions in office have been largely unreported in the press, for whatever reason, but let’s discuss them.

    1) Negotiating the sale of the Chukchi sea offshore oil leases in collaboration with the Minerals Management Service, which is run by ex-Cheney aide Randall Luthi. The sale of those leases is why Palin turned to Soon & Baliunas to prepare a brief justifying the sales. The Minerals Management Service has been making rather sordid headlines lately…

    In any case, the sale of those leases would have been imperiled by findings on global warming and polar bear habitat. From the Telegraph:

    The lawsuit opposes the endangered label partly because it would “deter activities such as… oil and gas exploration and development” while it would also impede the building of an Alaskan natural gas pipeline, something Mrs Palin has referred to as the “will of God.” Oil companies recently bid £1.5 billion for rights to explore the Chuckchi sea, an established polar bear habitat.

    2) That brings us to the Alaskan Natural Gas Pipeline, widely promoted as an effort to ship natural gas from Alaska to the United States for domestic consumption.

    This one is really strange – because that claim is simply not true, even though it has been repeated as fact by the New York Times, the Washington Post, and every other press outlet in the U.S. Not one is covering the true facts of the matter – except the oil and gas journals and blogs.

    The fact is that the Alaskan Natural Gas Pipeline is intended only to supply natural gas to Alberta’s Athabascan tar sands fields, where the gas will be used to convert tar to synthetic heavy crude oil. From there, the tar oil is intended for heavy crude refineries in the Midwest, Louisiana, Californa and China – that’s the big plan.

    This is probably the single most global warming-inducing project on the face of the planet: all the gas is converted to CO2, just to make oil from tar – which will also be converted to CO2.

    So, what Sarah Palin did is to give $500 million to Transcanda which will link BP, Exxon and Conoco-leased natural gas fields in Alaska to BP, Exxon and Conoco-leased tar sand fields in Alberta. The Republican-controlled Congress delivered $18 billion in credit guarantees for this project in 2005.

    This is all factual. Alaskan natural gas will not be shipped to the lower 48 because of transit costs – gas pipelines must be pressurized, and the pumps use natural gas for energy (and are needed every 100 miles or so, I think) – if the pipeline is too long, the gas gets used up running the pumps.

    Of course, Sarah Palin’s husband Todd Palin has been an employee of British Petroleum for over a decade, right? That’s the business model that U.S. oil majors are currently operating under – replace diminshing oil reserves with Canadian tar sand oil, and who cares about global warming?

    It’s all true. No one can dispute the facts – but for some reason, none of our major press outlets want to cover this story – and it’s not for lack of knowledge.

    Comment by Ike Solem — 8 Oct 2008 @ 11:03 PM

  144. I figure you all may find interest in one of the small things that individuals and families can do to help bring about a sustainability-oriented economy: switch our bank accounts to institutions that specifically train their lending efforts toward environmentally-screened, green-oriented projects. Green, and socially-responsible, capitalism can be one of the answers here. There are simple savings accounts at institutions like ShoreBank (Chicago), where capital is directed to projects with an environmental/green-sector focus. I work with ShoreBank promoting their High-Yield Savings Account, which offers a 3.5%APY, FDIC-insurance, online/phone tools, etc. The account is just like those of the other banks, but with a focused lending practice. For more:

    Comment by Lucas Mills — 9 Oct 2008 @ 2:28 AM

  145. Under your header “about” (top left) you say: –

    “RealClimate is a commentary site on climate science by working climate scientists for the interested public and journalists. We aim to provide a quick response to developing stories and provide the context sometimes missing in mainstream commentary. The discussion here is restricted to scientific topics and will not get involved in any political or economic implications of the science”.

    On reading this post I suggest you change this. The post is obviously in contradiction of what you are “about”.

    [Response: Well, it’s our blog and we can post what we like. However, I don’t think you are even correct. The causes of climate change are well within our (self-imposed) mandate and that is the subject of the post. We did not critique the candidates energy plans or their economic effects – See Joe Romm’s site for much better discussions than we would be able to provide. – gavin]

    Comment by Geoff Larsen — 9 Oct 2008 @ 2:49 AM

  146. Llwewlly

    I stand corrected. But in order to ensure my manhood, I will point out that they are hardly patterns of weather, are they.

    Neener neener :-)

    Oracle says “straightaway ended”. FTW!

    Comment by Mark — 9 Oct 2008 @ 3:07 AM

  147. re: #142

    Prof. Michael Klare’s article Palin’s Petropolitics seems relevant (maybe WhiteBeard can comment on its accuracy?), ending with an interesting quote:

    ‘At a meeting of the National Governors Association in February, Palin argued against providing subsidies for alternative energy sources, claiming that domestic sources of oil and gas–many located in Alaska–can satisfy the nation’s needs for a long time to come. “The conventional resources we have can fill the gap between now and when new technologies become economically competitive and don’t require subsidies,” she asserted. When pressed by a reporter for Oil & Gas Journal she went further, denouncing government support for renewable energy. “I just don’t want things to get out of hand with incentives for renewables, particularly since they imply subsidies, while ignoring fuels we already have on hand.”‘

    Comment by John Mashey — 9 Oct 2008 @ 3:07 AM

  148. Chip, #135.

    In another thread (I think) we have someone complaining about how scientists are calling things that are not CERTAIN 100% terms that indicate fact. They decry the loss of accuracy by using words that ignore the uncertainties.

    And then we have you complaining about how there should be more certainty in the wording and less “%chance”.

    So it’s true: you can’t please everyone.

    Comment by Mark — 9 Oct 2008 @ 3:12 AM

  149. walt bennett writes:

    When there are two vociferous and dedicated sides to an issue, it’s almost for certain that neither side is completely right or completely wrong.


    And if ever there was an issue where “right” and “wrong” are subjective, this is it.

    Wrong. The empirical evidence is all on one side.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 9 Oct 2008 @ 5:00 AM

  150. Re #138, Rod B, it seems to me from what you have posted, that what Richard C has stated is pretty much correct. A pedant may say 90.01 – 94.99 is in the range “very likely”.

    It may be clearer to look at it this way…

    >90% == “Very likely”, >95% == “extremely likely” implies:
    90.01 – 94.99 is in the range “very likely”

    Comment by Lawrence McLean — 9 Oct 2008 @ 5:14 AM

  151. Chris (134), I don’t think you stated the key questions correctly. The question is not if natural forcings overwhelms the greenhouse signal, but whether it has a significant (or the chances of) part. The physics of GHGs absorbing energy and keeping some within the biosphere is not at question. Plus it is possible, given the sink mechanisms, to add GHGs without seeing a rise in temperature, at least over the long-term. So? It seems like a no-op trivial question. Though your answers were strangely more to the point.

    Comment by Rod B — 9 Oct 2008 @ 9:58 AM

  152. Ray (139), if an action has a 90% confidence (probability) of being X, does it not simultaneously have a 10% confidence (probability) of being something other than X? If the IPCC believed with certainty that natural causes had zero part in the warming, they should have said so. But they didn’t. Now it seems you (guys) are trying to explain why they didn’t really mean what they said, or if one analyzes it with enough higher math it can be shown that “90%” really means 100%. Sounds confusing.

    [Response: No. All you can say is that IPCC thought that there might be up to 10% chance that the statement might be false. It doesn’t imply that there is any positive evidence for the contrary position. – gavin]

    Comment by Rod B — 9 Oct 2008 @ 10:13 AM

  153. re Lawerence (150): “…>90% == “Very likely”, >95% == “extremely likely” implies: 90.01 – 94.99 is in the range “very likely””.
    But isn’t also 90.01 – 90.02, 94.92, 93.8, 98.6, 99.99? If so, what’s the point?

    Comment by Rod B — 9 Oct 2008 @ 10:38 AM

  154. Gavin, but if a statement is false, doesn’t that mean it has to be something else — though not logically necessarily “contrary”?

    Comment by Rod B — 9 Oct 2008 @ 10:44 AM

  155. Gavin, thank you for the one-sentence summary. I’ll be using it elsewhere, for sure.

    All you can say is that IPCC thought that there might be up to 10% chance that the statement might be false; it doesn’t imply that there is any positive evidence for the contrary position.

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 9 Oct 2008 @ 10:54 AM

  156. Rod B., Perhaps part of your difficulty in understanding has to do with the difference between probability and confidence. Probability has to do with the chances of an event occurring, while confidence has more to do with what we can infer given our current state of knowledge. You might look at confidence as how often we could be wrong if absolutely everything conspired against us.
    I think that my example of the urn full of balls (nominally black and white) is appropos. If we draw 22 balls from the urn and all are white, we can infer with 90% confidence that no more than 10% of the balls in the urn are black. The 90% confidence and 10% probability bound are inseparable. If we chose another confidence level, our bounding probability would be different. However, you can see that even though we have a bound of 10% at 90% confidence, you can see that you might not want to bet on black even with 10:1 odds, right? I mean, we don’t have any evidence yet that there are ANY black balls in the urn. If you took my proposition at 10:1 odds on black, I would have 90% confidence that the worst I could do was break even, while you have zero confidence that you have any probability of winning at all.
    Things get a bit more complicated when you bring in “Bayesian” vs. Frequentist probabilities, but the basics are the same. We have zero evidence that we can explain current warming etc. with “natural” causes (that is nobody has done it), and the fact that we can’t preclude with certainty that someone will be able to do so, doens’t mean we think it’s going to happen.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 9 Oct 2008 @ 11:02 AM

  157. “The analogy would be a criminal trial in which the defence challenges every piece of the positive evidence indicating their client is guilty, but offers no evidence at all that anyone else committed the crime. The jury might well have some doubts remaining as to the defendent’s guilt, but there is still no evidence for anyone else’s. – gavin]”

    If the defendant has not committed the crime, then there is evidence that *someone* else has committed the crime.

    And in fact, the IPCC even names the someone else. They wrote:

    “Attribution studies show that it is very likely that these natural forcing factors alone cannot account for the observed warming.”

    By their definition of “very likely,” they are saying that there is a 90-95% chance that natural factors alone can’t account for the observed warming. That means there is a 5-10% chance that natural factors alone can account for the observed warming.

    [Response: In none of those attribution studies do the natural factors alone come anywhere close to explaining the recent trends, not even at the 5 to 10% level. The ‘very likely’ is a confidence statement, not a probability in the sense you assume. I challenge you to find one decent attribution study that shows the two-sigma attribution to natural factors anywhere close to the observed trend (for contrast see figure 9.9). The larger fraction of that 5 to 10% uncertainty is not associated with the expected influence of natural factors at all, but with the uncertainty that the attribution methodology is appropriate or that all the forcings are well described. – gavin]

    Comment by Mark Bahner — 9 Oct 2008 @ 11:16 AM

  158. Walt Bennett wrote: “If I was president, I’d want somebody like Sarah Palin asking certain questions, just to make sure somebody asked them.”

    Sarah Palin is not known for “asking questions”.

    [edit – this is not a forum for bashing political candidates on any thing other than their statements on climate change]

    She is known for rote regurgitation of fossil fuel industry propaganda that questions the role of CO2 emissions in causing global warming. She is known for disparaging and discouraging investment in solar and wind energy.


    If I were president — for that matter, as I am a US citizen and voter — I would not want Sarah Palin anywhere near any national office, let alone a “heartbeat away from the Presidency”.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 9 Oct 2008 @ 11:45 AM

  159. If Palin is going to rely on tobacco science experts like Soon and Baliunas as the basis of government policy decisions, then that is a fair topic for discussion – the core issue is still climate science.

    Michael Klare persists in misrepresenting the true purpose of the Alaska natural gas pipeline:

    The AGIA proposal, which has received more national attention, is intended to facilitate construction of a natural gas pipeline from Alaska’s North Slope to Canada and eventually the Lower 48.

    A detailed view on the Alaskan pipeline prospects and the Canadian tar sands is at Canada tar sands and the Alaskan gas pipeline blog, run by an Alaskan engineer.

    Of all fossil fuels, natural gas is the cleanest and delivers the most energy per CO2 released when burned, thanks to the four carbon-hydrogen bonds per carbon atom in methane. Gasoline has about 2 C-H bonds per C, and coal and tar sands and shale oil is the lowest. See for the basic overview.

    Thus, the order to phase out fossil fuel use would ideally be first to eliminate coal, tar sands and shales, followed by heavy sour crude, leaving you with the world’s limited reserves of low-sulfur light crude and natural gas.

    For decades, Alaskan natural gas has been viewed as “stranded asset”, because the markets are too far away.

    One option for moving Alaskan natural gas is in pressurized tankers – but few countries want to have a liquified natural gas terminal anywhere near a populated area, due to the catastrophic effects of an explosion.

    The other option is in pipelines, but natural gas pipelines must be pressurized using massive pumping stations. The energy cost varies with climate and terrain conditions, so going from the North Slope to Canada. For flat, mild conditions the loss is ~0.5% per 100 miles, and might be double that for the Alaskan pipeline.

    That’s why the pipeline terminates in Alberta, where it will be used to convert tar sands to synthetic crude for shipment abroad. The contract was given to Transcanada by Palin:

    TransCanada earns revenue by moving gas into the tar sands projects and by moving tar sand oil to the Lower 48 via projects like the Keystone Pipeline.

    For more on the Canadian tar sands see

    Another good discussion is at

    “With so much cash on hand, it’s time for the oil and gas companies to begin the transition into energy companies that recognize that if we’re to have a future at all, it will need to be powered by renewable sources.”

    Makes one wonder what the candidates would have to say about importing tar sand oil into the U.S. from Canada.

    Comment by Ike Solem — 9 Oct 2008 @ 1:38 PM

  160. > a confidence statement, not a probability

    This is a really important difference, and one I doubt I understand well enough. I know that the difference and the problem understanding it has come up in discussions of medical statistics, epidemiology, and many other areas.

    If anyone has a pointer to a good clear teaching site or lesson source, please suggest it.

    Best I’ve found is the BMJ’s page here:

    “… There is much confusion over the interpretation of the probability attached to confidence intervals. To understand it we have to resort to the concept of repeated sampling. Imagine taking repeated samples of the same size from the same population. For each sample calculate a 95% confidence interval. Since the samples are different, so are the confidence intervals. We know that 95% of these intervals will include the population parameter. However, without any additional information we cannot say which ones! Thus with only one sample, and no other information about the population parameter, we can say there is a 95% chance of including the parameter in our interval. Note that this does not mean that we would expect with 95% probability that the mean from another sample is in this interval….”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 9 Oct 2008 @ 1:50 PM

  161. Hank,

    A level maths-and-stats covered this, so this was a long time ago for me.

    But the confidence level has its basis in sampling error. If you took the average height of 100 people in a town of 10,000 residents, you would have a very precise average for those people and statistics would give you a range. So the probability of someone taken at random from that sample being within a certain height would be worked out from that set. Now you could take that probability and expect it to apply to the entire town (or the planet). But you could have selected all the short people.

    Randomly, you can’t tell.

    As a Dilbert cartoon had it, the random number generator was a troll saying “nine nine nine…” and when asked if he was really a random number generator, the other troll answered “You never can tell with random”.

    So you take your numbers and work out the probability that your sample was biased. That gives you your confidence level in your distribution inferred from the smaller sample you took.

    This does NOT mean that your sample isn’t all the short people. It’s just saying how likely it is that your statistics are wrong when applied to a group that wasn’t in the sample.

    Confidence in your prediction.

    In this case, with the IPCC report, what makes it harder is that the scientists wanted it in the 95%+ confidence limit and the politicals wouldn’t accept it (guess who were the loudest contrarians..!). So it was downgraded to 90%+ confidence.

    The confidence here doesn’t fit too well, but it could be argued as necessary because it could be a result of

    1) The FSM turning up the heat because we’re killing off the pirates
    2) Errors in measuring may be “the cause” of most of the warming
    3) Our instruments are merely getting more accurate (see the value of the electron charge as given by experiments which showed a line going up)

    With #1 it may be astronomically unlikely but that ISN’T ZERO. Add up all the nearly infinite whacko ideas out there and you could be called out for ignoring them when you cannot *PROVE* they cannot be true.

    The other two are admitting it is possible that the “real” warming is only 0.5C, not 0.8C and so the biggest part of that 0.8C shift is not man made.

    They are unlikely but they aren’t open to assessment because we can’t go back in time and use new instruments in the past. So figure in “&lt5% and who can complain we’re ignoring it” and you get the 95% confidence.

    And 5% of that is dropped because the politicians have no confidence in being able to say “95%”.

    Bringing us down to 90-95% confidence limit. 5% of which is “politicians didn’t think they could say 95%”.

    ***Apologies for posting with a less than sign***

    Comment by Mark — 9 Oct 2008 @ 4:12 PM

  162. 120 Roger said, “Richard C- I don’t expect the RC guys to correct either your math”

    Fortunately, the math is right here:
    Odds on percentage black in Ray’s urn are about:
    0% 20%
    1% 17%
    2% 13% note that 50% of the time there are 0-2% black!
    3% 10%
    4% 9%
    5% 7%
    6% 5%… Since you implied that my math was incorrect, please correct it, Roger.

    137 Steve, if one doesn’t know the cause, then your only choice is to do nothing about the cause – at least now, and at least by “us”, which is the goal of Palin’s “Drill baby, drill” movement. Neither mitigation nor adaptation are everything or nothing questions, but one can’t choose the best balance of mitigating cause and adapting to harm if one doesn’t have a clue about cause. And without knowing cause, there is no point in planning for future adaptation. Toss out GHG as a known cause and there is no reason to believe that we won’t enter a new ice age. So which adaptation do we choose, to hot or cold? We’re stuck with adapting to whatever is here and now. Your stance inevitably results in reactive policy.

    138 Rod, I accepted Roger’s contention that 95-100% was out of bounds for the sake of discussion. I agree with you that Roger was even more wrong than I said. Gavin’s comment that there was probably debate as to which phrase to use nailed it to 90-100%. Mark’s explanation of what the debate actually was set the nailhead. The answer seems to be: “durn near 100%” with a reduction to 95-100% to account for mankind’s lack of omniscience, and a further reduction for political reasons, which can and should be ignored.

    143 Ike said, “I just read Roger Pielke Jr.’s post. [self-edit].” Ike’s a wiser man than me.

    The Trans-Canada pipeline you speak of doesn’t reach the USA, but a second pipeline might subsequently be built linking Alberta to Chicago, so a bit of gas might make it to the USA by 2030 or so. The competition for the pipeline is CANDU nuclear reactors. Should the tar sand business go nuclear, then you’re right, there would be no economic value in the pipeline. Another pipeline, the All-Alaska pipeline could substitute. It would follow the oil pipeline route, bringing gas to Fairbanks and Anchorage, and load the remainder onto tankers. Given the timeframes, perhaps they should just build a port on the north slope, taking advantage of the ever-lengthening shipping season. By 2030, keeping the lanes open shouldn’t be an issue. First year ice isn’t terribly dangerous. As long as it all melts each summer, tankers can cruise to the north slope almost year round. Plow the lanes as needed and drill, baby, drill.

    145 Geoff, this thread is obviously an attempt to link current events to climate science. It obviously is sequestered from the rest of the RC site. The RC staff obviously have limited their comments to be as close to their vision as possible. Some of us who have posted here have not met those same standards (I haven’t, for example). So were they wrong to allow these comments to post? It depends on your reaction to Mayberry’s Goober yelling, “Citizen’s arrest!” while chasing jaywalkers.

    Comment by RichardC — 9 Oct 2008 @ 4:42 PM

  163. Probability vs. confidence. Mark is basically right–confidence has more to do with sampling errors. In essence, the question is if nature became very perverse and gave you a very improbable sample given your parent probability distribution, how would it make you draw the wrong conclusion. Note that a confidence level does not necessarily imply that there is ANY evidence of a biased sample. It merely says that the evidence available to date allows us to eliminate the possibility that we’re wrong for all but the 10% nutty samples that could occur. And given that we know CO2 is causing at least some warming, while we have zero evidence of natural factors conspiring, this is a very different thing that saying we have 10% probability.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 9 Oct 2008 @ 6:58 PM

  164. Gavin Schmidt writes, “The ‘very likely’ is a confidence statement, not a probability in the sense you assume.”

    So you say. But that’s not what the IPCC says. Go to page 23 of the Technical Summary (TS). You’ll see:

    “The standard terms used in this report to define the likelihood of an outcome or result where this can be estimated probabilistically are:

    Likelihood Terminology Likelihood of the occurrence/ outcome

    Virtually certain > 99% probability
    Extremely likely > 95% probability
    Very likely > 90% probability”

    On page 22, they explained what their wording was when the wanted to express confidence. For example, “Very High Confidence” is explained by the IPCC as meaning, “At least a 9 out of 10 chance of being correct.”

    Now perhaps you think the statement that the IPCC made was wrong. Perhaps you think they should have written something like, “Based on attribution studies, we are highly confident that these natural forcing factors alone cannot account for the observed warming.”

    But that’s not what they wrote.

    He continues, “I challenge you to find one decent attribution study that shows the two-sigma attribution to natural factors anywhere close to the observed trend…”

    Hey, if you don’t like what the IPCC wrote, talk to them. They wrote the report, not me. (If *I* had written the report, I would have at least had the technical ability and honesty to come up with falsifiable predictions of future climate forcings and global temperature changes. But I digress.)

    Comment by Mark Bahner — 9 Oct 2008 @ 8:19 PM

  165. Ray (156), you seem to have a point. I can see the semantic/definitional difference. It’s still a bit fuzzy what the IPCC truly meant; I gots to go back and look at it.

    Comment by Rod B — 9 Oct 2008 @ 8:24 PM

  166. Oops. I wrote, “Based on attribution studies, we are highly confident that these natural forcing factors alone cannot account for the observed warming.”

    But a better way of putting it would have been, “We are highly confident that attribution studies show natural factors alone cannot account for the observed warming.”

    Comment by Mark Bahner — 9 Oct 2008 @ 8:59 PM

  167. I do find the IPCC statement surprising. (“It is very likely that anthropogenic greenhouse gas increases caused most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century.”).

    To me, these words mean that there is a less than 10% chance that GHG did not cause most of the warming. Based on the scientific literature, and on this and other websites, I think that one of the two stronger qualifications would have been better suited in this case.

    Regarding Gavin’s inline response, I associate the word “likely” more so with a level of probability than with a level of confidence. If the latter was meant, they should have used the word “confidence” (as Mark Bahner also noted in 164). In its current form it’s ambiguous.

    I appreciate that the attribution methods are not foolproof, and that it’s more of a statistical outcome similar to Ray’s example of the white balls. I’m aware that there’s no evidence for natural forcings having acted to warm the planet in the last 50 years. But when I read the words, I (as would many others I’m sure) come to the above conclusion as to what is meant.

    Could it be that scientific reticence had something to do with the qualification chosen?

    Comment by Bart Verheggen — 10 Oct 2008 @ 2:24 AM

  168. re: #159 Ike
    What? The complete paragraph from which you quoted the first sentence is:

    “The AGIA proposal, which has received more national attention, is intended to facilitate construction of a natural gas pipeline from Alaska’s North Slope to Canada and eventually the Lower 48. Under the bill, Alaska will provide incentives, including a $500 million handout, to any company willing to build the $40 billion-plus conduit. (The $500 million will be used to help defray the costs of gaining regulatory approval, clearing environmental hurdles and so forth.) In August the Alaska Senate approved a state license for TransCanada Corporation of Calgary to pursue federal certification for construction of a 1,715-mile pipeline from the North Slope to Canada’s Alberta Gas Hub. Palin said at the GOP convention that the pipeline will “help lead America to energy independence,” but it’s clear from her advocacy of the AGIA and TransCanada’s application that her principal goal was to increase Alaska’s income from gas production. (The fact that the proposed pipeline will end in Canada, not the United States, does not seem to have attracted any notice.)”

    How exactly is that “persists in misrepresenting”?

    a) From that, I’d think you and he would agree.
    b) Moreover, from happening to hear him talk and talking to him yesterday, I’d think likewise.

    I certainly got the idea that Palin wanted the gas to go to the Alberta Hub, picked the TransCanada proposal (over the BP+ConocoPhilips “Denali” one, which at least had a “maybe” extension to the Lower 48). Masochists interested in the convolutions of AGIA might want to peruse big AK AGIA website, including the public comments [which range from “keep it all inside AK for us to use”, “get it to lower-48”, “LNG to China”, “sell to Canada and get money quick”], and the brain-hurting spaghetti of AK and US Federal laws, and a raft of conflicting agendas and intentions.

    My bottom line: I don’t think this will get built soon.

    Comment by John Mashey — 10 Oct 2008 @ 3:14 AM

  169. For the sake of the argument (132), Ray Pierre, let us assume that (with sufficient notice) anyone with a Physics degree can calculate the atmospheric lapse rate from the ideal gas laws, the force of gravity, and the specific heat of the atmosphere.

    Let us also assume that we do understand the “higher is colder” AGW theory – increasing the CO2 concentration in the upper atmosphere will slow the radiation to space and increase the altitude of the effective radiation level, so reducing the effective radiation temperature. From the Stefan-Bolzmann radiation Law, the lower temperature will reduce the radiant energy output below the incoming solar energy, and the entire system will heat up.

    If we attribute the marginal lower atmosphere heating to this effect, we must expect to find at least comparable heating in the mid and lower troposphere, which we do not.

    You explain the absence of mid troposphere heating by the corrupting effect on the measurements of low stratospheric temperatures “seen” by the satellites. Would we not expect that effect to have been reasonably constant from 1978 to date? It was not.

    From a visual inspection of the UAH charts, there is no significant atmospheric warming at either level from 1978 to 1996. The famous 1998 peak was reversed on both charts before the end of 1999. Both charts experienced the relatively sharp increase from 1999 to 2001, but the upper troposphere increase was much lower, and more rapidly reversed – hence the difference between the long term trends.

    Currently we are back to 1978 levels on both charts.

    I accept that we are stretching statistical significance to breaking point with this analysis, because there is so much variability and so little atmospheric warming (could you measure the temperature of your house, month in month out, to this degree of accuracy), but the AGW theory is simply not consistent with this data.

    [Response: Repeating the same incorrect logic and ignoring the uncertainties in both your understanding and the data does not move anything forward. – gavin]

    Comment by Fred Staples — 10 Oct 2008 @ 6:55 AM

  170. OK, so now we’ve shifted our misunderstanding of concepts from confidence to likelihood. It’s still a misunderstanding, but this is progress. Likelihood is also not probability. Rather it is a functional over a probability model and the data available. Maximum likelihood is probably the most well known use of this functional. Here you determine the most “likely” parameters of the model as those which maximize the probability of realizing the observed data given our model (e.g. Normal, Lognormal…). However, Likelihood methods are much more powerful than that. Because errors on the parametric estimates from likelihood models tend to be normally distributed, the ratio of logarithms of likelihoods for different parametric values tend to follow Chi^2 distributions with number of degrees of freedom equal to the number of parameters in the model. Thus we can determine confidence intervals as well as best estimates for the parameters. Likelihood also plays a critical role in Bayesian as well as Frequentist statistics.

    OK, so much for defining likelihood. The relevant issue here is that likelihood depends on both the data and the model. As such, the value of the likelihood depends on how well our model fits AND on how representative our data are. In this sense, likelihood tends to depend on sampling errors–like confidence–and on systematic errors in our model. However for a given model, the systematic errors will tend to be independent of the data, so likelihood is much closer to a “confidence” measure than a probability measure (note that the integral of likelihood over all parametric space is not normalized, so it can’t be a measure of probability).

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 10 Oct 2008 @ 8:17 AM

  171. Yep. I don’t see the logic in Mr. Bahner’s

    “If the defendant has not committed the crime, then there is evidence that *someone* else has committed the crime.”

    Does not compute.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 10 Oct 2008 @ 9:41 AM

  172. Returning to the earlier comments regarding the “reality-based” community, I think that the current economic crisis illustrates what eventually happens. The Bush model of “creating one’s own reality” (echoed in Palin’s “idea” that you can fight GW without knowing what causes it) leads to, shall we say, a divergence between reality and proclamation. You can see that clearly with Bush’s current attempts to rally the economic troops: the papers dutifully report what he says, and few even bother to roll their eyes. I almost feel sorry for the man, but the wounds to his credibility are self-inflicted. Similarly for talk radio and the right-wing blogosphere, in varying degrees–they’ve told us black is white a few too many times.

    Most relevant for our purposes here is that the same will happen with the denialist crowd. They are now at the point, at least in some cases, of actually denying that surface measurements have any validity (they always want to use UAH troposphere figures, of course.) (To which I replied recently, “You do live at the surface, don’t you?”) This degree of nuttiness can’t be sustained long.

    (reCaptcha says “trial cases,” but I’m going to request another as there is a bit following which may be signal or may be noise–and lo, I get “securities no.” Definitely some kind of oracle–!)

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 10 Oct 2008 @ 9:57 AM

  173. RE#168,
    John, the quote is “In August the Alaska Senate approved a state license for TransCanada Corporation of Calgary to pursue federal certification for construction of a 1,715-mile pipeline from the North Slope to Canada’s Alberta Gas Hub.”

    Well, Alberta’s gas hub feeds into tar sand production –

    Production of Canadian Tar Sands requires 1,200 SCF (standard cubic feet) of natural gas per barrel. The 4.5 BCFD of Alaskan gas can be used to support 3.75 MMBPD of tar sand oil production.. this analysis show just how important Alaskan Gas is to North American oil production.

    Second, we have the retooling of U.S. refineries to accept tar sands oil:


    The refinery upgrades… also will allow the refinery to thermally convert and upgrade heavy Canadian crude oil into higher quality products such as gasoline, diesel and petroleum coke.

    2) “US Refinery Investments Align With Oil Sands Supplies to 2015, 18 September 2008”

    So, any rational analysis of the real position of the global oil industry that ignores this fundamental issue is something of a misrepresentation.

    The underlying issue here is the lack of a free market in energy, largely due to control of the political situation by fossil fuel interests. This is why you get $18 billion in federal credit subsidies for a pipeline that links BP, Exxon and Conoco gas fields in Alaska (which will supply Transcanada) to BP, Exxon and Conoco tar sands projects in Alberta. There is also Sarah Palin’s direct $500 million gift to Transcanada. Transcanada’s business model involves moving gas to tar sand fields and then moving heavy crude to U.S. refineries.

    Before it was Transcanada, it was Mid-American Energy, but they decided to withdraw from the project due to political concerns over the corrupt Alaskan contracting process. Then, Sarah Palin was elected, and she managed to get Transcanada the contract. The Washington Post (at MSNBC) ran a story on this today, actually, sticking to the misrepresentation:

    Much of [Palin’s] time was devoted to discussions of a proposed 1,700-mile pipeline that would deliver natural gas from the North Slope of Alaska to the lower 48 states… Her first contact with Washington came on Jan. 17, 2007, when the vice president called her to discuss the project, the calendar shows.

    In early January 2007, Palin met with Marathon Oil executives, and the next month, while attending a meeting of the National Governors Association in Washington, she met privately with Exxon Mobil executives..

    Notice the story above about Marathon’s refinery upgrades to handle more Canadian tar sand oil? The WP story, sticking to course, makes zero mention of the real agenda: converting tar sands to heavy crude using Alaskan natural gas.

    Anyone who really thinks that global warming is a problem needs to understand that the tar sands cannot be developed. There needs to be a public discussion, and there should also be a national ban on importing tar sand oil. We can’t go around exporting our fossil carbon emissions to other countries while claiming we are “cleaning up our act.”

    We do that in California enough – our recent global warming law ignores the fact that a whole lot of coal-fired electricity is imported into California. Not only that, Bay Area and Los Angeles refineries have also been getting ready for more tar sand oil:

    SEVERAL OIL GIANTS have plunked down a collective billion-dollar- bet on East Bay refinery upgrades… Some refineries will gain more capabilities to process “heavy” crude oils and crude laced with sulfur.

    Finally, the world’s biggest investors are backing this process. Here is an example: Warren Buffet controls Mid-American Energy (the original pipeline contractor that Transcanada replaced). Here is he is congratulating Palin on her victory: . Buffet also has large stakes in Conoco and others.

    Then, we see Obama saying that he is considering making Buffet head of Treasury, and he has also said that the Alaskan gas pipeline “is a priority.” Is he even aware of what the gas will be used for? Now… look. This is just ridiculous. Why can’t the press cover this basic issue?

    Comment by Ike Solem — 10 Oct 2008 @ 9:57 AM

  174. At the rate the economy is slowing down, the country will be in compliance with Kyoto by the middle of last week.

    Ike, Buffett is an advisor to Obama, and a supporter. Buffett would never take the treasury job, nor is it going to be offered to him. Buffett likes Hank Paulson, and will probably encourage Obama to retain him in the job.

    Comment by JCH — 10 Oct 2008 @ 11:40 AM

  175. Mark #164

    They don’t say that anything else caused it either. Since you take merely what they say at face value, then all they are saying is that there is a less than (did it againn…) 10% chance that there is no warming.

    But if you have a 1% chance of being cured of cancer with a new drug costing £10,000 would YOU Demand that you get it? Or would you go “nah, it’s not gonna happen”? In the UK, look at the lawsuit to make herceptin available to the NHS patient even for cancers it has not been proven to work against.

    A lawsuit, I must add, financed by the company making the drug.

    Comment by Mark — 10 Oct 2008 @ 12:00 PM

  176. Re Palin’s pipeline to the Alberta Tar Sands, these may also be of interest:
    ALERT: Palin’s pipeline is a climate crisis acceleration machine
    and this follow-up by the same author.

    Comment by paulina — 10 Oct 2008 @ 12:13 PM

  177. re: #173 Ike
    My problem is that “persists in misrepresenting” usually means “lie”.

    Klare is a political scientist one of whose interests is geopolitics of energy. He wrote the 1500-word article I referenced (about 2 pages) for TheNation trying to explain the nature of petrostates to the general audience, explaining why Alaska was one, and explaining the huge gaps between Palin rhetoric and reality. He is in no way a Palin fan.

    I don’t argue at all with the bulk of what you say and neither would Prof. Klare. How do I *know* that? In fact, he speaks and writes widely and *passionately* about these issues.

    a) I happened to hear him talk at Stanford and talked to him a few days ago.

    b) His new book, “Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet” is sitting on my desk, and while its focus is on geopolitical energy issues and potential for major conflicts, i.e., so Alaska gets relatively few mentions compared to Africa, Caspian Sea, Russia, etc, it still says:

    “-Canadian tar sands, Venezuelan extra-heavy crude, Rocky Mountain oil shale-but the financial and environmental costs of using these materials are huge, and they are unlikely to rescue us, even briefly, from a dramatic and painful contraction in primary energy supplies.”

    There are many references to global warming and CO2 issues. He gives an extra set of reasons for wanting to “permit a gradual reduction in global military expenditures and thereby free up substantial funds for systematic efforts to tackle the threat of global warming.”

    What worldview is likely to be found in a book whose blurbs include Paul Ehrlich, Bill McKibben, Matt Simmons, Amory Lovins?

    Is your complaint that *he* didn’t spend his 1500 words writing about the topics you’d rather he covered? I’m hard-pressed to understand how the Washington Post or Warren Buffet have any relevance to deciding whether or not *Klare* “persists in misrepresenting.”

    Anyway, the book is well worth reading, and if he happens to give a lecture nearby, he’s well worth hearing, especially because his depth of political science + resource economics offers additional insights.

    Comment by John Mashey — 10 Oct 2008 @ 1:10 PM

  178. Hank, it’s probably not a good comparison for the global warming likelihood discourse, but there is nothing confusing about the crime analysis. One must assume that a crime has been committed. Then if the evidence says X did not do it, that same evidence must say/conclude with certainty that someone else did. There are no other possibilities.

    [Response: But actually there might not have been a crime committed at all. It might have been a suicide, or an accident etc. Judgments of confidence need to integrate over all the uncertainty. – gavin]

    Comment by Rod B — 10 Oct 2008 @ 1:24 PM

  179. Ike, I can’t grasp this particular complaint with Palin. Are you saying that as Governor of Alaska she is looking out for Alaska’s economic interest per se, and somehow that is malicious? Or that despite being Governor of Alaska she is none-the-less not looking out for AGW mitigation and its proponents? Or something else?

    Comment by Rod B — 10 Oct 2008 @ 1:39 PM

  180. Ray, a maybe goofy thought question that might help my thinking (which is statistics challenged :-P ) Is it possible for an assessment to have a 90% probability also with 90% confidence while the converse of the same assessment is mathematically a 10% probability but with 0% confidence (or 0+%)?

    I’m also assuming “confidence” here is a strict mathematical/statistical construct as opposed to a collective human judgement. True?

    Comment by Rod B — 10 Oct 2008 @ 1:50 PM

  181. Rod,
    > 112, 154, 157, 178
    Gavin understands. This is important to understand, both for the analogy (and your own civil liberties) and for climate attribution.

    > judgments of confidence need to integrate over all the uncertainty.

    Gavin, is it fair to rephrase that as:

    You must _not_assume_ any part of what you claim you can prove.

    [Response: Yes – I think that gets to the heart of it. – gavin]

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 10 Oct 2008 @ 2:31 PM

  182. #152, #157, and others RE 90-95% confidence that it is AGW.

    Let’s just think about that for a little while. 90-95% confidence that serious harms are to befall us from our own hands. I’m thinking, even 50% confidence of such, even 20% confidence, even 10%(since the problems could be truly enormous) is enough to start turning off lights not in use, and the myriad of other measures that can reduce our GHGs here in America by 75% without sacrifice.

    Which means everyone in the world should have started reducing back in 1990 (and the poor climbing out of dire poverty should do so in efficient ways), and the world should be at about a 20-30% lower level of GHG emissions than the 1990 level.

    Is this world crazy or something? Are the candidates (all of them, actually) crazy or something?

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 10 Oct 2008 @ 2:44 PM

  183. Rod, consider what we mean by “confidence”. As Mark said, it has to do with how often we’re likely to be fooled by sampling errors or data conspiring to fool us. So a 0% CL really means it’s so noisy that you can’t say anything about it–your signal looks just like your noise. Then there’s the matter of how you’d calculate a 0% confidence level. Often, you use Monte Carlo methods, so near 0% and 100% you get big errors. And from a practical point of view, CLs less than 50% just aren’t interesting.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 10 Oct 2008 @ 4:51 PM

  184. Re #182


    We in the rich world should have cut back on our borrowing in the 1990s, but we didn’t because it made us feel rich. Peak oil was inevitable, and now we can’t repay the debts we have run up. Yes, this world is crazy or something! But the canidates aren’t crazy. They know that no one will vote for someone who tells them the good times are over :-(

    Cheers, Alastair.

    Comment by Alastair McDonald — 10 Oct 2008 @ 5:07 PM

  185. As per RC:

    Whatever else you can say about the candidates, it has been encouraging that both John McCain and Barack Obama favor mandatory action to reduce US carbon emissions.

    We speak of various levels of denial–denial of GW; agreement with GW but denial of AGW; agreement with AGW but denial that AGW is a problem we need to do anything about; agreement that AGW is a problem we need to do something about but denial that we can do anything about it; and then, typically, there is a sense of “and now, for something completely different,” and we, supposedly, enter the stage of “agreeing that we can and must act.”

    This conceptual framework has the unfortunate consequence of tacitly suggesting, among other things, that:

    –no important kind of denial exists at “the action stage,” and

    –there’s some important difference between being in one of these first four stages of denial and being in “the action stage” where we want to “put a price on carbon” or “put a mandatory cap on emissions,” or where we “favor mandatory action to reduce US carbon emissions”

    But important denial does of course exist at the “action stage,” and there isn’t any important practical difference between being an AGW-denier and wanting to put a price on carbon. How about a penny per ton? How about a trading system that benefits polluters (massively) and does not manage to prevent construction of new coal-fired power plants?

    How many hundreds of times have you heard a policy, science, NGO, or scholarly authority on climate destabilization mention how great or at least encouraging it is that all or both candidates “believe in global warming,” “will take action,” “will put in place a cap and trade system,” or “will put a mandatory limit on emissions,” etc?

    But “taking action,” “putting in place a cap and trade system”, and “putting a mandatory limit on emissions,” are all entirely open-ended and therefore, in context, entirely empty.

    “Mandatory action to reduce emissions”? Empty.

    Yes, supporting mandatory action to reduce emissions means acknowledging that government has a role to play in this space. But this would-be moving of the Overton window has an auto-retract leash. This is interesting and worth considering. It’s also a big problem.

    Is it not virtually impossible to do justice to the scale of the problem and the scale of action required (and by so failing, we move the window back), by calling something empty “encouraging”?

    This part of the problem of communicating about climate destabilization needs more exploring.

    By “empty” I do not here mean candidates-contradict-themselves-the-whole-time-empty, or let’s-look-at-voting-records-instead-of-talking-records-empty.

    I’m also not talking about McCain’s attempt to disavow embracing the “mandatory.” Heck, I wouldn’t voluntarily qualify my proposal as involving anything “mandatory,” either (no pun intended). But if my proposal involved a legally imposed cap (on some sector’s emissions, for instance), I wouldn’t deny that I was in favor of mandatory caps, with or without an exculpatory sotto voce qualifier. And if RC really finds anything to be encouraged about in McCain’s “favoring mandatory action,” presumably you should experience at least a little bit of discouragement at his convoluted disavowal of the word ‘mandatory.’

    Finally, I’m also not talking about the candidates’ specific proposals; only about the generic way of talking about these and about the candidates.

    I’m making a separate point specifically to do with the conceptual framework in which we consider various kinds of denier and delayer attitudes pertaining to putative government actions taken to address climate destabilization.

    I understand if people (RCers) don’t want to give specific policy recommendations without having all the expertise they believe is required, but I think there’s plenty of space between, on the one hand, giving specific policy proposals, and, on the other, actually (involuntarily in your case, I assume) contributing to confusion by perpetuating the idea that simply “putting a price on carbon” or “putting in place mandatory emission limits” counts for anything.

    We need a conceptual framework that covers more of the significant denial as well as the understanding, a framework that doesn’t promote 0≠0 math.

    This comment is much too long, but hopefully the main gist will be clear. Thanks.

    Comment by paulina — 10 Oct 2008 @ 5:08 PM

  186. Probably preaching to the choir here, but…

    From a philosophical perspective, I believe it was DesCarte who gave us the maxim that in the absence of sure knowledge, we should take the best knowledge that we have and act upon it as though we knew it with certainty.

    From a pragmatic perspective, if a large body of electricians told you that, unless something was done to correct it, the wiring in your house had a 95% chance of causing a fire, would it not be worth sacrificing the purchase of a new TV to fix it?

    I just wish the general population had a better understanding of risk management.

    Comment by Chris G — 10 Oct 2008 @ 5:48 PM

  187. Re #167 (Bart): ‘I do find the IPCC statement surprising. (“It is very likely that anthropogenic greenhouse gas increases caused most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century.”).

    ‘To me, these words mean that there is a less than 10% chance that GHG did not cause most of the warming. Based on the scientific literature, and on this and other websites, I think that one of the two stronger qualifications would have been better suited in this case.’

    Looking closely at the IPCC language, it seems to me that it’s a nod to uncertainty about the magnitude of temperature increases due to other anthropogenic effects, i.e. land use change and aerosols. The level of certainty seems consistent with the literature.

    Comment by Steve Bloom — 10 Oct 2008 @ 8:35 PM

  188. Chris, Given what the current financial crisis doing to people’s 401Ks, they probably wish they understood risk assessment better as well. At this point, I just wish we had a way to limit the risk we had to mitigate.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 10 Oct 2008 @ 8:39 PM

  189. “Yep. I don’t see the logic in Mr. Bahner’s”

    ‘If the defendant has not committed the crime, then there is evidence that *someone* else has committed the crime.’

    “Does not compute.”

    OK, there’s a dead body in a morgue. It was found with a knife in the back. The defendant didn’t commit the crime. How is it not completely logical that *someone* else must have committed the crime? The evidence is the body with a knife in its back!

    [Response: Maybe he fell backwards on to it by accident; maybe he was dead already and someone put a knife in his back for a laugh; maybe it’s a set up and the body isn’t who everyone thinks it is; maybe the mortician has been paid to say that there is body there when there isn’t… etc. etc. The point being that in the real world (as opposed to probability textbooks), there are huge numbers of other uncertainties which need to be judged (in some kind of Bayesian fashion). That means always that confidence levels are always less than the formal calculation of a likelihood. – gavin]

    Comment by Mark Bahner — 10 Oct 2008 @ 10:23 PM

  190. re: 189

    Who said there was a body with a knife in the back? You’re making things up to prove your point when you’re ignoring what is right in front of you:

    If someone is possibly innocent, it doesn’t mean someone else is guilty.

    Comment by Mark — 11 Oct 2008 @ 5:30 AM

  191. Rod’ #180.

    Yes. Both are possible. Probability isn’t entirely orthogonal to confidence. An example:

    Naively, heads or tails: probability of head:50%.

    Confidence level: 99.9% or more. ‘cos it COULD land on the edge, fall, be miscounted, roll away…

    Rolling a dice: probability of a 4: 16%.

    Confidence in the dice being fair: 0%.

    Rolling a dice 100 times: probability of a mean within 3.5 +/- 0.7: 91%

    Confidence that the dice is fair when the average is 2.47: less than 8% (i think, someone do the maths, that’s a rough figure).

    See how it goes?

    Hope that helps.

    Comment by Mark — 11 Oct 2008 @ 5:38 AM

  192. Mark Bahner, Logically, if, just hypothetically, you found someone with their throat slit, a bloody glove…, and the defendant did not commit the crime, someone else must have. Confidence has to do, however, less with logic and more with what EVIDENCE allows you to say. OK, so, we know we have a corpse with a knife in its back. Have we established that the cause of death was loss of blood consistent with a stab wound? Have we established that the wound in question was sufficient to cause death? Have we established that there is no other cause that could explain the death. There is a reason why legal burden is only “beyond reasonable doubt”. Reasonable doubt is probably somewhere below 85% CL in most cases.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 11 Oct 2008 @ 7:09 AM

  193. Mark Bahner — your black-and-white thinking is the restricted imagination that creates lynch mobs. Okay, stay on the civil liberties point for the moment (sigh). I had thought basic civics was taught.

    Gavin gives you a handful of possibilities. Miss Marple could also.

    “Someone must be responsible” –> “someone must die for this” –> the police must find someone –> someone must be found guilty.

    Requiring someone be found to punish puts state power, and fear, above individual freedom and liberty — “pour encourager les autres.”*

    Do you understand?

    Once you understand this — it was a revolutionary idea a few centuries ago, now it’s playground-level common sense — you can move on from civics to science.
    * See

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 11 Oct 2008 @ 10:21 AM

  194. Could we stick to climatology and go play Clue somewhere else?

    [C aptcha suggests “Dover state”.]

    Comment by David B. Benson — 11 Oct 2008 @ 1:34 PM

  195. 186 Chris, it depends on how it is phrased. “There is a 90% or greater chance that the faulty wiring will burn your house down sometime over the next 10 million years, and it may cost so much to fix that you will lose your house to foreclosure.”

    There, even though in reality fixing the wiring will probably save money since the losses due to arcing have been costing you greatly and the wiring will probably burn your house down in a few years, I haven’t lied and the logical path taken by those who don’t ask further questions is to not fix the wiring.

    And the 90+% number’s subject is *not* about whether AGW is true, but whether the amount is over 50% of the estimate of recent warming. Too bad they didn’t split up the equation into “GHGs contributed over 50% of warming that actually occurred” and “actual warming was over 50% of estimated warming.” Folks are focused on the more high confidence side – whether it is GHGs, while glossing over the less high confidence side of how much actual warming there was, essentially transferring doubt from one to the other.

    Comment by RichardC — 11 Oct 2008 @ 4:58 PM

  196. RichardC (195) — I am not following what you are attempting to state. The actual warming is measurable and IPCC AR4 states that the global temperature increased 0.6 K in 100 (and also 140) years, ending in 2000 CE, if I remember correctly.

    The difficulty is in attributing the proportion of the increase to anthropogenic factors.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 11 Oct 2008 @ 7:08 PM

  197. “Who said there was a body with a knife in the back?”

    As long as Gavin Schmidt was making up analogies, I figured I should be able to make up my own analogies.

    But let’s return to ***the actual situation***.

    The IPCC wrote, “Attribution studies show that it is very likely that these natural forcing factors alone cannot account for the observed warming.”

    They also wrote (Technical Summary, page 23) that “very likely” means a “likelihood of occurrence/outcome” of 90-95% probability.

    Roger Pielke Jr. has observed that given that statement, it can be concluded that the IPCC is saying that there is a 5-10% probability that natural factors alone CAN account for the observed warming.

    I don’t see how this observation is in any way controversial. If there is a 90-95% probability that natural factors alone CANNOT account for the warming, then there must be a 5-10% chance that natural factors alone CAN account for the warming. The two situations have to add to 100% probability, and there is no possibility beyond those two situations.

    [Response: sigh… the whole point of the analogy was so that that you’d be able to see the point more clearly. i.e. there are always more possibilities: attribution methodologies might not be valid; our knowledge of the natural forcings might be incomplete; the models might be wrong; the data against which we are validating might be wrong; the whole thing could be a gigantic conspiracy…. (just kidding about the last one). If instead of looking just at the summary statement and look at the actual studies upon which it is based, you will see that the effect of natural forcings doesn’t come anywhere near explaining what we need to have explained. Indeed it is likely that the natural forcings would have actually induced a cooling. Therefore the 5-10% uncertainty is associated predominantly with methodological uncertainty, not the uncertainty associated with different forcings or internal variability. As I asked all the way above, if you think that there is any decent study that shows that natural forces can explain the recent trends at even 10% likelihood, perhaps you’d care to point it out? – gavin]

    Comment by Mark Bahner — 11 Oct 2008 @ 9:43 PM

  198. Sigh. Well, don’t worry, Gavin, at least you’re giving 110 percent.

    So Roger Pielke and I (and just about every English major in the world, I’d think) say that if the IPCC says that there is 90-95% percent chance that natural forcings alone can’t accout for the warming, the IPCC is also saying that there is a 5-10% chance that natural forcings alone CAN account for the warming.

    What do YOU think the IPCC is saying? Note that I’m NOT asking you whether you think the IPCC is right or wrong, I’m just asking you what you think the IPCC is saying.

    Comment by Mark Bahner — 12 Oct 2008 @ 1:30 AM

  199. 196 David says, “The actual warming is measurable and IPCC AR4 states that the global temperature increased 0.6 K [actually 0.74]”

    No, they say the observed increase. That’s different from the real increase in that it includes errors in both measurements and the calculations which massage the collection of measurements into an estimate. What was observed might not be real.

    So when they talk of a 90-100% chance that the majority of the observed warming was AGW, that means that in some alternative universes the measurement was off by 0.37C, in some a yet-unknown natural forcing added 0.1C, the data was off by 0.17C, and the summation of data introduced a 0.1C error. Confidence level says that all those alternative universes that fail the test of 0.38C AGW warming add up to 0-10% of the total possible universes, even as measured by the most devout pessimist.

    Besides, reverse-engineering from a sound-bite is dishonest, especially since it was done with an axe. He ignored the variable with the most deviation (how much it REALLY warmed) and attributed all uncertainty to the variable with the least deviation (what caused it). Also, your source likely knew about the discussions Mark talked about above (that the politicians essentially forced the scientists to degrade the confidence). Then there’s the very next paragraph, which speaks directly about what caused it, “It is likely that increases in greenhouse gas concentrations alone would have caused more warming than observed because volcanic and anthropogenic aerosols have offset some warming that would otherwise have taken place.” Put the three together, and the conclusion is inescapable.

    Comment by RichardC — 12 Oct 2008 @ 2:50 AM

  200. Mark #197.

    So you made it up. Why? How did that changed analogy remove the fact that if all you had was “someone dead” that if the person in the dock didn’t do it, it doesn’t mean you have evidence that someone else did?

    It didn’t.

    So it was pointless.

    Rather like your continued harping.

    Comment by Mark — 12 Oct 2008 @ 4:59 AM

  201. Re #198

    Try to give more than 10% yourself to the understanding.

    Errors you make:

    Appeal to authority: Give English majors a legal document and they are stuck. Give them a program specification and they are stuck. Why would they understand a heavily scientific statement?

    Selective amnesia: Just because your confidence is not 100% doesn’t mean you’re the difference wrong. Mathematics rules here, not English Majors.

    Strawman: adding the knife in the back and then showing that that strawman is silly.

    Ignorance of points you don’t like: 5% of that change is from politicians trying to water it down. Neither you nor Pelke have acceded this point in any discussion, despite being told. So your 90-95 now includes the 100%.

    Ignorance of the discussion: some have decried the “absolutist” of considering things that, being in the future, are not absolutely incontrovertibly true. Yet you come along and say that unless it IS stated in absolutist terms, then the whole thing is wrong.

    Grow up or get out.

    Comment by Mark — 12 Oct 2008 @ 8:38 AM

  202. Mark Bahner, Again, you are confusing the concepts of probability, confidence, likelihood, etc. All of these concepts have very distinct meanings in statistics–and in fact, they have different meanings depending on whether you are interpreting probability as Bayesian or Frequentist. The fact that an English major might not appreciate this is a very good reason why English majors shouldn’t be making climate policy.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 12 Oct 2008 @ 8:55 AM

  203. Mark Bahner,

    in the zero-sum game you’re playing with gavin, what kind of confidence do you give to:

    — there has actually been no warming over the 20th century

    — The observed warming is substantially smaller than 0.8 C

    — The observed warming is substantially larger than 0.8 C

    — The magnitude of internal variability (maybe a tenth or two of a degree) is actually quite larger/smaller than we think.

    –Aerosol negative forcing is substantially larger than we think (i.e., bigger cooling efect), so possible-but-unproven natural factors could create a much larger effect even leaving GHG ones alone.

    — Unnatural but non-anthropogenic (e.g., martian rays) are the cause of the observed warming

    — There is a large difference between feedbacks associated with natural and anthropogenic forcings.

    I think firther consideration will reveal that, in fact, 90+10 does NOT equal 100 :-)

    Comment by Chris Colose — 12 Oct 2008 @ 11:38 AM

  204. Mark (201), et al: O.K. Someone or something else had to do it. Quit trying to pick the fly specks out of the pepper.

    Scientists get a pass because they can’t write in plain English? Nice job if you can get it. It would seem expecting a large-scale sanctioned UN group putting out a report with major global implications to write their report in plain English (or other official language) is not an irresponsible thing to do. You seem to think it is.


    Comment by Rod B — 12 Oct 2008 @ 1:59 PM

  205. Ray, et al: I’ve come to understand your point, but as I chastised Mark, the IPCC absolutely gets no pass for terrible English or syntax. True, English majors should not be making climate policy, but linguists should definitely be reviewing what the, it seems, illiterate IPCC is writing. (“illiterate” is too strong, but what the hey.) This discourse is addressing a highly significant point and so deserves a clear explanation. What do you tell the leaders of State? “Just ignore what you think they said because the cute little buggers can’t write?” Way to sell your case….

    Comment by Rod B — 12 Oct 2008 @ 2:11 PM

  206. Don’t insult English majors. Part of understanding English is recognizing usage varies with context. You’re illustrating PR spin by claiming they’d agree with your notion the words have only the meaning you prefer.

    Ask any broker about risk and probability, say, a year ago.
    Ask the same broker what happened to the economy now.
    An honest broker won’t blame the English majors for what he didn’t understand about risk.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 12 Oct 2008 @ 3:10 PM

  207. PS, Bahner’s 198 seems answered clearly by Gavin’s inline reply that appears immediately above it (and might have been posted later?). Gavin wrote: “there are always more possibilities: attribution methodologies might not be valid; our knowledge of the natural forcings might be incomplete; the models might be wrong; the data against which we are validating might be wrong …”

    Every area of science has gaps.

    You’re assuming given that gap, some actor could be hiding in the gap — then asserting that hidden actor is causing what we see.

    Imagination works hard to fill in uncertainties. Science works to reduce the uncertainties.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 12 Oct 2008 @ 3:20 PM

  208. Looks like Pielke Jr.’s confusing statistics with his definition of logic again. Comments, anyone?

    Comment by Former Skeptic — 12 Oct 2008 @ 6:02 PM

  209. Rod, Keep in mind that the IPCC summaries are not really scientific documents as summaries of the science for a lay audience. As someone who has dealt with the difficulties of trying to convey technical concepts to a less technical audience, I appreciate that there is a tension between precision and readability. The IPCC had to discard most of the technical vocabulary (and so precision) so policy makers could make it through at least the first few pages of the executive summary. Note that the IPCC was careful not to use the term probability in their discussions of attribution. This was a correct decision. However, as you can see from the current discussion, conveying the subtleties of concepts like probability, confidence, likelihood, etc. to a nontechnical audience is a fruitless task. What they are really saying to the policy makers is “Hey guys, we’re pretty darned sure we’re not wrong.”

    OK, the oracle of reCaptcha is getting personal: WIFE INDIGNANT

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 12 Oct 2008 @ 6:47 PM

  210. Re: #197

    Dear Mr. Bahner,

    Gavin gave you very good examples in his reply to your comment #197. Please think them over carefully and do not dismiss them out of hand.

    As to asking what the IPCC thinks… goodness, go to the references and start reading some of the primary-source articles. The more of them that you read, the better you will be able to conjure an informed opinion and the better you will be able to discuss the issues in this forum. The scientists on this blog are almost infinitely patient with those who actually are willing to learn.

    Captcha: rate winning

    Comment by Tenney Naumer — 12 Oct 2008 @ 10:18 PM

  211. Ray, good point.

    Comment by Rod B — 12 Oct 2008 @ 11:01 PM

  212. Back to Sarah Palin, here’s what she said on Sunday in Ohio:

    The boisterous crowd–many shaking pom poms–screamed, “I love you Sarah Palin!” and cheered the GOP Vice-Presidential nominee getting especially excited when Palin started talking about clean coal and alternative sources of energy to this coal country crowd.

    Supporters erupted in chants of, “Mine Baby Mine!” like her very popular “Drill Baby Drill” chants that crowds usually greet her with, “Mine, baby, mine. Ok, I’m bringing that all across the U.S. Do you mind if I–May I plagiarize that? Thank you. That is a good one.”

    Comment by Jim Eaton — 13 Oct 2008 @ 1:05 AM

  213. # 147 John Mashey,

    First some corrections to Klare’s article.

    “[Alaska’s] political system is geared toward the maximization of oil “rents” … to the neglect of all other economic activities” is more than somewhat difficult to swollow. Petroleum exports are the 900 lb gorilla, but other areas of the State’s economy exist, much of it dependent on a minimially degraded environment. Assertions like this, and the one made by Carter’s Iterior Secretary Andres that “Alaskans are just a bunch of boomers” get old.

    Stating “the Petroleum Profits Tax, which had been instituted by her … predecessor, Frank Murkowski” is untrue. The PPT was in place decades prior to Palin’s or Murkowski’s Governorships.

    Klare’s noting that the gas pipeline’s termunis would be in Alberta is disengenous. That’s the nearest connection to the NA Continent’s existing NG distribution system. I’m a little supprised that the more important implication of the proposed gasline route – its proximity to the Alberta tar sands – Klare doesn’t mention. Perhaps his gloating that he’s on to something others seem to have missed arrested his though process.

    I don’t have too much disagreement with the piece as a general description of the situation. Klare’s thesis that Palin’s political experience is only that of a petrostate Governor is correct. To state she “views Alaska as an unlimited source of raw materials to be exploited for maximum economic benefit” without any qualification is over the top, but not vastly so.

    I hadn’t seen the text of her quoted Governors Conference remarks. They were made as the head of a petrostate. For her constituents in Alaska, she seems to understand that renewables are necessary, and has not voiced any objections to subsdizing them. She aggreed to quite substantial money, initially for implementation planning and energy efficency shortly after her February quotes. Alaska’s situation is quite unique with wind, geothermal, and hydro potential in abundance, the money to develop them, and no hope to participate in a broader national plan of implementation.

    The economic consequences of the oil price spike were magnified hugely for residents in much of the State. Alaska consumes as well as supplies. Think $9.00 per gallon for heating oil with delivery, and that made annually in early fall. Wood is often not an option, as it doesn’t exist. Electricty at $1.00/KWH after a large State subsidy. Flight to urban areas seems to be occuring.

    I have no idea what she really thinks. She is a member of the political species.

    Comment by WhiteBeard — 13 Oct 2008 @ 2:24 AM

  214. Rod #204

    No, nobody else may be guilty.

    It may be that the person just died of natural causes. Nobody guilty of that (‘cept God, maybe).

    As I put in another post, the 95%+ level should have been what was said but politics got in the science. And so there’s a possibility that something else causes more of the 0.8C change than humans did. Maybe the instruments are more accurate and were under-reading in the past. So maybe more than the human contribution is the instrument accuracy. But then there would still be more than 0.4C change due to human works. It DOESN’T MEAN there’s a small % chance that man’s actions are NOT the cause.

    If you meant to tell me off, you should have actually used something valid.

    Comment by Mark — 13 Oct 2008 @ 2:34 AM

  215. 208 Former Skeptic – LOL!! Roger closed the comments immediately! Didn’t want any logic to interfere with his pontification. Hey, Roger! “Observed warming” does not equal “actual warming.”

    Then Roger claims, “the IPCC does not appear to say anything explicitly in its likelihood findings about the possibility that the temperature increase is all human caused. I would have expected to see a statement like: It is likely that all of the observed temperature increase is due to greenhouse gas emissions. But I can find nothing close”

    Roger, you didn’t look terribly hard. It’s the VERY NEXT SENTENCE after the boxed statement you mangled.. uh, parsed. (Summary for Policymakers pg 10) “It is likely that increases in greenhouse gas concentrations alone would have caused more warming than observed”

    212 Jim, it’s a strange disconnect between production and consumption, with nationalism as the driving force. If you add an oil well or gas head, then fossil consumption must go up. Every barrel of oil the US doesn’t buy from other countries will still be bought and used. Going domestic at this late stage of the game is a recipe for disaster. “Mine, baby, mine.” could only be spouted by someone who is either a denier at heart, or is heartless. Palin seems like the former.

    Since the USA projects itself as a “role model” and “world leader,” and has a large enough market to make the label at least partially stick, increased size of fossil economic base in the USA will increase the size of fossil base elsewhere. Hummers are sold in China because Chinese want to be like Big Shot Americans. If the USA is doing it, why shouldn’t everyone? Chinese speak of per capita parity in fossil fuel use between the US and China as their goal. Can you argue with that egalitarian goal? Heck of a role model, Uncle Sam. “Mine, baby, mine!” It even has the proper selfish ring to it.

    I disagree that this is the most important election since 1932. The most important election was 2000, where a single vote in the US Supreme Court altered the future forever. Imagine where we’d be if Gore’s win had been confirmed. He’d be president instead of making videos. Oil would be under $20 a barrel as Saddam and the rest of the crew would be desperately trying to sell oil on a glutted market. All that money that was burned in Iraq would be powering the USA with wind and solar instead. Right wingnuts screaming about $2.50 a gallon gas and the onerous gas tax that made it so. The budget surplus? Scandalous! Detroit screaming that though they were selling lots of cars, their profits were not as high as they would be if CAFE wasn’t at 45MPG.

    The difference between McCain and Obama isn’t nearly wide enough to make up for Gore/Bush. Since McCain probably won’t seek a second term, he might ignore the right wingnuts from day one. He picked Palin in desperation to try and win. She’s window dressing for election time, hopefully not someone he’d let run diddly squat. Perhaps Palin is going to be put off to the side once the election is over.

    Comment by RichardC — 13 Oct 2008 @ 1:51 PM

  216. RichardC (215), on the whole a fairly decent post IMHO, except for the astounding revisionist history prediction had Gore been elected.

    Comment by Rod B — 13 Oct 2008 @ 4:43 PM

  217. “PS, Bahner’s 198 seems answered clearly by Gavin’s inline reply that appears immediately above it…”

    Sadly, no. Roger Pielke Jr and I have laid out specific numbers for what we think the IPCC is saying (i.e., a 90-95% probability that not all forcing is natural means a 5-10% probability that all warming is natural).

    Gavin Schmidt has given some (glib) generalities. He hasn’t given a similar numerical breakdown for what he thinks the IPCC is saying (e.g., perhaps “a 3.14159 percent chance our attribution methodologies might not be valid,” a “square root of 2 pecent chance our knowledge of natural forcings might be incomplete,” a “0.00000000001 percent chance our models might be wrong,” and so on).

    [Response: I’m not the one imputing statements to the IPCC that they didn’t make. – gavin]

    Comment by Mark Bahner — 13 Oct 2008 @ 8:13 PM

  218. I didn’t read the entire string, so sorry if this is a duplication:
    I’m no big fan of ‘clean coal’ because so far it seems like a pipe dream. But is not capture of, say, 90% or 95% or 99% of emissions something to get excited about? Is 100% the only proportion relevant in this discussion? It seems to me that 99.99% carbon capture and sequestration would be good enough — I’m not trying to be silly, but rather I’m trying to learn about what would be considered the lower bound.

    Quoting from the original post: From the point of view of global warming, the only “clean” coal would be coal burned with 100% carbon capture and sequestration

    Comment by Steve L — 13 Oct 2008 @ 9:06 PM

  219. I doubt your familiarity with the North Slope, or Alaska in general when you post, “They shoot them from the rigs if they get in the way”. Or, that there is a “typical Alaskan”.

    Whatever. I’ve worked there and lived all over the region. I wrote a book called Alaska Tales. That’s evough to make a judgment on hat I witnessed there.

    Comment by Mark A. York — 13 Oct 2008 @ 11:10 PM

  220. re: #213 whitebeard
    Thanks for comments.

    Do you know if she’s actually done anything about renewables? and in particular, the extent to which AK folks are thinking ahead to the time when there is little gettable oil&gas left?

    I ask as I’m interested in different states’ (real) approaches.

    Comment by John Mashey — 14 Oct 2008 @ 1:43 AM

  221. Steve, #218 even 100% isn’t enough if you’re going to use coal INSTEAD of a non-fossil energy source.

    There’s only so much coal, it’s only in some places and people DIE getting it out. It’s unpleasant and dangerous and hurts the stability of countries with the biggest need and the countries with the greatest deposits (e.g. Middle East).

    Used as a stop-gap while other options are ramped up is OK if you have 90%+ but all talk has been to use coal as the major source.


    Comment by Mark — 14 Oct 2008 @ 2:56 AM

  222. Mark Bahner, Why do you insist on confusing probabilities, confidence levels, likelihoods and the like. These all have well defined meanings in statistics, and your mixing them up is just flat wrong! I think that the proper interpretation is to say that the data currently available preclude with 90% confidence that natural forces can account for a significant portion of the current warming. Look over my example of drawing colored balls from urns and think about it.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 14 Oct 2008 @ 8:37 AM

  223. Raypeirre (#131) wrote : “Another thing that most of this discussion is missing is that the main point of our post was the complete fallacy of Palin’s claim that one need not know the cause of climate change in order to fix the problem.”

    Having stepped away from this for a couple of days and going back and looking at Palin’s quote, it seems that you (Raypierre, gavin, etc.) have done the same thing RP Jr did, that is, read more into something than is there. The quote that is cited simply says “And I don’t want to argue about the causes…”. Now let’s try to put that in context, she was in the middle of the only vice-presidential debate attempting to dance around an issue she seems to be fairly shaky on. Maybe she was simply trying to sidestep the issue and saying she didn’t want to argue about it during the debate. Or maybe she doesn’t want to argue about it during the campaign in general. Possibly she doesn’t care so much about the cause of a problem but would rather focus on possible solutions that might work. Actually many effective leaders are more solution-focused and don’t care about the cause. And finally, it is possible that you are right that she thinks the cause doesn’t matter (in which case she’d be wrong). But reading the quote at it’s face value (and having watched the debate), I didn’t get the sense that Palin was saying that the cause didn’t matter but more than she was trying to do a political two-step around a tricky issue (for her).

    Bob North

    Comment by Bob North — 14 Oct 2008 @ 10:01 AM

  224. Mark Bahner in #197 says:
    “The IPCC wrote, “Attribution studies show that it is very likely that these natural forcing factors alone cannot account for the observed warming.”
    They also wrote (Technical Summary, page 23) that “very likely” means a “likelihood of occurrence/outcome” of 90-95% probability.
    Roger Pielke Jr. has observed that given that statement, it can be concluded that the IPCC is saying that there is a 5-10% probability that natural factors alone CAN account for the observed warming.
    I don’t see how this observation is in any way controversial. If there is a 90-95% probability that natural factors alone CANNOT account for the warming, then there must be a 5-10% chance that natural factors alone CAN account for the warming.”

    There’s room for another interpretation here, since another statement by the IPCC says ” Most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperature since the mid-twentieth century is very likely(with a 90 to 95% probability) due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.”
    Doesn’t the use of the word “most” leave open the possibility that at least some of the increase, up to half, can be attributed to human activity above 90 to 95% probability? Then natural factors alone would not be the only factor in the 5-10% chance of occurrence as stated by Roger Pielke Jr. The resolution, it seems, would have to be that both human and natural factors are involved with a higher than 95 percent probability. Unless I’m putting the wrong interpretation on “most”.

    Comment by Lawrence Brown — 14 Oct 2008 @ 10:33 AM

  225. Bob, #223

    Your arm is a little sore.

    So you take a painkiller.

    The heart attack kills you dead.

    You need to know causes before you can treat the symptom.

    That’s what this thread is about.

    Comment by Mark — 14 Oct 2008 @ 12:21 PM

  226. Lawrence Brown, Again, you are getting wrapped around the axle when it comes to probabilistic concepts. Yes, probabilities must sum to 1. Likelihoods and confidence levels need not do so. What we are dealing with here is how strongly the available data support one hypothesis. The dataset will always be finite, so you can never get to 100% confidence. What we’re saying here is that we have enough data that we can be 90-95% sure that natural forcers can’t account for it. Note that we have no data that suggest that we CAN explain the warming with only natural forcers, so we can’t say that that hypothesis has ANY support.

    Again, if we draw (with replacement) 22 white balls our of a drum and no black ones, we can conclude with 90% confidence that 10% or fewer of the balls in the drum are black. Does that mean you should take 10:1 odds and bet the next ball will be black, even though you’ve seen zero evidence that there are ANY black balls in the drum?

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 14 Oct 2008 @ 12:34 PM

  227. Ray, you should have been with the Texans:

    It’s a Frederic Remington. The captured Texans are being forced to pick a bean out of a jar. A white bean spared their life. If they drew a black bean, they were shot by firing squad.

    Comment by JCH — 14 Oct 2008 @ 2:13 PM

  228. Ray, #226.
    More pedantically ^W correctly, probabilities must add up to no more than 1.

    A gaussian distribution only sums to 1 when you include a range of + and – infinity.

    That’s lot of ground to cover.

    However, at the five sigma limit, the total is so close to 1 that the difference is irrelevant.

    Comment by Mark — 14 Oct 2008 @ 2:45 PM

  229. JCH, Had I been with the Texans at the Alamo, I could have told them exactly how bad their odds were. Thus, they’d have probably asked the Mexicans to shoot me first.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 14 Oct 2008 @ 6:30 PM

  230. #220 John Mashey,

    Off the top of my head, as the local public meeting occurred while I was still working all available hours in the 4 month window I have to earn the wherewithall for rice and beans. Authorization is for $250 Million over 5 years. Two other programs target home space heat effency. Their total is several hundred millinon more, and program parameters produce a bit of slant towards urban residents.

    I’m reasonably sure that most of what you’re interested in falls under this State agency:

    Likely, the most pertinent link for renewables is:

    Renewable Energy Fund, Request for Grant Application:

    The thrust is more cost reduction, and less climate mitigation. Note the inclusion of natural gas projects. There is lots of gas on the slope, much just capped when exploring for oil. The USGS estimate is 200 Trillion CF, against the 30 Trillion CF proven.

    The big issues for local use have been widely scattered and minute markets, and unimaginalbe legal expense facing any land use in Alaska. Gas, useful for space heat, as well as power for 250,000 people whose principal sustinance is from wildlife, and support for commercial fish processing is unacceptible for the professional greens.

    There is a bit of buzz on several possible large mines that would “pay the freight” to provide gas distribution to selected areas.

    My personal renewable favorates are in-stream hydro and geothermal. Both have some problems, and wind is getting most of the initial action, based on a better developed technology in a very, very high maintainenc cost environment.

    Comment by WhiteBeard — 14 Oct 2008 @ 7:13 PM

  231. Mark (#225) Don’t be obtuse. I never said cause doesn’t matter in in the matter of AGW. What I said was that the quote cited in the OP doesn’t necessarily support the conclusion. After some garbled and relatively incoherent statements, Palin said ” And I don’t want to argue about the causes…” The OP and Raypierre interpreted this as Palin claiming that the cause doesn’t matter. Such a conclusion is only one possible interpretation of her garbled statements and, if you take her quote literally, does not logically follow. Quite simply, a statement that “I don’t want to argue the causes…” does not equal a “claim that one need not know the cause of climate change in order to fix the problem” As I said, in my opinion, it is seems much more likely that she was simply trying to dodge the issue rather than making a statement that the cause does not matter.

    Many posters here, as well as the site authors seem to often jump on people for reaching conclusions that do not have adequate supporting evidence. This just seemed to be a case where the authors read more into her garbled speech than was actually there.

    Comment by Bob North — 14 Oct 2008 @ 9:55 PM

  232. > read more … than was actually there.

    What do you make of Drill Drill Drill?
    Think she’s supporting sequestering CO2?
    “dismay came”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 15 Oct 2008 @ 1:07 AM

  233. 231 Bob, Palin said she wasn’t one to attribute mankind’s actions as the cause. She states that renewables are fine as long as they have zero financial incentives or support. These statements strongly indicate that she believes that global warming is 100% natural or God’s will. Her publicly expressed mantra, “Drill and Mine, baby, Drill and Mine.” is just too irrefutable. Palin will do everything in her power to increase fossil fuel usage.

    Thus, Raypierre et al are incorrect – she knows the cause and is for taking the appropriate inaction. No solution is needed. Humans can’t cause climate change, so they can’t stop it either. Besides, it’s only a degree or two. Big whup. Let’s go shoot a moose.

    Comment by RichardC — 15 Oct 2008 @ 2:04 AM

  234. Bob 231. Right back at you.

    If you don’t know the cause, your actions, though may SEEM to solve the problem are actually hiding it.

    A painkiller WILL stop your arm hurting.

    However, that was due to a heart problem causing bloodflow issues to that arm. Painkillers don’t fix dicky tickers.

    So how would you fix global warming without knowing what caused it? Ice cubes in the middle of the ocean to cool things down and solve the problem forever. I SAID FOREVER!!!

    Really, without knowing what caused it, how would you fix it?

    Comment by Mark — 15 Oct 2008 @ 3:50 AM

  235. Simply put if Sarah Palin can’t be decisive on her views then she sure as hell won’t act. Whats called for is action even if it is costly and even if it doesn’t work, its obvious what the global consequences will be under the current climate trend, all we can do is try and intervene.

    Comment by shane — 15 Oct 2008 @ 3:56 AM

  236. What Pielke Jr. contends that the IPCC says is not completely clear. When I read (89): “The IPCC fairly obviously appears to leave open the possibility than the GHG role in trends since midcentury is 50% or more, leaving a large balance to be explained by natural forcings or variability.” I am simply baffled.

    Comment by Rich Creager — 15 Oct 2008 @ 6:16 AM

  237. Bob North, Pailin’s response needs to be viewed in the context of the past 8 years as well. Dubya in 2000 said we needed to do something about climate change, only to demote scientific consensus in 2001 to “the opinions of the bureaucracy”. Given this track record of obfuscation if not outright mendacity, it is important to nail down the condidates opinions on the science. I have to say that I am more than a little concerned about the attitudes toward science expressed by both McCain and Pailin. Pailin refuses to even articulate a coherent sentence regarding her position on climate science, while McCain seems to regard expenditures on science (e.g. Grizzly tracking via DNA, which actually represents a way to save money, or planetarium upgrades to inspire future scientists) as pork.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 15 Oct 2008 @ 7:10 AM

  238. Ray in #226:
    “Again, if we draw (with replacement) 22 white balls our of a drum and no black ones, we can conclude with 90% confidence that 10% or fewer of the balls in the drum are black. Does that mean you should take 10:1 odds and bet the next ball will be black, even though you’ve seen zero evidence that there are ANY black balls in the drum?”

    I don’t know, Ray. I think I’d rather have 13.3 to 1 odds.( the ratio of Total net anthroponogenic forcing to the forcing due to solar irradiance, from figure SPM2 in the Summary for Policy Makers in the last IPCC.
    That’s if we take the analogy further and designate white balls as anthropogenic forcings and black balls as natural factors.

    Comment by Lawrence Brown — 15 Oct 2008 @ 9:16 AM

  239. Mark, Ray, Hank, RichardC –

    I am no fan of Palin. When it comes to AGW, there is plenty of evidence from sources other than the VP debate that she either doesn’t believe that man is causing climate change or doesn’t think that it is that big a deal such that we need to take action. I don’t disagree with any of that.

    However, I was taking issue with a very specific point regarding the “evidence” put forth in the original post. In the context of the debate, her statement that “I don’t want to argue about the causes” does not equal a claim that the cause doesn’t matter. For Raypierre and others to claim that this statement shows she doesn’t think the cause of the warming matters is not a logical conclusion – — A doesn’t follow B so don’t pretend that it does.

    Comment by Bob North — 15 Oct 2008 @ 11:06 AM

  240. Bob, a debate isn’t an argument; the moderator is there to draw the candidates out on and get them to compare their positions.

    She stated her political position: she doesn’t want to argue about the causes. That’s clear, isn’t it?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 15 Oct 2008 @ 11:52 AM

  241. Well, since Obama, Biden, and even McCain have all taken positions that man is causing Global Warming, the only way Palin COULD argue about causes is to hold a contrary position, i.e. the observed warming isn’t being caused by man. Of course, that’s the position she has held for years.

    Comment by Phillip Shaw — 15 Oct 2008 @ 12:09 PM

  242. Bob, #239

    I’m not interested in whether you like someone or not. I’m not considering it. I am not partisan over it.

    What I’m arguing is that your statements are incorrect.

    They remain incorrect no matter WHO you like.

    That you think so shows up a lot about how you think: people who disagree with someone must hate them.

    That isn’t true.

    Comment by Mark — 15 Oct 2008 @ 12:53 PM

  243. Lawrence: 238:

    But there may well be NO BLACK BALLS AT ALL. All you know so far is that there haven’t been any picked out yet.

    Yet (and this is the important bit you and your pals seem to be missing) is that you can still say “with confidence” there are no more than X black balls in the bag with 90% confidence. And that DOESN’T mean you have a 10% chance there are more than X. ‘Cos that doesn’t mean there are any black balls in the bag.

    Comment by Mark — 15 Oct 2008 @ 12:56 PM

  244. Hank #240 – Let’s say that I agree with you that Palin was stating her political position and it is that she doesn’t want to argue about the causes. How does that turn into a “claim that causes don’t matter?”

    Mark #242 – Sometimes your responses mystify me. My point regarding not being a fan of Palin was that it appeared to me that some may have felt that I was defending her and/or her position re climate change. That was not the point of my original post. As I have repeatedly stated, the point was that it is not a logical conclusion to go from Palin’s statement that “I don’t want to argue causes..” to Raypierre’s assertion that this statement indicates that Palin claims the cause(s) of climate change don’t matter.

    Similarly, it is not a logical to go from my statement that “I am no fan of Palin” to a conclusion that I think people who disagree with someone must hate them. The evidence (my statement) does not support your conclusion.

    You indicated my statement is incorrect. I am more than willing to read your specifc response as to why you think it is logical to assert that Palin claims the cause doesn’t matter based on her statement in the VP debate.

    Comment by Bob North — 15 Oct 2008 @ 2:33 PM

  245. The IPCC uncertainty guide distinguishes confidence levels and likelihood, and the latter “refers to a probabilistic assessment”. So how can their statement regarding the likelihood (“very likely”) of greenhouse gases having caused most of the observed global warming refer to a confidence level? It sounds very reasonable, but why didn’t they use a different term in that case, in accordance with their own uncertainty guide?

    Is the statement in error or merely unclear, leading me to still misunderstand it?

    Perhaps Steve Bloom is right in saying that changes in land use and declining aerosol levels (since the 1980’s) could perhaps have contributed more to the warming than expected.

    Or perhaps the IPCC was being (overly?) cautious in assessing it as very likely rather then virtually certain.

    Comment by Bart Verheggen — 15 Oct 2008 @ 2:55 PM

  246. > she doesn’t want to argue about the causes.
    > How does that turn into a “claim that causes
    > don’t matter?”

    As a political position, remember:

    not wanting to argue about the causes,
    acknowledging there is a problem, and
    agreeing on doing something about the problem.

    What does logic tell you about this?

    Look, we can also argue about whether agreeing to sit down for a negotiation “without preconditions” means you’d invite someone who insisted on attending bringing preconditions.

    I think not — “without preconditions” means nobody sitting in has brought preconditions.

    Horseburger says most believe otherwise. Seems silly.
    Logic is probably not the best tool for this.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 15 Oct 2008 @ 4:52 PM

  247. Bert Verheggen, Likelihood is indeed a probability assessment, but likelihood itself is not a probability. It produces confidence intervals for parametric estimates. See for example:

    Likelihood is also plays a role in Bayesian probability.

    The IPCC statement says NOTHING about the probability that natural forces could account for warming. In the absence of evidence, you cannot place confidence–for example you cannot put a lower bound on the number of black balls in the bag until you know there’s at least one black ball. If you understand probability, the statement is not unclear.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 15 Oct 2008 @ 5:07 PM

  248. Re:243
    What I’m trying to do, Mark, is to expand on the academic example given by Ray and say that white balls represent human factors, and black balls represent natural events. Climate change has to be due to one or the other or both. Natural events comprise axial and orbital changes(Milankovich cycles), volcanic action and changes in solar irradiance.

    Since Milankovich cycles take place on much longer timeperiods than reflected in recent climate change, and we haven’t had significant volcanic action in 15 years or more, than then changes in the Sun represent the black balls in my example. According to Figure in SPM 2 in the latest IPCC report, by taking the ratio between the average forcing due to net anthropogenic action and solar irradiance there 27 white balls to every two black balls in the drum. Ergo the roughly 13.5 to 1 odds.
    BTW- I have no pals on this or any other site. Any errors in math or logic are strictly my own.

    Comment by Lawrence Brown — 15 Oct 2008 @ 5:44 PM

  249. re: #230 whitebeard

    Many thanks, good pointers.

    For everybody else, and akin to what Ray Bradbury wrote:
    regarding detailed parsing of a candidate’s words [equivalent to arguing over noise in time-series rather than statistically significant trends], it’s not what they say, it’s what they do, or as they teach defensive players in high school football:

    Ignore the head-fakes, watch the belt-buckle.

    Comment by John Mashey — 15 Oct 2008 @ 6:12 PM

  250. 239 Bob, don’t lump me in the crowd. THEY all are blinded by the assumption that everyone believes climate change is both big and bad. Palin’s stance is solid (and wrong). She believes that God and/or nature is responsible for any piddly temperature differences. She believes that said differences are beneficial, and for a resident of Alaska, it would be hard to prove her wrong. Seriously, anyone here think life for humans will degrade in Alaska because of climate change?? She is constrained in her statements by the political environment, and is pissed-off about the constraint.

    As Einstein said, “The rest is details.”

    Comment by RichardC — 15 Oct 2008 @ 10:59 PM

  251. Lawrence. #248.

    And there doesn’t have to be ANY black balls in the bag.

    But, despite there being NO BLACK BALLS until you have taken all the balls out, you have a confidence level beyond which you say “there could be black balls in there still”. But that confidence doesn’t mean there MUST be a black ball in there.

    Comment by Mark — 16 Oct 2008 @ 2:45 AM

  252. I’m getting distracted here.

    The ORIGINAL point of the white/black ball bag was to show how dumb mistakes can happen when you take statistics at the gut level.

    Someone was willing to take a bet of 10:1 on there being 10% black balls in the bag remaining. Because the PROBABILITY that the 22 ball sample “just happened” to be all white was 10% (9.8% apparently).

    However, expected loss on that bet was against them.

    And, having been caught out then started to blame Ray of cheating.

    The problem was they took statistics at a “gut instinct” level at what “felt” right.

    Which that black ball free bag proved was wrong.

    If you want make your own analogy up to expand what you want to illustrate Lawrence. Extending the black ball free bag isn’t working.

    Comment by Mark — 16 Oct 2008 @ 2:51 AM

  253. Ray, I know that there is no evidence whatsoever that natural forces could account for the recent warming. That is why the IPCC statement surprised me (I often defend the IPCC position, eg on my blog). Your example of the white balls is very enlightening, but I’m still puzzled as to why the term “confidence” wasn’t used instead of “likely”. I suggested some possible reasons above. If the intended meaning is indeed what you’re saying, then their statement was, at the very least, ambiguous.

    Comment by Bart Verheggen — 16 Oct 2008 @ 4:34 AM

  254. Bart, the problem is not that the IPCC did not state the matter clearly, but rather that without precise, technical language of statistics, you cannot state the problem precisely. In science, you have a certain set of data. It favors one hypothesis, and there is no data that favors the alternative hypothesis. Now there is no way you can look at that dataset and state that the alternative hypothesis is favored at any level of confidence/probability. However, how do you know that your data are representative of the set of all possible data, when you can only look at a finite subset? Statistics allows you to make statements of a certain strength based on how large your dataset is and how strongly its elements favor one hypothesis or the other. In this case, the strength of the statement is limited by the size of the dataset, not whether it favors anthropogenic causation as important.
    Let’s look at the sack of balls in another way. We have some 20 climate models today. Now they have varying skills, etc., but not one of them favors a climate sensitivity less than 2 degrees per doubling. That right there would suggest to me that with 90% confidence, fewer than 10% of possible models consistent with the data would favor sensitivity of 2 degrees or less. Now that does not mean it is even possible to construct such a model–merely that given the effort to date, it can’t be more at that confidence level.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 16 Oct 2008 @ 7:16 AM

  255. Re: #254


    Speaking for myself, the “alternate hypothesis” is that there is something we don’t know which will turn out to be significant.

    You say that the problem is not ” that the IPCC did not state the matter clearly” but “that without precise, technical language of statistics, you cannot state the problem precisely”.

    I would say that the problem is trying to mix science and public policy. And when the stakes are stated to be as high as the stakes of AGW are stated to be, that only places more pressure on the science to coherently inform public policy, to do so in realtime, and to do so with a minimum of error.

    Those requirements are in direct conflict with sound science.

    The only way to be sure we don’t, in my simplistic terms, “miss something” is to wall off, as much as possible, scientific pursuit from the pressure being placed on the science community from public policy makers.

    Since public policy causes human effects, you may have noticed that lots of people believe they have a stake in this issue, and have chimed in from all points on the ideological spectrum. This will never reverse, but will only intensify.

    Soon there will be specific factions with dug-in positions; one example is the McIntyre gang, which has firmly and most likely irrevocably concluded that proxy studies are over-wrought with error and cannot reliably reach accurate conclusions regarding past temperatures.

    I don’t have any particular wisdom to share regarding what to do about this, but I am at least trying to give the subject some air time, in the hope that one day one of you will take a step back and at least look at the concerns I am raising.

    I am fine with public policy proceeding on the basis of the best knowledge we have today. I am simply concerned that more and more of our efforts and resources will be spent “confirming” this case in order to make the public policy changes easier to swallow. The potential recoil from this, is that we slack off of our efforts to understand climate in a more critical way, trying to break things, seeing what that looks like, and so forth.

    Comment by Walt Bennett — 16 Oct 2008 @ 8:36 AM

  256. Walt, duh. Of course there’s “something we don’t know which will turn out to be significant.” (At the .05 level, eh?) It’s not an unreasonable concern, it’s a shared, common, normal concern.

    Don’t just bleat about it, don’t just accuse everyone else of not understanding the obvious thing you’ve discovered. It’s not news.

    You can help get funding and support for research.

    Doing research requires doing math, and big problems require modeling.
    Not just in this field either. Krugman, on his recent prize:

    “… this may seem obvious, and it is now – but it wasn’t before 1991 or so. … the plain English version was possible only after the mathematical models had been worked out.”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 16 Oct 2008 @ 9:44 AM

  257. The percentage of GDP thought to be endangered by the most aggressive of CO2 mitigation policies just went poof with backup poofs just in case any shred of it escaped getting poofed, and more poofs are likely to be in the foreseeable future. We could end up in compliance with Kyoto by spring, 2009.

    How ’bout them stakes? The silly thing, aggressive mitigation of CO2 may end up being the only way to get it back. What do you think we are going to do, revive the economy by building 10 million more empty houses complete with empty freeways and empty shopping centers and empty airports?

    Comment by JCH — 16 Oct 2008 @ 10:13 AM

  258. Walt,
    Gee, how do I test for a hypothesis of “something we don’t know”. Kind of vague, huh? I suppose one way would be to look at available data and see to what extent it deviates SIGNIFICANTLY from what we’d expect from a greenhouse mechanism. And since it does not exhibit such deviations, what then? What “something” do we try?
    Galactic cosmic rays? Nope. They don’t have a mechanism, and GCR fluxes aren’t changing significantly.

    Solar variability? Nope. Not enough variation. Ironically, if you try to increase sensitivity to solar variation, you wind up pushing CO2 sensitivity too high.

    Giant aliens with magnifying glasses?

    Fact is, Walt, you just can’t come up with a model that explains current and paleoclimatic trends with a CO2 sensitivity much below 2 degrees per doubling. It is not that they aren’t trying very hard. Such a model would be very interesting and would boost the career of any climate modeler. The problem is that you can’t do it for an earth-like climate.

    I too deplore the political pressure–but the way to keep political pressure from influencing science is to just let the scientists work. No audits. No Congressional subpoenas. Just scientists doing their job. As to the braintrust over at CA, wake me up when and if they ever publish anything in a real peer-reviewed journal.

    You keep alleging a confirmation bias. Where in the scientific literature or at scientific conferences do you see an example of such a bias? That’s where the science happens. The blogs are irrelevant to the science.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 16 Oct 2008 @ 11:04 AM

  259. RE #257, good point.

    And I’m also thinking that the time to have invested in all those energy efficient and alt energy things that have up-front costs, but save money in the long run was before Sept 08. Anyway, I still have my good old Sunfrost frig from 1991, which I had figured saves me more money than a decent stock would have earned for the same price, and much more than bank interest. And now it’s still saving (earning) me money, so at least I have one really good investment, and a lot of little ones — my other efficiency and conservation investments.

    And then there are the free investments (like buying a same-priced home close to work rather than far from work), that are really racking up the savings…not to mention stress-reduction.

    It’s sad that more stock-holders didn’t invest in these GHG reduction investment when they had some extra money, but chose to invest in stocks instead.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 16 Oct 2008 @ 1:42 PM

  260. #250 RichardC –

    “Seriously, anyone here think life for humans will degrade in Alaska because of climate change??”

    Perhaps I’m misunderstanding your point, but, well, doesn’t it all depend on which humans we’re talking about? Apparently, many Alaska native communities strongly believe that life for them has already degraded and will continue to do so. As for the non-native population, I think there is also a question of time. In the short-term, warming might bring some favorable changes, but even if that is so, in the long-term, it is equally, if not more, possible, that any changes happening as a consequence of warming will be detrimental. Or should we not consider the humanity of native Alaskans or care about the generations to come?

    Comment by Mary C — 17 Oct 2008 @ 12:33 PM

  261. Ode to Sarah Palin:

    Drill,drill,drill that well for oil
    Drill,drill,drill until the Earth comes to a boil.
    Tell St. Peter at the Golden Gate
    That he’ll just have to wait,
    Cause you have got to drill another well for oil.

    We’re not going to drill our way to energy independence. Not with 3 percent of the world’s reserves and 25 percent of the world’s consumption. No one seems to have reminded her of the old saw that says when you’re in a hole stop digging.

    Comment by Lawrence Brown — 17 Oct 2008 @ 4:06 PM


    Comment by Hank Roberts — 22 Oct 2008 @ 10:48 AM

  263. #250:

    “Seriously, anyone here think life for humans will degrade in Alaska because of climate change??”

    So, “warm=good and cold=bad?” Didn’t know it was that simple. . .

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 22 Oct 2008 @ 2:39 PM

  264. Hold hard. Does it really matter if humanity caused the present degree of global warming? Lets say that what has been going on is due to a hidden volcano or some evil aliens who have been and are feeding greenhouse gases into our atmosphere? Since we can’t find the volcano or the aliens, if we want to stabilise our climate we have to cut our emissions of greenhouse gases to compensate, I.e., it matters for future policy that CO2 and the other gases did it and are doing it. Whether the recent increase in these gases has been due to humanity’s action or not is an academic question. The need to change our future emissions profile is a very practical and pressing prospect. If politicians get it roughly right on that prospect (Governor Palin shows no sign of getting that right), let them waffle any way they like about the origins of the problem.

    Comment by Diversity — 27 Oct 2008 @ 3:27 PM

  265. Diversity, Causes matter. If the warming were not due to CO2 or if the increased CO2 were not due to human activity, we would not have to alter that activity, but it is and we are. If you will recall, GWB came out in favor of curtailing ghg emissions during the 2000 election. That didn’t take because he was allowed to get away with being mealy-mouthed. We had best not make that mistake. Acknowledgement that humans are responsible for the current warming is a litmus test for admission to the reality-based community.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 27 Oct 2008 @ 7:14 PM

  266. > Does it really matter if humanity caused
    > the present degree of global warming?


    > Lets say

    No. Weart’s book (first link under Science) will help.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 27 Oct 2008 @ 8:23 PM

  267. Re 264,

    If we discovered that aliens had been covertly dumping excess heat into our atmosphere via wormhole, we would naturally have many questions. . . one of which would be, “So why didn’t all that CO2 cause the observed warming?”

    It would be an important question, too, because we would need to know whether decreasing CO2 would in fact help our warming problem, and our understanding of the issue would be thrown completely into question once again.

    So, yes, causes do matter.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 28 Oct 2008 @ 5:32 AM

  268. Speaking of causes, methane levels worldwide?

    The blog/press on this reads like spin. It’s not coming from human point sources, so it’s not a problem? Uh ….

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 31 Oct 2008 @ 2:02 PM

  269. Ah, way WAY down in the comment thread on that, you can find a sensible remark and a cite to the source:

    If you read the original publication from MIT, it says nothing about the conclusions that you can read in this page.
    You are using some phrases out of context to try to give some truth to this article. But in MIT did not said anything about the non responsability of humans in the global warning.

    This article is a lie and tries to create confussion.
    Bad journalists.

    MIT article:


    vote up

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 31 Oct 2008 @ 2:09 PM

  270. RE # 263

    Kevin, you said,

    [Didn’t know it was that simple.]

    What is simple about your math.

    Warming in Alaska = melting permafrost and that = increased CO2 and CH4 emissions to the atmosphere.

    What could be simpler than my math. Even you can understand that equation?……Yes? No?

    John McCormick

    Comment by John L. McCormick — 31 Oct 2008 @ 2:38 PM

  271. Uh … The “bad journalists” spin/blog/ article, and comment thread I quoted, is:

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 31 Oct 2008 @ 2:43 PM

  272. Speaking of spin, sadly, the Canadian Press story on the Karpechko et al. polar attribution study spent about half of the column inches quoting John Christy’s response, with results that are entirely predictable.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 31 Oct 2008 @ 2:48 PM

  273. Roger Pielke Sr. has a sound bite on NPR today, in a program talking about Wyoming, climate change, water supply problems, trout fishing — saying it doesn’t matter if climate is changing or not for this problem, because there have been droughts before, just adapt.

    I’m sure the fish are listening. Wait, do fish have ears?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 31 Oct 2008 @ 6:04 PM

  274. Hank, maybe Roger needs to be told “adapt” means “change how we do things”. Since “using oil as easy power” is a “thing we do” then not doing it and moving to renweables/carbon neutral power is “adaption to the climate change” too.

    Or does he mean “evolve into reptiles that don’t need anywhere near as much water to survive”?

    Comment by Mark — 1 Nov 2008 @ 5:04 AM

  275. “I’m sure the fish are listening. Wait, do fish have ears?” fish do have ears, but they listen to other radio stations ;)

    RPsr was also on the PBS Newshour about a segment about how global warming will effect Montana generally and trout fishing specifically. His soundbite was about the drought being a problem caused by more things than AGW.

    Comment by Joseph O'Sullivan — 1 Nov 2008 @ 10:24 AM

  276. Same program, I think. Wyoming/Montana, my mistake.

    No question severe droughts have happened before.

    But “don’t make things worse” is good sense beyond its medical context.
    (Primum non nocere — “First do no harm” — Hippocrates.) And we’re making things worse. The adaptation needed is to stop increasing CO2.

    RP Sr. is also getting press in Mother Jones with an interview done six months ago that — published as though it were contemporary — makes the then brief wiggle in the sea ice trend sound like an argument against worrying about it. Watch for it:

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 1 Nov 2008 @ 12:15 PM


    Comment by Hank Roberts — 1 Nov 2008 @ 1:00 PM

  278. From the Vail, Colorado item — any guess who this “climatologist professor at Colorado University” might be?

    “… I do not believe that climate change is due to manmade carbon emissions,” Starin said. “And it just so happens that the climatologist professor at Colorado University agrees with me.”

    [Response: I expect there will be a swift posting on how his perspective has been misstated. -gavin]

    [Response: Unclear. Presuming that he meant “Colorado State University” (Dept. of Atmospheric Science, to be specific), it is reasonable to imagine that he might have been referring to either of two emeritus faculty generally considered to hold contrarian viewpoints in the climate change debate. If he was referring to Bill Gray, the statement in fact seems to be an accurate characterization of his stated views. If he was referring on the other hand to Roger Pielke Sr., I suspect Roger would feel that this is a misrepresentation of his views. -mike]

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 1 Nov 2008 @ 1:02 PM

  279. Hank #278: From the paragraph prior to the sentence you quote, I’d infer that the climatologist Starin refers to Dr. Richard Keen at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

    Roger Pielke Sr. refers (and links) to Keen’s questions at

    [Response: Yes, you are probably correct. As an aside there is a commentary on the ‘quiz’ here. – gavin]

    Comment by Rick Brown — 1 Nov 2008 @ 2:38 PM

  280. This election saw most Global Warming initiatives fail. The principle reason is that most consumers, farmers, ranchers and foresters understand two things. First, global warming is good, not bad. Second, carbon in general and carbon dioxide in particular is good, not bad. Higher average temperatures together with higher concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reduce crop failures and improve crop, grazing and forest production. Those two factors are the principal forces greening the planet and feeding all of us today. Liberal and eco-cults want to torpedo that winning combination. Why?

    Comment by John A. Jauregui — 6 Nov 2008 @ 4:12 PM

  281. re John Jauregui (280)

    The answer depends upon whether or not you have stopped beating your wife–simply answer yes or no and I will respond. . .

    Oh, alright–seriously, maybe it’s because your premises are what is politely called “contrafactual?”

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 6 Nov 2008 @ 4:42 PM

  282. Re:#280: “This election saw most Global Warming initiatives fail.”

    I don’t know how many initiatives were on the ballot elsewhere, but in California the voters got it right. They approved Proposition 1A, to begin to build a high speed rail system, and they defeated Props. 7 and 10, which were bogus global warming schemes. Prop. 7 was opposed by most environmental groups for being poorly written and making it harder to promote renewable energy. Prop. 10 was T. Boone Pickens’ scheme to get richer by converting trucks and cars to natural gas (still a fossil fuel, at last look).

    Comment by Jim Eaton — 6 Nov 2008 @ 7:25 PM

  283. Off topic, a CO2 sequestering rock:

    And no, it’s not an article about Sarah Palin;s head.

    Comment by JCH — 6 Nov 2008 @ 9:49 PM

  284. Re: Palin’s views on global warming; she has ties to the Family Research Council, among other groups, and I found these two scary recent posts on their site that are revealing. You will note the weird leap from climate change to social issues, and the claims about temperatures et al that are entirely unsupported by actual data; yet Palin et al are running with this particular football downfield, hoping for a touchdown. Articles below:

    Family Research Council site article:

    NAE’s Dangerous Emissions on Global Warming
    Apparently a letter that Dr. James Dobson, Gary Bauer, Paul Weyrich, I (assumed president Tony Perkins) and others sent to the board of the National Association of Evangelicals last week was leaked to the press. You may have read news reports over the weekend about the letter, which raised concerns regarding NAE’s lobbying in Washington on global warming. For the last few years, NAE’s Vice President for Government Affairs has been adding fuel to the fire of the global warming debate and giving the impression that not only NAE but Evangelicals at large agree with the hysteria of the global warming crowd. While there is growing consensus that the earth is warming slightly, there is no consensus that humans are the main cause. Those pushing global warming are proposing a radical agenda as the solution to a problem that is not yet fully understood. In part, this solution calls for population control, which is code for abortions, condom distribution and mass sterilization. Here is what NAE’s Vice President, Rich Cizik, said at the World Bank last year. “I’d like to take on the population issue,” he said. “Population is a much more dangerous issue to touch… We need to confront population control and we can-we’re not Roman Catholics-but it’s too hot to handle now.” After a press report last month that said NAE was in an unprecedented collaboration with scientists to advance policies to address global warming, NAE released a statement saying that only Mr. Cizik was involved in the effort. The confusion in the press is understandable. We’ve asked NAE to make its positions clear and to ensure their representatives in Washington represent their official position not their own personal priorities.
    Millions in grants go to study climate change
    Pete Chagnon – OneNewsNow – 9/25/2008 11:30:00 AM
    Three major public universities have been given a grant to study climate change, but a pro-family organization is saying that money could be better spent.
    The National Science Foundation has given three Idaho universities $15 million to study climate change. Part of that money will go toward the hiring of ten faculty members. Bryan Fischer of the Idaho Values Alliance says it is unfortunate that some universities have bought into what he sees as a largely imaginary problem.

    “The best science is telling us that there has been no global warming for the last ten years,” he explains. “In fact, temperatures over the last five years have actually been declining, and scientists are telling us that we may be headed for an extended period of global cooling because of a decline in solar activity.”

    With the addition of the new faculty members, Fischer adds Idaho taxpayers will eventually become responsible for their salaries and lab equipment. “And so eventually, Idaho taxpayers are going to feel the pinch …

    This is why it is imperative that people like Palin do not get the reins of government and plunge us back into the mid-thirteenth century.


    Comment by Wittgenstein — 7 Nov 2008 @ 1:26 PM


    Comment by Hank Roberts — 8 Nov 2008 @ 7:12 PM

  286. Wittgenstein — hey, don’t knock the 13th century. At least intellectuals back then were supposed to study logic (“dialectic”).

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 9 Nov 2008 @ 7:23 PM

  287. Considering that this post was about how climate science in the political world and the use of coal, an update: following the Supreme Court case EPA v Massachusetts the EPA has ruled that new coal plants will not be permitted to open without addressing CO2 pollution.

    Gristmill – Huge, huge victory in the coal fight
    AP – Coal plant permit blocked

    Comment by Joseph O'Sullivan — 13 Nov 2008 @ 8:12 PM

  288. Re #282 Jim Eaton,

    I agree with you on all but the train. I have to say that that is also a bogus solution on several counts. First, a high speed train that is very underused is not a solution. It will not be well used for the same reason that light rail and Cal Train in the San Jose area are underused, which is that they do not fit with real needs of the population as it is distributed both in living and working places. It will not be a high speed train if it stops often enough and spreads over sufficient area to make it useful. There is almost no such modification that does not require secondary modes of transportation at both ends. As has been the case for the last 40 years in the SF South bay area, the time required for these connections and the slow trains etc. themselves results in excessive travel times. I looked at the numbers for getting from Sunnyvale CA to LA on the Bullet train, and any conceivable arrangement was not much of a time advantage over a car. Sure, if we all lived and worked in just a few train stations, it would be great.

    Second, it needed $10 Billion which we do not have just to get started, and another $20 Billion is already acknowledged in the full plan. So this means bonds for future generations to pay off. Since it is unlikely to accomplish much, I think this is a crime.

    In my view of the way things could be done, the crime is horrific, since there are real engineering solutions that could enable high speed individual car travel, much like we have now, except it could be in cars that use very little fuel. The only cost is that we adapt to cars that look very different than the current vehicles we are accustomed to seeing.

    And third, the cost of this futile train will take away from other needs for funding that are almost desperate. The need for better education is well demonstrated by an electorate that passes such a debt burden on to the future, as if there was no consequence.

    It is clear at this point that there is not sufficient concern over global warming or fuel dependency to prod people to serious change. Who is really thinking about the Aptera or the Loremo cars which are near to being available, and which could offer the kind of personal transportation I am talking about. My project (click my name) which was intended to be a technical experiment now seems to be more of a proof of how slowly people will adapt to things that look different even though they might fully perform the important personal transportation needs.

    I expect to see empty bullet trains running along side the Interstate which is swarming with plug-in SUVs, for many years to come.

    Comment by Jim Bullis — 14 Nov 2008 @ 10:12 PM

  289. Oops:

    November 18, 2008

    Burrowing: Bush-Cheney Political Fixers Given Careers at Interior as Move To Sandbag Obama
    “Just weeks before leaving office, the Interior Department’s top lawyer has shifted half a dozen key deputies — including two former political appointees who have been involved in controversial environmental decisions — into senior civil service posts. The transfer of political appointees into permanent federal positions, called “burrowing” by career officials, creates security for those employees, and at least initially will deprive the incoming Obama administration of the chance to install its preferred appointees in some key jobs.”

    Juliet Eilperin and Carol D. Leonnig report for the Washington Post November 18, 2008.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 18 Nov 2008 @ 6:42 PM

  290. What a shock. The Bush administration works hard to preserve its legacy of obstructionism, delay, and ideological absolutism. Who’d’ve thought?

    (Captcha: “per Institute.”)

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 18 Nov 2008 @ 10:38 PM

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